Thursday, May 30, 2019

Fishers of Men

“Come, follow Me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)   

     I met Marty in the summer of 2006. We both worked at the same factory; he was a pipe-fitter and I was a laborer. Marty had to be every bit of fifty years old, but you'd never guess it except that his full head of hair was almost completely white. Marty was a people person, an affable character who always had a quip that was sure to make you smile. I liked talking to Marty. We'd often spend our breaks conversing about the latest news or various other topics of mutual interest, such as health and fitness. Marty would always walk through my break area to get to the company fitness center because it was a shortcut. Lots of times I'd be reading my Bible when he'd pass by, and so he would ask me questions about it. Similarly, when I would workout in the fitness center, Marty would often be there too and we would talk about spiritual things. 

     One day I gave Marty a little booklet. It was the Gospel of John from the New Living Translation that I had ordered from the International Bible Society.[1] Marty read the booklet with interest and would ask me questions about what he was reading. After he finished reading the Gospel of John, I said to him: "So, who would you say that Jesus is?" I remember Marty said something like, "That's what you've been sharing with me. Jesus is the Son of God!" Soon Marty began calling me his angel. Time and time again he would thank me for sharing the truth with him. The prophet Isaiah says, "How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation" (Isaiah 52:17; cf. Romans 10:15). I saw that Marty was eager to read more of the Bible so I gave him a white and gold colored pocket New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs.[2] Marty was like a sponge soaking up the Word of God. He read through the Gospel of Luke in his pocket New Testament, and then the rest of the Gospels. When he asked me what book of the Bible he should read next, I suggested the book of Romans. A few days later I was walking through the factory and I saw Marty sitting at a table with his reading glasses on, reading his New Testament. I sat down next to him and come to find out, he was reading through Romans!

     I believe that by God's amazing grace, Marty came to know Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. A year later the company shut down and closed it's doors. All that's there today is a vacant lot. But the gates of heaven haven't closed. In fact, they've been flung wide open by the nail-scarred hands of Jesus, for souls like Marty to enter in (see John 3:14-17, 10:9, 14:6, 20:19-21:14). Will you point these souls to the Savior? Larry Moyer aptly remarks: "When I stand in that heavenly city and saints around me appear, I hope somebody comes up and says, 'You're the one who invited me here.'"[3]


[1] The International Bible Society is now known as Biblica.

[2] The pocket New Testament that I gave Marty was from the New King James Version (NKJV).

[3] Larry Moyer, 31 Days With the Master Fisherman: A Daily Devotional on Bringing Christ to Others, 79.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Critiquing Dennis Rokser's Hopscotch Gospel

"The student of Scripture is not free to practice his own hermeneutical hopscotch - jumping around the text and twisting it to meet his theological agenda." --Dr. Parker Reardon

     Is the burial of Christ something to be skipped over when presenting the Gospel? What about the appearances of Christ after His resurrection like the apostle John highlights at the end of his Gospel? Can these facts be skipped over in our presentations of the Gospel?
     Pastor Dennis Rokser of Duluth Bible Church takes a non-traditional view of the Free Grace Gospel. In other words, he doesn't think that Christ's burial and resurrection appearances are part of the Gospel. Thus it's not surprising to see how he skips over these facts in the Gospel of John. For example, Rokser made the following statement in regards to the Gospel of John and "what a sinner needs to believe to have eternal life":
“Furthermore, Hodges fails to note that John does not even personally appeal to his readers to personally believe the content of what has been written in his Gospel until he declares the record of Christ’s death (John 19:35) and His bodily resurrection (John 20:31).”1

Notice how in his statement above, Rokser skips over the fact that Christ was buried (Jn. 19:38-42) and the fact that He appeared to His disciples (Jn. 20:19-31). Sadly, Dennis Rokser is playing hopscotch with the Gospel - skipping over certain parts of the Gospel that he has picked out as not really being part of the Gospel.
     But in light of the "content of what has been written" and the context of John's Gospel, Rokser's statement should actually include the Gospel truths of Christ's burial and resurrection appearances to His disciples. For example, in the following statement notice how these facts are included, not skipped over:
Furthermore, Hodges fails to note that John does not even personally appeal to his readers to personally believe the content of what has been written in his Gospel until he declares the record of Christ’s death for our sins (John 19:35; cf. Jn. 1:29-34) and His bodily resurrection from the grave to appear "in the presence of the disciples" (John 20:30-31; cf. Jn. 19:38-21:14).3 

This is John's gospel message and what he says must be "believed" (cf. Gal. 2:6-9; 1 Cor. 15:1-11). So the next time you present the Gospel to someone, don't play "hermeneutical hopscotch" - be sure to include Christ's burial and appearances like the apostle John does in his Gospel.


1 Dennis Rokser, “Stakes Through the Heart of Zane Hodges’ Hydra Head,” (accessed October 8, 2008).

This is a common tactic among groundless gospel advocates. For example, Tom Stegall skips over Christ's burial and resurrection appearances in Acts 13 (see my blog post titled "Tom Stegall's Galatian Gospel: Where is Christ's Burial?"), and J. B. Hixson skips over Christ's burial and resurrection appearances in Isaiah 53 (see footnote 7 in my chart "The Free Grace Gospel Debate").

3 This is my adaptation of Rokser's original statement.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

God's Jewelry Box

"...He was put in a rich man's grave..." (Isaiah 53:9, NLT)

I remember some time ago my wife and I were discussing the burial of Christ and she shared a wonderful thought with me about it. She said that when she thinks of Christ's burial, she thinks of it as God's jewelry box. Christ is the precious jewel and the tomb is the beautiful jewelry box! I thought, "Wow! That's a great way to think of it!" 

It reminds me of how in the Gospel accounts, when Joseph of Arimethea prepared the body of Jesus for burial, he carefully wrapped it with about seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes and placed the body in his own new tomb (Matthew 27:57-60; John 19:39-42). This was a direct fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy that the Messiah would be buried with the rich in His death (see Isaiah 53:9). Ray Vander Laan expounds on this thought:

Only the wealthy could afford large tombs cut into the rock. Their families were buried in these tombs for years (sometimes centuries). The tomb that Joseph of Arimathea provided for Jesus was such a tomb (Matt. 27:59-60; Luke 23:53; John 19:41). The stone was so large that the women were afraid they would not be able to open it (Mark 16:1-3). A stone of this size would be found on the tomb of a wealthy man. 
Joseph's tomb was also new (Matt. 27:60). Jewish law apparently declared that new tombs could be sold, but used tombs could not. Once a family had used a tomb, only members of that family could be properly buried in it. Considering the cost of property near Jerusalem and for such a rock-hewn tomb, Joseph's gift to Jesus was very generous. The willingness with which he offered his tomb for Jesus' burial shows us the measure of his devotion to him. It also fulfilled the prophecy that Jesus would be buried "with the rich" (Isa. 53:9).1

The tomb in which Jesus was buried is like God's jewelry box. Don't rob the Gospel of this precious truth! Be sure to include the Burial in the Gospel like it says in the Bible!2


1 Ray Vander Laan, "A New Tomb," That the World May Know blog,

2  Also see: Acts 13:29; 1 Corinthians 15:4.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

"Christ Died For Our Sins" - A Poem

"Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures..." (1 Cor. 15:3)

Down in the ground a tomb was made,
And on the cross our Lord was laid.

That for our sins the Lord should die,
Upon the cross they raised Him high.

Above the cross the sign was used,
"Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews."

The soldiers gambled at the cross,
To win Christ's robe and gained but loss.

One thief just scoffed and turned away;
No faith had he in Christ that day.

The other thief to Jesus turned:
Believing he of heaven learned.

Into the Savior's precious side,
A spear was driven when He died.

Upon this cross for you and me
He died from sin to set us free!

Because He loves us with such love,
He is my Savior from above.

"For God so love the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but has everlasting life." (John 3:16)

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!" (Acts 16:31)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Does the "Revised and Expanded" Moody Handbook of Theology now teach salvation by works?

     There's an eye-opening article in the May/June 2018 edition of the Grace In Focus magazine that's titled "Moody: Then and Now" by Shawn Lazar.1 The article compares and contrasts the Doctrine of Salvation as presented in the 1989 edition of The Moody Handbook of Theology with the newer 2014 edition of the book and shows how the new "Revised and Expanded" Moody Handbook of Theology changed the doctrine of salvation from grace to works!2 Amazingly, in the "Revised and Expanded" 2014 edition of the book the number one error in salvation is "Believe only." Shawn Lazar correctly points this out and says:
"Did you notice the number one heresy in the new edition? Is it salvation by works? Nope. Is it legalism? Nope. Is it sacramentalism? Again, no. The number one heresy is to believe only. Faith alone is the number one error in salvation according to the 2014 edition of The Moody Handbook! Let that sink in."3

     I also want to mention something else very interesting. Take a close look at the cover of the book. Who wrote the foreword to the 2014 edition? It says "FOREWORD BY DR. JOHN MACARTHUR". By way of contrast, the foreword to the 1989 edition of the book was written by Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost, a friend of Free Grace. (Shawn Lazar pointed this out in his article "Moody: Then and Now".) John MacArthur is no friend of Free Grace Theology. Instead, he promotes what's called Reformed Theology. He has a different understanding of justification by faith alone from what Free Grace Theology teaches. If you doubt me on this, please read my article "Justification by Faith Alone - 250 Bible Verses" and I think you'll understand more clearly why I say this about John MacArthur. To be more specific, some years ago when I was a student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, I debated a pastor who was a disciple of John MacArthur. And what was the topic of debate? The topic of debate was justification by faith alone. Of course, John MacArthur and his followers say they believe in justification by faith alone, but like so often happens, they redefine the terms. They redefine faith so as to make it include all kinds of things. Sadly, they redefine faith so as to make it include works. But the Bible says, "Now to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness" (Romans 4:5).


Shawn Lazar, "Moody: Then and Now," Grace In Focus (May/June 2018): pp. 45-47.

2 Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago: Moody Press, 2014), pp. 344-345.

3 Shawn Lazar, "Moody: Then and Now," Grace In Focus (May/June 2018): p. 46, emphasis his.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

From No Place to The Highest Place

"And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was NO PLACE for them in the inn." (Luke 2:7)

"Jesus replied, 'Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has NO PLACE to lay his head.'" (Matthew 8:20)

“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has NO PLACE in you." (John 8:37)

"Therefore God exalted him to THE HIGHEST PLACE and gave him the name that is above every name . . . ." (Philippians 2:9)

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

A Reply to the Article: "How Does a Mom Pray as a Calvinist?"

     I recently came across an interesting article posted on The Gospel Coalition (TGC) website titled "How Does a Mom Pray as a Calvinist?" In the article, the author Courtney Reissig writes:
"How does a mom, who believes that God is sovereign over salvation, find any hope for her children? How does she not live in fear about the state of their souls every day? If only those chosen by God find eternal life in him, can she sleep at night if none of them has yet professed faith?
In a recent interview about Calvinism, Andy Stanley—senior pastor of North Point Community Church in Atlanta—posed several questions as he critiqued Calvinism from several angles. In one particular segment, he talked specifically about women, and from his vantage point women are less vocal about their belief in God’s sovereignty in salvation because of how harsh it sounds (to him). Mothers, he said, would have a hard time reconciling their maternal instinct to protect, care for, and provide for their child with a view of salvation that, as he sees it, provides little assurance that they will be saved."1

     In response to Courtney Reissig's question and her Calvinistic views, I think the following statement is very good:
"There is no limitation, but your own rejection of it, to that Divine yearning desire according to which He willeth not the death of a sinner, but rather than they would turn from their evil ways and live [Ezek. 18:23, 33:11]. Is there a child, O ye mothers and fathers, whom ye unconditionally hate and doom to destruction? Not one. And can ye suppose that ye are kinder and better than your God?"2 
     There is also much to be learned on the topic of divine election from the following dialogue between D. L. Moody and Rev. Marcus Rainsford (excerpted from the book Sovereign Grace by D. L. Moody):
Mr. M. -- Suppose a man say he is not "elected?" 
Mr. R. -- Do you remember the story of the woman of Canaan? Poor soul; she had come a long journey. She asked the Lord to have mercy on her afflicted child. He wanted to try her faith, and He said: "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." [Matthew 15:24] That looked as if He Himself told her that she was not one of the elect. But she came and worshipped Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" and He helped her there and then. No; there is no election separating between the sinner and Christ.
Mr. M. -- Say that again.
Mr. M. -- What is there between the sinner and Christ?
Mr. R. -- Mercy!! Mercy!! 
Mr. M. -- That brings me near to Christ.
Mr. R. -- So near that we cannot be nearer. But we must claim it. In John [6:39-40] we get God's teaching about election. "This is the Father's will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing; but should raise it up again at the last day." He will do his work, you may depend upon it. Then in the next verse we read: "And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day." That is the part I am to take: and when I have done so I shall know the Father's will concerning me.3


1 Courtney Reissig, "How Does a Mom Pray as a Calvinist?," The Gospel Coalition website, December 22, 2018.

2 James Morison, "THE GOSPEL AS PREACHED BY DR. MORISON," p. 284. The Evangelical Repository: A Quarterly Magazine of Theological Literature. EIGHTH SERIES. VOL. III. GLASGOW: 1885.

3 D. L. Moody, Sovereign Grace, pp. 117-118, emphasis his.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

D. L. Moody on the Doctrine of Election

"Do not stumble at the doctrine of election. Preach the gospel to all, and (as some one has said) if you convert any one who was not 'chosen,' God will forgive you."1

"The elect" are the "whosoever will's": the "non-elect" are the "whosoever wont's".2

     There is also an interesting dialogue between D. L. Moody and Rev. Marcus Rainsford on the topic of divine election:
Mr. M. -- Suppose a man say he is not "elected?" 
Mr. R. -- Do you remember the story of the woman of Canaan? Poor soul; she had come a long journey. She asked the Lord to have mercy on her afflicted child. He wanted to try her faith, and He said: "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." [Matthew 15:24] That looked as if He Himself told her that she was not one of the elect. But she came and worshipped Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" and He helped her there and then. No; there is no election separating between the sinner and Christ.
Mr. M. -- Say that again.
Mr. M. -- What is there between the sinner and Christ?
Mr. R. -- Mercy!! Mercy!! 
Mr. M. -- That brings me near to Christ.
Mr. R. -- So near that we cannot be nearer. But we must claim it. In John [6:39-40] we get God's teaching about election. "This is the Father's will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing; but should raise it up again at the last day."  He will do his work, you may depend upon it. Then in the next verse we read: "And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day." That is the part I am to take: and when I have done so I shall know the Father's will concerning me.3


1 D. L. Moody, Notes from My Bible, p. 167.

2 D. L. Moody, Notes from My Bible, p. 108.

3 D. L. Moody, Sovereign Grace, pp. 117-118, emphasis his.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Grace Evangelical Society and Duluth Bible Church: "Crossless" and "Groundless" Till Jesus Comes

     I remember some years ago Liam Moran told me that Bob Wilkin and the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) would never change their view about "the new crossless gospel"1 (as Tom Stegall has dubbed it) and it would be promoted until Jesus returns at the rapture.
     Ironically the same thing can also be said about the new "groundless gospel" of Tom Stegall and the Duluth Bible Church. Their new no-burial view of the gospel2 will likely be promoted till Jesus comes.
     These schisms within the Free Grace Movement remind me of what the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:19: "For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you" (NASB).
     The apostle Paul also says in another place to "rejoice in the Lord always" (Phil. 4:4). How can Free Grace Christians rejoice amidst these divisions in the Free Grace Movement over the gospel? One reason we can rejoice is because these contrary views of the Free Grace gospel prompt us to take a close look at the question "What is the gospel?" and also help to clarify the correct interpretation of the gospel. As Scot McKnight, a New Testament scholar and historian of early Christianity has well said, gospel orthodoxy is "often in response to threats to that gospel. . . . articulated by those who are most concerned with the gospel."3

So let's keep standing for the gospel till Jesus comes!

Praise the Lord!


1 Tom Stegall, "The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel," The Grace Family Journal (Spring 2007): p. 9.

2 See Tom Stegall's "Proposed Change" to the "SOLE CONDITION FOR SALVATION". Word of Grace Bible Church handout (circa 2007), no page number, bold and caps his. NOTE: Word of Grace Bible Church is a church-plant of Duluth Bible Church.

3 McKnight, “The Gospel and Orthodoxy,” Jesus Creed blog, (or,, February 5, 2009, bold his, ellipsis added.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

C. I. Scofield's exam question on 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

     Is the burial of Christ part of "the essential substance of the gospel" in 1 Corinthians 15:4?
     In The Scofield Bible Correspondence Course on the New Testament, there are 179 examination questions on the book of 1 Corinthians. For question 146, Scofield asks: "What three facts in [1 Corinthians] xv. 3, 4, constitute the essential substance of the gospel?1 
     If you were to take this exam, would you get this question right?


1 C. I. Scofield, The Scofield Bible Correspondence Course, Vol. 2: New Testament [Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1934], p. 366, question 146. Note: The original copyright is 1907 by C. I. Scofield.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Gospel in the Old Testament

     Are the resurrection appearances of Christ to His disciples ever prophesied in the Old Testament?
     For those who may think otherwise, this question is important because it relates to the Gospel. When the apostle Paul reminded the Corinthian church of the Gospel which he had preached to them, he included the fact that Christ "appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve" (1 Cor. 15:5). "Part of the gospel message Paul passed on to the Corinthians was eyewitness reports of the resurrection of Christ."1
     Another reason this is an important question is because in the book of Romans the apostle Paul writes: "The Good News was promised long ago by God through His prophets, as written in the Holy Scriptures" (Romans 1:2, Good News Translation). Those who hold to the non-traditional Free Grace "groundless gospel" argue that the resurrection appearances of Christ to His disciples are not prophesied in the Old Testament, and therefore the resurrection appearances are not part of the Gospel. One groundless gospel advocate named Greg Schliesmann puts it this way:
Paul says this gospel [in 1 Corinthians 15] is “according to the Scriptures”. This phrase only modifies Christ’s death for sins and resurrection in v. 3 and v. 4 about the death and resurrection of Christ “He died for our sins according to the Scriptures” and “He rose from the dead according to the Scriptures”. Aside from that, we know the Scriptures did not predict anything referenced in [1 Cor. 15] vv. 5-10 regarding who saw Christ. In Romans 1:2, Paul indicated that the gospel was promised before in the Scriptures. The extra elements Paul mentions do not constitute the truths promised before in the Scriptures but serve as proofs of them.2
     What I noticed after reading Mr. Schliesmann's statement is that he actually had to re-write the Bible to fit his groundless gospel. In 1 Corinthians 15:4, the apostle Paul says that Christ was raised "on the third day according to the Scriptures". But in Mr. Schliesmann's quotation of 1 Corinthians 15:4, the words "on the third day" are nowhere to be found! It reminds me of the Bible created by Thomas Jefferson, commonly referred to as the Jefferson Bible. If any part of the New Testament didn't fit with Jefferson's theology of Jesus, he literally cut those statements out of the Bible. When Jefferson got through with it, his New Testament looked like Swiss cheese - there were lots of holes in it! The Bible has severe warnings against those who take away from the Word of God (see Deut. 4:2, 12:32; Rev. 22:18-19). "So dangerous a thing it is to meddle ever so slightly with the words of - GOD."3 The fact that groundless gospel advocates must re-write the Bible to fit their unique interpretation of the gospel is a glaring problem! Maybe Mr. Schliesmann took a cue from the agnostic Bart Ehman who also omitted the words "on the third day" when he misquoted 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. (See my blog post titled "Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus on 1 Corinthians 15:3-4".) But regardless, when someone in the Free Grace Movement meddles with the Word of God, it's truly a tragedy.
     What's more, the groundless gospel error is even more extreme because it actually contradicts the Bible.  Does Mr. Schliesmann really expect us to believe that the resurrection appearances of Christ to His disciples are not "according to the Scriptures" - i.e., that they are not predicted in the Old Testament? The truth is, both Christ's burial (1 Cor. 15:4) and His resurrection appearances to His disciples (1 Cor. 15:5) are prophesied in the Scriptures! Isaiah chapter 53 is a key passage, and it predicts both Christ's burial (Isa. 53:9) and His resurrection appearances to "His followers" (Isa. 53:10, The Berkeley Version).

Isaiah 53: The Gospel in the Old Testament
Christ's death for our sins: Isa. 53:5-6
His burial: Isa. 53:9
His resurrection: Isa. 53:10b
His appearances: Isa. 53:10b

     There are also other Scriptures in the Old Testament which predict Christ's burial and His resurrection appearances, such as Psalm 22 and Psalm 40. These are Messianic Psalms, and these two passages of Scripture also predict Christ's burial and His resurrection appearances.

Psalm 22: A Prediction of the Gospel
Christ's crucifixion: Psa. 22:16
 His burial: Psa. 22:15
His resurrection: Psa. 22:22
His appearances: Psa. 22:22

Psalm 40: A Prophecy of the Gospel
Christ on the cross: Psa. 40:14
His burial: Psa. 40:2a
His resurrection: Psa. 40:2b
His appearances: Psa. 40:3

      In response to Mr. Schliesmann, I will focus on the fact that Christ's resurrection appearances to His disciples are predicted in the Old Testament Scriptures. I already wrote about this in my paper Getting the Gospel Right, but it bears repeating:
Christ's resurrection appearances were prophesied in the Old Testament like the other elements of the gospel (Rom. 1:1-2; 1 Pet. 1:10-12; cf. Ps. 22:22; Isa. 53:10). . . . Commenting on the gospel in Isaiah 53, Herbert Lockyer relates the following true story from the life of D. L. Moody: "When Moody was asked to conduct his first mission in London in 1874, union meetings were comparatively new. The committee asked him to explain his methods. Everything went smoothly until one member asked him his creed. Moody calmly replied, 'My creed is already in print.' A member seized a paper and pencil and asked where it could be found. 'In the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah,' Moody answered."5     

     Commenting on Psalm 22, notice how C. I. Scofield draws attention to the prophecy of Christ's resurrection appearance to His brethren:
Psalm 22 is a graphic picture of death by crucifixion. The bones (of the hands, arms, shoulders, and pelvis) out of joint (v. 14); the profuse perspiration caused by intense suffering (v. 14); the action of the heart affected (v. 14); strength exhausted, and extreme thirst (v. 15); the hands and feet pierced (v. 16); partial nudity with the hurt to modesty (v. 17), are all incidental to that mode of death. The accompanying circumstances are precisely those fulfilled in the crucifixion of Christ. The desolate cry of verse 1 (Mt. 27:46); the periods of light and darkness of verse 2 (Mt. 27:45); the contumely [insults and harsh treatment] of verses 6-8, 12, 13 (Mt. 27:39-43); the casting lots of verse 18 (Mt. 27:35), all were literally fulfilled. When it is remembered that crucifixion was a Roman, not a Jewish, form of execution, the proof of inspiration is irresistible. At verse 22 the Psalm breaks from crucifixion to resurrection; fulfilled in the "Go to my brethren," etc., of John 20:17. The risen Christ declares to His brethren the name, "Father."6

     And commenting on Psalm 40, similarly notice how Scofield makes a point to highlight the prediction of Christ's resurrection testimony to those who saw Him:
The 40th Psalm speaks of Messiah, Jehovah’s Servant, obedient unto death. The Psalm begins with the joy of Christ in resurrection (vs. 1, 2). He has been in the horrible pit of the grave, but has been brought up. Verses 3-5 are His resurrection testimony, His "new song." Verses 6 and 7 are retrospective. When sacrifice and offering had become abominable because of the wickedness of the people (Isa. 1:10-15), then the obedient Servant came to make the pure offering (vs. 7-17; Heb. 10:5-17).7

     The Gospel (1 Cor. 15:3-5) was promised beforehand in the Holy Scriptures (Rom. 1:1-2); all four elements of the Gospel were predicted in the Old Testament - not just part of it, but all of it!

Praise the Lord!


1 W. Harold Mare, Frank E. Gaebelein, General Editor, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, 12 Vols., Vol. 10 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), p. 282.

2 Greg Schliesmann, "The Technical Meaning of the Term, 'THE GOSPEL,' Part 3," In Defense of the Gospel blog, December 19, 2007,
     NOTE: Mr. Schliesmann was a member of Tom Stegall's church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was Mr. Schliesmann who compiled the Scripture Index for Stegall's book The Gospel Of The Christ. I have responded to Mr. Schliesmann's views elsewhere, such as in my article "The Free Grace Gospel Debate".

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

4 Commenting on Psalm 40:1, C. H. Spurgeon writes: "'I waited patiently for the Lord.' Patient waiting upon God was a special characteristic of our Lord Jesus. Impatience never lingered in his heart, much less escaped his lips. All through his agony in the garden, his trial of cruel mockings before Herod and Pilate, and his passion on the tree, he waited in omnipotence of patience. No glance of wrath, no word of murmuring, no deed of vengeance came from God's patient Lamb; he waited and waited on; was patient, and patient to perfection, far excelling all others who have according to their measure glorified God in the fires. Job on the dunghill does not equal Jesus on the cross. The Christ of God wears the imperial crown among the patient." (Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, 7 Vols., Vol. 2, p. 261.)

5 Jonathan Perreault, Getting the Gospel Right, p. 10.

6 Scofield, The Scofield Reference Bible (1909), p. 608, note 3; p. 609, note 1. Although Scofield does not specifically mention Christ's burial here in connection with Psalm 22 (it's implied, not denied!), his statement still supports my overall point because he does highlight how this passage of Scripture predicts the resurrection testimony of Christ to those who saw Him after He was raised from the dead (Psa. 22:22; cf. Jn. 20:17). And  concerning Christ's burial, Scofield clearly sees predictions of it in other Old Testament Scriptures, such as in the book of Jonah. In the introduction to the book of Jonah in The Scofield Reference Bible, Scofield writes: "THE historical character of the man Jonah is vouched for by Jesus Christ (Mt. 12:39-41), as also that his preservation in the great fish was a ‘sign’ or type of our Lord’s own entombment and resurrection.” (Scofield, The Scofield Reference Bible [New York: Oxford University Press, 1909, 1917], p. 943.)
     Furthermore, Mr. Schliesmann even admits that Christ's burial is predicted in the Old Testament. Schliesmann says: "I agree that Christ's burial was prophesied in the OT." (See Schliesmann's comment for the blog post "The Technical Meaning of the Term, 'THE GOSPEL,' Part 3," In Defense of the Gospel blog.) This admission by Schliesmann highlights the error of his groundless gospel, because although the apostle Paul doesn't specifically say in 1 Corinthians 15:4 that the burial of Christ is "according to the Scriptures" - it's obviously "according to the Scriptures" because it was promised beforehand in the Old Testament!

7 Ibid., p. 618, note 1.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Robert H. Mounce discusses 1 Corinthians 15:3ff

     The following statements are excerpted from the book The Essential Nature of New Testament Preaching by Robert H. Mounce (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1960), pages 90-93. The footnotes at the bottom of the page are Mounce's. 
     Here's an excerpt from the book from the chapter titled "CLUES TO A PRE-PAULINE KERYGMA":


     This passage is without doubt the most valuable piece of pre-Pauline Christianity in the New Testament. Not only is it authentic tradition, but it also furnishes direct evidence of the missionary kerygma [preaching] proclaimed by the early Church. It relates the very terms6 in which Paul (v. 1) and the others (v. 11) preached the Gospel.
     What are the reasons for accepting this account of the Gospel as genuine pre-Pauline paradosis?
     (1) The verbs that Paul uses for the reception and transmission of the Gospel are equivalent to the official Jewish terms for the taking over and passing on of tradition.7 This would indicate that what follows is to be understood as an authentic block of primitive material.
     (2) The total structure of the passage with its fourfold repetition of hoti ("that") indicates that it is a creedal formulation.
     (3) This formula displays a number of un-Pauline characteristics: (a) The phrase "according to the scriptures" occurs nowhere else in Paul8 (who generally uses "as it is written"). (b) Since for Paul hamartia (singular) is the principle of sin, it is doubtful that he would have used it in the plural, as in verse 3. (c) Certain other expressions, such as "the twelve," are not specifically Pauline.9
     (4) The double reference to the Old Testament Scriptures suggests that it stems from a Jewish-Christian source. So also does the Aramaic "Cephas," and the reference to James.
     (5) Paul indicates in verse 11 that what he has reproduced has been the common proclamation of all the apostles.
     It is not going beyond the evidence to conclude with Meyer that here we have the oldest document of the Christian Church in existence.10 But now we come to the more difficult task of defining the limits of this segment of paradosis [tradition]. Had Paul stopped quoting as decisively as he began, there would have been no problem. But he seems to add a parenthetic remark, extend the final issue, and then trail off into a personal testimony. In view of this we must ask, Where does the kerygma stop, and Paul begin?
     The explanatory remark connected to the phrase "more than five hundred brethren," leads Goguel to strike out all of vese six as a Pauline addition.11 The following phrase ("Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles") is taken as genuine kerygma because of its linguistic similarity to verse 5. The appearance to Paul, says Goguel, was added as a personal testimony.
     While something can be said for this interpretation, it is much more probable that the original formula extended from 3b through 5. This gives a better balance to the entire passage and brings the final item into harmony with the conciseness with which the other three are set forth. This division is also supported by the definite syntactical break at the beginning of verse 6. The reason for expanding this particular section of the kerygma was to establish firmly the fact of Christ's resurrection. From this basic premise, Paul will argue the resurrection of the believer. The choice of witnesses - well-known leaders of the Church and a large body of people who could easily be found and questioned - shows the care with which Paul built his case.
     Where and when did Paul receive this block of tradition? The usual answer is that it was passed on to him by Peter when they first met in Jerusalem for a fortnight visit (Gal. 1:18-20) i.e., about A.D. 35.12 This does not, however, take into sufficient consideration Paul's prior ministry in Damascus (Acts 9). Paul's proof of the Messiahship of Jesus (v. 22) most certainly rested upon the kerygmatic foundation of Christ's death, resurrection, and exaltation.
     It is much more likely that this bit of paradosis had a much earlier origin. Hunter suggests that Paul is here reproducing the baptismal creed of the Damascus church.13 A comparison with the baptismal formula that underlies I Peter 3:18-22 favors this view.14 But whatever its relationship to baptismal or catechetical confessions, it is primarily the terms in which the Gospel was preached (cf. v. 1). It is difficult not to infer from this that it was originally drawn up as a convenient summary of the missionary proclamation.
     And where did it originate? Against Heitmϋller's thesis that it was an evangelical summary current in Hellenistic Christianity and radically different from the Palestinian kerygma, Hunter argues convincingly that it emanated originally from the primitive Palestinian church.15 If this be so, then I Corinthians 15:3-5 may represent the very message that won the first converts at Damascus. In any event, we may safely conclude that Paul received this kerygmatic summary from the Damascus church shortly after his conversion and before beginning his evangelistic ministry.
     Let us now set this passage out as it might have looked had Paul used sermon notes:

           Christ died for our sins -
                  in accordance with the scriptures.
           He was buried.
           He was raised on the third day -
                  in accordance with the scriptures.
           He appeared to Cephas,
                  then to the Twelve.


6 tini logōi ("in what terms") refers to both the form and the substance of Paul's preaching.

7 Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel, p. 21. Pirke Aboth 1:1 tells how Moses received the (oral) Law from Sinai, and committed it to Joshua.

8 Interestingly enough, the only other occurrence of this phrase is in James 2:8 - most certainly Palestinian in origin.

9 For further linguistic evidence, see Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, pp. 129-130.

10 H. A. W. Meyer, Ursprung und Anfänge des Christentums, III, 210.

11 Maurice Goguel, The Birth of Christianity, p. 42.

12 Dodd, The Apostolic Preaching, p. 16.

13 Hunter, op. cit., p. 16. Cf. also J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds, p. 17.

14 Note the similar pattern: death for sins, descent, resurrection, exaltation.

15 Hunter, op. cit., pp. 16-17.

Monday, July 16, 2018

A Powerful Fact of the Gospel

     In the book Great Preaching on the Resurrection, Christian theologian W. B. Riley writes:
"[Hermann] Gunkel tells us that they claimed an empty grave for Zeus in Crete. What if they did? What came of it? Who became apostles of that faith? What proof of their position did they present? What movement dominating the centuries did they originate?"1 

     Remember, it wasn't until after the apostles saw the risen Christ in the flesh that they turned the world upside down.  They couldn't stop talking about it and telling people what they saw. Look at Peter's first sermon in the book of Acts where he  boldly preaches the Gospel to the unbelieving Jews and 3,000 people got saved! Pastor Chuck Swindoll, the founder of Insight for Living and Chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary, affirms:
Look at [Acts] chapter two, verse 41 . . . . ‘Those who believed’ what Peter said (this is a reference to Peter’s first sermon, which we’ve not taken the time to go into; you’ve read it, and we’ve studied it before); ‘Those who believed’ what Peter said (that’s the Gospel), they believed that Christ died, and was buried, and that Christ rose again from the dead - miraculously and bodily, and was seen by those around Him, and they believed in Jesus Christ with their hearts, and they believed the message, that’s called the Gospel, and the result is they were baptized, and added to the church that day about 3,000.”2

     The power that transformed the apostles was the fact that they saw the resurrected Jesus! Not merely that someone told them about the resurrection of Jesus, but they saw Him! And He wasn't a ghost. Jesus said to the apostles after His resurrection: "Look at My hands and My feet. It is I Myself! Touch Me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have" (Luke 24:39). This highlights the fact that the groundless gospel which excludes Christ's resurrection appearances from the gospel is in other words the ghostly gospel! The groundless gospel of the non-buried and never-seen savior is the ghostly gospel! But the risen Christ manifested was the power which enabled the apostles to "turn the world upside down" (Acts 17:6, ESV) and led to the founding of the Christian community. Reginald Fuller writes: 
"We conclude, therefore, that the appearances to Peter and to the Twelve share a common function. In these appearances the Risen One initiates the foundation of the eschatological community: they are 'church-founding appearances'".3 

Similarly, Thiselton writes: 
"Our understanding of the fourth line [of 1 Corinthians 15:3-5], 'He appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve' (v. 5), cannot be isolated from all of these major considerations set forth already on the basis of vv. 3b and 4....Wilckens rightly discusses the issue as one of foundation: 'It was the appearances...which inspired belief...and led to the founding of the primitive community.'"4 

The words of Free Grace theologian William R. Newell are appropriate in conclusion:
"this good news concerning Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and appearing, ‘is the power of God unto salvation unto every one that believeth.' [See Romans 1:16.] There is no fact for a preacher or teacher to hold more consistently in his mind than this.”5 
“Again we repeat that it is of the very first and final importance that the preacher or teacher of the gospel believe in the bottom of his soul that the simple story, Christ died for our sins, was buried, hath been raised from the dead the third day, and was seen, IS THE POWER OF GOD to salvation to every one who rests in it – who believes!6 
“This story of Christ’s dying for our sins, buried, raised, manifested, is the great wire along which runs God’s mighty current of saving power. Beware lest you be putting up some little wire of your own, unconnected with the Divine throne, and therefore non-saving to those to whom you speak.”7 


 1 W. B. Riley, Great Preaching on the Resurrection, Curtis Hutson, Editor (Murfreesboro: Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1986), p. 39.

2 Chuck Swindoll, “An Original Snapshot of the First Church, Part 2,” Series: The Great Commission, Insight For Living Ministries (Thursday, June 14, 2018, Moody Radio), (time-stamp: 06:37 minutes - 08:21 minutes).

3 Reginald Fuller, The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives, p. 35.

4 Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, pp. 1198, 1202.

5 William R. Newell, Romans: Verse-by-Verse: A Classic Evangelical Commentary, pp. 18-19.

6 Ibid., p. 19, emphasis his.

7 Ibid., p. 21.

Friday, July 6, 2018

"A FUNERAL FORETOLD IN DETAIL" - by Spiros Zodhiates

     Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, author of the Hebrew-Greek Keyword Study Bible and many other books, has written an excellent commentary on 1 Corinthians 15 which I came across while doing some research for one of my articles. The book is titled Conquering the Fear of Death in View of the Empty Tomb
     By the way, in case any of you are wondering, Zodhiates affirms that the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 includes the four facts of Christ's atoning death, His burial, His resurrection on the third day, and the fact that He was seen afterwards by His disciples. 
     There are so many great quotes in this book! I wrote some of them down, but there are others too which I just did not have the time to write down. The book is massive. If I remember correctly, it's over 800 pages - and this is just commentary on 1 Corinthians 15! 
     Here's what Dr. Zodhiates says in a chapter of the book titled: 


"He was buried . . . (I Cor. 15:4a)."

     "Here, then, a few sorrowful friends laid the mangled body of Jesus, consigning to a sepulcher the One whom they had hoped to see on a throne. Oh, the depth of the Saviour's humiliation! Here we witness the Prince of life, who holds in His hand the keys of hell and of death, and in whom we all 'live, and move, and have our being,' brought to the dust of death in a borrowed grave. Yet with what loving reverence was He attended and His body prepared for burial. Surely the decent solemnities of a funeral are not displeasing to God. There is a respect due to the body, especially that of a Christian as the temple wherein God has been served and honored. It is designed to be rebuilt in another world, and it ought not to be cast away like common dust in this one. 
     Since Christ's body was to be raised to life in three days, why was it necessary that it be committed to the grave at all? Why could it not have remained in the home of Joseph of Arimathea as safely as in his sepulcher? The reason is stated by Paul: 'He was buried, and . . . he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.' The phrase 'according to the scriptures' applies both to the burial and to the resurrection. Christ was buried in this manner so that the prophecies concerning Him as the Messiah should be fulfilled. So minute and precious were these prophecies that they not only foretold His incarnation, His passion, and the glorious resurrection that was to follow, but also His burial and the very mode and circumstance of it. His burial in the heart of the earth was prefigured by Jonah's enforced stay for three days and three nights inside the great fish; and Isaiah had expressly declared concerning Him, that He 'made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death' (Isa. 53:9).
     Under the circumstances, it seemed humanly impossible for these prophecies concerning Christ's burial to be fulfilled. The Roman law, under which the Savior was put to death, allowed no interment to the bodies of those who died on the cross; and lest any pitying hand should take their bodies from the tree and cover them with earth, a guard was usually stationed around them for several days.
     We are accordingly told by Matthew that the centurion, and those that were with him, still remained on the hill of Calvary, watching Jesus, after He had given up the ghost (Matt. 27:50-56). And even if these difficulties could be surmounted, there was another obstacle to be removed before He could have an honorable burial. The Jews had a public burial place for all who died as criminals, and if any interment were allowed to Jesus by the Romans, this pit appeared to be the only grave in which His countrymen would allow Him to rest.
     But what are difficulties and obstacles to God? He caused the very people who crucified His Son to prepare the way for the fulfillment of the prophecies that proved His deity and condemned their unbelief. The Jewish law required that malefactors should be buried on the day of their execution; and to prevent their city from being ceremonially unclean on the succeeding sabbath, certain men besought Pilate that the sufferings of the dying criminals might be ended and their bodies taken down. Pilate granted their request, and no sooner was it granted than the rich and honorable Joseph of Arimathea came forward to rescue the body of Christ from the hands of His enemies and to lay Him in his own new tomb. What infinite wisdom foretold these details; what infinite power fulfilled them! A mighty God never lacks means and instruments to fulfill His purposes. He often passes by those whom we might expect to be employed in His service and singles out others who will perform His will with the greatest glory to Himself."[1]


[1] Zodhiates, Conquering the Fear of Death in View of the Empty Tomb (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), pp. 47-49.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A Good Response to Zane Hodges on Bible Translation

     Recently I came across a statement by the late Zane C. Hodges from a July 1964 Bibliotheca Sacra article in which he's reviewing William F. Beck's New Testament in the Language of Today.[1] In the review, Hodges writes,
"If in Solomon's day it could be affirmed that 'of making many books there is no end,' in our own day it might equally be said that of making many translations there is no end. Indeed, the proliferation of English versions of the Bible in modern times is so bewildering that each additional one ought to be required to furnish compelling justification for its existence."[2]

     While there is, of course, a point to be made there; in response to Hodges I would quote a statement from the NIV's Committee on Bible Translation from June 1978 (revised August 1983), when they say: "There is a sense in which the work of translation is never wholly finished. This applies to all great literature and uniquely so to the Bible."[3]


[1] This is a Lutheran translation of the Bible called The Holy Bible: An American Translation.

[2] Bibliotheca Sacra 121 (July 1964), pp. 268-269.

[3] From the Preface to The Holy Bible, New International Version (Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation, 1973, 1978, 1984).

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Jephthah: A Hero of Faith!

     I hear a lot about Jephthah's foolish vow, but not so much about his faith. This should not be. In fact, the Bible never mentions Jephthah's supposed "foolish vow" as such - but it does mention his faith!
     I was reading about Jephthah in the Old Testament the other day (see Judges 11:1-40), and there was a cross-reference in the margin to Hebrews 11:32. So I turned there in my Bible and read these words:
"And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies." (Hebrews 11:32-34, NIV) 
     Let's not forget that Jephthah is in the Bible's "Hall of Fame of Faith". Let's start talking about Jephthah's faith! Did you know that Jephthah is a picture of Christ in the Old Testament? Rejected by his half-brothers, he returns to save them![1]
     Yes, it can be argued that Jephthah made a foolish vow, and R. A. Torrey in his book Difficulties in the Bible, has written some good thoughts about that issue.[2] But even if it were true that Jephthah made a foolish vow, let's face it: the Bible is full of men and women who despite their flaws, exhibited great faith in God. For example:
  • Abraham was a liar.
  • Jacob was a deceiver.
  • Moses was a murderer.
  • David was an adulterer.
  • Samson was a womanizer.
  • And the list goes on![3]

Hebrews 11:39 says: "These were all commended for their faith" (NIV). There's something to think about! 


[1] Another similarity between Jephthah and Jesus is that in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament (called the Septuagint or LXX), the Greek word archēgos (meaning chief/captain/leader) is used to describe Jephthah. The same Greek word is used to describe Jesus in Acts 3:15, 5:31; Hebrews 2:10, 12:2. For more information see the excellent discussion by J. Julius Scott, Jr. in Bill Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), p. 148.

[2] See R. A. Torrey, Difficulties In The Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1907), p. 58. A more in-depth discussion is presented by evangelist Don McClain in his slideshow: "Lesson's from Jephthah's Vow". The commentary on Judges 11 in the Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is also very helpful and instructive. It's available for free on the website.

[3] For more examples, see the article on the website titled "God Can Use us All".

Friday, June 29, 2018

Tom Stegall's Galatian Gospel: Where is Christ's burial?

"But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed."

                     - The Apostle Paul, 
                       writing to the Galatians (Gal. 1:8-9, NKJV)  

     The other day while doing some research, I came across what one groundless gospel advocate has written concerning "Paul's preaching of the gospel to the Galatians as recorded in Acts 13."[1] In the book The Gospel Should Be Sliced (marketed as The Gospel of the Christ), author Tom Stegall writes:
"There, after preaching about Christ being cursed for us on the 'tree,' [Acts 13:29, NKJV] he emphasizes how God raised up His Son from the dead at the resurrection. Immediately after making this point, Paul preaches as a consequence of Christ's resurrection the forgiveness of sins and justification 'through Him' (en toutō) to everyone who believes (Acts 13:38-39)."[2]
     But after I looked up this passage of Scripture in the Bible, I noticed that what the apostle Paul actually says about Christ in Acts 13 is that "they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead, and for many days He was seen by those who had traveled with Him . . ." (Acts 13:29-31, NIV). This is the Biblical Gospel; Christ's burial is not skipped over, nor omitted. 
     Stegall concludes with Paul's statement about justification "through Him" (literally en toutōi, i.e. justification "in this man" or "in this one"[3]) in Acts 13:39. But Stegall's omission of Christ's burial is unjustified (i.e. groundless), because the apostle Paul specifically includes in his Gospel to the Galatians the fact that Christ's body was "laid in a tomb" (ethēkan eis mnēmeion, Acts 13:29).
     And so although Stegall attempts to jump over the burial of Jesus in Acts 13:29, he trips over the tombstone! The fact that Jesus was laid "in a tomb" is part of Paul's Gospel which he preached to the Galatians and by which they were "justified" (Acts 13:38-39).
     The burial of Jesus is part of the saving Gospel which the apostle Paul preached to the Galatians and to everyone else. So be careful not to jump over the burial in the Gospel!


[1] Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ (Milwaukee: Grace Gospel Press, 2009), p. 315.

[2] Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, p. 315, brackets added. Later in his book, Stegall goes on to write: "the burial and post-resurrection appearances of Christ are not technically part of the gospel". (Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ [Milwaukee: Grace Gospel Press, 2009], p. 578.)  And on the next page in his book, Stegall similarly writes: "the cross and resurrection are elements of the gospel in distinction to the burial and appearances". (Ibid., p. 579.)

[3] The pronoun toutōi is a dative singular masculine demonstrative pronoun. (The iota in the word toutōi is subscripted under the long omega in the Greek, forming an improper diphthong.)

Saturday, June 23, 2018

What is “the classic presentation of the Gospel”?

     We hear the word "classic" used a lot in various contexts: classic cars, classic movies, classic books. What exactly is a classic? And what is "the classic presentation of the Gospel"?
   The late Jack Weaver, founder of the ExPreacherMan ministry, calls attention to “the classic presentation of the Gospel” in a blog comment dated June 1, 2013. This is an excellent comment and it's good to be reminded of these essential truths:
"In 1 Corinthians 15:1-5, we read the classic presentation of the Gospel, reiterated to the Corinthian believers. And in verses 1-2a Paul says: 
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have RECEIVED, and wherein ye STAND; By which also ye are SAVED,…” 
There are three important words which I have capitalized, RECEIVED, STAND and SAVED. The Corinthians had received the Gospel, they stand in the Gospel and are saved by the Gospel which they have believed. 
In that classic Gospel passage Paul uses the word “saved” (Greek: sozo, safe, delivered or protected, healed, preserved, do well, be or make whole), which in that context and any interpretation means eternal life. 
. . . . Let us keep the message simple — but not so simple that it is incomplete. Let’s include the essentials as Paul reminded the believing Corinthians. 
In Jesus Christ eternally, Jack"

Friday, June 15, 2018

Chuck Swindoll highlights an "Original Snapshot" of the Gospel

     I was greatly blessed and encouraged to hear pastor Chuck Swindoll on the radio yesterday. It was God's perfect timing because I tuned in just in time to hear him make this statement:
“Do your very best to set aside whatever may have been your opinions, your experiences, of the things that had turned you against the church, and let’s let the truth permeate, as Luke records the scene as it took place. . . . Look at [Acts] chapter two, verse 41 . . . . ‘Those who believed’ what Peter said (this is a reference to Peter’s first sermon, which we’ve not taken the time to go into; you’ve read it, and we’ve studied it before); ‘Those who believed’ what Peter said (that’s the Gospel), they believed that Christ died, and was buried, and that Christ rose again from the dead - miraculously and bodily, and was seen by those around Him, and they believed in Jesus Christ with their hearts, and they believed the message, that’s called the Gospel, and the result is they were baptized, and added to the church that day about 3,000.”[1] 

     Notice Chuck Swindoll says that in Acts chapter 2 the apostle Peter preached the Gospel consisting of Christ's death, burial, bodily resurrection, and that He was seen...that's called the Gospel! That's the "original" Gospel and the only Gospel - have you believed it? If not, do so today!


[1] Chuck Swindoll, “An Original Snapshot of the First Church, Part 2,” Series: The Great Commission, Insight For Living Ministries (Thursday, June 14, 2018, Moody Radio), (time-stamp: 06:37 minutes - 08:21 minutes).

Thursday, June 14, 2018

John Mark: The Rich Young Ruler?

     Most of us are probably familiar with the story of "The Rich Young Ruler" (as he has come to be called) narrated for us in the Gospel accounts (see Matt. 19:16-30; Mk. 10:17-26; and Lk. 18:18-27).
     The other day I heard one pastor say that the rich young man in the story walked away from Jesus straight into Hell! Actually, all my life I've heard preachers jump to this conclusion about The Rich Young Ruler. I never questioned that conclusion because, after all, the Bible says that the young man walked away from Jesus, right? But why does that have to be the end of the story? And how does that supposed conclusion illustrate Jesus' point that "with God all things are possible" (Mk. 10:27, KJV) - even a rich man getting saved, as hard as that may be! And truly it is difficult. Jesus says that it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get saved![1]
     Actually, church tradition as well as even clues in the Bible itself support the conclusion that The Rich Young Ruler is none other than John Mark - the writer of the Gospel of Mark![2]  Richard Wurmbrand (1909-2001), the founder of The Voice of the Martyrs ministry, writes:
     The work of spreading the gospel [especially] where it is forbidden or hindered must be treated as an emergency.
     The Greek word eutheos, translated in Luke 14:5 as "straightaway" [immediately], is the most characteristic word of Mark's Gospel. It is found more often in Mark than in all the other Gospels combined. The reason is as follows. Tradition identifies Mark as the rich man to whom Jesus said that in order to be perfect he should sell everything he had and give to the poor. It seemed to him at that time too big a price, and he left the place with sadness. Later he repented and fulfilled the commandment of the Lord, but there remained remorse in his heart for the time lost in disobedience. Therefore he repeats continually in his Gospel the word eutheos - straightaway.
     What is good must be done straightaway - immediately. Only this moment is ours. The next moment might belong to death, even if we are young and in perfect health."[3]

     Additionally, I'd like to draw attention to a couple of articles that are especially good on this topic. These articles give more details relating to the clues in the Bible supporting the conclusion that The Rich Young Ruler is John Mark, the writer of the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the following links to read the articles:

Just something to think about . . . John Mark: The Rich Young Ruler turned Gospel Writer! "With God all things are possible!"


[1] But the Lord our God is able! He "gives life to the dead and calls things into existence that do not exist" (Rom. 4:17, CSB). "Everything is possible with God" (Mk. 10:27, NLT)!

[2] John Mark is mentioned by Luke in the book of Acts (Acts 12:12, 12:25, 13:5, 15:37), by the apostle Paul in some of his letters (Col. 4:10; Philemon 1:24; 2 Tim. 4:11), and also by Peter in his first epistle (see 1 Pet. 5:13).

[3] Wurmbrand, In the Face of Surrender (North Brunswick: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998), p. 233, italics his, first brackets added. Note: This book has since been updated and revised and is now titled The Overcomers.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Another Look at Romans 4:25

     Sometimes I'll read in print or hear preachers say something to the effect that "Christ paid for our sins by His death and resurrection." Or in the words of Free Grace author J. B. Hixson: "Jesus Christ . . . died and rose again to pay one's personal penalty for sin".1 

     But did Christ's resurrection help pay for our sins? Maybe Christ's payment wasn't "finished" (Greek tetelestai = paid in full, Jn. 19:30) on the cross after all? Sometimes Romans 4:25 is misunderstood as teaching this. But I like what Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer has written about it. Chafer writes in Volume 4 of his Systematic Theology:
"Because of a complicated translation in the A.V. [the "Authorized Version," i.e. the KJV] of Romans 4:25, the impression is abroad that in some way - not well defined - Christ was delivered to death for our sins, but was raised again to the end that believers might be justified. However, justification does not depend on the resurrection of Christ, but on His death; and this particular text really asserts a quite different idea. The A.V. rendering is, 'Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.' Romans 3:24 states that justification is 'through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus'; and, again, 'justified by his blood' (Rom. 5:9). The sense of Romans 4:25 is that, the ground having been provided for justification by His death, the Lord arose from the grave. Bishop Moule writes in the Cambridge Bible on this verse:
     Lit[erally]. because of our justification. The construction is identical [i.e., in this and the corresponding phrase earlier]. This, and the balance of the clauses, seem to demand the exposition: 'He was raised, because our justification was effected;' not, 'in order to give us justification,' as many interpret it. The parallel is complete: 'We sinned, therefore He suffered: we were justified, therefore He rose.' - To this it is objected that the thought is not doctrinally true; justification being, for each believer, dated not from the Lord's death, but from the time of faith (see ch. 5.1). But the answer is obvious: the Apostle here states the Ideal of the matter; he means not individual justifications, but the Work which for ever secured Justification for the believing Church. A close parallel is the 'IT IS FINISHED' (John 19.30). (See too the ideal language in 8.30; and instructive parallels in Heb. 1.3 and 10.14). In the Divine Idea every future believer was declared to be justified, through an accomplished Propitiation, when Jesus rose. His resurrection proved His acceptance as our Substitute, and therefore our acceptance in Him. No doubt the other interpretation is true as to fact: He was raised that, through the Gospel, (which but for His resurrection would never have been preached,) we might receive justification. But the Gr. [Greek] construction, and the balance of clauses, are certainly in favour of that now given. - 'Romans,' p. 98.
     To the same purpose, F. Godet writes, 'In the same way, as Jesus died because of our offences, that is our (merited) condemnation, He was raised because of our (accomplished) justification. Our sin had killed Him; our justification raised Him again. How so? The expiation of our trespasses once accomplished by His death, and the right of God's justice proved in earnest, God could pronounce the collective acquittal of future believers, and He did so. . . .  So long as the security is in prison the debt is not paid; the immediate effect of payment would be his liberation. Similarly, if Jesus were not raised, we should be more than ignorant whether our debt were paid: we might be certain that it was not. His resurrection is the proof of our justification, only because it is the necessary effect of it' (Romans, I, 312, cited by Griffith Thomas, Romans, I, 187)."2


1 Hixson, Getting the Gospel Wrong (Xulon Press, 2008), pp. 84, 89, 92, 99, 100, 104, 110, 145, 205, 229, 237, 242, 258, 285, 347, ellipsis added. I have already responded to Hixson's statement in my paper "The Free Grace Gospel Debate". So for a more thorough critique of his view, please click here.

2 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1976), 8 Vols., Vol. 4, pp. 88-89, emphasis, ellipsis, and first brackets his. NOTE: In the quotation above, the Bible verses in Roman numerals have been updated to the current format.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

George E. Ladd's statement on the Gospel

     In his book A Theology of the New Testament, theologian George Eldon Ladd (1911 - 1982) has written some helpful information on the Gospel as it relates to Jesus and the apostle Paul. Ladd's statements are helpful in answering the questions: "What is the Gospel according to Jesus?" and "What is the Gospel according to the apostle Paul?" Ladd writes:

". . . Paul frequently refers to his preaching and teaching in the same terms that are used of the Jewish oral traditions: to deliver (paradidonai) and to receive (paralambanein) tradition (paradosis). Jesus had contrasted the Jewish traditions with the word of God (Mt. 15:6) and forbade his disciples to imitate the rabbis (Mt. 23:8-10), and yet Paul commends the Corinthians for maintaining the traditions he had delivered to them (I Cor. 11:2) and exhorts the Thessalonians to hold to the traditions they had been taught (II Thess. 2:15) and to shun those who ignored the tradition they had received from Paul (II Thess. 3:6). This idiom established a distinct similarity between Jewish rabbinic tradition and Christian tradition, for the terms are the same, and they are used at times quite synonymously with preaching the gospel. The Corinthians received the gospel (parelabete) that Paul had preached to them (I Cor. 15:1). 
     . . . This tradition embodied the apostolic kerygma [preaching] or euanggelion [gospel]. Paul delivered (paredoka) to the Corinthians the gospel that he also received (parelabon), that Christ died for our sins, that he was buried, that he rose on the third day, that he appeared to his disciples (I Cor. 15:1-5). It is generally accepted that verses 3b-5 embody a primitive piece of pre-Pauline kerygma that Paul has received as a tradition from those who were apostles before him. 
     The same idiom of oral tradition appears in connection with the preservation of a piece of tradition from Jesus' life, namely, the Lord's Supper. Paul received 'from the Lord' the account that he delivered to the Corinthians of the institution of the Eucharist (I Cor. 11:23). Some scholars understand the expression 'from the Lord' to mean that Paul received his knowledge of the Lord's Supper by direct illumination from the exalted Lord, as he received knowledge that Jesus was the Messiah on the Damascus Road. However, in view of the language and the content of the tradition, this is highly unlikely. Most commentators think Paul means to assert that this tradition which he received from other apostles had its historical origin with Jesus. Paul says he received apo [from, away from], not para [from, from beside], the Lord. The latter would suggest reception directly from the Lord, whereas the former indicates ultimate source. In any case the words mean at least this: that the chain of historical tradition that Paul received goes back unbroken to the words of Jesus himself.
     . . . While the oral gospel tradition is in some ways similar to Jewish oral tradition, in one all-important respect it is quite different. To receive the gospel tradition does not mean merely to accept the truthfulness of a report about certain historical facts, nor does it mean simply to receive instruction and intellectual enlightenment. To receive the tradition means to receive (parelabete) Christ Jesus as Lord [Christon Iēsoun ton Kurion = literally: "Christ Jesus the Lord"] (Col. 2:6). In the voice of the tradition, the voice of God himself is heard; and through this word, God himself is present and active in the church (I Thess. 2:13). Thus the Christian tradition is not mere instruction passed on like Jewish oral tradition from one teacher to another. The tradition handed on in the form of preaching (eueggelisamen, I Cor. 15:1) and the reception of the message involve a response of faith (episteusate, I Cor. 15:2).
     . . . In his letter to the Galatians, Paul seems to reject the role of tradition in revelation and to claim that revelation occurs only by direct illumination by the Holy Spirit. He appears to declare his complete independence from the primitive church. He asserts that he did not receive his gospel from men, that it did not come to him by tradition (parelabon) nor by instruction, but by direct revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:12). He declares his independence from the Jerusalem apostles. After his conversion, he did not go up to Jerusalem to receive the approval of the apostles but withdrew to Arabia. When he did go to Jerusalem three years later, it was not to establish an abiding relationship, but only to make a short visit to get acquainted with Peter and James (Gal. 1:17-19). Taken out of context, the assertions in this passage seem to contradict the statements of I Corinthians 11 and 15 that Paul handed on what he had received by tradition.
     Various solutions to this apparent contradiction have been offered. Some have suggested that in Corinthians Paul refers only to the facts about Jesus that he learned from other Christians, while the meaning of these facts, i.e., their true interpretation, came to him not from men but only by the direct revelation of the exalted Lord. This is, of course, true. Unquestionably, as Machen points out, Paul was familiar with many of the facts about Jesus' life and death, as well as the Christian claims for him as the Messiah, when he was still in Judaism. In fact, it was his Jewish understanding of the facts that made Saul a persecutor; what he gained on the Damascus Road was a new and correct understanding of the facts, namely, that Jesus was the Messiah. However, the tradition in I Corinthians 15 includes interpretation: 'Christ died for our sins'; and it includes also a fact that undoubtedly Paul as a Jew did not accept - the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples.
     . . . The apparent contradiction is due to the different purposes involved in the two passages. In Corinthians Paul is thinking of particular aspects of the substance of his gospel: the Lord's Supper, the saving death, the resurrection and the appearances of Jesus. These include both facts and at least something of the meaning of the facts. In the substance of his gospel, Paul stands in agreement with earlier Christians, and indeed he received information from them as to the gospel itself. However, in Galatians Paul is dealing with his apostolic authority and with the one central fact of the gospel, that Jesus was the resurrected and exalted Messiah. This he did not learn from other men, even though it was later corroborated by what he did learn from them. Paul was not converted by Christian preaching but by an immediate confrontation by the exalted Christ. Neither did Paul receive his apostolic office from men. Both - his gospel and his apostolic office - came to him directly from the Lord, unmediated by men. The fact that subsequent to his conversion Paul consulted with Peter and James and received from them both facts about Jesus and the gospel and their interpretation of it would in no way weaken his claim to complete independence of his reception of the gospel. The purpose of the passages is to argue that Paul enjoys the same apostolic authority as those who were apostles before him (Gal. 1:17), because he, like them, received his commission and his gospel directly from the Lord."1

     In Galatians 1:11-12 the apostle Paul says that he received his Gospel by a direct revelation of Jesus Christ. Thus, Paul's Gospel is the Gospel according to Jesus! To say it another way: 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 is the Gospel according to Jesus. Are you misquoting Jesus on the Gospel?


1 George E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), pp. 388-389, 392-394, italics his, ellipsis added.