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.