Saturday, September 10, 2011

Reader Email - Hymn book and the Deity of Christ

I received an email from a reader and I would like to make some of my response available on the blog.  For the sake of privacy, the email and the name of the person will be left out.

Reader Question 1: My guess is that a JW is allowed to cut off dialog and not answer questions and walk away if the questions can’t be answered.  So is that what’s happening with me with JWs I've met, that is, my guess is correct that they can wipe the dust off their feet and walk away?

Answer 1:  If a Witness feels threatened, or if they perceive that you are out to convert them, they will leave.  They say they are looking for "Sheep" which means to them, people who are not going to argue back and people who are not going threaten them. They are going to try to find people who are submissive.  They are the teachers. You are the person who needs to be taught.  If you try to change that, they'll take their leave of you. 


Reader Question 2: I have read on the Internet that there is a hymn in a JW hymnal that has worship to Christ in it – here’s what the source quote on this:

Theocracy's Increase

Hail the Theocracy, ever increasing!
Wondrous expansion is now taking place.
Praise to Jehovah is sung without ceasing
By those who walk in the light of his face.
Long years ago saw the humble beginning
As our Redeemer a lowly way trod.
Now a great crowd join the remnant in bringing
Praises to him at the right hand of God.

So my second question is finding out if this is true.

Answer 2: That song is not one I am familiar with.  The Watchtower has changed their hymnal a few times.  They did so again recently.  So the hymnal that I grew up with is no longer used.  So I am not sure if this is a hymn in current use.  It may reflect on old hymn, and judging from the words I think it is.  I think the Society has taken great care in recent editions of the hymnal to write any reference to praise or worshiping Jesus out.  They've replaced him with the Organization itself, the Society. 

Reader Question 3: Finally my third question is are there any hymns in a JW hymnal (I think they call it Kingdom Songs) that are borrowed from evangelical hymnals?  Or another way of asking do they use any hymns that an Evangelical would use?  Also if I were to find a JW hymnal to purchase do you have suggestions of where to find (ebay maybe) and what’s the title of it?

Answer 3:  No, there are no songs that an evangelical would be familiar with or that you would find in any Evangelical, Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox hymnals.  They are all unique to the Witnesses.  This hasn't always been the case.  Back in their early days they used many of the more famous hymns.  I once had a recording of the Bethel Choir singing Holy Holy Holy.  They reworked the lyrics though. Instead of "God in three persons blessed Trinity" it was "Glory in the Highest, blessed majesty."  Sneaky.  But they stopped using those also.  They want to distance themselves from anything that would remind anyone of "Christendom".  Also, as I mentioned, they've changed hymnals since I left so I am not sure of the name of the new one.  The one I grew up with was "Sing Praises to Jehovah".  The easiest way to get one is to ask a Witness to bring you one. The other way is the check the Book department of your local Thrift stores.  Sometimes they have Watchtower books in the religion section. And, ebay, kijiji and craigslist are also good places to look. Also, get your hands on "The Kingdom Interlinear Translation".  It is produced by the Watchtower and has the Greek and NWT side by side and it is great for comparison to show how bad the NWT is.

Some additional thoughts:

You mentioned in your email about discussing the Deity of Christ.  You went to John 20:28 as a proof text.  I just had some thoughts I have on that:

Sometimes it is more productive to beat your head against a brick wall then to talk to a Jehovah's Witness about the Deity of Christ.  Proof-texting won't work.  They are prepared for most of the major proof texts like John 1:1 and John 20:28.  Their book "Reasoning from the Scriptures" has responses to each of the standard texts you'd use.  So one has to either know how they are going to respond and know the counter argument, or you'll have to think outside the box.  The "Reasoning Book" is the JW Brain.  If you approach a subject in a way that the Reasoning Book doesn't address, you'll save yourself much headache.

That said, you can't just proof-text a few verses. I am against citing a single verse. Greg Koukl has a handy phrase, "Never quote a Bible Verse". Why? Because citing a solitary verse removes it from it's immediate context.  So site large sections of Scripture.

In regards to the Deity of Christ and the Trinity, I'd suggest building your case block by block.  The place where you want to start is Monotheism - there is only one God in existence. For this, you may want to turn your focus on Isaiah 40 through 48. As you read large sections of these chapters with them, emphasize these verses: Isaiah 40:25-28; 41:4; 42:5-8; 43:10-11; 44:6-8, 24; 45:5-7, 14, 20-23; 46:8-10.  Emphasize Monotheism: There is only one God.  The argument against the idols and idolatry in this section is essentially "Don't worship idols because I am the only God that exists".  Emphasize the constant "I am he" phrase that God uses.  Now go to John chapter 8.  Emphasize every time Jesus says "I am he". Go to John 1:3 to show that Jesus created everything that was created.  And tie in Isaiah 45:20-23 with Philippians 2:5-11. Other passages or ways you can add on to this is the fact that in Romans 10 Jesus is refereed to as Jehovah. Another passage is to look at Isaiah 6 and compare with how John quotes that text and applies it to Jesus in the last half of Chapter 12 of his Gospel.

You're line of argument should be like this:  If there is only One God. All other gods are false gods.  You're either the true God, or a false god.  There are no other Gods.  Jehovah alone is God. No one else. So in the New Testament, Jesus is clearly called God.  Is he a true God or a false God? Even if Jesus is "a god" or "mighty god", he must still be the same God as the Father because there is only ONE God.

Also, remember, the Witnesses and the Watchtower don't understand the Trinity.  They'll constantly mistake what you believe as "Modalism" or "Oneness". They'll say things like, "Jesus and the Father are different persons", and "Jesus wasn't praying to himself". To which we respond sarcastically, as a teenager might, "Well duh!" Of course Jesus isn't the Father and of course he wasn't praying to himself.


Those are just some thoughts. Hope they help!
Matt

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Of God's and Men

This coming Friday I'm having a sit down with some Mormon missionaries.

I've decided to focus my critique on their doctrine of God. Specifically, I had in mind the following quote from the King Follett discourse delivered by Joseph Smith. (http://jon.swelter.net/king_follett_discourse.html)

"God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible, -- I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form -- like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another.

In order to understand the subject of the dead, for consolation of those who mourn for the loss of their friends, it is necessary we should understand the character and being of God and how he came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see."

Here there is also that little catch-phrase:
"As man is, God once was;and as God is, man may become."

However, I will bring Isaiah chapters 40-48 to bear on this teaching. Here are a list of verses that teach the exact opposite, that there is only one God. There are no other gods. He alone is God from all eternity. He created everything Ex-Nihilo, out of nothing, simply by the power of his Word.

To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
"My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God"?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable. - Isaiah 40:25-28 ESV

Who has performed and done this,
calling the generations from the beginning?
I, the LORD, the first,
and with the last; I am he.- Isaiah 41:4 ESV

Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
"I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,

to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the LORD; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols. - Isaiah 42:5-8

"You are my witnesses," declares the LORD,
"and my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor shall there be any after me.
I, I am the LORD,
and besides me there is no savior. - Isaiah 43:10-11 ESV

Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel
and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:
"I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.
Who is like me? Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and set it before me,
since I appointed an ancient people.
Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.
Fear not, nor be afraid;
have I not told you from of old and declared it?
And you are my witnesses!
Is there a God besides me?
There is no Rock; I know not any."- Isaiah 44:6-8 ESV

Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer,
who formed you from the womb:
"I am the LORD, who made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
who spread out the earth by myself. - Isaiah 44:24 ESV

I am the LORD, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things. - Isaiah 45:5-7 ESV

They will plead with you, saying:
'Surely God is in you, and there is no other,
no god besides him.'" - Isaiah 45:14 ESV

For thus says the LORD,who created the heavens
(he is God!),
who formed the earth and made it
(he established it;
he did not create it empty,
he formed it to be inhabited!):
"I am the LORD, and there is no other - Isaiah 45:18 ESV


"Assemble yourselves and come;
draw near together,
you survivors of the nations!
They have no knowledge
who carry about their wooden idols,
and keep on praying to a god
that cannot save.
Declare and present your case;
let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the LORD?
And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none besides me.

"Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
'To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.' - Isaiah 45:20-23 (Compare with Philipians 3)

Remember this and stand firm,
recall it to mind, you transgressors,
remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, 'My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,' - Isaiah 46:8-10 ESV
I think the words recorded here are sufficient enough to establish a view of God that is incompatible with the statements of Joseph Smith.

It should be noted that much of the language here is used of Christ.  Notice the frequent "I am he" in Isaiah 40 through 48.  Jesus uses this language of himself in John chapter 8. "Unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins".  John 1:3 says that Christ made everything, "and without him was not anything made that was made".  Colossians 1:16 says that by him, Jesus, everything was created. Hebrews 1:3 says that the whole universe is upheld by Christ. 

Compare these passages above with the testimony of the New Testament about the person and nature of Christ and you will be forced by consitency to confess the Holy Trinity in it's undivided Unity.

Here is an extensive interview on Mormonism with Dr.  James White on the Way of the Master show:

Part 1 -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9i29nHMGOdA
Part 2 -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-YkuZSvN4g
Part 3 -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQxvWLMfdoM

Matt

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Faith in what...?

Where, or to whom, should our faith be directed?

Anyone who has casually read the Bible or knows anything about Christianity knows the very clear answer to this question.

The first of the Ten Commandments reads thus:

"I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. Do not have other gods besides Me. Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them or worship them; for I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ sin, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commands." - Exodus 20:2-6 HCSB

Luther comments on this passage: "What does this mean? That we should fear, love, and trust in God above all things."

When it comes to man-made Organizations, should we put our faith and trust in them?

Listen to the Watchtower's answer:

“If one renders obedient service to someone or some organization, whether willingly or under compulsion, looking up to such as possessing a position of superior rulership and great authority, then that one can Scripturally be said to be a worshiper.” (WT, 9/1/61, p 525)

“Then note what happened to these idolatrous worshipers of a man-made organization.” (WT, 12/1/71, p 723)

“where should your faith be placed - in a religious organization or in God?” (WT, 1/15/70 p 37).

“We cannot take part in any modern version of idolatry - be it worshipful gestures toward an image or symbol or the imputing of salvation to a person or an organization.” (WT, 11/1/90, p 26)

Notice, in these quotes they agree with Holy Scripture. It is idolatry to place our faith in, or look to salvation from, a human Organization.

With that in mind, look at these shocking quotes:

The cover of the March 1, 1979 Watchtower boldly proclaims, “Put Faith in a Victorious Organization!” The accompanying article repeatedly drives home the theme of having faith in the organization:

“Faith in Jehovah’s theocratic organization... Did the remnant of spiritual Israelites and their theocratic companions, the ‘great crowd’ of Christ’s ‘other sheep,’ have such victorious faith? Yes!... Witnesses have kept their faith in Jehovah’s organization.” (p 18)

The article poses the question, “Is there any cause for us to lose faith in Jehovah’s visible organization...?” The answer is given, “Absolutely Not!... Our unwavering faith will be rewarded with victory and the crown of life.”

The same was stated in the Nov. 15, 1981 WT, p 21, where it says, “come to Jehovah’s organization for salvation”.

Worshiping the Organization, putting faith in the Organization, or imputing salvation to the Organization, is idolatry. Here is a classic example of how the Watchtower will speak out of both sides of their mouth. This is another reason why the Watchtower Society is dangerous and deceptive. One minute they'll agree with you, the next they'll deny what they just said. Besides contradicting themselves, they also deny Holy Scripture which says, "there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." - Acts 4:12 ESV

Often when one threatens to leave the Watchtower Society, they ask, "Where will you go? What church or organization is as pure and good as we are." It's not a matter of where, it about to whom shall we go. "So Jesus said to the Twelve, 'Do you want to go away as well?' Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.'" - John 6:67-69 ESV

Let us fear, love, and trust in God above all things and look only to his Eternal Son for our salvation! "And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life." - 1 John 5:11-13 ESV

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"Christ's Sacrifice isn't enough," says WT.

Christians love to hear the message that their sins are forgiven by Christ. It's our oxygen. We breathe it in. It is the fuel that powers Christian living. To know that all of my sins, past, present, and future, have been forgiven because of Christ's death in my place gives tremendous comfort to broken reeds and smoldering wicks.

The Watchtower's "gospel" does not bring comfort. In fact, it crushes. It leads to despair or pride those who swallow it. I was one of those who did swallow it for twenty years, and I have not got away unscathed. The Watchtower gospel is not good news, it's really bad news. The Gospel ends up being something you have to do.

Notice, the June 1, 1995 Watchtower, p 30, says, “Certainly we do not expect that in the present system Jesus would apply to us the full merit of his sacrifice. Even if he did, we would still not have everlasting life.”

Notice here that everlasting life is not at all dependent on the death of Christ in your place for your sins. How do these two sentences even logically follow? If Jesus death is applied to us and we don't have eternal life, then what in the world does it do?

The article continues to talk about the account with the paralyzed man to whom Jesus said, "your sins are forgiven you" (Luke 5), the article states, "What Jesus said did not mean that the man got eternal life on the spot. But the man was blessed with a degree of forgiveness.”. This is just silly. What good does a degree of forgiveness do? If Jesus only gives a degree of forgiveness, then there is still a degree that isn't forgiven. If there still is a degree of sins that remain unforgiven then God the just judge will have to execute justice upon them. A scary thought that! Also Jesus didn't say to the man, “some of your sins are forgiven you”, and he didn’t say, “some day your sins will be forgiven you.” He said, “Your sins are forgiven you.”

The article also teaches that:
1. Jesus does not apply to us the full merit of his sacrifice in the present system
2. Just a degree of our sins are forgiven in the present system
3. We do not get eternal life in the present system

Holy Scripture firmly says otherwise.

All of our sins are forgiven us through Christ.

1 John 1:9 - "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

Acts 13:38-39 ".. through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the Law of Moses.”

The basis for this forgiveness is the death of Christ.

Ephesians 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace”

1 Peter 2:24 "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed."

Eternal life and forgiveness of sins is a present reality for all those who have turned to Christ in repentance and faith.

1 John 5:11-13. “This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life...”

John 6:47 “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life."

John 5:24 "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

I hope this is sufficient to demonstrate that the Watchtower is not teaching the Good News as Holy Scripture reveals it. They teach a legalistic righteousness that is based upon my performance. The death of Christ for them is just there to give you the opportunity to earn forgiveness and salvation by your deeds. That is not the Gospel.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Salvation is not "Quid Pro Quo".

In the April 15, 1999 Watchtower, the article entitled "The Only Way to Everlasting Life" asks, "What is the only way to everlasting life?"  What's their response? How would you respond? The article provides a quotation from Romans 6:23, “The gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord”.  A good answer right?  You may have answered the same way.  Don't be fooled. 

What the Watchtower appears to give with one hand, they mercilessly take away with the other. Notice what they say next,

"Would you expect to receive God’s grand gift of everlasting life in Paradise without any effort on your part?  Is it not reasonable that God would require something?  Surely it is. God does not, in effect, just throw the gift at us.... effort is involved. Are you not thrilled that a Savior has been provided?”

Your Savior has provided?  Effort on your part?  If you have to do someting in order to get something else, then it isn't a gift. You've earned it.  It's a wage. 

"For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.' Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 'Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.'" (Romans 4:2-8 ESV)

Notice how the Watchtower continues:

"You may ask the same question the rich young ruler asked Jesus:  ‘What good must I do in order to get everlasting life?’ or that the Philippian jailer asked Paul, ‘What must I do to get saved?’"

The article then goes on to list the standard conditions for salvation that are usually given by the Watchtower, viz. take in knowledge, exercise faith, preach, etc.

"Taking such steps is completely reasonable... Staying on this cramped road takes real effort!”

This is nothing but the Law.  This isn't good news, this is not the Gospel.  The Law says, "Do this and live".  The Law works in a "quid pro quo" kind of way. It's an "If you then God..." formula. 

"For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.' Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for 'The righteous shall live by faith.' But the law is not of faith, rather 'The one who does them shall live by them.' Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith." (Galatians 3:10-14 ESV)

This kind of teaching is only going to condemn you, because the law demands perfection and we by our own fault are not perfect. "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:47-48 ESV).  "For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:20 ESV) "So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith." (Galatians 3:24)  The law shows us our sin with the express purpose to despair of ourselves and make us cling to Christ. 

The Watchtower teaches a salvation that is dependent on human ability and achievements.  They teach a salvation conditioned upon our ability to live up to God's commandments.  This is nothing but a curse and condemnation, and there is no need for a crucified and risen savior.

Now, finishing off with a rabbit trail, most Christians can see how a proper distinction between the Law and the Gospel is essential if we are to understand the Gospel.  But when it comes to sanctification, it seems many Christians are content to be put right back under the Law again. 

Notice what Paul says though:

"O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?  Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham 'believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness'?" (Galatians 3:1-7 ESV)

Sanctification is not what you do to become more holy.  It's what God the Holy Spirit does to conform you to the image of Christ. But it seems that we have to contribute something. We think this way because the Law is etched on our conscience since creation.

But I believe the Scriptures teach that the more we grow in grace, the more we despair of ourselves and recognize our need for Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit make us lose all self-confidence so we might trust in Christ alone. The foundation of our growth in grace is to despair of all hope in self and, as Paul said, to have "no confidence in the flesh".  The only way to get there is through the proper preaching of the Law, that is, show us our sin.

The gospel is the power and motivation for holy living because it points away from us to Christ. Our sanctification is no more grounded on our ability than justification. Christians should and do live lives of obedience.  Cows moo, dogs bark, and a true Christian obeys. The law commands us to live a certain way, but does not give us the power to do it. The fault is not with the law but with us. The obedience that is required of us by the Law has already been rendered by Christ. The Spirit now works in us, through the Gospel, faith and trust in the promise of Christ.  Christian obedience to the law, which has lost its condemning power, is now and always done in light of and motivated by the Cross. The Cross is the central mantle piece in true Christianity.

Christianity is not ultimately about us or about our piety, (although our piety is important), but about Christ and what He has accomplished outside of us. This destroys our pride because it crushes self reliance and removes every possibility of human contribution. Apart from this Christocentric understanding in both justification and sanctification, the law can only lead us to either hopelessness or self-righteous pride.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Te Deum - We Praise You and Acknowledge You

Here is an awesome version of "Te Deum".

Te Deum Laudamus, is an early Christian hymn of praise. The title is taken from its opening Latin words, rendered literally as "Thee, O God, we praise". Authorship is traditionally ascribed to Augustine on the occasion of the baptism of Ambrose.

This versification is done by Pastor Stephen Starke, a prolific hymn-writer.  The tune is from Gustav Holst’s The Planets, specifically the movement “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity.”

MP3 - Te Deum - We Praise You and Acknowledge You - LSB 941

We praise You and acknowledge You, o God, to be the Lord, the Father everlasting, by all the earth adored. To You all angel powers cry aloud, the heavens sing, the cherubim and seraphim their praises to You bring: "O holy, holy, holy Lord God of Sabaoth; Your majesty and glory fill the heavens and the earth!"

The band of the apostles in glory sing Your praise; the fellowship of prophets their deathless voices raise. The martyrs of Your kingdom, a great and noble throng, sing with the holy Church throughout all the world this song: "O all majestic Father, Your true and only Son, and Holy Spirit, Comforter -- forever Three in One!"

You, Christ, are King of glory, the everlasting Son, yet You, with boundless love, sought to rescue everyone: You laid aside Your glory, were born of virgin's womb, were crucified for us and were placed into a tomb; then by Your resurrection You won for us reprieve -- You opened heaven's kingdom to all who would believe.

You sit in splendid glory, enthroned at God's right hand, upholding earth and heaven by forces You command. We know that You will come as our Judge that final day, so help Your servants You have redeemed by blood we pray; may we with saints be numbered where praises never end, in glory everlasting. Amen, o Lord, amen!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Quotes of the Week

Luther on Predestination

"Concerning predestination, it is best to begin below, at Christ, as then we both hear and find the Father; for all those that have begun at the top have broken their necks. I have been thoroughly plagued and tormented with such cogitations of predestination; I would needs know how God intended to deal with me, etc. But at last, God be praised! I clean left them; I took hold again on God?s revealed Word; higher I was not able to bring it, for a human creature can never search out the celestial will of God; this God hides, for the sake of the devil, to the end the crafty spirit may be deceived and put to confusion. The revealed will of God the devil has learned from us, but God reserves his secret will to himself. It is sufficient for us to learn and know Christ in his humanity, in which the Father has revealed himself." Martin Luther, Table Talk, DCLVII.

Machen on the Law and the Gospel

“‘The law is not of faith (does not partake of the nature of faith), but as Scripture says, ‘He who does them shall live in (or by) them.’ Paul means to say, “describing the nature of the law, it requires doing something. But faith is the opposite of doing. So when the Scripture says that a man is justified by faith, that involves saying that he is not justified by anything that he does. There are two conceivable ways of salvation. One way is to keep the law perfectly, to do the things which the law requires. No mere man since the fall has accomplished that. The other way is to receive something, to receive something that is freely given by God’s grace. That way is followed when a man has faith. But you cannot possibly mingled the two. You might conceivably be saved by works or you might be saved by faith; but you cannot be saved by both. It is ‘either or’ here not “both and.” – J. Gresham Machen, Notes on Galatians p. 178

Walther on trusting your conversion instead of Christ

"We are not to look back to our conversion for assurance, but we must go to the Savior again and again, every day, as though we had never been converted. My former conversion will be of no benefit to me if I become secure. I must return to the mercy-seat every day, otherwise I shall make my former conversion my savior, by relying on it. That would be awful; for in the last analysis it would mean I make myself my savior." C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction of the Law and the Gospel p. 207

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Good and Joyous News

Human beings have not kept the law of God but have transgressed it. Their corrupted human nature, thoughts, words, and deeds battle against the law. For this reason they are subject to God’s wrath, to death and all temporal afflictions, and to the punishment of the fires of hell. As a result, the Gospel, in its strict sense, teaches what people should believe, namely, that they receive from God the forgiveness of sins; that is, that the Son of God, our Lord Christ, has taken upon Himself the curse of the law and borne it, atoned and paid for all our sins; that through Him alone we are restored to God’s grace, obtain the forgiveness of sins through faith and are delivered from death and all the punishments of our sins and are saved eternally. . . . It is good news, joyous news, that God does not want to punish sin but to forgive it for Christ’s sake (Formula of Concord: Solid Declaration, V:20).

That is how the Lutheran Confessions explain what the Gospel is all about. I really like this quote. Short, simple, to the point. This is a great summary of the Gospel and the heart of the Reformation.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Watchtower and Scripture Part 1

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
(2 Timothy 3:14-15 ESV)

Paul here tells Timothy that the sacred writings, the Scriptures, are able to make one wise for salvation. They are sufficient. Scripture contains all of the information that we need to know in order to be saved.

Westminster Confession of Faith (1.7) has a good summary on teaching of the Perspicuity/Clarity of Scriptures. "All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all (2 Pet. 3:16); yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them (Ps. 119:105, 130)."

Notice how the Roman Catholic Church denies this claim....

"It is the teaching of the Church that the Old Testament Scriptures were transferred to her ownership by Christ himself in view of her position as the new 'Israel of God' and the heir of the Old Testment promises; and that the New Testament Scriptures being written within the Church by some of its members for the benefit of all (or more precisely, within the society of Catholic Church by Catholics and for Catholics), are likewise her exclusive property, of which she is the absolute Owner, Guardian, Trustee and Interpreter."
(A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, 1951 pg 8 with imprimatur and acknowledgment of Pope Pius XII)

"...no one, relying on his own skill, shall,--in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, --wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,--whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,--hath held and doth hold," (Trent, Session 4, "Decree Concerning the Edition, and the Use, of the Sacred Books")

The problem that the Catholic Church has with the idea of the Sufficiency of Scripture, (that scripture contains all that is sufficient for salvation), is that they say this position is irrational because all of us have to interpret the scriptures and the Christians have no official interpreter to interpret them right, and so we Christians end up in disagreements over many things. Rome claims to not have this problem because God knowing that the Bible is a hard book to understand, has given in his goodness the gift of the Church and Spirit guiding the church to a correct interpretation of Scripture.

Notice who else holds this exact same view....

"We all need help to understand the Bible, and we cannot find the Scriptural guidance we need outside the "faithful and discreet slave" organization," (Watchtower, Feb. 15, 1981, p. 19).

"Thus the Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as an organization, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible," (Watchtower, Oct. 1, 1967, p. 587).

"He does not impart his holy spirit and understanding and appreciation of his Word apart from his visible organization. (Watchtower, July 1, 1965, pg. 391)

"Only this organization functions for Jehovah's purpose and to his praise. To it alone God's Sacred Word, the Bible, is not a sealed book," (Watchtower, July 1, 1973, p. 402).

"We should eat and digest and assimilate what is set before us, without shying away from parts of the food because it may not suit the fancy of our mental taste...We should meekly go along with the Lord's theocratic organization and wait for further clarification, rather than balk at the first mention of a thought unpalatable to us and proceed to quibble and mouth our criticisms and opinions as though they were worth more than the slave's provision of spiritual food. Theocratic ones will appreciate the Lord's visible organization and not be so foolish as to put against Jehovah's channel their own human reasoning and sentiment and personal feelings," (Watchtower, Feb. 1, 1952, p. 79-80).

"From time to time, there have arisen from among the ranks of Jehovah's people those, who, like the original Satan, have adopted an independent, faultfinding attitude...They say that it is sufficient to read the Bible exclusively, either alone or in small groups at home. But, strangely, through such 'Bible reading,' they have reverted right back to the apostate doctrines that commentaries by Christendom's clergy were teaching 100 years ago..." (Watchtower, Aug. 15, 1981).

"All who want to understand the Bible should appreciate that the "greatly diversified wisdom of God" can become known only through Jehovah's channel of communication, the faithful and discreet slave," (Watchtower, Oct. 1, 1994, p. 8).

From the book Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life, on page 12, paragraph 3, the Watchtower comments: "But if you were given a legal document outlining what you had to do in order to receive a valuable inheritance, would you not take the time to study it carefully? If you find certain parts of the document hard to understand, likely you would get the help of someone experienced in such
matters."

The Watchtower teaches that the Bible can only be understood with God's Organization in mind, and that the Governing Body are the only ones who may properly interpret Scripture.

However, the Scriptures themselves are sufficient and clear. We do not need a Governing Body or any man-made organization (like the Watchtower) to understand Scripture. "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." (Psalms 19:7)

When people misunderstand Scripture, it's their own fault.

Theologian Wayne Grudem, comments, "Jesus’ responses always assume that the blame for misunderstanding any teaching of Scripture is not to be placed on the Scriptures themselves, but on those who misunderstand or fail to accept what is written. Again and again he answers questions with statements like these: “Have you not read what David did . . . ? Or have you not read in the Law . . . ?” (Matt 12:3, 5). “Have you not read . . . ?” (Matt 19:4). “Have you never read in the scriptures . . . ?” (Matt 21:42). “Have you not read what was said to you by God . . . ?” (Matt 22:31). “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’” (Matt 9:13). “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” (John 3:10). “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt 22:29). On the road to Emmaus, he rebuked two disciples: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25). The blame for failing to understand is always on the reader, never on the Scriptures themselves."

Martin Luther, in the Bondage of the Will, commented similarly, placing the blame on the individual for not correctly understanding the Scriptures. He says, "But, if many things still remain abstruse to many, this does not arise from obscurity in the Scriptures, but from [our] own blindness or want [i.e. lack] of understanding, who do not go the way to see the all-perfect clearness of the truth... Let, therefore, wretched men cease to impute, with blasphemous perverseness, the darkness and obscurity of their own heart to the all-clear scriptures of God... If you speak of the internal clearness, no man sees one iota in the Scriptures, but he that hath the Spirit of God... If you speak of the external clearness, nothing whatever is left obscure or ambiguous; but all things that are in the Scriptures, are by the Word brought forth into the clearest light, and proclaimed to the whole world."

And again, Grudem summarizes my main point nicely.

"But neither the teachings of Jesus nor the NT epistles give any hint that believing readers need an authoritative interpreter of Scripture such as the Bishop of Rome (or Governing Body). Not even in the first century did the apostles suggest that ordinary believers needed an authoritative interpreter in order to understand Scripture rightly. The Scripture remains clear enough that it is able to be understood, now as in all previous ages, by ordinary believers who will take the needed time and effort, employ ordinary means, and rely on the Holy Spirit’s help."

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Romans 6 - Spiritual or Water Baptism?

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
    For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
    Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
    (Romans 6:1-14 ESV)

Some Reformed Theologians, (though not the Reformers themselves), will say that Romans 6, (and some other texts I could cite), are really not references to water baptism at all, but to an unmediated ‘spiritual’ baptism that takes place apart from any outward means, ritual or ceremony. The baptism mentioned here is not water baptism, but spiritual baptism. There are some things I think are wrong with that view. 

First, this simply illogical. This is a good example of the logical fallacy called "Special Pleading." All that means is, they are saying this is a "special case" or an exception to the rule, without any valid reason for doing so. They don't do a good enough job proving why this case is special. Why shouldn't it say what it seems to be saying on the surface?  The text seems to say that in baptism God promises that believers are united to the crucified, buried, and risen Christ, and that reflecting on this is a major source of sanctification in the life of the believer. Those that say that this use of  the word "baptism" isn't referring to water baptism like it normally does, is simply not good reasoning, and not logical.

There is also a bit of preconceived bias in this.  Tradition rears it's ugly head.  Some say, "It can't mean water Baptism.  That doesn't fit into my theology, so it must mean something else. This must be the exception to the rule that baptism refers to water baptism." So really, you've excluded any possibility of the Bible actually saying this at all.  This is eisegesis. Reading your theology into the text because what the text actually says is uncomfortable to you.

That leads to the second objection I have. The Bible says there is only one baptism (Eph. 4:5), so splitting baptism up into a physical baptism and a spiritual baptism is illegitimate.  In the first sermon ever preached, Peter says that those who are baptised receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Paul says in 1 Cor. 12:13 that we were baptised into the body by the Spirit.  Baptism and the working of the Holy Spirit are directly and clearly linked in the scriptures.  True, baptism isn't the only possible way one may receive the Spirit, but you can't deny that it is a way.

This leads to my third objection.  The Spirit does not work immediately or unmediated. This is the error of the Mystics and Charismatics. The Spirit always uses means.  This is what we call "the means of grace". Because of our weakness and frailty, God has condescended and uses things of this world as pipes to communicate Himself to us. Means of grace are visible, external things which God uses to communicate Christ to us. The primary means of grace is the Word. An illustration may help here.

The book of Numbers recounts a time during their wilderness trek when the Israelites were disobedient to the Lord. So the Lord sent poisonous snakes into the camp. When the Israelites were bitten by snakes, God told Moses to make a copper serpent and put it on a pole.  He then promised all who would look at the pole would be healed.  How did a snake on a stick do such great things?  It wasn't the snake on the stick. It wasn't looking at the snake on the stick. It was faith in the promises of God.  It was faith that God would make good on his Word. It was a trust that when God said that those who looked at the copper serpant would be healed, he wasn't lying.  Would you say to an Israelite, "By looking at the copper snake you are trusting in a created thing to heal you instead of God." God uses means. God promises to do great and wonderful things through the agency of creatures, and he makes good on his promises.

"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ." (Romans 10:17) "You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of God." (1 Peter 1:23) I would agree with Augustine, who called the sacraments, “God’s visible words." Christ is the incarnate Word. The Bible is God's written Word.  The Gospel is God's preached Word. The sacraments (including Baptism), are God's visible Word.  We have no problem with God the Holy Spirit using a sermon or the preaching of the Gospel to save someone do we?  Is the preaching of the Gospel only a picture that doesn't do anything? No!  Does God truly offer Christ in the preaching of the Gospel? Yes.  Do we thus conclude that everyone who hears the preaching of the Gospel is saved? Not at all, and we don't diminish the working of the Spirit in and through the Word either.  Baptism works no differently then the preaching of the Gospel.

So don't misunderstand me.  Just because you got wet, doesn't mean you're saved, or that these things are true about you.  Baptism itself doesn't do anything. God is the one who performs these things.  If you don't believe God, or trust in his promises, then you make God out to be a liar, and the water will just be a water of judgment.

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
(Colossians 2:11-12 ESV)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Thoughts on Baptism

The fact that one's view of baptism has implications on their theology can be shown by contrasting Calvin and Luther on Baptism.  My thesis here is essentially going to be, Calvin and Luther agree on the matter of baptism. (This is not to say that I agree with them, on certain points I do, on certain points I think they are way off. But this isn't really about my view, but a contrast of Luther and Calvin based on my limited reading of both).

Notice what Calvin says about this:

"It may be justly said, that such sacraments are ceremonies, by which God is pleased to train his people, first, to excite, cherish, and strengthen faith within; and, secondly, to testify our religion to men." (Institutes 4:14:19)

According to Calvin, the "Zwinglian" view which doesn't see the sacraments as a means of grace but as an identifying mark or badge, and which is the popular view of most Evangelicals, is only a secondary meaning. He says this even more specifically:

"We approve not, that that which is a secondary thing in sacraments is by them made the first, and indeed the only thing. The first thing is, that they may contribute to our faith in God; the secondary, that they may attest our confession before men. These similitudes are applicable to the secondary reason. Let it therefore remain a fixed point, that mysteries would be frigid (as has been seen) were they not helps to our faith, and adjuncts annexed to doctrine for the same end and purpose." (Institutes 4:14:13)

And also Calvin says of them, "These objectors impair the force, and altogether overthrow the use of the sacraments." (Institutes 4:14:14)

Notice what Calvin says Baptism signifies:

"For Baptism testifies that we are washed and purified; the Supper of the Eucharist that we are redeemed. Ablution is figured by water, satisfaction by blood. [...] In the water and blood we have an evidence of purification and redemption." (Institutes 4:14:22)

Calvin does a great job at explaining his meaning:

"Wherefore, let it be a fixed point, that the office of the sacraments differs not from the word of God; and this is to hold forth and offer Christ to us, and, in him, the treasures of heavenly grace. They confer nothing, and avail nothing, if not received in faith, just as wine and oil, or any other liquor, however large the quantity which you pour out, will run away and perish unless there be an open vessel to receive it. ... God, therefore, truly performs whatever he promises and figures by signs; nor are the signs without effect, for they prove that he is their true and faithful author." (Institutes 4:14:17)

Both Luther and Calvin maintained that Baptism doesn't work ex opre operato, that is, just in the mere performance of the act. Both Calvin and Luther strongly opposed such a view. Luther would say that  you do not believe God, or trust his promise that is attached to the Water, then baptism does not confer what it signifies, but becomes a source of condemnation.

Calvin, in his Brief Confession of Faith, summarizes his views nicely:

"I confess that our weakness requires that sacraments be added to the preaching of the word, as seals by which the promises of God are sealed on our hearts, and that two such sacraments were ordained by Christ, viz., Baptism and the Lord’s Supper—the former to give us an entrance into the Church of God—the latter to keep us in it. The five sacraments imagined by the Papists, and first coined in their own brain, I repudiate.

But although the sacraments are an earnest by which we may be rendered secure of the promises of God, I however acknowledge that they would be useless to us did not the Holy Spirit render them efficacious as instruments, lest our confidence, being fixed on the creature, should be withdrawn from God. Nay, I even confess that the sacraments are vitiated and perverted when it is not regarded as their only aim to make us look to Christ for every thing requisite to our salvation, and whenever they are employed for any other purpose than that of fixing our faith wholly in him.

[...]

In general, I confess that, as well in the supper as in baptism, God gives in reality and effectually whatever he figures in them, but that to the receiving of this great boon we require to join the word with the signs. In which matter I detest the abuse and perversion of the Papists, who have deprived the sacraments of their principal part, viz., the doctrine which teaches the true use and benefit flowing therefrom, and have changed them into magical impostures.

I likewise confess that water, though it is a fading element, truly testifies to us in baptism the true presence of the blood of Jesus Christ, and of his Spirit; and that in the Lord’s Supper the bread and wine are to us true and by no means fallacious pledges that we are spiritually nourished by the body and blood of Christ. And thus I join with the signs the very possession and fruition of that which is therein offered to us."

If you find what Calvin is trying to say difficult, perhaps Martin Luther is a bit clearer.

Luther, in his Small Catechism, explains:

What is Baptism?--Answer.

Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water comprehended in God's command and connected with God's Word.

Which is that word of God?--Answer.

Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Matthew: Go ye into all the world and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

What does Baptism give or profit?--Answer.

It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

Which are such words and promises of God? Answer.

Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark: He that believes and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned.

How can water do such great things?--Answer.

It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Saviour, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.

What does such baptising with water signify?--Answer.

It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?--Answer.

St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

And if you doubt that Calvin and Luther are in agreement here, I provide several quotes from Calvin's Strassburg Catechism.

Calvin’s Strasburg Children’s Catechism, dating from 1538-9, he begins with the following questions and answers:

“My child, are you a Christian in fact as well as in name?

Yes, my father.

How is this known to you?

Because I am baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

This is something that is usually thought to be a Lutheran answer, and thus Calvin shows that he is in agreement with them on this point. Baptism and the Lord's Supper were given primary for our assurance. How do you know you're saved? Because of your feelings or experiences? NO! But because of the promise of God attached to Baptism. That's how Luther and Calvin would respond.  They would claim it's objective not subjective. It's outside of you, not in you.

Later, in the same work, Calvin writes: “How did you come into this communion of the church? Through baptism. What is this baptism? It is the washing of regeneration and cleansing from sin.”

“Now baptism was given to us by God for these ends (which I have taught to be common to all sacraments): first to serve our faith before him; secondly, to serve our confession before men…Accordingly, they [e.g., the Zwinglians and Anabaptists] who regarded baptism as nothing but a token and mark by which we confess our religion before men, as soldiers bear the insignia of their commander as a mark of their profession, have not weighed what was the chief point of baptism”

“For inasmuch as [baptism] is given for the arousing, nourishing, and confirming of our faith, it is to be received as from the hand of the Author himself. We ought to deem it certain and proved that it is he who speaks to us through the sign; that it is he who purifies and washes away sins, and wipes out the remembrance of them; that it is he who make us sharers in his death, who deprives Satan of his rule, who weakens the power of our lust; indeed, that it is he who comes into a unity with us so that, having put on Christ, we may be acknowledged God’s children. These things, I say, he performs for our soul within as truly and surely as we see our body outwardly cleansed, submerged, and surrounded with water…And he does not feed our eyes with a mere appearance only, but leads us to the present reality and effectively performs what he symbolises”.

“The first thing that the Lord sets out for us is that baptism should be a token and proof of our cleansing; or (the better to explain what I mean) it is like a sealed document to confirm to us that all our sins are so abolished, remitted, and effaced that they can never come to his sight, be recalled, or charged against us.”
“Baptism also brings another benefit, for it shows us our mortification in Christ, and new life in him…[T]hrough baptism Christ makes us sharers in his death, that we may be engrafted in it”

“But we are not to think that baptism was conferred upon us only for past time, so that for newly committed sins into which we fall after baptism we must seek new remedies of expiation in some other sacraments, as if the force of the former one were spent…For, though baptism, administered only once, seemed to have passed, it was still not destroyed by subsequent sins”

“We now see the reason why Christ employs such magnificent terms, to commend and adorn that ministry which he bestows and enjoins on the Apostles [and their successors, pastors]. It is, that believers may be fully convinced, that what they hear concerning the forgiveness of sins is ratified, and may not less highly value the reconciliation which is offered by the voice of men, than if God himself stretched out his hand from heaven. And the church daily receives the most abundant benefit from this doctrine, when it perceives that her pastors are divinely ordained to be sureties for eternal salvation, and that it must not go to a distance to seek the forgiveness of sins, which is committed to their trust.”

“[The forgiveness of sins] is dispensed to us through the ministers and pastors of the church, either by the preaching of the Gospel [including the declaration of absolution] or by the administration of the sacraments; and herein chiefly stands the power of the keys, which the Lord has gifted to the society of believers. Accordingly, let each one of us count it his own duty to seek forgiveness of sins only where the Lord has placed it.”

These are some of the thoughts and quotes that are going through my head at the moment. Although there are areas I would have objections, (baptismal regeneration is problematic), I tend to agree with Calvin and Luther on the point that baptism is not primarily what I do but what God is doing. Baptism is a means of grace and sanctification, and not a testimony or identifying sign only. In my Baptism, God "represented, sealed, and applied" the forgiveness of sins to me. It is objective, and outside of me. I do not trust in the water, the ritual, or the minister. But I trust in the God whose Word of promise spoken through the minister and to me.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Repentance and the Forgiveness of Sins.

"It is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations." (Luke 24:46-47 ESV)

The historian Luke records this as some of Jesus last words to his disciples before his ascension into heaven. It contains one of the most succinct and complete statements in regard to the nature of the Gospel in all of Holy Scripture. And it's indictment upon much that is preached in the name of Christ and the Gospel today in "Christianity" is telling. Indeed, throughout history we can see that all departures into false doctrine, heresy, and schism, are the result of a fundamental denial of the truth contained in these two verses.

The Gospel presented here is clear and hard to screw up. Upon the basis of the vicarious and substitutionary death of Christ in our place and his resurrection on the third day, God offers forgiveness of sins to those who repent and trust in Christ. That is the message that should be proclaimed everywhere.

It isn't subjective, about my own emotions, feelings and experiences, but it's objective. It's extra nos, outside of us. It's about what happened on a dark weekend two thousand years ago outside of Jerusalem. Jesus doesn't live "because he lives in my heart". He lives because it's a historical fact. And it contains Earth shattering implications for all of humanity.

We are not to be proclaiming doomsday, the end of the World, or various end times scenarios. We are to be proclaiming Jesus Christ and him crucified, risen, and reigning for the forgiveness of sins, the justification of the sinner, for the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. The Christian Gospel is not God is coming back to destroy everything. It's God already came and destroyed everything on the Cross. Satan, sin, death, the curse of the Law, all have been defeated. There is now a New Creation and it has invaded and overthrown this present wicked age.

It is telling that this message is not about me, and it's not about you. It isn't about practical tips for everyday living. It isn't about how to have a better marriage, or better finances, or any other recipe for a victorious Christian life. It's about Jesus and his suffering, his death, and his resurrection. It's about repentance and forgiveness of sins being preached in His name. It's not about my best life now. It isn't about what I have to do, it's about what He has done for me.

Christianity is not about moral improvement or transformation. That's law, not Gospel. The law gives us the standard and tell us what to do. If you have to do it, it's law. What's our part in Gospel? Ours is the sin that needed forgiveness. Sin is violation of the law, failing to meet God's moral standard. John says in his letter, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."(1 John 1:8-10 ESV) Christians are simul iustus et peccator, simultaneously justified and sinners. Look at your self and your "victorious Christian life" long enough in the light of God's holiness and law and you'll be thrown into despair! You need just as much grace, mercy, and forgiveness from God right now as you did before you became a Chrsitian. "Forgive us our sins as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us." Christ offers forgiveness to everyone: to the unbeliever, and to the Christian as well. Repentance and forgiveness of sins proclaimed in his name to all nations.

It's not about the individual. It's not about social justice. It's not about community. It's not about moral improvement, or the end of the world. Some of these things are good, and are results and implications of the Gospel. The Gospel should lead to moral improvement, community, and social justice. But those are results of the Gospel's work in the hearts and lives of believers. It isn't the Gospel itself. The fruit of a tree is not the tree itself. Jesus said, "Good trees produce good fruit. Bad trees produce bad fruit". Worry about the tree. Focus on the getting good trees and good fruit will come. Cats meow, dog's bark, cows moo, and Christians bear fruit. But in order to get a Christian, you have to have the GOSPEL and the Gospel is about the forgiveness of sins because of Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection in your place.

The message is we are all rebels, in violation of God's holy Law. We are all failures in the law keeping department. Jesus through his suffering, death, and resurrection in our place offers us forgiveness and absolution from all our sins. Embrace Christ! Trust in Him. There is plenteous forgiveness in Christ, because God the Father punished him in your place! If you are in a Church where this is not placarded every single week: FLEE! Run for the hills. If repentance and the forgiveness of sins is not preached in Jesus name every week, then all you're getting is Law and it's going to kill you.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Why Franklin Graham Failed.

I don't know much about Franklin Graham besides the fact that he is Billy Graham's son and an Evangelical preacher.

Below is his interview with Bill O'Reilly. Specifically notice the conversation about Rob Bell and Hell starting at about 2:50



I think Rev. Graham did a total face plant here. He let O'Reilly define the terms of engagement and lost. When O'Reilly starts questioning him over Hell, he makes certain presuppositions and assumptions that Rev. Graham doesn't address.

The assumptions are:

1) Christians teach that people go to hell because they reject Jesus.

This is the assumption underneath the objection, "What about those who have never heard of Jesus?" God sends some humans to hell because they are sinners, not because they have rejected Jesus. That's why those who never have heard of Jesus will go to hell, because they are sinners. This leads to assumption #2....

2) Some people are innocent and therefore don't deserve to go to Hell even if they've rejected Jesus.

O'Reilly makes this claim about the Jews in the Holocaust. However, this assumption fails to see the Christian position that everyone is born condemned by God's law. We are sinners by nature, by choice, and by our federal union with Adam. O'Reilly fails to see the doctrine of Total Depravity, or Original Sin. God sends people to hell because he is a Holy and Just God who will punish sin. All are under the power of sin, and therefore, all deserve to be condemned by God. There are no "innocent" people. All are guilty. All are unholy and evil. Everyone. That's why we need a saviour.

3) We have free will.

The assumption here is that the default position and setting for humans is "neutral", and that we have the free will to either choose good or evil. However the Christian position is that although we have a will and although we are not robots, our will isn't "free". We are not neutral. We have an "un-free" will, a will that is in bondage and slavery to sin. We love our sin and want to stay in it. Our nature is corrupt, and our nature powers our choices. We choose what we want, and what we want is sin. Our will is enslaved to sin.

So as you can see, Rev. Graham failed to see these assumptions. By not challenging these basic presuppositions, Rev. Graham has forfeit much of the argument already to O'Reilly. By not addressing these issues, O'Reilly has the high ground and will not see the validity of the Christian view of these issues.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reflections on Tuesday Readings for Holy Week

And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. - Matthew 21:23-27 KJV

And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet. - Matthew 21:45-46

Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.  And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians...The same day came to him the Sadducees...But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.  Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him.... - Matthew 22:15-16, 23, 34-35 KJV

When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way. ... And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.- Matthew 22:22, 33 KJV

Jesus spends much of Tuesday in the Temple area teaching.  He starts off the day answering the Pharisees objection to his authority and condemning them in parables. In response to their humiliation in front of the crowds of people, the Pharisees want to kill him, but have to find something against him. Seeing that their other schemes and open attempts to attack Christ have not succeeded, the Pharisees try more indirect methods, so they attempt to catch him in his words.  The send the Herodians first, and then the Sadducees.  When both groups utterly fail to catch Jesus in his words, but rather marvel at his teaching, the Pharisees themselves seek to trap him, and fail themselves.  From this we can see God uses the wicked schemes of His enemies for a different purpose. Not only are they disappointed, and their expectations dashed, but they are even publicly disgraced. But in all his replies, Christ shows us the majesty of his glory, by compelling those men to depart crowned with shame.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reflections on Monday Readings for Holy Week

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them. - Matthew 21:12-14

After Jesus cleanses the temple, the blind and lame come to him and he cures them. Jesus supported his authority to cleanse the temple by miracles, so that he might not be suspected of rashness. He cured the blind and lame in the temple so he could proclaim that the rights and honor of the Messianic office truly belonged to him. The lame and blind who were cured, were witnesses of the divine power of Christ. These miracles proved and verified what had been proclaimed by the multitude the day before.

Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. - John 12:27-28 KJV

Here we see just how much our salvation cost the Son of God. Jesus was so troubled that he found it hard to find the words to express the intensity of his sorrow. We see though that in his sorrow, he gives himself to prayer. Jesus here implies that he prefers the glory of the Father over all other things. Even his own life is secondary to God's glory. God is most glorified at the Cross of Calvary. There he confirms in action, what he promises to Christ here in words.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Reflections on Palm Sunday Readings

And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. - Matthew 21:9-11 KJV

And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. Luke 19:39-40 KJV

The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him. - John 12:19 KJV

When the Queen comes to Canada, there are great crowds and much celebration. When Jesus arrived, the commotion made people wonder just who it was that was coming to Jerusalem? A king? A foreign dignitary? No, it was Jesus of Nazareth, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The fact is Jesus deserved, and continues to deserve, all the fanfare, praise, exuberance, and exultation that we can give him.

Christ's triumphal entrance into Jerusalem was not a secret matter. I find it interesting that the Pharisees didn't oppose this entrance. I mean, they definitely objected, but they didn't get their guards together and try and stop it. I think they didn't oppose Jesus and his royal welcome because they were taken off guard, and were likely surprised.

Calvin wrote about this occasion, "Under this despicable aspect of the flesh the majesty of the Spirit was apparent; for how would they have endured that Christ should be conducted into the city, attended by the splendor of royalty, with so great danger to themselves, if they had not been seized with astonishment?".

I pray that we all may be seized with astonishment and wonder at the majesty and glory of our Lord, and praise and exult him forever!

Matt

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Readings for Holy Week

Well, starting tomorrow we are in Holy Week.  This is the week of the year we think about Christ's final week on earth.  (And it roughly happened at this time of the year as well).  Anyway... here are the readings for this week. Each set of readings is for what happened on that day. I am going to read through these this week.  Perhaps you can read through this with me as well?  I will be posting my reflections and thoughts on the readings for each day this week.


Palm Sunday

    Matthew 21:1-11
    Mark 11:1-11
     Luke 19:29-44
    John 12:12-19

Monday

     Matthew 21:12-19
     Mark 11:12-19
     Luke 19:45-48
    John 12:20-50

Tuesday

    Matthew 21:20 – 22:40
    Mark 11:20 – 12:34
    Luke 20:1-40

Wednesday

    Matthew 22:41 – 26:16
    Mark 12:35 – 14:11
    Luke 20:41 – 22:6
    John 12:2-8

Maundy Thursday

    Matthew 26:17-46
    Mark 14:12-42
    Luke 22:7-46
    John 13:1 – 18:1

Good Friday

    Matthew 26:47 – 27:61
    Mark 14:43 – 15:47
    Luke 22:47 – 23:56
    John 18:2 – 19:42

Saturday

    Matthew 27:62-66
    Mark 16:1
    Luke 23:56

Sunday (Easter)                             

    Matthew 28:1-15
    Mark 16:2-14
    Luke 24:1-43
    John 20:1-25

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sunday - The Lord's Day

Here are some points to consider, making a case for corporate (think congregational) worship on Sunday as being a New Testament teaching.

1. Jesus made congregational worship his custom.

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.
(Luke 4:16 ESV)

2. Jesus Christ was resurrected on the first day of the week, Sunday.

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that(B) the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
(John 20:1 ESV)

3. On the first day of the week, Sunday, the disciples were assembled together, probably to commemorate Christ's resurrection.

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."
(John 20:19 ESV)

4. One week later, the disciples were again assembled together.

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you."
(John 20:26 ESV)

5. The book of Acts also describes how on another occasion the disciples were assembled together on the first day of the week, Sunday. The meeting included the breaking of bread (Communion, the Lord's Supper) and a sermon by Paul.

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.
(Acts 20:7 ESV)

6. Paul's Letters confirm the same thing.

On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.
(1 Corinthians 16:2 ESV)

7. John called Sunday, the Lord's day.

I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day
(Revelation 1:10-11 ESV)

(Note: This Greek phrase is completely different from "The Day of the Lord")

8. Besides all this, congregating is a command.

And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
(Hebrews 10:24-25 HCSB)

9. Early Christian and Non-Chrsitian writers confirm the above points.

The Didache - (AD 70-120) Chapter 14. Christian Assembly on the Lord's Day

But every Lord's day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations.

Justin Martyr: A.D. 140
“But Sunday is the day which we all hold our common assembly, because Jesus Christ, our Saviour, on the same day rose from the dead.” Apology, Chapter LXVII.

Anatolius, A.D. 270, Bishop of Laodicea, in Asia Minor:
“Our regard for the Lord’s resurrection which took place on the Lord’s Day will lead us to celebrate it.” Chapter X.

Cyprian, A.D. 250, Bishop of Carthage in Africa:
“The eighth day, that is, the first day after the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day.” Epistle 58, section 4.

Tertullian, A.D. 200, in Africa:
“We solemnize the day after Saturday in contradiction to those who call this day their Sabbath.” Apology, Chapter XVI.

A.D. 112, Pliny, governor of Bithynia (central-northern Turkey), explains the elements of their subversive worship:
(1) Hymns about Jesus sung as part of early Christian worship; (2) prayer to God "through" Jesus and "in Jesus' name," and even direct prayer to Jesus himself, including particularly the invocation of Jesus in the corporate worship setting; (3) "calling upon the name of Jesus," particularly in Christian baptism and in healing and exorcism; (4) the Christian common meal enacted as a sacred meal where the risen Jesus presides as "Lord" of the gathered community; (5) the practice of ritually "confessing" Jesus in the context of Christian worship; and (6) Christian prophecy as oracles of the risen Jesus, and the Holy Spirit of prophecy understood as also the Spirit of Jesus. (Pliny (the Younger), Epistles in J. Stevenson, ed., A New Eusebius: Documents Illustrative of the History of the Church to A.D. 337 (London: SPCK, 1974), 13-15.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Some Thoughts on the Church

A Christian is someone who has repented of their sins, trusted in Christ, been adopted into God's family, and has been mystically united to Christ. The Church, in this sense, is the family of God, the body of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit. The entire group of Christians, past, present, and future, is called the Church. This is sometimes called the "Invisible Church" because it's identity is only known to God.

As the Baptist and Shorter Catechism says:

Q. What is the invisible church?
A. The invisible church is the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one under Christ the head.

The purpose of the Church in the world is to worship and glorify God. The primary way the Church is to worship and glorify God is by the preaching of the Gospel. The mandate and commission that has been given by the Lord himself is to make disciples of all nations and administer the Sacraments of the Lord's Supper and Baptism.  The ultimate goal, based upon the authority of Christ, is one of uniting all believers to God in one family.

The Church only accomplishes it's mission by gathering together regularly. This is why it is necessary to organize into local congregations. Or in other words, the only way to accomplish the mission given by Christ is by establishing local churches. The Church is represented visibly on Earth in the form of local societies, fellowships, communities, congregations and churches. The local Church is the company of those in a specific geographic area, who have decided to fellowship together on Sunday, the Lord's Day. It is where the Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments are rightly ministered, and involves all those things that are necessarily required to so.

The Baptist and Shorter Catechism again says:

Q. What is the visible church?
A. The visible church is the organized society of professing believers, in all ages and places, wherein the Gospel is truly preached and the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper rightly administered.

Richard Hooker writes, "By the Church…we understand no other than only the visible Church. For preservation of Christianity there is not any thing more needful, than that such as are of the visible Church have mutual fellowship and society one with another. In which consideration, as the main body of the sea being one, yet into a number of distinct Societies, every of which is termed a Church within itself. In this sense the Church is always a visible society of men; not an assembly, but a Society. For although the name of the Church be given unto Christian assemblies, although the name of the Church be given unto Christian assemblies, although any multitude of Christian men congregated may be termed by the name of a Church, yet assemblies properly are rather things that belong a to a Church. Men are assembled for performance of public actions; which actions being ended, the assembly dissolveth itself and is no longer in being, whereas the Church which was assembled doth no less continue afterwards than before." (Book III, i, s. 14, Laws)

Another aspect of the Church should be considered here as well. I agree with the Nicene Creed when it says, "I believe in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church." That isn't the Roman Catholic Church. It's called "One" because it has one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. It is called "Holy" because the Holy Spirit dwells in it, sanctifying all its members and gives gifts of grace. It is called "Catholic" because it is universal, and holds at all times, in all places, and for all people, all of the truth about Jesus Christ. It is called "Apostolic" because it received its divine mission from Christ through his Apostles, and continues in the Apostles teaching and fellowship.

This may sound all well and good, but why all the division? Thomas Cranmer said in a letter to John Calvin, "One of the greatest evils of our time, is that the churches are so widely separated from each other. The body of Christ is torn asunder because the members are separated." Why is it like this?

The London Baptist Confession says, "The purest churches under heaven are subject to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan; nevertheless Christ always hath had, and ever shall have a kingdom in this world, to the end thereof, of such as believe in him, and make profession of his name."  (LBC 26:3)

Article 19 of the 39 Articles indicates further exactly where the most error can be found in the Church, "As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred; so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith."
The parables of our Lord clearly indicate that the visible manifestation of the Church contains both wheat and weeds, sheep and goats, good fish and bad fish, good slaves and evil slaves. So I would argue that although the Churches of Jerusalem, Alexandria, Constantinople, Antioch, and Rome have greatly erred, they are nonetheless still part of the visible Church in much the same way that the northern Ten Tribe Kingdom was part of Israel even though it was guilty of gross idolatry. The Church is not confined exclusively or restricted to any one group, organization, sect, or denomination within historic Christianity.

Although very fragmented and split, I look forward to the day when the prophecy of the Apostle Paul concerning the future unity of the Church will be realized.

"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ." - Ephesians 4:11-15 KJV

Notice that the reason why apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are given is for the eventual unity of the Church.  Jesus prayed, "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." - John 17:21 KJV

When this happens, when the Church is finally united, then the world will believe that Christ was sent from God.  The great commission can only be finally accomplished by a united Church. Although division may be necessary for now, given the nature of the errors of the Orthodox and Roman Churches, it is nonetheless an evil situation. Let us pray that those groups and bodies that are in error would repent and that the Church would be one.

To conclude this post, I post a hymn by Samuel J. Stone.

The church's one foundation
is Jesus Christ her Lord;
she is his new creation
by water and the Word.
From heaven he came and sought her
to be his holy bride;
with his own blood he bought her,
and for her life he died.

Elect from every nation,
yet one o'er all the earth;
her charter of salvation,
one Lord, one faith, one birth;
one holy name she blesses,
partakes one holy food,
and to one hope she presses,
with every grace endued.

Though with a scornful wonder
we see her sore oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder,
by heresies distressed,
yet saints their watch are keeping;
their cry goes up, "How long?"
And soon the night of weeping
shall be the morn of song.

Mid toil and tribulation,
and tumult of her war,
she waits the consummation
of peace forevermore;
till, with the vision glorious,
her longing eyes are blest,
and the great church victorious
shall be the church at rest.

Yet she on earth hath union
with God the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion
with those whose rest is won.
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we
like them, the meek and lowly,
on high may dwell with thee.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Gentile Times Discovered!

"The gentile times have ended...," was the cry of the Watchtower.  However, how long are those Gentile Times according to the Bible?  When did they start and end? I think I may have found the key....

"And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." - Luke 21:20-24 KJV

Verse 24 has the key phrase here.  This passage clearly has to do with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and I don't think anyone here would argue with me on that one.

This phrase in verse 24, as it is the linch pin to the Watchtower's entire system. It the Gentile times are not 2520 days, then the Watchtower's 1914 doctrine falls apart. And if their 1914 doctrine falls apart, they have not been chosen as God's mouthpiece or organization.

The question should be asked, how long were the "Gentile times"?

"And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months." - Revelation 11:1-2 KJV

Notice it mentions the temple of God and the Holy City.  Just in case you didn't figure out by this obvious statement which city this is, there is an explainable in verse 8.

"And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified." - Revelation 11:8 KJV

This is clearly Jerusalem.  Notice the exact same phrase is used:

"Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." - Luke

"The holy city shall [the Gentiles] tread under foot forty and two months." - Revelation

So the Gentile times are 42 months or 1260 days. Notice it is NOT 7 Times, or 2520 days.

This is fulfilled in the events of the Jewish-Roman War, in the 42 months from A.D. 67-70.  The fact that the Gentile court is spared I think symbolizes the shift in God's favor, from the Jews to the Gentiles.