Pastor Ham

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Tag: Theology

Hamartiology: The Doctrine of Sin – Part 1

This series will be in the same vein as our earlier Knowing and Loving God set. The content is not original to me, but is the notes from my November 2014 seminary class “Hamartiology and Soteriology” (Sin and Salvation) at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. The course was taught by Dr. Kevin Bauder. Any errors or omissions are mine, and despite my best efforts, I’m sure there will be several of them.

Even though I will be covering the doctrine of sin in this first series, I hope to move right into the doctrine of salvation next. Though two different areas of systematic theology, they are so closely related that you could view them as one series. They are not typically the first areas of systematic theology covered, but me being a modular student and taking courses in a wacky order, you get them in the same order I am getting them.

As always, I will try to keep the personal interjections to a minimum, but some things will need to be explained. Unlike in the Knowing and Loving God series, in these posts I am going to take the more sensible route of having course material (that is, my class notes…the material not original to me) in normal font, and my interjections in italics. This system will start beneath the line below. Without further delay, let’s begin working through the doctrine of sin. We will start with a visual roadmap of what the larger trek through both sin and salvation will look like (please click on image for a better view):

Hourglass

The week long discussion started broad, then narrowed down to the topic of divine foreknowledge, and finally broadened back out to a discussion of the various doctrines of salvation. This will make more sense as we work through this study.


DAY ONE

SIN

Sin begins in Genesis 3, with the fall of man. [NOTE: We don’t know when Satan fell. It could have pre-dated Creation week, or it could have been between Creation week and the Fall of Man in Genesis 3]

Let’s discuss the nature of the Fall, what was going on there? What’s the point of the temptation? To understand, you have to understand the thing to which Adam and Eve were being tempted, i.e. the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Why do we have this tree, and why are they forbidden to eat its fruit?

Many take this as a purely symbolic tree. On the other hand, some over-mystify the tree (“over-magic” the tree). The tree is more than a symbol, but it is a symbol. It is a very literal tree, with literal fruit.  The problem with eating the fruit of the tree was not that the fruit was intrinsically harmful, but in what the tree stood for.

God declares things good throughout Genesis 1 as He creates them. “Good” (Heb. “tov”) is not so much morally upright, but useful or beneficial. For whom are these things useful or beneficial? They are useful for humans.

All the way through Genesis 1 it is God Who decides what is good. By the time he creates the tree, who has known what is good and bad? God. Not Adam. For God to create this tree of the knowledge of good and bad and to use it as a test for Adam is exactly to test Adam’s willingness to depend on the Creator for the good.

In other words Adam has a choice to make: trust the Creator to provide what is good, or seize the initiative in defining for himself what he sees to be good and try to gain it for himself. The crucial issue in the temptation is the issue of trust. Which means that the issue of trust, or faith, is not something that comes in with the fall of man. It is intrinsic in the creation of humanity. If there had never been a fall, the way we would have lived would still have been the life of faith, trusting the Creator to provide what is good and never seeking it on our own or for ourselves.

This is Adam seizing the initiative, no longer trusting God. Implicitly, Adam is declaring the Creator to be untrustworthy. “I cannot trust you for the good, therefore I must seize the good for myself.” This is in tune with the final lines of William Ernest Henley’s famous poem, Invictus: “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

In short, this would be not just a rejection of the Creator’s law, but the Creator’s character. Which is worse? To attack God’s person is worse. So to eat of this fruit would be quite literally the worst thing Adam could do. It would be to declare independence from God.

This also helps to explain the penalty that comes from eating the fruit, to come under the sentence of death. It is a Hebrew idiom (“dying you will die”), which simply explains why Adam didn’t die that day. Rather, this was the day the sentence was passed. The moment you are attempting to seize the good for yourself, you are rejecting the Source of life. You are embracing death. It couldn’t be otherwise! Adam is separating from God, and immediately comes under the sentence of death.

Interestingly, God doesn’t leave it at the prohibition. He sees something in the creation that is “not good,” that is, that man should be alone. This does not mean it was bad, or evil, it just wasn’t good. A higher level of order was needed. But Adam doesn’t see this. He doesn’t know what he’s missing. So God gives him a task: group the animals (an exercise in taxonomy, not merely naming). Adam realizes that there’s no one like him. He is a single image bearer. And an image bearer of God needs someone else to image God to, and to image God to Him.

So God causes a deep sleep to fall on Adam and takes a rib, from which He creates woman. The good that He provided was well beyond anything that Adam could have invented or come up with on his own. God is infinitely trustworthy to provide the good.

Part 2 –>

How Important Is Doctrine? – Part 4

In our fourth and final post in this series (which started here), we are exploring the severe consequences of ditching doctrine and then building our own models of living and loving. We will discuss two biblical examples of this error.

 

The Carnal Corinthians and the Doctrine of the Physical Resurrection: 1 Cor. 15

As Paul has been doing all throughout 1 Corinthians, he is correcting error in doctrine and practice (read the whole book to see how doctrine and practice are both important). One notable thing about this passage is that Paul is correcting a doctrinal error that many Christians would look to as “secondary” at best: the doctrine of the resurrection. No, I’m not talking about Christ’s Resurrection. I’m talking about the resurrection of our physical bodies. Many Christians today wouldn’t be disturbed by a professing believer denying this doctrine. What’s the big deal?

Apparently it was a pretty big deal to Paul. And for good reason. Paul logically argues that if you don’t have the resurrection of physical bodies in general, then you can’t have the specific Resurrection of Christ’s body. And if that’s the case, we are all hopeless. Our faith depends on His Resurrection, and His Resurrection depends on the reality of bodily physical resurrection (vv. 12-19). In other words, by denying a “minor” doctrine, the Corinthians were implicitly denying the Gospel itself, which is based entirely on the death and resurrection of Christ (vv. 1-4). The Corinthians, in their lack of knowledge, wisdom, and discernment (remember Php. 1:9-11), were eviscerating the Gospel itself due to their own foolishness. Christians are still doing this today. If you are not able to identify them, more than likely you will eventually identify with them.

 

The Curse of Encouraging False Teachers: 2 John

In this passage the Apostle John is addressing false doctrine, just as he did in his first epistle. This time he does it in just one short chapter. For some reason he was unable to write a longer discourse to them at this time (v. 12), which implies that the little bit he did write was the most important thing he could have told them. It was the most urgent, therefore he wrote it right away until he could come to them and tell them the rest in person. What did he have to say that was so important? Take in verses 7-11:

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.

He tells them this: there are a bunch of false teachers out there. They are deceivers and antichrists. What are they to do about it? Watch themselves. What do you suppose he meant? He is imploring them to watch their doctrine and take great care to keep it pure. What will happen if they don’t? They will lose eternal rewards (v. 8). They will receive less than they would have received if they had obeyed him. If that idea doesn’t motivate us, there are deeper problems that need to be addressed.

In verse 9 he goes on to tell us that these Christ-denying heretics are not in the faith. They are not Christians. They are apostates.

Now, do you suppose the apostates were running around saying, “Hey guys, check me out, I’m a Christ-denier! I don’t love the truth! Follow me!” Probably not. Nor will that ever be the case. The deceivers are just that. Deceitful. They are going to say many of the right things. They are going to sound beautifully orthodox to the undiscerning, and even the less-discerning, ear. They are going to deceive those who disdain doctrine, and those who smirk at sound teaching. The spiritually gullible will feed on what the false teachers are selling.

In addition to the harm that this will do to them and those in their sphere of influence, the consequences actually prove far worse than we might expect. How so? In verse 10 John explicitly commands us not even to offer a civil greeting to a false teacher coming to you to hawk his goods. As I understand it, that’s what the word often translated “greeting” means here. Not even a ‘hi.’ Not even a ‘good day.’ Nothing that would encourage him in his work. Here’s the kicker: John says if you even give him the encouragement of a civil greeting, you’re now a shareholder in his wickedness. You now partake in the tragedy of those that are poisoned as a result of your encouragement of this false teacher. If the civility you showed him gave him just enough strength to poison one more person, you own a part of that enterprise. Is that motivation enough to love sound doctrine? Does that make doctrine important enough to take vigorously pursue?

 

What should we do?

Go to the Word. Grow in the wisdom, knowledge, and discernment that only its doctrines can offer (Php. 1:9-11). Mature past the milk and on to the meat of the Word by exercising (Hebrews 5:14)! This is exactly how Paul diagnosed his beloved, foolish Corinthians. After rebuking their milk dependency in Chapter 3,

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?

he closes the book with this positive admonition in Chapter 16, which is the antidote to their problem:

13 Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

Additionally, pray! As you pursue God in His Word, pray for His help. Ask Him for true biblical love that is bounded by wisdom, and knowledge, and discernment. This is exactly what James tells a group of suffering saints to do in 1:5 of his epistle (ironically, some scholars even think that their sufferings were related to their lack of wisdom).

Finally, as John said above, watch yourselves! Abide in the teaching of God’s Word (doctrine). You cannot divide doctrine and practice and maintain a grip on the Christian faith. You cannot divide doctrine and love and be faithful to Scripture. It cannot be done for Scripture does not do it, and therefore, we are not allowed to do it either.

How Important Is Doctrine? – Part 3

Doctrine is vital for every Christian. I’ve been attempting to demonstrate its connectedness to right loves and right actions. Let me re-state that: it is not merely connected to the latter two, it is the foundation for them. Or as we called it in Part 2, the fuel. Christians tend to favor one or two of these, but it is the rare believer who highly values all three. And of the three, doctrine is often the first one forsaken. Hopefully our series is showing why that is a devastating mistake. We continue here into two more significant subdivisions of Scripture to see how the Bible itself views doctrine, love, and practice.

 

GOSPEL NARRATIVES (Jesus): John 14

How did Jesus view doctrine? In one of His best known (and least followed) statements, He tells us in verse 15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” He, with supreme authority, connects right love, practice, and doctrine in a mere handful words. But wait, aren’t only two of those elements, love and practice, represented here? Where’s the doctrine? Let’s remember the lesson we learned earlier. What are God’s commandments? At minimum, they are doctrines. If we love Jesus, according to His definition of love, we will keep His commandments (practice). And in order to keep them, we have to know what they are (doctrine). Christ defined love for Him as a love that results in right practice. And both the love and the practice are based on right doctrine. Any “love” that does not account for the authoritative words of Christ is anemic. It is powerless. It is false.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly used OT doctrine to attack false teaching. Most often this was aimed at the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and even Satan himself (all of whom, ironically, contrived their own ideas by the twisting of Scripture into false doctrines). Here’s a link to an article filled with several more references to Christ’s use of the OT and its doctrines for your own study.

[Note: Jesus said much about Scripture, and thereby doctrine. One excellent sermon on Christ’s view of Scripture is Kevin DeYoung’s 2014 address: “Christ’s Unbreakable Bible.” I commend it to you for watching or listening, it would be a great daily commute audio file for this week.]

 

EPISTLES (Paul): 2 Timothy 3, Philippians 1

I know we mentioned 2 Timothy 3 briefly in passing early on in this series, but it deserves another treatment here:

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Scripture is God-breathed. To deny that is to call into question one’s claims of faith, for if Scripture is not from God, and thereby inerrant, on what grounds does your faith stand? A faith built on a Bible that is less than God’s very word to us has no foundation.

Beyond its necessity to our salvation, this God-breathed Scripture is beneficial to us for some other very specific things; things like teaching (general instruction), reproof (rebuke, refutation), correction (improvement), and training in righteousness. What do we call the truths that are used to teach, reprove, correct, and train us? We call them doctrines. When a pastor preaches a text of Scripture (hopefully your pastor does this every Sunday at minimum), we could say he is doctrinizing. A pastor does not simply stand up and read a text of Scripture and then sit down, calling that a sermon. As a matter of fact if he did this he would be derelict in his duty. The New Testament expects that a pastor is going to explain the sense of the text. This explanation is doctrinal (this type of activity occurred in the OT as well: Nehemiah 8:5-8). And insofar as he is faithful to the original meaning of the text, he is preaching (doctrinizing) well. And insofar as he strays from the meaning of the text, he is not. But proper preaching and teaching of the Word assume that doctrine is being communicated.

You might object, “But verse 17 applies this to the ‘man of God,’ not me the pew-sitter. That’s for the pastor. He’s the one who the God-breathed Scripture is adequately equipping to teach, reprove, correct, and train.” I hope the way I phrased your objection renders it self-answered. But just in case it didn’t, my response would be: “Who is he being adequately equipped to profitably teach, reprove, correct, and train in righteousness? Is it not mainly for you, the flock member entrusted to his care?” He teaches you. He reproves you. He corrects you. He trains you in righteousness. And he does it by proclaiming and explaining the doctrines of God’s Word.

In Philippians 1:9-11, Paul provides what might be my favorite passage in Scripture related to this topic. It directly ties love to real knowledge and all discernment. For Paul, they could not be separated. Take a look:

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

I take verse 9 to imply that love (read: true, biblical love) is bounded, or hemmed in, by real knowledge and discernment. He prays that their love would abound within this fence. And that fence is doctrinal. This verse tells us that anything that exists outside of that fence is not love. Call it love if you want, but it does not make it so. He goes on to say why this is important: so that we would approve only excellent things. If our love is not fenced by real knowledge and all discernment we will approve things that are not excellent. Paul does not want us to approve of bad things. He doesn’t even want us to merely approve of good things. He wants us to approve of the best things. His instruction here is showing us how.

But he’s not finished. The result of loving rightly (meaning, within the proper doctrinal boundaries) is standing sincere and blameless in our walk in this world. And if we don’t maintain the proper boundaries, we will surely not be so! Finally, Paul states that all of this leads to our sanctification and fruit-bearing, which is ultimately through Jesus and for God. It is His glory and praise that motivate us to fence in our love with real knowledge and all discernment. There can be no greater motivation for a true Christian. A refusal to heed Paul’s words here leads to pollution, lack of fruit, and worst of all, bringing less glory to God than He has made us capable of bringing. Do we need any more motivation to pursue pure doctrine?

My conclusion is this: doctrine and practice and love cannot be divided. They are inseparable. To divide doctrine from right loves and right living is exactly to forfeit the word “right” from the equation. You can strip doctrine away and continue to live, but it won’t be rightly. And there are severe consequences for this. How do I know? Because the Bible gives us examples. In our next (and final) post of this series, I’ll give you two.

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