Davenant on Rewards for Good Works

RewardsHere is John Davenant’s explanation of how Christians should view rewards. This can be found in his commentary on Colossians.

We conclude, therefore, that a reward to good works is proposed by God, and that it ought to be regarded by us,

  1. That hence we may learn the will and munificence [generosity] of God.
  2. That we may exercise hope and faith by fixing our view upon it.
  3. That hence we may be excited to cheerfulness in good works.

But we ought not to regard and look to the reward;

  1. So as to be unwilling to serve God if there is no reward.
  2. So as to set the blessedness itself as our end in loving God.
  3. So as to infer any merit in our good works from the reward being proposed.

A couple of notes on this.

It is wonderful that Davenant’s first point is rewards point us to God’s generosity and desire for us His people. Rewards are proof that God is a generous, giving God, the overflowing fountain of all good.  Rewards first cause us to praise God and not to praise our virtue.

And of course rewards should motivate us to cheerfully and hopefully work. Too often Christians question of the value of focusing on rewards as we labor for Christ. But Christ promises rewards for those who work and strive. The Scriptures teach this from start to finish. Rewards should drive us to persevere in good deeds.

But Davenant also warns against some dangers with the focus on rewards. Most obvious is the last one, where our works  become a foundation for our salvation. The more works we do the more saved we are. This is explicitly taught in the Roman Catholic system, but it is easy for Protestants to buy into it as well.

The next danger, working up the list, is that rewards become the end instead of God Himself. The goal is always and forever commune with the Lord. Rewards are a byproduct of that goal, but not the ultimate goal.

Finally, there is the danger of refusing to work unless we see the reward.

These last two dangers are often seen in an over-realized eschatology where rewards become the end and those rewards are to be found in this life.  Many health and wealth teacher make the basic error of trying to make the not yet into the already by saying that God rewards us here and now. God does reward us at times in this life. But the great, lasting, and perfect rewards will only be found in the next life. If we expect to do good deeds here and God to reward us quickly, immediately, and in this life, we will often be disappointed.

Malachi 1:6-14

Malachi 1

Taking up nearly one third of Malachi, this is the longest section in the book. The priests are the target of this section. God asks the priests why they do not honor him as father or reverence him as master. The Lord says that they have despised his name. (vs. 6) But the priests seem to be in the dark. They think they are innocent and therefore ask God to bring proof. God brings proof by bringing two pieces of evidence into the courtroom.
The first piece of evidence is the lame offerings the priests give to God. (1:7-14) The priests think they are holy. They do not see how they have despised God’s name. But God points a finger at their mockery of his law to show how they drag his name through the mud. The priests, who are supposed to carefully obey God’s commands, offer to God lame, blind, and sick sacrifices (1:7-8). Leviticus 22:18-25 and Deuteronomy 15:21 forbid this type of offering. God says even the Persian governor would not accept this offering. Why does Israel think God will accept it? (vs. 8) Israel wants God’s favor (vs. 9), but does not want to obey God. Therefore God tells them they should shut up the doors of the temple. (vs. 10) Their offerings are in vain. Continue reading

2016.Episode 10~The Baptism of the Dead

BaptismOne of the more difficult passages in Scripture is I Corinthians 15:29 where Paul talks about the baptism of/for/over the dead. In this podcast I discuss the possible interpretative options.

Your Eye Shall Not Pity Them

Moses Angry

Can you imagine killing one of your family members, maybe your brother or sister? I know we all fight with our siblings and parents from time to time. But can you imagine actually raising your hand to kill someone close to you? For Christians this is a horrible thought. We know all the commands to love our family members. We know that he who does not care for his own household is worse than an unbeliever (I Timothy 5:8).  We know that the Bible tells us that part of the gospel is to turn fathers to children and children to fathers (Malachi 4:6).  And yet despite all of this Biblical teaching we have these verses in Deuteronomy 13:

If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known, some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. And all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do any such wickedness as this among you (Deu 13:6-11).

An Israelite who led another Israelite away from God was not to be spared. It did not matter how close the relationship was.  They could be your closest friend. They could be a sibling or a spouse. They could be a parent or grandparent. Notice the phrase, “You shall kill him.” Not only was that false teacher and apostate to be killed, the family member was to initiate the stoning. There are several things worth noting in this passage.

Our loyalty to God trumps all other loyalties. It does not matter how close they to you. It does not matter how thick your bloodlines are. Love for God is supreme. This is part of the reason the family member had to cast the first stone. Jesus said the same thing.

For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (Mat 10:35-37).

In addition to loyalty to God, the passage also indicates that the purity of God’s people trumps our feelings about someone. No matter how much we love someone, we should not allow them to draw people away from God and hurt his covenant people.

It shows the seriousness of idolatry. The family member in our passage is not just encouraging sin. He is encouraging a particular type of sin: idol worship. Idol worship is rarely the rejection of God. It is usually the idea that we can worship God alongside someone or something else. The most obvious offender today is a professing Christian who believes that all religions led to heaven. Also a professing Christian who believes that sexual sins are not really sins at all. But there are more subtle forms of idolatry where Jesus is mixed with money or power or America or family. Idol worship was a capital offense in Israel.

When idol worship is dealt with God’s people learn to fear Him. Our temptation is to treat false teaching with kid gloves. We do not want to come off as unloving. We do not want to overreact. Yet God is clear. When sin of this magnitude is dealt with swiftly by God’s people, it draws his people nearer to him.

But How Does this Work Today? Continue reading

Wine to Make the Heart Glad

Wine 3

I grew up  in a Southern Baptist Church. That is enough to tell you what I was taught about alcohol. Wine, beer, and liquor of any kind was forbidden. Following college and after reading a lot of Martin Luther, I became more interested in the Biblical argument against alcohol. After some study, I came to the conclusion that alcohol in moderation is not only allowed by Scripture but in many ways it is promoted by the Bible. Wine, beer, and whiskey are good things and God wants us to drink them.

A friend of mine recently asked what I thought of the argument that the word used for “wine” in the New Testament means unfermented grape juice. This idea or something like it has been batted around the anti-alcohol circles for some time. The premise is that our wine is different from the wine in the Bible and therefore we cannot justify modern drinking of alcohol by using the Scriptures. They used grape juice. We use wine.

Let’s look at this argument. Below is one positive and one negative use of wine from each of the major sections of the Old Testament. These examples could be multiplied many times over. In every case below the Hebrew word used for wine is “yayin” and the Greek word used in the LXX, the Greek version of the Old Testament, is “oinos.” The word “yayin” occurs around 141 times in the Old Testament. “Oinos” is always the Greek word used for it in the LXX.

Pentateuch

Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father (Gen 19:32).

And for the drink offering you shall offer a third of a hin of wine, a pleasing aroma to the LORD. (Num 15:7)

Historical Books

And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you” (1Sa 1:14).

And they were there with David for three days, eating and drinking, for their brothers had made preparation for them. And also their relatives, from as far as Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, came bringing food on donkeys and on camels and on mules and on oxen, abundant provisions of flour, cakes of figs, clusters of raisins, and wine and oil, oxen and sheep, for there was joy in Israel (1Ch 12:39-40).

Wisdom Books

Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise
(Pro 20:1).

And wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart (Psa 104:15).

Major Prophets

Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them (Isaiah 5:11).

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price (Isa 55:1).

Minor Prophets

Awake, you drunkards, and weep, and wail, all you drinkers of wine, because of the sweet wine, for it is cut off from your mouth (Joe 1:5). [This verse is interesting because the Hebrew has two words “yayin/wine” and “asis/new wine.”  But the Greek version (LXX) uses “wine/oinos” for both words.]

Then Ephraim shall become like a mighty warrior, and their hearts shall be glad as with wine. Their children shall see it and be glad; their hearts shall rejoice in the LORD (Zec 10:7).

There are many more verses I could use to prove my point.  Wine in the Old Testament referred to a drink that could get you drunk, but was also a good thing that could be used in moderation, was part of the worship of God and of God’s blessing on his people. Like most things in this world it is not forbidden, but we are commanded to use it with self-control.

The second most common word for wine in the Old Testament is “tirosh.” It is used around 38 times.  Tirosh was grape juice at an early stage of fermentation. In the ancient world keeping grape juice from fermenting was difficult, if not impossible. “Tirosh” was not as intoxicating as “yayin.” However, it could still intoxicate. This is clear from Hosea 4:10-11

They shall eat, but not be satisfied; they shall play the whore, but not multiply, because they have forsaken the LORD to cherish whoredom, wine, and new wine, which take away the understanding (Hos 4:10-11).

“New wine/tirosh” can “take away the understanding” just as regular wine can.

Let’s look at one other word. The word “shekar” is typically translated “strong drink” in the Old Testament. It is used 22 times in the Old Testament and in all but one case it is coupled with wine (For example see: Lev. 10:9, Numbers 6:3, Prov. 31:6, Isaiah 24:9) As far as we know there was no liquor in the ancient world. Shekar was possibly a  strong barley beer. It was an intoxicating drink. Here is the key passage on the enjoyment of alcoholic beverages by Christians and it includes the word “shekar.”

And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household (Deu 14:24-26).

In this passage both words “yayin/oinos” and “shekar” are used. God tells his people to buy wine and strong drink, to drink it before Him as a household, and to do so with joy. These verses are a stamp of approval on the Christian’s freedom to enjoy alcohol.

What about the New Testament?  The teaching is the same as it was in the Old Testament. We are told to not get drunk on wine (Ephesians 5:18), but Timothy is told to drink wine (I Timothy 5:18). Elders (I Timothy 3:8) and older women (Titus 2:3) are told to not be addicted to much wine.  Jesus turned seven large pots of water into good wine (John 2:10) and was known for drinking wine (Luke 7:31-35).  All of these verses use the Greek word “oinos.” And while I Corinthians 11:21 does not use the word wine, it is clear that there was enough wine at the church’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper for people to get drunk. Paul did not tell them stop drinking. He told them to wait on one another. In the New Testament alcohol is treated the same as it was in the Old Testament. It is a good thing that can be abused.

This does not answer all questions, but the Biblical teaching is clear. A Christian has freedom to drink alcohol but may not get drunk.

Saved Through Childbearing: The Commentaries

Mother and Child

I am working through I Timothy 2:15.  Here is that verse in its immediate context:

11 A woman in silence must learn in all submission/obedience, 12 but I do not allow/permit a woman to teach nor to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve.  14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived became a transgressor.  15 But she will be saved by means of childbirth, if they remain in faith and love and holiness with self-restraint. [My translation]

Here is how several commentators interpret verse 15.  I started with the oldest, Chrysostom. These are direct quotes, but I trimmed out some of the reasons for the interpretation. Any of my thoughts I put in brackets. Unless otherwise noted these are all quotes from commentaries on I Timothy 2:15. Obviously this is just a sprinkling of the comments made in the history of the church on this issue. However, I cite several major figures. Continue reading

Jesus and Sanctification in Psalm 112

 

Psalms 4

Paul says in Ephesians 5:1 that we are to be imitators of God as dear children. Psalm 111 and 112 give us a beautiful picture of how this works.

These two psalms are tied together in three ways.

First, they are both acrostics. That means the lines in the psalms begin with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. (line 1 begins A, line 2 begins with B, etc.)

Second, Psalm 112 begins where Psalm 111 ends. Psalm 111 ends with “the fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom and a great understanding have all those who do his commandments.” Psalm 112 picks up on this theme stating that the “man who fears Yahweh will be blessed, who delights greatly in His commandments.”

Third, there numerous phrases repeated in both psalms. Here is a list with the same Hebrew words being underlined.

Psalm 111:2: The works of the Yahweh are…studied by all who take pleasure in them.
Psalm 112:1: Who [the righteous man] delights greatly in His commandments

Psalm 111:3 His (Yahweh) righteousness stand forever
Psalm 112:3 & 9: His [the righteous man] righteousness stands forever

Psalm 111:4: Yahweh is gracious and full of compassion (merciful)
Psalm 112:4: [The righteous man] is gracious and full of compassion (merciful)

Psalm 111:4: Yahweh has made wonderful works to be remembered
Psalm 112:6: The righteous will be an everlasting remembrance

Psalm 111:5: Yahweh has given food to those who fear Him
Psalm 112:9: He [the righteous man] has given to the poor

Psalm 111:5,9: Yahweh will be forever mindful of his covenant/He has commanded his covenant forever.
Psalm 112:6: Surely he [the righteous man] will never be shaken (Literally, “forever, not be shaken/moved)

Psalm 111:7: The works of Yahweh’s hands are verity and justice
Psalm 112:5: He [the righteous man] will guide his affairs with justice

Psalm 111:8: They [God’s works and precepts] stand forever and ever.
Psalm 112:8: His [the righteous man] heart is established

Continue reading