Friday, June 24, 2022

Feed on the Word by R.A. Torrey

 

“….if we will feed upon the Word of God daily and trust in God, we can resist the Devil at every point. Though the devil is cunning and strong, God is stronger, and God imparts His strength to us through His written Word.” 
Torrey, R. A.  The Answer (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1999), p. 141

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Friday, June 17, 2022

Are You Willing to Be Healed?

 

Are You Willing to Be Healed?
 
By Troy J. Edwards
 
And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? (John 5:5-6)
 
When it comes to supernatural healing of bodily ailments, one of the main points of contention among believers is God’s will. The following is a summary of the debate:

  • It is never God’s will to heal in this dispensation.
  • It is God’s will to heal some but not all.
  • It is always God’s will to heal.

Those who are familiar with our ministry know that I support the third viewpoint, and I have ample teaching in the form of books and videos to support my position. Jesus confirmed it. In my opinion, Jesus answered the question once and for all in His interaction with a leper:
 
And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. (Mark 1:40-41)
 
Jesus was the “will of God” in action (John 5:19; 8:38; 14:7-11; Acts 10:38). He said, “…. I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30b). The life, words, and actions of Jesus sufficiently demonstrate that it is God’s will to heal today and it is His will to heal all (Matt. 4:24; 8:16; 12:15; Acts 10:34, 35, 38).
 
The true question to be asked is not about God’s willingness, but about our own willingness. It’s no longer a question of whether or not it’s God’s will for you to be healed: instead, God wants to know if it’s your will to be healed. We can see how Jesus had to incorporate this man's will in the process in John 5:5-6.
 
Regardless of what God was willing to do, the man had to accept it. God is willing to accomplish a lot of things, but He will not do them against our will. Jesus clarifies once more:
 
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (Matt. 23:37)
 
Jesus offered to safeguard Jerusalem from the threats they were facing, but they turned Him down. God may want to intervene in our lives, but He will not kick down our closed doors or try to force His will through clinched teeth (Rev. 3:20; Psalm 81:10-16). As a result, the issue with divine healing is not one of God’s will; rather, it is one of ours.
 
God will not intervene if we want to hold on to concepts about miracles vanishing or Calvinistically influenced ideas about God’s sovereignty in which God is believed to play favorites (and save your breath with the standard assertion that “he just doesn't understand Calvinism”). He respects our right to make our own decisions far too much to do so (Deut. 30:15, 19; Isa. 1:18-20). As a result, the first step in receiving healing is to comprehend both God's willingness to heal and your willingness to be healed.

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Monday, June 6, 2022

Seeing Christ is Seeing what God is Like

 


"To know God is to understand his character, and to know Christ is to understand his character. If then to know Christ is to know God, the character of Christ must be the character of God."
C. Otway, M. M. The Word of God Weighed against the Commandments of Men, in Six Controversial Letters (Dublin: William Curry, 1825), p. 130

If Jesus never afflicted people with sickness, poverty and other painful things, then neither would the Father. To See Jesus is to see exactly what God is like (John 14:7-9; 2 Cor. 4:4).

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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Because the Lord Would Slay Them (Part 2)


 
Because the Lord Would Slay Them
(Part 2)
 
Troy J. Edwards
 

If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them. (1 Samuel 2:25)
 
We learned in Part 1 that the Hebrew word for “because” should have been translated as “therefore.” The substitution of the former term dispels the incorrect notion that God ensured Eli’s sons’ sinfulness through an unstoppable edict for the latter.
 
Furthermore, God despises the death and devastation of wicked people (Ezek. 18:23; 33:11; 2 Pet. 3:9). This leaves us with one more puzzle to solve: the belief that God personally punishes sinners. While most Evangelicals have no objection to God personally destroying rebels through the exercise of His supernatural might, this viewpoint contradicts Christ’s teachings on God’s character.
 
Our Lord taught us that the Father did not send Him to destroy lives, but rather to save them (John 3:16-17; Luke 9:51-56). In fact, Jesus taught that disaster arose as a result of pushing God away, so separating oneself from the One who wished to save them from destruction (John 3:18-21; Matt. 23:37-39; Luke 13:34-35). After all, the process of sowing and reaping produces destruction and death (Gal. 6:7-8; James 1:15; Rom. 6:23).
 
So how do we interpret phrases like “because the LORD would slay them”? According to some analysts, there is nothing in the Hebrew language that indicates who or what is responsible for Eli’s sons’ destruction:
 
Because the Lord would slay them. The Hebrew particle vau, neither designates the cause of their destruction, nor the direct and absolute intention of God to cut them off in their sins; it is used to declare the conditional intention of God, in case of their final impenitency .... The gloss therefore of Calvin, which imputes their destruction to the decree of God, is unsupported by ancient authority.[1]
 
If this is true, God is vindicated, and the stigma of directly causing Hophni and Phinehas’ destruction is lifted off His shoulders. Another simple solution is to remember that God, in Scripture phraseology, is frequently said to do what He merely permitted. Joe Blair, using 2 Kings 24:3 as an example, writes:
 
To read that the Lord did such judgment and destruction …. Was characteristic of the Jewish way of thinking. As Sovereign, everything came under the dictates of God. They did not bother sometimes to differentiate between God’s causing and God’s allowing. It was not God’s wish that destruction even come upon Israel, or anyone else, but His will to make people truly free means that He had to allow people the consequences of their choices. We know that God does not cause everything. He does not cause us to sin, for example. God does however permit things to happen, even the bad things.[2]
 
By comparing Scripture with Scripture, we arrive at this same conclusion. Compare Eli’s sons’ deaths to the psalmist’s commentary on the subject. We read in 1 Samuel 4:
 
And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man into his tent: and there was a very great slaughter; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen. And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain. (1 Samuel 4:10-11)
 
When Hophni and Phinehas fought the Philistines, they were both killed. According to some scholars, they died while defending the ark, which the Israelites of Hophni and Phinehas’ day referred to as God’s “glory” (1 Sam. 4:21-22). It’s also known as God’s “strength” in other places (2 Chron. 6:41; Psalm 132:8).
 
According to Psalm 78, God permitted the Philistines to take His ark (His “glory” and “strength”) and the deaths of those who relied on it. This was not accomplished by empowering or directly driving the Philistines to commit their atrocities against Israel, but by forsaking Israel:
 
So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men; And delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy’s hand. He gave his people over also unto the sword; and was wroth with his inheritance. (Psalm 78:60-62)
 
When we compare the statement in 1 Samuel 2:25 that “the LORD will slay [or “destroy”] them” with the statement in Psalm 78:60 that “he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh,” we can see how God is said to have “slain” or “destroyed” Eli's wicked sons. It wasn’t via the use of destructive power on His part, but through the loss of God’s protective presence:
 
Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us? (Deut. 31:17)
 
The Easy-to-Read Version says, “I will leave them. I will refuse to help them, and they will be destroyed.” God “destroys” individuals by respecting their request to leave them, not by directly harming them with supernatural power (Job 21:14-15; 22:16-17). God is believed to ruin them by abandoning them, refusing to help them, and allowing their foes to have their way (Deut. 4:31; 2 Chron. 12:7, 12; Isa. 34:2; Hos. 11:8-9). Other Bible students believe that this is the exact manner in which God said to “slay” Hophni and Phinehas:
 
I DOUBT if we are permitted, and I am sure we are not obliged, to take the fatalist view of this verse. When it says of the sons of Eli, that “they hearkened not to their father,” it simply means what it says, viz., that of their own deliberate and wicked free-will, they refused his advice. And when it implies that this came to pass, “because the Lord would slay them,” what more does it teach of necessity, than that God was so displeased with their wilful and obstinate wickedness, that He did not rescue them from it by his grace? He fulfilled his purpose of slaying them by leaving them to themselves. It is in the same way we read in the Book of Exodus, sometimes that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, sometimes that Pharaoh hardened his own—the interpretation and reconciliation of the two statements lying in this truth, that men’s hearts naturally become hardened when they are left to themselves. God, in short, is said to destroy a man when he does not save him from himself.[3] (Emphasis added)
 
It would have been well for Eli’s sons if, when they did wickedly, they had minded the reproof of their father, and repented of their sins; instead of which they were deaf to his warnings and entreaties, and the most dreadful ruin was the consequence. “Why do ye such things?” said the good old man, “for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the Lord’s people to transgress.” These young men were priests, and were guilty of the most wicked doings; but though their kind old father so affectionately reproved them, “they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them.” God let them harden their hearts, because of their obstinacy, and so left them to suffer the most severe punishment. You must have read of the way in which they came to their end.[4] (Emphasis added)
 
Moreover, the words “delivered” and “gave …. over” in Psalms 78:61-62 are verbs signifying permission. Another rendering of the psalm is as follows:
 

He allowed their enemies to capture the sacred chest, which was the symbol of his power and his glory. Because he was angry with his people, he allowed their enemies to kill them. (Psalm 78:61-62; Unlocked Dynamic Bible)

 
All of this could have been avoided. God would have subdued their enemies if Eli and his two sons had heeded to God's voice rather than their own counsel (Psalm 81:10-15). They lost God’s protection because they refused to walk in God’s ways.
 
According to this evidence, the latter part of 1 Samuel 2:25 should be read in a permissive rather than a causative sense: “Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, therefore the LORD would permit their enemies to slay them.” This is consistent with the full tenor of Scripture as well as with the truth about God’s loving character in which He does no harm.



[1] Sutcliffe, Joseph A Commentary on the Old and New Testament, Volume 1 (London: Holdsworth and Ball, 1834), pp. 238, 239

[2] Blair, Joe When Bad Things Happen, God Still Loves (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1986), p. 98

[3] Mathematicus, M. A. “Germs of Thought” in The Homilist, Vol. II (London: Richard D. Dickinson, 1868), p. 155

[4] Cobbin, Ingram Scripture Proverbs for the Young (London: William Ball, 1838), p. 100


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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Because the Lord Would Slay Them (Part 1)

 

Because the Lord Would Slay Them
(Part 1)
 
Troy J. Edwards
 

If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them. (1 Samuel 2:25)
 
Hophni and Phinehas, Eli’s sons who were supposed to help him with the Levitical ministry, were sleeping with the ladies and stealing God’s sacrifices. They refused to listen to their father, despite Eli’s half-hearted attempts to reprimand them. The King James Version and a number of other versions suggest that this was because of God’s purpose to destroy them.
 
As usual, God’s enemies have latched on to these words as evidence that the God of the Bible is an arrogant, vindictive tyrant bent on the destruction of others. Then there are God’s “defenders” who use the words to make a case for the false idea that God predestines all events and controls all things, including our sin. No further evidence of the latter needs to be sought than the writings of John Calvin:
 
So, when it is related of the sons of Eli, that they listened not to his salutary admonitions, “because the Lord would slay them,” (i) it is not denied that their obstinacy proceeded from their own wickedness, but it is plainly implied that though the Lord was able to soften their hearts, yet they were left in their obstinacy, because his immutable decree had predestinated them to destruction.[1]
 
We agree with Calvin’s statement that God left Hophni and Phinehas, but not for the reasons that Calvin claims. Calvin believed that these men “were left in their obstinacy” because God “had predestinated them to destruction.” Yet, this goes directly against 2 Peter 3:9, “He doesn’t want anyone to be destroyed. Instead, he wants all people to turn away from their sins” (New International Reader’s Version). God also told the prophet Ezekiel:
 
Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? (Ezekiel 18:23)
 
Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? (Ezekiel 33:11)
 
Despite these facts, theologians throughout the centuries have accepted Calvin’s interpretation of 1 Samuel 2:25. It also appears that the belief is supported by the rendering of the passage found in most English translations of Scripture. The question is, however, is it an accurate translation? Some theologians believe that 1 Samuel 2:25 is an example of some of the “imperfections” in our translations:
 
Imperfections in our translations have given rise to many things hard to be explained. The English translation now in use, is probably the best ever made; yet there are imperfections in it, where the true sense of the original has not been conveyed, or conveyed only in part .... 1 Sam. ïi. 25, “Because the Lord would slay them.” The Hebrew is: “Therefore the Lord would slay them.”[2]
 
Hence, we are shown that one word, translated properly, is quite significant to a correct understanding of a Biblical text. In his advice to preachers on studying the meaning of words in Scripture, another author explained:
 
The accepted signification of a word must be retained, unless sufficient reasons can be assigned for its rejection. Thus, we shall be justified in rejecting the received meaning of a word in the following two instances, viz.[3]
 
The author demonstrates why a term in Scripture has to be modified using 1 Samuel 2:25 as an example. This is especially true when the present word conflicts with God’s whole revelation as given in Scripture:
 
If a meaning is inimical to any doctrine revealed in Scripture: For instance, according to our English version, Eli's rebukes of his wicked sons served only to lull them into security, because the Lord would slay them (1 Sam. ii. 25), which rendering goes to show that their wicked conduct was the result of Jehovah’s determination to destroy them; and so apparently teach the horrid idea, that God wills His creatures to commit crimes, because He will display His justice in their destruction. It is true that the ordinarily received meaning of the Hebrew word here used is, because; but in this place it ought to be rendered therefore, or though, which makes the obstinate disobedience of Eli’s sons the cause of their destruction, and this is in harmony with the whole tenor of the Scriptures. The proper rendering, then, of this passage is, Notwithstanding, they hearkened not unto the voice of their Father. Therefore, the Lord would slay them.[4]
 
According to one author, altering the word “because” to “therefore” (or “though”) eliminates the awful idea that God ensures that people will remain in sin because He has already irresistibly decreed their destruction for no other reason than He is sovereign. Another academic has expressed a similar opinion:
 
In 1 Sam. ii, 25, we read: “Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them.” This rendering makes God the author of the wickedness done, and Eli’s sons the passive medium through which God violates his own law, while they are at the same time the recipients of the divine wrath on account of the breaking of the law. It is true that kı̂y does frequently mean because,” yet when we consider the wide range of signification which the Hebrew particles have, we can readily see that the passage will bear a much more consistent and God-honoring interpretation. Had it been rendered “by,” “though,” “so,” or “therefore,” no violence would have been done to the language, and the verse would have been consistent with the rest of the history, thus: “Notwithstanding they hearkened not to the voice of their father, therefore the Lord would slay them.”[5]
 
Again, a simple substitution of “because” to “therefore” or “so” eliminates God as the source of Hophni and Phinehas’ wrongdoing. God is no longer viewed as the author of evil for “divine” reasons. A number of other scholars affirm the validity of this word change:
 
“Because the Lord would slay them;” rather, as the Hebrew may be rendered, “therefore the Lord would slay them;” God determined to destroy them because of their wickedness.[6]
 
Because the Lord would slay them] The Hebrew particle, kı̂y, rendered because in this text, should be rendered therefore, in the sense of for that reason, for this is. its meaning here, and so it is used in other places. I be believed, and [9] therefore have I spoken. See also Isa. liv, 14; Jer. xviii, 12.[7]
 
“Because the Lord would slay them.” The Hebrew particle כִּי (ki) is ordinarily rendered “because;” but in this instance it ought to be rendered “therefore.” The proper reading of the passage is—“Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father. Therefore the Lord would slay them” (Horne).[8]
 
The particle כי ki, which we translate because, and thus make their continuance in sin the effect of God’s determination to destroy them, should be translated therefore, as it means in many parts of the sacred writings.[9]
 
Furthermore, we have discovered at least two of the many English translations out there that have sought to render the passage by using another English translation of the Hebrew word kı̂y:
 
If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him; but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, therefore the LORD purposed to destroy them. (The Holy Bible with Emendations by J.T. Conquest)
 
If one man sin against another, intercession can be made for him to the Lord; but if he sin against the Lord, who can intercede for him? But they hearkened not to the voice of their father, wherefore the Lord determined to destroy them. (Charles Thomson Bible)
 
This translation of the Hebrew verb is considerably more in line with James 1:13, “for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” God could not be a Holy God and declare that those men stay in their sin in order for God, who ensured that they would sin in this way, to have enough justification to slay them. Such a notion transforms God into the world’s worst tyrant.
 
On the other hand, when people choose to persist in sin and ignore all of God’s warnings, then God will decide, as John Calvin wrote, that such people are to be “left in their obstinacy.” Nevertheless, contrary to Calvin’s idea that God intended this to happen, Scripture teaches that God only “gives them up” to such hard-heartedness after numerous attempts to sway them into the right path (Romans 1:24-28; Psalm 81:11-13).
 
God sent a prophet to warn them of the danger that they were in (1 Sam. 2:27-36). Sadly, men can choose to harden their hearts when they hear God’s voice (Hebrews 3:15; 4:7). As Aaron Williams rightly noted:
 
The Lord would slay them, or ‘it pleased the Lord to slay them, and, therefore, he gave them up to their own heart’s lusts, to work all iniquity with greediness.’ Even their own father could not ‘entreat for them” in his priestly character; and for such wickedness there was no atonement. Their cup was full.[10]
 
It is clear that destroying Hophni and Phinehas was not God’s initial intention or desire. God had no choice because of their relentless actions. The next thing we need to figure out is how God destroyed them. Is it possible that God directly orchestrated their demise? Is it possible that God used His divine power to create circumstances that would ensure their demise? Is God, in other words, a vengeful slayer of men? Part 2 will provide answers to these questions.
 


[1] Calvin, John Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volume 2 (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1843), p. 193

[2] Dobie, David A Key to the Bible: Being an Exposition of the History, Axioms, and General Laws of Sacred Interpretation (New York: C. Scribner, 1856), pp. 252, 253

[3] Bate, John “The Meaning of Words and Phrases” in The Local Preacher’s Treasury (London: T. Woolmer, 1885), p. 185

[4] Ibid, p. 186

[5] Turton, J. J. “The Unauthorized Calvinism of the English Bible” in The Methodist Quarterly Review, Volume 46 (New York: Carlton and Porter, 1864), p. 392

[6] Holden, George The Christian Expositor; or, Practical Guide to the Study of the Old Testament (London: J. G. and F. Rivington, 1834), p. 249

[7] Sunderland, La Roy Biblical Institutes; or, A Scriptural Illustration of the Doctrines, Morals, and Precepts of the Bible (New York: B. Waugh and T. Mason), p. 162

[8] Thomas, Robert Owen A key to the Books of Samuel, and the Corresponding Parts of Chronicles (London: Thomas Murby, 1881), p. 52

[9] Clarke, Adam The Holy Bible: Containing the Old and New Testaments (New York: T. Mason & G. Lane, 1837), p. 213

[10] Williams, Aaron Women in the Bible: Being a Collection of all the Passages in the Scriptures which Relate to Women (Philadelphia: Alfred Martien, 1872), pp. 146, 147

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Saturday, May 14, 2022

Does God Elect Only a Few for Salvation? (Part 2)

 

Calvinist Proof-Texts Answered
 
“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” (Eph. 1:4)

 
Does God Elect Only a Few for Salvation? (Part 2)
 
Commentary: The “in Him” in Eph. 1:4 is a reference to corporate election, just as Israel as a corporate entity was chosen by God. Sadly, Calvinists have redefined the word “chosen” to include an irresistible connotation. In his comments on Eph. 1:4, Herschel H. Hobbs describes this choosing or election as simply God "taking the initiative." Hobbs writes, "But initiative does not mean fatalism." (Studies in Ephesians: New Men in Christ, p. 15).

In Scripture God declares Israel as His chosen people (Deut. 7:6-8; 14:2; 1 Chron. 16:13; Ps. 33:12; 105:6, 43; 132:13; 135:4; Isa. 41:8, 9; 43:10, 20; 44:1, 2). But this does not mean that those whom God has chosen do not have the capacity to choose God for themselves (Josh. 24:15, 22; 1 Kings 18:21) or that they could not reject the Lord (Isa. 66:3-4; 1 Sam. 8:7; 10:19).

This is important because Peter uses the same language from the Old Testament concerning Israel to describe God’s choosing of those “in Christ” (1 Peter 2:4, 9). Since God’s election works in the same manner as with Israel, anyone can become a part of the chosen if they will simply believe and accept the redemptive work of Christ. Similarly, any of the chosen can reject Christ.





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