October 24 Roundtable
Pastor Dave Chambers
Pastor Joe Herr
Pastor Tom Schierkolk
October 24 Roundtable
Pastor Dave Chambers
Pastor Joe Herr
Pastor Tom Schierkolk
In a recent conversation the assertion was made that if the Bible is true then Jesus should have already returned to put a stop to the evils that are happening in this world. Recent headlines include multiple mass shootings and the kidnaping of missionaries and their families in Haiti. If God is real and if Jesus is really God then why doesn’t He come back like He promised and put an end to all these terrible wrongs?
This question gets back to the old problem of evil, that never goes away. The Bible gives several clear answers to this question. The most important is that Jesus has not come yet so that others might be saved. (2 Peter 3:9) Because God does not delight in the death of the wicked, He waits. He gives the innocent opportunity to repent, lest they should be destroyed with the wicked. (Jonah 4:11) Because God desires all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) He gives them room to repent. (Revelation 2:21) When Jesus returns, the chance for salvation will be gone. The lost will be forever condemned. Jesus’ delay is salvation for those who will believe. (2 Peter 3:15)
Many skeptics who raise this question are not demanding a righting of wrongs, they are demanding Jesus prove Himself. Jesus has already given all the proof needed. When John the Baptist’s disciples brought a message to Jesus asking if He was really the Messiah, Jesus pointed them to the miracles He had done. They were proof enough that He is who claimed to be. (Matthew 11:2-6) God has given us even more proof that Jesus is God- the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The Bible gives ample evidence that Jesus is who He claimed to be. He has no need to prove Himself further to those who reject the proof already given.
The original question also betrays an expectation that Jesus is like a super hero who swoops in to save the day from the worst of villains, but allows the rest of humanity to go on with their lives. This is a complete misunderstanding of Jesus, His judgment and His righteousness. When Jesus returns to judge wickedness, He will not just judge the worst of evils, He will judge all the wicked. (Matthew 25:31-33) Jesus will not judge according to man’s standards of who is a good person, He will judge according to His perfect standard. (Matthew 5:48) All those who have not received Him for salvation will be condemned (Revelation 20:15). When Jesus returns those who do not believe will lose their opportunity for salvation and will be cast into eternal judgment.
A better question to ask is why does Jesus continue to give good things to sinners? (Matthew 5:45) Psalm 36 describes the skeptic who doubts God’s goodness. Despite the abundance of wickedness in this world, the mercy and faithfulness of God abound. God’s compassion is seen in the sky, the mountains and the oceans. God’s goodness is seen in all of creation. Since humanity has rebelled against God, the question that should be asked is, why does God give good things to humanity? Why are we not all destroyed? “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” (Lamentations 3:22)
Jesus has not yet returned that you might be saved. Do not doubt His goodness, but trust Him.
Justice continues to be a major concern for Americans, and rightly so. All citizens have good reason to be concerned that we live in a just society. Americans should lawfully oppose and correct injustice. Americans should pursue justice. God requires His people “to do justly.” To do justly the Christian must first have a right understanding of justice. To pursue justice, the citizen must have a correct understanding of what he is pursuing. How does the Bible describe justice?
This article will not examine everything the Bible says about justice. The aspects of individual justice will be untouched to focus instead on governmental and legal justice. The starting point to understanding justice is the character of God. Justice must conform to the character of Him who is Just. Any law or judgment that does not conform to the character of God is inherently unjust. For example, the laws which decreed blacks to be 3/5ths of a person were unjust and laws which decree homosexual relationships to be moral are equally unjust.
Only one nation has received its laws and jurisprudence directly from God. That nation is Israel. As a result, Israel is a case study in Divine justice in a society. However, not all of Israel’s laws are directly applicable to modern day nations. Few would suggest that it would be just for any nation today to impose penalties on those who eat shellfish. Nor can it be said that Israel’s system of laws is the absolutely perfect ideal. Jesus Himself declared that portions of the law were given as an accommodation to the sinfulness of men. (Matthew 19:8) Despite these limitations, principles of governance that transcend cultures are found in God’s instructions to Israel.
Certain of the universal principles found in the law of Moses are restated in the New Testament. God specifically ordained governments to oppose evil and promote good. (Romans 13:3) Governments are ministers of God for the good of their citizens. Governments are to execute wrath on those who do wrong. (Romans 13:4) The role of government is retributory, bringing consequences on those who do wrong. This includes execution of certain criminals. (Roman 13:4; Genesis 9:6) How the government is to exercise this responsibility is not directly addressed in the New Testament, but it is modeled by Israel in the Old Testament.
Israel’s laws reveal that God’s justice is concerned with equal treatment of all individuals. Equal treatment is founded on the truth that all people are created in the image of God. No person is a lesser being because of their position in society. All are equally bearers of God’s image. Biblical justice treats all equally, regardless of citizenship, power or wealth. (Deuteronomy 27:19)
Justice is also concerned with the protection of the weak. Governments are to ensure that the powerful do not take advantage of the weak (Exodus 22:22; Leviticus 19:14) and that the seller does not take advantage of the buyer. (Deuteronomy 25:13) The government should take care to protect the weak from being wronged by the powerful, but in criminal matters it is never to give special consideration to a person’s financial status or social condition. (Leviticus 19:15) In general, Biblical justice is about protection of individuals, equal treatment under the law and judgment of evil that is exacted without regard to the status of the person.
However, the Bible also teaches that injustice will persist in this world. This is not intended to produce apathy towards injustice in this world. Instead, the Bible points Christians to the future that they may be faithful to perform and promote justice now. The Christian can continue to pursue justice in this world because in the end justice will be perfectly and fully executed. When Jesus returns He will judge the world in righteousness. He will punish all sin with perfect justice. He will establish righteousness across the world. He will judge all people based upon full and exact knowledge of all sin and without favor towards their status, wealth, ethnicity or culture. In the end none will escape justice, and none will be cheated the justice they deserve.
What makes a Christian truly a Christian? What makes a Christian church genuinely Christian? In this age of self-identification there is value in considering if a person is a Christian by identifying as one or is something more required to truly be a Christian? If so, what is it? Is there a single doctrine, creed or statement that comprises the core elements of Christianity? The World Council of Churches once declared the way to distinguish false Christianity from possibly true Christianity is through the affirmation of the statement, “Jesus Christ is God is Savior.” Does this simple statement encompass all that is essential to true Christianity? Are all those Christians who affirm the Deity and salvation of Jesus?
Surveying the scope of Christendom today does not provide an easy answer to these question. Not all churches which call themselves Christians would affirm this statement. Many Christian churches would not consider an affirmation of that basic statement evidence of Christianity. However, the question is not what churches today believe, or what churches in history have believed. The question is what does the Bible teach is the essence of Christianity.
The book of Acts shows what the apostles taught as the essence of salvation and the essence of Christianity. Acts 11 introduces the term Christian when it says that believers were first called Christians in Antioch. Those called Christians in Acts 11:26 are referred to as “the disciples.” Who were these disciples? What was required to be a disciple? Disciples in Acts are those who followed the footstesp of the twelve disciples by following the teachings of Jesus.
Acts 11:26 also indicates that the disciples assembled as a church. In Acts 2 the church is introduced and we learn what was necessary to be a part of the church. In short, those who were saved became part of the church. (Acts 2:47) These ones added to the church were also added to the number of disciples (Acts 2:41; 6:1) The substance of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 defines what is essential to be a disciple of Christ and to be a Christian.
Peter says that what is necessary for a person to be a Christian is to believe Jesus was a man sent from God and is the God of David (Acts 2:22, 25), to believe Jesus was crucified and died (Acts 2:23) and to believe Jesus was restored to life again. (Acts 2:32) To be saved a person must cease rejecting Jesus and receive Him for forgiveness of sin. (Acts 2:39, 41, 44) These same essentials of Christianity are found in Paul’s first recorded sermon in Acts 13 and are the same essentials found in the definition of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:2-4.
The essence of Christianity is belief that Jesus is God who became a man, died on the cross and was restored to life again. This belief turns in faith to Jesus and trusts Him to forgive sin. Other things can be added to give a proper definition of saving faith, such as, saving faith does not attempt to earn any portion of salvation. (Ephesians 2:8-9; Galatians 5:4) Additions are necessary for clarifying the Biblical truths of salvation, but the basic essence of Christianity- those things which must be believed to be a disciple of Christ- is the gospel message of faith in Jesus who is God and man that died and rose to life again to give forgiveness of sin.
September 26 Roundtable
Pastor Dave Chambers
Pastor Joe Herr
Social justice is defined as “the redistribution of resources and advantages to the disadvantaged to achieve social and economic equality.” The aim of social justice is to tear down all distinctions between social classes and income disparities so that all are financially and positionally equal. Another has defined social justice as “the ability of people to reach their full potential within the societies in which they reside.” Notice, that definition says “ability” not “opportunity.” Some versions of social justice seek to redistribute resources, but not equally. Those in the lower classes would be given more to help them reach the level of the upper classes. The redistribution of resources by taking more from the wealthy and giving more to the poor is a key component of social justice.
God is deeply concerned with justice. God is described “a just God” (Isaiah 45:21) who requires His people to “do justice.” (Psalm 82:2-3; Proverbs 21:3; Isaiah 56:1; Micah 6:8). However, Biblical justice is far different from social justice. In short, the Bible is not concerned with equal outcomes, or even equal opportunities. Income inequities are a non-issue in Scripture. Biblical justice is concerned with protecting individuals, especially the weak, from abuse (Leviticus 19:11-14), fairness in business (Proverbs 20:10, 23) and punishment of evil doers (Proverbs 18:15; Leviticus 5:17).
The Bible holds every person responsible for their own decisions. Social justice treats people as a group. It assigns group guilt and looks for group solutions. Personal liberation is achieved through group liberation. The Bible teaches that each person will stand before God and be judged according to his own works. (Revelation 20:12) Condemnation and salvation is individual. “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” (Ezekiel 18:20) The salvation God offers is not the salvation of a system or a group. Salvation is personal. Romans 9 denies that any person is condemned for being a member of a particular group or is saved by being part of a particular group. Instead, God puts no difference between any people group. “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
The Bible does not teach forced equality of outcomes. Instead, Scripture teaches charity and generosity, but not financial or positional equality. In Israel God provided compassionate means to care for the poor. He gave the Jews certain laws that required charitable actions. The Israelites were commanded to leave the corners of their fields unharvested so the poor could come in and harvest food for themselves. This practice should be significant in the discussion about social justice. The landowners were not required to evenly distribute their profits to the poor. The government did not confiscate the land’s produce to distribute it equally to all citizens. The poor did not receive a gift of grain. A small portion of the fields were left for the poor to labor in so they could earn their food through their own efforts. Those who did not labor were not given food. God commands His people to be compassionate (Deuteronomy 15:7) and He shows special care for the poor (Proverbs 14:31), but the Bible does not teach that inequalities in condition or income are wrong.
Biblical justice does not insist upon equal outcome but upon equal treatment of all under the law. Israel was to have the same laws for foreigners as for those born in Israel. In other words, immigrants and citizens were under the same law. This same law put equal responsibility on the immigrant and the citizen. Immigrants were not exempted from obedience to the requirements of Israel because of their immigrant status. (Numbers 15:30) They also were not denied justice because of their status. (Exodus 12:49) Immigrants were protected from harassment and oppression. (Exodus 22:21) Everyone in Israel was to be treated the same in punishment and protection, regardless of their national origin.
Social justice believes the social status of the individual should be taken into account and benefits given to members of the lower classes. The laws of Israel make a specific point of teaching that wealth and status must never be a factor in dispensing justice. Judges can not take bribes. They must not rule in favor of the rich because of their influence. Judges must not show favoritism toward the poor. The difficulties of a person’s situation never justify their breaking the law or gain them advantage in the eyes of the law. The poor ought not be awarded a judgment because they are poor. To give preference to one because of their financial condition is injustice. (Leviticus 19:15)
The laws of Israel are an excellent case study on God’s views regarding justice in a society. Since all the laws given to Israel were given by God for the governance of His chosen nation, then the reasonable conclusion is that Israel’s law is God’s definition of social justice. God’s justice does not match modern conceptions of justice. This does not mean God is unjust. God is perfectly just. His instructions on justice ought to be considered justice, not the definitions of critical theorists. We need to correct our definitions of justice to bring them in line with God’s justice. “Shall mortal man be more just than God?” (Job 4:17)
The Bible is generally unconcerned with income and class distinctions because the wages of sin is death. The reality is that every person has a brief life on this earth. What matters most is not that poverty be eliminated. What matters most is that God has provided everyone the same opportunity for forgiveness of sin and eternal life. The greater need is salvation. That has been provided. Jesus gave up the vast riches of His glory to become a man and suffer the penalty of sin for humanity. His gift of forgiveness is available freely to all who believe Him. “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” The redistribution of sin and righteousness is the redistribution we should be most concerned about.
For more on social justice tune in to 92.7 FM on Sunday, September 26 at 9:30 AM to hear Everlasting Truths Radio.