Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Answers To Your Questions

Some say we are already in the Kingdom, according to Colossians 1:13. How is this verse handled properly, especially since Christ is not yet reigning from a literal throne over a literal kingdom on earth?

Answer: The kingdom in Colossians 1:13 is not speaking of the literal millennial kingdom of Christ on earth, but rather a kingdom of light (verse 12) verses a kingdom of darkness (verse 13). Dr. Gromacki writes “This expression points to the kingdom of Satan that is marked by sin and moral darkness (Eph. 6:12). The concept of darkness includes an opposition to the light as well as an absence of it. This is a realm of moral rebellion, insubordination, and creaturely independence (John 3:19-20).” (Twenty-First Century Biblical Commentary Series: Philippians & Colossians).

Scripturally speaking, there is a kingdom of darkness and a kingdom of light. Those who are saved, have an inheritance (kingdom treasures) that belong to believers (verse 12). These are spiritual blessings that we possess today as we stand right now “in Christ.”  Notice the verbs used: Who (God) delivered (past tense – to rescue) us from the power (liberty of doing a thing) of darkness (metaphoric usage meaning world or kingdom of darkness), and transferred (past tense - moved from one place to another) into the kingdom of the Son of His love.          

Even the great Greek scholar Dr. Robertson (who is not a premillennialist) identifies this as: “Changed us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.”

Remember a word is limited in scope by its context. In this context, “the kingdom of the Son of His love” speaks of His first coming and salvation – removing us from the realm of darkness, the world system whose leader is the devil to a new life “in Christ.”

Thanks for asking,
Dr. John Pappas 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Answers To Your Questions

I enjoy and follow your ministry closely. My question is this: Do we identify Christians living today as Saints? Are we today living as “saints” in the “kingdom,” serving God “in the Kingdom?” I hear this preached over and over and dispensationally, it doesn’t fit.

ANSWER: The word “saints” is a good word and we can call each other saints today. The word is the Greek hagios meaning “holy” and has its highest application in the person of God Himself, but when used of others means, “saints” set apart for service to God. The Greeks used to word for one dedicated to the gods, so it moves to the Christian vocabulary to mean “separated from sin" and therefore consecrated to God, or devoted to God. For example, Paul says,

 “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” (1Co 1:2)  

Dr. Vine helps when he says, “Sainthood is not an attainment, it is a state into which God in grace calls men; yet believers are called to sanctify themselves (consistently with their calling, 2 Tim 1:9), cleansing themselves from all defilement, forsaking sin, living a holy manner of life, 1 Pet. 1:15; 2 Pet. 3:11, and experiencing fellowship with God in His holiness. The saints are thus figuratively spoken of as ‘a holy temple,’ 1 Cor. 3:17 (a local church); Eph. 2:21 (the whole Church), cf. 5:27; ‘a holy priesthood,’ 1 Pet. 2:5; ‘a holy nation,’ 2:9.“ (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words)

To clarify what Dr Vine’s is speaking of, let me explain the Jewish terms he uses. By saying the saint is spoken of figuratively as “a holy temple” is meant that we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit so that our bodies are the vessels of a truly Holy thing and it is His who is holy not us. We can sin, do sin and as such often grieve the Holy Spirit with our sin, but we are commanded to be holy (set apart) for He is holy.

To answer your question about saints living in the kingdom today, the answer depends upon their context. There are many dispensational teachers who teach we are living today in the universal kingdom of God. The universal kingdom is seen as God’s sovereign control over all things, as Creator, Sustainer, and Director of all history. His universal rule extends through all ages, encompasses every aspect of creation, and is administered by God directly.

So, even though it is true that this “universal kingdom” exists, the Bible speaks of the Kingdom of God as a future kingdom and in reference to Christ’s reign on earth. Almost everywhere you find the word kingdom, it is in reference to Christ’s millennial reign on earth. When dispensational teachers say words like you have said most likely they are moving towards spiritualizing the kingdom – they are moving away from the plain sense of Scripture in order to sound spiritual and exhort people to holy living.

We should live a holy life and look forward to the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for we will be with Him in the millennial kingdom.

Thanks for your question,
John Pappas, ThD

Monday, August 13, 2012

Answers To Your Questions

I heard  you say a saved person is declared righteous. How can a person be righteous?

ANSWER:  To be declared righteous is a forensic pronouncement. The word forensic is from the Latin meaning, “relating to the business of the Roman forum.” The Roman forum is where the legal dealings were pronounced. A criminal charge was presented to the public in the forum, the case and the arguments were presented, and the outcome was pronounced. When a person is saved he or she is declared righteous based not on what they have done, but rather, on the work of Christ on the cross and His righteousness is reckoned to us. This reckoning is called imputation. Imputation comes from the Greek ellogeo meaning “to reckon over to one’s account” (eg. Rom. 5:13).  

There are three great imputations in Scripture:

1. The imputation of Adam’s sin to the human race (Rom. 5:12-21). Here, death has been declared as the penalty upon all men in that all have sinned, meaning all men sinned when Adam sinned, and thus, the penalty of death is upon all mankind because of one sin of Adam (Rom. 5:18). Romans 5:12 says that all humanity was a participant in Adam’s sin. How is it that you and I participated in Adam’s sin when we were not there?  We participated in Adam’s sin because we were “seminally present.” “Just like Levi (although not yet born) paid tithes to Melchizedek through Abraham in that Levi was ‘seminally present’ in Abraham (Heb. 7:9-10)” (Paul Enns, Moody Handbook of Theology, p. 312). Seminally present means present by means of the seeds or offspring.      

2. The imputation of the sin of the race to Christ. Though the word “imputation” is not found here, it is no less understood by words such as “made him to be sin,” “laid on him,” bare our sins” (Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 7, p. 192; Isa. 53:5-6, 11; 2 Chr. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24). The imputation of the sin of the race upon Jesus Christ occurred at the cross.

3. The imputation of the righteousness of Christ to believers. The imputation of Christ’s righteousness to believers constitutes our legal standing before God. “It is the only righteousness that God ever accepts for salvation and by it alone may one enter heaven” (Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology). Righteousness is the Greek word dikaioo meaning “justify, be righteous, be freed, to declare or pronounce one to be just to righteous.” Both the Old and New Testament use the word in a legal sense.

The concept of justification or righteousness as a legal term goes back to the Old Testament as the Greek LXX uses the word for the court and the decisions of the judges in Deut. 25:1, “If there is a dispute between men, and they come to court, that [the judges] may judge them, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked,”  (cf., 1 Kings 8:32; Prov. 17:15; Isa. 5:23)

Justification is what God brings to mankind in both the Old and New Testaments. Notice what Isaiah says, “I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off;  My salvation shall not linger. And I will place salvation in Zion, for Israel My glory” (Isa. 46:13). However, the basis of our justification is Jesus Christ as Isaiah declares, “He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities” (Isa. 53:11), and “…their righteousness [is] from Me, says the Lord” (Isa. 54:17). One of the most popular verses used to described this concept comes from Isaiah 61:10, “ I will greatly  rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with the robe of righteousness”.

In order to see the New Testament declaration, one need only turn to Paul in Romans 8:33-34, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” 

Justification or being declared righteous is not a process but an act of God when a person places his or her faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior. The act of being declared righteous is clearly described in the past tense as Paul writes in Titus 3:7, “that having been justified by His grace, we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Again, in Romans 5:1, “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (cf. Rom. 5:9; Gal. 3:8-9)

What about the present tense usage of the word “to justify?”  One verse that Catholics use to justify their doctrine of man achieving “progressive righteousness” is Romans 3:28, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law,” which means, not “becomes more righteous,” but “a man with faith is in the present declared righteous.” (Steven Waterhouse, Not By Bread Alone: An Outlined Guide To Bible Doctrine, p. 177)    

This doctrine is of most importance since it affects the person of Christ – If a man can achieve righteousness, even if it is said that a man can simply contribute, or add to his or her rightness, then Christ is not wholly man and wholly God. There is only one who could pay the price for mankind and that one is Jesus Christ the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Justification means, “being declared righteous” and any other definition is not only inconsistent with the historical usage of the word, but ultimately means man is capable of self-righteousness, and who wants to claim that?  

Thanks for asking.
Dr. John Pappas (8/12)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Answers To Your Questions

What is the Bible speaking of when it talks about the world? Sometimes it seems to mean the whole earth and others it seems to mean just humans, what is going on?   

ANSWER:  When Scripture speaks about the world context must be taken into account. The world means the following in Scripture:

The world can simply mean the earth, the round sphere of the earth and all its makeup (eg. Matt. 13:35; John 21:25). The Greek speaking world uses the word kosmos as the whole of the earth as its primary meaning. The Hebrew Old Testament also uses the word ‘erets to describe the round sphere of the earth in its entirety (eg. Jer. 10:12). From a Biblical perspective, this usage might be defined as, “the entire created world.”

Sometimes when the author wants to be specific about all the people or all the land only – the inhabited earth, the Greek word oikoumeneis used, but the translators translate it as “world.” But, the word kosmos can also mean all the men and women of the earth as Jesus came to save the world (John 3:16).

At times, the word “world” can be used to describe a grouping or class of people or things; the earth as opposed to heaven (1 John 3:17), the human race in general (Matt. 5:14), gentiles as a group distinguished from Jews (Rom. 11:12, 15).

Sometimes, the word “world” is used metaphorically to mean the natural life as opposed to the spiritual life. Paul uses the illustration of the married man who seeks to please his wife in the material things now as opposed to the woman who desires spiritual things – the things of the Lord (1 Col. 7:32-35). 

At other times, the word “world” can mean “the present condition of human affairs, in alienation from and opposition to God” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words) (eg. John 7:7). Scripture says this world has Satan as it ruler (John 13:30), and as such, the world that he rules opposes God and the things of God. The world, as used here, is not a geographical location, but a state or a condition of existence that is opposed to God. With this is mind, the Bible describes the Christian as being saved from it (John 3:15-17), and his relation to the world as: we are to be separated from it (1 Pet. 2:11) as Paul was crucified from it (Gal. 6:4). Believers are not to adopt the standards of the world (Rom. 12:2; Tit. 2:12; James 1:27), nor love it (2 Tim. 4:10; 1 John 2:15-16). Instead, we must proclaim the gospel of Christ to the world that is dying (Matt. 24:14; 28:19) and be crucified to it (Rom. 6:6; Gal. 6:14). As children of God, we must overcome the desires of the world (John 16:33; 1 John 5:4-5), and not be conformed to it (Rom. 12:2).  

As you can see, the word “world” must be understood in its context in order to understand exactly what is meant.

Thanks for the question,
John Pappas, ThD