Monthly Archives: August 2010
I have mentioned before that I use John MacArthur’s commentary on the book of Acts and his study Bible as guidance for the exposition of scripture in these Bible study installments. I have found his exposition of scripture most helpful in understanding God’s word fully. If/when I refer to another person’s thoughts or to my own, I am careful to make mention it. Thanks and let’s begin!
Has anyone else noticed the prevalence of people today who talk about angels? Sometimes you hear them talk about summoning angels to help or to give them what they want or need. Sometimes they try to sell you books about how to dispatch angels to serve your self-interested purpose and so on… This type of thing in never mentioned in the Bible however. The Bible talks about angels as being servants of Almighty God. In this lesson, we will see how God used an angel to deliver Peter from prison.
In chapter 12, we see Herod harassing the church. This is Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great. This Herod had gotten into trouble in Rome and fled to Palestine. After serving time himself for making careless comments about Roman Emporer Tiberius, he was made ruler of northern Palestine but remained on shaky ground with Rome. He was likely persecuting Christians in order to build rapport with the Jews to hedge against his less than stellar relationship with Rome.
Herod has James killed with the sword. This was James the brother of John and the son of Zebedee. James was the first martyr of the Apostles but he would not be the last. According to Jewish law, being killed with the sword indicates James could have been accused of leading people to follow false gods. Verse 3 says that Herod saw how it pleased the Jews and he decided to give them more of the same. This would tend to validate the idea that Herod was simply seeking approval of the Jews by following Jewish law concerning the preaching of Jesus. Killing the followers of Jesus would give Herod a stronger position in his office since he was not on very good terms with Rome.
Herod arrested Peter and placed him in prison guarded by four squads of four soldiers. History tells us that two guards were chained to Peter at all times and two stood guard by the cell door. Four squads indicates that the watch was around the clock. Herod’s plan was to keep Peter imprisoned until after Passover and then present him to be killed in order to obtain more favor from the Jews. It is doubtful that Herod had any religious zeal of his own.
Ok, let’s step back and look at the situation. James, a devout follower of Jesus, had been killed for his faith. God had allowed it. Now Peter is in prison awaiting the same fate. Remember that the early church people were real people. They suffered pains and fears. They felt anguish at the loss of their own brothers in Christ. Peter was doubtlessly afraid on some level. He was also not sure if God would deliver him or if this was the time that God would allow him to die and be in Heaven. Peter had no doubt about his salvation but he had to have wondered about what would happen to him after the Passover. He surely saw no avenue of escape except for Divine intervention.
Guarded by four soldiers and chained to two of them, Peter was not going to escape unless God directly intervened. The solders of the Roman era were professional and served at the threat of their lives. If they lost a prisoner, they were punished with the same punishment the prisoner was awaiting. Roman prisoners were usually awaiting death so the soldiers were awaiting death as well. Their jobs required precision. They delivered their prisoner to the executioner or suffered death themselves. Peter would not escape unless God intervened.
Faced with certain death, the church prayed for Peter. I am sure Peter prayed as well. Verse 5 says constant prayer was offered by the church. As a result, on the night before Peter was to be brought out before Herod and the Jews, an angel appeared in the cell beside Peter and a light shone in the cell. The angel woke Peter up and told him to get dressed. The chains fell from Peter and the two of them waltzed out of the prison past the guard posts and through the main gate which opened for them as if it were an automatic door. After Peter is back inside the town, the angel departs and Peter flees. Peter is unsure at first if this is a dream or if it is real. I can understand how he must have felt.
God delivered Peter despite not having delivered James. God is sovereign and works His will for His own purpose. Nowhere in scripture does it say that we must understand or agree with it. God is in control. We are to serve not direct. Next time, we will continue in chapter 12 and see how Herod responds and what God continues to do.
The pastoral team at Image Community Church (formerly Calvary Baptist before converting to Emergent) scuttled all Biblical teaching and began performing dance numbers from West Side Story. While it didn’t do much to feed the flock, it did help these 30-somethings continue to fit into their ‘skinny’ jeans…
Picture from Calvinistic Cartoons. Caption by the Truthinator.
Op-Ed: I would say that MacArthur makes a good point. Why should apostates leave church when they can change it instead to make it what they want it to be… devoid of God? Look at the huge, institutional churches that defy much if not most of what the Bible teaches. And then there is the Emergent group who do the same just with louder music and bright, flashing lights… Or you could go the seeker/cultural/worldly route and spin what the Bible says until you change its meaning so that no one is convicted of sin. At the end of the day it is all symptomatic of apostasy.
Apprising Ministries notes that as Anne Rice “quits Christianity,” and apostasy continues slithering its way through increasingly squishy evanjellyfish, more and more people have become surprised by this sad state of affairs in the visible church.
Below is a section of John MacArthur’s message Apostates, Be Warned, Part 2, which was actually part of the series he preached on the Book of Jude that would become his book The Truth War. Dr. MacArthur reminds us that we really shouldn’t be surprised when apostates don’t always leave the church.
What better place for Satan’s minions, e.g. within the sinfully ecumenical neo-liberal cult of the Emerging Church like EC guru Brian McLaren and heretical quasi-universalist EC pastor Doug Pagitt, to “propagate their corrupting heresies to destroy the church and its message and its impact.”
And yeah, you in the Emergent Church be sure and quote me on that; McLaren and Pagitt are no brothers of mine:
[W]e are called to arms in regard to protecting the faith and fighting for the truth is because certain persons have crept in, verse 4, unnoticed and they intend because of their ungodliness to turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ. And we learn here that the great battle for the truth is waged within the framework of the visible church, that our enemy is within, the enemy has infiltrated the church.
The tares have been sown amidst the wheat. Satan has disguised himself as an angel of light. His ministers are also disguised as angels of light. They have infiltrated successfully into the church always and no different today and they sow damning lies at the very heart of the Christian church. The visible church and the invisible church are two different entities. The visible church is that which bears the name of Christianity in the name of Christ. The invisible church is Christ’s true and redeemed people. And so we have to be discerning and we have to battle for the truth inside the very realm called Christendom. So we’ve been calling our study the long war on the truth, the truth war. And we have noted that this is one form of apostasy and one very, very dangerous deadly, penetrating subtle deception and effective form of apostasy. That apostasy which occurs inside the church and remains there to pollute the church and to diminish people’s confidence in the true gospel.
So we’ve been talking about this matter of defectors from the faith, those who apostatize from the faith. Some leave the church, others remain. And all of us, I think, who have been Christians for any length of time have experienced this matter of defection, this matter of rebellion, this matter of people exposed to the truth, even confessing or professing the truth who abandon the truth and turn away from Christ. We have all known people who have professed to be Christians and profess to believe in Jesus Christ, who have appeared to love the Lord and love the church and to respond to His truth, who had at some point in their lives have utterly and completely abandoned that. And now are living as none of the Scripture were true and as if the gospel was a lie and Christ was not the Savior and hell is either a fabrication or a more desirable place than heaven. Those people fall into the category of apostates, defectors from the faith. You have to know it to defect from it, to reject it.
And as I said, however, not all apostates leave the church. Some remain in it. Some remain in it for a time and eventually leave. But many remain in the church to propagate their corrupting heresies to destroy the church and its message and its impact. This is precisely what Satan desires to do. I think this is his priority operation. That’s why Satan himself is disguised as an angel of light. And as I said earlier, from 2 Corinthians 11, his ministers also are disguised as angels of light. And when you mention Christianity today, just the word conjures up everything that is true and everything that is not true all in the same breath.
For us who know Christ, for us who know the gospel, for us who know our Redeemer, for us who have experienced the goodness of God, His transforming grace, it is always difficult for us to understand how people who are to any degree familiar with the gospel can reject it. I find that almost impossible to believe. Apart from understanding the human heart, the gospel is so appealing, the gospel is so wonderful that it seems something that we should grasp and hold to as tightly as we can, given its immense and eternal promises. But Scripture clearly tells us that there will always be defectors.
And as you look in the gospels, for example, in the New Testament, you’re going to see some of the reasons why. Ignorance is one reason why people defect from the gospel. There’s never really any penetrating of the truth, that’s the hard ground. It just sort of bounces off them. They don’t comprehend it. Persecution is another reason…people who are exposed to the gospel but do not want to pay the price of naming the name of Christ and bearing the reproach of Christ. The worries of this life, Jesus said, are another reason why the seed has a very short life and produces no fruit. And Jesus also said the deceitfulness of riches, people love wealth and materialism and prosperity in this life more than heavenly promises.
It is also true that there is another reason why people defect and that is because the teaching of Jesus is hard. John 6:60, “Many therefore of His disciples when they heard this said, ‘This is a hard statement, who can listen to it?’” A few verses later as a result of this, “Many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” The demands of Jesus were hard, that’s really what I was driving at in the book Hard to Believe, which reflects the teaching we did, particularly on Luke 9, “If any man come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.” The message is hard, hard teaching. It was too hard for the rich young ruler. It was too hard for Judas Iscariot. When you come to the epistles in the New Testament, you’re going to find some more reasons why people defect. One is Satan’s devices. Paul says he’s very concerned that people will be led away from the simplicity of devotion to Christ, Satan will come in and confuse people as to the priority and the person of Christ. There are some people who defect from the gospel because they don’t want to be alienated from the people around them. They love the world too much. And John said, “If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you.” Demas is an illustration of a defector. Second Timothy 4:10, “Who loved this present world.” It doesn’t mean that he loved…he wasn’t an environmentalist in particular, but he loved the whole society that made up his sinful world. There are others who defect from the faith, according to 1 Timothy 6, because they love riches. The desire for riches has corrupted and destroyed many.
But most notably in the New Testament, the book of Hebrews features the longest list of why people defect from the faith. And we could spend literally weeks going through this, I’m not going to do that, I’m going to just spend minutes going through it. But you might want to just listen carefully. Some people defect from the faith because, I’m not being self-serving here, but they just don’t pay careful enough attention to the teaching of Scripture. Their approach to the Word of God is superficial and that’s why in Hebrews 2:1 it says, “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” It is a very dangerous thing to pay only a superficial amount of attention to the profound realities of divine truth. And there are some people who defect from the faith according to the book of Hebrews because it somehow slips their mind, slips their grasp. Actually in Hebrews 3:6 it says, “Christ was faithful as a son over his house whose house we are if we hold fast our assurance.” How could you ever let something so wonderful as the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ slip down your priority list, or slip out of your conscious memory? And, of course, there are people who defect from the faith because of an unbelieving heart, no matter how they might listen, no matter how they might remember, Hebrews 3:12 says, “Take care, brethren, lest there be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart in falling away from the living God.” And really, all of these things sort of go together. It’s sort of a packaged deal, I think.
Also there in the third chapter of Hebrews, we are warned, “Do not harden your heart as when they provoked me as in the day of trial in the wilderness.” This is another thing that caused people to defect from the faith, to rebel from the gospel that they have heard, and it is because they have a hardened heart and perhaps an increasingly hardened heart. Hebrews 4:7, “Today,” David after so long a time, “Just as has been said before said again, ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart.’” Later in that same third chapter of Hebrews, rebellion is added to the list. That’s another problem, people who are just flatly, openly, overtly rebellious, like those Israelites we looked at last time. And there are some people, according to Hebrews 4:2, who do not combine faith with the hearing of the Word. They train themselves and this is really another way to say the same thing, they train themselves to hear the Word without ever really making a commitment to it. Hebrews 4:2 says, “They heard it but it didn’t profit them because it was never mixed with faith in those who heard it. Very dangerous to keep on hearing the Word and not believing it.
And then there are some people, according to Hebrews 4:6, who are just flatly disobedient. And then there are some people, according to chapter 6, who are just lazy. And then there are some, according to Hebrews chapter 10, who are just not interested in coming to the church and therefore they just distance themselves from it and they forsake the assembling of themselves together. There are some who are deliberately flagrantly anti-Christ, we see that in chapter 10 as well. They trample under foot the blood of the Covenant. There are some, we find, in chapter 10 at the end of the chapter, verses 38 and 39, who get close but shrink back, some because of bitterness, some because of sexual immorality, some because of disrespect of leaders and it just goes on and on all the way through this epistle to the Hebrews.
There’s just so much potential for apostasy, that’s what I’m trying to tell you. Is it any wonder that many get on the broad road and few find the narrow way? Is it any wonder that many, many say, “Lord, Lord,” but really don’t know the truth and few really find the door? There are just so many potential ways to apostatize and it’s so normal and so natural to the human heart. I would go so far as to say that it is not a surprise to me that the majority of people exposed to the gospel turn away from it. Is that not obvious? The majority of people exposed to the gospel turn away from it. And it seems to me that clearly there are far more people in the visible church than in the invisible church, many, many more. But some of these people that defect and some of these people that turn away remain in the church as the instruments of Satan to teach their demon doctrines and to build the visible church with its corrupt theology. (Apostates, Be Warned, Part 2)
Dr. John MacArthur
The Emergent Watch… disproving the old adage that says even a stopped watch is correct twice per day.
Cartoon by my electronic friend, Eddie Eddings. Caption by the Truthinator.
Op-Ed by the Truthinator:
A Florida church is planning a “burn the Koran day” for September 11 of this year. The article dealing with their plans is copied below. I put this into the “almost a good idea” category. Why? I see it like this: Christians must stand up and tell the truth. We are exhorted and commanded by scripture to do this. Islam is indeed a false religion and the devil is behind it. I commend the church for taking a stand for truth.
Now for the bad news. I think having a book burning is always a bad idea in modern times since the fire is what gets the attention and the reason for the fire usually gets left out. I would say this well-meaning church could have thought of at least five or six better ways to speak out against the rising tide of Muslim-sympathetic coverage by the US news media, by politicians, and by ecumenically-minded “evangelical preachers/authors”.
I encourage us all to stand for the truth. I also remind us all that standing for the truth is rarely popular or convenient. When we stand, be careful to stand and not pontificate. The former will cause people to take notice even though they may not agree. The latter simply adds fuel to the fire that the enemy has designed to engulf us.
Florida church plans to burn Quran on 9/11 anniversary
AFP, Aug 1, 2010, 12.21am IST
The Dove World Outreach Center of Gainesville, Florida said on its Facebook page it will hold an “International Burn a Koran Day” on September 11, asking other religious groups to join in standing “against the evil of Islam. Islam is of the devil!”
“Islam and Sharia law was responsible for 9/11,” pastor Terry Jones said. “We will burn Qurans because we think it’s time for Christians, for churches, for politicians to stand up and say no; Islam and Sharia law is not welcome in the US,” the organizer of the burning action added.
Reactions to the Koran burning announcement were swift. Members of the Al-Falluja jihadist forum have threatened to “spill rivers of your (American) blood” and “a war the likes of which you have never seen before”.
Mainstream Muslim groups also denounced the move and lamented the sentiments promoted by the Gainesville church.