New Chapter in My Life 

The past two weeks have been rough on my family and I. Two weeks ago I was asked to step down from my first youth minister position. It was a very hard pill to swallow. Being asked to step down from any position is hard but being asked to step down from a ministerial position was devestating to me. 

As time went forward I thought things would get easier. It did but I still face times where I am upset and hurt. On Sunday I started questioning whether I could or should pursue this. Had God actually called me to be a pastor and preach and teach His word? I thought about it hard and was brought to tears. 

I thought about the possibility of never preaching another sermon. That thought terrified me. I cannot imagine not ever preaching again. I spoke with some family and good friends they made me realize doors are shut for a reason. I knew I would not be at my former church forever but I did not get to leave the way I thought it would be. 

God works miracously in our lives. A lot of times God is working behind the scene and we do not even know it. As I prepare for the next chapter of my life I am going to hone my skills and use this time to become more focused on what God expects of me. 

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Has Life Become too Busy?

This week my son and I finally cut the grass in our backyard. I usually take pride in my backyard. I hardly ever let my grass get high. When it is high it is no fun and it is just ugly to look at. I had let things get in my way of taking care of my responsibility. As I was cutting yesterday I realized that when I neglect things it takes longer to get them back in order. We cut our grass and my neighbors grass since we share a backyard. The yards are so small that it should take less then forty-five minutes to cut and edge. In all it took a couple of hours for the both of us. It was hard work but in the end I was able to stand back and admire what we had accomplished.
You may be asking, what is the point. The point is that we allow the small things to get in the way of the important things. We do some things that might not be as important and neglect things such as maintenance. When you have a relationship with Jesus there are things you need to do to keep that relationship healthy. You cannot let life interfere with your relationship with Jesus. Spiritual growth does not happen overnight. The problem is that when we neglect healthy spiritual growth we allow weeds to grow up and overtake that spiritual growth.

Here are some ways to nurture your spiritual growth:

1. Pray – This is a two way relationship. There are two parties involved, you and God. If you are not willing to talk to God, you cannot build on the relationship. Have you ever built a relationship without talking with the other person?

9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed is your name. Matthew 6:9

2. Bible – God’s word is an amazing thing. We can learn so much truth from reading it and studying it. God has given us a user manual. It is up to us to read it.

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16

3. Church – We are not to forsake the assembly of others. God wants us to join in fellowship with others. It gives us a support system to lean on and learn from.

25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25

4. Worship – I know most people think of worship as singing praises to Him. The problem is that worship involves so much more. It involves getting your heart right. It involves everything listed.

16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16 

I pray that you do not neglect your relationship with Jesus. Life gets busy but we cannot get so busy that we cannot make time for Jesus.

If you do not know Jesus as your savior please do not wait until it’s too late. I will be glad to talk with you. Find a pastor that is close to where you live. Get on your knees and ask God to forgive you of the sins in your life. Make Him the Lord of your life.

Is the Bible Myth or Historical?

LIBERTY UNIVERSITY BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

 

 

The Bible Among the Myths

 

 

Submitted to Daniel Warner, in partial fulfillment

of the requirements for the completion of the course

OBST 510

Old Testament Introduction

 

 

by

Kenneth Brooks

January 27, 2014

 Introduction

            During the early 1940’s there was a shift in thinking. The shift occurred after the two world wars had led to an economic depression. This depression had a worldwide impact. There was a shift in the thinking that one could live up to high standards. These high standards came from the Old Testament and this caused many to rethink the Old Testament.[1]

Some of the major contributors to this rethinking were Williams Albright and G. Ernest Wright. They argued that there were major differences between the Israelites and their neighbors. New discoveries have not been made, but the way of thinking has changed and it is widely accepted that the Israelite religion is one of the complex religions.

After the early 1950s people were more willing to discuss the thought of revelation. This was a thought that our world cannot explain itself and that there has to be some external communication to explain the world. Then in the 1960s the way we think changed. People did not want to think about something from the outside having authority over us. We wanted individualism. So this meant that revelation was not an option for explaining the Old Testament.[2]

Then we must look at the similarities between the literature of the Israelites and their neighbors. Scholars have tried to show that the Israelite religion is not different from the other religions around it and has actually developed from other religions. This has led to many people questioning the truth of the statements that are found in the Bible. According to Oswalt, people view the Bible as being “history-like”.[3] People have also questioned the veracity of the theological claims that are made in the Bible. When studying the Old Testament one must study both the historical and theological claims together. This book addresses issues that show that the Israelite religion is not false and the Bible is accurate. If the Bible has information that is not accurate then we cannot believe any of the Bible and the Christian faith and religion is false.

Bible in its World

            The world today looks at reality in different ways. The way we view reality deals with many factors that have contributed to the way that we think. According to Oswalt the most significant contribution to the Western world is the Bible.[4] There are two other major contributions: the Greek thought and the Hebrew thought. The Bible provides the foundation for Greek thought and Greek thought helped organize the biblical narratives.

During the period of time from the seventh to the third centuries BC Greek philosophers came to the conclusion that we live in a universe. They felt that it was one and not many therefore dismissing the thought of a “polyverse”.[5] With this conclusion it was only logical that we were controlled by one being, a being the controlled the entire cosmos. This was also the time that cause and effect was discovered. All effects were caused by some action.

During this same time period the same issues were taking place among the people in the Mediterranean. The Hebrew people were questioning their faith. They were being conquered by empires such as the Assyrian and Babylonian empires. The prophets warned the people and gave them hope if they would repent. The words from the prophets were not their own. The words from the prophets lead to several ideas. First there is only one God. Next God is the only creator. He has revealed himself to humans and that he will punish and reward based on our obedience.[6] The prophets had accurately predicted the capture of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires. This prediction was to prove to the people that God will punish those who do not believe. There is no way that the predictions could have come true without divine insight.

It was not until the beginning of the Christian era that the Greek and Hebrew thoughts came together. The biblical view had not been worked out but people believed it because of the fact they were rescued. The Greek view was logical but had not been translated into experience. When the two thoughts combined the Greeks were able to show the Hebrews their logic for a universal creator. They were able to prove logically that there is only one God.

The combination of the two thoughts led to several foundations of the Western world. The first is the validity of reason. Next we see that history is important so that we can learn from past mistakes. We also learned that individuals have worth. We also learned the reality of nature.[7]

The Bible and Myth

            Is the Bible a myth? Many years ago this would not have even been a question. This has recently changed with the thoughts of Robert Oden. He claims that the Bible has mythical thoughts and that this is the heart of the Israelite religion.[8] Other scholars who have this same thought are Mark Smith and J. W. Rogerson. What is important to remember is that that these scholars did not think this way because of new discoveries but as a result in the shift of thinking.

When trying to classify the Bible as a myth one must look at the definition of a myth. The problem is that there is not a precise definition of what a myth actually is. There are two main types of definitions: Historical-philosophical and the phenomenological.[9] The historical-philosophical definition can be further broken down to etymological, sociological and the literary.

Etymological definition of a myth deals with the thing being described as false. This can include items in the story that are supernatural or historical phenomena. If we take this definition we are saying that all of the literature is based on false teachings. Another part of this definition is that stories of the gods are accounted for supernaturally. This would not allow anyone to speak truthfully about a divine interaction. The problems with these types of definitions are that they are generally not narrow enough.

The sociological definition deals with whether someone believes the story is true. If someone believes it is true then it is true to them. This type would only show someone’s perspective on the issue and therefore it is classified as a myth.

Literary definition deals with the way in which the story is written or spoken. Is there use of symbolism to illustrate realities? Many stories that have been written do use symbolism in the stories. Again this definition is way too broad to classify the Bible as a myth.

The phenomenological definition is a more narrow definition that describes the common characteristics of literature that could be called a myth. One of the most important aspects of this myth is our view of personality to nature. Nature can be predictable. We know when seasons are going to change, but there are times when nature can change and cause massive destruction. Many societies have given human like characteristics to nature which means that humans have control of their gods and then nature. God cannot be manipulated because he is not of this World.

Continuity

            This is a principle that states all things are continuous with each other.[10] This is a principle that is found in all major religions except Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This means that one is continuous with each other. So if one is continuous with everything including gods then one can manipulate their gods, because they are subject to the power of humans who are one with them.

The idea of continuity means that the three realms: humanity, nature, and the divine have no distinctions and are the same.[11] This idea obviously has some problems. First things that sound the same or look the same are. It is like the old saying if it walks like a duck it is a duck. This is not always true. Things can have similar qualities and not be the same. This also means that humans can participate in nature. This is not the case either. We have no control over natural forces. It also means that the symbol is reality.

There are several common features of myths.[12] First of all we see that myths are polytheistic, which means the belief in more than one god. This is a worldly view. Next we see that gods are always represented in shapes of this world. They are made of wood or metal or other object to represent what they human views that god as. Thirdly, we see in the ancient Near East literature that the first thing was that the gods took a chaotic matter and turned it into an orderly matter. Next we see that personality is found in humanity. The gods were not personable so one cannot be continuous with the gods. Humanity had a low view of the gods because they were untrustworthy and they were feared. There was also a low view of humanity. Humans were an afterthought to the gods and were to serve them. The divine world also would not allow a single standard of ethics. Each god and goddess had their own views of how things should be done.

Transcendence

This chapter deals with many of the distinctions between the Old Testament and the literature of the ancient Near East.[13] The most obvious difference is that of monotheism. This is the belief in one God. There are only three monotheistic religions. All of these religions came from one culture. All the other religions believe in multiple gods. The next difference is the belief in iconoclasm. The Israelites believed that God shall not be made into an image. The neighboring civilizations would make idols that represented their gods. Again this idea was unique to the Israelites.

Unlike the myths we see that Old Testament has a high view of humanity. In all the myths gods are made in the likeness of humanity. In the Old Testament we see that humanity is made in the likeness of God. The myths show humans being created as an afterthought for food for the gods, but God created humans last as the culmination of His creation.

Unlike the surrounding areas magic is prohibited for the Israelites. They are not to try and manipulate God through sorcery or rituals. The Israelites will be supplied with their needs by obeying and trusting in God. This is the basis for ethical obedience.

The one thing that is common in all of these myths is the relationship of God to the universe. [14] God is not a part of this universe and the universe is not God. God is omnipresent but He is not the world. This is the principle that could allow the Israelites to keep belief in the one and only God. However, they did not have a solid foundation in this and fell back into polytheism and iconoclasm and worshipped their past idols. Some Israelites even joined in child sacrifice.[15] Even with the Israelites turning from God there is nothing in the text that changes. There is only one God and there is no way for humanity to manipulate God.

The Bible verses Myth

            There are similarities in the Bible and the literature of the ancient Near East; however, that does not mean that unity with the thought. It means that there was a culture adaptation.[16] The first issue is ethics. There are two types of ethics. The first is offenses against gods. One example is that of the sex goddess, Ishtar. She offers free love but in the end there will be trouble. The Bible offers advice to stay away from these types of situations as well. The other type is crimes against humanity. When people do something they are punished. This was the same in the Bible as is the surrounding civilizations. In Exodus we are given punishments for specific sins.[17]

The difference in the laws is that God gives His people laws through covenants. The Hebrew people were no longer making decisions based on what society states is correct but on what God says is the right thing.[18] Disobedience or obedience was shown to God depending upon whether one followed the Mosaic covenant. When the laws are placed in a covenant with God means we are only judged on a single standard. There are not multiple standards that we face because of multiple gods.

Some people say that there are similarities in the laws and customs and that this shows that they were just copying the religions of their neighbors. One similarity is the layout of the temple is the same layout of the Canaanite temple.[19] Key issues such as this are not what make the religion different. It is how the Israelites used these features that made the religion different.

There are more serious similarities that are discussed[20] There are many stories from the ancient Near East that appear in the Bible. It is not important that they are in the Bible, but how they are used. One example is Leviathan. In the Canaanite literature a god defeated Leviathan, who is the chaos monster. In the book of Job, Leviathan is not depicted as a monster that threatened God, but possibly as a crocodile. Leviathan is not something that was before God and God did not emerge from Leviathan.

There are also similarities in thought patterns.[21] Many people maintain that the first chapters of Genesis maintain patterns of a myth. There is nothing in the book of Genesis that contains mythical features. There is no gods or conflicts between good and evil. These chapters would have to have been rewritten and these things left out. The second argument is that the Babylonian creation story is different from that of Genesis. In the first 160 lines of the Enuma Elish we see the emergence of the gods and their plans to deal with chaos. There are a few similarities but the differences are too numerous.

Psalms has also been compared to Canaanite literature. In Psalm 29 God is being compared to the thunderstorm. This is in comparison to Baal the Canaanite storm god. The difference is that God is being compared to the thunderstorm but He is not actually the storm.

The Bible and History

            The concept of history and history writing deals with combining Greek with the Hebrew literature.[22] The problem with history though is just like a myth. How does one define history? Even though it is vague there is a little more consensus on the definition. There are five parts to the definition: must be an account of what happened, systematic account of what has happened in the life of a people, all recorded events of the past, deals with systematic recording of events, and a known recorded past. This means that history can only be about human beings.

There are six things that must be understood about reality to write history.[23] The first is that humans are free. If we cannot make choices then why does one need to know what happened in the past? Second, cause and effect are linked. Every action we have there is a reaction. Third, falsification of data is worthless. If the history did not occur then it is meaningless. Fourth, the writer must realize that the human experience is goal oriented. One must be able to learn from the past to accomplish something better in the future. Fifth it is important to realize that since we are not continuous with each other we are connected. Lastly, there must be a consistent standard to evaluate behavior.

The ancient Near East recorded events but these events. These following six examples do not necessarily fit the definition of history writing.[24] Omens were used to predict the chances of success or failure of an endeavor. King’s lists were used to record the genealogy and reign of kings. Date formulae are when the reign of a king would be given a name based on an accomplishment of the king. There was no analysis or evaluation so the king or future kings could not improve. Epics are narratives that told a narrative of a hero. Royal annals recorded events of the king’s reign. They were created in order to glorify the kings and no other reason. The Chronicles recorded both victories and defeat. It was not done however for people to improve.

There are many reasons for the absence of history writing in the ancient Near East.[25] The main reason is the focus on the now. People believe that based on the concept of continuity we are on a cycle and the future is the same as now. There is also no subjective orientation because there is no one from the outside recording the events. With this view our outcome is predetermined so there is no reason to learn from the past so there is no reason to write down history to pass it on to future generations.

The Bible has a unique approach to the human-historical accounts.[26] People in the Bible are represented as human beings. They are not portrayed as semi-gods. They are represented for who they are. Their successes are recorded as well as their failures. The Bible also shows the significance between people and events that occur. For example Sodom was destroyed because the people refused to obey. This is significant because it shows people they will be punished for disobedience.

There are many implications of transcendence for Israel’s view of the human-historical experience.[27] With this understanding God cannot be tricked or manipulated. If a god is part of the universe he/she can be manipulated. It also offers a simplified understanding how things occur. The Bible explains that He is in charge of all. He is in charge of everything that occurs. Also because we are not part of His life we cannot receive any blessings from Him because of what we do only because of who He is. The Israelites tried to fit God into their own picture so that they could control Him. They had forgotten that they could not do this and that God could not be controlled by anyone.

Is the Bible Truly Historical?

            In determining if the Bible is historical it is important to answer two questions. The first is can the biblical accounts be called history? The next question is can does it matter if the Bible is historical?[28]

Many people have taught that the Bible is historical, but in the early 1960s this started to fall apart when scholars started to question the truth of the Old Testament. James Barr made the argument that revelation and witness to the revelation does not exist so the “acts of God” disappear.[29] B. Childs also proposed the same statement. There was no religious agenda, but Barr was trying to remove the Bible from the category of history. Also Bertil Albrektson tried at the same time to disprove the Bible. He tried to prove that God revealing Himself to the people was not unique to the Israelite culture.[30] He was able to show in the ancient Near East literature where gods and goddesses had revealed themselves to their people. The difference between this literature and the Bible is that in the Bible God is always viewed as the one true creator. This was not always the case in the Near East literature.

  1. Collingwood also concludes that the Bible contains no historical writing. He list seven concepts that are essential to historical writing.[31] The first deals with was the issue right or wrong. The second is the denial of good and evil forces that direct events. Third, he suggests that there cannot be someone who does no wrong. History writing must be more than just all the parts put together. Fifth there must be an end point such as the apocalypse. There must be definable stages along the way. The last is that the world must be one and all events are judged on a single set of standards. What Collingwood failed to recognize is that these characteristics not only existed in the Old Testament but the New Testament as well. It is important to use both to have a complete view of the Bible.

Also for literature to be considered historical writings the accounts must be accurate. As God revealed Himself it was important for the recorders to accurately record what was taking place.[32] The Bible gives us accurate information but it does not give details of everything that occurred during the time. This is not the purpose of the Bible.

Does it Matter Whether the Bible is Historical?

            The second question is does it matter whether or not the Bible is historical? Oswalt agrees that the Bible is much more than historical facts.[33] When viewed in its entirety the Bible is seen as Israel’s historical experience. This is a history that includes the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord. The Bible also gives us speeches from God. We are also given authoritative books. The poetic books give us a view of life that Israelites had with God. So it is important for us to the facts that reveal how God reveals Himself.

There have been two attempts to separate biblical faith and biblical history.[34] Rudolf Bultmann used existentialist to address the problem of history in faith. This makes people take responsibility for their existence. Humans are not viewed as being a part of nature they just exist. Bultmann came across two problems while constructing his theology. The first is that is hard to speak of objective facts of history. The other problem is the facts the people have tried to discredit the biblical history.

For Bultmann he found the answer by separating the Geschichte and the Historie. According to him one must separate the divine from the event. God must be separated from the actions of the world. A historic account of Jesus would emphasize His obedience to God and his responsibility for the world.

Alfred Whitehead developed what has become known as process thought.[35] This thought pattern basically states that as history develops so does God. God developed everything and is what everything is moving toward. There are many positive thoughts to this process. The first is that God is involved in human life. Next God cannot be manipulated. We cannot control Him. It also makes history real and important. There are also some problems with the process. It removes God from the world. So there is no room for a personal God. There is also no clear purpose so there is no standard evaluation.

Origins of the Biblical Worldview

There have been many shifts in the origins of the biblical views. Many people believe that the Old Testament reveals who God is and that there are some unique features. The shift has occurred in the fact that people believe that the literature has come from the ancient Near East literature. According to Oswalt we must look at two things. The first things is why did the writers create explanations of their ideas and then one must reexamine the claims to biblical uniqueness.[36]

Professor Van Seters proposed that there is little history in the JE documents.[37] The JE documents were written around 900 BC to 800 BC. They were from Judah and Israel. In fact he felt that this was just a novel that must have been written by a genius during the sixth century BC. This work was not widely accepted.

Frank Cross proposed that the Pentateuch was actually a rewriting of an epic.[38] He supported this thesis by pointing to Russian and Spanish examples. He used these as examples to show that this type of thing could happen. The problem with this argument is that there is nothing in the Bible that mimics the Homer epic that Cross had used as his example.

William Dever has tried to recover history of the Biblical times through archeology.[39] From his work he has determined that there is good archeological evidence that Israel did exist. He also states that the biblical history of Israel did not occur as in the Bible. The main thing is that he feels that the exodus did not occur. He also feels that the conquest in Joshua could not have occurred. He feels that there was a rewriting of history.

Mark Smith argues that the Israelite religion has its foundation in the Canaanite religion.[40] However, he cannot find anything in the Bible that supports this claim. Smith also suggests that the Israelite understanding of deity came from Ugarit. He noted the four stages of deity for the Ugarit as: the king and queen of pantheon, prince and princess, magician, and the rest of the gods. He then proposed a second stage in Israel as follows: king and queen plus Yahweh, elements such as the moon and sun, blank, and the angels. The third stage was the same. The fourth stage was different. It listed: Yahweh, empty, empty, and the angels. The last stage is the only stage that is biblical. Smith’s explanation of how we get to the fourth stage had too many questions that could not be answered.

Conclusions

            In this book Oswalt dealt with the comparisons of the Bible to the literature of the ancient Near East. He called the Bible’s view transcendence. He also discussed the issue of continuity. Myths have also been discussed and defined. These myths are basically stories that are told about the gods and how they have maintained the world.[41]

The mythical view of thinking was at first believed to be primitive, but this could not be the case if one looks at the accomplishments from this time. Another possibility is that there was limited information to the societies. This was not the case either. So mythical thinking must be explained by choice. People chose to think in these ways.[42]

One of the ways people chose to think can be viewed in the enlightenment period. This was a period of time when people thought that material possessions would bring them happiness.[43] Scholars also thought science would lead to human perfection. It is now known that science can only answer the questions of how and not the why questions. This thinking has led to a world that is morally bankrupt. One of the enlightenment writers was Mircea Eliade. Eliade was determined to define all religions as a myth. Doing this he defined myths as reorienting oneself with the beginning.

If we go down the path of these writers and more we can come to ten different conclusions.[44] First we will no longer have a set up ethics that guide us. Power will take the place of truth. Right and wrong will be terms that will be used loosely. They will become useless. People will use magic to get their way. People who want to control sexual freedom will be thought of as someone who hates others. Individuals will lose value. People not look out for others. People will not accept responsibility for their actions. The study of history will disappear. Lastly, people will not transform from worse to better.

The literature that claims to be from the divine revelation of God is different from all other religious literature.[45] These words were given to a distinct people group. We are now able to interpret these words due to the work of the Holy Spirit. If we do not keep this as a possibility then we have no explanation of the biblical theology.

Bibliography

Oswalt, John. The Bible Among the Myths. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009.

 

 

[1] John Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths: (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 11.

[2] Ibid., 13.

[3] Ibid., 15.

[4] Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths, 21.

[5] Ibid., 21.

[6] Ibid., 23.

[7] Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths, 28.

[8] Ibid., 29.

[9] Ibid., 33-42.

[10] Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths, 43.

[11] Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths, 48.

[12] Ibid., 57-62.

[13] Ibid., 64-76.

[14] Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths, 81.

[15] Ibid., 83.

[16] Ibid., 85.

[17] Exodus 21:1-22:16.

[18] Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths, 87-90.

[19] Ibid., 91-92.

[20] Ibid., 93-96.

[21] Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths, 97-107.

[22] Ibid., 111.

[23] Ibid., 113-116.

[24] Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths, 116-122.

[25] Ibid., 122-124.

[26] Ibid., 124-126.

[27] Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths, 127-132.

[28] Ibid., 138.

[29] Ibid., 140-141.

[30] Ibid., 142-143.

[31] Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths, 144-147.

[32] Ibid., 149-151.

[33] Ibid., 152-154.

[34] Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths, 155-159.

[35] Ibid., 165-169.

[36] Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths, 171-172.

[37] Ibid., 172-173.

[38] Ibid., 175-177.

[39] Ibid., 177-181.

[40] Ibid., 181-184.

[41] Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths, 185.

[42] Ibid., 186.

[43] Ibid., 187-190.

[44] Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths, 191-192.

[45]Ibid., 194.

Salvation

Introduction

Since the fall of man in the garden with the first sin, God has longed for a personal relationship with everyone. Since this time man has drifted away from God. God has punished people and even whole countries because of the separation caused by sin. He destroyed Sodom because there were no righteous men. He destroyed the earth with a flood due to the massive sinful nature of mankind. God wants to offer eternal salvation. He does not desire to see anyone perish. There is only one way to receive this eternal salvation. It is by faith alone that we receive righteousness from God and are saved from eternal condemnation.

Righteousness

Righteousness is the beginning of the process so we must exam what it is and how it has developed over time. There are many ways that we can look at the word. The noun means to be righteous. The adjective is righteous. The verb means many things such as: “to be in the right…to put in the right, to vindicate, to acquit, to decide in ones favor.”[1] This righteousness comes from a judge. A judge deems the person righteous and gives them freedom that falls within his powers. The judge must be righteous himself to be able to pass this justice on to others.[2]

The second part of the justice that is given out deals with punishment. During the Middle Ages the view of righteousness of God was that God would judge and punish the guilty and reward the righteous.[3] This is how a judge is seen. Judges are someone that is expected to punish the guilty while giving out a fair sentence that fits the crime. It is only fair for someone to receive a punishment that fits the crime. Judges are also expected to exonerate those that are not guilty. God, being the ultimate judge, should be viewed slightly different. The righteousness of God should not be viewed as the punishment of the guilty and rewarding of those who are not. It should be viewed as God offering salvation, based on faith, to those that have sinned. So this righteousness is seen in the fact that God offers justice to anyone. There are no social barriers, as He is impartial in offering this form of righteousness.[4]

Righteousness of God in Old Testament

The Old Testament gives us many examples of righteous acts. In Exodus, Pharaoh admits that he has sinned and that God is righteous.[5] Moses had been sent by God to free His people. Moses tried to deal with Pharaoh in a democratic way. He pleaded with Pharaoh, but Pharaoh would not release the people. God brought many plagues against Pharaoh, his people, and the land they lived on. God was punishing the guilty, but He was also doing something more important. With each plague that was brought down there was hope of salvation if Pharaoh would only let the people go and trust in the Lord.

Pharaoh told Moses that they were to stay no longer. The hail and rain was ruining the crops and Pharaoh knew this was from the Lord. Moses told him that when he leaves the city the hail would stop. As Moses left the rain stopped. Pharaoh felt that he was no longer in danger and decided not to let the Israelites go. He was being offered grace but chose not to take it. He felt his way was better. Pharaoh did not have faith, and this led to the death of the first born sons in Egypt. Pharaoh finally let God’s people go but it was too late.

The fifth chapter of the book of Isaiah explains what happens when a judge himself becomes corrupt. The judges who accept bribes from those who are wrong and let them go will be punished themselves.[6] By rewarding the people who are doing wrong and punishing the innocent the judge is taking away righteousness from them. The judges are compared to vines that God had hoped would produce fruit. Once the root becomes rotten it dries up and withers away.[7] Good plants are not going to produce bad fruits; likewise, bad plants are never going to produce good fruit. Once it goes bad it will die off. This destruction is initiated by the righteous ruler. The punishment will be swift and harsh until the people repent and they will be saved. Sodom could have been saved if there had been ten citizens that were righteous.[8]

Righteousness of God in New Testament

Paul also warns of destruction for those who are ungodly or unrighteous.[9] Chapter one of Romans explains basic obligations that humans have when it comes to living correctly and that God will rightly condemn those who do not live up to these standards.[10] These expectations of behaving righteously and the unrighteous being punished are seen throughout Paul’s letters.

In chapter two Paul states that all, meaning Jew and non-Jew, will be granted eternal life if they do what is good.[11] The things that are good are the things that have been outlined in chapter one. Some of the things that are considered good are: worship God, give honor and thanks to Him, and do not give into sexual sin. Then in verse twelve the Jewish law is introduced. One who does as the law says will be deemed righteous. Those who do not will be punished.

It is not good enough to just live by the law. No man can live up to these laws perfectly. One must have faith and faith is how we get righteousness from the law. The Jews continued their path of righteousness instead of following the path of faith.[12] The problem is that they will not receive their righteousness until they realize that it comes through faith and not by works.[13] The Jews did not obtain the righteousness because the law goes against God, but because they could not fulfill it. A few verses before this we can see that Gentiles are receiving the blessing of salvation. They gained this relationship even though they were not pursuing it. Paul says that this occurred because of faith.[14]

Faith

            According to Paul Enns the kind of faith that you must have is one that is “confiding trust…into Christ.”[15] It is not enough just to have heard the gospel and said yes I believe. One must truly trust God. The person has to walk away from their old lives and become a new person in God. The person must trust that God knows best for their lives.

Justification

            What the Jews were not realizing is that justification and salvation occurs through and by faith. Justification occurs in a single event once the person is acquitted by the righteous Judge. This can only occur through the faith in the work of Christ.[16] There is nothing that a human can do that can contribute to justification. Each person will be judged on judgment day but the believer has nothing to worry about. The believer’s shortcomings have been paid for through the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross.[17] The unbeliever will have to worry about this day sitting in front of the Judge.

Saving Faith

            Saving faith involves three different things: knowledge, conviction, and trust. [18] One cannot be saved without first having knowledge of Jesus Christ and the fact the he died on the cross for the sins of mankind. The person must also have faith that Jesus was God. Man must admit that he is in sin, Jesus died, and rose again as scripture says. The person must also be convicted internally of their sins. This knowledge and conviction must lead to trust in God. One must take action and put their faith in God alone. Faith is a response to God.

Unity of Faith

            There are many reasons why Paul wrote the letter to the Romans. One of the reasons was that he wanted the Roman Christians to form a united church. The church was split into two groups of Christians. There were the weak Christians which were the Jewish Christians and then there were the strong Christians who were the Gentile Christians.[19] He wanted the united church so that they would come together as one and glorify God.[20]

There were some issues occurring between the two groups that were keeping the two separated. Prior to 49 A.D. Jewish pilgrims were returning from Jerusalem as Christians. Christians were marrying Roman masters. In 49 A.D. there was a great deal of turmoil over a slave and the emperor expelled the Jews from Rome. This expired in 54 A.D. with the death of the emperor.[21] Prior to the Jews returning to Rome the area had become mainly Gentile Christians. The Gentiles did not want to be mistaken for Jews because they had become barbarians.[22] This led to anti-Semitism.

Paul wanted to create this unity because the covenant that was given by God to His people was extended to all who believe. God will justify the circumcised and uncircumcised by faith. [23] It was not just a certain group of people that could receive God’s blessing of salvation. It was for anyone who had faith.

Salvation

            Righteousness and faith lead to eternal salvation. This means that God provides security for the believer and that the believer will spend eternity in paradise. This does not mean that the believer will never sin or backslide. It means that there is a place in Heaven.[24]

Salvation is actually compared to being adopted. The word for adoption traces back to the Greek word of huiothesia and means placed as a son.[25] In the Roman custom when you were adopted the son gained all the rights that a natural born son had. During this ceremony four things occurred. The adopted person was no longer a member of the old family. He became an heir to his new father’s estate. God prepares a place for us in Heaven once we are adopted into the Kingdom. The old life is wiped away. Jesus paid the price on the cross and everyone’s debt has been forgiven. Also in the eyes of the law the adopted person is literally the child of the new father.

 Spiritual Deliverance

            Paul refers to three distinct tenses of spiritual deliverance: past, present, and future.[26] Salvation offers deliverance from the past penalties of sin. It also helps the believer overcome the sin that is in their life presently. It also helps the believer with future deliverance of sin in their lives.

Universalism

            There are some that believe that all people will be saved even though the Bible is clear that only the believer will receive Salvation. There are three possible ways to look at universalism: no one is saved, some are saved, and all are saved.[27] The first option is not a viable option. A Universalist does not believe this nor is it biblical. There are many arguments that the Universalist has that lead towards everyone being saved. They believe that God could not condemn people to eternal life in Hell. Nels Ferré states that “either God could not or would not save all. If He could not He is not sovereign; then not all things are possible with God. If he would not, again the New Testament is wrong, for it openly claims that He would have all to be saved.” [28] This argument can be turned around on Mr. Ferré. If God cannot send anyone to eternal punishment then He is not sovereign.

Another argument is that Hell is only a temporary place. People will spend time being punished for their sins. This is a cleansing process and they will be made new. Jesus will then encounter them and His response will now be a positive reaction.[29] This argument basically states that no matter what you do or believe you will eventually receive salvation after a period of time of punishment. The Bible is clear that the righteous will receive eternal salvation and the unbelievers will be sent to Hell for eternity.[30] There is no mention of it being temporary in fact is says forever.

Universalism condemns the preaching of Christ and His followers as ignorant or immoral.[31] If universalism is true and Christ did not know that it was, that would make Him ignorant and would void out all the things that He said. Nothing that he had said could be taken as the truth. If universalism is true and Jesus knew it then His preaching was a bluff just trying to get people to follow Him. God knows everything.[32] Jesus is God so He must know everything. If universalism was real He would have known. He would not preach using fear tactics, because mankind has been given free will when it comes to choosing salvation.

Everyone that Believes is Saved

            The Bible is clear that universalism is not correct and there is only one way to Heaven. During his letter to the Romans Paul states that salvation is offered to all that believe.[33] There are no exceptions to this. It clearly states all that believe. One must respond in faith to receive this offer that has already been paid for. Responding in faith is the only way that mankind can gain this right relationship with God.

 Conclusion

            Mankind has to be deemed righteous to receive the free gift of salvation. This righteousness can only be granted by a righteous judge. This is received by faith in Jesus Christ. Only those who believe will be given this eternal life. Not everyone will be saved.

Bibliography

Bartsch, Hans Werner. “Concept of Faith in Paul’s Letter to the Romans.” Biblical Research 13, (January 1, 1968): 41-53. Accessed October 31, 2013. http://search.ebscohost.com. ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000709568&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

 

Enns, Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2008.

 

Greene, Oliver. The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans. Greenville, SC: 1969.

 

Henry, Matthew. The New Matthew Henry Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010.

 

Johnson, S Lewis. “Gospel that Paul Preached.” Bibliotheca Sacra 128, no. 512 (October 1, 1971): 327-340. Accessed October 31, 2013. http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy. liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000730502&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

 

Lindsell, Harold. “Universalism Today.” Bibliotheca Sacra 122, no. 485 (January 1, 1965): 31-40. Accessed October 31, 2013. http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty. edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000702743&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

 

Ortlund, Dane. “Justified by Faith, Judged According to Works: Another Look at a Pauline Paradox.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 52, no. 2 (June 1, 2009): 323-339. Accessed October 31, 2013. http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty. edu:2048/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=7&sid=7dbc4df8-6311-4e1a-9e24-51cb8ee075f7%40sessionmgr198&hid=125.

 

Packer, James I. “The Way of Salvation. Part III, The Problems of Universalism.” Bibliotheca Sacra 130, no. 517 (January 1, 1973): 3-11. Accessed October 31, 2013. http://web. ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=7dbc4df8-6311-4e1a-9e24-51cb8ee075f7%40sessionmgr198&vid=9&hid=125.

 

Ropes, James Hardy. “Righteousness” and “The Righteousness of God” in the Old Testament and in St. Paul.” Journal of Biblical Literature 22, no. 2 (January 1, 1903): 211-227. Accessed October 31, 2013. http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/ehost/ pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=10&sid=7dbc4df8-6311-4e1a-9e24-51cb8ee075f7%40 sessionmgr198&hid=125.

 

Schreiner, Thomas R. “Israel’s Failure to Attain Righteousness in Romans 9:30-10:3.” Trinity Journal 12, no. 2 (September 1, 1991): 209-220. Accessed October 31, 2013. http://web. ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=11&sid=7dbc4df8-6311-4e1a-9e24-51cb8ee075f7%40sessionmgr198&hid=125.

 

Thielman, Frank. “God’s Righteousness as God’s Fairness in Romans 1:17: An Ancient Perspective on a Significant Phrase.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 54, no. 1 (March 1, 2011): 35-48. Accessed October 31, 2013. http://web.ebscohost.com. ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=12&sid=7dbc4df8-6311-4e1a-9e24-51cb8ee075f7%40sessionmgr198&hid=125.

 

Westerholm, Stephen. “The Righteousness of the Law and the Righteousness of Faith in Romans.” Interpretation 58, no. 3 (July 1, 2004): 253-264. Accessed October 31, 2013. http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=13&sid=7dbc4df8-6311-4e1a-9e24-51cb8ee075f7%40sessionmgr198&hid=125.

[1]               James Hardy Ropes, “Righteousness” and “The Righteousness of God” in the Old Testament and in St. Paul,” Journal of Biblical Literature 22, no. 2 (January 1, 1903): 214, accessed October 31, 2013, http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/ehost/

[2]               Ibid., 216.

[3]               Frank Thielman, “God’s Righteousness as God’s Fairness in Romans 1:17: An Ancient Perspective on a Significant Phrase,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 54, no. 1 (March 1, 2011): 36-37, accessed October 31, 2013, http://web.ebscohost.com. ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid =12&sid=7dbc4df8-6311-4e1a-9e24-51cb8ee075f7%40sessionmgr198&hid=125.

[4]               Thielman, God’s Righteousness as God’s Fairness in Romans 1:17, 40.

[5]               Exodus 9:27, NASB.

[6]               Isaiah 5:23-25.

[7]               Matthew Henry, The New Matthew Henry Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 966.

[8]               Genesis 18:23-32.

[9]               Romans 1:18.

[10]             Stephen Westerholm, “The Righteousness of the Law and the Righteousness of Faith in Romans,” Interpretation 58, no. 3 (July 1, 2004): 257, accessed October 31, 2013, http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy. liberty.edu:2048/ehost/ pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=13&sid=7dbc4df8-6311-4e1a-9e24-51cb8ee 075f7%40 sessionmgr198&hid=125.

[11]             Ibid., 257.

[12]             Westerholm, “The Righteousness of the Law and the Righteousness of Faith in Romans,” 260.

[13]             Romans 9:31-32.

[14]             Thomas R. Schreiner, “Israel’s Failure to Attain Righteousness in Romans 9:30-10:3,” Trinity Journal 12, no. 2 (September 1, 1991): 211, accessed October 31, 2013, http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/ehost/ pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=11&sid=7dbc4df8-6311-4e1a-9e24-51cb8ee075f7%40sessionmgr198&hid=125.

[15]             Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2008) 343.

[16]             Dane Ortlund, “Justified by Faith, Judged According to Works: Another Look at a Pauline Paradox,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 52, no. 2 (June 1, 2009): 336, accessed October 31, 2013, http://web. .ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty. edu:2048/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=7&sid=7dbc4df8-6311-4e1a-9e24-51cb8ee075f7%40sessionmgr198&hid=125.

[17]             Ortlund, “Justified by Faith,” 337.

[18]             Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, 343-344.

[19]             Hans Werner Bartsch, “Concept of Faith in Paul’s Letter to the Romans.” Biblical Research 13, (January 1, 1968): 43, accessed October 31, 2013, http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx ?direct= true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000709568&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[20]             Romans 15:6.

[21]             Bartsch, “The Concept of Faith,” 45.

[22]             Romans 1:14.

[23]             Romans 3:29-30.

[24]             Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, 352.

[25]             Ibid., 340-341.

[26]             S Lewis Johnson, “Gospel that Paul Preached,” Bibliotheca Sacra 128, no. 512 (October 1, 1971): 331, accessed October 31, 2013, http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy. liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000730502&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[27]             Harold Lindsell, “Universalism Today,” Bibliotheca Sacra 122, no. 485 (January 1, 1965): 81, accessed October 31, 2013, http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty. edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN =ATLA0000702743&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[28]             Lindsell, “Universalism Today,” 32.

[29]             James I Packer, “The Way of Salvation. Part III, The Problems of Universalism,” Bibliotheca Sacra 130, no. 517 (January 1, 1973): 7, accessed October 31, 2013, http://web. ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=7dbc4df8-6311-4e1a-9e24-51cb8ee075f7%40sessionmgr198&vid=9&hid=125.

[30]             Matthew 25:46.

[31]             Packer, “The Way of Salvation,” 10.

[32]             Psalm 147:5

[33]             Romans 1:16

Is the Church Ready for a Spiritual Awakening?

Are we on the verge of a spiritual awakening?

I believe that America is prime for spiritual awakening. I know that some will disagree with this based on recent events that have occurred. I however think that these events will work together for God’s purpose and will. Let’s go back to the first century and look at the persecution of the early Christians.

The religious leaders as well as the government leaders persecuted Jesus Christ. This was not done because Jesus had done anything wrong. This was done out of hatred. It was done out of hatred for beliefs that went against their beliefs. After Jesus was crucified the disciples were scared and rightfully so. They thought that they would be next. However Jesus gave his disciples a promise before he ascended into heaven. He told them when the time was right the holy spirit would fall upon them. Once this occurred that would be his witness to the ends of the earth.

Jesus knew the good things were about to happen even though the government was against the beliefs of Christianity. The government and the religious elite wanted nothing more than to stop Christianity in its tracks. Shortly after Jesus ascended into heaven many people from surrounding regions had gathered for the day of Pentecost. This was a very joyous day. The Holy Spirit fell upon the crowd.

The disciples remain focused and committed to the mission of God. Peter took a bold stance and preached the word of God to all that were there listening. On that day 3000 souls were added to the book of life. Man intended to stop Christianity and stop the church from growing however God had a bigger plan. God grew the church even at its darkest time.

Shortly after this incident Peter and John were speaking to the people when the priest, the Sadducees, and the captain of the temple came to them. They were outraged that they were teaching and proclaiming the name of Jesus. These leaders held fast to their convictions even as they were arrested. They were eventually released the next day but they were warned not to proclaim the name of Jesus. They went back and told other believers. The believers prayed for boldness. Many signs were done through the apostles. This caused more persecution among the church. The apostles remained focused and the church grew.

Do not get me wrong I am not saying recent events compare to the persecution of the first century church. What I’m saying is that when the worldly values went against God the church grew. There was exponential growth in the church. I truly believe part of the reason for this growth was the church leaders, the apostles, did not lose focus on the important issue. That issue was sharing the love of Christ and the power of redemption. As a minister I believe wholeheartedly that if we remain focused as a church we can be the light that God desires his people to be. We can no longer be lazy about sharing God with the lost world.