Head Coverings: A Big Deal to God

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Just because head coverings, or anything else, in the Scripture is “not that big a deal,” it does not mean that we should ignore what the Scripture teaches. My response to a commenter on this website, William, I hope will flesh this idea out in greater detail:

Hi, just ran across this article and had a quick question for you. Do you think that this passage carries the normal wording that Paul uses when addressing a moral issue?

The quick answer is that “whatever is not of faith is sin” (Rom 14:23).

The long answer: Jesus Christ has forgiven us from all our unrighteousness, all of our disobedient thoughts and actions, not only from the 613 commands of the Old Testament, but also from the infractions we commit against our very own conscience that tells us what is right and wrong, apart from the Law (Rom 2:12-16).

God does not require from you minimal obedience. In fact, the Scripture admonishes you to “serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut 10:12).

And, the scary part is, you can’t. The moment you indulge in your secret sin or mind flees to any “innocent” thought other than God’s glory, then you just did not love God with all your heart. Maybe some of it, but not all of it.

And no sin can be excused. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” James 2:10).

Are we doomed? I am sure you are just like me. The following describes my situation:

For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin (Rom 7:22-25).

By the grace of God “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24). Our Lord and Savior has paid the full penalty for the infractions of the flesh, that do not end in our lifetime, even after “being saved.: So, do not dwell on the past and the times you lose against the flesh. As Paul said earlier, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal 5:16).

Therefore, if God admonishes us to do something in the Scripture, does it not stand to reason that living by His admonishment is consistent with walking by the Spirit? “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent” (Num 23:19). Anything that God admonishes us to do in the Scripture thereby constitutes walking by the Spirit not our flesh.

William, if you understand this, your concerns appear to me immaterial. But let’s move on anyway:

The Apostle Paul is by no means afraid to call sin, “sin.” So far in the book of 1 Corinthians he has referred to that which is carnal…He speaks of the harlot, of sin, of that which is not good…After all this, Paul sums up his teaching on head coverings by using Ideas like propriety, decorum, what is unbecoming and what is shameful, not exactly heavy hitters in the morality department.

If I understand you correctly, your basic assertion is this: Paul lists things within the same letter that are specifically sin. However, he does not explicitly classify not “hold[ing] firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you” (1 Cor 11:2) as sin.

There are two serious problems with this contention of yours. First, Paul “praise[s]” the Corinthians for holding fast to traditions he has taught (1 Cor 11:2), so at the very least propriety and avoiding what is shameful is “praiseworthy.” Doing things that God speaks of as worthy of “praise” in His Scripture is all the motivation we need to desire to follow a teaching.

Second, we need a consistent hermeneutic for this passage. Holding fast to traditions includes the Lord’s Supper and order in worship. Is it commendable to ignore the Scripture’s teachings on these things?

How about other issues in the Scripture that are not classified specifically as sin? The Scripture admonishes us to be cheerful givers (2 Cor 9:7). Because the Scripture does not say it is specifically sin not to be cheerful when we give, by the logic you put forward it would be fine to give purely out of compulsion or to give sparingly, because God does not give an amount. After all, as long as we don’t blatantly ignore a Christian brother and sister that has nothing (1 John 3:16), we do not specifically sin if we are a tad stingy in our giving.

But, this is the very crux of the issue: whatever is not of faith is sin. And, is it of faith to desire anything other than complete submission to God, including every single thought to Christ Jesus (2 Cor 10:5)?

I do not find it useful to differentiate between the “sorta important” and “very important’ stuff in the Bible. They are all hugely important to God, not because all sins are equally bad or all good works are equally praiseworthy, but because our God is beyond measure. The slightest of God’s demands are hugely important, because God is hugely important.

This is not a completely foreign concept to us. If you happen to be eating dinner with the President and he asks to to pass the bread, you don’t question the President on whether he is getting heavy or if there are tastier things to pass him. You pass the bread. And be honest with yourself. You would be happy doing it.

Now, at the same dinner table an ant starts waking towards the bread, because it also desires it. However, you would not bring the bread closer to it, because it desires the bread. The ant is completely insignificant. You not only ignore its desires without much of a thought, you can crush it and think nothing of it.

If the slightest desires and whims of a man all of the sudden become important to us, merely because his position in this world which is passing away (1 John 2:17), I would think any desire of God’s laid out in the Scripture would be of infinitely more importance. I don’t say this lightly.

After having looked into this issue for a while I have become convinced that this section of Scripture is in fact addressing an area that varies from culture to culture.

Upon reading your comment, I found this point of yours confusing. Do you think Paul meant this passage to vary between cultures, because he did not classify it specifically as sin? I hope we addressed this point sufficiently so we know that this is not the case.

Obviously, you have not arrived upon this conviction based upon textual grounds, because Paul clearly states, “[I]f one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God” (1 Cor 11:16).

Perhaps, you have come to this conclusion based upon certain notions concerning “historical context.” I would recommend looking further into this matter, because you will find that historical context actually would work against such an interpretation.

 

Not only that, but I would contend that this is the historic Reformed interpretation of this passage.

Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther, and John Calvin would all explicitly disagree with you. However, I have not conclusively read up on what all historic Reformed thinkers have thought on the matter.

(Just as a side note, you should know that even though I don’t necessarily agree with your interpretation of this passage, I completely respect where it’s coming from. I have many friends who hold to this position and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they do so not to be legalistic or “Holier than Thou.” They are simply obeying what they see to be a clear command of Scripture.)

I appreciate your comments and thoughts on this matter. It is my hope and prayer that not only you and I, but others also may profit by digging deeper into God’s word and seek His Spirit in understanding what God’s will is for us. For, God’s “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) and that is only possible by knowing His Son Jesus Christ, who has given Himself as a ransom for many, nailing all their sins to the cross, imputing us righteousness upon belief in Him. And, what is our one God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16), unbreakable (John 10:35) testimony to the Gospel that we have at our fingertips? The Scripture. By the grace of God, let’s seek His truth in it.

Reformed Commentary on Job: Chapter 5

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In Chapter 5, Eliphaz interprets the demonic vision he received and tries to encourage Job to repent so that God may turn away His judgement. 

Chapter 5 (For Previous Chapter Click Here)

In chapter five Eliphaz gives his incorrect interpretation of his Romans 3:10-styled revelation. Instead of concluding that all men stand condemned and need a Redeemer, he conveniently glosses over the fact that he himself would also be condemned by his own words.

Between Job 5:1-7, it is not immediately obvious who is talking (the revelation or Elpihaz giving his interpretation.) We should remember that the Scripture did not originally have periods, quotations marks, or chapter divisions.

However, the context appears to show us at this point Eliphaz is giving his opinion on the matter. It would not seem that the spirit from chapter four would say, “I have seen the foolish taking root and I cursed his abode immediately” (Job 5:3).

Right off the bat, Eliphaz’s response begins in an insulting manner, insinuating Job’s guilt. Who can Job turn to, according to Eliphaz? No one, until he corrects his sin. Not even “the holy ones” (Job 5:1) (i.e. angels) can be turned to, but perhaps for Eliphaz he should be turning to them less…

He then implies that Job is being punished for anger (Job 5:2) and it is God’s retribution that his sons would be killed as a result (Job 5:4). Among his lies is that there is “no deliverer” from evil, though he was almost certainly not thinking about God’s grace in any way. Grace may have been a foreign concept to him anyhow.

An interesting observation Eliphaz makes is that the wealth of the wicked will be devoured by the “schemer” (Job 5:5). He appears to be saying the entire process repeats itself over and over, like a Law of Physics. He is definitely wedded to retribution theology, because he is arguing it is like clockwork.

Eliphaz then asserts another patent untruth: all evil is the fault of man’s free will. “For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground,” he says in Job 5:6, meaning that evil just doesn’t come out of nowhere. It comes from man, as sure as “sparks fly upwards” (Job 5:7).

This assertion not only ignores the obvious things Eliphaz can see such as droughts and famine that kill the supposedly good and bad side by side, but also the scene from heaven early in the book. God himself said that Job held fast his integrity even though He “ruin[ed] him without cause” (Job 2:3).

Hence, evil befalls man not always as a result of what he has done. In Job’s case, there was no specific reason pertaining to why he deserved it. Plainly, Eliphaz is wrong. Further, any sort of theodicy that attributes all evil as the result purely of man’s own actions, or man’s punishment for specific sins, is also wrong.

Now, this does not mean that everything Eliphaz says is incorrect, either. For example, though he is wrong that Job simply needs to repent in order to be restored (as Job was not being punished for any specific sin anyhow), he is correct in saying we should seek God in our suffering (Job 5:8).  

The meek will inherit the Earth some day and the high are indeed raised low (Job 5:11-16), but probably in not the way he sees it. Further, we should not “despise the discipline of the Almighty” (Job 5:17), after all James says such trials should bring us “joy” (James 1:2).

This should remind us that we should not read Job and presume that absolutely everything his friends say is false.  After all, Paul quotes Eliphaz in saying “God frustrates the planning of the shrewd” (Job 5:12) in the affirmative in 1 Cor 3:19.

Eliphaz also speaks the truth when he asserts that, “For He inflicts pain, and gives relief; He wounds, and His hands also heal” (Job 5:18). We already know that God can afflict pain, because He just did so to Job. He can also heal His people spiritually and literally. It is possible that was what Eliphaz was getting at, however, was the necessity of personal righteousness in order to be healed:

And He said, “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer” (Ex 15:26).

See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand (Deut 32:39).

In this, we want to be very careful not to say that righteousness is not a requirement for healing. The Scripture never states that God will heal disobedient people. Even Christ healed as a response to faith. It is something, if Eliphaz wanted to out of the context of soteriology, he could make a good argument for.

When it pertains to faith, the Lord’s initiative is necessary before there is any repentance and subsequent healing. A curious case exists in the Book of Isaiah where in an oracle addressed to Egypt, God promises that He will bring calamity upon them in order so that they may repent and then worship Him:

Thus the Lord will make Himself known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day. They will even worship with sacrifice and offering, and will make a vow to the Lord and perform it.  The Lord will strike Egypt, striking but healing; so they will return to the Lord, and He will respond to them and will heal them. (Is 19:20-21).

So, if Job was in sin and the calamities that have fallen upon Job were indeed judgment, then Eliphaz’s point would make sense. After all, even in the New Testament God makes ill and strikes dead confessing believers for sinning against Him because they had the wrong attitude during the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:29).

However, where Eliphaz is incorrect is that every single instance where someone is sick or has experienced misfortune that such things are indeed punishment. In Job 5:19-26 he leaves no room for doubt. Trouble never befalls the righteous man. This would have been news to Stephen the Martyr. However, Eliphaz’s theology leaves no wiggle room. God is a God strictly of retribution, not of mercy.

It is important to note that there are other parts of Scripture that speak in the same way, using absolute terms. For example, we have Psalm 15:4-5 that states concerning the righteous man:

In whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; he swears to his own hurt and does not change; he does not put out his money at interest, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.He who does these things will never be shaken.

R.C. Sproul made the observation that the Scripture often speaks in generalities where we are supposed to extrapolate simple, but greater points than a literal rendering would lend us. For example:

Do not answer a fool according to his folly,

Or you will also be like him.

Answer a fool as his folly deserves,

That he not be wise in his own eyes (Prov 26:4-5).

The literal rendering is obviously not true, as they would contradict one another. But, in practice, both make sense. Don’t “drag yourself down to his level,” but also “don’t let him get away with ‘it.’”  And so, the same would be true with Eliphaz’s advice, though it is apparent that he doesn’t understand that what he said is only true if he were to be speaking in generalities.

In fact, the intentionality behind his comments is to bring Job to repentance and the way he goes about it is quite insensitive. He declares that God will deliver Job “from the power of the sword” (Job 5:20), but we must remember this in light of the traveling marauders that killed all of Job’s servants and robbed his fortune of animals. Eliphaz asserts that the righteous man’s descendants are many, knowing full well Job just lost his many descendants. He says that, “You will be hidden from the scourge of the tongue” (Job 5:21), yet he is at this moment scourging Job with his tongue! “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire” (James 3:5)!

The only confusing reference that Eliphaz makes here pertains to his reference to man being in league with stones and at peace with animals (Job 5:23). It is obviously a promise of peace that is the reward from God for righteousness. The stones may be in reference to “boundary stones” referenced in texts such as Deut 19:14 and Prov 15:25. If so, the point is clear. God protects the righteous one’s property from beasts that can kill their flocks (Hos 2:18) and from those who may encroach upon borders that have been established by their ancestors.

Matthew Henry references Psalm 91:12 where it says, “They [angels] will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone.” Hence, being “in league with the stones” pertains to God preventing us from tripping and running into trial. While, this interpretation isn’t untrue, it isn’t typical of the point Eliphaz was getting at in his other assertions: Job must repent of sin, so that God will restore his servants, property, and family. Eliphaz is insinuating Job’s wickedness by directly referencing that the righteous will be secure in the things that Job has just lost all of. For this reason, it is better to read Job 5:23 strictly as an agricultural metaphor referencing security in one’s property.

Eliphaz ends his speech saying that “we have investigated it…Hear it, and know for yourself” (Job 5:27). Who is the “we?” Eliphaz and his friends? Is he invoking a time when Job taught many similar things? We don’t know. Either way, he is asserting an argumentum ad populum and leveling it against Job.

Indeed, the “what goes around come around” theory on evil is still popular to this day.

Contra Magesterium: Practical problems with Holy Tradition

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Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the traditions of men. (Mark 7:8)

Traditions passed down from us from Christ and the Apostles are the very essence of Christianity. This true Holy Tradition, to the chagrin of Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, cannot be found in the church fathers. No, it is only in the Scriptures.

Why? I am not writing anything Earth-shattering here, but it should be known to both Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox that they have a major conundrum. Essentially, they put the Scripture and church tradition on the same level. The Eastern Orthodox teach that both are of the same Holy Tradition.

Now, Protestants might argue that it is impossible to reconcile the whole body of church tradition with the Scripture and so only one is right. Catholics and Orthodox will counter that there is no necessary contradiction between Scripture and true apostolic practice that is preserved in the “time honored” traditions of the church.

There is a reason they have to argue this. The Scripture is defined as “God breathed” (2 Tim 3:16) so obviously they can’t say the Scripture is ever wrong because the Holy Tradition is infallible. Further, as Jesus Christ God Himself says, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Again, the Scripture attests of itself, “Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in him” (Prov 30:5, ESV). So, if the Scripture cannot be wrong, then true Apostolic teachings handed down by Christ Himself cannot be wrong either.

But, herein lies the problem. What is among the true Apostolic tradition? Being that everything we know with confidence that is from an apostle is actually in the Bible itself, those defending supposedly authoritative extra-biblical “traditions” essentially say the Apostles taught it but they don’t have a letter from an Apostle that shows it.

How can you really know what is true Apostolic teaching and what isn’t? They have to infer from the writings of men after apostolic times, the fathers of the Church, that the traditions they speak of found not in the Scripture itself are apostolic and not later inventions.

Now, there are major problems with this. First, the Church Fathers are not infallible and they themselves are not writing Scripture. Proof of this can be seen in the fact that there are clear and unequivocal examples where Church Fathers relate supposed apostolic traditions which are demonstrably wrong. Second, it ignores the fact that just like theologians today get stuff wrong, men not prophesying direct revelation from God (which the Scripture purportedly is) also can get stuff wrong.

Proof of the second point is seen in the fact that the Apostles weren’t gods on earth nor were they supermen. When Peter and “men from James” opposed Paul in Antioch as recorded in Galatians 2, obviously one side was right and the other wrong, though both sides consisted of apostles. This demonstrably proves that a practice, even if it really is apostolic, does not necessarily carry with it the weight of it being “God breathed” like Scripture anymore than Jews avoiding eating with gentiles, or the circumcision of gentiles for that matter, is an acceptable apostolic practice.

This alone is all the evidence we need to discount any Apostolic tradition that is not directly taught to us in the Scripture itself, because one has absolute authority and the other can never quite measure up.

The only reason we listen to what the Apostles have written is because we have faith that the letters attributed to them are indeed Scripture and God-breathed, not that they were great writers or particularly brilliant in any way. And, if this is true of the Apostles it is definitely true that the Church Fathers weren’t supermen either.

No Catholic or Orthodox will deny this. However, even with all of these practical problems in discerning what is really apostolic and in full knowledge that not everything an apostle has ever thought is truly of God, they will still argue that Holy Tradition inferred from the Fathers is equivalent to Scripture, because it is supposedly apostolic in origin and that these imperfect men preserved an extra-biblical authoritative tradition. Their inconsistent methodology aside, I pose this very simple question back at them: How can they sift through what the church fathers wrote to find what is actually God-breathed and what isn’t?

Scripture doesn’t require such a complicated venture in uncovering its truth. Approaching the Scripture is simple if you have faith in the Christian religion, because it’s all true. Catholics and Orthodox affirm this. However, approaching the whole of Holy Tradition does not quite work that way, because it cannot all be true, as the church fathers disagreed with not only one another, but even themselves! (See below.)

Essentially the Catholics and Eastern Orthodox teach that the ever-changing “Church” in the present has the correct interpretation, and even though it has got stuff wrong along the way, what is taught now is the truth. Essentially, what they don’t want to admit is that they believe in progressive revelation through the Church like the Pentecostals and it is only from this position they emphasize different ideas from the Bible and the Church Fathers while ignoring others.

Congratulations Catholics and Orthodox. You are right there with your Pentecostal brethren that continually recieve “new revelation” from God.

So, being that such a hermeneutic has shifted over the generations, there was never a consistent hermeneutic. It changes like a chameleon. Truth therefore is in constant flux and in constant doubt.

So, I ask, can anyone definitively demonstrate what is the true extra-biblical apostolic tradition? It appears to me that we are constantly inferring it from the Church Fathers based upon present day notions of what is taught to be the valid tradition and then purposely ignoring things the Church Fathers taught that the church presently rejects.

To end this post, I will quote Chapter 7 of Augustine’s On Predestination. In it, you will see how Augustine admits he got something wrong and he details how he changed his mind. Unlike the Scripture that cannot be broken, tradition appears quite malleable.

So, my Catholic and Orthodox friends, which of Augustine’s opinions are truly apostolic? There is only one conclusion one can draw: None of them. They all are his interpretations of the Scripture, which is the one and true source of apostolic authority.

It was not thus that that pious and humble teacher thought— I speak of the most blessed Cyprian— when he said that we must boast in nothing, since nothing is our own. And in order to show this, he appealed to the apostle as a witness, where he said, For what have you that you have not received? And if you have received it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

And it was chiefly by this testimony that I myself also was convinced when I was in a similar error, thinking that faith whereby we believe in God is not God’s gift, but that it is in us from ourselves, and that by it we obtain the gifts of God, whereby we may live temperately and righteously and piously in this world. For I did not think that faith was preceded by God’s grace, so that by its means would be given to us what we might profitably ask, except that we could not believe if the proclamation of the truth did not precede; but that we should consent when the gospel was preached to us I thought was our own doing, and came to us from ourselves.

And this my error is sufficiently indicated in some small works of mine written before my episcopate. … Eventually, when I was retracting all my small works, and was committing that retractation to writing … I then spoke thus:— Also discussing, I say, ‘what God could have chosen in him who was as yet unborn, whom He said that the elder should serve; and what in the same elder, equally as yet unborn, He could have rejected; concerning whom, on this account, the prophetic testimony is recorded, although declared long subsequently, Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated,’ I carried out my reasoning to the point of saying: ‘God did not therefore choose the works of any one in foreknowledge of what He Himself would give them, but he chose the faith, in the foreknowledge that He would choose that very person whom He foreknew would believe in Him—to whom He would give the Holy Spirit, so that by doing good works he might obtain eternal life also.’

I had not yet very carefully sought, nor had I as yet found, what is the nature of the election of grace, of which the apostle says, ‘A remnant are saved according to the election of grace.’ Which assuredly is not grace if any merits precede it; lest what is now given, not according to grace, but according to debt, be rather paid to merits than freely given.

And what I said a little after, ‘For it is ours to believe and to will, but it is His to give to those who believe and will, the power of doing good works through the Holy Spirit, by whom love is shed abroad in our hearts,’— is true indeed; but by the same rule both are also God’s, because God prepares the will; and both are ours too, because they are only brought about with our good wills…

But I discovered little concerning the calling itself, which is according to God’s purpose; for not such is the calling of all that are called, but only of the elect. Therefore what I said a little afterwards: ‘For as in those whom God elects it is not works but faith that begins the merit so as to do good works by the gift of God, so in those whom He condemns, unbelief and impiety begin the merit of punishment, so that even by way of punishment itself they do evil works’— I spoke most truly. But that even the merit itself of faith was God’s gift, I neither thought of inquiring into, nor did I say.

And in another place I say: ‘For whom He has mercy upon, He makes to do good works, and whom He hardens He leaves to do evil works; but that mercy is bestowed upon the preceding merit of faith, and that hardening is applied to preceding iniquity.’ And this indeed is true; but it should further have been asked, whether even the merit of faith does not come from God’s mercy—that is, whether that mercy is manifested in man only because he is a believer, or whether it is also manifested that he may be a believer? For we read in the apostle’s words: ‘I obtained mercy to be a believer.’ He does not say, ‘Because I was a believer.’

Don’t go beyond the Scripture

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I had a few real interesting conversations recently where I caught myself (too late) saying things that I don’t know to be totally true, because I was speculating outside of the Scripture.

We need to remember that “the sacred writings … are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15). So, the Bible answers questions and teaches us facts that pertain to the issue of how we are saved in Christ Jesus.

Here is a partial list of things that the Bible does not answer definitively:

1. The salvation of unreached people throughout history. It would stand to reason that all those that have never heard of Christ have not accepted Him and therefore, as Rom 1 details, they die in their sin. However, a teenager pointed out to me that Abraham was called out of his father’s house directly by God. He may have never heard of God and simply, God started preaching to him Himself until Abraham believed the Lord and it was credited to him as righteousness. However, it is also possible that Abraham was taught by his father stories going all the way back to Noah and then Adam. After all, even the ancient Sumerians preserved a flood tale.

“How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher” (Rom 10:14)? So, even if you hear about Christ from a movie on TV or from a story you hear from your polytheistic father like Abraham may have, it is possible that the Biblical conditions of “hearing” have been satisfied. However, the simpler explanation is just that God Himself preached to Abraham. Either way, something supernatural has to happen for that hearing to become real hearing, where the heart is converted to Christ.

Can God do that to unreached people today? I suppose. Does He? We don’t have any evidence of it and Paul seems to make the argument that we need preachers because that’s the only way people are saved. The point is, we have no definitive answer from the Scripture.

2. The salvation of infants. As I have written previously, it would appear to take special pleading to say that infants which do not intellectually have the capacity to have faith can come to the Father through Christ. However, I suppose it is theoretically possible God can reveal Himself to an infant in their mind in a seed like way invisibly and thus save them. Again, the Scripture does not tell us this occurs. In fact, there is no compelling reasoning why God would ever act this way. However, because the Scripture does not specifically contradict it, it remains possible so even when cautioning against the opinion, I must have greater humility when doing so.

3. The nature of original sin. This is another issue I have speculated about and thankfully I made clear it was pure speculation. Why did sin come from Adam when Eve ate the fruit first? Did sin occur the moment Adam bit into the fruit or when he first thought about it? Did Adam covet the fruit at some earlier time before Eve was around?

Natural man, corrupted with sin, cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14). Nothing good dwells in our flesh (Rom 7:18), which is what we are apart from the Spirit. So, was Adam a “natural man” though he was not imputed original sin? Then where did the inclination to sin first come from? Was he compelled to sin by his non-divine and deficient nature and God knowingly made him this way? Was Adam a spiritual man and somehow grace was withdrawn from him and he is the only man ever to freely to sin against his own nature? Did Eve then sin in the same way and whose sin is imputed to her?

All I can say is if the Bible does not answer specifically, though I speculate that Adam and Eve were just like us and had the same inclinations but without having the sin of someone else imputed to them. Hence, they would be punished for their own sin and they sinned out of deficiency like us. However, this is just speculation.

Whatever we speculate, let it not contradict nor replace what the Scripture teaches specifically.

Reformed Commentary on Job: Chapter 4

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In Eliphaz’s advice to Job, we see that the argument that suffering is always the result of man’s sin, and that man can never be in a right standing before God, is a satanic deception.

Chapter 4 (For Previous Chapter Click Here, For Subsequent Chapter Click Here)

Job’s friend Eliphaz the Temanite responds first in chapter four.  Coming from a city renown for its wisdom (Jer 49:7), he is wise in his own eyes. For understandable reasons, Eliphaz is taken aback by Job wishing he was dead, because he believes Job is charging God with wrongdoing. He exclaims, “Who can refrain from speaking” (Job 4:2)?

Further, Eliphaz has heard exactly how Job used to console others in similar situations: “Behold you have admonished many and you have strengthened weak hands” (Job 4:3). He then accuses Job of hypocrisy, saying that Job is changing his tune simply because it is now him who is dealing with the consequences of sin (Job 4:5).

Just exactly did Job used to say?  We suspect it’s what Eliphaz says in verse six: “Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?”  

In many ways, Job 4:6 mirrors what Job himself later says in Job 28:28 (“Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; And to depart from evil is understanding”). Replace confidence with wisdom and hope with understanding, and we essentially have the same positive assertion. We may infer from this then that Eliphaz is literally quoting something Job used to say.

However, Eliphaz commits a crucial theological error and interprets Job’s advice all wrong.  He essentially says the good are always rewarded and the evil are always punished, in absolutely all situations.

Granted the Scripture makes some pretty clear statements that during the Final Judgment “the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds” (Rev 20:12). So, for those who are wicked (that’s everyone) and outside of Christ, they will be thrown into the lake of fire. Therefore, in an eschatological sense, it is true that God punishes everyone who has sinned against Him and he rewards those who have obeyed His Law, which would be the one’s whose sins are covered by Christ’s work on the cross.

However, Eliphaz is not talking eschatology. He is talking about the here in now. When we take this into consideration, his remarks about the good never being punished are extreme: “Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright destroyed” (Job 4:7)?

By saying “remember,” we have reason to believe that he is reminding Job of something else he used to say.

So, did Job ever say that the innocent never perished? Maybe so. Perhaps, Eliphaz is exaggerating and twisting what Job used to say. Job may have been speaking in the eschatological sense, though this seems to be precluded by the fact that Job does not know how to rationalize the evil that has befallen him. Either way, Eliphaz takes what Job used to say seriously and then makes it part of his own theology.

Now, such a theology does not correspond with reality.  The adherence to a “what goes around comes around”/”karma” theology is specifically what God punishes Job’s friends for later in the story.  

Nowhere in Scripture does God confine Himself to be compelled by human effort as a requirement in order to bless His people. Salvation is “not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:9).  God, consistently in Scripture, forgives the undeserving because He is merciful.

However, it is a natural human inclination to feel wronged at the fact that “bad things happen to ‘good’ people.”  Scripture challenges our thinking and asks us to accept that God does not always punish evil and reward good, at least not on planet Earth. Christian martyrs took to heart the blessings and difficulties that Christ promised believers: “He will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:30).

It is apparent that “along with persecutions” is not something Job or his friends understood.

This is not to say that everything that comes out of Eliphaz’s, or his friends’, mouths is wrong. For example, “According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it. By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of His anger they come to an end” (Job 4:8-9).

Man does indeed “reap what he sows” (Gal 6:7). Those who do evil, which is all men apart from God’s grace, will perish in His judgment.

Eliphaz’s error is in misapplying these truths, perhaps taught to him by Job (who was taught by God) to mean that because God punishes men for sin all suffering must therefore be evidence of retribution for wickedness. And if this be the case, it stands to reason in order to end suffering all one has to do is repent.

Because he adheres to this strict dogma, this leads him to insinuate several times that Job is being punished by God for an unconfessed sin.

Eliphaz’s first insinuation that Job should repent is in Job 4:10-11, which is a simple enough passage. The predators who set out to do evil are thwarted. This appears to be an obscure warning to Job that just as the lions are prevented from killing their prey, the same thing is occurring to Job.

After this insulting insinuation, Eliphaz then appeals to revelation to make his case. During the time of Job, there was no recorded Scripture so man received revelation directly from God*, or presumably, extrapolated it from stories passed down since the days of Adam and then Noah. Hence, Eliphaz would have had at least some grounds, intellectually, to make his case that the “revelation” he received was worth listening to.

*We will cover in more detail this possibility later, but we should not allow this matter to affect our understanding of the book.

However, there is good reason to believe that Satan himself is the one working in the vision. The hint in the dialogue that the vision is satanic is that the “spirit” that “passed by my [Eliphaz's] face” (4:15) makes no room for saving grace and obviously takes issue with God’s lack of acceptance of him. Satan said:

Can mankind be just before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker? He puts no trust even in His servants and against His angels He charges error. How much more those who dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, who are crushed before the moth  (Job 4:17-19)!

The vision starts with a lie. “Can mankind be just before God?” The answer it anticipates is “no.” This leads Eliphaz to interpret that God is right to crush man and punish him at all times, for there is nothing good in him: “For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, for man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward” (5:6-7).

This “Irenaean Theodicy,” that evil and misfortune is simply the result of man’s free will making bad decisions, flies in the face of the setting in heaven we know from chapters 1 and 2. If we interpret Job as deserving of punishment or self-righteous in some way, we essentially are in agreement with Eliphaz’s satanic vision. Job is being punished/taught a lesson because he is being charged with error.

In many ways, the idea that men are always open to divine punishment and “cannot be pure before his maker” is not totally without merit. Even the Apostle Paul wrote, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not” (Rom 7:18).

However, the deception is that there is no way out, a way out that Job later anticipates in knowing his “Redeemer lives” to mediate between him and God the Father. Those of us in Christ are pure in the eyes of God, because all of our sins have been nailed to the cross (Col 2:14), so even Paul who nothing good dwelt in can boast, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

Hence, the deception of Satan is that suffering is always the result of our sin and so God is not seeking to ever forgive or have a relationship with us, but rather seeks to crush us continually. Now, outside of Christ, God would be in His every right to do so. Those whose “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5) deserve punishment continually. In fact, God lifting his hand and not punishing the sinner every moment is gracious.

However, this is not true of those who are in Christ. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor 5:21). Further, the Scripture states, “It was given to her [the Church] to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev 19:8). The righteousness is not something we put on ourselves, but God puts on to us. These righteous acts are not works the saints do on their own, but that the Holy Spirit does through them, as Paul says, “ I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). As Christ makes clear, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Another picture of this is in Zech 3:3-5:

Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” Again he said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.” Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments, while the angel of the Lord was standing by.

Therefore, those who are righteous are so because God has made them so. How? Because those in Christ are righteous by virtue of their union with Christ. He viewed His faithful servant Job as blameless, and with good reason, those who have faith in God have always had His approval because through faith comes forgiveness of sins and the imputation of righteousness. “To the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Rom 4:5).

The fact that God smiles upon Job in heaven shows that he is not suffering as retribution for every bad inclination he has. We have every reason to believe that because of Job’s genuine faith, God views Job as completely righteous.

So, why does Satan teach this subtle error? For one, it takes our eyes away from Christ and leads us to blame God for our suffering, because we could never be in right relationship with Him anyhow. It would be like the song Every Breath You Take from the Police:

Every breath you take, and every move you make…Every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching…

God would find no righteousness in man whose every thought is evil from his youth (Gen 8:21), and so after every breath and every step, as sure as sparks fly upwards, God is looking to crush man for each infraction. From such a god there is no deliverance and no possible means for reconciliation. It is exactly the sort of god Satan would like us to believe exists, because man would have no reason to worship such a god.

Further, in the vision we can see that Satan is mad that God “puts no trust even in His servants and against His angels He charges error.” Satan considers himself (at least once upon a time) a servant, but he is angry that he as one of God’s angels is charged with error regardless. In his arrogance he asserts that if he cannot be pure before God surely mortal man cannot be, “whose foundation is dust, who are crushed before the moth” (Job 4:19).

The vision is correct in saying, “There is no one righteous, not one” (Rom 3:10). But, it is incorrect in attributing all suffering a retribution for this fact, even though God would legally be in His right to because of the depravity of man. Nonetheless, it is not the destiny of all men to return to “dust” for good and these same men can be pure before God if they are washed clean in Christ’s blood. The faithful, like Job, then often do not suffer as punishment, but God has more mysterious reasons behind it. However, if we are confident in His love for us we can be confident that He will provide a way out in our suffering and that He works all things, including suffering, for good.

Another horrible Satanic deception in the vision is the nihilistic assertion that “Between morning and evening they are broken in pieces; unobserved, they perish forever. Is not their tent-cord plucked up within them? They die, yet without wisdom” (Job 4:20-21).

What is the point of living if God merely crushes man into pieces day and night? Why Go on if we perish forever, only to die and be gone for good? These horrible assertions of there being no afterlife are a twisted lie for more reason than one: there is a resurrection of the righteous and Satan is the one who, when the protective hedge around people is removed, prowls and destroys people day and night. The abominable beast is quick to accuse God of doing specifically what he does himself!

If there is no afterlife and if God finds fault in every single thought, word, or deed we commit we might as well live in open rebellion against God, perish the thought! “If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor 15:32).

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