Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance and Hate Speech

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Pastors and other protesters gather in Houston to voice their opposition to the Equal Rights Ordinance and the chilling effect on free speech.

The Conservative blogosphere is in an uproar over a city implementing what amounts to nothing more than a local Civil Rights Act. So, what is the big deal?

Liberals, after dealing with years of homosexual-banning, creationism-teaching, Theocratic laws now have the upperhand to impose their secular Theocracy. Apparently, theologically conservative preachers have been subpoenaed so that they must present copies of sermons critical of the law. While, not banning their freedom of speech in of itself, the chilling effect is clear.

However, as I have said before, this is what happens when we as a society believe that it is the government’s job to legislate morality and to teach it in schools. The moment the majority of society no longer derives their morals from the Bible and Church Tradition, what sort of morality do you expect the government to be pushing? Secularism.

Secularism is the religion of worldliness. Friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4). Satan is the prince of this world (2 Cor 4:4). The world does not believe in tolerance, it believes in compulsion.

Congratulations people of America, you just handed over your laws and schools to the Beast. There is no buying or selling without the mark of the Beast. Those who give a testimony against the Beast are to be beheaded (Rev 20:4).

We are not quite there yet, though there are definitely semblances of it. While America does not have hate speech laws yet, we are almost there. Civil rights legislation, like that in Colorado, has made it where you have to make a wedding cake to celebrate an occasion that you view as pure evil. If you do not comply, you get punished for it. Will the day eventually come where we may have to die for our faith? Certainly.

What should Christians do? First, we need to be peacemakers (Matt 5:9). “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Rom 12:9). That means not getting all judgmental on people that are gay, mentally ill cross dressers, or whatever else. It is easy to point at people that are “strange,” but I ask you “who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery” (Rom 3:21-22)? Do you commit adultery and murder in your heart? Do you love your wealth more than the Lord and refuse to part with it? Do you hate and therefore, commit murder in your heart (Matt 5:22, 1 John 3:15)?

Second, know whom you place your faith in. It is not your own righteousness, you don’t have any. Don’t pretend you are better than other people, even if they are strange. When the Scripture says, “The intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen 8:21) are you somehow excluded? “There is none righteous, not even one…There is none who seeks for God,” (Rom 3:10-11), says the Scripture, does none mean some? “For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all” (Rom 11:32).

That’s right, you, me, the liberals, the homosexuals, all of us left to ourselves seethe with hatred against God because of our disobedience to Him. Forget about not following the Ten Commandments, even if you never heard of them, you don’t even listen to your own conscience all the time (Rom 2:12-16). “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10).

The only hope for any of us is Jesus Christ, because if we confess that He is Lord and that He rose from the dead we are saved (Rom 10:9). Our sins are nailed to the cross (Col 2:14) so we no longer stand condemned and “to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Rom 4:5).

Third, preach the good news without fearing the consequences. Don’t protest about your “free speech” and your “rights.” Use the opportunity to preach Christ’s name publicly and without shame. Often, this is hard to do. It can be embarrassing. In this world, it is easier to get all self-righteous about how you’re treated rather than go out there and preach Christ.

Honestly, when I see situations like the one in Houston unfolding, I believe we get to see the goats already being separated from the sheep.

Reformed Commentary on Job: Chapter 13

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Job hits the limits of human knowledge when trying to understand the righteousness of God. Can we know the unknowable?

Chapter 13 (For Previous Chapter Click Here)

The first two verses of the chapter wrap up Job’s defense to his friends. After showing he is not being irrational like a donkey, he moves us to his true concern: why is God acting so unjustly?

Job has a profound sense of right and wrong and it can be seen in his response to his friends. He feels as if his friends are lying to protect God from accusations of injustice, because their theology does not correspond with observable reality (Job 13:4, 5, 7, 8). Job correctly anticipates, perhaps hoping deep down (Heb 11:2) that God is righteous, that they will be punished for their lies (Job 13:9-11).

As we have touched on previously, Job believes God is acting outside of some sort of idea of justice that He is compelled to abide by at the risk of being unjust Himself. The concept of justice in the Scripture, we should be reminded, is not like the preceding at all. It is something decreed by God Himself:

[L]et the clouds pour down righteousness;

Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit,

And righteousness spring up with it.

I, the Lord, have created it (Is 45:8).

Though Job begrudgingly accepts that because of brute strength God is always right (Job 9:3-4), he apparently is starting to consider the idea that righteousness is not entirely consistent with His nature.

Obviously, as we have also touched on before, the Scripture unequivocally against such an idea. Concerning God the Scripture says, “And all His work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the lovingkindness of the Lord” (Ps 33:4-5). Further, “The sum of Your word is truth and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting” (Ps 119:160). Yet again, “As for God, His way is blameless” (Ps 18:30).

However, because Job does not yet appreciate this and presently interprets the existence of suffering as inconsistent with a god who loves justice, he again reiterates his desire for an arbitrator between him and God. Job obviously feels wronged: “I desire to argue with God” (Job 13:3). Yet, he pleads his case willing to deal with the consequences if he is found in the wrong (Job 13:13).

Job is confident: “Behold now, I have prepared my case; I know that I will be vindicated” (Job 13:18). Why is he so confident that he is right and won’t be punished, like his friends? Our interpretation is that deep down, Job is a man of faith. We can see this in Job 13:15-16, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him. This also will be my salvation, for a godless man may not come before His presence.”

His Godliness is proven by the fact that like Jacob, he is wrestling with God in faith (Gen 32:28). God does not wrestle with unbelievers, because they are not allowed into the presence of God anymore than someone is in the presence of the Persian king apart from being summoned (Esther 4:16). Those not imputed Christ’s righteousness cannot even be looked upon by God who, “Purer of eyes than to behold evil, to look on perverseness Thou art not able” (Hab 1:13, YLT).

As David prayed in his Psalm, even when brought low he was confident in God’s faithfulness:

For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning…O Lord, by Your favor You have made my mountain to stand strong; You hid Your face, I was dismayed…You have turned for me my mourning into dancing, You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, that my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever (Ps 30:5, 7, 11, 12).

So, why shouldn’t Job hope in the one who slays him, for His anger is but for a moment while His favor is assured forever? Again, the doctrine of assurance gives the believer real comfort in times of trial. Without assurance, there is positively no reason to hope that God’s anger will ever cease. Thus, rhe doctrine gives the believer confidence in God’s righteousness, even when suffering is present.

God does not forsake His people, because it is His promise He will lose none of them (John 6:39). “For the Lord loves justice and does not forsake His godly ones. They are preserved forever, but the descendants of the wicked will be cut off” (Ps 37:28).

Further, “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from him. But when he cried to Him for help, He heard” (Ps 22:4).

Job might have been aware the God tests his faithful ones, but God will not forsake them if they are faithful in their ways: “You have tried my heart, You have visited me by night, You have tested me and You find nothing. I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress” (Ps 17:3).

Hence, confident in God’s promises, he issues a challenge to his friends to prove him wrong (Job 13:19) and then begs for God to relent. Job says that he will “no longer hide from Your face” (Job 13:20) on the condition that God will both end the suffering and the unhealthy fear of Him that it causes (Job 13:21).

We always hear of the importance of “fearing the Lord.” In fact, Job himself makes it explicit that he finds it important too. However, we are not to fear God because He is more powerful than us and at a whim may seek to destroy us. We are not to live in fear of an all-powerful sadist, because this would be fear of a lie. Instead, man should fear God because of a knowledge of his own sin and knowing that apart from God’s unmerited grace, he could do nothing to make himself right with a completely righteous God that cannot bear to cast His eyes upon wickedness.

Job appears to understand this idea, because when asking God to remove His hand he asks in his confusion, “How many are my iniquities and sins” (Job 13:23)? Job knows that God has been gracious to him and he had not done anything to hide His face (Job 13:24). He knows that the true God does not hold “the iniquities of my youth” (Job 13:26) against him.

The god he is experiencing now is a terrifying phantom. It is totally inconsistent with God’s self-revealed nature, the God he knew his whole life, for the Almighty turn His face apart from any other reason other than sinning against Him. As Isaiah makes clear, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Is 59:2).

Yet, God is silent to Job and does not reveal Himself to him. He appears to have withdrawn all of His grace, though from chapter two we know that even in all of this suffering God still protects Job’s very life, knowingly sustaining his faith.

As for Job, he feels trapped. His feet are “in the stocks” so he cannot escape God’s terrifying watch (Job 13:27). It is as if the phantom is waiting just for the right moment to crush him. In the meantime, Job is wasting away in fear (Job 13:28).

Before we conclude our commentary on this chapter, let’s take some time to consider Job 13:12 which states, “Your maxims are proverbs of ashes; your defenses are defenses of clay.”

It is easy to read this line and simply interpret it to mean that Job’s friends have made some good sounding arguments, but they are shallow and incorrect. This may be true, but it is worth reflecting on the nature of wisdom.

The Scripture admonishes us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding” (Prov 3:5).

Why? Isn’t man made in the image of God? If God has wisdom, why can’t the image of God independently, through scientific and philosophical endeavors, discern truth on his own?

Man is a finite being unlike God and finitude means that we cannot grasp the infinite. However, this has not stopped men from trying to do so. For example, all men have the ability to contemplate their own existence (i.e. Descartes’ “I think therefore I am.”) It is our conjecture that this gives many of us the illusion that we truly understand the entirety of our own existence, which includes issues such as right and wrong. So, Job’s friends would think that they have a firm grasp of how God deals with issues of justice, but as he observes their proverbs are meaningless.

How about Job himself? He questions God, because he thinks what is occurring to him is wrong of God to do. Therefore, his assumption is that he has a firm grasp of what is right and what is wrong, and clearly God is not abiding by it. Does this make Job a lot like his friends in the sense that he believes he correctly understands the nature of righteousness in its infinite reality?

It is in this where Job and his friends are being foolish. But, this is common to men, especially children. In reality, none of us are no different than a five-year-old who thinks he knows it all and that his mommy and daddy are unfair.  The five-year-old does not know better, because he is simply too stupid to understand his parents’ purposes. Likewise, man when he questions the Almighty is too finite to understand the purposes of God, because he is not God.  Man, if we are to believe in evolution, is in many respects just a very sophisticated animal.  So, we believe that even the most sophisticated animal existing on a material plain is simply not made to understand the full material and non-material natures of reality.

There is a real danger in taking our narrow human experience, limited by our history of ideas and an inherently finite ability to comprehend our reality, and seeing it as the be-all end-all. Reality is bigger than man and man on his own can only see the shadows of the forms of truth and not grasp truth on his own. Apart from the Holy Spirit, man cannot know God. Only by faith in Christ we can, to the “measure” God has allotted us (Rom 12:3), know Him. For:

Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:11-16).

How can we question God’s righteousness if He is so far above us and His ways are not our ways? For the Scripture states: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways” (Is 55:8). Again, “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not right.’ Hear now, O house of Israel! Is My way not right? Is it not your ways that are not right” (Ezek 18:25)? As Paul put it:

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen (Rom 11:33-36).

Eliphaz is partially correct. Indeed men “die, yet without wisdom” (Job 4:21). But, this is only when man is left to his own devices. A man, with his own inherent natural ability, cannot know things that are spiritually discerned. The human mind and intellect is not built for the task. As Muslim philosopher Ibn Khaldun observed in his superb work, The Muqaddimah:

Now, it might be assumed that there exists another kind of perception different from ours, since our sense perceptions are created and brought into existence [i.e. they are finite for man’s lifespan is finite]. God’s creation extends beyond the creation of man. Complete knowledge does not exist (in man). The world of existence is too vast for him.

“God has comprehension beyond theirs” (Qu’ran, Surah 85:20). Therefore, everyone should be suspicious of the comprehensiveness of his perceptions and the results of his perception, and should follow what the Lawgiver [God in His revelation] commanded him to believe and to do. He [God] is more desirous of his happiness (than man himself) and He knows better what is good for him. His level (of perception) is higher than that of human perception.

The territory He covers (in his mind) is wider than that of human intelligence. This does not speak against the intellect and intellectual perceptions [of man]. The intellect, indeed, is a correct scale. Its indications are completely certain and in no way wrong.

However, the intellect should not be used to weigh such matters as the oneness of God, the other world [heaven], the truth of prophecy, the real character of the divine attributes, or anything else that lies beyond the level of the intellect [of man]. That would mean to desire the impossible.

One might compare it [human intellect] with a man who sees a scale in which gold is being weighed, and wants to weigh mountains in it. The (fact that this is impossible) does not prove that the indications of the scale are not true (when it is used for its proper purpose). However, there is a limit at which the intellect must stop. It cannot go beyond its own level (Chapter 6 “Methods of Instruction,” Section 14; parenthesis are translator’s interpretations, brackets are our own).

Ibn Khaldun asserts that humanity’s intellect is not totally meaningless. It works at doing what it is suited for, just as the gold scale works for weighing things smaller than mountains. So, the intellect alone can be used to verify our own existence. However, it cannot peer into every nature of an infinite reality, because man himself is not infinite. In these matters, we defer to God’s revelation, which is the Scripture and direct revelation from the Holy Spirit, which will not contradict the Scripture because God does not contradict Himself (2 Tim 2:13).

We must not be like Job’s friends or Job before his repentance in the later chapters. We cannot presume on our own that we know what is right and wrong, so that if God makes us suffer not as a consequence of punishment He can be charged with wrongdoing. Instead we must stand in awe of God and cling to faith in Him, know that His revelation is true, that He is just, and that we can trust Him in all things and in all situations, even our suffering.

Depression in the Bible and a Christian Response

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The Scripture directly addresses a lot of common problems, but we have to dig to find information on depression.

Judas is perhaps the only Biblical example of a cut-and-dry depression induced suicide.

This is very interesting in some ways. Were people less depressed back then and this is a new thing in human nature? Is God more concerned with our actions than our feelings? I feel as if I cannot give a sufficient answer to this question. However, let’s look at what God’s revelation does say.

The spirit of a man can endure his sickness,
But as for a broken spirit who can bear it (Prov 18:14)?

The Scripture views depression so serious, that it acknowledges it to be in many ways worse than physical illness. However, I cannot help but think of the Scripture:

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Phil 4:13).

This seems like trite advice, but like many things in the Christian life it requires faith and the willingness to suffer. More about this in a bit.

The most serious extreme is suicide. Ironically, the Scripture is also relatively silent on this issue as well. Almost every suicide in the Bible is found between Judges to 1 Kings. However, most do not fit the prototypical suicide we see today. For example, Samson gave his life to avenge those who blasphemed the Lord.

Saul and his armor bearer killed themselves, Saul because of his wounds (and inability to prevent capture) and his armor bearer for the same reason. Because being captured back then often was coupled with the ripping out of eyes and cutting off of thumbs (Judges 1:7) on some level this is understandable. They were likely trying to prevent their own humiliation before being executed anyway. Ahithopel (the counselor to Absalom) and Zimri (an Israelite king who was being ousted in a coup) killed themselves for similar reasons.

Judas might be the only example of suicide (by hanging) that is similar to what those who are depressed may deal with. He felt overwhelming guilt (he threw back the money to the Sanhedrin) but also forsaken by God. Unable to overcome these depressing feelings and seeing no hope, he killed himself. One thing we can know for sure is if we are depressed, the last way we want to respond is like the most wicked man who has ever lived, the man who betrayed God to His face.

Perhaps the best man to emulate when profoundly depressed is Job. He lost all his wealth, health, and family. He even wished he was never born, yet he never considered suicide as an option. This is especially impressive of Job because he did not have much of a view of an afterlife. He didn’t fear hell, because the wicked would join him in death too according to him (Job 3:17). Nor, at that point of his speech, did he dwell too much on the reality of heaven. Instead, he asserted if he was never born but died as a miscarriage, “I would have slept then, I would have been at rest” (Job 3:13).

It is in some sense strange that Job wouldn’t just commit suicide if he in his own mind faced no punishment for doing so. However, as we learn in that book, Job does not have a carrot and stick mentality. He did not offer praise and worship to God simply because God gave him material and emotional blessings. He was obedient to God out of a true devotion for Him.

This reminds us of Asaph who says:

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…as for me, the nearness of God is my good (Ps 73:26, 28).

So, unlike some of us, a desire for heaven or fear of hell perhaps did not factor into Job’s thinking. Instead, he desired obedience to God no matter how much or little he was blessed. By not committing suicide, it appears that he considered suicide a sin and even still was blameless and obedient before God.

Why should we have this mindset? Because Christ gave His life for us, we are no longer to live for our own desires. We are willing to lay down our lives for Him and that means we will be obedient, even when experiencing hardship.

However, that does not mean we want to experience hardship. When Paul was extremely depressed over horrible men that we calling him a liar, thief, and false apostle he prayed to God:

[T]here was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor 12:7-10).

This is the hardest thing to learn. We have to learn to be content with any circumstance, including the bad ones, as God “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11) and “works all things for good” (Rom 8:28). However, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name,” (Ezek 36:22). So, if God is glorified in our depression, then let us be content with it, for He is glorified when we prevail and God’s promise in Phil 4:13 is proved true.

Why?

[E]ven if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed…[S]anctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong (1 Peter 3:14, 15, 17).

God uses our troubles in our marriages, work, families, and more as a means in which His name be glorified and to be a road sign to others point them to Him! Truly, He works all things for good.

So, place you faith in the Lord, prevail against Satan and his temptations to sin and by doing so give glory to God.

Lastly, meditate on Paul’s admonishments in Phil 4. Suffering in prison, he “learned to be content in all circumstances” (Phil 4:11). How? First, go to God in prayer and be patient. He promises to answer our prayers concerning this and He will not prove to be a liar:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:6-7).

Lastly, in the meantime focus on God-glorifying thoughts keeping every though captive in Christ Jesus:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things (Phil 4:8).

Don’t wallow in self pity. Reflect on the things that you have to be grateful for, hope in the Lord for deliverance, and remember that those who mourn will be comforted (Matt 5:4). God might put you through mourning now so you can be a comfort to someone else in the future. He might be doing this purely to glorify His name in some unknown way.

Truly, “the secret things belong to God” (Deut 29:29). However, whatever His secret is, we know that “the Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds” (Ps 145:17). That is even true when He ordains your depression. Take that to heart and give glory to God.

Colossians is a genuine Pauline Epistle

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We have very good reason to believe Colossians is a genuine letter and not pseudigraphical. These are the following reasons:

1. Failure of Liberal Theologians to Put Colossians Theology into Question

One tactic liberal theologians have tried to use in order to assert the pseudigraphical nature of Colossians is to say that its theology differs from the “genuine” epistles. We will discuss and disprove all of their theological arguments.

  • One criticism is that Paul calls Jesus: (Col 1:18) “the head of the body, the church.” They complain that this uses imagery not found in legitimate Pauline epistles.

Really? In Romans, Paul says that the saints (followers of the Gospel) are the Church’s body. I am surprised that scholars are so bothered that Paul would alter the metaphor and add Jesus to it, making the Jesus the head (a term he invokes in 1 Cor 11:3)! After all, the metaphor Paul uses makes sense in the context.

So Christ’s head-of-church metaphor is different than the other body part metaphors in genuine letters, it by no means contradicts them (especially 1 Cori 11:3). It is not a contradiction and it is not problematic. Thus, it is a poor criticism.

  • Paul makes clear that Christ was pre-existent and created the world Col 1:16, a supposedly “non-Pauline” idea.

This claim simply cannot be substantiated. Paul several times in the genuine letters brings up similar “non-Pauline” notions in isolated instances. Paul speaks of the pre-existence of Christ and His creative power as the Word of God in 1 Cor 8:6 (“there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him”). Eph 1:4 and Heb 1:2, considered spurious by liberals, speak of the same. However, the one passage in 1 Cor demolishes their argument here.

  • Scholars also question the idea Paul writes in Col 2:13: “He forgave us all our sins,” because Paul elsewhere preaches freedom from the law, not forgiveness of sins.

This too is a bad criticism, because scholars are being overly critical of one line. Read in the correct context, it sounds genuinely Pauline: “He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross” (Col 2:13-14).

The underlined is in line with the “freedom from sin” idea. Implicit in forgiveness of sin is the idea that the sin condemns everyone to death. This, as seen in Romans, is a very Pauline concept. The use of “sin” as the plural “sins” is also found in genuine letters (1 Cor 15:3, 1 Cor 15:17, 2 Cor 5:19, Gal 1:4, etcetera).

  • Scholars seem to jump on anything Paul says that can be misogynist. Hence, Col 3:18 (“Wives, submit to your husbands”) reveals that the letter is not authentic.

However, let’s read the passage in its full context:

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

How is this much different from 1 Cor 7:3-4, 34, 39? Or 1 Cor 11:3, 8-10? Furthermore, by first century standards, there is a gender equality implied by that quotation. No one is a dictator and can rule over the other ruthlessly. Both genders have roles to play. Of course, scholars will claim that 1 Corinthians 7:3-4 is a later interpolation. However, the lack of textual evidence to support this makes that less than likely and merely a baseless presumption.

  • Lastly, scholars take issue with Colossians 2:13: “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.”

Scholars believe that the idea that the resurrection happens after repentance is not Pauline. They would be right. Paul frequently refers to an end of times when only then the resurrection will occur (example: 1 Thes 4:13-18.)

However, I believe scholars are misunderstanding Paul’s point. The Christian repentant according to Paul “live in Christ,” and more importantly are not “dead in sin.” This is a present reality.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death (Rom 8:1-2).

Being alive in Christ is a present reality. Paul is able to both speak of this and the future resurrection in the same breath:

If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you (Rom 8:10-11).

Not surprisingly, within Colossians Paul is able to wrap his mind around both concepts just as easily. In Col 3:4, he also speaks of the future bodily resurrection: “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

2. Failure of Liberal Theologians to Put Colossians’ Written Nature Into Question

Liberal scholars claim that “textual evidence” reveals Colossians was not written by Paul. Their evidence is sorely lacking.

  • One claim is that the Greek is too long and flowy instead of short and concise.

However, this could be due to an unnamed scribe or the way Timothy was writing. Furthermore, Colossians is a short letter so while other longer letters have both concise and long winded parts (such as 1 Corinthians), Colossians is a short letter. That means, the lack of space decreases the possible diversity is Paul’s writing, so all you see are the long sentences (while if Paul wrote a longer letter, shorter sentences would find their way in perhaps).

3. Incorrect Historical Assumptions from Liberal Theologians

  • Liberal theologians have asserted that Colossians has evidence of post-Pauline Church teachings, such as the submission of wives and slaves.

This is an odd criticism. Colossians in many ways reflects a very early church, while its teachings on submission are easily found in 1 Cor 11 and Rom 13.

For one, the letter does not concern itself with Church hierarchy like Phi 1:1. Instead, it is much more in line with 1 Cor, which describes worship as orderly but unprogrammed singing and people teaching each other by the spirit (1 Cor 12, 14). This is evident in the Colossae church:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God (Col 3:16).

The letter is also very concerned with Judiazers, a sect that was an enemy of Paul’s in almost every letter liberals consider “genuine.”. Contrariwise, in the Pastoral Epistles, the Judiazers are non-existent. This reflects a time and place where a lot of the fights in the Church in the 40s and 50s were still going on (perhaps even still until the early 60s).

4. Liberal theologians like to just say flippantly, “Well, it looks like a fraud!”

Well, to me it looks legit. For one, for a fraudulent letter it has an awful lot of specific details that only a legit writer would be concerned with. It takes special pleading to say the fraudulent writer would put that much effort into inserting so many pointless fake details.

For example, in Col 2:1 Paul speaks of his struggles on behalf of both Colossae and Laodicea. Why bring another city into the mix if you are forging something?

Another example is how Collosians 4:7-18 is chock full of random details. The letter was sent by Tychicus, who is mentioned in Ephesians, Acts, and all three of the pastoral Epistles.

Now, the liberals don’t really view the above works very highly, but let’s speak to their level: “If you really think Colossians is forged, Tychicus either got around a lot or Colossians copies Acts and mentions no other details that reveal a late date, or the most likely, Acts copied Colossians/Acts was written by someone who knew of accurate historical details reflected in Colossians.”

Their own method of textual criticism should incline them to view Colossians as written early in date for later works, lending legitimacy to the work.

Yet another interesting and legit sounding detail is Col 4:9, which mentions that Onesimus, the slave from Philemon, is coming with Tychius. This is a strange detail, because from reading Philemon, one is led to believe that Onesimus went directly back to his master.

Did the “real” writer of Colossians think it was funny to add such a detail? Did Onesimus earn freedom from his master and return to Paul? Did Paul write Philemon about the same time as Colossians, because he is imprisoned and has contact with Onesimus? This would make sense, because Onesimus could have been making a 2 stop journey, and Tychius could have as well, taking a separate letter to Laodicea (Col 4:15, which in itself is a strange detail.)

To make it even more complicated, Paul states in 4:16 that there is a different letter he sent to Laodicea that he would wants those at Colosse to read. Why mention yet another letter? Why has the fraudulent author failed to make a fake Laodicea letter too?

Back to Onesimus. In Philemon, Paul writes “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers” (Philemon 1:23-24). In Colossians, Paul calls Aristarchus a fellow prisoner and says the Epaphras is praying for them. Did he withhold information of Epaphras’ imprisonment so as not to worry the Colossians or did he not say it because it was already yesterday’s news? Wouldn’t a forger just slavishly borrow the information in Philemon and insert it into Colossians?

Paul also mentions a guy named “Jesus Justus” in Colossians. The fact he calls him by his last name shows that Paul did not want people to get confused between Jesuses. Again, for a fake detail, this would be very original and shows the writer is willing to devise names that could be confused and hence need to be elaborated upon.

Colossians’ author also calls Luke a doctor. He mentions that Barnabas’ cousin Mark might stop by, and that the Colossians have instructions on how to treat him. Paul even adds a personal message to a guy named Archippus.

Some scholars have concluded, which I agree, that Philemon’s church was the Church at Colossae. Onesimus was making an one-stop trip with 2 letters. This explains Paul’s identical (but different) greetings and the fact that Archippus, is the only guy specially picked out in both letters to be residing at the said church. He was no doubt important to Paul. Thus, the letters were written during Paul’s same imprisonment.

The letters lack a copycat feel of a forger, have different but non-contradictory details, and the details are typical of someone who is trying to orchestrate the exchange of several different letters between several different people while trying to avoid punishment for Onesimus. It is far too intricate to be the work of a creative author.

5. Paul’s enemies are gnostics, a second century heretical group.

To the contrary, Paul attacks Judaizers in Col 2:11-17, a group he critcizes in almost all his letters (especially Galatians). In 5 of 7 Paul’s “genuine” letters Paul seems to be under constant attack from Jewish Christians: Romans (disagreement with dietary law Rom 14:14), 1 Cor and 2 Cor (general disagreement with the applicability of the law in several sections, Gal (circumcision and dietary rules), and Phillipians (circumcision).

1 Thessalonians lacks such concern. However, Paul was there only briefly (1 Thes 2:1-2 and 17) and Timothy (who founded the Church) just returned to give good news of the Church’s success (1 Thes 3:6). This leads me to believe that this is an early letter, composed just after Timothy’s founding of it. Thus, word of the Judaizer’s false gospel did not reach them yet and Paul would have no reason to denounce them. Scholars generally agree that 1 Thes.

Philemon is Paul begging a rich Christian to be merciful to a returning slave. The purpose of the letter does not cover Church business generally, so attacks against Judaizers are not to be expected.

Colossians thus shares much more in common historically with “genuine” Pauline epistles than epistles such as the Pastorals, or those from other Biblical writers.

Reformed Commentary on Job: Chapter 12

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This chapter is perhaps Job’s low point as he considers the possibility that evil exists, because of God’s actions and purposes may have malevolent intent.

Chapter 12 (For Previous Chapter Click Here, For Subsequent Chapter Click Here)

Something Zophar said really pushed Job off the edge! In fact, some of Job’s harshest words and greatest complaints against God occur in the next few chapters.

The sense of the first few verses is pretty obvious. Job sarcastically chides his friends and then reasserts that he has good reason for his complaints against God.

Typical of the book, verse two can make many a reader pause simply because we can’t quite put our finger on exactly what is said. Matthew Henry suggested that Job took issue with being called an “ass” (i.e. donkey) in Job 11:12. Perhaps there is some truth to this contention.

Aquinas observed, paraphrasing Job, that “So are only you men?…Since wisdom consists in the knowledge of the greatness of God, it follows that, if you alone know these things, that wisdom is found only in you, and thus wisdom will pass away when you pass away” (Commentary on Job, Chapter 12).

This means, as Henry observed, that Job is insulted by the dehumanizing insinuation made by Zophar. In this context, Job’s reassertion of his own humanity (verse 2) and his own intelligence (verse 3) make sense. Being that Job is on the wrong end of a “jackass joke,” he laments that he is “a joke to my friends” (Job 12:4).

Job then responds to the arguments on his friends. First, he accurately summarizes that their arguments assert that calamity is “prepared for those whose feet slip” (Job 12:5). The fact that his friends never deny this shows that this is essentially where they are coming from. Job then goes on to show that calamity crushes the just, fortune propers the wicked, and God allows it to occur because He ordains it (Job 12:6).

Perhaps throwing a “dumb animal” joke back in his friend’s faces, he exclaims “ask the beasts…let the fish of the sea declare to you” (Job 12:7-8) how obvious it is that “the hand of the Lord has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:9-10). Essentially, Job is saying it is obvious to all, in fact to the whole creation, that the universe is not ordered in a just, retributive fashion as his friends assert.

Now, of course, Job is at fault to believe that God is in anyway unfair to allow creation to be this way. However, he is correct in saying it is from the hand of God. This is very important, because in theodicy many often will claim that God really is not responsible for the existence of evil, which results in God either not being omniscient or omnipotent. In the case of Job’s friends, they seek to get around placing limitations on God by dogmatically assuming that evil only befalls the wicked. By making such an argument, though it is not observably true, its logic preserves both God’s omniscience and omnipotence without imputing Him with any malevolence .

Verses 11 and 12 start out as a challenge to his friends to stomach what he is about to say. Job begins with saying that God has “wisdom and might” and only He alone has “counsel and understanding” (Job 12:13). What does God do with His omniscience and omnipotence? According to Job, He acts malevolent with these attributes.

God has the power to destroy the world, imprison men (Job 12:14), cover the Earth with floods (Job 12:15, in this we can infer God’s control over Leviathan and letting him break loose from his assigned boundaries on Earth), mislead men (Job 12:16, hence God has a negative effect on the Earth’s moral order), and destroy man’s fortunes (Job 12:17-25).

God’s overthrowing of the world’s moral order is a strong accusation from Job. True, it would disprove his friend’s contentions that God acts retributive, because if God actually ordains injustice God Himself would be responsible for wickedness itself. Job here almost accuses God of being the author of evil by cynically assuming that God is being arbitrarily sadistic. What we can be sure of is that there is nothing sadistic, or arbitrary, with how God acts.

Now, as Epicurus anticipated centuries after the writing of this book, if God’s omnipotence and omniscience are unquestionable, the existence of evil thereby makes His omni-benevolence uncertain. It is obvious this is the conclusion that Job painfully finds himself starting to believe, though as we will see in a bit, he’s not totally sold on it.

As a final note, let’s discuss a few of the latter verses which touch on an interesting idea of God misleading men. Job assumes here that He does not not lead men into all truth (John 16:13) as the Scripture teaches, but instead frustrates man’s wisdom. God “deprives the trusted ones of speech and takes away the discernment of the elders” (Job 12:20) which ultimately results in God withholding the truth from men and thrusting them into existential crises (Job 12:24, 25).

This is what Job means when he says that once wise men now “wander in a pathless waste” and that “they grope in darkness with no light.” They are thrown into chaos like Job, who has seen the whole moral fabric of existence torn to shreds before his eyes. The wise grasp like Job looking for the God they thought they knew, only to stagger around like a drunk and find nothing.

Job is not right in saying this. God is “the truth” (John 14:6) and apart from knowing Him one only sees the shadows of realities or outright lies. This is why God Himself is “the light of men” (John 1:4) and that in the New Jerusalem there is “no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and …[t]he nations will walk by its light…[i]n the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed (Rev 21:23-25).

Job has true life in knowing the Lord by faith. In knowing God, there is true wisdom and knowledge of truth (as Job attests to in Job 28:28). But, Job’s suffering is causing him to have doubts and consider the opposite conclusion: that God prevents us from really knowing Him or the truth. It is understandable that Job feels this way because once he “called on God and He answered him” (Job 12:4), but now he inexplicably hears nothing. He once walked with God and felt that he knew Him. Now there are no more answers and we are watching the doubts unravel.

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