He Stood Up … Luke 5:17-26
The objective, verifiable demonstration of God’s power and pardon for sins is the resurrection; the “standing-up” again of Jesus from the dead. This is the centre of Luke’s message in his written accounts to Theophilus: Jesus is the resurrected Saviour and Lord of the world.
I was running an early morning devotion for a group of school leavers on a camp recently. In true camp fashion, we’d sung a few hymns, read some Scripture and were discussing its meaning and implications before praying for one another.
The passage was Luke 5:17-26—where some people lower their paralysed friend through a hole in a roof to get to Jesus.
As we discussed the passage and tried to find out the meaning through questions and re-reading, the campers began to see Jesus’ authority—and also the way he prioritises forgiveness.
The surprise of the text is that Jesus says to the paralysed man, “your sins are forgiven”. It’s surprising, not just because that’s only something God can declare (since sin is ultimately an offence against him), but because the man’s friends had clearly brought him there for physical healing. You could imagine those present thinking, “Jesus, read the room! They’re here for something else …”
If the friends of the paralytic were disappointed they didn’t get the miracle they’d come for, the Scribes and Pharisees on the scene were furious that Jesus was audacious enough to grant forgiveness of sins. That is God’s prerogative alone. Perceiving their thoughts, Jesus asks the important question in v23: “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?”
Obviously, it is easier to say “your sins are forgiven” precisely because it is non-falsifiable or verifiable.
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If You Get to Grips with Only One Apologetic Question, Let it be This OneBy Stephen Kneale — 2 years ago
Can I trust the Bible? Is the Bible true? If the answer to those questions is ‘yes’, then we merely need to appeal to what it says for something to be true. And, if we’re honest, the reason most of us believe the things we do about God and the gospel is because the Bible says they are so. Our belief is founded on the fact that what the Bible tells us is true, with all its implications regarding what it says about God, the human condition and the person of Jesus.
I have spoken a lot about evangelism. In my view, we often over-complicate it. For the most part, if you know the gospel and you’ve got lips and a tongue, you’re pretty much good to go. Share your story, point people to the saviour you know, tell people why you love Jesus and why you find the gospel compelling. Most of that is just your opinion about what you have come to believe. And most of us don’t need much training in spouting our opinions off about almost anything.
But there is one apologetic question I think it pays to have in your arsenal. The reason being, almost every other apologetic question comes back to it in the end. It doesn’t really matter whether somebody is asking you about the Trinity, justification by faith alone, how God can allow evil and suffering, or almost any other thorny question you might get asked; all of them ultimately end up at this one in the end. Whatever you are asked, it boils down to this: why believe the Bible?
What do we know about God? Ultimately, what he has revealed about himself in scripture and nature. What do we know about the human condition? Fundamentally, what the Bible tells us. What do we know about the end of all things? What God has given us to know in the Bible. On and on we could go. But underlying every question about the Christian faith is this, what does the Bible say and why believe it?
The ultimate apologetic question is, why believe the bible? If you can trust the Bible, and there are good reasons to believe what it says is true, just about every other apologetic question becomes moot.
Why Does Paul Tell the Church to Deliver Someone to Satan? (1 Corinthians 5)By Andrew David Naselli — 6 months ago
A local church delivers a person to Satan when it excommunicates an unrepentant professing believer from that church. As God’s dwelling place by the Spirit (3:16–17; Eph. 2:22), the church protects its members from Satan’s sphere, but when a church can no longer affirm that a professing believer is a genuine believer, it must return that person to Satan’s sphere.
1It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. 3For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 6Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?1 Corinthians 5:1–6
The report Paul has heard has two parts: (1) “there is sexual immorality among you,” and (2) “you are arrogant” (cf. v. 6a).
The specific kind of sexual immorality is incest—a man is pursuing sexual relations with his father’s wife. In the phrase “has his father’s wife,” has indicates ongoing sexual relations but does not specify if the two people have married or are cohabiting.1 Because Paul writes “his father’s wife” (rather than “his mother”), he probably refers to this man’s stepmother. She may be roughly the same age as (or even younger than) the incestuous man, since men often married women who were much younger.
The sins Paul corrects throughout this letter were common practices in Corinth. The church in Corinth has grown up in this pagan context that views sex much differently than Jews and Christians did. And since the Corinthians have converted only recently (no more than three years before Paul writes this letter) and do not have generations of Christians in their culture, it is not surprising that they continue to share Corinth’s worldly values regarding sex. Jews, of course, forbade a father and son from sleeping with the same woman (Lev. 18:7–8; 20:11; Deut. 22:30; 27:20). But so did the ancient pagan Romans. Thus Paul describes this sexual immorality as “of a kind that is not tolerated even among [the] pagans.”2
So how is it that the Corinthian church tolerates a sin that even their own culture repudiates? The text does not answer this question, so we can only guess. It could be related to their view of the body and the resurrection (cf. comments on 1 Cor. 6:12–20; 15:1–58). But it is unlikely that the Corinthians boast about tolerating incest, since incest was scandalous in both Jewish and Roman cultures. Most likely, the Corinthians ignore the incest and boast that a man with such a high social status is a member of their church. The incestuous man is likely socially powerful, and the church is simultaneously (1) honored that a person with such a prominent status would be part of their congregation and (2) unwilling to confront him about his incest. He might be a generous benefactor to the church and a patron to clients within the church. Thus the church does what their culture occasionally does for socially prominent people: turn a blind eye to that person’s sin rather than risk losing his favor and becoming his enemy.3
Paul rebukes the Corinthians and commands them to correct their error. Paul first rebukes the Corinthians with a rhetorical question. In contrast to how they are being arrogant, they should mourn over the man’s publicly scandalous and characteristically unrepentant sin, which entails that they should remove the incestuous man from their church.
Throughout this passage Paul exhorts the Corinthian church to excommunicate this man, a church member who claims to be a brother in Christ.4 Consequently, chapter 5 is one of the most significant NT passages for three interrelated theological issues: excommunication, church membership, and congregational church government (I list those three issues from what is more explicit in Scripture to less explicit).5
The PCA Presbytery of The Ascension Receives Report On “Still Time To Care”By Ascension Presbytery — 7 months ago
At its July 30, 2022 stated meeting, The Ascension Presbytery voted unanimously to receive the Report of their Ad Interim Committee to Study “Still Time To Care,” by Greg Johnson. In its conclusion the Study Committee stated: “Our careful interaction with this work has demonstrated to us that there are several areas of agreement with Johnson’s thought. At the same time, our study has uncovered fundamental and foundational problems with both the biblical and confessional fidelity of Johnson’s underlying thesis and the clarity and coherence of the demonstration of that thesis.
At the January 2022 meeting, the Presbytery of the Ascension gave the following assignment to an ad-interim committee: “To study and report on “Still Time to Care” by Greg Johnson, making recommendations on its compatibility with our Standards, the AIC Report on Human Sexuality, the commended RPCNA report and the Nashville statement, advising as to the book’s implications for the church, such as counseling and Candidates and Credentials exams, and, if appropriate, recommending further action in the courts of the church.”
The members of the committee, after ensuring the book and materials were read, discussed the areas of agreement and affirmation, areas of disagreement or concern, and the practical implications of those disagreements (in counseling and other areas). We then settled on various areas to explore in a report: Sanctification, Identity in Christ, Orientation Change, the heinousness and various aggravations of different sins, and the gift of continence.
Before exploring the substance of the book and areas of concern, we first wanted to state our thankfulness for the testified work of God in the life of the author, Greg Johnson. We do not intend, nor desire, to offer pastoral care or counseling in the area of his personal battle against sin and temptation. Such would be inadvisable to attempt from many miles and many presbyteries away. Indeed, the appropriate manner of addressing sin struggles is with a trusted pastor, in close and frequent contact with the believer, and in diligent use of the means of grace.
Our concern in the report is the content of the book and the implications for ministry offered by the book and its approach, along with his call to repentance and change in our ministries, especially in light of the actions of the courts of the Presbyterian Church in America.
The reading and review of any book is no simple matter. Serious engagement requires that the reader wrestle with a work’s content, context, and purpose. Even where disagreement emerges, few books are utterly and extensively flawed – and Greg Johnson’s book is no different. Indeed, our careful interaction with this work has demonstrated to us that there are several areas of agreement with Johnson’s thought.
At the same time, our study has uncovered fundamental and foundational problems with both the biblical and confessional fidelity of Johnson’s underlying thesis and the clarity and coherence of the demonstration of that thesis. While by no means limited to that which we highlighted, we were particularly concerned with his handling of the biblical and confessional doctrine of sanctification, his misuse of identity in Christ, his aberrant views on sexual orientation, his disregard of the confessional teaching on the heinousness and various aggravations of different sins, and his lack of interaction with the confessional understanding of the gift of continence.
The church desperately needs clear, careful, biblical, and confessional interactions with these issues. Still Time to Care, however, is not these things – for that reason, this AIC cannot recommend it as a general resource for our churches. Rather, we encourage our Ruling and Teaching Elders to carefully engage with Johnson’s work – both through the lens of this report and their own critical interaction with it – such that the serious deficiencies and errors contained therein can be counteracted through the preaching and teaching within our churches.
The entire Report can be read here.