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What the Bible Really Does Say… About Slavery

May 30, 2012 4 comments

Reflecting on a recent Dr. Reluctant article, What the Bible Really Really Says, I came across yet another example of the issue addressed here, in a Cripplegate post.  Henebury’s article addresses the issue of understanding literal interpretation versus what some believers say a text means, contrasting the liberal unbelieving scholars who fully recognize what the Bible has to say about a particular doctrine — they are honest at least, recognizing that the Bible is clear on the point, only they choose to reject that truth — versus evangelicals who try to deny or twist the meaning, such as those who say they believe Genesis but it’s just poetry.  As pointed out, this principle applies for everything the Bible has something to say about, whether the truth about homosexuality (the first example here cited) or biblical creation, but so many other topics as well.

The Cripplegate post, Slavery, gay marriage, and hypocrisy in the black church, is primarily addressing the secular media’s twisted logic concerning homosexuality and African American slavery.  Overall the writer makes some good points, but fails at one important point.  His second reason given for “why a literal reading of the Bible actually condemns the institution of American slavery” does not agree with what the Bible actually says.  From the Cripplegate post:

2) Slavery in Old Testament times was fundamentally different than American slavery. It was an institution of mercy, which people entered voluntarily, for the purpose of providing for their families. It was not based on the kidnapping, sale, and ownership of individuals. Slaves were released every six years (Exodus 21:2). There is no concept of perpetual slavery in the Bible.

The article referred only to the slavery of fellow Israelites.  Notice the last line, “There is no concept of perpetual slavery in the Bible.”  But what about Leviticus 25:44-46?

As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.

When this was brought up in the comments, the author responded that even these slaves were redeemed in the Year of Jubilee.  But that’s not what the text says.  The later comments illustrate very well the point of Henebury’s article above:  a non-Christian commenter, Sarah, also challenged the author several times, pointing out that indeed the Old Testament did allow the Israelites to have permanent slaves from among those of other nations.  The interaction is quite interesting, showing the author’s continued denial of that fact, while Sarah brought up various texts and reference to the commentaries on this point, regarding such passages as Leviticus 25:44-46, Deuteronomy 23:15 (refers to slaves that run away from non-Israelites to an Israelite), and Deuteronomy 20:10-15.  As an unbeliever, she of course could not reconcile what the Bible says regarding slavery: since slavery is morally wrong, therefore the Bible is not the ultimate source of authority on the matter.  The discussion did address Sarah’s errors concerning what the Bible has to say about homosexuals then and now, but since the writer maintained that the Old Testament did not really have permanent, “real” slaves and slavery, his responses failed to satisfy.  And rightly so.  Excerpts from Sarah’s comments:

This is the part that I’m not sure is true: “The key difference between American slavery and the distinctions in OT Israel is this: slaves entered OT slavery voluntarily. They were not kidnapped. They were purchased, but the money went to the slave, not to some slave trader.” Leviticus 25 says that Israelites can become indentured servants, and that people from the nations around them can become slaves for life as “inherited property” (Leviticus 25:44). … Rules protecting the slave DO condone slavery, because the rules could have just as easily been, “Don’t have slaves. Don’t let parents sell their children into indefinite slavery.” Instead, there are guidelines for properly treating a slave, which is nice except that people are not property. … Israelites could not “kidnap,” but they could purchase male and female slaves from the surrounding nations and they would become “property.”  … A person is not property.  The Bible describes people as property.  This is the single, undeniable fact (again, see Lev 25:45, Exodus 21:21) that makes people VERY uncomfortable about the use of the Bible to construct US law, especially because our country has a history of using the Bible to justify completely wrong acts. … We may be straying from your original point here; I don’t believe in the Bible as the literal word of God, so it’s every letter doesn’t matter to me as much as the overall ideas and themes expressed throughout it.  But I think that you do believe that the Bible is the literal Word of God, completely true and not open for “interpretation.”  And that’s where we find a problem, because some of those who owned slaves in the past fully, 100% believed that they were biblically justified.

The biblical texts are clear enough on the point, and a look through several online commentaries, both classic ones (such as John Gill and Matthew Henry) as well as recent ones, shows complete agreement with the meaning of Leviticus 25:44-46.  All of them note that the 50-year Jubilee event applied only to Israelite slaves.  Leviticus 25:47-55 makes it clear that the 50 year release in the Jubilee and right of redemption was only for Israelites who had sold themselves into slavery to Gentile owners.   The reason comes out in verse 55: the people of Israel are servants (or slaves) to God.  As much as we may dislike it, in the Old Testament era the people of Israel had a special relationship to God, that the other nations did not then enjoy.

(v. 47) “If a stranger or sojourner with you becomes rich, and your brother beside him becomes poor and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner with you or to a member of the stranger’s clan, 48 then after he is sold he may be redeemed. … 54 And if he is not redeemed by these means, then he and his children with him shall be released in the year of jubilee. 55 For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants.

An excerpt from Matthew Henry:  It intimates that none shall have the benefit of the gospel jubilee but those only that are Israelites indeed, and the children of Abraham by faith: as for those that continue heathenish, they continue bondmen. See this turned upon the unbelieving Jews themselves, Gal. 4:25, where Jerusalem, when she had rejected Christ, is said to be in bondage with her children. Let me only add here that, though they are not forbidden to rule their bondmen with rigour, yet the Jewish doctors say, “It is the property of mercy, and way of wisdom, that a man should be compassionate, and not make his yoke heavy upon any servant that he has.’’

A more recent commentary, Thomas Constable’s online work, provides a more in-depth answer to the issue of slavery in Leviticus 25:

God permitted the Israelites to own slaves from other nations (vv. 44-46). That they were not to mistreat them goes without saying. Slavery in itself, as the Mosaic Law regulated it, did not violate basic human rights, but the abuse of slaves did.

“In the first place, for one people or person to enslave another is, by that very act, to claim the other as one’s own; it is in a fundamental sense to claim another’s life as belonging to oneself. Such a claim, however, flies in the face of the biblical story that we have heard thus far. If the creation narratives of Genesis tell us anything, they tell us that the sovereign source and lord of life is God—and God alone. It is in just that sense that to God—and God alone—all life, ‘the work of his hands,’ ultimately rightly belongs. Therefore, from the standpoint of these biblical narratives, anyone besides God laying such ultimate claims to another’s life would in effect be arrogating to oneself another’s prerogatives. In essence, such a one would be making the most presumptuous claim any human being could make—the claim to be God.”

Israelites could also buy back (redeem) their countrymen who had sold themselves as slaves to non-Israelites who were living in the land (vv. 47-55). An Israelite slave could also buy his own freedom. In these cases the Israelites were to calculate the cost of redemption in view of the approaching year of jubilee when all slaves in the land went free anyway.

“The jubilee release does not apply to foreign slaves (vv. 44-46). A theological reason underlies this discrimination: God redeemed his people from Egyptian slavery, to become his slaves (vv. 42, 55). It is unfitting, therefore, that an Israelite should be resold into slavery, especially to a foreigner (cf. Rom. 6:15-22; Gal. 4:8-9; 5:1). The jubilee law is thus a guarantee that no Israelite will be reduced to that status again, and it is a celebration of the great redemption when God brought Israel out of Egypt, so that he might be their God and they should be his people (vv. 38, 42, 55; cf. Exod. 19:4-6).”74Wenham, The Book . . ., pp. 322-23.
. . .

c. Foreign slaves among the Jews did not have the same rights as Hebrew slaves sold into servitude because of debt; they could be held as slaves for life, though they had to be treated humanely (Exodus 20:8-11; 21:20-21).

Will More People Be Saved Than Lost?

May 25, 2012 21 comments

In the “About Me” comments section a while ago, a reader mentioned hearing a statement from S. Lewis Johnson that seemed odd to him (that more people will be in heaven than not).  I had not yet come across that particular comment from SLJ before, but referenced something from a Spurgeon sermon as a good answer, noting that SLJ often referenced Spurgeon.

Going through SLJ’s Romans series, I have now come across (at least one place) where S. Lewis Johnson expressed that idea: in the exposition of Romans 11:15.

Sometimes — because we preach the sovereign grace of God and the fact that He is not frustrated in accomplishing his purposes, He always does his will — people get the impression that what He is saying is, talking about the elect, that there are just going to be a few people in heaven.  We know all those stories that men talk about, the few people in heaven.  The apostle did not have such a doctrine.  He preached that the sovereign grace of God was directed toward a definite group of people; but that group of people shall be ultimately so numerous that you cannot number them.  Our great God of sovereign grace has included a multitude which no man can number of every kindred, tribe, tongue, and nation.  It may well be that there shall be far more people saved than are lost.  Even though in the present day, God’s company, as our Lord said in his day, was relatively a little flock.  But God’s great purposes encompass the reconciliation of the world, such a thing as life from the dead.

Spurgeon gives more detailed commentary, but as SLJ indicates, Romans 11:15 also suggests the  wonder of God’s great redemptive purposes: “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?”

Here is Spurgeon’s observation  (“Law and Grace,” #37, delivered August 26, 1855):

Grace excels sin in the numbers it brings beneath its sway. It is my firm belief that the number of the saved will be far greater than that of the damned. It is written that in all things Jesus shall have the pre-eminence. And why is this to be left out? Can we think that Satan will have more followers than Jesus? Oh, no! For while it is written that the redeemed are a number that no man can number, it is not recorded that the lost are beyond numeration! True, we know that the visible elect are always a remnant, but then there are others to be added. Think for a moment of the army of infant souls who are now in Heaven. These all fell in Adam, but being all elect, were all redeemed and all regenerated and were privileged to fly straight from the mother’s breasts to Glory! Happy lot, which we who are spared, might well envy!  Nor let it be forgotten that the multitudes of converts in the millennial age will very much turn the scale. For then the world will be exceedingly populous and a thousand years of a reign of Grace might easily suffice to overcome the majority accumulated by sin during 6,000 years of its tyranny. In that peaceful period, when all shall know Him, from the least even unto the greatest, the sons of God shall fly as doves to their windows and the Redeemer’s family shall be exceedingly multiplied!

What though those who have been deluded by superstition and destroyed by lust must be counted by thousands—Grace has still the pre-eminence. Saul has slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands. We admit that the number of the damned will be immense, but we do think that the two states of infancy and millennial glory will furnish so great a reserve of saints that Christ shall win the day. The procession of the lost may be long—there must be thousands and thousands of thousands—of those who have perished. But the greater procession of the King of kings shall be composed of larger hosts than even these. “Where sin abounded, Grace did much more abound.” The trophies of Free Grace will be far more than the trophies of sin!

Romans 11: And So All Israel Shall Be Saved

May 21, 2012 Leave a comment

From my study through Romans with S. Lewis Johnson, I now come to the great chapter of Romans 11.  Note:  S. Lewis Johnson also did a more extensive study of this chapter in “The Future of Ethnic Israel,” a six part study.  The full-book Romans series (which I’m currently listening to) includes four messages in Romans 11; in a few places he says he doesn’t have time to go into further detail on certain points, so I expect that his other, separate series on Romans 11 expanded more concerning these details.

It’s been a while since I’ve studied the Romans 11 text.  Concerning verse 26, “And so all Israel shall be saved” (ESV:  And in this way all Israel will be saved), SLJ discusses several of the interpretations that have been suggested, and the errors in the incorrect ones.

The “Dutch view” of the Holland Covenant theologians is that the text refers to the remnant trickle of all Jews saved throughout the Church age, rather than to a national conversion at Christ’s Second Coming.  A look at the context, though, shows that the referent for “and so” or “and in this way” is the immediately preceding verse, which has to do with the salvation of Gentiles:  the mystery, the partial hardening of Israel UNTIL the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (Gentile salvation).  Thus, “all Israel” will be saved as a result and after the fullness of the Gentiles, as a result of the Jews being made jealous (verse 14).  Furthermore, these verses indicate future time, not present: verse 12 “how much more will,” also verse 15 “what will their acceptance mean.”  Some might try to argue that these are referring to the present, but then what about verses 23-24: “will be grafted in,” for God is able to graft them in.  The text is also national, referring to the nation Israel, not to individuals.

But the preceding context is most closely related, not to the salvation of Israel as it is to the salvation of the Gentiles.  He has just said, “Hardening in part has happened to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles be brought in.  And so, by the bringing in of the full number of the Gentiles all Israel shall be saved.  What is meant is not what our Dutch friends mean, but rather, by the total salvation of the Gentiles, when that has been completed, Israel shall have been brought to jealousy and to return to the Lord.  “And so all Israel shall be saved” is the provocation by the full number of the Gentiles which will lead to Israel’s salvation.

Regarding John Calvin’s idea that this means “spiritual Israel” instead of ethnic Israel:  well, then all the verse means is that all the elect are going to be saved.  We already know that; that is not a mystery.

“I would not have you to be ignorant brethren of this mystery.  What does he mean when he says “this mystery,” this secret?  … Well, that’s not a mystery, that’s not a divine secret in the true sense.  There’s hardly anything that is clearer from the apostle’s writing than that the elect shall be saved.  There must be something more to the point when Paul says, “I don’t want you to be ignorant of this secret,” this divine secrets, “lest ye should be wise in your own conceits.”  I think that what he means is explained by the “that” clause.  That hardness, in part, has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.  The time, the meshing of the time of the salvation of the nation and the salvation of the nations, and how this is all to be worked out in the thousands of years of human history, is the secret.  In other words, we may put it by simply saying that the mystery is the divine program of the salvation of the nations in its various steps, that’s the mystery, it would seem.

Note, too, that the text cited immediately after “and so all Israel shall be saved” is from Isaiah 59:20-21, a text that is talking about the Second Coming.  The preceding verses (Isaiah 59:17-19) describe Him putting on garments of vengeance, repaying wrath to His adversaries and repayment to His enemies, and the people, worldwide, fearing the name of the Lord.  SLJ also notes a few other scriptural references and allusions here, blended together:  Isaiah 27:9 (Therefore by this the guilt of Jacob will be atoned for) and Psalm 14:7 (Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!).  Also, the background of all these quotations and allustions here – Isaiah 59, Isaiah 27, and Psalm 14 – includes the Abrahamic, Davidic and New Covenants, and thus reference to Israel’s election and salvation.

I’ve heard the spiritualized attempts to say that all of what the prophets said was really talking about what happened at the cross and our glorious church age.  But again, such a distortion of meaning leaves us with nothing more than Paul saying the mystery is that all the elect shall be saved.  Words do have meaning, and these verses are describing a condition that did not happen at the First Advent: Christ coming in judgment, which is His Second Advent.

Finally we consider if “all Israel” means every single individual:  of course other prophetic texts give more detail, such as Zechariah 13 (that two-thirds of the people will be cut off and perish during the Great Tribulation).  Further, the term “all Israel” is a technical term, an expression that refers to Israel as a whole, as a nation.  S. Lewis Johnson specifically notes the following interesting references to “all Israel”: 1 Kings 12:1, 2 Chronicles 12:1-5, and Daniel 9:11.  Additionally, Romans 11 itself gives us the clue to the answer:  the rejection of Christ by the nation at His First Coming.  We recognize, as something clear and undisputed, that the nation Israel rejected their Messiah at His First Coming.  Yet not every single individual Israelite of the first century rejected Him; Paul, the other apostles, and at least several thousand other Jews, did receive Him.  So too, at the Second Coming, the nation will accept Him, but not every single individual. The context of Romans 11 is again affirmed, that Paul is here talking about nations: the nation Israel and the gentile nations.  Yes, nations are composed of individuals, but the Bible still talks sometimes, as in Romans 11, about national entities.

Church History Lessons Online

May 17, 2012 5 comments

From the Domain for Truth blog, here is another great resource for church history lessons.  I enjoy church history, and last year blogged about Dan Duncan’s Church History series, a 38-part overview covering the 1st century through the Reformation.

This site, ROCHE (Repository of Church History Etc), has a large collection of topical lectures done through the years (back to the 1970s), from various special conferences, with a few new ones added each year, including three new for this year.  Usually an hour or more in length, many are biographies of well-known (and not-so-well known saints), plus lectures highlighting various revivals and notable doctrinal controversies.  Most cover topics or people from the post-Reformation era, 17th through the 19th centuries — a nice addition, since Duncan’s series ended at the beginning of the 17th century, the close of the Reformation.

An interesting part of history (to me), is the thousand year medieval period, in part because it is less known and more neglected than more recent history.  Yet the stories of the (relatively few) cases of true believers during that time, and the events that happened throughout the centuries leading up to the Reformation, still deserve to be told and remembered. This collection of lectures does include several on the medieval era, including “Evangelicals before the Reformation” (1983) — about England’s early Christian history, the Celtic church before the takeover by Roman Catholicism in the 7th century — plus several from Nick Needham concerning overall medieval church history, Bernard of Clairvaux, and two sessions on Wycliff and Huss, the morning stars of the Reformation.  Much of this was already familiar material but also a good refresher from my medieval history reading (about five years ago), plus some new information.

The audio quality varies, with some recordings better than others, and the British/Scottish accented voices are not always easy to understand (for us Americans at any rate), but good content.  The only other shortcoming to mention is the nature of audio lessons:  it’s often difficult to hear the correct pronunciation (and the proper spelling) of unusual names, for note-taking.  It took several attempts in Google to find the specific spelling and identities of Bradwardine and Gottschalk, names not as familiar as the names from other parts of church history.

The Roche site has many more interesting history lectures, and I look forward to listening to more of the MP3 lessons available there.

Romans 9-11 with S. Lewis Johnson: The Middle Chapter

May 14, 2012 Leave a comment

In going through S. Lewis Johnson’s Romans series, from 1980-81, I’m now in the great section of chapters 9-11.  Romans 9 and 11 have been familiar material for quite a while.  The local “Sovereign Grace” church, where I first learned of Calvinism and Arminianism (and the names of the terms), the great Doctrines of Grace, has provided ample emphasis (even over-emphasis, in a church that tends toward hyper-Calvinism and neglect of human responsibility) through the years to Romans 9 and God’s sovereignty in election.  Romans 11 is material that comes up often in the various sermons, eschatology series and articles concerning Israel’s future and the issue of supersessionism; Barry Horner’s Future Israel book and related teachings in particular include great exposition of Romans 11.

From my own studies, Romans 10 is an area previously neglected.  This SLJ series is my first for going through the full set of chapters 9 through 11, and SLJ devotes three great messages to Romans 10:  Christ, the End of the Law (Romans 10:1-4), Salvation and Confession (Romans 10:5-13), and Israel’s Inexcusable Unbelief (verses 14-21).  Romans 9 highlights God’s Sovereignty in Election, the divine viewpoint, whereas Romans 10 gives the human reasons involved in salvation, as well as the human reasons for Israel’s rejection of their Messiah.

The first message in Romans 10 looks at three ways in which Christ is the end of the law: all three ways are scripturally valid and supported elsewhere.  Christ is the fulfillment of the law, the anti-type of the law, and the end point termination of the law.  SLJ discusses each in detail, concluding with his own view, that this verse specifically refers to Christ as the end point termination of the law, while noting it’s nothing we can be completely certain of.

Chapter 10 also tells us that zeal is not enough, that zeal misplaced is in fact very wrong.  Here we also read the five-link chain (verses 14-15).  First, some must be sent by God; they preach; the people hear (in an understanding way), then they obey and believe, and call upon the Lord. S. Lewis Johnson devotes attention to ways (again from the side of human responsibility) in which people come to have faith and grow in faith, with good discussion of the importance of studying the Bible – and not by mere reading or memorizing it, but going beyond that to ponder it:

that’s the way that some people treat the Bible, believe it or not.  This is just something that they read in order to memorize, or read in order to say, “I have read something from Scripture.”  But they’ve never really sat down and pondered some things that are in the Bible.  The danger of Bible reading and the danger of Bible memorization is not in reading and memorizing.  Those are excellent things.  That’s the place to begin.  But the danger is in not reflecting on the significance of the things that we are reading.  There are some people, who because they see that, say, “Let’s go read the Bible.  Let’s go memorize the Bible.  Let’s go study the Bible.  But we don’t want the doctrine.”  That’s foolish, that should go with the other three.  What we want is the word of God.  We want to memorize it, and we want to hide it.  But we also want to ponder it, because it is through pondering it that we come to faith; the faith that saves and the faith also that sustains us.

Also here, the ways that people do not come to have faith:  the hereditary defense (through Christian parents), or the sacraments, or through dreams, the eloquence of the preacher or even through some therapy.

Mr. Spurgeon pointed out (reference this Spurgeon sermon) that men like Nebuchadnezzar had dreams, and Balaam had a visit from an angel, but he was a man who died saying, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my latter end be like him,” but he perished, fighting against the God of Israel.  “Listen,” he said, “though you should see all the angels in heaven, it would not prove that you would go to heaven any more than my having seen the Pope’s body guard is proof that I shall be made a Cardinal.”

In Romans 10:18 (“But I ask, have they not heard?”), the texts cited here indicate that Paul specifically means: have they (Israel) not heard that they would be rejected because of unbelief.  Not only has the gospel been preached extensively and universally (throughout the Roman empire in Paul’s day), but the scriptures themselves make it abundantly clear, and they should have known their scriptures well enough to realize, that there would come a time when they would be rejected.  By the end of Romans 10, the apostle has stressed the universality of the gospel, the availability of this good news.  The responsibility has been set forth.  We are to believe the gospel. 

Doctrine and the Spirit

May 10, 2012 2 comments

This week has seen some excellent blog articles on the ever-important topic of doctrine and the Holy Spirit:

Phil Johnson at Pyromaniacs:  “What is Written”

The Cripplegate:  Driscoll vs. Calvin, Doctrine vs. the Spirit

Then, from listening to S. Lewis Johnson’s Romans series (in Romans 10) recently, the following great words:

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  …  Mr. Moody said, “I prayed for faith and thought that some day faith would come down and strike me like lightning.  But faith did not seem to come.  One day I read in the tenth chapter of Romans, ‘Now faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.’  I had closed my Bible, and prayed for faith.  I now opened my Bible and began to study the word of God, and faith has been growing ever since.”

If you want to know how to have faith, begin and grow, it’s through Scripture.  The reason the apostles had faith was because they had contact with Jesus Christ.  The only way in which you can have contact with Jesus Christ is through the Scripture.  By the Scriptures you may be with our Lord Jesus Christ.  You may be with Him when He preaches the word.  You may be with in that boat on the Sea of Galilee when the storm comes.  You may be with Him in the synagogue when He casts out the money changers.  You may be with Him as he makes his way toward Calvary.  You may even be with Him around the cross of Calvary, and Hear him cry out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”  You may be with Him in his resurrection.  You may hear the lessons that He taught the apostles.  You may really be there by the Holy Spirit.  You see, faith comes through contact with Jesus Christ in the word of God.  That’s the only place that you can find faith, but we go looking for every other place than that place.

Dan Phillips Sermon Series: Thinking Biblically

May 8, 2012 2 comments

Pyromaniacs blogger Dan Phillips is now also the pastor at Copperfield Bible Church in Houston, and I’ve had a chance to listen to some of his preaching, including his introductory message to a new series, “Thinking Biblically”: understanding the Bible and systematizing theology.

The audio encryption rate is only 16 bits, thus the voice loses a little quality and sounds a bit metallic, but the words and message are clear enough.  After reading his online material for a few years, and his two recently published books, I agree with a friend who noted that his voice doesn’t quite sound like what I expected, and his preaching lacks the sarcastic humor seen online. (No doubt the sarcasm comes from the context of dealing with sometimes difficult people online, a different setting than a local Sunday morning sermon.)  I have noted some style similarity, though, as in his use of the word “evidently” both in audio and writing.

His speaking style is easy to follow, casual like his writings.  The content is a good example of what all preachers who claim to uphold “sola Scriptura” should preach: actually looking in detail at what the Bible says and what it means.  The first message, an introduction to the series, considers three basic questions, and answers them — with scriptural support, in a message that covered a lot of ground in a survey-style approach.

  1. Is it possible to define the faith?  (reference 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Hebrews 1:1-2)
  2. Is it desirable?  Should we put together what the Bible says? (reference Psalm 19, Psalm 119:1)
  3. Is it Necessary? (Matthew 28:18, John 8:31-32)

On this last point Dan noted the meaning of the word disciple:  a pupil, a student.  The Great Commission in Matthew 28 is not what people often think, that this means to go out and evangelize and save everyone.  The wording instead is “make disciples”: enroll students in the school of Christ. A good analogy here, regarding the error of just preaching the basic salvation message and “get everyone saved,” would be if a church were to decide to promote and focus on marriage, and to do so by having a bunch of wedding ceremonies.  “The wedding is only the beginning.”

Throughout the listening, I could not help but notice the very obvious contrast between Dan Phillips and the poor preaching seen recently at a certain local church:  actually doing what you say you believe, by actually teaching the content of the word of God and explaining why it’s important to study.  It’s all too easy to just skim the surface superficially, and make a whole sermon filled with general statements about how important and how valuable God’s word is, and how we uphold “sola scriptura,” and recount the story of Martin Luther upholding the faith, etc.  Such a message only becomes hypocrisy, though, when the one preaching it rejects the truth of Genesis 1 and errs at numerous other specific points of scripture, with a superficial and loose interpretive approach of “what it really means.”  Unfortunately, it fools a lot of people who only listen to those great words rather than the detail.  Yet how much more satisfying is this positive, Bible teaching message, of actually delving into the word of God and noting what the Bible says about itself and about everything else, and to our biblical worldview.