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Forgiveness is not a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card, Part 5 OF 5: CONCLUSION

This is a five part series, authored by Brandon. Please read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

 

As we have looked into Scripture to consider if being forgiven means “it never happened,” the point of critical failure occurs when you insert the backsliding problem.  If (1) sinners must give an account of all of their sins, and (2) if a Christian is capable of backsliding, then God cannot truly forget our sins until we are no longer capable of backsliding.  The only way to maintain that forgiveness means that it never happened is to disprove either of the two premises just mentioned.  I’m not aware of any person that has tried to disprove point (1): we all agree that sinners must account for each and every sin.  The only way to overcome premise (2) is to invoke Calvinism, which I do not think Calvary Temple is interested in doing.  At least not after they so artfully argued that Calvinists are heretics, after several ex-congregants chose to go to a Reformed church.  Actually, it was a chance to hear Jon Miller at his best.  I believe his argument was “Calvinism is stupid.  You would have to be an idiot to believe it.”  No, the irony was not lost on me.

 

Excluding Calvinism, we must conclude that God choosing not to remember our sin is much different from the human notion of forgetting.  There is a sense in which God forgets our sin.  But it must be pointed out that, if we really believe that God lives outside of time in such a manner that He sees past, present, and future simultaneously, and if we further believe that our God is all-knowing, it doesn’t make sense to then assert that He has forgotten our sins in the same way that we might forget things.  He cannot lay aside His omniscience in the sense that He can forget our sin.  Furthermore, Scripture indicates that we must give an account of everything that we have done.  How can we give an account for something that God forgot?  Since we aren’t Calvinist from the perspective of “once saved always saved,” the “forgetful God” argument forces us to hold to the notion that if one were to turn their back on Christ, the sins that God had forgotten would somehow be “unforgotten.”  Of course that is nonsensical.  As we have shown, the Bible indicates that God’s not remembering our sin has to do with a position of finality and right standing before His throne.  He knows where our sin is: it has been vicariously placed on Christ’s account and Christ’s righteousness placed on our account.  This effectively cancels the debt of our sin, but it does not mean that it did not originally occur in the first place.  Such an extrapolation is dangerous because it would be used as a waiver for felonious crimes, and men who deserve to be in jail could justify dodging the law because it’s all “under the blood.”

 

The difference that must be understood is that God’s forgiveness is meant to absolve us of divine guilt, but it does not preclude us from earthly guilt.  It couldn’t.  That would be inconsistent with Romans 13 and 1 Peter 4, as stated previously.  How should we then respond to different levels of sin, especially those that are also felonious crimes?  God does not view all sin equally, and frankly neither should we.  It is folly to suggest that the person who comes to Christ and continues to struggle with mental lust and the person who “comes to Christ” and continues to engage in child molestation are somehow both just learning how to walk out their sanctification.  As Christians we may be called to meekness, but we are not called to be fools.  It is our responsibility before God to use some measure of common sense as we apply the tests for conversion that have been given to us.  We need to understand that the regeneration of a human heart necessarily must cause them to not spend the subsequent years molesting children.

 

Returning to Scott’s claims, it appears that his interpretation of God’s forgetfulness is different than David’s.  Scott has made the jump from (1) “God does not remember my sins” to (2) “It is as though my sin never happened” to (3) “my sin really never happened.”  Basically, he is playing a game of connect the dots and trying to convince you that the three dots on the page make a square.  My point is that there is something missing in his logical sequence to get from step (2) to step (3).  This is a classic case of “extrapolating from an extrapolation” as opposed to “extrapolating from the Bible,” which has occurred due to his prima facie reading of Psalm 103 and Micah 7 that didn’t consider the original context of those passages.  Had he studied it out a little further, he would have noticed that at step (1), “God does not remember my sins in the sense that I have been freed from the divine penalty of my sins,” such that step (2) becomes “It is as though my sin never happened in the sight of God as it relates to the eternal consequence of my sin,” and then step (3) wouldn’t exist because he would note that steps (1) and (2) do not preclude him from earthly consequences.

 

Let us return to our thought experiment, only let us replace Jerry Sandusky with someone else.  If we were to look at a young man who claimed to become a Christian in 1969 and chose to attend Bible school and spent the entirety of the years that he was at that school repeatedly and relentlessly abusing young girls, we would have to come to the conclusion that such a young man was never truly a Christian: much less called to ministry.  I know people get catty about how only God knows if someone is truly a Christian, but if they fail the tests from 2 Corinthians 5 and 1 John, I think we have a responsibility to question their salvation.  That’s before you get into the lists of what an elder should be.  Certainly, any person would have the right to say “you know, I don’t feel comfortable with this man being my pastor because I don’t think he qualifies for eldership and I’m not sure he qualifies to be a pastor.  I need to go to church somewhere else.”

 

If we are all supposed to forget the sins of every person who claimed to be a Christian, then there is no such thing as being beyond reproach.  1 Timothy 3 indicates that being “beyond reproach” is different than being “under the blood.”  It further indicates that there are situations in which we are not expected to treat sin as though it never happened, or else the notion of being beyond reproach would be a nonsensical qualification.  I maintain that Star Scott was not and is not beyond reproach.  His reputation among the world is nauseating, and the behavior for which he alone is responsible makes a mockery of the holiness that we as Christians ought to walk in.  If you are a current CT member and you are still reading, please pause and consider this: if his victims were ever able to draw up the courage to testify in court, there are police standing by that would arrest your pastor today and put him in jail for the rest of his life.  I mean, if we decided that the most basic litmus test for being beyond reproach was that you shouldn’t be able to be arrested for child molestation and thrown in prison for the rest of your life, would that be taking too much upon ourselves?  No, rather the man who begun in such hideous sin and continued in such grave error fits every characterization of a wolf that the Bible gives us.  This isn’t about being empathetic.  It’s about being wise, and applying the tests that the Bible and our God-given common sense compel us to apply.

 

A CT congregant might point out that the Apostle Paul had a dark past, and apparently he was beyond reproach.  There are several issues that must be addressed with the Star Scott/Apostle Paul analogy.  First off, Saul was not saved when he was doing these things, whereas Star Scott insists that he was. It is important to really understand how this affects his candidacy to be a pastor, which I will outline below:

 

  1. If someone says that they have become a Christian, and they spend the next three years repeatedly and relentless molesting children, their conversion was not genuine.

 

It’s time that as Christians we stopped beating around the bush when it comes to basic Bible tests.  If Scott spent the first few years after he supposedly became a Christian continuing to live a habitual life of sin, he was not born of God.  If he had truly been born of God, he could not go on sinning.  This is the plain as day meaning of 1 John 3:9, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin…they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.”  There simply is no way around it.  Furthermore, as we have already established, not all sin is equal.  Certainly there exist cases where new Christians have to learn to walk in sanctification.  But in extreme cases like serial murder, lifestyles of rape, and continual child molestation, we cannot broaden God’s path to include these categories when 1 John 3:9 makes it clear that they do not qualify.  That being said, there is an out for Star Scott.  He could claim that his original conversion was not genuine but he eventually repented and truly became a Christian some time after this was all sorted out.  As we continue on, we will see the difficulty of such a stance.

 

  1. If someone is not a Christian, they cannot hear from God.

 

This is one that has flown under the radar for too long.  Too many TV preachers claim that God endorsed their ministry before they ever came to Christ, as though that somehow adds validity to what otherwise appears to be a failed ministry.  In our hyper-Charismatic culture, we’re almost terrified to point out that someone might not have heard from God, lest we risk “speaking against the Spirit.”  The problem is that we fall into that very error by attributing to the Spirit things He did not say.  I don’t care which flaky televangelist says otherwise, non-Christians can hear nothing from God except His call to repentance.  To believe otherwise flies directly in the face of 1 Corinthians 2:14, which says “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”  This further applies to the knowledge gained while at Bible College.  Without the Spirit’s nurturing, any heathen in Bible College would be unable to grasp the actual meaning of the Word and would be practically destined to become a slipshod, uninformed, biased, and deceitful preacher.

 

  1. Just because you pay tuition at a Bible College does not mean you meet the basic qualifications for ministry.

 

In this case, you have a man who dare I say was not a Christian, could not have heard any call from God  besides the call to repentance, and failed almost every prerequisite laid out in 1 Timothy 3:1-7.  He was not (1) blameless, (2) of good behavior, (3) able to teach, (4) not violent, (5) not a novice, or (6) of good testimony among those who are outside (beyond reproach).    Star Scott was the polar opposite of every one of these qualities.  As we have already stated, being “under the blood” does not mean that you are de facto “beyond reproach,” which indicates that God expects more of church leaders than even the basic qualifications for being a Christian, which Scott also miserably failed to meet.

 

With all these things in mind, it is interesting to note that Scott maintains that he was saved before attending Bible College.  He has to insist that he was saved, or else he has to explain how he was qualified for ministry before being a Christian, which is a hard argument even for him to attempt. If he tries to use the Apostle Paul analogy, there are two other reasons it doesn’t fit.  Secondly, Saul wasn’t actually breaking any governmental laws, whereas Star Scott would be charged with dozens if not hundreds of felonies.  As mentioned previously, being “under the blood” does not mean being “beyond reproach.”  In the case of Paul, there was no legitimate reproach such as those mentioned in 1 Peter 4:15-16 that the world could accuse him of.  Thirdly, Paul actually reminded his audience in several of his epistles of exactly what his sin was, whereas Star Scott has actually lied to his congregation with his smoke and mirror statements designed for the congregants to infer that it was some kind of a one night stand with a grown woman.

 

Often ex-CT members try to talk to their friends and families that are still in CT and bring these alarming facts to their attention.  Congregants respond to our heartfelt efforts with “he’s been forgiven” as though that somehow means the same thing as “he’s qualified to be a pastor.”  A second response is “it was dealt with in California,” to which I respond “No it absolutely wasn’t.”  I don’t know what happened in Scott’s old church with his old pastor, but it was not “dealt with.”  The only way to deal with it would be to send the man to jail.  A third response from CT members is “but it was a long time ago” to which I respond “that does not preclude him from the earthly consequences of his sin.”

 

Furthermore, any notion that perhaps he “started out bad” but God “turned it for good” is simply inconsistent with his track record.  He makes up miracles that he supposedly performed and acts as though Jesus Himself endorsed his ministry, and has spent his time destroying families in the name of Matthew 10:34 as though the “sword” that Jesus was speaking of is indicative that the “man’s enemies will be those of his own household” is referring to the people who leave his church!  Ironically, what he seems to be completely oblivious to is the fact that Jesus was quoting Micah 7 which in exegetical context is speaking of a time when heathens will remove the righteous from the land, indicating that Scott has put himself and his church in the place of heathens who are removing the righteous!  And it ought to terrify them that, if my exegesis of Micah 7:6 and resulting interpretation of Matthew 10:34 is correct—and I will mention that it has been the accepted interpretation of Micah 7:6 and Matthew 10:34 from virtually every major Christian writer in Church history—then that places Calvary Temple directly in line with John 16:2 “They shall put you out of the synagogues (churches): yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.”  And when people approach him to inform him that his church looks nothing like the body of Christ, he deceives his people to the point that they would find themselves on the wrong side of the Bible by shunning believers, yet think that they are doing God’s work by doing so.

 

Another objection that Scott’s supporters will mention is that Ron Walrobe “saw a vision of Jesus” and was told that Scott was to be the pastor at Calvary Temple.  Aside from the fact that this story has grown from the 1980’s version where Ron Walrobe “heard a voice” to the 2000’s version with Ron Walrobe “seeing Jesus,” which seems to break a few Scriptural principles, I will address this issue.  I did not know Mr. Walrobe, so I am speaking solely with the privilege of retrospection that frankly, the 70’s was a time in Charismatic circles where pretty much “anything flew” as far as hearing from God.  I have a strong feeling that, had Mr. Walrobe seen a vision of Star Scott molesting young girls for the three years immediately before coming to Virginia, he probably wouldn’t have heard any voices telling him that Star Scott was supposed to be the pastor of Herndon Assemblies of God, later to become Calvary Temple.  I doubt that, had he known of this scandal, he would have encouraged Scott to remain in ministry.

 

Lastly, I want to briefly address the notion that Scott purports concerning the “gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”  There are several things to mention about this, but let’s look at the passage in Romans first to determine if it was meant to apply to pastors:

 

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:

 

“The deliverer will come from Zion;

he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.

And this is my covenant with them

when I take away their sins.”

 

As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. “

                                                                                                                                Romans 11:25-29

 

The first question we have to ask is “who was Paul talking about?”  What he talking about pastors?  Is this a passage about being in the ministry?  No.  This is a passage about Israel.  Paul specifically mentions who he is talking about, and clarifies for us that the gifts and callings are because of Israel’s patriarchs.  Really what Paul is talking about is the promise that God made to Abraham and how He will always honor His covenant: when God made His covenant with Abraham, it was irrevocableThis has nothing to do with pastors.  The original audience would not have thought of it applying to pastors, so we cannot either.  There is zero evidence in Scripture or Church history that pastors were “called” for life.  Certainly, we understand that if Paul could have been disqualified from the race he speaks of in 1 Corinthians 9:27, that must include being disqualified from ministry as well.  Even the Calvinists believe a pastor can be disqualified!  If there are qualifications to get into the ministry (1 Timothy 3:1-7), and there are qualifications for staying in the ministry (by logical deduction from 1 Corinthians 9:27), then the possibility must exist that you can lose your ministry.

 

The Bible does not directly say “pastors can lose their pastorate” just as it does not say “pastors cannot lose their pastorate.”  That doesn’t mean that we can’t derive the proper meaning from Biblical examples and principles.  As stated above, 1 Timothy 3 and 1 Corinthians 9 provide excellent support to the stance that a pastor’s call is not irrevocable.  Concerning examples of similar situations in the Bible, there are many stories of men losing their positions or God stripping them of their roles, including

 

  1. Saul being stripped on his kingship in 1 Samuel 15:23 “Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.”
  2. Eli’s house being removed from the priesthood in 1 Samuel 2:30 “Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.”
  3. Demas losing his place on Paul’s ministry team in 2 Timothy 4:10 “for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me”
  4. The churches in Revelation 2 and 3 having their lampstands (candlesticks) removed. Revelation 2:5 “…if you do not repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place.”

 

This notion of an “irrevocable call” being applied to pastors is nonsense and purely heterodox, being found nowhere in Church history until the 1970’s Charismatic renewal.

 

Ultimately, this really all seems to circle back to Scott’s desire to be let off the hook for his sins and crimes, while at the same time keeping a black book of all of your sins in case you choose to leave.  On the one hand he desperately wants his crimes to be forgotten and for him to be viewed as something other than a child molester.  On the other hand, he can only do that by creating an ultra perfectionist environment in which he is somehow this gifted zealot who deserves to be taken seriously.  If anyone wants to take their family and leave Calvary Temple, he will keep them there through intimidation and by dredging up their sins to remind them of how much they need him, because ultimately his greatest fear is to find himself preaching to empty pews.  The key indicator that his doctrine is false should be his inconsistency in applying it.  What he really wants is the Bible to say that once he was forgiven, it really never happened.  Jerry Sandusky also wishes God’s forgiveness meant it never really happened.  But it did.  And just like Jerry Sandusky, Star Scott needs to be behind bars.  And certainly not behind a pulpit.

 

 

 

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Forgiveness is not a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card, Part 4 OF 5: CONSEQUENCES

This is a five part series, authored by Brandon. Please read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

 

Having examined the question “Is there a difference between God’s forgiveness making it as though we never sinned and God’s forgiveness making it that we never sinned,” let us move on to the differentiating between forgiveness and consequences.  We can rely on previous work for a foundation: certainly David’s consequences did not dissolve.  Was he forgiven? Yes.  Were there still consequences?  Of course.  Could God bring consequences to David’s life for something both God and David were supposed to forget had occurred?  That’s absurd.  Does God’s forgiveness cause the sin to have never originally occurred?  Also absurd.  Otherwise, God truly could not have caused Absalom to sleep with David’s wives (consequence) as He prophesied He would do.

 

There are ultimately three types of sins.

  1. Sins against God
  2. Sins against man
  3. Sins (or crimes) against government

 

Some sins are mixtures of all of the three.  For example, you can lie to your brother and be guilty of the first two categories, but lying is not a crime.  That being said, there have been times in history and even today in other countries where it is illegal to read a Bible, which would be a crime against a government but not a crime against God.  Of course, if you murder someone, you just sinned against all three.  For your restitution to be satisfied before God, you need to repent and ask for forgiveness.  In the case of murder, you also need to go to jail because your forgiveness from God does not take away your guilt as a criminal.  While James makes it clear that all sin separates from God in a “guilty of one, guilty of all” way, you cannot argue that absolution in God’s eyes precludes our responsibility to pay restitution, either to man or the government.

 

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”                         Romans 13:1-4

 

Peter reinforces this concept in 1 Peter 4:15-16:

 

“If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”

 

Even in the Old Testament Law, restitution had to be made, and there were various levels of restitution based on the severity of the sin, forgiveness aside.  For example, Exodus 22 talks about various levels of restitution for stealing.  If a man stole an ox, he had to pay back five oxen.  If a man could not afford the restitution, he sold himself as a slave.  However, according to Leviticus 20, the penalty for adultery was execution: asking for “forgiveness” did not preclude the natural consequences.  This also shows that while all sin separates, not all sin is equalAnd certainly the consequences of all sin are not equal.  Moreover, God makes it clear through His Word that lawbreakers are to be punished by the authority that He established through government leaders.  Returning again to previous work, casting sin as far as the east is from the west does not mean it never happened.  It means that it did happen, and God separated the divine penalty of our sins from us in a manner that is absolute and final through the cross.  In no way should it be construed that it separates us from earthly penalties.

 

Sin has been loosely defined as “missing the mark.”  I suppose that definition works, except that the English connotation is that it doesn’t matter what the action is: if it misses the mark, it’s all the same. After all, James 2 tells us that if we are guilty of one sin, we are guilty of all.  This passage is severely misunderstood, just like Matthew 4:21 was not intended to communicate that lust in the mind is as bad as acting on adultery.  All sin separates us from God.  Certainly.  But not all sin is created equal.  It takes a little more time in the gutter before someone is willing to move from hating their boss to actually getting up and murdering them.  Or the man who entertains a prohibited fantasy about a coworker: that man needs God’s forgiveness just as much as the adulterer, but the time it takes to get from one to the other is the difference between learning to control your thoughts and losing your pastorate.  The difference between hating someone and murdering them is you go to jail if you murder someone.

 

The next issue that must be dissected is whether being forgiven of the divine penalty of sin precludes us from consequences in ministry.  Our text will be the 1 Timothy 3 qualifications for eldership.

 

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.                                                                                                                1 Timothy 3:1-7

 

If God’s forgiveness meant the sin never originally occurred, then this list of qualifications is essentially nullified, especially the notion of being beyond reproach.  Throughout our history, the pulpit has been understood to be a place that is to be revered.  There has always been an understanding that the sanctity of preaching needed to be preserved, and Paul’s qualification that a man be “beyond reproach” was indicative of that need.  To be beyond reproach means that the world cannot look in and tear apart the credibility of the man behind the pulpit because of his past life.  If the world could look in and say “that man has always been a thief among us: how foolish that he is now behind a pulpit” is to fall into reproach by not having a good report of them which are without.  Certainly, Paul’s stipulation that such a man be above this sort of reputation is proof that our sin being “under the blood” is not the same thing as being “beyond reproach.” 

 

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Forgiveness is not a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card, Part 3 OF 5: NEW Testament

This is a five part series, authored by Brandon. Please read Part 1 and Part 2.

  

Let us move on to the New Testament to determine if God’s forgiveness changed in any way to mean “it never happened” after the cross.  As an example to stimulate our brains, how could God have inspired the recording of Peter’s denial of Christ in the Gospels thirty years after the fact if He had forgotten that it happened?  Food for thought.  The Old Testament and the New Testament act in harmony, and New Testament writers frequently quote from the Old Testament.  For example, Paul quotes David when he writes “Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin” (Romans 4:8, Psalm 32:2).  In such a case, the same exegetical principle applies: unless specifically stated by the New Testament author, the meaning of Romans 4:8 must mean what it meant in Psalm 32:2.  Paul understood David’s context, and quoted it within that context.  As a point of clarification, I understand that God wrote Romans 4 and Psalm 32 through Paul and David: the hermeneutical principle is that the Word is divinely inspired, but the authors could not lay aside their faculties while writing.  God did not set aside Paul’s deliberate thoughts when he penned Romans 4 just as He did not overtake David’s hand when he penned Psalm 32.  This means that David had a specific meaning in mind and Paul wanted to convey that meaning to his audience.  I don’t want to belabor the point, but what I am trying to say is that the doctrine of justification via imputation must be informed by understanding what David meant when he wrote “impute.”

 

To impute is to attribute something to a person vicariously, meaning that your standing before God is derived from a source other than yourself.  This is very different from “to impart” which is not a vicarious action, but rather a direct action that gives something to you that you can then call your own.  Imputation in Scripture has often been described as an accounting ledger, such that each line item (sin) has to be put somewhere because all sin demands a penalty. In fact, several translations interpret Romans 4:8 and Psalm 32:2 as “Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”  In David’s time under the Law, a type existed such that if any person sinned, a specific sin offering had to be made (Leviticus 4).  That animal was exchanged for that person’s sin, and the penalty of that sin (death) was laid on the animal instead of the person.  In this way, the guilt of the person was placed vicariously on the animal, and the animal vicariously paid the penalty for that person’s sin in place of the person.  This is the world in which David understood imputation, and he knew from the Law that each sin must be accounted for.  As it stands, a non-believer’s sin is on his own account. However, according to 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  What this means is that our sin was imputed to Christ on the cross, and Christ’s righteousness was imputed to us when we became new creatures.  When David wrote “Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin,” he meant “Blessed is the man who has no sin on God’s ledger account of his life.”

 

This is a critical concept, because as Protestants we believe that we are justified through imputation, whereas Catholics believe that we are justified through impartation, or the notion that the righteousness of Christ was imparted directly to us such that we literally are righteous as Christ is righteous.  The obvious problem with impartation is that Christians still sin, whereas the righteousness of Christ was sinless.  Protestants interpret justification as being through imputation: our sins were put on Christ’s account.  He paid the penalty for our sins.  In like fashion, His righteousness was vicariously placed on our account, in such a manner that we can approach God with Christ’s righteousness.  This provides an interesting distinction between “as though I never sinned” and “I really never sinned.”  By definition, “as though” refers to a vicarious position, which is consistent with imputation; whereas “I really never sinned” is a direct position that is consistent with impartation.  We will have to keep that distinction in mind as we press on.

 

Having developed the concept of imputation, the question must be asked, “When God forgave me, where did my sin go?”  It went to the cross of Christ.  While it might seem like a semantics game, the key point is that your sin did not vanish.  God knows exactly where it is.  It was placed on Christ’s account.  If you were to reject God and backslide, your sin would be back on your account and Christ’s righteousness would be taken off of your account.  This is the difference between God accepting us as though we never sinned and God accepting us because we never sinned.  You did sin.  That’s the point.  God certainly hasn’t forgotten your sin, rather He has removed it from you and sent it to a place where it will not be held against you; and He will not remember your sin during the Judgment, so long as you continue to rely on the finished work of Christ which bought your justification in God’s sight by the imputing of your sins on Christ’s account and Christ’s righteousness to your account.

 

This development of justification through imputation preserves the harmony of other Scriptures because it addresses the backsliding problem, whereas the notion that God can truly forget our sins in such a manner that in His sight our sin never originally occurred does not.  God tells us of the final judgment throughout Scriptures such as Ecclesiastes 12:14, Matthew 12:35, Romans 14, and 2 Corinthians 5:10.  All men must give an account for their deeds.  The notion that forgiveness indicates that the sin never originally occurred, such that it dissolved in Christmas past, would allow no venue for backsliders to give an account of the evil deeds that they committed before their salvation.  Certainly we understand that those deeds must be accounted for as well, which indicates that it is not possible for our sins to “have never originally occurred” in such a manner as to absolve us of them entirely.  That can’t truly happen until we are no longer capable of backsliding.

 

The backsliding problem faces no difficulty when considering that God’s forgiveness is demonstrated in justification through imputation. Our sins are currently on Christ’s account and not our own account.  As such, God does not hold them against us.  As long as we remain in faith, God chooses to not remember our sins in the sense that He can look at His ledger for your life and the column recording heavenly debts is empty, whereas the column recording heavenly credits has one entry: the righteousness of Christ.  But where did our sin go?  God can’t forget, and God must punish sin.  Because we did in fact sin, and that sin demands a penalty, God has imputed—attributed—our sins to Christ’s account.  But if we backslide, God reverses the exchange such that we lose the righteousness of Christ and our sins are re-added to our account.  Through this line of reasoning, we must affirm that God’s forgiveness makes it as though we did not sin, and we must deny that God’s forgiveness means the sin never happened.

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Forgiveness is not a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card, Part 2 OF 5: OLD Testament

This is a five part series, authored by Brandon. Please read Part 1.

 

We are interested in what the Bible says to us today. Our theology is informed by our hermeneutics, and our hermeneutics must be informed by our exegesis. To state it another way, “the Bible cannot mean to us what it did not mean to the original audience.” As a foundational principle, each passage of Scripture can only have one meaning. The intended message to the original audience must be that one meaning. If we take a passage to mean something different to us than what it meant to the original audience, then we have created a second meaning for that passage, which is a violation of the hermeneutic principle. With that in mind, we need to determine what “separating sin as far as the east is from the west” meant to the author (David) and his audience (Israel), and what it therefore should mean to us (extrapolation). We ought to consider what Israel thought of the Sea of Forgetfulness, or if that term has any place in church history. For now let us return to Psalm 103.

 

It is generally accepted that David wrote Psalm 103 sometime after his sin with Bathsheba and Nathan’s resulting confrontation.  Keep in mind that the phrase used in verse 12 “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” is often used in conjunction with Micah 7:19.  It seems to be used today with the connotation that it has to do with God forgetting our sins as far as the east is from the west, as opposed to Him removing them as far as the east is from the west.  There is a real problem with the logical leap that “forgiven = forgotten.”  Perhaps we should consider Nathan’s confronting of David in 2 Samuel 12:11-14:

 

11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’” 13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”                              2 Samuel 12:11-14

 

There is really no theological debate among Christians on the following point: God’s forgiveness occurs the moment we sincerely ask him.  So the previous passage begs the question: if “forgiven = forgotten,” how can God punish David in verse 14 for what He just forgave him of in verse 13?  Yet David wrote later in Psalm 103:12 that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”  The same man who wrote that seemed to understand that sin being removed from our account is not the same thing as sin having never happened.  A noteworthy connection might be made between the 2 Samuel 12 passage and Psalm 103:10, in that David was aware that the penalty for adultery under the law was death, yet God “does not treat us as our sins deserve, or repay us according to our iniquities.”  Certainly David recognized that God was merciful to him by not extending the full penalty of his sin to him.  However, we must recognize that David could not have meant “God lets us off scot free when He forgives us” because he spent the rest of his life going through God’s judgment for that sin.  Furthermore, Scott’s comment “How many sins are you holding on to, that you say happened, that God said never happened because it’s forgotten?” contradicts the glaring point that God vividly reminded David of his sin when Absalom fulfilled verses 11 and 12 and slept with David’s wives in public.

 

Based on the very words of God in 2 Samuel 12:11 (I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you), He is the one who caused Absalom to sleep with David’s wives.  How could He have done that if He had forgotten?  Lastly, we may conjecture: did God intend to bring this consequence about in such a manner that David did not know why he was being punished?  Or does it make more sense that David knew exactly what was going on, and this fulfillment of God’s prophecy poignantly reminded him of his sin because it was supposed toThis is critical information to keep in mind when we consider what Psalm 103 meant to David when he wrote it.

 

To cast as far as the east is from the west does not mean it never happened.  It means that it did happen, and God separated us from the divine penalty of our sins through the cross.  In no way should it be construed that forgiveness separates us from earthly penalties.  Through our exegesis, there is no indication that David thought that God forgot about his sin in the sense that we think of someone completely forgetting something.  David was aware that God was bringing consequences on him throughout his life, which serves as an indication that David did not think that God completely forgot his sin. David could never claim that in God’s eyes his sin never happened.  That would simply be taking God’s forgiveness too far.  Rather, the divine, ultimate penalty of David’s sin would never be laid to his account.  That David praises God for not laying his sin to his account in Psalm 32:2 (Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity), demonstrates that he recognized that “imputation” vis a vis “justification” is more related to canceling David’s heavenly debt than that “God has completely forgotten that such sin ever occurred.”  In a manner of speaking, David’s debt in heaven was satisfied by God’s forgiveness but his debt on earth (consequences) was not.

 

Therefore, the Old Testament concept of God removing our sins and remembering them no more seems to be from a position of finality, such that God will not remember them at the final judgment.  Also, while it might be “as though it never happened” in relation to our position before God, that does not negate our position before men or government.  That God condones earthly consequences precludes the possibility that He “forgets” our sins.  If He truly forgot, He couldn’t possibly send consequences or chastisement, which would violate Galatians 5:7-8 “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

 

Now would be a good time to mention that the term “sea of forgetfulness” is not mentioned in the Bible.  Perhaps even more shocking, it doesn’t even occur in Christian history: you cannot find any early Jewish scholar, middle-ages writer, or post-reformation leader ever using the term, from the earliest church father clear through John Wesley.  It seems to be entirely a phrase coined during the Charismatic renewal of the 60’s and 70’s.  As such, it is imperative to recognize that we have turned this “sea” into something that didn’t occur to the first 2,000 years of Christian writers.  There is no physical or spiritual “sea” that has the qualities of being able to cause God to completely forget that the sin ever occurred in the first place, or that His omniscience is incapable of piercing through to cause Him to remember.  The passage of Scripture that we seem to have taken this notion from is Micah 7:18-19:

 

“Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
 You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

 

As fundamentalist Christians we strive to take the Bible literally wherever we can; however, in our attempts to do so we are susceptible to missing the figurative language God chooses to employ through His authors.  An example would be Jesus telling His disciples to forgive seventy times seven times.  We understand He was not being literal: His point is that we ought to forgive as often as we are sinned against.  Since there is no indication of an actual sea—physical or spiritual—existing where God casts sin into, it makes a lot more sense to look for the ultimate point of the figurative language.  As such, we interpret Micah 7:19 as God separating the divine penalty of sin from our account while maintaining His omniscience.  As a group who believes that salvation can be lost, this resolves the difficulty that the sea-of-forgetfulness argument faces when one considers the case of a man who lost his salvation and at the judgment must give an account for all his sins—even the ones that God purportedly forgot.  The only alternative is to create this never-spoken-of-trait of God that He has a fishing pole for backsliders that allows Him to double back on His promises and reel into memory something that was supposedly blotted out, cast into oblivion, and forgotten forever.  Furthermore, it must be noted that the logic that assumes that God truly forgets our sin when He forgives us, yet He is capable of “re-remembering” if we backslide, reduces to the ad absurdum conclusion that God could remember something He has truly, completely forgotten.  Such a position creates a circus out of God’s omnipotence and omniscience, as though they are somehow trumping each other instead of operating in harmony.  If God could forget, it would be for good.  If He could remember something that He forgot, then by definition He didn’t really forget it.  This demonstrates the subtle but important difference between God forgiving us as though we had never sinned, which requires imputation, as opposed to the notion that God’s forgiveness causes the sin to have never occurred in the first place.

 

For the sake of completeness, the only alternative explanation that could be offered would be that God knows who will be saved and who will backslide, and He doesn’t throw the eventual backsliders’ sins into the supposed sea of forgetfulness.  This ultimately reduces to Calvinism, and creates a partial-forgiving God that will hold out on you today if He knows you will reject Him tomorrow.  Such is not the God we serve: His promises are to all who believe and are in full effect for as long as we believe.  If one is a child of God, they are a child of God.  As such, they enjoy full rank and privilege as all other children of God.  This is what makes backsliding so severe, such that one would “having tasted the heavenly gift, and become the partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come…” (Heb.6:4-5a) then choose to reject God’s full forgiveness.  Based on the passage just mentioned, such a partial-forgiving, halfway-house God does not exist.

 

Notice that God’s casting our sins into the depths of the sea would correlate very strongly to removing our sin as far as the east is from the west.  However, removing our guilt is not the same thing as removing our consequences.  The very fact that God does not forget our sins is what makes His forgiveness that much more powerful.  Our sins haven’t slipped God’s mind: He knows where they are.  He chooses to relate to us not as though they didn’t originally occur, but as though they did occur and have been placed on another’s account. As such, He promises that He will not recount (remember) our sins as relates to our eternal standing.  God’s mercy is not His ability to forget that which He has forgiven but rather His ability to forgive that which He cannot forget.

 

As we are about to see, the nature of God to not forget drives the salvation story forward.  Since He cannot truly forget our sins, His just nature demands that a penalty must be paid.  Salvation is the exchange of Christ’s righteousness being added to our account and our sins being added to Christ’s account, satisfying God’s omniscience, justice, and mercy.

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Forgiveness is not a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card, Part 1 OF 5: INTRODUCTION

It seems that the more a Christian learns about the mercy of God, the more poignant their own sin is to them.  The more we understand the evil of sin, the more we must pause in awe of the forgiveness that God has extended to us. However, it is important that we do not overextend the use of God’s forgiveness: it is not a “get out of jail free” card.  We do not see that record in Scripture, and we truthfully do not expect it in real life.  Recent statements by Star Scott—in particular equating being forgiven by God to your sin having never originally occurred—are far from orthodox and do more to undermine justification by imputation than to add any value to our understanding of God’s forgiveness.

 

“I was talking to somebody just the other day. I don’t remember all of the details. But the person came to me and said there was some confusion based upon a sin. “Some people just found out about this sin, and they were really shaken by it and couldn’t believe that something like that could happen in the life of a Christian.” They had come to this person in our fellowship here and was really distraught. The person came to me and said, “This is a big thing to them. What should I tell them?” This person knew what they were talking about. He was getting ready to go, now, meet this person. He said, “What should I do?” I said, “I would do something like this. I would go up and as they begin to speak toward this situation, I would just look them right straight in the eye and say, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about.'” “Well this and that, this was done, and that was done!” “I don’t remember any of that.” “What do you mean you don’t remember it?” “No, in fact I’m positive that never happened.” “What do you mean it never happened?” “It was cast into the sea of God’s forgetfulness,” amen? There’s nothing to talk about. It never happened. It never happened! How many of us keep letting it happen? How many sins are you holding on to, that you say happened, that God said never happened because it’s forgotten? Amen? Wouldn’t it be great to really believe the Bible? Wouldn’t it be great to really forgive and be able to receive forgiveness; amen? “Is it that absolute?” Absolutely! ”

Star Scott, Power in Humility, July 31, 2013

 

“So we realize, then that, as we’re walking in this spirit, it never-love never remains suspicious. Have any of you ever been sinned against? Are you at a place right now where those that have hurt you approach you and there’s no suspicion? Are you at that place (you need to get there) that you are so vulnerable, that you’re able to lay your life before them again? Just like it never happened. You have to, because here’s the reality: It never happened. Amen? If you forgive them, it never happened. If they confess that sin, it never happened. So why, then, are you suspicious? Why, then, are you continuing to think evil of this person that God has cleansed by His blood?

Star Scott,  The Greatest Witness, September 1, 2013

 

Forgiveness means it never happened–and if it never happened, then there can be no requisite that has to be met as to why we can now relate to one another. It never happened! It never happened. It never happened. “I want to believe that, but inside of me my emotions, the pain!” “…even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” So are you going to believe your emotions, or are you going to believe what God has told you to do?”                                                     Star Scott, No Greater Love pt. 5, August 15, 2012

 

Interestingly enough, Calvary Temple surely doesn’t treat your sins as forgotten when you’re ready to leave.  Exit interviews are spent recounting your sins to you, and if you leave then your sins are slyly recounted before the congregation under the guise of “minimizing confusion.”  For example, just recently there was a church-wide prayer meeting in which congregants would “nominate” someone who had left and Star Scott would let everyone know what sin they were supposedly involved in so that everyone could pray for it.  This continual rehashing is often of things that were disclosed in confidence years beforehand by somebody who genuinely wanted to get help—certainly they didn’t expect their trust to be used against them to undermine their credibility with their friends and family.

 

Incidentally, both extremes are wrong.  The idea that God can truly forget anything, in the sense that we as humans can forget anything, is patently false.  While their treatment of those who leave is certainly inconsistent with their previous stance, it is moreover inconsistent with true Biblical forgiveness.  While our sins are not absolved to the point as to have never originally occurred, they have been imputed to Christ’s account.  Therefore, the only way for them to be back on our own account is to reject Christ altogether.  Therefore, while CT members insist that they don’t believe that leaving their church is tantamount to leaving Christ, their actions indicate otherwise.

 

Thought Experiment

 

Perhaps our study would be aided by a quick thought experiment.  I will say that I suspect Star Scott’s doctrine is heavily influenced by trying to rationalize his past sins, and this thought experiment is designed to poke at his claims in an uncomfortable way.  So here it goes.  We all know about the Jerry Sandusky scandal: in 2012, former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of 45 counts of sexual abuse of young boys, most of which occurred over a decade beforehand.  Suppose that at his sentencing, he stood up and told the judge, “Your Honor, I understand that I was found guilty of 45 counts of child molestation, but yesterday I became a Christian.  I asked God to forgive me of those sins and He has.  God’s forgiveness means that He forgets that it ever happened: in fact, it is as though none of those sins ever did happen.  In fact Your Honor, it ought to be considered that these crimes happened decades ago and I have not done such things in a very long time.  Regardless, Your Honor, because God forgave me, it never happened.  Since it never happened, I should not have any punishment or consequence to bear.”  Now, in our thought experiment, if Jerry Sandusky truly did repent of his sins and God forgave him, then before the throne of heaven he would have his sins removed as far as the east is from the west, like Psalm 103 says.  God would truly relate to Jerry as though his sins never happened as in regards to his divine position in relation to his soul’s final destination.  However, is that the same thing as those sins truly having never originally occurred?  Ought our judge to release Jerry Sandusky from the earthly penalties due him?  Furthermore, imagine that every one of his victims stood before the judge and said “I have done a lot of thinking, and I just want Jerry to know that I have forgiven him for his sins against me.  I do not hold those sins to his account in any regard.”  At that point, ought the judge to let Jerry off the hook?  Suppose further that the judge were a devout Christian, and that he recognized that Jerry had been forgiven by God and man: does that absolve Jerry of his responsibility to be punished for his numerous, insidious crimes?  Does the forgiveness of God and man absolve our consequences before government leaders?

 

Suppose just a little further that instead of Jerry being caught and standing before a judge, that you became aware of this entire back story at the same moment that Jerry Sandusky was your pastor.  Suppose that he had hidden this terrible back story from the authorities and had managed to keep all of his victims quiet for 40 years, but perhaps through Providence you have been made aware that this grievous claim is true in every respect.  Furthermore, suppose that these criminal acts were occurring immediately after Jerry Sandusky supposedly became a Christian and was happening during the entire time that Jerry Sandusky was attending Bible College.  Do you think that in light of the tests provided in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (all things have passed away such that all things become new) and 1 John 3:9 (“No one who is born of God will continue to sin…they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God), you could possibly conclude that such a conversion was genuine?

 

Could someone who fails the tests in 2 Corinthians 5:17 and 1 John 3:9 possibly claim that they are called to ministry? Can a non-Christian hear a call to ministry? In light of Jerry’s gross sins that are not even mentionable among the Gentiles (to borrow from Paul), could he pass the qualifications for eldership?  Could he somehow argue that even though he is by no means (1) blameless, (2) of good behavior, (3) able to teach, (4) not violent, (5) not a novice, or (6) of good testimony among those who are outside (beyond reproach) according to 1 Timothy 3:1-7, that his self proclaimed “calling to ministry” precludes him from needing to meet the base qualifications?  I mentioned “able to teach.”  I mean, if he spent the entirety of his time in Bible college molesting minors, what Bible knowledge could he possibly have retained, especially in light of 1 Corinthians 2:14 (The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit)?  Could he claim to have the Spirit while at the same time failing the most basic tests of Christianity i.e. by repeatedly and relentless molesting minors in such a way as to demonstrate that there could be no genuine repentance during those years?  Can this man (Jerry Sandusky…not Star Scott) claim that you have no Biblical support in seeking someone else to be your pastor, because by his own proclamation, God called him to be your pastor?

 

Ok, that was a very involved thought experiment.  Rarely is the purpose of a thought experiment to address the obvious answers.  It is meant to provide means to explore the various nuances and predicaments that arise from the description.  Since it was long and full of rhetorical questions, I will summarize below:

 

  1. If Jerry Sandusky (or anyone) was forgiven by God and man for his sins, does that preclude him from having to pay the consequences of his crimes?
    1. Is there a difference between God’s forgiveness making it as though we never sinned and God’s forgiveness making it that we never sinned in the first place?
    2. Does God truly forget our sins such that His consequences for us are nullified by His forgiveness?
  2. Could Jerry Sandusky be a Christian during the same 15 year time period that he was molesting minors?
    1. Could Jerry Sandusky hear from God, be called and qualified for ministry during the same 15 year time period that he was molesting minors?
    2. If Jerry Sandusky told you that God wanted him to be your pastor, do you have the God-given responsibility to vet him to ensure that this really is God’s desire for your life and you family’s life, and that this man isn’t really a wolf?

 

As we explore these issues through the Word and our God-given common sense, we should begin to see a Biblical pattern emerge that addresses the underlying theme of how sin continues to affect our civil and sacred lives after we’ve been forgiven.  I guess now would be a good time to mention what might be obvious to some and less obvious to others: there truly is no difference between Jerry Sandusky and Star Scott as far as crimes are concerned.  From a criminal justice perspective, they would both be found guilty of breaking the same sections in the law code and be sentenced in similar fashion for crimes that they committed decades before.  The difference is that current CT congregants are able to despise a Jerry Sandusky and revere a Star Scott because of decades spent presenting steadily deteriorating doctrine that is self-serving to Scott’s goals, which ultimately come down to pretending that he is somehow different from Jerry Sandusky.  If you are a current CT member and you are reading this, pause and consider if the early church would have ever allowed Jerry Sandusky to be a pastor over a local flock.  That stated, let’s begin.

 

This is a five part series, authored by Brandon. Please check back tomorrow for Part 2!

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The Why & How of Personal Bible Study | Part 4

by Naomi

This is a four part series. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

We have talked about the attitude of Calvary Temple leadership on personal Bible study. We understand our personal and spiritual deficiencies when we exist without personal Bible study. The question remains; what shall we do now? Study the Bible! How do we study the Bible? Keep reading for a few recommendations on this vast subject.

Recommendations for Personal Bible Study:

* Get a new version of the Bible. At Calvary Temple, the King James Version is the preferred translation. Unfortunately, this version only serves to confuse most modern readers. There are a few peculiarities to the KJV that make it even more difficult for CT members to understand the meaning.

a) The King James Version is printed in verse form, with each verse being its own paragraph. This format causes readers to mistakenly believe that each verse is separate from the others, and instead of reading the author’s whole train of thought–they get “revelation” from one single verse and often, their application is skewed violently from the author’s original intent. This is in violation of basic laws of Bible interpretation. This concept is useful to Star Scott because he often quotes only one verse or one phrase from a verse and then indicates that the hearer should fill in the blanks. Because the hearers are conditioned by Star Scott’s ignorant Bible interpretation, they assume that the volume of Bible verses he quotes means he is teaching solid Bible truth.

b) The KJV’s antiquated language is a great barrier in understanding (and therefore, properly applying) Scripture. English words are used much differently now than they were in the 1600s or even the 1800s. It’s easy to assume you know the meaning of the text, and you might be entirely wrong. It is also easy for a not-very-educated pastor like Star Scott to proclaim the KJV says one thing (because of a particular word or turn of phrase) and for every Calvary Temple member to accept it as truth. Star Scott has very little knowledge in the original languages. By “very little,” I mean even less than I do. Add his propensity for dishonest Bible interpretation to his ignorance and you have a recipe for disaster.

c) The King James Version is translated word for word. The literal accuracy is great; but any language translator knows that there will be discrepancies because of differing syntax and idioms.

I’m not saying that the King James Version is bad. I keep several KJV Bibles for my own personal study. I am simply stating that you should be aware of the KJV’s weaknesses, complexities and variances. Then, you can more easily understand how Calvary Temple and Star Scott can use the Bible for their own gain.

There are many great translations that may be more helpful to you in your personal study of the Bible. I prefer the New American Standard. My husband reads the New International Version. We often borrow each other’s Bibles for cross-references and use additional versions of the Bible for clarity (a great way to avoid taking things out of context). Be informed.

Find a Bible that you can understand. It makes reading and applying God’s Word so much easier.

* Get understanding in basic Bible interpretation.

I highly, highly recommend “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth” by Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart. It’s a short, relatively easy read. This book is incredibly helpful on learning how to interpret the Bible yourself. When you have spent most of your life listening to a pastor make the Bible say whatever he thinks it should, you need a complete brain overhaul on how to interpret the Bible. You need a good dose of real common sense and real hermeneutics. Star Scott uses the word “hermeneutics” and then completely does the opposite of proper hermeneutics. This would be funny, if it wasn’t so alarming.

Here’s a few simple rules for understanding the Bible:

1. Context is key. Don’t just read one verse and then, build a doctrine out of it. Read a few verses before and after, read the whole chapter, read the whole book. For real understanding and a good overview, read the whole Bible. You will have a much better understanding of what God is saying through His Word when you have seen what He says in the whole thing. As a vociferous reader of many kinds of literature, I rarely read a book that I don’t finish. It amazes me that so many people (who claim Christianity as their reason for existence) have not read the entire Bible cover to cover. To truly understand the meaning of Scripture, you must read ALL of the Bible for yourself.

2. It cannot mean to you what it did not mean to them (the original audience). You need to understand the author’s original intent to be able to understand its meaning. A text cannot mean what it never meant. You will never be able to have a proper application of a verse if you do not comprehend its original meaning.

* Get honest.

Many people get uncomfortable when they come across a Scripture verse that contradicts or challenges their previously-held beliefs. It is dishonest to twist God’s Word to fit your own ideas. We must be able to submit our preferences to what God is or is not saying in Scripture. Commit yourself to personal honesty, no matter how uncomfortable it is. Be diligent-absolutely bulldog stubborn–in your pursuit of truth.

*Get serious about personal Bible study.

Many people have a mental block about reading the Bible in its entirety. Book, chapter and verse dividers have made it easy for us to pick up a few verses here and there and consider ourselves great scholars of the Word, or at least good Christians. If you have not read the Bible completely, cover-to-cover, beginning to end, that you should make it a top priority to do that. Right now.

Here’s some food for thought:

The Bible contains about 789,000 words, give or take depending on your translation. The Harry Potter series contains approx. 1,084,000 words. The Twilight Series contains approx. 520,000 words. In the time it takes to read these two series of garbage, someone could read the Bible through cover to cover twice. If the overwhelming majority of pre-teen girls can devour those series over and over again, why do we shudder at the thought of devouring the Word of God once? Much less three to four times a year? If you truly believe that the Bible is inspired by God and is beneficial to your spiritual life, then treat it as such. READ. Jump over that mental block. Read so that you become spiritually mature, strengthened and able to handle anything that comes your way.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Conclusion

My intent is not to condemn or guilt you into reading the Bible more. My desire is to challenge you to be studious in your personal pursuit of Christ, to plow into the depths of Him, to find truth for yourself instead of being that little helpless child that believes everyone and everything. I want you to know the tremendous value of Scripture. We have been given the most precious gift in having the ability to study God’s words for ourselves. Don’t surrender that gift to anybody else.

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The Why & How of Personal Bible Study | Part 3

by Naomi

This is four part series. Read Part 1 and Part 2 here.

My challenge to you: Study the Bible for yourself.

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

Turn off Star Scott’s teachings and find out what God really says in His Word. Once you dig in, you will be surprised by the ignorance that is propagated under the guise of “being so well-taught.” For people who claim to be uncompromising in the Word, they have very little respect for it and very little knowledge of it, besides Star Scott’s multiple Bible phrases thrown into his sermon-type rambling. The sad truth is that for a great apostle who “sets doctrine,” he handles the Scriptures like a first-grader. Topical studies pulled straight from the concordance (the concordance is a tool, not a crutch), spiritual jargon, rambling, contextual messes, convenient theology that changes based on who left the church at that particular time, nonsensical strings of phrases that sound like Scripture, but do not originate from Scripture.

It will take work to study the Bible and not be influenced by the things you have been taught since your youth. The continual stream of ‘teaching’ should be called, “brainwashing.” To brainwash is to make (someone) adopt radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible pressure. Calvary Temple utilizes this method by mocking anyone who disagrees, reinforcing Star Scott’s teaching by having other pastors teach and quote him more than they quote the Bible as if he were the final authority, by threatening dissenters with painful penalties and employing manipulation and church discipline as weapons under the guise of being “for your own good.” Calvary Temple breeds Scriptural ignorance under the guise of “being so well-taught.” This is heart-breaking and maddening and disgusting all at the same time. Ignorance is not bliss. Whether you are a current member or a former member or simple someone who has had contact with Calvary Temple, I urge you to study the Word of God for yourself.

As believers in Christ, it is our sober responsibility and our greatest privilege to be able to study the Word of God personally. Christians throughout the ages have laid down their lives, often burned at the stake, to give us the Bible in our language. Christ Himself laid down His life, suffered the most awful agony on the cross–for the purpose of ripping the veil in the temple–a symbol of His making a way for personal access with God. To willingly give up that access to God and His Word is to denigrate His sacrifice and devalue one of the basic tenets of the faith–the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture.

Calvary Temple thinks you don’t need the Bible… personally. Or they think you don’t need “too much of it.” They like to twist Scriptures like “much learning hath made you mad!” (Acts 26:24) and “knowledge puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1) to discourage personal Bible study. Those two verses have nothing to do with personally studying the Word of God to know and understand Him better. Calvary Temple implies that you need to be spoon-fed Bible teaching from Star Scott. They’re dead wrong.

You need God. You need His Word. You don’t need Star Scott.

Stay tuned for Part 4!

 

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The Why & How of Personal Bible Study | Part 2

by Naomi

This is a four part series. Read Part 1 here.

Without personal study of the Word, we are unable to discern between good and evil.

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” Hebrews 5:12-14

Over and over again, our ignorance mocks us. We hear the words of so-called church leadership who tell us to do things absolutely contrary to the Word of God. We believe them. We submit to them. Lives are destroyed because we could not/would not/did not assimilate the Bible into ourselves. You might be wondering what this lack of discernment looks like. Let me elaborate.

One disturbing example is the tendency of Calvary Temple leadership to insert their unBiblical “counsel” into the marriages of their members. They suggest (in reality, demand) that members separate from their dissenting spouse, which is opposite what Scripture teaches. They declare that “spiritual adultery” is grounds for divorce, when in fact, that phrase is never, ever, EVER used in the Bible to talk about the literal marriage covenant between a man and wife. They counsel separation if a spouse is ‘speaking against leadership’ or ‘questioning’ or any attitude that is rebellious towards church leadership. They usurp the authority of the husband by suggesting that the wife confide in some other man about spiritual matters (hello! inappropriate!), especially to tattle on their husband for real or imagined sin. Calvary Temple leadership violates the sanctity of the marriage covenant, by making it about the Husband, the Wife and the Church, rather than a precious covenant between Husband & Wife, at the exclusion of all others. If a spouse expresses the desire to leave Calvary Temple (I will not elaborate on this concept in this article, but let me state: yes, you can leave a church. No, you don’t need the leadership’s permission), the leadership suggests manipulative tactics, running back to one’s parents (completely contrary to Scripture’s teachings on this subject), ignoring one’s spouse while they’re on church discipline, breaking them down and using children as pawns in a life-altering game. Their strategies are absolutely despicable and only more so because they are done under the guise of obeying the Bible.

The Bible is clear on the subjects of marriage and divorce. When a man and wife are married, no one gets in between. They leave their parents (Genesis 2:24) and cling to each other. If a believer and unbeliever are married, they are to stay married unless the unbeliever decides to leave (1 Corinthians 7:12-13). Just because someone leaves the church doesn’t give their spouse any room to divorce them. Even if they leave Calvary Temple and leave the faith completely, there is still no room for a professing believer to divorce them. God hates divorce. He hates it! He detests it! God created marriage as a covenant not to be broken, and most definitely NOT for the stupidest reason ever of leaving Calvary Temple.

In this example, Calvary Temple has taken something that God despises — divorce — and actually called it necessary and held it up as some badge of honor. They have encouraged what God strongly discourages. This flip-flopping of truth is not limited to the idea of marriage and divorce, but rather is a prevalent practice throughout Calvary Temple. Star Scott calls something good evil, and something evil good, and nobody reads the Bible enough to recognize it.

Without personal study of the Word, we are perpetual babies.

Just like our bodies are designed to grow and mature from babyhood to adulthood, God intends for us to grow up spiritually (Ephesians 4:15). No growth = abnormal. Calvary Temple likes to keep people in perpetual babyhood, because babies don’t question. Babies don’t talk. Babies don’t leave. Babies just eat what’s shoved in their mouths and smile.

“like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” 1 Peter 2:2

It is a mark of a true believer that they are hungry for the Word of God. I seriously wonder how any pastor could discourage a new believer from studying the Word for themselves. The Word of God is the catalyst for our spiritual growth. Without the Word, we will starve. Without the Word, we will degrade and waste away. The Word is what leads us to victory.

“I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” 1 John 2:14

It is an interesting process. Because you are a newborn baby in Christ, you are hungry. You desire spiritual food. You want the milk of the Word. You eat that Word. It is life and spiritual strength and victory to you. Subsequently, you grow up in God. You are no longer a baby. You are a man or woman of God. You are mature. That is exactly what God designed you to be.

Read Part 3 now!

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Biblical Authority: Pastoral Authority is not Mosaic and it is not Priestly | Part 3 of 3

This is Part 3 in a 3-part series. We recommend reading Part 1 and Part 2 before proceeding.

Part 3 of 3: Conclusion

In Part 1 of this three-part article we introduced the thesis, which is that pastoral authority is not Mosaic and it is not priestly.  This claim goes directly against Star Scott’s teachings that pastoral authority is Mosaic and it is priestly.  The implications of such teachings are far reaching.  As such, we have set out to study Scripture to see which claims are true and which are not.  Our studying led us to the book of Hebrews, the context of which will address our dilemma.

We then went through the first 10 chapters of the book of Hebrews in an effort to better understand the context of that book.  We will not restate all that was said, and if you are reading this Part 3 right now, do understand that we intended for you to read parts 1 and 2 beforehand in order to fully understand our position during this conclusion.  While we cannot restate the entirety of our arguments from the first two parts, we will resubmit our outline of Hebrews 1-10:18 for reference:

  • Section 1: Christ is superior to angels (1:1-14)
    • An admonition concerning salvation (2:1-4)
  • Section 2: Christ’s complete humanity qualifies Him to be our High Priest (2:5-18)
  • Section 3: Christ is superior to Moses (3:1-19)
  • Section 4: Christ is superior to Joshua in that He is able to bring us to rest (4:1-13).
  • Section 5a: Christ’s High Priesthood compared to the Aaronic Priesthood (4:14-5:10)
    • Another admonition concerning maturity, falling away, and faith (5:11-6:20)
  • Section 5b: Christ’s High Priesthood is superior to Aaron’s high priesthood (7:1-28)
  • Section 6: Christ is our High Priest. God’s new covenant supersedes the old. (8:1-13)
  • Section 7: Christ is the testator and mediator of the new covenant (9:1-28)
  • Section 8: Christ is the final sacrifice; summary thoughts (10:1-18)

Now that we have covered the doctrinal element of Hebrews, we can return to the statement that pastoral authority is not Mosaic and it is not priestly.  This assertion is made as a counter-claim to the two claims that Star Scott makes in his sermons from the introduction: they are restated below in their entirety.  He also makes these claims outside of those two sermons, but we want to explore the claims using the sermon excerpts as evidence of his claims:

Star Scott Claim #1: God used the example of Moses leading the children of Israel to establish pastoral authority in our lives. This example perfectly correlates to the New Testament five fold ministry gifts. 

Proposed Supporting Scripture: Ps. 77:20

Star Scott, Steps of the Good Man Pt. 3, April 25, 2010:

“There is a very interesting example in the Scripture that shows how God led the flock of God, or the people of God, and Moses as the shepherd of that covenant people, “Thou leddest Thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (Psalm 77:20). So, as He is leading them like a flock by the hand of Moses, we begin to see the method that God used was to put people in authority in our lives. He establishes divine order as a primary method of leading us as a flock…Most of us, though, are not concerned with how He leads the church; we’re concerned with how He’s leading me. And the minute we begin to think about me, and not how we fit into the community, we have already perverted the reason for wanting to know the will of God. Because our desire for knowing the will of God should be, “How can I better edify the body of Christ? How can I be used more for the glory of God?” When we have that kind of heart attitude, we are in a place where we can hear what the Holy Spirit wants to say to us. But, if we are not careful that competitive spirit which is in every one of us, our desire to compete for to advance in temporal areas, which are secular, instead of eternal and spiritual, will arise because that’s what is in us without the dominance of the Holy Spirit. Then, especially in Christians, our rebellion is often wrapped in “Christianese” — using Christian language, spiritual words, and Bible references–to somehow camouflage our self will and how we see ourselves.  “God led them by the hand of Moses;” what a beautiful passage.  Look at Psalm 77; it is so good that you need to look at it. The Lord is being exalted throughout this whole Psalm: “I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings;” (verse 12), “Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people.” (verse 14) Speaking of the greatness of God–the bigness of God: “The voice of Thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook.” (Verse 18) Just the majesty of God! Then it says, “Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” (Verse 20) Now, in the midst of all of that there is a powerful statement made there. We see all of the majestic aspects of the holy God we serve–His omnipotence and His immensity–we stand in awe, then it says exactly what we have been studying in Ephesians, that God chose an order and established it in their midst: there is an order in the kingdom of God; there is an order in the church; there is an order in the home. Yet, everything in man says, “No, I have a responsibility to myself.” That’s what Eve said when Satan offered her the opportunity to have her eyes opened so she no longer had to depend upon God or upon Adam as a covering. “I can now hear directly from God.” If you don’t recognize that spirit, you will be very susceptible to deception–especially in these hours that are coming upon us.”

Star Scott Claim #2: The New Testament’s five-fold ministry gifts hear the voice of God and the will of God for an individual believer on a higher level than that individual believer.  They hear the Word of God from a different perspective that gives them a greater ability to interpret its meaning.

Proposed Supporting Scripture: no verses directly cited

Star Scott, Knowing God’s Voice, Hearing God’s Will Pt. 2, January 20, 2008:

“As we study the Word of God, I think there’s a great error in the church as it pertains to revelation of God’s will and order for His church. We live in a day when everyone seems to believe that we can hear equally. I want to share with you that that’s not a biblical principle. Aren’t you thankful that the Spirit of God lives in every one of us, and that the Spirit within you leads you into all truth? Can you say, “Praise God!” for that? Yet, the methods that He uses many times are misunderstood. We live in a day when we’ve lost sight of the fact that God predominantly speaks to men that are placed by Him in roles of leadership. We’re talking about the biblical representation of the lordship of Jesus, as He has set in the church (as it pleases Him) apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers, to teach and govern the body of Christ. You see, we live in a day when we still believe that each one of us has insight and input that is equal, but I want to share with you one thing. You’re going to be deceived and you’re going to become shipwrecked if you refuse to understand that God has put counselors, overseers, and spiritual authority into your life who will speak to you the Word of God. They hear the Word of God from a different perspective and on a different level than you hear it. We don’t like to hear that. We think we’re all equal, but I’m here to tell you that we are not.”

Star Scott Claim #1.

 Taking on Star Scott Claim #1, let us return to Hebrews:

  1. We see in 3:1-6 that Christ is better than Moses.
  2. We see in 7:4-10 that Christ is better than Aaron.
  3. We see again in 8:5-6 that the old covenant that Moses was a part of is just a shadow of the new covenant, and that the ministry of Jesus is superior to the priests in the same way that the new covenant is better than the old covenant.  Verse 6 explicitly says that the new covenant is established on better promises.
  4. We see that 8:7 states that if the old covenant had nothing wrong with it there would have been no reason for God to promise another.
  5. We see that 7:12 states that a change in the priesthood would necessitate a change of the law.
  6. As a consequence, 10:9 says that He took away the first that He may establish the second.  The covenant we are living under today is separate and distinct from the covenant of Moses’ day.  The priesthood has changed from the old priesthood to Christ’s priesthood.
  7. Furthermore, 8:8-12, which is a quote of Jer. 31:31-34 shows clearly that the new covenant will not be like the old covenant God made “when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt.”
  8. Also, 8:11 shows that our access to God and our knowing God is now based on the equality of each believer before God.
  9. Consequently, 8:13 says as clearly as could be said that the old law is now obsolete and has no further use.
  10. As a result, 9:13-14 demonstrates that Christ’s sacrifice is infinitely more powerful than the sacrifices in bulls and goats, in that Christ’s sacrifice cleanses our consciences in order that we may serve the living God.  This is further testified in 10:22 as the first direct result of the doctrine established in ch. 1-10:18.

Let’s look again at the sermon:

Star Scott, Steps of the Good Man Pt. 3, April 25, 2010:

“There is a very interesting example in the Scripture that shows how God led the flock of God, or the people of God, and Moses as the shepherd of that covenant people, “Thou leddest Thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (Psalm 77:20). So, as He is leading them like a flock by the hand of Moses, we begin to see the method that God used was to put people in authority in our lives. He establishes divine order as a primary method of leading us as a flock…”

Looking at points (1) and (2) made in Hebrews, Christ supersedes Moses and Aaron.  Furthermore, He now serves in the roles that Moses and Aaron served in, only according to point (3) it is in an infinitely superior way.  So if God promised a better way, why would Star Scott insist on the old way?  Furthermore, point (4) states that there was something wrong with the old covenant, in that it was not complete: for Star Scott to insist on its use is to accept a system that God Himself declared to be faulty and incomplete.  Point (5) shows that as a result of the old priesthood changing, the law had to change as well: clearly by (6) the purpose of Christ’s coming was to take away that old law and old priesthood in order to establish a new covenant with a new priesthood—His priesthood.  Look again at the passage that is summarized in point (5): the priesthood had to change from man to Christ.  Therefore, no man can claim the functions of that role any more, as point (9) shows that the old law has been made obsolete.

If points 1-6 were not compelling enough, let us compare point (7) with Star Scott’s words.  Point (7) is in reference to the words of the Bible found in Hebrews and Jeremiah (by the mouth of two or three witnesses let every word be established):

Star Scott:

“Thou leddest Thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (Psalm 77:20). So, as He is leading them like a flock by the hand of Moses, we begin to see the method that God used was to put people in authority in our lives. He establishes divine order as a primary method of leading us as a flock…”

 

OT Messianic Prophecy:

The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.

It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,” (Jer. 31:31-32)

 

NT fulfillment confirmed:

The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.

It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,”(Heb. 8:8-9)

What is most amazing about trying to use Ps. 77:20 to establish future doctrine is that this goes directly against point (7), where God says in Jer. 31:32 and again in Heb. 8:8-9 that the covenant that God will establish through the death of Christ “will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt.”  This is a breaking of one of the most basic rules of hermenutics, that “Scripture reveals Scripture.”  What that means is that we use the obvious, large passages of the Bible that are understood by all to comprehend the small, obsure parts of the Bible that might be used by some to bring confusion.

Looking as Ps. 77:20, there are several concerns I have with him using this verse as evidence of his claim.  One of the first things a Bible student would learn is that we cannot read the Psalms as having the same purpose as the Epistles.  In the specific case of Ps. 77:20, it is not Messianic or prophetic, and it does not point to the future.  It is a psalm of worship and a psalm of history, meaning that the section in 77:10-20 was written for the purpose of evoking worship to the Lord through a historical account of God’s goodness.  It reflects on the past, not the future.  This is very, very different from a verse that would be used to establish New Testament doctrine.  We see plenty of psalms and other prophetic passages that were Messianic being used as supporting evidence by the author of Hebrews and other New Testament writers.  For example, Jeremiah 31:31-34 was obviously written

  1. of a future time when God would change His covenant,
  2. it was considered Messianic by the Jews,
  3. and it was confirmed as Messianic by its reiteration in Hebrews.

None of those things are true of Ps. 77:20.  It was speaking of

  1. a past reflectoin of God’s goodness in His old covenant,
  2. it was not considered Messianic by the Jews,
  3. and it was never reitereated in the New Testament

As it is not intended to speak towards the future, and as Star Scott’s interpretation of it goes directly against the entire book of Hebrews and ch. 8:8-9 in particular (Scripture reveals Scripture), we must assume that its intention was other than what Star Scott has used it for.  Therefore, Ps. 77:20 cannot be used to establish authority under the New Covenant, because it was never intended to establish authority under the New Covenant.

The implications of this comparison are alarming, and it raises a variety of important questions such as

  • How is it that Star Scott has come to a place of teaching as doctrine something that goes directly against Scripture?
  • What does it say about his ability to discern good and evil if he teaches the opposite of what the Bible teaches?
  • If he is such a good exegete as he claims to be, how is it that he got this one so blatantly wrong?
  • As one teaching the Word and requiring it of others, does he use basic hermenutic principles to aid in his interpretation of the Bible?
  • Why didn’t the congregants of Calvary Temple see this problem as soon as the words escaped Star Scott’s mouth?
  • What predisposition leads a man to misinterpret the Bible in this way?
  • What predisposition leads the other men to accept the Bible in this way?

Let’s move on to the rest of the sermon:

Star Scott, Steps of the Good Man Pt. 3, April 25, 2010:

“then it says exactly what we have been studying in Ephesians, that God chose an order and established it in their midst: there is an order in the kingdom of God; there is an order in the church; there is an order in the home. Yet, everything in man says, “No, I have a responsibility to myself.” That’s what Eve said when Satan offered her the opportunity to have her eyes opened so she no longer had to depend upon God or upon Adam as a covering. “I can now hear directly from God.” If you don’t recognize that spirit, you will be very susceptible to deception–especially in these hours that are coming upon us.”

This is a faulty correlation to Ephesians.  As we’ve already established, Ps. 77 is a historical psalm and cannot be used to establish a New Testament doctrine concerning pastoral authority.  That he had to grasp at the last verse of an obscure psalm is telling in and of itself.  Furthermore, taking points (4) and (6) together, Star Scott’s desire to use Old Testament examples to establish New Testament principles ignores points (3) and (9) that the new covenant is better and the old covenant has no further use—it has been replaced by Christ Himself.  Remember, Heb. 8:13 cannot contradict Matt. 5:17.  Star Scott likes Matt 5:17 and quotes it a lot to bring back the Old Testament authority structures.  The law being obsolete obviously does not mean there is no further use for the Old Testament: there are still prophecies that need to be fulfilled out of the Old Testament so it clearly cannot be entirely useless.  However, it is also clear from Hebrews that the aspects of the old law that had to do with how God led His people under the old covenant were made obsolete when Christ died.  The Mosaic aspects, the priestly aspects, and the ceremonial aspects of the law were made obsolete because they were fulfilled in Christ.  Star Scott’s reason for gravitating to these Old Testament authority structures is the same reason all cults gravitate towards them:  it gives him more power and control.  The danger he faces, however, is that the power and authority he is taking has been given to Christ.

Star Scott: “Yet, everything in man says, ‘No, I have a responsibility to myself.’”

Yeah, every man does have a responsibility to himself according to Phil.2:12 which commands us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”  Furthermore, every man must give account before God for themselves, so yeah, we should take that responsibility very seriously.  That means if Star Scott says something against the Bible, I must go against Star Scott because I will be held accountable to God for what I choose to do.  We stopped at Heb. 10:18, but let us move on to what directly followed: v. 19 starts with a “therefore.”  That means what the author is about to say is a direct result of what he just said:

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having a high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with water.”   Heb. 10:19-22

What this means is that it is of great importance that you as an individual understand your Christ-given responsibility to approach God for yourself.  It is absolutely not the responsibility of your pastor or any other man to draw near to God for you.  Each man must draw near for himself in full assurance that Christ has made the way for us to approach our God.  You do have a responsibility to yourself.

Star Scott: “That’s what Eve said when Satan offered her the opportunity to have her eyes opened so she no longer had to depend upon God or upon Adam as a covering. ‘I can now hear directly from God.’ If you don’t recognize that spirit, you will be very susceptible to deception–especially in these hours that are coming upon us.”

 

No, that’s not what Eve said.  Eve’s reasoning was that she would be made like God.  Scripture records nothing of her saying “I have a responsibility to myself.”  She also didn’t sin so she could ‘now hear directly from God.’  She already heard directly from God, every evening in the garden.  To use the example of Eve looking to be free from God as a correlation to a congregant wanting to be free from abusive church leadership looks a lot like “‘Christianese’ — using Christian language, spiritual words, and Bible references–to somehow camouflage our self will and how we see ourselves” to quote Star Scott.  Moreover, Scott’s own correlation puts him in the part of the analogy that God is in.  Further evidence of a faulty correlation.

 

Point (8) shows that according to Heb. 8:11, we now do hear directly from God.  Adam and Eve heard directly from God in the garden, and that direct link to God was broken when Adam sinned.  Part of God’s promise in His new covenant is that He would restore that relationship to man with the death of His Son.  So “hearing directly from God” is not a rebellious spirit that would make us susceptible to deception, it’s the promise God made in the new covenant.  It’s part of what makes the new covenant established on better promises.  The new covenant is salvation.  “They all will know me, from the least to the greatest.”  Again, Star Scott is found in a place of saying the exact opposite of what Scripture says.

Star Scott Claim #2.

The thought that a pastor could hear from God “on a higher level” than an individual believer makes no sense when viewed in the context of Hebrews.  Let’s pretend for a second that we found a verse like that in the middle of Hebrews.  So we have “There remains a rest for the people of God (Heb. 4:9),” “Seeing we have a high priest who is ascended into heaven…let us boldly approach God’s throne of grace (Heb. 4:14-16),” “No longer will they teach their neighbor or say to one another ‘Know the Lord’ because they will all know me from the least to the greatest (Heb. 8:11),” and “God gave Pastor Scott authority to hear from Him on a higher level than you do (Book of Bob 1:1).”  That last one doesn’t make sense in light of the Word of God…who wrote that last one?

Star Scott, Knowing God’s Voice, Hearing God’s Will Pt. 2, January 20, 2008:

“As we study the Word of God, I think there’s a great error in the church as it pertains to revelation of God’s will and order for His church. We live in a day when everyone seems to believe that we can hear equally. I want to share with you that that’s not a biblical principle.”

Star Scott needs to read Hebrews 8.  According to point (9) taken from Hebrews 8:11, it is a Biblical principle.  It actually serves as one of the pivotal points in God’s promises under the new covenant, that we would no longer need each one his neighbor to tell him “know the Lord,” because we would each know God for ourselves (Heb. 8:11).  Star Scott speaks of an inequality as being God’s desire for His people.  This flies in the face of the remainder of that prophecy:  “For they all shall know me, from the least to the greatest of them.”  This is not speaking of some hierarchy that God is trying to establish in the church.  Taking point (9) and Heb. 10:19-22 together, we see that the purpose of what Jeremiah was saying is that our knowledge of God would now be equal, and we can as individuals have unbridled access into the holy of holies.

Star Scott, Knowing God’s Voice, Hearing God’s Will Pt. 2, January 20, 2008:

“Aren’t you thankful that the Spirit of God lives in every one of us, and that the Spirit within you leads you into all truth? Can you say, “Praise God!” for that?  Yet, the methods that He uses many times are misunderstood. We live in a day when we’ve lost sight of the fact that God predominantly speaks to men that are placed by Him in roles of leadership…You’re going to be deceived and you’re going to become shipwrecked if you refuse to understand that God has put counselors, overseers, and spiritual authority into your life who will speak to you the Word of God. They hear the Word of God from a different perspective and on a different level than you hear it. We don’t like to hear that. We think we’re all equal, but I’m here to tell you that we are not.”

This quote is innately flawed, because he says just before it “Aren’t you thankful that the Spirit of God lives in every one of us, and that the Spirit within you leads you into all truth? Can you say, “Praise God!” for that?”  Whether he realizes it or not, he is quoting John 16:13, which is referring to the Holy Spirit.  Concerning the context we will now show it below:

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.  He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you.  All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said, that He takes of Mine, and will disclose it to you.”                  John 16:13-15

Honestly, if Scott had just said the first part of the quote and not gone on to pervert its meaning, he would have probably been able to truly encourage someone.  It’s so true, that Christ promised the Holy Spirit who is equally God, would come down and reside within us as Christians, and would lead us into all truth.  The power of that statement is found in that the Spirit will disclose what He hears from the Father. But by adding his own twist by saying next that “We live in a day when we’ve lost sight of the fact that God predominantly speaks to men that are placed by Him in roles of leadership,” he has created a flawed logic that looks like this:

  • TRUTH: God the Son promised He would send the Holy Spirit to reside within you.
  • TRUTH: God in the form of the Holy Spirit resides within you.
  • TRUTH:  His job is to guide you into all truth—He does this from within you.
  • WHAT?  But God predominantly speaks through men from outside of you.
  • FALSE:  Therefore, the men that are outside of you are more capable that the Holy Spirit within you.
  • FALSE:  God has chosen to speak predominantly through another man and not through Himself in the form of the Holy Spirit that is within you.
  • FALSE:  You will become “spiritually shipwrecked” if you listen to the Holy Spirit within you over the men outside of you.

The problem with this flawed logic, besides being illogical, is that it goes against Scripture—in particularly it makes no sense within the context of Hebrews or John 16.  This also brings up another problem: if God went through all the trouble to remove the need for a human priest which was imperfect, and to replace that old covenant with the perfect work of Christ who is able to bring us into the very throne room of God, why would He then replace that imperfect priest with an imperfect pastor and not with Christ?  Why would He then insert another man in between Himself and His people?

The reason Scott can get away with the above logical fallacy is his teaching on conscience.  Conscience is a four-letter word at Calvary Temple.  Even as recently as April 2012, I heard him teaching on conscience during his sermons on doctrines of devils and seducing spirits (aka people who tell you that you should leave Calvary Temple…probably not the original Greek but close enough for Scott).  He said that our consciences were pure before the fall, but they became neutral after the fall.  The thrust of his argument is that, as the Bible says our hearts are desperately wicked, our consciences can lead us wrong.  We need the Word of God to be over our consciences, and we need the men of God as He set His order in the church to help us properly interpret the Bible, Scott says.  Again, this is nothing short of placing a man between a believer and his God.

This is the main reason I included point (9): because Star Scott terrifies his congregation into believing that their consciences are bent towards evil and therefore they need him to help them see truth.  This is not sound doctrine, as Hebrews 9 and 10 show clearly that the sacrifice of Christ has cleansed us from an evil conscience, not Star Scott.  Therefore, Scott finds himself once again in a position of taking upon himself the authority and power given solely to Christ, as well as preaching something in direct opposition to Scripture.

Conclusion

Looking at all of these things, I must say that pastoral authority is not priestly.  What Hebrews makes abundantly clear is that the role of high-priest has been reserved for Christ, and all priestly functions belong to him.  He never describes a New Testament pastor in any priestly terms or with any priestly functions.  This is because priestly authority has been reserved for Christ.  Therefore, it cannot be reserved for a pastor, and if a pastor wants to claim that authority, he has to take it from Christ.

Furthermore, pastoral authority cannot be Mosaic.  Hebrews 3 makes it sufficiently clear that Jesus superseded Moses in every way, and His work superseded Moses’ work in every way.  The only way then to claim Mosaic authority is to supersede Christ.  As all authority belongs to Him, I imagine you would have a difficult time taking it from Him.  Also, I don’t think you would want to be in the position of claiming that the authority that was expressly given solely to Christ actually belongs to you.

One more thing.  Part of good exegesis is to understand the occasion that called for the authorship of the Epistle.  In the case of Hebrews, his audience had lost sight of the goodness of Christ, the superiority of His finished work, and His continual working in heaven that effectively made the law obsolete.  They wanted to look to men for what could only be given to them by Christ.  I posit that the audience of Calvary Temple finds themselves in a similar condition.  This makes the book of Hebrews profoundly applicable to their case.

If you are a current member of Calvary Temple, I urge you to challenge your current beliefs concerning ‘the role of a pastor’ with the Book of Hebrews. I do not want to be guilty of the same thing I accuse Star Scott of.  I implore you to read the Bible and allow God to reveal its meaning to you: go your way and study Hebrews for yourself.  See for yourself what God intended to communicate in this letter.  And if you think Brandon = hogwash, skip over my notes and just read the sections that are directly out of an NIV Bible.  You certainly don’t need my comments to understand what is so clearly put before us in those 10 chapters.  And then compare for yourself: see if Scripture matches with the claims Star Scott makes.

As for me, I believe I have seen very clearly.  It’s no wonder that in my 20 years at Calvary Temple, I was never taught out of those 10 chapters of Hebrews, except for maybe a verse here or there as it fit a sermon topic.  I did not even know these things were in the Bible.  Whenever I heard about the equal access of all believers, it was in a derogatory way as something rebels hold to in an effort to avoid “God’s established order in the church.”  And I never understood the high-priestly role of Christ.  Now that I understand that principle, I have such a deeper appreciation for the work of the cross and the power that has been afforded to me by Christ.

My prayer is that you would come to the same understanding.

~Brandon

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Biblical Authority: Pastoral Authority is not Mosaic and it is not Priestly | Part 2 of 3

This is Part 2 in a 3-part series. We recommend reading Part 1 before proceeding.

Part 2 of 3: Hebrews 7-10:18

In Part 1 of this three-part article we introduced the thesis, which is that pastoral authority is not Mosaic and it is not priestly.  This is a claim that is directly contrary to Star Scott’s teachings that pastoral authority is Mosaic and it is priestly.  The implications of such a claim are far reaching.  As such, we have set out to study Scripture to see which set of claims are true and which are not.  Our studying has led us to the book of Hebrews, the context of which clearly addresses our dilemma.

In Part 1, we reviewed Hebrews 1-6.  It was in no way meant to be exhaustive.  There are plenty of good commentaries on Hebrews that can exhaust you if you are interested.  One recommendation for a shorter work would be The Epistle to the Hebrews by F.F. Bruce.  It is used to teach Hebrews in many Bible colleges and was even used in Star Scott’s short-lived School of the Prophets adult education ministry.  As such, many Calvary Temple members should have this book and can certainly consult it to verify our claims concerning the context of Hebrews.  And it should be the same thing you are taught today (sarcasm), since the doctrines of Star Scott haven’t changed in 40 years (except the ones that have).

I am not quoting out of any commentaries or other works on Hebrews for two reasons.  First, I don’t want anyone to attempt to discredit our work by discrediting our sources.  Our source is the Bible, and while there is certainly a place for commentaries our first method of study should be the Bible itself.  Second, there is no need for any outside influence on this article, as our intention is to display the meaning of Hebrews within the context of Hebrews, and we are contented to simply summarize the passages in an effort to show that context clearly.

The first six chapters of Hebrews showed us the superiority of Christ in relation to angels, Moses, and Joshua.  The author was developing his argument in chapter 5 that Christ’s High-Priesthood is better than Aaron’s.  So why all this talk of being better?  The author is systematically going through all of the high points of Judaism and showing his audience that Christ and the new covenant is far better than the old.  Christ supersedes Moses.  His salvation is permanent and complete in a way Joshua’s leading into the Promised Land was not.  The author chides his audience and their pending falling away from Christ, as they were falling back into Judaism.  After six chapters, we have developed the following outline:

  • Section 1: Christ is superior to angels (1:1-14)
    • An admonition concerning salvation (2:1-4)
  • Section 2: Christ’s humanity qualifies Him to be our High Priest (2:5-18)
  • Section 3: Christ is superior to Moses (3:1-19)
  • Section 4: Christ is superior to Joshua in that He is able to bring us to rest (4:1-13).
  • Section 5a: Christ’s High Priesthood compared to the Aaronic Priesthood (4:14-5:10)
    • Another admonition concerning maturity, falling away, and faith (5:11-6:20)

Let us now continue on to chapter 7, where the author returns to his train of thought concerning Melchizedek.

Section 5b: Christ’s High Priesthood is superior to Aaron’s high priesthood (7:1-28)

This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.

Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people —that is, from their fellow Israelites—even though they also are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater. In the one case, the tenth is collected by people who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.

If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared:

“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”(Ps. 110:4)

 

The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.

And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:

“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
‘You are a priest forever.’”(Ps. 110:4)

Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.

Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.

The author used the transition in 6:20 to return to his main point, that Christ is our high priest after the order of Melchizedek.  He then gives a historical description of Melchizedek (7:1-3), taken out of Gen. 14:17-20.  In his description of Melchizedek, he mentions that he had no genealogy (7:3).  This is of utmost importance to his Jewish audience, as a priest would go through painstaking lengths to trace his genealogy back to Aaron for the purpose of establishing his qualification for his ministry. However in this way, the author establishes the timeless aspect of the order of Melchizedek.  He also is able to correlate his perpetual priesthood to that of Christ’s (7:3).

The next argument is framed to show that the order of Melchizedek is better than the order of Aaron.  The author’s support of this claim is shown in that Abraham tithed to him (7:2,4) before the law.  For Abraham to give a tithe to Melchizedek and to receive a blessing from him is to recognize Melchizedek’s superiority to Abraham, as the author notes that the lesser is always blessed of the greater (7:7).  Furthermore, he uses the argument that Levi was still in the loins of Abraham and therefore tithed to Melchizedek vicariously though Abraham (7:10): this completely establishes the order of Melchizedek as greater than the order of Aaron.  Therefore the collectors of tithes (7:5) are seen having their tithe collected by Melchizedek.  By establishing that the order of Melchizedek is greater than the of Aaron, the author demonstrates Christ’s High-Priesthood as superior the Aaron’s high-priesthood.

Not satisfied, the author moves on to begin building to his next point: that Christ is perfect is a way that the law could never be.  His reasoning is that if Aaron’s priesthood had been perfect, there would be no need for Ps. 110:4 to speak of another priesthood (7:11).  His next thought is paramount: if the priesthood changed, the law must change too (7:12)—a thought he will complete in ch. 8.  He overcomes any objection that Christ was from Judah (7:14) and establishes that this is because Christ’s priesthood is not dependant on his ancestry (7:16).  Christ’s priesthood is an eternal, timeless order that requires a permanence that no earthly priest possesses.  This is why he made the point to explain Melchizedek’s having no genealogy or descent—it becomes the perfect analogy of Christ and it causes Jesus to fulfill the prophecy in Ps. 110 in a way no one else could have done.

He again quotes Ps. 110:4 as his support, and emphasizes that God swore an oath concerning the eternal function of Christ’s priesthood (7:21).  This is obviously very important to the author, and his reason for this importance is seen in his purpose to explain to his audience that Christ’s work completely solves our need before God—there is no other priest that required an oath for his office.  Christ’s superiority is found in His appointment from God, His eternal life, His once and for all sacrifice of Himself, His ability to empathize with His people perfectly, and His eternal office as sworn in an oath by God (7:21-28).

The author then moves on to main consequence of his argument.

Section 6: Christ is our High Priest and God’s new covenant supersedes the old. (8:1-13)

Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.

Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”(Ex. 25:40)  But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said:

“The days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.

It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
and I turned away from them,
declares the Lord.
This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”(Jer. 31:31-34)

By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.

Section 6: After seven chapters of building upon prophecy and establishing his supporting points, the author is able to state as clearly as possible: “This is our main point, that Christ is our High Priest (8:1).”  He shows Christ simultaneously being sat at the right hand of God (past tense) and serving (present tense) in the heavenly sanctuary-that is, the very presence of God (8:1-2).  This is important because the past tense shows that it already happened—Jesus has sat down, which is a position of completion and is in reference to His finished work as our sacrifice.  Yet at the same time, Christ is working presently—even now—in His High-Priestly function as Mediator for His people.

The author goes on to show that the Old Covenant was a shadow, or a similitude of the New (8:5).  Just as a shadow cannot completely capture the detail of a person, so the Old was unable to capture the completeness of God’s desire for mankind.  The author stresses that it is because the old was not perfect that a new was necessary (8:7); moreover, that the new covenant is superior because it is established on better promises (8:6).

It immediately follows that if the old covenant had been perfect, God would have had no reason to speak of a better one (8:7), as He did in Jer. 31:31-34, which the author cites in its entirety (8:8-12).  What we learn about God’s promise in Jeremiah is the following:

  1. The new covenant is separate and distinct from the old, in that God spoke of it as a future event while He spoke of the old as a past event (8:8-9)
  2. All covenants stand as long as both parties honor the terms of the covenant.  As the people of Israel had broken their terms, God had turned away from them (8:9).
  3. God describes His new covenant as one of writing his laws in the minds and hearts of the people (8:10).
  4. He says that all his people will know Him equally.  There will be no need for one to show another who God is, as they will know Him personally (8:11)
  5. God’s promise that his people would know him is sure from the least to the greatest, the message being that the knowledge of God will be established on equality before God (8:11)
  6. He will forgive them, and remember their sins no more (8:12).

After establishing these things, the author goes on to make a very important claim.  This statement is of great importance to his audience, who is trying to determine how the law will fit into their newfound faith.  He says that the new law has made the old law obsolete (8:13).  This in no way contradicts the words of Jesus when he said “I did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill (Matt. 5:17).”Something that is obsolete has no further use—he is saying that there is no further use for the law, in particular the aspects of priesthood, human mediation on behalf of another, and the giving of sacrifice.  These things have been fulfilled in Christ, and He operates in those functions even now.

Section 7: Christ is the testator and mediator of the new covenant (9:1-28)

Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.

When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings —external regulations applying until the time of the new order.

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance —now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.”(Ex. 24:8) In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Section 7: The author ended ch. 8 with the statement “The old law is obsolete.” His meaning is that it was once useful, but it has no further use because there is a new covenant in place, and the old law is not useful in the new covenant.  The beginning of ch. 9 gives a brief historical description of the tabernacle under the old law for the purpose of explaining to his audience how Christ correlates to that old law (9:1-5).

He moves on in 9:6 to describe the work of the high priest under the old law, and says in v. 9 that this is an illustration—or other translations use similitude or shadow—of how the new covenant should operate.  No shadow perfectly describes the real thing; rather, it can only point to the nature of the real thing.  In that the old law was a matter of external regulations, those things only applied until the new will took affect.

How it took affect was through the death of Christ, who has taken the place of the blood offerings under the old law.  Verses 11 through 14 discuss how Christ’s sacrifice is better, in that it is able to cleanse the conscience from sin in a way that the blood of bulls and goats could not.  In that Christ’s death caused the new will to take affect makes Him the testator of that same will.  The author has changed terminology and is applying the example of an inheritance will and says that the new covenant is like a will.  New covenant, new inheritance, and new will essentially mean the same thing.

Verses 16 through 22 describe how the death of Christ caused the new will to take effect.  Every will requires the testator to die before the power of the will is to take effect.  The author points to the shedding of blood to enact the first covenant to give weight to his argument that Christ’s blood enacts the second covenant.  He ends his discussion in ch. 9 by clarifying that Christ’s sacrifice is different from the sacrifices the high priests offered yearly because His was once and for all (9:22-28).

Section 8: Christ is the final sacrifice; summary thoughts (10:1-18)

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll —
I have come to do your will, my God.’”(Ps. 40:6-8)

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” —though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

 “This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”(Jer. 31:33)

Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”(Jer. 31:34)

And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

Section 8: The passage from 9:1 to 10:18 could really be viewed as one train of thought.  The only addition to ch. 10 is that the author effectively summarizes his argument one more time before completing the doctrinal section of the letter.

He repeats in 10:1 that the old was just a shadow of the new.  Because of that, the sacrifices of the old law could not make Israel perfect—that is why they had to be offered repeatedly and why Christ only had to be a sacrifice once (10:2-4).  Whereas the law could not take away the guilt of the sin, Christ’s sacrifice could.  He interprets the passage in Ps. 40:6-8 to be Christ stating “I have come to do your will” in such a way that He came to set aside the first covenant and establish the second through His death (10:9).  He repeats his theme in 10:12 that Christ completed His work once and for all and has sat down—a position of completion—at the right hand of God—a position of honor.  He repeats the prophecy from Jer. 31 to support this (10:16-17) as verse 34 of that passage reads “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more” settles that Christ’s sacrifice is final.  It is not as the sacrifices under the old law that served as a reminder of sin year after year (10:3), but rather a complete washing away of the sin such that continual sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary (10:18).

Summary of Part 2: Hebrews 7-10:18

Hebrews 10:19 until the end of the book records exhortations and specifics that are not a part of the main doctrinal theme of 1:1—10:18.  However, all of those exhortations need to be read in the context of the first 10 chapters, as their meanings are more clearly understood in light of the purpose of the letter.  What we see particularly in Heb. 7-10 is the culmination of the author’s various points to show that Christ is our High Priest and His High-Priesthood is better than Aaron’s (ch. 7).  Furthermore, Christ’s death inaugurated a new covenant in which the people of God would see a drastic change in how He related to them (ch. 8).  As a part of that new covenant, there was no more need for continual sacrifice, for Christ had become that sacrifice for us once and for all, and He has become our mediator under the new covenant (ch. 9).  Furthermore, Christ’s sacrifice is able to cleanse our consciences and bring us to God in a way that the old covenant was incapable of (ch. 10).

Having reached the conclusion of the main doctrinal thrust of Hebrews, we can complete our outline:

  • Section 1: Christ is superior to angels (1:1-14)
    • An admonition concerning salvation (2:1-4)
  • Section 2: Christ’s humanity qualifies Him to be our High Priest (2:5-18)
  • Section 3: Christ is superior to Moses (3:1-19)
  • Section 4: Christ is superior to Joshua in that He is able to bring us to rest (4:1-13).
  • Section 5a: Christ’s High Priesthood compared to the Aaronic Priesthood (4:14-5:10)
    • Another admonition concerning maturity, falling away, and faith (5:11-6:20)
  • Section 5b: Christ’s High Priesthood is superior to Aaron’s high priesthood (7:1-28)
  • Section 6: Christ is our High Priest and God’s new covenant supersedes the old. (8:1-13)
  • Section 7: Christ is the testator and mediator of the new covenant (9:1-28)
  • Section 8: Christ is the final sacrifice; summary thoughts (10:1-18)

What we see in this outline is the context of Hebrews, namely that Christ is better.  He is better than angels (ch. 1), He is better able to empathize with His people (ch. 2), He supersedes Moses (ch. 3) and Joshua (ch. 4).  His High-Priesthood supersedes Aaron’s in every way (ch. 5,7), and His death inaugurated a new covenant that was superior to the old in every way (ch. 8).  Unlike the old covenant sacrifices, His sacrifice was final, and it elevated Him to be our Mediator before God in the new covenant (ch. 9-10:18).

What this means for the individual believer is monumental.  We have access to the very throne of God (4:16) because of the work of Christ.  Although we as humans have a fallen nature, Christ understands our frailty and lives to bring us to glory (2:9-18).  Our relation to God is not like it was under the old covenant, but we as Christians all know God from the least to the greatest (8:11).  If that doesn’t stir your soul to praise God, then I don’t know what will!

Now that we are armed with the full meaning of Hebrews and its proper usage in establishing doctrine, let us return to our previous claims and see who is telling the truth.  Please read Part 3 for that discussion.

~Brandon

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