Friday, July 11, 2008

Dr. Spurlin Answers

Question: Is God in human form in heaven?

Answer: God the Father is a Spirit and therefore has no physical body. However, Scripture is clear that God the Son, Jesus Christ will forever be in a perfected, glorified human body. Lewis Sperry Chafer addressed this when he said, "The resurrection accomplished the unveiling of (Jesus') Deity and the glorification of His humanity" (III:16). John in the first chapter of his gospel (v. 14) states that Jesus became flesh. He was human. Then in Revelation 1:13-18 John saw Jesus in His resurrected glorified body, knew who He was, and fell as dead at His feet. Again, in Luke 9:27-31ff we see Jesus declaring that some would not die until they saw Him in His glorified state. Then we see Peter, James and John experiencing that very thing about eight days later. Finally, since Jesus is our Great High Priest and representative before God, we can be sure that He is even now in His glorified human body interceding on our behalf before the Father.

Thanks for asking!
- Dr. Steve Spurlin

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dr. Spurlin Answers

Dr. Spurlin, In Luke 16:1-13 Jesus tells of a business manager who had squandered his master's possessions. Can you explain why it seems that Jesus praises his dishonesty?

ANSWER: This is actually an issue of Jesus using a bad example to teach a good lesson. The Lord was not lauding the manager's dishonesty, but the fact that "he had acted shrewdly" in preparing for his future financial well-being. Jesus distinguishes between the "sons of this age" and "the sons of light." The "sons of this age" are concerned only with the wealth that they can gather to themselves in this world. The "sons of light" are urged to prepare in such a way as to receive "true riches" (v. 11) at a later time, specifically in the future kingdom economy.

This is possibly the main point that Jesus is teaching His disciples, to utilize earthly "wealth of unrighteousness" in such a way that it would ensure "true riches" that we are to be storing up in heaven. According to Ryrie, verse 9 teaches that "we should use money (wisely, never dishonestly) to help win people so that they will welcome us in heaven" (Ryrie Study Bible, note on Luke 16:9). The wise use of wealth in this life is to receive its ultimate repayment because it has been used to lead others to believe the truth of the gospel message.

Thanks for asking!
- Dr. Steve Spurlin

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dr. Spurlin Answers

Dr. Spurlin, I have a friend who says that when he was young he was saved in the church that he attended at the time. However, he no longer will attend church and shows little or no concern about spiritual issues. How can I be sure that he was ever saved?

ANSWER: You can't. There is no way that you and I can see what is in the heart and mind of any other person. We have a hard enough time correctly knowing and dealing with our own. Jesus taught that we can tell a false prophet by his fruit (Matt. 7:15-20). James taught that to say that you have faith and do not have works proves that your faith is dead (Jam. 2:17). If we take that principle and apply it to those who claim to be Christians, we may have some idea of whether a person is saved or not, though we cannot know with 100% assurance.

On the other hand, your friend also cannot be at peace with his salvation "experience" because he is not living in obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ. The Apostle John wrote concerning this in 1 John. In 1:6, John states that "if we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth." John had already taught that in God "there is no darkness at all." Your friend is walking in darkness. That is he is not living in obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ. Therefore, he is not in fellowship with the Father and he cannot truly be at peace in his mind.

In chapter 2:3, John teaches that the way that we have assurance that we are saved is found in our desire and attempt to keep His commandments. We will not do it perfectly in this life (1:8-9), but we should progress day-by-day in spiritual maturity.

The point is each of us as individuals can have assurance of our personal salvation. However, apart from someone having outward fruit "proving" their salvation we cannot know for certain that he/she is a true Christian. The best we can do is pray for that one.

I have one little correction to what I've said. I have found if I ask someone to tell me what it takes to be a Christian, I find what they believe about salvation. They get the point and then answer: "Yes, I have done that," or "No, I have not."

Thanks for asking!
- Dr. Steve Spurlin

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Why Wright is Wrong by Dr. Randall Price, Liberty University

The Reverend Jeremiah Wright yesterday addressed the National Press Club seeking his fifteen minutes of fame. That fifteen minutes, of course, lasted more than an hour and will continue for several days as his banter is broadcast and debated on the network news and various talk shows.

Revising history, skewing theology, and demythologizing Christianity as he spoke, his most egregious moments followed his speech in his responses to prepared Press Club questions. While most of his comments have been reviewed and rebutted by figures in the national media, one of his scintillating statements has received no further mention. The question and answer that has been so ostracized went as follows: Question: "Reverend Wright, Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no man comes to the Father, but through me.' In light of that statement what do you think of the religion of Islam?" Reverend Wright: "Jesus also said, 'Other sheep have I that are not of this fold …"

Now it is understandable why the secular media would not want to comment on such a question and response. There is no politically correct way to handle the commentary, since it would expose the usually carefully guarded (or censored) belief system of those in the public eye, except the carefully-crafted-to-be-palatable "faith" of political figures released at election time. Whether one addresses the question or the answer, criticizes or upholds it, this exposé is certain.

From an interpretation that is literal, that takes the meaning of words at their face value, these words of Jesus taken from John chapter 14 can be understood by everyone. In the context of this verse (verses 1-5) Jesus and His disciples are having a discussion about His return to heaven and Jesus' promise to come again and take them there (to the Father's house). When asked by one disciple how this would be possible, Jesus explains (verse 6) that He is the way (to God) because He is the truth (of God), and the life (God gives eternally) is found in Him. Therefore, the only means of access to heaven (the Father's house) is through a relationship with Him. Whether or not they personally believed it, whoever posed this question at the Press Club understood this literal meaning.

Now we come to the Reverend Wright's interpretation. His bravado (bolstered by his fan base in the audience) betrayed he felt he could say no wrong. Assuming the mantle of Christ in His replies to the Pharisees, he answered them with scripture, smiled the smile of the over-confident, and thought he had won the day. But the Reverend Wright could not have been more wrong. Jesus' statement about "other sheep … not of this fold" in the context of John 10 from which the verse is taken, is made in view of His having come as the promised Shepherd of the sheep (Ezekiel 34:11-23). In this Old Testament context, the Jewish people are addressed as "My flock." Jesus Himself explained to non-Jews that in His initial mission He had been sent "only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 15:24). When he speaks of "other sheep" in John 10, His reference, therefore, must be to non-Jews, that is, to Gentiles, for the Bible recognizes no other distinction (compare Romans 1:16). Jesus' mission ultimately included the good news of salvation through Him as Savior to those formerly outside of the Nation of Israel, as Paul says in Romans 1:5: "we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name's sake …"

So how did the Reverend Wright make this text include Islam, and in particular the Nation of Islam and its leader Louis Farrakan whom he has honored? In his inclusivistic theology, which admits all but white racists and U.S. terrorists (government and military), he has room for any in all religions that are oppressed. Most white Christians (and probably black ones as well) do not understand his brand of Black Liberation Theology through whose lens the Bible is seen as a manual of wresting deserved freedoms from the despots of the world, but especially the white world. In his religion God is to be defined by the experience of the individual, and therefore the god of the oppressed is not the same as that of the oppressor. In reality, however, when native Africans were being transported in slave ships, the God recognized by the slavers was most-likely understood in terms of the Bible while the god of the slaves was most-likely understood in terms of their tribal folk religion, what the Bible calls (and condemns as) "idolatry." John Newton, once Captain of a slave ship, confessed that his actions in the slave trade was an offense to the God of the Bible and turned for to Him for forgiveness, what he later called in his popular hymn, "amazing grace." As a result, he was influential with William Wilberforce for having the slave trade abolished in England. No doubt some vestige of Christianity still remained in Africa at this time, even though the religion of Islam had invaded this once Christian nation and all-but eradicated the God of the Bible from the continent. It is more likely, therefore, that Islam would have influenced the religion of the slaves. At any rate, the Reverend Wright would see salvation for all who are oppressed, regardless of their own oppression of other religions.

Reverend Wright has claimed to represent the black church in his present experience of being oppressed by the national (white-controlled) media. To be sure he does not represent their collective theology, which had its origin in the Bible (whose pages are black and white, not just black) and in the traditional values that resulted from the biblical worldview that once informed our American culture. Although Reverend Wright uses words like "saved" and "filled with the Holy Ghost," these are now only symbolic expressions from those better days before Black Liberation Theology when they had real purpose and power, as they still do for most of the black church in America. The problem for Reverend Wright is that misunderstanding the plain promise of Jesus as the only way to God, he has missed the message that truly sets his (and all other people) free. And that is why Wright is wrong.

This article may be freely shared.