“We Don’t Need God’s Law Anymore”

“We don’t need God’s law anymore,” said someone to me. “After all,” he added, “we are no longer under God’s law but under God’s grace.” To support his case, he cited Romans 6:14, “You are not under law but under grace.”

“You see,” he argued, “we are no longer under God’s law but under God’s grace. Therefore, there is no need for us to study, or even read the Ten Commandments.” Unfortunately, this erroneous thinking is prevalent in many churches today. Does the church that you attend still read the Ten Commandments regularly? When was the last time your pastor preached on the Ten Commandments?

In this post I will briefly clarify the meaning of Paul’s words in Romans 6:14—“You are not under law but under grace.”

The Bible can be divided into two main sections: before the fall of man (before Adam sinned) and after the fall of man (after Adam sinned). Before the fall, Adam was without sin. Yet, while Adam was morally perfect, he was capable of sinning. And if he sinned, he would die. What must he do then in order for him to live forever? The answer is found in Genesis 2:16-17: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” So, what must Adam do in order for him to live eternally? The answer is obey God.

Thus, before the fall, the requirement for obtaining eternal life was obedience to God: “Obey and you will live forever. Disobey and you will surely die.” Sadly, Adam failed to keep God’s commandment. He sinned and died. And here’s bad news: Because Adam was our head representative, when he sinned and died, we also sinned and died in him (Rom. 5:12). Thankfully, the story does not end here, because in Genesis 3:15 God proclaims the good news about the Messiah. This Messiah, the Second Adam, will both actively and passively obey God. Actively, Christ will fulfill the law’s perfect demand.  Passively, He will pay the sin’s penalty which is death.

Indeed, Jesus kept the law on behalf of sinners and died in their place, so that sinners who believe in Him will be justified on the basis of His perfect obedience, or righteousness. That is, they will be declared righteous as if they had never sinned before and as if they had perfectly obeyed God’s law (Rom. 5:19). Hence, after the fall, the requirement for receiving eternal life is no longer obedience to the law, but faith alone in Jesus Christ. As Paul writes, “We know that a person is not justified by works [or obedience] of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal. 2:16). So, what must we do to live eternally? The answer is believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, this doctrine of justification by faith alone does not mean that we do not need to obey the moral law anymore. In fact, it is by our obedience to the law that we show that we have truly been justified. And so, elsewhere Paul adds, “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law” (Rom. 3:31). Those who claim to be believers in Christ and disregard His law make their claim questionable. In the words of James, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works [of the law], is dead” (James 2:17). The puritan pastor Samuel Bolton once said, “The law sends us to the gospel that we may be justified; and the gospel sends us to the law again to inquire what is our duty as those who are justified….The law sends us to the gospel for our justification; the gospel sends us to the law to frame our way of life.” The-law-sends-us-to-the (1)

In summary, when Paul says that we are not under law but under grace, what he means is that we are no longer under the moral law as a requirement for eternal life. Or we can put it this way: We are no longer under law in the sense that we are no longer under the covenant of works (obey the law and you will live forever) but under the covenant of grace (believe in Christ and you will have everlasting life).

 

 

 

 

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God's Law Gospel

Who Crucified Jesus? The Romans, the Jews, You and I, or His Father?          

So, who really killed Jesus?

1. Was it the Romans?

Let’s find out the answer in God’s Word. In Matthew 27:35 we read, “And when they [that is, the Roman soldiers] had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.” From this verse we learn that the Romans crucified Jesus. In fact, crucifixion was a Roman way of punishing a criminal. In the eyes of the Romans, Jesus was a criminal. That’s why they crucified him.

The Romans led Jesus to a place called Golgotha which means Place of a Skull (Matt. 27:31-33). They set up the cross and hung Jesus there. They pounded the nails through his hands and feet. They pierced his side. They were the ones who murdered the Son of God.

2. Was it the Jews?

In Acts 2 Peter delivers a sermon on the day of Pentecost, addressing the people of Israel. And Peter says to them, “Men of Israel…Hear these words…this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (vv. 22-23). In other words, Peter is telling the Jews that they were responsible for the crucifixion and death of Jesus.

Indeed, it was the Jews who put Jesus to death. As Paul confirms in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15, “For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets.”

3. Was it you and I?

Paul tells us that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 3:23; 6:23).  Thus you and I should have been the ones to be crucified on the cross, for we are the ones who sinned against God. Oh, but Jesus took our place!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
in my place condemned he stood,
sealed my pardon with his blood:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Imagine, Jesus died in our place as a substitutionary sacrifice to make atonement for our sin, so that through him we might receive a complete remission of all our sins (Eph. 5:2; Heb. 9:22; 1 Pet. 3:18).

Nevertheless, let’s not forget that it was our sin that sent Jesus to the cross. It is in this sense that we crucified Jesus. The German hymnodist Johann Heermann (1585-1647) puts it well in his hymn entitled “Ah, Dearest Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended”:  

Ah, dearest Jesus, how hast Thou offended,
That man to judge Thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by Thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon Thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee.
’Twas I, Lord, Jesus, I it was denied Thee!
I crucified Thee.

4. Was it His Father?

Let’s read Acts 2:23 again, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite [determinate] plan  and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”

Notice that Jesus died according to the determined and foreknown plan of God. That means that His death was not an accident but was part of God’s eternal decree. Jesus was not a victim in the hands of the Romans, or Jews, or in our hands. No! His death was planned by his Father from eternity past. Therefore, ultimately it was God the Father who delivered up Jesus to death, as Romans 8:32 explains, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all [or handed him over to death].”

So, who crucified Jesus? Who crushed him to death? His Father did! Listen to Prophet Isaiah, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities…. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him” (Isa. 53:4-5, 10).

One time a confused atheist said to me, “Do you really believe that it was God who killed His own Son?” “Yes” was my reply.  “Why would God do that to His Son?” he added. I simply answered, “He did not spare His Son, so that He could spare me.”

Commenting on Romans 8:32, John Piper states so beautifully, “Just as Abraham lifted the knife over the chest of his son Isaac, but then spared his son because there was a ram in the thicket, so God the Father lifted the knife over the chest of his own Son, Jesus — but did not spare him, because he was the ram; he was the substitute. God did not spare his own Son, because it was the only way he could spare us.”

Conclusion

So, who killed Jesus? The Romans did; the Jews did; you and I did; and, His Father did. Yet, while this is true, we can also say that no one really took His life, because He gave his life voluntarily. Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd…and I lay down my life for the sheep…I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:14-18).

Yes, it was God the Father who ultimately brought His Son to Calvary, but His Son went there voluntarily. The Son of God willingly agreed to die on the cross for the salvation of those whom God had chosen from eternity past (Eph. 1:4-5).

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Oh, what a love! Jesus lay down his life for us, so that we might live with Him forever. My fellow believers in Christ, if you ever doubt whether Jesus loves you or not, look back to Calvary and survey the wondrous cross, and don’t stop surveying it until you exclaim,

Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

 

 

 

 

Cross Death Gospel

The Gospel-Driven Tongue

The Gospel-Driven Tongue for promotion

This book has its origin in the pulpit of our congregation, Dutton United Reformed Church. From May 2012 to November 2014 I delivered a series of fifty-five expository sermons on the book of James, and five of these sermons were all about the tongue. With the encouragement of Dan Van Dyke, general manager of The Outlook (the journal of Reformed Fellowship, Inc.), I decided to submit the edited version of these five sermons to be published in installments in The Outlook. Having received good feedback from the readers, I was inspired to put these articles together as a book. I therefore want to thank all the board members of Reformed Fellowship, Inc., for granting me permission to publish these articles in book format and for agreeing to publish the book itself.

I also wish to express my special thanks to Josh Dear for editing my sermon notes to transform them from sermonic form into book form. I am also indebted to Linda Triemstra for polishing my manuscript and to Jeff Steenholdt for designing and typesetting this book.

A big thanks also goes to my dear wife Sarah for helping me improve the manuscript and for her being understanding as I used part of our family time to work on this project.  Finally, I am deeply grateful to God for giving me strength to complete this study.

Here are the endorsements for this book: Gospel-Driven Tongue Cover

“Finally—a simple, direct, practical book on the sins of the tongue… This little book is a must read for all Christians, so that we would do a far better job at bridling our tongues and being more consistently God-glorifying in our daily conversation….I pray that God will use Pastor Najapfour’s book to open our eyes, confess our sins, and change our conversation to that which pleases God, loves our neighbor, and serves to mutual edification.”

Dr. Joel R. Beeke, President, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan

____________________________________________________

“I recommend this fine booklet on the need to discipline the tongue. It will be of real help to all who have a serious desire to make progress in sanctification.”

Rev. Maurice Roberts, Emeritus Minister in Inverness, Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) and former editor of The Banner of Truth magazine

______________________________________________________

“Scriptural, straightforward, simple, and soul-searching, this small book is a must read for all God’s people as they seek to glorify God in their lives, especially through their lips. The study questions at the end of each chapter are also ideal for a group Bible study.”

Mrs. Nenita del Mundo, National Director, Student Missionary Outreach and president of Student Missionary Outreach Bible Training Institute, Philippines 

_______________________________________________________

Click here, if you are interested in purchasing a copy of this book.

 

Advertisement Book The Gospel-Driven Tongue

An interview with Phil Johnson by Rob Ventura

Guest Post by Rob Ventura

Phil, please tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been saved? How long have you been married? Do you have children, grandchildren? What do you enjoy doing outside of ministry?

phil johnson

Phil Johnson

 

My family were Methodists for several generations before me, so I spent my formative years going to Sunday school every week in a theologically and politically liberal church where if we ever heard anything about doctrine, it had a left-leaning Wesleyan Arminian slant. I don’t remember ever hearing the gospel declared plainly. We did sing some of the classic hymns of Christianity, and there were responsive readings whose words were drawn from Scripture, but those things made very little conscious impact on me.

When I was in junior high school or thereabout, just old enough to form discriminating thoughts of my own about what we were being taught, I realized that the Sunday school teachers were constantly telling us that we shouldn’t take the Bible literally; Jesus didn’t really say what Scripture attributes to him; and this or that miracle didn’t really happen. And it occurred to me that no one in that church really believed the Bible is true, so I was mystified about why they would want to spend an hour or two every Sunday talking about it. I finally raised that question in class, and the pastor of the church summoned me to his office to straighten me out. He told me if I didn’t change my way of thinking, I might grow up to be a fundamentalist.

          So in high school, once I was permitted to make my own decision about whether to attend church or not, I quit going and took up watching the NFL pregame show on TV instead.

          A few years later, in my final year of high school (barely a month before graduation), a friend of mine became a Christian. He changed overnight from being the class comedian to being the school conscience. Watching the change in his life and character, I began to realize how devoid my own life was of anything holy. I still believed in God, but you’d hardly know it from my pastimes or my reading list. My time and energies were almost totally devoted to politics. I believed good and evil were divided along party lines, and my goal was to gain political power and use it to change the world for good. I believed that by striving to be a knowledgeable, wise, and noble person, I could earn the favor of God.

          But one night the weight of my own guilt prompted me to pick up my Bible and read it. I opened it randomly, intending to read no more than a few (hopefully serendipitous) verses. My Bible fell open to the first page of 1 Corinthians. So I thought it might be a good exercise to read the whole epistle. I had never read that much of the Bible at once.

          The first three chapters of 1 Corinthians are an all-out assault on human wisdom, and by the time I finished those three chapters, I knew I was totally lost, and I cried out to the Lord for help. I kept reading, and while I didn’t understand everything I read, by the time I got to 1 Corinthians 12:3, I understood that I needed to confess Jesus as Lord—and instinctively understood that meant yielding to Him as my Lord. I understood that I needed to become a disciple of Jesus with the same kind of total commitment I had devoted to politics.

          Over the following week, a series of remarkable events kept confronting me with gospel truth. The very next day, I was handed a tract that explained the doctrine of justification. The day after that, a friend invited me to an evangelistic meeting where the preacher preached on the crucifixion from Isaiah 53. When I heard that sermon, I realized for the first time that the Old Testament was pointing to Christ—and from that night until now, I have never had any doubt about the truth of God’s Word. At some point during the course of that week, the Lord opened my heart to believe. That was April of 1971.

          A few weeks later, I found a church in my neighborhood where the Bible was taught and the gospel believed. The pastor of that church heard my testimony and baptized me. In the course of giving him my testimony, I mentioned that I needed to learn the Bible, and that I wanted to serve the Lord in some way with my life. He recommended that I attend Moody Bible Institute, so I filled out an application and was accepted.

          In my final semester at Moody, I took a part-time job proofreading for Moody Press. I loved the work and decided after graduation to stay on and become a book editor. I met my wife, Darlene, exactly 40 years ago, in 1977, when she came to work at Moody Press. We got married a year later and started our family a year after that. We have three sons, all adults now. All of them are believers and still attend Grace Church. (One is a writer for Grace to You online; one is a tax accountant; and one is a police officer with the LAPD.) They are all three married and have given us seven grandchildren. The Lord has greatly blessed us.

 

How long have you been working at Grace to You and what particularly attracted you to Dr. John MacArthur’s ministry?

This is my 35th year at Grace to You. I first heard John MacArthur speak in 1977, shortly after I met Darlene. He came to Moody to speak at a student chapel, and I was in awe of the clarity and biblical content of his preaching. I’d never heard of him before. He had not yet published any major books. And my first thought as a book editor was He needs a literary assistant to help him get his material organized and edited for publication.

          The “Grace to You” radio broadcast debuted in 1978, and I began to listen to John every day. Every time I heard him, I lamented that he wasn’t publishing books. I found his expositions of 1 John especially instructive, because I was wresting with some things Charles Ryrie had written that didn’t sound quite right to me—namely, a chapter titled “Must Christ be Lord to be Savior?” in Ryrie’s Moody Press book Balancing the Christian Life. John brought far more clarity and biblical weight to that question than Ryrie did, I thought.

          Then in 1981 I met John for the first time. He visited the Moody Press offices for an initial discussion about The MacArthur New Testament Commentary series. It was the largest academic-book project Moody had ever initiated, and the meeting was to discuss editorial strategy. A dozen people were involved in that discussion, mostly book editors. I didn’t say much if anything at all during the meeting, but when it was over, I had a moment to talk one-on-one to John. I explained that I was a regular listener, and I suggested he should consider writing a book on the lordship issue. He brightened immediately and said, “I intend to do that. I even have a title in mind: The Gospel According to Jesus.

          That was the start of our relationship. Over the course of the next year, I more or less became the main contact between John and Moody Press. I was intrigued by some material he had preached on worship from John 4:23: “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” I took verbatim transcripts of his sermons on worship and edited them for a book titled The Ultimate Priority.

          When my work on The Ultimate Priority was finished, John came to Chicago for some meetings. For some reason, he came via train, and I volunteered to meet him at Union Station and drive him to his hotel near the airport. When we were about halfway to O’Hare and in the middle of a conversation about Robert Schuller and his Self-Esteem doctrine, John suddenly changed the subject. Out of the blue, he said, “You should quit your job at Moody Press and come to work at Grace to You. You could help me with my writing projects.”

          I said, “OK.”

          He said, “No, I’m serious.”

          I said, “So am I.” And within a few weeks, I had moved to Los Angeles, and I have been working at Grace to You ever since.

 

Could you please tell us what you do for Grace to You and what is your favorite part of the work there?

I’m the executive director. There are more than 50 paid employees who work under me, so I have the luxury of being able to delegate virtually all the hands-on duties. We have a team of very competent people, and my main duty is to keep them on task, establish and maintain our policies and procedures, and make sure everything we do is done with excellence in a way that honors the Lord.

The most important part of my job is still the work I do as a book editor—translating John MacArthur’s material from sermonic form to book form. My favorite part is when a major book project is finished. A famous author once said, “I hate writing, but I love having written.” I’d say the same thing about editing.

 

What are some of your favorite books by John MacArthur and why?

  1. The Gospel According to Jesus. People tell me all the time that their lives were changed completely when they read that book. It shatters the false assurance of people who are trusting in something they have done—walking an aisle, praying a prayer, or whatever. It gives a solid, biblical answer to the question of what Jesus meant when He said, “Follow Me.”
  2. The Vanishing Conscience—editing this book reshaped my understanding of sanctification.
  3. Ashamed of the Gospel—this is the book that first sparked my interest in Spurgeon and helped me understand that all the fads and ministry philosophies that today’s evangelicals hail as “new” and “revolutionary” are really just recycled mistakes from the past.
  4. The Jesus You Can’t Ignore—this is a vastly underrated book, in my opinion. It refutes postmodern efforts to reinvent Jesus as a politically-correct, quietly reserved self-help guru.

 

Who are some of your all-time favorite preachers and authors besides Dr. MacArthur?

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spurgeon, Andrew Fuller, Thomas Boston, Jonathan Edwards, R. L. Dabney.

 

What are some of the dangers that you see in the church today, both in Reformed and non-Reformed circles?

Number one on my list would be a fleshly craving for social and academic esteem, political clout, and the world’s admiration that permeates the evangelical culture. Elite evangelical leaders in particular seem to have a pathological fear of being critical of popular trends and majority opinions, and as a result, the conservative evangelical movement today is neither conservative nor evangelical in the true and historic sense of that term.

I actually have a much longer list of concerns than that, but I blogged about all those issues for nearly a decade, and all that material is still online and searchable via Google, so in the interests of not sounding totally negative, I’ll refer anyone who is interested in hearing more to my now-nearly-defunct blog at teampyro.blogspot.com.

 

Phil, on the weekend of May 5th & 6th 2017, you will be speaking at the Southern New England Reformation Conference in North Providence, R.I., on the topic of Answering the Skepticism of an Unbelieving Generation. Please tell us why you think this topic is particularly relevant and how you plan to address it.

          The Internet has given rise to a hostile, aggressively outspoken brand of militant atheism that seems to be growing and assimilating students from Christian backgrounds who grew up in youth groups that existed to entertain them rather than instruct them. Christian apologists need to be more diligent than ever to answer the barrage of skepticism that is being blasted to the world via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and every other popular social medium. The Bible does answer skeptics, and Christians need to have those answers.

For more information about the Southern New England Reformation Conference please go to: www.gcbcri.org or call (401) 826-3121.

Grace to You Interview John MacArthur Phil Johnson

A Bible Verse Every Hunter Should Memorize

Every hunter should memorize Matthew 10:29, which reads (in the ESV) as follows: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” Another translation renders it this way: “Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s permission” (emphasis mine).

 

What’s the context in which Jesus said this? Jesus had sent out his disciples to proclaim the gospel (Matt. 10:6-7), and he knew that as they did so, they would be persecuted, even to the point of death: “you will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (v. 22). In order to encourage them to stay faithful to his call, even in the midst of suffering, Jesus assured them that nothing would happen to them without their heavenly Father’s permission.

 

To paraphrase, Jesus was telling them, “Look at those birds. Not one of them can die without God allowing it to die. Of course, you are far more valuable than those birds. So, don’t be afraid, for you can’t die without God knowing about it and allowing it to happen” (see Matt. 10:31).

 

The words of Jesus have practical implications for all of us—and that includes hunters! So, if you are a Christian who hunts, here is what you should learn from this verse:

  1. Hunting can be dangerous, but remember that you cannot die and an animal cannot kill you without your heavenly Father’s permission.
  1. As you shoot an animal, remember that you cannot kill that animal without God’s permission. After all, every animal ultimately belongs to him. “For every beast of the forest is mine….I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine” (Ps. 50:10-11).
  1. When you realize that God owns every animal in the forest, it should motivate you to pray before you go hunting, and perhaps even to ask God for permission to kill one of his creatures. You might pray something like this: “Heavenly Father, thank you for creating animals as a blessing to us, and for allowing us to enjoy some of them as food. Will you please keep us safe as we hunt today, and permit us to shoot a deer or two with which we can feed our families?” Have you ever done this before? Since everything that moves in the field is his, don’t you think you should pray to him first before you hunt?
  1. Recognizing that God is sovereign even over the lives of animals should make you a humble hunter. The chief reason that you kill animals when you hunt is not because of what a skilled hunter you are, but rather because God permits you to do so. So, before you start boasting in your own competence or showing off photos of you and your kill on Facebook, take the time first to thank God for allowing you to kill one of his animals. Interestingly, we claim to be Calvinists who acknowledge God’s sovereignty over all things, but when we shoot a dear we forget to attribute our achievement to God. In short, we act like Arminian hunters, slighting God’s sovereignty and giving too much emphasis on our ability. Are you a humble hunter who gives the credit to God for your success?
  1. The realization that no animal can fall to the ground without God’s permission should also give comfort to hunters when they return home without a kill. After hunting for many hours, or perhaps even days, it can be very discouraging to go home with nothing to show to your family, and no fresh meat to share as food. However, when this happens, a wise family member can comfort the hunter by saying, “It’s okay. You worked hard and you did your best, but it was clearly not God’s will for you to kill an animal on this trip.”

So, dear hunters, the next time that you go out hunting, please remember to meditate on Matthew 10:29 and to give God all the praise for the blessings that you experience!

 

Note: This post is part of my sermon entitled “God’s Providential Care”(Matt. 10:26-30), preached on November 20, 2016.

 

 

 

 

God's sovereignty Hunting

Clinton, Trump, Johnson, or Others? Advice for Christian Voters

On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, US citizens will go to the polls to exercise their right to vote for a new president. Since the primary two parties in the US are Democratic and Republican, the focus of the election is on Hillary Clinton (Democratic) and Donald Trump (Republican). But there are other nominees such as Gary Johnson (Libertarian), Jill Stein (Green), Darrell Castle (Constitution), and Evan McMullin (Independent). My objective in this post is to provide basic guidelines for my fellow Christians as they cast their ballots on November 8.

  1. Make God’s Word your primary voting guide. “Your word is a lamp to [guide] my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 110:105).
  2. Pray to God for guidance before casting your vote.  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him” (Prov. 3:5-6). Pray also for the candidates even the ones whom you do not like. “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
  3. Vote for a candidate who upholds Christian principles. For instance, are his/her views regarding the following issues biblical? Religious freedom. Will the candidate hinder you from exercising your faith in Jesus Christ, or will he/she protect your liberty as a Christian. Sanctity of human life. Will the candidate promote abortion, or will he/she fight for the sacredness of life in the womb? Marriage. Will the candidate endorse same-sex marriage, or will he/she uphold the biblical definition of marriage—a union between one man and one woman only? This is just a sample of moral questions we need to ask ourselves as we consider a candidate. As followers of Christ, we must not “give approval to those who practice” what God has declared to be morally evil (Rom. 1:32).
  4. Vote for a candidate who is able to lead our country with justice. Remember that you are not voting for a pastor but for a president. The candidate might not be exactly on the same page as you are theologically, but if he/she is committed to a fair and righteous judicial system, then you may want to consider voting for this candidate.
  5. Cast your ballot in good conscience, realizing that you will give an account to God for every decision that you make. Admittedly, it can be challenging to find a candidate who is both gifted in leadership and righteous in character. That’s why, before making a final decision, seek wisdom from God.
  6. Vote for a candidate who has already demonstrated his/her ability to lead well. Look at the candidate’s track record and ask these questions: What did he/she do to improve our economy, stop crime, and maintain peace and order in our land? Did the candidate abuse his/her political power to serve his/her own interest? Was he/she immoral, corrupt, dishonest, or greedy?
  7. Recognize that from eternity past God has already ordained our next political leader. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom. 13:1). Ultimately, it is God, not the people, who appoints a leader (Gen. 45:8). We are only God’s instruments in bringing about His eternal plan. Be willing therefore to submit humbly to God’s sovereign will, trusting that His will is always for our good and for His glory.
  8. If the candidate who wins is immoral, remember that God is able to use even wicked leaders to accomplish His eternal plan (Rom. 13:1-7). Of course, this does not give us permission to vote for bad candidates! However, it should remind us that our greatest hope does not lie with any earthly leader, but with our heavenly Father, who is divinely able to overcome evil for good. Indeed, God in his providence can even use a bad ruler as his “servant for your good” (Rom. 13:4).
  9. Never forget that God is causing all things—including the upcoming election—to work together for the good of His people, conforming them more fully to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:28-29). Whatever the outcome of the election may be, one thing is certain: God will use this election for our sanctification. We are concerned about peace and prosperity, but God is concerned about our piety and his eternal glory.
  10. Finally, respect those who oppose your political position. Even among Christians, there are varying opinions regarding who should be elected to leadership. So, learn to “agree to disagree,” or better yet, to disagree with kindness. Even if your preferred candidate does not win, you are still to honor the candidate who is elected. You must also obey your new leader, unless he/she instructs you to do something that would require you to disobey God. As Christians, our greatest allegiance is to God. As Scripture exhorts us to do, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
Election Politics

Covenant Children Yet Children of Belial

In 1 Samuel 2:12-21, we meet the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Pinehas, who were described as worthless. Yes, they were priests, but they were worthless. The actual wording for this text reads as follows, “And the sons of Eli were sons of worthlessness.” The word for “worthlessness” in Hebrew is belial, which derives from beliy (without) and yaal (value). In other words, they were wicked and without any value; they were good for nothing.

 

Why would the Bible describe Eli’s sons this way?

First, the Bible describes Eli’s sons this way because “they did not know the LORD” (v.12). They were aware of Jehovah of course, but did not truly know Him. In Genesis 4:1 we read, “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.” The word “knew” in Genesis 4 and the word “know” in 1 Samuel 2 both refer to a personal, intimate relationship. If you do not know God personally, you are like Eli’s sons—worthless before God.

Because Eli’s sons did not know the Lord, they were children of Belial despite being covenant children. “Belial” is used in 2 Corinthians 6:15 as another name for Satan. In that passage we are instructed not to be yoked together with unbelievers. We are also reminded in that same passage that righteousness and lawlessness, darkness and light, are incompatible with one another (2 Cor. 6:14-15). You cannot be both a child of the Devil and a child of God at the same time. You are either a child of God (believer), or a child of Satan (unbeliever). There is no third category.

These observations lead us to ask some personal questions. Do you know the LORD? Eli’s sons even grew up in the tabernacle, but their heritage had no bearing on whether or not they were saved, because they did not know God. The same goes for you and me, growing up in a church cannot save us. “I am religious,” you might say. Eli’s sons were religious too, but religion cannot save you. “I am a spiritual person,” you argue. You can be “spiritual,” and still be spiritually dead. “I am a pastor, or an elder, or a deacon. I am involved in many church activities.” Eli’s sons were in a holy position, involved in many activities of the congregation of Israel, including regular sacrifices and offerings but it meant nothing without a personal relationship with God. As we read in Matthew 7: 21-23, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name… and do mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” Jesus never knew them, because they never knew Jesus. So, again, my dear friend, ask yourself, “Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?”

Secondly, Eli’s sons were called wicked because they did not follow God’s law. Belial in Hebrew also means “lawlessness.” 1 Samuel 2:13-16 describes the customs of the priests and what they ought to do. The fat was supposed to be burned and offered to God first (Lev. 7:31). But, in verse 17 of 1 Samuel 2, we learn that the sons of Eli willfully disobeyed this law by demanding their portion of the offering before it was burned on the altar. They chose to disregard God’s law. They were lawless in their blatant and deliberate choice to disregard God’s command. And they never repented of their sin.

Third, Hophni and Phinehas were called wicked because they abused and profaned their office as priests. In their selfish greed, they used their position to their own advantage and for their own profit. They treated the people of Israel with disrespect in the process by taking meat for the offering out of the cooking pot while it was cooking. Hophni and Phinehas even forced the Israelites to give up the meat before they began to offer it (while it was still raw). Furthermore, they committed sexual immorality at the very entrance of the tabernacle. Using their privileged positions for their own gain made them both worthless and lawless in God’s eyes.

 

What other lessons can we take away from this text?

First lesson: You can be a righteous parent but still have a wicked child. Eli was a believer of God and a righteous man. His name means “my God.” When you read the first verse of our text, it might sound as though Eli was a wicked father: “The sons of Eli were sons of Belial” (KJV). Does this mean that Eli was wicked? No, it does not! He had many shortcomings but he was a believer in the Lord. It is possible for godly parents to have ungodly children. This reminds us that we cannot transform our children, but God can. Do not blame yourself by placing unnecessary guilt on yourself for your children’s evil choices, if, by God’s grace, you have done all you could to raise them in the fear of the Lord.

Second lesson: You can be a believer in Christ and an irresponsible parent at the same time. Eli was both a high priest and a civil judge in Israel for forty years (1 Sam. 4:18). Yet, he failed to discipline and correct his sons as he should have (1 Sam. 3:12.). This failure resulted in God’s judgement on Eli’s entire household. As a parent, do not be afraid to discipline your children. It does hurt, but sometimes the most loving thing you can do is to rebuke your children and let them know they are wrong (Pro. 23:13-14, 29:17). “If someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:4).

Third lesson: Our spiritual leaders also have weaknesses. They fail at times. If we only look to our church leaders we will stumble, too. Do not only look to Eli, the high priest. Look to our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. He is “the founder and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2).” Christ is the only one to whom we can look to for a perfect example. Therefore, let’s keep our eyes on Jesus, not on our pastors, elders, or deacons.

 

Note: This post is a summary of my sermon entitled “Worthless Sons” (1 Samuel 2:12-21), preached on January 10, 2016. Special thanks to Elizabeth Koetsier for helping me with this summary.

 

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