Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Heresy of Application

A key element to dispensational theology is the commitment it has to a consistent literal grammatical-historical hermeneutic.  There are times that teaching error is not directly related to our grammatical and theological understanding of the text.  Often times the error comes from the “application.”  At times a well meaning preacher/teacher may miss or misuse the point of the text to make a clear pass to apply a principal.  As dispensationalists we have to be committed to teaching the principal from the text accurately all the time.  This article describes some of the potential pitfalls of “application” or for others just being sloppy in handling the text and in how they represent God.  May the Lord bless you as you read this article and challenge you (and me) to handle the word of God carefully. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Israel of God:
Galatians 6:15-16 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. 16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
This passage has been used erroneously to attempt to prove that the Church is now Israel and all of the promises given to that nation now belong to the Church.  The theme of the book of Galatians is to refute the teachings of Judaizers who were promoting the addition of circumcision to Christianity.  According to Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible, “To a Christian under the New Covenant, following the Abrahamic sign of circumcision does not mean anything in terms of spirituality.  What really matters is being a new creation in Christ.”[1]  The phrase that makes this passage difficult is “Israel of God.”  This is a reference to believing Jews that are Israel both in flesh and spirit.  Some believe that “Israel of God” is the Church[2]; the evidence does not support such a conclusion. 
First, the repetition of the preposition (“upon” or “to”) indicates two groups are in view.  Second, all the 65 other occurrences of the term “Israel” in the New Testament refer to Jews.  It would thus be strange for Paul to use “Israel” here to mean Gentile Christians.  Third, Paul elsewhere referred to two kinds of Israelites-believing Jews and unbelieving Jews (cf. Romans 9:6).  Lest it be thought that Paul is anti-Semitic, he demonstrated by means of this benediction his deep love and concern for true Israel, that is, Jews who had come to Christ.[3]  Ryrie explains this passage brilliantly. He wrote,
The question is, Who composes the Israel of God?  The Amillennialist insists that these verses equate the Israel of God with the entire Church.  The premillennialist says that Paul is simply singling out Christians Jews for special recognition in the benediction.
Grammar in this instance does not decide the matter for us.  The “and” in the phrase ‘and upon the Israel of God’ can be understood in three ways.
First, it could be explicative; that is, it can mean “even,” in which case the phrase “Israel of God” would be a synonym for the “new creation” and would thus make the Church the Israel of God.

On the other hand, if the “and” is understood in an emphatic sense, it has the meaning of “adding a (especially important) part to the whole” and is translated “and especially” (cf Mark 16:7; Acts 1:14).  Third, the “and” might be a simple connective, which would also distinguish the Israel of God as Jewish Christians but not identify them as the whole Church.  The connective force would be less emphatic than the “especially” meaning, but both interpretations would distinguish Jewish and Gentile believers.
Although the grammar cannot of itself decide the question, the argument of the book of Galatians does favor the connective or emphatic meaning of “and.” Paul had strongly attacked the Jewish legalists; therefore, it would be natural for him to remember with a special blessing those Jews who had forsaken this legalism and followed Christ and the rule of the new creation.  One might also ask why, if the New Testament writers meant to equate clearly Israel and the Church, they did not do so plainly in the many other places in their writings where they had convenient opportunity to do so.  Historically, the word “Israel” is applied to the Christian Church for the first time by Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with Trypho, where the Church is equated with the ‘true Israel’ (not labeled the Israel of God).[4]
Thematically, this passage is most likely emphasizing a blessing upon Paul’s brothers in the flesh who are Jews but now are part of the Church.  This line of reasoning is supported by the theology of many of the first and second century Church leaders and Theologians.  As is seen in 1 Corinthians 10:32 there are three groups of humanity: Jews, Gentiles, and believers in Jesus Christ (the Church).  But in the early Church the Jewish believers were often designated separately from the Gentiles.  This type of distinction can be found in the writings of Justin Martyr among others.[5]  And as Charles Ray notes, “Scholars of every stripe agree that the vast majority of occurrences of ‘Israel’ in the New Testament refer to ethnic Israel, yet some want to make an exception to Galatians 6:16, with no compelling reason for doing so.”[6]  This “exception” serves as a prime illustration of the inconsistent hermeneutics of the covenant theologian that is used to support their supposition regardless of the Biblical facts.  Arnold Fruchtenbaum sums up the issue by writing,
… like all Covenant Theologians, [LaSor] ignores that there are two groups mentioned in the passage: the them and the Israel of God.  … there is no textual or contextual reason to depart from the primary meaning of kai, which means “and,” or to resort to a secondary meaning of “even.”  The them refers to the Gentile believers to and of whom Paul had been writing throughout the epistle.  The Israel of God refers to Jewish believers specifically and not to the Church at large.  There is no exegetical reason to make the Israel here a reference to the Church.[7]
The term “Israel of God” can only refer to the Church “at large” if an unnatural hermeneutic is employed.  The context of the passage, especially the more specific reference to the Church at large demands that the phrase “Israel of God” is a specific reference to a segment of the Church: Jewish believers.
Romans chapter eleven is, of course, one of the key passages in which Paul addresses the future of national Israel right after doing his own comparison of the three groups of humanity (Gentiles, Jews, and the Church) in chapter nine and ten. 

[1] Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible.  Thomas Nelson Publishers.  Nashville TN. 1997, 1980.
[2] Riddlebarger, 122-123.
[3] Walvoord, John F. and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, An Exposition of Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty, Old Testament (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Cook Communications Ministries, 2004), 611.
[4] Ryrie, Dispensationalism, 149-150.
[5] Crutchfield 261-262.
[6] Ray, Charles, Basic Distinctives of Dispensational Systematic Theology, Dispensationalism Tomorrow & Beyond: A Theological Collection in Honor of Charles C. Ryrie (Fort Worth TX: Tyndale Seminary Press. 2008), 56.
[7] Fruchtenbaum, Arnold G.  Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1996), 314.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Rules of Interpretation Dr. Arnold Fructenbaum

There are four basic rules of interpretation which are keys to understanding the prophetic
The first is called The Golden Rule of Interpretation:
When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take
every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning, unless the facts of the immediate
context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate
clearly otherwise.

See the rest of the article here

Monday, January 6, 2014

Flow and Highlights of Ecclesiastes

David Q. Santos

Philosophers of all ages have sought to answer the most basic of questions that have ever been asked by mankind. These questions cut through the all ages in order to find meaning and fulfillment to fleeting and futile existences. Solomon, the wisest man ever to live (1 Kings 10:23), made similar investigations into the futility and vanity of life. He recorded his investigation in the book of Ecclesiastes. His search took him through many patterns of thought that have been and continue to be parts of philosophical discussion even today.

Philosophical debates, as well as Solomon’s inquiry, are essentially epistemological in nature. For Solomon, the answers to all the philosophical questions of mankind are a dichotomy of wisdom on Earth versus Heaven. Solomon’s inquiry has four primary divisions. The Bible Knowledge Commentary divides Ecclesiastes this way;

I. Introduction: The Futility of All Human Endeavor (1:1-11)

II. The Futility of Human Achievement Empirically Demonstrated (1:12-6:9)

III. The Limitations of Human Wisdom Empirically Demonstrated (6:10-11:6)

IV. Conclusion: Live Joyously and Responsibly in the Fear of God (11:7-12:14) [1]

The first division of Ecclesiastes (1:1-11) is divided into three sections. The first is the book’s title which is found in chapter one verse one. The second section is found in verse two which describes the theme of the book. The final section in verses three through eleven provides the initial thesis to Solomon’s view of life “under the sun” (a phrase that Solomon uses 29 times in 27 verses).[2]

Verse one introduced the author of Ecclesiastes. This verse gives three specific details of the author. He is the son of David and currently is the king in Jerusalem. Also, he is called “Preacher.” Other Bible translations may render “Preacher” as “teacher.” Preacher is the Hebrew word is “Qohelet” (קֹהֶלֶת). Qohelet “refers to one who convenes and speaks at an assembly.”[3] Qohelet in this instance is used like a proper name. Carson state that “The Hebrew of Teacher is Qohelet, which is a Hebrew participle. It has a meaning (like the English name Baker).”[4] The Preacher’s identity is easily surmised to be Solomon. He is a king who is ruling over all of Israel (Ecc. 1:12) ruling from Jerusalem “as only three men were: Saul, David, and Solomon…”[5]

The theme of the book is identified in verse two. The Preacher declared that “all is vanity.” Vanity is the Hebrew word “hābal” (הָבַל) which can be understood as a breath or vapor. Hābal, in the context of Ecclesiastes especially, carries the sense of nothingness or perishable. The concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (CHALOT) adds to these definitions that its use in Ecclesiastes 1:2 that the hābal Solomon is describing is “his empty life.”[6] The theme of this book is emptiness of life. This is further stressed by Solomon’s continued and repetitive use of hābal in this verse and throughout the book. It occurs five times in this verse alone with 36 other instances in 31 verses in the entire book.

The final section of this first division is contained in verses four through eleven. This section provides proof of Solomon’s thesis. The key assertion is summed up in the commentary on the world; “there is nothing new under the sun” (v. 9). Prior to this statement Solomon provides his evidence; expressing the reality of a fleeting existence. He illustrates his assertion with naturalistic examples that all have observed. Even as generations of mankind pass by the world continues to operate much as it has for thousands of years (at least since Noah’s flood). The sun rises and goes down, rivers flow, and the wind blows; all while these generations go and come.

Solomon has presented his thesis which states that life is vain, futile, and fleeting. His thesis stated, he begins a series of inquiries as to the nature of life on this world. The second division of Ecclesiastes begins this inquiry. This division covers chapter one verse twelve through chapter six verse nine. In this division he discusses the futileness of human achievement. This division is broken into two sections. The first is Solomon’s personal experiences and observations of the failures of human achievement (Ecc. 1:12-2:17). The second section demonstrates this futility in an empirical fashion (Ecc. 2:18-6:9).

Solomon begins his inquiry into the vanity of life by expressing his own experience and observation of the futility of human achievement. The beginning of this inquiry is broken into four points. The Bible Knowledge Commentary divides this section in this fashion,

1. Futility of human achievement shown by personal investigation (1:12-15)

2. Futility of human wisdom (1:16-18)

3. Futility of pleasure-seeking (2:1-11)

4. Futility of a wise lifestyle (2:12-17) [7]

Solomon begins his God ordained task (Ecc. 1:13) of examining “all that is done under the sun” (Ecc. 1:12). He initially concludes that “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” (Ecc. 1:12) After further examination he determined that increasing knowledge only brings sorrow. Even pleasure to the point of not “withholding my heart from any pleasure” and all labor contained “no profit under the sun.” Solomon expressed that wisdom was superior to foolishness; and yet both the wise and the foolish would come to the same end. (Ecc. 2:14)

This second section provides an empirical examination by Solomon. Rather than just expressing his own observations he brings evidence to bear on his inquiry. He divides this section into four main points as described by The Bible Knowledge Commentary

1. Labor’s fruits may be squandered by someone else (2:18-26)

2. Labor cannot alter God’s immutable, inscrutable providence (3:1-4:3)

3. Labor is often motivated by inappropriate incentives (4:4-16)

4. Labor’s fruits may sometimes not be enjoyed (5:1-6:9) [8]

Solomon examined the reality of the fruits of labor. He soon concluded that enjoying these fruits will become vanity. Even the food that God has given is grasping at wind. (Ecc. 2:26) In contrast to God’s immutability stands man’s short fleeting existence where he strives to achieve and accomplish-gathering knowledge and goods under the sun. But Solomon found that all things have a time. Matthew Henry commented on these points. He wrote

…we live in a world of changes, that the several events of time, and conditions of human life, are vastly different from one another, and yet occur promiscuously, and we are continually passing and repassing between them, as in the revolutions of every day and every year. In the wheel of nature (Jam. 3:6) sometimes one spoke is uppermost and by and by the contrary; there is a constant ebbing and flowing, waxing and waning; from one extreme to the other does the fashion of this world change, ever did, and ever will. [9]

In the third division of Ecclesiastes Solomon deals with the limitations found in the wisdom of mankind. (Ecc. 6:10-11:6) Solomon described this problem in three sections. In the first section Solomon described futility between God and this world. The Bible Knowledge Commentary summarized Solomon’s dilemma writing,

Solomon introduced his discussion on the limitations of human wisdom by reverting to two themes he had used earlier to demonstrate the futility of human toil, namely, the immutability (1:15; 3:14; cf. 1:9) and inscrutability (3:11, 22) of divine providence. Solomon said that the nature and essence of everything that exists, including people, was foreordained long ago: whatever exists has already been named (“calling by name” parallels “creating,” Isa. 40:26) and what man is has been known (“knowing” parallels “setting apart” and “appointing,” Jer. 1:5). Furthermore Solomon said it was useless for a person to argue (no man can contend) about what is foreordained because God who had done it is too powerful for man. [10]

In the second section Solomon continued to explain the divide between man and God. Man is not capable of understanding God’s plans. He concluded this division by explaining that while God does know the future plans; man does not. Therefore, man cannot criticize God and must continue in good works not knowing the future.

Solomon’s concluding division provides a contrast of life under the sun with life that is lived for God and with Godly wisdom. This division has two sections with the main theme being living in the fear of God. (11:7-12:14)

The first section gives an exhortation to follow God in life. Solomon broke this section into three points. The Bible Knowledge Commentary describes them,

1. Enjoy life because the darkness of death is coming (11:7-8)

2. Enjoy life in your youth, remembering that God will judge (11:9-10)

3. Live responsibly in your youth for old age and death are coming (12:1-7) [11]

In this final section Solomon gives his concluding thoughts. He summed up all of his experiences and the conclusions of his observations of life. He first concluded that all is vanity. But at this point of the book it becomes clear that everything under the sun is vanity. Everything done for earthly means is vanity and will pass away. Solomon’s conclusion; “Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.” (Ecc. 12:13-14)

Jesus explained that men should not seek to lay up treasures on earth. Instead they should “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Mt. 6:20) Solomon discovered what Jesus would teach to His first century followers. This simple and yet profound understanding that the things of this world are fleeting and perishable but the things of heaven are eternal.

Work Cited

Carson, D. A., New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994).

Cone, Christopher, Ph.D Th.D, Life Beyond the Sun: An Intoduction to Worldview & Philosophy through the lens of Ecclesiastes, (Fort Worth, Tyndale Seminary Press, 2009)

Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996).

Holladay, William Lee, Ludwig Köhler and Ludwig Köhler, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. (Leiden: Brill, 1971)

Hughes, Robert B. and J. Carl Laney, Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary, The Tyndale reference library (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001)

New King James Version, The. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982).

Walvoord John F., Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, vol. 1, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-)


[1] John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, vol. 1, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-), 978–979.

[2] The New King James Version. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982). All Scriptural references and quotes are based on the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

[3] Robert B. Hughes and J. Carl Laney, Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary, The Tyndale reference library (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 243.

[4] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994).

[5] Christopher Cone, Ph.D Th.D, Life Beyond the Sun: An Intoduction to Worldview & Philosophy through the lens of Ecclesiastes, (Fort Worth, Tyndale Seminary Press, 2009), 21.

[6] William Lee Holladay, Ludwig Köhler and Ludwig Köhler, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. (Leiden: Brill, 1971), 76.

[7] Walvoord, 978–979.

[8] Ibid, 978–979.

[9] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996).

[10] Walvoord, 991.

[11] Ibid, 978–979.

The Olivet Discourse (Summary from last week)

The Olivet Discourse (Summary from last week) Jesus is answering two questions. He answered in reverse order of how they were asked (...