Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Exposition of Romans chapter 11 - by Martyn Lloyd Jones

Martyn-Lloyd Jones' enthusiasm about this 11th chapter of Romans is evident in every chapter of this book.   My dad likes to point out that the most interesting messages are given by people who are actually interested in what they are speaking about.  Lloyd-Jones is definitely interested and excited about sharing what he has learned in God's word, and so this commentary(a collection of his sermons on this chapter)is very interesting.  In Romans 11 Paul is continuing his explanation of what is going on with the ethnic people God chose, namely the people of Israel, and whether or not God is done with them as an ethnicity.  The majority of Jews were rejecting the Gospel, while most of the people who were responding to the 'call' were  Gentiles.  

Despite his apparently Amillennial views, Lloyd-Jones emphatically rejects the view that the term 'Israel' is speaking of the 'Church' anywhere in this passage.  He explains that it is speaking of the ethnic people descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and refutes arguments against it.  Here is an overview of his view, he explains this passage as, God is not done with the people of Israel(Paul himself being evidence of this), God has a 'remnant' of Jews, in every age, who are believers.  Lloyd-Jones believes that the Olive tree in this passage is the people of God, and expounds on what Paul is saying in this passage  in his  speaking about how God has cut off the Jews because of their unbelief, and has grafted in 'wild olive branches'/the Gentiles. 

I liked his address of an objection some people might bring up in regards to Paul's warning the Christian Gentiles about becoming arrogant, and the statement, "if thou continue in His goodness: otherwise you too shall be cut off".   Some might think that this passage teaches that a person can lose their salvation.  Lloyd Jones explains that the only persons who will heed the warnings given to Christians are true Christians.  The people who do not care and do not heed the warnings of God prove that they are non-Christians.  I'll give an excerpt here:  "…these passages are ways in which God actually secures the perseverance of His saints and people……The only people who are ever frightened by a statement such as this are true Christian people.  Nobody else.  The whole trouble with these others who think they are Christians - temporary believers, temporary professors, call them what you like - the trouble with them is that they are always self-satisfied, they are perfectly happy, nothing ever disturbs them at all, and they can read through the warnings of the scripture without anything troubling them…..it is through passages similar to this that God ensures and secures the perseverance of His own people.  It is only to His own people He ways, 'Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling', One of the best tests of assurance is that we know something about fear and trembling.  'Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men'.  This is God's way, then, of securing the final perseverance and the ultimate glorification of His people." 

Amongst other things, I disagree with his view that the only future plan God has for ethnic Israel is their spiritual salvation as a whole.  My problem is not with his view that there is coming a day when Israel as a nation will come to believe in Christ, and they will all be saved.  My problem is that he does not believe that when Israel is saved they will dwell in the land of Israel, and that there will be a Millennial reign of Christ on this earth.  "We have given an explanation of what is meant by 'all Israel' but what is meant by 'being saved'?  This is most important.   What Paul is concerned about is the salvation of 'all Israel'.  He does not say anything here about the future of the Jewish nation from any kind of governmental point of view, or even in terms of the land of Palestine.  That is not what he is talking about.  He is talking about its salvation and Jews are going to be saved in exactly the same way as anybody else."  He seems to think that all 'premillennialists' believe that the Jews will be saved by a means other than Christ's sacrifice.  Perhaps some do believe that way, but I do not.  The Jews will be saved the exact same way Gentiles are saved, but when the Jews are saved they will be given the land of Israel that was promised to them forever when they are a righteous people.  They will not become righteous on their own, God will have given them His own Righteousness through Christ, that will fulfill the requirement for their continued residence in the land promised to them(Isa 60:21; Ezek 37:21-28;Deut 32:43…etc.).  

He quotes Charles Hodge, speaking of the correct interpretation of prophecy, "'Great events are foretold but the mode of their occurrence, their details and their consequences can only be learned by the event'…Now history, you see, tells you not only about the great events it gives you the details….Prophecy tells us about the great events that are going to happen, 'but the mode of their occurrence, their details, and their consequences can only be learned by the event' - by when it happens."  He goes on to illustrate this by the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the Messiah, "All they knew was that there was a promise concerning a Messiah.  But you and I with the Gospels in our hands and the knowledge of the story, look back and read the Old Testament prophecies and see the amazing character of it all, the detailed information that was given: hidden of course at that time, but to us perfectly clear because we are looking at it in retrospect.  That is what Charles Hodge is saying.  He says you must not go to prophecy and expect it to be a sort of detailed account of what is going to happen…The principle, he says, of the interpretation of prophecy therefore is this, that it is concerned with the big things not with the details."  But there were some details given in prophecy, for instance, that the Messiah would be born of a virgin, would come out of Egypt, be born in Bethlehem, would perform miracles…etc.  Of course they didn't know how they would all work out or fit together, but these most definitely were details concerning the Messiah. It is the same with the Premillennial view, we know that Israel will be brought back to the land of Israel,  they will be saved by Christ's sacrifice, they will never disobey again, Christ will reign over them…etc.(Ezek. 37; Jer. 32:38-42; Jer. 31:31-37; Zech 12:10; Rev 20;…etc.)  These are details, we do not know exactly how or when they will happen, but we believe that they will happen. 

Despite the fact that his Amillennial views pop up in various forms throughout the book, despite the fact that he sometimes confuses me when he is citing a view that he is about to critique and at first I think that he is giving his own view, and despite some other disagreements(like his view that Paul changed certain quotations of the Old Testament by inspiration of the Holy Spirit), I still think that this is a good commentary.  I especially liked his review of the doxology at the end of the book.  I'll end with a quote from that section.  Here Lloyd Jones is critiquing people/churches who think that we should have a 'dialogue' with people of other religions, to deal with it as an intellectual debate,  to listen and learn from them.  Rather than being too dogmatic in our belief in the Scriptures as the source of truth, we should be open to their views:  "…Now that is the trouble with modern man.  It is that man, by nature, is sinful, has got a carnal mind, hates God, and the devil whom he unknowingly serves, has blinded the minds of them that believe not.  It does not matter how clever or able he is.  The devil has blinded his mind 'lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them'.  That, according to the Apostle and according to the whole of the scriptural teaching, is the one and only explanation as to why men and women do not believe.  Therefore what have I to learn from such a man?  What has a man who is blinded by the devil got to tell me about these matters?  Why should I have a dialogue with him?  No, no, I am sorry for him.  The man is blinded, he is ignorant, he knows nothing.  I have the knowledge which alone can help him.  It is not mine, it has been given to me, it has been revealed to me, and it is my duty to tell him.  I am doing him a disservice by letting him talk.  He is not capable of expressing an opinion.  He is in the dark, 'dead in trespasses and sins'.  That is the whole of the scriptural teaching.  But, the modern teaching denies this utterly and absolutely, and this is the spectacle by which we are confronted, that the modern church is paying compliments to the unregenerate man and says, 'Now we must preach less to you, we have been speaking too much, let us sit down, you talk, I want to listen, I want to learn from you'.  I do not hesitate to assert that this is a denial of Christ.  Not only do I not learn from the natural unregenerate man, I do not learn from the Hindu or the Muslim, the Confucian or the Buddhist; they have nothing to tell me.  The Bible, and the Bible alone, contains the knowledge and it is given by God….The greatest need in the world tonight is the authoritative proclamation of this one and only gospel." 

 

Many thanks to The Banner of Truth for sending me a review copy of this book!(My review did not have to be favorable)

This book may be purchased at Amazon and on the Banner of Truth website

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? - By Michael Rydelnik

How defensible are Old Testament prophecies of Christ?  If someone came up to you and declares that, in the Hebrew manuscripts of the OT, Psalm 22:16 does not read, "they pierced my hands and my feet," rather, when it is accurately translated it reads, "like a lion are my hands and feet." What would your answer be?  And what if they say that Isaiah 53 was not speaking of a Messiah, but rather of Israel as a suffering servant?  Nowadays, too many Christians believe that many, if not all, of the prophecies of the Messiah are only indirect prophecies, not direct prophecies.  And many Christians might say that these prophecies are allegorically fulfilled, or that it is perfectly alright for the Holy Spirit , in His inspiration of the Apostles, to change His own prophecies.  Others say that many prophecies have a 'double fulfillment', that these prophecies were fulfilled historically, in the prophets' life-time, and that they were fulfilled spiritually by Christ.   

Michael Rydelnik offers the best defense I have read on the topic, arguing for the literal/direct fulfillment of Messianic/end time prophecies.  I was fascinated by his information on Rashi and his followers,  how they influenced, and to some degree instigated, the change from the literal interpretation of the Messianic prophecies, to interpreting these prophecies as having historical fulfillments in the time they were prophesied. In doing this, they countered the Christians' proof texts that Jesus is the Christ.  These Jews' claimed to be using a literal hermeneutic, and that the literal interpretation of these prophecies was to view them as historically fulfilled.  For instance, Isaiah 7:14 is speaking of a woman in Isaiah's day, most likely Isaiah's wife, who will have a baby, it is not speaking about a virgin birth.  This method of interpretation was eventually picked up by the church, and now, "As a result, much of contemporary, Christian interpretation uses anti-Christian Jewish polemic to interpret messianic passages of the Hebrew Scriptures."  And Christians try to apply them to the Messiah by saying that these prophecies had double fulfillments, that their primary fulfillment was their literal fulfillment in the days they were spoken, but that they have a secondary spiritual fulfillment in Christ.   

 Rydelnik is also very good in his explanation of the Masoretic Text(the Hebrew text our modern Old Testaments are based upon) and his defense of ancient versions of the Old Testament:  "…the Masoretic Text is a post-Christian, Jewish version of the Old Testament.  As such, it reflects the theological perspective of post-Christian, rabbinic Judaism.  Thus, there are several significant examples of the Masoretic Text interpreting Old Testament messianic texts in a distinctly nonmmessianic (or historical) fashion, whereas other ancient versions interpret the same texts as referring to the Messiah." He goes on to show some examples of where the Masorites changed the text, talking about how the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible(and other translations) reads the same passages Messianically rather than historically.  For instance, the Greek OT translation of Psalm 22:16 reads, "they pierced my hands and feet" rather than, "like/as a lion are my hands and feet".  He explains how obscure the Hebrew is vs. the Greek which makes more grammatical sense.  He counters the view that we should go with the Hebrew since it is the "harder reading" by the statement, "…defining the harder reading depends on the audience reading it.  For a Masorete, 'they pierced my hands and my feet,' a seeming prediction of the Messiah's crucifixion, would certainly have been the harder reading."  And he also notes that in 1997 a Hebrew fragment of the book of Psalms was found, dated "between AD 50-68" containing this Psalm and it reads "they pierced".  Rydelnik ends up stating that, "The careful interpreter of messianic prophecy should be aware of text critical issues because these predictions may be buried in the Hebrew Bible's critical apparatus rather than in the Masoretic Text itself."   

My only real problem with this book is that Rydelnik doesn't believe that certain texts were actual prophecies.  For example, he believes that Matthew 2:15, where Matthew states events that "fulfill" Hosea 11:1,"Out of Egypt I have called my Son", is a typological fulfillment, because he believes this passages was actually speaking of Israel.  I disagree here, and think that John Gill has a better answer, that the passage actually is speaking of Christ, and that it(Hosea 11:1) can be interpreted/read something like this, "Because of God's love for Israel, He has called His Son out of Egypt."  Israel and her King were rebellious, and the King of Israel was 'disowned', 'cut off' or 'cast out'(chpt.10:15) but God loves Israel so He will call His own  Son out of Egypt to be their King.  I don't believe, as the author does, that Numbers 23-24 establishes 'Israel' as a valid 'type' of the Messiah, I don't believe that it makes Israel a type of the Messiah at all.  You see Him coming out of/from the people of Israel(Num. 24:17,19), but I do not see that He is called 'Israel'.  I believe that Rydelnik's excellent comments on Psalm 110 apply here:  "If one presupposes that there are no direct messianic predictions or any concept of a Messiah in the Hebrew Bible, then certainly it would be necessary to look for alternative interpretations of Psalm 110.  However, if there is a good reason to presuppose that the Psalms are indeed messianic, then this will yield a messianic explanation of the psalm."   I believe that we have good reason to believe that Hosea 11:1 is Messianic, and so we ought to look for an 'alternative interpretation that yields a direct Messianic meaning, rather than just settling for the view that the verse is not essentially Messianic.  If an Apostle appears to view a passage as being literally fulfilled, I believe that we should presuppose that the passage is directly Messianic. Knowing that the Apostles had much older copies of the Old Testament than we do should also bias us towards them, and make us less biased towards our own limited modern textual assortment of manuscripts and supposed superiority of our own modern manuscripts and interpretations.   

Despite my disagreements, I consider this  a GREAT book on the topic of Messianic prophecy and an excellent source of information on textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible and on modern interpretations of the Old Testament.  Even the conclusion is great.  He ends with an example of the Scriptures Accomplishing God's purposes at a time when he failed in his presentation/defense of them.   I am very pleased that Rydelnik has a bias towards the authority, inspiration and literal-grammatical-historical interpretation God's Word;  that type of bias is sadly declining/has declined in 'Christian' circles.  I highly recommend this book. If you are studying prophecies of Christ, or just want more information on their interpretation, get this book!

 

Many thanks to B&H publishing group for sending me a free review copy of this book. (My review did not have to be favorable)
 
this book may be purchased on Amazon.com