The only full and revealed answer to suffering in this life

I wrote this several years ago at another blog that I write (James Swan’s Beggars All Reformation and Apologetics.

We don’t know all the answers for our questions about pain and suffering in this life, the book of Job gives us some, Romans 8:18-25 gives us some more information; with the rest of Scripture; but the only final and fully revealed answer that has been revealed to us by God is the incarnation of Jesus Christ – that God in Christ entered into our pain and suffering.


Incarnation, Atonement, and Trinity

Music by Phil Keaggy: The Maker of the Universe (Words by F. W. Pitt)

“The Maker of the universe,
As Man for man was made a curse.
The claims of Law which He had made,
Unto the uttermost He paid.
His holy fingers made the bough,
Which grew the thorns that crowned His brow.
The nails that pierced His hands were mined
In secret places He designed.
He made the forest whence there sprung
The tree on which His body hung.
He died upon a cross of wood,
Yet made the hill on which it stood.
The sky that darkened o’er His head,
By Him above the earth was spread.
The sun that hid from Him it’s face
By His decree was poised in space.
The spear which spilled His precious blood
Was tempered in the fires of God.
The grave in which His form was laid
Was hewn in rocks His hands had made.
The throne on which He now appears
Was His from everlasting years.
But a new glory crowns His brow
And every knee to Him shall bow.
The Maker of the Universe”
I love this song! I love the doctrine and affections and emotion of this song! As Jonathan Edwards would say, “I love the sound doctrine that produces right affections and emotions.” It captures the truths of the incarnation, the Deity of Christ, His humility and love and willingness to suffer for us. The incarnation and suffering of the eternal Son of God points to the Trinity, “trinitas in unitas”, “three in one”, as Tertullian wrote. In Against Praxeas, chapter 3.

James White has written, “I love the Trinity! . . . upon reflection, we discover that the Trinity is the highest revelation God has made of Himself to His people. It is the capstone, the summit, the brightest star in the firmament of divine truths. . . God revealed this truth about Himself most clearly, and most irrefutably, in the incarnation itself, when Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, took on human flesh and walked among us.” (The Forgotten Trinity, pp. 13-14)

I agree; I love the song, because I love the Trinity, and I love the incarnation and atonement, and how these truths point us to the God of the Bible, that Christians know; the only God. These truths are beautiful because Truth is beautiful. God is beautiful because He is true. I love God because He first loved me! ( I John 4:10; 19)

God Himself is beautiful because of the perfection of His character and attributes and nature; and the David spoke of “mediating on and beholding the beauty of the Lord” (Psalm 27:4). The Trinity is beautiful because it proclaims that God is one and shows God as loving relationship from all eternity; uncreated, eternal, Sovereign.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1)

“For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,” (Colossians 2:9)

“. . . Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. “For although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” (Philippians 2:5-8)

“God, . . .
in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
. . .
And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says,
. . .
But of the Son He says,
(Hebrews 1:1- 3, 6, 8.)

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. ( John 1:1-5)

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the one and only Son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

In dealing with evangelism with Muslims, one must be prepared in the deep truths of the doctrines of the Deity of Christ, the incarnation, and the Trinity.

Some good books on the Trinity:
1. James White. The Forgotten Trinity. Bethany House Publishers, 1998.

2. Robert Bowman. Why You Should Believe in the Trinity: An Answer to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Baker Books, 1989.

3. Timothy George. Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? Zondervan, 2002. (While I disagree with Timothy George’s recent ecumenism with Roman Catholicism, this book is very good for the theological issues in dealing with Islam.)

4. John Piper. “Contending for Christ Contra Mundum: Exile and Incarnation in the Life of Athanasius”, in Contending For Our All. Crossway Books, 2006. Piper’s chapter on Athanasius speaks to sound doctrine, church history, apologetics, contextualization, hermeneutics, and he addresses the emerging church issue. Highly recommended.

The “Trinitas -Unitas God”, “three in One” God is the Sovereign Creator God who is and was relationship from all eternity past. Amazing! Awesome!

The Trinity answers the issue of longing for that connection of relationship with the living God; He is relationship; love from all eternity; Lover, Beloved, and Love in relationship; Father, Son, and Spirit.

The Trinity and incarnation also enters us into answering the issue of suffering and why God has ordained that suffering and evil happen.

Dorothy Sayers, the Anglican writer, wrote an interesting piece, seeking to answer the issue of why God allowed evil to come into the world. Reformed theology speaks of “God ordaining all things” – and when it comes to evil entering the world, we understand “ordaining” as “deciding that it would happen” (Acts 2:22-23; 4:27-28; Ephesians 1:11; Romans 9:22-23, Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6; Lam. 3:37-38; Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28-29) while at the same time not being the one who does the evil. (I John 1:5; Hab. 1:13; Isaiah 6; Titus 1:2) As John Piper has written, “God is not a sinner.” While some of Sayer’s statement is not theologically precise, and some is not the best wording; I still think it captures a good apologetic truth for the skeptic and a strength for a young believer growing in theology:

“For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is – limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death – He had the honesty and the courage to take His own medicine. Whatever game He is playing with His creation, He has kept His own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself. He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation and defeat, despair and death. When He was a man, He played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worth while.” (Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos? New York: Harcourt, Brace and Col, 149, p. 4; cited in Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers to Tough Questions. Here’s Life Publishers, 1980, p. 153-154.

My Iranian friend Kamyar, who was my second Farsi teacher in 1994, said this to me:

“The two most amazing things about Christianity are:
1. That God, who we were taught in Islam, was far off and aloof, became a man like us, clothed Himself in flesh.”
2. That there is a way to be saved from sin and know it and have assurance of it.
“دو چیز خیلی عالی است در مسیحیت
1. که خدا، که ما در اسلام تعلیم یافتیم که خیلی دور از ما می ماند، انسان شد مثل ما شد، و خود را جسم پوشید،
و 2. که یک راهی را وجود دارد برای نجات از گناه و می توانیم آن راه را بدانیم، و اطمینان داشته باشیم

Posted in Incarnation of Jesus Christ, Suffering and God's Sovereignty, The doctrine of the Trinity, Theology, Theology of God, Truth | 1 Comment

Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God, song by Keith and Kristyn Getty

As Kristyn Getty says at the beginning, make this a prayer as you sing and focus on the meaning of the words.  What a wonderful spiritual song, full of Scriptural words and concepts!  “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)  It is important to constantly abide in the Lord in His word, prayer, and worship.  (John 15:1-16) This song is a wonderful prayer of submission to the Holy Spirit and asking the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts and lives and cause us to act in holiness and godliness.  In involvement in evangelism and apologetics and defending the faith against the attacks of skeptics, atheists, liberal-Leftists and liberal theologians, Muslims, homosexuals, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other groups that seek to destroy the Christian faith, it is very important to constantly come back to simple devotional reading of Scripture, meditation, prayer and worship.

I love Kristyn Getty’s Irish accent as she cites (at the end of the song) part of a prayer that is traditionally ascribed to St. Patrick, the missionary to the Irish in the 400s AD:

“Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.”

This is the end of an adaptation of St. Patrick’s Breastplate prayer.   In 1889, Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895),  penned the version at the request of H. H. Dickinson, Dean of the Chapel Royal at Dublin Castle.  see details here.

Posted in Music, Sanctification/Holy living, Spiritual songs, worship

Debate: The Qur’an’s view of the Previous Scriptures, Shabir Ally vs. David Wood

The content of this article should also be taken into consideration with the Hadith quote at the end of my summary of David Wood’s arguments.

Apologetics and Agape

Besides the very clear presentation by David Wood that the Qur’an:

  1. Affirms/confirms مصدق the inspiration of the previous Scriptures – Surah 3:84, 2:136; 3:3-4
  2. Affirms/confirms مصدق the preservation of the previous Scriptures – Surah 5:47; 10:94 (between the hands – بین یدیه = what they have at the time of Muhammad)
  3. Affirms/confirms the authority of the previous Scriptures – 5:43 – why do they come to you when they have the Torah?

5:47 – let the people of the Gospel judge by what God has revealed therein –

5:68 – O people of the Scripture, اهل الکتاب you have no standing unless you observe/uphold/ hold fast to / do / obey the Torah and the Gospel, and what has been revealed to you from your Lord.”

“Say, “O People of the Scripture, you are [standing] on nothing until you uphold [the law of] the Torah, the Gospel, and what has…

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Nabeel Qureshi (1983-2017)

Nabeel Qureshi passed away today and entered into the joy and fellowship with Jesus in heaven. His testimony and godly attitude all the while he was going through the cancer was a great testimony.
I am sad; and happy at the same time. So sad to see a man die so young. So sad that he no longer with us. My eyes are starting to water.

So happy about the truth of eternal life and his conversion to Christ and his wonderful attitude.
He modeled Jesus’ prayer, “Not My will, but Yours be done.” Luke 22:42

Pray for his family, wife & child’s comfort and strength, Pray for his parents’ salvation.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones” Psalm 116:15

His book, “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” was really good and I remember I recommended this book to my father in law, he read it and said that that book really helped him understand Muslims and Islam.   He was from an Ahmadi Muslim background.

Posted in Suffering and God's Sovereignty, Testimony, Truth

Clips of James White presenting the gospel in debates with Muslims

Posted in Apologetic Dialogue, Apologetics, Gospel Truth, Islam, Muslims, Truth

“The Love of Christ compels us . . . to keep you at arms length . . . “

I have been reaching out to Muslims in evangelism since 1983.  I was taught well in seminary in Greek, Hebrew, theology, hermeneutics, apologetics and evangelism, and I was also taught well in missions and missionary principles and the importance of listening, learning the other person’s heart language, and learning their culture and spending time with the people so as to model the attitude of Jesus in Philippians 2:5-8 and the attitude of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.   After I came to a Reformed understanding of theology and the doctrines of Grace, slowly but steadily, from around 1994 to 2000; (part of that time while an overseas missionary), I also noticed a bad attitude toward missions and evangelism that I could not put my finger on until now. Dr. White, in dealing fairly and truthfully with Muslims, and also growing in his own methods of outreach, friendship, and respecting Muslims and praying for them and learning to eat lunch and meals with them, etc.; has done the Reformed and conservative Christian world a great blessing.

Dr. James R. White refuted Pastor Steve Camp.  What Dr. White has been doing is exposing a very deep and ugly attitude that some conservative Christians have in relation to people who are different than them, or from another religion (like Muslims), or culture. If Camp and Brannon Howse, Sam Shamoun, and others like them represent a large percentage of Bible-believing churches; well, no wonder missionaries have such a hard time raising support and communicating.  Or, as I have experienced, we get a blank stare and “God bless you brother, you go for it; but I don’t want to do that, and don’t ask me to.”.

I especially love Dr. White’s point at 1:01 and following:
Steve Camp and many other conservative Christians’ attitude towards Muslims is:

“The Love of Christ compels us . . . to keep you at arms length and never have any to do with you”

Camp’s methodology is pretty much: “to check off my tick list that I mentioned Jesus, the atonement, resurrection, repentance, and I said it to you and gave you a track and that is all I have to do” – That seems to be the attitude of a lot of people who advocate only street preaching and /or handing out tracks, etc.

This is the attitude that I have noticed a lot from a lot of my fellow Bible believing Christians – the only evangelism many of them seem to think is Biblical is open air preaching, passing out a tract, or a five minute monologue where the Christian gets to say all the main points of the gospel and then walks away, thinking he has communicated the gospel.  (But he really has not communicated the truth of the gospel.)

This whole thing has exposed a great weakness in many conservative Christians’ attitudes towards others (foreigners, Muslims, people of other religions, cultures, etc.) .

Thank you Dr. White for this. Every Bible Believing missionary would love your balance and zeal on this issue. And every Bible believing Christian should agree with what you are saying and if they had that bad attitude before, I pray that this would lead them to repent.

Posted in Apologetic Dialogue, Apologetics, Balance, Christian Attitudes toward others, Evangelism, Islam, Muslims, Truth

Muslims who ignore the context of a Bible book

Recently, Dr. White debated Zakir Hussein on the Crucifixion of Christ.
See the video here at an earlier blog post.

In the com boxes over at Paul Williams’ site, “Blogging Theology”, along with Zakir Hussein’s argument in his debate with Dr. White, these Muslims try to say that Hebrews 5:7 means that God the Father saved Jesus from going to the cross and suffering and dying. This is amazing ! The whole book of Hebrews demolishes any argument that Muslims try to have on this issue!

Zakir Hussein and you guys are trying to tell us that Hebrews 5:7 means that Jesus did not die on the cross?

Obviously you guys don’t know how to read a book and see the verse in context.
Amazing to me !!

Dr. White is right – the way that Jesus was saved was by the resurrection from the dead. He died, and then on the 3rd day rose from the dead in power. it says God the Father is “able” to save Him from death,it does not say that God the Father took Him to Himself or raised Him to heaven before the cross or before death; and remember Jesus said, “But not My will, but Thy will be done” (Luke 22:42) all the other verses below speak of Jesus willingly offering Himself as a offering, a sacrifice, which points to Isaiah 53:10 – “if He would offer Himself as a guilt offering”, etc.

Read these verses through and see that there is no way to interpret Hebrews 5:7 as somehow that Jesus was taken away before the cross and not crucified and did not die.

He suffered, was crucified, died, buried, and rose from the dead.

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, 
21 equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:20-21

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high

Hebrews 1:3

Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Hebrews 9:22

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Hebrews 2:9

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.

Hebrews 2:10

For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source . . .
Hebrews 2:11 (see Hebrews 10:10-14 – we are sanctified by the sacrifice / offering/ death of Jesus)

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil

Hebrews 2:14

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.
8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.
9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,

Hebrews 5:7-9

25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.
27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up Himself.

Hebrews 7:25-27

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)
12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 
13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh,
14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Hebrews 9:11-14

Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Hebrews 9:22

24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own,
26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is,He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 
27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Hebrews 9:24-28

10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,
13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.
14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Hebrews 10:10-14

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high

Hebrews 1:3

Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Hebrews 9:22

See the “purification by blood” is about His death on the cross.

So, all the Muslims’ arguments of trying to use Hebrews 5:7 for some kind of harmony with the Islamic verse, Qur’an Surah 4:157, fail miserably.

Posted in Apologetics, Atonement for sin, Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Islam, Muslims, Paul Bilal Williams, Substitutionary Atonement, The Book of Hebrews | 2 Comments