Constructing a counter-argument

13 Jan

Bible promises

A Biblical teacher I admire defends his belief that Christians cannot personally apply or use every promise in the Bible. He does offer, however, that universal promises DO exist, like Jesus’ offer of rest:

  • Come to me, all you who are exhausted and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

But many assurances appear to be directed JUST at a certain people in a PARTICULAR setting during a FINITE PERIOD of history. The classic example he cites is Jeremiah’s affirmation in chapter 29:11:

  • “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

The argument continues like this: if you look at the context of that verse, uttered by the prophet Jeremiah, God is addressing the Hebrew people in Babylon, assuring them that there IS an end to their exile.

The Biblical teacher therefore concludes that 21st century Christians are incorrect in apprehending that promise and many particular ones LIKE that for themselves.

Up until now, I have reluctantly accepted his reasoning. But recently I heard a pastor discuss a prophecy, already fulfilled once in the Old Testament, but again as it came to pass 720 plus years later, NOT in Babylon but in Bethlehem – the birth of Christ.

Here’s the original prophecy or promise from God. The context is King David’s conversation with Nathan the prophet. David informs Nathan that he desires to build a house for God. Nathan approves of his plan. But later that night Nathan receives a restraining message from God for King David. The prophecy he is given to share with the King is this:

2 Samuel 7:12-16

  • “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men,but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me, your throne shall be established forever.”

Solomon was David’s son who succeeded him as king and he DID build a house for God, the temple, completing it in around 964 BC. A kingdom was established.

So following the aforementioned Bible teacher’s reasoning, this prophecy has been fulfilled. Therefore, we cannot ‘take’ it and apply it to any other situations.

But here is how the pastor I recently heard moved in a different direction. He narrated the encouragement and promise from the prophet Micah who reminded the people of his day that a strong ruler in Israel was still yet to come. About 240 years after Solomon’s temple construction the people, living through dark and discouraging days, took hope from this good news about the future:

Micah 5:2-4

  • But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
    Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel.
    And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lordhis God.
    And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.

This is astounding! Micah repeated the main intent of the original prophecy, already fulfilled by Solomon, and pointed to the future birth of Christ as actually the ultimate fulfillment to come. There’s an initial bringing to fruition in 725 BC and another one in around 2 BC when Jesus is born.

Finally, to close his argument, the pastor cites Paul’s New Testament explanation in Romans 15:8 about Christ’s coming:

  • For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,

And I’ve heard John Piper, the pastor whose Biblical exegesis I’ve been writing about, quote this heart-warming fact, again from Paul in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians, verse 1:20:

  • For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

So I side with the good news that Jesus has bought for us, through His blood, every promise in God’s Word. For sure we are to be thoughtful Christians, prayerful and dependent on God’s Holy Spirit to understand correctly God’s Word.

Thanks for reading this. I wanted to take the time to think through and construct reasons for why I disagree with the first man’s argument. And as many have said, ‘Scribere est cogitare’ or writing is thinking. May we all continue to think slowly and reason well in 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Responses to “Constructing a counter-argument”

  1. Cody Libolt January 14, 2016 at 9:42 am #

    Great read! You would enjoy this article that came from a friend of mine recently on a similar topic:

    http://journeyoftheword.com/2016/01/08/finding-hope-in-misinterpretation/

    I think you’d enjoy connecting with her too, and seeing what else she has at her blog.

  2. Maria January 14, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

    Cody – thanks for directing me to her site!

  3. Lydia Borengasser January 14, 2016 at 2:15 pm #

    Maria, thanks for this article. I recently wrote an article regarding this same issue, as Cody mentioned in the above comment. I’m glad he made the connection between our blogs, because I’m certainly interested in reading more of your writing! {Oh, and by the way, I came across this article that was just posted today, also on the same issue: http://www.russellmoore.com/2016/01/14/2-chronicles-714-isnt-about-american-politics/.}

    I’m not sure I understand your connection between 2 Samuel and Micah {maybe I just need to do some more research!}. I do believe Scripture that is distinctly assigned to a specific people, place, situation, or time frame, should not be applied directly by Christians based simply on that passage. However, there are many passages which have “double application.” For example, Isaiah includes many prophecies regarding cities and peoples which would be destroyed. It talks about a “day” in which everything will be laid waste and the Lord alone will be exalted. As you study Isaiah, it is clear that these prophecies have already been fulfilled AND are yet to be fulfilled. Judgment did come, and it will come when Christ returns. And so, yes, much of Isaiah does “directly apply” to us. Maybe this is similar for the passage you referenced?

    Anyway, thanks for the discussion. Thanks for challenging people to think! I look forward to reading more!

    • Maria January 14, 2016 at 2:51 pm #

      Lydia – like you, I appreciated Cody connecting us. I also blog (all about God and what he is teaching me) at feedonhim.com
      I saw the Russell Moore piece, but just re-read it. Thank you! I feast on John Piper sermons every day (they publish an archived sermon each day and I download and listen via iTunes). One of his points is that ‘all the promises of God’ are ours in Christ. they’ve been purchased by his work on the cross and his fulfillment of the law. So I do think we can apply them, but NOT as you so rightly distinguish, broadly. So the Chronicles passage requires us to ask, “Who are the ‘my people’?” I think it’s the church – so if we, a church, repent, he’ll heal our local body which does affect others for sure. I also listen to Greg Koukl (the man who advocates a more limited audience ) and he is the one who preaches – never read just a bible verse; that is, look at the context. And I agree. So my thinking was to see how Christians should look at all Scripture. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • Lydia Borengasser January 14, 2016 at 7:49 pm #

        Glad you mentioned your other blog! I like it! I noticed on your “About” page where you said, “I’m writing for my benefit and if my thoughts bless you, then to God be the glory!” My thoughts exactly regarding my own blog! Actually, you may be the first woman I’ve “met” who has that same purpose in blogging, and who challenges people to think about Scripture. And I’ve been blogging for a year and half! Seems to me bloggers like us are few and far between!

        I think we probably agree more than it sounds regarding how Scripture ought to be applied to us Christians today. It is true, all the promises of God are ours in Christ, and there is certainly something we can learn and live out from every part of Scripture.

        The way I would see the Chronicles passage…”My people” refers to the people of Israel in that day. So, specifically, he’s speaking to them. I think we can safely say that a proper application to our day is to see “my people” as the church. But there’s still a slight disconnect, so I would be hesitant to say dogmatically that “my people” is the church and that we should apply the passage in the same way the people of Israel would have.

        Thanks again for your thoughts!

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