Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Pocket Testament League

"Jeans" banner ad - The Pocket Testament League
Evangelism. We all know that we are supposed to do it. Most of us have a desire to share the faith but we often lack the confidence to follow through. We often worry about if we are going to say the wrong thing. Maybe some of us do not feel equipped to share the gospel very well.

About a month ago, someone introduced me to the Pocket Testament League. Now, I would like to introduce it to you.

Here's an overview from their website:

The ministry began in 1893 as the vision of a teenage girl named Helen Cadbury, daughter of the president of Cadbury Chocolates. She was so excited about sharing her faith that she organized a group of girls who sewed pockets onto their dresses to carry the small New Testaments her father had provided. The girls called their group "The Pocket Testament League." Using small membership cards, they pledged to read a portion of the Bible every day, pray, and to share their faith as God provided opportunity.

Their plan is simple: Read, Carry, Share.

Read God's Word.
Carry God's Word in the form of a gospel of John.
Share God's Word by giving it away.

I have begun to use it as part of my regular routine as a pastor. I can honestly say, I wish someone would have told me about it sooner.

With tracts I find I spend time reading the tract, scrutinizing the tract, sometimes wishing it said things a little different, and then wondering things like "Did I grab the right tract to share with the person?"

I've decided now I'm going to keep a Gospel of John with me. I usually keep a small box in the car for good measure.

I would invite you to check out the Pocket Testament League. You can sign up and receive up to 30 free gospels of John a month through sponsorship. You simple order them, tell them what you'd like to use them for, and within a few days your order will be sponsored by a donation and your gospels shipped.

I would also encourage you to sign up for their evangelism boot camp. It is a seven email training course that gives you some basics for sharing the faith.

Consider this a helpful tool to help us all be more evangelistic. Click on one of the web banners and sign up for the league today.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Importance of Church Membership

One discussion that often comes up is: do I need to regularly attend a local church? Another subset of this question is: do I need to become a church member?

Often times we are told there was no portrait of church membership in Scripture. I will admit some churches today may practice membership as a form of self righteousness justifying their own self worth as a church by how many numbers they can pad into their roles. Yet I would maintain church membership is important and 100% faithful with Biblical practices--when it is not abused. Membership is basically mutually acknowledged commitment in a local body and agreement with the local elders/under-shepherds that you are under them and that they will watch over your soul according to the Biblical proscription. 

I'll start with a statement and then ask a series of questions.

If a Christian cannot submit to under-shepherds anywhere or in any form, he cannot substantiate the claim he is truly submitting to the Shepherd.

Can we really show commitment to a local expression of God's body if we bounce around from church to church? We are supposed to have elders exercising oversight over us (1 Pet. 5:2), we are supposed to have people watching over our souls so that they can give an account to God for us (Heb. 13:17) can that happen when weekly, monthly or yearly I switch from church to church? Can watch over my soul really happen if I don't make it a habit to gather with at least one consistent group of believers? Christian growth takes years and decades, can others answer in watch over me if I exit in monthly patterns? Can I really obey and submit to a particular group of leaders (Heb. 13:17) if I make a habit not to have one particular place of worship?

How can you place yourself under elders teaching and preaching if you don't even go regularly to the same church? How can they watch how you interact with the family of God if you don't gather regularly within one family context? If each week you are under a new set of teacher and elders, how can anyone offer you spiritual care and oversight? How can you claim to obey and submit (Heb. 13:17) if you are not regular, habitual and even staying through the long haul.

How can under-shepherds watch you grow up in faith and doctrine protected from false doctrine that abounds out there (Eph. 4:14) when you freely bounce around to places with all manner of teaching? How can they love you and knit you into Christ's body and a local expression of it, and see that you are properly fitted into the body (Eph. 4:13, 15,16), when they don't even go to the same local body as you? When you cannot knit yourself in with anyone or under anyone for a regular, consistent and habitual period of time can you really claim to manifest the spiritual maturity demonstrated by one who is knit to Christ?

Can you really claim the love of God is manifest in you, if you cannot be patient, long-suffering, loving and keep no records of wrongs with fellow believers inside a single expression of Christ's body?

Commitment to the local church is vital for your spiritual growth and development. It is part of your spiritual life. If you are being knitted into Christ's body and you are growing up in your faith and in love, you will grow in your commitment and expressions of love within a particular local expression of Christ's body.

Monday, April 9, 2012

6 Reasons it was Impossible for Death to Hold Christ

Acts 2:24 “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.

God the Father raised His Son Jesus from the dead. The Greek word we translate "since" denotes reason. We could easily translate it "because." But why was it impossible for Jesus to be held by the power of death?

Here are 6 reasons from the text of Scripture:

1. It was impossible for Jesus to stay dead because Jesus exhausts the curse of sin.
Acts 2:24 “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
The phrase ‘agony of death’ means literally the birthpains of death. Death is horrible. It is the curse for sin. It is the due punishment.

In the Old Testament, the grave was personified as ‘Sheol’. It was described as having cords that would strangle you and caused great distress.
Psalm 116:3 The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.
When God raised Jesus, he put a stop to this.

The Bible says “the wages of sin is death.” The point is that Jesus completely paid the debt and so once the debt was paid he could not be held by the power of the debt.

If we would try to pay off our own debt, we have to suffer eternally in the torment of hell. Why? Because we sinned against God who is infinitely holy and an eternal person. The torment of hell on a sinner who refuses to repent will be forever.

Christ could suffer one time on the cross and pay for our sins. He was only held by death for three days. It was three days in order to show he had really died. But on one cross in a period of six hours or so, he could exhaust God’s wrath for sin.

Why? How could an eternal punishment for sin be exhausted in about six hours? Because of the nature of the person suffering: He was the eternal Son of God.

God the Father raised Jesus up from the death because his wrath for sin was exhausted by the work of Christ as our sin bearer. If Jesus continued to be held by the agony of death it would have been injustice of continuing to suffer when the punishment was exhausted or it would have meant that sin was not fully paid for. Since sin was fully paid for, God the Father raises Jesus up from under the curse.

2. It was impossible for Jesus to stay dead because in life and on the cross he had offered perfect obedience and trust to His Father.
Acts 2:25 “For David says of Him, ‘I saw the Lord always in my presence;
To say “I saw the Lord” is an expression of trust. While the words were original of David, David is speaking them prophetically. The "I" becomes Jesus in the fulfillment.

You see Jesus did not go to the cross cursing God, or complaining to God. “Oh God why could you let this happen to me.” --that is how we complain--and who are we? We are nobodies, made from dust. Insignificant with no right to challenge God, even Job had to learn he couldn’t challenge God.

But Jesus was the Son of God--and yet He perfectly and fully trusted the Father. He exercises this trust in perfect humanity. This perfect trust and obedience is what every child of Adam has failed to do. Jesus keeps the first commandment trusting God, loving him wholly with all his heart, soul and mind.

In the garden he said “Not my will but yours.” He entrusts himself to the Father's plan.

On the cross he said “into your hands I commit my spirit.” He trusts the Father, setting the Father before himself in perfect obedience.

Hebrews 5:8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.

He was a Son but he went through an experience of ultimate obedience--‘learning’ not in the sense that he lacked knowledge, but learning as in going through the trial.

Because Christ in His humanity offered perfect righteousness in the form of perfect human obedience and trust--God could raise Him. The full obedience of Christ merits the resurrection and makes it impossible for death to hold him.

Death cannot hold Jesus because Jesus acted righteously. Therefore God raises Him up in resurrection and declares: This is My SON! He is vindicated and righteous!

3. It was impossible for Jesus to stay dead because the Father will not eternally abandon the Son.
Acts 2:25 “For David says of Him, ‘I saw the Lord always in my presence;
While David wrote this Psalm, it is a prophecy about Jesus. Jesus looked forward to always being back in the presence of God.

This is why in John 17:
1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him...
5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
So on the cross, in all the shame, we see Jesus glorifying the Father. He is winning eternal life for those given to him.

But then He will return into the glorious presence of the Father.

While the Son could be cursed--this curse could not last forever. The future for the Son involved an 'always in God's presence.' So he endures the shame of the cross for the joy set before Him. The Son trusts the Father and trusts that he will once again have the Lord “always in my presence.”

Why will the Son always be in the Father's presence? Because He had this glory from all eternity past--He must be restored to life and restored to this glory. While the Second person of the Trinity can bear the wrath of God and this disruption of fellowship, God the Son cannot be cut off and exiled from the eternal glory he shared with the Father since before the foundation of the Word. God the Son cannot be abandoned eternally to the grave. The Son knows the promise he has: Acts 2:28 “You will make me full of gladness with Your presence.’”

While for a point in time the Son came to know the full wrath of God for sins, the hope that the Son looked forward to was the restoration of being made full of the gladness of God's presence.

The gladness could not be a mere disembodied state because of the other promises of God.

4. It was impossible for Jesus to stay dead because the Father promised to restore Jesus in the flesh to His presence.
Acts 2:26 ‘Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; Moreover my flesh also will live in hope;
Psalm 16 is God's Word of prophecy through David. As prophecy it is a promise of God himself about what he will do for his Messiah.

What is the nature of the resurrection body? It is a physical body.

Christ’s body of flesh does not stay in the grave. It is raised up and transformed to have indestructible life. But the hope of the resurrection--Jesus’ hope is “my flesh will live in hope.”

In the physical body Jesus will dwell in God’s presence. The body did not stay in the grave. Jesus came bodily back to life.

So 40 days after the resurrection, Jesus’ physical resurrection body which is corporeal, goes to heaven.

For the first time, a man in human bodily form goes into the very gates of heaven and enters into God’s presence on our behalf.

5. It was impossible for Jesus to stay dead because God promised that Jesus’ body would not see corruption.
Acts 2:27 Because You will not abandon my soul to Hades, Nor allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. 28 ‘You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of gladness with Your presence.’

The phrase 'abandon my soul to Hades' should not be understood as Jesus descending into hell. Rather it is the idea of Christ’s life being under Sheol or the grave’s power.

Jesus cannot stay dead because God the Father cannot abandon God the Son. The power of God the Father cannot leave God the Son under the power of the grave.

Jesus needed to have a resurrection of His body because God promised to David that the Messiah’s body would not see corruption. It does not take very long for the body to begin to decay. Being in the grave for three days, Jesus' body was clearly dead but the decay and corruption of the body in the grave did not have time to set in.

So Jesus’ resurrection body had to be his old body made alive again because if his old body was in the grave it would go through decay and turn into dust.

Making known the ways of life doesn’t mean simply the soul goes to heaven--rather it means that Jesus walked around in a body that could be touched and could eat. It has physical form.

It means the tomb was empty and if the tomb wasn’t really empty and Jesus really didn’t come back to life all Christians are liars and God did not keep his word.

6. It was impossible for Jesus to stay dead because the Father had made an oath to King David.
Acts 2:29 “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 “And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay.

How do we know this is Psalm is prophecy? Because David’s body did see decay. His body still was in the grave. The cords of Sheol still entangled His physical body.

The oath God made appears in the David Covenant in 2 Samuel 7 but is reflected on throughout the Old Testament. In Acts here, Peter is alluding to Psalm 132:11--
Psalm 132:11 The LORD swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: “One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne. 
Jesus had to be raised bodily from the dead so that as he is set on the throne he could rule in the body. His body, according to its human lineage had to be from the line of David. It had to be a new creation form of the same original body that was conceived in the virgin Mary. It had to be this same body, albeit transformed into indestructible life, so that David's seed [e.g. offspring/descendant] would be the one ruling.

God was keeping His oath to David.

While I believe when David died, he went into God’s presence in heaven, he was not in God’s presence in the flesh. He was still awaiting a future resurrection. But David trusted that would but one of David’s descendants on the throne. And God does this in Jesus.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

6 Truths About the Resurrection

1. The Resurrection of Jesus is his return to bodily life.

Resurrection is the return of the body to life. In his life Jesus had a human body and that body returned from the grave. Resurrection is a movement to a new state: “indestructible life.” It is bodily life that is imperishable and now immortal life in the body. The resurrection body can never die or come under the curse of sin. Resurrection does not mean ‘spiritual/non-bodily,’ nor ‘phantom/ghost’ nor ‘ascent to heaven.’ Resurrection did not mean ‘seeing a vision of Jesus who was dead.'

2. The Resurrection is the declaration that Jesus is “righteous.”

In Jesus’ death the curse of sin is put upon him. But resurrection is the proclamation that Jesus is no longer condemned for our sins. He is raised up and God declares that Jesus is “righteous.” He has done what is right, he fulfilled his mission and he obeyed God’s law perfectly in his humanity.

The Son has done what the Father sent him to do and now the Father begins exalting him in resurrection. It is a “reward” as it were. In the resurrection we see that Jesus truly is the “Holy One” because God promised to David in Psalm 16 that the Holy One wouldn’t see decay.

Isaiah 53:11 Out of the anguish of his soul he [God the Father] shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
1 Timothy 3:16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated [literally: justified] by the Spirit...” 
Romans 4:25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.

Just as Jesus wins in his death our freedom from sin because he is pronounced guilty for us, so also when he is raised up he is declared to be “righteous.” He has obeyed God perfectly. His act on the cross is an act of righteousness in obedience to the Father. Just as the Father can pronounce us forgiven when we believe in Jesus’ death--the Father can pronounce us “righteous” when we believe in his resurrection.

We do not earn or merit salvation we trust Jesus (in his death and resurrection) and we are given the gifts of the benefits.

3. The Resurrection is Jesus’ enthronement as Messianic King.

Romans 1:3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,

In verse 3 we have a reference to Jesus’ humanity. The Son--the Son who was the Son of God before He came-- “was born a descendant of David.” In his humanity he was of the line of David.

Then there is the phrase “declared Son of God with power.” The word “declared” actually means “appointed.” The English translates it “declared” because they do not want you to think Jesus was made divine at this point. That is against the whole of the Bible. Appointed would be a word to describe the enthronement of a king. As Messiah, here on earth Jesus is appointed, designated for fixed as king when he is resurrected.

The resurrection is the crowning of Jesus.

Jesus did not come in power but in humility. He came to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. But now by his resurrection--the powerful display of resurrection... it is like the placing of the crown on Jesus’ head. We are too look and see he really is the Messiah.
Acts 2:36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” 
Acts 13:33 that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘You are My Son; today i have begotten You.’ 
Psalm 2:6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” 7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.

Jesus is raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit.

What we are saying is this: the Jesus' resurrection begins Jesus’ exaltation. It is your king presented to you in glory. It is more than just saying “his sacrifice is good.” It is saying: this is your king. He is fixed over you to rule in power!

4. The Resurrection makes it possible for Jesus to ascend into heaven as our human representative.

Hebrews 7:16 who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life.

Hebrews is contrasting Jesus’ being our high priest with the Old Testament high priesthood.

Levites and the line of Aaron were set apart by the Law and there was a physical requirement. The basis and ground for them being a high priest is that they were of the right line.

How can Jesus be our high priest? How can he go back into heaven and stand to represent us? He has indestructible life. His humanity is now resurrected and it is an imperishable body. Jesus cannot die again. Not only does he have no need to even more in his resurrected body he cannot die. It is wholly impossible for a resurrection body to come under the pains of curse of sin and death.

Resurrection bodies cannot be conquered by death.
Hebrews 5:5 So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You”;

Hebrews 5:8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,10 being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
The point is this: in the resurrection the Father crowns the Son with glory and honor. It is glory shining through his humanity. While he is the eternal Son of God and never loses his glory. In his humility the glory is veiled and does not shine through. His acts are that of meekness, mildness, servanthood.

In the resurrection he is crowned with glory. In Hebrews, the phrase “having been made perfect” denotes not moral perfection but resurrection perfection--the state of “glorification.” It is the perfection of being installed as the king. It is the perfection of the “new creation” where death cannot conquer him.

Jesus was always morally pure. But he goes from being able to lay down his life and die under the curse to the completed final state, resurrection life. In resurrection life he can go into heaven and be our high priest. Without conquering death and loosing its pains and then himself being glorified in resurrection life, he would be unable to bring many sons to glory.

5. The Resurrection begins the reign of Jesus which inaugurates the “Kingdom” of God.

If he is “appointed Son of God in power” and if he is “made Lord and Christ” as the Bible says, then were are to see that kingdom is present in the King. The kingdom gets “inaugurated” because the king is installed in power.

The resurrection says to you and I: “BEHOLD YOUR KING!” It is the Lord Jesus. He is like you in humanity! You will be like Him in resurrection. And yet the one who did this is unlike you: he is God.

This presentation of the king is like king David in the Old Testament. When he gets crowned in 2 Samuel, he is the king. Yet there are works for the king to do in vanquishing the enemies.

Hebrews tells us all things are under his dominion and authority even though we look out and we don’t see it yet.
1 Corinthians 15:25 “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.”

Herman Bavinck writes:
“But in the state of exaltation, consequently, he has also been given the divine right, the divine appointment, the royal power and prerogatives to carry out the work of re-creation in full, to conquer all his enemies, to save all those who have been given to him, and to perfect the entire kingdom of God. On the basis of the one, perfect sacrifice made on the cross, he now--in keeping with the will of the Father--distributes all his benefits. Those benefits are not the physical or magical aftereffect of his earthly life and death; the history of the kingdom of God is not an evolutionistic process. It is the living exalted Christ, seated at the right hand of God, who deliberately and with authority distributes all these benefits, gathers his elect, overcomes his enemies, and directs the history of the world toward the day of his parousia. He is still consistently at work in heaven as mediator. He not only was but still is our chief prophet, our only high priest, and our eternal king. He is the same yesterday, today and forever....
“There is, of course, an enormous difference between the work of Christ did in his humiliation and what he accomplishes in his exaltation. Just as after the resurrection, his person appeared in another form, so also his work assumed another form. He is no longer servant but Lord and Ruler, and his work is now no longer a sacrifice of obedience, but the conduct of royal dominion until he has gathered all his own and put all his enemies under his feet.” (Reformed Dogmatics, vol 3, p.474).

6. The Resurrection validates Jesus’ ministry, message and death and indirectly proves his deity.

It tells that Jesus has defeated death and conquered sin. He is not defeated. It tells us the kingdom has come.

The Old Testament expects resurrection to life for the righteous. So resurrection does not prove Jesus was God as if only a god can come back from the dead.

But because Jesus claimed to be God there is no way the Father would resurrect him if Jesus was lying about who he was and what he came to do.

Jesus' resurrection is proof to you that Jesus told us the truth about who he was and what he came to do. The bodily resurrection of Jesus assures us that he is in heaven bodily ministering as our representative, dispensing his gifts and his grace, administering his rule. He is acting as King, Savior and Lord for us and for our salvation.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Protesting Easter

Take note of this over at Newsweek, in a blog post entitled "Save Jesus, Ignore Easter":

"The fact is, American Christianity has historically been focused so obsessively on the Nicene Creed -- which says Jesus was the son of God, who was crucified for our sins and rose from the grave three days later -- that it never made much room for the actual teachings of this radical Jewish street preacher. 
This is why I'm against Easter. It celebrates the death of Jesus nearly to the exclusion of his life. If the Easter miracle can save us from this life, then why bother with the harder work of enacting the kingdom of God here? It is, after all, much harder."

Let me put this as bluntly as possible:
If there is no Easter, there is no kingdom of God. There would be no King in the kingdom. No power, no authority for the kingdom to advance.
Did God set up a King in the Kingdom or not? Apparently this author wants the kingdom without an actual king. That leaves our work in vain. The whole point of serving in a kingdom is their is sovereign protection along with rights and privileges. The kingdom is indeed about what this author denigrates as a "salvational Christ".

1 Corinthians 15:58 tells us that the only reason that our labors for the kingdom are not in vain is ultimate because there is a resurrection. The real question should be why bother to work at all if the first guy bringing the kingdom couldn't even be victorious?

The author believes Christ died but fails to see that without resurrection Jesus is just another failed radical. Every good first century Jew knew that.

In response to the first paragraph, I think the author doth protest too much. We could debate whether or not American Christianity is really committed to the Nicene Creed--probably not very much outside of theologically conservative circles. But here's the irony and the author doesn't even see it: it's not American Christianity that is committed to the Nicene Creed--it really is the whole of true Christianity that is committed to the Nicene Creed.

American Christianity should take its lumps on the chins for some of its problems, but being to rooted to the historic orthodoxy really isn't one of them.

So basically what the author is complaining is that American Christians are too, well, Christian.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Isaiah 40-48 and God's Sovereignty

The other week I violated one of my cardinal facebook rules and got into a theological discussion on FB--it's against my rule because most time the debates are not productive and degenerate into people talk past each other. However, since I broke my rule--and that might be the reason for my sarcasm in the first post, FB brings out the snark--I thought I'd post it here. I sincerely hope that this is actually helpful to people.

Sorry for the length ahead of time, but you'll want to be reading Isaiah 40-48 to see if what I say is true and, as they say, you might want to "pack a lunch." ;) 

Isaiah 40-48 and God's Sovereignty Revealed
Here is a strong caution, respectfully, we need to be careful how we think about the sovereignty of God and human will. I would submit to you that one of the places to carefully start is in Isaiah 40-48. 

Isaiah 40-48 is just so crucial for our understanding of theology. Very rarely do we do good systematic theology arising from a robust Biblical theology and exegesis. If we are patient with the unfolding of redemptive history and examine how God reveals Himself, we will see the attributes of God--most of all his majesty, glory and absolute sovereignty.

It was a mark of idols that they did not know the future, that they could not predict it and that their knowledge of human agency was limited. Even more, over and against idols and their lack of power was God’s power and agency to determine His plan, set it out, and carry it through even with and through the use of human agency--it was God’s power and agenda that His purpose will stand and be accomplished. He does not merely know the end from the beginning--in some sort of bare foreknowledge--rather He determines and establishes the end from the beginning so that even with and through human responsibility God is the ultimate active agent who is determinative of all things.

Let’s walk through some of the key passages in Isaiah (and I will leave it another time to defend that this Biblical doctrine is supported by the whole of Scripture).

40:9-17 --God’s sovereign arm brings both mercy and judgment. Other nations are of no account before Him. 

40:18-23 --God is not like the idols. How? He sits enthroned above all creatures. Inhabitants of the earth are like grasshoppers. In his sovereignty he brings down princes and makes rulers empty.

The point being that God cannot be compared to creatures (40:18,25). He is wholly unlike idols in that he sovereignly establishes things and when he acts no one and nothing can thwart him.

The very fact that God is Creator (40:28) is the reason that no way or path is hidden from God (40:27). There is not any right of the creature to stand against God or claim ability to thwart him any of his plans.

41:4- God calls out the generations from the beginning. Just think about all the human ‘free acts’ and agency that goes into the creation of children and the apparent randomness that comes together for the creation of one life. God has ordained the generations--millions upon millions of people along with the wheres and whens of their being raised up. He has done all this from the beginning. It is sovereignty beyond measure.

41:8-10 God has raised up Israel; 41:11 all human agency that stands against those God has called is thwarted and cast down. Why? Because of the free agency of God which thwarts people 41:13-- God’s agency is superior to man’s because God’s being is far above and exalted over all His creation. Consider what the hand of the Lord does (41:17-20).

41:21-24. What are the works of idols? Let them present their case. They cannot tell the former things. The whole mark of an idol is that it does not know the end from the beginning and it cannot declare to us things that are yet to come (41:22-23). A person who chooses this god is an abomination 41:24.

41:25-29 God acted to bring Israel out of Babylon and declared this end long before it happened. He did not seek advice or counsel in this matter. He did not have to consult anyone (some of the Babylonian gods often had to consult the pantheon before acting). So God’s will and rule is not tempered by the will and counsel of other beings.

43:1-7 the Lord will sovereignly call Israel out of the nations and bring them back. He will command the nations and they will give up God’s people that they have in captivity. This redemption is not possible if God’s sovereignty is not majestic over the ‘free agency’ of humankind. He commands nations to “give up” his people and they do just that. The point is no one can deliver from God’s hand 43:13.

44:6-8 God declare what is to come and it happens. God declares what will be and it will be. How do you know? God told us several hundred years before the return from captivity that he would do this. This is not ‘bare’ prediction, rather Isaiah shows us this is God establishing His ways. He alone is sovereign. There are no other gods or beings who can act in this way.

45:1-7 The Lord establishes Cyrus and 'whose right hand he has grasped' and Cyrus is the agent by which God’s people are let out of Babylon. But notice the focus is on God’s actions through the hand of Cyrus. God sovereignty establish and govern over Cyrus’ actions is precisely how God’s people would know that he alone is God (45:4-5). God is the one who creates well-being and calamity. His sovereignty over these things takes precedence although he delights in using secondary causes including man’s will.

45:11-12 Because God is God he can be asked about the future. The basis for his being able to answer is his creational sovereignty. He created man and commands all of the starry hosts. The question to the creature is “will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands?” and the answer is obviously no in the context.

45:20-21 Again the court case against idols is that they cannot testify to what the future is. They do not declare things from long ago. The fact that we know there is no god besides the Lord is that he has alone declared the end from the beginning.

46:8-13 God declares the end from the beginning (46:10). The idea is that God puts out, speaks forth the end from the beginning. The focus is on the declarative power of God not merely to announce ahead of time something coming but to declare before hand what will be so that it will be because it is precisely his purpose. So God has a counsel, a divine plan that will stand. God will accomplish all His purpose. So he raises up Cyrus. And guess what: he spoke that this would happened and it will pass. No free agency of man can stop God’s plan and purpose from coming to pass.

‎48:1-5. God spoke about the former things before they happened and then he caused them to come to pass (v3). This is not mere predictive power of future events but he says this will happen and then according to His sovereign will he causes them to happen. He does this because his people are obstinate and do not believe his power and ability. God declared them before he did them so that people would not think an idol did this. 

Again, idols never have this kind of sovereignty and when we turn God into a god lacking sovereignty over all things we run the danger of turning him into an idol.

48:12-15 God in his sovereignty established all creation. His power at creation is connected to his sovereign ruling continuing power over all human events. So he spread out the heavens but also no other god or being has declared things to be and then caused them to happen as the LORD did (v14). God establishes and prove his absolute Deity and Godhood by the exercise of continue sovereignty over all creation and the course of all human events. So with his people, against the Babylonians, he speaks, calls, brings him and causes him to prosper.

48:17-22. God’s sovereignty is the basis for redemption and the basis for God’s people to come with bended knee. We are to yield to him precisely because we have see his mighty hand so perfectly displayed.

Respectfully, this is all basic to the Bible. We don't need to resort to philosophy to figure this stuff out. We need to patiently read our Bibles and submit to what it says. It says God is sovereign and even controls the free acts of men so that even people rebelling against God and meaning things for evil is a product of God’s sovereign intention and ultimate design of his purpose (Gen. 50:20; Isaiah 10:5-19).

Look, we need to be convinced that Scripture actually says what it means and means what says. God as a sovereignty over all things that make Him wholly unlike us in His being. His sovereignty and will is far above ours just as the heavens is higher than the earth. Don't bring him down to our level and put him on our level of agency and activity. Don't de-god our LORD and God.
"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...