A Biblical Framework for Facing the Intellectual, Moral, and Spiritual Challenges of the 21st Century - Part 3
Charles Clough, Guest Speaker
West Houston Bible Church – January 23, 2005
Transcribed by Ellen Kelso
Tonight I would like to finish up talking about the background and the structure of the Framework and I want to start where we left off last night thinking about how people, all of us, come to believe the Word of God. And as I said last night the struggle we have as Christians in our time is that faith, the idea of believing something, is considered to be kind of a weak form of knowledge. You say I know something is true, and then you say I believe something is true; the first statement tends to carry more weight than the second one. And that’s because we have drifted in how we understand the word “faith.” Faith throughout Scripture means I know and I trust in the character of God to do what He says, and there’s no weak form of knowledge in that; that’s just a modern perversion of the word faith.
So tonight I’m going to start where we left off, and keeping in mind that the Word of God is no stronger than its being understood. If the Word of God and its meaning is not clear, the dunamis, the word that Paul used in 1 Corinthians 14, is not there, the power of the gospel depends upon people understanding the gospel. Hence, therefore, the missionaries have struggled with translating it into language. And why I’m saying this, it sounds obvious, but why I’m saying this is we live in a culture that is distancing itself from our traditional culture and we are increasingly put in the position as Christians, in the work place, in the schools, wherever we happen to be and function, we are increasingly facing people that literally do not understand what we thought people understood forty or fifty years ago. The culture is drifting away from traditional meaning and it’s up to us as ambassadors for Christ to make sure people understand.
And so when we come to the Framework we want to think about the sufficiency of Scripture. One of the temptations that the Church has faced down through the centuries and it’s rampant in our evangelical circles today, is the doubt of the sufficiency of Scripture. “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, That the man of God might be equipped, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Now the Scripture was given to be sufficient. What is happening is people believe now, well we have to add something to the Scriptures; we have to add all kinds of psychology, we have to add counseling to the Scriptures because the Scripture somehow doesn’t have the answers, as though God, the omniscient One, when He revealed His Word didn’t really understand what was going on. And it’s an absurd position but it is happening all over the nation.
So when we come to some of the texts we’re going to look at tonight, we’re going to go through some of the great addresses in Scripture, I’m going to show you that those addresses are structured to answer the problem we have of clarifying what this Scriptural text means. These guys, under the ministry of the Holy Spirit, worked a method of training people down through the centuries that emphasized clarity. It emphasizes clear thinking. Christianity, unlike other religions, is a cognitive faith; you cannot believe unless you think through things. And so when we think about the way the Scriptures are structured, you think in these three terms. Whenever you work with a passage of Scripture, as we will tonight, observe how the author teaches a doctrine or doctrines, plural, and he will deliberately phrase it so it contrasts with its perversion. They are never treated equal and opposite, we’re not sampling a cafeteria here. But the Scriptures are always set against something. The epistles of Paul were written to real churches facing particular historical situations and the doctrines taught in those epistles answered that local situation in time and space, but under the ministry of the Holy Spirit, that whole church situation was engineered to cause the Word of God to come forth and address it, so we, twenty centuries later, can benefit from that. That’s the sufficiency of Scripture. History is designed by our Savior; history has a flow to it. So truth versus vanity; watch for that when you read a text of Scripture. Always think of the Word of God as light penetrating darkness. Always think of it adversity, there’s an adversarial element in all passages of Scripture.
A second thing to look at is that God will repeat a truth in different contexts. He will repeat himself here, here, here, here, but each one of these contexts is slightly different. And that’s to show us that that truth has a flexibility to it; it has a range to it. The promise of God to Israel includes economics, it includes military warfare, it includes the home life, it includes the education life, so God, by showing us the same doctrine in different situations teaches us the range of the truth. So we have the contrast to look for in the text; we have the range of meaning in the text and then we have the context. And by context here I’m not talking about what you normally would think of context in the literary sense, the context of the passage, that’s important but what I mean here by context is the larger plan, the larger picture, the overall idea of truth all over the universe, God’s total plan for His creatures from eternity to eternity; all the gospel truths are part of that larger picture.
Now we could go on and say something about context, and this is something that we want to listen for. If we have some non-Christian in our families, in our communities, in our schools and you’re discussing with them in a gracious, friendly way, just remember, every statement comes loaded with presuppositions. Now sometimes its obvious and sometimes it isn’t obvious and you have to listen first, but finally you realize these people are coming at you from a certain perspective. All things, all addresses, all words, all questions have a context.
I spent some time on this last night but tonight I just want to quickly remind you that the Bible picture of reality is larger than appearance. Remember Hebrews 11, the things which appear were not made of things which are seen, and this is the reputation for this crass, careless, scientific attitude that certain people have that science is everything, not realizing what science is. I work with it every day; science deals with the unobservable all the time. Every time one creates a model, every one time one discovers a law, every time one builds a mathematical piece of logic to handle data, that is not an observed thing. The data is observed but the logic behind the analysis is something that is not observed. And so reality is always bigger than appearance. That’s the tone and if you want to study that in its detail, study Hebrews chapter 11 because all the characters listed in Hebrews 11 look at appearance and realize that appearance is not the whole picture. There’s a stuff which doesn’t appear that is real. God doesn’t appear at all times but He’s real. Angels don’t appear, angels can’t be measured by any scientific instrument but they appear, they can appear at times. But they’re part of reality. Logic doesn’t appear, you can’t smell it, you can’t see it, you can’t measure it but it’s there. In fact, you can’t make a universal statement without referring to something that’s absolute, comprehensive and that is something that can’t be measured. So reality in the Bible is larger than appearance.
Now this statement I have is just kind of a facetious one but this is one of the problems the unbelievers have. You will… frequently stated that people will say to you, well we really don’t know things and they have this sort of pseudo humility that well, we’re humble, we know that there are unknowns out there, and yet when it comes to Scripture and the historic reports of what went on, the Exodus, the resurrection, the crossing of the Red Sea, these sorts of things we know can’t be true. Just think about this statement: we don’t know anything for sure except the Bible can’t be true. That’s a self-refuting statement because if you know the Bible can’t be true then you know something for sure. So the two parts of the sentence don’t fit together.
This is what I’m talking about. When the Bible describes unbelief and vanity, habel is the Hebrew word in the book of Ecclesiastes, or mataiotes in the New Testament, the word vanity, that’s what the apostles mean, that unbelief ultimately refutes itself; it is filled with internal contradiction. And it’s sad, but it has to be that way because what is unbelief but a perversion of truth. What happened to Adam and Eve moments after the fall? They changed their theology; they changed the idea that the omnipresent God could be avoided by hiding in the trees. Well if you think that God can be avoided by hiding in the trees you have just created a false theology. An omnipresent God cannot be hidden from, but they tried because instantly the fall started deforming and perverting and corrupting doctrine. Doctrine is corrupted by sin and it has to be graciously restored by God.
Now last night we went through one of the great addresses in the Bible, Joshua 24; tonight let’s turn to the Old Testament one more time, Psalm 78. I’m going to go through a series of passages tonight, all of which are designed in a parallel form, all of which are source material for what we call the Framework, that is, the sequence of events that are divinely arranged to teach doctrine and to teach it in such a way that it’s real history. This is not some religious language off in the land of mysticism somewhere; this is what we call real history. That means this knowledge is public, not private.
So in Psalm 78 we have this reflection by Asaph, and he’s addressing the nation; notice Psalm 78:1, “Give ear, O my people, to my law; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.  I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old,  Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.  We will not hide them from their children, we are telling them to the generation to come the praises of the LORD,” and he begins to narrate in Psalm 78 a series of events. If you’ll skip down to verse 12, “Marvelous things He did in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.  He divided the sea and caused them to pass through; and He made the waters stand up like a heap,” obviously talking about the Exodus event. You go on in verse 15 he’s talking about what happened after the Exodus out in the wilderness, he’s treating it as history, this is not mysticism. Then in verse 17 he talks about the fact “they sinned more against Him, by rebelling against the Most High in the wilderness.  And they tested God in their heart….”
Now what do you think Asaph is doing here. Think about this a moment. Imagine us listening to this man. He’s addressing the nation and he’s rehearsing our history but notice how he does it. He goes through these verses, he describes what happened to our national history, what happened to our grandfathers, what happened to our fathers, and then he makes this observation: they sinned more against Him.” Now what he is doing here is doing this contrast. Remember I said watch for these things in the text. He’s contrasting what with what? He’s contrasting the faithfulness of God to adhere to His word with the unfaithfulness of us, fallen beings, against His Word. And watch the context as it goes on: the faithfulness of God, the unfaithfulness of Israel.
Let’s ask another question; why is that an issue here? Why does he keep doing this? Because think of context. Maybe we can think of it this way. If we ask the question, who were the first historians in history. Now I learned as a non-Christian in my education, my public education, that whenever someone said the first historians of history I was told that the first historian was Thucydides and Herodotus, the Greeks, and they wrote…they did, they wrote history. But were the first ones to write history? Think about it. The first historians were the authors of the Old Testament, right? Who wrote Joshua? Why was the history of the Old Testament written? The Old Testament was written because God had made a contract with the nation.
Remember what we said about contracts. A contract is a public agreement between two parties and it stipulates an acceptable behavior and an unacceptable behavior. When God enters into a contract with His nation and He promises them certain things to take place in history, now a historian is important because the historian is recording the events that commemorate, and monitor, and validate the contract. So once you talk about covenants and contracts biblically you have already required, you’ve already involved the issue of writing and recording history. But you see, the difference between these first historians and the Greeks that are always looked up to in the secular educational area, the Greeks always thought of history as cyclic or they thought of history as just loose marbles, no pattern to it. But isn’t it interesting, the judges who composed these texts, they thought of history as something that is going somewhere. History has a goal; history is coming from here and it’s going to there and the pathway through history is the result of God’s covenant, God’s contract, all the fine print in the contract. So they were interested in history.
I was never interested in history as a non-Christian; I became interested in history after I became a Christian because the way history was taught to me in the public school was just memorize the dates and burp them up on the test on Monday, so I’d memorize the text and get an A, forget it and go on and study some more dates and burp them up on the next test for the next week. It was just a cycle but nobody not one teacher did I ever have that sat me down and said history has a goal; history is going somewhere, there’s a pattern to it, because history ultimately, the word is “His story.” And so the historians who were the first people out of the box are the godly men and women of the Old Testament, and they had a reason for being interested in history, they were checking God’s performance against the contract and they were also checking their performance against the contract. That’s the motivation for history.
And so Asaph goes on through this and that’s why he does this contract thing. Then he says in Psalm 78:21, he talks about responding to their sin, “Therefore the LORD heard this and was furious; so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel,  Because they did not believe in God, and did not trust in His salvation.  Yet He had commanded the clouds above, and opened the doors of heaven,  Had rained down manna on them to eat, and given them of the bread of heaven.” And what attribute of God is that in there? It’s His grace; it’s His love and His grace. So he’s saying learn something nation, here God is, He gives you the standard, you violate the standard and He keeps on providing for you, logistical grace; grace, grace, grace, grace. What does that tell you about the performance of God? You see they’re learning about the performance of God by watching history. So he goes on and describes more about it, verse 26 he’s describing more of the provisions.
You come on down to verse 40, “How often they provoked Him in the wilderness, they grieved Him in the desert!  Yes, again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.  They did not remember His power: the day when He redeemed them from the enemy,” notice that phrase; this is a type of test that happens hundreds of times in the Old Testament. The word “remember.” Why? Because God was faithful to His promises and that’s a matter of historical record. See, in order to validate a contract you have to have a record of performance but you can’t have a record of performance until you have witnesses, and so this is also an implication of the covenant structure of the Bible. Not only does the covenant structure of the Bible imply that you have to have history but it implies that you have to have an inerrant history. The witnesses to the performance cannot be discredited, so the only way you can’t discredit a witness is if the witness is telling you the truth. So implied in the whole contractual structure of the Bible is inerrancy. Inerrancy is implied by the covenant structure.
And so it goes on, you can see that he goes back to the Exodus and we could go on through the Psalm which we won’t because we don’t have time, but you get a picture. Psalm 78 is a narration of the history of Israel up to the time of Asaph. Now we’re going to go further in the Old Testament but we’re going to go backwards in the text, further chronologically, to Nehemiah.
Nehemiah 9; Nehemiah comes later in history, this is after the exile and the nation has gone through the wringer, they’ve been disciplined, they’ve been scattered abroad and they’ve partly come back. And at Nehemiah 9 we have a national confession; this is sort of like a corporate 1 John 1:9 thing where the nation led in a prayer of confession of their sins by Nehemiah. Now you can’t confess sin if you don’t have a record of what the sin is. And you can’t have a record of what the sin is unless you have a standard what sin is. See, all this is tied together; you have to have a legal contract to set up the standards of behavior, then you have a yardstick to measure that. But you have to have a record of what went on, so in Nehemiah what did they do.  “Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads.  Then those of Israelite lineage separated themselves from all foreigners; and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.  And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law” now watch how long that day they spent looking at the Word of God; this is a real thing, it really happened, the whole nation came together, they “read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for one-fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the LORD their God.” So this wasn’t some little sermonette for Christianettes. This was a long series of going through the text of the Word of God.
Now watch what the text is; see here’s the prayer, but in verse 6 you see how it starts. He says,
 You alone are the LORD; You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens,” now people ask when I later show you the Framework and the sequence, where did I get the Framework from. I just went through these passages, took a piece of paper and a pencil and wrote down the same thing these guys were emphasizing. Where does this start with? It starts with creation, doesn’t it. So guess what, that’s the first element in the Framework. He says, “You alone are the LORD, You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and everything on it, the seas and all that is in them, and You preserve them all. The host of heaven worships You.]  “You are the LORD God, You chose Abram, and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans,” there’s the call of Abraham, the start of the nation Israel, “You gave him the name Abraham;” see there’s the covenant. First He made a covenant with him; He made a contract to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites and so on, to give it to his descendants. And now notice this statement by Nehemiah at the end of verse 8, after he talks about the covenant, after God has entered into this agreement, put it in writing the issue is do we have covenant performance or do we have covenant violation. What does it say? “You have performed Your words, For You are righteous.” See the logic in the text. That’s why these guys are interested in history; they’re not chasing cycles, like the pagan Greeks; they’re looking to see that God means what He says. That’s what interests them in history.
Now Nehemiah 9:9, “You saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heard their cry by the Red Sea.” After the call of Abraham what’s the next event? The Exodus. You see how these guys reiterate this over and over. Then you can go on down, dividing the sea in verse 11; verse 13, what’s that event? It says, “You came down also on Mount Sinai, You spoke with them from heaven, You gave them just ordinances and true laws, good statutes and commandments.” That’s the giving of the Law. So now we’ve got the call of Abraham, Exodus; the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. You just have to go by and see the sequence.  “You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger,” there’s the conquest of the land,  “But they and our fathers acted proudly, hardened their necks, and did not heed Your commandments.  They refused to obey,” there’s the violation of the covenant, “But You are God, You are ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, there’s God’s grace, “abundant in kindness, and did not forsake them.”
Verse 18, “Even when they made a molded calf for themselves,” there’s the idolatry, there’s the fracturing of the covenant, and then God is merciful to them, there’s grace again, and you can go on down through the address of Nehemiah, it’s the same thing. Come down to verse 23, “You also multiplied their children as the stars of heaven, [and brought them into the land which You had told their fathers to go in and possess.]” is that what He told Abraham, fine print contract? You bet. Is that what He did? Yes He did. Is this public knowledge in history? Yes it is. Now let me just throw in a remark here; this is why unbelievers always want to rewrite history. That’s what they’re doing to our American history right now; the whole point of revisionism is to cover up the divine and gracious influences in the founding of our nation. Why is that? Because history testifies to God. And if you want a universe safe for sinners, who want to exclude God from their lives and not be reminded of their ultimate responsibility to Him, then what you have to do, you have to do, is either forget history or rewrite history, but true history is always the friend of the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 24, “So the people went in and possessed the land;” there’s the conquest, there’s the conquest and settlement, [“You subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gave them into their hands, with their kings and the people of the land, that they might do with them as they wished.”] Then it talks about the exile and so forth and so on. See the sequence, it’s a playing out, this is not like I learned history in the public school, this is not saying gee guys, remember the date here, remember the date here, and this is what happened here, we won’t go into the meaning but that happened, just remember it for the test; this happened and that happened just remember it for the test. That’s not the spirit of this text. What it’s saying is God is faithful and therefore you can trust Him; pretty basic theology here.
Now we come to the New Testament. We want to pick up two very important passages by Paul because Paul does the same thing, but these passages are not addressed to Israel; these passages are addressed to pagans, to Gentiles who have no Biblical background and it’s going to be fascinating to watch how Paul deals with this. I am convinced that there are two places in the book of Acts that prove conclusively what it looked like when Paul used the doctrine of Romans 1 in an actual street situation. So let’s turn to Acts 14. See, there’s a difference, there’s a cultural difference here. This is more like what we face; we’re not talking to Jews with a Biblical background, we’re not back in the days of the Old Testament in Israel, we’re more like Paul was, in a pagan environment. So what do we do? Well, Paul faced a problem, in both Acts 14 and Acts 17. I’m going to emphasize Acts 17 and spend most of our time there tonight because that’s were a lot of the details are, but I want to look at Acts 14. In Acts 14 the story starts in verse 8; this little segment here; watch what happens.
Acts 14:8, “And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who had never walked.  This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed,  said with a loud voice, Stand up straight on your feet! And he leaped and walked.  Now when the people saw what Paul had done,” now watch that, here’s an event that happened, it was a work of God, now watch the perverted interpretation. See, something’s real, the unbeliever looks at reality but he falsely interprets it. The Christian’s standing there, there’s Paul standing there, so now he’s got unbelievers watching something that happened who take away the wrong message. They are not capable of interpreting what they’re seeing with their eyes and hearing with their ears; they can’t get it together properly. In other words, the meaning of what has gone on here is not clear to them at all. They have perverted it and so what do they do? Look what they do, isn’t this amazing, they’re looking at Paul and Barnabas, they just healed this guy and they’re saying, “[they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language,] The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” See, that’s their pagan category, they just can’t get the Biblical story, they think in terms of their own unbelief. Like that amoeba diagram that I showed, it’s the amoeba trying to swallow up the meaning of this event. So now Paul has to deal with this, so let’s watch what Paul does.
Acts 14:11, “… The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men?  And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.  Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, [intending to sacrifice with the multitudes].” now this took some time here, this created a whole social upheaval, the priest starts bringing oxen; these things are thousands of dollars worth of expense, this is a major undertaking that’s going on. Maybe Paul didn’t hear of it or he isn’t aware of it right away, but all of a sudden this movement, something happened here and all of a sudden a rumor goes all over the city. Some of our media, this is the kind of stuff they do when reality hits, they misinterpret it. So the priest of Zeus begins this thing, he starts this mass movement.
Now Acts 14:14, “But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out  and saying, Men, why are you doing these things?” What is going on; see, they challenge the false interpretation, “why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things” there’s that technical word “vanity,” he said your whole system of interpreting life is wrong, turn from this vain system that you’ve got, put on your glasses and look at reality, you’re looking through a fog at reality, turn form these useless vanities to whom? Now watch the theology, he’s dealing with a group of unbelievers so does he tell a Jesus story right away? He’s not telling a Jesus story right away, is he. What is he doing? He’s going back to Genesis 1. Now why do you suppose Paul goes back to Genesis 1 and doesn’t start with the Gospel of John? Because in Genesis 1 we have the Creation event that separates the Creator and the creature and you have the Creator/creature distinction. And until that distinction is clear you cannot proceed and understand correctly the rest of the Bible, just kiss it off because you cannot understand it without understanding who God is, that He is the uncreated, eternal, immutable, loving, sovereign, holy, righteous being and we are a finite creature, that we were created and there was a time when only God existed and then He created the universe.
So Paul says why are you doing these things, we of like nature with you, look at us, I have flesh and bones, he says I am the same, your interpretation is totally wrong, “turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them,  who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways.” And what Paul is doing there he is…this is probably a summary by Luke of what he is doing, he’s going through history. See that clause where it says he allowed nations to go this way? That’s his interpretation of why pagan religion exists. It’s actually developed out of Deuteronomy 4, if you want references there, but Paul is relying on the Deuteronomic analysis of pagan history and it comes right out here. He’s not quoting Deuteronomy but he’s alluding to it because that’s where he’s getting his information on how do you explain all these pagan religions all over the place; because God let them do it. It’s all perversion, they wanted to do so God said hey, go ahead, by my guest, knock yourself out. But I’m going to reserve one nation as sort of the greenhouse, where I’m going to protect My [can’t understand word] and I’m going to have My own sovereign nation and that is going to be the conduit of revelation. Now I’m going to make My covenants with that one nation. Now he doesn’t go into all that right now because he’s dealing with a non-Jewish group, he’s dealing with a group of unbelieving pagans.
Now let’s come to Acts 17, you see Paul do the same here. It’s the same trigger that happened. Paul in this case isn’t healing someone, but he’s been preaching and in particular he’s been arguing both in they synagogue and out on the street. And so he reasoned synagogue with the Jews, with the Gentile worshipers, in the market place daily with those who happened to be there. So it started out in the street here, this wasn’t a lecture in some university classroom. This was witnessing to people in the market place, discussing with them these issues. Well, some of the people heard this, the Epicureans and the Stoics; these are some of the philosophers. This is in Athens, by the way. This is the intellectual center of the ancient world; this is where Plato was. Plato had his academy here; this is where Aristotle was, this is where the early philosophers of Europe, the European roots of European thinking, this is where it was. [Acts 17:16, “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.  Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.  Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?”]
So here he is, he’s witnessing about this Messiah that’s coming, and now the Epicureans encountered him and they said, “What does this babbler want to say? Others said, He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods, because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.” Now watch what he does; remember this diagram, I said that I should have put it on the right side but I’ve got it on the left, pardon me. The truth here is that we have the Creator/creature distinction. On the other side is the human viewpoint, the unbelief or paganism. Now what Paul is facing here is he’s facing a total pagan interpretation of life, this is a total picture. That’s what I want to impress upon you, it’s not a piece here or a piece there, this is a total way of looking at life.
Now Paul’s got a problem because what’s happening in verse 18 is that these guys have heard him speak of Iesous, the Greek word for Jesus. They also heard him speak of this anastasis, and that’s the Greek word for resurrection. But see, because they don’t have a frame of reference they think, every time they’ve heard the word “Jesus” and “resurrection” they think gee, this must be two new gods they’re talking about. Now remember the first night I took you to 1 Samuel 5 and we talked about syncretism. We said you have to be careful because people love to add Jesus to the other deities, and this is very popular in America today. The thing that’s most offensive that we are to our society is that we believe Jesus Christ is the ONLY way, the truth and the life. Now you can go out there and talk about Jesus all you want to, but when you start saying that He is the ONLY way to God, you’ve got a real problem, because that is an absolute truth, that gets rid of syncretism.
Well now Paul has to be careful because if he isn’t these guys are going to…oh, gee, isn’t Jesus an interesting diet, let’s bring him on and let him join the pantheon, we’ve got 15 gods, we’ve got room here, let’s bring Jesus in. But you see, if Jesus comes in like that, that’s not the Jesus of Scripture; that is an emaciated perverted distorted view of Jesus and he doesn’t want to do that. So now Paul’s got to do something. And in all the verses that follow, until the end, he is not necessarily dealing with the gospel heart; in fact it’s hard to even see where he can get to the cross, he doesn’t even get there yet. Why doesn’t he go ahead and say “Christ died for your sins?” They can’t understand that, they’re not ready for that truth yet. They haven’t mastered the Creator/ creature distinction yet. So you can preach the gospel and it just becomes screwed up. So he’s got to straighten them out as to who Jesus in resurrection is.
Now watch what he does, and again, we have to go through this pretty fast tonight but you could spend weeks going through this address. And if you have a study Bible what I urge you to do sometime is take a couple sheets of loose leaf paper and diagram the logic of Paul’s argument in Acts 17. What’s going to start right now, and then look in your study Bible for the Old Testament references that he’s alluding to. You will be amazed at how much Old Testament material he’s using in this sermon. He never directly quotes it, but you know, when you compare it you can tell what verses in Isaiah he’s using. And if you watch your study Bible and you list the Old Testament references you’ll discover something else that’s interesting. It’s a certain place in the Old Testament he’s quoting; he’s quoting a part of Isaiah that was written just prior to the Jews going into exile. In other words, in the closing days of the fall of the nation Isaiah was preaching to the Jews, you’re going to live for seventy years in a pagan society. Now I’m going to teach you how to live there, I’m going to teach you what paganism is, I’m going to teach you its weaknesses, I’m going to teach you not to get syncretistically absorbed into it. And it’s that passage, because Paul didn’t have the New Testament, it didn’t exist, he went back to the Scriptures of his day.
See what he says, the sufficiency of Scripture. Even though this was centuries after Isaiah, even though Paul himself under the greatest, Gamailiel and the other instructors he had, Paul was brilliant, he had studied Greek… he read them, he knew all this, but he doesn’t start with Plato, he doesn’t start with Aristotle, he doesn’t start with the Rabbinic tradition, what does he start with? Passages out of the Old Testament, the truths of Scripture. Now watch what he does.
Acts 17:22, “Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus,” of Mars hill, “and said, Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious;  for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.” Notice then, from this first reference Paul listened and he observed the people he was trying to preach to. He didn’t preach to a wall, he didn’t preach to a preconception of what these people thought, he had done his homework, he’s gone around like a good missionary and said, what do people believe. He’d obviously gone around and read the inscriptions because he says here’s an inscription, now you guys have confessed, and what he’s looking for is the place in the pagan worldview where they’ve compromised. See ultimately all unbelievers have to be hypocrites. You may find that strange because we are usually the people called hypocrites, but if you think about it every unbeliever has to be a hypocrite. The reason is that at heart they know God exists but in their life they want to deny that He exists, and there’s a tension there. The unbeliever will tell you he doesn’t believe in God necessarily, or at least the Biblical God, and then go out and make a moral judgment; where does the moral judgment come from.
And so what Paul is talking about here, you philosophers, you profess to know everything, yet you know what, back on 5th Avenue some place in Athens I noticed you had a little inscription up there “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.” So what he’s done now is said see, you guys have a crack in your armor. You admitted that there are things you do not know, and you just opened the door and I’m going to drive a Mac truck right through it. So he starts with one of their own weaknesses. You admitted that you don’t know about this God. So he says, “Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you:” Now observe, observe the logic of the address. Does he tell a Jesus story or does he go back to Genesis again? What did he do in Acts 14? Take an audience, he went back to creation. What does he do here in Athens, the intellectual center of the ancient world? He goes back to creation. Why does he go back to creation? Because it’s that event that defines the nature of God. “…Him I proclaim to you,  God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.”
Robby went there and he’s got some slides he’ll show you if he hasn’t already of where Mars Hill is and where the Parthenon is. And it’s conceivable that Paul’s standing there on Mars Hill and he says look at that, there’s your great temple, and he has that in mind so immediately he teaches the Creator/creature distinction and he says God, you know, Creator/creature distinction, once you see that you know He doesn’t live there, He can’t be confined to the temple if He made the whole universe. So what is he doing? He’s contrasting the left side of this screen with the right side of the screen. And he’s going to do it at point after point after point after point after point. He doesn’t just talk about one issue; he talks about dozens of issues. Why does he take up dozens of issues? Because he wants people to realize, at the end he’s going to tell them, I want you to repent; he’s not talking about crying down in front of the church, he’s talking about profoundly changing their entire way of thinking.
It’s that old illustration that Robby uses and that I use, it’s as though you were going to have an interior decorator come to your home and you plan on the wallpaper, you plan on the design of this room, and you want to adjust this wall, you want a door over here, you get all the plans done and you wait anxiously for this party to show you and then you hear a big loud noise in your front yard one day and the guy’s out there with a bulldozer. I wanted my kitchen changed; no, I’m going to wreck your whole house and I’m going to rebuild it. You’re going to do what? I just wanted an interior change. We don’t do interior changes, we do total changes. You wanted your room changed, I’m going to change your room, I’m going to change your whole house. Now that’s the way Paul presents the Word of God. You pagans, I’m not asking you to accept Jesus and stick him into one of your rooms; I’m going to knock your whole house down and we’re going to rebuild because every part of your house is wrong. So this is why now he starts and he starts attacking them at one point after another, contrasting the God of Scripture and what you guys believe.
Watch him, he says God made the world, therefore He “does not dwell in temples made with hands,  Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything,” you guys are always giving offerings to god, what’s He hungry? God, the Creator, hungry? Think about it fellows, he’s talking to these people, so he’s attacking their whole concept of worship, human merit. This doesn’t mean anything to God. Then he goes on to verse 26; the Greeks were a very proud people, they called the uneducated classes the barbarians, we are the Hellenians, we are the superior class and then there’s the barbarians, the scumbags. And he says this God who created the heavens and the earth made us one blood, all nations of men, so your concept of race and culture goes out the window, we’re going to get that one out of the way, we’re going to bulldoze your temples out of the way, we’re going to bulldoze your system out of the way.
Acts 17:26, “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth,” and then he says this, a summary of the way history goes. Last weekend I was in Connecticut and talking about this verse in connection with the tsunami, the city that’s the nearest the epicenter of that tsunami was known in the locale around it as the veranda of Mecca. Do you know why? Because that was the place where the extreme fundamentalist lived; they had excluded Christians, there’s 8 people groups there who have no contact with the Scriptures, and most importantly and most interestingly the Christians in that area, for five years, have had a 24 hour prayer chain going to crack that city. Now we can’t say, you know, God was judging them but it’s interesting that that was the city near the epicenter. In a few moments God shook a tectonic plate that changed the island of Sumatra. I was talking to a friend of mine in the national mapping agency and he was saying we’ve got to remap those islands; those islands were changed in a matter of hours. One little slip in a tectonic plate; how many angels do you think God sent down and said, would you do a little work for me down there, I’ve got to shake the people up. He shook them up, didn’t He, if a few quick instants.
So He says here’s the key to history, it’s not cyclic you guys, it’s not like Herodotus told you, it’s not like Thucydides, he says God has “determined their preappointed times of nations and the boundaries of their dwellings,” he says,  “so that” purpose clause, here’s the teleology of history, purpose clause. I took many history courses and nobody ever told me the purpose of history, it’s right here, right in the heart of pagan Athens, he says your concept of history, we’re going to bulldoze that out of the way. God has made history “so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;  for in Him we live and move and have our being,” and so on. The teleology or purpose of history is to keep man conscious of Him, to elevate human responsibility over and over. Why? So they’ll seek the gospel. The gospel is an answer to a question but if people aren’t asking the question the answer doesn’t make much sense. So you have to shake up the environment to cause people to ask the right questions. And that’s what he says is the purpose of history.
And then he quotes the poets, and there’s a big debate exegetically about why he quoted the poets. I believe the reason he quoted the poets is he’s saying your own poets are conscious of God, they pervert it but they’re conscious of God; see, Paul read their literature. And then in verse 29 he starts making a conclusion toward the end of this sermon, “Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.” So again he’s bulldozing out all of their religious position.
And now he says this, now he’s coming down to the conclusion. Remember what I said? What were the two words that he needed to clarify? He hasn’t got to the gospel yet, none of this is the gospel as such, this is all preliminary to the gospel so they can understand the gospel. And he’s got these two words, “Jesus” and “resurrection.” And he’s trying to get this across to people who haven’t got a clue to what this is all about. So he’s gone through this address showing that they’ve got to tear down everything they believe, it’s a total change, a total repentance, a total deep chance, and now he’s coming down to the conclusion. Watch what he does.
Acts 17:30, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all men everywhere” there’s the universal thing, see, there’s Jesus Christ, “the way, the truth and the life,” he doesn’t command you to join, he’s not going to have Jesus join the rest of these guys but throw them all out, and moreover, everybody is going to throw them all out because Jesus Christ is the only answer. So you can just bulldoze all the houses on the block because God is saying to every people, see, there’s the universality of the gospel, [“to repent”]. Why, verse 31, “because He has appointed a day” and here’s where he’s going to tie in those two words, Jesus and resurrection, because “He’s going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.  And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked,” and so on. Do you see what he did? He placed Jesus and the resurrection inside a Framework; He gave them a frame of reference so they could understand these two words because he knew, I can’t witness to these people and clarify the gospel if they can’t even get this. So I’ve got to lay the groundwork and in doing that he had a total worldview collision; he wasn’t arguing about this point or that point, he demolished the whole house, every area of their life. He destroyed their worship, he attacked their temples, he undercut their whole religious ceremony, he destroyed their view of history, he argued that they couldn’t… they were totally wrong in where the thought history was going, didn’t understand a thing.
That is an example, I believe, Acts 17 is giving us a model today of how to work in a pagan environment. Remember I showed this; let’s think about why Paul does this. If we present the Word of God in bits and pieces, bits and pieces can be encompassed, can be neutralized. It’s too easy for unbelief to swallow up the Word of God when we put out a little tidbit, when we put out a little piece of the truth. So what the Framework does, and how Paul works in Acts 17, is what he does (this is the Framework, I’m going to go beyond it), what he does, he takes the Word of God as a team of truth. See what he did in Acts 17, there’s five or six truths there; list them, take a piece of paper and a pencil and go through the text and you’ll see that it wasn’t one truth, he’s going to get to the truth of the resurrection and the truth of Jesus but besides those two truths he dealt with creation, he’s dealt with history, he’s dealt with the attributes of God, and he’s gone through all these things so in this diagram all those little green globs are pieces of doctrine and truth that are woven together in a network. Now what is unbelief going to do? It can’t encompass it because it’s trapped itself inside the network. So this is a strategic maneuver that’s going on in the Scriptures and that’s why I said that’s how the Holy Spirit worked in Church history.
All the Word of God together operates as a team and you can’t take isolated chunks of it and draw arguments from it; Paul doesn’t do that. He presents the entire picture. And I just throw out the question how skilled are you, in say fifteen minutes, can you succinctly state the overview of Scripture. It takes you less than fifteen minutes to read Acts 17; Paul did it and Paul must have done this again and again because we saw in Acts 14 he did a parallel thing; I conclude that what we see in Acts 14 and 17 was probably done dozens and dozens of times in the streets of the ancient world. It was a method Paul used of challenging unbelief and putting out the Scripture and the Bible truths in such a way that it became very, very difficult for the unbelievers to reject it without totally rejecting the entire thing. He forced them to a decision. That’s why at the end of this he talks about repentance.
Now we say there’s a framework and we’ll end shortly and I’ll be open for questions, if you’d like to stay around for a few minutes we can go through this. I just throw this slide out quickly so you see where we have listed all of these different events. And you say where did you get the list from Charlie? I got the list from going through the Scripture; I just paid attention to what the apostles are doing. These are the events that he’s talking about; so I figured okay, it’s good enough for Paul, it’s good enough for Charlie. Okay, we go on and let me show you what happens. I showed you this diagram and this is the limitations of man and we studied the limitations of man, the idea that if you believe in the natural science theory that you usually get in the school system or that you get in the media or mostly the Discovery Channel, then what happens is that you are limited to this area. And if you’re limited to those areas then you have no absolutes, you have no comprehensive statements, your knowledge is contingent; by contingent I mean if you really believe this, if you really believe this, have the courage to take it to its logical conclusion.
Do you know what the logical conclusion is? That you don’t know anything for sure because if you have any pieces of data you’re always waiting for the n + 1 piece of data to come in and you never can be sure that the next piece of data isn’t going to refute everything you know. Isn’t that a delightful way of living, having all your knowledge contingent on the next experience, the next thing that’s going to happen. Can you live that way? Nobody can live that way. And that’s why that’s not a true picture. Real people are people made in God’s image that live in this universe made by God and they can come up with all these gimmicks and all the profoundly sounding statements, but when it comes to their personal life they can’t live this out. They have to invent a worldview to prevent them from being anxious about what’s going to happen tomorrow or the next day, or the next day, or the new piece of data. You can’t face total contingency in your life and not go crazy.
Well, how does the Bible handle it? It handles it this way. Imagine a circle; those of you in geometry, that’s an equation, you know, it’s the circumference of the circle. What the Bible tells us is, and that’s the little green part, it says three points determine a circle. The Scripture gives us the fact that God has covenantal design to history, and that means that all other points are going to be on that circle. We don’t know what the other points are but we know they’ll all fall into place in the order and the sequence of God’s covenant. What does that do for us now? Now can we live with stability? Of course we can; we have a basis. We know God through His Word, that His Word controls all of reality. There’s no chance there, those little data points aren’t going to slip off the circle; the circle defines the existence and location of every single point. And so that’s a valid picture of the Scriptures and how they handle all the facts of life.
So that’s the Framework and I suggest to you that you study Acts 14 and 17 yourself; this is not something you can learn just tonight in a few minutes; you’ve got to think about this, and think about maybe… one suggestion is to think about writing out on one or two pages of paper, just think about writing it out, how would you have testified had the Athens council found you as a Christian teaching your kids, home school or something, and you got called before a forum; hey, we want to hear what’s going on, we hear that you’re abusing your child, give us an explanation. What would you do if you had to face a trial like Paul does here? Could you come off in ten or fifteen minutes and explain the points. I don’t know whether we could do that or not, I’m saying it to myself too. But it’s a challenge we need to face; can we do this. I think we ought to be able to do it because Scripture is sufficient and it’s given us examples on doing it.
Father, we thank You for tonight…..
Question asked. Clough: What I’m saying about the tsunami is that the missionaries who are knowledgeable of that area and the culture have just noted that that particular city that was almost totally devastated was the city where the most fundamental and extremist elements of Islam occupied. They’re so extreme there that as Indonesia has become, shall we say semi-democratic and more therefore secular, they deeply resent that and in the war of independence against Indonesia and they also have places where the terrorists have been trained in that particular city. But what’s most notable is that the Christians have really sensed the spiritual conflict there for years because they can get into certain areas but they can’t crack that area, and so that’s why they were praying for years and years and years about that one city, and it’s kind of interesting, gee, the tsunami hit and it’s that one city… something about answered prayer.
But the other interesting thing about it, if you think about the water that came out of the tsunami reaction to the geology there, is if you draw a map, it’s interesting that everywhere the wave went there were basically non-Christian religions, and the day that it happened upon on the Indian coast the Hindus had a ceremony in which they were bathing in the ocean for one of their deities of water and it was just that particular day that that tsunami hit. So, you know, God is the God of jealousy when it comes to people taking His honor. We see that in the Old Testament, you know, the 1 Samuel 5 passage where they stuck the Ark of the Covenant in Dagon’s household, Dagon fell on his face.
Another question over here: [someone says: this week they had the pictures of the moon of Saturn, the Titan mission was up there and they came to conclusion there must be life elsewhere in the universe; what do you say] Comment on the life in the universe? Well, the Scriptures give us a quite coherent picture that this planet is the place where He made life and this is the planet where the throne is going to be established. The earth plays a central role in the whole cosmos and it’s interesting, and I’m not an astrophysicist but it’s very interesting that most of us have learned by tradition that this universe is this vast thing that’s millions of years old and the earth is just a random point. And if you have a chance and you’re interested in this cosmology question I would strongly recommend a little book and this was written by one of the scientists at ICR who recently retired from the laboratory out at Albuquerque, Russell Humphries has written a book called Starlight and Time, it’s available at the Christian Research, ICR.org.
And it’s confessedly speculative but what he does in promoting his particular theory of the origin of the universe, on his way to doing that speculative theory he makes some interesting observations, and that is that down through the last fifty years of cosmology scientists have insisted that the universe is infinite, and they have various models of this infinite. And there’s a reason why; because there were other scientific models that hold the universe is finite and the debate is this: is the universe is something that’s limited and has an edge to it, or is it an edge-less thing. And nine out of ten of scientists in this field believe that it has no edge, and there’s a reason why, and Humphries in that little book cites the reason why, because if the universe really indeed has an edge to it, then if we sit on this planet and we look out at all angles, from the southern hemisphere, the northern hemisphere, we look east, we look west, and we do star counts, galaxy counts, if we are closer to the edge of the universe there should be less stars and less galaxies in a certain direction and there should be more in the other direction because it would stand to reason that the earth wouldn’t be at the center of the universe. But since we don’t observe that, there seems to be an equal stellar density at all angles, then if you hold to the fact the universe has an edge you have to confess the earth is at the center of the universe, and that is so offensive that they would prefer to argue the edge-less universe theory.
I cite that for you because here’s another example of the fact that you can have all of the scientific vocabulary you want to, don’t be seduced. Underneath there is a pagan agenda that is constantly operating. The tragedy is when these stories are made, scientists discover this, scientists discover this, the editors of the newspapers and the articles and the TV things, they have to compress a story down to sell it, and it has to be a sensational story. I mean, go to the supermarket and look at the silly stuff that goes on there; you sell media by sensation. So when scientists would say well gee, we discovered a planet on Galaxy XY, that makes a big headline but if they developed it, if you read the detailed literature it was because they saw the light pattern and they have a theory about interpreting the light pattern, and it also is combined with a theory of instrumentation and so forth and so on, and it becomes a probabilistic statement. But you never get that because in the popular media there’s never enough detail to follow the stuff up. So this is part of the propaganda, you just have to be shrewd enough to say okay, there’s probably some truth in what they’re saying but I’m not getting all the truth, and unless you have weeks and you know the math and the physics you can’t get at it.
Someone says do you think the intelligent design view will ever be taught in public schools as a viable option. Clough: the question is do I think intelligent design will ever be taught in public schools; that’s an interesting question. The intelligent design movement is making inroads; the die-hard secularists don’t like this one bit. And they’re fighting it legally. I don’t know where the State is going to go, I just know that a lot of these intelligent design people are not necessarily strict creationists. But it’s really a mild argument, all they’re arguing for is design, and it has become vitriolic in laboratories, I mean, guys won’t even speak to each other who are on both sides of this issue and I think one of the good news stories is, that there are some very competent scientists now leaning to intelligent design and two weeks ago the most outstanding atheist, Anthony Flew of Great Britain has confessed that he’s giving up his atheism. Now that doesn’t mean he’s becoming a Christian but the overwhelming evidence of intelligent design has forced him as an honest thinker to abandon his hardnosed atheism. So I think it’s going to be a struggle but I think what the intelligent design has done, the debate has done, is force the other side to try to explain order out of chaos. And they’re groping around, they’re hunting, and they’re wounded and their system is crumbling but they are die-hard legalists when it comes to the law. They’ve had a monopoly, an ideological monopoly in the public schools and they are not going to retreat by agreement; they have to be shoved out of the way and it’s going to be a push and a shove operation.
Maybe some of you have heard the tape series but haven’t seen some of the pictures, maybe I’ll just take a few minutes, when I was teaching that series what I was showing the people that originally had the series and we hope to somehow get this out but this particular slide is one of the slides I used for the first section of the material. I had these slides made because I wanted to use repetition over and over and to associate in the mind of people these events, just trying to establish a frame of reference, that’s all. We know there are certain events that occurred. Now these first four are the ones that you can take a paper and pencil and go through those speeches in the Bible you’ll see these come up again and again and again. On the right side what I did is just take the doctrine, nothing new here, I’m not inventing anything new, all I’m doing is kind of arranging it, the doctrine of God, the doctrine of man, and doctrine of nature are associated with creation. And with the fall you have the doctrine of evil and suffering, with the flood you have the first picture in history of judgment/salvation. And I try to teach judgment and salvation together because every time God saves He also judges, doesn’t He. Look at what He’s doing in the Exodus; He judged Egypt, He saved Israel. And so it’s important that people understand, when God delivers He also judges. So that’s why I’ve combined those two.
Then when you have the Mosaic Covenant where God controls the outline of history; and then I come to this diagram which was my evil diagram; this was diagramed to deal with the issue of evil. Of all the arguments against us, the one that you will face most frequently is anger over a God who allowed an infant to die, a son to be killed in automobile wreck or be killed in battle and people harbor resentments against God for allowing these kind of things to happen. And they’ll become very indignant around you when you talk about the Lord or you share anything about the Christian life because there’s this animosity about evil. And the philosopher loves to jam this down college students and say see, they always approach it logically, God is good, God is sovereign, evil exists, so therefore what’s the deal? Well the deal is God has a reason for doing that; that’s the deal. And the book of Job tells you about it. So what I did in this chart was to try to contrast…remember what I said about when you teach truth you ought to teach what it isn’t. And so what I’ve done there is on the top part of that diagram I’ve taught in a diagrammatic way what the Bible teaches about good and evil, and in the bottom I said what’s the alternative. You can laugh at the Bible fellow, but you’ve got to believe something, and you’ve got to jump to one or the other but you can’t invent things by yourself. You are either going to believe the thing on the top or you’re going to believe the thing on the bottom. And in the top you’ve got Him going from eternity to eternity, His character never changes, He is always good. The radical thing of Scripture is that you have creation, when God created everything, everything was good, then you have Satan falling, and man falling. I’m not talking about both of them individually, just conceptualizing that you have a fall. There’s where evil originates, so since the fall isn’t creation it means that between CR and F, that period of time between the time God made the creation and the time Satan fell, the time Adam fell, the time all these things happened, different times, but the point conceptually is there was a time in there when the universe had no death, no sorrow, no sin. It was perfect.
Now no one outside of the Bible believes this; this is a treasure of truth that we ought to rejoice in. I’ll tell you why in a moment. Then we come down through history where we live now with a mixture of good and evil and we’re going to come down to the end when God is going to judge. And when God takes care of the evil problem he takes care of it all right, He separated good and evil forever, heaven and hell, the exclusion to the lake of fire and so on. Now that’s just a quick diagram to show you what? It’s to show you several things, that in the Biblical worldview we live in an abnormal state. When people are indignant about children dying, when people are indignant about hardships and suffering and all the death that goes on in the world, they, in that sense and in that moment, they’re expressing their God-consciousness. See, we’re made for, not this universe as it is. The fact that we get mad at evil is actually a good thing in the sense that it’s a testimony, whether an atheist or not; I love to watch an atheist mad over the problem of evil because it performs a perfect contact point, because now what he’s saying is I believe this is wrong, this is abnormal, I’m not made for this. That’s right. It’s funny how you confess Biblical truths.
See, it doesn’t belong anywhere except in the Bible. In the Bible alone do you have abnormality. Come down to the bottom part of the chart, now what have you got? That’s the position of unbelief; good and evil had always existed and always will exist. Now what do the Oriental people do, in the Oriental religions? They see this, that’s they’ve got the yin yang there, the duality of good and evil, but it’s always there. Darwin, in the Survival of the Fittest, nature is red in tooth and claw, you’ve always had death. Now if you really believe this, if you really want to dig into that lower worldview, then it’s very depressing and you’ve got to do something about it. Now what in the Oriental religions do they do about this? Well, American college students are rather naïve and they think oh well, the Orientals have reincarnation, you come back, you know, you’re Aunt Tilda’s dog or something now, the second time around. And the real people that know eastern religion don’t like reincarnation; it’s only the naïve American students that think it’s cool, a cool idea, New Age, reincarnation. This tells you why reincarnation is bad; who wants to keep going round and round for a thousand times in a world that’s always going to be good and evil, whether I’m an insect, an orange tree or me, I’m still living I this mess. So therefore Oriental religion has conceived of nirvana where it is a suicide of the being; you go into nonexistence; it is a suicide elevated to the ultimate level, where you don’t just kill yourself but you kill yourself in such a way, you physically kill yourself but the idea is they use a drop of rain falling into the ocean and dissipating. That’s the eastern idea of you just destroy yourself. Now the reason they do that is because of this; they understand the implications of that view. So this diagram was created to try to explain the difference between the Bible, kind of quickly, and unbelief. And what it does, it precipitates a lot of thinking. Now we can start having a little discussion, let’s talk about this matter of evil, who has the real problem. I think the unbeliever has the problem; the Christians don’t have the problem.
And then we come down to the next cluster of events and this is the cluster that starts with the call of Abraham and comes up through the height of Israel’s Old Testament existence. The call of Abraham, there we have the doctrines of election, justification and faith. Why do we make that alignment? Because what does Romans 4; every time Abraham is mentioned by Paul it’s always in this area of faith and God calling him. The Exodus, another example of judgment/salvation. It’s like the flood but what does the Exodus add that the flood didn’t have? Blood atonement, now we have blood on the door.
Then we come to Mount Sinai; what is Mount Sinai a great picture of? See if you can get in your mind’s eye these great Old Testament pictures; the Old Testament is not taught enough in our churches; two-thirds of this book is Old Testament. That would seem to indicate two-thirds of our Bible teaching should be Old Testament, but it isn’t. And the result is that we lack imagination, in the depths of the imaginations of our soul these pictures. If you think of Mount Sinai think of Cecil DeMille’s Ten Commandments, it was done years ago but it was great, Charlton Heston is up there and Cecil DeMille showed very graphically God in the fire coming down and burning His Ten Commandments in. Why is that picture so important? Because it’s a public… a public, not a private, a public demonstration of revelation. The people down at the bottom of that mountain heard that, they saw that. This wasn’t a dream Moses had. So right there, by just going back to that event you get your head straight on what we’re talking about by revelation. Said another way, when those people were sitting there, they heard the ten words, they didn’t hear it in English, they heard it in Hebrew; God actually spoke in Hebrew. Gee, I wonder how He knew Hebrew! So the point there is that you could have taken a video tape and taped the event. So if you think of judgment/salvation at the Exodus, you can let your mind’s eye drift and think about what the Exodus was like; think of what the flood was like. Now you’ve got anchors for your theology in what judgment/salvation is like. And you can go on, the conquest and settlement, that’s been used by devotional writers for years for sanctification. The rise and reign of David, the stories of David, wonderful stories of sanctification.
Then we come down to the latter part and this is the next section, part four of the Framework, where it goes from the golden era of Solomon to the decline. They start with the high culture and then it just fizzles, and so the question of the Old Testament, why did it fizzle? You had a grand kingdom in the days of Solomon; you had the wisdom literature all written, the great learned areas of the Old Testament, and then it goes from great to…then the whole thing caves in, the kingdom divides, the kingdom gets declined, and it’s one story after another of sanctification, sanctification, sanctification, sanctification; discipline, discipline, discipline, discipline, what do you learn from it? God spanks His sons. God disciplines His sons, He means what He says. You’re free to choose but you’re not free to choose the consequences. This is a universe ruled by God’s laws.
And then we come down to Jesus Christ and here we want to emphasize that He’s the Creator/creature together, hypostatic union. We have His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection and we emphasize all these things. His life, the fact that Jesus Christ tested out the filling of the Holy Spirit for the rest of the Church Age, doctrine of kenosis and so on.
And then we come…this is some diagrams I make here because I want people to see that when you are confronted with the Word of God you’re going to respond one way or the other, but how you respond is largely the result of what’s going on up here. And if you think about the virgin birth claim associated with the birth of Christ, and you reject it, it’s probably because you entertained the pagan worldview of God, man and nature. So when you’re confronted with the King you automatically make a misinterpretation, skeptics do, just like those people did in Acts 17, they couldn’t get a clue what Jesus and resurrection was, because their soul was so filled up with a perverted frame of reference. And then when the person accepts it it makes sense. The same thing with His appearance; it has to do with how people conceive of revelation. The King’s death, this is very important, that people who reject the atonement of Jesus Christ have a problem. Do you know what their problem is? They don’t understand justice. Justice in the Scriptures is revealed all through the Old Testament in order to prepare people so that when the Lamb of God has to die on the cross, they have the frame of reference to understand it. But today there is no concept of justice out there; revenge maybe, or theories of correction, correctional institutions we call it, they don’t correct, they graduate students in crime.
And so we come on down hopefully to this, the last section of the framework where we deal with Jesus Christ rises from the dead and He ascends into heaven. I have been considerably humbled by the fact that when I taught the first one I went out on a limb and I said I’ve never seen a real good hymn that speaks of the ascension and what Jesus does in the ascension. We write hymns about His death, there’s a lot of hymns about His resurrection, but are there any hymns that commemorate what He’s doing and of course there are some and some people that know their hymn books came to me with it. But the ascension and session is an extremely important event. Just think of what it is; at the helm of the universe tonight there’s a human being. You can look at the moons on Titan, and you can be excited about what NASA is doing with the exploration of outer space, but at the throne room of the entire cosmos there’s not a creature from Galaxy 42, the question about other life forms, there is a God-man Savior and we know His name. He’s actually sitting on the throne; it says He’s sitting at the throne of His right hand. And Stephen saw Him, when that martyr happened, somehow there was video TV or something and Stephen was able to look up and he saw Jesus Christ get up off the throne and stand there to accept him as a martyr.
Now that is an exciting view of the cosmos and you won’t find it in cosmology 101. See, the Bible is totally different, absolutely different in every area. At Pentecost, one of the great things, if you read those passages in the book of Acts with the Holy Spirit coming, it’s a sign that He arrived in heaven. The fact that when Jesus Christ ascended at the Mount of Olives, He ascended into heaven, He was there successfully and His first mission was to send the Holy Spirit, so the arrival of the Holy Spirit is an empirical justification, an empirical evidence of His session work. And Jesus Christ is doing all kinds of things in His session work, praying for us, meeting the adversity of Satan, it’s all tied up with the angelic conflict. Then you have the emergence of the Church and the time of the Church.
I always teach the maturing of the Church because there’s a temptation we all have that in one generation we’re going to get all the Bible doctrine together. We’re getting all Bible doctrine together because there were a lot of other people who went before us. We stand on the shoulders of previous people and we can’t get so arrogant that, you know, we’re going to do things. This is why I find Reformed theology to be somewhat arrogant, because what they did is the Reformists came up to this point in Church history, they clarified the gospel; they did not clarify a lot of things. Luther and Calvin did not do certain things; they never clarified eschatology, they kept a Roman Catholic view of baptism, they kept the idea of the Church State. There were lots of things that needed to be done and we’re not blaming Calvin and Luther for not doing it. They had enough to do; it’s great that they did what they could do. But when people come along and they freeze theology to the way Luther and Calvin left it that’s saying virtually that the Holy Spirit sent out of the teaching business in 1550. Now is that right or is the Holy Spirit still illuminating the text to His body? Of course He is. So doctrine continues to be understood and developed. And then the destiny of the Church, of course, the eschatology of the rapture and the bema.
And that’s the idea of the Framework, it’s the motif going and the idea is when you get done, as I’ve said before, I’m warning you, this is not a substitute for verse by verse teaching, don’t ever say that the Framework is some course that replaces the teaching of the Word of God. That’s not true. The Framework is a method of pulling some of these things together in your head. And you could well go for years and never even have a course in the Framework but learn how to think like the Framework. So when you’re learning Bible doctrine you know that it fits into a frame of reference; that’s all this is, it’s just fitting it together. It’s not a replacement for teaching the Word of God; it’s not a replacement for good courses on apologetics; it’s not a replacement for doctrinal studies, it’s just a way of putting that material together.
I’ve kept you way over… oh yes, I really don’t have much to do with this website but Tommy Ice and his son decided they wanted to start a website with some of the material on it, it’s CClough.com and if you want to go there they have all these lessons on MP3 and then you have people here in the Houston area that have done a lot more refining of that, and they’ve done a great job here, but the website is www.bibleframework.com.