Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Bible”

“The Bible”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding in the evangelical church. We evangelicals declare that the Bible is the word of God written. It is inerrant, infallible, perspicuous and sufficient. Yet, we fundamentally don’t practice what the Bible is about or rather who the Bible is about. In the practice and preaching in most churches, a passerby might learn that the Bible is about us. With all the focus on how to live and what to do, he might think that God is simply a dictator, issuing commands to men, women and children. The truth is much different. The truth is that the Bible is fundamentally about God. It is His self-revelation.

The Bible is about God. Therefore, who is He? Or, more accurately, what is God?

The Westminster Shorter Catechism provides us with the biblical answer. “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” The Scriptural bases for this answer are: John 4:24; Job 11:7; Psalm 90:2; Exodus 3:14; Rev. 4:8 and 15:4.

God has revealed to man the truth of who and what He is. Yet, it appears that some Christians and others are more apt to form the answer to the question of God from books or movies. Lately, a movie currently showing based on the book of the same name, “The Shack,” has a very different and blasphemous answer to the God question. The truth is: God is NOT a friendly black woman, nor is He a mild mannered Jewish carpenter, nor is He a young Asian woman! The message of universal salvation conveyed in the book is a lie. If the visible church taught the truth of God to her members, I doubt that any who are in Christ would search out His identity in such a meaningless and damaging fiction as “The Shack.”

Creation is God’s testimony of His existence. The Bible is God’s revelation to man of His way to have a “saving” relationship with Him. In other words, the Bible is God’s revelation of redemptive history.

Jesus is the word of God Incarnate. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” John 1:1. Paul wrote, “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, for by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.” Colossians 1:15-16

Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, commanded His disciples to, “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19. Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah in His home town synagogue, “The Spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me,” Luke 4:18a (Isaiah 61:1a). The Bible declares that God is one, Deuteronomy 6:4. The Bible also declares that there is one God in three persons. The doctrine of the Trinity is revealed throughout Scripture. Each person of the Trinity is fully God. Yet each person of the Trinity is a distinct person. This doctrine is fundamental to the Christian Faith!

As the Triune God created everything out of nothing. The Trinity is essential to our understanding of redemption. The Father initiated redemption. The Son accomplished redemption and the Holy Spirit applies redemption. As I referred to the Westminster Shorter Catechism for the definition of God, likewise I refer to it for the biblical definition of the Trinity. “There are three persons in the Godhead: The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.” (WSC Q/A #6)

Believing in God necessitates believing in the doctrine of the Trinity!

The fact that there is a God is undeniable. Those who think that there is no God are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, Romans 1:18. Man’s view of God is irrelevant. The only right view of God is revealed by God. First, Creation declares that He is. Second, the Bible reveals what He is and the only way we can relate to Him.

Here’s “the bottom line”, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through me” The only way to know God is to know His Son, Jesus as He is offered in the gospel!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Pure Gospel”

“The Pure Gospel”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel…Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” Mark 1:15, 38

The gospel is pure. The pure gospel preached is one of the three marks of a true Church. Not only is the gospel’s content pure for it is the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, but it embodies a sense of urgency. Jesus completed everything necessary for redemption, John 19:30. In His public ministry, He obeyed the Father perfectly and preached the gospel with urgency.

Jesus said the reason for His public ministry was to preach. His message was clear and direct. He preached it as a command. “Repent and believe in the gospel! Notice both verbs. They are in the imperative and present tense. The imperative is the mood of command. The present tense describes current and on-going action. Therefore, both repenting and believing are current on-going actions commanded by God.

Jesus gave two reasons for obeying His dual command. The first was the “time is fulfilled.” The second, “the kingdom of God is at hand”. Both statements are indicatives, stated facts.

The first was a reference to Daniel’s prophecy, Daniel 9:25. It was confirmed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 4:4. This time of fulfillment was in fact the time set in eternity by God for the Messiah’s arrival on earth. Jesus read Isaiah 61:1-2a in the synagogue, see Luke 4:18-21. Jesus said He was the one prophesied who would proclaim the “year of the Lord’s favor”. In other words, Jesus declared that at His Coming God was commanding men and women to call upon Him and be saved. The Apostle Peter boldly told the religious leaders in Jerusalem,” there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” Acts 4:12.

The second reason given by Jesus was not separate and distinct from the first. The Kingdom of God, namely the rule of God was at hand. Jesus the King and Lord, the one who rules all things, was physically in the midst of His hearers. The King who rules all men and has absolute authority, Matthew 28:18, commanded repentance and faith!

Repentance and faith go hand-in-hand. Repentance is a change of mind, a turning away from sin. Faith is trust in the object who is Jesus. When God converts a sinner into a saint He gives two gifts. One is repentance. The second is faith. The converted man and woman turn away from sin and turn to Jesus. Paul explained the action of a converted sinner in Romans 6:11. “So you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Both God-given gifts continue throughout every Christian’s life. We live repenting and believing, turning from our sin and relying upon the perfect righteousness of Christ.

Jesus was very specific in His command. He commanded believing in the gospel. Christians believe in the gospel. Why? The answer is simple and clear. “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16b.

I’m sure that you’ve heard that the word “gospel” means good news. So what’s the good news? It is, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” 1Corinthians 15:3-4. This is truly good news because we all deserve to go to hell. But, God who is “rich in mercy”, Ephesians 2:4, chose some for heaven. The only way to heaven is through Jesus as He is offered in the gospel! That is relying upon the only begotten one, Jesus, not born but eternally proceeding from the Father. Those destined for heaven rely upon Jesus’ perfect life and His perfect sacrifice for sins. This reliance is not by our strength and power. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. The gospel is good news because God applies it to those whom He has chosen.

Therefore, he who has ears to hear the Savior’s command, repent and believe in the gospel! “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8 S.D.G.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “How Does God Save?”

“How Does God Save?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Bible teaches that God saves those whom He chooses. Salvation is a past event, an ongoing action, and a guaranteed future in heaven. The one whom God “saves” has been saved, is being saved and will be saved. Volumes could be written concerning God’s sovereign will in salvation and the meaning of salvation. There is still another question. Don’t be misled by the title. The immediate answer, the simple answer to “How does God save?” is Jesus! This is propositionally true. God the Son, Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity gave His physical life as a ransom for many, Matthew 20:26.

My point in asking the question, however, is to go deeper. Those who have been saved desire to know more about what God has done for them in Christ. I want to explore what is known as God’s logical order of salvation. The simple answer, Jesus, is so deep that turning our thoughts to Him fills our lives. I encourage you to study the Person and Work of Christ regularly. He is the deep meaning of God’s grace.

God’s logical order of salvation is rooted in the “simple” answer, Jesus! The Bible declares that God is a God of order not chaos. The Bible begins with this affirmation of God bringing order out of chaos. “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” Genesis 1:2-3 The Apostle Paul rebuked the Church in Corinth for their chaotic behavior. He said, “But all things should be done decently and in order.” He was simply reflecting on the fact that God is a God of order, therefore, His people must be likewise.

In terms of the question, “How does God save?” order is foremost. It is not as if seeing this is to put God in a box. No. It is necessary because God is perfectly rational and supremely logical. Men bear the attributes of reason and logic, albeit broken by the Fall. Throughout the history of the Church, the answer to the “How” question has been called the “Ordo Salutis”, that is, the order of salvation. It does not imply any chronological listing of events. This doctrine of salvation is grounded in the revealed logical order of God’s saving acts.

So then, what is God’s logical order of salvation? The Bible reveals seven main actions of God in salvation. They are God’s: effectual call, regeneration, conversion, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification. In each case the sinner is acted upon. God alone saves. No man can save himself. No man can believe unless God has regenerated him. No man sanctifies himself. God is at work in the believer such that the believer responds to the action of the Holy Spirit. No man can bring himself to glory. If at any step, God removed Himself, all would be lost! All of God’s logical order of salvation is monergistic, meaning one work/God’s work.
1. God’s effectual call is the word of Christ speaking to the dead heart of a man, like Jesus spoke to dead Lazarus. Romans 10:17, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
2. Regeneration and the effectual call of God are intimately linked. John 3:3, Jesus said, “… unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
3. Conversion, “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation…” God converts a sinner into a saint in an instant, gives the sinner two gifts, faith and repentance, and begins a process of change. Ephesians 2:8; 2Corinthians 5:17; 7:10
4. Justification, God sovereignly declares a man right with Him through faith alone, a gift received at conversion. God imputes the perfect righteousness of Christ to the man and takes the man’s sin and places it on Christ. Romans 4:4-5; 2Corinthians 5:21
5. Adoption, God adopts those whom He justifies. He adopts them into His family by an act of His free grace, Romans 8:15.
6. Sanctification is an act of God’s free grace whereby He changes those who are in Christ to be more and more like Him, Philippians 2:12-13
7. Glorification, God by His grace has promised to bring those whom He has chosen in Christ to glory with Him, John 14:2-3; Romans 8:30.

This, beloved, is the gospel! S.D.G.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Brother, are you saved?”

“Brother, are you saved?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

My previous article attempted to give an honest answer to an honest question. The question, “Does God desire all men to be saved?” was answered from Scripture in the negative, based on the context of 1Timothy 2.

Perhaps, this article should’ve preceded the consideration of the salvation of “all” men. Logically, salvation can be addressed both in general terms and intimate ones. The above question is both. It is meant to cause thought re: the meaning of salvation and one’s personal state.

In general, salvation is applied to any dire circumstance. For example, in Jesus’ day the people sought to be delivered from Roman rule. Every adverse circumstance of life drives us all to think of deliverance, which is another word for salvation.

Eternal salvation, the focus of the above question, is to be delivered from the wrath of God. The Bible refers to this salvation in three ways. Salvation is a past event, an ongoing condition and a future hope. “For by grace you have been saved…” Ephesians 2:8, “… (the gospel) by which you are being saved…” 1Corinthians 15:2, and, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” Romans 10:13.

Now as I bring this question to a personal level, I remember my life before Christ. Before God made me a Christian, my response to the question of salvation would certainly have been, “I don’t need to be saved! I’m doing fine.” If someone would have asked me, “Brother, are you saved?” I would have probably laughed and/or been offended. When God regenerated me, raised me from death to life, I was confronted with the truth about myself. I was far from fine. I needed to be saved; to be continually delivered and to have the certain hope of heaven. Before Christ, I was spiritually blind and dead in sin.

By God’s grace, I was able to see the profound nature of the question. The following statement may offend some but it is the heart of the matter. It is the truth revealed by God in His word. Ultimate salvation is being saved by God from God. John 3:16, because God the Father chose to demonstrate His love, He gave Jesus so that whoever would believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life. God must cause an individual to see his need. When confronted with his sinfulness, a jailer cried out to the Apostle Paul and his companion, “what must I do to be saved?” The answer given to him is the timeless answer for all. “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your whole household” Acts 16:30-31.

When the Apostles Peter and John were confronted by the religious authorities in Jerusalem for proclaiming the bodily resurrection of Jesus, they told them God commanded salvation! They said, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven (Jesus) given among men by which we must be saved” Acts 4:12.

Now the hard truth, salvation is by God from God. All men are born dead in sin. There are no natural children of God. The children of God are adopted. God alone must save men and women from His wrath. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church of Ephesus that all men are naturally children of God’s wrath. He said that God is “rich in mercy”. He extends grace to those whom He chooses. Therefore, salvation is by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. God has given the only means to be spared His wrath which is God’s expression of His holiness against sin.

Years ago I was teaching a Bible study concerning salvation and a young woman got visibly upset with the term “the wrath of God.” She said to me and to the entire class that her god was a god of love. I responded saying that truly God is love. And, God is holy. The holy God and sin cannot co-exist. Nothing imperfect can enter heaven. This isn’t my opinion. This is simply the clear teaching of the Bible. The depth of God’s love cannot be understood apart from knowing His holiness.

Jesus, the full revelation of God, the second person of the Trinity, will come again to judge all mankind.

So then, “Brother, are you saved?” You will either experience the wrath of the Holy God or His steadfast love forever! S.D.G.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “An honest question deserves an honest answer”

“An honest question deserves an honest answer.”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Difficult texts in Scripture present questions. One such text is 1Timothy 2:3-4. “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

“Does God desire all people to be saved?” I’ve heard a response given that suggests the answer is one of the “secret things” of God and there is no answer nor does it matter! 1Timothy 2 is set in the context of corporate worship. Most biblical commentators would agree on this point. This fact does not adequately answer the question.

Indeed, the context is about God’s expectation for His church. He expects the church to be a people of prayer. Corporate worship is to include prayer for men to be saved.

Yet, the answer to the question of God’s will in salvation rests on the meaning of the word “all”. All in 1Timothy 2:4 means all the varied levels of society, specifically, all the ranks of government. The elect of God come from every economic and civil rank. The all does not refer to every single human being, but to groups, ranks of people.

The context is necessary to arrive at an answer. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions…” 1Timothy 2:1-2 Following this, Paul then declares the desire of God our Savior.

Paul declared what pleases God. God is pleased when the church prays for the salvation of all people, especially those who are civil leaders. This is clear. The application is clear at this point. Allow me to phrase the application by way of a question. “Does your church pray for the salvation of all those in authority, regardless of how you feel about specific individuals?” Church, do you want to please God? Then pray for the salvation of all men, especially all those who are in authority, especially when you gather for worship.

Whether “all” is used as an adjective, adverb, pronoun or noun, the context in which it occurs is necessary to define its meaning. Some texts that demonstrate the range of the meaning of “all, everyone, any, whole, and even world” are: John 3:16; Romans 10:13; 2Peter 3:9; 1John 2:2; 1Timothy 2:6. We can, therefore conclude that Paul was not suggesting that it is God’s will to save every person but was qualifying the meaning of “all” by the context.

Secondly the difficulty presented to honest students of the Bible concerns the will of God. God’s will is always done. It is apparent as you study the Bible that God’s will is sovereign over all. That is, by definition of the word “God”, His will must be sovereign over all or He is not God!

We receive God’s revelation of His sovereign will throughout the Scriptures. Genesis 1:1, God created everything out of nothing simply by His command. God is sovereign even over “nothing.” The definition of the absolute sovereignty of God is expressed by the two Latin words, ex nihilo which mean out of nothing.

In addition, Jeremiah declared God’s sovereign will by saying, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? “Lamentations 3:37 Likewise, Jesus declared God’s sovereign will. “All that the Father gives me will come to me… No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…” John 6:37, 44

One of my favorite texts revealing the absolute sovereign will of God was recorded by Daniel. The pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar said, “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will…” Daniel 4:35

Stepping back a bit, we know that because God ‘s will is sovereign, we will always be with Him. Because the sovereign God has saved us from Himself, we are assured of eternal glory with Him. After all, salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone and this is God’s gift. Our hope rests in the sovereign will of God. He said through the Prophet Isaiah, “But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

Soli Deo Gloria.