Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Fundamentals”

The Fundamentals
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Biblical faith includes three parts. They are knowledge, assent, and trust. My focus in this article is the first, knowledge. Simply stated, having faith assumes a certain body of information about the object. The Christian Faith is not some self-contained “force” like the Star Wars expression, “May the force be with you.”
I am a Presbyterian by conviction. I have brothers and sisters in Christ who belong to many different Christian denominations. When we push aside our denominational differences, we all affirm several basic truths revealed by God concerning our common faith in Jesus Christ.
Theologians and pastors of the early twentieth century called these basic truths the fundamentals of the Christian Faith. These men were given the name Fundamentalists. They sought to list what every Christian throughout the ages affirmed to be true about God’s plan of redemption. They arrived at five basic truths. History recorded these truths as the Five Fundamentals of the Christian Faith. They are:
1. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are inerrant.
2. Jesus was born of a virgin.
3. The atonement of Christ was full, penal, and substitutionary.
4. Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily resurrection.
5. The miracles recorded in Scripture were authentic.
The first is the basis of the other four. The inerrancy of Scripture means that the Bible is without error. It does not refer to translations of the Bible but to the original autographs. Now, if you have been reading and studying the Bible for any length of time, I am sure you are aware that we do not possess any original autographs of Scripture. But we do have thousands of New Testament manuscripts, the blessing of the oral tradition of the Ancient Hebrew people (the Masoretic text), the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, circa 250 B.C.).
Using textual criticism, the original can be reconstructed. For example, nearly all our English translations are based on the work of the textual critics. The result is that you can be assured that when you open your Bible and read it you are reading the truth of God. Textual Criticism increases the accuracy of the Bible! It does not challenge it.
Second, the virgin birth was challenged during the period known as the Enlightenment. The fact of Jesus’ birth was challenged because, they said, it is naturally impossible. But that is exactly the point! Jesus was born outside of the natural course. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and Mary. If you look at Genesis 3:15, you will notice that it was the “seed” of the woman who would bruise or crush Satan’s head. The Messiah was born without sin because He was born out of the natural course. Jesus was the sinless and perfect sacrifice. Without the virgin birth, we are all still dead in our sins! The Apostle Paul wrote, “For our sake he [God the Father] made him [God the Son] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him [the Son] we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Third, the atonement of Christ was substitutionary. He took our place. It was penal. He was punished for sin. Jesus bore the full wrath of God. It was full and complete. There is no other sacrifice for sin. The Apostle John wrote that Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2, emphasis mine). Jesus’ last words were “It is finished” (John 19:30).
Fourth, a man got out of the grave! The body that was buried was the body raised in glory. The Bible says that if Christ was not raised, our faith is in vain and we are the most to be pitied, (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).
Fifth and finally, miracles are supernatural events. Only God can break into His created world and ordain a miracle. The miracles recorded in Exodus, of Joshua, of Elijah, of Jesus and Apostles were factual occurrences.
Jude, the half-brother of Jesus said, “Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). The fact of the matter is, we do not as Christians make up our faith. We believe in a faith that has been revealed by God and given in His word written, the Bible.
The Five Fundamentals of the Christian Faith simply condense and articulate biblical doctrine that all who profess Christ affirm.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The End Times”

The End Times
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
There is, it seems, a never-ending flow of books on prophecy and the end times. Theological experts hold the newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other. Warnings are issued to mankind that either the world will end on a specific date that is based on some current events or that an unsuspecting public will be “left behind” when the so-called rapture occurs.
Very few of the prophecy experts or those who promote the “left behind” theory seem to ask the one expert. His name is Jesus, and He gave very specific answers to questions concerning the end of the world.
“As [Jesus] sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ’Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’” (Matthew 24:3).
These questions were motivated by Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. He said that not one stone would be left upon a stone (Matthew 24:2). Jesus declared what was to happen in A.D. 70. The great siege of Jerusalem by the Roman army was led by Titus. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus recorded the destruction of the temple and the barbaric actions of the Romans toward the Jews. This historic event marked the end of the biblical nation of Israel which Jesus predicted and Daniel prophesied as recorded in Daniel 9:27.
The disciples also wanted to know what Jesus’ return would be like as well as the day of the end of this world. The first answer concerning the sign of Jesus’ second coming was answered very directly by our Lord. He said that His coming would be like lightning! The book of Revelation describes Jesus’ coming in these words. “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen” (Revelation 1:7).
The Apostle John was allowed to see Jesus’ coming and he sought to explain the unexplainable in words. The fact is, no words are adequate to describe pure glory. But the Revelation of Jesus Christ which was given to John was intended to reveal the certainty of Jesus’ return. All the nations will mourn because of sin. There will be great wailing by all because the time for salvation will be ended. When Jesus comes again, He will come to judge both the living and the dead. He will come not as the Savior but as the Judge.
John saw more. He saw that Jesus’ return would not be a secret! Every eye would see Him in His glory. There is no “secret rapture” recorded in the Bible. I am aware that there are some who have built an entire theology on one word that is derived from the Latin translation from which our word rapture is derived. The word in the original language is translated “caught up”. It is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Paul was describing what would happen to the believers who are alive when Christ returns. He said that the dead in Christ would rise first and those who were alive would be caught up in the air to meet Christ as He descended.
Likewise, Jesus spoke in a figure of speech when He said, “two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left” (Matthew 24:40-41). He followed that statement by calling the disciples to “stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (v. 42). In other words, Jesus was exhorting disciples to remain prepared for His coming because no man knows when He will return. In fact, Jesus declared that in His human nature, He didn’t know when He would return. “No one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36). However, Jesus said that He would return when all the elect are gathered in. That is, when all those whom God chose from eternity have professed faith in Jesus’ person and work, the end will come.
Therefore, the vital question is not when is Jesus coming back, but are you ready to meet Him when He does?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Why then the law? (The Law)”

Why then the law? (The Law)
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The law “was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary” (Galatians 3:19). Paul was referring to the Ten Commandments. He said the law was added because of sin.
The Apostle John wrote that “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines sin as “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God” (question and answer 14).
The Ten Commandments are recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The first part concerns man’s relationship to God. The second provides the basis for men to coexist.
Even in society, the importance of law is reflected. All cultures depend upon what is called the rule of law. Removing law condemns a society to destruction. Therefore, leaders are expected to submit to the rule of law to guard freedom. For example, in our country, the Constitution provides the basis for our rule of law. It specifies that no one is above the law.
In addition, God’s Law and civil law carry blessings and curses—blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. As God created man and woman in His image, we all have the moral code in our hearts. All men have a general knowledge of right and wrong. God’s Ten Commandments specify the details of right and wrong because they reflect the character of God. At its root, the Law of God expresses His grace and is part of what is called, the Covenant of Grace.
Why do we need the grace of God in the Law? As Paul said, it was given by God because of sin (Galatians 3:19). The sinfulness of man leads to law breaking. Since the Garden, no man could keep the Law perfectly. The fundamental reason God gave the Law was to demonstrate man’s need for a Savior, who would keep the Law perfectly. The Bible reveals God’s grace through the Law. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).
Further, law, in general, provides additional benefits for all mankind. God’s common grace toward all is experienced by the rule of law in providing for relationships, contracts, economic prosperity, and in summary the security of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
As an emphasis of the usefulness of the Law, the Christian Church has taught three uses of the Law. They are, first, to bound sin, second, to point to Christ, and third, to provide the guide for Christian living.
The Old Testament also reveals two principles regarding the Law. God said blessing results from obedience and curse is the result of disobedience (Deuteronomy 11:26-28; 28). God declared that His way is the better way.
The importance of the Law will also be seen in the end of this world. The sign of the end will be apostasy. “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first” (2 Thessalonians 2:3a). Paul was straightening out false teaching concerning the end of this world. Rebellion against God will be the first sign of the end. The visible sign of rejecting God is rejecting His Law.
History also records man’s awareness of his need for law. One example is the Code of Hammurabi, the ancient law code of the first Babylonian Dynasty ruled by Hammurabi, circa 1728-1686 B.C. Much of his code parallels that of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilizations likewise depended on the rule of law. As law broke down, those civilizations ceased to exist. They became unable to fight against invaders. Western civilization and especially our United States will also stand or fall as a result of adherence to the rule of law.
In conclusion, the title of this article, “why the law?” has an ultimate answer. Without law we will perish. Because of the Law men are shown their desperate need for a divine Savior. May we commit to stand for the blessing of God’s Law and all law proceeding from it. May submission to the rule of law reflect the desire “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8). God’s Law is His standard. It is absolute, eternal, and with no “sliding scale” of obedience!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, Psalm 23, “I shall not want!”

Psalm 23, “I shall not want!
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“The LORD is my shepherd.” David wrote Psalm 23 and declared that Yahweh, Jehovah, the LORD was his Shepherd. He harkened back to Exodus 3:14. The Great “I Am” appeared to Moses in the burning bush. Moses asked God for His name. God told Moses, “I am who I am.” God is eternal and self-sufficient. In other words, God declared that He is eternal being. There is more to God’s name. LORD is descriptive of God’s covenantal faithfulness. The Hebrews held God’s personal name in such regard that they did not speak His name. God gave His name in the Hebrew verb “to be”. All being, all existence proceeds from the only One who has being, existence in Himself.
I recall one Bible teacher saying that we are misnamed as human beings. We should be called human becomings since we are always changing from one thing to another. From the time we are born we age. As we age, we are maturing. God, however, never changes. He is. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
So, when David made the declaration that “The LORD is my shepherd” he was stating that He was cared for and guided by the One who alone has eternal being. His declaration was made to the absolute highest and greatest being. More, King David addressed the eternal One as his Shepherd. As such he was declaring intimacy with the Father.
King David knew the LORD. He wrote that the one who led him, cared for him, and provided for his needs was the Great “I Am.” As we look at this psalm, we who know the LORD is also declaring with David the care and providence of God for us. The Gospel of John recorded the “I Am” sayings of Jesus. John 10:11 recorded who this Great “I Am” was and is. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.”
The Apostle Paul wrote these words about Jesus who is the Great “I Am”. “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. . . . For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1:15-19). The fullness of God was revealed in Jesus who is eternally begotten (not born) from the Father.
David wrote Psalm 23 more than 3,000 years ago. Yet those who profess Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead have the Great “I Am” as their Shepherd as David did. King David looked forward to the person and work of Christ. We who trust in Jesus look back at Him.
God’s faithfulness revealed in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is for all who call upon the name of the LORD. We say with King David, “The LORD is my Shepherd. Therefore, I trust that the LORD will meet my needs. Because He is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”
Jesus said do not worry about the needs of life. He said the Father knows my needs and will provide what I truly need.
Confidence in God’s providence is not exclusive to me but applies to everyone who calls upon the name of Jesus! Those who call upon the name of Jesus are those who rely upon and trust in the person and work of Christ.
The object of saving faith is the Jesus revealed in the Bible. He is the God-Man. He is God in the flesh. He is not a created being. He is not the Jesus of another testament, book, or philosophy. He is not just a prophet. He is fully God and fully Man. This is the Jesus who promised God’s providence.
There are two aspects of life in Christ to which David pointed in Psalm 23:1. They are guidance and provision. The Good Shepherd, Jesus, guides and provides for His people. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. Jesus said that He knows His sheep and He calls them by name (John 10:3-14).
You who hear Jesus through His word follow Him. No one can harm you. You belong to Him. He will provide your needs. You shall not want!