Impact

On the Anniversary of Dad’s Death

Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment accompanied by a promise, namely, “that it may go well with you and that you will live a long time on the earth” (Ephesians 6:2-3).

Today is the anniversary of Dad’s death.

Dad was a complicated man, to say the least. Recently I was talking to a Christian brother and, essentially, said that when we die it might be said for any of us believers: “He was a Christian… and he was a mess in many ways.” We never outgrow our desperate need for Christ. Anyone who knew my dad knew he had struggles, but they also had no doubt that he was a man who confessed the Lord Jesus Christ, always desired to share Jesus, and he loved to study, discuss, and debate the Bible.

Dad was saved at a young age. He was named after the famous preacher Donald Gray Barnhouse and around the age of thirteen he had the opportunity to have a few one-on-one sessions with Barnhouse. One of the things the thirteen-year-old told Dr. Barnhouse was that he wanted to learn Greek. He already had a Bible with an introduction to Greek and Hebrew but Barnhouse suggested Machen’s Greek Grammar which he soon got, followed by a Wescott and Hort Greek New Testament and a Nestle’s. (The latter not a candy bar, apparently.) Since Dad had Latin in school, he was able to pick up Greek fairly easily: “Greek has more affinity to Latin,” he said, “but nothing has affinity with Hebrew.” It wasn’t until years later that Dad took Hebrew at Skilton House, Dr. John H. Skilton, being a professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary.

Dad’s main concern in study, writing, and discussion were proper biblical interpretation and understanding, countering falsehoods of the straying churches and cults, and witnessing to unbelievers, with a special love and interest in the Jewish people.

Dad wrote about twenty “position papers” between 1970 and 1992. When he wrote a paper, he would “publish” them by distributing them to family, friends, and acquaintances, especially to students of the Bible and people with whom he had had serious Scripture-related discussions. One of those recipients was usually James Montgomery Boice, then pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. (The footnotes of the paper below have an excerpt from his response letter to my dad.)

Sad to say that since he was my dad, and since most of his papers were written prior to my becoming a Christian, I was usually not interested when he gave me my copy. My copies usually went unread and were filed away. This is not to say I was or am unfamiliar with the ideas, topics, and doctrines he wrote about—far from it! These are things he taught me and my brother as we grew up, things we discussed and debated many times in my adult years. Biblical understanding was his constant pursuit and, eventually, it was one of the main things we had in common. And we enjoyed “sparring” in debate.

The short position paper below was written when Dad was thirty-ish. I have edited the content for readability and style, sometimes changing the order of paragraphs or topics, and the addition of section headings. I have not altered any ideas which he may have, in later years “tweaked”.

My hope is that in releasing this to a broader audience, Dad’s studies and writings will live on, bringing continued glory to God, blessing to the Church, and bringing continued purpose to Dad’s life, even though he is no longer with us “under the sun.”

It is also a way to honor my father, whom sadly I did not honor enough while he was with us.

But he is enjoying the Revelation chapter five worship of Christ now; which was one of his greatest desires.

Having said all that, may the risen Lamb be honored in Dad’s position paper, which is as follows:

Some Results of Scriptural Studies, etc.

Of utmost importance

Many who claim to believe the Scriptures seem to lack proper evaluation of what they believe and teach themselves. In their messages, some speak of Christ crucified but fail to give proper weight to the fact that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead—in flesh and bones (Luke 24:39)—and that He is Lord. He is now alive forevermore (Revelation 1:18).

Old creatures and new creations

Some seem to forget or ignore that even in Old Testament Judaism it was said none seek after God (Psalm 14:2-3). Man will have nothing to do with God as long as man is without a new heart (Jeremiah 17:9). Out of the heart of man comes all kinds of sin (Matthew 15:19-21), the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). (The word “flesh”, when used this way, is man’s heart without God.)

But God has chosen to save some. To these He gives a new heart (Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26); He makes new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). God does not just wash up the old man. He destroys the old man (crucified with Christ—Romans 6:6, Galatians 2:20) and gives a new life so that, when sins come, a Christian can say, “No longer I do it but the sin dwelling in me” (Romans 7:17). Only good fruit comes from the new heart (Galatians 5:22-23). The Scriptures teach that “every one born from God does not do sin” and that he “cannot sin” (1 John 3:9). Jesus said that His sheep would not “be lost” (John 10:28), some translate it “perish”.[1] If the Christian is not mature in his or her new man, the old man or the flesh may still be rather apparent.

The Scriptures say that all sins will be “let go”[2] (sent away, forgiven) even for the person who has slandered God (Matthew 12:31), except, it seems, those who “affirm”[3] the viewpoint of the old man/heart which is a refuser of God (see Romans 8:7, Hebrews 12:25, etc.). It seems a man will be judged only on his lack of belief (which, of course, manifests itself in “other” sins also) if he has refused God. Remember that a Christian has not been “washed” from this old refusing heart—the old refusing heart has been destroyed—God does not, will not, let the old heart go or be forgiven[4] but, for His sheep, destroys it and gives birth to a new creature. The sin that God will “not let go” is the heart-expression of the old man. This is what God has destroyed for the Christian.

The new creation, the new man, is from God, not from man: “Every one believing that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God” (1 John 5:1).[5] He is “born not of blood nor of the will of flesh nor of the will of man but of God” (John 1:13). If God saves someone by grace then it is not a result of works (any works at all, none) or grace would not be grace (Romans 11:6). But, as Jesus said, trees are known by their fruits and a living tree must have some fruit (Matthew 12:33).[6]

Foundation of the Apostles

Christ promised the apostles (eleven at the time) that the Spirit of truth would guide them into or in all truth (John 16:13). Christ also said that He would send forth prophets and wise men and scribes (Matthew 23:34, Luke 11:49).

Paul could say that they spoke in words[7] taught of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13).[8] The people of God are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). They and some others who do the will of God are like mothers (Matthew 12:49) to us, even fathers, whose law we should not forsake (Proverbs 1:8). Thus, the word of those apostles and prophets is not to be forsaken nor will it be by those doing God’s will. (See 1 John 4:6.)

It can be noted that Jesus said that Peter was a small stone or pebble (petros) and upon a larger rock, a boulder (petra not a petros), He would build His church. The larger rock of which Peter was a part was the apostles and prophets.[9]

The church body

Gifts given by God to His people, the church, are to be used for the welfare of all (1 Corinthians 12:7, Luke 12:48, Romans 13:8). God’s faithful servants were to use the gifts which they already had received (Romans 12:6-8).[10] The only leaders (overseers/spokesmen) to whom “obedience” was/is expected are those leaders (note it is plural and not singular) who had/have spoken and communicated the word of God to them directly,[11] those whose lives reflect wisdom and holiness, through faith.[12]

Sometimes a Christian must separate himself or herself from certain other individuals, although this does not mean we would discount any truth learned from them (1 Corinthians 15:33, Titus 3:10, 2 Timothy 3:5, Romans 16:17, 1 Corinthians 5:9-11, 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 2 John 1:10, Philippians 1:18). Sometimes one’s family and relatives may try to stand in the way of a Christian’s maturity. In God’s family, however, we have God as Father and new family relatives (Matthew 12:49). As far as our old family goes, in a sense, a father or mother may be “hated” (Luke 14:26-27) as if they were not family because, as we have seen, we are a new creation, “children born not of blood nor of the will of flesh nor of the will of man but of God” (John 1:13). But we must love all the brothers in Christ (John 13:34-35, 1 John 2:9-11, Galatians 6:10).

In some way the Christian is to be “subject” (subordinated, submitted) to the “government” (those “over” or in “authority”). The word “powers” (Romans 13:1) can have a proper or improper sense to it. (Improper may be seen or hinted at in Ephesians 6:12, Revelation 13:2, etc.). Various Scripture passages seem to show that a Christian may disobey government (Acts 4:18-20, 2 Corinthians 11:32-33, Revelation 14:9-10, etc.), although a Christian may not revolt against earthly government.

Christians are to be “testing” doctrine (1 Thessalonians 5:21). This command is given to “the church” (1 Thessalonians 1:1), which is God’s (1 Corinthians 1:2) and includes households (1 Corinthians 1:16), women (1 Corinthians 7:16), etc. The church, although having many “members”, is to be one or is one (Romans 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 12:20). Jesus prayed for believing persons that they “may be one[13] even as We [Jesus and the Father] are one[14]” (John 17:22), the meaning here being “united”.

Christians hear God’s Word (John 8:47). The letter to the Romans, addressed to a partly “Gentile” or non-Jewish church (Romans 1:13), shows that the Old Testament also is for “our” learning (Romans 15:4). The Scriptures are for our instruction.

Since the Old Testament is also for us, this does not mean that we are under “the Law”. Scriptures seem to show that the Law, in part, separated Jews from Gentiles (Ephesians 2:14-15). Scriptures seem to say that much of the Law was never officially placed on the Gentiles (Acts 15:28-29). To those who thought it necessary, and instructed Gentile believers to keep the Law, in order for the divisions to be removed, God shows freedom from the Law (Romans 7:4, Ephesians 2:14-15, Acts 15:5, 28, 29).

We are to listen to God’s Word if we are Christians. If we hear His Word when we are doing wrong (Exodus 16:1-16, Hebrews 3:12-13; 4:11-13), even if we hear it from a person with bad motives (Philippians 1:18), we are to obey it (James 1:22-25). The words of Scripture (the Bible) are God’s (John 14:24, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, etc.). We are to “store up knowledge” (Proverbs 10:14) not throw it away (Proverbs 1:22-26). Knowledge may also be things learned outside of God’s Word; however, it is reverence, respect for God which is the beginning of true knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). We Christians are to get wisdom (Proverbs 4:7).[15] This includes wisdom in our outside[16] of Scriptures (Proverbs 8:15, Acts 17:28, etc.), as long as it does not go against Scripture. We are also to have mercy, including mercy for young children (Lamentations 2:19, Mark 10:14, James 1:27).

The Triune God

The Father, the Lord Jesus, and the Spirit are one (Deuteronomy 6:4, John 10:30, etc.) yet also are Three (Genesis 1:26, John 17:22, etc.). Christ Jesus in some way emptied Himself (Philippians 2:7) and could be said to increase in wisdom (Luke 2:52) and could say at one time “the Father is greater than I” (John 14:28) while giving and encouraging praise be given to the Father (Luke 10:21, Luke 11:2, etc.). This demonstrates there is some distinction. Yet the Lord Jesus is God. The Alpha and Omega in Revelation is ho theos (“the God” in Greek), which directly points to the God of the Old Testament. The Alpha and Omega is also used for the Lord Jesus (Revelation 1:8, 22:12-13).[17] We also see that the Spirit is shown to be the Lord also (2 Corinthians 3:16-17) and distinct (John 7:39).

The Scriptures say, in John 3:18, that the person believing (ongoing) towards (on)[18] the unique Son of God is not being judged (condemned), while the person not believing has been judged already because he or she has not believed towards (on)[19] the name of the special Son of God. The person believing that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) is born from God (1 John 5:1). The person believing towards (on)[20] His name is born from God (John 1:12-13), so that believing that Jesus is the Christ seems to be the same as believing towards (on)[21] His name.

By God’s grace, I am part of His kingdom. It seems that frequent immaturities allow for less noticeable Christian living than should be. The truth of His Word is not dependent on us. This I can be glad for, too.

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[1] The word is a middle voice in Greek.

[2] ἀφίημι (aphiemi)

[3] Dig into the original Greek word for “said” in Mark 3:30.

[4] ἀφίημι (aphiemi)

[5] Note the ongoing tense of the word for “believe” in 1 John 5:1.

[6] See also Luke 13:6-9, which seems to tell us that sometimes the appearance of fruit may take some time.

[7] The Greek word Paul used here is also used in John 6:60, Matthew 28:15, Luke 11:28, Colossians 3:16, etc.

[8] The word Spirit (Pneuma) there is contrasted to man (anthropinos). Grammatically, Pneuma is used without an article but is also used without an article in other places (John 7:39, Romans 8:14, Matthew 1:18, etc.).

[9] My father sent a copy of this paper to Dr. James Montgomery Boice, who responded in a letter dated October 21, 1970. In the letter Dr. Boice wrote, “I wonder if you have considered that the petra may be Jesus Christ. This is not at all a criticism because Matthew 16 is difficult and there have been many interpretations of these verses. However, I have often thought that the verse ought really to mean that the church is built upon Christ. Certainly this is a possible interpretation, because the word rock is often used of Jehovah in the Old Testament and would be appropriate in reference to the Lord Jesus.” I know that Dad did not disagree with this interpretation, especially in later years.

[10] This was even to be done in places Paul had not yet visited (Romans 1:11).

[11] Editor’s note: I could be incorrect here, but it seems as though the emphasis may be upon those who have helped bring us to Christ and who have helped lead us in walking in wisdom, righteousness, and faith; this not only by their teaching but by their living example as well. It is as though they are our spiritual “fathers” (1 Corinthians 4:15, 1 Timothy 1:2) or parents, to whom we owe spiritual obedience just as we owe our physical parents, according to the Commandment (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:1. Colossians 3:20).

[12] Hebrews 13:17 uses the same present participle for “leaders” as Hebrews 13:7.

[13] “One” [neuter]

[14] Again, “One” [neuter]

[15] Editor’s note: Wisdom, in Proverbs especially, could be assessed as “moral skill”, the skill of living one’s life properly; in a world created and ordered by God, though now “subject to frustration” (Romans 8:20), wisdom would be the ability to live life according to the Creator’s plan or, if you will, instruction manual.

[16] By “outside” here, my father meant that there is wisdom that can be found outside of Scripture, such as we see Paul utilizing in Acts 17:28, which Paul apparently borrowed from Greek literature. 1 Corinthians 15:33 is another example of Paul quoting wisdom that is not found in the Hebrew Scriptures. True wisdom, however, can never contradict God’s Word.

[17] This appears to be written directly against the “so-called Jehovah’s Witnesses”, as he called them, who had “to stand on their heads” to say that the opening verses of the Gospel of John did not make Jesus to be God because (their argument) there is no article before the word “God” in John 1:1 thus making Jesus not “God” but “a god”.

[18] Greek: εἰς (eis)

[19] See footnote 18.

[20] See footnote 18.

[21] See footnote 18.

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"Rescued, ransomed, and saved because of the love of God the Father, through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, thanks to faithful preachers and teachers of the Word, attained by the perfect life and merit of Jesus the Messiah, His substitutionary death and physical resurrection from the dead. Completely undeserved and gifted to me." Steve would label himself an apprentice Christ follower, an Evangelical Christian with strong Reformed beliefs, a "Five Point Calvinist" (if you must). Steve loves discussing and debating the two "taboo" subjects: Politics and Religion. He tries to read and listen to a minimum of forty books a year and realizes that no matter what topic or genre, whether Bible, theology, Christianity, history, biography, philosophy, political, social commentary, pop-culture, or even fiction, they all tie together in the spider's web of worldview. His favorite authors are C.S. Lewis, James R. White, Gregory Koukl, R.C. Sproul, J. Gresham Machen, G.K. Chesterton, J. Budziszewski, and Peter Kreeft. He loves Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Voddie Baucham, and Dwight L. Moody. Steve's hobbies are generally reading and writing, music, hiking, and laughing. He has been writing songs/lyrics since the age of eight and has played in a few Christian Rock bands. He has written poetry, several biblical studies over the past decades, and has one finished book manuscript entitled, “Shaken Faith: When God Has Let You Down” (written with friend and co-author Al Rossi). He has also written for the now defunct Examiner website as the Philadelphia Christian Perspectives Examiner. He wishes he could write some fiction.

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