Apostles’ Creed: Conclusion

What have we learned looking at the Apostles’ Creed? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As Christians, we’re people of Scripture, but it’s not as if the canon was closed and then lo and behold, everything just popped into place here centuries later. We have a rich tradition that we came from and we need to look at that tradition. Too many Christians really have no knowledge whatsoever of church history. They do not know who great thinkers were, what great problems the church faced, great events that shaped the church, and how their own Bibles came down to them.

How can it really hurt your Christianity, if it is true, to know its history?

The look at the Apostles’ Creed has been a start for that. I specifically chose this creed due to it being shared in my own church on a regular basis, which is one of the reasons I think my church is so wonderful. I listened to it regularly and repeated it regularly and started wondering how many of us have really thought about the creed.

As we’ve gone through it, I hope I’ve impressed on you a deeper meaning of what has been said. Naturally, I’m not claiming a perfect interpretation, but I’m hoping that I have given you a thought-provoking interpretation. Even more than that, I hope that I have ended up giving you a life-changing look at the creed and furthermore, I hope I have given myself one.

We Christians are actually people of creeds. Much of our Christian lifestyle focuses on right living, and indeed it should! We should be living a certain way if we are said to be Christians, but much of that should be based on right doctrine. What you live should be a direct outworking of what it is that you really believe.

Consider if you are your average middle-class person living today and lo and behold, you receive undeniable proof from your bank that a rich relative passed away and left you millions in your bank account. Is your lifestyle going to change somehow? You bet it will! Even if you say “I don’t really care for buying a lot of fancy things”, you will probably at least care for getting your children through college and if you don’t have those, you will hopefully care for giving away money you don’t really need to charities that you think deserve that money.

If you go to see your doctor and he tells you you have a disease and it will be terminal unless you do X, Y, and Z, then chances are you will end up doing X, Y, and Z. That is, you will do them if you want to live. In both of these cases, it is your knowledge that is affecting how you live and in the case of Christianity, it is the claim to have the knowledge of the revelation of God. That should change everything.

Pay attention to the creed and pay attention to what it is you believe and especially let the creed drive you back into the Scriptures, the ultimate authority we have for what we believe today. From there, spend some time studying what has happened in the life of the church and how it is that you got that Bible that you value so greatly.

The creed is a statement that connects you with those Christians from the past, Christians that lived in a world where their lives were on the line regularly and being a Christian carried a serious cost. They often also did not have the luxury of the fine resources for study you and I have. We have centuries of Christian though, a gold mine of knowledge, that we can draw from. What a waste on our part if we do not learn from it and benefit from it.

I encourage you to do be benefiting from it. This is your heritage. Some of you might enjoy going to a web site like ancestry.com and learning about your family history. How much more should you be interested in learning about the history of your spiritual family?

Let that journey begin today.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: Amen

Do we really believe the creed? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The Apostles’ Creed ends with the word amen. That’s short and sweet and most of us probably don’t think about it. For a Jew saying a prayer, an amen was a way of saying “So be it.” It was an affirmation of what was just said. Something that made Jesus unique in His ministry was that He actually said amen about His own statements.

Bart Ehrman has said before that if he went through the Apostles’ Creed, the only line he could say with certainty was “Suffered under Pontius Pilate.” For those of us who are Christians, we should really consider that. If Ehrman is doing that and is really living it out accordingly, he could be in some ways taking the creed more seriously than we are. What does it mean if we go to a church service, say the Apostles’ Creed, and then live the rest of the life like none if it was true.

If we end it with an amen, we are saying that we believe all of it. As was said at the start, we believe some stuff that is utterly fantastic and we do have to realize that many atheists are right on this point. These claims we make are extraordinary. Too many of us have grown up so much with the story of Christianity that we no longer allow it to shock and amaze us. We have read the Scriptures so much that our minds can just go over the words. How many of us can quote John 3:16 so easily without really thinking about what it would mean if John 3:16 was true?

Certainly, none of us are going to live out what we say we believe perfectly, and that goes with most any position that we take. We will always have some inconsistencies in how we live, but we have to ask if the rest of the world sees our lives as truly reflecting what we believe about Jesus and the Christian claims or if they don’t.

After all, if Christianity is true, and hopefully you’re convinced that it is, it is simply the best offer that you could ever get and the greatest news that there is. The good news is that God is reclaiming this world for Himself and that His Kingdom is coming to cover the Earth. The good news is that evil is being dealt with and will be dealt with ultimately. The good news is that the promises that we read in Scripture really are for us.

In summation, when we say amen to the creed, let us really think about it. These aren’t just words we’re saying. They’re claims we’re making not just about reality, but what we say we believe about reality. We really believe that the second person of the Trinity came and lived among us and that He died and rose again. Those who respond with disbelief could sadly be realizing the impact of what we say more than those of us who say we believe it and deny it practically by our actions every day, and those actions speak louder than any words we say in a service.

At our church, we regularly recite the Apostles’ Creed. I happen to quite enjoy and appreciate that. It connects us to a tradition where many Christians have gone before us and we are sent back to an earlier time and realize that those Christians are indeed our brothers and sisters. We believe what they believed. They believed what we believe.

Let’s make sure we do. Next time you say the creed really pause and ask yourself if you really do believe what you are saying. If you do, are you going to live accordingly?

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: And The Life Everlasting

What awaits those who trust in Christ? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Death is something we often don’t really care for. It’s such a finality to matters. I have been to two funerals this year for instance. One was for an aunt who died. The other was for a neighbor who lived just down the street from us and whose death we were not at all expecting. My wife has lost her grandfather this year as well.

When someone dies, we are suddenly filled with grief if we knew the person well and cared for them. When I walk past my neighbor’s house for instance, I can know that in this lifetime, I will never see him out there tending to his garden and have him wave at me and have my wife and I talk to him about the plants in our garden.

Scripture gives us the promise of life everlasting as does the Apostles’ Creed, but here is another area where we have misunderstandings. This is often done at funerals. As I mentioned in an earlier post, too often, we have made it seem like the goal of Christianity is simply to get to Heaven. That’s a goal very much about us.

Yet the Bible is about what God is doing with His creation for His glory and part of it is redeeming the creation. It is not as if he says “Dang it. Looks like the devil screwed up that Garden of Eden plan. So much for that planet.” Too many Christians have this idea. This world is not our home supposedly. God did not make it to be our eternal dwelling.

Wherever that idea comes from, it is not Scripture. It is more a Platonic sort of idea of an otherworldly experience apart from this world. In fact, Scripture says the opposite. Heaven comes down to Earth in the book of Revelation. It is not the case that people go to Heaven. God comes to dwell with His people. His people do not go to a far off place where He is. In fact, if we are true believers of Scripture, we should realize God is here right now. We are just waiting for His presence to be more manifest and I would suggest the problem is not with Him, but it is with us. After all, it can never be with Him.

Part of that promise is not just going back to Eden, but going beyond Eden. This will be a place that is far better than Eden. This will be life everlasting and of a kind that will eternally satisfy us. Thankfully, it will not be like what we often see in the cartoons. For most of us, if Heaven was simply sitting on clouds and playing harps, most of us would wonder if we had instead gone to Hell. It is why some youth growing up have asked the question of if Heaven would be boring. With our descriptions of it, we have not given them much to be excited about.

Of course, the biggest excitement is that God is there and we interact with Jesus. Now if some of you don’t get excited as you should at that, could it be because we have not made the topic that exciting? We have turned God into some detached far off being that is not really interacting with our world, aside from as a friend of mine said yesterday, to perhaps send a hurricane to judge homosexuals and people attending casinos and I could add perhaps answering that prayer for a miracle and finding that parking space every now and then.

And as for Jesus, well we’ve made Jesus this nice approachable figure from our Sunday School lessons that doesn’t really challenge us which leads to an obvious question. Why would someone crucify this Jesus? For instance, as I read through Five Views on the Historical Jesus, I found Crossan’s essay quite interesting with the ending that Jesus would be seen like someone providing social renewal with a message of love. Okay. Perhaps He did. Here’s my problem. A Jesus like that is not a threat. At the worst, He’s an annoyance. There’s no reason to crucify Him.

Do we really think about Jesus? Do we think about who He is and why He came? For instance, last night I read Psalm 86 with the prayer in there of thanking God for saving them. Now isn’t this interesting? The knowledge of salvation and forgiveness before the cross? But on what basis? Because people were keeping the Law to show their faithfulness to God in response of His faithfulness to them.

Did Jesus really come into a world where the Jews were looking for a way of salvation? It doesn’t look like it. Most of them had a way that seemed to work quite well for them. Yet still He came to show them a new way. What a strange message this must have been. Instead of righteousness with God being found on the basis of the Law which came from Moses, it was found on the basis of this man who just showed up and did some miracles and spoke in these strange parables? Look at it this way, and you can understand why Jesus was not received as well by the leaders of His day. We must all honestly ask ourselves before we condemn them if we would do any better.

Then you can ask also how John the Baptist fit into this. Why did John the Baptist speak out against the actions of Herod? Was he just a political agitator? Or was he concerned about the righteousness of the people and people getting their hearts right in preparation? If he said nothing about the leader of the people openly disobeying what was righteous, then how could He be taken seriously?

These are the kinds of questions we need to be asking. Who was Jesus? What kind of world did He come into? What difference did He make in it? What difference does He make in it? What does He tell us about God? Remember, Jesus is the revelation of God. He is the one through whom we are to see and interpret the Father. To know Jesus is to know God.

If the prospect of eternity with the Trinity does not excite us, it is because we have not come to fully know them as they are, and indeed this certainly applies to my own self who often does not get excited enough. None of us will have that kind of excitement until we pass over into eternity as we are all still bound by our sinful natures.

The good part is that we will have all of eternity to discover the wonder that we have missed and the wonder that we were meant for. It will never be interrupted. It will never be painful. It will never be sorrowful. It will never be boring. This does not mean we will be passive. We will be incredibly active. We will be working in Heaven, but it will be worthwhile and enjoyable, unlike most of our work today where most of us can’t wait to get home from the evening shift.

To see the analogy, go back to the Garden of Eden. As David Lamb says in his book “God Behaving Badly”, man is placed in the garden and given a job and he is given what many men have called the greatest commandment God ever gave man. “Go forth and multiply.” As Lamb says, he is told to eat a lot of food and have a lot of sex. Now men, imagine going through CareerBuilder or a Monster.com and seeing a job description like this.

“I have a garden that I want a husband and wife to attend to for me. I will cover all of their expenses. I will handle their dental, health, and any other insurance coverage. Aside from one tree I choose, they may eat anything they grow in the garden that they want. I will make sure their clothing and living arrangements are provided for. I will make sure their children are provided for. Oh. One more thing. I also expect the husband and wife to have a lot of sex with each other in the garden. No credentials or skills in gardening needed. I will teach you all you need to know.”

Personally, if I saw a job application like that, I would be applying immediately. In fact, I would probably be reapplying to it every day.

It’s my suspicion that our work in Heaven will be jobs tailor made for us. I suspect someone like myself could be assigned to do research and teaching and I will have the best library of all with all the books ever written and I will get to do that research alongside people like the Apostle Paul and Thomas Aquinas and just think of the conversations we can have.

Also, I do fully believe that this will take place on this Earth. What all that entails for us I cannot say. I get suspicious of people who claim to give detailed accounts of what Heaven is like when Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12 that he could not speak of what He saw. Whatever it is, it is made for us to enjoy and it will be enjoyable because it is our place in God that we find. We find our total completion in Him when we get there.

As I write this, I can confess I do get a hint of that joy and that desire. To use the parallel given earlier, and every man can understand this, imagine being at work one day and it being tedious and boring and you find out on your break you have a voicemail from your wife. You turn it on to listen still kind of in a moping mood and hear something like this.

“Hey honey. I just wanted to let you know it’s been really lonely here and I’ve been thinking about you a lot and how much I appreciate what you do. I sent the children over to grandma and grandpa’s to spend the night with them. I am as we speak fixing your favorite dinner right now and we’ll share it together when we get home and then, we can go to the bedroom together. I went out and got a new outfit today and I think you’ll really enjoy it. I can’t wait to see you when you get home and I hope you can’t wait to really see me.”

I can assure you if I was that husband, my mood would have gone straight up for the rest of the day and I could not wait to get home in the evening. Some of you women might be thinking “Won’t my husband be worried about how much the outfit cost?” I can assure you that will be one of the last things on his mind. In fact, the desire that he has is in fact enjoyable in itself. Anything he goes through for the rest of the day will be worth it in comparison to the joy that he knows awaits him when he gets home.

This is why the Bible compares things so often to a marriage. We are awaiting the full consummation of what is to come. Remember also we are the bride. We are the ones that will have the life of God given to us. What you see happening in a marriage is meant to be a picture of what happens between Christ and the church. This is in fact why we must take marriage seriously as Christians and must take sex sacredly as Christians. To do anything less is to dishonor God.

Keep the faith Christian, and someday, you will be in the manifest presence of God celebrating His great love and never again to be absent or apart from it.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: The Resurrection of the Body

Does the body really matter? Let’s dive into Deeper Waters and find out.

I was at a funeral and hearing the pastor really mess up the eulogy he was giving for the deceased. Unfortunately, I’ve heard this kind of talk before, yet I got some hope as we got to 1 Thess. 4 being mentioned. Surely, this is where the pastor will redeem himself. The pastor started speaking about 1 Thess. 4 and said we have the same hope as the apostle Paul.

Yes! Yes! Go on please!

“We have the hope that we will see our loved ones again in Heaven.”

And there I’m deflated again.

Am I against seeing loved ones in Heaven? Not at all. What am I against? 1 Thess. 4 is not about that. 1 Thess. 4 tells you specifically what it’s about. It’s about the Lord and His return and the resurrection of the dead that will happen then. It’s about how we do not mourn like those who have no hope and that our bodies will one day come out of that grave.

If you skip ahead to Heaven without mentioning the resurrection, then you do not have a completed victory of God.

You see, in overcoming death, Christ shows that nothing has any power over us. Death is the ultimate destroyer ripping our souls from our bodies. Those bodies are good! We often lose sight of that! God did not create us to be angels. He created us to be humans and part of being human is living with a body.

This is why the resurrection of the dead is so important and why I think that anyone who denies the future bodily resurrection has stepped into heresy. Our bodies will be resurrected the same way Christ’s was. He is the first fruits. He is the exemplar of what we have coming. If we are not raised physically, then Christ was not raised physically.

At another funeral I was at once, one preacher spoke about the deceased and said that right now, she was experiencing the resurrection. I had to look and say to myself “Sorry Pastor. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m pretty sure that her body is still in that casket.” We too often think that once someone has died and gone on to be in the presence of Jesus, then that means that things are done with them. No. They are happier than they were of course, but they still await being reunited with their bodies.

When Christ comes to redeem, He does not redeem just us. He redeems all of creation as well. He comes to release it from its bondage. He will not allow the devil to ruin creation so much that it is irredeemable. He will not let the devil have a victory even over the human body. His goal is to bring redemption for all.

Funerals unfortunately are hot beds for these kinds of mistakes, but let us not make them any more. We are not just people who are awaiting life in a Heaven to come. We are people who are waiting an embodied life in a physical creation that God has waiting for us. He did not make a mistake with giving us bodies. He has them for us for a reason. (This is also why we honor God with our bodies including sexually. What you do with your body matters.)

Celebrate and honor your body today and remember that as you live a righteous life, so your body will show that in the future.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: The Communion of Saints

What does it mean to speak about the Communion of Saints? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

In our day and age if we live in the West, we’ve really lost sight of community. This is why we often have what I call a Lone Ranger Christianity. We tend to think that we can do it all on our own. In the apologetics field, I often see this with people who think they have to be authorities on every subject. In the end, they will end up being authorities on none. They know enough to go a little bit further than most, but they don’t know enough to go deep on a topic.

Of course, this doesn’t just apply to apologetics. This applies to many of us in the Christian community. When you meet someone who wants to avoid the fellowship of fellow Christians in a church and chooses to just be a Christian on their own, then you are dealing with someone who thinks that this is actually possible. It’s not. We are commanded to be a body, to be a family, to be a unity.

When we think about the Communion of Saints, we are not thinking about Communion as is practiced in most Protestant churches today, though that is an example, but we are thinking something along the lines of the cloud of witnesses described in Hebrews 12 with numerous examples in Hebrews 11. We are thinking of the heroes of the faith who went before us and we are also thinking about our brothers and sisters around the world, many of whom are having to pay the ultimate price for Jesus right now.

When the church comes together for a Communion it is where we celebrate what really unites us and what is that? Consider what is often said. “The body of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, broken for you.” “The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, given for you.” In each case, we are pointing to Jesus as our Lord and Savior. This is what unites us. This is our common bond. We are a body that has many members in it and we all serve different roles. Not everyone is an apologist, or an evangelist, or a teacher, or a counselor, or a minister, or a missionary. We might all be called to do some of that type of work on a certain occasion, but that does not mean it is necessarily our life focus.

What unites us most is our neediness. We are all people who realize that we are in trouble and we are in need of a savior and we have chosen to place our trust in Christ and call Him Lord. At least, we say we call Him Lord. The question we have to ask ourselves today is if we just say that or if we really live like it is true, and part of the reason the Christian church is not being the salt and light in the West that it could be is that our individualism makes it that we are more often unknowingly seeking to make ourselves the Lord of Jesus. Our faith is a great way for us to meet our goals and be successful rather than a way for us to bring about the success of the Kingdom of God.

This is also why church history is so important. When we look back, we can see several saints who went before us and see how they lived their lives and learn from their wisdom, and granted this is something I need to do a lot more of as well. None of us are islands in Christianity. We’ve all got to where we were before by standing on the shoulders of those who came before us and we owe them a great debt.

Remember today that you are part of a body. Go through the epistles and look at the “One Another” commands that are given. How many are you following? Are you observing the fact that you are part of the Communion of Saints?

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Apostles Creed: The Holy Catholic Church

Can a Protestant say they believe in the Holy Catholic Church? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Sometimes, I discuss the question of Catholicism, but in the long run, it doesn’t really interest me that much. As it stands, I have numerous other things to study and I tend to focus on what Lewis referred to as “Mere Christianity.” I am Protestant and actually attend a Lutheran church at the moment. Am I ready to sign on the dotted line and say I’m a Lutheran? No. Still, I think our church right now is simply wonderful and I look forward to what we’re doing and I’m honored to get to serve.

My own position with regards to Catholics and at this point I could say members of the various churches called Orthodox (With a capital o as really, all churches should seek to be orthodox in their teaching) is that they are my brothers and sisters in Christ. I am certainly not one of those who thinks the Catholic Church is hellbound or that the Pope is the antichrist or such ideas as that. I am thankful that my Catholic brothers and sisters that I interact with also do not call my Christianity into question.

Some readers out there might be saying that there are several lost Catholics out there. You know what? I agree with them.

There are also several lost Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, Pentecostals, etc.

Now the word Catholic really means universal. A good Christian can then say they believe in a universal church. Some might wonder about this with the supposed claim of x thousand denominations. (The number keeps changing.) The reality is that this claim is usually not looked into too much. You could have two churches in the same town that have the exact same belief and both of them could be counted as denominations. Why? Because these are self-governing bodies. There could be two in the same town because maybe it’s a really large area and two are set up due to the distances people are willing to travel to go to church.

For more on this, see this helpful and entertaining video by my ministry partner, J.P. Holding.

The main advice I’d give here is we all need to seek to avoid the extreme positions. I have learned much from my brothers and sisters of other denominations. Peter Kreeft comes to mind immediately and he is one who prays for the unification of the churches. I would hope that many of my Catholic and Orthodox brothers and sisters would say that they too have learned from reading the writings of those of us who are Protestant.

Also, if I was asked to state what the church of Jesus Christ truly is, it is those who recognize Jesus as Lord and Messiah both. Wherever you have them gathered, you have the church to an extent. Christ is present in the midst of us. When we get to eternity, we will find people from the Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox traditions there together worshiping before the throne of God. We might as well learn to get along together now. Of course we can discuss our differences, but let’s strive to do so realizing that we all still proclaim Jesus as Lord.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

The Apostles’ Creed: The Living and the Dead

Who is it that God will judge? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Our next stop in our look at the Apostles’ Creed is that God will judge the living and the dead. Recently while I was out somewhere, I saw someone with a tattoo that said “Only God can judge me.” My thought upon seeing that is “That should ultimately terrify you.” People might think they can escape all judgment here and no one has any right to say anything about them, but wait until they get to where they will see God.

That God judges the living and the dead shows that no one can escape this event. When it comes to the final judgment, we will all stand before God and give an account. Death is not a way to escape the reach of God. No one can ultimately escape it. God will call everyone in the world to accounts, from the small to the great.

This would also be a message of hope for those in the Roman Empire at the time who were suffering. If Jesus is Lord, then He will indeed judge the world. The one who once sat in the place of receiving judgment will instead turn and be the judge of Pilate. The one who was condemned by members of the Sanhedrin will instead now condemn those members of the Sanhedrin.

The judgment will also be fair for all. Many times, we have this idea that getting into the Kingdom of God is like a theological exam. If you answer all the questions right, then you get in. If you don’t, then it really doesn’t matter to talk about all the good that you’ve done. You’ve ultimately failed at your lot in life and you will be judged. To many, this strikes them as unfair.

In reality, what God does is entirely fair. God sets the same standard for everyone else. That standard is perfection. You can either accept the score someone gave on your behalf, namely Christ, or else God will judge you by the only thing that He has left to judge you by, and that is your works. If they’re not absolutely perfect, then you’re out.

Now it’s not enough for some to say Jesus is the antidote to that because then comes the obvious rejoinder. What about people who have never heard about Jesus? In this case, my answer is simply we have no definitive answer on this. We do know from Scripture that God is good and God is just. My best response to this is that as Scripture says, the judge of all the Earth will do right. (Genesis 18:25. Psalm 98:9) God will judge each person I believe who never heard about Jesus by the light that they had and He knows where their heart is and how they would have responded.

Until then, we have our marching orders. We are to fulfill the Great Commission. Christ did not give us a plan B. He did not tell us what will happen when we do not fulfill our assignment. If you are concerned about those who’ve never heard, the ultimate thing you can do is to make sure that they hear, by either being a missionary yourself or supporting those who are.

We don’t know when the judgment will occur ultimately, but let it influence you in everything you do. One day you will be judged.

Are you ready to give an account?

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: To Judge

Is it proper to say that God will judge? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Judging is a funny thing in America today. People constantly say “I’m not trying to judge” and every time I hear that I want to say “But that’s exactly what you’re doing and that’s not necessarily wrong.” Of course, some judging is wrong, and this is the judging that is hypocritical judging, which is what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 7.

It’s a shame that John 3:16 used to be the most quoted Bible verse and today, it’s Matthew 7:1 and even then, just the first part. Jesus is not telling you to never judge. In fact, the very passage talks about throwing pearls to swine and giving what is sacred to dogs. Those actions involve making judgments.

When I lived in Charlotte shortly before the wedding, my best man who was my roommate knew he needed to find a new place to live shortly after Allie and I met. He got a job living in a luxury apartment with a boy in a wheelchair who had had a stroke. (Yes. Luxury apartment all paid for. Just suffering for Jesus I suppose.)

Once in a trip over to visit him, a nurse was there to help out who was saying that we shouldn’t judge. I asked her if her car was parked in the garage downstairs. She said it was. I then asked “Did you lock the doors?” At that point, the light bulb clicked.

Judging is inevitable. You have to do it. If you lock your doors at all, you judge. If you’re cautious about who you choose to babysit your children, you judge. If there are places that you avoid while driving or walking, you judge. When you decide who it is that you are going to marry, you judge.

It’s strange also that judging is being seen as a negative when we have more and more shows of the American Idol variety that rely on the judgment of the man on the street more and more. Why is it that judging is seen as so problematic?

A large part of it is our pseudo-tolerance society. I say pseudo because we do not know what real tolerance is. Tolerance is not being accepting of what everyone does. Tolerance is thinking that what someone is doing is wrong but being able to accept the person regardless.

Let’s consider what has to be there for tolerance. First off, there has to be an area of disagreement for tolerance to exist. A husband for the most part will not tolerate it if his wife wants to make love to him in the evening. Of course not. He’ll openly celebrate it. That’s not something that a guy just puts up with. He wants that. A husband will tolerate it if his wife burns dinner one evening.

Tolerance also when seen as a virtue is normally about something someone has a serious disagreement with on someone. You could tolerate going to a fast food restaurant whose food you don’t particularly like because everyone else in the car is going there. If you make a big issue out of it, then that is more of a problem with you. You don’t call yourself a champion of tolerance just for putting up with food you don’t like.

Third, tolerance has it that what is being done is seen as wrong. Again, you don’t tolerate something that you approve of. Husbands don’t tolerate a wife who wants to make love. Parents don’t tolerate children who clean their rooms.

The obvious example today in America is the debate over homosexuality. For a Christian, if they show tolerance, that means they show love to someone in the homosexual lifestyle without approving of the lifestyle. You can love someone without approving of everything that they do. Case in point, we all do it to ourselves.

Someone can think that the Christian is wrong in not agreeing with the homosexual lifestyle. It does not follow that the Christian is however intolerant. Of course, they could be, and if we think of people with the mindset of Westboro Baptist, they indeed are. Some people do genuinely think homosexuality is wrong but have a great love of homosexuals as people and seek to share the love of Christ with them.

Putting a stigma on judging allows possible evils to go unchecked. It should be for any of us that if a viewpoint or practice we engage in is wrong, we would want to know about it. We would want to be open to evidence and correction that will show that. Too often we are not. Too often also, we blame everyone else for how our lives are turning out instead of taking responsibility.

In a situation like this, people are allowed to use their feelings to hold others in tyranny. Having your feelings hurt is not the worst thing in the world. Sometimes, in fact, it is absolutely necessary. Sometimes you need to be told a hard truth and the only way to do that is by stepping on those toes a little bit. Some people also are not genuinely interested in debate but only in tearing others down. A firm hand can be needed for those.

So what about God? Can God judge? After all, the creed says that He is coming to judge.

It amuses me when I see atheists who complain about the problem of evil. Then you point to a society filled with evil like the Canaanite culture of the past and the atheist complains when God judges that culture as well. No matter what, God is seen as guilty. If God lets evil keep going, then He is wrong. If God judges, then He is also wrong.

God is in fact the only one who can judge perfectly since He alone is wholly good and wholly just. In fact, He is goodness and justice. When God judges also, He will be a good and fair judge with the people who He judges.

“Well how can that be? Christians get a free pass!”

God’s standard is perfection. When God judges a Christian, He will see the Christian in covenant with Christ and will judge the Christian based on the work of Christ. What happens when He comes to the non-Christian? He’s a fair judge and He uses the same standard. The standard is perfection. If someone falls short, they don’t make it. God judges them by their works.

Kind of ironic isn’t it since so many people think God should do just that and judge us by if we did more good than bad in this life.

Now you might say your works are not that bad. You never do anything really really evil. You’ve never murdered anyone for instance.

The reason something like that is thought is because people don’t really know what sin is. Consider what happens when you do what the Bible refers to as sin. You are making these claims.

You are saying your way is better than God’s.
You are saying you know better than God.
You are saying you will not be judged by God so you can get away with it.
You are saying that you will be unholy while knowing that God is holy.
You are saying you are the ultimate authority of how this world should be and how you should live in it.

In essence, you are wanting to be on the throne of God yourself. You are in fact guilty of divine treason.

If that sounds extreme to you, it’s because you just don’t realize the gravity of the situation.

I would also contend that if you are sentenced to live apart from God forever, you will continue to live in rebellion. In other words, you will be building up a debt that you could never pay off.

Saying you are guilty of divine treason could make God sound like a harsh judge, but that’s only getting one side of the picture. That’s what makes forgiveness so beautiful. It’s God saying that He knows you wanted Him to not exist and you wanted to be God yourself, and yet He is going to drop all charges against you. He will not just wipe the slate clean. He will break the slate into a million pieces. You will be seen as innocent based on your trust in Christ.

Keep in mind God could have not sent Christ and been entirely in the right. He could judge us all right now and who could say He was wrong? From a Biblical position, we all deserve death and in fact, we all deserve it right now, so every moment we are allowed to live is in fact a gift of grace.

Also, if you find yourself getting offended at the thought that you deserve death right now for being in rebellion against God, then I can just easily say you are demonstrating pride. If God is the king of this universe, upon what grounds does He owe you anything? You are to bow to Him. He is not to bow to you.

God does have the right to judge and while our judging is imperfect, passages like John 7:24 tell us we need to make right judgments, especially as people of truth who should be constantly seeking out truth. If we live in fear of judging, then we will not be able to fulfill the Great Commission our Lord has given us, for that requires we tell a world that they are sinners in need of a savior and that the King is on the throne and they need to honor Him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles Creed: From There He Will Come

What does it mean to say that Jesus will come? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I hold to an eschatology that is preterist. That means that I believe a lot of fulfillment of prophecy is in the past. In fact, if you’re a Christian, so do you. You believe the Messianic prophecies have been for the most part fulfilled in Christ. I also hold that much of Revelation and the Olivet Discourse is also past.

So when it comes to the coming of Christ as it is stated in the Olivet Discourse, I don’t think this means coming to Earth, but rather coming to the throne of God and sitting at the right hand. Yet when it talks about coming from the throne, then I believe we are talking about a coming to Earth.

There is a viewpoint out there that is known often as full preterism or hyper-preterism. I prefer to call it Neohymenaeanism. Some people have asked me why I don’t call myself a partial preterist. The reason is because I believe the teaching of Neohymenaeanism is actually a heresy and if that’s what you call full preterism, I will not be considered a partial heretic.

I think the ultimate problem with the Neohymenaean position is not what it says about eschatology so much as what it says about Christ. Much of your study of the end times will revolve around the question of who you think Jesus is. We are told that our resurrection body will be like that of Jesus. If the resurrection is something spiritual, then that would mean that Jesus’s resurrection is just a spiritual resurrection as well. We’re into the territory of the Jehovah’s Witnesses with this one.

We can be told that Jesus is the exception, but that is not what I see in Scripture. I see instead that we shall be like Him and we shall be like Him when He comes. Since I hold to the bodily resurrection of Jesus, I hold also to the bodily transformation of those who are His when He returns.

Some of you might think that my holding an event to happen in the future makes me a partial-futurist. It does not. It makes me a Christian. The return of Christ has been a part of the Christian creeds, such as the one that we see here in the Apostles’ Creed. It is part of orthodoxy to believe in the return of Christ to put an ultimate end to the problem of evil.

Let’s also all be wary of one really foolish tendency that seems to exist among Christians. Do not attempt to date when the return of Christ will happen and if you believe in the rapture, don’t attempt to date that either. If you do so, you run the risk of embarrassing not just yourself, but the Christian faith.

Too many Christians have tried to find loopholes in what Jesus said. “Oh we won’t know the day or hour, but we can know the year!” This is just trying to do what Christ would not want us to do and this kind of energy could be better spent in other ways, such as fulfilling the Great Commission.

To which, if you ask me, that is how we speed the return of Christ. I find this based on the end of 2 Peter 3 that we live godly lives so we may speed His coming. Besides that, even if I’m wrong, we have our marching orders to do the Great Commission anyway so there’s no reason not to. Sounds like a good deal. We do what we’re supposed to do and if I’m right, well then we have the ultimate end of evil all the sooner.

Go out and be looking for the return of Christ, but don’t just look. Work also. You have your marching orders regardless of your eschatology. Do them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: Almighty

What does it mean when we say God is Almighty? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Almighty is one of those terms that is really misunderstood. There is this idea that if God is all-powerful, then that means that He can do anything. This is not the case. Scripture explicitly tells us that God cannot lie, for instance. There are a number of other things He cannot do. He cannot change. He cannot cease to exist. He cannot do evil. This is because those violate His nature.

He also cannot do nonsense. C.S. Lewis said years ago that nonsense does not cease to be nonsense simply because you add the words “God can” before it. God cannot make a square circle. God cannot make 2 + 2 = 5. God also cannot make a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it.

When it comes to something like the problem of evil also, God cannot make someone who is free and then have them be forced to choose Him either. Forced freedom is a contradiction in terms. If God is going to make creatures that are going to be free, then He is going to make them so that they are just as free to rebel as they are free to make the choice to love Him.

Here’s something else to consider. Just because God has all power it does not mean that He will always use it. God will allow some things to happen in order to bring about a good that could be unreachable through any other means. Like it or not, many times pain is the only way God has to reach us. We don’t really respond to pleasure. We like pleasure and we enjoy it and we want more of it, but we don’t really learn much of the good that we learn in life through pleasure.

It is in suffering that we learn the most. How many of us look back on a hard time in our life and say “That was horrible and I would never want to go through it again and I would not wish it on another, but in the long run, I am thankful that I went through it. It turned out to be a time in my life when I learned the most.”

Pain has a way of reminding us that we are not in charge and that we need to rely on someone greater than ourselves. It breaks into our world where we all attempt to be the god of our own universe and shows us that there are realities that are beyond our control and we need to rely on something greater than ourselves.

God is all-powerful, but He is also all-knowing and we must trust that if He does not do what we think He should be doing, that He has a greater good in mind beyond the pain. Note also that I am not saying either that all of this is directly caused by God. One of the last claims to make is that any natural disaster, for instance, is the wrath of God inflicted on a people. It could be, but we don’t have the right to make such a claim.

What we do have the right to do is to trust in God and in His power in the midst of our suffering. Let us also remember that by the resurrection, we know that He has conquered the ultimate enemy of death. God has the power to raise us all from the dead and bless us abundantly despite any suffering we endure in this lifetime. Let us make sure to rest easily. Our God is omnipotent.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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