Beholding the Glory of the Lord

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18

This verse has some very important points regarding our lives as Christian. It speaks of our dramatic transformation from being enslaved to the old man of sin, to becoming more and more what God has destined us to become by His eternal counsel.

First, there is the phrase But we all, meaning this transformation of living a sanctified life is necessary of every Christian. If you are not living a life that is in correlation with the law of God, then there is reason to call into question your Christianity. A true Christian will live a life that is radically changed from what it was when he was a sinner. A true Christian will bear fruits of righteousness. He will no longer watch the trash in the secular entertainment of the world, nor will he partake in the idolatry that is prevalent among so many people today. He will not follow this or that famous Hollywood star that lives a life that is the complete opposite of Biblical morality.

Rather with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord. The open face here is in reference to when Moses after he had come down from Sinai had to cover his face with a veil because the glory of God shone from it. The Jews could not look upon that face, because Christ had not yet come. Still today, the heart of unbelievers is veiled as the apostle tells us in verse 15, “But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.” But Christians are able to behold as in a glass (a mirror) the glory of the Lord. What a wonderful benefit we have received from Christ’s death!

Further, the transformation we go under is because of our beholding. It is by regular beholding and gazing upon the glory of the Lord that we are changed. This means that we must continually be searching the Scriptures, reading the Scriptures, mediating upon the Scriptures, and hearing the preaching of the Word; one of the chief means of grace. It is by this that we are changed.  That is one of the reasons the Roman Catholic Church fell so heavily. It abandoned the Word of God for the councils of men and the word of the pope. Also, we are not changed by reading this or that “get help” book. Most of these books are so convoluted that they tell man to look inside himself for the answer to his problems. “You just have to believe in yourself!” What utter trash! Since when has fallen, depraved man ever been able to help himself?

The text makes is clear that it is only by beholding the glory of the Lord that we are changed. That is further explained by the last part of the text, “are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” This radical transformation from a life full of sin, to a life of holiness is only possible by the Holy Spirit working in our hearts to change us. A man can read the Bible thousands of times, but if he does not have the Holy Spirit working faith in his heart, he might as well be reading the Koran. The word changed in the Greek is also in the passive voice. A better translation of that phrase would be, we all . . . are being changed. This means that we are not the ones doing the changing, as the Arminian loves to think. Rather it is the Holy Spirit working within us that brings about this change.

May we more and more read our Bibles that we may, by the work of the Holy Spirit, live a life that is in conformity to the will of God.

The Existence of God (4) Conclusion

Over the past number of days I have written about three different ways man has tried to prove the existence of God apart from the Bible. However we have seen that the Cosmological, Teleological, and the Moral proof are all incorrect and can never prove that there is the God of the Bible to the unbeliever. No matter what logical we use, no matter what human reasoning we use the wicked will never confess that there is Jehovah is the one true God. Psalm 14:1 – 3 says, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, There is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: There is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

Man, apart from the grace and faith of God, will never confess God. Not only will he confess that the God of the Bible does not exist, he will create his own gods after his own corrupt imagination. Romans 1:21 – 25 says this exact thing, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” That is why we have the Jewish, Islamic, and Buddhists religion; it is because man has rejected the one true God and created his own gods. These religions will never save man. They are lies straight from the devil. C.S. Lewis was wrong in his book The Last Battle when he says that the follower of Tash, the false god, was saved. To quote from the book, “I (e.g. the follower of Tash) fell at his feet and thought surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him”. However, Emeth, the name of the follower of Tash, was accepted;  Aslan said “Son thou art welcome. But I said, alas Lord I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child all the service thou hast done to Tash I account as service done to me.” The Bible is very adamant in saying that you have to believe in Christ in order to be saved. John 3:15 says, “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” In contrast those who do not believe in Him are thrown into hell.

Thus, the only way for man to come to know the existence of the true God is only by the grace of God through the Word of God. To quote Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” It is entirely through faith that we believe in the one true God. Thanks be to God for the faith He has given to us!

The Existence of God (3) The Moral Proof

The next proof for the existence of God that will be considered is the Moral Proof. This proof says that every man has some sense of what is right and wrong.  Not only does he have that sense of morality but he also feels obligated to do what is right. This ultimately leads to the conclusion that there must be a God who puts this moral desire in man’s heart.

It is certainly true that God has placed a conscience in man. Isaiah 30:21 says, “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, When ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” Romans 2:14, 15 expresses the same idea, “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)” However, Romans 2 makes it plain that although man has a conscience he still is not convicted that there is a God. Their conscience either accuses them or excuses them before the judgement of God. There are thousands of people who may be considered moral but are in no way brought to the God of the Bible. Thus the Moral Proof in no way proves the existence of God.

 

 

 

The Existence of God (2) The Teleological Proof

The next proof for the existence of God that I will write about is the teleological proof. This proof states that there must be a God because the whole creation declares a Creator. Animals and plants are perfectly adapted to their specific tasks and to live in their respective environments. You do not have to go far to see this. Why do certain plants and animals live in your backyard? Why can’t a polar bear live in Arizona or a lizard in the arctic?  It is because they were created for these environments. The whole creation screams out that there must be a Creator. The Bible even states  this, as it is declared in Romans 1:20, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” Of course the believer completely agrees with this, and that is just it. The Christian believes this because he is a Christian and has faith that the Bible is true. Since he believes the Bible is true that means that God created the world and the whole creation declares the glory of God. It is impossible for an unbeliever to confess this. To prove this, I will point out three arguments against the Teleological Proof.

The first is that the study of the world by man has met the exact opposite conclusion. When evolutionist study the world they do not see that there is a God. They believe the world is the god and that it created itself. They say that the universe is 13.77 billion years old. They say that the world was created by a big bang 4.54 billion years ago. They say that life began out of non-living material. Thus, it is impossible to look at the world by itself and meet the conclusion that there is the one God of the Scriptures. Mankind needs the faith given by the Holy Spirit and the word of God to understand that the world was created by God.

The second reason that this proof cannot be used to prove that there is the God is because of all the paradoxes in the creation. Hurricanes, disease, destruction, violence, and death are all in contrast to what was stated above in the first paragraph. These events all say that things are not perfect. The argument is sometimes made that since all these things happen God cannot exist. Of course the believer sees all these events as being the curse of sin that was placed on the world when Adam fell. Death and disease are God’s judgments upon sin.

The final argument against the Teleological Proof is man is totally depraved. The Bible makes this completely clear in Isaiah 64:6 – 7, “But we are all as an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; And we all do fade as a leaf; And our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And there is none that calleth upon thy name, That stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: For thou hast hid thy face from us, And hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.” Even our “righteous” acts are like filthy and unclean rags. It is because of this that no one calls on the name of God. No one seeks after God and no one does any good as Psalm 14 states. Since man is totally depraved he will never find God in his own power or knowledge.

Faith alone confesses that there is one God and that He created the heaven and the earth. Proof for the existence of God can never be found in the creation alone. Man needs faith to understand that the world was created by God. It is by faith the believer confesses with the psalmist in Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament sheweth his handywork.”

 

 

The Existence of God (1) The Cosmological Proof

Man has always tried to prove the existence of God apart from faith. Man has tried to prove through philosophy and rational reasoning that God exists, but that has always been futile. Philosophy and rational reasoning are always fallible and subject to change. It is only through faith that man can know God. Hebrews 11:3 says that, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” (On a side note, when this passage says, “by the word of God” it is not speaking about the person of Christ. Rather it is speaking about the word, or saying of God. There are two words for word in Greek, logos and hrema. Hrema, as far as my studies have shown, is never used to speak of the person of Christ; whereas logos is used in John 1:1 and always when the Bible wants to specifically speak of the second person of the trinity.) That was a rather lengthy side note but this distinction is important when it comes to explaining what the passage is really trying to point out. The writer is not intending to prove that Christ created the world, as he already proved that in Hebrews 1:2.Its emphasis is on the fact that we understand the creation of the world by faith and faith alone. In my next several blog posts I will prove that man can only know God by faith and that all the different methods to prove God’s existence are in error.

To start with there is the cosmological proof. The cosmological proof says that God must exists because of the laws of cause and effect. Everything must have a cause; trees have a case, weather has a cause, man has a cause. Since all these things have a cause the whole world must have a cause. That leads to the conclusion that God must be the cause.

However, it is easy to see the problem with this argument. Since everything must have a cause then God must have a cause. If you follow this reasoning you can never get out of the law of cause and effect. In connection with that, God is self-existent. Since God is self-existent He can have no cause, nothing could have caused God. As Isaiah 45:5 – 6 states, “I am the LORD, and there is none else, There is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:  That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, That there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.” God is so great that there is none else besides Him. He is absolutely incomparable and man is nothing compared to Him. Thus the cosmological proof can never be used to prove the existence of God.

Christianity and Capital Punishment

Capital punishment is the execution of a civilian by the state for some crime that the civilian has committed. Normally capital punishment is the punishment given to someone who has broken the Sixth Commandment, as found in Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17, “Thou shalt not kill.” The purpose of this commandment is, “the preservation of the life and health of the body, and so of the safety both of ourselves and of others.” (1)

Capital punishment is a very controversial subject in human society today. There are several reasons for this. First, society tends to establish its teaching on emotions and feelings rather than basing and grounding its beliefs firmly on the rock of truth. In addition, the world has a mistaken idea about justice. The very first definition of justice that the Encarta Dictionary: English (North America) has is this, “1. fairness; fairness or reasonableness, especially in the way people are treated or decisions are made.” However, for reasons that will be explained in this paper, this is an erroneous definition. But the chief and main reason for this antagonistic feeling for capital punishment is because the world has forsaken God and His Word; they are no longer considered guidelines for the making of laws.

Therefore, Christians, in opposition to the world, must know whether or not capital punishment is something to be upheld by them. They must know what is their duty concerning justice and capital punishment! This is what will be looked at in this paper.

First, let us understand what is a proper definition of justice, because a proper understanding of justice will affect our ideas about capital punishment. Plato was very close when he states in his Republic that justice was doing ones duty. (2) However, Charles Hodge’s definition hits it more on the mark, “The word justice or righteousness . . . means rightness, that which satisfies the demands of rectitude or law . . . .”(3) Further, giving an example of how a judge should act, Hodge describes God as judge, “He is impartial and uniform in their execution (i.e. in the execution of laws SM). As a judge He renders unto every man according to his works. He neither condemns the innocent nor clears the guilty, neither does He ever punish with undue severity.” (4) Therefore, according to this author justice is that which fulfils the demands of the law. It is not being fair or reasonable. It is doing that which the law requires of us and if it is not kept, it is the proper execution of punishment by the judge.

Since God Himself is perfectly righteous that means that whatever He orders is just. Obeying him means that we are acting according to justice. As will be shown in the next several paragraphs God orders us in His Word to use and practice capital punishment. This means that when capital punishment is practiced properly, we act justly.

Let us now move onto a topic that deals more directly with capital punishment. That is, proving that capital punishment is a Biblical concept. The first promotion of capital punishment in the Bible is in Genesis 9:6, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” John Calvin expresses the idea of this verse in his commentary by stating, “. . . but since they bear the image of God engraven on them, He deems himself violated in their person.” (5) Matthew Henry in his commentary further explains the idea, “When God requires the life of a man from him who took it away unjustly, the murderer cannot render that, and therefore must render his own in lieu of it.” (6) The combined idea of these commentaries is that since man is created in the image of God, his life is a very precious thing. Thus if someone commits murder, the murderer cannot give that life back, so his life is required out of justice. This idea makes capital punishment just!

Another passage that promotes capital punishment is Romans 13:4, “For he (that is the magistrate SM) is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” This verse clearly promotes capital punishment. The magistrate does not bear the sword in vain against those who do evil. He may and must use it to punish criminals. Notice also that the magistrate acts in the place of God, to execute temporal judgement. That is why he is called the minister of God. Thus, there are texts that actively promote and command the use of this punishment. The Christian who adheres to the concept of Sola Scriptura (using the Bible as the only rule of faith) must therefore promote this method of punishment.

Nevertheless, there are various objections to the concept of capital punishment. An objection that is often raised is along the idea of Romans 12:19, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” So the reasoning behind this protestation is that since vengeance is of the Lord, capital punishment is not proper for the follower of Christ to practice. In answer to that, it must be shown what the position of the magistrate is. It has already been shown in Romans 13:4 that he is the minister of God. Being the minister of God, he acts in the place of God. God has placed him in this position by His providential hand. It is his duty to make sure that proper justice is done and mete out. It must also be noted here that this position differs radically from the locus of the individual. An individual may not avenge himself, because he is not in an area of authority and has not been placed by God in authority. Since he is not in authority, God has not given him the right and responsibility to deliver justice to the wicked. That alone is the charge of the authorities. It is the duty of the individual to love his neighbour. Therefore, in summary the Biblical answer to this objection is that the magistrate acts, on earth, in the position of God. God delivers just punishment to evildoers, both in this life and eternally. Therefore, the magistrate may deliver just punishment to evildoers.

Another objection that is on somewhat the same foundation as the last objection, is this: Christ has commanded us not to reward evil for evil, as Matthew 5:38 – 39 states, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Our response to this is along the grounds that this text speaks to the individual acting by himself, to punish whoever has done evil to him. The individual may not execute judgement. That is the responsibility of the courts and the magistrates. There are several reasons for saying this. First, Christ in a large portion of His Sermon on the Mount has been refuting erroneous misunderstandings of the law. Thus when Christ says things like, “ye have heard that it has been said of them of old time etc” He is refuting the misconceptions of the law. Second, the Jews were misinterpreting texts like Leviticus 24:17, “And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.” They thought this spoke of personal vengeance. Therefore, Christ is not destroying the just law of retribution. He is rebuking the Jews for their acts of private vengeance. Also it must be remembered that God is a just God, He would not destroy justice. If He did then there would be no need for Christ to have made satisfaction for all the sins of the elect on the cross.

A common question that comes up when capital punishment is discussed in accordance with the Bible is how come Cain was not killed for killing Abel. Well John Calvin probably has the best answer to it when he speaks on Genesis 4:15 “ . . . nothing was granted to Cain for the sake of favouring him; but for the sake of opposing, in futue, cruelty and unjust violence. And, therefore, Moses now says, that a mark was set upon Cain, which should strike terror into all; because they might see, as in a mirror, the tremendous judgement of God against bloody men.” (7) And further, speaking concerning Genesis 4:24, “God had intended that Cain should be a horrible example to warn others against the commission of murder; and for this end had marked him a shameful stigma. Yet lest any one should imitate his crime, He declared whosoever killed him should be punished with sevenfold severity.” (8) Thus, capital punishment was not used on Cain, but a mark was given him. This mark was an example to man of the horrible punishment that would await he who followed Cain’s example.

Yet another objection to this principle is that the possibility of error is very large when capital punishment is used and there is no way to correct the mistake after the person has been killed. To answer that, God still demands that capital punishment be used. Let us turn to a pre-meditated miscarriage of capital punishment found in the Bible. In I Kings 21, there is the story of how Ahab desired the vineyard of Naboth. So Jezebel ordered Naboth to be tried according to the testimony of false witnesses, that said he blasphemed God and the king. For this blasphemy, Naboth was put to death and Ahab gained possession of the vineyard. The point behind this passage is that although there are still blunders (and sometimes even deliberate blunders) God still commands the use of this just punishment. This still makes it a terrible thing when the wrong person is killed, but that should not persuade us from using what God has commanded us to use! The Reverend Herman Hoeksema puts it this way, “And no sentimental reasons, or false humanitarian motives, can ever excuse for disobeying the command of God.” (9)

And it still is a horrible thing when the wrong person is killed. That is why the magistrate must always be certain when condemning someone to capital punishment. It is his calling to make sure the sentence is just. God severely punished Jezebel and Ahab for their unjust act. Ahab himself was killed in battle by the Syrians (that itself was a punishment from God), but 2 Kings 9:24 – 26 tells us how Jehu killed Jehoram, Ahab’s son. “And Jehu drew a bow with his full strength, and smote Jehoram between his arms, and the arrow went out at his heart, and he sunk down in his chariot. Then said Jehu to Bidkar his captain, Take up, and cast him in the portion of the field of Naboth the Jezreelite: for remember how that, when I and thou rode together after Ahab his father, the LORD laid this burden upon him; Surely I have seen yesterday the blood of Naboth, and the blood of his sons, saith the LORD; and I will requite thee in this plat, saith the LORD. Now therefore take and cast him into the plat of ground, according to the word of the LORD.” Later, Jezebel was thrown from her palace window and devoured by dogs. This clearly shows that God does not allow unjust actions to go unpunished.

It must also be stated here, that the executioner is not responsible when the wrong person is put to death. The responsibility ultimately lies with the magistrate who ordered his death. “Nor is the hangman, who executes the deed, responsible to God for it. Even when he personally should judge that in a certain case justice miscarried, and that the person whom he is called to deprive of his life was not guilty of murder, not he, but the judge, the magistrate, is responsible before God for the execution of capital punishment.” (10)

One last objection to the concept of capital punishment is that the murderer is deprived of his most basic human right, that is, the right to life. This objection, however, does not stand logically for it is a non sequitur. If the murderer is so concerned about his own life and the preservation of it, he should have thought twice about killing a fellow human being, who has just as much right to life as the murderer.

In closing capital punishment is a Biblical and just concept. Christians must promote it, if they have any desire of following the Bible! Humanitarian and supposed Biblical objections do not stand with the whole teaching of Scripture. Murderers must be punished justly!

1. Quoted from Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company 1852), 583

2. Plato, Republic Book IV http://www.wisdomhomeschooling.com/online/Politics/Republic4.htm)

3. Quoted from Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, (Baker Book House Company 1988), 153

4. Ibid, 153 – 154

5. Quoted from John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries Volume I Genesis, (Baker Books 2003) 295

6. Quoted from Matthew Henry Commentary on Genesis, (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/henry/mhc1.Gen.x.html) accessed May 28, 2012.

7. John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries Volume I Genesis, (Baker Books 2003), 214  

8. Ibid, 222

9. Quoted from Herman Hoeksema, Love Thy Neighbour For God’s Sake (B. Eerdmans Publishing Company 1955), 52                                                     

10. Ibid