ACST 3 The Important Thing

The preceding chapter demonstrates that there is more than one way to do theology. Systematic theology is organized by categories reflecting the questions people ask about God. But chapter two was organized by chronology, tracing God’s promise of eternal life by resurrection through twelve eras of biblical history, from Genesis to Revelation. The chapter serves as a crude example of biblical theology, which can be defined as…

a discipline within Christian theology which studies the Bible from the perspective of understanding the progressive history of God revealing God’s self to humanity following the Fall and throughout the Old Testament and New Testament. It particularly focuses on the epochs of the Old Testament in order to understand how each part of it ultimately points forward to fulfillment in the life mission of Jesus Christ.”1

Both biblical theology and systematics are helpful ways of getting the big picture, helping people see the relationships between all the various things told and taught in scripture.

Sometimes one approach works better than others, but what matters most is the message itself, not how we package it. That is the attitude Paul had when he commented on some preachers who were preaching just to make things more difficult for him. Regardless of their reasons, he said, “the fact remains that the message about Christ is being preached, so I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18 NLT). Perhaps instead of complaining about all the different preachers, doctrines, churches, and denominations that exist, we should be thankful that God has not limited himself to just one way of getting the gospel message out to a dying world.

Unfortunately, however, some approaches to doing theology begin with presuppositions that determine beforehand what the message will ultimately be. The danger in these ways of theologizing is that they tend to bring their ideas to scripture, rather than deriving their ideas from it. Specifically, these approaches redefine scripture so that it agrees with 1) their own theological systems, 2) their own experience or preference, 3) their own problems.

Theological Systems

There are a few particular doctrinal issues that seem to polarize Christians. The question of God’s sovereignty and human freedom in election, predestination and ultimate salvation is one such issue. Usually one is inclined to answer that issue from a Calvinist perspective, emphasizing God’s sovereignty, or an Arminian perspective, emphasizing human freedom. Some seem to have found mediating positions between these two apparently opposed concepts. Perhaps they have, but most of us cannot help but take one side and defend it. Yet, even as we do that, we realize that there are many good scriptural proof-texts that speak against the position we choose to defend. That fact should warn us against using our own chosen theological system as the means of measuring the validity of a statement in scripture.

Another problem about theological systems is that they tend to define biblical terms in such a way that only those who have knowledge of the system understand how the terms are being used. For example, the terms rapture, tribulation, and millennium are all legitimate theological terms deriving from biblical texts and concepts. Yet some theologians are hesitant to use the term rapture because it has become so connected with the adjective secret due to the influence of dispensational futurist systems that to use the term would seem to imply acceptance of that position. Likewise, the term tribulation is so connected to the concept of a seven year period where the Church is supposedly absent from the world that some of us are hesitant to use the term, lest we be associated with that presupposition. The term millennium is a legitimate theological term reflecting the 1000 year period mentioned in Revelation 20. This term as well has become so connected with a view concerning Israel that using it takes a great deal of explanation if one does not hold the view that Christ will reign as king of ethnic Israel during this time. One of the dangers of theological systems is that they tend to narrowly define these biblical terms, and anyone using the terms feels obligated either to agree with the system as a whole, or oppose it. That is unfortunate since systems tend to be mostly correct, but each of them contains a blind spot or two.

Personal Experience or Preference

What people believe tends to limit and shape their experiences and choices, but their experiences and choices also have a profound effect upon their beliefs. For example, some believers are happy in churches that are more formal, liturgical – what has been called high church. People with these experiences and preferences tend to adapt theological beliefs that correspond with those preferences. For example, they will tend to hold to a stark contrast between the clergy and the laity. Their views concerning appropriate worship will lean toward the practiced rather than the spontaneous variety. Others are more comfortable in the low church structure, which is less formal, and provides more room for spontaneity. These tend to adapt theological beliefs that correspond with those preferences as well. This is a rather mild example of how one’s experiences and preferences affect his theology.

A more extreme example can be found in the teachings of gay theology. Those inclined toward homosexual behavior have been with us for ages, within and outside the church. But in the past few decades homosexuals have demanded recognition as equals, both in the political realm, and in the church. Traditionally, the church has regarded homosexual behavior as willful sin, and excluded homosexuals from fellowship on that basis. Yet proponents of gay theology defend homosexual acts as proper, and gay marriage as an alternative lifestyle that God recognizes and blesses.2 These new theological positions are forcing the church to grapple with the issue of whether homosexuality is a sin that warrants exclusion. Some churches seem to be taking their cue from the politicians, and promoting tolerance as the supreme virtue. Others are taking a hard-line approach, and preaching against homosexuality. Still others are desperately searching for balance. Unfortunately, with issues like gay theology, balance is an illusion.

Personal Problems

As stated above, experiences have a profound effect upon a person’s beliefs. This is especially so if the experiences have been negative. This accounts for the fact that some do theology from the standpoint of the oppressed, and focus on their oppressors as the target of their theologizing. Examples of this kind of theologizing include Black Liberation Theology, the various kinds of leftist liberation theologies, and radical feminist theologies. These various movements share a number of traits in common:

  1. They identify with a marginalized group within society. For example, Anthony B. Pinn formulated his biblical research on suffering specifically because of the suffering felt in the African-American community. He did this because he “was and continue to be anxious to speak a liberating word to black sufferers.”3 To be fair, the process of contextualization requires a certain amount of identification with those to whom we proclaim the biblical message, but this kind of identification tends to present the marginalized as the focus of the message itself.

  2. They focus on the sins and shortcomings of another group, which they target as the oppressors. They do not tend to focus on the sins and failings of the marginalized group. Thus Tatman complains that “if I tried to join a conversation at the Vatican about mass, my words would go unheard … because I am a feminist lesbian.”4 It is the theological and social conservatives that take on the role of tyrannical oppressors, denying Tatman the right to engage in theological discussion because of her marginalized status as a feminist lesbian.

  3. If they appeal to scripture, it is usually apart from its original context, and select only those passages which foster their point of view. Thus the New Testament is a story of political struggle against unjust economic oppressors. This can be seen is Nadeau’s description of The Filipino liberation theology movement as tracing “their history back to the earliest resistance movements against the Spanish and late American colonization of the Philippines, and to the time of Jesus Christ and the early church that stood defiantly against social injustices.”5 Thus any social injustice revealed in the New Testament becomes an argument for a post-capitalist restructuring.

  4. They adopt and redefine traditional theological terms like atonement, redemption, sin, and reconciliation to serve a socio-political purpose, rather than a traditionally theological one. Thus Hanway writes his A Theology of Gay and lesbian Inclusion to “equip you, Christian warrior of the Gospel of peace, to stand against those who use the Bible to resist change – even that change of which our Lord would approve.”6 But when we evangelical Christians reject homosexuality we are not using the Bible to resist change, we are defending the Bible’s right to define human social limits because God knows what is right and wrong. The true Gospel of peace was written to homosexuals as well as thieves and liars – and it speaks of a peace with God that is obtained only through repentance of sin, not acceptance of it.

Evangelical Christians recognize the importance of turning from sin and responding to God’s free grace. That is why we cannot afford to be sidetracked on issues that draw people’s attention away from their personal relationship with God, which begins with conversion. The important thing in our theologizing is not that it stays contemporary, but that it stays focused on God and his unchanging message.

1Wikipedia, Biblical Theology. Online: (cited September 13, 2008).

2For summaries of tenets of gay theology, and conservative evangelical responses to them, see Joe Dallas, A Strong Delusion: Confronting the “Gay Christian” Movement. (Eugene Or.:Harvest House, 1996); Robert Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001).

3Anthony B. Pinn, Why, Lord? (Continuum International Publishing Group, 1995), 10.

4Lucy Tatman, Knowledge that Matters. (Cleveland, Ohio: Pilgrim Press, 2001), 23.

5Kathleen M. Nadeau, Liberation Theology in the Philippines. (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002), ix.

6Donald G. Hanway, A Theology of Gay and Lesbian Inclusion. (New York: Haworth Pastoral Press, 2006), ix.

ACST 2 The Promise

Sitting on death row in a Roman jail, Paul penned one last letter to his spiritual son and fellow missionary, Timothy. He told him about what God purposed before the ages began and revealed through Jesus Christ, who brought life and immortality1 to light through the gospel message that had been Paul’s focus since the Damascus road (2 Timothy 1:9-11). For Paul, this message was worth living for, and worth dying for. It was the promise of a resurrection to a permanent life. It was hope beyond the grave. The real reason for this temporary life is the chance it gives us to attain to that permanent one.

Reading the Bible with this in mind helps us understand its purpose as well. If you just read the Bible as a group of stories and sayings in which people and nations happen to bump up against God, you are missing this central point – the one Jesus brought to light. It is the message within the message, and it can be summarized thus: God has zeroed in on a few temporary mortal beings all over this planet (and throughout time) and has promised by his grace to change them into immortal beings.2

If you have ever been reading a newspaper or magazine and run across the name of someone you know, you probably got more interested in the article rather quickly. That explains why Christians can read the Bible many times during their lifetimes, and still be enthralled by it. It is not just a bunch of old stories and laws. It is the story of how our God reached down into the fabric of time and space and granted us a precious inheritance – the gift of eternal life.

I. From A Great Beginning to A Disastrous End (Genesis 1-7) 4175-2519 B.C..3

God starts out his story with two perfect places: a heaven filled with glorious spirit beings, and an earth filled with good creatures of all kinds, under the dominion of two human beings, who rule the planet as God’s representatives. Soon disaster strikes. Some of those glorious spirit beings rebel against God, siding with Satan, and refusing to honor God as their creator. Satan takes an unauthorized trip to earth to spread his rebellion there, convincing Adam and Eve to trust their own judgment rather than God’s commandment. God had warned his creatures not to sin, because it would change their nature (making them mortal), and destiny (causing them to eventually die).4 The next few centuries tell the consequences of sin in the world, eventually making it a world so corrupt and violent that God had to destroy it with a flood. The symbol of the believer’s inheritance that stands out in this period is the tree of life. Although humanity lost access to it through sin, Christ gained it back for us on another tree – the cross of calvary.

II. From A Family Saved to A Civilization Cursed (Genesis 8-11). 2519-2086 B.C.

One symbol of eternal life in this era is the Ark, through which God chooses by his grace to preserve the lives of the animals and Noah’s family. He could have destroyed everyone and recreated, but he wants to redeem, not destroy. When the following civilization at Babel seeks to build a monument to its own power in unity, God scatters them by confusing their language. This resulted in the linguistic and ethnic nations that cover our globe today. God wanted this scattering to occur because the civilization he plans to resurrect will be multinational and multicultural.

III. From God’s Man to God’s Plan (Genesis 12-46) 2086-1871 B.C.

In the previous era, God had cursed all humanity in order to spread his promise to all the earth. In this era God blesses and calls one man, to be the channel through which that promise would come. The lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph reveal that God wants to protect them and provide for them because from their lineage an even greater man of promise would come. One symbol of eternal life in this era is the ordeal of Abraham on Mount Moriah. Here God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, but out of compassion provides a substitute instead.

IV. From a Suffering Nation to a Suffering Deliverer (Genesis 47- Exodus 14) 1871-1441 B.C.

The concept of the substitute sines through in this era as well, not only in the passover lamb, whose blood had to be prominently placed outside the homes of the Israelites5, but also in Moses himself. He had to choose to suffer as an Israelite rather than deny his people and destiny. This prince of Egypt became a suffering servant, and a type of the Messiah as a Suffering Servant who is to come. And, like that Messiah to come, much of Moses’ suffering was at the hands of the Israelites themselves.

V. From Egypt to Canaan (Exodus 15- Joshua 3) 1441 – 1401 B.C.

This era is marked by two similar miracles – the crossing of the Red Sea as the Israelites leave Egypt, and the crossing of the Jordon River into Canaan 40 years later.

Perhaps one of the clearest “hints” God gives during this era of his future plans of an inheritance of eternal life is the water he supplied for the nation from a rock. Moses was told to do this once, and God provided the water that his people needed to live. But later, when God told Moses to speak to a rock, he struck it again. God was not pleased, and Moses lost the chance to enter into Canaan himself. By striking the rock twice, Moses disrupted the hidden message that God had provided. That rock was a symbol of Christ, who would be struck (crucified) to provide life for his people.

Most of the time in between the two crossings was spent by the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, trying to survive their freedom. God gave them all they could ask for: his presence, his provision, his priests to intercede for them, and his prophet to tell them what he wanted. But for most of them, God’s grace was not enough. The road to Canaan was littered with the bleached bones of those who had been delivered without being changed. But the next generation – the one that grew up in this environment – was prepared for the next stage of God’s plan for his people: the conquest.

VI. From Conquest to Kingdom (Joshua 4 – 2 Chronicles 10, Job, Psalms – Song of Solomon) 1401 – 926 B.C.

The next 475 years see the emergence and development of Israel as a nation – even as a superpower. In spite of the fact that God is clearly for his nation, they constantly fail him. They struggle internally, failing to keep their covenant with God that had been mediated by Moses, as is evidenced by internal violence, corruption, and idolatry. They also struggle against the surrounding nations, who seek to oppress and control them. One symbol of the believer’s inheritance of eternal life which appears in this era is David himself. David is not the sinless Messiah promised, but he is a symbol pointing to his greater son, who will be. David expressed belief in his own resurrection and predicted the resurrection of the Messiah when he said “because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay” (Psalm 16:10, Acts 2:29-32). One of the catalysts that moved this nation into political and social greatness is their belief in a God who would not allow their death to be permanent. He would remember, and resurrect.

VII.From Division to Disaster (1 Kings 12-22; 2 Kings 1-17; 2 Chronicles 11-32; Obadiah; Jonah; Amos; Hosea; Joel; Isaiah; Micah) 926-722 B.C.

God could no longer tolerate the idolatry and violence in Israel, so he caused the nation to divide into two: Israel in the north, and Judah in the south. He appealed to both nations through prophets, but neither nation would listen. God eventually sent the Assyrians to conquer the northern kingdom (Israel), but continued to protect Judah, appealing to them to repent, or suffer the same fate as their brothers. This is a very important era, because it reveals that God has plans that go beyond the establishment of a single nation among mortals. He wants to bring eternal life, through a resurrection, to all nations. We see this in the messages of warning, and the appeals for repentance to Israel, Judah, Assyria, Edom, Babylon, etc. that come from God’s prophets. The prophet Jonah, whom God sent to the Ninevites, symbolizes God’s resurrection to come when he is swallowed by a whale, the regurgitated three days later (1:17; 2:10). The prophet Joel predicted a day when Jews will lead people to call on the name of the LORD and be saved (2:29-32). This was fulfilled 8 ½ centuries later, at Pentecost (Acts 2:16-21).

VIII. From Disaster to Disintegration (2 Kings 18-25; 2 Chronicles 32-36; Isaiah (cont.); Zephaniah; Nahum; Habakkuk; Jeremiah) 722-586 B.C.

As previously mentioned, God continued to protect Judah, appealing to them to repent, or suffer the same fate as their brothers. This era is a monument to God’s patience, because most of the time Judah proved no more faithful than Israel had. Many in Judah were convinced that – in spite of what happened to their brothers up north – God would never allow them to be overrun, taken captive, or driven into exile by their enemies. The prophets, however, took the coming disintegration of Judah as a given, and began to predict not only the fall of Jerusalem, but a time of restoration and return to the land afterward (Zephaniah 3:11-20). By emphasizing the fall of Judah, and then its restoration, the prophets were hinting at God’s plan for a resurrection unto eternal life for believers. The period ends with Babylonian armies swarming in from the north, destroying Jerusalem, and taking the survivors captive.

IX. From Death to Resurrection (Jeremiah (cont.); Lamentations; Daniel; Ezekiel) 586–538 B.C.

The prophets during the Babylonian captivity witnessed the death of their nation at the hands of the Babylonian empire, and had to admit that it was God’s will. Yet they also believed that that was not the end of the story. The miracles in the lives of Daniel and the other Jews in captivity, and the fulfilled predictions showed that God was still in control, not only of his people, but also of the other nations and their destiny. The prophets appealed to God to remember his people, and to bring them back to the land that he had promised eternally to their ancestor Abraham. God intended to do just that – and even more. The prophets would foretell the restoration in language that clearly portrayed the belief in a physical resurrection (Jeremiah 50:17-20; Daniel 12:1-3; Ezekiel 37:1-14).

X. From Cyrus to Christ (Ezra – Esther; Haggai – Malachi) 538- 4 B.C.

A decree by the Persian king Cyrus allowed the Jews scattered throughout his empire to return to their homeland, and rebuild their cultures and communities. The Jews who returned vowed never again to offend God by practicing the idolatry that characterized the nations around them. They were characterized by a commitment to their God and their land, and an expectation of a coming Messiah who would forever rid them from foreign domination. While God was restoring Israel as a nation, he was also protecting them from their enemies. Behind the stories in Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther where God intervenes to protect his people from extermination is the fact that Israel must survive because Christ must come from that nation. More is at stake here than simply the survival of a nation. God is protecting the one through whom he will bring life and immortality to light.

XI. From Christ to the Church (Matthew -John; Acts 1) 4 B.C. – 30 AD.

    At first Jesus’ ministry appears to be no more than a taking over the Jewish revival began by John the Baptist. His disciples are Jews, the people he targets are Jews, and he is proven to fulfill the prophecies pertaining to the Jewish Messiah. But before long, it becomes quite evident that the salvation Jesus is offering is deliverance from sin for the whole world (John 3:16). Jesus died on a Roman cross, after being condemned to death by Jewish leaders. But that death was not the end of Jesus of Nazareth. After three days in the tomb, he was raised to life. But his was more than a resurrection. It was a resurrection unto eternal life. After showing himself to believers, he ascended with a promise to empower them to take his promise of eternal life to the nation.

XII. From Promise to Fulfillment (Acts 2- Revelation) 30 A.D. – ?

The Holy Spirit, in which the Church was immersed at Pentecost, was that empowerment. He leads the Church in following God’s call, like Abraham did – by faith (Romans 4:12-13). He helps believers accept Jesus as their deliverer (Galatians 3:9). He leads them to apply the death of Christ as their atoning sacrifice (Hebrews 9:14). Once the have crossed over, he is God’s presence, provision, and priesthood enabling them to get through the wilderness of this life (Galatians 3:2; Ephesians 1:13; Romans 8:27). He teaches believers how to live victorious Christian lives (Revelation 2:7).

After death, believers will remain asleep until Jesus Christ resurrects them at his second coming. Jesus will literally reign with resurrected believers as his agents, restoring this earth to its intended glory, removing the evidence of Satan’s rebellion, and destroying all Christ’s enemies (1 Corinthians 15:24-26; Revelation 20:6).6 The New Testament urges everyone to accept God’s offer of eternal life through Christ: “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17 NIV).

1“Life and Immortality” is most probably an example of hendiadys, meaning “immortal life.”

2Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, in How to Read the Bible for All it’s Worth. (Manila: OMF, 1997), 79-81 talk about the three levels of Old Testament narratives. The bottom level is the individual stories, the middle level is the story of Israel as a nation, and the top level is redemptive history. It is that top level to which I refer.

3The ten Old Testament eras reflected here are adapted from Constance M. Reynolds, A Journey of Promise. (Makati City, Philippines: Church Strengthening Ministry, 2003). The titles for them are my own. All dates are estimates based on the genealogical and historical references in the Bible.

4Both warnings are implied by the phrase twmt twm, usually translated “you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17).

5No one knows for sure what word was implied by the blood being placed on the top and sides of each doorframe (Exodus 12:7). But the placement would produce a very visible sample of the Hebrew letter j (Chet). My guesses are that the letter stood for either chesed, the word for mercy, or chayim, the word for life.

6Thus the entire story of Israel in the Old Testament – from Abraham’s call to the restoration under Cyrus – is a similitude for the salvation God offers the believer in Christ. I am not arguing for an allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament. These Old Testament stories reflect true events, which must be accepted as historical facts. However, those events are so orchestrated by God that they match realities in the life of every believer. That helps to explain passages like 1 Corinthians 10 and Hebrews 11.

ACST 1. The Reason

Christianity is a lifestyle as well as a profession. The apostles in the New Testament modeled that lifestyle, and encouraged their readers to follow their examples. They believed that people could be won to Christ because of the sheer attraction of a righteous life lived in the backdrop of a sinful world. But these same apostles insisted that to reflect true Christianity, their readers had to do more than just “walk the walk.” They also had to “talk the talk.” They had to know what they believed, and be able to communicate that faith to the watching (and listening) world.

Peter made this clear when he encouraged his readers to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Pet. 3:15 NIV). Behind this instruction is the assumption that Christianity is not only a lifestyle that can be lived, and a religion that can be chosen, but it is also a worldview that can be explained. The apostles did not ask their followers to believe some incredible and illogical philosophy that required a leap of faith and a commitment to that which they could never hope to understand. They expected every convert to accept their teachings based on the correspondence of those teachings to the scriptures upon which those teachings were based and the convert’s own experience.1

Since the Christian worldview is based on the unchanging truth of the Bible and backed up by real experiences, the doctrines that proceed from that worldview should be explainable and defensible. The true Christian should know what she believes, why she believes it, and why she does not believe the opposite. She should never hide behind ignorance pretending to be toleration. This is when she might have sincere convictions, but is hesitant to challenge others who disagree with her, because she fears she might not be able to prove her case.

A Christian generation who values tolerance above truth is like a rescue worker who throws out a life preserver, but then fails to hold firmly to it. Those who are drowning and need assistance will (of course) grab on to the chance for life. But as they continue floating out to sea, they realize that the assistance was only pretense. We are living in such a generation. We should not be surprised when the lost decide to try some other solution rather than grasp our ungrounded traditions. The problem is not with Christianity itself, but in our generation’s weak grasp of it.

The purpose of the following pages is to help today’s Christians get a firm grip on the faith they profess. A Christian should not only be able to affirm the statement of faith of his church, but he should also be able to explain it.2

If someone opposes him, he should feel confident enough in his position to engage in healthy debate. This confidence should come from his familiarity with the issues of the debate, not from debating skills or dominant personality.One of the tools which has helped Christians of past generations keep their grip on their faith is systematic theology. Systematic theology is the discipline that formulates comprehensive answers to the questions we all have about God, and those ultimate issues that he (and the rest of the universe) cares about.3 It comes with its own language: a set of categories and terms which help systematic theologians compare each others’ ideas. The categories and terms serve as a grid to help us evaluate the accuracy of our individual answers.

The primary categories used in this book are often called the loci of systematic theology. Each locus serves as a heading under which several major questions are posited, and then answered. The following chart represents how those loci will serve as the kind of scaffolding upon which this book will be built.

Locus: Content

Prolegomena: This category answers questions about the task of systematic theology itself, other kinds of theology, and the ground rules for doing systematic theology.

Bibliology: This category answers questions about how God has revealed himself, especially about the nature of his written revelation: the Bible.

Theology Proper: This category answers questions about who (or what) God is, what he is like, and how he compares to the rest of the universe.

Anthropology: This category answers questions about who humanity is, the things that unify us (like our nature and destiny) and the things that make us unique (like race, gender, social and economic status).

Hamartiology: This category answers questions about the moral flaws within the fabric of humanity and their effect upon the universe. These questions include the origin, consequences and remedies for what the Bible often calls “sin.”

Christology: This category answers questions about who Jesus Christ is, what he taught, and the relationship he has to believers and unbelievers.

Pneumatology: This category answers questions about who and what the Holy Spirit is, what he does, and how the world and the Church is affected by his presence.

Angelology: This category answers questions about the other spirit beings who populate the universe, including Satan and the demons, as well as the elect angels who have remained loyal to God.

Soteriology: This category answers questions about what God has done to rid the universe of the sin problem, and what he is doing now in the lives of believers to get them ready for the sinless universe he plans.

Ecclesiology: This category answers questions about who and what the Church is, how the Church differs from the world, and our role within it.

Eschatology: This category answers questions about our destiny as believers, the return of Christ, and the ultimate fate of the lost.

The apostles encouraged their readers to have an answer available when questioned about their faith. Today believers have the same need: to be able to explain their faith in terms that match the questions people ask of them. In Peter’s day, some of those questions came from government or religious officials who attacked and persecuted Christians. We may experience
those kind of questions as well.4 But our hope is that most of the questions come from people who are interested in our faith because they are interested in us. Either way, the questions should not be ignored. They are our opportunities to testify of our relationship with Christ through faith.

One way to form adequate responses to the world’s questions is to compare our answers to those of other believers. This is one of the major reasons for systematic theology as a discipline. By studying the theological systems of others, I can ensure that my own system is not lacking any vital component, and that it is both biblically accurate and experientially relevant.

There is no good thing in this world that does not have its opponents. Systematic theology has certainly had its share. The evolutionary atheist, for example, regards all religious talk as irrelevant, and a bi-product of primitive minds. He sees any attempt at a comprehensive theology as a waste of time, and a deterrent to what really matters in life – true intellectual and social progress.5

The industrial pragmatist agrees, not because theology is primitive, but because she sees it as a distraction from what really matters in life (which can be anything from self-actualization to cold hard cash).

The religious mystic also takes sides against systematic theology, because he seeks an experience of the divine which cannot and should not be explained. He thinks that explanations only get in the way of what really matters in life – the magical encounter.6

Curiously enough, some of the most ardent attacks against systematic theology come from Bible believing, church-going evangelicals. Some churches have been hesitant to hire trained pastors, fearing that a study of systematic theology at college and seminary would ruin them, making them incapable of just teaching the plain truth from the Bible. These same people would never dare go “under the knife,” allowing an untrained surgeon to operate on them, yet they think that
professional training of any sort is harmful for the preacher. They have more in common with the religious mystic than they would care to admit.

There is some truth in each one of these objections to the task of systematic theology. Some of the doctrines we have defended through the centuries are the products of human prejudice and tradition, rather that divine revelation.7 A good systematic theology has to dig deeply into the theological assertions of the past to make sure that their source is God’s word. Often the Church has been satisfied with its profession simply because it protected the status quo. We owe Darwin, Marx and Stalin and the like an apology for giving them good reasons to side against us. It is not that evolutionary atheism is right – but the traditional Church was not entirely right either.

The industrial pragmatist steps up to the plate with her own agenda, and convicts the systematic theologians of the sin of irrelevance because they don’t play her game. Life is a chance to work hard and make your own way in life, and all these theologians want to do is fuss over the meanings of the words in some obscure ancient documents. But, to be fair, she has a point as well. There is more to life than the constant pursuit of knowledge – even religious knowledge. Jesus criticized the Jewish leaders because they had their noses in the good book, but failed to look up when the Holy One himself walked by. He told them “You search the Scriptures because you believe they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” (John 5:39 NLT). The last thing systematic theology should do is keep us from living life, and in that regard the industrial pragmatist is right. But living life consists of so much more than getting on top, or dying with the most money.

The religious mystic is not concerned with explaining things. He just wants a relationship with the spirit world that works – that gets the job done. In that respect he also is a pragmatist. His beef with systematic theologians is that we are always trying explain what everybody knows is a mystery. If God were knowable, he would not be God. Systematic theologians present a God who can be contained within the confines of a creed, or a doctrine. To the religious mystic, that is
ridiculous. They are partly right. Most of our definitions of God are nowhere near accurate.8 Yet since God has revealed himself and given us the capacity to explain what we experience, it is not impossible to explain that experience. In fact, it is the only way for us to compare the various experiences that human beings have had, and claimed to be divine.

Last at bat is the Bible-believing evangelical Christian who is hesitant to listen to a professionally trained pastor. Perhaps he thinks the Holy Spirit refuses to work through a preacher who picks up a book now and then. Maybe he feels it is safer for his teacher to just open the Bible, point his finger at a passage, and then let the Spirit take over. He does not need to be confused by anyone else’s views on the good book. He should just let God work through him.

It is interesting that the authors of the Bible itself did not have that attitude. If anyone would have been justified with this attitude it would be those authors of the Bible whom the Holy Spirit personally moved to speak and write God’s word. Yet these authors were constantly quoting each other, and showing through logical argument and correlation that their words were true. The biblical authors were the first systematic theologians, and we do well to follow their example.9

Doing systematic theology well requires both the writer and the readers to have a common expectation when some key terms are used, so some preliminary definitions are in order. Here are a few terms that are going to be used throughout this book, and how those terms will be used:

A text is a passage of scripture that will be referred to as a means of making or supporting an argument. Some texts will be considered normative, which means that those texts are the ones anyone should use to prove his point as it relates to the question at hand. For example, John 10:10 is a normative text for Christology, since it describes Christ’s role as the Good Shepherd. It is not, however, a normative text for Angelology, since it cannot be proven from the context that Jesus was referring to Satan. The context is the larger passage, and the background of the text, each of which helps the reader understand the purpose of the text originally.

A doctrine is a group of interrelated assertions that are made in conjunction with a particular question. One doctrine can be used as evidence for another, as long as both doctrines are independently attested to by the texts of scripture. Doctrines themselves are the result of human effort, and are never considered inspired or authoritative in the same sense as the texts of scripture are.10 In this book, every doctrine is related to a higher category, or locus. As
previously mentioned, the loci serve as headings under which several major questions are posited, and then answered.

This book is entitled An Advent Christian Systematic Theology. The title reflects the fact that the author is part of an Evangelical Protestant denomination which has doctrinal positions and distinctives. As would be expected, some of the chapters in this book deal directly with those doctrines which have been developed and promoted by that tradition. Most of the chapters, however, deal with doctrines that Advent Christians share in common with the wider Evangelical community. All Evangelicals should appreciate most of what is said in this book, but it is asking too much for even most Advent Christians to adhere to all of its positions.


1 This was also the approach the apostles took when sharing their faith with unbelievers. When on trial before the Roman governor Festus, Paul appealed to him by saying “What I am saying is true and reasonable” (Acts 26:25).

2 Charles Hodge said that the task of the believer who does systematic theology “is to take (scriptural) facts, determine their relation to each other and to other cognate truths, as well as to vindicate them and show their harmony and consistency. Systematic Theology. Online:

3 John H. Leith insists that “Christian theology must … be written in dialog with culture and with an awareness of living religions.” Basic Christian Doctrine. (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), 18.

4 A recent trend that comes close to this is the publishing of books that deny that Jesus was who the church says he was. These books include fiction, like the popular Dan Brown’s Davinci Code.(NY: Doubleday, 2003) and lesser known nonfiction works like Barry Wilson, How Jesus Became Christian. (NY: MacMillan, 2008), which argues that Paul reinterpreted the Jewish
sayings of Jesus according to his own mystical vision, inventing Christianity.

5 So the science fiction author Robert A Heinlein seems to imply when he argues that theology is “searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn’t there.” “Theology Quotes” Online: quotations/theology.html.

6 Acts 8 tells the story of a Samaritan named Simon who wanted to purchase the experience of laying hands on the people and them receiving the Holy Spirit. Peter rebuked him. His name became synonymous with trying to purchase a position of ecclesiastical leadership (Simony). He is also a good example of the religious mystic, who is more interested in “show” than in “know.”

7 So Leith argues that the “first task of theology is always to maintain the integrity of the faith itself.” 18. Thus Protestants are hesitant to adopt the Catholic practice of judging every scripture or new teaching by what they call the analogy of faith, that is, “in the context of the one, whole, and indivisible faith of the church.” Gerald O. Collins and Edward Farrugia, A Concise Dictionary of Theology. (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2000), 8. Protestants see this as backward thinking. The theology of the church – any church – should be judged by the scriptures, not the other way around.

8 Romans 11:33-34 “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” (RSV). The Adventist revivalist H. L. Hastings pointed out that the Bible does contain many mysteries, and these cannot be fully understood even
by Christians. But he also shows that the Bible contains many duties which are not as hard to understand. He asserts that “the duties of the Christian may be performed, while many of the mysteries are but dimly seen.” Fireside Readings. (Boston [by author], 1896), 15.

9 Warren Wiersbe illustrates this when he explains that the “Gospel writers recorded the historical facts of our Lord’s suffering and death. It remained for the writers of the New Testament Epistles to explain the theological meaning of this event.” The Bible Exposition Commentary. (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1996), Mt 27:27. W. MacDonald and A Farstad state that
Romans is “as close to a systematic presentation of Christian theology as will be found in God’s word” because it addressed the issues that the Roman Church faced by integrating the teachings of Christ and the Old Testament in his answers. Believer’s Bible Commentary. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), Ro 1:1.

10 This is why Michael Scott Horton in “Theology Quotes” insists that “Theology, not morality, is the first business on the church’s agenda of reform, and the church, not society, is the first target of divine criticism.” Thomas S. Warren II has pointed out that many within the church are simply pressured into adhering to a particular doctrinal position having never “studied the issue at all.” Dead Men Talking. (New York: iUniverse, Inc., 2005) 42. We trust those pastors, teachers and family members to give us right information. But if they are deceived, that trust is misplaced. It is better to put our ultimate trust in God himself, and search his word for truth.


1. The Reason
1 Peter 3:15

Systematic theology is the discipline that formulates comprehensive answers to the questions we all have about God and ultimate issues. Theological categories can serve as a grid to help us evaluate the accuracy and relevance of our answers.

In this chapter, I explain the discipline of formulating a systematic theology, defend it, and define some key terms which will be used throughout the book.

2. The Promise
2 Timothy 1:10

The promise of eternal life to believers of all nations is the message within the message of both the Old and New Testaments. That message was concealed within the narratives, poetry and prophecies of the Old Testament, revealed by Christ in the Gospels, and explained by the apostles in the Epistles and Revelation.

In this chapter, I provide an example of biblical theology, as I trace the promise of eternal life from Genesis to Revelation.

3. The Important Thing
Philippians 1:18

God’s truth revealed in the Bible applies directly to everyone’s life, but it is not defined by our experiences, or even what we conceive to be our problems. We should allow God to speak to us on his terms, not force him to say what we want him to say.

In this chapter, I survey a variety of theological approaches that have developed, and encourage them, while warning against doing theology out of wrong motives.

4. The Necessity
Hebrews 11:6

Translation occurs when the intended content of a message is restated in words that the target audience can understand. Good theology translates God’s message, and assumes that there is intended content that transcends the means God originally used to convey the message.

In this chapter, I explain the importance of propositional truth as the core of God’s revelation to us. I also show how God has used experiences and symbols as means of communicating that truth to us, but warn against confusing these means with the message itself.

5. The Balance
Ephesians 4:15

No academic discipline is totally free from ethical standards. As in athletics, the rules determine whether someone has succeeded. Breaking the rules can disqualify even the fastest runner. Good theology places equal weight on the accuracy of the message and the integrity of the messengers.

In this chapter, I illustrate the need to explain the whole message of the Bible while living up to the moral standards it promotes.

6. The Task
Matthew 28:19-20

The few short years Jesus spent in public ministry were focused on the task of bringing a few men to the point where they were totally committed to him, and training them to reflect his character, power, and message. In his Great Commission, he commanded his disciples to reproduce that ministry. Having a good theology is only part of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

In this chapter, I clarify the text of the Great Commission Jesus gave his disciples in Matthew 28:19-20, showing how a systematic theology fits into the wider task of making disciples by means of evangelism and intensive training.

7. The Source
Hebrews 1:1

The source of truth behind all accurate theological constructs is God himself. Although he has chosen to communicate those truths in radically different ways, they can still be understood without paradox or contradiction because they originate within the unity of God. In this age of relativism, Christians need to stand firm behind the truths that God has revealed in loyalty to him.

In this chapter, I attack the relativistic presuppositions of the postmodern era, and show that any attempt at proving that absolute truth cannot be expressed fails by reason of its own standards. I then commend God’s revelation in scripture as the ground for a belief in absolute truth.

8. The Standard
1 John 4:6

Willingness to accept the teachings of the Bible is evidence that one has had a real experience with God. The apostles (and the prophets before them) spoke their messages freely, assuming that God’s true people would hear his voice within their messages. Those who rejected the biblical messages were condemned by God, and had to face the consequences of their choice. Today, we face the same choice when we read the Bible.

In this chapter, I encourage a high view of the Bible, both in its original form (the manuscripts) and its present form (the modern versions). I explain the process of canonicity by which the Bible came to be accepted as authoritative in its present form.

9. The Tool
2 Timothy 3:15-17

The Bible was never intended to merely inform us of God’s existence and standards, but it was designed as a tool to transform us into the people God wants us to be. This idea presupposes 1) that human nature is not what it should be, 2) it needs transformation in order to qualify for the destiny God has in store, and 3) The Bible, rightly applied, can be a means of that transformation.

In this chapter, I examine the role of the Bible in the process of sanctification toward the goal of mature Christianity.

10. The Law
Psalm 119:2,10

God’s word and his being are inextricably connected, so that there is no way to seek God without concentrating on what he has revealed, and no relationship with God can be formed which is not informed by that revelation.

In this chapter, I expose the myth of the personal relationship with God through some means other than the Bible.

11. The Light
Psalm 119:105

God’s word is intended to be understood in the contexts and times in which it was originally given, and with a minimum of effort, we can understand and apply it to our modern contexts as well. Willful ignorance of the teachings of God’s word cannot be excused by claiming that the Bible is too confusing.

In this chapter, I expose the myth that the Bible is archaic, thus irrelevant. I show that when biblical texts are treated in accordance with the rules of literature established for the genres they reflect, their meaning is obvious.

12. The Gift
1 Peter 1:3

God has given us sure knowledge of himself through his word, and that knowledge is sufficient for our present needs. Although we do not yet understand everything about our present standing and future hope, what we do understand is enough to motivate our trust in him, and to guide us in obeying him.

In this chapter, I expose the myths that the Bible must be updated with the findings of modern science, or supplemented with a personal supernatural experience, or explained by some ecclesiastical authority. All any believer needs is the Holy Spirit’s guidance to properly use the gift of the Bible.

13. The Immeasurable One
Exodus 3:14

The traditional attributes of God’s greatness (omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience) are essentially ways of saying that God is so different from all his creatures that he cannot be measured (defined) by the means we are. This attribute of infinity suggests that the affirmations we make about God can only be approximate, even when they are cast in the most extreme language.

In this chapter, I discuss the difficulty in defining God’s attributes, since our language is only accurate when defining finite things or persons. We are thus forced to utilize approximate language which can only be affirmed based on the revelation of scripture.

14. The Immutable One
James 1:17

Although God acts and moves through history, making his mark upon the lives of all his creatures, he still remains transcendent. His essential nature and attributes do not change. This fact is encouraging to all of us who are depending on the unchanging grace of God for our ultimate salvation and glorification. But this fact also warns those who expect God to suspend justice for them, in spite of how they have responded to his gospel.

In this chapter, I outline the traditional case for the doctrine of immutability, and treat some questions that emerge from the topic. Namely, 1) If God is unchanging, how can he affect history; 2) If God is unchanging, why offer salvation to all?; 3) If God is unchanging, is there hope for those who have not heard the gospel?

15. The Immortal One
1 Timothy 6:16

Some demons created thousands of years ago have not yet died. Some elect angels created at the same time will never die. Enoch and Elijah were translated bodily, so that they did not die. Believers alive at Christ’s second coming will be glorified without going through death. Yet none of these facts overrule the plain teaching of scripture that God’s immortality is exclusive to him alone.

In this chapter, I show that God is the only being in the universe who is by nature immortal.

16. The Triune One
Matthew 28:19

The God of the Bible is a complex being consisting of three equally divine persons. This eternal trinity is unlike any other being or thing in the universe, which makes him difficult to define. Nevertheless, the evidence for the unity of the godhead, together with the distinctiveness and equality of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit compels us to accept the Nicene description of the Trinity as the only doctrine which matches all the texts pertinent to the question.

In this chapter, I examine the doctrine of the Trinity as defined by the council of Nicaea in 325 AD, comparing first with the texts of scripture it was based on, then with the views of Arius, the Arians, and Oneness Pentecostals.

17. The Holy One
Leviticus 11:44

Goodness is an attribute of God that is communicable. That is, we can (and should) imitate God by being good as he is. However, there is a purity which we cannot attain. His righteousness makes ours look like filthy rags in comparison.

In this chapter, I explain the meaning behind the term “holy,” showing how the God of the Bible is unique among the “gods” of the nations, and among all his creatures.

18. The Independent One
Acts 17:24-25

The universe can only be explained (in terms of both origin and present function) by presuming a supreme being who is both independent of it, and sovereign over it. While many have sought to prove the existence of this independent sovereign God, the best proof is found in his revelation of himself in scripture.

In this chapter, I examine the evidence from creation, philosophy, human nature, and the Bible that leads to the assumption that there is a supreme being who is both independent of the universe, and sovereign over it.

19. The Created Being
Genesis 2:7

Human beings are creatures, created by God and subject to the same limitations as other creatures. Presupposing that we were created immortal, and then approaching scripture from that presupposition has led to gross misinterpretations of several texts. We can only truly understand who we are in relation to God by beginning with the reality of our total dependence upon God for life and existence.

In this chapter, I refute the doctrine of innate immortality, showing that humans depend upon God for life and existence just as all other creatures do.

20. The Ruling Being
Genesis 1:26-27

Human beings are designed to function as God’s representatives, exercising dominion over the other species on the planet, and responsible for protecting and cultivating it. This responsibility is built into the Adamic covenant, which is still in effect, in spite of the fall. Human government is authorized by God, and accountable for meeting the stipulations of that covenant. Christ will rule the new earth as the ultimate fulfillment of this ideal.

In this chapter, I cover the issues of human responsibility for and authority over the created order as representatives of God. Subsidiary issues include the relationship of church and state, the Millennium, and the eternal kingdom.

21. The Mortal Being
Ecclesiastes 3:18-20

The consequences of original sin in the garden of Eden include the mortality of all human beings, which makes homo sapiens no different from the animals in terms of mortality and eventual death. This dark reality is the backdrop upon which the brilliant light of eternal life offered by Christ emerges in scripture.

In this chapter, I continue presenting the evidence for innate mortality, and bridge to the concept of potential immortality as a result of the atonement.

22. The Social Being
Genesis 1:27; 2:18

Human beings are capable of being alone, but are designed to operate in groups – the core group being the married couple – husband and wife. Through the inter-relationship opportunities provided by marriage, families, communities and societies, we learn our purposes, our values, and shape ourselves. These horizontal relationships can also help us to better understand and function in our vertical relationship with God.

In this chapter, I explore the various social connections that define our humanity. These include gender relationships, family issues, friendships, political affiliations, school and church involvement.

23. The Ethnic Being
Revelation 7:9

At some point in our history (probably Babel), the human species has diverged into a number of distinct ethnic groups. God’s intention for these ethnic identities is to preserve them throughout eternity under the Lordship of Christ. In regard to salvation, God does not favor any particular race, but wishes to redeem every race.

In this chapter, I point out the inconsistency in racist ideology and activity for those who claim to follow Christ. I consider the claims of racial supremacists in order to show that such claims stem from unbiblical presuppositions.

24. The Immortable Being
Romans 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:10

The hope of humanity is the eternal life that God offers through the sacrifice of his Son on the cross. Immortality is a potential possession. Therefore, no human life need be wasted. Each of us has the potential to be much more than what we can attain in a few short years of life. The immortability of the human soul leads to at least two practical, but seemingly contradictory conclusions: 1) all human life is valuable and must be protected, 2) the chance to be immortal is worth risking one’s life for.

In this chapter, I outline the doctrine of potential immortality, and point out some of the implications of this doctrine, including the sanctity of human life, and the call for unlimited perseverance.

25. The Definitions
1 John 3:4

Sin is a complicated issue, because it manifests itself in so many ways, the Bible uses a variety of metaphors and analogies to describe it, and the terms do not always refer to the same reality. There are actually three realities the Bible calls sin: 1) the inherited sinful inclination caused by the fall, 2) the imputed curse that we live with as a result of that event, which has lead to mortality and eventual death, and 3) our personal acts of transgression, mistakes, failures, and rebellion.

In this chapter, I unravel some of the confusion caused by the fact that the Bible uses the term “sin” in a variety of ways. My goal is to identify the problems labeled “sin,” so that the readers can appreciate the various ways God has addressed those problems.

26. The Causes
Romans 7:9

A number of internal and external factors conspire to cause individuals to sin. The internal factors include our inherited sinful inclination, our lack of appreciation for the boundaries God has set for our lives, our dependence upon tradition as a motivation for action or inaction, greed, lust, and other forms of selfishness. The external factors include temptation from the spirit realm, societal pressure to conform, and deception from a variety of sources.

In this chapter, I identify some of the causes which lead an individual to commit personal sin. In doing so, I will avoid dealing with the causes of the inherited sinful inclination and the imputed curse, as I intend to deal with those issues more fully in subsequent chapters.

27. The Root
Romans 5:12,18-19

The root cause of all personal sins is original sin. This term does not refer to the first time someone willfully sins. It refers to the first time the human race sinned: the fall of our ancestors in the Garden of Eden. The choice to break the original prohibition has lead to a change in human nature and destiny, which is universal in scope.

In this chapter, I go back to the events described in Genesis 2-3, showing that these events have drastically altered human nature and destiny, causing all humans to be born in a state of condemnation.

28. The War
Romans 7:23-24

Spiritual warfare is more than deliverance from demon possession. It is a metaphor which describes every aspect of the Christian life. We are involved in a war with a formidable Adversary whose goal is to enslave the human race through a variety of strategies which have proven to be effective. This slavery manifests itself in four kinds of sin-bondage: selfishness, falsehood, depression, and fear.

In this chapter, I describe the war that Satan is waging against humanity in his bid to enslave the world. Each attack that he perpetrates against us is designed to cause a progression in sin, leading to further bondage.

29. The Consequences
Titus 3:3

Original sin has altered humanity’s character, causing us all to be born into a state where we are inclined to do the wrong thing, to disobey authority, the believe lies, and to fall into bondage. The ultimate effects of this sinful inclination include disruption in our relationships with God and others, and false understandings of ourselves.

In this chapter, I delineate the consequences of original sin in or innate character, and point out the effects that this sinful inclination produces on our relationships and our views of self.

30. The Solutions
Romans 6:23

The axiom “the wages of sin is death” is true for all of the kinds of sin. Our inherited sin has resulted in spiritual death. God has offered a solution to this problem in the glorification of the believer at Christ’s return, and he has provided the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of this inheritance. The sin imputed to humanity as a result of Adam and Eve’s rebellion has resulted in mortality and eventual physical death. The solution God offers is th resurrection unto eternal life at Christ’s return. All personal sins require both punishment and destruction. The solution God offers is the substitutionary atonement of Christ. For those who refuse this offer, destruction in hell awaits.

In this chapter, I show that God has provided a real solution to he problems of inherited sin, imputed sin, and personal sins.

31. The Logos
John 1:1-2

Christ existed as the eternal Son of God before he was born as a human child. He shared all the attributes of deity before and even after his incarnation, but subordinated the free exercise of those attributes in order to obey the Father’s will, and accomplish the atonement.

In this chapter, I show that Christ pre-existed his birth, and is in all respects fully God, sharing all of the divine attributes with the Father and Son. I refute the Arian heresy, which claimed the Christ was a special creation, and is not equal to the Father in deity. I also refute Ebionism, which taught that Christ was merely an exalted human.

32. The Nazarene
John 1:14; Hebrews 2:14

When the Logos became human at the incarnation, he took on the full range of limitations shared by all other humans, with the only exceptions being that he did not possess a sinful inclination, nor did he commit personal sins. He was, however, fully capable of committing sin, thus his temptation was real. When demonstrated divine power through miracles, he drew that power from the Holy Spirit.

In this chapter,I show that Christ is fully human. His humanity was not a disguise (as taught by Docetism), nor partial (as taught by Apollinarianism).

33. The Union
John 1:14; Philippians 2:6-7

Since the incarnation, Christ has possessed two complete natures, fully incorporated into his being. He is (and will always be) 100% human, and 100% God. The doctrine of the hypostatic union emphasizes that fact.

In this chapter, I explain that Christ exists eternally with two natures: human and divine. His natures are not fused (as taught by Eutychianism), nor is he two separate persons (as attributed to Nestorianism).

34. The Teacher
John 13:13

Christ taught that he is the savior of the world, and explained how to enter his kingdom. He explained how the subjects of his kingdom are supposed to live. He denounced his enemies. He equipped his disciples to lead the Church, and prepared them for the difficulties they would face. He predicted the events concerning his own life, death and resurrection, as well as current and future eschatological events.

In this chapter, I summarize the commands and instructions of Christ, because you cannot really know people unless you know what they say (said).

35. The Good Shepherd
John 10:11,14

Christ is God’s appointed guide, and the provider of our salvation. He demonstrated this by how he taught, and by the fact that he laid down his life for us. Our response to this fact should be undivided loyalty.

In this chapter, I explore the ramifications of the “Good Shepherd” metaphor as it relates to Christ’s role, and the role of believers as his sheep.

36. The Messiah
Matthew 16:16

Christ is the Messiah of the Jewish nation. He fulfills the typological predictions found throughout the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). His works and roles are defined by these types, which include his roles of prophet, priest, king, and suffering servant.

In this chapter, I outline the major Old Testament predictions concerning the Messiah, most of which were fulfilled by Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection, and some of which will be fulfilled in his return and millennial reign.

37. The Guide
John 16:14

The Holy Spirit is a person who affects us as any other person would do. He has all the attributes of personality, so is capable of communication and interaction.

In this chapter, I show that the Holy Spirit is more than an impersonal power. I refute certain mechanistic views of the Holy Spirit.

38. The Discipler
John 14:16-17

The Holy Spirit oversees the divine ministries of regeneration and sanctification, including the ministry of discipling the believer. This ministry involves all the things that Jesus did for his disciples while on earth: empowering, illuminating, interceding, sanctifying, and gifting.

In this chapter, I explain how the Holy Spirit continues the discipling work that Christ began. He was sent specifically from heaven to carry on Christ’s work.

39. The Empowerer
Acts 2:4

The Holy Spirit was sent by the Father and Son to empower believers for ministry, fulfilling God’s will. The Church received this baptism in the Spirit at Pentecost.

In this chapter, I distinguish between the initial gift of the Holy Spirit (at Pentecost), and the fullness of the Holy Spirit, which is an ongoing option for believers.

40. The Reflector
1 Thessalonians 5:19

The Holy Spirit reflects our relationship with God, thus may withhold his influence when offended by sin in the believer. He may also confirm the unbeliever in willful rebellion.

In this chapter, I point out the differences in the four types of sin against the Holy Spirit.

41. The Giver
1 Corinthians 12:4-6

The Holy Spirit equips the Church with Spiritual Gifts, which may be temporary manifestations, or lifetime ministries assigned to individual believers.

In this chapter, I explore the different categories of Spiritual Gifts, and explain how these gifts function to support the Church’s evangelism and training ministries.

42. The Producer
Galatians 5:22-23

The Holy Spirit produces genuine Christian character in the lives of believers. This fruit is intended to be universal in the Church.

In this chapter, I distinguish between genuine fruit of the Spirit, its Satanic opposites, and its carnal perversions.

43. The Helpers
Hebrews 1:14

Angels are created spirit beings, known for their dedication, power, number, and activity. The elect angels assist in carrying out God’s will in the world, including helping out Christians.

In this chapter, I introduce the concept of angels, and show their original divine purpose. I also survey the biblical facts about angels, and refute some of the common myths pertaining to them.

44. The Fallen
Ezekiel 28:14-16

Satan is now a fallen angel,and those demons who followed him in rebelling against God are also fallen angels. This fact affects their present nature and function, as well as their ultimate destiny. God has pronounced judgment on these fallen ones, and their end will be complete destruction. They have organized themselves in an effort to get as many humans as they can to share their fate.

In this chapter, I introduce Satan, and explain his rebellion against God, and that of the angels who joined him in that rebellion. I suggest their apparent hierarchy, and present function. I show that they are not immortal beings, and will die after God throws them in the lake of fire.

45. The Tempters
Matthew 4:3

Satan’s primary and most often utilized means of affecting change in this world is through temptation. The demons bombard the minds of human beings with a variety of temptations designed to enslave. All humans can resist temptation, but believers have help from the Holy Spirit that unbelievers do not have. The more one gives in to temptations, the more control of his life he gives over to Satan’s kingdom.

In this chapter, I explore the process of temptation, explaining the resources believers have that enable them to resist temptations, thus avoiding bondage due to their natural desires.

46. The Deceivers
Genesis 3:13

Satan and his demons use deception to enslave humanity. They organize humans with political and religious systems that perpetuate the deceptions, cleverly mixing lies with truth. They foment hostility and enmity by pitting the systems against each other. They usually deceive people into doubting or ignoring the existence of the spirit realm, so are able to function in darkness. Believers can overcome deception by knowing and proclaiming the truth.

In this chapter, I reveal the way that Satan uses deception to get people in bondage. I also show that perhaps the greatest deception that Satan uses is blinding humanity to his own existence, and that of his demonic armies.

47. The Accusers
Revelation 12:10

Another kind of demonic attack is the accusation, where Satan seeks to enslave a person by condemning him for past failure, or at least planting disbelief in one’s present status. This is a particular kind of deception that ultimately accuses God of not being an effective savior. The best way to overcome bondage to accusation is to gain a firm understanding of who one is in Christ.

In this chapter, I show how Satan uses accusation to render a person ineffective in their walk, or to keep someone from responding to the Gospel. I point out that accusation is really a denial of who God is, and who the believer is in Christ.

48.The Intimidators
2 Timothy 1:7

When all else fails, Satan and his demons are prepared to manifest themselves visibly, or through some display of power, in order to prevent people from learning and living the truth.

In this chapter, I deal with manifestations of Satan’s power, including demonic oppression and possession. I show that although these are realities, they can be opposed and properly defended against.

49. The Chooser
Ephesians 1:4

God the Father is sovereign over all things, including the choice to save some, and allow others to perish. The choices that he makes are eternally binding, and they are particular choices, not general ones. If an individual is saved, it will be the result of God’s free election of that individual in eternity past. If an individual is not saved by this sovereign election, she will reject the gospel, and refuse salvation because all humans are naturally disposed to do so, without divine intervention.

In this chapter, I contrast the doctrines of general and particular election, making the case for particular election as the view that best preserves God’s sovereignty in salvation.

50. The Sacrifice
Hebrews 9:28

Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross as the divinely appointed penal substitute for the personal sins of those who chose to apply his sacrifice to themselves. His suffering and death are sufficient to atone for the personal sins of every soul in the world, but are only effective if applied. Although Jesus’ death means many things, its primary purpose is this atoning work, and it should never be reinterpreted in such a way as to sidetrack our thoughts from the concept of penal substitution.

In this chapter, I review some of the mistaken notions about why Jesus died on the cross, and defend the concept of penal substitution as essential to the gospel and Christianity.

51. The Regenerater
John 3:7-8

The Holy Spirit applies the Father’s election, and the Son’s atonement to the life of every believer. He regenerates, indwells and transforms believers’ lives so that they reflect their destiny as glorified saints. He assists in the battle against Satan and sin, and guides believers in the process of making decisions that reflect their new status before God.

In this chapter, I explain the process of sanctification, where the Holy Spirit applies the sovereign election of the Father, and the atoning sacrifice of the Son the the life of every true believer.

52. The Change
2 Peter 3:9

God’s work of salvation affects an immediate and ongoing change in the mind of the believer, which in turn transforms the believer’s behavior. This miraculous change of mind is called repentance. After conversion, the believer’s eyes are opened to the reality the Bible reveals about God, Christ, sin, Satan, the world, and the Church. The believer’s self-awareness is forever altered.

In this chapter, I explain repentance as a choice that drastically and permanently changes the believer’s mind, conforming it to the truth as revealed in God’s word, and allowing it to redirect energies previously dedicated to unrighteous behavior.

53. The Testimony
Acts 10:42

God’s primary means of turning the world to himself is the testimony that believers communicate. This testimony includes our words, our associations, our traditions, and the Christlike behavior that validates them all. Believers need to guard against a truncated testimony that is so narrowly defined that the world sees it as practically irrelevant.

In this chapter, I encourage witnessing for Christ in as many ways and through as many means as possible. I warn that some means may not be as effective as others, so God’s people should witness wisely.

54. The Life
1 John 3:3

A truly saved person has both repented of his sins and trusted Christ for his present and future life. This converted person will live a life of faith that reflects his new commitments. A person living this life reflects a confidence that his sins have been forgiven, and God will never forsake him. He submits to the lordship of Christ, obeying his commands. He focuses on the second coming of Christ and the eternal inheritance that day will reveal.

In this chapter, I describe the life that a saved person should live. This is the evidence we present to the world to prove our repentance and validate our testimony.

55. The Chosen
Matthew 6:9

Believers have a special relationship with God the Father, because the Father has chosen them individually to be part of his new humanity, adopting them into his eternal family, making them citizens of his divine kingdom. As a result of this connection with the Father, believers do not quite fit in with this world – even the cultures that they were born into seems foreign to them.

In this chapter, I review the images of the church relating to God the Father, suggesting that these images explain the fact that believers relate to this world differently than unbelievers.

56. The Saved
2 Corinthians 2:15

Believers have a symbiotic link to the person of Christ. Every metaphor which describes his person and role has a corresponding implication for the identity and role of his disciples. He is the Savior, we are the saved. He is the King, we are his subjects. He is the head, we are his body. He is the Bridegroom, we are the espoused bride. The best way to get a grasp on the biblical view of the Church is to know clearly who Christ is and what he did, and then extrapolate our place and work based on his.

In this chapter, I review the images of the church relating to Christ, suggesting that we can only understand our identity and role as we concentrate on our symbiotic relationship with him.

57. The Transformed
Hebrews 2:4

Believers are caught up in what God is doing in the world today through the relationship they have with the Holy Spirit. He is at work in them, conforming them to the image of his Son. He is at work through them, reaching the lost with the gospel. He is at work for them, confirming their testimony through miracles.

In this chapter, I review the images and statements about the church relating to the Holy Spirit, suggesting that we can best recognize the Holy Spirit when we see God involved in his work through us.

58. The Gathered
Isaiah 43:6-7

The Church is God’s gathered community, designed to radiate his glory through worship (honoring his person and praising him for his works), instruction (discipling each other through God’s word), fellowship (growing closer together and demonstrating our unity), and evangelism (bringing others into the comm y through dynamic witness).

In this chapter, I explain what the Church does, utilizing the concept of the gathered community, and asking what this gathered community is supposed to do, both within and outside official services.

59. The Voice
Revelation 12:11

The Church has not exhibited an unbroken succession of centuries dedicated to the high ideals established for her in scripture. Rather, the human voice of God has often struggled with Satanically orchestrated political antagonism from without and religious apostasy from within. The marks of the true Church have not always been evident, but have never been completely hidden.

In this chapter, I review the marks of the true Church by surveying Church history, suggesting that she often poorly manifested the voice of God at those times when she has allowed herself to be defined by current worldly culture.

60. The Body
Acts 6:3

The Church government puzzle cannot best be solved by means of tradition, evolutionary theory, or pragmatism. The best answers to the puzzle come when believers take the body of Christ metaphor seriously, and see themselves as a combination of interrelated systems designed not to have dominion over each other, but to equally submit to the head.

In this chapter, I examine the major methods of Church government that have developed over the centuries, I point out the strengths and weakness of each method, comparing them with the apparent multi-systemic method in operation in the book of Acts. I suggest that this multi-systemic method best preserves the body analogy.

61. The Advents
Genesis 49:10

The first advent of Jesus Christ was predicted for thousands of years, in numerous ways, and detailed in hundreds of scripture texts. Yet most of the Jews who had access to the predictions either ignored them or misinterpreted them. Likewise, the second advent of Christ is detailed fully in both Testaments, but Christians differ widely on their expectations. A survey of the predictions and fulfillments of the first advent will yield principles that help us know what to expect as we read the predictions of the second advent.

In this chapter, I show that the prophecies fulfilled when Jesus came to this earth the first time set a pattern that help interpreters learn what to expect when the prophecies of his second advent are fulfilled.

62. The Kingdoms
Isaiah 9:7

When Christ referred to the kingdom of God, he was talking about the dominion of God over those who have submitted to the rightful rule of his Son. This kingdom was a present reality when he walked this earth, since he already had followers. But sometimes Christ referred to the same kingdom in the future tense, when this domain of this earth will be handed over to him at his return. So, it is proper to speak of two kingdoms, the spiritual reign which is already, and the spiritual/physical reign which is not yet.

In this chapter I draw a contrast between those statements Jesus made implying that his kingdom is a present reality, and those he made which imply a future kingdom. The primary differences between these two kingdoms are the nature of the subjection, and the timing.

63. The Destinies
1 John 5:12

There are only two eternal destinies: life or death. The saved will be rewarded with permanent life, while the lost will suffer permanent death.

In this chapter, I contrast the two eternal destinies: The inheritance of the saved is permanent life, and the fate of the lost is permanent death.

64. The Apostasy
2 Thessalonians 2:3

Both Old and New Testaments predict a period of rebellion to occur in the Church between Christ’s ascension and his return. This apostasy took place within the first millennium, and was marked by wholesale syncretism and idolatry within the visible church. Although the Protestant Reformation did much to swing the ecclesiastical pendulum back toward sola scriptura and sola fide, the Church remains in danger of succumbing to this apostasy, until Christ returns and sets the record straight – revealing who has been faithful to him.

In this chapter, I explain the theological differences between Protestants and Catholics, and show why Catholic theology should be rejected because it constitutes a major apostasy from the faith revealed in the New Testament.

65. The Reign
1 Corinthians 15:24-25

Christ’s spiritual/physical reign over the earth will begin immediately upon his return, but will manifest itself in a number of special events: The last world war (Armageddon), The greatest reunion (The Marriage Supper of the Lamb), and the restoration of all things (The Millennium). This will be a time for redeemed humanity to undo all the damage done to this earth by Satan since the fall. It will also be an age of warfare against all the spiritual beings who have fostered rebellion against Christ and his kingdom.

In this chapter, I state the case for a literal 1000 year reign over the earth after Christ’s return. I explain why this time of restoration is needed for humanity to fulfill its role as initiated by God in the Old Testament. It is also crucial to the role of the Church as established in the New Testament.

66. The End
Revelation 21:1

God’s ultimate goal is a new heaven and new earth where his reign is absolute, and evil and evildoers are completely destroyed. This new universe will be set up after all personal sins have been dealt with on Judgment Day, and all evil obliterated in the Lake of Fire.

In this chapter, I set forth the doctrines of the judgment, the second death, and the new universe.