"AS I SEE IT"
Volume 14, Number 3, March 2011
“I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know.
For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me;
Inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst.
I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply.
will show partiality to no one. Nor will
I flatter any man.”
“That which ordinary men are fit for I am qualified in, and the best of me is diligence.”
Earl of Kent
Shakespeare’s King Lear
Act I, scene iv, ll. 32-34
[“As I See It” is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek. Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God. The editor’s perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.
AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com. You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address. Back issues sent on request. All back issues may be accessed at http://www.KJVOnly.org
All articles are by the editor (unless otherwise noted) and are copyrighted but may be reproduced for distribution, provided the following conditions are met: 1. articles must be reproduced in unedited, unabridged form; 2. the writer must be properly credited; and, 3. such reproduction must be for free distribution only. Permission to distribute in any other form must be secured in writing beforehand. Permission for reproduction in Christian print periodicals will generally be given upon request.]
“His People”: The Jews, or ‘The Elect’?
A Study in Biblical Terminology
[Note: this study first appeared in the December 1, 1986 issue of The Biblical Evangelist and appears here slightly revised]
". . .[S]tudents of exegesis might have some freedom if it were not for these dreadful theological people who know beforehand what every passage ought to mean, in order to suit their creeds and systems, and who have not a proper respect for philology and criticism."
The above remark was made half in jest more than a century ago by John A. Broadus, Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, to his long-time friend and colleague at the seminary, James P. Boyce, Professor of Systematic Theology (see Memoir of James Petigru Boyce, D.D., LL.D. New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1893, p. 307). Unfortunately there is a great deal more truth in Broadus’ quip than I am happy to acknowledge. All too frequently, a pre-conceived theological “system” is imposed on particular Bible verses by an interpreter and, hacking and hewing, he makes them conform to what this system requires they must mean. In this manner, the real and often obvious meaning is obscured or explained away (Spurgeon rebuked John Gill for doing this very thing in I Timothy 2:4, 5; see “Salvation by Knowing the Truth,” AISI 2:1).
In reality, the only ultimately sound method of “theologizing” or “doing theology” is to first closely, carefully and in context exegete in the original language each particular verse and passage relating to a given theme or doctrine, and then compile and arrange the findings of this preliminary investigation into systematic order. Of course, to thoroughly study the entire body of Scripture in Hebrew and Greek--and only then construct a system of doctrine--is so massive an undertaking that few have ever done it. And frankly, most writers of systematic theologies are not noted as authors of sound expository works, nor are they famous for their linguistic attainments. Of the twenty-five or so systematic theologies on my shelves, only two were written by men who prepared extended commentaries on the Scriptures. I speak of John Calvin and John Gill (for my perspective on these men and their writings, see “First-Hand Impressions of John Calvin,” AISI 3:9; and "John Gill, His Life and Writings: An Evaluation," AISI 3:4).
Unfortunately, in the case of Calvin, his Institutes was written first, and the expositions only afterward; had this been reversed, it is widely believed that the Institutes would have differed in many particulars. And as for Gill, his exposition is plagued by ultra-Calvinistic axe-grinding of the worst sort from end to end. He brought his interpretation to the text and often bludgeoned the text into conformity. And as for capacity in the original languages, the only systematic theology of recent vintage in my possession that bears the impress of real linguistic attainments is that of J. O. Buswell, Jr.’s Systematic Theology.
So much for the ideal among professional theologians. In the real world of Bible colleges, pulpits, and training new converts or young men called to preach, the student of Scripture learns in broad outline a system of interpretation, supported by proof texts and particular interpretations of passages. This system may be learned from one’s pastor, from a Bible college professor, or from a favorite author. And it is necessary that primary instruction be so, else there would never be any foundation on which to build. However, the real student of Scripture must be ever open to adjust, revise and correct his interpretations of particular verses and, on a broader level, his doctrinal beliefs as well, to bring them into conformity with the actual meaning of individual verses as he discovers them to be through study.
Sadly, too few ever investigate to see if the interpretation given a favorite verse on this or that doctrine is sound or valid. Usually, whatever interpretation a person has heard is unquestioningly assumed to be true. The sense fixed on a passage by pastor or teacher or author is simply adopted as correct with no attempt ever to determine if it is the correct sense--that is, the meaning intended by the Holy Spirit and the human author. In short, most people never get around to thinking for themselves when it comes to Bible study. People are what they are and believe what they believe by accident of training rather than by dint of personal labor.
One verse that has been victimized by the heavy hand of a system (in this case rigid Calvinism, especially of the Reformed variety) imposed upon it, and the mere parroting of a particular interpretation required by the system, is Matthew 1:21:
She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins. (HCSB).
I speak particularly of the words, “He will save His people from their sins,” more particularly the words “His people.”
John Gill, in his commentary on this verse says:
By his people, whom he is said to save are meant, not all mankind, . . . nor also the people of the Jews, . . . but by them are meant all the elect of God, whether Jews of Gentiles, . . .who are made willing in the day of his power.
[note: the last phrase in the quote, “willing in the day of his power,” is taken from Psalm 110:3 and employed as a proof-text--in fact, the chief and almost solitary proof-text--of the Reformed doctrine of “irresistible grace,” though that verse in context has absolutely NOTHING AT ALL to do with that subject. See, e.g., the extended note on Psalm 110:3 in Adam Clarke’s commentary. But I digress.]
Gill was surely among the most consistent ultra-Calvinistic interpreters of Scripture, vigorously compelling every verse and phrase of Scripture to conform to the demands of his theological system. According to Gill, then, “his people” here is a synonym for “the elect.” Indeed, the term “his people” is standard Calvinistic jargon for “the elect,” and is very frequently met with in this usage both in sermons and books. Gill himself makes very prolific use of the term; for example, in his exposition of Psalm 22 he speaks of Christ dying for “his people” something on the order of a dozen times, though the term itself never occurs in Psalm 22 at all.
The rigid Calvinism of the type embraced by Gill and others, in particular the doctrine of limited atonement (also known as particular redemption), requires that no verse be allowed to say, however clear, plain or obvious it may seem, that Christ’s death made provision for the salvation of anyone who does not actually and ultimately partake of that salvation, lest it be said that some of Christ’s sufferings were wasted and the grace of God frustrated.
By-passing the system and focusing solely on the verse in question, we enquire, “what is meant by the term ‘his people,’ those whom it says Jesus will save?”
The term “people,” modified by a possessive pronoun referring to God--that is, “my people,” “your people, “ “his people”--occurs something on the order of 326 times in the Old Testament (I do not claim infallibility in my count). The overwhelming majority of these are in reference to the entire nation of Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, along with such proselytes as have become a part of the nation. Occasionally, the reference is limited to the faithful and devoted among this political entity, this physical nation. Only once that I could discover was it used of something other than literal, physical Israel in whole or in part. That exception is Isaiah 19:25, where the nation of Egypt, in a millennial context, is described as being as much the people of God as Israel (and Assyria). Never in the OT is “my people,” etc. used as a term to describe the whole body of ”the elect,” a spiritual group.
Now, turning to the NT, it is widely recognized that Matthew is the most Jewish of the Gospels, that its writer was Jewish, and that it was written for a Jewish audience with the purpose of proving from the Jewish Hebrew Scriptures that Jesus of Nazareth is the Jewish Messiah and King. On such a basis, the a priori assumption must be that Matthew (and the angel who first spoke these words) uses the term exactly the same way as the OT, namely, that the “his people” for whom Christ died (1:21) is the nation of Israel, not “the elect,” an interpretation imposed on the text in violation of the consistent usage of the OT. Matthew must be presumed to have followed the usage of the OT unless and until strong evidence to the contrary can be produced.
In the NT, usage of the term “his / your / my people”--especially in the birth narratives of Matthew 1, 2 and Luke 1, 2--clearly indicates what the angel meant in speaking to Joseph. In Matthew 2:6, the scribes quote Micah 5:2 with regard to the birth of the promised Messiah. It is said that He “shall rule my people Israel” which, beyond all question, mean the nation of the Jews, not the elect. Similarly, in Luke 1:68ff, Zacharias’ Spirit-inspired utterance, we read, “praise the Lord, the God of Israel, “--obviously the Jewish nation--“because He has visited and provided redemption for His people,”--the aforementioned Israel--“He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David”--the king of Israel--“just as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets . . .”--those were Israelite prophets--“salvation from our enemies and from the clutches of those who hate us”--a clear reference to the nation’s adversaries--“He has dealt mercifully with our fathers, and remembered His holy covenant --the oath that He swore to our father Abraham”--references to Israel’s national covenants (See Romans 9:4) and Israel’s literal, physical ancestor. Zacharias speaks further of his own son John’s mission--“You will go before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give His people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.” In such a context, the only “His people” that can possibly be meant here is literal, physical, national Israel.
In announcing the birth of the Savior, the angel brought good tidings of great joy “that will be for all the people” (the definite article is present in Greek, and is properly represented in the HCSB translation, as earlier by Tyndale, the Geneva, and other versions). While there is no possessive pronoun referring to God here, the reference is worthy of attention. The location is in close proximity to the city of David, the Jewish king; the shepherds are Jewish shepherds; the term Christ (“the anointed one”) is a Jewish term. The people for whom the good tidings were specifically intended were the Jewish nation.
Later in Luke, when aged Simeon held the infant Jesus and uttered the famous Nunc dimittis (2:29-32), he addressed praise to God for “”Your salvation you have prepared in the presence of all the peoples”--the definite article is present in the Greek, and the noun is plural. This term “all the peoples” is further clarified by Simeon, who speaks of this salvation as “a light of revelation to the Gentiles” (or “nations”), “and glory to Your people Israel,” showing that “Your people” means the literal, physical nation of Israel in distinction from the Gentile nations, and cannot mean “the elect” in a soteriological sense, since the saved / elect will be drawn from both Israel and the Gentiles. And that “Your people” means literal, physical Israel is exactly what would be expected in a context involving Jewish parents, with a Jewish infant in a Jewish temple, offering a Jewish sacrifice in fulfillment of Jewish law.
Outside the birth narratives in the Gospels, the situation is the same. In Luke 7:16, after the raising of the widow’s son, “fear came over everyone, and they glorified God, saying, ‘a Great Prophet has risen among us,’ and ‘God has visited His people.’ “ And who is meant by “His people”? We are told immediately, “this report about Him went throughout Judea and all the vicinity.” “His people” is the Jews, national Israel.
The unwitting prophecy of Caiaphas regarding Jesus’ death next attracts our attention (John 11:50ff). He declared, “It is to your advantage that one man should die for [or, in the place of] the people rather than that the whole nation perish.” John explains that “he did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to unite the scattered children of God.” Clearly Caiaphas prophetically and John under divine inspiration both declare that the death of Jesus was for the nation of Israel, as a nation. John adds that the death of Jesus made possible the gathering together of the dispersed “children of God,” which I understand to be a reference to the Jews not dwelling in the Promised Land but scattered in the Diaspora. And even if it a case of John proleptically speaking of those among the Gentiles who will become children of God through faith in Christ (John 1:12), this latter group are not here or elsewhere called “His people.” This prophecy of Caiaphas is mentioned again in John 18:30.
Paul states in Romans 11:1, “I ask, then, has God rejected His people? Absolutely not! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” It is obvious that Paul refers to the nation Israel, not the soteriological “elect” when he speaks here and in v. 2 of “His people.”
A number of other Biblical passages could be noted showing that the term “His people” regularly refers to the literal, physical national Israel, but the above suffice. On the other hand, it is true that there are passages which refer to the saved collectively, or of groups of the saved not exclusively Jewish, as God’s people. One example is 2 Corinthians 6:17, “and they will be my people,” a quotation from Leviticus 26:12. Similarly, 1 Peter 2:10, “but now are you God’s people,” an echo of Hosea 2:23 (compare Romans 9:26). So also James, in the Jerusalem council, states “Simeon has reported how God first intervened to take from the Gentiles a people for His name,” (Acts 15:14). Later Jesus encourages Paul in Corinth by declaring, “I have many people in this city,” (Acts 18:10), again a prophetic remark that many people in that city would become Christ’s people through faith (Galatians 3:36).
It is to be noted that in all these references to the saved among the Gentiles as God’s people there is no definite article in the Greek, while in cases involving national Israel as God’s people, the definite article is nearly always present (Luke 2:32 is an exception, but the addition of the clarifying noun “Israel” leaves no doubt as to the reference, and the strongly Semitic flavor of the early chapters of Luke may account for the lack of the definite article here, since in Hebrew and Aramaic--one or the other of which Simeon is almost certain to have spoken--a noun is definite without the article if it has an attached possessive pronoun. Revelation 18:14 is also an exception, but the high number of grammatical anomalies in Revelation warns against making too much of that singular exception).
The conclusion is inevitable that those called “His people,” for whom Jesus died, and whom He will save (as per our target text Matthew 1:21; and John 11:50-52) is the nation of Israel. This is confirmed by numerous references to Israel as God’s people where there can be no question as to what is meant. It is notable that, in his comments on Matthew 1:21, John Calvin himself wrote: “By Christ’s people, the angel unquestionably means the Jews to whom he was appointed Head and King.” Calvin goes on to declare that this promise of salvation is later extended to all who will believe.
That the death of Jesus was for the benefit of all the Jews--that is, that it was an unlimited atonement as far as national Israel was concerned--it is clearly affirmed elsewhere as well. Isaiah 53:8 describes prophetically the death of Christ, “He was struck because of my people’s rebellion.” Likewise, we are told that, as high priest, Jesus was “to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” I doubt that anyone is prepared to say that the Jewish high priest only offered sacrifice for a portion of the nation and not for all.
But some may object, “How can it be said that Jesus would save his people the Jews from their sins, since clearly not all the Jews repented and believed in Jesus’ day, or at any period since?” In reply: the unlimited merit of the death of Jesus made possible the salvation of anyone and everyone among the Jews, provided they met the one condition for receiving salvation: “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus, “ (Acts 20:21). Jesus came as a “Savior, to grant repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins,” (Acts 5:31). The death of Christ made possible the salvation of everyone--it opened the door of salvation--but the sinner must enter in order to be saved.
None will chide the unlimited nature of the merits of Christ’s suffering. His suffering was sufficient to save ten or ten million or ten billion. If the total number saved were increased or decreased by a hundred million, or any other imaginable number, His sufferings would not have been increased or decreased, nor would the merit of His death be enhanced or reduced. His death is unlimited in merit, sufficient for the salvation of a limitless number of people, indeed of all people, which is why NT invitations are made to all sinners without either distinction or exception. As Baptist theologian A. H. Strong well said,
The Scriptures represent the atonement as having been made for all men, and as sufficient for the salvation of all. Not the atonement therefore is limited, but the application of the atonement through the work of the Holy Spirit. . . .The atonement is unlimited,--the whole human race might be saved through it; the application of the atonement is limited,--only those who repent and believe are actually saved by it.
Augustus Hopkins Strong
Valley Forge, Penn.: Judson Press, 1907
Pp. 771, 773
Perhaps an illustration is in order. Suppose a corporation rents an entire amusement park for its employees and their families for a company picnic and outing. The rental price paid grants to them unlimited and immediate access to the entire park. The entire work force, a thousand employees and their immediate families, are eligible to come at no cost, by virtue of the company’s payment in full of the rental price. Yet, perhaps only 900 of those eligible show up and take advantage of the privilege that is theirs. The 100 no-shows may have been sick, or uninterested, or otherwise occupied. The price paid was sufficient for any and all who wanted to come, and the price paid would be unchanging regardless of how many or how few actually came.
And thus, similarly, is the death of Christ--the merit of His death is unlimited, the door is open to all, and whosoever will may come. It is the Holy Spirit-enlightened sinner’s choice that decides whether the merits of Christ’s death will benefit Him or not. God has made unlimited provision. By God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone (Hebrew 2:9)
Marrow from Vance Havner
“A young woman in Vienna visiting the place where Beethoven’s piano was on display had the audacity to sit down and play some rock-and-roll music on that rare instrument. The old caretaker remarked that Paderewski had once visited that spot. When the teenage tourist asked what he had played, the old custodian replied, ‘Nothing. He felt unworthy to play Beethoven’s piano.’ “
Playing Marbles with Diamonds (Baker, 1985)
“Church members generally are as ignorant of the Bible as are Americans of the Constitution.”
“We sing, ‘Savior, more than life to me,’ ‘Jesus is all the world to me,’ ‘Thou from hence my all shalt be,’ ‘Now Thee alone I seek; give what is best.’ But we are usually at least partially unconscious when we sing in church. If we took stock of what we were singing, we might not be able to make it honestly through the first verse!”
pp. 30, 31; italics in original
“I am tired of all the talk about what we must sacrifice to follow Jesus Christ. Look at what we get!”
“We are witnessing today the almost complete sellout of the professing church to this pagan world. That this is to be expected in the last days of this age as we draw near Babylon and the Antichrist does not excuse such a sellout, however; what is most appalling is that most major churchmen do not seem alarmed. One hears no note of protest, and religious leaders climb on every bandwagon without knowing which way the parade is headed.”
“Everybody expects the preacher to be ready to preach but who thinks of the congregation’s responsibility to be ready to listen?”
“Sociologist Arnold Toynbee pondered long why a nation as literate as Germany could be deceived by a maniac like Hitler. He concluded that there must be a vein of original sin in human nature everywhere, that civilization is a thin cake of custom overlying a molten mass of wickedness that is always boiling up for an opportunity to burst out.”
“[E]xcuses . . . are only skins of reasons stuffed with lies.”
“Fraternizing with apostates is a peril common to Jeroboam’s day and our own.”
“What does [‘My God! My God! Why have you abandoned me?’ Psalm 22:1] mean? When Luther studied this passage he sat motionless for hours and rose at last to say, ‘God forsaken of God! Who can understand it?’ “
The King James Version Now “Official” Bible of Mormons
Reader Bruce Oyen brought our attention to a recent
newspaper article, “LDS Sticking with King James Version” by Peggy Fletcher
Stack in The Salt Lake Tribune, published February 18, 2011, in which it
was reported that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) had
formally adopted the King James Version as their “official” Bible. That article can be consulted at:
It is to be noted that the modern King-James-Only movement had its foundation in the 1930 book Our Authorized Bible Vindicated by Benjamin G. Wilkinson, a theologian and college president in another cult, Seventh-day Adventism.
And of course, the standard translation used by the anti-Christian Masonic Lodge is the KJV.
Is there a pattern here?
Odd Tom Coryate: the English Marco Polo by R. E. Pritchard. Stroud, England: Sutton Publishing, 2004. 272 pp, hardback. 17.99 pounds [=about $30.00; I purchased it used over the internet for $4.98, including postage]
We already took note of the eccentric Tom Coryate (1577?-1617) in the first part of our survey of Holy Land pilgrimage accounts [AISI 14:2]. This present volume is a biographical account of his life, including very much else besides his brief stay in the Holy Land and Jerusalem, in 1613.
Coryate was an Oxford-educated man (though he took no degree there), excelling at Latin and Greek (his prowess in languages in his travels in the East would see him add to these real competence in Italian, Turkish, Persian, Arabic and Hindi--a remarkable array of diverse and difficult tongues). As the unofficial "court jester" in the entourage of Prince Henry, son of James I, by his wit and buffoonery, Odd Tom had a wide circle of acquaintances, not to say admirers. He longed to make a name for himself and craved fame above all, rather than money (he was quite frugal, the forerunner of once-famous "Europe-on-five-dollars-a-day" tourists). And to secure his hoped-for immortality, he undertook extravagant and not-quite-impossible exploits of solitary travel, generally on foot. His first journey was a circuitous trip to and from Venice, traveling through France down, and through Switzerland, German, and Holland on the return leg, accomplishing it all in about 20 weeks, with precious little money, and often in dangers of robbers, in perils in the city, and in perils in the country. This first journey, with very extensive note-taking and lengthy transcription of epitaphs and other such, was published as Coryat's Crudities in 1611, and ran to an over-long 800+ pages. It sold only moderately, not securing him the lasting notoriety he yearned for. He then wrote a second book, Coryat’s Cramb (1611).
In 1612, he undertook his final trek, his planned "piece de resistance"--a foot journey from the Eastern shores of the Mediterranean all the way to India (and back--so he hoped, but death intervened in India). It was during this excursion that he visited the Holy Land. In the course of his journey, he also traversed Syria, upper Mesopotamia, eastern Turkey, Persia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and much of western and central India. Most of this travel was done in the relative safety of mixed caravans of merchants of diverse nationalities, numbering as many as several thousand individuals. Along the way, Coryate sent back manuscripts intended to go to England to be published. Those left at Aleppo in Syria never arrived; those left in India were returned to England, and published only in excerpts by Samuel Purchas, in Purkas: His Pilgrims, a compilation of such travel accounts. What Purchas did with the manuscript after excerpting it is unknown. It is now lost. We have, besides, some letters from Odd Tom to his friends and his mother in England.
The strenuousness of this travel and the strains of the Indian climate greatly subverted Coryate's unusually strong physical constitution, and he succumbed to dysentery, his much-anticipated return home--to perpetual fame--frustrated.
In his encounters with Catholics and the debased superstitions of relics, saints, and priestly corruptions, Coryate reveals himself to be a genuine Christian of unswerving Protestant persuasions. Later, in his Eastern travels, he was not shy to defend Christ and His Deity against the blasphemies of Moslems against Christ, sometimes doing so recklessly where he might easily have engendered persecution or execution (as is the customary Moslem practice) for his voiced opinions.
Pritchard has made use of Coryate's own writings in compiling this readable (and sometimes witty) account, as well as those of other contemporary accounts by similar pilgrims, using these to "fill in the gaps" or "flesh out" Coryate's accounts where his accounts are lost or truncated (often due to Purchas' editing). This volume serves as an interesting window into life in the early 17th century in England, Central and Southern Europe, and far to the east, with not a few insights into the inherent barbarism and brutality of Islam then, as now.
Goldstone, Lawrence and Nancy, Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997. 215 pp., hardback. $22.95
Goldstone, Lawrence and Nancy, Slightly Chipped: Footnotes in Booklore. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999. 213 pp., hardback. $22.95.
The authors of both these small chatty volumes are a husband and wife team of writers--both history majors, and both enthusiastic book-hunters--who regale the reader with tales of their own pursuit of books, their growing knowledge of the minutiae of the book trade, encounters with book dealers of all temperaments and descriptions (one soon learns, if he did not know it previously, that “eccentric used book dealer” is a crass redundancy of the most blatant sort), and their own participation in book auctions. The Goldstones are particularly enthusiastic about modern “first editions” of fiction; I have minimal interest in fiction, and value books only for their contents and what I can learn and derive from them, not their monetary worth, rarity or condition. Nevertheless, I enjoyed their own narrated experiences in the world of books, which often enough paralleled my own. Their book budget and their “upper limit” for outlays for individual books considerably exceed my own.
Here then are a couple of pleasant reading diversions for the bibliophile who delights in the “chase” for that rare bargain, or the discovery of a “new” author, or the discovery of a previously unknown work by a known author (caveat: occasional profanity). Both volumes are available quite cheap through internet book services, and one need spend less for the books themselves than the cost of postage.
“Books are a wonderful avocation, wonderful. You know, some people think it is all right to go out and play golf every morning, and I don’t want to criticize, but there is no substitute for great books. Books are like having some of the greatest minds in history in your home. For example, I can pick up Shakespeare or Churchill or Dickens anytime I want.”
Used and Rare, pp. 48, 49.
Quoting a friend
True Evangelism, or Winning Souls by Prayer, by Lewis Sperry Chafer. London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1919. Revised edition, 144 pp., hardback.
I first read this book in another edition 15 years ago (October 1996) and at that time thought it meritorious and commendable, but on re-reading it recently, it didn't prove to be anything like as good as I had remembered. This book was rather controversial when it was first reprinted by Zondervan (back in the 1940s, as I recall). Because of certain features and claims it contains, a number of vocational evangelists as a group objected publicly to the book and demanded its withdrawal, with the result that the added attention led to greatly increased demand for this volume which had otherwise generated limited interest, and several reprints by the publisher followed! So operates “the law of unintended consequences”!
Among the defects of the book is a claim that evangelists--itinerant gospelizers, if you will--are not necessary, even unscriptural, since there should be a continuing evangelistic outreach by churches at all times, not just an emphasis on evangelism when the evangelist is in town. This is of course an over-reaction; it is not an either / or situation, but a both / and one. This tendency to caricaturize positions Chafer wishes to critique, and implying that the worst cases are "typical," recur in the book.
Chafer also claims that repentance is not a part of salvation (p. 50). John the Baptist (Matthew 3:2), Jesus (Matthew 4:17; Luke 24:47) and Paul (Acts 20:21) would likely disagree!
I also disagree with his conclusion that Hebrews 6:4ff has reference to unsaved individuals (the sermonic exposition of this passage by J. Vernon McGee is much to be preferred).
Among the strengths of the book is a recognition that there are objectionable high-pressure tactics employed--abused--by some professional evangelists to extract "decisions" at whatever cost, for the sake of glowing "reports" of many conversions. Such "methods" are contrary to the Biblical pattern of the Holy Spirit working through the word to enlighten and draw sinners to Christ. That some use such tactics, with the resulting actual hardening of some against the Gospel, in no way discredits all evangelists, since not all by any means follow such despicable methods.
A second strength is the emphasis on abundant prior prayer to prepare the "soil" of human hearts for the reception of the Gospel message. I do think this needs considerably more emphasis that it commonly receives in churches, and in Bible college and seminary courses on "personal evangelism," which are all but entirely taken up with "methodology" (almost none of which I have found useful in real life!).
Chafer, further affirms the conditional nature of salvation (conditioned on the response of faith), and the universal design of the atonement, both of which we of course wholeheartedly embrace.
So--a mixed verdict--of merit, but with some considerable weaknesses and defects.
Our Jewish Friends by Louis Goldberg. Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, 1983. Revised edition. 188 pp., paperback.
The late Louis Goldberg (1923-2002; an obituary summarizing the life and ministry of Dr. Goldberg was published in The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, vol. 46, no. 1, March 2003, pp. 180ff) was himself ethnically Jewish, but "found the Messiah" in Jesus of Nazareth, and was for years active inter alia, teaching Jewish studies, most notably at Moody Bible Institute, where his tenure extended to some thirty years. This small but informative volume, while apparently no longer in print but readily available used, is an adequate introduction to the religious and cultural views and practices of contemporary Jews (Orthodox, conservative, Reform and secularized) and their history, especially the often-experienced persecution they suffered at the hands of professing Christians (which naturally enough has raised a huge barrier against Jewish evangelism). The subject of taking the Gospel to Jews is specifically addressed in one chapter, noting the opportunities, pitfalls, and possible approaches to sharing the Good News of the Messiah with Jewish friends (a reported 250,000 came to Christ in the 19th century, and a like figure in the first half of the 20th century). Most of the 11 chapters has a selected bibliography for further study (essential supplemental reading for those wanting a thorough understanding of the topics dealt with succinctly here).
Most Christians are woefully ignorant of Jewish history, literature and beliefs--to our great loss, I might add. This brief book is a good place to begin to remedy this defect.