Category Archives: Theology

Lady Gaga, Rob Bell, and Misunderstanding the Love of God

The last few months I’ve been working through the glorious truth of God’s love.  I confess this is a challenging and powerful truth, perhaps more so than any I have studied.  It is with great humility and much searching through the Scriptures that I can even attempt to express here a fraction of God’s love.  In addition to reading God’s Word I’ve also listened to numerous sermons from John MacArthur, D.A. Carson, Paul Washer, Tim Conway, and others.  I’ve read commentaries from Charles Hodge, Matthew Henry, Calvin, John Owen, A.W.  Pink, John Frame, Wayne Grudem, J.I. Packer, Spurgeon, Matthew Poole, and others.  Many men smarter than I.  Some I agree with, some I have trouble agreeing with, but my studies are not exhaustive and my conclusion cannot be finalized.  Though I can draw from their insights, what I have found is based not on the assumptions of men, but on God’s Word alone. 

This really began last year while leading a small group study that was reading through David Platt’s book Radical.  In that book, Platt points out that:

“If you were to ask the average Christian sitting in a worship service on Sunday morning to summarize the message of Christianity, you would most likely hear something along the lines of, ‘The message of Christianity is God loves me.’  Or someone might say, ‘The message of Christianity is that God loves me enough to send his Son, Jesus, to die for me.’  As wonderful as this sentiment sounds, is it biblical?  Isn’t it incomplete, based on what we have seen in the Bible?  ‘God loves me’ is not the essence of biblical Christianity.  Because if ‘God loves me’ is the message of Christianity, then who is the object of Christianity?  God loves me.  Me.  Christianity’s object is me.” 

As Platt concludes, “God is the object of our faith, and Christianity centers around him.  We are not the end of the Gospel; God is.”

This really got me thinking about God’s love and how often the statement “God is love”, from 1 John 4:9 is used.  As I wrestled with what many perceive to be a simple, straightforward statement, I began to see that many times “God is love” is abused by many well-meaning Christians and simply put it is not all the Bible has to say about who God is.  As J.I. Packer adds “God is love” is “one of the most tremendous utterances in the Bible – and also one of the most misunderstood.”  Misunderstood?  How can something so seemingly simple, so oft used be described as misunderstood?  As is often the case when passages are taken out of context or hijacked from their biblical meaning, “God is love” has been wrongly designated as the summation of all who God is, to the neglect of His other attributes.  As Packer summarizes, “’God is love’ is not the complete truth about God so far as the Bible is concerned.  ‘God is love’ is the complete truth so far as the Christian is concerned.”  Now what does that mean?  To understand this perspective better, let’s look at two recent, public examples.

1.       “’God is love’ is not the complete truth about God so far as the Bible is concerned.” – Packer

It’s no secret that Pastor Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins took the evangelical world by storm the last few weeks.  Bloggers, pastors, and authors, all weighed in on the controversial theme of God’s love which Bell attempted to address.  If you’re unfamiliar with Bell or his book, see The Curious Case of Rob Bell.  In that book, which was released March 15, after a firestorm of publicity, Bell takes the position of a form of universalism by stating in the end no one really goes to hell because God’s love wins.  Bell’s position fails in the light of the Bible, in that Bell blatantly rejects the biblical truth that God upholds his holiness, with love for Himself and with justice towards sin and the sinner.  For example, take the oft-quoted passage John 3:16 states, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  This is a faithfully true and wonderful passage that summarizes the Gospel.  However in this same chapter we read, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36 Just 20 verses away from the one so frequently quoted, on the same page of most people’s Bibles, the passage states that for those who do not believe, “the wrath of God remains on him.”  God’s wrath remains.  As we learn from the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:3 we are all “by nature children of wrath.”  Everyone ever born was “by nature” under the wrath of God.  Does that mean that God ceases being a God of love?  May it never be!  However, the Bible is not silent concerning the wrath of God towards sinners.  Psalm 5:5 says, “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.”  Psalm 11:5, “The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.”  In Nahum 1:2 we read, “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.”  Likewise, Colossians 3:6, Ephesians 5:6, and Romans 2:5 warn of the wrath of God to come, of which Psalm 7:11 speaks so powerfully, “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.  If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.”

As humans with finite, emotional minds we often think that God must act and behave like we do.  That God must be emotional and fickle with His feelings like we are.  But this simply isn’t true.  Because of the man-centered nature of everything that we do, including how many of us read the Bible, we tend to think that humans, i.e. God’s creation, must be the sole recipient of God’s love.  If we followed that logic through, then if God had never created us He would never have known what it means to love.  Again following that thought, if God had justly destroyed everyone, including Noah and his family, in the flood, because of their sin, that logic would say that God would’ve ceased being loving.  But what’s missing in this reasoning is that God must have love for Himself.  We know this is true because in John 14:31 we read Jesus saying, “but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father….”  Likewise in John 3:35 we read, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.”  God the Father loves His Son Jesus Christ, yet He poured out His wrath on Him at the cross.  Did that mean He stopped loving Him?  No!  It was because of His love that He had to pour out His wrath.  It was because of love for His holiness and His righteousness that He could not leave sin unpunished and that His wrath had to be poured out on Christ, who Himself bore our sins.  But there is more love here, the love of God for His children and the love of Christ for His bride.  And this brings us to the second point.

2.       “’God is love’ is the complete truth so far as the Christian is concerned.” – Packer

This weekend I was watching Todd Friel’s show Wretched TV.  It’s an entertaining show, much like his radio broadcast, that includes a variety of the latest Christian news, video clips, and worldview topics.  In this particular episode he included a brief excerpt from a viewer email (I think) that pointed out the demonic exhibition that Lady Gaga calls a “concert”.  The email mentioned a “jesus-like” statue that she brings on stage, which is used as a source for flames, fireworks, and blood.  Since I know the influence she has, particularly on the youth, I searched for clips for more info on what was taking place on stage with this “jesus-like” figure.  What I found was that in the midst of a “concert” is what appears to be much occultism and satanic behavior.  The statue on stage looked less like man’s perception of Jesus and more like an angelic figure (perhaps fallen angel?), with wings and a long robe.  At the point in the concert when the statue appears, just before her performance of the song Alejandro, Gaga, already covered in blood, begins some sort of weird monologue with the figure which seems to be a combination of adoration and worship, but less like what you would see in a Sunday church service and more like demonic possession (yes I’m serious).  She concludes this set by having the figure pour out blood on her and her dancers.  Parents, keep in mind, this is the music your children are likely listening to. 

How does this all fit in with our discussion thus far?  Well just prior to this song performance, at the conclusion of the song Teeth, Lady Gaga, already covered in blood, lying on stage begins a monologue with the crowd in which she states, “Jesus, I’m confused. People say you only love one kind of person or a certain kind of beliefs, or a certain kind of ethnicity, or sexual orientation. But Jesus, you have blessed me; as I bleed to death in front of 20,000 people every night, preaching love and unity, I’m quite certain that Jesus must love EVERYBODY!!!! Jesus loves everybody…” (from the forum on her website, emphasis hers)

This statement is reminiscent of the message Rob Bell was portraying in the video promo for his new book and no doubt the message that was inside.  How is her statement that “Jesus must love everybody”, from a secular humanist perspective, a position that would closely define Bell also, any different than the well-meaning Christian, who we mentioned earlier, that feels “God is love” is the sole biblical description of who God is?   

How would that well-meaning Christian interact with the humanist who declares “Jesus loves everyone”?  Never mind the fact that the statement in this instance was given in a blasphemous, mocking delivery, within an atmosphere that closely resembles pagan worship.  See, herein lies the danger with misunderstanding the love of God and not realizing that, as Packer stated, “’God is love’ is the complete truth so far as the Christian is concerned.”  To not realize that first God must love Himself and that second God sets His love on His children grossly misrepresents what the Bible says and allows books such as Bell’s and statements such as Lady Gaga’s credence within the secular world.  It gives validity to the thought that “Jesus loves me just the way I am” so there is no need for repentance, no need for Christ’s death, no need to come to Him for mercy.  And it brings up Bells’ questions such as how can God love those whom He sends to Hell?  But the truth is because of God’s love for His own holiness He must have wrath and that wrath must have an object.  It cannot merely be sin, for sin itself is not judged and cast into hell.  It is in fact the unrepentant sinner that is the object of God’s wrath, just as we read in John 3:36, Ephesians 2:3, and the multiple passages included above. 

This brings us back to the believer, who was once also the object of God’s wrath because of their own sinful nature.  Packer describes God’s love as, “an exercise of his goodness toward individual sinners whereby , having identified himself with their welfare, he has given his son to be their Savior, and now brings them to know and to enjoy him in a covenant relation.”  As would be expected, this statement is centered around biblical truths.  In a passage we’re familiar with here, Deuteronomy 7:7-8 the Lord says to Israel, “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”  God’s love is specific, with a specific object that He chooses, from his own free will and not because of anything they have done or will do.  His love is not a general, generic, universal love for everyone.  It is specific, as we read here, and in this passage He tells us His love is set on Israel, not the other nations. 

Let’s turn to a parallel passage in the New Testament to see God’s love is again set forth towards a distinct people, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” Ephesians 1:4-5 Note here again, the reason the object of God’s love receives it is “according to the purpose of his will.”  This amazing correlation from Old Testament to New is what makes John 3:16 so powerful.  Prior to the arrival of Jesus, salvation belonged to the Jews, but in John’s gospel we read, “For God so loved the world” which means Jews and Gentiles, collectively the world.  This passage cannot be used to show the universality of God’s love towards every individual, nor can it be used to support the universality of salvation (see all of the verses mentioned earlier regarding God’s wrath toward sinners).  Likewise, the Apostle Paul, quoting Malachi 1:2-3, states, “As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” Romans 9:13  This passage supports the idea that John’s use of “world” here cannot be inclusive of every person from Adam until present, nor can it exclude everyone but “New Testament” believers, because this would then negate the salvation of the Old Testament saints, thus violating Hebrews 11.  As Charles Spurgeon states, “The words [world and all] are generally used to signify that Christ has redeemed some of all sorts – some Jews, some Gentiles, some rich, some poor, and has not restricted his redemption to neither Jew nor Gentile.”  We’re left then with the previous statement that “world” here means generally, Jews and Gentiles.  But what about God’s love in this passage? 

The expression of God’s love is seen in the next clause, “that he gave his only Son”.  God put His love on display by sending Christ to die on the cross.  God’s love is extended to those who believe, while His wrath continues on those who do not believe, which is what we read in John 3.  Romans 5:8 tells us that God demonstrated His love through the death of Christ on the cross for sinners.  But as we’ve discussed, this certainly cannot mean universal love, nor can it mean universal salvation.  Let us conclude this discussion by applying a simple Scriptural test to the love of God.  In Romans 8:35 the Apostle Paul asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”  While a discussion on qualifying the “us” used here is outside the scope of this post, let’s instead focus on those things Paul mentions as unable to separate God’s love from those He loves.  He lists tribulation, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and sword all with respect to faithful witnesses to the Word of God.  He then lists that neither death, life, angels, rulers, things present, things to come, powers, height, depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate “us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Ask this simple question, if death cannot separate the object of God’s love from His love, then either God sends to hell those whom He loves or unbelievers are not the object of God’s love.  The answer to this test can be found in 1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  Love here is defined.  Propitiation means by definition that Christ satisfied or appeased the wrath of God and then reconciled sinners to God.  We read earlier that the Gospel of John said that for those who do not believe, the wrath of God remains on them, therefore Christ has not propitiated or satisfied God’s wrath for them and therefore they can know nothing of God’s love.

The only real biblical defense against the humanist idea that “Jesus must love everybody”, as Lady Gaga claims and the humanist idea that God’s “Love wins” as Rob Bell claims, is a thorough, biblical understanding of the love of God.  Otherwise, it allows God’s love to be incorrectly applied as salve to the sinner’s conscious, before they have a chance to realize their need for it.  It’s like taking medicine without being diagnosed as sick.  Christ said, “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”  If a person is not diagnosed as being a sinner, how would they know their need for the Savior?

Friend if you are reading this blog for the first time and are not yet saved, then you must know because of your sin, God’s wrath remains on you.  You know nothing of the love of God outside of the display of Christ on the cross and of God’s common grace in providentially allowing you the conveniences of life.  Make no mistake, God will not withhold His wrath forever.  You, dear friend are in need of the Savior, Jesus Christ.  Repent of your sin and trust in Christ as your Lord and Savior.  Know that no sin is too great for Christ to forgive.  Know that Christ Jesus died for sinners just like you and if you only repent and believe in Him, then His amazing love will be a banner over you for all eternity and you will be a child of God.  Do you desire to know the love of God?  Flee from the wrath that is to come, Repent and Believe! 

“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6-7

“The most difficult task you are ever going to have to overcome is to look in the mirror of God’s Word and see your sin as it truly is and then to believe that God loves you as much as He says He does.” – Paul Washer

The Love of God

By A.W. Pink

There are three things told us in Scripture concerning the nature of God. First, “God is spirit” (John 4:24). In the Greek there is no indefinite article, and to say “God is a spirit” is most objectionable, for it places Him in a class with others. God is “spirit” in the highest sense. Because He is “spirit” He is incorporeal, having no visible substance. Had God a tangible body, He would not be omnipresent, He would be limited to one place; because He is spirit He fills heaven and earth. Second, God is light (1 John 1:5), which is the opposite of “darkness.” In Scripture “darkness” stands for sin, evil, death; and “light” for holiness, goodness, life. God is light, means that He is the sum of all excellency. Third, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). It is not simply that God “loves,” but that He is Love itself. Love is not merely one of His attributes, but His very nature.

There are many today who talk about the love of God, who are total strangers to the God of love. The Divine love is commonly regarded as a species of amiable weakness, a sort of good-natured indulgence; it is reduced to a mere sickly sentiment, patterned after human emotion. Now the truth is that on this, as on everything else, our thoughts need to be formed and regulated by what is revealed thereon in Holy Scripture. That there is urgent need for this is apparent not only from the ignorance which so generally prevails, but also from the low state of spirituality which is now so sadly evident everywhere among professing Christians. How little real love there is for God. One chief reason for this is because our hearts are so little occupied with His wondrous love for His people. The better we are acquainted with His love—its character, fulness, blessedness—the more will our hearts be drawn out in love to Him.

1.  The love of God is uninfluenced. By this we mean, there was nothing whatever in the objects of His love to call it into exercise, nothing in the creature to attract or prompt it. The love which one creature has for another is because of something in them; but the love of God is free, spontaneous, uncaused. The only reason why God loves any is found in His own sovereign will: “The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved thee” (Deut. 7:7,8). God has loved His people from everlasting, and therefore nothing of the creature can be the cause of what is found in God from eternity. He loves from Himself: “according to His own purpose” (2 Tim. 1:9).

“We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God did not love us because we loved Him, but He loved us before we had a particle of love for Him. Had God loved us in return for ours, then it would not be spontaneous on His part; but because He loved us when we were loveless, it is clear that His love was uninfluenced. It is highly important if God is to be honored and the heart of His child established, that we should be quite clear upon this precious truth. God’s love for me, and for each of “His own,” was entirely unmoved by anything in them. What was there in me to attract the heart of God? Absolutely nothing. But, to the contrary, everything to repel Him, everything calculated to make Him loathe me—sinful, depraved, a mass of corruption, with “no good thing” in me.

“What was there in me that could merit esteem,
Or give the Creator delight?
‘Twas even so, Father, I ever must sing,
Because it seemed good, in Thy sight.”

2.  It is eternal. This of necessity. God Himself is eternal, and God is love; therefore, as God Himself had no beginning, His love had none. Granted that such a concept far transcends the grasp of our feeble minds, nevertheless, where we cannot comprehend, we can bow in adoring worship. How clear is the testimony of Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” How blessed to know that the great and holy God loved His people before heaven and earth were called into existence, that He had set His heart upon them from all eternity. Clear proof is this that His love is spontaneous, for He loved them endless ages before they had any being.

The same precious truth is set forth in Ephesians 1:4,5, “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him. In love having predestinated us.” What praise should this evoke from each of His children! How tranquilizing for the heart: since God’s love toward me had no beginning, it can have no ending! Since it be true that “from everlasting to everlasting” He is God, and since God is “love,” then it is equally true that “from everlasting to everlasting” He loves His people.

3.  It is sovereign. This also is self-evident. God Himself is sovereign, under obligations to none, a law unto Himself, acting always according to His own imperial pleasure. Since God be sovereign, and since He be love, it necessarily follows that His love is sovereign. Because God is God, He does as He pleases; because God is love, He loves whom He pleases. Such is His own express affirmation: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:19). There was no more reason in Jacob why he should be the object of Divine love, than there was in Esau. They both had the same parents, and were born at the same time, being twins; yet God loved the one and hated the other! Why? Because it pleased Him to do so.

The sovereignty of God’s love necessarily follows from the fact that it is uninfluenced by anything in the creature. Thus, to affirm that the cause of His love lies in God Himself, is only another way of saying, He loves whom He pleases. For a moment, assume the opposite. Suppose God’s love were regulated by anything else than His will, in such a case He would love by rule, and loving by rule He would be under a law of love, and then so far from being free, God would Himself be ruled by law. “In love having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to”—what? Some excellency which He foresaw in them? No; what then? “According to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:4,5).

4.  It is infinite. Everything about God is infinite. His essence fills heaven and earth. His wisdom is illimitable, for He knows everything of the past, present and future. His power is unbounded, for there is nothing too hard for Him. So His love is without limit. There is a depth to it which none can fathom; there is a height to it which none can scale; there is a length and breadth to it which defies measurement, by any creature-standard. Beautifully is this intimated in Ephesians 2:4: But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us: the word “great” there is parallel with the “God so loved” of John 3:16. It tells us that the love of God is so transcendent it cannot be estimated.

No tongue can fully express the infinitude of God’s love, or any mind comprehend it: it “passeth knowledge” Eph. 3:19). The most extensive ideas that a finite mind can frame about Divine love, are infinitely below its true nature. The heaven is not so far above the earth as the goodness of God is beyond the most raised conceptions which we are able to form of it. It is an ocean which swells higher than all the mountains of opposition in such as are the objects of it. It is a fountain from which flows all necessary good to all those who are interested in it (John Brine, 1743).

5.  It is immutable. As with God Himself there is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17), so His love knows neither change or diminution. The worm Jacob supplies a forceful example of this: “Jacob have I loved,” declared Jehovah, and despite all his unbelief and waywardness, He never ceased to love him. John 13:1 furnishes another beautiful illustration. That very night one of the apostles would say, “Show us the Father”; another would deny Him with cursings; all of them would be scandalized by and forsake Him. Nevertheless “having loved His own which were in the world, He love them unto the end.” The Divine love is subject to no vicissitudes. Divine love is “strong as death … many waters cannot quench it” (Song of Sol. 8:6,7). Nothing can separate from it: Romans 8:35-39.

“His love no end nor measure knows,
No change can turn its course,
Eternally the same it flows
From one eternal source.”

6.  It is holy. God’s love is not regulated by caprice passion, or sentiment, but by principle. Just as His grace reigns not at the expense of it, but “through righteousness” (Rom. 5:21), so His love never conflicts with His holiness. “God is light” (1 John 1:5) is mentioned before “God is love” (1 John 4:8). God’s love is no mere amiable weakness, or effeminate softness. Scripture declares, “whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Heb. 12:6). God will not wink at sin, even in His own people. His love is pure, unmixed with any maudlin sentimentality.

7.  It is gracious. The love and favor of God are inseparable. This is clearly brought out in Romans 8:32-39. What that love is from which there can be no “separation,” is easily perceived from the design and scope of the immediate context: it is that goodwill and grace of God which determined Him to give His Son for sinners. That love was the impulsive power of Christ’s incarnation: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Christ died not in order to make God love us, but because He did love His people, Calvary is the supreme demonstration of Divine love. Whenever you are tempted to doubt the love of God, Christian reader, go back to Calvary.

Here then is abundant cause for trust and patience under Divine affliction. Christ was beloved of the Father, yet He was not exempted from poverty, disgrace, and persecution. He hungered and thirsted. Thus, it was not incompatible with God’s love for Christ when He permitted men to spit upon and smite Him. Then let no Christian call into question God’s love when he is brought under painful afflictions and trials. God did not enrich Christ on earth with temporal prosperity, for “He had not where to lay His head.” But He did give Him the Spirit “without measure” (John 3:34). Learn then that spiritual blessings are the principal gifts of Divine love. How blessed to know that when the world hates us, God loves us! 

Scripture vs. Tradition

A couple of months ago I posted a blog entitled The Danger of Abandoning Sola Scriptura.  The premise behind that post was the supposedly divine revelation that Pastor Terry Jones received which he claimed directed him to schedule his Koran burning event.  That post was directly aimed toward the extra-biblical revelation that so many people claim to receive from God that tells them to do or not do certain things.  In it we looked at the historicity of Sola Scriptura as it existed during the Protestant Reformation as a counter to the Roman Catholic teaching of that day and we also looked at some modern day examples of the dangers (Experiencing God) involved in seeking divine revelation outside of the Bible.  Since then, I’ve received multiple comments which I’ve responded to, each attacking with the central argument that Sola Scriptura is not biblical and that tradition reigns supreme over the Bible.  Just a few weeks ago, I received an additional comment which included some 10 verses attempting to prove that tradition existed in biblical times and should therefore be carried forward today.  The problem with that logic is that it fails to realize that God was still continuing to reveal Himself in a divine way to the apostles and prophets that He had appointed, i.e. His revelation to men was not yet finalized. 

What amazes me is that so much effort is placed into finding verses that present supposed “unanswered questions” or the few that contain quotes that are not found verbatim in Scripture as though some Da Vinci Code conspiracy theory exists and we are all held in the dark until those questions are resolved.  While refuting each incorrect assumption regarding those passages is outside the scope of this post, the fact of the matter is these passages have such little bearing on understanding who God is, His divine attributes, who His Son is, salvation, justification, sanctification, etc.  Sola Scriptura says that the Bible is not only inerrant, but that it is sufficient for all that the believer needs and that it is the sole source for guidance within the Church (this is not to the neglect of the Holy Spirit as He teaches and guides us through the Word of God).  The Bible alone is sufficient.  This means that traditions and historical writings, while profitable, do not hold superior weight to the Bible.  Additionally, God’s divine special revelation  is closed and He has provided everything we need in life to live according to His will through His Word and the giving of His Holy Spirit to all who are believers in Christ. 

As mentioned, the argument is always that the Bible itself provides evidence for the use of tradition and that somehow those examples are placed above the authority of God’s Word.  In this argument, I’ve yet to hear mention of the passage from Mark 7:1-13 which is a direct and explicit mention of the traditions of men.  Here is the passage:

1 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash.  And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.  5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

   “‘This people honors me with their lips,
   but their heart is far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
   teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

 9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”‘ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

 Jesus is confronting the Pharisees about the weight that they place on their own tradition over the commandments of God, i.e. His Word.  He is rebuking them for their many traditions that they have passed down and expressly states that in following the traditions of men they have made “void the word of God.”  Now I ask, could there be a more clear warning of the danger of that comes with placing tradition above God’s Word?  Here is the question that must be asked by those who hold tradition over Scripture, how can fallible, fallen men, who have clearly proceeded incorrectly in their traditions, as rebuked by Christ and defined in Mark 7, be assured that any future traditions are likewise correct?  Are we to assume that this was just a momentary hiccup and that man has somehow regained his footing on upholding all future traditions over Scripture?  Who is left then to define what traditions are to be passed down and followed closely and which ones are to be disregarded as Christ said of those mentioned earlier. 

The Pharisees and those who hold to traditions over Scripture make a decision to choose sola ecclesia over sola scriptura.  The position of sola ecclesia asserts that the church holds the final, infallible authority, not God’s Word.  To claim that the church (i.e. Roman Catholic Church) can somehow hold the position of determining the extent and meaning of tradition while simultaneously defining the extent and meaning of Scripture places them in the awkward position of choosing which to be submissive to.  It certainly cannot be both, so the hand is forced to choose.  Is it tradition or God’s Word?  The Pharisees chose to hold fast to their traditions passed down through the generations over the commandments of the Lord in His Word, just like those today that choose to uphold the traditions of the church over God’s Word.  What this boils down to is man’s interpretations and traditions vs. God’s divinely inspired, inerrant Word.  Let me repeat that, man’s traditions vs. God’s Word.  Let that sink in for a minute, because at its heart this is the fundamentally fatal flaw of many churches and church-goers today.  To place man above God, either in salvation or orthodoxy is the foundation of every heresy from the Apostle Paul’s day until now.

The position of Sola Scriptura is not battling against the existence of tradition in Scripture, but rather it stands against the incorrect weight applied to traditions that are set over and above the Word of God.  It refers to the time when Scripture is complete and God’s Word was no longer being revealed and it simply states that the Bible is sufficient and authoritative.  It alone is all the believer and the Church needs.  Who are you going to trust, men and their traditions or God and His Word? 

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