Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
More on Anti-Calvinism from Paul Owen (III)
09/30/2005 - James WhiteWe now enter into a documentation of the simple exegetical errors made by Dr. Paul Owen, professor at Montreat College, regarding his anti-Reformed readings of these key Johannine texts.
1. Because Baptists do not think in biblical terms about the covenant, they fail to see how Jesus’ allusion to Jeremiah 31:34 in 6:45 enlightens the full scope of 6:37. Some prefer to see here a reference to Isaiah 54:13, but it makes no difference. In either case, it is clear that the entire nation of Israel is being spoken of. And the entire nation of Israel, in both its OT and NT forms, includes elect and reprobate within its number. In either case, it is a reference to every member of the visible Church. The “least of them to the greatest” (Jer. 31:34) is equivalent to the house of Israel (v. 33), and “all your sons” (Isa. 54:13) means ALL the sons of Israel. Therefore, the “drawing” of John 6:44 cannot be limited to the elect, but includes all who are brought by the Spirit into the visible Church through profession of faith (or baptism in the case of their children). Therefore, those whom the Father gives to the Son (6:37) cannot be limited to those who are predestined to glory.Let's begin with the question of the OT source of the citation in John 6:45; then we will note that Owen disconnects the citation from the context and flow of thought, doing what all non-Reformed interpreters must, that is, read the flow of this text backwards.
First, here I produce the relevant phrase from John 6:45, "they shall all be taught by God," and compare it with the relevant sections of Isaiah 54:13 and Jeremiah 31:34:
|John 6:45||kai. e;sontai pa,ntej didaktoi. qeou/|
|Isaiah 54:13||kai. pa,ntaj tou.j ui`ou,j sou didaktou.j qeou/|
|Jer 31:34||kai. ouv mh. dida,xwsin e[kastoj to.n poli,thn auvtou/ kai. e[kastoj to.n avdelfo.n auvtou/ le,gwn gnw/qi to.n ku,rion|
As can be easily seen, there is barely a verbal parallel to Jeremiah 31:34 (which Owen presented in his first article without even noting that this is a far stretch), but the connection to Isaiah is clear. It is not that "some prefer" seeing the connection to Isaiah: how can one even dispute the fact? It is more likely Owen was simply in error at first and is unwilling to admit it. ...
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More on Anti-Calvinism from Paul Owen (II)
09/29/2005 - James WhiteI continue providing a response to the anti-Calvinistic interpretation of Jesus' promises to His people in John provided by Paul Owen, a man who claims to be a Calvinist but whose writings and agenda is opposed, clearly, to the proclamation of God's free and sovereign grace. We continue with Owen's words:
God actually makes promises to people, and gives benefits to people, who fail to receive the benefit in a true and lasting manner due to apostasy. This is why Matthew 13:41 says that some reprobates will be gathered “out of” Christ’s kingdom in the final judgment. To be gathered “out of” a kingdom, you of course have to have first entered “into” the kingdom. So some reprobates do enter the kingdom of heaven for a season.This "non-elect Christian" concept (seen, in a fashion, in the debate with Douglas Wilson last year, in fact), is not only eisegetical in nature (once again, reading this kind of theology into Jesus' words in John 6 or John 10 results in an utter nightmare of contradiction) but it leads to the complete overthrow of the purposes of God's promises. Surely hypocrites and reprobates enter the church: but that does not mean they are united with Christ, are "of" us, are adopted, drawn by the Father, etc. Owen's over-riding theological system leads to a complete "leveling" of the promises of God so that what is outwardly offered to the reprobate in the general commandments of God becomes equal to the personal promises of adoption and salvation that are the possession of the elect alone.
This is also why Paul says in Romans 9:4 that adoption as sons, the covenants and the promises (sealed in covenant signs) still belong to the Jewish people (cf. 11:28), though only the elect within Israel receive the benefits of those promises (9:6f.). The rest of the Jews, who reject Christ, are viewed by Paul as apostates, who have been broken off from the benefits of the covenant of grace (11:20). And what is more, it is clear that Paul continues to maintain this same framework in the Church of the New Covenant, for he warns those who have now been grafted into the covenant: “if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off” (Rom. 11:21-22).
These comments take us directly into the long-standing debates at the heart of credo vs. paedobaptism, though it is odd once again to point out that evidently Owen, without coming right out and saying it, thinks Calvin somehow "missed" this reading. And is it not just slightly odd that the results of this reading are diametrically opposed to the central aspect of Calvin's theology, the self-glorification of God in the salvation of the elect? Odd indeed. ...
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Solo Scriptura? Tradition 0?
09/28/2005 - James WhiteThe recent Christian Apologetics Journal review of James White's book The Roman Catholic Controversy has this curious observation made by the reviewer, Ralph MacKenzie:
White states that "the doctrine of sola scriptura is based on the nature of the Scriptures as the Word of God" (62). To demonstrate that this doctrine was held in the church prior to the Reformation, he quotes from Basil of Caesarea (c. A.D. 330-379) (55). Unfortunately, many evangelicals, intent on protecting sola scriptura from its Catholic alternative, have embraced who [sic] Keith A. Mathison terms "solo" scriptura. This is the attempt to interpret without recourse to the ecumenical councils and creeds, classically called the regula fidei ("rule of faith").The observation is curious for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is that it is vague as to whom he is referencing. That is to say that a fair reading could give the idea that MacKenzie is refreshed that Dr. White demonstrated that the early Fathers believed in sola scriptura and that he lamented that some evangelicals fall into the error Mathison articulated. However, a fair reading could also give the impression that MacKenzie is suggesting that Dr. White is adhering to solo scriptura. ...
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More on Anti-Calvinism from Paul Owen
09/26/2005 - James WhiteMany believers wonder why it is that they can read their Bibles and see the clear teaching of Scripture, only to go to the voluminous writings of many in academia and find there a muddle of confusion and conflict. Of course, one can find those eagle-eyed men of God who combine a living faith with their academic study and in their works one can still find the certainty of truth of which Luke spoke (Luke 1:1-4), but their clarion voices are a rarity today, not the norm. The academy produces few Spurgeons today mainly because it most often approaches God's Word as if that Word is merely a collection of human opinions, human writings, that are inconsistent with one another and hence cannot speak with authority and power.
On the other end of the spectrum you have those who enshrine their tradition as if it is, in fact, the Word of God, and cannot interact with the text on any level, cannot allow for meaningful and serious exegesis, etc., like Dave Hunt, and the many who have swallowed his anti-Calvinism hook, line, and sinker. Both extremes are unworthy of the truth of Scripture.
A few days ago I noted Steve Hays' comments on Paul Owen's "I'm a Calvinist but I will now attack the heart and soul of Reformed faith by providing eisegetical readings of Scripture passages that, though I know Calvin did not read them this way, I do, and think Calvin should have as well" blog entries. I likewise took half of the last Dividing Line to compare and contrast Calvin's comments on John 6 with Owen's anti-Calvinistic reading. It is instructive to examine how a man who clearly views himself as a leading scholar, a man of great self-professed intellect and training, deals with the refutations that have been offered of his errors. And to that I now turn.
In two previous posts, I have argued (against Calvin’s exegesis, though not his theological system) that John 6:37 and 10:26-28 make better sense as covenantal statements than statements about the elect (in the sense of those secretly predestined to glory).One would think that Calvin would have seen these texts with the clarity Owen possesses if, in fact, Owen has properly understood Calvin's "system," which a number of Presbyterians have affirmed Owen does not. ...
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Amazing Foolishness from Spong
09/24/2005 - James WhiteWell, I guess nothing coming from John Shelby Spong can be "amazing," since his entire career has been founded upon the most outrageous claims all arising from his inveterate hatred of "fundamentalism" which, in reality, is simply his way of referring to anything that takes Scripture seriously and proclaims anything even slightly akin to "the gospel." But you still have to simply shake your head at his ability to be outrageous in any context.
Bill McKeever dropped me a link to Spong's eulogy of Robert Funk, the co-founder of the Jesus Seminar--the same man who had told me to go to hell and hung up on me on a radio program back in 1989. Ironically, at one point, Spong says,
Bob Funk refused to live inside such boundaries or to accept such limitations. He seems to have agreed with my great teacher, Clifford Stanley, who was fond of saying, "Any God who can be killed ought to be killed." He had little patience "for suffering fools," either long or gladly.
Yes, well, we know that Bob Funk found the gospel and the cross to be foolishness, to be sure (talk about prophecy fulfilled---indeed, read all of Spong's eulogy in light of 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5 and you'll be truly amazed, and probably a bit edified, too). But earlier on Spong had written these words:
Despite these storms, Funk persevered in his lonely but compelling task. Established old-line religious leaders such as the evangelical N. T. (Tom) Wright of England and the Roman Catholic Luke Timothy Johnson of Atlanta built their careers attacking his initiatives. Perfuming their irrational conclusions with the odor of respectability, Wright defended the literal accuracy of the details of the biblical story and Johnson defended the authority of an infallible papacy. Each reacted to Funk with the hysteria of a stuck and squealing pig.
Now, there are many things Tom Wright says that cause me to shake my head, but this kind of utterly irrational caricaturization of his responses to the Jesus Seminar, along with the sober, insightful criticisms of Luke Timothy Johnson, once again illustrates how far removed from any semblance of truth Spong lives. I can't imagine a more blinding illustration of the utter irrationality of the extreme left, represented by Spong, than a debate would provide wherein the man would actually have to answer direct questions (remember what happened to Barry Lynn?). Who knows, maybe, someday.... :-)
A Presbyterian Statement from the Past (1845)
09/22/2005 - James WhiteThe following can be found here.
The question presented to this Assembly by Overture from the Presbytery of Ohio, 'Is Baptism in the Church of Rome Valid?' is one of a very grave character, and of deep practical importance. The answer to it must involve principles vital to the peace, the purity, and the stability of the church of God.
After a full discussion carried through several days, this Assembly has decided, by a nearly unanimous vote, that baptism so administered, is not invalid.
Because, since baptism is an ordinance established by Christ in his Church, (Form of Gov., chap. vii; Matt. xxviii. 19, 20,) and is to be administered only by a minister of Christ, duly called and ordained to be a steward of the mysteries of God, (Directory, chap. viii, sec. 1.) it follows that no rite administered by one who is not himself a duly ordained minister of the true Church of God visible, can be regarded as an ordinance of Christ, whatever be the name by which it is called, whatever the form employed in its administration. The so-called priest of the Romish communion are not ministers of Christ, for they are commissioned as agents of the papal hierarchy, which is not a Church of Christ, but the Man of Sin, apostate from the truth, the enemy of righteousness and of God. She has long lain under the curse of God, who has called his people to come out from her, that they be not partakers of her plagues.
It is the unanimous opinion of all the Reformed churches, that the whole papal body, though once a branch of the visible church, has long since become utterly corrupt, and hopelessly apostate. It was a conviction of this which led to the reformation, and the complete separation of the reformed body from the papal communion. Luther and his coadjutors, being duly ordained presbyters at the time when they left the Romish communion, which then, though fearfully corrupt, was the only visible church in the countries of their abode, were fully authorized by the word of God, to ordain successors in the ministry, and so to extend and perpetuate the Reformed churches as true churches of Christ: while the contumacious adherence of Rome to her corruptions, as shown in the decisions of the Council of Trent, (which she adopts as authoritative,) cuts her off from the visible Church of Christ, as heretical and unsound. This was the opinion of the Reformers, and it is the doctrine of the Reformed churches to this day. In entire accordance to this is the decision of the General Assembly of our Church, passed in 1835, (See Minutes of General Assembly, vol. 8, p. 33) declaring the Church of Rome to be an apostate body.
The decision by the Assembly of 1835 renders the return of a negative to the inquiry proposed by the Presbytery of Ohio indispensable on the ground of consistency; unless we be prepared to admit, in direct contradiction to the standards of the Presbyterian Church, that baptism is not an ordinance established by Christ in his Church exclusively and that it may be administered by an agent of the Man of Sin, an emissary of the prince of darkness; that it may be administered in sport or in blasphemy, and yet be valid as though administered by a duly commissioned steward of the mysteries of God. ...
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Hays Unmasks Owen
09/19/2005 - James WhiteI'm glad Steve Hays has more time these days than I do. He's on top of the eisegetical nightmares Paul Owen is posting, and here is the newest. Well named, "The Enemy Within." Owen is demonstrating he is anything but what he claims to be, that is for certain. Once again, I wonder when other folks will start to put together the big picture of Owen's agenda? Read this stuff, read his comments on Catholicism, on Mormonism, and Baptists. It's really not that hard to figure out. Honest.
Today on the Dividing Line
09/15/2005 - James WhiteTook calls at the beginning of the show then had to rush, too much, I fear, through reading Calvin's comments on John 6:37ff so as to contrast them with those of Paul Owen and his "Covenantal" (Eisegetical) reading of the same passage. Lord willing and I ever clear my desk so as to get to the John 6 project, I will surely include that amazing "reading" in the section to be examined and refuted. Here is the program.
BTW, I mentioned this graphic that appeared in the CRI Journal. I got the official word on it after the program. It was meant to show a progression of issues: Smith (controversy clearly outside the Church), Jakes (I would argue he's just as much outside the Church as Smith, but I guess the idea is he's on TBN and all over the media, so its more of an internal issue) and Calvin representing an internal controversy that should be discussed. That is my paraphrase. I think the folks at CRI should get that typed up and ready to mail out with regularity, since the conjunction of Smith, Jakes, and Calvin, did not communicate that idea to me, even after I tried to find something in the article that would remove the "fingernails on a chalkboard" effect of the graphic. Put your favorite theologian in Calvin's position, even if you are not Reformed, and you might get the idea. In any case, there's the official explanation. Now, let's get CRI to do an exegetical debate between myself and 1) Norman Geisler, 2) Dave Hunt, 3) William Lane Craig, 4) Paul Owen, 5) WHOEVER, on John 6 for a future edition of the Journal. Start with exegetical presentations in Part I; then provide critiques of the other's presentation in the next edition. That would be great.
09/07/2005 - James WhiteThe fresh, crisp air of Alaska, normally in the mid 50's, was quite the contrast to the current 102 degrees here in Phoenix, as I knew it would be. But, such joyous experiences only last so long, and now it is back to so many other projects and tasks. My next trip will take me up to speak in the chapel services of Moody Bible Institute in just a few weeks, something I am truly looking forward to.
So I start trying to catch up with what has been going on while I'm gone, and once again I am struck by the fact that some folks just can't stand me, no matter what I am saying or doing. For the past few months I have been focused upon one particular topic, that being the debates with John Dominic Crossan and all the issues related to apologetic response to the most extreme forms of destructive criticism (i.e., the Jesus Seminar), such as the Synoptic field. And so I haven't mentioned men like Timothy Enloe in quite some time (last notice was simply a long recounting of his own vitriolic posting on a Catholic web board), and it has been months since I dared type the name "Internet Monk" on this blog. Yet, while I was away defending the historicity of the gospels and the resurrection of Christ, both made either direct, or veiled, references to yours truly.
Others have already documented, once again, the inconsistencies and repetitive chanting endemic to Enloe's materials. But one thing that keeps catching my attention in his voluminous chatter is his deep, deep insecurity regarding how to handle and interpret the Word of God. He obviously has no facility in the field, knows it, and hence has decided it is a bad thing to be trained to do so; and what is worse, he has decided that he will dishonestly misrepresent the study of exegesis in almost every single thing he writes as a cover for his own incapacities. No matter how many times he is exposed on this matter, he has adopted the mindset of men like Art Sippo, or Dave Hunt, both of whom likewise cover over their inability to deal with exegetical issues with the same straw-man hysterics. The shrill rhetoric he employs is so transparently fallacious it is no wonder he only uses it in contexts where he knows he is in friendly company: you will never see Enloe facing myself or Eric Svendsen or David King or anyone else in public. This kind of bravado only exists behind a keyboard that is located in the wilderness of Idaho: ...
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Predestined: Personal or Generic? (Part III)
09/05/2005 - James WhiteConcluding Thoughts
God has no obligation to predestine anyone in the first place. The astonishing reality is not that God has only elected some to be saved but that he would elect anyone in the first place! So, if God has no obligation to save anyone, then why are there folks that object to God's gracious choice in election? I will let you in on a little secret: These folks down deep inside believe that grace is only grace if its given to all people. Yes, I know what you are thinking, 'But that defeats the very meaning of grace.' Exactly, grace is undeserved. So, if God chooses to give one person electing grace, he is not required to give someone else this same grace. 'But thats not fair!' someone may object. That's right, its not fair--its called grace. We don't want God to be fair! We want him to be merciful. If God was fair with us, we would all get our just due: to perish eternally in our sins.
It is like the guilty man who was just pardoned from death row; rather than praising and thanking the governor for his mercy, he points his finger at him and says, 'How dare you pardon me and not everyone else!' What would we say about such an individual? We would say that person is a fool in the most serious sense of the term. Likewise, the Christian is foolish to point his finger at God and demand that he have the same salvific grace on everyone.
Just as the word pardon should be the sweetest of all words for a guilty person on death row, so should it be for the Christian who hears the Biblical words election or predestination. They should be the sweetest and most joyful words to the Christian's ears! It was for the apostle Paul. And yet, sadly, these precious Biblical words such as election and predestination are disdained by many Christians.
Either God's freedom in salvation to bestow grace to whomever he chooses is such that is crushes the pride of man, or this truth hardens mans detestation for God's freedom and builds his pride up even more--there is no neutral effect on any person who encounters this truth (or reading this article).
Most churches (traditions) ignore this most awesome truth, or at best, give lip service to it. But when an individual Christian meets this truth head on, they are either humbled in such a way that they will never see the Creator and themselves the same way ever again, or, they will stiffen their knees and refuse to bow to the freedom of God by making desperate arguments to protect their own so called libertarian free-will.
One day when we are all around the throne of God, there will not be anyone standing up saying, I am so glad that I chose God. My friends, on that day everyone will know who chose who---and they will be on their faces worshiping that One.
Predestined: Personal or Generic? (Part II)
09/04/2005 - James WhiteBiblical Data that Teaches God Predestined Individuals
Does Scripture only teach that God predestined a plan and purpose and not individuals? Lets jump into the Biblical evidence,
2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
Here in the clearest of terms, Paul is telling the Thessalonians that the cause of their salvation is the action of God choosing them. Notice it says, "God chose you [individuals] to be saved." It does not say, "God chose only a plan of salvation with the hopes that one day you would be part of this plan." And yet, there are those that would want us to believe this, contrary to the plain meaning of Paul's words.
The English translation here properly reflects the underlying Greek. The personal pronoun 'you' is in the accusative case, which means it is the object of the action of the verb 'chose.' God is the subject and the 'you' is the direct object receiving the action of 'chose.'
Further, notice that salvation is 'through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.' Let me stop here a moment and explain an important truth. Paul understands that salvation involves all the work of the Spirit in regeneration, conversion, justification, sanctification, glorification, etc. Salvation or election is not equated with 'justification' (being declared righteous before God). Though justification is part of our salvation it is not the whole of our salvation.
I have heard it said, 'If God predestines people to be saved then why live a holy life?' That question demonstrates a deep misunderstanding of what election means. That is like asking, 'If God predestined us to live holy, then why live holy?' Election once again is not simply the initial work of God in justification but involves all the stages of our salvation, including sanctification. ...
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Predestined: Personal or Generic? (Part I)
09/03/2005 - James WhiteGuest blogger Alan Kurschner addresses "How to Refute the God only predestined a planof salvation and not a people objection to Election."
Placing this Objection in a Context
Many people are comfortable with allowing God to be sovereign in matters such as nature, answering prayer, ordaining a plan of salvation, etc. But for some reason they are averse to the thought of a sovereign God penetrating the will of man. They think that it is unjust for God to use the will of man for his purposes. God, I am glad that you are sovereign and in control of things, but you have no right to touch the will of man. It is usually not said this bluntly, but essentially this is what they are saying.
So, these folks have a dilemma when they come across terms in the Bible such as 'predestination,' 'election,' and 'chosen.' How do they explain away these terms to protect their so-called autonomous will? Sometimes they may phrase it this way, God predestined a plan (or purpose) so that people can be saved. Notice the "so that." People are not actually saved but salvation is only made possible. I have also heard it said ambiguously, God predestined salvation. Now, does this mean that God predestined salvation as a plan, or does this also include individuals in that plan? We are not told. ...
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Dishonest Dave Strikes Again
09/02/2005 - James WhiteEven the great distance of being in Skagway, Alaska, cannot protect me from rolling my eyes in simple disbelief and, I admit, no small amount of disgust, at the utter unwillingness of Dave Hunt to simply be honest in his continued attacks upon the sovereign kingship and freedom of God in salvation. I pull down my e-mail here on the ship and find Hunt's newsletter, and what do I find, but another "lets beat up this strawman I have built of Calvinism" piece once again. Nothing new, of course---Dave knows better than to actually try to engage the refutations of his work, since he knows he has no answers---but instead of just shutting up and moving on to other areas, he keeps wacking away at the cartoon he has made and calls Calvinism. Here's just one portion of his diatribe:
You cite Eph 2:8-9, but faith there is not the gift -- salvation (the subject of the entire passage) is the gift of God. Faith is a feminine noun, while the demonstrative pronoun that ("it is" is not in the Greek) is neuter and could not refer to faith. The Greek will not permit "faith" to be the gift. Moreover, "your faith" ("according to your faith" - Mt 9:29; Rom 1:8; 1 Cor 15:17, etc.) is found 24 times; "thy faith" 11 times; and the disciples are rebuked for not having faith, etc. These are odd expressions, if faith is not one's own but only from God.What is simply amazing here is that the following appeared in Debating Calvinism. Did Hunt even bother to read what I wrote? At times, I seriously doubt it. But if he did, how can he ignore the following which appeared in that very book? ...
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An Insight from Tom Ascol
09/02/2005 - James WhiteLast evening Tom Ascol of Founders Ministries led our "theology talk" time. At one point he mentioned a text that I had never seen in the light in which he placed it. Possibly that is because it is often passed over because it is in the "end stuff" of 1 Corinthians, I don't know. But here's the passage:
1 Corinthians 16:8-9 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.Paul has been in Ephesus for quite some time, but he planned on staying, for a "wide door for effective work has opened to me." That part we can understand. The Lord had opened a door, had given Paul success in reaching people and in establishing the church in Ephesus (as we can clearly see later in Acts 20 when the elders of that well-established church meet with him, and decades later, that same church is addressed by the Lord Jesus in Revelation 2:1-7). It is easy to stay in a place when things are going well. But is that really all Paul is referring to? Not at all, for directly connected to these words we find, "and there are many adversaries." The term used here, avntikei,menoi, can just as easily be translated "enemies." This is the same term Paul used in writing to the Philippians:
Philippians 1:27-28 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents-- which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.For many today, it is the lack of adversaries, opponents, or enemies, that indicates one is being effective. But Paul has no such view of the Christian ministry. He well knew the response the gospel receives from the unregenerate man and how there can be no neutrality regarding the claims of Christ. And so when he speaks of a door wide open, he is not saying there are no obstacles to going through that door; he is not saying that he has found a nice, peaceful place to work where no one objects and no one attacks and no one opposes. Instead, he has truly come to a point of Christian maturity in ministry: he realizes that where there are many opponents, the gospel is being clearly understood and proclaimed. He embraced those opponents, he did not flee from them.
I could not help but thinking about how easy it is to find opponents a reason to complain to God. Surely the Psalmist did many times, but normally that was in reference to their unjustly accusing him of evil. Paul stayed right where he knew the enemy was most active, for where else can the soldier give due service in the cause of the truth? I am sure in his flesh Paul desired to "get away" just like anyone else: but he stayed in Ephesus, he pursued the open door of ministry, he faced his many opponents, his many enemies. He refused to turn tail and run. ...
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