Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Part 6 Introduction
Lesson 151 – Faith-Rest Drill
28 Sep 2000
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We’re working through Acts as sort of a preliminary to our time in the New Testament and Church Age this year, and I’m doing this because I think it’s important to watch how a Biblical Framework is actually used. The approach that I’ve adopted over the years here isn’t something that I just dreamed up. It’s something that emerges when you look at how the great authors of Scripture, when they gave addresses, Stephen in Acts 7, Paul in Acts 17, if you watch how the biblical leaders handled themselves in a public discussion of the faith you will observe that they utilized this sequence of events, the doctrines that they obtained from the Word of God and from history. Once again we are going to go back to Acts 17 and you’ve been given an outline in which I’m trying to show you how Paul is utilizing this frame of reference.
Before we get to that, we handed out a little tract, Christian at Ease, which is really a condensation of a larger publication Bob Thieme did many, many years ago. I asked if you would look carefully at one part of that booklet, pages 15-17. One of the reasons I’ve always respected Bob Thieme as a teacher of the Word is because he actually, back 50 years ago when he started his ministry, he was one who brought into the pulpit an unabashed use of the biblical languages. It was thought to be sort of not appropriate to do, and he proved that it is appropriate to do and what was so funny about those years when he did that was that he had come out of World War II where he had trained soldiers. He became a lieutenant colonel at 26, which shows you if you know anything about the military that’s a very unusual career, promotion to be a lieutenant colonel at 26, most people are 46 before they make that. His strength has always been bringing clarity of military procedures into the pulpit, and this affects some people one way and affects a lot of people another way. But on pages 15-17 of this pamphlet is an illustration of what he does.
In this particular section, I’m going to follow these three steps but I’m going to add something that is not in the pamphlet. That is going to be something that I want you to see about the framework before we go any further, because it dawns on me that when we put the apologetic components into this three-fold cord that cannot quickly be broken …. Remember we said that our approach in the framework is to go through the biblical stories which give us history, actual objective history, and by doing that that takes it out of the subjective. It’s no longer your personal experience, my personal experience, or anybody else’s personal experience. It’s public history, objective history.
The second thing that we said, we always bring out the biblical truth, the Bible doctrine. The third thing we said was that we always try to oppose the biblical doctrine with unbelief, and I think you learn better. I’ve always learned better when there was a debate, when there was something active going on, not just sitting there passively taking in what is truth when we don’t even know what isn’t truth. So the apologetic dimension is important and it’s dawning on me that actually it’s also important for us in our personal lives because when we struggle with temptations or we struggle with lack of faith in our lives, what are we really struggling with? We’re struggling against the spirit of this world. What is it that comes to verbalization in the mouth of the pagans? The spirit of this world. It’s the same thing.
So whereas when we start looking at Acts 17, we are looking at a public hearing, a confrontation between a representative of Jerusalem, Paul, and the representatives of Athens standing for the highest pagan culture and they’re in collision in a public hearing. We’re going to watch how in collision they are, but this collision is not something that you and I aren’t connected with. It’s too dangerous to look at Acts 17 and say well gee, that’s a public hearing, and I’m not the apostle Paul and gee, that doesn’t really apply because I’d never be in that situation. Bologna! We’re in that same position daily because we’re coming up against the spirit of this world, so it’s the same sort of thing. That’s the component I want to add to this faith-rest drill.
On page 15 of Christian at Ease the first point in this drill is …, again this is a suggested procedure, but his first point here is “claim a promise,” nothing radical about that, Christians have been doing that for a number of centuries. But if you look further, just above where you see step one there’s a sentence that’s very important, and if you look down where it says “there are three steps to faith-rest. These form an effective drill to follow. Shock or pressure ….” See that sentence, shock or pressure, now watch it because remember here’s a guy who’s trained soldiers to go into battle and he knows what he’s talking about and over the years he’s watched the analogue in the Christian life, same thing. “Shock or pressure may cause your emotions to rise up and revolt within your soul.” By that he means out of control, where the emotions so dominate that you can barely think. That’s what he’s talking about, that condition. “This may destroy your concentration and temporarily obliterate the Bible doctrine you’ve learned.” I think we’ve all been in that situation. That is not too hard to conceive of. So we all know what he’s talking about.
That’s the point of step one, is that in step one there’s nothing that’s involved that’s deep at that point. Step one of the faith-rest drill is simply to grab a promise that happens to be floating around in your mind, obviously there has to be something in your mind to grab hold of and there should be some promises there. You grab one of those things and as he says under step one, “Recall a promise from the Word of God, think of what the promise means. Realize from divine viewpoint your situation is not hopeless, God is still in control and as always He has you in His heart.” Now the last sentence of that section, “This realization quiets your fears and enables you to use the Bible doctrine you do know.”
The act, that first step in the faith-rest drill, of going to deliberately claim a promise is a choice; it is a choice to step out of the chaos of emotion and do something. Right there your choice is being exercised. Right at that point you’re not going for broke, you’re not getting involved in a big deep thing, it’s just getting the chooser to focus on a fragment of the Word of God that happens to be around, because that first act, that first step of the faith-rest drill, is what permits you to go to step two. Obviously you can’t go to step two until you do step one, and step one is that process, it’s a choice; it’s a choice to say wait a minute, by choice I am going to grab hold of a fragment of Scripture that is in my heart.
Once that choice is made and you’ve got a grip on it, now we use the promise in a rationale. Here’s where the frame of reference comes into play, because like he says, “Every biblical promise is backed by a doctrine or a series of doctrines. Your faith …,” and then he goes on, he says “the logical process of moving toward a biblical conclusion.” So at step two, after you’ve climbed out of the river of emotions to at least claim something, you’ve got the something, now what do you do with the something, this Scripture fragment? This is where you start to tie it in with various ways.
He suggests several rationales, the last paragraph on page 16, and these are good rationales. I’m going to illustrate one of them for you tonight, but these are very legitimate rationales. What I’m going to do since we’ve gone through the Framework, I want to show you how you can go back to the Framework and you can pull these pieces out.
In this last paragraph on page 16 he lists three rationales; one, “the logistical grace rationale.” What does he mean by logistical grace? What do you mean by logistics? Supply, God supplies our needs. So in that rationale you focus on God’s grace in supplying your needs. That’s why he calls this “the logistical grace rationale.”
Think how God supplied Israel in the desert with shoes, God supplied them with manna, God supplied them with clothes that didn’t wear out, God supplied David. You can rehearse all the supply, all the manifestation of God’s logistical grace that you observe in Scripture. We are not using examples out of the New Testament; we are going to use examples out of the Old Testament.
The second rationale in that same paragraph, you’ll see where he goes, he says “the plan of God rationale.” That’s another approach. There’s as many approaches as there are people here; these aren’t exhaustive, these are suggestions. So if you go the plan of God rationale you think about God’s overall program from eternity to eternity.
Remember the call of Abraham; the call of Abraham elected Abraham out of the paganization of society, the paganization of civilization and God started a counterculture, and God promises that He has a plan for the salvation of man, and that plan is not going to stop because Satan objects to it. The gates of hell are not going to prevail against it, and God’s plan is going to go on and will be finished, period, no impediments. That’s the plan of God rationale.
Go back up to the last sentence before this paragraph where he says “your faith-rest becomes more effective as it clings to a larger rock, as it weaves into a thicker rope, as it claims a whole complex of basic Bible doctrines.” This is where the energy and the strength comes from the faith. You grab the promise first, but you don’t stop there by just grabbing the promise, you use that as a handle so that now the brain starts working instead of emoting, and now it’s capable of passing to stage two which is to start thinking through these things and reviewing them. So here he says “the essence of God rationale,” that’s the third one, that’s another approach you can use. What is the essence of God rationale? To go through the attributes of God.
When we were raising our children one of the things Carol did every night was she had this little song she made up and she sang the attributes of God to all four of those boys. When they were out in the street, when they were with their grandmother, when they were out with kids, they’d come out with omniscience, omnipresence, and everything else and everybody is wondering where did they learn those. But they not only learned the words, they knew what it meant. Today they’d have to have the ACLU give them permission to do that. The point is that recital over and over and over, the essence of God, God is omniscient, God is omnipotent, etc. Yeah, it’s drill, yeah, it’s repetition, but here’s why Bob is very effective in his teaching technique, particularly in those years of the 60s and 70s, because he emphasized repetition.
How do military people train? By repetition, over, and over, and over. Why do they train over and over, and over? So it becomes automatic. Why do they want everything automatic? Because in the middle of a conflict when the bullets are flying around you don’t have time to think, you only have time to react. And if there’s an emergency or there’s something like that you have to have those responses groomed in, and that only happens by drill, drill, drill, and more drill. That’s why he’s going into this drill thing. And these rationales, he has the first one, the logistical grace rationale, there’s number one; there’s the plan of God rationale, and now it’s the essence of God rationale. Those are ways of interlocking the promise of God onto a base of truth.
Let’s take a promise. Turn in the Old Testament, Isaiah 40, a great chapter in the Old Testament. This would be a typical promise that we might remember. I never can remember them in the new translations because as a young Christian I learned a lot of these when I was reading the King James so it’s easier for me to remember the King James than the new translation. Isaiah 40:29-31 is a promise series, it’s been in Navigators, in Bible memory courses, somewhere along the line you’ve run across this, it’s a very familiar one. “He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.  Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly,  yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”
There’s a promise. In an actual situation in life you may not remember all that promise. You might remember just a fragment of it. Say, for example, you remember verse 29, He gives strength to them that have no might, and that’s all you can think of, you can’t even think of the rest of it, but you’ve at least got a fragment to grab hold of in that situation. Having grabbed hold of that, what’s the next thing? We start developing a rationale. Verses 29-31 in context is this promise, but the Word of God itself provides a rationale in this case and that’s why I wanted to take you to this passage because if you back up one verse, there’s the rationale. And you see how neatly the prophet Isaiah locked verse 29, verse 30 and verse 31 to verse 28. In verse 28, what doctrine is that? Think of the event. “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, the creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.” There are two things to notice about this, well, several things to notice.
First, this is the Creator/creature rationale; there it is again, the Creator/creature difference. And it’s said that the Creator of the ends of the earth, that’s the extremities of the earth, it means He created the whole thing, “The everlasting God,” that’s an emphasis on, because of the Creator/ creature distinction, the fact that He’s eternal, and what is the creature? The creature is temporal. So let’s walk through verse 28 and watch the logic, which is the rationale behind the promise of verses 29-31. “The everlasting God, the LORD, the creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired,” what divine attribute? Omnipotence, so now we’ve added to the Creator/creature distinction, we’ve shown here that God is eternal, we’ve added to that God is omnipotent. What is the human analogue of omnipotence? We’re made in God’s image, we’re finite replicas, what do we have in our lives that correspond to His omnipotence … corresponds, is not equal to? Energy. What’s the situation in verses 29-31 with regard to energy? The tanks run low, not much energy. So what does the Word of God say, what attribute in particular is brought into play here? God’s omnipotence. Why is that?
But you see there’s a rationale here, the Holy Spirit wrote the text, He takes the problem that is being dealt with in verses 29-31, He immediately, of all the attributes of God He grabs the one that’s exactly opposite to the situation and brings it in here. The one’s hurting, it’s the tiredness, it’s the fatigue, it’s the lack of energy, I can’t go on any more, I’m phasing out here, and what does He do? He focuses it from the creature back onto the Creator and causes us to behold His omnipotence, “He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we could ask or think.”
What is the second attribute that you notice in verse 28? After God’s omnipotence, what’s the next one that you see there? Omniscience. In other words, “His understanding is inscrutable,” it’s incomprehensible. That’s a puzzle. Why do you suppose, faced with a situation in verses 28-31 that attribute comes up? The Holy Spirit wrote this, He knows what He’s doing. Why did He bring omniscience in? Why didn’t He bring in love, why didn’t He bring something else in? He could have brought any of them in, but why do you suppose in this case omniscience is brought into the situation? Any ideas? [someone answers] Okay, one of the obvious things is omniscience applies immediately because that assures me He understands my situation. That assures me He is aware of my situation.
There’s something else why He brought omniscience in. Not only does He understand my situation, but one of the factors that enervates you when you get exhausted and you get tired, and I think the tiredness in verses 30-31 is a tiredness, a fatigue of the mind. There’s metaphor involved in this, this is not just physical fatigue, it’s fatigue of the whole mind. When you’re in a mode like that, when you’re so tired you just want to give up, the problem often is what, as far as the order, the rationale in our lives? It’s been fractured. What’s terribly thwarting is the chaos level. In other words, it’s not just that you’re tired, it’s the fact that I try to cope with this situation and that goes to pot; I try to go over here and that falls apart, and it’s that thwarting that comes from, you know, what is going on, every plan I make goes to pieces here. That’s what takes us down often.
So what God does here is He brings in the omniscience which assures us … this is almost back to the plan of God rationale, that He does know what He’s doing, He may not share that understanding with us right at this moment, but we know there is a plan and that chaos is apparent, not real. Appearances …, you know things are not as they appear and we have to keep reminding ourselves of that, things are not as they first appear. On the surface they may appear in chaos, but behind the chaos there is a plan. So here’s the rationale developed from the promise that is given here.
Step three in the drill, “Reach doctrinal conclusions. Doctrinal rationales lead to doctrinal conclusions. One of the greatest conclusions is Romans 8:31, “What shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us.” Follow the next paragraph, some important things are said there. “When you move through the faith rest drill, you come to the point where you actually believe the conclusion, rather than merely repeating it by rote.” See what he’s getting at. This is a spiritual transaction, there’s no mechanical drill that can assure this. He puts it in the form of a drill but don’t fool yourself, this is not a psychologically mechanical thing here. There’s a spiritual transform that happens somewhere during this process that explodes into a confidence by step three, a confidence in the Lord; that confidence is what was lacking at point one.
The confidence comes about by cycling the Word of God through your soul, through your mind. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” You may have heard the Word of God 32½ times in the last five months, but at that point it’s down in the basement and we’re floating around grabbing hold of stuff. We’ve just got to grab a fragment and pull it up and start recycling the Word of God through our spirit, our mind. When that happens then we have confidence, we come to a conclusion. It’s not any longer repeated by rote, it’s freely believed.
He adds another practical point. On the bottom of page 17 there’s a sentence that starts, “Faith-rest may take thirty seconds or much longer, depending on numerous factors. You may need to circle back and repeat a stage or start all over from the beginning as fear crops up again.” So this is not a one-shot thing, sometimes it has to recycle, and recycle. But at least if you can grab this concept of the faith-rest drill, this is a problem solving device of the Word of God that we all have, we all are vaguely aware of it, it’s not radically new. The point is there is the three step approach.
On top of that I want to mention something else. I said I would add a dimension to this. When we’re in step two and in step three, if we look at things the way the biblical authors looked at them, including Paul in Acts 17, you will see that something else is also happening. They are not merely cycling the Word of God in their minds, they are actively putting down unbelief, “casting down vain imaginations and every high thing.” [2 Corinthians 10:5] There are two things that are really going on here, and the way to cast it down is to deflate it. The spirit of this world is a windbag, and it can get very big.
I inflate weather balloons at Aberdeen Proving Ground; you inflate one of those suckers with one-third of a cylinder of helium and you’d better hold on because there’s a lot of lift to that thing and it’s big. One clown in L.A., there’s a story, he got a bunch of weather balloons and put on his lawn chair and it took him up to 10,000 feet and he was floating around in air space and he approached the L.A. airport and some pilot didn’t know what to think, what the heck is this I’m seeing, and they had to send a helicopter after this guy and it was a big massive problem. He thought he was just going to boom, boom, boom on the balloons and he forgot that there’s quite a bit of lift in those things. The way you reduce their size is you puncture them.
How do you puncture scary unbelief? The Bible’s answer to that is you expose its foolishness. Unbelief is a cosmic joke and it’s got to be …, the sanctified way of dealing with it is to get to the point where you can, in faith, laugh at it, ridicule it—now isn’t that stupid. In your own heart, not laughing at people, but the fact of the matter is to be able to say now isn’t that idea stupid. But you can’t get there right away until you go through this faith-rest drill because somewhere along this rationale is where that faith is growing to cope with this. When you lock on and you can see that, well, wait a minute, God is the Creator, I’m only a creature, God is omnipotent, God is the source of energy, He never gets tired, and God has a plan for my life, He’s aware of my situation, this is not a crazy situation. To then turn around and say wait a minute, what unbelief is is a set up. Remember the Continuity of Being thing, the idea that the creation, the creature is god, and what did we just say, the creatures can’t be god, look at this creature, this one is all tired, this one doesn’t know what he’s doing and we’re getting tempted to think that we’re god. What a joke.
So along with the positive faith and the Word of God there’s this put down of the spirit of this world that’s going on. And this constant oscillation between confidence in the Word of God and the foolishness and the idiocy of the world is what finally gives you that strength. So yeah, you can be pushed around, you can be shoved around, you can be hurt. It doesn’t mean you don’t get hurt but it means you don’t get totally knocked off your feet thinking that everything’s collapsed, or thinking that the Word of God might not work, it might work for them but it don’t work for me kind of thing. What that process is is actually it’s the work of the apologetic in our hearts.
Now we want to go to Acts 17 and watch how Paul’s dealing with this thing. If you look at the outline we’ll follow him as he goes through this hearing. Keep in mind the perspective, what Paul is doing here. He could have reacted and said you know, I’ve been debating this and gosh, maybe those philosophers in Athens might have some good ideas, I’d better listen to them. Maybe I’m not so sure of what I believe; maybe they’ve come up with something new, maybe I’m screwed up. At that point Paul would start backing up, he’d start treading water. That’s not what’s going to happen here.
ANALYSIS SHEET OF PAUL’S AREOPAGUS SPEECH
|Acts 17 text|| “Jerusalem” – Biblical truth
||“Athens”—pagan deception (Paul’s target)|
|17:22||Creation: all men are God-conscious (doctrine of God, man, nature); establishes true “point of contact” as God-consciousness, NOT common notions||Denies: God-consciousness but admits: some consequences of God-consciousness such as moral judgments and capacity to reason in terms of universal categories|
|17:23||Creation: man limited in knowing (doctrine of God, man, nature)||Denies: need to rely upon source of rationality in the Creator; but admits “gaps” in human knowledge at crucial points|
|17:24-25||Creation: Isaiah 42:5; Exodus 20:11 (Creator/creature distinction); Golden Era of Solomon; 1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 50:12 (“high culture” expression of God-consciousness in terms of architecture and literature||Denies: human capacities for intellectual and imaginative art / architecture / speculation / service derive from Creator; but admits: need to form a “central authority” for ones worldview, define it serve it|
|17:26-27||Creation and Noahic Covenant: Genesis 1:9-10 (rational unity of mankind); Call of Abraham: Genesis 12 cf. Deuteronomy 32:8; Psalm 50:9-12 (purpose of historical experience) (doctrine of God, man, nature) Decline & fall of Kingdom w/Fall: Isaiah 55:6; Jeremiah 23:23; mankind is blind but still God-conscious||Denies: vulnerability of nations in history is due to purpose of Creator; monogenetic origin of all human cultures; but admits: “interbreeding” capacity of all peoples (same kind); vulnerability of civilizations and nation|
|17:28||Creation: image of God in man (doctrine of God and man) emerges in pagan cultural Expressions in spite of suppression of God-consciousness||Denies: likeness to God the Creator but affirms: similarity between man and the gods|
|Decline & Fall of Kingdom: Isaiah 40:18-20 critique of fleshly mind via 2nd commandment but places himself under this authority as well as his hearers (note use of 1st person plural “we”)||Denies; man derives from God the Creator so cannot submit to “outside” revelation but affirms: need to understand the “big picture”|
|17:30||Call of Abraham: Genesis 12: Deuteronomy 4:19 (dispensations of Gentiles and of Israel) Pentecost: Acts 2 (dispensation of the church) (doctrine of missions)||Denies: abnormality of the human intellect & need to radically change total picture; but affirms; (by implication) that human intellect has shown no ability to “get” the big picture by itself without help of that man lives by what he knows to be right|
|17:31||Fall, Resurrection, Ascension: Gospels, Acts 1 (doctrines of glorification, of evil)||Denies: universal and ultimate responsibility of man to his Creator; existence of miraculous workings of Creator in history but affirms: personal sense of guilt, power of empirical observations|
We noticed, if you look on the outline, you’ll notice in Acts 17:22 when he starts out, the column on the left is Jerusalem, the column on the right is Athens. The column on the left is biblical faith; the column on the right is pagan belief. You want to put these against each other and watch what Paul’s doing. He starts in verse 22 and he says of the people in Athens, that they “are very religious.” On the sheet you’ll see “all men”; what is he going back to? Let’s get the picture. He’s going back to the most fundamental thing in our framework; he’s going back to the creation. It’s the creation that he has to go back to in order to be able to talk about the God of the Scriptures. You define God in Scripture. His character is always defined in connection with one of two things, creation or redemption. He is the Lord of the creation or He is the Lord of redemption and that’s how He’s defined.
Paul goes back to creation, so here he goes. The first shot out of the gun in verse 22, he goes back to the very start of the biblical frame of reference. He says, “I observe that you are very religious in all respects.” How does he know that? He’s gone around and he’s looked at statues, he’s gone around and seen the great interest that the Athenians had in trying to solve the problem of existence and meaning. Everywhere, every one of those gods and goddesses is a monument to someone’s attempt to say that’s the key to life, that’s the key! What Paul said is yeah, there’s a key to life, but not that key, but your constant quest artistically, architecturally, spiritually, all of it betrays the fact that you keep denying this, but you’re God-conscious. He knows that because what does the Bible say in Gen. 1 about man? Man is made in God’s image. Does that say only believers are made in God’s image? Does that say only people in church are made in God’s image? No, it says that all men are made in God’s image, including atheists. Atheists are made in God’s image; unbelievers are made in God’s image.
Paul doesn’t fear these people, it’s not some new breed of humanity that’s sort of rabid, that’s not part of the human race. No, they’re part of the human race. And by looking at Scripture and defining God and man in the light of creation, we can approach them on i>our terms, not their terms. We’re not approaching these people as innocently ignorant creatures that are sitting out in the world of dum-dum and never heard about God. They’re not blank slates. There’s a whole theory of education, the tabula rasa, the idea that kids come into the world with a blank slate. They don’t come into the world with a blank slate; they come into the world fully equipped. I don’t know where these guys get doctorates in education; they must never have kids or something. Kids come into the world all equipped and aware of God’s existence.
Remember the story of Helen Keller, blind and her mentor was at one point in that girl’s life saying oh man, now I’m going to have to teach Helen Keller about God? She started to teach her about God and she said I already know about that. How’d she know about God? Nobody had talked to her; she didn’t go to Sunday school. Where did it come from? God-consciousness, man is made in God’s image, he knows he’s made in God’s image; he’s fooling himself to deny it.
Paul brushes it aside, he starts right out in verse 22 with a doctrine of man taken from the divine viewpoint frame of reference, and he says “you are very religious,” and if you look on the chart, what I’ve tried to do on the right side is show the fact that, as I said last time, recognize this about unbelief. Unbelief is structurally hypocritical. I know most of the time they accuse Christians of being hypocrites because we don’t act like Jesus. But that’s not a charge against the irrationality of Christianity; it’s just a charge against our disobedience, that’s all. But that doesn’t invalidate the system. If somebody keeps after you about that hypocrisy you know what you can do? Go right back and say well, you ought to be glad that there’s enough grace that you see, you ought to see me if I wasn’t a Christian. That’s a quick putdown to solve that problem. But the point is that unbelief is structurally hypocritical, it’s always got a lie and a truth. So on the right side in that column opposite verse 22 you’ll see where I said Athens denies God-consciousness.
They have to deny God-consciousness; if you think about it, what would happen if they admitted it? They would have to admit they are personally responsible to God. And they don’t want to do that in unbelief. So unbelief has to deny that it’s conscious of God. It’s got to try to convince itself that, well, I’m not really sure that God exists, it’s not quite clear to me. If that were really true then you wouldn’t be held accountable for disobeying Him. So unbelief has to deny God-consciousness. However, it also has to admit consequences of God-consciousness such as moral judgments and capacity to reason in terms of universal categories. Those are logically there only because we’re made in God’s image. What makes us think of absolute morals? Because we’re made in God’s image and we know intuitively that God is holy, that there are universal moral standards. Everybody knows that, even the drug dealer whose check bounces. And people reason in terms of universal categories. So here they are, denying on the one hand that they’re creatures made in God’s image, denying that they are aware of God, and on the other hand freely using all these absolutes and everything else like they just hang there in thin air, when they only make sense if we’re creatures made in God’s image.
Verse 23, Paul goes further and he says, “For while I was passing through …” and he describes why he concluded what they were doing, and at the end of verse 23 he noted something in their admission, that they admit their knowledge is incomplete. Their knowledge is incomplete! Look at the chart. Paul know this because in the left column, what is the doctrine of creation? The doctrine of creation says man is not God, and his knowledge is therefore limited. So Paul therefore knows; he knows the doctrine of God, man and nature. What does the unbeliever do?
Right column. The unbeliever denies his need to rely upon a source of rationality in the Creator. He believes, and the Athenians were great at this, if there was one civilization on the face of this planet that believed in absolute rational power of the human intellect it was Greeks, so they deny that they had to go outside of their brain to hold onto rationality, that rationality was accessible whether in a Platonic sense or in a more modern sense, rationality is attainable, I don’t need your God, I don’t need God to think. So they deny that they have to have an external source of their rationality. On the other hand they have to admit that there are gaps in their knowledge. But if they admit there are gaps in their knowledge, how can they be sure they have absolute rationality?
So what we’re showing here is the inherent foolishness of unbelief, and Paul knew this. Next time we meet we’re going to go into one more passage in the New Testament where this foolishness theme comes up. It’s going to be a passage of Scripture that was written after this incident in Acts 17. We want to show you how he’s rocking back and forth between truth and deception, between what is solid, believable and I can trust it against that which is absolutely foolish, hypocritical, and self-contradictory.
Verses 24-25, here again he brings in creation. Look at verses 22, 23, and 24 in the column on the left on the sheet and you’ll see creation, creation, creation, doctrine of God, man and nature, doctrine of God, man and nature, doctrine of God, man and nature. What is Paul doing here in this public hearing? He’s utilizing the foundation of the biblical frame of reference. You hear these Christians going around, I don’t believe in creation, I don’t think we should emphasize that, that splits people. What is Paul doing here? Yeah it splits people into believers or unbeliever. You bet, that’s why we use it. Where else do you go to define God? Isn’t it interesting, bang, bang, bang, in this confrontation, creation, creation, creation, creation, hitting them.
Verse 24, “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.” He quotes, at the end of verse 25, He gives all things breath, etc. in verses 24-25 looking at your chart, left column, notice that he also brings in another aspect of Old Testament culture which was the golden era of Solomon. Why does he bring up that? Because that’s when the temple was made and that’s when Solomon prayed the prayer that Solomon does dwell in the temple made with hands. Why does he pick up the golden era of Solomon? Where was the highest culture, biblically, in history? When did biblical faith create a nation and have artistic expression that has never since been seen by the world? The golden era of Solomon. So he’s going through and he’s picking out pieces here and there from the frame of reference, getting his doctrine, putting it in his gun and firing, bang, bang, bang. That’s where he’s getting the bullets. This is the arsenal that he is using to load his weapon as he goes into this confrontation.
Looking on our chart again, on the left column, verses 24-25 he goes to creation. I’ve given you the Old Testament references, the golden era of Solomon, the “high culture” expression of Creator/creature distinction in terms of architecture and literature. On the right column see what the unbeliever is doing. Paul recognizes the inherent hypocrisy of unbelief and he’s attacking it. Unbelief “denies human capacities for intellectual and imaginative art/architecture/service derived from the Creator,” in other words, it gets back to the same thing; these qualities of intellectual and imagination that are used in art and all the rest of the areas of life just somehow are there in the human mind. And yet at the same time the very qualities of intellectual and imaginative art are used to make what he sees all over the streets of Athens? Gods, goddesses, temples. Why are they doing this? Why don’t they build houses? Why are they spending so much time with these gods, goddesses and temples? Because inherently they’re admitting there’s something external to man and I’ve got to get hold of that and I’ve got to make sense of my life, so this is my creation, this is my big worldview, in those cases I carve it in granite. That’s my worldview.
Notice what he’s doing here. We’ve gone through three rows on that chart, verses 22, 23, 24-25; in each case he’s affirming the creation and the creation culture over against the hypocrisy of unbelief. Do you suppose if you did this for about fifteen years that you would be impressed because some unbeliever said something to you? Just think about it. Paul was not intimidated by anybody. That’s why he could be beat and put in jail; go ahead, put me in jail, that’s not going to change my mind, I think you’re stupid and I’ll laugh at you from in jail. And that was the attitude, not demeaning the people but just saying you people are so seriously screwed it’s pathetic, you are pathetic illustrations of what the human race looks like.
It reminds me of the statement that Cal Thomas made when he was interviewed by Phil Donahue years ago. Phil Donahue was yak yakking when the Tammy Baker scandal was going on in evangelicalism, and Donahue had his big finger waving it in Cal’s face about, see you Christians [blank spot] … and said it right on TV. Now sometimes people don’t like that, and I’ll tell you why they don’t like it, because they love to dish it out but they can’t take it when a Christian stands up and puts it right back on them, and it’s time some of us started doing that. It can be done graciously but it can be done firmly.
Paul was not about to back up in a public hearing in Athens. So what he’s doing, he’s going after their whole worldview. He’s not just attacking the way they part their hair, he’s going after their whole world view, right down at the foundation. Remember the illustration of the interior decorator that showed up with a bulldozer. That’s what he’s doing here. When he gets done they don’t have a worldview.
In verses 26-27, read this one. “And He made from one every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation,  that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” That is a direct assault on the Greek view of history in several ways. Go to the chart, fourth row, verses 26-27, left column; notice what he’s bringing up. He doesn’t mention these but the idea is there and I’ll show you where the idea is. In verse 26 where he says “He made from one every nation of mankind,” where does the Bible tell you about the making of every nation? What is that chapter called, it’s a very famous title of a very famous section of the Old Testament? Genesis 10, it’s called the Table of Nations. That’s the outline of history.
WWhen he says “He made from one every nation of man,” what do you suppose he has in mind? The biblical view of history, to live on all the face of the earth. Is he talking about Greeks here? “All the face of the earth,” no, he’s talking about nations, plural, Greeks and non-Greeks, “having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God.” In history when civilization apostatized, what step did God do that’s given in the Old Testament to correct, ameliorate and retard the paganization of Noahic civilization? What was that act? After the flood, after Noah had colonized the earth and defections had begun to happen, what did God do? He called out Abraham. Why did He call Abraham out? To be a vehicle for the preservation of the Word of God and the lineage of the Messiah. So what is the purpose of history then? If the purpose of history were not coming to know God, God would have ended it right here. Why did God bother to call Abraham out? In order to save history, to save man.
So in verse 27 where you have the purpose clause “that,” and by the way, verse 27 ought to be taught in every history course. In all your education and all the hours you spent in a classroom were you ever at any point ever told about the purpose of history? Or were you just fed a pile of facts and expected to burp it up for next week’s test. No wonder nobody wants to learn. Who wants to learn a burp pile of dates that mean nothing? But here is the purpose of history, verse 27, one of the most powerful verses in all the New Testament summarizes it right in one clause. Talk about saving print in a history book; it wouldn’t take one line to put this in there. This is the purpose of history, that men come to know God. And if that’s the purpose of history, then all other parts of history are subsidiary to that. It’s a whole philosophy of history. /p>
Again, looking at the chart, left column, he goes back to creation and the Noahic Covenant, the “racial unity of mankind.” He implicitly is recognizing “the call of Abraham” for the redemption, the “purpose of historical experience, (doctrine of God, man and nature).” And what are the doctrines here in the call of Abraham? The election, justification and faith. The “decline and fall of the kingdom,” because he is quoting the prophets. When it gets into that verse where “if perhaps they might grope for Him” it’s a fourth class “if” in the Greek language, which means probably they’re not going to do it, but it’s the idea that men are blinded, but they still remember there’s something out there, and the picture is a blind man groping. What a flattering picture of history this is to man. If you’re an artist or a cartoonist, and you like to play with cartoons, here’s a challenge for you: draw a cartoon that shows the purpose of history, the blind man groping around. Try to think about how you’d draw that, and if you can, you’ve got the idea of Paul. That’s the purpose of history. We’ve got a group of blind idiots trying to find where the door is.
What an unflattering picture of the human race. If he’s talking about blind people groping, where did he get that from? What part of the divine viewpoint framework do you suppose he went to? He’s quoting from some of the prophets so we know he went down to the Kingdom, the decline and the exile, that’s where he got some of this material from. But this material which talks about sin, chastening, sanctification, that in turn surfaces what earlier doctrine, what earlier event? Where do you trace sin back to? The fall, the origin of evil. So all that’s brought in here.
On the right side, verses 26-27, look what paganism has to do. We’ve seen what Paul was doing, what was the pagan mentality on this? The pagan mind denies the “vulnerability of nations in history is due to the purpose of the Creator,” that’s one thing. They recognized its vulnerability but it’s due to natural clauses, global warming or something, but it’s certainly not due to the purpose of the Creator. Or if you’re a Marxist you think it’s because the bourgeois control all the means of production, some economic force is causing all evil. So men will recognize vulnerability but they will not say that the vulnerability is due to the Creator.
Moreover, they would deny the monogenetic origin of human cultures. Most pagan positions have historically held to a polygenetic origin of the human race—polygenetic, many genetics, in other words you had this race, this race, this race, I don’t know where they all came from, maybe this one came from white monkeys and that one came from black monkeys. The human race had different origin points. They’re getting away from that now because of genetics, but in previous times it was thought to be polygenetic, in other words, the human raced had evolved from many branches on the tree. This is the arrogance of the Western white European where he thought he could go and conquer the whole world and put everybody else, with brown and black skin under him because after all, they were earlier throwbacks. It was a very Victorian era of progress myth. The monogenetic origin of the human race means Adam and Eve. But they deny this.
Now go to verse 28; verse 28 is problematical. This is often misunderstood in commentaries. Some commentators have argued that in verse 28 Paul is using pagan writers to show that they were aware of truth, and that they promulgated truth as far as they went and Paul says okay, you’ve come this far, now we’re going to move you further, so he makes two quotes, if you have study Bibles you’ll see that he’s quoting here two Greek writers, actually three Greek writers, the second quote occurs in two different writers. The problem with that is that these guys were Stoics, and the quotes that are in verse 28, in context, talk about Zeus, and in context depict a pagan, almost pantheistic worldview. So if you’re going to argue that the verse 28 citations are affirming the validity of the writers you’ve got a big problem; you can’t do it too hard because if you do it too hard you’re going to say does Paul affirm the paganism of these guys? I don’t think so, knowing Paul. So there’s some other way you’ve got to interpret verse 28. [“for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His offspring.’”]
TThe best way of interpreting verse 28 is to see verse 28 as an illustration of verse 27, always go back to context. What was the last clause in verse 27 talking about? Blind men groping after God. Verse 28 starts with F-o-r, “For”—here’s an illustration of blind men groping after God. What he’s quoting in verse 28 is the pagan poets to show that these guys were blind men groping, i.e., they had in the back of their heads enough God-consciousness to know there was something out there, but that because they were unbelievers they were suppressing the truth and came out with nonsense. What he does then is he quotes from a pagan writing, actually two pagan writings, to show that in the middle of the paganism there is a searching for an answer other than paganism. These are blind men groping. It’s not that he’s affirming in verse 28 the validity of what they’re doing. He’s simply giving illustrations of verse 27.
He concludes in verse 29 with a conclusion saying that if we really are offspring of God, and your pagan writers keep thinking of man as sort of similar to the gods and kind of related to them, he says if we’re related to them, why do you think they’re results of man? Look at the end of verse 29, “Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.” Look at the last clause because that’s the heart of his point; how can you argue that the gods who were formed by the art and thought of man, how can you argue that if we’re His offspring we’re an offspring of our own offspring. That’s what he’s arguing, he says how foolish. Your gods and goddesses you’re saying you create out of your own hands. You have to admit, who built the Parthenon? It wasn’t built by Zeus? Who carved all those statutes? They didn’t carve themselves; you carved them with your own hands. Having said that, why then in your pagan writings you’re always talking about, well, we’re the offspring of the gods, we come out of them. But they’re coming out of you. So really verse 29 is a profound observation of the inherent self-contradictory nature of unbelief. /p>
What we’re saying is that Paul is dismantling his hearer’s worldview. He is not just defending the faith. When he gets done he’s dropped some pretty good sized bombs on the target, and it’s messy after they’re done. He has pitted the frame of reference that we have; we’ve gone through this creation, fall, flood, covenant, call of Abraham and all the rest. He selectively picked up the bullets out of these positions, put it in his gun and used them, bang, bang, bang. He picked up a lot of bullets in what area of the framework? The creation framework—that’s where he’s getting most of his ammunition from. And he’s doing that deliberately because he knows you cannot talk about Jesus Christ … we haven’t even got to the gospel yet here. He hasn’t got to the gospel, this is all preliminary to the gospel, because you can’t talk about Jesus, you can’t talk about resurrection until after the God concept is correct.
Let’s close with a little application. We started with a faith-rest drill, and one of the things in the faith-rest drill is you have to claim a promise, we go through a rationale, we come to confidence or a biblical conclusion. And we may want to add a little element to this, that as we develop the rationale we want to see the ridiculousness of what we are tempted to do, the ridiculousness of what we are being solicited to trust in, the utter self-contradictoriness of unbelief. When we finish Acts 17 think of how you would be if you were one of the Athenians and you were listening to this guy basically dismantle you. You would probably be angry; you would probably become very defensive before this guy got through his talk if you hadn’t already picked up a rock because he’s striking at the very heart of what you believe.
He’s striking away at the fact that as an unbeliever you would have so desperately suppressed this knowledge of God, and yet you’re angry because you know in your heart of hearts that what he says is true. And every time he mentions it, it grates something down deep and in one sense you’re ashamed and embarrassed by the art all over the place. At one time you thought this was wonderful, you were proud as an Athenian to live in a city with the great art, people would come from hundreds of miles to see this. And then you have this little Jew that comes into town and he dares to say that your art reveals the fact that you are a liar; you have deliberately created this stuff to replace the God of the creation that you’re fleeing. You’ve gone to wonderful extremes, some people don’t do it as well as you have, you’re very skilled people. He’s not knocking your skills, he’s not knocking your intellect, he’s not calling them stupid in the sense of IQ. He’s calling them stupid and fools in the sense of their spiritual orientation.
TThis is the sort of thing we want to use in our own hearts to discredit those thoughts that come in and try to undercut the Word of God in its authority in our lives.
Question asked: Clough replies: The question is on page 22 where we talk about the power of God as the Holy Spirit. I think it’s more the way the word dunamis is used in the Greek text in association with the work of the Spirit. It’s not making a big theological thing and identifying omnipotence with just the Holy Spirit, if that’s what you mean. Omnipotence would be a characteristic of all three. Now in the Christian life it’s always the … and that’s one of the things we’ll be studying this year is the life of Christ and how that’s related to the Holy Spirit. That gets tricky, that’s a hard concept because the life of Christ is something that proceeds from the fact that He is God-man. That’s why we did the God-man before we got into the New Testament, because the New Testament epistles presume that we know that Jesus is God and man. Well, the life of Christ is the righteous life that He lived that is shared through the new race in Him analogously to the Adamic life that’s shared in the fallen race in Adam.
Then the problem is well yeah, the Holy Spirit gets involved because who is it that regenerates? Who is it that indwells? Who is it that baptizes? Who is it that seals? Who is it that gives spiritual gifts? Who is it that does the filling of the Holy Spirit? Who was it that was given at Pentecost when the church was formed? So the Holy Spirit becomes the active member of the Trinity in this age, in this dispensation, based on the work of Christ, and Christ is also indwelling, so we have to be sure we honor all members of the Trinity in this thing. It’s just that we also have to respect the fact that the Church Age is a unique age in that it’s the first age in history in which every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, whatever that term indwelt … it carries all kinds of connotations, but in the Old Testament that’s not true. The Holy Spirit did not indwell every believer. He obviously had a ministry in their life; these people were circumcised in their heart which is corresponding to regeneration. /p>
It’s always been a shady area of theology because the Old Testament really doesn’t give us the details the New Testament does, except you have these statements where Jesus says “He was with you.” He uses two Greek prepositions. The Holy Spirit was with you, and shall be in you. So there’s clearly a shift that happens and that’s rooted into where we’re going, dispensationalism. It’s a new dispensation. Something happened at Pentecost that was not true prior to Pentecost, even of the disciples. So your question actually opens up the whole question of the Christian way of life and what this age is all about.
That’s the other thing involved in this, and that’s why eschatology is so important, people say well, eschatology, there’s lots of views of eschatology. It means a lot because it means what is the mission of the church? If you were a postmillennialist and you believe that the function of the Church Age is to introduce the Millennium directly, socially, politically, you’re going to be a state church, political, institutional Christian. You’re forced to do that because that’s what your saying, it’s a postmillennial eschatology. This is why in the Protestant Reformation you have state churches. You had a state church in England, you had a state church in Holland, in Massachusetts basically you had one, it wasn’t totalitarian but it was congregational. Ask Roger Williams what happened when he crossed the line. So there were these state churches but the state churches grew out of their eschatology, it was very natural.
IIf the church is nothing more than another version of Israel, think about it, Israel was a nation; if the church is an extension of Israel, then the church must have a national identity somehow. But dispensationally if the church is not an extension of Israel, if the church in fact is something different than Israel, then it may not be a nation and its mission in society may be different. That’s a big, BIG difference that’s going on here. It’s all related to eschatology and that’s why when we went into amillennialism, premillennialism, and postmillennialism and I explained that, and I explained it in terms of the Old Testament and I said later on you’ll see why that’s so important. At the time we just kind of waltzed on, and that’s fine, but you’ll find out this year why that was so important back there.
How it relates to your question is that whatever the Holy Spirit does to empower us, it’s to empower us to do something, and the question is, what is the mission that He is performing? Is it to take over society, progressively? Is it to win individuals to Jesus Christ and leave it at that? Is it to win individuals to Jesus Christ and then through their ministry they have a ministry in the invisible realm around us of spiritual impact that does have results, but it’s sort of an indirect approach. Why in the New Testament do we have the fact mentioned, more than once, that the angels are curious about this dispensation? Something was done at Pentecost that the angels don’t really understand and apparently have not been told by God what He is doing, so they have to understand what is going on by watching us. That wasn’t true in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament they had angel meetings all the time; they were intimately involved with what’s going on. All of a sudden now you’ve got this queer group called the church, now the angels are going around trying to find out what is God doing with this people. They probably look at us and say yeah, what is He doing? So there’s that answer. There are all kinds of things that happen in the New Testament that didn’t happen in the Old Testament. /p>
Question asked: Clough replies: Right. The Holy Spirit has to be the motive; He has to provide the motive. What you will find interesting is that in the history of Christianity there’s always been a tendency to split the work of the Holy Spirit away from the Word of God. Remember when we were in the Old Testament I kept going over that verse in Proverbs 1:23 where it’s a picture of the teacher and the teacher says I will pour out my spirit and I will make my words known to you. I said it was parallelism, and you want to watch that because the word “pour out the spirit” is used at Pentecost. But simultaneously with the pouring out of the Spirit what was happening? People were hearing the gospel, there was content, there was content that could be trusted and believed.
So there’s no fracturing between the Word of God and the Spirit, and this is why in Colossians and Ephesians… you lay those two books side by side and watch the argument in both books. When Paul gets down to “be filled with the Spirit,” the command of Ephesians 5:18, you watch in Colossians where it happens and he says “and let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.” It’s the same argument, so clearly those are equivalent expressions and you have to keep balanced between the filling of the Spirit and letting the Word of Christ dwell richly in your heart. Those two are related. The Holy Spirit never does anything apart from the Word and the Word can do nothing apart from the Spirit. Those two are wedded. You can know what you’re supposed to do, that’s the Word of God, but there has to be a motive to do what you know to being true, and that’s the Holy Spirit so both are inseparable. And from time to time the New Testament will emphasize one, it will emphasize the other, they’ll flip from one place to the other, just because the truth of God is so manifold you can just go around and you know, there are tomatoes here, there are peas here, there are all kinds of parts to the crop. That’s not to say that this crop is more valuable than this crop, it’s just that it’s manifold; God is manifold in His working.
Question asked: Clough replies: Good question and that is, is apologetics identical to evangelism? I would have to say no because they both focus on different things, but they are related. If you look at Acts, I think the easiest way to look at that is in Acts the church was really not interested in missions or evangelism. People always love to say I get back to the book of Acts. Well, frankly if you study carefully the book of Acts the only reason the church did anything was because of persecution. What drove the church out of Jerusalem? Because they were great missionaries? No! It wasn’t that at all, there were individuals that did it, but basically God had to kick the church in its butt to get it moving out of Jerusalem. Then finally what did He have to do to get them out of Palestine? Destroy the temple, left the whole place in a big mess in AD 70.
So God had to foment evangelism and the evangelism would lead, as it did in Acts 17, to people counterattacking. And it would lead to people asking more questions. The only thing that you want to be careful of is in 1 Peter 3:15 it says sanctify the Lord God in your heart and be ready always to give an answer to every man, in the context of that passage, where it talks about giving an apologia, or an apology, it’s talking there of a spouse. That’s the context, immediately prior to that it’s the unbelieving man and a believing wife married, and it’s talking about her and her life, it has an effect. So finally, after a while, this guy, and he may be stupid, I mean, men are kind of reticent to talk about those things, finally he falls over and asks her a question. And what Peter is saying is it’s going to take a lot of patience on your part as a woman if this guy ever opens his mouth and talks to you about these things. So be ready when that happens. So there it’s a case not of pressing the point verbally, because if you press the point verbally in a lot of those situations it’s going to be water off a duck’s back.
SSo evangelism and apologetics are related and you are right that it probably requires some aggressive moves by us, maybe in the form of bated speech, maybe in the form of provocative actions from time to time to stimulate questions. The point, however, is that if the unbeliever isn’t asking questions they probably aren’t open to listen, and you can cast your pearls before swine. But apologetics is related to evangelism in that apologetics, as we see here, it defends the truth and negates unbelief. And I think that apologetics is related to the Christian life, because I think that what goes on in the forum goes on in here, and that we daily are involved in a battle of belief and unbelief, and we ought to be using the same tools we use when it comes up in social conversation or external situations. So I think it’s powerful to see how unbelief is unmasked, it is defanged; it is deflated in the Scriptures to a level of foolishness. And the reason, once it is deflated to the level of foolishness its tempting power becomes very weak. It can become a roaring lion and physically assault you, but that’s different from internal doubts, internal eating away at the foundation. There’s a difference between those two.
Our time is up. Next time we’ll finish up Acts and we’re going to deal with 1 Corinthians 2 that was written about a subject that happened after Acts 17.