Saturday, December 26, 2009

America's Collapse

Dr. Couch, why have things collapsed so quickly in our country, on every level—political, social, theological, cultural, etc.?

ANSWER:  Things were building up more quickly than we could imagine—we just didn't notice the changes coming. Theologically, I believe this is a judgment from God upon an apostate nation, and world. We are moving rapidly toward the end times. America for some time now has walked away from the Lord. But on the human level, there are some things we can observe that I believe are part of God's judgment.

   (1) We have for some time now departed morally. Drugs, abortion, homosexuality, etc. has been destroying us from within for decades. (2) The mixing of cultures that did not have the Judeo-Christian morality behind them. And, those who have Christianity as a heritage have apostatized into immorality anyway. The founding of the nation, and our Reformation European heritage has been long ago lost to this culture. (3) Our secular state universities have moved toward liberalism and socialism, and these views have been fed to our young people now for decades. (4) And, our young people have been so brainwashed from grade school to buy into the lies of Satan. And as well, the repudiation in our schools of any form of recognition of Christianity.

   In many schools, they have discarded Christianity but have honored Muslim and Hindu holidays in place of Christian traditions. Now I know having a holiday does not make our nation "Christian" but there is still a principle being trashed. And we will pay a price for that.

   I know for a fact that many of my school friends came to Christ because Bibles were passed out at school and there were plays and musicals given over to Resurrection Sunday and Christmas. Everyone knew that America's morality had its origins from the Word of God, even though they may not have been born again or went to church on Sunday. Without doubt, we have departed on one level or another, and we are going to pay the price.

   Someone recently sent me an article about a paper written by a chaplain in the Army saying that the real enemy in this country is premillennialism. Premillennialists, he said, see things black and white, and this is causing problems with those who are conciliatory on issues. We knew that this argument would be coming—blaming the facts of Scripture for how we are perceived in the world. Pray that this will not bring more havoc on those who are proclaiming the truth in our culture.

   Thanks for asking.
   Dr. Mal Couch
(Dec., 09)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Parable on the Branches Abiding in Christ

Dr. Couch, is John 15:1-9 about loss of salvation? It's the parable about the branches abiding in Christ. What do you say?

ANSWER:  First of all, the issue here is about fruit bearing not about one's Position in salvation. Christ prunes the branches of the vine in order to make them bear more fruit. To prune is painful to the branch. But it brings forth more fruit in the process.

   Notice that the individual connected with Christ, the vine, is "already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you" (v. 3). That is a Positional statement about salvation. So the issue here is fruit bearing, or a relationship that produces fruit. Salvation is not the point. That is a settled issue.

   The main idea is "abiding" or to put it in the vernacular, about "sticking" with Christ, "staying with Him in fellowship, which is so necessary for the daily Christian walk. Verse 5 makes the main point, "apart from Me you can do nothing." Again, this is not a salvation issue but a fruit production issue, the "doing something for the cause of Christ."

   Some think the "casting away into the fire, and they are burned" is alluding to the loss of salvation and the fires of eternal, spiritual judgment (v. 6). But who is doing the "casting away"? It is the "they." Or, men who are doing the judging, not God! "They gather them" is a Present Active Indicative, Third Person Plural, meaning "they," or "men" gather the branches and cast them into the fire. The "Men" or probably even the lost, who are doing the judging against Christians, that is those believers who are hypocrites because the world does not see any good coming out of these believers in their walk. The Christians are walking like the world, like the lost! And, there is no fruit bearing.

   The issue of fruit bearing also has to do with glorifying the Father, and by this, we prove that we are Christ's disciples, and that has to do with our following and walking with Him, not an issue about our salvation (v. 8). Finally, "fellowship love" is the issue as stated in verse 9. We are to be abiding, "sticking" with Christ in His relationship love, as stated in this verse. Most of the time in this passage when Christ says "abide" or "stay with" Me, He uses the Present Tense in Greek. "Be daily and continually staying with Me" in fellowship ..." How we are walking is what this passage is all about, not about our Position in our salvation.

   Thanks for asking. I hope this helps.
   Dr. Mal Couch
(Dec., 09)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Social Apostasy

Dr. Couch, I am being persuaded in what you say about a social apostasy coming upon the world. Can you explain a little more?

ANSWER:  Yes, what I mean is that the culture, that in some places, to a large degree, has been blessed by biblical Christianity, will turn and be even more evil that previously. And this is exactly what happened in Europe some decades back, and has now happened in America during my lifetime. Christianity held back sin to some extent but now the roof has collapsed and sin is becoming more sinful!

   And, the church then is becoming more like the world and the culture! We have some verses that I believe point this out. For example, 2 Timothy 3:1-2.

   "But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money ..."

The verses speak of "in the last days difficult times will come." Paul is not in those verses talking about church apostasy but about cultural apostasy and evil growing worse and worse. The Greek reads "Time of stress, fierce, savage times." Paul uses the Future Tense of the "to be" verb. "It will be this way ..."

   Then in verse 2 he does not speak of the church folks, but of "the men" of the world, using the Greek word, with the article, "hoi anthropos." This will happen when "the time" (kairos, chronology) will come, and grow more savage, when the change happens in the culture. Paul connects this thought with 4:3 when he writes: "For that 'time' (kairos, chronological period) will come (Future Tense) when 'they' (supplied by the translator) 'will not endure healthy doctrine ... '" Paul here is not talking about true believers but about those in the culture who apostatize from what little they know of truth.

   He is not talking about true"possessing Christians" in 3:13, as some think, but again, he is talking about the lost in the culture, when he writes "But evil men (poneeros anthropos) ... and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." These are the lost men of the society, the culture, not those who are Christians (though the true believers will be deceived.). Indeed, the evil men are "impostors" (goees). This is the only place in the NT where this word is used. It's often translated "seducers." This is a better translation; they will be seducing and leading astray those who are professors, and who are taken down the wrong path, who go into apostasy and join them in their worldly sinfulness! "Goees" can be translated "a juggler, enchanter, one who uses incantations to deceive." This is happening and going on today. The church is getting like the culture.

   "They will proceed" (Future Tense) is from the Greek word "prokopos" meaning "they will go forward, go forward hammering (as a smith hammers metal)," "promoting further" their evil agendas. And nothing will stop them; it will get worse and worse, as the apostasy takes over the culture even more! 

   The Bible Knowledge Commentary seems to agree with my thoughts on the passage. Several times it mentions "the people (the lost), when they the world will see terrible times of societal degeneration."

   I believe we are now in religious, spiritual, and social degeneration and this is the sign that we are in "the last days."

   Thanks for asking.
   Dr. Mal Couch
(Dec., 09)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Problems in the Church

Dr. Couch, the problems go on in the church I'm involved in. What do I do?

ANSWER  You mentioned the terrible confusion in the teaching there in the country where you live. The leaders do not know what they believe and they are mixing kingdom and church issues because of their blindness and ignorance of the Bible. It amazes me how we want science to be precise but we are ready to compromise when it comes to the "science" of interpretation of the biblical texts. What foolishness and blindness!

   Someone will say, what do you mean by science of the Bible? They fail to realize that we start with the grammar of Scripture, and we must be "scientifically accurate when approaching the interpretative issues. Science means we also must interpret by logic, history, the social background of the Bible, etc. If we don't, we will not understand what's going on in the passages of Scripture. It is the Holy Spirit who inspired the authors in their usage of the right grammar of the Hebrew and Greek texts. And the Bible has a setting, a social, historic setting, which we must understand in order to be exegetes of the Word. I must follow the interpretative lead of the Holy Spirit. I can't be sloppy in my study of the Bible.

   You mentioned that the leaders of the church could not identify whether they were amill, premill, postmill, Arminian or Calvinistic in their understanding of the Bible. And they knew nothing about the clear passages on the rapture of the church, which fouled up their total understanding and teaching of the book of Revelation. And these are teaching leaders?

   I predicted many years ago we'd be in this mess once the leaders of the churches abandoned systematic theology and went to "feel good" messages, entertainment and emotion. And sure enough, I was correct!

   Don't forget that Paul predicted the apostasy we are now in. He wrote: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound (healthy) doctrine (not feel good messages), but wanting to have their ears ticked (wanting entertainment), they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away from the truth, and will turn aside to myths (lies)" (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

   Thanks for asking.
   Dr. Mal Couch
(Dec., 09)    

Friday, December 18, 2009

Celebrating Christmas

Dr. Couch, should we be celebrating Christmas, since this is a "Catholic" word: Christ-mass? We are not commanded to do so in Scripture.

ANSWER:  This reminds me of the Church of Christ folks who argue, since musical instruments are not mentioned in the Bible to use for worship, therefore, it is wrong to use musical instruments in church worship!

   And, I guess Christ was wrong to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, since the Jews were not commanded to do so in the OT! (see John 10:22-30.) Did you know that He did that? There is nothing wrong with remembering certain blessings in either the OT or NT. This is what Christ did. This is what we do with the Lord's Table. It is a "remembrance" and it is Passover condensed and abbreviated. I don't know of any true believer in Christ who became a Catholic because of the word Christmas. Some words become embedded in our vocabulary by usage, but most people don't know of the origins of such words.

   Thanks for asking.
   Dr. Mal Couch
(Dec., 09)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

Dr. Couch, in Ephesians 5:19 we are told by Paul to speak to one another in Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Are we supposed to do this literally, and if so how?

ANSWER: This is not a moral command. It has to do with the heart of the fellowship time of the believers in the church. "Hymns and spiritual songs" is what we all do in churches right now, hopefully! We have to avoid a legalistic approach to such words by Paul and the other apostles. This is to be the spiritual result of the Holy Spirit making such sharing real as Paul says in verse 18. He adds "making melody with your heart to the Lord; and giving of thanks ..." (v. 20).

   In my Ephesians commentary just out I made this statement on the passage: "The greatest unsaved vocalist on earth is totally incapable of making a pleasing melody to God from the inner recesses of the soul. One has to be in close fellowship with the Lord to be controlled by the Holy Spirit for this to happen. Yet the Spirit-filled (controlled) believer can scarcely be restrained from such activity, whether a good vocalist or not. The 'heart' is what speaks to the Lord."

   Thanks for asking.
   Dr. Mal Couch
(Dec., 09)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Struggling with Eternal Security

Dr. Couch, I believe in eternal security but I have problems with Matthew 5:22 where Jesus said "... and whosoever shall say, You fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." How do you answer? – from England

ANSWER:  I really appreciate your questions, but you must interpret the Bible by context not by the ping pong method, where you bounce all over the place and automatically apply verses to the church. This is the Sermon on the Mount where Christ is speaking specifically to the Jews and the problems they had in the way they mistreated others.

   Remember, we must interpret the Bible by context and by the Greek text, not by the English. "Hell" is a bad translation that is why Bible teachers need to take Greek in order to understand all that is happening in Scripture. I have had more Greek than any Bible teacher you'll talk with. I translate almost everyday. In this passage "hell" is Geenna or Gehenna, referring to the burning garbage dump outside of the city of Jerusalem that became a symbol of judgment. Yes, often it was symbolic of hell's fires but it can, in context, often just be referring to a judgment.

   Christ is addressing how the Jews mistreated each other with their mouth—with their criticisms. Note the progression in verse 22. If one is angry with his brother he should be brought before the synagogue court and be judged. If one goes further and calls his brother Raca (or numb skull, stupid) he is to be brought before the supreme court or the Sanhedrin and be judged. But if one says to his brother that he is a fool, he receives the harshest judgment and was to be cast into Gehenna, the burning garbage dump! Now can you imagine the fear this brought to the hearts of the Jews? In their relationships with others they were terribly critical, hurt others with the mouth, and continued to destroy the relationships by harsh words! The Jews paid no attention to this mistreatment. Christ brought it to their attention. The point is not about a doctrinal or theological judgment but about the issue of mistreatment of others.

   This was meant to awaken the Jews in the harshness of their human relationships.

   Thanks for asking, and, I hope this helps.

   Dr. Mal Couch
(Dec., 09)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Contradiction Regarding Christ's Resurrection

Dr. Couch, in Philippians 3:11 Paul says "If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead." I have heard some argue that this means Paul had some doubts about the resurrection, and the critics land on the words "if" and "might." This argument would go against what he says in 1 Corinthians 15. How do we answer? – from England

ANSWER:  I don't know how the critic could get out of the verse that Paul is having questions about the resurrection! The wording certainly does not lead me to that conclusion. All Paul is saying is that he wants to be worthy of that great truth of Christ's resurrection from the dead! You must start his argument with verse 7 where he says he counts all things as loss "for the sake of Christ." He speaks of the surpassing value of knowing Christ and counts all things as dung (rubbish) so that he might gain Christ (v. 8). He is not doubting the resurrection but he is making it a center piece doctrine around which his life revolves.

   From verses 7-14 there is not one piece of evidence that he doubts the resurrection! All of the language has to do with how he is living. Nicoll writes:

   "The Resurrection is the Apostle's goal, for it will mean perfect, unbroken knowledge of Christ and fellowship with Him. Paul knows by experience the difficulty of remaining loyal to the end, of being so conformed to Christ's death that the power of sin will not revive its mastery over him. So his apparent uncertainty here of reaching the goal is not distrust of God. It is distrust of himself."

   Thanks for asking.
   Dr. Mal Couch
(Dec., 09)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Good works and Sharing the Gospel

Dr. Couch, Shouldn't the emphasis be more focused on doing 'good' when sharing the gospel?

ANSWER:   Some believe that to urge anyone to do good is not enough. The gospel must somehow always be put forward. But the Bible seems to argue that good works will show one's salvation. James writes: "This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress ..." (James 1:27). He also writes "I will show you my faith by my works" (2:18). Paul says "Overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:21). "Be wise in what is good" (16:19).

Thanks for asking.
Dr. Mal Couch
(Dec., '09)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Inalienable Rights

Dr. Couch, is the idea of inalienable rights found in the Bible?

ANSWER:  Good question, and I would answer yes. By Webster, the word "inalienable" means rights that cannot be transferred. Or, rights that each person has because he has been created in the image of God, and all are equal before God, whether this is the king or the subject to the king. This was the great struggle when democracy was being born in America. "Is anyone less than the king?"

    Since all are created in the image of God (though now polluted by sin) He sees all equally. God so loves the world equally (John 3:16). Does any believer in Christ want to be seen as unequal in America? I think not.

   Thanks for asking.
   Dr. Mal Couch
(Dec., 09)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Gnostics Allegorized the Bible

Dr. Couch, didn't the Gnostics allegorize the Bible?

ANSWER:  Yes, but the problem with the Gnostics is something else besides allegorical interpretation. Allegorization started way before the Gnostic cults. The biggest issue with them was their secret-ness, their immorality, and their "spiritualizing" the person of Christ. We do not know all that they taught. In fact, each group held to somewhat different beliefs. And, they really came on the scene sometime after the time of Christ. John the apostle seems to be standing against incipient Gnosticism in his letters of I-III John, written about AD 90-95.

   To allegorize the Scriptures is treated in detail in my book An Introduction to Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics (Kregel). The pages are 95-103. The word Gnostic is related to the Greek word ginosko, to know. They believed they had higher spiritual knowledge and knew things that the average person did not know.

   Allegorization was expanded and made popular by Augustine. He taught that the Church had become Israel. Thus, the kingdom was the Church here on earth, and, God was finished with the Jews. When he came to the words Jerusalem, or kingdom, he said these words were really about the Church. Charismatics hold to some Gnostic thoughts. Everyone has heard them say, "I don't care what the Bible says, I know what my experience is!" Experience is seen as higher than objective fact in Scripture.

   Thanks for asking.
   Dr. Mal Couch