By His Stripes We Are Healed

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Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed (1 Peter 2:24KJV).

Perhaps one of the popular teachings of our time is the health and wealth gospel which teaches that God wants believers to be physically healthy, materially wealthy, and personally happy. The text above is one of the biblical texts used by proponents of this gospel. The last section of the text–by whose stripes ye were healed — is taken to mean Christ’s death and his punishment on the cross secured for believers, what they call divine healing. Now there is no disputing that God does heal people in his own Sovereignty and in answer to prayer. However, there is no promise in the Bible guaranteeing healing for the believer who is sick. It is faulty biblical hermeneutics which leads to such doctrine. One may therefore ask, “what does by whose stripes ye were healed mean then“? To answer that question, we will  have to ask another question:

What Were We Healed Of?

The answer— sin. Clearly, the subject under discussion is sin: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body.” You see, our greatest predicament as human beings is not poverty or sickness. Therefore the offering of health and wealth as the solution to our problems is false and no gospel at all. It is simply another gospel. Our greatest predicament as humans is sin. Hence our greatest need is the forgiveness of sin. The Bible condemns all human beings under sin and declares us separated from God. Separation from God is man’s greatest problem and no amount of money or good health can make up for that void.

Sin is a disease which plagues all humankind. And this sin is what we have been healed of by Christ’s stripes. And this disease, if not dealt with, leads to death—spiritual death and eternal damnation. The wages of sin, we are told is death (Rom 6:23). Look around you and see the havoc in this sin infested world. Sin also has eternal consequences.

The prophet Isaiah paints a good picture of the impact of sin on humanity.

Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil (Isaiah 1:4-6 ESV)

This is the state of our sickness and our sin which the prophet graphically likens to sores and bruises that have covered the whole body from head to toe. This is the sickness of sin Christ died to heal us of that we might live to righteousness! How tragic that 1Peter 2:24 which deals with the grave situation of the life estranged from God by sin; and the glorious promise of redemption through the substitutionary sacrifice of the Lord Jesus will be cheapened to one of material significance!

Healed Of Our Sins And Restored Unto Rigtheousness

Peter quotes Isaiah 53:5 to tell us how we were healed. How? by Christ’s stripes—the punishment he received in his body on the Cross was for our sins. He bore our sins in his body. That is good news. God has made a way to reconcile us unto Himself by putting our sins on Christ. This is what theologians call double imputation. Our Sin is imputed to Christ and His righteousness imputed to us. Oh, what good news. Our sins are all forgiven when we trust in Christ.

The result of this imputation is that we “should live unto righteousness“.

Righteousness  simply is right standing with God as if we have never sinned. In Christ we who previously were sick and dead in sin are healed and made alive and  reconciled to God: “And you hath he quickened [made alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1KJV). “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”(2Corinthians 5:21KJV).

Have you experienced this exchange; your sin for Christ’s forgiveness? If not seek His forgiveness. That’s what 1Peter 2:24 is about. It is not about healing of our physical diseases. This pales in comparison to the true healing Christ died for—the forgiveness of sin.

A BLIND FAITH OR A REASONABLE FAITH?

A very good read.

Thoughts Of A Reforming African

True faith is not believing against evidence. Rather, true faith involves trusting in the evidence that God has amply provided in and through His Word. That faith is not without what Calvin called evidences; rather, it is a faith that surrenders to or acquiesces to the evidences. 

– R.C. Sproul, Faith and Reason

In our age today, questions seem to be raised about almost everything. In our Christian walk, we will inevitably face some of these questions. The response given by many evangelicals when some of these questions are posed is, “I don’t know, it’s all faith. I just believe, brother.” After all, they say, “blessed are those who believe without seeing.” Now, if this answer was ever given to me as a response to a question, I would be extremely disappointed. The Christian worldview, after all, is supposed to be the most logically consistent worldview. Why then, are…

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Finding Purpose In Life.

question-mark-1829459_1920Why am I here? What’s the purpose of my existence? These are legitimate questions. Not surprising, there are no shortage of literature on the subject—both Christian and secular. If you enter most Christian bookshops, the most popular titles on the shelves are those offering one motivation or the other on how to succeed in life, find your purpose, gain financial independence, become the best of your self or live your best life now. These titles are popular because the human heart craves for meaning and purpose in life. Indeed, there is purpose and meaning for our existence. We are not on earth by a cosmic accident or chance. There is a reason for our existence. No life is without a purpose.

Succinctly, the Westminster Shorter Catechism summarises this purpose as “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”  (WSC Q&A1). We were created by God and the only meaning we can find is in Him. St. Augustine, in his confessions said “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” Unfortunately, many pursue what they call meaning and purpose differently from “glorifying God and enjoying him forever”. They seek rest for their restless hearts in different places — places which can’t satisfy. On the contrary, believers finds their life in Christ.

Jesus, at a point in His ministry, lost some disciples because He had said things which the Bible says they found as “hard saying”(John 6:60). These hard sayings made them walk away. Truly, there are many who will not accept truth and will walk away. When they walked away, Jesus turned to the remaining and asked “Do you want to go away as well?” (John 6:67). Simon Peter, speaking for the twelve responded,

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed , and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God (John 6:68).

Every believer must come to this point of acknowledging the all sufficiency of Christ for our life. In the words, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” Peter proclaims the Lordship of Christ and His exclusivity to eternal life. Beside Christ, there is no life in anyone else (Acts 4:12). Christ is life. He is the origin and ‘sustainer’ of every life. “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:3-4).

In Psalms 73:25, David declared words similar to Peter’s: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you”. This is a picture of a life which owes its existence and meaning to God. In praise, after God answered her prayer and she bore Samuel, Hannah similarly declared: “There is none holy like the LORD: for there is none besides [Him]; there is no rock like our God”(1Samuel 2:2)

To Peter and the other disciples, Christ was their sufficiency: “we have believed , and have come to know…” he said. What have they believed? That Christ is the Holy One of God. Most importantly, the believer must come to a point of faith and acknowledgement of the centrality of Christ to who they are — “The Holy One of God”; the only mediator between God and man; The one from whom we derive our existence and meaning!

A Most Often Misquoted Text: Matthew 6:33

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1: But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matt. 6:33 ESV)

2: But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all other things will be added to you (Matt. 6:33 ESV)

Compare 1 and 2. Do you see any difference? One is what Jesus actually said. Two is what people often say Jesus said. Jesus never said “all other things” shall be added unto you. If you are still not convinced; cross- check other translations. Most people I have encountered often quote Matt 6:33 as “all other things shall be added unto you” leading to a wrong interpretation and a wrong application.

Of course, if it is “all other things“, then we have the liberty to slot in all we desire eg good health, material wealth, marriage, visa to travel, a fat bank account etc. And that’s what those who quote “all other things” often do. But that is wrong.

What Jesus did say is “all these things shall be added unto you.” This is specific and has a context. It is not left open for us to put in everything we so desire. Vv. 25-31 of Matthew 6 reveals the context of “these things” and what Jesus was speaking about:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear

Firstly, “food, drink and clothing” are the ‘these things’ Jesus was talking about. In other words, God is able to take care of us and provide for us the very basic things all human beings (believer and unbeliever) need. Secondly, because God is able to take care of our basic needs; so we don’t need to be anxious over these things. Christ draws a strong analogy from the birds of the air and flower of the fields to drive home his command against anxiety: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?(v.26)

“Are you not of more value than they?” This should shatter our every proclivity towards worrying about life. God has guaranteed to take care of us. Unfortunately, if you worry and live in anxiety over the basics of life; you are just behaving like an unbeliever. They worry and chase these things as if “these things” are their very life and existence. But for the believer, God knows we need these basic things and we ought not worry and be anxious over them: “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all (v.32). Christ then point us away from a lesser good–food, drink, clothing– to a greater good; seeking the Kingdom of God first. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (v.33). First things first. Take care of my kingdom and I will take care of you: “all these things shall be added unto you”. Our basic needs for life is guaranteed by God and we need not worry and be anxious in life.

Matthew 6:33 therefore is a command against anxiety and not a promise for us to seek God’s kingdom for material gains (c.f. 1Tim 6:5).

— Originally posted on The Gospel Network as Misquoting Jesus.

Belief Doesn’t Defy Logic: A Response To Pst. Otabil

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At the just ended Greater works conference, an annual conference of the ICGC, a Charismatic church in Ghana; one of the speakers–Matthew Ashimolowow  is reported to have called for a special offering for people to sow seeds of different amounts based on what they expect to experience in their life.

Millionaire status
$5,000.00
Seed of a thousand times more $1000.00
Seed of completion
$520
24hour miracle
$240
100% life improvement
$100
Seed of perfection
$70

*$1=Ghs4.3

This triggered an outcry on social media. The General overseer of ICGC, Pastor Mensah Otabil is reported to have responded in a sermon to his congregation saying:

Beliefs goes beyond logic. Logic will tell you what is probable or things being equal. Logic will tell you that if you have a thousand cedis in your account, then you can spend thousand cedis because that is logical. Beliefs will tell you that if you have five loafs of bread you don’t feed five people.

Concluding, he said “Belief defies logic; stretch your faith”

Now statements like this–“Beliefs defies logic”— gives Christianity and Christians a bad name. It suggests our faith is illogical and irrational. In the name of faith we are being told continuously to fossilise our minds. But as rational beings created in the image of a rationaI God; it will be irrational not to relate with this God in a rational manner. God makes sense and belief in him makes sense. God is a God of order and those who believe in him must do so in a manner consistent with how he has revealed himself in Scripture.

In this short article, I’ll attempt to give a reasoned response to Otabils defense of the infamous seed sowing at the just ended Greater works conference. Before I present my thoughts; let’s first define a few terms. Among many definitions, I will use what’s relevant to the discussion:

Belief: “conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence”

Logic: Logic is the science of deriving truth through the analysis of facts either directly (deductively) or indirectly (inductively).

From these definitions, I will argue  that Christian belief is logical. I will explain. You see, Christianity is not a collection of irrational thoughts stringed together for people to believe.  Christianity presents propositions rooted in historical evidence to be  examined so one can arrive at a logical conclusion of their veracity. We see this clearly evidenced in the opening words of Luke’s gospel.

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught (Luke 1:1-4).

Luke’s words point us to the fact that Christian beliefs are coherent, logical and can be examined. Why did Luke write? so his recepient will come to a certainty–a conviction—of Christian beliefs. These beliefs are rooted in history and eye witness reports. They are not fables that can’t be examined. The apostle Peter tells us “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2Pet. 1:16ff).

The point is that, Christianity is not a blind leap into the abyss. It is faith based on historical evidence and in a God who is. Christian faith makes logical and rational sense. Paul consistently “reasoned from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:3). The problem with the so called special offering is that; they are not biblically consistent. It is a clear case of merchandising the gospel. Again, what’s the basis for the said categorisation? The only justification will be texts taken out of context to defend this lie. We see this clearly where Jesus’ multiplication of bread is cited in defence. Of course, Jesus is God and it is logical that God can work a miracle and multipy five loaves and two fishes to feed 5000.

Unfortunately it is such anti-logical approach to Christianity that makes people suspend their reasoning to believe in every nonsense shrouded in Christian jargon. And as I write this, many are defending this error, saying, “it is what you believe that works for you”. Well, Christian belief is not subjective belief for everyone to believe what they want to believe. Christian truth is rooted in biblical truth. There’s no biblical justification for the so called seed sowing that took place. It is false Christianity; a lie and fraud. A friend aptly describes the situation:

We are teaching people that they don’t have to follow the natural principles of work and earning. Even the Bible teaches that if you don’t work don’t eat. Paying $ 5000 to become a millionaire is called lottery, it has no place in Christianity — Kwesi Sena

Rev. Korankye Ankrah Erred About Denkyira-Boasi

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Image Courtesy Starfm online

About a month ago, the nation woke up in shock of the gruesome murder of a Captain of the Ghana Armed forces, Captain Mahama, who was mistaken to be an armed robber. Following this, a number of arrests were made of those involved in this heinous crime. He was subsequently posthumously promoted to the rank of a major.

Yesterday, I read a media report on Star Fm of the words of a clergy man, Rev. Korankye Ankrah necessitating this post. In the article, various statements were attributed to the Reverend who describes himself as an ‘Apostle General.

Speaking during a 30-day prayer and fasting event at Cedar Mountain Chapel Assemblies of God Church, East Legon, Rev. Sam Korankye Ankrah pronounced no youth will go past 33 years in the town – the age of Maj. Mahama when he was murdered in cold blood.

Rev. Ankrah, who serves as the Apostle General of the Royal House Chapel International, a church in Ghana with more than 30,000 members, also prophesied that there will be no leader in the town, having killed a commander of an army.

However, Rev. Ankrah, who is the first vice president of the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council, said the people of Denkyira-Obuasi can atone for their sins with a three-day special fasting led by men of God.

These words if indeed uttered by a minister of the gospel must be condemned. They are not words befitting a minister of the gospel. Reverend Ankrah erred in those words and his error cuts to the root of the gospel. Among many errors, I will address three.

Pronouncement of Curses

Among many definitions, a curse is defined as the expression of a wish that misfortune, evil, doom etc., befall a person, group, etc. We see the above definition clearly fitting the words of the Rev.. He pronounced a curse:

no youth will go past 33 years in the town – the age of Maj. Mahama when he was murdered in cold blood”

there will be no leader in the town, having killed a commander of an army.

What authority has Rev. Ankrah to determine the lifespan of those individuals? Only God has that authority and hence the minister is playing God by pronouncing a limit on the lives of the youths of Denkyira-Boasi.  No doubt, the people involved in the murder of Major Mahama have committed a sinful act.  They have broken the constitution of the land which upholds the dignity of all human life. Hence, the laws of the land must deal with their breach of the law as stipulated by Scripture (Romans 13:1-4). Not only have they broken the nation’s constitution. Most importantly, they have broken God’s command: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13 ESV).

Their crime however doesn’t justify a curse from a minister of the gospel.  What the perpetrators of this crime need, just as any sinner needs, is the mercy of God and his forgiveness; not curses from a minister of the gospel. The Bible doesn’t teach Christians to curse: “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:10). How can a minister of the gospel preach the blessings of God and pronounce curses on people at the same time, how? (James 3:9).

Fasting To Atone For Sins.

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

–Robert Lowry

All human beings are sinners separated from God by virtue of our sins. The people of Denkyira-Boasi who were involved in this heinous crime are sinners acting out their natural inclination—sinning. They acted out what is in their heart just as every sinner (Jer. 17:9, Eph. 2:1-3).

Now, though separated from God by sin, God has not left sinners to their fate. Rather, he has provided for his own self an acceptable sacrifice by which sins are atoned for. He sent Jesus Christ to come and die to atone for the sins of humankind so whoever believes in him would be saved and their sins forgiven when they put their trust in Christ. However, the Rev. is asking sinners to do something they cannot do—atone for their sins.

the people of Denkyira-Obuasi can atone for their sins with a three-day special fasting led by men of God

This is a departure from essential Christian beliefs and it is troubling.  Sinners cannot atone for their sins by any act of theirs. Christ’s death on the cross is what atones for sins. And sinners are cleansed by faith in that finished work on Calvary. Nobody atones for their sins in Christian theology. Sinners, however heinous their crime must look to Christ alone and his finished work on the cross for the forgiveness of their sins. (1John 2:1-2, Romans 5:7-9, 11; Hebrews 1:3). It is futile therefore to call on sinners to establish their own righteousness by their works.

Human Mediators

The Rev. didn’t only call for fasting to atone for sins. He called for that fasting to be led by men of God (whatever that phrase mens). In effect, the people involved in Major Mahama’s murder need human intermediaries to go to God to plead their forgiveness. The Bible doesn’t teach this. Christ has been put forward by God as the propitiation for sins. He is the only mediator between God and sinners.

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time (1Tim 2:5-6).

Rev. Korankye Ankrah is the General overseer of Royal House Chapel International, a Charismatic church in the nation’s capital, Accra and also the  the first vice president of the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council. His words therefore carry influence and such utterances as those he made are a serious breach of the truth of the gospel of Christ.

Faith And Conduct

Amos 5:21-24

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Among six key themes (from ESV Global Study Bible) of the book of Amos, two stands out for me.

1. Justice and righteousness in the treatment of other people are the key evidences of a right relationship to the Lord.
2. Religious observances in the absence of social justice are disgusting to God.¹

I find these two key themes present in the verses that follow. God says;

I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen (Amos 5:21-23).

Today, many profess faith but their profession contradicts their conduct. Should that be the case? Where profession of faith and conduct contradicts, there is a justification to question what one professes. Could it be possible that God has rejected many gatherings supposedly assembled in the name of God and yet we are unaware? Could it be that God has turned his ears away from our worship and considers many a congregations singing noise yet they haven’t discerned it?

How would we know if our worship is acceptable to God? I believe the answer is in the next verse: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24). Where our life is not marked by justice and righteousness—a right treatment of one another and right conduct; our salvation may be questionable. Our Lord commands us to love one another and to not love the world (1Jn. 2:9-17). Paul says “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers , and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing (1cor. 13:1-2).

You see, our faith and conduct are insperable. If we have faith, it must show in our conduct: “But be n doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves”!(Jam. 1:22).

Notes:
1. Introductory notes on Amos from The ESV Global Study Bible (Wheaton, Illinois:Crossway, 2012 ) Kindle edition