Friday, 5 February 2016

Jacksonville Florida City Council HRO


Councilman Hazouri,

I am a local Pastor here in Jacksonville, Fl. I am deeply concerned about the Human Rights Ordinance that the City Council is currently considering. It is especially troubling  that the City Council meetings that I have listened to very carefully are leaning towards passing this Ordinance. The undo political pressure the City Council will be placing on the Church's outreach ministries such as Day Care services, Christian Schools and Christian Colleges is no small matter. The City Council is attempting to take the authority away from God on the subject of morality and in fact replace His Word with their own word. As Christians we are bound to "obey every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake" (1 Peter 2:13), and we are also bound to "obey the Lord rather than men" (Act 5:29). It is our earnest desire to live at peace with all men without strife or contention. Yet the City Council is attempting to force the Church to accept a lifestyle that is strictly forbidden in God's Word.
Moreover to continue to insist that any view that is contrary to the HRO ordinance is anti-gay is deceptive. We simply are not anti-God. We believe that His word is eternal and He alone has the right to tell us what is morally acceptable or not. The City Council has no right to force the view of the minority onto God's people. The Church has always loved the poor, the under privileged, the outcast of society, and the sinner. Christ himself was known as the friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). While Jesus Christ loved the sinner He never embrace or endorsed their sin. We have had people from every walk of life attend our Church, including those from the homosexual community, and we have treated everyone with respect and genuine Christian love. No matter what the City Council does we will still loving reach out to everyone and share the good news of God's amazing love and grace and declare unto them the High and Holy moral obligations that God himself requires of us all.
The Constitution, in the Bill of Rights, makes it crystal clear concerning the separation of the Church and the State. I will refer you to Amendment 1 "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech..." The City Council is attempting to open a back door to circumvent the very freedoms that our great Nation has provided for over 230 years! There is no telling what the next step will be against the Church. Will the City Council subpoena sermons like they did in Houston, Texas? Will they pass an ordinance stating "you must hire so and so" or you cannot have a church at your current location? Will the City Council insist that we embrace and endorse other sinful lifestyle choice such as, adultery, abortion, fornication, or drunkenness?  Where does it stop? Why is this issue no more or less important to the City Council than any other immoral lifestyle choice? The very fact that the Council has exemptions for businesses with 14 employees or less proves that it is not about businesses but about the Church. Why should a business be aloud to reject serving a homosexual couple if they have only 14 employees?  
Please reconsider your attempt to diminish the Church's moral influence on society. The Church is trying to encourage our world to a higher moral lifestyle which benefits our entire City. Remember Jesus said in Luke 12:48 ..."For unto whosoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." And again Jesus said in John 15:22 "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin."  Councilman Hazouri if you have not repented of your sin and put your trust in Jesus Christ alone for your enteral life I'm pleading with you to do so. If you have believed in our Lord Jesus Christ by faith then honor Him and His word.

Pastor Tommy Capps 

Saturday, 5 September 2015

The Irreparable Damage of Apostasy (Hebrews 6:1-8)

Christians are generally disliked and unappreciated by the world. Not much has changed in 2,000 years. However, Christians are called to be like Christ in the midst of the world’s disapproval. This is only possible if one builds upon the first principles of salvation through the grace and grant of Christ Jesus. A failure to mature in Christ can have catastrophic spiritual results. “Can one lose one’s salvation?” is an oft-asked question, which is built upon the false premise of negligence alone. Salvation cannot be “lost” but it can be forfeited. Forfeiture, however, is more than negligence. It is a wilful act that can and must be avoided at all cost. Spiritual immaturity coupled with never-ending ridicule and persecution can bring about the final forfeiture of salvation. Spiritual maturity coupled with never-ending ridicule and persecution can bring about a blessed and fruitful spiritual life.
“The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews” is the title provided in my Bible to the Book of Hebrews. It is an epistle that many have said reads more like a sermon. “Eusebius considered Paul the author. Tertullian called it the Epistle of Barnabas. Clement of Alexandria thought that Paul wrote it in Hebrew, and that Luke translated it into Greek” and “Luther guessed Apollos, for which opinion there is no ancient evidence” (Halley, 646).[1] There are many thoughts in regard to the human authorship of the Book of Hebrews. However, the author is never named in the book. As such, the Book of Hebrews is technically an anonymous writing. Timothy is known to the writer of Hebrews (13:23), which may indicate familiarity between the Apostle Paul and the writer.
The date of Hebrews is unclear as well. “The latest date for the composition of Hebrews is clearly fixed as earlier than 96 AD by reason of its use by Clement of Rome about that time” (Orr).[2] A.D. 64 is the year Nero decided to shift blame for the conflagration that engulfed Rome onto Christians. This is probably a good early date for the writing of Hebrews because widespread persecution by Roman authorities was not common previously. A date later than A.D. 70 doesn’t seem plausible though. This was the year that the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. I think it is unlikely that an event such as this would go unmentioned in this particular writing. It does not seem likely that Jewish Christians would want to revert to Judaism after A.D. 70. Prior to this date Judaism was considered a legal religion by Rome. Thus protected one could easily understand the desire to return to a peaceful coexistence with Rome. No such protection existed for Jews after the destruction of the temple. A return to Judaism would offer no relief from Christianity.
“And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words” (Hebrews 13:22). The writer provides a source of comfort like no other by clearly demonstrating the superiority of Jesus Christ. Christ is presented as the superior revelation of God in Hebrews 1:1-4, superior to the angels in 1:4-11, superior to Moses in 3:1-6, superior to the priesthood in 4:14-7:29. Jesus is also described as superior to Abraham, a superior covenant, and superior to all sacrifices.
Our text is found in the writer’s presentation of Jesus Christ as superior to the priesthood, which begins in Hebrews 4:14. The discussion turns toward our text on his audience’s inability to understand his mention of the mysterious Melchisedec as a type of Christ and His endless priesthood (5:6-11). To be sure this is also a point of discussion for many in the church today. Who was this mysterious character? The writer indicates that dull (Greek: nothros) hearing (5:11) in his readers would hinder their understanding. The author uses the same Greek word in 6:12, and is translated slothful, relating to one’s deeds.
            There are two things that become unavoidable as one reads through Hebrews 5-6. Spiritual immaturity leads inexorably toward spiritual death and spiritual maturity leads inevitably to hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, the “anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19). The writer states that he is “persuaded better things of” them, but the dangers of final rejection are very real indeed.

A lack of spiritual maturity (6:1-3)
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgement. And this will we do, if God permit.

“Therefore” is the first word found in chapter 6. The writer’s thought flow spills over from chapter 5. Specifically, we find that his intended readers are admonished for being dull, or slothful, of hearing the doctrines of God. As a result, they were “unskillful in the word of righteousness” and babes in understanding. The writer then proceeds to instruct the readers to leave “the principles of the doctrine of Christ”. The word “principles” found in verse 1 is translated as “first” in Hebrews 5:12. Here the writer reproves his readers for not maturing to a point where they could teach others the doctrines of God. They were still babes who were unskillful in the word of righteousness. His challenge to them was to become Christians of full age by reason of use, i.e. habitual application of the word of God in their daily life. Christian growth is directly linked to our study habits, both good and bad. He then continues this theme in the first verse of chapter 6. Thus, the writer is instructing his readers to leave, or progress from, the beginning or elementary doctrines of God. In other words, they were to move beyond a state of spiritual infancy to a state of spiritual maturity. The goal is to go on to perfection; translated maturity in the English Standard Version. Christians should desire to grow in Christ. How does one move from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity? One must not lay again the foundational principles, which follow.
 The first is repentance from dead works. The phrase dead works is also found in Hebrews 9:14 where it clearly speaks of one that has been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. One is born dead in trespasses and sins. Thus one must repent of one’s sins in order to be saved. This kind of repentance brings about life and life everlasting for all who believe. The second principle is faith toward God. The word “faith” is also used by the writer in Hebrews 4:2 where we are told that the gospel cannot benefit unless one allows the word of God to be mixed with or combined with faith. But this is not faith in general but directed at a specific person. Faith toward the God of the Bible, manifested in the person of Jesus Christ, is the only means of salvation.
Third, the doctrine of baptisms or washings as it is rendered in the English Standard Version. The Jews were used to ceremonial washings and washings to cleanse from defilements. “In Hebrews 6:2 the writer bid Christians to progress beyond discussion of basic matters, among which he lists “instruction about washings” (NAS). He may be describing discussions about the differences between Christian baptism and other ablutions. Hebrews 9:10 refers to “various washings” (NAS) practiced by the Hebrews under the law but no longer necessary because Christ “was once offered to bear the sins of many”(Hebrews 9:28)(Butler,)[3] Immaturity would cause one to question foundational truths. Baptism is presented to Christians as a step of obedience; however, one must remember that believer’s baptism is an outward show or demonstration of an inward work of grace by the Lord Jesus Christ. Fourth, the doctrine of laying on of hands. The laying on of hands was an important part of the Day of Atonement. The high priest would lay his hands on the live goat and confess the sins of the people. (Leviticus 16:21) This is a picture of the substitutionary atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. Scripture makes the connection best in Acts 8:9-17. When Philip preached the good news and people believed this good news about “the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized” (Acts 8:12). In verse 17 the people who believed had hands laid upon them and they received the Holy Ghost. One should note that the laying on of hands took place after the act of saving faith.
The fifth principle is the resurrection of the dead. Jesus spoke of Himself when He said, “I am the resurrection, and the life” (John 11:25). He spoke of this in reference to the raising of Lazarus. The resurrection of the dead is a doctrine of Christ. Interestingly, it was also a doctrine held by the Pharisees. Because Jesus is the first fruits from the grave (1 Corinthians 15:20) we can have faith that we too will see Jesus face to face when we leave this world (1 John 3:1-3). Because He lives we shall live also. The last foundational principle is that of eternal judgement. Jesus spoke of “everlasting punishment” in Matthew 25:46, “resurrection of damnation” to those that “have done evil” in John 5:29. Paul picks up this theme in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 when he said that those who do not obey the gospel would “be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord”. Through obedience to the gospel we can escape the eternal wrath to come. All of these principles are foundational principles. However, a foundation is to be built upon. The lack of spiritual growth in his readers is a great cause for concern, as we shall see shortly. In verse 3 we discover how we are to progress in our walk with Jesus Christ. We progress spiritually by the will and power of God. Jesus said that all things are possible with Him. Through Christ we can establish the foundation and then begin to gradually but steadily build upon it.

The danger of spiritual immaturity (v. 4-8)
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

The word “impossible” is translated from the Greek word “adunatos” It appears at least10 times in the New Testament. The writer of Hebrews uses it 4 times. He always uses it to describe complete inability. In Hebrews 6:18 we find that it is “impossible for God to lie”, in Hebrews 10:4 “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins”, and in Hebrews 11:6, the Hall of Faith, “without faith it is impossible to please him.” From his use we can surmise that his intent in Hebrews 6:4 is to describe something that absolutely cannot happen. But to whom is he referring? The writer is addressing one who was “once enlightened”. We find this word translated as “illuminated” in Hebrews 10:32. “But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings.” It sounds here as if he is referring to the conversion experience” (Forlines, Pinson, location 5427).[4]
There is also the word tasted in verses 4 and 5. However, not all are in agreement to the meaning of this word. “Christ “tasting” of death (2:9) was obviously momentary and not continuing or permanent. All men experience the goodness of God, but that does not mean they are all saved” (MacArthur, 1856).[5] The word tasted in 2:9, 6:4, and 6:5 is the same word used by the same writer in the same book. The context in which the word is used in 2:9, “that he [Jesus] by the grace of God should taste death for every man” sets the tone for how the author will use it in the rest of the book. Jesus Christ died for our sins. He died completely and was buried in a borrowed tomb for three days and three nights. In like manner, the use of the word in chapter 6 is that of one who having “tasted the good word of God” was converted, completely and totally converted from a life of sin. He is also one that has an appetite for God’s Word and has experienced “the powers of the world to come.” This is said of someone who has caught a glimpse of the spiritual realm that Jesus makes possible for us as partakers of the Holy Ghost.
The word partaker(s) is used 6 times in the New Testament, 5 of which occur in the book of Hebrews. From his use of the word we understand that he is speaking of a companion or partner. In Hebrews 3:14 the author says, “We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end”. The reference is to none other than a born-again, Spirit indwelled, Christian for none other than a born-again Christian can be described as an enlightened partaker of the Holy Ghost who has tasted the heavenly gift. When one is saved one is indwelled with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, which enables our spiritual growth.
But what is impossible for the Christian who falls away? It is impossible for the apostate to be saved again having fallen away and rejected the saving grace of Jesus Christ. The conjunction that begins verse 6 is translated in the ESV, HCSB, NIV, and NASB as “and”. By contrast the KJV uses the word “if”, which can sow a see of doubt. The Greek translated “they shall fall away” is in the aorist tense. The word “and” would seem to be a better fit than “if”, which removes the doubt in reference to the sin of apostasy. Verse 6 continues this theme by stating that such a person cannot be renewed because “they crucify themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” “Let us note that this is a crucifixion in relationship, that is, to themselves…the relationship of Christ to the unsaved is that of a dead Christ; but to the saved, He is a living Christ” (Forlines, Pinson, location 5473).[6] One’s salvation occurs once, and having fallen away through unbelief it can never recur (2 Peter 2:19-22). True salvation is a precious gift purchased with a precious price once.
It is worth noting that this is only one of several warning passages we find in the book of Hebrews. Hebrews 2:1-4, 3:7-19, 5:11-6:12, 10:19-39, and 12:14-29 are all warnings about falling away. A warning is only valid if a meaningful consequence awaits any violators. If it is impossible to fall away then the warning has no meaning. If the warning has no meaning the book of Hebrews as no meaning for the purpose in writing the epistle was to exhort Jewish believers to remain faithful to Christ and not turn back to the dead works of Judaism.
In verse 7 & 8 we find an analogy that helps us understand the blessed fruitfulness of the Christian who is strong in the Word of God in contrast to the eternal fruitlessness of the apostate Christian who rejects the risen Christ. Christians who grow in the word of righteousness are fruitful. Their lives bless others and honour God. This fruitful life is the result of the blessed rains that God showers upon a life of humble obedience to the Lord and His Word. But only thorns and briers are brought forth in the life of a Christian through slothfulness in and dullness to the Word of righteousness, which results in God’s curse upon a life of proud disobedience to the Lord and His Word.
Christians have often faced horrendous persecution of one form or another since the time of Christ. Christians have been and will continue to be presented with the decision to remain faithful to Christ in the face of such persecution. Christians that refuse to grow spiritually are in danger of falling away from Christ.
            As a young Christian living in the Philippines I faced spiritual warfare on a grand scale. There were many temptations and distractions. However, I also had a spiritual mentor who was strong in the Lord and who taught me the importance of studying and living the Word of God. A weekly Bible study at a missionary’s house reinforced these lessons and gave me great strength. However, we then moved to Japan and all that was lost. I began to slip back to the first principles as I no longer read my Bible daily and there was no proper Bible study. I faced persecution for my faith from fellow service members as well as local nationals. It became increasingly difficult to withstand the pressure. I grew weaker and weaker until I was nearly gone spiritually. It was Hebrews 6:4-6 that brought me back. Realising the danger I was in I began to study more intensely than ever before. The Lord strengthened me and made it possible for me to fear man no longer. My continued spiritual growth is a daily effort.
            Likewise, a pastor I know who lives in London faces routine persecution from fellow Londoners as well as from the police. He preaches in his church on Sunday and in the streets of London throughout the week. He has been arrested or threatened with arrest numerous times. On one occasion whilst preaching in the street he mentioned the sin of homosexuality. He was quickly arrested and charged with a violation of The Public Order Act. He retained a solicitor who told him if he would simply recant his statements in regards to homosexuality he would be released. He said that he could not and was held overnight. He is able to withstand this sort of persecution and thus prevent the danger of falling away because he has moved well beyond the first principles of the doctrines of Christ. In the midst of this storm of persecution his ministry has been blessed and he is a fruitful member of the kingdom of God.

[1] Halley, Henry Hampton. "Hebrews." Halley's Bible Handbook: An Abbreviated Bible Commentary. 24th ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 1965. 646. Print.
[2] Orr, James. "Hebrews, Epistle To The - International Standard Bible Encyclopedia." Bible Study Tools. 1915. Web. 4 Feb. 2015. <>.
[3] Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Ablutions'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.Web. 9 Feb. 2015
[4] Forlines, F. Leroy, and J. Matthew Pinson. "The Perseverance of the Saints." Classical Arminianism: A Theology of Salvation. Nashville, Tenn: Randall House, 2011. Kindle eBook.

[5] MacArthur, John. “The Letter to the Hebrews.” The MacArthur Study Bible: English Standard Version. Edited by John MacArthur. New York: HarperCollins, 1993. 1856. Print

[6] Forlines, F. Leroy, and J. Matthew Pinson. "The Perseverance of the Saints." Classical Arminianism: A Theology of Salvation. Nashville, Tenn: Randall House, 2011. Kindle eBook.


And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed…And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, the Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations” (Exodus 3:2 & 14-15).

The Apostle John makes reference to this in his gospel writings. John’s goal is to demonstrate the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus the “I AM’s” we find in his gospel. Any Jew that heard Jesus say, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am” would understand. Indeed, no Jew worth his or her salt would have mistaken the intent of this statement. In the very next verse the people are ready to kill him on the spot. To this end it is clear that John is making an unmistakable connection when he records the “I AM’s” of Jesus and the “I AM” that Moses met.

There are seven “I AM’s” in John. “I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7), “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11), “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), “I am the true vine” (John 15:1). In John 6:35 Jesus says, “I am the bread of life” not long after feeding the 5,000. “I am the resurrection and the life” after raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-25). Then there is this, “Still at the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus now makes a second claim: “I am the light of the world.” This pronouncement would also have electrified the crowds. Every night of the feast, four huge lamps were lit to accompany joyful singing and dancing. On the last night, the main candelabrum was deliberately left unlit as a reminder that Israel had not yet experienced full salvation…Jesus is now declaring himself to be the one who can provide that salvation”[1] (John 8:12-59). John is using the very words of Jesus Christ to make his point. John is an eyewitness. He heard the words He recorded. There can be no argument. Jesus never hid who He was. He is fully man and fully God. Let there be no talk about the divinity of Jesus Christ. John certainly doesn’t beat about the bush. Pun intended.

[1] Blomberg, Craig. "Additional Teachings of Jesus in Matthew, Luke, and John." Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey. 2nd ed. Nashville, Tenn.: B & H Academic, 2009. 346. Print.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Christ of Faith or the Jesus of History?

Jesus was a person of history. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John attest to the reality of Jesus Christ. My mistake, apparently, is believing the Word of God when it makes clear declarations of this reality. I have no problem with searching for the historical Jesus. I find it quite fascinating. No less than Josephus, Tacitus, and Pliny the Younger mention Jesus in their writings. Coupled with the inspired writers we have proof enough in this reality. However, for many it appears that finding the historical Jesus is an attempt to prove Jesus a man of history and a myth of religion. It also appears that the Jesus of history conveniently fits into the prism of men’s particular worldview. For some Jesus is “enlightened sage, oriental Christ, rabbi…superstar, Mormon elder brother, and black Moses.”[i] If I read our text correctly Jesus does not come off like He is described in the Bible at all in all the “Quests” mentioned. I have to admit I was taken aback by the many attempts to prove Jesus just a man from professing Christians. To me Jesus is man and the Messiah, Jesus and the Christ. He is exactly who the Bible says He is. The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

The two are related in that both liberal and conservative, for example, want to believe in a historical Jesus. All regardless of their theological persuasion use much of the same source material, such as the Bible and secular historical writings, etc. in order to reach vastly different conclusions. Believing in the historical Jesus is not enough. One must believe in the supernatural Christ of faith as well. “[Thomas] Jefferson believed in the existence of a Supreme Being who was the creator and sustainer of the universe and the ultimate ground of being, but this was not the triune deity of orthodox Christianity. He also rejected the idea of the divinity of Christ”.[ii] The dividing lines are clear enough. For some Jesus will always be an extraordinary man, but just a man. For others Jesus is more than a man, he is the God man who came to a sin cursed world to die for the sins of all mankind.

[i] Beals, Paul A. "The Historical Jesus." A People for His Name: A Church Based Missions Strategy. Rev. ed. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1995. 217. Print.
[ii] "Jefferson's Religious Beliefs." Thomas Jeffersons Monticello Blog RSS. 5 Dec. 2014. Web. <>.