Category: New Believers

New Testament Overview*

New Testament Overview*

Matthew: Written to a Jewish audience, this Gospel links the Old and New Testaments. It presents Jesus as the Messiah and King promised in the Old Testament. Matthew emphasizes Jesus’ authority and power.

Mark: Mark probably had pragmatic Roman readers in mind. His Gospel stresses action and gives a straightforward, blow-by-blow account of Jesus’ work on earth.

Luke: A doctor, Luke was also a fine writer. His Gospel provides many details of human interest, especially in Jesus’ treatment of the poor and needy. A joyful tone characterizes Luke’s book.

John: John has a different, more reflective style than the other Gospels. Its author selected seven signs that pointed to Jesus as the Son of God and wove together everything else to underscore that point.

Acts: Acts tells what happened to Jesus’ followers after he left them. Peter and Paul soon emerged as leaders of the rapidly spreading church.

Romans: Written for a sophisticated audience, Romans sets forth theology in a logical, organized form.

1 Corinthians: A very practical book, 1 Corinthians takes up the problems of a tumultuous church in Corinth: marriage, factions, immorality, public worship and lawsuits.

2 Corinthians: Paul wrote this follow-up letter to defend himself against a rebellion led by certain false apostles.

Galatians: A short version of the message of Romans, this book addresses legalism. It shows how Christ came to bring freedom, not bondage to a set of laws.

Ephesians: Although written in jail, this letter is Paul’s most optimistic and encouraging. It tells of the advantages a believer has in Christ.

Philippians: The church at Philippi ranked among Paul’s favorites. This friendly letter stresses that joy can be found in any situation.

Colossians: Written to oppose certain cults, Colossians tells how faith in Christ is complete. Nothing needs to be added to what Christ did.

1 Thessalonians: Composed early in Paul’s ministry, this letter gives a capsule history of one church, as well as Paul’s direct advice about specific problems.

2 Thessalonians: Stronger in tone than his first letter to the Thessalonians, the sequel goes over the same topics, especially the church’s questions about Christ’s second coming.

1 Timothy: As Paul neared the end of his life, he chose young men such as Timothy to carry on his work. His two letters to Timothy form a leadership manual for a young pastor.

2 Timothy: Written just before Paul’s death, 2 Timothy offers Paul’s final words to his young assistant.

Titus: Titus was left in Crete, a notoriously difficult place to nurture a church. Paul’s letter gave practical advice on how to go about it.

Philemon: Paul urged Philemon, owner of a runaway slave, Onesimus, to forgive his slave and accept him back as a brother in Christ.

Hebrews: No one knows who wrote Hebrews, but it probably first went to Christians in danger of slipping back into their old, rule-bound religion. It interprets the Old Testament, explaining many Jewish practices as symbols that prepared the way for Christ.

James: James, a man of action, emphasized the right kind of behavior for a believer. Someone who calls himself or herself a Christian ought to act like it, James believed, and his letter spells out the specifics.

1 Peter: Early Christians often met violent opposition, and Peter’s letter comforted and encouraged Christians who were being persecuted for their faith.

2 Peter: In contrast to Peter’s first letter, this one focused on problems that sprang up from the inside. It warns against false teachers.

1 John: John could fill simple words, such as light, love and life, with deep meaning, and in this letter he elegantly explains basic truths about the Christian life.

2 John: Warning against false teachers, John counseled churches on how to respond to them.

3 John: Balancing 2 John, this companion letter mentions the need to be hospitable to true teachers.

Jude: Jude gave a brief but fiery exposé of heretics.

Revelation: A book of visions and symbols, Revelation is the only New Testament book that concentrates on prophecy. It completes the story, begun in Genesis, of the cosmic battle between good and evil being waged on earth. It ends with a picture of a new heaven and new earth.

 

*This overview is from

The NRSV Student Bible

c.1994, 1996 by Zondervan

used by permission

Old Testament Overview*

Old Testament Overview*

Genesis: The book of beginnings describes creation, the first rebellions against God and God’s choosing of Abraham and his offspring.

Exodus: God rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and led them to the desert of Sinai. There he gave Moses the laws to govern the new nation.

Leviticus: God set up laws for the Israelites, mostly regarding holiness and worship.

Numbers: Because of their rebellion and disobedience, the Israelites had to wander in a wilderness for 40 years before entering the promised land.

Deuteronomy: Just before his death, Moses made three emotional farewell speeches, recapping history and warning the Israelites against further mistakes.

Joshua: After Moses’ death, Joshua commanded the armies that conquered much of the territory in the promised land.

Judges: The new nation fell into a series of dismal failures. God raised up leaders called “judges.”

Ruth: This story of love and loyalty between two widows shines out brightly in an otherwise dark period.

I Samuel: Samuel became a transition leader between the time of the judges and that of the kings. He appointed lsrael’s first king, Saul. After his own failure, Saul tried violently to prevent God’s king-elect, David, from taking the throne.

2 Samuel: David, a man after God’s own heart, brought the nation together. But after committing adultery and murder, he was haunted by family and national crises.

1 Kings: Solomon succeeded David, with mixed success. At his death, a civil war tore apart the nation. Successive kings were mostly bad, and the prophet Elijah had dramatic confrontations with King Ahab.

2 Kings: This book continues the record of the rulers of the divided kingdom. None of the northern kings followed God consistently, and so Israel was finally destroyed by an invader. The southern kingdom, Judah, lasted much longer, but finally Babylon conquered Judah and deported its citizens.

1 Chronicles: The book opens with the most complete genealogical record in the Bible, then adds many incidents from the life of David (often the same as those in 2 Samuel).

2 Chronicles: Often paralleling the books of Kings, this book records the history of the rulers of Judah, emphasizing the good kings.

Ezra: After being held captive in Babylon for decades, the Jews were allowed to return to their homeland. Ezra, a priest, emerged from one of the first waves of refugees.

Nehemiah: Nehemiah returned from the Babylonian captivity after the temple had been rebuilt. He concentrated on restoring the protective wall around Jerusalem and joined Ezra in leading a religious revival.

Esther: This story is set among captive Jews in Persia. A courageous Jewish queen foiled a plan to exterminate her people.

Job: The most godly man of his day suffers the greatest personal tragedy. The entire book deals with the question “Why?”

Psalms: These prayers and hymns cover the full range of human emotion; together, they represent a personal journal of how to relate to God. Some were also used in public worship services.

Proverbs: The proverbs offer advice on every imaginable area of life. The style of wise living described here leads to a fulfilled life.

Ecclesiastes: A life without God, “under the sun,” leads to meaninglessness and despair, says the Teacher in a strikingly modern book.

Song of Songs: This beautiful poem celebrates romantic and physical love.

Isaiah: The most eloquent of the prophets, Isaiah analyzed the failures of all the nations around him and pointed to a future Messiah who would bring peace.

Jeremiah: Jeremiah led an emotionally tortured life, yet held to his stern message. He spoke to Judah in the last decades before Babylon destroyed the nation.

Lamentations: All Jeremiah’s warnings about Jerusalem came true, and Lamentations records five poems of sorrow for the fallen city.

Ezekiel: Ezekiel spoke to the Jews who were captive in Babylon. He often used dramatic stories and enacted parables to make his points.

Daniel: A captive in Babylon, Daniel rose to the office of prime minister. Despite intense political pressure, he lived a model life of integrity and left highly symbolic prophecies about the future.

Hosea: By marrying a loose-living wife, Hosea lived out his message: that Israel had committed spiritual adultery against God.

Joel: Beginning with a recent catastrophe in Judah (a locust plague), Joel foretold God’s judgment on Judah.

Amos: A country boy, Amos preached to Israel at the height of its prosperity. His grim warnings focused on materialism.

Obadiah: Obadiah warned Edom, a nation bordering Judah.

Jonah: Jonah reluctantly went to Nineveh and found Israel’s enemies responsive to God’s message.

Micah: Micah exposed corruption in every level of society, but closed with a promise of forgiveness and restoration.

Nahum: Long after Jonah had stirred Nineveh to repentance, Nahum foretold the mighty city’s total destruction.

Habakkuk: Habakkuk addressed his book to God, not people. In a frank dialogue with God, he discussed problems of suffering and injustice.

Zephaniah: Zephaniah focused on the coming day of the Lord, which would purge Judah, resulting in a remnant used to bless the entire world.

Haggai: After returning from the Babylonian captivity, the Jews began rebuilding the temple of God. But before long they set aside that task to work on their own homes. Haggai reminded them to put God first.

Zechariah: Writing around the same time as Haggai, Zechariah also urged the Jews to work on the temple. He used a more uplifting approach, describing how the temple would point to the coming Messiah.

Malachi: The last Old Testament prophet, Malachi faced a nation that had grown indifferent. He sought to stir the people from apathy.

 

*This overview is from

The NRSV Student Bible

c.1994, 1996 by Zondervan

used by permission

Scarlet Women, White as Snow

Scarlet Women, White as Snow

Our chronological study in the Gospels now brings us to the genealogies in Matthew and Luke. (We will circle back to the story of John the Baptist next week)

Matthew opens his Gospel with the Family Tree of Jesus and he does so to demonstrate 3 critical facts:

  1. Though Jesus was, in fact, God the Son, He was also a flesh and blood human being.
  2. Matthew illustrates that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah, the Divine King who would rule Israel, and even the nations, forever. Matthew proves his claim by providing the patrilineal genealogy of Jesus.
  3. Jesus has power to save the whole world. Matthew, conspicuously, includes gentiles in the lineage of Jesus thereby showing that Messiah has come to redeem from the whole of the world.

I want to give you a thought to keep in mind as we go: In the days of Jesus, the Oral Tradition was very important and a recitation of a genealogy would call to mind the stories of the individuals listed and would serve as a record of God’s Grace.

Text: Matthew 1 (TLB)

Note that in the reading of our text, I have made the names of the women red in keeping with the idea that God used women who sinned to be a part of Messiah’s lineage. This week, we are not looking at the whole genealogy but we are looking at the 5 most important women in the Old Testament: Sarah, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. I call these women the most important in the Old Testament for two reasons, Sarah is the mother of the Nation of Israel, who gave us the Savior, and the other 4 are included, by direction of the Holy Spirit, in the Legal Genealogy of Christ as King

Our text…

These are the ancestors of Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David and of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac; Isaac was the father of Jacob; Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (Tamar was their mother); Perez was the father of Hezron; Hezron was the father of Aram; Aram was the father of Amminadab; Amminadab was the father of Nahshon; Nahshon was the father of Salmon; Salmon was the father of Boaz (Rahab was his mother); Boaz was the father of Obed (Ruth was his mother); Obed was the father of Jesse; Jesse was the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon (his mother was the widow of Uriah); Solomon was the father of Rehoboam; Rehoboam was the father of Abijah; Abijah was the father of Asa; Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat; Jehoshaphat was the father of Jehoram; Jehoram was the father of Uzziah; Uzziah was the father of Jotham; Jotham was the father of Ahaz; Ahaz was the father of  Hezekiah; 10 Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh; Manasseh was the father of Amos; Amos was the father of Josiah; 11 Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers (born at the time of the exile to Babylon). 12 After the exile: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel; Shealtiel was the father of Zerubbabel; 13 Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud; Abiud was the father of Eliakim; Eliakim was the father of Azor; 14 Azor was the father of Zadok; Zadok was the father of Achim; Achim was the father of Eliud; 15 Eliud was the father of Eleazar; Eleazar was the father of Matthan; Matthan was the father of Jacob; 16 Jacob was the father of Joseph (who was the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ the Messiah). 17 These are fourteen[a] of the generations from Abraham to King David; and fourteen from King David’s time to the exile; and fourteen from the exile to Christ. 18 These are the facts concerning the birth of Jesus Christ: His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But while she was still a virgin she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph, her fiancé,[b] being a man of stern principle,* decided to break the engagement but to do it quietly, as he didn’t want to publicly disgrace her. 20 As he lay  awake[c] considering this, he fell into a dream, and saw an angel standing beside him. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “don’t hesitate to take Mary as your wife! For the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a Son, and you shall name him Jesus (meaning ‘Savior’), for he will save his people from their sins. 22 This will fulfill God’s message through his prophets—

23 ‘Listen! The virgin shall conceive a child! She shall give birth to a Son, and he shall be called “Emmanuel” (meaning “God is with us”).’”

24 When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel commanded and brought Mary home to be his wife, 25 but she remained a virgin until her Son was born; and Joseph named him “Jesus.”

 

Textual Footnotes:

  1. Matthew 1:17These are fourteen, literally, “So all the generations from Abraham unto David are fourteen.”
  2. Matthew 1:19her fiancé, literally, “her husband.” a man of stern principle, literally, “a just man.”
  3. Matthew 1:20As he lay awake, implied in remainder of verse.

The following notes give us a high level overview of the 5 most important women of the Old Testament.

 

SARAH: Laughing all the way to redemption

Genesis 18:9-15

Why is Sarah so important? She is the mother of the people of Israel and it is from Israel that we receive Messiah the King. Sarah, then is “mother” of the Redeemer.

Strengths and accomplishments

  • Was intensely loyal to her own child
  • Became the mother of a nation and an ancestor of Jesus
  • Was a woman of faith, the first woman listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11

Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Had trouble believing God’s promises to her
  • Attempted to work problems out on her own, without consulting God
  • Tried to cover her faults by blaming others

Lessons from her life

  • God responds to faith even in the midst of failure
  • God is not bound by what usually happens; he can stretch the limits and cause unheard-of events to occur

Key verse

“It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise” (Hebrews 11:11).

Sarah’s story unfolds in Genesis 11—25. She is also mentioned in Isaiah 51:2; Romans 4:19; 9:9; Hebrews 11:11; 1 Peter 3:6.

TAMAR: Holding the Line

Genesis 38:1-30

Why is Tamar important to the Old Testament? Tamar held fast the line of Judah by forcing him to father an heir for her and, it is this line that leads to Jesus.

Fast Facts:

  • Widowed by Er, Judah’s 1st born son.
  • Widowed a 2nd time by Onan, Judah’s 2nd son, who was struck dead by God for refusing to consummate the marriage with Tamar.
  • Pretended to be a prostitute to trick Judah into fathering an heir for her.

Life lessons:

  • Even when a person refuses to obey, God’s plans cannot be thwarted.
  • Though wicked deeds are not encouraged, they can be redeemed for God’s glory

 

RAHAB: A prodigal daughter comes home

Joshua 6:22-23

Why is Rahab so important? Rahab kept the 12 spies safe as they scouted the promised land. She fathered Boaz, the kinsman redeemer who plays a major role in the life of Ruth and also gives a picture of redemption.

Strengths and accomplishments

  • Relative of Boaz, and thus an ancestor of David and Jesus
  • One of only two women listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11
  • Resourceful, willing to help others at great cost to herself

Weakness and mistake

  • She was a prostitute

Lesson from her life

  • She did not let fear affect her faith in God’s ability to deliver

Key verse

“It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies” (Hebrews 11:31).

Rahab’s story unfolds in Joshua 2 and 6:22, 23. She is also mentioned in Matthew 1:5; Hebrews 11:31; and James 2:25.

RUTH: Foretelling the gathering gentiles

Ruth 1:6–4:16

Why is Ruth important? Ruth was from Moab making her a gentile. Her story foretells that Messiah the King will redeem from the whole world.

Strengths and accomplishments (Stem from her relationship with Naomi, her mother in law)

  • A relationship where the greatest bond was faith in God
  • A relationship of strong mutual commitment
  • A relationship in which each person tried to do what was best for the other

Life Lessons from Ruth

  • God’s living presence in a relationship overcomes differences that might otherwise create division and disharmony

Key verses

“But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!’ ” (Ruth 1:16, 17).

Ruth’s Story unfolds in the book that bears her name. Ruth is also mentioned in Matthew 1:5.

BATHSHEBA (wife of Uriah): the Mistress who became queen

2 Samuel 11:2-5; 1 Kings 1:11-53; 2:13-25

Why is Bathsheba important? Bathsheba was consort and later wife to David, Israel’s most important King, David, who gives Messiah his right to rule. Bathsheba is the mother of the Royal line of Messiah the King.

Strengths and accomplishments

  • Became influential in the palace alongside her son Solomon
  • Was the mother of Israel’s wisest king and an ancestor of Jesus Christ

Weakness and mistake

  • Committed adultery
  • Lost her son through divine judgment

Lessons from her life

  • Although we may feel caught up in a chain of events, we are still responsible for the way we participate in those events
  • A sin may seem like one small seed, but the harvest of consequences is beyond measure
  • In the worst possible situations, God is still able to bring about good when people truly turn to him
  • While we must live with the natural consequences of our sins, God’s forgiveness of sin is complete

Key verses

“When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. When the period of mourning was over, David sent for her and brought her to the palace, and she became one of his wives. Then she gave birth to a son. But the Lord was displeased with what David had done” (2 Samuel 11:26, 27).

Bathsheba’s story unfolds in 2 Samuel 11—12 and 1 Kings 1—2. A related passage is Psalm 51.

Do you find yourself with “unsavory” characters in your family history? You are in good company, so did Jesus. Take comfort in the fact that, even though you cannot see the whole story, God is at work for His purposes and His glory. Someday, Heaven will tell the tale of the role you played in redemptive history. Who knows but you might lead the next missionary to Christ and share in his reward at the Bema seat.

Grace to you.

A Beginner’s Guide to Marking in Your Bible/In-Depth Study

A Beginner’s Guide to Marking in Your Bible/In-Depth Study

 

As a pastor, I am asked, quite often, for advice on how to mark in a Bible. Finally, after answering more than 2 dozen times, I decided to share this advice with all of you, my beloved readers.

You will need:

  • A new, unmarked Bible (As it happens, the writing of this article coincides with my beginning to mark in a new ESV Large Print Bible in top grain leather.) There are a number of excellent choices available, but I recommend avoiding the ones with artwork already in the margins; you want your markings to be your own.
  • A set of marking tools (For highlighting, I recommend Bible Hi-Glider from GT Luscombe, for underlining, I recommend Prang colored pencils, and for your annotations, I recommend Pilot Brand Better Retractable Ball Point Pen in fine point). You can use any or all of the three.
  • A plan for how you will study (Chapter and Verse, Topical, Systematic Theology)
  • A journal (Moleskine is nice as is Picadilly Essential Notebook)
  • A Bible Dictionary. a Concordance, and a single volume commentary (I recommend either the MacArthur Bible Commentary (Single Volume) or the Wycliff Bible Commentary. (Warren Wiersbe has an excellent 2-volume set if you like)

 

Before you begin, Pray. You want to be sure that you are being guided by the Holy Spirit. Ensure that you have decided on if/how you will color code before your first session. Will you simply highlight verses you want to commit to memory (ideal for 1st time students of the Bible) or will you have a more detailed approach.

 

Here is my approach for this new Bible:

I will be using the GT Luscombe Hi-Gliders. There are 6 colors and I will be highlighting Six Essentials of Christianity

 

  • Orange = Sin
  • Yellow = Grace
  • Pink = Salvation
  • Green = Fruit of the Spirit
  • Purple = the Kingdom
  • Blue = New Heaven and New Earth

 

Here are the steps I recommend following:

  1. Choose your topic. For our example we will choose sin.
  2. Look up your topic in your concordance and turn to the first passage.
  3. Read the passage the 1st time without making any marks
  4. Read the passage again with your journal handy. Write down any words you are not familiar with and leave room to note definitions. Also make note of any questions that you may have as you are reading.
  5. Read the passage for a third time, this time underlining or highlighting as you go.
  6. Make any marginal notes that will help jog your memory about what you have learned so far.
  7. Consult your commentary for further insight. Read any cross-references you find and mark the passage address (John 1:1) in your journal
  8. Pray for the 2nd time, ensuring that you thank the Holy Spirit for His word and to ask him to illuminate His truth to your mind.

 

Repeat the process as often as you have planned for your study. Some people stretch this process out for a week and others repeat daily. There is no correct or incorrect option; follow the pace best suited to how you learn. A quality study is what we are after, not a quantity of verses studied.

Logos: God Before Time (Part One)

Logos: God Before Time (Part One)

As we begin our chronological study of the Gospels, it is important to realize that the Gospel story begins long before time when the Logos was with God and was God. John, the Beloved Apostle opens our understanding with a powerful theological declaration that echoes Genesis 1:1 and fills in the person and power of the God Who is Before Time…

 

John 1:1

En arkhêi (In the Beginning) ên ho lógos, (the Word was) kaì ho lógos ên pròs tòn theón, (and the Word was with God) kaì theòs ên ho lógos. (and God was the word)

 

NLT: In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 

Here, beloved, in this verse begins the story of the Gospels. The Word, the eternal expression of the Godhead, is the focus of the story of the Gospels.

 

Let us look for a moment at Rabbi David Sturn’s exposition on John 1:1 and 2

 

1:1a ‘In the beginning was the Word.’ This echoes the first sentence of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Word is not named as such in Genesis but is immediately seen in action: “And God said, ‘Let there be light’” (Gen. 1:3). God expresses himself as commanding, calling, and creating. This expressing, this speaking, this “Word” is God. A God who does not speak, a wordless God, is no God at all. Word, from the Greek logos, corresponds to the Aramaic memra, a technical, theological term used by rabbis in the centuries before and after Yeshua when speaking of God’s expression of himself. Thus the Messiah existed before all creation (cf. 17:5).

 

1:1b-2 And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.Some qualities of Yochanan (John) that have been considered non-Jewish or of Hellenistic origin in the past are better understood in a Jewish context. One example is its famous use of the Greek term logos: “In the beginning was the Word [logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” F. F. Bruce notes, “The term logos was familiar in some Greek philosophical schools,” and “constituted a bridge-word by which people brought up in Greek philosophy…found their way into Johannine Christianity.” At the same time, “The true background to John’s thought and language is found not in Greek philosophy but in Hebrew revelation” (Bruce, The Gospel of John 29). John’s use of logos is rooted in the creation account of Genesis and parallel Jewish discussions of personified wisdom (Pr. 8:22ff.) and of the Aramaic term memra or word. Another example is John’s frequent use of stark contrast, as between light and darkness (1:5ff.; 3:19–21; 12:35–36) or above and below (8:23). As with logos, this usage has been explained in terms of Greek philosophy, which was dualistic, but it actually reflects streams of Second Temple Jewish thought, in particular, the Dead Sea Scrolls.”

 

Let’s look a little deeper at Logos and then we will circle back

 

Word Wealth: The Word

(Greek ho logos) (1:1; 1 John 1:1; Rev. 19:13) Strong’s #3056: This Greek word was used to speak of the principle of the universe, even the creative energy that generated the universe. The term logos may also have some connection with the OT presentation of Wisdom as a personification or attribute of God (see Prov. 8). In both the Jewish conception and the Greek, the Logos was associated with the idea of beginnings—the world began through the origination and instrumentality of the Word (Gen. 1:3). John may have had these ideas in mind, but more likely he used this word in a new way to identify the Son of God as divine. He is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), the express image of God’s substance (Heb. 1:3). In the Godhead, the Son functions as the Revealer of God and is God in reality.

 

John 1:1 is probably the strongest passage in the NT for declaring the deity of Jesus Christ. Because of this, many who deny this biblical doctrine, especially cultists, have attempted to undercut it by arguing that this passage only teaches that Jesus is “a god” and so not fully Deity. This confused position falls on at least two grounds. Such a view is polytheistic, the belief in more than one god. Second, it betrays a misunderstanding of Greek grammar. Verse 1 of the first chapter of John reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The last portion of v. 1 is the major point of contention. It reads in the Greek theos en ho logos, or literally, “the Word was God.” God, or theos, occurs in this verse without the Greek article ho, so that some have contended that the lack of the article in the Greek text should cause the statement to be translated “the Word was a god.” The best understanding for the translation, however, as recognized by Greek scholars, is that since theos is a predicate and precedes the noun logos and a verb, it is natural for it to occur here without the article. Greek scholars are agreed that the verse should be translated as it regularly is in modern and ancient translations, clearly affirming that Jesus is indeed God.

 

Now we said that John’s use of Logos is rooted in Hebrew revelation, but how so? Let’s look at the 8th Chapter of Proverbs. The entire chapter deals with Wisdom as a personification; Wisdom, like Logos is a personification of God.

 

8.22: ‘Created me:’ Since ancient times, interpreters have disputed whether the verb “kanah” means “created” or “acquired.” The latter allows for the possibility that wisdom existed from eternity and was coeval with God. Some Christian groups preferred this, since they identified wisdom with the Logos, which was in turn identified with the Christ.

 

8.23 (me not the rabbis) does appear to suggest that Wisdom was a created being. This, however, is translation dependent, and seems to be a matter of dispute.

 

8.24: According to Gen. 1.2, the ‘deep’ (the primordial sea) existed before creation began. Wisdom insists that she preceded in existence even this most primordial of entities. ‘I was brought forth:’ This word is usually used of birth. The background metaphor of divine parenthood is reinforced by v. 30.

 

8.25: The mountains were thought to rest on foundations or on pillars set (miraculously, see Job 38.6) in the abyss or the underworld.

 

8.27-31: Wisdom declares that she was present when God produced the inhabited world. Compare this with John 1:3, “By Him were all things made and without Him was not anything made that has been made.”

 

8:22-24brought . . . forth . . . I was given birth. Together, these expressions depict Wisdom’s delivery in primordial time as the Lord’s daughter. In this case, wisdom issues from the very character of God; it is not something created apart from him. And as an attribute of God, wisdom is a characteristic he employed to create the cosmos (see Introduction: Lady Wisdom; see also Col 1:15-20). Consequently, Lady Wisdom has certain knowledge about God’s ways (cf. 30:3-4).

 

8:22–31 the first of his acts of old (v. 22). The same wisdom that makes this invitation is the wisdom that was present with God when he created the world and established it as a coherent system, for Wisdom (personified) says, I was daily his delight (v. 30; cf. also 3:19–20). The wisdom that enters the lives of the faithful actually enables them to participate in the rationality at the heart of things. This is why the impious are called “foolish” or even “stupid” (12:1); they are self-haters (cf. 8:36). On the question of whether the personification of Wisdom here goes beyond personification and describes an actual person, the Pre-Incarnate 2nd Person of the trinity.

 

A brief detour into the Introductions of the other gospel accounts…Where John lays a very theological preamble to the Gospels for us, Mark is much more succinct and Luke addresses his to a very specific person:

 

Mark 1:1

This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God

 

Luke 1:1-4

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilledamong us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

 

 

Limited comment on Mark’s Introduction is needed, so I will be brief: Mark’s Gospel account is very fast moving so he does not offer a ton of detail. In his account, we find simply enough information to come to faith in Christ. Luke on the other hand tells us why he wrote and what we can expect to find within his gospel account.

 

Let’s unpack Luke’s introduction a little more…

 

Most Excellent TheophilusOn the one hand, this appellation is a little curious but only if you are not familiar with the customs of Ancient Rome. By referring to Theophilus as most excellent, he identifies the reader as an official in the Roman government. In Acts 26:25, Paul refers to the governor Porcius Festus as, Most Excellent Festus. Luke addresses the book of Acts to the same person and given Paul’s appeal to Caesar at the end of Acts, we have the possibility that Theophilus was a Praetor (magistrate) who had become a Christian and now wanted to examine the facts behind his faith.

 

We know that Luke was a physician that traveled with Paul (Colossians 4:14) but he writes with the skill of both an historian and a lawyer. Luke states that this will be an orderly account and I personally believe that this account was submitted as part of Paul’s legal defense.

 

Now, circling back to our study of John 1:1

 

“In the beginning” In these powerful words John tells us that Jesus was before time and by saying God was the Word, John identifies the Jesus as being co-existent and co-eternal with God the Father.

 

In part two, we will look deeper at the pre-existence of Jesus and His role as creator.

The Believer and the Law (Guest post)

The Believer and the Law (Guest post)

It is is privilege to share another lesson from our excellent friend and fellow teacher, James Quiggle, ThM. Below he is talking about the Believer and the Law.

 

What is the believer’s relation to “The Law?” The apostle Paul said the New Testament believer is “not under law but under grace,” Romans 6:14. But then Paul said he was “not being without law to God but within law to Christ,” 1 Corinthians 9:21. Paul said, “The law is good if one uses it lawfully,” 1 Timothy 1:8, and “the law is holy,” Romans 7:12, and “the law is spiritual,” Romans 7:16. How do we resolve this seeming contradiction, as being not under law but not without law?

When Paul says the believer is “not under law,” he is speaking of the Mosaic Law—specifically the way his unsaved Jewish brethren used the Mosaic Law. The Judaism of New Testament times viewed obedience to the Mosaic Law as the only way to obtain the kind of righteousness that resulted in a saving relationship with God. Every negative use of “law” in the New Testament is a reference to this view of righteousness gained through obedience to the Mosaic Law. Paul specifically says this at Romans 9:31–32, “Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.” Paul’s statement at Ephesians 2:9, that salvation is “not of works” is partly a reference to the Jewish effort to obtain salvation through “works of the [Mosaic] law.” (The Gentiles had a similar view of obedience to their gods as the way to pagan heaven.)

What was the real purpose of the Mosaic Law? There are three aspects to the Mosaic Law. First, the Mosaic Law revealed God’s values through its precepts. These are the values by which human beings are to conduct their manner of life. Notice I did not say “these are the commandments” but “these are the values,” because some of the commandments do not make sense in these New Testament times, but the values and principles underlying the commandments remain valid. God’s moral values from the Mosaic Law are repeated in the New Testament—what some call the Law of Christ. God’s moral values do not change, therefore obedience to those values is still required.

Second, the Mosaic Law was a moral guide to protect God’s saved people from the destructive power of sin. “The [Mosaic] law is holy, the commandment holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12). “Before faith we were kept under guard by the [Mosaic] law . . . the [Mosaic] law was our paidagōgós to bring us to Christ,” (Galatians 3:23, 24). The paidagōgós was originally a slave who accompanied the adolescent minor heir when he left the security of the home, whose purpose was to protect the heir morally and physically. One of the more frequent trips was to the school house (in modern terms) and thus the paidagōgós became identified with this frequent task. The original meaning is exactly what Paul has said, “kept under guard” by the Mosaic law.

Third, the Mosaic Law condemned the sinner by revealing his or her sin. The Mosaic Law is “a ministry of death” and a “ministry of condemnation” (2 Corinthians 3:7, 9). And Romans 7:13, “But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good,” the Mosaic Law, 7:12, “so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.” “I would not have known sin,” said Paul (Romans 7:7), “except through the [Mosaic] law.”

So, when Paul speaks of “the law,” he is usually referring to the Mosaic Law. The New Testament believer is “not under the Mosaic law but under grace,” Romans 6:14. But is the New Testament believer without law? No. We saw above Paul said he was “not being without law to God but within law to Christ,” 1 Corinthians 9:21. The believer has been set free from the condemnation of the Mosaic Law, but obedience to the moral values the Mosaic Law expresses are still required of the believer. The believer has been set free from the worldly pursuit of righteousness and salvation through the works required by the Mosaic Law. But the believer is not free to sin because under grace, Romans 7:15. Rather, there is still a law the believer must obey—not to gain righteousness, but as the expression of righteousness received.

No careful reader of the New Testament letters can fail to be impressed by the commandments to moral behavior. For example, Paul repeats the second table of the Ten Commandments at Romans 13:9 as required of the believer—he even quotes Leviticus 19:18 as a requirement for obedience, noting that love of one’s neighbor incorporates doing the commandments. The Hebrews’ Writer gives several commandments in chapter 13. The book of James gives many commandments to “do this” but “don’t do that.” Peter in his first letter says, “let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, a busybody” (1 Peter 4:15), and positively, “honor all people love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17), and many more “do this-don’t do that” commandments. John’s first letter is full of instruction for Christian behavior. When Jude says “contend earnestly for the faith” he isn’t just speaking of doctrine, but practice also, noting all the immoral behaviors s examples of the things believers are to not do. Paul gives a rather complete list of “do this” behaviors in Titus 2:1–11. The moral commandments of the New Testament, the Law of Christ, as it is sometimes called, tells the believer how he/she “ought to walk and to please God,” 1 Thessalonians 4:1, through the commandments of Christ and the apostles, 1 Thessalonians 4:2–7.

The believer, of course, is able to obey God’s commandments and lead a life pleasing to God, just because he/she has been saved and regenerated (born-again), and continually receives grace, guidance, and power from the Holy Spirit to live the Christian life. The believer has been justified and sanctified, and therefore strives to lead a life of sanctification—through obedience to God’s commandments—as the expression of his or her sanctification, 1 John 2:6. Thus the many New Testament exhortations. Calvin brilliantly describes the believer’s relationship to the law. “The whole life of Christians ought to be an exercise of piety, since they are called to sanctification (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7). It is the office of the law to remind them of their duty and thereby excite them to the pursuit of holiness and integrity” (“Institutes,” 3.19.2).

To summarize. The New Testament writers spoke against the wrongful use of the Mosaic Law as a means to gain saving righteousness, teaching rather that salvation is not by doing but by believing. Thus the New Testament believer is not a participant in the Jewish effort to gain righteousness through obedience to the Mosaic Law. The New Testament writers, however, always exhort the believer to obey the law in the sense of God’s moral commandments, which express God’s moral values in specific precepts (thus the moral commandments of the Mosaic law are repeated in the New Testament for action by the believer), thereby urging a sanctified manner of living.

More simply, the New Testament commands obedience to God’s law as the expression of the believer’s salvific righteousness and sanctification, versus the wrongful use of the Mosaic Law as an attempt to gaining salvific righteousness and sanctification.

Shadows of Atonement and the Resurrection’s Seal of the Atonement

Shadows of Atonement and the Resurrection’s Seal of the Atonement

What is Penal Substitutionary Atonement and why is it the most important doctrine?

In the simplest possible terms, the biblical doctrine of penal substitution holds that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross takes the place of the punishment we ought to suffer for our sins. As a result, God’s justice is satisfied, and those who accept Christ can be forgiven and reconciled to God. Let me give you a succinct, one sentence explanation of Penal Substitutionary Atonement and then we will look at the doctrine in more detail:  Christ, by his own sacrificial choice, was punished in the place of sinners, thus satisfying the demands of justice so God can justly forgive the sins.

The word penal means “related to punishment for offenses,” and substitution means “the act of a person taking the place of another.” So, penal substitution is the act of a person taking the punishment for someone else’s offenses. In Christian theology, Jesus Christ is Substitute, and the punishment He took, at the cross, was ours, based on our sin (1 Peter 2:24). You may notice that this sounds very judicial and reflects the language of a courtroom and you would be correct in noticing that. Judicial terms are not foreign to the Christian; we speak of justification, reward, the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Great White Throne Judgment of the Wicked and others so it is sensible to speak of Penal Substitutionary Atonement.

According to the doctrine of penal substitution, God’s perfect justice demands some form of atonement for sin. Humanity is depraved, to such an extent that we are spiritually dead and incapable of atoning for sin in any way (Ephesians 2:1). Penal substitution means Jesus’ death on the cross propitiated, or satisfied, God’s requirement for justice. God’s mercy allows Jesus to take the punishment we deserve for our sins. As a result, Jesus’ sacrifice serves as a substitute for anyone who accepts it. In a very direct sense, Jesus is exchanged for us as the recipient of sin’s penalty.

Objection: Penal Substitutionary Atonement is a Calvinist Doctrine. Answer: Of course it is. Penal Substitutionary Atonement follows, naturally, with the flow of the Doctrines of Grace. Total Depravity lays out the case against us as sinners and Particular Redemption identifies those for whom Christ was the substitute and the Perseverance of the Saints explains the efficacy and durability of the Atonement.

Objection: Penal Substitutionary Atonement is unbiblical.
Answer: (Quoting Got Questions Ministries) Penal substitution is clearly taught by the Bible. In fact, much of what God did prior to Jesus’ ministry was to foreshadow this concept and present it as the purpose of the Messiah. In Genesis 3:21, God uses animal skins to cover the naked Adam and Eve. This is the first reference to a death (in this case, an animal’s) being used to cover (atone for) sin. In Exodus 12:13, God’s Spirit “passes over” the homes that are covered (atoned) by the blood of the sacrifice. God requires blood for atonement in Exodus 29:41–42. The description of Messiah in Isaiah 53:4–6 says His suffering is meant to heal our wounds. The fact that the Messiah was to be “crushed for our iniquities” (verse 5) is a direct reference to penal substitution.
Word Wealth: Kaphar/To Make Atonement: Kaphar, literally, is to cover over or purge. Kaphar and expiate (offset/take away) are the two glorious halves of what happened on Good Friday. Christ, the suffering Lamb, covered over our sin with His precious blood and in so doing removed the filthiness of our sin from the sight of the Father.
During and after Jesus’ ministry, penal substitution is further clarified. Jesus claims to be the “good shepherd” who lays down His life for the sheep in John 10:10. Paul, in Romans 3:25–26, explains that we have the righteousness of Christ because of the sacrifice of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, he says that the sinless Christ took on our sins. Hebrews 9:26 says that our sins were removed by the sacrifice of Christ. First Peter 3:18 plainly teaches that the righteous was substituted for the unrighteous.

Penal substitution derives from the idea that divine forgiveness must satisfy divine justice, that is, that God is not willing or able to simply forgive sin without first requiring a satisfaction for it. It states that God gave himself in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer the death, punishment and curse due to fallen humanity as the penalty for our sin.

Important theological concepts about penal substitution depend on the doctrine of the Trinity. Those who believe that Jesus was himself God, in line with the doctrine of the Trinity, believe that God took the punishment upon himself rather than putting it on someone else. In other words, the doctrine of union with Christ affirms that by taking the punishment upon himself Jesus fulfils the demands of justice not for an unrelated third party but for those identified with him. If, in the penal substitution understanding of the atonement, the death of Christ deals with sin and injustice, his resurrection is the renewal and restoration of righteousness. Key biblical references upon which penal substitution is based include:

  • Isaiah53:4-6, 10, 11—”Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all … It was the will of the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin … By his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities.” (RSV)
  • Romans3:23-26—”All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.” (NRSV)
  • 2 Corinthians5:21—”For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (RSV)
  • Galatians3:10, 13—”All who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be every one who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, and do them.’ … Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree.'” (RSV)
  • 1 Peter2:24—”He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.”(RSV)
  • 1 Peter3:18—”For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” (RSV)

Now that we have explained what Penal Substitutionary Atonement is, let us look to some shadows of the Atonement in the Old Testament.

The Burnt Offering: A Shadow of the Cross

Leviticus 1:3-9 (HCSB)

Then the Lord summoned Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting: “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When any of you brings an offering to the Lord from the livestock, you may bring your offering from the herd or the flock. “If his gift is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to bring an unblemished male. He must bring it to the entrance to the tent of meeting so that he may be accepted by the Lord. He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering so it can be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. He is to slaughter the bull before the Lord; Aaron’s sons the priests are to present the blood and sprinkle it on all sides of the altar that is at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Then he must skin the burnt offering and cut it into pieces. The sons of Aaron the priest will prepare a fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. Aaron’s sons the priests are to arrange the pieces, the head, and the suet on top of the burning wood on the altar. The offerer must wash its entrails and shanks with water. Then the priest will burn all of it on the altar as a burnt offering, a fire offering of a pleasing aroma to the Lord.”

The first thing we want to see is where the instruction took place. In Exodus, the Lord spoke from the burning mountain, which is a picture of His holiness and the fact that He is apart from the creation. The picture of a forbidding God speaking from a burning mountain also invokes the awe, reverence and fear that are due Him. Here, though, the Lord, Himself, calls Moses to the entrance of the Tabernacle (also called the Tent of Meeting in some translations). Before, the Lord was apart from His people, now He is in their midst; the giving of the Law was essentially, a marriage between God and the People of Israel. In Leviticus, God lays out the ground rules for the marriage; He lays out the obligations of the People as His bride and His role as the husband in this covenant marriage.

Let’s look at a few points in overview and then we will discuss, in earnest, what they mean and what they show is yet to come…

  • The Burnt Offering is a Freewill offering.
  • For those that can afford it, the animal sacrificed is to be from the herd or the flock (verse 2) and for those that cannot afford it, the animal must be a turtledove or young pigeon (verse 9)
  • The animal must be without blemish, i.e. no physical defects such as a limp, blindness, or the like.
  • The offerer will lay both hands on the head of the animal. In the Amplified Version it points out the fact that this symbolically transfers the guilt of the penitent onto the animal to be offered.
  • The penitent person kills the animal before the Lord (that is, in His Presence) Aaron and his sons, the priests will present the blood to the Lord and then dash it upon the altar.
  • The animal will be skinned and cut into pieces. (This particular passage does not prescribe a set number of pieces.)
  • The entire animal, minus the skin, is laid upon the altar and burned

The giving of a Burnt Offering can occur in one of two contexts, a sin context such as when Noah offered Burnt Offerings after the Flood (Genesis 8:20), or a praise context, such as in Psalm 66:3 when the Psalmist offered costly burnt offerings in gratitude for the Lord’s deliverance. Here, we are looking at the Burnt Offering as a covering (atonement) for sin.

Aaron and his sons do the burning of the offering because they are symbols of the Lord. The Lord so hates sin that he must utterly, completely, and totally destroy it and by doing the burning, they picture the Lord destroying the sin. I used three synonyms to demonstrate the superlative hatred that the Lord has for sin. The animal that is burned in its entirety, of course, symbolized the sin that was being destroyed. By bringing the offering the penitent person shows that he recognizes that sin must be destroyed and that he is appealing to the Lord’s mercy, which is what allows the animal to be destroyed in the place of the sinner.

So how, in the world, does this picture the cross? To answer that we need to be sure that we have a clear understanding of what happened at the cross.

  • Jesus, who knew no sin became sin; he took our sin upon Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21)
  • The Son of Man gave His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28)
  • The Lamb of God took away the sin of the world (John 1:29, John 1:36)
  • Christ was made a curse for us (Galatians 3:13)
  • Jesus became our High Priest, Himself purged our sins, and sat down at the Right Hand of Majesty on High (Hebrews 1:3, 2:9, 2:17)
  • The payment of our sin is FINAL (Hebrews 7:27, 9:12-15, 9:19-20, 9:24-28)

The Law was a shadow of things to come (Hebrews 10:1-20) and the destruction of sin that we see in the burnt offering was made complete on the cross. In the very instant that Jesus cried out that God had forsaken Him (Matthew 27:46) the destruction of sin was made complete through the suffering of Jesus in order that Jesus might bring many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10).

Because of His obedience and atoning sacrifice, YHWH, God the Father has restored unto Him the name at which every knee will bow and every tongue will acknowledge, Lord. (Notice Philippians 2:10 does not say at the name Jesus but at the name of Jesus, which means a different name and it is Lord.) Only a sinless life could satisfy the wrath of God and only God, having humbled Himself, and come as a man (Philippians 2:6) could live a sinless life and satisfy all that His holiness required.

The sinless animal stood in the place of the Son of Man until He came and when He did, the picture from the sacrifice became the reality of the cross…

The Sin Offering (from Got Questions)

“A sin offering was a sacrifice, made according to the Mosaic Law, which provided atonement for sin. The Hebrew phrase for “sin offering” literally means “fault offering.” The sin offering was made for sins committed in ignorance, or unintentional sins. The ritualistic method of the sin offering and the animal to be offered varied depending on the status of the sinner. For example, a high priest who sinned unintentionally would offer a young bull. A king or a prince would offer a young male goat. People in the private sector would sacrifice a young female goat or lamb, unless they were too poor, in which case they were only required to offer two turtledoves or pigeons. Full details of the sin offering and the requirements associated with it are enumerated in Leviticus 4 and Numbers 15.

Again, the sin offering was sacrificed when a person sinned unintentionally by breaking one of the Lord’s commandments and later realized his guilt (Leviticus 4:27). Sin offerings were also part of the ceremonies on the Day of Atonement, as the high priest made two sin offerings: a bull for himself and a young male goat for the congregation (Leviticus 16:11, 15). Unlike some other offerings, the sin offering was not eaten. The live animal was brought to the altar and the sinner was required to lay his hand on the head of the animal (Leviticus 4:29). Then the animal was killed, at which point the priest would take some of the blood and put it on the horns of the altar (verse 30). In some cases, some of the blood was also sprinkled inside the tabernacle (verses 6 and 17). Then all the rest of the blood was poured at the base of the altar (verse 34). The fat of the sin offering was removed and burned on the altar. But all the rest of the carcass was taken “outside the camp to a place ceremonially clean, where the ashes are thrown,” and there the carcass was burned “in a wood fire on the ash heap” (verse 12). “In this way the priest will make atonement for them for the sin they have committed, and they will be forgiven” (verse 35).

The sin offering was a poignant picture of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world. He was a “lamb without blemish” (1 Peter 1:19; cf. Leviticus 4:32) whose precious blood was spilled after being publicly slain. Jesus was crucified outside the city of Jerusalem, just as the sin offering was to be burnt outside the camp (Hebrews 13:12; cf. Leviticus 4:12). Just as the sacrificial lamb makes atonement for unintentional sins, Jesus’ blood made atonement for the sin of any person who realizes his guilt before God and asks for that atonement to be applied to him (John 3:16; Ephesians 1:7). “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22).

Every person has broken the Law of God in one way or another, whether we realize it or not. Humanity is sinful, and we are all guilty before God (Romans 3:23). It must have been painful for sinners under the Mosaic Law to slaughter an innocent animal when they knew they were the ones who had done wrong. In the same way, it is painful for us to admit our guilt and to know that the innocent and holy Son of God took the punishment for our sin. But this salvation God has provided, and it is the only way. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Praise the Lord that sin offerings are no longer required, because we have been redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19).”

Beloved, there is so much more we could discuss. Had we 20 lifetimes, we could not plumb all the riches of the Atonement. But this being Resurrection Sunday, we need to ask, “What does all of this have to do with the Resurrection?” Simple, the Resurrection is God’s seal of approval on the Atonement.

Did you notice that Jesus used a banking term when He cried out from the cross? Yes, tetelestai means “it is finished,” but in its cultural context, tetelestai was used in banking, specifically loans which gives it the connotation of being paid in full. And isn’t that amazing, that Christ Himself paid the wages of sin on our behalf? The wages of sin is death and you can be sure that those wages will be paid. They were either paid at the cross or they will be paid for all eternity. The Resurrection is our receipt, if you will, that our sin debt is paid in full. Just as nothing can ever keep Jesus in the grave, nothing can keep our sin debt from being satisfied by His atoning death and resurrection.

It is this, Beloved, that causes us to break forth in jubilant exultation at the Name, Jesus. All of our sin, everything that separates us from God was broken at the Cross and sin’s power forever destroyed by the Resurrection. If that doesn’t make you wanna shout nothing will.

Choosing A New Bible

Choosing A New Bible

On, at least, a weekly basis, I am asked for help in choosing a new Bible. Today, I would like to answer that question for you. There are certain criteria that should factor into your criteria.

Translation Choice:

The most important consideration for your new Bible is the English Version/Translation that you will use. The translation should be easy for you to understand but it should also be accurate to the original languages. I won’t get into the differences between form based (word-for-word) and meaning based (thought-for-thought) translations but I would like to recommend 4 English Versions for you.

NLT: My 1st recommendation is the New Living Translation. The NLT is the Bible that we preach from at Abounding Grace Baptist Church. The English is very easy to understand as it is translated at or near a 6th Grade reading level. NLT is the ideal choice for the disciple who has never read a Bible before and for the disciple for whom English is not a native language. NLT is a meaning based translation that endeavors, quite successfully, to capture the the thought of the original scriptural author.

CSB: Christian Standard Bible is what is called a mediating or optimal translation because it is pretty well in the middle of form based and meaning based translations. It reads at or near 8th Grade. CSB is perfect for the intermediate level disciple who wants to go deeper in their study and it is a great choice for academics. If you are enrolled in/considering a Christian School, at any academic level, I would highly recommend the CSB.

ESV: English Standard Bible is the translation taking the conservative community by storm. Reformed Christians of all stripes love ESV for its accuracy, its word-for-word rigor, and its liturgical feel. Listening to the cadence of an ESV being read aloud, you can tell it was designed with pastors in mind. ESV read’s at or about a 9th Grade level. When I am preparing my lessons, ESV is my normal study text in parallel with NLT.

NKJV: New King James is a perennial favorite of many excellent teachers, not the least of whom are David Jeremiah and the late Dr. R.C. Sproul. Like the ESV, NKJV is very word for word yet still easily readable. I would also rate it at 8th/9th Grade. NKJV is an ideal translation in almost any situation.

Now here is my secret: I love all 4 and use all 4 regularly. I could not choose just one so I use all 4 in different scenarios.

If I were to be pushed into making a choice of only one, it would be the NLT; I have found none better for my one to one discipleship efforts.

Helps:

There are several helps that you may want to consider, only one of which I would deem essential and we will talk about it first.

References:

There are two types of references available, end-of-verse and center-column. Center-column references are the feature that I would consider to be essential. We believe that Scripture interprets/explains Scripture and center column references are the best way to experience that. By following references, you will be able to follow the thought patterns/themes of Scripture.

Commentary

There is a class of Bible called a “study” Bible. The study portion stems from the fact that they include commentary on the Scripture; some even include introductory materials for each book and an outline of each book. These features are not bad, per se, but I would encourage you to do the work yourself. My 4th grade teacher, Miss Cortell, told me that, “you must hunt, search, and dig, for what you want to know. Knowing is your payment for doing the work of learning.”

Concordance

A topical concordance is a very useful tool to have. It will help you to follow what the Scriptures teach on a host of topics. Some concordances are more in-depth than others but almost every Bible has one. I highly recommend that you use the one in your Bible.

Wide-margins/Journaling Paper

Wide margins are one of the best features available for a Bible today. It is a wide margin Bible that you make truly yours because you fill in your own notes and references. Some even go so far as to add drawings and charts etc. to help with memory aids.

Choosing a new Bible is very important, perhaps the most important choice you will make in your life as a disciple. I hope the materials above will help you to choose your new Bible. I congratulate you on your decision to answer Christ’s call and become a disciple. I pray that your new Bible will help you to grow in your knowledge of Christ.

Progressive Dispensationalism: Our Theological Lens

Progressive Dispensationalism: Our Theological Lens

As I am preparing for church planting in January, I want to clarify a theological position. I affirm Progressive Dispensationalism.

Tenets of Progressive Dispensationalism include:

Tenents of Progressive Dispensationalism

  1. Is not Replacement Theology; Progressive Dispensationalists assert that God will keep His promises made to “Israel according to the flesh,” the genetic descendents of Jacob.
  2. Acknowledges a future 7-year Tribulation followed by a 1,000 Millennium with Christ personally present and reigning from Jerusalem.
  3. Affirms that the nation of Israel (in the Millennium) will be exalted as a nation with a rebuilt Temple and sacrificial offerings (that the Messianic Age is compatible with Temple worship is demonstrated in Acts 21:17-26).
  4. Is similar to (the Messianic Jewish scholar) David Stern’s “Olive Branch Theology” espoused in Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel.
  5. Does see the church fulfilling many Old Testament prophecies (and thus differs from Traditional Dispensationalism on this point), but in a less literal sense or incomplete sense; Progressives break rank with Traditionals by concluding that the church was anticipated in the Old Testament (but not clearly). The term “mystery,” when used in reference to the church, is not defined as “something previously unrevealed,” (as in Traditional Dispensationalism) but “previously revealed unclearly.”
  6. Views the church as being blessed through Israel; Progressives avow that God has never stopped working with Israel (some Jews now believe, and He is provoking others to jealousy); the Jews will rebuild the Tribulation Temple largely in unbelief; although the 144,000 will be saved during the earlier part of the Tribulation, most Jews will not believe until the Battle of Armageddon, as interpreted from Zechariah 12.
  7. Essentially recognizes the more literal fulfillment of prophecy (which is Traditional Dispensationalism’s strong suit) but accepts how the New Testament authors quote and apply the Old Testament to the church (Traditional Dispensationalism’s most vulnerable point).
  8. Is a “now, but not yet” viewpoint (as argued by C. Marvin Pate in The End of the Age Has Come); the Kingdom Age is breaking forth now, but will have a complete fulfillment during the Millennium.

For additional study:

http://www.theopedia.com/progressive-dispensationalism

https://www.gotquestions.org/progressive-dispensationalism.html

Freed By Grace

Freed By Grace

Lately I have noticed that a number of my Calvinist friends are anathematizing Arminians for teaching something that they do not actually teach. Before I continue, I want to make clear that I am Calvinist, all five points but I am also a former adherent to Arminianism and I am currently a member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians. Why would I, a self admitted Calvinist, be there? Discussion; it is hard to understand someone’s point of view if you will not talk to them and so I pursue friendships with Arminians of both stripes, Evangelical and Wesleyan. I digress…

Many of my brethren go off on tangents regarding things they think Arminians teach that are not actually to be found in Arminian doctrine. In this case, they claim that Arminians teach that man has a free will to choose Christ. This is not quite correct. As a point of reference, when I refer to Arminian Soteriology, I will be referencing the document, the FACTS of Salvation (http://evangelicalarminians.org/the-facts-of-salvation-a-summary-of-arminian-theologythe-biblical-doctrines-of-grace/) , by the excellent theologian Brian Abasciano. Permit me a rather large quote from Brian,

“We speak of the will of man being freed by grace to emphasize that people do not have a naturally free will when it comes to believing in Jesus, but that God must graciously take action to free our wills if we are going to be able to believe in his Son whom he sent for the salvation of all. When our wills are freed, we can either accept God’s saving grace in faith or reject it to our own ruin. In other words, God’s saving grace is resistible, which is to say that he dispenses his calling, drawing, and convicting grace (which would bring us to salvation if responded to with faith) in such a way that we may reject it. We become free to believe in Jesus and free to reject him. The resistibility of God’s saving grace is clearly shown in Scripture, as some of the passages already mentioned testify. Indeed, the Bible is sadly filled with examples of people spurning the grace of God offered to them. In Isaiah 5:1-7, God actually indicates that he could not have done anything more to get Israel to produce good fruit. But if irresistible grace is something that God dispenses, then he could have easily provided that and infallibly brought Israel to bear good fruit. Many passages in the Old Testament talk about how God extended his grace to Israel over and over again but they repeatedly resisted and rejected him (e.g., 2 Kgs 17:7-23; Jer 25:3-11; 26:1-9; 35:1-19). 2 Chronicles 36:15-16 mentions that God’s persistent reaching out to his people, which was rejected, was motivated by compassion for them. But this could only be if the grace he extended them enabled them to repent and avoid his judgment yet was resistible since they did indeed resist it and suffered God’s judgment. Nehemiah 9 presents a striking example of Old Testament testimony to God continually reaching out to Israel with his grace that was met with resistance and rejection. We do not have space to review the entire passage (but the reader is encouraged to do so), but will quote some key elements and draw attention to some important points. Nehemiah 9:20a says, “You [God] gave your good Spirit to instruct them [Israel]” and is followed by an extensive catalogue of gracious divine actions toward Israel in vv. 9:20b-25. Then 9:26-31 says,

26 Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies. 27 Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. 28 But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies. 29 And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey.30 Many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. 31 Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

The text affirms that God gave his Spirit to instruct Israel (9:20a) and that God sent his prophets and warned Israel for the purpose of turning them back to him. God purposed his actions to turn Israel back to him/his Law, yet they rebelled. This shows God allowing his purpose to not come to pass because of allowing human beings a choice of whether to yield to his grace or not. Intriguingly, the word translated “bore” in Neh 9:30 uses a Hebrew word that usually means something like “draw, drag, pull” and gets translated in the Greek translation of the Old Testament used by the early church with the same word used in John 6:44a (“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”). A better translation of Neh 9:30 would be, “Many years you drew them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear.” The text speaks of a resistible divine drawing that seeks to bring people to the Lord in repentance. Stephen also furnished a good example of the resistibility of grace when he said to his fellow Jews, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it” (Acts 7:51-53). Luke 7:30 tells us that “the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves.” And Jesus, who spoke to people for the purpose of saving them (John 5:34), yet found that they refused to come to him to have life (John 5:40), and who came to turn every Jew from their sin (Acts 3:26; see the treatment of this text under “Atonement for All” above), yet clearly found that not every Jew believed in him, lamented over his people’s unwillingness to receive his grace, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Luke 13:34; see further Ezek 24:13; Matt 23:37; Rom 2:4-5; Zech 7:11-14; Heb 10:29; 12:15; Jude 4; 2 Cor 6:1-2; Ps 78:40-42).

Arminians differ among themselves about some of the details of how God’s prevenient grace works, probably because Scripture itself does not give a detailed description. Some Arminians believe that God continually enables all people to believe at all times as a benefit of the atonement. Others believe that God only bestows the ability to believe in Christ to people at select times according to his good pleasure and wisdom. Still others believe that prevenient grace generally accompanies any of God’s specific movements toward people, rendering them able to respond positively to such movements as God would have them. But all Arminians agree that people are incapable of believing in Jesus apart from the intervention of God’s grace and that God does bestow his grace that draws toward salvation on all morally responsible people. With respect to the gospel, seventeenth century Arminian Bishop, Laurence Womack, well said, “on all those to whom the word of faith is preached, the Holy Spirit bestows, or is ready to bestow, so much grace as is sufficient, in fitting degrees, to bring on their conversion.”

The concept of “freed will” raises a broader question of whether human beings have free will generally, apart from the realm of pleasing the Lord and doing spiritual good (again, people are not free in this area unless God empowers them). The Arminian answer is yes. People have free will in all sorts of things. By this we mean that when people are free with respect to an action, then they can at least either do the action or refrain from doing it. People often have genuine choices and are therefore correspondingly able to make choices. When free, the specific choice someone makes has not been efficiently predetermined or necessitated by anyone or anything other than the person himself. In fact, if the person’s action has been rendered necessary by someone else, and the person cannot avoid doing the action, then he has no choice in the matter and he is not free in it. And if he does not have a choice, then neither can it properly be said that he chooses. But Scripture very clearly indicates that people have choices and make choices about many things (e.g., Deut 23:16; 30:19; Josh 24:15; 2 Sam 24:12; 1 Kings 18:23, 25; 1 Chron 21:10; Acts 15:22, 25; Phil 1:22). Moreover, it explicitly speaks of human free will (Exod 35:29; 36:3; Lev 7:16; 22:18, 21, 23; 23:38; Num 15:3; 29:39; Deut 12:6, 17; 16:10; 2 Chron 31:14; 35:8; Ezra 1:4, 6; 3:5; 7:16; 8:28; Ps 119:108; Ezek 46:12; Amos 4:5; 2 Cor 8:3; Philemon 1:14; cf. 1 Cor 7:37) and attests to human beings violating God’s will, showing that he does not predetermine their will or actions in sin. Furthermore, the fact that God holds people accountable for their choices and actions implies that those choices and actions were free. Nevertheless, it is important to note that Arminians do not believe in unlimited free will. There are many things in which we are not free. We cannot choose to fly by flapping our arms for example. Nor do we deny that our free actions are influenced by all sorts of causes. But when we are free, those causes are resistible and we have a genuine choice in what we do and are not caused necessarily to act in a certain way by God or anyone or anything other than ourselves.

Finally, the concept of freed will also implies that God has ultimate and absolute free will. For it is God who supernaturally frees the will of sinners by his grace to believe in Christ, which is a matter of God’s own free will and sovereignty. God is omnipotent and sovereign, having the power and authority to do anything he wants and being unconstrained in his own actions and will by anything outside of himself and his own judgment (Gen 18:14; Exod 3:14; Job 41:11; Ps 50:10-12; Isaiah 40:13-14; Jer 32:17, 27; Matt 19:26; Luke 1:37; Acts 17:24-25; Rom 11:34-36; Eph 3:20; 2 Cor 6:18; Rev 1:8; 4:11). Nothing can happen unless he either does it or allows it. He is the Almighty Creator and God of the universe to whom we owe all love, worship, glory, honor, thanks, praise, and obedience. Therefore, it is good for us to remember that behind human freed will stands the One who frees the will, and that this is a matter of his glorious, free, and sovereign grace, totally unmerited on our part, and provided to us by the love and mercy of God. Praise his holy name!”

In candor, I do not find in needful to elaborate on what our learned commentator has written. Instead, I would like to summarize/paraphrase:

  • Both the Calvinist and the Arminian believe that man is under Total Depravity (T in TULIP and T in FACTS)
  • Both would believe that it is in act of God’s grace that allows man to come to Christ.
  • Our Arminian brethren believe that the Holy Spirit has freed the individual’s will to respond to the Gospel Call
  • We disagree on whether or not grace is resistible but we do not disagree that it is God who elects and the Holy Spirit who administers the act of grace.
  • Calvinists and Arminians agree that nothing can happen unless God either does it or allows it.
  • We agree that God is the Almighty Creator and God of the universe to whom we owe all love, worship, glory, honor, thanks, praise, and obedience.
  • Like Calvinists, all Arminians agree that people are incapable of believing in Jesus apart from the intervention of God’s grace and that God does bestow his grace that draws toward salvation on all morally responsible people

There are points of Arminian doctrine that I vehemently disagree with, perhaps even to the point of calling them heterodox but I am loath to call them heretical. The charge of heresy is the most serious charge that can be leveled because true heresy damns the soul eternally and I do not find that the Arminian position on salvation meets the level of damnable heresy, I just disagree with it.

 

At the end of the day, there will be Arminians in Heaven and I hope to get close enough to the Throne of Grace to meet Tozer and some of his brethren. If we forget that Arminians also have a place in Heaven, we insult the very One who died to redeem them unto Himself.

 

Until next time, grace to you.

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