1 John 4:21

1 John 4:21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

In this regard, recall that during the days of His flesh (which was years before John wrote this letter), Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment:

Mark 12:28 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”

Note carefully how Jesus answers (beginning with a quotation of Deuteronomy 6:4-5):

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD;
Mark 12:30 AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’

But note that Jesus doesn’t stop here.  He keeps talking (quoting also Leviticus 19:18):

Mark 12:31 “The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

That is, when Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, He gave the greatest two commandments.  He was unwilling to talk of loving God without mentioning in the same breath that loving one another should be the primary expression of our love for God.  John took note of this and that is why 1 John 4:21 says what it does.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  (In the NASB, New Testament quotations of Old Testament verses are rendered in all capital letters.)

Is It a Surprise That God Would Choose a Man After His Own Heart to Script His Human Inner Monologue?

Paul wrote that “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).  One of the reasons he could say this is that so many of the psalms reflect the heart cry of the one who would be Messiah.  Thus by reading them, we know the mind of Messiah.  (The term “Messiah,” of course, means “Christ.”

Psalm 22 and Psalm 69 contain poignantly painful expressions which serve to describe in advance the sufferings of the Messiah…and to confirm afterwards that Jesus of Nazareth, crucified by the Romans, was indeed the Messiah prophesied.

For example, in just these two psalms we see expressions like:

 Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?

Jesus uttered these words from the cross itself.

And then there is:

Psalm 69:21 They also gave me gall for my food
And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

There are many such expressions throughout the psalms which effectively convey to us the thinking of Christ in his time of crisis.  Since God knew what He would suffer when He became Jesus, He wanted scriptures written which would not only guide Him in those difficult moments, but also be signs to the faithful that the suffering man they were seeing before them was indeed the one who was promised.  Who could write such scriptures?  Who would know God well enough to put into human language the emotion He would feel when being tempted as a human being?  A man after God’s own heart.

 1 Samuel 13:14 …The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.”

This description of David – “a man after God’s heart” – is repeated in Acts 13:22.  Thus a psalm of Christ would literally be, and best be, a psalm of David.  Messiah would not only be David’s physical seed, he would be like David in spiritual zeal and other ways, too.  Jesus of Nazareth even had a warrior spirit, though his battles were not against flesh and blood but rather against evil forces operating in the spiritual dimension of this world.

David is certainly not the only Old Testament poet to prophesy of the sufferings of Christ, but the biblical record on this count would not be nearly as rich without his contributions.  Think of God as an artist using the instrument of David to play the songs of His heart – both those of joy and of sadness.  David knew both extremes and was well able to give full expression to the mind of Christ (i.e. Messiah) in the psalms.

The psalms of Christ are thus the inner monologue (or man’s side of dialogue with God) that God wanted recorded as a script so that as young man growing up He could learn them.  This was so that one day He could fully live them out, being faithful to them, and thus fulfill the promises He had made to humanity through Abraham, David, and others.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

Psalm 22 – A Psalm of Christ

Jesus began uttering Psalm 22 while hanging from the cross (to see this, compare Psalm 22:1 to Matthew 27:46).  Matthew 27:39 and Mark 15:29 both take note of how the phrase “wagging the head” in Psalm 22:7 was an apt description of the mockers passing by the awful crucifixion scene.  Matthew 27:35, Luke 23:34, and John 19:24 all testify of the fulfillment of Psalm 22:18 in the dividing of, and casting lots for, Jesus’ garments.  And the book the Hebrews quotes Psalm 22:22 in its entirety.  Thus the  writers of all four Gospels make it abundantly clear that Psalm 22 – written by King David a thousand years before Christ was even born – prophesies with dramatic precision the crucifixion of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Like other psalms of Christ, Psalm 22 gives us a prophetic view of the mind of Christ.  This enables us to understand the mind of one who would be moral in an immoral world.  That is, they guide our way in the living of God’s command to love Him first and others before ourselves.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Trinity Is an Idol; John Warned Us to Guard Ourselves Against Idols

1 John 5:21 warns its readers to guard themselves against idols.

One such idol, which had not appeared on the scene when John wrote the letter, is the concept of God as a “trinity” (or as being “triune”).  This is a false conception of God, intellectually contrived in a period of time when people did not believe the Lord had kept His promise to come in His kingdom during the lifetime of His disciples (Matthew 10:23; 16:28; 24:34).

Idols falsely represent God, and are usually contrived in periods of doubt and unbelief when our hearts faint from waiting on the Lord and are drawn back to the things of earth.

God consistently spoke against idols throughout Old Testament times.  The Old Testament age was a polytheistic age and the New Testament age is a monotheistic age.  Therefore, idolatry manifests itself differently in this age.  Idols are still distractions to worship of the true God, but can be more subtle.

The Trinity is an intellectual idol.  It imports philosophical vocabulary with a religious veneer, but it is altogether foreign to biblical truth.  Its one virtue is that it affirms the deity of Christ, but it is not necessary to embrace an idol in order to embrace the deity of Christ.

Idols rob God of attention and glory.  Put away the idol of trinity so that you might worship, follow, and obey Jesus Christ our Lord.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Revelation 2:4 – Have You Left Your First Love?

Revelation 2:4 ‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

Have you left your first love?

Many people have had an encounter with Jesus.  They can remember a time in their lives, maybe even a specific moment, when the grace of Jesus Christ became real to them in a way that it had not been before.  Some of these people will happily describe this experience as having been “born again,” or as the time they were “saved.”  However they describe it, it is memorable to them and precious to them.

When we’ve wandered from that first love, it’s time for us to be called back.  Competing affections have blocked the single-minded devotion to Jesus which began our journey with Him.  Idols came in and clouded our view (1 John 5:21).

One of the most common impediments to single-minded devotion to Christ is the intellectual idol called “the Trinity,” or the idea of “the triune God.”  The very words are spoken in solemn tones as if the person talking knew what he was talking about.  In such cases, these words of Paul become relevant:

2 Corinthians 11:3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
2 Corinthians 11:4 For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.

The Trinity is not the Jesus who was preached to you and which captured your heart.  It came later, along with other religious and theological baggage which seemed scriptural but really wasn’t.  These encumbrances (Hebrews 12:1-2) have weighed you down and sapped your love for Jesus, diverting it in other directions.

Return to your first love.  As the prophet says:

Isaiah 31:6 Return to Him from whom you have deeply defected…

Let your first love be your last love.  Do not let your love for Christ grow cold (Matthew 24:12), nor let it be parceled out to many lovers (Jeremiah 3:1).

Keep Jesus as the apple of your eye and you will do well (1 John 5:11-13; 2 John 1:9).

For more on keeping Christ as the apple of your eye, see:

There Is No Trinity; There Is Christ

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

Psalm 19:7 – The Law of the Lord

Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul…

Who is the Lord but Jesus, and what is His law but to love?

And does not the mere thought of the Lord and His commandment restore our souls?  As James said:

James 1:21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.

Indeed “perfect” is a word James used to describe this law that restores our souls.  Just a few verses later, he says:

James 1:25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

And this puts us in mind of Psalm 1, for the restoration that this law gives is not complete unless we do the law.  It is not enough just to hear it.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Psalm 19:7 – The Testimony of the Lord

Psalm 19:7 …The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

Who is the Lord?  Jesus.  What is His testimony?  That which He gave in the days of His flesh.  As He said [emphasis added]:

John 18:37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

Indeed, if we listen and take heed to the testimony of the Lord (that is, what He testified to us), then we shall become wise.  Thus:

1 Corinthians 1:30 …Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God…

Therefore, having a sense of how good it will be for us, let us pay much closer attention to the Lord’s testimony – that we might heed it with all that is within us.  His testimony is the truth.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

Psalm 45 – A Psalm of Christ

The letter to the Hebrews makes clear that Psalm 45 is of Christ.

Hebrews 1:8 But of the Son He says,
“YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER,
AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM.
Hebrews 1:9 “YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS;
THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU
WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.”

This passage from Hebrews is quoting verses 6 and 7 from Psalm 45.  (That accounts for the letters that are in all capitals.)

Psalm 45 is about the marriage of the king of Israel.  Of course, there are references to the people of God in the New Testament as the “bride” or “wife” or “virgin” being prepared for Christ.  This reminds us of Esther being prepared for King Ahasuerus.  In that story, Queen Vashti represents those who were to be betrothed to the King but were not worthy.

Over and over the New Testament extols “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and indeed Psalm 45:2 says to the king, “Grace is poured upon [or through] your lips.”  The Greek word in the Septuagint version of this verse (ABP) is the same as the one used in the New Testament for grace.  (This is also the case in Psalm 84:11 which speaks of the Lord and His grace.)  The glory of Christ can be seen throughout the wedding psalm numbered as 45.

As the final verse of Psalm 45 suggests, may the King’s name be remembered in all generations.  And in our generation we may add, “Especially ours!”

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  (In the NASB, New Testament quotations of Old Testament verses are rendered in all capital letters.)

Psalm 40 – A Psalm of Christ

With great ease, Hebrews 10 takes words from Psalm 40 and puts them in the mouth of Christ.  (See Hebrews 10:4-10 and compare to Psalm 40:6-8.)  Thus we see that Psalm 40 is of Christ.

We can even see that Psalm 40 is of Christ from its very first verse, for compare the following two verses:

Psalm 40:1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
And He inclined to me and heard my cry.

and

Hebrews 5:7 In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.

Thus we can see how Psalm 40 fits Christ perfectly.  Read the rest of the psalm comparing it to the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and see.  Truly the Old Testament was written for and about Him.  This is how the New Testament church read the Scriptures. Surely we don’t think we know more about the Scriptures than they did, do we?

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Psalm 94:16 – Jesus Took a Stand

Psalm 94:16 Who will stand up for me against evildoers?
Who will take his stand for me against those who do wickedness?

Jesus took his stand against evildoers.  He took his stand against those who did wickedness.

When Jesus took this stand, he found himself all alone.

When Jesus took this stand, he fell (not through his own fault but because he was struck down)…but God made him to stand again.  Forever.

Isaiah 40:8 …the word of our God stands forever.

He is “the word” (John 1:1).  Who will stand with Him?

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

Revelation 22:4 – Have You Washed Your Robes?

Revelation 22:14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.

Why are you seeking Jesus and His kingdom?  Do you truly want to find Him?

If so, you must wash your robes in order to have the right to Jesus our Lord who is the tree of life.  He Himself is the gate by which we enter into the “city” that is the kingdom of God.

If you will not wash your robes, however, hear the parable Jesus told of the the wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14), and, specifically, what happened to the man who would not dress properly after the king had been so generous with the invitations:

Matthew 22:11 “But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes,
Matthew 22:12 and he *said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless.
Matthew 22:13 “Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Matthew 22:14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The kingdom of God is about doing what is right.  See Psalm 15.

It’s only the repentant ones who are able to dwell with Him for long (Isaiah 1:27).

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

As David Was Taken from Humble Service to Glorious Service So Also Was Our Lord Christ

This is what the Lord said to David:

2 Samuel 7:8 … ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people Israel.

To take David from serving in humble circumstances to serve in great glory, is this not what God did with our Lord Jesus Christ when He took him from serving in the humble circumstances of Psalm 1 to serving in the great glory of Psalm 2?

Jesus knew, and taught that:

Luke 16:10 “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.

Let us therefore be faithful in small things, that we might be entrusted with great things.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

God Chose the Righteous Man of Psalm 1 To Be the Anointed King of Psalm 2

Was Jesus not the truly righteous man portrayed by Psalm 1?

And was he not the one chosen by God to be worthy of the role of Messianic King in Psalm 2?

In Psalm 1, we see the humility practiced by Jesus and in Psalm 2 we see that humility challenged with suffering…and then, because of the righteous way He handled the suffering, rewarded with glory.

Truly, in the juxtaposition of Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 we see the pattern outlined in the Christ Hymn of Philippians 2.

Philippians 2:5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
Philippians 2:6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
Philippians 2:7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
Philippians 2:8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
Philippians 2:10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
Philippians 2:11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

The Term “Son of God” Acquired a Dimension of Meaning for Jews After Christ’s Resurrection That It Did Not Have Before

When Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say I am?” Peter responded:

Matthew 16:16 …”You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Thus Peter knew that Jesus was the Messiah (which included his being the son of God according to 2 Samuel 7:14 and Psalm 2). Peter did not envision, however, that this would mean Jesus should die and rise from the dead.  For when Jesus said that’s just what it would mean, this is how Peter responded:

Matt 16:22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.”

Therefore, Peter had no appreciation of how the resurrection would give “son of God” a meaning far beyond the one it held in his own mind.  In the post-resurrection Jewish mindset, “son of God” would mean Jesus was dwelling where God dwelt and reigning where God reigned – in heaven!

God had foreseen this meaning all along.  He knew what He meant when He promised David a descendant that would be God’s son.  Truly, God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.

How wonderful that He keeps raising us to the level of His thoughts!

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

The Son of God Was the Son of David

2 Samuel 7:12 “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.
2 Samuel 7:13 “He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
2 Samuel 7:14 “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me…

This is the promise that God made to David through the prophet Nathan.  Note that the “descendant” would be the son of David and he would also be the son of God.  How could he be both?

That’s similar to a question Jesus asked the Pharisees:

Matthew 22:41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question:
Matthew 22:42 “What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?” They *said to Him, “The son of David.”
Matthew 22:43 He *said to them, “Then how does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying,
Matthew 22:44 ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD,
“SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND,
UNTIL I PUT YOUR ENEMIES BENEATH YOUR FEET”‘?
Matthew 22:45 “If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?”
Matthew 22:46 No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question.

With the benefit of hindsight and 27 books of the New Testament, we can solve the riddle that the Pharisees could not.  That is, Jesus was the son of David according to the flesh and the Lord (or son of God) according to the spirit by virtue of his resurrection from the dead.

Paul himself gives the answer to the riddle here in the opening of his letter to the Romans [emphasis added]:

Romans 1:1 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,
Romans 1:2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures,
Romans 1:3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,
Romans 1:4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,

The resurrection gave the messianic title “son of God” (taken from 2 Samuel 7:14 and Psalm 2) a dimension of meaning no one had anticipated, but that God had planned all along.

Thus Jesus could have two “fathers” – one according to the flesh and the other according to the spirit.  That is, in the human sense, David was his father.  But in the spiritual sense, God was his father.  It is a glorious riddle how the messiah could be both the son of David and the son of God…a riddle to which God has graciously provided the answer for all humanity and for all time.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  (In the NASB, New Testament quotations of Old Testament verses are rendered in all capital letters.)

We Crucified the Messiah?

In the 1st Century, Jews all over the Mediterranean Basin were looking for the promised messiah of Israel.  When word first reached them that the messiah had indeed appeared and had been crucified in Jerusalem, they must have been mortified in that first instant.  “We crucified the messiah, for cryin’ out loud?”  How was Israel ever going to get anywhere if when God finally did send the messiah, they killed him?

Fortunately while that instant might have seemed like an eternity for a Jew first hearing the news, he would quickly learn that this had been the plan of God all along and that the Messiah was currently alive and safely in heaven, beginning his rule as king of Israel.  It all must have been so mind-boggling for these Jews – much less anyone else – to accept.

Sure, Jews had long held a hope in an ultimate resurrection of the dead, but no one figured that messiah would do a solo act to launch the process – and do so even before he started his reign as king!  Not only that, it’s one thing to have a vague hope that God will one day raise the dead and it’s another to hear that the process has actually begun!

One of the reasons we see references to words like “predetermined plan” (Acts 2:23) and “predestined” (Acts 4:28) in the initial proclamations of the apostles was to quickly make clear that the crucifixion had not caught God off guard, nor did it mean that Israel had gotten themselves into a jam with that act from which they could not extricate themselves.  Not at all.  The apostles wanted to make clear that God knew the sort of evil that resided in the human heart and He knew this plan of His would draw out the worst of human venom.  In that process, however, He would have the chance to show just how merciful He was because He would forgive even that for everyone who called on His name.

Some have wandered from this understanding and perverted God’s references to “predetermined plan” and “predestined” to construct a fatalistic worldview that has God predetermining every outcome in life, including the assignment of some human beings to an eternity in conscious torment.  These are doctrines of demons and therefore to be avoided.

Let us not add to the word of God, for it is sufficient as it is.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Apostle Paul Proclaimed in the Synagogues of Damascus That Jesus Was “the Son of God”

The story of Paul’s conversion from being a persecutor of Christians to being a proclaimer of Christ is told in Acts 9.  Following that conversion, here is what happened next:

Acts 9:19 …Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus,
Acts 9:20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

That’s the equivalent of Paul saying, “Jesus is the Christ,” or “Jesus is the Messiah.”  It’s clear Paul was not teaching trinitarian theology to his fellow Jews in Damascus.  He was using a term they would all understand.  Scriptures like 2 Samuel 7:14 and Psalm 2 had primed Jews to expect a descendant of David to appear one day and take command.  They called him “messiah,” “king,” or “son of God.”  That this son of God had been raised from the dead and ascended to heaven was a turn of events “exceeding abundantly beyond anything they had asked or thought.”

As soon as Jesus was raised from the dead, and had the chance to explain scriptures like Psalm 110 to the disciples, they realized that Messiah would have a far more exalted status than anyone had anticipated.  Yet it would only become clear with time and God’s revelation that Messiah was God Himself.  Those who formulated the trinity doctrine never fully appreciated this.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

“The Son of God” Is a Messianic Title, Not a Theological Title

If you study the phrase “son of God” in the Scriptures, you come to realize that it is a term that was used in different ways.  However, in the 1st Century – that is, New Testament times – it was most often considered another title for the Messiah.

Therefore, if a Jew in, say, Thessalonica heard someone in his synagogue say that there was a certain Jesus of Galilee that had come to be viewed by some as “the son of God,” he would simply think to himself, “They think this Jesus guy is the messiah.”  In fact, the terms “son of God” and “Messiah” and “the Anointed” and “the king of Israel” were largely interchangeable.  (See Matthew 27:40-44; Mark 15:32; Luke 23:2; John 1:49 and elsewhere.)

Moreover, while Psalm 2 was thought to have been engaging in hyperbolic language to have called Israel’s king God’s son, and God’s promise to David through Nathan even gave warrant for such hyperbole (2 Samuel 7:14), it was considered most notable by the apostles that the resurrection was God’s tacit yet cosmically bold way of saying that Jesus was indeed the son of God.  (See Acts 13:32-33; Romans 1:1-4; see also 2 Timothy 2:8 where “risen from the dead” is a circumlocution for “son of God.”)  This is quite reasonable, especially when you consider that “sons of God” was a term used in the Old Testament for angels dwelling with God (Job 1:6).  Therefore, Jesus being raised from the dead to heaven put him in that league.

Yes, there are theological implications to this, and, yes, Jesus is God, but that wasn’t the first thing that came to mind among the people who were sending and receiving the documents we call the New Testament.  First and foremost was the God’s promises were being fulfilled – the Messiah’s coming simply being a key aspect of those promises.  It’s best to keep things like this in mind when reading the Bible lest we import the doctrines and theologies of man into the text.  Let the word of God be the word of God, and let us not corrupt it.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

 

What Does the Term “Son of God” Mean to You?

When a 21st-century Christian hears the term “Son of God,” the Trinity will usually be one of the thoughts that comes to mind.

When, however, a 1st-century Christian heard the term “Son of God,” he immediately thought “Messiah.”  This is because “Son of God” was a term associated with David’s promised seed who would one day be Israel’s great king (2 Samuel 7:14 and Psalm 2).  The 1st-century Christian never thought “Trinity” because that term did not exist in the 1st-century and they did not think of God in that way.  If, therefore, Jude could write in the 1st Century that he and his contemporaries should defend “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3), how could the Trinity be part of it?  And if the Trinity is not part of “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” what gives us the right to add it?

The Scripture is pretty negative about anyone adding to the word of God (Revelation 22:18; Matthew 15:3, 6; 16:6, 11-12).  Let us take heed.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

 

The Feet of Jesus

All things have been put in subjection under the feet of Jesus (Ephesians 1:22), according to promise (Psalm 8:6).

His disciples sit at His feet, just as Martha’s sister Mary so quietly did (Luke 10:38-39).

Mary anointed His feet (John 11:2).

As He is the One bringing good news that He is taking everyone to heaven, His feet are beautiful indeed (Isaiah 52:7).

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

 

How Stephen Received a Double Portion of Jesus’ Spirit

Elisha asked Elijah for a double portion of the spirit which Elijah had (2 Kings 2:9-10).  Elijah said the granting of the request would be dependent on whether or not Elisha saw Elijah when the latter was taken up into heaven.

Stephen certainly saw Jesus when Jesus after He’d been taken to heaven (Acts 7:55-60).  And the works that Jesus had done on earth were being accomplished through Stephen (Acts 6:8).  (Whether or not Stephen’s portion was precisely double seems beside the point.)  Stephen even endured a trial by His opponents before being executed just as Jesus had.

Is what Stephen did not what Jesus promised?

John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.

And didn’t Jesus say that sons imitate their fathers?

John 5:19 Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.

Thus Stephen imitated the One who gave him life (1 Corinthians 15:45 refers to Jesus as “a life-giving spirit”), and so inherited a double portion of that One’s spirit.

And as Elisha called on the one who left him for heaven, so Stephen called on the one who left him for heaven.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

Elijah and Elisha Show Us How Jesus Became Our Heavenly Father

In 2 Kings 2 we read of Elijah’s departure from Elisha.

When Elijah “went up by a whirlwind to heaven” (verse 11) it typified the upheaval of crucifixion and resurrection that would one day take Jesus to heaven.

Elisha looked up and cried to Elijah, “My father, my father…” (verse 12).  This cry typifies our appropriate reaction to Jesus’ ascension, which allowed Him to become our father in heaven (i.e. heavenly father).

Elisha was devoted to Elijah and sought to imitate him in every way.  Elisha had said that he wanted a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (verse 9).  Elijah said the granting of this request would be contingent on Elisha’s “seeing” Elijah when Elijah was taken from him (verses 10).  Of course, we today “see” Jesus in heaven by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 12:2).  The stronger our faith, the stronger Christ’s power through us; conversely, the weaker our faith, the wearker His power through us (Matthew 13:58; Mark 6:5).

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

Every Biblical Reference to “Heavenly Father” Is an Allusion to the Resurrection of Jesus

“Your Father who is in heaven”

“Your heavenly Father”

If you think about it, these expressions are generic – almost fill-in-the-blank descriptions.  They are like placeholders.  No name – just a job title and a location.

They aren’t any more specific than to locate this father in heaven.

What was going to happen to Jesus when He died?  He was going to be resurrected from the dead.

Where was His resurrection to lead Him?  To heaven.

Thus, Jesus would become the father of all the righteous, having left them an example to imitate.

John 5:19 Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.

Can you see Jesus’ Father doing anything?  No.  Can you see Jesus doing anything?  Sure; that’s what the gospels are for.  Who then is your father?  Jesus.  Where is He?  Heaven.  What does that make Him?  Your heavenly Father.

Thus every mention of “father in heaven” is an allusion to the resurrected Christ, for as Christ looked to His Father so we are to look to Christ.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

Read the Bible As It Is – Not As You Wish It To Be

Every time a person says or writes something, that something is a reaction to something he’s hearing, or seeing, or thinking.  No one speaks – or writes – in a vacuum.

Therefore, when you read the Bible, always ask yourself what might have provoked what you’re reading.  Often the text will tell you.  Even when you can’t say for sure, your having thought about this question will help you in understanding what you are reading.

Why do I take the time to say something so obvious?  Well, it must not be that obvious because I see lots of people read and quote from the Bible either without a context or with a context foreign to the passage’s intent.  For example, I see modern-day skeptics dismiss the New Testament as sufficient evidence of the resurrection as if they think that the New Testament was written for the 21st-century, put in a time capsule, and intended to answer every question a CNN reporter might have.

The New Testament is a mountain of evidence for the resurrection of Christ – but on its own terms.  We can’t treat an ancient document as if it’s an FAQ for people with only five minutes to give the subject matter before they google the next pop culture meme.

Give the Bible the appropriate attention – considering the varied audiences and settings for its varied writings and writers – and it will yield its fruit to you in due time.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

 

“That’s the Oldest Trick in the Book”

You’ve heard the expression:

“That’s the oldest trick in the book.”

Sometimes it comes out:

“That’s the oldest one in the book.”

In either case, the point is that some ruse is being pulled but that it is not novel.  In fact, whatever it is, it is the most well known of such ruses.

Bear that in mind as we remember that Paul said:

2 Corinthians 2:11 so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.

So, if we are “not ignorant of his schemes,” what is “the oldest one in the book?”

Given that our “book” is the Bible, the oldest trick of Satan would have to be:

Genesis 3:1 …Indeed, has God said…?

Jesus confirmed that this is always Satan’s response to the word of God when He began explaining the parable of the sower and the seed by saying:

Mark 4:15 “These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them.

Therefore, whenever you find yourself beginning to doubt something God has said, remind yourself:

“That’s the oldest trick in the book!”

Don’t be ignorant of Satan’s schemes.  Especially his most well-known one!

Cling to the word of God.  That is fighting the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 1:18-19; 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7).

And remember also that we have a defense against this scheme that Eve did not.  (For more on the temptation of Eve, see here.)

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

People Can Prophesy Without Knowing It

It is possible for a person can utter truth that he himself does not appreciate.  More to the point, he can utter prophesy on behalf of God without knowing it, and without even being obedient to God.  Take, for example, the high priest who oversaw the conspiracy to kill Jesus of Nazareth:

John 11:49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all,
John 11:50 nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.”
John 11:51 Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,
John 11:52 and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

Caiphas had no idea that the event he was seeking would lead to the victim subsequently gathering all the people of God in His resurrected arms.

Consider also Caiaphas’ Gentile counterpart in the conspiracy to execute Jesus:

John 19:19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
John 19:20 Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek.
John 19:21 So the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews’; but that He said, ‘I am King of the Jews.'”
John 19:22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

Pilate wasn’t about to be corrected by people he considered to be daft in the name of God.  Yet in His godlessness, his edict was true.

In both cases these leaders uttered words of sober and profound truth – truth that they themselves understood only in the most oblique way.

Alas. some of us say more truth accidentally than we do on purpose.  God forbid we should be so unconscious of His presence and His truth.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

Jeremiah 30:9

Jeremiah 30:9 ‘But they shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.

Here God promises to “raise up.”  Of whom did this promise speak?  Jesus Christ, of course.

Jesus of Nazareth was a descendant of David who was raised to be king according to the promise God made to David (Acts 2:30) and reaffirmed here through Jeremiah.  David’s seed was to be raised up as king.  In fulfillment of this promise, Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead after being crucified (Acts 13:32-33).

Thus Jesus of Nazareth was made king of Israel according to Psalm 2, thereby installed in heaven to reign forever and ever (Psalm 45:6; 110:1-7; Daniel 7:13-14)

Throughout the New Testament you can see the apostles and the disciples “serving the Lord” and “David their king.”  For example, consider how the apostle James begins his letter:

James 1:1 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…

This God and king – spoken of in Jeremiah 30:9 – James and the others did proclaim to be serving.  Thus New Testament times fulfilled the promise of Jeremiah 30:9.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

The Star

Jesus our Lord is the star of Numbers 24:17.

He is the One whose star the magi followed to find Him in Matthew 2:1-12.

He is “the morning star” of 2 Peter 1:19.

He is “the bright morning star” of Revelation 22:16.

That is, Jesus is the star that shines in the midst of massive and encroaching darkness.  He cannot be dimmed.  On the contrary, He shines brighter and brighter (Proverbs 4:18) until He is revealed to be “the sun of righteousness”(Malachi 4:2),  casting His light and warmth upon everyone and everything.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

An Interesting Example of Someone Understanding Spiritual Language

While it’s true that many people – including followers – stumbled over the spiritual language Jesus used, there were also occasions when someone was uncommonly astute about Jesus’ sayings.

Matthew 15:26 And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
Matthew 15:27 But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

A Canaanite woman is begging Jesus to heal her daughter.  You see Jesus’ response – but then notice the woman’s response to Him in return.  She understood what He was saying and responded in kind – and quite wisely.  As a result, He then granted her request.  Even though she wasn’t a Jew, she understood spiritual language better than many of them.  And even in our own experience today, don’t we sometimes see dogs who seem to display more sense than humans?

Gentiles were not privy to the oracles of God as were Jews (Romans 3:1-2), and thus were not expected to know or understand the ways of God.  That’s what made them analogous to “dogs” instead of “children” in Jesus’ adage.  The woman didn’t take offense; rather, she took Jesus’ point and turned it on Him.  It’s clear that He was delighted that she did so.

Here’s an adage we can learn from all this:  Better to imitate a smart dog than a dumb human.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

Spiritual Language Concepts: Beasts, Animals, Dogs

In the spiritual language of the Bible, references to an animal, beast, or dog might be a reference to a human being who is unreasoning or unreasonable.  After all, God wants to reason with us (Isaiah 1:18).  Therefore, when we’re unwilling to do that, we’re like beasts or animals, who have no ability to reason.

(It is ironic that many of those today who reject God do so taking great pride in their reason.  The fact is that they are not using their reason at all.  There are other motivations that cause them to reject God, though they inaccurately and ironically claim that it’s their reason.)

Consider these scriptural references to animals:

Matthew 7:6  (Jesus here refers to “dogs” and “swine” who don’t appreciate the holy things of God, and attack those who do.)

2 Peter 2:20-22  (Peter talks about “dogs” who revert to their instinctive behaviors to illustrate sinners who won’t become holy.)

Jude 1:10  (Jude likens men who “do not understand” to “unreasoning animals.”

Revelation 22:15  (This passage mentions “dogs” who can be found outside the kingdom along with liars and other immoral types.)

Psalm 49:20  (“Man” in his “pomp” is “without understanding” and thus “like the beasts.”)

Therefore, when you encounter a reference to animals in the Scripture, pause and consider whether it might be an appeal for us to act “more reasonably” than animals do.  Go, for example, to the first three verses of Isaiah and apply this point.

Speaking more broadly, consider that whenever the Bible is talking to us about animals it is probably trying to teach us something about humans.  Quoting Deuteronomy 25:4, Paul said:

1 Corinthians 9:9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He?
1 Corinthians 9:10 Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops.

Thus references to animals in the Scriptures are generally there to teach us about something other than animals.  “God is not concerned about oxen, is He?”

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

Stumbling Over Spiritual Language

It is common in the gospels to read of Jesus’ hearers misunderstanding Him, not comprehending His spiritual speech.  And it was not just His opponents who stumbled over His sayings.  Even His most attentive disciples also struggled at times.  These are lessons to us that we should keep listening to Jesus through His Holy Spirit and not lose heart when we don’t understand Him.  We can learn His language, but we have to keep listening.  And remember always that “listening” to the Lord includes doing what He says.  That is, keeping His commandments will bring us understanding (Psalm 111:10).  Not only that, but keeping His commandments is what it’s all about anyway (1 Corinthians 7:19; Luke 17:10).

Here’s a list of just some of the occasions where people stumbled over the spiritual language Jesus used.  You will also want to read the broader context of the passage cited to better appreciate what it was that wasn’t being understood.

Matthew 15:15-16  (The disciples can’t understand what Jesus is teaching about foods and ask Him to explain.)

Matthew 16:11-12  (Misunderstanding what Jesus meant by “leaven.”)

Mark 4:10  (Jesus’ disciples went to Him privately to find out what His publicly-taught parables actually meant.)

Mark 4:33-34  (Jesus was constantly teaching parables publicly but having to explain them privately.)

John 2:19-22  (The Jews think Jesus is talking about Jerusalem’s temple when He is speaking of His own body.)

John 3:10  (Jesus asks Nicodemus why he can’t understand the spiritual concepts Jesus is explaining.)

John 6:60, 66  (Many of Jesus’ disciples stumble over what He is saying about “eating His flesh and drinking His blood.”)

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.