The Leaven of the Pharisees

Recall these scriptures:

…Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees…
–  Matthew 16:5-12

A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.
–  Galatians 5:9

You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.
–  Deuteronomy 4:2

…you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.
–  Matthew 15:6

‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME,
TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’
–  Mark 7:7 (quoting Isaiah 29:13)

Note in the following exchange (which originated here) how the commenter’s view invalidates the word of God by the assertion of man-made additions to the word of God:

Yes, mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13), but the Lord will still decide who He blesses with eternal life and who doesn’t find a place of repentance.

Eternal life and places of repentance are on offer here and now.

Yes, His favour outlasts His anger (Psalm 30:5), but there is coming a day of wrath.

As with eternal life and repentance, so the day of wrath is upon us here and now.

Shall not those who are not called sons be called sons? (Hosea 1:10)  Yes, those who are not called sons will be called sons. This is because of Our Lord’s perfect, atoning sacrifice, but if people are unwilling to allow Our Heavenly Father to draw them to His Beloved, sinless Son it will not happen.

To believe this we’d have to believe that the will of the creature is stronger than the will of the Creator.  God is not impotent.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ demonstrates in the most dramatic and profound fashion that even when it appears that God is thwarted, He is not.

*****

James 2:13, Psalm 30:5, and Hosea 1:10 all speak clearly.  It’s only Christian traditions – accretions to Scripture –  that cause people to say otherwise.  We need to scrape away the barnacles that have attached themselves over the centuries to the hull of the Scriptures of God’s prophets and apostles.  The word of God is pure (Psalm 12:6); let us add nothing to it, lest we be like the Pharisees who leavened the loaf with “yes, but’s…”

The Man of God Speaks the Words of God

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.  Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
–  1 Peter 4:10-11

Note, Christian leader, that it is not your utterances that are the “special gift.”  Rather, it is the utterances of God.  You are but a steward of those utterances.  Be a faithful steward of His “special gifts.”

The saints of God need the utterances of God – that is, His word.  They cannot survive without it.  Be sure to give them His words when they are spiritual infants.  Once they’ve grown, they can feed themselves.  But for now, you must feed them lest they starve.

Do not let this be said about you:

The little ones ask for bread,
But no one breaks it for them.
–  Lamentations 4:4

Those who claim to speak in the name of the Lord must always be sure to speak His words and not their own.

True Christian Leaders Rebuke Unrighteousness; They Do Not Kowtow to It

Pope Francis yesterday make the first remarks of his visit to the United States.  Read the text of what he said at the White House and see if his remarks (a 3-minute read; 614 words below) seem appropriate for a spokesman of Christ to a man who has been outspoken in his support for abortion and homosexuality.

Mr. President,

I am deeply grateful for your welcome in the name of all Americans. As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families. I look forward to these days of encounter and dialogue, in which I hope to listen to, and share, many of the hopes and dreams of the American people.

During my visit I will have the honor of addressing Congress, where I hope, as a brother of this country, to offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles. I will also travel to Philadelphia for the Eighth World Meeting of Families, to celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this, a critical moment in the history of our civilization.
Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty. That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.

Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our “common home”, we are living at a critical moment of history. We still have time to make the changes needed to bring about “a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change” (Laudato Si’, 13). Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them. Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies. To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.

We know by faith that “the Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home” (Laudato Si’, 13). As Christians inspired by this certainty, we wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home.

The efforts which were recently made to mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation within our human family represent positive steps along the path of reconciliation, justice and freedom. I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development, so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all his children.

Mr President, once again I thank you for your welcome, and I look forward to these days in your country. God bless America!

When the “vicar of Christ” chose to speak in favor of the president’s pet issue while being silent on his Lord’s issues, he demonstrated his corruption.  Christ’s spokesmen speak truth to power – not flattery.

The pope’s capitulation to the spirit of the age, and to a man who speaks for it, was complete.  If you would be a leader for Christ, do not be like this.

Source of the pope’s remarks:  Time.com

Proper Study of the Bible Is Devotional, Not Intellectual

The Bible can be studied intellectually, but that doesn’t mean this is the best way to study it.  If it were, intellectuals who study the Bible would be the people most like Jesus.  However, we know that it’s often humble, and relatively uneducated, people who remind us most of our Lord.

Yes, you should use all of your mind to study the Bible just as you should use all of your soul and body and strength.  But do not think that a mind with educational degrees is able to absorb any more of the life-changing spiritual power in those words than a mind without them.

Make sure your study of the Bible is primarily devotional, and not intellectual, in nature.

And by devotional, I don’t mean reading it and forgetting it.  I mean reading with a view to do.  That is, study the Bible devoted to the purpose of practicing what it teaches you about our Lord.

Intellectual reading of the Bible produces theologians; devotional reading of the Bible produces saints.  God is interested in producing saints, not theologians.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

How Can God Be Found True If No One Can Be Sure What He Has Said?

Paul wrote:

Romans 3:4 May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar…

Some say that the Bible is subject to interpretation and that therefore it’s pointless to argue about what God has said.  But if we cannot know what God has said, then the idea that He does not lie is useless.

That God testifies through the prophets and apostles that He does not lie is therefore evidence that He does not consider it impossible to be sure about anything He has said.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Book of Hebrews

The epistle “to the Hebrews” is a “brief word of exhortation” (Hebrews 13:22).

What is being exhorted?  That we should listen to the voice of the Son of God (see specifically Hebrews 1:1-2; 2:3; 3:7-11, 14-15; 4:7; 5:11; 8:10; 12:25 for the recurrence of this theme).  For this reason, the letter can be regarded as an exposition of, or an elaboration on, this New Testament verse:

Matthew 17:5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”

For the same reason, the letter to the Hebrews can be regarded as reinforcing this Old Testament verse as well:

Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.

Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, all Scripture is revealed as pointers to Him…that we might listen to Him.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

When the Perfect Comes…

Paul stated as a principle in 1 Corinthians 13 that “when the perfect comes, the partial is done away.”  We see this principle manifest in different ways:  when the kingdom of God came, the church was done way; when the sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2) came, the stars Moses and the prophets receded into relative obscurity.

Another manifestation of this principle is seen in the completion of the Scriptures.  One of the purposes for which God created the ancient nation of Israel was the preservation of the Scriptures He would create through Moses and the rest of the prophets.  However, once the Jews were dispersed (the Diaspora) and the Scriptures translated into the common language of the world at that time (Greek), and the testimony of the crucified and risen Messiah had been spread throughout the world (Romans 1:8; 16:26; Colossians 1:6), then neither the government of Israel nor the government of the church was necessary to God’s purposes any longer.

In this case, the Scriptures are “the perfect” and organized religion is “the partial.”  Here’s another way of stating what happened:  “extracting the precious from the worthless.”  Hear Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 15:19 Therefore, thus says the LORD,
“If you return, then I will restore you–
Before Me you will stand;
And if you extract the precious from the worthless,
You will become My spokesman.
They for their part may turn to you,
But as for you, you must not turn to them.

We do not need the traditions of men as promulgated by the organized religions of Judaism and Christianity.  What we do need are the Scriptures in which those traditions are rooted.  In these Scriptures we find the precious and the perfect, having no more need for that which was partial and worthless by comparison.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

The Inadequacy of the Scriptures

Normally, we would speak of the adequacy of the Scriptures for they are the word of God.  However, is there is sense in which they are inadequate?  Yes.

Here is the sense in which the Bible is inadequate:

John 5:39 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;
John 5:40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.

The Scriptures are given to us as testimony – a faithful witness – to God.  If we do not then trust God based on what the Scriptures tell us, what good is that?

Jesus goes on to say to those Jews who professed loyalty to the Bible but rejected Jesus:

John 5:45 “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope.
John 5:46 “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.
John 5:47 “But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Likewise, today many profess as much loyalty to the Scriptures as those Jews did, but they reject Jesus in the Spirit just as those Jews rejected Him in the flesh.

The Spirit of Jesus is omnipresent in this world in which we live.  The purpose of the Scriptures is to make us knowledgeable of, and confident in, this reality.  If, however, we only pay lip service to that reality, then we have not allowed the Bible to fulfill its purpose in our lives…no matter how much we may claim our devotion to it.

Therefore, the Scriptures are inadequate to save us if merely profess loyalty to them rather than trust what they say.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Jesus Is the Bread for Us

John 6:31 “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.'”

John 6:51 “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven;

In the light of these two verses from John, consider now this verse from Matthew:

Matthew 4:4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'”

“Every word” from God is summed up in Jesus.  In Him we find sustenance.  He is our meditation every day…all day.

Therefore:

John 6:27 “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”

The bread Jesus has given us is Himself:

Ezekiel 34:23 “Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd.

This point is, of course, the thrust of John 6.  Jesus Himself is able to meet our daily need for spiritual nourishment.  (Our physical nourishment is supplied as a byproduct.)

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.)

If You Are Going to Meditate the Word, Meditate Jesus

If you are going to meditate the word of God each day, be sure to meditate “The Word.”  (John 1:1; Revelation 19:13).  That is, be sure that you are meditating the word that is Jesus.

No line of the Bible should be read or meditated out of context.  Christ is the context.  Christ is the living word.

The words in your Bible point to Him whom you cannot see but who is nonetheless there.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

We Read the Old Testament Through Christ

Apart from Christ, the Old Testament has no meaning for us and holds no interest for us.  It is an ancient book written for ancient Jews.  What makes it relevant to us is that Jesus of Nazareth was an ancient Jew and He reinterpreted it such as way that we could see it testifying of Him.  That’s what makes the Old Testament relevant to us.

The ancient Israelites heard God’s voice directly.  It so frightened them that they begged Moses to be the go-between:  that is, Moses would listen to God and then tell the Israelites what God had said.  Likewise, Jesus brings to us the words of the Old Testament.  If we cannot understand a passage through Him, we are not interested in hearing it – and this is as it should be.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

God Spoke to Moses

That God spoke to Moses was something about which Jesus, His apostles, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Samaritans, and therefore practically all of the Jews agreed.

Jesus’ Jewish opponents disagreed with Him about many things, but they did not disagree with Him that God revealed great truths through Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – the Law of Moses.

Thus Jesus and of the kinsmen who rejected Him agreed that the Law of Moses was the word of God.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Every Word of God Is Tested

Proverbs 30:5 says that “every word of God is tested.”

We certainly can see the first words of God to humanity tested in Genesis 3 when the serpent says to Eve, “Indeed, has God said…?”

Jesus states it as a principle in His telling of the parable of the sower (Matthew 13; Mark 4; Luke 8) when He says, “The sower went out to sow the word of God” and “immediately Satan comes to take away the word which has been sown.”

There is no word that God is going to speak that Satan is not going to challenge.  Therefore, when you hear the word of God, be prepared to hold it fast lest it be taken from you.

Jesus heard at the very beginning of His ministry that He was “the Son of God” (see Matthew 3:17) but Satan came immediately to take it away (see just a few verses later when Satan says to Him “If you are the Son of God [do such-and-such to prove it]…”).  Of course, this identity was tested throughout the course of His ministry.  It was affirmed at His death by a Roman centurion, of all people (Matthew 27:54).  Of course, it was affirmed most importantly and definitively by God Himself through His resurrection from the dead (“who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead” – Romans 1:4).

Therefore, do not be surprised when the word of God that you hear is tested (1 Peter 4:12).  It is the way things work in this world.  More specifically, it is your faith in that word that is being tested.

Yes, the word of God is always going to be tested, but those who hold it fast come to know just how certain it is.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Jesus Believed in the Practicality and Power of the Scripture

Matthew 4 indicates just how practical Jesus was about the Scripture.  After He had fasted for 40 days, He was tempted by Satan.  In response to the temptation, Jesus quoted Scripture.  And even when Satan pulled a Scripture out of context to tempt Jesus to do something foolish, Jesus retorted with another Scripture.

Watch who or what someone trusts when their back is against the wall.  That’s who they really trust.  Jesus trusted God through the Scriptures He had given.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Apostles Were Plainspoken

The apostles were not interested in being clever in their preaching.  As Paul puts it [emphasis added, here and throughout]:

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.

And Peter says:

2 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.

The apostles never wanted to get in the way of their message.  They never wanted to risk obscuring it by getting fancy with the reporting.  We who speak for Christ today should adopt a similar attitude.

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.)

Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 22:21

The Bible begins and ends with powerful truths.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Revelation 22:21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

These simple truths, if trusted, can change our lives dramatically.

The opening lines declare the truth of creation; the closing lines, the truth of redemption.

God has not left His creation unattended.  He has redeemed us through the grace of Jesus 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. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

The Scriptures Are Our Inheritance from Ages Past

The Scriptures of the prophets and apostles of ancient Israel are our inheritance.  Through those writings, we receive the grace of God – by which we understand that Jesus Christ is Lord…and that He gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him.

Therefore, the Scriptures aren’t so much our inheritance as they are that which informs us of our inheritance.

Our devotion, therefore, is not so much to the Scriptures as it is to the Lord about whom they testify.

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 Reveals Himself by His Word

God is invisible.  How are we going to know what He’s thinking unless He tells us?

The fact that the Bible exists testifies to God’s willingness to speak to humanity and reveal to us His thoughts.

If God doesn’t want to be found out, no one is going to find Him out.  That’s why we must pay all the more attention to what He says about Himself.  For this reason Moses wrote:

Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.

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 Did Not Entrust His Word to Secular Media

God has never sent His word into the world through secular media.  In biblical times, He chose holy men to speak for Him.  During Old Testament times that was the prophets; during New Testament times, it was the apostles.

God speaks through vessels that He Himself has purified.  In the ways of God, the messenger is as important as the message.

Unbelievers today say that they don’t trust God’s word because it was handed down and preserved by believers – as if unbelievers could be trusted with the task!

No one is objective when it comes to God.  To pretend otherwise is simply to deceive 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. 

God Speaks into Chaos…and Forms Life in Its Place

In Genesis 1:2, the earth is described as “formless and void” (“waste and emptiness” in the NASB margin).  The remainder of the first two chapters of Genesis are taken up with describing how God spoke form and life into that darkness.

This is the same pattern God follows as we let His word come into our individual lives.   Our hearts are dark without Him – “formless and void,” “waste and emptiness.”  His word brings light, life, and shape to the chaos of our hearts.

Therefore, continue to hold fast His word in your heart.  Let it shape your mind and your life. Let His word performs its creative work in you.  Let it be said of you what Paul was able to say to the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

Let His word perform its creative work in you by holding it fast in your heart.  A seed must stay in the ground if it is to germinate and sprout.  In every other location it will stay dormant.

The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3ff, Mark 4:3ff, and Luke 8:5ff) makes clear that Satan comes immediately to take out the word of God that is sown.  Failing that, Satan resists the word of God with persecution and affliction, and competes with it through worries, riches, and pleasures of this life.  Recognize that the word of God can overpower all these things – but we must keep it in the ground – that is, in our hearts. That’s where it grows.

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.

Hosea 8:12 – How Many Times Has He Got to Say It?

Hosea 8:12 Though I wrote for him ten thousand precepts of My law,
They are regarded as a strange thing.

There are over 30,000 verses in the Bible.  Therefore, God was not exaggerating when He spoke these words through the prophet Hosea.

You can understand God’s frustration when He has given us thousands upon thousands of “precepts” and yet we who claim allegiance to the Bible act like it’s a strange thing.  That is, we act like it’s a foreign concept to love our neighbor, turn the other cheek, seek the good of others more than ourselves, and so on.

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 Word of the Lord Leads to the Fear of the Lord

Listening to the word of God causes our fear of God to grow…and that’s a good thing.  Therefore, if you want your reverence for God to grow, listen more to Him.  [Emphasis added in the following verses.]

Deuteronomy 4:10 “Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when the LORD said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.’

*****

Psalm 34:11 Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

*****

Psalm 119:38 Establish Your word to Your servant,
As that which produces reverence for You.

*****

Isaiah 57:11 “Of whom were you worried and fearful
When you lied, and did not remember Me
Nor give Me a thought?
Was I not silent even for a long time
So you do not fear Me?

*****

Return to the word of the Lord that you have heard…and He will speak more to you.

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 Apostles Have Given Us the Word of the Lord

When Jesus prayed the night before He died, He remembered those of us who would believe in Him through those He sent:

John 17:20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;

They wouldn’t be bearing witness to Him in their own power alone.  He was going to send them help, for He promised them:

John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

The apostles would be able to tell us what the Lord did and what the Lord taught them through Holy Spirit who would be aiding their memories.  From that point on, they just had to report what they had seen and heard.  No embellishment or rhetorical flourishes would be necessary:

2 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.

Even Paul, who was not one of the original twelve, would lean on this same Holy Spirit to bring us the word of God:

1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

Thus to believe the apostles is to believe the One who sent them.

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 Old Testament Was Not Written by Historians; It Was Written by Prophets

The Old Testament was not written by professional historians from accredited universities.  These documents were written by holy men moved by the Spirit of God.

Thus the apostles could say of the prophets and their writings:

2 Peter 1:20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,
2 Peter 1:21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

The apostles also said of the prophets and their writings:

1 Peter 1:10 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries,
1 Peter 1:11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.
1 Peter 1:12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven–things into which angels long to look.

For this reason, the Old Testament is not some dry or sterile history.  It is written by men who loved God and had a passion for Him.  It doesn’t make their words less reliable than a historian’s – it makes them more reliable.

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 Psalms Are Reflections upon the Law of Moses

The book of Psalms is a part of Scripture – inspired by the Holy Spirit as much as any other portion of Scripture.  However, it is also a result of meditation and reflection upon all Scripture written to that point.  This would include the Law of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), Joshua, Judges, and Ruth (and perhaps Job).

The point to see here is that each book of Scripture is building on the books that came before.  A Bible author did not write in a vacuum. “To him who had, more was given.”

The very first psalm recalls the beginning of the book of Joshua wherein the book of the Law of Moses was commended as worthy of meditation day and night.  (Compare especially Psalm 1:2 with Joshua 1:7-8.)  Consider also Psalm 119 – the longest psalm and chapter of the Bible at 176 verses – as a call to meditation upon the law that God gave through Moses.

Psalm 37:3 instructs “Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.”  What land would that be except the land of Canaan which Joshua led the children of Israel to settle.

Jesus identified for His fellow Jews the greatest commandment in the Law:  Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (Mark 12:28:28-34).  We see the importance of loving God reflected throughout the psalms:  see, for example, 18:1; 31:23; 91:14; 97:10; 116:1; and 145:20.

More broadly, there are many references in the Psalms to God’s activity in the lives of Israel up to that point.  Thus the psalmists meditated upon the Scriptures they had and wrote out the reflections that this sort of meditation produced.  See, for example, Psalm 78 which is an extended reflection upon Israel’s history.  There are also many references to Israel’s ancestors sprinkled throughout the psalms: 20:1; 29:10; 99:6; 105:5-6, 9; 115:10.

As David himself writes:

Psalm 145:4 One generation shall praise Your works to another,
And shall declare Your mighty acts.
Psalm 145:5 On the glorious splendor of Your majesty
And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.

I have identified here but a few of the many connections between the book of Psalms and the books of Scripture that preceded them.  You will be able to find many more.

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 Bible Is a Book for Jews at Heart

Romans 2:28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.
Romans 2:29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

With the coming of the kingdom of God, the age-old distinction between Jew and  Gentile was erased.  A new creation came.  In this new creation, your physical descent matters not.  What matters is your heart before God.

God has always looked at the human heart, but in this new age of the kingdom of God heart matters more than ever.  It’s no longer the physical descendants of Abraham who are heirs of the promises and who are assigned the task of showing God’s light in the world.  Rather it’s those who through their love for God have proven themselves in God’s sight to be worthy spiritual descendants of Abraham.  These are “the true Jews” in our day.

Thus the Jewish people which produced the Bible, and about which we read in the Bible, were a type (i.e. a foreshadowing) of the people to come who would bear faithful witness to the one true God.  This “people to come” would not be Jews outwardly, but rather they would be Jew inwardly.  Their circumcision would be of the heart by the Spirit.  and they would seek praise only from God and not from men.

If you aspire to be this kind of Jew, it is a good thing you desire.  These are the true people of God in our day.

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.  

Theophilus – a Lover of God

The books of Luke and Acts are each addressed to an individual named “Theophilus.”  You might recognize the two Greek root words which form it.  “Theos,” which is the word for God; and “philos” which is the word for love.  Thus, Theophilus is a way of saying “a lover of God.”

As the books of Luke and Acts were written to “a lover of God,” so the entirety of the Bible is written to the lovers of God.  The apostle Paul once used the expression “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:4).  And, indeed, lovers of pleasure do not seem to get much out of the Bible, whereas lovers of God seem to thrive on it.

Cultivate your love for God and your appreciation of the Bible will grow.  Jesus identified “love for God” as the greatest commandment for those who followed Him.  It only makes sense that following that command would cause us to understand the Bible better:

Psalm 111:10 …A good understanding have all those who do His commandments…

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 Bible Is a Book for People Who Love God

You don’t have to love God to read the Bible, but you do have to love God to properly appreciate it.

The Bible is the story of Jesus Christ.  You will either be attracted to him or you will be repelled by him. He is a polarizing figure.  That polarization can be seen in the Bible itself for while some of his contemporaries adored Him, others crucified Him.  Thus it cannot be said that “all men spoke well of him” (Luke 6:26).

You can look around the people you know today and see that some consider the words of the Bible to be life itself.  Others would rather read any book than to read the Bible.  Thus you can see that the polarization continues.

There’s no sense forcing the Bible on people who don’t appreciate Jesus.  Jesus and the Bible spring from the same source. We can even say that the only Jesus we can know today is from the Bible, for it’s not as if the Romans or the Greeks were writing his life story or his teachings.  The only people today who say they like Jesus but not the Bible are people who like a Jesus of their own imagination.  That sort of Jesus is not rooted in history or reality.

As Jesus said:

Matthew 7:6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Therefore, don’t expect “the holy Bible” to be appreciated by such people.

Those who love their Creator, however, will discern the Bible as the language of love – a love letter from God to man.  They will be able to discern the Bible’s intentions, even if haltingly.  Any new language takes time to learn.

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 78 as a Microcosm of the Bible

Psalm 78 is a microcosm of the entire Bible in that it was written in ancient times, chronicling the works of the Lord in the face of the faithlessness of man, that all succeeding generations might learn from this written record that God is good and that there reward in obeying Him.

Note the first eight verses of the psalm which are a preamble to the chronicle that follows.  Note especially verses 4, 5, and 6 which explicitly mention the generations to come and their privilege to learn from the mistakes of their ancestors.

Let us therefore learn from Psalm 78 – and from the entirety of the Bible as well – that we would do well to imitate and reciprocate the faithfulness of God.  Let us imitate the things our fathers did right, and shun the things our fathers did wrong.

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 78:5 – He Established a Testimony in Jacob

Psalm 78:5 For He established a testimony in Jacob…

We have the Scriptures – that is, the Old and New Testaments.  These Scriptures are the product of ancient Israel – more specifically, the products of its prophets and apostles.  The Lord’s prophets produced the documents we call the Old Testament and His apostles produced the documents we call the New Testament.

These Scriptures testify to the works of God, most especially His great work through Jesus Christ.  This testimony was rendered solemnly and soberly by the prophets and apostles who shed their blood in faithfulness to the word of the Lord.

As Jesus said, “Salvation is from the Jews”  (John 4:22), and He Himself shed His own blood bearing witness to the testimony of these prophets and apostles (John 17:20; 18:37).  It is the history of salvation, and it can never be changed.

This testimony of ancient Israel (Jacob) is firmly established.  It cannot and will not change.  It is an inheritance for all modernity to treasure and enjoy.

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.

Sometimes the Ignorant Know More Than the Learned

When the crowds took Jesus seriously, the Pharisees complained that it was because the crowd did not know Moses’ law:

John 7:49 “But this crowd which does not know the Law is accursed.”

Apparently, however, these Jewish leaders had never read – or at least never taken to heart – what Jeremiah had written centuries before:

Jeremiah 2:8 “The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’
And those who handle the law did not know Me;
The rulers also transgressed against Me,
And the prophets prophesied by Baal
And walked after things that did not profit.

Thus it was the leaders who did not know the law, and this was because they did not seek to know the Lawgiver.  Thus people in the unlearned crowd could actually know more than they.  For example, one man blind from birth had been given his sight by Jesus.  The religious leaders later cornered him and pressed him to acknowledge that they were right about Jesus being a sinner.

John 9:25 He then answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

You don’t get more pragmatic that that.  The man went on to say:

John 9:32 “Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.
John 9:33 “If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.”

In spite of the common sense coming out of this man, the Pharisees rejected him as well as his point of view – a grown man who everyone knew had just been healed of a blindness that had afflicted him from his birth!

John 9:34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” So they put him out.

Thus the learned remained ignorant of Jesus while the unlearned became knowledgeable about Him.  And so it is today.

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. 

Ezra 7:10 – Not Short-Circuiting the Wiring Sequence of God

Ezra 7:10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.

In this verse, the proper sequence God would have us follow is presented as:

  1. Study the law of the Lord
  2. Practice it.
  3. Teach it.

Jesus had to point out that the scribes and Pharisees of His day created a short-circuit (electricians tell me this is not a good thing) in this sequence by jumping over the second step.  Thus Jesus said of them [emphasis added]:

Matthew 23:3 …they say things and do not do them.

(Some short-cuts are just not worth it…and can actually be quite harmful.)

Thus Jesus said to those who would follow Him [emphasis added]:

Matthew 5:19 “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Let us therefore imitate Jesus by only executing step three on subjects where we are already executing step two.

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.  

“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.  

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.

 

Learning a New Language, a Language of the Spirit

The language of Scripture is the language of prophecy.  They are both the language of God.

God has a different perspective from ours.  It’s a higher one (Isaiah 55:8-13).  He calls us to hear…and speak His language.

This means learning a new language.  This should not surprise us because this is what infants do.  And are we not infants in the Lord, children to be reared?  Shall our Father not teach us to speak?

Walking with God means learning a language with which we can exchange thoughts with Him.  That language is laid out for us in the Bible.  Jesus was its most effective and eloquent practitioner.  Listening to Him is the best way to learn God’s language.

Remember: it’s the language of righteousness.  It’s the language of love.

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 Language of Prophecy Is Like the Language of Scripture

The language of prophecy is like the language of Scripture because they have a common author:  The Holy Spirit.  See 2 Peter 1:19-21 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Prophecy is speaking from the dimension of existence we cannot see, telling us how that dimension is affecting the dimension that we can see.

Prophecy is the voice of God.  So is Scripture.  No wonder they speak the same language.

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.  

Prophecy Is a Language All Its Own

The first two chapters of Luke gives the accounts of the births of John the Baptist and Jesus.  These accounts make known the activity of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Elizabeth, Zacharias, Simeon, and others.  The utterances of these people when moved by the Holy Spirit are not the normal sorts of things we here people say when children are born. Read these chapters yourself and see that these folks are speaking the language of the Spirit, the language of prophecy.

These everyday folks sound like Isaiah or Jeremiah or Joel…because they are being given utterance by the same Holy Spirit who gave utterance to those Old Testament prophets.

Prophecy has its own approach to life.  You could say of prophecy what the officers sent by the chief priests and Pharisees said of Jesus after encountering Him:  “Never man spake like this…” (King James Version).  Jesus spoke by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the common voice behind all prophecy.  We should not be surprised therefore that prophecy has a certain identifiable characteristic to it, no matter who is speaking it.

Prophecy is indeed a language all is own.

See also:

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.  

More on the Law of the Lord that We Are to Meditate and Do Day and Night

Psalm 1 gives us the picture of how the righteous man lives his life.

Again, who is the Lord?  Jesus!

What is His law?  Love!

Who are we to love?  Everyone!  Jesus first, others second, and ourselves last.*

And how do we love?  By serving the best interests of God and others, in that order.

*(Some people think we’re not supposed to love ourselves but the Golden Rule says we’re to love others as we love ourselves.  If we don’t love ourselves, what good is it going to do our neighbors to be treated according to that standard?)

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.

 

Meditating on His Law in the Night, Too

It is not just during the day that we can think about the Lord’s law to do it.  We can do so during the night as well.

Psalm 63:6 When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches,

Psalm 119:148 My eyes anticipate the night watches,
That I may meditate on Your word.

Psalm 127:2 It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.

Therefore, we can enjoy the Lord twenty-four hours a day!

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 Living and Abiding Word of God

In 1 Peter 1:23, Peter writes that the recipients of his letter “have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.”  Is Peter here speaking of the Scriptures…or of Jesus who is Himself the fully-personalized word of God.  To understand which Peter means we need to refer back to something he said earlier in his letter (1 Peter 1:3) where he says that the recipients of the letter have been “born again to the living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”   Thus Peter is not saying that his readers have been born again of the Bible.  If the Bible was all that was necessary to give new life, then Jesus died needlessly (Galatians 2:21).  It is the resurrected Christ who births new life in us.  It is the Bible which testifies to Him (John 5:39).

The Bible is not the focal point of our faith.  Rather the Bible bears witness to the One who is the focal point of our faith:  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.

Depersonalizing the Word of God

John 5:39 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;

Scripture has its limitations…and this verse tell us why.  The Bible is an insufficient guide to life by itself.  We must believe and act upon what it says about Jesus Christ.  We must believe and act upon what it says about His Holy Spirit.  And so on.

Those who claim allegiance to the Bible but ignore the presence of Christ will find their lives desolate.

To restrict the word of God to only that which is in the Bible is to depersonalize the word of God.  Remember: Jesus is the living and abiding word of God.

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 Limitations of Scripture

Hebrews 4:12-13 says that the word of God is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  The Scripture is the word of God.  The Scripture cannot, however, judge all the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  We know this from our own experience because there are issues that vex us – important moral issues – for which we cannot easily turn to a single page of the Bible and resolve it.

Thus we must lean on the Scriptures but we must also lean on the God of whom the Scriptures testify.  His name is Christ, and His Holy Spirit – the same Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures – enlightens our hearts with the mind of Christ so that we might live godly in this fallen world.

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.

Hebrews 4:12-13

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 4:13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

Who is able to “judge the the thoughts and intentions of the heart” but Jesus Christ Himself:

Romans 2:16 …God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

And He is called “the Word of God” elsewhere:

Revelation 19:13 …His name is called The Word of God.

Note that Hebrews 4:12-13 speaks of “the word of God” in personal terms.  Let us therefore understand it in personal terms.  As the apostle John put it:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Jesus Christ is the “living and active” –  that is, personal – “word of God.”

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.

Letting Scripture Interpret Scripture

It’s a good idea to let Scripture interpret Scripture.  This is a time-tested maxim – and deservedly so.

More specifically, it’s a good idea to let the apostles interpret the prophets.

Another corollary of this maxim is that we should let the New Testament interpret the Old Testament.

What this central idea embodies is a way of applying the guideline Moses gave when he wrote the first books of the Bible:

Deuteronomy 19:15 “…on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.”

Thus we are letting two or three different scriptures settle an issue.  This keeps us from putting too much stock in one individual scripture for which we can find no corroborating scripture.  God knew that the writings of His prophets would have to stand for the ages, and be understood through many languages.  Misunderstandings can be kept to a minimum if we can find two or three verses that point the same direction.  Also pointing to the benefit of multiple attestation is this verse:

Ecclesiastes 4:12 And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.

Any single verse might be misunderstood or even mistranslated.  Once you have multiple verses making the same point, especially if they involve different languages, it makes more sense to be confident that you have rightly understood the meaning of God’s word on that subject.  Letting Scripture interpret Scripture can also bring meaning to a single verse that might otherwise not be understood at all.  Here’s an example of how to apply and benefit from this rule of thumb in just such a case.

The Scriptures were written by God’s prophets and apostles.  No one knows what one of them means better than another one of those same people.

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 Example

Peter wrote that Jesus left us an example (1 Peter 2:21).  This begins with imitating His thoughts and motivations (1 Corinthians 2:16).

One of the hardest things to grasp when considering how to imitate Jesus is that He lived with the same sorts of limitations that we face.  That is, He was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).  It is more natural for us to think that He had some sort of “leg up” or “free pass” that allowed Him to live the way He did.  It seems almost inconceivable to us that the only significant difference between Him and us is the sin.  And He even gives us a way to overcome that.

At the foundation of Jesus’ life was not His identity but rather His faith.  It was this faith that made Him righteous in the sight of God.  This is the place for beginning to imitate His example.  His thinking – and thus all His words and deeds as well – were shaped by the word of God He heard…because He trusted what He heard.  The word made known to Him was that He was the descendant of David who would lead the people of God to the full glory of God.  That is, Jesus believed what the word of God said about Him – and lived His life according to that understanding.

Therefore, we should believe what the word of God says about us…and live our individual lives according to that understanding.  Then we will be following His example.  And we will love people as He loved people.

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.

 

“Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses”

This principle – “Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses” – is itself confirmed in several passages of Scripture.The phrase appears first in Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15.  It is then quoted four times in the New Testament:  Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthans 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19; and Hebrews 10:28.

The idea, of course, is that something important needs confirmation, lest there be misunderstanding or error about the issue.  Note that one witness is too few; and more than three is superfluous, and possibly even distracting.

Some people hear a single person say something, or perhaps they read a single verse of Scripture, and build a whole new understanding on what they heard or read.  It is easy for one person to be wrong or misunderstood, or for a single verse of Scripture to be taken out of context.  Obtaining multiple attestation of what we think we have learned is a prudent way of accumulating knowledge.  On the other hand, some people need so many witnesses to something that they can’t believe anything unless almost everyone believes it!

God has given us a way of being sure without being obsessive.  It is the way of multiple (two or three) attestation.

Related to this idea, is the repetition we find in the Scriptures.

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.)

The Apostles Stood on the Scriptures, Not on Their Visions

Is there anything the apostles taught that cannot be found in the Old Testament?  Sure, the apostles testified to what they saw and heard from Jesus of Nazareth, but they were always rooting these testimonies in what they called the Scriptures (which is what we call the Old Testament).

Consider how the Gospels, which describe the life and teaching of Jesus, were seasoned thoroughly with references to the various Old Testament scriptures He was fulfilling.  Even after Jesus was raised from the dead and reigning in heaven, the apostles still anchored themselves in what the Scriptures were saying.  (See how they relied on the prophet Amos when they made an important decision about how they were going to handle Gentile conversions in Acts 15:13-19.)  Truly, doing things “according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) was a lesson they learned well from Jesus (Matthew 5:17).

Even the apostle Paul, who had a stunning vision from the Lord (described by Luke in Acts 9, 22, and 26), never appealed to this vision in the thirteen New Testament letters attributed to him.  On the contrary, he condemned those who took their stand on visions:

Colossians 2:18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,

Instead, like the other apostles, Paul took his stand on the Scriptures of the prophets, as the closing lines of his longest and most substantive letter so eloquently testify:

Romans 16:25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past,
Romans 16:26 but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith;
Romans 16:27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.

Thus the apostles embraced the visions that the Lord gave them, but did so within the context and grounding of the ancient Scriptures.  We will be wise to do the same.

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.

Should We Not Pray for Those to Whom We Tell the Truth?

2 Samuel 6 tells the story of how an Israelite named Uzzah, who was not a priest, tried to steady the ark of God.  Only priests were supposed to handle sacred objects.  Uzzah wasn’t a priest, and so he died.  David was offended by this and only later recovered from his upset.

In Israel, priests were taken from the descendants of Aaron.  Uzzah did not qualify.  In our age, priesthood is a spiritual matter, and not a function of one’s physical lineage.  Therefore, it’s the principles that hold true.

A priest is taken from among men and appointed on behalf of men (Hebrews 5:1).  Because a priest is appointed on behalf of men, he is supposed to deal gently with them – even with the ignorant and misguided (Hebrews 5:2).

The ark of the covenant in 2 Samuel 6 symbolizes the truth of God.  If we are to take hold of the truth of God, we must do so with the best interests of our fellow human beings in mind.  The apostle Paul understood this and thus said that he “ministered as a priest the gospel of God” (Roman 15:16).

It is especially important that we forgive those who mistreat us when we proclaim the name of the Lord.  See the section of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus teaches us to revere the Name and to forgive others in our praying (Matthew 6:9-15, especially verses 9 and 14-15).

2 Timothy 2:24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
2 Timothy 2:25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
2 Timothy 2:26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

Such an approach can only be forged and maintained in a spirit of prayer.  Prayer is the essential duty of a priest in our age.

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.

“Lord, Who Has Believed Our Report?

The words in the title of this post come from the following verse:

John 12:38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED?”

(The words in all capitals are John’s quotation of Isaiah 53:1.)

The apostle John was pointing out that, just as in Isaiah’s day, even though God was giving many signs of His presence among the people, many people were not believing the message and messengers He had sent.  By “messengers,” I am referring primarily to John the Baptist and, especially, Jesus of Nazareth.

We may even say that this applies to the entirety of the Bible in the world today.  That is, the report of ancient Israel – specifically of its apostles and prophet – is in.  This is the Bible, for the New Testament is the work of the apostles and the Old Testament in the work of the prophets.  And yet so many in our world are not believing this report.

I am not talking about those who have not heard the report.  I am talking about those who have heard it and have rejected it.  Truly the words of another prophet can be invoked as welll:

Acts 13:41 ‘BEHOLD, YOU SCOFFERS, AND MARVEL, AND PERISH;
FOR I AM ACCOMPLISHING A WORK IN YOUR DAYS,
A WORK WHICH YOU WILL NEVER BELIEVE, THOUGH SOMEONE SHOULD DESCRIBE IT TO YOU.'”

(The words in all capital letters here are a quotation from Habakkuk 1:5.)

The Bible describes to us the great and amazing work God has done through Jesus Christ.  Through that work, everyone is going to heaven.  Yet who will believe the report of this work issued long ago by ancient Israel?

Do you believe it?  Then act on 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. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

Who Is the Lord and What Is His Law?

The first psalm begins in the following way:

Psalm  1:1-2 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

Who then is the Lord…and what is His law?

The Lord is Jesus Christ (Acts 2:36).

His law is love (Mark 12:28-34; John 13:34; 15:12-13).

Therefore, Jesus is Lord and love is His law.  It is upon love that we should be meditating and acting all day long.  The apostle Paul had meditated on love and thus made this observation:

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,

If we meditate and act sufficiently upon this law of love, we, too, will come to understand it – and the Lord who gives it – more fully.

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.

Don’t Do These Things with the Word of God

Here are some “don’t’s” regarding the word of God:

Don’t reject it (1 Samuel 15:26).  Instead, receive it (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Certainly, don’t repudiate it (Acts 13:46).

Don’t invalidate it (Matthew 15:6; Mark 7:13).

Don’t add to it…or take away from it (Revelation 22:18-19).

Don’t drift away from it (Hebrews 2:1).

Don’t neglect it (Acts 6:2).  Instead, devote yourself to it (Acts 6:4; 18:5).

Don’t adulterate it (2 Corinthians 4:2).

Don’t peddle it (2 Corinthians 2:17).

Don’t let it be a source of disappointment, disapproval, or reproach (Jeremiah 6:10).  Instead, delight in it (Jeremiah 6:10 Psalm 1:2).

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 Reality, Power, and Efficacy of the Word of God

There is such a thing as the word of God.  See 1 Thessalonians 2:13 and Hebrews 13:7.

The word of God has power and effect.  See again 1 Thessalonians 2:13 and James 1:21.

Faith in God is the catalyzing element which releases the power and resulting effect, see Hebrews 4:2 and 10:39.

Therefore, stand in awe of the reality, power, and efficacy of the word of God.  What it was for Jesus, it can be for us.

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.

 

Notice the Power of the Word of God When Planted in Your Heart

Notice that the word of God is an active force when in your heart:

1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

That is, the word of God is performing a work inside of you.

Among other things, this word is saving your soul:

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.

Because the power of God’s word is released when it takes root in your heart, Paul encourages his readers to keep it planted there:

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

For without faith in that word, it does us no good.  It is not efficacious.  It is dormant and lifeless – at least as far as we are concerned.  It is like seed that has no soil in which to grow.  The seed remains inert until it is surrounded by soil.

Hebrews 4:2 For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.

A believing heart is the good soil of the parable of the sower (Matthew 13; Mark 4; Luke 8).

Never doubt the power of the word of God to do good things…when planted firmly in your heart.

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.

Transitioning from the Law of Moses to the Grace of Jesus Christ

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, when the word “Law” appears in the New Testament, it is usually shorthand for “the Law of Moses.”  The original Hebrew word used for “law” was “torah,” meaning law in the sense of “teaching,” “instruction,” or “direction.”

When the word “grace” appears in the New Testament, it is usually short for “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  “Grace” is that spiritual understanding brought to the Scriptures through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

Thus “law” and “grace” are two different ways of reading what we call the Old Testament.  (Of course, the New Testament writers called those documents “the Scriptures” because their own writings would be collected and called “the New Testament” only after they had died.)   Thus Paul wrote:

Galatians 2:19-21 “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.  I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.  I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

This transition from law to grace is not an opportunity to sin.  On the contrary, Paul writes:

Romans 6:14-15 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.  What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!

Grace was actually more demanding of Paul and his contemporaries than was the Law.  But it was more rewarding as well.  That is, the demands it made yielded significant fruit in their lives.

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 Kind of Thing Jesus Does to the Old Testament

Jesus interprets the Old Testament spiritually rather than physically.  Consider, for example, what Jesus does with the Old Testament’s dietary laws [emphasis added]:

Mark 7:18-19 And He *said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.)

Colossians 2:16-17 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day–things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

Romans 14:16-17 Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

This does not mean that such provisions are to be ignored, for Jesus said:

Matthew 5:17-19 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Instead of a fleshly orientation, we are to read food and drink passages in a spiritual manner, as is demonstrated in Paul’s letter to the believers in Corinth:

1 Corinthians 5:7-8 Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.  Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Let us therefore by all means read the Old Testament – but do so through Jesus’ interpretation, not our own.

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.

Jesus said, “If you abide in MY word…”

John 8:31-32 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

We needn’t restrict Jesus’ meaning of ” My” to just those words that came out of the mouth of His human body during the days of His flesh.  The whole of Scripture became HIS word through the gospel of grace that He made it through His death and resurrection on our behalf.

Moses himself had said:

Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.

Thus we no longer interpret the Law of Moses as Moses did originally, but rather as Jesus did subsequently.  Moses pointed the way.  Jesus is the way (John 14:6).

Jesus spoke of this transition when He said:

Luke 16:16 “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.

Let us therefore forsake the Scripture’s meaning according to the flesh and rather embrace it as the word of Jesus which is according to the spirit – as He so clearly and forcefully directed us the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).

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.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB unless otherwise noted.

Is the Bible the Word of God?

The Bible is, of course, a collection of various writings by various authors written over a period of centuries.  It is not a single book written by a single individual at a single point in time.  Is it possible therefore to say, “The Bible says…?  Sure it is, as long as the proper understanding of the Bible’s variegated constitution is kept in mind.  In fact, when it is kept in mind, the statement “The Bible says…” becomes even more powerful.  This is because it reflects a human chorus singing in harmony a single tune.

Let’s take, for example, the challenge that some people make when they say, “The Bible never claims to be the word of God”  Is that so?

The expression “Thus saith the Lord” is found 413 times in the King James Version of the Bible.  An additional 42 times the expression “The word of the Lord came to me saying” is found there.  And, of course, there are additional variations of these prefatory expressions found throughout the Scripture.   For example, the expression “Then the Lord spoke to Moses” or some variation thereof appears some 30 times in the book of Leviticus alone, including the first and last lines of the book.  Obviously, those who wrote the writings we call Scripture were claiming to be delivering messages that originated with someone other than themselves – specifically, God.

In John 10:35 Jesus equates “the Scripture” with “the word of God.”

In Acts 3:21 Luke tells us that Peter said that God had spoken from ancient past “by the mouths of His holy prophets.”

In the opening of his letter to the Romans, Paul recalls that God promised the gospel of Jesus Christ beforehand “through His prophets in the holy Scriptures,” a sentiment he reiterates at the very end of the letter.

In 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul thanks God that when he preached in Thessalonica the people there received his message as if it was from God through Paul rather than merely from Paul.

In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul reminds Timothy that “all Scripture is inspired by God.”

Hebrews 1:1 says that God “spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets.”

In James 5:10, the brother of Jesus makes reference to the prophets, “who spoke in the name of the Lord.”

2 Peter 1:21 says that “no prophecy [of Scripture] was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

And there is much more we could say along these lines.  This much should be sufficient, however, for you to recognize that it’s not reasonable to say that the Bible does not claim to be the word of God.  You can accept that claim or reject it, but you have no basis for saying that the claim is not being made.

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 Prophecies Were Promises

While it’s true to say that the Old Testament (that is, the Hebrew Bible) prophesied of Christ, it’s also true to say that the God promised Christ.  The latter expression portrays things a little more personally, and that conveys a very important dimension of Messiah, the greatest of all the works of God.  Thus the prophecies of Christ were promises of Christ.

Consider these scriptures [Emphasis added.]:

Acts 13:23 “From the descendants of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus,

Acts 13:32-33 “And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘YOU ARE MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU.’

Romans 1:1-3 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,

It is wonderful to be able to say that “what God has promised, He is able also to perform” (Romans 4:21).

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.)

How Important Was the New Testament Generation?

Paul wrote to the believers in Rome:

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

That makes the New Testament generation very, very important.  Paul is saying that whatever – yes, whatever was written in Scripture – was written for their instruction.  To have the whole Old Testament written for your generation makes your generation monumentally special.

Peter reinforces the point:

1 Peter 1:10-12 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.  It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven–things into which angels long to look.

It is thus clear that all the prophets’ writings were written not primarily for consumption by contemporaries of the prophets, but rather for the New Testament generation.

Even so, the New Testament generation was even more important than this would suggest.  Again, we turn to Paul:

1 Corinthians 10:11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

The context of “these things happened” are the extraordinary events associated with Israel’s exodus from Egypt.  Thus not only were the Old Testament scriptures written for the New Testament generation, but even extraordinary things that happened in the Old Testament happened so that they could be written in the Old Testament for the benefit of the New Testament generation.

We often think of the Bible as a book for the ages – and, as the word of God, it certainly is.  But there is one generation for whom the Old Testament was primarily written: the New Testament generation.

What made them worth this distinction?  They were the generation that would be contemporaneous with the Messiah…and therefore called upon to bear witness to His life, death, and resurrection.  We can be forever grateful to Paul, Peter, and the rest of that generation that  they stepped up to the task and did not disappoint.

They were truly the greatest generation.

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.

Why Do Some People Say That the Scriptures Do Not Claim To Be the Word of God?

When people say that the Bible makes no claim to be the word of God, it seems they are ignoring verses like these:

John 10:34-35 Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I SAID, YOU ARE GODS’?  If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken),”

1 Corinthians 14:37 If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Of course, all these come from the New Testament.

Note also that the phrase “Thus saith the Lord” occurs 413 times in the King James version of the Bible.  (All are, of course, in the Old Testament.)

Consider also statements like this one:

John 3:34 “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.

Thus, whenever someone like Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, or even Jesus, claims to be sent by God, they are implicitly claiming to be speaking for God.  If their words were then written, those words become no less the word of God in the process, would they?

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.

The Leftover Baskets of Bread and Fish Remind Us of the New Testament

After Jesus had miraculously fed five thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish, He ordered His disciples to “gather up all the leftover fragments that nothing might be lost.”  This is analogous to how the New Testament came to be.

The first-century movement of Jews who bore witness to Jesus Christ died off – much of this hastened by the fierce persecution they faced.  After they had passed, succeeding generations gathered up the documents they had written.  Of course, the documents had been inspired by God Himself and so were the word of God – manna from heaven.  To this day, there is nothing outside of the New Testament that has been determined to have come from the apostles, and, of course, those early succeeding generations only put into the New Testament what they deemed to have come from the apostles.  Thus we have the leftover fragments of the manna God used to feed that generation He had called out of slavery to sin and into the glorious freedom of the kingdom of God.

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 Word of God Is the Primary Agent of God

The main way God touches us is through His word.  That is, through His thoughts and ideas.

The apostle John testified to this in the opening of his gospel.  See John 1:1-3.

See also the opening of the letter to the Hebrews because it confirms this point of view.  See Hebrews 1:1-2.

Jesus was, of course, the word of God made flesh.  See John 1:14.

Thus, that Jesus is the primary expression of God and that the word is the primary agent of God and that Jesus is personification of that word…all make perfect sense.

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 Power of the Word of God

One of the most important ideas that the work of Jesus Christ was intended to convey and embed permanently in the human pysche was the reality, power, and efficacy of the word of God.

Read the gospels and notice how dependent upon it Jesus made Himself.  Even as He died on the cross, Jesus was relying on a promise of a kind of resurrection that He had never before seen demonstrated.  That promise was from God.

If Jesus was that dependent on the word of God, why should we think it not completely reliable?

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.

“Indeed, Has God Said?”

“Indeed, has God said?”  This is the question with which Satan began his temptation of Eve.  It’s a scheme he has never stopped using with the human race.

The proper response to the question is for you to be sure, or become sure, of what God has said.  Then, and only then, can you resist the temptation.

Determine what God has said.  And hold it fast!

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 Good Are the Oracles of God if We Don’t Practice Them?

God has made clear His idea of true religion, and it is encapsulated in James 1:27.  Long before that, He had spoken through one of His prophets and said essentially the same thing when He called upon His people to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8).These truths, and many supporting ones, were written and preserved for us by ancient Israel that we might know the way to God’s salvation on this earth (John 4:22).  We have these truths today in the Bible (that is, the Old and New Testaments).

Jesus made it clear that simply knowing these truths, however, is not enough – we must practice them (John 13:17).  Simply declaring allegiance to God, and to His oracles, is not near enough (Matthew 7:21).  It is the doing of God’s will that gains His favor.   

In doing God’s will, any human being can gain His favor – regardless of that person’s ethnicity, religious heritage, or educational level (Acts 10:34-35).  

Paul wrote that while the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God, it was their behavior (that is, their adherence to the conduct prescribed in those documents) that would cause the rest of humanity to either glorify or blaspheme God (Romans 2:17-3:2).  Therefore, since you have the Bible (that is, the oracles of God) what will those who know you say about God in their hearts because of your behavior?  

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.  

   

   

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The Sum of the Bible Is Love

The Scriptures are about love.  They are about the love God has shown toward us, and the love He would have us show toward each other.

The apostle Paul said the sum of all his teaching was love (1 Timothy 1:5).

The apostle John said that God Himself is love (1 John 4:8, 16).

Jesus Himself said that love would be the hallmark of His disciples (John 13:35).  As you learn from the One who is love, you naturally become more loving.

If you hear someone quote from the Bible in any other spirit than love, you know that such teaching is in error and is a distortion of the Bible (2 Peter 3:14-18).

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible.  For those unfamiliar with the Bible, look to the blog: A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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