Religion and Philosophy
A. Biblical Theology
1. Vincent, Milton. A Gospel Primer for Christians. Focus Publishing, 2008 (97pp.) This is an outstanding, life-changing book. This book is at the core of the Gospel Centered movement. Read this for Care Group Leader training at Christ the Redeemer Church, Bret Rogers, Teaching Elder, White Settlement, TX. April 2014.
2. Roberts, Vaughan. God’s Big Picture, Tracing the Storyline of the Bible. IVP Books: Downers Grove, Ill. 2002 (170pp.) Read this book as part of Care Group Leader training at Christ the Redeemer Church, April-May 2014. This book is written at a fairly simple level, high school level, but is profound and exciting. Amazing! Why did I not have this stuff 30 years ago!?
3. Dever, Mark. What Does God Want of Us Anyway? Crossway: Wheaton, IL. 2010 (127pp.) Read 01-26-15 to 02-03-15. This is a fantastic, concise book that explains the main idea of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. This book tells the gospel story from Creation to the Apocalypse. Much like Vaughan’s above. Highly recommend! (Where was this stuff 40 years ago???)
B. Systematic Theology/Bible Doctrine
1. General Works-Systematic Theology Texts
(1). Concise Theology, A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs, by J.I. Packer. Tyndale House Publishers: Wheaton, IL. 1993 (267pp.) Read 12-11-14 to 05-27-15. This is an outstanding introduction to systematic theology, the doctrines the Bible teaches, done in a devotional style that can bless the average layman or minister equally. Packer packs a lot into this Concise Theology in bite sized chunks of 2-4 pages per topic (and the pages are small). I read this book over the last 6 months as a daily devotional 1-2 chapters at a time. Packer explains the big theological terms in simple ways and shows the biblical basis for each doctrine. He is gracious yet firm when he covers controversial areas such as hell and he does present some alternative views other than his own Reformed Anglican; but you always know where he stands! I highly recommend this book for those who may know Bible stories but need to know what the Bible actually teaches.
(2). Christian Beliefs, Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know, by
Wayne A. Grudem, edited by Eliot Grudem. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI.
2005 (159pp.) 06-12-15 to 07-14-15. This is an outstanding, concise, intro-
duction to Bible doctrines. This is largely a serious condensation of
Grudem’s earlier books but the editing is excellent, making this a wonderful
beginner book for a recent convert or someone just beginning to get excited
about Bible doctrine. I highly recommend!
2. Doctrine of Revelation/Inspiration/Inerrancy
(1). Scripture Alone, The Evangelical Doctrine, by R. C. Sproul. P&R: Phillipsburg, NJ 2005 (210pp.) Read 05-12-14 to 09-17-14. This is a very good book that covers the doctrine and history of Inerrancy and the doctrine of Revelation. It has its difficult parts as one chapter gets a bit into philosophy that may scare away the average reader. Highly Recommend!
(2). Truth&Power, The Place of Scripture in the Christian Life by J.I. Packer. Inter-Varsity Press: Downers Grove, IL. 1996 (191pp.) Read 09-20-14 to 10-27-14 but had begun it the first time 03-28-03. This book is a compilation of a few of Packer’s works but turns into a very strong book that covers much of what Sproul covered in Scripture Alone but from the British perspective. It too has its philosophical and historical aspects but also covers the doctrine and its practical use very thoroughly.
(3). Taking God at His Word, by Kevin DeYoung. Crossway: Wheaton, IL. 2014 (138pp.) Read 11-28-14 to 12-12-14. This is an OUTSTANDING, Concise yet thorough examination of the doctrine of the Word of God. I highly recommend!
(4). Thy Word Is Truth, by E.J. Young. The Banner of Truth Trust: Carlisle, PA; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. :Grand Rapids, MI 1957 (280pp.) Read 09-18-14 to 04-21-15 ( I read a couple of other books on this topic while reading this one- see above). This was an outstanding book, the classic in this topic of the doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy. This was not an easy read by any means. Dr. Young’s arguments are very precise with multiple biblical texts exegeted for each point. He discusses in depth the arguments from the other side and tears them apart. You could make a charge that he is somewhat repetitive but it is more likely that he is just being careful to be understood and to dissect every aspect of the topic. If you want a book that covers this topic in detail, and you have the patience for it, this is THE book. This may be a bit over the heads of many, but if you are willing to work hard, this book will be a serious blessing to you. Although it was written almost 60 years ago, it is extremely relevant to the discussion today. The arguments of the age do not change at their core, just the dressing changes.
(5). Knowing Scripture, Revised Edition. R.C. Sproul. IVP Books: Downers Grove, IL 2009, original edition 1977 (I read the original edition many years ago). (152pp.) Read 05-09-15 to 06-09-15. This is an excellent though brief introduction to both the doctrine of Scripture and to Hermeneutics for laymen. The book is really designed to instruct readers in how to interpret the Bible and Sproul does a very good job! This is a challenging read for most laymen I would think. It would be excellent if done as a part of a Bible Study group. Outstanding!
(6). God’s Inerrant Word: An International Symposium on the Trustworthiness of Scripture, John Warwick Montgomery, editor. Bethany House Publishers: Minneapolis, Minnesota 1978 (288pp.) Partially read in 1998; read again, complete, 06-18-15 to 08-07-15. This is an outstanding book, especially considering that it is an anthology with multiple authors. This very thoroughly covers the subject. Sproul’s last chapter is particularly great! Highly recommend but this is, at times, some pretty deep stuff!
3. Doctrine of the Person of Christ
(1). The Message of the Person of Christ, the Bible Speaks Today, by Robert Letham. Inter-Varsity Press: Downers Grove, IL 2013 (261pp.) Read 12-11-14 to 01-14-15. This is an Outstanding survey of many Scripture Texts from Genesis to Revelation that teach us about the Person of Christ. Sound and solid theology but highly readable. I highly recommend!
4. Doctrine of the Holy Spirit
(1). Names of the Holy Spirit by Ray Pritchard. Moody Press: Chicago, 1995 (214pp.) Read as a daily devotion 04-14-15 to 09-25-15. This is an excellent biblical study of the names of the Holy Spirit from Genesis to Revelation. Despite the fact that this is a devotional book, he covers a lot of biblical ground and thoroughly explains and applies the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. I highly recommend!
C. Historical Theology
II. Christian Living/Basic Discipleship
A. Basic Christianity-Discipleship
1. Basic Christianity by John Stott. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids, MI 2008 (originally 1958) (174pp.) Read for the Third time 11-13-14 to 12-15-14. Outstanding! A classic! A great beginner book.
2. The Keys To Spiritual Growth by John MacArthur. Crossway Books: Wheaton, IL 1991 (191pp.) Read 12-20-14 to 01-20-15. This is an outstanding book for the new believer or the believer who needs a heavy dose of the basics. Great tool for discipleship.
III. Bible Commentaries
A. Old Testament
1. Tyndale Old Testament Commentary Vol.23B: Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, by David W. Baker. Inter-Varsity Press: Leicester, England 1988. “Habakkuk” pp.41-77. Read for the Redeemer Church sermon series by Dan Hilmer, June-July 2014.
2. The Minor Prophets, Volume 2, Micah-Malachi, by James Montgomery Boice. Baker Books: Grand Rapids, MI. 1986, “Habakkuk”, pp.387-434. Read June-July, 2014. Very good sermons!
3. The Bible Speaks Today, The Message of Zechariah, by Barry G. Webb. InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL 2003 (186pp.) Read 06-01-15 to 07-21-15. This is an outstanding, gospel centered, conservative commentary that is perfect for devotions or sermon prep. Webb really helped me understand Zechariah, which is not the easiest of the minor-prophets to grasp. Highly recommend! Read in preparation for a sermon series on Zechariah by Pastor Bret Rogers at Redeemer Church, Fort Worth, Aug. 2015.
4. Fries, Micah; Rummage, Stephen; Gallaty, Robby. Christ-Centered Exposition, Exalting Jesus in Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. Holman Reference: Nashville, TN 2015 (pp.79-195). Read July-August 2015. Outstanding! Nice, perfect, organized sermons, very good!
5. Hill, Andrew E. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. IVP Academic: Downers Grove, IL 2012 (368pp., “Zechariah”, pp.103-273). Read 08-22-15 to 10-03-15. This was an outstanding commentary!
B. New Testament
1. Johnson, Phillip E. Darwin on Trial. Regnery Gateway: Washington D.C. 1991 (195pp.) Read 10-02 to 11-04-14. Started many times, 09-29-00, 06-17-01, 03-11-04, 09-21-07. This is a very important book, but, sadly, the cult of Darwinism still predominates our society 23 years later. The book does require a lot of knowledge of biology, but the author’s arguments are outstanding!
2. Ibid. Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law & Education. Inter-Varsity Press: Downers Grove, IL. 1995 (245pp.) Purchased 10-02-95; read 11-12-14 to 12-10-14. Outstanding!
Sunday, February 1, 2015
Read: The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, 4 and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king.
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.
Introduction: “It was a dark and stormy night….” is how modern man might prefer a book to begin, but Matthew begins with a list of unfamiliar, hard to pronounce names. Why? When we read through the books of the Bible we come across these lists of names, genealogies, often. And we tend to skip through them. What is the relevance of these genealogies to the gospel message and how can we possibly find some way to apply them to our lives? Why should we study these lists? Shouldn’t we just skip over them and get to the meat of the gospel? Over the next few lessons we will study this genealogy presented by Matthew and see just how relevant it is to our lives and how much it points us to the gospel. The Big Idea of the genealogy for Matthew is that this clearly points out that Jesus is the Rightful Heir of King David and thus He is our Messiah! Jesus did NOT just pop into our world, he is a full participant in the human race and in our history; he is the culmination of God’s redemption history.
I. The Genealogy- Overview
1. Vs. 17- Matthew gives his genealogy in a particular structure and then states his structure in v.17 “So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to the Christ fourteen generations.” Why this particular structure?
2. In Hebrew each letter of the alphabet had a numerical value as well. When you add up the numerical values for David, you get 14. This literary device is called gematria. When you compare this genealogy with Luke’s or any of the other biblical genealogies that present the same line you recognize that Matthew leaves some names out in order to reach his goal of three groups of 14. This is an intentional literary device to promote memorization and to tie the entire list to three people: King David (14), Abraham, and Jesus. We live in a technological/scientific age and NOT a poetic age, so things like the artistry of the genealogy we do not get.
3. The obvious problem is that it appears the third set of 14 names is actually only 13 names. While there are various theories about this issue the bottom line is we do not know for sure why there are only 13 names found.
4. The first group of 14 takes us from Abraham to David; from the founder who received the promise of God to be a blessing to the whole world and from whom would come kings, pl., to King David to whom God promised that his descendants would always reign.
5. The second group of 14 takes us from Solomon to the disgraced Jechoniah and the exile.
6. The third group of 14 (13) goes through the Exile to Jesus. Notice, however, the difference in working that Matthew used when it comes to Joseph and Jesus. All throughout the genealogy Matthew had used “was the father of” to translate egennesen- begat- but when he gets to Joseph and Jesus he changes to “Joseph the husband of Mary of whom Jesus was born.”
7. Matthew arranges his genealogy in an ascending sequence, from Abraham to Jesus, while Luke arranges his genealogy of Jesus in a descending sequence from Jesus to Adam. This difference shows Matthew’s concern to primarily show Jesus as the Messiah, the King of the Jews while Luke is showing Jesus as the Son of Man, the Savior of the whole world, thus he takes the genealogy back all the way to Adam. The ascending order which Matthew uses is seen in Genesis 5 which begins with Adam and moves to Noah; this ascending order is typical for the OT (see 1Chronicles 1-8). Luke’s descending genealogy was more familiar to his Greco-Roman readers.
8. Why begin with a genealogy? Green, Michael. The Message of Matthew, The Kingdom of Heaven. p.57 “What an amazing way to start a Gospel- with a great long list of names! But, to Jews, that was not surprising at all, as we shall see. It sets Jesus of Nazareth in the context of what God had been doing for his people from the earliest days. It ushers in the theme of fulfillment, which is so prominent in this Gospel. The climax of God’s work for humankind throughout the centuries is- Jesus.”
B. Matthew’s Plan for This Genealogy
1. Matthew emphasizes God’s covenants with Israel by focusing on Abraham and David from the beginning. Gen. 12:1-3 and 15, 17, show the covenants and promises made to Abraham and with David in 2Sam.7:1-17.
II. Other Bible Genealogies
A. Matthew’s Sources
1. Ruth 4:18-22 Matthew seems to quote this passage closely for the names of Perez to Jesse.
2. 1Chron.3:10-19 This certainly could be where Matthew gets the names from Solomon to Jechoniah. But, some names are left out and do not match what Luke produces. Luke3:33 “the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez” while Matt.1:3-4 has “and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab”
B. Importance of Genealogies
1. Joshua 13-22 Tells the story of the allotments Joshua made for each of the tribes of Israel in the Promised Land. While this is not a genealogy it does demonstrate how the genealogies were useful in distributing the land promised to them by God. Numbers 26 is the final census of Israel before entering the Promised Land and in 26:52 “The LORD spoke to Moses, saying ‘Among these the land shall be divided for inheritance…”
2. Ezra 2:59-63 “The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer, though they could not prove their fathers’ houses or their descent, whether they belonged to Israel:…These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but they were not found there, and so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. The governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food….”
3. After the exiles returned there was an effort to re-establish the priesthood and to determine who the real Israelites were. If there was not a valid entry in the genealogy, they were excluded. This sounds very severe but it clearly shows the importance of the genealogies for determining who Israel was. This points forward to Revelation and the Lamb’s Book of Life in 20:15 “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” In this life, in the visible Church, we do not know for certain who is in the true and invisible Church, whose names are actually written in the Book of Life. Therefore, we judge within the church by actions, behavior and confession. If a professing Believer is contradicting the Word of God with persistent unrepentant sin, believing heresy, and not exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit, then they may be lovingly confronted by the church and given abundant opportunities to repent but ultimately excluded if they fail to repent. The genealogies have lost their expository-gospel value in today’s churches that have an open membership with no standards. Matthew takes the genealogy seriously as a “proof” of Jesus’ legitimacy as King.
4. Herod the Great (reigned in Judea under the Romans 63-4BC) Herod was the son of an Arab (Nabatean) but his family had converted to Judaism. When Herod had the genealogies searched for his ancestors and was told, as the king of the Jews, that his family was not included, he had many of the genealogies destroyed and he tried to create a false one. This false king of the Jews is the one who tried to have Jesus murdered in Matt. 2:1-18.
III. Dealing with the Apologetics Issues of the Genealogy
1. The Dating of Matthew- As mentioned in the Introduction to Matthew last week, establishing the date of writing is important yet difficult. If the prophecy of Matt.24 about the Temple being destroyed is taken literally as miraculous prophecy by Jesus (and I do!) then Matthew is clearly written before A.D.70 and thus had access to the genealogies for the time between the birth of Jesus and the Exile. So the genealogy of Matt.1 supports an early date for Matthew and supports his claim for Jesus being the Christ.
B. Issues with the Genealogy
1. The word “the father of” is gennao and means “is the ancestor of” so it is not inconsistent when Matthew skips generations.
2. One way to understand the differences between Luke’s genealogy and Matthew’s is that we think Luke was tracing the actual physical line through Mary while Matthew was tracing the legal line through Joseph. It was not unusual for a father-in-law, i.e. Mary’s father, to adopt his daughter’s husband if he had no sons. Hence the difference between Matthew’s “Jacob the father of Joseph” and Luke’s “Joseph, the son of Heli”.
3. Another big apologetics problem with the genealogy is the Jechoniah issue. In 1Chron.3:16 we see that Jechoniah is a descendant of Jehoiakim and yet in Jeremiah 36:30 there is a prophecy that states that no son of Jehoiakim will sit on David’s throne; he is cursed. Would this curse prohibit the Messiah from coming from Jechoniah’s line? Yes, it would, if the Messiah was an actual physical descendant of Jechoniah’s. But Jesus did NOT have Joseph’s blood because of the virgin birth Matthew will point to later. Thus, the curse of Jehoiakim is avoided and the legal line stands!
4. Including women in the genealogy is unusual for a Jewish genealogy. Mark 6:3, John 8:19,41 may allude to the questions about Jesus’ birth. In discussing the women Matthew included in the genealogy, Green writes, “Why did he choose them? It is clear from Mark 6:3; Galatians 4:4 and Revelation 12:1-5 that people were well aware there was something strange about the birth of Jesus. It was different. The Jews put about the rumor that he was the illegitimate child of a Roman soldier and Mary. Nobody thought he was simply the child of Joseph and Mary. So Matthew may well be alluding to such rumors when he points out that in Jesus’ ancestry there are notorious women. Sinners they may be but God works to rescue sinners and to use them in his service….And the juxtaposition of sinful women like Bathsheba and Tamar with Mary, the gentle mother of Jesus, shows that the barriers between good people and bad people have also come crashing down. As Paul puts it, ‘There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace’ (Rom.3:22-24). At the very beginning of the Gospel the all-embracing love of God is emphasized.” (Green, p.58). The women named here are all gentiles and are linked with gross sin. Matthew is loudly proclaiming that God not only includes sinners in the ancestry of Jesus but that the Kingdom of God includes a high place for women. Including these women prepares the way for the remarkable manner in which God uses the young Mary and answers in advance some of the criticisms of the birth of Jesus by the Pharisees and opponents of Jesus. The way that Jesus and the gospel treats women is the reason why women have been elevated in the Christian West and are treated with equality.
5. The 13 names in the third section-
Conclusion/Application: Studying this genealogy and comparing it with Luke’s is useful for the gospel and our sanctification. The genealogies demonstrate a fulfillment of OT prophecies, showing us that God is in control and that he keeps his covenants with Abraham and David. Jesus is the culmination of all the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Israel, David, etc. This God who can manage the history of Jesus family tree is also managing yours, bringing you to the point of hearing the gospel and leading you to repent and believe.
Our Christian faith is rooted in historical Judaism and therefore all forms of anti-Semitism and persecution of the Jews is dreadfully wrong and sinful. We should embrace the Jewish people as our spiritual cousins whom God used to bring the Messiah to the whole world and we should joyfully share the gospel with them. Jesus is a descendant of Abraham’s, the father of the Jewish people and all of the Apostles were Jews.
The Christian faith is rooted in historical reality with an abundance of hard evidence. We are a people of the Book, and that Book includes genealogies which root us in real people’s lives, in history. The genealogy points us forward to heaven where the names of the Redeemed are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
The genealogy has a lot of people who were pretty bad sinners whom we shall study next week. This gives me hope for myself! God’s grace really is pretty amazing that he could save a murdering, adulterer with several wives like King David, and he can save you too.
Archer, Gleason L. Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Regency Reference Library: Grand Rapids, MI 1982, 476pp. (pp.316-317).
Green, Joel, editor. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. IVP Academic: Downers Grove, IL 2013, 1088pp. (pp.570-584).
Green, Michael. The Message of Matthew, The Kingdom of Heaven. Inter-Varsity Press: Downers Grove, IL. 2000, 343pages (pp.57-59).
Keener, Craig. The IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament. Inter-Varsity Press: Downers Grove, IL 1993, 831pp. (pp.43-47).Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Bryan E. Walker
Title: Greek- kata Maththaion, According to Matthew, The Gospel According to Matthew, or just Matthew. In the earliest manuscripts the name Matthew was not given as a part of the text; in other words, this Gospel, like the other three, was technically anonymous and had no title. “The title, kata Maththaion was probably added no later than A.D 100, likely when it was combined with the other three canonical Gospels for circulation.” (Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels by Joel B. Green, ed. IVP Academic: Downers Grove, IL 2013, p.574) The early church always attributed this Gospel to the Apostle Matthew. The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary (Merrill C. Tenney, editor, Zondervan Publishing House: Grand Rapids, MI 1967, pp.516-517) says, “…in the early Church Matthew was the most highly valued and widely read of the four Gospels. This is revealed both by its position in the canon- it is found in first place in all the known lists of the Gospels except two,- and by its widespread citation, for it is by far the most often quoted Gospel in the Christian literature before A.D180….Matthew’s name was associated with it from at least the early second century.”
The word “Gospel” comes from the Anglo-Saxon Godspell, meaning Good News or good tidings, which is a translation of the Greek word for good news, euanggelion. It came to mean the story of God’s redeeming man, and is the message of Christ’s life, teachings, and atoning death for sinners on the cross, his resurrection and ascension. “In the NT the word Gospel never means a book (one of the four Gospels), but always the good tidings which Christ and the apostles announced. It is called ‘the gospel of God’ (Rom.1:1; 1Thess.2:2,9); ‘the gospel of Christ’ (Mark 1:1; Rom.1:16; 15:19); ‘the gospel of the grace of God’ (Acts 20:24); ‘the gospel of peace’ (Eph.6:15); ‘the gospel of your salvation (Eph.1:13); and ‘the glorious gospel’ (IICor.4:4)….It was not until c. A.D.150 that the word Gospel was applied to the writings concerning the message of Christ.” (ZPBD, p.318.)
There is a Hebrew word in the OT that means good news, bisar/basar, to proclaim good news. In 2Sam.4:10 the word is used in reference to someone telling David that Saul was dead. David had him executed! “Because the Israelites believed God was actively involved in their lives (including battles and wars) bisar came to have a religious connotation. To proclaim the good news of Israel’s success in battle was to proclaim God’s triumph over God’s enemies.” (Holman Bible Dictionary, Trent C. Butler, editor, “Gospel” P. Joel Snider. Nashville: TN 1991 pp.567-568).
Basar is used in Isaiah 52:7 “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’”. “This concept of the messenger fresh from the field of battle is at the heart of the more theologically pregnant usages in Isaiah and the Psalms. Here it is the Lord who is victorious over his enemies. By virtue of this success, he now comes to deliver the captives (Ps 68:11-12; Is.61:1). The watchman waits eagerly for the messenger (Isa.52:7; IISam.18:25f.) who will bring this good news. At first only Zion knows the truth (Isa.40:9; 41:27), but eventually all nations will tell the story (Isa.60:6). The reality of this concept is only finally met in Christ….” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol.I, R. Laird Harris, editor. The Moody Bible Institute: Chicago,1980 pp. 135-136.)
What we have with the Hebrew concept of basar, good news, is a military term that gradually came to point to the good news of the hoped for Messiah. In our day of Islamic jihad and terror, and living in a post-Christian secular wasteland that is increasingly anti-Christian in every way, we tend to shy away from anything that remotely resembles a link between a military concept and our faith. We no longer sing “Onward, Christian Soldiers” or the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. However, this word that we love, gospel, is unmistakably a militant word not just in its OT roots, but in the theology of its NT usage. The gospel is about the grace, love and mercy of God but it is also about the Satan being defeated, humiliated, and judged; it’s about saving sinners, but it’s also about judging and conquering sin, death and the grave. And those who reject the gospel…in the end they will be forced to bow the knee and confess that Jesus is Lord, and then be cast into hell for eternal judgment. There is clearly NO mandate for us to ever us coercion to force people to become Christians, which is theological absurdity, but the Good News is certainly bad news for those who reject Christ. Paul often uses military language in his descriptions of the gospel. The cross offends; it is a scandal and a stumbling stone, so as we study the gospel let us remember this side of the gospel too.
The word “gospel” has two similar uses in the NT. Jesus uses it in Mark 1:14-15 “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” This is the actual message of the good news proclaimed by Christ. The second usage, by Paul primarily, is the story of Jesus proclaimed by the apostles (Gal.1:6-12). Notice that already there are counterfeit gospels in Paul’s day.
The word euanggelion, gospel in the NT always refers to a spoken, proclaimed word. The gospel is preached, not written. Israel, like most ancient societies, depended primarily on oral traditions, oral histories, and an oral gospel. While it was a literate society, books and scrolls were expensive. So the gospel was preached, proclaimed, taught and memorized. But after 20-30 years a crisis was developing in the Church- the older first generation believers were beginning to die off thus there came a need for the gospel to be written down like the other Jewish Scriptures. Also, Persecution by the Jews and the Romans was becoming another crisis and the Church was needing to disperse, therefore, a written record of the gospel was needed.
Author/Date: Matthew means “gift of YHWH” and is very similar to Nathan, “God has given”. “The best evidence from the Gospel itself that Matthew was its author is that only in this Gospel is Levi the tax collector (Mk.2:14; Lk 5:27) identified as the Apostle Matthew (Mt 9:9; 10:3). At the very least, this suggests the author presents Matthew’s witness. The Gospel also contains clear evidence that the author possessed a strong command of both Aramaic and Greek, something that would be a perquisite for most tax collectors. Furthermore, the author of Matthew used the more precise term nomisma for the coin used in the dispute over tribute (Mt 22:19) than Mark’s and Luke’s denarion (Mk 12:15; Lk 20:24). This linguistic specificity strongly implies that the author was conversant in the fine details of money and finance, a point that would lend credence to the proposition that the author was a tax collector.” (Cabal, Ted, Editor. The Apologetics Study Bible. Holman: Nashville, TN 2007 HCSB translation, p.1402)
“Nevertheless, most critical scholars still reject Matthean authorship of the first Gospel….there is no compelling reason to overturn the unanimous external evidence associating the first Gospel with the Apostle Matthew.” (p.1402)
Matthew is identified by Mark (2:14) as “Levi the son of Alphaeus” but in all the lists of the 12 Matthew is NOT paired with James the son of Alphaeus, but rather, by Thomas. Still, it is possible that Matthew is James’ brother. It should be noted also that Simon Peter is not always paired with his brother Andrew (see Mark 3:16-18). Furthermore, at the cross we find Mary, the mother of James and Joseph/Joses (Matt.27:56; Mk.15:40) which could be Mrs. Alphaeus, the mother of Matthew and James. But then why was she not listed as Mary the mother of James and Levi/Matthew?
Since Matthew was a tax collector we can assume a few facts about his character and situation in life. Tax collectors were considered unclean and traitorous as they had allied themselves with the hated Romans in order to make money off the backs of Jews, of if they were toll collectors for Jewish cities they would still be despised on general principles. To become a tax collector you had to be somewhat wealthy because the office had to be purchased or leased, then you had to hire people to work for you. You had to be educated and a good manager and businessman, knowing at least Aramaic and Greek but likely Latin as well. We know from Matt.9:9-10 and Mark 2:13-16 that Matthew/Levi had a house large enough for a big banquet and that includes the staff and funds to feed all those people. I find it interesting that in Jesus band of 12 Disciples he included a tax collector and Simon the Zealot who, politically, might like to kill Matthew. Jesus himself used illustrations of tax collectors in a negative way in Matt.5:44-46 and 18:15-20.
Matthew’s other name was Levi, probably indicating that he was from the priestly tribe of Levi. The name Levi, according to Genesis 29:34, means attached or joined, indicating that Leah felt that having this third son would make her husband Jacob more attached to her.
Like the lack of an author’s name, the Gospel of Matthew has no date of publication. Why should we care about the date Matthew was written? In Matt.24 Jesus predicts the total destruction of the Temple. The Temple, and all of Jerusalem, was destroyed in A.D.70 by General Titus of the Roman Army, the son of the Emperor at the time, Vespasian. Modern critics deny the miraculous nature of Jesus’ prophecy in Matt.24 that the Temple would be destroyed and therefore say that Matthew wrote his Gospel after A.D.70.
Ted Cabal continues, “Because Matthew seems to betray knowledge of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, any date before A.D.70 is presumed impossible….But besides prejudicially disallowing that Jesus could have predicted Jerusalem’s fall, the evidence for ‘prophecy’ after the fact is not as clear as some suggest. First, the words of Christ (Mt 22:7; 24:15) are so general that one could easily understand them as indicating no knowledge of the actual destruction of Jerusalem. Second, certain episodes in Matthew give pre-A.D.70 perspectives that would at least require clarifying comment from the Gospel writer if the temple had already fallen (e.g. the discussion of the temple tax in 17:24-27). There is no reason, therefore, that the Gospel could not have been written before A.D.70. Irenaeus (c.a. A.D.110) reported that Matthew was written while Peter and Paul preached at Rome, placing at least early versions of the Gospel in the A.D.60’s, assuming Irenaeus had a reliable tradition. The precise date of the writing of Matthew is uncertain, but sometime in the 60’s is not unreasonable.”
Also affecting the dating of this Gospel is the apparent reliance on Mark’s Gospel. While the early Church considered Matthew to be the first Gospel, the textual scholars tend to place Mark as being the first Gospel written because it appears that Matthew, and Luke, quoted liberally and word for word from Mark, who some scholars date as being written in the late 50’s A.D. The arguments go back and forth and can get quite technical but basically some say that Mark wrote a very brief Gospel and then Matthew and Luke used him as a source to write larger Gospels. To most scholars it does not make sense for Mark to use Matthew as a source and condense it down. The early Church also says of Matthew that he wrote in Hebrew or Aramaic first. This comes from Ireneaus who was quoting Papias from about A.D.130 but it could be that the meaning was that Matthew wrote for the Hebrew people, which scholars are in agreement on.
I am in a personal quandary over which came first, Mark or Matthew. The textual evidence for Mark is huge but I do not see why Matthew would have relied so heavily on Mark, who was but a youth at the time while Matthew was with Jesus from the start. I am a big believer in listening to and being inclined to believe the testimony of the early church which placed Matthew first for a reason. Those who say Mark’s condensing Matthew doesn’t make sense seem to me to be forgetting that Mark and Matthew were writing to two very different audiences: Matthew writing to the Hebrew Christians and prospects and Mark writing to the Romans. I am now thinking that Mark did condense Matthew’s account and quoted him verbatim in many places. This is something that we simply cannot answer with the extant evidence.
Background and Setting: Matthew/Levi wrote this Gospel primarily for the Jewish believers in Palestine and for Jews who did not yet believe in Jesus as the Messiah. We see this primarily in his emphasis on quoting from the Old Testament (more than 60 OT prophecies) and showing how Jesus fulfilled prophecies. In Matthew’s opening genealogy he takes us back to Abraham while Luke goes back to Adam. When Matthew refers to a Jewish practice, he does not explain it like the other Gospel authors do and he uses the term, Son of David repeatedly. Matthew at times uses “the kingdom of Heaven” in places where the other Gospels use “kingdom of God” which could offend the Jews. His overall purpose is to show Jesus as the long expected Messiah, a Jewish concept. Some scholars speculate that Matthew was writing specifically for the Church at Antioch in Syria as this church had plenty of Jewish as well as Gentile members and this was where Ignatius (ca.A.D.50-117) served as bishop and he was heavily influenced by Matthew’s Gospel.
Themes: The major theme is that Jesus is the long expected Messiah, the Son of David, King of the Jews. Matthew opens with a genealogy that begins with Abraham, showing Jesus to be the fulfillment of the Covenant between God and Abraham. Including so many OT prophecies and quotes is Matthew’s way of saying that Jesus is the fulfillment of these prophecies. Being the first book of the NT, Matthew serves as the perfect bridge between the Old and the New. The Great Commission of 28:19-20 is only found in Matthew and serves as the call to missionary activity. The arrangement of Matthew which is built around 5 discourses emphasizes discipleship.
“Whereas Matthew quotes the Old Testament again and again, his book very properly follows Malachi. Although Matthew is the first book of the New Testament, it is firmly rooted in the Old. It was the former publican’s purpose to persuade the Jews that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.” (William Hendriksen, Survey of the Bible, Baker Books: Grand Rapids, MI 1976, p.373).
Special Challenges with Matthew: When you compare Matthew with Luke and Mark you will find that Matthew has things in a different order; this is because Matthew is following topics, not strict chronology. Luke and Mark are much more chronological in their order. Matthew is often misunderstood for taking prophecies out of context and misapplying them; understanding ancient rules for citations and quotes is difficult for the modern reader. However, his practice must be understood in terms of the conventions of first-century citation generally
Key Verse: Matt.16:16-19; 28:18-20.
Outline: There are several different ways to outline Matthew. Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew in the Pillar New Testament Commentary series, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids, MI 1992, uses a geographical outline:
I. The Birth and Infancy of Jesus, 1:1-2:23
II. Preliminaries to Jesus’ Ministry, 3:1-4:11
III. Jesus’ Ministry in Galilee, 4:12-13:52
IV. The End of Jesus’ Ministry in Galilee, 13:53-18:35
V. Jesus’ Journey to Jerusalem, 19:1-20:34
VI. Jesus’ Ministry in Jerusalem, 21:1-25:46
VII. The Passion Story, 26:1-27:66
VIII. The Resurrection, 28:1-20
While I think the geography of the Gospel is important, and it is a part of the story, I cannot agree that that is the most significant element for Matthew to frame his story. John MacArthur uses a literary outline that I think is the way Matthew intended his Gospel to be understood. I see some similarities between Matthew and Genesis in the literary device used to frame the story and to the use of geography as part of the story. MacArthur points out that Matthew is organized around 5 discourses that all end with something like “when Jesus had finished these sayings” and then a narrative portion follows.
I. Prologue The King’s Advent 1:1-4:25
A. His Birth 1:1-2:23
B. His Entry Into Public Ministry 3:1-4:25
II. The King’s Authority 5:1-9:38
A. Discourse 1: The Sermon on the Mount 5:1-7:29
B. Narrative 1: The Authenticating Miracles 8:1-9:38
III. The King’s Agenda 10:1-12:50
A. Discourse 2:The Commissioning of the Twelve 10:1-42
B. Narrative 2: The Mission of the King 11:1-12:50
IV. The King’s Adversaries 13:1-17:27
A. Discourse 3: The Kingdom Parables 13:1-52
B. Narrative 3: The Kingdom Conflict 13:53-17:27
V. The King’s Administration 18:1-23:39
A. Discourse 4: The Childlikeness of the Believer 18:1-35
B. Narrative 4: The Jerusalem Ministry 19:1-23:39
VI. The King’s Atonement 24:1-28:15
A. Discourse 5: The Olivet Discourse 24:1-25:46
B. Narrative 5: The Crucifixion and Resurrection 26:1-28:15
VII. Epilogue The King’s Assignment 28:16-20
Conclusion: When I study the Bible I do go into detail and I go slowly; I try to be thorough. At the same time I hope to not get lost in the forest and lose sight of the main idea that Jesus is the Messiah who fulfills the Old Testament prophecies and that we are take this gospel to all the world, making disciples of all nations. This is primarily a personal and family Bible study not a formal lecture series. My original plan was to also study Isaiah. The way I will break it up perhaps is that when I get to the end of one of MacArthur’s major divisions I will go to Isaiah for a while.
In preparing for this study I have read the book of Matthew over the last couple of weeks and will continue reading Matthew as we go through the first 4 chapters.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
2012 Reformation Celebration Luncheon
Church, 2012.10.28 Bryan E. Walker
Mark 1:14-15 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
(Mark 1:14-15 ESV) http://www.esvbible.org/search/Mark%2B1/
Introduction: On October 31, 1517, the German Augustinian Monk and Professor, Dr. Martin Luther, nailed his 95 Theses to the castle church door of Wittenberg to propose a Disputation Against Scholastic Theology. After a thorough study and teaching of Romans and Galatians over the last few years, and in light of the disgusting campaign to sell indulgences by Johann Tetzel to raise money for St. Peter’s in Rome, Luther was now deeply against the Catholic system of supererogation whereby a person could purchase an indulgence while viewing a supposed “relic” and gain some years out of purgatory for a deceased relative or themselves.
Luther’s 95 Theses begins with these three that deal with repentance:
- When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
- The word cannot be properly understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, i.e. confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.
- Yet its meaning is not restricted to repentance in one’s heart; for such repentance is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.
This afternoon I want to speak very briefly to this Reformational idea of Repentance by giving a bit of a background to Luther’s experience with confession and penance, explaining what the Bible says about repentance and then seek ways to apply the word to our lives. The main idea is that you and I are called to a lifestyle of repentance as we trust in the Lord for our salvation.
- I. Brief History of Luther and Repentance
- A. Luther’s Attempts at Salvation as a Monk
- 1. In 1505 Luther had begun studying Law but, as Dr. Estep writes, (p.114), “During the previous year Martin had faced death a number of times….Two close friends of his had died, and he had almost died when his dagger ran through its worn scabbard and severed an artery in his leg. But the occasion that triggered his final decision was the thunderstorm that overtook him on the road from Stotternheim to Erfurt. A nearby stroke of lightning sent him sprawling, and in the moment of terror he made a vow: ‘Save me, Saint Ann, and I will become a monk!’” Bainton adds, (p.25) “His depression over the prospect of death was acute but by no means singular. The man who was later to revolt against monasticism became a monk for exactly the same reason as thousands of others, namely, in order to save his soul.”
- 2. After his first year as a novitiate Luther was selected to be trained as a priest but he was overwhelmed with a sense of his unworthiness as he approached his first mass. Bainton writes, “Creatureliness and imperfection alike oppressed him. Toward God he was at once attracted and repelled. …But how could a pigmy stand before divine Majesty; how could a transgressor confront divine Holiness? Before God the high and God the holy Luther was stupefied,” (p.31).
- 3. Luther practiced the ascetic life of a monk with vigor. He fasted more often than required, he slept in the cold without blankets, he stayed awake many nights in prayer vigils, always seeking that elusive peace with God. Bainton writes, (p.34), “Whatever good works a man might do to save himself, these Luther was resolved to perform…All such drastic methods gave no sense of inner tranquility. The purpose of his striving was to compensate for his sins, but he could never feel that the ledger was balanced….The trouble was that he could satisfy God at any point.”
- B. Confession and Penance Also Fail
- 1. After a pilgrimage to Rome Luther was assigned to Wittenberg and the new university built by the elector, Frederick the Wise. Luther’s mentor at the university would be Johann von Staupitz. It was here that Luther sought the comfort of confession and penance in a rigorous way. He often confessed daily, and for hours at a time, wearing out his confessor Staupitz. The problem was in trying to recall every single sin. It was on this point that Luther began to realize that man’s problem was not sins that could be listed but rather, sin in general. Man was a sinner in his entire being and it was impossible to remember and confess every single sin. As Luther realized that his sin was bigger than he, he confessed that he hated God!
- 2. During this crisis of his soul, Staupitz set Luther on the course for a doctorate and wanted him to become the chair of Bible at the university. This drove Luther into intense Bible study and his studies in Romans and Galatians in 1515-17 brought him to trust in Christ. He grasped that the just shall live by faith. During this time Luther began preaching against the value of relics and indulgences and with the publication of his 95 Theses, his evangelical course was set, the gospel was restored and a firm line was drawn between genuine repentance and faith and works based religion of Catholicism.
- A. Luther’s Attempts at Salvation as a Monk
- II. Repent and Believe the Gospel
- A. Repentance
- 1. Mark 1:14-15 is the first record of Jesus’ preaching and the emphasis is on, “Repent and believe the gospel!” What does it mean to “repent” and how does it relate to belief and the gospel?
- 2. Repent- the word for repent is metanoeite, an imperative or command to think afterwards or think differently than before, to reconsider or reverse a prior decision or attitude. In the context of proclamation Jesus would be using the word in a Hebrew OT manner, likely meaning to “go back again or return to God or change your ways”. This is then a call to abandon one’s own path and completely turn around to surrender to God.
- 3. Repent is both a negative and a positive- this word means so much more than merely being sorrowful for your sins, although genuine godly sorrow is part of it. As we hear the good news of God’s kingdom being at hand we will have a genuine sorrow for our sins in light of God’s majesty and holiness. The more of God’s holiness and glory we see, the more of our smallness and sinfulness we shall also see. His glorious and holy light reveals our spoiled and ruined nature, actions and deeds thus bringing about genuine sorrow. But real Spirit sent repentance does not leave us sorrowing in our sins; the Spirit given gift of repentance turns our hearts away from idolizing self and turns us to Christ in faith. Faith and repentance are inseparable; we turn from and we turn to.
- 4. There is only one way to enter the kingdom of God- that is through repentance and faith. The imperative here speaks of the urgency of the hour, we must repent NOW! The kingdom of God is at hand and a choice must be made. Repentance is a command of God that is to be obeyed immediately, not postponed, because the kingdom, the rule of God, is here, now. William Lane writes, (p.66) “Either a man submits to the summons of God or he chooses this world and its riches and honor. The either/or character of this decision is of immense importance and permits of no postponement. That is what repentance is all about.”
- 5. This early command to repent and believe by Jesus as recorded in Mark is somewhat illustrated in the call to the disciples in vss.17-18 as Jesus calls to Simon and Andrew to follow him “And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Repentance is shown by leaving their nets and faith is shown by their following Jesus.
- III. Living Out the Gospel of Repentance
- A. Man-Made Efforts Are Useless
- 1. The examples from Luther’s life show the futility of human efforts at salvation and how far short from genuine repentance they are. While we are told to confess our sins to one another in James 5:16 the type of confession Luther was doing was an effort at self salvation. Confession is a part of repentance in that we own up to our sinfulness to the Lord, we admit we are helpless, vile sinners who are unable to earn our salvation at all. But repentance goes beyond mere confession.
- 2. Luther tried asceticism, penance, but could not save himself. Genuine repentance will include acts of obedience as we turn to Christ, acts of self-sacrifice as we no longer live for self, and acts of mercy towards others as we live out the joy of our salvation. But these acts are the fruit of genuine repentance and faith, not the cause. If we live repentantly we will die to self and live to Christ, we will consider others to be of more importance than ourselves, we will love as we have been loved. Those who have been forgiven much will also be forgiving others. Repentance is a seed that should bear fruit all our life.
- 3. We begin our Christian life with repentance and faith, and we will continue to repent and trust throughout the rest of our lives. Repentance is initially a part of our conversion, a gift from the Holy Spirit who has given us a new heart and a conviction of sin as we are born again. But a Christian is not perfected immediately and therefore we will need to repent as we go for we will still sin. We run with feet of clay and do things that we know are wrong, that we don’t want to do in our new nature, but which our old nature craves. As we stumble and fall, rebel and complain, the Holy Spirit will not allow us to be content in our sins and he moves us to repent and try again. We are justified in Christ but must work towards holiness by faith til the day we die. This necessitates an ongoing repentance which keeps us humble and keeps us trusting in God’s grace alone.
- 4. The Christian must walk a narrow path between a legalistic asceticism and antinomianism. We must ever be watchful for the sins that lie dormant only to pop up when we least expect them. But when we understand our calling to repent and trust, we will not fall into the slough of despair.
- A. Man-Made Efforts Are Useless
- A. Repentance
In conclusion: seek to know Christ deeply and He will reveal your sinfulness as you see his glory. As you experience sin use the gift of repentance to turn from that sin and cling to Christ in faith. When you are smitten with despair over your constant sin use that to see more clearly the idea that you are saved by grace and then seek to love the Lord who gives you that grace. Do not dwell morbidly on your defeats in the battle with sin, rather boldly claim the righteousness of Christ who will never leave you. We are the children of God, joint heirs with Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit; we are the repenting ones, trusting in God’s grace forever.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Walker Family Discipleship #2
Ephesians 2:1-10 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV) http://www.esvbible.org/Ephesians+2/
Ephesians 4:17-24 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
(Ephesians 4:17-24 ESV)
In my last devotion/letter to you I mentioned some theological systems (Calvinism, Lutherism, Arminianism, Baptist) and brought up that everyone has a theology. I specifically brought up (only briefly) the differences between Arminian and Calvinistic theology in regards to man’s free will vs. God’s sovereignty. Arminian theology emphasizes man’s choice in salvation while Calvinism emphasizes God’s sovereignty. Today, and for the next few lessons, I want to go deeper into that subject by studying the doctrine of sin and showing how our understanding of what the Bible says about sin (hamartiology) affects our soteriology (doctrine of salvation). Today I will focus on what our culture, the realm of lost man, thinks about sin.
Our culture does not necessarily believe in the concept of sin anymore, which makes evangelism all the more difficult. People do not like being called sinners! Most folks DO, however, recognize that they are not perfect- “Hey, nobody’s perfect!” is a standard excuse. We also tend to say things like, “I made a mistake,” when confessing what is really an inexcusable sin. A mistake is when you miscalculate a math problem or turn left when you should have turned right as you drive through a new city but a sin is when you choose to do wrong and you know what you are doing is wrong (an expanded and more precise definition of sin will follow). Our culture says it is not wrong unless you get caught, then you can claim, “It’s a mistake!”
Our culture does have some sins it likes to prosecute. Adultery is OK, just don’t get caught; homosexuality is OK, gay pride and all that. But DO NOT DARE say homosexual behaviour is wrong; that is intolerant, homophobic and is one of the worst sins you can commit in our society! Isaiah was right when he said (Isaiah 5:20) “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” DO NOT DARE say that Mohammed is a False Prophet or that Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14:6). DO NOT DARE bring your faith into the public sphere and be the salt of the earth or the light of the world Matt.5:13-14; religion is OK in the eyes of the world, as long as it stays private and dares not accuse anyone else of being wrong.
Much of our culture is now openly atheistic and believes in evolution. If man is in fact the result of blind chance and the laws of nature that accidentally produced a thinking being with an idea of justice and right vs. wrong, then there can be no such thing as sin for there is no God who is holy and just. Sins are merely social constructs that are convenient for maintaining order. Heaven can be achieved on earth through politics, science, and education. At the core of atheism and evolution however, is the law of the jungle: Might makes Right, Survival of the Fittest. This produces situational ethics where the ends justify the means. If God is non-existent then literally anything goes! The more gentle form of this idea is Pragmatism: if it works for you, it must be good.
Probably the majority of our culture is deistic or theologically liberal: there is a God out there somewhere whose job it is to take all good people of whatever faith to heaven when they die. If there is a hell it is reserved for only the very worst of people…and even the Hitlers of the world may get a second chance. These folks view God as a cosmic Santa Clause and all religions are basically the same and all people are fundamentally good. Every religion is just a different road up the mountain to God. Sin is no real big deal in this system. The idea of salvation is to be as good as you can (while secretly comparing yourself to others so that in your own mind you come out as being better than most). In this mindset sin is equated with morality alone. God essentially winks at our sins, pats us on the back and tells us “That’s OK; just try harder next time.” In this system the liberal hermeneutic is governed by Love, not God’s holiness and sovereignty. God’s love trumps his holiness so there is no real punishment for our sins. Jesus’ death is a heroic tragedy and an example for us all but there is no need of a substitutionary atonement where Jesus dies in our place to pay the penalty for our sins to appease the righteous wrath of a Holy God.
The consequences of sin in this life are considered unfortunate, corporate/community problems that can be solved. People who wreck their lives by sin just need a “helping hand”, therapy, or some government program. It is considered rude and judgmental to point out that a person’s moral failures, i.e., sins, have brought about the bad circumstances that produce their suffering. Therefore, when the Church points to the many problems that come from sex outside of marriage (for example) like abortions, STDs, unwed mothers, poverty, lower education, crime, etc., and identifies the basic behavior as sinful, the world doesn’t want to hear it.
Self-esteem is the new mantra in schools and culture and claiming that certain actions are sinful is considered to be damaging to self-esteem. The direction of the legal system towards “Hate Crimes” is a direct challenge to free speech and the free exercise of religion because it will become illegal to label anyone as sinners and so on.
The bottom line is that we Christians must have a biblical view of sin and be aware of the cultural attacks against that biblical view of sin. We must understand hamartiology for our own sanctification and for our own understanding of our salvation, so that we can properly proclaim the gospel to a sin sick and condemned world. We must understand sin for our worship to be biblical, for our discipleship to be thorough, and for our mission to preach the gospel to be biblical. In any area of biblical theology we must be able to spot the sinful counterfeit and zoom in on the truth, being able to defend the gospel and answer the questions of those around us.
Next we will examine the Bible’s definition of sin and man’s condition.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Walker Family Discipleship #1
Saturday, October 06, 2012
Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:19-20 ESV) http://www.esvbible.org/search/Matthew+28/
2Timothy 3:14-17 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:14-17 ESV) http://www.esvbible.org/search/2Timothy+3/
Today I want to look at the idea of doctrine or theology. Can we get past the idea of theology and just let the Spirit lead us? Can we bypass doctrine and just get to the Bible? Can we lay aside theological systems like Calvinism or Arminianism and just stick with the Bible?
In the two Bible passages I printed above you will find the words, “make disciples” and “teaching”; it is these words and ideas I want to examine first. The Greek word for “make disciples” in Matt. 28:19 is matheteuo which means to teach, instruct. A mathetes is a learner, student, disciple of a teacher; hence our term for the 12 men who followed Jesus- Disciples.
This passage is known as the Great Commission and gives the Church, as well as individual Christians, our marching orders; this is what we are to be doing- making disciples. (We are also to be worshiping, encouraging one another and doing all things for the glory of God…but those are different topics.)
When it comes to making disciples there are methods, there are tasks, but there is also Content. In the Great Commission itself Jesus tells us to [teach] “them [that is, all who are baptized from the larger group of “all nations”] “to observe all that I have commanded you.” Notice that we are not to merely ‘teach them to KNOW all that I have taught you’. Knowledge is NOT ENOUGH. While Christianity is the most intellectual of all the world’s religions, it is not primarily about head knowledge. What does Jesus say? “teaching them to OBSERVE all that I have commanded you”. The goal is OBEDIENCE, becoming CHRISTLIKE, taking in the New Nature and walking by the Spirit. HOWEVER, one must FIRST learn the content, absorb the material, know the teachings which are commanded, BEFORE you can obey them in faith out of love.
FAITH itself must begin with head knowledge. We must first hear and understand the gospel with our minds, then, as the Holy Spirit changes our hearts we accept that it is for us, and finally, as the Holy Spirit completely gives us a new heart and we are born again, we surrender wholly to the LORD and trust completely that He has saved us. The problem is when we are satisfied ONLY with a head knowledge or even if we accept the importance of the gospel for us, but do not actually repent, trust and follow. Faith itself, if it is a genuine faith that leads to salvation, is a miraculous gift from the Holy Spirit and is always accompanied by repentance.
So there is a content to the gospel which we must believe, put into practice, and then proclaim and teach to the nations. Those who do believe in Jesus we must Disciple by Teaching them BOTH the Content of the Bible and How to put it into practice.
Jesus himself follows this practice as he gives the Greatest Commandment in Mark 12:28-34 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
(Mark 12:28-34 ESV)
NOTICE that when Jesus is asked the question he begins with a quote from the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) which is a foundational Doctrinal statement of the Jews. Jesus begins his answer with doctrine, another word for teaching. In other words, the Greatest Commandment begins with Doctrine, the official, recognized Teaching of Scripture and then moves into matters of the heart- “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind and with all your strength.” Jesus does not neglect the mental, the intellectual side of faith and loving God. Jesus is here teaching doctrine.
The doctrine Jesus teaches here should affect our understanding of God, salvation, Scripture, worship, etc. THEN he moves to the Second Commandment, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Again this is an Old Testament quote (Lev.19:18). This is both doctrine, it is a teaching commanded by the Lord, and it is practical, it is something we are to DO. Know, Believe, Obey, Teach is the sequence. It Is Impossible to make Disciples without knowing, believing, obeying and teaching sound doctrine.
We see this pattern also in some of Paul’s letters. In the book of Romans Paul begins with a doctrinal section (1-11) and then moves into the practical section (12-16). We see this in Galatians with 1-5:12 being more doctrinal and 5:13-6:18 more practical. Again in Ephesians, 1-3 is more doctrinal and 4-6 more practical. A similar pattern exists in his other letters. All of this is Not to say that the doctrinal passages in Paul are not also practical nor do I mean that there is no doctrine in the last half of Paul’s letters; I am just pointing out the general tone seems to always move from more doctrine to more practical. It takes BOTH to be a disciple.
The big idea here is that doctrine precedes and informs ethics; teaching leads to understanding first, then application. We cannot just “do” Christianity; we must first think and believe, then do. Neither can we just “think” Christianity; we must put our faith in action. James 1:22 “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
Back in Matt. 28:19-20 and 2Tim.3:14-17, the other word I want to look at is translated as “teaching”. This word in Greek is didasko and can sometimes be translated as “doctrine” (compare the ESV to the KJV in 2Tim.3:16-17). What does the Christian Teacher teach? He/she teaches his disciples “the teaching”, “the doctrine” of scripture. He teaches what the Bible presents as the truth. He teaches what the Church has consistently taught.
In 2Tim.2:2 Paul writes, “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” This corresponds nicely to Matt. 28:19-20 as we see Paul telling Timothy to disciple others who will go on and disciple others, etc.
But there is a problem. What about those who warp or misunderstand the teaching of the scriptures? What about bad doctrine? 2Tim.4:3,4 warns us, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” And 2Peter 2:1 also warns “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in disruptive heresies…”
How do we pass on the teaching of scripture from one generation to the next? How do we pass down warnings against false teachings, heresies, to the next generation? From the Old Testament prophets to the Apostles, to the early church through the middle ages, the Reformation, to this day God has used faithful men to write down their teachings about the scriptures, their sermons, and their histories. The writings of the men after the apostles are Not as important as Scripture which is inspired by the Holy Spirit, but they can certainly be useful and very beneficial to the church and to us.
The word “Theology” is a compound word using two biblical words Theos (God)and logos (Word). The meaning of “theology” is God-talk, reasoning about God, the study of God. Thus, theology is studying what the scriptures say about God. In its broadest sense it is the teaching of scripture, in its narrow sense it is specifically the study of the doctrine of God the Father, who He is and what he does. This is to distinguish theology from Christology (the study of the Son of God, the person and work of Christ) or pneumatology (the study of God the Holy Spirit). For now I want to just discuss the study of Theology in its broadest sense of all things about God, the teaching of scripture on everything.
A Theologian is a person who has been educated and trained in theology, usually complete with a Ph.D. and teaching/writing professionally. But, a pastor/preacher is also a theologian as he studies the Word and writes/preaches what he learns. Beyond that however, EVERY CHRISTIAN is necessarily a THEOLOGIAN as they study the Bible in faith seeking to understand the Word, apply the Word, and pass the Word on to others. EVERY Christian has a THEOLOGY, be it strong or weak, good or bad.
It is impossible to look past theology or ignore theology, as you study the Bible. Of course some people can have a very inconsistent, uninformed, unbiblical theology and some can be too slavish to a particular theology such as Calvinism, Arminianism, Lutherism or Baptist theology. Any theology can be carried to an unbiblical extreme or become cold and dead.
But what the great theologians of the past have done is very simply study the Bible to see what the Bible teaches, and then write down their understanding of Bible doctrine. The Church over history recognizes that some past theologians have been used by God in a big way. Calvin and Luther for example, the Puritans, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, etc. We do not look at these men as substitutes for scripture, but rather as great expositors of scripture. What these men did was to force the Church to return to the Bible after 1,000 years of Catholic corruption. Calvin, Luther, Knox, the Puritans and early Baptists were the bold revolutionary missionaries of their day…and they paid a heavy price. Their faith, passed down to us, was a faith that withstood the burning at the stake, the drownings in the icy rivers, and other horrible tortures from the Catholics and others.
Very often when you hear guys say disparaging remarks against these older theologians it is because they are either ignorant of church history or they have a particular theology of their own that goes against the theology of the great men of the faith. Everyone has a theology and everyone learns from someone.
Obviously we want to go to the scriptures first and foremost, but there is safety and accountability in checking our findings with godly men from the Church past, as well as godly men in the Church present. The man who doesn’t want to check his understanding of scripture with others is usually arrogant, in error, and wants to interpret the Bible in a way that is merely pleasing to the flesh. When someone is teaching us the Bible, even in an informal Bible study or a sermon in church, it is wise to know who has fed the person feeding us. What church background do they have? Who do they read? What school did they attend? How do they understand the key doctrines of the Bible? Which preachers do they like to listen to on the radio or podcast? Do they have a man-centered theology (Arminian) or a God-centered theology (Calvinism)?
We believe in the doctrine of the perspicacity of scripture (the scriptures are understandable by the average person), but that does not mean we can ignore sound rules of hermeneutics (rules for interpreting literature). Arminians have a hermeneutic that is man-centered, that is they value the freedom of man’s will first and foremost. This is the key to interpreting scripture for them. Calvinists have a hermeneutic that is God-centered, focusing on God’s sovereignty and glory. When you go to the scriptures what you find with these two different theologies is that as Arminianism tries to account for the paradox of God’s sovereignty vis a vis man’s freedom in the end it is God’s sovereignty which must be curtailed. In Calvinism however, the doctrine of man’s free will is limited to whichever nature he has (sinful or redeemed) thus preserving God’s sovereignty and giving greater glory to God. In other words, a man who is lost CANNOT, on his own, choose to repent and believe because his heart is by nature opposed to God; similarly, a saved man CANNOT choose to ultimately give up Christ and lose his salvation. Prior to being born again we are dead in our trespasses and sins and cannot cause ourselves to be born again because we are powerless and do not want God at all. The born again man, though remaining sinful until heaven, has a heart for God, has the indwelling Spirit, and is in an eternal covenant with God who cannot break his word. A person’s theological presuppositions, whichever theology they adhere to, will lead them to very different positions on salvation, so while the scriptures are clear, our sinful minds can make things very complicated. Hence the need for checking our theology with godly men from the past and present.
In conclusion, we must never reach the point of ignoring the teaching of scripture. Doctrine is simply what the Scriptures teach and is essential for the Christian life. Everyone has a theology; we must just be sure our theology is biblical, sound, consistent and vibrant. Whoever is teaching me has a theology. We ignore the godly men of the past and their works to our loss and peril as unsound doctrine and heresies abound in our age.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Tuesday, August 14, 2012 Bryan E. Walker
The story of Samson is one of the most memorable yet most tragic stories in the Bible. Born to a couple who had experienced the pain and shame of being barren, Samson was the result of a direct intervention by the Angel of the LORD during a time of national disgrace, rebellion against the LORD, and oppression by the wicked Philistines. Complete with the strange command that the child was to be a Nazirite from the womb (13:4-7) this baby would grow to be a judge who would deliver Israel from their oppressors. Tragically however, Samson is a lesson in squandering one’s spiritual heritage and gifts. After Samson lives a self-centered life of lust and the worship of power and pleasure, the LORD leaves Samson and he doesn’t even know it. Stripped of his power, freedom, dignity and sight, Samson is a source of entertainment and jokes for the pagan Philistines. But God wasn’t quite finished with Samson.
In 16:20 we find “But he did not know that the LORD had left him.” We look at Samson’s profligate life and wonder how it was that the Lord was ever able to use him and bless him (13:24-25). But when we look at Samson in that manner we forget that God is sovereign and his grace is poured out to the undeserving all the time. Did Samson deserve all the power, strength and victories? No; and we do not deserve any of the blessings which God routinely gives to us either.
The story of Samson goes from the blessings of God upon the young man in 13:24f to 14:1 and the very first story of Samson where we see him pursuing a Philistine woman for a wife. Both his parents seek to correct him but he dishonors them, breaking the 5th Commandment. But 14:4 gives us a behind the scenes look at what God was doing: God was using Samson’s rebellion and lust to bring judgment upon the Philistines. Get this: God uses sinful, rebellious people for his purposes too.
We certainly do not take this as a license to sin, trusting that God will use us like he did Samson while we do what we want, but this should help us to understand that God’s grace and sovereignty are so powerful that His will is going to be accomplished one way or the other.
Samson’s violent and often sinful exploits bring him to the point of trusting in the un-trustworthy Delilah. Time and again we see her betray Samson’s confidence, yet he does not stop giving her his affection; eventually, he tells her the secret of his hair and he is caught. We must mention that his power did not lie in his hair; this was not magic. The hair was the symbol of his Nazirite vow and a symbol of his trusting in God, the source of his supernatural strength. Samson had lived his life under a vow that either he did not understand or that he grew so accustomed to that he took it all for granted. He let sin take over his life so that he became powerless, blind and a slave.
The question for Christians today as we seek to apply this passage to our lives is this: have we gradually become so ensnared by the world that we don’t even know the Lord has left us? We understand and believe in the doctrine of assurance which is matched by the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, but we all know of times in our lives when our hearts have grown cold, we have lost our first love for Christ, and we begin toying with the Delilahs of our age. Samson kept the sign of his vow, long hair, but lost the relationship with God and ultimately the power which God had given him. Perhaps we sometimes trust more in a symbol of our religion than in the Saviour himself and consequently lose the power of the Spirit. We can get so used to our slow backsliding that we do not even notice that the Spirit of God has departed and we are simply following our own path. Suddenly, we realize we are trapped, enslaved, blinded, and we wonder what happened.
The Lord did not ultimately abandon Samson. Samson remembered the LORD and the LORD remembered him one last time. With his last breath Samson trusted in God to do a mighty work, and God did, so that “the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.” There is hope, then, in this tragic story. Hope for those who seem like they have long since turned away from the Lord. This is the hope of the Gospel: Jesus delivers.
This lesson from Samson’s life, this gospel point, is for you, me, and all to whom we meet and carry the gospel of our crucified, risen Savior. But this message can also be helpful for our nation. We live in darkening days. Evil abounds and it seems like our country has reached the point of not even realizing that the hedge of protection the Lord planted around us is gone. It seems to me that America is now bound, blind, enslaved, mocked by the world and abandoned by God. And we don’t even know it.
Let me close with the words to an almost forgotten song: “America! America! God shed His grace on thee…God mend thine every flaw…may God thy gold refine.” May the Lord do a work of revival in our hearts, in or homes and churches, and in America.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Monday, May 14th, 2012 Bryan E. Walker
Maybe it was my fundamentalist Southern Baptist upbringing and all the revival sermons I heard in the1960’s-‘70’s. Or maybe it is my melancholic disposition that I consciously try to hide, cover-up, change. Or maybe, just maybe, it is because in the OT prophets and history I really do see my country, America, in my lifetime, much resembling Judah in Jeremiah’s day, slipping away into the judgment of the Lord. Irrevocable judgment. A judgment that wiped out a country; God’s country-Judah. I have felt this way since I was about 10 years old. 1968. Yeah, that figures; what a messed up year. Tet. Bobby Kennedy assassinated by a Palestinian muslim. Martin Luther King assassinated by a nut job racist, followed by race riots all across the country and US black athletes in the Olympics doing the black power salute during the national anthem. Classy. Oh, and the USS Pueblo and the North Koreans. Yeah; great year to turn 10. So now today I read Jeremiah 14 in my quiet time and realize that, no, it’s not just me. The Lord does judge nations.Americais being judged and it is being found wanting.
In Jer. 14 the prophet receives a word from the Lord during a severe drought. “Judahmourns and her gates languish; her people lament on the ground, and the cry ofJerusalemgoes up. Her nobles send their servants for water; they return with their vessels empty; they are ashamed and confounded….since there is no rain on the land, the farmers are ashamed….there is no grass….there is no vegetation.” To put it bluntly, this sounds likeTexaslast year (2011) when we had a record setting drought, heat wave, and wild fire season. It was an ecology changing drought that the scientists say could take decades to overcome. Oh, we city dwellers don’t see it. You turn on the tap and get water. You go to the store and buy it in bottles. But the ranchers had to sell off their herds, farmers were ruined. Deer herds dwindled and the Bobwhites died. The lakes got so low that ancient Indian sites were uncovered and the archeologists were scrambling to beat the souvenir hunters. It hasn’t been this bad since the Anasazi left the 4 Corners. At least our good Governor, Rick Perry called for a State day of prayer for rain. And he was roundly criticized for that. Our churches should have been full of people repenting in the face of the judgment of God. But they weren’t.
Maybe because we understand El Nino now we no longer believe that God can judge a nation through drought? The financial collapse of 2008 and the continuing recession (alright, it is really a Great Depression but the news media just won’t say it because a Dem is in the White House) are surely a judgment from God. But church attendance has not improved. We see the country moving further towards socialism which never works and only brings more judgment. I see no mass repentance.
Well after 9/11 we had a surge in church attendance as people recognized that we had actually been attacked on our home soil for the first time sincePearl Harbor. That lasted two weeks. Yep, I was pastoring back then and our attendance increased by 50% the Sunday after 9/11. The next Sunday it was down to 25%. The next Sunday it was back to normal. Real repentance there. Not.
Listen to Jeremiah’s plea: vss.7-8 “Though our iniquities testify against us, act, O LORD, for your name’s sake; for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against you. O you hope ofIsrael, its Saviour in times of trouble, why should you be like a stranger in the land…?” Yes, OUR iniquities do testify against us. And it is not just the iniquities of the pagans, the criminals, the politicians and the rich. It is OUR iniquities, God’s people, the Church.Me. You. The bottom line is that IF the Church had done its job in the past 50 years,America would not be in the fix we are in today. The Church was divided over core doctrines and many churches have apostatized. Our evangelism was weak and man-centered and our prayer meetings were not. We did not get involved in social issues when our country needed us and we let the pagans set the country’s agenda from TV to school curriculums to the Supreme Court. We were having Hal Lindsey Prophecy conferences while the courts legalized abortion. What am I doing TODAY to stem the flow of evil that pours out from our country? How are MY backslidings helping anything? Indeed, my iniquities testify against me.
Jeremiah pleads in vs.9 “Yet, you O Lord, are in the midst of us, and we are called by your name; do not leave us.” Now we know the doctrine of eternal security, that we are once saved, always saved, and that Jesus will never depart from the heart of a real believer. But what about for our country?America has always been known as a Christian nation (despite what President Obama says). And we know that that does NOT mean every citizen is a Christian. Indeed, I doubt we are above 20% actual Christians today. But what wouldAmerica look like if God DID leave us as a nation? If He took his hand of protection and blessing away fromAmerica, if he stops “shedding His grace on us”?
If the Lord took his hand away from us I would expect to see sin abound more, and more, so that what is evil would be called good by our leaders and that which is good would be called evil. Do we see that? I would expect the Lord would cause our wealth to collapse if He took away His hand of protection. Do we see that? I would expect to see drought, storms, plagues, etc. Well the plague hasn’t hit yet. Has it? Huge military defeats tend to be a sign of God’s disapproval and that hasn’t yet happened. But, when was the last war we actually won?
The Lord answers Jeremiah’s plea with vs. 10 “Thus says the Lord concerning this people: they have loved to wander thus; and they have not restrained their feet; therefore the Lord does not accept them; now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins.” The passage concludes with one of the strangest verses, vs.11-12 “The Lord said to me: ‘Do not pray for the welfare of this people. Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.”
Friends, we have only two choices: repent, believe and follow Jesus or face the judgment of God. God will always be merciful to those who call on the name of the Lord. I urge you to seek Him because The Day approaches. Only those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved in the end. God’s grace is deep and wide, there’s still room for one…Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Wednesday,05-09-12 Bryan E. Walker
Psalm 127 is a wisdom Psalm, sounding very much like things you would find in Proverbs or Ecclesiastes, and this is perfectly understandable as we see that Solomon is the author of this Song of Ascents. The psalm has two parts: vss. 1-2 and vss.3-5. The first part points out how vain it is to do anything without the Lord and the second part points out that children are a blessing from the Lord, amplifying point 1 in a positive manner. The main idea is that if the Lord is in it, blessings follow, if the Lord is not in it, all is vain.
The first point speaks of building a house. Is Solomon thinking of the actual construction of his own royal residence, or is he thinking of the House of the Lord? The construction of theTempleis recorded in 1Kings 5-6. Notice what the Lord tells Solomon during the beginning of construction in 1Kgs.6:11-13 “Now the word of the Lord came to Solomon, ‘Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes and obey my rules and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father. And I will dwell among the children ofIsraeland will not forsake my peopleIsrael.’” I believe that when Psalm 127 is read in light of 1Kgs.6 we can believe that the Psalm is written about the house of the Lord, but that it can also be applied to a person’s home, in light of the second part of the psalm.
Visualize Solomon leading the procession up to the newly constructedTemplein its dedication in 1Kgs8 and you can see where Psalm 127 may have come from. After 7 years of construction Solomon is seeing the fruits of his labor and he realizes, “Unless the Lord has built this house, it is all in vain!”
What the Lord told Solomon about this beautifulTemplewas that IF you walk in my statutes and obey my commandments, THEN I will establish my word with you and I will dwell amongIsrael. These were the conditions of the covenant withIsrael. The Lord goes on to state in 1Kgs 9:6-9 “But if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight, and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And this house will become a heap of ruins. Everyone passing by it will be astonished and will hiss, and they will say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore the Lord has brought all this disaster on them.’”
There came a time when the Lord stopped watching over the city, and destruction came uponJudah,Jerusalem, and theTemplewas destroyed. The people had long before stopped worshipping the Lord and had incorporated idol worship into an unholy blend with YHWH worship. That is what the world frequently asks us to do: “You don’t have to totally abandon Jesus, just acknowledge that He is not the only way, the only life and the only truth.” Syncretism is a subtle sin that seems innocuous at first. InIsrael’s life king Solomon himself brought in many false gods because of his many marriages. But the problem was there all along, back at Sinai with the golden calves, in the book of Judges. This temptation remains with us today.
We need to be watchful, we need to pray and keep watch with the Lord. This means keeping watch over our own souls and those whom the Lord has entrusted to us. It means being vigilant against sin, and for holiness. It means being watchful over sound doctrine and the pure gospel, the faith once delivered. And it means being watchful over the city- we as Christians are like the Ranger Strider (Aragorn) who protected the Shire without their even knowing about it (Tolkien’s Hobbit) in that we are to be the salt of the earth, preserving society from ruin with the proclamation of the gospel, our prayers, and our God honoring lives. Christians have a protective role over society in that as the gospel is spread, sin is restrained and judgment averted. The history ofIsrael shows what happens when the Believers compromise and fail. The Lord judges.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 Bryan E. Walker
A famous newspaper columnist from my generation, Erma Bombeck, once wrote a book called: If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? When folks are having a bad day or going through a tough time they will sometimes say, when asked how they are doing, “It’s the pits!”, or, “I’m in the pits!” The word “pitfall” indicates some kind of a trap or obstacle that we should avoid. About the only decent use of the word “pit” that I can think of readily is a gravel pit, a rock quarry that includes a crusher to make gravel for our roads (as an old dump truck driver I have been in a gravel pit!) In today’s devotion from Psalm 103 (today is the 102nd day of the year so somehow I got one day ahead) we read of another “pit”, more ominous, and as we study it, downright terrifying. The Psalmist proclaims that the LORD is He who “redeems your life from the pit….”
This Psalm of David begins on a high note with, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” We must ask what does it mean to Bless the LORD? Usually we ask for the LORD to bless us! We are supposed to “Be a Blessing” to others. How can we bless the LORD? The Hebrew word is barakh and the root means “to kneel”. We bless God by worshiping, praising, thanking, loving, and serving him! David begins this wonderful Psalm bursting out with a joyful worship blessing for the LORD. His soul simply cannot be silent as he erupts in a blessing for God; and this should be true for us as well.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeWCHS0bQhQ This is close to how we sung this praise song/chorus a long time ago.
A Charismatic/Black Gospel approach to this Psalm
A Classical approach to this Psalm- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WtsGS6kpDU
“and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” This is no mere surface, temporary, emotional experience that’s for show; David blesses the LORD from deep within, using all that he is, all that is in him. This similar to the Greatest Commandment from Mark12:29-30 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” which is a quote from Deuteronomy 6:4, 5. All genuine worship is rooted in the whole human; we do not have separate categories of “worship” and the rest of life. The gospel should infect and affect our entire humanity and everything we do, thus making our whole life a giant praise song for the Lord that blesses His holy name.
“his holy name”. Holy is the Hebrew for qodesh, meaning something that is sacred, set apart, consecrated. To say that God’s name is holy means that God is set apart from us, transcendent, above and beyond us, pure and unapproachable. The only characteristic or attribute of God that is proclaimed in scripture with the 3-fold superlative is his holiness in Isaiah 6:3 and Rev. 4:8. We are to bless God’s holy name because he is holy, holy, holy! And the biggest way to bless the Lord’s holy name is to fulfill Lev. 19:2 “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” (See also 1Peter1:15-16 “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’”)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBGTPh2Xn_o A classic hymn.
Part of our blessing of God is to remember his benefits (vs.2) and the biggest of all benefits is that He “forgives all your iniquity…” The Hebrew word for iniquity is avown meaning perversity, moral evil, fault. The text assumes that we are perverse, morally corrupt, fallen, and evil. Modern man hates this doctrine. Modern man assumes the goodness of man and we object to being called sinners, let alone having our iniquities pointed out. David tells us that God forgives ALL our iniquity. God is a forgiving God. This does not mean that he merely overlooks our sin, winks at it, sweeps it under the rug. God is holy so how can he forgive sin?
Verse 4 tells us, “who redeems your life from the pit.” The word for redeem is ga’al which means to act as next of kin, to buy back out of debt, slavery, or as a POW in war. God does not just forgive and forget, he actively purchases us out of bondage, slavery, prison, and debt. God pays a price for us and our sins. That redemption price, our kinsman-redeemer, is none other than Jesus Christ. Jesus paid the price with his death on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven and we could be brought out of slavery into a loving relationship with God.
But what is “the pit”? The Hebrew word is shachath meaning the corruption and destruction related to a grave or pit. To be redeemed from the pit, then, means to be saved from death and the grave. Theologically, we could say it means to be saved from the pit of hell, the second death. Again, David touches on an area that modern man doesn’t want anything to do with, the doctrine of hell. People commonly believe in a heaven, but are either against the entire idea of hell or think it is reserved for only the very bad people, like Hitler. But it seems to me that David’s assumption is that, apart from God’s redeeming us, we all are heading for the pit. We need to understand and preach that all men are heading to the pit of hell unless and until they are redeemed by our holy God.
The good news then, is that we can bless God by worshiping him who has redeemed us from the pit of hell by sending our kinsman-redeemer, Jesus, to pay the price for our sins so that “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. “ (v.12).
Do you feel blessed? Do you want to bless the Lord?
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