Author: Alice A. Anacioco

What About the Contradictions in the Bible?

What About the Contradictions in the Bible?

One of the common arguments against the inspiration of the Bible is the “supposed” contradictions. Many skeptics ask how Christian scholars and theologians can explain away these contradictions.

The Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God, thus, God is the one who is responsible for its content. Since this is the case, we need to address the matter of the so-called contradictions that are contained within its pages. If the Bible contains errors then it is inconsistent with the God it reveals.

How can the Bible, the written Word of God, disagree with itself?

The Law of Contradiction

What constitutes a contradiction? The law of non-contradiction, which is the basis of all logical thinking, states that a thing cannot be both A and non-A at the same time. In other words, it cannot be both raining and not raining at the same time.

If one can demonstrate a violation of this principle from Scripture, then and only then can he prove a contradiction. For example, if the Bible said (which it does not) that Jesus died by crucifixion both at Jerusalem and at Nazareth at the same time, this would be a provable error.

Contradictions in the Bible Explained
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Dealing with Alleged Contradictions

One of the things for which we appeal concerning possible contradictions is fairness. We should not minimize or exaggerate the problem, and we must always begin by giving the author the benefit of the doubt.

This is the rule in other literature, and we ask that it also be the rule here. We find so often that people want to employ a different set of rules when it comes to examining the Bible, and to this, we immediately object.

Contradiction vs. Difference

When facing possible contradictions, it is of the highest importance to remember that two statements may differ from each other without being contradictory. Some fail to make a distinction between contradiction and difference.

Let’s look at some of the commonly quoted Bible passages.

The Blind Men at Jericho

Matthew relates how two blind men met Jesus (Matthew 9:27-31), while both Mark and Luke mention only one (Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43). However, neither of these statements denies the other, but rather they are complementary.

Supposed you were talking to the mayor of your city and the chief of police at city hall. Later, you see your friend Henry and tell him you talked to the mayor today. An hour later, you see your friend, Jake, and tell him you talked to both the mayor and the chief of police.

When your friends compare notes, there is seeming contradiction. But there is no contradiction. If you had told Henry that you talked only to the mayor, you would have contradicted that statement by what you told Jake.

The statements you made to Henry and Jake are different, but not contradictory. Likewise, many biblical statements fall into this category. Many think they find errors in passages that they have not correctly read.

The Healing of the Two Blind Men
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The Death of Sisera

In the book of Judges, we have the account of the death of Sisera. Judges 5:24-27 is supposed to represent Jael as having slain him with her hammer and tent peg while he was drinking milk. On the other hand, Judges 4:21-22 says she did it while he was asleep.

However, a closer reading of Judges 5:25-27 will reveal that it is not stated that he was drinking milk at the moment of impact. Thus, the discrepancy disappears.

The Angels at the Tomb

How many angels appeared to the women who came to the tomb of Jesus on Resurrection Sunday?

While Matthew and Mark mention only one (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8), Luke and John seem to mention two (Luke 24:1-7; John 20:1-2).

But notice that Matthew and Mark do not say there was only one angel. To have a contradiction, Matthew or Mark would have to say that there was only one angel, which they didn’t. Luke and John say there were two, but wherever there are two, there is always one. This simple truth must always be kept in mind.

The gospel authors may have made different statements as a result of them focusing on a particular issue. But there was no contradiction.

Inaccurate Translation

Sometimes two passages appear to be contradictory because the translation is not as accurate as it could be. Knowledge of the original languages of the Bible can immediately solve these difficulties. We must understand that both the Greek and Hebrew languages, like all languages, have peculiarities that make them difficult to render into English or any other language.

A classic example concerns the accounts of Paul’s conversion.

What Did Paul Hear?

Acts 9:7 (KJV) states, “And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.” Acts 22:9 (KJV) reads, “And they that were with me saw indeed the light and were afraid, but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.”

Bible Contradictions Explained
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These statements seem contradictory, with one saying that Paul’s companions heard a voice, while the other account says no voice was heard. However, a knowledge of Greek solves this difficulty.

As the Greek scholar W. F. Arndt explained:

The construction of the verb “to hear” (akouo) is not the same in both accounts. In Acts 9:7 it is used with the genitive, in Acts 22:9 with the accusative.

The construction with the genitive simply expresses that something is being heard, or that certain sounds reach the ear; nothing is indicated as to whether a person understands what he hears or not.

The construction with the accusative, however, describes a hearing which includes mental apprehension of the message spoken. From this, it becomes evident that the two passages are not contradictory.

Acts 22:9 does not deny that Paul’s associates heard certain sounds; it simply declares that they did not hear in such a way as to understand what was being said. Our English idiom in this case simply is not so expressive as the Greek.

Final Thoughts

We have looked at just a few examples of the seemingly contradictory passages in the Bible and how to deal with them. It must also be stressed that when a possible explanation is given to a Bible difficulty, it is unreasonable to state that the passage contains a demonstrable error.

Some difficulties in Scripture result from our inadequate knowledge about the circumstances and do not necessarily involve and error. These only prove that we are ignorant of the background.

While all Bible difficulties and discrepancies have not yet been cleared up, it is our firm conviction that as more knowledge is gained of the Bible’s past, these problems will fade away.


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Reference: Josh McDowell Answers Five Tough Questions

Recommended Resource: The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation by Norman L. Geisler and Thomas Howe

The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation by Norman L. Geisler and Thomas HoweThis comprehensive volume offers readers clear and concise answers to every major Bible difficulty from Genesis to Revelation, staunchly defending the authority and inspiration of Scripture.

Written in a problem/solution format, the book covers over 800 questions that critics and doubters raise about the Bible. Three extensive indices-topical, Scripture, and unorthodox doctrines-offer quick and easy access to specific areas of interest.

Multipurpose in scope and user-friendly in format, “The Big Book of Bible Difficulties” offers the resources of five books in one:

  • a critical commentary on the whole Bible
  • an apologetics text
  • a Bible difficulties reference
  • a theology manual treating important doctrines
  • a handbook on verses misused by cults
What is the Biblical Definition of Love?

What is the Biblical Definition of Love?

One of the exciting parts of high school life is filling out slum books and answering questions such as “What is love?” It was quite interesting to read different answers.

But if you are looking for the best definition and illustration of love, you may want to open your Bible to John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

The Love of God

We see in this text a perfect example of a “cause and effect” relationship, wherein one event causes another to happen. It is a combination of action and reaction.

A cause is something that produces an event; an effect is what results from the event. In this case, the cause is God’s love and the effect is Him sending His only begotten Son to die for the sins of the world.

God created man out of love and it is also out of love that God chose to save man from eternal condemnation. You see, there was no need for God to create man; God did not need man.

The Biblical Definition of Love

This is exactly why Hillsong’s “What a Beautiful Name” isn’t theologically sound. There is a phrase that says, “You did not want heaven without us, so Jesus, You brought heaven down.” This is a complete fallacy and has no biblical standing at all.

The Triune God is complete within Himself. In the community of the Trinity, there is a perfect love relationship, unity, and fellowship. So, why did God create man? It’s because God is love.

God created man to be the object of His love, the apple of His eyes, and the joy of His heart.

Love: God’s Motivation

In the story of creation, we read that before God created man, He prepared everything first. God made sure that the environment was comfortable and convenient for man and the only thing left for man to do was to take care of the rest of God’s creation (Genesis 2:8-15).

God planted Adam in the beautiful Garden of Eden and gave him full dominion over everything else. And when God saw that Adam needed a “suitable partner,” He immediately put him into a deep sleep, took out one of his ribs, and created a woman out of it (Genesis 2:21-23).

Again, God did this out of love. Adam didn’t have to ask. God determined that man needed a “suitable partner” and immediately took action (Genesis 2:18).

But after everything that God did for man, what did man do? He willfully and deliberately disobeyed God. Yet, because God is love, merciful, and gracious, He still chose to forgive man.

We know the rest of the story. Man got caught up in this cycle of rebellion and repentance. And throughout history, we see God’s love for His people manifested over and over and over again.

God was in no way morally obligated to save man (human beings, male and female). But He did it out of love. We must understand that God is not full of love; He is love.

Love is God’s character; it’s one of the things that make Him God. God’s love motivated Him to give His Son for the world.

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Mutual Love Between the Father and the Son

For us to understand the depths of God’s love for us and the world, we must first realize how much the Father loves the Son.

John repeatedly emphasizes the mutual love between the Father and the Son in several passages (John 3:35; John 10:17; John 14:312; John 17:24), revealing an intimate relationship; an affection expressed in self-giving sacrifice. To save the world He so loved; God was willing to endure the pain of losing His Son.

Parents, can you bear to see your only child getting punished for somebody else’s fault? Let alone see your child suffer and die knowing that he/ she hasn’t done anything wrong?

Can you punish your only child for his schoolmates’ sin? I don’t think so! It is the instinct of parents to protect their children at all costs.

Years ago, a story broke about a mother who was willing to go to prison for her son’s crime. Accordingly, a young man accidentally killed their neighbor after a heated argument. He went home and told his mother what had happened. When the police got to the crime scene, they found the mother with the murder weapon.

If our earthly parents will do everything for their children, how much more our heavenly Father. Imagine the pain that the Father experienced at the sight of the suffering and death of His Son that He, the Father Himself, inflicted.

At the cross on Calvary, God poured out His wrath upon His Son (the cup). God watched as Jesus suffered and died to satisfy God’s justice. We must never forget that God is love but He is also just.

For Whom Did Jesus Die?

Going back to our text, we see that the object of God’s love is the “world.” But who or what embodies the “world?” There are different interpretations from Bible teachers, scholars, and denominations. Some argue that God’s special love is only for Israel. Others say it’s for the church and still, others believe it is for the elect.

But several passages tell us that Jesus sacrificed Himself for everyone. He shed His blood not just for some special groups of people but for all as we read in passages such as 1 John 2:2; 1 Peter 3:9 and Galatians 3:28.

However, let us be careful not to get sucked into the assumption that because God gave His Son for the world then everyone is automatically saved. This just means that salvation became available to anyone.

If we read John 3:17, God’s purpose in sending His Son was not to condemn; the world was already in a state of condemnation as a result of man’s sin.

The great news is, God provided the gift of salvation for all and it’s free. All we have to do is choose to either receive or reject it. One must believe and continues to believe in the Son of God to avail of the gift of eternal life.

The Wholeness of God

The Father Gave His Begotten Son

I cannot overemphasize the biblical truth that God’s love caused Him to sacrifice His only begotten Son. But let us look more closely at what the term “begotten Son” means and what is its significance.

If you are reading from a modern Bible translation such as the NIV, NASB, ESV, etc., the phrase used is “one and only Son,” which was especially appropriate for a particularly beloved child, normally, an only child.

Interestingly, this same phrase was used to highlight Abraham’s obedience to God when asked to offer his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering unto the Lord on the altar he was asked to build at Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:15-16). But before Abraham could slay his son, the Angel of the Lord stopped him and provided a ram instead.

The story of Abraham and Isaac was a foreshadowing of what was to take place at Calvary many years later. God provided a ram for Moses to sacrifice in the place of Isaac but He provided His only Son as an atoning sacrifice for all (1 John 2:2).

People say “I love you,” all the time but oftentimes they don’t mean it. Actions speak louder than words, right? Well, God did not stop at the words, “I love you.” He demonstrated His love by sending His only Son to suffer and die for us. And He did it while we were still in our sins (Romans 5:8).

This is the biblical definition of love – sacrifice.

The Justice of God

I would like to pick up where I left off on the justice of God because this is where many Christians struggle and sometimes stumble.

We understand pretty well the phrase, “God is love.” We all agree that God loves us so much; He loves us unconditionally and He sacrificed His only begotten Son to save us from destruction out of His great love.

But when we read that Jesus had to suffer and die to satisfy God’s justice, we can’t seem to comprehend why. Most people think that the suffering and death of Jesus Christ were inflicted upon Him by Satan.

Of course not! Why did Jesus have to suffer and die? To appease God’s wrath and satisfy God’s justice. What do you mean?

God is Just

Let me say it again, God is love but He is also just. There was no way God would just sit back and let the sinner go unpunished. Man sinned and he needed to pay. Sins have consequences.

It’s like when you commit a crime, you have to pay the penalty. You go on trial and when convicted you’ll be sentenced according to the heinousness of your crime.

The punishment for man’s sin (rebellion against God) is eternal condemnation, i.e., death or separation from God (Romans 6:23). But because God is love, He wasn’t going to let man be condemned forever. So, He came up with a solution – He sent His Son to pay the penalty instead.

The Father Crushed His Son

Isaiah 53:10 says, “It pleased the Lord to crush Him…” Crushed who? His Son! How did the Father crush the Son? By pouring out the fullness of His wrath upon Jesus.

What was Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane? For the Father to take the “cup” away from Him (Mark 14:36). But what’s in the cup? The wrath of God. When the cup was poured out on Jesus, He took upon Himself the sins of the world and the punishment from God. And when Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) the penalty was paid in full.

The Bible tells us that during those three hours that Jesus hung on the cross, there was darkness all over the land (Matthew 27:45; Luke 23:44-46), which tells us how horrible Jesus’ death was that God had to conceal it from the people.

Conclusion

Are you still in search of true love? Look no further. Come to Christ in repentance and receive His gift of eternal life. God sacrificed His one and only Son so that you and I could enjoy eternal life with Him.

“This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

But just like any other lover, God desires for us to love Him back. And if you truly love the Lord, you are to love Him with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. You are also to love others as yourself (Mark 12:28-31).

These two are better known as God’s Greatest Commandments.


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Recommended Resource: The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D. A. Carson

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D. A. Carson

Description:

At first thought, understanding the doctrine of the love of God seems simple compared to trying to fathom other doctrines like that of the Trinity or predestination. Especially since the overwhelming majority of those who believe in God view Him as a loving being.

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God seeks to restore what we have lost.

In this treatment of many of the Bible’s passages regarding divine love, noted evangelical scholar D. A. Carson not only critiques sentimental ideas such as “God hates the sin but loves the sinner,” but provides a compelling perspective on the nature of God and why He loves as He does.

Carson blends his discourse with a discussion of how God’s sovereignty and holiness complete the biblical picture of who He is and how He loves.

An Overview of the 4 Gospels

An Overview of the 4 Gospels

Do you sometimes wonder why the New Testament contains four different gospels of the one authentic gospel? Isn’t one gospel account of the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ enough? How should we understand the Gospels as works of literature? And what do the Gospels tell us about Jesus?

Any one of these Gospels alone would not do justice to Jesus’ life and ministry. Each Gospel writer wrote about Jesus to a different audience for a different purpose to give a unique perspective on His life. Together, the four Gospels give us a more complete picture of who Jesus was and what He accomplished during His ministry.

Different symbols for the Gospels are often used to communicate the distinctive of each account. A lion, symbolizing Matthew, represents strength and royal authority, a bull, representing Mark, portrays service and power, the figure of a man, for Luke, stands for wisdom and character; and eagle, John’s symbol, represents deity.


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The following capsule summaries of the Gospels will help you understand the distinctive of each Gospel.

Matthew

The Gospel of Matthew is written to a Jewish audience to show that Jesus was the promised Messiah of Old Testament prophecy. The key expression is “that it might be fulfilled” (Matthew 1:22; 8:17; 12:17; 21:4) and it quotes more from the Old Testament than any other Gospel.

It uses alienating sections of teaching and narrative material to emphasize Jesus as Teacher. A major theme in Matthew’s Gospel is the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God – God’s rule in the world and human hearts.

Other dominant themes are the church (Matthew 16:18; 18:19), the Second Coming of Jesus (Matthew 25), and the ethical teachings of Jesus (Matthew 5–7).

Overview of the 4 Gospels

Mark

The Gospel of Mark is probably the first Gospel written, and Matthew and Luke may have used Mark as a source. It focuses on Jesus as a servant who ministers to the physical and spiritual needs of others.

Mark’s Gospel is the shortest; it is written to a Gentile audience, particularly Roman citizens. It uses brevity in accounts, with rapid movement, to give a sense of urgency to the Gospel message. The key expression is “immediately” (Mark 1:10, 12, 18, 20, 21, 28, 31, 42).

Mark’s purpose was to show that Jesus was the Son of God; a Roman soldier’s words at Jesus’ death were, “Truly this man was the Son of God (Mark 15:39).

Mark 1:10 (NKJV)

Luke

This was written by a Gentile writer for Gentiles, to give the full story of Jesus’ life, from His birth to the birth of the church. It records many of Jesus’ parables not found in the other three Gospel.

It is universal in outlook, portraying Jesus as the compassionate Savior of the world, with love for all people, whether rich or poor, Jew or Gentile; He reaches out especially to women and the poor and the outcast of society.

Luke’s Gospel emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit and the central place for prayer. The key expression is “it happened” or “it came to pass” (Luke 2:15; 5:17; 17:11, KJV).

Overview of the Four Gospels

John

The Gospel of John focuses on the theological meaning of Jesus’ actions, rather than on the actions themselves, and emphasizes who Jesus is, rather than what He did.

It includes many lengthy discourses of Jesus around which narrative is woven, and uses many keywords, such as “life, light, love, witness, glory, water, and truth,” to portray Jesus as God’s eternal Son.

It also presents Jesus as God incarnate through seven miraculous sings. The key expression is “believe” (John 1:7, 12, 20:31).

John’s clear purpose in writing is “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).

An Overview of the Four Gospels

Final Thoughts

The first three Gospels were first labeled the Synoptic Gospels by J. J. Griesbach, a German biblical scholar, at the end of the eighteenth century. The English adjective “synoptic” comes from the Greek “sunovyi” (synopsis), which means “seeing together,” and Griesbach chose the word because of the high degree of similarity found among Matthew, Mark, and Luke in their presentations of the ministry of Jesus.

These similarities, which involve structure, content, and tone, are evident even to the casual reader. They serve not only to bind the first three gospels together but to separate them from the gospel of John.

What Does the Bible Say About the Church?

What Does the Bible Say About the Church?

There are a lot of misconceptions about the church that continue up until today. Thus, a biblical study of the church is absolutely necessary to clear them up. What does the Bible have to say about the church?

Meaning of the Word “Church”

Our English word for church is derived from the Greek adjective kuriakos, meaning, “that which belongs to the Lord.” We find this word used in the first chapter of the book of Revelation. It reads:

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet” (Revelation 1:10).

In the context of the passage, the Lord’s Day means, “the day belonging to the Lord.” This fits well with the meaning of the term church. The church then can be defined as the company of people who profess allegiance to Jesus Christ as their Savior – they belong to the Lord.

The Church is the Ekklesia

The usual Greek word translated as “church” in the New Testament is “ekklesia.” The word comes from the Greek preposition ek meaning, “out of” and from the verb kaleo meaning, “to call.”

So, the church is a “called out group of people” or a group of “assembled people” and “ecclesiology” means a “study of the church.”

Church: Group of Believers in Jesus

Ekklesia in the New Testament

The word ekklesia is only used three times in the gospels and over one hundred times in the remainder of the New Testament. The gospel references are all found in Matthew. The first is Jesus’ response to Peter where He said the following:

“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

The word ekklesia is used here in its technical sense. It refers to those people who believe in Jesus as their Savior. In this context, it speaks of something that is yet to occur – the building of the church.

The word ekklesia is also used twice in Matthew 18:17. It says, “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

But in this instance, the word is used in a non-technical sense of Jewish assembly.

The word “church” is used only once in the gospels in the technical sense of Christian believers. In that passage, it is predicting the building of the church. Therefore, the church of Jesus Christ is still something that will be organized in the future.

The Church Doctrine Revealed by Paul

It was the Apostle Paul who revealed the doctrine of the church. He testified that God gave him that responsibility. He wrote the following to the Colossians:

“The mystery which has been hidden from ages and generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them, God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27).

The church is a mystery or a “sacred secret” that the Apostle Paul was given the privilege of explaining to the world.

Ways the Word Church is Used in Scripture

In the New Testament, the word church is applied in several ways concerning believers.

A Group of Christians in a City

Acts 11:22 speaks of the church in the city of Jerusalem. We read:

“Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch.”

Acts 13:1 also talks about the church in Antioch: “Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.”

There was a church in Jerusalem as well as one in Antioch.

Christians in Jerusalem

A Particular Congregation of Believers

Paul spoke of a single congregation that met in a house. He wrote the following to the Romans.

“Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise, greet the church that is in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ” (Romans 16:3-5).

Paul expressed the same idea when he wrote to the church in Corinth. He said, “And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church” (1 Corinthians 14:35).

Therefore, the church can be a single group of Christians who meet.

The Entire Group of Believers on Earth

At times, the word church refers to all the believers on the earth. Paul used the term in this sense when he wrote this to the Ephesians: “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32).

Different Usages in the NT

The word ekklesia is not always used in the New Testament of a group of believers in Jesus. The martyr Stephen spoke of the church or assembly in the wilderness.

“This is he who was in the congregation (ekklesia) in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us” (Acts 7:38).

In this particular context, ekklesia is used in reference to the nation of Israel.

An Assembly of People

The word is also used of an angry mob. We read of this usage in Acts 19:32.

“Some, therefore, cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together.”

It can also refer to a mere gathering of people as we read in Acts 19:39.

“But if you have any other inquiry to make, it shall be determined in the lawful assembly.”

Thus, depending upon the context, ekklesia can refer to the assembling of Israel, an unruly mob, or some secular group assembling together.

Singular and Plural Usage

We should also note that the term translated church is used in both the singular and the plural. When the church of a city or town is mentioned the word is used in the singular. When a country or nation is spoken of the word is used in the plural.


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The Modern Uses of the Word Church

Today, when the word church is used several things come to mind. Indeed, the term is used in at least five different ways. They include the following.

Building where Believers Gather

First, church commonly refers to the building where Christians assemble; for example, the church on Main Street. To many people, this is the first thing that is thought of when the term church is used.

Group of Local People

Second, the word refers to the local group of people that meets together. Rather than merely referring to the building or physical structure it refers to the people who meet in the building.

Christian Denomination

Third, the church is a reference to a particular Christian denomination such as the Baptist Church or the Presbyterian Church.

All Believers in Jesus

Fourth, the term is also used of all believers who profess faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, it refers to the universal church.

State Church

Finally, the term is used of a state church such as the Church of England. Therefore, according to popular usage, the word church is used in several ways.

Conclusion

Notice that the biblical usage of the term church is not exactly the same as the modern usage. Therefore, we must understand the nature of the church from a biblical perspective.


Note: This article is an excerpt taken from Don Stewart’s book on the Church.

Finding Hope Amidst Difficult Times

Finding Hope Amidst Difficult Times

The year 2020 could well go down in history as one of the most challenging years we all had to face as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic. But we cannot and should not lose hope. Amidst trials and in difficult times, there is hope. Christians can enjoy living in victory even when all hope seems to be lost.

In this post are some principles God has laid out in His Word that every believer in Jesus should apply if they expect to live victoriously this new year 2021 and onward.

The Babylonian Captivity

The Babylonian Captivity, also known as the Babylonian Exile, is a period in biblical history that highlights the restoration of the nation of Israel. But while in exile, it is apparent that the Jews were on the verge of losing hope. Will they ever get out from this ordeal and safely go back to their land?

Considering that when King Nebuchadnezzar II took the Jews captive, Babylon was an up and coming world superpower. How could the Jews be confident that God was up to the job of delivering them from the hands of the Babylonians?

Babylonian Exile
Photo Credits: Ancient Pages

In chapter 3 of Isaiah, we read God reminding the Jewish exiles about who He is and what He is capable of doing for them. We read the following in Isaiah 43:16-19 (NIV):

This is what the Lord says – He who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Biblical Principles for a Victorious Life

In the passage quoted above, God, through the prophet Isaiah, gave four instructions to the nation of Israel.

1. Remember God’s Great Works in the Past.

Verses 16-17 looks back to what God did for Israel when He brought them out of the land of Egypt through the wilderness to Canaan (Exodus 14). God parted the Red Sea so they could cross and escape the Egyptian armies.

Isaiah powerfully brings up these images when he writes of the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements of these enemies of God’s people, and how they shall lay there and never to rise again, extinguished and snuffed out or quenched.

“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left” (Exodus 14:21-22).

Just as God overwhelmed the Egyptian armies, He would also judge the Babylonians.

2. Forget the Past.

Notice that there is an instructive switch between verses 16-17 and verse 18. In Isaiah 43:16-17, Israel is told to look to the past by remembering the great things God did for them at the Red Sea. But in Isaiah 43:18 they are told, “Do not remember the former things nor consider the things of old.” Why?

It is important to note that God had performed many miracles for Israel – probably one of the most memorable was their deliverance from slavery in Egypt by their miraculous passage through the Red Sea on dry ground!

But now, God was saying, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” Is God contradicting Himself? No, not at all! Rather, God is telling the Jews, “That’s nothing compared to what I am about to do.”

No matter how great the miracle God performed to get their forefathers out of Egypt and bring them to the Promised Land, God wants this generation of Jews to focus on the new work He will do for them.

God promises that He is going to do greater things for them; much more than what He had done in the past. He tells them to forget the past because if they are stuck in the wonders and miracles of God in the past, they will never be able to move forward to the new things God has in store for them.

3. Keep in Step with God.

After reminding the Jews of His mighty works in the past and instructing them not to get stuck in those wonders, God then assures them the deliverance they have been hoping for.

God says this in Isaiah 43:19a, “Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it?”

God is moving on – He is doing a new thing – bigger and better than ever before. Past blessings are for a time gone by. God promises a new blessing for a new day!

Staying stuck in the past can keep the nation of Israel (and us) from the new things God wants to do. God will do a new thing that is in no way inferior to what He has done in the past. God will do a new thing that is in no way inferior to the things of old.

God can do new wonders; He is creative and He is always doing something new.

4. Trust that God Can and Will Do the Impossible.

Between Babylon and Israel lay hundreds of miles of wilderness. But God assures His people that they had nothing to fear because God would make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:19b)

They can be confident that the same power that made dry land in the waters can produce waters even in the driest land.

Application for Believers Today

How do Christians apply these four principles? We must take God’s word at face value.

God is also telling us today to forget the former things and not dwell on the past. Yes, we must remember the past in terms of God’s great work. It is to our benefit to often remember what God did to the nation of Israel. Remembering God’s faithfulness gives us hope and assurance that we can trust God to work on our behalf

We can always count on God and we can be confident that He will make good His promises because He is faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). If God kept His covenant with Israel, He will surely keep His covenant with us. God is immutable; He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

Yes, we are to thank God for past revivals, answered prayers, and blessings. The downside is those past blessings can hold us back because we expect the same thing over and over again.

We must forsake and forget the past, with all its discouragement, failures, sin, and defeat, and move on to what God has for us in the future. Past sins and failures can hold us back too!

The Example of Simon Peter

Do you ever feel like you have let God down in some way? You may have stumbled and failed Him a couple of times and now you feel like you’re no longer worthy of another chance. You fear that God cannot use you again.

If there’s somebody who has gone this path and was restored, it’s Simon Peter. Among all those who followed our Lord closely, I find Peter’s story quite fascinating.

Consider the following about Peter:

  • He alone got to experience walking on water with Jesus (Matthew 14:28-29).
  • He was one of the three disciples to witness the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13).
  • It was Peter who confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:13-20).
  • It was Peter who cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest and he did it in an attempt to prevent the arrest of Jesus (John 18:10).
  • But more than all these, Peter promised Jesus that he will never forsake Him even though it will cost him his life (Matthew 26:35).

But on the night that Jesus was arrested, Peter swallowed his words because he denied Jesus, not just once but three times at the time that Jesus needed him the most. He must have felt terrible when he realized what he has done.

But after the resurrection Jesus reinstated him at the lake of Tiberius in Galilee (John 21:15-19) and a few days later on the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached probably the most powerful gospel sermon resulting in the 3000 souls that were saved and added to the Church (Acts 2:14-36).

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When All Hope Seems Lost

You may have experienced a lot of heartaches and pain, trials, and difficulties in the past year. But God promises to do something great in your life.

You may have lost a loved one and up to now you still don’t understand why you had to go through all that. Maybe you got heartbroken last year or in the previous years and you are still unable to move on.

This year, give your heart to Jesus and rest assured that He will never break it; He will never disappoint you and He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

Today, God is telling us to forget the past – blessings, and failures – because the past will fade into insignificance compared with what God is doing, and going to do.

Trust God At All Times

As we look forward to the future, God wants us to trust Him completely, regardless of the circumstances we are facing. Let us not make the common mistake of worrying about the details or obstacles for the fulfillment of God’s promise. We do not have to worry about it at all.

God has all the resources needed. We may not have a perfect picture of what God is about to do but we can be certain that He will bring them to fruition. He is the Lord, the God of all flesh; nothing is too difficult for Him (Jeremiah 32:27). Things may be impossible from a human perspective but with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

By the way, trying to lend God a helping hand never works so don’t even try. In Genesis 12:1-3 God promises to make Abraham’s children into a great nation. There’s just one problem – his wife could not have children, and they were both advanced in years!

What did Abraham do? He tried to help God out only to realize later on that it was a big mistake (Genesis 16:1-16). Then as now, meddling in God’s business only ends in disaster.

Conclusion

Indeed, we can always find hope in the Lord even in difficult times.

But we need to get our focus off the past: the good, the bad, and the ugly. These are nothing compared to what God is about to do! God is doing something new. His laws and principles never change – but His blessings are new every morning.

Are we ready for it? Are we in step with the Holy Spirit? We can be amid a blessing and not see it.

By the way, let us be reminded that whatever new and great things we will receive, it’s all God’s work – it’s not of us! We may have labored in the fields sowing and reaping but it is God who gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6-9).

So we must always humble ourselves before God – realizing that it is not because of anything we have done – but it is only by the grace of God. We must ensure that God gets the glory for it all.


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Was Jesus the Predicted Messiah?

Was Jesus the Predicted Messiah?

Was Jesus the predicted Messiah? Although the Bible gives so many predictions about the coming Messiah that were fulfilled by our Lord Jesus, the Jews did not accept Him. As a matter of fact, they are still awaiting the coming of the Messiah.

Are there More than One Messiah?

When Diocletian was abdicated as emperor of Rome, a war of succession between Maxentius and Constantine became inevitable. Maxentius held possession of Rome, but Constantine invaded from Gaul in 312 AD.

In preparation for battle on the Tiber River, Maxentius consulted the Sibylline books for prophetic insight. The relevant oracle declared, “On that day the enemy of Rome will perish.”

Maxentius went into battle confident that Constantine’s doom was at hand. However, he perished in battle, thus identifying who “the enemy of Rome” was. The prophecy was going to be fulfilled one way or the other; its intentional vagueness guaranteed that.

Jesus Fulfilled Messianic Prophecies

Aren’t the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah equally general so that any number of Jewish males could claim to fulfill them after rising to prominence as a spiritual leader?

While that is true about many of the messianic prophecies taken in isolation, there are more than three hundred separate predictions about the messiah in the pages of the Old Testament. Taken together, they form an imposing barrier to accidental fulfillment or fulfillment-after-the-fact.

300 Prophecies, Only One Messiah

Think of each of the three hundred messianic prophecies as a filter that strains out everyone who does not meet its requirements and you will realize how unlikely it is that anyone but the actual Messiah would pass through all three hundred filters.

If you try to calculate the odds of someone accidentally satisfying three hundred separate personal descriptions, you end up with something like one out of a number with 125 zeros after it – an incomprehensibly unlikely eventuality.


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The Messiah would descend from Eve (Genesis 3:16), Judah (Isaiah 46:10), and David (2 Samuel 7:14). He would be virgin-born (Isaiah 7:14) in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). He would enter Jerusalem riding a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). He would be betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9).

He would die with sinners but be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9, 12). None of His bones would be broken (Psalm 34:20) during a violent death in which His hands and feet were pierced (Psalm 22:16) so that He cried out to God (Psalm 22:1).

While He died, onlookers would divide His clothes (Psalm 22:18). He came to save Gentiles as well as Jews (Isaiah 49:6). He rose from the dead (Psalm 16:10).

Jesus, the Promised Messiah

Was Jesus the predicted Messiah? Yes! But the prophecies say more about Him than that. He shared the divine nature as God’s Son (Psalm 2:7) and human nature as the Son of Man (Genesis 3:16).

As God’s Suffering Servant, He fulfilled Israel’s destiny by keeping the righteous standards of the Law of Moses (Isaiah 49:1-3). He established God’s new covenant with humanity (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Matthew 26:28).

He is the destiny and focal point of history (Colossians 1:16). We wait for His return to establish justice and righteousness in the millennial kingdom (Malachi 4:1-3; Revelation 19:11–20:4).


Note: Excerpt taken from the NKJV Prophecy Study Bible under the section Evidences.

 

The Lord’s Prayer and How to Pray It

The Lord’s Prayer and How to Pray It

Prayer is a very important aspect of the Christian life because it is how we communicate with God. Simply put, prayer is talking to God. But while many Christians assume that the attitude of prayer comes naturally to every born again believer, we learn from the Scriptures that Jesus’ disciples did not automatically learn how to pray.

They had been with the Lord for three years but never got to understand the importance of communicating with God. Every time Jesus asked them to wait at a certain place while He pours out His heart to the Father, they fell asleep waiting.

So, one time when Jesus had finished praying, one of His disciples came to Him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1).

To which Jesus replied, “When you pray, say: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one’” (Luke 11:2-4).

These statements of Jesus were later became known as “The Lord’s Prayer.” We also read this in Matthew 6:9-13.

A Model Prayer for Christians

The Lord’s Prayer is a model prayer for those who believe in Jesus. However, we need to emphasize that we must not mechanically repeat it. Note that it is a model about how we should pray, not what we should pray.

The disciples of Jesus asked Him to show them how to pray. Therefore, Jesus did not give this prayer so that we would repeat these exact words every time we talk to God. He warned about mindless repetition in prayer (Matthew 6:7-8).

Christians are not to merely recite and mechanically repeat the Lord’s Prayer.

What is the Lord's Prayer and Hos Should We Pray It
Photo Credits: Bibleinfo.Com

Jesus’ Teaching On Prayer

From this model prayer that Jesus gave, there are several things we learn about what God expects from us when we talk to Him.

We Recognize God for Who He is

“Our Father in heaven …”

When we approach God in prayer, we must recognize to whom we are talking – our Father who is in heaven. There is none like Him. The Lord Himself has said, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me” (Isaiah 46:9).

It is human nature to focus on “self” but when we realize who God is – the Lord Almighty, the One who created the heavens and the earth – it is fitting to begin our prayers with the recognition that we are face to face with the Lord of the universe.

Consequently, we should have a continual attitude of reverence and respect when we talk to the Lord in prayer.

We Magnify His Holy Name

“Hallowed be Your name.”

After we recognize God for who He is, the next thing that is mentioned is the magnifying of the name of the Lord. We are to worship or hallow His name. In this context, God’s name refers to His character.

God deserves our praise and adoration and He alone is worthy to receive all glory and honor. Revelation 4:11 says, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”

We Ask for His Kingdom to Come

“Your kingdom come …”

We are to pray that the promised Kingdom of the Lord will come to the earth. In fact, this is the last prayer that we find recorded in Scripture. In the final chapter of the Book of Revelation, we read:

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20)!

We want to see our Lord ruling on the earth – a rule which will be characterized by righteousness (Hebrews 1:8). This will happen after the Tribulation period when Jesus will rule and reign as King from Jerusalem for a thousand years.

We Pray for God’s Will to be Done

“Your will be done …”

To pray for God to carry out His plans is not to say that He won’t accomplish them without us asking Him to. This part of the prayer is to get our minds in line with God’s purpose. We know that God will carry out His plans and there is not the slightest chance that it cannot be done.

But this part of the prayer is for our benefit; it is to get our minds in line with God’s purpose. This means that His desires are to be our desires and we are to line up our hopes and dreams with the will of the Lord.

When we pray for His will to be done, then we are saying that we will live per His will. Paul said we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to the Lord (Romans 12:1).

God's Purpose Always Prevails

We Ask God to Supply Our Daily Needs

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

We then ask God to meet our day-to-day needs. But why does it have to be on a “daily basis?” Can we not ask God to supply our needs for a week, a month, or a year? I believe it’s because God is teaching us to trust in His provision and to be completely dependent on Him.

This reminds me of the Israelites while they were wandering in the wilderness. God specifically instructed them to go out and gather only enough manna and quails for the day, except on the day before the Sabbath when they must gather twice as much (Exodus 16:1-30).

God has promised to supply our needs. When the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, he said, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

God knows the things we need even before we ask Him. Furthermore, He has promised to fulfill whatever needs we may have. We do not have to be concerned about what we shall eat or wear tomorrow (Matthew 6:32-34). He knows what things are necessary for us and He promised to meet those needs.

We Ask God to Forgive Our Sins

“Forgive us our sins …”

Confession of sins is an important part of prayer. We need to confess our sins because Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”

However, this confession is not so that we will get saved. Rather, this prayer is for those who have already placed their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

We confess our sins as we do not want anything to come between us and God. And when we confess, we should be specific about the sins that we have committed. We should ask the Lord to search our hearts and reveal any sin to us (Psalm 139:23-24); we must also confess those sins that we are unaware of (Psalm 19:12).

We Forgive Others Who Have Sinned Against Us

“We also forgive those who sin against us.”

Not only do we confess our sins, but we are also to forgive those who have wronged and offended us. We cannot come to the Lord with a pure heart if we have not forgiven the people who have hurt us in any way.

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He said, “When you bring your gift to the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).

Unforgiveness will result in bitterness and resentment. The Bible says that we are not to be bitter toward others (Ephesians 4:31). Unforgiveness is a sin which in effect blocks the answer to our prayers and petitions (Psalm 66:18). Therefore, forgiving others is an important part of prayer.

We Ask God to Lead Us Away from Temptations

“And do not lead us into temptation …”

Christians are not exempted from facing temptations. Jesus Himself was tempted but emerged victoriously. We do not pray that our life will be free from temptation but for God to enable us to overcome all temptations.

It is certainly impossible to be totally free from temptation in this fallen world but God has promised that He will give us enough strength to resist any temptation. Paul wrote this to the Corinthians:

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

God knows our breaking point and He will never give us more than we can handle. The Lord will not only help us resist temptation but He will also always show us a way out of the various temptations we may have to face.

We Ask God to Protect Us from the Evil One

“And deliver us from the evil one.”

Finally, we are to ask God to protect us from the evil one – Satan. The Bible tells us that Satan, our enemy, is constantly attempting to get Christians to sin (1 Peter 5:8). We need protection. We are likened to sheep – animals that do not have any natural defenses. Therefore, we need God’s protection.

The good news is that the Lord promises to protect those who are His (John 10:27-29). Indeed, God is constantly watching out for us.

Conclusion

While this is called the Lord’s Prayer, it is really a prayer that the disciples of the Lord are to pray. It is the Lord’s Prayer in the sense that this is the sort of thing the Lord commands us to pray. This is the type of prayer that those who believe in Jesus Christ should pray.

However, it is not a prayer that He prayed for Himself. We should note that this prayer is not something that Jesus Himself could pray because, for one thing, it asks God to forgive our sins (Luke 11:4). The Bible is clear that Jesus was without sin (John 8:46). Peter emphasized the same truth about the sinlessness of Jesus (1 Peter 3:18). Paul wrote something similar in 2 Corinthians 5:21.

The Lord’s Prayer, the model prayer that Jesus taught gives believers a good idea of what God wants from His children when they pray to Him.

May each of us learn to put these truths into practice in our daily lives.


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Recommended Resource: A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer by W. Phillip Keller

A fresh look at a famous prayerA Layman Looks at the Lord's Prayer by W. Phillip Keller

“There is inherent in this prayer all the strength and compassion of our Father in heaven. There moves through it a beauty and a serenity which no mortal man can fully explain. It reassures our hearts, strengthens our resolve, and leads us into personal contact with God, our Father.”

In this moving book by “an ordinary man and a child of God,” Phillip Keller takes each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer one-by-one, unfolding it in wonderful detail and sharing insights he’s gained and experiences he’s enjoyed.

Next to Psalm 23, the Lord’s Prayer is perhaps the most universally beloved passage in Scripture. It has been repeated millions of times by countless individuals for nearly 20 centuries. Yet, in spite of so much use and familiarity it has never lost its luster. 

A Layman’s Look at the Lord’s Prayer presents that luster in a fresh way to help you rediscover its incredible power.

What is the Significance of Jesus’ Baptism?

What is the Significance of Jesus’ Baptism?

We learn from Scripture that water baptism is an important act of obedience on the part of every believer in Jesus in response to the Lord’s command. However, let me emphasize that baptism does not save as some Christians teach. One does not need to be baptized to be saved. We are saved by grace through faith alone in the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9).

In other words, water baptism is not a requirement for salvation and anyone who teaches otherwise is gravely mistaken. We submit for water baptism for several reasons that include us publicly declaring our faith in the Lord Jesus and identifying with His death, burial, and resurrection.

But why did the Lord Jesus have to undergo water baptism before beginning His earthly ministry? What is the significance of this act on His part?

The Baptism of Jesus

The baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist was one of the highlights of the beginning of our Lord’s earthly ministry. Although gospel authors Matthew, Mark, and Luke record Jesus’ baptism, Matthew gives us a more detailed description by first introducing John the Baptist as the one prophesied by Isaiah as the forerunner of the Messiah.

Matthew 3:13-17

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

The Baptism of Jesus Matthew 3:16-17 (NKJV)

Here is the story of Jesus coming to John to be baptized by him, and after getting a little resistance from the “baptizer,” Jesus is baptized. Immediately after getting up out of the water, we then have the descent of the Holy Spirit from heaven on Jesus and a voice from heaven confirming the person and work of Jesus.

The Necessity of Jesus’ Baptism

John’s response to Jesus’ coming to him for baptism seems to indicate that John did not only know something about Jesus, but he also knew that baptism did not apply to Him (Matthew 3:14).

John had been preaching baptism unto repentance (Matthew 3:11). As the people listened and were convicted of their sins, they repented and were baptized as a witness to and sign of their inner purification.

But when Jesus came to John, he tried to stop him from being baptized because, at that moment, John was looking into the face of the Messiah – the “Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) and “the man whose sandals he is unworthy to carry” (Matthew 3:11).

In response, Jesus said, “it was fitting for them in order to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Notice that the Lord used the word “us” – “it is fitting for us.” It was something that both the Sinless one (Jesus) and the sinner (John) had to do to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus was not acting alone; He was acting with John to fulfill God’s plan.

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Jesus’ Baptism Confirmed John’s Ministry

John grew up to be a very special man. But who would have thought that God would use a “wilderness man” to Christ’s forerunner? He was very different from the other people who lived in his time. John was a Nazarite from birth who was filled by the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15).

He chose to live in the desert, wore camel’s hair, and ate locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:3-4). He was very different. After all, who else was preaching in the wilderness? Most people preached in the temple where all the people were. But John was preaching out in the desert.

Perhaps, one could say that John’s mission was to introduce Jesus as God’s promised Messiah. John the Baptist was specially chosen by God. In describing John’s appearance, Matthew links him with Elijah (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:3). Why Elijah? Why not Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or the other prophets? It’s because Malachi prophesied that like John, Elijah was a kind of “wilderness man,” a man who lived on the run (Malachi 3:1; 4:5).

John the Baptist

When John the Baptist was first introduced in Matthew’s gospel, his message was an announcement that the kingdom of God was at hand (Matthew 3:2). He was warning the Jewish leaders including the most zealous religious group, the Pharisees, that the King was soon to appear and will bring judgment.

Although John was careful to distinguish his ministry from that of the coming Messiah (Matthew 3:3, 11-12), his preaching was not only the warning of impending judgment; more importantly, it was a call to action. His message was intended to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah, and for the message of salvation, that would be proclaimed after the suffering, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord.

Through John’s ministry, Jesus was introduced by God as the promised and long-awaited Messiah. By asking John to baptize Him, Jesus showed approval of his baptism, confirmed his ministry, and bore witness to it that it was indeed from heaven approved by God.

John played a vital role in the commencement of Jesus’ earthly ministry as he called upon men to prepare for His coming.

Jesus Christ, the Suffering Servant

John initially refused to baptize Jesus but Jesus knew that it was His Father’s will for Him to undergo water baptism. Jesus was baptized not because he was a repentant sinner; His baptism identified Himself with tax collectors and sinners, the very people He came to save.

The word “righteousness” as used in the gospel of Matthew draws its meaning from the Old Testament. A full study of righteousness will lead to a meaning for the word as that which “conforms to the standard” which would mean doing the will of God.

To say that Jesus had to be baptized to fulfill all righteousness does not mean Jesus had been unrighteous. It simply means that He is committing Himself to do God’s will for Him, which is to conform to the standard which is the will of God.

The Suffering Servant Isaiah 53

God’s will for Christ was laid out centuries before He came in the book of Isaiah 53. The prophet Isaiah announced that the Suffering Servant was to be “numbered with the transgressors, would bear the sin of many, and make intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12).

Through His baptism, Jesus began to be identified with sinners. Isaiah further described the Messiah as “God’s righteous Servant who shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11). The Father’s statement in Matthew 3:17 saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” also relates Jesus Christ to the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53:10).

Well, it’s not that the Father took delight in His Son’s pain but the suffering and death of the Messiah were in fulfillment of God’s plan to make salvation available to everyone who believes (John 3:16). Jesus began to fulfill His work as the Suffering Servant at His baptism where He would identify with sinners, take their sins upon Himself, and justify them through His suffering and death.

Jesus’ water baptism was a picture of His future baptism on the cross. He was rejected and made to suffer and die but He is also seen to come forth in victory.

Conclusion

The baptism of Jesus Christ is not to be identified as one of repentance or as one similar to Christian baptism. Jesus’ baptism was unique, an initiatory right, setting Him apart to His role as a Prophet, Priest, and King, and anticipating His suffering and death on the cross.

No other, before or after, can share this baptism.


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Daily Life Lessons From Proverbs 6

Daily Life Lessons From Proverbs 6

No doubt, we’re living in the “information age,” but we certainly aren’t living in the “age of wisdom.” Many people maybe wizard with their computers but are amateurs when it comes to making a success of their lives.

Computers can store data and obey signals but they can’t give us the ability to use that knowledge wisely. What is needed today is wisdom; godly wisdom that is, and the book of Proverbs does not only talk about godly wisdom, it also teaches us how to get it and how to use it.

In this post, we will look at some life lessons from Proverbs chapter 6.

Proverbs 6 Lessons for Daily Life

Proverbs 6:1-35 deals with three enemies that can destroy a person financially, physically, and morally (or spiritually): unwise financial commitments, laziness, and lust. More often than not, one person will be guilty of all three because laziness and lust often go together.

People who are easily pressured into putting up security for somebody can be pressured into doing other foolish acts, including committing adultery. As Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Learning from the Ant

In Proverbs 6:6-11, Solomon spoke wisdom to the sluggard (lazy person) and said that they should learn from the ant, an insect proverbial for hard work. The ant is wise and worthy of imitation because she works hard without having to be told to work. Ants work hard to get the work done in the summer and the harvest.

Solomon is not saying that we should never sleep. Obviously, every person needs sleep; it is a necessary element for a healthy life. But too much sleep is destructive and often times it makes people lazy. Laborers sleep well because they have worked hard (Ecclesiastes 5:12) but the sleep of a lazy person is a mark of laziness and selfishness.

Bruce Waltke's Quote About Laziness

The result of laziness? Poverty. People often complain about their situation and envy the rich, not knowing how many hours of hard work and effort the rich has to put in to become successful. The lazy man loves to procrastinate and think things can always be done later.

Solomon says, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man” (Proverbs 6:10-11 NIV). The sluggard will find that poverty and need come upon him quickly – poverty not imposed by circumstances or misfortune but through laziness.

The Future of a Wicked Man

From the sluggard and his poverty, Solomon moves to the worthless and wicked man (Proverbs 6:12-15). “Worthless” is the Hebrew word “belial” used to describe worthless people (Deuteronomy 13:13; Judges 19:22; 1 Samuel 25:25; 1 Kings 21:10, 13).

One of the main features of the worthless and wicked person’s walk is the corruption of his speech and the perversity of his heart. To say that one has a perverse mouth means what they say isn’t true and honest. Rather, they’re a crook!

Proverbs 6:12 illustrates God’s hatred of sin. Some contemporary theology so emphasizes God’s love that it loses its sight of the fact that God also hates sin. We can never over stress that God has no pleasure in sin. On the contrary, sin grieves the Father (Genesis 6:6), the Son (Mark 3:5), and the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30).

Seven Things the Lord Hates

The “six” and “seven” of Proverbs 6:16 have their explanation in their description.

“A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:17-19).

The six are the things and the seventh is the result. Sowing discord among brethren is presented as the result of the six listed things and it is one of the highest among the things that God hates and regards as an abomination.

Notice that most of these sins are connected to something we do, in or through our body. They are also focused on how we treat others. Paul reminds us about presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God (Romans 12:1).

We cannot honor God and claim to worship Him in spirit and truth yet we treat others badly.

Warning Against Adultery

First, Solomon spoke about how God’s Word and wisdom will never lead a man to the evil woman or keep him with her. The light of God’s word will wisely keep a man from falling into the flattering tongue of a seductress.

Going back to chapters 5 to 7 of Proverbs, we see how each of the warnings against adultery is prefaced by an admonition to pay attention to the Word of God (Proverbs 5:1-2; 6:20-24; 7:1-5). The Word of God is living and active. We benefit from its power when we cherish and obey it.

As we trust and obey God’s truth, He keeps us from believing the enemy’s lies. God’s Word will lead us wherever we go, keeps us while we sleep, speaks with us when we’re awake, and brings light to us in our darkness (Proverbs 6:22-23).


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The Dangers of Committing Adultery

The results of this immoral liaison lead to being degraded to the lowest level of poverty (Proverbs 6:25-26). See also Luke 15:13-16. If the adultery results in a scandal, a lawsuit, and a divorce, the price will not be cheap. In this day of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, adulterers are also risking health and life.

When Solomon said, “Can a man take fire to his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? So is he who goes into his neighbor’s wife; whoever touches her shall not be innocent” (Proverbs 6:27-29), his brilliant wisdom, simplicity, and clarity were displayed.

He warns that anyone who takes up the harlot and plays with fire is sure to be burned. Thus, he must not complain about the strength of the temptation. Why didn’t he avoid it in the first place?

Fire is good as long as it is confined and controlled; it can keep us warm, cook our food, drive our turbines, and manufacture our electricity. Sex is a good gift from God. But like fire, it becomes destructive if it gets out of control. What begins as a “warm” experience soon becomes a burning experience, like holding a torch in the lap or walking on burning coals.

Adultery is Stealing

Certainly, hunger is a strong force in human life and the only way to satisfy hunger is to eat. But if we steal the bread that we eat, we’re breaking the law. We’ll end up paying more for that bread than if we’d gone out and bought a loaf at the bakery. As we sat in jail or stand in court, the enjoyment we had from that bread will soon be forgotten (Proverbs 6:30-31).

Adultery is stealing. “God’s will is for you to be holy, to stay away from all sexual sin … Never harm or cheat a Christian brother in this matter by violating his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before” (1 Thessalonians 4:3, 6).

When adultery enters a marriage, everybody loses.

The Foolishness of Adultery

Proverbs 6:32-35 highlights the foolishness of adultery. The angry husband will use every means possible to avenge himself, for a loving husband would rather that his neighbor steal his money than steal his wife.

The offender will have no peace, and no amount of money he offers the husband will be accepted. The adulterer loses his reputation in the community and might actually suffer physical punishment. Of course, he and the woman were supposed to be stoned to death (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22), but this penalty probably was not always exact.

In today’s society, if a person has enough money and clout, he or she might be able to survive an adulterous scandal, but life is still never quite the same. Whether in this life or the next, sinners can be sure that their sins will find them out.

Indulging in sexual sin is always a losing proposition.

Closing Words

God calls us to receive His wisdom and be skillful so that we can make a life that will glorify him. What is important is not how long we live but how we live, not the length but the depth of life.

As never before, the church desperately needs people who understand and practice the skills involved in building a godly life. May we be among them.


Note: This devotional article is taken from The Transformation Study Bible, edited by Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe.

The Rapture and Everyday Life

The Rapture and Everyday Life

The Rapture is said to be the greatest end-time event that Christians all around the world are eagerly waiting to take place. This is when the Lord Jesus will come in the clouds to receive every church age believer, dead or alive, and take them to heaven as He promised in John 14:1-3.

Theologians also refer to the Rapture as the blessed hope of the believers (Titus 2:13). But do you know that the Rapture can have a meaning for our everyday life? Every key New Testament passage on the Rapture contains a practical application that is closely associated with it.

The message is crystal clear – anticipating the Rapture should change the way we live. According to the Bible, understanding the Rapture should have at least six life-changing influences on our hearts.

The Rapture and the Church

Converting Influence on Seeking Hearts

With life’s brevity in mind, the most important question for every individual to face is whether he or she has a relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior. Salvation through Jesus is a message that contains both bad news and good news.

The bad news is that the Bible declares that all people, including you and me, are sinful, and therefore separated from the holy God of the universe (Isaiah 59:2; Romans 3:23).

God is holy and cannot simply overlook sin. A just payment for the debt must be made. But we are spiritually bankrupt and have no resources within ourselves to pay the huge debt we owe.

The Good News, or Gospel, is that Jesus Christ has come and satisfied our sin debt. He bore our judgment and paid the price for our sins. He died on the cross for our sins and was raised to life on the third day to complete the work of salvation. See Colossians 2:14 and 1 Peter 3:18.

The salvation that Christ accomplished is offered to all of us through faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation from sin is a free gift that God offers to sinful people who deserve judgment.

If you have not received that gift yet, I invite you to do it right now. Place your faith and trust in Christ and in Him alone, for your eternal salvation. The Rapture could happen anytime and those who fail to trust Christ will be left behind to endure the Tribulation.

Accept Christ personally by calling upon Him to save you from your sins (Romans 10:9-10, 13). Make sure you are Rapture ready!

Caring Influence on Soul-Winning Hearts

No believer can study Bible prophecy without being gripped by the awesome power of God and the wrath of God. Just a simple reading of Revelation 6 –18 reminds us of what is in store for this earth after the Rapture.

Scripture also describes the eternal horrors that await those who die without trusting Christ. The Bible brings us face-to-face with what is at stake for those who don’t know Christ as their Savior.

2 Corinthians 5:20 reminds us of our calling during this present age: “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us; we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”

Those who have already responded to the message of God’s grace and forgiveness through Christ know the world’s future, and we are Christ’s ambassadors, representing Him and His heart to a perishing world. We should care deeply about those who are still lost, willingly give of our material resources to help spread the gospel message, and regularly ask the Lord for opportunities ad boldness to share the Good news of Christ.

A clear understanding of the Rapture should exert a strong influence on every believer to care about the lost before time runs out.

Cleansing Influence on Sinning Hearts

A proper understanding of the Rapture should produce a life of holiness and purity. Focusing the mind and heart on Christ’s coming can powerfully motivate our efforts toward living a pure life.

Note the certainty: “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3). Here is a perfect prescription for living a life of holiness – focusing on the Rapture.

How can we be riveted by the Rapture and live an impure life at the same time? 1 John 3:3 says it can’t happen. Fixing our hope on Christ and His coming is a purifying hope.

We are to live as if Christ could come at any time, and if this becomes real to us it will transform our lives. The Bible declares that we are to always be looking for Christ’s coming (Titus 2:12-13).

Prophecy and purity are mentioned in Romans 13:11-14 and 2 Peter 3:10-14 presents the practical, cleansing effect of prophecy.

So, when anyone says that studying Bible prophecy is impractical or irrelevant to everyday life, they reveal that they don’t understand what the Bible says about the personal impact of prophecy.


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Calming Influence on Stirring Hearts

Another practical effect of the Rapture is that it calms us down when our hearts are troubled and stirred up. In John 14:1-3, Jesus tells His disciples (and every believer today) to “not let our hearts be troubled.”

The word troubled means “to be stirred up, disturbed, unsettled, or thrown into confusion.” There are many things in our world today to disturb and unsettle us: moral decay, crime, economic uncertainty, terrorism, fear of pandemics, social unrest, and others.

Added to these problems are the personal trials and difficulties we all face in our daily lives. Trouble is the common denominator of all humankind (Job 5:7). Often these troubles and difficulties can leave us distraught, distracted, and disturbed.

However, Jesus emphasizes three things in John 14:1-3 that can calm our troubled hearts: a person, a place, and a promise. The person is our Lord, the place is the heavenly city (new Jerusalem), and the promise is that He will come again to take us to be with Him forever.

One of the great comforts in times like This is to remember that our Lord will someday return to take us to be with Himself.

Comforting Influence on Sorrowing Hearts

Every person has faced or will face the grief of losing a close friend or loved one in death. When death strikes, pious platitudes do little to bring lasting comfort to friends and family. The only real, lasting comfort is the hope that we will see that person again in heaven.

God’s Word tells us with certainty that we are not to sorrow as people who have no hope because we will be reunited with our saved loved ones and friends at the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

The Rapture and Resurrection should transform the way we view death. Death has lost its sting. God has promised that death will ultimately be abolished and that life will reign.

Grief is still appropriate when our friends or loved ones die. Didn’t Jesus weep at the death of His good friend Lazarus (John 11:35)? Stephen’s friends also wept loudly over his battered body (Acts 8:2).

We miss our loved ones when they die. However, the Bible declares that our weeping is not the weeping of despair. There is deep solace, hope, and comfort for our sorrowing hearts in the truth of God’s Word about the future for His children.

Controlling Influence on Serving Hearts

So many today are unstable and unsettled in Christian work. They are constantly vacillating. Knowing about Christ’s coming and future events should cure the problem of instability and inconsistency in Christian labor.

After presenting the truth of the Rapture and the Resurrection, Paul concludes with a strong admonition: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Paul is saying since you know that Christ will someday come to receive you to Himself, let nothing move you, and be strong and steady in your Christian service. Realizing that Christ could return at any time is to make us energetic and excited about serving the Lord.

If the Rapture is a reality to us, it will motivate us to work faithfully for the Lord. The Lord intends for our knowledge of Bible prophecy to translate into devoted service for those around us as we await His return.

The principle in the Bible is clear: waiters are workers. When Christ comes we are to be “dressed for service and keep our lamps burning” (Luke 12:35 NASB).

Final Thoughts

Warren Wiersbe tells a story of when he was a young man preaching on the last days with all the events of prophecy clearly laid out and perfectly planned. At the end of the service, an older gentleman came up to him and whispered in his ear, “I used to have the Lord’s return planned out to the last detail, but years ago I moved from the planning committee to the welcoming committee.”

Certainly, we want to study Bible prophecy and know about God’s plan for the future. But we must be careful not to get too caught up in the planning and forget the welcoming.

Are you on the welcoming committee for the Lord’s coming? Are you living each day to please the Master?

May God help our knowledge of the Rapture to transform our lives as we eagerly await the coming of our Lord and Savior.


Note: This article is an excerpt from Dr. Mark Hitchcock’s book “The End, A complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days.”