Category: Doctrines

Who Do You Say Jesus Christ Is?

Who Do You Say Jesus Christ Is?

Peter’s confession of who Jesus is in Matthew 16:16 has been considered by many as pivotal and climactic in the entire narrative of Matthew. That’s because it was on this confession that Jesus built and established the Church. Who do people say Jesus Christ is? Who do you say He is?

We learn from the Gospel accounts that people followed Jesus around wherever He went during His earthly ministry, either to listen to Him teach, have the sick and demon-possessed healed and delivered, or in the case of the religious leaders, to test and trap Him.

Peter’s Confession of Jesus as the Messiah 

Matthew 16:13-17 

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.”

Background of the Passage

After the account of Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth (Matthew 13:53-58), the feeding of the five thousand at or near Bethsaida (Matthew 14:13-21), His encounter with the Canaanite woman who has great faith in the region of Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 15:21-28), and the feeding of the four thousand on a mountainside near the sea of Galilee, Jesus and His disciples withdrew to the region of Caesarea Philippi.

This move was likely a retreat from the pressing crowds. Do you notice in the Gospels that whenever Jesus wanted to teach His disciples some very important “Kingdom” truths, He would take them to a private or remote place?

About Caesarea Philippi

Caesarea Philippi was a Gentile city at the northernmost region of ancient Israel, some 25 miles or 40 km north of the Sea of Galilee, 50 miles southwest of Damascus and situated in a beautiful location at the foot of Mount Hermon.

Something noteworthy is the historical fact that Caesarea Philippi was a region strongly identified with pagan religions and idol worship. In his commentary, Barclay says, “The area was scattered with temples of the ancient Syrian Baal worship.”

Originally, Caesarea Philippi was called Paneas in honor of the pagan god Pan. And during the reign of King Herod the Great, he built a temple there to honor Augustus Caesar.

Who Do You Say Jesus Christ Is?
Photo Credits: enterthebible.org

When Herod’s son Philip took over, he developed and expanded the city and renamed it Caesarea in honor of Emperor Caesar. He then added his name to distinguish it from other regions named Caesarea, hence, Caesarea Philippi.

What a setting for Jesus to ask a very important question. They had just left the city where there were a lot of false teachings about Jesus. (See Matthew 16:5-12 where Jesus warned His disciples about the yeasts/leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.)

And as they came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, they saw the temple built by King Herod with all the statues of gods. Some commentators even suggest that Jesus and His disciples could be standing in front of the temple when the conversation took place.

The Question of Jesus’ Identity

In Matthew 16:13, Jesus asked a pointed question – a question of His identity: “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man am?” In other translations, it reads, “Who do people say the son of Man is?”

In other words, Jesus was asking what men in general, whether high or low, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, are saying about Him. Why did Jesus ask this question? Was He interested to know who people thought He was?

Is Jesus having some kind of identity crisis? Didn’t He know who He was? Or was it because He’s so concerned about other people’s opinion of Him? Of course not! Jesus knew exactly who He was.

Some say that one probable reason for asking this question was the changing opinions about Him under the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Consider this scenario: Every time Jesus finishes teaching a certain crowd, the religious teachers would step right in to teach the people something else contrary to what Jesus taught them.

No wonder then that despite all the wonders and miracles that Jesus performed which the people witnessed with their own eyes, they still couldn’t figure Him out.

The Reply

“Some say John the Baptist, some, Elijah, and others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (Matthew 16:14).

Obviously, people who thought that Jesus was John the Baptist (such as Herod the tetrarch in Matthew 14:1-3) didn’t know much about Him; or they would have known that Jesus and John had ministered at the same time.

Apparently, some people thought Jesus was a herald of national repentance like John the Baptist.

What do people believe about Jesus
Photo Credits: Bibleinfo.com

But why Elijah? Because of the miracles that Jesus performed, some people believed He was the forerunner of the Messiah and a famous worker of miracles. The Jews knew their Torah so very well and were familiar with the various miracles that Elijah performed (in the name of God).

And still, others thought Jesus was someone who spoke the word of God, like Jeremiah and the prophets.

The Unbelief of the People

Notice that no group was officially confessing Jesus as the Messiah. Regardless of the fact that in His words and His works, Jesus gave every evidence to the people that He was the Messiah, the Son of God, the people did not get the message.

They never denied that Jesus was a great teacher and prophet; they did not deny that He performed many miracles. Yet they chose to listen to popular opinions and followed them, instead of diligently seeking for the truth, just as many people do today.

Instead of following their convictions, the people chose to rely on their opinion and the opinions of others, and this is what led them all astray.

While the opinions of the crowd were complimentary towards Jesus, they were inaccurate. Jesus was much more than a national reformer like John the Baptist, more than a miracle worker than Elijah and more than a prophet like Jeremiah.

We might think that the above answers as to who Jesus is are not in any way bad or negative. However, the general tendency was to underestimate Jesus and to give Him a measure of respect and honor but end up falling short of the honor due to Him for who He really is.

The Follow-up Question

Going back to the question of Jesus’ identity, Jesus asked the question as an introduction to a more important follow-up question.

Upon hearing the different opinions of men concerning Him, I find it interesting that Jesus did not make any reflections or comments. Instead, He immediately redirected the question to His disciples. He asked, “But what about you? Who do you say I am” (Matthew 16:15)?

The disciples had been with Jesus for three years. They left everything and followed Him when He called them and became His disciples. Why? Because they believed in Him. You wouldn’t follow someone unless you believe in him, right?

On the part of Jesus, He knew exactly what kind of faith His disciples had on Him. He could see right through them and that is why He often rebuked them for their little faith and told them to increase their faith.

Why did Jesus have to ask His disciples who they thought He was? Because it was not enough to just believe in Him, they must confess Him as well. A confession has to be made as Romans 10:9-10 clearly says.

Romans 10:9-10

Peter Confesses Jesus as Christ

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16)! In other translations, it says, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”

Note: “The Christ” is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew “the Messiah,” meaning, the Anointed One.

In his answer, Peter was saying, “You are the Anointed One, the only Son of God, the Savior of the world, the Life Everlasting.”

Peter understood that Jesus was not only the Messiah but also God Himself. In the Jewish context, to receive the title “The Son of the Living God” in a unique sense was to make a claim to deity itself.

Jesus Pronounces a Blessing

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven” (Matthew 16:17).

You see, Christ’s messianic claims had always been subtle allusions to Old Testament prophecies, combined with miraculous works that substantiated those claims. Jesus had never explicitly taught His disciples the fullness of His deity.

So what happened was, God the Father had opened Peter’s eyes and heart and revealed to him who Jesus really was. When Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ (Messiah), the son of the Living God, it did not come out as a mere expression of an academic opinion about the identity of Jesus.

Who do you say Jesus Christ is?
Photo Credits: rainbowtoken.com

Instead, it was a confession of personal faith that was made possible only by a divinely-regenerated heart.

The carnal man does not have any idea who Jesus is (2 Corinthians 2:14). Only true believers are the ones who understand who Jesus really is. Unless God reveals to us in our spirit, we will never truly understand who Jesus really is.

Closing Words

We know that many people today do not believe Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of God and Savior of the world. But what about us as individuals, what do we believe about Jesus. Who do we say Jesus is?

“Who do you say I am?”

This is the question placed before us today and all who hear of Jesus. Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ? The Messiah? The son of the Living God? The Life Everlasting? Did you confess with your mouth His lordship over your life? Do you believe in your heart that Jesus is who He claimed to be?

Believing Jesus is the Messiah is one thing, confessing Him as Lord and Savior of your life is another thing, especially these days when talking about Jesus, Christianity and the Bible is not the most popular thing to do.

What you and I believe and confess about Jesus is a matter of life and death. We deserve the death penalty as a result of our sin but we receive eternal life as a gift from God when we place our faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.


*Recommended Resource: 

Who Do You Say that I AM?: A Fresh Encounter for Deeper Faith
By Becky Harling

Who Do You Say That I Am? is an 8-week study of the “I AM” statements of Jesus that will help women draw deeper into the Word of God for a more personal relationship with Christ. He wants your answer to his question, “Who do you say that I AM?”

The Study Book contains five days of study for each of the 8 weeks along with reflection questions.

Bless Israel and Be Blessed

Bless Israel and Be Blessed

There is a divine principle that begins in Genesis and runs through the Scripture: God blesses those that bless Israel. Simply put, if you bless Israel God will bless you.

When God asked Abraham to leave his country and go to a land that He will show him, God did not only promise to bless him exceedingly; He also promised blessings to those who will bless him and a curse to those who will curse him.

God’s Promise of Blessing and Curse

We are very certain that when God makes a promise, He will not change.

Genesis 12:1-3 (NKJV)

Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Do you notice how God’s policy of anti-Semitism is established beyond all doubt in these verses? God has promised to pour out His blessings on those who bless Abraham, and He has promised to curse those who curse him (anti-Semitic).

This promise to Abraham which is inherited by his descendants, the Jewish people, remains true today.

If you bless Israel God will bless you

Blessings to a Gentile Nation

A great Bible illustration of this principle is Joseph, a Jewish boy who was sold into Egypt by his own brothers, but who became the prime minister of Egypt.

Joseph foresaw seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. In the seven years of plenty, he built massive storehouses for grain for the seven years of famine. When the seven years of famine began, it affected all other lands but Egypt.

When the famine had spread over the whole land of Egypt and its neighboring countries, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to them. The Gentile world was saved from starvation because of one Jewish slave who became prime minister.

*Related Article: God’s Divine Providence in the Life of Joseph

We also read in the New Testament how Jesus supported the principle that God blesses the Gentiles through the Jewish people when He said, “… salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22).

The Gentiles received the Word of God through the Jews, the patriarchs, the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles. If you remove the Jewish contribution from Christianity, there would be no Christianity.

Why do you think America has been so blessed? Although America has committed many sins for which they deserve judgment, America has been a consistent friend of the Jews and the nation of Israel, as well as a benefactor.

Not only did the United States of America under President Harry Truman helped persuade the United Nations to recognize Israel as a nation in 1948, but America has also contributed billions of dollars in aid to Israel since then.

Under the Trump administration, America became the first country to recognize Jerusalem as the eternal, undivided capital of Israel. And just last month, the United States of America also recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

No other nation in the history of the world has a better record of treating individual Jews with respect than does America.

Blessings to a Gentile Employer

This principle is demonstrated in the story of Jacob and Laban (Genesis 29 – 31). In exchange for beautiful Rachel’s hand in marriage, Jacob agreed to work seven years for her father Laban.

After the seven years were over, Laban deceived Jacob and gave to him his older daughter Leah instead. Jacob was forced to work another seven years for Rachel. Laban also changed Jacob’s wages ten times and started treating him unfairly (Genesis 31:41).

So Jacob took off with Leah and Rachel and all their possessions. When Laban heard of this, he went after Jacob and convinced him to stay. Laban, the Gentile employer, acknowledged firsthand that God has blessed him because of Jacob, a Jew (Genesis 30:27).

Blessings for Blessing Israel

Blessings to a Gentile Benefactor

Ever asked yourself why God the Father chose the house of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion who lived in Caesarea, to be the first Gentile house in Israel to receive the Gospel? The answer is given repeatedly in Acts 10.

Three times in the book of Acts chapter 10 the Bible declares Cornelius, a man who gave alms to the people and prayed to God always (Acts 10:2, 4 & 31). Who were the people to whom Cornelius gave these alms? They were the Jews.

Cornelius was a man of good reputation among the Jews (Acts 10:22). As a result, Cornelius benefited from the principle of “I will bless those who bless you” (Genesis 12:3). What was his blessing?

As a god-fearing Gentile who expressed his unconditional love for the Jewish people in a practical manner, Cornelius was divinely selected by God to be the first Gentile household to receive the Gospel and the first to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

The apostle Peter was given a vision from God in which the religious barrier forbidding Jews from associating with Gentiles in spiritual matters was torn down. Peter went to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile, preached the Gospel, and all those in his house were saved and filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44).

God opened the windows of heaven and poured upon a Gentile and his house blessings he could not contain. And that’s because he blessed the Jewish people and the nation of Israel unconditionally.

Conclusion

If God did not cast off His original covenant people, neither should we. If we claim to sincerely love Yeshua, the Jewish Lord, we must love the Jewish people whom He loves.

Biblically speaking, the Jews are the chosen people of God. Christian believers should support the Jews because God loves them and cares so much about them as His chosen people.

While we do not have to support everything Israel does as a nation, we must support their right to exist as a sovereign nation. Some might think that God has forgotten Israel, abandoned them and that they have been replaced by the Church. That’s the biggest lie that’s circulating even among Christians today.

God will surely fulfill His promises and covenants with Israel. God still has a plan for them.

As Amir Tsarfati of Behold Israel always says, “The nation of Israel is our insurance policy. If God has abandoned the Jewish people and His covenant with them, what makes us think He would not abandon the church and His promises to us?”

Always keep this in mind: God promised, “I will bless those that bless Israel.”

What is Covenant in the Bible?

What is Covenant in the Bible?

The concept of “covenant” has been revolutionized by research in recent decades of studying the Old Testament. What is the idea of covenant in the Bible?

Many scholars, whether conservative or liberal, have maintained that “covenant” is the organizing principle around which Old Testament theology must be constructed and understood.

It has become clear that in the near eastern world of the second millennium before Christ, formal covenants were the primary way people who were not blood relatives related to one another.

The Meaning of Covenant

The word “covenant” basically means “contract;” it is an agreement between God and His people. In the said agreement, God makes promises to His people and usually requires certain conduct from them.

As used in Scriptures, the word “covenant” is the Hebrew word “Berith” which means “to cut or divide.” This is an allusion to the Jewish sacrificial custom in connection with covenant-making, where the two parties involved would divide the animal by which the covenant was ratified and laid them out in two halves.

After that, the contracting parties would then “walk between the pieces” to establish the covenant.

What is Covenant in the Bible?

In the Greek Septuagint, covenant is the Greek word “Diatheke.” Unlike Hebrew, the Greek differentiates between a covenant where one party is the recipient (diatheke) and the other the benefactor, and other covenant made between equal parties.

If the two parties come together in agreement, making it a two-way arrangement, the word “Suntheke” is used, which means “to place together.”

Of Meals and Marriages

People in Asia Minor, ancient Mesopotamia and first century Palestine depended on covenants to appease the gods, regulate personal affairs, international relations and business deals. All kinds of covenants existed between equal partners, between greater and lesser partners, and between absolute sovereigns and object servants.

Covenants were often memorialized with stone pillars (stellae) as Jacob and Laban did (Genesis 31:44-47). A ceremonial meal between the parties involved would signify the harmonious nature of the new relationship and a marriage between the two families seals the compact.

In every case, the gods of all parties involved were called to witness and guarantee the contract, agreement, vow or treaty.

Fortunately for Bible scholars, the people of the ancient Near East went out of their way to write down all kinds of covenants. All during the twentieth-century archaeologists dug up, dusted off, and deciphered clay tablets and stone monuments that recorded countless covenants regulating the commercial, political and religious life of nation after nation.

Perhaps the most significant covenants for Old Testament studies turned up in the archives of the Hittite monarchs, which were discovered in 1906 among the ruins of Boghaz-koi in Turkey.

*Related Article: What is the Adamic Covenant?

The Covenant Form

It has been demonstrated quite conclusively by Meredith Kline and others that the structure of the Hittite treaties between oriental monarchs and their abject vassals parallels in close detail the covenant format between Yahweh and Israel found in Exodus chapters 20 to 23, Joshua 24 and the Book of Deuteronomy.

When the one, true living God initiated a relationship with the descendants of Abraham, He utilized a covenant style universally understood at the time:

  • a preamble identifying the absolute sovereign
  • a brief history of relations between the absolute sovereign and the subject people
  • the benefits for and obligations of the subject people
  • an oath of allegiance and its accompanying blessings for obedience
  • a list of witnesses and directions for keeping the covenant

At times there followed instructions for periodic renewal of the covenant.

The Old and New Testament

The Bible is divided into an Old Testament and a New Testament. “Testament” was a synonym for “covenant” in the English era of King James I. All of God’s Word concerns an old and a new form of the way in which He provides for a personal, mutually committed relationship between Himself and those who He calls and who respond in faith to Him.

Various other biblical covenants predate the “old covenant” or elaborate aspects of it. People of God’s covenant have a basis for saying, “My beloved is mine, and I am his” (Song 2:16).


*ReferenceNKJV Prophecy Study Bible, 2015 Edition
Understanding God’s Message in the Last Days
General Editor: John Hagee

The prophecies of the Bible assure us that God will prevail. The NKJV;Prophecy Study Bible, 2015 Edition; has hundreds of pages of special features that offer a broad understanding of prophetic themes, salvation, covenants, and other important doctrines of the Christian faith.

Features include:

  • Introduction to Bible Prophecy
  • Index to Prophetic Passages
  • Top 20 Questions about Bible Prophecy
  • Diamonds for Daily Living
  • Evidences
  • Spokesmen for God
  • Bible Insights
  • Bible Prophecy Charts
  • Full concordance
What About The Unbelieving?

What About The Unbelieving?

God has promised His people a new heaven and a new earth. The old creation must make way for the new creation, if God is to be glorified. Jesus said this event will occur when “the world is made new” (Isaiah 65:17). By then, God’s eternal purpose in Jesus would have been accomplished and so as Ephesians 1:10.

The overcomers shall inherit the Kingdom of God: the new heaven and the new earth and will enjoy a special relationship with God. What about the rest of the unbelieving world? What will happen to them? They shall not inherit God’s Kingdom!

Bible Verse: Revelation 21:8 (NKJV)

“But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Reflection and Challenge

Is cowardice enough to send a person to hell? L. Morris says John here isn’t speaking of natural timidity, but of that cowardice which makes a person to ultimately choose himself and his safety over Christ.

Many Christians today say that they believe the Bible, but don’t live the way they should. If we truly understand the seriousness of our sin and the cost for Jesus to pay for our salvation, you would understand the consequence of being an unrepentant sinner. That is true for yourself and everyone else. Do you truly believe it?

Ephesians 1:10

The book of Revelation tells us what will happen in the end: God wins! And those who thirst for Him will be given freely from the fountain of life. This will all happen when the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven (Revelation 21:2). That should be very encouraging for all Christians, but also very humbling. The most important fact about the city is that God lives there with His people.

On the other hand, those who reject Jesus and become apostates are specifically prohibited from entering the New Jerusalem. All of those unrepentant family members, friends, coworkers, and everyone else that did not accept Jesus as their Savior will have to face God and pay for their sin in the Lake of Fire for eternity. Once in, you can’t get out.

The Lake of Fire

Hell or “the Lake of Fire” (Revelation 20:15) is a witness to the righteous character of God. He must judge sin. Hell is also a witness to human responsibility, the fact that people are not robots or helpless victims but creatures able to make choices.

God does not send people to hell; they send themselves by rejecting the Savior (Matthew 25:41; John 3:16-21). Hell is also witness to the awfulness of sin. If we once saw sin as God sees it, we would understand why a place such as hell exists. So to think that people I know could spend eternity there is heart-breaking.

Just seeing how the entire world is falling apart makes me wonder if the end of the world is drawing near. Nobody knows when they will die. Are you prepared to meet God?

If we truly believe that people you know could spend eternity in the Lake of Fire, won’t it affect how you relate to all the people around you?

Have you given them the Gospel? Do you pray for them? It is worth thinking about since every person will spend eternity in Heaven or Hell. How does that affect how you live?

What Is God’s Covenant With Adam?

What Is God’s Covenant With Adam?

God’s covenant with Adam, also called the Adamic Covenant found in Genesis 3:14-21, is the second general or universal covenant. But what is this all about? The Adamic Covenant could be called God’s covenant with mankind, for it sets forth the conditions which will hold sway until the curse of sin is lifted.

The conditions within the Adamic covenant include:

  • The serpent, the tool used by Satan to effect the fall of man, is cursed (Genesis 3:14).
  • Satan is judged; he will enjoy limited success but will be judged ultimately (Genesis 3:15).
  • The first prophecy of the coming Messiah is given (Genesis 3:15).
  • Multiplication of conception, necessitated by the introduction of death into the human race (Genesis 3:16).
  • There will be pain in childbirth (Genesis 3:16).
  • The woman is made subject to her husband (Genesis 3:16).
  • The ground is cursed and will bring forth weeds among the food which man must eat for his existence (Genesis 3:17-19).
  • Physical change takes place in man; he will perspire when he works and will have to work all his life (Genesis 3:19).
  • In sinning, man dies spiritually and ultimately will die physically. His flesh will decay until it returns to dust from which it was originally taken (Genesis 3:19).

The Sin of Adam

From man’s perspective, Adam’s sin does not seem to be a very great sin. All he did was take a bite of some fruit. But what made Adam’s sin serious is that the fruit was of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, of which God specifically said that he was not to eat under the penalty of death (Genesis 2:17).

Up to this time, Adam was morally innocent. But when he sinned, he became a sinner by nature. So he died. He not only died spiritually immediately, but he also began to die physically.

*Related Article: Death Penalty For Sin, Eternal Life In Christ

The story of creation tells us that Adam was the first man ever to live upon the face of the earth. From Adam and Eve has come every other human being who ever has lived. Thus, Adam is the “federal head” from whom every other man came. Like begets like. Dogs beget dogs. Apples beget apples. Human beings beget human beings.

Since Adam sinned before Eve conceived a child, every human descended from him is a sinner just like him except Christ. As a result of Adam’s sin, death entered into the human race (Romans 5:12-14); every human being needs to have the new life (John 3:3, 5-7).

Forbidden Fruit and Lost Innocence

Imagine what may very well have been the single worst moment in the history of humanity: Adam and Eve standing outside the gorgeous Garden of Eden – banished, an angel with a flaming sword to make sure they will never again experience the intimate walks and talks with God or the delicious fruit from the tree of life.

The blissful feelings of joy and security they had felt in the Garden of Eden were forever gone. In their place, Adam and his wife Eve felt only nagging, haunting emotions of fear, guilt, and shame.

Lost Paradise

Adam and Eve had declared their independence by a single act of rebellion against God. What they had done was more than merely eat a piece of forbidden fruit. At a deeper level, they had defied God’s clear-cut command. They chose to listen to the seductive voice of the serpent and succumbed to their own pride.

They made a huge mistake of overtly challenging the right of the Almighty God to guide and direct their lives, exercising authority and power over their own lives. The consequences of that deplorable decision were catastrophic: the curse of God their Maker, sorrow, death, and a life of pain and regret – not only for them but for all their descendants.

We can’t help but think that at some point, Adam and Eve must have taken one last look at Eden before turning away. Were they quiet? Who broke the silence? Did they blame each other? Or did they fall into each other’s arms?

The Curses Pronounced By God

1) A Curse on the Serpent

The first curse of God’s covenant with Adam and mankind is on the serpent, the tool used by Satan to deceive and seduce Adam and Eve into sin (Genesis 3:14-15). The curse affects not only the instrument, the serpent, but also the indwelling Satan who is still working hard to destroy God’s creatures (Revelation 12:9).

Great physical changes took place in the serpent. Apparently, the serpent walked upright before the curse; since, it has gone on its belly (Genesis 3:14). It used to be the most desirable animal of the animal creation; since, it has been the most despicable. The sight or thought of a snake should be an effective reminder of the devastating effects of sin.

The other half of the curse on the serpent is the predicted final judgment of Satan (Genesis 3:15). Satan will injure the “Seed” of the woman; however, ultimately he will be destroyed by the promised “Seed.” Satan wounded Christ through His suffering and death on the cross, but his apparent victory was only a “bruise” as the Resurrection proved.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ delivered the crushing blow to Satan as it defeated death, the legacy of the fall.

2) Curses on the Ground Causing Chaos to Return to Earth

When Adam and Eve sinned in rebellion against God by doing exactly what God has commanded them not to do, God pronounced curses on the ground which Adam and mankind were to tend as God’s representatives (Genesis 3:17-18; Genesis 2:15).

When God had created the earth, He caused order to replace chaos (Genesis 1:2). After Adam sinned, a measure of chaos was brought back into God’s ordered world. “Thorns and thistles” (Genesis 3:18) represent everything in life that resists human efforts to create order in God’s name.

Further Effects of Sin

Aside from the two curses, God also proclaimed how sin would affect both genders of humanity. The focus of sin’s effects on women is in childbearing, child rearing and in their relationships with men (Genesis 3:16).

The injection of physical pain into childbearing also hints at the years of emotional pain spent on child rearing. Within women’s relationships with their husbands, they are caught between their desire and need for intimacy and the tendency of their mates to dominate them, a clear violation of God’s intention of loving leadership.

On the other hand, men would find the effects of sin permeating their efforts to provide a livelihood for themselves and their families (Genesis 3:19).

The disorder loosed in the soil and in all human enterprise reduces men to toilers who can never win for long in their efforts to make a living. They continue to struggle in order to get ahead of the chaos represented by the thorns and thistles which in effect will distract them from God.

The Gift of Hope

As Adam and Eve began to reflect on the terrible, final moments in the Garden of Eden, they must have thought of the sorrow in God’s voice when He had called out, “Where are you?” And the puzzling curse on the serpent kept running through their minds (Genesis 3:14-15).

God said the serpent would inflict yet more pain and suffering upon humans, but in the end, he would be crushed by the Seed of Eve. It was a small ray of hope, a glimmer of a promise that Paradise would not remain lost forever, a promise of a Deliverer and Savior (fulfilled in Jesus Christ, see Galatians 3:16, 19-26).

It could be that Adam and Eve also recalled the gentle way the Lord had graciously provided them with clothes before sending them away – a hint of God’s love and mercy. The more they reflected, the more they must have become convinced that God wanted to restore them to Himself.

Great news! The long wait for God’s promised salvation has come. Today, unlike Adam and Eve, we don’t have to wait. The day of salvation is already here (2 Corinthians 6:2). Jesus has already come to save us from our sins. 

Did you receive God’s offer of salvation through the finished works of Christ? If you haven’t, now is the time to do it. Now is the day of salvation!


*Reference: 

NKJV Prophecy Study Bible, 2015 Edition   (Understanding God’s Message in the Last Days)

General Editor: John Hagee

The prophecies of the Bible assure us that God will prevail. The NKJV Prophecy Study Bible 2015 Edition has hundreds of pages of special features that offer a broad understanding of prophetic themes, salvation, covenants, and other important doctrines of the Christian faith.

Features include:

  • Introduction to Bible Prophecy
  • Index to Prophetic Passages
  • Top 20 Questions about Bible Prophecy
  • Diamonds for Daily Living
  • God’s Great Promises
  • God’s Great Salvation
  • Evidences
  • Spokesmen for God
  • Bible Insights
  • Bible Prophecy Charts
  • Full concordance
Why Mary Is Not The Mother Of God

Why Mary Is Not The Mother Of God

Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians frequently refer to Mary as the “Mother of God,” which Protestants object to. Considering the claim of the Catholic Church may even find the name to be a stumbling block. Why? Because to them “Mother of God” implies that God somehow has His origin in Mary. But how could the Creator of all things possibly have a mother?

In our Facebook group, we once had a discussion with a Catholic Catechist about the proper use of the term “Mother of God.” According to him, the term is not meant to exalt Mary but to give her the honor and respect that is rightfully hers for having been chosen to conceive and give birth to Jesus.

Since it is one of the group’s objectives to refute unbiblical doctrines, we tried explaining to him that although Mary is the mother of Jesus, she cannot be the mother of God. This is because God being the Creator of all things in heaven and on earth had no mother and did not need to have one.

Mother of God

Should we call Mary “Mother of God?”

In his book “Mary: Another Redeemer,” Dr. James R. White says that this is the single most misused theological term around. The logic seems inescapable: Jesus is God, come in human flesh. Mary is Jesus’ mother. Hence, Mary is the mother of God. What could be simpler?

Below is a chapter of the book where Dr. White explains more extensively why Mary is not the mother of God. He said that if everyone would just use the term “mother of God” to communicate just that – that Jesus Christ was truly and completely God – there would be no reason for him to include this brief chapter.

But most of the time when the phrase is used, the person using it is not in any way commenting on the fact that Jesus Christ was God and Man on the earth. They are not speaking about Christ at all, but about Mary, and they are using the title to give her a position of honor and power.

If you want to know more about the controversial movement to name Mary as Co-Redeemer with Christ, get the eBook here.

The Origin of the Term

What did the term mean in the ancient church? How is it being misused today? Anyone who reads the writing of the ancient church knows that the word translated “Mother of God” is the Greek term theotokos. Literally, the word means “God-bearer.” It became a title for Mary so that you often find her simply being called theotokos in devotional and theological writings. But where did the term come from?

Around the beginning of the fourth century, Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, first used this term when speaking of Mary. It is no coincidence that it was the teaching of Alexander that prompted the most famous “heretic” of all time – Arius, the great denier of the deity of Christ – to begin propagating his heresy.

Evidently, at that time, even in its earliest uses, the term was meant to say something about Jesus, not Mary. That is, the term was Christological in force. It was focused on Christ and was meant to safeguard the truth about His absolute deity.

The term really entered into the “orthodox” vocabulary through its usage at the Councils of Ephesus in AD 431) and more importantly, Chalcedon in AD 325. We can learn the most about how this term was originally understood by taking a moment to understand why it appears in the creed produced at Chalcedon.

The debate over the complete deity of Christ had lasted for many decades, continuing on well after the Council of Nicea had finished its work in AD 325, not coming to completion until the Council of Constantinople in AD 381. But once this great truth was properly safeguarded, other questions began to arise.

One of the questions went like this: Granted that Jesus Christ was truly God and inhuman flesh, how then are we to understand the relationship between the divine and the human in Christ? Was He really a man at all? Did His deity swallow up His humanity? Was there some mixture of the two? Or was Jesus two people: one divine and one human, merely sharing one body?

Sadly, the debate was undertaken in anything but a calm and respectful climate. More time was spent on political maneuvering than upon meaningful exegesis. But despite the rancor of the debate, the resulting understanding was very important, especially for our understanding of the term theotokos.

Debate Over the Nature of Christ

One of the principal participants in the debate over the nature of Christ was a man named Nestorius. But since he was eventually condemned as a heretic, we have some doubts as to whether we a completely accurate (or fair) view of his beliefs, as they have come down to us primarily through the writings of his enemies.

Basically, Nestorius objected to the use of the word theotokos. He quite rightly expressed concern that the word could be easily misunderstood. But most importantly, his denial of the propriety of theotokos led him to insist that Mary was the mother of the human “element” of Christ, which resulted in a functional separation of the divine from the human in Christ. The basic danger of Nestorius’ position, then, was that it led to a Jesus who was two “persons,” with no real connection between the divine and the human.

Those who defended the use of theotokos did so by insisting that the Messiah was fully human and fully divine from the moment of conception, hence, the Child who was born was not only a human Child with deity dwelling in him but was the God-Man, the Incarnate One.

Chalcedon insisted that Jesus was one Person with two distinct natures, the divine and the human. The divine did not “swallow up” the human, nor was it “mixed” with the human to create something that was neither fully God nor fully man. Nor was Jesus schizophrenic – a human person, Jesus, and a divine Person, separate from Him. He was one person with two natures.

What is vitally important today is that the term “God-bearer” as it was used in the creed and as it was applied to Mary in these controversies said something about the nature of Christ, not the nature of Mary. “Mother of God” is a phrase that has proper theological meaning only in reference to Christ.

Hence, any use of the term that is not simply saying, “Jesus is fully God, one divine Person with two natures,” is using the term anachronistically, and cannot claim the authority of the early church for such a usage.

*Get Dr. James White’s book “Mary, Another Redeemer” here.

The Misuse of the Term Today

Outside of the seminary classes and theological debates about the Trinity, you will not hear the term “Mother of God” used in a historically proper and theologically accurate way. That is, every time you hear the title used outside those contexts it was being used to say something about Mary rather than something about Christ.

Obviously, Nestorius was right about one thing: the term is liable to serious misuse and misunderstanding.

Conclusion

Mary is not the mother of God in the sense that she gave rise to the being of God. We normally use the word “mother” to refer to the one who gave rise to us as individuals, and from whom we derived our human nature. Yet the divine Person who became Jesus, the eternal Son of God (Colossians 1:13-17), the Logos (John 1:1-14), has existed eternally and is the Creator of Mary.

Mary was used to bring the Incarnate One into the world, but she did not add to or give rise to the Eternal son who came into the world through her. Her Child was fully divine (hence she is theotokos) but she herself did not give rise to the divinity of her Son. For this reason, there can be nothing about the term theotokos that in any way exalts Mary, but only Christ.

Of course, if this is true, then the vast majority of the use of the phrase “Mother of God” in our world today is simply in error. Prayers addressed to “Mother of God” that seek her intercession and ascribe to her power and glory and honor are using the title in a way completely foreign to the biblical truths that gave rise to it in the first place.

And the fact that, in general, the term is avoided as improper outside the narrow spectrum in which it speaks to the important truth of the uni-personality of Christ, as well as His full deity, is a testimony to the spiritual sensitivity of believing Christians.

We cannot help but conclude that the use of “Mother of God” as a title for Mary that leads to her being seen in quasi-divine categories is nothing but a gross misunderstanding of the true relationship between the Blessed Virgin of Nazareth and the eternal God who sent the eternal Son to be born of her.


*Reference: Mary-Another Redeemer? – eBook  By James R. White 

Mary, Another Redeemer? explores Roman Catholic teachings about Mary from a biblical and historical perspective. Skilled and knowledgeable author James White traces how the Mary of the Bible – esteemed mother of the Lord, obedient servant and chosen vessel of God–has become the Immaculately Conceived, Bodily Assumed Queen of Heaven, viewed as Co-Mediator with Christ, and now widely recognized as Co-Redeemer by many in the Catholic Church.

A calm, even-handed look at the woman the Bible calls “blessed among women” – and an invitation to single-minded devotion to God’s truth.

About the author: 

James R. White is the author of several acclaimed books, including The God Who Justifies, Scripture Alone, The King James Only Controversy and The Forgotten Trinity. The director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, he is an accomplished debater of Muslim apologists and an elder of the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church. He and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona. 

Important Biblical Principles On Giving

Important Biblical Principles On Giving

In chapter 16 of 1 Corinthians, we read that one of the most important ministries the apostle Paul had during his third journey was the gathering of a special “relief offering” for the poor believers in Jerusalem.

While this special offering was not the same as our Lord’s Day collection, it does give several important biblical principles on giving for believers today.

Giving is an Act of Worship

I believe it’s tragic when church members give only as a duty and forget that our offerings are to be spiritual “sacrifices” presented to the Lord (Philippians 4:18). Giving should be an act of worship to the resurrected and ascended Savior.

It’s interesting that Paul mentioned the offering just after his discussion about the resurrection. In the original manuscripts there were no chapter breaks, so the readers would go right from Paul’s hymn of victory (1 Corinthians 15:54-56) into his discussion about money.

Doctrine and duty go together, so do worship and works. Our giving is not in vain because our Lord is alive. It is His resurrection power that motivates us to give and to serve.

Giving Should be Systematic

Some Bible students suggested that many people were paid on the first day of the week during that time in history. But even if they were not, each believer was to set aside his offering at home and then bring it to the assembly on the first day. Paul did not want to have to take up a number of collections when he arrived in Corinth. He wanted the whole contribution to be ready (1 Corinthians 16:2).

If today’s church members were as systematic in their giving as they are in handling their other financial matters, the work of the Lord would not suffer as it sometimes does.

*Related Article: Biblical Principles of Tithing

Do you know that members of the Yoido Full Gospel Church, the largest Pentecostal Christian congregation in South Korea founded by Pastor David Yonggi Cho, would go to the bank days before worship day to exchange their old paper bills with new ones for their tithes and offering? And if they have no time to go to the bank they would iron them flat, making them crisp and looking new.

Preparing our tithes and offerings at home is a good practice to adapt. The word of God says, “Each one should give what he has decided in his heart to give …” (2 Corinthians 9:7). What better way to decide how much we should give than seeking God at home before going to church.

Giving is Personal and Individual

Paul expected each member to share in the offering, the rich and the poor alike. Anyone who had an income was privileged to share and to help those in need. He wanted all to share in the blessing.

Do not wait to get rich before you start giving to the Church. As someone once said, “Little can become a lot in the hands of Jesus.” Do you want God’s blessings? Be a blessing!

Giving is to be Proportionate

“A portion of the money you have earned” (1 Corinthians 16:2 NLT) suggests that believers who have more should give more. The Jewish believers in the church would have been accustomed to the tithe, but Paul did not mention any special proportion.

Certainly, the tithe (10% of one’s income) is a good idea to begin our stewardship, but we must not remain in that level. As the Lord gives us more, we should plan to give more.

Honor the Lord with your wealth - Proverbs 3:9-10

You must be familiar with the quote that says, “When God blesses you financially, don’t raise your standard of living, raise your standard of giving.” But when Brother Jess Cortez (a guest author of this website) exhorted tithes and love offering at Church, he said that God’s principle is actually the complete opposite of this.

Based on Proverbs 3:9-10, the sequence is: 1) Do not raise your standard of living, 2) raise your standard of giving, 3) and then God will bless you to overflowing.

Final Thoughts

Christian giving is a grace, the outflow of the grace of God in our lives and not the result of promotion or pressure. An open heart cannot maintain a closed hand. If we appreciate the grace of God extended to us, we will want to express that grace by sharing with others.


*Create your own Christian website for free like I did and share the love of God to the world, His goodness and faithfulness in your life. My recommended training platform will show you how to do that step by step.

Create your own website here for free now!

The How’s and Why’s of Praise and Worship

The How’s and Why’s of Praise and Worship

In my previous article “The Biblical Roots of Christian Praise and Worship,” I dealt with the Tabernacle of Moses from which praise and worship in churches today had its origin. In this article, we will look at the how’s and why’s of praise and worship. Why and how should the people of God praise and worship the Lord?

As a redeemed Christian, I am pretty sure you are familiar with the “praise and worship” part of the church service. Some even say it is their favorite part, aside from the sermon or message, of course. But how much do we really know about praise and worship?

The book of Psalms is a good place to start, for it is all about praising and worshiping God. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to tackle all chapters that deal with this topic and compress them all into just one article.

However, I am convinced that Psalm 95 gives us a basic understanding of praise and worship:

Psalm 95:1-7 (NLT)

1 Come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come to Him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to Him. 3 For the Lord is a great God, a great King above all gods. 4 He holds in his hands the depths of the earth and the mightiest mountains. 5 The sea belongs to Him, for He made it. His hands formed the dry land, too.

6 Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, 7 for He is our God. We are the people He watches over, the flock under His care.

Understanding Praise and Worship

The Hebrew word “Yadah” translated “praise” means “to stretch out the hand.” That is, to hold out the hands in reverence, to open the hands and let go of everything.

Alban Douglas made a very good point when he said (in his book 100 Bible Lessons) that if we hold the Lord in the highest state, respect or adoration, it would be easy for us to praise Him. That is because we only praise something or someone that we honor and regard so highly.

Why we praise the Lord

Worship, on the other hand, has several meanings in the Bible. Worship in Hebrew is “Shachah” meaning, “to prostrate, to bow down, to fall down or to stoop.” In the Greek New Testament, there are 3 words translated as worship:

a) Pruskuneo – meaning “to kiss (like a dog licking his master’s hand), to fawn or crouch to, to adore.” It occurs 59 times in the New Testament, carrying with it the idea of falling down to kiss the ground before a king or kiss their feet.

b) Latreuo – used 21 times in the New Testament, which means “to render religious service of homage.”

c) Sebomai – used 10 times in the New Testament, and it means “to reverence or hold in awe.”

Difference Between Praise and Worship

Basically, praise means looking up, while worship means bowing down. Do you know that some people who enjoy lifting their hands and shouting do not enjoy bowing their knees and submitting?

True worship is much deeper than communal praise; for worship involves realizing the awesomeness of God and experiencing the fear of the Lord and a deeper love for Him

How to Praise and Worship the Lord

The psalmist tells us that our praise should be joyful and enthusiastic – he even commands us to sing and shout, and wholly focused on the Lord (Psalm 95:1). How do we worship the Lord? By bowing down and kneeling before Him (Psalm 95:6).

Too often Christian praise is nothing but religious entertainment; it never moves into spiritual enrichment in the presence of the Lord. It is important to understand that praise and worship is not a show whose goal is to appeal to the flesh or natural part of man.

The verb “come” (Psalm 95:2) means “to go to meet God face-to-face, and be in His presence.” Do we have a personal encounter with God during praise and worship? Or do we treat this part of church service only as a form of entertainment?

Why We Praise and Worship the Lord

A. We praise the Lord because He is great and above the false gods of this world (Psalm 95:3).

The Scriptures are very clear God; we are to worship the Lord our God only (Luke 4:8; Psalm 45:11) and we are not to worship idols. God is a jealous God and does not want to share His glory with anyone (Exodus 20:5). No wonder that when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, the command to not have any other god besides Him is first on the list (Exodus 20:2-3).

Unfortunately, many people in the world worship idols of wood and stone, either out of ignorance or because they do not believe in the one true God – the God of the Bible. Many worship idols of self, money, business, possession, power, pleasure and family.

True worship

Let us not forget how God punished the nations for ascribing worship and adoration to false gods. He even punished His chosen people, Israel, for repeatedly falling into the sin of idolatry as a result of living alongside these nations and intermarrying with them.

We should delight in praising God because He is not only the Creator of the universe but He also controls all things. The depths of the sea and the earth, and the heights of the mountains all belong to Him. The Lord knows what is going on in the waters as well as on the earth (Psalm 95:4-5).

*Note: Christians should not praise the Lord only in health and prosperity, but also in sickness and in adversity. We should praise the Lord in anything and everything (Philippians 4:6). Because the true Christian is one who can trust and praise the Lord even through blinding tears.

B) We worship the Lord because He is our God; we are His people and He watches over us and cares for us (Psalm 95:7).

The object of worship is God. He alone is Yahweh the Lord, the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God. He is our Maker and our Shepherd (Psalm 23). Jubilation has its place only if it becomes adoration and we fall prostrate before Him in total submission, “lost in wonder, love, and praise.”

*Are you a worship leader or an aspiring worship leader? Here’s a short video on how to make a line up for praise and worship:

Conclusion

In closing, let me just say that there are a lot more reasons why Christians should praise and worship the Lord. But in this age, when inventing clever new worship forms is a common practice and novelty is slowly replacing theology, the Word of God is a vital part of Christian worship. Hearing and heeding God’s word must be central if our worship, private or corporate, is to be truly Christian.

Praise and Worship

And whether we worship at home or in the church is immaterial. What matters to God is our spiritual condition. Our goal in praise and worship is not only to sing songs of praise and adoration for God; we must come into His presence in total surrender so we can hear His voice and be able to tap into His power and anointing.

What motivates you to praise and worship the Lord? How do you do it? Please let us know in the comments below.


*Are you interested to take up Christian drum lessons? Join worship guitar class right here.

What about Eating Food Sacrificed to Idols?

What about Eating Food Sacrificed to Idols?

In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul gives instructions about a subject which seems irrelevant today in many cultures – eating food sacrificed to idols. What was the problem faced by Paul’s readers at that time for him to consider it necessary to address this issue? More importantly, what principles in this passage can be applied today?

When Paul advised the believers in Corinth about meat or food sacrificed to idols, idolatry and sacrifices were as familiar to his readers as shopping centers are to modern audiences. On the other hand, people today are as bewildered about the practices of idolatry as a Corinthian would be in a supermarket.

The Problem Faced by the Church at Corinth

In the ancient world, there were 2 sources of meat: the regular market where the prices were higher and the local temples where meat from the sacrifices was always available. The Handbook of Life in Bible Times helps us understand the situation:

1 Corinthians 13:8 Bible Study

So Paul writes the 8th chapter of 1 Corinthians to help them see this problem from a Christian perspective. First, he tells them that in one sense he doesn’t really care whether they eat food sacrificed to idols because “an idol is nothing in the world and that there is no other God but one” (1 Corinthians 8:4-6).

Secondly, Paul realizes that food is spiritually neutral – meaning, food does not bring us near to God. In other words, we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We aren’t any better if we eat nor are we worse if we do not. However, Paul realizes that “not everyone possesses this knowledge” (1 Corinthians 8:7-8).

The “strong members” of the church knew that idols could not contaminate food, and so they saved money by purchasing the cheaper meat available from the temples. After all, who does not love a bargain? Not only that. They would also attend feasts held at the temple or in the home of their unconverted friends and eat sacrificial meat served to them.

The Christians who felt free to eat at the idol temple may have based their freedom on the correct knowledge that idols are nothing. But Paul is asking them to think about those who are not knowledgeable about this. He affirms what they know about an idol being nothing but he tells them that showing love to their fellow Christians is more important to God than being right (1 Corinthians 8:1).

It’s possible that the Corinthian Christians were reasoning like this: “Since idols are really nothing, it must mean nothing to eat meat sacrificed to them; it must also mean nothing to eat in the temples used to worship idols who are nothing.”

But all of this offended the weaker Christians, many of whom had been saved out of pagan idolatry. Paul was concerned that because they had been deeply involved in idol worship prior to their conversion, they might misunderstand if he and others ate food sacrificed to idols.

The Weaker Christians

When Paul speaks of a “weak brother” in 1 Corinthians 8:11, he does not necessarily mean someone who is easily tempted to sin. He is also not talking about being weak or strong in regard to self-control, but in regard to knowledge. Paul has in mind an over scrupulous Christian who is extremely careful to always do what is morally right and proper.

So Paul exhorts the strong Christians in the church – the believers who had spiritual knowledge and experience and who understood their authority and freedom in Christ – to care for the weak. And they are to do this by building them up and using their knowledge in love (1 Corinthians 8:1).

Some people have the false notion that the strong Christians are the ones who live by rules and regulations, and who get offended when others use their freedom in Christ, but such is not the case. It is the weak Christians who are afraid to use their freedom in Christ and must have the security of law.

In reality, it is the weak Christians who are prone to judge and criticize stronger believers and to stumble over what they do. As a result, it becomes more difficult for the strong “saints” to minister to their weaker brothers and sisters.

Becoming a Stumbling Block to Others

The real issue here isn’t idol meat, but rather that the exercise of your right does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” In other words, Paul does not want us to do anything that might cause other Christians to sin by violating their consciences, for this would wound or destroy them.

Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 8:9-12 (NIV):

Do not be a stumbling block to others“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.”

Why is their conscience weak? Their conscience is weak not because it isn’t working, but because it operates on the idea that an idol is really something. They have consciousness of an idol and when they eat meat sacrificed to idols, they eat it as something offered to an idol.

Rather than taking the risk of offending the weaker brethren, thus sinning against them and against God, Paul concludes: “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat again meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:13).

Application for Christians Today

Perhaps the issues today where most stumble in that are relevant to Christian liberty include entertainment such as movies, music or television. Does the kind of movie or TV show we watch or the music we listen to have something to say about the level of our spirituality? What about drinking liquor and smoking?

The principle here is clear: Our actions should never be based on what we know to be right for ourselves; we also need to consider what is right in regard to our brothers and sisters in Christ. We should not cause a fellow believer in Christ to stumble over an issue that has direct relevance to the person in question.

It’s pretty easy for us to say, “I answer to no one but God and God alone.” But in doing so, we ignore a weaker brother or sister. It’s true that we will answer to God and God alone, but we will answer to Him for how we have treated our brother or sister.

At the Jerusalem Council, abstaining from food sacrificed to idols was one of the things discussed and commended for some churches (Acts 15:29). But Paul’s discussion of the issue with the Corinthian believers does not in any way contradict what has been agreed upon by the church leaders at the Jerusalem Council.

It must be made clear that the Council’s decision in regards to abstaining from meat sacrificed to idols was not intended to be normative for the churches all the time; it was only temporary as a means to advance the cause of the gospel among the Jews.

Conclusion

In summary, Paul is telling the Corinthians and the Christians today not to eat food sacrificed to idols if it causes those who are weak to follow their example. We are not to allow the freedom (in any area) we have in Christ to become a stumbling block to others. Rather, we should only do those things which build up others in love.

Freedom in Christ

Christians should not abuse their liberty and think that it is a small matter to offend their weak brethren. If what we do causes the weaker brethren to stumble and sin, then we should not do it. Christian behavior is founded not on knowledge but on love; and the goal of the Christian life is not knowledge but love.

Is God in Complete Control of Everything?

Is God in Complete Control of Everything?

One of the areas Christians often struggle with has to do with trusting God’s hand in every situation. When things do not happen the way we want them to, we immediately assume that God is silent. But the Bible assures us that God is in complete control of everything.

In theology, this doctrine is called “Divine Providence.” It is the means by which God directs all things – seen and unseen, good and evil, animate and inanimate – toward a worthy purpose. We may not always understand the reason behind every event that transpires in the world and in our lives personally and individually, but God wants us to trust Him because He always works things out for our good.

In just about every book in the Bible, we see God’s Providence at work. God has a hand in everything and He is never OUT OF CONTROL. We also see this taught in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

The verse says, “all things,” which means ALL things – whether good or bad. It may seem to us like evil is tearing the world apart, but if we look at it from God’s perspective, we realize that it is actually playing a secondary role for God to carry out His greater purpose. God allows things for a reason and His plan is always good.

God’s Providence in the Life of Joseph

The Joseph Narrative contained in Genesis chapters 37 and 39-50 is one of the best illustrations of God’s providence. When we read through these chapters, we see that Joseph is the central human character at nearly every point.

Who is Joseph? And how did God use every detail in his life to fulfill His plan? Joseph was the 11th among the 12 sons of Jacob, he was the first son of Jacob with Rachel, he had a younger brother named Benjamin and he was Jacob’s favorite and most loved among all his sons.

A. Joseph Sold by His brothers

Out of hatred, Joseph’s brothers conspired to kill him when he followed them to Shechem and into Dothan pasturing their flocks (Genesis 37:18-20). They hated Joseph for three reasons: 1) he reported to his father the bad things that they were doing (Genesis 37:2), 2) he was their father’s favorite son and made him a coat of many colors (Genesis 37:3-4), and 3) he told them his dreams of arrogant superiority (Genesis 37:6-8, 9-10).

“Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph – a beautiful robe.” – Genesis 37:3

But God used Reuben, their eldest brother, to deliver him out of their hands (Genesis 37:21-22). Eventually, they sold him to the Ishmaelite traders for 20 shekels of silver (Genesis 37:28), who in turn sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard (Genesis 37:36).

B. Joseph becomes a Successful Administrator in Egypt (Genesis 39)

While in Egypt, Joseph worked for his master Potiphar and became a successful administrator. Why? Was it because he was smart and possessed extraordinary administrative skills? Not really!

The Bible clearly identifies the reason. Joseph succeeded in everything he did because the Lord was with himthe Lord was with Joseph (Genesis 39:2-3) and for Joseph’s sake, the Lord blessed Potiphar’s household and all that he had (Genesis 39:5).

Unfairly jailed, Joseph rose to inmate administrator (Genesis 39:19-20). Why? Again, the Bible leaves no doubt as to who is responsible for Joseph’s success. The Lord was with Joseph in the prison; He showed him mercy and gave him favor in the sight of the warden, who put him in charge of all the other prisoners and everything that happened in the prison (Genesis 39:21-23).

“But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison … the Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed.” – Genesis 39:21, 23

The inspired narrator pointed to God as the One working things out for Joseph. It’s all God. God is in complete control of everything that‘s happening in the life of Joseph. Whatever managerial skills Joseph might have had clearly played a secondary role in God’s intervention in his life.

C. Joseph Interprets Two Dreams (Genesis 40)

When we read that Joseph was thrown into prison, we would think that it’s the end of the narrative. But God isn’t finished yet, not by a long shot. When Pharaoh’s chief cup bearer and chief baker who were put in prison by their master each had a dream, Joseph interpreted it for them. However, the chief cup bearer who was restored to his former position as Joseph predicted forgot all about him (Genesis 40:23).

D. Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dreams and was Made the Ruler of Egypt (Genesis 41)

Two full years had passed when Pharaoh had two dreams that no one could interpret; not even the magicians and wise men of Egypt. And that was when the chief cup bearer remembered Joseph who was still in prison. He told Pharaoh about Joseph who interpreted his and the chief baker’s dreams.

Pharaoh sent for Joseph and asked for the interpretation of his two dreams, which are about the 7 years of plenty that are about to come followed by 7 years of famine. Because of the wisdom that God gave Joseph to interpret his dreams, Pharaoh made Joseph ruler over all Egypt, second in rank to him.

Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the entire land of Egypt.” – Genesis 41:41

During the 7 years of prosperity, Joseph gathered and stored an immeasurable amount of grain in Egypt. So when the 7 years of famine began, people all around the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph.

E. Joseph’s Brothers Go to Egypt

While in Canaan, Jacob heard that grain was available in Egypt. So he sent his sons, except Benjamin, to Egypt to buy grain. After 13 years, Joseph came face to face with his brothers once again. But they did not recognize him.

After several trips to Egypt, Joseph’s brothers settled there. Their father Jacob also went to Egypt, along with all his descendants, livestock and goods, and they all settled in Goshen.

God’s Greater Purpose in the Life of Joseph

The entire process of Joseph’s fall and rise to power was God’s doing. His release from prison because of his God-given interpretation skills, his exaltation to power and the opportunity to help his family during the famine all point to God’s providence.

The focus in the narrative was on God, and He can accomplish what He wills. Even the evil intent of Joseph’s brothers toward him was used by God to fulfill His purpose. As he said to his brothers, “Am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:19-20).

The chain of events that took place was part of God’s bigger plan for Israel as a nation. God sent Joseph to Egypt ahead of his family in order to make way for the preservation of the Canaanites and Egyptians together with them during the time of famine. How did God get Joseph to Egypt? By allowing his brothers the freedom to sin.

As it turned out, Egypt was where God built up and multiplied His people. God prepared them there for the exodus and conquest that He would use to give them the land that He promised to Abraham – the land that’s flowing with milk and honey: Canaan.

Conclusion

God is in control of everything. In the same way that God worked in the life of Joseph, and used even his mistakes and allowed him to experience misfortunes in order to accomplish His purpose, God is also working in the life of every believer who loves Him to carry out His will.

Whatever you’re going through, know that God will use them all for your own good. He can even turn the bad things into blessings for you. God called all believers for a purpose and He will accomplish it. We can make many plans but in the end, it’s the Lord’s purpose that will prevail (Proverbs 19:21).