Apologetics : Have the charismatic gifts ceased? Charismatic Apologetics Christian Ministry

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The issue of the whether or not the charismatic spiritual gifts are for today has caused much debate and division in the body of Christ. The extremes are amazing. There are groups that say that if you do speak in tongues, then you are under demonic control and are not saved. On the other hand, some say that if you do not speak in tongues, then you are not saved. What’s more, both extremes use scripture to support their positions.

Fortunately for the Christian church, whether or not the spiritual gifts are for today is not a salvation issue. Therefore, we need to be gracious. Romans 14:5 says, “One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind.” As you can see, the Bible leaves room for debate and differences of opinion on non-essential doctrines. The issue of whether or not the charismatic gifts are still around is a debatable issue, and charity needs to be granted from both sides of the argument. This is not an issue to divide over as many, unfortunately, have chosen to do.1

It is my opinion that the charismatic spiritual gifts are still in effect. I do not believe they ceased with the apostles or with the completion of the Bible. If you disagree, that is fine. But let me give you my reasons here.

For simplicity’s sake, I will state a standard objection to the continuance of the spiritual gifts and then I will give what I believe is a basic but sufficient refutation for that argument. All the verses quoted are listed in full at the end of this paper.

Argument 1: Since we have the Bible we do not need spiritual gifts. 1 Cor. 13:8-13 is usually quoted as scriptural support for the position:

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Some vigorously maintain that the “perfect” is the completed Bible and, therefore, the extraordinary gifts are no longer needed. But I do not think these verses can be used to support cessationism. This is why.

Verse 12 says, “…then we shall see face to face.” The word “then” refers back to the phrase “when the perfect comes.” Since the only infallible interpreter of Scripture is Scripture, a quick examination of the way God uses the term “face to face” should help us understand this passage better.

The phrase is used throughout the Bible and always means an encounter with a person. When God uses it in reference to Himself, it means a visual, personal encounter with Him (Gen. 32:30; Ex. 33:11; Num. 12:8; Deut. 5:4; and Jer. 32:4). Likewise in the New Testament, it is also used in speaking of personal encounter (2 Cor. 10:1; 2 John 1:12; 3 John 1:14, etc.). “When the perfect comes… then we shall see face to face” seems, most logically, to refer a personal encounter; at least, that seems to be how God uses the phrase.

If the position is taken that the “perfect” is the completed Bible, how then do we encounter God in the manner as the phrase suggests: an encounter with a person? Seeing Christ face to face occurs when He returns.

Another “then” is mentioned in verse 12: “then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” The word “then” again refers back to the phrase “when the perfect comes.” Again, we need to look at how the Bible uses words. This time we’ll look at the word “know.” Scripture says that eternal life is to know God (John 17:3). Only the believer is known by Jesus (John 10:27; Gal. 4:8-9; Rom. 8:29). The unbeliever is not known by Jesus (Matt. 7:21-23). In every verse except for one, God says He only knows believers.2 This is a salvific knowing; that is, it is a kind of knowing that God does of the Christians. He knows them and they are saved. The unbelievers are not known and are, therefore, not saved.3

It would seem most consistent with scripture to say that “…as I am fully known” would refer to a salvation relationship between Jesus and the Christian. At the return of Christ, we (the ones known) shall know fully; we shall see face to face the One who is our Savior.

Also, we don’t “know” Jesus through the Scripture; we know about Him from the Scripture (John 5:39). Instead, we know Him by personal encounter (John 1:12; 1 Cor. 1:9) through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. We don’t know in a full sense right now, even though we have the Bible because we are still corrupted by our sin nature. In our fallen state, we can only see Christ through sin-clouded eyes. We see a reflection of Christ in the Word. When Jesus returns the reflection of the truth will pass to clear understanding (the way childish thoughts give way to mature ones) when we receive our resurrected bodies, no longer have to battle sinful flesh, and can see Him face to face because “we shall be like Him,” (1 John 3:2) and then, “…we shall know fully.” The context of 1 Cor. 13:8-13 seems, in my opinion, to show that the spiritual gifts will cease when Jesus returns.

Interestingly, 1 Cor. 1:7 may be consulted here as well. It says, “so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our lord Jesus Christ.” The Greek word here for “revealed” is apokalupsis. It means the apocalypse, the return of Jesus. In both this verse and 1 Cor. 13:8-13 the gifts, which aren’t differentiated as to kind, are connected to the return of Christ, not the completion of the Bible. One more thing, the word gift in the Greek is charisma. This is where we get the word ‘charismatic.’

Argument 2: Present day tongues are further revelation and must then be equal to Scripture and should be included in the Bible. But since the Bible is not to have anything added to it, the gift of tongues (and therefore, the rest of the spiritual gifts) must no longer be valid.

This is a faulty argument because the Scripture itself recognizes inspired revelation that is not to be added to the Bible: “What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church” (1 Cor. 14:26). Here, in the Corinthian church, revelations were given that were not made part of the Bible. This shows that there were, for lack of a better word, “different” kinds of revelation: one from the prophets and apostles meant for canonization and another through the Spirit to be used in the church for edification — not canonization. So, in my opinion, for someone to maintain that revelation today is a threat to the Canon does not consider 1 Cor. 14:26, and is not applying Scripture properly.

Argument 3: There is such misuse of the gifts that they couldn’t possibly be real.

First of all, misuse of the gifts implies their existence. They couldn’t be misused if they did not exist. The only real position to be taken here would be that the use of the gifts really is no use, but is only fakery and self-deception.

I do not deny that the gifts are misused. I have heard manifestations of tongues, interpretations of tongues, and prophecy that, in my opinion, were not genuine. But I do not discredit the gifts based on those experiences any more than I would say that the gift of preaching is gone because I have seen it misused. Experience does not make doctrine, the Bible does.

Second, it is not a sick child that needs discipline and correction, it is the active, energetic, exploring child that needs to be guided. This was so with the Corinthian church. They were using the gifts greatly but improperly and needed to be corrected on their proper use.

1 Cor. 13 is the main place where the cessationists (those who believe the gifts have ceased) go for their position. However, upon looking at the context, I believe 1 Cor. 13 teaches that the gifts will cease when Jesus returns.

 

 

Inside the Bible

Paul Said
1 Corinthians 14:1, “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.”

1 Corinthians 12:31, “But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.”

1 Corinthians 13:8–13, “Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  

Inside CARM

Debate: Matt Slick vs Dr. Sam Waldron on the Charismatic gifts 
Let me begin by stating that there are differing views on the charismatic gifts in the Christian church today. Our differences of opinion on this issue reveal our lack of ability to perfectly understand God’s word and we should be humble before each other because of this.

What is speaking in tongues?
Speaking in tongues is the New Testament phenomena where a person speaks in a language that is unknown to him. This language is either the language of angels or other earthly languages (1 Cor. 13:1). It occurred in Acts 2 at Pentecost and also in the Corinthian church as is described in 1 Corinthians 14. This New Testament gift was given by the Holy Spirit to the Christian church and is for the purpose of the edification of the Body of Christ as well as for glorifying the Lord.
 

Dictionary

“Tongues of Fire. Phrase occurring only in Acts 2:3 describing the supernatural happenings on the Day of Pentecost. It describes the visible manifestation of the Spirit. The tongues of fire seem to be the fulfillment of John the Baptist’s proclamation that the Coming One would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire (Mt 3:11; Lk 3:16). Fire is often associated with the manifestation of God’s presence in the OT, such as at the burning bush (Ex 2). This combines with the audible manifestation of a strong wind to speak of the Spirit’s powerful presence on this historic day when the exalted Jesus poured out the Spirit on his disciples and other believers. The disciples are described as filled with the Holy Spirit—thus fulfilling the OT promise reiterated by John the Baptist and Jesus of the baptism of the Spirit.” (Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988.)

  • 1. In fact, the truth that we have these differences of opinion should unite us instead of dividing us. The reason is simple. When we see that we have differences of opinion, it should humble us because it should bring to light the reality of our sinfulness and limited nature as Christians to fully understand God’s word. Instead of maintaining an attitude of pride where one side condemns the other, we should be more gracious. We should acknowledge the possibility of the other side being right, even though we don’t think so. We need to admit that our sinfulness is the problem, and not the other’s lack of judgment.
  • 2. There is a single verse where Jesus says to the Jews, “I know you that you do not have the love of God in yourselves” (John 5:42). But it is referring to knowing them as being evil.
  • 3. However, this is not to say that God is not all knowing. It means that God uses the words “I know you,” “I know them,” etc. as a description of people being in a salvation relationship with God.
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What does it mean when the Bible refers to the “third heaven”? Apologetics Christian Faith

Third Heaven Apologetics

At the time of ancient Israel they did not have as complete an understanding of the universe as we do today. So they wrote in terms with which  they were familiar.  The Jews spoke of three heavens. The first heaven consisted of the the earth atmosphere where the clouds and birds were. The second heaven was where the sun, stars, and moon was. The third heaven was the dwelling place of God.  When Paul said he was caught up to the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2), he was referring to the very dwelling place of God.

As a note, the Mormons erringly teach that the three heavens consist of telestial, terrestrial, and celestial. They divide them into compartments dwelt by people after they die.

The First Heaven: Earth Atmosphere

  • Deut. 11:17–Then the LORD’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce . . .
  • Deut. 28:12–The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands.
  • Judges 5:4–“O LORD, when you went out from Seir, when you marched from the land of Edom, the earth shook, the heavens poured, the clouds poured down water.
  • Acts 14:17–“Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; . . . 

The Second Heaven: 

Outer Space

  • Psalm 19:4, 6–In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun . . . It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; . . . 
  • Jeremiah 8:2–They will be exposed to the sun and the moon and all the stars of the heavens which they have loved and served . . . 
  • Isaiah 13:10–The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light.

The Third Heaven: God’s Dwelling Place

  • 1 Kings 8:30 (phrase repeated numerous times in following verses)–then hear from heaven, your dwelling place . . . 
  • Psalm 2:4–The One enthroned in heaven laughs; The LORD scoffs at them.
  • Matthew 5:16–In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

The highest heaven, the third heaven is indicated by the reference to the Throne of God being the highest heaven:

  • 1 Kings 8:27–“But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you.
  • Deut. 10:14–To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.
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Baptism and John 3:5 Apologetics

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“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  4 Nicodemus *said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old?  He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”  5Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  7″Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  8 “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit,” (John 3:3-8).

There are five basic interpretations to this section of scripture in reference to water.

  1. The water refers to the natural birth.
  2. The water refers to the Word of God.
  3. The water refers to the Holy Spirit.
  4. The water refers to the ministry of John the Baptist.
  5. The water refers to the water of baptism as a requirement for salvation.

The first option looks to the context of Jesus’ words dealing with being born “again” (3:3).  Nicodemus responds by mentioning the experience of being born from the womb (v. 4).  Jesus then speaks of water and the Spirit and then says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (3:6).  The implication is that the first birth is the natural birth, and the second birth is the spiritual birth.  In other words, the water refers to the water of the womb–the first birth.  This seems to have support in the understanding of Nicodemus about entering into the womb to be born a second time.  However, this view is not the most commonly held view.

The second option holds that the water is referring to the Word of God.  Eph. 5:26 says, “that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” Some believe that the washing of water is done by means of the Word of God.

The third view says that the water refers to the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps Nicodemus was reminded of Ezek. 36:25-27, “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.  26″Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  27″And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” Certainly, Jesus’ own words are applicable here when He says in John 7:37-39, “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38″He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'”  39But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

The fourth view holds that the water is in reference to the water baptism of repentance taught by John the Baptist.  Matt. 3:1-6 describes John’s ministry in the desert, his teaching about repentance, and baptizing people into that repentance. Contextually, the first chapter of John mentions John the Baptist in verses 6-8 and 19-36.  Certainly, John and his ministry is in view here.  If this is the case, then Jesus would have been speaking of the “baptism” (the initiatory ordinance) of repentance preached by John the Baptist.

The fifth view is the one held by the International Church of Christ and other churches that require baptism in order to be saved.  They state that the water is referring to baptism and that it is essential to salvation.

Does John 3:5 teach that baptism is essential to salvation?

As you can see, there are different interpretations to John 3:5.  But, to say simply that John 3:5 does not teach the necessity of baptism isn’t enough.  Some sort of proof must be offered.  The proof is found in God’s word–the word that has no contradictions.  Clearly, salvation is by faith. For example, Rom. 5:1 states that we are justified (declared righteous) by faith.  It does not say faith and baptism.  If baptism were part of salvation, then it would say we were justified by faith and baptism.  But it does not.  If justification is by faith, then it is by faith.  Baptism is not faith. It is a ceremony.  It is something we do as a ritual.  Furthermore, please consider the following verses which declare how we are saved.

  1. Rom. 3:22, “even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction.”
  2. Rom. 3:26, “for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
  3. Rom. 3:28, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”
  4. Rom. 4:5, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.”
  5. Rom. 5:1, “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  6. Gal. 3:8, “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham.”
  7. Gal. 3:24, “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.”
  8. Eph. 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

Additionally, Paul tells us that the gospel is what saves us and that the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:1-4). Baptism is not included in the description of the gospel.  This explains why he said he came to preach the gospel–not to baptize: “I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name.  (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.)  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel . . . “ (1 Cor. 1:14-17).  If baptism is necessary for salvation, then why did Paul downplay it and even exclude it from the description of what is required for salvation?  It is because baptism isn’t necessary for salvation.  Therefore, John 3:5 must be interpreted in a manner consistent with the rest of scripture.

Another way of making this clear is to use an illustration.  Let’s suppose that a person, under the conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8), believed in Jesus as his savior (Rom. 10:9-10; Titus 2:13) and has received Christ (John 1:12) as Savior.  Is that person saved?  Of course he is.  Let’s further suppose that this person who confesses his sinfulness, cries out in repentance to the Lord, and receives Jesus as Savior and then walks across the street to get baptized at a local church.  In the middle of the road, he gets hit by a car and is killed.  Does he go to heaven or hell?  If he goes to heaven, then baptism isn’t necessary for salvation.  If He goes to hell, then trusting in Jesus, by faith, isn’t enough for salvation.  Doesn’t that go against the Scriptures that say that salvation is a free gift (Rom. 6:23) received by faith (Eph. 2:8-9)?  Yes, it does.  Baptism is not necessary for salvation, and John 3:5 cannot teach that it is.

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What must I do to obtain eternal life? Prayer of Salvation

Prayer in Apologetics2 Prayer of Salvation

Matthew 19:16-22, What must I do to obtain eternal life?

by Matt Slick

Matt. 19:16-22, “And behold, one came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” 17 And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieved; for he was one who owned much property.”  (The parallel passage is found in Mark 10:17-22 and Luke 18:18-23, listed at end of article).

This section of Scripture is important because Roman Catholics often use it to support their view that keeping the law of God is a necessary part of maintaining their right standing with God so they can be saved on the Day of Judgment.  Unfortunately, they will use verses like this and ignore others that teach we are justified by faith apart from the works of the law (Romans 3:28).  Let’s take a look.

The person was asking what good works he must do to inherit eternal life (v. 16).  He believed that his salvation was dependent upon his faith in God and his works of the Law.  Jesus answered him according to his beliefs and quoted the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) and Lev. 19:18 (Love your neighbor as yourself).  Notice that Jesus called Lev. 19:18 a commandment equal to the Ten Commandments.  The man boasted that he was keeping all these laws.  Was he?  As is typical with us all, we like to think we are doing well before God when in reality we aren’t.  Jesus showed the man (and us) that he was failing to keep the Law (don’t judge by your own standard, judge by God’s).  Jesus told the man to sell his possessions and give it to the poor (i.e., love your neighbor as yourself) and then follow Him.  The man failed to do this (v. 22).  Jesus knew he wasn’t keeping the Law and showed the man his failure.  His faith and works of the Law could not save him because he could not keep it.  Don’t be like the boastful man who is good in his own eyes and estimation of keeping the Law.

So, for all who want to do good works to obtain eternal life, they are obligated to keep the Law.  But no one can, and that is the point.  No one can.  This is why James teaches in James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”  Paul says in Gal. 3:10, “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.’”  This further explains why we have Paul teaching us in Romans 3:28 that we are “justified by faith apart from the works of the Law” (including works done in love) because no one is able to keep the law perfectly as James 2:10 and Gal. 3:10 require.  Therefore, Matt. 19:16-22 isn’t teaching that faith and good works save us.  Instead, it is teaching that if you want to be justified by faith and works (even works of love), you must keep the Law perfectly.  You can’t.  Therefore, the Law condemns you.

What is the solution? 

The solution to the problem of the law is to trust in Jesus by faith alone–not by faith in your works.  The gospel message is that Jesus Christ, who is God in flesh (John 1:1, 14; Colossians 2:9), fulfilled the law perfectly and never sinned (1 Peter 2:22).  He fulfilled the Old Testament requirements of being a proper sacrifice for our sins (Lev. 17:11; Deut. 17:1; John 19:36).  Jesus did everything that is necessary when he fulfilled the Law. Therefore, we are justified without the works of the law (Rom. 3:28) and must put our faith and trust in what Christ did (Rom. 4:5; 5:1).   

Parallel Verses

  • Mark 10:17-22, “And as He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and began asking Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 “You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” 21 And looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But at these words his face fell, and he went away grieved, for he was one who owned much property.”
  • Luke 18:18-23, “And a certain ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 “You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” 21 And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” 22 And when Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess, and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 23 But when he had heard these things, he became very sad; for he was extremely rich.”

Personal Prayer of Salvation



Almighty God,

I come before You in the name of Jesus Christ.

Jesus I believe You are the Son of God and the only way to God. That You died on the Cross for my Sins and rose again from the dead. I confess that my life has been sinful separated from You ( Rom 3:23 ). Forgive my sins. Jesus I believe You shed Your precious Blood on the Cross for my justification. I thank You for Loving me.

Jesus I turn to You. Heal my body and soul. Heal my body, …heal my life. Come into my heart. Fill my soul. Change me. Mold me. Use me. Heal me. Deliver me. Transform my life and never let me be the same again. Cleanse me with your Holy blood and make me Whole.

Jesus – in You I have the Eternal life. And this is Eternal Life, that I may know You, the only True God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent ( John 17:1-5 ). Let me know You deeply through Holy Spirit Father. Reveal Your Will to me according to my calling.

Heavenly Father fill me with the Holy Spirit and Baptize me with the Holy Ghost and Fire. That I may have part of the First Resurrection ( Rev 20:5-6). I receive Your Spirit and the Spiritual Gifts as Holy Spirit gives me according to His Will. I desire for Spiritual Gifts.

Jesus. Give me a new mind and new heart and a new spirit. Transform my life as I surrender to Your Divine Calling. I surrender to Your will. I surrender to receive the Power!

Jesus is Alive and hears my prayer right now!

I give myself fully to You Jesus. I give myself fully to You Holy Spirit.
I receive Your Power!
I receive Your Anointing!
I receive the Anointing of the Holy Ghost right now!

The presence of God is over my life!

And now I proclaim : “God Almighty is my Father. Jesus Christ is my Saviour. Holy Spirit is my Comforter ( John 16:7-15 ). I am Born Again of the water and of the Spirit ( John 3:5-6 ). I have inherited an Eternal Life. I am now part of the Body of Christ ( Rom 12:5 ).”

In Jesus Mighty and Holy name and in the Blood of Everlasting Covenant (Hebrews 13:20-21),

I Pray and give You the Glory,
Amen

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Prayer in Apologetics

Prayer in Apologetics

Prayer in Apologetics

One of the dangers of the apologist is falling into the trap of relying on his own intellectual abilities to try to wrestle someone into the kingdom of God.  I am sad to say that I have been guilty of this.

Pride hides itself in the heart, so it cannot be seen.  When we find ourselves relying on our knowledge instead of God’s word mercy and grace, then we have fallen into that trap.  It is not reason that converts but God’s Spirit.  It is not logic that draws us to God but Jesus (John 12:32).  It is not evidence that convicts a person of his sins but the Holy Spirit (John 16:8).  That is why we need to rely on God and trust that He will use our defense of the truth for His glory and their benefit.

To ignore prayer in apologetics is to be prideful.  It is the same as saying we don’t need God.  But we do.  We need to pray for those who are lost, pray for their minds to be opened, pray that God’s word will ring true to them, pray that our witness will be strong, and pray that the evil one will not have a foot-hold with them or with us.  We are fighting a spiritual battle and need spiritual tools.  Prayer is perhaps the most important of them all.

It is the Lord who opens the heart and mind – not you (Acts 16:14). Ask God for guidance (John 14:14). Ask for blessing in your understanding (James 1:5) and your speech (Col. 4:6). Ask the Lord to also open their understanding to God’s word (Luke 24:45).  This is what He does.

Prayer brings humility to the one praying.  It admits dependence on God.  If we are humble and depend on God, we are more likely to hear His voice.  Prayer means that you are seeking divine intervention.  It works power to your words.  It changes your heart.  It moves you closer to God.

Being a great apologist is not a badge of honor to be worn by the Christian as a demonstration of his intellectual abilities.  Rather, it is a response to the calling of God upon all Christians (1 Pet. 3:15) that is to be undertaken with love and humility: love of people and humility before God.

Never let your study and practice of apologetics replace the power – received by faith – in prayer before the Holy Creator.  Ask God to empower your words and open the hearts of those with whom you speak . . . and then study and witness to the best of your abilities.

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Apologetics – Integrative Approaches to Defending the Christian Faith

Apologetics IPrayPrayer.com Christian Faith Defending Christian Faith

Integrative Approaches to Defending the Christian Faith

Preface

How to relate the Christian worldview to a non-Christian world has been the dilemma of Christian spokespersons since the apostle Paul addressed the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers in Athens. Twenty centuries of experience have not simplified this task, as new challenges have arisen in every century and new methods and approaches to defending the Christian faith have been formulated in response.

In this introductory textbook on Christian apologetics—the study of the defense of the faith—you will be inducted into this two-millennia-long discussion. You will overhear the greatest apologists of all time responding to the intellectual attacks on the Bible in their day. You will take a guided tour of the four major approaches to apologetics that have emerged in the past couple of centuries. Along the way you will pick up insightful answers to such questions as:

  • Why is belief in God rational despite the prevalence of evil in the world?
  • What facts support the church’s testimony that Jesus rose from the dead?
  • Can we be certain Christianity is true?
  • How can our faith in Christ be based on something more secure than our own understanding without descending into an irrational emotionalism?

At least formal differences in theory and method have sharply distinguished leading Christian apologists. At the same time, many apologists draw on a variety of methods and do not fit neatly into a single ‘cookie-cutter’ theory of how to defend the Christian faith. In this book, we will identify four ‘approaches’ or idealized types of Christian apologetic methodologies. We will look at the actual apologetic arguments of leading apologists and see how their methods compare to those idealized approaches. We will then consider the work of apologists who have advocated directly integrating two or more of these four basic approaches. Our goal is to contribute toward an understanding of these different apologetic methods that will enrich all Christians in their defense of the faith and enable them to speak with clearer and more relevant voices to our present day and beyond.

Sarah and Murali

While apologetics as an intellectual discipline seeks to develop answers to questions that at times may seem abstract, ultimately its purpose is to facilitate bringing real people into a relationship with the living and true God. In this book we will illustrate how the various apologetic methods would be applied in conversations with two very different hypothetical individuals: Sarah and Murali.

Sarah is a college sophomore pursuing a degree in psychology at a state university. Raised in a conservative Protestant home, she began to question the faith of her childhood in high school, as Christianity increasingly seemed a harsh and uncaring religion to her. In her first year at the university she took introductory courses in philosophy, psychology, and English literature that cast doubt on Christian beliefs and values. Her philosophy professor especially had gone out of his way to ridicule “fundamentalism” and had attacked the Christian worldview at its root. Sarah found the “problem of evil”—the question of why a good, all-powerful God would allow so much evil in his world—to be an especially strong argument against Christianity. She was also exposed to theories of biblical criticism that denied the historical accuracy of the Bible and reinterpreted the biblical miracles as myths. When she went home for the summer after her first year at State, Sarah was a self-confessed skeptic.

Murali came to the United States from India to attend medical school and ended up staying and establishing a practice there. Although he was raised as a Hindu and still respects his family’s religion, Murali is not particularly devout. Troubled by the centuries of conflict in the Indian subcontinent between Hindus and Muslims, he has concluded that all religions are basically good and none should be regarded as superior to another. Absolute claims in religion strike him as both unprovable and intolerant, and he resents efforts by both Muslims and Christians to convert him or his family to their beliefs. Although religions speak about God and adherents experience the transcendent in different ways, he believes it is all really the same thing. When Muslims or Christians attempt to convince him that their religion is the truth, Murali asks why God has allowed so many different religions to flourish if only one of them is acceptable to God.

Throughout this book we will periodically ask how a skilled and astute advocate of a particular approach to apologetics would respond to Sarah and Murali. In this way we will see how the various apologetic methods can be applied in concrete situations. We will see their weaknesses as well as their strengths. This will help us think through how the different apologetic methods may be integrated to greater effectiveness in defending the faith.

Fundamental to apologetics is answering questions commonly raised by non-Christians about the truth of Christianity. While many such questions are broached in this book, we will concentrate on those that are basic and crucial to the validity of the Christian faith. These questions are part of the unbelieving stance typified by our model non-Christians, Sarah and Murali. Those questions are the following:

1. Why should we believe in the Bible?

2. Don’t all religions lead to God?

3. How do we know that God exists?

4. If God does exist, why does he permit evil?

5. Aren’t the miracles of the Bible spiritual myths or legends and not literal fact?

6. Why should I believe what Christians claim about Jesus?

Tom, Joe, Cal, and Martina

In this book we will be analyzing four basic approaches to apologetics. Again, these are idealized types; when we consider the apologetic work of actual Christian apologists we find that there are actually many more than four approaches. However, most of the methods that Christians use in apologetics are closely related to one of these four basic approaches. We might think of them as ‘families’ of apologetic approaches, with those classified in the same type as sharing certain ‘family resemblances’ with one another. Membership in one family does not preclude some resemblances to another family. Our analysis of apologetic approaches into these four types closely parallels that found in other surveys of major types of apologetics, though with some minor differences (see the Appendix.)

What distinguishes these four basic approaches to apologetics? To put the matter as simply as possible, each places a distinctive priority on reason, fact, revelation, and faith respectively. In our illustrations with Sarah and Murali, we will also present four Christians utilizing the four approaches in an astute, representative manner. For reasons that will become clear by the end of Part One, we call these four apologists Tom (after Thomas Aquinas, a thirteenth-century theologian), Joe (after Joseph Butler, an eighteenth-century Anglican bishop), Cal (after John Calvin, the sixteenth-century French Reformer), and Martina (after Martin Luther, the sixteenth-century German Reformer). Tom’s apologetic approach places a strong emphasis on logic, and is called classical apologetics. Joe’s approach emphasizes facts or evidences, and is called evidentialism. Cal’s approach emphasizes the authority of God’s revelation in Scripture; because of its close identification with Calvinist or Reformed theology, this approach is here called Reformed apologetics. Finally, Martina’s approach emphasizes the need for personal faith and is referred to here as fideism (from the Latin fide, “faith”). These are differences in emphasis or priority, since apologists favoring one approach over another generally allow some role for reason, facts, revelation, and faith. (Even fideism, which is typically suspicious of apologetic argument, offers a kind of apologetics that uses reason and fact.)

The four approaches diverge on apologetic method or theory regarding the following six questions, all of which will be discussed in this book in relation to each of the four views:

1. 1. On what basis do we claim that Christianity is the truth?

2. 2. What is the relationship between apologetics and theology?

3. 3. Should apologetics engage in a philosophical defense of the Christian faith?

4. 4. Can science be used to defend the Christian faith?

5. 5. Can the Christian faith be supported by historical inquiry?

6. 6. How is our knowledge of Christian truth related to our experience?

Although each approach answers these questions in different ways, those answers are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In practice, many apologists do not fit neatly into one of the four categories because they draw somewhat from two or even more approaches to answer these questions about apologetics. We see this as a healthy tendency. In fact, we will argue that all four approaches have value and should be integrated together as much as possible.

What is Apologetics?

 

Defining Apologetics

Apologetics may be simply defined as the defense of the Christian faith. The simplicity of this definition, however, masks the complexity of the problem of defining apologetics. It turns out that a diversity of approaches has been taken to defining the meaning, scope, and purpose of apologetics.

From Apologia to Apologetics

The word “apologetics” derives from the Greek word apologia, which was originally used of a speech of defense or an answer given in reply. In ancient Athens it referred to a defense made in the courtroom as part of the normal judicial procedure. After the accusation, the defendant was allowed to refute the charges with a defense or reply (apologia). The accused would attempt to “speak away” (apo—away, logia—speech) the accusation.1 The classic example of such an apologia was Socrates’ defense against the charge of preaching strange gods, a defense retold by his most famous pupil, Plato, in a dialogue called The Apology (in Greek, hē apologia).

The word appears 17 times in noun or verb form in the New Testament, and both the noun (apologia) and verb form (apologeomai) can be translated “defense” or “vindication” in every case.2 Usually the word is used to refer to a speech made in one’s own defense. For example, in one passage Luke says that a Jew named Alexander tried to “make a defense” before an angry crowd in Ephesus that was incited by idol-makers whose business was threatened by Paul’s preaching (Acts 19:33). Elsewhere Luke always uses the word in reference to situations in which Christians, and in particular the apostle Paul, are put on trial for proclaiming their faith in Christ and have to defend their message against the charge of being unlawful (Luke 12:11; 21:14; Acts 22:1; 24:10; 25:8, 16; 26:2, 24).

Paul himself used the word in a variety of contexts in his epistles. To the Corinthians, he found it necessary to “defend” himself against criticisms of his claim to be an apostle (1 Cor. 9:3; 2 Cor. 12:19). At one point he describes the repentance exhibited by the Corinthians as a “vindication” (2 Cor. 7:11 nasb), that is, as an “eagerness to clear yourselves” (niv, nrsv). To the Romans, Paul described Gentiles who did not have the written Law as being aware enough of God’s Law that, depending on their behavior, their own thoughts will either prosecute or “defend” them on Judgment Day (Rom. 2:15). Toward the end of his life, Paul told Timothy, “At my first defense no one supported me” (2 Tim. 4:16), referring to the first time he stood trial. Paul’s usage here is similar to what we find in Luke’s writings. Earlier, he had expressed appreciation to the Philippians for supporting him “both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel” (Phil. 1:7). Here again the context is Paul’s conflict with the government and his imprisonment. However, the focus of the “defense” is not Paul but “the gospel”: Paul’s ministry includes defending the gospel against its detractors, especially those who claim that it is subversive or in any way unlawful. So Paul says later in the same chapter, “I am appointed for the defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:16).

Finally, in 1 Peter 3:15 believers are told always to be prepared “to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.” The context here is similar to Paul’s later epistles and to Luke’s writings: non-Christians are slandering the behavior of Christians and threatening them with persecution (1 Pet. 3:13-17; 4:12-19). When challenged or even threatened, Christians are to behave lawfully, maintain a good conscience, and give a reasoned defense of what they believe to anyone who asks. (We will discuss this text further in chapter 2.)

The New Testament, then, does not use the words apologia and apologeomai in the technical sense of the modern word apologetics. The idea of offering a reasoned defense of the faith is evident in three of these texts (Philippians 1:7, 16; and especially 1 Peter 3:15), but even here no science or formal academic discipline of apologetics is contemplated. Indeed, no specific system or theory of apologetics is outlined in the New Testament.

In the second century this general word for “defense” began taking on a narrower sense to refer to a group of writers who defended the beliefs and practices of Christianity against various attacks. These men were known as the apologists because of the titles of some of their treatises, and included most notably Justin Martyr (First Apology, Dialogue with Trypho, Second Apology) and Tertullian (Apologeticum). The use of the title Apology by these authors harks back to Plato’s Apology and to the word’s usual sense in the New Testament, and is consistent with the fact that the emphasis of these second-century apologies was on defending Christians against charges of illegal activities.

It was apparently not until 1794 that apologetics was used to designate a specific theological discipline,3 and there has been debate about the place of this discipline in Christian thought almost from that time forward. In 1908 B. B. Warfield cataloged some of these alternate perceptions before offering his own conclusion that apologetics should be given the broad task of authenticating the facts of God (philosophical apologetics), religious consciousness (psychological apologetics), revelation (revelational apologetics), Christianity (historical apologetics), and the Bible (bibliological apologetics, Warfield’s specialty).4 Greg L. Bahnsen summarizes Warfield’s catalog:

Some attempted to distinguish apologetics from apology, but they differed among themselves respecting the principle of distinction (Dusterdieck, Kubel). Apologetics was variously classified as an exegetical discipline (Planck), historical theology (Tzschirner), theory of religion (Rabiger), philosophical theology (Schleiermacher), something distinct from polemics (Kuyper), something belonging to several departments (Tholuck, Cave), or something which had no right to exist (Nosselt). H. B. Smith viewed apologetics as historico-philosophical dogmatics which deals with detail questions, but Kubel claimed that it properly deals only with the essence of Christianity. Schultz went further and said that apologetics is concerned simply to defend a generally religious view of the world, but others taught that apologetics should aim to establish Christianity as the final religion (Sack, Ebrard, Lechler, Lemme).5

This debate has continued throughout the twentieth century. In this chapter we will offer definitions of the apologetics word group and consider just how best to conceive of the discipline of apologetics.

Apologetics and Related Terms

It has become customary to use the term apology to refer to a specific effort or work in defense of the faith.6 An apology might be a written document, a speech, or even a film; any medium of communication might conceivably be used.

An apologist is someone who presents an apology or makes a practice of defending the faith. Apologists might (and do) develop their apologies within various intellectual contexts. That is, they may offer defenses of the Christian faith in relation to scientific, historical, philosophical, ethical, religious, theological, or cultural issues.

The terms apologetic and apologetics are closely related, and can be used synonymously. Here, for clarity’s sake, we will suggest one way of usefully distinguishing these terms that corresponds to the way they are often actually used. An apologetic (using the word as a noun) will be here defined as a particular approach to the defense of the faith. Thus, one may hear about Francis Schaeffer’s apologetic or about the Thomistic apologetic. Of course, we often use apologetic as an adjective, as when we speak about apologetic issues or William Paley’s apologetic thought.

Apologetics, on the other hand, has been used in at least three ways. Perhaps most commonly it refers to the discipline concerned with the defense of the faith. Second, it can refer to a general grouping of approaches or systems developed for defending the faith, as when we speak about evidentialist apologetics or Reformed apologetics. Third, it is sometimes used to refer to the practice of defending the faith—as the activity of presenting an apology or apologies in defense of the faith. These three usages are easily distinguished by context, so we will employ all three in this book.

Finally, metapologetics refers to the study of the nature and methods of apologetics. This term has come into usage only recently and is still rarely used.7 Mark Hanna defined it as “the field of inquiry that examines the methods, concepts, and foundations of apologetic systems and perspectives.”8 While apologetics studies the defense of the faith, metapologetics studies the theoretical issues underlying the defense of the faith. It is evident, then, that metapologetics is a branch of apologetics; it focuses on the principial, fundamental questions that must be answered properly if the practice of apologetics is to be securely grounded in truth. A metapologetic may then be defined as a particular theory of metapologetics, such as Cornelius Van Til’s Reformed metapologetic or Norman Geisler’s neo-Thomistic metapologetic.

The Functions of Apologetics

Historically, apologetics has been understood to involve at least three functions or goals. Some apologists have emphasized only one function while others have denied that one or more of these are valid functions of apologetics, but in general they have been widely recognized as defining the task of apologetics. Francis Beattie, for example, delineated them as a defense of Christianity as a system, a vindication of the Christian worldview against its assailants, and a refutation of opposing systems and theories.9

Bernard Ramm also lists three functions of apologetics. The first is “to show how the Christian faith is related to truth claims.” The truth claims of a religion must be examined so that its relation to reality can be discerned and tested. This function corresponds to what Beattie calls defense. The second function is “to show Christianity’s power of interpretation” relative to a variety of subjects—which is essentially the same as what Beattie calls vindication. Ramm’s third function, the refutation of false or spurious attacks, is identical to Beattie’s.10

John Frame likewise has outlined “three aspects of apologetics,” which he calls proof, defense, and offense. Proof involves “presenting a rational basis for faith”; defense involves “answering the objections of unbelief”; and offense means “attacking the foolishness (Ps. 14:1; 1 Cor. 1:18-2:16) of unbelieving thought.”11 Frame’s book then follows this outline: proof (chapters 3–5), defense (6–7), and offense (8).

The first three parts of Robert Reymond’s fourfold analysis of the task of Christian apologetics follow the same pattern. (1) Apologetics answers particular objections—obstacles like alleged contradictions between scriptural statements and misconceptions about Christianity need to be removed (defense). (2) It gives an account of the foundations of the Christian faith by delving into philosophical theology, and especially epistemology (vindication). (3) It challenges non-Christian systems, particularly in the area of epistemological justification (refutation). To these Reymond adds a fourth point: (4) Apologetics seeks to persuade people of the truth of the Christian position.12 In a sense, this last point could be viewed simply as indicating the overall purpose of apologetics, with the first three points addressing the specific functions by which that purpose is accomplished. On the other hand, treating persuasion as a separate function is helpful, since it involves elements that go beyond offering an intellectual response (the focus of the first three points). Persuasion must also consider the life experience of the unbeliever, the proper tone to take with a person, and other matters beyond simply imparting information.

We may distinguish, then, four functions, goals, modes, or aspects of apologetics. The first may be called vindication (Beattie) or proof (Frame) and involves marshaling philosophical arguments as well as scientific and historical evidences for the Christian faith. The goal of apologetics here is to develop a positive case for Christianity as a belief system that should be accepted. Philosophically, this means drawing out the logical implications of the Christian worldview so that they can be clearly seen and contrasted with alternate worldviews. Such a contrast necessarily raises the issue of criteria of verification if these competing truth claims are to be assessed. The question of the criteria by which Christianity is proved is a fundamental point of contention among proponents of the various kinds of Christian apologetic systems.

The second function is defense. This function is closest to the New Testament and early Christian use of the word apologia: defending Christianity against the plethora of attacks made against it in every generation by critics of varying belief systems. This function involves clarifying the Christian position in light of misunderstandings and misrepresentations; answering objections, criticisms, or questions from non-Christians; and in general clearing away any intellectual difficulties that nonbelievers claim stand in the way of their coming to faith. More generally, the purpose of apologetics as defense is not so much to show that Christianity is true as to show that it is credible.

The third function is refutation of opposing beliefs (what Frame calls “offense”). This function focuses on answering, not specific objections to Christianity, but the arguments non-Christians give in support of their own beliefs. Most apologists agree that refutation cannot stand alone, since proving a non-Christian religion or philosophy to be false does not prove that Christianity is true. Nevertheless, it is an essential function of apologetics.

The fourth function is persuasion. By this we do not mean merely convincing people that Christianity is true, but persuading them to apply its truth to their life. This function focuses on bringing non-Christians to the point of commitment. The apologist’s intent is not merely to win an intellectual argument, but to persuade people to commit their lives and eternal futures into the trust of the Son of God who died for them. We might also speak of this function as evangelism or witness.

These four aspects or functions of apologetics have differing and complementary goals or intentions with respect to reason. Apologetics as proof shows that Christianity is reasonable; its purpose is to give the non-Christian good reasons to embrace the Christian faith. Apologetics as defense shows that Christianity is not unreasonable; its purpose is to show that the non-Christian will not be acting irrationally by trusting in Christ or by accepting the Bible as God’s word. Third, apologetics as refutation shows that non-Christian thought is unreasonable. The purpose of refuting non-Christian belief systems is to confront non-Christians with the irrationality of their position. And fourth, apologetics as persuasion takes into consideration the fact that Christianity is not known by reason alone. The apologist seeks to persuade non-Christians to trust Christ, not merely to accept truth claims about Christ, and this purpose necessitates realizing the personal dimension in apologetic encounters and in every conversion to faith in Christ.

Not everyone agrees that apologetics involves all four of these functions. For example, some apologists and theologians have claimed that proof is not a valid function of apologetics—that we should be content to show that Christianity is not unreasonable. Or again, some Christian philosophers have urged against trying to argue that the non-Christian is being irrational to reject Christianity. Many apologists have even abandoned the idea that apologetics might be useful to persuade people to believe in Christ. Such opinions notwithstanding, all four functions have historically been important in apologetics, and each has been championed by great Christian apologists throughout church history.13 It is to the efforts of those apologists, then, that we turn in the next chapter.

For Further Study

Howe, Frederic R. Challenge and Response: A Handbook for Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982. The first two chapters discuss the definition of apologetics (13-24) and the relationship between evangelism and apologetics (25-33), with Howe arguing for a sharp distinction between the two.

 

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Parables of Jesus – Parable of The Prodigal Son, Luke 15:1-2, 11-32

Parables of Jesus - Parable of The Prodigal Son, Luke 15:1-2, 11-32

Theme: Great joy in the salvation of the lost.

1 A son is lost – “Give me my share”
|     2 Goods wasted in extravagant living
|      |     3 Everything lost – “He spent everything-he began to want
|      |      |      4 The great sin – “feeding pigs for gentiles
|      |      |      |      5 Total rejection – “no one gave him anything
|      |      |      |      |    6 A change of mind – “he came to himself-I perish here”
|      |      |      |      |    6 An initial repentance – “make me a servant”
|      |      |      |     5 Total acceptance – “his father ran and kissed him.”
|      |      |     4 The great repentance – “I am no more worthy to be called your son.
|      |   3 Everything gained – a robe, ring, and shoes
|     2 Goods used in joyful celebration
1 A son is found – “My son was dead and is alive, was lost and is found.”

 

In the beginning of this chapter Jesus is with the self-righteous.  Yet, He eats with sinners.  When the righteous men of Israel complained about his “obvious” error of eating with sinners, they voice their disapproval.

Jesus’ reply was not one of rebuke, but of teaching; hence, several parables.  The first two have three common threads running through each. 1) Something or someone is lost.  2) The lost is sought for.  3) Great joy is shared at the recovery of the thing (person) found.

The third parable mentioned is slightly different in the second thread only.  In it, the one who is lost returns to where he came from.

 

1. Now all the tax gatherers and the sinners were coming near him to listen to Him.2. And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them. Those in need.

Eating was important in this culture because it implied fellowship, a sharing of something in common.  To eat with sinners could be interpreted many ways. Here, Jesus is identifying, reaching out to the sinners.

Jesus is accused of eating with sinners.  He does not rebuke; He does not revile; He teaches.  So should our witness be.  We should be loving of all who sin, accepting of all who repent, willing to humble ourselves before men and God.  Trust Him to do what is right.

11. And He said, “A certain man had two sons;12. and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ And he divided his wealth between them. The prodigal is shown as wishing for his father’s death in his request because the estate was never divided among the children until after the father’s death.  The father should severely rebuke his son. Instead, the father shows incredible love by granting the request to his son.
13. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. He could not sell the land in the community during his father’s lifetime.  No one would buy it.  So, he travels to a distant land and sells his property, thus losing the right of redemption of the land.
14. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be in need.  Everything is lost.
15. And he went and attached himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. Swine is an unclean animal.  It would seem this act was one of disdain by the pig owner, “Here Jew, feed pigs.”
16. And he was longing to fill his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. He was totally rejected by the people around him.  (The Pharisees rejected the tax-gatherers and sinners.)
17. But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! His motivation was poverty.  Servants were an honorable class of people.  He could live in the village.  He wouldn’t need to live under the same roof as the eldest son.  He’d have to face the scorn of the community though.  It is possible that he may have wanted to pay something back to his father, but, of course, it could not possibly be enough.
18. I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight;19. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.'” Is the son truly repentant at this time?It seems his goal is to become a servant, to earn money, and maybe to begin to repay what he lost.
20. And he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him. The Father totally accepts his son.

In that culture, older men did not run; it was a sign of humiliation. (Phil. 2:5-8)  The son should run to the father.

21. And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son. No bargaining is offered.  He admits his guilt only.  There is no mention of servanthood or earning anything.
22. But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet’ Robe: sign of dignity and honor.Ring: sign of authority.

Shoes: sign of not being a servant.  Servants did not wear shoes.

23. and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and be merry. A whole calf is a lot to eat.  The whole village would be invited. (Note: blood is shed)
24. for this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found. And they began to be merry. The lost son is found.
25. Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. Another son is lost.  The duties of the eldest son included reconciliation between father and son.  A host at feasts.  The older son is in the field and not in the house where he should be.  This is a public disgrace to the father.
26. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things might be.27. And he said to him, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.  
28. But he became angry, and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began entreating him. The father went out to his son to entreat him.  He did not rebuke as was customary.  Again, the father goes to the son.
29. But he answered and said to his father, “Look! for many years I have been serving you, and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a kid, that I might be merry with my friends; When addressing the father, it should be as ‘Father,’ not simply ‘Look!’ This is very disrespectful (unhumble).The eldest son gives two complaints: one about the father, and…
30. but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with harlots, you killed the fattened calf for him.” …the other about his brother, the sinner.  (fornication, devoured your life, “ton bion” in the Greek means “the life”.   You killed the calf for him and not me.)
31. And he said to him, “My child, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. Teknon, child, a Greek word/term of endearment.All that is mine is yours, come join the celebration.
32. But we had to be merry and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found. And you were dead in our trespasses and sins, Eph. 2:1.

 

There are mentioned here two types of sinners: the honest manifest one, the younger son, and the hypocritical sinner, the elder.

There are mentioned two types of repentance: sincere and pharisaical.

The younger son’s initial repentance is not sincere, v. 17, because it was motivated from hunger; but, in verse 21, he openly admits his sin.  The older brother is anchored in self-righteousness.  His repentance is not sincere.

God’s great love extends to all sinners, the honest as well as the hypocritical.  It endures humiliation.  It exults joyously when there is true repentance.

God desires sons, not servants.

The lessons in this parable are many; however, the two main ones are:

  1. The unconditional love of God to everyone.
  2. The gentleness of Jesus and His not striking back in word or deed.
  3. May we learn to do as Jesus teaches.  See Matthew 5:38-48.
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Parables of Jesus – Parable of The Fig Tree, Luke 13:1-9

Parables of Jesus - Parable of The Fig Tree, Luke 13:1-9

The Fig Tree, Luke 13:1-9

1. Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled [shed along with] with their sacrifices. Josephus, the Jewish historian of the time of Christ and after, records a number of massacres during this period, but does not mention this one.

Perhaps the people reporting to Jesus were seeking to get Him to comment politically on Pilate and thereby use Jesus as a means of rallying support for their cause.  Remember, the Jews were under the rule of the Roman government and resented it.  Ungodly gentiles were ruling over the house of Israel.  Obviously, the people doing the reporting are interested in deliverance as well as justice.  They want what is right; at least, right the way they see it.

Another way to look at the situation would be to imagine a church gathered one Sunday having communion. Then gunmen enter and shoot everyone present thereby mingling their blood with the wine of the supper. The natural reaction would be one of horror and hatred. This is the type of thing that is presented to Jesus.

Possibly could refer to Judas of Galilee in Acts 5:36-37: “For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody; and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him.  And he was slain; and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing.  37 “After this man Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away some people after him, he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered.”

2. And He answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this fate? When Jesus was told about the slaughter in the temple, He responded not with indignant denunciation of Roman brutality, but with a warning to His own people to “repent”.

This raises an important question: Why were they told to repent after Jesus heard about the indignity?  Jesus is more concerned with the eternal than the temporal.  This is not to say that the loss of the people wasn’t serious, but Jesus’ mission was not to settle political disputes, or fix people’s personal problems.  It was to atone for sin, to fulfill the promises of God concerning Israel and the Gentiles, and to usher in the Kingdom of God.

The people are too short-sighted.

The word “fate” is not in the original and is not here intended to support the belief of fatalism. The Greek says, “such things.”

3. I tell you, no, but, unless you repent you will all likewise perish. His statement that they repent or perish is a bold confrontation of sin; something the Jews did not appreciate Jesus pointing out, particularly when they are expecting Jesus to side with them about the slaughter of the Galileans.  Apparently, they were looking for ways to get Jesus to agree with them politically.  But Jesus would have no part of it.  He is not to be parceled out in order to get his approval on different matters on which people are personally concerned whether it be political, social, or theological.  He won’t be used that way.  Instead, Jesus gets to the heart of the matter.

He pulls a switch on them.  Jesus doesn’t comment on the atrocity of people killed in the act of sacrifice to the God of Israel, as terrible as it is.  Instead He tells the multitudes they need to repent or perish.

We know that the judging hand of God fell upon the Jewish nation in the form of its destruction in 70 A.D. when Israel was scattered and the temple destroyed.  The Jewish nation had not repented of its sins of legalism, self-righteousness, and ethnic pride, all of which, combined to bring about the murder of Jesus at their hands.  The Jews reaped what they sowed.  They sowed death.  They reaped death.

However, there is not intended here a one to one correspondence on the relationship between sin and its consequences. Elsewhere Jesus denies such a correspondence.  Please consider this: “And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind’?  Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him,” (John 9:1-3).

4. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, were worse culprits [debtors] than all the men who live in Jerusalem? Jesus broadens the scope of the discussion by mentioning an incident where a tower fell and killed eighteen people.  This may be one of the towers near the pool of Siloam in John 9.

He uses the word in Greek for “debtor,” (opheiletes).  This word stands in contrast to the word “sinners” in verse two.

We are in debt to God because we have broken His laws; we have sinned.  A debt is what is owed.  Matthew renders the Lord’s prayer as “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”  The Lucan account of the same prayer uses the words “forgive us our sins…”.  Debts are unfulfilled duties; sins are both purposefully and accidentally committed acts of rebellion.

The people speak of the slaughter and Jesus speaks of 18 who died long ago.  The 18 were no worse than the Galileans.  Why then were they all killed?  Perhaps the better question might be, “Why were any left alive?”  Nevertheless, there is no such thing as chance in a universe governed by God.  The deaths under the tower and at the altar of sacrifice were all permitted by God.  In this sense God ordained it. That is, He ordained it by permitting it.

But, this does not mean that God causes sin and suffering, but that in His sovereign plan, He ordains that they occur.  Again, this means that He gives place in His divinely appointed history for all events to occur that do occur: “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur,” (Acts 4:27-28).

5. I tell you, no but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” But what is Jesus saying?  He mentions the 18 and says they are no worse than those then living in Jerusalem.  Jesus’ declaration of the need for Israel to repent of their sins, in the light of the slaughter of the Galileans would almost seem to bring extreme anger, even revolt against Him by those listening.  After all, the Jews felt oppressed and the incident of the Galileans would only cement their attitudes of persecution and self righteousness.
6. And He began telling this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, and did not find any. Leviticus 19:23-25 says, “And when you enter the land and plant all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as forbidden.  Three years it shall be forbidden to you; it shall not be eaten.  But in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the Lord. And in the fifth year you are to eat of its fruit, that its yield may increase for you…”

The vineyard owner was ready to eat of the fruit.  But there wasn’t any.  It was the 7th year of looking: the 5th year fruit would have been the first year he could have partaken.  The 6th year would have been the second year he could have partaken, and the 7th year would have been the year spoken of here.  Therefore, he says in verse 7…

7. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’

 

The owner has the right to expect fruit from his vineyard.  Symbolically, this parable seems to be teaching that the Jewish leadership has had enough time to repent of their sins.  John the Baptist said to the multitudes going out to see him, “Therefore bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance…” (Luke 3:8).

Luke 13:34-35 says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her!  How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!  35 “Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

Years ago I came across a tract of which title alone struck me hard.  It said, “No Fruit? Cut it down.”  This is the case with Israel. God had suffered long with them and the nation had grown cold, legalistic, and self-centered . Israel was not bearing the fruit of God’s truth.

As Christians we are to bear the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Gal. 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  If these fruit (In Gal. 5:22, the word “fruit” is in the singular, not plural) are not manifested in your lives, should you be cut down?  Apparently, the Jewish leadership were not manifesting the fruit of the Spirit nor the fruit of repentance.

You can ask yourself, “What fruit am I bearing for the Lord?”  “Am I showing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and/or self control”?

These are internal characteristics, but what about external manifestations of those fruit?  Ministry to others?  Are you bearing fruit in furthering the Kingdom of God?

Isaiah 5:1-7, “Let me sing now for my well-beloved A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. 2 And He dug it all around, removed its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. And He built a tower in the middle of it, And hewed out a wine vat in it; Then He expected it to produce good grapes, But it produced only worthless ones. 3 “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge between Me and My vineyard. 4 “What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones? 5 “So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground. 6 “And I will lay it waste; It will not be pruned or hoed, But briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.” 7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah His delightful plant. Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.”

Matt. 21:18-19, “Now in the morning, when He returned to the city, He became hungry. 19 And seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it, and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He *said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered.”

John 15:1-2 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit.”

8. And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer;

9. and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.'”

Literally, “to put dung” around the tree in order to get it to bear fruit.  The word occurs only here.  Sometimes we need a little crud in our lives to get us to bear fruit. 

Literally, remove it from the vineyard.

This section contains simple teachings:

  1. The spiritual leaders of the household of faith are planted in “God’s vineyard” and are expected to produce fruit.
  2. God will not tolerate fruitlessness indefinitely.
  3. Mercy and Grace are extended to those who do not bear fruit.

What is the expected response of the one who hears?

You should examine your own lives and look for fruit.  Preferably the fruit of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23, for this is how you store up fruit for eternal life (John 4:36).  You must also realize that it is not possible to bear fruit apart from the Branch, Jesus (John 15), for apart from Him you can do nothing.

There are many types of fruit that could be examined: giving, praying, righteousness, forgiveness, tithing, discipling, leading others to Christ, missionary support, etc. Each is different, but each is from the same Lord.

Each of us is different with different gifts and fruit, but we are all of the same body.

Use what God has given you for His glory, to bear fruit, and to further His Kingdom.

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What are the parables that Jesus taught? – The Great Banquet, Luke 14:15-24

parables of jesus

What are the parables that Jesus taught?

by Matt Slick

Jesus spoke a great deal in parables. A parable is an illustration, a story that is designed to teach a lesson. Jesus used them frequently and cited the common culture, norms, and situation of the time he was in so as to teach the listeners in terms they would understand.

Following is a list of the parables of Jesus taken from the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, published by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee, 2003.

  1.      The speck and the log   Matt 7:1–6; Luke 6:37–43
  2.      The two houses   Matt 7:24–27; Luke 6:47–49
  3.      Children in the marketplace   Matt 11:16–19; Luke 7:32
  4.      The two debtors   Luke 7:41
  5.      The unclean spirit   Matt 12:43–45; Luke 11:24–26
  6.      The rich man’s meditation   Luke 12:16–21
  7.      The barren fig tree   Luke 13:6–9
  8.      The sower   Matt 13; 3–8; Mark 4:3–8; Luke 8:5–8
  9.      The tares   Matt 13:24–30
  10.     The seed   Mark 4:20
  11.     The grain of mustard seed   Matt 13:31–32; Mark 4:31–32; Luke 13:19
  12.     The leaven   Matt 13:33; Luke 13:21
  13.     The lamp   Matt 5:15; Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16; 11:33
  14.     The dragnet   Matt 13:47–48
  15.     The hidden treasure   Matt 13:44
  16.     The pearl of great value   Matt 13:45–46
  17.     The householder   Matt 13:52
  18.     The marriage   Matt 9:15; Mark 2:19–20; Luke 5:34–35
  19.     The patched garment   Matt 9:16; Mark 2:21; Luke 5:36
  20.     The wine bottles   Matt 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37
  21.     The harvest   Matt 9:37; Luke 10:2
  22.     The opponent   Matt 5:25; Luke 12:58
  23.     Two insolvent debtors   Matt 18:23–35
  24.     The Good Samaritan   Luke 10:30–37
  25.     The three loaves   Luke 11:5–8
  26.     The good shepherd   John 10:1–16
  27.     The narrow gate   Matt 7:14; Luke 13:24
  28.     The guests   Luke 14:7–11
  29.     The great banquet   Matt 22:2–9; Luke 14:16–23
  30.     The wedding clothes   Matt 22:10–14
  31.     The tower   Luke 14:28–30
  32.     The king going to war   Luke 14:31
  33.     The lost sheep   Matt 18:12–13; Luke 15:4–7
  34.     The lost coin   Luke 15:8–9
  35.     The prodigal son   Luke 15:11–32
  36.     The unjust steward   Luke 16:1–9
  37.     The rich man and Lazarus1   Luke 16:19–31
  38.     The slave’s duty   Luke 17:7–10
  39.     Laborers in the vineyard   Matt 20:1–16
  40.     The talents   Matt 25:14–30; Luke 19:11–27
  41.     The importunate widow   Luke 18:2–5
  42.     The Pharisee and tax-gatherer   Luke 18:10–14
  43.     The two sons   Matt 21:28
  44.     The wicked vine-growers   Matt 21:33–43; Mark 12:1–9; Luke 20:9–15
  45.     The fig tree   Matt 24:32; Mark 13:28; Luke 21:29–30
  46.     The watching slave   Matt 24:43; Luke 12:39
  47.     The man on a journey   Mark 13:34
  48.     Character of two slaves   Matt 24:45–51; Luke 12:42–46
  49.     The ten virgins   Matt 25:1–12
  50.     The watching slaves   Luke 12:36–38
  51.     The vine and branches   John 15:1–6

The Great Banquet, Luke 14:15-24

by Matt Slick
12/04/08

The Old Testament background for this parable is found in Isaiah 25:6-9,

6 “And the Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine.
7 And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, even the veil which is stretched over all nations.
8 He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken.
9 And it will be said in that day, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”

“A ritual banquet is one that marks some personal or interpersonal transition or transformation, held to give honor to those undergoing the important social change.  As a ritual feature of hospitality, banquets indicate the transformation of a stranger into a guest (Gen. 19:3-14; Luke 5:29) or of an enemy into a covenant partner (Gen. 26:26-31; 2 Sam. 3:20).  Banquets mark important transitional points in a person’s life, e.g., Isaac’s weaning day (Gen. 21:8); the weddings of Jacob (Gen. 29:22), Samson (Judg. 14:10), the Lamb (Rev. 19:9), and in the parable of Matt. 22:2-10; the birthdays of Pharaoh (Gen. 40:20), of Herod (Mark 6:21); or the victory banquet hosted by God in Rev. 19:17.  At the Last Supper Jesus changes the ceremonial banquet of the Jewish Passover into a ritual banquet effectively symbolizing the meaning of his impending death (Mark 14:12-25 and parallels).”1

The setting is that Jesus was at the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath.  Jesus noticed that some of the invited guests at the house were seeking the more honored places to sit.  Jesus spoke about being humble and seeking the lower position.  He then spoke about inviting the poor and the crippled to dinner, even though they could not repay the host, because the host would be repaid in the resurrection.  Then we have the following…

 

15. And when one of those who were reclining at the table with Him heard this, he said to Him, “Blessed is everyone who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” “To eat bread” is another way of saying, “To eat a meal.”The phrase “kingdom of God” occurs 66 times and it is found only in the New Testament.

Matthew’s Gospel frequently uses the term ‘Kingdom of Heaven,’ while Mark and Luke always use ‘Kingdom of God.’ ‘Heaven’ in these instances is a circumlocution—a way of referring to God without using his name.2

There is both a present and a future aspect to the kingdom of God. In the present aspect deals with the presence of Christ who is a king. Matt. 12:28-29 says, ““But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 “Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.” The presence of Christ is the king means that the gospel is being preached as a result of the victorious sacrifice of Christ upon the cross.

The future aspect of the kingdom of God deals with the return of Christ and the “age to come,” the full redemption of the saved in a resurrected form, the remaking of the heavens and the earth, and all that is promised by God in the future.

The one who said “Blessed is everyone who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God” is a Jew who expects that he himself will enjoy the blessings of the coming kingdom. Jesus takes the opportunity to teach that one enters the kingdom of God, salvation, not by birthright or by works, but by grace.

16. But He said to him, “A certain man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; It was the custom when giving a dinner, to invite a certain number of people. Those who accepted the invitation were then counted. The meal was prepared according to the number who accepted the invitation. The more people coming, the more food had to be prepared. For example, a chicken would be for 2-4 guests, a duck for 5-8, a lamb for 10-15, a sheep for 15-35, and a calf for 35-75. In other words, the amount and type of meat depends on the number of people who accept the invitation. Once an animal has been killed it must be eaten soon or else it will spoil. Therefore, to back out at the last minute would be rude. The invited guest is duty bound to attend the banquet.

Also, it was considered very rude to attend a banquet if you were not invited; after all, the meal had not been prepared with you in mind.

17. and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come’ for everything is ready now.’ The second invitation is a notification to the guests that the meal is ready.

The Greek word “come” means literally, continue coming. This is consistent with the custom of a double invitation.

18. but they all alike began to make excuses. the first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’ The meal has been prepared, the table set, and people notified. To back out now is an insult.In the middle East, no one buys a field without first examining it thoroughly. The springs, wells, stone walls, trees, paths, and anticipated rainfall are all well-known long before a discussion of the purchase is even begun. The excuse is a lie, an obvious one, and the guest is stating in no uncertain terms that the field is more important than his relationship with the host. In a community where interpersonal relationships are very important, this strikes even harder as an offence.
19. And another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’ Teams of oxen are sold in the Middle East in two ways. They are taken to the market place and a nearby field and there they plow the field. Anyone wishing to buy may then drive the oxen himself and examine the animals thoroughly to see if they work well as a team.

That is like calling your wife at home and saying you’ll be late for the big dinner that’s been planned for weeks because you need to go out and look at five cars you just bought without looking at them.

The other way to buy the oxen is to announce that the team is for sale and say what day the team will be working in the field. Prospective buyers can then come to the field, watch, examine, and test them for themselves. Only after the team is examined thoroughly is a price discussed.

This excuse, like the other one, is also an insult.

20. And another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.’ In the tightly knit community of the Middle East a wedding calls for a celebration. At a celebration is food, and lots of it. The community would have been aware of the wedding and many people would have been invited. Meals would have been prepared before hand. Therefore, the banquet would not have been scheduled for the same day as a wedding.

Also, if the man simply wants to be with his wife then why did he accept the invitation in the first place.

This one doesn’t even say, “Please.”

21. And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ Anger would be a natural expectation of the head of the household. He has been insulted three times.

The invited guests refuse to respond to the good news that the feast is ready. What then is the host to do? He cannot have a feast without guests. He then invites the unworthy, the poor, crippled, blind, and lame. He brings in the undesirables. So, he gives the command to bring in the poor, who aren’t normally invited to banquets; the crippled, who cannot test oxen in the field; and the blind and lame who don’t normally marry.

They have no way of repaying the host and he knows it. Therefore, he is being gracious, very gracious in light of the insults received.

  • Matt. 9:36-38, “And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He *said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 “Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
22. And the slave said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ Some have already been saved. But there is room for more.
23. And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house my be filled.’ Notice also, that the command is not carried out in this parable. It is given but no account of its fulfillment is mentioned. This is because those being compelled to enter in have not yet been all invited. Redemption is still going on.
24. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.  

 

With what would the original audience have identified in the parable?

  • The Banquet = the messianic banquet that ushers in the age to come.
    • Matt. 12:32, blasphemy of the H.S. will not be forgiven in this age or the age to come.  Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30, we receive much in this age and in the age to come we will receive eternal life. Eph. 1:21, “(the power of God) is far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”
    • In this age We will receive 100 times as much, Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; People are given in marriage, Luke 20:34; The wisdom of this world is the wisdom of this age, 1 Cor. 1:20; The rulers of this age are coming to nothing, 1 Cor. 2:6; Satan is the god of this age, 2 Cor. 4:4; Jesus rescued us from the present evil age, Gal. 1:4; In the age to come we will receive eternal life, Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; 1 Tim. 6:19; we do not marry, Luke 20:35
  • The Original Guests = the leaders of Israel who are rightfully the first to be invited.
    • Acts 3:25-26, “It is you who are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’  26 “For you first, God raised up His Servant, and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”
  • The Lame and Poor of the City = the outcasts within the house of Israel.
    • Matt. 10:5-8, “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them, saying, “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  7 “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  8 “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give.”
  • The Guests from the Highways and the Hedges = the gentiles.
    • Acts 13:46, “And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.”

This parable teaches that no one may enter the kingdom of God without an invitation from God.  An invitation by grace.  It also is a warning to heed the invitation when it is heard; the invitation does not last forever.

In between two great banquet parables, each declaring pure grace (the Great Banquet and the Prodigal Son), is set a collection of sayings that speaks of the high cost of discipleship in clear and demanding terms (Luke 14:25-35).

The Banquet is free, the invitation by grace, but acceptance carries with it responsibility.  Discipleship is our responsibility.

Luke 14:25-35:

“Now great multitudes were going along with Him; and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.; Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand.  Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks terms of peace.  So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.  Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned?”

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The Importance of Prayer in Evangelism – What should you pray for? – Hindrances to prayer – Prayer is a privilege

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest,” (Matt. 9:37-38).

Prayer is essential in the Christian’s life.  Without it your witness will be far less effective and you will be far more vulnerable to the enemy.  When you witness, you need the blessing and support of the Lord.  You need to be in fellowship with Him.  Prayer makes this all possible.

When you witness you plant the seeds of the Gospel, but it is God who causes the growth (1 Cor. 3:6-7).  In prayer you ask God to give that growth.  In prayer you ask God to convict the unrepentant of their sin and by that awaken in them the need for salvation.  In prayer you, “…let your requests be made known to God,” (Phil. 4:6).  Think back to your own conversion.  Were there people praying and requesting your salvation?

Jesus prayed frequently (Matt. 14:23; 26:36; Mark 6:46; Luke 5:16; John 17).  Paul prayed (Rom. 1:9; Eph. 1:16).  Stephen prayed (Acts 7:55-60). You must pray.  God wants you to pray to Him and have fellowship with Him (John 1:1-4).  Why?  One reason is that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against powers and the spiritual forces of darkness (Eph. 6:12).  That is where the real battle is, in the spiritual realm.  You need prayer.  Prayer is one of God’s ordained means for you to do spiritual warfare, and sharing the Gospel is definitely spiritual warfare.

Another reason to pray is that you can actually influence God with your prayers.  If you are doubtful then look at 2 Kings 20:1-7. King Hezekiah was told by the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, that he should set his house in order because he was surely going to die (v. 1).  Hezekiah prayed earnestly (v. 2,3).  The Lord heard his prayers and said, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you.  On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD.  And I will add fifteen years to your life,” (v. 5).

Hezekiah’s prayer made a difference.  That is why you, as a Christian, can be an effective witness, because you have influence with God and because you can ask God to save.  Prayer is a vital part of witnessing.

What should you pray for?

Pray for more people to witness.  Jesus specifically asked you to pray to the Father and ask Him to send workers into the field (Matt. 9:37-38).  What is the field?  It is the world of sinners.  Who are the workers?  They are people like you.  Jesus wants people to find salvation and enjoy eternal fellowship with Him.  He wants you to preach the Gospel.  He has given the command “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,” (Matt. 28:19).  Your witness for God may or may not be verbal.  But either way, you need to pray and ask God to give you strength, love, and insight.

Pray for compassion for the lost.  Compassion is a necessary element in witnessing.  It motivates you to speak, to teach, and to pray for others to come into the kingdom of God.  Compassion helps you to cry over the lost and to come to God in humble request for their salvation.  Paul said, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation,” (Rom. 10:1).

Pray for the desire to witness.  Pray this regularly and watch the Lord change you and give you a desire to reach out and tell people about Jesus. God will grant your prayers and joy will fill your heart as you fulfill the command of God by witnessing.

Pray for boldness.  Pray for the courage to step out in faith and speak up when needed.  Many Christians are timid because speaking a word for the sake of the Lord can be risky and frightening.  Boldness gives you the courage to risk ridicule and to endure the scorn.  Ask God for it.  “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.  Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord,” (2 Tim. 1:7-8).

Pray to the Lord to bind Satan and his angels.  There is a hierarchy of demons seeking to hinder your witness and steal the seeds of the Gospel that you plant.  You cannot fight spirits with reason or flesh and blood, but you can ask the Lord to fight.  With prayer you can assault the camp of the enemy and weaken his false kingdom.  Prayer is a mighty tool, a powerful tool.  You need it if you are going to witness.

Pray for your needs.  Do you have a close walk with God?  Do you need a deeper fellowship with Him?  Do you have sins you need to confess and forsake?  If so, then pray.  Enjoy your privilege of coming to the Creator of the universe who meets your every need.  He loves you.  He wants to hear from you and He wants you to make your needs known to Him.  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God,” (Phil. 4:6).

Hindrances to prayer

Prayer is important for many reasons, especially for witnessing.  But prayer can be hindered.  So that your prayers and witnessing might be as affective as possible, a discussion of the hindrances of prayer is necessary.  Do any of the following apply to you?

Sin hinders prayer.  “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear,” (Psalm 66:18).  We all sin, but do you have unconfessed and unrepented sin in your life?  If so, confess your sin, repent from it as you are commanded in Acts 17:30, and continue in witnessing and prayer.

Selfishness hinders prayer.  “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures,” (James 4:3).  Examine yourself.  Make sure your prayers are not motivated by selfish desires.  If you find that selfishness is a factor then confess it and repent.

Doubt hinders prayer.  “But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind,” (James 1:6).  We all doubt.  We all fail.  But when you doubt be reminded of the man who said to Jesus, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief,” (Mark 9:24).  He believed and yet doubted and Jesus granted his request.  Remember that God has given a measure of faith to every man (Rom. 12:3).  Trust God, even when you have doubts.  It does not matter necessarily how much faith you have as much as who your faith is in.  Put what faith you have in Jesus.  Trust Him.  Watch Him be faithful to you.

Pride hinders prayer.  Jesus spoke of the Pharisee and the tax-gatherer who both were praying.  The Pharisee boasted about himself while the tax-gatherer asked for mercy from God.  Jesus said in Luke 18:14 regarding the tax-gatherer, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other.”  Jesus shows us that pride is sin and that it hinders prayer (James 4:6).  Have the same attitude that Jesus had in heaven in His full glory as He had on Earth as a man.  He was humble.  If you are prideful, confess it as sin, repent, and continue in humility.

A poor husband and wife relationship hinders prayer.  This may seem a little out of place here, but it isn’t.  A proper relationship with your spouse is very important.  If there are problems because of selfishness, pride, argument, anger, unforgiveness, or any of the other multitudinous obstacles that can develop in marriage, then your prayers will be hindered.  How are you doing with your mate?  Are you witnessing while there is anger between you two?  In Matt. 5:23-24 Jesus said, “If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”  Are you reconciled to your wife or husband (for that matter, anyone you know with whom there is strife) before you offer sacrifices of witnessing and prayer to the Lord?  If not, then be reconciled, so your prayers won’t be hindered.  1 Pet. 3:7 says, “You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that you prayers may not be hindered.”

Prayer is a privilege

Prayer is a privilege.  It is a powerful tool.  Without it you will be a foolish worker in the fields of the dead.  Pray and ask the Lord of the harvest to raise the dead to life.  Bend your knees in fellowship with your Lord.  Let Him wash you in His presence and fill you with the Holy Spirit.  Prayer is where you meet Him.  Prayer is where you are shaped.  Pray.

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Experiencing the Word: The Mind of Christ

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,…” Philippians 2:5 (NKJV)

What was I thinking?

Perhaps you’re like me and have wondered at times how you could have been so absent-minded, wrong-headed, misinformed, or thoughtless.  For example, I left the apartment on Sunday morning to go to my car to come to church for a meeting.  I was deep in thought about the events of the day, my sermon, people with whom I needed to speak, etc. as I got on my way.  The next thing I knew I was halfway to the Zoo train station!  With my mind focused on something else, I had absent-mindedly forgotten what I was doing and where I was going.  When I came to my senses, I laughed at my mistake and went to find my car.

On a different level…but in the same way…we are absent-minded, wrong-headed, misinformed, or thoughtless about our journey of following Jesus.  At worst, we buy into lies and un-truths that have their origins in our selfishness and/or the sins of others and we are blindly going a different direction.  We may say we’re following Jesus, but we’re headed the wrong way.  We need to come to our senses and renew our minds!

Paul says we need a “mind transplant,” that is, replace our minds…our thoughts…with the mind of Christ…the truths of God.  Instead of seeing things according to the lies and untruths of selfishness and sin, we should look at things from the perspective of God’s truth.  Our thoughts should conform to the truths of God.

How do we change our patterns of thinking?  Below are some suggestions that assume that you will invest the time and effort necessary to cooperate with God’s work in you to transform your thinking.  It won’t happen automatically.  No, you have to devote yourself to being in God’s presence, getting into the Scriptures, and meditating on its truth.  It will require that you surrender yourself to the indwelling Holy Spirit in order to partner with God’s work in your mind.

Review the list below.  Reflect on the meaning of each statement.  Let the Holy Spirit make it come alive in your mind.  Then, by faith, begin to experience the transformation…the sanctification…that God wants to work in your life to make you more like Jesus Christ in your thinking.

  • List your thoughts— prayerfully reflect on the thought patterns underlying your feelings and actions
  • Identify selfish tendencies of “My Mind”—ask the Spirit to convict you of self-centered thoughts, un-truths, and worldly lies
  • Get rid of “My Mind”—pray that Christ will transform your mind by eliminating lies, un-truths, and worldly thoughts from your thinking
  • Have the “Mind of Christ”—pray that the Spirit will shift your perspective to that of God’s truth as seen in Jesus Christ and in Scripture
  • Take action—follow Christ’s mind rather than your own; experience truth and put into practice God’s truth

May you have the mind of Christ,

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Your Mind – Mind of Christ

Mind of Christ

The Bible sees the mind as that place of contemplation, judgment, and intention.  Our minds allow us to be rational, to weigh evidence, to make decisions about right and wrong, options, etc.  Our minds allow us to worship, praise God, pray, love, repent, and trust.  In this we are made in God’s image with the mental capacities not shared by any animal on the planet.

How many thoughts pass through our minds every day?  It must be thousands.  We constantly think and contemplate.  If we multiply this by the number of years we live, then we undoubtedly produce millions and millions of thoughts.  Furthermore, if we realize that we are to give account to God for all our words, then we are quickly sobered.  Jesus said, “For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it should come to light,” (Mark 4:22).  All we can do is humbly lay ourselves before God and be grateful for God’s grace to us.  Because of Christ’s sacrifice He will not remember our sins either of deed or of thought (Heb. 10:17).  Thank you Lord and may you be praised for your kindness.

Knowing that we are cleansed in Christ, we can then set our minds on godly things.  “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God,” (Col. 3:2-3).  Notice what Paul says.  He says that because we have died with Christ (trusted in Christ and been counted in Him on the cross), that we are to set our minds on the things above, not the things on earth.  Paul is not saying we can’t think about our mortgage, food prices, family, etc.  He is stating that our minds need to be focused on God, on living the Word, on presenting Christ to the lost, on God’s glory, etc.  We are not our own.  We belong to the one who has purchased us with His blood, (Acts 20:28) and indwelt by God Himself (John 14:23).  Our minds are to be taken into the service of godliness.  Our thoughts are to be holy.

Again, praise be to God for His grace to us in revealing to us what the focus of our minds is to be: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things,” (Phil. 4:8).  Within the confines of our daily lives, are we guiding our thoughts to dwell on what is pure, lovely, good, excellent, and worthy of praise?

The more you read God’s word and the more you humble yourself in prayer, the more you are able to set your minds on the things that are above. You cannot be godly in your mind apart from the strength of God’s presence.  This is why you must seek God and be close to Him in fellowship (1 Cor. 1:9).  In His presence, your mind is changed and your heart is moved.  As Moses’ face shined with the glory of God after leaving His Almighty presence, so too will your mind shine with the glory of God as you spend time in devotion to the Lord.  Let your mind dwell on God’s mercy, goodness, love, kindness, grace, provision, and faithfulness. Memorize scriptures that deal with God’s holiness and purity.  Wash yourself with the Word.  Spend time in prayer with God and seek His will and guidance.  He desires to be with you (Ex. 25:8).

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect,” (Rom. 12:2).

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Evangelism – Presenting the Gospel – The Law – Jesus Christ – The Great Commission is God’s Plan for Building His Church

Defending the Word of God Jesus Christ Evangelism - The Gospel

Presenting the Gospel

How do you tell people that they need Jesus?   Do you tell them that Jesus loves them and that He wants to make their lives better?  Do you tell people that Jesus can forgive them of their sins?  Do you tell them that Jesus has a wonderful plan for their lives and that they should believe in Him and ask Jesus into their hearts?  If so, you may be doing a harm to their spiritual health.  That’s right, harm.  Let me explain.

The Law

The Law must precede the gospel.  The Law must come first and kill the person so that the gospel can make him alive.  The Law must convict the person of his sins so he will want salvation.  It is simple.  You preach the Law first, then the gospel.  You must make people thirsty for the water of life before they will want to drink.  The Law makes them thirsty.

If a doctor told you that you needed to take some pills for two months but didn’t tell you why, would you take them?  If he told you that the pills will make you feel better and that your life will be more pleasant, then would you take them?  What if you already felt fine and your life was great?  What then?  You might say, “Well, thanks.  Maybe I need them, maybe I don’t.  I’ll think about it.”  Then let’s say you gave the pills a try and you didn’t notice any change in how you felt and your life didn’t change either, then what?  You’d stop taking them because having given them a try and seeing no change, no reason to continue, you’d stop.

On the other hand, let’s say that your doctor told you that you have a disease that will kill you in six months and that your death would be slow and painful.  He then hands you the pills and says, “But these pills can cure you and save your life.  I want you to take these.”  Would you then take them?  Of course!  This is because you would recognize the desperate situation you are in.  You would recognize your great need and want the cure.

That is the purpose of the Law.  It shows us our sin. “…I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, Do not covet,” (Rom. 7:7).  Then, because we realize we have sinned against God, the Law then shows us that we are under God’s wrath:  “…because law brings wrath,” (Rom. 4:15).  The Law brings both physical and spiritual death because it empowers sin to kill us: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law,” (1 Cor. 15:56).  The presentation of the Law is supposed to show a person that he has a great need by demonstrating that he has violated the will of God and that he is going to have to face the terrible damnation of God on the Day of Wrath (Rom. 2:5).  If you don’t do this when presenting the gospel you are not presenting the real reason for the gospel and this can hinder a person from really coming to Christ.

God presented the Law before He presented the gospel — for a reason.  “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith,” (Gal. 3:24). God’s Law is holy and righteous: “So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good,” (Rom. 7:12).  Have you broken God’s Holy Law?  Have you ever lied, stolen, cheated, or been angry with someone unjustly?  If so, then you are a lying, stealing cheating, murderer in the eyes of God because you have committed those sins.  Like it or not, just doing those things a little bit qualifies you for the whole punishment of the Law.  “Cursed is every man who does not abide by everything written in the book of the law to perform them,” (Gal. 3:10).  And also, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.  11 For He who said, Do not commit adultery, also said, Do not commit murder,”(James 2:10-11).  God is holy and righteous and He will in no way stand for anything but absolute perfection and holiness in His presence.  This is why the Holy and Infinite God of the universe must and will punish anyone who has sinned against Him by breaking His holy Law.

The Gospel

Because of the harshness and truth of the Law, we are broken before God and recognize that we can do nothing to please Him because we cannot keep the Law of God perfectly:  “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment…”(Isaiah 64:6).  Therefore, the only thing left is to is come to the cross.  This is why it says in Gal. 3:24 “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.” The Law pushes us towards Jesus.  It compels us to come to the only one who can forgive us of our sins.  It breaks us so that we are found hopeless inside and we then turn to another to deliver us from the wrath of God.  This is why Jesus came.  This is what the gospel is about.  Jesus died on the cross to avert the wrath of God from sinners.  Therefore, the only way to be “saved” from the wrath of God, is to trust in Christ.  This is what it means to be saved.  It means to be saved from God’s wrath:  “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him, (Rom. 5:9).  The gospel is not about a “nice” God who is begging people to come to Him because He loves the sinner but hates the sin.  (The Bible never says that God loves the sinner but hates the sin.)  On the contrary: 

“The boastful shall not stand before Thine eyes; Thou dost hate all who do iniquity,” (Psalm 5:5).  

“There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, 19 A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers,” (Prov. 6:16-19). 

Such biblical teaching is not in harmony with most popular Christian theology today because it doesn’t present God as the “nice” God that is begging people to come to Him.  Instead, the truth is that God is Holy and He will punish the sinner.  But that isn’t all of it.  God is also love (1 John 4:8) which is why He sent His Son, to save us:  “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him,” (John 3:17).

So, when you present the gospel to someone, make sure you preach the Law of God first.  Let that Law work on the person to whom you speak.  Let it break the heart open so the seeds of the gospel can take root.  Let the Law of God make the sinner aware that He has sinned against God and that there is a coming judgment because of it.  Then, when he is ready, tell him that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life,” (John 3:16).  Tell him about how Jesus who is God in flesh (John 1:1,14) was able to live the Law perfectly (1 Pet. 2:22), satisfy the Father in heaven (1 John 2:2), give to us His very righteousness, (Phil. 3:9), and deliver us from the Judgment to come (Rom. 14:10; Heb. 9:27).  And when you do so, do it with grace: “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person,” (Col. 4:5-6).

 What is the Great Commission?

The term “Great Commission” and its associated theology and philosophy of ministry is derived from Matthew 28:18-20, which reads:

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”

A complimentary verse to the above “Great Commission” passage is Acts 1:8, which reads:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The Great Commission is God’s Plan for Building His Church

The “Great Commission” is God’s three-fold plan for building His Church, the Body of Christ. His plan involves the making of disciples, the confirmation and affirmation of disciples, and the ongoing teaching of disciples.

A person cannot be a true disciple of Jesus Christ until he or she is born-again — until he has come to genuine repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. So, the first step in fulfilling the “Great Commission” is evangelism. A person must be made a disciple before he can be a disciple. Christians are commanded by God to go everywhere, from their living room to the farthest reaches of the Earth, to bring the gospel to an unsaved world.

Once a person becomes a follower of Jesus Christ — a learner, a student, a disciple — he must testify publicly through the ordinance of baptism. Baptism has a two-fold purpose. For the disciple, it is the outward proclamation of the inward change of the heart and soul, accomplished by Jesus Christ. Baptism also serves as a means for the local assembly of believers (the church) to confirm the disciple as a follower of Christ, and to affirm the disciple’s entrance into the Christian family.

Once a person is born-again, becomes a disciple, and is affirmed and welcomed into the Body of Christ through the ordinance of baptism, it is the ongoing responsibility (until the Lord returns) of fellow believers to “[teach] them to observe all that [Jesus has] commanded.” The “Great Commission” does not end with evangelism. That is only the beginning. The “Great Commission” includes the responsibility of every Christian to help their fellow Christians to grow in their faith in Christ and their understanding of His Word.

 

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Verses Showing Justification by Faith

Verses Showing Justification by Faith

Justification is the legal act where God declares the sinner to be innocent of his or her sins.  It is not that the sinner is now sinless, but that he is “declared” sinless.  This declaration of righteousness is being justified before God.  This justification is based on the shed blood of Jesus, ” . . . having now been justified by His blood . . . ” (Rom. 5:9) where Jesus was crucified, died, was buried, and rose again (1 Cor. 15:1-4).  God imputed (reckoned to our account) the righteousness of Christ at the same time our sins were imputed to Christ when he was on the cross.  That is why it says in 1 Pet. 2:24, “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”  Also, 2 Cor. 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Additionally, we are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1) apart from works of the Law (Rom. 3:28).

To be saved means that God has delivered us (saved us) from His righteous wrathful judgment due us because of our sins against Him.  It means that we will not be judged for our sins and be therefore sentenced to eternal damnation.  To be saved means that we are justified before God.  Only Christians are saved.  Only Christians are justified.  The issue at hand is whether or not this salvation, this justification, is attained by faith or by faith and something else.

Following is a list of verses that show that salvation/justification is by faith. Bold references are particularly pointed.

  1. 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 eternal life.”
  2. Rom. 3:22, “even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction.”
  3. Rom. 3:24, “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;”
  4. Rom. 3:26, “for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
  5. Rom. 3:28-30, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.”
  6. Rom. 4:3, “For what does the Scripture say? “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”
  7. Rom. 4:5, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,”
  8. Rom. 4:11, “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also,”
  9. Rom. 4:16, “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.”
  10. Rom. 5:1, “therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”
  11. Rom. 5:9, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”
  12. Rom. 9:30, “What shall we say then?  That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith.”
  13. Rom. 9:33, “just as it is written, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
  14. Rom. 10:4, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
  15. Rom. 10:9-10, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved;  10for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”
  16. Rom. 11:6, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.”
  17. Gal. 2:16, “nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.”
  18. Gal. 2:21, “I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
  19. Gal.3:5-6, “Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 6Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”
  20. Gal. 3:8, “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations shall be blessed in you.”
  21. Gal. 3:14, “in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
  22. Gal. 3:22, “But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”
  23. Gal. 3:24, “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.”
  24. Eph. 1:13, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.”
  25. Eph. 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
  26. Phil. 3:9, “and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.”
  27. 1 Tim. 1:16, “And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.”

James 2:24, not by faith alone

The scriptures clearly teach that we are saved (justified) by faith in Christ and what He has done on the cross.  This faith alone saves us.  However, we cannot stop here without addressing what James says in James 2:24, “You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone.”

There is no contradiction.  All you need to do is look at the context.  James chapter 2 has 26 verses: Verses 1-7 instruct us to not show favoritism. Verses 8-13 are comments on the Law.  Verses 14-26 are about the relationship between faith and works.

James begins this section by using the example of someone who says he has faith but has no works, “What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works?  Can that faith save him?”  (James 2:14).  In other words, James is addressing the issue of a dead faith; that is nothing more than a verbal pronouncement.  It is empty of life and action.  He begins with the negative and demonstrates what an empty faith is (verses 15-17, words without actions). Then he shows that that type of faith isn’t much different from the faith of demons (verse 19).  Finally, he gives examples of living faith that is words followed by actions.  He writes of Abraham and Rahab as examples of people who demonstrated their faith by their deeds.

In brief, James is examining two kinds of faith: one that leads to godly works and one that does not.  One is true, and the other is false.  One is dead, the other alive; hence, “Faith without works is dead,” (James 2:20).

Also, notice that James actually quotes the same verse that Paul uses to support the teaching of justification by faith in Rom. 4:3.  James 2:23 says, “and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘and Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.'”  If James was trying to teach a contradictory doctrine of faith and works than the other New Testament writers, then he would not have used Abraham as an example.

Conclusion

Justification is by faith.  True faith is God’s work (John 6:28-29), granted by God (John 1:29), and is concurrent with regeneration (2 Cor. 5:17), which God works in us by his will (John 1:13).  This result of this justification and regeneration is that the sinner turns from his sin and towards doing good works.  But it is not these works that earn our place with God nor sustain it.  Jesus accomplished all that we need to be saved and stay saved on the cross.  All that we need, we have in Jesus.  All we need to do to be saved–to be justified–is to truly believe in what God has done for us in Jesus on the cross; this is why the Bible says we are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1).  This true belief with justification before God and regeneration in the new believer results in good works.

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Is Christianity the One True Religion? Jesus Christ His Teaching and Apologetics – Jesus fulfilled the Prophecy

Is Christianity the One True Religion?
Yes, Christianity is the one true religion.  That may sound awfully dogmatic and narrow-minded, but the simple truth is that Christianity is the only true religion.  Jesus said that He alone was the way to the Father (John 14:6) – that He alone revealed the Father (Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22).  Christians do not go around saying Christianity is the only way because they are arrogant, narrow-minded, stupid, and judgmental.  They do so because they believe what Jesus said.  They believe in Jesus, who claimed to be God (John 8:58; Exodus 3:14), who forgave sins (Mark 2:5; Luke 5:20; 7:48), and who rose from the dead (Luke 24:24-29; John 2:19f).  Jesus said that He was the only way.  Jesus is unique.  He was either telling the truth, He was crazy, or He was a liar.  But since everyone agrees that Jesus was a good man, how then could He be both good and crazy or good and a liar? He had to be telling the truth.  He is the only way.

Christianity is not just a religion; it is a relationship with God.  It is a trusting in Jesus and what He did on the cross (1 Cor. 15:1-4) – not on what you can do for yourself (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Buddha didn’t rise from the dead nor did Confucius or Zoroaster.  Muhammad didn’t fulfill detailed prophecy.  Alexander the Great didn’t raise the dead or heal the sick.  And though there is far less reliable information written about them, people believed in them.

The scripture is right when it says in 1 Pet. 2:7-8, “This precious value, then, is for you who believe.  But for those who disbelieve, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the very corner stone,’ and, ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense’; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.” (NASB).

The Mathematical Odds of Jesus Fulfilling Prophecy

“The following probabilities are taken from Peter Stoner in Science Speaks (Moody Press, 1963) to show that coincidence is ruled out by the science of probability.  Stoner says that by using the modern science of probability in reference to eight prophecies, ‘we find that the chance that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 1017.”  That would be 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000.  In order to help us comprehend this staggering probability, Stoner illustrates it by supposing that “we take 1017 silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas.  They will cover all of the state two feet deep.  Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state.  Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one.  What chance would he have of getting the right one?  Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man.”

Stoner considers 48 prophecies and says, “We find the chance that any one man fulfilled all 48 prophecies to be 1 in 10157, or 1 in 10,00,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 000,000,000.” 1

The estimated number of electrons in the universe is around 1079.  It should be quite evident that Jesus did not fulfill the prophecies by accident. He was who He said He was: the only way (John 14:6).

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Bible Study on Gospel of John, Chapter 1 – John 1:1–51 – The World – Jesus Christ – Beginning of Creation – John the Baptist – Regeneration

THE WORD

  1. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
    1. Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
    2. The word “word” was familiar to the Greeks who understood it to be the rational principle that governed the universe. The Jews understood the word to mean God.1  Therefore John was seeking to establish that the word which was God and was in the beginning is that governing principle.
    3. The word is eternal.  The Word is divine.  The word is personal.
      1. John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.””
    4. God created through his word is Genesis 1:3 demonstrates, “Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.”
    5. Jehovah’s Witnesses render this as “and the Word was a God”
      1. This is problematic because it implies polytheism.
  2. He was in the beginning with God.
    1. This hints at the Trinity due to the word being God and yet with God.  At the very least this is a plurality within the Godhead
    2. Notice the distinguishing between the “He” and “with God”.  Yet, John 1:1 already said the “Word was God.” To be God and with God implies a separation from God, yet also a sharing of the same nature of God, as John 1:1 says “the Word with God and the Word was God.”
  3. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
    1. John the apostle is telling us that the Word, which later became flesh, (John 1:14) is the source of all creation. Notice “through him.”  This shows the work of God through the Word.  Yet, the “Word was God.”
    2. Some might say that God used the pre-incarnate Christ as the conduit through whom creation was made. Often this comment is offered in an attempt to deny the deity of Christ.  Yet, that cannot work in light of the following verses.
      1. Isaiah 44:24, “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, “I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, stretching out the heavens by Myself And spreading out the earth all alone,”
        1. The LORD (YHWH) is the sole creator of all things.  If this is the case, and the Word is the means by which God created, then it could not be said that YHWH created all things alone.  But, since YHWH created all things alone, and the Word was God, then we can see the harmony in these verses.
      2. Colossians 1:15–17, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
        1. Firstborn does not mean first created. Firstborn is a transferable title, a title of pre-eminence and does not necessitate being a created thing when applied to Jesus.
          1. Gen. 41:51-52, “And Joseph called the name of the first-born Manasseh: For, said he, God has made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house. And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
          2. Jer. 31:9, “…for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn.”
        2. The Jehovah’s Witness New World translation inserts the word “other” four times in this text.  
          1. NWT, “because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All [other] things have been created through him and for him. 17Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exists.”
        3. There are two Greek words for the word “other”, allos which means another of the same kind and heteros which means another of a different kind. Paul could have used either word. However, he chose to use neither one. Therefore, the New World translation is incorrect and its attempt to deny the deity of Christ is wrong.
  4. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
    1. The first appearance of the word “life” is in this verse.  The word “life” occurs 47 times in 39 verses in the New American Standard Bible
    2. Life:  Jesus, as the creator, provides physical life as well as spiritual life.
      1. John 10:27–28, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”
    3. The first occurrence of the word “light” is in this verse. The word “light” occurs 23 times in 16 verses in the new American Standard Bible.
    4. Light: Jesus is the light. Notice the similarity with Genesis 1:3, “Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.”
      1. There are many verses in the gospel of John that speak of Jesus as being the light.
        1. John 3:19, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.”
        2. John 8:12, “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.””
        3. John 12:35, “So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.”
        4. John 12:46, “I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.”
  5. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
    1. The allusion to Genesis is obvious. 
      1. Genesis 1:4, “God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.”
    2. In this verse of John 1:5, light and darkness are symbols of good and evil.
    3. The word for “comprehend” is katelaben, from katalambano.  It means to “apprehend, attain, obtain, find, lay hold of, seize.”2  It is used figuratively here of “seizing the mind”, comprehending, understanding.
    4. Related Verses
      1. John 3:19–21, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.””
      2. Acts 26:15–18, “And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 ‘But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; 17 rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’”

JOHN THE BAPTIST

  1. There came a man sent from God, whose name was John.
    1. Old Testament Prophecy of John the Baptist
      1. Malachi 3:1, “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts.”
    2. The word “sent” is from the Greek apostello, to send, from which we get apostle.
    3. Jesus spoke of John the Baptist
      1. Matt. 11:7-11, “As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 “But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! 9 “But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. 10 “This is the one about whom it is written, ‘BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.’ 11 “Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
    4. Biography of John the Baptist
      1. He was born in the hill country of Judah (Luke 1:39)
      2. He was the son of Zechariah a priest (Luke 1:5)
      3. His parents were godly and obey the commands of God (Luke 1:6)
      4. His birth was prophesied by the angel of the Lord (Luke 1:8-13)
      5. His name was assigned by the angel (John 1:13)
      6. He would be great in God’s eyes, would not drink any alcohol, and would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15)
      7. He was related to Jesus (Luke 1:36)
      8. He lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance (Luke 1:80)
      9. He preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3)
      10. He bore witness of Jesus (Mark 1:7-8)
      11. He baptized Jesus (Matthew 3:14-17)
      12. He reprimanded Herod who imprisoned him (Luke 3:19-20; Matthew 14:3-5)
      13. He was beheaded by Herod (Mark 6:27)
      14. His body was laid in the tomb (Mark 6:29)
    5. John the Baptist as Elijah
      1. He is Elijah, Matthew 11:13–14, “For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 “And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.”
      2. He is not Elijah, John 1:19–21, “This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.””
      3. Spirit of Elijah, “It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
      4. John the Baptist wore a garment of camel’s hair, Matthew 3:4, “Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.”
      5. Elijah 2 Kings 1:8, “They answered him, “He was a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.””
        1. “This was the description not of his person, as in the case of Esau, but of his dress, which consisted either of unwrought sheep or goatskins (Heb. 11:37), or of camel’s haircloth—the coarser manufacture of this material like our rough haircloth.”3
        2. John the Baptist’s father was Zechariah who was a temple worker and may have had access to artifacts from ancient times.
  2. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him.
  3. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.
    1. The function of John the Baptist was to bear witness of the light, being Jesus. John was sent from God (v. 6).
    2. The word “testify” occurs 33 times in the gospel of John.
    3. Testifying/bearing witness of Christ
      1. Jesus bears witness of Himself, (John 8:18; 14:6)
      2. Jesus’ works bear witness of Himself, (John 5:36; 10:25)
      3. The Father bears witness of Jesus, (John 5:37; 8:18; 1 John 5:9)
      4. The Holy Spirit bears witness of Jesus, (John 15:26)
      5. The multitudes bear witness of Jesus, (John 12:17)
      6. The Prophets bear witness of Jesus, (Acts 10:43)
      7. The Scriptures bear witness of Jesus, (John 5:39)
  4. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.
    1. Light
      1. 1 John 1:5, “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.”
      2. John 8:12, “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.””
      3. John 9:5, “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”
      4. John 12:46, “I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.”
      5. Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
    2. World
      1. The word “world” here refers to the physical realm into which Jesus had entered via his incarnation and humiliation.
        1. Philippians 2:5–8, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
      2. The word “world” is used in different ways in the New Testament. It can mean…
        1. The earth
          1. John 17:5, “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”
        2. A limited and/or known area
          1. 1 Peter 5:9, “But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.”
        3. People of all kinds
          1. John 3:17, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”
        4. Possessions, power, influence
          1. Luke 9:25, “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?”
    3. “Enlightens every man”
      1. What is meant by “enlightens every man”?
      2. Does in mean every individual who has ever lived, was then living, or will live?  If so, how is this done?  Via the Bible?  Preaching?  Is it I statement about the general idea of the gospel message going forth?
      3. What exactly is the enlightening? Does it mean that Jesus is making himself known to everyone all over the world?  Or, does it mean that in the process of evangelism he enlightens every man about the truth of sin and salvation and the necessity of trusting in him and his sacrifice?
      4. Could it be a conscience that is provided to every individual?
      5. Does “everyman” mean it in a literal sense or in a general sense to all types of people all over the world?
      6. Debate on the answers of the questions continues within the Christian church.
  5. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
    1. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He was born into the world and yet the world  was made by him.
    2. To not know who Jesus is, is to not know his divinity, his Majesty, his work, his love, his purpose.
  6. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.
    1. Jesus came to the Jews but the Jews, as a whole, rejected him.
    2. Matthew 10:5–6, “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
    3. Matthew 15:24, “But He answered and said, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'”
    4. Old Testament Verses as background about the Messiah
      1. Genesis 12:3, “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.””

 REGENERATION 

  1. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,
    1. Receiving [lambano] Christ is an action performed by the believer.  It is enabled by God’s regenerative work in us.
      1. The unbeliever cannot receive Christ of his own, sinful free will which is what the following verse 12 tells us.
    2. Receiving Christ means that we become the children of God.
      1. “in John’s Gospel believers are referred to as God’s children and never as “God’s sons.”4
      2. Children of God
        1. Romans 8:14, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
        2. 2 Corinthians 6:17–18, “Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. 18 “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.”
        3. Galatians 3:26, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
        4. Galatians 4:6, “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!””
        5. 2 Peter 1:4, “For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”
        6. 1 John 3:1, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.”
    3. Believe in his name
      1. This means to trust in Christ, to put hope and faith in him.  It does not mean simple intellectual acknowledgment (ascentia).  It means faithful trust (fiducia).
  2. who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
    1. not of blood – not of human origin
    2. not of the will of the flesh – not of carnal desires
    3. not of the will of man – human effort and desire
      1. It is man who is deceitful (Jer. 17:9), full of evil (Mark 7:21-23), loves darkness rather than light (John 3:19), and cannot come to God on his own (John 6:44), does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12), is helpless and ungodly (Rom. 5:6), is a slave of sin (Rom. 6:20; John 8:34), cannot receive spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14), is dead in his sins (Eph. 2:1), is by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3), and is at enmity with God (Eph. 2:15).
      2. It is God who appoints people to believe (Acts 13:48), grants the act of believing (Phi1:29), works faith in the believer (John 6:28-29), grants us repentance (2 Tim. 2:24-25), causes us to be born again (1 Pet. 1:3), grants that we come to Jesus (John 6:65), and predestines us to salvation (Rom. 8:29-30).
    4. Regeneration precedes faith
      1. Since the unbeliever is in a precarious position and since it is God who must intervene, how then does regeneration and faith work?  here is an illustration using a light bulb.
        1. In a light bulb whenever electricity is present, light is also present. However, light is not the cause of electricity. Electricity is the cause of the light. Though they occur simultaneously, we would say that the electricity is logically prior to the light since it is the cause of the light. Likewise, in our salvation, regeneration is the logically prior condition that brings the result of belief. 

INCARNATION OF THE WORD

  1. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
    1. Jesus is the Word made flesh, he is God in flesh.
      1. Colossians 2:9, “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,”
    2. Dwelt among us
      1. The word in Greek for “dwelt” is from the Greek σκηνόω, skēnóō.  It means to tent, to encamp.
      2. Exodus 25:8, “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me [God], that I may dwell among them.”
      3. God desires to dwell among his people. God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden. When they sinned he went looking for them.
        1. 1 Corinthians 1:9, “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
    3. Only begotten
      1. The Greek word for “only begotten” is μονογενής, monogenas.  It means both only begotten and unique.
    4. From the Father
      1. Jesus was sent by God the Father.
      2. Jesus says “sent me” in Reference to God the Father 33 times in the Gospel of John, in the NASB.
        1. John 6:39, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”
        2. John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”
        3. John 8:42, “Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.”
    5. Full of grace and truth
      1. The term “full of grace” occurs only two times in the New Testament, here in John 1:14 and in Acts 6:8.
        1. Acts 6:8, “And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people.”
        2. Stephen was “full of the spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3).
        3. But only is Jesus is said to be “full of grace and truth”.  Stephen was “full of grace”.
      2. This is important in light of the Roman Catholic doctrine that Mary was full of grace. The Roman Catholics reference Luke 1:28 which says, “And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
        1. “favored one” is the single Greek word kexaritomena and means highly favored, make accepted, make graceful, etc. It does not mean “full of grace” which is “plaras karitos” (plaras = full and karitos = Grace) in the Greek.
      3. V. 17 also speaks of grace and truth in reference to Jesus.
  2. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ ”
    1. Again, John the Baptist is mentioned which signifies the importance of his testimony concerning Jesus.
    2. John the Baptist’s ‘crying out’ signifies his proclamation, his prophetic activity regarding Jesus.
      1. Malachi 3:1, “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts.”
    3. John the apostle makes it clear that Jesus was of a higher position than John the Baptist and the reason is because Jesus existed before John.
      1. This is reminiscent of primogeniture the teaching that the firstborn has priority and authority.
      2. Jesus is called the firstborn of creation:  Colossians 1:15, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”
      3. See Also, John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.””
  3. For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.
    1. Who is the “all” who have received the fullness?  Obviously, it cannot mean those who reject him.
      1. The “all” probably refers to only those who have received Christ (v. 12).
    2. Grace upon Grace:  the term is not clear. It could mean blessing upon blessing.
  4. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.
    1. Moses was the individual through whom God’s Law was revealed.
    2. Grace and truth are realized only through Jesus.  The phrase only occurs here and in verse 14.
      1. John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
  5. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
    1. We know that God is seen in the Old Testament in many places (Genesis 17:1; 18:1; Exodus 6:2-3; 24:9-11; Numbers 12:6-8), so what we make of this phrase no one has seen God at any time?
    2. Contextually, John 1:1 speaks of the word in relationship to God. In verse 14 after the word becomes flesh, in the Gospel of John, each reference to “God” is in reference to the Father.
    3. This is consistent with the words of Christ in John 6:46, “Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.”

JOHN THE BAPTIST’S TESTIMONY

  1. This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”
    1. Priests and Levites:  They were sent by the Jews, the members of the Sanhedrin.
      1. The Sanhedrin was the “Supreme judicial council of Judaism with 71 members, located in Jerusalem. It figures prominently in the passion narrative of the Gospels during Jesus’ trial and appears again in Acts as the judicial court which investigates and persecutes the growing Christian church.”5
      2. The Priests were in charge of Temple worship in Jerusalem.
      3. The Levites were also priests, but were from the tribe of Levi, and were subordinate to the priests. There were various cities that were set aside for their use (Numbers 35:1-8; Joshua 21:1-45; 1 Chron. 6:54-81) and they were involved in the care and transportation of of the tabernacle.
        1. Levites were divided into three families: Kohath, Gershon, and Merari (Num. 4:1-49).
      4. Neither the priests and the Levites owned land. They received their support through their priestly duties in the temple and in religious education.
  2. And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
    1. The Jews had been awaiting the Christ, the Messiah, and John made it clear that he was not the one they were expecting.
    2. John the Baptist was the messenger sent by God (Malachi 3:1), to bear witness of Jesus, not himself.
  3. They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
    1. If John the Baptist was not the Messiah, then  was he Elijah or the Prophet?
      1. Elijah
        1. Malachi 4:5–6, “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. 6 “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.””
      2. The Prophet
        1. Deuteronomy 18:15, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.”
  4. Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”
    1. He denied himself.  So they wanted to know who he was.
  5. He said, “I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”
    1. John claims to be the prophetic fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3, “A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD [YHWH] in the wilderness. Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.”
    2. Notice that the Hebrew says YHWH and says he is preparing the way for God.
  6. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.
    1. Pharisees were the dominate religious group in Israel from around 100 B.C.
    2. “Traditional” View The “traditional” view of the Pharisees has been that they were a Jewish sect or party whose members voluntarily took upon themselves a strict regimen of laws pertaining to purity, sabbath observance, prayer, and tithing.”6
    3. Luke 18:9-14, “And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
  7. They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
    1. They wanted to know why he was gathering disciples through baptism. 
  8. John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know.
    1. They wanted to know why he was gathering disciples through baptism.
  9. “It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
    1. Jesus comes after John because John is supposed to prepare the way for Jesus.
    2. Slaves untied the shoes of their masters.
    3. Feet were dirty and sandals covered dirty feet.
  10. These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
    1. They exact site of Bethany is no longer known. It was east of the Jordan, not the same Bethany that is near Jerusalem.

THE LAMB OF GOD

  1. The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
    1. A lamb was the animal of sacrifice.
      1. Exodus 12:3–7, “Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. 4 ‘Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. 5 ‘Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 ‘You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. 7 ‘Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.”
      2. Numbers 28:11, “Then at the beginning of each of your months you shall present a burnt offering to the LORD: two bulls and one ram, seven male lambs one year old without defect.”
      3. “Every use of “lamb” in the New Testament is figurative: twenty-eight times with reference to Christ (twenty-four in Revelation; Gk. arníon), twice for followers of Christ, and once in the description of the beast out of the earth (Rev. 13:11).”7
    2. Sin of the world is all nations, not just the Jews.
      1. Matthew 10:5–6, “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
      2. Matthew 15:24, “But He answered and said, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'”
    3. Jesus was crucified at Passover, the time of the sacrifice of the Passover lambs.
      1. John 19:14–15, “Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” 15 So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.””
  2. “This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ 
    1. This is a repeat of v. 15 which says, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ “
    2. John is speaking of Jesus’ pre-existence.
      1. The angel Gabriel (Luke 1:26) was sent to Mary revealing that John the Baptist was already in the womb of her relative for six months.
        1. Luke 1:36, “And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month.”
    3. Scripture about Jesus’ pre-existence
      1. Micah 5:2, “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.””
      2. John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.'”
      3. John 17:5, “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”
      4. Colossians 1:17, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
    4. Order of existence, physical before spiritual
      1. 1 Corinthians 15:45–47, “So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 47 The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.”
        1. Adam the man, became a living soul. It is not Adam the pre-existing spirit became a living soul.
        2. v. 46, the natural is first, then the spiritual.
  3. “I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.”
    1. Baptism is a form of public identification.
    2. Either sprinkling or immersion
  4. John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him.”
    1. Matthew 3:16–17, “After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.””
    2. Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchizedek
      1. Hebrews 4:14, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.”
      2. Hebrews 6:20, “where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
    3. To be consecrated as a priest, Jesus had to be:
      1. 30 years of age
        1. Numbers 4:1-3, “Then the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 2 ‘Take a census of the descendants of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, by their families, by their fathers’ households, 3 from thirty years and upward, even to fifty years old, all who enter the service to do the work in the tent of meeting.'”
        2. Luke 3:21-23, “Now it came about when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also was baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” 23 And when He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being supposedly the son of Joseph, the son of Eli . . . “
      2. Washed with water
        1. Exodus 29:1, 4, “This is what you are to do to consecrate them, so they may serve me as priests: Take a young bull and two rams without defect” … 4 “Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the doorway of the tent of meeting, and wash them with water.”
        2. Numbers 8:7, “And thus you shall do to them, for their cleansing: sprinkle purifying water on them, and let them use a razor over their whole body, and wash their clothes, and they shall be clean.”
      3. Anointed with oil (represents the anointing of the Holy Spirit)
        1. Exodus 29:7, “Then you shall take the anointing oil, and pour it on his head and anoint him.”
        2. Matt. 3:16, “And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him.”
        3. 1 John 2:20, 27, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know … 27 And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”
      4. Verbal blessing
        1. Exodus 39:43, “And Moses examined all the work and behold, they had done it (regarding the tabernacle); just as the Lord had commanded, this they had done. So, Moses blessed them.”
        2. Number 6:22-27, “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: 24 The Lord bless you, and keep you; 25 The Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; 26 The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’ 27 “So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them.”
        3. Matthew 3:17, “and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.’”
  5. “I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’
    1. God spoke to John the Baptist
    2. No definite article in the Greek here at “baptizes in the Holy Spirit.”  This is the only location where this construct occurs in the Greek.
  6. “I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
    1. The phrase, “Son of God,” is a title of Jesus. It implies His deity (John 5:18) because the title is one of equality with God. In the Old Testament it was figuratively applied to Israel (Exo. 4:22). In the New Testament it is applied to Christ (Luke 1:35). It has many facets, for example: It shows that He is to be honored equally with the Father (John 5:22-23). That He is to be worshipped (Matt. 2:2, 11, 14:33, John 9:35-38, Heb. 1:6), called God (John 20:28, Col. 2:9, Heb. 1:8), prayed to (Acts 7:55-60, 1 Cor. 1:1-2).
      1. Exodus 4:22, “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Israel is My son, My firstborn.”
      2. John 5:18, “For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”
      3. John 5:22–23, “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”
      4. Luke 1:35, “The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”

THE FIRST DISCIPLES

  1. Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples,
    1. We do not know exactly where he was, but from earlier verses the implication is that he was in Bethany, on the east side of the Jordan River (v. 28).
  2. and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”
    1. see comment in verse 29 on “the Lamb of God”
  3. The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
    1. Two disciples heard John the Baptist speak about Jesus and so they followed Jesus.
    2. Regarding “two disciples”. 
      1. Matthew 18:16, “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.”
      2. The two disciples that followed him were Andrew who was Peter’s brother, and another unnamed disciple, v. 40.
  4. And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?”
    1. “Rabbi” means a doctor, a teacher, and a master. It is a title of honor that means that the person is qualified to speak on Jewish law.   It is used of Jesus in John 1:38, 49; 3:2; 4:31; 6:25; 9:2; 11:8.
    2. Rabbi is used of Jesus here as is also the word “teacher” and other verses in John’s Gospel:  John 11:28; 13:13-14; 20:16.
  5. He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So, they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.
    1. The 10th hour is equivalent to 4 PM.  John is using the Roman system of measuring the day from the rising of the sun which normally occurred around 6 AM.
    2. Was John using the Jewish system of reckoning time or the Roman one?  the measurement of the day in Roman reckoning began at midnight which would make the 10th hour be equivalent to 10 AM. But if it is the Jewish system which began at 6 AM and this would make it 4 PM. If that is the case, then the events of verse 41 and 42 probably occurred the next day since a 4 PM time reference would imply that the two disciples spent the night with Jesus.
    3. An aspect of discipleship in Christianity is spending time with Jesus.
  6. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.
    1. The way “Simon Peter is introduced here implies that he was already well known.
  7. He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ).
    1.  The word “Messiah” means the anointed one and is a Hebrew term.
    2. The word “Christ” also means anointed one and is a Greek term.
    3. It appears that the first one to witness of Jesus in this context is Andrew (v. 40).
  8. He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
    1. In this act of discipleship, Peter is brought to Jesus.  Jesus should be the focus of who we are to follow as Christians.
    2. Jesus changes Simon’s name to Cephas which is translated as Peter.
    3. The “John” spoken of here would be someone other than John the Baptist.
    4. “Cephas” means ‘rock’. The word appears several times in the New Testament.
      1. 1 Corinthians 1:12, “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.””
      2. 1 Corinthians 9:5, “Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?”
      3. 1 Corinthians 15:5, “and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”
      4. Galatians 2:9, “and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.”
    5. To change someone’s name implies authority But, is also representative of purpose.
      1. Abram was changed to Abraham by God (Genesis 17:5).
        1. Abram = father of many.  Abraham = father of a multitude.
      2. Sarai was changed to Sarah by God (Genesis 17:15).
        1. Sarai = Princess.  Sarah = Noblewoman
      3. Hoshea was changed to Joshua by Moses (Numbers 13:16).
        1. Hoshea = Salvation.  Joshua = Jehovah is Salvation.
      4. Gideon was changed to Jerubbaal by the men of Ophrah (Judges 6:32).
        1. Gideon = Hewer.   Jerubbaal = Let baal contend
      5. Daniel was “assigned the name” Belteshazzar by Ashpenaz, a commander (Daniel 1:7).
        1. Daniel = God is my judge.  Belteshazzar = Lord of the straitened’s treasure
      6. etc.

PHILIP AND NATHANAEL

  1. The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow Me.”
    1. Philip
      1. Philip was the first disciple called by Jesus and he became one of the 12 an apostle.
        1. Matthew 10:3, “Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;”
        2. It is not clear whether not he was a disciple of John the Baptist first.
      2. Philip “…appears fifth in every listing of the apostles (Mt. 10:3; Mk. 3:18; Lk. 6:14; Acts 1:13).”8
    2. Follow Jesus
      1. Matthew 4:18–19, “Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.””
      2. Matthew 8:22, “But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.””
      3. Matthew 9:9, “As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.”
      4. Matthew 16:24, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”
      5. John 8:12, “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.””
      6. John 10:27–28, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”
  2. Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter.
    1. Bethsaida was a small fishing village on the North Shore of the Sea of Galilee. This is also the hometown of Andrew and Peter.
    2. Later in the Gospel of John some men approach Philip as the person through whom they could meet Jesus.
      1. John 12:21, “these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.””
  3. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
    1. Nathanael means “God gives”.  He was from Cana (John 21:2).
    2. Nathanael is not listed as one of the 12 disciples though some say he might be Bartholomew (Mark 3:18).
    3. “Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” is a designation of identification. In Jewish culture to identify a person the place where he grew up or was born was used as well as to say he was “the son of”.
    4. “son of Joseph” does not contradict the issue of the virgin birth. It designates the legal adoption Joseph of Jesus.
  4. Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
    1. There have been assertions made lately that Nazareth did not exist at the time of Jesus and that this proves the unreliability of the Gospels. But, this has been debunked by present scholarship. Nevertheless, Nazareth was a small village, not an important geographical or economic place.
    2. The phrase “can any good thing come out of Nazareth” may have been a local proverb. Perhaps it is because the town was out-of-the-way and rather insignificant.
    3. This is often the way of God to use the lowly.
  5. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”
    1. “Israelite indeed” probably refers to being a true Israelite and is a positive comment my Jesus.
    2. Jesus is saying that Nathaniel submit of integrity and honesty.
  6. Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
    1. “under the fig tree” is using the Old Testament and designates rest and safety.
      1. Micah 4:4, “Each of them will sit under his vine and under his fig tree, with no one to make them afraid, for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.”
      2. Zechariah 3:9–10, “For behold, the stone that I have set before Joshua; on one stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave an inscription on it,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. 10 ‘In that day,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘every one of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and under his fig tree.'”
    2. The figtree is sometimes used as a representation of Israel along with the implication that Israel should be bearing fruit. When Jesus cursed the fig tree because it had no fruit, some commentators think this is a prophetic reference to the judgment upon Israel for its failure to recognize the Messiah and promote him.
      1. Mark 11:20–24, “As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21 Being reminded, Peter said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered saying to them, “Have faith in God. 23 “Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. 24 “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.”
  7. Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.”
    1. The implication is that there was some sort of supernatural involvement on the part of Christ. We do not know for sure, but possibly Jesus simply knew that Nathaniel had been reclining under a fig tree some distance away perhaps earlier in the day.
    2. Nathaniel was most probably alluding to the Old Testament passage Jesus being the king of Israel.
      1. Psalm 2:6–7, “But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” 7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.”
  8. Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”
    1. Jesus said that Nathaniel will have greater reason to believe in him than simply Jesus saying he saw him under a fig tree. Obviously, Jesus knew he would be performing miracles for all to see and that Nathaniel would have greater opportunity to witness them and, ultimately, to proclaim the name of Christ.
  9. And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.””
    1. “Truly, Truly, I say to you” occurs 25 times in the Gospel of John.  John 1:51; 3:3, 5, 11; 5:19, 24–25; 6:26, 32, 47, 53; 8:34, 51, 58; 10:1, 7; 12:24; 13:16, 20–21, 38; 14:12; 16:20, 23; 21:18.
    2. “Truly truly” only occurs in the Gospel of John and not in Synoptics.
    3. Ascending and descending
      1. This is an allusion to Genesis 28:12 but here Jacob’s ladder is replaced with “the Son of Man”.
      2. Genesis 28:12, “He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.”
    4. Son of Man
      1. Son of Man designates the humanity of Christ but is accompanied by various attestations of the majesty and authority of Christ which goes beyond the mere fact of being human.
        1. Matthew 12:8, “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
        2. Matthew 13:36–38, “Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 37 And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one;”
        3. Matthew 16:13–16, “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.””
        4. Mark 2:10–11, “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.””
        5. Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.””
        6. Luke 9:44, “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.””
        7. Acts 7:56, “and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.””
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The Power of the Blood of Jesus – Redemption by Blood

The Power of the Blood of Jesus – Redemption by Blood

“Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things . . . but with the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish and without spot”-I Pet. i. 18, 79.

THE shedding of His blood was the culmination of the sufferings of our Lord. The atoning efficacy of those sufferings was in that shed blood. It is therefore of great importance that the believer should not rest satisfied with the mere acceptance of the blessed truth that he is redeemed by that blood, but should press on to a fuller knowledge of what is meant by that statement, and to learn what that blood is intended to do in a surrendered soul. Its effects are manifold, for we read in Scripture of RECONCILIATION through the blood; CLEANSING through the blood; SANCTIFICATION through the blood; UNION WITH GOD through the blood; VICTORY over Satan through the blood; LIFE through the blood. These are separate blessings but are all included in one sentence: REDEMPTION BY THE BLOOD.

It is only when the believer understands what these blessings are, and by what means they may become his, that he can experience the full power of REDEMPTION. Before passing on to consider in detail these several blessings let us first inquire, in a more general way, concerning THE POWER OF THE BLOOD OF JESUS.

1st. WHEREIN DOES THE POWER OF THAT BLOOD LIE?

2nd. WHAT HAS THAT POWER ACCOMPLISHED?

3rd. HOW CAN WE EXPERIENCE ITS EFFECTS?

  1. WHEREIN DOES THE POWER OF THAT BLOOD LIE? or what is it that gives to the blood of Jesus such power? How is it that in the blood, alone, there is power possessed by nothing else? The answer to this question is found in Leviticus xvii. 11. “The life of the flesh is in the blood” and “I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” It is because the soul, or life, is in the blood; and that the blood is offered to God on the altar, that it has in it redemptive power.
  2. The soul or life is in the blood, therefore the value of the blood corresponds to the value of the life that is in it.

The life of a sheep, or goat, is of less value than the life of an ox, and so the blood of a sheep or a goat in an offering, is of less value than the blood of an ox (Lev. iv. 3, 24, 27).

The life of man is more valuable than that of many sheep or oxen.

And now who can tell the value or the power of the blood of Jesus? In that blood, dwelt the soul of the holy Son of God. The eternal life of the Godhead was carried in that blood (Acts xx. 28). The power of that blood in its divers effects is nothing less than the eternal power of God Himself. What a glorious thought for everyone who desires to experience the full power of the blood

  1. But the power of the blood lies above everything else in the fact that it is offered to God on the altar for redemption. When we think of blood as shed, we think of death; death follows, when the blood or the soul is poured out. Death makes us think of sin, for death is the punishment of sin. God gave Israel the blood on the altar, as the atonement or covering for sin; that means-the sins of the transgressor were laid on the victim, and its death was reckoned as the death or punishment for the sins laid upon it. The blood was thus the life given up to death for the satisfaction of the law of God, and in obedience to His command. Sin was so entirely covered and atoned for, it was no longer reckoned as that of the transgressor. He was forgiven. But all these sacrifices and offerings were only types, and shadows, till the Lord Jesus came. His blood was the reality to which these types pointed. His blood was in itself of infinite value, because it carried His soul or life. But the atoning virtue of His blood was infinite also, because of the manner in which it was shed. In holy obedience to the Father’s will He subjected Himself to the penalty of the broken law, by pouring out His soul unto death. By that death, not only was the penalty borne, but the law was satisfied, and the Father glorified. His blood atoned for sin, and thus made it powerless. It has a marvelous power for removing sin, and opening heaven for the sinner; whom it cleanses, and sanctifies, and makes meet for heaven. It is because of the Wonderful Person whose blood was shed; and because of the wonderful way in which it was shed, fulfilling the law of God, while satisfying its just demands, that the blood of Jesus has such wonderful power. It is the blood of Atonement, and hence has such efficacy to redeem; accomplishing everything for, and in, the sinner, that is necessary to salvation.
  2. Our second question is-WHAT HAS THAT POWER ACCOMPLISHED?

As we see something of the wonders that power has accomplished, we shall be encouraged to believe that it can do the same for us. Our best plan is to note how the Scriptures glory in the great things which have taken place through the power of the blood of Jesus.

  1. THE BLOOD OF JESUS HAS OPENED THE GRAVE.

We read in Hebrews xiii. 20 “Now the God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus that great Shepherd of the sheep, THROUGH THE BLOOD OF THE EVERLASTING COVENANT.” It was through the virtue of the blood, that God raised up Jesus from the dead. God’s almighty power was not exerted to raise Jesus from the dead, apart from the blood. He came to earth as surety, and bearer, of the sin of mankind. It was through the shedding of His blood alone that He had the right, as man, to rise again, and to obtain eternal life through resurrection. His blood had satisfied the law and righteousness of God. By so doing He had overcome the power of sin, and brought it to naught. So, also, death was defeated, as its sting, sin, had been removed, and the devil also was defeated, who had the power of death, having now lost all right over Him and us. His blood had destroyed the power of death, the devil and hell–THE BLOOD OF JESUS HAS OPENED THE GRAVE. He who truly believes that, perceives the close connection which exists between the blood and the almighty power of God. It is only through the blood that God exerts His almightiness in dealing with sinful men. Where the blood is, there the resurrection power of God gives entrance into eternal life. The blood has made a complete end of all the power of death, and hell ; its effects surpass all human thought.

  1. Again THE BLOOD OF JESUS HAS OPENED HEAVEN.

We read in Hebrews ix. 22, Christ “by His own blood entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” We know that in the Old Testament Tabernacle God’s manifested presence was inside the veil. No power of man could remove that veil. The High Priest alone could enter there, but only with blood, or the loss of his own life. That was a picture of the power of sin in the flesh, which separates us from God. The eternal righteousness of God guarded the entrance to the Most Holy Place, that no flesh might approach Him.

But now our Lord appears, not in a material but in the true Temple. As High Priest and representative of His People, He asks for Himself, and for sinful children of Adam, an entrance into the presence of the Holy One. “That where I am, there they may be also” is His request. He asks that heaven may be opened for each one, even for the greatest sinner, who believes in Him. His request is granted. But how is that? It is through the BLOOD. He entered THROUGH HIS OWN BLOOD. THE BLOOD OF JESUS HAS OPENED HEAVEN.

 

So it is ever, and always, through the blood that the throne of grace remains settled in heaven. In the midst of the seven great realities of heaven (Heb. xii. 22, 24), yes, nearest to God the judge of all, and to Jesus the Mediator, the Holy Spirit gives a prominent place to “THE BLOOD OF SPRINKLING.” It is the constant “speaking” of that blood that keeps heaven open for sinners, and sends streams of blessing down on earth. It is through that blood that Jesus, as Mediator, carries on, without ceasing, His mediatorial work. The Throne of grace owes its existence ever, and always, to the power of that blood.

Oh, the wonderful power of the blood of Christ! Just as it has broken open the gates of the grave, and of hell, to let Jesus out, and us with Him; so it has opened the gates of heaven for Him, and us with Him, to enter. The blood has an almighty power over the kingdom of darkness, and hell beneath; and over the kingdom of heaven, and its glory above.

 

iii. THE BLOOD OF JESUS IS ALL POWERFUL IN THE HUMAN HEART.

Since it avails so powerfully with God and over Satan, does it not avail even more powerfully with man, for whose sake it was actually shed ? We may be sure of it. The wonderful power of the blood is especially manifested on behalf of sinners on earth. Our text is but one out of many places in Scripture where this is emphasized. “Ye were redeemed from your vain conversation with the precious blood of Christ” (I Pet. 1. 18, 19). The word REDEEMED has a depth of meaning. It indicates particularly deliverance from slavery, by emancipation or purchase. The sinner is enslaved, under the hostile power of Satan, the curse of the Law, and sin. Now it is proclaimed “ye are redeemed through the blood,” which had paid the debt of guilt, and destroyed the power of Satan, the curse, and sin. Where this proclamation is heard and received, there Redemption begins, in a true deliverance from a vain manner of life, from a life of sin. The word “REDEMPTION” includes everything God does for a sinner from the pardon of sin, in which it begins (Eph. i. 14; iv. 30) to the full deliverance of the body by Resurrection (Rom. viii. 24).

 

Those to whom Peter wrote (r Pet. i. 2) were “Elect -to the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” It was the proclamation about the precious blood that had touched their hearts, and brought them to repentance; awakening faith in them, and filling their souls with life and joy. Each believer was an illustration of the wonderful power of the blood. Further on, when Peter exhorts them to holiness, it is still the precious blood which is his plea. On that he would fix their eyes. For the Jew, in his self-righteousness, and hatred of Christ; for the heathen, in his godliness, there was only one means of deliverance from the power of sin. It is still the one power that effects daily deliverance for sinners. How could it be otherwise? The blood that availed so powerfully in heaven and over hell, IS ALL-POWERFUL ALSO IN A SINNER’S HEART. It is impossible for us to think too highly, or to expect too much, from the power of Jesus’ blood.

 

III. How DOES THIS Power WORK? This is our third question.

In what conditions, under what circumstances, can that power secure, unhindered, in us, the mighty results it is intended to produce: The first answer is, that just as it is everywhere in the kingdom of God,

IT IS THROUGH FAITH.

But faith is largely dependent on knowledge. If knowledge of what the blood can accomplish is imperfect, faith expects little, and the more powerful effects of the blood are impossible. Many Christians think that if now, through faith in the blood, they have received the assurance of the pardon of their sins, they have a sufficient knowledge of its effects. They have no idea that the words of God, like God Himself, are inexhaustible, that they have a wealth of meaning and blessing that surpasses all understanding.

They do not remember that when the Holy Spirit speaks of cleansing through the blood, such words are only the imperfect human expressions of the effects and experiences by which the blood, in an unspeakably glorious manner, will reveal its heavenly life-giving power to the soul. Feeble conceptions of its power prevent the deeper, and more perfect manifestations of its effects. As we seek to find out what the Scripture teaches about the blood, we shall see, that faith in the blood, even as we now understand it, can produce in us greater results than we have yet known, and in future, a ceaseless blessing may be ours.

Our faith may be strengthened by noticing what the blood has already accomplished. Heaven and hell bear witness to that. Faith will grow by exercising confidence in the fathomless fullness of the promises of God. Let us heartily expect that as we enter more deeply into the fountain, its cleansing, quickening, life-giving power, will be revealed more blessedly.

We know that in bathing we enter into the most intimate relationship with the water, giving ourselves up to its cleansing effects. The blood of Jesus is described as a “fountain opened for sin and uncleanness” (Zech. xiii, i). By the power of the Holy Spirit it streams through the heavenly Temple. By faith I place myself in closest touch with this heavenly stream, I yield myself to it, I let it cover me, and go through me. I bathe in the fountain. It cannot withhold its cleansing and strengthening power. I must in simple faith turn away from what is seen, to plunge into that spiritual fountain, which represents the Savior’s blood, with the assurance that it will manifest its blessed power in me. So let us with childlike, persevering, expectant faith, open our souls to an ever increasing experience of the wonderful power of the blood.

 

  1. But there is still another reply to the question as to what else is necessary, that the blood may manifest its power.

Scripture connects the blood most closely with the Spirit. It is only where the Spirit works that the power of the blood will be manifested.

THE SPIRIT AND THE BLOOD.

We read in St. John that “there are three that bear witness on earth, the Spirit, and the water and the blood; and these three are one” (i John v. 8). The water refers to baptism unto repentance and the laying aside of sin. The blood witnesses to redemption in Christ. The Spirit is He who supplies power to the water and the blood. So also the Spirit and the blood are associated in Hebrews ix. 14, where we read, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience.” It was by the eternal Spirit in our Lord, that His blood had its value and power. It is always through the Spirit that the blood possesses its living power in heaven, and in the hearts of men. The blood and the Spirit ever bear testimony together. Where the blood is honoured in faith or preaching, there the Spirit works; and where He works He always leads souls to the blood. The Holy Spirit could not be given till the blood was shed. The living bond between the Spirit and the blood cannot be broken. It should be seriously noticed, that if the full power of the blood is to be manifested in our souls, we must place ourselves under the teaching of the Holy Spirit. We must firmly believe that He is in us, carrying on His work in our hearts. We must live as those who know that the Spirit of God really dwells within, as a seed of life, and He will bring to perfection the hidden, powerful effects, of the blood. We must allow Him to lead us.

 

Through the Spirit the blood will cleanse, sanctify and unite us to God.

When the Apostle desired to arouse believers to hearken to God’s voice, with His call to holiness, “Be ye holy, for I am holy,” he reminded them that they had been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.

KNOWLEDGE NECESSARY.

They must know that they have been redeemed, and what that redemption signified, but they must above all know that “it was not by corruptible things such as silver and gold,” things in which there was no power of life, “but by the precious blood of Christ.” To have a correct perception of what the preciousness of that blood was, as the power of a perfect redemption, would be to them the power of a new and holy life.

Beloved Christians, that statement concerns us also. We must know that we are redeemed by the precious blood. We must know about redemption and the blood before we can experience its power. In proportion as we more fully understand what redemption is, and what the power and preciousness of the blood are, by which redemption has been obtained, we shall the more fully experience its value.

Let us betake ourselves to the School of the Holy Spirit to be led into a deeper knowledge of redemption through the precious blood.

 

NEED AND DESIRE.

Two things are needful for this.

First: a deeper sense of need, and a desire to understand the blood better. The blood has been shed to take away sin. The power of the blood is to bring to naught the power of sin.

We are, alas, too easily satisfied with the first beginnings of deliverance from sin.

Oh, that what remains of sin in us might become unbearable to us!

May we no longer be contented with the fact that we, as redeemed ones, sin against God’s will in so many things.

May the desire for holiness become stronger in us. Should not the thought that the blood has more power than we know of, and can do for us greater things than we have yet experienced, cause our hearts to go out in strong desire? If there were more desire for deliverance from sin; for holiness and intimate friendship with a Holy God; it would be the first thing that is needful for being led further into the knowledge of what the blood can do.

EXPECTATION.

The second thing will follow.

Desire must become expectation.

As we inquire from the Word, in faith, what the blood has accomplished, it must be a settled matter with us, that the blood can manifest its full power also in us. No sense of unworthiness, or of ignorance, or of helplessness must cause us to doubt. The blood works .in the surrendered soul with a ceaseless power of life.

Surrender yourself to God the Holy Spirit. Fix the eyes of your heart on the blood.

Open your whole inner being to its power.

The blood on which the Throne of Grace in heaven is founded, can make your heart the temple and throne of God.

Shelter under the ever-continuing sprinkling of the blood.

Ask the Lamb of God Himself to make the blood efficacious in you.

You will surely experience that there is nothing to compare with the wonder-working power of the blood of Jesus

 

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The Return of God

The Return of God

“He has his rising on the edge of heaven, the end of its course its furthest edge,
and nothing can escape his heat.”
Psalm 19:6


The flood constitutes a great dividing line
in the creation. Not only does it separate Eden from Babylon, it marks the deepest part of the separation between man and God because it defines intense world-wide rebellion followed by divine Judgment.

While God was destroying Eden in the waters of the flood, He directed the angels who were loyal to Him to make war on Satan and on the wicked angels who had sided with Lucifer in his rebellion.

Led by Michael the Archangel, God’s holy army successfully defeated the rebels and drove them out of the vault of heaven — throwing them down to this world. “And now war broke out in heaven, when Michael with his angels attacked the dragon. the dragon fought back with his angels, but they were defeated and driven out of heaven.” (Rev.12:7-9).

Jesus told us that he watched this event happen. “I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (Lk.10:17).

Accompanying Satan in his fateful fall from the vault of heaven down to the earth were all the angels he had misled (Rv.12:4). These are the dominions and powers of the underworld who promote and foment all the social chaos we see today on earth.

No longer a force in heaven, they concentrate their mayhem on the people of this planet, encouraging jealousy, rage, murder, greed, corruption, sexual perversion, lying, stealing and every other manner of evil seen on earth.

From the moment that the war in heaven took place, all things changed. Everything that happened afterward relates to the judgment of sin and to the destruction of Satan (and all of his works) by the forces of God.

With the flood of Eden, God’s judgment had begun. The first creation was destroyed and Satan and his forces were banished forever from heaven.

Because he had stood firm when the Revolt first occurred, and then later led God’s forces in Satan’s defeat, Michael was chosen by God to take Satan’s station. We can see an allegorical reference to this in the Book of Esther: “The king, who had recovered his signet ring from Haman, took it off and gave it to Mordecai, while Esther gave Mordecai charge of Haman’s house.” (Esther 8:2).

With this appointment, Michael became the guardian angel of God’s people. Confirming this, Jesus, when he appeared to Daniel in a vision, told him, “In all this there is no one to lend me support except Michael your prince, on whom I rely to give me support and reinforce me.” (Dn.10:21-11:1).

Imprisonment and then Rescue

The flood shows the intensity of God’s judgment once He decides to act. What ensued in the wake of the flood was a period of ’40 days’ called by scripture, the time of ‘mist and darkness’. (Ez.34:12). It was a black chaos in which all life had been extinguished except for that which existed on the ark, and so it represented God’s temporary abandonment of the world.

“God is going to abandon them till the time when she who is to give birth, gives birth. Then the remnant of his brothers will come back to the sons of Israel”. (Micah 5:2-3).

God had rolled the heavens of Eden up like a scroll (Is.34:4). All that was left of that world was water — the water of the lower sea. Darkness covered the earth, and the land was no more.

In the aftermath of that disaster, Eden disappeared forever. Where it once had stood only chaos remained — a time of mist and darkness. Riding atop the choppy seas of this darkness were eight people of faith and a tiny ark which carried the entire seed of the creation.

The shroud which covered the land was an infinite darkness because God had withdrawn His presence. “Yes; I am going to return to my dwelling place until they confess their guilt and seek my face; they will search for me in misery.” (Hosea 5:15).

For forty days and forty nights creation was ruled by Satan, the monster of the nether ocean; and the people of God lay captive in his wicked grasp. Imprisoned in chaos, they floated along in darkness on the surface of the waters of the lower sea.

Then suddenly, in Eden’s place appeared Babylon, the new world which God created out of Eden’s wreckage — a world populated not by Adam and Eve’s children, but by the sons of Noah. (Gen.9:18-19).

It was a world made by Jesus soley for the rescue which He had been commissioned by God to effect: “I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered during the mist and darkness.” (Ez.34:12).

It was only to seek and find His lost children that God allowed Babylon to come into existance.

Despite its miraculous rebirth, this world is not destined to last either. According to the Apostle Peter, the earth is going to be destroyed (2 Peter 3:5-10; 1 John 15-17) and for the very same reason that Eden was destroyed. Babylon is just a temporary replacement of Eden — made only for our rescue by Jesus. It has no other meaning.

The People of the Past

There is a fundamental difference between the people who died before the flood and those who came afterward, and for this reason, Peter tells us that Jesus had to preach twice. He said that Jesus went down to preach to the dead after he was crucified (1 Peter 3:18-20).

The prophet Jonah alludes to Jesus’ post-crucifixion decent into Sheol (Jonah 2:3-7).  The Apostle Peter, inspired by the Holy spirit reveals that Jesus, after His crucifixion, had gone down into the countries underneath the earth, to the peoples of the past. The text of Jonah’s verse 3:6-7 is vague in the Greek and has been interpreted by some writers in almost those exact words. There is no question that the Apostle Peter saw Jonah’s prophecy that way.

When Jesus did this, he did not go to the people who had died on earth before he was born, he went instead to those who had died before the flood took place. (1 Peter 3:18-20). This means that everyone who was born on earth after the flood occurred (even though they came and went thousands of years before Jesus appeared) God was able to rescue from our own scriptures.

How He was able to do this is a mystery, but Jesus confirmed it when he said, “On judgment day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.” (Mt.12:41).

But those who lived in Eden had to be preached to another way. They had no faith and went right on sinning up until the moment their world was destroyed. That is why Jesus had to go to them in spirit after he was crucified.

“In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life, and, in the spirit, he went to preach to the spirits in prison. Now it was long ago, when Noah was still building that ark which saved only a small group of eight people ‘by water’…that these spirits refused to believe.” (1 Peter 3:20).

The dividing line that separated those souls from ours was a boundary of both faith and flood. Everyone born in Babylon is descended from Noah, and therefore has come to life in the seed of faith.

The people of Eden were just the opposite. Since they had no faith, God had no power to raise them up to see Christ the way He was able to do with us. Their souls could not be raised to life in this world because of their lack of faith, and for the same reason there is little likelihood that any of them listened to Jesus when his spirit preached to them in their captivity either.

Jesus As the Flash of Light that Began Creation

The universe was created in a blast of light the scientists call ‘the Big Bang’. In this event, light fractured an immense darkness and began an explosive race to its farthest edge.

Following the instructions of Jesus, the Holy Spirit has created this world in such a way that its elements and events mirror divine reality. Therefore we are able to see in nature the reflections of the hidden truths of God.

They are not the same, but they often look the same. This is why we can see an image of the glorified Son in the burning brilliance of the sun above us. God created it this way on purpose — a creation reflecting in metaphor a vast reservoir of images all pointing to the sacred spiritual reality on which the creation was based.

That is why it is possible to see in the birth of our physical universe images of the return of God to a world He had abandoned to the flood. Because God’s time lines are so different from ours, it is conceivable, in the immense scope of the creation, that Adam and Eve and the world of Eden represent people and events that existed on the other side of the Big Bang.

Perhaps that is why this great primordial explosion at the dawn of time (bringing light into impenetrable darkness) represents such a compelling image of Jesus returning into the darkened lower waters to rescue the people of God trapped in it by Satan.

Science will never be able to prove such things, but the second letter of Peter alludes to a biblical universe that stretches far beyond the finite strictures most theologians and scholars now accept. Peter said that there were heavens at the beginning formed by the word of God, and that these were destroyed and replaced ‘by our present sky and earth’. And these, too, he said, would be destroyed by sin. (2 Peter 3:5-7).

Are their stars and planets older than the Big Bang? The supposition seems untenable. But the conditions of our universe — formed, as science shows us it was, in the equation of Adam’s primordial sin — i.e, after the apostasy of the Garden of Eden had brought death into it; coupled with Peter’s enigmatic declaration above, forces us to the doorstep of the possibility at least that God’s universe exists on both sides of that great fireball.

As we will see later, God has created a world in which there is great replication — a world in which everything seems to be repeated over and over again all the way back to the beginning.

There can be no question that history’s first fiery explosion vanquished intense darkness in a blast of light and triumph. The images that scripture’s prophecies evoke is that of a Satan running at top speed across a universe that he himself made dark, being pursued by the light of God which is chasing and overtaking him from one end of it to the other. “He has his rising on the edge of heaven, the end of his course its furthest edge, and nothing can escape his heat.” (Ps.19:6).

This same image seems to have repeated itself in the birth of the sky above us. And it continues, because we can see the physical image of Satan’s darkness when we look into the sky at night. It is only then, when the sun’s light is blocked that we see the real nature of the universe we inhabit. (Is.50:3).

It is infinite darkness — dressed all in sackcloth — but made luminous by billions of stars scattering all through it from one massive and single event at the sunrise of history when God commanded it into being, by saying: “Let there be light.” (Gn.1:3). “See how he spreads out his light, covering the roots of the sea.” Job.36:30.

Since God is light, and the universe we see just the opposite, we are able to see in the night sky the extent of the contamination of this world by Satan. Death, the result of Satan’s apostasy, reaches as far into the cosmos as humans can probe — to the very ends of the universe.

The stars and galaxies all die. Even the universe, Steven Hawkings acknowledged, must one day succumb to death. This is very significant. It means that everything in this universe was created under the sentence imposed on it by Satan’s apostasy. Therefore it must have all come into being afterward.

Creation to God is forever. “Death was not God’s doing, he takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living. To be, for this he created all.” (Ws.1:13-14). Thus Adam and Eve and their world must have been earlier.

This universe came into being after the spiritual Flood. It was created by Jesus when He returned into the void of mist and darkness which the flood had created in God’s absence. If this is true, the real dimension of the lower sea is quite vast and much larger than most of us appreciate. Yet it is all destined for annhilation because of sin.

The primordial light, then, can be viewed as a symbolic image of the sudden appearance of Jesus as he made His way from the Vault of God’s heaven and returned to the shattered and darkened world of Satan to rescue us from the bondage of our chains — bringing us out of the contaminated waters of the lower sea. “My salvation shall come like the light, my arm shall judge the peoples.” (Is.51:5).

Parting the waters of chaos, God brought order into the disorder, forming a road for the redeemed to walk along so that they could follow Jesus out of the lower Sea to the glory of his holy kingdom. “The Lord has promised. I will bring them back from Bashan, I will bring them back from the bottom of the sea…” (Ps.68:22).

The Woman in the Bushel

Despite the fact that it was born in faith, Babylon is a wicked world. That is why God has raised it up in a place so far removed from His own kingdom — bringing it to life on a remote island in the depths of the lower sea — an island whirling around in the wilderness of space — simply for the purpose of judgment.

As a signal of this fact, the angel of God showed the prophet Zechariah a bushel with a Woman sitting inside of it. The angel told him that this woman was wickedness, and that the bushel she was imprisoned within was being taken to the land of Babylon — to Shinar — where a temple was to be built for it, together with a pedestal on which to place it.

Our own world is Babylon, so we are the destination this bushel was headed for. “I saw a bushel moving forward and asked, ‘What is it?’ The angel answered, ‘this is their iniquity throughout the country.’ At this, a disc of lead was raised, and I saw a Woman sitting inside the bushel. The angel said, ‘This is Wickedness’. And he forced her back into the bushel and closed its mouth with the mass of lead.” (Zech.5:5-11).

The Woman inside the bushel (Wickedness) is the famous prostitute of the Book of Revelation. “On her forehead was written a cryptic name: ‘Babylon the Great, the mother of all the prostitutes and all the filthy practices on the earth’.” (Rev.17:5).

The relationship between these two prophecies shows that Babylon (this secular and pagan world) is the wickedness that God has allowed to be built (under His control) in a dim outpost far removed from His own kingdom. Our civilization is the pedestal on which satan’s temple to wickedness was allowed to be reconstructed out of the wreckage of Eden.

Imprisoned by God and His angels, wickedness and everything that it infected were carried away by the power of God to this designated and isolated spot to be raised up for judgment.

An Offer of Reconciliation

But first, because of the love of God, just ahead of that judgment came an offer of mercy. It was into this hostile world erected far out in space that Jesus — God’s righteousness — suddenly appeared.

“When peaceful silence lay over all, and night had run the half of her swift course, down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt your all-powerful Word; into the heart of a doomed land the stern warrior leapt. Carrying your commands like a sharp sword, he stood, and filled the universe with death; he touched the sky, yet trod the earth.” (Wis.18:14-16).

Even though he had been prophesied in advance, Jesus came in a sudden and unexpected appearance and changed everything. “With his power he calmed the Sea, with his wisdom struck Rahab down, His breath made the heavens luminous, his hand transfixed the Fleeing Serpent.” (Job 26:12-13).

These prophecies point to the world dominion of Satan being suddenly and terminally interrupted by the coming of the word of God. This is why Jesus told the Pharisees, “But if it is through the Spirit of God that I cast devils out, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you.” (Mt. 12:28).

Jesus was showing the world that the spiritual darkness of the ‘Fleeing Satan’ had been overtaken and transfixed by the overwhelming speed and substance of the light of God — a conquest foretold in our own sky in the explosion of light which ‘made the heavens luminous’ at the beginning of time.

Jesus, who was with the Father from the beginning, created it all — symbol and reality — everything that we can see was created by Jesus for the sake of our salvation. “He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through him.” (Jn.1:1-5).

Whatever the actual circumstances, God has made the creation point to the fact that He has constructed Babylon out of the wreckage of Eden, starting this time, from a base of faith.

Noah and his seven passengers of faith were the only people from the civilization of Eden allowed to board the ark. So the new world that they started began in the seed of faith.

But along with the seed faith of Noah appeared others as well. An angel came to God in one of Jesus’ parables and said, “‘I thought you planted only good seed here, where do the bad ones come from?’ and God answered, ‘Some enemy has done this. Let them both grow up together and when they are mature we will select between them and keep the good, but throw the others in the fire.'” (Mt.13:24-30).

Like pharaoh and his army following the Israelites into the Red Sea, a people of Satan has followed God’s creation into the divided lower waters. “The returning waters overwhelmed the chariots and the horemen of Pharaoh’s whole army, which had followed the Israelites into the sea; not a single one of them was left.” (Ex.14:28).

So the world that we see — the Babylon that surrounds us — is a divided creation where good and bad coexist — where there is faith and non-faith and the two live together side by side. Jesus was sent by God to separate the two. And to prepare the world for the last judgment which would represent God’s final condemnation of Satan and the end of the war that he had started against God. “I will punish Bel in Babylon…”

Satan intended this world to be a gallows for God’s people, but God has reversed Satan’s plan and turned it into a gallows for wickedness instead. God’s judgment will bring an end to death once and for all, and return the kind of perfection to creation that God had established in the beginning.

“I seemed to hear the great sound of a huge crowd in heaven, singing, ‘Alleluia! Victory and glory and power to our God! He judges fairly, he punishes justly, and he has condemned the famous prostitute who corrupted the earth with her fornication; he has avenged his servants that she killed’.” (Rv.19:1-2).

This world — the entire lower waters which lay below the vault — is destined to be plunged into an everlasting fire — a fire described by John in his vision as a ‘burning lake of sulphur’.

This is why we all must leave Babylon. God is committing it to the flames. “…earth and sky vanished, leaving no trace…The first earth had disappeared now, and there was no longer any sea.” (Rv.20:11, 21:1).

The new creation destined to replace it will be formed in the upper waters — in the third heaven — the heaven that Jesus came to lead us into. In that new creation, Jesus will be King because he rescued us from Satan’s grasp and set us free from the sentence that condemned us to death, allowing those of us who believe in him to live forever.

The third heaven has not yet been opened. This heaven is the bride of Christ and cannot be entered until the day of the wedding. Therefore all of us who are chosen will enter together at the same moment.

The day that this third heaven opens is not the day each of us dies, but is a day that will immediately follow the judgment. That is why all who have already died in Christ are being kept in a safe place underneath God’s altar — awaiting the day of the bride — a day still to come. (Rv.6:11).

For those who have put their trust in Jesus, rescue is assured. “I rescue all who cling to me. I protect whoever knows my name.” (Ps.91:14). “Write this: …I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give water from the well of life free to anybody who is thirsty; it is the rightful inheritance of the one who proves victorious; and I will be his God and he a son to me. But the legacy for cowards…is the second death.” (Rv.21:6-8).

Jesus Christ, therefore, is a narrow door that God has opened for us just before the End to allow those who want to, to escape the punishment that is coming — the fiery wrath destined for Satan and all his angels when the waters of the lower sea come crashing back together one final time.

The Key to Our Rescue is Faith

God can only rescue us through faith. The same choices given to the angels are given to us. Armed with a full knowledge of both ways, we are free to choose for ourselves which to follow. God has given us all the chance to be a Michael or a Satan.

How little faith we really have can be seen in how we approach this wicked world. Even while we claim Christ, many of us worry far more about the cares and tribulations of this world, plotting whatever course it takes for us to succeed in the kingdom of Satan. So we ride the fence because that seems smart.

We have the world talking to us on one side about living wisely according to the smartest ways of Babylon. On the other side is Jesus and his Gospel. And it is only because of the weakness of our faith that we have a problem between the two.

That is because the world goes on as it has since the beginning and nothing has changed. “Well where is this coming?” they ask. (2 Peter 3:4).

“They are choosing to forget that there were heavens at the beginning, and that the earth was formed by the word of God out of water and between the waters, so that the world of that time was destroyed by being flooded by water. But by the same word, the present sky and earth are destined for fire, and are only being reserved until Judgement day so that all sinners may be destroyed.” (2 Peter 3:5-7).

God maintains control over our ultimate fate. We can see this in the conditions under which God allowed Satan to tempt Job: “Very well, God said to Satan ‘he is in your power. But spare his life.” (Job.2:6). While this seems to imply that God has trusted Satan to obey Him as far as our physical lives are concerned, it actually represents a mandate from God that concerns our soul — a mandate Satan has no power to undo.

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell.” (Mt.10:28). Satan has no power, independent of God, to take away the life of our soul or our body. It is God who makes the ultimate decision that determines our fate.

That is what the Day of Judgment is all about. That Satan’s temptation of Job and his temptation of us are related is clear in Jesus’ words: “Simon, Simon! Satan, you must know, has got his wish to sift you all like wheat; but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail, and once you have recovered, you in your turn must strengthen your brothers.” (Lk.22:31-32).

Physical death is not death as far as God is concerned. Jesus said that God intends to bring us all back to life because we must come and stand before Him at the Day of the Trial. “Do not be surprised at this, for the hour is coming when the dead will leave their graves at the sound of his voice: those who did good will rise again to life; and those who did evil, to condemnation.” (Jn.5:28-29).

Forest Lawn, then, is an image of the mouth of the dragon. When it swallows us up in death Satan seems to have won his war. But the promise of Jesus is that through faith, God’s power over the grave is absolute.

When God called us into this world to live for a time in the flesh, He raised us up out of a dungeon — a dungeon scripture calls the belly of the dragon — a pit we can see reflected in the graves we must return to at the end of our lives .

And it is from this same belly that we will be resurrected on the Day of Judgment. “I will punish Bel in Babylon and take from his mouth what he has swallowed.” (Jer.51:44). On that day those who pursue evil will follow the dragon into the lake of fire, but the people who chose in faith to follow Jesus will escape with their lives.

Jesus promised that they will never die.

 

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Evolution and the Atonement of Jesus Christ

by Tim Chaffey

Recently, the BioLogos website hosted two articles from guest blogger Dr. Joseph Bankard as part of a series on “how to understand the atoning work of Christ in light of evolutionary science.” This series features writers who hold different opinions on the relationship between evolution and the atonement. Critiques of some of these posts are forthcoming. This article will summarize the main points in Dr. Bankard’s posts and then offer a critique of these points.

Bankard’s Claims

In his first post, Bankard explains his objections to the orthodox understanding of the atonement, known as the penal substitutionary atonement. This view states that Jesus died as our substitute on the Cross, appeasing the wrath of God against sin and satisfying the demands of God’s perfect justice.

Bankard argues that if the substitutionary atonement view is true then “God is either severely limited in power or unnecessarily cruel.”1 What is his rationale for this claim? If God can only forgive sin through blood and sacrifice, then He must be limited in power, and if God could forgive humanity in other ways but chooses the torture and death of His Son, then He seems to be quite cruel. Bankard goes one step further and states that he doesn’t think God willed the Cross because then God would have willed sinful actions. Instead, he says, Christ’s “crucifixion was the result of human sin.”

His second objection to the substitutionary atonement view is based squarely on his acceptance of molecules-to-man evolution. If humans evolved from primates, then the historicity of Adam and Eve is unlikely, meaning that they never brought humanity into a state of sin, which ultimately would be resolved by Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross. Bankard’s statement about evolution’s impact on the Cross perfectly illustrates what Answers in Genesis has constantly told Christian leaders.

Substitutionary atonement sees original sin as a major reason for Christ’s death. But macroevolution calls the Fall and the doctrine of original sin into question. Thus, evolution poses a significant challenge to substitutionary atonement.2

Bankard’s second article focuses on his view of the atonement, or rather the Incarnation. His view of the Cross is more about Jesus experiencing what it’s like to be human so that He can really connect with us. As such, his view of the Cross has little, if anything, to do with atoning for man’s sin. Instead of focusing on the Cross, Bankard focuses on Christ’s life, arguing that the primary reason Jesus came was to show us how to truly be human—to show us what kingdom living really looks like. This functional view of salvation is consistent with recent articles on the BioLogos website that redefine the image of God to fit with evolutionary ideas. See “Evolution and What the Image of God Is Not” and “What Is the Image of God?” for an evaluation of this notion.

Critique

Bankard’s posts contain numerous theological errors and logical fallacies. His belief in evolution has clouded his reading of Scripture. For example, he claims that problems with a literal reading of Genesis led him away from interpreting the Bible’s earliest chapters in a straightforward manner. However, these “problems” are easily addressed.

Problems in Genesis?

He stated that as a young adult he was “deeply troubled by the divergent creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2.” These chapters do not contradict each other; they complement one another. Genesis 1–2:4 provides a broad overview of the Creation Week, while Genesis 2 zooms in on events that occurred on Day Six.

Bankard wondered how the word day could really refer to a 24-hour time period. “How could there be a day before the sun was created?” However, the sun is not required to mark the passing of a 24-hour time period on Earth. We use the sun today to recognize the start and end of a day, but it certainly is not required for timekeeping. God created light on Day One, and it seems that the Earth was rotating as well since there was a period of darkness and a period of light—the first day.

The account of Cain is said to be even more problematic. Cain moved to the land of Nod after killing Abel. But this troubled Bankard, and he asked, “Where on earth did all the people in Nod come from?” The Bible does not say that there were already people in the land of Nod when Cain traveled there. He brought his wife with him, and then he built a city. Obviously, the original inhabitants of Nod and the city of Enoch were Cain’s descendants.

Evolution Drives Theology

The theological rationale in these articles leaves much to be desired. It does not follow that if God only forgives sin through blood and sacrifice that He must be limited in power. The truth is that Scripture plainly states that death is the penalty for sin. God told Adam that if he ate from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that he would surely die (Genesis 2:17). Romans 6:23 tells us that “the wages of sin is death.” This is why the solution to the problem of sin and death is the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. If Adam’s sin did not bring physical death into this world, then the physical death of Christ on the Cross and His physical, bodily Resurrection from the dead have no connection with sin. Far from being limited in power, God demonstrates His power over sin and death by raising His Son from the dead.

Yet Bankard, based on his understanding of the evolutionary origin of man, does not believe Adam and Eve ever existed,3 so death cannot be the penalty for sin. Death must have existed for hundreds of millions of years before the first humans evolved.

Through the death of the perfect Man, God’s perfect justice is satisfied since sin requires death.

It also does not follow that since He chose to send His Son to die for our sins that He must be unnecessarily cruel. This might be the case if God sent an unwilling and unqualified person to die on the Cross. We must remember that God is triune, that the Son is also God. God became a man, and He willingly chose to lay down His life for our sins. Our Creator and Judge became one of us and took upon Himself the sins of the world so that we could be reconciled to Him. Through the death of the perfect Man, God’s perfect justice is satisfied since sin requires death. “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:21–22).

The penal substitutionary atonement view of Christ’s death has been widely accepted by Bible-believing Christians for centuries. As such, many may be surprised that numerous views of the atonement have existed throughout church history. For example, Irenaeus (c. 125–202) proposed the recapitulation theory, Augustine (354–430) held to the ransom theory, and Anselm (1033–1109) developed the necessary-satisfaction theory.

Space does not allow for an evaluation of each of these other positions, but two points can be made. First, while each of these views can find some support in Scripture, they are at odds with other portions of the text, and as such, they are insufficient explanations of the atonement. Second, these views were developed in an attempt to explain certain ideas found in the Bible.

Bankard’s position is different than these other views of the atonement in that he bases it on a concept found nowhere in Scripture (evolution) and uses that foreign concept to reinterpret the words of the Bible. Consider his own words describing his rationale in searching for an alternate view of the atonement.

In my estimation, substitutionary atonement does not fit well with the theory of evolution.4

If evolution is true, then the universe is very old, humans evolved from primates, and the historical accuracy (but not the truth) of the Genesis narratives is called into question.5

The substitutionary view argues that Jesus’ death redeems the sin committed by Adam and Eve in the garden. To adopt this view, one must read Genesis 1–3 more literally. At times, this kind of biblical hermeneutic may run counter to evolutionary theory. The view sketched above does not require a historical Adam and Eve or a traditional concept of original sin, making it more compatible with evolution.6

Commentary is hardly needed on these points since Bankard rightly states that evolution contradicts the historical accuracy of Genesis. He argues that if one interprets Genesis metaphorically or allegorically then one can still hold to the truth of the Genesis narratives. This would be accurate if Genesis were intended to be taken allegorically, but the biblical evidence against this notion is overwhelming. Jesus treated these early chapters as literal history, as did any author of Scripture who referred to them. For example, Paul built entire arguments on the truth that Adam’s sin brought death into the world (Romans 5:12–21; 1 Corinthians 15:21–22). Furthermore, Luke 3 lists the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Adam. But if Adam was not a real person, then how could Jesus be descended from him?

Denying God’s Plan

Throughout the articles, Bankard seems to conflate the atonement with the Incarnation. When he starts to speak of the atonement, he changes gears to discuss Christ’s life rather than His death. This is because he believes that we are saved by Christ’s life and the example He set—not by His atoning work at the Cross.

The most troubling aspect of Bankard’s article is his outright denial of Christ’s substitutionary atonement. In his second article, he attempts to explain that Jesus came not to die for man, but to experience life as a man. Throughout his post, he sets up the two ideas as though one must choose one view over another. He states that according to the substitutionary view, “God becomes human in the person of Jesus of Nazareth with the sole purpose of dying for humanity’s sin. But I argue that this view of the incarnation is somewhat limited. Jesus doesn’t become human to die. Jesus takes on flesh and bone to show us how to really live, how to be fully human.”7

By setting up the argument in this way, Bankard commits the logical fallacy of bifurcation (the either/or fallacy). He gives the reader the choice of only two options when at least one more is available. He misrepresents the substitutionary view by claiming that Christ’s death was the “sole purpose” for the incarnation. This is absolutely false, and it would be wrong for us to think that Jesus became a man for only one purpose. He came because God so loved the world (John 3:16). He came so that He could experience humanity and become our high priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). He came to fulfill prophecy (Matthew 1:22–23). He came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). And yes, He most certainly came to die on the Cross (John 19:28–30).

Christ’s death was absolutely part of God’s divine plan.

Sadly, Bankard apparently denies the last statement above. He states that “Christ’s death was not part of God’s divine plan. It was the tragic result of human sin.” Besides another obvious bifurcation fallacy (Christ’s death was both part of God’s divine plan and the result of human sin), the Bible explicitly teaches in a number of ways that Christ’s death was absolutely part of God’s divine plan.

We are told in Revelation 13:8 that Jesus is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” The Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Messiah were part of God’s plan before He ever created us. He knew man would rebel, and He already knew how man would be redeemed. The Old Testament prophesied that the Messiah would be killed, but not for Himself (Daniel 9:26; Isaiah 53:8–9). The psalmist even gave us a glimpse of the form of execution by which the Messiah would die (Psalm 22:14–18). Jesus told people several times that He was going to die (Matthew 12:39–40, 20:17–19; John 2:19, 12:32–33).

If these clear statements about the Messiah’s death were not enough, the Bible teaches us that the death of Jesus Christ was the only way for sinners to be saved. On the night that He was arrested, Jesus pleaded with the Father, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). Knowing all that was about to happen to Him, Jesus asked the Father to find a way other than the Cross to save sinners. Yet the fact that He still endured the Cross demonstrated that there could be no other way to save sinners.

Ironically, it is Bankard’s view that makes God unnecessarily cruel. If evolution were true, then God willed the deaths of trillions of creatures for millions of years. He also sent His Son to live on earth to show us the perfect example of humanity. But if the cross was not required to save sinners, then why did God permit Jesus to face such torture if it wasn’t even necessary? Was He powerless to stop it?

Finally, the Apostle Paul summarized the gospel message he preached.

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: the Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3–4, emphasis added)

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

The message that saves souls is the message about the substitutionary death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

Answers in Genesis has repeatedly stated that salvation is not contingent upon one’s acceptance of the straightforward reading of the Creation account, since salvation is based on the atoning death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). However, we have also warned the church for over 20 years that the acceptance of the billions of years necessarily undermines crucial Christian doctrines, including the gospel message itself.

Dr. Bankard’s articles seek to find a new understanding of the Lord’s death in an evolutionary worldview, and this new understanding demonstrates the accuracy of our warnings. By elevating evolutionary beliefs about the past above the truth of Scripture, Dr. Bankard strays into error by denying key elements of Christ’s sacrifice and its purpose that are clearly spelled out in Scripture.

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What Is God’s Name in the Old Testament?

God was known by several names in the Old Testament. Which one is accurate?

Bodie Hodge, AiG–U.S., examines many of the different names referring to God in the Old Testament.

I am sometimes surprised at how easy it is to answer some alleged Bible contradictions. And this one is rather easy. Imagine if someone came up to me and said, “What is your name? Is it Bodie or Mr. Hodge?” Well the answer is simple: it is both.

Should we assume that God has only one name and all others are contradictions in Scripture? That would be absurd. God often gave new names to people, such as Jacob becoming Israel or Abram becoming Abraham and so on. The names have meaning too. For example, Abram means “exalted father” and Abraham means “the father of a multitude.” The latter name obviously reflected the promise God made to Abraham about having countless offspring. So having more than one name is no contradiction at all.

God often revealed things by the name He gave for Himself. For example, Jehovah-Jireh means “the Lord provides.” In fact, the name Jehovah is derived from YHWH, the name God revealed to Moses. It is from a root word translated as “I AM” in the title “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). This helps us understand that God is the ultimate authority in all matters at all times and existence is predicated upon Him. In fact, there are a number of names that God reveals to us in Scripture. Here are some from the Old Testament:

Some Old Testament Names of God (Not exhaustive)1

Name Brief meaning Reference
Elohim God (Majestic plural yet used with singular verbs for God) Genesis 1:1
El God (singular) Genesis 7:1
El Shaddai God is sufficient/almighty Genesis 17:1
El Elyon God Most High Deuteronomy 26:19
El Roi God sees Genesis 16:13
El Olam God everlasting Genesis 21:33
El Gibbor Mighty God Isaiah 9:6
Jehovah “I AM WHO I AM” or Yahweh or “to be”; In English Bibles translated as “Lord Genesis 2:4 (Jehovah Elohim specifically here)
Jehovah-Magen The Lord my shield Psalm 3:3
Jehovah-Tsaddiq The Lord is righteous 2 Chronicles 12:6
Jehovah-Jireh The Lord provides or the Lord sees Genesis 22:14
Jehovah-Rapha The Lord heals Exodus 15:26
Jehovah-Nissi The Lord is our banner Exodus 17:15
Jehovah-M’Kaddesh The Lord sanctifies Leviticus 20:7
Jehovah-Shalom The Lord is our peace Judges 6:24
Jehovah-Rohi The Lord is our shepherd Psalm 23:1
Jehovah-Shammah The Lord is there Ezekiel 48:35
Jehovah-Sabaoth Lord of hosts Isaiah 1:24
Jehovah-Tsidkenu The Lord is our righteousness Jeremiah 23:5
Jehovah-Hoseenu (Asah) The Lord our Maker Psalm 95:6
Judge (Shaphat) The Judge Genesis 18:25
Mighty One (Abir) Mighty One Genesis 49:24
Branch (Tsemach) The Branch Jeremiah 23:5
Holy One (Kadosh) Holy One 2 Kings 19:22
Jealous (Kanna) Jealous Exodus 34:14
Deliverer (Palet) or (Rhuomai Greek) Deliverer 2 Samuel 22:2 and Romans 11:26
Savior (Yeshua) Savior Isaiah 43:3
Redeemer (Ga’al) Redeemer Job 19:25
Shepherd (Ra’ah) The Shepherd, overseer Genesis 49:24
Stone (Eben) of Israel Stone Genesis 49:24
Strength (Eyaluwth) Strength Psalm 22:19
Adonai Master or Lord (as plural); in English Bibles translated as “Lord” Genesis 15:2
Rock (Tsur) of Israel Rock Isaiah 30:29
King (Melekh) King Isaiah 41:21 [of Israel]; Psalm 74:12
Father (Ab) or (Abba Greek) Father Malachi 1:6 and Galatians 4:6
First (Ri’shon) and Last (Acharon) or (Protos and Eschatos in Greek) First and Last Isaiah 48:12 and Revelation 1:11
Immanuel God with us Isaiah 7:14
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Is Jesus the Creator God? The deity of Christ

A Look at John 1:1–3

by Bodie Hodge

Abstract

Truly, the identity of Christ is of utmost importance. And yet, in today’s culture there are people teaching that Jesus was a created being.

Keywords: Jesus Christ, Creator, God, created being, atone, sin, faith, deity, Jehovah’s Witness, Kingdom Interlinear, Emphatic Diaglott, Islam, Ignatius

Is this even an important question? Absolutely! If Jesus is not God, and therefore the Creator, then He is a created being. If Jesus is created, then how could He have been an adequate sacrifice to atone for sins committed against an infinite God? Jesus must have been God to adequately atone for our sins, which bring upon us unlimited guilt and cause us to deserve an eternal hell.

But does it really matter whether or not we believe that Jesus is God? Yes! If one places faith in a false Christ, one that is not described in Scripture, then can this false Christ save them? Truly, the identity of Christ is of utmost importance. And yet, in today’s culture there are people teaching that Jesus was a created being. They are leading people astray.

What sets biblical Christianity apart from cults and other world religions? It is the person of Jesus Christ—who He is. In Islam, Jesus was a messenger of God, but not the Son of God. In many cults, the deity of Jesus Christ is negated, and in many world religions and personal views, Jesus is just another wise teacher. But the Bible says that all things were created by Him and for Him:

For by Him [Jesus] all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16).1

Hebrews indicates that God calls Jesus, the Son, God:

But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions” (Hebrews 1:8–9).

We should expect Satan, the adversary of God and the father of lies, to advance many variants of the person of Jesus Christ. Satan would want all the false views to succeed in some measure to lead people away from the true Jesus.

One may recall the temptations of Jesus by Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1–11). The great deceiver even attempted to use Scripture to trick Jesus into sinning (Matthew 4:6). The tactic of the serpent in the garden was to deceive the woman by distorting the plain meaning of the Word of God (Genesis 3:1–6). Satan, through the serpent, quoted the words of God and abused their meaning. We must be aware of the devil’s devices (1 Corinthians 2:11).

John 1:1-3 and the deity of Christ

Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus Christ is not the Creator God but a lesser created angel (Michael2) who was termed “a god” by John in the New World Translation (the Jehovah’s Witnesses translation of the Bible). The NWT says:

In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This one was in [the] beginning with God. All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence (John 1:1–3 NWT).

According to the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ theology, Jesus is a being that came into existence. But even their own translation says that apart from Jesus not even one thing came into existence. So then, did Jesus create himself? Of course that is a ridiculous proposition, but you see how Watchtower theology contradicts the Bible, even their New World Translation.

Another contradiction surfaces in such a theology: Jehovah’s Witnesses are firm that there is only one God.3 But they also admit that there is at least one other god, though not as powerful as Jehovah. Jehovah’s Witness literature states:

Jesus is spoken of in the Scriptures as “a god,” even as “Mighty God” (John 1:1; Isaiah 9:6). But nowhere is he spoken of as being Almighty, as Jehovah is.4

So even though Jehovah’s Witnesses say they believe in one God, they really can’t be called monotheists. If Jesus is not God himself, then there is a plurality of gods, assuming Jesus is to be considered “a god.”

Now let’s compare the New World Translation of John 1:1–3 to other translations:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. (NKJV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (NIV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (KJV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (NASB)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (ESV)

These translations show that the Word was God, not “a god.” Why such blatantly different translations and, accordingly, different theologies? One starts with the Bible; the other starts from a false theology and takes that view to the Bible.

The original passage was written in Koine Greek. Following is the Westcott and Hort Greek text (1881) for John 1:1-2:

1 εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος
2 ουτος ην εν αρχη προς τον θεον5

Elzevir’s Textus Receptus (1624) is identical:

1 εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος
2 ουτος ην εν αρχη προς τον θεον6

Even non-Greek scholars can use lexicons and other tools to show without much difficulty that an exact English translation is:

1. In beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and God was the Word
2. He was in beginning with God

The Latin Vulgate of Jerome in the 5th Century correctly translates John 1:1–2 into Latin:

1 in principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat Verbum
2 hoc erat in principio apud Deum7

Word-for-word translation:
1 in (in) principio (beginning) erat (was) Verbum (Word) et (And) Verbum (Word) erat (was) apud (with) Deum (God) et (and) Deus (God) erat (was) Verbum (Word)
2 hoc (He) erat (was) in (in) principio (Beginning) apud (with) Deum (God)

If God was the Word, as John 1:1 is literally translated, then it is no problem for the Word to have created all things. As God, He created. How could the Word be with God and God be the Word at the same time? The doctrine of the Trinity (One God, three Persons) is the solution here. The Word was with God (the Father) and God (the Son) was the Word. This understanding, consistent with the rest of Scripture, eliminates any contradiction of multiple gods. There is only one God, revealed in a plurality of Persons. The Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have a solution to that alleged contradiction.

The primary reason Jehovah’s Witnesses do not want John 1:1 translated accurately is due to influences outside the Bible. As the theological descendents of their founder Charles Russell, they arrive at the Bible with the preconceived notion that Jesus the Christ is not God. Therefore, when a passage that clearly contradicts their theology comes up, there are two options: change their belief to coincide with what the Bible teaches or change God’s Word to fit with their current theology. Sadly, they have opted to exalt their theology above Jehovah’s Word. So, who is really the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ final authority? It is no longer a perfect God and His Word but fallible, sinful men and their ideas about God.

Kingdom Interlinear and John 1:1

It is very interesting to see how the Jehovah’s Witnesses Greek-English Interlinear translation compares with the NWT and with more accurate translations. One Jehovah’s Witness said that their translation comes from an interlinear translation of the Westcott and Hort text and that the NWT is a good translation of it. But let’s check into the two primary interlinear translations appealed to by Jehovah’s Witnesses: the Kingdom Interlinear and the Emphatic Diaglott.

The Kingdom Interlinear8 says:

Kingdom Interlinear

Look carefully at John 1:1. The Interlinear doesn’t translate Theos (θεος) as “a god,” which is an unjustifiable change in the NWT (to the right of the interlinear above). Strangely the interlinear does not capitalize God the second time it occurs, though it does the first.

One possible reason they tried distinguishing this particular word for God is due to the spellings of Theos (God) in this passage (θεον, θεος) is due to variant endings. Another variant ending is commonly θεου.

In one case, all three variants for God are in one passage and translated as God:

2 Thessalonians 2:4
who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God (θεον) or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God (θεου) in the temple of God (θεον), showing himself that he is God (θεος).

There is really no obvious reason for the change to “a god” or a lower case “god” by the NWT or Kingdom Interlinear.

Emphatic Diaglott and John 1:1–3

The next interlinear to be checked was the Diaglott.9 It translates John 1:1–3 as:

Emphatic Diaglott

The interlinear this time incorrectly states that theos is “a god”, but the side translation disagrees and says the Logos was God, instead of “a god.” So again, there are mismatches that make no sense.

The Context of the Passage

Interestingly, in defending their translation of John 1:1, Jehovah’s Witnesses say:

Which translation of John 1:1, 2 agrees with the context? John 1:18 says: “No one has ever seen God.” Verse 14 clearly says that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…we have beheld his glory.” Also, verses 1, 2 say that in the beginning he was “with God.” Can one be with someone and at the same time be that person?10

Trying to appeal to context, the Jehovah’s Witnesses quote part of John 1:18 and John 1:14 while ignoring the teaching of verse 3 which shows Jesus made all things—no exceptions! We have already shown how Jesus can be with God and be God—it is through the concept of the Trinity.

Regardless, the context of the chapter should not be neglected. John 1:18 is referring to God the Father as the one no one has seen. Thus, in keeping with the context, we can interpret John 1:18 this way: No one has seen God the Father at any time; the only-begotten God, Jesus—He has revealed the Father. Anytime anyone has ever seen God, he has seen the Logos, the Son, since the Son is the Word—the revealer.

Expositor Dr. John Gill explains the reference to God:

That is, God the Father, whose voice was never heard, nor his shape seen by angels or men; for though Jacob, Moses, the elders of Israel, Manoah, and his wife, are said to see God, and Job expected to see him with his bodily eyes, and the saints will see him as he is, in which will lie their great happiness; yet all seems to be understood of the second person, who frequently appeared to the Old Testament saints, in an human form, and will be seen by the saints in heaven, in his real human nature; or of God in and by him: for the essence of God is invisible, and not to be seen with the eyes of the body; nor indeed with the eyes of the understanding, so as to comprehend it; nor immediately, but through, and by certain means: God is seen in the works of creation and providence, in the promises, and in his ordinances; but above all, in Christ the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person: this may chiefly intend here, man’s not knowing any thing of God in a spiritual and saving way, but in and by Christ11

So we understand that Jesus reveals God and exists as God at the same time. There is not a contradiction between John 1:1 and John 1:18. In fact, they are amazingly consistent!

Islamic Appeal to the NWT

Muslims also deny the deity of Christ, so John 1:1–3 is also a problem to Islam if taken as written. Muslim apologists have appealed to the NWT in an effort to reduce the deity of Jesus Christ:

“The Word” is only described as being “ton theos” (divine/a god) and not as being “ho theos” (The Divine/The God). A more faithful and correct translation of this verse would thus read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was divine” (If you read the New World Translation of the Bible you will find exactly this wording).12

Christian apologists have responded:

It should first be noted that all of known manuscripts and fragments of John’s gospel contains this passage without any variation. It should also be noted that John 1:1 was quoted on several occasions by early Christian theologians and Church Fathers. . . . Clearly, there is no “ton theos”, [sic] in this text as Al-Kadhi and Deedat claim. Both sentences have the phrase “ton theon”. “Ton theon” is used because it is the accusative case (the nominative case is “ho theos” = “the God”) In this [instance] we must use the accusative case, since the text uses the preposition “pros” which means “with” in this context.

Al-Kadhi and Deedat should know that the article “ho” (nominative case) and “ton” (accusative case) both translate as “the”. Incidentally, the Greek word for “divine” is “theios, theia, theion”, depending on the gender.13

But this lets us know how influential the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the NWT are. The NWT is being used in Islam to take people away from Jesus Christ.

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Defense of the Word Being “a god”

Leading Jehovah’s Witness apologist Rolf Furuli writes extensively about John 1:1 and how theos should be translated in reference to the Word. He argues for the NWT’s rendering of the Word being “a god” as opposed to “God”. Several of his claims will be discussed here.

Mr. Furuli has a chart comparing the NWT with a couple of lesser known translations as well as the Greek text with his understanding of the word meanings. It is shown below14:

Rolf Furuli’s Table

Let’s evaluate Mr. Furuli’s comments concerning the term theos (notice above how he defines theos as meaning either “god” or “a god”). He says:

. . . in the Bible the word theos is also used for persons other than the creator, and therefore neither “creator” nor “YHWH” could be a part of its semantic meaning. . . . The word theos is a count noun, and John uses it in one of two ways: either in a generic sense or as a “singular noun.” We might illustrate this point by use of the OT. Here we find that elohim, the Hebrew equivalent to theos, is used in the generic sense.15

Mr Furuli takes about two pages to compare theos to the contextual uses of the Hebrew word elohim. But it would have been better to compare the uses of theos throughout the Greek New Testament and see how it was used in Greek context.16

Perhaps the reason such was not done is that it would destroy the point Mr. Furuli was trying to make. A search of theos in the New Testament shows that theos is overwhelmingly translated as “God” (even when not preceded by an article) unless context warrants otherwise (only about six times). The NT context for John 1:1 overwhelming supports the idea that the Word is God the Creator, as John 1:3 indicates.

Mr. Furuli goes on to say:

There are 322 examples of theos without the article. Because there is no inherent semantic contrast between the articular and the anarthrous theos, the question about the meaning of theos in some passages is pragmatic, and thus the context becomes essential.17

Furuli argues that John 1:1b can be translated: “And a god was the Word,” since there is no article in front of theos, and thus, the context must determine the meaning of theos. In response we can first appreciate the concession that Furuli is making: the lack of the article in front of theos does not mean that the word theos is to be translated as an adjective (divine) or with an indefinite article (a god) rather than simply “God.” (Even if it should be translated as an adjective, the verse would still teach the same thing—the Word is of the same essence as the Father.) It is obvious that there are many times that theos is translated as “God,” referring to Jehovah, even when not preceded by an article. Furuli evidently concedes that. So now it is a matter of context, says Furuli. We agree that context is crucial. But if context is so important, then why not look carefully at John 1:2–18? Furuli mentions only John 1:14, “with God” from John 1:2, and John 1:18. Why did he not refer to the other verses, including verse 3, which makes it clear that the Word made all things?

Furuli then attacked the eternality of the Word, Jesus Christ. In an attempt to downgrade that “in the beginning was the Word,” Mr. Furuli tries to show that Jesus was not eternal, thus not God.

Regarding the expression “in the beginning was the Word,” all we can say with reasonable certainty is that at the particular point in time called “the beginning” the Word existed. This is a far cry from saying “the Word is eternal”. [sic]18

But again, look at the context. If the Word made everything that was made (verse 3), then he must be eternal. If everything that was made (that is, everything that had a beginning) had its beginning through Christ, then it must be the case that the Word never had a beginning; thus, he is eternal.

Ignatius (John’s Disciple) and the Deity of Christ

Let’s go one further step in this study. John, the author of the Gospel, did not simply write the account and disappear. On the contrary, he was the only disciple of Christ to live out his life and die of old age. He, like Christ, had disciples of his own, and the two most noted were Polycarp and Ignatius. It makes sense that John would teach his disciples the truth about Jesus Christ and who He was.

Polycarp wrote very little that has survived. Ignatius had quite a bit more. In Ignatius’ letter to the Ephesians, it was clear that he viewed Jesus and the Father as the one true God. He said:

and elected through the true passion by the will of the Father, and Jesus Christ, our God19

God existing in the flesh20

Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God21

For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God22

God Himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life.23

God being manifested as man24

We have also as a Physician the Lord our God, Jesus the Christ, the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began.25

After reading the words of a disciple of John who learned extensively from John, there should be no question what John was trying to say. So, it is interesting that the founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Charles Taze Russell, said with regards to John 1:1 and the Word being God:

except that where the word Theos is used twice in the same clause the Greek Prepositive Article is sometimes used, so as to give the effect of the God in contrast with a God. An illustration of this is found in John 1:1 — “the Word was with the God [ho Theos] and the Word was a God [Theos].” But the careful student (freed from Prejudice) will generally have no difficulty in determining the thought of the Apostle. Indeed, the language is so explicit that the wonder is that we were heedless of it so long.”26

His interpretation of Theos as “a god,” he claims is so explicit that he wonders why it took so long for people to realize it. Pastor Russell wrote this in 1899 and yet John’s own disciple Ignatius allegedly missed it? This makes little sense. The reason the early Church knew John was speaking of Jesus being God is not just from the Scriptures, which confirm it, but they were taught this by John who was their pastor for many years.

So really, what Mr. Russell was saying is that John’s disciples, the early church, and the church for about 1800 years were wrong and that he [Pastor Russell] was right. This should be a red flag to anyone. Adam Clarke sums up the argument regarding John 1:1 with excellent comments:

Should it be objected that Christ created officially or by delegation, I answer: This is impossible; for, as creation requires absolute and unlimited power, or omnipotence, there can be but one Creator; because it is impossible that there can be two or more Omnipotents, Infinites, or Eternals. It is therefore evident that creation cannot be effected officially, or by delegation, for this would imply a Being conferring the office, and delegating such power; and that the Being to whom it was delegated was a dependent Being; consequently not unoriginated and eternal; but this the nature of creation proves to be absurd. 1. The thing being impossible in itself, because no limited being could produce a work that necessarily requires omnipotence. 2. It is impossible, because, if omnipotence be delegated, he to whom it is delegated had it not before, and he who delegates it ceases to have it, and consequently ceases to be GOD; and the other to whom it was delegated becomes God, because such attributes as those with which he is supposed to be invested are essential to the nature of God. On this supposition God ceases to exist, though infinite and eternal, and another not naturally infinite and eternal becomes such; and thus an infinite and eternal Being ceases to exist, and another infinite and eternal Being is produced in time, and has a beginning, which is absurd. Therefore, as Christ is the Creator, he did not create by delegation, or in any official way.

Again, if he had created by delegation or officially, it would have been for that Being who gave him that office, and delegated to him the requisite power; but the text says that all things were made BY him and FOR him, which is a demonstration that the apostle understood Jesus Christ to be truly and essentially God.27

Conclusion

The reality is that John 1:1–3 clearly reveals the deity of Jesus Christ, the Word, being the Creator God. As such it confirms many other passages in Scripture that teach that Christ is God. Early church fathers such as Ignatius, who was a disciple of John the Apostle, also recognized Jesus as God. The significance of this is a matter of salvation. Without the true Jesus, can one really be saved?

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Is There a God? Does God exist?

Does God exist? Here are six straightforward reasons to believe that God is really there.

Just once wouldn’t you love for someone to simply show you the evidence for God’s existence? No arm-twisting. No statements of, “You just have to believe.” Well, here is an attempt to candidly offer some of the reasons which suggest that God exists.

But first consider this. When it comes to the possibility of God’s existence, the Bible says that there are people who have seen sufficient evidence, but they have suppressed the truth about God.1 On the other hand, for those who want to know God if he is there, he says, “You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you.”2 Before you look at the facts surrounding God’s existence, ask yourself, If God does exist, would I want to know him? Here then, are some reasons to consider…

1. Does God exist? The complexity of our planet points to a deliberate Designer who not only created our universe, but sustains it today.

Many examples showing God’s design could be given, possibly with no end. But here are a few:

The Earth…its size is perfect. The Earth’s size and corresponding gravity holds a thin layer of mostly nitrogen and oxygen gases, only extending about 50 miles above the Earth’s surface. If Earth were smaller, an atmosphere would be impossible, like the planet Mercury. If Earth were larger, its atmosphere would contain free hydrogen, like Jupiter.3 Earth is the only known planet equipped with an atmosphere of the right mixture of gases to sustain plant, animal and human life.

The Earth is located the right distance from the sun. Consider the temperature swings we encounter, roughly -30 degrees to +120 degrees. If the Earth were any further away from the sun, we would all freeze. Any closer and we would burn up. Even a fractional variance in the Earth’s position to the sun would make life on Earth impossible. The Earth remains this perfect distance from the sun while it rotates around the sun at a speed of nearly 67,000 mph. It is also rotating on its axis, allowing the entire surface of the Earth to be properly warmed and cooled every day.

And our moon is the perfect size and distance from the Earth for its gravitational pull. The moon creates important ocean tides and movement so ocean waters do not stagnate, and yet our massive oceans are restrained from spilling over across the continents.4

Water…colorless, odorless and without taste, and yet no living thing can survive without it. Plants, animals and human beings consist mostly of water (about two-thirds of the human body is water). You’ll see why the characteristics of water are uniquely suited to life:

It has wide margin between its boiling point and freezing point. Water allows us to live in an environment of fluctuating temperature changes, while keeping our bodies a steady 98.6 degrees.

Water is a universal solvent. This property of water means that various chemicals, minerals and nutrients can be carried throughout our bodies and into the smallest blood vessels.5

Water is also chemically neutral. Without affecting the makeup of the substances it carries, water enables food, medicines and minerals to be absorbed and used by the body.

Water has a unique surface tension. Water in plants can therefore flow upward against gravity, bringing life-giving water and nutrients to the top of even the tallest trees.

Water freezes from the top down and floats, so fish can live in the winter.

Ninety-seven percent of the Earth’s water is in the oceans. But on our Earth, there is a system designed which removes salt from the water and then distributes that water throughout the globe. Evaporation takes the ocean waters, leaving the salt, and forms clouds which are easily moved by the wind to disperse water over the land, for vegetation, animals and people. It is a system of purification and supply that sustains life on this planet, a system of recycled and reused water.6

The human brain…simultaneously processes an amazing amount of information. Your brain takes in all the colors and objects you see, the temperature around you, the pressure of your feet against the floor, the sounds around you, the dryness of your mouth, even the texture of your keyboard. Your brain holds and processes all your emotions, thoughts and memories. At the same time your brain keeps track of the ongoing functions of your body like your breathing pattern, eyelid movement, hunger and movement of the muscles in your hands.

The human brain processes more than a million messages a second.7 Your brain weighs the importance of all this data, filtering out the relatively unimportant. This screening function is what allows you to focus and operate effectively in your world. The brain functions differently than other organs. There is an intelligence to it, the ability to reason, to produce feelings, to dream and plan, to take action, and relate to other people.

The eye…can distinguish among seven million colors. It has automatic focusing and handles an astounding 1.5 million messages — simultaneously.8 Evolution focuses on mutations and changes from and within existing organisms. Yet evolution alone does not fully explain the initial source of the eye or the brain — the start of living organisms from nonliving matter.

2. Does God exist? The universe had a start – what caused it?

Scientists are convinced that our universe began with one enormous explosion of energy and light, which we now call the Big Bang. This was the singular start to everything that exists: the beginning of the universe, the start of space, and even the initial start of time itself.

Astrophysicist Robert Jastrow, a self-described agnostic, stated, “The seed of everything that has happened in the Universe was planted in that first instant; every star, every planet and every living creature in the Universe came into being as a result of events that were set in motion in the moment of the cosmic explosion…The Universe flashed into being, and we cannot find out what caused that to happen.”9

Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in Physics, said at the moment of this explosion, “the universe was about a hundred thousands million degrees Centigrade…and the universe was filled with light.”10

The universe has not always existed. It had a start…what caused that? Scientists have no explanation for the sudden explosion of light and matter.

3. Does God exist? The universe operates by uniform laws of nature. Why does it?

Much of life may seem uncertain, but look at what we can count on day after day: gravity remains consistent, a hot cup of coffee left on a counter will get cold, the earth rotates in the same 24 hours, and the speed of light doesn’t change — on earth or in galaxies far from us.

How is it that we can identify laws of nature that never change? Why is the universe so orderly, so reliable?

“The greatest scientists have been struck by how strange this is. There is no logical necessity for a universe that obeys rules, let alone one that abides by the rules of mathematics. This astonishment springs from the recognition that the universe doesn’t have to behave this way. It is easy to imagine a universe in which conditions change unpredictably from instant to instant, or even a universe in which things pop in and out of existence.”11

Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize winner for quantum electrodynamics, said, “Why nature is mathematical is a mystery…The fact that there are rules at all is a kind of miracle.”12

4. Does God exist? The DNA code informs, programs a cell’s behavior.

All instruction, all teaching, all training comes with intent. Someone who writes an instruction manual does so with purpose. Did you know that in every cell of our bodies there exists a very detailed instruction code, much like a miniature computer program? As you may know, a computer program is made up of ones and zeros, like this: 110010101011000. The way they are arranged tell the computer program what to do. The DNA code in each of our cells is very similar. It’s made up of four chemicals that scientists abbreviate as A, T, G, and C. These are arranged in the human cell like this: CGTGTGACTCGCTCCTGAT and so on. There are three billion of these letters in every human cell!!

Well, just like you can program your phone to beep for specific reasons, DNA instructs the cell. DNA is a three-billion-lettered program telling the cell to act in a certain way. It is a full instruction manual.13

Why is this so amazing? One has to ask….how did this information program wind up in each human cell? These are not just chemicals. These are chemicals that instruct, that code in a very detailed way exactly how the person’s body should develop.

Natural, biological causes are completely lacking as an explanation when programmed information is involved. You cannot find instruction, precise information like this, without someone intentionally constructing it.

5. Does God exist? We know God exists because he pursues us. He is constantly initiating and seeking for us to come to him.

I was an atheist at one time. And like many atheists, the issue of people believing in God bothered me greatly. What is it about atheists that we would spend so much time, attention, and energy refuting something that we don’t believe even exists?! What causes us to do that? When I was an atheist, I attributed my intentions as caring for those poor, delusional people…to help them realize their hope was completely ill-founded. To be honest, I also had another motive. As I challenged those who believed in God, I was deeply curious to see if they could convince me otherwise. Part of my quest was to become free from the question of God. If I could conclusively prove to believers that they were wrong, then the issue is off the table, and I would be free to go about my life.

I didn’t realize that the reason the topic of God weighed so heavily on my mind, was because God was pressing the issue. I have come to find out that God wants to be known. He created us with the intention that we would know him. He has surrounded us with evidence of himself and he keeps the question of his existence squarely before us. It was as if I couldn’t escape thinking about the possibility of God. In fact, the day I chose to acknowledge God’s existence, my prayer began with, “Ok, you win…” It might be that the underlying reason atheists are bothered by people believing in God is because God is actively pursuing them.

I am not the only one who has experienced this. Malcolm Muggeridge, socialist and philosophical author, wrote, “I had a notion that somehow, besides questing, I was being pursued.” C.S. Lewis said he remembered, “…night after night, feeling whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England.”

Lewis went on to write a book titled, “Surprised by Joy” as a result of knowing God. I too had no expectations other than rightfully admitting God’s existence. Yet over the following several months, I became amazed by his love for me.

6. Does God exist? Unlike any other revelation of God, Jesus Christ is the clearest, most specific picture of God revealing himself to us.

Why Jesus? Look throughout the major world religions and you’ll find that Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius and Moses all identified themselves as teachers or prophets. None of them ever claimed to be equal to God. Surprisingly, Jesus did. That is what sets Jesus apart from all the others. He said God exists and you’re looking at him. Though he talked about his Father in heaven, it was not from the position of separation, but of very close union, unique to all humankind. Jesus said that anyone who had seen Him had seen the Father, anyone who believed in him, believed in the Father.

He said, “I am the light of the world, he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”14 He claimed attributes belonging only to God: to be able to forgive people of their sin, free them from habits of sin, give people a more abundant life and give them eternal life in heaven. Unlike other teachers who focused people on their words, Jesus pointed people to himself. He did not say, “follow my words and you will find truth.” He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me.”15

What proof did Jesus give for claiming to be divine? He did what people can’t do. Jesus performed miracles. He healed people…blind, crippled, deaf, even raised a couple of people from the dead. He had power over objects…created food out of thin air, enough to feed crowds of several thousand people. He performed miracles over nature…walked on top of a lake, commanding a raging storm to stop for some friends. People everywhere followed Jesus, because he constantly met their needs, doing the miraculous. He said if you do not want to believe what I’m telling you, you should at least believe in me based on the miracles you’re seeing.16

Jesus Christ showed God to be gentle, loving, aware of our self-centeredness and shortcomings, yet deeply wanting a relationship with us. Jesus revealed that although God views us as sinners, worthy of his punishment, his love for us ruled and God came up with a different plan. God himself took on the form of man and accepted the punishment for our sin on our behalf. Sounds ludicrous? Perhaps, but many loving fathers would gladly trade places with their child in a cancer ward if they could. The Bible says that the reason we would love God is because he first loved us.

Jesus died in our place so we could be forgiven. Of all the religions known to humanity, only through Jesus will you see God reaching toward humanity, providing a way for us to have a relationship with him. Jesus proves a divine heart of love, meeting our needs, drawing us to himself. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, he offers us a new life today. We can be forgiven, fully accepted by God and genuinely loved by God. He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”17 This is God, in action.

Does God exist? If you want to know, investigate Jesus Christ. We’re told that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”18

God does not force us to believe in him, though he could. Instead, he has provided sufficient proof of his existence for us to willingly respond to him. The earth’s perfect distance from the sun, the unique chemical properties of water, the human brain, DNA, the number of people who attest to knowing God, the gnawing in our hearts and minds to determine if God is there, the willingness for God to be known through Jesus Christ. If you need to know more about Jesus and reasons to believe in him, please see: Beyond Blind Faith.

If you want to begin a relationship with God now, you can.

This is your decision, no coercion here. But if you want to be forgiven by God and come into a relationship with him, you can do so right now by asking him to forgive you and come into your life. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door [of your heart] and knock. He who hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him [or her].”19 If you want to do this, but aren’t sure how to put it into words, this may help: “Jesus, thank you for dying for my sins. You know my life and that I need to be forgiven. I ask you to forgive me right now and come into my life. I want to know you in a real way. Come into my life now. Thank you that you wanted a relationship with me. Amen.”

God views your relationship with him as permanent. Referring to all those who believe in him, Jesus Christ said of us, “I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.”20

Looking at all these facts, one can conclude that a loving God does exist and can be known in an intimate, personal way.

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Is the Trinity Three Different Gods? Apologetics Existence of God Nature of God

by Dr. Jobe Martin on July 19, 2011

Have you ever wondered about the doctrine of the Trinity? How could the God of the Bible be one God, but at the same time three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

Introduction

Have you ever wondered about the doctrine of the Trinity? How could the God of the Bible be one God, but at the same time three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Doesn’t the Bible emphatically state that God is one? These queries are common discussions among Christians and non-Christians alike.

The Bible should be accepted as the final authority for the believer. Therefore, we must look to Scripture to learn what God has revealed about Himself in His inspired Word. The famous passage known as the Shema (Hebrew: “hear”) starts by stating, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5). The Bible is quite clear: God is one!

The Bible is also clear that there are three Persons who are each called God. This plurality of God is presented in 2 Corinthians 13:14: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [the Son], and the love of God [the Father], and the communion of the Holy Spirit [the Holy Spirit] be with you all. Amen” (bracketed information added). With our finite minds it is impossible to fully comprehend the infinite God. It is also difficult for us to apprehend the concept that God is one Being in three Persons.

The Doctrine of the Trinity in the New Testament

The New Testament portrays each member of the Godhead as distinct Persons in passages such as the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:18–20 Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Believers are to go into the world and make disciples and baptize them in the name (singular, not “names”) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus placed Himself and the Holy Spirit on the same level as the Father.

Matthew also portrays all three members of the Trinity as involved in the baptism of Jesus. “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’” (Matthew 3:16–17). In this passage the Father spoke from heaven and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove while Jesus was on the earth.

The Bible Names Each of the Three Persons of the Trinity as “God”

Virtually no one questions that the Father is described as God in the Bible. Paul wrote, “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24). Paul addressed the epistle of Romans to “all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7).

Jesus identified Himself as God in John 10:30 when He stated, “I and My Father are one.” He also declared His divinity during His temptation by the devil when He said, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (Matthew 4:7). This concept will be given more attention later in this chapter. Jesus is also called God by others.

Matthew claimed that the events surrounding the birth of Christ fulfilled Old Testament prophecies.

Matthew claimed that the events surrounding the birth of Christ fulfilled Old Testament prophecies, including Isaiah 7:14, which states, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Matthew adds that Immanuel means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). The writer of Hebrews wrote that the Father said to the Son, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever” (Hebrews 1:8).The Holy Spirit is also recognized as God. He is not merely an impersonal force similar to electricity, as some cults would like us to believe. When Peter condemned Ananias for lying, he said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God” (Acts 5:3–4, emphasis added).

In the gospel of John, the Bible intimately links the Holy Spirit to both the Father and the Son: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). In the next chapter Jesus added, “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15:26).

All Three Persons of the Trinity Are Eternal

The Scriptures listed above are just a few of many used to demonstrate that the God of the Bible is one God in three Persons. Not only are each of the three Persons of the Trinity identified as God, but each is said to possess eternality. Deuteronomy 33:27 explains to us that God the Father is eternal. “The eternal God is your refuge.” In Micah’s prophecy, which named Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah, the Son is also shown to be eternal. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). The eternality of the Holy Spirit is described when the author of Hebrews asked rhetorically, “how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14).

The triune God of the Bible is utterly distinct from the false gods of this world. Jeremiah proclaimed Him as the only true Creator God.

But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God, and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, and the nations will not be able to endure His indignation. Thus you shall say to them: ‘The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens.’ He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, and has stretched out the heavens at His discretion (Jeremiah 10:10–12).

Does the Old Testament Support the Doctrine of the Trinity?

A Grammatical Mistake in Genesis 1:1?

The very first sentence in the Bible appears to have a grammatical mistake in the original language. “In the beginning God created …” The word translated as “God” is the word elohim, which is a plural noun.1 But now we have a problem—the verb created is a third person singular verb. So, it seems that in the first sentence of the Bible there is a grammatical mistake of using a plural noun with a singular verb. This would be like someone saying in English, “they was,” which is not proper in English, nor is it proper in Hebrew.

God told us about Himself in the first sentence of the Bible. He is one Being with a plurality of Persons. Genesis 1:1 does not directly explain that God is a triunity, but it is consistent with this truth. Genesis 1:26 states, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.’” Who is the “Us” and the “Our” in the passage? The next verse goes on to state, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). While verse 26 uses the pronouns “Us” and “Our,” verse 27 uses the singular pronouns “His” and “He” to refer to the same God. As in Genesis 1:1 the word “God” in Genesis 1:26 is a plural noun, and the verb “said” is a third person singular verb. The God of the Bible reveals Himself as plural in Persons but single in Being.

The Trinity in Isaiah

The prophet Isaiah made a statement that supports the doctrine of the Trinity: “Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord God [the Father] and His Spirit [the Holy Spirit] have sent Me [the Son]. Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit” (Isaiah 48:16–17, bracketed information added). All three Persons of the Trinity are explicitly mentioned in this passage.

Jesus is not God the Son?

Nearly every cult and false religion denies the doctrine of the Trinity. Two of the major cults that do this are Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is not Jehovah God. Instead, they believe that He is a god but not the one and only true God. Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own version of the Bible called the New World Translation. This version translates John 1:1 erroneously. While the inerrant Word of God states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1), the New World Translation presents the last phrase of the verse this way: “and the Word was a god” (emphasis added). The article “a” is not in the original Greek. A rule in Greek grammar states that when an anarthrous (no article) predicate nominative is present it is for emphasis. The noun is “Word” and the predicate nominative is “God.” Since no article is present before the predicate nominative, “God,” the verse is testifying that the Word (Jesus) is God. By denying the Trinity and teaching that Jehovah God is supreme and Jesus is an inferior god on the order of Michael the Archangel, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are actually polytheistic—they believe in multiple gods.

Mormonism is a religious system that believes in many gods and denies the Trinity. Here are some statements from Mormon writings.

[T]here is an infinite number of holy personages, drawn from worlds without number, who have passed on to exultation and are thus gods.2

Abraham … Isaac … and Jacob … have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods.3

“But both the scriptures and the prophets affirm that Jesus Christ and Lucifer are indeed offspring of our Heavenly Father and, therefore, spirit brothers.”4

The founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, believed in many gods. Smith said, “I will preach on the plurality of Gods … I wish to declare that I have always and in all congregations when I have preached on the subject of Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods.”5 “Many men say there is one God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are only one God. I say that is a strange God anyhow—three in one, and one in three! It is a curious organization.”6

Contrary to the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, the Bible refers to Jesus as fully God. “For in Him [Christ] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9, bracketed information added). Paul wrote that we should live in a godly manner, “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Even “doubting Thomas,” upon seeing the resurrected Lord, said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). The fact is that Jesus is unequivocally called God in multiple passages.

Furthermore, Jesus identified Himself as God several times. Three times in John 8, Jesus declared that He was Almighty God. “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). The pronoun He is in italics in the New King James Version, meaning that it is not found in the Greek text but was added to the text by the translators to make it read better in English. Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the I Am who spoke to Moses out of the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). He does the same thing in John 8:28 and John 8:58. The Jewish leaders understood exactly what He claimed, and they attempted to stone Him for claiming to be God (John 8:59).

The Jews tried to do the same thing in John 10 after Jesus declared, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). Jesus asked why they wanted to stone Him, and they replied, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God” (John 10:33).

Conclusion

The Bible is quite clear—there is one true God, and He exists in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. There is salvation in no other God. This Trinitarian God is eternal as stated in Isaiah.

“You are My witnesses,” says the Lord, “And My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no savior. I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, and there was no foreign god among you; therefore you are My witnesses,” says the Lord, “that I am God. Indeed before the day was, I am He; and there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it?” (Isaiah 43:10–13)

God the Father, in the power of God the Holy Spirit, through the agency of God the Son—Jesus Christ—created everything that exists. John 1, Colossians 1, and Hebrews 1 teach that the Lord Jesus is the Creator. Since He is our Creator, He has the right and the authority to be our Redeemer. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him” (John 14:6–7).

The doctrine of the Trinity is not derived from pagan beliefs but was developed from the plain teaching of Scripture. God is one Being in three Persons. The following chart was developed by Bodie Hodge, Answers in Genesis and provides numerous passages concerning the various attributes and works of each member of the Trinity.7

God . . . The Father The Son The Holy Spirit
is the Creator Genesis 1:1, 2:4, 14:19–22; Deuteronomy 32:6; Psalm 102:25; Isaiah 42:5, 45:18; Mark 13:19; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 3:9; Hebrews 2:10; Revelation 4:11 John 1:1–3; Colossians 1:16–17; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Hebrews 1:2, 1:8–12 Genesis 1:2; Job 33:4; Psalm 104:30
is unchanging and eternal Psalm 90:2, 102:25–27; Isaiah 43:10; Malachi 3:6 Micah 5:2; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:8–12, 13:8; John 8:58 Hebrews 9:14
has a distinct will Luke 22:42 Luke 22:42 Acts 13:2; 1 Corinthians 12:11
accepts worship Too many to list Matthew 14:33; Hebrews 1:6
accepts prayer Too many to list John 14:14; Romans 10:9–13; 2 Corinthians 12:8–9
is the only Savior Isaiah 43:11, 45:21; Hosea 13:4; 1 Timothy 1:1 John 4:42; Acts 4:12, 13:23; Philippians 3:20; 2 Timothy 1:10; Titus 1:4, 2:13, 3:6; 2 Peter 1:11, 2:20, 3:18; 1 John 4:14 John 3:5; 1 Corinthians 12:3
has the power to resurrect 1 Thessalonians 1:8–10 John 2:19, 10:17 Romans 8:11
is called God John 1:18, 6:27; Philippians 1:2, 2:11; Ephesians 4:6; 2 Thessalonians 1:2 John 1:1–5, 1:14, 1:18, 20:28; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:8; Titus 2:13 Acts 5:3–4; 2 Corinthians 3:15–17
is called Mighty God Isaiah 10:21; Luke 22:69 Isaiah 9:6
is omnipresent/everywhere 1 Kings 8:27; Isaiah 46:10 Matthew 28:18–20 Psalm 139:7–10
is omnipotent/has power and authority 2 Chronicles 20:6, 25:8; Job 12:13; Romans 1:20; 1 Corinthians 6:14; Jude 1:25 John 3:31, 3:35, 14:6, 16:15; Philippians 2:9–11 1 Samuel 11:6; Luke 1:35
is omniscient/all-knowing Psalm 139:2; Isaiah 46:10; 1 John 3:20; Acts 15:8 John 16:3, 21:17 1 Corinthians 2:10–11
has the fullness of God in Him (not just “a part of God”) N/A Colossians 2:9
gives life Genesis 1:21, 1:24, 2:7; Psalm 49:15; John 3:16, 5:21; 1 Timothy 6:13 John 5:21, 14:6, 20:31; Romans 5:21 2 Corinthians 3:6; Romans 8:11
loves John 3:16; Romans 8:39; Ephesians 6:23; 1 John 4:6, 4:16 Mark 10:21; John 15:9; Ephesians 5:25, 6:23 Romans 15:30
has ownership of believers Psalm 24:1; John 8:47 Romans 7:4, 8:9
is distinct Matthew 3:16–17, 28:19; John 17:1 Matthew 3:16–17, 4:1, 28:19; John 17:1 1 Samuel 19:20; Matthew 3:16–17, 4:1, 28:19
is Judge Genesis 18:25; Psalm 7:11, 50:6, 94:1–2, 96:13, 98:9; John 8:50; Romans 2:16 John 5:21–27; Acts 17:31; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:1
forgives sin Micah 7:18 Luke 7:47–50
claimed divinity Exodus 20:2 Matthew 26:63–64
is uncreated, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End Isaiah 44:6 Revelation 1:17–18, 22:13
lives in the believer John 14:23; 2 Corinthians 6:16; 1 John 3:24 John 14:20–23; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27 John 14:16–17; Romans 8:11; 1 Peter 1:11
has the title of deity, “I Am,” pointing to the eternality of God Exodus 3:14 John 8:58
is personal and has fellowship with other persons 1 John 1:3 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 John 1:3 Acts 13:2; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Ephesians 4:30; Philippians 2:1
makes believers holy (sanctifies them) 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Colossians 1:22 1 Peter 1:2
knows the future Isaiah 46:10; Jeremiah 29:11 Matthew 24:1–51, 26:64; John 16:32, 18:4 1 Samuel 10:10, 19:20; Luke 1:67; 2 Peter 1:21
is called “Lord of lords” Deuteronomy 10:17; Psalm 136:3 Revelation 17:14, 19:16
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The Predicted Messiah – Jesus Christ the Messiah – Lamb of God – Eternal Father – Prince of Peace

In hindsight, a good mystery fits together perfectly, like the various pieces of an intricate puzzle that need but one final piece to link the parts that form the completed magnificent panorama. Until that final piece is added, the mystery is virtually impossible to grasp in its entirety. In fact, while the mystery is developing, the inquisitor’s greatest challenge is to assess correctly which pieces of information or evidence are of significance and which are the banal elements that add nothing of consequence to the story. Is it important that Mr. Brown forgot his hat at the train station? Does it matter that the water faucet in the kitchen suddenly is not working properly? Inevitably, the astute inquisitor accurately pinpoints those elements in the story that are of great import. The less astute inaccurately labels ordinary events as important, or fails to understand fully events that were of major consequence.

Such is the case when approaching the study of the predicted Messiah, or, as it were, when solving the mystery of the Messiah. Anyone familiar with New Testament writings is quite familiar with the term “mystery” as it is applied to God’s plan for the redemption of the human race through the predicted Messiah. Paul wrote concerning this mystery: “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before ages for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7). In his letter to the Colossians, he stated: “I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to his saints” (1:25-26). Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians contains similar comments: “[I]f indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery…which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (3:3,5).

The New Testament writers identified for us several characteristics of this Messianic mystery: (1) The mystery revolves around the prophesied Messiah and the redemption of mankind; (2) The mystery is one that has been hidden in various ways from all generations of people prior to the time of the New Testament; (3) The various tenets of the mystery are divinely revealed and made known only through divine communication; (4) During the times of the New Testament writers, God revealed the final piece of the mystery to the New Testament writers themselves.

The intention of this discussion is to trace out the various divinely revealed tenets of the Messianic mystery. Upon completion of that task, we must then determine if, in truth, the New Testament writers did possess the final, completing piece of that mystery. We have dealt in other places with the traces of a Savior originating from various sources outside the biblical writings (see Butt and Thompson, 2001). Therefore, since the Hebrew Scriptures are renowned for being the most complete repository of Messianic predictions available, we will focus our attention upon them.

OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES

In contemplating the Old Testament, Jewish Scriptures, it would be beneficial for us to consider several important features of the writings. First, the opening eleven chapters of the first book, Genesis, do not relate to the Hebrews only, but to the broader scope of humanity as a whole. These chapters describe the creation of the Universe, the fall of man from his perfect state of innocence, the wickedness of man and the destructive, world-wide Flood, and the repopulation of the Earth. They contain approximately 2,000 years of history, not a year of which necessarily has anything to do with the Jewish nation, any more than with any other nation.

Second, the remainder of the Old Testament, from Genesis 12-Malachi, focuses primarily on the descendants of Abraham. Note that the narratives and terms often used to describe these descendants are none too flattering. They are called stubborn, stiff-necked, sinful, rebellious, and a host of adjectives equally as caustic (see Deuteronomy 9:7; Ezekiel 2:3-10; Hosea 4:16). And yet, these descendants of Abraham are the ones responsible for preserving the very Scriptures that repeatedly rebuked them for their idolatrous backsliding from God. Remember, too, that they could have altered and preserved these writings in a more flattering form. From archaeological finds we have learned that other nations surrounding ancient Israel often chose to embellish their history, intentionally excluding derogatory remarks or events concerning themselves.

Why did the Israelites preserve the writings as they did? The answer to this is actually twofold. First, they believed the particular writings that they preserved to be inspired by God, a belief that can be proven beyond doubt (see Thompson, 2001). But secondly, each of the 39 books contains a calculated revelation describing some aspect of the coming Messiah, who, according to these Scriptures, is not only destined to save the nation of Israel, but the entire world. In fact, the reader cannot progress far into the Old Testament writings before he is inundated with descriptions of, and predictions concerning, the coming Messiah.

WERE THE JEWS LOOKING FOR A MESSIAH?

It has been suggested that the ancient Jewish scribes, rabbis, and general population were not really looking for a personal Messiah. Eminently respected Messianic Jewish author David Baron first published his work, Rays of Messiah’s Glory, in 1886. In that volume, Baron wrote:

I am aware also that in recent times many intelligent Jews, backed by rationalistic, so-called Christians…deny that there is hope of a Messiah in the Old Testament Scriptures, and assert that the prophecies on which Christians ground such a belief contain only “vague anticipations and general hopes, but no definite predictions of a personal Messiah,” and that consequently the alleged agreement of the gospel history with prophecy is imaginary (2000, p. 16).

In his statements that refute the “non-Messianic” view of Old Testament Scripture, Baron wrote: “Even Maimonides, the great antagonist of Christianity, composed that article of the Jewish creed which unto the present day is repeated daily by every true Jew: ‘I believe with a perfect faith that the Messiah will come, and although His coming be delayed, I will await His daily appearance’ ” (p. 18). He commented further: “Aben Ezra, Rashi, Kimchi, Abarbanel, and almost every other respectable and authoritative Jewish commentator, although not recognizing Jesus as the Messiah, are yet unanimous that a personal Messiah is taught in the Old Testament Scriptures” (pp. 19-20). Baron also noted that only an “insignificant minority of the Jews” had dared to suggest that the Old Testament lacks definitive predictions of a personal Messiah. He then eloquently stated: [W]ith joy we behold the nation [Jews—KB], as such, still clinging to the anchor which has been the mainstay of their national existence for so many ages—the hope of a personal Messiah, which is the essence of the Old Testament Scriptures” (2000, p. 20).

In his volume, The Messiah in the Old Testament: In Light of Rabbinical Writings, Risto Santala wrote: “If we study the Bible and the Rabbinic literature carefully, we cannot fail to be surprised at the abundance of Messianic interpretation in the earliest works known to us…. [T]he Talmud states unequivocally: ‘All the prophets prophesied only for the days of the Messiah’ ” (1992, p. 22).

In regard to specific Old Testament prophecies, a plethora of rabbinical commentary verifies that the nation of Israel certainly had in view a coming Messiah. Concerning Genesis 49:10, the noted author Aaron Kligerman wrote: “The rabbis of old, though not agreeing with each other as to the meaning of the root Shiloh, were almost unanimous in applying the term to the Messiah” (1957, pp. 19-20). Immediately after this statement, Kligerman listed the Targum Onkelos, Targum Jerusalem, and the Peshito all as referring to Genesis 49:10 as a Messianic prophecy pointing toward an individual, personal Messiah (p. 20). With reference to Genesis 49:10, David Baron wrote:

With regard to this prophecy, the first thing I want to point out is that all antiquity agrees in interpreting it of a personal Messiah. This is the view of the LXX Version [Septuagint—KB]; the Targumim of Onkelos, Yonathan, and Jerusalem; the Talmud; the Sohar; the ancient book of “Bereshith Rabba;” and among modern Jewish commentators, even Rashi, who says, “Until Shiloh come, that is King Messiah, Whose is the kingdom” (2000, p. 258, emp. added).

Concerning the book of Isaiah and the predictive, Messianic prophecy contained within it, Santala stated: “The Messianic nature of the book of Isaiah is so clear that the oldest Jewish sources, the Targum, Midrash and Talmud, speak of the Messiah in connection with 62 separate verses” (1992, pp. 164-165). Santala then, in a footnote, proceeded to list several of those verses, including Isaiah 4:2, 9:5, 10:27, 11:1, 11:6, 14:29, 16:1, 28:5, 42:1, 43:10, 52:13, and 60:1 (p. 165).

The prophet Jeremiah contains material that has long been recognized as Messianic in nature. Concerning Jeremiah 23:5-6, David Baron wrote: “There is scarcely any contrary opinion among ancient and modern Jews but that this is a Messianic prophecy” (2000, p. 78).

In truth, statements that verify that the ancient Israelite nation recognized certain passages in the Old Testament as Messianic are legion. Regardless of what a person believes about the identity of the Messiah, it cannot be gainsaid that the nation of Israel, through the influence of the Old Testament writers, has been waiting for His coming.

THE PROTEVANGELIUM

Virtually from the first glimpse of human life on the Earth, traces of the predicted Messiah were divinely revealed to mankind. All too familiar is the tragic story of the fall of man. Under God’s gracious care, Adam and Eve were specially designed to suit each other’s needs and were ushered into the Edenic Paradise, the joys of which humanity has not seen since nor will see again this side of eternity. God gave the first family only one prohibitory commandment—that they should not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If they chose to rebel against this lone prohibition, God informed them that the consequence would be death. Yet despite God’s gracious warning, Eve’s senses were dulled by her evil desires, and she soon fell prey to the deceitfulness of sin, convincing her husband Adam to join in her rebellion.

Into this scene of shame and sin, God brought judgment upon all parties involved. Death would be the consequence of this sinful action, as well as increased pain in childbirth for the woman and increased hardship and toil for the man. Yet in the midst of God’s curse upon the serpent, He included a ray of glorious hope for humanity. To the serpent he said: “And I will put enmity between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15). This brief statement made by God to the serpent concerning the Seed of woman is often referred to as the protevangelium. J.A. Huffman commented on the passage:

Here the prophecy of a deliverer is unmistakably uttered. Even a temporary bruise, that of the heel, suggesting the apparent, momentary defeat of the deliverer is predicted: but, at the same time, the deliverer’s ultimate and final triumph is prophesied, in his bruising of the serpent’s head, which means a fatal blow (1956, p. 38).

The Jewish scholar, Aaron Kligerman, noted that three things stand out in this first prediction of the Messiah, “namely that the Deliverer must be—(A) of the seed of woman and (B) That He is to be temporarily hindered and (C) Finally victorious (1957, p. 13, italics in orig.). Kligerman further noted that the ancient rabbinical opinions found in the Palestinian Targum testify “that in Genesis 3:15 there is promised a healing of the bite in the heel from the serpent, which is to take place ‘at the end of the days, in the days of King Messiah’ ” (p. 14). [NOTE: The Targums “are interpretive renderings of the books of Hebrew Scriptures…into Aramaic” (Metzger, 1993). Such versions were needed when the major populations of the Jews no longer spoke Hebrew as their primary language. Metzger further explains that the oral Targum began as a simple paraphrase of the text, “but eventually it became more elaborate and incorporated explanatory details.” John Stenning, in his detailed article on the Targum, explained that oral Targum was introduced several years prior to the first century A.D. in connection with “the custom of reading sections from the Law at the weekly services in the synagogues” (1911).]

Of the protevangelium, Charles A. Briggs, in his classic work, Messianic Prophecy, noted:

Thus we have in this fundamental prophecy explicitly a struggling, suffering, but finally victorious human race, and implicitly a struggling, suffering and finally victorious son of woman, a second Adam, the head of the race…. The protevangelium is a faithful miniature of the entire history of humanity, a struggling seed ever battling for ultimate victory…. [U]ntil it is realized in the sublime victories of redemption” (1988 reprint, p. 77).

Briggs went on to comment that the protevangelium “is the only Messianic prophecy which has been preserved from the revelations made by God to the antediluvian world” (p. 77).

Here, then, is the seminal prophecy made to pave the way for all others that would deal with the coming of the great Deliverer of mankind. Several qualities of this coming Deliverer are readily apparent. First, He will come in human form as the seed of woman. Second, He will defeat the effects of sin brought about by the fall of man and the entrance of sin into the world. Third, He will be hindered in His redemptive activity by the serpent, Satan, who will inflict upon Him a minor wound. Fourth, He will ultimately overcome the wound of Satan and finally triumph. In this first prediction of the Messiah, we catch an underlying theme of a suffering, victorious redeemer—a theme that will be fleshed out in the remaining pages of the Old Testament.

THE SEED OF ABRAHAM

The protevangelium in Genesis 3:15 predicted that the conquering Messiah would belong to the seed of woman, taking on a human form. But that feature alone, admittedly, does not help much in identifying the Messiah, since billions of people have been born of woman. In order for Messianic prophecy to prepare its readers for the actual Messiah, the scope would need to be narrowed.

Such narrowing of the Messianic scope can be seen in God’s promise to the patriarch, Abraham. In Genesis 12, the Bible records the fact that God specifically chose Abraham from among all the peoples of the world (Genesis 12:1-3). Through Abraham, God promised that all the nations of the world would be blessed, and that Abraham’s descendants would multiply as the sand of the sea and the stars of the sky. As Huffman noted, “It was to Abraham, the son of Terah, a descendant of Shem, that God gave a peculiar promise, one which could not be omitted in any serious effort to trace the Messianic hope” (1956, p. 41). For many years, this promise of progeny remained unfulfilled due to the fact that Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was barren. In order to “help” God fulfill His promise, Abraham and Sarah devised a plan by which Abraham could have a child. Sarah sent her handmaid, Hagar, to serve as a surrogate wife to Abraham. As a result of this union, Hagar conceived and gave birth to a child named Ishmael.

In Genesis 17, God renewed His covenant with Abraham and instructed Abraham to institute circumcision as a sign of the covenant. In Genesis 17:19, God informed Abraham that Sarah would have a son named Isaac. In an interesting conversation with God, Abraham petitioned God to let Ishmael be the son of promise and the heir of the covenant that God made. Yet God insisted that Ishmael was not the son of promise and that the promise of all nations being blessed through Abraham’s descendants would not pass through Ishmael, but would be fulfilled only through Isaac. God said: “But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year” (Genesis 17:21). James Smith, in writing about God’s promise to bless all nations through Abraham, noted that this promise “has Messianic implications. Both the Church Fathers and Jewish Rabbis so interpreted it” (1993, p. 47). Aaron Kligerman concurred when he wrote about God’s promise to Abraham: “This is more than the promise of ‘The Hope of a Prosperous Era.’ It is a promise of the coming of a ‘Personal Messiah’ ” (1957, pp. 17-18). At this point in human history, then, the Messianic implications fall to the descendants of Isaac. It is important not to miss the significance of the Messianic hope through Abraham and Isaac. The scope of the Messiah has been narrowed from all other peoples and nations of the world, to a single nomadic family. And yet, not just to Abraham’s family in its entirety, but to only one of Abraham’s sons—Isaac.

But the picture becomes even clearer with the birth of the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. Because of abnormalities with her pregnancy, Rebekah went to inquire of the Lord about her situation. To answer her questions, the Lord said: “Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23). Concerning this passage, Briggs noted: “This prediction breaks up the seed of Isaac into two nations, assigns the headship with the blessing to Jacob, and makes Edom subject to him” (1988, p. 90). The fact that the promised Messiah would come through Jacob’s descendants becomes increasingly clear throughout the Genesis narrative that tells the stories of Jacob and Esau. God confirmed the promise to Jacob in Genesis 28:14, when He said to the patriarch: “Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (emp. added). The picture of the Messiah continues to become increasingly focused: The seed of woman, the seed of Abraham, the seed of Isaac, the seed of Jacob.

TWO MESSIAHS:
A SUFFERING SERVANT AND REIGNING KING

Throughout the Old Testament, various Messianic passages refer to a majestic, glorious King who will reign over a never-ending kingdom. Yet, at the same time, other Messianic prophecies depict a suffering Messiah who will bear the guilt and sin of the entire world. Because these two aspects of Messianic prophecy seem contradictory, many in the ancient Jewish community could not understand how such diverse prophetic sentiments could be fulfilled in a single individual. Due to this conundrum, ancient and modern Jews have posited the idea that two Messiahs would come: one would be the suffering Servant, while the other would be the glorious King.

Concerning this separation of the Messiah into two different individuals, John Ankerberg and his colleagues John Weldon and Walter Kaiser wrote:

[T]hey (early Jewish rabbis—KB) could not reconcile the statements that so clearly spoke of a suffering and dying Messiah with those verses in other passages that spoke of a triumphant and victorious Messiah. What is important to note is that they did recognize that both pictures somehow applied to the Messiah. But they assumed it was impossible to reconcile both views in one person. Rather than seeing one Messiah in two different roles, they saw two Messiahs—the suffering and dying Messiah, called “Messiah ben Joseph,” and the victorious conquering Messiah, called “Messiah ben David” (1989, pp. 57-58).

Jewish rabbi Robert M. Cohen stated:

The rabbis saw that scripture portrayed two different pictures of King Messiah. One would conquer and reign and bring Israel back to the land by world peace and bring the fullness of obedience to the Torah. They called him Messiah ben David. The other picture is of a servant who would die and bear Israel’s sin that they refer to as the “leprous one” based on Isaiah 53 (Cohen, n.d.; also see Parsons, 2003-2006).

It is evident, from the rabbinical view of two Messiahs, that the themes of suffering and regal authority were so vividly portrayed in Old Testament Messianic prophecy that both themes demanded fulfillment. To suggest two Messiah’s provided such a fulfillment. However, the dual Messianic idea failed to comprehend the actual nature of Messianic prophecy, and missed a primary facet of the Messianic personality: that the Messiah would be both a suffering Servant and a majestic King. As Huffman rightly observed: “The theme of Messianism is composed of two inseparable strands or threads—the scarlet and the golden, or the suffering and the reigning, or the priestly and the royal” (1956, p. 7). To misunderstand or miss either of these two interwoven threads would be to miss the Messiah completely.

REGAL KING

Genesis 49:10—Shiloh

The Lord kept His promise to Jacob and multiplied his descendants exceedingly. His twelve sons and their wives and children escorted him to Egypt to live in the land of Goshen at the behest of Joseph, who had been elevated in Egypt as the Pharaoh’s chief advisor. As Jacob neared the end of his rather long life (over 130 years, Genesis 47:9), he gathered his sons around his death bed, and stated: “Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days” (Genesis 49:1). Following this introductory statement, Jacob proceeded to address each of his sons and bestow blessings (or in some cases, curses) on his descendants.

In the midst of his final speech, in his blessing on Judah, Jacob stated: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people” (Genesis 49:10). The Messianic nature of this statement has long been recognized and discussed in ancient Jewish circles. As previously stated, David Baron wrote: “With regard to this prophecy, the first thing I want to point out is that all antiquity agrees in interpreting it of a personal Messiah. This is the view of the LXX. Version; the Targumim of Onkelos, Yonathan, and Jerusalem; the Talmud; the Sohar; the ancient book of ‘Bereshith Rabba;’ and among modern Jewish commentators, even Rashi, who says, ‘Until Shiloh come, that is King Messiah, Whose is the kingdom’ ” (2000, p. 258, emp. added). Aaron Kligerman added: “The rabbis of old, though not agreeing with each other as to the meaning of the root Shiloh, were almost unanimous in applying the term to the Messiah” (1957, p. 19-20). Santala, in his discussion of several of the oldest Jewish documents available, wrote:

Targum Onqulos says of Judah’s scepter that it will not depart “until the Messiah comes, he who has the power to reign.” Targum Jonathan puts it that the verse refers to “the age of the Messiah-King, the King who will come as the youngest of his children.” Targum Yerushalmi speaks of the ‘time’ when “the Messiah-King will come” (1992, p. 50, italics in orig.).

Much commentary and debate surrounds the “Shiloh” prophecy found in Genesis 49:10. It is often viewed as an indication of the time that the Messiah should arrive on the scene. As can be deduced from Kligerman’s quote, the actual origin and exact meaning of the word Shiloh are disputed in many scholarly circles. Yet, despite the controversy in reference to this prophecy, the one aspect of it that stands out is the central idea that this is a Messianic Prophecy. As such, it narrows the identity of the Messiah even further to a descendant, not just of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but to the house of Judah.

The Son of David

Of all the monarchs that possessed the throne of Israel, none is as storied as King David. From his youth he proved himself to be a courageous, valiant warrior who trusted in the Lord. He was described as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). He wrote many of the Psalms, and ushered in a united kingdom that paved the way for the majestic reign of his son, Solomon.

David’s relationship to the Messiah is a rather interesting one. First, Jewish antiquity recognized the fact that Messiah would be the Son of David. Santala commented: “Tradition ascribes 73 of the 150 psalms to King David. In the Rabbinic literature the Messiah is constantly referred to as the ‘Son of David.’ For this reason, everywhere the future blessing of the house of David is described, the Sages saw Messianic material” (1992, p. 109, italics in orig.).

Such Messianic sentiments in regard to David find their seminal origin in the promise made by God to David through the prophet Nathan. In 2 Samuel 7, the text narrates the events that lead to this promise. David had become a great king and his reign had spread far and wide. Due to his love for the Lord, he wanted to show honor to God by building a glorious temple in which the Ark of the Covenant could be housed. He mentioned his idea to the prophet Nathan, who immediately encouraged the building plans. But soon after Nathan had told David to do all that was in his heart, God conveyed to Nathan that He did not want David to build a temple. Instead, God would commission David’s son, Solomon, to construct the magnificent edifice. Yet, in God’s message to David, He promised: “And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16).

In later Psalms, the promise of David’s descendant reigning over an eternal Kingdom is expanded and given more substance. Psalm 89 contains several Messianic aspects, not the least of which is the following statement: “I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to My Servant David: ‘Your seed I will establish forever, and build up your throne to all generations’ ” (vss. 3-4). Psalm 132 contains a very similar statement: “The Lord has sworn in truth to David; He will not turn from it: ‘I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body. If your sons will keep My covenant and My testimony which I shall teach them, their sons also shall sit upon your throne forevermore.”

Along with the various inspired psalmists, other Old Testament writers noted the Messianic lineage through David and his throne. One of the most memorable of all Messianic predictions from the Old Testament, Isaiah 9:6-7, mentioned the Messianic reign upon the throne of David:

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Yet, along with the fact that the Messiah was to be of the seed of David and reign on His throne, at least one Psalm places David in a subservient position to this majestic Messianic ruler. Psalm 110 opens with the statement: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool’ ” (Psalm 110:1). In regard to Psalm 110, Briggs noted: “The 110th Psalm is in the form of an utterance from Jahveh respecting the son of David. It is therefore a prediction that unfolds the prediction of Nathan” (1988, p. 132). Walter Kaiser, in his discussion of Psalm 110, wrote: “While the external evidence that this psalm is Messianic is large, the internal evidence is just as overwhelming” (1995, p. 94). In reference to the Messiah mentioned in the first verse, Kaiser stated: “That unnamed Lord is a royal person, for he was invited to ‘sit at [God the Father’s] right hand….’ If the God of the universe invited this other Sovereign to take such a distinguished seat alongside himself, then we may be sure he was no one less than the promised Messiah, invited to participate in the divine government of the world” (p. 94).

Psalm 110 adds an interesting aspect to the character and position of the Messiah. Not only would the Messiah be born from the seed of David and reign on the throne of David, He also would be exalted to a position far above David, to such an extent that David called him “Lord” in Psalm 110. David’s statements in this Psalm not only speak to the pre-existence of the Messiah before David, but also to the pre-eminence that the Messiah would assume.

With these details, the portrait of the Messiah becomes increasingly sharp. He was to come from the seed of woman and crush the power of Satan. He was to be of the seed of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and now David. He would rule on the throne of David, yet He existed before David and was so preeminent that David called Him Lord. And there would be no end of His glorious, majestic kingdom.

THE SUFFERING SERVANT

Anyone who reads the Old Testament would be hard pressed to miss the idea of the Messiah’s glorious regal prominence. Yet, as equally transparent is the idea that the Messiah was to suffer. The protevangelium in Genesis 3:15 makes reference to this suffering in the statement about the heel of the Seed of women being bruised, but it does not include the details of this suffering. The theme of suffering introduced in Genesis 3:15 is expanded in the remainder of the Old Testament.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

The passage of Scripture found in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 stands as a somber reminder of the horrendous suffering that the Messiah would endure. The text mentions that He would be highly exalted and extolled (52:13). And yet His appearance would be marred more than any man (52:14). He would not be physically attractive (53:2), and He would be despised and rejected by men, familiar with sorrows and grief (53:4). He would be perfect and without sin (53:9), and yet He would be beaten, suffer, and die for the sins of the Lord’s people (53:5-6,11). This suffering Servant would be killed among the wicked, but buried among the rich (53:8-9). Yet, in spite of His death (or even because of it), He would be numbered among the great and divide the spoil with the strong (53:12).

Needless to say, this picture of the Messiah seems to stand in stark contrast to the glorious King on David’s throne. As has been mentioned, this contrast has caused some to concoct two Messiahs to accommodate the prophecies. Still others have attempted to discount Messianic prophecies such as Isaiah 52:13-53:12. Some have suggested that this passage of Scripture is not Messianic in nature, but that the servant under discussion represents the collective nation of Israel. Along these lines, David Baron noted: “Modern Jews, in common with a number of rationalistic so-called Christians, are trying hard these days to weaken the Messianic application of this remarkable prophecy” (2000, p. 225). James Smith stated:

The Messianic interpretation of Isaiah 53 was acknowledged by Jewish authorities until the Middle Ages. Almost all Christian leaders until the beginning of the nineteenth century saw in this passage a clear picture of the suffering, death and resurrection of the Messiah. Jews and some Christian scholars now hold primarily to the collective view of the Servant: The Servant is Israel as a whole, or the remnant. The traditional view, however, has much to commend it (1993, p. 307).

That the ancient Jewish community, and the bulk of scholars for the last 2,000 years, have recognized Isaiah 53 as a prophecy concerning a personal, individual Messiah cannot be questioned. Baron correctly commented regarding this sentiment:

That until recent times this prophecy has been almost universally received by Jews as referring to Messiah is evident from Targum Yonathan, who introduces Messiah by name in chapter lii 13, from the Talmud (“Sanhedrin,” fol. 98, b); and from Zohar, a book which the Jews as a rule do not mention without the epithet “holy…” (2000, p. 226).

The recent view that Isaiah 53 refers to the nation of Israel not only garners little (if any) support from ancient Jewish commentators, it collapses under the scrutiny of critical examination. The foremost objection to the view that Israel collectively is the Servant in Isaiah 53 is the fact that the Servant is described as perfect and sinless (53:9), not deserving the punishment that He willingly accepts for the sins of God’s people. No one remotely familiar with the nation of Israel as portrayed in the Old Testament would dare suggest that they were sinless. From their first few steps out of Egypt and into freedom they began to provoke God and bring judgment upon themselves. On numerous occasions the Old Testament depicts the Israelites’ sin of such a rebellious nature that God executes thousands of them. One fundamental aspect of an atoning sacrifice in Old Testament literature was its condition of spotless perfection. No nation of mere mortal men, including the ancient Israelite nation, could suffice as an atoning sacrifice for sins, as the Servant does in Isaiah 53. Nor could a sinful nation make another group of people “righteous” as the Lord’s Servant would. Furthermore, the Servant of the Lord is depicted as being stricken for “transgressions of my people.” If the Servant was collectively depicted as the nation of Israel, then who would be the Lord’s people in 53:8? [NOTE: For a more complete refutation of Israel as the Servant of the Lord in Isaiah 53, see Baron, 2000, pp. 225-251.]

Indeed, the evidence points overwhelmingly to the fact that Isaiah 53 stands as one of the most poignant portrayals in all of the Old Testament of an individual, suffering Messiah. As Smith correctly noted: “The Servant of the Lord here is portrayed in a strongly individualistic way. It takes rich imagination or strong prejudice to see the Servant here as a symbol for Israel, the remnant, the prophets, or any other group” (p. 1993, 307). Kaiser similarly commented: “Undoubtedly, this is the summit of OT prophetic literature. Few passages can rival it for clarity on the suffering, death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah (1995, p. 178).

VARIOUS SPECIFIC MESSIANIC PROPHECIES

In addition to the broad strokes portraying the Messiah as a reigning king and suffering servant, there are a host of more specific, detailed prophecies that relate to His coming. In regard to the number of Messianic prophecies, Sintala wrote: “It is estimated that the Old Testament contains altogether some 456 prophecies concerning Christ. Of these 75 are to be found in the Pentateuch, 243 in the Prophets and 138 in the ‘Writings’ and Psalms” (1992, p. 149; cf. Free and Vos, 1992, p. 241).

Space prohibits a listing of all of these prophecies, but a representative sampling is appropriate. The Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem in Judea (Micah 5:2) of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). He was to be betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9) for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:13). The Lord’s Ruler would come into Jerusalem riding on the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). He would be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9). During His suffering, His clothes would be distributed to those who cast lots for them (Psalm 22:18). His attackers would pierce Him (Zechariah 12:10). Even though His physical suffering would be severe, His bones would not be broken (Psalm 34:20). And in spite of His death, His physical body would not experience decay (Psalm 16:10). This small sampling of specific prophetic details is only a fraction of the many Old Testament prophecies that exist. The prophecies were specifically designed to be an efficient mechanism by which the Jewish community could recognize the Messiah when He arrived.

WHO IS THE MESSIAH?

When all of the pieces of the Messianic puzzle are put together, one individual stands out as the only person who fulfilled every single prophecy in minute detail—Jesus Christ. The life and activities of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament documents blend the theme of a regal monarch and a suffering servant into one magnificent portrait of the triumphant Jesus who was the sacrificial lamb at His death on the cross, and Who became the triumphant Lion of Judah in His resurrection from the grave. The lineage of Jesus Christ is meticulously traced in order to show that He qualified as the Seed of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, of Judah, and of David (see Matthew 1 and Luke 3:23-38). The narrative detailing His birth verifies that He was born in Bethlehem of Judea, from which city the Messiah would arise (Luke 2:1-7). The birth narrative also intricately portrays the pre-existence of Jesus before time began, fulfilling the prophecy that the Messiah would come before King David. Furthermore, Jesus did, in fact, enter Jerusalem riding on the foal of a donkey (Matthew 21:1-11).

The New Testament narratives depicting the death of Jesus Christ verify that Jesus was betrayed by His friend and sold for exactly 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 24:14-16). At His death His bones were not broken, soldiers cast lots for His garments, and His side was pierced with a spear (John 19:33-37 and Matthew 27:35). During His suffering, He was numbered with the transgressors as Isaiah 53 predicted by being crucified between two thieves, and at His death He was buried in the tomb of a wealthy man as was also foretold (Matthew 27:57). This type of verification could continue for many pages. The life of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, as depicted in the New Testament documents, was designed to fulfill the Messianic prophecy of the Old Testament.

Due to this overwhelming congruence of the life of Jesus Christ with the predictive Messianic prophecy of the Old Testament, some have suggested that Jesus was an imposter who was able, by masterful manipulation, to so artificially organize His life as to make it look like He was the Messiah. Such a contention cannot be reasonably maintained in light of the fact that many of the prophecies were far beyond His control. Obviously, it would be impossible for a person to arrange where he would be born. Furthermore, it would be impossible to coordinate events so that He could ensure that He was buried in the tomb of a rich man or crucified among thieves. How could the betrayal price of Judas be manipulated by Jesus? And how, pray tell, would Jesus have managed to arrange it so that soldiers cast lots for His clothing? The idea that Jesus manipulated events to make it appear as if He was the Messiah not only is indefensible, but it also speaks to the fact that Jesus obviously was the fulfillment of the Old Testament, Messianic prophecies.

Others have objected to Jesus as the Messiah based on the idea that the New Testament documents are not reliable, and were artificially concocted to describe things that Jesus never really did. This objection also falls flat in light of the actual evidence. It cannot be denied that the New Testament has proven itself to be the most reliable book in ancient history. When it records people, places, and events that are checkable using archaeological means, those people, places, and events invariably prove to be factual and historic (see Butt, 2004). Again, the abundant evidence verifies that the New Testament is accurate and factual. Many of the Messianic prophecies documented in the New Testament do not describe anything inherently miraculous. There was nothing miraculous about Jesus being buried in a rich man’s tomb. Nor was there anything miraculous about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey, or being betrayed by His friend for 30 pieces of silver. These events are, if not ordinary, at least very plausible, everyday events that theoretically could have happened to anybody. And yet, due to the fact that such everyday events had been predicted about the Messiah hundreds of years before the arrival of Jesus, the fulfillment of the events becomes one of the most amazing miracles recorded in the Bible. It is no wonder that Jesus, the apostles, and the early church used fulfilled Messianic prophecy as one of its foundational pillars of proof and evangelistic tools.

APPEALING TO PROPHECY

Even a slight familiarity with the New Testament texts sufficiently demonstrates the idea that Jesus, the apostles, and the other New Testament writers used the Old Testament Messianic prophecies as one of their main apologetic tools to prove the deity and Messianic role of Jesus Christ.

The Writers of the Gospel Accounts Applied Messianic Prophecy to Jesus Christ

The Gospel writers repeatedly peppered their narratives of the life and actions of Jesus Christ with allusions, quotes, and Messianic prophecies from the Old Testament, which they applied to Jesus. Mathew 1 includes the Messianic prophecy taken from Isaiah 7:14 in which a virgin is predicted to bear a son. Matthew applies this virgin-birth prophesy to the birth of Jesus Christ. In chapter 2, Matthew references Micah 5:2, in which the birth city of the Messiah is named, again applying the prophecy to Jesus. In Matthew 3, the Bible writer notes that John the Baptizer was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in 40:3, indicating that John was the forerunner of the Messiah which, again, is Jesus Christ. Matthew 4:15-16 references another Messianic prophecy that discusses the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, again applying the prophecy to Jesus Christ. Looking, then, at the first four chapters of the book of Matthew, one is forcefully struck with the fact that one of the Bible writer’s primary apologetic tools used to confirm that Jesus was (and is) the Messiah was a fervent appeal to Messianic prophecy as fulfilled in the life and actions of Jesus. Furthermore, Matthew’s pattern of applying Old Testament, Messianic prophecy to Jesus continues throughout the remainder of his account.

Mark’s gospel account, although not as replete with such prophecies, nevertheless includes appeals to Messianic prophecy and applies those prophecies to Jesus. Mark chapter 1 begins with quotations from Malachi 3 and Isaiah 40 that predict the forerunner of the Messiah. Mark applied these passages to John the Baptizer as the forerunner of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, during the crucifixion account as recorded in Mark, the Bible writer noted that Jesus was crucified between two thieves, and then he commented, “So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors’ ” (15:28). In addition, Mark included instances in which Jesus applied Messianic prophecy to Himself.

As with Matthew and Mark, Luke and John also included numerous Messianic prophecies and appeal to them as proof of the deity of Jesus Christ. Luke chapter three cites the prophecy from Isaiah 40 concerning the Messianic forerunner and applies it to John the Baptizer, the forerunner of Christ. John does the same in 1:23. During Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, John records that Jesus rode into the city sitting on a donkey. John then commented on the situation by saying: “as it is written: Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.” His reference was a clear appeal to the Messianic nature of this prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9. Again, in John 12:37-38, the Bible writer refers to a Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 53:1, and applies its fulfillment to the ministry of Jesus. During the crucifixion of Christ, John records that the soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ clothing. John then references Psalm 22:18 as a Messianic prophecy: “They divided My garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

Only a few of the many Messianic prophetic references in the gospel accounts have been documented here. Yet, even with this small sampling, the reader is struck with the clear conclusion that the gospel writers appealed to Old Testament, Messianic prophecy as proof of the deity of Christ.

Jesus’ Appeal to Prophecy as it Applied to Him

On multiply occasions, Jesus directed His listeners to certain Messianic Old Testament scriptures, and applied those scriptures to Himself. Luke records an incident in the life of Jesus in which He visited a synagogue on the Sabbath in His hometown of Nazareth. While in attendance there, Jesus read a passage from Isaiah 61:1-2, and commented to those in attendance that the particular Scripture He had just read was fulfilled in their hearing.

During His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus addressed those who had come to arrest Him, asking them why they did not apprehend Him while He was with them daily teaching in the temple. He then stated: “But the Scriptures must be fulfilled” (Mark 14:49). His statement implied that this deed they were doing was a fulfillment of Old Testament Scriptures as they related to His Messianic role.

Again, in Luke 24, the resurrected Jesus appeared to two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus. They treated Him as a stranger, because they did not recognize Him. Upon striking up a conversation with Jesus, they began to discuss the events of Christ’s death and burial in Jerusalem only a few days earlier. After the disciples related the events of the women at the empty tomb, Jesus began to speak to them with these words: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory” (Luke 24:25-26). The verse following Jesus’ statement explains: “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”

A few verses later, in the same chapter, Jesus appeared to several more of His disciples and applied the Old Testament prophecies to His activities again: “Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all the things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44). Such statements made by Jesus show that one of the main lines of evidence that He used to establish His identity as the Messiah was the application of Old Testament Messianic prophecy to Himself.

Messianic Prophecy Applied to Jesus in the Book of Acts

The recorded writings and sermons of the apostles after the ascension of Jesus are replete with appeals to Messianic prophecy as proof of the Messianic identity of Jesus Christ. In the first recorded gospel sermon on the Day of Pentecost, Peter explained to those in Jerusalem that the resurrection of Christ was a fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy uttered by David in Psalm 16:8-11 (in which the Lord would not allow His Holy One to see corruption). In Act 3, Peter addressed another multitude of those dwelling in Jerusalem. In his sermon, he stated: “But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled” (vs. 18). In that same sermon, Peter referred his audience back to Deuteronomy 18, in which Moses had foretold the coming of a prophet like himself, which Peter applied to Jesus (as did Stephen in his sermon in Acts 7:37). In the next chapter, Peter is arrested and allowed to speak to the high priest and his family. In Peter’s statements to these leaders, he again referred back to the Old Testament, quoted Psalm 118:22 about the stone that was rejected by the builders, and applied the prophecy to Jesus.

In one of the most memorable conversion accounts, Philip the evangelist is called to meet with an Ethiopian treasurer on the road to Gaza. As Philip approached, the Eunuch was reading a passage from Isaiah 53. Upon their meeting, the Eunuch asked Philip about the prophecy, wondering whether the prophet was speaking of himself or someone else. From that text, the Bible says that Philip preached Jesus to the Eunuch, applying the passage from Isaiah as a Messianic prophecy with its fulfillment in the person of Christ (Acts 8:26-40). In another memorable conversion account, Peter visited the house of Cornelius and preached the Gospel to him and all his household. Included in Peter’s message was the following statement concerning Jesus: “To Him all the prophets witness, that through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43, emp. added).

As one continues through the book of Acts, it becomes evident that Paul often appealed to prophecy as evidence of Christ’s deity. In Acts 13, while preaching to those in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, he commented that those responsible for killing Jesus did so because they did not know “the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath” (Acts 13:27). In the same verse he concluded that because of their ignorance of the prophetic message, the murderers of Christ actually fulfilled the prophecies concerning Jesus in their abuse of Him. Paul further quoted from Psalm 2:7, Isaiah 55:3, and Psalm 16:10, noting these Old Testament passages as Messianic prophecy and applying them to Jesus Christ. In a separate sermon, delivered much later, Paul stood before King Agrippa and told him that Jesus is the Christ. In his oratory to Agrippa, Paul acknowledged that the king was “expert in all customs and questions which have to do with the Jews” (Acts 26:3). Paul further noted that in his teachings concerning Jesus as the Messiah, he was saying to Agrippa “no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come” (26:22). In his concluding remarks, Paul said to the king, “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.” Agrippa responded to Paul with these words: “You almost persuade me to become a Christian” (Acts 26:27-28).

Examples of Messianic prophecy applied to Jesus by the early propagators of Christianity as recorded in the book of Acts could easily be multiplied further. These few instances suffice to establish the fact that, throughout the book of Acts, predictive prophecy as it applied to Jesus as the Messiah stood as one of the foundational pillars upon which Christianity was based and spread.

Messianic Prophecy Applied to Jesus in the Epistles

Without providing an exhaustive study of every instance of Old Testament prophecy applied to Jesus in the epistles, this brief section will provide enough examples to establish the fact that the epistles, in similar fashion to the other books of the New Testament, rely heavily upon Messianic prophecy to establish the deity of Jesus Christ.

The book of Romans begins with a section discussing the Gospel of God, “which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh…” (1:2-3). In the book of Galatians, Paul refers back to the promise made to Abraham, that through the seed of the patriarch all nations would be blessed. Paul then applies that promise to Jesus, stating that Jesus is the Seed of Abraham through whom the world would receive the blessing of Abraham (Galatians 3:15-18). The writer of the book of Hebrews opens his book discussing the merits of Christ, applying many Old Testament passages such as Psalm 2:7 and Psalm 110:1 to Jesus. In Hebrews 5, the writer argues the case that Jesus is a priest after the order or Melchizedek as prophesied in Psalm 110:4. He repeats these sentiments in 7:17 and 7:21.

The epistles of 1 and 2 Peter contain numerous examples of such prophetic application to Jesus. One of the most potent passages along these lines in found in 1 Peter 1:10-12, in which Peter wrote:

Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.

In 1 Peter 2:6, the apostle applies Isaiah 28:16 and Psalm 118:22 to Christ, describing Him as the chief cornerstone rejected by the builders. Again in 1 Peter 2:22, the apostle applies Isaiah 53:9 to Jesus, referring to the fact that the Messiah would be sinless as was Jesus.

It becomes readily obvious, then, that the New Testament writers and apostles frequently referred to Old Testament, Messianic prophecy and applied the fulfillment of such prophecies to the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. It is impossible to deny that one of the main lines of reasoning upon which the Christian faith was founded from its inception is the idea that Jesus Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies that looked forward to a coming Messiah.

CONCLUSION

In the Old Testament, it is almost as if we have a satellite picture from space of the Messiah many thousands of miles away, yet with each new prophecy, the picture continues to move nearer, until at last we are able to view a complete close-up of the Messiah—Jesus Christ. As the distinguished Hebrew scholar Charles Briggs noted: “In Jesus of Nazareth the key of the Messianic prophecy of the Old Testament has been found. All its phases find their realization in His unique personality, in His unique work, and in His unique kingdom. The Messiah of prophecy appears in the Messiah of history” (1988, p. 498).

In Acts 8:26-40, Philip the evangelist approached the Ethiopian who was riding in a chariot reading the Old Testament Scriptures. As Philip approached, he heard the man reading a section from Isaiah 53 in which the sufferings of the Messiah are depicted. Upon entering into a conversation with Philip, the man asked Philip, “[O]f whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” Immediately after this question, the Bible says that Philip “opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35). In truth, Jesus is the sum total of every Old Testament, Messianic prophecy ever uttered. From any single one of those ancient Scriptures, the honest, informed individual could open his or her mouth and preach Jesus, the Messiah.

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Reasons to Believe in Jesus – Jesus Fulfilled the Old Testament Messianic Prophecies

Wars often come and go. Battles are won and lost. Businesses are bought and sold. Nations rise and fall. Scientific discoveries are made on a daily basis. These and other pertinent events influence human history in a myriad of interesting ways. But none of them is as influential as a powerful personality. Real history is written in names: Napoleon, Stalin, Hitler, Gandhi, Marx, Washington, Lincoln. After all, it is people who make wars, start businesses, forge new nations and cause their collapse. The events instigated by people are by-products of their personalities interacting with their surroundings, other people, and their ideas. In all of human history, one name, one Man, has risen to the top of every list of influential personalities—Jesus Christ.

Because of His influence, the life and teachings of Jesus have been more closely scrutinized than any life in human history. This scrutiny has resulted in a number of different reactions. Some have concluded that Jesus was a liar who deceived countless thousands of people in the time in which He lived, and billions since. Some have approached a study of His life with an attitude of skepticism, only to arrive on the other side of their spiritual and intellectual journey as firm believers in the deity of Christ. A number of people have chosen the middle ground, in which they acknowledge that Jesus was an amazing teacher and a good man, but they deny that He was the Son of God.

Though Jesus has been the most analyzed Person ever to walk the Earth, still the most common response to the life of Jesus is simply apathy. It seems the majority of the billions of people who have lived since the early first century have approached the Person of Jesus neither intently nor earnestly. They have given little attention to the details of His life. Sadly, if most people who have lived since the death of Jesus Christ were asked what they thought about Him, they would have to respond, “I don’t know. I’ve never really given Him much thought.”

What about you? Have you given the Person of Jesus serious thought? If not, we humbly ask you to look carefully at the evidence for Jesus’ divine nature. If you are a follower of Jesus and call yourself a Christian, do you know why? What do you say to others when they ask you why you call yourself after Jesus Christ and live according to His will? What proof can you offer that demonstrates Jesus was God incarnate?

Two Primary Reasons for unbelief in Jesus

People have rejected Jesus as the Heaven-sent, virgin-born, prophesied Messiah ever since He walked the Earth. Recall, for example, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry how He entered the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth and read publicly from the Old Testament book of Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; Hehas sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19, emp. added).

Following this reading, Jesus closed the book, sat down, and “began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’” (4:21). Though the Jews initially marveled and questioned how the promised Messiah could actually be the son of a carpenter in Nazareth, upon further hearing, they “rose up and thrust Him out of the city…that they might throw Him down over the cliff” (4:28). This encounter was only the beginning of instances in which countless individuals rejected Jesus. Though some would come to believe in Him, most did not.

The majority of people in the world today reject Jesus as Lord and God for two primary reasons. First, millions refuse to accept Jesus as God-incarnate because they reject the notion of God altogether. If God does not exist then Jesus never existed as “the Word…God” Who stepped out of eternity and “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1,14). It makes no sense to contend that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16, emp. added), if God is dead. If a supernatural, eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, living spirit Being is merely a figment of the imagination of man, the first-century Jesus of Nazareth was delusional at best and a liar at worst. In considering this fundamental reason for the rejection of Jesus, Christians must prepare themselves to defend the primary proposition that “We believe Jesus is God-Incarnate, which is possible because we know God exists.” We are not suggesting using circular reasoning to defend the deity of Christ; rather we are acknowledging the basic fact that Christ could not be God, if God does not exist. Therefore, a person can ultimately come to the conclusion that Jesus is “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28) only if he first knows that God, indeed, exists.

Second, it would be futile to defend the supernatural nature of Jesus as depicted in the Bible without first recognizing the fact that many reject the Bible altogether as a supernatural revelation from God to man. Billions of non-Christians around the world may believe in some sort of god, but they still discount the Bible as being inspired by the Creator. Most unbelievers admit that Jesus of Nazareth lived, but they reject Jesus, the Christ, as He is revealed in both the Old and New Testaments. The fact is, however, if an all-knowing, all-powerful God exists (and there is ample proof that He does; cf. Romans 1:20), then such a God could easily inspire a book that would help mankind come to know “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31), “the Savior of the world” (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14). So what is the proof that the Bible is of supernatural origin? Why should an honest truth-seeker come to the conclusion that the Bible is the special revelation from the God of the Universe? In short, the main, overarching reason that the Bible can be demonstrated to be of divine origin is because the Bible writers were correct in everything they wrote—about the past, the present, and even the future—which is humanly impossible.

The two primary reasons for the rejection of Jesus as the Son of God are thus shown to be false. By taking these criticisms and turning them on their heads, they actually provide the first two foundational pillars for belief in Christ—(1) God exists and (2) the Bible is His Word. The next sensible question to ask is, “What evidence does the Bible give for the deity of Jesus?”

Jesus Fulfilled the Old Testament Messianic Prophecies

While it is true that most people’s lives can only be chronicled after they have lived them, the life of Jesus was miraculously chronicled (by divine inspiration) long before He arrived on Earth. Such Messianic prophecies are proof of both the divine inspiration of the Bible as well as the divine nature of Jesus. The reason that Jesus, the apostles, and the New Testament prophets spent so much of their time teaching and preaching from the Old Testament Messianic prophecies is because Jesus was proven to be the Christ by His fulfillment of these prophecies (cf. Luke 24:25-26,44; Acts 8:30-39).

Jesus fulfilled in minute detail over 300 prophecies that relate to the coming of the Messiah. Space prohibits a listing of all of these prophecies, but a representative sampling is appropriate. The Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem in Judea (Micah 5:2) of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; cf. Genesis 3:15—“her Seed”). He would be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah (Genesis 22:18; 26:4; 49:10; Numbers 24:17). He was to be a regal monarch (Psalm 89:3-4; Isaiah 9:6-7; Psalm 110:1) and at the same time a suffering servant (Isaiah 53). He was to be betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9) for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:13). The Lord’s Ruler would come into Jerusalem riding on the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). He would be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9). During His suffering, His clothes would be distributed to those who cast lots for them (Psalm 22:18). His attackers would pierce Him (Zechariah 12:10). Even though His physical suffering would be severe, His bones would not be broken (Psalm 34:20). And in spite of His death, His physical body would not experience decay (Psalm 16:10). This small sampling of precise prophetic details is only a fraction of the many Old Testament prophecies that exist. The prophecies were specifically designed to be an efficient mechanism by which the Jewish community could recognize the Messiah when He arrived.

When all of the pieces of the Messianic puzzle are put together, one individual stands out as the only person who fulfilled every single prophecy in minute detail—Jesus Christ. The life and activities of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament documents brilliantly blend the theme of a regal monarch and a suffering servant into one magnificent portrait of the triumphant Jesus Who was the sacrificial Lamb at His death on the cross, and Who became the triumphant Lion of Judah in His resurrection from the grave. The lineage of Jesus Christ is meticulously traced in order to show that He qualified as the Seed of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, of Judah, and of David (Matthew 1; Luke 3:23-38). The narrative detailing His birth verifies that He was indeed born in Bethlehem of Judea, from which city the Messiah would arise (Luke 2:1-7). The birth narrative also intricately portrays the pre-existence of Jesus before time began, fulfilling the prophecy that the Messiah existed before King David (Matthew 1:18-25; cf. 22:41-46; John 1:1-5,14). Furthermore, Jesus did, in fact, enter Jerusalem riding on the foal of a donkey (Matthew 21:1-11).

The New Testament narratives depicting the death of Jesus Christ verify that Jesus was betrayed by His friend and sold for exactly 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 24:14-16). At His death His bones were not broken, soldiers cast lots for His garments, and His side was pierced with a spear (John 19:33-37; Matthew 27:35). During His suffering, He was numbered with the transgressors as Isaiah 53 predicted by being crucified between two thieves, and at His death He was buried in the tomb of a wealthy man as was also foretold (Matthew 27:57). This type of verification could continue for many pages. The life of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, as depicted in the New Testament documents, was designed to fulfill the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament.

Due to this overwhelming congruence of the life of Jesus Christ with the predictive Messianic prophecy of the Old Testament, some have suggested that Jesus was an imposter who was able, by masterful manipulation, to so artificially organize His life as to make it look like He was the Messiah. Such a contention cannot be reasonably maintained in light of the fact that many of the prophecies were far beyond His control. Obviously, it would be impossible for a person to arrange who his ancestors were or where he would be born. Furthermore, it would be near impossible to coordinate events so that He could make sure that He was crucified among thieves, while also buried in the tomb of a rich man. How could the betrayal price of Judas be manipulated by Jesus? And how, pray tell, would Jesus have managed to arrange it so that soldiers cast lots for His clothing? The idea that Jesus manipulated all of these events to make it appear as if He was the Messiah not only is indefensible, but it also speaks to the fact that Jesus obviously was the fulfillment of the Old Testament, Messianic prophecies.

Others have objected to Jesus as the Messiah based on the idea that the New Testament documents are not reliable, and were artificially concocted to describe things that Jesus never really did. This objection also falls flat in light of the actual evidence. It cannot be denied that the New Testament has proven itself to be the most reliable book in ancient history (along with the books of the Old Testament). When it records people, places, and events that are checkable using archaeological means, those people, places, and events invariably prove to be factual and historic. Again, the abundant evidence verifies that the New Testament is accurate and factual. Many of the Messianic prophecies documented in the New Testament do not describe anything inherently miraculous. There was nothing miraculous about Jesus being buried in a rich man’s tomb. Nor was there anything miraculous about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey, or being betrayed by His friend for 30 pieces of silver. These events are, if not ordinary, at least very plausible, everyday events that theoretically could have happened to anybody. And yet, due to the fact that such everyday events had been predicted about the Messiah hundreds of years before the arrivalof Jesus, the fulfillment of the events becomes one of the most amazing miracles recorded in the Bible. It is no wonder that Jesus, the apostles, and the early church used fulfilled Messianic prophecy as one of their foundational pillars of proof for the deity of Christ.

Jesus Worked Miracles

In view of the fact that miracles have served as a confirmation of God’s revelation since time began (Exodus 4:1-9; 1 Kings 18:36-39; Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:3-4), it should be no surprise that “when the fullness of time had come” (Galatians 4:4), and the promised Messiah, the Son of God, came to Earth for the purpose of saving the world from sin (Luke 19:10), that He would confirm His identity and message by performing miracles. Centuries before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah foretold of a time when “the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped…. [T]he lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing” (35:5-6). Although this language has a figurative element to it, it literally is true of the coming of the Messiah. When John the Baptizer heard about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples to Jesus asking if He was “the Coming One” of Whom the prophets spoke. Jesus responded to John’s disciples by pointing to the people whom He had miraculously healed (thus fulfilling Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy), saying, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: the blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matthew 11:4-5; cf. Mark 7:37). Jesus wanted them to know that He was doing exactly what “the Coming One” was supposed to do (cf. Isaiah 53:4; Matthew 8:17), and what the Jews expected Him to do—perform miracles (John 7:31; cf. John 4:48; 1 Corinthians 1:22). 

In a sense, Jesus’ miracles served a different purpose than those wrought by Moses, Elijah, or one of the New Testament apostles or prophets. Unlike all other miracle workers recorded in Scripture, Jesus actually claimed to be the prophesied Messiah, the Son of God, and His miracles were performed to prove both the truthfulness of His message and His divine nature. Whereas the apostles and prophets of the New Testament worked miracles to confirm their message that Jesus was the Son of God, Jesus performed miracles to bear witness that He was, in fact, the Son of God. In response to a group of Jews who inquired about whether or not He was the Christ, Jesus replied,

I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me…. I and My Father are one.… If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him (John 10:25,30,37-38).

Similarly, on another occasion Jesus defended His deity, saying, “[T]he works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me” (John 5:36). While on Earth, Jesus was “attested by God…with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him” (Acts 2:22, NASB). And, according to the apostle John, “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31, emp. added). As would be expected from the One Who claimed to be God incarnate (cf. John 1:1-3,14; 10:30), Scripture records that Jesus performed miracles throughout His ministry in an effort to provide sufficient proof of His divine message andnature.

Jesus’ Signs Were Many and Varied

Mankind is expected to believe that Jesus is the Son of God not because He performed one or two marvelous deeds during His lifetime. To the contrary, the Gospel accounts are saturated with a variety of miracles that Christ performed, not for wealth or political power, but that the world may be convinced that He was sent by the Father to bring salvation to mankind. As Isaiah prophesied, Jesus performed miracles of healing (Matthew 8:16-17). He cleansed a leper with the touch of His hand (Matthew 8:1-4) and healed all manner of sickness and disease with the word of His mouth (cf. John 4:46-54). One woman who had a hemorrhage for 12 years was healed immediately simply by touching the fringe of His garment (Luke 8:43-48). Similarly, on one occasion after Jesus came into the land of Gennesaret, all who were sick in all of the surrounding region came to Him, “and begged Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched it were made perfectly well” (Matthew 14:34-36; Mark 3:10). Generally speaking, “great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them” (Matthew 15:30, emp. added). “He cured many of infirmities, afflictions…and to many blind He gave sight” (Luke 7:21, emp. added). Even Jesus’ enemies confessed to His “many signs” (John 11:48).

Jesus not only exhibited power over the sick and afflicted, He also showed His superiority over nature more than once. Whereas God’s prophet Moses turned water into blood by striking water with his rod (Exodus 7:20), Jesus simply willed water into wine/grape juice (oinos) at a wedding feast (John 2:1-11). He further exercised His power over the natural world by calming the Sea of Galilee during a turbulent storm (Matthew 8:23-27), by walking on water for a considerable distance to reach His disciples (Matthew 14:25-43), and by causing a fig tree to wither away at His command. Jesus’ supernatural superiority over the physical world (which He created—Colossians 1:16) is exactly what we would expect from One Who claimed to be the Son of God.

Jesus performed miracles that demonstrated His power even over death. Recall that when John the Baptizer’s disciples came to Jesus inquiring about His identity, Jesus instructed them to tell John that “the dead are raised” (Matthew 11:5). The widow of Nain’s son had already been declared dead and placed in a casket when Jesus touched the open coffin and told him to “arise.” Immediately, “he who was dead sat up and began to speak” (Luke 7:14-15). Lazarus had already been dead and buried for four days by the time Jesus raised him from the dead (John 11:1-44). Such a great demonstration of power over death caused “many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did” to believe in Him (John 11:45).

Jesus Rose from the Dead!

Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead was the climax of all of His miracles, and serves as perhaps the most convincing miracle of all. Indeed,Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power…by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4, emp. added). The New Testament book of Acts stresses the fact of Jesus’ resurrection almost to the point of redundancy. Acts 1:22, as one example, finds Peter and the other apostles choosing an apostle who was to “become a witness” of the resurrection of Christ. Then, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter insisted in his sermon to the multitude that had assembled to hear him that “God raised up” Jesus and thus loosed Him from the pangs of death (Acts 2:24). And to make sure that his audience understood that it was a physical resurrection, Peter stated specifically that Jesus’ “flesh did not see corruption” (Acts 2:31). His point was clear: Jesus had been physically raised from the dead and the apostles had witnessed the resurrected Christ. [Other passages in Acts which document that the central theme of the apostles’ preaching was the bodily resurrection of Christ include Acts 3:15; 3:26; 4:2,10,33; 5:30; 10:40-43; 13:30-37; 17:3,31-32.] Furthermore, the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 (especially verse 14) verifies that the preaching of the apostle Paul centered on the resurrection of Christ.

Jesus Worked Wonders that are Not Being Duplicated Today

What’s more, neither the modern alleged “faith healer” nor the 21st-century scientist is duplicating the miracles that Jesus worked while on Earth 2,000 years ago. Pseudo-wonder workers today stage seemingly endless events where willing participants with supposed sicknesses appear and act as if they are being healed of their diseases by the laying on of hands. Nebulous aches and pains and dubious illnesses that defy medical substantiation are supposedly cured by prominent “faith healers” who simultaneously are building financial empires with the funds they receive from gullible followers. Oral Roberts, Benny Hinn, and a host of others have made many millions of dollars off of viewers who naively send them money without stopping to consider the real differences between the miracles that Jesus worked and what they observe these men do today.

Jesus went about “healing every sickness and every disease” (Matthew 9:35). His miraculous wonders knew no limitations. He could cure anything. Luke, the learned physician (Colossians 4:14), recorded how He could restore a shriveled hand in the midst of His enemies (Luke 6:6-10) and heal a severed ear with the touch of His hand (Luke 22:51). He healed “many” of their blindness (Luke 7:21), including one man who had been born blind (John 9:1-7). He even raised the dead simply by calling out to them (John 11:43). What modern-day “spiritualist,” magician, or scientist has come close to doing these sorts of things that defy natural explanations? Who is going into schools for the blind and giving children their sight? Who is going to funerals or graveyards to raise the dead? These are the kinds of miracles that Jesus worked—supernatural feats that testify to His identity as the Heaven-sent Savior of the world.

Other Proofs of Jesus’ Deity

Jesus Never Sinned

When God instructed the Israelites to sacrifice the Passover Lamb, He explained that the animal must be without spot or blemish. The lamb could not be lame, have a disease, or be too old. Only a “perfect” sacrifice would be acceptable. As our Passover Lamb, Jesus provided the perfect sacrifice (1 Corinthians 5:7). His perfection was not outward in His flesh, but was the inward perfection of a sinless life. Peter, one of Jesus’ closest followers, wrote that Christians have not been redeemed “with corruptible things, like silver and gold…but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19). The Hebrews writer explains that Jesus was tempted in every point just as we are, yet Jesus remained “without sin” (4:15).

Though many of Jesus’ enemies who attacked Him while He was on Earth, and many who attack Him still today, have accused Jesus of sinning, they have failed miserably to give a single instance of wrong doing. Jesus’ bold and unanswered challenge continues to ring across the centuries: “Which of you convicts Me of sin?” (John 8:46). The answer to that question for almost 2,000 years has been a resounding, “No one.” Every honest-hearted person who looks at the personality of Jesus, and compares it to his or her own, must admit that the Christ possesses a confidence in His own sinlessness that is beyond that of any mere human. While it may be true that cult leaders or other arrogant humans claim to be sinless, having never made a moral misstep, it is rather easy to show actions in their lives that prove them to be wrong. In fact, is it not the moral leaders who admit their own weaknesses who are the most admired? Yet, Jesus could not admit any moral failings, because He had none. He explained to His enemies, “Yet you have not known Him [God], but I know Him. And if I say ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word” (John 8:55). Jesus’ moral perfection speaks volumes about His divinity.

Jesus Forgave Sins

Suppose a man who murdered his neighbor had lived a guilt-ridden life for years. Finally, he decided to tell one of his friends what he had done so many years before. The friend listened carefully and said, “You are a murderer, but I forgive you, don’t worry any more about it.” What good would it do for the man’s friend to forgive him? For a person who was unrelated to the crime, and has no official authority to forgive the crime, means nothing. We understand that forgiveness can only be offered by a person who has been wronged, or who has the official authority to forgive others. That is why the fact that Jesus presumed to forgive sins is so amazing.

In Mark 2, we find the story of a paralyzed man who was lowered into a room in front of Jesus. Jesus looked at the man and said, “Son, your sins are forgiven you” (Mark 2:5). Many of those within earshot of Jesus’ statement were appalled at His pronouncement. They demanded (byway of rhetorical question): “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7, emp. added). And they were right: no one but God can forgive sins, which was Jesus’ point. If He had the power to cause the paralyzed man to walk, He also had the power to forgive his sins. And if He had the power to forgive his sins, and no one can forgive sins but God, then Jesus must be God. The fact that Jesus demanded (and demonstrated) that He had the power personally to forgive any person of all sins, sets Him apart from any other character in human history.

Jesus Accepted Worship

The Bible reveals time and again that God alone is to be worshiped (Exodus 20:3-5; 2 Kings 17:34-36; Acts 14:8-18). The Bible also reveals that man must refrain from worshipping angels. When the apostle John fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who had revealed to him the message of Revelation, the angel responded, saying, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God” (Revelation 22:9, emp. added; cf. Revelation 19:10). Angels, idols, and humans are all unworthy of the reverent worship that is due only to God. As Jesus reminded Satan: “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (Matthew 4:10, emp. added).

Unlike good men and good angels who have always rejected worship from humanity, Jesus accepted worship. If worship is to be reserved only for God, and Jesus, the One “who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21), accepted worship, then the logical conclusion is that Jesus believed that He was Deity. Numerous times the Bible mentions that Jesus accepted worship from mankind. Matthew 14:33 indicates that those who saw Jesus walk on water “worshiped Him.” John 9:38 reveals that the blind man whom Jesus had healed, later confessed his belief in Jesus as the Son of God and “worshiped him.” After Mary Magdalene and the other women visited the empty tomb of Jesus, and the risen Christ appeared to them, “they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him” (Matthew 28:9). When Thomas first witnessed the resurrected Christ, he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Later, when Jesus appeared to the apostles in Galilee, “they worshiped Him” on a mountain (Matthew 28:17). A few days after that, his disciples “worshiped Him” in Bethany (Luke 24:52). Time and again Jesus accepted the kind of praise from men that is due only to God. He never sought to correct His followers and redirect the worship away from Himself, as did the angel in Revelation or the apostle Paul in Acts 14. Nor did God strike Jesus with deadly worms for not redirecting the praise He received from men as He did Herod, who, when being hailed as a god, “did not give praise to God” (Acts 12:23).

Jesus once stated during His earthly ministry, “[A]ll should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23; cf. 5:18; 10:19-39). While on Earth, Jesus was honored on several occasions. His followers worshiped Him. They even worshiped Him after His ascension into heaven (Luke 24:52). Unlike good men and angels in Bible times who rejected worship, Jesus unhesitatingly received glory, honor, and praise from His creation. Truly, such worship is one of the powerful proofs of Jesus’ deity (cf. Revelation 5).

Did Jesus Deny He Was God?

In spite of all the evidence presented thus far, some have suggested that Jesus did not claim to be divine. They contend that He simply believed He was a prophet, but not the Messiah who was the Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6). They rest their case on passages that, simply put, they have misinterpreted. Briefly notice the following two examples.

On one occasion, a wealthy young man ran to see Jesus and asked Him, “Good teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded by saying, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is, God” (Mark 10:17). According to the skeptical view, Jesus is denying that He is God. But a closer look at Jesus’ comment reveals just the opposite to be the case. Notice that Jesus never denies that He is the “good teacher.” He simply makes the comment that there is only one Who is truly good, and that is God. Thus, if the young man’s statement is true that Jesus is the “good teacher,” and there is only one Who is “good” and that is God, then Jesus must be God.

On another occasion, Jesus prayed to the Father: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). Supposedly, by calling the Father, “the only true God,” Jesus excluded Himself from being Deity. There are at least two main problems with this interpretation of Jesus’ statement. First, it would contradict numerous other passages in the Gospel of John. In fact, the primary point of the book is to testify to Jesus’ deity. Second, the verse can be better understood in light of the fact that Jesus was not contrasting Himself with the Father; He was contrasting the many false, pagan gods with Jehovah, the only true God. Furthermore, if Jesus’ reference to the Father being “the only true God” somehow excludes Jesus from being Deity, then (to be consistent) Jesus also must be disqualified from being man’s Savior. Jehovah said: “Besides me there is no savior” (Isaiah 43:11; cf. Hosea 13:4; Jude 25). Yet, Paul and Peter referred to Jesus as our “Savior” several times in their inspired writings (Ephesians 5:23; Philippians 3:20; 2 Timothy 1:10; 2 Peter 1:1,11; 2:20; etc.). Also, if Jesus is excluded from Godhood (based on a misinterpretation of John 17:3), then, pray tell, must God the Father be excluded from being man’s Lord? To the church at Ephesus, Paul wrote that there is “one Lord” (4:4), and, according to Jude 4 “our only Owner and Lord” is “Jesus Christ.” Yet, in addition to Jesus being called Lord throughout the New Testament, so is God the Father (Matthew 11:25; Luke 1:32; Acts 1:25) and the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17). Obviously, when the Bible reveals that there is only one God, one Savior, one Lord, one Creator (Isaiah 44:24; John 1:3), etc., reason and revelation demand that we understand the inspired writers to be excluding everyone and everything—other than the members of the Godhead.

Conclusion

Almost 2,000 years ago, a zealous Jew by the name of Saul fought against Christianity with all his might. He believed Jesus Christ to be a fraud and His followers to be deluded. He chased them from city to city, imprisoning them, and participating in their deaths. Then Saul saw “the light.” Jesus appeared to Him and Saul realized the horrible mistake He had made. Saul’s honest heart was so impressed by the evidence available to him that he converted to Christianity and became a powerful force in spreading the Gospel.

And so today, those who come to the person of Jesus Christ with open and honest hearts find powerful evidence to believe He is God. He fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah. He performed many different kinds of miracles to validate His message. He predicted His own death and resurrection. He accepted worship. He lived a morally perfect, sinless life. And he boldly demanded that He had the power on Earth to forgive sins. When a person follows all of this evidence to its correct conclusion, he or she will bow before Jesus the Christ and proclaim, just as the apostle Thomas did, “My Lord and My God” (John 20:28).

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A Christian mind? Mind of Christ – Apologetics about Christian mind – Renewing of your mind

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2)

‘Christianity is anti-science!’ That’s the story in much of the media and ‘educratic’ establishment anyway. But an increasing number of historians have shown that Christian principles were responsible for immense scientific and social advances. One recent book argued that the main contribution of Christianity was reason.1 This should not be surprising, since Jesus is called the logos, and His ‘greatest commandment’ included ‘loving God with all your … mind’ (Matthew 22:36–38)! 2

 

However, much of the Church in the West does not exactly ‘have the mind of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Instead, many church members have fallen for the trap of ‘don’t mix religion and politics/science’.3 That is, rather than Christians having the mind of Christ all the time, this is reserved for Church; the rest of the week, their thinking (outside the areas of faith and morality) is hard to distinguish from that of atheists. The result has not been removal of religion, but the replacement of the Christian religion with the atheistic one. And more and more, atheists are trying to remove all Christian influence from the public eye.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)

How can this be fought? By Christians realizing that the Christian mind and the non-Christian mind think about foundational things in diametrically opposed ways, or have different ‘worldviews’. While this term can be a cliché, Creation magazine has always been designed to strengthen the Christian worldview. And this means being ready to ‘give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have’ (1 Peter 3:15) and to ‘destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

In this issue, we have an interview with a leading expert on the Christian worldview, philosopher Dr Darrell Fur­gason (pp. 52–55). Even while the media elite were infatuated with the brutal atheistic Soviet Union , Dr Furgason was astute enough to identify Islam as an even bigger danger.

Our other interview is with brain expert Dr Peter Line (pp. 20–25), who informs us of the incredible complexity of the organ in our skulls. This is crucial in the battle of the minds, since it concerns whether a mind can even exist! That is, if our thoughts were merely the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms in our brains, then that would be true of the thoughts of atheists as well. But then their thoughts about atheism would also be the result of random motions of atoms, so why should anyone trust them to be true? Evolution would select for survival advantage, not truth.

A well-equipped Christian mind should also be prepared to answer the challenges of the day. Every issue of Creation magazine stays up-to-date in this way. For example, ‘radiocarbon dating disproves the biblical timescale’; no, it is rather a mortal enemy of billions of years (pp. 26–27). ‘Experiments have shown how life could have formed itself’; see how real chemistry refutes this pipe-dream (pp. 41–43). ‘Genesis comes from pagan myths’; see how the design of the Ark points to Genesis as the origin and the myths as the distortion (pp. 12–17). Conversely, we point out the tragic losses to the Church from those who never had a Christian mind despite a church upbringing, e.g. Raymond Dart, who wrongly thought that he had found the ‘missing link’ (pp. 36–40).

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Defending Christian World View – Apologetics – Christian Apologetics

Introduction

In a culture where God’s Word is constantly under attack from those both inside and outside of the church, we must always be ready to give a defense for the hope that is in us.
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God’s Word is constantly under attack in our culture, and the assaults come from all directions. We would expect nothing less from those who deny the existence of God—the Author of Scripture—but these are not the only people involved in the onslaught. Numerous Bible college and seminary professors, pastors, and other church leaders seem all too willing to undermine, perhaps unwittingly, the authority of Scripture, especially when it comes to the first eleven chapters of Genesis.

With each passing day, the church becomes less and less effective in reaching the lost.

Far too many Christians lack the necessary discipline and discernment and do not take advantage of the tools required to defend the faith against “the fiery darts of the wicked one” (Ephesians 6:16). With each passing day, the church becomes less and less effective in reaching the lost. There are several reasons for this serious problem, but a major cause is that many Christians cannot defend their beliefs. Consequently, Christianity is often viewed as a “blind faith” and its followers as uninformed and gullible people.

But Christianity is not a “blind faith.” Our faith is based on the Creator and His revealed, inerrant, and infallible Word. Hebrews 11:1 explains the biblical view of faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Wait a minute! How can the definition of faith include the word “evidence”? The answer is that Christianity is rooted in history—real people and events of the past. While evidence does not prove the Bible to be true, we can show that the evidence supports Scripture. The evidence is perfectly consistent with the Bible when it is properly interpreted by one whose starting point is based on the God’s Word rather than man’s opinion.

Peter wrote about the early followers of Christ: “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). The authors of Scripture accurately recorded historical events, including the miracles of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Jude informed his readers about the importance of earnestly contending “for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). The Apostle Peter also instructed his readers to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). The Greek word translated as “defense” is from the root ἀπολογια (apologia), and it refers to a verbal defense or a reasoned statement or argument. The term “apologetics” comes from this Greek word. Apologetics is the branch of theology which deals with giving a defense of the Christian faith.

Paul practiced apologetics as he regularly went first to a town’s synagogue and “reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead” (Acts 17:2, 18:4, emphasis added). Paul reasoning with the religious leaders of the day does not sound like the actions of a man who had a blind faith. In fact, Paul knew his faith was defensible. He had encountered Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1–8), and he told the Corinthians that over 500 people had witnessed the resurrected Savior at the same time (1 Corinthians 15:6).

In 1 Peter 3:15, the reasoned defense is directly connected to the hope that we have as Christians. That hope is found in Christ alone and described to us in the Bible. If we are not intentionally connecting our defense and reasoning to the authority of the Bible so that we may affirm our hope in Christ, we are not doing biblical apologetics. To make sure that we are connecting our intellectual arguments to Christ takes a special effort, and it is essential to keep our efforts grounded in Him. If we excise the center of this verse by simply saying “always be ready to give a defense,” we run the risk of focusing in vain on academic arguments rather than Christ.

Another important component to consider in this verse is the manner in which we should approach apologetics—with meekness and fear. Too often, Christian apologists come across as boisterous, uncharitable, and prideful in their presentations. We should not be afraid to proclaim the truth with boldness, but we do it under control and with an attitude of a messenger delivering truth from the King. Secondly, we perform this function with reverential fear knowing that it is only by the grace of God that we have been granted the status of ambassador for the King, and that without the Holy Spirit’s convicting work, our efforts cannot succeed in bringing anyone to salvation. We must also be careful not to misrepresent God by misapplying the truth He has revealed to us.

As you seek to use the arguments presented in this article series, keep in mind that our goal is to faithfully communicate the truths of the Bible to point to the hope we have in Christ. As you face opposition, keep the following words from Peter in mind:

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. (1 Peter 3:14–16)

As a result of these instructions and godly examples, several of our experts have teamed up to produce a series of books designed with the specific goal of providing believers with the answers to many of the current arguments being used against the Christian faith. Our popular New Answers Book series covers many of the most-asked questions about creation, evolution, and the Bible. This new series on apologetics will address dozens of the contemporary attacks on the Word of God that come from critics, skeptics, false religions, and even from within the church.

Over the next several weeks, we will be publishing chapters on our website from the upcoming first book in this exciting series. These articles will cover issues such as how we can know the Old and New Testaments are reliable, how we can trust the Bible in light of the history of translation, how to understand the issue of polygamy in the Bible, how to respond to the popular idea that Genesis 1 was written in some form of poetry and whether or not Genesis was derived from ancient myths, how to defend the Resurrection of Christ, refuting the false claims made in The da Vinci Code, and many more.

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Isaiah and the Deity of Christ – Christian Apologetics

It has become popular in recent years to consider the divine nature of Christ as simply a doctrine invented by Christians long after Jesus’ death. In his blockbuster book The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown alleged that Jesus’ deity was concocted 300 years after His crucifixion (2003, pp. 233-234). Jehovah’s Witnesses also frequently distribute literature espousing that Christ’s divine nature is a trumped-up teaching of men, rather than an actual doctrine of God (see “What Does…,” 1989, pp. 12-16). Although many New Testament passages could be consulted to demonstrate the deity of Christ (e.g., John 1:1-5,14; 20:28; Philippians 2:6; Hebrews 1:5-13; etc.), of particular interest is the fact that long before Jesus appeared on Earth in the form of man in the first century, the Old Testament prophet Isaiah foretold His Godhood.

In approximately 700 B.C., Isaiah prophesied about many things concerning the Christ. Hebrew scholar Risto Santala wrote: “The Messianic nature of the book of Isaiah is so clear that the oldest Jewish sources, the Targum, Midrash and Talmud, speak of the Messiah in connection with 62 separate verses” (1992, pp. 164-165), including Isaiah 9:6. “For unto us,” Isaiah foretold, “a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6, emp. added). The Messiah, Isaiah wrote, would be not only the “Prince of Peace,” and the “Wonderful Counselor” (NASB), but also “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father.” [NOTE: “The Targum elucidates this verse, saying: ‘His name has been from ancient times…’ and, regarding the ‘Everlasting Father’ part, that ‘the Messiah has been for ever’” (Santala, 1992, p. 196), or that He is “the Father of eternity” (see Jamieson, et al., 1997)]. What’s more, Isaiah also prophesied of the virgin birth of the Messiah, and that His name would be “Immanuel” (7:14), which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23, emp. added). Why would Isaiah call the Messiah “Mighty God,” “Everlasting Father,” and “Immanuel,” if He was not God?

Interestingly, more than 100 years before Jesus allegedly was “made God” at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 (cf. Brown, pp. 233-234), Irenaeus quoted from Isaiah 9:6 and applied the divine names to Christ, Who “is Himself in His own right…God.”

…this is Christ, the Son of the living God. For I have shown from the Scriptures, that no one of the sons of Adam is as to everything, and absolutely, called God, or named Lord. But that He is Himself in His own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, and Lord, and King Eternal, and the Incarnate Word, proclaimed by all the prophets, the apostles, and by the Spirit Himself, may be seen by all who have attained to even a small portion of the truth. Now, the Scriptures would not have testified these things of Him, if, like others, He had been a mere man. But that He had, beyond all others, in Himself that pre-eminent birth which is from the Most High Father, and also experienced that pre-eminent generation which is from the Virgin, the divine Scriptures do in both respects testify of Him: …that He is the holy Lord, the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Beautiful in appearance, and the Mighty God, coming on the clouds as the Judge of all men;—all these things did the Scriptures prophesy of Him (Book III, Chapter 19, emp. added).

Isaiah not only referred explicitly to Jesus as “Mighty God” in 9:6, he also alluded to the Messiah’s divine nature in a prophecy about John the Baptizer in 40:3. “The voice of one that crieth, prepare ye in the wilderness the way of Jehovah; make level in the desert a highway for our God” (ASV, emp. added; cf. Malachi 3:1). According to the New Testament, this “preparer” (or forerunner) was John the Baptizer (John 1:23). He prepared the way for Jesus, as all four gospel accounts bear witness (Matthew 3:1-17; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-23; John 1:15-34). Notice that Isaiah wrote that John would prepare “the way of Jehovah;…our God” (40:3, emp. added). Thus, Isaiah claimed that the Messiah is God.

Truly, long before the Christian age, even long before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah provided inspired testimony of the nature of Christ. He is Jehovah, Mighty God, Immanuel (“God with us”), Everlasting Father, “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 1:8; cf. Isaiah 44:6).

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What are some of the dangers of apologetics?

Apologetics is the branch of Christian theology that deals with the defense and establishment of the Christian faith. This means that those who defend Christianity must use logic, evidence, scripture, and wisdom when answering objections and challenges. We see this evidenced in the Bible.

  • Acts 17:16–17, “Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. 17 So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present.”
  • 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”
  • 1 Peter 3:15, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”

Doing apologetics well can require a lot of knowledge in a multitude of topics such as philosophy, logical fallacies, Scripture, cults, false religions, and biblical theology. When applying the knowledge gained in these areas, it means that apologists are often correcting other people. Sometimes such corrections can be numerous and apologists can appear arrogant. They are sometimes accused of being heresy hunters who only want to judge people.

But, an accusation of arrogance doesn’t mean it’s true. Sometimes people just don’t like being challenged and they respond by attacking.  Nevertheless, we apologists need to be careful and fall into an attitude of superiority. As Christians, we need to try and be humble when presenting the truth of God’s Word. After all, knowledge can make us arrogant.

  • 1 Corinthians 8:1, “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.”  

So, let me list some of the danger areas of apologetics

  1. Putting Christ second and apologetics first.
  2. Arrogance that is built on knowledge and is not matched with humility
  3. Causing strife among people when it is not necessary
  4. Critical and condemning attitude
  5. Developing an argumentative lifestyle instead of being considerate and patient
  6. Seeing unbelievers as opponents instead of lost souls, thereby forgetting compassion.
  7. Seeing Christians as opponents when they don’t agree with you over debatable issues
  8. Isolation where a person rejects the company of those who disagree with him
  9. The desire for victory over the conversion of souls
  10. Seeing technical accuracy over loving correction

Now, I do not need to expand on each of these ten things. They are self-explanatory. Our goal as Christians is to present our faith and its defense with gentleness and respect. This isn’t always easy to do, especially in light of some of the severe hostility that we face as Christians. Nevertheless, let’s take a look at what Scripture says regarding our interaction with those who are against Christianity.

  • Colossians 4:5–6, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”
  • 2 Timothy 2:24–25, “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.”

Is there a time for harsh words?

Is there a time for being strong and not gentle when dealing with unbelievers?  Yes there is.  Jesus himself said many harsh things to people.

  • Matt. 15:7, “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, 8 ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me.” 9 ‘But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”
  • Matt. 23:16-17, “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obligated.’ 17 “You fools and blind men; which is more important, the gold, or the temple that sanctified the gold?”
  •  Mark 12:38-40, “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, 39 and chief seats in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets, 40 who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.”
  • Luke 11:43, “Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the front seats in the synagogues, and the respectful greetings in the market places. 44 “Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it.”
  • Luke 11:52, “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”
  •  John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father…”
  •  John 8:55, “and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I shall be a liar like you, but I do know Him, and keep His word.” 

As you can see from the words of Christ, there is a time for being harsh. However, notice that Jesus was addressing the false religious leaders who were leading others astray. His condemnation was just. We too can make similar judgments, but we must ensure that we accurately understand the Word of God in light of any potential proclamations of heresy. For the most part, we are to be gentle, but there is a time to be strong. Our strength should be in Christ and according to the Word of God.

Conclusion

The danger of apologetics, in the context of Christians, is one of the heart. After all, what we believe and what is in our heart leads to actions and words. Therefore, we should seek to be humble, patient, and kind when addressing people so that we might bring glory to God in all of our witnessing encounters.

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Prayer in Apologetics

One of the dangers of the apologist is falling into the trap of relying on his own intellectual abilities to try to wrestle someone into the kingdom of God.  I am sad to say that I have been guilty of this.

Pride hides itself in the heart, so it cannot be seen.  When we find ourselves relying on our knowledge instead of God’s word mercy and grace, then we have fallen into that trap.  It is not reason that converts but God’s Spirit.  It is not logic that draws us to God but Jesus (John 12:32).  It is not evidence that convicts a person of his sins but the Holy Spirit (John 16:8).  That is why we need to rely on God and trust that He will use our defense of the truth for His glory and their benefit.

To ignore prayer in apologetics is to be prideful.  It is the same as saying we don’t need God.  But we do.  We need to pray for those who are lost, pray for their minds to be opened, pray that God’s word will ring true to them, pray that our witness will be strong, and pray that the evil one will not have a foot-hold with them or with us.  We are fighting a spiritual battle and need spiritual tools.  Prayer is perhaps the most important of them all.

It is the Lord who opens the heart and mind – not you (Acts 16:14). Ask God for guidance (John 14:14). Ask for blessing in your understanding (James 1:5) and your speech (Col. 4:6). Ask the Lord to also open their understanding to God’s word (Luke 24:45).  This is what He does.

Prayer brings humility to the one praying.  It admits dependence on God.  If we are humble and depend on God, we are more likely to hear His voice.  Prayer means that you are seeking divine intervention.  It works power to your words.  It changes your heart.  It moves you closer to God.

Being a great apologist is not a badge of honor to be worn by the Christian as a demonstration of his intellectual abilities.  Rather, it is a response to the calling of God upon all Christians (1 Pet. 3:15) that is to be undertaken with love and humility: love of people and humility before God.

Never let your study and practice of apologetics replace the power – received by faith – in prayer before the Holy Creator.  Ask God to empower your words and open the hearts of those with whom you speak . . . and then study and witness to the best of your abilities.

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An Introduction to Apologetics

Apologetics is the branch of Christianity that deals with the defense and establishment of the Christian faith.  Christian Apologetics is something every true believer should be involved in even if it is only a little.

“But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence,” (1 Peter 3:15).

An Introduction to Apologetics

by Matt Slick
1/7/2007

The word “apologetics” comes from the Greek word “apologia,” pronounced “ap-ol-og-ee’-ah.” It means, “a verbal defense.” It is used eight times in the New Testament: Acts 22:1; 25:16; 1 Corinthians 9:3; 2 Corinthians 10:5-6; Philippians 1:7; 2 Timothy 4:16, and 1 Peter 3:15. But it is the last verse that is most commonly associated with Christian apologetics.

“…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence,” (1 Peter 3:15).

“Apologetics is the work of convincing people to change their views.”

Therefore, Christian apologetics is that branch of Christianity that deals with answering any and all critics who oppose or question the revelation of God in Christ and the Bible. It can include studying such subjects as biblical manuscript transmission, philosophy, biology, mathematics, evolution, and logic. But it can also consist of simply giving an answer to a question about Jesus or a Bible passage. The latter case is by far the most common and you don’t have to read a ton of books to do that.

Apologetics can be defensive and offensive.  Phil. 1:7 gives us instruction on the defensive side, “For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.”  2 Cor. 10:5 gives us instruction on the offensive side: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”  The apologist can and should defend his reasons for believing (1 Peter 3:15). But he can also go on the attack. He can seek out those who oppose Christianity (2 Corinthians 10:5). Of course, he should be prepared to do this beforehand, and all apologetics is to be done with gentleness.

Apologetics is the work of convincing people to change their views.  In this, it is similar to preaching because its goal is ultimately the defense and presentation of the validity and necessity of the gospel. It is an attempt to persuade the listener to change his beliefs and life to conform to biblical truth and to come to a saving relationship in Christ.

Basically apologetics can be evidential (often called “classical”) or presuppositional.  Evidential apologetics deals with the evidence for Christianity: Jesus’ resurrection, the biblical manuscripts, fulfilled prophecy, miracles, etc. Presuppositional apologetics deals with the presuppositions of those who oppose Christianity because presuppositions affect how a person views evidence and reason.

Some areas of debate within Christian apologetics deal with the use of evidence, reason, philosophy, etc. Should the apologist use only those criteria acceptable to unbelievers? Are we allowed to use the Bible as a defense of our position, or must we prove Christianity without it? Is reason alone sufficient to prove God’s existence or Christianity’s truth? How much should reason and evidence be used in light of the Scriptures’ teaching that it is God who opens the mind to understand? What part does prayer, using the Bible, and the sinful nature of the unbeliever play in witnessing? How do these factors interrelate to bring an unbeliever to faith? The questions are easy. The answers are not.

Jesus chose one highly-educated religious person as an apostle. That was Paul. The rest were fishermen, a tax collector, a doctor, etc. They were normal people of the day who were available and willing to be used by the Lord. They were filled with the Spirit of God, and they were used as vessels of God. God uses all things for His glory. So, we do apologetics by faith.

The Lord has called every Christian to be ready to make a defense of his faith. That means you are called to give reasonable answers to questions regarding Christianity. Now, this does not mean that you must have a Ph.D., or that you have to go to seminary. However, it does mean that you should be willing to at least give an answer for your beliefs. If you find you cannot, then prayerfully take it to God and start studying.

What do you study?

You could pray and ask the Lord to teach you what He wants you to know. Ask Him to give you a burden for something to learn. It doesn’t matter what it is. Just ask. Whatever you become interested in is what you should learn about because it is probably something God wants you to know for later use.  It is like having tools in a tool shed. The more you have, the more you can accomplish.

Another way to find out what God wants you to study is through circumstances. Let’s say that a Jehovah’s Witness comes to your door and debates the deity of Christ with you, and you find you don’t know how to defend it biblically.  In that case, you know you need to study biblical verses that teach Jesus is God in flesh. Or maybe a coworker asks you how you know the Bible is true? If you don’t have an answer, pray, and start researching.  Go to a Christian bookstore and get some books on the subject. Talk to your pastor. You’ll learn.

Sometimes God will make a verse or subject in the Bible “come alive” to you, and it might strike you as odd or interesting.  You could get a commentary and read up on it. You could ask others about it.  In so doing, you are preparing yourself through learning to be ready to answer questions and point people to the truth.  You’d be surprised how many details God can use to help you in your witness even through those apparently odd times when verses suddenly “come alive.”

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What is Apologetics? Defining Apologetics Apologetics may be simply defined as the defense of the Christian faith. Apologia to Apologetics

What is Apologetics?

Defining Apologetics

Apologetics may be simply defined as the defense of the Christian faith. The simplicity of this definition, however, masks the complexity of the problem of defining apologetics. It turns out that a diversity of approaches has been taken to defining the meaning, scope, and purpose of apologetics.

From Apologia to Apologetics

The word “apologetics” derives from the Greek word apologia, which was originally used of a speech of defense or an answer given in reply. In ancient Athens it referred to a defense made in the courtroom as part of the normal judicial procedure. After the accusation, the defendant was allowed to refute the charges with a defense or reply (apologia). The accused would attempt to “speak away” (apo—away, logia—speech) the accusation.1 The classic example of such an apologia was Socrates’ defense against the charge of preaching strange gods, a defense retold by his most famous pupil, Plato, in a dialogue called The Apology (in Greek, hē apologia).

The word appears 17 times in noun or verb form in the New Testament, and both the noun (apologia) and verb form (apologeomai) can be translated “defense” or “vindication” in every case.2 Usually the word is used to refer to a speech made in one’s own defense. For example, in one passage Luke says that a Jew named Alexander tried to “make a defense” before an angry crowd in Ephesus that was incited by idol-makers whose business was threatened by Paul’s preaching (Acts 19:33). Elsewhere Luke always uses the word in reference to situations in which Christians, and in particular the apostle Paul, are put on trial for proclaiming their faith in Christ and have to defend their message against the charge of being unlawful (Luke 12:11; 21:14; Acts 22:1; 24:10; 25:8, 16; 26:2, 24).

Paul himself used the word in a variety of contexts in his epistles. To the Corinthians, he found it necessary to “defend” himself against criticisms of his claim to be an apostle (1 Cor. 9:3; 2 Cor. 12:19). At one point he describes the repentance exhibited by the Corinthians as a “vindication” (2 Cor. 7:11 nasb), that is, as an “eagerness to clear yourselves” (niv, nrsv). To the Romans, Paul described Gentiles who did not have the written Law as being aware enough of God’s Law that, depending on their behavior, their own thoughts will either prosecute or “defend” them on Judgment Day (Rom. 2:15). Toward the end of his life, Paul told Timothy, “At my first defense no one supported me” (2 Tim. 4:16), referring to the first time he stood trial. Paul’s usage here is similar to what we find in Luke’s writings. Earlier, he had expressed appreciation to the Philippians for supporting him “both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel” (Phil. 1:7). Here again the context is Paul’s conflict with the government and his imprisonment. However, the focus of the “defense” is not Paul but “the gospel”: Paul’s ministry includes defending the gospel against its detractors, especially those who claim that it is subversive or in any way unlawful. So Paul says later in the same chapter, “I am appointed for the defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:16).

Finally, in 1 Peter 3:15 believers are told always to be prepared “to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.” The context here is similar to Paul’s later epistles and to Luke’s writings: non-Christians are slandering the behavior of Christians and threatening them with persecution (1 Pet. 3:13-17; 4:12-19). When challenged or even threatened, Christians are to behave lawfully, maintain a good conscience, and give a reasoned defense of what they believe to anyone who asks. (We will discuss this text further in chapter 2.)

The New Testament, then, does not use the words apologia and apologeomai in the technical sense of the modern word apologetics. The idea of offering a reasoned defense of the faith is evident in three of these texts (Philippians 1:7, 16; and especially 1 Peter 3:15), but even here no science or formal academic discipline of apologetics is contemplated. Indeed, no specific system or theory of apologetics is outlined in the New Testament.

In the second century this general word for “defense” began taking on a narrower sense to refer to a group of writers who defended the beliefs and practices of Christianity against various attacks. These men were known as the apologists because of the titles of some of their treatises, and included most notably Justin Martyr (First Apology, Dialogue with Trypho, Second Apology) and Tertullian (Apologeticum). The use of the title Apology by these authors harks back to Plato’s Apology and to the word’s usual sense in the New Testament, and is consistent with the fact that the emphasis of these second-century apologies was on defending Christians against charges of illegal activities.

It was apparently not until 1794 that apologetics was used to designate a specific theological discipline,3 and there has been debate about the place of this discipline in Christian thought almost from that time forward. In 1908 B. B. Warfield cataloged some of these alternate perceptions before offering his own conclusion that apologetics should be given the broad task of authenticating the facts of God (philosophical apologetics), religious consciousness (psychological apologetics), revelation (revelational apologetics), Christianity (historical apologetics), and the Bible (bibliological apologetics, Warfield’s specialty).4 Greg L. Bahnsen summarizes Warfield’s catalog:

Some attempted to distinguish apologetics from apology, but they differed among themselves respecting the principle of distinction (Dusterdieck, Kubel). Apologetics was variously classified as an exegetical discipline (Planck), historical theology (Tzschirner), theory of religion (Rabiger), philosophical theology (Schleiermacher), something distinct from polemics (Kuyper), something belonging to several departments (Tholuck, Cave), or something which had no right to exist (Nosselt). H. B. Smith viewed apologetics as historico-philosophical dogmatics which deals with detail questions, but Kubel claimed that it properly deals only with the essence of Christianity. Schultz went further and said that apologetics is concerned simply to defend a generally religious view of the world, but others taught that apologetics should aim to establish Christianity as the final religion (Sack, Ebrard, Lechler, Lemme).5

This debate has continued throughout the twentieth century. In this chapter we will offer definitions of the apologetics word group and consider just how best to conceive of the discipline of apologetics.

Apologetics and Related Terms

It has become customary to use the term apology to refer to a specific effort or work in defense of the faith.6 An apology might be a written document, a speech, or even a film; any medium of communication might conceivably be used.

An apologist is someone who presents an apology or makes a practice of defending the faith. Apologists might (and do) develop their apologies within various intellectual contexts. That is, they may offer defenses of the Christian faith in relation to scientific, historical, philosophical, ethical, religious, theological, or cultural issues.

The terms apologetic and apologetics are closely related, and can be used synonymously. Here, for clarity’s sake, we will suggest one way of usefully distinguishing these terms that corresponds to the way they are often actually used. An apologetic (using the word as a noun) will be here defined as a particular approach to the defense of the faith. Thus, one may hear about Francis Schaeffer’s apologetic or about the Thomistic apologetic. Of course, we often use apologetic as an adjective, as when we speak about apologetic issues or William Paley’s apologetic thought.

Apologetics, on the other hand, has been used in at least three ways. Perhaps most commonly it refers to the discipline concerned with the defense of the faith. Second, it can refer to a general grouping of approaches or systems developed for defending the faith, as when we speak about evidentialist apologetics or Reformed apologetics. Third, it is sometimes used to refer to the practice of defending the faith—as the activity of presenting an apology or apologies in defense of the faith. These three usages are easily distinguished by context, so we will employ all three in this book.

Finally, metapologetics refers to the study of the nature and methods of apologetics. This term has come into usage only recently and is still rarely used.7 Mark Hanna defined it as “the field of inquiry that examines the methods, concepts, and foundations of apologetic systems and perspectives.”8 While apologetics studies the defense of the faith, metapologetics studies the theoretical issues underlying the defense of the faith. It is evident, then, that metapologetics is a branch of apologetics; it focuses on the principial, fundamental questions that must be answered properly if the practice of apologetics is to be securely grounded in truth. A metapologetic may then be defined as a particular theory of metapologetics, such as Cornelius Van Til’s Reformed metapologetic or Norman Geisler’s neo-Thomistic metapologetic.

The Functions of Apologetics

Historically, apologetics has been understood to involve at least three functions or goals. Some apologists have emphasized only one function while others have denied that one or more of these are valid functions of apologetics, but in general they have been widely recognized as defining the task of apologetics. Francis Beattie, for example, delineated them as a defense of Christianity as a system, a vindication of the Christian worldview against its assailants, and a refutation of opposing systems and theories.9

Bernard Ramm also lists three functions of apologetics. The first is “to show how the Christian faith is related to truth claims.” The truth claims of a religion must be examined so that its relation to reality can be discerned and tested. This function corresponds to what Beattie calls defense. The second function is “to show Christianity’s power of interpretation” relative to a variety of subjects—which is essentially the same as what Beattie calls vindication. Ramm’s third function, the refutation of false or spurious attacks, is identical to Beattie’s.10

John Frame likewise has outlined “three aspects of apologetics,” which he calls proof, defense, and offense. Proof involves “presenting a rational basis for faith”; defense involves “answering the objections of unbelief”; and offense means “attacking the foolishness (Ps. 14:1; 1 Cor. 1:18-2:16) of unbelieving thought.”11 Frame’s book then follows this outline: proof (chapters 3–5), defense (6–7), and offense (8).

The first three parts of Robert Reymond’s fourfold analysis of the task of Christian apologetics follow the same pattern. (1) Apologetics answers particular objections—obstacles like alleged contradictions between scriptural statements and misconceptions about Christianity need to be removed (defense). (2) It gives an account of the foundations of the Christian faith by delving into philosophical theology, and especially epistemology (vindication). (3) It challenges non-Christian systems, particularly in the area of epistemological justification (refutation). To these Reymond adds a fourth point: (4) Apologetics seeks to persuade people of the truth of the Christian position.12 In a sense, this last point could be viewed simply as indicating the overall purpose of apologetics, with the first three points addressing the specific functions by which that purpose is accomplished. On the other hand, treating persuasion as a separate function is helpful, since it involves elements that go beyond offering an intellectual response (the focus of the first three points). Persuasion must also consider the life experience of the unbeliever, the proper tone to take with a person, and other matters beyond simply imparting information.

We may distinguish, then, four functions, goals, modes, or aspects of apologetics. The first may be called vindication (Beattie) or proof (Frame) and involves marshaling philosophical arguments as well as scientific and historical evidences for the Christian faith. The goal of apologetics here is to develop a positive case for Christianity as a belief system that should be accepted. Philosophically, this means drawing out the logical implications of the Christian worldview so that they can be clearly seen and contrasted with alternate worldviews. Such a contrast necessarily raises the issue of criteria of verification if these competing truth claims are to be assessed. The question of the criteria by which Christianity is proved is a fundamental point of contention among proponents of the various kinds of Christian apologetic systems.

The second function is defense. This function is closest to the New Testament and early Christian use of the word apologia: defending Christianity against the plethora of attacks made against it in every generation by critics of varying belief systems. This function involves clarifying the Christian position in light of misunderstandings and misrepresentations; answering objections, criticisms, or questions from non-Christians; and in general clearing away any intellectual difficulties that nonbelievers claim stand in the way of their coming to faith. More generally, the purpose of apologetics as defense is not so much to show that Christianity is true as to show that it is credible.

The third function is refutation of opposing beliefs (what Frame calls “offense”). This function focuses on answering, not specific objections to Christianity, but the arguments non-Christians give in support of their own beliefs. Most apologists agree that refutation cannot stand alone, since proving a non-Christian religion or philosophy to be false does not prove that Christianity is true. Nevertheless, it is an essential function of apologetics.

The fourth function is persuasion. By this we do not mean merely convincing people that Christianity is true, but persuading them to apply its truth to their life. This function focuses on bringing non-Christians to the point of commitment. The apologist’s intent is not merely to win an intellectual argument, but to persuade people to commit their lives and eternal futures into the trust of the Son of God who died for them. We might also speak of this function as evangelism or witness.

These four aspects or functions of apologetics have differing and complementary goals or intentions with respect to reason. Apologetics as proof shows that Christianity is reasonable; its purpose is to give the non-Christian good reasons to embrace the Christian faith. Apologetics as defense shows that Christianity is not unreasonable; its purpose is to show that the non-Christian will not be acting irrationally by trusting in Christ or by accepting the Bible as God’s word. Third, apologetics as refutation shows that non-Christian thought is unreasonable. The purpose of refuting non-Christian belief systems is to confront non-Christians with the irrationality of their position. And fourth, apologetics as persuasion takes into consideration the fact that Christianity is not known by reason alone. The apologist seeks to persuade non-Christians to trust Christ, not merely to accept truth claims about Christ, and this purpose necessitates realizing the personal dimension in apologetic encounters and in every conversion to faith in Christ.

Not everyone agrees that apologetics involves all four of these functions. For example, some apologists and theologians have claimed that proof is not a valid function of apologetics—that we should be content to show that Christianity is not unreasonable. Or again, some Christian philosophers have urged against trying to argue that the non-Christian is being irrational to reject Christianity. Many apologists have even abandoned the idea that apologetics might be useful to persuade people to believe in Christ. Such opinions notwithstanding, all four functions have historically been important in apologetics, and each has been championed by great Christian apologists throughout church history.13 It is to the efforts of those apologists, then, that we turn in the next chapter.

 

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