Don’t Mess With The Scripture

Don’t Mess with the Scripture

Newsweek, 12/23/2014 ran an article titled The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin.  https://www.newsweek.com/2015/01/02/thats-not-what-bible-says-294018.html

In this letter the author skillfully outlined how the bible cannot be trusted.  If you look at the evidence they put forward then it would be easy to convince yourself that there is no reason to put any trust in the bible, or any of its translators or scribes for that matter. 

This is not necessarily a direct response to this article, but rather it did get me thinking how many young Christians are attacked with such half-truths and then told that they don’t have a leg to stand on. Indeed this article goes so far as to start the article in such a manner as to silence ignorant Christians from the very first few paragraphs.

The author uses phrases like, “They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians…”.  In addition the article states that “clergy invoke a book they seem to have never read and words they don’t understand”.  The only true thing the author reveals is ignorance of what Christianity is all about.  That is probably our fault.  We do know that not everyone who calls themselves a Christian, is in fact a disciple of Christ as required in scripture.  Despite the stereo types we have been granted by modern day Nero’s we do have some real assurances that the Word of God is in fact just that.

Here is the thing.  Most critics do not have an issue with the original scriptures being divinely inspired by God. The reason is that none of these original text have survived.  What most arguments center on is the accuracy of the text we have received.  Here is the fundamental Christian view of scripture.  If God divinely inspired the writers of the Bible, then he (God) also can preserve it. We have been given warnings from God, not to alter his revelation of himself to us.   

Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. Deuteronomy 4.2

Numerous times the different authors of the Bible asserted that they received direct guidance from God on their writings.

  • Leviticus 1.1 – the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him… “saying”
  • Jeremiah 1.4 –(Jeremiah) “the word of the Lord came…. “saying”
  • Revelation 1.1 – The Revelation of Jesus Christ … which God gave unto him (John)

Throughout the bible the authors warn of the dangers of altering the text of the scriptures.

Moses the 1st author warns against adding or taking away from the Words of God.

What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it (Deuteronomy 12.32)

The Apostle John gives a clear warning with a consequence on adding or taking away from the words of the prophecy.

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)

This statement tells us:

  • Not to add to the prophecy or you will receive the judgement of God
  • Not to take away from the prophecy or the Lord will take away you part in the book of life, and the holy city, and from the blessings that are written in this prophecy
  • This also tells us that there is no further revelation to be accepted, because God is not sending anymore revelation.

Even in the middle of the Bible God commands us:

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. (Proverbs 30.5-6)

Solomon reminds us that the word is:

  • Pure
  • Trustworthy
  • There is a consequence for changing the Word
  • God will reveal you as a liar

The importance of these warnings and reverence of the word of God is demonstrated in archeological findings.  The Isaiah text (700 B.C.) when compared to the copied text of Isaiah found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (200 B.C.) are almost identical with only punctuations added.  So the idea that original texts are necessary to get direct inspiration from God is foolish.  God has preserved his message to us. 

Mathew 5:18 – reminds us that not one jot or tittle will be removed until the law is completely fulfilled.

Some proofs of accuracy in prophesy Recorded in history:

         
Prophecy Book Written Fulfilled Expanse
Babylon ruled over Judah Jeremiah 25:11-12 626-586 B.C. 609-539 B.C. ~50yrs    
Babylon’s Gates Open for Cyrus Isaiah 45:1 Between 701 and 681 B.C. 539 B.C. Hundreds of years after prophecy  
Babylon permanently overthrown Isaiah 13:19 Between 701 and 681 B.C. 539 B.C. Hundreds of years after prophecy  
Babylon Reduced to Swampland Isaiah 14:23 Between 701 and 681 B.C. 539 B.C. and Archology confirmed in 1800s Hundreds of years after prophecy  
Jews survive Babylonian Rule Jeremiah 32:36-37 From 626 and 586 B.C. 536 B.C. ~90 yrs    

Add to this over 300 prophecies fulfilled in the birth, death, resurrection, and ascending of Jesus Christ to the throne room of God. 

How can we know what we received is accurate? Jewish tradition takes place after the fall to Babylon and Assyria. The scribes located the books of the Law and began making copies.  This custom of copying the text was a show of extreme respect and detailed scribing of the Word of God. Scott Manning published an article in March 17, 2017 that gives the following requirements for copying the Old Testament by Jewish Scribes.[i]  

Jewish requirements for scribes:

  1. They could only use clean animal skins, both to write on, and even to bind manuscripts.
  2. Each column of writing could have no less than forty-eight, and no more than sixty lines.
  3. The ink must be black, and of a special recipe.
  4. They must verbalize each word aloud while they were writing.
  5. They must wipe the pen and wash their entire bodies before writing the word “Jehovah,” every time they wrote it.
  6. There must be a review within thirty days, and if as many as three pages required corrections, the entire manuscript had to be redone.
  7. The letters, words, and paragraphs had to be counted, and the document became invalid if two letters touched each other. The middle paragraph, word and letter must correspond to those of the original document.
  8. The documents could be stored only in sacred places (synagogues, etc).
  9. As no document containing God’s Word could be destroyed, they were stored, or buried, in a genizah – a Hebrew term meaning “hiding place.” These were usually kept in a synagogue or sometimes in a Jewish cemetery.

Some unique things about the bible verses other ancient scripts

  • Bible’s claim that God is the author
    • Over 1500 statements in the text claim divine origin
    • Bible’s Internal Unity of Message
    • 40 Different Authors
    • Written over 1500 years
    • 3 Different Continents
    • Message from cover to cover: God saves through Jesus Christ
  • Historical Accuracy – some examples
    • There has never been any archeological evidence to dispute any historical claim in the scriptures
    • Moabite Stone found in 1868 documents Moab rebellion against King Jehoram soon after the death of Ahab (2 Kings 3)
    • Lachish Letters found in 1930s are documents found of a communique between two Hebrew commanders concerning the oncoming of the Babylonians impending invasion under King Nebuchadnezzar
    • Hezekiah’s tunnel discovered in 1867 recorded in (2 Samuel 5:6-8)
  • Textual Accuracy – No other ancient text has as many resources to draw upon to test its accuracy as the Bible does.
    • Over 5300 manuscripts fo the New Testament
    • 10,000 Latin Vulgate
    • Over 24,000 manuscript copies of portions of the text
    • No other ancient text has close to the amount of verifiable copies for comparison of accuracy – including Homer’s Iliad (643 surviving manuscripts)
  • Concerning Christ in Archeology
    • Codex Mediceus 68 II – Roman historian Tacitus wrote in a major work titled Annals (116-117 A.D.) giving credit to Pontius Pilate for executing Jesus.
    • Famous and Memorable Works of Josephus (including Jewish War and Jewish Antiquities Book 20) – Jewish historian Flavius Josephus’, (37-100 A.D.), account of the martyrdom of James, identifies James as “the brother of Jesus who-is-called Messiah” being executed by the high priest Ananus in 62 A.D.
    • Tetimonium Flavianum – 15th Century manuscript contains the testimony of Josephus referring to Jesus as a wise man, “if one out to call him a man.” It further speaks about his crucifixion, and resurrection. (authenticity contested – however it is an ancient text that has been recovered).
    • Ossuary of East Talpiot a district in Jerusalem inscribed, “Jacob, son of Joseph, brother of Yeshua” (published in 2002).
    • These tell us:
      • Jesus existed as a man
      • His personal name was Jesus (Greek translation)
      • He was called Christos (Greek translation)
      • He had a brother named James
      • His followers multiplied in both Jew and Hellenistic cultures
      • Jewish leaders did not approve of him
      • Pilate decided to execute him
      • Pilate was the governor of Judea 26-36 A.D.
  • Other not so famous people in history
    • Celsus a philosopher thought Jesus was a majician
    • Piny the Younger a Roman governor wrote about worship of Christ as a god.
    • Suetonius a Roman writer, lawyer and historian, wrote of riots in 49 A.D. among Jews in Rome thought to be incited by Christians
    • Mara bar Serapion, a POW held by Rome wrote a letter describing the wise Jewish king, indicating Jesus as the subject. 

Why is this so important?

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (John 32.31)

  • We can trust what is written
  • We can trust that it came from God
  • We can trust that we have the complete revelation from God
  • We know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God
  • We know that we can please God in obedience through Jesus Christ
  • We know that we can believe in Jesus Christ for salvation
  • We know that this belief in Jesus is all we need to have life

The 1st chapter of John refers to 2 different reactions to the Light (Word). 

  • Rejection and darkness
  • Believe and Life

John 1:10-13 says:

  • Some received Him
  • Some believed Him
  • Those who believe were empowered to be the sons of God

We cannot determine who will believe our report.  However; this must not stop our witness.  In the Book of Exodus it speaks of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. But; if you take a closer look you will see that God in his mercy revealed Himself to Pharaoh multiple times and gave him many chances.  The scripture says that first Pharaoh repeatedly hardened his heart toward God. God so then with no other recourse left, let Pharaoh have his way.  Pharaoh’s disbelief led to his death, and the death of many others.  Unfortunately, those who do not believe and have a public forum will lead many to their own death because of unbelief. 

The good thing is that those of us who do believe.  To us has been given the message of redemption.  This message is ours and ours alone to deliver it.  Angels are not given so great an honor as to lead others to Christ.  If you have ever wondered what God has for you to do, it is this, love God (Mark 12:30), love your neighbor (Mark 12:31), and make disciples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20).


[i] https://scottmanning.com/content/process-of-copying-the-old-testament-by-jewish-scribes/

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Influence of the Authorized Version

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Influence of the Authorized Version

400 years has passed since the King James, “Authorized Version”, translation of the Bible was released in 1611.  In all of the history of the world in print, there has been no other text, to have such an influence on the entire world.  Baylor University released this statement for an event they hosted to commemorate the King James Bible, “The need for such a celebration seemed obvious enough, given the translation’s vast importance in shaping Anglo-American culture and literature, language and politics” (Baylor University. N.p., 21 June 2011. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.)

Indeed no other bible has so permeated history as the King James.  The King James Bible has become a household treasure.  Family bibles in the King James Version have been passed from generation to generation.  Songs have been written about it describing how families gather around the table to read from the Bible on a daily basis.  The King James Bible has been in hospitals to hearten the sick, funerals to encourage the mourning, and battlefields to strengthen the resolve of soldiers.  As the English language has gained dominance across the world as a “universal” language, so has the influence of King James spread and in turn changed the English language and its effect on the world.  “The language and imagery of the King James translation has had a remarkable influence on the English-speaking cultures and literature,”(Harry Ransom Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 24)

From the King James Bible we have received many new words and phrases into the English language.  These words and phrases have changed mankind’s perspective on life, God, and one another.  Some of these words include Long-suffering, Busybody, Ungodly, Brotherly, and Apostleship.  Some phrases introduced in to the common use that we still here today are such sayings as, “My brother’s keeper”, “No man can serve two masters”, and “Judge not that you be not judged”.

The sheer fact that it came into existence when it did is a testimony to the divine hand of God.  Just as the Roman roads assisted in the spread of the gospel to all corners of the ancient world, the English language and movable typeset printing have spread the King James translation to every country in the world today.  With this divine intervention the King James has influenced the way we look at our society to include, slavery, finances, leadership, language, and our relationship to God.  The King James version gave the individual believer direct access to the teachings of Jesus.  No other teacher in the history of the world has influenced mankind like the words Jesus spoke concerning love and the “be attitudes”.  No other individual is quoted more, not Shakespeare, Plato, nor Homer.

While there are no original texts of the bible, that is; there are no know surviving manuscripts that were penned by the original writers, there is sufficient evidence in history and archeology that the King James translation is true to the Greek texts and shows that God has preserved his word through the ages.

“Evidence for the Bible can take many forms.  There is, for instance, physical evidence.  We have copies of the manuscripts and throughout history these copies show that the Bible has been transmitted accurately.  Despite common skeptical claims that the Bible has often been changed through the centuries, the physical evidence tells another story.  The New Testament records are incredible accurate.  There are minor differences in manuscripts, called varants, but none of these variants impact or change the key Christian beliefs of claims.” (Focus on the Family. N.p., 24 Apr. 2009. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.)

There are over 5000 copies of the New Testament and fragments that contain portions of the text that have been preserved through history.  While this may not seem like allot of references to base a good reconstruction of the text of the Bible; consider that there are less than 700 copies of Homer’s Iliad and far less of the writings of Aristotle. The sheer volume of texts available for comparison and contrast available to historically document the translation of the Bible is staggering in these terms. In addition, there were many eye witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection amongst the apostolic church who would have still been alive to repudiate the writings and letters passes through the early church.  There is no biblical record of any of the apostles locating in Alexandria.  Apollos is mentioned as coming from Alexandria and preaching an incorrect doctrine that had to be corrected by Aquila and Pricilla in Ephesus. (Acts 27.6)

The primary writings of the New Testament are from the Apostle Paul whose missionary headquarters were in Antioch.  Antioch is the location referred to in the New Testament as the 1st place in which the believers were 1st called Christians.  This is an important marker in history because when all of the text lineages are traced they come from one of two origins.  The two origins of publications are Antioch and Alexandria.  Other names for the Antioch text include the Byzantine text, Traditional Text, Apostolic Text, the Eastern text and the Textus Receptus or Latin “Received Text”.

The 1611 King James translation comes from a grouping of Greek texts commonly referred to as the Textus Receptus.  This text is commonly referred to as the “Received Text”.  The term Textus Receptus comes from Abraham Elzevir and Bonaventure in preface to a 1633 edition where they stated, “Textum ergo habes, nunc ab omnibus receptum: in quo nihil immutatum aut corruptum damus.”  Which means “so you hold the text, now received by all, in which nothing corrupt.” (“Main Page.” Textus Receptus RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.)

The Textus Receptus has been the standard for biblical translation for almost 2000 years. This grouping of manuscripts gains it name do to the fact that across all the texts samples used 95% of all the manuscripts used or referenced to the New Testament Greek Text are in basic agreement with the Textus Receptus.  There have also been many manuscripts found since the printing of the King James Bible.  The Dead Sea scrolls are one of the more famous findings.  It is reported that factual evidence of the Dead Sea scrolls in comparison to the King James translation is considered 98.33 percent pure. (United Church of God. N.p., 23 Mar. 2011. Web. 24 Mar. 2017)

The King James Version of the Bible has been through time passed down through a divine lineage from the oral traditions of the ancient Hebrews and Greeks, to the modern King James translation as evidences through historical preservation and archeological evidence.  This versions rendition of the truths of God has shed more insight into man’s reason for existence.  The King James Bible has given the individual believe the knowledge and understanding of how to treat one another and how to relate to the God of the universe.

References

“Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin.” Harry Ransom Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2017. <http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/2012/kingjamesbible/&gt;.

“The Influence of the King James Version on English Literature.” The Influence of the King James Version on English Literature. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2017. <http://www.bible-researcher.com/mcafee4.html&gt;.

“How the King James Bible Changed the World.” Baylor Magazine, Summer 2011 | Baylor University. N.p., 21 June 2011. Web. 24 Mar. 2017. <http://www.baylor.edu/alumni/magazine/0904/news.php?action=story&story=95758&gt;.

News, Good. “What’s the Difference Between Various Bible Versions?” United Church of God. N.p., 23 Mar. 2011. Web. 24 Mar. 2017. <https://www.ucg.org/the-good-news/whats-the-difference-between-various-bible-versions&gt;.

“How Do We Know the Bible Is True?” Focus on the Family. N.p., 24 Apr. 2009. Web. 25 Mar. 2017. <http://www.focusonthefamily.com/faith/the-study-of-god/how-do-we-know-the-bible-is-true/how-do-we-know-bible-is-true&gt;.

“Main Page.” Textus Receptus RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017. <http://textus-receptus.com/wiki/Main_Page&gt;.

The New Covenant and The Lords Supper

The New Covenant and The Lords Supper

Ref: Luke 22:20

“And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.

Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.”

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We know from Luke 22:19-20 that when Jesus offered up his body on the cross and poured out his blood, so that we might be forgiven of our sins, he was inaugurating and establishing the New Covenant. Here is how Luke records it: “Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.”

The New Covenant

  1. The New Covenant was promised of God:

Jeremiah 31: 32-34 “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” 

In the book of Hebrews, the Apostle Paul wrote concerning Jesus and the New Covenant.  in doing so he referenced this scripture when he said: “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:16-17)

The prophet John the Baptist observed Jesus coming towards him and procalimed, ”Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29).  This is a further witness that Jesus would be the one who would put the New Covenant in to effect.

  • The New Covenant is the promise that God made with man that He will forgive sins and restore fellowship with those who hear and are turned towards Him.
  • Jesus Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant.
  • His death on the cross it the basis of this New Covenant 

2.  The New Covenant was instituted by the Lord himself

  • The Old Covenant was an agreement between God and the children of Israel. We have the record of it in the Old Testament.

Exodus 24:8 says, “And Moses took the blood (of the sacrifice), and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.”

 

  • The New Covenant is an agreement between God and Jesus Christ. (Therefore it includes all who are united with Jesus Christ, or as the Bible says, all those who are “in Christ.”) There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)

 

  • The New Covenant did not start until after the death of Jesus Christ. For it was sealed by the precious blood of Jesus paying the price for the complete remission of sins for all who believe in Him.

 

  • Jesus himself plainly said the New Covenant involved His blood being shed.

MATTHEW 26:28 “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 

3.  It Supersedes the Old Covenant

  • Because the New Covenant is not with man, who could never fulfill his end of the covenant, but with Jesus, who did fulfill the covenant, it is secure for all eternity.
  • The point here is that with the New Covenant that Christ established and the gift of the Holy Spirit who indwells all its members, we not only know what to do, we also have been given the power and strength to do it with the proper motivation -Love!
  • The Old Testament required animal sacrifices who could only cover a man’s sin for a temporary time period, but the sacrifice that Jesus made removed our sins forever!

Hebrews 10:17-18 ”And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.”

4. It Establishes Jesus as our High Priest and Gives us access to the Throne of God the Father

Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God;” (Hebrews 10:19-20). We now have an audience with the God of Creation.  In the old days, before the covenant man could not approach God, because of the holiness of God.  This would kill a man who was sinful by nature to be in the presence of God, who was holy by nature.  In the blood covering of the New Covenant, provided by the sacrifice of Jesus, we can now come before God without fear of death.  As Paul described we can now come “boldly” into the holiest, because we are sanctified in the blood of Jesus.  The veil mentioned here is the flesh that was broken.  This is the bread we eat, this is a reminder of the death of Jesus who provides a way to us to know God the Father in a personal manner.

This is not the all and all of the New Covenant but it is enough to establish the importance of remembering what Jesus had done for us in the sacrifice in the breaking of his body, and the shedding of his blood.  It is enough for us to understand why we are called by Jesus himself to remember the establishment of the New Covenant in observing the Lord’s Supper.

THE OBSERVANCE OF THE SUPPER

  1. TO BE DONE WITH REVERENCE…
  2. That is, “in a worthy manner” – 1Cor 11:27,29 – Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. “Worthily” is an adverb, describing how we take it, not whether we     are worthy (none are truly worthy), but through Jesus we are worthy. So are we taking it in a manner that it is worthy of being taken, are we doing it with reverence, humbleness, and in honor of Jesus Christ who cleanses us?  Failure to do so brings condemnation (scrutiny by God)  to  us. Chastisement from the Lord for not being sincere.

While the observance of the Lord’s Supper is a personal and intimate time with the Lord, we are to observe it in fellowship with other Christians.

  1. TO BE DONE WITH OTHER CHRISTIANS…
  2. The celebration of the Lord’s Supper is designed to be a communal meal
  • The disciples “came together” to break bread – Acts 20:7
  • When they came together, they were to “wait for one another” – 1Co 11:33
  • Partaking together of “one bread”, they demonstrate they are “one bread and one body”
    • 1Cor 10:17

The Lords Supper is a special meal to be separate from any other meals or celebrations.   When observed it should take prominence in the worship service.

CONCLUSION

Christians today should never lose sight of its significance for us…

  • It is a time to remember the cost of the New Covenant (Blood was shed)
  • A constant reminder of the great sacrifice Jesus paid for our sins
  • A communion or sharing of the body and blood of the Lord
  • A time for self-examination and rededication of our service to the Lord
  • A means for building fellowship with one another in the body of Christ

May we always find proper reverence in our hearts in observing the Lord’s Supper, reflecting on the changes that the Lord has brought to our lives; freedom from sin, guilt, and the anguish of sin.  Redeemed to a new life, of fellowship with others and with the Creator of the Universe Himself through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Oh what a debt of love we owe to the one who has redeemed us to God!

For God So Loved…

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John 3:16-21 (KJV)

16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

This verse is probably the most famous verse in the bible.  Yet recent surveys reveal that nationwide, seven out of ten adults feel that they know don’t know what it means.  Just posting the verse on your bumper of your car, or parading it around on your shirt is not evangelism. However, getting our there and actually talking about this verse is evangelism.

This saying of Jesus’ was so radical for the time he said it, and it still is a radical concept… God loves. SO…much…that HE… gave…

Much like the changes in the church that brought the Protestant Reformation, do to the corruption and burdens the church had laid on its parishioners. The Jewish synagogue with its additions to the law made it totally unbearable to the average Hebrew.  They were afraid of God.  Afraid of being caught and punished.  They didn’t serve God out of love, but out of stringent tradition, fear, and burdensome loads.  In fact, it had been around 400 years since they even last heard from God.

They were living in an oppressed society, with no real sense of identity as a nation, or as individuals.  I would imagine a lot of the Hebrews had probably given up on God a long time ago.

So this… God loved me?  What a different tune this was, and still is.

FOR GOD

I think it is wonderful that Jesus chose to start this statement on the grace of God, the same way the very scriptures begin in the old testament.  He said “For God so loved…”  In Genesis 1:1 the scripture reads, “In the beginning God….”

There is no debate on whether:

  • God exists
  • God has all authority
  • Or that God initiates the first move

You would be a fool to thing otherwise.  Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool hath said in this heart, There is no God” 

Psalm 19:1-3 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth knowledge.  There is no speech not language, where their voice is not heard.”

SO LOVED

Probably this word is one of the most misused words in the history of language.  What does it mean?  Does anyone know?  We use it to describe our car, or some heart-throb for an entertainer, even how a new toy of tool works or feels.  Merriam-Webster has a whole lot to say on love.

Merriam-Webster: LOVE

(1) : strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties maternal love for a child

(2) : attraction based on sexual desire

(3) : affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests

These are only a handful of the meanings in the dictionary.  If we tried to apply any of these terms we would be sorely mislead on the LOVE of God towards us.  You see in this verse it actually says, “God SO loved the world.”

This is then a demonstrated measure of the LOVE of GOD towards us.  Let’s look at it this way, If I said I love Americans, that would be true.  Americans are my favorite people on earth.  But that does not mean I would necessarily die for just any American.  Let’s face it even the apostle Paul said, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.”(Romans 5:7)

However, if you pulled a gun on my wife, I would definitely get in-between you and her.  I would gladly die in her place, because I cannot see life without her.  You see that is the kind of love God has for each of us.  God loves us ALL because he loves EACH of US! In saying “God so loved the world” – we can say the he loves every single person in the world.  SOOO Much!  That he gave his one and only son.

My wife and I have 3 sons and once again, I cannot imagine that I love someone enough to ask any one of my sons to die in their place.  I know that God loves his Son, Jesus.  What a hard thing to have to ask.  To look into the eyes of your only begotten son, and tell him.  There is something I need you to do… and its gona hurt… a whole lot, and it is going to kill.  But I don’t see another way for it to happen.

He (God the Father) loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten son.  This means that is was not Christ’s death that turned God from hating and being angry, but that God’s love for us compelled Christ’s sacrificial death.

God so loved….. that he gave.

But why did Christ have to die?  The was a debt that had to be paid.  Remember way back in Genesis when God warned Adam not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, because when he did, he would surely die?  Well guess what… he ate from it…. And he died, not only that, all of his decedents died.

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” 

Then God so love the world that he gave his own Son, Jesus Christ to pay the wage for sin.  That is he gave him up to die on your behalf.  Romans 5:8 explains, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

THAT WHOSOEVER

Whosoever means anyone.  There is no limitation.  No “elected” amount.  No special selection process, where only certain people are allowed in.  In fact there is not mystery here at all on whom it means.  There is not even any guess to the assurance of the promise. Whosoever means me, it means, you!

 

BELIEVETH

1 John 4:15 tells us, “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.”

Belief means that you accept something as truth, that you trust in it.  You have confidence in it for faith.  Listen salvation is not found in believing in the preacher, or in getting baptized as an infant.  In fact, Baptism does not save someone at all.  You cannot be a “good” person and be saved.  Popular movies like to portray some rich arrogant guy who passed away and then when he meets St Peter at the pearly gates, Peter tells him he cannot come in until he corrects some of the wrongs he committed and then sends him back down in a borrowed body so he can get busy.  You cannot earn your way into heaven by good works, and you cant get in with good looks either!  You cannot buy your way into heaven with all the money in the world, or your charitable contributions.  Your mother or father being saved does not save you either.

No there is only one way to pay that debt of sin and that is death.  Your avoidance of death comes from believing that Jesus paid that penalty for you, and having confidence in his payment, was payment in full.

I do not know who wrote this, but I saw a poem that said:

For God – the Lord of earth and heaven,

So loved – and longed to see forgiven,

The world – in sin and pleasure mad,

That he gave – the only Son he had,

His only Son – to take our place,

That whosoever – Oh, what grace,

Believeth – placing simple trust,

In Him – the righteous and the just,

Should not perish – lost in sin,

But have everlasting life – in HIM.

 

What Jesus said was in contrast to the traditional, Jewish, acceptance of scriptures that related to the coming messiah.  The Hebrews believed that the Messiah would come and deliver them from the Gentiles by judgement, by judgement I mean destruction of the gentile nations… all of them.

But Jesus said, the Messiah is here to save, and not to judge. He was here to provide that salvation himself.  Not only to the Jews, but for the WHOLE world. By using the term of the “whole word” I mean YOU as an individual, loved by God Himself! Loved so much that he gave his life up so you could live.

Then to ensure the deal would be permanent, he rose from the dead so that he could officiate over the New Covenant between God and man.  Imagine Jesus is saying that he has the power and authority to save the entire world.  He is the deliverer!

We can have confidence in the salvation provided by Jesus, because it is a free gift, given to us in love.  He is the guarantor of the payment.  He is the overseer of the contract.  His blood is the binding signature. The very Son of God himself holds the receipt of payment – in full!  Jesus loves us to much that he holds our salvation himself.  None of it is your responsibility.

Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans; “For I am persuaded, that neither death, not life, nor angels, nor principalities, not powers, not things present, nor things to come, note height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

This is such an amazing gift that has been given to us.  The creator of the universe loves you and me so much that when we failed and turned our backs on him, he found a way to bring us home again. What a blessed assurance we then have that if God, holds our salvation, that we cannot lose it and nothing can separate us from God, ever again… Amen

Waiting on the Messiah

 

Luke 2:25-30

Notes

 “And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.  And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:  For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,”

Not much is information on who Simeon is.

All we really know about Simeon is what Luke tells us here in these few verses.  Some have supposed that this Simeon was a son of “Hillel,” who was a famous distinguished teacher in Jerusalem, and the president of the Sanhedrin. But not much is really know for any certainty, and who he was is really irrelevant to the story.  However, what he was and how he acted is very important.

First of all, the text says, “Behold”

  • That is to look closely at this!,
  • Study this!
  • “Hey! Check this out!”
  • The author is getting ready to say something very important and he does not want you to miss it.

The author singles Simeon out.  Why? Well lets look at how he describes Simeon.  Luke uses words like “just” and “devout”.

  • Another way of saying this would be to say that Simeon was a fair and sincere,
  • he would be considered a pious man.
  • He would be a man with deep spiritual morals, a man of conviction.
  • A man who lived by his word.

The fact that he was single out by name indicates that everyone knew of this virtuous man.

  • Everyone considered that he was a man that was righteous in the eyes of God.
  • He was a good Jew,
  • He was seen as one who discharged his duties faithfully to man and to God.
  • His reputation preceded him.
  • He was a man of respect among the people.
  • He was probably an elder.

He was undoubtedly a holy man and was divinely inspired.

The text says that the

  • “Holy Spirit” was upon him
  • “Holy Spirit” had revealed things to him.
  • He was “led by the Spirit” into the temple.

This scripture indicates that it was the direct influence of the Holy Spirit that Simeon was told to go into the temple, the text reads, “And he came by the Spirit into the temple”. This makes what he spoke about Jesus a divine revelation by God to Simeon.

When Jesus asked his disciples who is it you say that I am and Peter said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus told him, “Blessed art thou Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:16-18)

You see Simeon wasn’t just waiting for something from God.  Simeon was waiting for something specific from God.  God had made a promise to Simeon. We don’t know when the promise was made. We don’t know how long Simeon had been waiting.  It could have been years, or months, or even days.  It could have been just hours.  However, the reading of the text gives me the feeling that Simeon had been waiting a long time, probably decades.  But Simeon wasn’t the only one who had to wait was he.  Mary and Joseph had waited months to see Jesus.  Israel had waited even longer. It is estimated that there were at least 400 years of silence from God between the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament it self covers a span of approximately 4000 years. All of creation waited in anticipation of the birth of Christ.

Take a look at Isaiah 9:6, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Simeon and Israel were looking for this birth!  Simeon was waiting for the fulfillment of this prophecy.  He was waiting for the arrival of the “Messiah” who is called “the consolation of Israel” because he would give comfort to them by his appearing.  Simeon longed for the coming of the Messiah; and the Spirit prepared him to see Jesus for who he truly is.  The Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace!  The promised Messiah.

This birth was something that the world has never seen.  God put on flesh!  This had never been done since the before creation.

Man had never seen it

No other religion ever recorded such an event

Angels had never seen such a sight

When Moses had asked to see the God’s face, the Lord told Moses he cannot do so because he his holiness would destroy Moses.  See Moses was flesh, and like all flesh he had the sin of Adam.  It would be like trying to put two magnets together where the polar ends don’t match up.  The magnetic force would not allow you to do this.  God says that He reveals himself in nature.  I believe this magnetic principle is one way that God reveals his holiness and it’s inability to mend with sin.  But Simeon had read the scriptures.  Simeon know that God had a way to redeem, not only Israel, but the whole world to him.  Simeon knew that somehow, God would become flesh.  God found away to overcome this spiritual law.  That’s what is so important of the virgin birth.

Some things to know about Simeon and his waiting.

  • Simeon was absolutely sure that the Messiah was coming and that he would see him.
  • Simeon expected the Lord to come at any moment.
  • Simeon lived his life in his belief as a result he was seen as just and devout
  • Simeon lived a life under the direction and in obedience to the Holy Spirit, he was man who surrendered to the will of God
  • Simeon was ready to welcome the Lord into his life. He took him in his arms, he made him feel welcomed and loved. He blessed God for such a special gift.  See he understood that the Messiah was first to come as a sacrifice and then again as a conquering King.  He knew in his heart what John would later record in the 3rd chapter of the Gospel of John when he said, “For God so love the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but heave everlasting life.”  You could say that Simeon was effectively the very first Christian! Simeon believed on Him!  He believed that He was the restoration of Israel, and all of the world!
  • Simeon lived a life who’s whole purpose was the revelation and declaration of Jesus Christ. As a result, Simeon was the first man to declare that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the promised Messiah in the Temple. Then with his life purpose being fulfilled he was ready for the Lord to take him home.  His whole meaning in life was Jesus!

If Simeon would have not been living a life of expecting from the Lord, or in obedience to the Lord, he would have missed his opportunity to perform his part in this miraculous revelation of the birth of the creator, who became a man, to redeem mankind to himself.  If we are not careful, we can miss what God has for us in Christ.

So while Christmas is a great time to look back and to reflect on all that God has done for us, let’s not get so caught up in the lights, and pageantry, or the gifts and credit card abuse, or the food and the wine that we forget that Christ is still alive, and that he is returning to establish His kingdom here on earth.

How are you waiting?

  • Are you waiting like Simeon did?
  • What are you waiting for from God?
  • Are you living a life in anticipation of the return of Jesus?
  • Do you live your life in the belief that Jesus can come at any moment?

Do you live a life that shows?

  • Jesus is coming at any moment to complete the restoration of Israel
  • That the Kingdom of Heaven is indeed at hand.

If we do then, how should we be waiting?

Throughout Scripture we find  admonitions given to us about the Lord’s return:

  • Watch faithfully.
  • Work diligently.
  1. We are to watch.
    1. The Lord said repeatedly that we are to watch for His coming because we do not know the day or hour of His return (Matt. 24:42; 25:13).
    2. In Luke 21:36, Jesus gave this specific instruction: “Keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
    3. We are to stand fast in the faith with courage and strength (1 Cor. 16:13).
    4. We are to watch soberly, arming ourselves with faith, love, and salvation (1 Thess. 5:8).
  2. We are to work.
    1. We are to be the Lord’s witnesses—telling of the love of God and the atoning death of Jesus Christ.
    2. We are to testify about what He has done in our own lives, both with our words and by our example.

While we celebrate this Christmas let us live lives of sobriety, testifying to the truth.  Being fair and honest in all our dealings.  Bearing spiritual fruit in anticipation that our redeemer is nigh.  Living lives in submission to the Holy Spirit and being obedient to the will of Christ in our lives.

Be an Encouragement

Philippians 4:8

I received a push on my computer from a newspaper that I subscribe to and the article it highlighted was one that depicted what they referred to as the top racist moments of 2017.  This article had pictures with little one liners that described with no real details how the picture represented something that someone had done that showed racism.  I was quite taken back.  I remember when was young the end of the year was used to reflect on how adversity had been overcome, and how despite all the odds we had persevered through the hard times, made difficult decisions and shouldered the burdens of those events together.  We looked back and chose to revel in the good of others and the accomplishments that were made by family, friends, and our communities.

Lately it seems a bad virus has spread across our continent.  This sickness has darkened our hearts and made us to hurt and use one another spitefully.  It is strange how in such a short time we went from being on the top of the world, the only super power to survive the cold war, united in a common cause to the mess we see now days.  We have allowed our joy to be taken from us and made to feel vulnerable.  We have allowed the “fear” of racism, sexists, and other unseemly isms to infiltrate our peace for fear of being ostracized from society. Political Correctness and the immoral minority have paralyzed us into inadequacy of action. We have compromised our holiness before God and man.

Remember the words of Paul and Timothy that were recorded in their letter to the Philippians where they wrote, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8).  It is believed that Paul wrote this epistle near the end of his Roman imprisonment around 61-62 AD.  Paul sought to encourage this church who was in a spiritual battle.  He poured out his life as an offering to Christ in many dangerous situations, which included beatings, stoning’s, shipwrecks, and imprisonments and yet he still had joy.  Paul wanted the church at Philippi to know that living a Christ centered life was the key to joy.

So looking here we see that perspective affects our joy.  Paul said that we need to look at things in the proper perspective.  We should think, or deliberately consider, or meditate on these things that Paul mentions.  We should reflect on things that are true.  In other words we should concentrate of things that are correct, or accurate and not give into speculations or hearsay.  Think on eternal truths from the scriptures and see them at work in nature.  We should be honest in all our dealings with God and with man.  Promote the general good, and the good news of the gospel.  We should protect our minds and honor those who are chaste.  We should dress ourselves in integrity.

Good news should be shared and enjoyed with one another.  Take joy in the accomplishments of others and in the blessings that the Lord has given others.  We should share in the blessings the Lord has given us with all love and compassion towards our fellow Christians and the world.  We should publically acknowledge good deeds and be useful in our community to build up our community instead of tearing it down.

Paul knew that true joy comes only through humility and faith that is acted out in the lives of those around us.  Pray for one another, give to one another, and share hope in Christ to one another.  Allow the joy you find in Christ Jesus to share peace instead of quarrels and divisions.  If you pray for peace and restoration then get out be a peace maker, be a restorer in your community.  Let the light of Christ show in your daily walk.  Weep with those who need to weep, then be an encouragement.