From Jim McGuiggan... Why I don't like THE SHACK (2)

Why I don't like THE SHACK (2)

The Shack is a book that wants to kill the notion that God is a legalist who cares mainly about rules and about our keeping his rules. It wishes to dethrone a God who cares for us only if we attempt to win his favor by ferreting out his commandments and attempting to keep up with them. It wants to bury a gloomy God who would like us to grovel before him in fear; a God obsessed with his own image and one with whom we have to curry favor by doing enough good deeds, going to church and reading our Bibles and such. It wants to get rid of a God who offers us his love but leaves us uncertain if he'll continue to love us if we blunder a lot—a kind of carrot always held out in front of a hungry weary donkey sort of scenario. Click here for something like that.

I like that as an agenda.

Supposing a God like that existed and we could do it, dethroning, killing, burying and getting rid of him in the name of the true God would bless the world. We should kill a god like that the way wed kill a rabid dog, without mercy and without remorse at having done it. [Though I'm sure we'd be sad that the dog had been sick.]

The good news is there is only one true God and he is nothing like that!

What does The Shack substitute for the caricature it wishes to put an end to? It offers another caricature. Only for literary and teaching purposes it presents God as a female. We get a sweet, folksy, chuckling female called Papa; an I- love-to-cook God who dishes up pancakes, fried eggs and bacon and ceaseless goodies while making it clear that she has no interest whatever in commandments or obedience. While she is passing out things like hot muffins slathered in butter she tells her legalistic guest (Mack):
  • That she has forgiven every human their sins against her (225) though the bulk of them refuse to be reconciled to him;
  • That she never placed demands on anyone [God speaking to Mack (206): Honey, I have never placed an expectation on you or anyone else]
  • That she is never disappointed in anybody! [God speaking to Mack (206): And beyond that because I have no expectations, you never disappoint me. Mack is startled and says, You've never been disappointed in me? God says, Never! [Isn't she sweet?]
  • That the notion of moral responsibility is a form of sinful self-dependence and a lust for control (203, 205, 206).
In between bites she chuckles that Jesus nailed all divine commandments to his cross, including the merciless, graceless Ten Commandments (202). But the God of The Shack can't make up her mind. When docile little Mack asks her if she ever gets angry with any of her children she says (119), Sho nuff! What parent doesnt? The God of The Shack can't seem to see that if she commands nothing and expects nothing that she has sho nuff no reason to be angry with the kids and their choices.

[It'd be a bit easier to swallow all this if Papa didn't expect anything only of Christians—they're not under law, you see—but Papa never laid expectations on anybody for all she ever wanted was life with her human children and life has no expectations for expectations destroy life and friendship and love (203, 205). When she spoke commands to anyone she wasn't really asking for obedience, she was showing them that not only could they not obey, she was showing them that obedience has no connection with life anyway! Life is not about obedience, you see! Talk about obedience and doing God's will introduces responsibility and commands and guilt and God, she tells us, doesnt do guilt (223) and, anyway, its a psychological failure. She says. Commandments kill and accuse but bring no freedom (203, 205).]

When Mack complains that she is asking him to believe that she is God she tells him (119), Im not asking you to believe anything. So not only does she not command people or expect anything of them she doesn't even ask them to believe anything. How could she get mad at anybody? She says she is, but on what grounds?  

Being together with God in The Shack is another vague, slippery notion that you can't grasp. It's easy to see what being with God or sharing life with her means for Mack. He's eating her pancakes and waffles and talking with her but what does it mean in actual life's experience?  I know what The Shack says it isn't but what is it? It's a relationship were told. Yes, but what is that? The Shack is so afraid of legalism it waffles on and on about a God whose image has no shape or form. When God did actually take human form in Jesus and disclose his nature, character and purpose he is nothing like the Jesus or the God of The Shack. In holy, heartfelt obedience to his Father's will we went about doing good because God was with him (Acts 10:37-38). Horrors! Life isn't about doing the will of God for God has no expectations nor does he want people to do good things; doesn't even want them to believe him. So The Shack says.

The book is so afraid of legalism that it denies that Jesus wants us to be Christians (182). As soon as you say Jesus is our example the book gets all tensed up—Oh, oh, now someone's going to think we have to follow Jesus example and that brings in responsibility, expectation and certain behavior and that's law back in again, (205) and The Shack gets hives at such a thought.
NT writers don't speak like The Shack; they just boldly say (1 Peter 2:21), To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps. This is the same man who insisted that life was a matter of grace and who wouldn't tolerate a Pharisaical yoke (Acts 15:10-11). In Philippians 2:5 to undergird his call to righteous life in Jesus (2:1-4) Paul says they are to think and do as Jesus thought and did (he uses a present imperative). There's no legalism here, no exhaustive blueprint, just a plain unapologetic call to a joyful lifestyle that images Jesus. 1 John 2:3-6 makes no bones about it; it tells us that those who say they belong to Jesus pursue righteousness as he did and they do good things just as he did. It doesn't encourage heartless imitation and The Shack doesn't know the difference between legalism and conformity to the image of Christ. Put off this and put on that (Colossians 3:5-10) and this is from the man who said in chapter 2 that Jesus is all we need and that Jesus nailed our I.O.Us to the cross!
The Shack is so afraid of legalism that the notion of obeying God's commands always conjures up the picture of an exhaustive blueprint, a mechanical response to a list of rules. It gets hives when obedience is mentioned so its God just waffles on vacuously about life and being and relationship. The Shack is afraid of a godly life having content or parameters for all that brings in responsibility and keeping commandments and we all know what that means, right? It tells us: Legalism is lord again; ritual is king and friendship is dead! (205).

In good Lutheran Reformed manner it completely misunderstands the nature of the Mosaic Law and makes it into a legalist's handbook. You might think this useful: click

In The Shack Mack doesn't ask real questions. For example, he wants to know if God uses pain to force people to turn to him (189/190) and God tells him true love never forces. Who ever thought it did or could? But the God of Amos 4 explicitly says he uses pain to bring people back to him. The Jesus of Revelation 3:19 explicitly says I rebuke and chastise those I love, so be eager to repent. The God of The Shack is sho nuff sickeningly sweet, gently touches Mack's hand and forgives him for even suggesting that God might bring pain for a redemptive purpose. This isn't the God of Habakkuk 1 or Acts 2:23 or Romans 4:25 and 8:32. Its Benjamin Spock psychology that chuckles and eats another strip of bacon as it smiles its way past the entire biblical witness.
The Shack construes Ten Commandments as a demand for sinlessness but it doesnt deal the Ten Commandments as we find them in Exodus 20, it abstracts them from the covenant and makes them into free-standing moral demands. In the Bible theyre a part of a covenant of grace; in the Shack theyre legal requirements, a code, a set of rules. If the book was saying that thats how people have perversely understood the Ten Commandments it would probably be correct but thats not what The Shack is saying. It claims that the Mosaic Covenant was a legalist handbook on how to get life with God and, of course, no one could do that. The Shacks treatment of the OT law has nothing in common with the biblical understand of it.

Life under the Law, the Shack insists, is static, predictable, a noun rather than a verb, its unmoving, lifeless (204). But the psalmist who sang Psalm 119 would have been astonished at such a claim. He spins like Snoopy in ecstasy as he says (119:97), Oh how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Listen to him (119:111): Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. Take ten minutes right now and read the psalm, please! Ask yourself if this man saw the Torah (Law) in the way The Shack speaks of it.

God speaking to Mack: To the degree that one feels responsible to pursue righteousness and holiness to that degree you neither know me nor trust me. (206)

Yes, I know, the God of The Shack is sweet and chuckling and folksy and therefore more soothing and appealing than the God you meet in Genesis 69, Exodus 714, Amos 4, Numbers 16, Matthew 23, John 15:1-6, 1 Corinthians 5, Galatians 1 and elsewhere.

I dont have a doubt in the world that the God of the Bible is all about joy and dancing and life as opposed to death and gloom and mechanical submission to rules! Like millions of others Im staking my present life and hope on that! But to divorce loving obedience, a warm willingness to fulfil responsibility or gallant acceptance of a clear call to duty from all that is legalism run amok. Such things arent the destruction of relationship with Godamong many other things they constitute a relationship with God. Thats how people live real life with one another; in gallant, gracious behaviour, in loving mutual submission, which doesnt exist merely as a way of looking at thingsits the set of the heart that cannot do other than express itself in warm righteousness and allegiance. James debunks all this patter about a faith and love without obligation when he says faith works! He isnt talking about mechanical rule-keeping or heartless toeing a divine line! The entire 1 John epistle is a protest against this mystical, vague, indeterminate love of God that expects nothing and asks for nothing.
Jeremiah 9:24 gives us a God with some positive shape. Dynamic, yes; unpredictable in all kinds of ways, yes; but he loves and calls for mercy, and justice and righteousness in the earth. Micah responds to the whining ones who say they dont know what God wants of them and he tells them that God has told them plainly what he wantsnot ritual or heartless religion but for them to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly before God (Micah 6:6-8).

The Shack is opposed to a mechanical and lifeless rule-keeping but the answer to that false doctrine, the answer to that travesty of the image of God in Jesus Christ is not this shapeless, formless, vague, utterly unstructured view of life it offers.

Were aware that were not to slavishly try to imitate every move and act of Jesus and nobody knew that better than John but it didnt keep him from saying (1 John 3:16-17), This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? It doesnt matter that we dont always know how to do that best nor does it matter that we dont always do itthe truth remains that John says we ought to do it because its part of the meaning of Jesus self-sacrifice. There is no mechanical obligation here, theres no legalistic rule-keeping notion here but there is definite moral content and an expected response in a life committed to Jesus.

The Bible suffers at the hands of The Shack. Matthew 18 works on the basic truth that in Gods eyes everyone is precious and worth trying to redeem. Were not to dismiss them and think bitterly that we can easily live without themwere not to let them stew in their own juices. Were to pursue them in grace, knowing that weve been forgiven much, but if they will not have it, if they refuse to be reconciled they are to be excluded from the believing community (in hope). It isnt all aboutus as individuals! God didnt create millions of independent human unitshe created a human family, which by our choice became and at present continues to be a sinful human family.

The believing community is a community of righteousness which in the present is to reflect righteousness and warm-hearted justice which is what we say Jesus is coming to bringa world in which all wrongs are righted and joy-filled righteousness and holiness is the order of the day.

The Shack smirks at people knowing truth as if knowing truth is pretty much over-rated; but its filled with claims that God wants us to know the truth about him. The book is published to teach us truth so that we can get to know God in a life-giving way. Let me say it again, The Shack consistently downplays knowing truth and exists to teach us truth. In words it tells us, It isnt words we need! If it isnt words we need then why on earth would we need books like The Shack?

Mere knowledge is not what we need. Does anyone not know that? Click here.
The Shack is like a poor and fuzzy picture, underdeveloped and over-exposed.

©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.

Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabidingword.com.

One of Suffering's Greatest Benefits by Kyle Butt, M.A.


One of Suffering's Greatest Benefits

by  Kyle Butt, M.A.

It is reported that Oscar Wilde, the British playwright, once said that there was enough suffering on any given street in London at any given time to prove that there is no God. For millennia, skeptics, agnostics, atheists, and infidels have pointed accusing fingers at the suffering in this world, and have demanded that such evil and pain militates against the concept of an all-powerful, all-loving God. Even Christians have been faced with faith-trying episodes of suffering in their lives. How could a loving God allow such bad things to happen to His human creations?
In this brief article, an in-depth study of that question cannot be undertaken (for an in-depth look at this topic, see Major, 1998). It is, however, the case that one small aspect of the problem can be presented: suffering in the lives of humans can lead them to establish a right relationship with their Creator. Consider Manasseh, the king of Judah, as a case in point. In 2 Kings 21, the Bible records that Manasseh “did evil in the sight of the Lord” (vs. 2). He “practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft, and consulted spiritists and mediums” (vs. 3). But his sins did not stop there; rather, he acted “more wickedly than all the Amorites who were before him” and “made Judah sin with his idols” (vs. 11). In addition, the text records that Manasseh “shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another” (vs. 16). This evil king seemed to be rotten to the core, and beyond hope of turning to God.
Due to his sin, the Lord sent the army of Assyria to raid Judah. The Assyrians captured Manasseh and led him away with hooks (probably nose hooks) and bronze fetters to the land of Babylon. In this destitute condition, when Manasseh’s suffering was at its worst, the Bible records: “Now when he was afflicted, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his king. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God” (2 Chronicles 33:12-13, emp. added). Upon regaining the throne, Manasseh removed the idols and foreign gods and re-established worship of the one true God. Only through his “affliction” did Manasseh realize that he needed God.
So it is with many today. The cares of this world have a way of keeping people from contemplating their actual relationship with God. Yet, when suffering hits their lives, the real issues of life often come into much clearer focus. C.S. Lewis once wrote that pain was God’s “megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” David, the inspired psalmist, in a prayer to his God, wrote: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word” (Psalm 119:67). It is a sad fact that some people never look up to God until they are laying flat on their backs. Do not be deceived into thinking that all suffering and pain is “useless.” On the contrary, “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2-3).


Major, Trevor J. (1998), “The Problem of Suffering,” Reason & Revelation, 18:49-55, July.

From Mark Copeland... The Baptism Of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17)

                        "THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW"

                     The Baptism Of Jesus (3:13-17)


1. The baptism of Jesus by John served a significant role in both of
   their ministries...
   a. It came at the height of John's ministry, after which his began
      to decline
   b. It served as the beginning of Jesus' ministry, which soon
      overtook the ministry of John

2. The baptism of Jesus naturally raises some questions...
   a. Why was He baptized?
   b. Does it suggest an explanation of the purpose for Christian

[In this study we shall endeavor to answer these questions, first by
reviewing the historical record concerning Jesus' baptism...]


      1. From Galilee to the Jordan River - Mt 3:13a
         a. Jesus had been living in Nazareth, a city of Galilee
            - Mt 2:23
         b. John had been baptizing in the Jordan River, where there
            was much water - Mt 3:5-6; Jn 3:23
      2. To be baptized by John - Mt 3:13b

      1. John tried to prevent Jesus from being baptized - Mt 3:14a
      2. He explains why:  "I need to be baptized by You, and are You
         coming to Me?" - Mt 3:14b
         a. There is a sense of shock in John's words
         b. While John did not fully comprehend who Jesus was until
            later (cf. Jn 1:29-33), he evidently knew enough that he
            was perplexed

      1. Jesus convinces John to permit His baptism - Mt 3:15a
      2. As Jesus explains why:  "It is fitting for us to fulfill all
      3. And so Jesus is baptized by John - Mt 3:15b

      1. The heavens open, and the Spirit of God descends like a dove
         (in bodily form, Lk 3:22) and lights upon Jesus - Mt 3:16
      2. A voice from heaven proclaims:
         a. "This is My beloved Son"
         b. "In whom I am well pleased"

[Without question, the baptism of Jesus was a significant event!  It
naturally raises several questions which I will try to answer...]


      1. Clearly not for the same reason other people were being
         baptized by John
         a. Theirs was a baptism of repentance for the remission of
            sins - cf. Mk 1:4
         b. They were confessing their sins - cf. Mk 1:5; Mt 3:6
         -- Jesus was without sin - He 4:15
      2. Jesus said it was "to fulfill all righteousness" - Mt 3:15
         a. It was God's counsel that people be baptized of John
            - cf. Lk 7:29-30
         b. Jesus was willing to set the right example by doing the
            Father's will, something He delighted to do - Ps 40:7-8;
            Jn 4:34; 8:29
      3. It also served to introduce Him to John and Israel
         a. John had been proclaiming that He was coming - Mt 3:11
         b. John had been told that the Spirit coming upon Jesus would
            be a sign - Jn 1:29-34

      1. Many refer to Jesus' baptism to explain the purpose of
         Christian baptism
         a. That our baptism has nothing to do with the remission of
         b. That our baptism is but a public profession of one's faith
         c. That our baptism is to publicly identify our relation to
            Christ, just as His baptism publicly introduced Him to
      2. However, there is no Biblical connection made between Jesus'
         baptism and our own
         a. Christian baptism is for the remission of sins - Ac 2:38;
         b. Christian baptism is a union with Christ in His death
            - Ro 6:3-7
         c. Christian baptism was often administered in relative
            privacy - Ac 8:35-38; 16:25-34
      -- No Biblical writer suggests that we are baptized for the same
         reason Jesus was!

      1. They certainly bear testimony as to who Jesus is
         a. As the Spirit would do later, via the works Jesus did
            - Mt 12:28
         b. As the Father would do later, on another occasion - Mt 17:5
      2. They also bear testimony to the nature of the Godhead
         a. I.e., three distinct persons in One God
         b. Though One in substance, there is a distinction to be made
            between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - cf. Mt 28:19


1. With the baptism of Jesus...
   a. He was formally introduced to John, and by him to Israel - Jn 1:
   b. The Father and the Spirit audibly and visually confirmed Him as
      the Son
   c. Jesus demonstrated His desire to "fulfill all righteousness"

2. The baptism of Jesus is certainly significant to Christians...
   a. Not we were baptized for the same reason as He
   b. But certainly in confirming that He was the Messiah
   c. And displaying the attitude that should be true of all His
      disciples ("I have come to do my Father's will...")

Jesus did not "need" baptism because He was without sin, but was
baptized anyway because it was the Father's will for man at that time.

Should we who are sinners dare hesitate to do the Father's will
regarding baptism today? - Mt 28:18-20; Mk 16:15-16; Ac 2:38

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

From Mark Copeland... Preparing The Way Of The Lord (Matthew 3:1-12)

                        "THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW"

                 Preparing The Way Of The Lord (3:1-12)


1. Prior to the beginning of Jesus' public ministry, we read of the
   work of John the Baptist...
   a. Who preached in the wilderness of Judea - Mt 3:1
   b. Who at first had a very successful ministry - Mt 3:5-6
   c. Which was later cut short by his imprisonment - Mt 4:12

2. Though John's work was short-lived, it was clearly important...
   a. Each of the four gospels preface Jesus' ministry with that of
   b. His ministry prepared people for what was to come

[If we seek to understand the message and ministry of Jesus Christ, we
must start with the one who was sent to "prepare the way of the Lord".
In this study we shall begin by observing what we can regarding...]


      1. A call to repentance - Mt 3:1-2
         a. Lit., "a changing of the mind"
         b. Which change prompts one to turn from sin and turn to God
         c. Prompted by sorrow for one's sins, manifested by a zealous
            desire to do what is right - cf. 2Co 7:10-11
      2. A proclamation of the coming "kingdom of heaven" - Mt 3:2
         a. The term "kingdom" in Jewish thought meant "rule, reign"
         b. The phrase "of heaven" implies the source of such rule; 
            other gospel writers use "of God" - cf. Mk 1:14-15
         c. The rule or reign of God was about to be manifested in a
            special way; it was "at hand" (near)

      1. To fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah - Mt 3:3
         a. Which was to "prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths
            straight" - Isa 40:3
         b. I.e., to prepare people for the coming of the Messiah
      2. To fulfill the prophecy of Malachi - Mt 3:4
         a. Concerning the sending of Elijah - cf. Mal 4:5-6
         b. John came "in the spirit and power of Elijah", not that he
            actually was Elijah - cf. Jn 1:19-23 (cf. Mt 3:4 with
            2Ki 1:8)
      -- As the angel told Zacharias, his son John was to "make ready a
         people prepared for the Lord" - Lk 1:16-17

      1. People from Jerusalem, all Judea, etc., went to him - Mt 3:5
      2. They were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins
         - Mt 3:6
         a. For he preached a baptism of repentance - Mk 1:4a
         b. A baptism for the remission of sins - Mk 1:4b

      1. When people came to be baptized, he expected to see fruits in
         keeping with true repentance - Mt 3:7-8
         a. He expected compassion for the poor - Lk 3:10-11
         b. He expected honest business dealings - Lk 3:12-13
         c. He expected fair treatment, contentment with one's wages 
            - Lk 3:14
      2. He told them not to trust in their heritage or ancestry 
         - Mt 3:9
         a. It was not enough to be Jews, descendants of Abraham
         b. God could just as easily raise up children to Abraham out
            of stones
      3. He warned them that the time of judgment was near - Mt 3:10
         a. The "ax" (God's judgment) was at the root of the trees
         b. That which did not bear good fruit would be cut off 
            - cf. Ro 11:11-23; Jn 15:1-6

      1. One mightier than he is coming - Mt 3:11
         a. Yes, John did indeed baptize with water with repentance
         b. But one (Jesus) was coming to baptize with the Holy Spirit
            and fire!
      2. Whose work would be to separate the wheat from the chaff 
         - Mt 3:12
         a. Using a "winnowing fan" (the Holy Spirit? cf. Jn 16:7-8,
         b. And burn up the chaff with "unquenchable fire" (the 
            Judgment? cf. Mt 13:30)

[We can learn more of the ministry of John the Baptist by studying the
other gospels, but what Matthew records is sufficient to make several
observations about how he was "Preparing The Way Of The Lord"...]


      1. John preached a call to repent - Mt 3:2,8
         a. Jesus did the same during His earthly ministry - Mt 4:17;
            9:13; 11:20; 12:41
         b. Jesus expected the call to repentance to be proclaimed in
            His name to all nations - Lk 24:46-47
         c. And so His apostles proclaimed the need to repent - Ac 2:
            38; 3:19; 17:30; 20:20-21; 26:19-20
         -- Unless we heed to the call to repent, we have not begun to
            understand nor act upon what it means to be true disciples
            of Jesus Christ!
      2. John proclaimed the good news of the kingdom, that it was near
         - Mt 3:2
         a. This was the same message proclaimed by Jesus - Mt 4:17;
            cf. Mk 1:14-15
         b. By His disciples, in the Limited Commission - Mt 10:7
         c. The theme of the kingdom was an important part of the
            gospel following the Great Commission - Ac 8:12; 14:22;
            19:8; 20:25; 28:23
         -- What came to be taught concerning the kingdom, we shall
            consider in another lesson; but it was "at hand" during
            Jesus' earthly ministry, and in existence following His
            ascension to heaven - cf. Col 1:13; 1Th 2:12; Re 1:9

      1. He spoke of Jesus as One who would baptize with the Holy
         Spirit - Mt 3:11
         a. This did not rule out Jesus baptizing in water, or that His
            disciples would
            1) Indeed, Jesus did baptize in water, via His disciples 
               - Jn 4:1-2
            2) He later commanded water baptism in the Great 
               Commission, which His disciples carried out - Mt 28:
               19-20; Ac 2:38; 8:35-38; 10:47-48
         b. But Jesus would also baptize with the Holy Spirit, as 
            promised - cf. Ac 1:4-5
            1) Which occurred at Pentecost - cf. Ac 2:1-21
            2) The result of which affects all who are saved - Tit 3:5-7
         -- Yes, John "indeed" baptized with water (as would Jesus),
            but John prepared the people for a work Jesus would do that
            went far beyond what he was doing!
      2. He spoke of Jesus as One who would separate the "wheat" from
         the "chaff" - Mt 3:12
         a. Jesus' work would divide the good from the bad - cf. Mt 13:
         b. His work would even cause division within one's family 
            - cf. Mt 10:34-39
         -- From what John said, we can expect that the effect of 
            Jesus' work would sometimes cause division, not peace!
      3. He spoke of Jesus as administering judgment - Mt 3:12
         a  Jesus later depicted Himself as judge - Mt 26:31-46
         b. He spoke of how His words would judge us in the last day 
            - Jn 12:48
         -- It is true that Jesus came the first time to save the 
            world, but He is coming again, this time to judge the 
            world! - 2Th 1:7-10


1. The ministry of John the Baptist was an important one...
   a. To "prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight"
   b. This he did by preaching the same themes, letting people know
      what to expect
   -- Of course, there was more, as John was to actually identify the
      Messiah to Israel

2. But when Jesus began preaching, people were more likely to:
   a. Repent of their sins
   b. Answer the call to be baptized
   c. Accept the good news concerning the kingdom
   ...for John had been preaching such themes in the wilderness of

3. In a sense, John's message is still needed today...
   a. There are many who turn the message of Jesus Christ into some 
      sort of "easy-believism"
   b. But John reminds us of the need to bear fruits in keeping with
      true repentance

As Jesus would say later, "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do
not do the things which I say?" (Lk 6:46).  Are you showing true
acceptance of Jesus as Lord by doing the things He says?

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

From Mark Copeland... The Early Years Of Jesus (Matthew 2:13-23)

                        "THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW"

                   The Early Years Of Jesus (2:13-23)


1. A remarkable feature concerning the gospel records is their
   a. Especially related to the early life of Jesus, following His
   b. Mark and John relate nothing about this period of Jesus' life
   c. Only Matthew and Luke record something about the first thirty

2. Other than the visit of the wise men, Matthew records only...
   a. The flight to Egypt - Mt 2:13-15
   b. The massacre by Herod - Mt 2:16-18
   c. The return to Nazareth - Mt 2:19-23

3. Why did Matthew record only these three events?  Are there any
   lessons to be gleaned from what we know of the early years of Jesus?

[In an effort to answer such questions, let's take a few moments and
first examine the text of Mt 2:13-23...]


      1. Precipitated by the angel's warning - Mt 2:13-14
         a. Joseph was told to take Mary and the Child to Egypt
         b. For Herod was seeking to destroy Jesus
      2. Remaining there until the death of Herod - Mt 2:15
         a. The sojourn and eventual departure from Egypt fulfilled
            prophecy - Hos 11:1
         b. For the exodus of Israel alluded to in Hosea was evidently
            a type or shadow of the Messiah's own call out of Egypt

      1. Herod's angry decree - Mt 2:16
         a. Having been frustrated in his original plans - Mt 2:7-8,12
         b. Ordering the death of all male children, two and under, in
            Bethlehem and surrounding districts
      2. Jeremiah's prophecy - Mt 2:17-18
         a. This terrible calamity had been foreseen - Jer 31:15
         b. For the exile of Israel alluded to in Jeremiah was likewise
            a type or shadow of the grief that would be experienced
            again in the region where Rachel was buried

      1. Joseph was directed via dreams - Mt 2:19-22
         a. First, to return to Israel, for Herod was dead
         b. Then, to go to Galilee instead of Judea, for Herod's son
            Archelaus was reigning in Judea
      2. Residing in Nazareth, another fulfillment of prophecy 
         - Mt 2:23
         a. The prophecy "He shall be called a Nazarene" was based
            upon the words of several prophets ("which was spoken by
            the prophets")
         b. There are at least two possibilities as to what is meant...
            1) "It may be that this term of contempt (Jn 1:46; 7:52) is
               what is meant, and that several prophecies are to be
               combined like Ps 22:6,8; 69:11,19; Isa 53:2-4."
               - Robertson's Word Pictures
            2) "Verse 23 alludes to Isa. 11:1, which states that a
               "branch" (netser, Heb.) will grow out of the roots of
               Jesse (cf. Jer 23:5). Under this view, "branch" and
               "Nazarene" share the same root (nzr, Heb.), and "branch"
               refers to the coming ruler of Davidic descent. Although
               they used a different word, other prophets also spoke of
               the Messiah in terms of the "branch" (Jer. 23:5; Zech3:8; 6:12), and Matthew could legitimately say that this
               prediction was "spoken by the prophets" (vv. 6, 15)."
               - Believer's Study Bible

[It should be apparent that Matthew selected those events in Jesus' 
early life which were foretold by the prophets.  This assisted him in
his purpose to show his Jewish readers that Jesus was truly the Messiah
for Whom they were looking!  Now for a couple of...]


      1. This is seen throughout Jesus' life and the period following
         a. Herod the Great, upset at His birth - Mt 2:1-3,16
         b. Herod Antipas, who had John imprisoned and beheaded 
            - Mt 4:12;14:1-12
         c. The leaders of Israel
            1) Who plotted against Jesus - Mt 26:3-4; 27:1-2
            2) Who attempted to cover up His resurrection - Mt 28:11-15
            3) Who sought to prevent the apostles from telling their
               story - Ac 4:1-3,18; 5:40; 24:1-5
      2. We should not be surprised if the same should happen to us
         a. Jesus warned that such might happen - Jn 15:18-20
         b. Satan will certainly do all that he can to stop us
            1) He was behind the efforts to persecute Christ and His
               church - Re 12:3-5,17; 1Pe 5:8-9
            2) He made use of kings to war against the Lamb and His
               followers - Re 17:12-14
            3) And will do so again - cf. Re 20:7-9
      -- But as prophesied, all such efforts are for naught! - cf. Ps 2:1-12

      1. Jesus' beginnings did not prevent Him from doing great things
         a. Even though He lived in exile and relative obscurity at the
            beginning (in Egypt)
         b. Even though He was raised in a town despised by others
      2. The example of Jesus' humility ought to inspire us
         a. To accept the mind of Christ, especially in relation to our
            brethren - Php 2:5-8
         b. To accept whatever area of service we might have in life 
            - cf. Ps 84:10
      -- For those who humble themselves will be exalted at the right
         time - cf. 1Pe 5:5-7


1. What we know of Jesus' early years is very little

2. But it is sufficient to confirm that He was truly the Messiah...
   a. Who would be "despised and rejected by men" - Isa 53:3
   b. Against whom "the kings of the earth set themselves" - Ps 2:2-3

3. And it should be sufficient to remind His disciples...
   a. That we can expect the same treatment - 2Ti 3:12
   b. That we seek to emulate the same example of humility and 
      willingness to suffer for the will of God - 1Pe 2:21

Are you willing to humbly serve and even suffer persecution for Jesus
"the Nazarene"?

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

From Mark Copeland... The Visit Of The Wise Men (Matthew 2:1-12)

                        "THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW"

                   The Visit Of The Wise Men (2:1-12)


1. Common to many nativity scenes commemorating the birth of Jesus is
   the presence of "three wise men"...
   a. Implied is that these men, three in number, visited Jesus while
      still in the manger
   b. Is this what the Bible really teaches?

2. Matthew is the gospel writer who records this visit...
   a. Which is found in Mt 2:1-12
   b. Which serves as the text for our study today

[This story of "The Visit Of The Wise Men" is both interesting and of
practical value.  Having read the text, let's first note some...]


      1. Who exactly were these "wise men from the East"?
         a. Some think they were a group of priests from Persia
         b. Others believe they were astrologers from Babylon
      2. How many were there?
         a. No actual number is given
         b. Three types of gift are mentioned (Mt 2:11), but quality of
            gifts does not necessarily imply the quantity of givers!
      3. What was the nature of the "star"?
         a. Was it an actual "star"?
         b. Was it the planet Jupiter, often associated with the birth
            of kings
         c. Was it a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the Sign of
            the Fish?
         d. Was it a comet acting erratically?
      4. How did these wise men connect the star with the birth of the
         king of the Jews?
         a. Had they been taught by Jews of the Dispersion to expect
            the Messiah?
         b. Had they been given special revelation from God not
            recorded in the Scriptures?

      1. That these wise men were "three kings from the Orient"
      2. That their names were Melchior, Balthasar, and Caspar
      3. That they visited Baby Jesus together with the shepherds the
         night of His birth
         a. But it was some time later (up to two years!) - Mt 2:1,16
         b. They visited Mary and the child in a house, not a stable! 
            - Mt 2:11
      4. That they were later baptized by Thomas

[The facts are the Biblical record says little about WHO these men 
were.  Perhaps because the emphasis is upon WHAT they did:  "We have
come to WORSHIP Him." (Mt 2:2,11) What is important is that Jesus is
worthy of worship, which can only mean that He is truly DEITY (cf. 
"Immanuel", or "God with us")!

But there are other lessons that can be gleaned from "The Visit Of The
Wise Men"...]


      1. We have seen what people have done with the story of Jesus' 
         a. Making the number of the wise men to be three
         b. Having them visit Jesus in the stable
      2. There are other examples
         a. Making the "forbidden fruit" in the Garden to be an "apple"
         b. Depicting baptism in the Bible as pouring or sprinkling
      -- We need to be like the Bereans (Ac 17:11), and make sure we
         get the facts straight!

      1. The Lord may have many "hidden ones" (i.e., hidden to our 
         knowledge) like the wise men
      2. Their history on earth may be as little known as that of 
         Melchizedek, Job, Jethro
      3. We must not assume that God's people consists only of those we
         know about, listed in "our" directories
         a. There can be many faithful Christians in other countries
         b. We may not know about them, but God does! - 2 Tim 2:19
         -- Though unknown to us, we can still pray for them!

      1. One would think the chief priests and scribes would have been
         the first to go to Bethlehem, hearing rumors that the Savior
         was born
         a. But no, it was a few unknown strangers from a distant land
         b. As John wrote in his gospel, "He came to His own, and His
            own did not receive Him" - Jn 1:11
      2. Sadly, the same is often true today
         a. Those in the Lord's church often show less love and 
            adoration than those in the denominations of men
         b. Children of Christian parents often show less interest than
            many children of non-Christians

      THE HEART...
      1. The chief priests and scribes were quick to provide Herod the
         answer to his question
         a. But as far as we know, they did not act on such knowledge
         b. They did not go to Bethlehem, and some never did come to
            believe in Him
      2. What about us today?
         a. We may knowledge in the head (we know the truth), but do we
            have grace in our hearts (do we act on it)?
         b. We need to always grow in grace and knowledge - 2Pe 3:18

      1. Consider what it must have cost them to travel
         a. In money
         b. In time
         c. In dangers
      2. What about our diligence?  Are we willing to pay the price...
         a. To find Christ?
         b. To serve Him?
         c. To worship Him?
      -- They traveled at great costs and risk to worship Jesus; many
         Christians won't even take the time to attend a gospel meeting
         or a second service on Sunday!

      1. They believed in Christ...
         a. When they had never seen Him prior to their journey
         b. When the scribes and chief priests were unbelieving
         c. When all they saw was a little child on a mother's knee!
            1) Without miracles to convince them (except the star)
            2) Without much teaching to persuade them
         -- Yet they "fell down and worshipped Him"
      2. This is the kind of faith God delights to honor!
         a. For God saw fit to record their example of faith for us
         b. And every time this passage is read, their example of faith
            is honored!
         -- As Jesus said later, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you
            have believed.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet
            have believed." - Jn 20:29


1. May the faith and diligence of the wise men serve to inspire us to
   greater service to our Lord!

2. Though the world around us may remain careless and unbelieving, 
   let's not be ashamed to believe in Jesus and confess Him

3. We have much more reason to believe Him and worship Him...
   a. His miracles, His resurrection from the dead
   b. His teachings, His death on the cross for our sins

Are we willing to make the effort to find, worship, and serve this 
great King?  As stated on a popular bumber-sticker:

                        "Wise men still seek Him"

NOTE:  Some of the main points for this lesson were taken from
"Expository Thoughts On The Gospels" by J. C. Ryle.

From Mark Copeland... Jesus And Immanuel (Matthew 1:18-25)

                        "THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW"

                      Jesus And Immanuel (1:18-25)


1. In Mt 1:18-25, we have Matthew's account of the birth of Jesus...
   a. Matthew tells the story with a focus on Joseph
   b. Whereas Luke centers on Mary

2. Noble qualities of Joseph are certainly seen in this passage...
   a. His tender consideration for Mary
   b. His willingness to bear ridicule
   -- Little else is known of him, for it is his adopted son who is the
      primary interest in Matthew's gospel

3. The word "gospel" means "good news", and hints of just how good that
   news is occurs in this  passage...
   a. Especially when one contemplates the names by which the son of 
      Mary was to be called
   b. Such names as "Jesus" and "Immanuel"

4. In this lesson, we shall consider more closely these two names...
   a. One which describes His OFFICE (what was He to do?)
   b. One which describes His NATURE (who was He?)

[First we note that in his dream, the angel of the Lord tells Joseph
concerning the child to be born of Mary...]


      1. A very common Jewish name, often given in memory of Joshua 
         (the Hebrew form of the name, Jesus)
      2. It is interesting to compare these two figures of history
         a. Joshua led the nation of Israel into the promised land 
         b. Jesus leads the people of God into the Promised Land 

      1. Jesus (Joshua) means "God is Savior"
      2. The son of Mary was rightfully called that, because "He will
         save His people from their sins" - Mt 1:21
      3. This Jesus would do by saving them...
         a. From the GUILT of sin
            1) By offering His blood as the atonement for their sins 
               - cf. Ro 5:8-9a
            2) When one is washed by the blood of Jesus, He truly is
               their Savior
         b. From the POWER of sin
            1) By sending His sanctifying Spirit to help His people 
               break sin's dominion
            2) Paul writes of this in Ro 8:1-2,12-14
         c. From the CONSEQUENCE of sin
            1) I.e., the wrath of God to come
            2) Cf. Ro 5:9; 1Th 1:9-10
         d. Ultimately, from the PRESENCE of sin
            1) I.e., when we depart to "be with the Lord"
            2) Cf. Re 7:13-17
      4. And so the name of JESUS should be...
         a. A very encouraging name to heavy-laden sinners
            1) Souls which desire salvation may draw near to the Father
               with confidence through Christ
            2) For it is His OFFICE (function, work) to show mercy 
               - Jn 3:17
         b. A very sweet and precious name to believers
            1) For He continues to intercede in our behalf, to save us
               from our sins
            2) Cf. He 4:14-16; 7:24-25

[As stated in a popular hymn, "There is a Name I love to hear..." and
that name is "Jesus"!  It may have been common in the days of Jesus,
but should be very special now to all who seek to be saved from their

As Matthew recounts what the angel told Mary, he adds that the birth of
Jesus also fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah in which it is said...]


      1. Isaiah's prophecy concerning this name is found in Isa 7:14
      2. In which a virgin would give birth to a child who would be 
         called "Immanuel"

      1. Immanuel literally means "God is with us" - cf. Mt 1:23
      2. This name describes the Messiah's NATURE; i.e., that He is
         a. Other passages expound upon this aspect of Christ's nature
            1) He is "Mighty God, Everlasting Father" - Isa 9:6
            2) He is "God", possessing the "glory of God"; the Great
               "I AM", who shared in the glory of the Father prior to
               His incarnation - cf. Jn 1:1-3,14; 8:56-59; 17:5 (cf.
               Isa 42:8)
            3) Declared to be "the Son of God with power" by virtue of
               His resurrection - Ro 1:3-4
            4) He was "equal with God" who willingly humbled Himself
               - cf. Php 2:5-11
            5) In Him "dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily"
               - Col 2:9
         b. Human minds, finite and feeble, wrestle with this great
            mystery, but Jesus was "God manifested in the flesh"!
            - 1Ti 3:16


1. Would you have a strong foundation for your faith and hope?
   a. Then keep in constant view your Savior's name "IMMANUEL" ("God
      with us")
   b. For having become flesh, God understands our human plight - cf.
      He 2:17-18

2. Would you have sweet comfort in suffering and trial?
   a. Then keep in constant view your Savior's name "JESUS" ("God is
   b. For in sending His Son to die, God has offered a propitiation for
      our sins - 1Jn 4:9-10

Thus they called the Child, born of a virgin and raised by a carpenter.
By His resurrection from the dead, He proved true to His name.  Are you
willing to obey Jesus as the One who was "God with us", and through whom
"God is Savior"? - Mt 7:21-23; 28:19-20

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

From Mark Copeland... The Genealogy Of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1-17)

                        "THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW"

                 The Genealogy Of Jesus Christ (1:1-17)


1. We begin our study by reading the first seventeen verses of Matthew
   (Mt 1:1-17)

2. In 2Ti 3:16-17, we are told that ALL scripture is profitable
   a. This includes such sections as the one we have just read
   b. Though some may consider it a dry, laborious genealogical table
      of names...
      1) It is profitable for doctrine
      2) It is profitable for instruction in righteousness

3. My objective will be to share some spiritual thoughts that can be
   gleaned from this scripture

[Since Matthew is the only one of the four gospel writers to begin his
gospel with a genealogical record of Jesus, let me first suggest a 
reason why...]


      1. It has been observed that:
         a. Matthew wrote for the Jews
         b. Mark wrote for the Romans
         c. Luke wrote for the Greeks
         d. John wrote for the church
      2. Matthew's gospel was designed to convince Jews that Jesus is
         the Messiah
         a. Fulfillment of Jewish prophecy is a recurring theme - e.g.,
            Mt 1:22-23; 2:4-6,14-15,17-18,23
         b. Genealogy was certainly important to the nation of Israel 
            - Gen 5, 10, 1Ch 1-9

      1. The Messiah had to be a descendant of Abraham - cf. Gen 22:18
      2. The Messiah had to be a descendant of David - cf. Isa 11:1-2,
      -- Mt 1:1 proclaims this to be true of Jesus, and Mt 1:2-17
         demonstrates it

[Whatever else Jesus may have done, if He was not a descendant of 
Abraham and David, He could not be the Messiah.  So a gospel directed
especially to the Jews would naturally settle this issue before 
proceeding.  Now let's note some...]


      1. Into three sections of fourteen names each - Mt 1:17
         a. Abraham to David
         b. David to the Babylonian captivity
         c. Babylonian captivity to Jesus
         -- This may have been to facilitate committing to memory
      2. Which may explain why some names were omitted
         a. Between Joram and Uzziah there were three kings (Ahaziah,
            Joash, & Amaziah) - cf. Mt 1:8
         b. But such omission was not unusual in Jewish genealogies; 
            minor figures were often deleted
         -- The main purpose was to establish essential connections,
            not minor details

      1. Not His "fleshly" right, for Matthew describes Jesus as the
         adopted son of Joseph
      2. Luke records the "fleshly" ancestry of Jesus in Lk 3:23-38
         a. A record of His ancestry from His mother's side
         b. Where He is shown to have descended from David through 
            Nathan, not Solomon
         -- A careful study of Lk 3 confirms this
      3. This helps to answer a puzzling dilemma found in the OT
         a. God promised that the Messiah would come from the loins of
         b. But a descendant through Solomon, Jeconiah (Mt 1:11), was
            so wicked that God promised none of his descendants would
            rule on the throne of David - Jer 22:24-30
         c. How then would God fulfill His promise to David?
            1) By a descendant from a son other than Solomon
            2) Which Jesus was, having descended in the flesh from
      4. So Jesus is both "legal" and "fleshly" heir to the throne of
         a. "Legal" heir by virtue of His adoption by Joseph, 
            descendant of Solomon
         b. "Fleshly" heir by virtue of His birth by Mary, descendant
            of Nathan

      1. They are unique, not only to be included in such a list, but
         in that:
         a. Three were tainted in regards to moral purity
            1) Tamar played a harlot
            2) Rahab was a harlot
            3) Bathsheba was an adulteress
         b. Ruth, though morally sweet and noble, mingled the royal
            blood line with Gentile blood!
      2. Why mention these four women?  Perhaps to suggest...
         a. The relation of Christ to the stained and sinful?
         b. Jesus would be a King to show mercy and pity to harlots,
            and open His kingdom to include Gentiles?

[Whether this was Matthew's intention here, he does illustrate later
that Christ extended mercy to the morally repugnant and would enlarge
His kingdom to include all nations.

Finally, let's consider...]


      1. He made promises...
         a. To Abraham
         b. To David
         c. Through Isaiah
         ...and the coming of Jesus, son of David, son of Abraham,
         fulfilled that promise!
      2. We can therefore have confidence that God will keep His word!
         a. E.g., the promise of His Son's final coming - cf. Ac 1:9
         b. There is no need to lose heart!
            1) The duration between this promise and its fulfillment
               has barely reached the time between the promise made to
               Abraham and its fulfillment!
            2) I.e., 2000 years passed, but God still kept His promise
               to Abraham
            3) Likewise He will keep His promise to us!

      1. Many godly fathers have had ungodly sons!
         a. Solomon had Rehoboam
         b. Hezekiah had Manasseh
         c. Josiah had Jeconiah
      2. As it has been said, "God has no grandchildren"
         a. Being a child of God does not insure that your children 
            will be God's children!
         b. As parents, let us...
            1) Be diligent to raise our children in the "nurture and 
               admonition of the Lord"
            2) Not lose heart when our children stray (even Manasseh
               eventually repented)

      1. Jesus humbled Himself when He came to this earth in the 
         likeness of men - cf. Php 2:5-8
      2. He did this for our sakes!
         a. To taste death for everyone - He 2:9
         b. To help bring us to glory - He 2:10
         c. To deliver us from the fear and power of death - He 2:14-15
         d. To become our merciful and faithful High Priest - He 2:


1. All this and much more, Jesus did by becoming what the first 
   seventeen verses of Matthew's gospel proclaims:  "...the Son of 
   David, the Son of Abraham"

2. This genealogy of Jesus Christ...
   a. Establishes the right of Jesus to be the Messiah
   b. Reminds us of God's mercy
      1) In the lives of Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba
      2) In our own lives by fulfilling His promise to send Son to die
         for our sins

Have you received the mercy God offers through "Jesus Christ...the
Son of David, the Son of Abraham"?

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011