"CONVERSIONS IN THE BOOK OF ACTS" The Corinthians (18:1-11) INTRODUCTION 1. Following his limited success at Athens, Paul went to nearby Corinth... a. An economic center of Greece, known for its immorality b. It became an important focus of Paul's ministry 1) Where he stayed a year and a half on his second missionary journey 2) Where he visited once and possibly twice on his third journey c. A well-known church was established, the recipient of at least two epistles by Paul 2. The establishment of the church is described in Ac 18:1-11 in which we read of... a. Paul's work in the local synagogue b. The conversion of many Corinthians, including the ruler of the synagogue 3. We also read something about their conversion in 1Co 1:14-17... a. Where Paul expresses thanks for personally baptizing just a few of the Corinthians b. In which some have concluded that Paul was declaring the non-essentiality of baptism 4. In this study we shall examine the conversion of "The Corinthians"... a. Once again, to glean what we can about the gospel's message and response b. To determine whether Paul was actually demeaning the importance of baptism in his epistle to the Corinthians [Turning to Ac 18:1-11, let's review Luke's account of...] I. THE CONVERSION OF THE CORINTHIANS A. PAUL'S ARRIVAL IN CORINTH... 1. He meets up with Aquila and Priscilla - Ac 18:1-2 2. Of the same trade (tentmakers), Paul stays with them - Ac 18:3 B. PAUL'S MINISTRY AT CORINTH... 1. He goes to the synagogue, as was his custom - Ac 18:4; cf.17:1-3 a. He "reasons" with the people, as he did with... 1) Those at Thessalonica - cf. Ac 17:2 2) Those at Athens - Ac 17:17 3) Those at Ephesus - Ac 18:19; 19:8-9 4) Felix the governor - Ac 24:25 5) Festus and Agrippa - Ac 26:25 -- The gospel is designed to appeal to the mind as well as the heart! - cf. Mt 22:37 b. He "persuades" both Jews and Greeks... 1) As he did at Thessalonica - Ac 17:4 2) As he did at Ephesus - Ac 19:8 3) As he came close to doing with King Agrippa - Ac 26:28 -- Again, the gospel appeals to the reasoning processes of the mind 2. When Silas and Timothy arrive, Paul is constrained to preach even more - Ac 18:5 a. He "testified" to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ - cf. Ac 20:21,24; 23:11; 28:23 b. Such testimony likely involved: 1) Using the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament - Ac 17:2-3 2) His eyewitness testimony as an apostle - cf. Ac 26:16 3. Rejection by some of the Jews sends him to the Gentiles - Ac 18:6-7 a. Just as it did at Antioch of Pisidia - Ac 13:45-46 b. In Corinth, Paul has only to go next door, to the home of Justus 4. The gospel bears fruit in Corinth - Ac 18:8 a. Crispus, ruler of the synagogue, believes with all his household - cf. 1Co 1:14 b. Many of the Corinthians believe and are baptized 5. Encouraged by the Lord in a vision, Paul stays for a year and a half - Ac 18:9-11 [With Luke's description, we see a similarity with what we have read before. Upon hearing the gospel, those persuaded both believe and are baptized (cf. Ac 8:12; 18:8). This is certainly in keeping with the commission of our Lord (cf. Mk 16:15-16). But often people will use Paul's comments in 1Co 1:14-17 to say that baptism has nothing to do with conversion (salvation). Is that true? Let's take a close look at...] II. PAUL'S COMMENTS TO THE CORINTHIANS A. THE CONTEXT... 1. The church at Corinth was badly divided - 1Co 1:10-11 2. People were aligning themselves as followers of different men (perhaps based upon who baptized them) - 1Co 1:12-13 3. Paul illustrates the absurdity of calling themselves after men with several rhetorical questions a. "Is Christ divided?" b. "Was Paul crucified for you?" c. "Were you baptized in the name of Paul?" -- The implied answer to each question was "NO!" 5. But notice what else is implied by each question... a. Christ is not divided b. It was Christ (not some man) who was crucified for you c. You were baptized, not in the name of some man, but in the name of Christ! -- So the context itself implies what we read in Ac 18:8 ("...many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.") B. PAUL'S COMMENTS... 1. "I thank God that I baptized none of you except..." - 1Co 1:14 a. Paul should be understood in light of the context b. Since some of the Corinthians were dividing over who may have baptized them, Paul was grateful that he had not PERSONALLY baptized many of them c. His reason? 1) Not because he did not consider baptism important 2) But as he states himself: "...lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name." - 1Co 1:15 d. The Corinthians had been baptized - cf. Ac 18:8; 1Co 1:13 1) As a result of Paul's preaching, by the way 2) But not many by Paul personally, for which he was later thankful! 2. "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel..." - 1Co 1:17 a. Are we to understand Paul to say that he did not preach baptism? 1) Clearly he did to Lydia and the Philippian jailor - Ac 16:14-15; 32-33 2) Clearly he did to the Corinthians - Ac 18:8 3) He taught baptism as the means by which one puts on Christ - Ga 3:27 4) He taught baptism as the means by which one dies to sin - Ro 6:1-7 b. Rather, we are to understand that Paul was emphasizing his function as apostle 1) He was sent to preach the gospel (which includes the command to be baptized - Mk 16:15-16) 2) It was not his primary function to perform the baptisms of those who responded to the gospel! a) Though he did in some cases - 1Co 1:14,16 b) But he was often accompanied by others (e.g., Silas, Timothy, Luke), and they were likely the ones to handle the physical act of immersing people 3) In view of what later occurred at Corinth, he is simply thankful that his involvement in the act of baptizing others was rather limited -- Such was the point of Paul's comments, and they should not be understood as Paul demeaning the value or place of baptism in the process of conversion! CONCLUSION 1. The conversion of "The Corinthians" confirms what we have seen in previous examples of conversions in the book of Acts... a. The gospel concerning Jesus as the Christ was proclaimed b. Those "persuaded" by the gospel message believed and were baptized immediately 2. The conversion of "The Corinthians" also stands out because of the impact the gospel had in their lives... a. As mentioned, the city of Corinth was known for its immorality b. Many of the members of the church had lived immoral lives - cf. 1Co 6:9-11a c. Yet through their faith and obedience to the gospel of Christ, Paul could write: "But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." (1Co 6:11) Such is the power of the gospel of Christ to the obedient believer. Have you been "washed", "sanctified", and "justified"? Let the conversions in the book of Acts show you how!
The Quran: the Sun Sets in a Mud Puddle?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The Quran contains a considerable amount of uninspired folklore from Jewish (and other) sources. It also occasionally incorporates elements of mythology and fairytale in its pages. In a surah that Muslim sources identify as one in which Muhammad answered questions designed by Jewish rabbis to challenge his prophethood (Pickthall, n.d., pp. 211-212), the Quran relates the story of Dhu‘l-Qarneyn—“The Two-Horned One.” In conveying the story, the Quran gives credence to the outrageous superstition that the Sun sets in a mud puddle:
They will ask thee of Dhu’l-Qarneyn. Say: I shall recite unto you a remembrance of him. Lo! We made him strong in the land and gave him unto every thing a road. And he followed a road till, when he reached the setting‑place of the sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring, and found a people thereabout: We said: O Dhu’l‑Qarneyn! Either punish or show them kindness. He said: As for him who doeth wrong, we shall punish him, and then he will be brought back unto his Lord, who will punish him with awful punishment! But as for him who believeth and doeth right, good will be his reward, and We shall speak unto him a mild command. Then he followed a road till, when he reached the rising‑place of the sun, he found it rising on a people for whom We had appointed no shelter therefrom. So (it was). And We knew all concerning him (Surah 18:84-92, emp. added).
Observe that the Quran’s account is not worded in such a way as to be allowable on the basis of accommodative or phenomenal language—even as we speak of the Sun setting or rising. The inclusion of the location of the Sun’s setting—a muddy spring—places the account squarely into the realm of myth.
The same mistake is made earlier in the same surah (vss. 10-27) when the Quran lends credibility to the legend of the “Seven Sleepers of Ephesus” (see Campbell, 2002; Gilchrist, 1986). The legends (which predate the Quran) spoke of seven (the number varies) noble Christian youths who fled persecution during the reign of Decius the Emperor who died in A.D. 251. The youths took refuge in a cave near Ephesus, but then were sealed in to die. Instead, their lives were miraculously preserved by falling into a deep sleep that lasted for nearly 200 years, a sleep the Quran claims lasted 309 years (vs. 26). For the Quran to dignify such outlandish tales is to disprove its own inspiration.
Campbell, William (2002), The Quran and the Bible in the Light of History and Science, [On-line],URL: http://answering-islam.org.uk/Campbell/contents.html.
Gilchrist, John (1986), Muhammad and the Religion of Islam, [On-line], URL: http://answering-islam.org.uk/Gilchrist/Vol1/5c.html.
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (n.d.), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
Do Babies Go to Hell When They Die?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.A.|
One of the most often-used weapons in the skeptic’s arsenal is to seize statements from religious people that make God look like a cruel despot waiting to cast any and everyone into a torturous lake of eternal fire. However, this frequently lands the skeptic in a less-than-defensible position when the actual text of the Bible is consulted. Consider the following paragraph from Ronald Defenbaugh, a self-avowed atheist:
One evening, a friend about the same age as us rode home with us from one of our children’s sporting events. This was the first time I realized I may have a real problem with believing. She was a good friend of my spouse’s, a member of our Church and very religious. I don’t remember how the subject came up but salvation was our subject of conversation. She stated that even though my father had been an honest, caring person who did nothing but good, he would not receive salvation. He could only go to Heaven if he accepted Christ as his Savior. I remember thinking that I wanted no part of a deity that sent my father to Hell under those circumstances. Why would a baby, or my father, or even me be sent to Hell just because we didn’t accept Christ as our Savior? What about the Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists? Again, what about me? This started me thinking that I probably was without belief. Or at least I didn’t understand it. It didn’t fit my logic (2003, emp. added).
After hearing from his religious friend that his father would not be in heaven because of his failure to obey Jesus’ teachings, Mr. Defenbaugh quickly constructed a straw man by insinuating that the God of the Bible would have no problem sending babies to hell along with disobedient, reasonable adults.
Does the Bible teach that babies go to hell when they die? In order to answer this question, we must find a biblical example in which an infant died, and in which his or her eternal destination is recorded. To do such is not difficult. In 2 Samuel 12, King David’s newborn son fell terminally ill. After seven days, the child died. In verses 22 and 23, the Bible records that David said: “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” It is clear that David’s dead infant son would never return to this Earth, but David also said that one day, he would go to be with his son. Through inspiration, David documented that his own eternal destination was going to be “in the house of the Lord” (Psalm 23:6). Therefore, we can conclude that “the house of the Lord” would be the eternal destination of his infant son to whom David would one day go. King David was looking forward to the day when he would be able to meet his son in heaven. Absolutely nothing in this context gives any hint that the dead infant son’s soul would go to hell.
Furthermore, Jesus said in Matthew 18:3-5:
Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.
And in Luke 18:16-17, Jesus remarked: “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”
Therefore, we have been given a specific example in the Old Testament of an infant who died and would live forever in heaven. And Jesus Christ Himself, in the New Testament, stated that little children retain the qualities that make a person eligible to inherit the kingdom of God. We see, then, that infants and small children that die are in a safe state, and will live eternally in heaven.
With such clear statements from the Bible about the eternal destiny of dead infants and small children, why have religious people mistakenly taught that babies go to hell when they die? Due to the influential nature of John Calvin and his teachings, many people have taught that sin is “passed” from one generation to the next. It is believed by many religious people that children “inherit” the sins of their parents. Yet, the Bible pointedly and explicitly teaches that such is not the case. In Ezekiel 18:20, the Bible says: “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son.” Also, in Exodus 32, Moses pleaded with God to forgive the sins of the Israelites when he said: “Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book’ ” (Exodus 32:32-33). The Bible is plain in its teaching that babies do not inherit the sins of their parents. [One commonly misapplied scripture used to teach that infants inherit sin is Psalm 51:5-6, which has been dealt with in detail by Wayne Jackson (2000).]
The Bible nowhere teaches that babies go to hell if they die in infancy. Neither does it teach that babies inherit the sins of their parents. Although many skeptics have tried to portray God as an evil tyrant Who condemns innocent children to eternal destruction, their arguments are without merit or any semblance of biblical credence. In the words of Jesus Christ, “Let the little children come to me.”
Defenbaugh, Ronald (2003), “Why I Couldn’t Deconvert,” [On-line], URL: http://www.secweb.org/asset.asp?AssetID=263. Jackson, Wayne (2000), “ ‘Original Sin’ and a Misapplied Passage,” [On-line], URL: http://www.christiancourier.com/archives/originalSin.htm
Beware of Dawkins’ “Common Sense”
|by||Kyle Butt, M.A.|
Due to Richard Dawkins’ atheistic assumptions, he has the impossible task of trying to arrive at a legitimate set of ethical judgments. He robustly denies that the idea of God offers any real morality, but as he attempts to contrive morality without a divine standard, he quickly loses his way and makes self-contradictory statements.
For instance, in chapter 9 of his book The God Delusion, Dawkins argues that teaching a child to be religious is a form of mental child abuse. Of course, he lumps all religious practices together (which is a logical fallacy in the first place; e.g., Butt, 2007) and chooses an example that is inconsistent with truth. He correctly states that it is wrong to think that sprinkling a little water on an infant has any ability to “totally change a child’s life” (e.g., Colley, 2004). But, to arrive at his conclusion, Dawkins says that the implications of infant baptism fly in the face of “everything that ordinary common sense and human feeling see as important” (2006, p. 213, emp. added).
Notice one of Dawkins’ reasons for claiming that the practice is wrong—because it goes against “common sense.” Of course, the next question to be asked is, “How reliable of a guide is common sense?” Should we always trust our “common sense” when making moral decisions? Dawkins answers that question himself, although probably unwittingly. In his discussion of tiny quantum particles, Dawkins claims that the human brain has not really evolved the ability to understand many physical realities on a quantum scale. He states that much that we have learned about quantum mechanics goes against our “common-sense” notions. Thus, he concluded: “Common sense lets us down, because common sense evolved in a world where nothing moves very fast, and nothing is very small or very large” (2006, p. 364).
Putting the pieces together, then, Dawkins believes that moral decisions should be based on what the general population determines to be moral (Dawkins, 2006, pp. 237-278). Basically, he states that the combined “common sense” of humanity serves as a good indicator of morally correct behavior. But then he suggests that “common sense” is nothing more than an evolved entity that can “let us down.” If common sense can “let us down” in our judgments about the physical world, does it not also follow that it can do the same in moral determinations?
With such inconsistent statements, Dawkins forces himself and his fellow atheists back to the drawing board to concoct some facsimile of moral oughtness. In the end, all he can really conclude is that there are no moral absolutes and we cannot be certain that anything is really right or wrong. He said as much himself when he stated: “Fortunately, however, morals do not have to be absolute” (2006, p. 232). And, whereas one could easily argue that Dawkins’ idea of constant moral fluctuation goes against “common sense,” that is not why his idea is wrong. It is wrong because it violates the self-evident rules of logic, dismisses the powerful and irrefutable evidence that a divine Creator exists, and contradicts the Truth revealed by that Creator.
Butt, Kyle (2007), “All Religion Is Bad Because Some Is?,” [On-line], URL:http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3546.
Colley, Caleb (2004), “Did Jesus Command Infant Baptism?,” [On-line], URL:http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2638.
Dawkins, Richard (2006), The God Delusion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin).
A Sponge with Fiber Optics
|by||Kyle Butt, M.A.|
The last time you picked up a phone to call your business partner about a work project, you might have been using fiber optics. The last time you logged onto the World Wide Web from your home computer, you might have been using fiber optics. We hear much about fiber optics these days, but what, exactly, is meant by the term “fiber optics”? In simple terms, a fiber-optic cable has a core (center) made of very thin glass. Light can travel through the glass and relay light signals that can reproduce sound and other information. Fiber-optic cables stretch thousands of miles all across the world, and can send information quickly and efficiently.
But there are some problems with these cables. First, since they are glass, they can be brittle, which means they can crack and break. Digging up the cables and replacing them is very expensive. Second, in order to produce the cables, factories must use very high heat, which also is very expensive. Fiber optics are amazing, but they could use some improvement.
Interestingly, scientists have found an amazing sponge that has wonderful fiber-optic “cables.” The sponge, called the Venus Flower Basket, lives in the deep waters of the ocean. This sponge produces several fiber-optic cables that grow out of its base. These tiny cables are about as wide as a single human hair, and grow to be anywhere from 2 to 7 inches long.
The fibers produced by the Venus Flower Basket have several advantages over the manmade ones. First, they are produced in cool temperatures. If we humans could learn to copy this, we could save millions of dollars. Second, the fibers from the sponge are very strong and flexible, and do not crack and break like the ones humans produce. In fact, the fibers from the sponge are so flexible they can be tied into a knot. If scientists could learn to make such strong, flexible fibers, we would not have to spend as much time and money repairing our current fiber-optic cables.
Dan Vergano, in an article for USA Today, wrote about the Venus Flower Basket. He quoted several researchers who had been working with the fiber-optic cables of the sponge, or some other facet of biomimetics (the science of copying nature). George Matsumoto, a marine researcher of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Moss Landing, California, said: “Nature often provides us with a better way of doing thing [sic].” He went on to comment that sponges have evolved varied traits over more than 400 million years (2003).
It is amazing that many scientists who are working in the field of biomimicry do not acknowledge the implications of their work. It is a self-evident truth that where there is design, there must of necessity, be a designer; where there is a painting, there must be a painter. Those who study biomimicry freely acknowledge design in nature. For example, what seems to be the official Web site on biomimicry offers a course from its home page titled “Biologists at the Design Table.” In the course summary, under the heading of “Workshop Logistics,” the site describes the participants in the course as those who are “biologists and naturalists with a passion for the natural world, an understanding of sustainability and an interest in applying nature’s elegant design strategies to human challenges” (n.d., “Biomimicry,” emp. added).
Supposedly, then, over a period of billions of years, nature developed “elegant design strategies”—the likes of which even our most educated, brilliant minds have yet to plumb the depths. And yet we are to believe that this “design” somehow originated by a process of blind, evolutionary chance. Such a conclusion steps beyond bounds of logic.
Intelligent scientists have been working on fiber-optic cables for many years, just to get them to work as well as they do now. Yet, the Venus Flower Basket has strong, flexible fibers that are produced in cool temperatures. If there is design, which is even more intricate and efficient than that produced by highly intelligent humans, then the designer of such must have an intellect equal to or greater than the humans themselves. The writer of Hebrews accurately noted: “For every house is built by someone, but he who built all things is God” (3:4). God’s design in the sponge’s fiber-optic “cables” proves that animals like the Venus Flower Basket did not evolve. Design demands a Designer.
“Biomimicry,” (n.d.) [On-line], URL: http://www.biomimicry.org/intro.html.
Vergano, Dan (2003), “Sponge Goes Man-made Fiber Optics One Better,” USA Today, [On-line],URL: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/techinnovations/2003-08-20-sponge-fibers_x.htm.
America's Sexual Anarchy
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
A host of social indicators document the continuing moral and spiritual decline of America. Two of the most recent ought to evoke national mourning. One comes from a biennial study of the sexual content of television programming by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Their findings: The number of sexual scenes on television has nearly doubled since 1998. The study found that 70% of all shows include some sexual content, and that these shows average five sexual scenes per hour (Graham and Kingsley, 2005, emp. added).
The second social indicator comes from a report by the National Center for Health Statistics that summarizes the 2004 birth rates for the United States. Childbearing by unmarried women reached a record high of almost 1.5 million births in 2004. More than 4 in 5 births to teenagers were nonmarital. Over half of births to women in their early twenties and nearly 3 in 10 births to women aged 25–29 were to unmarried women. This data means that in 2004, 35.7 percent of all births were illegitimate(Hamilton, et al., 2005, emp. added).
These social indicators are staggering! From the 1960s to the present, American civilization is being sucked into the vortex of sexual disorder and confusion. The dismantling of the Christian foundations of America has resulted in a plethora of sexually deviant actions. America is literally spiraling downward into the abyss of moral depravity and degradation. Many are emulating the adulterous woman, who “eats and wipes her mouth, and says, ‘I have done no wickedness’” (Proverbs 30:20). But God still warns: “flee sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18). Indeed, doom is inevitable for a nation gripped by such widespread sexual anarchy. “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of hell” (Proverbs 9:17-18).
Graham, Rob and Sarah Kingsley (2005), “Number of Sexual Scenes on TV Nearly Double Since 1998,” Kaiser Family Foundation, [On-line], URL: http://www.kff.org/entmedia/entmedi a110905nr.cfm.
Hamilton, Brady, Stephanie Ventura, Joyce Martin, and Paul Sutton (2005), “Preliminary Births for 2004,” National Center for Health Statistics, [On-line], URL: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/pubs/pubd/hestats/prelim_births/prelim _births04.htm.
Luke 18 and the tireless widow
In the story the widow's future is in the hands of the wicked judge. Her hunger for justice (vindication) against her enemies finally gains for her what she hungers for. The point we need to stress is her refusal to settle for less and so her constant coming because we're told that that's why the story was told, "that they should always pray and not give up." We're shown a woman who wouldn't give up! She wouldn't give up even though she had to deal with a judge that cared nothing for justice. It's because a host of people believe they can't get justice in the courts that they don't report crimes or they sink into despair or, in some cases, become vigilantes.
God's elect (Luke 18:7) are to pay attention to the woman who wouldn't give up even in the face of circumstances that would make it look like there wasn't any point in going on.
Unlike the judge who has no commitment to justice God is wholly committed to it. The slow appearance of justice for the elect is not due to anything in God that is like the judge. [He won't give the elect what they ask just so he can have peace and quiet.]
OT textual background to the parable
The background to the story and the situation that led to the story, without doubt, would be passages like Malachi 2:17 and 3:1-6. The implication in Malachi 2:17 is that God is like the unjust judge of the Luke 18 parable—he shows no obvious interest in justice, which is why we have the sneering question by the ungodly in the Malachi text—the words that God said wearied him, "Where is the God of justice?". If you put the question in the mouths of the wicked (as we clearly should do) it would mean they weren't afraid of the God of justice. If you put the question in the mouths of the Jewish oppressed—a question such people ask in other texts—it would mean that they were near despair.
Malachi 3 insists that God will indeed come in keeping with his commitment to righteousness. He would come in and as the "messenger of the covenant" for whom Israel looked (3:1-3) but when he comes it won't be all joy because those he'll meet will generally be faithless people. Here's what Malachi 3:5 says: "So I will come near to you for judgement. I will be quick to testify against the sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me, says the Lord Almighty."
Notice the things Malachi has in common with the Luke 18 text. There's the similarity in terms and setting such as, "perjury," oppression, justice withheld, widows, judges (implied) who respect neither God nor aliens, whom they deprive of their due.
In addition to the court terms and setting there's the notion of delay in Malachi 2:17 and throughout the story Jesus tells, and specifically in Luke 18:7. Finally, there's the coming of the Lord in the person of the Messenger of the Covenant and the coming of the Son of Man (Malachi 3:1-3 and Luke 18:8).
Some interpretive pointers from Jesus
Jesus centres the story around justice not yet given and not simply some blessing we'd like to have or obtain.
[I'm thinking of our asking God for healing for ourselves or our loved ones, or a better job or a cure for a hurting marriage. Other texts encourage such requests but this text isn't one of them.]
Jesus clearly implies that the request for justice is one that has been going on for quite some time—it has been delayed (see 18:7).
[Christ's remark about God while it assures the praying people that they will get justice nevertheless indicates that it has been some time in coming. "Will he keep putting them off?" See the comments above on Malachi.]
Jesus parallels this individual in the story to the elect (plural) and the prayers of the elect for justice.
[Certainly the elect is made up of individuals but "the elect" is more than a collection of persons—it is a plural unity, a community, a people. In the application of the story Jesus tells us that he is speaking of "the elect" and the prayers of the elect for justice (in the face of oppressors).]
Jesus insists that despite the delay justice was coming and it was to come soon.
["Will he (God) keep putting them off? I tell you he will see that they get justice, and quickly." Luke 18:7-8; I'm following the NIV and numerous other versions that render similarly. We mustn't dismiss this double assurance. Not only will the elect get it, they will get it "quickly" (the versions agree on that.) Bearing in mind that Jesus said that vindication of the elect would come soon we need to insist on an historical setting.]
Jesus clearly associates the soon coming vindication of the elect with the coming of the Son of Man.
[There are several possible and reasonable understandings of the "coming" of the Son of Man. His yet-future and final coming is hardly one of them since Jesus spoke those words 2,000 years ago. There is the coming of the Son of Man in judgement on the Jewish nation, culminating in 70AD (see Matthew 24:26, 30, 34, Luke 17:22-37). There is the coming of the Lord in the person of the Holy Spirit at his exaltation, when he was made Lord and Judge of all (see John 14:16, 18, 23, 28-29, Acts 2:33-36). Allthese comings are distinct in reference and should be held as distinct but they're interrelated and are manifestations of the one King of Kings and his authority. You might wish to read this.]
What I'm sure we're not to do with the section is to personalise it and make it a promise that God will give us anything we ask if we just keep asking for it. There is a copper-bottomed assurance in this text that God would grant—and soon—the vindication his elect sought for but we're not to ignore the very words of the text, the section's historical setting and the vast issue in Jesus' mind.
We're not to reduce this divine promise to "vindicate the elect" to God's promise to give us (even good) things that we judge important and for which we hunger. Let me repeat, if I ask God for the recovery of a loved one from debilitating disease (maybe rheumatoid arthritis) there is no guarantee that the loved one will recover and there's certainly no assurance that they will recover soon. This is not what the section is about.
Teachers only injure people when they make promises in God's name that God did not make! This is especially true when what the person earnestly and patiently seeks doesn't come about. In the case above, the agonised arthritic sufferer gets worse and finally dies—what then of our use of this section?
It's our tendency to take all passages on prayer as promises to each and every individual and concerning all of our personal needs and wants. It's hardly surprising then that in so much of the evangelical world prayer becomes self-centred; we encourage it. It also becomes a source of resentment toward God when it appears that God isn't living up to his promises. Sometimes it generates great feelings of guilt for desperate people begin to think that God isn't answering their prayers because they are unworthy. This only adds a great burden to heavy burdens already existing.
This isn't a fair treatment of the text nor is it helpful to a sometimes desperate believer who feels he/she has come to the end of their tether only to find God doesn't keep his promises (the promises we say he made).
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
The World English Bible
Judges 7, 8
Jdg 7:1 Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people who were with him, rose up early, and encamped beside the spring of Harod: and the camp of Midian was on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.
Jdg 7:2 Yahweh said to Gideon, The people who are with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, My own hand has saved me.
Jdg 7:3 Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead. There returned of the people twenty-two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.
Jdg 7:4 Yahweh said to Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down to the water, and I will try them for you there: and it shall be, that of whom I tell you, This shall go with you, the same shall go with you; and of whoever I tell you, This shall not go with you, the same shall not go.
Jdg 7:5 So he brought down the people to the water: and Yahweh said to Gideon, Everyone who laps of the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set him by himself; likewise everyone who bows down on his knees to drink.
Jdg 7:6 The number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down on their knees to drink water.
Jdg 7:7 Yahweh said to Gideon, By the three hundred men who lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into your hand; and let all the people go every man to his place.
Jdg 7:8 So the people took food in their hand, and their trumpets; and he sent all the men of Israel every man to his tent, but retained the three hundred men: and the camp of Midian was beneath him in the valley.
Jdg 7:9 It happened the same night, that Yahweh said to him, Arise, go down into the camp; for I have delivered it into your hand.
Jdg 7:10 But if you fear to go down, go with Purah your servant down to the camp:
Jdg 7:11 and you shall hear what they say; and afterward your will hands be strengthened to go down into the camp. Then went he down with Purah his servant to the outermost part of the armed men who were in the camp.
Jdg 7:12 The Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like locusts for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand which is on the seashore for multitude.
Jdg 7:13 When Gideon had come, behold, there was a man telling a dream to his fellow; and he said, Behold, I dreamed a dream; and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian, and came to the tent, and struck it so that it fell, and turned it upside down, so that the tent lay flat.
Jdg 7:14 His fellow answered, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: into his hand God has delivered Midian, and all the army.
Jdg 7:15 It was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and its interpretation, that he worshiped; and he returned into the camp of Israel, and said, Arise; for Yahweh has delivered into your hand the army of Midian.
Jdg 7:16 He divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put into the hands of all of them trumpets, and empty pitchers, with torches within the pitchers.
Jdg 7:17 He said to them, Look on me, and do likewise: and behold, when I come to the outermost part of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so you shall do.
Jdg 7:18 When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then blow the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, For Yahweh and for Gideon.
Jdg 7:19 So Gideon, and the hundred men who were with him, came to the outermost part of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch, when they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and broke in pieces the pitchers that were in their hands.
Jdg 7:20 The three companies blew the trumpets, and broke the pitchers, and held the torches in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands with which to blow; and they cried, The sword of Yahweh and of Gideon.
Jdg 7:21 They stood every man in his place around the camp; and all the army ran; and they shouted, and put them to flight.
Jdg 7:22 They blew the three hundred trumpets, and Yahweh set every man's sword against his fellow, and against all the army; and the army fled as far as Beth Shittah toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel Meholah, by Tabbath.
Jdg 7:23 The men of Israel were gathered together out of Naphtali, and out of Asher, and out of all Manasseh, and pursued after Midian.
Jdg 7:24 Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, Come down against Midian, and take before them the waters, as far as Beth Barah, even the Jordan. So all the men of Ephraim were gathered together, and took the waters as far as Beth Barah, even the Jordan.
Jdg 7:25 They took the two princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb; and they killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb they killed at the winepress of Zeeb, and pursued Midian: and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon beyond the Jordan.
Jdg 8:1 The men of Ephraim said to him, Why have you treated us this way, that you didn't call us, when you went to fight with Midian? They rebuked him sharply.
Jdg 8:2 He said to them, What have I now done in comparison with you? Isn't the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?
Jdg 8:3 God has delivered into your hand the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I able to do in comparison with you? Then their anger was abated toward him, when he had said that.
Jdg 8:4 Gideon came to the Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men who were with him, faint, yet pursuing.
Jdg 8:5 He said to the men of Succoth, Please give loaves of bread to the people who follow me; for they are faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.
Jdg 8:6 The princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give bread to your army?
Jdg 8:7 Gideon said, Therefore when Yahweh has delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.
Jdg 8:8 He went up there to Penuel, and spoke to them in like manner; and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered.
Jdg 8:9 He spoke also to the men of Penuel, saying, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.
Jdg 8:10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their armies with them, about fifteen thousand men, all who were left of all the army of the children of the east; for there fell one hundred twenty thousand men who drew sword.
Jdg 8:11 Gideon went up by the way of those who lived in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and struck the army; for the army was secure.
Jdg 8:12 Zebah and Zalmunna fled; and he pursued after them; and he took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and confused all the army.
Jdg 8:13 Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle from the ascent of Heres.
Jdg 8:14 He caught a young man of the men of Succoth, and inquired of him: and he described for him the princes of Succoth, and its elders, seventy-seven men.
Jdg 8:15 He came to the men of Succoth, and said, See Zebah and Zalmunna, concerning whom you taunted me, saying, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give bread to your men who are weary?
Jdg 8:16 He took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth.
Jdg 8:17 He broke down the tower of Penuel, and killed the men of the city.
Jdg 8:18 Then said he to Zebah and Zalmunna, What kind of men were they whom you killed at Tabor? They answered, They were like you. Each one resembled the children of a king.
Jdg 8:19 He said, They were my brothers, the sons of my mother: as Yahweh lives, if you had saved them alive, I would not kill you.
Jdg 8:20 He said to Jether his firstborn, Up, and kill them. But the youth didn't draw his sword; for he feared, because he was yet a youth.
Jdg 8:21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise and fall on us; for as the man is, so is his strength. Gideon arose, and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the crescents that were on their camels' necks.
Jdg 8:22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, Rule over us, both you, and your son, and your son's son also; for you have saved us out of the hand of Midian.
Jdg 8:23 Gideon said to them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: Yahweh shall rule over you.
Jdg 8:24 Gideon said to them, I would make a request of you, that you would give me every man the earrings of his spoil. (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.)
Jdg 8:25 They answered, We will willingly give them. They spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his spoil.
Jdg 8:26 The weight of the golden earrings that he requested was one thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold, besides the crescents, and the pendants, and the purple clothing that was on the kings of Midian, and besides the chains that were about their camels' necks.
Jdg 8:27 Gideon made an ephod of it, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel played the prostitute after it there; and it became a snare to Gideon, and to his house.
Jdg 8:28 So Midian was subdued before the children of Israel, and they lifted up their heads no more. The land had rest forty years in the days of Gideon.
Jdg 8:29 Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and lived in his own house.
Jdg 8:30 Gideon had seventy sons conceived from his body; for he had many wives.
Jdg 8:31 His concubine who was in Shechem, she also bore him a son, and he named him Abimelech.
Jdg 8:32 Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age, and was buried in the tomb of Joash his father, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
Jdg 8:33 It happened, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and played the prostitute after the Baals, and made Baal Berith their god.
Jdg 8:34 The children of Israel didn't remember Yahweh their God, who had delivered them out of the hand of all their enemies on every side;
Jdg 8:35 neither did they show kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shown to Israel.
May 24, 25
Joh 5:1 After these things, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Joh 5:2 Now in Jerusalem by the sheep gate, there is a pool, which is called in Hebrew, "Bethesda," having five porches.
Joh 5:3 In these lay a great multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, or paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water;
Joh 5:4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain times into the pool, and stirred up the water. Whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was made whole of whatever disease he had.
Joh 5:5 A certain man was there, who had been sick for thirty-eight years.
Joh 5:6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had been sick for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to be made well?"
Joh 5:7 The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I'm coming, another steps down before me."
Joh 5:8 Jesus said to him, "Arise, take up your mat, and walk."
Joh 5:9 Immediately, the man was made well, and took up his mat and walked. Now it was the Sabbath on that day.
Joh 5:10 So the Jews said to him who was cured, "It is the Sabbath. It is not lawful for you to carry the mat."
Joh 5:11 He answered them, "He who made me well, the same said to me, 'Take up your mat, and walk.' "
Joh 5:12 Then they asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, 'Take up your mat, and walk' ?"
Joh 5:13 But he who was healed didn't know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a crowd being in the place.
Joh 5:14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "Behold, you are made well. Sin no more, so that nothing worse happens to you."
Joh 5:15 The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
Joh 5:16 For this cause the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill him, because he did these things on the Sabbath.
Joh 5:17 But Jesus answered them, "My Father is still working, so I am working, too."
Joh 5:18 For this cause therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath, but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
Joh 5:19 Jesus therefore answered them, "Most certainly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father doing. For whatever things he does, these the Son also does likewise.
Joh 5:20 For the Father has affection for the Son, and shows him all things that he himself does. He will show him greater works than these, that you may marvel.
Joh 5:21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom he desires.
Joh 5:22 For the Father judges no one, but he has given all judgment to the Son,
Joh 5:23 that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who doesn't honor the Son doesn't honor the Father who sent him.
Joh 5:24 "Most certainly I tell you, he who hears my word, and believes him who sent me, has eternal life, and doesn't come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
Joh 5:25 Most certainly, I tell you, the hour comes, and now is, when the dead will hear the Son of God's voice; and those who hear will live.
Joh 5:26 For as the Father has life in himself, even so he gave to the Son also to have life in himself.
Joh 5:27 He also gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is a son of man.
Joh 5:28 Don't marvel at this, for the hour comes, in which all that are in the tombs will hear his voice,
Joh 5:29 and will come out; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.
Joh 5:30 I can of myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is righteous; because I don't seek my own will, but the will of my Father who sent me.
Joh 5:31 "If I testify about myself, my witness is not valid.
Joh 5:32 It is another who testifies about me. I know that the testimony which he testifies about me is true.
Joh 5:33 You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth.
Joh 5:34 But the testimony which I receive is not from man. However, I say these things that you may be saved.
Joh 5:35 He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.
Joh 5:36 But the testimony which I have is greater than that of John, for the works which the Father gave me to accomplish, the very works that I do, testify about me, that the Father has sent me.
Joh 5:37 The Father himself, who sent me, has testified about me. You have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his form.
Joh 5:38 You don't have his word living in you; because you don't believe him whom he sent.
Joh 5:39 "You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and these are they which testify about me.
Joh 5:40 Yet you will not come to me, that you may have life.
Joh 5:41 I don't receive glory from men.
Joh 5:42 But I know you, that you don't have God's love in yourselves.
Joh 5:43 I have come in my Father's name, and you don't receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him.
Joh 5:44 How can you believe, who receive glory from one another, and you don't seek the glory that comes from the only God?
Joh 5:45 "Don't think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you, even Moses, on whom you have set your hope.
Joh 5:46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote about me.
Joh 5:47 But if you don't believe his writings, how will you believe my words?"