"THE BOOK OF RUTH" Ruth's Lowly Service: "Let Me Glean" (2:1-23) INTRODUCTION 1. In our previous study, we saw how Ruth came to be the daughter-in-law to Naomi... a. The journey to Moab of Elimelech, Naomi, and their two sons b. The death of Elimelech, and marriages of the sons to Naomi and Orpah c. The deaths of the sons, and Naomi's return to Judah accompanied by Ruth 2. We noticed the "noble choice" that was made by Ruth... a. To leave her home and religion of Moab b. To adopt Naomi's home and God as her own - cf. Ru 1:16-17 3. Noteworthy throughout this story is the filial devotion Ruth has toward her mother-in-law... a. We saw it in her "noble choice" b. We will see it again in her "lowly service" [The chapter begins where the previous one ended: at the time of the barley harvest. In such a setting we read how...] I. RUTH GLEANS IN THE FIELDS OF BOAZ A. RUTH REQUESTS TO GLEAN IN THE FIELDS... 1. We are introduced to Boaz - Ru 2:1 a. A relative of Naomi's husband, Elimelech b. A man of great wealth 2. Ruth gains permission from Naomi to let her glean - Ru 2:2 a. Hoping to find favor (kindness) from a landowner 1) The Law forbid owners from reaping the corners and gathering the gleanings of the harvest - cf. Lev 19:9-10 2) In this way God provided for strangers, the fatherless, and widows - Deut 24:19-22 b. Perhaps not all land owners respected this law 1) Especially toward "strangers" 2) We are reminded eight times in this book that Ruth was a "Moabitess" 3. Ruth "happened" to come upon the field belonging to Boaz - Ru 2:3 a. Gleaning after the reapers, as the Law allowed b. She "happened" to come to the field belonging to Boaz 1) The word suggests it was by "chance", which may how it first appeared 2) The overall context of the book reveals it was by "providence" B. BOAZ INQUIRES ABOUT THE WOMAN IN THE FIELDS... 1. We see the respect between Boaz and his workers - Ru 2:4 a. He entreats the Lord's presence upon them b. They bid the Lord's blessing upon him 2. Boaz asks his foreman about the strange woman - Ru 2:5-7 a. Who relates her Moabite background, and her relation to Naomi b. Who recounts her request to glean, and her diligent labor [With Boaz now aware of Ruth's identity, we next learn how...] II. BOAZ EXTENDS KINDNESS TO RUTH A. HIS INITIAL KINDNESS... 1. Boaz encourages her to glean in his field alone - Ru 2:8-9 a. To stay by his young women b. To know that his young men have been commanded not to touch her c. To drink when thirsty the water drawn by the young men 2. Ruth inquires why he is so kind to her, a foreigner - Ru 2:10-12 a. Boaz has heard of her devotion to Naomi, and her "noble choice" b. Boaz prays the Lord will bless her in return for seeking His refuge 3. Ruth is comforted by his kindness - Ru 2:13 a. She hopes to continue to find favor in his sight b. For his kindness toward one who is not one of his maidservants B. HIS EXTENDED KINDNESS... 1. Shown to her at the noon mealtime - Ru 2:14 a. Inviting her to eat with the rest of the workers b. Passing roasted grain over for her to eat 2. Shown by the instructions given to his young men - Ru 2:15-16 a. To let her glean even among the sheaves without reproach b. To purposely let stalks fall from the bundles for her to glean 3. Allowing her to reap an ephah (about 30-50 pounds) of barley - Ru 2:17 a. A rather large amount for someone to glean from scraps! b. But then she had a lot of help from the "clumsy" workers! [At the end of the day, Ruth returns back to the city where...] III. NAOMI RESPONDS WITH GREAT JOY A. RUTH SHARES HER PRODUCE WITH NAOMI... 1. Ruth shows her mother-in-law what she gleaned - Ru 2:18 2. Ruth gives Naomi her excess grain - Ru 2:18 B. NAOMI REJOICES OVER GOD'S KINDNESS... 1. In response to Naomi's questions, Ruth tells her about Boaz - Ru 2:19 2. Naomi blesses the Lord - Ru 2:20 a. For His kindness to the living and the dead b. For Boaz is a close relative (who would have a duty to preserve the name of a dead relative) c. Note the contrast to her earlier feelings - cf. Ru 1:13,20, 21 C. NAOMI COUNSELS RUTH TO CONTINUE... 1. Ruth tells of Boaz' instructions to continue gleaning among his workers - Ru 2:21 2. Naomi encourages her to stay with the women laborers in Boaz' field - Ru 2:22 3. Which Ruth does until the end of the harvest, while living with Naomi - Ru 2:23 CONCLUSION 1. In this chapter we have seen two noteworthy examples of righteous character... a. Ruth's humility and willingness to minister to the needs of her mother-in-law b. Boaz' kindness and sense of propriety in his treatment of the foreign woman in his field 2. We also saw Naomi's faith in God's care reassured... a. Even though she believed her earlier loss was due to God's discipline b. She was convinced that God had not forsaken His kindness to the living and dead In this story of "Ruth's Lowly Service," we also see another truth displayed, that God gives grace to the humble: "Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to [your] elders. Yes, all of [you] be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you." (1Pe 5:5-7) Are we willing to render lowly service to those around us, humbling ourselves before God?
"THE BOOK OF RUTH" Ruth's Noble Choice: "I Will Go" (1:1-22) INTRODUCTION 1. The book of Ruth is a beautiful "interlude of love," set in... a. The period when judges ruled Israel - Ru 1:1 b. An era marked by immorality, idolatry, and war - cf. Judg 21:25 2. It tells a heartwarming story of devotion and faithfulness... a. Concerning a Moabite widow (Ruth) who leaves her homeland b. To live with her Jewish mother-in-law (Naomi) in the land of Israel 3. God honors Ruth's commitment... a. By guiding her to the field of Boaz (a near kinsman to Naomi) b. Where she gathers grain and finds a place in the genealogy of Christ! 4. It has been said the book serves two purposes... a. To illustrate how Jehovah rewards those who make wise spiritual choices and show steadfast filial loyalty b. To explain how Ruth, a Moabitess, came to be an ancestor of David, and ultimately, the Messiah - cf. Ru 4:21-22; Mt 1:5-6 [While the book's brevity and beauty makes it easy to read in one sitting, we will let it serve as the basis for four sermons, one for each chapter. In chapter one, we learn of "Ruth's Noble Choice"...] I. A FATEFUL SOJOURN IN MOAB A. FAMINE PROMPTS THE JOURNEY... 1. The setting - Ru 1:1 a. In the days of the judges (prior to the period of the kings of Israel) b. There is famine in the land of Judah c. A family of four leave Bethlehem to dwell in Moab 1) Bethlehem, city located 5 mi. S of Jerusalem; birthplace of David and Jesus 2) Moab, country located due E of the Dead Sea a) Descendants of Lot - Gen 19:36-37 b) Sometimes enemies, friends, of Israel - Judg 3:12-30; 1Sa 22:3-4 2. The family - Ru 1:2 a. Elimelech the father, Naomi the mother b. Their two sons: Mahlon and Chilion c. Ephrathites - Bethlehem was also known as Ephrath - Gen 35:19; Mic 5:2 3. The move a. Prompted by the famine b. Perhaps indicating a lack of faith in God, who made provision for when His children became impoverished - cf. Lev 25:35 B. DEATH STRIKES THREE TIMES... 1. Elimelech dies - Ru 1:3 a. Leaving Naomi a widow with two sons b. Rabbinic tradition suggests his death was punishment for greed or having forsaken his homeland (Expositor's Bible Commentary) 2. Mahlon and Chilion marry women of Moab - Ru 1:4 a. Mahlon married Ruth, Chilion married Orpah - cf. Ru 4:10 b. Such marriages with women of Moab were strongly suspect, if not wrong - cf. Deut 23:3; 1Ki 11:1-2; Neh 13:23-27 c. They live in Moab about ten years 3. Mahlon and Chilion die - Ru 1:5 a. Rabbinic tradition suggests it was because of leaving Judah, and their marriages b. Leaving Naomi a widow and childless, which she took as divine judgment against her - Ru 1:13,20-21 [Elimelech and his sons went to Moab to find bread, instead they found graves (Baxter). Bereaved of her husband and two sons, Naomi gives thought to return to her homeland...] II. A FAITHFUL RETURN TO JUDAH A. NAOMI CHOOSES TO RETURN HOME... 1. The famine in Judah had ended - Ru 1:6 a. The Lord's blessings had return to Judah b. The Lord had given them bread 2. Naomi encourages her daughters-in-law to remain in Moab - Ru 1:7-9 a. As they were on their way to leave b. Naomi encourages them to return to their mothers' house c. Naomi prays God's blessings upon them 1) To treat them kindly, because their kindness to her 2) To find rest in the homes of future husbands d. Prompting sorrowful displays a great affection B. RUTH CHOOSES TO RETURN WITH HER... 1. At first, both daughters-in-law desire to go with Naomi - Ru 1:10 a. Willing to return with her to her people b. Which speaks highly of their love for Naomi and duty as daughters-in-law 2. Naomi seeks to dissuade them - Ru 1:11-13 a. She has no sons to offer them b. She is too old to have a husband c. If she did marry and have sons, would they wait until they were old enough? d. It grieves her to see them suffer because of God's chastisement of her 3. Ruth cannot be dissuaded - Ru 1:14-18 a. Weeping, Orpah kisses her mother-in-law and leaves b. Ruth clings to her mother-in-law, and Naomi tries once again to persuade her to return c. Ruth's noble choice 1) To go wherever Naomi goes 2) To live wherever Naomi lives 3) To make the people of Naomi her people 4) To make the God of Naomi her God 5) To die and be buried where Naomi is buried 6) To let nothing but death come between them -- In making such a choice, Ruth has become a proselyte to Judaism d. Naomi realizes Ruth is determined to go with her C. NAOMI AND RUTH ARRIVE IN BETHLEHEM... 1. Their arrival sparks excitement in the city - Ru 1:19 2. Naomi believes she should be called Mara - Ru 1:20-21 a. No longer Naomi ("Pleasant"), but Mara ("Bitter") b. For she feels the Lord has dealt bitterly with her 1) She left Judah full, and has returned empty 2) She believes the Lord has testified against her, and has afflicted her c. This may be true - cf. Deut 28:15-19 1) Yet not all suffering is indicative of divine chastisement (cf. Job) 2) She may have been the innocent victim of others' sins 3. Naomi and Ruth settle in Bethlehem - Ru 1:22 a. Naomi, a woman without husband and sons b. Ruth, the Moabitess living in a strange land CONCLUSION 1. Their arrival was at the beginning of the barley harvest... a. Which sets the stage for the events in the next chapter b. Which portends a new beginning in the lives of Naomi and Ruth 2. This story certainly illustrates the importance of making choices... a. Choices come with consequences, sometimes good, sometimes bad b. Elimelech and his sons made choices... 1) Which may have appeared to be a good business decision 2) But ultimately left a wife and mother a widow and motherless in a strange land c. Ruth made a choice 1) To leave family and false religion, for the true God and His family 2) One that would have provide both temporal and eternal blessings - cf. Mk 10:29-30 Sometimes the choice is not between right and wrong, but between good and better. Yet any choice we make will be the right one if made with these words of Jesus in mind: "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." - Mt 6:33 "Ruth's Noble Choice" to follow Naomi and her God illustrates the truth of Jesus' words!
Should Christians Favor Accepting Syrian Refugees?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The only way to know God’s will on any subject is to go to the only resource on the planet that contains that will—the Bible. What is God’s will regarding accepting refugees and immigrants from other countries? Interestingly, the only civil law code in human history authored by God Himself is the Law of Moses. When one cares to examine everything the Bible says about treatment of “strangers” under the Law of Moses, it is quickly evident that the #1 concern of God in the acceptance of foreigners into one’s country is their moral, religious, and spiritual condition. That is, God was vitally concerned about the spiritual impact the foreigners would have on Israel’s ability to remain loyal to Him, untainted by moral and religious contamination. Hence, God issued several civil decrees that strictly regulated the acceptance of foreigners into Israelite society. Among other strictures, foreigners were required to:
- observe the Sabbath (Exodus 20:10; Deuteronomy 5:14)
- be excluded from Passover (Exodus 12:43,45—unless the foreigner was willing to naturalize via circumcision [Exodus 12:48])
- refrain from eating blood (Leviticus 17:12)
- abstain from sexual immorality, including homosexuality, bestiality, incest, and adultery (Leviticus 18:26)
- not blaspheme the name of God (Leviticus 24:16,22)—an offense that at one time was upheld by American courts (e.g., in People v. Ruggles, the New York State Supreme Court declared: “Blasphemy against God, and contumelious reproaches, and profane ridicule of Christ or the Holy Scriptures, are offenses punishable at the common law, whether uttered by words or writings.”)
It would seem that foreigners who immigrated to Israel were not required by God to convert to Judaism. However, they were strictly forbidden from engaging in any religious practices that were deemed unacceptable according to God’s will. For example, one of the religious precepts practiced by the Canaanite peoples of Ammon and Phoenicia was to offer their children as a propitiatory sacrifice to their god Molech. Such a false religious practice was an abomination to God. He demanded that the death penalty be invoked for such conduct (Leviticus 18:21). Religious freedom did not extend to an Ammonite immigrant to the extent that he was allowed to practice his religion on this point; he was to be executed if he did (Leviticus 20:2).
Contemplate the following scenario. Suppose in ancient Israel the Moabites attacked the Ammonites, or the Ammonites themselves experienced an internal political upheaval, causing thousands of Ammonite refugees to flee north, west, or south to the corresponding transjordanic tribal lands of Manasseh, Gad, and Reuben (see map on previous page). Would God have insisted that godly love for neighbors would require that the Israelites take them in? The relevant passages indicate that God would not have wanted them received unconditionally. He would not have sanctioned a massive influx of pagan peoples into the heart of Israelite society, bringing their immoralities and false religion with them, with no safeguards or means by which to protect the moral and spiritual health of the Israelites. Further, what Ammonite would want to come to Israel where he would not be allowed to practice his religion, and where the morals and customs of the people would contradict his own? One could only imagine that Ammonites would not want to be subjected to such rigid moral conditions. However, they most certainly would want to come if they discovered that they could retain their evil religious practices, get welfare money from the Israelites, and locate in such numbers that they could take over local city government and schools.
The FoundersThe Founders of the American Republic possessed precisely the same concerns. To them, “freedom” did not mean permission to engage in any practice deemed by Christian standards to be immoral or threatening to the Christian community. Consider, for example, prominent Founder Gouverneur Morris, who served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the New York State militia, was a member of the Continental Congress, signing both the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution, served as America’s Minister Plenipotentiary to France during the notorious French Revolution (1792-1794), and also served in the U.S. Senate. Though the French sought to establish a Republic like America, Morris’ observations of French life, which he witnessed firsthand, led him to believe the population of France was incapable of governing themselves and creating a Republic like we enjoy. Why? Among other concerns, he saw very little evidence of worship of the true God, and with an air of regret, he observed: “I do not yet perceive that reformation of morals without which liberty is but an empty sound” (Morris, 1888, 2:7-8, emp. added). As the storm clouds of the Revolution were gathering over France, writing from Paris in 1789, he explained:
The materials for a revolution in this country are very indifferent. Everybody agrees that there is an utter prostration of morals—but this general position can never convey to the American mind the degree of depravity…. The great mass of the people have no religion but their priests, no law but their superiors, no morals but their interest.... Paris is perhaps as wicked a spot as exists. Incest, murder, bestiality, fraud, rapine, oppression, baseness, cruelty;…every bad passion exerts its peculiar energy. How the conflict will terminate Heaven knows. Badly I fear; that is to say, in slavery (1:68-69,200-201, emp. added).He concluded that the French were “a nation not yet fitted by education and habit for the enjoyment of freedom” (1:109). Consequently, the Founders did not encourage immigration from such countries whose population would seriously undermine the underpinnings of the American Republic. [NOTE: For another example among many, see the opinion of the State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in Commonwealth v. Nesbit in 1859 which declared the attitude of the Founders and the nation as a whole in its utter rejection of pagan morality.]
The vast majority of the Syrian refugees are Muslims. They do not share Christian values in several key, critical points (including polygamy, treatment of women, and severing limbs as punishment—Miller, 2005, pp. 177ff.,192-197). Muslim enclaves already in America, like those in several European countries, gradually transform their neighborhoods into Islamic strongholds where Sharia law is applied (Gaffney, 2015; Hickford, 2015; Hohmann, 2015; James, 2014; Kern, 2015a; Kern, 2015b; Bailey, 2015; Selk, 2015a; Selk, 2015b; Sheikh, 2015, Spencer, 2014). Though it may take many years, gradual encroachment on American culture due to “immigration jihad” will conceivably transform the U.S. into an Islamic nation. The Founders so designed the Republic that the citizens govern themselves. Hence, the moral, spiritual, and religious condition of the majority of citizens ultimately determines which politicians are installed on every level of government, what laws are made, and what content the teachers will teach in public schools. In short, the influx of Muslims will radically transform American civilization. Such an observation hardly constitutes racism or hate speech.
Good Samaritan?But what about the “Good Samaritan”? Shouldn’t Christians show compassion? Most certainly. But how? What does God expect in such a situation? The story of the Good Samaritan pertains to individuals treating other individuals kindly. It does not refer to God’s will regarding the immigration policies of nations. On the contrary, God expressed His will with regard to immigration in His civil law code He gave to the Israelites. Further, when the Good Samaritan rendered aid to the stranger he encountered, he saw to his immediate needs (Luke 10:33-35). This attention did not entail transporting the man to the Samaritan’s own country or home—many miles away.
Many political and religious disturbances occur in many countries of the world and have for thousands of years. America has long rendered assistance to a host of needy peoples of various countries. Yet Christian compassion does not—in God’s sight—necessitate bringing large numbers of displaced peoples to America without suitable regard for the potential moral and spiritual threat to the health, safety, and future of the nation. There is nothing in the Bible that would lead us to believe that refusing refugees into the country is a violation of the Bible principle of compassion and concern for others. Should the good Samaritan have taken into his home a complete stranger without regard to the man’s moral and religious condition? Should he have jeopardized the safety of his own wife and children when he left to continue his business, as the text says he did? The Bible, in fact, teaches that we have just as much responsibility to be kind and benevolent to ourselves, our families, and our fellow citizens as we do to peoples of other countries (Matthew 22:39; Ephesians 5:25,28). Is God, Himself, guilty of violating His own benevolent nature when He placed restrictions on immigrants and refugees to Israel? Clearly, carte blanche reception of refugees into one’s own country does not trump all other considerations—not the least of which is the spiritual impact of that reception.
A far more rational, appropriate solution would be to assist the refugees with returning to their own country, or other Muslim countries, by interceding on their behalf, whether diplomatically or militarily, to right the wrongs being inflicted on them by their persecutors. There is nothing about Christianity that necessitates relocating foreigners to America who possess conflicting—and counterproductive—moral and religious values.
So the question of receiving refugees into the U.S. is not about “compassion,” benevolence, or Christian kindness. After all, America leads the world in providing the greatest amount of humanitarian assistance in the Syrian refugee crisis (Chorley, 2015). Rather, in keeping with God’s own assessment of nations, the key, all-encompassing issue that our national leaders ought to be taking into consideration is: what will be the moral and religious impact with the entrance of these peoples, and will their presence over the long term affect the ability of America to retain its unique and historically unparalleled status? Indeed, will the moral and religious syncretism, that will inevitably result from such decisions, enable the God of the Bible to continue to bless America?
REFERENCESBailey, Sarah (2015), “In the First Majority-Muslim U.S. City, Residents Tense About Its Future,” The Washington Post, November 21, https://goo.gl/KW5KMc.
Chorley, Matt (2015), “British Aid to Refugees Smashes Through £1BILLION as Cameron Boasts UK is Spending More Than Any EU Country,” Daily Mail, September 4, http://goo.gl/Srf17S.
Cloud, David and Raja Abdulrahim (2013), “U.S. Has Secretly Provided Arms Training to Syria Rebels Since 2012,” Los Angeles Times, June 21, http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jun/21/world/la-fg-cia-syria-20130622.
Commonwealth v. Nesbit (1859), Pa. 398; 1859 Pa. LEXIS 240.
Gaffney, Frank (2015), “Sharia Shaping a New Europe,” Secure Freedom Radio Podcasts, Center for Security Policy, September 21, http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/2015/09/21/sharia-shaping-a-new-europe/.
Hickford, Michele (2015), “Already Here: Meet America’s FIRST Muslim Majority City,” Allenbwest.com, November 22, http://www.allenbwest.com/2015/11/already-here-meet-americas-first-muslim-majority-city/.
Hohmann, Leo (2015), “Major U.S. City Poised to Implement Islamic Law,” July 23, http://www.wnd.com/2015/07/major-u-s-city-poised-to-implement-islamic-law/#c23Cxzir1klfk84R.99.
James, Dean (2014), “Christians Win Big Lawsuit Against Muslim Thugs in Dearborn, Michigan!” America’s Freedom Fighters, March 24, http://www.americasfreedomfighters.com/2014/03/24/christians-win-big-lawsuit-against-muslim-thugs-in-dearborn-michigan/.
Kern, Soeren (2015a), “European ‘No-Go’ Zones: Fact or Fiction? Part 1: France,” Gatestone Institute, January 20http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/5128/france-no-go-zones.
Kern, Soeren (2015b), “European ‘No-Go’ Zones: Fact or Fiction? Part 2: Britain,” Gatestone Institute, February 3, http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/5177/no-go-zones-britain.
“Kingdom Slams Racism Against Muslim Refugees” (2015), Arab News, November 25, http://www.arabnews.com/featured/news/840761.
“Migrant Crisis: One Million Enter Europe in 2015” (2015), BBC News, December 22, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35158769.
Miller, Dave (2005), The Quran Unveiled (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Morris, Anne Cary, ed. (1888), The Diary and Letters of Gouverneur Morris (New York: Charles Scribners’ Sons).
People v. Ruggles, 8 Johns. 290 (N.Y. 1811).
Seale, Patrick (2012), “What Is Really Happening in Syria?” Washington Report, August, 17-18, http://www.wrmea.org/2012-august/what-is-really-happening-in-syria.html.
Selk, Avi (2015a), “Irving City Council Backs State Bill Muslims Say Targets Them,”The Dallas Morning News, March 19, http://www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20150319-dispute-on-islam-roils-irving.ece.
Selk, Avi (2015b), “Irving Muslims Join Voter Rolls in Record Numbers,” The Dallas Morning News, May 10, http://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/local-politics/20150510-irving-muslims-join-voter-rolls-in-record-numbers.ece.
Sheikh, Zia (2015), “Islamic Center of Irving Statement Regarding ‘Shariah Court’,” Islamic Center of Irving, http://irvingmasjid.org/index.php/ici-statement-regarding-sharia-court.
Spencer, Robert (2014), “Dearborn: Muslim at City Council Meeting Calls for Sharia Patrols, Restriction on Free Speech,” JihadWatch, February 22, http://www.jihadwatch.org/2014/02/dearborn-muslim-at-city-council-meeting-calls-for-sharia-patrols-restriction-on-free-speech.
“Syrian Refugees Flood into Turkey” (2012), The Telegraph, March 13, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9141678/Syrian-refugees-flood-into-Turkey.html.
Corinth in History and Archaeology
The biblical accounts of the travels of Paul often include societal information that is made more pertinent by a historical and archaeological examination of the locations of the churches founded in Acts. One such church was in Corinth in Achaia, where Paul stayed a year and a half during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:11). From Acts 18:1-18, it can be determined that there were a substantial number of Jews in the city (as evinced by the presence of a synagogue—18:4), that, likely, Corinth was the seat of government for the Roman province of Achaia (as evinced by the mention of Gallio as proconsul—18:12), and that it was a port city (18:18).
This provides some evidence, from which can be reconstructed only a vague view of the city and people of Corinth. However, through a consideration of the archaeological and ancient historical evidence, the Corinth of Paul’s time can come alive to the readers of Acts and the books of First and Second Corinthians. Plus, the text itself becomes more significant, once a background of the city and its people is understood. The Bible speaks only briefly about Corinth, but it is obvious from what is said, that it was a very important city. The geography of Achaia, and even the geography of that part of the Mediterranean, played a major role in ancient Corinth. Greece was divided between the mainland and the Peloponnesian peninsula, with a narrow isthmus connecting the two. Corinth was located just to the southwest of the isthmus, on the peninsula, overlooking the isthmus. With this location, Corinth was able to control all the terrestrial traffic (commercial and otherwise) that moved from the mainland to the peninsula (DeVries, 1997, p. 359). Corinth was serviced by two ports: Lechaeum on the Gulf of Corinth, which was a little more than a mile to the north of Corinth and led to Italy; and Cenchreae on the Saronic Gulf, which was a little more than six miles to the east and led to Asia Minor (Harrison, 1985, pp. 83-84).
The southernmost tip of the Peloponnesian peninsula, known as Cape Maleae, was the route around Greece, and was known for being a dangerous path (Blaiklock, 1965, p. 56; Harrison, p. 83). There even came to be a saying, based on the treacherous nature of the waters of Cape Maleae: “When you double Maleae, forget your home” (Harrison, p. 83). Because of this, ships carrying goods bound for Italy often unloaded in port at Cenchreae. Their goods were carried across the five-mile wide isthmus, and then were reloaded in the port at Lechaeum aboard ships bound for Italy. Smaller, lighter boats were placed on “trolleys” and moved along the diolkos, a paved highway that joined the gulfs at Cenchreae and Lechaeum (Blaiklock, p. 56; Harrison, pp. 83-84; DeVries, p. 360). Thus, Corinth was in a geographical position to control all traffic between Asia Minor in the east and Italy in the west, and between mainland Greece in the north and the Peloponnesian peninsula in the south.
Legend records that the mythological Argo, piloted by Jason with his crew of Argonauts, was built at Corinth (Blaiklock, p. 57). Historically, the area where Corinth sat was inhabited sporadically before the founding of the city itself, which occurred when Dorian Greeks settled in the area and founded the city of Corinth around 1000 B.C. Corinth soon established colonies on the islands of Sicily and Corfu in the eighth century B.C., and reached a new position of dominance during the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. It was during this time that Periander, son of Cypselus, built the diolkos between the Saronic Gulf and the Gulf of Corinth (DeVries, pp. 360-361). During the fifth century B.C., Athens challenged the Corinthian control of commerce by attempting to take over certain trade interests and colonies. Sparta, the rival city of Athens, sided with Corinth, and the city-states of Greece were plunged into the Peloponnesian War in 430 B.C. Sparta and Corinth prevailed, but Athens and Sparta continued to fight until the conquest of Greece by the Macedonians in 338 B.C. (Blaiklock, p. 57). As the Roman Empire began its conquest of the Mediterranean world, the Corinthians tried to defend themselves, but were destroyed in 146 B.C. by the Roman general Lucius Mummius, who slaughtered the men and sold the women and children into slavery. There was no real Corinth for almost a hundred years, until Julius Caesar reestablished it as a Roman colony in 44 B.C., and it was made the capital of Achaia in 27 B.C. by Caesar Augustus. Corinth was again the center of trade in Greece between Asia Minor and Rome (DeVries, p. 362; Harrison, pp. 84-85). It is therefore no wonder, seeing the great amount of commercial trafficking through Corinth, that Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla there plied their trade as tentmakers (Acts 18:2-3).
As a city, Corinth enjoyed good land, with the prominent feature being a 1,887-foot-tall limestone mountain called the Acrocorinth. The soil near the Acrocorinth was not fertile, but to the west the land was considered good agricultural property (Harrison, p. 86). The Acrocorinth served as the citadel for Corinth, with the temple of Aphrodite perched atop it, which supposedly housed one thousand shrine prostitutes (Harrison, p. 86; Duffield, 1985, p. 22). Regarding Corinth’s economy, LaMoine DeVries wrote:
Corinth had an economy based on trade and commerce, industry, and agriculture. While the annual rainfall of the region was quite limited, the city benefited from the production of agricultural products in the fertile coastal plain nearby, especially the cultivation of orchards and vineyards. In addition to agriculture, Corinth had at least two thriving industries that produced pottery and bronze metal works that were shipped throughout the Mediterranean (p. 360).Since 1896, archeologists under the direction of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens have been excavating ancient Corinth. They found that during the time of Paul, many great buildings were being reconstructed after their destruction at the hands of Lucius Mummius, and that many new building were being built as well. This possibly explains Paul’s use of construction metaphors in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (see Furnish, 1988, pp. 16-17). Remains have been found of a sixth century B.C. Doric temple that was restored in the first century B.C., of which seven columns are still standing. Some say that this was the temple to Apollo, but no one is certain. Just to the north of the temple of Apollo was the north market, which housed shops for the sale of foodstuffs. The theater lay to the west of the north market, and was rebuilt and renovated many times throughout the years (Furnish, pp. 22-23).
An interesting archaeological find lies between the north market and the theater in the form of an inscription. This finding probably refers to a public official of Corinth, whom Paul appears to have identified by name in his letter to the Romans. In Romans 16:23 Paul conveyed greetings to the Roman church from several people, one of whom was “Erastus, the city treasurer.” Since the apostle almost certainly wrote Romans from Corinth, Erastus was probably the treasurer of the city. Erastus is associated specifically with Corinth in 2 Timothy 4:20. The Erastus inscription, which was found in Corinth in 1929, has been dated to the second half of the first century A.D.. Originally, it consisted of letters carved into limestone paving blocks and then inlaid with metal. Only two metal punctuation marks remain, however, although most of the inscription itself is still visible in a small plaza just east of the theater (Furnish, p. 20). The inscription in the pavement is translated, “Erastus in return for his aedileship [position as magistrate—AP] laid [the pavement] at his own expense” (Furnish, p. 20). It is highly possible that this is the same Erastus mentioned in Romans 16:23, 2 Timothy 4:20, and Acts 19:22.
To the south of the theater and temple of Apollo were several other temples, religious shrines, and Roman-style public buildings. Also present was a basilica, probably used as the judicial headquarters for the city of Corinth. If this were true, then Paul likely would have appeared before Gallio (Acts 18:12-17) at the basilica instead of at the ceremonial bema in the center of the forum (Furnish, p. 23). DeVries gave a very well summarized walk-through of Corinth, based on the archaeological evidence discovered:
The major entrance to the city was from the north; the Lechaion road moved from the Gulf of Corinth and its port southward to the city. As the road entered the city, its width increased to nearly twenty-five feet. It was paved with slabs of limestone and was lined with raised sidewalks with channels for drainage, colonnades, and shops. Beyond the shops to the west was a large rectangular basilica, the great temple of Apollo, the north market, and a theater. The large basilica, often called the north basilica, with chambers at each end, apparently functioned as a large hall. It was divided by two rows of columns and was perhaps used for a variety of public meetings. The temple of Apollo, originally built in the sixth century BCE, was designed with thirty-eight columns, seven of which remain standing today. The peribolos of Apollo and the fountain of Peirene were located east of the thoroughfare. The peribolos was a large courtyard enclosed by columns and dedicated to Apollo whose statue stood in its midst. The fountain of Peirene, a large reservoir with a capacity of more than eighty-one thousand gallons, was fed by natural springs and provided the major source of water for the city (p. 364).DeVries went on to describe the agora, or market, which was divided by a row of shops and the bema [seat or step of judgment—AP] into the lower and upper forums; the bouleuterion, where the council met; a series of shops, possibly restaurants or bars, where pits, fed with cold spring water, kept wine cool; small temples to Apollo, Tyche, Venus and Hera located to the west of the agora; the sanctuary of Demeter and Kore; a large pottery industrial area; and the Lerna-Asclepeum complex, which contained bathing, exercise, and dining areas all devoted to the healing of the infirmed and consecrated to Asclepius, the god of healing (pp. 365-366).
While dated later than the time of Paul, two archaeological finds proved that there was a significant number of Jews at Corinth. The first was an inscription that read, “Synagogue of the Hebrews,” proving that there were enough Jews in Corinth, at least as late as the fourth century, to warrant building a synagogue. Another piece, apparently from a synagogue, showed typical Jewish decorations of candelabras, palm branches, and citron (Furnish, p. 26). Other archaeological finds in the city of Corinth included a bronze mirror that had been made in Corinth, statues, a fountain with sculpted dolphins, and terra cotta models of body parts that were used in healing rituals at the Lerna-Asclepeum healing complex (Furnish, pp. 17-26).
As a major influence in the Roman Empire, Corinth was able to control all east-west commerce, and all Grecian north-south commerce. Many buildings and inscriptions have been found that confirm the biblical record of Corinth, and which prove that the accounts found in Acts and First and Second Corinthians are true and accurate. The more archaeologists dig into the deep, dark earth, the more they shed light upon the Bible and its accuracy.
REFERENCESBlaiklock, E.M. (1965), Cities of the New Testament (London, England: Revell).
DeVries, LaMoine F. (1997), Cities of the Biblical World (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Duffield, Guy P. (1985), Handbook of Bible Lands (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Furnish, Victor Paul (1988), “Corinth in Paul’s Time—What Can Archaeology Tell Us?” Biblical Archaeology Review, 14:15-27, May/June.
Harrison, R.K. (1985), Major Cities of the Biblical World (Nashville, TN: Nelson).
Autonomous Control of Creation
|by||Jeff Miller, Ph.D.|
Autonomous Control and "Mother Nature"Engineers regularly work with control systems. Autonomous control is a step beyond remote control. Remote control applications allow manual issuing of commands through some sort of transmission device (i.e., a remote controller) that controls something else (e.g., a robot or television) located some distance away from the controller. Autonomous control, on the other hand, uses a computer program to issue the commands. The computer becomes the controller, instead of a human being. It is common knowledge in the engineering community that autonomous control is a subject that is of particular interest today. From autonomous control of ground vehicles (Naranjo, et al., 2006), to autonomous missile guidance systems (Lin, et al., 2004) and aerial vehicles (Oosterom and Babuska, 2006), to autonomous aquatic vehicles (Loebis, et al., 2004) and satellites (Cheng, et al., 2009), and even to autonomous farming equipment (Omid, et al., 2010), notable success is being made in this area of technology.
The amazing thing from a Christian perspective, however, is that many engineers—the designers of the scientific community—are becoming aware of the fact that the world around us is already replete with fully functional, superior designs in comparison to what the engineering community has been able to develop to date. Biomimicry (i.e., engineering design using something from nature as the blueprint) is becoming a prevalent engineering pursuit. However, some engineers are not interested in copying creation in their designs since they simply cannot replicate many of the features that the natural world has to offer. They are realizing that the created order oftentimes comes equipped with natural “sensor suites” whose designs surpass the capability of engineering knowledge to date. Animals possess amazing detection, tracking, and maneuvering capabilities which are far beyond the knowledge of today’s engineering minds, and likely will be for many decades, if not forever. An insect neurobiologist, John Hildebrand, from the University of Arizona in Tucson, admitted, “There’s a long history of trying to develop microrobots that could be sent out as autonomous devices, but I think many engineers have realised [sic] that they can’t improve on Mother Nature” (Marshall, 2008, p. 41). Of course, “Mother Nature” is not capable of designing anything, since “she” is mindless. The Chief Engineer, the God of the Bible, on the other hand, can be counted on to have the best possible engineering designs. Who, after all, could out-design the Grand Designer? In spite of the deterioration of the world and the entrance of disease and mutations into the created order, after some six millennia, His designs still stand out as the best—unsurpassed by human wisdom.
Controlling the LivingRecognizing the superiority of the natural world, the scientific community has become interested in learning how to remotely control living creatures instead of developing robotic versions. This line of thinking certainly adds new meaning to God’s command to mankind to “subdue” and “have dominion” over the created order (Genesis 1:28). One of the ways in which animal remote control is being done is by implanting electronics in animal bodies that are subsequently used to manipulate the movements and behaviors of the creature. Hybrid creatures such as these are known as bio-robots or cyborgs. Cyborg research has been conducted since the 1950s, when Jose Delgado of Yale University implanted electrodes into the brains of bulls to stimulate the hypothalamus for control purposes (Marshall, 2008). Since then, the list of remotely controlled animals using electrode implantation has grown to include:
- sharks (i.e., spiny dogfish; Gomes, et al., 2006; Brown, 2006)
- rats (Talwar, et al., 2002; Li and Panwar, 2006; Song, et al., 2006)
- monkeys (Brown, 2006; Horgon, 2005)
- mice (“SDUST Created…,” 2007)
- chimpanzees (Horgon, 2005)
- frogs (Song, et al., 2006)
- pigeons (“SDUST Created…,” 2007)
- cats (Horgon, 2005)
- gibbons (Horgon, 2005)
- cockroaches (Holzer, et al., 1997; “Researchers Develop ‘Robo-roach,’” 2001)
There is beginning to be more interest in the prospect of remotely controlling canines as well (“Grand Challenge…,” 2010). Engineers realize that dogs can traverse a variety of terrains more efficiently than humans or robots and are effective at guarding territories, carrying out search and rescue missions, as well as providing guidance for the visually impaired. They also have an amazing sense of smell that makes them capable of detecting explosives, narcotics, tobacco, pipeline leaks, retail contraband, and even cell phones and bed bugs (“Detection Services,” 2010). Since engineers have not developed a device that can compare with a canine’s ability to detect odors, the use of canines for these applications is attractive. Although other creatures, such as rats (Marshall, 2008), have a keen sense of smell, canines are more appealing, especially due to their innate ability to interact with humans. Thus, using canines for these purposes is attractive to engineers, and the ability to remotely control a canine for many of these purposes is an even more attractive goal. Many scenarios could be envisioned to illustrate cases where the presence of a dog handler alongside a canine could be an impossibility (e.g., tight areas in search and rescue operations) or undesirable (e.g., scenarios where the handler should not be visible or in harm’s way). In a recent event in Afghanistan, a bomb detection canine detected an explosive a moment too late. The canine handler lost his left leg and received other serious injuries (“Grand Challenge…,” 2010). Remote control capability or autonomous guidance likely would have significantly altered the outcome of this unfortunate event, as well as many others.
Since engineers cannot yet develop an adequate robotic solution to this problem, the Office of Naval Research funded a research project to develop such a solution—a research project I was heavily involved in at Auburn University while engaged in doctoral studies. The Canine Detection and Research Institute (CDRI) at Auburn University demonstrated that detection canines can be remotely controlled using a canine vest we developed that was equipped with a tone and vibration generator (Britt, et al., 2010). However, many cases could easily be envisioned where the canine would be out of sight from the handler (e.g., moving behind a distant building), at which time remote control capability becomes useless. Therefore, the next natural step was to automate that remote control capacity (i.e., autonomous control of the canine).
Since canines can traverse a variety of terrains more efficiently than humans, and possess a natural array of “sensors” used to detect and locate items of interest that robots are not readily equipped with, many aspects that pose problems to unmanned ground vehicles are inherently removed with the canine. Canines can execute the low-level decision making that is necessary for rerouting their local path to avoid obstacles or unfavorable terrain. We proved with notable success that canines can be tracked using GPS, inertial sensors, and magnetometers (Miller and Bevly, 2007; Miller and Bevly, 2009a; Miller and Bevly, 2009b), as well as be autonomously guided along desired paths to distant end points (Miller, 2010; Britt, 2009). More important, this system was designed without having to develop the technology that would be required for a complete robotic solution. Instead, a pre-designed creature, already developed by the Chief Engineer, was utilized. In the interest of not plagiarizing Him, I happily reference His incomprehensible work, although, unfortunately I cannot speak for all of my doctoral colleagues.
CONCLUSIONHow ironic that those who are designed, design based on the Designer’s designs, while simultaneously claiming that those designs are not designed. How could mindless rocks, dirt, gas, or slime bring about the amazingly complex designs we see in the World? Personifying inanimate materials such as these with names like “Mother Nature” does nothing but tacitly admit that some Being is in control of the natural order. The frontlines of the engineering community today—bringing about unparalleled technology, more advanced than any society in the history of mankind—cannot come close to replicating the designs around us. Engineers are forced to borrow from God’s design portfolio (oftentimes plagiarizing Him—not giving Him due credit for His designs). What a testament to the greatness of the Chief Engineer’s created order! We may be able to try to fix some of the damage that has been done to the created order due to sin and entropy, but in the words of John Hildebrand, quoted earlier, we certainly “can’t improve on” God’s design. Rather than plagiarizing Him, let all engineers know, “He who built all thingsis God” (Hebrews 3:4, emp. added).
REFERENCESBozkurt, A., R. Gilmour, D. Stern, and A. Lal (2008), “MEMS Based Bioelectronic Neuromuscular Interfaces for Insect Cyborg Flight Control,” IEEEMEMS2008 Conference, pp. 160-163.
Britt, W. (2009), “A Software and Hardware System for the Autonomous Control and Navigation of a Trained Canine,” Ph.D. Dissertation, Auburn University, Summer.
Britt, W.R., J. Miller, P. Waggoner, D.M. Bevly, and J.A. Hamilton (2010), “An Embedded System for Real-time Navigation and Remote Command of a Trained Canine,” DOI 10.1007/s00779-010-0298-4.
Brown, S. (2006), “Stealth Sharks to Patrol the High Seas,” New Scientist, 2541:30-31, March 4.
Cheng, C., S. Shu, and P. Cheng (2009), “Attitude Control of a Satellite Using Fuzzy Controllers,” Expert Systems with Applications, 36:6613-6620.
Correll, N., M. Schwager, and D. Rus (2008), “Social Control of Herd Animals by Integration of Artificially Controlled Congeners,” Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Simulation of Adaptive Behavior, pp. 437-447.
“Detection Services” (2010), Amdetech: Protection Through Detection, http://www.amdetech.com.
Gomes, W.J., D. Perez, and J.A. Catipovic (2006), “Autonomous Shark Tag with Neural Reading and Stimulation Capability for Open-ocean Experiments,” Eos Trans. AGU, 87(36), Ocean Sci. Meet. Suppl., Abstract OS45Q-05.
“Grand Challenge: Smart Vest for Detector Dogs” (2010), National Aerospace & Electronics Conference, http://www.naecon.org/challenge.htm.
Holzer, R., I. Shimoyama, and H. Miura (1997), “Locomotion Control of a Bio-Robotic System via Electric Stimulation,” International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, Grenoble, France.
Horgon, John (2005), “The Forgotten Era of Brain Chips,” Scientific American, 293:66-73.
Li, Y. and S. Panwar (2006), “A Wireless Biosensor Network Using Autonomously Controlled Animals,” IEEENetwork, 20:6-11.
Lin, C., H. Hung, Y. Chen, and B. Chen (2004), “Development of an Integrated Fuzzy-Logic-Based Missile Guidance Law Against High Speed Target,” IEEETransactions on Fuzzy Systems, 12:157-169.
Loebis, D., R. Sutton, J. Chudley, and W. Naeem (2004), “Adaptive Tuning of a Kalman Filter via Fuzzy Logic for an Intelligent AUV Navigation System,” Control Engineering Practice, 12:1531-1539.
Marshall, J. (2008), “The Cyborg Animal Spies Hatching in the Lab,” New Scientist, 2646:40-43, March 6.
Miller, J. (2010), “A Maximum Effort Control System for the Tracking and Control of a Guided Canine,” Ph.D. Dissertation, Auburn University, Winter.
Miller, J. and D.M. Bevly (2007), “Position and Orientation Determination for a Guided K-9,” Proceedings of the IONGNSS, Ft. Worth, TX.
Miller, J. and D.M. Bevly (2009a), “Determination of Pitch Effects in Guided K-9 Tracking,” Proceedings of the JSDE/IONJNC, Orlando, FL.
Miller, J. and D.M. Bevly (2009b), “Guided K-9 Tracking Improvements Using GPS, INS, and Magnetometers,” Proceedings of the IONITM, Anaheim, CA.
Naranjo, J.E., C. Gonzalez, R. Garcia, and T. Pedro (2006), “ACC+Stop&Go Maneuvers With Throttle and Brake Fuzzy Control,” IEEETransactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems, 7:213-225.
Omid, M., M. Lashgari, H. Mobli, R. Alimardani, S. Mohtasebi, and R. Hesamifard (2010), “Design of Fuzzy Logic Control System Incorporating Human Expert Knowledge for Combine Harvester,” Expert Systems with Applications, 37:7080-7085.
Oosterom, M. and R. Babuska (2006), “Design of a Gain-Scheduling Mechanism for Flight Control Laws by Fuzzy Clustering,” Control Engineering Practice, 14:769-781.
Ray, Neil (2010), “The Cyborg Beetle: Progress or Ethical Deterioration?” The Triple Heliz, Issue 10.
“Researchers Develop ‘Robo-Roach’” (2001), VNUnet UK: UNU-MERIT—I&T Weekly, Issue 7, United Nations University, http://www.merit.unu.edu/i&tweekly/i&tweekly_previous.php?issue=0107&issue_show=7&year=2001.
Sato, H., C.W. Berry, B.E. Casey, G. Lavella, Y. Yao, J.M. Vandenbrooks, and M.M. Maharbiz (2008), “A Cyborg Beetle: Insect Flight Control Through an Implantable, Tetherless Microsystem,” IEEEMEMS2008 Conference, pp. 164-167.
Sato, H., Y. Peeri, E. Baghoomian, C.W. Berry, and M.M. Maharbiz (2009), “Radio-Controlled Cyborg Beetles: A Radio-frequency System for Insect Neural Flight Control,” IEEEMEMS2009 Conference, pp. 216-219.
Schwager, M., C. Detweiler, I. Vasilescu, D.M. Anderson, and D. Rus (2008), “Data-Driven Identification of Group Dynamics for Motion Prediction and Control,” Journal of Field Service Robotics, 25[6-7]:305-324.
“SDUST Created Remote-Controlled Pigeon” (2007), Shandong University of Science and Technology, http://www.sdkd.net.cn/en/news_show.php?id=65.
Song, W., J. Chai, T. Han, and K. Yuan (2006), “A Remote Controlled Multimode Microstimulator for Freely Moving Animals,” Acta Physiologica Sinica, 58:183-188.
Talwar, S., S. Xu, E. Hawley, S. Weiss, K. Moxon, and J. Chapin (2002), “Rat Navigation Guided by Remote Control,” Nature, 417:37-38.
Baptism for the Dead?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
“Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?”The most notorious interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:29 is the one advocated by Mormonism—that people who are alive on the Earth can be baptized, and the efficacy of that baptism then is offered to those who already have died and are in the spirit realm. But this verse cannot be teaching proxy baptism as practiced by the Mormons. Many other passages eliminate that possibility by stressing the singular necessity of responding obediently to God in this life (e.g., Proverbs 11:7; John 8:24; Luke 16:26; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27). The Mormon view is in direct contradiction to what the Bible teaches from beginning to end. We have only this life in which to make our decisions, and when we leave this life, we have no further opportunities to repent (Luke 16:25-31; Hebrews 9:27).
At least four adequate explanations exist that avoid contradicting the rest of the Bible. First, “dead” refers to the “old man of sin” (Romans 6:6). We are baptized for the dead in the sense that we are baptized in water to eliminate the dead man of sin. Hence Paul was asking why one would be baptized to eliminate the old man of sin in anticipation of eternal acceptance if the resurrection will not be forthcoming.
Second, “dead” refers to the world of lost souls—those who are spiritually dead. “They” refers to the apostles and “baptism” refers to the baptism of suffering that the apostles endured in order to make known the Gospel to the world (alluded to in passages like Mark 10:38-39, Luke 12:50, Acts 9:16, and 1 Corinthians 4:9). Thus Paul was asking why the apostles would subject themselves to the baptism of suffering, in behalf of the spiritually dead people of the world if, in fact, no one has hope of the resurrection.
Third, “they” refers to those who are baptized in water on the basis of the preaching and teaching done by those who had since died. In other words, why would a person obey the command to be baptized, and thereby have hope of life beyond the grave, if the one who taught the person to be baptized has since died and will not be raised from the dead?
Fourth, Paul was using the logical argument form known as argumentum ad hominem—an argument based upon what men were doing at that time and with which the readers would be familiar. The Corinthians were familiar with people who practiced an immersion for the benefit of the dead. He used the third person pronoun “they” as opposed to “you” or “we.” New Testament baptism would have been referred to in the first or second person. This tactic of referring to what outsiders were doing (without implying endorsement) to make a valid spiritual point was used by Paul on other occasions (e.g., Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12).
These four possible interpretations each have contextual evidence to support them. None of the four contradicts any other Bible doctrine. What is critically important is that we not miss Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 15. He brought up the subject of baptism for the dead for one reason: to reaffirm the reality of the resurrection. Christians were being drawn into the destructive heresy that the general resurrection is fictitious. In a setting where he ardently defended the actuality and centricity of the resurrection, he advanced two questions. If the resurrection and end-time events are not to occur, then “why are they baptized for the dead?” and “why do the apostles stand in jeopardy every hour?” (vss. 29-30). He wanted the Corinthians to face the fact that many things Christians do have meaning only if resurrection is an anticipated and ultimate objective. If when we die, that’s it—no future conscious existence—why take risks living the Christian life as the apostles frequently did? If this life is all there is, forget Christianity and live it up (vs. 32)! But resurrection is coming! So do not live this life indulging the flesh and mingling with those who will influence you to do so (vs. 33). Live righteously, and get your mind straight in view of your knowledge of the coming resurrection (vs. 34).
Jesus' Resurrection and the Life of a Christian
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Is the fact that Jesus rose from the grave about 2,000 years ago really all that important to a Christian’s faith? What if Jesus had never risen from the tomb in which He was buried? What if He were in the grave today? Could we still be Christians if Jesus had never arisen?
Consider what the apostle Paul told the Christians at Corinth about the resurrection of Christ. In a passage where he was writing about the reality of the resurrection of the dead at the end of time, he also mentioned Christ’s resurrection, saying, “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Corinthians 15:14). Then, three verses later, he made a similar statement, saying, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (15:17). In other words, without Jesus’ resurrection, no one would have any hope of going to heaven. The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of our faith (cf. Romans 1:4).
The early church multiplied quickly in just a few short years. They grew by “leaps and bounds.” People were obeying the Gospel by the thousands, and one central message laid at the heart of their decision—the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Had Jesus never been raised from the grave, the Gospel never could have been preached. The Gospel is not about a “lifeless lord,” but a “risen Redeemer.”
Jesus resurrection’ gives meaning to a Christian’s faith.
- Every Sunday when Christians partake of the Lord’s Supper, we remember the Lord’s death “until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). If Jesus were not risen, however, we would have no hope of His coming again, and Paul’s statement here regarding the Lord’s Supper would be meaningless.
- Every time Christians pray “in Jesus name,” we are relying on a risen Savior—Jesus—to mediate on our behalf (1 Timothy 2:5; cf. John 14:6; 1 John 2:1). But, if Jesus were not risen, our prayers would not be heard, and our petitions to have our sins forgiven could not be granted.
- The only reason that preaching and baptizing (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16) are of any importance at all is because Jesus is not dead, but alive. When a person is baptized “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), he is raised from a world of sin, “just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father” (Romans 6:4).
5 Reasons Racism is Ridiculous
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Atheism has no rational basis upon which to call anything objectively just or unjust, including racism. If mankind is merely the result of billions of years of mindless evolution and is nothing more than animals (as atheistic evolution contends; Marchant, 2008), then man can logically make evolutionary-based racist remarks that are consistent with the godless General Theory of Evolution. In fact, Charles Darwin’s “Bulldog,” atheist Thomas Huxley, did just that in his 1865 essay, “Emancipation—Black and White.” He alleged, for example, “no rational man, cognizant of the facts, believes that the average Negro is the equal, still less superior, of the white man.” In truth, if there is no God, mankind could just as easily look down upon and mistreat others (whom he deems are less evolved), as he does roaches, rats, and orangutans (Lyons, 2011; Lyons and Butt, 2009). Those who are Christians, however, logically contend that since (1) God exists, and (2) the Bible is the Word of God, racism is morally wrong—and completely ridiculous for the following five reasons.
#1—All Human Beings Are Made in the Image of GodNot only did God specially create Adam and Eve in His image and vastly different than all other living things on Earth (Genesis 1:26-27), since then, every human being has been made according to God’s likeness. While preaching to Gentiles in Athens thousands of years after the Creation, Paul, a Jew, did not contend that man was once the offspring of God; he said, “We are” the offspring of God (Acts 17:28-29). [The Greek word esmen in 17:28 is the first person plural of eimi (to be). This recognition of being God’s offspring served as a basis for his argument, as the next verse indicates: “Being then the offspring of God….”]
James wrote: “But the tongue can no man tame; it is a restless evil, it is full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we the Lord and Father; and therewith curse we men, who are made after the likeness of God: out of the same mouth cometh forth blessing and cursing. My brethren these things ought not so to be” (3:8-9, ASV, emp. added). [The English verb “are made” (ASV) derives from the Greek gegonotas, which is the perfect participle of the verb ginomai. The perfect tense in Greek is used to describe an action brought to completion in the past, but whose effects are felt in the present (Mounce, 1993, p. 219).] The thrust of the expression, “who are made after the likeness of God” (Greek kath’ homoisosin theou gegonotas), is that humans in the past have been made according to the likeness of God, and they are still bearers of that likeness. For this reason, praising the Creator at one moment, while hurling unkind, racist remarks at another time, is terribly inconsistent in a most unChristlike way. All human beings (of every color and ethnicity) are divine image bearers.
#2—God Only Made One Race—The Human RaceAlthough people come in different colors, shapes, and sizes, and although they often associate more closely with those whom they find more similar in ways to themselves, the fact is, there is only one human race. Racism is ridiculous because we are all related, not by means of naturalistic evolution, but by special Creation. No one person is inherently of more value than another person. We are all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve—the specially created couple whom God made thousands of years ago in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:20). What’s more, we are also sons and daughters of Noah and his wife, through whom the Earth was repopulated after the worldwide Flood of Genesis 6-8.
As the apostle Paul informed the idolatrous Athenians 2,000 years ago, God “made from one blood every nation to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). Adam and Eve had children, who had children, who had children…who had you and me. We are all physically related. We are all of one race—the one human race. We are all (as modern science classifies us) of the same human species—Homo sapiens. We all trace our ancestry back to Noah, and then back to Adam. We may have different skin color, facial features, hair texture, etc., but we are all brothers and sisters! We are family—a part of the same human race.
#3—God Doesn’t Play Favorites…and Neither Should WeAlthough God is omnipotent, He is actually color-blind. His all-loving, perfectly just nature will not allow Him to love someone more than another based upon the color of a person’s skin or the nation in which one was born. Similar to how God cannot lie (Titus 1:2), God cannot show favoritism.
Moses wrote: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19). Peter said: “God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35, emp. added). According to Paul, God “does not receive a face” (Galatians 2:6, NASB literal footnote rendering); that is, “God does not judge by external appearance” (Galatians 2:6, NIV).
In short, it is impossible to hold “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, (the Lord) of glory, with respect of persons” (James 2:1, ASV). The Christian’s care and concern for his fellow brother by Creation and by Christ is to be color-blind.
#4—Love is Not RacistWhereas racism is fueled by earthly ignorance and hate, the Christian is filled with the fruit of Heaven’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The child of God is directed by an omniscient, omni-benevolent Father Who expects His children to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). To the Philippians Paul wrote, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (1:9-11, emp. added).
In two of the more challenging sections of Scripture, Paul wrote: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6, ESV). “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another…. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…. Repay no one evil for evil…. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:9-18).
No Christian can be a racist, and any racist who claims to be a Christian is, in truth, a liar. As the apostle John explained, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21).
“[W]hatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor [regardless of his or her color and ethnicity—EL]. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:9-10, NIV).
#5—Jesus is EVERYONE’S SaviorIn one of the earliest Messianic prophecies, God promised Abraham that it would be through One of his descendants that “all the nations” and “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 22:18; 12:3, emp. added). It certainly was an honor for Abraham’s family to be chosen as the one through whom the Savior of the world would come, but Jesus did not come only to save the Jews. God did not enact a plan of salvation to save one particular color of people. He did not send Jesus to take away the sins of a particular ethnic group or nation. Jesus is the answer to the whole world’s sin problem; He is “the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17, emp. added).
“God…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4, emp. added). For this reason, “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations” (Luke 24:47, emp. added)—to people of all colors, in all cultures, in whatever countries.
The Gospel “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16, emp. added). And when individuals in the world “obey the Gospel” (2 Thessalonians 1:8; see Lyons and Butt, n.d.) and are added to the Lord’s Church by God Himself (Acts 2:47), we all become one in Christ Jesus. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:29).
ConclusionI do not claim to be an expert on race relations, but I know that some people genuinely struggle with the sin of racism. Some struggle with being the recipients of racism, which in turn may cause them to be tempted to react in racist ways. Others struggle with cowardly silence as they tolerate the sin of racism in their homes, churches, schools, businesses, and communities. Still others seem so preoccupied with advancing their own racial agenda that they appear to hastily interpret most everything as a racial problem, when most things are not.
Jesus once taught the hypocrites of His day, saying, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). May God help us to see as He sees: “for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). What a better world this would be if everyone realized the foolishness of judging a book by its cover. Racism really is ridiculous.
REFERENCESHuxley, Thomas (1865), “Emancipation—Black and White,” http://aleph0.clarku.edu/huxley/CE3/B&W.html.
Lyons, Eric (2011), “The Moral Argument for the Existence of God,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=4101&topic=95.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (no date), Receiving the Gift of Salvation (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), http://www.apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/Receiving%20the%20Gift%20of%20Salvation.pdf.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2009), “Darwin, Evolution, and Racism,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=2654.
Marchant, Jo (2008), “We Should Act Like the Animals We Are,” New Scientist, 200:44-45, October 18-24.
Mounce, William D. (1993), Basics of Biblical Greek (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
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The last 40 years have witnessed a decline in the predominating influence of the Christian perspective in American civilization. Sociologists now refer to America as a “post-Christian nation.” With this increasing alienation from the one true God of the Bible has come a corresponding upsurge in aberrant thinking regarding the value and nature of human life. The largest animal rights organization in the world, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), is “dedicated to establishing and protecting the rights of all animals” and operates under the principle that “animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment” (“PETA’s Mission...,” 2007). Millions of dollars have been spent on causes that assign an inordinate value to animals—from dolphins, whales, and sea turtles, to birds, beavers, and spotted owls. Pet mega-supermarket chains have sprung up around the country. Pet dentists, pet nutritionists, petsitters, and pet therapists offer their expensive services to people whose pets have become “part of the family.” [NOTE: That is not to suggest that giving attention to pets is wrong; nevertheless, most Americans prior to the 1960s would disagree with current culture’s inflated preoccupation with animals as pets.]
What is the Christian (i.e., biblical) stance on animal rights? During the Creation week, after God made the animals, He made the first human beings, setting them apart from the animal kingdom by making humans in His own image (Genesis 1:27). A human possesses a soul—a spirit—that lives on after the death of the body (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Zechariah 12:1; Luke 16:22-31; Hebrews 12:9; James 2:26). Animals do not share this spiritual dimension with humans. While they possess an animating life force, when they die, they cease to exist. No part of their being continues to exist beyond physical death. Animals are not subject to the laws of God; they are not accountable for their actions as are humans; they do not commit sin; and they are not subject to God’s plan of salvation.
God created the planet to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18). Included in His creation of human beings was His pronouncement regarding human rule of and domination over animals. Referring to humans, He stated: “[L]et them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26, emp. added). He instructed humans to “fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28, emp. added). The Hebrew term for “dominion” (rah-dah) means to rule over (Harris, et al., 1980, 2:833; Gesenius, 1847, p. 758). The word for “subdue” (kah-vash) means to bring into submission by force (Harris, 1:430). The psalmist echoed these very directives when he praised God by saying, “You [God] have made him [man] to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen—even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas” (Psalm 8:6-8, emp. added). God stressed human domination in even stronger terms after the Flood: “[T]he fear of you [humans] and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that moves on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs” (Genesis 9:2-3, emp. added). The only restriction that God placed on the consumption of animal meat was that the blood was to be drained from the animal before it was eaten (Genesis 9:4; cf. Leviticus 17:10-14; Deuteronomy 12:16,23-24; 1 Samuel 14:32-34; Acts 15:20).
Both Old and New Testaments endorsed human consumption of animal meat (Deuteronomy 12:15; 14:4ff.). While God placed certain restrictions on the Israelite dietary practices, primarily due to health concerns, Christians are under no such regulations—as Paul affirmed: “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Timothy 4:4). God intended for animals to serve as food for humans; He did not intend for humans to serve as food for animals. In fact, God made provision for animals to be destroyed if they killed humans (Genesis 9:5; cf. Exodus 21:28). No such provision was made when humans killed animals. In fact, the divine sacrificial systems instituted by God under both the Patriarchal and Mosaic religions required animal sacrifice (Genesis 4:4; 15:9-10; Job 42:8; Leviticus 1:2ff.).
Likewise, the Bible endorses the use of animal skin/leather and fur in order to aid humanity. When the first human pair sinned, their newly acquired sense of shame led them to prepare coverings made from leaves (Genesis 3:7). However, God replaced their makeshift coverings with clothing made from animal skin (Genesis 3:21). Animal skins and hair were used in the construction of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:5; 26:14; 35:23). The famed forerunner of Jesus, John the Baptizer, was “clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist” (Mark 1:6). Jesus’ sandals were laced with leather thongs (Mark 1:7; John 1:27). Many righteous people wore sheepskins and goatskins (Hebrews 11:37).
Assuredly, the Bible teaches the principle of stewardship and wisdom in the use of resources allotted by God (Matthew 25:14-30; 1 Corinthians 4:2). Occasional references seem to give a measure of consideration to the humane treatment of animals (e.g., Leviticus 22:27-28; Deuteronomy 22:6-7,10). God, Himself, provides for their care (Job 38:41; Psalm 147:9; Matthew 10:29), and we should not be wasteful, greedy, cruel, or reckless in our handling of Earth’s resources in general and Earth’s animals in particular. However, animals do not take precedence or preference over humans. A balanced, proper perspective is needed. We must realize that animals are not human and are not to be regarded as such. Animals, like the rest of the created order, render divinely intended services to humans as sources of food and clothing, as well as transportation (e.g., Mark 11:7) and other work-related performance.
If there is no God, then animal rights activism is as sensible, appropriate, and as noble as any other cause. However, if God exists, and if He has spoken to humans through the Bible, then our view of the created order must be shaped by God Himself. A review of Bible teaching regarding the status of animals reveals that animal rights activism evinces misinformed, misplaced zeal. Rather than spending millions of dollars on animals, would not a more rational approach be to concentrate on alleviating the starvation, sickness, and suffering of humanity? Or more importantly, why not concentrate our resources on striving to achieve what the Founders of American civilization considered to be the purpose of the Republic, as stated by the Continental Congress in October 1780: “to cause the knowledge of Christianity to spread over all the earth” (Journals of..., 1904-1937, 18:950-951, emp. added).
Harris, R. Laird, Gleason Archer, Jr. and Bruce Waltke, eds. (1980), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789 (1904-1937), ed. Worthington C. Ford, et al. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office), [On-line], URL: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lwjc.html.
“PETA’s Mission Statement” (2007), [On-line], URL: http://www.peta.org/living/magazine.asp.