"THE BOOK OF PROVERBS" Benefits Of Diligently Seeking Wisdom (2:1-22) INTRODUCTION 1. In chapter one of Proverbs, we began our study by noting... a. The prologue, stating the purpose of the book - Pr 1:1-6 b. The theme of Proverbs, how the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge - Pr 1:7 c. The value of listening to one's parents - Pr 1:8-9 d. The danger of evil companionship - Pr 1:10-19 e. The importance of listening to wisdom (Sophia) while there is opportunity - Pr 1:20-33 2. The second chapter describes the benefits of seeking after wisdom... a. With an admonition to search for wisdom with diligence - Pr 2:1-4 b. With a list of benefits that will come from such a search - Pr 2: 5-22 [The benefits of seeking after wisdom are found only if we seek with the proper disposition...] I. QUALITIES OF A DILIGENT SEARCH FOR WISDOM A. AS EXPLAINED BY SOLOMON THEN... 1. It requires a willingness - Pr 2:1 a. To be receptive to the words of others b. To treasure (highly value and remember) commands of wisdom 2. It requires an engagement - Pr 2:2-3 a. Of the ear (willing to hear wisdom) b. Of the heart (willing to understand) c. Of the mouth (willing to cry out for discernment and understanding) 3. It requires a high estimation - Pr 2:4 a. Seeking and searching b. With the same fervor as seeking for silver and other hidden treasures -- Thus a diligent search for wisdom requires an "all out" effort on our part B. AS EXPERIENCED BY CHRISTIANS TODAY... 1. It requires hearing the Word of God a. Note: "incline your ear to wisdom" - Pr 2:2 b. Listening to preachers and teachers carefully (with all readiness) - Ac 17:11 c. Studying the Bible on your own (searched the Scriptures daily) - Ac 17:11 2. It requires meditating upon the Word of God a. Note: "apply your heart to understanding" - Pr 2:2 b. Taking time to reflect and ponder on the Word - cf. Php 4:8 c. Like the Psalmist sung of his meditations - cf. Ps 119: 97-100 3. It requires diligent prayer for wisdom a. Note: "cry out for discernment...lift up your voice for understanding" - Pr 2:3 b. We must ask in prayer with faith - Jm 1:5 c. We must persist in our asking - cf. Mt 7:7-11 4. It requires the same effort others expend seeking for material wealth a. Note: "seek her as silver...as for hidden treasures" - Pro 2:4 b. In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge - Col 2:3 c. Here's a simple test to see if you are expending the proper effort to seek wisdom: 1) If you worked as hard for your employer as you do seeking for God's wisdom... 2) ...would you have your job very long? -- Finding God's wisdom today requires the same diligence it did in Solomon's day [Is the effort worth it? Let's go now to Pr 2:5-22 and find out what are the...] II. BENEFITS OF A DILIGENT SEARCH FOR WISDOM A. KNOWLEDGE OF GOD AND HIS PROTECTION... 1. You will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God a. That fear of the Lord which is the beginning of knowledge - Pr 2:5a; cf. Pr 1:7 b. That knowledge of God, whose storehouse of wisdom and understanding He gives to the upright - Pr 2:5b-7a 2. You will have God's providential protection guiding your life a. He is a shield to those who walk uprightly - Pr 2:7b; cf. 30:5 b. He guards the paths of justice (which the righteous take) - Pr 2:8a; cf. Ps 23:3 c. He preserves the way of His saints - Pr 2:8b; cf. Ps 121: 5-8 -- What a blessing to go through life with God at your side! B. MORAL DISCERNMENT FOR LIVING... 1. You will have great understanding a. Of righteousness and justice - Pr 2:9a b. Of equity (fairness) and every good path - Pr 2:9b; cf. David's prayer, Ps 143:8-10 2. You will have great discretion a. Once wisdom enters your heart and knowledge is pleasant to you - Pr 2:10 b. They will preserve and keep you - Pr 2:11; cf. 6:22-23 -- What a blessing to go through life with God's wisdom at your disposal! C. DELIVERANCE FROM EVIL MEN... 1. Who speak perverse things - Pr 2:12; e.g., Ac 20:30 2. Who leave upright paths, walk in the ways of darkness - Pro 2:13; e.g., 2Pe 2:20-22 3. Who rejoice in doing evil, delight in the perversity of the wicked - Pr 2:14; cf. 10:23 4. Whose ways are crooked, and devious in their paths - Pr 2:15; e.g., 1:10-19 -- Wisdom can deliver us from evil men and their evil ways! D. DELIVERANCE FROM IMMORAL WOMEN... 1. The seductress flatters with her words - Pr 2:16; e.g., 7:5-21 2. The adulteress who forsakes her husband and covenant with God - Pr 2:17; cf. Mal 2:14 3. Whose house and paths lead to death, and the place of no return - Pr 2:18-19; cf. 9:13-18 -- Wisdom can deliver us from immoral women and their destructive ways! E. ENABLEMENT FOR RIGHTEOUS LIVING... 1. To walk in the way of goodness and keep to righteous paths - Pr 2:20; cf. Ps 23:3,6 2. To be upright and blameless, to dwell and remain in the land - Pr 2:21; cf. Ps 37:3 3. Unlike the wicked and unfaithful, cut off and uprooted from the earth - Pr 2:22; cf. Ps 37:37-38 -- Wisdom can empower us to live more blessed, if not longer, lives on this earth! CONCLUSION 1. Are not the benefits of wisdom worth the effort necessary to obtain it...? a. To know God and enjoy His providential care? b. To obtain discernment for making the right moral choices? c. To be delivered from the shenanigans of evil men? d. To be delivered from the seductions of immoral women? e. To be able to walk in goodness and righteousness, living lives blessed by God? 2. And what is the effort required to obtain God's wisdom...? a. To hear the word of God ("incline your ear to wisdom") b. To meditate on the word of God ("apply your heart to understanding") c. To ask in faith for wisdom ("cry out for discernment...lift up your voice for understanding") d. To highly value its worth ("seek her as silver...as for hidden treasures") With such effort, one will not only find wisdom for daily, practical living, but will also find Jesus Christ... "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." - Col 2:3 He is indeed the greatest benefit of diligently seeking wisdom!
"THE BOOK OF PROVERBS" Heed The Call Of Sophia (1:20-33) INTRODUCTION 1. We have seen that wisdom requires... a. Fearing the Lord, so that we heed His Word - Pr 1:7 b. Respecting our parents, so that we listen to their advice - Pr 1: 8-9 c. Not heeding friends who have us join them in doing evil - Pr 1: 10-19 2. At this point, Solomon personifies wisdom as a woman... a. A motif used several times in the first nine chapters - e.g., Pro 8:1-5; 9:1-6 b. A virtuous woman, later contrasted with the foolish woman who leads astray - Pr 9:13-18 [In Greek, the word for wisdom is sophia. To emphasize wisdom's personification as a woman, we'll use the name "Sophia" as we examine the text for our lesson (Pr 1:20-33). Notice first of all...] I. SOPHIA'S PLEA A. MADE PUBLICLY... (1:20-21) 1. She calls aloud outside, in the open squares 2. She cries in the streets, at the gates of the city -- Wisdom is not hidden, but reaches out to all who will listen - cf. Pr 8:1-5 B. TO THOSE WHO NEED HER... (1:22) 1. Simple ones, who love simplicity - the morally naive, easily influenced by others 2. Scorners, who delight in their scorning - the cynical and defiant, prone to ridicule others 3. Fools, who hate knowledge - those hardened to the point of hating that which is good -- People caught up in varying degrees of hardness of heart - e.g., Ep 4:17-19 C. BE FILLED WITH HER WISDOM... (1:23) 1. Turn at her rebuke - respond to her warning, and repent 2. She will pour out her spirit on them, she will make known her words to them -- Wisdom stands ready to forgive and bless those who open their hearts and minds, much like God is for those who repent and turn - cf. Ac 3:19 [The grace of God is clearly seen in Sophia's plea for all to heed her call for wisdom. Those caught up in varying degrees of hardness of heart are given opportunities to repent. But such opportunities do not last forever. Thus we now read of...] II. SOPHIA'S WARNING A. DIRECTED TO THOSE WHO REFUSED TO HEAR... (1:24-25) 1. Who refused her call, disregarded her outstretched hand 2. Who disdained her counsel, refused her rebuke 3. Just like Israel rejected her prophets - cf. 2Ch 36:15-16 -- Will we be like those who refuse to heed the Lord's wisdom and warnings? B. THERE WILL BE NO HELP WHEN CALAMITY COMES... (1:26-30) 1. She will laugh and mock when terror and destruction comes like a storm 2. Despite their cries for help, it will be too late 3. Because they hated knowledge when they had the opportunity 4. They did not choose the fear of the Lord (the beginning of wisdom) 5. They had rejected her counsel and despised her rebuke -- Heed wisdom is when it is being offered, not when it is too late! - cf. Isa 55:6-7 C. THEY WILL SUFFER THE FATE OF THEIR FOLLY... (1:31) 1. They will eat the fruit of their own way 2. They will be full of their own fancies (foolish counsel) -- Contrast of the righteous in times of trial to that of the wicked - Pr 3:25-26; 10:24-25 [Too many people wait until it is too late to do any good. To benefit from the value of wisdom, we need to learn from her while we still have time. Finally, let's consider...] III. SOPHIA'S SUMMARY A. DESTRUCTION COMES UPON THE SIMPLE AND FOOLS... (1:32) 1. Because they turn away from the true wisdom God has to offer 2. Because they allowed their complacency (regarding wisdom) to destroy them -- Will we be naive and foolish when it comes to receiving God's wisdom? B. SAFETY AND SECURITY ARE FOR THOSE WILLING TO HEAR... (1:33) 1. Who are willing to listen to wisdom - cf. Pr 8:32-35 2. Whose fear of the Lord will enable them to fear no evil - cf. Pr 3:21-26 -- Are we willing to listen and heed the wisdom God offers? CONCLUSION 1. From lady "Sophia", we learn that wisdom is a lot like the grace of God... a. Opportunity to obtain it does not last forever b. The time will come when it is too late 2. Today is the day to learn wisdom from God... a. Just like today is the day of salvation - cf. 2Co 6:1-2 b. Who will we be like: those who are simple and fools? Or those willing to hear God's wisdom? How we respond to "Sophia" reveals our true character and ultimate end... "How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? For scorners delight in their scorning, And fools hate knowledge. Turn at my rebuke; Surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you." - Pr 1:22-23
The Quran and Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
One very significant clash between the Quran and the Bible, intimately aligned with the person and deity of Jesus, is His redemptive role. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are showcased in the New Testament as the central platform of Christianity (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Acts 2:22-36; 3:13-18; 4:2,10,25-28; 5:30-31; 17:31; et al.). The primary reason Jesus came into the world was to carry out the absolutely essential plan of salvation—the means of atonement that makes it possible for God to forgive sin (Isaiah 53:10-11; Mark 10:45; Luke 19:10; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Philippians 2:5-8; 1 Timothy 2:5-6). It is only through Christ that forgiveness of sin can occur (Acts 4:12; 13:38; Ephesians 2:18). And it is only through Christ’s shed blood that this remission could be achieved (Hebrews 9:11-10:4,19; 2:14; Colossians 1:14,20; 1 Peter 1:18-21; Revelation 1:5). Christ’s crucifixion (necessarily followed by His resurrection) is unequivocally the supreme feature of the Christian religion. Without that unique and singular event, propitiation would be impossible (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2). Atonement for sin is a mandatory, indispensable necessity—intimately linked with the very nature of deity. God cannot remain just, while simply overlooking or dismissing human sin (Romans 3:25).
But the Quran, in conspicuous contradistinction, shows abject ignorance of the notion of atonement. It, in fact, denies the historicity of the crucifixion of Christ. In a passage that recounts the frequent disobedience of the Jews, the point is made:
Since Jesus (allegedly) was not actually crucified, it follows that He likewise was not resurrected from the dead:And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger—They slew him not nor crucified, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain, but Allah took him up unto Himself. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise (Surah 4:157-158, emp. added).
In sharp contrast, the New Testament places the resurrection as the platform on which the rest of the Christian system rests. If Jesus was not crucified and subsequently resurrected from the dead, then Christianity is a sham and completely indefensible. As Paul declared:(And remember) when Allah said: O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering thee and causing thee to ascend unto Me, and am cleansing thee of those who disbelieve and am setting those who follow thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then unto Me ye will (all) return, and I shall judge between you as to that wherein ye used to differ (Surah 3:55, emp. added).
The author of the Quran appears oblivious to this deficiency. He endorses Christianity (as long as Christians will acknowledge God as singular), but denies the resurrection. Yet the Christian religion itself admits that if the resurrection did not take place, it is a false religion. In fact, the very name “Christian” would be a blasphemous term if Christ is not to be worshipped as God and Savior. To identify oneself, or others, as “Christians” in an approving manner should be as unacceptable and repugnant to Islam as the identification of Muslims as “Mohammedans.” Yet the Quran frequently lends dignity to the term “Christian” in an approving manner (Surah 2:62,111,113,120; 5:51,69,82; 22:17)—all the while denying its most central tenet.Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable (1 Corinthians 15:12-19, emp. added).
David Has Been Found
|by||Garry K. Brantley, M.A., M.Div.|
Last summer, archaeologists excavating at Tel Dan (biblical Dan) found a fragment of a stela (inscribed stone) in the remains of a city wall that scholars acclaim as “one of the most important discoveries in the annals of Biblical archaeology” (Wood, 1993, 6:121). The stone fragment seems to have been from a victory stela erected at Dan by a conquering Aramean (Syrian) army. When the Israelites eventually reclaimed the city, they destroyed the stela and used its fragments in various structures (Shanks, 1994, 20:39). Professor Avraham Biran, the archaeologist heading the excavation, has dated the stela to the first half of the ninth century B.C. (Shanks, 1994, 20:38).
Though only thirteen partial lines remain of this once-impressive monument, they contain an unparalleled literary jewel. Lines 8 and 9 explicitly mention the “king of Israel” and the “House of David,” which the conquering army defeated [The drawing on the left depicts the lower portion of the basalt stela from Tel Dan. The engraved inscription is written in paleo-Hebrew. The two highlighted areas are translated “king of Isreal” and “House of David,” respectively.] These statements are important for several reasons. First, this is the only extant, extrabiblical document that unquestionably mentions the name David (perhaps it also appears in the Mesha stela, better known as the Moabite stone; see Lemaire, 1994). Even more remarkable is the fact that his name appears in the familiar phrase “House of David.” Given the date of the stela, this serves to confirm the biblical usage of this designation (cf. 1 Kings 12:19, 14:8, Isaiah 7:2, et al.).
Second, though critical scholars have tended to minimize the importance of Israel and Judah during this historical period, the inscription supports the significance that the Bible attaches to these two kingdoms. Third, the tentative date of this discovery corresponds historically with 1 Kings 15:9-20 in which Ben-Hadad, King of Syria (Aram), attacked several Israelite cities including Dan. Some scholars argue that the stela is an exact parallel to this sacred account.
However, there seem to be some differences between the details of 1 Kings 15:9-20 and the ancient stela fragment. Most conspicuously, the stela suggests (if accurately translated) that the Syrian army destroyed both Israel and Judah, but the biblical text indicates that Syria and Judah were allies against Israel. These discrepancies do not necessarily mean that either account is inaccurate. It may be that the stela refers to another battle not mentioned in the Bible, and it is very likely that there were several skirmishes involving Syria. But the stela does demonstrate that Syria (Aram) had military conflicts with Israel, lending corroborative testimony to the historical reliability of the biblical text.
No doubt, analysis of and debate over the stela will continue for some time. We can be certain, however, that the name “David” has been found in a ninth-century B.C. text other than the Bible. That incontrovertible fact is yet another ancient witness to biblical credibility.
Shanks, Hershel (1994a), “ ‘David’ Found at Dan,” Biblical Archaeology Review, 20:26-39, March/April.
Shanks, Hershel (1994b), “New Inscription May Illuminate Biblical Events,” Biblical Archaeology Review, 20:38, March/April.
Wood, Bryant (1993), “New Inscription Mentions House of David,” Bible and Spade, 6:119-121, Autumn.
Bible Contradictions—Are They Real?
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
The charge is made quite frequently that the Bible contains numerous contradictions. Is this charge correct?
“I cannot have confidence in the Bible, for it is a book filled with contradictions.” I could not estimate how many times I have heard this charge against the Holy Scriptures over the past quarter of a century. One thing, however, has been consistent about the allegation—the critic rarely can name even one alleged contradiction that the Bible is supposed to contain. He just “knows” that they are “in there” somewhere.
Those who allege that the Bible contains contradictions basically fall into two classes. First, there is the person who honestly believes this to be the case because he has heard the hackneyed charge repeated frequently; thus, he is sincerely misinformed about the facts. Second, there is that type of person who, from base motives, hates the Bible and so does not scruple to pervert its testimony in order to embarrass the Sacred Volume. In either case, the Word of God is not at fault!
Preliminary to a consideration of this important theme, it should be noted that the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” applies to the Bible as to any other book. Books, like people, ought to be considered truthful and consistent until it can be demonstrated that they are not. Great attempts have been made to absolve the Greek and Latin classics of contradictions under the presumption that the authors did not contradict themselves. Surely the Bible deserves at least an equally charitable approach.
WHAT IS A CONTRADICTION?It is fairly safe to say that most people have only a superficial understanding of what constitutes a genuine contradiction. An important truth that must repeatedly be hammered home is this: a mere difference does not a contradiction make!
What, then, is a contradiction? In logic, the Law of Contradiction is stated succinctly as follows: “Nothing can both be and not be” (Jevons, 1928, p. 117). That is a very abbreviated form of the rule. Aristotle, in a more amplified form, expressed it this way. “That the same thing should at the same time both be and not be for the same person and in the same respect is impossible.”
An analysis of the Law of Contradiction, therefore, would suggest the following: when one is confronted with an alleged contradiction, he must ask himself these questions: (1) Is the same thing or person under consideration? (2) Is the same time period in view? (3) Is the language that seems to be self-contradictory employed in the same sense? It is vitally important that these questions be answered correctly. For instance, let us analyze the following two statements: Robert is rich. Robert is poor. Do these statements contradict one another? The answer is—not necessarily! First, two different people named Robert could be under consideration. Second, two different time frames might be in view; Robert could have been rich but, due to financial disaster, he became poor. Third, the terms “rich” and “poor” might have been used in different senses; Robert could be spiritually rich but economically poor. The point is this: it never is proper to assume a contradiction exists until every possible means of harmonization has been fully exhausted. Now, let this principle be applied to the Bible.
Same Person or Thing
An infidel once announced that he had discovered a contradiction in the Bible. When challenged to produce it, he suggested that whereas Noah’s ark with all of its inmates must have weighed several tons (Genesis 6), the priests were said to have carried the ark across the Jordan River (Joshua 3). The poor fellow, in his profound simplicity, did not even know the difference between Noah’s ark and the Ark of the Covenant! Slightly different arks—to say the least! Again, the Scriptures affirm that faith saves apart from works; on the other hand, the New Testament declares that faith apart form works cannot save. “Surely,” some contend, “this is a contradiction.” The fact is it is not, fordifferent types of works are addressed in the Scriptures. Salvation involves works of obedience to the commands of Jesus Christ (James 2:14ff.; Philippians 2:12), but it cannot be obtained by works of the Mosaic Law (Romans 3:28; 4:2ff.) or by boastful works of human merit (Ephesians 2:9). There is no contradiction in the Bible on this point.
Same Time Reference
The Bible records: “God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). And then: “And it repented Jehovah that he had made man on earth, and it grieved him at his heart” (6:6). The infidel cites both verses and claims that God simultaneously was satisfied and dissatisfied with His creation—neglecting to mention, of course, that the fall of man and hundreds of years of history separated the two statements! Judas, one of the Lord’s disciples, was empowered to perform miracles (cf. Matthew 10:1-18), yet he is called “the son of perdition” (John 17:12). Is there a contradiction here? No, for it was a couple of years after the time of the limited commission (Matthew 10) before Judas commenced to apostatize from the Lord (John 12:6; 13:2,27). The time element is vitally important in understanding some passages.
Some have charged the Bible with a mistake in connection with the time of Jesus’ trial and death. Mark writes that the Lord was crucified at the third hour (Mark 15:25), while John’s account has the Savior being tried at the sixth hour (John 19:14)—seemingly three hours after His death. John’s time reference, however, was based upon Romancivil days, while Mark computed according to Jewish time (cf. Westcott, 1981, 8:282). Again, the “contradiction” dissolves.
If the Bible is to be understood, it is imperative that recognition be given to the different senses in which words may be employed. Normally, words are used literally, but they can be employed figuratively as well.
In Matthew 11:14, John the Baptizer is identified as “Elijah,” yet, the forerunner of Christ, in John 1:21, plainly denied that he was Elijah. These verses are reconciled quite easily. Though John was not literally Elijah physically reincarnated, nevertheless he was the spiritual antitype of the great prophet; he prepared the way for the Lord “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17).
Did the apostle Paul contradict himself when he affirmed on one occasion that he was “as touching the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless” (Philippians 3:6), and yet, at another time, he acknowledged that he was “chief ” of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15)? Again, the answer must be “No.” In the former passage, Paul was describing the reputation he enjoyed among his Hebrew contemporaries as a Pharisee, while in the latter verse, he expressed the anguish he felt at having been a persecutor of the Christian Way. How sad that some are almost totally ignorant of the principles that resolve Bible difficulties.
LOGICAL IMPLICATIONSOne of the implications of the Law of Contradiction is the concept that “nothing can have at the same time and at the same place contradictory and inconsistent qualities” (Jevons, 1928, p. 118). A door may be open or shut, but the same door may not be both open and shut at the same time. Open and shut are opposites, yet they are not contradictory unless they are affirmed of the same object at the same time. Here is the principle: opposites are not necessarily contradictory. Let this principle be applied to certain biblical matters.
Does the Bible contradict itself, as is often suggested, when it asserts that God both loves and hates? No, for though these terms are opposites, when used of God they do not express His disposition toward the same objects. God loves every sinner in the world (John 3:16), but He hates every false way (Psalm 119:104). He loves righteousness, but hates iniquity (Psalm 45:7), and hence responds toward such with either goodness or severity (Romans 11:22). No contradiction here.
Was Paul both “perfect” and “imperfect” at the same time? Some have charged that he so claimed. In Philippians 3:12, the apostle declared that he had not been “already made perfect,” while in the 15th verse he wrote: “Let us, therefore, as many as are perfect, be thus minded.” How is this problem resolved? A careful analysis of the language employed will solve this alleged discrepancy. When Paul claimed that he had not been “made perfect,” he used a perfect tense form of the Greek term which literally suggested that the apostle had not arrived at a permanent state of perfection. On the other hand, in the latter verse Paul used an adjective that actually means full-grown or mature (note how the same term is used in contrast to infantilism in 1 Corinthians 14:20 and Ephesians 4:13). And so, while Paul denied that he was already in possession of permanent perfection, he did claim to possess spiritual maturity. There is no conflict between these passages.
Another important point to be emphasized is this: one must not confuse supplementation with contradiction. In a contradiction, two facts are mutually exclusive; in supplementation, two facts merely complement one another. If one says, for example, that John doe is a husband, and then, of the same John Doe, that he is not a husband—this is contradiction. On the other hand, if one says that John Doe is a father—that is not a contradiction. It merely is supplementing statement number two. Many alleged Bible discrepancies can be answered by a recognition of this principle.
The case of the healing of the blind men of Jericho presents an interesting study in supplementation (Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43). Two prominent problems have been set forth. First, while both Mark and Luke mention the healing ofone blind man, Matthew records the healing of two blind men. Second, Matthew and Mark indicate that the blind men were healed as Jesus was leaving Jericho, whereas Luke seems to suggest that a blind man was healed as the Lord “drew nigh” to the city. As a discussion of these passages is begun, let this vital consideration be remembered—if there is any reasonable way of harmonizing these records, no legitimate contradiction can be charged to the accounts!
How, then, shall these narratives be reconciled? Several reasonable possibilities have been posed by scholarly writers.
In the first place, the fact that two of the accounts mention only one man, while the other mentions two, need not concern us. Had Mark and Luke stated that Christ healedonly one man, with Matthew affirming that more than one were healed, an error surely would be apparent, but such is not the case. If one says, “I have a son,” he does not contradict himself by stating further, “I have a son and a daughter.” The latter statement merely supplements the former. There is no discrepancy, therefore, with reference to the number of men involved.
But how shall the second problem be resolved? Several reasonable possibilities have been advanced.
It is possible that three blind men were healed in the vicinity
of Jericho on this occasion, and that the incident mentioned by Luke,
as occurring when Jesus approached the city, might have represented a
different miracle than that recorded by Matthew and Mark. This may not
be the most likely explanation, but it cannot be disproved.
Edward Robinson argued that the verb engizo, rendered “drew near” (Luke 18:35) also can mean “to be near.” He cited evidence from the Septuagint (1 Kings 21:2—“it is near unto
my house” [cf. Deuteronomy 21:3, Jeremiah 23:23, Ruth 2:20, and 2
Samuel 19:42]) and from the New Testament (Luke 19:29; cf. Matthew 21:1
and Philippians 2:30). He thus translated Luke 18:35 as “while he was
yet nigh unto Jericho” (1855, p. 200). This view implies that Luke
simply locates the miracle near Jericho; hence such can be harmonized with the other records.
- Perhaps the most popular viewpoint among reputable writers is the fact that at the time of Christ there actually were two Jerichos. First, there was the Jericho of Old Testament history (Joshua 6:1ff.; 1 Kings 16:34) that was located at the sight of Elijah’s spring. In the first century, however, that city lay almost in ruins. About two miles south of that site was the new Jericho, built by Herod the Great. The Lord—traveling from the north toward Jerusalem—first would pass through the old Jericho, then some two miles to the southwest, would go through Herodian Jericho. The miracles under consideration, therefore may have been performedbetween two towns. Accordingly, the references in Matthew and Mark to leavingJericho would allude to the old city, whereas Luke’s observation to drawing nearto Jericho would refer to the newer community (see Robertson, 1930, 1:163).
CONCLUSIONIn dealing with so-called “contradictions” in the Bible, let these principles be carefully remembered.
No contradiction exists between verses that refer to different persons or things.
No contradiction exists between passages that involve different time elements.
No contradiction exists between verses that employ phraseology in different senses.
Supplementation is not the same as contradiction.
- One need show only the possibility of harmonization between two passage that appear to conflict in order to negate the force of an alleged discrepancy.
REFERENCESJevons, W. Stanley (1928), Elementary Lessons in Logic (London: Macmillan).
Robertson, A.T. (1930), Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman).
Robinson, Edward (1855), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (New York: Harper Brothers).
Westcott, B.F. (1981 reprint), The Gospel of St. John, The Bible Commentary, ed. F.C. Cook (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit—The "Unpardonable Sin"
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Through the years, numerous writers have taken on the task of explaining the comment spoken by Jesus concerning the “unpardonable sin”—blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. From these writings have come countless false doctrines, insinuations, and suggested explanations. It is the purpose of this article to explain what “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” is not, what it actually is, and to offer comment concerning whether it still can be committed today.
Three of the four gospel accounts contain a reference to the statement made by Jesus concerning blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. These three passages read as follows.
Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come (Matthew 12:31-32).Each of these references to the statement made by Jesus verifies that Jesus did clearly state that there is a specific sin that “will not be forgiven.” The American Standard Version describes the sin as an “eternal sin” (Mark 3:29). Jesus defined that sin as “the blasphemy against the Spirit.” What, then, is blasphemy against the Spirit?
Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation—because they said, “He has an unclean spirit” (Mark 3:28-30).
And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven (Luke 12:10).
In order to explain this sin fully, a look at the general context of the statement is critical. Matthew’s account offers the most detail concerning the setting in which Jesus’ statement was made. In Matthew 12:22, the text indicates that a certain man who was demon-possessed was brought to Jesus to be healed. As was His common practice, Jesus cast out the unclean spirit, and healed the man of his blindness and inability to speak. After seeing this display of power, the multitudes that followed Jesus asked, “Could this be the Son of David?” (12:23). Upon hearing this remark, the Pharisees, wanting to discredit the source from which Jesus received His power, declared that Jesus was casting out demons by “Beelzebub, the ruler of demons.” Jesus proceeded to explain that a kingdom divided against itself could not stand, and if He were casting out demons by the power of demons, then He would be defeating Himself. It was after this accusation by the Pharisees, and Jesus’ defense of His actions, that Christ commented concerning the blasphemy against the Spirit. In fact, the text of Mark clearly states that Jesus made the comment about the blasphemy against the Spirit “because they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’ ”
Another critical piece of information needed to clarify Jesus’ statement is the definition of blasphemy. Wayne Jackson wrote: “Blasphemy is an anglicized form of the Greek term blasphemia, which scholars believe probably derives from two roots, blapto, to injure, and pheme, to speak. The word would thus suggest injurious speech” (2000). Bernard Franklin, in his article concerning blasphemy against the Spirit, suggested:
The word “blasphemy” in its various forms (as verb, noun, adjective, etc.) appears some fifty-nine times in the New Testament. It has a variety of renderings, such as, “blasphemy,” “reviled,” “railed,” “evil spoken of,” “to speak evil of,” etc. Examples of these various renderings are: “They that passed by reviled him” (Matthew 27:39). “He that shall blaspheme” (Mark 3:29). “They that passed by railed on him” (Mark 15:29). “The way of truth shall be evil spoken of ” (2 Peter 2:2). “These speak evil of those things” (Jude 10). It is evident from these that blasphemy is a sin of the mouth, a “tongue-sin.” All New Testament writers except the author of Hebrews use the word (1936, pp. 224-225).Furthermore, Jesus defined the term when, after referring to blasphemy, He used the phrase “speaks a word against” in Matthew 12:32.
WHAT THE UNPARDONABLE SIN IS NOTWith the working definition of blasphemy meaning, “to speak against,” or “speak evil of,” it is easy to rule out several sins that would not qualify as the unpardonable sin. Occasionally, murder is suggested as the “unpardonable sin.” Such cannot be the case, however. First, since blasphemy is a “tongue sin,” murder would not fall into this category. Second, several biblical passages show the sin of murder can be forgiven. When King David committed adultery and had Uriah the Hittite murdered, the prophet Nathan came to him, informing him that God had seen that David “killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword” (2 Samuel 12:9). When David confessed to Nathan and repented, the prophet told David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die” (12:13). And, although David was punished for his iniquity, it was forgiven. The Bible plainly demonstrates that murder is not the unpardonable sin.
Adultery surfaces as another sin put forward as unpardonable. Yet the same reasoning used to discount murder as the unpardonable sin can be used to disqualify adultery. First, it does not fit the category of blasphemy. Second, David was forgiven of adultery, just as surely as he was forgiven of murder. The apostle Paul gave a list of no less than ten sins (including adultery) of which the Corinthian brethren had been forgiven (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Adultery cannot be the unpardonable sin.
Another sin set forth as the unpardonable sin is blasphemy of any kind, not specifically against the Holy Spirit. We know, however, that blasphemy in general cannot be unforgivable for two reasons. First, in the context of the unpardonable sin, Jesus clearly stated that “whatever blasphemies” men may utter (besides against the Holy Spirit) could be forgiven. Second, Paul confessed that before his conversion, he had formerly been “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief ” (1 Timothy 1:13). These two biblical passages rule out the possibility of general blasphemy as the unpardonable sin.
We begin to see, then, that we cannot arbitrarily decide which sins we think are heinous, and then simply attribute to them the property of being unpardonable, especially considering the fact that even those who were guilty of crucifying the Son of God had the opportunity to be forgiven (Acts 2:36-38). Therefore, since the unpardonable sin falls into a category of its own, and cannot be murder, adultery, general blasphemy, etc., some scholars have set forth the idea that the unpardonable sin is not a single sin at all, but is instead the stubborn condition of a person who persists in unbelief. This understanding, however, fails to take into account the immediate context of the “unpardonable sin.” Gus Nichols, commenting on this idea of “persistent unbelief,” stated: “It is true, great multitudes are going into eternity in rebellion against God to be finally and eternally lost; but it is for rejecting and neglecting pardon graciously extended in the gospel while they live, not because they have committed the unpardonable sin” (1967, p. 236). Wendell Winkler, under a section titled, “What the Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit is Not,” wrote that it is not
postponement of obedience until death. The text implies that those who commit the eternal sin continue to live while having lost all opportunity of salvation; whereas those who postpone obedience to Christ (except those who commit the eternal sin) could have obeyed at any time previous to their death (1980, p. 20).
IN THIS AGE OR IN THE AGE TO COMEJesus said that blasphemy against the Spirit would not be forgiven “in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:32). Certain religious organizations have seized upon this statement to suggest that Jesus has in mind a situation in which certain sins will be remitted after death—but not this sin. This idea of a purgatory-like state, where the souls of the dead are given a “second chance” to do penance for the sins they committed in their earthly life, finds no justification in this statement made by Christ (nor in any other biblical passage, for that matter). R.C.H. Lenski stated that Jesus’ use of the phrase under discussion meant simply “absolutely never” (1961, p. 484). Hendriksen concurred with Lenski when he wrote:
In passing, it should be pointed out that these words by no stretch of the imagination imply that for certain sins there will be forgiveness in the life hereafter. They do not in any sense whatever support the doctrine of purgatory. The expression simply means that the indicated sin will never be forgiven (1973, p. 528).As the writer of Hebrews succinctly wrote, “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
It also has been suggested by several writers that the “age to come” discussed by Jesus refers to the Christian Age. According to this idea, Jesus made the statement in the Jewish Age, when the Law of Moses was in effect, and the “age to come” denoted the Christian Age immediately following, when the Law of Christ would prevail. Putting this meaning to the phrase often leads the advocates of this theory to conclude that the unpardonable sin could be committed in the Christian Age, after the resurrection of Christ. As Winkler surmised, “Thus, since our Lord was speaking while the Jewish age was in existence, he was affirming that the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost would not be forgiven in (a) the Jewish age, nor in (b) the Christian age, the age that followed” (1980, p. 21). Nichols, after affirming the same proposition, concluded:
It follows that this sin, therefore, could be committed during the personal ministry of Christ, and was then committed, as we have seen, and could also be committed under the gospel age or dispensation. They could have attributed the works of the Spirit to Satan after Pentecost, the same as before (1967, p. 234).Two primary pieces of evidence, however, militate against the idea that Jesus’ reference to the “age to come” meant the Christian Age. First, in Mark 10:30, the gospel writer has Jesus on record using the same phrase (“in the age to come”) to refer to the time when the followers of Christ would inherit “eternal life” (see Luke 18:30 for the parallel passage). This is a clear reference to life after death, since Paul said “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50). Second, Mark’s account of the unpardonable sin describes the sin as an “eternal sin.” The translators of the New King James Version recorded that the person who commits the sin “never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation” (Mark 3:29). Mark’s account, with its emphasis on eternity, shows that the phrase simply is meant to underscore the fact that this sin will “absolutely never” be forgiven (Lenski, p. 484). It is incorrect, then, to use the phrase “in the age to come” to refer to purgatory. It also is tenuous to use the phrase to refer to the Christian Age. The best explanation, to quote Hendrickson again, is that “the expression simply means that the indicated sin will never be forgiven” (p. 528).
WHAT THE UNPARDONABLE SIN ISAs was noted earlier, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the only sin in the Bible that is given the status of unpardonable or eternal. In fact, Jesus prefaced His discussion of this sin by stating that, “every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men,” except for blasphemy against the Spirit. Using the working definition of blasphemy as “speaking evil of,” it becomes clear that the sin described by Jesus was a “tongue sin” that the Pharisees had committed, or at least were dangerously close to committing.
What had the Pharisees done that would have put them in jeopardy of committing the unpardonable sin? According to His own testimony, during Jesus’ time on this Earth He cast out demons by the “Spirit of God” (Matthew 12:28). When the Pharisees saw that Jesus had performed a verifiable miracle, they could not argue with the fact that Christ possessed certain powers that others (including themselves) did not have. Therefore, in order to cast suspicion on the ministry of Jesus, they claimed that He was casting out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of demons. The name Beelzebub is simply another name for Satan (Franklin, 1936, p. 227), as can be seen from Jesus’ reference to Satan in Matthew 12:26. Even when faced by the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit through Jesus, the Pharisees were, in essence, attributing Jesus’ power to Satan, and claiming that Jesus was “Satan incarnate instead of God incarnate. It is this, and nothing else, that our Lord calls the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (or Spirit—KB)” (Franklin, p. 227). Maxie Boren wrote: “The context of Matthew 12:22ff. shows clearly that this was indeed the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit—attributing the miracle done by Jesus to the power of the devil. Jesus said it was done ‘by the Spirit of God’ (verse 28) but they (the Pharisees—KB) said it was done by Beelzebub” (n.d., p. 1). It is clear that blasphemy against the Spirit was a definite, singular sin, which could be committed by the Pharisees during the life of Jesus.
IS THE “UNPARDONABLE SIN” THE
John, in his first epistle, mentioned the fact that “there is sin
leading to death” and “there is sin not leading to death” (1 John
5:16-17). His statement in these verses has been connected by more than a
few people to Jesus’ remark about the “eternal sin.” It is evident,
however, that this connection is based more on opinion than on textual
SAME AS THE “SIN UNTO DEATH”?
First, there is no biblical evidence that connects the passage in 1 John with the Pharisees’ accusation. Furthermore, the entire context of 1 John gives the Christian readers hope of forgiveness for all sins that they might have committed. John wrote: “All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death” (1 John 5:17). Several chapters earlier, he wrote: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9, emp. added). In the scope of John’s epistle, any unrighteousness committed by his readers could be forgiven if the transgressor took the proper steps of repentance and confession. Apparently, the “sin unto death” in 1 John is not a specific sin for which it is impossible to receive forgiveness, but rather, is any sin for which a person will not take the proper steps demanded by God to receive the forgiveness available. On the other hand, blasphemy against the Spirit was a specific, eternal sin that never would be forgiven.
CAN THE UNPARDONABLE SIN BE COMMITTED TODAY?The next question usually asked concerning this sin is whether or not it is still possible to commit it today. Opinions on this question certainly vary, and scholars seem to be divided in their positions. The evidence, however, seems to point toward the idea that this sin cannot be committed today.
First, the circumstances under which the sin is described cannot prevail today, due to the fact that the age of miracles has ceased (see Miller, 2003). No one today will have the opportunity to witness Jesus performing miracles in person (2 Corinthians 5:16).
Second, there is no other mention of the sin in any biblical passage written after the resurrection of Christ. None of the inspired New Testament writers refers to the sin in any epistle or in the book of Acts, and none offers warnings to new converts about avoiding the sin post-Pentecost. Franklin observed:
If it were possible for it to be committed, would there not have been some warning against it? Were there any danger regarding it, would the Apostle Paul, who wrote half the books of the New Testament, have failed to warn against its commission? Paul does not even mention the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The sin in question was actually committed in the days of our Lord’s ministry on earth, but it does not necessarily follow that it could be committed in His absence (p. 233).In discussing this matter, Gus Nichols wrote: “It seems that all sins committed today are pardonable, and that all can be saved, if they will” (1967, p. 239). V.E. Howard, commented along the same lines when he stated that “there is no unpardonable sin today” (1975, p. 156).
In conclusion, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the only unpardonable sin mentioned in the Bible, and it is mentioned in the context of the Pharisees accusing Jesus of being possessed by the Devil. The context indicates that it was a specific sin, and not a series of forgivable sins, or an attitude of persistent unbelief. After the resurrection, no inspired writer mentions the sin, and no warnings against it were recorded. There is no concrete evidence that it can be committed today. The fact that it is not mentioned after the resurrection, lends itself to the idea that it cannot still be committed. In fact, the indication from passages such as 1 John 1:7,9 is that “all unrighteousness” that a person could commit today can be forgiven by the blood of Jesus. As Howard said when concluding his remarks about the eternal sin: “In the same scripture our Lord gave full assurance that every sin and blasphemy against the ‘Son of man’ shall be forgiven him. Today the gospel of Christ is to be preached to every man on earth and any man on earth may be saved by obeying the gospel (Mark 16:15-16)” [p. 157].
REFERENCESBoren, Maxie B. (no date), “The Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit,” Class Handout, Brown Trail church of Christ, Bedford, Texas, Lesson 4.
Franklin, Barnard (1936), “The Blasphemy Against the Holy Ghost: An Inquiry into the Scriptural Teaching Regarding the Unpardonable Sin,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 93:220-233, April.
Hendriksen, William (1973), The Gospel According to Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Howard, V.E. (1975), The Holy Spirit (West Monroe, LA: Central Publishers).
Jackson, Wayne (2000), Blasphemy—What Is This Great Sin?, [On-line], URL: http://www.christiancourier.com/archives/blasphemy.htm.
Lenski, R.C.H. (1961 reprint), The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Miller, Dave (2003), “Modern-day Miracles, Tongue-speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation,” Reason and Revelation, 23(3):17-23, March.
Nichols, Gus (1967), Lectures on the Holy Spirit (Plainview, TX: Nichols Brothers).
Winkler, Wendell, ed. (1980), What Do You Know About the Holy Spirit? (Fort Worth, TX: Winkler Publications).
Jesus: Truly God and Truly Human
|by||Brad Bromling, D.Min.|
One day Jesus asked His friends, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (Matthew 16:13). They gave a variety of answers: “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (vs. 14). Different people saw different things in Jesus. Herod heard about the miracles Jesus was performing and decided that He must be John the Baptist (whom he beheaded) raised from the dead (Mark 6:14). Others saw something in Jesus’ disposition that led them to believe He was the incarnation of the prophet Jeremiah (maybe they had seen Jesus weep and remembered how Jeremiah wept over the fall of Jerusalem). Still others had seen enough of Jesus to conclude He was the embodiment of one of the ancient prophets, although they were not sure which. This variety of answers reflects a level of confusion that seems surprising to us 2,000 years later. After all, they had the living, breathing, human person of Jesus to behold, and yet they still were confused. In the decades and centuries since, that confusion has not abated. A plethora of Christologies has been devised. Although there is great variety among them, generally they fall into three main categories: (1) Jesus was truly human, but not truly God; (2) Jesus was truly God, but not truly human; and (3) Jesus was both truly human and truly God.
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of his Father, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father. By whom all things were made, both which be in heaven and in earth. Who for us men and for our salvation came down [from heaven] and was incarnate and was made man. He suffered and the third day he rose again, and ascended to heaven. And he shall come again to judge both the quick and the dead... (Percival, 1899, p. 3).So, it was the Council’s conviction that Jesus was both “very God” and “made man.” But how can the same person be both God and man? Nicea had not adequately answered this. It remained to be addressed by the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451). The 150 members of the Council declared that Jesus was one person with two natures.
...we teach with one voice that the Son [of God] and our Lord Jesus Christ is to be confessed as one and the same [Person], that he is perfect in Godhead and perfect in manhood, very God and very man, of a reasonable soul and [human] body consisting, consubstantial with the Father as touching his Godhead, and consubstantial with us as touching his manhood.... This one and the same Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son [of God] must be confessed in two natures, unconfusedly, immutably, indivisibly, inseparably [united], and that without the distinction of natures being taken away by such union... (Percival, 1899, pp. 264-265).It is significant to note that the Council chose to clarify the meaning of the two natures in negative terms. In a sense, they, “put up four fences (without confusion, without change, without division, without separation) and said: The mystery lies within this area” (Runia, 1984, pp. 12-13). Although this confession did not really answer the question as to how Jesus could have both natures at the same time, it respected both aspects of Jesus’ identity and stood as the fundamental statement of Christology for Catholics and Protestants alike for many centuries.
THE IMPACT OF SKEPTICISM
Liberal scholarship of the last 200 years has largely adopted as paradigmatic this distinction between the “historical Jesus” and the “Christ of Christian faith.” The claim is that the historical Jesus may be discovered in a fragmentary way by subjecting the Gospels to the rigors of the historical-critical method (see Brantley, 1994). The Christ of the Christian faith is the version of Jesus presented by the New Testament writers and the confessions of Christendom. Much of the recent discussion in Christology, then, centers on whether one should shape one’s understanding of Jesus by the Christ of faith or the Jesus of history.
Often, liberal scholars begin with the Jesus of history and move from there to decide what of the Christ of faith is worthy of belief (e.g., Edward Schillebeeckx, Piet Schoonenberg, Hans Kung, John A.T. Robinson, et al.). Typically the answer is, “not much.” This is also the presupposition behind the work of the Jesus Seminar (see Bromling, 1994), as well as works from a variety of authors (Marcus Borg, Barbara Thiering, Geza Vermes, John Dominic Crossan, et al.). A.N. Wilson’s popular book, Jesus: A Life, is typical. In it, he opened with this line: “The Jesus of history and the Christ of Faith are two separate beings, with very different stories” (1992, p. vii). Wilson rejected the latter, and wrote an entire book describing the former. His historical Jesus, however, “is a pale and distorted version of the real thing” (Wright, 1992, p. 63). Wilson described the Jesus of history as “the great apocalyptic prophet, the visionary teacher, the widely popular healer and exorcist” Whose life was a “total failure” and Whose “mission, whatever its original purpose may have been, ended on the Cross” (Wright, 1992, pp. 167-168). Wilson contended that Jesus never would have approved of Christianity; on the contrary, had Jesus known what would be done in His name, He probably would have wished He never had been born (pp. 255-256).
By way of summary, two hundred years of liberal scholastic inquiry into the question of the identity of Jesus have resulted, essentially, in a revival of the Ebionite heresy. The new portraits depict a Jesus Who is no more than a man and Who was nothing like the Christ preached by Paul and worshipped for nearly two millennia by faithful Christians. This is the price one pays for rejecting the verbal inspiration of Scripture.
COMING TO PETER’S CONCLUSION
What led Peter to make that confession? The answer is found in Jesus’ reply: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is heaven” (vs. 17). Peter’s view of Jesus was based upon information provided by God, rather than upon the uncertain ideas of people. That information came to Peter in the form of Old Testament prophesies that he was beginning to see fulfilled in Jesus, and that were being confirmed by the miracles Jesus was performing. The same information has been preserved for all ages in the four Gospels, and will lead us to the same conclusion if we give it a fair hearing.
While imprisoned, John sent some of his followers to Jesus to ask, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3). Jesus responded: “Go tell John...the blind receive their sight and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached unto them” (Matthew 11:4-5). Over seven hundred years earlier, the prophet Isaiah predicted that those very things would be done by the Messiah (see Isaiah 35:5-6; 61:1). Jesus wasn’t merely saying, “Look at all the good things I am doing.” He was saying, “Look, I am doing exactly what the Coming One is supposed to do!”
Although not eager to admit it, Jesus’ critics were often brought face-to-face with the truth that no one could do what He did unless God was with Him (John 3:2). One example of this is seen in John 9, where it is recorded that Jesus gave sight to a man who had been born blind. Some of Christ’s enemies tried to deny that a miracle had occurred, but they were unsuccessful. Then they tried to draw attention away from the miracle by attacking Jesus’ character. They said to the man whom Jesus healed: “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner” (John 9:24). This plan did not succeed either. Notice how the man answered them:
Why this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He has opened my eyes! Now we know that God hears not sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears Him. Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing (John 9:30-33).His point was the very thing the Pharisees were unwilling to accept—Jesus’ miraculous works supported His claim to be the Son of God! It is not surprising, then, that the man accepted Jesus as his Lord.
The evidence for the deity of Christ is both sufficient and compelling. There is a temptation, however, to emphasize the Lord’s deity to the exclusion of His humanity. In a sense, the modern church can become guilty of practical Doceticism. In other words, Christians can become so focused upon establishing that Jesus is the Son of God that they fail to acknowledge that He also is the Son of Man. Yet, time and again Jesus applied that term to Himself (e.g., Matthew 1:20; 9:6; et al.). As a human, He learned (Hebrews 5:8), became hungry (Matthew 4:2), experienced thirst (John 19:28), grew tired (John 4:6), and slept (Matthew 8:24). He felt anger (Mark 3:5), frustration (Mark 9:19), joy (John 15:11), and sadness (John 11:35). He was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15), and significantly, He was able to die (Mark 15:44). These human traits are as important to our understanding of the person of Jesus as are the traits He shared with deity.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-3,14).
Brantley, Garry K. (1994), “Biblical Miracles: Fact or Fiction?,” Reason & Revelation, 14:33-38, May.
Bromling, Brad T. (1994), “A Look at the Jesus Seminar,” Reason & Revelation, 14:81-87, November.
Lockyer, Herbert (1973), All the Messianic Prophecies of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Percival, Henry R., ed. (1899), “The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church,” in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1973 reprint).
Runia, Klaas (1984) The Present-Day Christological Debate (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press).
Wilson, A.N. (1992), Jesus: A Life (New York: Fawcett Columbine).
Wright, N.T. (1992), Who Was Jesus? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
A Four Million Dollar Piece of Evidence for God’s Existence
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
A ten-pound, four million dollar technological wonder connected to the shoulder of Claudia Mitchell makes her the first “bionic” woman in the world. After losing her left arm, Mitchell received a prosthetic limb specially designed to work using nerve impulses from her body (Davis, 2006).
On September 14, 2006, Mitchell unveiled the new arm in a Washington, D.C. news conference. Mitchell’s doctor, Todd Kuiken, head of neural engineering at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, has done some amazing things to make this seemingly futuristic bionic arm a reality. Kuiken and his team were able to move nerves into Mitchell’s chest, disconnect those nerves from actual muscles, and connect them to sensors in the bionic arm, so that “six muscles in Mitchell’s chest now move six motors in the bionic arm” (2006).
New bionic technology such as that connected to Mitchell is taking prosthetics to new heights. With Mitchell’s new arm she can perform everyday tasks such as “folding a pair of pants without first stretching them on a flat surface,” and she can “open a spaghetti jar and hold it up at an angle and use a spoon to empty it out” (2006). Yet, for all that can be done with the advanced machinery, Kuiken still calls the arm “clumsy,” noting that the technology needs more precision and sensitivity (2006).
When considering Kuiken’s statement about the “clumsy” bionic arm, one is forced to consider that the arm is clumsy when compared to an actual human arm. But such an idea carries with it a profound implication. If humans have spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours, using the most advanced technology available, to produce a “clumsy” functioning prosthetic limb, then the human arm that outperforms the bionic one must have been designed and engineered by a higher intelligence than that possessed by the engineers of the bionic limb. An honest observer cannot refute such a conclusion. A “clumsy” four million dollar bionic arm is yet another reminder that an Intelligent Designer exists, and that the human body designed by Him is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).
Are All Divorced Persons Eligible to Remarry?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
American civilization is experiencing significant moral decay. “Traditional American values,” i.e., values that were drawn from the Bible, are being jettisoned by a sizable portion of the nation’s citizenry. This spiritual and social deterioration is nowhere more evident than in the breakdown and dissolution of the family. Divorce rates have consistently climbed to higher and higher levels. The marriage relationship no longer commands the respect it once did. This God-ordained institution, though originally intended to be held in honor and sanctity, has been significantly undermined and cheapened.
The religious response to this situation generally has been accommodative, as many within the church find their own families adversely affected by divorce. They have been intimidated by two factors: (1) the large numbers of divorced people; and (2) the emotional trauma associated with divorce. “Rethinking” their understanding of Bible teaching, they have decided to relax the high standards that God enjoined. The various viewpoints now available to those who wish to justify their marital decisions are legion.
The clear teaching of the Bible is that God wants one man for one woman for life (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6). The only exception to this foundational premise was articulated by Jesus when He said a person is permitted to divorce the original mate only for the specific reason of that mate’s sexual infidelity. Then and only then may the innocent mate form a second marriage with an eligible partner (Matthew 19:9). Consequently, the primary thrust of Scripture as it pertains to marriage is “God hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16). In fact, He permits it on only one ground.
This divine aversion to divorce refers specifically to divorce that occurs between two people who are scripturally married. Men and women who marry for the first time in their youth should so conduct themselves that they remain together. God does not want that first marriage to dissolve. He hates it when these couples unscripturally dissolve their scriptural marriage. Unscriptural divorce is the kind of divorcing that God hates.
However, not all divorce is contrary to God’s will. Jesus said an individual has permission to divorce the mate that commits fornication (Matthew 19:9). So divorce for that innocent marriage partner is not sinful. In Ezra’s day, exiled Jews had formed illicit marriages and were required to sever those marriages (Ezra 10:3,11). Divorce in that instance was likewise not sinful. John the baptizer informed Herod that when he married Herodias, he was sinning, and would have to dissolve the marriage (Mark 6:17-18). Divorce in that case was not sinful. When Paul identified several Corinthian Christians as having previously been adulterers (1 Corinthians 6:9), the putting away (i.e., divorce) that would have been necessary to end their adultery in order to be “washed” and “sanctified” (1 Corinthians 6:11) would not have been sinful. (The same principle would have applied equally to all other forms of fornication mentioned in the context—including homosexuality). These scriptural examples show that not all divorce is wrong in God’s sight.
On the other hand, much of the divorcing that is occurring today is contrary to the will of God. Any person who divorces their scriptural spouse for any reason, other than fornication, is sinning in so doing. They sin when they divorce! They sin on at least two counts. First, they sin because they have divorced for some reason other than fornication. Second, they sin because they violated the vows they took when they married (i.e., “until death do us part”).
In this divorced condition (i.e., having divorced for some reason other than fornication), the individual has placed himself in a predicament that comes under additional divine restrictions. Paul pinpointed those restrictions in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 where he insisted that scripturally married couples ought not to divorce. However, should their marriage break up unscripturally, both are to remain unmarried. Some feel this verse does not refer to a technical divorce but merely to a separation. Either way, their breakup (whether by separation or divorce) is contrary to God’s will, and neither of the two is eligible to marry someone else.
People are permitted to participate in marriage only insofar as God says they are eligible to do so. The Hebrews writer insisted that marriage (and the sexual relationship that accompanies marriage) is to be undertaken honorably—i.e., in accordance with God’s regulations. To engage in marriage (and the sexual relations that accompany marriage) out of harmony with God’s regulations is to be guilty of fornication and adultery (Hebrews 13:4). Fornication, by definition, refers to illicit sexual intercourse. Adultery is one type of fornication, and refers to the sexual relations between a man and a woman, at least one of whom has prior marital responsibilities. Adultery, by definition, derives its meaning on the basis of a person’s prior marital connections.
A person does not have to be married in order to please God and go to heaven. All a person has to be is a Christian. He does not have to be an elder, a deacon, or a preacher. He or she does not have to be a father, or a mother, or a parent. These are relationships and roles that God designed to be helpful to the human condition. However, not everyone qualifies to fill these roles, and people can go to heaven without ever occupying these roles. So it is with marriage. All people must meet God’s designated prerequisites before marriage may be had in honor. God nowhere promises anyone unlimited access to the marriage relationship.
Notice, then, that in view of God’s regulations, three categories of divorced persons are ineligible to remarry: (1) the person who committed fornication and was divorced for that act by his or her spouse (Matthew 19:9a); (2) the person who was unscripturally divorced (i.e., put away for some reason other than fornication) by a spouse (Matthew 19:9b); and (3) the person who was deserted by an unbelieving spouse (1 Corinthians 7:12-15). In these three instances, the divorced person is ineligible to remarry. Putting the entire matter positively, the only divorced person who is eligible in God’s sight to remarry (while the former mate is still living—Romans 7:3) is the person who divorced his/her original mate for that mate’s sexual unfaithfulness.
Many people feel that such strict limitations are out of harmony with the grace, love, and forgiveness of God. They believe that such high standards make divorce the “unpardonable sin.” But this conclusion does not follow. People can be forgiven of mistakes they make in the realm of divorce and remarriage. Forgiveness is not the issue. The issue is: can they remain in whatever marriage relationship they choose? Can they so sin that they forfeit their right to participate in a future marriage relationship? Jesus made the answers to these questions clear in His discussion in Matthew 19:1-12. All people who divorce their scriptural mates for any reason except fornication continue to commit adultery when they remarry.
However, do we have any indication elsewhere in Scripture that people can so sin that they forfeit their privilege to participate in a state, condition, or relationship that they previously enjoyed—even though they may be forgiven? As a matter of fact, the Bible is replete with such instances! Adam and Eve violated God’s word and were responsible for introducing sin into the Universe. One consequence of their sin was that they were expelled from Eden. Could they be forgiven? Yes! Could they ever return to the garden? No! Their expulsion was permanent. They had so sinned that they forfeited the privilege of enjoying that previous status.
Esau was guilty of profanity when he sold his birthright (Hebrews 12:16). Could he be forgiven for this mistake? Yes! Could he regain his birthright? No, “though he sought it diligently with tears” (Hebrews 12:17)!
Virtually the entire adult population of the nation of Israel sinned when they refused to obey God by proceeding with a military assault against the land of Canaan (Numbers 14:11-12). Could they be forgiven? Yes, and they were (Numbers 14:19-20). Were they then permitted to enter into the Promised Land? Absolutely not! They were doomed to wander in the desert for forty years (Numbers 14:33-34).
Moses allowed himself to be goaded into disobedience on one occasion by the incessant complaining of the nation committed to his keeping (Numbers 20:7-12). Could Moses be forgiven? Yes! In heaven, we will sing the song of Moses and the Lamb (Revelation 15:3)! But was Moses permitted to enter into the Promised Land? No. He was banned permanently from that privilege due to his own sinful choice (Deuteronomy 32:51-52).
Eli failed to manage his family properly, and so brought down upon himself lasting tragedies (1 Samuel 3:11-14). Though Saul acknowledged his own sin, his disobedience evoked God’s permanent rejection of him as king (1 Samuel 15:11,23,26,28). Samuel never visited Saul again. David’s sin, though forgiven, brought several negative consequences that could not be altered (2 Samuel 12:11-14). Solomon’s sin resulted in personal calamity and the division of the nation (1 Kings 11-12).
These biblical examples demonstrate that sin produces lasting consequences, despite the availability of God’s grace and forgiveness. If biblical history teaches us anything, it teaches that people cannot sin and then expect to have things the way they were before. More often than not, much suffering comes upon those who violate God’s will, making it impossible for them to enjoy past privileges—though they can be forgiven and have the hope of heaven.
Many people feel that God would be unkind, unfair, or overly harsh if He did not permit divorced and remarried couples to stay together, regardless of their previous marital choices. Undoubtedly, these same people would feel that God was unfair to Adam and Eve for ejecting them from the garden, making it impossible for them to enjoy the condition that they once sustained! That would mean that God was unfair and harsh toward the Israelites as well as Moses! Such thinking betrays an inaccurate and unscriptural grasp of the nature and person of God. It reflects a failure to possess a healthy fear of God (Exodus 20:5; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Luke 12:5; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; Hebrews 10:31; 12:29; Revelation 6:16-17).
God elevated the marriage relationship to a high plane when, at the beginning of the human race, He laid down the strict standards that govern marriage (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6). Many apparently feel that they have a right to be married regardless of their previous conduct. They feel that God’s high standards ought to be adjusted in order for them to exercise their “right.” Yet, the Bible teaches that the institution of marriage was founded by God to provide cohesion and orientation in life. Unlike one’s spiritual marriage (i.e., to Christ), which will proceed right on into eternity, human marriage is for this life alone (Matthew 22:30). Therefore, marriage is not a right; it is a privilege. People must conform to God’s marriage rules in order for marriage to serve its earthly purpose. Failure to comply neutralizes the ability of the marriage institution to do what it was divinely designed to do. Failure to comply with God’s “directions for use” causes us to forfeit our opportunity to participate in the institution. We must remember: Father knows best.