"THE BOOK OF PROVERBS" Childhood Memories Of A Wise Man (4:1-9) INTRODUCTION 1. In Pr 1-9, we find Solomon pleading with his children to seek after wisdom... a. Through a collection of discourses b. Extolling and illustrating the value of wisdom time and again 2. In Pr 4:1-9, we find Solomon sharing recollections of his childhood... a. Of his own father (David) b. Exhorting him to seek after wisdom [As we examine these "Childhood Memories Of A Wise Man," we will find important principles in raising children to be godly and seekers of wisdom. The first memory might be stated in these words...] I. "I WAS TAUGHT BY MY FATHER" A. HIS FATHER HAD ACCEPTED HIS RESPONSIBILITY... 1. To teach him - Pr 4:3-4 2. A responsibility placed by God on fathers - cf. Ep 6:4 3. Not given to churches or schools per se a. They may serve as aids b. They should not become crutches 4. For they are inadequate to teach as God intended - cf. Deut 6: 6-9 a. God's Word is to permeate the household b. Something the church and school alone cannot provide -- Blessed are children that have fathers who accept their responsibility! B. WHEN FATHERS FAIL TO FULFILL THEIR CHARGE... 1. They will be held accountable a. Eli tried to correct his sons - 1 Sa 2:22-25 b. But failed to his power to restrain them - 1 Sa 3:10-13 2. The responsibility has to be taken up by others a. Timothy was blessed to have a godly grandmother and mother - 2Ti 1:5 b. They evidently taught Timothy the Scriptures as a child - 2Ti 3:15 -- Blessed are children that have mothers who provide where fathers do not! [So Solomon was taught by his father, one of the greatest gifts a father can give to a child. But we note also the following recollection from verse 3...] II. "I WAS TAUGHT WHILE TENDER" A. THE TEACHING OCCURRED... 1. While young enough to be impressionable 2. Open to what the father has to say -- While he was willing to do what the father says B. TEACHING OFTEN OCCURS TOO LATE... 1. After the child gets into trouble 2. After the child begins to question everything parents say -- When a child is more likely to disregard or disobey C. TEACHING NEEDS TO BEGIN EARLY... 1. Long before they are in school with other children 2. Where peer pressure and poor behavior will encourage them to disobey authority 3. Where even some teachers will encourage them to reject parental authority -- Before the child is exposed to unsavory influences [Teaching by a father needs to occur while the child is still in a position to be shaped and directed in the right way. Now for another thought we can glean from Solomon's childhood memories...] III. "I WAS TAUGHT BY AN ANXIOUS FATHER" A. THE ANXIETY OF HIS FATHER IS IMPLIED... 1. By the exhortations: "Get wisdom! Get understanding!" - Pro 4:5 2. By the warnings: "Do not forget, nor turn away...do not forsake" - Pr 4:5-6 -- His father was anxious regarding his son's learning B. FATHERS TODAY NEED TO BE ANXIOUS... 1. In view of what is going on in schools and society in general (violence, sex, drugs) 2. In light of what is happening in many churches (apathy, worldliness, apostasy) -- Community and sometimes the church no longer provide supportive roles C. FATHERS ANXIOUS FOR THEIR CHILDREN... 1. Will take the time to teach their children when they need it 2. Will implore God for wisdom in raising their children 3. Will be willing to sacrifice success and prestige in business to spend time with children -- Fathers, do we have anxiety over the welfare of our children? [Finally, consider what Solomon's father was anxious for him to learn...] IV. "I WAS TAUGHT THE IMPORTANT THINGS" A. HE WAS TAUGHT TO VALUE WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING... 1. To make wisdom the principal thing in life a. "Get wisdom! Get understanding!" - Pr 4:5 b. "Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding." - Pr 4:7 2. To love, exalt, and embrace wisdom a. "...Love her, and she will keep you." - Pr 4:6b b. "Exalt her, and she will promote you..." - Pr 4:8a c. "...She will bring you honor, when you embrace her." - Pro 4:8b 3. To appreciate the benefits of wisdom a. "Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you..." - Pro 4:6a b. "She will place on your head an ornament of grace;" - Pro 4:9a c. "A crown of glory she will deliver to you." - Pr 4:9c -- Solomon's father wanted him to be wise above all else B. FATHERS OFTEN STRESS THE TRIVIAL... 1. Too often, if a father spends any time with his children it is on things like: a. Sports b. Mechanics 2. Too often, the principal concern of fathers is that their children get: a. College degrees b. High paying jobs 3. Yet such things are potentially harmful! a. Worldly success presents many temptations b. Many children have been destroyed by the careers encouraged by their parents -- Without wisdom and understanding, our children will not be able to handle success! CONCLUSION 1. Solomon could look back on his childhood memories with happy recollections... a. I was taught by my father b. I was taught while tender c. I was taught by an anxious father d. I was taught the important things 2. Because Solomon's upbringing stressed the value of wisdom... a. We should not be surprised of his answer when given a choice - 2Ch 1:7-10 b. Who chose wisdom over riches, honor, and long life, and was blessed by all - 2Ch 1:11-12 3. Who would not like a son like Solomon? To have such a son, we must be like his father... a. Not perfect, but still "a man after God's own heart" (David) b. A man with a similar attitude toward God's word - cf. Ps 19:7-11 Fathers, are we telling our children these words...? "Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding." - Pr 4:7
"THE BOOK OF PROVERBS" Fatherly Counsel For Godly Living (3:1-35) INTRODUCTION 1. Proverbs chapter two presents Solomon as a father encouraging his son... a. To diligently seek after wisdom - Pr 2:1-4 b. To appreciate the benefits of diligently seeking wisdom - Pr 2: 5-22 2. In chapter three, we find Solomon imparting wisdom to his son... a. With six keys for a good life - Pr 3:1-12 b. With praise and illustrations of the value of wisdom - Pr 3:13-24 c. With six negatives for a wise life - Pr 3:25-35 [I like to think of this chapter as containing "Fatherly Counsel For Godly Living," and imagine sitting at the feet of Solomon as he imparts wisdom by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We first hear him speak of...] I. SIX KEYS FOR A GOOD LIFE A. THE KEY TO A LONG AND PEACEFUL LIFE... 1. Heed the guidance of your father (parents) - Pr 3:1-2 2. The same thought as expressed by Paul - Ep 6:1-3 3. Place more stock in this secret to longevity, than those given by the world a. Diet, exercise, etc., are important b. But here is a commandment of God with promise! -- Do we honor our parents by giving them careful heed? B. THE KEY TO POPULARITY... 1. Some think the way to popularity is good looks, intelligence, or athletic ability 2. The qualities of truth and mercy are key to lasting popularity - Pr 3:3-4 3. Truth and mercy are more enduring, because they are more endearing! a. They find great favor in the sight of God - cf. Mt 5:7,37 b. Likewise in the eyes of men 1) No one likes a liar 2) Mercy (compassion, forgiveness) is admired by many -- Are we developing the qualities of truth and mercy in our lives? C. THE KEY TO SUCCESSFUL VENTURES... 1. Have the Lord "direct" your paths - Pr 3:5-6 a. The word "direct" means to make smooth or straight b. The Lord can help our journey in life go smoother with His blessing 2. To ensure that the Lord directs your paths... a. Trust in Him with all your heart - cf. Ps 37:3-6,23-24, 34-36 b. Acknowledge Him in all your ways - cf. Jm 4:13-16 c. Don't lean on your own understanding - cf. Pr 28:26 -- Do we involve the Lord in our decision making? D. THE KEY TO GOOD HEALTH... 1. Do not be arrogant, fear the Lord, and depart from evil - Pro 3:7-8 2. Do not underestimate the harmful effects of anxiety and stress a. Some authorities suggest that 50% of all illnesses may be psychosomatic b. Our body's immune system is certainly weakened by anxiety and stress c. Guilt is a major cause of anxiety, and can weigh heavily on our body - Ps 32:1-4 3. There is also the physical cost of sin a. E.g., the effects of drunkenness (cirrhosis of the liver) b. E.g., the effects of fornication (STDs) 4. Yet if we truly fear the Lord... a. We will depart from evil - Pr 16:6 b. We will be freed from much anxiety, stress, and many diseases c. And that will be good for our bodies! - cf. Pr 14:27 -- Is developing the fear of the Lord part of our "wellness program"? E. THE KEY TO PROSPERITY... 1. Give of your best to the Lord - Pr 3:9-10 2. In the OT, that involved paying tithes and putting God first a. When tithes were not given, it resulted in hardship - Mal 3: 8-12 b. When God was not first, likewise - cf. Hag 1:6-11 3. In the NT, it is not that much different a. Put God and His kingdom first, and we enjoy His providential care - Mt 6:31-33 b. Give cheerfully and liberally, and God will empower us to give more - 2Co 9:6-9 -- Do we give to the Lord the "first fruits" of our time, energy, and money? F. THE KEY TO ACCEPTING THE LORD'S DISCIPLINE... 1. Value divine chastening as the actions of a loving father - Pro 3:11-12 a. Even the righteous may be allow to suffer - cf. Job 1:8-22 b. And God may deem fit to compensate for it even in this life - cf. Job 42:10-13 2. Whatever persecution or hardship God allows, it is for our good a. We should expect discipline, if we are His children - He12:7-9 b. But it will produce the fruit of holiness and righteousness, if we let it - He 12:10-11 -- Do we appreciate the positive role of discipline in our lives? [How blessed many lives would be if people implemented these "Six Keys For A Good Life." Perhaps to encourage us to heed such wisdom, Solomon proceeds to describe...] II. THE VALUE OF WISDOM A. SEEN IN SOLOMON'S PRAISE OF WISDOM... 1. Provides true happiness for those with wisdom and understanding - Pr 3:13 2. Profits one more than silver and fine gold - Pr 3:14 3. More precious than rubies, nothing we desire can compare with her - Pr 3:15 4. Offers length of days, riches, and honor - Pr 3:16 5. Her paths are ways of pleasantness and peace - Pr 3:17 6. A tree of life to those who take hold of her, happiness for those who retain her - Pr 3:18 -- Do we share Solomon's high estimation of the value of wisdom? B. SEEN IN GOD'S USE OF WISDOM... 1. God used wisdom in His acts of creation - Pr 3:19-20 a. To create the earth and heavens - Gen 1:1 b. To break up the depths of sea, and create the clouds above - Gen 1:6-9 c. Its beauty and harmony were made possible by the use of wisdom - Pr 8:22-31 2. Consider the implication for us a. The same wisdom is being offered to us! - cf. Jm 1:5-8 b. To provide our lives with harmony and peace - cf. Jm 3:17-18 -- Don't we want to have the same divine wisdom guiding our lives? C. SEEN IN WHAT WISDOM CAN DO FOR US... 1. To make our lives "a thing of beauty and joy forever" - Pr 3: 21-22 a. By offering wisdom and discretion b. Which give "life to your soul and grace (adornment, beauty) to your neck" c. Just as Jesus desired to give to His disciples - Jn 10:10; 15:11 2. To make our lives safe and secure - Pr 3:23-24 a. To help us walk safely 1) Our steps will be directed by wisdom 2) We thus avoid many of the pitfalls experienced by others - cf. Pr 2:8; 4:12 b. To help us sleep securely 1) For we will not be anxious about what may come 2) For the Lord will guard His saints - cf. Ps 3:5; 4:8 -- Don't we want to have lives filled with grace and security? [With such praise of the value of wisdom, perhaps we will be more open to what Solomon has to offer. Sometimes wisdom comes in the form of various "thou shalt not" directives. Thus we now have...] III. SIX NEGATIVES FOR A WISE LIFE A. DO NOT BE AFRAID... 1. Of sudden terror or trouble from the wicked - Pr 3:25 2. For the Lord will be your confidence and keep you from harm - Pr 3:26; cf. 14:26 3. Besides, fear is indicative of weak faith - cf. Mt 8:26 -- Let faith replace fear in your life B. DO NOT DENY GOOD... 1. Especially when we owe it and have it - Pr 3:27 2. As Christians we owe everyone love - cf. Ro 13:8 3. We should not deny those we can help - cf. 1Jn 3:17 4. Remember, to know to do good and not do it is sin - Jm 4:17 -- Do good unto all men as you have opportunity (Ga 6:10) C. DO NOT DELAY GOOD... 1. When it is in your power to do it today - Pr 3:28 2. Too often, delay is a cover for selfishness, a secret hope the matter will be forgotten 3. We may not have another opportunity - cf. Pr 27:1 -- Procrastination in doing good is a great evil D. DO NOT DEVISE EVIL... 1. Especially against your neighbor, who lives nearby for safety's sake - Pr 3:29 2. A neighbor expects you to be neighborly, and rightly so 3. A heart that devises evil is an abomination to the Lord - cf. Pr 6:16-18 -- Think well of your neighbor, that he and God might think well of you E. DO NOT STRIVE WITOUT CAUSE... 1. Especially if he has done no harm - Pr 3:30 2. Left unchecked, strife can easily escalate - cf. Pr 17:14; 18:6 3. Strife can easily ruin one's reputation - cf. Pr 25:8-10 -- Leave vengeance to God, and seek to overcome evil with good (Ro12:18-21) F. DO NOT ENVY OPPRESSORS... 1. Do not envy an oppressor (lit., a man of violence) , nor choose his ways - Pr 3:31 a. As seen earlier, the oppressor is eventually caught in his own snare - cf. Pr 1:15-18 b. The Lord is the avenger of those who oppress the poor - cf. Pr 22:22-23 2. The Lord will bless the upright and just, the humble and wise - Pr 3:32-35 a. But He will curse wicked and perverse - cf. Pr 21:12 b. He will scorn the scornful, and shame will be the legacy of fools -- Don't be jealous of the prosperity of the wicked, they will never be as rich as the righteous! CONCLUSION 1. So we find that "Father Counsel For Godly Living" includes... a. Six keys for a good life b. A high estimation of the value of wisdom b. Six negatives for a wise life 2. This chapter does not begin to exhaust the wisdom God offers... a. More will be shared in the discourses to come in chapters 4-9 b. Much is to be found in the proverbs of chapters 10-31 Of course, Christ is the ultimate repository of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3), and many commentators suggest passages like Pr 3:13-20 to be veiled references to Jesus. Are we willing to let the wisdom of God in all its manifestations guide us in this life...?
The Quran and Corrupt Christianity
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Both Muhammad and the Quran show a failure to grasp the difference between New Testament Christianity and the corrupted Christianity practiced by those who professed to be Christians in the Arabian peninsula of the sixth and seventh centuries. The fact that the Quran reflects this failure shows that its author(s) did not have divine guidance, even as it failed to detect the Jewish misrepresentations of the Old Testament as projected by the rabbinic folklore of the day. The form of Christianity reflected prominently in the Quran is Catholicism (e.g., Surah 57:27—monasticism; Surah 17:56—saint worship). Anyone familiar with the first five centuries of church history is well aware of the extent to which the Christian religion had become perverted and distorted. These perversions did not escape the attention of the author of the Quran. However, even when an appropriate criticism is leveled against a doctrine with which Muhammad disagreed, the criticism often will contain an implicit approval of another element that is contrary to New Testament teaching.
For example, the Quran refers to Jesus as “son of Mary” 22 times. Most of these allusions are uttered by Allah Himself (Surah 2:87,253; 3:45; 4:171; 5:17,46,75,78,110,114,116; 9:31; 19:34; 23:50; 33:7; 43:57; 57:27; 61:6,14). Yet this phrase occurs in the New Testament only one time—and only then as used by certain unnamed townspeople whose use of the term shows they knew of Him only in terms of His earthly relationships, i.e., the son of Mary, and as a carpenter who had brothers and sisters (Mark 6:3). The Quran places an undue and unbiblical emphasis on Mary, thereby reflecting the Catholic notion that characterized his day (cf. Surah 5:116). The overwhelming emphasis in the New Testament is on Jesus being the “Son of God” (Mark 1:1; Luke 1:35; John 1:34; 3:18; 5:25; 10:36; 11:4; Acts 9:20; Romans 1:4; 2 Corinthians 1:19; Hebrews 4:14; 7:3; 10:29; 1 John 3:8; 4:15; 5:10,13,20; et al.)—an acknowledgment made even by Satan and the demons (Luke 4:3,9,41; 8:28). [NOTE: The notion of Mary as intercessor on behalf of those still on Earth (Abbott, 1966, pp. 96,630) is reflected in the comparable role assigned to Muhammad by Muslims (Geisler and Saleeb, 1993, pp. 85-86)].
The author of the Quran unquestionably had heard the squabbles between Christians and Jews (Surah 2:113). Mistakenly assuming they were supposed to follow the same book, the Quran demonstrates a lack of understanding regarding the distinction between the Old Testament and the New Testament, as well as the relationship sustained between Judaism and Christianity. This surface misconception undoubtedly contributed to the uninformed conclusion that the Bible is corrupt, and is unable to transmit God’s will accurately.
The Quran possesses many characteristics that demonstrate its uninspired (i.e., human) origin. One such trait is its failure to distinguish between the Christianity taught in the New Testament and the distorted form of Christianity to which the author of the Quran was exposed. It unwittingly endorses the corrupt features that characterize the Byzantine Christianity that manifested itself in Arabia in the sixth and seventh centuries after Christ.
Geisler, Norman L. and Abdul Saleeb (1993), Answering Islam (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Defending the Bible’s Position on Prayer
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
In their efforts to discredit the Bible, skeptics often attack its teachings concerning prayer. They claim that certain statements made by Jesus regarding prayer can be proven to be inaccurate, and thus all rational people should reject both Jesus and the Bible. Skeptics routinely quote Jesus’ words, “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14). After quoting this verse, the skeptic usually mentions praying parents who asked God, in the name of Jesus, to save their sick children; but the children died in spite of the prayer. The skeptic then argues that the children’s death is proof positive that Jesus was a liar and His statements about prayer cannot be true. In addition to John 14:14, skeptics often use Matthew 21:22 in a very similar way. In fact, Dan Barker, during the audience question and answer period in our debate, quoted this verse: “And all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Butt and Barker, 2009). According to the skeptic, if a person asks for a million dollars every day, truly believes in his heart that he will get it, and tacks the name of Jesus on the end of the prayer, then if God does not answer that prayer, Jesus lied and the Bible is false.
Is it true that the Bible’s teaching on prayer cannot be reconciled with what we see happening in daily life? Did Jesus make false statements to His disciples about the efficacy of prayer? Is the skeptic’s interpretation of Jesus’ statements accurate and justified? The answer to these questions is a resounding “No.” An honest, critical look at the Bible’s teachings regarding prayer reveals that its teachings are internally consistent and correspond perfectly with reality.
QUALIFYING A STATEMENT
The skeptic readily understands this concept, since it must be incorporated to understand the skeptic’s own writings. For instance, Dan Barker, in godless, included a chapter titled “Dear Theologian.” The chapter is a satirical letter supposedly from God to theologians. In that chapter, Dan has God saying: “I created the universe with all kinds of natural laws that govern everything from quarks to galactic clusters” (2008, p. 149). Are we to conclude that Dan really believes that God created the world and its natural laws? Of course not. We must qualify Dan’s statement by saying that he does not really believe in God, and that his “letter” is satire. Again, in godless, Dan made the statement: “What has theology ever provided? Theology has given us hell” (p. 220). From Dan’s statement, should we conclude that Dan really believes in hell and that he credits theology with originating it? Certainly not. Dan does not believe in heaven, hell, God, or Satan. Whatever statements a person chooses to pick out of Dan’s book to “prove” he believes in God or hell must be qualified by other statements elsewhere in his books, other writings, or debates that show he certainly does not believe in the existence of God or hell. In a similar way, even a superficial reading of the New Testament shows that many of Jesus’ statements concerning prayer are qualified by certain criteria that must be met in order for that prayer to be effective.
IN THE NAME OF JESUS
To illustrate, suppose a man bangs on your door and yells: “Open this door in the name of the Law.” Should you open the door for this man? That depends. If he truly is a policeman who has a warrant and has been authorized by the government to enter your house, then you should. However, if he is a civilian off the street who simply added the phrase “in the name of the Law” to his sentence to make it sound more forceful, then you should not open the door. The phrase “in the name of the Law” only has force if the person using it is actually authorized by the government to perform the action. In the same way, the phrase “in Jesus’ name” (or “in the name of Jesus”) only has power if what is being prayed for truly is authorized by Jesus. For instance, if a person prayed, “Lord, please forgive me of my sins even though I will not forgive others of their sins, in Jesus’ name, Amen,” would Jesus comply with such a request? No, because He explained that God will forgive only those people who are willing to forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15). Including the phrase “in Jesus’ name” does not give a prayer some magical power that allows the request to bypass the authority and teachings of Christ.
In the book of Acts, we see an extremely effective illustration of this truth. Paul, Peter, and the other apostles were preaching and doing miracles “in the name of Jesus.” Their healing activities were authorized by Christ, and their message was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Seeing how effectively Paul accomplished such miracles, “some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying ‘We adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches’” (Acts 19:13). The itinerant Jewish exorcists had fallen into the same misunderstanding as the modern skeptic. They thought that by simply tacking Jesus’ name onto their activities, that would qualify as doing things “in Jesus’ name.” The result of their misuse of Jesus’ name quickly became apparent. When seven sons of Sceva attempted to invoke Jesus’ name, the evil spirit answered: “‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?’ Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded” (Acts 19:14-16). Simply adding Jesus’ name to actions or requests that Jesus has not authorized does not qualify as doing something “in Jesus’ name” as the Bible instructs. [NOTE: Even though the skeptic does not believe the story in Acts to be true, he cannot deny that the story provides a valid illustration and explanatory commentary on what the Bible means by saying or doing something “in Jesus’ name.” If the skeptic is going to attack the Bible’s position on prayer, he or she must allow the Bible to explain itself.]
ACCORDING TO GOD’S WILL
In Jesus’ instructions to His disciples regarding prayer, He explained that they should include in their prayers the idea that God’s will should be done (Matthew 6:10). The apostle John, who would have been well-aware of Jesus’ teaching on prayer, stated: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15, emp. added). Notice that if we do not include verse 14 of 1 John 5, we could make the passage say, “whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” Yet to do that would be to leave off the important qualifying statement that the request should be in accordance with God’s will, and should be offered from a heart that is humble enough to accept God’s will—even if that means that the request is denied. When the skeptic pulls snippets of verses from the gospel accounts concerning prayer, he or she is guilty of leaving off just such important qualifying information.
When we consider the idea of praying “according to God’s will,” we can see how important this qualifier is. No requests will be granted that attempt to violate or circumvent God’s ultimate will. For instance, suppose a person were to pray: “God, please save my mother even though she does not believe in Jesus Christ and refuses to repent of her sins, please let her go to heaven anyway, in Jesus’ name, Amen.” Would God grant that petition? The Bible is clear that He certainly would not, because to do so would be to violate His ultimate will that salvation is through the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12).
Furthermore, certain events and actions in this physical world are required for God to accomplish His will on this Earth. For instance, if one of Jesus’ apostles had asked God to spare the life of Jesus and not let Him die on the cross, that request would not have been in accord with God’s ultimate will and would not have been answered in the affirmative. Mark 8:33 provides an excellent example of this when Peter rebuked Jesus for predicting His own death. Jesus responded to Peter, saying: “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Whereas Peter most likely thought his actions were in accord with God’s will, they were not. To further illustrate, the many events in the life of the Old Testament character Joseph may have seemed unfair at the time. No doubt Joseph prayed to be freed from slavery or to be released from jail. But at the end of Joseph’s life, we see that God’s will was to make him a great leader in Egypt and to save the Jewish nation through him. Joseph recognized this, and said to his brothers who had sold him into Egypt: “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20). Joseph’s slavery and incarceration were the vehicles by which God brought Joseph to power, accomplishing His will.
The Skeptic’s Response
Notice that Dan is forced to concede the point, but then attempted to attack prayer from a different angle when he stated: “Even if this reasoning were valid, it makes prayer useless as a means of changing nature” (1992, p. 108; see also Templeton, 1996, p. 147). It is important to be clear that once the skeptic is honest enough to admit that certain qualifications do apply to prayer, he must alter the entire argument against it. Instead of the Bible’s position being internally inconsistent or at odds with reality, the skeptic must drop back and demand that, even though it cannot be proven to be such, it is “useless.”
Again, however, the skeptics’ assertion that praying according to God’s will renders the prayer useless to change nature is groundless. Could it be possible that multiple outcomes to certain events or situations fit into God’s will? Surely. To illustrate, suppose that a father was getting a child a drink from the refrigerator. The father had various nutritious options from which to choose including juice, milk, or water. Could the child request water and that option be according to the father’s will? Sure. If the child requested juice, could that option be equally as acceptable as water? Yes. But suppose the child requested something not in the refrigerator, or something harmful to drink. While those options would be outside the father’s will, the other three choices of milk, water, or juice would all be possibilities. Thus, if the child wanted juice, and asked for it, then the child’s request (prayer) would be effective. [NOTE: The skeptic may attempt to say that since God knows everything, He should know what His children want before they ask. But the Bible articulates this very point in Matthew 6:8. While it is true that God knows everything (Psalm 139:1-6), it is also true that God has instructed His children to ask for what they desire (Matthew 7:7). Numerous reasons could be given for why God wants His children to present their requests to Him. One is simply that God wants humans to understand their dependence on Him (Acts 17:28).]
To illustrate, there are several biblical examples in which God’s will for people involved considerable latitude in what He could allow to happen. For instance, 2 Kings 20:1-11 gives us the story of Hezekiah’s terminal sickness. The prophet Isaiah informed Hezekiah that he was going to die. Hezekiah then turned his face to the wall and prayed that the Lord would extend His life. The Lord listened to his prayer and extended Hezekiah’s life for fifteen years. Here we have an example of two outcomes both of which were consistent with God’s will on Earth: Hezekiah living and Hezekiah dying. Without Hezekiah’s prayer, he would have died of his sickness. Because of his prayer, however, God intervened and allowed Hezekiah to live. Contrary to the skeptics’ false assertion, Hezekiah’s prayer certainly did have the power to “change nature.” It is also interesting to note that Hezekiah’s sickness was healed through natural means. Isaiah instructed the king’s attendants to place a poultice of figs on Hezekiah’s boil. When they did so, Hezekiah recovered. This story provides an excellent example of a person who prayed according to God’s will. That prayer drastically altered nature, and God worked through natural means to accomplish His purpose. [NOTE: While the skeptic may refuse to accept the truthfulness of this Bible story, he cannot refute the fact that the story provides at least a theoretical explanation as to how a person could pray in accordance with God’s will and alter the course of nature.]
BELIEVING YOU WILL RECEIVE
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (emp. added).It is often the case that the skeptic will contend that millions of good Christian people regularly pray for things that they do not receive. The skeptic usually stresses that the people truly believed that they would receive them, and yet their prayers were ineffective. The skeptic claims to know for a fact that the petitioners in question honestly believed their prayers would be answered positively. Yet it must be stressed that the skeptic has no possible way of knowing who, in their hearts, truly believes that God will answer their prayers. Even some who claim to believe in the outcome could be harboring doubts about God’s power and promises in regard to prayer. In truth, a person would need to be able to search people’s hearts and minds to be an accurate judge of belief. And since the Bible explains that only God is capable of knowing the secrets of the heart (Psalm 44:21), then only He would be in a position to gage a person’s true belief. While it is true that other factors such as praying according to God’s will and by the authority of Christ influence the effectiveness of prayer, it is also true that fervent belief in God’s willingness and ability to answer a prayer are also necessary for the prayer to be successful.
THE PRAYER OF A RIGHTEOUS PERSON
He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking guile; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil (1 Peter 3:10-12).The unnamed blind man Jesus healed summarized this position well when he stated: “Now we know that God does not hear sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him” (John 9:31). The writer of Proverbs noted: “The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous” (15:29).
The book of Ezekiel provides further evidence that humility before God is a required element of effective prayer. During Ezekiel’s day, the elders and leaders of the Jewish nation had begun to worship idols. Yet, in their troubled times, they also attempted to seek the true God along with their idols. Ezekiel 14:1-4 states:
Now some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me. And the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them? Therefore speak to them, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are estranged from Me by their idols.”’”The Bible clearly and plainly teaches that those who are not faithfully following God are not promised an answer to their prayers. It should also be noted along these lines that, although many people feel that they are faithful followers of Christ, they have not obeyed God’s will (see Lyons and Butt, n.d.). As Jesus stated:
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:21-23).It is often the case that a bulk of the people that skeptics claim are faithful followers of Christ simply have not obeyed God and, according to the Bible’s teachings, should not expect Him to answer their prayers because of their rebellious lives.
SELFISH MOTIVES AND DESIRES
Acts 8:9-25 provides an adequate illustration of this truth. In this passage, a man named Simon had been practicing sorcery in the city of Samaria. Many of the Samaritans had been convinced by his deceptive, “magic” tricks. When Philip visited the area, however, and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a host of the Samaritans believed and obeyed the truth, including Simon the sorcerer. After a while, the apostles came to the area and laid their hands on some of the disciples for the purpose of imparting spiritual gifts to them. When Simon saw this power, he offered the apostles money, requesting to purchase the ability to give people spiritual gifts. He had not purged himself of old habits of selfish ambition. Peter rebuked Simon and explained that he needed to repent and beg God to forgive him for the wicked thoughts and intents of his heart. Simon’s request for the power to impart the gifts of the Holy Spirit was denied, not only because it violated the will of God, but also because it apparently was issued out of purely selfish motives.
Jesus further documented the fact that prayers which issue from selfish motivations will not be effective. In the Sermon on the Mount, He stated: “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matthew 6:5). The hypocrites’ showy prayers designed to garner public approval negated the effectiveness of their requests.
Additionally, Jesus told of a man who visited his neighbor at midnight requesting bread to feed a guest. Initially, the neighbor refused the request, but eventually he complied. Jesus stated: “I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs” (emp. added). Jesus then coupled this parable with the instructions to be persistent in requests to God (vss. 9-13). In fact, throughout the Scriptures, persistence plays a prominent role in effective prayer (see Philippians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18; Luke 2:37).
THE PRAYER EXPERIMENT
Dawkins assessment of the experiment, however, shows a glaring ignorance of the Bible’s true position concerning prayer, and a complete failure to approach the subject with any type of scholarly rigor. Every critique of a scientific experiment must certainly include a knowledge and understanding of the factors that would “skew” the results of the study. For instance, if the Bible plainly says that the prayers of a righteous person and those of an unrighteous person differ in their efficacy, then such information must be considered in order for an accurate assessment of any prayer experiment to take place. Furthermore, if the Bible specifically details that the motives driving a particular request have a bearing on the answer, then the “experimental” format in which the prayers were offered would itself be called into question and would adversely affect the accuracy of the report. In addition, if the Bible clearly states that those who are praying must truly believe that God, according to His will, will comply with the request, then the level of belief held by each of the members in the “prayer groups” must be factored into the critique of the experiment.
Please do not misunderstand what I am saying. It is impossible to know or compare the faithfulness of a prayer group, much less each individual’s level of belief. Nor would it be feasible to attempt to study the various lives of the ones who were being prayed for and try to systematically document how their health or sickness would factor into God’s will on this Earth. I am not suggesting that the experiment could have been arranged better so that more accurate results could have been obtained. A negative result to prayer cannot prove that prayer is ineffective, but only that at least one of the biblical criteria was lacking. I am suggesting, however, that Dawkins’ failure to comprehensively view the Bible’s qualifications about prayer, and his dishonest (or ignorant) glossing over of the true facts concerning prayer, would not be tolerated in any critique of a scientific experiment, and should be shown to have absolutely no value in discrediting the Bible’s position on prayer. [NOTE: It is unfortunate that even some religious people have so misunderstood the Bible’s teachings about prayer that they would even attempt such an experiment. We would be wise to consider that many people who profess to be defending the Bible’s position on subjects such as prayer are actually doing more harm than good by misrepresenting the truth.]
"TELLING PEOPLE WHAT TO THINK"
But as one digs deeper into Barker’s book, it quickly becomes clear that those sentiments do not find a willing practitioner in the person of Dan Barker. In his chapter on prayer,
Don’t ask Christians if they think prayer is effective. They will think up some kind of answer that makes sense to them only. Don’t ask them, tell them: “You know that prayer doesn’t work. You know you are fooling yourself with magical conceit.” No matter how they reply, they will know in their heart of hearts that you are right (1992, p. 109, emp. in orig.).From Barker’s statement about what should be “told” to those who believe in prayer, it is easy to see that he does not necessarily believe his previous statement that “no one can tell you what to think,” or that a person should use his own mind “to find out what is true.” In fact, what Barker is really trying to say is that a person should only think for himself if such thinking will lead him to believe that there is no God, or that prayer does not work, or that all religion is nonsense. If thinking for himself leads a person to believe in the efficacy of prayer or the existence of God, then that person should be “told” what to believe. It is not the Bible’s position on prayer that is internally inconsistent, but the skeptics’ attack on the Bible that fails to adhere to sound reasoning and rational thinking.
Barker, Dan (2008), godless (Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press).
Butt, Kyle and Dan Barker (2009), Butt/Barker Debate: Does the God of the Bible Exist? (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Dawkins, Richard (2006), The God Delusion (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin).
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (no date), Receiving the Gift of Salvation, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/Receiving%20the%20Gift%20of%20Salvation.pdf.
Templeton, Charles (1996), Farewell to God (Ontario, Canada: McClelland and Stewart).
Biological Clocks: Evidence for a Clockmaker
|by||Will Brooks, Ph.D.|
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article was written by A.P. staff scientist Will Brooks, who holds a Ph.D. in Cell Biology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.]If one were to ask a clockmaker, “Could this device have constructed itself?” the reply would most certainly be “No.” Clocks are complex instruments designed to accurately and repeatedly keep time to the millisecond. The complexity reaches all the way down to the system of gears and shafts which drive the instrument. It would be inconceivable even to consider the idea that such an instrument would evolve naturalistically over time, eventually reaching a point when it is ready to keep accurate time without missing a single second. Yet, this is exactly what evolutionists would have us to believe regarding an even more complex instrument, the cell division cycle—our own biological clock. [NOTE: The following discussion of cell division is based on Alberts, et al., 2002.]
The cell division cycle is a coordinated sequence of events that drives the division and reproduction of all cells from the single-celled amoeba to cells in the human body. The complexity and coordination of this cycle is staggering. The cell cycle is divided into four primary phases: G1, S, G2, and M.
G1, or the Gap 1 phase, is the time in which cells carry out all of the normal processes of the cell. Some cells remain in this phase for very long periods of time. But, when appropriate stimuli are encountered by a cell, a round of cell division is triggered. This point of no return is known as the restriction point. Once a cell passes this point, it must complete the entire cell cycle and return once more to G1. After a cell reproduces, it must prepare for the next phase of the cell cycle: S-phase or DNA synthesis phase. This preparation requires activating countless genes and making many new proteins that are used only during this one phase of the cell cycle. Once every component is ready, S-phase may begin.
During the DNA synthesis phase, the cell must make an exact copy of its nuclear DNA. This duplication is important because both new cells that will result from cell division must contain equal and identical copies of the parental cell DNA. One human cell contains roughly four billion base pairs of DNA. Copying all of this DNA without error is no small task, yet the cell does so incessantly.
Following completion of DNA synthesis, the cell enters the second gap phase, G2. During this period, the cell prepares for physical division, which involves the production of a whole new set of proteins. At the same time, all those proteins used during S-phase are degraded, since they are no longer needed, and their presence would only promote more DNA synthesis. After all the proper proteins are made and degraded, the cell is ready for physical separation, which takes place during mitosis or M-phase.
Mitosis involves the separation of chromosomes, followed by the separation of the cell. Human cells have 46 pairs of chromosomes when they enter mitosis. Each pair must be separated in the appropriate way in order for each daughter cell to have two copies of the 23 human chromosomes. Once again, this is no small feat. Even one mistake leads to abnormal chromosome numbers in the daughter cells and is harmful—often lethal—to the cell. Yet, the cell achieves this separation without error over and over. At the conclusion of mitosis, two cells result, each identical to the other. Both cells are now once more in G1-phase, able to enter another round of cell division. This cycle is repeated time after time, like clockwork.
In a physical clock or watch, a system of gears and shafts are designed to keep the clock moving, keeping precise, accurate time. What are the driving forces, the gears and shafts if you will, of the cell division cycle? Our cells have their own mechanism for keeping things moving. Two families of proteins lie at the heart of cell cycle progression. They are called cyclins and cyclin-dependent kinases (Cdks). These two groups of proteins work in a cooperative manner to promote each action that takes place during the cell cycle. How they work to keep the biological clock ticking is amazing!
Cyclin-dependent kinases function as enzymes, with the ability to link a small phosphate group (-PO4-3) onto a variety of proteins. This linkage serves as an “on” switch for the targeted protein. By phosphorylating (linking a phosphate) to proteins in the cell, Cdks work to turn on and off other proteins that play roles in the cell cycle. But, Cdks themselves need an “on switch,” which comes from the cyclin proteins. Cyclins are able to bind to cyclin-dependent kinases in order to form a stable protein complex between the two. Once bound together, Cdks are free to phosphorylate their repertoire of targets to promote all the activities of the cell cycle.
It might seem, then, that all cyclins and Cdks are active all of the time and throughout the cell cycle, but they are not. This is where the clockwork activity of the cell is truly seen. During each phase of the cell cycle (G1, S, G2, and M), a different set of cyclin and Cdk proteins are active. Therefore, each pair of proteins is able to promote only those activities which should occur during a phase. For example, during the DNA synthesis phase (S-phase), only those proteins that play a role in making new DNA are activated. This action prevents the phases from occurring out of order or at the wrong time. But, how is only one pair of cyclin-Cdk proteins active at a time? The answer comes in the form of another cyclical event.
Unlike the Cdk proteins, which are always present in the cell, cyclin proteins come and go in a cyclical manner—which accounts for the name cyclin. Production of these proteins is coordinated with the cell cycle phases. When a cell receives signals to undergo division, the G1-cyclins are expressed by the cell. They then partner with G1-Cdks, which already are present to promote those G1 activities of the cell. Additionally, G1 cyclin-Cdks initiate expression of the next group of cyclins—the S-phase cyclins. Once expressed, S-phase cyclin-Cdk partners promote activities of S-phase and turn on the G2-cyclins. This cycle continues for each phase of the cell cycle. Figure 2 illustrates this feature by showing the levels of S-phase cyclin throughout the cell cycle.
Together, the cell cycle and the cycle of cyclin protein production/destruction are an amazingly designed system of events. Such complexity is inexplicable on the basis of naturalism. In this case, the clockmaker is the intelligent Designer, God. It would be impossible for a six-foot-tall grandfather clock or even a small watch to construct itself gradually and start ticking. Equally impossible, the cell could never appear, ready to “tick” through the highly coordinated process of cell division. Just as clocks are constructed by an intelligent designer, the cell cycle is clear evidence for intelligent design in the Universe.
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
A common misconception among atheists, humanists, and evolutionists is that those who reject evolution in order to hold to a fundamental, literal understanding of the biblical documents are guided by “blind faith.” Robinson articulated this position quite emphatically when he accused Christians of abandoning rationality and evidence in exchange for intellectual dishonesty and ignorance of the truth (1976, pp. 115-124). Many within the scientific community labor under the delusion that their “facts” and “evidence” are supportive of evolution and opposed to a normal, face-value understanding of the biblical text. They scoff at those who disagree with them, as if they alone have a corner on truth.
The fact of the matter is that while most of the religious world deserves the epithets hurled by the “informed” academicians, those who espouse pure, New Testament Christianity do not. New Testament Christians embrace the biblical definition of faith, in contrast to the commonly conceived understanding of faith that is promulgated by the vast majority of people in the denominational world.
The faith spoken of in the Bible is a faith that is preceded by knowledge. One cannot possess biblical faith in God until he or she comes to the knowledge of God. Thus, faith is not accepting what one cannot prove. Faith cannot outrun knowledge—for it is dependent upon knowledge (Romans 10:17). Abraham was said to have had faith only after he came to the knowledge of God’s promises and was fully persuaded (Romans 4:20-21). His faith, therefore, was seen in his trust and submission to what he knew to be the will of God. Biblical faith is attained only after an examination of the evidence, coupled with correct reasoning about the evidence.
The God of the Bible is a God of truth. Throughout biblical history, He has stressed the need for the acceptance of truth—in contrast with error and falsehood. Those who, in fact, fail to seek the truth are considered by God to be wicked (Jeremiah 5:1). The wise man urged: “Buy the truth, and sell it not” (Proverbs 23:23). Paul, himself an accomplished logician, exhorted people to love the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). He stated the necessity of giving diligence to the task of dealing with the truth properly (2 Timothy 2:15). Jesus declared that only by knowing the truth is one made free (John 8:32). Luke ascribed nobility to those who were willing to search for and examine the evidence, rather than being content to simply take someone’s word for the truth (Acts 17:11). Peter admonished Christians to be prepared to give a defense (1 Peter 3:15), which stands in stark contrast to those who, when questioned about proof of God, or the credibility and comprehensibility of the Bible, triumphantly reply, “I don’t know—I accept it by faith!”
Thus, the notion of “blind faith” is completely foreign to the Bible. People are called upon to have faith only after they receive adequate knowledge. In fact, the Bible demands that the thinker be rational in gathering information, examining the evidence, and reasoning properly about the evidence, thereby drawing only warranted conclusions. That, in fact, is the essentiality of what is known in philosophical circles as the basic law of rationality: one should draw only such conclusions as are justified by the evidence. Paul articulated exactly this concept when he wrote: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). John echoed the same thought when he said to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1). These passages show that the New Testament Christian is one who stands ready to examine the issues. God expects every individual to put to the test various doctrines and beliefs, and then to reach only such conclusions as are warranted by adequate evidence. Man must not rely upon papal authorities, church traditions, or the claims of science. Rather, all people are obligated to rely upon the properly studied written directives of God (2 Timothy 2:15; John 12:48; 2 Peter 3:16). Biblical religion and modern science clash only because the majority of those within the scientific community have abandoned sound biblical hermeneutics and insist upon drawing unwarranted, erroneous conclusions from the relevant scientific evidence.
The Bible insists that evidence is abundantly available for those who will engage in unprejudiced, rational inquiry. The resurrection claim, for example, was substantiated by “many infallible proofs,” including verification through the observation of more than five hundred persons at once (Acts 1:3; 1 Corinthians 15:5-8). Many proofs were made available in order to pave the way for faith (John 20:30-31). Peter offered at least four lines of evidence to those gathered in Jerusalem before he concluded his argument with “therefore…” (Acts 2:14-36). The acquisition of knowledge through empirical evidence was undeniable, for Peter concluded, “as you yourselves also know” (Acts 2:22, emp. added). John referred to the auditory, visual, and tactile evidences that provided further empirical verification (1 John 1:1-2). Christ offered “works” to corroborate His claims, so that even His enemies did not have to rely merely on His words—if they would but honestly reason to the only logical conclusion (John 10:24-25,38). The proof was of such magnitude that one Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews, even admitted: “[W]e know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2).
Nevertheless, there are always those who, for one reason or another, refuse to accept the law of rationality, and who avoid the warranted conclusions—just like those who side-stepped the proof that Christ presented, and attributed it to Satan (Matthew 12:24). Christ countered such an erroneous conclusion by pointing out their faulty reasoning and the false implications of their argument (Matthew 12:25-27). The proof that the apostles presented was equally conclusive, though unacceptable to many (Acts 4:16).
The proof in our day is no less conclusive, nor is it any less compelling. While it is not within the purview of this brief article to prove such (see Warren and Flew, 1977; Warren and Matson, 1978), the following tenets are provable: (1) we can know (not merely think, hope, or wish) that God exists (Romans 1:19-20); (2) we can know that the Bible is the verbally inspired Word of God, and intended to be comprehended in much the same way that any written human communication is to be understood; (3) we can know that one day we will stand before God in judgment and give account for whether we have studied the Bible, learned what to do to be saved, and obeyed those instructions; and (4) we can know that we know (1 John 2:3).
By abandoning the Bible as a literal, inerrant, infallible standard by which all human behavior is to be measured, the scientist has effectively rendered biblical religion, biblical faith, and New Testament Christianity sterile—at least as far as his or her own life is concerned. Once the Bible is dismissed as “figurative,” “confusing,” or “incomprehensible,” one has opened wide the doors of subjectivity, in which every man’s view is just as good as another’s. The more sophisticated viewpoint may be more appealing, but it remains just as subjective and self-stylized.
REFERENCESRobinson, Richard (1976), “Religion and Reason,” Critiques of God, ed. Peter A. Angeles (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus).
Warren, Thomas B. and Antony G.N. Flew (1977), The Warren-Flew Debate (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press).
Warren, Thomas B. and Wallace I. Matson (1978), The Warren-Matson Debate (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press).
Jesus’ Claims to Deity
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
It is one thing for a human being to claim to be divine. Many in history have done so. But it is quite another for such an individual to prove it. Jesus Christ stands out from all other persons who have inhabited the planet in that His claim to divinity actually was proven to be true. The book of John is certainly one prominent witness among the books of the New Testament that report this fact. Since Johns book was written for the explicit purpose of demonstrating “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31), it is not surprising that the deity of Christ is asserted over and over, in many forms, on virtually every page.
“SON OF MAN” (JOHN 3:13-15)
BackgroundTwice in the text of John 3:13-15, Jesus refers to himself as “the Son of Man” (also John 1:51; 5:27; 6:27,53,62; 8:28; 9:35; 12:23; 13:31). Of the 88 times the expression “son of man” occurs in the NASB version of the New Testament, all except four are found in the gospel accounts. As Stephen was about to be stoned to death, he was inspired to gaze into the very throne room of God and announce to his persecutors, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:56). The expression also is used by the Hebrews writer in his quotation of Psalm 8—again, to refer to Jesus (Hebrews 2:6). And depending on one’s interpretation of Revelation, Jesus is alluded to as the son of man twice in that book (Revelation 1:13; 14:14). Of the other 84 occurrences among the gospel narratives, “son of man” occurs 31 times in Matthew, 14 times in Mark, 26 times in Luke, and 13 times in John. In every case, the expression refers to Jesus.
What is the background of this construction? The phrase “son of man” is actually a Hebrew idiom. In his monumental volume Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, E.W. Bullinger classified this idiom as a case of “Antimereia of the Noun” in which “one noun is placed in regimen: i.e., when one governs the other in the genitive case: the latter word (sometimes two words) becomes an adjective” (1968, p. 497, italics and parenthetical item in orig.). For example, the “son of wickedness” (Psalm 89:22) is a wicked person. Middle easterners speak of a “son of the desert,” referring to a person who is particularly connected to, linked with, and characterized by the desert. Such a person would be one who is so intimately connected to the desert, either by birth, long-term residence, or ongoing acquaintance, that his association with the desert is unquestioned and readily apparent. The “sons of this world” (Luke 20:34) are those people who are characterized by their devotion to the things of this earthly life. “Son of man” (cf. Jeremiah 49:18,33) refers to one’s mortality, the condition of being a human being—“a periphrasis for ‘man’” (Thayer, 1901, p. 635) or “a kind of circumlocution for man, with special reference to his frail nature and humble condition” (McClintock and Strong, 1879, 9:879, italics in orig.). Of the 107 occurrences of the phrase (ben adam) in the Old Testament, 93 occur in Ezekiel to refer to that prophet (see Aune, 1988, 4:574).
Bullinger further observes that the divine names form a special class by themselves in connection with this idiom. When the word “son” is qualified by a subsequent noun, the nature or character of the individual is being indicated (1968, p. 503). Hence, “son of man” emphasizes the individual as perfectly human. When referring to Jesus, the expression emphasizes the human aspect of Jesus—the phenomenon of his enfleshment (cf. Philippians 2:7). However, when preceded by the article (“the son of man”), Bullinger suggests that “the phrase appears to have a special idiomatic usage of its own” (p. 842), indicating Jesus’ “universal dominion in the earth.” C.F.D. Moule notes that, with the exception of quotations from the Old Testament and John 5:27, in the New Testament “son of man” always has the article preceding it (1959, p. 177; cf. p. 116).
Significance“The son of man” was Jesus’ favorite way to refer to Himself (50 times—McClintock and Strong, 9:879). He undoubtedly wanted people to know that though He is God, when He came to the Earth, He came in human form and became fully human by taking on all the frailties of human flesh:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:5-8, emp. added).He undoubtedly wanted every person to understand that “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Thayer suggests that Jesus preferred this title “because by its lowliness it was least suited to foster the expectation of an earthly Messiah in royal splendor” (1901, p. 635).
In actuality, the expression “son of man” occurs only one time in the Old Testament to refer exclusively to Jesus, the Messiah: Daniel 7:13. Herein likely lies the deeper significance of Jesus’ use of the term. It is to this verse that Jesus linked Himself when He came to Earth:
I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14).While perhaps most of the “scholarly world” now rejects the identification of “son of man” in Daniel 7:13 with Jesus, the evidence nevertheless points to that very conclusion. Indeed, the features of the prophecy match perfectly with the multiple specific affirmations made in the New Testament regarding the person of Jesus, depicted first and foremost in the incident recorded in Acts 1:9-11:
Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven (emp. added).”Observe carefully how Daniel 7 and Acts 1 harmonize with each other perfectly—Daniel giving details from the perspective of heaven and Luke giving the same details from the perspective of Earth where the incident commenced. Since the expression “son of man” well describes Jesus in His earthly form, it fits that He would be so designated in Daniel 7:13 to refer to His post-resurrection, pre-ascension condition. After all, His resurrected body was the same one that was crucified and which He re-inhabited after His death (Luke 24:39; John 20:27). In harmony with the wording of Daniel, Jesus, after His resurrection, passed through (from the perspective of those on Earth), or came with (from the perspective of God), clouds. Jesus echoed Daniel’s “cloud” terminology in his trial before Caiaphas (Matthew 26:64). He then approached the Ancient of Days, i.e., God the Father, in the heavenly realm. Next observe that His return to heaven meant that He was enthroned at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:3; 10:12) and given “dominion,” i.e., rule (cf. Psalm 2:9, NIV), over the kingdom, i.e., the church, which will never be destroyed. All these details are stated explicitly in Acts 2:33-35, Ephesians 1:20-23, Colossians 1:15-18; 2:10, and Hebrews 12:28. When life on Earth is brought to a close, Jesus will hand the kingdom over to God the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24).
Notice, then, that even though the idiom “son of man” ordinarily emphasizes one’s humanness, in John 3 Jesus’ repetitious use of the expression to refer to Himself conveyed an expanded and extended usage. Jesus linked His humanity with His divinity by embedding the phrase in the midst of multiple affirmations of His eternality. The same may be said of the way He would use the phrases “son of man” and “son of God” interchangeably (e.g., John 1:49-51; Matthew 26:63-64). “The son of man” was not only the quintessential human being—the ultimate human—He was simultaneously God in the flesh.
“SON OF GOD” (JOHN 5:18-26)
Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself (John 5:18-26).
BackgroundThe phrase “son of God” is used at least four ways in Scripture. It can refer to human beings as physically created by God (Luke 3:38). It can refer to children of God in the sense of the righteous people (e.g., Genesis 6:2; Romans 9:26). It can refer to angels (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7). And it can refer to the divine person of Jesus as the one and only Son of God (Romans 1:4). It is in this last sense that we encounter the central thrust and very essence of Christianity—the divinity of Jesus Christ. On this single doctrinal reality, the entire superstructure of God’s religion for man is erected. Jesus built His church, the kingdom, on that all-encompassing truth (Matthew 16:18).
In the section immediately preceding John 5:18, Jesus healed a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. Rather than drawing the only logical conclusion, i.e., that Jesus is God, the Jews persecuted Jesus on the basis of His having healed the man on the Sabbath. Jesus gave definitive refutations of the bogus charge of violating the Sabbath on more than one occasion (e.g., Matthew 12:1-14; John 7:21-24). But quite obviously, His opponents were simply using that grounds as a guise to cloak their deeper motivations—jealousy, pride, greed, desire for power, etc.
On this occasion, their hostility toward Jesus manifested itself in their outrage at the fact that Jesus “not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18). The rest of chapter five constitutes Jesus’ stunning discourse confirming their latter charge—what Luther labeled “a sublime apology.” Jesus never denied the claim to be divine. Indeed, He asserted the claim Himself and defended it on numerous occasions, even before Pilate (John 18:37; 1 Timothy 6:13; cf. Matthew 26:63-66).
SignificanceDrawing upon the interrelationship sustained by father and son, Jesus defended His deity by describing the intimate connection between Himself and the Father. Seven facets of their relationship demonstrate His claim:
The Father and the Son are one in action, since the
Son does not act independently of the Father. The Father and Son are so
united that the Son does nothing that the Father does not do. It would
be against the divine nature of Christ to do anything contrary to the
Father. Father and Son are of one mind and one divine nature. Neither
acts independently of the other.
The Father and the Son are one in love and intent.
The Father sent the Son to die for lost humanity (John 3:16), and the
Son gave Himself for lost humanity (Galatians 1:4; 2:20; Ephesians
5:25). Everything Jesus did on Earth manifested the love that the Father
and Son share in common for each other and for human beings. Father and
Son did not act independently of each other in Jesus coming to Earth to
perform His 33-year role to die, be resurrected, or execute judgment.
They are completely united in thought and purpose. Being divine,
Christ’s nature was contrary to doing anything out of harmony with the
The Father and the Son are one in giving spiritual life
to those who desire it. Only deity has the right and ability to forgive
sin (cf. John 6:58; 11:25; Romans 11:15). The pre-condition to
receiving eternal life is to believe in, love, and obey the Son (3:36;
The Father and the Son are one in judgment. Even as
both Father and Son are one in dispensing spiritual life to those who
respond with obedient faith, so both are united in imparting judgment
and condemnation to those who refuse to obey. Pronouncements of
spiritual judgment from the Father and Son are made in this life, and
will be made ultimately at the final Judgment (vs. 29; 12:48).
The Father and the Son are one in the honor due them.
Since Jesus is fully God, He is deserving of the same honor due the
Father. To fail to honor the Son is to fail to honor the Father.
The Father and the Son are one in the prerequisites of salvation.
One must hear the Word of God and submit to that Word in obedient
faith. The Father sent the Son to Earth; the Son articulated the way to
be saved. They are unified in the means of receiving eternal life.
The Father and the Son are one in their possession of life. The Father and the Son share life that is self-existent and eternal. Only they can impart any
life to others—whether physical or spiritual. They are the source of
life. Only they have a right to dispense life according to their Word.
The Son came to Earth to make provision for human access to spiritual
“PROMISED MESSIAH” (JOHN 10:36)
Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.” Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?” The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”’? If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” Therefore they sought again to seize Him, but He escaped out of their hand (John 10:22-39).
BackgroundThe Old Testament term “messiah” (mah-SHEE-ach), used 39 times, is always translated in the Septuagint by Christos. Both terms mean “anointed,” and refer to the consecration, or setting apart, of an object (animate or inanimate) for a special, sacred purpose, using anointing oil. Under Mosaic Law, inanimate objects that were anointed included, for example, the tabernacle utensils. Three persons were likewise anointed: priests, kings, and prophets. It is not coincidental that Jesus occupies all three of these roles in His redemptive work on our behalf. He is Prophet (Matthew 13:57; Acts 3:22; 7:37), Priest (Hebrews 7; 9:11), and King (Matthew 21:5; 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16).
The Hebrew/Aramaic term “messiah” is used only twice in the Greek New Testament—both times in John. Peter’s brother Andrew used the term to refer to Jesus (John 1:41), and the Samaritan woman at the well expressed her awareness of the coming Messiah (John 4:25). Christos occurs 19 times in John (Moulton, Geden, and Moulton, 1978, p. 1012). The anointing of the Messiah for His messianic functions occurred when the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove at His baptism and “remained on him” (John 1:32). The Spirit then led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted (Luke 4:1). Jesus later returned to Galilee “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14). He went into the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth and there told His listeners that Isaiah 61:1 was being fulfilled as He read it to them, beginning with the affirmation, “the Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me...” (Luke 4:18)—another indication of His messianic anointing. Peter accentuated the fruition of Jesus’ messianic role when he explained on Pentecost that with the advent of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, “God has made this Jesus...both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). No wonder, then, that Jesus pressed the Pharisees and others to grasp the identity of the Messiah (e.g., Matthew 22:41-45).
SignificanceDuring the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, the Jews surrounded Jesus and challenged Him to come right out and state whether He is the Messiah/Christ. Both His previous verbal affirmations, as well as His demonstrations of miraculous power, had already established the factuality of the point. “The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.” “Work” is a synonym for the key word of the book, “sign.” Jesus insisted that His miraculous acts verified and authenticated His messianic identity. Their failure to accept the indisputable evidence of that fact was due to their deliberate unbelief—their unmitigated refusal to accept the truth due to ulterior motives and alternate interests.
So Jesus pressed the point again very forthrightly by stating emphatically, “I and My Father are one.” Observe that Jesus was never evasive. He never showed fear or hesitation in the face of threats or danger. Instead, He gave them yet another explicit declaration of His divine identity—naturally rekindling their desire to execute Him for blasphemy (as per Leviticus 24:14-16; cf. 1 Kings 21:10). But Jesus short-circuited the intention to stone Him by posing a penetrating question: “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?” Since the Son and the Father are one, and the miraculous actions that Jesus performed were every bit as much from the Father as the Son who performed them, which sign evoked this violent intention to execute Him? Of course, Jesus knew that they did not desire to execute Him for His miraculous signs. But by calling attention to His ability to perform miracles, He was again gigging them with their failure to accept the evidence of His divine identity. Dismissing the obvious conclusion that would be drawn by any unbiased, honest person, they insisted that He was deserving of execution for the very fact that He claimed to be God.
As was so often the case with Jesus’ handling of His contemporaries, He drew their attention back to the Bible, back to the Word of God (which He, Himself, authored). The Word of God is our only authority for deciding what to believe and how to act (Colossians 3:17). Jesus reminded them of Psalm 82:6—referring to that passage as “law.” [NOTE: Advocates of the so-called “new hermeneutic,” who have insisted that we have misinterpreted the Bible because we have lacked sufficient sensitivity for the variety of literary genre, need to redirect their criticism toward Jesus. It is true that the Bible contains many types of literature—from poetry and history to epistle and parable. Such literary forms certainly merit consideration in one’s attempt to extract the meanings intended by God. However, the hidden agenda of the “liberal” lies in his underhanded attempt to disparage and vilify law, and soften or eliminate the binding force of Scripture. Jesus cut through such nonsense by insisting that, regardless of the differing literary characteristics of the books of the Bible, all of Scripture is “Law,” in the sense that all of it has timelessly authoritative, legally binding application.]
The context of Psalm 82 is a scathing indictment of the unjust judges who had been assigned the responsibility of executing God’s justice among the people (cf. Deuteronomy 1:16; 19:17-18; 2 Chronicles 19:6). Such a magistrate was “God’s minister” (diakonos—Romans 13:4) who acted in the place of God, wielding His authority, and who was responsible for mediating God’s help and justice (cf. Exodus 7:1). God had “given them a position that was analogous to His in that He had made them administrators of justice, His justice” (Leupold, 1969, p. 595). In this sense, they were “gods” (elohim)—acting as God to men (Barclay, 1956, 2:89). Hebrew parallelism clarifies this sense: “I said, ‘You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High’” (Psalm 82:6, emp. added). They did not share divinity with God—but merely delegated jurisdiction. They still were mere humans—though invested with divine authority, and permitted to act in God’s behalf.
This point is apparent throughout the Pentateuch, where the term translated “judges” or “ruler” is sometimes elohim (e.g., Exodus 21:6; 22:9,28). Moses is one example. Moses was not a “god.” Yet God told Moses that when he went to Egypt to achieve the release of the Israelites, he would be “God” to his brother Aaron and to Pharaoh (Exodus 4:16; 7:1). He meant that Moses would supply both his brother and Pharaoh with the words that came from God. Though admittedly a rather rare use of elohim, nevertheless, “it shows that the word translated ‘god’ in that place might be applied to man” (Barnes, 1949, p. 294, emp. in orig.). Clarke summarized this point: “Ye are my representatives, and are clothed with my power and authority to dispense judgment and justice, therefore all of them are said to be children of the Most High” (n.d., 3:479, emp. in orig.). But because they had shirked their awesome responsibility to represent God’s will fairly and accurately, and because they had betrayed the sacred trust bestowed upon them by God Himself, He decreed that they would die (vs. 7). Obviously, they were not “gods,” since God could and would execute them!
A somewhat analogous mode of expression is seen in Nathan’s denunciation of David: “You have killed Uriah the Hittite” (2 Samuel 12:9)—though an enemy archer had done so (2 Samuel 11:24; 12:9). No one would accuse the archer of being David, or David being the archer. Paul said Jesus preached to the Gentiles (Ephesians 2:17)—though Jesus did so through human agency. Peter said Jesus preached to spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:19), when, in fact, He did so through Noah. Noah was not Jesus and Jesus was not Noah. If Paul and Noah could be described as functioning in the capacity of Jesus, so judges in Israel could be described as functioning as God.
Using an argumentum ad hominem (Robertson, 1916, p. 89), Jesus identified the unjust judges of Israel as persons “to whom the word of God came” (John 10:35). That is, they had been “appointed judges by Divine commission” (Butler, 1961, p. 127)—by “the command of God; his commission to them to do justice” (Barnes, 1949, p. 294, emp. in orig.; cf. Jeremiah 1:2; Ezekiel 1:3; Luke 3:2). McGarvey summarized the ensuing argument of Jesus: “If it was not blasphemy to call those gods who so remotely represented the Deity, how much less did Christ blaspheme in taking unto himself a title to which he had a better right than they, even in the subordinate sense of being a mere messenger” (n.d., p. 487). Charles Erdman observed:
By his defense Jesus does not renounce his claim to deity; but he argues that if the judges, who represented Jehovah in their appointed office, could be called “gods,” in the Hebrew scriptures, it could not be blasphemy for him, who was the final and complete revelation of God, to call himself “the Son of God” (1922, pp. 95-96, emp. added).Morris agrees: “If in any sense the Psalm may apply this term to men, then much more may it be applied to Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world” (1971, pp. 527-528, emp. added). Indeed, “if the divine name had been applied by God to mere men, there could be neither blasphemy nor folly in its application to the incarnate Son of God himself” (Alexander, 1873, p. 351, emp. added).
This verse brings into stark contrast the deity—the Godhood—of Christ (and His Father Who “sanctified and sent” Him—vs. 36) with the absence of deity for all others. Jesus verified this very conclusion by directing the attention of His accusers to the “works” that He performed (vss. 37-38). These “works” (i.e., miraculous signs) proved the divine identity of Jesus to the exclusion of all other alleged deities. Archer concluded: “By no means, then, does our Lord imply here that we are sons of God just as He is—except for a lower level of holiness and virtue. No misunderstanding could be more wrongheaded than that” (1982, p. 374).
So Jesus was not attempting to dodge His critics or deny their charge. The entire context has Jesus asserting His deity, and He immediately reaffirms it by referring to Himself as the one “whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world” (vs. 36). Jesus spotlighted yet another manifestation of the Jews’ hypocrisy, bias, and ulterior agenda—their failure to recognize and accept the Messiah. Even if sincere, they were wrong in their thinking; but the fact is that they were doubly wrong in that they were not even sincere, a fact that Jesus repeatedly exposed (cf. Matthew 12:7; 15:3-6).
Praise be to Allah Who hath revealed the Scripture unto His slave...to give warning of stern punishment from Him...and to warn those who say: Allah hath chosen a son, (A thing) whereof they have no knowledge, nor (had) their fathers. Dreadful is the word that cometh out of their mouths. They speak naught but a lie (Surah 18:1-5, emp. added, parenthetical items in orig.).One day all human beings will stand before Jesus Christ and give account of their earthly behavior: “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God” (Romans 14:10-11, emp. added). “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11, emp. added). May we emulate the example of Thomas, blending our voices with his, in our mutual affirmation of Jesus: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).
And they say: The Beneficent hath taken unto Himself a son. Assuredly ye utter a disastrous thing, whereby almost the heavens are torn, and the earth is split asunder and the mountains fall in ruins, that ye ascribe unto the Beneficent a son, when it is not meet for (the Majesty of) the Beneficent that He should choose a son. There is none in the heavens and the earth but cometh unto the Beneficient as a slave (Surah 19:88-93, emp. added, parenthetical item in orig.).
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Butler, Paul (1961), The Gospel of John (Joplin, MO: College Press).
Clarke, Adam (no date), Clarke’s Commentary: Genesis-Deuteronomy (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury).
Erdman, Charles (1922), The Gospel of John (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster).
Fishbane, Michael (1985), Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel (Oxford: Clarendon Press).
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Leupold, H.C. (1969), Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
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Morris, Leon (1971), The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
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Pack, Frank (1975), The Gospel According to John (Austin, TX: Sweet).
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (no date), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
Robertson, A.T. (1916), The Divinity of Christ (New York: Fleming H. Revell).
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