"STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS" Hosea - God's Redeeming Love (4:1-7:16) INTRODUCTION 1. In our previous lesson we began our survey of the book of Hosea... a. Noting that Hosea was a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel b. Whose work began as Amos' was ending, and prophesied from 750-725 B.C. 2. The key to understanding the book is the analogy illustrated in the first three chapters... a. In which Hosea and his wife Gomer illustrates God's experience with Israel b. Which served as an object lesson to express "God's Redeeming Love" for His people 3. We therefore saw in the first three chapters... a. Israel's rejection symbolized, in the names of Hosea and Gomer's children - Hos 1:2-9 b. Israel's restoration foretold - Hos 1:10-2:1 c. Israel's unfaithfulness described, depicted as a wife guilty of harlotry - Hos 2:2-13 d. Israel's restoration described, cured of her idolatry - Hos 2: 14-23 e. Israel's restoration symbolized, depicted as a harlot taken back to be a wife - Hos 3:1-5 4. The rest of the book contains the messages of Hosea, proclaimed with this analogy in the background; there is... a. God's indictment of Israel and her sins - Hos 4:1-7:16 b. God's warning of punishment that is to befall her - Hos 8:1-10:15 c. God's promise of a future restoration - Hos 11:1-14:9 [In this lesson, we shall continue our survey of Hosea by noticing God's indictment of Israel for her sins, chapters 4-7...] I. GOD'S INDICTMENT OF ISRAEL (4:1-7:16) A. THE CHARGE AGAINST ISRAEL (4:1-5:15) 1. Against the nation as a whole - Hos 4:1-3 a. For no truth, mercy, or knowledge of God is in the land b. All forms of wickedness are rampant 2. Against the priests in particular - Hos 4:4-14 a. It does no good to contend with the people, for people do not respect their priests b. The priests themselves have rejected knowledge, which is to their destruction c. The priests feed off the sins of the people, increasing their own spiritual adultery 3. A word of warning to Judah in the south - Hos 4:15-19 a. Judah, don't be like Israel! b. Judah, leave Ephraim (Israel) to her idols! 4. Against the priests, rulers, and people - Hos 5:1-7 a. They have been a snare, not a help b. Their idolatry has led Israel to stumble, even Judah as well d. God has withdrawn Himself from them 5. The impending sentence - Hos 5:8-15 a. Ephraim (Israel) shall be laid waste, and Judah shall not escape either b. Like a lion, God will come upon them and tear them away c. This God will do until they confess their sin and diligently seek Him B. THEIR APPEAL REJECTED (6:1-7:16) 1. The call to repentance - Hos 6:1-3 a. Some believe these three verses are Hosea's desperate plea to Israel to repent b. Others think that these are the words of Israel, but was not sincere -- In either case, verse four reveals the shallowness of Israel's faithfulness 2. Rejected because of Israel's true condition - Hos 6:4-7:16 a. Faithfulness was only temporary, like the morning cloud or early dew b. They offered sacrifices, but did not show mercy or truly know God c. They transgressed the covenant, and became defiled, even influencing Judah d. When God would have healed them, their iniquity was even worse e. Idolatry, alliances with pagan nations, rejection of God's efforts to discipline them...all these things were the charges brought against Israel! [Like a Judge in court God has brought His charges against unfaithful Israel. Like an unfaithful spouse who committed adultery, so Israel has done to God! Our next study will consider God's warning of the punishment to befall Israel, but before we finish this lesson let's review..] II. SOME KEY PASSAGES IN THIS SECTION A. "MY PEOPLE ARE DESTROYED FOR LACK OF KNOWLEDGE" 1. Notice Hos 4:1,6 2. This verse, like many others in the Bible, emphasizes the importance of knowing the Word of God - cf. Jm 1:21 -- How is your knowledge of God's Word? B. "EPHRAIM IS JOINED TO IDOLS, LET HIM ALONE" 1. Consider Hos 4:17 2. The context is that of warning Judah to stay away from Israel 3. There often comes a time when efforts to restore the erring are futile; rather than risk being influenced adversely, withdrawal of association is necessary - cf. 1Co 5:11-13 C. "YOUR FAITHFULNESS IS LIKE A MORNING CLOUD..." 1. Read Hos 6:4 2. Many people are quick to profess repentance, but do remain true to the Lord; how faithful to the Lord are we? D. "FOR I DESIRE MERCY AND NOT SACRIFICE..." 1. This passage (Hos 6:6) was often quoted by Jesus - Mt 9:13; 12:7 2. It reflects what was said in the Proverbs - Pr 21:3 3. Micah taught the same principle - Mic 6:6-8 4. It is not that God did not call for sacrifice, but all the worship in the world will not cover a lack of mercy and true knowledge of God! - cf. Hos 4:6, also Jer 9:23-24 E. "THEY DO NOT CONSIDER IN THEIR HEARTS THAT I REMEMBER..." 1. Look at Hos 7:2 2. How sad that people sin, as though there is no God who takes notice of what they are doing 3. But a time is coming when all that has been done will be brought to light! - cf. Eccl 12:14; Ro 2:16; Rev 20:12 -- Our only hope is to have our sins forgiven by the blood of Jesus! F. "EPHRAIM HAS MIXED HIMSELF AMONG THE PEOPLES" 1. Cf. Hos 7:8 2. Through unsavory associations, Israel had been corrupted 3. Such is the danger of the wrong companions - cf. 1Co 15:33 4. Thus we need to heed warnings such as those found in 2Co 6: 14-18 CONCLUSION 1. Truly the words of prophets like Hosea were "written for our admonition" - 1Co 10:11 a. Like Israel, we have been richly blessed - Ep 1:3 b. Like Israel, we are expected to remain faithful - Re 2:10 2. The question is, will we "fall after the same example of disobedience"? - cf. He 4:11 a. Will we fall for lack of knowledge? b. Will we fall because our faithfulness is like a morning cloud or early dew? c. Will we fall because we forget the importance of mercy in our service to God? d. Will we fall because we do not consider that God remembers what we do? e. Will we fall because rather than be the "salt of the earth", we become so "mixed" by those in the world we lose our flavor? (cf. Mt 5:14) Through a careful and serious study of the prophets, we are more likely to avoid making the same mistakes as Israel, and to heed the words of the apostle Paul: "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." (1Co 10:12)
"STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS" Hosea - God's Redeeming Love (1:1-3:5) INTRODUCTION 1. About the time that Amos (the "country prophet") was prophesying to the northern kingdom of Israel, another prophet came on to the scene a. His name was Hosea b. Whose name means "salvation" (Joshua and Jesus are derived from the same word) 2. While the audience was the same, there were some differences... a. Amos was from Judah (Tekoa); Hosea appears to have been from Israel b. While Amos showed little patience with his northern relatives, Hosea displayed a large degree of sympathetic understanding toward his own people c. Just as Amos is reminiscent of John the Baptist in his approach, so Hosea is reminiscent of how Jesus approached people [In this lesson, the first of several on Hosea, we will see why Hosea was so sympathetic, even as he condemned his own people for their sins. Let's start with some...] I. BACKGROUND MATERIAL A. THE MAN... 1. His father was named Beeri (Hos 1:1), but nothing more is known of his ancestors 2. Some think he may have been a priest, in view of his high regard for the duties and responsibilities of the priesthood 3. We read of his wife (Gomer, Hos 1:3) and his children... a. Jezreel, a son - Hos 1:4 b. Lo-Ruhamah, a daughter - Hos 1:6 c. Lo-Ammi, another son - Hos 1:8-9 -- Through his family, the basic message of Hosea will be illustrated (see below) B. THE DATE... 1. Hosea prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah; Jeroboam II also reigned during this time in Israel - Hos 1:1 2. Most place the time of his work at 750-725 B.C. 3. Hosea was possibly a young man when Amos was almost through with his ministry 4. His work in relation to other prophets during this period of time: a. Amos and Hosea prophesied to Israel b. Isaiah and Micah were prophesying in Judah C. BACKGROUND OF THE TIMES... 1. For a good background of this period of Bible history, cf. 2Ki 14-17; 2Ch 26-29 2. The northern kingdom of Israel was on its last legs... a. Sin was even more rampant than seen in the book of Amos b. Religious, moral, and political corruption was rampant 3. One word sums the condition of the nation of Israel: harlotry (whoredom, KJV), used thirteen times throughout the book D. KEY TO UNDERSTANDING THE BOOK... 1. An analogy is made between Hosea's experience with Gomer, and the Lord's experience with Israel 2. This analogy is described in chs. 1-3, and serves as the backdrop to chs. 4-14 [With this brief introduction to the book of Hosea, let's now survey the first three chapters...] II. HOSEA'S FAMILY, AND THE ANALOGY WITH ISRAEL (1:1-3:5) A. ISRAEL'S REJECTION SYMBOLIZED... (1:2-9) 1. Hosea commanded to marry "a wife of harlotry" - Hos 1:2-3 a. Her name was Gomer b. If the parallel between Gomer and Israel is exact, then she was not a harlot at the time of the marriage; but her background would prompt her to become one c. She certainly would come to symbolize what Israel had become 2. Gomer bears three children - Hos 1:4-9 a. The first son is named "Jezreel" 1) Which means "God scatters", or "God sows" 2) His name prefigured God's judgment on the ruling house of Israel - Hos 1:4-5 b. The daughter is named "Lo-Ruhamah" 1) Which means "no mercy" 2) Her name describes God's attitude toward Israel, though Judah still found grace in God's sight - Hos 1:6-7 3) Some suggest that the daughter (and the son to follow) were not Hosea's a) Note it does not say she bore "him" (Hosea) a daughter, as before b) I.e., Gomer had become a harlot - cf. Hos 2:4 c. The second son is named "Lo-Ammi" 1) His name means "not my people" 2) Thus God declares his rejection of Israel - Hos 1:8-9 B. ISRAEL'S RESTORATION FORETOLD... (1:10-2:1) 1. Though cast off, God promises a restoration 2. There might be a reference to the restoration from Assyrian and Babylonian captivity 3. However, both Paul and Peter apply this promise to believing Jews and Gentile in the church - Ro 9:25-26; 1Pe 2:10 C. ISRAEL'S UNFAITHFULNESS... (2:2-13) 1. Condemnation for her sinful conduct - Hos 2:2-5 a. Charges of harlotry and adultery b. No mercy on her children, as the children of harlotry -- God's rage for Israel's unfaithfulness described in terms of an enraged husband who learns not only of his wife's adultery, but that the children are not his 2. Punishment for her sinful conduct - Hos 2:6-13 a. God will prevent Israel from finding her lovers b. God will take away the blessings and the feasts that Israel enjoyed c. God will destroy what Israel has used to commit spiritual harlotry -- Israel's sin was foremost her idolatry (cf. references to "Baal"); God viewed such idolatry as a form of "harlotry"! D. ISRAEL'S RESTORATION DESCRIBED... (2:14-23) 1. Using a "wilderness", God will win her back, just as He did in the days of Moses and Joshua - Hos 2:14-15 2. God will cure her of using the language of Baal worship - Hos 2:16-17 3. God will establish a covenant of peace and safety, and betroth Israel to Him once again - Hos 2:18-20 4. God will once again bless them, and be merciful to them as His people - Hos 2:21-23 -- While there may be references to the restoration from captivity, it also foreshadows the age of the Messiah and His spiritual blessings - cf. Ro 9:25-26; 1Pe 2:10 E. ISRAEL'S RESTORATION SYMBOLIZED... (3:1-5) 1. Hosea is charged to love an adulterous woman - Hos 3:1-3 a. Most take this to be Gomer, who had gone into harlotry b. Hosea takes her back, though with a period of probation 2. Symbolizing God's willingness to take Israel back - Hos 3:4-5 a. Also with a probationary period, in which there be no king, sacrifices, etc. b. But Israel would return, and seek the Lord and David their king (the Messiah?) CONCLUSION 1. In these first three chapters, it appears God used Hosea to teach Israel an object lesson... a. Through Hosea's experience with Gomer, God provided Israel a concrete illustration of what His relationship with Israel had been like b. Israel had played the harlot; but God would take her back, following a period of punishment and probation -- Keeping this analogy in mind will assist our understanding of the remaining chapters 2. A lesson to be learned from this analogy is how God views apostasy: spiritual harlotry! a. Christians, we are "betrothed to Christ - cf. 2Co 11:2 b. But we too can become spiritual harlots" if we are not careful! - 2Co 11:3 Are we being true to our betrothal? May the words of the Lord in Hosea encourage us to remain ever faithful: "I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the LORD." (Hosea 2:19-20)
Giant Human Bones and Bogus E-mails
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
The fact that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God has been established repeatedly and definitively (see Butt, 2007). New evidence, however, continues to surface that adds weight to the cumulative case for the Bible’s accuracy. Unfortunately, some of the “new evidence” turns out to be fabricated, based on incorrect information. Thus, it becomes imperative that those who defend the Bible’s inspiration heed the words of Paul, when he admonished his readers to “test all things, hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). God has provided plenty of evidence that establishes the Bible’s inspiration, without resorting to claims that cannot be sustained or are simply false.
One example of such false information is currently circulating in e-mail form under the heading “Giants in the Land of Canaan.” This e-mail purports to show that huge human skeletons have been uncovered that testify to the fact that there were once giants in the land of Canaan. The e-mail contains several pictures of people digging up these massive bones at archaeological dig sites. The photographs depict human skulls and skeletons that are as much as 20 times larger than the average human skull or skeleton.
This e-mail is simply not true. The original photographs were manipulated to look real for a photography contest (see “They Might Be Giants,” 2010). The skeletons’ sizes were exaggerated intentionally, and the original form of the pictures was recognized to be a manipulation. In the course of time, however, the fact that the skeleton pictures were fakes was lost, and many people have forwarded the e-mail as legitimate proof of the historical existence of giants. It is worth noting that the massive size of the skeletons depicted in the photographs is much larger than the biblical text suggests. For instance, the giant, Goliath, was said to be “six cubits and a span” (1 Samuel 17:4), or about nine and a half feet tall. Yet the proportions of the skeletons in the pictures shows one of the giants’ head, by itself, to be about four feet tall, giving the giant an estimated height of about 20-30 feet. Such proportions do not fit the biblical description of giants (see Butt, 2003).
It is most likely the case that many sincere Bible believers have forwarded this e-mail, or others of a similar nature (see Thompson, 1999), without knowing the truth about them. In our zeal to defend the Bible’s accuracy, let us make sure that we “test all things” and “hold fast” only to those evidences that are legitimate. In some cases, the “testing” of such evidence might mean little more than taking two minutes to search the Web to see what has been written on the topic. Often a two-minute Web search can save a person from having to issue an embarrassing apology to hundreds of friends to whom he forwarded an inaccurate e-mail. In addition, if you wonder about a certain piece of information, you can always contact Apologetics Press and ask about it, since we spend thousands of hours engaged in biblical research that the average Christian simply does not have the time to undertake. It is true that the Bible is God’s Word, and that there were giants in the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:33), but the pictures being forwarded to that effect do not help make the case.
REFERENCESButt, Kyle (2003), “How Big Is a Giant?” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1807.
Butt, Kyle (2007), Behold! The Word of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
“They Might Be Giants” (2010), http://www.snopes.com/photos/odd/giantman.asp
Thompson, Bert (1999), “Have Scientists Found Joshua’s ‘Missing Day’?” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2217.
Does the Holy Spirit Know When Jesus Will Return?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
One question that various individuals have submitted to Apologetics Press in recent years involves the Second Coming of Christ and the omniscience of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4) and thus omniscient (Psalm 139), why did Jesus say about His return, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32, emp. added)? Why would the “Father alone” (Matthew 24:36, NASB) be aware of the time of Jesus’ Second Coming? Does this awareness exclude the Holy Spirit?
When Jesus came to Earth in the flesh, He willingly “made Himself of no reputation” (Philippians 2:7; He “emptied Himself”—NASB). He moved from the spiritual realm to put on flesh (John 1:14) and voluntarily became subject to such burdens as hunger, thirst, weariness, and pain. Our omnipotent, omniscient, holy God chose to come into this world as a helpless babe Who, for the first time in His eternal existence, “increased in wisdom” (Luke 2:52). While on Earth in the flesh, Jesus was voluntarily in a subordinate position to the Father (cf. Jackson, 1995).
It has been suggested that, similar to how Jesus chose not to know certain information while on Earth, including the date of His return, perhaps the Holy Spirit also willingly restricted Himself to some degree during the first century (see Holding, 2012). Perhaps the special role of the Holy Spirit in the first century in regards to spiritual and miraculous gifts (Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 12:7), special revelation (John 14:26; 16:13), divine inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16), intercession (Romans 8:26), etc., is somewhat similar to the role that Christ played. That is, could it be that both God the Son and God the Spirit voluntarily restricted their knowledge on Earth in the first century? And thus, could that be why Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32, emp. added)? Considering that a number of Christians and scholars believe that even God the Father may freely choose to limit His own knowledge of certain things (cf. Brents, 1874, pp. 74-87; Camp, n.d.), many would likely explain Mark 13:32 and Matthew 24:36 by contending that the Holy Spirit freely limited His knowledge for a time regarding Christ’s return.
Given especially the indisputable fact that the Son of God voluntarily chose not to know certain things for a time, it may be possible that the Holy Spirit could choose the same. However, the Holy Spirit Himself revealed through the apostle Paul that He, the Spirit, “searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). Furthermore, there are no explicit statements in Scripture about the Holy Spirit’s willful unawareness of certain things as there are about Jesus (Mark 13:32; cf. Luke 2:52). All one can cite is Jesus’ statement about “only the Father” knowing the date of the Son’s return and conclude that this declaration implies the Spirit of God was unaware of that day. What’s more, in context, Jesus placed much more emphasis on the words “no one knows” than the qualifying statements “not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son.” Jesus wanted His hearers to understand that just as those in Noah’s day “did not know” the day of the Flood (Matthew 24:39, emp. added) and just as the servants in the parable of the servants “do not know when the master of the house is coming” (Mark 13:35, emp. added; Matthew 24:50), so “you do not know what hour the Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42, emp. added; Mark 13:33). Thus, Jesus taught the all-important central message in these chapters of “watching” and being “ready” for the unknown time of Christ’s return (Matthew 24:36-25:46; Mark 13:32-37). Even though we may learn something of the Messiah’s voluntary, self-imposed emptying of some of His omniscience (Mark 13:32), Jesus’ “purpose was not to define the limits of his theological knowledge, but to indicate that vigilance, not calculation, is required” (Lane, 1974, p. 482)—a lesson that all “end-of-time” false prophets need to learn.
Rather than quickly dismiss the omniscience of the Holy Spirit during a particular period of time in human history, a better explanation exists: expressions such as “no one,” “only,” “except,” “all,” etc. are oftentimes used in a limited sense. Consider what Paul revealed in Romans 3: “Jews and Greeks…are all under sin. As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one…. They have all turned aside… there is none who does good, no, not one” (vss. 9,10,12, emp. added). In this passage, Paul was stressing the fact that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), but he was using these inclusive and exclusive terms (e.g., “all,” “none”) in a somewhat limited sense. Paul was obviously not including Jesus in this passage, as elsewhere he wrote that Jesus “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21; cf. Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 1:19). Neither was he including infants (see Butt, 2003), the mentally challenged, or angels. Who then has sinned? All humans of an accountable mind and age (see Miller, 2003), with the obvious exception being the sinless Son of God.
In John 17:3, Jesus prayed to the Father, saying, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3, emp. added). Are we to believe, as some do (cf. “Is There Only…?” 2009), that Jesus was implying neither He nor the Holy Spirit is divine? Not at all. Rather, when the Bible reveals that there is only one God, one Savior, one Lord, one Creator (Isaiah 44:24; John 1:3), etc., reason and revelation demand that we understand the inspired writers to be excluding everyone and everything—other than the members of the Godhead (see Lyons, 2008). Throughout the Gospel of John, the writer repeatedly referred to Jesus’ deity (1:1,3,23; 4:25; 9:38; 10:30-33; 20:28)—Jesus most certainly was not denying it in John 17:3. Unless the biblical text specifically mentions what a member of the Godhead does not know or do, we should be careful alleging ignorance, limited power, etc.
In Matthew 11:27, Jesus stated: “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (emp. added). Are we to believe that the Spirit of God does not fully comprehend the Son of God or God the Father? After all, Jesus said, “[N]o one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son.” Once again, the terms “no one,” “anyone,” and “except” must be understood in a limited sense. Jesus was in no way suggesting that the Spirit of God, Who “searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10), does not fully understand the Father as Jesus does. The Son of God was revealing that aside from the “one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27), “no man or angel clearly and fully comprehends the character of the infinite God…. None but God fully knows Him” (Barnes, 1997, emp. in orig.). Once again, Jesus was alluding to His deity. Mere humans cannot truthfully speak in this manner. “The full comprehension and acknowledgment of the Godhead, and the mystery of the Trinity, belong to God alone” (Clarke, 1996). Jesus was and is God. We should no more exclude the Holy Spirit from Jesus’ statement about Himself and God the Father in Matthew 11:27 than we should exclude the Father or the Son from Paul’s statement about the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 2:10-11.
CONCLUSIONIt is unnecessary to conclude that the Holy Spirit must at one time have given up some of His omniscience because Jesus stated of His return. “[N]o one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” In light of the way in which God and the Bible writers oftentimes used exclusive terms in limited senses, especially as those terms relate to the Godhead, it cannot be proven that Jesus was excluding the Spirit of God in this statement. If we should not exclude Jesus and the Holy Spirit from the God that Jesus praised in John 17:3, and we should not exclude the Holy Spirit from the Divine that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 11:27, it seems entirely unnecessary to infer that in Mark 13:32 and Matthew 24:36 Christ was implying that the Holy Spirit was unaware of the day of His return.
REFERENCESBarnes, Albert (1997), Barnes’ Notes (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Brents, T.W. (1874), The Gospel Plan of Salvation (Bowling Green, KY: Guardian of Truth Foundation, 1987 reprint).
Butt, Kyle (2003), “Do Babies Go to Hell When They Die?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=1201.
Camp, Franklin (no date) “1 Peter 1:1-2,” Redemption Through the Bible (Adamsville, AL: Brother’s).
Clarke, Adam (1996), Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Holding, James (2012), “Mark 13:32 and the Holy Spirit,” Tekton, http://www.tektonics.org/lp/mk1332.html.
“Is There Only One True God?” (2009), Jehovah’s Witnesses Official Web Site, http://www.watchtower.org/e/200602b/article_01.htm.
Jackson, Wayne (1995), “Did Jesus Exist in the Form of God While on Earth?” Reason & Revelation, 15:21-22, March, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=10&article=354.
Lane, William (1974), The Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Lyons, Eric (2008), “The Only True God,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=10&article=983#.
Miller, Dave (2003), “The Age of Accountability,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1202.
Did God Approve of the Extermination of Humans?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Skeptics have been especially critical of the Bible’s portrayal of God ordering the execution of entire populations—including women and children—during the Israelite conquest of Canaan. The Hebrew term herem found, for instance, in Joshua 5:7, refers to the total dedication or giving over of the enemy to God as a sacrifice, involving the extermination of the populace. It is alleged that the God of the Bible is as barbaric and cruel as any of the pagan gods. But this assessment simply is not true. Please consider the following observations.
In the first place, in the Decalogue that was given to the Israelites, the command, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13) undoubtedly referred to murder. It is so translated in most English versions (e.g., NKJV, NIV, NASB, etc.). In other words, the Old Covenant given to the Jews forbade taking the law into one’s own hands and murdering one’s fellow man. The Law of Moses certainly never intended for this commandment to be understood that the taking of human life always is wrong, regardless of the circumstance. In fact, the law itself made provision for implementing the death penalty in at least sixteen cases (see Miller, 2002). But these provisions entailed judicial execution based upon due process—not murder (even as it exists in our own society). The wording of Leviticus 24:17 (“Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death”) clarifies this point. The passage forbids taking life by individuals who are acting without legal authority—which, itself, brought the death penalty. Both murder and the death penalty are in the same verse, verifying the necessity of making a distinction between the two. God, Himself, implemented the death penalty directly on various people throughout human history (as evinced in the 1 Samuel 6:19 list), and required others to do it (as in 1 Samuel 15).
In the second place, if the critic would take the time to study the Bible and make an honest evaluation of the principles of God’s justice, wrath, and love, he or she would see the perfect and harmonious relationship between them. God’s vengeance is not like the impulsive, irrational, emotional outbursts of pagan deities or human beings. He is perfect in all His attributes. He possesses His attributes to a perfect degree, and each attribute exists in perfect balance and synchronization with every other attribute—a perfect blending. He therefore is perfect in justice, love, and anger. Just as God’s ultimate and final condemnation of sinners to eternal punishment will be just and appropriate (Matthew 13:41-42; 25:41), so this temporal judgment of wicked people in the Old Testament is ethical and fair. Human beings do not have an accurate grasp on the gravity of sin and the deplorable nature of evil and wickedness. Human sentimentality is hardly a qualified measuring stick for divine truth and spiritual reality.
Ironically, the atheist, the agnostic, the skeptic, and the liberal attempt to stand in judgment on the ethical behavior of God when, if their position is correct, there is no such thing as an absolute, objective, authoritative standard by which to pronounce anything right or wrong! As the French existentialist philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre, admitted: if there is no God, everything is permitted. The atheist and agnostic have absolutely no platform on which to stand from which to make moral or ethical distinctions—except as the result of subjective, purely personal preference. The very fact that they concede the existence of objective evil is an unwitting concession that there is a God Who has established an absolute framework of moral certainty.
The facts of the matter are that the Canaanites, whom God’s people were commanded to destroy, were destroyed for their own wickedness (Deuteronomy 9:4; 18:9-12; Leviticus 18:24-25,27-28). Canaanite culture and religion in the second millennium B.C. were polluted, corrupt, and unbelievably perverted. No doubt the people were physically diseased from their illicit behavior. There simply was no viable solution to their condition except destruction. Their moral depravity was “full” (Genesis 15:16). They had slumped to such an immoral, depraved state, with no hope of recovery, that their existence on this Earth had to be ended. A similar predicament existed in Noah’s day when God waited while Noah preached for years but was unable to divert the world’s population from its wickedness (Genesis 6:3,5-7; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:5-9). Including the children in the destruction of such populations actually spared them from a worse condition—that of being reared to be as wicked as their parents, thereby facing eternal punishment. All persons who die in childhood, according to the Bible, are ushered to Paradise and, ultimately will reside in heaven. Children with evil parents must naturally suffer innocently while on Earth (e.g., Exodus 20:5; Numbers 14:33).
Those who disagree with God’s annihilation of the wicked in the Old Testament have the same liberal attitude that has prevailed in society for the last forty years. That attitude typically has opposed capital punishment as well as the corporal punishment of children. Such a person simply cannot see the rightness of evildoers being punished by execution or physical pain. This aberrant view has resulted in the rest of society being forced to live with the outcome of such skewed thinking, i.e., undisciplined, out-of-control children who grow to adulthood and wreak havoc on society by perpetrating crime—crime that has risen to historically all-time high levels.
REFERENCESMiller, Dave (2002), “Capital Punishment and the Bible,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1974.
Was Jesus Unkind to the Syrophoenician Woman?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.
Kyle Butt, M.Div.
Testing, proving, or trying someone can be a very effective teaching technique. A teacher might effectively test the honesty of her students by giving them a difficult closed-book exam over a chapter they had not yet studied. Those who took their “F” without cheating would pass the test. Those who opened up their books when the teacher left the room and copied all of the answers word for word, would fail the test, and learn the valuable lesson that honesty is always the best (and right) policy, even when it might appear that it means failure.
Teachers test their students in a variety of ways. Good parents prove their children early on in life in hopes that they learn the virtues of honesty, compassion, and obedience. Coaches may try their players in attempts to instill in them the value of being disciplined in all phases of their game. Bosses test and challenge their employees in hopes of assembling the best team of workers who put out the best products possible. Indeed, mankind has understood the value of tests for millennia.
It should come as no surprise that God has used this same teaching technique various times throughout history. He tested Abraham on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:1-2; Hebrews 11:17), and hundreds of years later He repeatedly tested the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 20:20; Deuteronomy 8:2; Psalm 81:7). King David declared how the Lord “tested” and “tried” him (Psalm 17:3), while his son Solomon wrote: “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the hearts” (Proverbs 17:3). Roughly 1,000 years later, the apostle Paul declared the same inspired truth—“God…tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4). Even when God revealed Himself in the person of Jesus, He tested man. For example, once when Jesus saw “a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?’” John revealed, however, that Jesus asked this question to “test” Philip (John 6:5-6).
There are certain tests administered by God that some find cold and heartless, partly because they fail to recognize that a test is underway. One such event is recorded in Matthew 15:21-28.
Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” But He [Jesus] answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.In this passage, the reader learns that Jesus: (1) initially remained silent when a Canaanite woman cried out for mercy (vss. 22-23); (2) informed her that He was “not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (vs. 24); and (3) told her that it was not fitting to take that which was meant for the “children” and give it to the “little dogs” (vs. 26). In addition, Jesus’ disciples urged Him to “send her away, for she cries out after us” (vs. 23).
Although Jesus eventually healed the Canaanite woman’s demon-possessed daughter, some believe that Jesus’ overall encounter with the woman indicates that He was unkind and intolerant. For example, the prolific infidel Steve Wells documented hundreds of cases of alleged intolerance in the biblical text. Jesus’ encounter with the Syrophoenician women is number 529 on his list. Of the episode, Wells wrote: “Jesus initially refuses to cast out a devil from a Syrophoenician woman’s daughter, calling the woman a ‘dog’. After much pleading, he finally agrees to cast out the devil” (2010).
Even many religious writers and speakers view Jesus’ statements to the woman as unkind, intolerant, offensive, or a racial slur. Dean Breidenthal, in a sermon posted under the auspices of the Princeton University Office of Religious Life, said concerning Jesus’ comment: “I suspect we wouldnot be so bothered by Jesus’ unkind words to the Syrophoenician woman if they were not directed against the Gentile community. Those of us who are Gentile Christians have less trouble with Jesus’ invectives when they are directed against the Jewish leadership of his day” (2003, emp. added). Please do not miss the implication of Breidenthal’s comment. If the statement made by Jesus actually could be construed as unkind, then Jesus would be guilty of violating one of the primary characteristics of love, since love “suffers long and is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Any unkindness on Jesus’ part would cast doubt on His deity. Is it true that Jesus exhibited an unkind attitude in His treatment of the Syrophoenician woman?
TO THE JEW FIRST AND ALSO TO THE GREEKSIn order to understand properly Jesus’ statement, one must recognize the divinely appointed order in which the Gospel would spread. Jesus was passing through the land of the Gentiles (Greeks) and was approached by a woman who was not a Jew. While Jesus’ message would eventually reach the Gentile world, it is evident from the Scriptures that the Jewish nation would be the initial recipient of that message. In his account of Jesus’ encounter with the Syrophoenician woman, Matthew recorded that Jesus said: “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (15:24). When Jesus sent the twelve apostles on the “limited commission,” He told them: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6).
Just before Jesus ascended to heaven after His resurrection, He informed the apostles: “[A]nd you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The sequence of places where the apostles would witness manifests the order in which the Gospel would be preached (i.e., the Jews first and then the Gentiles). In addition, in his epistle to the church at Rome, the apostle Paul stated: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (1:16). Jesus’ statement to the Syrophoenician woman indicated that the Jewish nation was Jesus’ primary target for evangelism during His earthly ministry.
HOW FAR CAN AN ANIMAL ILLUSTRATION BE TAKEN?To our 21st-century ears, the idea that Jesus would refer to the Gentiles as “little dogs” has the potential to sound belittling and unkind. When we consider how we often use animal terms in illustrative or idiomatic ways, however, Jesus’ comments are much more benign. For instance, suppose a particular lawyer exhibits unyielding tenacity. We might say he is a “bulldog” when he deals with the evidence. Or we might say that a person is “as cute as a puppy” or has “puppy-dog eyes.” If someone has a lucky day, we might say something like “every dog has its day.” Or if an adult refuses to learn to use new technology, we might say that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” In addition, one might say that a person “works like a dog,” is the “top dog” at the office, or is “dog tired.” Obviously, to call someone “top dog” would convey no derogatory connotation.
For Jesus’ statement to be construed as unkind or wrong in some way, a person would be forced to prove that the illustration or idiom He used to refer to the Gentiles as “little dogs” must be taken in a derogatory fashion. Such cannot be proved. In fact, the term Jesus used for “little dogs” could easily be taken in an illustrative way without any type of unkind insinuation. In his commentary on Mark, renowned commentator R.C.H. Lenski translated the Greek term used by Jesus (kunaria) as “little pet dogs.” Lenski further noted concerning Jesus statement: “In the Orient dogs have no owners but run wild and serve as scavengers for all garbage and offal.... It is an entirely different conception when Jesus speaks of ‘little pet dogs’ in referring to the Gentiles. These have owners who keep them even in the house and feed them by throwing them bits from the table” (1961, p. 304). Lenski goes on to write concerning Jesus’ statement: “All that Jesus does is to ask the disciples and the woman to accept the divine plan that Jesus must work out his mission among the Jews.... Any share of Gentile individuals in any of these blessings can only be incidental during Jesus’ ministry in Israel” (pp. 304-305). In regard to the non-derogatory nature of Jesus’ comment to the Gentile woman, Allen Black wrote: “The form of his statement is proverbial. And the basis of the proverb is not an antipathy for Gentiles, but the necessary Jewish focus of Jesus’ earthly ministry” (1995, p. 137).
A TEST OF FAITHGiven other information in Matthew’s gospel account as well as the overall context of Matthew chapter 15, it appears that more was going on in these verses than Jesus simply wanting the Gentile woman to understand that He was “not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (15:24). Consider that Matthew had earlier recorded how a Roman centurion approached Jesus on behalf of his paralyzed servant. Jesus did not respond in that instance as He did with the Syrophoenician woman. He simply stated: “I will come and heal him” (8:7). After witnessing the centurion’s refreshing humility and great faith (pleading for Christ to “only speak a word” and his servant would be healed—vss. 8-9), Jesus responded: “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel” (vs. 10, emp. added).
If Jesus so willingly responded to a Gentile in Matthew chapter eight by miraculously healing his servant of paralysis, why did He initially resist healing the Gentile woman’s demon-possessed daughter in Matthew chapter 15? Consider the immediate context of the chapter. The scribes and Pharisees had once again come to criticize and badger Jesus (15:1-2). The Son of God responded with a hard-hitting truth: that His enemies were hypocrites who treasured tradition more than the Word of God, and whose religion was heartless (vss. 3-9). What was the reaction of the Pharisees? Matthew gives no indication that their hearts were pricked by the Truth. Instead, Jesus’ disciples reported to Him that “the Pharisees were offended” by Jesus’ teachings (vs. 12, emp. added), to which Jesus responded: “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch” (vss. 13-14). Unlike many modern-day preachers who water down the Gospel and apologize for the Truth, Jesus did not sugar coat it. It may be a difficult pill to swallow, but sincere truth-seekers will respond in all humility, regardless of being offended.
Being offended is exactly what many people would have been had they initially been turned down by Jesus as was the Canaanite woman. While she pled for mercy, at first Jesus remained silent. Then, after being informed that Jesus “was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (vs. 24), she worshiped Him and begged Him for help (vs. 25). Even after being told, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs” (vs. 26), this persistent, humble woman did not allow potentially offensive remarks to harden her heart. Unlike the hypocritical Jewish scribes and Pharisees who responded to Jesus with hard-heartedness, this Gentile acknowledged her unworthiness, while persistently pursuing the Holy One for help (15:27). Ultimately, her faith resulted in the healing of her daughter and served as an admonition to those witnessing the event about the nature of true faith.
What many people miss in this story is what is so evident in other parts of Scripture: Jesus was testing this Canaanite woman, while at the same time teaching His disciples how the tenderhearted respond to possibly offensive truths. The fact is, the truth can hurt (cf. Acts 2:36-37). However, we must remember to respond to God’s tests and teachings of truth with all humility, rather than haughtiness (James 4:6,10).
Before people “dog” Jesus for the way He used an animal illustration, they might need to reconsider that “their bark is much worse than their bite” when it comes to insinuating that Jesus was unkind and intolerant. In truth, they are simply “barking up the wrong tree” by attempting to call Jesus’ character into question. They need to “call off the dogs” on this one and “let sleeping dogs lie.”
REFERENCESBlack, Allen (1995), The Book of Mark (Joplin, MO: College Press).
Breidenthal, Dean (2003), “The Children’s Bread,” http://web.princeton.edu/sites/chapel/Sermon%20Files/2003_sermons/090703.htm.
Lenski, R.C.H. (1961), The Interpretation of Mark’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Wells, Steve (2010), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/int/long.html.
Are You a Difference-Maker?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
|Jackson Dean is a difference-maker.|
For a solid hour the students sat and soaked up scientifically and biblically accurate material that is nowhere to be found in their textbooks. They learned about dinosaur “fossils” that are not completely fossilized (e.g., Lyons, 2007a; Lyons, 2009). They learned about several evolutionary teachings regarding fossils that have been disproven (e.g., Lyons, 2007b). They heard and saw evidence regarding the biblical accounts of Creation and the Flood that is in complete harmony with what true science tells us about dinosaurs and fossils (see Lyons and Butt, 2008), but in disharmony with what they often hear in the media. These well-behaved students listened, learned, and asked a number of relevant questions.
God not only used a 6th grader and his receptive teacher to open the door for Creation to be pondered in a public school, but he also used two members of the Lord’s church (Apologetics Press supporters) to fund the effort to give away acopy of Discovery magazine and our 180-page hardback book Truth Be Told: Exposing the Myth of Evolution to every student and teacher present at the lecture. According to one teacher (who indicated that in the future she is going to use resources from Apologetics Press, including the A.P. Web site, as part of her science curriculum), students were so excited that “they grabbed the books to read as soon as we got back to the room.”
Jackson Dean is a 12-year-old difference-maker. His 6th-grade teacher is a difference-maker. Those Christians who sacrificially gave to ensure that every 6th grader at that school received a copy of Discovery magazine and Truth Be Told are difference-makers. What about you? What are you doing to make a difference in this sin-stained world that Satan rules (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)? Are you a difference-maker?
*NOTE: There are many virtuous ways to make a difference in this life. One of those is by supporting the work being done for the Lord by various brotherhood organizations, including Apologetics Press. Have you considered helping us in this work?
REFERENCESLyons, Eric (2007a), “More Soft Dinosaur Tissue,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=1422.
Lyons, Eric (2007b), “Yesterday’s ‘New Reality of Evolution’ Debunked Again,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=2236.
Lyons, Eric (2009), “Controversial Collagen Confirmation Points to Creation,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=338.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2008), The Dinosaur Delusion: Dismantling Evolution’s Most Cherished Icon (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Christianity, Democracy, and Iraq
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
For some fifty years now, the “politically correct” crowd has used strong-arm, Gestapo-like tactics to deprive Americans of the right of self-government so paramount in a Republic. Implementing their agenda of secularism through judicial coercion and social intimidation, they have literally bullied the Moral Majority into silence and spiritual paralysis. Their objective continues to be to drive all vestiges of the Christian religion and Christian morality from the public square. Especially in regard to moral issues, like abortion, school prayer, and same-sex marriage, social and political liberals have sought to overturn the rules under which the nation lived for 180+ years. Observe that this aggressive assault on religious expressions in the public sector is as intolerant and monolithic as those extremist elements that seek to bring America down by violence and terrorism. The will of the majority of Americans (for the moment) on a whole range of moral issues is being trumped by a leftist judiciary, politically liberal legislators, secularist educators, and morally bankrupt entertainers.
Even as America seeks to export its singular brand of “democracy” to other countries (e.g., Iraq), sinister forces within are chipping away at America’s foundations to bring about her demise. In the process, the very reason for America’s success and prosperity has been overlooked. Do you remember the euphoria created by the collapse of communism in Russia? The prevailing view was that the way had been cleared for Russia to achieve for its people what America has achieved for its own people, i.e., “freedom” and “economic prosperity.” Has it happened? No. Why? Why is alcoholism rampant in Russia (Brissenden, 2003)? Why is drug addiction soaring there (Koshkina, 2003; “Drug Intelligence...,” 2003)? Why have crime, poverty, and mortality rates continued to increase (Walberg, et al., 1998)?
The average American appears to believe that America’s prosperity was the inevitable result of our democratic approach to governing. We seem to think that since we possess personal freedom, engage in free elections, and engage in the free enterprise of capitalism, it was inevitable that our country should come into being and flourish. When our leaders speak of exporting the American brand of democracy to other parts of the world (e.g., “Elections in Iraq,” 2005), they appear to share the widespread notion that the cause and source of America’s unprecedented success is the direct result of our democratic institutions of government. So if we can just get dictators out of the way (e.g., Saddam Hussein), and give the people a chance to express themselves at the ballot box, presto, little America’s will spring up all over the world that will soon manifest the same prosperous, secure, free way of life that American’s have enjoyed for so long. Right? Wrong! There are two reasons why this rationale is dead wrong: (1) the Bible says it is wrong, and (2) the Founding Fathers said it is wrong.
The Bible claims that national existence is dependent on commitment to the instructions, directives, and moral principles of God’s Word (Psalm 33:12). The Bible claims, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). The Bible maintains that “the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17). God said to the nation of Israel, “if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, and worship them, then I will uproot them from My land” (2 Chronicles 7:19-20). The Bible claims that national security, economic prosperity, civil order, and personal happiness are centered solely in the population’s spiritual commitment: “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!” (Psalm 144:15). This concept is emphasized over and over again throughout Scripture. America owes its incredible progress to its historic commitment to the one true God to the exclusion of all other gods, religions, ideologies, and religionless philosophies.
What about the Founders? Did they claim that national success was dependent on “democracy,” “free enterprise,” “free elections,” and “freedom?” Absolutely not. In the first place, they did not claim to be establishing a “democracy.” For example, our second President, John Adams, wrote in an 1814 letter to John Taylor: “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide (1850, 6:484). Signer of the federal Constitution and two-time President of the United States, James Madison, explained: “[D]emocracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths” (Hamilton, et al., 1818, p. 53).
Why did the Founders have such disdain for a “democracy”? Because the source of authority for a democracy is simply the whims, opinions, and fluctuating feelings of the majority. The people are essentially a law to themselves and the sole source of ascertaining right and wrong. In a democracy, homosexuality may be deemed wrong today—but right tomorrow. The Bible frequently alludes to this very negative social circumstance (e.g., Exodus 23:2; Jeremiah 10:23; Judges 21:25).
In stark contrast, the Founders claimed to have established a republic. A republic differs from a democracy in that it operates on the basis of set laws that transcend the will of the people—unchanging moral principles that apply to all people, in all places, in all times. Where did the Founders believe the source of that law lay? The Creator—the God of the Bible. Specifically, the Founders and Framers insisted that the American republic rests on the foundation of the laws and moral principles of the Christian religion. In the words of Founder Noah Webster: “[O]ur citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament, or the Christian religion” (1832, p. 6). In 1775, Alexander Hamilton, a signer of the Constitution, observed that human laws must be aligned with God’s laws: “[T]he law...dictated by God Himself is, of course, superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times. No human laws are of any validity if contrary to this” (1961, 1:87).
This means that the Founders believed that freedom, free enterprise, and economic prosperity rise solely from the foundation of Christian morality. Charles Carroll, signer of the Declaration of Independence, insisted: “Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure...are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments” (as quoted in Steiner, 1907, p. 475, emp. added). In an 1829 letter to James Madison, Noah Webster declared: “[T]he Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government....and I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence” (as quoted in Snyder, 1990, p. 253, emp. added). The first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Jay, maintained; “Only one adequate plan has ever appeared in the world, and that is the Christian dispensation” (1893, 4:52, emp. added). George Washington proclaimed to the entire nation in his farewell address that religion and morality are the indispensable supports of political prosperity, the great pillars of human happiness, and a necessary spring of popular government (1796).
Shortly after America had its revolution, France had theirs. They, too, claimed to establish a “republic.” But did they? They could not have established a republic like America’s—because a sizable percentage of the French population was amoral and atheistic. America’s Founders recognized this fact, as did the Courts at the time. The State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania made this very point in 1824 in the case Updegraph v. the Commonwealth:
No free government now exists in the world, unless where Christianity is acknowledged, and is the religion of the country.... Christianity is part of the common law of this state.... Its foundations are broad, and strong, and deep: they are laid in the authority, the interest, the affections of the people. Waiving all questions of hereafter, it is the purest system of morality, the firmest auxiliary, and only stable support of all human laws (Updegraph..., 1824, emp. added).Patrick Henry declared: “[T]he great pillars of all government and of social life: I mean virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible” (1891, 2:592, emp. added). Samuel Adams said: “Religion and good morals are the only solid foundations of public liberty and happiness” (1905, 4:74, emp. added). Benjamin Franklin asserted that “only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters” (1840, 10:297, emp. added). Signer of the Declaration, John Hancock, insightfully observed:
Sensible of the importance of Christian piety and virtue to the order and happiness of a state, I cannot but earnestly commend to you every measure for their support and encouragement.... Manners, by which not only the freedom but the very existence of the republics are greatly affected, depend much upon the public institutions of religion (as quoted in Brown, 1898, p. 269, emp. added).Even Thomas Jefferson weighed in on the same point, in an 1809 letter to James Fishback:
The practice of morality being necessary for the well-being of society, He [God—DM] has taken care to impress its precepts so indelibly on our hearts that they shall not be effaced by the subtleties of our brain. We all agree in the obligation of the moral precepts of Jesus and nowhere will they be found delivered in greater purity than in His discourses (1904, 12:315, emp. added).Signer of the federal Constitution, and Secretary of War under both Washington and Adams, James McHenry affirmed:
The Holy Scriptures....can alone secure to society, order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government, purity, stability, and usefulness. In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions. Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses (as quoted in Steiner, 1921, p. 14, emp. added).Observe that McHenry insisted that the Bible—not the Quran, the Hindu Vedas, or Buddhist Pitakas—is indispensable to American society, courts, and government.
A good summary statement of the views of the Founders and Framers of American institutions is found in the words of Joseph Story, one of two men who share the title “Father of American Jurisprudence,” who was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President James Madison, and who served on the High Court for 34 years:
The promulgation of the great doctrines of religion; the being and attributes and providence of one Almighty God; the responsibility to Him for all our actions; founded upon moral freedom and accountability; a future state of rewards and punishments; the cultivation of all the personal, social, and benevolent virtues;—these never can be a matter of indifference in any well-ordered community. It is, indeed, difficult to conceive how any civilized society can well exist without them. And, at all events, it is impossible for those who believe in the truth of Christianity as a Divine revelation, to doubt that it is the especial duty of government to foster and encourage it among all the citizens and subjects (1833, 3:722-723, emp. added).Many other Founders could be cited that express the same viewpoints. According to both the Bible and the Founders of the American republic, can countries like Iraq reproduce the freedom and democratic institutions historically enjoyed by America? No, they cannot. Iraq is built upon Islam—not Christianity. Its values are firmly embedded in Islamic values. While there is some overlap, Islam is not Christianity.
Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day? Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren.... Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the Lord Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. You shall therefore keep His statutes and His commandments which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which the Lord your God is giving you for all time (Deuteronomy 4:5-9,39-40, emp. added).In uncanny anticipation of the liberal social forces in America today, with their agenda of abortion, homosexuality, and hostility toward Christian values, the second President of the United States, in articulating the degeneration that occurs when a republic shifts to a democracy, issued a solemn warning that ought to haunt every American—since it closely resembles the very direction America has taken:
[D]emocracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy, such an anarchy that every man will do what is right in his own eyes and no man’s life or property or reputation or liberty will be secure, and every one of these will soon mould itself into a system of subordination of all the moral virtues and intellectual abilities, all the powers of wealth, beauty, wit, and science, to the wanton pleasures, the capricious will, and the execrable cruelty of one or a very few (1977, 1:83).
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Brissenden, Michael (2003), “Russia—Alcoholism,” ABC News Foreign Correspondent, [On-line], URL: http://www.abc.net.au/foreign/stories/s932631.htm.
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“Elections in Iraq” (2005), The White House, [On-line], URL: http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/elections/.
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Hamilton, Alexander (1961), The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Harold Syrett (New York, NY: Columbia University Press).
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Henry, Patrick (1891), Patrick Henry: Life, Correspondence and Speeches, ed. William Henry (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons).
Jay, John (1893), The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, ed. Henry Johnston (New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons).
Jefferson, Thomas (1904), The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Albert Bergh (Washington, DC: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association).
Koshkina, E. (2003), “Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Among the Russian Population,” [On-line], URL: http://www.eldis.org/static/DOC9364.htm.
Snyder, K. Alan (1990), Defining Noah Webster: Mind and Morals in the Early Republic (New York, NY: University Press of America).
Steiner, Bernard (1907), The Life and Correspondence of James McHenry (Cleveland, OH: Burrow Brothers).
Steiner, Bernard (1921), One Hundred and Ten Years of Bible Society Work in Maryland, 1810-1920 (Baltimore, MD: The Maryland Bible Society).
Story, Joseph (1833), Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (Boston, MA: Hillard, Gray, & Co.).
UpDegraph v. the Commonwealth (1824), 11 Serg. & Rawle 394; 1824 Pa. LEXIS 85.
Walberg, Peder, Martin McKee, Vladimir Shkolnikov, Laurent Chenet, David A. Leon (1998), "Economic Change, Crime, and Mortality Crisis in Russia: regional analysis," PovertyNet Library, [On-line], URL: http://poverty.worldbank.org/library/view/12740/.
Washington, George (1796), Farewell Address, [On-line], URL: http://gwpapers.virginia.edu/documents/farewell/transcript.html.
Webster, Noah (1832), History of the United States (New Haven, CT: Durrie & Peck).
Who is the God of the Earth?by Eric Lyons, M.Min.
The apostle John records three times how Jesus referred to Satan as “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Years later, while writing to the Christians in Corinth, the apostle Paul actually referred to Satan as “the god (theos) of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Even Satan appeared to understand something about his reign on Earth when he showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, and said, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours” (Luke 4:5-7; cf. Matthew 4:8-9). Yet, how can Satan be the god and ruler of this world if numerous other passages clearly distinguish Jehovah as the “Lord of the whole earth” (Micah 4:13; Zechariah 4:14)? How can the devil be the ruler of the world if Jesus claimed, “all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18)? Is the God of heaven not the “Lord of heaven and earth” (Acts 17:24)? Are these two different thoughts completely contradictory (as skeptics allege; cf. Wells, 2015)?
One fundamental interpretation principle that must be considered in any attempt to correctly understand written or spoken communication (which on the surface may seem contradictory) is whether or not the compared words or phrases are used in the same sense. A fan may say about his favorite basketball player, “He is smoking,” and mean the player is shooting the basketball very well. Later, however, the fan may see the same player outside the arena with something in his mouth and shout with astonishment, “He is smoking!” The two statements are exactly the same; they are both true, yet they communicate very different thoughts.
The Bible is very clear that the infinite, eternal Creator of the Universe, Who is “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3), is the one, true God, “the Most High over all the earth” (Psalm 83:18). Jehovah is the Creator of all things, including Satan (Colossians 1:16; see Lyons, 2005). In the most complete and ultimate sense imaginable, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the Ruler of heaven and Earth. However, there is a sense in which Satan is “ruler” and “god” of the world—not in the ultimate sense, but, indeed, in a sense.
In what respect could the devil ever be considered a “ruler” or “god”? The answer to this question is rather simple when one considers the fact that most of God’s human creation through the millennia have chosen to serve Satan, rather than submit themselves in obedience to the true God of the Universe. During the days of Noah, “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). During the days of Moses and Joshua, the land of Egypt was full of idolatry (Exodus 12:12), the land of Canaan was overrun with abominable immorality (Leviticus 18), while people of Israel struggled for centuries with the fleshly desire to serve “other gods.” When Jesus came to Earth, He acknowledged the fact that whereas “difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14), “wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it” (7:13).
Tragically, most accountable individuals willingly choose to reject the true God—their Creator and potential Savior—and instead make Satan their “god” and “ruler.” Most unbelievers do not literally worship Satan as “god,” but, as Lenski noted, “‘The god of this eon [age/world]’ is apt in this connection…because he [Satan] is the embodiment of all wickedness and ungodliness in this world, the author and the propagator of hostility to God. He originated the perdition in which men perish” (1963, p. 960, bracketed items added). A man who chooses to love the world and “all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father,” but of Satan and his sinful world (1 John 2:16). When a person rejects the true God as Ruler of his life, by default he pledges allegiance to Satan, making him “god” and “ruler.” No contradiction exists among the statements of the Bible about who rules the Earth.
REFERENCESLenski, R.C.H. (1963), The Interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Lyons, Eric (2005), “Has Satan Always Existed?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=817&topic=87.
Wells, Steve (2015), The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/2cor/4.html; http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/lord.html.
Keep yourselves in the love of God“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 20, 21).
Important documents are often kept in a safety deposit box. We like to keep valuables in a safe place.
Where can we keep ourselves safe? In God’s love! “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” The word ‘keep’ here means ‘preserve’, ‘keep in safety and protect from harm, decay, loss or destruction’.
Jude uses the passive form of the same word in verse 1: “To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ” (Jude 1). A Christian is preserved in Christ.
Paul wrote: “And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18).
David prayed: “Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust” (Psalm 16:1).
“Keep yourselves in the love of God.” This is a command, which indicates that we must do something to remain in God’s love, and also that it is possible to forfeit the protection of God’s love. Otherwise this command would have no meaning whatever.
Nothing external can separate us from the love of God: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38, 39).
Only by his own neglect can a Christen lose the eternal protection of the love of God. Thus, it is extremely important that we know how to keep ourselves in the love of God.
Jesus gave a similar command: “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:9, 10).
Thus we must keep the commandments of Jesus to abide in His love.
Let us examine the context: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:4-10).
Thus, we remain in the love of Christ, we keep ourselves in the love of God, by keeping the commandments of Jesus. Jesus told His followers: “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).
Jude mentions two essential activities for keeping ourselves in the love of God: spiritual edification and prayer. “Building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 20).
“Building yourselves up on your most holy faith”
Our most holy faith is the Christian faith. It is holy because it comes from God.
In verse three Jude wrote: “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”
This original faith for which we must contend is our most holy faith on which we must build ourselves up if we want to keep ourselves in the love of God.
To abide in Christ’s love we must abide in His word: “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’” (John 8:31, 32).
To abide in the word of Christ we must abide in His doctrine: “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9).
God’s word builds us up. Paul told the Ephesian elders: “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).
We are built up in Christ: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6, 7).
In the church of Christ, His “one body” (Ephesians 4:4), we build each other up “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
The church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20; 4:11).
To His church, Christ has also given evangelists, elders and teachers “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). To edify means to build up.
Each Christian helps to build up the church, that we, “speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ - from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:15, 16).
We build ourselves up on our most holy faith to keep ourselves in the love of God.
“Praying in the Holy Spirit”
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 20).
“By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit” (1 John 4:13).
To keep ourselves in the love of God we must pray in the Holy Spirit, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18).
We need help when we pray: “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26, 27).
Thus when we pray in the Spirit our inadequate prayers are accompanied by pleadings of the Holy Spirit in accordance with the will of God.
In Revelation, golden bowls full of incense represent the prayers of the saints (Revelation 5:8). An angel with a golden censer is “given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints” (Revelation 8:3).
Though we are weak, we pray as well as we can by following the guidelines on prayer in the Scriptures. Then we pray with confidence in the knowledge that the Spirit intercedes for us.
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
“Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life”
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 20, 21).
When we keep ourselves in the love of God by keeping the commandments of Jesus, building ourselves up on our most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, we may look forward to eternal life.
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24). Amen.
The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979, 1980, 1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
The New King James Version. ©1979, 1980, 1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive