"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" The Preaching Ministry Of Jesus (4:12-17) INTRODUCTION 1. In Mt 4:12-17, we read of Jesus' public ministry in Galilee... a. Which followed the imprisonment of John the Baptist - Mt 4:12 b. Which began at Capernaum, on the edge of the Sea of Galilee - Mt 4:13 c. Which fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah - Mt 4:14-16; Isa 9:1,2 2. His public ministry involved "preaching"... a. "From that time Jesus began to preach..." - Mt 4:17 b. Compare also Mt 4:23, "Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom..." 3. The word "preach" (Gr., kerux) means "to herald, to proclaim"... a. But what was the message Jesus was proclaiming? b. Is it a message that should be proclaimed today? [In this study our focus will be on Mt 4:17, as we seek to understand the message proclaimed by Jesus during His public ministry. From this verse we learn first that...] I. JESUS PREACHED REPENTANCE A. HE CALLED UPON PEOPLE TO REPENT... 1. Just as John the Baptist did - Mt 3:2 2. As Jesus would say later: "For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." - Mt 9:13 B. WHAT DOES "REPENT" MEAN? 1. Many people have misconceptions concerning repentance a. E.g., that repentance is "sorrow" 1) But repentance is an outcome of sorrow - cf. 2Co 7:9-10 2) Sorrow leads to repentance; sorrow itself is not repentance! b. E.g., that repentance is "a changed life" 1) Thinking that repentance is a converted life 2) But repentance and conversion are two separate things - cf. Ac 3:19 a) Peter says "Repent therefore and be converted" b) If repentance means the same as conversion, then Peter was redundant 2. W. E. Vine defines "repentance" as: a. A "change of mind" b. That which "involves both a turning from sin and a turning to God" 3. Repentance is thus "a change of mind" in which we DECIDE to "turn from sin and turn to God" a. Which is preceded by sorrow b. And followed by a changed life -- Jesus was therefore calling upon people to change their minds regarding sin, because of what He taught about the kingdom (more on that shortly) C. DOES REPENTANCE NEED TO BE PROCLAIMED TODAY? 1. Most certainly! a. Repentance is to be preached in Jesus' name to all nations - Lk 24:46-47 b. God now calls men everywhere to repent - Ac 17:30 c. Thus Paul preached to both Jews and Gentiles that they should repent - Ac 26:20 2. Wherever there is sin, the message of repentance needs to be proclaimed! a. People need to be told to "change their minds" (repent) b. They need "turn to God, and do works befitting repentance" - cf. Ac 26:20; Mt 3:8 -- Any gospel preaching that does not include a clarion call to repent is not the true gospel! [In calling people to repent, Jesus proclaimed why they needed to change their minds and turn from sin to God: "for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". This leads to our next point...] II. JESUS PREACHED THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN A. THIS WAS A MAJOR THEME OF HIS PREACHING... 1. Just as it was with John the Baptist - Mt 3:2 2. It was the focus of His itinerant ministry - Mt 4:23 a. The theme of His Sermon on the Mount - Mt 5:3,10,19-20; 6:33; 7:21 b. The theme of many of His parables - e.g., Mt 13:24,31,33, 44,45,47 3. It was the theme of the Limited Commission - Mt 10:7 -- During this time, the kingdom of heaven was "at hand" (drawing near) B. WHAT IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN? 1. It is the same thing as "the kingdom of God" a. Some try to make a distinction (e.g., Scofield Reference Bible) b. But a quick comparison of the gospels indicate the terms refer to the same thing 1) Cf. Mt 4:17 with Mk 1:14-15 2) Cf. Mt 5:3 with Lk 6:20 3) Cf. Mt 13:31 with Mk 4:30-31 c. Matthew used the expression "kingdom of heaven" almost exclusively, while the other gospel writers used the phrase "kingdom of God" d. It may be that since Matthew wrote his gospel to the Jews, he chose to use the phrase "kingdom of heaven"... 1) Because of the Jews' reluctance to use the name of God (out of reverence) 2) Because of the Jews' misconception of the coming kingdom a) Many anticipated a physical kingdom b) The expression "heaven" (literally, "heavens") would emphasize a spiritual kingdom 2. The "kingdom of heaven" involves four inter-related concepts a. God's kingship, rule, or recognized sovereignty 1) The term "kingdom" as used by the Jews often stressed the abstract idea of rule or dominion, not a geographical area surrounded by physical boundaries 2) It is used this way by Jesus in Mt 6:10 - "Your KINGDOM come; Your WILL be done..." (note the connection between kingdom and will) -- Thus, the "kingdom of heaven" would involve the rule of heaven in the hearts of men b. This rule of heaven is spiritual in nature 1) It is not a physical kingdom - cf. Jn 18:36 2) But one that is spiritual - cf. Ro 14:17 c. Its visible manifestation today is in the form of the Lord's church 1) For the church is that community of souls in whose hearts God is recognized as Sovereign 2) That the church constitutes the kingdom of God on earth, consider: a) How the term "church" and "kingdom" were used interchangeably - Mt 16:18 b) Comments made to those who were in the church - Col 1: 13; 1Th 2:12 c) The description of those in the churches of Asia - Re 1:4,6,9 d. It has a future element as well as a present one 1) Its future aspect is spoken of by Jesus, Paul, Peter - Mt 25:34; 1Co 15:50; 2Ti 4:18; 2Pe 1:10-11 2) Peter described the coming of its future state in 2 Pe 3:10-13 3. Thus the "kingdom of heaven" today is both present and future a. In the present sense... 1) It is found wherever the sovereignty of God is accepted in the hearts of men 2) It is a spiritual kingdom, for God rules in the hearts of men 3) Its outward manifestation today is the Lord's church 4) This rule or kingdom of God was "inaugurated" on the Day of Pentecost (Ac 2) b. In the future sense... 1) The rule or kingdom of God will be "culminated" with the coming of the Lord 2) It will involve that "news heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells", described by Peter and John - 2Pe 3; Re 21-22 3) It will be experienced only by those in the church who are submitting to God's will today! - cf. Mt 7:21-23; 2Pe 3:13-14 C. DOES THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN NEED TO BE PROCLAIMED TODAY? 1. Most certainly! a. Philip "preached the things concerning the kingdom of God" - Ac 8:12 b. The apostle Paul in his preaching and teaching: 1) Spoke of the challenges in entering the kingdom in the future sense - Ac 14:22 2) Reasoned and persuaded with people concerning the kingdom - Ac 19:8 3) Had gone among the Ephesians, "preaching the kingdom of God" - Ac 20:25 4) Solemnly testified of the kingdom of God to the Jews in Rome - Ac 28:23 c. In his epistles, Paul wrote of: 1) The nature of the kingdom - Ro 14:17 2) Those who will not inherit the kingdom - 1Co 6:9-10; Ga 5:21; Ep 5:5 3) Jesus giving the kingdom to God when He returns - 1Co 15:24-26 4) How flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom - 1Co 15:50 5) How we are now in the kingdom - Col 1:13 6) His companions as fellow workers for the kingdom - Col 4: 11 7) How we might be counted worthy of the kingdom - 2Th 1:5 8) God calling us into His kingdom and glory - 2Th 2:12 9) Jesus judging us at His appearing and His kingdom - 2 Ti4:1 10) The Lord preserving him for His heavenly kingdom - 2 Ti 4:18 d. The Hebrew writer referred to our receiving a kingdom which can't be shaken - He 12:28 e. James described the faithful poor as "heirs of the kingdom" - Jm 2:5 f. Peter wrote of how we might have an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord - 2Pe 1:10-11 g. John described himself as a brother and companion in the kingdom of Jesus Christ - Re 1:9 2. There is a slight difference in our message, however... a. John the Baptist, Jesus, His disciples in the Limited Commission...all proclaimed the kingdom "at hand" (drawing near) 1) For the rule of God as foretold by the prophets was about to be manifested - cf. Mk 1:14-15 2) During Jesus' earthly ministry that kingdom (reign) was yet future -- That was the "good news" (gospel) of the kingdom then: it was near! b. However, after the ascension of Christ, the preaching of the kingdom proclaimed it both present and future 1) The rule of God is now being fully manifested in the person of Jesus Christ - cf. Mt 28:18; Ep 1:20-22; 1 Pe 3:22 2) Those who "gladly receive" the message can be added by the Lord Himself to His church or kingdom (i.e., the community of believers who submit to His authority) - cf. Ac 2:36-41,47; Col 1:13; Re 1:9 3) Those who persevere to the end can inherit the heavenly and everlasting kingdom of our Lord - Ac 14:22; 2Pe 1: 10-11 -- This is the "good news" (gospel) of the kingdom now: it is both now and coming! CONCLUSION 1. In "The Preaching Ministry Of Jesus", two themes permeated His message... a. The need to repent b. For the kingdom of heaven was at hand 2. As we fulfill the Great Commission today (Mt 28:18-20), our themes should be similar... a. The kingdom of heaven has come and is coming (implied in "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.") b. The need to repent (implied in "Make disciples of all the nations") If you desire to experience the bliss of the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior, you must do the Father's Will (cf. Mt 7:21-23) and be in the kingdom of His dear Son today (cf. Col 1:13). Have you submitted to the gospel of the kingdom as proclaimed by our Lord's apostles?
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" The Temptation Of Jesus (4:1-11) INTRODUCTION 1. One of the blessings of having Jesus as our Savior is His ability to comfort and aid those who are tempted... a. This is because He too was tempted - He 2:18 b. He is sympathetic, and can provide mercy and grace to help in time of need - He 4:14-16 2. One of His greatest periods of temptation was at the beginning of His public ministry... a. Immediately following His baptism by John - Mt 3:13-17 b. Just prior to starting His preaching ministry - Mt 4:12-17 3. Studying "The Temptation Of Jesus" can be fruitful for several reasons... a. It reminds us that Jesus can understand our own temptations b. It reveals how we can be more successful in overcoming temptation [With that in mind and using Mt 4:1-11 as our basic text, let's begin with...] I. THE TEMPTATION OF JESUS REVIEWED A. THE SETTING OF THE TEMPTATIONS... 1. Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness - Mt 4:1 a. The same Spirit which descended upon Him in bodily form as dove - Mt 3:16; Lk 3:22 b. It was likely the wilderness of Judea, a desolate place 2. To be tempted by the devil - Mt 4:1 a. It appears that this challenge was initiated by the Spirit b. For it was the Spirit who led Jesus to the wilderness for this purpose 3. Where Jesus fasted and was tempted for forty days - Mt 4:2 a. His fasting is reminiscent of Moses and Elijah - Exo 34:28; 1Ki 19:8 b. Luke reveals that temptations occurred over the period of forty days - Lk 4:2 c. Mark mentions wild beasts - Mk 1:13 -- Thus it was after forty days of temptation that we find Satan approaching Jesus for a "climax" involving three particular temptations B. THE CLIMAX OF THE TEMPTATIONS... 1. The first temptation - Mt 4:3-4 a. Satan's appeal to the lust of the flesh 1) Having fasted for forty days, Jesus was naturally hungry 2) Challenging Jesus' identity, Satan appeals to His fleshly hunger: "command that these stones become bread" b. Jesus responds with Scripture 1) Quoting Deut 8:3, "Man shall not live by bread alone..." 2) There is more to life than just fulfilling physical desires; man is dependent upon the Word of God to truly live! 2. The second temptation - Mt 4:5-7 a. Satan appeals to the pride of life 1) Again challenging Jesus' identity, Satan sets Jesus on the pinnacle of the temple, tells Him to "throw Yourself down" 2) Quoting scriptures himself, using Ps 91:11,12 b. Jesus responds with Scripture 1) Deut 6:16, "You shall not tempt the LORD your God" 2) While the passage Satan quoted is true, it would be an abuse of it to purposely test God 2. The third temptation - Mt 4:8-10 a. Satan appeals to the lust of the eyes 1) Taking Jesus to high mountain and showing Him the kingdoms of the world 2) Offering to give Jesus all the kingdoms if He will worship Satan b. Jesus responds with Scripture 1) Deut 6:13, "You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve" 2) Though offered a shortcut to receiving power over the nations, Jesus does not take the easy path - cf. Re 2: 26-27; 3:21 C. AT THE END OF THE TEMPTATIONS... 1. Angels came and ministered to Jesus - Mt 3:11 a. Exactly what they did is not mentioned b. Perhaps they provided bodily nourishment (Hendricksen) 2. This would not be the last time Satan would seek to tempt Jesus - cf. Lk 4:13; Mt 16:21-23 [With forty days of overcoming temptation behind Him, especially the temptation of taking a short cut to His rule as the Messiah, Jesus was now prepared to begin His public ministry. What observations might one make regarding "The Temptation Of Jesus"? Here are a few...] II. OBSERVATIONS FROM THE TEMPTATION OF JESUS A. WE HAVE THE SAME ADVERSARY... 1. Jesus was tempted by the devil, and so are we - 1Pe 5:8-9 2. The devil now directs his attention towards the disciples of Christ - Re 12:17 -- We should not treat him lightly, for the conflict is real! - Ep 6:12 B. WE HAVE SIMILAR TEMPTATIONS... 1. The lust of the flesh - e.g., immorality, especially when young 2. The lust of the eyes - e.g., materialism, especially when middle-aged 3. The pride of life - e.g., pride and arrogance, especially when elderly -- These we must overcome, if we wish to have the love of the Father - 1Jn 2:15-16 C. WE HAVE THE SAME TOOLS TO OVERCOME... 1. Jesus appealed to the Word of God, and so can we - cf. Ep 6:17 2. Jesus had faith in the plan of God (victory through suffering), we need a similar shield of faith - Ep 6:16; cf. He 10:35-39 3. Jesus undoubtedly prayed, for He taught us to use prayer in overcoming temptation - Mt 26:41 -- The Word of God, faith, and prayer...against these the devil has no chance! D. WE HAVE SIMILAR BLESSINGS WHEN WE OVERCOME... 1. Jesus was administered to by angels, angels will carry us home - cf. Lk 16:22 2. Jesus received wonderful blessings when He ultimately overcame and ascended to heaven; He has promised similar blessings for us - cf. Re 2:10,26-27; 3:21 E. WE CAN LEARN SOME IMPORTANT LESSONS... 1. Material sustenance alone cannot truly satisfy, we need the spiritual sustenance from God's Word 2. While we are to trust in the Lord, we should not foolishly tempt Him 3. Scripture can easily be abused, as well as used - 2Pe 3:16 4. The way to glory is not quick and easy, but long and hard - Ac 14:22; Ro 2:7 CONCLUSION 1. But perhaps the greatest lesson to glean from "The Temptation Of Jesus" is that we have a Savior who in all things was made like us... a. That He might be our merciful and faithful High Priest - He 2:17 b. That having suffered, being tempted, He can aid us who are tempted - He 2:18 c. That He might be sympathetic, providing mercy and grace to help in time of need - He 4:15-16 2. Are you burdened with temptations? a. Look to Jesus as your example in learning how to overcome temptation in your life! b. Look to Jesus as your High Priest when you need to approach God in prayer and receive mercy and grace for those times when you succumbed to temptation! As in all things, look to Jesus, as the writer to Hebrews exhorts us... "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls." - He 12:2-3
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Almost fifty times in the Old Testament, we can read about a people known as the Hittites. They were major players in Jewish history, and were listed as one of the nations that the children of Israel needed to conquer when entering the Promised Land (Joshua 11:3-4). Also, King David had among his army a valiant Hittite named Uriah, who was murdered by David because the king had committed adultery with his wife, Bathsheba. Without a doubt, the Old Testament frequently mentions the Hittites as a very real group of people. But for many years in secular history and in archaeology, the Hittites were as invisible as men from Mars. No solid archaeological evidence could be found that verified the existence of the Hittites. For this reason, many people scorned the biblical record and insisted that the absence of information concerning the Hittites proved that the Bible was filled with incorrect material.
However, the year 1906 saw many people changing their minds about both the Hittites and the Bible. An archaeologist, Hugo Winckler, visited a city in Turkey named Boghaz-Köy. Upon excavating portions of the city, he found a breathtaking number of human artifacts—including five temples, many sculptures, and a fortified castle. But more important, he found a huge storeroom filled with over 10,000 clay tablets. After completing the difficult task of deciphering the tablets, it was announced to the world that the Hittites had been found. The sight at Boghaz-Köy had been the Hittite capital city, Hattusha (see Price, 1997, p. 83).
All the people who had used the absence of archaeological evidence about the Hittites to mock the Bible’s accuracy were shamefaced and silent, and another small piece of evidence was added to the ever-growing mass of facts verifying the Bible’s accuracy.
REFERENCESPrice, Randall (1997), The Stones Cry Out (Eugene OR: Harvest House).
Freethought: Not So Free After All
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
One of the most popular terms used by atheists and agnostics to describe themselves is the term “freethinker.” Accordingly, their self-styled brand of reasoning, known as “freethought,” is hitting the upper echelons of academia as the in vogue way to think. From the ideas contained in this compound word, its advocates are attempting to lead people to believe that freethinkers are free to think as they like. Supposedly, freethinkers can go where the evidence leads them, since they are not bound by traditional ideas on morality, deity, the inspiration of the Bible, and other “wayward” notions that have “hindered” freedom in the past.
One of the most outspoken defenders of freethought is a man named Dan Barker. Prior to his “deconversion” into freethought, he was a zealous denominational preacher and missionary. In his most famous written work describing his new-found atheism, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist, he includes an entire chapter titled, What is a Freethinker? At the end of this chapter, Barker says, “Freethought allows you to do your own thinking…. Freethought is truly free” (1992, p. 136). Obviously, Mr. Barker wants everyone who comes in contact with freethought to believe that it is an avenue of thinking that allows each individual to go where his or her thoughts lead.
Upon further investigation, however, freethought is not so free after all. On the very first page of his chapter on freethought, he contends, “No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah.” So, according to Mr. Barker, since he and his group of freethinkers do not think they see enough evidence for the Bible’s inspiration, then all “freethinkers” must reject conformity to the Bible. What happened to the idea that freethought allows “you to do your own thinking.” Again, on the same page he wrote, “Freethinkers are naturalistic” (p. 133), meaning that freethinkers cannot believe in anything outside the realm of what can be measured scientifically using the senses. What if certain evidences compel a person to believe in a supernatural deity? According to freethought, a person is not free to follow that type of evidence. Once again, freethought proves to be much less “free” than we have been told.
Another telling statement from Barker’s pen comes on page 134, where he says, “Individuals are free to choose, within the limits of humanistic morality.” Freethought, then, allows a person to choose freely any set of ethical and moral standards, as long as those standards conform to the “humanistic morality” adopted by Barker and his fellow “freethinkers.” But what if those moral standards fall outside the realm of “humanistic morality?” Then a freethinker must choose some other standard—or cease to be a freethinker.
In one of his concluding paragraphs, Barker states: “A multiplicity of individuals thinking, free from the restraints of orthodoxy, allows ideas to be tested, discarded or adopted” (p. 135). Barker subtly omits the other restraints such as naturalism and humanism, from which freethinkers are not free. In essence, freethinkers, according to Dan Barker, are those people who think like him and his fellow freethinkers. If a person does not think like the humanistic, naturalistic Dan Barker, then that person must be an enslaved thinker, not a freethinker. In reality, “freethought” is a misnomer and is not free after all. In fact, it is one of the “least free” ways to think that is available in the marketplace of ideas. In actuality, the only thing that can ever make a person free is the truth (John 8:32). From the statements quoted above, it is evident that Dan Barker and his fellow freethinkers are not really interested in freedom but, rather, are interested in forming a group of “freethinkers” that toes the party line on such false concepts as naturalism and humanism.
REFERENCEBarker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith In Faith—From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI: Freedom from Religion Foundation).
Do Natural Disasters Negate Divine Benevolence?
|by||Bert Thompson, Ph.D.|
Q.The Earth is plagued with all kinds of natural disasters (tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, etc.). How can these tragedies be reconciled with a supposedly good, benevolent God?
September 21, 1989—Hurricane Hugo strikes the southeastern coast of the United States. Over 25 people are killed, and over $10 billion worth of damage results. One month later—October 17, 1989—an earthquake registering 7.1 on the Richter scale strikes the San Francisco Bay area in California. At least 62 people are killed, and damage estimates are placed at well over $1 billion. August 24, 1992—Hurricane Andrew hits three counties in southern Florida. More than a dozen people lose their lives, and damage estimates are set at over $20 billion. A year later, on September 11, 1992, Hurricane Iniki devastates the Hawaiian islands. At least four people die, and damage is set at over $1 billion. In June 1993, huge portions of numerous states along the Mississippi River and its tributaries experienced the worst flooding in their history. Entire cities were covered with water measured not in inches, but in feet. At least 47 people died, and more than 25,000 were evacuated from their homes.
Do these types of natural disasters represent merely isolated, infrequent events? Hardly. Throughout history, man has recorded many such tragedies. In 526, an earthquake hit the country now known as Turkey and left 250,000 dead. A similar earthquake in China in 1556 killed over 830,000 people. Another quake in India in 1737 annihilated 300,000, and quakes in Central China in 1920, 1927, and 1932 killed 200,000, 200,000, and 70,000 people respectively. In 1889, the famous “Johnstown Flood” occurred in Pennsylvania. The dam of the South Fork Reservoir, twelve miles east of the city, burst during heavy rains. Over 2,000 people were killed, and property damage was estimated to be over $10 million. In 1969, Hurricane Camille killed more than 250 people in seven states from Louisiana to Virginia, leaving behind over $1.5 billion in damage. In 1983, Hurricane Alicia struck near Galveston, killing 21 and causing over $2 billion in damage.
It is rare indeed, it seems, for a single generation in a given locale to be spared at least some kind of natural disaster. Without warning, tornadoes sweep down from the afternoon sky and destroy in a moment’s fury what took decades or centuries to build. Floods cover “old home places,” and remove forever any vestige of what were once storehouses of hallowed memories. In a matter of seconds, earthquakes irreparably alter once-familiar landscapes. Hurricanes come from the sea, demolish practically everything in their paths, and then dissipate as if they never had existed. Each time humanity suffers. And each time there are those who ask “Why?”
THE “WHY?” QUESTION
Others view the destruction around them and ask “why?,” but their inquiry is brief and their response immediate. They correctly view the Earth as a once-perfect-but-now-flawed home for mankind. Rather than their faith in God being diminished by the ravages of ongoing natural phenomena, it is strengthened because they: (a) know that there are rational biblical and scientific explanations for such events; (b) understand that after all is said and done, “the Judge of all the Earth will do that which is right” (Genesis 18:25); and (c) put their faith into action as they work to help themselves, or those around them whose lives have been affected by a disaster.
Still others view natural disasters and ask “why?,” when what they really mean is: “If a benevolent God exists, why did He allow these things to happen?” The implication of their statement is clear. Since these things did happen, God must not exist.
THE BIBLICAL RESPONSE TO THE “WHY” QUESTION
Our Once-Perfect-But-Now-Flawed PlanetAt the end of His six days of creation (Genesis 1:31), God surveyed all that He had made, and proclaimed it “very good”—Hebrew terminology representing that which was both complete and perfect. Rivers were running, fish were swimming, and birds were flying. Pestilence, disease, and human death were unknown. Man existed in an idyllic paradise of happiness and beauty where he shared such an intimate and blissful covenant relationship with his Maker that God came to the garden “in the cool of the day” to commune with its human inhabitants (Genesis 3:8). Additionally, Genesis 3:22 records that man had continual access to the tree of life that stood in the garden, the fruit of which would allow him to live forever.
The peacefulness and tranquillity of the first days of humanity were not to prevail, however. In Genesis 3—in fewer words than an average sportswriter would use to discuss a Friday night high school football game—Moses, through inspiration, discussed the breaking of the covenant relationship between man and God, the entrance of sin into the world, and the curse(s) that resulted therefrom. When our original parents revolted against their Creator, evil entered the world. Moses informs us that as a direct consequence of human sin, the Earth was “cursed” (Genesis 3:17). Paul, in Romans 8:19-20, declared that the entire creation was subjected to “vanity” and the “bondage of corruption” as a result of the sinful events that took place in Eden on that occasion. Things apparently deteriorated rapidly. Just three chapters later, Moses wrote:
And Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented Jehovah that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And Jehovah said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man and beast, and creeping things, and birds of the heavens (Genesis 6:5-7).Genesis 6-8 records the global destruction resulting from the Great Flood sent by God as His instrument of judgment. The text indicates that the waters which caused the Flood derived from two sources: (a) “the fountains of the great deep”; and (b) “the windows of heaven” (Genesis 7:11). Water fell for forty days and nights (Genesis 7:12,17), and eventually covered “all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven” (Genesis 7:19). We may only surmise the changes that the Flood wrought upon the Earth. Local floods can cause tremendous damage in very brief periods. Imagine, then, the damage that water covering every mountain fifteen cubits (Genesis 7:20; approximately 22½ feet) must have caused. As one writer has suggested:
The destructive power of flood-waters is evident from what flood waters in recent years have done. They moved blocks of granite weighing 350 tons more than a hundred yards. Boulders weighing 75 to 210 tons have been moved by flood waters only 15 to 20 feet deep.... What vast devastation must have been created when all those forces of the earth worked together; rain gushing down from the canopy above the firmament, earthquakes shaking the earth, many volcanoes erupting and exploding at one time, continents shifting, mountains lifting up, tornados, hurricanes and wild windstorms raging, gigantic tidal waves with crosscurrents and whirlpools raising havoc.... Truly, the Flood was the greatest and most violent catastrophe in the history of the world, with total destruction of all forms of life and of the entire surface of the earth (Sippert, 1989, pp. 78-79).What were conditions like on the Earth prior to the Great Flood? Numerous biblical scholars have suggested that conditions were radically different than those we see today, and that the Earth was devoid of the many natural disasters that it presently experiences (see Rehwinkel, 1951; Whitcomb and Morris, 1961; Dillow, 1981). Whitcomb and Morris have stated, for example:
This is inferred from the fact that the “breaking-up of the fountains of the great deep” (Genesis 7:11), which implies this sort of activity, was one of the immediate causes of the Deluge; therefore it must have been restrained previously.... Thus the Biblical record implies that the age between the fall of man and the resultant Deluge was one of comparative quiescence geologically. The waters both above and below the firmament were in large measure restrained, temperatures were equably warm, there were no heavy rains nor winds and probably no earthquakes nor volcanic emissions (1961, pp. 242,243).It is not unreasonable to suggest, knowing the changes caused by local floods, that the global Flood of Genesis 6-8 not only radically altered the face of the Earth, but simultaneously produced circumstances that are responsible for many natural disasters experienced since that time. New, higher mountains and lower valleys were produced by God after the Flood (Psalm 104:6-10). Approximately 71.9% of the Earth’s surface remained covered with water. Temperature changes occurred, producing seasonal variations unlike any before. No doubt other factors were involved as well.
What causes natural disasters on the Earth today? One cause is the vastly different geological and meteorological phenomena now present. Tall mountains and deep valleys may be conducive to localized extremes in weather. The drastically changed components of the Earth’s crust (e.g., fault lines, etc.) give rise to earthquakes. Vast bodies of water, and large global climatic variations, spawn hurricanes and tropical storms.
Taken at face value, then, the wickedness of mankind in Noah’s day (which precipitated the Flood) is responsible ultimately for the changes that now produce various natural disasters. As Brad Bromling has observed:
While we may never know with precision what conditions prevailed between the Edenic period and the Flood, it seems that the weather systems with which we are familiar were largely absent at that time. The fossil record bespeaks a period when the entire Earth enjoyed a temperate climate. This storm-free era most certainly predates the Flood. Since that event, man has been imperiled by tornadoes, blizzards, monsoons, and hurricanes.... Upon whom should we heap blame for the suffering resultant from such weather? Is it fair to accuse God, when He created man’s home free from such things (Genesis 1:31)? In all honesty, the answer is no. Sin robbed us of our original garden paradise, and sin was responsible for the global deluge (Genesis 3:24; 6:7) [1992, p. 17].One writer concluded: “[T]he cause of all that is wrong with the earth is not godliness but rather ungodliness” (Porter, 1974, p. 467, emp. in orig.). The matter of man’s personal volition has much to do with this. The Scriptures speak to the fact that since God is love, and since love allows freedom of choice, God allows freedom of choice (cf. Joshua 24:15; John 5:39-40). God did not create mankind as robots without any free moral agency. Mankind now reaps the consequences of the misuse of freedom of choice (i.e., the sin) of previous generations. Surely one of the lessons here is that it does not pay to disobey the Creator. In his second epistle, Peter made a clear reference to “the world that then was,” and its destruction by the Flood (3:6). That world no longer exists. Today we inhabit a once-perfect-but-now-flawed Earth. Man—not God—bears the blame.
Natural Disasters and a Benevolent GodThe Bible teaches that God is both all-powerful and loving; thus He is benevolent, as love demands. How, then, can He allow natural disasters to occur? Do not natural disasters negate the benevolence of God, and strike at His very existence? In addition to the reasons listed in the section above, I would like to suggest the following reasons why they do not.
First, God created a world ruled by natural laws established at the Creation. If a man steps off the roof of a five-story building, gravity will pull him to the pavement beneath. If a boy steps in front of a moving freight train, since two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, the train will strike the child and likely kill him. The same laws that govern gravity, matter in motion, or similar phenomena also govern weather patterns, water movement, and other geological/meteorological conditions. All of nature is regulated by these laws, not just the parts that we find convenient.
Second, some disasters may be the by-product of something that itself is good. In addressing this point, Norman Geisler has noted:
In a physical world where there is water for boating and swimming, some will drown. If there are mountains to climb, there must also be valleys into which one may fall. If there are cars to drive, collisions can also occur. It may be said that tornadoes, lightning, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are likewise by-products of a good physical world. For instance, the purpose of rain is not to flood or drown, but the result of rain may include these disasters. Likewise, hot and cold air are an essential and purposeful part of the physical world, but under certain conditions they may combine to form tornadoes (1978, p. 72, emp. in orig.).The natural laws that God created allow man to produce fire. But the same laws that enable him to cook his food also allow him to destroy entire forests. Laws that make it possible to have things constructive to human life also introduce the possibility that things destructive to human life may occur. How can it be otherwise? A car is matter in motion, and takes us where we wish to go. But if someone steps in front of that car, the same natural laws that operate to our benefit will operate in a similar fashion to our detriment.
Third, natural laws are both inviolate and non-selective. Everyone must obey them or suffer the consequences. In Luke 13:2-5, Jesus told the story of eighteen men who perished when the tower of Siloam collapsed. Had these men perished because of their sin? No, they were no worse sinners than their peers. They died because a natural law was in force. Fortunately, natural laws work continually so that we can understand and benefit from them. We are not left to sort out some kind of haphazard system that works one day, but not the next.
Those who rail against God because of natural disasters often are overheard to ask, “But why can’t God ‘selectively intervene’ to prevent disasters?” Bruce Reichenbach has addressed this question:
Thus, in a world which operates according to divine miraculous intervention, there would be no necessary relation between phenomena, and in particular between cause and effect. In some instances one event would follow from a certain set of conditions, another time a different event, and so on, such that ultimately an uncountable variety of events would follow a given set of conditions. There would be no regularity of consequence, no natural production of effects.... Hence, we could not know or even suppose what course of action to take to accomplish a certain rationally conceived goal. Thus, we could neither propose action nor act ourselves (1976, p. 187).If God suspended natural laws every time His creatures were in a dangerous situation, chaos would corrupt the cosmos, arguing more for a world of atheism than a world of theism! Further, as Geisler has remarked:
First, evil men do not really want God to intercept every evil act or thought. No one wants to get a headache every time he thinks against God. One does not want God to fill his mouth with cotton when he speaks evil of God, nor does he really desire God to explode his pen as he writes against God or destroy his books before they come off the press. At best, people really want God to intercept some evil actions.... Second, continual interference would disrupt the regularity of natural law and make life impossible. Everyday living depends on physical laws such as inertia or gravity. Regular interruption of these would make everyday life impossible and a human being extremely edgy! Third, it is probable that chaos would result from continued miraculous intervention. Imagine children throwing knives at parents because they know they will be turned to rubber, and parents driving through stop signs, knowing God will create crash-protection air shields to avert any ensuing collisions. The necessary intervention would finally grow in proportions that would effectively remove human freedom and responsibility (1978, p. 75, emp. in orig.).How, then, exactly, would the unbeliever suggest that an understandable, dependable world be created, and operated, other than the way ours presently is? How could natural disasters be prevented, while maintaining natural laws and human freedom?
Instead of blaming God when tragedies such as natural disasters strike, we need to turn to Him for strength, and let tragedies, of whatever nature, remind us that this world was never intended to be a final home (Hebrews 11:13-16). Our time here is temporary (James 4:14), and with God’s help we are able to overcome whatever comes our way (Romans 8:35-39; Psalm 46:1-3). In the end, the most important question is not, “Why did this happen to me?,” but instead, “How can I understand what has happened, and how am I going to react to it?” With Peter, the faithful Christian can echo the sentiment that God, “ who called you unto his eternal glory in Christ, after that ye have suffered a little while, shall himself perfect, establish, strengthen you. To him be the dominion for ever and ever” (1 Peter 5:10).
Dillow, Joseph C. (1982), The Waters Above (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Geisler, Norman L. (1978), The Roots of Evil (Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan).
Porter, Walter L. (1974), “Why Do the Innocent Suffer?,” Firm Foundation, 91: 467,475, July 23.
Rehwinkel, A.M. (1951), The Flood (St. Louis, MO: Concordia).
Reichenbach, Bruce (1976), “Natural Evils and Natural Laws,” International Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 16.
Sippert, Albert (1989), From Eternity to Eternity (North Mankato, MN: Sippert Publishing).
Whitcomb, John C. and Henry M. Morris (1961), The Genesis Flood (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
A Messiah Who "Sneaks" Into History?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
As Paul stood before King Agrippa’s throne, relating the story of Christ, he declared of the Messiah’s life: “This thing was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26). Those few words have reverberated through centuries of history as one of the hallmarks of the story of Jesus. Never was the life, death, or resurrection of Christ meant to be kept secret—as something might be when it is stored away in a box in an abandoned attic, to be discovered later by accident only by a fortunate few. Rather, the many facets of Christ’s earthly ministry were readily available for inspection by anyone, anytime, anywhere.
In fact, centuries before Christ set foot on the Earth in human form, the prophets of old repeatedly had spoken of His impending arrival. Over 300 messianic prophecies fill the pages of the Old Testament. God did not try to “sneak” the Messiah into human affairs under cover of darkness and without warning. Truth be told, He went to considerable effort to announce to the world the news of its heralded Savior.
One such instance can be found in Genesis 49:10, wherein Moses wrote: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes.” The word “Shiloh” has long been recognized by biblical scholars as another name for the Messiah. This verse, then, explains exactly when the Messiah was to arrive—when the scepter had departed from Judah.
So what is the “scepter,” and when did it depart from Judah? The scepter was a staff kept in possession of the elders of each of the twelve tribes of Israel and engraved with the name of the tribe. It symbolized the national sovereignty and judicial power of God’s people. As long as the scepter was in place, the Jews could govern themselves, excommunicate one of their own, and even administer corporeal punishment (including the death penalty).
Artist’s concept of Paul before King Agrippa
(image courtesy of ArtToday.com)
When the members of the Sanhedrin found that they could not put Jesus to death themselves, but had to request instead that Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator, do so on their behalf (Luke 23:24), they should have known the Messiah was in their midst, for that was the exact prophecy Moses had recorded. The scepter had indeed departed from Judah—and the Messiah had indeed come! Yet the Jews ignored the voice of God and demanded the death sentence for His only begotten Son. Why? Because they were the people who “always resisted the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51).
Woe to those individuals in our day and age who ignore the powerful evidence that God has provided as proof of the deity of His precious Son, Jesus Christ! Let us ensure that we today do not become as blind to Christ’s Sonship as those first-century Jews.
Big Bang False. Eternal Universe True?
|by||Jeff Miller, Ph.D.|
If you do not want to accept that God exists, you have to be able to explain the existence of the Universe without Him creating it. If He is not in the equation, then either the Universe created itself or is eternal—there are no other options (Spencer, 1882). The popular theory today, of course, is the Big Bang Theory, which posits that the Universe created itself. Recall that in 2014, science magazines, journals, and media hailed the discovery of gravitational waves that supposedly proved Big Bang inflation (Miller, 2014). Inflation is a fundamental and crucial element of the Big Bang Theory, needed to fix the “horizon” and “flatness” problems in the Universe if there was no God to create it, but which as yet had no direct observational evidence. Further recall Nature publishing in January, 2015 the article “Gravitational Waves Discovery Now Officially Dead” (Cowen, 2015). The supposed evidence for gravitational waves proved to be merely galactic dust (Miller, 2015). So Big Bang cosmologists are, in the words of the cosmologist who proposed inflation in the first place, Alan Guth of M.I.T., “pretty much back to where we were before” (as quoted in McKee, 2015). Where were we before? In the place where there is no evidence of inflation. In the words of theoretical physicist and professor at Princeton Paul Steinhardt, “[T]he inflationary paradigm is so flexible that it is immune to experimental and observational tests…. [T]he paradigm of inflation is unfalsifiable…. [I]t is clear that the inflationary paradigm is fundamentally untestable, and hence scientifically meaningless” (2014, emp. added).
With the announcement that there is, once again, no evidence of inflation, one might predict that a new theory would emerge that solves the problem for naturalists, by perhaps resorting to an eternal Universe instead. Sure enough, a week and two days later, Phys.org announced the results of mathematical calculations completed by Ahmed Farag Ali of Benha University and the Zewail City of Science and Technology in Egypt and Saurya Das of the University of Lethbridge in Canada. Ali and Das acknowledged and highlighted the most fundamental problem with the Big Bang Theory, which creationists have long pointed out: if it’s true, how did it all start? Where did the singularity—the cosmic egg (i.e., the ylem) that “exploded”—come from? It could not create itself, according to the First Law of Thermodynamics, and if one argues that the First Law did not exist before the ylem, how did the First Law write itself into existence along with the appearance of matter and energy? If the First Law did exist, Who made it? All laws have law makers! [See Miller, 2013 for a thorough discussion of these matters.] Ali and Das claim to have resolved the problem by calculations that indicate that there was no Big Bang anyway—no singularity (Zyga, 2015). According to them, the Universe is eternal. What does this mean for creationists?
First, we wish to highlight that Ali and Das are in agreement with us that there is a major scientific problem with the Big Bang in the origin of the ylem. It could not have created itself. Such a suggestion is unscientific and unnatural—there is no scientific evidence from nature that such a thing could happen. Simply put, it would be supernatural—witchcraft without a witch. Second, we should highlight that the work of Ali and Das has not even been verified as legitimate by the scientific community at large. LiveScience, for example, noted with regard to their theory, “If [the] new theory turns out to be true, the universe may not have started with a bang” (Ghose, 2015, emp. added). As of the writing of this article, five months have passed since the announcement of Ali and Das’ work, and neither Science, Nature, Scientific American, New Scientist, or American Scientist have even weighed in on the discussion.
Third, we note that the eternality of the Universe is not a new concept. Before the Big Bang was en vogue, eternal models were popular (e.g., Sir Fred Hoyle’s Steady State model), but in time were rejected based on the observable evidence. For example, Robert Jastrow, evolutionary astronomer and former director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA, wrote:
And concurrently there was a great deal of discussion about the fact that the second law of thermodynamics, applied to the Cosmos, indicates the Universe is running down like a clock. If it is running down, there must have been a time when it was fully wound up…. Now three lines of evidence—the motions of the galaxies, the laws of thermodynamics, the life story of the stars—pointed to one conclusion; all indicated that the Universe had a beginning (1978, pp. 48-49, 111).Simply put, the Universe cannot be eternal, according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. All available scientific evidence indicates that the matter and energy in the Universe is wearing out or decaying. Everything is moving towards disorder and chaos, and we are depleting usable energy. This trek towards disorder and decay is an irreversible process known as entropy. The unavoidable truth of entropy is why perpetual motion machines are understood to be impossible machines in the Universe. If the Universe is eternal, then it is a perpetual motion machine in defiance of the Second Law—which has no exceptions.
If, however, we base our conclusions on the actual scientific evidence, we are forced to conclude that the Universe could not have existed forever, or it would be completely out of usable energy—i.e., it would be completely worn out (see Miller, 2013 for further discussion on the Laws of Thermodynamics and the origin of the Universe). So the only way the Universe could be eternal is if there was Someone outside of the Universe countering entropy by adding usable energy to it on a Universal scale. But then this discussion would cease to be a discussion of nature and would move into the realm of super-nature, which the naturalist-infested, modern scientific community refuses even to consider.
Ultimately, there is no evidence that energy or matter are coming into the Universe—hence the existence of the First Law of Thermodynamics. So the Universe could not be eternal. If one believes anyway that it is, he is doing so against the scientific evidence. Since he is drawing conclusions not warranted by the evidence, he is being irrational (Ruby, 1960, pp. 130-131). In short, he has a “blind faith.”
REFERENCESCowen, Ron (2015), “Gravitational Waves Discovery Now Officially Dead,” Nature.com, January 30, http://www.nature.com/news/gravitational-waves-discovery-now-officially-dead-1.16830.
Ghose, Tia (2015), “Big Bang, Deflated? Universe May Have Had No Beginning,” LiveScience, February 26, http://www.livescience.com/49958-theory-no-big-bang.html.
Jastrow, Robert (1978), God and the Astronomers (New York: W.W. Norton).
McKee, Maggie (2015), “Big Bang Discovery Crumbles to Dust,” New Scientist, 225:10, February 7.
Miller, Jeff (2013), Science vs. Evolution (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Miller, Jeff (2014), “Was the Big Bang Just Proven by Astronomers?” Reason & Revelation, 34:81-83, June, http://apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1156.
Miller, Jeff (2015), “Big Bang Inflation Evidence Officially Bites the Dust,” Reason & Revelation, 35:62-65.
Ruby, Lionel (1960), Logic: An Introduction (Chicago, IL: J.B. Lippincott).
Spencer, Herbert (1882), First Principles: A System of Synthetic Philosophy (New York: D. Appleton & Company), fourth edition.
Steinhardt, Paul (2014), “Big Bang Blunder Bursts the Multiverse Bubble,” Nature, 510:9, June 5.
Zyga, Lisa (2015), “No Big Bang? Quantum Equation Predicts Universe Has No Beginning,” Phys.org, February 9, http://phys.org/news/2015-02-big-quantum-equation-universe.html.
Did Jesus Break the Sabbath?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
One common misconception regarding the behavior of Jesus is that, on occasion, in healing the sick and performing other benevolent actions, He broke the Sabbath in order to accommodate the higher law of love. This viewpoint leaves the impression that law is sometimes, if not frequently, antithetical to being loving. It implies that sometimes breaking God’s laws is necessary in order to be loving. This notion, of course, is flawed and contrary to Bible teaching. As Paul explained to the Romans: “he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments…are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8-10). Paul meant that when you obey the law’s directives concerning how to conduct yourself toward your neighbor, you will be engaging in loving behavior. To love, one must enact God’s laws.
The fact is the perfect Son of God obeyed all of God’s laws, never violating even one Divine precept (Hebrews 4:15). Sin is defined as violation of God’s law (1 John 3:4). Since Jesus was sinless, He never broke God’s laws. Hence, He could not have broken the Sabbath. Those who leveled such an accusation against Him were, in fact, mistaken.
the poolTake, for example, the incident in John 5, when Jesus caused a man, who suffered from a 38-year-old ailment, to rise from his bed of confinement and walk. The fact that Jesus’ action took place on the Sabbath drew the criticism of the Jews who promptly informed the man, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed” (vs. 10). Many would suppose that Jesus would not be concerned with careful conformity to the Law. They would assume that He would chide the Jews for their “nit-picky, legalistic” approach to religion, and that He would be quite willing to dismiss the requirements of the Law in order to give priority to human need in the name of compassion. But this viewpoint is fraught with error, not the least of which is its demeaning assessment of law—law which God, Himself, authored. Law, according to God, is given for human well-being (Deuteronomy 6:24; 10:13; Proverbs 29:18). God’s law is “holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12), and serves divinely intended, positive purposes (e.g., Romans 3:20). Indeed, Jesus’ handling of His critics illustrates the high regard He had for law, the necessity of carefully conforming to that law, and the critical importance of applying it accurately.
In John 7, calling attention to the miracle He performed in chapter 5, Jesus offered a logical rebuttal to the allegation that He violated the Sabbath. Here is that argument placed in syllogistic form:
Premise 1: If the Law of Moses requires the circumcision of a male infant on the 8th day after birth—even when the 8th day falls on the Sabbath—then healing a man on the Sabbath is equally legal.
Premise 2: The Law of Moses requires the circumcision of a male infant on the 8th day after birth—even when the 8th day fell on the Sabbath.
Conclusion: Therefore, healing a man on the Sabbath is equally legal.Jesus then offered a concluding admonition that cinched the validity of His argument: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (vs. 24). Making application of God’s laws based on “appearance” refers to doing so based on how things seem or look to the person making the judgment, i.e., forming an opinion based on inadequate evidence. To the contrary, to “judge with righteous judgment” means to make accurate assessments by drawing only warranted conclusions from the evidence, i.e., thinking and acting rationally. One must be very careful that he is “accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, NASB) and not “handling the word of God deceitfully” (2 Corinthians 4:2).
The SynagogueAnother instance in which Jesus was falsely accused of breaking the Sabbath is seen on the occasion when Jesus entered the synagogue and encountered a man who had a deformed hand (Matthew 12:9-13). This circumstance prompted His enemies to ask Him a question in hopes of being able to accuse Him of breaking the Law. They asked: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Of course, they had pre-decided that the answer to the question was “no,” and that, in fact, the Law would naturally forbid such an action.
Unfortunately, the prevailing interpretation of the Law of Moses at the time, at least among the Jewish leaders, was that the Sabbath law enjoined total inactivity—as if everyone was to sit down for 24 hours and do absolutely nothing. This view was a distortion of God’s Law on the matter. The Law gave the right, even the obligation, to engage in several activities (that could rightly be designated “work”) that did not constitute violation of the Sabbath regulation. On this occasion, Jesus pinpointed one such instance: “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?” (vs. 11). Jesus was recalling a directive from the Law of Moses:
You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray, and hide yourself from them; you shall certainly bring them back to your brother. And if your brother is not near you, or if you do not know him, then you shall bring it to your own house, and it shall remain with you until your brother seeks it; then you shall restore it to him. You shall do the same with his donkey, and so shall you do with his garment; with any lost thing of your brother’s, which he has lost and you have found, you shall do likewise; you must not hide yourself. You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fall down along the road, and hide yourself from them; you shall surely help him lift them up again (Deuteronomy 22:1-4; cf. Exodus 23:4-5).Such passages give insight into the nature of God and provide tremendous assistance in making proper application of God’s laws to everyday circumstances.
Observe that God’s laws never contradict or countermand each other. Unlike manmade laws which often manifest inconsistency and contradiction, God’s laws function in perfect harmony with each other. The Mosaic passage to which Jesus alluded demonstrates that the general principle of the cessation of usual work on the Sabbath did not conflict with any number of specific circumstances in which benevolence and compassion were to be expressed. In an agriculturally based society, a family’s survival depends on its farm animals. If a sheep, ox, or donkey were to break out of its stall, flee the premises, and then fall into a pit from which it would be unable to extricate itself, the animal would most likely die or become seriously ill if left in its predicament for 24 hours. To expend the necessary effort (i.e., “work”) to retrieve the animal from danger was not considered by God to be included in the Sabbath prohibition. Hence, Jesus stated the logical conclusion: “Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep?” (vs. 12). If action could be exerted to see to the well-being of a dumb animal, then obviously, God would approve of action taken to see to the physical care of a human being! Here, once again, is Jesus’ argument placed in syllogistic form:
Premise 1: If the Law of Moses requires a person to manifest care, concern, and physical effort to recover a neighbor’s escaped, endangered farm animal—even when the incident occurs on the Sabbath—then healing a man on the Sabbath is equally legal.The logic is penetrating and decisive. Indeed, “they could not answer Him regarding these things” (Luke 14:6; see also Luke 6:6-11). Far from suggesting that law is unimportant and may be ignored under the guise of “human need,” or implying that humans can break the “letter of the law” in order to keep the “spirit of the law” (see Miller, 2003), Jesus demonstrated that inherently built into God’s laws are all concerns deemed by Deity to be necessary. The benevolent, loving thing to do will always harmonize with God’s laws, since “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10), i.e., every truly loving action has already been defined by God in His legal admonitions.
Premise 2: The Law of Moses requires a person to manifest care, concern, and physical effort to recover a neighbor’s escaped, endangered farm animal—even when the incident occurs on the Sabbath.
Conclusion: Therefore, healing a man on the Sabbath is equally legal.
The Grain FieldA final instance in which Jesus was accused of breaking the Sabbath is seen in the grain field incident (Matthew 12:1-8). Many commentators automatically assume that the charge leveled against Jesus’ disciples by the Pharisees was a scripturally valid charge. However, when the disciples picked and consumed a few heads of grain from a neighbor’s field, they were doing that which was perfectly lawful (Deuteronomy 23:25). Working would have been a violation of the Sabbath law. If they had pulled out a sickle and begun harvesting the grain, they would have been violating the Sabbath law. However, they were picking strictly for the purpose of eating immediately—an action that was in complete harmony with Mosaic legislation (“but that which everyone must eat”—Exodus 12:16). A modern equivalent might be reaching for a box of cereal on the pantry shelf, pouring it in a bowl, retrieving the milk from the refrigerator, pouring it on the cereal, and eating it. The Pharisees’ charge that the disciples were doing something “not lawful” on the Sabbath was simply an erroneous charge (cf. Matthew 15:2).
Jesus commenced to counter their accusation with masterful, penetrating logic, advancing successive rebuttals. Before He presented specific scriptural refutation of their charge, He first employed a rational device designated by logicians as argumentum ad hominem (literally “argument to the man”). He used the “circumstantial” form of this argument, which enabled Him to “point out a contrast between the opponent’s lifestyle and his expressed opinions, thereby suggesting that the opponent and his statements can be dismissed as hypocritical” (Baum, 1975, p. 470, emp. added). This variety of argumentation spotlights the opponent’s inconsistency, and “charges the adversary with being so prejudiced that his alleged reasons are mere rationalizations of conclusions dictated by self-interest” (Copi, 1972, p. 76).
Observe carefully the technical sophistication inherent in Jesus’ strategy. He called attention to the case of David (vss. 3-4). When David was in exile, literally running for his life to escape the jealous, irrational rage of Saul, he and his companions arrived in Nob, tired and hungry (1 Samuel 21). He lied to the priest and conned him into giving to his traveling companions the showbread, or “bread of the Presence” (12 flat cakes arranged in two rows on the table within the Tabernacle [Exodus 25:23-30; Leviticus 24:5-6])—bread that legally was reserved only for the priests (Leviticus 24:8-9; cf. Exodus 29:31-34; Leviticus 8:31; 22:10ff.). David clearly violated the law. Did the Pharisees condemn him? Absolutely not! They revered David. They held him in high regard. In fact, nearly a thousand years after his passing, his tomb was still being tended (Acts 2:29; cf. 1 Kings 2:10; Nehemiah 3:16; Josephus, 1974a, 13.8.4; 16.7.1; Josephus, 1974b, 1.2.5). On the one hand, they condemned the disciples of Jesus, who were innocent, but on the other hand, they upheld and revered David, who was guilty. Their inconsistency betrayed both their insincerity as well as their ineligibility to bring a charge against the disciples.
After exposing their hypocrisy and inconsistency, Jesus next turned to answer the charge pertaining to violating the Sabbath. He called their attention to the priests who worked in the Temple on the Sabbath (12:5; e.g., Numbers 28:9-10). The priests were “blameless”—not guilty—of violating the Sabbath law because their work was authorized to be performed on that day. As previously noted, the Sabbath law did not imply that everyone was to sit down and do nothing. The Law gave the right, even the obligation, to engage in several activities that did not constitute violation of the Sabbath regulation. Again, examples of such authorization included eating, Temple service, circumcision (John 7:22), tending to the basic care of animals (Exodus 23:4-5; Deuteronomy 22:1-4; Matthew 12:11; Luke 13:15), and extending kindness or assistance to the needy (Matthew 12:12; Luke 13:16; 14:1-6; John 5:5-9; 7:23). The divinely authorized Sabbath activity of the priests proved that the accusation of the Pharisees brought against Jesus’ disciples was false. [The term “profane” (vs. 5) is an example of the figure of speech known as metonymy of the adjunct in which “things are spoken of according to appearance, opinions formed respecting them, or the claims made for them” (Dungan, 1888, p. 295, emp. added). By this figure, Leah was said to be the “mother” of Joseph (Genesis 37:10), Joseph was said to be the “father” of Jesus (Luke 2:48; John 6:42), God’s preached message was said to be “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:21), and angels were said to be “men” (e.g., Genesis 18:16; 19:10). Priestly activity on the Sabbath gave the appearance of violation when, in fact, it was not. Coincidentally, Bullinger classified the allusion to “profane” in this verse as an instance of catachresis, or incongruity, stating that “it expresses what was true according to the mistaken notion of the Pharisees as to manual works performed on the Sabbath” (1898, p. 676, emp. added).]
After pointing out the obvious legality of priestly effort expended on the Sabbath, Jesus stated: “But I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple” (12:6). The underlying Greek text actually has “something” instead of “One.” If priests could carry on Tabernacle/Temple service on the Sabbath, surely Jesus’ own disciples were authorized to engage in service in the presence of the Son of God! After all, service directed to the person of Jesus certainly is greater than the pre-Christianity Temple service conducted by Old Testament priests.
For all practical purposes, the discussion was over. Jesus had disproved the claim of the Pharisees. But He did not stop there. He took His methodical confrontation to yet another level. He penetrated beneath the surface argument that the Pharisees had posited and focused on their hearts: “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless” (12:7). In this verse, Jesus quoted from an Old Testament context (Hosea 6:6) in which the prophet of old struck a blow against the mere external, superficial, ritualistic observance of some laws, to the neglect of heartfelt, sincere, humble attention to other laws while treating people properly. The comparison is evident. The Pharisees who confronted Jesus’ disciples were not truly interested in obeying God’s law. They were masquerading under that pretense (cf. Matthew 15:1-9; 23:3). But their problem did not lie in an attitude of desiring careful compliance with God’s law. Rather, their zest for law keeping was hypocritical and unaccompanied by their own obedience and concern for others. They possessed critical hearts and were more concerned with scrutinizing and blasting people than with honest, genuine applications of God’s directives for the good of mankind.
They had neutralized the true intent of divine regulations, making void the Word of God (Matthew 15:6). They had ignored and skipped over the significant laws that enjoined justice, mercy, and faith (Matthew 23:23). Consequently, though their attention to legal detail was laudable, their misapplication of it, as well as their own neglect and rejection of some aspects of it, made them inappropriate and unqualified promulgators of God’s laws. Indeed, they simply did not fathom the teaching of Hosea 6:6 (cf. Micah 6:6-8). “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice” is a Hebraism (cf. Matthew 9:13) [McGarvey, 1875, pp. 82-83]. God was not saying that He did not want sacrifices offered under the Old Testament economy (notice the use of “more” in Hosea 6:6). Rather, He was saying that He did not want sacrifice alone. He wanted mercy with sacrifice. Internal motive and attitude are just as important to God as the external compliance with specifics.
Samuel addressed this same attitude shown by Saul: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). Samuel was not minimizing the essentiality of sacrifice as required by God. Rather, he was convicting Saul of the pretense of using one aspect of God’s requirements, i.e., alleged “sacrifice” of the best animals (1 Samuel 15:15), as a smoke screen for violating God’s instructions, i.e., failing to destroy all the animals (1 Samuel 15:3). If the Pharisees had understood these things, they would not have accused the disciples of breaking the law when the disciples, in fact, had not done so. They “would not have condemned the guiltless” (Matthew 12:7, emp. added).
While the disciples were guilty of violating an injunction that the Pharisees had concocted (supposing the injunction to be a genuine implication of the Sabbath regulation), the disciples were not guilty of a violation of Sabbath law. The Pharisees’ propensity for enjoining their uninspired and erroneous interpretations of Sabbath law upon others was the direct result of cold, unmerciful hearts that found a kind of sadistic glee in binding burdens upon people for burdens’ sake rather than in encouraging people to obey God genuinely.
Jesus placed closure on His exchange with the Pharisees on this occasion by asserting the accuracy of His handling of this entire affair: “For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (vs. 8). In other words, Jesus affirmed His deity and, therefore, His credentials and authoritative credibility for making accurate application of the Law of Moses to the issue at hand. One can trust Jesus’ exegesis and application of Sabbath law; after all, He wrote it!
Matthew 12 does not teach that Jesus broke the Sabbath or sanctions occasional violation of His laws under extenuating circumstances. His laws are never optional, relative, or situational—even though people often find God’s will inconvenient and difficult (e.g., John 6:60; Matthew 11:6; 15:12; 19:22; Mark 6:3; 1 Corinthians 1:23). The truth of the matter is that if the heart is receptive to God’s will, His will is “easy” (Matthew 11:30), “not too hard” (Deuteronomy 30:11), nor “burdensome” (1 John 5:3). If, on the other hand, the heart resists His will and does not desire to conform to it, then God’s words are “offensive” (Matthew 15:12), “hard,” (John 6:60), “narrow” (Matthew 7:14), and like a hammer that breaks in pieces and grinds the resister into powder (Jeremiah 23:29; Matthew 21:44).
ConclusionThe religion of Christ surpasses all human religion. It is rooted in the very essence of Deity. When Jesus took on human form on Earth, He showed Himself to be the Master logician and exegete Who always conducted Himself in a rational manner and conformed His actions to divine law. May we do likewise.
[NOTE: For more on Jesus’ handling of the Sabbath, see Miller, 2004.]
REFERENCESBaum, Robert (1975), Logic (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston).
Bullinger, E.W. (1898), Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1968 reprint).
Copi, Irving (1972), Introduction To Logic (New York: Macmillan).
Dungan, D.R. (1888), Hermeneutics (Delight, AR: Gospel Light).
Josephus, Flavius (1974a reprint), Antiquities of the Jews (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Josephus, Flavius (1974b reprint), Wars of the Jews (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
McGarvey, J.W. (1875), Commentary on Matthew and Mark (Delight, AR: Gospel Light).
Miller, Dave (2003), “The Spirit and Letter of the Law,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1225.
Miller, Dave (2004), “Situation Ethics—Extended Version,” Apologetics Press, https://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=7&article=645&topic=38.