"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Righteousness Of The Scribes And Pharisees (5:20) INTRODUCTION 1. As Jesus prepares to contrast the righteousness of the kingdom with the traditional interpretation and application of the Law, He does so with a strong warning to those who would enter the kingdom of heaven 2. Found in Mt 5:20, Jesus warned that... "unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven"! [To appreciate and apply what Jesus said, it might help if we first examined...] I. THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES A. THEY WERE KNOWN TO "SAY AND DO NOT" - Mt 23:1-4 1. Though they often taught the truth, they did not often practice what they preached! 2. From them many parents got the saying "Do as I say, not as I do" B. THEY WERE KNOWN TO DO THINGS TO BE SEEN OF MEN - Mt 23:5-7 1. They enjoyed wearing religious garments that separated them from others, and delighted in places and titles of honor 2. Does this sound like any religious leaders today? C. THEY WERE KNOWN TO NEGLECT PARTS OF GOD'S LAW - Mt 23:23-24 1. In their case, they would emphasize the "lighter" matters of the law, while neglecting the "weightier" commands 2. Or as we would say today, they "majored in minors and minored in majors" D. THEY WERE KNOWN TO BE LOVERS OF MONEY - Lk 16:13-15 1. "Mammon" was their god, though they would be quick to deny it and try to justify themselves before men 2. Does this sound like any "prosperity preachers" we see and hear today? [Such was the level of "righteousness" the scribes and Pharisees as a group. Not all scribes and Pharisees were guilty of such things (e.g., Nicodemus, Jn 3:1; 7:45-52; 19:38-42). Why must our righteousness exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees? The righteousness of the kingdom demands more!] II. THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE KINGDOM A. WE LEARN IN THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT THAT... 1. We cannot "say and do not" - Mt 7:21 2. We cannot "do things to be seen of men" - Mt 6:1 3. We cannot "neglect" ANY commandments of God's law - Mt 5:19 4. We cannot be "lovers of money" - Mt 6:24 B. THIS SHOULD SERVE AS A WARNING TO ANY WHO THINK THEY CAN BE FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS, BUT DO NOT... 1. Combine their profession of faith with suitable deeds - cf. Jm 2:14-17; 1Jn 2:4-6; 1Jn 3:18 2. Keep their personal, private lives consistent with their public appearance and profession - cf. Mk 4:22 3. Make diligent effort to observe ALL that Jesus commanded - cf. Mt 28:20; Jn 8:31-32; 2Jn 9 4. Remain free from the enticement of materialism - cf. 1Ti 6: 9-10; 1Jn 2:15-17 CONCLUSION 1. Without question, our righteousness as citizens of the kingdom must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees 2. But how can our righteousness be consistent with that demanded by our King? It is possible only by the grace of God... a. Whereby His mercy provides forgiveness to those in Christ - 1Jn 1:9 b. Whereby His strength makes it possible to live according to the "righteousness of the kingdom of heaven"! - Php 4:13 In our next study, we will begin to notice the various examples Jesus gave as to how our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees...
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Jesus And The Law (5:17-19) INTRODUCTION 1. Up to this point, Jesus has been describing the "citizens" of the kingdom... a. Their character and blessedness - Mt 5:3-12 b. Their influence on the world - Mt 5:13-16 2. The next section details the "righteousness" of the kingdom... a. The righteousness conduct Jesus would expect of His disciples b. In contrast with the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees 3. He begins by correcting any false impression some may have had about His relationship with the Law of Moses and the Prophets... a. Had He come to destroy the Law and the Prophets? b. Are His teachings contradictory to the Law and the Prophets? [In Mt 5:17-19, we find His answer to such questions. Our first observation is that...] I. HE CAME NOT TO DESTROY, BUT TO FULFILL A. SOME MAY HAVE THOUGHT JESUS INTENDED TO TOTALLY DISREGARD THE LAW... 1. That His coming and teaching would regard the Old Law in a negative light 2. For the expression "to destroy" means literally to "to destroy utterly, to overthrow completely" (VINE) B. ON THE CONTRARY, HIS PURPOSE WAS TO "FULFILL" THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS... 1. For they foretold the coming of the Messiah (Christ) a. There are approximately 330 prophecies concerning the Christ found in the Law and the Prophets b. For example, Deut 18:15,18-19; Isa 53:1-12 2. For they foretold the coming of the kingdom of God a. One example is Dan 2:44 b. Jesus proclaimed the fulfillment of that prophecy was now at hand - Mk 1:14-15 3. For they also foretold the establishment of a new and different covenant for the people of God a. See Jer 31:31-34 b. That Jesus brought in this new covenant is confirmed in He 8:6-13 C. THEREFORE, UNTIL THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS WERE FULFILLED, JESUS TAUGHT THAT... 1. The Law would be as permanent as the heavens and the earth - Mt 5:18 a. As He said in Lk 16:17, "It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail." b. There would be no change at all, until it was fulfilled c. Not even a "jot" or a "tittle" (Hebrew grammatical markings, similar to the dotting of an "i" or the crossing of a "t") 2. A person's treatment of the Law (while still in force) would affect their standing in the kingdom - Mt 5:19 How so...? a. Remember that the kingdom has a future aspect - Mt 7:21-23 b. Those who lived before the coming of the kingdom in its present sense (i.e., the church) could still be in the kingdom in its future sense 1) Note what is said about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob - Mt 8:11 2) But then notice what was said about the "sons of the kingdom," those Jews who by the Law had the right to inherit the kingdom but did not appreciate its fulfillment in the coming of Jesus Christ! - Mt 8:12 -- Thus, one's standing in the kingdom (in its future sense) would be affected by their treatment of whatever Law of God was in effect when they were alive! D. AN IMPORTANT QUESTION: "DID JESUS FULFILL THE LAW?" 1. If He did not... a. He failed His purpose in coming to this earth! - Mt 5:17 b. We had better observe the Law in its strictest sense! - Mt 5:18-19 (including circumcision, and not eating unclean meats!) 2. If He did... a. He accomplished His purpose! (notice Jn 17:4) b. We should not be surprised to find a NEW Law or Covenant governing God's people today 3. Indeed, Jesus must have fulfilled the Old Law... a. For there has been changes: 1) In the priesthood - He 7:11-14 2) In the Law itself - He 7:18-19,22 b. As the Law itself foretold, it has been replaced by a New Law - He 8:6-13 [Though Jesus ultimately fulfilled the Law and the Prophets, at the time He was preaching this sermon they had not been fulfilled. So, true to His statement in verse nineteen, He taught His disciples to be faithful to God's Law as it then stood. But what about the contrasts found in Mt 5:21-48? Are not these to be viewed as comparisons between the Old and New Law? Here are some thoughts along these lines...] II. THE CONTRAST MADE BY JESUS A. MANY UNDERSTAND JESUS WAS CONTRASTING THE "OLD" AND "NEW"... 1. I.e., comparing the "Law of Moses" with the "Law of Christ" which would govern His kingdom 2. This in essence has Jesus teaching: a. That the "Old Law" only condemned the outward actions b. But that the "New Law" introduced by Jesus condemned the inner conditions which lead to the outer actions B. HOWEVER, I UNDERSTAND THE CONTRAST TO BE DIFFERENT... 1. It was a contrast between: a. The "traditional interpretation and application" of the Law b. The "righteousness of the kingdom" Jesus would require of His disciples 2. In fact, Jesus demonstrated that the righteousness of the kingdom... a. Was not only contrary to the manner many had interpreted and applied the Law b. But was in harmony with the original spirit of the Law as given to Moses and the Israelites C. REASONS FOR SUCH A VIEW... 1. The other view would seem strange in light of verse 19 a. Jesus had just warned against any alteration of the commandments of the Law! b. The first view has Jesus doing the very thing He had just warned against! 2. If Jesus was referring to what Moses had commanded in the Law itself, it is likely different wording would have been used a. At other times, when Jesus was definitely referring to what the Law actually said, He prefaced it with things like: 1) "Moses commanded" - Mt 8:4 2) "It is written" - Mt 4:4,7,10 b. Instead, we find Jesus repeatedly using phrases more likely to refer to ORAL teachings and interpretations rather than the WRITTEN Word of God: 1) "You have heard that it was said to those of old" - Mt 5:21,27 2) "Furthermore it has been said" - Mt 5:31 3) "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old" - Mt 5:33 4) "You have heard that it was said" - Mt 5:38,43 3. In two of the contrasts, Jesus refers to statements not even found in the Law of Moses! a. "...and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment" - Mt 5:21 b. "...and hate your enemy" - Mt 5:43 -- Here, Jesus reacted, not to the Law itself, but to the way it was often used! 4. We should also remember that the "Law and the Prophets" were just as concerned with the inner thoughts of the heart as the Law of Christ is - cf. Deut 6:4-7; Isa 29:13-14 CONCLUSION 1. So Jesus came... a. Not to destroy the Law, but to fulfill the Law b. Which He did, by fulfilling its many prophecies -- That Law has now been replaced by the New Covenant of our Lord 2. In illustrating the righteousness expected of those under the New Covenant, Jesus will... a. Contrast it with the traditional interpretations and applications orally handed down b. Demonstrate how our righteousness must indeed exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees! In our next lesson, we shall begin looking at the righteousness Jesus demands...
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" The Influence Of The Kingdom (5:13-16) INTRODUCTION 1. In "The Beatitudes" (Mt 5:3-12), we saw... a. The character of those who would be citizens of the kingdom b. The blessedness of the citizens described 2. In the final beatitude, Jesus implied the attitude the world would often display towards the citizens of the kingdom - Mt 5:10-12 a. The world would revile and persecute those in the kingdom b. The world would say all kinds of evil against them falsely for His sake c. The world would persecute them just as it persecuted the prophets before them -- Thus the influence of the world upon the kingdom would often be one of persecution 3. Jesus then proceeded to describe the opposite... a. The influence of the kingdom upon the world b. The impact the kingdom was designed to have upon those in the world [He uses two metaphors in doing so. The first, in Mt 5:13, involves the figure of salt...] I. "YOU ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH" A. SALT HAS SEVERAL CHARACTERISTICS... 1. It is white, enhances flavor, preserves, etc. 2. Based on the context, it is probably salt's ability to enhance flavor to which Jesus refers in his illustration a. Notice: "...but if the salt loses its flavor..." b. Salt has the ability to give flavor to that which is otherwise bland c. Job mentioned this ability in Job 6:6 B. THROUGH THE METAPHOR OF "SALT"... 1. Jesus depicts the relationship of the citizens of the kingdom to the world as one of: a. Making the world palatable (bearable) to God, and possibly to others as well b. Perhaps making it possible for God to continue to bear with this world and its "distasteful" wickedness 2. The idea that the "righteous few" can make it is easier for God to forbear the many wicked is illustrated: a. In Abraham's conversation with God over Sodom - Gen 18: 20-32 b. In God's dealing with Jerusalem - Jer 5:1 -- So from God's point of view, the citizens of the kingdom give the world what good "flavor" it has! C. JESUS WARNS AGAINST LOSING OUR FLAVORING ABILITY! 1. With pure salt... a. It actually never loses its flavor b. But when mixed with impurities salt can lose its ability to enhance flavor 2. We too might lose our ability to be a "flavoring agent" for the world... a. By allowing "impurities" into our lives - 1Co 15:33 b. Therefore, we need to keep ourselves from sin - Ep 5:3-7 D. IF WE LOSE OUR "FLAVOR"... 1. How are we going to be "seasoned"? (impurities prevent us from being useful) 2. We will be thrown out! a. Is Jesus teaching the possibility of losing our salvation? b. He certainly does elsewhere! - Mt 13:40-43; Re 3:15-16 [First of all, then, we are told of the relationship of the kingdom to the world FROM GOD'S POINT OF VIEW: "You are the salt of the earth." In Mt 5:14-16, we find Jesus teaching concerning those in the kingdom as to their PRIMARY FUNCTION in the world...] II. "YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD" A. USED BY GOD TO TRANSMIT HIS GLORY TO THE WORLD... 1. They are "lights" in a dark world - Php 2:14-15 2. Their purpose: to proclaim the praises of God! - 1Pe 2:9; Ep 5:8b-9 B. THEY ARE NOT A "LIGHT" IN AND OF THEMSELVES... 1. Only in the Lord - Ep 5:8a 2. Christ is the "true" or "original" light - Jn 8:12 3. Citizens of the kingdom are simply "luminaries" reflecting The One True Light, just as the moon reflects the sun - 2Co 4:6 C. THEIR TWOFOLD RESPONSIBILITY AS "THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD"... 1. They must be visible a. Implied by Jesus in His use of a "city" and a "lampstand" as metaphors b. Jesus therefore expects His followers to be seen by the world - e.g., Jn 13:35; 17:21 2. They must radiate (give light) a. This principle conveyed by the idea of the lamp 1) Designed to shine on a lampstand 2) Not put under a basket b. This principle explicitly stated in "let your light SO SHINE before men" -- The purpose of such visible radiation: so men may glorify the Father in heaven - e.g., 1Pe 2:11-12; 2Co 9:12-13 CONCLUSION 1. The influence and impact that the citizens of the kingdom are to have on the world can be simply stated... a. "You are the salt of the earth" b. "You are the light of the world" 2. Why make the effort to be salt and light? Because of He who is described as "your Father who is in heaven"! a. An expression which should remind us that God is both: 1) Tender (He is our "Father"; a term of tenderness) 2) Majestic (He is "in heaven") b. Such a Majestic Being, willing to be our Father, makes Him: 1) Worthy to be pleased! 2) And worthy to be praised! 3. We who claim to be the children of God, citizens of the kingdom, are we: a. Pleasing to our Father (by being "the salt of the earth")? b. Praising Him (by being "the light of the world")? If not, then may the prayer of David in Ps 51:10-15 become our own: Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, The God of my salvation, And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" The Beatitudes - II (5:3-12) INTRODUCTION 1. At the beginning of "The Sermon On The Mount," we find that section of Scripture commonly referred to as "The Beatitudes" - Mt 3:3-12 a. The word "beatitude" means "supreme blessedness or happiness" b. We find Jesus discussing the blessedness of those who possess certain qualities 2. As suggested in the previously lesson, it is as though Jesus was answering two questions people might have been asking: a. Who will be the citizens of "the kingdom of heaven"? b. What benefits do they receive? 3. In our previous study, we looked at the "The Beatitudes" from the viewpoint of the question: "Who will be the citizens of the kingdom?" a. We saw that their character would involve eight inter-related qualities b. We saw that they would be poor in spirit, mourning for their sins, meek, hungering for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and willing to suffer persecution 4. In this study, we shall look at "The Beatitudes" from the viewpoint of the question: "What benefits do they receive?" a. Is the kingdom of heaven worth the effort to develop such qualities of character? b. Is the kingdom of heaven worth whatever persecution we might endure? [I believe the answer is a resounding "Yes!" This becomes apparent as we take time to consider the blessedness of the citizens of the kingdom...] I. THEIR BENEFITS SUMMARIZED IN ONE WORD A. THAT WORD IS "BLESSED"... 1. It is the first word of the sermon a. Just as it is the first word of the Psalms - Ps 1:1 b. Just as it is found in the beginning words of Revelation - Re 1:3 2. It is used nine times in nine verses (which is why this section is called "The Beatitudes") B. THIS WORD INVOLVES GREAT JOY AND GLADNESS... 1. It can literally mean, "how very happy!" is the one described 2. We can also infer this from Mt 5:12 a. "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad..." b. Or as found in Luke: "Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!" - Lk 6:23 [The benefit of being in the kingdom of heaven is the condition of blessedness, a state of true happiness! To understand why, let's now look at...] II. THEIR BENEFITS ARE BOTH PRESENT AND FUTURE A. "THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN"... 1. As defined in a previous lesson (cf. Mt 4:17), those who receive the kingdom... a. Are under the kingly rule of God b. Are in a spiritual kingdom 1) Which today involves being in the "church," the present manifestation of the "kingdom of heaven" - Mt 16:18; Col 1:13; Re 1:9 2) Which will involve the "new heavens and new earth" in the kingdom's future and eternal manifestation - Mt 25: 34; 2Pe 1:10,11; 3:13; Re 21-22 2. Note that the first (5:3) and last (5:10) beatitudes include this expression... a. Which I take to imply that the blessings in between likewise apply to those in the kingdom b. Just as the kingdom is both present and future, we shall observe that the blessings described involve both present and future B. "THEY SHALL BE COMFORTED"... 1. This is in reference to those who mourn over their sins and spiritual poverty 2. They are comforted even now - 2Co 1:3-5 3. They shall be comforted in the future - Re 21:1-4 C. "THEY SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH"... 1. In one sense, they inherit it now a. As a result of putting the kingdom of God first - Mt 6:33; Mk 10:29-30 b. Though they may have less than some who are wicked, God enables them to enjoy it more! - Ec 5:19-6:2 c. This explanation seems to be consistent with the context of Psalms 37, from which the phrase was taken - Ps 37:1-11, 16-29 2. But in another sense, there yet remains a promise concerning a "new earth" for those in the kingdom now - 2Pe 3:10-13 D. "THEY SHALL BE FILLED"... 1. That is, with the righteousness which we so desperately need, found only in Christ - Php 3:8-9 2. Received presently, through the precious blood of Christ - Ro 5:9 3. Received in fullness when adorned in the white linen of righteousness in preparation for the marriage of the Lamb - Re 19:5-9 E. "THEY SHALL OBTAIN MERCY"... 1. Those in the kingdom enjoy the forgiveness of sins now through the blood of Jesus - Re 1:5-6 2. They shall also be shown mercy in the future by escaping the righteous wrath of God in the Day of Judgment - Ro 5:9 F. "THEY SHALL SEE GOD"... 1. Presently, citizens of the kingdom can see God through their Lord Jesus Christ - Jn 14:6-7 2. But in the future, we shall see him face to face - Re 21:3; 22:3-4 G. "THEY SHALL BE CALLED SONS OF GOD"... 1. Even now we are called the sons of God - 1Jn 3:1-2 2. How much more so, in the future! - Re 21:5-7 CONCLUSION 1. Perhaps we can better understand why those in "the kingdom of heaven" are truly called "Blessed", for while... a. Poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven! b. Mourning for their sins, they shall be comforted! c. Meek in their relation to God and man, they shall inherit the earth! d. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness, they shall be filled! e. Merciful to others, they shall obtain mercy! f. Pure in heart, they shall see God! g. Makers of peace, they shall be called sons of God! h. Persecuted for righteousness' sake, theirs is the kingdom of heaven! 2. Certainly the benefits of the kingdom outweigh anything this world has to offer, or any persecution it might inflict! a. For there are blessings now "in this life" b. And there are blessings "in the age to come" - Mk 10:28-30 2. But the "blessedness" of the citizens is only for those who have the "characteristics" of the citizens in ever-increasing measure... a. Do we have the qualities described in "The Beatitudes"? b. If not, do not the blessings described in "The Beatitudes" encourage us to develop such qualities? May this sermon of Jesus motivate us to examine our attitudes, to see if there is not room for improvement in our relationships with both God and our fellow man!
How Big Is a Giant?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Who could ever forget the thrilling story of a youth named David who defeated the Philistine champion, Goliath? Touching the hearts of all “underdogs,” this story has become the battle cry for thousands who have found themselves up against a “giant.” But, due to Goliath’s status as a giant, some might view the tale of his defeat as a fable or myth. After all, don’t giants live at the top of huge beanstalks or under bridges waiting to grind bones into bread or gobble up passers-by? Surely, no reasonable adult is expected to believe that there is (or ever was) such a thing as a real giant.
The word “giant” conjures up all kinds of mental images. Probably the most common images are those of a huge, beastly fellow who stands at least 30 feet tall and makes monstrous imprints with his feet—imprints so impressive that they could be used as watering ponds for cattle. However, the biblical description of Goliath does not quite fit that mold. The text of 1 Samuel 17:4 states that Goliath’s height was “six cubits and a span.” Several suggestions as to the length of a cubit have been offered by Bible scholars. The most commonly accepted is the idea that a cubit was the measurement from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow, or about 18-21 inches. A span was the distance between the tip of the pinky finger and the thumb, about half a cubit, which equals about 9 inches (Elwell, 1988, p. 2136). Given these dimensions, Goliath was about 9 feet 9 inches tall. The text goes on to say that he had a coat of armor that weighed 5,000 shekels (1 Samuel 17:5). Referring again to Elwell’s Encyclopedia of the Bible, that armor would have weighed about 125 pounds. Also, the tip of his spear, which weighed 600 shekels, would have been about 15 pounds. The picture, then, that we are given is of a man about 9½ feet tall, who wore armor that weighed more that most fifth graders, and who carried a spear that had a tip which weighed as much as a trophy-sized large-mouth bass. This man was huge, but he was a far cry from the 30-feet-tall mythical characters we often envision.
In fact, documentation for other men reaching close to Goliath’s stature can be found in ancient writings, as well as modern records. The ancient historian, Herodotus, wrote about a man named Artachaees, who “was the biggest man in Persia—about 8 ft 2 ins. high—and had the loudest voice in the world” (1996, p. 408). Furthermore, most wrestling fans will recall the huge stature of “Andre the Giant,” who weighed in at about 500 pounds and reached a height of 7 feet 4 inches tall. The Guinness World Record group has something to say about large stature as well. Simply go to their Web site at www.guinnessworldrecords.com, type in the word “tallest,” do a little scrolling, and you will see all kinds of stature marvels. Take, for instance, one of the tallest NBA players in history, Gheorghe Muresan, who stands 7 feet 7 inches and can virtually dunk a basketball without jumping. Or consider the tallest man documented in modern times, Robert Pershing Wadlow, “for whom there is irrefutable evidence,” states the Guinness writer. On June 27, 1940, he was measured to be 2.72 meters or 8 feet 11.1 inches. Go to www.nightscribe.com/Sports_Recreation/tallest_folks.htm and see even more giants who hover around the 8 feet mark.
Granted, we have little documentation, besides Goliath, for any nine-footers, but Robert Wadlow surely opens the door of plausibility for the Philistine. In fact, after looking at just a few of the world’s tallest people, there is no legitimate reason to discount the Bible’s description of its most famous giant. When all the evidence is in, the story of David and Goliath remains a true victory for the “underdog”—one that cannot be relegated to the status of myth or legend. The story also reminds us that “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
REFERENCESElwell, Walter A., ed. (1988), Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Herodotus (1996), The Histories, transl. Aubrey De Sẻlincourt (New York: Penguin Books).
“Tallest Famous Folks” (no date), [On-line], URL: http://www.nightscribe.com/Sports_Recreation/tallest_folks.htm.
“Guinness World Records” (no date), [On-line], URL: http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com.
From Whence Came Morals?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
“[E]volutionary psychologists believe they are closing in on one of the remaining mysteries of life, the universal ‘moral law’ that underlies our intuitive notions of good and evil.” Such were the words of Newsweek senior editor Jerry Adler in his article, titled “The New Naysayers” (2006).
It has long been understood that morality exists (see Taylor, 1945, p. 83). Even the most renowned atheists have admitted such (see Simpson, 1967, p. 346): there is good and there is evil; there is right and there is wrong. Different people draw the moral line at different places, but “they all agree that there is such a line to be drawn” (Taylor, 1945, p. 83). Why?
Why are humans moral beings if, as evolutionists teach, we merely evolved from lifeless, mindless, unconscious matter over billions of years? Why do humans feel a sense of “ought” to help the poor, weak, and oppressed if we simply evolved by the natural law of “might makes right” (i.e., survival of the fittest)? Adler highlighted Richard Dawkins in his “New Naysayers” article as one of three scholars who “argue that atheism is smarter” (2006, p. 47). Apparently, one example of atheism’s superiority comes from evolutionists’ new explanation for morality, which they describe as “one of the remaining mysteries of life” (p. 48). According to Adler,
Dawkins attempts to show how the highest of human impulses, such as empathy, charity and pity, could have evolved by the same mechanism of natural selection that created the thumb. Biologists understand that the driving force in evolution is the survival and propagation of our genes. They may impel us to instinctive acts of goodness...even when it seems counterproductive to our own interests—say, by risking our life to save someone else. Evolutionary psychology can explain how selfless behavior might have evolved (pp. 48-49, emp. added).And what exactly are these explanations? (1) “The recipient [of our acts of goodness—EL] may be a blood relation who carries some of our own genes.” (2) “Or our acts may earn us future gratitude, or reputation for bravery that makes us more desirable as mates.” (3) “The impulse for generosity must have evolved while humans lived in small bands in which almost everyone was related, so that goodness became the default human aspiration” (p. 49).
There you have it—atheism’s “smarter” explanations for morality. Although the “driving force” of evolution—natural selection—runs contrariwise to such moral, human impulses as empathy, charity, and pity, now we are told it “may impel us to instinctive acts of goodness...even when it seems counterproductive to our own interests” (p. 48). In summary, our sense of moral “oughtness” allegedly comes (1) from wanting to pass on our genes, (2) from a desire to be a hero and gain popularity, and/or (3) by default.
In actuality, “smarter” atheism is as foolish as ever (Psalm 14:1; 1 Corinthians 1:25). The desire to pass on one’s genes or to be a hero fails to explain the origins of human morality. When a person sees an unfamiliar child hanging from a six-story balcony and feels compelled to save that child from death (even though no one is watching), that sense of moral obligation must be explained in some way other than evolution. When a person is compelled to spend valuable time, money, and energy to help a poor stranger survive, even though such action may mean risking injury or death, naturalistic explanations simply will not do. To say, “goodness became the default human aspiration” is simply a copout for lacking an adequate naturalistic explanation.
Morality exists and makes sense only if there is a God, because only God could have created it. If all naturalistic explanations for the existence of morality have been shown to be inadequate, by default, the only logical explanation must be Supernatural (i.e., God).
Simpson, George Gaylord (1967), The Meaning of Evolution (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press), revised edition.
Taylor, A.E. (1945), Does God Exist? (London: Macmillan).
Does “Baptism into Moses” Justify Infant Baptism?
|by||Caleb Colley, Ph.D.|
Those who support infant baptism sometimes appeal to 1 Corinthians 10:2 to justify their position. The passage states that “all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea”—a direct reference to Exodus 14:22. Baptism into Moses is entirely different from baptism into Christ, but those who defend infant baptism assert that, because Paul called the crossing of the Red Sea a “baptism,” many infants and young children must have been “baptized” when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. What did Paul mean when he wrote that “our fathers” all were “baptized into Moses”?
In 1 Corinthians 10, the inspired apostle did not discuss baptism, how to obtain forgiveness of sin, or entrance into the church. Paul referenced the sins of the children of Israel to warn the Christians in Corinth (see Mare, 1976, pp. 248-249). The meaning of baptism (in 1 Corinthians 10:2) is both literal and figurative. The Israelites were baptized—not in the sense that they were baptized for religious reasons, but in the sense that they were literally surrounded by water, though the water did not touch them. This is a legitimate use of the word “baptism.” When a body is buried in a cemetery, for example, the body is “immersed” in the ground (surrounded by dirt), though a casket prevents any dirt from actually touching the body. In that sense, the children of Israel were submerged in the Red Sea. Paul also wrote of baptism in a figurative sense: the Israelites were “baptized into Moses,” in that they devoted themselves to his leadership and, through him, God’s leadership. G.G. Findlay explained:
The cloud, shading and guiding the Israelites from above, and the “sea” making a path for them through its midst and drowning their enemies behind them, were glorious signs to “our fathers” of God’s salvation; together they formed a washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5), inaugurating the national covenant life; as it trode the miraculous path between upper and nether waters, Israel was born into its Divine estate. Thus “they all received their baptism unto Moses, entering through him into acknowledged fellowship with God; even so the Corinthians in the use of the same symbolic element had been baptized unto Christ (cf. Romans 6:3f., Galatians 3:27)” [n.d., p. 857, parenthetical items in orig.].Baptism into Christ is not mandated by Exodus 14:22, though the example of the Red Sea crossing metaphorically foreshadows baptism into Christ, as does the water of the Flood (1 Peter 3:20-21; see Lenski, 1937, p. 391). In Exodus 14, however, the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea in order to save their physical lives, not to save their eternal souls (plus, the “baptism” of Exodus 14 was instituted by Moses hundreds of years before the baptism of Christ came into effect). There is no identification of the proper candidate for baptism in either 1 Corinthians 10:2 or Exodus 14:22, so infant baptism cannot be justified by either passage.
If the Holy Spirit did not author a discussion of baptism into Moses in order to authorize infant baptism, why did He write about baptism into Moses? First, observe that when the children of Israel were baptized “into Moses,” they made a conscious decision to completely follow Moses’ leadership. Some Israelites had been quite critical of Moses’ leadership because he brought the people out of Egyptian slavery (Exodus 14:10-12). Others likely admired Moses, and were willing to follow Moses and Aaron out of Egypt, but following Moses across the parted Red Sea necessitated a higher level of trust. It was not a given that all the people would be eager to obey Moses’ command to “go forward” (verse 15). Following Moses’ instruction was not the only option available to the children of Israel (though choosing to disobey Moses meant almost certain death). Before crossing the Red Sea, the children of Israel made a commitment to obey Moses, and, in turn, to serve God. In the same way, people are baptized into Christ when they decide to stop sinning and serve the Lord, i.e., they are separated from the world and consecrated to God (Acts 2:37-38; Acts 22:16; see Kistemaker, 2002, p. 322). This point destroys infants’ candidacy for baptism.
Second, notice that the waters of the Red Sea, in dividing, did not save the children of Israel on its own—water is, by itself, incapable of defying the Law of Gravity. It was only by the power of God, in moving the waters, that Israel was preserved. Similarly, the waters of baptism are not magical or miraculous. It is not the water itself that washes away sin and saves souls. Rather, it is God Who forgives sin when someone is baptized, and He continues to forgive the sins of those who penitently serve Him (Matthew 26:28; Acts 8:13; 22:16; Romans 4:7,8; 1 Peter 3:21; 1 John 1:7). However, God never said that He would forgive the sins of one who did not believe on Him (or could not believe on Him, i.e., those incapable of belief need no forgiveness, because they have not sinned; see 2 Thessalonians 2:14; Romans 10:16; McGarvey, n.d., p. 40).
Third, most of the children of Israel who crossed the Red Sea as a result of their obedience to Moses died in the wilderness because they disobeyed God sometime after they crossed the sea. Similarly, just because someone is baptized into Christ and forgiven of sin, does not mean that he can never lose his salvation or fall out of favor with God. To the contrary, the Bible teaches that one can lose his salvation (Galatians 5:1,4; Hebrews 3:1,12; James 5:19,20).
Fourth, the example of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea should make every Christian more appreciative of the sacrifice of Christ. Just as God provided the only means of physical escape to the captive Israelites, God has provided us with the blood of Christ, which cleanses our souls from sin, providing the only means of escape from eternal spiritual death. God used the cloud and the Red Sea to “separate” an identified people—His chosen people. Today, the church makes up God’s spiritual Israel—those who are saved are members of the Lord’s church (Galatians 3; Ephesians 1:22-23; Hebrews 8).
REFERENCESFindlay, G.G. (no date), The Expositor’s Greek Testament, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Lenski, Robert C.H. (1937), The Interpretation of I and II Corinthians (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Mare, W. Harold (1976), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: 1 Corinthians, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
McGarvey, J.W. (no date), Commentary on Acts (Cincinnati, OH: Standard).
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Through the years, some theologians have used Philippians 2:6-7 to defend the idea that the second Person of the Godhead, at the time of the incarnation (when “the Word became flesh”—John 1:14), “emptied Himself” of deity. It has been alleged that whereas Christ existed in the “form of God” prior to the incarnation, He “emptied” himself of that status while on Earth.
Despite the popularity of such ideas in some religious circles, they cannot be proven by citing Philippians 2:6-7 or any other passage in the Bible. In Philippians 2:7, Paul wrote that Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men.” Exactly what did the apostle mean by the phrase, “emptied himself”? Because it is assumed that the verb “emptied” (Greek ekenōsen) requires an object (a genitive qualifier), then Christ must have “emptied himself” of something. However, as Gordon Fee has mentioned in his commentary on Philippians, “Christ did not empty Himself of anything, the text simply says that He emptied himself, He poured Himself out” (1995, p. 210, emp. added). The NIV seems to have captured this sense by stating that He “made himself nothing” (emp. added). The Greek word kenόō literally means “to empty; to make empty; or to make vain or void.” This word is rendered “made void” in Romans 4:14, where Paul stated that “faith is made void.” Faith did not empty itself of anything, rather faith emptied itself. Similarly, commenting on Jesus death as if it had already occurred, Isaiah wrote: “He [Jesus—EL] poured out his soul unto death” (Isaiah 53:12). What did Christ pour out? Himself.
But how does Philippians 2:7 say Christ emptied Himself? “Grammatically, Paul explains the ‘emptying’ of Jesus in the next phrase: ‘Taking the form of a servant and coming in the likeness of men’” (Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary). Unlike Adam and Eve, who made an attempt to seize equality with God (Genesis 3:5), Jesus, the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), humbled Himself and obediently accepted the role of the bondservant. As N.T. Wright stated: “The real humiliation of the incarnation and the cross is that the one who was himself God, and who never during the whole process stopped being God, could embrace such a vocation” (1986, p. 346).
Although this text does not instruct us regarding of what Christ emptied Himself, we can be assured that there was no change in His divine nature. While Jesus was on Earth, He claimed equality with God the Father (John 10:28) and allowed others to call him “God” (John 20:30; Matthew 16:16). He also accepted worship, even though He plainly taught that only God is worthy of worship (Matthew 8:2; Matthew 4:10). If one contends that Jesus was not divine while upon the Earth, then they make Him either a fraud or a madman.
Philippians 2:7 does not teach that Christ emptied himself of His deity. Rather, to His divinity He added humanity (i.e., He was “made in the likeness of men”). For the first time, He was subject to such things as hunger, thirst, pain, disease, and temptation (cf. John 19:28; Hebrews 4:15). In short, He came to Earth as a God-man.
REFERENCESBarnes’ Notes (1997), Electronic Database, Biblesoft.
Fee, Gordon D. (1995), Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary (1986), Electronic Database, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Biblesoft.
Wright, N.T. (1986), “αρπαγμός and the Meaning of Philippians 2:5-11,” Journal of Theological Studies, 37:321-52, April.
Big Bang or "Big Crunch"?
|by||Bert Thompson, Ph.D.|
Q.Some scientists have suggested that the Universe started via the “Big Bang,” and will collapse via a “Big Crunch.” Then the whole process will start all over again. Does such a concept have any merit?
The origin and destiny of the Universe always have been important topics in the creation/evolution controversy. In the past, evolutionists went to great extremes to avoid scenarios that suggested a Universe with a beginning or ending, because such scenarios posed bothersome philosophical questions (“What came before the beginning?” or “What will come after the ending?”). Only theories that guaranteed an eternal Universe were worthy of consideration.
For a time, Hoyle’s Steady State hypothesis was quite popular. Eventually, however, it was discarded for several reasons. Cosmologist John Barrow suggested that the Steady State theory sprang “from a belief that the universe did not have a beginning.... The specific theory they proposed fell into conflict with observation long ago” (1991, p. 46). Indeed, the Steady State theory did fall “into conflict with observation” for a number of reasons. First, new theoretical concepts being proposed at the time were completely at odds with the Steady State model. Second, empirical observations no longer agreed with the model (see Gribbin, 1986). And third, it violated the First Law of Thermodynamics, which states that neither matter nor energy may be created or destroyed in nature. Therefore, the Steady State model was abandoned.
The Big Bang model replaced the Steady State theory by postulating that all the matter/energy in the observable Universe was condensed into a particle smaller than a single proton (the famous “cosmic egg”). The Big Bang model, however, suffered from at least two major problems. First, it required that the “cosmic egg” be eternal—a concept clearly at odds with the Second Law of Thermodynamics. John Gribbin, a highly regarded evolutionary cosmologist, voiced the opinion of many when he said: “The biggest problem with the Big Bang theory of the origin of the Universe is philosophical—perhaps even theological—what was there before the bang?” (1976, pp. 15-16).
Second, the expansion of the Universe could not go on forever; it had to end somewhere. The Universe had a beginning, and would have an ending. Robert Jastrow has addressed both of these points: “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” (1978, pp. 48-49). Matter could not be eternal, because eternal things do not run down. Furthermore, there was going to be an end at some point in the future.
Such a scenario is unacceptable to evolutionists. Jastrow himself admitted: “Astronomers try not to be influenced by philosophical considerations. However, the idea of a Universe that has both a beginning and an end is distasteful to the scientific mind” (1977, p. 31). To avoid any vestige of a beginning, or any hint of an ending, evolutionists invented the Oscillating Universe model (also known as the Big Bang/Big Crunch model, the Expansion/ Collapse model, etc.). Dr. Gribbin suggested: “[T]he best way around this initial difficulty is provided by a model in which the Universe expands from a singularity, collapses back again, and repeats the cycle indefinitely” (1976, pp. 15-16).
That is to say, there was a Big Bang; but there also will be a Big Crunch, at which time the matter of the Universe will collapse back onto itself. There will be a “bounce,” followed by another Big Bang, which will be followed by another Big Crunch, and this process will be repeated ad infinitum. In the Big Bang model, there is a permanent end; not so in the Oscillating Universe model, as Dr. Jastrow explained:
But many astronomers reject this picture of a dying Universe. They believe that the expansion of the Universe will not continue forever because gravity, pulling back on the outward-moving galaxies, must slow their retreat. If the pull of gravity is sufficiently strong, it may bring the expansion to a halt at some point in the future.
What will happen then? The answer is the crux of this theory. The elements of the Universe, held in a balance between the outward momentum of the primordial explosion and the inward force of gravity, stand momentarily at rest; but after the briefest instant, always drawn together by gravity, they commence to move toward one another. Slowly at first, and then with increasing momentum, the Universe collapses under the relentless pull of gravity. Soon the galaxies of the Cosmos rush toward one another with an inward movement as violent as the outward movement of their expansion when the Universe exploded earlier. After a sufficient time, they come into contact; their gases mix; their atoms are heated by compression; and the Universe returns to the heat and chaos from which it emerged many billions of years ago (1978, p. 118).The description provided by Dr. Jastrow is that commonly referred to in the literature as the “Big Crunch.” But the obvious question is—after that, then what? Again, Jastrow explained:
No one knows. Some astronomers say the Universe will never come out of this collapsed state. Others speculate that the Universe will rebound from the collapse in a new explosion, and experience a new moment of Creation. According to this view, our Universe will be melted down and remade in the caldron of the second Creation. It will become an entirely new world, in which no trace of the existing Universe remains....
This theory envisages a Cosmos that oscillates forever, passing through an infinite number of moments of creation in a never-ending cycle of birth, death and rebirth. It unites the scientific evidence for an explosive moment of creation with the concept of an eternal Universe. It also has the advantage of being able to answer the question: What preceded the explosion? (1978, pp. 119- 120).
Of what benefit would a Big Bang/Big Crunch/Big Bang scenario be? Theoretically, as I have noted already, the benefit to evolutionists is that they do not have to explain a Universe with absolute beginnings or endings. A cyclical Universe that expands and contracts infinitely is much more acceptable than one that demands explanations for both its origin and destiny. Practically, there is no benefit that derives from such a scenario. Astronomer Carl Sagan of Cornell University noted:
...information from our universe would not trickle into that next one and, from our vantage point, such an oscillating cosmology is as definitive and depressing an end as the expansion that never stops (1979, pp. 13-14).Could the Oscillating Universe model be tested scientifically? Gribbin felt that it could.
The key factors which determine the ultimate fate of the Universe are the amount of matter it contains and the rate at which it is expanding.... In simple terms, the Universe can only expand forever if it is exploding faster than the “escape velocity” from itself.... If the density of matter across the visible Universe we see today is sufficient to halt the expansion we can observe today, then the Universe has always been exploding at less than its own escape velocity, and must eventually be slowed down so much that the expansion is first halted and then converted into collapse. On the other hand, if the expansion we observe today is proceeding fast enough to escape from the gravitational clutches of the matter we observe today, then the Universe is and always was “open” and will expand forever (1981, p. 313).Does scientific evidence support the theory of an “oscillating” Universe? The success or failure of this theory depends, in part, on the amount of matter contained in the Universe, since there must be enough matter for gravity to “pull back” to cause the Big Crunch. This is one reason why cold dark matter is so important. Dr. Gribbin has said: “This, in a nutshell, is one of the biggest problems in cosmology today, the puzzle of the so-called missing mass” (1981, pp. 315-316). In discussing the Oscillating Universe model, astronomers speak of a “closed” or an “open” Universe. If the Universe is closed, theoretically the Big Crunch could occur, and an oscillating Universe becomes a viable possibility. If the Universe is open, the expansion of the Universe will continue and the Big Crunch will not occur, making an oscillating Universe impossible. Joseph Silk remarked: “The balance of evidence does point to an open model of the universe” (1980, p. 309, emp. added). Gribbin commented: “The consensus among astronomers today is that the universe is open” (1981, p. 316, emp. added). Jastrow observed: “Thus, the facts indicate that the universe will expand forever” (1978, p. 123, emp. added). Recent evidence seems to indicate that an oscillating Universe is a physical impossibility (see Chaisson, 1992).
Evolutionary cosmologist John Wheeler has drawn the following conclusion based on the scientific evidence: “With gravitational collapse we come to the end of time. Never out of the equations of general relativity has one been able to find the slightest argument for a ‘re-expansion’ of a ‘cyclic universe’ or anything other than an end” (1977, p. 15). As Ross has admitted: “Attempts...to use oscillation to avoid a theistic beginning for the universe all fail” (1991, p. 105). No one yet has improved on Genesis 1— “In the beginning, God created....”
Chaisson, E.J. (1992), “Early Results from the Hubble Space Telescope,” Scientific American, 266:44-51, June.
Gribbin, John (1976), “Oscillating Universe Bounces Back,” Nature, 259:15-16.
Gribbin, John (1981), Genesis: The Origins of Man and the Universe (New York: Delacorte).
Gribbin, John (1986), In Search of the Big Bang (New York: Bantam).
Jastrow, Robert (1977), Until the Sun Dies (New York: W.W. Norton).
Jastrow, Robert (1978), God and the Astronomers (New York: W.W. Norton).
Ross, Hugh (1991), The Fingerprint of God (Orange, CA: Promise Publishing).
Sagan, Carl (1979), “Will It All End in a Fireball?,” Science Digest, 86:13-14, September.
Silk, Joseph (1980), The Big Bang (San Francisco, CA: W.H. Freeman).
Wheeler, John (1977), “Genesis and Observership,” Foundational Problems in the Special Sciences (Dordrecht, Holland: Reidel).
Does the Bible Approve of Homosexuality?
|by||Brad Bromling, D.Min.|
It is becoming increasingly common to read and hear arguments made in defense of homosexuality. Usually no appeal is made to Scripture. However, on occasion, books and articles appear that attempt to address the biblical passages that discuss the subject. This article is a brief response to common claims about the Bible and homosexuality.
While it is true to say that Sodom was not destroyed merely because some of its citizens practiced homosexuality, it is false to say that Sodom was destroyed merely because its inhabitants were inhospitable and proud. The city was destroyed because its citizens were exceedingly sinful (Genesis 13:13). Ezekiel 16, which does mention their pride, also says they “committed abomination before” the Lord. Their actions at Lot’s doorstep reflected that sinfulness (Genesis 19:4-11). When the men of Sodom said they wanted to “know” the messengers of God, they obviously had sexual intentions in mind. This is clear from Lot’s unfortunate offer of his two daughters. Jude 7 reinforces this view as well: “As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”
It is true that the Mosaic legal/holiness code was nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14). However, to trivialize the code by placing all items in it on the same level is dubious. The Levitical condemnation of homosexual behavior is treated differently than the legislations against mixing cloths and sowing mixed seed. The former was under penalty of death; the latter were not (Leviticus 19:19). A better, though more unpleasant, analogy to the Levitical view of homosexuality is seen in the prohibitions against incest and bestiality, which are mentioned in the same context (Leviticus 20:14-16ff.).
WHAT DID JESUS SAY?
In response, it should be noted that Jesus’ silence on the issue is no argument that He approved of homosexuality. He never specifically addressed the issues of pedophilia, bestiality, or any number of other sexual perversions. Does this mean that Jesus approved of whatever He did not condemn by name? Are we to think that as long as people feel love, it doesn’t matter what they do? To ask is to answer. In fact, the Lord Jesus always spoke of sexual relations in heterosexual terms. What Jesus did say carries more weight than our views of what He did not say. Clearly, Jesus’ heterosexual view must be taken as normative (read Matthew 19:4-6 et al.).
1 CORINTHIANS 6 AND 1 TIMOTHY 1
Although the specific type of homosexual behavior mentioned in these two passages may be male prostitution and abusive homosexual practices, this does not in itself argue in favor of “loving, monogamous, homosexual” relationships. In fact, that concept is foreign to the New Testament. Both of these passages do condemn “fornication.” Fornication is a broad term that includes homosexuality. This is so for two reasons: (1) fornication refers to illicit sexual behavior; and (2) all sexual behavior that violates, is contrary to, or in addition to, the heterosexual behavior implied by a monogamous marriage, is illicit.
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.Proponents of homosexuality have tried to remove the force of this passage by suggesting that either Paul was expressing his own uninspired opinion, or he was merely laying the groundwork for his teaching on grace. So he was mainly concerned with idolatry, and not any sin in particular.
Although a biblical writer’s opinion might indeed appear in Scripture (e.g., 1 Corinthians 7:7), the suggestion that Romans 1:26-27 represents Paul’s uninspired opinion and is at variance with the rest of the Scripture, is erroneous. If we cannot trust Paul to express the will of God on this point, where can we trust him? What will be our standard? Unfortunately, our own opinions become the standard all too often.
The fact is, Paul meant exactly what Christians have long thought he meant—that homosexual behavior is symptomatic of sin in the world. This passage is not to be dismissed as too difficult to understand, or as an isolated passage that somehow is outweighed by an impressive array of passages teaching the opposite. Although this passage does not stand alone, from the standpoint of divine inspiration, one reference is enough.
Was the Sun Up, Down, or In Between?by Kyle Butt, M.Div.
Attempting to cite contradictions between the resurrection accounts of the four Gospels consistently has been an endeavor long on effort and Scripture-twisting but short on evidence and valid reasoning. For example, some Bible critics demand that the time of day at which the women visited the empty tomb of Jesus is different when the Gospel of John is compared with the other three accounts. Please read for yourself the four different accounts that follow (emphasis has been added to underscore the time of day under discussion).
Matthew 28:1: Now late on the sabbath day, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
Luke 24:1: But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came unto the tomb, bringing the spices which they had prepared.
Mark 16:2: And very early on the first day of the week, they come to the tomb when the sun was risen.
John 20:1: Now on the first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, while it was yet dark, unto the tomb.
First, please understand that if these four accounts were in any ancient book other than the Bible, they hardly would be questioned as contradictory. In fact, they most likely would be considered to be in perfect agreement. Yet the Bible often is scrutinized much more strictly than any other book that records ancient history. Consider this: if the above accounts were read to a group of third graders could they understand what time of day was under discussion? To ask is to answer. Everyone who reads the accounts can see quite plainly that the women visited the tomb sometime very early on the first day of the week.
Second, it is not difficult to understand how Mary Magdalene could have arrived at the tomb while it was yet dark, and as it began to dawn, and at early dawn. The fact is, it was so early that the Sun had not fully come up, and thus a hint of darkness lingered over the scene.
This alleged contradiction is easily reconciled, proving once again that the sum of God’s Word is truth (Psalm 119:160).
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on PentecostBefore His ascension, Jesus told His apostles: “Behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). “And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, 'which,' He said, 'you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now'” (Acts 1:4, 5).
fulfilled an age-old promise of God
fulfilled an age-old promise of God
Within a few days the apostles would receive special power when they were baptized with the Holy Spirit.
The approaching fulfillment of this promise was announced by John the Baptist.
“I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit'” (John 1:32, 33).
“I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:16, 17). [See also Matthew 3:11 and Mark 1:7, 8.]
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was promised in the Old Testament.
In about 750 BC God revealed through Isaiah: “'The Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,' says the LORD. 'As for Me,' says the LORD, 'this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendant's descendants,' says the LORD, 'from this time and forevermore'” (Isaiah 59:20, 21). God's Spirit would be upon the people of the New Covenant forever.
Isaiah said desolation would continue “until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high” (Isaiah 32:15). God told His righteous one (Jeshurun) not to fear: “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring” (Isaiah 44:3).
Also through Ezekiel, God said He would pour out His Spirit.
“Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19, 20). [See also Ezekiel 36:26, 27.]
“'And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,' says the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 39:29).
This promise was for all mankind: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28, 29).
On Pentecost this promise was fulfilled.
Two things happened that day that are often confused: (1) the apostles received power, (2) the Spirit was poured out on all flesh.
The apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit.
“Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1- 4).
This passage describes the outpouring of the Spirit on the apostles. 'They' refers to the apostles, mentioned in the last verse of chapter one. The apostles were Galileans, and according to verse seven all those who spoke in languages were Galileans. Verse fourteen states that Peter stood up with the eleven.
The baptism with the Spirit gave the apostles the divine guidance and power needed to establish the church of Christ. The mighty signs and the ability to be understood in many languages proved that they brought a message from God.
Later, the first Gentile converts were also baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Peter gave this report of the conversion of Cornelius and his household: “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, 'John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God” (Acts 11:15- 17).
Peter's statement “as upon us at the beginning” indicates that this was not an ordinary conversion.
'Them' refers to the Gentiles and 'us' refers to the Jews.
The purpose of this outpouring of the Holy Spirit was to prove to the Jews that Gentiles could become Christians. This is evident from the response of the Jewish Christians: “When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, 'Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life'” (Acts 11:18). They understood that this outpouring was for all Gentiles and not only for the household of Cornelius. Like Pentecost, this was a one-time occurrence with eternal consequences.
Later, Peter refers back to this occasion as the time when God gave the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles: “And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: 'Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So, God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:7-9).
No other instances of baptism with the Holy Spirit are found in the New Testament.
The baptism with the Holy Spirit served to usher in the kingdom of God, first for the Jews and then for the Gentiles. In the first case, the apostles were empowered. In the second case, God confirmed that the Gentiles could enter the kingdom with 'no distinction'.
On Pentecost the Spirit was poured out on all flesh.
Under the old covenant certain people were filled with the Holy Spirit but the Spirit was not available to every believer. Even during the ministry of Jesus, the Spirit had not yet come: “'He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:38, 39).
The Spirit could not come until Jesus was glorified. That is why Peter said on Pentecost: “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33).
The apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. But something else happened as well. The Holy Spirit was poured out on all flesh: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh” (Acts 2:17).
What does this mean? Did all people on earth receive the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost? Assuredly not. But because the Spirit came on Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit became available to all. Since that day, the water of life can be obtained by anyone who comes to Christ: “And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' And let him who thirsts come. And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).
Although he did not fully understand it himself, Peter proclaimed on Pentecost that the promise was also for the Gentiles: “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39). From a comparison of Isaiah 57:19 with Ephesians 2:11, 17 we know that those “who are afar off” are the Gentiles.
But this was difficult for Jews to accept, even for Peter. Thus God confirmed it by pouring out the Holy Spirit on the first Gentile converts (Acts 11:15-17; 15:7-9).
Since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit is available to all who repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38, 39). The outpouring on the household of Cornelius verified that the gift of the Holy Spirit is also available to Gentiles (Acts 11:18).
Since Pentecost, the Holy Spirit continues to be with us, as Jesus promised: “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16, 17).
This is why, after the conversion of Cornelius, the Holy Spirit was never poured out again as on Pentecost. The Spirit has come and is with us forever (John 14:16)!
When some people now ask God to pour out the Holy Spirit as on the Day of Pentecost, that is something like asking God to raise Jesus from the dead! He is already risen, He has already ascended to the Father, and He has already poured out the Holy Spirit on all flesh!
What is the gift of the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is given to each Christian: “And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us” (1 John 3:24). “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).
“For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 4:7, 8).
God “has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:22). “Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 5:5). This is the basis of our hope: “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5).
The gift of the Holy Spirit received by all Christians may not be confused with the 'gifts' (plural) of the Holy Spirit received by certain Christians in the first century through the laying on of the apostles' hands (Acts 5:12; 8:18; 2 Timothy 1:6).
Receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit does not enable us to perform signs such as speaking in a language we have not learned or raising the dead.
It does mean that we have 'living water' within us (John 7:37-39). We have 'the comfort of the Holy Spirit' (Acts 9:31). We are 'strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man' (Ephesians 3:16).
How do we receive this promise?
Since Pentecost the Spirit is available to all. But how do I receive the Spirit?
When the hearers on Pentecost asked Peter what they should do, he did not say that they should ask God to pour out the Spirit on them as he poured it out on the apostles!
“Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38, 39). At baptism we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Nor do we read that the 3000 baptized on the Day of Pentecost spoke in tongues or did signs and wonders.
After Pentecost the signs and wonders were done through the hands of the apostles. “Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles” (Acts 2:43). “And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people” (Acts 5:12).
Others, who performed signs later, received that ability “through the hands of the apostles” by the laying on of their hands: “Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given” (Acts 8:18). [See also Acts 6:6; 19:6; 2 Timothy 1:6.]
The 3000 did receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when they repented and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins! [See also Acts 5:32; Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:8; 1 John 3:24; 4:13.]
Paul explains how we receive the Spirit: “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:4-6). The Spirit is poured out on us at baptism, 'the washing of regeneration'.
“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free - and have all been made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
When we hear the good news of salvation through Christ, when we believe in Him as the risen Son of God, when we repent of our sins, and when we are baptized into the body of Christ, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15). Since the outpouring on Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit is available to all through Christ. “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39). 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