"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Responding To Evil (5:38-42) INTRODUCTION 1. When someone treats you wrong, how do you respond? a. Do you react in kind, treating evil with evil? b. Do you just stand there and take whatever abuse is given? -- What is the proper way to respond to evil? 2. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus taught concerning the righteousness of the kingdom... a. He did so by contrasting it with the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees 1) Noting how the Law had often been interpreted and applied 2) Declaring what He expected of His disciples b. We have seen Jesus contrast this righteousness in such matters as: 1) Murder and anger - Mt 5:21-26 2) Adultery - Mt 5:27-30 3) Divorce - Mt 5:31-32 4) Swearing Oaths - Mt 5:33-37 [In this lesson, we shall look at what Jesus taught concerning "vengeance" (Mt 5:38-42) as we discuss "Responding To Evil". First, let's compare...] I. THE LAW OF MOSES AND THE TRADITIONAL INTERPRETATION A. CONCERNING "AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH"... 1. It is found in Exo 21:24-25 2. A parallel passage is Deut 19:21 B. THESE STATEMENTS WERE LAWS FOR CIVIL COURTS TO APPLY... 1. Notice carefully Deut 19:15-21; Exo 21:22-23 2. They were given to guide the priests in meriting out proper punishment C. WHAT THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES HAD DONE... 1. Interpreted these statements so as to justify personal retribution! 2. Applied them by frequently taking matters of revenge into their own hands -- Just as many people do today! D. THE LAW REPEATEDLY FORBAD "PERSONAL" VENGEANCE... 1. Consider Lev 19:18; Pr 20:22; 24:29 2. In both Old Testament and New Testaments, the matter of vengeance was to be left up to God and His duly appointed agent: civil government! - cf. Ro 12:19; 13:1-4 [There really is no difference between the Law and what we find in the New Testament in this regard: Personal vengeance has no place in the lives of those who are the children of God! Now let's examine more closely...] II. THE PROPER RESPONSE TO EVIL A. JESUS PROCLAIMED TWO PRINCIPLES... 1. Do not resist an evil person (39a) a. Not only should you not take vengeance into your own hands... b. But don't even oppose (resist) the evil person when the evil is being done! 2. Respond to evil by doing good! (39b-42) a. Jesus illustrates this principle with several examples... 1) Responding to physical abuse (39b) a) "Turn the other cheek" b) This may refer to offering the other cheek as an expression of love 2) Responding to a civil suit, by giving more than what the person is suing! (40) 3) Responding to government oppression, by offering to do more than what is being demanded of you! (41) 4) Responding to those asking for help, by giving them what they ask! (42) b. In each case, the principle is the same 1) We are not to resist the person... a) Who would mistreat us b) Who would try to deprive us of our possessions 2) Instead, respond in a positive manner... a) Demonstrate love towards them b) Do so by freely giving them more than they were hoping to gain by force, oppression, or manipulation! B. IS THIS TO BE TAKEN LITERALLY? 1. Why not? a. We have several O.T. examples... 1) Joseph, in forgiving his brothers - Gen 45:4-15 2) David, in sparing the life of Saul - 1Sa 24:8-15 3) Elisha, in feeding the army of the Arameans - 2Ki 6: 8-23 b. We also have several N.T. examples... 1) Jesus, our prime example - 1Pe 2:20-23 2) Stephen, when he was being stoned - Ac 7:59-60 3) The Hebrew Christians, who "joyfully accepted" the plundering of their goods - He 10:32-34 c. We have the clear teaching of Paul in Ro 12:19-21... 1) We are not to avenge ourselves 2) We must seek to overcome evil with good 2. If not, then how do we apply these words of Jesus? a. What does Jesus mean? b. Give some examples of how to apply these teachings... ??? C. ARE WE TO APPLY IT "UNCONDITIONALLY"? 1. I.e., must we decide who is "worthy" to receive this kind of treatment? a. Jesus does not give us any indication that we are to use "discretion" b. Paul does give some qualifying instructions (e.g., 2 Th 3:10)... 1) But it applies to those who are Christians 2) And we have a responsibility to "judge" those in the church, leaving those outside to God - 1Co 5:9-13 2. I do find striking the attitude of Christians in the second century, A.D.: a. "Do good, and give liberally to all who are in need from the wages God gives you. Do not hesitate about to whom you should not give. Give to all. For God wishes gifts to be made to all out of His bounties." (Hermas, 135 A.D.) b. "And he said to love not only our neighbors but also our enemies, and to be givers and sharers not only with the good but also to be liberal givers towards those who take away our possessions." (Irenaeus, 185 A.D.) c. "Do not judge those who is worthy and who is unworthy, for it is possible for you to be mistaken in your opinion. In the uncertainty of ignorance it is better to do good to the unworthy for the sake of the worthy, than by guarding against those who are less good not to encounter the good. For by sparing and trying to test those who are well-deserving or not, it is possible for you to neglect some who are loved by God, the penalty for which is the eternal punishment of fire. But by helping all those in need in turn you must assuredly find some who are able to save you before God." (Clement of Alexandria, 190 A.D.) -- These statements were written at a time when Christians were constantly mistreated, abused, and manipulated by others! 3. The teachings of Jesus in this passage are admittedly challenging... a. It is opposed to what we might call "human nature" b. But we are called upon to be "partakers of the divine nature" (2Pe 1:4); in other words, to be more like God than men 4. As we will see in the next lesson, it is in order to be truly "sons of your Father in heaven" that Jesus teaches a standard of righteousness that far exceeds... a. That of the scribes and Pharisees b. That of most people today! 5. At the very least, let us expend as much energy... a. In seeing how we can apply this passage to lives... b. ...as many do trying to explain how it doesn't really mean what it appears to say! CONCLUSION 1. Summarizing the teaching of Jesus concerning "Responding To Evil"... a. We are not to resist evil b. We are to respond by doing good in turn 2. We may never face the exact situations Jesus used to illustrate His point... a. But the principles can be applied to so many things we do face b. E.g., how people treat us at work, in our communities, in our own families, in the church Whenever mistreated, take the challenge to see how you might overcome evil with good. Then your "righteousness" will exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees!
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" The Swearing Of Oaths (5:33-37) INTRODUCTION 1. Are you a man or woman of your word? a. When you say "yes" or "no", do people take it as "gospel" (i.e., truth)? b. Are you someone whose word is questioned, unless confirmed with an oath? 2. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus dealt with the issue of swearing oaths... a. In which He set a high standard for His disciples to follow b. A standard that exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees, and exceeds the standard followed by many people today 3. In this lesson, "The Swearing Of Oaths", we shall consider what Jesus taught from the viewpoint of four questions: a. What did the Law of Moses actually teach concerning the swearing of oaths? b. How had the Jews, and in particular the Scribes and Pharisees, traditionally interpreted and applied the Law? c. What did Jesus teach in response to this abuse of the Law concerning oaths? d. Did Jesus forbid even those oaths made in court? [To answer the first question, "What did the Law of Moses actually teach concerning the swearing of oaths?", let's take a moment to consider...] I. THE LAW OF MOSES AND THE SWEARING OF OATHS A. THREE PASSAGES MAKE VERY CLEAR THE TEACHING OF THE LAW... 1. "And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD." - Lev 19:12 2. "If a man vows a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth." - Num 30:2 3. "When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to you." - Deut 23:21 B. THE EMPHASIS WAS ON TRUTHFULNESS AND FAITHFULNESS... 1. A person must be truthful when he swears an oath; he must truly mean it 2. He must also be faithful in keeping the oath; he must carry out his word C. THIS EMPHASIS ON TRUTHFULNESS "IN THE HEART" WAS STRESSED BY THE PSALMS AND PROPHETS AS WELL... 1. In the Psalms - Ps 15:1-2; 24:3-4 2. The Prophets often bemoaned the lack of truth in the heart - Jer 5:1-2; Hos 4:1-2 [So the teaching of the Law was clear: Vows to the Lord should be kept, and truthfulness in all things was expected. This leads to our second question: "How had the Jews, and in particular the Scribes and Pharisees, traditionally interpreted and applied the Law?"] II. THE TRADITIONAL INTERPRETATION AND APPLICATION A. IT APPEARS THE EMPHASIS HAD SHIFTED... 1. FROM truthfulness in all things 2. TO honoring only those vows sworn "to the Lord" -- As implied by Jesus comments in Mt 5:34-36 B. IN APPLICATION, ONLY VOWS "TO THE LORD" WERE BINDING... 1. That the Jews had made such arbitrary distinctions between their vows is seen in Mt 23:16-19 2. Because of this distinction, daily conversations were often spiced with meaningless oaths to make impressions; e.g.,: a. "I swear by heaven" b. "I swear by the throne of God" c. "I swear...by the earth...by Jerusalem...by the altar...by the temple...by my head..." [By shifting the emphasis from truthfulness to honoring only those vows made to the Lord, the Pharisees in their application of the Law justified the use of meaningless vows. Now to our third question: "What did Jesus teach in response to this abuse of the Law concerning oaths?"] III. THE TEACHING OF JESUS A. HE EXPOSED THE HYPOCRISY IN SUCH ARBITRARY DISTINCTIONS... 1. Mt 23:20-22 clearly shows that when one swears by... a. "the temple" b. "the throne of God" ...he is swearing by the LORD also! 2. Mt 5:34-36 likewise teaches that one cannot swear by these things without involving God a. Heaven is the throne of God b. Earth is His footstool c. Only God can change our hair color (without the use of dyes) -- Therefore, any oath is an oath "to the Lord"! B. HE ENJOINED "TRUTHFULNESS IN THE HEART"... 1. Let your "yes" mean "yes" 2. Let your "no" mean "no" -- Any more than this is evil, and would be contrary to speaking "truth in his heart" (Ps 15:1-2) [In exposing the hypocritical distinctions made by the scribes and Pharisees in their oaths, and in commanding us to speak simply and truthfully, the words of Jesus have led many to ask our fourth and final question: "Did Jesus forbid even those oaths made in court?"] IV. MAKING OATHS IN JUDICIAL MATTERS A. ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT OF SWEARING JUDICIAL OATHS... 1. Both Jesus and James qualified their statements concerning oaths a. Mt 5:34ff - "swear not at all" is immediately qualified by Jesus to refer to flippant and hypocritical oaths commonly voiced by the people b. Jm 5:12 - the command "do not swear" is also qualified by James to refer to the same kind of meaningless oaths 2. Also, consider the following points: a. God has sworn an oath to us - He 6:16-18 b. Jesus was willing to answer under oath before the Sanhedrin court - Mt 26:63-64 c. Paul made solemn oaths in his epistles - 2Co 1:23; Ga 1:20 d. An angel of God swore an oath - Re 10:5-7 B. IN LIGHT OF THESE ARGUMENTS... 1. Some understand Jesus and James to condemn only the flippant, profane and hypocritical oaths... a. Used to make impressions b. Used to spice daily conversations ...but were never intended to be kept 2. Therefore the EXCEPTION to not swearing oaths can be: a. Solemn oaths made in judicial circumstances b. Those oaths on occasions of solemn religious importance (as in the case of Paul) C. I PREFER TO TAKE THE "SAFE" COURSE... 1. In other words, to "swear not at all" 2. Fortunately, in this country we are allowed the option to "confidently affirm" -- But I would not judge brethren who themselves solemnly and honestly "swear oaths" in judicial circumstances CONCLUSION 1. The righteousness of the kingdom is to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees... a. They would often spice their statements with vows and oaths in order to be believed... b. Christians are to be so truthful, their "yes" means "yes" and their "no" means "no" -- So truthful and trustworthy are the disciples of Christ to be, it would not be necessary for them to swear oaths or have to say "I promise" in order to be trusted 2. Can this be said of us, when people know that we are Christians? a. Can others "bank" on our words? b. When we say we will do something, is it as good as done? May the words of our Lord remind us that even our speech reflects either honor or dishonor upon the God we serve!
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" The Treachery Of Divorce (5:31-32) INTRODUCTION 1. We live in an age of easy divorce... a. Many if not all states have "no-fault" divorce laws b. In some cases, all it takes is for one person to decide to have a divorce, and their spouse can do nothing to prevent it 2. What does God think about divorce? a. What was His view of divorce in the Old Testament? b. What does He think of it now? 3. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus addressed the issue of divorce... a. As He taught His disciples concerning the righteousness of the kingdom b. In which He described the effects of divorcing one's spouse [In this lesson, "The Treachery Of Divorce", we shall use Mt 5:31-32 as our text. To understand Jesus' comments in their context, let's first determine what was...] I. THE "TRADITIONAL" INTERPRETATION A. "WHOEVER DIVORCES HIS WIFE, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE" - Mt 5:31 1. This was the "traditional" interpretation of Deut 24:1-4; handed down orally 2. In applying the Law, they had focused on the idea of giving certificates of divorce 3. They concluded divorce was permissible as long as a certificate of divorce was given B. IS THIS WHAT THE LAW ACTUALLY SAID? 1. Please read Deut 24:1-4 carefully... a. Verses 1-3 simply describe a particular situation 1) WHEN a man is displeased with his wife and gives her a certificate a divorce and sends her out of the house... 2) WHEN she has left and becomes another man's wife... 3) IF her second husband detests her and gives her a bill of divorcement and sends her out of his house, or if the second husband dies... b. It is in verse 4 that Moses actually commands what must not be done 1) Which was: "her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination to the Lord" 2) This passage is simply forbidding a man to remarry his wife after she had been married to another - cf. Jer 3:1 2. Note also Paul's understanding of the Law - cf. Ro 7:1-3 a. A woman was bound by the Law to her husband as long he lived b. If she married another while her first husband was still living (implying a certificate of divorce was given), she became an adulteress (i.e., defiled)! [So the scribes and Pharisees had interpreted the Law to permit divorce as long as a certificate of divorce was given to the wife. We have tried to point out that was not the case. What does Jesus say?] II. JESUS' INTERPRETATION AND APPLICATION A. "WHOEVER DIVORCES HIS WIFE FOR ANY REASON EXCEPT SEXUAL IMMORALITY CAUSES HER TO COMMIT ADULTERY" - Mt 5:32 1. The only acceptable grounds for divorcing a wife is SEXUAL IMMORALITY 2. Otherwise, divorcing a wife "causes her to commit adultery" 3. How? By placing her in a position where she is likely to remarry, in which she becomes an adulteress 4. This is what the Law implied in Deut 24:4 and Jer 3:1 a. That is why the first husband couldn't take her back b. Even if her second husband had died! c. Because the wife had become "defiled"! 5. Notice these comments by KEIL & DELITZSCH... "The second marriage of a woman who had been divorced is designated by Moses a defilement of the woman...a moral defilement, i.e., blemishing, desecration of the sexual communion which was sanctified by marriage, IN THE SAME SENSE IN WHICH ADULTERY IS CALLED A DEFILEMENT in Lev 18:20 and Num 5:13,14..." "Thus the second marriage of a divorced woman was placed implicit upon a par with adultery, and some approach was made towards the teaching of Christ concerning marriage (Mt 5:32)..." "If the second marriage of a divorced woman was a moral defilement, of course the wife could not marry the first again even after the death of her second husband...because the defilement of the wife would be thereby repeated, and even increased, as the moral defilement which the divorced wife acquired through the second marriage was not removed by a divorce from the second husband, nor yet by his death." 6. Jesus simply made clear what the Law itself implied: To divorce a woman for any reason other than sexual immorality would cause her to be defiled (when she remarried)! 7. Therefore, I believe that a careful study of the Law concerning divorce reveals... a. That Jesus' teaching was really in harmony with the Law itself b. But the "traditional interpretation and application" of the Law had missed the mark by placing emphasis upon the mention of giving a certificate of divorce B. "WHOEVER MARRIES A DIVORCED WOMAN COMMITS ADULTERY" 1. Jesus goes on to say that anyone who marries a person who has been divorced (lit., "put away") also commits adultery! 2. Jesus does not use the definite article in reference to one put away, therefore He seems to refer to ANY "put away" person! In other words... a. A person put away for reasons OTHER than adultery cannot remarry 1) Because such would "cause them to commit adultery" 2) Or to put it in O.T. terms: "become defiled" b. Nor can a person "put away" for the reason of adultery remarry 1) For such a person is an "adulteress" or "adulterer" 2) As such, is "defiled" and would thereby cause anyone who married that person to commit adultery! CONCLUSION 1. Jesus later taught more concerning the subject of divorce and remarriage - Mt 19:3-12 a. Defining who has the right to divorce their spouse and remarry b. Indicating that some might need to "make themselves eunuchs" for the sake of the kingdom of heaven 2. But in our text (Mt 5:31-32), Jesus reveals "The Treachery Of Divorce"... a. A man who divorces his wife for any cause other than sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery (by placing her in a situation where she is likely to remarry and become defiled; i.e., an adulteress) b. Whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery -- The harmful effect of divorce is seen in that it creates situations where adultery is committed! 3. Perhaps we can better understand why God hates divorce - Mal 2:13-16 a. When we put away our spouses, we treat them treacherously! - Mal 2:14 b. When we divorce our spouses, we cover our garments with violence! - Mal 2:16 4. Making divorce "legal" does not change the facts of the matter... a. The one put away still becomes defiled (commits adultery) if they remarry b. Whoever marries the one put away still commits adultery -- It is still a "treacherous" act! As difficult as Jesus' teaching on the subject of divorce might seem in today's permissive and immoral society, those who respect the authority of Jesus Christ will abide by His teaching. Have you found yourself in an adulterous relationship? There is hope in Jesus Christ (cf. 1Co 6:9-11)! Yet true repentance requires that you stop committing adultery, even if it means becoming a "eunuch" for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (cf. Mt 19:11-12).
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Nipping Adultery In The Bud (5:27-30) INTRODUCTION 1. Though our society takes adultery lightly, it is a serious offense in the eyes of God... a. He listed it right after murder in the Ten Commandments - Exo 20: 13-14 b. He made it a capital offense in the Old Testament, worthy of the death penalty - Lev 20:10 c. God has promised to judge those who are adulterers - He 13:4; 1Co 6:9-10 -- It destroys friendships, marriages, and families, contributing to the destruction of many children's lives! 2. How can one avoid the sin of adultery? a. Is the solution one of just making sure that you don't commit the actual act? b. Or is there way that one can "nip it in the bud"? 3. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus challenged His disciples... a. To exceed "the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees" - Mt 5:20 b. He illustrated what He meant through a series on contrasts 1) Between what they had heard from those of old 2) And what He was now declaring to them 4. In the second contrast (Mt 5:27-30), Jesus addressed the issue of adultery... a. In which we learn where adultery really begins b. And what steps can be taken to ward off committing such a serious offense [On the subject of adultery, let's first note the contrast between...] I. JESUS AND THE TRADITIONAL INTERPRETATION A. THE "TRADITIONAL" INTERPRETATION... 1. The oral traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees certainly repeated the written commandment found in the Law - Mt 5:27 2. But they evidently stressed that as long as one did not commit the actual act, one was not guilty 3. Thereby emphasizing the "letter" of the Law, but not appreciating the "spirit" behind the Law as well B. JESUS TAUGHT DIFFERENTLY... 1. One does not have to commit the "act" to be guilty of adultery 2. One is just as guilty when one "looks at a woman to lust for her" - Mt 5:28 3. Note: Not the "looking" per se, but looking "to lust" for her is what is wrong a. "to lust" means to have a strong desire for, to possess and dominate completely b. A person may look at another with admiration for beauty and not be guilty of "lust" C. JESUS' INTERPRETATION WAS IN HARMONY WITH THE LAW... 1. Notice that the Tenth Commandment condemned coveting a neighbor's wife - Exo 20:17 2. Even in the time of Job, to "look at a woman to lust for her" was considered wrong - Job 31:1 [So the problem begins in the heart (cf. Mk 7:21-23). If we can prevent the lusting in the heart (or the "lustful eye"), the problem of adultery is "nipped in the bud"! Jesus goes on to say what we should do with respect to the lustful eye or any other stumbling blocks...] II. JESUS' PROGNOSIS FOR LUSTFUL EYES AND OTHER STUMBLING BLOCKS A. "PLUCK IT OUT AND CAST IT FROM YOU..." 1. That Jesus is not being literal should be obvious, for one could still stumble with the left eye or hand 2. The key to understanding this passage is found in Mt 18:7-9 a. The "eye" and "hand" represent "offenses" b. Offenses are "stumbling blocks" that lead a person to sin c. These would be enticements to do wrong, beguiling allurements B. THE MEANING OF JESUS' TEACHING... 1. "Take drastic action in getting rid of whatever in the natural course of events will tempt you to sin" (Hendriksen) 2. Such should be the case in regards to ALL sin, as well as the sin of adultery [As we contemplate Jesus' words, there are several...] III. IMPORTANT LESSONS TO BE LEARNED A. THE PRESENT IS NOT OUR ONLY LIFE; WE ARE DESTINED FOR ETERNITY! 1. The future holds the possibility of "hell" (Greek, GEHENNA, the place of everlasting torment) 2. What we do or not do in the present will determine our place in the future B. NOTHING, NO MATTER HOW PRECIOUS, SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO DOOM OUR GLORIOUS DESTINY! 1. God's goal for us is the "kingdom of heaven" in all its eternal glory! 2. What on "earth" (such as an adulterous relationship) can be worthy of losing that? C. SIN, BEING A VERY DESTRUCTIVE FORCE, MUST NOT BE PAMPERED! 1. Do we need to be convinced that sin (like adultery) is destructive to those around us? 2. Sin is to the soul what cancer is to the body a. Delay can be deadly! b. Halfway measures, halfhearted efforts, only give sin time to wreak havoc! 2. "Radical surgery" is what's necessary to treat the "cancer" of sin! a. Cut off those things that might lead you to look upon others to lust after them b. How much better to dwell upon such things as mentioned in Php 4:8! c. Remove all stumbling blocks that encourage you to sin! 1) Such as certain books, movies, pictures 2) Or possible companions, associates - cf. 1Co 15:33 -- As Paul exhorted the Corinthians , and Joseph illustrated by example, "flee sexual immorality"! - 1Co 6:18; Gen 39: 7-12 CONCLUSION 1. Our families, our friends, our lives, and especially our souls are too precious to allow the sin of adultery to destroy them! 2. But if we desire to "nip it in the bud", we cannot be content with the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees... a. Who may have faithfully quoted the Law to others b. But were unwilling to deal with the real problem, which is one of the heart! 3. In view of the reality of hell, the eternal abode of impenitent adulterers... a. Let us be willing to tackle the "cancer" of sin seriously b. Performing whatever "radical surgery" might be necessary! While one may not be able to rebuild the lives destroyed by the sin of adultery, for the penitent adulterer there is still the hope of salvation in Christ Jesus, as there is for all... - cf. 1Co 6:9-11
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" The Anger That Kills (5:21-26) INTRODUCTION 1. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus challenges us to attain to a high level of righteousness... a. To exceed "the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees" - Mt 5:20 b. He illustrates what is meant through a series on contrasts 1) Between what they had heard from those of old 2) And what He was now declaring to them 2. The first contrast (Mt 5:21-26) pertains to properly understanding and applying... a. The Sixth Commandment b. I.e., "You shall not murder" - cf. Exo 20:13 [How should the sixth command be understood and applied? Is the actual act of murder the only thing we need to be concerned about? Before we consider what Jesus taught, let's look at...] I. THE "TRADITIONAL" INTERPRETATION AND APPLICATION A. NOTE THAT I SAY "TRADITIONAL"... 1. Jesus is responding to traditional interpretations of the Law, not the Law itself a. I.e., what had been taught by the "traditions of the elders" - cf. Mt 15:2 b. Note His preparatory remarks: "You have HEARD that it was SAID..." c. Referring to oral traditions rather than the written Law (cf. earlier lesson on "Jesus And The Law") 2. Which traditions had likely been accepted by the scribes and Pharisees B. THE TRADITIONAL INTERPRETATION AND APPLICATION... 1. Is seen in the phrase "whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment" 2. The term "judgment" likely refers to the local courts of their day (see below) 3. This interpretation may sound fine, but evidently did not go far enough in how the Law should have been interpreted and applied a. Was the Law only concerned about the actual act of murder? b. Should the disciples of Jesus also limit their concern to actual acts of murder? [To answer these two questions, let's now take a closer look at...] II. THE TEACHING OF JESUS A. JESUS PRONOUNCED JUDGMENT ON ANGER... 1. As found in Mt 5:22... a. One angry without a cause should be in danger of the "judgment" 1) I.e., the local courts through Palestine 2) Which were normally reserved for common criminals b. One who calls his brother "Raca!" (stupid, empty-headed) should be in danger of the "council" 1) I.e., the Sanhedrin council 2) Which was the high court normally reserved for special criminals c. One who says "You fool!" would be in danger of "hell fire" 1) I.e., Gehenna 2) The place of everlasting torment - Mk 9:43-48 -- The judgment normally accorded to murderers, Jesus deemed worthy of those whose anger led to just verbal abuse! 2. Jesus' teaching was in harmony with the Law regarding anger - cf. Pr 6:16-19 a. "Hands that shed innocent blood" (murder) are an abomination to the Lord b. So also a "heart that devises wicked plans" and "one who sows discord among brethren" (due to anger) -- This being true, the Law should have been interpreted and applied accordingly 3. Thus the traditional interpretation and application of the Law fell far short a. The "righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees" only condemned murderers when those with hateful emotions were just as guilty! b. While the righteousness of the kingdom would be in harmony with the original intent of the Law 1) The Law taught to forsake wrath and anger - Ps 37:8 2) So does the righteousness of the kingdom - cf. Ga 5:19- 21; Ep 4:31 B. JESUS ILLUSTRATED THE SERIOUSNESS OF ANGER... 1. We should not try to worship God when we are "at odds" with a brother - Mt 5:23-24 a. Repair strained relationships with a brother before worshipping God b. Just as a husband must treat his wife with understanding if he desires to have his prayers heard - 1Pe 3:7 -- Wrong emotions toward others can "kill" our relationship with God! 2. We should be quick to "make amends" lest uncontrolled anger cause us to wind up in court, possibly prison! - Mt 5:25-26 a. Many "hot-heads" let anger prompt them to do things that send them to prison b. But note how those in the kingdom are to act - Ro 12:18-21 -- Wrong emotions can "murder" our relationships with man as well! CONCLUSION 1. In His first contrast between the "righteousness of the kingdom" and the "traditional treatment of the Law", Jesus: a. Declared that the ancients did not go far enough in applying the Law b. Illustrated how it should be applied by those seeking to surpass the "righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees" -- The "righteousness of the kingdom" is actually in harmony with the Law! 2. Jesus also reminds us that there is "The Anger That Kills"... a. Improper anger toward our fellow man can "kill" our relationship with God b. It can "murder" our relationships with our fellow man, and ruin our lives in the process -- One does not have to be guilty of actual murder to do this! Thus Jesus calls upon us to deal with the anger that often leads to murder, if we desire to truly be His disciples! This requires that we be "born again"... - cf. Jn 3:5; 1Pe 1:22-23
How Can a Person Know Which God Exists?
|by||Jeff Miller, Ph.D.|
Poseidon: Greek god of the sea
Sadly, under the banner of “tolerance,” the “politically correct” police have made significant inroads in compelling the American public, not only to tolerate, but to endorse and encourage pluralism and the proliferation of false religion in America. What was once an understood conclusion—that if evolution is wrong, then biblical Creation must be true—is now heavily challenged in America.
|Nisroch: Assyrian god of agriculture|
One such scoffer approached me awhile back after one of the sessions of my evolution seminar—a biology professor from the local university in the city where I was speaking. His quibble was a fair one: “Even if you’re right that naturalistic evolution/atheism is false, you still haven’t proven which God exists. You haven’t proven it’s the God of the Bible. Why couldn’t it be Allah? Or [sarcastically] the Flying Spaghetti Monster?”
It is true that many times when apologists discredit naturalism and show that the evidence points to supernaturalism, they do not necessarily always take the next step and answer how we arrive specifically at the God of the Bible as the one true God. Perhaps the main reason, again, is because the answer was once so obvious that the additional step did not need to be taken. People already had faith in the Bible, and they only needed someone to answer an attack on its integrity. Upon answering it, they went back to their faith in Christianity comfortably. But as naturalism and pluralism have eroded the next generation, and Bible teaching—the impetus for developing faith (Romans 10:17)—has declined, Christianity is no longer a given.
|Jupiter: Roman god of light and sky, and protector of the state and its laws|
The Bible simply does not teach that one should accept God without evidence. We should test or prove all things, and only believe those things that can be sustained with evidence (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We should not accept what someone tells us “on faith,” because many teach lies; they should be tested to see if their claims can be backed with evidence (1 John 4:1). The truth should be searched for (Acts 17:11). It can be known (John 8:32). God would not expect us to believe that He is the one true God without evidence for that claim.
While there are different ways to answer the question posed by the professor, the most direct and simple answer is that the Bible contains characteristics which humans could not have produced. If it can be proven that a God exists and that the Bible is from God, then logically, the God of the Bible is the true God. It is truly a sad commentary on Christendom at large that the professor, as well as the many individuals that are posing such questions today, have not heard the simple answer about the nature of God’s divine Word.
After taking a moment to recover from the fact that he clearly had never experienced anyone responding rationally to his criticisms, the professor said, “Really? [pause] I’d like to see that evidence.” I pointed him to our book that summarizes the mounds of evidence that testify to the inspiration of the Bible (cf. Butt, 2007), and although he said he did not want to support our organization with a purchase, he allowed an elder at the church that hosted the event to give it to him as a gift.
|Ganesh: Hindu god of wisdom, knowledge, and new beginnings|
REFERENCESButt, Kyle (2007), Behold! The Word of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Butt, Kyle (2010), A Christian’s Guide to Refuting Modern Atheism (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Butt, Kyle and Eric Lyons (2015), “3 Good Reasons to Believe the Bible is from God,” Reason & Revelation, 35:2-11.
Langton, James (2005), “In the Beginning There Was the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” The Telegraph, September 11, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/1498162/In-the-beginning-there-was-the-Flying-Spaghetti-Monster.html.
Galaxy's Distance Doesn't Tell Age
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Maggie Fox recently reported that scientists believe they have discovered the “oldest” galaxy ever seen. This galaxy is supposed to be 13.2 billion years old, “only” 480 million years younger than the entire Universe (Fox, 2011). How do scientists arrive at such a great age? They base their calculations on the Big Bang theory and equate distance with age. What the scientists have actually found is what they believe to be the most distant galaxy ever seen. By equating distance with age, they conclude that the most distant galaxy must be the oldest.
If the Big Bang theory is incorrect, however, the assumption that distance equals age is false. It has been repeatedly shown that Big Bang theory cannot possibly be scientifically, mathematically, or historically true (see Thompson, Harrub, and May, 2003). Not only that, it is also true that the dating methods used to arrive at the billions-of-years scenario are faulty (DeYoung, 2005). Thus we can know that a galaxy’s distance does not indicate its age in billions of years. What we “know” (I put the word “know” in quotation marks because science often even gets the distances wrong) is approximately how far the galaxy is. The incorrect interpretation shackled to that knowledge is the idea that distance equals age.
We regularly see this tactic used in the biological sciences. Often a biologist will measure the amount of similarity between two organisms’ molecular structures. The biologist will assume Darwinian evolution to be true and report how closely the organisms are related. Yet similarity only equals relationship if evolution is true (which it is not). The irony of the situation is that these similarity studies are often used as evidence of evolution. This becomes the epitome of circular reasoning: proving evolution by proving how closely organisms are related, and basing that “relationship” on similarities that only “prove” evolution if you assume it in the first place.
As a critically thinking society, we should demand from the scientific community that they keep their incorrect assumptions and faulty interpretations to themselves, and simply report the “facts.” We are reminded of the admonition to “test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Distance does not equal age, similarity does not equal relationship, and the Big Bang theory and evolution do not equal good science.
REFERENCESDeYoung, Don (2005), Thousands...Not Billions (Green Forest, AR: Master Books).
Fox, Maggie (2011), “Telescope Spots Oldest Galaxy Ever Seen,” Reuters, http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110127/sc_nm/us_space_galaxy/print.
Thompson, Bert, Brad Harrub and Branyon May (2003), “The Big Bang Theory—A Scientific Critique,” Reason & Revelation, http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2635.
Does “Laud” in Romans 15:11 Authorize Clapping in Worship?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
A recent contention that has surfaced among some Christians, in an effort to justify handclapping in worship to God, is the notion that the term in Romans 15:11 translated “laud” in both the KJV and NKJV includes the idea of handclapping. Never mind the fact that students of the Bible, scholars, and faithful Christians have been pouring over the text of the New Testament for nearly 2,000 years, with Romans 15:11 having been read and studied by thousands of individuals for centuries; and yet, through all those years, how many concluded that handclapping could be found in the verse? To ask is to answer. Even as proponents of instrumental music have imagined that psallo in Ephesians 5:19 includes a manmade, mechanical contraption, only recently has someone invented the novel notion that “laud” in Romans 15:11 includes handclapping.
Let’s be honest: can there be any doubt that someone had to be looking for a place in the New Testament to impose his bias on the text? Even as a person could read Ephesians 5:19 over and over and over for the rest of his/her life and never see any instrumental music in that verse, even so, reading Romans 15:11 would never lead an unprejudiced person to conclude that God encourages or endorses handclapping in worship. The heart that approaches God’s Word with an agenda—a predisposition to find what he or she wants to find—is by biblical definition a wicked heart (Job 13:7; Jeremiah 23:16; Isaiah 8:20). To then compound that sin by teaching and promoting the concocted viewpoint is inexcusable and unconscionable. Corrupting the pure worship of the Almighty is deadly (Leviticus 10:1-3). Think of the innocent souls endangered by the wolves that advance their wild, unsubstantiated theories. Tragic. Sad, indeed.
The English term “laud” comes from the Latin word laudare (present active infinitive of laudō) meaning “to praise, commend, extol, honor, compliment.” This action is achieved orally with words. It has nothing to do with clapping. On the other hand, the English term “applaud” comes from the Latin word applaudere (from plaudō/plaudere), meaning “to strike, beat, clap.” Hence, “applaud” is defined as “to clap the hands (hit the palms of the hands together) as an expression of approval, appreciation, acclamation, etc.” (Lewis & Short, 1879). Conclusion: “laud” and “applaud” are separate and distinct Latin terms. They are not synonyms. (Interestingly, in Romans 15:11, Jerome’s Latin Vulgate had magnificate, to “magnify” or “extol”—et iterum laudate omnes gentes Dominum et magnificate eum omnes populi).
Of course, the Holy Spirit did not give us God’s Word in English or Latin. So we must go to the original languages to make certain we are grasping God’s intended meanings. The Greek term translated “laud Him” (NKJV) in Romans 15:11 is epainesatosan from epaineo meaning “to praise or commend.” The term occurs only six times in the New Testament, the other uses being Luke 16:8 and 1 Corinthians 11:2,17, and twice in vs. 22 (Moulton, et al., 1978, p. 351). In Luke, the master “commended” the unjust steward because he had acted shrewdly. In 1 Corinthians 11, the term is used to denote the “praise” (or lack of it) that Paul expressed toward the Corinthians—so translated all four times. Hence, in all six occurrences of the word, the idea of clapping is completely absent. Compare the following 20 English translations on Romans 15:11, where the word in question is indicated in bold type and underlined:
“Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people” (KJV).
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples!” (NKJV).
“Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; And let all the peoples praise him” (ASV).
“Praise the Lord all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him” (NASB).
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples” (NIV).
“Praise the Lord, all Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him” (RSV).
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him” (ESV).
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him” (NAB).
“Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and magnify him, all ye people” (Douay-Rheims).
“All Gentiles, praise the Lord; let all peoples praise him” (NEB).
“Praise the Lord, all you heathen, and let all nations sing his praises” (Goodspeed).
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; let all the nations of the world do him honour” (Knox).
“All you nations, praise the Lord, and all the people should praise Him” (Beck).
“Let all the pagans praise the Lord, let all the peoples sing his praises” (Jerusalem Bible).
“Praise the Lord, all Gentiles; praise him, all peoples!” (TEV).
“Extol the Lord, all Gentiles, let all the peoples praise him” (Moffatt).
“Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles, and let all the nations extol Him” (Weymouth).
“Praise Adonai, all Gentiles! Let all peoples praise him!” (Jewish N.T.).
“Praise the Lord, all ye gentiles; and let all the people praise him” (Phillips).
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; and sing his praises, all you peoples” (Confraternity).
No known English translation translates Romans 15:11 with the word “clap.” Those who advocate such a meaning apparently think they know more about the original language than the hundreds of Greek scholars who produced our English translations.
Since Romans 15:11 is actually a quotation of Psalm 117:1, one must examine the underlying Hebrew term. That word is shahvach, which occurs eight times (in the Piel) in the Old Testament (Wigram, 1980, p. 1225). The Hebrew authorities (Davidson, 1848, p. 697; Gesenius, 1847, pp. 800-801; Holladay, 1971, p. 358; Brown, et al., 1906, p. 986) identify three meanings:
to soothe, calm, quiet, hush, or still, as in Psalm 89:10 (still the waves) and Proverbs 29:11 (calm one’s anger);
to pronounce happy, commend, or congratulate, as in Ecclesiastes 4:2;
to praise, laud, glorify, as in Psalm 63:4, 117:1, 145:4, 147:12, and Ecclesiastes 8:15.It is meaning #3 that underlies the quotation of Psalm 117:1 in Romans 15:11. Like its Greek counterpart, it bears no connection to the meaning “clap.” The Hebrew language had other words for clapping (e.g., tahka—Nahum 3:19; sahphak—Job 27:23; nahcah—2 Kings 11:12; mahchah—Psalm 98:8).
Since the Bible is its own best interpreter, simply turn to Psalm 63:3 where the term is translated “shall praise.” The verse says, “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You.” Would those who insist that the word means “clap” contend that lips clap? That would be an interesting thing to see.
May God help us to be content with simple New Testament worship (John 4:23-24). May we seek to have God’s permission (authority) for everything we do in worship (Colossians 3:17). May we refrain from fleshly expressions that have their origin in human will (Colossians 2:23), human impulse (2 Samuel 6:6), and human pride (2 Chronicles 26:16). May we worship God—not to please ourselves—but to please Him (Galatians 1:10).
Davidson, Benjamin (1848), The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1970 reprint).
Gesenius, William (1847), Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979 reprint).
Holladay, William (1971), A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Lewis, Charlton T. and Charles Short (1879), A Latin Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon Press).
Moulton, W.F., A.S. Geden, and H.K. Moulton (1978), A Concordance to the Greek Testament (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark), fifth edition.
Wigram, George V. (1980 reprint), The Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Did God Seduce Mary?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Recently we received an e-mail at Apologetics Press from a skeptic who accused God of breaking one of His own commandments. The skeptic cited Exodus 20:17, which is the final commandment in the list of the Ten Commandments, that states: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.” The skeptic then stated that “God most certainly wronged Joseph when He seduced Mary, the betrothed of Joseph.” Did God violate His own laws of morality when the Holy Spirit came upon Mary so that she conceived Jesus? Not in any way.
First, it must be stated emphatically that there was no sexual seduction of any kind involved in the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb. In fact, that is just the point of the miraculous, virgin birth of Christ. Hundreds of years before Christ was conceived in the flesh, the prophet Isaiah had stated: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear and Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). The New Testament writers stressed the fact that Mary was a virgin when Christ was conceived (Matthew 1:23). When the angel announced to Mary that she would conceive a child, she said: “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” Mary’s response makes it clear that there was no seduction involved. Instead, it was a miraculous conception that had nothing to do with sexual intercourse. Mary remained a virgin until after giving birth to Jesus, at which time Mary and her husband Joseph came together in marital relations and conceived several other children (Pinedo, 2009).
Notice the skeptic attempts to lump Jehovah God in with the grotesquely immoral pagan gods whose seductions and sexual perversions fill the pages of ancient mythology. Zeus, the “father of the gods” was a mythological deity whose sexual appetite and rapine seductions were all too well known. During some of his more infamous escapades he seduced Europa by turning himself into a white bull, running off with her on his back, and ravishing her on the isle of Crete. He had an affair with Io and then turned her into a heifer. He seduced Semele and eventually killed her by showing her his full, godly glory. These are but a few of Zeus’ “conquests” (Hunt, n.d).
Only the most prejudiced reader would attempt to relate the conception of Jesus to the seductions perpetrated by the pagans gods. In the historical account of Jesus’ conception there is no contact by God in any type of physical form with Mary. Mary was completely aware of how babies are normally conceived, yet she stressed the fact that she had been involved in no physical, sexual activity that would bring about pregnancy. The biblical text emphatically states that Mary was a virgin when she conceived and gave birth to Jesus. Mary was not seduced, violated, ravished, or involved in any sexual way with Jehovah. In a miraculous event that had nothing to do with sexual seduction, the Holy Spirit “came upon her” (Luke 1:35), and brought about the conception of the Messiah. The skeptic has no legitimate grounds to accuse Jehovah God of immorality in His interaction with Mary. Such an accusation truly reveals more about what is in the sinful heart of the skeptic than it does about God’s character.
REFERENCESHunt, J.M, (No date), “Zeus Lovers,” http://edweb.sdsu.edu/people/bdodge/scaffold/gg/zeuslover.html.
Pinedo, Moisés (2009), “Was Mary a Virgin Her Whole Life?,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=105&article=2665.
Biogenesis—The Long Arm of the Law
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
In biology, one of the most widely used laws of science is the Law of Biogenesis. “Biogenesis” is composed of two words—“bio,” which means life, and “genesis,” which means beginning. Thus, this law deals with the beginning of life. And it simply says that life comes only from previous life of its own kind. We see this law played out everyday all around the world. Everyone knows that kittens come only from female cats, cows produce only calves, and puppies come only from dogs. A pig never gives birth to a horse, and a sheep never bears an iguana.
Over the years, the truthfulness of this law has been documented by thousands of scientists, one of the most famous of whom was Louis Pasteur. His work dealt a crushing blow to the notion of spontaneous generation (the idea that life arises on its own from nonliving sources). In earlier centuries, the idea that life arose from nonliving things was very popular. People believed that a person could take some wheat grains, wrap them in an old rag, stuff them in the corner of a barn, and produce mice. They also believed that old meat left on a kitchen counter would generate maggots spontaneously. However, teachers and professors correctly point out today that Pasteur triumphed over this “mythology” when he disproved the concept of spontaneous generation through his well-designed scientific experiments. Evolutionist Martin Moe correctly commented that “a century of sensational discoveries in the biological sciences has taught us that life arises only from life” (1981, 89:36, emp. added). Even the eminent evolutionist George Gaylord Simpson and his colleagues observed that “there is no serious doubt that biogenesis is the rule, that life comes only from other life, that a cell, the unit of life, is always and exclusively the product or offspring of another cell” (1965, p. 144, emp. added). Yet with almost the same breath, these same teachers and professors tell their students that nonliving chemicals produced living organisms some time in the distant past—that is, spontaneous generation occurred.
The fact of the matter is that evolution could not have occurred without some form of spontaneous generation. For this reason, many scientists have concocted experiments attempting to create life from nonliving substances. But after all these attempts, life never has been created from something nonliving. Now, let’s think critically for a moment. If thousands of scientists have designed carefully planned experiments to create life from something nonliving, and yet have failed miserably every time, how in the world can we be expected to believe that nature did it by using accidents, chance, and blind forces? On the contrary, whether in nature or in the laboratory, scientists never have documented a single case of spontaneous generation! Life comes only from previous life of its own kind, which is exactly what the creation model teaches. To put it in the words of Genesis 1:24: “Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind’; and it was so.”
REFERENCESMoe, Martin (1981), “Genes on Ice,” Science Digest, 89:36,95, December.
Simpson, G.G., C.S. Pittendrigh, and L.H. Tiffany (1965), Life: An Introduction to Biology (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World).
Does This Sound Like America?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
For those who are willing to learn from God, His Word provides insight on the ebb and flow of human civilization throughout world history. It records an uncanny pattern of the rise and fall of nations. Consider two passages of Holy Writ that sound eerily like America’s current condition. Both spoken to another nation, the first was written over three millennia ago:
For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper. When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you (Deuteronomy 8:7-10).Here is an excellent overview of the history of America and the circumstances enjoyed by Americans—from the Pilgrims in the 1600s, to the Founders in the 1700s, to the American populace for the first two centuries. But with the social ferment since the 1960s, the rest of the passage is now ominously apropos:
Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God...—then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth.... Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the Lord your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them... (Deuteronomy 8:11-19a, emp. added).This section also describes America’s current physical, moral, and spiritual direction. Large numbers of Americans are forgetting God, neglecting His commands and laws, even rejecting Him with a prideful attitude. This rejection is occurring even as the nation has enjoyed unparalleled financial prosperity—comfortable homes, clothes, cars, and an unbelievable variety of foods. How many Americans recognize the nation’s abundance as the gift of God? And what’s more, as the nation jettisons the moral and spiritual principles of the Bible, they are embracing other philosophies, ideologies, and religions. Consequently, the passage forthrightly declares what must come next:
I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the Lord destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the Lord your God (Deuteronomy 8:19b-20, emp. added).A second passage from God’s inspired Word, written to Israel some 2,500 years ago, also images America’s condition:
You also multiplied their children as the stars of heaven, and brought them into the land which You had told their fathers to go in and possess. So the people went in and possessed the land; You subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gave them into their hands, with their kings and the people of the land, that they might do with them as they wished. And they took strong cities and a rich land, and possessed houses full of all goods, cisterns already dug, vineyards, olive groves, and fruit trees in abundance. So they ate and were filled and grew fat, and delighted themselves in Your great goodness (Nehemiah 9:23-25, emp. added).What better description of the history of America, beginning with the Pilgrims, who came to these shores largely to evade religious persecution that challenged their right to practice the Christian religion in accordance with their own interpretation of the Scriptures? For 200 years, America prospered and “grew fat” from prosperity and progress. Not all has been perfect (e.g., slavery, mistreatment of native Americans, etc.), but many Americans, until the 1960s, in general terms “delighted themselves in [God’s] great goodness.” But now what is happening?
Nevertheless they were disobedient and rebelled against You, cast Your law behind their backs and killed Your prophets, who testified against them to turn them to Yourself; And they worked great provocations (Nehemiah 9:26, emp. added).Observe: in the 1960s, the baby-boomer generation not only rebelled against the Christian teaching and Christian morality embodied in their World War II-generation parents, they commenced a relentless, intense assault on all who oppose them. Evolutionists, atheists, and humanists, who work feverishly to expel God from the country, vilify as ignoramuses and dimwits the Christians who resist them; those who work to enact sexual anarchy in the land by promoting same-sex marriage, denounce as homophobic hatemongers the Christians who resist them. The growing number of welfare recipients, who embrace the unchristian belief that their fellow citizens owe them a living, label their gainsayers as unloving, selfish, and lacking compassion. And the list goes on.... So what will be the end result? The passage continues:
Therefore You delivered them into the hand of their enemies, who oppressed them (Nehemiah 9:27, emp. added).It is obvious that America is following the same road to destruction that other nations in the past have followed. The question is: “Will Americans wake up and see their digression before it is too late?” The only hope of America is for a sizable percentage of its citizenry to turn to God with a contrite heart and restore the Christian orientation that once characterized American civilization. As the passage points out: “And in the time of their trouble, when they cried to You, You heard from heaven; And according to Your abundant mercies You gave them deliverers who saved them from the hand of their enemies” (Nehemiah 9:27). In the words of the psalmist: “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18). “For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit’” (Isaiah 57:15).
Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? and where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:1-2, emp. added).Sadly, “they shrugged their shoulders, stiffened their necks, and would not hear” (Nehemiah 9:29). What will Americans do?
Did Jesus Have the Same Physical Body After His Resurrection?by Eric Lyons, M.Min.
A gentleman once contacted our offices at Apologetics Press, questioning whether Jesus had the same body after His resurrection as He did before being raised from the grave. According to this man, Jesus “appeared to people he knew but nobody recognized him…. It’s as though He had a different body”—and possibly one that was not physical.
At the outset, it is incorrect to assert that “nobody recognized Him,” because Matthew 28:9,17 clearly implies that at least some of Jesus’ disciples knew Who He was and worshipped Him. Moreover, that Jesus had essentially the same physical body after His resurrection that He had when He died on the cross, is evident from at least three different passages. In Luke 24:39 Jesus stated: “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” Jesus expected His disciples to observe His physical body. Later in the same chapter, we read that Jesus ate a meal with His disciples (24:42-43; cf. Acts 10:41). And then in John 20:25-29, which is the most often-used passage in defense of Christ’s having His same physical body, Thomas was asked to touch Jesus’ nail-scared hands and reach into His side that had been pierced with the Roman spear.
But what about those occasions when some of His disciples did not recognize Him? Do such verses as Luke 24:31,37 and John 20:10-16 represent a contradictory element in the resurrection story? First, just because the text says that the disciples thought they had seen a spirit when they actually saw Jesus (Luke 24:37), does not indicate that He looked different. Since they knew He had been killed, seeing His resurrected body caused them to think that He was in spirit form rather than physical. A similar thing happened to Peter when some thought his unexpected presence must be an indication that “it is his angel” (Acts 12:15).
Second, the reason the two disciples who were traveling on the road to Emmaus failed to recognize Jesus initially was not because Jesus had a different body, but because God had miraculously prevented them from recognizing Him. Luke 24:16 indicates that at the beginning of their conversation with Jesus “their eyes were restrained,” but then just before Jesus vanished from their sight, “their eyes were opened and they knew Him” (24:31). Thus, the disciples’ recognition ability failed, not because Jesus possessed a different body, but because their eyes were miraculously restrained.
A final person often mentioned as not having recognized the Savior (allegedly because Jesus had a different body) is Mary Magdalene. John 20:11-18 certainly testifies of her initial inability to identify Jesus. The question is: Was Mary’s failure to recognize Jesus, her fault or the result of Jesus having a different body? As with the above cases, there is no indication in John 20:11-18 that Jesus had anything other than His risen crucified body (cf. 20:25-29). There are at least four possibilities, however, as to why Mary failed to recognize Jesus right at first.
- The sun may not have risen all the way yet, thus making it difficult to see (cf. 20:1).
- Mary was engaged in deep weeping that likely obscured her vision (20:11,13). In fact, the first words Jesus said to Mary were, “Woman, why are you weeping?” (vs. 15).
- Considering Jesus’ clothes were taken from Him when He was crucified (John 19:23-24), and that the linen cloths which were used in His burial were lying in the tomb (John 20:6-7), Jesus likely was wearing clothes that made His exact identity less conspicuous at first glance. Perhaps His post-resurrection attire was similar to what a gardener or watchman would wear (cf. John 20:15).
- It also is possible that Mary’s eyes were restrained miraculously, as were the disciples with whom Jesus conversed on the road to Emmaus.