"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" The Danger With Traditions (15:1-9) INTRODUCTION 1. As Jesus went about preaching and teaching, He often ran afoul of the religious leaders over the matter of keeping traditions... a. E.g., plucking heads of grain on the Sabbath - Mt 12:1-8 b. E.g., healing on the Sabbath - Mt 12:9-14 c. E.g., eating with unwashed hands - Mt 15:1-9 2. In Mt 15:1-9, Jesus describes the danger of traditions at length... a. How keeping them can make void the very commands of God b. How keeping them can make our worship vain before God 3. Traditions are very important in some religions... a. In the Roman Catholic church, tradition is place on par with God's Word 1) "It is an article of faith from a decree of the Vatican Council that Tradition is a source of theological teaching distinct from Scripture, and that it is infallible. It is therefore to be received with the same internal assent of Scripture, for it is the word of God." - Catholic Dictionary, p. 41-42 2) "Do you have to believe in Tradition? Yes, because it is the Word of God and has equal authority with the Bible." - Catholic Catechism For Adults, p. 11 b. Just about every Protestant church has its own traditions 1) It is often the accepted traditions that distinguish between the denominations 2) To be a member of a particular denomination, one must accept its traditions 4. In this study, we will address the following questions... a. What are traditions? b. Are traditions always wrong? c. If not, when does a tradition become sinful? [Let's begin with...] I. THE MEANING OF TRADITION A. THE WORD ITSELF... 1. The Greek word is "paradosis", which means "giving over" or "handing down" 2. It refers to teaching that is handed down either by word (orally) or in writing B. AS UNDERSTOOD BY THE JEWS... 1. It was often applied to the oral teachings of the elders (distinguished elders from Moses on down) 2. These traditions were often divided into three classes... a. Some oral laws supposedly given by Moses in addition to the written laws b. Decisions of various judges which became precedents in judicial matters c. Interpretations of highly respected rabbis which were held in reverence along with the OT scriptures -- Article on "Tradition", ISBE 3. Prior to his conversion, Paul was a staunch supporter of Jewish tradition - Ga 1:13-14 C. AS UNDERSTOOD BY ROMAN AND GREEK CATHOLICS... 1. Their views appear to be parallel to that of the Jews 2. What they consider "Tradition" is what they believe to be the teachings: a. Of Jesus or the apostles, persevered orally rather than through writing b. Of various councils which have left various decrees c. Of various church leaders (such as the pope) considered to be inspired with later revelations from God 3. Of course, one is expected to take their word for it that these "traditions" were truly from God and have been faithfully transmitted D. AS FOUND IN THE SCRIPTURES... 1. The word "tradition" as such is not found in the Old Testament 2. It is found thirteen times in New Testament a. Three times it refers to "apostolic teaching" 1) That which had been delivered by the apostles - 1Co 11:2 2) Whether by word (in person) or epistle - 2Th 2:15 3) Which Christians were expected to keep - 2Th 3:6 b. Ten times it refers to "the tradition of the elders" or "the traditions of men" 1) As in our text and parallel passages - Mt 15:2-6; Mk 7: 3-13 2) Of which Paul warned the Colossians - Col 2:8 3) From which Jewish Christians had been delivered (including Paul) - 1Pe 1:18; Ga 1:14 3. Jesus did not feel bound to abide by "the traditions of the elders" a. Some traditions He had no problem keeping 1) Such as going to a wedding feast - Jn 2:1-2 2) Or attending the Feast Of Dedication - Jn 10:22-23 b. But He just as easily had no problem with violating other traditions 1) Plucking grain or healing on the Sabbath 2) Eating with unwashed hands c. Evidently Jesus did not subscribe to the view of "traditions" handed down orally 1) He never appealed to the traditions of the elders 2) He either appealed to the authority of the written Word (the Law of Moses), or to His own authority as the Son of God [Not all "traditions" are wrong. When they are teachings inspired of God, given and "written" by men approved of God, they are to be heeded. But when they are doctrines or interpretations handed down by uninspired men, then like the traditions of the Jews they are suspect. As we return to our text (Mt 15:1-9), Jesus points out...] II. THE DANGER OF TRADITIONS OF MEN A. THEY CAN MAKE VOID THE WORD OF GOD... 1. Jesus gave the example of honoring one's parents - Mt 15:3-6 a. The tradition of the elders taught giving to the temple freed one from giving to his or her parents b. Thus rendering the command of God of no effect 2. There are traditions of men today with similar affect a. Such as the practice of sprinkling for baptism, a tradition of man b. When one keeps the tradition of sprinkling, they make the command of God to be baptized (immersed) of no effect! 3. Through keeping such traditions, one is actually rejecting the command of God! - cf. Mk 7:8-9 B. THEY CAN LEAD TO VAIN WORSHIP... 1. When traditions of men are taught on the same level as the commands of God, it leads to vain worship - Mt 15:9 2. Such worship may appear to be impressive, but it in actually "empty, worthless" a. First, because God did not command it b. Second, because it does not accomplish the good we really need - cf. Col 2:20-23 C. THEY CAN LEAD TO HYPOCRITICAL WORSHIP... 1. Traditions of men tend toward ritualism (just look at the rituals found in many religions that have no scriptural basis) 2. Such ritualism is often done repeatedly, with little thought as to its origin and purpose 3. It is easy to go through such rituals, with the heart and mind on other things 4. Worship without the heart (or mind) of man is hypocritical worship! - Mt 15:7-8 CONCLUSION 1. What are traditions? a. They are simply teachings that have been handed down b. In the case of inspired men (like the apostles) given in person or through their writings, such traditions are good and to be followed 2. In the case of oral transmissions, given through a chain of uninspired men, traditions are at best suspect... a. Jesus did not hold the "traditions" orally transmitted through the Jews on par with God's written word b. Neither should we hold "traditions" orally transmitted through Christians on par with God's written word 3. At worst, traditions of men can be vain and deadly... a. When their observance leads one to not keep a command of God b. When they are taught as doctrine, on par with God's word c. When they lead to ritualism, done without engaging the heart and mind of man From Jesus' words, let us be aware of "The Danger With Traditions", and make sure that our faith and practice is based upon the written Word of God, not the interpretations and teachings of uninspired men!
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" The Death Of John The Baptist (14:1-12) INTRODUCTION 1. A sad story in the Bible is that of "The Death Of John The Baptist" a. His imprisonment occurred near the beginning of Jesus' ministry - Mt 4:12 b. Some time later, John sent two of his disciples to Jesus - Mt 11: 1-3 c. Eventually he was beheaded by Herod - Mt 14:1-12 2. The sadness of the story, though, is tempered by the contrast between John and those responsible for his death... a. A remarkable contrast between a godly man and a depraved family b. A contrast that certainly provides several object lessons, encouraging godly living 3. In this study, we shall review what is said about "The Death Of John The Baptist"... a. Noticing the four key persons in this narrative b. Considering a few lessons and points that might be gleaned from this passage [We begin with...] I. THE FAITHFULNESS OF JOHN A. JOHN PROVED TO BE A FAITHFUL PROPHET... 1. His message was a call to repentance - Mt 3:1-2 2. He called the religious leaders to repentance as well - Mt 3: 7-8 3. Nor did he back away from pointing out the sins of the king - Mt 14:3-4 a. Herod had married his brother Philip's wife, Herodias b. It was an unlawful marriage, for several reasons: 1) Philip was still living, making it adultery - Ro 7:1-3 2) She was Herod's niece, making it incest 3) The Law prohibited marrying a brother's wife - Lev 18: 16; 20:21 4. Rather than change his message to accommodate the king, John was willing to go to prison and ultimately die for the Word of God! B. HIS FAITHFULNESS SHOULD INSPIRE US TODAY... 1. To be true to God's Word, even when not politically correct 2. To proclaim God's law on marriage, even if it angers others a. God's law on marriage goes all the way back to the creation - Mt 19:4-8 b. Christ defined the one circumstance when one may divorce and remarry - Mt 19:9 c. Therefore not all marriages are "lawful"; there may be times when we must tell one: "It is not lawful for you to have her" - Mt 14:4 [The faithfulness of this godly man stands out, especially when contrasted with the members of the ungodly family we now consider. Beginning with...] II. THE SHAMELESSNESS OF SALOME A. SALOME WAS A GIRL WITH NO SHAME... 1. Of course, she was the daughter of a shameless woman - Mt 14:6 2. From the Greek, Robertson describes her dance as "some kind of rapid motion...a shameful exhibition of lewd dancing" (Robertson's Word Pictures) 3. She danced this way, not just before Herod, but his guests as well - Mk 6:21-22 B. HER SHAMELESSNESS IS OFTEN REPEATED TODAY... 1. Much modern dance is similar to the lewdness of Salome's dancing a. Designed to arouse fleshly passions b. "Because of its physical appeal, dance lends itself to erotic purposes and has been practiced to these ends by both sexes." - Encyclopedia Britannica, "The Art Of Dance" 2. Such shamelessness is condemned as lewdness (lasciviousness, licentiousness) a. The Greek word for "lewdness" (aselgia) is "unbridled lust ...wanton acts or manners (including) filthy words, indecent bodily movements, unchaste handling of males and females" (Thayer) b. Condemned as a work of the flesh - cf. Ga 5:19-21 3. Christians (esp. women) are to possess a sense of "shamefacedness" - 1Ti 2:9 (KJV) a. That is, a sense of propriety (NKJV), that which is proper b. The Greek word (aidos) means "a sense of shame, modesty" (Vine) c. "Aidos would always restrain a good man from an unworthy act..." (Trench) [The shamelessness of Salome contributed to the death of John the Baptist. Similar lack of propriety among men and women leads to much trouble today as well. Of course, this young girl was undoubtedly influenced by her mother...] III. THE VENGEFULNESS OF HERODIAS A. HERODIAS WAS A VENGEFUL WOMAN... 1. She was the subject of John's rebuke to Herod - Mt 14:3-4 a. She had been married to Philip, Herod Antipas' half-brother b. Herod had been married to the daughter of Aretas, an Arabian king of Petraea c. After Herod had been a guest in Philip's home, he and Herodias eloped while still married to their spouses d. At some point they married, for which John rebuked them - Mk 6:17-18 2. In her vengefulness... a. She prompted Herod to imprison John - Mk 6:17-18 a. She wanted to kill John, though temporarily prevented from doing so - Mk 6:19 b. She prompted her daughter to ask for John's head on a platter - Mk 6:22-25 B. SUCH VENGEFULNESS OFTEN DESTROYS LIVES TODAY... 1. Through vengeance people often resort to desperate measures a. E.g., Simeon and Levi, whose vengeance killed those of Shechem - Gen 34:1-31 b. It moved Joab to kill Abner, an honorable man - 2Sa 3:27; 1Ki 2:29-33 2. Vengeance led to the downfall of such people as: a. Haman, who tried to kill Mordecai and the Jews - Esther 3-7 b. The Edomites and the Philistines, who took vengeance on Judah - Eze 25:12-17 3. Vengeance destroys families, friends, associates; hurting most those who exercise it 4. Which is why we are commanded to leave vengeance to God - Pro 24:29; Ro 12:17-19; 1Th 5:15; 1Pe 3:9 [Finally, we consider the king who was manipulated like a pawn, as we look at...] IV. THE WEAKNESS OF HEROD A. HEROD ANTIPAS WAS A WEAK MAN... 1. Son of Herod the Great, we see his weakness manifested by: a. His superstition, supposing Jesus to be John raised from the dead - Mt 14:1-2 b. His unfaithfulness, in leaving his first wife and marrying Herodias - Mt 14:3-4 c. His fear of the multitude and John himself, which prevented Herod from killing him at first - Mt 14:5; Mk 6:20 d. His manipulation by Salome and Herodias - Mt 14:6-8 e. His fear of his guests, before whom he was afraid of ridicule - Mt 14:9 2. His weakness eventually led to his death a. For Herodias later prompted him to join her in appealing for favors from Caesar b. But they were accused of high treason and banished to Lyons in Gaul, where he died in great misery (Josephus, Antiquities Of The Jews) B. SUCH MORAL WEAKNESS CAN BE A PROBLEM TODAY... 1. We can be destroyed by weakness through: a. Succumbing to temptation b. Allowing others to pressure us in doing evil - 1Co 15:33 2. Christians need to stand strong... a. Cf. The example of young men as Joseph and Daniel - Gen 39: 1-12; Dan 1:8 b. Looking to God for help and strength - 1Co 10:13; Ep 3:16; Php 4:13 c. Seeking the approval of God, not men - Ga 1:10 CONCLUSION 1. In "The Death Of John The Baptist", it initially appears that evil was the winner... a. Herod succeeded in imprisoning and killing John b. Herod and Salome succeeded in manipulating Herod and getting rid of John 2. There are times today when it seems that evil people are the ones who win in life... a. People who blatantly disregard God's law on divorce and remarriage b. Young people who gain popularity through shameless conduct 3. But as revealed by the Psalmist (Ps 73:1-28), such apparent success is fleeting... a. God will eventually bring the wicked into judgment b. Sometimes judgment is received even in this life, as with the exile of Herod and Herodias c. Whose shoes would you want to be in now? Herod's? Herodias'? Salome's? May the faithfulness of John remind us that serving God is the only way to eternal life and true happiness...!
Is There a Place for Science and Faith in a Postmodern World?
|by||Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.|
The minds of many Christians today harbor an interesting mixture of premodern and modern ways of thinking. For example, we know we have one foot planted squarely in the premodern world when we express certainty in the promises of God, and accept the authority of His revelation. At the same time, we know we have the other foot planted squarely in the modern world when we use scientific reasoning to defend our faith, and when we encourage belief based on reasonable grounds, and a careful weighing of what others have to say.
The modern creation movement is itself a seething confluence of these two worlds. In Whitcomb and Morris’ The Genesis Flood (1961), we find an attempt to synthesize science with a literal understanding of the Bible. As far as they were able, the authors strove for scientific credibility by limiting divine interventions to those instances referred to explicitly by Scripture. In the end, however, the biblical text was to have the final say.
Modernism plays a greater role when consensus positions of science define a theological position. A fine example of such a project relevant to many of our readers can be found in the work of astronomer Hugh Ross. Implicit in Ross’ approach is the idea that the Big Bang provides the best scientific evidence available for the existence of a Creator-God. It would seem, from this perspective, that if Christians were to attack the Big Bang they would, in effect, be undermining their own faith and erecting barriers to the faith of others (Ross, 1991, pp. 163-164). Here is an apologetic that integrates entirely a modernistic agenda.
Traditionally, whether we have leaned toward premodern or modern ways of thinking, most of us in the West have cherished certain crucial ideas. These would include, for instance, the concept of truth—that there is a way to know that what is, is. It also would include the idea of an intelligible Universe—an idea that itself stems from the Christian view that we live in a world created by a rational, loving, intelligent Being. However, modern science eventually concluded that nature was the only thing we could understand—God was taken out of the picture altogether. Empiricism, in its extreme form, gave way to positivism, which writes off as nonsensical any utterances that include references to the nonempirical. To say, “God loves you,” is a meaningless noise in the ears of the positivist.
Postmodernism challenges Christianity and modernity because both claim to be “true” (Fields, 1995). For the postmodernist, truth neither is revealed (as it is in Scripture) nor is it discovered (as it is in science). That absolute truth and empirical science primarily are Western concepts is reason enough to reject their universal application. Different views of reality, held by other cultures, are no less true. If a tribe in Borneo believes that a certain ritual will cure a tumor, then who are Christians with their prayer, or Western doctors with their high-tech medicine, to tell them otherwise? In other words, truth is local and relative.
This immediately plunges the postmodernist into all sorts of difficulties. What would happen, for instance, if I were to claim that truth is absolute? If the postmodernist says I am wrong, then truth is not relative after all. If the postmodernist allows that I am right, then truth really is absolute as I claim.
Nonetheless, a limited idea of truth already is well ensconced in Western society, even if postmodernism’s greatest supporters are confined at present to a narrow segment of academia. There is no reason at this point to believe that such ideas will go away merely by closing our eyes. That Christian apologetics should have to reposition itself to this fresh challenge is nothing new. The first apologists used and responded to Greek philosophy, and the apologists of the modern era did the same with the arrival of empirical science.
Despite its horrible inconsistencies and rejection of traditional biblical faith, postmodern criticism could open certain doors for Christianity. Most important, it challenges positivism by asserting that empirical science does not have exclusive rights to truth. This move away from modernism may recover a place for a transcendent God (i.e, for something beyond nature).
Although hardly a postmodernist, this is precisely the tact taken by Berkeley law professor, Phillip E. Johnson (see, especially, his 1995 book, Reason in the Balance). Rather than affirming an overt belief in a Creator, he seeks official invitations from science and philosophy departments (still strongholds of modernism), in which he then challenges the supremacy of naturalism.
Creationists also have drawn upon works that critique the way science works (Numbers, 1992, p. 247). This is borne out of a sense of frustration that scientists, as a group, will not allow anybody else to join in unless they play by the rules of naturalism. It is on this point that the controversial work of Thomas Kuhn figures significantly.
In his Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn spoke of scientists as members of a community who hold to what he called a paradigm—a shared “constellation of beliefs, values, and techniques” (1970, p. 175). A revolution in the paradigm would be accomplished only by a process of conversion (when existing scientists accept new ideas on “faith”) or replacement (when a new generation takes over from the “old guard”). Here are elements that sound almost religious and political. Certainly it is not the picture of scientists always making an unimpassioned choice of the “best” theory. Dissenters may not have much of a say in this community, but they are not wrong merely because they disagree with the prevailing paradigm.
Many scientists who believe in a creation and global flood identify with this analysis. They feel that their dissent from majority opinions should not signal their expulsion from the community. Further, it is possible that science really may benefit from what they have to offer. For example, perhaps geology should consider the possibility of global catastrophes; perhaps anatomy should investigate “vestigial” organs and structures, rather than writing them off as useless remnants of previous evolutionary stages; and perhaps questions of origins should at least include the possibility that the answer may lie beyond nature itself.
Postmodernists have raised objections in other areas of interest to the believing scientist. For example, in the field of medical technology, some have questioned whether researchers should do anything merely because it is possible. In 1993, Robert Stillman and Jerry Hall reported the “cloning” (test-tube twinning) of human embryos. Stillman received approval for this work from an institutional review board, but he neglected to tell the board that the work already had been done because he thought it would “bias their judgment” (Science, 1994, 266:1949). Earlier, Hall admitted that pushing the ethical envelope was a prime motivation for doing the experiment (Kolberg, 1996, 262:652). Today, this aspect of modernism—pursuing the truth at any cost, regardless of what the rest of society thinks—seems terribly arrogant to many people outside of science. Christians can enter the discussion by upholding concern for others and valuing life itself.
On a similar vein, postmodernism perceives technology as driving a wedge between humanity and nature. Christians may be able to explain this sense of detachment by showing that while technology is useful, it is necessary only because sin separated us from an ideal state in which the first man and woman worked intimately with nature and in communion with God (Genesis 2:8; 3:8). Humans were granted a very special place in the order of things, but their role is one of stewardship, not exploitation (Genesis 2:15). Further, humans are uniquely situated to experience the wonders of creation in the world around them (Psalm 8).
It is too early to announce a winner in the debate between modernism and postmodernism. Christians may end up benefiting from the exchange, but there are some pitfalls to avoid. Principally, Christians should not feel compelled to defend the prevailing views of any historical period. Their prime concern is to preach Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). To depend on, rather than judiciously employ, the tools of culture is to make the Faith vulnerable to the sort of attacks leveled by postmodernism against systems established on its older rivals. If modernism really is adopted as the “Christian” way of thinking about our Universe, with God playing less and less of a role in His creation, then Christianity may fail to transcend culture. In something so impermanent as culture there is no foundation for concepts such as eternal truth (Psalm 119:52).
What would really happen to Ross’ apologetics if (and this is not a very big “if ”) the Big Bang were relegated to the trash heap of unfashionable scientific theories? Is this to be the best solution that theism can offer after more than two centuries of wrangling over faith and science? Perhaps Ross will succeed in reaching fellow modernists, but what will it tell them about God, and what will it do for the rest of society? In fact, we already have had ample lessons to teach us that matters of faith should not rest on prevailing scientific opinion. Few Christians today, for instance, would take up the cudgels for something like geocentrism. Surely scientific knowledge can grow, and benefit humanity, without dictating the content of religious belief.
Finally, if Christians expect to use the methods and findings of science as a testament to the Creator, then they must take care not to diminish the possibility of doing good science. There is always room for taking a second look at how science works, but making a mockery of it may confuse the real issue (i.e., questioning the assumptions and interpretations of the scientists themselves). Science arguably is the greatest tool bequeathed to us by the modern period. It is no friend of theism in its positivistic guise, but the master whose hands have been bitten should, nonetheless, foster those worthy aspects of science that may be used in the service of faith.
Johnson, Phillip E. (1995), Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law, and Education (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity).
Kolberg, Rebecca (1993), “Human Embryo Cloning Reported,” Science, 262:652-653, October 29.
Kuhn, Thomas S. (1970), The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, second edition).
Numbers, Ronald (1992), The Creationists (New York: Alfred A. Knopf).
Ross, Hugh (1991), The Fingerprint of God (Orange, CA: Promise, second edition).
Science (1994), “Embryo Cloners Jumped the Gun,” 266:1949, December 23.
Whitcomb, John C., and Henry M. Morris (1961), The Genesis Flood (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
|by||Caleb Colley, Ph.D.|
While it is true that God is loving (Romans 8:39), merciful (Psalm 57:2-3), and willing to offer His grace to all (Titus 2:11), one striking characteristic of the Almighty is His fierce anger. The most common Hebrew term for anger is ’ap, which can be used to denote either divine or human anger (Genesis 27:45; Numbers 11:1, et al.). The term refers to “nostril,” which the ancients thought to be the locale of anger (Harrison, 1979, 1:127), while the word ’anap (which is used exclusively to denote the anger of God; Deuteronomy 4:21, 1 Kings 11:9) means “to breathe hard.” The Bible writers clearly have revealed that God is capable of being angry with a righteous indignation (see Miller, 2003). Consider a sampling of the passages that bear out this idea:
Deuteronomy 29:27-28: “Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against this land, to bring on it every curse that is written in this book. And the Lord uprooted them from their land in anger, in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day” (emp. added).God’s fierce anger is such an essential aspect of His divine nature that Bible writers (and people whose words are recorded in Scripture) sometimes referred to “the wrath,” knowing that readers would understand exactly Whose anger was under consideration. Consider the words John the Baptizer spoke to the Pharisees and Sadducees: “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matthew 3:7; cf. Numbers 1:53; Joshua 22:20). In John 2:14-17, we read of Jesus’ righteous indignation at those who turned God’s house into a “house of merchandise.” Christ certainly knew how to utilize anger properly, thereby giving us an example of how one’s temper can be used to the glory of God (see Butt, 2001). Paul instructed the Ephesian Christians: “Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26). Anger has its place. It can be greatly beneficial, and God is our perfect example in this area. What is it about the anger of Christ that makes it righteous?
2 Chronicles 29:10: “Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel, that His fierce wrath may turn away from us” (emp. added, cf. 30:8; 32:26).
Nehemiah 9:17: “They refused to obey, and they were not mindful of Your wonders that You did among them. But they hardened their necks, and in their rebellion they appointed a leader to return to their bondage. But You are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and did not forsake them” (emp. added, cf. Psalms 103:8; 145:8, et al.).
Hebrews 10:26-27: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries (emp. added).
Observe that, unlike many humans, God does not become angry because of the “heat of the moment” or because He possesses a confusing, constantly fluctuating emotionality. On the contrary, God’s anger is rationally retributive. His anger is His direct, calculated response to sin. Nowhere is His anger observed more clearly than in the pages of the Old Testament, where we read often of God exhibiting His anger at the children of Israel in a very demonstrative and graphic manner. Remember, however, that God never became angry at the children of Israel unless they breached their covenant with Him; if God was angry, it was Israel’s fault (see Deuteronomy 11:17; 29:24-28; Ezra 8:22; Nehemiah 13:18, et al.).
The psalmist wrote that God is “angry with the wicked every day” (7:11). F.K. Farr stated regarding the English word “anger”: “As…denoting God’s ‘anger,’ the English word is unfortunate so far as it may seem to imply selfish, malicious or vindictive personal feeling. The anger of God is the response of His holiness to outbreaking sin. Particularly when it culminates in action is it rightly called His ‘wrath’” (1956, p. 135).
The redemptive work of Christ on the cross does not indicate that God relinquished His wrath in New Testament times. On the Day of Judgment, His wrath will be exercised against the unrighteous. Paul said: “…He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained” (Acts 17:31). We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10), and if we are saved, our salvation through Christ will be salvation from God’s wrath (Romans 5:9). In a sense, the wrath of God already rests upon impenitent humans, because they have rejected the only means of salvation available to them. John the Baptizer said: “…he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). Paul wrote: “…forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost” (1 Thessalonians 2:16; see Simpson, 1988, p. 1135).
How wonderful it is to serve a God Who understands all of our emotions perfectly, to learn from His wisdom, to hold dear His utter hatred of evil, and to obey His command to be cautious in how we act upon our anger (Ephesians 4:26-31; James 1:19).
REFERENCESButt, Kyle (2001), “Even Jesus Had a Temper,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1611.
Farr, F.K. (1939), “Anger,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson) 1:135.
Harrison, Roland K. (1979), “Anger,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans) 1:127.
Miller, Dave (2003), “God’s Fierce Anger,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2242.
Simpson, John W. (1988), “Wrath; anger,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans) 4:1135.
Egyptian Magicians, Snakes, and Rods
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Most everyone who has ever read the biblical account of the ten plagues in Egypt cannot help but remember the scene in which Moses and Aaron threw down their rod that became a snake, and Pharoah’s magicians imitated the feat. The biblical account states:
And Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent. But Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers; so the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments (Exodus 7:10-11).In regard to this account, many have wondered how the magicians of Egyptian could have possessed the miraculous power to imitate the sign that God had given to Moses and Aaron. Did the magicians truly possess supernatural powers by which they could convince Pharaoh, or could there be some other explanations for the events that transpired with the rods? In regard to these questions, the biblical text does not definitively offer any conclusive answers. There are, however, other clues that seem to indicate that the Egyptian magicians used sleight-of-hand trickery devoid of supernatural ability.
Egyptians have long used the snake in their religious and ceremonial rituals. Many murals, ancient Egyptian paintings and carvings, and written texts portray this animal in connection with ancient Egyptian snake charmers, magicians, and even Pharaohs. In fact, many of the golden burial casts used to intern the ancient Egyptian kings have a sculpture of a snake coming from the forehead of the regal personality. Furthermore, the snake is commonly associated with certain gods of ancient Egypt. In regard to this affinity for the serpentine, the ancient Egyptians often used snakes in charming ceremonies and other practices. Due to this close association with the creature, they would certainly have become quite skilled at capturing, handling, and displaying snakes.
In their celebrated commentary series on the Old Testament, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown comment on the incident between Moses and Aaron and the Egyptian magicians:
The magicians of Egypt in modern times have long been celebrated adepts in charming serpents; and particularly by pressing the nape of the neck they throw them into a kind of catalepsy, which renders them stiff and immoveable, thus seeming to change them into a rod. They conceal the serpent about their person, and by acts of legerdemain produce it from their dress, stiff and straight as a rod. Just the same trick was played off by their ancient predecessors.... [A]nd so it appears they succeeded by their “enchantments” in practicing an illusion on the senses (2002, 1:295, Exodus 7:11-14).The idea that a skilled magician could use a snake in such a way is no novel concept in the world of magic tricks. Walter Gibson, in his book Secrets of Magic, states that there is a certain type of snake that can be made motionless by applying pressure just below its head. Gibson also notes that the particular species of snake suitable for this stunt happens to be the naja haje (or haja), otherwise known as the Egyptian Cobra (as cited in “Case Studies,” n.d.). Along similar lines, Rod Robison, a comedy magician from Tucson, wrote: “Turning a rod into a snake, for instance, is easily accomplished by the same method modern day magicians turn a cane into a flower or handkerchief. I’ve seen the ‘cane to snake’ performed by magician Allan Rassco. Believe me, it’s impressive” (1999).
In truth, there is nothing inherent in the biblical text that would suggest that these magicians possessed any supernatural powers. Sleight-of-hand trickery can easily account for the “powers” possessed by the Egyptian magicians. While the magicians could at least make it look like they possessed amazing abilities, they could not withstand the power of the Almighty God. Their feeble attempts to mimic the miracle performed by Moses and Aaron was thwarted when God manifested His power by causing the rod of Moses and Aaron to consume all the other rods of the magicians (Exodus 7:12).
Jamieson, Robert, A.R. Fausset, and David Brown (2002 reprint), A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Robison, Rod (1999), “But I Saw Him Levitate!”, [On-line], URL: http://www.dtl.org/article/robison/levitate.htm.
Faith, Evidence, and Credible Testimony
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
It might surprise some to learn that Thomas was not the only “doubting disciple” immediately following Jesus’ resurrection. Do you recall what happened when Mary Magdalene, the first person to whom Jesus appeared, went to alert the mourning apostles of Jesus’ empty tomb and resurrection? When the apostles “heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe” (Mark 16:11, emp. added). According to Luke, the words of Mary Magdalene and the women who accompanied her seemed to the apostles “like idle tales” (24:11) or “nonsense” (24:11, NASB). Later, when the two disciples on the road to Emmaus reported to the apostles how Jesus had appeared to them as well, the apostles “did not believe them either” (Mark 16:13). When Jesus finally appeared to the apostles (not including Thomas) on the evening of His resurrection (John 20:19), He questioned their “doubts” (Luke 24:38) and “rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen” (Mark 16:14). Then, when Jesus appeared to the apostles eight days later, this time with Thomas present, Jesus instructed him to “not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27).
Those closest to Jesus during His ministry initially doubted His resurrection from the dead and were justifiably rebuked for their unbelief. Although many of us likely would have been guilty of the same doubts, still, the apostles should have believed the witness of Mary Magdalene as soon as she testified to the empty tomb and risen Savior. Believers today, however, must be careful not to misinterpret Jesus’ rebukes of unbelief as promoting the popular notion that Christianity is an emotion-based, feel-good religion where evidence is unavailable or unnecessary.
EVIDENCESince the Bible repeatedly testifies that the faith of Christians is grounded in truth, reason, knowledge, and evidence (Romans 1:20; Psalm 19:1-4; John 5:31-47; Acts 1:3; 26:25), some wonder why Jesus rebuked the apostles for doubting His resurrection prior to seeing Him alive (Mark 16:14; cf. Luke 24:38). Had Jesus expected His apostles to have faith in His resurrection without proof? And why did Jesus tell Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29, emp. added)? Was Jesus commending an unverifiable, fickle faith?
The fact is, neither Thomas nor any apostle was rebuked for wanting evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. They were rightly rebuked, however, (1) for doubting the credible evidence they had already received, and (2) for demanding more evidence than was necessary for them to have solid faith in the risen Savior.
PropheciesThe same Man Whom Peter confessed was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16); the same Man Whom the apostles had seen raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43-44); the same Man Whom they saw transfigured (Matthew 17:5-9); the same Man Who had worked many amazing miracles in their presence (John 20:30); the same Man Who foretold precisely Peter’s triple denial (Matthew 26:34,75); the same Man Who accurately prophesied His own betrayal, scourging, and crucifixion (Matthew 20:18-19): this same Man repeatedly prophesied of His resurrection, even foretelling the very day on which it would occur (John 2:19; Matthew 12:40; 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19; 26:32). So well known were Jesus’ prophecies of His resurrection from the dead on the third day that even His enemies were aware of them. In fact, the “chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, ‘Sir, we remember, that while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, “After three days I will rise.” Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night and steal Him away’” (Matthew 27:62-64).
So why did Jesus rebuke His apostles for their unbelief following His resurrection? Was He implying that they should have behaved like simpletons and believed everything they ever heard from anyone? (“The simple believes every word, but the prudent considers well his steps”—Proverbs 14:15.) Not at all. Jesus had every right to rebuke His apostles’ unbelief, first and foremost, because they refused to believe His Word (cf. Romans 10:17). They had seen Him raise the dead. They had witnessed His perfect life. They had heard His consistent words of Truth, including His repeated and accurate prophecies of various matters, including His betrayal, arrest, scourging, and crucifixion. They had every logical reason to believe what Jesus had prophesied about His resurrection. Everything they had ever seen and heard from Jesus was pure, right, and true. However, rather than expect a risen Redeemer on Sunday morning, such an idea “appeared to them as nonsense” (Luke 24:11, NASB, emp. added). Rather than traveling to Galilee and searching for the living Lord as soon as the Sun appeared on the third day (Matthew 26:32), they remained in Jerusalem behind closed doors “for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19).
Jesus wanted His disciples to understand about His death and resurrection. He told them: “Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men” (Luke 9:43, emp. added). He desired for them to have a sincere, strong, evidence-based faith. Sadly, fear, preconceived ideas about the Messiah and His kingdom, and spiritual blindness (Luke 9:44; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4) initially interfered with the apostles’ belief in His resurrection.
Credible TestimonyWhen Jesus told Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29), was He condoning a careless faith? Was He advancing the idea of an emotion-driven, feel-good religion? Should we expect Christians living 2,000 years this side of the resurrection of Christ to have a reasonable faith in the risen Savior? If, unlike Thomas and the rest of the apostles, Jesus has never appeared to us, how can we expect to have a fact-based faith?
The same God Who rightly expects His human creation to examine the evidence and come to a knowledge of Him without ever literally seeing Him, is the same God Who expects man to follow the facts that lead to a resurrected Redeemer without ever personally witnessing His resurrection. No one believes in God because they can put Him under a microscope and see Him. No one can prove He exists by touching Him. We cannot use the five senses to see and prove the actual essence of God (cf. John 4:24; Luke 24:39). What we have at our fingertips, however, is a mountain of credible evidence that testifies on God’s behalf. The very existence of finite matter testifies to a supernatural, infinite, eternal Creator. The endless examples of design in the Universe bear witness to a grand Designer. The laws of science (e.g., the Law of Biogenesis) testify to God’s existence. [NOTE: For additional information on the existence of God, see http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12.]
A reasonable faith in Jesus’ resurrection is, likewise, based upon a mountain of credible testimony. Just as credible testimony (and not first-hand knowledge) has lead billions of people to believe, justifiably so, that Alexander the Great, Napoleon, and George Washington were real people, millions of Christians have come to the logical conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead. Nineteen-hundred-year-old eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ resurrection exist in the most historically documented and accurate ancient book in the world—the New Testament. The event was foreshadowed and prophesied in the Old Testament (Psalm 16:10; Jonah 1:17-2:10; Matthew 12:40). Though very serious preventative steps were taken to keep the lifeless body of Jesus buried (Matthew 27:62-66), the tomb was found empty on the exact day He promised to arise. The body of Christ was never found (and, no doubt, first-century skeptics, especially the impenitent Jews who put Him to death, would have loved nothing more than to present Jesus’ dead body to early Christians).
The once fearful and skeptical disciples quickly transformed into a courageous, confident group of Christians who suffered and eventually died for their continual belief and teachings regarding the resurrected Lord. Hundreds of early Christians were able to testify to having seen Jesus firsthand after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). Tens of thousands of once-skeptical Jews, not the least of which was Saul of Tarsus, examined the evidence, left Judaism, and confessed Jesus Christ as the Son of God (Acts 2:41,47; 4:4; 5:14; 6:7; 21:20). What’s more, these same Jews changed their day of worship from Saturday to Sunday (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2). As with evidence for the existence of God or the inspiration of the Bible, the cumulative case for the resurrection of Christ from credible testimony lies at the heart of a fortified faith.
CONCLUSIONJesus rightly rebuked His apostles following His resurrection. They should have believed Mary Magdalene because she was a credible witness who said nothing more than what the Son of God had previously said many times would happen: He would arise on the third day following His death. What’s more, the blessing that Jesus mentioned to the apostle Thomas (“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”—John 20:29) was not an endorsement of a blind, emotion-based, feel-good religion, but Heaven-sent support for the truthful, credible evidence that leads the open-minded, truth-seeker to confess Him as “Lord and God.”
Christians and the Theory of Evolution
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
It is not uncommon to hear Christians in the 21st century claim to believe in evolution. I have read, corresponded with, and met many people in the past decade who professed to believe both in the inspiration of the Bible and in many aspects of macroevolution. Some claim that the multi-billion-year Big Bang theory is valid, but that God played a part in it. Others assert that the Earth’s layers represent hundreds of millions of years of time, and that the fossils found therein are many millions of years old. Some “Christians” even think that God made man from monkey-like creatures. They believe that humans evolved from lower life forms, while God supposedly directed the process.
I am continually baffled by such claims from alleged Christians for three different reasons. First, as we have addressed many times in the past, the Bible clearly teaches that the Earth is only five days older than man, and even atheistic evolutionists do not believe that man has been on Earth for billions of years (cf. Lyons, 2006). Christians can choose to believe the multi-billion-year evolutionary time scale, which claims that people evolved approximately 13.996 billion years after the beginning of the Universe, or they can believe what Jesus and Paul taught—that man has been on Earth since the foundation of the world (Luke 11:49-51; Mark 10:6; Romans 1:20). You cannot logically or scripturally believe both views.
Second, macroevolution has never been proven. Many Christians have accepted evolution even though the entire theory is based upon assumptions. Evolutionists assume that because there are certain similarities between humans and animals, humans must have evolved from animals. In truth, however, these similarities prove no such thing. (They more accurately point to a common Creator Who made living creatures with many similarities because we live on the same planet, breathe the same air, eat the same kinds of food, drink the same water, etc.). Furthermore, neither geology nor paleontology proves macroevolution. All methods of dating rocks are based upon built-in assumptions (see Riddle, 2007). Evolutionary geologists and paleontologists have not “proven” that the layers of the Earth and the fossils in the Earth are millions of years old, they merely assume that the assumption-based dating methods are accurate. Moreover, there are no evolutionary family trees in the fossil record, but only evolutionists’ interpretations of the fossils. Simply put, macroevolution has never been observed or confirmed.
Finally, many Christians seem willing to defend evolution more blindly than some atheistic evolutionists. For example, even though many professed Christians have swallowed Big Bang Theory hook, line, and sinker (e.g., a senior biology major at a Christian University once informed me that all of her science professors “believe in the validity of the Big Bang”), some of the world’s most decorated evolutionary astrophysicists freely admit that “we are still as confused as ever about how the universe began” (Coles, 193:37). In short, while Big Bang Theory is falling on hard times within some atheistic evolutionary circles (cf. Brooks, 2008, 198:31; Coles, 2007, 193:33-37), it is still propagated among some “Bible believers” as factual. Unbelievable! “Christian” evolutionists are even known to accept alleged “missing links” as proof of human evolution. Another Christian college student once told me about one professor’s espousal of the idea that “Lucy” (Australopithecus afarensis) was likely one of our hairy, half-human, half-ape ancestors who lived a few million years ago. In truth, the idea of Lucy being our ancestor has been known for years to be riddled with problems, which even some atheistic evolutionists have acknowledged (see Harrub and Thompson, 2003, pp. 41-57).
Sadly, many professed Christians have bought into Darwin’s damnable doctrines despite (1) it never being proven, (2) notable atheistic evolutionists having doubts about, and problems with, many aspects of evolution, and (3) Scripture clearly teaching that the Earth is relatively young and not billions of years old. Scripture and science do not disagree with each other, but God’s Word and the General Theory of Evolution do. May God help His people stop kowtowing to evolutionary scientific elitism and start accepting God at His Word.
Coles, Peter (2007), “Boomtime,” New Scientist, 193:33-37, March 3.
Harrub, Brad and Bert Thompson (2003), The Truth About Human Origins (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Lyons, Eric (2006), “Man Has Been on Earth Since...,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3068.
Riddle, Mike (2007), “Does Radiometric Dating Prove the Earth is Old?” [On-line], URL: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/does-radiometric-dating-prove.
Gay Man Sues Bible Publishers Over “Homosexual” Reference
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, the New King James text reads:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God (emp. added).Bradley Fowler, a homosexual from Michigan, claims that the Zondervan Publishing Company and Thomas Nelson Publishing have violated his rights by distributing Bibles that use the word “homosexuals” in 1 Corinthians 6:9. In fact, he insists that he and other homosexuals have suffered “verbal abuse, discrimination, episodes of hate, and physical violence…including murder” because of this particular translation (Pedraza, 2008). Since he believes that his constitutional rights have been violated, he is suing the two companies for a combined total of 70 million dollars.
Several issues about this situation need to be addressed. First, any legitimate translation of the Bible is an attempt to render the original Greek text into the closest modern English terms available. The New King James Version (in which the word “homosexuals” appears) is not a haphazardly thrown together fly-by-night translation. It is the result of countless hours of scholarly work done by credible Bible researchers. No less than 21 textual scholars converged to combine their efforts to produce the version. Those scholars held respected positions at such institutions as the University of Auckland in New Zealand, Grace Theological Seminary, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Concordia Seminary, Biola College, Asbury Theological Seminary, and Cincinnati Seminary (“New King…,” n.d.). These revisers brought to the table several centuries of combined scholarly and academic experience specifically in the study of the Greek language and manuscripts of the biblical text. To sue the publishers of the NKJV based on an alleged mistake by Greek scholars of such inestimable repute as those involved in the NKJV translation is unprecedented. In Zondervan’s publicly issued statement, the company declared: “We rely on scholarly judgment of the highly respected and credible translation committees behind each translation and never alter the text of the translations we are licensed to publish…. We only publish credible translations produced by credible Biblical scholars” (Pedraza, 2008).
Second, we must simply ask whether or not the Bible does, in fact, condemn homosexuality. The answer to that is a resounding “Yes.” We have previously documented copious biblical evidence establishing the fact that homosexuality is viewed by the Bible writers as a sin that, if unrepented of, will result in the homosexual forfeiting the Kingdom of God, exactly as stated in 1 Corinthians 6 (see Miller and Harrub, 2004).
The fact that Fowler’s outlandish lawsuit has been viewed as credible enough to reach the media is troubling. Suppose that Fowler wins. Who will be next to sue Bible publishers? Will drunkards have a right to seek grievances for the many times their actions are condemned in the New Testament (Ephesians 5:18, 1 Peter 4:3, etc.)? Will liars be able to seek restitution from the courts, since their practice is repeatedly condemned (Revelation 21:8, Ephesians 4:25, etc)? Will the door be opened for murderers to seek financial redress for the many years of “abuse” they have suffered because the Bible condemns their actions?
Thankfully, the court seems to be keeping its head in this case. “U.S. District Judge Julian Abele Cook Jr., who will hear Fowler’s case against Thomas Nelson, says the court ‘has some very genuine concerns about the nature and efficacy of [Fowler’s] claims’” (as quoted in Pedraza). In truth, Fowler’s tactic is nothing more than an attempt to “elevate” homosexuality to a sacrosanct lifestyle that cannot be criticized without negative ramifications. Unfortunately, other countries, under the guise of hate speech laws, have already severely restricted what can legally be said against homosexuality (Butt, 2004). Pray that the day never comes in the United States of America when a person cannot stand in an assembly and read a scholarly translation of the Greek New Testament that condemns homosexuality.
Miller, Dave and Brad Harrub (2004), “An Investigation of the Biblical Evidence Against Homosexuality,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2577.
Pedraza, Rick (2008), “Bible Publishers Sued for Anti-Gay References,” Newsmax, [On-line], URL: http://www.newsmax.com/insidecover/man_sues_bible_publishers/2008/07/ 10/111626.html?s=al&promo_code=65BF-1.
“New King James Version” (no date), [On-line], URL: http://www.bible-researcher.com/nkjv.html#translators.
Was Moses Ineloquent or "Mighty in Words"?by Eric Lyons, M.Min.
In one of the more well-known scenes of Scripture, the Lord, in the midst of an unconsumed burning bush, appeared to Moses on Mount Horeb. He revealed to Moses that it was time to deliver the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage. It was time to give the descendants of Abraham the land of Canaan, which He had promised to his descendants more than 400 years earlier (cf. Genesis 12:1,7; 13:15; 15:13). It was time for Moses to lead God’s people out of Egypt (Exodus 3:10).
Moses, however, was not convinced that he was the one to go to Pharaoh and make such demands. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh…?” Moses asked the Lord (Exodus 3:11). “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (4:10). “Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips, and how shall Pharaoh heed me?” (6:30).
Some wonder how Moses could be ineloquent, if Stephen, in his speech to an angry mob prior to his death, described Moses as one “mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22, emp. added). According to Bible critic Steve Wells, author of the The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, Acts 7:22 contradicts Exodus 4:10-16 and 6:12-30 (2013). R. Paul Buchman likewise lists these verses on his Web site “1001 Contradictions and Discrepancies in the Christian Bibles” (2011). Allegedly, Acts 7:22 is incompatible with what we learn about Moses in Exodus 3-6. How could Moses be “mighty in words,” yet also be ineloquent?
First, it is possible that Moses was not as ineloquent and “slow of speech” as one might initially think. The Bible student must keep in mind who made the statements about Moses’ speech in the book of Exodus. God did not say that Moses was incapable of speaking effectively—Moses did. Moses made these statements about himself. What’s more, Moses made the statements about himself after God had instructed him (1) to go back to the land where he had fled 40 years earlier for fear of his life (Exodus 2:15), (2) to present himself before the most powerful king on Earth (3:10), and (3) to tell the king of Egypt to let hundreds of thousands of Israelite slaves go free (Exodus 3:10; cf. Numbers 1:46). Moses was obviously afraid and doubted if he could do what God commanded. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh…?” Moses asked (Exodus 3:11). He said: “Suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you’” (4:1). Even after seeing two amazing miracles (4:3-8), Moses still offered excuses (4:10). Moses was so troubled over the entire matter that he finally pleaded with God saying, “O my Lord, please send someone else” (4:13, ESV, emp. added).
What was God’s response to Moses? According to Exodus 4:14, “[T]he anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses.” In addition to Moses being “very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3), Moses appears to have been so alarmed by the thought of going back to Egypt and making demands of Pharaoh that he highly exaggerated his ineloquence. Could it not be said that Moses stated fairly eloquently his case for being “ineloquent”? What’s more, when he wrote all of these events (and others) down by inspiration years later (in the Pentateuch—Joshua 8:32; John 5:46), he was equally as “eloquent.” [NOTE: Simply because God spoke of Aaron as one who “can speak well” (Exodus 4:14), does not necessarily mean that Moses was not an eloquent speaker, or that God thought that Moses was not up for the task at hand. Obviously, God had more confidence in Moses’ abilities than Moses did. It was Moses’ fear and hesitancy, not his alleged ineloquence, that led our longsuffering God to elevate Aaron as His spokesman.]
If the skeptic refuses to accept that Moses was much more eloquent than the prophet claimed in his meeting with God on Mount Horeb, the Bible student might also point out that Stephen’s reference to Moses being “mighty in words and deeds” was (in context) in reference to Moses during the first 40 years of his life in Egypt (Acts 7:22). In Stephen’s speech in Acts 7, he reminded his Jewish audience that Pharaoh’s daughter brought Moses up “as her own son. And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 7:21-22). Stephen then stated: “Now when he [Moses] was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel…” (7:23). It was after another “forty years had passed” (7:30)—after Moses had become a shepherd and had dwelt in the land of Midian for 40 years—that, at the age of 80, Moses made excuses before God of being ineloquent. Thus, in context, these statements were made about a man at two very different periods of time in his life. And, as everyone should know, two different statements cannot rationally be said to contradict each other if they are referring to two different time periods. How many of us were better at something in our younger years? Could Moses have not been a more eloquent speaker at 40 than at 80 (after spending four decades as a shepherd in a foreign land)?
[NOTE: Some might argue that since Moses said to God, “I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant” (Exodus 4:10, emp. added), this means that Moses was never “mighty in words,” neither at 40 nor 80. Keep in mind, however, (1) it was Moses making this assertion, not God, and (2) we cannot be certain how far back in the past Moses meant for this statement to apply. He just as easily could have been referring to a time just before God appeared to him from the burning bush. What’s more, the events recorded in Exodus 3-4 could very easily have lasted days or weeks (cf. 4:14,27-28). Commentator Albert Barnes believes that this statement in Exodus 4:10 “seems to imply that some short time had intervened between this address and the first communication of the divine purpose to Moses” (1997).]
Sadly, skeptics not only ignore who made these statements, as well as the different time periods under discussion in the related passages, they also ignore the fact that different words are used, which do not necessarily mean the same thing. Even if Moses was not exaggerating about his ineloquence, and even if the statements in Exodus 3-6 and Acts 7:22 were referring to the same period of time in Moses’ life, being “slow of speech and slow of tongue” is not necessarily incompatible with being “mighty in words” (Acts 7:22). In fact, the phrase “mighty in words” (dunatos en logois) immediately follows Stephen describing Moses as “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” How could Moses, an (alleged) ineloquent speaker, be “mighty in words”? Asking this question a little differently could help us answer it much easier. Could a man (1) of royalty, (2) who was very well educated, and (3) whose actions were described as “mighty,” ever be considered “mighty in words,” even though he may not be the greatest of orators? Most certainly. How many first-class athletes and coaches have given extremely motivating speeches to their teams and fans (e.g., Tim Tebow), and yet they may not be viewed as “eloquent” speakers? How many statesmen have risen to the occasion and delivered stirring addresses at crucial times in history (e.g., President George W. Bush’s speech at Ground Zero three days after the 9/11 attacks), though the statesmen generally were not viewed as great orators? How many people throughout history have been “mighty in words” as a writer, but not as a speaker? How many gospel preachers have I heard in my lifetime, who (1) knew the Scriptures extremely well, and (2) had done amazing things in their lifetime, and yet although they may not have been considered “great orators,” could truly be said to be “mighty in words”? Considering that “the gospel of Christ…is the power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16), many stirring sermons have been preached the past 2,000 years by rather weak men. Even one of the greatest gospel preachers this world has ever known (the apostle Paul), stated to the Corinthians: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:1).
Skeptics’ criticisms of Exodus 3-6 and Acts 7:22 should only further confirm how superficial and manipulative their accusations against the Bible writers really are. The fact is, Bible critics have no proof that these passages contradict each other; yet, as with so many alleged discrepancies they champion, skeptics seem to care little about making false, unprovable allegations. In other arenas, such individuals would be ostracized for such blatant carelessness and dishonesty.
REFERENCESBarnes, Albert (1997), Barnes’ Notes (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Buchman, R. Paul (2001), “1001 Contradictions and Discrepancies in the Christian Bibles,” http://www.1001biblecontradictions.com/I2a%20-%20HOJ%20%5B76-103%5D.html.
Wells, Steve (2013), The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/moses_speaker.html.
Owe no one anything except to love one anotherWe owe each other love for ever. But what about the first part: “Owe no one anything.”
This passage presents a problem for many. Some do not understand what it means and for everyone the application is sometimes difficult.
What are Biblical principles of dealing with money?
“Owe no one anything.” Does this mean that we may never commit ourselves financially? At Rome “Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house” (Acts 28:30). Thus he obviously had agreed to pay rent. Financial commitments are part of life. As long as we pay on time, we owe no one anything.
But what if we pile up commitments that are beyond our means? After a while we will no longer be able to pay.
Actually we are all stewards of other people’s money. Most of our income each month belongs to someone else. Part belongs to the government, and the State is smart enough to deduct its portion from our wages before we get them! If we rent a house, a portion belongs to our landlord. If we have loans, a part belongs to the bank. Our family needs food and clothing, so a part belongs to the shopkeepers. We need energy, so a part belongs to the utility companies. There is only a small amount left that we can spend any way we want. If we are not good stewards, we can easily misappropriate someone else’s money, and no longer be able to give them their due portion.
I knew a woman who opened a shop and went bankrupt in a few months because she thought she could freely spend everything that came into the cash register!
Also in money matters, the temptations of Satan must be resisted. Problems can be “love of money” (1 Timothy 6:10); “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16); covetousness (Colossians 3:5); not paying your workers a fair wage (James 5:4); “the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things” (Mark 4:19). Materialism can cause us to get in debt and be unable to pay what we owe.
“Owe no one anything.” What are some dangers?
We are warned in Scripture about the danger of putting up security for someone else. “A man devoid of understanding shakes hands in a pledge, and becomes surety for his friend” (Proverbs 17:18). Why is this dangerous? If your friend can easily pay, he will have security of his own! If you decide to provide security anyway, keep in mind that you may have to pay the whole debt yourself! Thus, you must be able to do so without jeopardizing your own financial condition.
The principle behind this warning is that we must avoid excessive debts. If we allow ourselves to become insolvent, there is a great danger that we will not be able to pay what we owe. Being solvent means that we can pay all we owe by selling things we own.
Does the command, “Owe no one anything,” mean that we may not borrow? Borrowing is not forbidden in Scripture, but it is viewed as something negative, which of course it is. A loan is negative money.
When the Lord promised to bless Israel if they remained faithful, He said: “For the LORD your God will bless you just as He promised you; you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow” (Deuteronomy 15:6). The one who lends has power over the one who borrows: “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).
Yet, borrowing is sometimes needful. In the next two verses in Deuteronomy we read: “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs” (Deuteronomy 15:7, 8). Thus, it is not wrong to borrow for things we really need, on condition that we will be able to pay it back.
It is wrong not to repay: “The wicked borrows and does not repay, but the righteous shows mercy and gives” (Psalm 37:21).
Thus, to obey the command, “Owe no one anything,” we must be careful not to borrow more than we can repay. When we have a loan, we do not owe until payment is due. If we repay the loan at the agreed time, we do not owe anything.
A loan should be covered in some way. If because of unexpected circumstances, for example, you are not able to make your car payments, you should be able to repay the loan by selling the car.
Insurance can also be part of the coverage. I know someone who had to pay off a loan for five years on a car that no longer existed because it caught fire while he was driving and was not insured. And, he was an insurance salesman!
The same applies to the purchase of a house with a mortgage. If you cannot make your house payments, you should be able to pay off the loan by selling the house.
It is not sufficient, however, that the principal is covered by a countervalue, the repayments must also be within our means.
Many get in trouble at this point. In our society it is easy to borrow more than we can repay. Since we can get something on credit, we may be tempted to buy a more expensive house or automobile than we can afford.
Why is it so easy to get credit? Because those who offer us credit want to make money off of us even if it is to our financial disadvantage.
In my pocket I have something that is extremely dangerous: a credit card. First, one must understand that a credit card is NOT MONEY. With it you only promise to pay money.
It is dangerous because it enables you to promise to pay more than you can afford. You can make purchases with money you do not have. You can go to the airport and get a ticket to fly halfway around the world and back, even if you do not have the money.
A credit card can be valuable for one month’s credit. If you pay your credit card bill completely every month, no interest is charged!
If you do not pay it off every month, the interest charged is exorbitant, and you can easily build up a debt that you are no longer able to repay. It can become a form of debt bondage. You owe your soul, not to the company store, but to the credit card company.
This is how it works: One month you use your card to buy more than you can afford. So, at the end of the month you are not able to pay the whole amount. Or if you do, you do not have enough money for the next month’s expenses. So now you are forced to use your credit card because your money is gone. And if you buy more on your card than you can afford again (it is so easy to do), your negative balance grows even larger. Your debt snowballs because each month you must pay high interest on your growing debt.
When you go shopping with a credit card there is no hard limit to what you can spend.
Credit card companies set a high maximum credit to lure the card user into deeper debt, which results in more profit for them. They also make it easy for you not to pay off your debt by setting a low minimum payment each month. After all, they collect high interest on what you do not pay!
Credit card debt is a major cause of personal bankruptcy.
A survey by the US Department of Justice in 2000 determined that in 74% of personal bankruptcy cases, credit card debt played a significant role, and that 42% of bankruptcies involved credit card debts of $10,000. to $50,000, 7% involved credit card debts of more than $50,000 and 3% involved credit card debts of more than $75,000. Those with high credit card debts usually had several credit cards they obtained through the aggressive marketing of credit card companies.
Someone who uses more credit than he can repay, is not obeying the command: “Owe no one anything.”
To obey God in this, our expenditures must be less than our income. It is that simple. If we spend even a little more than we earn each month, we will go deeper and deeper into debt. The first rule if you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging! The hole must be filled up!
If you have become a victim of credit mongers and you find yourself in a seemingly hopeless situation, ask for advice, possibly from someone in the church or from a free independent family finance counseling service. But beware of loan sharks who profile themselves as debt advisors! Someone who wants to loan you money is not the best source of advice.
Christians must pay their taxes: “For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:6, 7).
Christians are to give as we have been prospered (1 Corinthians 16:2) and as we have purposed in our hearts (2 Corinthians 9:7). This is possible only if we do some planning.
To obey the command to owe no one anything, we must also save for extraordinary expenditures. Even under normal circumstances, there are certain times of the year and certain occasions in life, when expenses are higher than otherwise. This requires saving, which means that our regular expenses must be less than our income. During lean years it is not possible to save. And most of us have experienced such times. But when things go better, it is wise to put something aside.
“There is desirable treasure, and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man squanders it” (Proverbs 21:20). Remember the prodigal son? ‘Prodigal’ means wasteful. He wasted his whole inheritance. He repented and returned to his father, but his inheritance was gone.
So far, we have spoken mainly about frugality so we can obey the command, “Owe no one anything”. But frugality does not help if we have no income!
The world does not owe us a living. We must work to pay our own way. “But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing” (1 Thessalonians 4:10-12). We are to work, not only to provide for our own needs, but also that we “may have something to give him who has need” (Ephesians 4:28).
Paul also wrote: “But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread” (2 Thessalonians 3:6-12).
A brother who is unemployed asked me about this passage recently. I pointed out to him that it does not say, “If anyone is out of work”, but “If anyone will not work.”
Circumstances can vary, but in the first instance it is the man’s responsibility to provide bread for his family “in toil” and “in the sweat” of his face (Genesis 3:17-19). Women are to be “homemakers” (Titus 2:5; See also 1 Timothy 5:14).
Jesus promised that God will provide for our needs if we “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
Let us pray and work for our daily bread that our needs might be provided and we might have extra to give to the Lord and to share with the needy. Let us be careful to “Owe no one anything except to love one another” (Romans 13:8). 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