"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" The Difficulty With Riches (19:16-26) INTRODUCTION 1. A well known story in the life of Jesus involves His interview with a rich young ruler - Mt 19:16-26; Lk 18:18-27 2. In this story we find a man who was so right, yet wrong... a. He came to the right person - Mt 19:16 1) He came to Jesus 2) Who could tell Him the way to eternal life b. He asked the right questions - Mt 19:16b,20 1) "What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" 2) "What do I still lack?" c. He certainly received the right answers - Mt 19:17-19,21 1) "...if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments" (suitable for one living under the OT covenant) 2) "If you want to be perfect, go, sell...give to the poor...and come, follow Me" (fitting for one who would become a disciple and follow Jesus during His ministry) d. But in the end, he made the wrong decision - Mt 19:22 1) He went away sorrowful 2) For he had great possessions 3. As rich young ruler went away sadly, Jesus told His disciples about the difficulty of riches... a. That it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God - Mt 19:23 b. That it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle - Mt 19:24 4. What is it about being rich that makes salvation so difficult? a. Are we aware of the dangers of riches? b. Do we understand the proper attitudes toward wealth, whether we are rich or poor? [Let's first consider...] I. THE DIFFICULTY WITH RICHES A. THE ABSORBING INTEREST OF RICHES... 1. Riches do not satisfy, and we foolishly think that simply more riches will bring satisfaction - cf. Ec 1:8; 5:10 2. With riches comes the preoccupation with them: how to use, maintain, store, etc. -- Like a black hole, the accumulation of riches can absorb what time and energy we have so that we have little for anything else (such as family, church, the Lord) B. THE DECEITFUL PROMISE OF RICHES... 1. Jesus warned about the deceitfulness of riches - Mt 13:22 2. Riches promise much, but really offer little in return a. They can easily disappear, rust, or be stolen - Pr 23:5; Mt 6:19 b. They cannot buy one's salvation - Ps 49:6-9,16-20 c. Neither can they protect one from God's wrath - Zeph 1:18 -- Riches can deceive one into thinking they are in need of nothing; the parable of the rich fool illustrates the folly of such thinking - Lk 12:16-21 C. THE FOOLISH PRIDE OF RICHES... 1. Wealth tends to promote a sense of arrogance and pride - cf. Deut 8:11-17 2. It was such pride that was the downfall of Sodom and Israel - Ezek 16:49-50; Hos 13:4-6 -- Blinded by such pride, one will not seek God - Ps 10:4 D. THE HARDENING SELFISHNESS OF RICHES... 1. The wealthy, while in a position to help others, often close up their hearts to the cry of the poor 2. This was one of Israel's sins - Am 2:6; 5:11-12; 8:4-6 -- Abusing the poor to make money, failing to respond to their cries for justice, interested more in money than the welfare of the poor...such are problems that often afflict the rich [Certainly not all who are rich are guilty of such things. Some of the most godly people in the Bible were rich (Job, Abraham, Joseph, David, Solomon, Barnabas, Philemon, Lydia). But these are reasons why it is so hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. If they let mammon become their god, they will not be willing to serve the true God! (cf. Mt 6:24) From what we have seen about the danger of wealth, let's now draw some...] II. LESSONS GLEANED FROM THE DIFFICULTY OF RICHES A. THE FOLLY OF COVETOUSNESS... 1. Why be so anxious to be rich, when riches might prove to be a curse for us? 2. Besides, covetousness is viewed by God as a form of idolatry - Ep 5:5; Col 3:5 3. It not a sin to be rich, but the desire to be rich is wrong a. Those who desire to be rich will fall into temptation, and not go unpunished - 1Ti 6:9; Pr 28:20 b. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil - 1Ti 6: 10 1) For which some have strayed from the faith 2) And suffered many sorrows B. THE DUTY OF CONTENTMENT... 1. Contentment along with godliness is true wealth - 1Ti 6:6-7 a. "He is richest who is content with the least." - Socrates (470-399 B.C.) b. "Contentment comes not so much from great wealth as from few wants" - Croft M. Pentz (The Complete Book of Zingers) 2. Contentment is a virtue that is learned - e.g., Php 4:11-12 a. By having a proper perspective on life - 1Ti 6:7 1) "You can't take it with you" 2) Ever see a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer? b. By understanding what is truly essential in life - 1Ti 6:8 1) Food and clothing...anything more is a luxury 2) Realizing this, we will appreciate how blessed we are! 3. Therefore Christians are to be content with what things we have - He 13:5 C. THE NEED FOR SYMPATHY FOR THE RICH... 1. Jesus loved the rich young ruler - Mk 10:21 a. We should certainly love those who are rich b. We should not be envious, nor despise them 2. If the rich are overcome by their riches, we should bear in mind... a. That the desire to be rich affects both the rich and those who want to be rich b. That the rich face many temptations that the poor do not 3. The rich are in need of salvation as much as the poorest beggar - Ro 3:23; 6:23 D. FAITH IN THE POWER OF GOD... 1. Though it is hard for a rich person to be saved, it is not impossible - Mt 19:23-26 a. No one can save themselves, whether rich or poor b. But God can save the rich by His own power, through the gospel - Ro 1:16-17 2. There were many rich people who became Jesus' disciples a. Those that supported Him during His earthly ministry - Lk 8:1-3 b. Others such as Zaccheus, Matthew, Barnabas, Lydia, Aquila and Priscilla, Gaius, Philemon c. Such people used their riches in service to God and others - cf. 1Ti 6:17-19 3. Therefore... a. The rich should have the gospel preached to them b. We should pray for the rich c. We should rejoice greatly that there are rich men and women in the kingdom of God CONCLUSION 1. The issue of wealth and riches is often one of contention... a. The poor are often envious of the rich b. The rich often despise the poor 2. But riches and poverty both have their difficulties... a. Wealth can one make one arrogant, less receptive to the gospel and the kingdom b. Poverty can make one bitter, filled with envy of others 3. Whether rich or poor, we should all be aware... a. Of our need for salvation that comes only by the grace of God b. That we can share together in the riches of salvation Have you become an heir to the "unsearchable riches of Christ"?
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Jesus On Divorce, Remarriage, & Celibacy (19:1-12) INTRODUCTION 1. A serious problem in the world today is that of divorce and remarriage 2. As described by God, divorce is a treacherous, violent act - cf. Mal 2:16 a. Its affect on children has been well documented by Judith Wallerstein, author of Second Chance (Ticknor & Fields, 1988) 1) Almost half of children of divorces enter adulthood as worried, under-achieving, self-deprecating, and sometimes angry young men and women 2) Half grew up in settings in which the parents were warring with each other even after the divorce -- Reported in Time, 2/6/89 b. Parents who divorce are not left unhurt either 1) "A divorce is like an amputation: You survive, but there's less of you." - Margaret Atwood (Marriage Partnership, Vol. 7, No. 4) 2) Average percentage change in a woman's standard of living the year following a divorce: minus 73% -Daniel Evan Weiss, (The Great Divide, Poseidon Press, 1991) 3. Remarriage after divorce is not without it problems also... a. It does not always heal the wounds inflicted by the divorce: "I'm lucky my parents have stayed together. Unlike so many of my friends, I've never had to cry on a holiday." - Tales Out of High School. Marriage Partnership, Vol. 5, no. 6 b. Many remarriages are unlawful in God's eyes, constituting what Jesus called "adultery" 4. While I am concerned about the social and psychological effects of divorce and remarriage, it is the spiritual effects that concern me most... a. Too many people are ignorant of what the Bible teaches on this subject b. Such ignorance leads to quick and easy divorces, and to adulterous marriages that are unlawful 5. In Mt 19:3-12, we find Jesus discussing divorce, remarriage and celibacy... a. His teaching was occasioned by a challenge from the Pharisees b. But He used the opportunity to teach His disciples what people today need to know! [As we consider this passage carefully, we find that Matthew first records...] I. THE PHARISEES' QUESTION (3) A. TO TEST HIM, NOT TO BE TAUGHT BY HIM... 1. Divorce was a touchy issue then, even as it is today 2. Divorce was not uncommon (e.g., King Herod) 3. The scribes were divided over the proper grounds for divorce a. The school of Hillel taught that a man could divorce for just about any reason b. The school of Shammai permitted divorce only in the case of fornication B. ANY ANSWER JESUS GAVE WOULD OFFEND SOMEONE... 1. If He took the popular lax view, the Pharisees could deride His claim as a teacher of superior morality - cf. Mt 5:20 2. If He upheld the stricter view, He would be unpopular with the majority (which the Pharisees could use against Him) [Of course, Jesus was not concerned with what man thought, but in pleasing His Father in heaven. This becomes evident as we next consider...] II. JESUS' ANSWER (4-6) A. HE APPEALS TO THE WORD OF GOD... 1. "Have you not read...?" - Mt 19:4; cf. Gen 1:27; 2:24 2. He does not place stock in the opinions of religious leaders of the day -- Is there not something for us to learn here? Where should we go to find the answer concerning the issue of divorce? B. HE REMINDS THEM OF THEIR GENESIS... 1. "He who made them at the beginning `made them male and female'..." - Mt 19:4 2. It is helpful to keep in mind: a. Where we came from b. Who created us c. What we are 3. For our views on divorce and remarriage will be influenced by our views of ourselves! a. Are we simply animals? 1) Compelled by instinct? 2) Unable to control fleshly desires? -- Then divorce and remarriage ought to be free and easy b. Or God's highest creation? 1) Made in His image? 2) Able to control fleshly lusts to the glory of God? -- Then divorce and remarriage ought to reflect God's desire for man's holiness! C. HE ATTRIBUTES THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE TO GOD, NOT MAN... 1. Notice, it was GOD who said "For this reason..." - Mt 19:5; cf. Gen 2:24 2. Therefore questions about marriage (such as divorce and remarriage) must be answered by God, not by man (nor by man's laws)! D. HE EMPHASIZES THAT IN MARRIAGE GOD CREATES A UNION... 1. The two become one flesh - Mt 19:5-6; cf. Gen 2:24 2. They are joined by none other than God Himself! E. HIS CONCLUSION: LET NOT MAN SEPARATE WHAT GOD JOINED... 1. What GOD has joined together, let not MAN separate - Mt 19:6 2. Man has no right to separate what God Himself has joined [It is clear that God's intention is that marriage is to be for life! It is God who joins the couple, and no one has the right to rend asunder what God has joined together! Are there any exceptions to this rule? The Pharisees thought so, as we now notice...] III. THE PHARISEES' REBUTTAL (7) A. THEIR REBUTTAL APPEARS BASED ON THE WORD OF GOD... 1. Jesus had urged scriptural reasons against divorce - Mt 19:4-6 2. They allege scriptural authority for divorce - Mt 19:7 B. THEIR APPEAL TO SCRIPTURE WAS ON SHAKY GROUNDS... 1. They appealed to Moses' statement in Deut 24:1-4 2. Which they took to permit divorce as long as a "certificate of divorce" was given to the wife - cf. Mt 5:31 3. Yet a careful reading of that passage reveals: a. Moses was forbidding the remarriage of a spouse who marries someone else b. The reason was despite the "certificate" the woman became "defiled" when she remarried - Deut 24:4 c. The word "defiled" is used elsewhere to describe adultery - Lev 18:20; Num 5:13-14 d. She actually became an adulteress by the remarriage! - cf. Ro 7:1-3 4. While they appealed to this passage in divorce (and presumably, remarriage), it actually described the treachery of divorce: defilement of the spouse - cf. Mt 5:32 [The shakiness of their rebuttal is seen further as we consider...] IV. JESUS' RESPONSE (8-9) A. MOSES "PERMITTED" DIVORCE DUE TO THEIR HARD HEARTS... 1. The Jews at that time were a hardened people - cf. Deut 9:6; 31:27 2. Is this not a commentary on the state of one's heart when they desire to divorce their spouse? a. It takes a hard-hearted person to want to divorce their spouse 1) Either to divorce arbitrarily (for no scriptural ground) 2) Or to divorce when the guilty person is pleading for forgiveness and reconciliation b. Of course, that is exactly the condition of those in the world (or those in the church who are of the world) - cf. Ep 4:17-19 B. IT WAS NOT WHAT GOD HAD IN MIND FROM THE BEGINNING... 1. The permission to divorce was only temporary 2. Note carefully: a. The Law of Moses (which was temporary) considered the hardness of men's hearts, and permitted hard-hearted actions b. The gospel of Christ cures the hardness of one's heart! 1) His grace removes the heart of stone, and replaces it with a heart of love! 2) I.e., a heart able to abide by God's original design for marriage 3. Paul would later make it clear that under normal conditions divorce is not an option - 1Co 7:10-11 C. JESUS SETTLED THE POINT WITH AN AUTHORITATIVE "SAYING"... 1. "And I say unto you..." - Mt 19:9 a. His sayings were with authority - cf. Mt 7:28-29 b. Upon which He expected people to base their lives - cf. Mt 7:24-25; 28:20 2. Divorce is allowed only in the case of fornication - Mt 19:9 a. Divorce for any other reason results in adultery when there is remarriage b. Which is what Jesus taught in Mt 5:32 3. To marry a divorced (put away) person results in adultery a. Does this apply only to a person put away for a cause other than fornication? b. Or to the one who is guilty of fornication? c. The lack of the definite article would suggest any "put away" person 1) Either an innocent person wrongly "put away" 2) Or a guilty person rightly "put away" for fornication D. OBSERVATIONS... 1. Any divorce must be on those grounds specified by Jesus... a. For marriage is an institution ordained by God - Mt 19:5 b. And we must not separate what God has joined - Mt 19:6 2. A divorce for any other grounds... a. Is an attempt to separate what God has joined together b. Results in a remarriage where people commit adultery - Mt 19:9; cf. Mk 10:11-12 3. Jesus' teaching was contrary to two views held by the Jews of His day... a. That as long as a "bill of divorcement" was given, they were free to divorce and remarry for any reason 1) Consider Mt 5:31 as an example of their belief 2) Yet Jesus taught: a) To divorce for any reason other than fornication causes the spouse to commit adultery - Mt 5:32 b) To divorce and remarry for any reason other than fornication is to commit adultery - Mt 19:9 b. That they could marry a woman who was divorced (with the exception of the priests - cf. Lev 21:7,14) 1) Yet Jesus taught that to marry a divorced woman was to commit adultery! 2) Again, the lack of the definite article in both Mt 5:32 and Mt 19:9 indicates: a) Whether the woman was put away for the right reason or not b) In either case, the end result is adultery! 4. Jesus defined the meaning of adultery... a. It was not uncommon at that time for some Jews to believe: 1) That a man was guilty of adultery only if he violated another man's wife 2) That he could be married, have relations with a single woman, and still not be guilty of adultery b. But Jesus defined adultery to include: 1) Sex with the spouse of another (the standard definition) 2) Looking at a woman to lust for her (certainly this would include either a married or single woman) - Mt 5:27-28 3) Marrying a person who was divorced by his or her spouse - Mt 5:32; 19:9 4) Remarrying when one did not divorce for fornication - Mt 19:9 [As one might expect, what Jesus said prompted strong reactions. While we do not know how the Pharisees reacted, we do know...] V. THE DISCIPLES' REACTION (10) A. IF DIVORCE IS ALLOWED FOR ONLY ONE REASON... 1. It is better not to marry! - Mt 19:10 2. The single life would be preferable to being so bound to one's wife! B. CONTRAST THIS WITH THE REACTION OF MANY TODAY... 1. The disciples of Jesus: a. "If such is the case with divorce and remarriage, it is better to be single!" b. With them, there was no question about obeying Christ's law on this subject c. Only that in view of His teaching, the preferable option is celibacy 2. Many people today: a. "If such is the case with divorce and remarriage, it is better to be lost!" b. Rather than submit to scriptural marriage or celibacy, many people are more likely to opt for eternal damnation! c. Choosing to prefer a few years of adultery over an eternity of bliss! [With the disciples' mention of celibacy as a viable option, Jesus used the opportunity to speak on the subject as it related to His previous "saying" or teaching...] VI. JESUS' REPLY REGARDING CELIBACY (11-12) A. NOT EVERY ONE CAN ACCEPT THIS "SAYING"... 1. I.e., the saying of Mt 19:9 2. The saying of Jesus regarding divorce and remarriage B. WHO CAN ACCEPT IT? 1. "those to whom it has been given" - Mt 19:11 2. "he who is able to receive it" - Mt 19:12 C. WHO MIGHT THESE BE? 1. Those willing to accept it "FOR the kingdom of heaven's sake" - Mt 19:12 a. The kingdom of heaven means that much to them b. They are willing to do whatever necessary to enter it 2. Even it means making themselves "eunuchs" - Mt 19:12 a. I.e., remaining single, even though they were not "born thus from their mother's womb" b. In order to remain true to the teaching of Jesus 3. That such sacrifices might occur is implied in Mk 10:29-30; Lk 14:26 a. One must put Christ before all others, including one's spouse b. Doing so may even cause one to leave their spouse c. Yet the only situation in which one would be justified in doing so... 1) Would be if their marriage was unscriptural 2) For otherwise one is not to leave their spouse - cf. 1Co 7:10-11 4. For those willing to live the celibate life if necessary... a. They will receive the ability to live by His Will - cf. Php 4:13; Ep 3:20 b. They can provide more service to the Lord being single - cf. 1Co 7:32-35 ...just as many single and widowed serve the Lord faithfully in celibacy! CONCLUSION 1. Any view of divorce and remarriage must take into consideration... a. The Word of God b. The nature of man and woman c. The sanctity of the union between man and woman created by God d. The consequences of rebelling against God, trying to separate what He has joined e. The value of entering "the kingdom of heaven" 2. The only course for faithful Christians is to comply with the teachings of Jesus... a. That divorce: 1) Is an indication of one's hardness of heart 2) Puts the spouse in a position to commit adultery when they remarry 3) Causes one who has divorced their spouse to commit adultery when they remarry b. That there is only one ground for divorce and remarriage: 1) Which is fornication 2) In which the innocent person has the right to divorce and remarry c. That celibacy is a viable option: 1) For those who desire to enter the kingdom of heaven 2) Who may find it necessary to "make themselves eunuchs" (remain celibate) in order to do so 3. For those who find themselves in "unlawful" (i.e., adulterous marriages - cf. Mk 6:17-18), there is forgiveness through the blood of Jesus... a. But as with any sin, forgiveness in conditioned upon repentance b. Just as the Jews who had married foreign wives needed to repent by putting them away (cf. Ezra 9-10) c. So one repents by leaving any relationship described as adultery May the Lord bless those with the faith to live according to His word, and may we be diligent in teaching our children what the Bible teaches regarding divorce and remarriage!
Jonah and the "Whale"?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Skeptics frequently have railed against the allusion to a “whale” in Matthew 12:40 in the King James Version. They have insisted that the very idea that a person actually could be swallowed by such a creature and survive is preposterous. Yet this charge has been shown to be impotent for two reasons: (1) historical precedent exists for the possibility of just such an occurrence; and (2) the text of Jonah insists that the sea creature in question was orchestrated supernaturally by God for the purpose intended (see Thompson, 1996, 16:86). God specifically “prepared” (mahnah—appointed, constituted, made ready) a great fish (Gesenius, 1847, p. 486). The same term is employed in the same book to refer to additional direct manipulations initiated by God. He also prepared a plant (4:6), a worm (4:7), and a vehement wind (4:8) [see Wigram, 1890, p. 733]. George Cansdale was correct in concluding: “[T]here is no point in speculating about the full physical explanation of an incident that primarily is metaphysical, i.e., miraculous” (1975, 5:925, emp. added). McClintock and Strong agree: “[T]he transaction is plainly miraculous, and no longer within the sphere of zoological discussion” (1881, 10:972). Jonah’s survival after being inside a sea creature is no more remarkable than Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego surviving the “burning fiery furnace” (Daniel 3:27).
In addition to the evidence that may be deduced for (1) the credibility of a whale swallowing Jonah and (2) the miraculous preparation of the creature by God, a third clarification is in order that pertains to translation. The actual text of the book of Jonah states that “the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah” (Jonah 1:17). The Hebrew term (dahg) that underlies the English translation “fish” (1:17; 2:1,10) is a broad term that “always has the collective meaning ‘fish’ ” (Botterweck, 1978, 3:135). William Gesenius, whose lexicographical labors in the Hebrew language were without peer, defined dahg merely as “fish” (p. 189). Eminent Hebrew scholar, C.F. Keil, insisted strongly that “[t]he great fish, which is not more precisely defined, was not a whale” (Keil and Delitzsch, 1977, 10:398, emp. added). We conclude, therefore, that the word used in the book of Jonah to refer to the sea creature that swallowed Jonah, refers indiscriminately to any type of fish—without regard for the technical taxonomic, classification schemes developed by the scientific community in the last few centuries. It has the same generic latitude that inheres in the English word “fish” has, which can refer to any number of cold-blooded aquatic vertebrates—from a trout, bass, or crappie to sharks, rays, jellyfish, and crayfish (American Heritage Dictionary, 2000, p. 665).
However, a point of clarification needs to be sounded even here. According to the present zoological nomenclature, a “whale” is not a “fish”—it is classified as a mammal. Hebrew linguistic experts note no such distinction in the terms used in the Old Testament. The ordinary term for “fish” (dahg) would not necessarily exclude the whale in its application.
The Hebrew uses three additional terms that are germane to this discussion. Two of the words are closely interrelated: tan-neem and tan-neen. The first term generally is translated (though erroneously) as “dragon” in the KJV. Newer translations typically use “jackal,” except in Ezekiel 29:3 and 32:2, where the creature’s habitat is obviously aquatic, so “monster” generally is employed (Day, 1939, 2:873). The second term is treated more loosely in the KJV, and variously translated as “whales” (Genesis 1:21; Job 7:12), “serpent,” archaic for “snake” (Exodus 7:9,10), “dragon” (Jeremiah 51:34), and “sea monsters” (Lamentations 4:3). The third relevant term is “leviathan”—a transliteration of the Hebrew term liv-yah-thahn (Job 41:1; 104:26; Isaiah 27:1). This “very large aquatic creature” (Gesenius, p. 433) was unquestionably a now-extinct, dinosaur-like reptile that once inhabited the oceans (Lyons, 2001). Whereas the term “leviathan” undoubtedly refers to a specific type of animal, the previous two terms (tan-neem and tan-neen) are generic and nonspecific like dahg. [Interestingly, Isaiah 27:1 refers to leviathan as both a “snake” (nah-ghahsh) and a “monster,” or “reptile” (NKJV) (tah-neen)].
What is particularly noteworthy is the fact that on the fifth day of Creation, God created sea life. He used two terms to specify these inhabitants of the “waters.” The first was “souls” (Genesis 1:20,21b)—the ordinary term for living “things,” or “creatures” (nephesh). The second was “sea-monsters” (Genesis 1:21a)—the plural of tan-neen (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 1967/77, p. 2). This latter term is important for understanding the generic nature of the Hebrew language in its reference to the animal occupants of the sea. The word is translated erroneously as “whales” in the KJV. The NKJV has “sea creatures,” the ASV, NASB, RSV, and NEB have “sea monsters,” while the NIV has “creatures of the sea.” These latter three renderings are accurate representations of the Hebrew. They illustrate the in-built ambiguity that characterizes the Hebrew designations of animal species in the Old Testament. [NOTE: The term translated “birds” (Genesis 1:20,21, 22,26,28,30) doubtless possesses the same latitude and indiscriminate flexibility in meaning, thereby designating any creature that has the capability of flight, including mammals (e.g., bats), insects, and reptiles (e.g., pterodactyl).]
Moving to New Testament Greek, and the verse under discussion in this article (Matthew 12:40), did Christ refer to the great fish of Jonah as a “whale”? Matthew records that Jesus employed the Greek term ketos to refer to Jonah’s sea creature. The Septuagint translators used the same term in their rendering of Jonah 1:17. Greek lexicographers are decisive on the meaning of this word. The highly respected Greek scholars Arndt and Gingrich offer only one definition for ketos—“sea-monster” (1957, p. 432). The dictionary that was designed for use with the United Bible Societies’ prestigious Greek New Testament text (A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament) defined ketos as “large sea creature” (Newman, 1971, p. 100). Thayer listed three terms—“sea-monster, whale, huge fish” (1901, p. 346), with the reference to “whale” being merely one possibility among many others within the broader sense of the term. Renowned Bible commentator Albert Barnes insisted: “It is well known that the Greek word translated as whale, in the New Testament, does not of necessity mean a whale, but may denote a large fish or sea-monster of any kind” (1949, 1:134, italics in orig.). He speculated that the creature was a species of shark. McClintock and Strong elaborated further by noting that the term “is not restricted in its meaning to ‘a whale,’ or any cetacean; ...it may denote any sea-monster, either ‘a whale,’ or ‘a shark,’ or a ‘seal,’ or ‘a tunny of enormous size’ ” (10:973). Respected Bible scholar J.W. McGarvey wrote: “The Greek word here translated whale is ‘sea monster’ ” (n.d., p. 306). Lenski also preferred the rendering “sea monster,” stating that “[t]he ‘whale’ of our versions is only an effort at translation” (1961, 1:493, emp. added).
The versionary evidence is surely confusing to the average English reader of the New Testament. The KJV, ASV, and RSV all render ketos in Matthew 12:40 as “whale.” Their rationale behind this unjustifiable linguistic decision, which Lewis maintains has created “an unnecessary problem” (1976, 2:178-179), remains a mystery. Ironically, all three versions translate Jonah 1:17 as “fish.” On the other hand, the NASB, NEB, and REB all have “sea monster” in Matthew 12:40. Three translations that handled the matter in a comparable fashion to each other include the GNB (“big fish”), the NIV (“huge fish”), and the NKJV (“great fish”). It also should be noted that, as a matter of fact, the generic word in Greek for “fish” is ichthus—not ketos. The latter term varies from the former in that ketos refers generically to a sea monster, or perhaps, a huge fish (cf. Vine, 1952, p. 209).
What conclusion is to be drawn from these linguistic data? Both the Hebrew and Greek languages lacked the precision to identify with specificity the identity of the creature that swallowed Jonah. As Earl S. Kalland affirmed, “[t]he identity or biological classification of this great water monster is unknown” (1980, 1:401). Both dahg and ketos “designate sea creatures of undefined species” (Lewis, 2:178).
Arndt, W.F. and F.W. Gingrich (1957), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
Barnes, Albert (1949 reprint), Notes on the New Testament: Matthew and Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (1967/77), (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelstiftung).
Botterweck, G. Johannes and Helmer Ringgren (1978), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Cansdale, George S. (1975), The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Merrill C. Tenney (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Day, Alfred Ely (1939), “Dragon,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, James Orr, ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974 reprint).
Gesenius, William (1847), Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979 reprint).
Kalland, Earl S. (1980), “dag, daga,” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason Archer Jr., and Bruce Waltke (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch (1977 reprint), Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Lenski, R.C.H. (1961), The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Lewis, Jack P. (1976), The Gospel According to Matthew (Austin, TX: Sweet).
Lyons, Eric (2001), “Behemoth and Leviathan—Creatures of Controversy,” Reason and Revelation, 21:1-7, January.
McGarvey, J.W. (n.d.), The Fourfold Gospel (Cincinnati, OH: Standard).
McClintock, John and James Strong (1881), Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1970 reprint).
Newman, Barclay M. Jr. (1971), A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament (London: United Bible Societies).
Thayer, Joseph H. (1901), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1977 reprint).
Thompson, Bert (1996), “Jonah, Jesus, and Anti-supernaturalism,” Reason and Revelation, 16:86, November.
Vine, W.E. (1952), An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell).
Wigram, George W. (1890), The Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1980 reprint).
|by||Caleb Colley, Ph.D.|
French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself have founded empires, but upon what do these creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His empire upon love: and to this very day millions would die for Him” (as quoted in Ankerberg and Weldon, 1997, p. 29). If every one of God’s characteristics was to be summarized in a single English word, only one word could suffice: love. Of course, the idea of love does not encompass all of God’s characteristics, but it is a fitting summation of God’s personality. In fact, John wrote simply that “God is love” (1 John 4:8-9,16)—perhaps the most powerful statement ever made about God’s love (we do not, as some do, charge that God’s justice is inconsistent with his love and mercy [see Colley, 2004a]).
When Paul listed the fruits of the Spirit—characteristics that appear in the lives of Christ's followers (Galatians 5:22-23)—the first fruit he mentioned was love. Jesus said that all the law and the prophets hang upon love (Matthew 22:40; Mark 12:28). God is not merely a loving God, but God is love, and love defines His very essence. Every action of God has been carried out, ultimately, because of His magnificent love.
God loves His Son. The relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ is one of great love. God’s eternal love has an eternal object, and that eternal object is Christ. Consider a sampling of the passages that bear the special relationship the Father and Son share:
- Isaiah 42:1: “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, my Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. He will not cry out, nor raise His voice.”
- Matthew 3:17: “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ ” (cf. Matthew 17:5).
- John 1:18: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”
- John 5:20: “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does” (cf. John 3:30).
- John 17:24: “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me.”
Again, Paul wrote: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Although Christians can (and, sadly, sometimes do) cease to love Christ (Acts 8:12-13; Galatians 5:4; James 5:19-20; see Jackson, 2003), Christ will never cease to love them, for God is unchanging (James 1:17; see Colley, 2004b). Packer wrote concerning the unchanging quality of God’s love:
…[T]his does not mean that He is unfeeling (impassive), or that there is nothing in Him that corresponds to emotions and affections in us, but that whereas human passions—specifically the painful ones, fear, grief, regret, despair—are in a sense passive and involuntary, being called forth and constrained by circumstances not under our control, the corresponding attitudes in God have the nature of deliberate voluntary choices, and therefore are not of the same order as human passions at all. So the love of the God who is spirit is no fitful, fluctuating thing, as the love of man is, nor is it a mere impotent longing for things that may never be…. There are no inconstancies or vicissitudes in the love of the almighty God who is spirit (1975, pp. 133-134, parenthetical item in orig.).God loves the world. That is, God cares even for people who disregard Him. Paul wrote: “But God demonstrates His own love toward use, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, emp. added). The Greek word translated love in Romans 5:8 is agape, which appears abundantly (82 times) in the Greek New Testament. Agape is a selfless love that motivates one to sacrifice on the behalf of others, so it has come to be known by many as “Christian” love. This purest form of love is the agape under consideration when Paul wrote: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). It was that love that made Christ willing to “taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9).
God despises sin, but loves sinners. He does not approve or overlook sin; rather, He wants each sinner to repent of his wrongdoing and change his life (Acts 17:30). Peter wrote: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emp. added). God delays the Second Coming of Christ, not because He is undependable or incapable of fulfilling the promise of judgment (1 Peter 4:17; 2 Peter 3:7-9; 1 John 4:17; Jude 6,15; Revelation 14:7), but because His love motivates Him to give sinners more opportunities to repent. Instead of admiring or imitating the wrong actions of sinners, we should abhor sin (Romans 12:9), and share God’s concern for lost souls—a concern that should motivate us to share the Gospel (Mark 16:15-16; John 14:6).
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34, emp. added). In stating that the commandment was new, Jesus obviously intended to draw a distinction between His commandment and everything else that would have been familiar to His disciples concerning the topic they were discussing. Though the command to love one’s neighbor was not new (Leviticus 19:18), Christ’s command was new in that it demanded that we love, not as we love ourselves, but as God loves us. This would be the sign to non-Christians that the first-century disciples really were followers of Christ (John 13:35; see Pack, 1977, 5:54-55), and it serves the same purpose today.
William Evans wrote: “As love is the highest expression of God and His relation to mankind, so it must be the highest expression of man’s relation to his Maker and to his fellow-man” (1994, 3:1932). God’s love should motivate us to express our love for Him by obeying His commands. Jesus could not have put it any clearer than He did when He said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Let us pray that as we obey Christ, we will be able to “comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height” of His love, which “passes knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18-19).
REFERENCESAnkerberg, John, and John Weldon (1997), Ready With an Answer (Eugene, OR: Harvest House).
Colley, Caleb (2004a), “God’s Mercy and Justice,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1860.
Colley, Caleb (2004b), “The Immutability of God,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2567.
Evans, William (1994), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Jackson, Wayne (2003), “Galatians 5:4—Fallen from Grace,” [On-line], URL: http://www.christiancourier.com/notes/fallenFromGrace.htm.
Pack, Frank (1977), The Living Word Commentary, ed. Everett Ferguson (Austin, TX: Sweet).
Packer, J.I. (1975), Knowing God (London: Hodder and Stoughton), second edition.
Exclusivism and Christ’s Church
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Churches of Christ (Romans 16:16) have long been demonized for their insistence that all peoples are required to render obedience to the God of heaven, and that this obedience means that people must not tamper with God’s Word by inventing new churches, doctrines, creeds, and religions. They have insisted that the Bible depicts for humanity the religion of God, i.e., New Testament Christianity. Catholicism, Protestant denominationalism, and the plethora of manmade churches that have sprung up over the centuries are departures from “the faith” (1 Timothy 4:1). They have maintained that it is possible—and necessary—for a person to go back behind all denominational creeds and affiliations, and to be simply a New Testament Christian, a member of the New Testament church.
This biblical posture has brought down upon members of churches of Christ a great deal of abuse, ridicule, and antagonism. The revulsion manifests itself in such accusations as: “You think you’re the only ones going to heaven.” Especially with the massive shifting that has taken place in American culture in the last 50 years, with “political correctness” and the “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” mentality having thoroughly saturated national consciousness, anything that smacks of “exclusivity” is immediately demeaned and dismissed as “intolerant,” “mean-spirited,” “judgmental,” and even “a cult.” This mindset has literally infiltrated and infected most Americans. Take, for example, the following statement regarding the name for the church of the Bible:
The truth is that the name “Church of Christ” carries the baggage of an exclusivistic mentality to many people in our culture. “Oh, yeah,” somebody says, “those are the people who think they’re the only ones going to heaven.” One lady said that she never would have come into our building if she had known we are a “Church of Christ.” Once she came in and experienced the presence of God in this body, however, she isn’t about to leave! She and her children—from a very different denominational background—are reveling in the experience of Christ in this community of faith (Shelly, 1998, emp. added).What does it mean to be “exclusivistic”? The dictionary definition of “exclusive” is “excluding or tending to exclude; not allowing something else; incompatible; not divided or shared with others; not accompanied by others; single or sole; excluding some or most, as from membership or participation” (American…, 2000, p. 620). A simple perusal of the New Testament reveals that the church of the New Testament is the church of Christ. He built her (Matthew 16:18). He gave Himself for her (Ephesians 5:25), and purchased her with His own blood (Acts 20:28). He loves her, nourishes her, and wishes to maintain her holy, unblemished nature (Ephesians 5:25-27,29). Christ’s church is not to be equated with the denominational churches that mere humans have established. This is where the name for the church becomes an important factor. Christ’s church will wear His name. Granted, a church may wear His name and claim to be His church when, in fact, it is not. But a church that identifies itself by some denominational designation that draws attention away from the founder (i.e., Christ) to some point of doctrine or lesser spiritual aspect cannot rightly be said to be His church.
Alas, such reasoning is almost universally rejected in today’s permissive climate of indiscriminate acceptance and toleration. Certainly, to suggest that there is “one church” (Ephesians 4:4a), and that every accountable person is obligated to submit to Christ’s plan of salvation in order to be added to that one church, is to be guilty of “exclusivism.” That is the very nature and essence of truth; it is narrow and exclusionary. But is there any indication elsewhere in the Bible that God’s will is exclusive? Does the Bible teach that the correct approach to life and religion is, in actuality, very narrow, rigid, and restrictive? Does the Bible endorse the current climate of toleration, acceptance, and openness?
Consider one brief illustrative incident. At the very beginning of human history, God placed the first man and woman in a beautiful garden paradise. He gave them wide latitude in exercising their own discretion with regard to daily dietary decisions (Genesis 2:16). However, He placed upon them one restriction: they were to refrain from eating the fruit from one particular tree (Genesis 2:17). Satan took issue with this restriction, and urged Eve to do the same (Genesis 3:4-5). She succumbed to his prodding, and to her own fleshly appetites, and ate of the fruit, encouraging her husband to do likewise. The result? Sin was introduced into the world, and the first family was changed forever and permanently banished from the beautiful garden. Question: was the restriction placed upon Adam and Eve by God exclusivistic? That is, did His instructions to them “not allow something else”? Were God’s directives “incompatible” with what Eve wanted to do? Was God’s command “not divided or shared with others” and “not accompanied by others”? Was God’s “my way or the highway” attitude inappropriate? To ask is to answer.
You “do the math.” Check out instance after instance, example after example in the Bible from beginning to end. Apply the definition of “exclusive” to each biblical account in order to determine if, in fact, God’s requirements are “exclusivistic.” Examine the cases of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-8), Noah (Genesis 6:22), Abraham (Genesis 26:5), Moses (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:7-12), Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-3), the Israelites (Numbers 14:20-23; 21:4-9; Joshua 6; 9:14; 1 Samuel 8), Eli (1 Samuel 3:13), Saul (1 Samuel 13:11-14; 15), King David (1 Samuel 21:1-6; 2 Samuel 11; 24), Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:6-7; 1 Chronicles 15:13), Jereboam (1 Kings 12:26-33), Samaria (2 Kings 17:7ff.; 18:12), Josiah (2 Kings 22:13ff.), King Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:16-21), the Jews who returned from exile (Ezra 9-10), Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). The inevitable, indisputable conclusion to which the honest heart is driven is that God’s instructions to humans have always been exclusivistic.
Make no mistake: no human and no church have a “corner on truth.” Gospel salvation is available to all: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11); “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17). God decides who will be saved and who will be lost. However, He has given us His Word to inform us as to His will and His decisions. He says that He wants everyone to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). He says that He does not want even one person to perish in hell (2 Peter 3:9). But He also says that most people will spend eternity in hell (Luke 13:23-24). He is most certainly inclusive in that He offers salvation to all without partiality. But He is equally exclusive in that he requires a proper response of obedience to His directives (John 14:15).
We would do well to jettison our petty jealousies, pride, and political loyalties, devote ourselves to ascertaining the precise parameters of God’s directives, and then focus on conforming to His will—“bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). He is “the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). There are only two possible courses in life: “sin unto death, or obedience unto righteousness” (Romans 6:16). Jesus Himself declared that the former approach to life is “wide” and “broad,” and that most people go that direction (Matthew 7:13). He also stated that the latter approach is “strait” and “narrow” (i.e., exclusivistic!), and few people muster the gumption to confine themselves to that rigid, strict course (Matthew 7:14; Luke 13:23-24). Faithful Christians will remain undaunted when demonized as “exclusivistic,” since they are merely teaching and advocating that which God instituted. After all, an objective appraisal of the Bible reveals that Jesus, Himself, was an exclusionist. God is, in reality, the God of exclusivism!
REFERENCESAmerican Heritage Dictionary of the English Language(2000), (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.
Shelly, Rubel (1998), “What Is Your Church’s Name?” Lovelines, 24, February 4.
If He Were a Prophet...
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
The gospel accounts paint a picture of the character of Jesus unrivaled by any other personality in human history. On one memorable occasion, Jesus was invited to eat with a Pharisee named Simon (Luke 7:36-50). During his stay, a woman who was known in the area for her sinful lifestyle approached Jesus. She proceeded to wash His feet with her tears, dry them with her hair, and anoint Jesus with fragrant oil.
Simon, seeing the sinful woman’s behavior, said to himself, “This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner” (Luke 7:39). Notice two important aspects of Simon’s response. First, he spoke to himself. There is no indication that his thoughts were verbalized or in any way audible to those around him. Second, the criterion he set to determine whether Christ was a prophet was knowledge of the woman’s sinful lifestyle.
Jesus’ response to Simon proved that He was far more than a prophet. He answered the Pharisee by explaining that those who have sinned much and been forgiven of their sins will love God more than those who feel they have few sins to forgive. Jesus then forgave the woman’s sins. His response exhibited a knowledge, not only of the spiritual condition of the woman, but also of Simon’s inner conversation with himself. Not only did Jesus know the woman was a sinner, but He knew the conversation Simon had with himself about Jesus’ reaction to the woman. What did Jesus’ reaction prove? It should have proved to Simon that Jesus was far more than a prophet. When Jesus forgave the woman’s sins, He proved that He was God in the flesh.
The modern application of this story is profound. Jesus has exhibited far more evidence validating His deity than any reasonable person could demand. His life was prophesied in minute detail hundreds of years before He was born, He accomplished miracles that supported the prophesies, He foretold His own death and resurrection, He showed Himself alive to many witnesses after His resurrection, and ascended to Heaven in the sight of many witnesses as the culmination of His earthly ministry. The honest, reasonable response to Jesus’ personality and power is perfectly summarized in Nathanael’s reaction to Jesus’ miraculous knowledge. After Jesus explained to Nathanael that He had miraculously seen Nathanael under the fig tree, Nathanael exclaimed: “Rabbi, You are the Son of God” (John 1:49)!
Complex Jellies Jump 200 Million Years
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
New finds surface every day in the scientific community that remind us of the inadequacy of evolutionary explanations about the natural world. A recent discovery of fossilized jellyfish is just such a find. Until a few months ago, the oldest fossilized jellyfish were supposed to be about 300 million years old [NOTE: The millions-of-years scenario is false, cannot be verified, and is based on faulty assumptions. I am referring to it, not to suggest that it is valid, but to show how dramatically evolutionists themselves must adjust it.]
In October, 2007, Paulyn Cartwright and her team of researchers reported finding and studying several fossilized jellyfish, which they dated to be about 505 million years old (2007). In a news release discussing the research, Jen Humphrey stated: “Cartwright said the jellyfish described in the article are also unique because they push the known occurrence of definitive jellyfish back from 300 million to 505 million years, a huge jump, and show more detail than anything previously described that is younger” (2007).
Notice that with a single fossil discovery, the alleged age of jellyfish jumps a gargantuan 200 million years. Does it not throw serious doubt on geological time that the time can be adjusted so quickly, with such little evidence? And where are all the jellyfish fossils from the alleged period of 300-500 millions years ago? Obviously, they were alive and thriving, but a record of their existence in the rocks is absent.
What is more, Cartwright and her team mentioned the detail that was preserved in the “old” jellies. What does the detail show? The detail shows that the jellyfish that are supposedly 500 million years old look like jellyfish that are five years old. They have hardly changed at all in “500 million years.” Cartwright and colleagues stated: “Further, some of these fossils share commonalities with modern cnidarian orders and families...” (2007, emp. added). Jen Humphrey, breaking Cartwright’s research down to a popular level of understanding, wrote:
[T]he researchers said that there is enough detail to assert that the types can be related to the modern orders and families of jellyfish. The specimens show the same complexity. That means that either the complexity of modern jellyfish developed rapidly roughly 500 million years ago, or that the group is even older and existed long before then (2007, emp. added).Isn’t evolutionary theory grand? On the one hand, it purports to explain how things evolve so quickly that they leave no fossils. On the other hand, it alleges that jelly fish were so well adapted that they did not change for 500 million years. In truth, that which explains too much, explains nothing.
Do evolutionists really expect us to believe that humans evolved from an ape-like creature to our present state of complexity in about 10 million years, but that jelly fish remained virtually unchanged for 500 million years? Why do evolutionists suggest that the fossilized jellies are millions of years old if they look just like modern jellies? The only reason is that the jellies were found in falsely dated rock. It is time that we demand that reason be applied to evolutionary dating methods and allegations about animal antiquity. If evolution really does what evolutionists claim, jellies would have evolved to such a level of complexity in 500 million years that they could build submarines and launch torpedoes at their prey. But, alas, they are still just jelly fish.
“Old” jellyfish look like “modern” jellyfish for a very simple reason that has nothing to do with evolution. When God spoke the world into existence, He instructed plants and animals to multiply “after their kind” (Genesis 1:21,24). Jellyfish have been faithfully doing just that since the beginning of Creation.
Humphrey, Jen (2007), “Fossil Record Reveals Elusive Jellyfish More Than 500 Million Years Old,” [On-line], URL: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-10/plos-frr103007.php.
God and Human Sexuality
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Does God exist? Sufficient evidence exists to warrant the conclusion: “Yes, I know that God exists.” Has He spoken to us? Again, sufficient evidence exists to prove that the book we call the Bible is the inspired, infallible, inerrant, authoritative Word of God. Since God exists, and since He has given to us His divine will in written form, moral choices and human behavior are to be governed by that revealed will.
What is God’s will concerning human sexuality? That will was demonstrated originally in the creation of the first human beings: “Male and female created He them” (Genesis 1:27). God’s decision to create a female counterpart to the male was not coincidental. The female uniquely met three essential criteria: (1) “It’s not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18); (2) a helper suitable to him was needed (Genesis 2:18,20); and (3) the human race was to be perpetuated through sexual union (Genesis 1:28). Both Jesus and Paul reiterated this same understanding (Matthew 19:4-6; 1 Corinthians 7:2). So the woman was: (a) the divine antidote to Adam’s loneliness; (b) a helper fit for him; and (c) the means of the propagation of the human race. Here we see the divine arrangement for the human species.
Not long after God set into motion the created order—which He had pronounced as “very good” (Genesis 1:31)—man began to tamper with the divine will, and altered God’s original intentions concerning human sexuality. Polygamy was introduced into the world by Lamech (Genesis 4:19). God could have created two women for Adam. But He did not. Rather, He made one man for one woman for life. That is the divine will.
The next recorded departure from the divine will regarding human sexuality was Abraham’s foolish scheme to allow his wife Sarah to be taken by Pharoah (Genesis 12:10-12). That incident was followed by the determination by Sarah to offer Hagar as the means by which an heir might be secured (Genesis 16:1-16). Both of these actions obviously were contrary to God’s ideal of healthy, normal sexual behavior.
Genesis 19 now comes into view:
Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground. And he said, “Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way,” And they said, “No, but we will spend the night in the open square.” But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.” So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, and said, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.” And they said, “Stand back!” Then they said, “This one came in to sojourn, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.” So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door. But the men reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door (Genesis 19:1-11, NKJV).Moses already had described the spiritual condition of Sodom’s inhabitants as being “wicked and sinners against Jehovah exceedingly” (Genesis 13:13). God Himself stated that their sin was “great” and “grievous” (Genesis 18:20). The specific activity described in Genesis 19 involved the desire on the part of the males of Sodom to “know” Lot’s two visitors. The Hebrew term yada is used euphemistically to denote sexual intercourse (cf. Genesis 4:1; 19:8; Numbers 31:17, 35; Judges 11:39; 21:11).
Notice that the crime that was condemned in this passage was not the fact that the Sodomites were being violent and forcing someone to do something against his will (see Miller, 2002). Jude made that clear when he identified their sin as “giving themselves over to fornication and going after strange flesh” (vs. 7). Peter echoed the same thought:
[A]nd turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemning them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed with the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed; they are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries (2 Peter 2:6-10, NKJV; cf. Jeremiah 23:14).The term “sodomy” has come into the English language because of the sexual activity practiced in Sodom. A standard English dictionary defines “sodomy” as “[a]ny of various forms of sexual intercourse held to be unnatural or abnormal, especially anal intercourse or bestiality” (American Heritage Dictionary, 2000, p. 1651). It surely is reminiscent of our day to observe that when Lot urged the sodomites not to do “so wickedly,” the men accused Lot of being judgmental (Genesis 19:9; cf. Deuteronomy 23:17-18).
In addition to the pre-Mosaic period of history, God made clear His will on this matter when He handed down the Law of Moses. In a chapter dealing almost exclusively with sexual regulations, His words are explicit and unmistakable.
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. Nor shall you mate with any beast, to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before a beast to mate with it. It is perversion. Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who sojourns among you (for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled), lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you. For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people. Therefore you shall keep My ordinance, so that you do not commit any of these abominable customs which were committed before you, and that you do not defile yourselves by them: I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 18:22-30, NKJV)…. If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them (Leviticus 20:13, NKJV).A person would need help to misunderstand these injunctions.
Another graphic account is given in Judges 19, during the period of the judges, which was a time of spiritual and moral depravity and decay—the “Dark Ages” of Jewish history. “Sons of Belial” (i.e., wicked scoundrels) surrounded a house where travelers had taken refuge for the night. As in Sodom, they desired to “know” the male guest (Judges 19:22). The host, like Lot, knew exactly what they meant, as is evident from the fact that, like Lot, he offered them a sexual alternative (which, of course, God did not approve). Their sexual desire was labeled as “wickedness,” “outrage,” “vileness,” “lewdness,” and “evil” (Judges 19:23,24; 20:3,6,10,12,13, NKJV).
During the period of the kings, Josiah instituted sweeping moral and religious reforms. These included tearing down the homes of the Sodomites (2 Kings 23:7).
The New Testament is equally definitive in its uncompromising and unquestioned condemnation of illicit sexual activity. Paul summarized the “unrighteous” and “ungodly” behavior of the Gentile nations and declared:
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1:26-32, NKJV).This passage uses Greek terms that linguistic scholars define as “forbidden desire,” “impurity,” “unnatural vice,” “shameful passions,” “not in accordance with nature,” and “individuals of the same sex being inflamed with sensual, sexual desire for each other” (Arndt and Gingrich, 1957, pp. 28,118,119,240,583,877). Not only is God displeased with those who participate in such behavior, but verse 32 indicates that He is equally displeased with those who are merely supportive of such conduct—though they themselves do not engage in the activity. To the Corinthian church, Paul asked:
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 (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, NKJV).The Greek word translated “homosexual” is a metaphorical use of a term that literally means “soft” and, when referring to people, refers to males allowing themselves to be used sexually by other males. Again, lexicographers apply the term to the person who is a “catamite,” i.e., a male who submits his body to another male for unnatural lewdness, i.e., homosexually (Thayer, 1977, p. 387; Arndt and Gingrich, p. 489).
The term “sodomites,” (“abusers of themselves with mankind” in the KJV) is a translation of the term arsenokoitai. It comes from two words: arsein (a male) and koitei (a bed), and refers to one who engages in sex with a male as with a female (Thayer, p. 75). Paul used the same term when he wrote to Timothy, and identified some behaviors that are both “contrary to sound doctrine” and characteristic of the one who is not “a righteous man” (1 Timothy 1:9-10).
When Paul said, “such were some of you,” he proved not only that those involved may be forgiven, but that they can cease such activity. We are forced to conclude that sexual activity between persons of the same sex is not a matter of genetics; it is a behavioral phenomenon associated largely with environmental factors.
Illicit sex is just one more departure from God’s will that American civilization is facing. God identified all departures from His will pertaining to sexual intercourse as “fornication.” The underlying Greek term, porneia, is a broad term that covers every form of illicit sexual intercourse, including adultery, incest, bestiality, bigamy, polygamy, bisexuality, necrophilia, and more. Our sex-crazed society is so promiscuous, and so estranged from God’s view of human sexuality, that our public schools consider it appropriate to teach children to simply “take precautions” when they engage in sexual escapades outside of marriage. But God never encouraged people to practice “safe sex.” Rather, He instructed people to exercise self-control, self-discipline, and moral responsibility. The Bible teaches that we are not to be self-indulgent. We are to put restraints on ourselves, and control our sexual urges and desires according to God’s will.
Encouraging young people simply to “take precautions” only encourages additional illicit behavior. It encourages more promiscuity. It contributes to an increase—not a decrease—in the number of pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases. Despite several decades of inundating our schools with sex education, and the promotion of so-called “safe sex,” the statisticians inform us that in the next thirty days, 83,850 unwed girls will become pregnant in this country (“Teens in Crisis,” 2001, p. 1). The handling of the issue by the social liberal has not worked. In fact, the problem has greatly worsened.
The Bible definition of “safe sex” is sex that is confined to a divinely authorized, scriptural marriage. The depths to which our country has slumped morally is seen in the fact that it is legal for public school officials to distribute condoms to students, but it is illegal to distribute Bibles or to teach Bible principles. The time has come for our nation to wake up. The time has come to face the fact that freedom requires restraint. Rights require personal responsibility. People must take responsibility for their choices, and accept the consequences of their own actions. Paul declared, “flee fornication” (1 Corinthians 6:18). He did not say, “engage in ‘safe’ fornication!” There is no such thing as “safe” sin or “safe” immorality. God said a person must run away from it, resist it, and reject it. To a youth, Paul said, “Keep yourself pure” (1 Timothy 5:22). The writer of Hebrews insisted that the marriage bed is to be kept “undefiled.” “[F]ornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4). Paul said there should not be so much as a hint of sexual immorality among Christians (Ephesians 5:3).
Please understand: God loves all sinners—regardless of the specific sins they have committed. The faithful Christian will do the same. But it is imperative that we be about the business of alerting those who are engaged in sexual sin regarding God’s will, in an effort to “snatch them out of the fire” (Jude 23), and to “save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).
CONCLUSIONSexual sin undoubtedly will go down in history as one of the major contributors to the moral and spiritual deterioration, decline, and downfall of American society. One wonders how much longer such widespread unchastity can go on in our land before God will “visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:25). Every society in human history that has followed this course toward moral and spiritual depravity has eventually been destroyed by God. Indeed, in light of such moral confusion, our society cannot continue to survive indefinitely into the future—unless, of course, God is prepared to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.
REFERENCESAmerican Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.
Arndt, William and F.W. Gingrich (1957), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
Miller, Dave (2002), “Sodom—Inhospitality or Homosexuality?,” Reason & Revelation, 22:41-42, November.
Thayer, J.H. (1962 reprint), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
“Teens in Crisis” (2001), Teen Help (Las Vegas, NV: World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools).
What's So Important about Jesus' Resurrection?by Eric Lyons, M.Min.
After the widow’s son of Zarephath died, Elijah prayed to God, “and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived” (1 Kings 17:22). A few years later, the prophet Elisha raised the dead son of a Shunammite (2 Kings 4:32-35). Then, after Elisha’s death, a dead man, in the process of being buried in the tomb of Elisha, was restored to life after touching Elisha’s bones (2 Kings 13:20-21). When Jesus was on Earth, He raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead (Mark 8:21-24,35-43), as well as the widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:11-16) and Lazarus, who had been buried for four days (John 11:1-45). After Jesus’ death and resurrection, Matthew recorded how “the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (27:52-53). Then later, during the early years of the church, Peter raised Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:36-43), while Paul raised the young man Eutychus, who had died after falling out of a three-story window (Acts 20:7-12). All of these people died, and later rose to live again. Although some of the individuals arose very shortly after death, Lazarus and (most likely) the saints who were raised after the resurrection of Jesus, were entombed longer than was Jesus. In view of all of these resurrections, some have asked, “What is so important about Jesus’ resurrection?” If others in the past have died to live again, what makes His resurrection so special? Why is the resurrection of Jesus more significant than any other?
First, similar to how the miracles of Jesus were worked in order to set Him apart as the Son of God and the promised Messiah, even though all others who worked miracles during Bible times were not God in the flesh, the resurrection of Jesus is more significant than any other resurrection simply because the inspired apostles and prophets said that it was. Many people throughout the Bible worked miracles in order to confirm their divine message (cf. Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:1-4), but only Jesus did them as proof of His divine nature. Once, during the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, a group of Jews surrounded Jesus and asked, “If You are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24)? Jesus responded to them saying, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me…. I and My Father are one” (John 10:25,30). These Jews understood that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God in the flesh (cf. 10:33,36), and Jesus wanted them to understand that this truth could be known as a result of the miracles that He worked. They testified of His deity (cf. John 20:30-31). Why? Because He said they did (10:25,35-38; cf. John 5:36). The miracles that Jesus performed bore witness of the fact that He was from the Father (John 5:36), because He said He was from the Father. A miracle in and of itself did not mean the person who worked it was deity. Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Peter, Paul, and a host of others worked miracles, with some even raising people from the dead, but not for the purpose of proving they were God in the flesh. The apostles and prophets of the New Testament worked miracles to confirm their message that Jesus was the Son of God, not to prove that they were God (cf. Acts 14:8-18). Jesus, on the other hand, performed miracles to bear witness that He was the Son of God, just as He claimed to be (cf. John 9:35-38).
Likewise, one reason that Jesus’ miraculous resurrection is more significant than the resurrections of Lazarus, Tabitha, Eutychus, or anyone else who was raised from the dead, is simply because the inspired apostles and prophets in the early church said that it was more important. Like the miracles He worked during His earthly ministry that testified of His deity, His resurrection also bore witness of His divine nature. There is no record of anyone alleging that Lazarus was God’s Son based upon his resurrection, nor did the early church claim divinity for Eutychus or Tabitha because they died and came back to life. None of the above-mentioned individuals who were resurrected ever claimed that their resurrection was proof of deity, nor did any inspired prophet or apostle. On the other hand, Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power…by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). His resurrection was different because of Who He was—the Son of God. Just as the miracles He worked during His earthly ministry testified of His divine message, and thus also of His divine nature, so did His resurrection.
Second, the significance of Jesus’ resurrection is seen in the fact that He was the first to rise from the dead never to die again. Since no one who has risen from the dead is still living on Earth, and since there is no evidence in the Bible that God ever took someone who had risen from the dead into heaven without dying again, it is reasonable to conclude that all who have ever arisen from the dead, died in later years. Jesus, however, “having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him” (Romans 6:9). Jesus said of Himself: “I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore” (Revelation 1:17-18). All others who previously were raised at one time, died again, and are among those who “sleep” and continue to wait for the bodily resurrection. Only Jesus has truly conquered death. Only His bodily resurrection was followed by eternal life, rather than another physical death. Although it has been argued by skeptics that “it’s the Resurrection, per se, that matters, not the fact that Jesus never died again” (see McKinsey, 1983, p. 1), Paul actually linked the two together, saying, God “raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption” (Acts 13:34, emp. added). Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews argued for a better life through Jesus on the basis of His termination of death. One reason for the inadequacy of the old priesthood was because “they were prevented by death.” Jesus, however, because He rose never to die again, “continues forever” in “an unchangeable priesthood,” and lives to make intercession for His people (Hebrews 7:23-25).
A third reason why Jesus’ resurrection stands out above all others is because it alone was foretold in the Old Testament. In his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, Peter affirmed that God had raised Jesus from the dead because it was not possible for the grave to hold Him. As proof, he quoted Psalm 16:8-11 in the following words:
I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence (Acts 2:25-28).Peter then explained this quote from Psalms by saying:
Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses (Acts 2:29-32).The apostle Paul also believed that the psalmist bore witness to Christ, and spoke of His resurrection. In his address at Antioch of Pisidia, he said:
And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.” And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: “I will give you the sure mercies of David.” Therefore He also says in another Psalm: “You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; but He whom God raised up saw no corruption. Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses (Acts 13:32-39).Where is the prophecy for the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter? When did the prophets ever foretell of Eutychus or Tabitha’s resurrection? They are not there. No resurrected person other than Jesus had his or her resurrection foretold by an Old Testament prophet. This certainly makes Jesus’ resurrection unique.
Fourth, the significance of Jesus’ resurrection is seen in the fact that His resurrection was preceded by numerous instances in which He prophesied that He would defeat death, even foretelling the exact day on which it would occur. Jesus told some scribes and Pharisees on one occasion, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40, emp. added). Matthew, Mark, and Luke all recorded how Jesus “began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (Matthew 16:21, emp. added; cf. Mark 8:31-32; Luke 9:22). While Jesus and His disciples were in Galilee, Jesus reminded them, saying, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up” (Matthew 17:22-23, emp. added). Just before His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus again reminded His disciples, saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again” (Matthew 20:18-19, emp. added). Jesus’ prophecies concerning His resurrection and the specific day on which it would occur were so widely known that, after Jesus’ death, His enemies requested that Pilate place a guard at the tomb, saying, “Sir, we remember, 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…” (Matthew 27:63-64, emp. added). They knew exactly what Jesus had said He would do, and they did everything in their power to stop it.
Where are the prophecies from the widow’s son of Zarephath? Had he prophesied of his resurrection prior to his death? Or what about the son of the Shunammite woman that Elisha raised from the dead? Where are his personal prophecies? Truly, no one mentioned in the Bible who rose from the dead prophesied about his or her resurrection beforehand, other than Jesus. And certainly no one ever prophesied about the exact day on which he or she would arise from the dead, save Jesus. This prior knowledge and prophecy makes His resurrection a significant event. He overcame death, just as He predicted. He did exactly what he said He was going to do, on the exact day He said He was going to do it.
Finally, the uniqueness of Jesus’ resurrection is seen in the fact that He is the only resurrected person ever to have lived and died without having committed one sin during His lifetime. He was “pure” and “righteous” (1 John 3:3; 2:1), “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). He was “a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19), “Who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). No one else who has risen from the dead ever lived a perfect life, and then died prior to his or her resurrection for the purpose of taking away the sins of the world (cf. John 1:29). Because Jesus lived a sinless life, died, and then overcame death in His resurrection, He alone has the honor of being called “the Lamb of God” and the “great High Priest” (Hebrews 4:14). “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many,” and because of His resurrection “those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:28).
Whether or not Eutychus, Tabitha, Lazarus, etc., rose from the grave, our relationship with God is not affected. Without Jesus’ resurrection, however, there would be no “Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31). Without Jesus’ resurrection, He would not be able to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). Without Jesus’ resurrection, we would have no assurance of His coming and subsequent judgment (Acts 17:31).
Most certainly, Jesus’ resurrection is significant—more so than any other resurrection ever to have taken place. Only Jesus’ resurrection was verbalized by inspired men as proof of His deity. Only Jesus rose never to die again. Only Jesus’ resurrection was prophesied in the Old Testament. Only Jesus prophesied of the precise day in which He would arise from the grave, and then fulfilled that prediction. Only Jesus’ resurrection was preceded by a perfect life—a life lived, given up, and restored in the resurrection for the purpose of becoming man’s Prince, Savior, and Mediator.