12/26/16

"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" They Led Him Away (27:1-2) by Mark Copeland

                        "THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW"

                       They Led Him Away (27:1-2)

INTRODUCTION

1. In the night and morning prior to His crucifixion, the Son of God
   suffered many ignobilities...
   a. Illegal trials held during the night
   b. Shuffled back and forth before different authorities
   c. Falsely accused, mocked, and physically abused

2. There is a phrase used several times that may be used to summarize
   this ill treatment...
   a. That phrase is "they led Him away"
   b. It (or a variation) is found eight times 
      - Mt 26:57; 27:2,31;Mk 15:1,16; Lk 23:26; Jn 18:13; 19:16

3. Being led around like this was in fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy:

          "He was led as a lamb to the slaughter..." - Isa 53:7

[To remind us of the things Jesus suffered in our stead and for our
sins, let's review how Jesus was led around during that fateful night
and the morning that followed...]

I. THEY LED HIM AWAY TO FACE ANNAS

   A. ANNAS, FATHER-IN-LAW TO CAIAPHAS...
      1. John records this meeting in his gospel - Jn 18:12-14
      2. Annas had been high priest, but was deposed in 15 A.D. by
         Roman authorities
      3. He continued to exercise considerable influence, as he was
         still viewed by the Jews as a high priest - Lk 3:2
      4. After Pentecost he was involved in the questioning of Peter
         and John - Ac 4:6

   B. BEFORE ANNAS...
      1. Jesus was asked about His disciples and His doctrine - Jn 18:
         19-21
      2. Jesus was struck by one of the officers - Jn 18:22-23
      3. At this point, Annas sent Jesus bound to Caiaphas - Jn 18:24

[As we return to the gospel of Matthew, we read of how...]

II. THEY LED HIM AWAY TO FACE CAIAPHAS

   A. CAIAPHAS, THE HIGH PRIEST...
      1. It was Caiaphas who with others plotted the arrest and death
         of Jesus - Mt 26:3-5
      2. He also was involved in the later questioning of Peter and
         John - Ac 4:6

   B. BEFORE CAIAPHAS...
      1. Jesus faced an assembly of scribes and elders - Mt 26:57
         a. This was an illegal assembly of the Sanhedrin (high council
            of the Jews)
         b. It was illegal for taking place at night
      2. False witnesses were finally found - Mt 26:59-61
      3. Jesus first kept silent, then told them of His coming in
         judgment - Mt 26:62-64
      4. In anger Caiaphas tears his clothes, and accuses Jesus of
         blasphemy - Mt 26:65
      5. Jesus is pronounced worthy of death - Mt 26:66
      6. He is spat in the face, beaten, slapped, and mocked as the
         Messiah - Mt 26:67-68

[Meanwhile, Peter is denying Jesus three times in the courtyard (Mt 26:
69-75).  With the dawn of morning, the chief priests and elders decide
to put Jesus to death (Mt 27:1).  To do this...]

III. THEY LED HIM AWAY TO FACE PILATE

   A. PONTIUS PILATE, THE ROMAN GOVERNOR...
      1. To whom Jesus was bound and delivered - Mt 27:2
      2. He governed Judea from 26-36 A.D.
      3. He did much to anger the Jews - cf. Lk 13:1
      4. But without his approval, the Jews could not execute Jesus

   B. BEFORE PILATE...
      1. Jesus was asked if He was the king of the Jews - Mt 27:11
         a. Because Jesus was accused of forbidding to pay taxes and
            claiming to be a king - cf. Lk 23:1-2
         b. Jesus did not reply to the accusations of the Jews - Mt 27:
            12-14
         c. But He did converse with Pilate about the nature of His
            kingdom - Jn 18:33-38
      2. Pilate found no fault in Him - cf. Lk 23:4
      3. But Jesus was accused further of stirring up people throughout
         all Judea, beginning from Galilee - cf. Lk 23:5

[With the mention of Galilee, Pilate thought he had a way to pawn Jesus
off on to someone else (Lk 23:6-7).  And from Luke's account we learn
that...]

IV. THEY LED HIM AWAY TO FACE HEROD

   A. HEROD, KING OF THE JEWS...
      1. This was Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great
         a. His father was the Herod who massacred the infants - Mt 2:
            16-18
         b. Antipas was the one who beheaded John the Baptist - Mt 14:
            1-12
         c. He was tetrarch over Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C.-39 A.D.
            - Lk 3:1
      2. Herod was glad to see Jesus - Lk 23:8
         a. He had heard many things about Jesus - cf. Lk 9:7-9
         b. He hoped to see some miracle done by Jesus

   B. BEFORE HEROD...
      1. Jesus was questioned, but answered Herod nothing - Lk 23:9
      2. Jesus was vehemently accused by the chief priests and scribes
         - Lk 23:10
      3. Jesus was treated with contempt and mocked by Herod and his
         soldiers - Lk 23:11

[Arrayed in a gorgeous robe mocking His claim to be King, Jesus was
then sent back to Pilate (Lk 23:11-12).  And so...]

V. THEY LED HIM AWAY TO FACE PILATE (AGAIN)

   A. PILATE SOUGHT TO RELEASE HIM...
      1. Using the custom of releasing one prisoner during the feast
         - Mt 27:15; Jn 18:38-39
         a. Offering a choice between Jesus and Barabbas - Mt 27:16-18
         b. The latter a notorious prisoner, who was a robber, rebel
            and murderer - Mk 15:7
      2. Encouraged by his wife to have nothing to do with Jesus 
         - Mt 27:19

   B. BEFORE PILATE (AGAIN)...
      1. The chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude to ask
         for Barabbas and to have Jesus crucified - Mt 27:20-23
      2. Bowing to the multitude, Pilate succumbed to their wishes 
          - Mt 27:24-25
      3. Jesus was then scourged - Mt 27:26

[At this point Pilate delivered Jesus to be crucified (Mt 27:26).  But
before Jesus was taken to the place called Golgotha...]

VI. THEY LED HIM AWAY TO FACE THE SOLDIERS

   A. THE SOLDIERS OF THE GOVERNOR...
      1. Roman soldiers, who likely had little love for any Jew
      2. Who took Jesus into the Praetorium (the barracks in the
         governor's house) - Mt 27:27
      3. Surrounding Jesus with the whole garrison of soldiers - Mt 27:
         27

   B. BEFORE THE SOLDIERS...
      1. Jesus was stripped and clothed with a scarlet robe - Mt 27:28
      2. A twisted crown of thorns was placed on His head, and a reed
         in His right hand - Mt 27:29a
      3. The soldiers bowed the knee and mocked Him as King of the Jews
         - Mt 27:29b
      4. They spat on Him, and struck Him on the head with the reed 
         - Mt 27:30
      5. When they were finished mocking Him...
         a. The soldiers took off the robe and put His own clothes on
            Him - Mt 27:31a
         b. The soldiers led Him away to be crucified - Mt 27:31b

CONCLUSION

1. Up to this point, the Son of God had been...
   a. Struck by officers of the high priest
   b. Spat in the face, beaten, slapped, and mocked as the Messiah by
      the chief priests
   c. Falsely accused by the chief priests and scribes before Pilate
      and Herod
   d. Treated with contempt and mocked by Herod and his soldiers
   e. Scourged by Pilate, mocked, spat upon and beaten by his soldiers
   -- And then they "led Him away to be crucified", to face the cross
      of Calvary

2. Why did Jesus allow Himself to be so led...?
   a. At any time He could have called for twelve legions of angels 
      - cf. Mt 26:53
   b. "They Led Him Away" only because He allowed them to do so!
   c. Jesus understood that all this was necessary to fulfill Scripture
      - cf. Mt 26:54; Lk 24:44-47

And the purpose of the Scripture was that Jesus would die for our sins
(Isa 53:5).  As expressed beautifully in the song "Ten Thousand Angels"
by Ray Overholt:
                   They bound the hands of Jesus
                      In the garden where He prayed;
                      They led Him through the streets in shame.
                   They spat upon the Savior
                      So pure and free from sin;
                      They said "Crucify Him, He's to blame."
                   Upon His precious head
                      They placed a crown of thorns;
                      They laughed and said, "Behold the King."
                   They struck Him and they cursed Him
                      And mocked His holy name.
                      All alone He suffered everything.
                   He could have called ten thousand angels
                      To destroy the world
                      And set Him free.
                   He could have called ten thousand angels
                      But He died alone
                      For you and me.

He died alone for you and me...will we not heed and obey His message of
repentance and remission of sins first proclaimed in Jerusalem? - cf.
Lk 24:46-47; Ac 2:36-38
 
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Peter's Denial Of Jesus (26:69-75) by Mark Copeland

                        "THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW"

                   Peter's Denial Of Jesus (26:69-75)

INTRODUCTION

1. Among the things Jesus suffered, was the indignity of Peter's 
   denial...
   a. Three times, with increasing intensity, Peter denied knowing
      Jesus - Mt 26:69-75
   b. Peter denied knowing Jesus, despite being with Jesus:
      1) From the beginning of His earthly ministry - Mt 4:17-19
      2) At the healing of his own mother-in-law - Mt 8:14-15
      3) On the Sea of Galilee, walking on the water - Mt 14:22-33
      4) On the mount, seeing Jesus with Moses and Elijah - Mt 17:1-13

2. How did Peter come to deny his Lord and Savior?
   a. What forces were at work, that led to his cowardly deed?
   b. Might they be forces we face today, encouraging us to do the
      same?

[From "Peter's Denial Of Jesus", there are important lessons to be
gleaned. Indeed, Peter himself can help us to avoid making the mistakes
he made when he writes as one who knows the dangers before us. For
example, we note first of all that...]

I. PETER WAS BETRAYED BY PRIDE

   A. HE BOASTED HE WOULD NEVER DENY JESUS...
      1. Proudly proclaiming that even if all left Jesus, not him! 
         - Mt 26:31-33
      2. In so doing, Peter took the first step in falling away - Pro
         16:18
      3. We can also be overconfident in our service to God 
         - cf. 1Co 10:12

   B. PETER LATER COMMANDED HUMILITY...
      1. To be clothed with humility - 1Pe 5:5
      2. To humble ourselves before God - 1Pe 5:6

[Peter learned the hard way about the danger of pride. Will we learn
from the mistake of Peter, and value the importance of humility? Next,
notice that...]

II. PETER WAS BESIEGED BY LAZINESS

   A. HE KEPT FALLING ASLEEP...
      1. At a time when he needed to be watchful - Mt 26:36-46
      2. His laziness therefore led to lack of preparation
      3. The same thing can happen to us!
         a. Without diligent preparation, we too can be unprepared 
            - cf. Lk 21:34-36
         b. More often than not, we gradually "drift away" because we
            are too lazy to "give the more earnest heed" - cf. He 2:1-3

   B. PETER LATER ENJOINED DILIGENCE...
      1. Commanding vigilant resistance against the devil - 1Pe 5:8-9
      2. Calling for diligence that we might:
         a. Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus - 2Pe 1:5,10
         b. Be found in peace, without spot and blameless - 2Pe 3:14

[Do we allow simple laziness to keep us from careful preparation? Do we
fail to attend services, study God's Word, or even pray, because of
laziness? If so, how can we hope to stand up for Jesus when put to the
test? As we continue, we observe that...]

III. PETER WAS BESET BY COWARDICE

   A. HE FOLLOWED JESUS AT A DISTANCE...
      1. Peter still followed Jesus - Mt 26:58
      2. But now that Jesus was unpopular...
         a. He stays far enough away so not to be identified with Him
         b. He was unprepared to face the challenge of ridicule and
            persecution
      3. Might we be guilty of trying to follow Jesus, but with 
         cowardice?
         a. Ashamed to be seen carrying a Bible?
         b. Ashamed to be seen giving thanks?
         c. Ashamed to be seen with other Christians?

   B. PETER LATER EXHORTED GLORIFYING GOD...
      1. Charging us not to be ashamed, but to glorify God - 1Pe 4:16
      2. Thinking not of what things mean to us, but what they mean to
         God! - cf. Mt 5:16

[With cowardice keeping him at a distance from his Lord, Peter was a
prime candidate for succumbing to what came next...]

IV. PETER WAS BELEAGUERED BY WORLDLINESS

   A. HE WAS INFLUENCED BY THE WORLD...
      1. By sitting with the servants of the High Priest, and warming
         himself by their fire - Mt 26:58; Mk 14:54
      2. Ashamed to be seen with Christ, it was easy to mingle with
         those of the world and enjoy their comforts
      3. But one cannot be "comforted by the fire" of the world, and
         not be "burned"!
         a. E.g., close contact with things that can harm has an effect
            - cf. Pr 6:27-29
         b. So we cannot flirt with the world and walk away untouched
            - 1Co 15:33

   B. PETER LATER CALLED FOR US TO BE OTHER-WORLDLY...
      1. To live as sojourners and pilgrims, abstaining from fleshly
         lusts and with honorable conduct among the nations - 1Pe 2:
         11-12
      2. To look for that new heavens and new earth, being diligent to
         be found by Christ in peace, without spot and blameless 
         - 2 Pe 3:13-14

CONCLUSION

1. When Peter concluded his second epistle, he did so with a warning...
   a. To beware lest you fall from your own steadfastness - 2Pe 3:17
   b. To grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ - 2Pe 3:18

2. These admonitions come from one who was well qualified to speak...
   a. For he knew how easy it was to fall through such things as:
      1) Pride
      2) Laziness
      3) Cowardice
      4) Worldliness
   b. But he also knew how to grow in grace through such things as:
      1) Humility
      2) Diligence
      3) Glorifying God
      4) Living as strangers and sojourners

Yes, we know that Peter, though he denied Jesus three times and wept
bitterly, received grace when forgiven by Jesus and permitted to
fulfill his role as an apostle (cf. Jn 21:15-17).

If we have been guilty of letting our Lord down, look to Him for the
grace to repent and grow that only He can bestow!
 
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

Melchizedek, Abraham, and Biblical Accuracy by Wayne Jackson, M.A.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=13&article=1100

Melchizedek, Abraham, and Biblical Accuracy

by  Wayne Jackson, M.A.

Q.

Could you please explain what the Bible means when it speaks of the Old Testament priest Melchizedek as being “without father, without mother, without genealogy”? How could this be possible?
A.
The science of archaeology has been a multiple benefactor to the Bible student. It has helped to clarify some passages that heretofore may have been a bit obscure. Too, this discipline frequently has shown that the biblical record bears the marks of genuine history.
After Abraham settled in Hebron, and Lot, his nephew, pitched his tent in the vicinity of Sodom, a confederation of Mesopotamian kings invaded the region of Sodom and Gomorrah and took numerous captives, among whom was Lot. The Genesis record reveals that when Abraham heard of the tragedy, he and 318 servants from his household pursued the hostile eastward-bound armies. The patriarch attacked the pagan forces and rescued his nephew, taking considerable booty in the process (Genesis 14:1ff.). The accuracy of the biblical record has been questioned in several particulars.
First, the historicity of the names of the opposing kings (Anuaphel, Chedorlaomer, Arioch, and Tidal) has been disputed. However, it has been demonstrated from Mesopotamian inscriptions that these names were common to the Tigris/Euphrates region, and that they are not “fictional forms” (Vos, 1963, p. 69). It even has been shown that the name “Abraham” was not novel in that ancient environment (Finegan, 1946, p. 61). The Bible is remarkably precise.
Second, some critics have contended that there was no eastward line of march at the time of Abraham, and thus have alleged that the Mosaic narrative is erroneous. The famous archaeologist, W.F. Albright, admitted that he “formerly considered this extraordinary line of march as being the best proof of the essentially legendary character of the narrative” (1935, p. 142, emp. added). Albright’s discoveries in this region, however, forced him to revise his opinion of the Genesis text. Professor Stephen Caiger, who was not a strictly conservative writer, conceded that “there seems [to be] no reason to question a factual basis of Genesis 14” (1944, p. 34).
As Abraham returned from his victory over the eastern kings, he encountered the mysterious Melchizedek, “king of Salem” (Jerusalem), who was designated as both a king and priest. Abraham paid “tithes” to the monarch and, in turn, was blessed by him. The New Testament makes Melchizedek a symbol of our king and priest, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 7:15). But the writer of the book of Hebrews makes a curious statement regarding Melchizedek. He says that the ancient ruler was “without father, without mother, without genealogy” (7:3).
Numerous speculations have surrounded this allusion. Origen, an ancient writer (A.D. 185-253) imagined that Melchizedek was an angel. Hierakas, toward the end of the 3rd century A.D., thought that he was a temporary incarnation of the Holy Spirit. Some even have suggested that he was the pre-incarnate Logos (Christ, as depicted in John 1:1,14)—a concept contradicted by Hebrews 7:3, which notes that the king was merely “like unto” the Son of God.
Archaeology has shed light on the enigmatic expression “without father, without mother, etc.” A.H. Sayce, who served as professor of Assyriology at Oxford, called attention to an inscription from the famous Tell el-Amarna tablets (discovered in 1887 in Egypt). These tablets describe the conditions of Syria and Palestine about 1400-1360 B.C.
Several of the Tell el-Amarna tablets are letters written to the Pharaoh by Ebed-tob...the king of Uru-Salim [Jerusalem], who begs for help against his enemies. He tells the Pharaoh that he was not like the other Egyptian governors in Palestine, nor had he received a crown by inheritance from his father or mother; it had been conferred on him by “the Mighty King...” (1906, 3:335).
So, observing the similarity of language, we conclude that Melchizedek’s kingship/priesthood had not been derived genealogically; He had received his commission directly from God Himself. Indeed, as the Scriptures affirm, his was an appointment “of God Most High” (Genesis 14:18). Accordingly, by way of analogy, we are forced to affirm that the current reign/priesthood of our Lord is a direct and divinely authored administration. We are grateful to archaeology for this bit of assistance in understanding what otherwise might be perceived as an obscure reference.

REFERENCES

Albright, W.F. (1935), The Archaeology of Palestine and the Bible (New York: Revell).
Caiger, Stephen L. (1944), Bible and Spade—An Introduction to Biblical Archaeology (London: Oxford University Press).
Finegan, Jack (1946), Light from the Ancient Past (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).
Sayce, A.H. (1906), “Melchizedek,” Dictionary of the Bible, ed. James Hasting (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark).
Vos, Howard (1963), Genesis and Archaeology (Chicago: Moody).

God's Providence and the Problem of Evil by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=5294

God's Providence and the Problem of Evil

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

In 2008, best-selling author and agnostic professor Bart Ehrman wrote a book titled God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question—Why We Suffer (2008). In the book, Ehrman presented his case for how the biblical answer to the problem of evil is insufficient. His analysis is incorrect and lacking in many ways, but the title of his book brings us to a crucial question regarding evil—why would Erhman and a bulk of the unbelieving world seek such an answer from the Bible? Why put forth so much effort attempting to refute the biblical answer to suffering?
In truth, the “problem of evil” argument is built on the foundation of what the Bible says about God. As it is historically set out, the “problem of evil” contends that the three premises (1) God is all-loving; (2) God is all-powerful; and (3) evil exists, cannot all be true. Where did these three premises originate? The third, that evil exists, is a matter of personal experience and knowledge that virtually all humans can know intuitively. But the first two premises, that God is all-loving and all-powerful, are distinctly set forth in the Bible as attributes of God. Without the biblical insistence that God is all-powerful and all-loving, there would be no “problem of evil.” With that in mind, it would be unfair and dishonest for the skeptic to demand that the Christian answer the problem of evil without reference to the Bible. Yet, that is precisely what Ehrman and others expect. They attempt to discredit the biblical answers to the problem of evil. These attacks against the Bible’s answer have been unsuccessful (Warren, 1972; Miller, 2015). In fact, one of the most impressive responses to evil is the biblical understanding of God’s work through providence. For the purposes of this discussion, we will define providence as the way God orchestrates His will through natural laws. This idea is contrasted with God’s miraculous intervention in human affairs. A miracle, such as Jesus walking on water or God’s empowering Moses to put his hand into his cloak and it become leprous, is a recognizable overriding of certain natural laws. God’s providence, on the other hand, is seen in cases where God works through natural laws to accomplish His will.
To illustrate this difference, let us consider specific examples. In 2 Kings 19, the story is told of Sennacherib’s campaign against the land of Judah. The evil king and his Assyrian army encircled Jerusalem and were confident that they would soon crush the city. That did not happen, because one night an “angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when the people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead” (2 Kings 19:35). This episode is a clear example of God miraculously intervening in human affairs. On a different occasion, the prophet Micaiah warned Ahab, the king of Israel, that he would be destroyed if he attacked Ramoth Gilead. Ahab ignored the warning from God’s prophet and attacked the city anyway. In the course of the events, “a certain man drew a bow at random, and struck the king of Israel between the joints of his armor” (1 Kings 22:34). Ahab died of his wound exactly as God had foretold. Ahab’s death, however, came about through what we would call natural events, not miraculous ones.
Another contrast between providential and miraculous involvement can be seen in the lives of Mary and Hannah. In the New Testament narrative of Jesus’ birth, the Bible states that Mary would miraculously conceive Jesus even though she was a virgin (Matthew 1:18-25). In contrast, we read about the birth of Samuel to Hannah. She prayed earnestly for a son and God answered her prayer. Hannah’s conception and birth of Samuel, however, were not miraculous but came about through her union with her husband Elkanah (1 Samuel 1:19-20; see Jackson, “A Study of Divine Providence”).  Samuel’s birth provides an excellent illustration of God’s providence.
Throughout the course of human history God has worked His will through miraculous and providential means. In many eras of history He has used both at the same time, but in some instances and epochs, He has worked primarily through providence with very little or no recognizable miraculous activity. It is important to understand this truth, since it is often affirmed that if God has worked miracles in the past to aid his people, then He “should” be doing the same today. For instance, Bart Ehrman demands, “If he [God] could do miracles for his people throughout the Bible, where is he today when your son is killed in a car accident, or your husband gets multiple sclerosis, or civil war is unleashed in Iraq, or the Iranians decide to pursue their nuclear ambitions?” (p. 274). This idea is well-illustrated on Marshall Brain’s Web site whywontgodhealamputees.com (2014). According to Brain, the fact that God does not miraculously regrow limbs proves that He is imaginary. In chapter 5 of his material, he says, “Nothing happens when we pray for amputated limbs. God never regenerates lost limbs through prayer…. Does God answer prayers? If so, then how do we explain this disconnection between God and amputees?” (2014).
Notice that Brain and Ehrman insist that if God is capable of miracles, then we should be seeing them now. But why must that be the case? Could it be that an all-knowing God has very good reasons why He is not at work in the same miraculous ways He worked in the past? In addition, the same Bible that tells us about God’s miracles also lays out a very strong case for God’s working through providential means. To demand that God must operate in the way that we insist He operate is more than slightly presumptuous, especially in light of the fact that He has given us ample information about other ways He works.
This play by unbelievers is more clearly seen in the proverbial story of the atheistic professor who stands before a class of freshmen and dares God to strike him dead. When nothing happens, the professor glibly comments, “I thought not,” and assumes he has made his point. Could it be possible that there are good reasons God does not strike the professor dead? Certainly. Maybe God knows the man will repent in the future. Maybe He knows that this professor will find a cure for cancer, and although he will lose his soul, he will save many lives. The possibilities are virtually endless.
Ehrman and other unbelievers challenge Christians to produce modern miracles as evidence that God intervenes in the world today. They do so, however, refusing to recognize two important truths. First, even during the ages of human history when God performed miracles, He did not intervene to stop all suffering. People still got sick, had accidents, broke bones, suffered emotionally, and died. It is as if the skeptic insists that the Bible paints a picture of a God who swooped in miraculously to stop all suffering. Such was never the case. Miracles were isolated events designed to confirm the validity of the message of certain divine messengers (Miller, 2003). The Bible has never presented them as a wholesale answer to the problem of pain and suffering. Second, to insist that God must use miracles today discounts the pervasive biblical theme of providence. Throughout history, one of God’s primary modes of operation has been to providentially work through natural laws. To deny that this is the case is to turn a deaf ear to a massive amount of biblical testimony.

A Biblical Case for Providence

When many people think about God working through miracles, they have a picture in mind of a God Who periodically interrupts the regular flow of things and tinkers with the laws that are usually in place. They see God as an intruder into the natural order that He initially set up and that He leaves alone for a large portion of time. It is as if God has created a cosmic aquarium filled with fish, rocks, hiding areas, and a water filtering system. He sits outside the system watching patiently until He is needed, dipping His hand into the system to add something here or take something away there. The problem with this view is that it pictures a system that somehow works independently of God. In this system it is thought that if God does not miraculously intervene, then the system still works fine.
The Bible provides a picture of God’s activity in the world that is much different from this model. Instead of a self-sustaining system that God created at the beginning and primarily has left to its own devices, Scripture teaches that the entire system constantly relies on God. The writer of Hebrews explains that God appointed Jesus Christ as the heir of all things and that He is presently “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:2-3). It is not that at one time (but not now) He created and upheld the world, but that He is at present still upholding “all things.” Paul confirmed this idea in Colossians when he spoke of Jesus, saying “All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17). Notice that not only was Jesus active in the Creation, but the created world continues to “consist” in Him. It is important to recognize that God originally designed a world of natural laws that would be ideal for Him to providentially use throughout the course of human history. His use of these laws to bring about His purposes is not an interruption of the regular flow of things, since the regular flow of things constantly depends on His power to sustain it. As Richard Bube wrote in his book The Human Quest:
The natural order exists only because God is constantly active in upholding it. God does not use natural processes as if they existed without him. God does not take advantage of natural laws to accomplish his will as if the laws existed without him. We see immediately why the question “Can God intervene in a world ruled by orderly laws?” is meaningless. There is no world ruled by orderly laws except that one constantly maintained in existence by the activity of God (1971, p. 28).
It is because of this fact that scholar John Walton defines providence as “the way God acts through all so-called natural processes, whether in creation, nature, or history” (2001, p. 101). His addition of the adjective “so-called” highlights the fact that the laws of “nature” are perpetually dependant on the supernatural God. In the term providence, then, we see God’s perpetual upholding of the entire Universe.

Special Providence

The general providence of God upholds all nature. The way the term providence is usually applied, however, refers to God’s coordination of events in order to bring about specific desired outcomes. This has been referred to as God’s special providence. It often is spoken of in the Bible as it is seen in the lives of those who follow him (May, 2014, p. 14). We see the difference between general and specific providence when we compare Matthew 5:45, which says that God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust,” with Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” In one sense, all life comes from God and the fact that anyone can take a breath is a providential blessing. In another sense, God has promised that all the events in the lives of those who love Him will be orchestrated in a way that they will work together for the ultimate good.
It is important to recognize what the Bible does not say about God’s providence. There is an idea that if a person is a faithful child of God, then God will make sure that he or she is always prosperous, has a wonderful spouse, is blessed with children, and lives a life of comfort and ease. That is not what the Bible says. In fact, the Bible is clear that those who love and follow God often experience serious hardships and trials. Paul told Timothy that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). James told his readers to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2-3). Peter told his readers who were suffering governmental persecution not to “think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 4:12-13). Even the Lord was disciplined in obedience by the things which He suffered (Hebrews 5:8). God does not promise that everything that happens to those who love Him will be good. Instead, He promises that they will work together so that the end result is good.

Bible Examples of Special Providence

Esther

The name of God is never mentioned in the book of Esther. For that reason, some have questioned its inspiration and place in the canon. A close analysis of the book, however, shows that it meets the criteria for inspiration. The fact that it does not use God’s name is significant, because the events that happen in the book provide some of the clearest examples of special providence in all of Scripture.
Let us briefly summarize the story. Esther is a Jew who lives in Shushan, the capital of the Persian Empire. She is orphaned, so her cousin Mordecai raises her as if she were his. In the course of events, the Persian king Ahasuerus dismisses his wife and begins the process of looking for another. Esther is among the young women that Ahasuerus assembles at his palace. She surpasses the others in talent and beauty and becomes the new queen. Mordecai warns her not to reveal that she is a Jew. On one occasion, when Mordecai sat in the king’s gate, he uncovered a plot to kill the king. Those involved were found guilty and the event was written in the history book that Ahasuerus kept.
During this time, the wicked general Haman began to advance in station and status with the king. He hated Mordecai because the Jew would not bow to him. Instead of killing Mordecai, Haman tricked the king into issuing a decree that all the Jews should be killed. Esther courageously pleaded with the king to save the Jews. Ultimately, Haman’s plot was discovered, he was hanged, and the Jewish people were delivered from destruction. The most interesting aspect of the book of Esther is the underlying working of God through “natural” processes throughout the events taking place.
For instance, of all the young women in the entire kingdom that Ahasuerus could have picked, he chose the Jewess Esther. Her cousin Mordecai was in the perfect place to discover a plot against the king’s life, and his deed was written down in the history book. The entry, however, went unnoticed for many days until one “fortuitous” night the king could not sleep. Due to his insomnia, he ordered that the history book be read, and it just so happened that Mordecai’s discovery was the chosen text. While the king was deciding what to do to honor Mordecai, Haman entered his presence hoping to request that the king hang Mordecai. Instead, Haman was instructed to parade the Jew through the streets as one whom the king chose to honor. Haman was later hanged on the very gallows that he had built to hang Mordecai.
The number of perfectly aligned events that brought about the Jews’ salvation were not coincidences. As John Walton noted, “If we truly understand Esther, it is not saying that there is no God at work, but neither is it saying that there is no circumstance. Instead, it insists that God works through the circumstance…. The only way to understand how God works is to see circumstance as one of his agents” (p. 104). One of the most familiar passages in the text is found in a statement that Mordecai made to Esther. He admonished her to have the courage to go to the king, even knowing that she might die. And he said, “who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). Notice that Mordecai’s statement implies that the circumstances that led to Esther being the queen could have been arranged intentionally and purposefully for her to save the Jews.
It is at this point that we need to consider an important aspect of special providence. God performed miracles in a way that, to the honest observer, left no room for doubt. Anyone who observed a miracle performed by Jesus or another empowered spokesperson from God, if the person was dealing honestly with the situation, could be sure that God’s power was directly responsible for the event. When considering providence, however, God’s work is often not clear until after the events take place, and even then it is difficult to put a finger on exactly how and where God was active. Mordecai’s sentiment of “who knows” captures this facet of providence well. We see this idea in the New Testament as well. When Paul wrote to his friend Philemon, he mentioned that he had come in contact with one of Philemon’s former slaves. This slave, Onesimus, had run away from Philemon and become a Christian during his time away. Paul was sending him back, and he wrote to Philemon, “perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you may receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother” (Philemon 15-16).
Paul’s use of the word “perhaps” echoesMordecai’s use of “who knows.” Both writers were acknowledging that God works through natural, providential means. But they were also conceding that the circumstances under discussion could only be viewed with some uncertainty when trying to determine exactly what parts of their lives and the lives of others were related to God’s activity. As May correctly wrote, “Miracles are clearly from God. Providence is always ‘perhaps,’ except when God in Scripture tells us He is working behind the scenes” (p. 69).

Joseph

The life and times of Joseph, son of Israel, consume the bulk of Genesis chapters 37-50. His story provides another clear example of God’s providence in action. Joseph’s dad favored him above his other brothers, because he was the son of Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel. This favoritism led Jacob to treat him better than his brothers, which fueled their jealousy and hatred toward the young man. In addition, Joseph had dreams in which his brothers, Jacob, and Leah bowed down to him. This infuriated his siblings all the more.
On one occasion, Joseph was sent to check on his brothers as they tended their father’s flocks. They conspired against him, captured him, and sold him to a band of slave traders. The traders sold him into Egypt. In Egypt, Joseph spent many years in slavery and in prison, but through a series of remarkable events, became the second most prominent man in all the land. Due to a massive famine, his brothers journeyed to Egypt to buy food. There they bowed to Joseph just as he had seen in his dreams. Eventually, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers and brought his family to live in Egypt. When his father died, his brothers feared that Joseph might seek revenge on them. They came to him, begging for his forgiveness. He calmed them and said, “[D]o not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:19-20).
As we read through the events of Joseph’s life, we see many people who were not trying to help Joseph, nor were they attempting to obey God. His brothers sold him into slavery. Slave traders cruelly sold him into Egypt. His first master’s wife lied about him. His master, Potiphar, then threw him into prison. And the chief butler forgot about him for two years before bringing his name up to Pharaoh. Obviously, the people in Joseph’s life could not see the hand of God, nor were they complicit in God’s plan to elevate Joseph. In addition, many of the events were unjust, wrong, and painful to Joseph. God, however, orchestrated these events in Joseph’s life so that eventually they turned out “for good.” This is the nature of providence.

Providence and Human Free Will

A study of divine providence naturally leads to questions about human free will. If God orchestrates events to bring about desired outcomes, does He force people to act in certain ways? Does He override human free will in order to work providentially? The stories of Esther, Philemon, and Joseph provide us with the answer. God used the choices that the people in the stories freely made, and worked His providence through those choices. At no time did God in the past, or will God in the present or future, override a person’s free will.
If God works His providence through the decisions that various people freely choose, that must mean He knows what they will choose. Some have argued that if God knows what a person chooses, then that person is not free to choose, since he or she is “stuck” choosing what God knows he/she will choose (see Barker, 2008, p. 127). The flaw in this argument hinges on the difference between knowledge and cause. Just because a person may have knowledge of an event does not mean that he caused the event or that the person who makes the choice is somehow constrained by this knowledge. A brief thought experiment makes this point clear. Suppose, hypothetically, you knew that a friend of yours drank coffee yesterday morning. Now suppose you could go back in time and watch him choose to drink coffee instead of milk. Did your knowledge that he would choose coffee somehow force his decision? Not at all. He could have chosen coffee because he liked the taste or wanted the caffeine. The fact that you knew what he would do does not mean he was forced to do it or that your knowledge somehow caused it. Similarly, God knows what every person will do. Using that knowledge, He can arrange events to accomplish His ends through natural circumstances.

How Knowledge of Providence Helps the Sufferer

One of the primary reasons to study providence is to assimilate the idea into an overall answer that helps explain how a loving, all-powerful God can allow those He loves to suffer. What does knowledge of providence offer the sufferer? First, an understanding of providence assures us that God will never allow any person to suffer or be tempted beyond his/her ability to deal with the suffering. Paul explained this to the Corinthian church when he wrote, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
When we suffer, there are times we may feel that we simply cannot endure the pain and sorrow that is crushing us. During such periods of trials and troubles, we must remember that God is still in control of the Universe, and He has solemnly promised us that He will never allow us to suffer or be tempted more than we are able to withstand. While it may seem to us that we cannot hold up under the trials we experience, if God is all-knowing, and if God can providentially arrange the events of human lives to accomplish His ultimate desire, then we can know that He will provide the strength that we need to not only endure, but even to grow through our struggles. The strength He provides may not come in the form or way that we expect. It may come through what others do for us. It may come through something we read in God’s Word. It may come through an inspiring story that we read in a book that a friend happened to lend us. Or it may come through a person coming into our lives that is suffering worse than we are and needs our help, channeling our attention from our own pain to constructive ways to help others with theirs.
Second, an understanding of divine providence can help the sufferer understand that God can arrange events so that suffering can have meaning and purpose, even though it is not inherently good. One excellent biblical example is seen in the life of Paul. Paul’s life after his conversion to Christianity was eventful to say the least. He took three lengthy missionary journeys, during which he was often in peril. He explained to the church in Corinth that he had been beaten three times, shipwrecked three times, stoned, whipped by the Jews five times, and spent a night and day in the ocean (2 Corinthians 11:22-33). Paul often found himself trying to escape legal authorities that were attempting to imprison or kill him.
On one occasion, Paul was lowered over the city wall of Damascus in a basket to escape being captured by the governor of the city (2 Corinthians 11:32-33). Paul’s efforts to avoid capture, however, were not always successful. Once, He was imprisoned and held by the prestigious palace guard. Without an understanding of providence, this situation would seem to the average observer to have a negative effect on Paul and his preaching of the Gospel. Why did Paul have to suffer by being thrown in prison? Why did the church have to suffer through their concern for the apostle? Why did his relatives have to endure the mental anguish of knowing he was imprisoned unjustly? Such questions are legion. Paul provides us with some insight into his situation in the letter he wrote to the church in Philippi. He told them, “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which have happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ” (Philippians 1:12-13). Notice Paul’s use of the word “actually.” The implication is that at first, it would not seem like prison would help the cause of Christ and the furtherance of the Gospel. It turns out, however, that even though Paul had been unjustly imprisoned and punished with evil intent, God providentially arranged the events so that the Gospel message spread.

Conclusion

God created the world and upholdsit by the word of His power. He designed the natural laws that He perpetually sustains in a way that He can work through them to bring about His desired goals. Throughout human history, He has worked both providentially and miraculously. The fact that He used miracles in the past, however, does not mean that He still, or must, use them today in order to accomplish His ultimate will. The Bible provides extensive material on how God has providentially worked in the past, and how He has promised to continue this activity in the present and future. An understanding of God’s providence provides a vital aspect of the Christian’s overall answer to suffering in the world. Furthermore, the concept of providence can help those who suffer find meaning and comfort through their suffering.

References

Barker, Dan (2008), godless (Berkeley, CA: Ulysses).
Brain, Marshall (2014), “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?” http://why wontgodhealamputees.com/.
Bube, Richard (1971), The Human Quest (Waco, TX: Word).
Ehrman, Bart (2008), God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question—Why We Suffer (New York: HarperOne).
Jackson, Wayne (no date), “A Study of Divine Providence,” https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/
105-a-study-of-divine-providence
.
May, Cecil Jr. (2014), Providence: The Silent Sovereignty of God (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).
Miller, Dave (2003), “Modern-Day Miracles, Tongue-Speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation,” Apologetics Press, https://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=264& topic=293.
Miller, Dave (2015), Why People Suffer (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Walton, John (2001), Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Warren, Thomas B. (1972), Have Atheists Proved There is No God? (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press).

Feelings Follow Facts by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=2822

Feelings Follow Facts

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Humans are emotional creatures. We love and hate. We hope and hurt. We dread and rejoice. We cry when we are sad, as well as when we are happy. We shout when we are angry, and we shout when we are thrilled. I have one son who not only smiles when he is happy, he even smiles (seemingly uncontrollably) when he is in trouble (which I have yet to understand). The roller coaster of emotions that occasionally overcomes us can wear us out one day and energize us the next. Like any human, Christians are emotional people. We are emotional because we are human, but we also are stirred with emotions because we are servants of Jesus Christ.
Christians are called to be spiritual people (Galatians 6:1). We are “partakers of…spiritual things” (Romans 15:27). We are to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). We must “worship the Father in spirit” (John 4:23-24). We are building a “spiritual house…to offer up spiritual sacrifices” (1 Peter 2:5). Such spirituality leads us to feel an array of emotions: reverence for the Creator, compassion for the lost, hatred of evil, anticipation of the Lord’s return, etc. Sadly, however, many who call themselves followers of Christ think of Christianity simply as a “feel-good religion.” The mindset among many is, “Feelings first, knowledge later” (if ever). Like the prophets of Baal, they cry out with great emotion and leap around in hysteria (1 Kings 18:20-40). Like the Pharisees, they pray and do charitable deeds to be seen of men (Matthew 6:1-8). Like Cain, they make unacceptable offerings, rather than sacrifices “by faith” (Genesis 4:4-5; Hebrews 11:4; cf. Romans 10:17). The cornerstone of Christianity for such people is emotion rather than Christ (Ephesians 2:20), feelings rather than facts. They think they can be “spiritual” without knowing the Spirit-revealed Truth (John 16:13).
If Scripture teaches anything, it teaches that a faithful Christian’s feelings follow the digestion of biblical facts. Unlike Israel who had “a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2), our enthusiasm for the Lord is to be rooted in the knowledge of God’s Word. Prior to becoming Christians, our hearts can be properly “pricked” only after we have heard the Gospel (Acts 2:14-37). We can be saved after we have “come to the knowledge of the Truth” (1 Timothy 2:4) and “receive with meekness the implanted word” (James 1:21). We can be cleansed and comforted after “taking heed” according to God’s Word (Psalm 119:9,50-52). We can go on our way rejoicing after receiving the Word (Acts 8:26-39). We can praise God “with uprightness of heart” after learning God’s righteous judgments (Psalm 119:7). We can worship in spirit after learning the truth (John 4:24; 17:17). We can be spiritual after taking hold of “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17) and learning “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16-6:1).
Are we to worship God fervently? Certainly. Are we to be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14)? Definitely. Should the soul-saving message of Jesus Christ stir our souls intensely? Indeed. But, Christianity has never been rooted in raw human emotions. Spirituality is not equivalent to excitement. Faith is not a mere feeling. Christianity is grounded in God’s Word. Our salvation, spirituality, worship, work, and overall faithfulness to God are dependent on knowing God’s will. Remember, “[F]aith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Creation Comment Leads to Another Casualty by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=2603

Creation Comment Leads to Another Casualty

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

In his 2008 documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Ben Stein highlighted “an elitist scientific establishment” that allowed “absolutely no dissent from Charles Darwin’s theory of random mutation and natural selection” (“What Happened...?” 2007, emp. added). As proof of such close-mindedness on the part of “Big Science,” Stein interviewed several intelligent, credentialed scientists. These men and women had been fired from their positions or denied tenure simply because they questioned the factuality of the General Theory of Evolution and/or publicly supported intelligent design. Dr. Jerry Bergman has documented several cases of this same kind of discrimination in his book, Slaughter of the Dissidents: The Shocking Truth about Killing the Careers of Darwin Doubters (2008). Stein and Bergman methodically demonstrate that the scientific establishment really is free to think only inside the walls of the “goo-to-you” theory of evolution.
Recently, the scientific establishment claimed another “prominent casualty as the Royal Society’s director of education, Michael Reiss, stepped down” (“Creating Controversy,” 2008, 199[2674]:4). What happened, exactly? Reiss, an evolutionary biologist and ordained Anglican priest speaking at the British Association for the Advancement of Science Festival in September 2008, simply “called for creationism to be discussed in UK science classes” (“Creating Controversy,” p. 4, emp. added). “Creationism,” he said, “is best seen by science teachers not as a misconception but as a world view” (as quoted in Mitchell, 2008).
The greater scientific establishment was none too happy with Reiss for his comments about creationism. Reiss “provoked the anger” of many of the members of the Royal Society (Mitchell, 2008). The leading members wrote to the society’s president “demanding...Reiss step down, or be asked to step down, as soon as possible” (Mitchell, 2008, emp. added). According to the World Socialist, “Reiss was forced to resign” (Mitchell, 2008, emp. added).
Some may wonder why science societies, science departments, etc., are dominated by atheistic evolutionists. Could it be the result of years of dissidents being forced out? The fact is, scientists open to the idea of an intelligent Designer are some of the most discriminated-against people on Earth. Question the theory of evolution publicly, and a scientist must be prepared to lose his job and reputation in the scientific community.

REFERENCES

Bergman, Jerry (2008), Slaughter of the Dissidents: The Shocking Truth about Killing the Careers of Darwin Doubters (Southworth, WA: Leafcutter).
“Creating Controversy” (2008), New Scientist, 199[2674]:4, September 20.
Mitchell, Paul (2008), “Behind the Creationism Controversy at Britain’s Royal Society,” World Socialist, October 17, [On-line], URL: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2008/oct2008/crea-o17.shtml.
“What Happened to Freedom of Speech?” (2007), [On-line], URL: http://www.expelledthemovie.com.

Hats Off to Arkansas for Recognizing Babies as Citizens by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=7&article=481

Hats Off to Arkansas for Recognizing Babies as Citizens

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

On May 6, 2004, Fox News reported that the state of Arkansas had introduced guidelines that have far-reaching implications. According to these new guidelines, unborn children of illegal immigrants will be granted rights as American citizens, will be viewed as such by the federal government, and will be eligible for Medicaid. By instituting these new procedures, Arkansas will be joining Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Washington in using federal funds to help with the cost of these “unborn citizens.”
The Arkansas Department of Human Services stated that “it is not trying to make a political point on where life begins, but just trying to offer better health care” (“Arkansas Debate...,” 2004). A political and moral statement, however, cannot be avoided in this instance. In essence, the state of Arkansas is saying that unborn babies are citizens of this country, and therefore deserve the same right and benefits that any other citizen of this country deserves.
Setting aside the plethora of biblical reasons not to allow abortions (see Miller, 2003), let’s explore another reason why it also should be illegal. When our forefathers penned the Declaration of Independence, by which they broke away from Britain, they penned these well-known words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” When Arkansas and other states recognize, as they morally should, that a child is indeed a citizen, they admit that this citizen has rights. Those rights include, among other things, life. How can we as a nation recognize a child as a citizen (in order for him or her to receive federal funds), but then in other circles refuse to grant to that citizen the fundamental right to life recognized by our forefathers who penned the sacrosanct Declaration of Independence?
It is time that we, as a nation, stopped playing word games with the words “baby,” “fetus,” “embryo,” etc., and started recognizing the fact that human life begins at conception (see Thompson, 2003). Our hats are off to the state of Arkansas for recognizing the fact that an unborn child is a citizen. It is high time this fact was recognized at every government level across the board!

REFERENCES

“Arkansas Debate Focuses on Pregnant Illegals” (2004), [On-line], URL: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,119144,00.html.
Miller, Dave (2003), “Abortion and the Bible,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1964.
Thompson, Bert (2003), “Should a Fetus Have Rights,” [On-line], URL: http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=7&article=1109.

Inconsistent Allegations by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


http://apologeticspress.org/AllegedDiscrepancies.aspx?article=1606&b=1%20Corinthians

Inconsistent Allegations

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Several years ago, the Kerrville, Texas Daily Times on-line newspaper published two stories on their front page about the same basic event—the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors’ meeting in Galveston, Texas. The headline for the first story was “Times Wins 17 Awards in Statewide Contest” (emp. added). The second story was titled, “Times Gets 16 Awards in First Day” (emp. added). One story clearly indicated that the newspaper had won 16 awards, while the other used the number 17. Apparently, however, none of the Kerrville Daily Times staff believed that their stories were contradictory. (The stories remained on the Daily Times homepage for a few days.) What’s more, there was no indication that others were accusing the newspaper of being inconsistent or dishonest in their reporting. Why? Because most anyone who read the two titles quickly understood that the newspaper won 17 awards in all—16 of which they collected on the meeting’s “first day.”
If most anyone can easily understand and accept such differences as were found on the Kerrville Daily Times Web site, one wonders why similar logical differences cannot easily be acknowledged in Scripture. For example, when Moses wrote about the sexual immorality and idolatry that the Israelites committed in Moab, he noted that “those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand” (Numbers 25:9, emp., added). When the apostle Paul alluded to the number of Israelites who committed sexual immorality (apparently referring to the events in Numbers 25:1-9), he wrote: “in one day twenty-three thousand fell” (1 Corinthians 10:8, emp. added). Skeptics and certain others (e.g., Davids, et al, 1996, pp. 598-599) would have us believe that Paul erred in writing 23,000, rather than 24,000. But notice that Paul included the phrase “in one day twenty-three thousand fell” (emp. added). Though Moses would later write about what happened “in the day of the plague” (Numbers 25:18; cf. Genesis 2:17; 1 Kings 2:37,42; Lyons, 2002), he did not use a numerical adjective to delineate clearly a set period of one day as Paul did. Thus, the difference in the two numbers can easily (and logically) be resolved by taking into account that Paul’s number included what happened within a literal 24-hour period, while Moses’ number included everyone who died “when the plague came” (Numbers 25:18, NIV), however long it lasted.
Of course, as with many alleged Bible discrepancies, oftentimes more than one possible explanation exists for differences between two or more Bible passages. Regarding 1 Corinthians 10:8, some believe that Paul was referring to a different time in Israelite history (cf. Archer, 1982, p. 401; Geisler and Howe, 1992, pp. 458-459). Others believe that Numbers 25:9 is, indeed, the actual “sister” passage to 1 Corinthians 10:8, but that the additional 1,000 in the book of Numbers also included those whom the judges executed (Numbers 25:4-5; see Jamieson, et al., 1997). Still, it may be that Paul’s number only included the portion of those who were actually guilty of “sexual immorality,” while Moses included both harlots and idolaters (Numbers 25:1-3).
The fact is, several plausible explanations exist for the differences between Numbers 25:9 and 1 Corinthians 10:8. Exactly what the explanation for the difference is, we may never know. But, we can know that the skeptic has not proven these passages to be discrepant. Furthermore, it is the skeptic who should be questioned as to why he readily accepts the understandable, non-discrepant differences in many modern-day writings (e.g., the Kerrville Daily Times), yet loudly protests against similar logical, explainable differences in Scripture. Undoubtedly, this kind of “inconsistent” allegation should be under scrutiny.

REFERENCES

Archer, Gleason L. (1982), An Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids: Zondervan).
Davids, Peter H., Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., F.F. Bruce, and Manfred T. Brauch (1996), Hard Sayings of the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press).
Geisler, Norman L. and Thomas A. Howe (1992), When Critics Ask (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books).
Jamieson, Robert, et al. (1997), Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Bible Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Lyons, Eric (2002), “Why Didn’t Adam Die Immediately?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/AllegedDiscrepancies.aspx?article=797.

Who before Christ was the greatest person in the world? by Roy Davison


http://www.oldpaths.com/Archive/Davison/Roy/Allen/1940/017-greatestperson.html


Who before Christ was the greatest person in the world?
In secular history we read about powerful rulers who are called ‘great’. Darius the Great of Persia had an empire of 7.5 million km². By way of comparison, the continent of Europe is about 10 million km². Alexander the Great had an empire of only 5.4 million km². There were rich kings such as Croesus of Lydia. There were great philosophers such as Confucius and Socrates. But Jesus said: “What is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

In the holy Scriptures certain men are called great, such as Abraham (Genesis 24:35) and Moses (Exodus 11:3).

Speaking about John the Baptist Jesus said: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:7-11).

Maybe some were just as great, but no one was greater than John the Baptist. Why was John great? Jesus says he was “more than a prophet,” he was God’s messenger to prepare the way for the Messiah.

Let us examine the life of John to find qualities that made him great.

John had an exceptional birth announcement. The angel Gabriel appeared to his father, Zacharias, and said: “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:13-17).

John would “be great in the sight of the Lord.” We should not strive to be great in the sight of men but great in the sight of the Lord.

John would be “filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” John was great because God empowered him. He was chosen by God to fulfill a special task in the history of the world. “John performed no sign” (John 10:41). Thus being filled with the Holy Spirit does not mean that one can perform signs.

Our God-given task in life is less spectacular. Yet we all have a task. And we can have the gift of the Holy Spirit as Peter promised on the Day of Pentecost: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38, 39). Jesus said also: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13).

John would “turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” What accomplishment could be greater than to bring souls to repentance that they might be saved from sin and spend eternity with God in heaven?

John was great because he was humble. He said: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry” (Matthew 3:11). When Jesus came to him requesting baptism, John replied: “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” (Matthew 3:14). Once John was told: “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified -- behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!” He replied: “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ ... He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:26-30).

John was great because he had the courage to call even powerful people to repentance. “Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:5-8).

John even dared to call the king to repentance, which resulted in his death. “For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife; for he had married her. Because John had said to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.’ Therefore Herodias held it against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not; for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. Then an opportune day came when Herod on his birthday gave a feast for his nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee. And when Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.’ He also swore to her, ‘Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half my kingdom.’ So she went out and said to her mother, ‘What shall I ask?’ And she said, ‘The head of John the Baptist!’ Immediately she came in with haste to the king and asked, saying, ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’ And the king was exceedingly sorry; yet, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. And he went and beheaded him in prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb” (Mark 6:17-29).

Thus we see something of the greatness of John the Baptist.

After telling of John’s greatness, Jesus goes on to say something that is truly amazing. “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11).

By saying this, Jesus did not mean to detract from the greatness of John in any way. He merely emphasizes how great it is to be in the kingdom of heaven, a kingdom that John foretold, but would not have a part in. John had preached: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). But he was imprisoned and murdered before Christ, after His ascension, began to reign at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33).

That John’s understanding of the kingdom was limited is indicated by the question he sent his disciples to ask Jesus: “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3).

The least in the kingdom of heaven has an insight into God’s plan for the salvation of world that Old Covenant prophets did not have. Jesus told His followers: “But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Matthew 13:16, 17).

Peter also mentions that Christians have a better understanding of God’s salvation than the Old Covenant prophets had: “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven --- things which angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:10-12).

Let us follow the example of John in the things that made him great. Let us define our concept of what is great by the word of God and seek His approval. Let us ask the Father for the Holy Spirit. Let us do what we can to bring others to repentance. Let us be humble and give the glory to God. Let us not be afraid to call the powerful to repentance. And most of all, let us be thankful for the great privileges we have in the kingdom of God. Amen.
Roy Davison

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.
Published in The Old Paths Archive
(http://www.oldpaths.com)

Bible Reading December 26 by Gary Rose

Bible Reading December 26 (World English Bible)



Dec. 26
Haggai 1, 2

Hag 1:1 In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, the Word of Yahweh came by Haggai, the prophet, to Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying,
Hag 1:2 "This is what Yahweh of Armies says: These people say, 'The time hasn't yet come, the time for Yahweh's house to be built.' "
Hag 1:3 Then the Word of Yahweh came by Haggai, the prophet, saying,
Hag 1:4 "Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies waste?
Hag 1:5 Now therefore this is what Yahweh of Armies says: Consider your ways.
Hag 1:6 You have sown much, and bring in little. You eat, but you don't have enough. You drink, but you aren't filled with drink. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm, and he who earns wages earns wages to put them into a bag with holes in it."
Hag 1:7 This is what Yahweh of Armies says: "Consider your ways.
Hag 1:8 Go up to the mountain, bring wood, and build the house. I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified," says Yahweh.
Hag 1:9 "You looked for much, and, behold, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?" says Yahweh of Armies, "Because of my house that lies waste, while each of you is busy with his own house.
Hag 1:10 Therefore for your sake the heavens withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit.
Hag 1:11 I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on that which the ground brings forth, on men, on livestock, and on all the labor of the hands."
Hag 1:12 Then Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of Yahweh, their God, and the words of Haggai, the prophet, as Yahweh, their God, had sent him; and the people feared Yahweh.
Hag 1:13 Then Haggai, Yahweh's messenger, spoke Yahweh's message to the people, saying, "I am with you," says Yahweh.
Hag 1:14 Yahweh stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of Yahweh of Armies, their God,
Hag 1:15 in the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.

Hag 2:1 In the seventh month, in the twenty-first day of the month, the Word of Yahweh came by Haggai the prophet, saying,
Hag 2:2 "Speak now to Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, saying,
Hag 2:3 'Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Isn't it in your eyes as nothing?
Hag 2:4 Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,' says Yahweh. 'Be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,' says Yahweh, 'and work, for I am with you,' says Yahweh of Armies.
Hag 2:5 This is the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, and my Spirit lived among you. 'Don't be afraid.'
Hag 2:6 For this is what Yahweh of Armies says: 'Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, the earth, the sea, and the dry land;
Hag 2:7 and I will shake all nations. The precious things of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory, says Yahweh of Armies.
Hag 2:8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine,' says Yahweh of Armies.
Hag 2:9 'The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,' says Yahweh of Armies; 'and in this place will I give peace,' says Yahweh of Armies."
Hag 2:10 In the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the Word of Yahweh came by Haggai the prophet, saying,
Hag 2:11 "Thus says Yahweh of Armies: Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying,
Hag 2:12 'If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and with his fold touches bread, stew, wine, oil, or any food, will it become holy?' " The priests answered, "No."
Hag 2:13 Then Haggai said, "If one who is unclean by reason of a dead body touch any of these, will it be unclean?" The priests answered, "It will be unclean."
Hag 2:14 Then Haggai answered, " 'So is this people, and so is this nation before me,' says Yahweh; 'and so is every work of their hands. That which they offer there is unclean.
Hag 2:15 Now, please consider from this day and backward, before a stone was laid on a stone in the temple of Yahweh.
Hag 2:16 Through all that time, when one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were only ten. When one came to the wine vat to draw out fifty, there were only twenty.
Hag 2:17 I struck you with blight, mildew, and hail in all the work of your hands; yet you didn't turn to me,' says Yahweh.
Hag 2:18 'Consider, please, from this day and backward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, since the day that the foundation of Yahweh's temple was laid, consider it.
Hag 2:19 Is the seed yet in the barn? Yes, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree haven't brought forth. From this day will I bless you.' "
Hag 2:20 The Word of Yahweh came the second time to Haggai in the twenty-fourth day of the month, saying,
Hag 2:21 "Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, 'I will shake the heavens and the earth.
Hag 2:22 I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations. I will overthrow the chariots, and those who ride in them. The horses and their riders will come down, everyone by the sword of his brother.
Hag 2:23 In that day, says Yahweh of Armies, will I take you, Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel,' says Yahweh, 'and will make you as a signet, for I have chosen you,' says Yahweh of Armies."

Dec. 26
Revelation 13, 14

Rev 13:1 Then I stood on the sand of the sea. I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads. On his horns were ten crowns, and on his heads, blasphemous names.
Rev 13:2 The beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.
Rev 13:3 One of his heads looked like it had been wounded fatally. His fatal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled at the beast.
Rev 13:4 They worshiped the dragon, because he gave his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?"
Rev 13:5 A mouth speaking great things and blasphemy was given to him. Authority to make war for forty-two months was given to him.
Rev 13:6 He opened his mouth for blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his dwelling, those who dwell in heaven.
Rev 13:7 It was given to him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them. Authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation was given to him.
Rev 13:8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been killed.
Rev 13:9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear.
Rev 13:10 If anyone has captivity, he will go into captivity. If anyone is with the sword, he must be killed. Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints.
Rev 13:11 I saw another beast coming up out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke like a dragon.
Rev 13:12 He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. He makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed.
Rev 13:13 He performs great signs, even making fire come down out of the sky to the earth in the sight of people.
Rev 13:14 He deceives my own people who dwell on the earth because of the signs he was granted to do in front of the beast; saying to those who dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast who had the sword wound and lived.
Rev 13:15 It was given to him to give breath to it, to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause as many as wouldn't worship the image of the beast to be killed.
Rev 13:16 He causes all, the small and the great, the rich and the poor, and the free and the slave, to be given marks on their right hands, or on their foreheads;
Rev 13:17 and that no one would be able to buy or to sell, unless he has that mark, the name of the beast or the number of his name.
Rev 13:18 Here is wisdom. He who has understanding, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is six hundred sixty-six.

Rev 14:1 I saw, and behold, the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him a number, one hundred forty-four thousand, having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads.
Rev 14:2 I heard a sound from heaven, like the sound of many waters, and like the sound of a great thunder. The sound which I heard was like that of harpists playing on their harps.
Rev 14:3 They sing a new song before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the one hundred forty-four thousand, those who had been redeemed out of the earth.
Rev 14:4 These are those who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are those who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed by Jesus from among men, the first fruits to God and to the Lamb.
Rev 14:5 In their mouth was found no lie, for they are blameless.
Rev 14:6 I saw an angel flying in mid heaven, having an eternal Good News to proclaim to those who dwell on the earth, and to every nation, tribe, language, and people.
Rev 14:7 He said with a loud voice, "Fear the Lord, and give him glory; for the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and the springs of waters!"
Rev 14:8 Another, a second angel, followed, saying, "Babylon the great has fallen, which has made all the nations to drink of the wine of the wrath of her sexual immorality."
Rev 14:9 Another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a great voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead, or on his hand,
Rev 14:10 he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger. He will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.
Rev 14:11 The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. They have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.
Rev 14:12 Here is the patience of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus."
Rev 14:13 I heard the voice from heaven saying, "Write, 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' " "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them."
Rev 14:14 I looked, and behold, a white cloud; and on the cloud one sitting like a son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.
Rev 14:15 Another angel came out from the temple, crying with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, "Send forth your sickle, and reap; for the hour to reap has come; for the harvest of the earth is ripe!"
Rev 14:16 He who sat on the cloud thrust his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.
Rev 14:17 Another angel came out from the temple which is in heaven. He also had a sharp sickle.
Rev 14:18 Another angel came out from the altar, he who has power over fire, and he called with a great voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, "Send forth your sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for the earth's grapes are fully ripe!"
Rev 14:19 The angel thrust his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vintage of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.
Rev 14:20 The winepress was trodden outside of the city, and blood came out from the winepress, even to the bridles of the horses, as far as one thousand six hundred stadia.