"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" The Crucifixion Of Jesus (27:32-50) INTRODUCTION 1. Without question, the crucifixion of Jesus was a terrible event... a. It was an excruciating and painful way to die, which Jesus was willing to accept without pain-killing drugs - Mt 27:32-35 b. It was a shameful way to die, mocked by those who watched, crucified with common thieves - Mt 27:36-44 c. Along with the physical suffering, there was the spiritual agony - Mt 27:45-50 2. While there may be a place for contemplating upon the actual physical agony Jesus endured... a. Jesus did not want people to weep for Him, but for themselves - cf. Lk 23:26-31 b. Even on the cross, His concern for others was evident - Lk 23:34 -- So the purpose of the crucifixion was not just to engender pity for Jesus [The significance and lessons to be learned from the crucifixion go far beyond feeling sorry for what Jesus suffered. For example, we should never forget that "The Crucifixion Of Jesus" is...] I. THE CONDEMNATION OF SIN A. JESUS DIED BECAUSE OF SIN... 1. As foretold, He died for our sins - 1Co 15:3; Isa 53:5-6 2. He gave Himself for our sins - Ga 1:4 3. He bore our sins on the cross - 1Pe 2:24 -- May the thought of the crucifixion remind us of our own sinfulness and the need for redemption - 1Jn 1:8-10 B. JESUS KILLED SIN... 1. He condemned sin in the flesh through His death - Ro 8:3 2. Now making it possible for sinners to destroy their own body of sin, when united with Him by baptism into His death - Ro 6: 3-6 -- May the thought of the crucifixion remind us of our duty to crucify the sinful passions of the flesh - Ga 5:24; Col 3:5-11 [To motivate us in our efforts to let Jesus' death help us deal with the problem of sin, we should also remember that "The Crucifixion Of Jesus" is...] II. THE REVELATION OF LOVE A. JESUS DIED BECAUSE OF LOVE... 1. The love of the Father for a lost world - Jn 3:16; Ro 5:8 2. The love of the Son - Ep 5:2 -- May our contemplation of the crucifixion never neglect the love that was behind the fact - 1Jn 4:9-10 B. JESUS THEREBY DEMONSTRATED WHAT TRUE LOVE IS... 1. We now understand the meaning of true love - 1Jn 3:16; Jn 15:13 2. His love serves as the pattern for our love - Jn 13:34-35; 15:12 -- May our contemplation of the crucifixion remind us of the high standard of love we are called to show toward one another - 1Jn 4:11 [As we strive to overcome sin and love one another, assisted and motivated by the death of Jesus on the cross, we should also be mindful that "The Crucifixion Of Jesus" is...] III. THE REDEMPTION OF THE WORLD A. JESUS DIED FOR ALL... 1. God desires all men to be saved, not desiring any to perish - 1Ti 2:3-6; 2Pe 3:9 2. Therefore He offered Jesus as a propitiation for all - 1Jn 2: 1-2 -- May our meditation upon the crucifixion include thinking about the need of others B. JESUS IS THE WORLD'S ONLY HOPE... 1. He is the only way to the Father - Jn 14:6 2. Only in His name is salvation to be found - Ac 4:12 3. Deny the Son, and one does not have the Father - 1Jn 2:23 4. Abide in His doctrine, and one has both the Father and the Son - 2Jn 9 -- May our meditation upon the crucifixion move us to do what we can to proclaim the message of redemption to those lost in sin - cf. 2Co 5:18-6:1 [And so the death of Jesus on the cross should prompt us to look both inward and outward, to address both our spiritual needs and those of others. To what extent effort may be required in these areas, we should also view "The Crucifixion Of Jesus" as...] IV. THE INSPIRATION OF SACRIFICE A. JESUS PROVIDED THE EXAMPLE... 1. His death demonstrated the mind of humility - Php 2:3-8 2. His suffering demonstrated the example of suffering patiently - 1Pe 2:20-24 -- May our reflection upon the crucifixion move us to consider what His sacrifice should inspire us to do B. JESUS' SACRIFICE IS DESIGNED TO INSPIRE US... 1. To walk in love - Ep 5:2 2. To walk in humility - Php 2:3-5 3. To suffer patiently when mistreated for doing good - 1Pe 2: 20-24 4. To give of ourselves to others - 2Co 8:9; 1Jn 3:16-18 CONCLUSION 1. Certainly more could be said about "The Crucifixion Of Jesus" 2. But perhaps these few thoughts will increase our appreciation of this significant event... a. His death is the condemnation of sin b. His death is the revelation of love c. His death is the redemption of the world d. His death is the inspiration of sacrifice 3. Have you taken advantage of what "The Crucifixion Of Jesus" means for you...? a. Have you been crucified with Christ? b. Are you putting to death the deeds of the flesh? c. Are you growing in love? d. Are you concerned and doing something about the redemption of the world? e. Are you inspired in your service to your brethren and the lost by the example of Jesus' sacrifice? In the words of the apostle Paul: "We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain." (2 Co 6:1)
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" What Then Shall I Do With Jesus? (27:22) INTRODUCTION 1. In Mt 27:11-22, we read of Jesus before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor... a. While Jesus admitted to being the King of the Jews, He refused to answer the accusations of the chief priests and elders - Mt 27: 11-12 b. His silence caused Pilate to marvel greatly - Mt 27:13-14 c. Pilate sought to release Jesus, but the multitude asked for Barabbas instead - Mt 27:15-21 d. Which prompted Pilate to ask the question: "When then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" - Mt 27:22 2. Pilate's question, "What then shall I do with Jesus?", is one that every person must ask... a. Many would prefer to ignore it b. Many try to let others make the choice (as did Pilate) 3. But it is a question from which we cannot run away... a. We shall all one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ - 2Co 5:10 b. His words will be the standard by which we will be judged - Jn 12:48 [And so each one of us should be asking ourselves, "What Then Shall I Do With Jesus?" To help answer this question, consider another question...] I. WHAT HAS JESUS OFFERED YOU? A. JESUS HAS PROVIDED THE CHANCE... 1. For an abundant life, filled with true peace - Jn 10:10; 16:33 2. To find salvation - Lk 19:10 3. To enjoy cleansing from sin through His blood - 1Jn 1:7 B. JESUS HAS PROCLAIMED THE CONDITIONS... 1. We must believe in Him - Jn 8:24 2. We must repent of our sins - Lk 13:3 3. We must confess our faith before men - Mt 10:32-33; Ro 10:9-10 4. We must be baptized for the remission of our sins - Mt 28:19; Mk 16:16; Ac 2:38 5. We must remain faithful even to death - Re 2:10 C. JESUS HAS PREDETERMINED THE ALTERNATIVES... 1. Reject Him, and we will die in our sins to face the terrible consequences - Jn 8:24; 2Th 1:7-9; Re 21:8 2. Believe in Him, and we receive everlasting life - Jn 5:24; Mt 19:29 [Having consider what Jesus has offered us, we return to our original question...] II. WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH JESUS? A. WHAT SOME HAVE TRIED TO DO... 1. Pilate tried to pass the choice on to others - Mt 27:24 a. Are we guilty of doing something similar today? b. Trying to let others decide for us what we will do or believe about Jesus? 2. Some in Athens simply mocked - Ac 17:32 a. Many take this route in what they do with Jesus b. Rather than make the effort to decide what they should do, they simply laugh 3. Felix tried to wait for a more convenient time - Ac 24:25 a. This is another common reaction b. Hoping that through delay, they will not have to make the choice -- But we cannot escape the fact that we will one day be judged by Him - Ac 17:30-31 B. WHAT WE SHOULD DO... 1. Accept His gracious offer of salvation by obeying Him - He 5:9 2. Become His disciples, committed to doing what He commanded - Mt 28:19-20 3. Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ - 2Pe 3:18 4. Walk in Him, well-established in the faith - Col 2:6-7 5. Develop the mind of Christ, the attitude of sacrifice and service - Php 2:1-8 CONCLUSION 1. We have seen the feeble attempt by Pilate and others to answer the question "What Then Shall I Do With Jesus?" 2. Let us not think we can answer the question by... a. Simply ignoring Him b. Simply not doing anything actively against Him -- For as Jesus said on another occasion: "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad." - Mt 12:30 Jesus has given us every reason to accept and obey Him as our Savior and Lord. If you have not yet done so, will you not today respond to His gracious invitation to receive eternal life?
More Stars than We Thought
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
When Moses recorded God’s promise to Abraham about the multitude of Abraham’s descendants, the ancient readers did not have any idea just how right Moses was. In Genesis 15:5, God said to Abraham: “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them. So shall your descendants be.” God used the incalculable number of the stars as a hyperbole to explain to Abraham that his descendants would be incalculable as well. This sentiment was reiterated in Jeremiah 33:22 when God promised: “As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, nor the sand of the sea measured, so will I multiply the descendants of David My servant and the Levites who minister to Me.”
The fact that the stars are innumerable aids in defending the Bible as divinely inspired (see Butt, 2002). But recent research makes that point even clearer. New discoveries and calculations by researchers from Yale and Harvard suggest that our generally accepted estimations about the number of stars are considerably wrong. The fresh data published in Nature indicates that “there are a mind-blowing 300 sextillion of them [stars—KB], or three times as many as scientists previously calculated. That is a 3 followed by 23 zeros or 3 trillion times 100 billion” (Borenstein, 2010).
These new numbers are based on the idea that elliptical galaxies are composed differently than spiral galaxies like our own Milky Way. Yale astronomer Pieter van Dokkum, using the Keck telescope in Hawaii, recently peered into eight elliptical galaxies and explained: “We’re seeing 10 or 20 times more stars than we expected” (as quoted in Borenstein, 2010).
The fact that our best astronomical star counts could be off by over 200 sextillion stars tells us much about what scientists really know. First, it helps us understand that astronomers and cosmologists are often wrong—on a very large scale. Those who have scrutinized the modern notion of the Big Bang have been aware of this for a while (see May, et al., 2003). Second, it adds more credence to the biblical truth that the stars are, veritably, innumerable. Third, it underscores the psalmist’s statement that “the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). Not a shred of legitimate scientific evidence can suggest a reasonable, naturalistic cause for such a massive amount of stars. Only an omnipotent, supernatural Creator supplies the necessary power for such an immense, star-filled sky.
REFERENCESBorenstein, Seth (2010), “Starry, Starry, Starry Night: Star Count May Triple,” http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101201/ap_on_sc/us_sci_starry_night.
Butt, Kyle (2002), “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1791.
May, Branyon, et al., (2003), “The Big Bang Theory—A Scientific Critique,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2635.
Have Synthetic Biologists Created Life From Non-Life?
|by||Jeff Miller, Ph.D.|
You may have heard of the field of science known as synthetic biology. In this highly advanced area of science, engineers utilize their understanding of biology to “create” new life forms not found in nature. According to SyntheticBiology.org, synthetic biology involves “the design and construction of new biological parts, devices, and systems” and “the re-design of existing, natural biological systems for useful purposes” (“Synthetic Biology,” 2012). Perhaps this conjures up in your mind, as it does in the minds of many others, images of Dr. Frankenstein sewing pieces of dead tissue together into a monster on his laboratory table and bringing it to life. Is this what goes on in synthetic biology? Can scientists create life?
In a word: no. Life cannot come from non-life without supernatural help (cf. Miller, 2012). God alone “gives to all life” (Acts 17:25). Notice that a careful reading of what synthetic biology involves reveals that these engineers are designing and constructing new biological parts, not life; re-designing existing biological systems, not bringing systems to life. Earlier this year, The New York Times ran an article highlighting the remarkable work of Craig Venter, a synthetic biologist who is working on a project involving designing custom bugs. According to the article,
Each of the bugs will have a mission. Some will be designed to devour things, like pollution. Others will generate food and fuel. There will be bugs to fight global warming, bugs to clean up toxic waste, bugs to manufacture medicine and diagnose disease, and they will all be driven to complete these tasks by the very fibers of their synthetic DNA (Hylton, 2012).There is no doubt that such feats of engineering would be worth high accolades and recognition from the scientific community but, again, Venter is not creating life itself.
Though the authors might wish to “accidentally” convey that idea, since such a feat would certainly attract more attention to the article, a careful reading of the fairly lengthy story reveals the truth. Venter’s methods involve manufacturing DNA and injecting it into a host cell. “It means taking four bottles of chemicals—the adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine that make up DNA—and linking them into a daisy chain at least half a million units long, then inserting that molecule into a host cell” that they hope will be able to reproduce. “[T]he DNA was modeled on a natural organism and was inserted into a natural cell.” So a cell is already alive and in existence, and the man-made (i.e, man-mixed) DNA is injected into the living cell. Venter, himself, notes that his team is constructing the DNA, not the cell. “It is just the DNA. You have to have the cell there to read it” (Hylton).
Notice also that the life forms being developed are not completely new designs. According to the article, “the DNA was modeled on a natural organism” (Hylton). Nobel laureate David Baltimore, commenting on Venter’s work, said, “He has not created life, only mimicked it” (Hylton). In other words, this is another example of biomimicry—an act of plagiarism, in a sense, when carried out by atheists.
So, life has not been created. The cell is already alive when it is manipulated by engineers using their DNA designs. A new life form is being designed, but life itself has not been created from non-life. The Law of Biogenesis stands. In nature, life comes only from life of its kind. God is needed in the recipe in order to arrive at life from non-life. [NOTE: For more on Venter and synthetic biology, see Deweese, 2010]
REFERENCESDeweese, Joe (2010), “Has Life Been Made From Scratch?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=3597.
Hylton, Wil S. (2012), “Craig Venter’s Bugs Might Save the World,” The New York Times, May 30, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/03/magazine/craig-venters-bugs-might-save-the-world.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.
Miller, Jeff (2012), “The Law of Biogenesis,” Reason & Revelation, 32:2-11, January, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1018&article=1722.
“Synthetic Biology” (2012), OpenWetWare, http://syntheticbiology.org/.
Finding the Right Answer to the Right Question
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
How should a sinner react to the gift of salvation freely offered by Jesus? What is man’s appropriate response to learning about the crucified Creator and Savior of the world?
Man’s sin, along with God’s grace and sovereignty, should drive every person to ask a most foundational (and logical) question: “What does God want me to do?” If Jesus is my Creator; if He has all authority in heaven and on Earth; and if He is the only Savior of mankind, what does He want me to do?
While Jesus was still living, a young man once recognized the Son of God’s authority, knelt before Him, and asked, “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17, emp. added). After the first recorded gospel message following Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, the convicted hearers asked: “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). When Jesus revealed Himself to Saul on the road to Damascus, the persecutor of Christians immediately asked, “What shall I do?” (Acts 22:10). A heathen Philippian jailor, who found himself in dire circumstances, all the while in the presence of a singing-and-praying Paul and Silas, was likewise compelled to ask, “What must I do to be saved?”(Acts 16:30, emp. added).
What is the answer to this question? What is a person to do to be saved? Through the years I have heard and read a number of professed Christians say things like, “God loves you. There’s nothing for you to do.” “We do nothing to become righteous.” “We do nothing to get salvation.” “Salvation is from nothing we do ourselves.”
Interestingly, not one of those in the New Testament was told these sorts of things—that he did not need to do anything. The very opposite is true, in fact. Though all are saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9), each time the question, “What shall I/we do?” was asked in the New Testament, the hearers were always told to do something. While the Law of Moses was still in effect, Jesus told the rich young ruler, in essence, to repent (Mark 10:21-22). [Jesus instructed the young man to get rid of the “one” thing in his life (his great possessions) that was keeping him from committing his life to Christ.] The Philippian jailor was told to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31). The thousands in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost were told to “repent…and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). When Saul asked what he needed to do, Jesus told him what he had to do. Saul had to go wait for the word of the Lord in Damascus where Jesus sent Ananias to tell Saul what he “must do” in order to have his sins cleansed by the blood of Christ (Acts 9:6). And what was it Saul had “to do”? By the authority of Christ, Ananias told Saul, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
Friend, don’t buy the lie that so many false teachers in the 21st century are selling: there is something for you to do in order to become a Christian and live the Christian life. No, it is not any kind of meritorious work (Titus 3:5). We could no more earn salvation than I could earn $999 quadrillion in my lifetime. But, we must submit ourselves to God and do what He says in order to receive the free, gracious gift of salvation, which comes only through Jesus Christ.
[NOTE: To learn more about becoming a follower of Christ, read our free e-book, Receiving the Gift of Salvation.]
Female Leadership and the Church
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Amid the polarization that plagues American civilization in general, and Christendom in particular, one chasm continues to widen between those who, on the one hand, wish to conform to Bible protocol, and those who, on the other, wish to modernize, update, adjust, and adapt Scripture to a changing society. The cry of those who are pressing the feminist agenda is that the church in the past has restricted women in roles of leadership and worship simply because of culture and flawed hermeneutical principles. They say that the church as we know it is the product of a male-dominated society and that consequently it has misconstrued the contextual meaning of the relevant biblical passages.
As attitudes soften and biblical conviction weakens, Scripture is being reinterpreted to allow for expanded roles for women in worship. If one who studies the biblical text concludes that women are not to be restricted in worship, he is hailed as one who engages in “fresh, scholarly exegesis.” But the one who studies the text and concludes that God intended for women to be subordinate to male leadership in worship is viewed as being guilty of prejudice and of being unduly influenced by “church tradition” or “cultural baggage.” How is it that the former’s religious practice and interpretation of Scripture is somehow curiously exempt from imbibing the spirit of an age in which feminist ideology has permeated virtually every segment of our society?
RELEVANT BIBLE PASSAGES
1 Corinthians 11,14Chapters eleven and fourteen of First Corinthians constitute a context dealing with disorders in the worship assembly. The entire pericope of 11:2-14:40 concerns the worship assembly, i.e., “when you come together” (cf. 11:17,18,20,33; 14:23-26). Paul articulated the transcultural principle for all people throughout history in 11:3—“But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” “Head” clearly refers not to “source” but to “authority” (see Grudem, 1985, pp. 38-59). Therefore, God intends for women to be subordinate to men in worship. Corinthian women were obviously removing their veils and stepping forward in the assembly to lead with their Spirit-imparted, miraculous capabilities, i.e., prophecy (12:10; 14:31) and prayer (14:14-15). Such activity was a direct violation of the subordination principle, articulated by Paul in chapter fourteen. In chapter eleven, he focused on the propriety of females removing the cultural symbol of submission.
The women were removing their veils because they understood that to stand and exercise a spiritual gift in the assembly was an authoritative act of leadership. To wear a symbol of submission to authority (the veil) while simultaneously conducting oneself in an authoritative fashion (to lead in worship) was self-contradictory. Paul’s insistence that women keep their veils on during the worship assembly amounted to an implicit directive to refrain from leading in the assembly—a directive stated explicitly in 14:34. The allusions to Creation law (11:7-9; cf. 14:34) underscore the fact that Paul saw the restrictions on women as rooted in the created order—not in culture. Also, Paul made clear that such restrictions applied equally to all churches of Christ (11:16).
In chapter fourteen, Paul addressed further the confusion over spiritual gifts, and returned specifically to the participation of women in the exercise of those gifts in the assembly. He again emphasized the universal practice of churches of Christ: “as in all churches of the saints” (14:33). [NOTE: Grammatically, the phrase “as in all churches of the saints” links with “let your women keep silence”; cf. the ASV, RSV, NIV, NEB, NAB, etc.] The women who possessed miraculous gifts were not to exercise them in the mixed worship assembly of the church. To do so was disgraceful—“a shame” (14:35). To insist upon doing so was equivalent to: (1) presuming to be the authors of God’s Word; and (2) assuming that God’s standards do not apply to everyone (14:36).
Granted, 1 Corinthians chapters eleven and fourteen address a unique situation. After all, spiritual gifts no longer are available to the church (1 Corinthians 13:8-11; see Miller, 2003), and veils, in Western society, no longer represent a cultural symbol of female submission. Nevertheless, both passages demonstrate the clear application of the transcultural principle (female subordination in worship) to a specific cultural circumstance. The underlying submission principle remains intact as an inbuilt constituent element of the created order.
1 Timothy 2: The Central Scripture
I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control (1 Timothy 2:8-15).The premier passage in the New Testament that treats the role of women in worship is 1 Timothy 2:8-15. The remote context of the book is: proper behavior in the life of the church (1 Timothy 3:15). The immediate context of chapter two is worship, specifically prayer (1 Timothy 2:1,8). The context does not limit the worship to the church assembly, but includes the general life of the church.
Paul affirmed that adult males (andras) are to lead prayers anywhere people meet for worship. “Lifting up holy hands” is a figure of speech—a metonymy—in which a posture of prayer is put in place of prayer itself. Their prayers are to usher forth out of holy lives. On the other hand, women are admonished to focus upon appropriate apparel and a submissive attitude. Notice the contrast set up in the passage: Men need to be holy, spiritual leaders in worship while women need to be modest and unassuming. “Silence” and “subjection” in this passage relate specifically to the exercise of spiritual authority over adult males in the church. “Usurp” (KJV) is not in the original text. Authentein should be translated “to have authority.” Thus Paul instructed women not to teach nor in any other way to have authority over men in worship.
Why would an inspired apostle place such limitations on Christian women? Was his concern prompted by the culture of that day? Was Paul merely accommodating an unenlightened, hostile environment—stalling for time and keeping prejudice to a minimum—until he could teach them the Gospel? Absolutely not! The Holy Spirit gave the reason for the limitations—a reason that transcends all culture and all locales. Paul stated that women are not to exercise spiritual authority over men because Adam was created before Eve. Here, we are given the heart and core of God’s will concerning how men and women are to function and interrelate.
Paul was saying that God’s original design for the human race entailed the creation of the male first as an indication of his responsibility to be the spiritual leader of the home. He was created to function as the head or leader in the home and in the church. That is his functional purpose. Woman, on the other hand, was specifically designed and created for the purpose of being a subordinate (though certainly not inferior) assistant. God could have created the woman first—but He did not. He could have created both male and female simultaneously—but He did not. His action was intended to convey His will with regard to gender as it relates to the interrelationship of man and woman.
This feature of Creation explains why God gave spiritual teaching to Adam before Eve was created, implying that Adam had the created responsibility to teach his wife (Genesis 2:15-17). It explains why the female is twice stated to have been created as a “help meet for him,” i.e., a helper suitable for the man (Genesis 2:18,20, emp. added). This explains why the Genesis text clearly indicates that, in a unique sense, the woman was created for the man—not vice versa. It explains why God brought the woman “to the man” (Genesis 2:22), again, as if she was made “for him”—not vice versa. Adam confirmed this understanding by stating, “the woman whom You gave to be with me” (Genesis 3:12, emp. added). It explains why Paul argued on the basis of this very distinction: “Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man” (1 Corinthians 11:9, emp. added). It further clarifies the implied authority of the man over the women in his act of naming the woman (Genesis 2:23; 3:20). The Jews understood this divinely designed order, evinced through the practice of primogeniture—the prominence of the firstborn male. God’s creation of the man first was specifically intended to communicate the authority/submission order of the human race (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:8).
Observe that Paul next elaborated upon this principle in 1 Timothy 2:14 by noting an example of what can happen when men and women tamper with God’s original intentions. When Eve took the spiritual initiative above her husband, and Adam failed to take the lead and exercise spiritual authority over his wife, Satan was able to wreak havoc on the home and cause the introduction of sin into the world (Genesis 3). When Paul said the woman was deceived, he was not suggesting that women are more gullible than men. Rather, when men or women fail to confine themselves to their created function, but instead tamper with, and act in violation of, divinely intended roles, spiritual vulnerability to sin naturally follows.
God’s appraisal of the matter was seen when He confronted the pair. He spoke first to the head of the home—the man (Genesis 3:9). His subsequent declaration to Eve reaffirmed the fact that she was not to yield to the inclination to take the lead in spiritual matters. Rather, she was to submit to the rule of her husband (Genesis 3:16; cf. 4:4). When God said to Adam, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife...” (Genesis 3:17), He was calling attention to the fact that Adam had failed to exercise spiritual leadership and thereby circumvented the divine arrangement of male/female relations.
Paul concluded his instructions by noting how women may be preserved from falling into the same trap of assuming unauthorized authority: “She will be saved in childbearing” (1 Timothy 2:15). “Childbearing” is the figure of speech known as synecdoche, in which a part stands for the whole. Thus, Paul was referring to the whole of female responsibility. Women may avoid taking to themselves illicit functions by concentrating on the functions assigned to them by God—tasks undertaken with faith, love, and holiness in sobriety (i.e., self-control).
Some argue that this text applies to husbands and wives, rather than to men and women in general. However, the context of 1 Timothy is not the home, but the church (1 Timothy 3:15). Likewise, the use of the plural with the absence of the article in 2:9 and 2:11, suggests women in general. Nothing in the context would cause one to conclude that Paul was referring only to husbands and wives. Besides, would Paul restrict wives from leadership roles in the church but then permit single women to lead?
The term is used in the New Testament in two senses. First, it is used as a technical term for a formal office in the church to which one may be appointed by meeting certain qualifications. Second, it is used as a non-technical term for the informal activity of serving or attending to. Additional words in the New Testament that have both a technical and non-technical meaning include “apostle,” “elder,” and “shepherd.” To be rational in one’s analysis of a matter, one must draw only those conclusions that are warranted by the evidence. In the matter of deaconesses, one should only conclude that a deaconess is being referred to when the context plainly shows the office itself is under consideration.
In Romans 13:4, the civil government is said to be God’s deacon. In Romans 15:8, Christ is said to be a deacon of the Jews. In 2 Corinthians 3:6 and 6:4, Paul is said to be a deacon of the New Covenant and a deacon of God. Apollos is listed with Paul as a deacon in 1 Corinthians 3:5. Obviously, these are all non-technical uses of the term referring to the service or assistance being rendered.
Nothing in the context of Romans 16:1 warrants the conclusion that Paul was describing Phoebe as an official appointee—a deaconess. Paul’s phrase, “our sister,” designates her church membership, and “servant” specifies the special efforts she extended to the church in Cenchrea where she was an active, caring member. Being a “servant of the church” no more implies a formal appointee than does the expression in Colossians 1:25 where Paul is said to be the church’s servant.
Some have insisted that the term in Romans 16:2, translated “help,” implies a technical usage. It is true that prostatis can mean a helper in the sense of presiding with authority. But this word carries the same inbuilt obscurity that diakonos does, in that it has a formal and informal sense. But since the verse explicitly states that Phoebe was a “helper” to Paul, the non-technical usage must be in view. She would not have exercised authority over Paul. Even his fellow apostles did not do that, since he exercised high authority direct from the Lord (1 Corinthians 14:37-38; Galatians 1:6-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:14). Only Christ wielded authority over Paul.
Romans 16:2 actually employs a play on words. Paul told the Corinthians to “help” (paristemi) Phoebe since she has been a “help” (prostatis) to many, including Paul himself. While the masculine noun prostates can mean “leader,” the actual feminine noun prostatis means “protectress, patroness, helper” (Arndt and Gingrich, 1957, p. 718). Paul was saying, “Help Phoebe as she has helped others and me.” She had been a concerned, generous, hospitable, dedicated contributor to the Lord’s work. Paul was paying her a tremendous tribute and expressing publicly the honor due her. But he was not acknowledging her as an office holder in the church.
The second passage to which some have appealed in order to find sanction for deaconesses in the church is 1 Timothy 3:11. In the midst of a listing of the qualifications of deacons, Paul referred to women. What women? Was Paul referring to the wives of the church officers, or was he referring to female appointees, i.e., deaconesses? Once again, the underlying Greek term is of no help in answering this question since gunaikas (from gune) also has both a technical and non-technical sense. It can mean a “wife” or simply a “female” or “woman.” It is used both ways in 1 Timothy—as “female” (2:9-12,14) and as “wife” (3:2,12; 5:9).
Five contextual observations, however, provide assistance in ascertaining the meaning of the passage. First, a woman cannot be “the husband of one wife” (3:12). Second, in speaking of male deacons from 3:8-13, it would be unusual for Paul to switch, in the middle of the discussion, to female deacons for a single verse without some clarification. Third, referring to the wives of church officers would be appropriate since family conduct is a qualifying concern (3:2,4-5,12). Fourth, “likewise” (3:11) could mean simply that wives are to have similar virtues as the deacons without implying they share the same office (cf. 1 Timothy 5:25; Titus 2:3). Fifth, lack of the possessive genitive with gunaikas (“of deacons”) or “their” does not rule out wives of deacons, since neither is used in other cases where men/women are being described as wives/husbands (Colossians 3:18-19; Ephesians 5:22-25; 1 Corinthians 7:2-4,11,14,33; Matthew 18:25; Mark 10:2).
Insufficient textual evidence exists to warrant the conclusion that the office of deaconess is referred to in the New Testament. Outside the New Testament, Pliny, Governor of Bythynia, wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan about A.D. 110 referring in Latin to two ministrae. This term has the same ambiguity within it that diakonos has. He could have been referring to official appointees, or he just as easily could have been referring simply to servants. In any case, a passing reference by an uninformed non-Christian is hardly trustworthy evidence. Christian historical sources from this same period do not refer to the existence of female appointees even though they do discuss church organization (Lewis, 1988, p. 108).
Not until the late third century in the Syrian Didascalia do we find a reference to deaconesses. Their work consisted of assisting at the baptism of women, going into homes of heathens where believing women lived, and visiting the sick (ministering to them and bathing them). A full-blown church order of deaconesses does not appear until the fourth/fifth centuries. Again, their responsibilities consisted of keeping the doors, aiding in female baptisms, and doing other work with women (Lewis, pp. 108-109). Those within the church today who are pressing for deaconesses and expanded roles for women, hardly would be content with such tasks.
Even if women were deacons in the New Testament church, they would not have functioned in any sort of leadership or authority position over men. They were not to be appointed as elders. If Acts 6:1-5 refers to the appointment of deacons (the verb form is used) in the Jerusalem church (Woods, 1986, p. 199), they were all males, and their specific task entailed distribution of physical assistance to widows.
The evidence is simply lacking. The existence of a female deaconate within the New Testament cannot be demonstrated. Those who insist upon establishing such an office, do so without the authority of the Scriptures behind them.
A final word needs to be said concerning the fact that both men and women must remember that Bible teaching on difference in role in no way implies a difference in worth, value, or ability. Galatians 3:28 (“neither male nor female”), 1 Timothy 2:15 (“she shall be saved”), and 1 Peter 3:7 (“heirs together of the grace of life”) all show that males and females are equals as far as their person and salvation status is concerned. Women often are superior to men in talent, intellect, and ability. Women are not inferior to men, anymore than Christ is inferior to God, citizens are inferior to the President, or church members are inferior to elders. The role of women in the church is not a matter of control, power, or oppression. It is a matter of submission on the part of all human beings to the will of God. It is a matter of willingness on the part of God’s creatures, male and female, to subordinate themselves to the divine arrangement regarding the sexes. The biblical differentiation is purely a matter of function, assigned tasks, and sphere of responsibility. The question for us is: “How willing are we to fit ourselves into God’s arrangement?”
If the Bible authorized it, no man should have any personal aversion to women having complete access to leadership roles in the church. Indeed, many talented, godly women possess abilities and talents that would enable them to surpass many of the male worship leaders functioning in the church today. However, the Bible stands as an unalterable, eternal declaration of God’s will on the matter. By those words, we will be judged (John 12:48). May we all bow humbly and submissively before the God of heaven.
Grudem, Wayne (1985), “Does kephale (‘head’) Mean ‘Source’ or ‘Authority over’ in Greek Literature? A Survey of 2,336 Examples,” Trinity Journal, 6 NS, 38-59.
Lewis, Jack (1988), Exegesis of Difficult Passages (Searcy, AR: Resource Publications).
Miller, Dave (2003), “Modern-Day Miracles, Tongue-Speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2569.
Osburn, Carroll, ed. (1993), Essays On Women in Earliest Christianity (Joplin, MO: College Press).
Osburn, Carroll (1994), Women in the Church (Abilene, TX: Restoration Perspectives).
Woods, Guy N. (1986), Questions and Answers: Volume Two (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).
Creation in Medical School Curricula?
|by||Jeff Miller, Ph.D.|
Elsewhere in this issue of Reason & Revelation (Brooks, 2011), Will Brooks discusses a recent issue of The Scientist in which Leonid Moroz argues that courses on macroevolution should be included in the curricula of medical schools and biomedical Ph.D. programs (Moroz, 2010). Brooks convincingly argues that the debate over macroevolution has no place in such curricula. Although Moroz argues that viewing biology through the lenses of evolutionary theory is critical for optimal performance in medical and bio-medical fields, Brooks notes that even some evolutionists concede that biology makes sense in light of creation as well. He notes from a discussion he had while in graduate school that his advisor agreed that “the way in which we conduct biomedical research is unchanged” regardless of one’s stance on the creation/evolution debate (p. 19). In other words, the discussion is irrelevant for such curricula. My graduate research in the bio-mechanical field attests to this fact as well. Not once was evolutionary theory mentioned in any coursework or research—it was simply irrelevant to the task at hand.
That said, in actuality a strong case can be made for the inclusion of the creation model. The implications of the evolutionary principle known as “the survival of the fittest” were horribly carried out on the Jewish population by the Nazis in World War II in an attempt to create the “master race” (cf. Stein and Miller, 2008; Butt, 2001). In contrast, it is the Christian religion that enjoins principles that are in keeping with patient well-being. While genocide, abortion, and euthanasia are in keeping with the ideals of evolution, the Bible promotes compassion for the weak, sick, and hurting; sacrificing oneself to help others; treating others the way we would want to be treated; and doing our best at whatever we put our hands to—all hallmarks of the medical field. It is the Christian religion that has caused the number of hospitals to grow throughout the world and medicine to be given, often free of charge, to those in need. The American Red Cross, founded in 1881 by the deeply religious, Clara Barton (“A Brief History…,” 2010; Barton, 1922, 2:317-325), is heavily involved in helping others at home and abroad. According to the official American Red Cross Web site: “Today, in addition to domestic disaster relief, the American Red Cross offers compassionate services in five other areas...” (“About Us,” 2010).
Support of such compassionate efforts would certainly be considered among the ideals emphasized by Christianity. In fact, the emblem of the Red Cross is so synonymous with Christianity that it is not used in those countries where the logo is “by its very nature, offensive to Muslim soldiers” (“The History of the Emblems,” 2010; cf. “A Downside to Symbols…,” 2010). Many of the strides that have been made in the medical field in the last 200 years for the benefit of the world were made in this nation, which until the last 30-40 years essentially taught “Christian Biology” in schools. God, Christ, the Bible, and Creation were believed by most Americans and biology was taught through those lenses. The field of medicine or bio-medical research hardly suffered by not teaching evolution, but instead teaching Creation for all those years.
The atheistic evolutionary viewpoint would say, like Scrooge, if someone is not fit enough to live, they ought to die “and decrease the surplus population” (Dickens, 1843, p. 11). Christianity, on the other hand, results in self-sacrificial physicians. That’s the kind of doctor I want working on my family. Christianity fits very nicely in the medical field. Perhaps it should be a part of medical school curricula once again.
REFERENCES“About Us” (2010), American Red Cross, http://www.redcross.org/portal/site/en/menuitem.d8aaecf214c576bf971e4cfe43181aa0/?vgnextoid=477859f392ce8110VgnVCM10000030f3870aRCRD&vgnextfmt=default.
“A Brief History of the American Red Cross” (2010), American Red Cross, http://www.redcross.org/portal/site/en/menuitem.86f46a12f382290517a8f210b80f78a0/?vgnextoid=271a2aebdaadb110VgnVCM10000089f0870aRCRD.
“A Downside to Symbols: Cultural Mismatches” (2010), History of Graphic Design, Symbols: The Alphabet of Human Thought, http://www.designhistory.org/symbols.html.
Barton, William E. (1922), The Life of Clara Barton: Founder of the American Red Cross (New York: Houghton Mifflin).
Brooks, Will (2011), “Does Evolution Belong in Biomedical Curricula?” Reason & Revelation, 31:18-20, March, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?&article=3796.
Butt, Kyle (2001), “Ideas Have Consequences,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=528.
Dickens, Charles (1843), A Christmas Carol (New York: Aladdin Classics).
Moroz, Leonid (2010), “The Devolution of Evolution,” The Scientist, 24(11):36.
Stein, Ben and Kevin Miller (2008), Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (Premise Media).
“The History of the Emblems” (2010), ICRC Resource Centre, http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/misc/emblem-history.htm.
Hippocratic Oath now Politically Incorrect
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
No profession appears to be exempt from the corrosive effects of America’s shift away from the God of the Bible and the Christian religion. Now even the ancient Hippocratic Oath, typically affirmed by medical school graduates, has been subjected to the revisionism of secular morality. The medical school at Cornell University now utilizes a revised oath for its graduates. The sources used in its formation reflect the current mindless devotion to “diversity” and being “inclusive”:
The committee members took a scholarly, systematic and inclusive approach, enriching their knowledge with background reading and categorizing the key elements of earlier medical oaths, including the classical Hippocratic Oath; a well-known 1964 revision by Louis Lasagna; the Oath of Maimonides, a medieval Jewish philosopher; and an oath for Muslim physicians (Hantman, 2005).Because of the committee’s desire “to be respectful of the diversity of perspectives on faith and belief,” phrases that had a religious connotation were replaced by more ecumenical expressions (Hantman).
The result? The departure from the traditional Hippocratic Oath is extensive—but hardly surprising given today’s moral erosion. The new oath is completely cleansed of any allusion to the critical ethical issues of abortion, euthanasia, and sexual misconduct so integral to the traditional oath (“Hippocratic...,” 2001). If only the Word of the Creator could regain the prominence it once held in its shaping of society’s moral and ethical values. Indeed, young physicians would derive far greater benefit from simply repeating the words of the psalmist:
Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart! They also do no iniquity; they walk in His ways. You have commanded us to keep Your precepts diligently. Oh, that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes! Then I would not be ashamed, when I look into all Your commandments.... How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word (Psalm 119:1-9).
“Hippocratic Oath—Classical Version” (2001), Nova Online, [On-line]: URL: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/doctors/oath_classical.html.
Love is not Jealous, so Why is God?by Eric Lyons, M.Min.
The argument goes something like this: (1) 1 John 4:8 indicates that “God is love;” (2) 1 Corinthians 13:4 says that “love is not jealous” (NAS); and yet (3) Exodus 20:5, along with several other passages, reveals that God is “a jealous God.” “How,” the skeptic asks, “can God be jealous when several verses say God is love and 1 Cor. says love is not jealous?” (McKinsey, 1992). Simply put, if love is not jealous, and God is love, then God logically cannot be called jealous. Or conversely, if love is not jealous, and God is jealous, then God cannot be considered loving. Right? How can these verses be anything but contradictory?
The term “jealousy” most often carries a negative connotation in twenty-first-century America. We pity the man who is jealous of his coworker’s success. We frown upon families who react to a neighbor’s newly found fortune by becoming overcome with jealously. And we are perturbed to hear of a jealous husband who distrusts his wife, and questions every possible wrong action that she might make, even going so far as demanding that she never leave the house without him. Add to these feelings about jealousy what various New Testament passages have to say on the subject, and one can understand why some might sincerely question why God is described at times as “jealous.” The apostle Paul admonished the Christians in Rome to “behave properly,” and put off “strife and jealousy” (Romans 13:13, NAS). To the church at Corinth, Paul expressed concern that when he came to their city he might find them involved in such sinful things as gossip, strife, and jealousy (2 Corinthians 12:20). And, as noted above, he explicitly told them that “love is not jealous” (1 Corinthians 13:4). James also wrote about the sinfulness of jealousy, saying that where it exists “there is disorder and every evil thing” (3:16; cf. Acts 7:9). One religious writer described such jealousy as “an infantile resentment springing from unmortified covetousness, which expresses itself in envy, malice, and meanness of action” (Packer, 1973, p. 189). It seems, more often than not, that both the New Testament and the “moral code” of modern society speak of “jealousy” in a negative light.
The truth is, however, sometimes jealously can be spoken of in a good sense. The word “jealous” is translated in the Old Testament from the Hebrew word qin’ah, and in the New Testament from the Greek word zelos. The root idea behind both words is that of “warmth” or “heat” (Forrester, 1996). The Hebrew word for jealousy carries with it the idea of “redness of the face that accompanies strong emotion” (Feinberg, 1942, p. 429)—whether right or wrong. Depending upon the usage of the word, it can be used to represent both a good and an evil passion. Three times in 1 Corinthians, Paul used this word in a good sense to encourage his brethren to “earnestly desire (zeeloúte)” spiritual gifts (12:31; 14:1,39). He obviously was not commanding the Corinthians to sin, but to do something that was good and worthwhile. Later, when writing to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul was even more direct in showing how there was such a thing as “godly jealousy.” He stated:
I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it (2 Corinthians 11:2-4, emp. added).Paul’s burning desire was for the church at Corinth to abide in the love of God. As a friend of the bridegroom (Christ), Paul used some of the strongest language possible to encourage the “bride” of Christ at Corinth to be pure and faithful.
In a similar way, Jehovah expressed His love for Israel in the Old Testament by proclaiming to be “a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 4:24). He was not envious of the Israelites’ accomplishments or possessions, but was communicating His strong love for them with anthropomorphic language. The Scriptures depict a spiritual marriage between Jehovah and His people. Sadly, during the period of the divided kingdom, both Israel and Judah were guilty of “playing the harlot” (Jeremiah 3:6-10). God called Israel’s idolatrous practice “adultery,” and for this reason He had “put her away and given her a certificate of divorce” (3:8). This is not the “lunatic fury of a rejected or supplanted suitor,” but a “zeal to protect a love-relationship” (Packer, p. 189). Jehovah felt for Israel “as the most affectionate husband could do for his spouse, and was jealous for their fidelity, because he willed their invariable happiness” (Clarke, 1996, emp. added). Song of Solomon 8:6 is further proof that love and jealousy are not always opposed to each other. To her beloved, the Shulamite said: “Put me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, jealousy is as severe as Sheol; its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord” (NAS). In this passage, love and jealousy actually are paralleled to convey the same basic meaning (see Tanner, 1997, p. 158)—that (aside from one’s love for God) marital love is “the strongest, most unyielding and invincible force in human experience” (NIV Study Bible, 1985, p. 1012). In this sense, being a jealous husband or wife is a good thing. As one commentator noted, married persons “who felt no jealousy at the intrusion of a lover or an adulterer into their home would surely be lacking in moral perception; for the exclusiveness of marriage is the essence of marriage” (Tasker, 1967, p. 106).
Truly, love has a jealous side. There is a sense in which one legitimately can be jealous for what rightfully belongs to him (see Numbers 25). Such is especially true in the marriage relationship. Israel was God’s chosen people (Deuteronomy 7:6). He had begun to set them apart as a special nation by blessing their “father” Abraham (Genesis 12:1ff; 17:1-27). He blessed the Israelites with much numerical growth while living in Egypt (Exodus 1:7,12,19; Deuteronomy 26:5; cf. Genesis 15:5; 46:3). He delivered them from Egyptian bondage (Exodus 3-12). And, among other things, He gave them written revelation, which, if obeyed, would bring them spiritually closer to Jehovah, and even would make them physically superior to other nations, in that they would be spared from various diseases (see Exodus 15:26). Like a bird that watches over her eggs and young with jealousy, preventing other birds from entering her nest, God watched over the Israelites with “righteous” jealousy, unwilling to tolerate the presence of false gods among his people (see Exodus 20:3-6; Joshua 24:14-16,19-20). Such “godly jealousy” (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:2) was not what Paul had in mind in 1 Corinthians 13:4.
REFERENCESClarke, Adam (1996), Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Feinberg, Charles Lee (1942), “Exegetical Studies in Zechariah: Part 10,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 99:428-439, October.
Forrester, E.J. (1996), “Jealousy,” International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Electronic Database Biblesoft).
McKinsey, C. Dennis (1992), [On-line], URL: http://members.aol.com/chas1222/bepart56.html.
NIV Study Bible (1985), (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Packer, J.I. (1973), Knowing God (London: Hodder and Stoughton).
Tanner, J. Paul (1997), “The Message of the Song of Songs,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 154: 142-161, April.
Tasker, R.V.G. (1967), The Epistle of James (London: Tyndale Press).
In What Way was God Greater than Jesus?by Eric Lyons, M.Min.
According to the apostle John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1,14, emp. added). Unquestionably, this Word (God), Whom John claims became flesh, was Jesus Christ (1:17). This same apostle recorded other statements in his account of the Gospel that convey the same basic truth. He wrote how, on one occasion, Jesus told a group of hostile Jews, “I and My Father are one” (10:30). Later, he recorded how Jesus responded to Philip’s request to see God by saying, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (14:9). He even told about how Jesus accepted worship from a blind man whom He had healed (9:38; cf. Matthew 8:2). And, since only God is to be worshipped (Matthew 4:10), the implication is that Jesus believed He was God (cf. John 1:29,41,49; 20:28; Mark 14:62).
Some, however, see an inconsistency with these statements when they are placed alongside John 14:28, in which Jesus declared: “My Father is greater than I”. Allegedly, this verse (among others—cf. 1 Corinthians 11:3; Mark 13:32; Colossians 3:1) proves that Jesus and the Bible writers were contradictory in their portrayal of Jesus’ divine nature. Jesus could not be one with God and lesser than God at the same time, could He? What is the proper way to understand John 14:28?
Statements found in passages like John 14:28 (indicating that Jesus was lesser than God), or in Mark 13:32 (where Jesus made the comment that even He did not know on what day the Second Coming would be), must be understood in light of what the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi concerning Jesus’ self-limitation during His time on Earth. Christ,
being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation [He “emptied Himself”—NASB], taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:6-8, emp. added).While on Earth, and in the flesh, Jesus was voluntarily in a subordinate position to the Father. Christ “emptied Himself ” (Philippians 2:7; He “made Himself nothing”—NIV). Unlike Adam and Eve, who made an attempt to seize equality with God (Genesis 3:5), Jesus, the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:47), humbled Himself, and obediently accepted the role of a servant. Jesus’ earthly limitations (cf. Mark 13:32), however, "were not the consequence of a less-than-God nature; rather, they were the result of a self-imposed submission reflecting the exercise of His sovereign will (Jackson, 1995, emp. added). While on Earth, Jesus assumed a position of complete subjection to the Father, and exercised His divine attributes only at the Father’s bidding (cf. John 8:26,28-29) [Wycliffe, 1985]. As A.H. Strong similarly commented years ago, Jesus “resigned not the possession, nor yet entirely the use, but rather the independent exercise, of the divine attributes” (1907, p. 703).
Admittedly, understanding Jesus as being 100% God and 100% human is not an easy concept to grasp. When Jesus came to Earth, He added humanity to His divinity (He was “made in the likeness of men”). For the first time ever, He was subject to such things as hunger, thirst, growth (both physical and mental), pain, disease, and temptation (cf. Hebrews 4:15; Luke 2:52). At the same time Jesus added humanity to His divinity, however, He put Himself in a subordinate position to the Father in terms of role function (1 Corinthians 11:3). In short, as Wayne Jackson summarized, "when Jesus affirmed, 'The Father is greater than I' (John 14:28), He was not disclaiming divine nature; rather, He was asserting that He had subjected Himself voluntarily to the Father’s will" (1995).
REFERENCESJackson, Wayne (1995), "Did Jesus Exist in the Form of God While on Earth?" Reason & Revelation, 15:21-22, March, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/264.
Strong, A.H. (1907), Systematic Theology (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell).
Wycliffe Bible Commentary (1985), Electronic Database: Biblesoft.
God does not spare the branches
“Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either” (Romans 11:20, 21).
For a balanced understanding of this warning, we must remember the teachings in Romans 1 through 8.
Both Jews and Gentiles are condemned because of their sins, and can be saved only by grace. No one can earn salvation by keeping the law because all are sinners. Salvation is a gift of God, extended to those who believe in Christ.
Nothing external can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:35, 39). Misapplying this passage, some claim it is impossible for a Christian to fall away. Although no external force can tear us away from God, many passages teach that we can choose the wrong path ourselves and go astray. Prominent among them are the warnings in Romans 11, that branches on God’s tree can be removed. As we consider these warnings we must keep in mind, that because of God’s grace, there is absolutely no reason for us to be cut off. We are cut off only if we turn our back on Christ.
In Romans 9 through 11 Paul discusses the new nature of God’s chosen people and explains why most of the Jews rejected Christ.
The Jews tended to think they would be saved because they were descendents of Abraham.
John the Baptist taught otherwise: “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, and do not think to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire’” (Matthew 3:7-10).
Paul refers to Ishmael and Esau as proof that it is not a matter of physical birth. Although offspring of Abraham, they were not included among God’s people (Romans 9:6-15). Even of Israel, only a remnant would be saved (Romans 9:27, 29). God decides who is, and who is not, included among His people, and those who rejected the Messiah would be “utterly destroyed from among the people” (Acts 3:23; see Deuteronomy 18:15,18,19; Numbers 15:30, 31; Acts 7:37).
Now, anyone who believes in Christ can be saved, whether he is a Jew or a Gentile (Romans 10:8-15). Now, it depends on faith and spiritual rebirth, not on physical birth (1 Peter 1:23).
But this gospel must be obeyed, and many of the Jews refused to obey: “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘LORD, who has believed our report?’So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: ‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world.’ But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: ‘I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.’ But Isaiah is very bold and says: ‘I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.’ But to Israel he says: ‘All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people’” (Romans 10:16-21).
In Romans 11 Paul says that, although most Jews rejected the Messiah, God had not rejected His people, since all Jews still could be saved if they accepted Christ. The rejection of Christ by the Jews was part of God’s plan. This made it easier for believing Gentiles to be added to God’s people.
Paul then compares God’s people to an olive tree. The root is holy “and if the root is holy, so are the branches” (Romans 11:16). But dead branches are cut off. “Because of unbelief they were broken off” (Romans 11:20). Jews who do not accept Christ are removed from God’s people. Gentiles who believe in Christ are grafted onto God’s tree, although they originally came from a ‘wild’ tree.
But the Gentile believer may not be smug. “You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.’ Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?” (Romans 11:19-24).
Now, whether we are Jews or Gentiles, we can be branches on God’s tree only by faith. And we are told to fear. If we are unbelieving or disobedient, we will be cut off. “For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all” (Romans 11:30-32).
Here Paul repeats the main theme of the letter to the Romans, that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are sinners and can only be saved by grace through faith in Christ. And he adds the warning that we must maintain our faith, otherwise we will be cut off. And severed branches can be grafted in again “if they do not continue in unbelief” (Romans 11:23, 24).
Jesus makes a similar comparison: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:1-8).
God does not spare the branches. A branch in Christ that does not bear fruit is taken away. Branches that bear fruit are pruned so they will bear more fruit. A pruned branch was referred to as having being ‘cleansed’. This is why Jesus says: “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (verse 3).
Jesus says: “I am the true vine.” Many religious people are branches on false vines sprouting like weeds from traditions and teachings of men.
After Jesus had made a harsh statement about religious people in His day, His disciples asked Him: “‘Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?’ But He answered and said, ‘Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch’” (Matthew 15:12-14). Jesus had just told the Pharisees: “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” (Matthew 15:7-9).
These people are religious. They are praising God. But they are walking down the broad road to destruction because they blindly follow blind guides. They think they are branches on God’s tree, but they will be uprooted because in reality they are attached to a plant God has not planted. Turn your back on human denominations and serve God in the church of Christ.
“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17).
What a wonderful privilege that by grace we can be branches on God’s tree, that we can partake “of the rich root of the olive tree” (NASV), that we can be branches on the root that is holy (Romans 11:16, 17), that we can bear fruit because we abide in Christ and His word abides in us (John 15:1-8).
God does not spare the branches. Therefore “let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28, 29), “looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God” (Hebrews 12:15).
The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive
Bible Reading December 27 (World English Bible)
Zec 1:1 In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of Yahweh came to Zechariah the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo, the prophet, saying,
Zec 1:2 "Yahweh was very displeased with your fathers.
Zec 1:3 Therefore tell them: Thus says Yahweh of Armies: 'Return to me,' says Yahweh of Armies, 'and I will return to you,' says Yahweh of Armies.
Zec 1:4 Don't you be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets proclaimed, saying: Thus says Yahweh of Armies, 'Return now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings;' but they did not hear, nor listen to me, says Yahweh.
Zec 1:5 Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever?
Zec 1:6 But my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, didn't they overtake your fathers? "Then they repented and said, 'Just as Yahweh of Armies determined to do to us, according to our ways, and according to our practices, so he has dealt with us.' "
Zec 1:7 On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of Yahweh came to Zechariah the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo, the prophet, saying,
Zec 1:8 "I had a vision in the night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in a ravine; and behind him there were red, brown, and white horses.
Zec 1:9 Then I asked, 'My lord, what are these?' " The angel who talked with me said to me, "I will show you what these are."
Zec 1:10 The man who stood among the myrtle trees answered, "They are the ones Yahweh has sent to go back and forth through the earth."
Zec 1:11 They reported to the angel of Yahweh who stood among the myrtle trees, and said, "We have walked back and forth through the earth, and behold, all the earth is at rest and in peace."
Zec 1:12 Then the angel of Yahweh replied, "O Yahweh of Armies, how long will you not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which you have had indignation these seventy years?"
Zec 1:13 Yahweh answered the angel who talked with me with kind and comforting words.
Zec 1:14 So the angel who talked with me said to me, "Proclaim, saying, 'Thus says Yahweh of Armies: "I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.
Zec 1:15 I am very angry with the nations that are at ease; for I was but a little displeased, but they added to the calamity."
Zec 1:16 Therefore thus says Yahweh: "I have returned to Jerusalem with mercy. My house shall be built in it," says Yahweh of Armies, "and a line shall be stretched forth over Jerusalem." '
Zec 1:17 "Proclaim further, saying, 'Thus says Yahweh of Armies: "My cities will again overflow with prosperity, and Yahweh will again comfort Zion, and will again choose Jerusalem." ' "
Zec 1:18 I lifted up my eyes, and saw, and behold, four horns.
Zec 1:19 I asked the angel who talked with me, "What are these?" He answered me, "These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem."
Zec 1:20 Yahweh showed me four craftsmen.
Zec 1:21 Then I asked, "What are these coming to do?" He said, "These are the horns which scattered Judah, so that no man lifted up his head; but these have come to terrify them, to cast down the horns of the nations, which lifted up their horn against the land of Judah to scatter it."
Zec 2:1 I lifted up my eyes, and saw, and behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand.
Zec 2:2 Then I asked, "Where are you going?" He said to me, "To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its breadth and what is its length."
Zec 2:3 Behold, the angel who talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him,
Zec 2:4 and said to him, "Run, speak to this young man, saying, 'Jerusalem will be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of men and livestock in it.
Zec 2:5 For I,' says Yahweh, 'will be to her a wall of fire around it, and I will be the glory in the midst of her.
Zec 2:6 Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north,' says Yahweh; 'for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the sky,' says Yahweh.
Zec 2:7 'Come, Zion! Escape, you who dwell with the daughter of Babylon.'
Zec 2:8 For thus says Yahweh of Armies: 'For honor he has sent me to the nations which plundered you; for he who touches you touches the apple of his eye.
Zec 2:9 For, behold, I will shake my hand over them, and they will be a spoil to those who served them; and you will know that Yahweh of Armies has sent me.
Zec 2:10 Sing and rejoice, daughter of Zion; for, behold, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of you,' says Yahweh.
Zec 2:11 Many nations shall join themselves to Yahweh in that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell in the midst of you, and you shall know that Yahweh of Armies has sent me to you.
Zec 2:12 Yahweh will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.
Zec 2:13 Be silent, all flesh, before Yahweh; for he has roused himself from his holy habitation!"
Zec 3:1 He showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of Yahweh, and Satan standing at his right hand to be his adversary.
Zec 3:2 Yahweh said to Satan, "Yahweh rebuke you, Satan! Yes, Yahweh who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Isn't this a burning stick plucked out of the fire?"
Zec 3:3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the angel.
Zec 3:4 He answered and spoke to those who stood before him, saying, "Take the filthy garments off of him." To him he said, "Behold, I have caused your iniquity to pass from you, and I will clothe you with rich clothing."
Zec 3:5 I said, "Let them set a clean turban on his head." So they set a clean turban on his head, and clothed him; and the angel of Yahweh was standing by.
Zec 3:6 The angel of Yahweh protested to Joshua, saying,
Zec 3:7 "Thus says Yahweh of Armies: 'If you will walk in my ways, and if you will follow my instructions, then you also shall judge my house, and shall also keep my courts, and I will give you a place of access among these who stand by.
Zec 3:8 Hear now, Joshua the high priest, you and your fellows who sit before you; for they are men who are a sign: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant, the Branch.
Zec 3:9 For, behold, the stone that I have set before Joshua; on one stone are seven eyes: behold, I will engrave its engraving,' says Yahweh of Armies, 'and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.
Zec 3:10 In that day,' says Yahweh of Armies, 'you will invite every man his neighbor under the vine and under the fig tree.' "
Zec 4:1 The angel who talked with me came again, and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep.
Zec 4:2 He said to me, "What do you see?" I said, "I have seen, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with its bowl on the top of it, and its seven lamps thereon; there are seven pipes to each of the lamps, which are on the top of it;
Zec 4:3 and two olive trees by it, one on the right side of the bowl, and the other on the left side of it."
Zec 4:4 I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, "What are these, my lord?"
Zec 4:5 Then the angel who talked with me answered me, "Don't you know what these are?" I said, "No, my lord."
Zec 4:6 Then he answered and spoke to me, saying, "This is the word of Yahweh to Zerubbabel, saying, 'Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says Yahweh of Armies.
Zec 4:7 Who are you, great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you are a plain; and he will bring out the capstone with shouts of 'Grace, grace, to it!' "
Zec 4:8 Moreover the word of Yahweh came to me, saying,
Zec 4:9 "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house. His hands shall also finish it; and you will know that Yahweh of Armies has sent me to you.
Zec 4:10 Indeed, who despises the day of small things? For these seven shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. These are the eyes of Yahweh, which run back and forth through the whole earth."
Zec 4:11 Then I asked him, "What are these two olive trees on the right side of the lampstand and on the left side of it?"
Zec 4:12 I asked him the second time, "What are these two olive branches, which are beside the two golden spouts, that pour the golden oil out of themselves?"
Zec 4:13 He answered me, "Don't you know what these are?" I said, "No, my lord."
Zec 4:14 Then he said, "These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth."
Revelation 15, 16
Rev 15:1 I saw another great and marvelous sign in the sky: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them God's wrath is finished.
Rev 15:2 I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who overcame the beast, his image, and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God.
Rev 15:3 They sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, "Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God, the Almighty! Righteous and true are your ways, you King of the nations.
Rev 15:4 Who wouldn't fear you, Lord, and glorify your name? For you only are holy. For all the nations will come and worship before you. For your righteous acts have been revealed."
Rev 15:5 After these things I looked, and the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened.
Rev 15:6 The seven angels who had the seven plagues came out, clothed with pure, bright linen, and wearing golden sashes around their breasts.
Rev 15:7 One of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever.
Rev 15:8 The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power. No one was able to enter into the temple, until the seven plagues of the seven angels would be finished.
Rev 16:1 I heard a loud voice out of the temple, saying to the seven angels, "Go and pour out the seven bowls of the wrath of God on the earth!"
Rev 16:2 The first went, and poured out his bowl into the earth, and it became a harmful and evil sore on the people who had the mark of the beast, and who worshiped his image.
Rev 16:3 The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man. Every living thing in the sea died.
Rev 16:4 The third poured out his bowl into the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.
Rev 16:5 I heard the angel of the waters saying, "You are righteous, who are and who were, you Holy One, because you have judged these things.
Rev 16:6 For they poured out the blood of the saints and the prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. They deserve this."
Rev 16:7 I heard the altar saying, "Yes, Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are your judgments."
Rev 16:8 The fourth poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was given to him to scorch men with fire.
Rev 16:9 People were scorched with great heat, and people blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues. They didn't repent and give him glory.
Rev 16:10 The fifth poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was darkened. They gnawed their tongues because of the pain,
Rev 16:11 and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores. They didn't repent of their works.
Rev 16:12 The sixth poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates. Its water was dried up, that the way might be made ready for the kings that come from the sunrise.
Rev 16:13 I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits, something like frogs;
Rev 16:14 for they are spirits of demons, performing signs; which go forth to the kings of the whole inhabited earth, to gather them together for the war of that great day of God, the Almighty.
Rev 16:15 "Behold, I come like a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his clothes, so that he doesn't walk naked, and they see his shame."
Rev 16:16 He gathered them together into the place which is called in Hebrew, Megiddo.
Rev 16:17 The seventh poured out his bowl into the air. A loud voice came forth out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, "It is done!"
Rev 16:18 There were lightnings, sounds, and thunders; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since there were men on the earth, so great an earthquake, so mighty.
Rev 16:19 The great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered in the sight of God, to give to her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.
Rev 16:20 Every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.
Rev 16:21 Great hailstones, about the weight of a talent, came down out of the sky on people. People blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, for this plague is exceedingly severe.