"THE GOSPEL OF MARK" Four Preparatory Acts (14:1-16) INTRODUCTION 1. Following the Olivet Discourse in Mark 13, Mark’s gospel turns its attention to events that preceded the betrayal and arrest of Jesus... 2. In the first sixteen verses of Mark 14, we are told of "Four Preparatory Acts"... a. Two done in opposition to Jesus b. Two done in service to Jesus [Once these four preparatory acts are completed, the stage is set for the last night and day of Jesus’ earthly life. In Mk 14:1-2, we are told how...] I. LEADERS PREPARE TO KILL JESUS A. THE PLOT THICKENS... 1. This is not the beginning of their machinations - cf. Mk 3:6; 11:18; 12:12 2. But now it is two days before the feast of Passover - Mk 14:1 a. "It was now two days before..." - ESV b. "Now the Passover and Unleavened Bread were two days away..." - NASB 3. The plot involves the chief priests, scribes, elders, along with Caiaphas the high priest - cf. Mt 26:3-4 4. Their intention is to take Jesus by trickery (stealth) B. THEIR INTENTION TO DELAY... 1. They did not want to do anything during the feast, lest there be an uproar - Mk 14:2 2. For they feared the people - cf. Mk 11:32; Lk 22:2 3. Despite their intent, the events are not entirely in their hand - cf. Ac 2:23 [Indeed, their plot will be carried out much quicker than intended. But before we see why, we read in Mk 14:3-9 that...] II. MARY PREPARES FOR JESUS’ BURIAL A. AT THE HOUSE IN BETHANY... 1. The home of Simon the leper (perhaps father of Mary, Martha, Lazarus) - Mk 14:3 2. John identifies the woman as Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus - cf. Jn 11:2; 12:2-3 3. Not to be confused with the woman that anointed Jesus earlier - cf. Lk 7:36-50 B. MARY ANOINTS JESUS... 1. Using an alabaster jar of expensive perfume - Mk 14:3 2. Breaking the jar, pouring the perfume over His head, anointing and wiping His feet with her hair - cf. Jn 12:3 C. THE DISCIPLES’ INDIGNATION... 1. They were angry at what they considered wasteful - Mk 14:4 2. For the perfume was worth 300 denarii (300 days wages), and they thought it better to have sold it and given the money to the poor - Mk 14:5 3. Judas Iscariot especially was angry, not that he cared for the poor, but because he often pilfered from the money box - Jn 12:4-6 4. Thus the disciples criticized Mary sharply - Mk 14:5 D. JESUS’ PRAISE OF MARY... 1. Leave her alone, she has done a good work - Mk 14:6 2. There would always be the poor to help, but not so with Jesus - Mk 14:7 3. She has done what she could, even anointing Jesus for His burial (once again, predicting His death) - Mk 14:8 4. The highest praise? Mary’s actions will be memorialized - Mk 14:9 [Jesus’ prediction of Mary’s praise was fulfilled by the inclusion of this story in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John. Sadly, Mary’s preparatory act is soon followed by a much different one as...] III. JUDAS PREPARES TO BETRAY JESUS A. JUDAS GOES TO THE CHIEF PRIESTS... 1. With the intent to betray Jesus to them - Mk 14:10 2. Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve apostles - cf. Mk 10:4 3. Whom Jesus knew early on would betray Him - cf. Jn 6:70-71 4. Luke adds that Satan had entered Judas - cf. Lk 22:3 B. THE AGREEMENT IS MADE... 1. The chief priests are glad, and promise to pay Judas - Mk 14:11 2. Matthew records the price agreed for betrayal: 30 pieces of silver - cf. Mt 26:15 3. Judas had previously manifested his greed for money - cf. Jn 12:4-6 4. Judas then sought for a convenient time to betray Jesus - Mk 14:11 [What a contrast between the preparatory acts of Mary and Judas! Finally, let’s briefly consider the preparatory act of the disciples...] IV. DISCIPLES PREPARE TO KEEP THE PASSOVER A. JESUS INSTRUCTS HIS DISCIPLES... 1. The first day of Unleavened Bread arrived - Mk 14:12 a. When the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed b. The day was likely Thursday, Nisan 14 - ESV Study Bible c. His disciples asked where He wanted them to prepare to eat the Passover 2. Jesus gives explicit instructions - Mk 14:13-15 a. For two of His disciples (Peter and John) - cf. Lk 22:8 b. With either miraculous foresight, or having made prior arrangements c. To meet a man who will provide a large upper room, furnished and prepared B. THE TWO DISCIPLES DO AS INSTRUCTED... 1. They go into the city (Jerusalem) - Mk 14:16 2. They find it just as Jesus predicted 3. They prepare the Passover CONCLUSION 1. With these preparatory acts completed, the stage is now set... a. For Jesus to keep the Passover b. For Judas to betray Him to the chief priests c. For the trial, crucifixion, and death that will lead to His burial 2. Perhaps we should ask, "What sort of preparatory acts are we doing today...?" a. Are they things that would prove to betray our Lord? b. Or things which would show our love and devotion to Him? 3. Every day we do things, small though they may be... a. That might be preparatory to greater things b. That might prepare us to do good or to do evil How much better to follow the example of Mary and the disciples, rather than the example of Judas and the chief priests...!
"THE GOSPEL OF MARK"
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016
The Olivet Discourse - II (13:24-37) INTRODUCTION 1. In our previous lesson, we covered the first half of Mark 13... a. Commonly called "The Olivet Discourse", delivered by Jesus on the Mount of Olives b. A challenging passage of scripture, believed to discussing either... 1) The destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in 70 A.D. 2) The second coming of Christ, which is yet to occur 3) Or both events, described either in turn or intertwined 2. I’ve proposed that the discourse foretells the destruction of Jerusalem, based first upon the setting... a. Jesus’ words spoken previously in the temple 1) His parables about Israel’s rejection of Him
- cf. Mt 21:28-32,33-46; 22:1-14 2) His condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees - cf. Mt 23:27-36 3) His lamentation over Jerusalem - cf. Mt 23:37-39 b. Jesus’ prophecy regarding about the temple - Mk 13:1-2 c. The disciples’ questions, which when Mark and Luke’s account is considered, appear to be: 1) "When will these things be?" 2) "What will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?" -- Cf. Mt 24:3; Mk 13:4; Lk 21:7 3. We then saw that in vs. 5-23, Jesus describes... a. What will not be the sign (other than the gospel preached to all nations) - Mk 13:5-13 b. What will be the sign - Mk 13:14 1) The abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel - Dan 9:26-27; 12:11 2) Which Luke explains to be Jerusalem surrounded by armies - Lk 21:20 c. What to do when they saw the sign - Mk 13:15-23 1) Those in Judea were to flee to the mountains to avoid a great tribulation 2) They were not to be misled by false christs or false prophets [Up to vs. 24, Jesus described a local, escapable judgment to befall Jerusalem. He does not describe the worldwide, inescapable judgment taught elsewhere in the Scriptures. But with vs. 24, many believe Jesus now addresses His second coming (cf. J. W. McGarvey’s Fourfold Gospel). As we continue with our study, I propose that the destruction of Jerusalem is still under consideration...] II. THE OLIVET DISCOURSE (continued) D. WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT... 1. Events to occur "after the tribulation of those days"... a. Cosmic disturbances - Mk 13:24-25 1) The sun will be darkened 2) The moon will not give its light 3) The stars of heaven will fall 4) The powers in the heavens will be shaken b. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory - Mk 13:26 1) The sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven - cf. Mt 24:30 2) All the tribes of the earth will mourn - cf. Mt 24:30 c. The elect will be gathered - Mk 13:27 1) For with a great sound of the trumpet, angels will be sent - cf. Mt 24:31 2) They shall gather the elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven 2. Such events certainly sound like the second coming of Christ, but consider two reasons why they may not be referring to Jesus’ coming at the Last Day... a. The events were to occur "immediately after the tribulation of those days" ("in those days, after that tribulation") - Mt 24:29; Mk 13:24 1) They are connected in time to the tribulation described in Mk 13:15-28 2) This "coming" of Jesus was to occur at the conclusion of the siege of Jerusalem b. The events are similar to those used to foretell God’s judgment of other nations 1) Babylon - Isa 13:1,6-13 2) Egypt - Isa 19:1-2; cf. Eze 32:2,7-9 2) Tyre - Isa 23:1; 24:21-23 3) Edom - Isa 34:4-6 4) Nineveh - Nah 1:1-5 5) Israel - Am 8:9 6) Judah - Jer 4:5-6,23-28 3. Jewish prophets foretold God’s judgment upon such nations... a. Using figures of worldwide destruction, even though the judgment was local b. Perhaps because such judgments foreshadow God’s Final Judgment to come upon the entire world at the Last Day 4. Like other Jewish prophets, Jesus used figurative language to depict: a. The judgment to befall the religious leaders of Israel (in terms of worldwide destruction) b. The provision made for faithful disciples of Christ (in terms of the gathering by angels) 5. Therefore I suggest that even in Mk 13:24-27 Jesus refers to the destruction of Jerusalem E. ADMONITIONS TO BE PREPARED... 1. The parable of the fig tree - Mk 13:28-29 a. New branches and leaves indicate summer is near b. When you see these things (Jerusalem surrounded by armies), the time is near 2. It would happen before "this generation" passed away - Mk 13:30 a. Some define "generation" as a race of people (i.e., the Jews) - cf. McGarvey, B. W. Johnson b. But note its use by Jesus just prior to this discourse - cf. Mt 23:33-36 (esp. 36) c. The destruction of Jerusalem came to pass within forty years! 3. The words of Jesus will come to pass - Mk 13:31 a. Heaven and earth shall pass away one day - cf. 2Pe 3:7,10 b. But Jesus’ words will by no means pass away 4. Of that day and hour, only the Father knows - Mk 13:32 a. Many believe at this point Jesus begins to talk about the second coming - e.g., France, NIGTC; Short, NIBC b. The disciples might discern the general timing with the advance of armies toward Jerusalem c. But the day and hour when the siege would begin, only the Father knew 5. Therefore, take heed, watch and pray! - Mk 13:33-37 a. You don’t know when the time is - e.g., Ac 1:7 b. Don’t be caught off guard, like a servant caught sleeping when his master returns c. Be ready, for the Son of Man will come when you not expect Him d. The siege of Jerusalem might begin promptly, so flee Judea promptly when you see the armies surrounding Jerusalem! CONCLUSION 1. Admittedly, there is much in "The Olivet Discourse" that alludes to our Lord’s second coming at the Last Day... a. But it no different than prophecies by other Jewish prophets who foretold God’s judgment upon nations and cities b. Such figurative language was a common motif used by Jewish prophets c. We should not be surprised to see Jesus using the same motif in this context -- And rightly so, for God’s judgments upon nations in the past are types and shadows of the Final Judgment to befall the entire world when Jesus comes again 2. In addition to the setting leading up to the discourse, there is the natural flow of the discourse itself that leads me to conclude it is entirely about the destruction of Jerusalem... a. Jesus’ disciples are told what will not be the sign - Mk 13:1-13 b. They are told will be the sign that His coming is near - Mk 13:14 c. They are told what to do when they see the sign - Mk 13:14-23 d. His coming in judgment (the fall of Jerusalem) is described in terms reminiscent of other Jewish prophets who foretold of God’s judgments upon various nations - Mk 13:24-27 e. Admonitions are given for them to be prepared and watchful, for all these things will happen before the current generation passed away, though the exact time was unknown - Mk 13:28-37 So I view "The Olivet Discourse" to describe a local, escapable judgment which occurred as Jesus foretold in 70 A. D. However, there is still the worldwide, inescapable judgment at the Last Day. Are you ready for that Day? The admonitions to be prepared and productive are very similar: "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up." "Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?" "Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;" - 2Pe 3:10-14
The Bible’s Amazing Unity
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Imagine asking an actress from Hollywood, a farmer from Oklahoma, and a restaurant manager from Alabama to write an essay about the causes of the Civil War. Even though they would all write at the same time about a war that occurred less than 200 years ago, numerous differences would be obvious. The Hollywood actress might say the war was a result of slavery. The restaurant manager may assert the war was about states’ rights. And the farmer from Oklahoma might claim that the war was because of stubbornness on both sides—the North and South. The point is, these three individuals likely would have many different things to say about the war.
When we compare ordinary human authors to the writers of the Bible, we realize that the Bible truly is an amazing book written by men who were inspired by God. Considering it was written by approximately 40 different writers over a period of about 1,600 years (1500 B.C. to A.D. 100) and contains no contradictions in its original form, one has to admit that the Bible is no ordinary book. From Genesis through Revelation the theme is Jesus Christ—His coming, His presence, and His return. Yet, the Bible writers were as different as the Hollywood actress and the Oklahoma farmer. Some were fishermen, some were farmers, some were military leaders, and some were kings. Some wrote in the Hebrew language, while others wrote in Aramaic or Greek. Some of the Bible writers penned letters while traveling, and others while in prison. Yet when we look at the Bible, it shows amazing unity—unity that can be explained only by the fact that Bible writers were guided by the Holy Spirit.
Truly then, as the apostle Paul wrote nearly 2,000 years ago, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Proving Your Faith
Proving Your Faith
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
How do we know that Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God? Is our faith based merely upon tradition? Is faith the result of religious fanaticism? No, genuine faith stands firmly upon evidence.
After the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, the newly appointed apostle entered the Jewish synagogues and “proclaimed Jesus, that he is the son of God” (Acts 9:20). His message continually amazed those who heard it. It seemed incredible that one who had so opposed the Christian Way could now be one of its most zealous advocates. The historian Luke informed his readers that Saul increased in strength, and he “confounded the Jews that lived in Damascus, proving that this is the Christ” (Acts 9:22).
Of interest in this passage is the term “proving.” It is a translation of the Greek wordsumbibazon. It is a present tense participle form, which suggests that Paul's preaching was characterized consistently by a demonstrative line of argumentation. The original term, from an etymological viewpoint means “to bring together,” as when, for example, parts of the body are brought together (i.e., tied together) by sinew, ligament, etc. (see Ephesians 4:16).
In the context of Acts 9:22, the word connotes bringing together pieces of information from which a logical conclusion is drawn. In “proving” to the Jews that Jesus is the “Christ” (i.e., the promised Old Testament Messiah), Paul would have: (1) introduced specific Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming Messiah; (2) compared those predictions with factual data that pertained to Jesus of Nazareth; and, (3) from the preceding, he would have drawn irresistible conclusions that no rational and honest person could deny.
The critic who alleges that Christianity is merely emotional, and not intellectual, simply does not know the facts.
Is Denominationalism Scriptural?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
What is a “denomination”? Does God approve of denominations? These are extremely significant and critical questions. They deserve answers from the Word of God.
When we go to the New Testament and examine God’s Word with a view toward ascertaining what His will is with regard to religion, we find that there is a clearly defined system of religion—God’s religion—in the New Testament. It is the religion of Christ that has come to be called Christianity. We also find that Satan does everything he can to blur the distinctions that God wants observed. We should not be surprised at that. Think about the great hoaxes that have been perpetrated upon mankind. For instance, the doctrine of evolution is almost universally believed by the scientific elite of many societies. So it is with many political, philosophical, and religious systems of thought like Communism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Those who have examined the evidence—objective truth—on these matters know that those systems of thought simply are not true. Yet large numbers of people adhere to them. Large numbers of people believe the tenets of those systems.
In 2 Corinthians 2:11, Paul spoke about the fact that Satan endeavors to take advantage of people. He said that we should not let Satan take advantage of us, “for we are not ignorant of his devices.” The word “devices” could easily have been translated “schemes.” We must be aware of the fact that Satan uses deceitful, deceptive ploys in an effort to trick people to get them to believe and practice various things that simply are not true. In a similar statement, Paul used the phrase “wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Most people are oblivious to this fact. Many people do not even believe that Satan exists—anymore than they believe that God exists. Yet if the New Testament is true, it is clear there is a Satan, and he will do all he can to fool, trick, and deceive people. He wants to blur distinctions that God wants observed—distinctions that are scriptural and biblical.
It is clear that this is the case with denominationalism. Consider the following dictionary definitions (American, 2000, p. 485). The term “denominate” means “to give a name to; designate.” “Denomination” is “[a] large group of religious congregations united under a common faith and name and organized under a single administrative and legal hierarchy; a name or designation, especially for a class or group.” “Denominator” refers to “[t]he expression written below the line in a common fraction that indicates the number of parts into which one whole is divided.” “Denominationalism” is “[t]he tendency to separate into religious denominations; sectarianism.” Think about these meanings for just a moment. The very word “denomination” means a named or designated division. Denominationalism occurs when religious people and groups divide and segregate themselves on the basis of different designations or church affiliations and different doctrines.
Have you gone to the New Testament and read Jesus’ prayer for unity in John chapter 17? There He prayed against religious division, and prayed to God that believers in Christ would be unified! Paul made the same point to the church of Christ in Corinth: “I beseech you brothers by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you” (1 Corinthians 1:10). Here is a passage that says denominations are not even to exist! “Let there be no divisions among you.” If a denomination is a “designated division,” then denominationalism is clearly unscriptural! It is against the will of Christ. The passage continues, “but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
I assure you, I have nothing against any particular religious group. I have no biases or prejudices against any one church or denomination. But we must go to Scripture and be objective in our appraisal of New Testament truth. It is clear when we go to the Bible that denominationalism, though viewed innocently by millions of people worldwide, is an approach to religion that is out of harmony with New Testament teaching. God does not want denominations to exist. He wants all of us to understand His will in the New Testament, and then to bring our lives into conformity and our spirits into submission to that will.
NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTIANITY
Denominationalism conflicts with New Testament teaching on a variety of subjects. Consider New Testament teaching on the subject of the one church. Passages like Isaiah 2:1-5 and Daniel 2:44 predicted that one day God would set up a kingdom, a church, a house—what Isaiah called the “Lord’s house.” In Matthew 3:2, John the baptizer preached that people should repent and get ready because the kingdom of heaven was at hand. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church.” In Mark 9:1, He said, “[T]here are some standing here who will not taste of death till they see the kingdom of God come with power.” These passages speak of the same institution. In Acts 2, we find the actual establishment of Christ’s church on Earth. Jesus Christ Himself built His church in the city of Jerusalem in approximately A.D. 30 on the day of Pentecost. Its inception is described in Acts 2.
In Colossians 1:13, Paul spoke of Christians as those who had been removed by God from darkness and translated into the kingdom of His dear Son. In Ephesians 1:22-23, the body of Christ is referred to as the church, and later we are told that there is only one (4:4). Those two passages alone should cause us to recognize that the existence of denominations is out of harmony with God’s will. Ephesians 4:4 says there is one body. That body is the church of our Lord. He established it; He built it; He purchased it with His own blood (Acts 20: 28). If there is only one church, God is not pleased with the division, the named designations, of competing churches with various names, doctrines, and practices. In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul wrote to Timothy that he might know how to conduct himself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God. Most people just do not realize that New Testament truth is that simple, that plain, and that uncomplicated. The denominationalism that has gripped western civilization is so entrenched and so entangled in the minds of people that they seem to be unable to detach themselves from it, and to go back to the New Testament to get a clear conception of the New Testament church. They seem unable or unwilling to embrace pure New Testament teaching and to repudiate all denominationalism.
Another concept that we find clearly depicted on the pages of the New Testament is the idea of scriptural names, that is, names for both the church itself and names for individual members of that church. In Romans 16:16 we find the expression “churches of Christ.” In 1 Corinthians 1:2, we have a reference to “the church of God.” In 1 Corinthians 3:16, we find “the temple of God.” And in Ephesians 4:12, we have the phrase “the body of Christ.”
These expressions are not intended to be technical nor formal names for the church. They are descriptions. They are labels that describe Christ’s church. Additional ones may be found as well. Most of the time in the New Testament, Christ’s church is just referred to as “the church.” But here is the point: Most of the names that people are giving to their churches today are not in the New Testament. They therefore are formulating names and founding churches that cannot be found in the New Testament. That’s denominationalism!
The same thing is true with regard to the names that God wants individual Christians to wear. In Isaiah 62:2, the prophet foretold that God with His own mouth would give a name to His people. We find the fulfillment of that prophecy in Acts 11:26. The name that God wants individual members of His church to wear is the name “Christian.” In Romans 1:7, we find the term “saints,” and in Acts 5:14, we find the term “believer.” In other passages we find the word “disciple” and family names like “brother” and the “family of God.” The names that denominations and their members wear are conspicuously absent from the New Testament.
New Testament truth on the matter of names is simple. How contrary to that New Testament pattern are the churches and the individuals who have taken the names of men and applied them to themselves and their churches. Some churches designate themselves by a particular practice or doctrine. I urge you to study your New Testament and realize that God is not pleased with manmade names. He will not sanction or extend His grace to groups and individuals who have chosen to stray from His will and His pattern for religion. Those who formulate for themselves their own religions, their own churches, and their own names, will be rejected by God. The Bible records that down through the annals of human history, God has never tolerated human invention in religion.
The same is true with regard to worship. The New Testament contains specific instruction concerning how God wants to be worshipped. Yet in the denominational world, all sorts of worship practice may be found. For instance, in the New Testament, Christians met for worship on the first day of the week—Sunday. Acts of worship took place on other days—for example, New Testament Christians could and did pray anytime, anywhere. But Sunday is pinpointed in New Testament Christianity as the special day on which Christians gather together to worship God (Acts 20:7). Christians are required by God to attend worship assemblies. Yet many people in our day never attend worship services, and apparently think, “Hey, I can be a Christian at home and worship God in my own way; nothing says that I have to go to church to worship with other Christians.” Most people have not read their New Testaments. The Bible teaches the necessity of assembling in Hebrews 10:25. Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). He was referring to the church. So if I am going to put the church first and seek it first in my life, obviously I am going to assemble with the church—fellow Christians—for worship on Sunday.
A further contrast between denominationalism and the New Testament church pertains to what Jesus would have us to do in the realm of music in the church. In Ephesians 5:19, Paul wrote: “[S]peaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” New Testament instructions for musical worship are that simple and unencumbered. There is no authority in the New Testament for playing musical instruments in worship to God. There is no authority in the New Testament for performance groups like choirs and praise teams. The music in the New Testament is very clearly congregational, vocal singing. It’s that simple.
We also find that communion, the Lord’s Supper, was served in the New Testament to Christians on the first day of the week. Acts 2:46 and 20:7, and 1 Corinthians 11:20-34 and 16:1-3 inform us that the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament church was observed every first day of the week. All Christians partook of both the fruit of the vine and the bread. In addition, every first day of the week Christians are to contribute a percentage of their income to a general treasury so that the church may carry on its work. Acts 2:42 speaks of the importance of continuing in prayer. Praying is a part of Christian worship. The same verse speaks of continuing in the apostles’ doctrine, i.e., the teaching, preaching, and examining doctrinal truth. These five acts of worship are part and parcel of public worship assemblies—no more and no less.
Yet churches all over the land are not patterned after the one church of the Bible. They have unscriptural names for their church and for their individual members. Their worship services engage in many practices that are not taught in the New Testament. Their activities are mere inventions and doctrines of men (Matthew 15:9). Do we want to be exactly what Jesus wants us to be according to the New Testament?
The same is true with God’s plan of salvation. What does the New Testament teach with reference to how one becomes a Christian? So much diversity and widespread misconception exists. Most religious groups teach salvation is solely by faith, without any further acts of obedience. They say that all you have to do is “accept Jesus as your savior,” which means orally saying, “I believe in Jesus Christ, I accept him into my heart as my personal savior.” Denominationalism teaches that at that moment the person is forgiven of sin and he becomes a Christian. The New Testament does teach that a non-Christian must believe(Mark 16:16)—but that is not all. He or she also must repent of sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38),confess Christ with the mouth (Romans 10:10), and then be immersed in water with the understanding that the blood of Jesus washes away sin at the point of water baptism. Acts 22:16 indicates that it was at the moment that Saul was immersed in water that his sins were washed away (cf. Galatians 3:27; 1 Peter 3:21). Most people in the religious world believe that a person is forgiven of sins before they are immersed. But, once again, that is a departure from New Testament teaching.
The New Testament is equally explicit on the subject of Christian living. It is frightening that American civilization as we have known it is deteriorating and moving away from the fundamental behaviors that were common to our way of life from our inception as a nation. But it is happening. Many people are showing the same lack of knowledge and disrespect for God’s instructions in this area as they are in the other areas we have noted. Our society is getting farther away from the Bible. Many do not even believe the Bible to be a supernatural, inspired (i.e., God-breathed) book. They think it is just a collection of Jewish myths, a bunch of fairy tales, and the writings of mere men.
We have reason for alarm. Any civilization that does not structure itself around the mind of God as revealed on the pages of the Bible, cannot last for long. Look back over the centuries of human history and you will see this truth. Every nation that rejected God and His principles for living, eventually deteriorated from the inside out and fell to pieces, crumbling into the dust of human history. American civilization is rushing headlong down that same course. So what does the Bible teach concerning Christian living and Christian morality?
For example, regarding marriage, Genesis 2:24 and Matthew 19:9 are sufficient to demonstrate how far our society has deviated from God’s will. Those verses show that God’s will is that one man (never married before) marry one woman (never married before) and that those two individuals remain married for the rest of their lives. Only death should separate them. And only one exception is given to that rule. If one of those mates is sexually unfaithful, God permits the other mate, the innocent partner, to divorce the guilty mate for fornication, i.e., for sexual unfaithfulness, and to marry an eligible partner. The New Testament is that clear and that simple. Yet our society as a whole is so far from that simple teaching that it is frightening to consider whether we could ever recover our spiritual and moral senses.
What about the use of alcohol? People all over our society consume alcoholic beverages in restaurants, in homes, on airplanes, and at ball games. You cannot go to a football game without people freely drinking alcoholic beverages without giving it a second thought. They appear oblivious and unconcerned about the fact that the Bible speaks definitively and decisively against consuming intoxicating beverages (e.g., Proverbs 23:29-35). If you are honest and love God and desire to follow His will, you will examine what the Bible teaches on this matter.
What else is occurring in our society? People use foul language and take God’s name in vain. How often do we hear people say, “O my God”? The expression has saturated our society. But the Bible condemns the vain use of God’s name (Exodus 20:7; Ephesians 4:29). It is sin, and it offends God. Likewise, the practice of lying and deceiving is commonplace, though God hates such acts (Proverbs 6:17; Ephesians 4:25).
What about gambling? The lottery has been legalized in most states, along with horse racing and other forms of gambling. Large numbers of people flock to these activities as if they are perfectly acceptable and moral. My friend, I don’t mean to offend you in any way, but I am telling you that the Bible speaks decisively and clearly against these practices. They are immoral, they are unchristian, and they are ungodly (Matthew 7:12; Ephesians 4:28; 5:3; 2 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Timothy 6:9-10).
Our society says, “People ought to be free to believe what they want. Don’t be judgmental. You don’t have any right to say they are wrong.” But such propaganda is wrong. God has a right. He is the Creator, and He said in His Word that we must know His truth, and we must be right about that truth, and we must obey that truth (Hebrews 5:9). Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). He also said, “[Y]ou shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Paul spoke about the time when people would not want to hear healthy teaching (2 Timothy 4:3). They would reject it. But God wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).
The New Testament teaches that we must stay with God’s words. We are not free to deviate, or to believe and practice whatever we choose. We must not do it (2 John 9; 1 Corinthians 4:6; Galatians 1:8). In the final analysis, denominationalism is what results when humans assert their own religious inclinations, formulate their own religious doctrines, and originate their own churches. Solomon’s words ought to cause every single person to refrain from affiliation with denominationalism: “Every word of God is pure. He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words lest He reprove you and you be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:5-6).
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.
Dragon Legends and Dinosaurs
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
What place do dragon legends have in a discussion about dinosaurs?
If dinosaurs and humans once walked the Earth together (as the Bible implicitly teaches—cf. Exodus 20:11), it is reasonable to conclude that humans would have left behind at least two different types of evidence. First, similar to how we take pictures of places we visit and wildlife we see in modern times, those living in previous centuries or millennia would likely have drawn or carved pictures of dinosaurs, as well as many other animals. (Indeed, the evidence indicates such artwork was left behind; see Lyons and Butt, 2005). Second, just as we tell stories today of things that we have seen and heard, ancient peoples would also have told stories about dinosaurs, if they ever encountered these creatures. Do such stories exist? They certainly do.
A wide variety of stories of reptiles have been passed down from cultures all over the world (see Shuker, 1995, pp. 6-7). Many of these creatures sound very much like dinosaurs, or dinosaur-like (marine or flying) reptiles. However, they are not called dinosaurs in these stories, but “dragons.” Since the term “dinosaur” (from the Greek words deinos, meaning “fearfully great,” and sauros, meaning “lizard” or “reptile”) was not coined until the early 1840s, stories told previously of “fearfully great reptiles” would not have included the word dinosaur. Instead, the name attached to these creatures was “dragon.”
Have some elements of “dragon legends” been embellished over time? Of course. But, such inaccuracies do not negate the overall truth that reptiles of many different shapes and sizes once lived with humans—no more than the differences in worldwide flood legends mean we must discount the idea of a worldwide flood (see Lyons and Butt, 2003).
What rational explanation exists for the hundreds of dragon legends around the world? Although such stories are not the most powerful proof for the one-time coexistence of dinosaurs and humans, they still testify loudly to the fact that dinosaurs and humans once lived together.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2003), “Legends of the Flood,” Reason & Revelation, 23:102-103, November.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2005), “Our Trip Out West—To See the ‘Dinosaurs’,” Reason & Revelation, 4:9-R-11-R, March.
Shuker, Karl (1995), Dragons: A Natural History (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster).
Off With Their Heads!
|by||Jeff Miller, Ph.D.|
Killing unborn human babies is okay, but decapitating roses?—That is just plain wrong. At least, that is what the Swiss Confederation Federal Ethics Committee recently decided. Human beings are now playing God to the point that they are deciding for everybody else what is morally “right” and “wrong”: “The Committee members unanimously consider an arbitrary harm caused to plants to be morally impermissible” (Willemsen, 2008, p. 20, emp. added). As an example, they explain that if a farmer, on his way home after cutting his grass for his animals, “decapitates flowers with his scythe” without “rational reason” (p. 9), he has committed a moral wrong. Really. I suppose that would be either planticide (if deliberate), or plantslaughter (if accidental).
Why does the committee believe that killing plants arbitrarily is wrong? “A clear majorityalso takes the position that we should handle plants with restraint for the ethical reason that individual plants have inherent worth” (Willemsen, p. 10, emp. in orig.). They explain their use of the words “inherent worth,” by saying that plants, like the rosebush, have worth “independently of whether it is useful or whether someone ascribes a value to it” (p. 7). So, when the card soldiers in Alice in Wonderland painted the roses red, they were doing more than merely upsetting the queen (who called for their heads). They were committing a heinous unethical act of seismic proportions and deserved to be punished for their flagrant disregard of roses’ inherent worth—and their right to be the color they were born, or should we say, grown with.
The truth is, human beings have “inherent value” that surpasses the physical realm, because God made us in His image (Genesis 1:27). Unlike the rest of Creation, humans have a soul, and will exist forever. We were created on a different plane from the rest of Creation. Plants have “instrumental value,” because they are useful to humans. God created and protects plants for that reason. Sometimes plants have a “relational value,” if we ascribe value to them (e.g., a tree “planted in memory of a person who has died” [p. 7], or a rose garden that we value because of its beauty). However, a plant’s value is not equal to that of a human being. Jesus emphasized this very point when He contrasted the two: “If God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you?” (Matthew 6:30). Humans are of far greater value than flowers or grass.
But the committee says that plants “strive after something,” and should not be hampered without “good reason.” After all,
recent findings in natural science, such as the many commonalities between plants, animals and humans at molecular and cellular level [sic], remove the reasons for excluding plants in principle from the moral community.... Studies in cell biology show that plants and animals, which share a developmental history lasting 3 billion years, have many processes and reactions that do not differ fundamentally at the cellular level.... Plants react to touch and stress, or defend themselves against predators and pathogens, in highly differentiated ways (Willemsen, pp. 5,15, emp. added).
[I]t could be that plants...fulfill the necessary conditions for a kind of sentience [sense perception, consciousness, the ability to feel—JM].... It is not clear that plants have sentience, but neither is it clear that this is not the case. It cannot therefore be argued that the reasons for excluding plants from the circle of beings that must be morally considered, have been eliminated.... The majority of the committee members at least do not rule out the possibility that plants are sentient, and that this is morally relevant (p. 15, emp. added).
Not quite half of the committee is doubtful that plants are sentient. So, almost half of the committee are not totally sure, but are “doubtful” that plants are sentient. “A small group considers it probable” that they are. Unbelievable! This sort of “reasoning” is the logical outcome of atheism and alienation from God. Are we to start considering the grass’s feelings before we step on the front lawn? If people of this stripe ever overcome their current doubt and convince themselves that plants really are sentient, plants will take their rightful place as “part of the moral community.”
They go further. “The majority opinion is that we require justification to disturb plants’ ability to develop” (p. 17). So, we have to justify ourselves to a plant before we “disturb” it. Concerning “ownership of plants,” the majority of the committee believes that plants are “excluded for moral reasons from absolute ownership. By this interpretation no one may handle plants entirely according to his/her own desires” (p. 20). So, if you live in Switzerland, your potted plant in the kitchen is legally protected. You might think that you own it and can do with it as you please, but you do not, and cannot. And, logically, if you mistreat it (forget to water it as often as you should, water it too much, fail to provide it with proper sunlight, or provide too much sunlight), you could be brought up on charges of—plant abuse. I wonder if plant nurseries in Switzerland will need to provide instructions, with every plant they sell, on how to respect the rights of plants.
Notice that as yet, if one has a “good reason,” it is not wrong to kill plants. But why should it matter if one has a good reason or not? If it is wrong to kill plants, why hesitate to say so forthrightly? Why the loophole? If plants have so many similarities to humans biologically at the cellular level, and it is not acceptable to kill human beings, why should it be acceptable to kill plants? Liberals say that we should not even kill human beings when they have committed heinous crimes worthy of death. Killing others through war is frowned upon, too. The only human killing that seems to be acceptable is euthanasia and abortion, and yet, it is not likely the committee would approve of plant abortion. They likely would rally around a dying plant to keep it alive rather than finish it off. So, why allow plant killing at all? The answer is that, without it, what would we eat? Eating animals is frowned upon by vegetarians. They insist we should exclude meat from our diets. But now killing plants is also being frowned upon. So what is left for us to eat? Insects and dirt? Should we become scavengers and eat only dead items, like road kill or rotting plants? Imagine a dozen starving human beings circling a tree waiting for an apple to die and fall off the tree. Notice the hypocrisy. “It is wrong to kill plants”—up until the point where it really affects me. If these plant-defenders, these champions of flowers, were truly loving and sacrificial towards plants, as they pretend, they would eat no plants or animals at all—any more than they would eat a fellow human being. In fact, given their cockeyed reasoning, they should not even eat dead plants or animals, since to do so would deprive poor little bacteria and microorganisms of their food source. Plus, it would be a desecration of the plant’s memory. Doesn’t the Swiss government committee care for them, too? The loving and sacrificial thing to do would be for humans just to die, and let the Earth be spared the horrible interference of humans.
Consider some implications. Ethically speaking, the arbitrary killing of a plant is now considered to be morally wrong, just like killing a human baby. Of course, to many in society, killing a baby, when it is on the opposite side of the mother’s skin, is not ethically wrong. So, that implies that plants now have more value than a human baby that is merely separated from us by temporary tissues and fluids!
If plants are now to be placed on a pedestal, the future will be bleak indeed. How long will it be until it is considered morally wrong to cut your grass and trim your bushes? What about the murder of trees in order to make room for new roads, houses, and buildings, or to make paper? Logically, all use of wood must be banned. We will have to live in tee-pees made from the leather of dead and rotting animal carcasses or build dirt huts, although doing so, again, would disturb the miniscule bacteria that inhabit such things. Killing cotton plants for clothing would be unacceptable. Humans will have to let the plants take over society. In fact, again, we humans just need to kill ourselves to protect the environment. Remaining alive will mean absolute submission to “Mother Earth” with zero interference so that we are not guilty of sinning against her or having dominion over her. Technological and economical progress must come to a screeching stop so that no harm is inflicted on the environment. We should eliminate all of our energy-using devices and technological advancements, and return to a more primitive time. But wait. There has never been a time when humans did not encroach on their environment. In fact, it would be virtually impossible not to affect the environment—even if you lived in a cave and ate dirt. Microorganisms reside in dirt. Even breathing air affects living entities. Don’t those many airborne microscopic organisms and viruses that are sucked into the human lungs have the right to be included in the “moral community”? This entire discussion is insane.
Willemsen, Ariane, ed. (2008), “The Dignity of Living Beings with Regard to Plants—Moral Consideration of Plants for their Own Sake,” Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (Berne: Swiss Confederation), April.
Is There a "Missing Quote" in the book of James?by A.P. Staff
I have heard it stated that in the New Testament book of James, the writer referred to a quotation from the Old Testament that actually does not exist. Is there a “missing quote” from the O.T. to which James was referring?
In addressing the passage found in James 4:5 (to which this particular question refers), Albert Barnes wrote in his commentary: “Few passages of the New Testament have given expositors more perplexity than this” (1972, p. 70). Those hostile to Christianity often try to find anything they can to discredit the Bible. The slightest “discrepancy” or “contradiction” is considered as solid proof that the Bible is inaccurate and therefore unreliable. The passage in James 4:5 is one such instance where skeptics and infidels have taken a verse and tried to use it to discredit the Scriptures. In context, the passage reads as follows (the highlighted section is the particular portion in question):
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:4-7, KJV).
Unfaithful creatures! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is in vain that the scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit which he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace; therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:4-7, RSV).
The KJV and RSV separate verse five into two sections. The first introduces a supposed quote with the phrase “the scripture says,” and draws attention to the second section, which seems to highlight the quotation either via quotation marks (as in the RSV) or by capitalizing the first word of the quote (as in the KJV). According to those attempting to discredit the Bible, this verse “proves” that the Bible is false since the supposed quotation is found nowhere in Scripture. If it were true that there is a missing quote in the Bible, then some would perceive it as bringing into doubt the validity of the book of James. If the Bible is legitimately called into question, then Christianity’s foundation crumbles. Thus, there is a need to answer such charges brought against the Word of God.
With some careful study, one finds that the controversy can be explained fairly simply. When James’ comment is considered in its context, and is translated correctly, it becomes apparent that he did not intend for the second half of the verse to be taken as a direct quotation from the Old Testament. The translations provided by the King James Version, Revised Standard Version, and others that render the verse as a quotation, are incorrect. [It is important to realize that the manuscripts with which translators work contain little or no punctuation. Thus, the translators must exercise some discretion when implementing punctuation marks in the text.]
Such a suggestion raises the question as to what the correct translation is for the passage. Several solutions have been presented, the most likely of which being that James did not intend to quote a specific verse, but instead was referring to ideas and concepts found throughout the whole of the Old Testament. In his commentary on the books of Hebrews and James, R.C.H. Lenski wrote:
Many pages have been written regarding the different interpretations of v. 5 and the discussions of these interpretations. We confine ourselves to two points. We are not convinced that the question is a formula of quotation. Such a formula has never been used: “Do you think that the Scripture speaks in an empty way?” If a quotation were to follow, we should certainly expect the addition “saying that.”
What follows has never been verified as being a quotation; nothing like it has been found in any writing as all admit. The fact that the Scripture does not speak in an empty way refers to v. 4 which presents as a teaching of Scripture the truth that friendship of the world is enmity against God, etc. The idea is not that this is a quotation, but that it is a teaching of Scripture and by no means empty (1966, p. 631, emp. in orig.).
The late Bible scholar, Guy N. Woods, supported the idea of James’ reference being, not to a specific quote, but rather to a general concept within the Old Testament writings. He cited Genesis 6:3-7, Exodus 29:5, Deuteronomy 32:1-21, Job 5:12, Ecclesiastes 4:4, and Proverbs 27:4 as verses where the thought behind James 4:5 is conveyed (1972, p. 214). Several commentators believe that James’ statement represents a “condensation” of the Old Testament rather than an exact quotation—a position that fits the context of the verse, and solves the problem of the “missing quote.”
James Coffman offered another possibility along the same line. He suggested that the verse is referring to the New Testament writings, particularly those of Paul, instead of those from the Old Testament (1984, p. 87). However, it appears highly unlikely that, as Coffman maintains, James’ comment refers to the Pauline epistles, since New Testament Scripture is referenced only twice in the New Testament—once where Paul (in 1 Timothy 5:18) quotes the words of Christ as written by Luke in Luke 10:7, and once where Peter (in 2 Peter 3:15-16) mentions as a whole the writings of Paul. The remainder of the citations in the New Testament come from the Old Testament, except for a quote from an Athenian poet in Acts 17:28, from Epimenides in Titus 1:12, and possibly from a now-lost hymn or poem in Ephesians 5:14.
Whether it is a reference to Old or New Testament concepts, the KJV and RSV both have done an inadequate job of translating the verse. The late, respected Greek scholar J.W. Roberts was correct in saying that the 1901 American Standard Version provides the closest match to the true meaning (1977, p. 129).
Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God. Or think ye that the scripture speaketh in vain? Doth the spirit which he made to dwell in us long unto envying? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore the scripture saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. Be subject therefore unto God; but resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:4-7, ASV, emp. added).
Hugo McCord, in his independent translation of the New Testament, rendered James 4:5 very much like the American Standard Version, with a slight updating of language. His translation reads: “Do you think that the scripture speaks emptily? Does the Spirit living in us lust to envy?” (1988, p. 442).
Regardless of which version is used, it appears that James did not intend this verse to be taken as a quotation. The most likely answer is that James did indeed refer to ideas and thoughts expressed throughout the entire Old Testament, rather than quoting a specific verse.
Barnes, Albert (1972 reprint), Barnes’ Notes—James, Peter, John, and Jude (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Coffman, James Burton (1984), Commentary on James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2 & 3 John, Jude (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).
Lenski, R.C.H. (1966), The Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews and of the Epistle of James (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
McCord, Hugo (1988), McCord’s New Testament Translation of the Everlasting Gospel (Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman College).
Roberts, J.W. (1977), The Letter of James (Austin, TX: Sweet).
Woods, Guy N. (1972), A Commentary on the Epistle of James (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).