"THE EPISTLE TO THE PHILIPPIANS" The Unity That Produces Joy (2:1-4) INTRODUCTION 1. At this point in his epistle to the Philippians, Paul is exhorting his brethren in regards to Christian living 2. In the previous section, we noticed that he encouraged them to manifest "Conduct Worthy Of The Gospel" (1:27-30) 3. In our text for this study, Paul exhorts them to manifest "The Unity That Produces Joy" (2:1-4) 4. In doing so, Paul describes three aspects of such unity: a. The MOTIVATION for having unity that produces joy (1) b. The NATURE of unity that produces joy (2) c. The ATTITUDES required for unity that produces joy (3,4) [As we begin, let's carefully consider Paul's description of...] I. THE "MOTIVATION" FOR HAVING UNITY THAT PRODUCES JOY (1) A. DO WE NOT HAVE ANY "CONSOLATION IN CHRIST"? 1. When Paul says "if there is any consolation...", he is not doubting that there is a. This is a common use of the conditional "if...then" where given the reality of the "if" clause, "then" a point should naturally follow b. For example, consider Ga 3:29... 1) Where Paul wrote "If you are Christ's, then..." 2) The "if" does not suggest doubt that they could be Christ's for in the previous verse he said that they were! c. In such cases, the "if" means the same thing as "since" 2. Indeed, there is MUCH consolation (comfort) to be found in Christ! a. As expressed to the brethren at Thessalonica, there is consolation from Christ in "every good word and work" - 2Th 2:16-17 b. And as written to the Corinthians, such consolation abounds even in the midst of tribulation - 2Co 1:3-5 B. DO WE NOT HAVE ANY "COMFORT OF LOVE"? 1. Do we not enjoy any comfort that comes from love? 2. Does not the love that comes from God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and even our brethren provide any comfort? - again, cf. 2 Co 1:3-5 3. Indeed, it does to those who will receive it! C. DO WE NOT HAVE ANY "FELLOWSHIP OF THE SPIRIT"? 1. Indeed, all who have been baptized into Christ has received the gift of the Holy Spirit - Ac 2:38-39; 5:32 2. As the church (the temple of God), the Spirit dwells in us - 1Co 3:16 3. Even our individual bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit - 1Co 6:19 4. Not only by the Spirit have we all been baptized into one body, but have all been made to drink of the one Spirit - 1Co 12:13 cf. Jn 7:37-39 5. Indeed there is a true "communion of the Holy Spirit" available for Christians - 2Co 13:14 D. DO WE NOT HAVE ANY "AFFECTION AND MERCY"? 1. There is the "affection" that comes from Jesus and from other brethren - e.g., Php 1:8 2. There is the "mercy" that comes from our loving Father in heaven - Ep 2:4-7 [Enjoying all these benefits, should they not serve to encourage us to have "The Unity That Produces Joy"? It certainly moved Paul to write and encourage the Philippians toward this "unity"! But exactly what kind of unity is it that produces joy...?] II. THE "NATURE" OF THE UNITY THAT PRODUCES JOY (2) A. IT INVOLVES "BEING LIKE-MINDED"... 1. Which means to "think the same thing" 2. That this is a necessary quality of unity is evident from Paul's comments in 1Co 1:10 B. IT INVOLVES "HAVING THE SAME LOVE"... 1. This is a natural consequence if we are first "like-minded" 2. Having the same love, we will love: a. The same things, in matters pertaining to Christ and His church! b. One another with the same kind of love 1) Our love for one another will be of the same kind: sincere, fervert, and from a pure heart - 1Pe 1:23 2) Our love for one another will be mutual, not one-sided, as is often the case C. IT INVOLVES "BEING OF ONE ACCORD"... 1. Literally, "of one soul; having your souls joined together" 2. It suggests acting together as if ONE soul is driving them 3. Therefore, working together in complete harmony, not as separate entities going our separate ways D. IT INVOLVES BEING "OF ONE MIND"... 1. The NASV says "intent on one purpose" 2. Not only working together outwardly, but inwardly, having the same purpose and intentions [When such conditions exist in a local congregation, then "The Unity That Produces Joy" will be fully experienced! But what are the attitudes required for having such unity?] III. THE "ATTITUDES" REQUIRED FOR THE UNITY THAT PRODUCES JOY (3,4) A. "LET NOTHING BE DONE THROUGH SELFISH AMBITION OR CONCEIT"... 1. First, it is necessary to point out those attitudes we should NOT have! 2. Possessing these attitudes will destroy unity a. For both involve "self-centered" attitude b. Rather than a "Christ-centered" attitude 3. Therefore, it is required that we rid ourselves of: a. The DESIRE FOR EXALTING SELF ("selfish ambition") b. The IMPROPER ESTIMATION OF SELF ("conceit") 4. In place of these, we should substitute... B. "LOWLINESS OF MIND"... 1. In other words, humility 2. This will effectively replace the problem of "conceit" 3. Humility should be easy to maintain if we remember our own faults C. "LET EACH ESTEEM OTHERS BETTER THAN HIMSELF"... 1. This should be easy for us to do... a. For we are aware of our own defects, but we do not have the same clear view of the defects of others b. We can only see their OUTWARD conduct; in our case, we can look WITHIN c. We see our own hearts, with all its faults; we cannot so look into the hearts of others 2. In writing to the brethren at Rome, Paul exhorted them to outdo one another in this regard - "in honor giving preference to one another" - Ro 12:10b D. "LOOK OUT...FOR THE INTERESTS OF OTHERS"... 1. This attitude eliminates the problem of "selfish ambition" 2. It is the attitude of MATURITY, and was the attitude of Christ! - Ro 15:1-3 3. So it should be the attitude of every Christian! CONCLUSION 1. These attitudes are essential if we are going to have "The Unity That Produces Joy"! 2. This is not to suggest that these attitudes ALONE will bring about such unity... a. For "The Unity That Produces Joy" comes only when it it is unity based upon the truths Jesus taught b. These attitudes without that truth will only produce a false sense of joy c. But without these attitudes, holding to the truth itself will not give us the joy we seek! Therefore, let us "fulfill our joy" by making sure that we manifest these attitudes as we attempt to live according to the truth that is in Jesus!
Fact—The New Testament is the Most Historically Accurate Book Ever Written
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Dismissing the miracles documented in the New Testament is a favorite pastime of many skeptics, and even some liberal-thinking religious leaders. However, this “dismissal” game gets extremely complicated because the miracles are so closely blended with historical facts that separating the two soon becomes like trying to separate two different colors of Play-Doh.® Take, for instance, the plight of Sir William Ramsay. His extensive education had engrained within him the keenest sense of scholarship. Along with that sense of scholarship came a built-in prejudice about the supposed inaccuracy of the Bible (especially the book of Acts). Ramsay noted: “…[A]bout 1880 to 1890 the book of the Acts was regarded as the weakest part of the New Testament. No one that had any regard for his reputation as a scholar cared to say a word in its defence [sic]. The most conservative of theological scholars, as a rule, thought the wisest plan of defence [sic] for the New Testament as a whole was to say as little as possible about the Acts” (1915, p. 38).
As could be expect of a person trained by such “scholars,” Ramsay held the same view—for a while. He held the view only for a brief time, however, because he did what few people of his time dared to do. He decided to explore the actual Bible lands with an open Bible—with the intention of proving the inaccuracy of Luke’s history as found in the book of Acts. However, much to his surprise, the book of Acts passed every test that any historical narrative could be asked to pass. After his investigation of the Bible lands, he was forced to conclude:
The renowned archaeologist Nelson Glueck put it like this:
It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which conform in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible (1959, p. 31).
Considering the fact that the land of Palestine in the days of the New Testament writers tossed and turned on a sea of political, economical, and social unrest, I would say that its historical accuracy is pretty amazing. Travel to the Holy Lands and see for yourself if you doubt New Testament accuracy. Carry with you an honest, open mind and a New Testament, and I assure you that you will respect the New Testament writers as accurate historians by the end of your journey.
REFERENCESGlueck, Nelson (1959), Rivers in the Desert: A History of the Negev (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Cudahy).
Ramsay, William (1915), The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1975 reprint).
Which Law Was Abolished?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
A great deal of confusion exists in the religious world concerning what spiritual law man is under today. Some say the old law still is binding—all of it. Others say that most of it has been abolished, but that some of it still is in effect. Many simply pick and choose laws out of both testaments and abide only by those that are appealing to them. Much of the confusion today about the old law and the new law is a result of the false teachings of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. This intensely evangelistic group teaches that the Ten Commandments still are binding in the present age. Although most Christians readily agree that nine of the Ten Commandments either are stated explicitly or are implied in the New Testament (and thus binding today because they are part of the new law), Seventh-Day Adventists actively teach that the Ten Commandments (including and especially the command to observe the Sabbath day—Exodus 20:8) are part of “God’s unchangeable law” (from the Seventh-Day Adventist’s official Web site—www.adventist.org/beliefs). Whereas certain parts of the Old Testament have been abolished, they insist that God intended for the Ten Commandments to be an eternal covenant that all of His children must follow.
In response to such teachings, some Christians (like myself) quickly cite passages of Scripture that indicate the old law has been taken away. For example, the writer of Hebrews plainly stated that “if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second” (8:7). Then, quoting the prophet Jeremiah, he wrote: “Because finding fault with them, He says: ‘Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt’ ” (8:8-9; cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34). Elsewhere, the apostle Paul stated that Christ has “wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14, emp. added). The old law has become “obsolete” (Hebrews 8:13; cf. 7:12; Ephesians 2:14-16). Although we still can learn numerous valuable lessons and principles about how to live godly lives from the old law (cf. Romans 15:4), we are bound by it no longer.
What some like the Seventh-Day Adventists teach, however, is that that God gave two laws on Mt. Sinai. They differentiate between the Ten Commandments and the ceremonial laws, saying that one (the Ten Commandments) is the Law of God and the other (the ceremonial laws) is the Law of Moses. Moreover, they assert that all of the passages in the Bible that refer to the old law being abolished are speaking of the ceremonial laws and not the Ten Commandments, which (they stress) were written with the very finger of God (Exodus 31:18).
Those who separate the “the Law of God” and “the Law of Moses” (in an attempt to find approval for continuing to follow portions of the old law) fail to realize that the Bible does not make such distinctions. Ezra read from “the Book of the Law of Moses,” which also was called “the Book of the Law of God” (Nehemiah 8:1,18). Luke recorded that after Mary gave birth to Jesus “when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, ‘A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons’ ” (Luke 2:22-24, emp. added). The Law of Moses and the Law of the Lord were the same thing and still are. When writing to the brethren in Rome, the apostle Paul quoted from the Ten Commandments and taught that it was part of the old law to which they had “become dead…through the body of Christ” (Romans 7:4,7). In his second epistle to the Corinthians, Paul wrote:
[C]learly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart…. But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious…. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious (3:3-11, emp. added).What was “passing away”? The law written on the “tablets of stone.” What was the law “engraved on stones” that was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai? The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). In this passage, Paul teaches the very opposite of what Seventh-Day Adventists teach—the Ten Commandments are not an eternal covenant.
The New Testament explicitly teaches that the old law has been abolished. Whether one is talking about the Ten Commandments or the ceremonial laws, the Law of Moses or the Law of God, all are considered the old law that no longer is in effect. Jesus Christ fulfilled that law and nailed it to the cross forever (Matthew 5:17-18; Colossians 2:13-17).
Cause and Effect—Scientific Proof that God Exists
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
The Universe exists and is real. Every rational person must admit this point. If it did not exist, we would not be here to talk about it. So the question arises, “How did the Universe get here?” Did it create itself? If it did not create itself, it must have had a cause.
Let’s look at the law of cause and effect. As far as science knows, natural laws have no exceptions. This is definitely true of the law of cause and effect, which is the most universal and most certain of all laws. Simply put, the law of cause and effect states that every material effect must have an adequate cause that existed before the effect.
Material effects without adequate causes do not exist. Also, causes never occur after the effect. In addition, the effect never is greater than the cause. That is why scientists say that every material effect must have an adequate cause. The river did not turn muddy because the frog jumped in; the book did not fall off the table because the fly landed on it. These are not adequate causes. For whatever effects we see, we must present adequate causes.
Five-year-olds are wonderful at using the law of cause and effect. We can picture a small child asking: “Mommy, where do peaches come from?” His mother says that they come from peach trees. Then the child asks where the trees come from, and his mother explains that they come from peaches. You can see the cycle. Eventually the child wants to know how the first peach tree got here. He can see very well that it must have had a cause, and he wants to know what that cause was.
One thing is for sure: the Universe did not create itself! We know this for a scientific fact, because matter cannot create matter. If we take a rock that weighs 1 pound and do 50,000 experiments on it, we never will be able to produce more than 1 pound of rock. So, whatever caused the Universe could not have been material.
FROM NOTHING COMES NOTHINGI know that it is insulting to your intelligence to have to include this paragraph, but some people today are saying that the Universe evolved from nothing. However, if there ever had been a time when absolutely nothing existed, then there would be nothing now, because it always is true that nothing produces nothing. If something exists now, then something always has existed.
THE BIBLE SPEAKS ABOUT THE CAUSEThe Bible certainly is not silent about what caused the Universe. In the very first verse of the first chapter of the first book it says: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.” Acts 17:24 records: “God, who made the world and everything in it…He is Lord of heaven and earth.” Exodus 20:11 notes: “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them.”
- God is undoubtedly an adequate cause, since He is all-powerful. In Genesis 17:1, God told Abraham “I am Almighty God.”
- He came before this material world, fulfilling the criteria that the cause must come before the effect. The psalmist wrote: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (Psalm 90:2).
- And He definitely would instill within mankind the concept of morality, since He is a God of morals. Titus 1:2 says that He cannot lie.
WHY DOES GOD NOT HAVE A CAUSE?Hold on just a minute! If we contend that every material effect must have a cause, and we say that only God could have caused the Universe, then the obvious question is: “What caused God?” Doesn’t the law of cause and effect apply to God, too?
There is a single word in the law of cause and effect that helps provide the answer to this question—the word material. Every material effect must have a cause that existed before it. Scientists formulated the law of cause and effect based upon what they have observed while studying this Universe, which is made out of matter. No science experiment in the world can be performed on God, because He is an eternal spirit, not matter (John 4:24). Science is far from learning everything about this material world, and it is even farther from understanding the eternal nature of God. There had to be a First Cause, and God was (and is) the only One suitable for the job.
CONCLUSIONThe law of cause and effect is a well-established law that does not have any known exceptions. It was not conjured up from the creationists’ magic hat to prove the existence of God (although it does that quite well). The evidence is sufficient to show that this material Universe needs a non-material cause. That non-material Cause is God. If natural forces created the Universe, randomly selecting themselves, then morality in humans never could be explained. Why is this Universe here? Because “in the beginning, God….”
Capital Punishment and the Bible
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
On the morning of March 2, 1998, Patrick Kennedy called 911 to report the rape of his eight-year-old stepdaughter. The reader will pardon the unspeakable, nightmarish details of the brutal assault described in the following quotation from the legal documents:
When police arrived at [Kennedy’s] home between 9:20 and 9:30 a.m., they found [the girl] on her bed, wearing a T-shirt and wrapped in a bloody blanket. She was bleeding profusely from the vaginal area.... [She] was transported to the Children’s Hospital. An expert in pediatric forensic medicine testified that [the girl’s] injuries were the most severe he had seen from a sexual assault in his four years of practice. A laceration to the left wall of the vagina had separated her cervix from the back of her vagina, causing her rectum to protrude into the vaginal structure. Her entire perineum was torn from the posterior fourchette to the anus. The injuries required emergency surgery (Kennedy v. Louisiana, 2008, bracketed items added).So detestable was this crime that the U.S. Supreme Court conceded: “Petitioner’s crime was one that cannot be recounted in these pages in a way sufficient to capture in full the hurt and horror inflicted on his victim or to convey the revulsion society, and the jury that represents it, sought to express by sentencing petitioner to death” (Kennedy v...).
After further investigation, Kennedy was charged with the aggravated rape of his stepdaughter. Louisiana law allowed the district attorney to seek the death penalty for defendants found guilty of raping children under the age of 12. The jury unanimously determined that Kennedy should be sentenced to death. Kennedy appealed the sentence—all the way to the highest court in the state. But the Louisiana Supreme Court reaffirmed the imposition of the death sentence (Liptak, 2007). Kennedy again appealed—all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 5-to-4 decision (split down ideological lines—liberal vs. conservative), the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Louisiana Court’s decision, commuting Kennedy’s death sentence. The Court held that it is unconstitutional for states to impose the death penalty for the rape of a child where the assault did not result in the child’s death. The death penalty in such a case would be deemed an exercise of “cruel and unusual punishment.” Consider some of the remarks offered by the Court to justify this unconscionable, reprehensible, morally degraded decision:
Evolving standards of decency must embrace and express respect for the dignity of the person, and the punishment of criminals must conform to that rule.
When the law punishes by death, it risks its own sudden descent into brutality, transgressing the constitutional commitment to decency and restraint.
[T]he death penalty can be disproportionate to the crime itself where the crime did not result, or was not intended to result, in death of the victim.
Rape is without doubt deserving of serious punishment; but in terms of moral depravity and of the injury to the person and to the public, it does not compare with murder, which does involve the unjustified taking of human life (Kennedy v...).In complete harmony with the leftist trend that commenced in the 1960s, in which focus shifted from the rights of the victim to the rights of the perpetrator, observe that the liberal element on the Court showed uncanny concern for the “dignity” of the criminal, while manifesting a corresponding disregard for the dignity of the victim. They also made the ridiculous comparison of lawful, prudent application of the death penalty to the unlawful, senseless crimes of the wicked—even implying that use of the death penalty conflicts with “decency and restraint.” This would mean that God was indecent and unrestrained when He personally invoked the death penalty on millions throughout Old Testament history (e.g., the Flood), and also when He commands civil authority to do the same (e.g., Romans 13:1ff.). The five justices clearly do not know God (cf. Romans 1:28; 1 Corinthians 1:21; Titus 1:16).
This contention (that death is justifiable only in cases where murder has been committed) implies that if Kennedy would have killed his stepdaughter after raping her, the liberals on the Court may have been more willing to invoke the death penalty (although they indicated that even then, the criminal would have had to commit “a particularly depraved murder”). But their unwarranted assumption pitches judicial evaluation into the realm of subjective human opinion that changes with the fickle whims of culture. In fact, the opinion of the Court based much of its rationale on whether there exists national consensus on the propriety of capital punishment in cases of child rape—as if objective moral value is determined by majority human opinion. The justices’ exclusion of the principles of Christian morality that once guided American courts prevents them from acknowledging the only ultimate standard of authority for deciding when the death penalty is warranted. No human has it within himself to legislate on such a matter. Only God can define the conditions under which humans may take the life of other humans.
What’s more, to maintain that invoking the death penalty is a “disproportionate” act when the criminal does not actually kill his victim, commits one to the absurd position that the criminal can subject his victim to excruciating, sadistic torture, anguish, and suffering—as long as he keeps his victim alive. And he could persist in his assaults for years, with a child of any age, and still not receive the death penalty! The justices clearly have no grasp of, let alone sympathy for, the untold, unimaginable damage perpetrated, not only on the tender body of Kennedy’s stepchild, but on the child’s spirit. The emotional, psychological, mental, and spiritual havoc inflicted is indescribable and unfathomable—literally beyond comprehension. A part of that child was murdered, changing her forever. Most children subjected to such horrendous treatment are permanently scarred, and many are doomed for the rest of their lives to wander aimlessly with a tortured soul, a twisted outlook, and an unrecoverable existence. In fact, in one sense, death would be mercifully preferable to living with the aftermath. Ironically, the Court acknowledged this fact: “The attack was not just on her but on her childhood.... Rape has a permanent psychological, emotional, and sometimes physical impact on the child.... We cannot dismiss the years of long anguish that must be endured by the victim of child rape” (Kennedy v..., emp. added). Yet, that is precisely what the court proceeded to do—dismiss the anguish. According to the majority of the Court, extending capital punishment to the rapist of a child would be “excessive,” “cruel and unusual punishment” since America’s “evolving standards of decency” “mark the progress of a maturing society.” Indeed, the Court insisted that executing all child rapists “could not be reconciled with our evolving standards of decency and the necessity to constrain the use of the death penalty” (Kennedy v...). Unbelievable. If anything verifies that we as a society are not maturing, but that we are, in fact, devolving from superior standards of decency and morality, it surely is our uncivilized, barbaric, unconscionable treatment of children in the last 40 years—from the butchery of abortion to the savagery of sexual abuse.
THE SOLUTION—OUR ONLY HOPEThe only legitimate way to evaluate and regulate human behavior is to look to the Creator. He is the One Who, in the words of the Founders of the American Republic, “created” all men, “endowed” them with life, provides them with “the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” and who functions as “the Supreme Judge of the world” (Declaration of..., 1776). If human opinion becomes the standard for judging ethical behavior, nothing but confusion, contradiction, and inconsistency can result.
The God of the Universe gave the Law of Moses, which He authored, to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai over three millennia ago. While that law code was specifically addressed to the Hebrews and has since been terminated by God Himself (cf. Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 8:13; 10:9), nevertheless, that law provides permanent perspective on the proper attitude toward, and punishment for, criminal behavior. Since God is perfect and infinite in all of His attributes, His directives to Israel concerning proper punishment of unethical and immoral human behavior ought to serve as the ultimate model for any nation’s legal system.
The Founders certainly accepted this conclusion—and organized the Republic accordingly. For example, Declaration signer John Witherspoon stated that the “Ten Commandments...are the sum of the moral law” (1815, 4:95, emp. added). Sixth President John Quincy Adams wrote:
The law given from Sinai was a civil and municipal as well as a moral and religious code; it contained many statutes...of universal application—laws essential to the existence of men in society, and most of which have been enacted by every nation, which ever professed any code of laws. But the Levitical was given by God himself; it extended to a great variety of objects of infinite importance to the welfare of men.... Vain, indeed, would be the search among the writings of profane antiquity...to find so broad, so complete and so solid a basis for morality as this decalogue lays down (1848, pp. 61,70-71, emp. added).Revolutionary War soldier and U.S. Congressman William Findley stated:
As a clear and exact knowledge of the moral law of nature is peculiarly important, in order to understand the whole system of revealed religion, I will state, that it pleased God to deliver, on Mount Sinai, a compendium of this holy law, and to write it with His own hand, on durable tables of stone. This law, which is commonly called the ten commandments, or decalogue, has its foundation in the nature of God and of man, in the relation men bear to him, and to each other, and in the duties which result from those relations; and on this account it is immutable and universally obligatory.... This was incorporated in the judicial law (1812, pp. 22-23, emp. added, italics in orig.).Governor of New York and U.S. Senator DeWitt Clinton insisted: “The sanctions of the Divine law...cover the whole area of human action.... The laws which regulate our conduct are the laws of man and the laws of God” (as quoted in Campbell, 1849, pp. 307,305). Premiere Founder John Adams explained: “If ‘Thou shalt not covet,’ and ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free” (1797, 3:217).
Other Founders could be cited who understood that many of the laws that God gave to the Hebrews are absolutely necessary to civil society. Recognizing and respecting how God expected the Jews to deal with criminal behavior is critical to sustaining American society. Indeed, the Bible is the written Word of God. Within its pages, we find the wisdom of God. We find what is best for the human race—both spiritually as well as from a civil standpoint. So what is God’s view of capital punishment? Both the Old Testament as well as the New Testament address this subject extensively.
OLD TESTAMENT TEACHINGVery early in human history, God decreed that murderers were to forfeit their own lives: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6). This standard continued into the Mosaic period (cf. Numbers 35:33). As a matter of fact, the law God gave to Moses to regulate Israelite civil society made provision for no fewer than 16 capital crimes. In 16 instances, the death penalty was to be invoked. The first four may be categorized as pertaining to civil matters.
1. Premeditated murder (Exodus 21:12-14,22-23; Leviticus 24:17; Numbers 35:16-21). This regulation even included the scenario in which two men might be brawling and, in the process, cause the death of an innocent bystander or her unborn infant (which, incidentally, implies that premeditated killing of unborn children via abortion should be punished by death). It did not include accidental homicide, which we call “manslaughter.”
2. Kidnapping (Exodus 21:16; Deuteronomy 24:7). Books and movies have been produced in recent years that describe the devastation created by this crime. One miniseries depicted the kidnapping of a seven-year-old boy as he was walking home from school. The man who stole him sexually assaulted him hundreds of times over the next seven years, subjecting the child to untold emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse, before the boy, at age 14, escaped and was finally returned to his parents (“I Know My First Name…,” 1989; Echols, 1991; cf. McMann, 2012; Atkins, 1999). But he was a completely different person, and never again would be the same. God would not tolerate such a thing in the Old Testament, and much of the same thing could be stopped in America if such crimes were taken as seriously as God Himself takes them.
3. Striking or cursing parents (Exodus 21:15,17; Leviticus 20:9). Jesus alluded to this point in Matthew 15:4 and Mark 7:10.
4. Incorrigible rebelliousness (Deuteronomy 17:12). For example, a stubborn, disobedient, rebellious son who would not submit to parents or civil authorities was to be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).The next six capital crimes can be identified as more specifically pertaining to religious matters.
5. Sacrificing to false gods (Exodus 22:20).Six crimes pertained to sexual matters.
6. Violating the Sabbath (Exodus 35:2; Numbers 15:32-36).
7. Blasphemy, or cursing God (Leviticus 24:10-16,23).
8. False prophecy (Deuteronomy 13:1-11). The one who tried to entice the people to idolatry was to be executed, as were the people who were so influenced (Deuteronomy 13:12-18).
9. Human sacrifice (Leviticus 20:2). The Israelites were tempted to offer their children to false pagan deities, like Molech. But such was despicable to God (Jeremiah 19:5; 32:35).
10. Divination (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:26,31; 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:9-14). Those dabbling in the magical arts—witches, sorcerers, wizards, mediums, charmers, soothsayers, diviners, spiritists, and enchanters—were to be put to death.
11. Adultery (Leviticus 20:10-21; Deuteronomy 22:22). Can you imagine what would happen in our own country if adultery brought the death penalty? Most of Hollywood would be wiped out, as well as a sizeable portion of the rest of our population!Capital punishment was the will of the Creator for the Jewish nation—the one civil government on Earth that God Himself established. The death penalty was a viable form of punishment for at least 16 separate offenses. [NOTE: Some people have misunderstood one of the Ten Commandments which says, “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13). They have assumed that the law forbade taking human life under any circumstances. But this misconception is unwarranted and unsustainable, since God required the death penalty for certain crimes. Therefore, the commandment would have been better translated, “You shall not murder.” In other words, the command was a prohibition against an individual taking the law into his own hands and exercising personal vengeance. Biblically unauthorized killing or execution of human beings has never been acceptable to God. God wanted the execution of law breakers to be carried out by duly constituted legal authorities.]
12. Bestiality (Exodus 22:19; Leviticus 20:15-16), i.e., having sexual relations with an animal (cf. Bradford, 1856, pp. 384-390).
13. Incest (Leviticus 18:6-17; 20:11-12,14).
14. Homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13).
15. Premarital sex (Leviticus 21:9; Deuteronomy 22:20-21).
16. Rape of an engaged or married woman (Deuteronomy 22:25-27). Again, imagine what would happen in this country if rape brought the death penalty. Much of the unconscionable treatment of women now taking place would be virtually eliminated.
NEW TESTAMENT TEACHINGMoving to the Christian era and the New Testament, which reveals God’s will this side of the cross, the matter of capital punishment is treated virtually the same. The New Testament clearly teaches that capital punishment is God’s will for human civilization. Consider, for example, Romans 13:1-4.
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil (emp. added).This passage clearly affirms that the state—civil government—has the God-ordained responsibility to keep law and order, and to protect its citizens against evildoers. The word “sword” in this passage refers to capital punishment. God wants duly constituted civil authority to invoke the death penalty upon citizens who commit crimes worthy of death.
For about the last 40 years, Americans have actually witnessed a breakdown on the part of our judicial and law enforcement system. In most cases, the government has failed to “bear the sword.” Instead, the prison system has been overrun with incorrigible criminals. Premature parole and early release programs have become commonplace in order to make room for the burgeoning number of lawbreakers. The apostle Paul, himself, articulated the correct attitude when he stood before Porcius Festus and defended his actions by stating, “If I am an offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I do not object to dying” (Acts 25:11, emp. added). As an inspired apostle, Paul acknowledged that the state divinely possesses the power of life and death in the administration of civil justice. Likewise, if you or I commit a crime worthy of death, we should not object to dying.
Peter held the same position as that of Paul. He enjoined obedience to the government—an entity that has been sent by God “for the punishment of evildoers” (1 Peter 2:14; cf. Titus 3:1). Jesus implied the propriety of capital punishment when He related the Parable of the Pounds. Those who rebelled against the king were to be brought and executed in his presence (Luke 19:27). Compare that parable with the one Jesus told about the wicked husbandmen in Luke 20:15-16, in which He indicated that the owner of the vineyard would return and “destroy” the vinedressers.
“Turn the other cheek”?Those who oppose capital punishment raise a variety of objections to its legitimacy. For example, someone might ask: “Did not Jesus teach that we should turn the other cheek?” Yes, He did, in Matthew 5:39. But in that context, He impressed upon the Jews their need not to engage in personal vendettas. The same point is stressed in Romans 12:14-21. Paul said, “Repay no one evil for evil,” and “do not avenge yourselves.” In other words, Christians are not to take the law into their own hands and engage in vengeful retaliation. God insists that vengeance belongs to Him.
Notice, however, that Romans 13 picks right up where Romans 12 leaves off, showing how God takes vengeance. He employs civil government as the instrument for imposing the death penalty. So, individual citizens are not to engage in vigilante tactics. God wants the legal authorities to punish criminals, and thereby protect the rest of society.
The Adulterous WomanA second objection to capital punishment pertains to the woman taken in adultery. “Did not Jesus exonerate her and leave her uncondemned, when the Jews were clamoring for the death penalty in accordance with the Law of Moses?” A careful study of John 8:1-11 yields complete harmony with the principle of capital punishment. At least four extenuating circumstances necessitated Jesus rejecting the death penalty in this instance.
First, Mosaic regulation stated that a person could be executed only if there were two or more witnesses to the crime (Deuteronomy 19:15). One witness was insufficient to invoke the death penalty (Deuteronomy 17:6). The woman was reportedly caught in “the very act” (vs. 4), but nothing is said of the identity of the alleged witnesses. There may have been only one, thereby making execution illegal.
Second, even if there were two or more witnesses present to verify the woman’s sin, the Old Testament was equally explicit concerning the fact that both the woman and the man were to be executed (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22). Where was the conspicuously absent man on this occasion? Obviously, this was a trumped up situation that did not fit the Mosaic preconditions for invoking capital punishment. Obedience to the Law of Moses in this instance actually meant letting the woman go.
Third, consider carefully the precise meaning of the phrase “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7). If this statement is taken as a blanket prohibition against capital punishment, then this passage flatly contradicts Romans 13. Instead, what Jesus was getting at was what Paul meant when he said, “for you who judge practice the same things” (Romans 2:1). Jesus knew that the woman’s accusers were also guilty of sexual indescretions or some comparable capital crime—making them unqualified witnesses. He was able to prick them in regard to their guilt by causing them to realize that He knew they, too, were guilty. The Old Law made clear that the witnesses to the crime were to cast the first stones (Deuteronomy 17:7). Jesus’ remark struck directly at the fact that the woman’s accusers were ineligible to fulfill this role (for further discussion on this point, see Miller, 2003).
Fourth, capital punishment would have had to have been levied by a duly constituted court of law. This mob was actually engaging in an illegal action—vigilantism. Jesus, though the Son of God, would not have interfered in the responsibility of the appropriate judicial authorities to handle the situation, since He, Himself, designed the Jewish legal system. A comparable occasion occurred when one of two brothers approached Jesus out of a crowd and asked Him to settle a probate dispute, to whom Jesus responded: “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” (Luke 12:14). So the effort by this mob in John 8 to ensnare Jesus sought to circumvent the due process of the legal system.
Jesus actually handled the situation appropriately, in keeping with legal protocol of both Old Testament law as well as Roman civil law. The woman clearly violated God’s law, and deserved the death penalty. But the necessary prerequisites for pronouncing the execution sentence were lacking—which is precisely what Jesus meant when He said, “Neither do I condemn you.” He meant that since the legal prerequisites that were needed to establish her guilt were not in place, He could not override the law and condemn her. Jesus’ action on this occasion in no way discredits the legitimacy of capital punishment.
“Not a Deterrent”?A third objection that has been raised in an effort to challenge the propriety of capital punishment is the insistence by some that the death penalty serves no useful purpose, especially when it comes to deterring other criminals from their course of action. Opponents insist, “capital punishment is not a deterrent to crime.” This kind of humanistic, uninformed thinking has held sway for several decades. It might be believable if it were not for the inspired Word of God informing us to the contrary.
Even if capital punishment did not serve as a deterrent, it still would serve at least one other worthwhile purpose: the elimination from society of those elements that persist in destructive behavior. The Bible teaches that some people can be hardened into a sinful, wicked condition. They have become so cold, cruel, and mean that even the threat of death does not faze them. Paul referred to those whose consciences had been “seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:2). Some people are so hardened that they are described as “past feeling” and completely given over to wickedness (Ephesians 4:19). God invoked the death penalty upon an entire generation because their wickedness was “great in the earth” and “every imagination of the thoughts of [their] heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).
So the human heart and mind can become so degraded and so alienated from right, good, and truth that a person can be incorrigible and irretrievable. The death penalty spares law-abiding citizens any further perpetration of death and suffering by those who engage in such repetitive actions. How horrible and senseless it is that so many Americans have had to suffer terribly at the hands of criminals who already have been found guilty of previous crimes, but who were permitted to go free and repeat their criminal behavior! Even if capital punishment was not a deterrent, it is still a necessary option in society. It holds in check the growth and spread of hardened criminals. This fact is reflected in God’s repetitious use of the expression “so you shall put away the evil from your midst” (Deuteronomy 13:5; 17:7; 19:19; 21:21; 22:21; 1 Corinthians 5:13).
But in actuality, the Bible clearly teaches that the application of the death penalty is, in fact, a deterrent. This divine insight is seen in God’s imposition of the death penalty upon any individual, including one’s relative, who attempted secretly to entice others into idolatry. Such a person was to be stoned to death in the presence of the entire nation with this resulting effect: “So all Israel shall hear and fear, and not again do such wickedness as this among you” (Deuteronomy 13:11, emp. added). Another instance of this rationale is seen in the pronouncement of death upon the incorrigible rebel: “And all the people shall hear and fear, and no longer act presumptuously” (Deuteronomy 17:13, emp. added). The principle is stated again when the Jews were instructed to take a rebellious and stubborn son and stone him to death—with the effect that “all Israel shall hear and fear” (Deuteronomy 21:21, emp. added).
This same perspective is illustrated even in the New Testament. Paul emphasized that elders in the church who sinned were to be rebuked publicly “that others also may fear” (1 Timothy 5:20, emp. added; cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:14). Ananias and Sapphira, a Christian couple in the early church, were divinely executed in Acts 5, and in the very next verse Luke wrote: “So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things” (Acts 5:11, emp. added). These passages prove that a direct link exists between punishment and execution on the one hand, and the caution and sobriety that it instills in others on the other hand.
The Bible teaches the corollary of this principle as well. Where there is inadequate, insufficient, and delayed punishment, crime and violence increase. Solomon declared: “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11, emp. added). This very phenomenon is occurring even now all across America.
The court system is clogged and backed up to the point that many cases do not come to trial literally for years. Criminals who have been shown to be guilty of multiple murders and other heinous crimes are given light sentences, while those who deserve far less are given exorbitant sentences. A mockery of the justice system has resulted. Such circumstances, according to the Bible, only serve to encourage more lawlessness. The average citizen cannot help but grow lax in his own attitudes. This principle is reflected in the biblical expression, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Corinthians 5:6).
If the Bible is to be believed, capital punishment is, indeed, a deterrent to criminal behavior. The elimination of hardened criminals is necessary if societies are to survive. The liberal, humanistic values that have held sway in America for the last 40 years are taking their toll, and getting back to God’s view of things is the only hope if the nation is to survive the tidal wave of criminal activity.
“Cruel, Unusual, and Vindictive”?A fourth quibble that someone might raise is that capital punishment appears to be a rather extreme step to take since it is as cruel, barbaric, and violent as the action committed by the criminal himself. Is it not the case that capital punishment is resorting to the same kind of behavior as the criminal? And isn’t capital punishment resorting to vindictive retaliation?
The biblical response to this question is seen in the oft’-repeated phrases: “his blood be upon him” (Leviticus 20:9,13,27; Deuteronomy 19:10; Ezekiel 18:13; 33:5) and “his blood be upon his own head” (Joshua 2:19; 2 Samuel 1:16; Ezekiel 33:4; Acts 18:6). Those who carry out the death sentence are, in reality, neutral third parties. They are merely carrying out the will of God in dispensing justice. The criminal is simply receiving what he brought upon himself—his “just desserts.” The expression “his blood be upon him” indicates that God assigns responsibility for the execution to the one being executed. It’s like we tell small children: “If you put your hand in the fire, you’re going to get burned.” There are consequences to our actions. If we do not want to be executed, we should not commit any act that merits death. If we do commit such an act, we have earned the death penalty, and we deserve to get what we have earned. The duly constituted judges, juries, and other legal authorities who mete out the punishment are not to be blamed or considered responsible for the execution of the guilty.
Rather than oppose those who promote capital punishment, painting them as insensitive ogres or uncaring, calloused, uncivilized barbarians, effort would be better spent focusing upon the barbaric behavior of the criminals who rape, plunder, and pillage. It is their behavior that should be kept in mind. Tears of compassion ought to center on the innocent victims and their families. Lethal injection of a wicked evildoer hardly matches the violent, inhuman suffering and death experienced by the innocent victims of crime. The survivors continue to suffer, while the perpetrator carries on for many years, many trials, and many appeals before justice is served—if ever. The God of the Bible is incensed and outraged at such circumstances. The time has come to start listening to Him as He speaks through His inspired Word.
In contrast to the flawed reasoning of the Supreme Court majority decision noted at the beginning of this article, follow God’s logic:
- If kidnapping (whether of an adult or a child) was a capital crime—before and without inflicting any harm on the child (“He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death” [Exodus 21:16; cf. Deuteronomy 24:7; 1 Timothy 1:10]);
- If the rape of an engaged or married woman was also a capital crime (Deuteronomy 22:25-27);
- If sexual relations with a daughter was a capital crime (Leviticus 18:17; 20:12; cf. Ezekiel 22:11);
- Then imagine how God feels about the person who would subject a precious, innocent, little girl to the indescribable agony of savage, sexual assault—and the judges who would reject the death penalty! Surely, in the words of Jesus regarding offending children, “it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
God clearly considers some individuals to have forfeited their right to live in civil society. Their actions are of such gravity that they have earned death for themselves (cf. “his blood be upon him”—Leviticus 20:9,13,27), and the rest of society deserves to be free of the inherent threat they pose to others. Those who reject this biblical assessment themselves possess degraded moral sensitivities and distorted spiritual faculties. In view of these observations and realizations, one cannot help but be horrified, sickened, and shocked beyond belief at the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Kennedy v. Louisiana (“U.S. Supreme Court Strikes...,” 2008). The decision by those five justices is despicable and unconscionable. They ought to be ashamed. They most certainly will be in eternity when they are called before the supreme Judge of the world to account for their reckless, ruthless decision.
CONCLUSIONWhen our own governmental and judicial officials brush aside the moral principles authored by God; when they have allowed their moral sensitivities to be undermined and reshaped by secularism, anti-Christian ideology, and world opinion; when they no longer seek to emulate the mind of God and organize their thinking in harmony with His views; when they fail to “abhor what is evil” (Romans 12:9)—the erosion of civil society is well underway and our nation is doomed to destruction. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).
REFERENCESAdams, John (1797), A Defense of the Constitution of Government of the United States of America (Philadelphia, PA: William Young).
Adams, John Quincy (1848), Letters of John Quincy Adams to His Son on the Bible and Its Teachings (Auburn, NY: Derby, Miller, & Co.).
Atkins, Catherine (1999), When Jeff Comes Home (New York: Puffin).
Bradford, William (1856 reprint), History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston, MA: The Massachusetts Historical Society), http://books.google.com/books? id=tYecOAN1cwwC&printsec=frontcover&dq=william+bradford+of+plymouth +plantation&hl=en&sa=X&ei=TyvOT7PyLImk9ASxjI2GCw&ved=0CD0Q6AEwAA# v=onepage&q=sodomie&f=false.
Campbell, William (1849), The Life and Writings of DeWitt Clinton (New York: Baker & Scribner).
Declaration of Independence (1776), http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/declare.asp.
Echols, Mike (1991), I Know My First Name Is Steven (New York: Pinnacle Books).
Findley, William (1812), Observations on “The Two Sons of Oil” (Pittsburgh, PA: Patterson & Hopkins).
“I Know My First Name Is Steven” (1989), Lorimar Television/Andrew Adelson Company, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097553/.
Kennedy v. Louisiana (2008), (No. 07-343) 957 So.2d 757, http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/07-343.ZO.html.
Liptak, Adam (2007), “Louisiana Court Backs Death in Child Rape,” The New York Times, May 23, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/23/us/23death.html?_r=1.
McMann, Lisa (2012), Dead To You (New York: Simon Pulse).
Miller, Dave (2003), “The Adulterous Woman,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1277.
“U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Louisiana Law Allowing Execution for Child Rape” (2008), Associated Press, June 25, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,371353,00.html.
Witherspoon, John (1815), The Works of John Witherspoon (Edinburgh: J. Ogle).
Who before Christ was the greatest person in the world?
In the holy Scriptures certain men are called great, such as Abraham (Genesis 24:35) and Moses (Exodus 11:3).
Speaking about John the Baptist Jesus said: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:7-11).
Maybe some were just as great, but no one was greater than John the Baptist. Why was John great? Jesus says he was “more than a prophet,” he was God’s messenger to prepare the way for the Messiah.
Let us examine the life of John to find qualities that made him great.
John had an exceptional birth announcement. The angel Gabriel appeared to his father, Zacharias, and said: “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:13-17).
John would “be great in the sight of the Lord.” We should not strive to be great in the sight of men but great in the sight of the Lord.
John would be “filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” John was great because God empowered him. He was chosen by God to fulfill a special task in the history of the world. “John performed no sign” (John 10:41). Thus being filled with the Holy Spirit does not mean that one can perform signs.
Our God-given task in life is less spectacular. Yet we all have a task. And we can have the gift of the Holy Spirit as Peter promised on the Day of Pentecost: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38, 39). Jesus said also: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13).
John would “turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” What accomplishment could be greater than to bring souls to repentance that they might be saved from sin and spend eternity with God in heaven?
John was great because he was humble. He said: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry” (Matthew 3:11). When Jesus came to him requesting baptism, John replied: “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” (Matthew 3:14). Once John was told: “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified -- behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!” He replied: “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ ... He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:26-30).
John was great because he had the courage to call even powerful people to repentance. “Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:5-8).
John even dared to call the king to repentance, which resulted in his death. “For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife; for he had married her. Because John had said to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.’ Therefore Herodias held it against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not; for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. Then an opportune day came when Herod on his birthday gave a feast for his nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee. And when Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.’ He also swore to her, ‘Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half my kingdom.’ So she went out and said to her mother, ‘What shall I ask?’ And she said, ‘The head of John the Baptist!’ Immediately she came in with haste to the king and asked, saying, ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’ And the king was exceedingly sorry; yet, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. And he went and beheaded him in prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb” (Mark 6:17-29).
Thus we see something of the greatness of John the Baptist.
After telling of John’s greatness, Jesus goes on to say something that is truly amazing. “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11).
By saying this, Jesus did not mean to detract from the greatness of John in any way. He merely emphasizes how great it is to be in the kingdom of heaven, a kingdom that John foretold, but would not have a part in. John had preached: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). But he was imprisoned and murdered before Christ, after His ascension, began to reign at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33).
That John’s understanding of the kingdom was limited is indicated by the question he sent his disciples to ask Jesus: “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3).
The least in the kingdom of heaven has an insight into God’s plan for the salvation of world that Old Covenant prophets did not have. Jesus told His followers: “But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Matthew 13:16, 17).
Peter also mentions that Christians have a better understanding of God’s salvation than the Old Covenant prophets had: “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven --- things which angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:10-12).
Let us follow the example of John in the things that made him great. Let us define our concept of what is great by the word of God and seek His approval. Let us ask the Father for the Holy Spirit. Let us do what we can to bring others to repentance. Let us be humble and give the glory to God. Let us not be afraid to call the powerful to repentance. And most of all, let us be thankful for the great privileges we have in the kingdom of God. Amen.
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 February 19-20
(World English Bible)
Gen 50:1 Joseph fell on his father's face, wept on him, and kissed him.
Gen 50:2 Joseph commanded his servants, the physicians, to embalm his father; and the physicians embalmed Israel.
Gen 50:3 Forty days were fulfilled for him, for that is how many the days it takes to embalm. The Egyptians wept for him for seventy days.
Gen 50:4 When the days of weeping for him were past, Joseph spoke to the house of Pharaoh, saying, "If now I have found favor in your eyes, please speak in the ears of Pharaoh, saying,
Gen 50:5 'My father made me swear, saying, "Behold, I am dying. Bury me in my grave which I have dug for myself in the land of Canaan." Now therefore, please let me go up and bury my father, and I will come again.' "
Gen 50:6 Pharaoh said, "Go up, and bury your father, just like he made you swear."
Gen 50:7 Joseph went up to bury his father; and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, all the elders of the land of Egypt,
Gen 50:8 all the house of Joseph, his brothers, and his father's house. Only their little ones, their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen.
Gen 50:9 There went up with him both chariots and horsemen. It was a very great company.
Gen 50:10 They came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, and there they lamented with a very great and sore lamentation. He mourned for his father seven days.
Gen 50:11 When the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning in the floor of Atad, they said, "This is a grievous mourning by the Egyptians." Therefore, its name was called Abel Mizraim, which is beyond the Jordan.
Gen 50:12 His sons did to him just as he commanded them,
Gen 50:13 for his sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field, for a possession of a burial site, from Ephron the Hittite, before Mamre.
Gen 50:14 Joseph returned into Egypt--he, and his brothers, and all that went up with him to bury his father, after he had buried his father.
Gen 50:15 When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "It may be that Joseph will hate us, and will fully pay us back for all of the evil which we did to him."
Gen 50:16 They sent a message to Joseph, saying, "Your father commanded before he died, saying,
Gen 50:17 'You shall tell Joseph, "Now please forgive the disobedience of your brothers, and their sin, because they did evil to you." ' Now, please forgive the disobedience of the servants of the God of your father." Joseph wept when they spoke to him.
Gen 50:18 His brothers also went and fell down before his face; and they said, "Behold, we are your servants."
Gen 50:19 Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid, for am I in the place of God?
Gen 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save many people alive.
Gen 50:21 Now therefore don't be afraid. I will nourish you and your little ones." He comforted them, and spoke kindly to them.
Gen 50:22 Joseph lived in Egypt, he, and his father's house. Joseph lived one hundred ten years.
Gen 50:23 Joseph saw Ephraim's children to the third generation. The children also of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were born on Joseph's knees.
Gen 50:24 Joseph said to his brothers, "I am dying, but God will surely visit you, and bring you up out of this land to the land which he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob."
Gen 50:25 Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, "God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here."
Gen 50:26 So Joseph died, being one hundred ten years old, and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
Exo 1:1 Now these are the names of the sons of Israel, who came into Egypt (every man and his household came with Jacob):
Exo 1:2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah,
Exo 1:3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin,
Exo 1:4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher.
Exo 1:5 All the souls who came out of Jacob's body were seventy souls, and Joseph was in Egypt already.
Exo 1:6 Joseph died, as did all his brothers, and all that generation.
Exo 1:7 The children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them.
Exo 1:8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who didn't know Joseph.
Exo 1:9 He said to his people, "Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we.
Exo 1:10 Come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply, and it happen that when any war breaks out, they also join themselves to our enemies, and fight against us, and escape out of the land."
Exo 1:11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. They built storage cities for Pharaoh: Pithom and Raamses.
Exo 1:12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out. They were grieved because of the children of Israel.
Exo 1:13 The Egyptians ruthlessly made the children of Israel serve,
Exo 1:14 and they made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field, all their service, in which they ruthlessly made them serve.
Exo 1:15 The king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah,
Exo 1:16 and he said, "When you perform the duty of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birth stool; if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live."
Exo 1:17 But the midwives feared God, and didn't do what the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the baby boys alive.
Exo 1:18 The king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said to them, "Why have you done this thing, and have saved the boys alive?"
Exo 1:19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, "Because the Hebrew women aren't like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous, and give birth before the midwife comes to them."
Exo 1:20 God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied, and grew very mighty.
Exo 1:21 It happened, because the midwives feared God, that he gave them families.
Exo 1:22 Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, "You shall cast every son who is born into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive."
Mat 25:1 "Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Mat 25:2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.
Mat 25:3 Those who were foolish, when they took their lamps, took no oil with them,
Mat 25:4 but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
Mat 25:5 Now while the bridegroom delayed, they all slumbered and slept.
Mat 25:6 But at midnight there was a cry, 'Behold! The bridegroom is coming! Come out to meet him!'
Mat 25:7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
Mat 25:8 The foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.'
Mat 25:9 But the wise answered, saying, 'What if there isn't enough for us and you? You go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.'
Mat 25:10 While they went away to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut.
Mat 25:11 Afterward the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us.'
Mat 25:12 But he answered, 'Most certainly I tell you, I don't know you.'
Mat 25:13 Watch therefore, for you don't know the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.
Mat 25:14 "For it is like a man, going into another country, who called his own servants, and entrusted his goods to them.
Mat 25:15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one; to each according to his own ability. Then he went on his journey.
Mat 25:16 Immediately he who received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents.
Mat 25:17 In like manner he also who got the two gained another two.
Mat 25:18 But he who received the one went away and dug in the earth, and hid his lord's money.
Mat 25:19 "Now after a long time the lord of those servants came, and reconciled accounts with them.
Mat 25:20 He who received the five talents came and brought another five talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents. Behold, I have gained another five talents besides them.'
Mat 25:21 "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'
Mat 25:22 "He also who got the two talents came and said, 'Lord, you delivered to me two talents. Behold, I have gained another two talents besides them.'
Mat 25:23 "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'
Mat 25:24 "He also who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you that you are a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter.
Mat 25:25 I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the earth. Behold, you have what is yours.'
Mat 25:26 "But his lord answered him, 'You wicked and slothful servant. You knew that I reap where I didn't sow, and gather where I didn't scatter.
Mat 25:27 You ought therefore to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received back my own with interest.
Mat 25:28 Take away therefore the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents.
Mat 25:29 For to everyone who has will be given, and he will have abundance, but from him who doesn't have, even that which he has will be taken away.
Mat 25:30 Throw out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
Mat 25:31 "But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.
Mat 25:32 Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
Mat 25:33 He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Mat 25:34 Then the King will tell those on his right hand, 'Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;
Mat 25:35 for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in.
Mat 25:36 I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.'
Mat 25:37 "Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink?
Mat 25:38 When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you?
Mat 25:39 When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?'
Mat 25:40 "The King will answer them, 'Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'
Mat 25:41 Then he will say also to those on the left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels;
Mat 25:42 for I was hungry, and you didn't give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink;
Mat 25:43 I was a stranger, and you didn't take me in; naked, and you didn't clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn't visit me.'
Mat 25:44 "Then they will also answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn't help you?'
Mat 25:45 "Then he will answer them, saying, 'Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you didn't do it to one of the least of these, you didn't do it to me.'
Mat 25:46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
Mat 26:1 It happened, when Jesus had finished all these words, that he said to his disciples,
Mat 26:2 "You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified."
Mat 26:3 Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas.
Mat 26:4 They took counsel together that they might take Jesus by deceit, and kill him.
Mat 26:5 But they said, "Not during the feast, lest a riot occur among the people."
Mat 26:6 Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,
Mat 26:7 a woman came to him having an alabaster jar of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table.
Mat 26:8 But when his disciples saw this, they were indignant, saying, "Why this waste?
Mat 26:9 For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor."
Mat 26:10 However, knowing this, Jesus said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman? Because she has done a good work for me.
Mat 26:11 For you always have the poor with you; but you don't always have me.
Mat 26:12 For in pouring this ointment on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.
Mat 26:13 Most certainly I tell you, wherever this Good News is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of as a memorial of her."
Mat 26:14 Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests,
Mat 26:15 and said, "What are you willing to give me, that I should deliver him to you?" They weighed out for him thirty pieces of silver.
Mat 26:16 From that time he sought opportunity to betray him.
Mat 26:17 Now on the first day of unleavened bread, the disciples came to Jesus, saying to him, "Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?"
Mat 26:18 He said, "Go into the city to a certain person, and tell him, 'The Teacher says, "My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples." ' "
Mat 26:19 The disciples did as Jesus commanded them, and they prepared the Passover.
Mat 26:20 Now when evening had come, he was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples.
Mat 26:21 As they were eating, he said, "Most certainly I tell you that one of you will betray me."
Mat 26:22 They were exceedingly sorrowful, and each began to ask him, "It isn't me, is it, Lord?"
Mat 26:23 He answered, "He who dipped his hand with me in the dish, the same will betray me.
Mat 26:24 The Son of Man goes, even as it is written of him, but woe to that man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would be better for that man if he had not been born."
Mat 26:25 Judas, who betrayed him, answered, "It isn't me, is it, Rabbi?" He said to him, "You said it."
Mat 26:26 As they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks for it, and broke it. He gave to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body."
Mat 26:27 He took the cup, gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, "All of you drink it,
Mat 26:28 for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the remission of sins.
Mat 26:29 But I tell you that I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on, until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's Kingdom."
Mat 26:30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Mat 26:31 Then Jesus said to them, "All of you will be made to stumble because of me tonight, for it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'
Mat 26:32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee."
Mat 26:33 But Peter answered him, "Even if all will be made to stumble because of you, I will never be made to stumble."
Mat 26:34 Jesus said to him, "Most certainly I tell you that tonight, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times."
Mat 26:35 Peter said to him, "Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you." All of the disciples also said likewise.
Mat 26:36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go there and pray."
Mat 26:37 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and severely troubled.
Mat 26:38 Then he said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here, and watch with me."
Mat 26:39 He went forward a little, fell on his face, and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me; nevertheless, not what I desire, but what you desire."
Mat 26:40 He came to the disciples, and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "What, couldn't you watch with me for one hour?
Mat 26:41 Watch and pray, that you don't enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Mat 26:42 Again, a second time he went away, and prayed, saying, "My Father, if this cup can't pass away from me unless I drink it, your desire be done."
Mat 26:43 He came again and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.
Mat 26:44 He left them again, went away, and prayed a third time, saying the same words.
Mat 26:45 Then he came to his disciples, and said to them, "Sleep on now, and take your rest. Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Mat 26:46 Arise, let's be going. Behold, he who betrays me is at hand."
Mat 26:47 While he was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and clubs, from the chief priest and elders of the people.
Mat 26:48 Now he who betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, "Whoever I kiss, he is the one. Seize him."
Mat 26:49 Immediately he came to Jesus, and said, "Hail, Rabbi!" and kissed him.
Mat 26:50 Jesus said to him, "Friend, why are you here?" Then they came and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.
Mat 26:51 Behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck the servant of the high priest, and struck off his ear.
Mat 26:52 Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place, for all those who take the sword will die by the sword.
Mat 26:53 Or do you think that I couldn't ask my Father, and he would even now send me more than twelve legions of angels?
Mat 26:54 How then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that it must be so?"
Mat 26:55 In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, "Have you come out as against a robber with swords and clubs to seize me? I sat daily in the temple teaching, and you didn't arrest me.
Mat 26:56 But all this has happened, that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples left him, and fled.
Mat 26:57 Those who had taken Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were gathered together.
Mat 26:58 But Peter followed him from a distance, to the court of the high priest, and entered in and sat with the officers, to see the end.
Mat 26:59 Now the chief priests, the elders, and the whole council sought false testimony against Jesus, that they might put him to death;
Mat 26:60 and they found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward,
Mat 26:61 and said, "This man said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.' "
Mat 26:62 The high priest stood up, and said to him, "Have you no answer? What is this that these testify against you?"
Mat 26:63 But Jesus held his peace. The high priest answered him, "I adjure you by the living God, that you tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God."
Mat 26:64 Jesus said to him, "You have said it. Nevertheless, I tell you, after this you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of the sky."
Mat 26:65 Then the high priest tore his clothing, saying, "He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Behold, now you have heard his blasphemy.
Mat 26:66 What do you think?" They answered, "He is worthy of death!"
Mat 26:67 Then they spit in his face and beat him with their fists, and some slapped him,
Mat 26:68 saying, "Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who hit you?"
Mat 26:69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the court, and a maid came to him, saying, "You were also with Jesus, the Galilean!"
Mat 26:70 But he denied it before them all, saying, "I don't know what you are talking about."
Mat 26:71 When he had gone out onto the porch, someone else saw him, and said to those who were there, "This man also was with Jesus of Nazareth."
Mat 26:72 Again he denied it with an oath, "I don't know the man."
Mat 26:73 After a little while those who stood by came and said to Peter, "Surely you are also one of them, for your speech makes you known."
Mat 26:74 Then he began to curse and to swear, "I don't know the man!" Immediately the rooster crowed.
Mat 26:75 Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said to him, "Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times." He went out and wept bitterly.