"THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS" Paul's Closing Benediction (3:16-18) INTRODUCTION 1. Paul's second epistle to the Thessalonians was designed to encourage, enlighten, and exhort... a. He offered encouragement in the midst of persecutions - 2Th 1: 1-12 b. He offered enlightenment about the coming of the Lord - 2Th 2: 1-17 c. He offered exhortations to Christian living - 2Th 3:1-15 2. As was Paul's custom, he concludes with a benediction and prayer in their behalf... a. Compare his conclusion to the first epistle - 1Th 5:23-28 b. While shorter, he ends the second epistle in similar fashion - 2Th 3:16-18 [There are two main thoughts expressed in "Paul's Closing Benediction", the first in vs. 16...] I. MAY THE LORD GIVE YOU PEACE A. THE PEACE THE LORD PROVIDES... 1. It was prophesied that Jesus would guide us into peace - Lk 1: 78-79; 2:14 2. He came preaching peace - Ac 10:36 3. Jesus offers a peace that the world cannot give - Jn 14:27 4. A peace that prevails despite tribulation - Jn 16:33 5. It involves peace with God - Ro 5:1 6. It involves a kingdom in which peace is reign - Ro 14:17 7. In which Jew and Gentile can now be one new man in peace - Ep 2:14-18 B. HOW THE LORD PROVIDES THIS PEACE... 1. Through His death on the cross a. Reconciling Jew and Gentile - Ep 2:15-16 b. Reconciling man with God - Col 1:20-22 2. Through our faith, and the justification it brings - Ro 15:13; 5:1 3. Through harmony with brethren - 2Co 13:11 4. Through the Spirit bearing fruit in our lives - Ga 5:22 5. Through fervent prayer a. Producing peace in the inner man - Php 4:6-7 b. Producing peace in our communities - 1Ti 2:1-2 6. Through emulating the example of Paul - Php 4:9 7. Through the pursuit of peace a. As Paul exhorted the Romans - Ro 14:19 b. As Paul exhorted Timothy - 2Ti 2:22 c. As the Hebrew Christians were commanded - He 12:14 d. As Peter commanded the Christians in Asia Minor - 1Pe 3: 10-11 -- The Lord certainly desires to give us peace: He died to make it possible, He offers it to all who will follow Him. Our task is to be diligent to be found by Him in peace (cf. 2Pe 3:14) by allowing this peace to rule in our hearts (cf. Col 3:15)! [As we return to our text (2Th 3:16-18), we find that Paul makes a brief reference to writing in his own hand (17). He then closes in verse 18 with a final benediction...] II. MAY THE GRACE OF THE LORD BE WITH YOU A. THE GRACE THE LORD PROVIDES... 1. Again, it was prophesied that Jesus would bring grace - 1Pe 1: 10-11 2. Jesus came full of grace - Jn 1:14,16-17 3. His apostles proclaimed the gospel of grace - Ac 20:24 a. How God justifies us in Christ Jesus - Ro 3:24; Ep 1:7; 2: 4-9 b. Describing how we might stand in God's grace - Ro 5:2; 1 Pe 5:12 4. He gives us everlasting consolation and good hope through this grace - 2Th 2:16-17 5. His apostles commended souls to the Word of God's grace - Ac 20:32 B. HOW THE LORD PROVIDES THIS GRACE... 1. By obeying the gospel of grace - He 5:9 a. Obeying the doctrine delivered to us, which sets us free from sin - Ro 6:17 b. Through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit - Tit 3:4-7; cf. Mk 16:15-16; Ac 2:36; 22:16 2. Through growing in grace - 2Pe 3:18 a. Grace is multiplied as we grow in the knowledge of Jesus - 2Pe 1:2,5-8 b. Grace is received through prayer - He 4:14-16 c. Grace is given to the humble in heart - Jm 4:6; 1Pe 5:5 3. Making sure we do not receive the grace of God in vain a. His grace will not be available forever - 2Co 6:1-2 b. Looking carefully lest we fall short of God's grace - He 12:15 c. Aware of the possibility of falling away - Ga 5:4 -- How sad to receive God's grace, but then to have received in vain! Peter describes the sorry condition of those who turn away from God's grace after having known it (2Pe 2:20-22). Like Timothy, we need to heed the admonition to be strong in the grace of God (2Ti 2:1)! CONCLUSION 1. Paul's love for his brethren in Thessalonica was evident... a. He wanted the Lord Himself to give them peace always in every way b. He wanted the grace of the Lord to be with them all -- Thus He began and closed this epistle with a prayer for grace and peace - 2Th 1:2; 3:16-18 2. As we have considered how Paul encouraged, enlightened, and exhorted his brethren... a. I hope that I have done the same through this series of lessons b. I leave with you with another prayer expressed in our text: "The Lord be with you all."
Global Warming, Earth’s History, and Jesus’ Return
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
As to whether or not the Earth is currently going through a warming trend, there is much debate. Although many, including former Vice President Al Gore, vehemently defend the man-made global warming theory (see “An Inconvenient Truth,” 2006), countless others, including thousands of scientists, have rejected the theory in part or in whole (see “Weather Channel Founder...,” 2007; Bonnici, 2008; Brennan, 2008). One truth that seems to get little attention, however, is the fact that the Earth has gone through various warming and cooling periods in the past.
Today, Antarctica is covered by seven million cubic miles of ice, which represents 90% of all the ice on Earth (“Antarctica,” 2008). The continental ice sheet at the South Pole is about 9,000 feet thick (Amundsen-Scott..., 2008). The average temperature at the South Pole is nearly -50 degrees Celsius. Nevertheless, Antarctica has not always been the frozen tundra it is today. The pro-atheistic, evolutionary science journal New Scientist recently ran an article titled, “Once the South Pole Was Green...” (2008, 198:34-38). The journal admitted that scientists are well aware that “Antarctica was once warm and forested” and inhabited by at least six different kinds of dinosaurs (p. 34). “Antarctica once enjoyed a climate warmer than that of England today” (p. 38). The fossil record indicates that in the past Antarctica was “almost sub-tropical,” lush with ferns, cycads, and conifers (p. 37). What’s more, fossils of breadfruit trees, crocodile-like creatures, and turtles have been discovered well inside the Arctic Circle (pp. 35-36). It is “abundantly clear” to scientists that at one time “both the Arctic and the Antarctic were ice-free and warm” (p. 37)—“more than warm enough for a pleasant swim” (p. 38).
Although today certain ones (e.g., Al Gore) are attempting to scare people into a “global-warming submission,” the fact is, our planet has gone through various stages of warming and cooling throughout its history—long before the invention of carbon-emitting planes, trains, and automobiles. At one time, the polar ice sheets were more extensive than at present; at another time, the Earth’s Arctic and Antarctic regions were virtually ice-free. In view of such naturally changing climates on Earth during its history, why should it surprise us if our planet does occasionally get warmer or cooler?
Our forefathers, along with plants and animals, have been on the Earth “from the foundation of the world” (Luke 11:50-51; Genesis 1-2; Exodus 20:11). They survived the ice-age(s), as well as the so-called “hothouse phase.” Today, we are flourishing in what scientists call the “icehouse” phase. In truth, man will continue the cycle of life on Earth until our Lord returns and destroys the Earth with fire (2 Peter 3:10-13)—a global warming for which man must prepare, else he will suffer in the hothouse of hell forever (Matthew 25:46; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).
Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station (2008), National Science Foundation, [On-line], URL: http://www.nsf.gov/od/opp/support/southp.jsp.
“Antarctica” (2008), Britannica, [On-line], URL:http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/27068/Antarctica#tab=active~ checked%2Citems~checked&title=Antarctica%20--%20Britannica%20Online% 20Encyclopedia.
Bonnici, Tony (2008), “Global Warming? It’s the Coldest Winter in Decades,” Daily Express, [On-line], URL: http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/35266/Global-warming-It-s-the- coldest-winter-in-decades.
Brennan, Philip (2008), “31,000 Scientists Debunk Al Gore and Global Warming,” May 19, [On-line], URL:http://www.newsmax.com/newsfront/al_gore_global_warming/2008/05/19/ 97307.html.
“An Inconvenient Truth” (2006), [On-line], URL:http://www.climatecrisis.net/aboutthefilm/.
“Once the South Pole Was Green...” (2008), New Scientist, 198:34-38, June 21.
“Weather Channel Founder: Global Warming ‘Greatest Scam in History’” (2007), [On-line], URL: http://icecap.us/index.php/go/joes-blog/comments_about_ global_warming/.
Give a Defense...to Everyone!
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
The word apologetics derives from the Greek apologia, which means to defend or give a defense. Christian apologetics, then, is the defense of the Christian belief system.
The passage in 1 Peter 3:15 often is hailed as “the apologetic verse” because of its command to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense [apologian] to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”
The inspired apostle instructed believers to be ready to give a defense. Offering a defense for the hope that lies within the heart of faithful Christians often is an easy thing to do. Whenever a person is surrounded by others of “like precious faith,” it proves an easy task to boldly defend New Testament Christianity. Perhaps it is for that very reason that Peter carries the thought a step farther by saying that Christians should stand ready to offer a defense “to everyone who asks you.”
Imagine Peter penning these words as his mind drifted back to the hour of Jesus’ arrest and trial. Shortly before the events of that night unfolded, Peter boldly and bravely had declared that he would die with Christ. Yet once the murderous mob confiscated His Lord, Peter was reduced to lurking in the shadows and following at a distance. His weakness and ignominy would only multiply as he was ushered into the courtyard of the High Priest. Waiting for him outside the trial was an enemy he was unable to fight—one so fierce and heinous that his mouth seemingly could not utter a defense of either his faith or his Lord. That enemy was…a servant girl!
“You also were with Jesus of Galilee” she accused. And Peter, who had been one of the first disciples to declare that Christ was the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16), and who had been the one among the disciples to voice his affirmation that Christ alone had the words of life (John 6:68), stood dumbfounded as he cowardly muttered, “I do not know what you are saying” (Matthew 26:70).
Peter had faced a primordial challenge to his faith—and had failed that challenge miserably. He thus knew from firsthand experience exactly how it felt to have his faith collapse under the weight of pressure from the enemy. Yet only a few weeks after his shameful denial, the Lord granted him the privilege of preaching the sermon that opened wide the doors of the Kingdom on the Day of Pentecost.
Peter’s admonition to those who were to follow after him, therefore, becomes somewhat like the warning of a loving mother who has burned her hand on the stove many times and wants to save her child from making the same mistake and enduring the same pain. Peter’s life-changing experience, no doubt, was why the apostle urged every Christian to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” He understood all too well the alternative—denying the Lord in the face of the enemy—and knew far better than most that it was too horrible to contemplate.
Gentiles, Proselytes, and the Gospel
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
According to certain religious groups, all Christians should seek to be immersed by the Holy Spirit (as the apostles were in Acts 2), and thereby gain the “God-given” ability to speak in tongues and possibly perform other miraculous feats. In an attempt to defend the doctrine that Holy Spirit baptism should be expected by believers even in the twenty-first century, some have alleged that the outpouring of the Spirit upon the household of Cornelius (Acts 10) was not done for the purpose of demonstrating to the Jews that the Gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles in the hope that they would enter into fellowship with Christ and the church (see Miller, 2003). According to one individual who wrote our offices, proof that Gentiles were converted to Christianity before Acts 10 is found in Acts 8. Since the Ethiopian eunuch was converted prior to the events that took place in Acts 10, Cornelius’ Holy Spirit baptism obviously was not intended to show the Jews that Gentiles were henceforth candidates for discipleship. Rather, the events recorded in Acts 10 supposedly are just an example of what happens when sincere believers yield control of themselves to the Holy Spirit. What can be said about such matters?
First, Luke never indicated in Acts 8 that the treasurer from Ethiopia was a “Gentile.” On the contrary, he implied that this eunuch was either a Jew or a proselyte when he stated that he had “come to Jerusalem to worship” (8:27). At this point in time, the eunuch was not yet a Christian; he had not yet heard and obeyed the Gospel (cf. 8:34-38). Thus, while he had in fact gone “to Jerusalem to worship,” such worship was not with the church in Jerusalem. It seems obvious that the reason he was reading from the Old Testament book of Isaiah when Philip approached him, and the reason he already had traveled hundreds of miles from Ethiopia “to Jerusalem to worship,” was because he was either a Jew or (more likely) a proselyte. On the possibility of the eunuch being a Jew, respected biblical scholar J.W. McGarvey stated: “It was not uncommon for Jews born and reared in foreign lands to attain to eminent positions, such as this man enjoyed, and especially in the department of finance...” (1892, p. 152). The other (more probable) possibility is that the eunuch was a proselyte—a convert to Judaism—just as one of the early servants in the church, Nicolas of Antioch, was a proselyte (Acts 6:5). The Ethiopian eunuch was a worshiper of Jehovah God, like the Jews and proselytes who were in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost “from every nation under heaven,” including “Egypt” and “parts of Libya” (Acts 2:5,10). In the book of Acts, a distinction is made between proselytes and Gentiles. For example, when Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch of Pisidia, they encouraged Jews and devout proselytes “to continue in the grace of God” (Acts 13:43). But on the next Sabbath, Paul and Barnabas turned their attention to the Gentiles (13:42,44-48)—i.e., those who were not full converts to Judaism.
What Bible students must understand is that the eunuch from Ethiopia was not considered a “Gentile” in the sense that Cornelius and his household were Gentiles (Acts 10:45). Cornelius and his household were uncircumcised Gentiles who were considered by the Jews to be unclean (Acts 10:28); proselytes, on the other hand, were granted fellowship by the Jews (i.e., they were not unclean; cf. Acts 2:10; 13:43). Following the conversion of Cornelius and his household, “the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, saying, ‘You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!’ ” (Acts 11:1-3, emp. added; cf. 10:45). How did Peter respond? Did he react by saying, “What’s the big deal? We’ve been teaching the Gospel to, and fellowshipping with, unclean, uncircumcised Gentiles for years.” Did he defend his actions by reminding the apostles and brethren in Jerusalem that Philip already had converted an unclean Gentile from Ethiopia? No. Instead, Peter informed his brethren that God had just used him (cf. Acts 15:7) to implement a monumental, permanent change within the early church. He stated:
As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, “John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God (Acts 11:15-17)?
What did his Jewish brethren understand him to mean? What was their response? According to Luke, “They became silent; and they glorified God, saying, ‘Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life’ ” (Acts 11:18, emp. added).
At a later meeting, following the apostle Paul’s first missionary journey, Peter spoke to the apostles and elders who had gathered in Jerusalem regarding whether or not a convert to Christianity needed to be circumcised and to keep the law of Moses. He stated:
Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they (Acts 15:6-11, emp. added).
James later would add concerning Peter’s comments: “Simon [Peter] has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name” (Acts 15:14, emp. added).
Based upon these statements, it rightly can be concluded that the Holy Spirit overwhelmed those in Acts 10 for the purpose of showing the Jews that all Gentiles were valid candidates for entrance into the kingdom of Christ. The miraculous outpouring of the Spirit on that occasion is not something that Christians should seek for themselves today. It served a specific purpose—which Peter and others acknowledged. Any attempt to circumvent this purpose for Holy Spirit baptism in Acts 10, including the allegation that Gentiles (e.g., the Ethiopian eunuch) long before Cornelius had obeyed the Gospel and become members of the Lord’s church, is indefensible in light of reason and revelation.
McGarvey, J.W. (1892), New Commentary on Acts of Apostles (Cincinnati, OH: Standard).
Miller, Dave (2003), “Modern-day Miracles, Tongue-speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2572.
|by||Robert C. Redden, M.A.|
I have heard it said that Genesis 1:1 allows lengthy time periods to be inserted into the biblical text, thus accommodating an ancient Earth. Is this true?
The first verse of the Bible is so dear to every believer that it can be recited from memory by almost all. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This simple rendition of the Hebrew tells us about the beginning of all things by the creative act of Almighty God. But what appears so simple on the surface often hides a complexity of difficulties underneath. Such is no exception in the case of Genesis 1:1. A comparison of several translations, or alternate translations in the margins of some Bibles, will reveal a disagreement hotly debated in scholarly circles.
One particular translation is mentioned simply because of the serious doctrinal error promoted by it. Ferrar Fenton’s, The Holy Bible in Modern English, radically departs from the standard translations. Notice the rendering of Genesis 1:1 in that version: “By periods God created that which produced the Solar Systems; then that which produced the Earth.” We are not left wilthout explanation for his novel translation. He writes in a footnote: “Literally, ‘By headships.’ It is curious that all translations of the Septuagint have rendered this word B’RESHITH, into the singular, although it is plural in the Hebrew. So I rendered it accurately.” So says Fenton!
Actually, this is a glaring mistake. A Hebrew concordance lists five occurrences where “in the beginning” appears in the Old Testament: Genesis 1:1; Jeremiah 26:1; 27:1; 28:1; 49:34. When these are read in any standard translation, nothing but the singular is intended. The Hebrew expression has a prefixed preposition that does not alter the number of the word. It occurs without the preposition in Genesis 10:10, and is translated in the singular “the beginning.” Although occurring with a different preposition in Isaiah (46:10), the use is decisive. God, says the prophet, declares the end from “the beginning.” Certainly the prophet teaches only one beginning, but Fenton’s grammatical analysis would assume otherwise. Add to this passage, Psalms 111:10—“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The singular meaning is obvious.
It must be the ending of the Hebrew word that suggested to Fenton the number [i.e., the plurality] of the word. I know of no other possibility. A comparison of words with similar endings with singular meanings might be helpful.
|Beginning—resh-ith, Genesis 1:1; 10:10|
|Greatness—marb-ith, 1 Chronicles 12:29|
|Captivity—sheb-ith, 2 Chronicles 28:11|
|Spear—hen-ith, 1 Samuel 20:33|
|Terror—hit-ith, Ezekiel 32:23|
These words are classified as feminine singular nouns according to Davidson’s Analytical Hebrew Lexicon. According to Samuel Green, feminine nouns ending in “ith” form their plurals by the ending “yyuth” (1901, p. 48). An example of the plural is found in Exodus 1:16 where the Hebrew is translated “the Hebrew women.” According to Even-Shoshan’s Hebrew concordance, no plural form for “beginning” occurs in the Old Testament. The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures) translators obviously knew the Hebrew better than Mr. Fenton! Neither the Hebrew nor the Greek would allow, much less demand, Fenton’s [mis]translation.
Another erroneous rendition in verse one is the statement that God created “that which produced the Solar Systems; then that which produced the Earth.” According to this view, “the heavens and the earth” were made out of pre-existing materials. This suggests that the verse has nothing to say about the actual beginning of all things!
In response, one must note that the Hebrew bara and its English equivalent “create” are transitive verbs. They both, therefore, require direct objects to complete their meaning. The Hebrew, along with the standard translations, give two direct objects—“the heavens and the earth.” Since the direct objects modify the verb “create,” and the act of creation took place at the beginning, then no pre-existing materials were present when the creation took place. While the word “create” in Hebrew does not necessarily prove “creation-out-of-nothing,” it certainly does not exclude the idea either.
Actually, according to Bernhardt, the use of “created” with the phrase “in the beginning” clearly teaches a creation without pre-existing materials. “As a special theological term, BARA is used to express the incomparability of the creative work of God in contrast to all the secondary products and likenesses made from already existing material by man.” He continues: “This verb does not denote an act that somehow can be described, but simply states that, unconditionally, without further intervention, through God’s command something comes into being that had not existed before. ‘He commanded and they were created’ (Psalms 148:5)” (n.d., 2:246-247). It should be no surprise, therefore, to discover that God is always the subject of this verb. God, Who exists eternally, brings into existence the things that previously had no existence!
Various translations, however, suggest that Genesis 1:1 has nothing to say about the original creation. Notice the rendering given by The Bible—An American Translation(the Old Testament companion to Goodspeed): “When God began to create the heavens and the earth, the earth was a desolate waste, with darkness covering the abyss and a tempestuous wind raging over the surface of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light!’ ” Peacock is accurate when he explains the meaning of this rendering: “...verses 1 and 2 describe the chaotic situation that existed before God acted in creation. If this interpretation is accepted, one would translate When God began to create the universe, as in the TEV [Today’s English Version] note” (Peacock, 1982, p. 4).
The obvious assumption of these translators is that Genesis 1:1 is a relative clause and states only the condition of things when God said, “Let there be light.” Such a rendition rules out the idea of an original creation—creatio ex nihilo. Scholars are in disagreement as to whether or not the grammatical evidence demanded an abandonment of the traditional wording (cf. KJV, ASV, RSV, NIV, NASB, JB). Add to this the fact that all of the ancient versions, without exception, render the verse in the usual manner.
What often is overlooked by many today is the simplicity of the creation account. The sentences are very short. By changing the translation into dependent clauses, the sentence structure is affected, and thus, the effect intended by Moses. Notice the difference between the two renderings:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth And the earth was waste and void;And darkness was upon the face of the deep; And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.And God said, Let there be light; And there was light.
When God began creating the heavens and the earth, when the earth was waste and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, then God said, Let there be light; and there was light.
A reading of the literal translation (such as the ASV) of the remaining chapter will convince one that such a complicated sentence structure is totally out of place in the first few verses of the chapter. Unfortunately, the popular style of subordination in English composition may mask not only the real emphasis of the original, but also may promote a false view of its teaching!
The Septuagint was made by translators who believed that the Hebrew taught the beginning of all things. They translated the verse in an absolute sense, independent of the following verses. Aalders summed up the issue rather well: “In making our decision on this issue, let it be stated without any equivocation that the words ‘in the beginning’ must be taken in their absolute sense. First of all, this is the most natural and obvious interpretation. Furthermore, this is the rendition that is found in every ancient translation without any exception. Finally, although the alternative interpretation is linguistically possible, it does not reflect common Hebrew usage” (Genesis, 1:51).
Genesis 1:1 is a profound revelation of God’s creative work. Before that beginning, matter did not exist. In the beginning, God created (not refashioned, per the Gap Theory) things having no previous existence. One wonders if the dissatisfaction with the standard translation of this verse arose from a corresponding disagreement with the doctrine taught by it, or was this a mere coincidence? Yes, one wonders!
Green, Samuel G. (1901), A Handbook To Old Testament Hebrew (New York: Revell).
Bernhardt (no date), Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, 2:246-247.
Peacock, Heber F. (1982), A Translator’s Guide to Selections from the First Five Books of the Old Testament (New York: United Bible Societies).
I Am Just a Scribe
Many consider Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount" to be the hallmark of Christianity. As part of Christ's teaching on the kingdom (Matthew 4:17, 23, 25-5:2), He sets forth the unique characteristics of Christians, which set them apart from the world and other world religions. After concluding His great sermon, Matthew records:
"And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." (Matthew 7:28-29)
How did Jesus speak differently than the scribes? What made His speech so special (John 7:30-46)?
"One Having Authority"
One might quickly guess that Jesus had a special air of confidence, maybe an aura of charisma and leadership that drew people to Him. We might guess that He had the look and mannerisms of a leader and King, because after all, He was the King of kings (I Timothy 6:14-16; Revelation 17:14). Although the gospels never describe these characteristics, negatively or positively, Isaiah did foretell a little about His appearance:
"For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him." (Isaiah 53:2)"He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth." (Isaiah 42:2-3)
Although the modern man might imagine Jesus exuding power, if He did radiate observable power, it was not the kind seen by carnal men. Instead, He personified humility, meekness, and gentleness in all that He said and did. Although He spoke boldly when necessary, He was also gentle to the weak (Matthew 23:1-39; John 8:1-11; Luke 7:36-50). Consequently, we know it was not a commanding, charismatic presence that drew people to Him. It was something greater than that.
Incidentally, one of Jesus' disciples, Paul made special note to the Corinthians that he similarly spoke to them "not with persuasive words of human wisdom" (I Corinthians 2:1-6). The same principle is demonstrated in both cases, indicating that God and the natural man do not share a common appreciation of what a good speaker is.
If we look closely at our original text, we will find our answer. It says that the people were astonished, because He spoke to them as if He had authority, unlike the scribes.
How Would a Scribe Teach?
Scribes were men who had dedicated their lives to copying and recopying the sacred Jewish writings. In addition to making handwritten copies of the Old Testament, some of them also copied respected traditions and commentaries authored by uninspired men. Scribes were diligent in accurately performing this tedious and serious task. From history we know that they had determined many checkpoints to ensure their accuracy, such as verifying the number of words, middle letter, and middle word of each book. If a copy did pass all the checkpoints, then they would burn the copy and start again.
Because of their close study of the law, they naturally became experts, able to quote many passages. However, a scribe was still just a man. He was not inspired like the prophets. Nor was he a inspired lawgiver, like Moses. His authority resided in the text that he quoted. If he could not show his point from Scripture, then his words were empty. He was limited to answering questions by, "It is written ...", or "In the Scriptures we read ...". He had not been given authority to say otherwise.
So, How Did Jesus Teach?
Although Jesus frequently answered questions by quoting Old Testament Scripture (Matthew 4:4-10, 22:23-33), He also said words that a scribe would dare not say:
"Because I said so" is frequently offered by parents as a sufficient answer to their children. Similarly, Jesus repeatedly offered answers and issued commands that were to be respected only because He said so. Such authority over the creation only resides in the Creator and ultimate Lawgiver, Himself. Even inspired prophets limited themselves to saying, "The Lord said to me ...", or "The Lord says ..." (Deuteronomy 1:42; Isaiah 18:4; Jeremiah 1:7, etc.). None would say, "But, I say unto you ...". Although Moses sat in the place of lawgiver, even He learned not to speak presumptuously, asserting authority that was not his (Numbers 20:10-12; Deuteronomy 32:48-52). Clearly, Jesus was the prophet Who spoke to the people about all things (Deuteronomy 18:15-19; John 1:19-21; 1:17). He spoke with such authority, because He had been given such authority (Hebrews 1:2; Matthew 17:1-5).
Who am I?
Although many practical lessons could be gained from this study, please consider the question, "Who am I?" Obviously, you and I do not enjoy the place and authority that Jesus was given. No, we are like the scribes. We do not have the authority of inspiration. Instead, we are restricted to quoting and pointing to Scripture. Within it lies God's power to reveal the gospel unto salvation (Romans 1:16; Ephesians 3:3-5; II Timothy 3:16-17 ). Consequently, you and I cannot answer peoples' questions with, "The answer is ...", "My church says ...", "My preacher says ...", "My conscience suggests ...", or "I think ...", because those things have no authority from God. Like the scribes, we can only say, " The Scriptures say ...", or "It is written ...". Other people may presume additional authority, and speak where God has not spoken (I Peter 4:11), but as for me, I'm just a scribe.
Please feel free to send the author of this article any questions, concerns, or feedback that you may have.