"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY" Two Kinds Of Teaching (1:3-7) INTRODUCTION 1. Paul wrote First Timothy to guide one's conduct in the house of God- 1Ti 3:14-15 a. Note that the church serves as "the pillar and ground of the truth" b. It is imperative our teaching reflects that responsibility 2. Now let's read from 1Ti 1:3-7... a. Paul reminded Timothy of the charge given him b. Concerning some who evidently were not teaching as they should! 3. In our text we note "Two Kinds Of Teaching"... a. There is that which causes disputes b. There is that which produces godly edification 4. What makes the difference? This question should concern... a. All those who teach or preach God's Word b. All Christians, who as students by their personal study or comments in classes: 1) Can contribute to the rise of disputes 2) Or develop thoughts which result in godly edification [Let's note the difference between the two, beginning with...] I. TEACHING THAT CAUSES DISPUTES A. WHEN WE ARE DRIVEN BY THE DESIRE FOR NOVELTY... 1. Not content with the simple gospel and doctrine of Jesus Christ - cf. Ga 1:8-9 2. Ignoring the charge that we "teach no other doctrine" - 1 Ti 1:3 3. Delving into that which is "new" a. New in the sense of new revelation, not supported by the Scriptures b. For old truth may be often be new to us who are still learning B. WHEN WE STRESS THE TALK AT THE EXPENSE OF THE WALK... 1. It is easy to become interested only in intellectual arguments a. Focusing more on argument rather than action b. Failing to make application of what we teach or study 2. In such case our teaching and study become 'idle talk' - 1 Ti 1:6 a. Against which Paul also warned Titus - Tit 1:10; 3:9 b. Which James described as 'useless religion' - Jm 1:22-27 C. WHEN WE ARE MOVED BY PRIDE RATHER THAN HUMILITY... 1. Disputes are easily caused by those who: a. "desire to be teachers of the law" - 1Ti 1:7 b. Seek to impress others with their 'knowledge' of the Word - contra Jm 3:13-18 2. Knowledge is not without its dangers a. We can be motivated more by pride than a sincere desire to serve God b. Without love, knowledge simply puffs up rather than truly builds up - 1Co 8:1-2 D. WHEN WE DISPLAY DOGMATISM WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE... 1. Often the most dogmatic are the most misinformed! 2. Like those "understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm" - 1Ti 3:7 3. Yes, we must stand fast in the defense of the truth... a. But "a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing" b. Let's be sure that we truly know and understand what is truth! [Such are the attitudes and motives that contribute to disputes among brethren. Now let's consider...] II. TEACHING THAT PRODUCES GODLY EDIFICATION A. WHEN IT IS BASED ON FAITH... 1. Godly edification is that "which is in faith" - 1Ti 1:4 2. Of course, faith comes from the Word of God - Ro 10:17 a. Godly teaching that edifies (builds up) comes from God's Word b. We must let the Word of God be the basis of our thoughts and comments B. WHEN IT SEEKS TO PRODUCE LOVE... 1. Paul wrote "the purpose of the commandment is love" - 1Ti 1:5 a. A love for truth certainly b. But also a love for God and man! - cf. 1Jn 4:20-21 2. The desire should not be to just win arguments a. Our approach will therefore be different - 2Ti 2:24-25 b. Because we are trying to win souls from the snare of Satan!- 2Ti 2:26 C. WHEN IT SEEKS TO CREATE A PURE HEART... 1. Paul wrote that our goal should be love "from a pure heart"- 1Ti 1:5 2. The goals of our teaching and study must be pure and not defiled by: a. Trying to show how clever we are b. Seeking to show what great debaters we are c. Wanting to embarrass the ignorance of our opponents 3. Our desire must be pure, seeking to lead people closer to God D. WHEN IT SEEKS TO DEVELOP A GOOD CONSCIENCE... 1. Our goal should be love "from a good conscience" - 1Ti 1:5 a. Which comes from first applying the Word to ourselves b. Like Ezra the priest sought to do - cf. Ezr 7:10 2. Yet one can easily stray - 1Ti 1:6; cf. 1:19,20 a. Especially when they do not practice what they preach b. And when they expect others to do what they themselves do not E. WHEN IT SEEKS TO BEGET A SINCERE FAITH... 1. Our goal should be love "from a sincere faith" - 1Ti 1:5 a. Where we really believe what we teach or say b. Not simply engaging in an intellectual exercise 2. Where what we are seeking is a living faith: a. To which we commit our lives b. And produces works of love to the glory of God - cf. Ga 5:6 CONCLUSION 1. So what kind of teachers or students are we...? a. Those constantly engaged in disputes, wrangling over words? b. Or those engaged in godly edification? 2. Let's be sure that our teaching and Bible study is always that which produces... a. Love b. A pure heart c. A good conscience d. A sincere faith Of course, this is not possible without Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior in our lives. Have you accepted Him as Savior and obeyed Him as your Lord by responding to the gospel of Christ...? - Mk 16:15-16; Ac 2:38; 22:16
Does the Bible Teach a Flat Earth?
|by||Justin Rogers, Ph.D.|
[Editor’s Note: AP auxiliary writer Dr. Rogers serves as an Associate Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He holds an M.A. in New Testament from FHU as well as an M.Phil. and Ph.D. in Hebraic, Judaic, and Cognate Studies from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.]
Earlier this year, basketball star Kyrie Irving drew headlines for advocating a flat Earth.1 The sports media lampooned Irving for several days until he finally admitted he was wrong.2 While Irving initially defended the “science” behind his claim, many others defend the flat Earth position because of what they read in the Bible. But what does the Bible really say about the shape of the Earth? For those with a high view of Scripture, the Bible stands as an unquestioned authority. If the Bible teaches the Earth is flat, then we must believe it, regardless of what pseudoscience says. Indeed, a number of theorists insist a spherical Earth is contrary to the teaching of Scripture. Are they correct?
RESPECT THE GENRE
Flat-Earth theorists marshal a number of biblical passages to defend their assertion (e.g., Joshua 10:12-13; 1 Chronicles 16:30; Psalm 93:1; 96:10; 104:5). One notices instantly that almost every passage cited in favor of the flat-Earth position occurs in a poetic context.3 To be responsible readers of the Bible, we must respect the genre of literature we are reading. Poetry is to be read differently than prose; it is more expressive, emotional, and metaphorical. In fact, taking biblical poetry literally would, in some cases, pervert clear scriptural teaching elsewhere, leading to the belief that there are many gods instead of one God (Exodus 15:11; Psalm 86:8), that humans are really gods (Psalm 82:6), that thunder is the voice of God (2 Samuel 22:14), that God slays sea monsters (Psalm 74:12-14), and that God has wings (Psalm 61:4). Obviously, these passages cannot be understood for what they literally say. So, a common-sense understanding of how poetry functions prevents us from making erroneous interpretive deductions. To insist that metaphorical language must be interpreted literally is to contradict the original authorial intent.
RESPECT THE AUDIENCE
In addition to respecting the author’s intent, we must also respect the audience’s understanding. We often hear cosmic complexities expressed in phenomenological language. In other words, the world is explained as it appears on Earth, or in terms we can understand. Even today, we speak of the Sun “rising and setting,” even though virtually every fourth-grade science student knows that, scientifically, this is not the case. Thus, it should not surprise to find the Bible speaking in similar terms (Genesis 28:11; Joshua 10:13; the Hebrew idiom is the Sun “going”). We also describe rain as falling from the sky even though the truth of the water cycle is basic to any elementary ecology. So also Scripture describes rain as though it is contained in a storage compartment above the sky (Genesis 1:7; Psalm 148:4). For God to teach modern scientific astronomy and meteorology to an ancient Hebrew audience would do little good. We know God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), and He always speaks truth (Titus 1:2), but He condescends to express truths in terms humans can understand (e.g., Job 38-41). To hold the Bible’s language to modern scientific standards is a failure to appreciate the original audience of Scripture. The authors were divinely inspired, but the audience was not.
IS THE EARTH FLAT? WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS
So how do these considerations relate to the shape of the Earth? Despite the preceding qualifications about reading and interpreting Scripture, we cannot locate a single verse in the Bible that teaches the Earth is flat. Neither in prose nor in poetry, neither by means of phenomenological language nor metaphor, do we find Scripture communicating a flat Earth. The flat-Earth theory is an interpretive deduction, usually based on poetic hyperbole. But is a flat Earth even an accurate interpretive deduction? As we will see, it is far from obviousthat the Bible teaches the Earth is flat.
Isaiah 40:22: A Flat-Earth?
The golden text for a spherical Earth is Isaiah 40:22: God “sits upon the circle of the earth.” It has been long argued that a ball must be intended, for God could not possibly sit atop something flat. Of course, such a literal reading ignores the poetic context and the obvious anthropomorphism. However, flat-Earth theorists point out (correctly, we may add) that the Hebrew term for “circle” (חוג,chūg) does not necessarily refer to a sphere. Instead, they say, the term refers to a disc, thereby communicating a flat Earth. Indeed, the ancient Greek translation renders the term γῦρος (gūros), or “ring.” Further, the term “on” (על, ‘al)can also be translated “above,” without implying contact with an object (e.g., NASB, ESV). So this passage does not necessarily communicate a spherical Earth, but neither does it imply a flat Earth.
The only direct parallel to the language of Isaiah 40:22 is Job 22:14. Here God poetically “walks on the circle [חוג, chūg] of the heavens.” Most modern English translations render the term commonly translated “circle” as “vault” in this context (e.g., ASV, RSV, ESV, NIV). A vault provokes images of the Earth having a rounded top, as though a bowl. In other words, the Earth is conceived (albeit poetically) with a convex lid. Why “circle” appears in English translations of Isaiah 40:22 and “vault” in Job 22:14 is beyond my understanding, although the NKJV is consistent in both.4 The term חוג (chūg) is used in both passages, and should probably be translated identically. And a convex “vault” is probably the better option than “circle.”
Ancient Near Eastern thinkers typically conceived of the Earth as having a bowl-shape, with a solid, convex top (Job 37:18) that was covered by water (Job 26:10).5 God poetically “engraves a vault” (חק חג, chōq chāg) over the Earth, perhaps indicating the horizon, or perhaps referring to the bell-shaped vault over the top of the sky (Job 26:10; Proverbs 8:27). The point is that God separates the Earth from the store place of water (cf. Genesis 1:7), and thus carves out a channel above the sky to contain it. Again, these passages occur in poetic contexts, and it can be dangerous to impose a literal meaning on figurative language, as we have discussed. Unlike God, Job’s friends did not necessarily have a perfect scientific understanding, and are, in any case, speaking hyperbolically in Hebrew poetry. Their words simply reflect a popular expression of God’s complete sovereignty over nature. Nevertheless, one thing is sure: there is no thought of a flat Earth anywhere. The “circle of the earth” is a metaphor to be sure, but not even metaphorically is it understood as flat.
It should be noted that the Hebrew Bible does not have an equivalent for the term “sphere,” which in modern Hebrew is the loanword ספירה (sefîrāh). The word “ball” (דור, dūr) occurs in English translations in Isaiah 22:18, but it is clear from Isaiah 29:3 (the only other place the noun occurs) that it refers to a “roll” of items that have encircled a central object. A related verb form is found one other time in the Bible to describe stacked and perhaps “bound” wood (Ezekiel 24:5). In other words, the shape of such an object is beyond the scope of the term. So, the authors of the Hebrew Bible simply lacked the vocabulary to describe a perfectly round object. We cannot expect them to say what they did not have the words to communicate.
Joshua 10:12-13: The Sun Stands Still
Flat-earth theorists also cite the interruption of the Sun to “prove” their theory. The passage reports, “The sun stopped [דמם, d-m-m] and the moon stood still [עמד, ‘-m-d] until the nation avenged its enemies.... The sun stood still [עמד, ‘-m-d] in the middle of the sky and did not hurry to go about an entire day” (Joshua 10:13). Flat-earth theorists, who apparently also defend a geocentric model of the solar system, argue this passage certifies their position. They argue that, according to the standard heliocentric model, the Sun’s standing still would not interrupt the day at all. The Earth, heliocentrists argue, revolves around the Sun. In order for the Bible and the heliocentric model to be true, the Earth would need to pause its rotation on its axis in order for the Sun to appear to stop. But the Bible does not say the Earth stops; it says the Sun stops. Therefore, flat-earth theorists, adopting a geocentric model, argue the Earth must be fixed, and the Sun revolves around it.6
This reasoning violates one of the principles we have discussed: a failure to account for the audience’s understanding. Joshua was not written to Israelites in outer space. From the point of view of those on Earth, the “day” (or “daylight,” the Hebrew יום, yōm meaning both) was extended. Since a day is measured by the Sun, the Sun must have stopped its “going” (בוא, bô’). Indeed, it appeared to them that “the sun stopped in the middle of the sky.” This is a clear use of phenomenological language, and it simply means this day was unusually long. Daylight was halted miraculously so as to allow God’s forces more time to conquer their foes. This is the simplest explanation, and was virtually uncontested until recent times.7 But even if this passage is used to defend a geocentric model of the Universe (wrongly, I believe), Joshua 10:13 still has no bearing on the shape of the Earth. Flat-Earth theorists will need to look elsewhere for evidence.
The “Immovable” Passages
A number of biblical passages assert the immovability of the Earth (e.g., 1 Chronicles 16:30; Psalm 93:1; 96:10; 104:5). These are often proposed as an “obvious” rationale for the Earth being flat. But they do not bear the weight loaded upon them. None of these passages necessarily implies a flat Earth, and even if they might be cited as evidence for geocentricity, note that each of them occurs in a poetic context. If we were to hold Bible-believing flat-Earth theorists to the literal implications of these passages, they would have to insist the Earth neither orbits the Sun nor rotates on its axis. And if the Earth is fixed immovably and permanently, God could never destroy it, for its dissolution would violate its immovability (2 Peter 3:10). But, of course, these poetic passages are not intended to be taken literally.
Since each passage employs similar language and is applied for the same purpose, we shall examine just one as representative. The relevant part of Psalm 96:10 states, “The world is fixed; it cannot be moved.” Two Hebrew words in particular deserve attention. One is the word “fix” or “establish” (כון, kūn). This term does not fundamentally refer to being fixed in position, but rather to being fixed in permanence. Such can be said of David’s kingdom being “established” forever (1 Samuel 20:31; 2 Samuel 7:16; 1 Kings 2:12), or of cities that are “established” (Habakkuk 2:12). These are acts of intended permanence.
In reference to the physical world, the term is not used of the Earth alone, but of the heavenly bodies as well. The Sun, Moon, and stars “are established” by God (Psalm 8:3), as are the “heavens” (Proverbs 3:19). Does this mean the Bible envisions no movement among the heavenly bodies? If one took these passages literally, he or she would be required to say there are no orbits or movements of any astral body anywhere in the Universe. This is, of course, untrue, for even the earliest astronomers could map the stars and motions of the various heavenly bodies, as they serve to mark “seasons, days, and years” (Genesis 1:14). So, if these poetic passages are pressed literally, the Bible teaches that the Earth and all cosmic bodies are static. Is this what the Bible intends to communicate? Of course not. In fact, Scripture elsewhere affirms the movement of heavenly bodies (Jude 13). The Bible simply means to teach that God has programmed His creation to act according to determined, reliable patterns; in that sense, he has “fixed” the world.
The other Hebrew term, מוט (mūt), is translated “be moved.” Because the Earth does not “move,” it must be flat, right? Well, the term does not fundamentally refer to movement of position. It is the opposite of being “fixed” as expressed by the term כון, kūn. Scripture declares the righteous “shall not be moved” (Psalm 10:6; 21:7; Proverbs 10:30), not meaning, of course, that the righteous are paralyzed, but that they can feel secure in their life. To be movable in this sense is to be insecure, uncertain, and unreliable. The term מוט/mūt is often translated “slip” or “sway” (Psalm 66:9; 123:1), and can be used of poorly constructed objects that are destined to fall (Isaiah 40:20; 41:7).
The meaning of this term with regard to the world is understandable. The Earth is “set” in the sense that it is well-designed and well-constructed, and therefore functions without deviation, exactly as the Maker intended. It is secure, dependable, and reliable. The season for sowing and reaping, consistent rain, the course of the astral bodies—these are all evidence that the Earth is “immovable” in the author’s intended sense. Derek Kidner appropriately observes: “The first and last lines of verse 10 [Psalm 96] make it additionally clear that this is a prophecy of perfect government, not a pronouncement on—of all things!—the earth’s rotation.”8 The “fixed Earth” passages, when taken literally, do not make sense with the rest of Scripture. And even if one presses their literal meaning, they still do not teach the Earth is flat. The “fixed Earth” Scriptures are best read as poetic reflections on a world designed for the flourishing of life.
It seems that the typical passages cited in favor of the flat-Earth theory are drawn from a poetic context, and thus readers must be very careful about taking them literally. However, even if we choose to take every biblical passage literally, we still do not find a clear endorsement of flat-Earth theory. It should also be noted that even the supposed “spherical Earth” passages occur in poetic contexts, filled with metaphor and hyperbole. So, the Hebrew Bible has no official “position” on the shape of the Earth, whether round or flat. Descriptions of the shape of the Earth in the Bible must be classified with the Sun having wings (Malachi 4:2) or God having arms (Exodus 6:6; 1 Kings 5:3). These are obviously metaphors, and few rational readers would press them literally. But again, even if we take poetry literally, and ignore all hyperbole and metaphor in Scripture, we still find no clear statement that the Earth is flat.
1 http://www.nba.com/article/ 2017/02/18/commissioner-adam-silver-all-star-press-conference.
3 See Justin Rogers (2016), “How to Read Biblical Poetry,” Gospel Advocate, September, p. 11.
4 The NKJV has “circle” in both verses, and the KJV has “circuit” in the Job verse.
5 See David J.A. Clines (2006), Job 21-37 in Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville, TN: Nelson), p. 559.
6 On geocentricity, see B. Thompson and T. Major (1988), “Does the Bible Teach Geocentricity?” http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.asp x?category=11&article=1151.
7 For a history of discussion, see David M. Howard, Jr. (1998), Joshua in The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman), 5:238-249.
8 Derek Kidner (1975), Psalms 73-150: A Commentary on Books III-V of the Psalms in Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP), p. 349.
Does the Abrahamic Covenant Justify Infant Baptism?
|by||Caleb Colley, Ph.D.|
Many religious groups practice infant baptism for the salvation of infants, and teach that the practice is scriptural. In fact, “Christian names” came into use as a result of the popularity of infant baptism (Arnold, 1997, p. 40). Others, however, refuse to baptize infants, and teach that infant baptism in unscriptural. Because of contradictory teachings on the issue, it is necessary to examine the arguments traditionally offered by those who defend infant baptism.
Genesis 17:7-8 reads: “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.” Proponents of infant baptism often appeal to the implication of Genesis 17:7 that God intended to include children in religion. It follows, say the supporters of infant baptism, that God wants children to be involved in religion, and baptism should initiate their religious activity. Thus, they contend, infants should be baptized.
Baptism, however, is not under consideration in Genesis 17. The passage is an account of the establishment of the Abrahamic covenant—and baptism was not a part of that covenant. Children were to be included in the religion of the Old Testament (see Deuteronomy 6:7), and were present in the assembly when the covenant was renewed (see Deuteronomy 29:10-13 and Joshua 8:35) and in other religious assemblies (Joel 2:16). But they had no need to submit to baptism, since baptism was not commanded by Mosaic law. The Abrahamic Covenant is contrasted with the New Testament Covenant in Hebrews 8:8-11:
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; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be My people” (cf. Jeremiah 31:31ff.).
The Abrahamic Covenant is no longer in effect. [NOTE: The word “everlasting” in Genesis 17:7 does not mean that the covenant would literally last forever, but that it would last for a long time, and that its principles would be foundational for all of God’s relationships with humanity; see Aalders, 1981, p. 308.] It did not include baptism, as the New Testament Covenant does. The Abrahamic Covenant was a fleshly covenant, in that it required all male children to be circumcised (Genesis 17:9-14; see Willis, 1984, pp. 247-48). The New Covenant, however, prescribes purification of the heart—the fulfillment of the spiritual redemption promised to Abraham and David (see Matthew 26:26-29; Luke 22:20)—instead of fleshly purification of circumcision (Acts 15:9; Galatians 5:2; 6:15). The New Testament emphatically teaches that the ordinance of circumcision has been taken away and is no longer commanded by God (Acts 15:1-24; 1 Corinthians 7:19; Galatians 5:6; 6:15; Colossians 3:11), just as many other ordinances of Abrahamic and Mosaic law are no longer in effect (Hebrews 10:1-10; Galatians 3:24-25; see Coffman, 1985, pp. 226-227). Under the Abrahamic and Mosaic law, sins had to be atoned with the blood of bulls and goats, but Christ shed His blood, so now all bloody ordinances are abolished (Hebrews 9:22, 28; see Henry, 1706, 1:112).
Though circumcision did involve children, the similarities between circumcision and baptism are minor, while differences between the two ordinances are significant. J. Burton Coffman noted several such differences:
(1) Circumcision was for males only; Christian baptism is for all Christians. (2) Circumcision was performed on all infants eight days old; Christian baptism, in the scriptural sense, cannot be administered upon any persons whomsoever, except those of accountable age who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, have repented of their sins, and have confessed Christ before men. (3) Circumcision had absolutely no connection whatever with the forgiveness of sins; Christian baptism is for the purpose of receiving the remission of sins. (4) In circumcision, the initiative for the performance of the rite of necessity existed apart from the one circumcised; whereas, in Christian baptism, the Lord said, “Repent and have yourselves baptized” (Acts 2:38), showing that in Christianity, the initiative must derive from the person being baptized. (5) Circumcision had nothing at all to do with Abraham being justified, because that took place before the rite was ever given; however, baptism is a factor in the Christian’s justification, in the sense that he cannot be justified while refusing to submit to it (God had not commanded Abraham to be circumcised prior to his justification; but God has commanded all men of this dispensation to be baptized…) [1985, p. 230, parenthetical comment and emp. in orig.].
Circumcision was a small sign to show that those who followed God lived under a covenant that affected every area of life (see Keil and Delitzsch, 1996, p. 143; Sailhamer, 1990, p. 139), but baptism is more than a sign that Christians will obey God. Even slaves, whether born into the house of Abraham or purchased, were required to be circumcised, whether or not the slave had faith in God (Genesis 17:9-13). But faith is a prerequisite to baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:36-37). Also, circumcision has a hygienic value (which motivates some to administer the procedure in modern times; see Armerding and Lewis, 1988, p. 700), while baptism is purely a religious ordinance with no medically beneficial qualities.
Finally, the words “seed” or “descendants,” as used in Genesis 17:7, do not specifically refer to infants, children, or even adults, but denote the generations that would follow Abraham. God never has shunned children (see Leupold, 1942, p. 518). On the contrary, God was merciful to children in the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18; see A.P. Staff, 2002), and Christ Himself welcomed children in the New Testament (Mark 10:13-16). However, to allege that the Old Testament somehow sets a precedent for infant baptism in the New Testament is to err. Infant baptism is not authorized in Genesis 17:7, nor in any other Old Testament passage mentioning children or descendants.
Aalders, G.Ch. (1981), Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Armerding, C.E. and Thomas Lewis (1988 reprint), “Circumcision,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. G.W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 1:700-702.
Arnold, Eberhard (1997), The Early Christians in Their Own Words (Farmington, PA: Plough) fourth edition.
Coffman, James Burton (1985), Commentary on Genesis (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).
Henry, Matthew (1706), Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (McLean, VA: MacDonald).
Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch (1996 reprint), “Genesis,” Commentary on the Old Testament(Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Leupold, H.C. (1942), Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Sailhamer, John H. (1990), “Genesis,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
A.P. Staff (2002), “The Killings of Numbers 31,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/586.
Willis, John T. (1984), “Genesis,” The Living Word Commentary (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).
Does Picking Up Sticks Deserve the Death Penalty?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
In his book, Losing Faith in Faith, denominational-preacher-turned-atheist, Dan Barker, wrote a chapter titled “Is the Bible a Good Moral Guide?” In that chapter, he argued that the Bible is not an acceptable guide for human behavior. In fact, he claimed that the God of the Bible is “an immoral person.” As proof of God’s “immorality,” Barker referred to a brief incident found in Numbers 15. In that chapter, a man was found gathering sticks on the Sabbath. Those who found the man took him to Moses and Aaron, who put him under guard until they could ascertain from God how this man should be punished. According to Numbers 15:35, the “Lord said to Moses, ‘The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.’ ” Writing about this episode, Barker quipped:
If there were something dangerous about picking up sticks on Saturday or Sunday, then humanity should know it by now. Since we all agree that such an act in itself is harmless, then whoever executes a person for committing such a “crime” is an immoral person. Even if there were something wrong about picking up sticks, it is not so terribly wrong that it deserves capital punishment (1992, p. 329).
Is it true that God was wrong in ordering this man to be stoned?
Barker claims that “we all agree” that picking up sticks on Saturday or Sunday is harmless. However, Barker does not take into account that the man was in direct violation of a specific command issued by God to the Israelites. One of the Ten Commandments specifically stated: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work” (Exodus 20:8-10). We do not all agree that disobedience to a direct command from God is harmless. Implied in Barker’s assessment of God’s punishment in this incident is the idea that Barker (and many skeptics like him) seems to think that he knows disobeying a “petty” command from God could not cause harm. In truth, there is no way that Barker could know what would have happened if this man’s disobedience was not punished as it was.
Often, disobedience to the commands of one who is in a position to know more about a particular situation could result in harm or death for multiplied thousands. For instance, why does the United States military insist on obedience to officers even in the minutest details? After all, “we all agree” that wearing a pair of boots that is not shined properly is a “harmless” activity, and folding a shirt incorrectly is no great crime. Why, then, does the military insist upon obedience even in the most minuscule ordinances? The simple truth is that laxity in obedience to small regulations breeds laxity in obedience to other ordinances. And if that laxity is not punished quickly and decisively, it has the potential to be contagious, and spread throughout the entire group or organization. And while inadvertent missteps in dress might not receive extremely harsh punishment, openly rebellious behavior to those of higher rank certainly would carry a significant punishment.
Let us examine how that might work. Suppose that the Commander in Chief of the U.S. military declared that only black boots are to be worn by the troops. Then suppose that one of the troops rebelliously decides he does not want to wear black boots, and thus dons a pair of bright-red boots. He marches with his fellow troops, and his commanding officers do nothing to punish him. His fellow troops see that his blatant indiscretion goes unpunished, so they decide to rebel and wear red boots. Soon, half the army is wearing red boots, a scenario that does not seem that “harmful.” When they are called to battle, however, the importance of the Commander’s regulations becomes evident. The enemy is dressed exactly like the U.S. military, except the enemy army wears red boots. The only way to distinguish between friend and foe happened to be the boot color, and due to the rebellious disobedience of the one man who was doing something “harmless,” thousands of U.S. troops are killed by friendly fire. A direct command from the Commander in Chief almost always houses an important purpose, about which many of those who are supposed to follow the command know little or nothing. Many times, only the Commander in Chief knows how harmful disobedience to the command can be.
In the same way, God issued a direct command. That command was blatantly disobeyed. How harmful could that one man’s disobedience have been? What if Joshua had seen this man’s disobedience go unpunished, and when God told him to march around Jericho thirteen times, Joshua decided that one time would be enough? Or what if the Israelites saw this man go unpunished, and thus decided that eating uncooked pork was not that big of a deal either? Or suppose that the Israelites had seen this man’s disobedience, decided they would break the other nine commandments, and therefore began to murder and commit adultery. The truth is, God is in a position to know much more about the situation than humans. He knew exactly what would have happened if this man’s disobedience was not punished.
Foreseeing the validity of this reasoning, Dan Barker conceded that punishment might be necessary, but claimed that the death penalty was too harsh. Says who? Suppose this man’s disobedience, if not punished with death, would have resulted in the moral collapse of the entire Israelite nation? Is there anyway Dan Barker could know that such would not be the case. Or suppose that this man’s disobedience to a direct command from God, if not punished by the death penalty, would have caused the Israelites to neglect sanitation laws instituted by God, bringing in a plague that killed thousands. What penalty would be appropriate for a man who was responsible for the death of thousands? In truth, only God could know what would have happened if this man’s disobedience had gone unpunished, and only God could have known what would have happened if that punishment was not the death penalty. When Dan Barker and other skeptics demand that God’s punishment in this (or other) cases is too harsh, they do so without reference to any objective, moral standard. Their sole defense is a wave of the hand and a “we all feel” statement that is designed to draw in their readers emotionally.
The Bible says that God knows “all things” (1 John 3:20). Since that is the case, only God can truly determine what is harmful and what is not harmful, and only God has the prerogative of determining the proper punishment for disobedience. Today, we no longer are under Old Testament laws concerning the Sabbath, but we are under the New Testament laws established by Jesus. In comparing disobedience to the two laws, the writer of Hebrews concluded:
Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace (10:28-29)?
Disobedience to God is a serious offense. It often is the case that those who are the most disobedient to His commandments are the ones who attempt to minimize the importance of obedience.
Barker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith In Faith—From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI: Freedom from Religion Foundation).
Does Mary Intercede for Christians?
It has been argued that “Mary is the creature closest to God. Moreover, while Christ is the mediator of all grace between God and creation, Mary is the mediator of all grace between Christ and humanity. Consequently, Mary is a powerful intercessor for all who turn to her” (see Zoltan, 1994, emp. added). The Bible clearly teaches that Mary is not Deity and should not be worshipped as such (see Pinedo, 2009). If she is not Deity, is she the closest human being to Deity? Does she play an active role in heaven, interceding for individual Christians? Does she make intercession for us in prayer or have an effect on our salvation?
MARY IS NO CLOSER TO GOD THAN ANY OTHER PERSON, PAST OR PRESENT.
When referring to Deity, the Bible mentions only the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19; cf. Matthew 3:16-17; John 10:30; 17:21; Acts 5:3-4). Mary is never mentioned in that context. Further, the heaven where God and His angels reside (Deuteronomy 10:14; 26:15; 1 Kings 8:27,30) is not yet inhabited by human beings. Jesus said: “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man” (John 3:13, emp. added). These words represent the truth about all the people who have left this world (including Mary). No one is in heaven because heaven is reserved for all faithful servants of God since time began (cf. John 14:1-3). Not until after the Second Coming of Christ and the final Judgment will it become home for the faithful, both living and dead (Matthew 25:31-46;
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
The idea that Mary occupies a special place in heaven, close to the Son, is a tradition. It shows a lack of understanding concerning biblical teachings on the afterlife. In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus explained that the dead (saved and lost) go to a place called “hades” (16:23, Hebrew sheol)—a spiritual waiting place that separates the consolation of the righteous (referred to as “paradise,” cf. Luke 23:43) from the torment of the wicked. In hades, the righteous begin to taste part of the joy that awaits them in eternity, while the wicked begin to taste part of the suffering that awaits them. Hades is not the dwelling place of God; God dwells in heaven. Mary, along with Abraham and other faithful servants from the past, is waiting in hades until its dead are delivered up, when the Lord returns to judge each man and woman according to his or her works (Revelation 20:13). In this spiritual realm that precedes heaven, there is nothing that those who are there can do for those who are here (Luke 16:27-31).
THE GIFT OF INTERCESSION WAS NOT GIVEN TO MARY.
Catholics have given the title of “Intercessor for the Saints” to Mary, although nowhere in the Bible is it applied to her. “Intercession” means “seeking the presence and hearing of God on behalf of others” (Vine, 1966, 2:267). There are only two areas in which Christians need intercession: salvation and prayers. If Mary is now, or ever has been, involved as “Intercessor for the Saints,” there should be ample evidence in Scripture.
Concerning salvation, the apostle Peter clearly stated that “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NASB). Of course, he was referring to Jesus Christ. Paul wrote: “[T]here is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). The Hebrews writer added: “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He [Jesus] always lives to make intercession for them” (7:25). Jesus is the one and only Mediator (Intercessor) between God and Man, and He lives to continually intercede for those who come to God.
But what about prayer? Does Mary intercede in the prayers of Christians? No, she does not. This intercession also belongs to Jesus. When teaching His disciples to pray to the Father (Matthew 6:9), Jesus did not teach them to pray to (or through) Mary. And yet, Catholicism created a prayer—the “Hail Mary”—to include the words “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death.” In John 14:13-14, Jesus declared: “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (cf. John 16:24). Jesus is the only One Who can mediate or intercede in our prayers, since “[a]ll things that the Father has are [His]” (John 16:15). If all things that the Father has are the Son’s, then what is left for Mary?
The prerogative of intercession supposedly given to Mary also is argued from the fact that she “interceded” before Jesus on behalf of a family at a wedding in Cana because the wine was running out during the celebration (John 2:2-3). This simple, solitary, tiny thread of argumentation, lost in a loom of confusion, has been misused extensively by the supporters of Marianism. By going to Jesus with a request for help, Mary was not intervening on behalf of anyone’s spiritual needs; she only reported the situation to Jesus. Moreover, consider Jesus’ response: “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?” (John 2:4). With these words, He emphasized that Mary’s concerns did not dictate His actions. Whatever He did in Cana that day would be according to God’s will, not because of human or motherlyinfluences or desires.
If the situation recorded in John chapter two establishes Mary as the “Intercessor of the Saints,” what should we conclude from Matthew 8:5-13 and other passages that tell of similar circumstances? In Matthew chapter eight, a centurion “interceded” before Jesus for his servant who was in bed, paralyzed, and greatly tormented. Seeing the centurion’s faith, Jesus performed a miracle and cured the sick servant. Should we consider this centurion as the “Intercessor for the Paralytics, the Sick, and the Tormented”? Should any paralytic, or anyone suffering from physical or mental illness, pray to this man of great faith, asking him to intercede with God on their behalf? [The Bible further condemns the act of invoking the dead (cf. Deuteronomy 18:10-13; 1 Chronicles 10:13-14; Isaiah 8:19).] Neither this centurion, nor Abraham, nor Mary, nor anyone else—living or dead—can intercede before the throne of God in favor of the faithful Christian, except Jesus Christ Himself.
MARY, LIKE ALL MEN AND WOMEN, NEEDED INTERCESSION.
In Luke 1:47, Mary raised her voice and declared: “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (emp. added). If she had a Savior, then she needed salvation. And, if she needed salvation, then she also needed the only Intercessor of salvation—Jesus Christ (Hebrews 7:25). Therefore, Mary’s condition was no different from every human being before or after her. She sinned (Romans 3:23), and she needed the only Intercessor who could make peace between her and God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Colossians 1:20). Just as Jesus “interceded” on behalf of Mary before He died to make sure her physical needs were met (John 19:26-27), He interceded on her behalf to make sure her spiritual needs were met. Mary cannot intercede for any Christian since she, herself, needed intercession.
Finally, although Christians are commanded to pray for one another (1 Thessalonians 5:25; Hebrews 13:18; James 5:16), Jesus is our only Mediator in prayer. Through Him our prayers are answered.
Pinedo, Moisés (2009), “Is Mary the Mother of God?” [On-line], URL:http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/240077.
Vine, W.E. (1966), An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell).
Zoltan, Abraham (1994), “A Detailed Guide to Our Lady’s Rosary,” [On-line], URL:http://www.blessedtrinityorlando.org/rosary.html.
Everywhere you turn, there are people who claim to have truth. We are surrounded by hundreds of religious denominations and doctrines. Does truth exist, and if so, then where can it be found? Who can you trust? Who will you believe? Your parents? Your pastors or preacher? Who is the authority to whom we can turn? Or, does such an authority even exist?
The Solution During Jeremiah's Time
The Jewish people during the time of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah faced a similar problem. People had long believed the teaching and traditions of men, their peers and equals. If we face the same problem today, then surely the inspired answer that God gave to the prophet Jeremiah will also be applicable to us.
"Thus says the Lord: 'Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls'" Jeremiah 6:16
The new ways that man has invented are not God's way. If we are searching to find God's truth, then we must go back, beyond the point of contamination, to the source. The good way is the first and original way, given by God.
The Solution During Jesus' Time
Unfortunately, this was not the only time in history that people become lost to the "good way". After hundreds of years of prophetic silence, the Jews during Jesus time had also established the traditions and teachings of men as the authority for truth. Hear the words of Jesus when He was accused of violating these human-ordained traditions:
"He answered and said to them, 'Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? … You have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you saying:"These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, and in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men."'When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them ... 'Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind, and if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.'" Matthew 15:3-14.
Why was Jesus so hard on these people? Who were these people that He rebuked so strongly in front of the multitudes? Read verse 1 of the same chapter.
"Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, ..." Matthew 15:1
It was the Pharisees and scribes who were supposed to be the religious leaders that received this rebuke. Jesus' rebuke was harsh because they had not only neglected their duty, but had also set up their opinions and traditions above God's Word. Thus, they were causing not only their own downfall, but also the downfall of others who had put their trust in the teachings of men rather than God. These leaders' jealousy and prejudice prevented them from recognizing the fulfillment of the law that they had proclaimed to teach and exalt.
Who is the authority? To whom should we listen? Hear the words of the apostle Peter:
"Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." John 6:68
The Solution During Our Time
So, who are we? We are a group of people from all races, all ages, all classes, and all descents who believe that these same answers apply to the same problem that exists today. We are trying to find the "old paths, the good way". We are trying to follow the commandments of God, seeking to remove the traditions of men.
Therefore, we turn to Jesus Christ, who was God in the flesh (John 1:1-14). He alone is the authority. In addition, we adhere to words of his ambassadors, the apostles and prophets, who spoke word-for-word the message which was given them by Christ through the Holy Spirit (John 14:26: 15:13; I Corinthians 2:10-16). Consequently, we make our goal according to the words of Jesus' apostle, Peter:
"If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen" I Peter 4:11
Therefore, we only speak and act where the Bible has taught. Are we perfect in this? Have we finished? Are we the experts? Obviously not, "for we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), "for we all stumble in many things" (James 3:2), and finally, "if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (I John 1:8). Therefore, we confess our sins and God's authority in an effort to do God's will in God's way. Only then will the glory go to God (Matthew 5:16) and will we realize who we truly are - students in search of truth.