Archive for February, 2008

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Implications of the Bible as taught by Jesus

February 28, 2008

“And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” (Matthew 22:31-32, also Mark 12:24-27).

Jesus is confronting those who did not believe that there was resurrection. More than that, they limited their recognition of God’s word to the first five books of our Christian Bible. Jesus uses God’s word, even the part they recognize, and proves the resurrection. But it’s not how we might do it now. It’s not an explicit teaching. Jesus does not rely on 1 Corinthians 15 or the like. Jesus uses the present tense of the verb to show that there is a resurrection from the dead.

In John 10:34-38 a similar situation comes up. It reads, “Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your Law, “I said, you are gods”? If He called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of Him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, “You are blaspheming,” because I said, “I am the Son of God”? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.'”

Jesus is drawing from Psalm 82 where God confronts the judges of Israel who received God’s word in order to judge His people. God calls these judges “gods” because the word of God was given to them. These judges were not following the law though. Jesus draws a contrast between Himself and the judges. God calls the disobedient judges “gods”, so why would it be wrong for Jesus to be the “Son of God” when He is entirely obedient to God’s word? Jesus uses Psalm 82 as a point to jump off from to prove that He is not sinning but is, in fact, justified by His obedience to God’s word when He says “I am the Son of God”.

I bring these to your attention as examples of why we must pay attention to even the smallest details of the Bible. As Jesus shows, every part, even the implications, of the Bible are truly inspired by God. We need to press into our study of God’s word to unearth all that we can so that we might surely know “the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom [He has] sent” (John 17:3).

You may with to look into more quotes of the Old Testament by the New Testament here. The book Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson (Baker Academic, 2007) has also been recommended to me for this subject. Maybe you can let me borrow it when you’re done reading it :)

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Thoughts on forgiveness, 2

February 22, 2008

After a long time, I’ve made some time to post a little more on forgiveness. The previous thought is here.

Part of the last post was how we should forgive. This time, should our forgiveness be universal or only for those who repent?

The New Testament teaches in many places on forgiveness. Our job, concerning this question, is to look at each one and determine which of the two options (or neither) is Biblically obedient to God. Now, of course, I do not have the room to review each one here. I will try to review several, hopefully representing both sides.

In Matthew 18:21-35 is our first example. Jesus has just finished His teaching on church discipline – what happens if your brother sins against you. Peter asks the question, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” (v.21). Jesus responds that Peter should forgive many more times, endlessly even. He tells the parable where the king settles accounts with his slaves. In the end Jesus points out that God has forgiven us much more than any other person could owe us so we should take this example and forgive others. In each instance the forgiveness is given to someone who asks for it.

In Luke 17:3-4 we find deeper insight,

Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Jesus uses the word “and” here very effectively. Let’s look at both of them. In the first, our brother sins against us, we rebuke “and if he repents”. The second use is “and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent'”. There is a requirement before forgiveness. The “if… then” is only applied for those who repent. There is no obligation to our brothers who sin knowingly and do not repent. Repentance is necessary. We agree that repentance is necessary in salvation, to be reconciled with God. Why would it be different between us and our neighbors?

In Matthew 6:12-14 and Luke 11:4 we are told to forgive during our prayers. Some may consider these verses as examples of times we forgive the offenses of others despite their repentance. There are at least two responses to that argument: 1) these are more general commands, assuming repentance, passages like Luke 17:3-4, above, clarify; 2) this forgiveness tells of what your common practice is for those who come to you in repentance, you forgive (Matthew 6:12). We can see a progression in the way we forgive: the person repents; we forgive; we approach God in the our daily prayers with confidence that He will forgive us when we ask because we have forgiven those who ask it of us.

In Mark 11:25 and Luke 23:34 requests for forgiveness are made in prayer. In Mark, Jesus instructs us to forgive while we pray, “forgive, if you have anything against anyone”. This verse certainly seems different than waiting until someone repents to forgive them. How, then, can we address this verse?

As with all teaching, the answer is found at the cross. For Mark 11:25 we find our answer quite literally at the cross. While on the cross Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). In accord with the command in Mark, Jesus prays that the Father forgive those that are crucifying Him. This is often used to refute withholding forgiveness until repentance is sought. But if this were not the case, if Jesus was not requiring the repentance of those people but forgiving their sins then all those who crucified Him would not be guilty, which Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 and 3 denies. So what can we say about Jesus’ prayer here and His command in Mark 11:25?

These prayers are made when those who are in offense are not aware of their sin. In Mark all we know is that the person praying has something against another person. The illustration in Jesus’ own life shows us that the crowd thought they were doing God’s will (John 16:2). The guards were doing as they were told with who they were told was a criminal. The chief priests, not to excuse them in any way, thought they were securing their inheritance (Matthew 21:33-41, esp. v. 38, John 11:48). Jesus prays because He wants the Father to forgive all those that repent when/if they learn of their sin.

We are to do the same. When someone sins against us but does not know of their sin, we should pray that the Father will forgive them. But we are not able to shirk our duty to confront our brothers when they sin against us (Matthew 18:15). Instead, if we are unable to confront the person, or if the person is unsaved, etc. then we are to appeal to God that He forgive them. The majority of cases are much more clear. We wait expectantly, hopefully and actively (Matthew 18:15-17) for the person to repent then we wholeheartedly forgive.

Still to come, how do we relate those who do not seek forgiveness?

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Our leaders and our critiques

February 13, 2008

A few weeks ago I came across a calendar of “Bush-isms”. They are quotes from President Bush. There is a definite slanted opinion in their compilation, highly critical.

I also see bumper stickers, hear news stories and read articles that insult and degrade our various leaders. Even among themselves they run smear campaigns during election years such as this one. I find it highly objectionable.

Should we as Christians participate in these activities? Should we insult, critique, mock and otherwise drag down our leaders or purchase calendars of “Bush-isms”?

The answer, of course, is no. Ephesians 5:4 reads, “and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks”.

As addressed in many places in the Bible, we must be extremely careful with our speech, written or spoken. Even “silly talk” and “coarse jesting” (not all jesting) are forbidden.

And that is the general direction, direction for our treatment of all people. Should it differ for leaders?

Actually, it should. But not in liberty – we must guard our speech even more concerning our leaders. The origin of this understanding comes from Exodus 22:28, “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people”.

As a rule, most people object due to the Old Testament context. Although people are not yet marrying animals (Exodus 22:19), people still use the Old Testament as a place to pick and choose based on their own feelings which commands they obey.

Both Jesus and Paul show their obedience to the command against cursing our leaders. In John 18:19-23 Jesus is confronted with the accusation of answering the high priest improperly:

The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?”

No witness is given as to any wrong Jesus said in His reply. The high priest would have loved if He said something wrong. They were looking for anything with which they could charge Him.

After Jesus’ glorification Paul recognizes the same command in Acts 23:5. Paul has just been struck at the command of the high priest. Paul answers back, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” (v.3). Even though Paul correctly judges the situation, when he is rebuked he replies, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people'”.

We can see that our actions, especially our words, must be kept in check when confronting or questioning our leaders. The United States is founded on an important foundation where leaders can be confronted and questioned. But the Bible tells us that our leaders should not be the object of our “course jesting” or our “curse”s or “reviling”s.