Thursday, May 31, 2012

Atonement - God's work of salvation in the New Testament

Hebrews 2:17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. (NIV)

We looked in an earlier blog at the concept of Atonement that is spelled out in Leviticus 16&17.  Today we want to consider how the New Testament picks upon this theme developed in Leviticus and communicates the Act and Accomplishment of the Actor of The atoning work of the cross - the Lord Jesus Christ.

The chapters which most closely correspond to what we see in Leviticus 16 & 17 are chapters 9 and 10 of the book of Hebrews.  For sake of space I will confine today's blog to what we read in Hebrews 9.  The vast majority of Hebrews 9 uses the material of The Day of Atonement that we've looked at in Leviticus 16 and 17.  Much like that blog, we aim here to understand God's work of salvation: the atonement as seen in its Actor, Act and Accomplishment.  Today we will be viewing this question from the fulfillment found in the New Testament, and more specifically Hebrews 9.

Atonements Actor = The Lord Jesus Christ Hebrews 9:1-11
Hebrews 9:8-10 records - The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. 9This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. 10They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order

From this text in Hebrews 9 we understand the appropriateness of drawing parallels and connections between the "pictures and shadows" about atonement in Levitcus to the "substance and fulfillment" of the atonement in the Actor of it - Jesus Christ.  In Hebrews 9:11, 25 and 28 we discover that Christ came as High Priest to appear on our behalf in the Most Holy place in Heaven - paralleling the work of the High Priest in Leviticus.  Furthermore, just as the scapegoat bore away the sins of the people outside the camp of Israel, Christ too was crucified "outside the city" of Jerusalem on the cross. (Hebrews 13)

Act of atonement = The Cross  Hebrews 9:12-14
In Hebrews 9:12-14 we read of the central act of atonement - the cross: He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. 13The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,c so that we may serve the living God!

The references to "bulls and goats" and "blood" all point back to the system portrayed in Leviticus 16 and 17.  In Hebrews 9:14 the writer points us beyond that picture to its fulfillment, noting "how much more, then, will the blood of Christ."  Just as there was "life in the blood" in Leviticus, moreso is there to be found the gift of Eternal life by faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  Unlike that Old Testament system, only the blood of Christ could "cleanse the conscience".  The central idea of "cleansing, making one ready for reconciled fellowship with God", a key idea in the Old Testament pictures of atonement, would be the launching point for the greater accomplishments of atonement done by Jesus Christ.

Accomplishment of atonement = 5 Eternal accomplishments 9:15-28
So far we have viewed the Actor of Atonement, Jesus Christ and His Act of atonement, the cross, in Hebrews 9:12-14.  Overwhelmingly, the New Testament teaching on the atonement spends most of its space unfolding what it was that was accomplished.  In addition to the cleansing of the conscience, Hebrews 9 spells out what was accomplished:
Hebrews 9:15 Eternal riches for the believer
Hebrews 9:22 Eternal reconciliation for the believer
Hebrews 9:24 Eternal representation for the believer
Hebrews 9:26 Eternal removal of the guilt of sin for the believer
Hebrews 9:28 Eternal refuge from wrath from the believer

If space permitted, we would treat each of these.  The point being the Old Testament system provides us with the springboard of concepts needed to grab hold of all that Christ came to do in God's saving work - the atonement.  The significance of that work far out performed its protoype and picture, to the point that what Christ did is unparalleled and thankfully, can never be reduplicated again. (Hebrews 9:26)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Atonement: God's Saving work, pictured in the Old Testament

Leviticus 17:11 ‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.’

The importance and meaning of the term "atonement"
The Book of Leviticus is valuable to the Christian because of two towering doctrines that are taught throughout the Old and New Testaments: The Holiness of God and The Atonement.  Concerning that second idea, atonement is simply defined as an umbrella term for God's saving work.  Some teachers have described atonement in this way: "At-one-ment".  In other words, God's saving work whereby He makes the sinner to be "At-one" with Himself. 

The term atonement occurs some 16 times in Leviticus 16 and 17.  Without the concept of "atonement" taken from these chapters, the New Testament presentation of Christ's work of salvation would be empty.  Passages such as Romans 3:25, Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:10 use the term "atonement" (NIV) or the older more technical term "propitiation" (NKJV, KJV, NASB).  For our purposes today we will for now stick to the term "atonement".

Three ways to better grasp and communicate the atonement
The atonement, as presented in Old Testament books like Leviticus, pictures for us the ultimate atonement accomplished by Jesus Christ in the New Testament.  In order to better grasp what we're referring to, I will give three headings: The Actor(s) of atonement, the act of atonement and the accomplishment of atonement.  Today's blog will explore these three headings as they unfold in Leviticus 16 and 17.

The Actor(s) of atonement in the Old Testament 16:1-10
The context of Leviticus 16 and 17 is mainly concerned with the Jewish Festival of the Day of atonement - whereby the High Priest was to perform a series of rituals cleansing both the tabernacle system and the people. (Leviticus 16:29-30).  This act of ritually cleansing the people and the sacrifical system is what Leviticus refers to as "atoning" or "atonement".  Without the atoning work, the people's sins and the uncleanliness of the tabernacle resulting from contact with the people would ever be before God.  In order to avoid the outpouring of judgment, atonement or cleansing had to be made.  All of this of course foreshadows the once and for all atoning work of Jesus Christ. 

But in the course of what we see recorded in Leviticus16:1-10, we see the following actor(s) in the atoning sequence of Leviticus 16:
1. The High Priest
2. The Bull
3. The ram
4. Two goats, one sacrificed and one preserved to be the scape goat

The act of atonement - Leviticus 16:11-15
Leviticus 17:11 records - ‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.’  As the High Priest performed his function on behalf of the people, he would be dressed in pure white linen - symbolic of the righteousness of God.  He would sacrifice a bull, and then a ram.  Then he would take two goats and bring them before the people.  Lots would be cast and one of the goats would be ritually slaughtered, with the other one being spared.  The blood of the bull and goat would be mingled and sprinkled before the Most Holy Place and upon the Mercy Seat (the lid on the Ark of the Covenant). 

All of this activity, along with other many details, communicate the saga of what God required for He and the people to remain in fellowship - the shedding and application of blood.  The other goat, called the "scape goat", would then be prayed over by the priest confessing the sins of the people.  That goat would then be driven into the wilderness with the people chanting: "Away with the sin-bearer, away with the sin-bearer".  This is but a sample of the details of the day of atonement - all designed to picture in one way or another the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

The chief aim of the atoning work was to cleanse the tabernacle, the people and the sacrificial system so that God and the people could be reconciled and enjoy fellowship for another year.  All of this of course would have to be repeated yet again the following year.

The accomplishment of atonement - Leviticus 16:16-34
The actors of atonement were the High Priest and various sacrifical animals and the act of atonement was the shedding and sprinkling of blood.  The question is: what did all of this complicated ritual accomplish?  According to Leviticus 16:19 and 16:34, the sins of all the people of Israel were cleansed for another year.  As wonderful as all this was, the Old Covenant picture of atonement paled in comparison to what the New Testament would reveal. 

Every Jew living in the Old Testament always had in the back of their mind: 'how long until we never again have to offer another sacrifice?"  According to Leviticus, these rituals were to be a "Perpetual Memorial" in Israel.  God's intent was to provide the basis whereby "Once-and-for-all" atonement would be made available to all who by grace through faith believe on Him.  However, as we'll see in later posts, this "Divine intention" was not going to be accomplished through the system spelled out in Leviticus.  That intention would be fulfilled in the Actor, Act and Accomplishment of Jesus Christ. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Atonement: God's Act of Salvation

Romans 3:25-26 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (NIV)

The Atonement: God's Work of Salvation
In several New Testament passages we find reference to the term "atonement" (NIV) or what is also translated in older versions "propitiation".  To "propitiate" or "atone" refers to the overall work of salvation wherein the grounds for removal of God's wrath and the guilt of sin is established.  That "grounds" of course in reference to the Actor, Jesus Christ, Acting out the atonement on the cross and thus accomplishing salvation. 

Atonement is an umbrella term that is used to describe the entire and complete work of Jesus Christ.  Today I want to paint with a broad brush by giving three headings by which we can both understand and explain the atonement to other people.  Those three headings are:

1. The Actor of Atonement: The Lord Jesus Christ
2. The Act of Atonement: The Cross
3. The Accomplishment of Atonement: Both its effects and application to all who by grace through faith believe on both the Actor and the accomplishment. 

So with those three headings: Act, Actor and Accomplishment, let me show you how the New Testament is built around this term "atonement".

The Gospels reveal the Actor and Act of Atonement
The Actor of Atonement is Jesus Christ
The 89 chapters of the Four Gospels aim to portray the Actor of Atonement: The Lord Jesus Christ.  Matthew presents Jesus as the King who came to save His people.  Mark describes Him as the Suffering Servant coming to give His life a ransom for many.  Luke depicts Jesus as the perfect man who shows us who God is and what man ought to be.  John unveils the truth of God in human flesh, The Word, who came to provide eternal life to those who by grace through faith believe on Him.

The Act of Atonement is the Cross
If we were to take all of the material of the four Gospels together, we would have over 30% of it devoted to Christ's crucifixion, the 40 day period following His resurrection from the dead and His ascension. 
The events of Jesus birth (Matthew 1-3; Luke 1-2) and life and ministry (Matthew 4-26; Mark 1-14; Luke 4-22; John 1-18) occupy 33 years of time.  35 miracles, at least 5 full length sermons and some 60 or so parables all point to the time in which Jesus Christ would be crucified.

All four Gospels record the crucifixion.  We're not told its full meaning (although 109 Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled and can be used to understand its purpose).  The primary purpose of the Gospels is to record the "event" or the "act of atonement".  Four Gospels are required to depict the Act and Actor of atonement, however it will take Acts, 21 New Testament letters and Revelation to unfold what was accomplished at the cross.

Acts, The Epistles and Revelation unfold what was accomplished in the Atonement
Remember those headings: Actor, Act and Accomplishment.  The Gospels cover the first two components of the atonement, however it is here in Book of Acts. The Epistles and Revelation where we see the unfolding of the subject.

The Book of Acts: Preaching about the Atonement
The Book of Acts is full of 16 sermons preached by the Apostles (and Stephen in Acts 7) on explaining what took place on the cross.  Overwhelmingly they center on His resurrection from the dead as proof that the cross worked, that Jesus was both perfect man and fully God and that what He accomplished satisfied God.  Acts connects the life of the church to what Jesus accomplished on the cross.  However in terms of what actually took place, thats why the New Testament includes the Epistles.

The Epistles or New Testament Letters: Explaining the Atonement
Some 130 places in Paul's 13 letters (Romans to Philemon) alone contain references to the cross.  The other Epistles, referred to as the General Epistles (Hebrews - Jude) each draw their material from what was accomplished on the cross.  Just as an example, the main themes of the General Epistles  reveals what Jesus accomplished in His work of salvation:
1. Hebrews = Supreme Representation of the believer in salvation
2. James = Saving Faith results in good works
3. 1 Peter = Redemption, or purchased from the kingdom of darkness to now live in the Kingdom of Christ
4. 2 Peter = Power for living the Christian life until Christ's return
5. 1 John = Certainties of assurance of salvation
6. 2 & 3 John = Spiritual health
7. Jude = The cross provided the means for enduring in our salvation and rejecting error

Mind you these are thumbnail sketches, but the point is that it takes over 2/3 of the New Testament to unfold what took place in those 6 hours in which Jesus Christ was Acting out atonement.

Revelation: Placing the Accomplishments of the Actor and Act of atonement as basis for worship and completion of God's purposes
What would had happened if Jesus Christ had not come to provide atonement?  There would be no guarantee that God's purposes for history would come to pass, nor would the promises of God be fulfilled.  In Revelation 4&5 and 21-22, mention is made of the accomplishment of atonement.  All who by grace through faith believed on Him are described worshipping Him who is "worthy", since He gave His life for them. 

There is no doubt that what Jesus accomplished in His 1st coming - atonement, provides the basis for what He will accomplish when He comes back again - adoration of His Grace among His saints and affirming His Justice in the judgment of the world and all those who rejected the accomplishment of the atonement. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Introduction to the atonement

1 John 2:2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

For the next few days I want us to begin exploring a major concept in the Bible: "atonement". A helpful definition of this term can be seen in the word itself: At - One - Ment. That is, it is God's saving work whereby He provides the grounds for the sinner to be At-One with Him. Other meanings of this word include the ideas of removal of God's wrath (called by Bible teachers "propitiation") and removal of the sinner's guilt before God (called "expiation"). 

For now we will restrict ourselves to the term "atonement", since it covers so much ground and is a summary word for all that was accomplished and effected by Christ's life and work on the cross (chiefly His crucifixion). 

In the Old Testament, the idea of cleansing away of sinful guilt was of chief importance in the minds of the Old Testament writers. One verse that uses the Hebrew word for cleansing illustrates perfectly the biblical picture of the atonement:

Picturing the atonement from Job

Job 37:21-22 “Now men do not see the light which is bright in the skies; But the wind has passed and cleared them. “Out of the north comes golden splendor; Around God is awesome majesty."

Notice how we see a picture of the sinner:
1. Lost in darkness. Picture men who are in darkness, unable to see the light. Ephesians 2:1-2 and 2 Corinthians 4:1-4 characterizes unbelieving man like the men here in Job 37:21.

2. Light of God's Glory. The light is in the sky, but inaccessible and unseeable. The clouds of judgment veil the face of God. Unbelieving man faces judgment due to His rejection of Holy God. (Romans 1:18-31; John 3:17-19)

3. The Cleansing away of darkness. This is what takes place when the atonement is applied to the believer by grace through faith. The darkness of judgment is swept away by the blood, and behold the sinner is declared a saint and can now walk under an open heaven with God. (1 John 1:6-9)

4. The Glory of God. This is what the sinner had fallen short of, but now the glory of God is central. What was formerly frightening is now delightful. Atonement reconciles us to the majesty of God. The blood cleanses, reconciles and restores. 

May you dear reader be blessed as you contemplate the atoning work of Christ.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Lord: the Believer's Master, Father, Spouse

Genesis 15:1-2 After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying,  “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” 2Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”

We once again turn our attention to this amazing conversation between Abram and God in Genesis 15.  God has been addressed by Abram as "Lord", which in the Hebrew is Adonai.  This name has among its meanings the idea of "Master".  As one begins to dig deeper into the meaning of this term, one finds a treasure trove of thoughts that bring out the relationship between Abram and the God of scripture.  The name "Adonai" is also used in the Bible in the realm of human relationships.  I want to show you three ways in which this name is used, and then show how we can understand better God as "Adonai".

1. To be a "Lord" or "Adonai" is to be a Master over slaves.
In the biblical periods of the Old and Testament, slaves and their masters (i.e lords) were common practice.  Unlike the horrible practice of slavery practice in America during the nineteenth century, slaves in the Old and New Testaments had the possibilities of advancement, and if so chosen, their masters would even adopt them as members of the family.  Of course there were exceptions, yet if the master was good, generally the slave could expect to have a quality of life based upon the character of the master.

In Genesis 24:12, we see Abraham's chief slave praying to the LORD: "He said, “O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show lovingkindness to my master Abraham."  This slave recognized his owner as "master", which in the Hebrew is the term "Adonai". 

2. To be a "Lord" or "Adonai" also referred to Fathers and sons
We see instances of offspring referring to their fathers as "lord" or "Adonai".  Genesis 31:35 records the words of Rachael to her father Laban: She said to her father, “Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is upon me.” So he searched but did not find the household idols.  Often when we see this use, it is out of respect.  Rachael wanted to communicate to her father that even though she was not going to move, she still regarded Him as her superior.

3. To be a "Lord" or "Adonai" also referred to Husbands and Wives
In Genesis 18:12, Sarah says these words about Abraham: "Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”  1 Peter 3:6 comments on this text with these words: "just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear."

Many wives may wonder why the biblical practice was to refer to one's husband as a "lord"?  From studies done in other languages similar to Hebrew, we have discovered that this manner of speaking was a term of respect and affection for the husband.  It was not to be taken as him being "the master" as in a slave/master relationship, but rather recognition of his care, protection and God-given leadership in the home. 

Considering Abram's use of "Adonai" or "Lord" and our own relationship to "The Lord"
In considering the three above uses of "Adonai" (Lord), and how they functioned in the realm of human relationships, we can grasp why God revealed Himself to Abram and does so to us.  I don't doubt Abram's use of this term was primarily centered around his viewing himself as the slave and Yahweh as His Lord. 

But I wonder too if in the context of what we know about Abraham's life from Genesis 12-25 that we could see Abram as the son and God as the Father?  Think about it.  The Lord took Abram out to view the night sky.  He revealed to Him more details about His purposes for Him.  Jesus commments in John 15:15 "“No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you."

Truly then what we're seeing is The Heavenly Father, Adonai, the Lord, speaking to his son by faith, Abram.  We are seeing the Master of all things relating to His slave, who by nature is a son. 

But then in the rest of God's revelation to Abram we can make one final observation: Abram was shown by the Lord the destiny of His physical descendants.  He was shown how they would be in bondage in Egypt.  He also revealed How He was going to rescue them from that bondage.  Isaiah 54:5 states: “For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the LORD of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth."  Thus in the prophetic portion of Abram's dream, God is relating to His people as a Husband to His wife. 

Adonai or The Lord is truly the believer's Master, who Leads; the Father, who communicates and the Spouse, who loves. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Master of all things

Genesis 15:1-2 After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” 2 Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”

Yesterday we considered the names "LORD" (referring to God's personally revealed name and Deity as Yahweh or Jehovah, The I AM) and "Lord" (referring to His authority as Master or 'Adonai')  Today we want to explore a little bit of just how much rule does God excercise as "Lord".  In today's blog we are going to consider how God is Adonai or "Lord of all things".

Now when we say God is Lord of all things, what is it that He rules?  Four areas of mentioned in Genesis 15 that aid us in seeing how vast the power of the Lord truly is.

1. The Lord or "Adonai" rules in Providence Genesis 15:1-5
God's Providence is His ruling reign.  Abram was asking the Lord how it was He was going to bring about the promised heir from his bloodline.  The Lord reveals to Abram that it is not going to be the one he's thinking - Eliezer.  Then the Lord does something incredible - he takes Abram to view the outside sky.  He shows Him just how big His promise is going to be fulfilled to Abram.  Furthermore, He is reminding Abram of how vast His power is. 

In Providence, the Lord guides all events, people and nations for His intended purposes.  As much as this promise can include the nation of Israel that would come from Abraham, and later on Isaac and Jacob - God's word is in ultimate reference to Jesus Christ.  The Lord's providential rule will utilize all of history, humanity and nations.  One nation, Israel, would be the means by which the Lord providentially brings about the coming of this ultimate descendant - Jesus Christ. 

2. The Lord or "Adonai" rules in salvation Genesis 15:6-7
The Bible says in Genesis 15:6 that Abram believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.  That verse is quoted by the Apostle Paul to illustrate the central truth of justification by faith in salvation. (Romans 4:3)  Justification is God's judicial declaration of the sinner's innocence at the moment of saving faith.  We can think of justification in this way: "just-as-if-I-never-sinned".  All that Christ is and accomplished is credited to us the moment we by faith acknowledge Him as Savior and Lord by grace through faith.   The Lord reigns and rules in salvation.  He is the Author and finisher of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)   

3. The Lord or "Adonai" rules in Revelation Genesis 15:8-17
The Lord has Abram bring a series of animals to be prepared by Abram for an unusual covenant ceremony.  Abram is to take these animals and cut them from front to back into two opposing halves.  The idea of this covenant is that whomever walks through the halves is pledging not only His loyalty to the other, but that the failure to complete the covenant will result in a curse on the one making the covenant.  Quite literally, the one making the covenant is saying His fate will be the same as the animals if He fails to come through.  Since the Lord alone walks through the animals, and since He cannot die, we know that the covenant will be fulfilled.

This revelation has the Lord putting Abram into a deep sleep and revealing the destiny of his descendants all the way into their days in bondage in Egypt, some 400 years. (Genesis 15:13)  The Lord has the authority to bring to completion what He begins.  He not only calls His people, He redeems them and infallibly reveals through His Word His commitment to them.

4. The Lord or "Adonai" Rules in Prophecy Genesis 15:18-21
God promises in this last section of Genesis 15 that all of Abram's descendants will get the land.  Again even though we can include Israel (for God's plans for her will still be accomplished), the ultimate person in view is the Lord Jesus Christ.  He will rule and reign over the land and over the universe.  Prophecy as well as history is in view.  This is how much dominion the Lord has.  He is truly Master of all things. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Distinguishing between "LORD" & "Lord"

Genesis 15:1-2 1After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” 2Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”

The Difference between "LORD" and "Lord"

In our English Bibles, translators have done us a great favor.  If you will take notice in the text above, two words are given different colors to show you the subject of today's blog: "LORD" and "Lord".  What  is the difference? 

The one name spelled in all caps "LORD" refers to God's personal name: Jehovah or Yahweh, as it is in the original text.  Meanwhile the other name rendered by "Lord" is referring to the name of God in the original text that is pronounced "Adonai". 

When we are using the name "LORD", we are concerned with the identity and personal covenant commitment of the God of Scripture to His people.  When we use the second title "Lord", we are speaking of the authority that this God has over our lives and all things.  "LORD" is answering the question: "Who is God?"  "Lord" on the other hand answers the question: "What does God do?" 

The use of "LORD" and "Lord" in Old and New Testaments
Thankfully one does not have to know Old Testament Hebrew or New Testament Greek to know when the biblical authors are referring to Jehovah or Adonai.  English translators have taken great pains to make these distinctions for us.  In the King James for example, over 6,000 places mention the name "LORD" in both Old and New Testaments, whereas in over 300 places we find reference to the second title "Lord". 

Basic uses of "LORD" and "Lord" in the Old Testament
Moses states in Genesis 15:1 that "The LORD" (Yahweh) brought a word to Abram.  This is God in His personal dealings with the patriarch.  It is He revealing His unending Deity and personal revelation to Abraham. 

Abram then responds in Genesis 15:2 - "Abram said, "O Lord God, what will you give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?"  This is the first time we come across this different spelling of "Lord".  This reveals that Abram is calling God His Master (the root meaning of this name "Lord" or "Adonai") 

Why the text mentions both of these names
Abram is relating to God as both Personal and Powerful.  As the Personal God, He is Yahweh or LORD.  As noted author Henry Blackaby observes: "When people have encountered God, they know two things: They know its God and they know what He's said".  Moses is indicating that Abram knew Whom it was addressing Him, since this same God first called and spoke to Him back in Genesis 12.  He also knows that the promise of God is yet to be fulfilled - thus the reason for the name "LORD".

The second name "Lord" is used by Abram to indicate his submission to the will of His Master.  Though Abram was grappling with how the promise was going to come to pass, His use of "Lord" (Adonai, Master) indicates His willingness to be led. 

We know Abram had faith for Genesis 15:6 states - "Then He believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to Him as righteousness".  We know by the switching of spellings that Abram is believing God as both His Personal God "LORD", and that He will willing to follow Him from that point onward as His "Lord" or Master. 

Why these different spelled names matter to the Christian
To know God is the chief end of the Christian.  To know how God dealt with His people, and how they responded to what He reveals makes all the difference in our own knowledge of God.  We see from these two names that He is both the Personal God of Revelation, Unending in His Deity,  He is the one who Keeps His promises, He is Yahweh or "LORD". 

Then He also is the One who leads us.  He is the Shepherd, we are the sheep.  He is the Master, we are the slaves.  He is the Father, we are the sons.  He is "Lord", "Master", "Adonai".  As Yahweh we look to Him as the source of salvation and the goal of our worship and as Adonai we follow Him willingly and eagerly.  Both names capture the true essence of what it means to be a child of God in covenant with the God of Glory.    

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How to be effective for God

2 Samuel 23:1 Now these are the last words of David. David the son of Jesse declares, The man who was raised on high declares, The anointed of the God of Jacob, And the sweet psalmist of Israel,

Last words.  David, the greatest king of Israel in the Old Testament, writes what are his final written words in the Bible.  Throughout his life David made it a point to be a mighty man of God - which we explored yesterday.  Today as we consider David's final words in 2 Samuel 23, we aim to understand another aspect of his life as a man of God - namely how he was an effective man of God.  

How can we aim to be effective people of God in the 21st century?  Let me sketch out some thoughts for you from 2 Samuel 23 that demonstrate how David did it by the Lord's strength:

1. Identification with God. 2 Samuel 23:1

David identifies himself with three titles: "The man who was raised on high; the anointed of God and the sweet Psalmist of Israel".  Each of these titles respectively conveyed his strength, his approval by God and his affection from God.  He never identified himself apart from God's strength, approval and affection.

2. Influence others for God. 2 Samuel 23:2-3

2 Samuel 23:2-3 notes -   “The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, And His word was on my tongue. 3“The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spoke to me, ‘He who rules over men righteously, Who rules in the fear of God".  How was it that David operated as King?  He did it in the fear of the Lord.  He influenced others to the degree He was influenced by God.   God was His Rock.

3. Illuminating Walk with God. 2 Samuel 23:4

As David walked with God, his chief concern was to walk under an open heaven with God.  1 John 1:6-8 speaks about "walking in the light as He is in the light".  For the Christian, we walk as Jesus Himself walked. (1 John 2:6)  The Apostle John also writes in 1 John 4:17b "As Jesus Christ is, so are we in this world".  

At Jesus' baptism, the heavens parted and he began his public ministry under "an open heaven" fellowship with the Heavenly Father.  On the Mount of transfiguration in Matthew 17, the glory cloud of God came down where Jesus was on top of the mountain and declared to the three disciples with Him: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."  Then When Jesus ascended into heaven, He did so under an open heaven. 

Like Jesus, and like David, we too should make it our priority to walk under an open heaven, with fellowship with God as our chief priority.  This is how we are effective as people of God.  Then finally.....

4. Intention of Finishing well with God. 2 Samuel 23:5
David wrote: "Truly is not my house so with God?" This diagnostic question speaks to our spiritual condition - our Christian life - our "house".  How is your heart?  How is the estate of your spiritual house?  David has the intention of finishing well for God as indicated by the word "all" here in verse 5:

"Ordered all things, and secured"; "For all my salvation"; "and all my desire". 

David subsumed every nook and cranny of his life under the Sovereign Covenant that God had made with him almost 33 years prior in 2 Samuel 7:13-16.  From the get-go David desired to finish well for God.  Would we be a people who are effective for Jesus' sake.  May we...
1. Identify with God
2. Influence others for God
3. Have an illuminating walk with God
4. Intend to finish well for God. 

Defining Kingdom men (people)

1 Chronicles 11:10 Now these are the heads of the mighty men whom David had, who gave him strong support in his kingdom, together with all Israel, to make him king, according to the word of the LORD concerning Israel.

Over the past few days we have looked at what it means to be a might man (or woman) of God and an effective person for the Lord.  In today's blog we want to look at what it means to be a Kingdom man.  King David had a group of men who had come to serve him and support him in his rise as Israel's King.  Much of what we read of their efforts can apply directly to believers aiming to be about God's Kingdom buisness.

Concerning the contents of 1 Chronicles 11, and how they relate to God's Kingdom work, Matthew Henry notes:

"David reckoned his success as not from the mighty men that were with him, but from the Mighty God, Whose presence is all in all.  In strengthening him, they (David's mighty men) strengthened themselves and their own interests.  His (King David's) advancement was theirs.  We shall gain by what we do in our places for the support for the kingdom of the Son of David."

That last comment on the "kingdom of the Son of David" is of course in reference to the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ - who touching His humanity was descended from David. (please compare Romans 1:1-3)

So what does it take to be a man (or woman) of Christ's Kingdom?  
1. Strong Support for Christ's Kingdom
A Kingdom man will first and foremost be supportive of the Kingdom.  The Kingdom of God is the domain of His authority in believer's hearts, in the church and ulitmately over the whole world.  Clearly the Kingdom right now is primarily invisible, however the day will come when the Kingdom is more visible than invisible at Christ's second coming. 

God's Kingdom refers to the work He is doing calling people to Himself through Christ through the Gospel.  We read in 1 Chronicles 11:10 Now these are the heads of the mighty men whom David had, who gave him strong support in his kingdom, together with all Israel, to make him king, according to the word of the LORD concerning Israel. Jesus notes in Matthew 6:33 to "seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all of these things will be added unto you."

2. Stand their ground
Kingdom men not only support the work of the Kingdom (whether it be through their efforts, giving, time), but secondly in their resolve to take a stand for the Kingdom.  In 1 Chronicles 11:14 an episode is recounted where in Israel's history, enemies were stealing farmlands from God's people.  It was a time of war and some men rose up and stood their ground for the Kingdom of Israel.  We read in the text: "They took their stand in the midst of the plot and defended it, and struck down the Philistines; and the LORD saved them by a great victory."

Standing ground for Jesus' sake isn't easy.  Sometimes the very ones you have to stand against may very well be a friend or close associate. (As in the case of Paul confronting Peter in Galatians 2:11-21)  God's Kingdom must be established at all cost.  In your own life, are you standing the ground of your heart, guarding it against influences opposite of Christ?  Anyone who takes a stand for the Kingdom must be prepared to stand their ground.  (Ephesians 6:11-12)

3. Seek to please the Master
In 1 Chronicles 11:17-21 David had in times past craved some fresh water from the srpings of Bethelehem.  The men who were with him pushed past enemy lines, at the risk of their own life, to please their master.  They returned with the water, only to watch David pour it out on the ground!

Now when I have read this text, I think to myself: "good grief David, could you had not at least took a sip and then poured it out on the ground?"  But note what David said in 1 Chronicles 11:19 “....Be it far from me before my God that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of these men who went at the risk of their lives? For at the risk of their lives they brought it.” Therefore he would not drink it. These things the three mighty men did."  David viewed his love and honor for these men above fulfilling the desires of his flesh.  David aimed to please His Master - the Lord.

These three mighty men are never recorded as getting angry with David.  To me that is the most curious aspect of the scripture at times - what is not said.  May I suggest that the reason why the Bible doesn't record their response is because they weren't shocked.  They so wanted to please their master, they knew him.  They knew that his chief aim in life was to please the Lord above his fleshy appetites.  David's pouring out of the water only communicated how much he honored their effort by an act of worship.  Pouring out of liquid was an expression of worship.   They aided in the one expression he was unable to do at the time of his exile under the regime of Saul - Worship!

4. Strength of character
So a Kingdom man will strongly support the Kingdom, Stand their ground for the Kingdom and Seek to Please the Master of the Kingdom.  But notice lastly that a Kingdom man will possess Strength of character.  1 Chronicles 11:22 comments on one of David's mighty men - Beniah - "Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, mighty in deeds, struck down the two sons of Ariel of Moab. He also went down and killed a lion inside a pit on a snowy day."

Beniah came from a line of men who were valiant or of noble character.  Furthermore he himself was "mighty in deeds".  He never ran from trouble, he chased it, and killed it.  A Kingdom man will be fearless, because He knows He has the power of God in and through Him.  Benaiah is not noted for strong muscles, but rather his mighty deeds, due to a strong character.  Jude 20 underscore this trait for the Christian - "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit".

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Defining a mighty man (person) of God

1 Chronicles 11:1 Then all Israel gathered to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and your flesh.

What is a mighty man of God?  1 Chronicles 11 contains within its bounds a listing of King David and his mighty men.  David himself was a mighty man of God - described in 1 Samuel 13:14 as "a man after God's own heart".  In 1 Chronicles 11 we are taken into the scene of David's coronation as King of Israel.  The people of Israel all gathered to David to not only proclaim him as thier king, but to acknowledge why it was they recognized him as their God-sent King.  Their comments and David's response in 1 Chronicles 11:1-10 will provide us three characteristics required to be mighty in God.

1. A Mighty man of God prioritizes the word of God
1 Chronicles 11:2-3 records these words of the people: “In times past, even when Saul was king, you were the one who led out and brought in Israel; and the LORD your God said to you, ‘You shall shepherd My people Israel, and you shall be prince over My people Israel.’” 3So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and David made a covenant with them in Hebron before the LORD; and they anointed David king over Israel, according to the word of the LORD through Samuel.

These people affirmed the call of God on David's life.  They brought back to his memory and their's the words God had spoken through various people to David in his 20 year journey from the shepherd's field to the throne.  For instance, the prophet Samuel spoke in 1 Samuel 13:14 of how God had set his sights upon a "man after his own heart".  That man of course would be David.

Or how about later on in the course of David's wanderings in the desert to get away from his enemies, where in 1 Samuel 25:30 a woman named Abigail would speak a prophetic word to David - signalling that all of God's purposes for Him would be accomplished. 

David, the mighty man of God, heard and embraced these words in times of crisis and conflict.  Any person who aims to be mighty in God, will only take seriously God's Word when they have embraced the scriptures in the times of weakness and distress.  In David's life, the scriptures didn't have opportunity to gather dust.  Crisis and conflict drove him to the text, since the grace of God was propelling Him forward to be Israel's next King. 

2. A Mighty man of God prioritizes the worship of God
1 Chronicles 11:3 tells us that when the people said what they said, they anointed him "before the Lord".  Everything that they and David did was in conscious awareness of the presence of God.  A person who desires to be God-centered will do so to the degree they make conscious awareness of God and worship of God their priority. 

Worship is not just confined to a couple of hours on a Sunday morning or singing a few songs out of a hymnal or song sheet.  Worship is the Christian's life.  The Older Christians used a Latin term to describe a lifestyle devoted to worship of God - Coram Dei (Co-ram day).  It simply meant - "In the presence of God".  Thus the Christian's aim, like David and His people, was to do everything with conscious acknowledgement of God's presence. 

Worship of God recognizes His reign and rule in the realm of what we often term "secular" (from the latin "seculuum" meaning "that which is common").  Coronating a King would had been a public, commonly shared experience.  Likewise these people equally recognized God's reign in the realm of the sacred (from the Latin "sacra" meaning holy), since they evoked the word of God spoken over David. 

We are living in a culture that no longer recognizes the distinction between the sacred and the secular.  Too often Christians relegate God only to the realm of the sacred.  They come to houses of worship and sing the songs of praise, and yet throughout the rest of the week their time is viewed as "their time".  Worship is to be a 24/7 affair for the believer.  We must surely make that important distinction between sacred and secular, however we must equally affirm God's authority over both.  Anyone who aims to be mighty in the Lord must be so saturated with a mindset of worship in everything that it becomes second nature.  But notice thirdly how it is that David was a mighty man of God:

3. A Mighty man of God prioritizes Walking with God
We scan down to 1 Chronicles 11:9 and read these words in the NASB (New American Standard Bible) - "David became greater and greater, for the LORD of hosts was with him." The Bible tells us that David became "greater and greater".  In the original text we could translate: "David walked and walked more".  In other words, throughout the course of David's public and private life, his "walk", his "relationship with God" grew deeper and deeper. 

Yes there were those times where we clearly saw David's feet of clay.  There were those moments where the grossest immorality and hatred leaked into his life.  However David repented, exhibiting the chief mark of true conversion: repentance or turning away form one's sin in favor of fellowship and relationship with God.  From beginning to end, David's overall pattern of life was that of "walking greater and greater" with God.  The man with a feet of clay truly had a heart of gold beating for God. 

May you and I be a people who prioritize three things:
1. The Word of God
2. Worship of God
3. Walking with God

When we do those things, we will then become mighty people of God.   

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Cure for spiritual leprosy

Luke 17:11-13 While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. 12As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; 13and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

Yesterday we considered how sin can be likened to spiritual leprosy by comparing it to the leprosy spoken of in Leviticus 13.  Today we want to know: What is the cure for spiritual leprosy?  By way of review, here is what we discovered about sin or spiritual leprosy and its characteristics:

1. It Deteriorates the soul
2. It Debilitates the soul
3. It Deforms the soul
4. It Destroys the soul
5. It Defiles the soul

Jesus confronts two types of leprosy
Jesus was on his way to Jersualem, passing between Samaria and Galilee.  Like the priests in Leviticus 13-14, whenever it came time to go and inspect a leprous person, they would journey outside the camp of Israel.  Jesus, the Great High Priest, was about 45 miles North of Jerusalem.

On his way he was met by 10 lepers.  Now these men did not cry out what was prescribed by the law: "Unclean, Unclean".  Rather they were so desperate that they cried out: "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"  They did not want to be made ritually clean only, they wanted healing.  The Bible states after Jesus told them to go on their way, they were cleansed.  God in human flesh had done a great work - Christ had healed these men. 

However He told them to go to the priests at the temple.  Now this was impossible for two reasons - first these men were Samitans - and Samaritans were forbidden on The Temple Grounds.  Second, the priests would have to go to the lepers, rather than the lepers going to the priests. 

For whatever reason only one came back to Jesus.  That one leper saw the impossibility of being able to follow through with what Jesus said.  We must remember that the law of God is prescribed to man to point the way to Jesus Christ.  Only when I by grace am brought to terms with my own inability to contribute saving benefits for my own salvation from the law will I then come to Jesus to be saved. The law cannot impart healing of spiritual leprosy, rather it points to the One who alone can cure - Christ.    Thus he came back and thanked Him.  Jesus, upon seeing this man, said literally in the Greek text of Luke 17:19 "Rise up and go, your faith has saved you".  This man not only had his physical leprosy cured, but moreso his spiritual leprosy. 

What was needed, and is still needed to cure spiritual leprosy
What happened that led to the curing of this man's spiritual leprosy?  Let me suggest four elements that were present that led to the cure of this man's spiritual leprosy:

1. Priestly Representative. Luke 17:11-13  This man, being a Samaritan, could not go to the priests in Jerusalem.  He sought the only one who could represent Him - Christ.  According to Hebrews 5 and 7, Christ is the believer's High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek.  This man saw no remedy in the Law, He fled into the arms of grace - Christ the Priestly representative.

2. Provision of the blood. Luke 17:14-18 Now in Leviticus 13,14 and 15, whenever the people sought cleansing, the priest would offer a sacrifice and sprinkling of blood.  Blood of an innocent was shed on their behalf.  As believers we have the provision of blood that was shed on our behalf by the Lord Jesus Christ.  Now you may say: Wait a minute - in Luke 17 Jesus had not yet went to the cross.  As true as that is, we do know that the affects of the cross not only reach forward to us today who by grace through faith believe on Christ and His work, but that work also reached backward into time. 

All the Old Testament saints were saved by believing on the Promise of God pointing to the cross, whereas we are saved by the Person of God in Jesus Christ who accomplished salvation on the cross.  This man was healed due to what Christ would accomplish.  Another passage, Matthew 8:17, quoted prior to Jesus' going to the cross, credits that future work for the healing of Peter's Mother-in-law.  No doubt, there was provision of blood that enabled this man to be forgiven of his spiritual leprosy. 

3. Pronouncement of cleansing. Luke 17:19Jesus tells this man that as a result of his faith, he has been made well.  The Greek word there for "well" is "saved".  Thus this man is pronounced clean, pure, innocent in the sight of God.  This is what Bible teachers call "justification by faith".  Christ judicially declared this man clean.  For every child of God at saving faith, God's divine declaration of the sinner's innocence occurs the moment the sinner repents and believes on Christ. 

On the cross Christ took on my spiritual leprosy.  Though never having sinned, he was "credited" or "declared sin".  When I by grace through faith believed on Jesus Christ, though it was clear I sinned, yet Christ's work and character was "credited" to me.  I was declared "righteous" due to Christ's righteousness.  Thus a spiritual leper is declared "clean" as a result of the application of blood by the Eternal High Priest.

4. Persist to live for God. Luke 17:19  Jesus told this man to "stand up and go".  All of those who were former spiritual lepers should not desire to remain in the leprous state of this world.  So often Christians are tempted to go back to the way they were, not realizing that having been healed. They have freedom to not only walk in the courts of fellowship with God, they have full access.  In Jesus Christ the saint of God is given power and priviledge to live the Christian walk.  It is our duty and delight to go tell a world full of spiritual lepers how they too can be cured of their spiritual leprousy. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sin is Spiritual Leprosy

Leviticus 13:1-2 Then the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 2“When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling or a scab or a bright spot, and it becomes an infection of leprosy on the skin of his body, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests.

Whenever you hear words like "cancer" or "AIDS", instant images and dread grips the mind.  In human history we have read about diseases that turned into outright plagues - killing millions of people.  However there is one disease that has killed billions - the S-I-N virus. 

In Leviticus 13, 14 and 15 we see the profane nature of sin illustrated by God in three sets of instructions given to His people.  I would classify Leviticus 13,14,and 15 as among the more grossest chapters to read - however that estimation is how we should regard sin.  Sin should repulse us - just like the three word pictures employed by Moses: Leprosy (Leviticus 13); Mold (Leviticus 14) and Uncleanliness (Leviticus 15). 

What kind of disease was leprosy, and how does it picture sin?
Various commentators have attempted to identify what exactly Moses was referring to when God gave sanitary laws dealing with leprous infections.  Some have suggested the dreaded "Hansen's" disease or what is known as modern day leprousy, where quite literally the human body destroys itself.  Others have suggested various skin ailments.  Whatever the disease may be, we do know that the disease followed a predicted pattern and produced definite outcomes.  By viewing these outcomes, we can see why God used this disease in Leviticus 13 to illustrate sin as "spiritual leprosy".  Note the five characteristics of sin as spiritual leprosy:

1. Like leprosy, sin deteriorates.  Leviticus 13:1-13

2. Like leprosy, sin debilitates.  Leviticus 13:14-28

3. Like leprosy, sin deforms. Leviticus 13:29-37

4. Like leprosy, sin destroys. Leviticus 13:38-46

5. Like leprosy, sin defiles. Leviticus 13:47-52

As you read through Leviticus 13, though you are reading about a serious disease dealt with back in the days of ancient Israel, you are ultimately getting a word picture of why it is sin must be hated and why only God in Christ can provide the cure. Throughout the scriptures, leprosy, though not in every case, was nonetheless used on occassion to illustrate sinful rebellion.  Gehazi in 2 Kings 5:27 and Uzziah in 2 Kings 15:5 both broke out in leprosy for their rebellion against God and His authority. 

Leprosy was virtually incurable, and in human terms was incurable by human medicine.  Only God could cure the leper. God healed the Syrian general Naaman in 2 Kings 5 and Jesus healed lepers in Matthew 8:1-13 and Luke 17:11-19. Like the leprosy in those cases, our sin and shame before a Holy God can only be dealt with effectively through faith and trust in Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:24 states - "and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed."

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The inerrant Bible is the Holy Bible

Romans 1:1-3Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,

Yesterday we considered why the Holy Bible is the Holy Bible.  We looked at its characteristics in light of what we have studied in the realm of holiness.  Having seen that the Bible alone can be considered "Holy" or "Sacred" in the authoritative sense, today we want to elaborate on the one trait that demonstrates the Bible to be "The Holy Bible" - inerrancy. 

The scripture is pure and undefiled, qualifying it to predict events accurately.
Holiness or sacredness includes purity. Theologians refer to the scriptures as being inerrant and infallible - that is, without error and incapable of error. Five phrases above lead us to the thought of how crucial inerrancy is to the Holy character of scripture:
1. "the Gospel of God" or the Message of the inerrant scripture

2. "promised before hand" (i.e predictive prophecy) or the Method of inerrant scripture

3. "through his servants the prophets" or the Means by which came inerrant scripture

4. "in the Holy Scriptures" or the Manufacturing of inerrant scripture

5. "concerning His Son" or the Majesty of Christ, the focus of inerrant scripture

In order for the Bible to predict events accurately, it had to be without error. Now lets break these series of phrases down to explain further why biblical inerrancy is necessary in order the Holy Bible to be the Holy Bible:

a. The Message of Inerrant Scripture - "The Gospel of God." This is the "Good News" of God's Mission to rescue sinful man from the death of sin. It was first proclaimed in Genesis 3:15 and throughout the 10 generations from Adam to Noah in Genesis 5-6. Abraham heard it in Genesis 12,15,17. Isaac and jacob and the Patriarchs were repeated the "promise" of the Gospel throughout the rest of Genesis.

b. The Method of Inerrant Scripture - "Promised before hand".
Moses later on spoke of this promise of the Gospel and predicted a Prophet to come in Deuteronomy 18. David was promised the coming of a King from his blood line in 2 Samuel 7:13-16. By the time we reach the New Testament, we discover that in all, 332 prophecies were made about Jesus Christ, the subject of all prophecy. If one of those predictions had been wrong, the whole fabric of scripture would had unraveled.

c. The Means by which came inerrant scripture - "Through His Servants the prophets".
If the Gospel was the message, and the predictions and promises were the method, then the prophets themselves were the means through which God revealed the Holy Scriptures. These men wrote as they were "carried along" by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21). Those  men were at times sinful, yet the Spirit of God gave the Grace of inspiration in order to preserve what they wrote from error. No other book had this Divine protection accompanying its composition like the Bible - thus making it Holy.

d.The Manufacture of inerrant scripture -  "In the Holy Scriptures"
With the Holy message, method and means we now come to the Holy manufacturing of the scriptures themselves. They are termed "Holy Scriptures". In order to be Holy, they were not merely "deemed Holy", they were Holy. The level of holiness invested in the sacred text of scripture is such that they are without error.

e. The Majesty of Christ, the focus of inerrant scripture - "Concerning His Son"
The Majesty of the Son is the focal point of all scripture. What would happpen if the message would had been inaccurate? Or how about the method - predictive prophecy? What if the Holy Spirit had not preserved the means of communication - the prophets words? Or how about the manufacturing of the scriptures in their original form? If any part of that process would had been unholy - we would not know the Holy Majesty of Christ.

As you can see, if the Bible had even one error, it would not be pure and thus it would be incapable of accurately communicating the Majesty of Jesus Christ.  For these reasons the inerrancy of scripture is why we can see that the Holy Bible is the Holy Bible.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Why the Holy Bible is the Holy Bible

Romans 1:1-3 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,

Why is the Bible called "The Holy Bible"?
In the past few days we have been exploring the subject of holiness.  In some translations we see the Bible or the scriptures referred to as being "sacred" - i.e the sacred scriptures. (2 Timothy 3:15)  If we review for just a moment what we've learned about holiness or "sacred", we can better understand what is meant by the phrase "holy" or "sacred" scriptures:

1. The scripture is a unique piece of literature, in a class by itself.  It is separate.  No other book in the world, religious or otherwise, has the quality of being Divine revelation.  All other would-be contenders are the responses of men to their thoughts about God.  Only the Bible is the thoughts and words of God about Himself revealed to men.  Only the scripture can convert the hearts of people in the presence of its hearing and reading. (Psalm 19:7; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23) 

No other body of literature has been attacked and withstood each of its opponents like the Bible.  A prime example of this is from the words of the Atheistic French Philosopher Voltaire who stated that within 100 years after his death, his words would live on and the Bible would no longer be around.  Yet 100 years after his death, his very home became a small publishing house wherein copies of the Bible were produced. 

2. The scripture is holy due to both its authorship and its subject matter.  It is a dual authorship.  That is, there are 40 human authors on three continents over 1500 years - i.e human authorship.  Then there is the "Author" behind the "authors" - The God of all Eternity.  Anytime we see an intersection between the human and Divine, that is what we call sacred.  Furthermore, Romans 1:3 tells us what the chief concern is of the scriptures - "His Son", the Lord Jesus Christ, God in human Flesh. 

3. The scripture is pure and undefiled, qualifying it to predict events accurately.  Holy or sacredness also includes purity.  Theologians refer to the scriptures as being inerrant and infallible - that is, without error and incapable of error.  It says in the verses above that "the Gospel of God" was "promised before hand" through his servants "the prophets" "in the Holy Scriptures" "concerning His Son."  In order for the Bible to predict events accurately, it had to be without error.  Tomorrow we will elaborate on why inerrancy is necessary in order to demonstrate the Bible as "The Holy Bible". 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The First Command Jesus gave to His church

Matthew 18:15-18 15“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16“But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. 17“If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18“Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

Holiness matters because it points to Jesus Christ
Yesterday we considered the first reason why holiness matters to the Christian - because by it we can prioritize life around God.  However if we stop there, we fall short, since holiness is not only just God centered, but God in Christ centered.  The passage above is the first command Jesus ever gave to His church. 

Jesus' Great Concern for His Church was her holiness
Many Christians may be surprised to find out that Jesus spoke on His concern about the church's holiness before He ever gave the two other "greats" that most Christians know.  Most will be familiar with the "Great Commission" of Matthew 28:18-20 to go into all the world and make disciples.  Furthermore some Christians may be familiar with what's termed "The Great Commandment" -  to love God with all our heart and love our neighbor as ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-39 and Mark 13:34-35)

However very few Christians will know what I term the "Great Concern" - namely holiness in His church in both the personal, interpersonal and corporate church body levels.  Christ's aim is to prepare a church, a bride for Himself, that will be holy and blameless at His coming. (Ephesians 5:25-27).  Frankly without fulfilling this first of the "Great commandments", the church will not be effective in fulfilling the Great Commandment nor the Great Commission.  A flippancy towards holiness will yield a church that is short-sighted in both its internal love for fellow Christians and evangelism of the lost. (please compare 2 Peter 1-3-11)

Holiness points to Christ since it is Christ who points us to holiness
Christ Himself is called "Holy". (Hebrews 7:25-26)  When He prayed to His Father in His High Priestly prayer in John 17, He as the Holy, Faithful High Priest prayed that His church would be "Holy". (John 17:17,19)  Christ is the beginning and goal of the Christian's holiness, since it is Christ's Holiness that provides the basis for the Christian's holiness. 

Holiness leads us to enjoyment of God, since Christ Himself is pleased to dwell, speak and even sing for joy in the midst of the very ones He is aiming to make Holy. (Hebrews 2).  Holiness matters because it points to Christ.  Only when we point to Christ can we desire to build a life around God, that is, our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:13)   

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why does Holiness matter?

1 Peter 1:15-16 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”

We have spent the past several days defining and discussing holiness.  Today we want to probe further and ask this simple question: Why does holiness matter?  As we consider the answer to this question in light of the above verse, we will propose that the first reason holiness matters is because it Prioritizes Life around God. 

Exposing a commonly believed myth
The Old Testament is not the only part of the Bible that teaches about Holiness.  Many people mistakingly assume that the Old Testament teaches about Holiness and the New Testament switches to focusing only on the love of God.  If anything, the New Testament's emphasis on love derives from Old Testament passages that emphasize the importance of loving the Lord and one's neighbor. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18).  Likewise the New Testament adds even more emphasis to the priority of holiness in the believer's life, as we will see in the passages below. 

Holiness is important because it prioritizes Life around God in the following "realms" of one's life:

1. Prioritizing Church life around God
Romans 14:19-20 states - "So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense." This chapter emphasizes much the same themes as Leviticus 11-12, the emphasis on what is "clean" in the context of how one eats.  The point being that a church that prioritizes life around God will cherish holiness, since concern will be for others above oneself.

2. Prioritizing Business life around God
2 Corinthians 6:14-16 states - "Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said,“I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE." We need to discern whom we make covenants with whether it be business, marriage or any type of covenant arrangement.  Whenever we make covenant with one another, my friends become your friends and my enemies become your enemies and vice versa. 

3. Prioritizing Family Life around God
Does Holiness matter in the realm of family life in the New Testament? Consider these words in Ephesians 5:25-27 "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless."

4. Prioritizing your thought life around God
All Christian growth has its genesis in the realm of the mind.  1 Thessalonians 4:2-4 shows how holiness is the will of God in the realm of the mind - "For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor"  Notice there in verse 2 "by the authority of the Lord Jesus". Truly if the holiness of our thought lives is important to Jesus, it ought to be our priority too. 

As we have noted in past blogs, to speak of "The Holy" is tantamount to speaking about God Himself. (compare Isaiah 6:3).  We are not building our lives merely around an abstract concept of holiness, but around God Himself.  This is the first reason why holiness is important.  Tomorrow we will consider the second reason: namely holiness points to Jesus Christ. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Significance of being a sanctuary

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

The significance of being a sanctuary
The underlined word above, "temple", is used to describe the Christian.  Over time the place where God met with His people came to be termed a "sanctuary".  Wherever humanity and Deity would intersect one another, that "place" or "time" was considered "sacred".  That word sanctuary comes from a Latin term for Holy, sanctus.  In fact in Isaiah 6:3, where we see the Angels crying out "Holy, Holy, Holy", it would appear in the Latin "sanctus, sanctus, sanctus". 

Remarkably Christian people are termed the "sanctuary of God".  Wherever God's Eternal presence intersects the human timelines of God's people, and actually "meets with them", that time and place is termed "a sanctuary" or "sacred".  Thus a Christian is a living, walking sanctuary, since God Himself has seen fit to dwell inside the believer.

Other words we use in everyday life that come from this word "Sanctus"
As we already saw, a "sanctuary" is a place where God and His people meet.  When we are sanctifying something, we are making it ready for fit use - cleansing it and purifying it.  The act of "washing dishes" means "sanctifying them", getting rid of the dirt and preparing them for the next meal. 

As we've seen in the past couple of blogs, we cannot escape the concept of "the holy" or "sanctus".  We value clothes because the cover up those areas that are holy, special.  We wash or "sanctify our clothes", since wearing dirty clothes is unacceptable.  We wash or "sanctify our hands" before we eat.  It is impossible to escape the Holy. 

Another term we commonly use that incorporates this root word "sanctus" is the term "consecrate".  To "consecrate" means literally to "separate oneself or unite oneself with another" (con = with and sacra = to make holy, separate unto).  Consecration refers to surrender oneself to the ownership of another.  Thus when a Christian consecrates themselves to the Lord, they are acknowledging what is already fact, namely Christ's Lordship and ownership over their lives.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 conveys this truth of Christ's ownership of us as being the reason for wanting to live a holy life in consecration to Him. 

A fourth and final word that we derive from this word "sanctus" is the word which we mentioned at the beginning of today's blog, the word "sacred".  When Jacob was encountered by the Lord in Genesis 28:10-22, he called the place "Bethel", since the Divine Eternal God met and intersected with the human timeline of Jacob.  That place became a "Bethel", a "House of God", a "sacred place" or a "sanctuary". 

I always pray everyday that Christ would be through me everything a given situation requires in order that I may be in Him all He desires. May we as Christians live as those who are the sanctuary of God, wherein and whereby He gladly lives, meets and expresses Himself.