Friday, May 31, 2013

Meet the New Testament

Hebrews 9:11  "But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation." 


We will begin today's post with a quiz: What has 7,959 verses; 181,253 words and has been in existence for nearly 2,000 years.  Answer: The New Testament.   The purpose of today's post is to introduce you to the New Testament.  What is it's message, contents and chief point?  All of these questions will be answered in this fast-fly over of that glorious section of our Bibles that we call the New Testament.  Hebrews 9:11-28 will be our vehicle of choice, so strap in, buckle up, because its going to be a fast ride!

The Message, contents and chief point of the New Testament

1. The Foundation of the New Testament - The Gospels: Portray Jesus

Hebrews 9:11-12 states - "But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation;12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption." Where in the New Testament do we go to find out when and where Jesus appeared and what He did? The foundational books of the New Testament, the four Gospels, give us four portraits of what Jesus did.

Matthew presents the Majestic Christ, Christ our King.  In Matthew 1 we see the opening genealogy demonstrating His legal right to Israel's throne.  By the time you reach Matthew 27:37, you find our Lord on the cross with a sign above Him reading: "This is Jesus the King of the Jews." Following His resurrection from the dead, Jesus asserts in Matthew 28:18 that all power has been given to Him on Heaven and on earth.  Mark comes next, with his emphasis being upon the Mission of Jesus - the Suffering Servant.  Mark 10:45 has Jesus coming to serve and give His life a ransom for many.  Luke's account is the most historical, connecting us to Jesus the Perfect man, the New Adam.  In Luke 3:23-38 we see Jesus' genealogy differently from Matthew's.  Matthew traced Jesus bloodline through Joseph as being legally related to David, since Joseph was not his biological father according to the flesh.  However Luke traces Jesus' bloodline through Mary to demonstrate him to be be the biological heir of David, the biological fulfillment of Abraham's promise and biologically included in the bloodline of humanity.  As the New Adam, Jesus states in Luke 19:10 how He came to seek and save that which was lost.  

Those first three portraits together present Jesus in his humanity, with glimpses of His Deity.  In John's Gospel we see the emphasis being upon Jesus Christ as God in human flesh.  By the time you get through all four Gospels, you get the full picture of what Jesus Christ had done.   

2. Historical Section: The Book of Acts is about Jesus being Preached 

Hebrews 9:14-15a states - "how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (15) For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant..."  The Gospels view Jesus in the past tense: what He did.  With the Book of Acts and the Epistles, we are seeing Jesus in the present tense: Who He is.  The Book of Acts is really a companion volume to the Gospel of Luke.  Together with Luke, both occupy nearly 30% of the New Testament's length!  The point of Acts is to show what happened following Jesus' resurrection.  In Acts 1 we see Jesus giving final instructions to His disciples before His ascension into Heaven.  Acts 1:8 is really the key to the whole book: "but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” The reception of the power of the Holy Spirit occurs in Acts 2, with the early church going forth to proclaim the Gospel first in Jerusalem. (Acts 1-8)  Then we see the second stage of the church's mission going forth into all Judea and Samaria under the leadership of Peter and John in Acts 9-12.  Then the third stage of the church's mission occurs when Saul is converted and as Paul, spreads the Gospel to the remotest reaches of the Gentile world - northward and Westward. (Acts 13-28)  

The Book of Acts is undoubtedly a book of missions, but it is also a book of preaching.  Nearly 20 sermons are recorded in part or in full length, giving the reader first hand information on what was preached about Jesus in the 30 or so years of time recorded in Acts. Then finally, Acts is a book of the Holy Spirit, wherein He is mentioned some 40 times.  

The Book of Acts' relationship to the remaining section of the New Testament (Epistles) is to provide the historical backdrop and occasions for the writing of most of Paul's letters.  

3. The Writings or Epistles Explain Jesus Christ

Hebrews 9:15 tells us - "For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance."  From Hebrews 9:15-26 we see a full explanation of what Jesus did and is doing, a function that describes the main point of the 21 New Testament Epistles.  In the Gospels we see 30% of the material being devoted to the final week of Jesus life, crucifixion, burial and resurrection.  In those six hours that He hung on the cross, all four Gospels reveal what happened.  However in order to understand the meaning of the cross and resurrection, we need to hear the preaching of Acts and the explanation of the Epistles.  What is an epistle?  An epistle is a 1st century form of what we would call a handwritten letter.  Normally there was an introductory section (salutation), a doctrinal section, a practical section and then a closing section (epilogue or conclusion).  Thus in Galatians we see Christ our curse bearer, Ephesians depicts Him as the Ascended King, Philippians details Him as God who humbled himself into full humanity and Colossians reveals His Full Deity revealed in full humanity.  1 and 2 Thessalonians unfold the truth of His snatching away of the church prior to His touching down upon this world in His return.  1 and 2 Timothy and Titus unfold Christ as the Chief Shepherd over his church, with under shepherds doing His bidding through the preaching of the word and loving of the people.  Philemon is devoted entirely to the theme of forgiveness and Hebrews explains the relationship of Christ's accomplished work to the predictions of the Old Testament. 

With Paul's letters being 13 or 14 in number (depending upon your view of Hebrews' authorship), the remaining epistles cover the entire range of the composition of the New Testament.  James is the earliest of all the Epistles, connecting the preaching and teaching of the Early church back to Jesus.  As half-brother of Jesus according to the flesh, he would have unique insight along with the other half-brother of Jesus who authors the book of Jude.  1 and 2 Peter came from the hand of the Apostle Peter who was the leading spokesman in the first 12 chapters of Acts.  1,2,3 John represents the end of the Apostolic period, with the Apostle John being the author who wrote them in 90 A.D.  Then the book of Jude, being composed by Jesus half-brother Jude, closes out the section of the New Testament sometimes called "The General Letters or Epistles". Paul's letters explain Christ's accomplishment and Christian salvation to the end of time.  The General Epistles take this same theme and show how Christ's work give power to endure suffering and to overcome the increasing encroachment of the world upon the Christian.  

4. The Book of Revelation Prioritizes Jesus Christ
Hebrews 9:28 states - "so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him."  We have seen how the Gospels provide the foundation of the New Testament in their portrayal of Christ.  Acts provides the material necessary for the preaching of Christ, with the Epistles serving to Explain Christ.  This passage in Hebrews 9:28 illustrates a summary statement about the New Testament's final book - The Book of Revelation.  Revelation is all about revealing to the reader Jesus Christ. (Revelation 1:1).  In Revelation 1-3 we see Christ and His church.  By reading Revelation 4-5 you see Christ worshipped and in the section of 6-18 you see Christ Sovereign over history.  In the fourth major section of Revelation 19-20, you see revealed Christ and His coming reign, with the final two chapters devoted to Christ in eternity with His bride.  

Like the book of Acts, the book of Revelation has a key verse, 1:19 - "Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things."  Therefore "the things which you have seen" covers the main bulk of chapters 1-3.  Then "the things which are" could overlap into Revelation 4-5.  Finally, "the things which will take place" could include the overlap of 4-5 as well as chapters 6-22.  Whether looking at the book thematically as we did in the previous paragraph, or structurally from the standpoint of 1:19, Jesus Christ still retains His central Priority.

In tomorrow's blog we will use Hebrews 9:1-14 to do a fly-over view of the Old Testament.  I hope you will be back to see what God has to say in that section of His Word.  Until then, God bless!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The meaning of "Bible", "Old Testament" and "New Testament"

Hebrews 8:6-7 "But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second."

Defining "The Bible", "Old Testament" and "New Testament"
Today's post will deal with matters that pertain to the physical features and contents of the Bible.  Whenever you consider those three terms "The Bible", "Old Testament" and "New Testament", you are using names and terms that are jammed packed full of doctrinal and supernatural truth.

1. Unpacking the term "Bible"
The first term "Bible" derives from a Greek word "biblos" meaning "the book".  According to Norman Geisler and William E. Nix: "The plural form of "biblos" is "biblia", and by the second century A.D Christians were using this latter word to describe their writings."1  Whenever we translate this word from the Greek (the language of the New Testament and early Christians) into the Latin (the language used for over a 1,000 years by Christians in the middle ages), the term becomes "biblia".  English speaking Christian scholars who knew Latin  would take that Latin term and make it into the English "Bible".  What were Christians thinking whenever they deemed the 27 books of the New Testament and 39 books of the Old Testament "Biblos", "Biblia" and "Bible"?  Plainly stated, the term simply means "The Book".  To say that I hold "the Bible" in my hand is the shorthand way of saying that I hold in my hand the unique, complete, inerrant, infallible revelation of God in written form.  

The term itself refers to the authority that God's Divine library, both as individual writings and as a collection hold.  The Bible is the sufficient and final authority for Christian faith, practice and understanding of God's revelation in creation, salvation and Jesus Christ.  Throughout the Bible itself, God makes references to the writings He reveals to His prophets and Apostles as "books".  At least Ten times in the Book of Genesis we see God using the phrase "this is the book of the generations" to mark off those portions that Moses wrote down by Divine Revelation.  Mention is made of the "Book of the Covenant", pertaining to the Torah or law revealed to Moses in Exodus 24:4-8.  Joshua 1:8 speaks of "this Book of the Law" and Psalm 40:7-8 states - Then I said, “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. (8) I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.”  Later on Jesus quotes Psalm 40:7-8 as referring to His own journey from eternity into time through the virgin birth conception. (Hebrews 10)  God's desire to reveal His will in words reflects how he thinks of the revelation of His glory and purposes in Heaven.  In Malachi 3:16 refers to a "book of remembrance" and then of course we see reference to God opening the books in the final judgment of Revelation 20, with reference made to "The Book of Life".

2. Unpacking the Term "Old Testament"
I am sure whenever you got married you heard this saying: "Something Old, something new, something borrowed and something blue".  When we speak of "Old Testament" or "Old Covenant", clearly there is implied that something "newer" came along.  Now we will get to that in a moment.  But first realize that the Bible itself uses this term "Old Testament" or "Old Covenant".  We read for example in 2 Corinthians 3:14 "But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ."  Hebrews 8:13 uses the same term - "When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear."  The term "Old Covenant" or "Old Testament" is both a Bible word and theological description.  

So what do we mean by this term "Old Testament"? The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology gives this fine definition of Testament: "the Biblical term derived from the Latin testamentum. It was used in Jerome's Vulgate to render the Hebrew 'Berit', covenant, in a few instances, as in Numbers 14:44, and the Greek 'diatheke', as in 2 Corinthians 3:14.  Since Tertullian's time it has been used to designate the two main divisions of the Holy Scripture - the Old Testament and the New.  This represents the literary use of the word."2  

The article continues with how the term is used in the doctrinal sense: "As used in Biblical theology, the term may denote the era from the arrangement given through Moses (Exodus 19:5-8); Jeremiah 31:32; Hebrews 8:9) to the death of Christ.3  Norman Geisler explains the term in this fashion: "The Old Testament was first called 'the Covenant' in Moses' day (Exodus 24:8).  Later, Jeremiah announced that God would make a New Covenant with His people (Jer. 31:31-34), which Jesus claimed to do at the Last Supper (Matt. 26:28, cf. 1 Cor. 11:23-25; Heb 8:6-8).  Hence it is for Christians that the former part of the Bible is the Old Covenant (Testament)..."4

The Old Covenant or Testament points back to an event, an era, a system of worship, experience of redemptive living and of course specific books.  The event being the giving of the Law on Sinai in Exodus 19-20.  The era ranging from Genesis 1:1 to the coming of Christ.  The system meaning the worship system of sacrifices, tabernacle, priesthood and temple.  Then of course when we speak of the experience of redemptive living, we are referring not to how people get saved (since it is identically by grace alone through faith alone in both Testaments).  Rather we are referring to how the people of God were going to live out their faith-walk following their reception of the Promises by faith.  The Spirit's work was mainly outward and onward, rather than inward and through the person as it is today. (see John 14:17)  The Old Testament pointed to the need for a New Covenant.  Unless the New Testament was to be revealed, the Old Testament would remain unfulfilled and incomplete. (Hebrews 8-9)  Then finally, the Old Testament in regards to the Books and their groupings in our English Bibles are as follows:

Foundation Books, Also called: Pentateuch, Torah, Books of the Law
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (5 Books)

Historical Books: Joshua - Esther (12 Books)

Poetic Books, Also called: Poetic Books, Books of Poetry, Writings
Job, Psalms,Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (5 Books)

Prophetic Books: Isaiah - Malachi (17 Books) 

3. Unpacking the term "New Testament"
The term "New Testament", like it's Old Testament counterpart: centers around an event, era, a system of worship, experience of redemptive living and specific books.  The "New Testament" or more accurately "New Covenant" centers around the event of the incarnation of God the Son in the life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.  What makes the era of the New Testament "new" involves the doing away of some things and the initiation of some new things as a result of Jesus' arrival and actions.  The worship system of temple, priests and sacrifices were replaced by a church composed of all true Christians, Christ our High Priest and His death being the once for all sacrifice.  

Hebrews 8-9 spells out the profound changes that occurred when the Old Covenant ended and the new covenant began.  The experience of life following salvation would entail the Spirit of God abiding and living inward, a reality unknown in the Old Covenant.  Also too, the New Covenant affords the power to live the Christian life by a permanent indwelling Holy Spirit, something of which the Old Testament saint did not get to experience.  The era of the New Testament gradually transitioned from the arrival of Jesus until His ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.  From Pentecost Sunday in Acts 2 until present moment is reckoned the New Covenant era.  

As many differences that exist between the Old and New Testament scriptures, there are some very strong lines of continuation between both.  First, God's program with Israel has not been replaced, but rather suspended or "put on pause" until Christ's return.  According to Romans 11, God's primary focus in the New Testament era is the church, wherefore He is calling people unto salvation by His Spirit and making Israel jealous so as to prepare her for her reception of Christ by faith at His return.  The manner in which people are saved is also identical: Grace alone through faith alone.  Clearly the Old Testament Books are as much equal in authority and value as the New Testament.  As has been often stated: The New Testament in the Old is enfolded, and the Old Testament in the New is unfolded.  

Then of course the books of the New Testament can be subdivided much like what we see in the Old Testament part of the Bible:
Foundation Books: The Gospels
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John (4 Books)

Historical Book: Acts (1 Books)

Written Letters, also called epistles
13 by Paul (Galatians-Philemon, and if counting Hebrews, 14)
1 by James, 2 by Peter (1 & 2 Peter), 3 by John (1,2,3 John), 1 by Jude

Prophetic  Book: Revelation or also called "The Apocalypse"

We have explored the meanings of the terms "Bible", "Old Testament" and "New Testament".  All three terms which we use weekly and daily in our use of the Bible carry much supernatural and doctrinal freight.  My hope and prayer is that after today's post, you will see your Bible for what it really is: God's Holy, inspired, inerrant and infallible Word.  

End Notes_________________

1. Norman Geisler and William Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible - Revised and Expanded.  Moody Press. 1986.  Page 21

2. Walter Ewell. The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology.  Baker.  2001.  Page 1177 
Whenever we see reference to "Tertullian", Tertullian was an early Church Father who wrote in or around 200 A.D.  He is considered the first major early Theologian to write in Latin, a language which would replace Greek as the chief language of theology in the proceeding centuries of the church up and through the 1600's.  

3. Walter Ewell. The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology.  Baker.  2001.  Page 1177

4. Norman Geisler and William Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible - Revised and Expanded.  Moody Press. 1986.  Page 21

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Top Bible Prophecy #6 - Isaiah 53

Isaiah 52:15-17 Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted. 14 Just as many were astonished at you, My peopleSo His appearance was marred more than any man And His form more than the sons of men. 15 Thus He will sprinkle many nations, Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; For what had not been told them they will see, And what they had not heard they will understand.

Introduction to Top Bible Prophecy  - Isaiah 53
We once again will be looking at another passage that we are deeming: "Top Bible Prophecy".  Isaiah 53 is our sixth Top Bible Prophecy in this series in which we have been studying.  The other five Top prophecies have been: Psalm 110, 2 Samuel 7:8-16, Deuteronomy 30, Genesis 12 and Genesis 3:15.  As I have written in times past, the plan is to expose the reader to major passages that contain prophecies that span the entirety of scripture, history and eternity and of which bring Jesus Christ into sharper focus.  I would encourage the reader to look up the key word "Top Bible Prophecy" in the search engine of this blogsite to see what we have covered in past blogs on Top Bible Prophecies. 

The Book of Isaiah - A Telescopic look at Jesus Christ
Whenever you turn to the prophet Isaiah, you are struck by the numerous references made to the Person and Ministry of the Messiah.  Often Isaiah has been termed the greatest of the writing prophets due to his style of writing, His subject matter (predictive prophecy of major events in both the 1st and 2nd comings of the Messiah) and by virtue of the fact that other contemporary prophets and those thereafter drew from him.  Just as a telescope is designed to take a distant object and bring it into view as it really is, Isaiah by Divine inspiration and prophetic foresight is able to bring to the reader the Person, work and ministry of Jesus the Messiah. 

A few quick examples will confirm the above statement: Predictions concerning Christ's birth (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7); His earthly ministry (Isaiah 42, 49); His substitutionary death (Isaiah 52-53); the essential message concerning His current activity as Prophet, Priest and King and His future return and Millennial Reign. (Isaiah 11, 60-66)  In this blogpost today, I want us to zero in on one of those incredible chapters: Isaiah 53, to just see how it functions as another Top Bible Prophecy. 

The Predicted Servant of Isaiah
As we use the telescope of Isaiah's prophecies, we switch lenses to get a closer look at Whom is being predicted.  A series of four songs - called servant songs - occupy the latter half of Isaiah.  The theme of all these songs is of course the figure in question: "The Servant".  As will be briefly shown below. each Servant Song serves to reveal something particular about the Person and Work of Jesus Christ - 700 years from their composition!

1. Servant Song #1  Isaiah 42:1-25  The Servant of the Lord will bring about Justice to the nations. 

2. Servant Song #2 Isaiah 49:1-13 The Servant of the Lord will be born to be a light to Israel and the nations

3. Servant Song #3 Isaiah 50:1-11 The Servant of the Lord will experience rejection by those to Whom He is sent

4. Servant Song #4 Isaiah 52:12-53:12 The Servant of the Lord will experience suffering and be killed by manner of piercing through, only to live again to see the fruit of His work.

These summaries are admittedly very brief outlines, however the four servant songs look remarkably similar in their themes to the four Gospels.  Of the four servant songs, the final servant song is considered the greatest, since it gives the most prophetic detail.  In switching lenses one more time on our prophetic telescope, Isaiah by inspiration of the Holy Ghost gives us a very detailed prediction of the sufferings and triumphs of Jesus the Messiah in Isaiah 52:13-53:12.

Isaiah 53 - Predicting the Actor, Arrival, Act and Accomplishment of Salvation.
1. The Actor of Salvation Predicted - Isaiah 52:13-15
As a preface to this fourth song, Isaiah sees the predicted Actor of Salvation as He will be in His Second Coming.  As much as Isaiah 53 is about the Messiah in His First Coming, we are reminded of a fundamental truth in all Bible Prophecy - that God sees things as they are already completed.  Arno C. Gaebelien, that great prophecy teacher of the early 20th century, termed Bible Prophecy as "pre-history", meaning that God is giving the history of an event that in His mind is a done deal, however the event has not yet occurred.  Isaiah 52:13-14 states how the King will be crowned and reigning in the future.  Isaiah 52:15 describes the means by which He will have to undergo before the crown - namely the "sprinkling", a phrase used often in the New Testament to refer to His substitutionary death on the cross. (Hebrews 9:13 11:28; 12:24; 1 Peter 1:2).  Isaiah is switching topics, reminding us that the cross had to occur first in history before the crown.

2. The Arrival of the Savior Predicted. Isaiah 53:1-3
Just as we see in Matthew and Luke, the Messiah arrives in history by way of birth.  Other passages in Isaiah reveal that this birth will be a virgin birth. (Isaiah 7:14).  The predicted servant of the Lord here in Isaiah 52-53 not only possesses an Eternal Divine nature (52:13-14) but will acquire a very human, albeit sinless nature (53:1-12).  As a man he will grow up tender in childhood, just as Luke 2:52 summarizes: "And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."  This section of the Top Bible Prophecy includes information of the nature of His earthly ministry - a ministry wherein he would experience rejection by his nation and isolation. (compare 1 Peter 2:21-24) 

3. The Act of Salvation Predicted.  Isaiah 53:4-10a
It is in this part of Isaiah 53 that we see the heart and main point of the Prophecy.  The Rabbis (teachers of Israel) by Jesus day had a difficult time harmonizing the information here in Isaiah with other prophetic texts that predicted a conquering Messiah.  In fact, the Rabbinic writings looked for two Messiahs: a Messiah ben David (a conquering Messiah) and a Messiah ben Joseph (a suffering one).  The Rabbis thought that maybe the first one would appear to overthrow empires like Rome, with the other Messiah appearing at another time.  However Isaiah 53 stared them squarely in the face. 

Adam Clarke, the able Bible commentator writes a wonderful summary of the predictive purpose of Isaiah 53 in his commentary, which I have included in the end notes at the end of this post. 1

Isaiah 53:4-10a is remarkable in that it predicts a form of suffering of the Messiah that would not be invented for over 300 years!  Isaiah writing in 700 b.c, predicted that the Messiah would be "pierced", a brutality devised first by the Persians and perfected by the Romans by the days of Jesus.  Acts 8:34-35 records a conversation wherein the questioner, having read Isaiah 53, gets the following response and interpretation: "The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him."  According to H.L Wilmington, Isaiah 53:7 is quoted 10 times in the New Testament.2  In my own studies of Isaiah 53 in the New Testament, I found over 40 occasions where various phrases are alluded to, revealing how much this Top Bible Prophecy shaped the New Testament understanding of the life and mission of Jesus Christ.3 

4. The Accomplishment of Salvation Predicted.  Isaiah 53:10b-12
Having looked at the predicted Actor, Arrival and Act of salvation predicted in Isaiah 53, we finally see the Accomplishment in Isaiah 53:10b-12.4 The Servant of the Lord predicted here will have the ability after His horrific death to "see His offspring" (53:10b); "justify the many" (53:11) and view His death as a past event. (53:12) 

Only an alive person can do that.  More specifically, only a resurrected Jesus can do those things!  Only a resurrected Jesus is able to see and ministry to his brothers and sisters according to the flesh. (Hebrews 2:14-15; 4:15; 7:24-25)  Only a resurrected Jesus Christ can be the basis for God's legal declaration of a sinner having Christ's righteousness credited to him at saving faith. (Romans 4:45-5:1)  Only a resurrected Jesus could view His death as a past event! (Revelation 1:18)


1. Adam Clarke's Commentary.  Volume IV.  Abington Press. Page 203.
"That this chapter speaks of none but Jesus must be evident to every unprejudiced reader who has ever heard the history of his sufferings and death. The Jews have endeavored to apply it to their sufferings in captivity; but, alas for their cause! they can make nothing out in this way. Allowing that it belongs to our blessed Lord, (and the best men and the best scholars agree in this), then who can read Isa 53:4, Isa 53:5, Isa 53:6, Isa 53:8, Isa 53:10, without being convinced that his death was a vicarious sacrifice for the sins of mankind?"

2. H.L Wilmington.  The Complete Book of Bible Lists.  Tyndale Publishers.  Page 37

3. The scripture index of the Nestle-Aland 27th Edition Greek New Testament lists every Old Testament Book alluded to or quoted in every New Testament Book.  This is where I looked to see how many authors actually utilized Isaiah 53.  It is a fascinating study in its own right.

4. The entire text of Isaiah 53:10b-12 reads - "He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. 11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors." 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Tuesday May 28, 2013 P3 - The best way to guard against idolatry

1 John 5:18-20 18 We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.

Over the past few days we have been exploring the definition and danger of idolatry.  The Apostle John in 1 John 5:21 warns his readers to "guard yourselves against idols."  In this short series we discovered first of all that idolatry is whenever you exalt yourself, exchange God and elevate comfort above Him.  We then considered John's discussion of sins that do not lead to death and those that do lead to death as warnings for avoiding idolatry in 1 John 5:16-17.  Today we will finish up our series on idolatry by considering the best way to guard against it. 

Encouraging provisions of grace for guarding against idolatry
1 John 5:18-20 lays out positive encouragements for combatting the seductive danger of idolatry.  The overwhelming thrust is to love Jesus and hate idols.  How can you and I dear Christian guard ourselves against idolatry?

1. Presence of the Holy Spirit.  1 John 5:18a
1 John 5:18a reads - "We know that no one who is born of God sins".  The word translated "sins" is a present tense verb in the Greek that speaks of habitual sin or an ongoing lifestyle of sin.  Christians can still sin after salvation, as John mentions in 1 John 1:8-10.  However a true believer in Jesus Christ will not keep on engaging in a prolonged regiment of sinful behavior without falling under the Lord's discipline and without falling under eventual sorrow for their sin that leads to repentance. (2 Corinthians 7; Hebrews 12:5-6; 2 Timothy 2:24-26).  The Holy Spirit is the Agent of the new birth and he is also the One who prevents the Christian from falling into such a state that would result in the loss of their salvation. (John 1:12-13, 16:8-11; Ephesians 1:11-14)

2. The Preserving work of the Father.  1 John 5:18b
1 John 5:18b reads - "but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. "  With the Holy Spirit being the Agent who is present when a person is born again by grace through faith, the Father above is the Author of the new birth. (James 1:18)  Being that God is the beginner of salvation, scripture reveals that He is also the finisher thereof. (Philippians 1:6)  Now this is important to note, since the Father is the one who preserves the believer from drifting so far into sin as to result in irretrievable loss of their salvation. (1 Peter 1:5) 

The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 notes:  
All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

3. Power of the scriptures.  1 John 5:19
1 John 5:19 states - "We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one." Three times in 1 John 5:16-20 we see this repeating phrase: "we know".  Question: how is it that you know anything about the necessary means for guarding yuorself against idolatry?  The scriptures.  The Word of God not only gives you the contents to understand the Christian life, but also the power needed to live it. (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:6; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17)  The Bible reminds you of who you are and Whose you are.  Our trouble anytime we sin is forgetting who we are and Whose we are.  This is why we need constant, daily exposure to the scripture in order to combat sin and walk in victory. (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 119:11; 1 Corinthians 2:10-13)

4. Person of Jesus Christ.  1 John 5:20
Having seen the provisions of the Presence of the Holy Spirit, the Preserving work of God the Father and power of the scriptures as constituting the way in which we can guard against idolatry, lets consider one more provision of grace: The Person of Jesus Christ.  1 John 5:20 states - "And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life."  Two other passages of scripture can be used to shed light on the significance of this verse.  The first scripture is John 17:3 - "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."  Then secondly, Hebrews 12:2-3 "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."  It is Christ Himself in Whom and by Whom we are able to guard ourselves against idolatry.  Whenever you think about it, the only reason why we can be tricked and duped is whenever we fail to take advantage of God's grace ever made available to us.  Thankfully even when we are faithless, He is faithful, for he cannot deny Himself. (2 Timothy 2:13)


P2 Why Idolatry is so bad

1 John 5:16-17 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.

Review and today's focus
In yesterday's post we defined idolatry by three terms drawn from the scriptures: Exalting oneself, Exchanging God and Enthonement of comfort.  In today's post we will consider why idolatry is so bad? Answering such a question may seem easy. Yet idolatry is so powerful that it can dull our senses if not rooted out and replaced by a complete focus on Jesus Christ.  Jesus locates idolatry in the heart in Matthew 5:18-19 "But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies". 

Warnings about Idolatry's dangerous lure
As you read John's 1st Epistle in 1 John 5:16-17, you discover various statements about sin that serve as warnings about the seduction and lure of idolatry.  In 1 John 5:16a we see mention made about "sin not leading to death".  Then in 1 John 5:16b we see reference to a category of sin by the intimidating title: "sin leading unto death".  Then finally, John mentions in 1 John 5:17 that in all reality, all sin is worthy of death.  It is in this three-fold manner of argumentation that John warns his readers about the dangerous and alluring road of idolatry.

Defining sins that do not lead unto death.  1 John 5:16a
The category of "sin not leading to death" can pave the way to idolatry.  John writes in 1 John 5:16a "If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death."  John reminds his readers of their need to be looking out for one another.  What happens when we see another fellow brother or sister doing something that could pose harm to themselves or other's in either the spiritual or physical realms?  Do we say anything?  Jude 22-23 states - "And have mercy on some, who are doubting; 23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh."  When dealing with sin in the church or in our own lives, restoration and mercy is to be the basis rather than retribution.  Galatians 6:1-2 tells us in similarly - "Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ." 

As you read John's words, they are dealing in areas wherein fellow believers love one another and are praying for each other.  Praying that God will grant repentance and softness of heart to those who are caught up in "sin's that do not lead to death" is encouraged and commanded by John.  As you look throughout his little letter, various sections serve to warn those who are committing sins that are "not unto death".1  As bad as those levels of sin are in 1 John, John is warning his readers of how such escalating levels of sin can drive people into the arms of idolatry.  God's mercy is shown in these texts.  Yet there is a classification of sin which reveals an invisible line that God draws - a line that John terms "sin leading unto death".

Defining the sin that leads unto death
The second category of sin leading unto death demonstrates the ultimate fruit of idolatry.  1 John 5:16b says these frightening words - "There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this."  What could a person do that would have God exercise such extreme measures?  What is the "sin unto death".  Having read commentaries on this text, and even listening to such noted Bible preachers and Dr. John MacArthur, there appears to be two prevailing opinions that have equal footing and scripture support.  In the Bible there are two sinful conditions that can lead to the spiritual or physical deaths of unbelievers and believers: apostasy for unbelievers and sudden physical death for believers. For those who want more details and scriptural study, I have included such details in the endnotes at the end of this post.2  

In the first possibility, the "sin unto death" for the unbeliever is primarily spiritual, whereas the "sin unto death" for the sinning Christian is physical.  Now when John mentions about "not making such a request for those who have committed sins unto death", it does not appear he is forbidding God's people from praying.  Rather all John is saying is that he has no instructions, no advice and no counsel to give from the Lord.  All we can do is pray God will grant persons who are unsaved another chance to believe and be saved.  If that unbeliever does end up believing on Jesus Christ, then clearly they had not apostasized.  Likewise too, for the Christian who has been unrepentant, there are those cases where they heed the Spirit's conviction and respond, prompting the urgent need for mercy and restoration. (compare 1 Corinthians 5 and 2 Corinthians 2). 

All sin deserves death
When you really think about what we just discovered about the "sin leading unto death", as well as those "sins that don't lead unto death", does it not make you marvel at God's mercy?  The road to idolatry is paved by sins not leading to death that point in the direction of sin leading unto death.  In one respect we can say the consequences and nature of some sins are worse (leading to death) than others (not leading to death).  However John is quick to point out in 1 John 5:17 "All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death."  In other  words, all sin, regardless of the category, is deserving of death.  Yet God in His mercy prefers and in the overwhelming majority of cases chooses to draw the line moreso on the side of mercy and patience rather than swift judgment.  The fact that I am here typing this sentence and that you are there reading it demonstrates the incredible mercy of Holy God.  Thanks be to God for the shed blood of Jesus Christ and the Father's Eternal purpose of grace that shields and preserves the child of God. 

As you can see, idolatry is bad because of what people do in pursuing it, and the merciful God that the heart of idolatry finds easy to exchange.  Why would anyone want to trade such a wonderful God for anything is what reveals the insanity and seductive danger of idolatry.  If pursued to its logical and spiritual end - idolatry can kill the person doing it: spiritually and even physically!  This is why John warns his readers to guard themselves against idolatry.  This among the other many reasons we could cite is why idolatry is bad.

Tomorrow we will consider one final question in this series on idolatry: What is the number one way to combat idolatry?


1. It is most likely that these sections in 1 John are written to those people in the church who are professing Christians but who never experienced genuine salvation. John is deeply concerned about such persons, since such activity not only hurts them but hurts the church. Notice the sections:
1. Warnings to Pretenders of the faith. 1 John 1:5-10
2. Warnings to Pleasure Seekers. 1 John 2:15-19
3. Warnings to Practitioners of ongoing sin. 1 John 3:18-10
4. Warnings to those who Persist in error. 1 John 4:3,6,8

Such sections in 1 John serve to depict persons who are participating in ever darkening and debasing levels of sin, who profess to be Christians and who need to know Jesus. The people to whom John is addressing are still alive, thus meaning that they have not yet committed a sin unto death. 

2. For those who are unbelievers, this extreme "sin unto death" is what we call "apostasy". Jesus refers to the sin as "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit" in Matthew 12:40-41. In this form of apostasy, the unbeliever, claiming to be a believer, ascribes the work of the Holy Spirit to none other than Satan himself. Hebrews 6 and 10 refers to those professors of Christ who "apostasize" (literally stand opposed), not being able to be renewed again unto repentance". In extreme cases, an unbeliever who persists headlong into rebellion against the appeal of the Gospel, will be left alone by the Holy Spirit's general call to repent and believe. Proverbs 6:14-15 issues this warning about such unbelievers -"Who with perversity in his heart continually devises evil, Who spreads strife. 15 Therefore his calamity will come suddenly; Instantly he will be broken and there will be no healing."
Often people will wonder and worry whether or not if they have committed the unpardonable sin. My answer to them is that if they are worrying, they clearly have not committed that sin and that furthermore, such an extreme sin is committed by an unsaved individual whom God has handed over to their degrading passions and warped nature of their minds. (Romans 1)  No true Christian can blaspheme the Holy Spirit,

The second type of "sin unto death" in scripture has to do with genuine Christians who sin so greviously and so persistently against Christ that they suddenly die, physically. Passages in the New Testament speaks about such Christians As Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 and some of the Corinthians believers in 1 Corinthians 11:30 who were "falling asleep" or "physically dying" due to having "crossed the line" with God. Proverbs 29:1 issues this chilling statement - "He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy." Can God do such a thing? Absolutely! Why? To ensure the salvation of the Christian.