Sickness and Sin + 8

 “In other days people chose a church on the basis of their doctrinal convictions. Now, lacking doctrinal convictions, they choose for social reasons.”

~Vance Havner

 

“The church is not developing her recruits into disciplined soldiers. We are fighting the greatest battle of all time with the most untrained army on earth. If strict discipline is necessary in art and athletics, how can we expect to be advanced Christians and stay in kindergarten?”

~Vance Havner

 

 

Context Matters—Really Matters!

by Kyle Butt, M.A.

 

Understanding the Bible is the most important facet of any person’s life. For the honest truth seeker, a proper understanding of the Bible is imperative for him or her to secure an eternal home in Heaven. For the skeptic, a true understanding of the Bible can lead him or her out of the darkness into the marvelous light. One of the most important tools for accomplishing such an understanding is a correct grasp of the idea of biblical context and figures of speech.

CONTEXT CLUES

In your younger years of school, one of the first language skills you learned was to use context clues to help you solve problems or understand the meaning of words. For instance, what does the word “bear” mean? It could be a noun referring to a big, furry mammal with large teeth. Or maybe it is being used in its verbal form meaning “to endure.” Only the context can give you the meaning of the word. Read the two sentences below and decide which meaning goes with each sentence.

The bear jumped into the water after a salmon.
God will provide a way of escape so that you can bear temptation.

Obviously, the first sentence is talking about an animal, while the second sentence is discussing being able to endure. That was easy to figure out, but it could be done only via the context.

In the same way, the Bible puts things in context, and that context must be used in order to understand what is being said. For instance, in the book of Job the Bible says to “curse God” (2:9). That is a very disturbing thought. We know that in other places, the Bible says that we should love, honor, and serve God as our Creator. So which is it? Should we honor and serve Him, or curse Him? The answer is easy to find if we look at the context of the verse in Job. Job had just lost his most precious worldly possessions—children, health, and riches. As he sat in the middle of an ash heap scraping his boils with a broken piece of pottery, his wife looked on him with sorrow and desirous of ending Job’s pain. This is what she said to Job: “Do you still hold to your integrity? Curse God and die!” When Job heard this advice, he was troubled and said to his her: “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” Obviously, once the context is taken into account, the Bible does not tell anyone that cursing God is a good thing to do. Job’s wife mistakenly commented that Job should curse God, and Job set her error straight. Context matters—really matters.

Again, Mark 3:22 talks about Jesus saying, “By the ruler of demons He casts out demons.” But at other times we read that Jesus cast out demons by the power of God. Once again, we must inquire as to which was the case. Did the ruler of demons possess Jesus, or did Jesus use the power of God? Context saves the day again. In Mark, the scribes were accusing Jesus (falsely) of using the devil’s power. Just a few verses later in Mark 3:23-27, Jesus set the record straight and explained that His power did not come from Satan, but from God. Once again, context matters—really matters.

FIGURES OF SPEECH

Suppose a younger brother volunteers to bring his older brother a soda from the refrigerator. On his return, he slips on a rug and accidentally throws the beverage across the room. Witnessing the sight, the older brother comments, “Smooth move, little brother.” Did he really mean that his little brother had just made a smooth move? Of course not. He meant the exact opposite, and used a figure of speech known as sarcasm to get his point across. It may come as a surprise to you, but the Bible does the same thing.

In the book of 2 Corinthians, some of the Christians were accusing Paul of treating them badly. Many times throughout the book he explained that never once had he treated them unjustly. In 2 Corinthians 12:13 he wrote: “For what is it in which you were inferior to other churches, except that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong!” Was the apostle really asking for forgiveness for not being burdensome to the Corinthian church? No, he was using sarcasm to make the point that he never had mistreated the church at Corinth.

Throughout the Bible, many different figures of speech are used, sarcasm being just one of them. Let’s look at another one known as hyperbole. Hyperbole might look like a confusing word, but you probably are very familiar with it, even though you might not know that you are. Hyperbole is simply the exaggeration of facts to make a point. If you were invited to a party and someone said that “everybody” was going to be there, that person would be employing hyperbole. It is impossible for “everybody” in the world to be at the party. We would not call our friend a liar because he or she said such a thing because we understand the figure of speech that was used. The Bible does the same thing. Consider John 4:39 as an example. In this passage, a Samaritan woman spoke of Jesus and said: “He told me all that I ever did.” Had Jesus really told that woman everything that she had ever done in her life? No, she was using hyperbole to make her point. Hyperbole is one of the more common figures of speech in the Bible.

FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE

When a person speaks literally, he means exactly what he says. If I say that I own a car, then I mean that I own a car. But sometimes a person speaks figuratively rather than literally. When a person uses figurative language, then that person uses words to symbolize something else. For instance, when a person says, “That politician is a snake,” he or she does not literally mean that the politician is a reptile that crawls around on its belly. The individual simply means that the politician is sneaky or sly.
Many of the biblical writers use figurative language. In Luke 13:32, Jesus had been warned that King Herod was trying to kill Him. Jesus replied by saying “Go, tell that fox….” Did Jesus really mean that Herod was a furry animal about the size of a small dog with a bushy tale? Certainly not. He did mean, however, that Herod was a sly, sneaky fellow.

Again, in John 10:1-9 Jesus spoke about a place where shepherds kept their sheep, and then referred to Himself as “the door” of the sheep fold. Did he mean that He was a tall piece of wood with a knob and hinges? No, He simply meant that everyone must go through Him to get to the Father. Jesus often used figurative language.

CONCLUSION

If skeptics, as well as sincere truth seekers, would get a firm handle on the concepts of context and figures of speech in the Bible, then there would be far fewer accusations of biblical discrepancy hurled by the skeptic, and far less doubt and consternation on the part of the sincere truth seeker.


Copyright © 2001 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

We are happy to grant permission for items in the “Doctrinal Matters” section to be reproduced in their entirety, as long as the following stipulations are observed: (1) Apologetics Press must be designated as the original publisher; (2) the specific Apologetics Press Web site URL must be noted; (3) the author’s name must remain attached to the materials; (4) any references, footnotes, or endnotes that accompany the article must be included with any written reproduction of the article; (5) alterations of any kind are strictly forbidden (e.g., photographs, charts, graphics, quotations, etc. must be reproduced exactly as they appear in the original); (6) serialization of written material (e.g., running an article in several parts) is permitted, as long as the whole of the material is made available, without editing, in a reasonable length of time; (7) articles, in whole or in part, may not be offered for sale or included in items offered for sale; and (8) articles may be reproduced in electronic form for posting on Web sites pending they are not edited or altered from their original content and that credit is given to Apologetics Press, including the web location from which the articles were taken.

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Montgomery, Alabama 36117
U.S.A.
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The Mighty Power Of God

by Pastor Cornelius R. Stam

 

In 1866 Alfred Nobel invented an explosive made of nitroglycerin absorbed in a porous material. It was by far the most powerful explosive that had so far been invented.

When Nobel and his friends saw what his invention could do, and had to decide on a name, they sought for the strongest possible word for power — in any language. The word they finally chose was the Greek word dunamis, from which our word dynamite is derived.

This word, in Greek also the strongest word for power, is used again and again in the New Testament and is generally translated simply “power”.

When our Lord wrought miracles, for example, St. Luke testifies that “the POWER [dunamis] of the Lord was present to heal” (Luke 5:17). In promising His apostles that they too would work miracles, He said: “Ye [shall] be endued with POWER [dunamis] from on high”(Luke 24:49).

When the Sadducees questioned the resurrection, Jesus answered: “Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the POWER [dunamis] of God” (Matthew 22:29), and St. Paul declares that Christ was “declared to be the Son of God with POWER [dunamis]…by the resurrection from the dead”(Romans 1:4).

Using this same word, Paul, by inspiration, declares that “the gospel of Christ…is THE POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION, to every one that believeth…” (Romans 1:16). This is because, according to this gospel, or good news, “CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS”, and “THE PREACHING OF THE CROSS”, he says, is to believers “THE POWER OF GOD”(I Corinthians 1:18).

But not only are believers saved by the power of God; they are “KEPT BY THE POWER OF GOD” (I Peter 1:5). Indeed, the adjective of this same word “dunamis” is used in Hebrews 7:25, where we read that the Lord Jesus Christ is “ABLE…TO SAVE…TO THE UTTERMOST [THOSE] THAT COME UNTO GOD BY HIM”. Thus the Bible uses the very strongest word for power to show how secure is the salvation of those who trust in Christ.

 

 

God Has No Grandchildren

By Vance Havner

 

To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to his it is sin.
James 4:17

Gibbon describes the degeneration of Christianity under the Greek scholars of the 10th century, who handled the literature and spoke the language of the spiritual but knew not the life: “They held in their lifeless hands the riches of their fathers without inheriting the spirit which had created and imparted that sacred patrimony. They read; they praised; they compiled; but their languid souls seemed alike incapable of thought and action.”

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day handled the things of God, read the Scriptures, faithfully kept the letter of the law, were painstakingly separated from sinners. But the publicans and harlots went into the Kingdom before them.

To have grown up in a Christian home and in a church, early fluent in the speech of the Kingdom, familiar with its subjects and observing its practices, yet never a citizen, produces a type of sinner often harder to awaken than the most ignorant heathen. Truth long heard and not acted upon means awful self-deception (James 1:22).

Second generations do not inherit salvation. God has no grandchildren.

 

 

A True Veteran

by Pastor Cornelius R. Stam

 

Before you have placed your trust in Christ as your Lord and Savior, there is nothing whatever you can do to please God or to gain acceptance with Him. John 3:35 declares that “the Father loves the Son” and cares what you think about Him and do with Him. This is why Verse 36 goes on to say:

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

But once you have received Christ as your Savior and Lord there is much you can do to please God. You can witness to His saving grace, you can please Him by living a godly life, you can work for Him, you can sacrifice of your means to further His cause, and yes, you can fight for Him. “Fight for Him” you say? Yes indeed, for this world system, our Adamic natures and Satan and his hosts, are all antagonistic toward the Christ who died for our sins. Satan’s forces, especially, work behind the scenes to “blind the minds of them that believe not” (II Corinthians 4:4). These fallen angels, we read, are “the rulers of the darkness of this world” (Ephesians 6:12).

This is why God urges His children to be “strong in the Lord,” putting on “the whole armor of God,” so as to meet and defeat these evil forces (Verses 10,11). This is why He puts a sword (“the Word of God”) into our hands and bids us “stand… stand… stand!” (Verses 11-14).

Ah, but a great veteran, who waged many battles in making Christ known to the lost, gives us an inkling of the thrill that goes with being “a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” In his last words, just before his execution, the Apostle Paul declared triumphantly: “I have fought a good fight!” (II Timothy 4:7). It was indeed “a good fight” in which he had been engaged, a fight to bring light and salvation and blessing to benighted souls. And the reward: “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown” (Verse 8).

 

 

The Power in Humility

January 16, 2015

“‘Egypt will become a desolate wasteland. Then they will know that I am the LORD.

“‘Because you said, “The Nile is mine; I made it,” therefore I am against you and against your streams, and I will make the land of Egypt a ruin and a desolate waste from Migdol to Aswan, as far as the border of Cush.’” — Ezekiel 29:9–10

This Torah portion for this week is Va’eira, which means “and I appeared,” from Exodus 6:2–9:35, and the Haftorah is from Ezekiel 28:25–29:21.

In this week’s Haftorah reading, Egypt was still learning the same lesson that God came to teach them in this week’s Torah reading. In the Torah portion, we read further into the Exodus story and saw seven out of the 10 plagues that had come to Egypt. This was God’s way of humbling an arrogant Pharaoh who refused to let God’s people go. But it wasn’t until after the final plague – the death of the firstborn, which we will read about next week – that Pharaoh finally was brought to his knees.

In the Haftorah reading, once again, God was faced with an arrogant Egypt and a prideful Pharaoh. The prophet Ezekiel predicted Egypt’s downfall, which would occur for two reasons: One, because they reneged on their promise to help Israel against the invading Babylonians; and secondly, because they denied God and placed themselves above God.

Here’s the great irony. God makes it so that those who place themselves on the top are going to find themselves on the bottom, while those who are low and humble are the ones who are ultimately honored and esteemed. The Jewish sages put it this way, “He who runs after honor, honor will run away from him. But he who runs away from honor, honor will chase him.”

In the Haftorah reading, God said, “Because you said, ‘The Nile is mine; I made it,’ therefore I am against you and against your streams, and I will make the land of Egypt a ruin . . .” Let’s dissect that for a second. In Egypt, the Nile River was considered a god. So for Pharaoh to say, “The Nile is mine; I made it,” he was essentially claiming that he created God. Not only does the Nile, his god, belong to him, but Pharaoh claims to be its creator as well! Could there be a more prideful declaration? God had no choice but to put Pharaoh in his place.

Consider the following: The Nile, as important as it was as a river that provided water for Egypt, was just a passageway for the water that ultimately landed in the ocean. There is a saying that all rivers flow to the sea because it is lower than they are. The humility of the ocean – the fact that it is lower than any of the rivers – is the source of its power. The ocean is vast and wide, teaming with life, because of its lowliness.

The message for us all is to live with humility. Humility is no sign of weakness. In contrast, it is the source of our power. The higher we place ourselves, the lower God will bring us down. As the psalmist wrote, “But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity” (Psalm 37:11).

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein

 

 

Facing Up To Facts

by Pastor Cornelius R. Stam

 

Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, Chapters One and Two, present a dark picture of the human race, but acknowledge the facts they record and you have taken the first step to salvation. By nature we shrink from facing up to our sins, but we are better off if we do.

If a man has early indications of cancer, and his physician keeps the truth from him, the patient will die of cancer. A good and wise physician will say: “You have cancer and we should do something about it without delay.”

Thus God, in His Word, tells us very frankly about our sinful condition, but only to save us from it.

This is where most philosophies and the Bible clash head-on. Most philosophies close their eyes to man’s sinful nature. They presume that man is good by nature when overwhelming evidence bears witness that he is sinful by nature. Thus human philosophies offer no salvation from sin and its just penalty. Only “the gospel of the grace of God” does that.

The Bible says of the whole human race: “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23), and to each individual: “Thou art inexcusable” (Romans 2:1). But the same Bible says: “Christ died for our sins” (I Corinthians 15:3), and “We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, accord-ing to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

Trust in Christ for salvation and you have accepted God’s great message to the world. Then, as you consider that great Book, and especially the Epistle to the Romans, you will say with Fawcett:

“It shows to man his wand’ring ways
And where his feet have trod;
But brings to view the matchless grace
Of a forgiving God.”

 

 

Confronting Ignorance

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

 

Near the end of Moses’ life, when the children of Israel were soon to enter the Promised Land, Moses instructed them to teach the younger generation: “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, emp. added). In this passage, Moses stressed the importance of teaching children continually the words of the Lord. Why is it that we have not followed the example that Moses set for the Israelites? If we love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37), the priorities given 3,500 years ago should not have changed. In the New Testament, Paul instructed Timothy to “give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:13). Peter commanded Christians to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). The noble Bereans set a worthy example to follow in that they “searched the Scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11). However, it seems that in recent times we have failed to teach our children, and ignorance has become an epidemic.

In their book, The Gospel According to Generation X, David Lewis, Carley Dodd, and Darryl Tippens revealed the results of a survey they conducted in the early 1990s. Four thousand adolescents from churches of Christ throughout the United States were questioned. A number of the statistics were encouraging, however, the responses to some of the questions revealed there is much that young people still need to know. For example, 45% of those surveyed indicated that they either did not believe or did not know whether it is possible for any adult to be saved without being baptized (p. 17). Only 20% of the 4,000 questioned thought that divorce and remarriage for reasons other than fornication would cause all parties involved to be lost (p. 18). Just 19% of those surveyed thought the use of musical instruments during a church service was sinful (p. 18). And finally, of the 4,000 young people polled, 81% indicated that those who have not heard the gospel still have a hope of salvation (p. 18).

Why are we surprised when so many young people never are baptized, or think very little about its necessity if they want to be saved (Mark 16:16)? Why are we shocked when a young adult marries, then divorces and remarries for reasons other than fornication (Matthew 19:1-9)? Why are we surprised when people show little interest in sharing the good news of Jesus? After all, only 19% indicated that one who has not heard about Jesus is lost (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).

Mothers and fathers cannot rely solely upon the Sunday school instructor to teach children everything thing they need to know about the Bible. Young people never will have a good knowledge of God’s Word if they are taught the Bible for just a few minutes on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. They need to hear it on a consistent basis. When you see monkeys at the zoo, take the time to teach your children that they did not evolve from animals. When you take a quarter out of your pocket, show them the image of George Washington and then teach your children that they were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). When you see a body of water, remind your sons and daughters of the Ethiopian eunuch’s question, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36).

Religious education should take place in the mornings and in the evenings, inside and outside, while sitting and while walking (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). It is time to confront ignorance “head-on” by giving attention to God’s Word on a daily basis.


Copyright © 2001 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

We are happy to grant permission for items in the “Doctrinal Matters” section to be reproduced in their entirety, as long as the following stipulations are observed: (1) Apologetics Press must be designated as the original publisher; (2) the specific Apologetics Press Web site URL must be noted; (3) the author’s name must remain attached to the materials; (4) any references, footnotes, or endnotes that accompany the article must be included with any written reproduction of the article; (5) alterations of any kind are strictly forbidden (e.g., photographs, charts, graphics, quotations, etc. must be reproduced exactly as they appear in the original); (6) serialization of written material (e.g., running an article in several parts) is permitted, as long as the whole of the material is made available, without editing, in a reasonable length of time; (7) articles, in whole or in part, may not be offered for sale or included in items offered for sale; and (8) articles may be reproduced in electronic form for posting on Web sites pending they are not edited or altered from their original content and that credit is given to Apologetics Press, including the web location from which the articles were taken.

For catalog, samples, or further information, contact:

Apologetics Press
230 Landmark Drive
Montgomery, Alabama 36117
U.S.A.
Phone (334) 272-8558(334) 272-8558

http://www.apologeticspress.org

 

Sickness And Sin

by Pastor Cornelius R. Stam

 

One thing that really concerns this writer about modern life, is how sin is constantly called sickness. A man commits some moral outrage and they say he is sick — they even tell him that.

I went to see a man some time ago who had fallen into unspeakable immorality and it had caught up with him. For years his sanctimonious life had been a sham; now the mask was torn off and he was in trouble — deep trouble.

I had been telling him that now his best course was to make a clean confession — to the courts and to God. But someone else had gotten to him first. While he stood by, listening, this man had told his wife: “You must get Jim to see that he’s sick and needs help. I’m not condoning what he has done, but I’m hopeful that if he gets the proper help he can be cured.”

What a way to evade the sin question! Of course the man was sick — I imagine you and I would be sick too if we lived as he had been living! But let’s get this straight: His sick- ness came from his sin, not his sin from some sickness. He would have been far better off to sob out his heart in contrition before God for his sin than to excuse his conduct on the grounds of illness. Romans 5:12 says: “By one man sin entered into the world and death by sin,” and Romans 6:23 says: “The wages of sin is death.”

The sobering fact is that while there may be differences in the kinds of sins we commit, or in the degrees of our sin, Romans 3:23 declares that there is no difference in this, that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

This is why we are so pleased and proud to proclaim “the gospel of the grace of God,” how Christ paid the penalty for our sins that we might have a perfect standing before a holy God, “being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!” (II Corinthians 9:15).

 

 

When it’s Time to Change

January 15, 2015

So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the LORD had said through Moses. — Exodus 9:35

This Torah portion for this week is Va’eira, which means “and I appeared,” from Exodus 6:2–9:35, and the Haftorah is from Ezekiel 28:25–29:21.

This past summer, Naftali Bennett, a leading politician in Israel, addressed an audience at a conference on peace. It so happens that Naftali Bennett is on the right politically and most of his audience that day was comprised of people on the left. But that’s not what I want to focus on. The message that he gave at the start of his speech is an important lesson for us all.

Bennett opened his talk by recalling his days in a hi-tech startup company. He described how he and several friends drew up plans and raised significant funds to launch their product, which would be sold on the Internet. They were on their way with high hopes for the future. A year and a half later, explained Bennett, the company was going 100 miles an hour with 70 employees and huge monthly expenses. The only problem was that there were no sales. Month after month, Bennett would appear before his board and explain that things would improve and the money would come. But the truth was that the company was going 100 miles an hour into a brick wall. Finally, Bennett’s financial advisor told him that if something didn’t change, they were going to be shut down. Bennett described that moment as jarring, but thankfully he heeded the warning and the company completely changed direction. They threw away everything that they had invested so much time, money, and energy into because they realized it wasn’t working. They completely changed course, and for that reason, the company is an overwhelming success today.

It doesn’t matter that Bennett’s message to his political opponents was that they should wake up and change direction. The point is that we all hang on too hard and too long to ideas and values that don’t serve us. We need to know when to wake up and change direction.

This is what Pharaoh in this week’s Torah portion should have done. In this week’s reading, he had experienced seven of the 10 plagues — blood, frogs, lice, wild beasts, pestilence, boils, and the worst hailstorm Egypt had ever seen, except for in Goshen, where the Israelites lived. Yet Pharaoh refused to relent. With his hard and stubborn heart, he refused to change direction and let the children of Israel go. He led his nation straight into a brick wall – or more accurately, straight into the sea – where they perished.

As we read this story this week, let’s examine where we might need to make changes in our own lives. Let’s learn to let go of ideas and values that are leading us down the wrong road. Let’s acknowledge when it’s time to change direction and gather the strength to do it.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein

 

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