Thursday, February 28, 2008

Larry Norman

For those of you who don't know, Christian singer Larry Norman passed away on the 24th of this month. He was known as the Frank Zappa of comtemporary Christian Music. Now, I don't think I'd take that as much of a compliment. I mean, if someone told me I was the Frank Zappa of auditing, I'd probably ask them to step outside for a minute. Ok, I'm just kidding. If you've never heard of him or heard his music, here is a link to one of my favorite songs of his-Why should the devil have all the good music? Just good, fun stuff.

In Christ

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Matthew 4:12-16 The Messiah begins His Ministry

As we continue to study this wonderful gospel of Matthew’s, we come to the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. This is probably as good a place as any to point out, for those of you who were not aware of it, that Matthew does not present the events and teachings in his gospel in strict chronological order. While there are things in the gospel that are generally chronological, this is not written as a history book. We should remember that Matthew’s purpose in writing was to prove to his people, the Jews, that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah promised in the Old Testament. As he continues to drive his point home in this gospel, he records information about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

In verse 12, Matthew records that “Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody”. As we read in chapter 3, John was the last prophet of God to preach to Israel prior to the coming of Jesus. We also read that John was very bold in his proclamation of the truth, even going so far as to call the religious leaders of the day a brood of vipers. In fact, it was this boldness that landed John in prison. We read in Matthew 14 that John was imprisoned for calling Herod Anitpas out for his immoral relationship with his brother’s wife. This imprisonment led Christ to move into the area where John had been imprisoned and minister there. In his Notes on the New Testament, Albert Barnes suggests 3 reasons for Christ to have moved His ministry into that area:
(1,) because the attention of the people had been much excited by John's preaching, and it was more favourable for his own ministry.
(2.) It seemed desirable to have some one to second John in the work of reformation.
(3.) It was less dangerous for him to commence his labours there than near Jerusalem. Judea was under the dominion of the scribes, and Pharisees, and priests. They would naturally look with envy on any one who set up for a public teacher, and who should attract much attention there. It was important, therefore, that the work of Jesus should begin in Galilee, and become somewhat established and known before he went to Jerusalem.

While these are certainly plausible reasons, Matthew gives the most compelling reason for this change of location-God’s will. Jesus “withdrew into Galilee and, leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum”. This region of Galilee was the region under the control of Herod the Tetrach and was where John the Baptist had been imprisoned. Capernaum was a fairly large city (about 30,000 people) on the northwest coast of the sea of Galilee and it was the city where Jesus would spend a good deal of time in His ministry. Several of His disciples (i.e. Peter) lived there and the city gave Him quick access to the Sea of Galilee which He would cross several times in His ministry. However, as the evangelist Matthew records, the most important reason for Christ to have dwelled there is because it fulfilled scriptural prophecy and, therefore, God’s will.

Matthew notes that Christ’s dwelling in Galilee fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1-2. In verses 15-16, Matthew writes:
15 "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali , By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles —16 "The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light , And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death , Upon them a light dawned ."

Capernaum was in the land of Zebulon and Naphtali in the region of Upper Galilee. Upper Galilee was called Galilee of the Gentiles because many Gentiles lived there. People from the region were considered uncultured and kind of “backwards”. You might compare them to “rednecks” today. Therefore, Jesus left the center of Jewish culture and religious life, the area of Jerusalem, to minister to people who were considered to be from the wrong side of the tracks. There were described as “sitting in darkness” and “in the land and shadow of death”. As Matthew Henry notes in his commentary, “Those who are without Christ, are in the dark. They were sitting in this condition, a contented posture; they chose it rather than light; they were willingly ignorant.” In fact, this is the same sort of condition of all sinners before they are given the ability to repent and the faith to believe. All of us were sitting, quite comfortably, in our sin in open rebellion against the God that created us. And just like these people, thanks to the Holy Spirit, we saw the light. Now, of course, not everyone in this region responded with saving faith in Christ. However, like us, they were in darkness. Also, like us, the light did dawn. Christ came to these people to preach the same message of the kingdom that John had preached in the wilderness of Judea. In verse 17, Matthew records that Jesus preached to people “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Let us take these lessons from the life of our precious Savior and take the gospel to those who need it. Let us pray for the boldness of Jesus and of John the Baptist to proclaim that there is a judgment and people must be prepared spiritually by repenting of their sins and turning in faith to Christ.

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Too much of a good thing?

For those of you who can't get enough of scripture exposition (and, let's face it, who can get enough of scripture exposition), a friend of mine, Mike, is blogging through the book of Philippians on his blog in a series called Fridays in Philippians. Check it out. You'll be glad you did.

in Christ

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sorry, folks

Good day

I have studied for the next several verses of my exposition of Matthew. However, I have not written the post as of yet. Instead of trying to throw one together to make some sort of self imposed deadline, I've decided to take this week off and get back on my regular weekly schedule this weekend and have my post up by the 23rd (Saturday).

I have been thinking about something for sometime now and I thought I'd post this in the form of a prayer request. Eric over at Hammer and Nail has been posting a series on church reform. I highly recommend it. Anyway, he posted a link to a Southern Baptist church that is using a model called Family Intergrated Church. Basically, instead of seperating families into "age appropriate" classes, all families are together for the entire worship service. The concept, to me, is pretty exciting. Recently, I have become very disenchated with some of the things in the traditional institutional church and the idea of a "back to basics" kind of reformation sounds pretty appealing to me. Anyway, there is no such church in the area. I got to thinking how exciting it would be to start one. However, I don't need to do what Joe wants to do. I need to do what God wants me to do. Please pray for me that I will get a clear sense of direction from the Father.

Thanks so much for stopping by and I will have my next entry in Matthew up by Saturday.

in Christ

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Great post on the temptation of our Savior

Alan Knox in his blog The Assembling of the Church (see link on the left) has written a great post reflecting on the temptation of Jesus here. You should check it out if you have the chance.

in Christ

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Matthew 4:8-11 The Temptation of Jesus Part V

Probably the clearest picture of the motives of Satan in the Bible is found in Isaiah chapter 14. Ultimately, Satan wants to usurp power, glory, and authority from the Lord. We see him, in this last temptation recorded in Matthew, at his most arrogant. We see our Savoir demonstrate His unwavering devotion to God the Father and find for ourselves an example of the kind of faithfulness that we as followers of Christ are called to in our lives.

We notice that the setting has changed for this last temptation as recorded in Matthew. Satan has conducted Jesus to some “very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory”. The parallel passage in Luke 4 adds that the devil made this presentation in “a moment in time”. The picture that seems to be painted is that the devil showed our Lord all that could be seen from the top of this unnamed precipice and supernaturally showed a vision of the kingdoms of the world. Certainly, this would have been a magnificent sight. Rome was the most recent in a fairly impressive line of ancient civilizations including Babylon, Persia, and Greece. From a purely human standpoint, these societies had produced wonders in art, literature, politics, and architecture. Of course, viewed from the perspective of almighty God they were sinful, petty examples of man at his worst. Measured by purely human standards, however, their glory was unsurpassed.

In the midst of this glory, which was the height of human glory, Satan makes his most bold, presumptuous challenge of the three. He says to our Lord, in verse 9, that he would give Jesus all of the things that he showed Him. There was just one small catch. He said he would give these things to Christ if “You will bow down and worship me”. The creature here demands worship from the Creator. The clay calls for homage from the Potter. There is a reason that scripture teaches that “pride goes before destruction”. Satan, even in his state as a defeated foe, stands arrogantly demanding worship from God Incarnate.

We should remember as we study this that Satan did (and does) have a measure of authority over this earth. In John 12:31, 14:30, and 16:11, our Lord calls Satan “the prince of this world”. We read in Daniel how demons sent by Satan interfere in human governments (Daniel 10:13). With this in mind, it is reasonable to assume that he could have given a measure of authority to Christ. Of course, we know that at the end of everything that our Lord will in fact be crowned King over all creation to the glory of God the Father. In this temptation, we see Satan trying to tempt Jesus with a shortcut to the kingdom. In other words, would He remain faithful to the Father and be obedient to the Father’s plan which included suffering or would He worship Satan to obtain the kingdom without the pain and suffering He would face as the Lamb of God.

You and I, of course, are never going to be offered the kingdoms of the world by Satan. However, as we think about our lives and situations that we face, there are times where our devotion to God is questioned in much the same way. Be it at work or at home, we also have to make decisions daily to obey God and choose His way rather than a way that might seem quicker, easier, or less painful. Our Lord, here, provides for us a pattern that we should follow when we come into situations like that.

He responds in verse 10 by saying “Go, Satan! For it is written, you shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” In the New King James version, the Lord is quoted as saying “Away with you, Satan.” ** In any case, He had simply, up to this point, quoted holy scripture to refute the tests of the devil. However, in the face of blatant blasphemy, He exercise His divine authority and calls for Satan to leave. He quotes Deuteronomy 6:13 saying “you shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only”. The English word “worship” translates a Greek word “proskuneo” which means to prostrate oneself or bow in worship (see Matthew 2:2). This is one kind of worship that we should give to God. The idea of reverently presenting ourselves to God in a manner that shows our hearts are humble is certainly important in worship. Jesus also says that we should “serve” God. The word translated “serve” is “latreuo” which probably comes from the Greek word “latris” which means a servant. This word is translated as “worship” in Romans 12:1. Basically, it means to render spiritual service. Jesus is saying, then, that God is the only one worthy not only of us humbling ourselves before Him but He is also worthy of our acts of service which we perform in His name. No one else in the universe deserves the loyalty that we should have for God, certainly not the prince of this world, Satan.

We see that in verse 11 after having successfully passed these tests and demonstrated His faithfulness to the Father, that the Father did indeed meet His needs. The adversary, Satan, left Him and “angels came and began to minister to Him”. “Diakoneo” is the word rendered “minister” and it means to provide physically for someone’s needs. Jesus waited on the Father and the Father in due time provided what He needed. You and I would do well to remember these lessons we have learned as we have studied about our Lord’s time of testing. The same God the provided for Christ in His time of trial will also provide for us who are His dear children.

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

If you have been following this blog for any time or if you have gone back and read any of my other posts, you may notice that I have started using a different Bible translation with these past two posts. In case anyone was wondering, I made this change based on personal research I have done regarding New Testament texts. Now, when I say research, I mean what I have read about the subject from various sources I have available to me. I’ve never been to seminary and am neither competent nor qualified to present much of an argument as to which New Testament text is 100% closer to the autographs. I will probably continue to use the New King James as I study because I really like the text footnotes. I’m sure everyone has their own opinions on the subject.

That’s just my two cents for anyone who might have been curious. I know that some Christians are convicted that the Alexandrian text (the one used to translate most Bibles published since the late 1880’s) was produced by people who were trying to corrupt Christian doctrine. If that is the case, then they did a rotten job of it. In the end, there is not one doctrine of Christianity that is weakened regardless of the text the reader chooses.

in Christ

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Matthew 4:5-7 The Temptation of Jesus Part IV

Cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormon Church quote scripture frequently to support their points. By simply taking a verse completely out of its context they appear to make it mean something other than it actually does. In essence, they highjack the authority of scripture and twist the substance of it to support their unbiblical beliefs. When Satan confronted Jesus, he did the same thing. As we will see in this section of the Bible, the way Jesus responded to this challenge can serve as an example for us when we are going through a trial or discussing the Bible with someone who is antagonistic to scripture.

Matthew 4:5 records that Satan “took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple”. We notice, first of all, the scene has changed. Satan has led Jesus out of the solitude of the wilderness to the heart of the city of Jerusalem. Very likely, the city was bustling with people going about their daily affairs. However, Satan had a specific reason for the change of venue. Christ had shown that He would be obedient to God and wait on Him to supply His needs in the previous test. Our Lord demonstrated that He would not use divine power to even provide food for Himself even though He was terribly hungry. In my neck of the woods, you might even say He was “hon-gry”. Satan also observed that Jesus was not only obedient to God but used the word of God to thwart his first trial.

Satan, therefore, moved to plan B. He first takes our Lord to a public place and tempts Him to put His trust in God the Father to the test. Actually, the strategy is pretty sound. If Jesus is going to trust the Father to provide and refuse to use supernatural power apart from the will of the Father, Satan places Jesus in a situation where that is exactly what he would expect Jesus to do. He says to our Lord in verse 6 “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down, for it is written ‘He will give His angels charge concerning You’ and ‘You shall not strike Your foot against a stone’.” The quote is from Psalm 91:11 and 12. Taken at face value, it seems to mean exactly what Satan says it means. Just like a good little guy wearing the white dress shirt, black tie, and riding a bicycle, he seems to have made a valid point. However, let’s investigate this a bit further, shall we?

Psalm 91 is the NASB has the subtitle “Security for the one who trusts in the Lord”. I don’t want to take the whole post discussing the entire Psalm, but there are two things that we really ought to notice. First of all, the devil intentionally leaves out part of the Scripture. In verse 11 of the psalm, the author actually says “He will give His angels charge concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” Secondly, in context, the verse takes on the meaning that the person whom this verse talks about is someone who is living for God. Verse 9 of this Psalm says “For you have made the Lord, my refuge, even the Most High your dwelling place”. Now someone who would recklessly endanger their own life and put themselves in a position where God would have to act supernaturally to save them is not someone who I would walking in the way that God would have them walk. They would be terribly presumptuous and, in fact, would be demonstrating that they don’t trust God. In essence, they would be demanding proof from God of His love and care for their well being. Therefore, Satan took a scripture that talks about God’s protection and providential care of His saints and twisted it to mean exactly the opposite of what it really meant.
Jesus again quoted scripture to refute Satan. In this case, Satan was tempting the Lord to put His Father’s care to the test. Jesus refused to fall for this snare and told the devil in verse 7 “It is written again, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test’”. The Greek word “palin” is translated in English as “again”. However, according to Vincent’s Word Studies, the actual meaning in this instance would be “on the other hand”. Our Lord contrasts Satan’s misuse of scripture with proper application of another scripture. By quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16, He basically tells Satan that to presumptuously require a sign from the Lord is sin. In fact, Deuteronomy 6:16 refers back to an incident in Exodus 17 where the children of Israel were thirsty and demanding a miraculous sign from the Lord to provide for them. Therefore, for Jesus to make a spectacle of Himself by plunging off of the top of the temple would have, in fact, been sin.

Again, we observe our Lord using the word of God to gain victory over His adversary. We also observe that He used scripture to interpret scripture. We should remember that this is a key principle to proper biblical interpretation. Finally, we see how Satan (and others) misquote and misapply scripture for their own ends. As students of the bible, it is paramount for us to be able to respond to challenges such as this not with our own intellect but with the truth of God’s word as it is rightly divided.

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.