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Saturday, October 13, 2007
The Dunsinane church is a relativly small sanctuary just opposite the Oaklawn Cemetery. It was the first Sabbath in October, so I used a personal ministries emphasis. For those not in the know, the first Sabbath of every month is usually assigned to evangelism unless otherwise announced. Here is the sermon as written, not as preached:
A Planet Prepared
Acts 14:8-17; Acts 17:22-30
15 My Maker and My King
373 Seeking the lost
• A young friend said to me this week. “I wish fairy tales were real. Magic, genie. Could do those things."
God is bigger than fairy tale. Welcome to the world of the real. Fairy tales belong in books.
Today dear friends I want to invite you to consider something far more beautiful and real than Lord of the Rings. No snow white. Jack on bean stalk
There is a Book I would like to recommend to this present digital generation immersed in movies, games, music, sex, and forced to attend church by parents who themselves were probably forced to attend church.
Book of questions. “who hath believed our report and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
Who is the King of glory? Who do men say that I the son of man am? Who then shall be saved? Where is thy brother? What is truth?
Thank god through Jesus that the book we call the Holy Bible is also a book of answers:
The Lord of hosts He is the king of glory.
Lift up your head o ye gates even lifted up ye everlasting doors and the King of glory shall come in.
You are the Christ the Son of the living God.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou salt be saved.
I am the way … and the truth.
Today I invite us to consider the big picture. A simple message.
A good story has a good beginning, a well developed middle, and a good ending.
Children love fairy tales because they have such a predictable happy ending.
Salvation history began in a garden. Middle filled with war disobedience, bloodshed even of the son of god. Sometimes we are impatient to know the ending. Can’t wait to get to the end
Watch a movie with a friend who saw it already and can’t keep mouth shut. I want to find out for I don’t tell me.
Well when it comes to your salvation God does not leave you guessing. He tells you the story. It comes out all right in the end. Better than any Hollywood or Pinewood or Bollywood fantasy.
“And I saw new heaven and new earth.”
“God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”
“And he shewed me a pure river of water of life.”
That’s how the story ends.
Happy endings are for believers in Christ, not just movie junkies and comic strip heroes, or fairy godmothers.
What is our task in the middle of the story?
Because I’m in a Seventh-day Adventist church I can quote Ellen G White without apology and say in that great book Evangelism
Compilation from several of her writings:
“Christ’s last words to His disciples were: “Lo I am with you always even unto the end of the world. “Go ye therefore and teach all nations.’
On the LAST PAGE OF THE BOOK she writes
“Our watchword is to be, Onward, ever onward! Angels of heaven will go before us to prepare the way. Our burden for the regions beyond can never be laid down till the whole earth is lightened with the glory of the Lord.” EVANGELISM P.707
According to www.adherents.com their 2005 figures: CHRISTIANITY REPRESENTS 33% or 2.1 billion believers followed by Islam with 1.5 billion
Guess which is the third largest group
No not Rastafarian
Nonreligious/secular/agnostic/atheist account for 16% or 1.1 billion.
Rastafarian ranked number 21 at 600,000
How near are we to finishing the work?
We little but we tallawah.
Under the power of the Holy Spirit we’ve blessed the world with
106 tertiary institutions
36 worker training institutions
Over 5000 primary schools
And over 1400 secondary schools
30 food industries
167 hospitals and sanitariums
Publishing work we have 65 publishing houses and branches.
And get this we fellowship and worship in the lands of this earthly globe in over 120,000 churches and companies.
We are in 202 of the 228 UN recognised countries.
General Conference of SDA website states that as of 2005 SDA world membership stands at 14.4 million.
That’s out of a world population of 6.4 billion. A little rough arithmetic tells me the remnant message is just over 0.2% of total world population.
What about Jamaica?
6.7% of Jamaicans are SDA over 170,000.
Only five other countries worldwide beat us in percentage Pitcairn at top of list with 76% a total of 42
Jamaica shares position with five other countries including Belize.
If we are lazy we’ll say we’re doing great. If we’re easily discouraged we’ll say alas will the Son of Man find faith.
Today as I encourage the missionaries, community service workers, and bible worker and colporteurs, in fact as I encourage all of you and myself I want to remind you that the harvest is ripe. And God has not left Himself without a witness.
Consider with me the Miracle of Mars Hill.
Textual approach to passage under consideration:
Acts of the Apostles could be called the acts of the Holy Spirit. A few men and women under influence of Holy Spirit turned world upside down for Jesus. We need same unction now for this world need to be turned upside down that Jesus might come back to create a new garden where there is no more sin and death and pain. Consider Paul in Athens in Acts chapter 17.
1. Paul leaves Silas and Timothy in Berea to organise the work there and sails for Athens.
a. Acts 17:16 Paul was like any good Christian upset with the idolatry of Athens. Possibly hundreds of gods.
b. DON RICHARDSON IN BOOK ETERNITY IN THEIR HEARTS writes “Once men reject the one omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent god in favour of lesser deities, they eventually discover that it takes an infinite number of lesser deities to fill the true God’s shoes.” P18.
Church!!! Once reject Creator nothing can fill the soul’s needs. Not liquor, not drugs, not lust of flesh, not lust of eyes, not pride of life. Only the love of Jesus.
2. What did Paul do?
a. “He started to motivate the people who already believed in Yahweh, the one true God. Like Lot in Sodom they were so accustomed to evil that they needed someone to come with new insight.
b. Secondly verse 17: “he went to thoroughfare to preach against evils of the day.”
1. In midst of idolatry Paul comes teaching and preaching.
There is a story of man in Sodom
Talked nobody talked
Wore a sign REPENT nobody paid attention
Shouted “Repent” people laughed
Still he went about shouting “Repent.”
Someone said “Cant you see you’re shouting is useless.”
“Yes I see that when I arrived I was convinced that I could change them. Now I know I cannot. But I continue shouting because I don’t them to change me!”
c. V.18; Athens had many gods so when philosophers
i. These Epicureans and stoics:
The founder of stoicism is Zeno of Citium (333-262) in Cyprus. Basically, he believed in being virtuous, and that virtue was a matter of submitting to God’s will. As usual for Greeks who postulated a single god, Zeno did not strongly differentiate God from nature. So another way of putting it is to live according to nature (“Zen kata physin.”).
The school got its name from the Painted Porch (stoa poikile) in Athens where Zeno studied. Walking up and down the open hallways, he lectured his students on the value of apatheia, the absence of passion, something not too different from the Buddhist idea of non-attachment. By passion Zeno meant uncontrolled emotion or physical desire. Only by taking this attitude, he felt, could we develop wisdom and the ability to apply it.
“Let no one break your will!” he said. Man conquers the world by conquering himself. Start by developing an indifference to pain and pleasure, through meditation. Wisdom occurs when reason controls passions; Evil occurs when passions control us.
Another aspect of Stoicism is its belief in the development of a universal state, in which all men were brothers. Stoics believed in certain “natural rights,” a concept which we wouldn’t see again until the 18th century. They also believed in the right to commit suicide -- an important part of Roman cultural tradition.
Epicureans. Another set of bright people out to challenge Paul.
Virtue for Epicurus was a means to an end. That end is happiness. It is good to feel pleasure and to avoid pain, but one needs to apply reason to life. Sometimes pain is necessary in order to gain happiness. Other times, pleasure leads to more suffering than it is worth.
And there are levels of pain and pleasure, smaller and greater happiness’s. Friendship, for example, is rated one of the highest pleasures. “A sage loves his friends as he loves himself,” he said, and “It is better to give than to receive.” And “It is not possible to live pleasantly without living prudently, honorably, and justly; nor to live prudently, honorably, and justly without living pleasantly.”
Society is seen as necessary: It protects one from injustices. He foreshadows utilitarianism by suggesting that a society should be arranged to provide the greatest happiness to the greatest number.
The ultimate happiness, though, is peace, and he borrows Pyrrho’s word for tranquility -- ataraxia. His motto was “lathe biosas” -- live unobtrusively. He may be considered the first true humanist, as witnessed by this quote: "Philosophy is an activity that uses reasoning and rigorous argument to promote human flourishing."
These were the kind of ideas that Paul had to confront. Jesus showed him the way.
d. heard Paul talking about Jesus two thing happen:
i. Speaking in foreign tongue/accent so call him babbler
ii. He was preaching of Jesus and resurrection so thought just another god to add to many they had.
But how could Paul carry out the Damascus Road commission “I am sending you to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light.”
Paul needed an eye opener. An icebreaker. For that we go back six centuries before Paul.
Yes children a story even more fascinating than fairy tale.
Wise man said offered to many gods but still have plague.
Which of many gods not yet placated? Sent for a wise man afar.
Epimenides. There is a god I don’t know.
Sheep. Allowed to graze yet several rested one by one. Those that rested were sacrificed to the unknown god. Plague abated.
Paul saw one of these altars 600 years later. To Unknown God.
Paul could have behaved like so many good zealous Christians and just go right ahead and condemned the sins and leave it at that.
But he was first and foremost an evangelist. Christ told him to open eyes in order to turn from darkness to light.
v. 22, 23: The newer versions give a slightly more accurate rendering: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious, for as I was walking along I saw your many altars. And one of them had this inscription upon it – to an Unknown god. You have been worshiping Him without knowing who He is, and now I wish to tell you about Him.”
Children if your parents have the book Acts of the Apostles it will help you to understand background to apostle’s work
Read p237 to 239 Acts of the Apostles
A few became followers.
II. A planet prepared.
a. Wherever God send you to witness he has prepared the vineyard. It’s not the baptism it’s the preaching. Witness, witness, witness.
a. *revival at comfort Richie and others etc
• Later in year he was baptised.
b. Through visions, and other tokens of providence God is preparing world for harvest.
i. In midst of Canaanite Abraham stumbled upon a godly king/priest Melchezidek
c. I’ve seen baptisms where persons prepared by Holy Spirit and just waiting for witness.
d. So called pagans have not been left without a witness:
i. Long before Europe Christianised the New world, Inca king Pachacuti who ruled 1438 to 1471 worshipped the creator as Viracocha. Unfortunately the Spanish destroyed the upper class that had knowledge of this truth.
ii. Before the coming of missionaries the Santal people of India longed for Thakur Jiu the Genuine god. When they received gospel their church grew faster than Europe. Their culture had dim history of god’s truth.
Stories all over the world of tribes and people prepared for the coming of missionaries prepared with cultural tools to welcome gospel. Africa, China. India.
The numbers look big but we serve a big god.
e. All over the planet God is preparing the harvest.
i. Pray for it
ii. Work for it
iii. Sacrifice for it
III. Mission and the Motivation
The site countrypreacher.com summarises it beautifully:
I. The Mission -- It is a command of God to preach the gospel to all the world (Mk.
16:15,16; Mat. 28:18-20).
A. Assumes Christians will not be stagnant
1. As you are going, teach (go discipling)
2. The goal is to baptize and then to stabilize
B. Christianity is a taught, learned religion
1. No one can call on the Lord who has not believed; and no one can
believe who has not heard (Rom. 10:13,14).
2. This is the Lord's arrangement: teaching, understanding, conversion,
and forgiveness (Mat 13:15).
-- Mat. 13:15 -- For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of
hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their
eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should
be converted, and I should heal them.
C. The target is the world (Mat. 13:38 -- The field is the world)
1. Where there is sin there is need for a Savior
2. 1 Jn. 5:19 -- And we know that we are of God, and the whole
world lieth in wickedness.
II. The Man -- The world is yours to illuminate, serve and save
A. Christians "light candles" rather than "curse darkness." (Mat. 5:13-16)
1. "Shine in the midst of a crooked world." (Phil. 2:15)
-- Phil 2:14-16 -- Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be
blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked
and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the
word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain,
neither laboured in vain.
a. The honest Christian is a light shining in the midst of the
darkness of dishonesty.
b. The pure Christian shines as a light in the midst of the
darkness of vice and corruption.
c. The peace-making Christian shines in the midst of the
darkness of struggle, dog-eat-dog conflict.
2. Christians shine because they have been called out of darkness into
"His marvelous light." (1 Pet. 2:9)
3. Because of this transition from "darkness to light," his philosophy
toward the world has changed.
a. No longer "What can I get out of it?" but "What can I give?”
(Lk 12:15; Eph. 4:28)
b. No longer is his attitude toward others "What do you owe
me?" but "How can I serve?". (Mat. 20:26-28)
c. No longer is his conduct governed by the question "How
much fun can I have?", but "Is this pure and wholesome?".
(1 Cor. 3:16,17)
d. No longer is his confidence based upon the ideas and
traditions of men, but upon the simplicity of the gospel of
Christ. (2 Cor. 11:3)
B. The early Christians conquered and claimed the world for Christ.
1. As soldiers for Christ we need to:
a. Know the power and craftiness of the enemy-sin and Satan.
(1 Pet. 5:8)
b. Recognize the supreme power of our Captain who
conquered the flesh, Satan and death.
c. He has equipped us with "the sword of the Spirit." (Eph. 6:17)
2. Early Christians conquered by going. equipped by the Lord. (Acts
a. They went.
b. They went everywhere.
c. They went everywhere preaching.
d. They went everywhere preaching the Word.
C. Let us not be weary in well-doing for in due season, we shall reap if we
faint not. (Gal. 6:9)
III. The Motivation -- (2 Cor 5:14-15) For the love of Christ constraineth us; because
we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that
they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died
for them, and rose again.
A. "Lift up your eyes and look." (Jn. 4:35-38)
1. See its plight. (Rom. 3:23 - all have sinned and come short of the
glory of God)
2. See its need for a Savior. "Jew & Gentile" (Mat.1:21)
B. Vision to see and feel the needs of our fellowman is imperative. (Prov. 29:18)
1. We need tender hearts that care. (Rom. 9:1-3 -- I say the truth in
Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy
Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my
brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh...)
2. We need eager ears to hear. (Acts 16:9-10 -- And a vision appeared
to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed
him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he
had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into
Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to
preach the gospel unto them.)
3. We need alert eyes to see. (Mat. 9:37, 38 -- Then saith he unto his
disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth
labourers into his harvest.)
4. We need open hands to give like the Philippians did for Paul (Phil.
5. We need willing feet to go. (Isa. 52:7)
D. Where would you and I be if someone, somewhere, had not said, “Here am
I send me?”
Friday, July 6, 2007
Anything else appears to be a losing battle.
These things are important and in this order:
- Personal worship/evangelism
- Family worship/evangelism
- Small group worship/evangelism
- Local church worship/evangelism
- Conference/district worship/evangelism
We have failed to train and motivate our people to recognise this order of importance so we have the incessant and hence meaningless appeals for #4 when we should begin at number 1 and work down the list.
Okay now that I have got your attention with my own convictions about the need for community based small group ministry, I now also believe that with proper planning the Sunday evening evangelistic meetings can become the centre of a massive local church campaign.
Recently, a friend was willing to share a revolutionary approach to improving, nay, reinventing midweek meetings.
"I said to the elders, give me every Sunday night for the quarter and I will fill the church!"
Now, I've heard many well meaning Christians bemoan the good old days when the churches had great attendance for mid-week services. And I've heard people blaming everone but themselves for the lack of interest
What he went on to tell me caught my attention, sparked my imagination, and motivated my commitment to
get involved if the idea ever got off the ground.
He would promote the meetings, hype the location, create a media blitz, book the best preachers in the country, the best choirs, and a working transportation strategy to get members and visitors to attend. Best of all he was so enthusiastic I knew in my heart he was capable of getting it done. And he was willing to part finance the budget.
In fact, his suggestions can be integrated with small group efforts in such a way that
the Sunday evenings would become moments of decision for Christ.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Sure enough I received a call in the week inviting me to speak on Sabbath (today).
Usually I would just copy the sermon to the blog, but since it's from my sermon bank I will have to do a summary here.
Where is My Father?
Songs 92 This is My Father's world
100 Great is Thy Faithfulness
By Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
but make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
or being hated, don't give way to hating,
and yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream-and not make dreams your master,
if you can think-and not make thoughts your aim;
if you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
and treat those two impostors just the same;
if you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
and stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
and risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
and lose, and start again at your beginnings
and never breathe a word about your loss;
if you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
to serve your turn long after they are gone,
and so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
or walk with kings-nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
if all men count with you, but none too much,
if you can fill the unforgiving minute
with sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And-which is more-you'll be a Man, my son!
I. Our Father in heaven is almighty.
Daniel 6:26. Living God.
Hebrews 13:8. Eternal.
1 Chron 29:12. Rev 19:6. Omnipotent.
Job 34:21. Omniscient.
II. Our Father in Heaven is the Creator.
Isa 40:26-28. God is Creator.
III. Our Father in Heaven is a God of Order.
He made laws for order.
IV. Our Father in Heaven is the Holy One.
Whatever He dwells in becomes holy, including the human heart. He prepares us for heaven with
V. Our Father in Heaven is a Loving Father.
1 John 4:8. God is love.
1 Cor 13:1-7.
Jesus Christ the loving revelation of the Father.
*The problem of the African diaspora in Caribbean. Where is my father?
The Schoolboy's Dilemma - Where is my father?
published: Sunday | October 16, 2005
Christene McDonald, Contributor
We must remember that for the most part, a child arrives at school with his character already formed. Too many Jamaicans are still not convinced of the importance of two things: One, the home; and two, the father, in the awesome task of rearing a child.
A survey conducted in the St. Catherine District Prison in the mid-1990s revealed that 98 per cent of the men on death row either did not know their fathers or did not know where he was.
Where are the fathers?
MINISTRY OF HEALING 390-392.
Head of household.
Combine affection with authority.
Heavenly father yearns in Jeremiah 3:19 How gladly would I treat you like sons...I thought you would call me Father.
God created a special day when sits and waits for us.
Most of what heavenly Father does we wont know until we get to heaven.
B. the holy righteous heavenly father is loving and merciful according to parable of Loving father in Luke 15.
v. 11-12 Sin causes presumptuous.
v.13 Sin sends us far from God.
v. 14-16 away from Father the madness of sin.
v.17-19 do not resist the spirit. You are going to come to yourself.
I will arise and go to my Father.
v.20 God is nearer than you think.
Calling families to covenant for a brand new life. Big wonderful father in heaven who cares.
He can melt the heart of mean fathers.
He can convert abusive fathers.
He can lift up the head of struggling fathers.
He can refresh the limbs of tired fathers.
And through the grace of Christ He promises rest and reward at the end of life's journey. Until then let us covenant to live in the image of the heavenly Father.
Friday, June 8, 2007
"For the Christian, happiness has to be based on something deeper than the fleeting and uncertain joys of this life" writes the lesson author in Thursday's study. Here is the link for lesson 10:
Friday, June 1, 2007
*May 26 - June 1
The Bible and Health
Read for This Week's Study:
Matt. 4:23; Luke 4:16-21; Rom. 6:4, 9-11; Phil. 4:4-9; Col. 1:20, 21; 3:8-10.
" 'I am the Lord, who heals you' " (Exodus 15:26, NIV).
The Word of God gives us good reasons to take care of our health.
The Bible endorses the value of the physical body; after all, it was created by God. The believer should, therefore, seek to understand and intentionally put into practice measures that enhance health. Care for one's health is a moral matter, evidence of loyalty and responsible service to God. At the practical level the condition of one's health largely determines whether a person can carry out effective service for the Lord or for anyone they feel called to serve.
Although the foundational goals and values of health from a biblical perspective are conveyed through God's Word, the exact means of achieving these goals has come largely from medical science, which often validates many of the principles of health found in the Bible.
It is incumbent on all Christians to do what they can to take care of their health. Health-building activities, including exercise, wholesome diet, proper systematic rest, practical satisfying work, avoidance of damaging substances or practices, good habits of cleanliness, cultivated efforts to live in peace with and help others, and a profound trust in God make the best possible use of the life God has given us. Our bodies are sacred gifts to us from God; we have the responsibility to take care of them the best we know how.
This week let's take a look at what the Bible says about health and the principles found in its pages.
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, June 2.
To Be in Health
"Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth" (3 John 2).
We tend to think of the Bible as dealing only with the spiritual side, yet, that's not the case. Scripture shows that God cares also about our physical being and that our spiritual side is linked with the physical. We can find in the Bible good reasons for taking care of our health.
Look up the following texts and write out what reasons you can find in them that would call us to take care of our health:
1 Cor. 3:16, 17
1 Cor. 6:19, 20
3 John 1:2
Scripture makes it clear that God does care about health, our physical well-being. That makes sense, of course. After all, what loving parent doesn't care about the health, mental and physical, of their child? How much more so would the Lord care about ours?
It's been said that we never care about our health until we lose it. If healthy, do you take your health for granted? Talk to someone struggling with health problems. More than likely, you'll better understand why our health should be carefully guarded.
Health and Restoration
In the beginning God, our Creator, created us healthy, without sickness and disease. The plan of salvation is God's divine way to bringing us back to what we originally lost. He wants to restore us to what we once had.
Read Romans 6:4, 9-11; 1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Colossians 1:20, 21; 3:8-10; 1 John 3:2. What essential message is given to us from these texts? What hope do they offer?
Healing and restoration are often talked about in the Bible. God's promises to restore Israel spill forth in language filled with healing and curative terms (Jer. 30:12-17, 33:6, Ezek. 47:12, Mal. 4:2). So clear is the affinity in the New Testament that one of its principal words for healing (soteria) may be translated as either "healing" or "salvation." Salvation, then, may include not only rescue from sin and its consequences but also restoration, healing of the whole person.
All biblical teachings are predicated on the basis that, in the end, what was lost when sin entered will be restored when the One who created becomes the One who restores His creation. Having healed our wounds and borne our transgressions at Calvary, He appears at last in the book of Revelation as Christus Victor, in triumph over Satan and the forces of evil (Rev. 20:14, 21:8). Those who love and serve God will be restored to the perfect condition that once was; all that is evil, meanwhile, will be destroyed, never to rise again. In both Old Testament and New Testament prophecies this new earth is foreseen as free from sickness, pain, and death (Isa. 33:24, Rev. 21:4). The apostle Paul rejoices in Christ's resurrection as proof that He is victor over all evil forces. Christ's victory has become ours (1 Thess. 4:14-17).
As Adventists we have been given precious light on health and health principles, all designed to give us a lifestyle that will prevent disease. How seriously do you follow these principles? How well do you even know them? Why wait until you get sick to start following principles that could help prevent sickness to begin with?
Jesus, the Great Healer
We often hear of Jesus as the Great Physician. And no wonder. Roughly calculated, approximately 20 percent of the Gospels is dedicated to His restoring sick people to health. Although in some cases duplication occurs, the four Gospels report 35 specific instances, alongside the general reports.
How central was healing to Jesus' earthly ministry? (Matt. 4:23, Luke 6:7-19, 9:11).
Through the miraculous healings Jesus gave great evidence regarding His role as the Savior. But He did so much more, as well. As humans, we have been damaged spiritually, emotionally, and physically by sin. The whole plan of salvation centers on restoring to us what we had once lost. In the beginning there was no sickness and no death; in the end there won't be either (see Rev. 21:4). By healing, Jesus was showing the world the power of God to bring about restoration, to bring about what was lost by sin. The healings weren't an end in themselves; they were all to point to something greater: salvation in Jesus.
Read Luke 4:16-21. What do these verses reveal to us about the purpose and ministry of Jesus?
Jesus' primary task was to proclaim that God is receiving His sinful, suffering creatures in a sweeping act of grace and love. His actions were evidence of final deliverance from a world of sin. He had come to deliver, to seek and to save, to forgive, to proclaim the day of God's mercy, to confer life everlasting, and to be the restorer of all that was lost. He was first of all the Savior, and physical healings were evidences of His authority.
Whatever our illness, whatever our sicknesses, we have wonderful promises in the Bible of healing and restoration; that is, complete healing and complete restoration. Dwell on this, our greatest hope. Pray for more faith to believe in those promises. If you know someone struggling with sickness, point that person to this hope.
Moderation in All Things
Read Philippians 4:4-9. What practical principles can you find in these verses that can have a positive impact on our physical well-being?
Read 1 Corinthians 9:25, Galatians 5:23, and Titus 1:8, 2:2. What practical admonitions are found in these verses that can have a definite bearing on our physical health?
The Greek word used in many of these verses for "temperate" comes from a word often used in the context of athletic training, of an athlete who, in preparation for an event such as a race, takes special care to abstain from that which can hurt his or her body. How much more so should this principle apply to us as Christians in the race that we are running (1 Cor. 9:24-27, Heb. 12:1)?
We all know about health problems that can come from the use of liquor, illegal drugs, and so forth. Those are the obvious ones. Yet, so often bad health comes by over-indulging in the gifts that God has given us to enjoy. Contrary to popular caricatures of biblical religion, it's not sinful to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh. God made us to enjoy these things, but only in their proper sphere, and in moderation and with temperance, as so clearly shown in the Bible.
"True temperance teaches us to dispense entirely with everything hurtful, and to use judiciously that which is healthful. There are few who realize as they should how much their habits of diet have to do with their health, their character, their usefulness in this world, and their eternal destiny. The appetite should ever be in subjection to the moral and intellectual powers."—Ellen G. White, Child Guidance, p. 398. How much sense Ellen White's words make! Examine yourself. How moderate and temperate are you, even with that which is good? What changes might you need to make?
Again and again the Bible speaks about the need of loving one another. Jesus said that it is the greatest of all commandments (Matt. 22:37-40). When Paul speaks about Christian virtues, such as faith, hope, and love, he says that the greatest is love (1 Cor. 13:13, NIV). No wonder Jesus said that one significant characteristic of His followers is that they love one another (John 13:35).
How do the following texts characterize Christian love? 1 Cor. 13:4-7
1 John 4:7
1 John 4:18
Study after study shows how family love—a close loving relationship between parents and children—can stem a tide of evils in young people, evils that can bear terrible fruit in adulthood.
As God's people we need to love one another (1 Thess. 3:2), serve one another (Gal. 5:13), bear with one another (Eph. 4:2), be kind to one another (Eph. 4:32), admonish one another (Rom. 15:14), be tenderhearted and forgiving to one another (Eph. 4:32), comfort one another (1 Thess. 4:18), show compassion to one another (1 Pet. 3:8), be hospitable to one another (1 Pet. 4:9) and pray for one another (James 5:16). These commands, so clearly outlined in the Word, will help us to be connected with one another as God's people and will strengthen family relationships, which ultimately protect our youth from high-risk behavior. Through forming close bonds and thus giving and receiving love and care and concern, we can have such a positive moral, spiritual, and physical influence on one another. The Scriptures are so right in showing how important good relationships are for us, not just spiritually but physically, as well.
Review some of your most basic relationships. From your end, what motivates these relationships: self-serving or self-giving, greed or love, a desire for personal gain or a desire to be a blessing? Think about the good you have done for others. Were the principles elucidated in today's lesson the motivating force behind your relationships?
Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, "The Use of Remedies," pp. 234-240, "Diet and Health," pp. 295-310; Selected Messages, book 3, "The Health Reform," pp. 271-296.
"The relation that exists between the mind and the body is very intimate. When one is affected, the other sympathizes. The condition of the mind affects the health to a far greater degree than many realize. Many of the diseases from which men suffer are the result of mental depression. Grief, anxiety, discontent, remorse, guilt, distrust, all tend to break down the life forces and to invite decay and death. . . .
"Courage, hope, faith, sympathy, love, promote health and prolong life. A contented mind, a cheerful spirit, is health to the body and strength to the soul."—Ellen G. White, Counsels on Health, p. 344.
"Many of those who came to Christ for help had brought disease upon themselves, yet He did not refuse to heal them. And when virtue from Him entered into these souls, they were convicted of sin, and many were healed of their spiritual disease as well as of their physical maladies."—Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 73.
Jesus' healing ministry formed a crucial component of His work of leading people to salvation. How can your local church better use the light we have on health and healing as part of its outreach to the world?
As a class, talk about what the Bible says about such things as diet, use of alcohol, rest, and so forth. What health principles on these topics do you find in the Bible? To the best of your knowledge, how has modern science validated these principles? How have members personally benefited from following what the Bible has to say on these things?
As a class, take time to visit any members who are sick or hurting. Bring Bible promises to share with them. At the same time, in what practical ways can you minister to them and help relieve their sufferings?
Saturday, May 5, 2007
*May 5 - 11
The Bible and Science
Read for This Week's Study:
Gen. 1:1; 2:1, 2; 7:11-24; Deut. 4:32; Pss. 100:3; 139:14; Isa. 42:5; 45:18; Jer. 33:22; John 1:1-3; Heb. 1:2.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline" (Proerbs 1:7, NIV).
Though often viewed as in opposition to the Bible, science can help strengthen our faith in the Word of God.
An the earliest years of the scientific revolution (the seventeenth century), science was viewed as a way to understand God. All the early giants (Descartes, Kepler, Galileo, Copernicus, Newton) believed their work was revealing the handiwork of the Creator. Kepler, talking about his achievements, wrote: "I am stealing the golden vessels of the Egyptians to build a tabernacle to my God from them. . . . I cast the die, and I write the book. Whether it is to be read by the people of the present or of the future makes no difference: let it await its reader for a hundred years, if God himself has stood ready for six thousand years for one to study him." Over time, however, science started moving away from the idea of God, choosing instead to work in a purely materialistic, atheistic paradigm. This, of course, led to the struggle between faith and science that we often hear about today.
Though we certainly acknowledge the challenges that science can present, this week we'll focus on places where science has, indeed, given us reasons for our trust in the Bible.
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, May 12.
Look up Genesis 1:1; 2:1, 2; Deuteronomy 4:32; Psalm 100:3; Isaiah 42:5; 45:18; John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2; Revelation 10:6; 14:7. What's the one point that all these texts have in common?
For many years, much of science worked on the presupposition that all existence, including human life, was the result of pure chance. We are just a big accident, nothing more.
Now, though, science seems to be moving in another direction. In fact, a new phrase has been coined: "anthropic coincidences," from the Greek word anthropos, meaning "man." Science reveals that many factors in the universe are so finely tuned that even the slightest variation would create an environment unfit for human existence. It's almost as though the universe was created with the existence of humanity in mind!
What are some of these "anthropic coincidences"?
For starters, if the rate of expansion after the creation of the universe had been smaller by one part in a hundred million, the universe would have collapsed in on itself. On the other hand, had it been greater by one part in a hundred million, the universe would have expanded too rapidly for stars or planets to form.
Also, one of the known basic forces in nature is called the strong nuclear force. Had it been slightly weaker, there would have been only hydrogen in the universe; had it been slightly stronger, there would have been only helium. In either environment, humanity as we know it could never have been formed.
There are many other examples, enough to get even someone like the famed Stephen Hawking (hardly a biblical creationist) to admit: "The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of something like the Big Bang are enormous. . . . I think there are clearly religious implications."—Quoted in Ian Barbour, When Science Meets Religion (New York: Harper Collins, 2000), p. 58.
American poet Walt Whitman once wrote: "And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery." What other examples from nature put "to scorn all machinery"? What does this complexity and design say to us about a Creator? Be prepared to talk about your examples in class.
Have you ever stood outside on a clear night and looked at the stars? How many could you count? Though there are a lot, there are not more than can be counted, at least with the naked eye, which is how the Bible writers saw them.
Read Jeremiah 33:22. How many stars does he say are out there?
Ptolemy many centuries ago counted about 1,056 stars; Tyco Brahe counted up to 777; Kepler, 1,005. Before the invention of the telescope in the seventeenth century, people believed that the number of stars was 5,119. The telescope, of course, changed all this dramatically. Today, especially with the Hubble Space Telescope, the number of stars seems beyond counting. It is estimated that there are hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy alone. Astronomers have estimated that there are about 1022 (that is, 10 thousand billion billion) stars in the universe. If one could count even as many as 10 different numbers per second, it would take at least 100 million billion years to count up to 1022. And over time, who knows how many more will be discovered?
Read Job 22:12. What else is Eliphaz saying about the stars?
Many ancient people believed the stars were various distances away, from a few kilometers to a few hundred at most. Science over the past few centuries has shown just how far they really are. The sun is 93 million miles away, our closest star; others, even if we traveled at the speed of light (300,000 kilometers per second), would take us hundreds, thousands, even millions of years to reach! And though Eliphaz probably wasn't thinking about astronomy, he, nevertheless, made a statement that science certainly has proven correct.
Though it's good when science seems to affirm our faith, why must we be careful in not putting too much stock in science when it comes to matters of faith? Why, too, is it important to remember that science is still only a human endeavor? See Jer 17:9, 1 Cor 1:21, 3:19.
Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
Though possibly a bit overstated, the following quote tells us something about the complexity of the human brain. "There are trillions of neurons in a human brain; the number of possible ways of connecting them is greater than the number of atoms in the universe."—Ian Barbour, When Science Meets Religion (New York: Harper Collins, 2000), p. 62.
With that above quote in mind, read Psalm 139:14. How has science affirmed the truth of this text?
As we said in Sunday's lesson, more and more science has been moving away from the chance argument to explain the existence of human life. And no wonder. Over the years, as science has advanced steadily, as we learn more and more about the wonders of creation, the evidence for design gets only stronger and stronger. It's so strong, in fact, that recently one vocal opponent of intelligent design (and the implications of a Creator behind it) argued that the universe is a thing that simply appears to be designed even though, of course, it isn't. In other words, it just looks that way.
Meanwhile Francis Crick, probably the most famous biologist of the twentieth century and a vehement atheist, concluded that life was too complicated to have arisen in the supposed billions of years between the cooling off of the earth and the rapid emergence of life forms. Crick speculated, therefore, that life must have started somewhere else and was then brought here, perhaps by space aliens who wanted to see the earth (see again 1 Cor. 3:19 and Ps. 14:1).
Another exciting development came from the work of biochemist Michael Behe. Charles Darwin partially based his theory of evolution on the idea that changes came over time to species through a series of small, successive modifications. If, Darwin said, any complex organ could be shown not to have gone through these steps, his theory would break down.
Behe, not a biblical creationist, showed various aspects of the human body—the cilia, the eye, and blood clotting—that could not have arisen according to the basic evolutionary schema. According to Behe, they couldn't have arisen over time because, in order for the organ to function at all, all the pieces already had to be in place at once. If one part, or even one step, wasn't there from the beginning, the organ or process could not exist at all. His evidence presents a strong challenge to the evolutionary model of creation. The question, therefore, remains: If these things didn't come by chance, through the evolutionary processes, then how did they arise (John 1:1-4, Acts 17:28)?
A Merry Heart, a Broken Spirit
Read Proverbs 17:22. What simple and yet, at the same time, profound message is found in this text? In what ways have you yourself experienced the truth of these principles?
Is it really true that a merry heart does good like a medicine? Over the years scientists more and more understand the inseparable link between the mind and the body. What impacts one impacts the other. Research shows that, for instance, something as simple as a hearty laugh exercises the lungs, stimulates the circulatory system, and increases oxygen intake. It also stimulates the sympathetic nervous system to make endorphins, the body's natural opiates, which can soothe and relax the mind and may even increase the activity of the immune cells.
On the other hand, there's the last half of the text, which implies that depression can impact the body in a negative manner.
"In recent years, however, evidence has accumulated that psychology can indeed affect biology. Studies have found, for example, that people who suffer from depression are at higher risk for heart disease and other illnesses. Other research has shown that wounds take longer to heal in women who care for patients with Alzheimer's disease than in other women who are not similarly stressed. And people under stress have been found to be more susceptible to colds and flu, and to have more severe symptoms after they fall ill."—Erica Goode, "Power of Positive Thinking May Have a Health Benefit, Study Says," New York Times, Sept. 2, 2003.
Moreover, a recent study from the University of Wisconsin shows that "the activation of brain regions associated with negative emotions appears to weaken people's immune response to a flu vaccine."—Ibid.
What's the message for us in Philippians 4:6-8? Though we often tend to view these passages in light of the spiritual aspect only, what kind of physical benefits can we get from Paul's words here, as well? What changes do you need to make in the things you read and watch and listen to in order to better realize the promises found in these texts?
Science and the Flood
Read Genesis 7:11-24. What kind of devastation would this Flood have wreaked on the earth?
If the Hebrew phrase "the great deep" (Gen. 7 : 11, NIV) refers to the ocean(s), then the implication is that on the first day of the Flood, when the rain began to fall, the ocean floor may have been disrupted by the bursting forth of "all the springs" (vs. 11, NIV). Such a catastrophic global event as the Flood should have left worldwide evidence of its occurrence. Science shows that, indeed, it did. There are global deposits in the layers of rock quite consistent with (though not proof of) the Genesis Flood. These deposits contribute to the way in which the rock layers are identified and defined. Gigantic sequences of sandstone covered by shale and limestone in what are called Cambrian rocks; massive, transported limestone found in certain rock levels; as well as coal and oil deposits found throughout these levels—all these deposits are consistent with the Flood.
Furthermore, the destruction of life on this earth during the Genesis Flood was extensive, as described in Genesis 7:21 and 22. In our modern world there is little preservation of plants and animals that die. These organisms are decomposed and recycled to provide the nutrients necessary for life to continue. However, buried within the earth are extensive fossil concentrations with evidence of a wide variety of plants and animals that do not exist in our world today, again evidence consistent with the Flood story.
Other evidence is the rapid, massive deposition of rocks, sands, and muds. There are layers of rock throughout the earth that have been deposited so quickly that there is no evidence of erosion between the layers. And though the geologic community often argues that these layers needed millions of years to form, the rocks show no direct evidence that such time has passed. These rock layers do not, however, resolve all of the time issues; thus, the dating methods and sequences of fossils in the rock record remain debatable, at least for now.
Though God gives us reasons for our faith, there is always room for doubt. How can you live in a way that feeds faith rather than doubt? That is, what practical daily things can you do to help strengthen yourself in what we believe?
"Genesis and Geology," pp. 70-97 in The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1; Ellen G. White, "Mind Cure," pp. 241-259; "In Contact With Nature," pp. 260-268 in The Ministry of Healing.
"He who has a knowledge of God and His word through personal experience has a settled faith in the divinity of the Holy Scriptures. He has proved that God's word is truth, and he knows that truth can never contradict itself. He does not test the Bible by men's ideas of science; he brings these ideas to the test of the unerring standard. He knows that in true science there can be nothing contrary to the teaching of the word; since both have the same Author, a correct understanding of both will prove them to be in harmony. Whatever in so-called scientific teaching contradicts the testimony of God's word is mere human guesswork."—Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 462.
"God is the foundation of everything. All true science is in harmony with His works; all true education leads to obedience to His government. Science opens new wonders to our view; she soars high, and explores new depths; but she brings nothing from her research that conflicts with divine revelation. Ignorance may seek to support false views of God by appeals to science, but the book of nature and the written word shed light upon each other. We are thus led to adore the Creator and to have an intelligent trust in His word."—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 115,116.
As a class, share your answers to Sunday's final question. What can you learn from each other's examples?
What can be done to help someone who, swayed by the arguments of science, finds it very hard to believe in the Bible? How can you help?
If willing, share with the class some of your own personal experiences with the power of the mind over the body and health. What have you learned that could help others? What role can prayer, Bible study, witnessing, and ministering to the needs of others play in helping you heal mentally and even physically?
I N S I D E Story
The Faithful Brothersby ALFRED SIMUKOKO
Stewart and Jomo are brothers. They grew up in a small village in northern Malawi. When they were young teenagers, the boys attended evangelistic meetings being held nearby, even though their parents objected. The boys were touched by the message of God's love and gave their lives to Christ. Their parents learned that they planned to be baptized and warned the brothers that if they went through with the baptism, they would be killed. Stewart and Jomo chose to be baptized anyway. When the brothers returned home later that day, their parents forced them to leave.
Stewart and Jomo built a simple mud hut to sleep in, but their parents destroyed it and again chased their sons from home. The brothers went to the village chief to complain, but the chief had little sympathy for boys who disobey their parents. "Give up this church," he said. "Go home and submit yourselves to your parents.",
"We cannot do that, sir," they explained. "We must obey God."
The boys built another hut, and again their parents destroyed it.
Frustrated and stranded, they turned to their pastor for help. The pastor took them in. Both boys had passed their primary school exams and wanted to study in secondary school, but the pastor could not afford to pay their school fees. He arranged for the field office and secondary school to pay the brothers' fees so that they could continue their studies.
The brothers soon will complete their secondary school education. During school vacations, the boys stay at the school and work to earn a little money for their personal needs.
One day a package arrived at the school for the boys. In it they found a suitcase—an empty suitcase. The brothers investigated and learned that their parents had sent the suitcase to them, perhaps as a gesture of reconciliation, a way of saying, "We were wrong." The brothers returned home to their village to visit their parents. The family talked in peace. "We thought you were disobeying us," their father said, "but you were really obeying God."
Stewart and Jomo pray that their parents will step beyond reconciliation with them and will be reconciled with God. They ask other believers to join them in praying for their parents' salvation.
Your mission offerings helped provide the funds that led Stewart and Jomo to Christ; your mission offerings can help bring their parents to God as well.
ALFRED SIMUKOKO s Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Director of the North Malawi Field in Mzuzu, Malawi
Produced by the General Conference Office of Mission Web site: http://adventistmission.org/
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Friday, May 4, 2007
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Friday, April 27, 2007
The Amazing Truth about the Seventh-day Adventist Understanding of the New Testament
Because of Seventh-day Adventists insistence on the immutability of God’s moral law, and our respect for the entire Bible, there is a pernicious and persistent misinformation that we do not live and share the New Testament faith in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour.
Praise the Lord that Christ was born, Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ is coming again.
Praise the Lord for the New Testament gift of the Holy Spirit in order to spread this wonderful gospel that God so loved the world that humanity can be saved from the condemnation so inherent in the sinful condition after the fall.
Praise the Lord for the gracious deliverance offered every one who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ.
The text under consideration has been proffered time after time as condemnatory of those of us who would uphold the law of God in this evil age. But having warned you that there is total falsehood in the accusation (that we do not believe in the New Testament), let us continue on a somewhat common ground as we look at this interesting text.
According to the Life Application Bible:
“…the church at Corinth was weak. Surrounded by idolatry and immorality they struggled with their Christian faith and life-style. Through personal visits and letters, Paul tried to instruct them in the faith, resolve their conflicts, and solve some of their problems. First Corinthians was sent to deal with specific moral issues in the church and to answer questions about sex, marriage, and tender consciences. That letter confronted the issues directly and was well received by most. But there were false teachers who denied Paul’s authority and slandered him. Paul then wrote 2 Corinthians to defend his position and to denounce those who were twisting the truth.”
Chapter 3:1-6 Apostolic Credentials
3:1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some [others], epistles of commendation to you, or [letters] of commendation from you?
3:2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:
3:3 [Forasmuch as ye are] manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart.
3:4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward:
3:5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency [is] of God;
3:6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
A discussion which began in chapter 2 is continued in vs. 1-6 whereby Paul affirms the spiritual foundation of his ministry. “Our competence comes from God.” The Life Application Bible states “Paul was not boasting; he gave God the credit for all his accomplishments…as Christ’s witnesses, we need the character and special strength that only God gives.”
The Glory of the Apostolic Commission
3:7 But if the ministration of death, written [and] engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which [glory] was to be done away:
3:8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?
3:9 For if the ministration of condemnation [be] glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.
3:10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.
3:11 For if that which is done away [was] glorious, much more that which remaineth [is] glorious.
3:12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:
3:13 And not as Moses, [which] put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:
3:14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which [veil] is done away in Christ.
3:15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart.
3:16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.
3:17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord [is], there [is] liberty.
3:18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, [even] as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Paul had been called to minister particularly to the Gentiles. It is believed that Judaizing Christian opposed his preaching in Corinth as they did at Galatia. The main thrust of Paul’s argument in this chapter is therefore the far superior sacrifice of Calvary when compared with the Hebrew rituals. In order to get the point we need to know the difference between the moral aw and the ceremonial law.
Here is a useful study from a wonderful site on that issue:
The Laws of Moses and the Law of God
Objective: At the end of this study, you will 1) understand the use of the term "law" in Galatians 3, and 2) be able to differentiate between the Laws of Moses and the Law of God.
B701. Welcome to this in-depth online free course on the book of Galatians from the Bible Dialog Institute.
Should a distinction be drawn between “the Laws of Moses” and “the Law of God?”
In reality God was the author of many regulations and ordinances that were given to the people of Israel through Moses. These were given to help them to function as a nation and to point forward to their ultimate goal and destiny. There were: (1) Civil laws and regulations that dealt with the ownership of property, inheritance, etc. (2) Criminal laws that involved punishment for murder, theft, and other such crimes against individuals. (3) Regulations for sanitation, health and various diseases, and (4) Ceremonial laws that centred around the sanctuary in the wilderness and later the temple which were given for the purpose of pointing forward to the sacrifice that would be made by our Saviour for all mankind. The basic form of these ceremonial laws was given to Adam following his expulsion from Eden (Gen. 4: 4). These sacrifices were continued down through time as with Noah (Gen. 8: 20), Abraham (Gen. 12: 7, 8; Gen. 13: 18), and Jacob (Gen. 33: 20). Offerings of different kinds and for various occasions were added at Sinai. The rite of circumcision was instituted by God in connection with His covenant with Abraham (Gen. 17: 10). At Sinai all of these laws and regulations were codified in a formal way. (5) Finally, there was the law that God Himself spoke at Mount Sinai, the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20: 1-17), sometimes called “the Moral Law.”
In his book, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, on page 42, Dr. Michael Horton defines legalism as “adding to God’s Word,” a practice that “is condemned equally with subtracting from them. (See Deut. 4: 2; Prov. 30: 6; Rev. 22: 18).” We must be sure that we do neither.
Jesus had no time for the multitude of rules, washings, and prohibitions that the Jews had added to the system of worship that had been prescribed for them through Moses. In Mark 2: 16, there is an example of how the Jewish leadership applied the “Law of Moses” in everyday life. “When the experts in the law and the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to the disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’” The Net Bible. A footnote that explains the term “experts in the law,” is as follows: “The people referred to here were recognized experts in the law of Moses and in traditional laws and regulations.” p. 1793. These added rules had isolated them from their Gentile neighbours, as well as individuals within their own society, but the Apostle Paul says in Eph. 2: 14-16: “Christ has made peace between Jews and Gentiles, and he has united us by breaking down the wall of hatred that separated us. Christ gave his own body to destroy the Law of Moses with all its rules and commands. He even brought Jews and Gentiles together as though we were only one person, when he united us in peace. On the cross Christ did away with our hatred for each other. He also made peace between us and God by uniting Jews and Gentiles in one body.” Contemporary English Version
Peter had been with Jesus. He had had the experience of being divinely sent to the home of Cornelius where he had witnessed the acceptance by God through the Holy Spirit of that entire household, even though they were Gentiles (Acts 10). He had testified to the other believers in Jerusalem of that experience and especially to those who insisted that the Gentiles must be circumcised, the same ones who said in accusation, “You stayed in the homes of Gentiles, and you even ate with them!” Acts 11: 3 CEV. They were continuing to hold to the traditions that had been condemned by the Lord.
Strangely enough, Peter, and even Barnabas, succumbed to the pressure to revert back to the old ways. That is why Paul had to confront them, as recorded in Galatians 2.
Again, in Acts 15, the record reveals that these ideas were still strong in the minds of some. “Some people came (to Antioch) from Judea and started teaching the Lord’s followers that they could not be saved, unless they were circumcised as Moses had taught. This caused trouble, and Paul and Barnabas argued with them about this teaching. So it was decided to send Paul and Barnabas and a few others to Jerusalem to discuss this problem with the apostles and the church leaders.” Acts 15: 1, 2 CEV.
Now we find that men with the same ideas had infected the church of the Galatians. Thirteen times the word circumcised or circumcision is used in Galatians. Clearly, the problem that Paul had with the Galatian believers involved the same issue that had been raised in Acts 10 and Acts 15. All of these ideas were a clear violation of the command not to add to God’s Word.
But, what about the various laws and regulations outlined in the first main paragraph of this paper? What has happened to them? The first three (the Civil and Criminal laws, as well as the health and sanitation laws) were national laws. When the nation of Israel ceased to exist these laws no longer applied. Of course, every nation has similar laws, but they have no religious significance.
The fourth law, the one that dealt with the sacrificial system and the rites that pertained to the temple services, pointed forward to the sacrifice that Jesus would make on the cross. He fulfilled this law perfectly and therefore the need for these rites and ceremonies ceased at His death. In addition, to forcefully bring attention to the fact that the temple services were at an end when Jesus died on the cross, the record says: "Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent.” Matt. 27: 50, 51. God does not leave us in doubt about His overall plan of salvation. He instituted the sacrificial system outside the Garden of Eden, elaborated on it at Sinai, and in a tremendous display at the death of Jesus, the true sacrifice, He let it be known that the sacrificial system had met its fulfilment.
These first four sets of laws and regulations were written down by Moses as God inspired him to do it. In Deut. 31: 24-26 it says, “When Moses finished writing on a scroll the words of this law in their entirety, he commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the Lord’s covenant, ‘Take this scroll of the law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God. It will be there as a witness against you.’” The Net Bible.
The fifth law is the Law of God, the Ten Commandments that He Himself spoke. This law was also written by God Himself. Deut. 10: 1, 2 and 5 records, “At that same time the Lord said to me, ‘Carve out for yourself two stone tablets like the first ones and ascend the mountain to me; also make for yourself a wooden ark. I will write on the tablets the same words that were on the first tablets you broke, and you must put them into the ark.’ . . . Then I turned, descended the mountain, and placed the tablets into the ark I had made—they are still there, just as the Lord commanded me.” The Net Bible. The marginal reference in the KJV indicates this ark was the same one mentioned in Ex. 25: 10, the ark of the covenant that was placed in the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle. The opinion of this writer is that there is no place in scripture that suggests this law has been nullified. God is eternal. If He wished for His children to ignore His law, then He would have made an announcement accordingly, an announcement just as openly as when he spoke the commandments. At the death of Jesus on the cross or at the time of the resurrection of Jesus, God could have spoken and put on a display of power that would make the issue clear and without ambiguity. He did so in the case of the laws and regulations that pertained to the sacrificial system, as we have noted. I find no place where He has spoken in this way about the Ten Commandment Law. Instead, in the last discourse given to His disciples prior to his crucifixion, Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” John 14: 15.
In addition, in Isaiah 66: 22 and 23, the prophet speaks for the Lord when he writes: “I also promise that you will always have descendants and will never be forgotten, just as the new heavens and the new earth that I create will last forever. On the first day of each month and on each Sabbath, everyone will worship me. I, the Lord, have spoken.” The Contemporary English Version. The King James Version reads in part: “. . . from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.” [Emphasis supplied.] Clearly, the Sabbath is to be kept as a special day of worship in the new earth, and all who are there will observe it. As stated earlier, God is eternal. He sanctified the seventh day as a Sabbath at the time of the creation of this earth, i.e., blessed it and made it a special day (Genesis 2: 2, 3). At Sinai He reiterated its sanctity and said that the Sabbath should be remembered (Exodus 20: 8-11); it is a part of God’s law, the one He Himself wrote. Again, I find no evidence that the Law of God or any part of it has been nullified. In that respect it is different from all other laws mentioned here.
However, having said all of the above, as far as the issues that are raised in the book of Galatians are concerned, the principle is the same regardless of what law is in question. Clearly, “no man is justified by the law in the sight of God.” Gal. 3: 11. That means any law.
God is a perfect God and he requires absolute perfection from all of His creation. When the creation week was complete “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” Gen. 1: 31. Because of the blight of sin, this is no longer true. Now, “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” Isa. 64: 6. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Rom. 3: 23. In the light of these verses, how are we to be treated as being righteous? Can we do so by keeping the law? The answer is an absolute NO. Even if it were possible (which it is not), we are so imperfect that we would not know whether or not we were keeping the law perfectly! “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Jer. 17: 9. What is the answer? “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” Gal. 3: 13.
The human race still has a problem with sin. There may be those who would like to deny the concept of sin because it is an ugly word. But sin is defined in the Bible. 1 John 3: 4 states: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law.” Another word for transgression is “disobedience.” We are still in rebellion against God. When asked to tell what was the most important commandment, “Jesus answered, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, ‘Love others as much as you love yourself.’” Matt. 22: 37-39. CEV. Jesus very neatly summarized the Ten Commandments in this way; the first four relate to our love for God; the last six relate to our love for others.
But, let us reiterate, “no man is justified by the law in the sight of God.” Gal. 3: 11. Because of our inherent imperfections, no person can say they are able to keep God’s law perfectly.
Martin Luther wrote in his Commentary on Galatians, Modern-English Edition, p.163, “Christians are not made righteous by doing righteous things, but being made righteous by faith in Christ, they do righteous things.”
D. Ordell Calkins, DBA
Now back to our study of Corinthians. I am so sorry to make this document so long, perhaps another time I will edit it down but for now let us continue to explore the dynamic of old covenant versus new covenant.
A simpler way to look at the above scholarly article is to regard the laws as either ceremonial or moral. The moral law, the ten commandments, was an essential part of god’s divine plan and is unchangeable. The ceremonial law was instituted to answer a particular need, and pointed specifically to the sin pardoning Messiah.
A modern writer puts it this way
“Paul desires his brethren to see that the great glory of a sin-pardoning Saviour gave significance to the entire Jewish economy. He desired them to see also that when Christ came to the world, and died as man’s sacrifice, type met antitype.
After Christ died on the cross as a sin offering the ceremonial law could have no force. Yet it was connected with the moral law and was glorious. The whole bore the stamp of divinity, and expressed the holiness, justice, and righteousness of God. And if the ministration of the dispensation to be done away was glorious, how much more must the reality be glorious, when Christ was revealed, giving His life-giving, sanctifying Spirit to all who believe.”
The same writer states elsewhere “the dim glory of the Jewish age has been succeeded by the brighter clearer glory of the Christian age.”
Having shown that there is a theological continuity from the Mosaic system to Calvary I will now conclude by emphasizing that Paul’s statements on the covenants in 2 Corinthians and Galatians can be properly understood only in terms of his polemic against Judaizing opponents whom he saw as making the law, rather than Christ, central to salvation.
I end with a note on the New Covenant from bibleinfo.com.
What does the Bible mean when it talks about a new covenant between us and God? The new covenant is the ultimate solution to human rebellion. It's in the Bible, Jeremiah 31:33, NIV. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the Lord. "I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people."
The new covenant comes through the death of Jesus Christ. It's in the Bible, Luke 22:20, NIV. "In the same way, after the supper He took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you."
The new covenant means we can go directly to God through Christ. It's in the Bible, Hebrews 7:22, NIV. "Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant."
There is forgiveness of sins only through the new covenant. It's in the Bible, Hebrews 9:14-15, NIV. "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ , who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant."
Under the old covenant, what did the people promise to do? It's in the Bible, Exodus 24:3, NIV. "When Moses went and told the people all the Lord's words and laws, they responded with one voice, 'Everything the Lord has said we will do.'"
Under the new covenant, what does God promise to do? It's in the Bible, Hebrews 8:10, NIV. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put My laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people."
Let us all pray that as we are given grace to continue on our journey of faith we may love God and humanity and enrich the world with kind, thoughtful, and loving service.
April 27, 2007