Even the Rich Need to be Saved

February 26, 2020 at 2:09 pm | Posted in Luke | 1 Comment
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And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

Luke 18:18

Matthew’s Gospel tells us that this ruler was also young and rich. Jesus is more than just a “good teacher.” In fact, a “good teacher” who claimed to be God, if He really wasn’t, couldn’t honestly be called a good teacher.

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.

Luke 18:19

Jesus was not denying His own Deity, but was establishing that this man had a low view of “good.”

Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.

Luke 18:20

Jesus listed Commandments 5 – 9 in the Decalogue, ommitting Number 10, against coveting, which turned out to be the real deal-breaker for the rich young man.

And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.

Luke 18:21-27

camel and needle

The answer to the question, “Who can be saved?” is really, “No one can be saved – unless God does a miracle.” Why were the Disciples so surprised that it would be difficult for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God? It was not because they themselves were rich. The word for “saved” in Verse 26 is the Greek word sozo, and it describes more than being rescued; it describes being made whole, “healed” or “delivered” in the fullest medical, spiritual, military, Messianic sense.

Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.

Luke 18:28-30

Blooming and Boiling

February 18, 2020 at 5:00 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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When I taught the Book of Jeremiah in Sunday School, I called the study “A Prophetic Heart Attack,” partly in reference to Jeremiah’s shock and awe when the Word of the Lord came to Him to tell him that he would be a prophet, but mostly in reference to one of Jeremiah’s over-arching themes: He was ordained by God to attack the hearts of the people – not to just try to get them to reform outwardly, but to call them to an inward revival – a true revival of the heart. And he did this by “attacking” or exposing the true evil that lurks in the heart of every man before he finds God, or when he wanders from God.

Jeremiah was initially afraid to speak for God, but God encouraged him by promising to be with him and by promising to give him the words to say. You and I are not prophets in the way the Jeremiah was, but do we have the same duty, in a sense? To boldly speak God’s Words and to warn our neighbors of God’s judgment? We sure do. And if so, do we have the same assurances of God’s help? We have His promise to be with us, and we have the promise that He has given us His Word in the Bible.

God had some huge plans for Jeremiah’s ministry, including a command to “throw down” (Jeremiah 1:10). When I was in school, “throw down” was slang for fighting: “Dude, you broke my Der Kommissar cassette! Meet me in the parking lot at 3:00 – we’re gonna throw down!” Many of us today, although hopefully less inclined toward physical violence, are more than ready to “throw down” when someone offends us, messes with our children, tries to cheat us out of a bargain, or makes a political statement with which we disagree. But how willing are we to “throw down” what Satan has built up in our own lives? How anxious are we to “throw down” the vain thoughts that we have entertained in our minds in opposition to the Kingdom of Christ (II Corinthians 10:5)?

God did not spend much time coddling Jeremiah. There are a number of reasons for this, but one was that God wanted Jeremiah to understand that there was an urgency to his mission.

Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree.

Jeremiah 1:11

almond branch

This may have been in a vision, or it may have been something truly observed by Jeremiah in his surroundings. Jeremiah’s home town, Anathoth, is known for almonds to this day. The Hebrew word for “almond” was similar to the word for “hasten to perform it” (“SEE to it”) or “watch.”

Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.

Jeremiah 1:12

In the original language, this was a play on words similar to our song, “I’m looking over a four leaf clover, that I overlooked before.” God let Jeremiah know that He would be very hands-on in supervising the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecies and Jeremiah’s ministry.

Do you find God’s omniscience – and His immanence – comforting or disturbing? He is watching you. Is He pleased with what He sees? This is a sobering thought, but it can also be a reassuring thought. It is important to remember that His disposition toward Christians is one of both requiring and encouraging us to do right. He is not anxious to see us do wrong so that He can smack us down with glee, so the primary meaning of the almond tree metaphor was that, just as the almond tree was the first plant to bloom after the winter, and is often a prediction of how the rest of the harvest will go, so, too, was God’s judgment against His own people closer than it had ever been.

And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north. Then the LORD said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.

Jeremiah 1:13-14

boiling cauldron

This second prophecy was another image of urgency, although, again, it’s something that anyone of Jeremiah’s day would have recognized as a familiar sight: a kettle boiling over, seething and spilling out its scalding contents. Here it is a reference to judgment coming from the north, as though God had been restraining the enemy army of the Chaldeans from over-running Judah, and now He was about to allow them to tip over or boil over and conquer His people, killing them, or as we know from hindsight, taking them away into captivity.

Is It Mean to Talk about Divorce?

February 12, 2020 at 10:47 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Question: Aren’t you afraid that, when you say that God does not condone divorce, you are insulting, embarrassing, and alienating Christians who have been divorced? It’s easy for you talk, because you haven’t been divorced, but not everyone is so blessed.

Answer: That’s certainly not my intention. Divorce is a touchy subject, and I try to be sensitive, not offensive. Let me be clear. Some of my closest friends are Christians who have been divorced, and I do not think of them as “lesser” Christians, or people who are “worse” than me or anyone else. I am well aware that only by the grace of God am I married to a wonderful, forgiving, faithful wife that I do not deserve.

When someone asks me what the Bible says, then I am bound and obligated, as a Christian, and especially as a Bible teacher, to tell the truth, and I believe that the Bible teaches that divorce and marriage-after-divorce are sins (Genesis 2:21-24; Malachi 2:16; Mark 10:6-9; Ephesians 5:23-33; Hebrews 13:4; Matthew 5:32, 19:7-9; Luke 16:18). That has nothing to do with my marriage, or whether or not I have been divorced.

However, divorce is a sin for which Jesus was punished and for which He paid in full on the Cross for all those who believe on Him. It is a forgivable sin, and not a worse sin than pride, covetousness, spite, idolatry, and the many other sins of which I am guilty. I love and respect Christians who have been divorced and/or remarried, but have also confessed and repented, and I very much want their current marriages to thrive and to glorify God. I hope and pray that does not sound mean, unkind, or unrighteously judgmental.

Persistent Pleas, Powerful Prayers, a Proud Pharisee, and a Penitent Publican

February 10, 2020 at 3:23 pm | Posted in Luke | 2 Comments
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Luke Chapter 18 starts of with the parable that is sometimes called the parable of the unjust judge or the parable of the persistent widow. The primary lesson of this parable is: keep praying; don’t quit.

And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

Luke 18:1-8

There are four characters in the story: the judge, God, the widow, and her adversary. Obviously setting aside any comparisons between ourselves and God, with which of the remaining three characters do you identify? The judge did not fear God, which is a huge problem for any human being. Fear of God is the solution to overcoming fear of man. The fear of man is a snare, but the fear of God is the beginning of both knowledge and wisdom. This was a judge who forgot that he himself would be judged AND he didn’t care about helping others. Don’t care about people so much that you disregard God, but don’t think that God wants you to disregard people.

Widows were particularly vulnerable in the culture where the parable is set. Both because of their gender and the lack of a male protector, they were often the victims of injustice. Somebody had done her an injustice and she had no recourse, except for one thing: persistence. She would not leave the judge alone. Do you identify with the widow? Do you feel powerless because of a lack of money and influence? If so, remember that you can still be pesistent. This lady was waiting for the judge every time he showed his face, and she would plead her case continaully.

Perhaps you are like the adversary in the parable. Have you taken advantage of someone who was easy to take advantage of? I hope not, but, if so, remember that God often takes up the cause of those who seem helpless, and often punishes those who mistreat the poor.

If even an unjust judge will be moved by continual petitions, how MUCH MORE will our loving Heavenly Father be moved by our persistence in prayer?

The second parable in Luke 18 deals with the prayers of two distinct types of people.

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

Luke 18:9

The parable of the praying Pharisee and the praying publican is intended to show the danger of self-righteousness.

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

Luke 18:10

One man appeard outwardly religious and one man was openly sinful, and, while we know something of Jesus’s teachings and ministry and can guess who is going to be commended by Jesus and who is going to be condemned, the lesson would have been very controversial and surprising to Jesus’s audience when He orginally taught it.

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

Luke 18:11

The Pharisee stood to pray, and there is nothing inherently wrong with standing while we pray if we are standing for the right reasons. Posture is not as important as piety when it comes to prayer. The verse says that he “prayed thus with himself,” and this is perhaps intentionally worded to make it seem like he’s somewhat unconsciously praying TO himself and addressing himself as God. The Pharisee’s prayer amounted to arrogance and contempt disguised as gratitude. He even workded in an insult to the person praying next to him.

I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

Luke 18:12

The Pharisee clearly considered himself even more religious than he was requrired to be, and was very impressed with himself.

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

Luke 18:13

Both the Pharisee and the publican were in the vicinity of the Temple, but one of them strode arrogantly right up, and one meekly stood far off.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Luke 18:14

Self-righteousness is just as much a sin as the sins of which the Pharisee accused others. Furthermore, it is an even greater bar to justification. God gives grace to, and justifies, the humble. He resists the proud and self-righteous. If we persist in trying to justify ourselves, then God will not justify us.

Truth, Torture, and Trepidation

February 7, 2020 at 11:26 am | Posted in John | 10 Comments
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Pontius Pilate had been give the appointment as governor of Judea by the Emperor Tiberius. It was not a glamorous or easy post. Pilate was known as a vindictive (sometimes petty) and petulant politician and military commander. To say that he had a troubled relationship with the Jewish people and their religious leaders before they brought Jesus to him would be an understatement.

One of his first decisions after becoming Governor was to place Roman standards with Caesar’s image on them into the the Jewish Temple. The Jewish people, already resentful of Roman occupation and taxation in their holy city, staged a sit-down protest for five days outside of Pilate’s house. In repsonse, he threatened to kill them, but they wouldn’t back down, and he was forced to relent and have the standards removed, but, as you can imagine, he remained acrimonious and held a grudge.

On later occasions he would try to get emblems proclaiming Caesar’s divinity into Herod’s palace, and even the Temple again, including the most sacrosanct inner section known as the Holy of Holies. Herod’s sons responded by peitioning Tiberius, who rebuked and reprimanded Pilate, making him take the emblems out.

Pilate also took money from the Temple treasury to pay for an aqueduct, which caused a mob scene or a riot, in which he didn’t let his soliders use their swords, although some Jewish protesters were clubbed to death and others were run over by chariots.

On still another occasion, in Galilee, he had some Jewish worshipers killed in the middle of their religious sacrifices.

This background helps to explain some of the bickering, bargaining, and badgering that went on between Pilate and the Jewish leaders concerning what was to be done with Jesus after His arrest.

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

John 18:38

Pilate found no fault in Jesus. No one ever really did. However, even as he tried to be politically expedient he found himself becoming fearful.

But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?

John 18:29

Pilate hinted that this was what he wanted the Jewish leaders to do.

Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.

John 18:40

Barabbas, named “the son of the father” (bar = the son; abba = the father) was a terrorist and a real insurgent zealot who sought to overthrow Rome’s rule in his homeland.

Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.

John 19:1

This would be the first of two beatings Jesus received at the hands of the Romans (in addition to the blows and abuse suffered during the accusations made against Him by the Jewish High Priest and council, and their questioning of Him). There were three types of beatings used as punishment by the Romans, and the word translated as “scourged” in John 19:1 was the first type – fustigatio in Latin, from which we get the little-used English word “fustigation” and which was the least-severe of the three types. It was used for lesser offenses, but it was still plenty bad. The second-worst beating was called flagellatio (“flagellation” in English), and may have been the only type not administered to Jesus. The third type was verberatio (incorporated into the Engish word “reverberation”), so called because the blows administered to the victim were so harsh and loud that they could be heard from a distance. This was the beating that was given to convicted criminals after the sentence of crucifixion had been handed down. It involved a whip with multiple strands which had been enhanced with shards of sharp bone, metal, and possibly glass tied to them. It flayed off the skin and exposed the internal organs. Many recipients did not survive it and thus never made it to their crosses. The verberatio was intended to dehumanize the victim and to deter other would-be criminals, while at the same time taking away any sympathy the crowd of spectators might have felt seeing someone less deformed and grotesque being crucified.

And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,

John 19:2

This crown was probably made from the thorns of the date palm tree – thorns that grew up to 12 inches in length.

And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.

John 19:3

This mockery and additional abuse was not part of the official legal sentencing, but was cruelly allowed by Pilate or the Roman officer in charge as sort of a bonus, letting these sadistic soldiers have some of what they considered to be fun.

Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.

John 19:4

Pilate thought the Jews would have sympathy toward Jesus now, and would be satisfied that He had suffered enough. The scene was staged to be dramatic as Jesus was presented as thorougly beaten and non-threatening.

Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!

John 19:5

This was the Son of Man, in Whom no fault was found, as attested by the “world’s” representative, Pilate/Rome, on at least three separate occasions.

When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid;

John 19:6-8 (emphasis added)

I stated earlier that, as Pilate tried to dismiss Jesus with a claim that “truth” was relative or unknowable, he had begun to be fearful. As a Roman pagan who at least professed a belief in hundreds of deities, the possibility that he might be torturing a real God (or even THE real God) was starting to make him more and more nervous.

Sinclair Fergsuson on a Difficult S.W.I.M. with Geerhardus Vos

February 3, 2020 at 11:18 am | Posted in Quotes | Leave a comment
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Geerhardus Vos’s original writings are demanding reading for theological students, never mind for those without academic training. That is partly a stylistic matter, but mostly it is matter of the weight and profundity of his thought. He takes most readers into rivers of biblical theology in which they are unaccustomed to swimming. For some, the depth of the water and the speed of the current prove to be too much.

Sinclair Ferguson, Geerhardus Vos Anthologized

Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.

Psalm 42:7


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