Hard Sayings

August 19, 2019 at 11:35 am | Posted in John | 2 Comments
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Jesus miraculously produced enough bread and fish to feed 5000 men, plus women and children (a crowd that could have easily ranged from 10,000 to 20,000 people). His disciples had gathered up the leftovers, and Jesus Himself had evaded the throng of overzealous patriots who wanted to crown Him king whether He was ready for it or not (John 6:15). How did Jesus “thin the herd,” so to speak, separating mere spectators and political fanatics from His true followers, and ultimately from His inner circle of twelve (John 6:67)? He did it by saying some “hard sayings.” Do you love Jesus enough to hear some of the tougher truths about Who He is and what it means to really believe on Him and follow Him?

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

John 6:35

Jesus identified Himself with a form of the Old Testament name for God: The I AM (Ego Eimi), sometimes written as YHWH (Yahweh), a name which references His aseity – His self-existence, His BEING (rather than becoming), His pre-existent eternality, His immutability, His infinitude, His glory, His holiness, His perfection. This was not a claim by Jesus to be a mere representative of God, a missionary of God, a prophet of God, a child of God in a figurative sense, an angel or an archangel, but a claim to be truly God.

This would not only be a “hard saying” (John 6:60), but a “too-hard” saying for most – not necessarily hard to understand, but hard to accept.

The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?

John 6:41-42

They “knew” the origin of Jesus of Nazareth. They thought they knew His backstory – His “nativity,” but not His real Nativity. This was not a prince or a nobleman or the son of a wealthy influential merchant or businessman or politician – not even the son of a priest or a scribe. This was the poor son of a simple carpenter from the most disreputable hick town in Galilee… here with a message from Heaven!? Maybe here with some power from Heaven? Maybe here with some special Heavenly insight into spiritual truth? Maybe. But “came down from Heaven?” No – unacceptable.

Jesus did not try to soft-peddle this truth; He emphasized it: John 6:33, 38, 41-42, 50-51, 58. That statement, “I AM”, is a hard saying. The statement, “I came down from Heaven,” is a hard saying. Here is another:

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

John 6:37

All those whom the Father gives to the Son SHALL come to Him. Will all men come to the Son? No. Will there be some given to the Son who do not come to the Son? No. “I will in no wise cast out” is an example of a literary device called “litotes.” Here are a couple of other examples of litotes in the Bible:

But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.

Acts 21:39

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

I Corinthians 15:10

You may have heard these modern examples of litotes: “She’s not hard to look at” (said about a beautiful woman); “Einstein was no dummy” (because he was considered a genius). A litotes is a negative statement that is made to emphasize the opposite. Jesus will not cast out ANY of those whom the Father gives to Him, but can some of them (not being “cast out”) still somehow be lost? Not according to Jesus:

And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:39-40 (emphasis added)

“Hard sayings” can cause dejection, abandonment, or anger. Here, as was the case with the original “bread” (manna), they caused murmuring.

The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.

John 6:41

By this point the conversation/discourse had probably moved into the synagogue.

Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves.

John 6:43

Jesus responded to murmuring at hard truth with reinforced truth:

No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:44 (emphasis added)

NO MAN CAN.” Unless the Father DRAWS him. This drawing means to compel. It is not mere wooing, enticement, or even invitation or argumentation.

Stand Up for Jesus

May 17, 2010 at 10:23 am | Posted in Daniel | 17 Comments
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The events in the beginning of the Book of Daniel took place in 605 B.C. – after Jerusalem was taken by Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel would have been approximately 15 years old at that time.

Daniel was a real historical person. He actually existed. He is referred to in Ezekiel Chapter 14, along with Noah and Job for their righteousness. The context there is that the righteousness of these men could only save themselves, not others.

Daniel is also mentioned as a real person by the Lord Jesus.

But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains:

Mark 13:14

He is also mentioned in Matthew 24:15.

Daniel and his friends were the “best and brightest” of the young men of Jerusalem. They were also royalty.

And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.

Daniel 1:3-4

The Babylonians changed their names:
– Daniel meant “God is my judge;” Belteshazzar meant “Bel protect his life.”
– Hananiah meant “the Lord shows grace;” Shadrach meant “command of Aku” (the moon-god).
– Mishael meant “who is like God?” Meshach meant “who like Aku?”
– Azariah meant “the Lord is my help;” Abednego meant “servant of Nego.”

As Jews, Daniel and his friends were not supposed to eat defiled food, according to the Old Testament covenant. Compare the New Covenant application:

As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.

Acts 21:25

Daniel and his friends chose the Word of God over the king’s food, even while being gracious toward authority. They were trained for three years in Babylonian beliefs and science and languages. They were examined and scored higher than anyone else.

Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.

Daniel 1:18-20

Between Chapters 1 and 2, Daniel was given some authority in the kingdom, reminding us of Joseph’s favor in Egypt, found in the Book of Genesis. Daniel was in a position of relative security, but Nebuchadnezzar was crazy and temperamental. He was having bad dreams.

[Caution: Be careful about your own dreams. Before Christians take their dreams as some sort of a vision from God, and decide to act in accordance, we must make sure our actions line up with Scripture. If you have a dream that makes you feel rebellious, it may be from your own subconscious, rather than from God.]

Nebuchadnezzar tested his counselors by pretending to forget his dream. This was somewhat of a double test: Could they tell him what the dream had been, and could they then tell him a believable interpretation of it? If we suppose that Satan was behind this scheme, then it is important to note that he was willing to kill all his false prophets just to get rid of four righteous servants of God.

Daniel was in trouble and needed to comfort himself.

Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his:

Daniel 2:17-20

He sought the Word of God first; then he began to praise and worship Him. That’s our order when Satan comes against us – when we’re in trouble.

The dream depicted the time of the Gentiles described by the Lord Jesus in Luke 21:24. The head of gold symbolized Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon. The chest and arms of silver symbolized the Medes and the Persians. The legs of iron with feet of iron and clay symbolized the Roman empire. Christ the Solid Rock is the only firm foundation this world has ever known. All other ground is sinking sand.

Note all the references to “standing” and “stood:” Daniel 1:4; 1:5 1:19; 2:2; 2:31. “Stand” carries the connotation of “standing” for something. If we don’t stand for something, we’re going to fall for anything.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Ephesians 6:10-14, emphasis added

When you feel like your can’t serve the Lord – when you’re like Daniel and you have to serve someone else – remember: You can still “stand” before them, and “stand” for the Lord.

Conscious of the Conscience

November 12, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Posted in Acts | 18 Comments
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Acts Chapter 20 is the beginning of the farewell section of Acts. The Apostle Paul had a genuine love for the churches the Lord had used him to start, and he wanted to visit them one last time. It was while he was in Corinth that the Holy Ghost gave him the Book of Romans.

When Paul, Luke, Timothy, and Titus meet at Troas, we get a picture of their church services: they met on the Lord’s Day, at night, at someone’s house. They shared a meal. Then they observed the Lord’s Supper, and they declared the Word of God. The Holy Spirit gives us the account of Eutychus – the man who fell out of church (literally!)

Paul went to report to the Ephesian elders. His report is written as more of an address than a sermon. It is not what we would consider “evangelistic.”

In this report Paul describes the past (Acts 20:18-21), and he highlights his faithfulness. He describes the present (Acts 20:22-27), and explains how he had no interest in doing anything other than serving the Lord. He describes the future (Acts 20:28-35) as being a time of coming dangers.

In Acts 21 we find that a large part of Paul’s third missionary journey was spent collecting a love offering from the gentile churches to send to the Jerusalem church. He was also occupied battling the Judaizers, who were very determined.

It was Paul’s desire not to see Christianity defiled with a mixture of Judaism. This desire for the purity of the Gospel message drove him to Jerusalem despite of all the warnings not to go there. When Paul reported about his trip, the Judaizers were ready right away with their rumors. Paul tried to cooperate by not giving offense, but he could not compromise the message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, and he could not compromise in the area of undivided fellowship with the gentiles.

Paul was arrested wrongfully when a riot broke out. The riot was caused by Jews who claimed he had brought his gentile friends into the temple. The Roman authorities kept him from being killed. They thought he was someone else at first, but he spoke Greek to them, so they let him speak to the Jews, and he then spoke Aramaic.

Paul declared what he had personally seen and been involved in:

And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.

Acts 21:19

He was impressing the Jews with this testimony until he mentioned the word “gentiles.” That word almost started another riot.

Claudius was going to have Paul scourged, but then Paul revealed that he was a Roman citizen. Roman citizens were not to be bound or scourged. Claudius had obtained his Roman citizenship by bribery. Paul had inherited his Roman citizenship from his father – he was “born free.”

It had been preordained that Paul was going to Rome – it’s just that God was making it so that Rome would foot the bill for the journey: Paul was going as a prisoner.

There is no Acts 12:5 in Acts Chapter 22.

Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.

Acts 12:5

Paul was in prison. The Judaizers were probably influencing the church in Jerusalem. And Satan was probably influencing the Judaizers. We must never let Satan stop our prayers.

In Acts Chapter 23 Paul is taken by the Roman captain before the Sanhedrin. He testified as a defendant, but his testimony was really preaching.

And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.

Acts 23:1

When the Bible uses the Word “conscience” in this verse, the Holy Ghost is telling us that our conscience applies the standard for our behavior, not that it sets the standard. You may have seen the stereotypical movie tough guy who lives by a “code.” He will rob, kill, and extort, but he won’t allow a lady to be insulted, or maybe he won’t shoot somebody in the back. That is the world’s idea of “conscience,” in which each person determines his own behavior by whatever happens to offend him or her. It is not the Bible’s idea of conscience.

We do not know if the Apostle Paul wrote the Book of Hebrews, but we do know that one reason it was written was to explain the difference between being a Jewish Christian and a Jew who wants to be called a Christian. Hebrews explains the seared and the evil conscience. The Apostle Paul used the word “conscience” 21 times in his letters.

Paul didn’t particularly enjoy being slapped in the face as a petty raging insult by Ananias the high priest, and he called him a “whited wall.” Then he brought up the Resurrection – which he knew would divide the council. The Sanhedrin had now officially rejected Jesus, Peter, and Paul.

Paul’s sister and nephew warned Claudius of a plot to kill Paul, so Claudius knew he had to get him out of Jerusalem. He had Paul taken to Caesarea and turned over to Felix the Roman governor and imprisoned in the palace.


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