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

When the Word of God Crashes the Party

January 13, 2016 at 1:57 pm | Posted in Exodus | 8 Comments
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And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written.

Exodus 32:15

Moses with the tablets

The two “tables” (tablets) were identical – five “Words” on each side. Written documents in that day were: (1) papyrus (not very durable); (2) leather skins; (3) clay tablets; or (4) chiseled in stone (only the most important documents). These were the only documents in existence actually inscribed by God Himself without any human agency. Imagine the value!

And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.

Exodus 32:16

The written Word of God is not a violation of Commandment No. 2 (against graven images). God is so associated with His Word that He allows us to have it “engraved.” This refutes the accusation (sometimes made by Roman Catholics and Pentecostals) that Baptists and other fundamental Christians who hold to the Bible as the sole standard of faith and practice are guilty of Bibliolatry.

And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp.

Exodus 32:17

Joshua was familiar with the sound of war. This sounded like war, even though it wasn’t. It was the first “rock concert” involving God’s people, but this type of loud boisterous worship was common in pagan idolatry – which Moses recognized when he discerned the singing amidst the din of revelry:

And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear.

Exodus 32:18

You can meditate on this passage of Scripture and judge for yourself how loud and boisterous Christian worship music ought to be. I would submit that it ought not to be mistaken – even from afar – for carnal syncretistic worship – a combination of worshiping the performer while ostensibly worshiping God.

There is a certain irony or at least poignancy in Joshua’s mistaken assertion that a battle was going on, because there WAS in fact a battle going on – a battle between Truth and falsehood – between the real and the fake – between God and Satan the counterfeiter. Because of Moses’s anger, you can see that he grasped this:

And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.

Exodus 32:19

Moses had plead with God to turn from His anger, but now he saw with his own eyes, and heard with his own ears, and he too expressed righteous anger, breaking these unique, precious tablets in view of all the people “beneath the mount.” This was the exact same spot where the people verbally agreed to be bound by God’s gracious covenant. They broke the Covenant figuratively; Moses demonstrated it literally. We speak of breaking God’s law – but it is God’s law that will break the sinner – just as jumping upward off a roof temporarily seems to break the law of gravity, but ultimately breaks the jumper.

And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.

Exodus 32:20

This describes a longer process than just one verse makes it sound like, but Moses wanted to utterly desecrate this false idol.

God’s Preceptive Will

June 3, 2015 at 12:53 pm | Posted in Where There's a Way There's a Will | 2 Comments
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God’s preceptive will refers to precepts and specific orders that are spelled out in the Bible – and to principles pertaining to the application of God’s will in circumstances that are not spelled out word for word in the Bible. We encounter God’s preceptive will when we read what He has commanded people to do in order to be obedient to Him, and what He will hold them accountable for failing to do. The parade example is the Decalogue.

God’s preceptive will is our way of thinking about God’s commandments of righteousness and His commandments against unrighteousness. Unlike His decretive will, the preceptive will can be resisted. God allows unrighteous choices and actions to come from man’s will, but is not morally culpable for allowing them. This bothers people. We like to imagine a God who wished to prevent people from committing evil acts, and then we apply our understanding of His power to do just that (which He often does), and then we are upset because He doesn’t do it all the time. Our challenge instead is to be grateful He has the power to overrule the consequences of our own evil actions, and, again, He does in fact choose to overrule vast numbers of evil intentions on the part of those who would like to carry them out. Then we recognize that He is sovereign and powerful enough to control the whole thing to show off the greatest good. It is a challenge to our faith, but that is definitely the God you want when you are thinking correctly, and, regardless, it is the true God Who exists, and it is better for us to know the reality. God wishes to use evil – for reasons we admittedly don’t understand – but at the same time He is in absolute control and is incapable of making mistakes.

Three Words about God: His Supremacy, His Image, and His Name

November 12, 2014 at 1:14 pm | Posted in Exodus | 23 Comments
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Exodus 20 contains one of the most well-known passages in the Bible. We usually refer to it as “The Ten Commandments.” Theologians call it “The Decalogue,” or “The Ten Words.”

The word “commandments” isn’t even used until Verse 6, but there is certainly nothing wrong with calling them the “Ten Commandments,” although they might be more properly thought of as the “sanctions” section of the Mosaic (Old) Covenant, which was in the form of a suzerainty treaty.

A suzerain is a greater king or overlord who enters into a covenant or agreement with a “lesser” king or nation, known as the “prince” or “lord” or “vassal.” A suzerainty treaty is a treaty – an agreement containing terms or conditions – between a greater king and a lesser king, ruler, nation, or group. The Decalogue itself is not a suzerainty treaty, but it is part of the suzerainty treaty that we call the Old Covenant. The Decalogue is similar to the U.S. Constitution, and the other 600 or so laws in the Old Covenant are similar to America’s federal statutes.

The Decalogue may also be thought of as a broad overview – a comprehensive survey – of the two greatest commandments or laws: Love God with everything within you, and love your neighbor as yourself.

The first Word of the Decalogue is:

And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Exodus 20:1-3

This prohibits idolatry. It does not mean that there are other divine beings, with God being the greatest one. It means that human beings are forbidden from thinking of any created thing or being, as being above, or equal to, God. “Before Me” doesn’t mean that God is number one, with some other god as number two. It means not to place anyone or anything (even anything fictitious) “in opposition to God” or to worship anything other than Him “in His presence” (which is everywhere).

The worship of any other being, or the ascription to any entity other than God of a status greater than or equal to God, would be considered by Him to be disloyalty, treachery, and an attack on His glory and His name.

We tend to think of the First Commandment as having a different application today from the application it had for Moses and the Israelites, but, actually, it applied to people in the ancient world in a very similar way. The little g gods that people worshiped in the ancient world were typically representations of their perceived needs or pleasures – their life-sustaining activities and their “fun” or distracting activities. In the First Commandment, God reminded them and us that He created us, and that He obviously “owns” us, but also that our activities, our joys, even our very thought processes, are to be exclusively centered around Him. If you are a parent, your two greatest responsibilities might be the clear teaching of the Gospel (which includes Who Christ is) to your children, and helping them to be utterly convinced of the absolute supremacy of God.

The second Word of the Decalogue is definitely referential to the first, but it is also definitely a separate Word:

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Exodus 20:4-6

An overly literal, out-of-context reading of this commandment would seem to prohibit the representation of any creature. In that case, it would be sinful to have a toy fluffy pony or an army man or even a sculpture of a tree. However, when we recognize that the Second Commandment is tied to the idea of “worship” and therefore idolatry, then we get a truer perspective. The worship of false gods in ancient times always involved imagery – figures that in those days were “graven.” This is still being prohibited by the Second Word, but the command goes even further, as it prohibits us from making a making a mental image of God as being so loving as to be unjust, or as being so kind as to not really have wrath. In other words, we break the Second Commandment any time that we make up a god in our minds that is not revealed in Scripture. This happens frequently when professing Christians claim that God rewards the “good works” of unconverted sinners by counting them as righteous based on their deeds.

Additionally, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses (and liberal seminary students) are flagrant violators of Word number two. They concoct a false “Jesus,” or they profess to believe something about God based on what they “feel” He is like.

The Third Word is:

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Exodus 20:7

Why would God not hold guiltless those that take His name in vain? Why is this such a serious crime? Because vanity is emptiness masquerading as fullness, and God’s name has great weight. It is empty of neither holiness, nor authority. Taking something “in vain” is ascribing negligible value to it. If there is anything in this universe that’s not vain, it is the Lord our God, and His name is a great gift and a great blessing, because it is a great revelation. God is providing the very air and breath that people are using to mock or to even curse His name.

This is one of the reasons why we shouldn’t flippantly exclaim, “Oh my G–,” or even say or type “OMG” or “gosh” or whatever else fills in for His name. Don’t say Jesus’s name like a curse word. One of the proofs of the depravity of man is the ubiquity of blasphemy and the complete absence of epithets such as “Adolf Hitler!” or “Muhammadd- – n!” or “Buddhad- – n!” I teach my kids not to use God’s name unless we are talking to, or about, God.


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