Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Can the Bible Be Made to Support Abortion?

The following is a post a good friend made and it is so good, I want to share it here:
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Sunday, August 7, 2016

I saw a recent article on the Internet in which a certain Curtis F. attempted to convince his readers that the Bible actually gives moral acceptance of abortion. Indeed the author says that Scripture hasn’t a single verse which condemns, it while having 5 verses which approve of it.

Needless to say, I do not agree with his article. Let’s consider first his 5 verses, then we will consider relevant passages which exclude the unjust taking of fetal life.
 
1) First he cites Exodus 21:22-25, which, he says, shows that God does not value fetal life as much as it does post-natal life. His translation reads: “When men have a fight and hurt a pregnant woman, so that she suffers a miscarriage, but no further injury, the guilty one shall be fined as much as the woman’s husband demands of him, and he shall pay in the presence of the judges. But if injury ensues, you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

I am not sure which version he used for this citation. I checked 22 different ones and didn’t find the wording he employed. However that may be, his is a bad and misleading translation. The verb translated “miscarriage” is וְיָצְא֣וּ (wə·yā·ṣə·’ū). That word simply means “to go or come out.” There is nothing about it which implies that the fetus coming out is dead or injured. Thus the vast majority of translations give a literal translation, namely that the child simply comes out, namely, prematurely. OK…but why then does the text speak of “further injury”? It doesn’t. The text contains no Hebrew word for “further.” That is added by those who think a miscarriage occurred. The Hebrew simply says, “if there is injury.” So, if the blow caused the fetus (or fetuses--the text employs a plural) to come out, i.e., prematurely, there is a fine (apparently for the inconvenience). But if there is injury to either the fetus or the woman, there will be a penalty assessed. And the penalty is assessed the same no matter whether the woman or the fetus is injured. This shows the equality of pre- and post-natal life.

Note that had the aggressor in the text struck the woman in the face or chest, it is unlikely that the child would have come out. So it is probable that he intentionally struck the pregnant belly of the woman seeking to cause damage to her child. While abortion involves the intentional ending of pregnancy prior to term, the woman generally agrees to the procedure. In this case it is not so. Still we could say that the intentional taking of fetal life is assessed a life for a life. In other words it is considered murder to kill prenatal life without cause. (More about “cause” below.) Thus, this verse provides the opposite of what the Mr. Curtis F. imagines. It is the prohibition of killing babies in the womb.
 
We could stop here, as Scripture has spoken. But let us consider his other texts.
2) Next he cites Ecclesiastes 6:3-5: “If a man beget a hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he. For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness. Moreover he hath not seen the sun, nor known any thing: this hath more rest than the other.”

He titles his remarks on this verse: “Unfulfilled Life Not Worth Living.” But a cursory reading of the verse shows both that Solomon considers the stillborn in question to be fully human, and that he holds that such life is of greater value than that of those born and living unfulfilled. The author again has it backwards. Make no mistake, as some “pro-choice” advocates have admitted, if life within the womb is fully human, then it must be protected as much as post-natal life, not taken. Solomon is simply opining that because prenatal life has experienced none of the disappointments of those actually born, it has an edge on them.
3) Numbers 3:39-40: “The total number of Levites counted at the Lord’s command by Moses and Aaron according to their clans, including every male a month old or more, was 22,000. The Lord said to Moses, ‘Count all the firstborn Israelite males who are a month old or more and make a list of their names.'”
Curtis concludes from this that, to Scripture, fully human life must begin at 1 month. Nonsense. This is a census. Censuses often excluded the very young and the very old. For example Num. 4:30 excludes from a census taken for military purposes, those under 30 or over 50. That hardly implies that you aren’t human before 30 or have lost your humanity at 50. Other censuses began at 20 (e.g., Num. 1:3). Why the infants younger than 1 month were excluded we can’t be sure, but to conclude that the reason is that they aren’t human is totally unjustified. Perhaps it was because of the infant mortality rate while walking through a wilderness, such that the child might have died before the census could even be completed. Further, should we draw the conclusion that women weren’t human because they weren’t included in the census? Finally, it apparently sailed over Chris’s head that the text says all males over 1 month. That implies that those under 1 month were males, the same in humanity and gender as those over 1 month of age. After all, it didn’t say those “creatures with outdoor plumbing are human at 1 month.”
4) Genesis 2:7: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
Curtis interprets this verse (as others do) that life begins with first breath. That’s not what Genesis 2:7 is about. In context, Adam was fully formed, but not alive. He couldn’t move. He was a mass of inert chemicals. The same cannot be said of nascent life at any stage, zygote to full term fetus. Both the sperm and the egg are living cells which combine in the zygote into a living, genetic individual. No breath from God needs to animate it. The zygote and Adam are in the same condition. Free oxygen radicals are stored in the Zygote. Fully formed Adam is just more advanced in development than the zygote.
 
5) Numbers 5:27: “If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse.”
This is a verse in a regulation involving jealousy on the part of a husband. He thinks that his wife has had an affair, but he can’t prove it. Thus he is to take the matter to the priests, who tests the woman with a drink of dirty water. If she has had an affair, the water “causes her thigh to drop.” Curtis smugly considers this to teach that “Abortion Is Okay, If The Mom Doesn’t Approve.” He also refers to the water of testing as a “magical potion.” Truly the waters in question have about them no medicinal value. And, in fact it this were parallel to abortion they should have. Technically the text does not say that she was pregnant, or, if she is, that the dropping of the womb implies the death of the child. But if it does, it is not the humans who end the life. God takes it. And God, the giver of life, is fully in the right to take it back at any stage from conception to advanced age. Further, in the vast number of abortions, the mother approves. I wonder if Curtis would approve of aborting a baby against the wishes of the mother? Well, it isn’t a medical procedure and God doesn’t give any human the right to take a life according to this text.
 
Thus all the arguments of Curtis F. fail to impress, indeed 3 imply the humanity of the fetus, 1 is consistent with that humanity, and none establish a right of humans to end fetal life.
 
But does the Bible fail to condemn the taking of fetal life, as Curtis F contends?
 
The Bible opposes the taking of human life without cause (Gen. 9:6). Any shedding blood (i.e., killing) without cause is murder, and that is opposed by the 6th Commandment. This means that those who are pro-choice have the obligation to show that the shedding of the human life in the womb has justifiable cause, else they be justifying murder.
In addition to this, Curtis F. neatly avoids all verses which speak of the worth of the fetus, thereby implying that abortion is wrong. In addition to the 3 texts shown above to imply fetal life is fully human, there are several others from which we can deduce it.

David in Psalm 51:5 says: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” How could you be a sinner from the moment your mother conceived you without being a human individual? Are mere “things” guilty of iniquity?
Psalm 139:13-16 says: For You formed my inward parts; you wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.
This is the passage which changed the mind of professors Bruce Waltke and Norm Geisler on this subject. In it God is said to personally know the the developing fetus, David, when he was being created in the womb of his mother. The kind of knowing that is spoken of is interpersonal knowledge, and that implies the existence of personhood from the moment that that creating began, which is stated to be conception. Some mistakenly suggest that this is not talking about a real human being because it is said that the days ordained for David are said not to have begun. But this is wrongheaded. Days for an individual are tabulated from the time the child comes forth, but the actual life of the child begins at conception—a day that is often hard for a woman or anyone else to know.
Exodus 21:22 says: “If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”
We have spoken of this above, but let me note here that the word for child is more literally translated “seeds”. A seed is a single cell. The plurality used here allows for the possibility of multiple children in the womb. The most important thing to note is that the single-cell (a seed) existence of the child within the womb begins at conception. It has also been suggested that in the case of twins, one seed splits into two. It could be argued that in such instances, individual life only begins after the twinning or separation. Perhaps, but the ultimate point is that whenever there is a genetic individual, life is fully human.
 
The birth of Christ also teaches that life begins at conception. Consider these texts from Luke 1:31 & 35: And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. … The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.
Clearly the only time the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary was when Jesus was conceived. That’s when the Divine individuality incarnated with human genetic material and a new incarnate individual came into existence. Would Christ’s individuality differ from ours as to the moment when human genetic individuality begins? No.
Thus, it is clear that human, individual life begins at conception, and should be treated as having the worth of “life in the image of God” at that point. This excludes most reasons offered for abortion. Since the infant’s life is not worth less than the life of the mother, all reasons related merely to improving her life or way of life are insufficient. God Himself says that He creates the handicapped (Exodus 4:11): The Lord said to him, “Who gave a mouth to man, or who makes a person mute or deaf or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Since this is so, who are we to argue for aborting the handicapped?

I once lectured on abortion at Michigan State University, in a pre-law class. When I stated that fetal deformity wasn’t sufficient moral grounds to abort, a female in the audience jumped me and said, “Easy for you to say. You are a man. You don’t have to care for that kind of baby.” I looked at her intently and responded, “My sister is Down’s. I participate in her care all my life.” And in fact I did very directly for over 30 years.

Neither can we argue for abortion in the case of rape or incest, for the Scripture in Deuteronomy 24:16 says: “Fathers must not be put to death for what their children do, nor children for what their fathers do; each must be put to death for his own sin.” [emphasis mine] Rape and incest are problems of morality for the parents. They are not justification for killing innocent children, who, as the late Dr. Paul Ramsey of Princeton said, are merely like mislaid trespassers, rather than capital offenders.
Does this meant that it is never justified to abort? No. We noted in our discussion of Exodus 21 that the taking of fetal life is to be considered on the basis of a life for a life. Is there ever a time when the fetal life aggresses against the life of the mother, such that she is justified in protecting herself from that aggression? Yes.

When Roe v Wade was conjured up by SCOTUS, there were on the books about 12 medical indications for therapeutic abortion. They are all rare. Perhaps the best known of them include ectopic pregnancy, mid-stage breast and uterine cancer, and an encephalitic head of the fetus. In the first instance the baby is developing outside of the uterus, and if the portion of the tube which includes the fetus is not removed, the fetus will eventually break out into the abdomen and result in death to both by peritonitis. In the second instance, the pregnancy accelerates the growth of the cancer and it will become fatal to the mother if the fetus is allowed to come to term. In the third instance the fetal head will be unable to make it through the birth channel without rupturing maternal arteries and breaking the fetal skull…so both will die unless the there is a craniotomy. Thankfully, the advancement of medical diagnostic technology has made abortion generally unnecessary in this last case, but not all places in the world have that technology.

Thus we can say that, unless the fetal life is physically aggressing against the life of the mother, abortion is unjustified, and therefore murder. In those cases it would be a matter of defending the life of the mother. I would also add that in the case of the cancers, the mother may elect NOT to have an abortion, thus sacrificing her life for that of the infant. She has that right, but we must not force that choice upon her. Self-defense is justified on the basis of Ex. 22:2 and Luke 22:36.

I was once asked to speak at a Right to Life rally. When I mentioned that there were a few, rare justifications for abortion, I was never asked to speak at one again. That didn’t bother me. My task as a Biblical ethicist is to tell what God’s Word says, not to be popular with either pro-life or pro-choice. What I have given you in this note is what I see the Scripture teaching.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Love the Lord - He is your sure defense!


Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.
(Luke 17:3-4)

One of the cross-references I read this morning was Psalm 119:164-5:

Seven times a day I praise You,
Because of Your righteous judgments.

Great peace have those who love Your law,
And nothing causes them to stumble.

The Cross-reference was in a note on Luke 17:4 in MacArthur’s study bible. It is an amazing thing, the Word of God!  The note only referred me to verse 164, Seven times a day I praise You, Because of Your righteous judgments. But I read further and was blessed!  Let me explain.

Here in Luke 17 is a teaching on temptations (snares or stumbling blocks).  And in verse 165 of Psalm 119 the remedy for such temptation is given! Those who love and meditate on God’s law – His standards and judgements – they will never be moved!  Temptation is powerless over him because truly his love of Him, which includes everything about Him – His attributes, His ways, His judgements – keeps him!  He finds the temptations without power – because they are just empty next to the Lord of all!  We read in Psalm 37:4,

               Delight yourself also in the Lord,
               And He shall give you the desires of your heart.


As we consider Him, nothing in this world has any pull – no sparkle, no shine, nothing attractive at all.  But He becomes our delight and all temptations are like cheap trinkets sold in the market for tourists – nothing but junk!

Lord, may I esteem you so much that all this worlds wares be just so much junk in my sight – for Your glory, Amen.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Claim of Jesus the Christ

(This message was preached Wed eve, July 6th, 2016 at Heritage Baptist Church: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?sermonID=76162043496)


THESIS: To show how Christ’s ministry of healing was a proof that He had the authority to forgive men. 
Good Evening!

            Tonight I would like to look at Mark 2:1-12. Please follow along as I read, “And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house. 2 And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them. 3 And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. 4 And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. 6 But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, 7 Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only? 8 And immediately, when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? 9 Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? 10 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) 11 I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. 12 And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.”

It’s surprisingly been 4 months since I spoke to you and so I would like to remind you of two items, the theme of Mark, To Disclose or Unveil the Suffering Servant. And the key verse for the book is Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  

Here is a brief rundown of the themes found in the prior 7 messages of Mark:



Passage

Title

   

1

Mark 1:1-8

The Witness of John the Baptist

John the Baptist and his preparing a people for the Christ.

2

Mark 1:9-11

The Baptism of Christ

 What does his baptism mean?

3

Mark 1:12-13

The Temptation of Christ

We considered the implications of the incarnation especially as it informs us in temptation

4

Mark 1:14-20

The Call of the Christ

 We considered the call of Christ upon a man

5

Mark 1:21-28

The Authority of Christ

What is this authority! (casting out demons)

6

Mark 1:29-39

The Galilean Ministry of Christ


7

Mark 1:40-45

The Christ that Cleanses

Leprosy is cleansed






Today we will be considering the claim of Jesus the Christ. Once again we are presented with a narrative & dialog. In some ways you might say that makes expositing Mark a simpler matter than say Matthew or Luke, with their long prescriptive lessons and parables. Here we simply analyze the activity and dialog. Nothing much to see here folks – no meaty doctrine, right?! 

Ah! Don’t be deceived! We have plenty to dine on – this is the Word of God, no matter where we open it. My thesis is to show how Christ’s ministry of healing was a proof that He had the authority to forgive men their sins. In looking at the authority of Christ we also will be considering what that authority looks like and from where it comes.

Let’s take a short list of the possible themes we could explore – Forgiveness of sin. The incarnation. Christ’s Healing ministry. Faith. The authority of Christ. On and on it goes. The possibilities aren’t endless – but they are so full and rich it would feel as though they were!

Why do we read of the many miracles of Christ? What were they for? Often we say they were signs – but signs of what? Today I hope to show once again the powerful truths wrapped up in Christ’s healing ministry. His ministry in Galilee was primarily involved in miracles of healing, exorcisms of demons and teaching the Word.

Recall with me the last healing – of a leper, was really the cleansing of a leper. Remember what happened? Mark 1:44-45 read, “See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. 45 But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.” So as we read that ‘it was noised that He was in the house’ we know what is going on. The crowds we immense!



We don’t know for sure what house he was in, but it doesn’t seem too outlandish to think he was in Peter & Andrews home, since that where he was in the previous chapter. And so thick was the crowd Christ was inaccessible to those outside the house. Many would not seek a way past so many. If you are a bit like me, I tend to avoid crowds! But not these men. They had a friend in need! And the 5 of them knew – they KNEW Christ not only could heal him – but would – if only they could get to Him! Do you think of the Lord this way? Many times we think to ourselves, ‘I know the Lord can help me’ – but not knowing the Lord as we ought, we don’t pursue him fervently! Oh – be a persistent believer – knowing the Lord loves you every bit! He will heal what is broken. He cares for the broken-hearted. He’s gentle to those with tender hearts.

So they break through the roof – an amazing thing to consider – but not more amazing than what we read in verse 5, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” How does one see faith?! The verse is plain enough, and I really don’t think this was a divine eye – These men broke open the roof and got their friend into Christ’s presence – because of a faith they had – a faith seen in the activities they did to get him there! James tells us that if it is true faith it will be seen (James 2:18).  

What’s amazing is that Christ – seeing their faith – doesn’t heal the man! Instead he immediately forgives him his sins! The man hadn’t even gotten a word in edgewise – there was no dialog, “What would you have me do for you?” Christ looks at the man and knows his greatest need is not physical healing.

The greatest need of every man is forgiveness of sin! Too often we look at our circumstances of life. We think ourselves poor – if we have little in the bank account, or if we make minimum wage. We think if only we had better health we could do so much more. Christ looks at us, and says our circumstances are irrelevant! Consider what we read in Rev. 3:17, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Samuel tells us the Lord looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7) – and here that translates to a need for forgiven sin!

And it is at this point in our account that we get to the theological meat. The Scribes begin questioning, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?” The Scribes rightly stated the issue in that sin, being that offense particularly against God – could only be forgiven by the party offended. But they misunderstood the truth of who Christ was, and that as the offended party actually, he could forgive sin! The judged Christ’s statement as blasphemous – because to think otherwise would be to reckon Christ to be God – an idea so untenable to their minds it was shocking – this was a man seated before them!

William Luck says, “Jesus shows in this story that the preaching of the gospel primarily relates to the forgiveness of sins. Sometimes we make the gospel all about getting to heaven, where sin will ultimately be abolished. But Jesus knew that sin paralyzes people and needs to be dealt with in this life.
[1]

Let’s think about the logistics here. How is it easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you’? Warren Wiersbe tells us, “[I]t is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven!” because nobody can prove whether or not the forgiveness really took place. So, to back up His words, Jesus immediately healed the man and sent him home.”[2] To put it another way, G. Coleman Luck states, “Their own eyes could observe the evidence so they could then also be sure that what they could not see—forgiveness of sins—had just as truly taken place.”[3]

Recall my thesis - To show how Christ’s ministry of healing was a proof that He had the authority to forgive men. This ought to be apparent enough for you and I. However, we are accustomed to a Trinitarian Godhead. We know that Jesus is God the Son. But for those who don’t know it, here is a proof. Christ had the authority to forgive sin, because he was the anointed One. Some time ago we looked at a passage in Isaiah. I’d like to recall that for you. Isaiah 61:1-2, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; Because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to them that are bound;2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord

Do you recall under what circumstance Christ read that text? We find it in Luke 4. He was in his home town of Nazareth and the scroll of Isaiah was given him to read. He read this portion and stated, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” And the resulting uproar was so great they tried to throw Him off the cliff of the city! Why? Because his claim was ‘I am Messiah.’ He was preaching the gospel, he was opening the eyes of the blind.  

Not only did he make the claim to Messiah in Nazareth but everywhere He went it was a clear proclamation of his deity. 

In our passage today we have another clue to such a claim. We read in verse 10, “But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins” Not only in the actions – but here we have this little phrase I’d like to acquaint you with. The Son of man. It is a very significant and much debated phrase as to its theological meaning.  

Warren Wiersbe again comments, “Jesus affirmed His deity not only by forgiving the man’s sins and healing his body, but also by applying to Himself the title “Son of man”…It was definitely a messianic title (Dan. 7:13–14) and the Jews would have interpreted it that way. Jesus used this title about eighty times in the Gospels.”
[4]

Let’s look at the Daniel passage briefly, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” I think Wiersbe is right on target about this being Messianic.  

 
The phrase is used in Ezekiel more frequently than any other place in the Scripture – and it is God’s title for the prophet himself. According to God, Ezekiel is a Son of man.  


But we see Jesus using this title nearly as much in the gospels and applying it to himself. In Ezekiel it is used 93 times for the prophet. In the Gospels 85 times. The emphasis is on humanity. Ezekiel was a prophet during the Exile, and he preached chiefly against Judah, Jerusalem, and Tyre. He also preached about the temple both as it was and as it will be in the future. He was God’s mouthpiece to humanity. He illustrated in very human ways the displeasure of God to the people.  
When Jesus applied the title to himself, it was to emphasize many of the same things. He was clearly showing his distinct ministry as a man to humanity. He was plainly a Prophet – he was God’s mouthpiece to men. Yet He was also demonstrating that he could represent men – And he went further than Ezekiel. Whereas Ezekiel preached and did as the Lord commanded – He still had limitations on his understanding. In the sermon on dry bones he is asked, “Can these bones live again, and he defers to the Lord – Only you know, oh Lord (Ezekiel 37:3). He goes only as far as that. But Christ time and time again, takes his humanity and extends to it a measure of deity. Look at the following examples:
  • Matt 12:8 For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.
  • Matt 16:13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Cesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
  • Matt 16:27-8 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels: and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
Here we see Him ascribe the title the son of Man to himself after which we read of his being transfigured before them. The son of Man is transfigured. Think about this – Could God be transfigured? Perhaps this is a trick question, but I have to say no – God cannot be transfigured into what he already is, divine. But the son of Man can be – because his divine nature is veiled in flesh. And as the hymnwriter says, “veiled in flesh, the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity” Only the son of Man could be transfigured – we might say – revealed, as to his divine nature. And remember Marks theme, but to unveil the suffering servant! We read in John 1:14, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
  • Matt 17:9 And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.
As they descended down the mount we see him apply to himself the phrase the son of Man – but this time he makes reference to his resurrection from the dead?! What – the son of Man is to die? How can this be? Let’s look into this further. Please turn to John 12:23-34. I’ll read verses 23 – 34:
Briefly noted:
Vs. 23 – The son of Man will be glorified. 
Vs. 24 – 26 Metaphors of how he is to be glorified, in death! 
Vs. 27 – 30 A voice from heaven, the testimony of the Almighty 
Vs. 31 – 33 Judgement for the devil.
Vs. 34 – Who is this son of Man?! 
Verse 34 again, “The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lift up? who is this Son of man?” Who is this Son of man indeed! They could understand his teaching that He would die – men die, but not if he was the Messiah – which He was plainly claiming, and which the Father was testifying to!
Lorraine Boettner, in his Studies in Theology quotes the Reverend Leonard Verduin of the Christian Reformed Church in his discussion of the son of Man. It very much helped me to sort out the usage of the term by Christ. “Now by common consent names are chosen to draw attention to that which is unique to the bearer. A boy with red hair will likely be called ‘Red’ or ‘Sandy.’ If he is unusually tall he will soon be called ‘Slim,” etc. Men are not named for that which is common but for that which is unique, uncommon. And in the mind of the eternal Son of God His own uniqueness lay not in his Deity – that He had in common with the Father and the Spirit. With them he shared His ubiquity, His eternity, His omniscience, etc. But the prospect of incarnation was His and His alone. Therein lay His uniqueness in the divine economy. Is it any wonder that in the heavenly society the name ‘Son of Man’ was invented and applied to this prospective visitor to earth and earth-men?”[5]
 

In Acts we read in the testimony of Stephen, of the son of Man who is standing at the right hand of God! This man! Clearly a man, but also clearly more than a man. But know this – He is a man, and that means he can be our man. He avails day and night on our behalf! Aren’t you blessed to know that man of Calvary – He can stand in your place on judgment day?! He bridges the gap from sinful humanity to holy God!

This man, the son of Man. Do you know him? That’s a good question to consider. But don’t only ask do I know him. Ask also – does he know me? Have you been introduced to this man? Make your hope in how he knows you. Be in the Word, be among God’s people. Learn of this man who died for the sins of his people. Call upon Him since He indeed cares for you!

Folks do you get this? We have a man, our advocate. He is seated at the right hand of the Father. He knows what it is to be weak. He knows what it is to be tired, to be hungry. He knows what real temptation is – in that He was tempted in all ways, yet without sin. He withstood the tempter, whereas we too often give in.

This man, who knows us better than we know ourselves, is our representative before the Father. Could we find a better one? Who could be our defense attorney better than the son of Man! He is the one with authority to not only heal a man, but represent us rightly before God, and still forgive us our sin! Does this comfort you? Are you not relieved? Are you able to breathe easier? Other men may try and help you, but they fail whereas Christ abides forever!

Look at the deliberate way he used the same phrase later in Mark 14:62, when answering the High priest under oath at his trial, “Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

Do you see the close reference to the Daniel passage earlier read? Here we see a messianic reference – the right hand of power and a reference to the second coming. In His use of this phase it should be apparent the reference is to the authority He had, as Son of man, the anointed One, to not only heal, but also to forgive sin.

I’d like to finish with what John Gill has to say on the matter, “As there is an emphasis…on the phrase, the son of man, suggesting, that his being so was no contradiction to his deity, nor any hindrance to the exertion of his power; so there is another on those words, upon earth; intimating, that though he was upon earth, in a very low estate, in a state of humiliation, yet he had the same power to forgive sin as in heaven; his humbling himself in human nature did not strip him of his perfections, power, and prerogative as God: and if he had power on earth to forgive sin, there can be no room to doubt of it now he is in heaven
[6] What a blessing! We have a man – the son of Man!




[1] William F. Luck Sr., Mark: A Manual of Evangelism, 2011

[2] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 115.

[3] Sr. G. Coleman Luck, Luke: The Gospel of the Son of Man (Moody Press, 1970), 54.

[4] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 116.

[5] Loraine Boettner, Studies in Theology (The Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company, 2005), 157.

[6] John Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament, vol. 1, The Baptist Commentary Series (London: Mathews and Leigh, 1809), 388–389.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Hating my father?


Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:25-27)

A very challenging passage indeed where one is told to hate those we instinctively love?!  Yet such is not quite what it seems. What is it to hate...
your father,
your mother,
your wife,
your children,
your siblings,
your own life?

Any one of these might be answered slightly differently, but taken together – in light of the last (to hate one's own life), it carries a more broadened understanding of the term. Paul in Ephesians 5:29 tells us something revealing, “For no one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it just as the Lord does the church

Without getting into the minutiae of Paul's argument we can gather at least this much, to hate one's own body is antithetical to our nature. Jesus sums up his reference to hate in the phrase “one's own life” because it is one's life we naturally care for first. In Paul's illustration, speaking of the marriage of man and wife, such a natural love of self is powerfully changed to a love for one's wife which illustrates itself by Christ and the church (or ought to!)

So Christ is asking us, ‘Are we prepared to give up even life for his sake?’ Then you can be my disciple. Paul is really saying the same thing.  As Christ was willing to give up his life for the church so a man must give up everything for his wife.

And whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

We've considered hating one's own self as a requirement for discipleship. This hatred is a giving up everything for the Lord, even including one's own life because he loves his Lord.

Now we ask, “What is bearing my cross for the Lord? What is being a disciple?” The term disciple simply means a learner, a student. Therefore a student of Christ studies... Christ!  No rocket science here! Such an act, if one takes it seriously however, is actually a cross bearing - for Christ is no mere prophet – but the God-man – yes indeed a man, but the God-man, deity in the flesh.

Such a Subject of study cannot ever be exhaustively known by finite man. It will take everything one has. You will sacrifice the whole of your being to get to know Him. And when you begin to grasp the smallest part of him, at once you will see the job is beyond every faculty of your mind and strength. You will give up everything to know him but a very little, and yet it will bring the greatest of blessings! Yet it is a blessing which cannot be appreciated by others who have not given it all as you have. Therefore the very act of getting close to Him separates you from father and mother, brother and sister, son and daughter – from all who will not invest such as you must. It is like Moses when he had been up the mountain – he was feared by all for his face glowed because he had become a student, a follower of the Most High (Ex. 34:35). On the human side it is a lonely study, for few give up as needed to know Him. Yet to those who do, Life, even Abundant Life!

Oh, Lord - help me drive out all that which separates me from You that I may know You and the fellowship of Your suffering, yes even Philippians 3:10, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Mercy of our Loving Lord!


“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Luke 12:35-40)
Preparation seems to be the key thought here. We are to be expectantly waiting for our Lord's return. And not simply in expectation, but ready to go, a workman who is not ashamed at his coming. Will the Master find you eagerly preparing and looking for him, or will he find you unprepared and careless?  Prove what sort of disciple you are!

Prove yourselves therefore to be men and women of God who are not only ready when he comes, but able to be set to a task in the regeneration, and faithful to complete it.

Another portion of scripture has come to mind in 2nd Peter chapter 3. This passage is eschatological and also speaks of those who consider the Lord's delay as license to blaspheme and sin.

Are you growing weary in well-doing? Do you sometimes think your portion in this life is too great to bear? Is bitterness over our Lord's patience getting the best of you?

When Peter asked if this parable was for all or just for the disciples, Christ answer was, in a sense, Be patient in your work and faithful to the end for bitterness can creep in. The answer is found and Peter’s comments in 2nd Peter 3:9 when we see the great patience of our Lord with us, and remember His kindness to us, we can be patient in the work, even if the work be hard and the day be long. We serve a loving God.

If he was so loving to you, even in your hatred of him (Rom 5:6-10), to save you, we ought to be the same to others. Peter tells us the same, in this way, “What manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.  14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation.” (2 Peter 3:11b - 15a)
Finally consider the justice of our God. He sees through the hypocrite (v.46), his punishment is meted out fairly – to some more deserving of it more stripes, to others deserving but not aware they had crossed the line, few stripes. Even think on this: Because our God is just (by definition) His Son died on the cross, the just for the unjust (1st Peter 3:18).

The net result this transaction is God can appear to justly ‘bend’ the rules. Not that he does not fairly apply it, but the letter of the law may demand many stripes yet the party may receive a few. How can a just God do so and still be just?
Read Psalm 85.
All our sin – covered forgiven in Christ.
All His wrath – Removed and turned toward Christ


This is all in verse 2-3.  The golden verses on this Psalm are 10-13. 

10     Mercy and truth have met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed.
11     Truth shall spring out of the earth,
And righteousness shall look down from heaven.
12     Yes, the Lord will give what is good;
And our land will yield its increase.
13     Righteousness will go before Him,
And shall make His footsteps our pathway.

God can indeed be merciful to us, and justly, because His Son met the demand of the law.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Riches toward God


13 Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14 But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” 15 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’

21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:13-21)[1]

In the occasion of a man calling out to Christ about his dispute with his brother this is Christ's response and it is rich with meaning.
Verse 21 struck me, in light of the truth that one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.  It reads, ‘
So is he who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God’ – A fool...
Oh, how often we find ourselves in the way of a fool!

And what made him a fool?
It's what he planned to do which was bad. Verse 19 says, ‘
And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” 

Here we see the motive and at first glance it is not so evil. He didn't plan on taking his wealth and burdening others over it. He only looked at it, and considered it his. He made his plans in exclusion of God. He failed to acknowledge Him to whom he owed it all. In the very first verse we see him described as, 'a certain rich man'.  His pattern was established, God had blessed him with fertile ground and many fertile growing seasons, yet he did not pay God even a passing compliment.

What could he have done?

He could have given his wealth and been rich toward God as the Rich Young Ruler was told to do (Luke 18:18-23). This does not mean that to give it all away is some automatic work to get you in the door.

Salvation is not measured in money. Rather, what a man does do with his wealth is a measure of his love for God. Does he do anything for the kingdom?  

Salvation is a gift of God, often it is said to be free, but it is not really free. It took the very Son of God to become the Son of man, keeping the law we broke by living in perfect harmony with it, and taking our punishment by dying on the cross. By all this we are saved. So salvation is not free but it is freely offered to all though most (being dead in their sins) will not come. This rich man never gave a second thought to the God Who blessed him with years of perfect crops.

The measure of our love toward our God is this: How freely do you offer forgiveness to those who have wronged you? How loosely do you hold on to the blessings he gave to you? And this is how love, God's love, is shown to a lost world.

How are you doing? Feeling stingy with that which God freely gave you?
Consider that, and consider the cross. It is easy to be generous to others when we see how generous He has been to us. It is far easier to forgive others their petty faults when you look at what your sin did to the Savior on Calvary.

Amen




[1] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Lk 12:13–21.

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