Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Posts tagged “God

What I like about Christianity

Here’s what I like about Christianity. It deals with the most important issues and questions of life. The past, the present and the future. Origins and destinies. How to live and how to die. Our most important problem. Our purpose. Love, freedom, security, hope, joy and peace. Eternity with God. It’s good news that changes everything. And it’s based on the most important person who ever lived. The best hero.

One of the beautiful things about Christianity is that Jesus has done everything for us. This means we don’t have to strive to do anything to please God. Salvation depends on acknowledging and confessing one’s sin. It’s a gift from God (Eph. 2:8). And it’s not difficult to understand or accept.

Christians are part of a world-wide spiritual family with whom they share a spiritual life, union and inheritance that never ends. It’s a relationship that surpasses all other human relationships. It crosses racial, cultural, social, age, and gender distinctions (Gal. 3:28). As Christians are all children of God, they are all equal before God. Every believer has the same spiritual status before God. And they have spiritual fathers and mothers to encourage and help them. Spiritual brothers and sisters to share life with. And spiritual children to nurture. So Christians shouldn’t be lonely. They have a ready-made spiritual family.

Christianity is unique because:
– God reached out to us, whereas other religions involve people reaching up to God and looking for the meaning of life.
– It’s a relationship with God (initiated and maintained by God) and not a list of rules and regulations.
– It’s based on the Bible, which is the written word of God. Most of our deepest moral instincts (like equality, human rights, and justice) come from the Bible.
– Its leader (Jesus) rose from the dead and performed many miracles to prove His claim of divinity. Christians serve a living God, whereas most other religious leaders are dead.

When the Philippian jailer became a Christian (Acts 16:24-35), his immediate problem was solved (he was about to kill himself), his family was helped (they didn’t lose a husband and father), he gained new and better friends (Paul and Silas), he was filled with joy (v.34), and he was assured of a home in heaven when he died. How did this happen? First, he was convicted of his sinfulness (v.30). Then, he believed that Jesus took the punishment for his sin (v.31, 34). How about you? If you are a Christian, you can share in similar benefits. If not, then you can become a believer just like the Philippian jailer.

Written, September 2019


Conversation on the Trinity

Here is a conversation on the Trinity that is an extract from the comments after a blogpost. Check the post for the complete discussion that took place over a period of more than three months.

Commentator 11 October

George I have to tread carefully here. My intent is not to say that Christianity is untrue or that the Bible itself is untrue. That would be disrespectful to you. I am only concerned with how you are evaluating other religions and your methodology. But you keep making statements about the Bibles accuracy that are based on your own faith and one particular interpretation not historical or scholarly fact. This is why when we started this conversation instead of attacking Christianity in any way I was pointing out that there were more than one interpretation of Christ, his teachings, and his relationship to God at the time of his death. What that means is that one particular group cannot really claim theirs as the only true understanding. To many historians, archaeologists and scholars the Bible has many contradictions. The Bible is interpreted by many groups differently. So saying that there is only one understanding or interpretation is just not accurate. So as a way to demonstrate I will go back to one of those differences I mentioned earlier, the Trinity. There were some groups of Christians (and still are) that view God, Christ, and the holy spirit as separate beings. If I am correct George you do not believe in this interpretation. So to kind of show that each individuals understanding of the Bible is based on their or their denominations interpretation of the Bible in reference to any particular topic. So here are several quotes from the Bible that if you read them and do not interpret them through your own denominations lens they clearly say that God the Father and his Son Jesus were separate. Jesus himself is referring to himself and God as being separate in each one of them. To say that is not what he is saying is in my opinion linguistically impossible. It would certainly twist reason. To show that this is a matter of interpretation I would like for you to explain how they do not say that they are separate without referencing other passages. The reason I am saying that is, is that I can list out three times as many of these that support the idea that they are separate. Because of space I did not want to list them all. So it really makes no logical sense that you can refute these by just listing a number of other quotes that you interpret as saying that God, Jesus, and the holy spirit are one. If you choose to give a list of quotes that support your interpretation then effectively all you have done is prove an inconsistency.

Mark 10:18 (KJV): “And Jesus said unto him, why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is God.”
Mark 13:32: “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”
Mark 15:34: “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
John 5:19: “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do.”
John 5:26: “For the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.”
John 7:16: “Jesus answered them, and said, my doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.”
John 7:17: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”

George I am still not trying to say that you or your interpretation is wrong. What I am saying is there is room for more than one interpretation and only you through your faith can decide what is right. The truth is absolute but no ones interpretation of the Bible is absolute.

Well at least you can see that I do own a Bible and have read it.! Take care George!

George’s reply 14 October

Thanks for the comment. You say, “To many historians, archaeologists and scholars the Bible has many contradictions”. I am aware of this, but I understand that these apparent contradictions can be harmonized. If you know of any that are not able to be resolved, please let me know. By the way, different eyewitnesses will not give identical accounts of the same event unless there has been collusion.

You say “The Bible is interpreted by many groups differently. So saying that there is only one understanding or interpretation is just not accurate.” That is true and it’s why I rely on the Bible as an objective source of Christian belief. The main message of the Bible is clear and it is stated repetitively. It’s not ambiguous. Jesus came to reconcile humanity with God and to ultimately restore His creation. If we don’t personally accept that He took the penalty that we deserved, we face eternal punishment in hell. I don’t want you (or anyone) to face a future like that!

You say that some Christians believe that God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are “separate beings” and quote seven Bible verses that seem to support this. The answer is that they are separate (distinct) persons, but one essence (being). Each of the verses quoted refer to God the Father and Jesus Christ as separate persons.

Commentator 15 October

George said, “You say that some Christians believe that God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are “separate beings” and quotes seven Bible verses that seem to support this. The answer is that they are separate (distinct) persons, but one essence (being). Each of the verses quoted refer to God the Father and Jesus Christ as separate persons.”

So George you are saying that they are “but one essence (being)” in other words one “being”. “You say that some Christians believe that God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are “separate beings” and quotes seven Bible verses that seem to support this.” The distinction is that you say one being and others say three separate beings. And these verses do not “seem” to show this, they emphatically show this.

Definition of Trinity: the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead according to Christian dogma.

Definition of godhead:
1 divine nature or essence
2 God

The definition above agrees with you George, Jesus , the holy ghost, and God are one being called God. The problem is that the Bible does not.

Mark 13:32: “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”

If you take this sentence apart man, the son (Jesus), and the angels do not know the hour. Only the father knows the hour (they are separate otherwise they would both know). If they are the same being this is impossible. If they were the same being Jesus and the father would know what the angels and man do not. The Bible says that they are separate beings not one. Bible believing Christians want to take the Bible literally until they get to passages that cause them a problem. There is no amount of linguistic gymnastics that you can do to make this statement mean that god and Jesus are one being.

George’s reply 28 October

Thanks for the comment. With regard to the trinity you say, “you say one being and others say three separate beings”. It’s what the Bible says that counts, not what I or someone else may say. In exegesis, it’s dangerous to interpret a verse without considering its context and what the Bible says elsewhere on the topic. The Bible is an integrated book, not isolated verses.

The Bible says that Jesus is God (Rom. 9:5). He is the exact representation of God’s being (Jn. 14:9, Heb. 1:3).
“Anyone who has seen me [Jesus] has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9NIV).
“The Son [Jesus] is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His [God’s] being, sustaining all things by His [Jesus’] powerful word” (Heb. 1:3NIV).
“The Son [Jesus] radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and He [Jesus] sustains everything by the mighty power of His [Jesus’] command” (Heb. 1:3NLT).

The Bible also says that Jesus is equal with God the Father:
“I [Jesus] and the Father are one” (Jn. 10:30).
“I [Jesus] am in the Father, and the Father is in me [Jesus]” (Jn. 10:38, 14:10-11).
“He [Jesus] was God” and so Jesus had “equality with God” (Phil. 2:6).

The God of the Bible is monotheistic, not tri-theistic. Trying to understand the trinity is like Job trying to understand God. God said that Job was speaking “ignorant words” or “words without knowledge” (Job 38:2). Job was ignorant about God. After a revelation of God’s wisdom, power, providence and sovereignty in nature (Job 39-41), Job repented of his pride and acknowledged “surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job. 42:1-6). When Job was trying to understand God, he was talking about things he knew nothing about. Likewise, when we are discussing the trinity, we are discussing things we know very little about. We don’t understand God’s power (it’s infinite). We don’t understand God’s goodness (it’s perfect). And we don’t understand God’s composition (one being but three persons).

Here’s a verse that shows that Jesus is both the same as God and separate from God in some way, “In the beginning [of time] the Word [Jesus] already existed. The Word [Jesus] was with God, and the Word [Jesus] was God” (Jn. 1:1). It’s perplexing to us because this mystery is beyond our human experience. As an ant is ignorant of the universe, we are ignorant of the unseen spiritual world (except for what is revealed in the Bible). After all, we can’t assume that the unseen spiritual world is like our physical world.

When Jesus said He didn’t know when He would return to earth to set up His kingdom (Mk. 13:32), it shows that He wasn’t always omniscient. Whereas, on another occasion He was omniscient (Jn. 1:48). This could be an example of a divine power that He gave up when He came to earth – “He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave” (Phil. 2:7NLT). Also, see my blogpost for another possible explanation of Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32.

Commentator 28 October

George, you still don’t get it. All you do is repeat bible quotes that if I really had the desire and the energy I could use the very same bible to refute them.

George’s reply 9 November

Thanks for the comment. You say you could use the Bible to refute bible quotes. You imply that the Bible is contradictory. But the only case presented in all your comments relates to the trinity, which I have answered in some detail. The main points were that the Bible is an integrated book, not isolated verses. And because we are finite, we don’t understand God’s composition (one being but three persons).

Commentator 10 November

George says: “You say you could use the Bible to refute bible quotes. You imply that the Bible is contradictory. But the only case presented in all your comments relates to the trinity, which I have answered in some detail. The main points were that the Bible is an integrated book, not isolated verses. And because we are finite, we don’t understand God’s composition (one being but three persons).”

As I have repeatedly stated I am refuting your methodology in attacking other religions not claiming your religion is false. I gave you 7 verses that anyone with a elementary school level education in the English language would say after reading them that they are referring to separate beings. Your answer is “And because we are finite, we don’t understand God’s composition (one being but three persons)”.

No George this has nothing to do with us not understanding God. We understand the English language just fine and understand what those verses say. You are giving these verses a meaning that they don’t say, one being but three persons. You can argue that these verses say “one being but three persons” all you want but it is just in your imagination because no where in them do those words appear.

This has been one of the problems with this discussion from the beginning. You like to make statements as fact that just are not fact at all. When you do not have an answer for what I give your answer is that you just do not answer.

Commentator 21 November

I gave you 7 bible verses where in plain English it says that the Father, son, and holy ghosts were separate. You ignore this fact and claim otherwise.

Commentator 22 November

You say that the bible is consistent. I brought up before the different views on the trinity and you, like usual, came back in an authoritative way proclaiming that the bible clear teaches the trinity but that I just did not understand it. Well here is a write up by a fellow Christian that uses the bible to disprove the notion of the trinity and gives 74 reasons why, oddly taken right from …………wait for it…………………the bible (see Appendix A)! His name is Michael A. Barber, in fact he has written a whole book on it! Funny George I thought that this argument was settled? I guess there is more than one interpretation of the Bible isn’t there.

George’s reply 26 November

Thanks for the previous three comments. You used seven verses about the trinity to claim that the trinity is comprised of three separate beings, which is different to the traditional explanation that the trinity is one being but three persons. Why the difference? You use a biased sample that leaves out verses that imply that the trinity is one being. A biased sample gives a biased interpretation. We can’t find the truth if we ignore some of the evidence.

The Bible teaches that there is only one God (monotheism) (Dt. 6:4; 1 Cor. 8:4; 1 Tim. 2:5). Nevertheless, it is clear in the Bible that the Father is God (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Phil. 1:2), Jesus is God (e.g., Jn. 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-20; Tit. 2:13), and the Holy Spirit is God (e.g. Acts 5:3-4; 1 Cor 3:16). When these verses are considered along with the others, it’s clear that the trinity is one being but three persons. There is one God who exists as three persons. The Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are different persons (or minds), but these three minds all exist as one being—God. And all three persons of the godhead are associated together on an equal basis in the Bible (Mt. 3:13-17; 28:19; Eph. 3:14-21; 1 Pt. 1:2; 2 Cor. 13:14; 2 Th. 2;13).

One of the principles of biblical hermeneutics is to use the Bible to help interpret itself (use Scripture to interpret Scripture). To interpret a passage without taking into account other passages that deal with the same topic can cause a poor interpretation. Ask, what other passages are related to the subject of this passage and how do they affect the understanding of this passage? We can practice this principle by using a Bible with cross-references in the margin.

Since the Bible is the Word of God and God cannot lie or contradict Himself (Num. 23:19; Heb. 6:18), then one passage will never contradict another passage. If we incorrectly interpret a given passage, by studying other passages on the same topic, we can recognize our error. Human beings are fallible, but our mistakes of interpretation do not mean that the Bible is flawed. Usually it is our flawed interpretation that is the problem.

Commentator 30 November

George said “He uses a biased sample that leaves out verses that imply that the trinity is one being.” In reference to the 7 verses that said that the trinity was not one being.

Well George you have claimed that there is no contradiction in the bible. If you have multiple verses that clearly say that the trinity is three separate beings and then you have multiple verses that say that the trinity is one being that is the epitome of contradiction! You can’t have it both ways George! Nice try!

George says “The Bible teaches that there is only one God”. This is why the Christians had to tie themselves in a knot trying to explain that God had a son. It is simple logic that if God had a Son he would also be a god. That doesn’t sound very monotheistic now does it? That is why they had to come up with the Trinity in the first place. The Jews of the time would not accept a polytheistic religion like Christianity. I do not have my Bible with me right now but we will get back to the concept of the bible teaching only one god when I do.

George’s reply 17 December

Thanks for the last three comments. You criticize the Bible because you can find some people who make different interpretations of it and you can find ancient books that make statements that differ from it. But by using this method, other religions like Buddhism could also be criticized for the same reasons.

Commentator 18 December

This is no longer a discussion. Sadly you do not answer any of the questions I ask you and take my words and turn them around to try and score some sort of points. It began as a good discussion and I hoped that it would continue. It is a sad day! Hopefully during our discussions god has opened your eyes to be more tolerant of other faiths and that you can see that attacking them bears nothing but bad fruit. My god give you wisdom George. Well I am finished here. Merry Christmas to you and your family! I hope you have a pleasant holiday celebrating the birth of your lord.

George’s reply 25 December

Thanks. May God also give you wisdom. And may you also have a happy festive season over Christmas and the New Year.

Appendix A: Is the Trinity Taught in the Bible?
Link provided by commentator to a web page by Michael A. Barber.

In 1550 AD, in England, Joan Bocher was sentenced and burned to death. Her crime? The Encyclopedia Britannica (1964) says: “She was condemned for open blasphemy in denying the Trinity, the one offence which all the church had regarded as unforgivable ever since the struggle with Arianism.”

On October 27th, 1553 AD, Michael Servetus, a medical practitioner, was burned at the stake at Geneva, Switzerland, for denying the doctrine of the Trinity.

In 1693 AD a pamphlet attacking the Trinity was burned by order of the House of Lords, and the following year its printer and author were prosecuted.

In 1697 AD Thomas Aikenhead, an 18 year old student, was charged with denying the Trinity and hanged at Edinburgh, Scotland.

In 1711 AD Sir Isaac Newton’s friend, William Whiston (translator of the works of Jewish historian Josephus), lost his professorship at Cambridge for denying the Trinity.

An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture, detailing Sir Isaac Newton’s condemnation of the Trinity teaching, was first published in 1754, twenty-seven years after Newton’s death, due to the controversies surrounding the doctrine and the church’s treatment of those who denied it.

What is it about the doctrine of the Trinity that has created such extreme examples of religious intolerance? Moreover, what was it that the above people, and others like them, saw in this teaching that impelled them to deny it at such great cost?

The following questions help to identify clearly the issues involved in this article’s title. By examining these questions, and consulting the cited scriptures, the nature of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as taught in the Bible, will become clear.

  1. Advocates of the Trinity doctrine believe that the words of Jesus at John 10:30, “I and the Father are one,” refer to the teaching that Jesus is God. But how does John 10:30 harmonize with John 17:22, where Jesus says, “in order that they [that is, the disciples] may be one just as we are one”?
  2. In what sense, then, are the Father and the Son “one”?
  3. The Greek language has three words that correspond to the English word “one” using three genders, (1) masculine, (2) feminine, and (3) neuter. If the oneness of the Father and the Son was a reference to the “persons of the godhead,” which gender would be used in this context: masculine, feminine, or neuter?
  4. Which gender is used for “one” at John 10:30 and at John 17:22 in the Greek text of the inspired scriptures?
  5. What did Jesus mean when he said, “He that has seen me has seen the Father”?—John 14:9.
  6. How does the above scripture harmonize with Hebrews 1:3, where Jesus is referred to as the “exact likeness” of his Father (Today’s English Version)?
  7. How do some believe that the following scriptures — as read from the Authorised (King James) Version — support the Trinity: Philippians 2:6; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 John 5:7?
  8. Why do most other Bible versions not agree with the above renderings?
  9. The discovery of the Sinaitic manuscript (held at The British Library, but sometimes on view at the British Museum) shows how a “later hand” corrupted 1 Timothy 3:16 to read “he” rather than “who” — completely altering the sense of the verse. Would a sincere Bible student agree with the original, or with the corrupted version?
  10. Which version does the King James (AV)translation use?
  11. What did Jesus mean by his words “Abraham your father rejoiced greatly at the prospect of seeing my day”? — John 8:56.
  12. Why did the Jews then reply to Jesus, “You are not yet fifty years old, and still you have seen Abraham?” — John 8:57.
  13. What was the meaning of Jesus’ response in verse 58, “Before Abraham was, I am”? (King James)
  14. Is the expression translated “I am” in this verse the equivalent of the expression found at Exodus 3:14?
  15. Why do the following versions render John 8:58 thus:
    “I have existed before Abraham was born.”
       Moffatt, Schonfield, and An American Translation
    “Before Abraham came to be, I was.”
         Stage
    “Before there was an Abraham, I was already there!”
         Pfaefflin
    “Before Abraham was born, I was.”
         George M. Lansa, from the Syriac Peshitta
    “Before Abraham existed, I was existing.”
         ‘Sacred Bible’, Catholic Bible Center
  16. How does the authoritative work on Biblical Greek Moulton’s Grammar of New Testament Greek (Vol. III, page 62) explain the use of the Perfective Present (“I have been”) at John 8:58 where the Greek word EI.MI’ is used?
  17. When John the Baptist used the same Greek word (EI.MI’) at John 3:28, how does the context demonstrate that the Good News Translation rendering of “I have been sent ahead of him,” is superior to “I am sent before him” (Authorised Version)?
  18. Consequently, was Jesus not referring to the fact of his having existed since before the time of Abraham?
  19. Although Trinitarians claim there is a connection between what Jesus said at John 8:58 and what Jehovah said at Exodus 3:14, how does an examination of the original inspired language text reveal otherwise?
  20. Whilst the Hebrew term at Exodus 3:14 (EH.YEH’) is rendered “I am” in some translations, why is it that in every other instance of the rendering of this term in the Bible, these same Bible versions correctly translate it using the future tense: “I will be”?
  21. When Jehovah used the same expression, EH.YEH’, in Exodus 3:12, “certainly I will be with thee,” why do translations correctly use the future tense for verse 12, but choose the present tense when the same word is used in verse 14?
  22. Is it not clear that, in Exodus 3:14, Jehovah is referring to his future purposes, whereas at John 8:58, Jesus is referring to his past, his prehuman existence during the time of Abraham?
  23. In Daniel 7:13, 14, who is it that is referred to as the “Ancient of Days,” and also, who is the “son of man” who was given “dominion and glory”?
  24. Who granted the “son of man” this “dominion and glory”?
  25. Was the vision of an earthly, or a heavenly scene?
  26. Why was the Holy Spirit not mentioned?
  27. In Psalm 110:1, two “lords” are referred to (Authorised Version). What is the identify of each “lord”?
  28. How can God and Christ be “coequal” when Jesus said that his Father was greater than he is?—John 14:28.
  29. At Proverbs 8:22, 23, who is the “Creator” and who is the one “created” as the beginning of God’s works?
  30. Does the above scripture harmonise with Colossians 1:15, 16 and Revelation 3:14 concerning Jesus’ being the first of God’s creation?
  31. Mark 13:32 says that “no-one knows” the day or the hour of God’s coming judgement, not even the son “but only the Father.” How is this possible if Jesus is God?
  32. Further, why is it that the Holy Spirit does not know the day or hour?
  33. The 144,000 bear the name of the Father and the Son on their forehead, why not also the name of the Holy Spirit?—Revelation 14:1.
  34. Just before the disciple Stephen was stoned to death, he saw a vision of Christ standing at God’s right hand. Why didn’t he also see the Holy Spirit?—Acts 7:56.
  35. How did Jesus cause the disciples to receive Holy Spirit by blowing upon them?—John 20:22 (see Genesis 1:2).
  36. Does the use of a masculine pronoun (“he”) by itself prove that something is a person?—Joshua 24:27; Luke 7:35; Romans 5:14, 21; Revelation 16:7.
  37. Are Jesus, or his father Jehovah, ever referred to in the Bible by the impersonal pronoun “it”?—John 1:32; John 14:17; Romans 8:26.
  38. When the Bible uses the expression “the Holy Spirit said,” does this mean that the Holy Spirit is a person?
  39. Why, then, does Acts 4:25 say “the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David thy servant, didst say…”?
  40. When someone uses the expression “look what it says here in the newspaper,” do we conclude that the newspaper is literally speaking?
  41. As God’s Word is produced by his Holy Spirit, is it not clear that the “speaking” is done whenever we read his Word?
  42. When the Bible uses the expression “the Holy Spirit said,” who else in fact sometimes does the actual speaking? — Acts 19:6; 21:4.
  43. Which scriptures show that Jesus Christ was subject to his Father before his coming to earth, upon his coming to earth and lastly, after returning to heaven?
  44. The Bible repeatedly says that Jehovah is one God. How is this possible if he consists of three persons?
  45. Is Jesus also this one God?
  46. Does this “one God” consist of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as the “three persons in one God”?
  47. Why, then, did Paul speak of the one who is one God as being “the Father”? — 1 Corinthians 8:5, 6.
  48. Also, why, in the above scripture, is the “one God” separate and distinct from the “one Lord,” Jesus Christ?
  49. Why does Jesus refer to the Father as “my God” even after his return to heaven, if Jesus is said to be God? — Revelation 3:2, 12.
  50. Why does the much-used expression “God the son” not occur even once throughout the Bible?
  51. Though some translations use John 1:1 to support the Trinity, why do the following versions render it thus:
    “The Logos [Word] was Divine.”
    James Moffatt
    “The Word was Divine.”
       Smith-Goodspeed
    “The Word was itself of Divine Being.”
         Stage
    “And God [=of Divine Being] the Word was.”
         Menge
    “And God of a sort the Word was.”
         Thimme
  52. From a biblical perspective, can a human be called a god? — Psalm 82:1, 6; Acts 28:6.
  53. Can an angel be called a god?— Psalm 8:5.
  54. Can Satan be called a god? — 2 Corinthians 4:4.
  55. If the Hebrew word for God (E.LO.HIM’) can be used to mean something less than a god (for example, “great,” “mighty”), why is it so unusual that Christ is referred to as an E.LO.HIM’ at John 1:1 (using the Greek THE.OS’)? — Genesis 23:6; 30:8; Deuteronomy 28:32; 1 Samuel 14:15; Job 41:25 (v.17 in the Masoretic Text); Psalm 29:1; 36:6; 50:1; 82:1; 89:6; Ezekiel 17:13.
  56. What reason does Bible Translator William Barclay give for the absence of the definite article [“the”] before the “Word” at John 1:1?
  57. How does John 1:1 harmonise with John 1:18, where “the only-begotten god,” Jesus, is described as being in the bosom position with the Father?
  58. How does the above understanding further harmonise with Jesus’ statements explaining that he has not originated anything, but speaks only what his Father taught him to speak? — John 5:19, 30; 8:28.
  59. If Jesus and his apostles had taught the Trinity, why did unbelieving Jews, who bitterly and passionately opposed Christianity, not attack a doctrine that to them would have been abhorrent?
  60. If the Father and the Son are both said to be co-eternal and co-equal, why are there many references to the subordination of the Son to the Father (John 5:19, 30; 7:28; 8:28, 42; 12:49; 14:28; Romans 15:6; 1 Corinthians 15:28; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 1:3; Colossians 1:3; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 Peter 1:3; Revelation 3:14, etc.) but no references to the subordination of the Father to the Son?
  61. Why, when a certain ruler called Jesus “Good Teacher,” did Jesus refuse the title, saying that “nobody is good, except one, God”? — Mark 10:17, 18.
  62. At Matthew 4:1, Jesus is spoken of as being “tempted by the Devil.” But how could Jesus be tempted to be disloyal to God if he was God?
  63. When the apostle Paul described Jesus’ sacrifice as a “ransom” at 1 Timothy 2:6, he used the Greek term anti’lutron for “ransom.” However, the word for ransom is simply lu’tron (for example, as used at Matthew 20:28).  What do Greek scholars say about the term anti’lutron?
  64. As Jesus’ sacrifice bought back (repurchased) what Adam had lost (for example, Jesus himself is referred to as the “last Adam” at 1 Corinthians 15:45), if Jesus was God, how could he be the equivalent of the man Adam?
  65. How can Jesus be “co-eternal” with the Father if he is at the same time referred to as the “only-begotten Son”? — John 1:14; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9.
  66. Why did the Roman soldier say of Jesus “certainly this was God’s Son” if the disciples had taught that Jesus was God? — Matthew 27:54.
  67. Who is the “one mediator between God and men”? — 1 Timothy 2:5.
  68. Trinitarians point to Isaiah 9:6 where Jesus is called “Mighty God” in support of their teaching. But, although the expression “Mighty God” is here applied to Jesus, inasmuch as he is certainly the powerful “only-begotten god” (John 1:18), why is it that the Father is the only one to whom the expression Almighty God is used? — Genesis 17:1; Exodus 6:3; Job 34:10; Ezekiel 10:5.
  69. If Jesus was God, to whom did he ascend according to his own words to Mary Magdalene: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”? — John 20:17, RS, Catholic edition.
  70. What reason did Jesus give for his “going to the Father” at John 14:28?
  71. If Jesus himself taught that “the Father is greater than” the Son, how can the Son be co-equal with the Father, as the Trinity doctrine teaches? — John 14:28.
  72. At John 5:18, the Jews (in this case, the Pharisees) accused Jesus of “making himself equal with God.” Did the Pharisees accuse Jesus of claiming to be God?
  73. Jesus made a reply to the above accusation when he said: “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do” (Authorised Version). How does this statement completely refute the claim of Jesus being “equal with God”?
  74. As Trinitarians sometimes use John 5:18 in support of their teaching, which of the following should be more important to Christians: the accusation of the Pharisees, or the response of the Lord Jesus Christ?

This is an extract from “The Trinity – In Light of the Harmony of the Holy Scriptures”, Michael A Barber (2017).

George’s reply

Barber’s comment on Isaac Newton is deceptive. Newton only addressed two verses (1 Tim. 3:16 and 1 Jn. 5:7) and his textural findings have been adopted in the modern critical text of the New Testament. But they have no implications on the Trinity because the teaching of the Trinity is mentioned many times in Scripture and doesn’t just rely on a few verses. Since early times (over 1,200 years before Newton) Christians have understood that the Bible teaches a triune God (see Appendix B).

Appendix B: Early Christian Creeds

Extracts from early Christian Creeds that mention the Trinity. These creeds were developed to counter Arianism (the heresy of denying the divinity of Christ).

Apostles Creed (AD 200)

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit …

Nicene Creed (AD 381)

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made;

And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.

Athanasian creed (AD 500)

We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

Written, September 2019


The benefits of forgiveness

Most of us avoid forgiveness like the plague because we do not want to look at our wounds. Wounds are scary, they are nasty, they are icky, it is why most of us look away when we donate blood. It is way easier to take all of that emotion and channel it into rage at another person.

In a stunning example of forgiveness, the Muslim father of one of two eight-year-old boys killed when a car crashed into a school in Sydney in November 2017 publicly forgave the woman who killed his son. He said, “We have a special message here for the lady that was involved in the accident. We want to sit with her and talk with her and tell her ‘we forgive you’. No retaliation is coming from the family of the boy, they have forgiven”. The boy’s family also disapproved of any harassment of the driver involved in the accident that killed the boys.

This blogpost is a summary of a presentation on Forgiveness by Dr. Xavier Lakshmanan. It’s not an easy topic because we live in a broken guilt-driven community. But it shows the benefits of living a forgiven life – forgiveness is an act of love and strength that leads to wellbeing.

Forgiveness is a readiness to pardon offenses, to overlook personal wrongs against oneself, and to harbor no desire for retaliation. It implies reconciliation, peace, tolerance and considering others.

According to the Bible, forgiveness brings many blessings. It speaks about God’s act of individual and corporate forgiveness. God gives us the opportunity to ask for forgiveness and to forgive others. Groups and communities can also come to forgiveness. The New Testament also puts a very special emphasis on believer’s mutual forgiveness. God forgives us and asks us to forgive others.

The Bible says to believers, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:32NIV). It says:
– God forgives, while believers receive God’s forgiveness. Their guilt is removed and they can live well in this world and in the world to come.
– Believers are commanded to forgive others as God forgave them in Christ Jesus. This is the standard of a forgiven life.

Christian forgiveness is like a coin; it has two sides. One side of the coin is accepting God’s gift of forgiveness. The other side is extending that gift of forgiveness coming from the Lord to others wherever we are. So forgiveness is both a divine gift and a task involving our relationship with others.

Forgiveness is a gift

Forgiveness is a gift from God. The Old Testament uses the following Hebrew words for forgiveness in relation to salvation.

Kapar means “God covering human sins by offering a sacrifice as a substitute for the life of a sinner”. It’s not accepting a sin and saying “that’s alright”, or “let’s forget about it”. It’s an act of God taking everything seriously. Saying sin offends. Sin brings chaos and calamity. Sin has consequences. In the Old Testament, the whole idea of atonement is based on sacrifice; the shedding of blood for the remission of sins. This means that sin is a serious offence. Forgiveness is a serious virtue which God is providing. The greatest example of this is when Jesus died for our sins and we can accept that offer and be free from the guilt and penalty of our sin.

Nasa means “guilt being taken away from the sinner. It’s removal of the burden of guilt when we accept God’s gift. While sala means the “function of forgiveness”.

Maha expresses God “wiping away” sins and kasa conveys the idea of “covering or concealing the person”. When God judges sin, He protects forgiven sinners.

The New Testament uses the following terms of forgiveness.

Apolyo expresses the analogy of sin as debt and it means “God removing the debt and releasing the sinner from it”. It involves sacrifice, payment and freedom. That’s what we see on the cross of Calvary.

Paresis means God “passing over” sin. God doesn’t consider the days of ignorance, but passes over them. When we come to Jesus, His death, covers everything that we have done. While aphesis conveys God “putting away sin completely and unreservedly”. Forgiveness brings us to an unconditional standing with God, including the privileges of God’s kingdom, the privileges of God’s promises, and the privileges of God’s children.

Charizomai expresses “the graciousness of God’s pardon” and God’s “act of blotting out sin” and granting the sinner freedom. God isn’t going to recall our sin; “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He [God] removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12). Do not live in guilt. If you trust in Jesus Christ, you have peace, reconciliation, and restoration with God. And you can celebrate your life in Christ Jesus. Relax in the presence of God.

So Christian forgiveness is the once-for-all pardon that we receive when we accept God’s promise in Christ Jesus. It’s as simple as that. And it’s also the way to maintain a close living fellowship with our Lord and His people. You forgive yourself and you forgive others and you accept the forgiveness of God. God’s act of forgiveness is a gift of grace that displays God’s love, freedom, deliverance, care, perfection, cleansing and restoration. Forgiveness involves everything that we need to live as children of God.

One of the greatest passages on forgiveness as a gift is, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Col. 2:13-15). This is a summary of the salvation experience. As God has taken away our sin and brokenness, we are called to live for His glory. We not only receive God’s forgiveness, but we must give that forgiveness to others. Then our relationships can be heaven-like. An unforgiving spirit is a weakness.

Karl Bath exclaimed, Christians “live by forgiveness” and every Christian should begin a day with a confession: “I believe in the forgiveness of sins”. At death, one has nothing to confess but “God’s gracious act of forgiveness”. Hence a genuine Christian life is lived in full awareness of forgiveness, accepting that God sees me anew and adopts me anew in His light. Bath recognized that believers are also commanded and enabled by God to be merciful to forgive their debtors, to comfort others, and to outshine the light of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a task

Giving forgiveness is a command that brings to others what believers have received from God. Christian forgiveness is a gift that commands practice. So it is a task that should be a way of life. Forgiveness frees us from bitterness and replaces bitterness with joy. Forgiving someone brings joy. Christians are commanded, called and enabled to enjoy forgiveness and live daily with its benefits.

Jesus taught that forgiveness is a duty of the forgiven. No limit can be set on the extent of forgiveness and it must be granted without reserve.   Jesus said, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them” (Lk. 17:3-4). It’s hard isn’t it? But it’s more than this.

In another passage “Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times’” (Mt. 18:21-22). Jesus increases it to 77 times a day! That’s a pattern of life.

And Paul wrote, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13). The standard that we are to forgive others is the forgiveness of the Lord to us. How many times does the Lord forgive us in one hour? That’s how many times we are to forgive our spouse, our brothers, our sisters, our friends, our neighbors, and those we fellowship with in church. Showing forgiveness is like bringing heaven down to earth.

The condition of forgiveness is repentance and confession on behalf of the offender. But Jesus says that if the offender fails to repent, the offended is not released from the task of forgiving. Jesus said, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Mt. 18:35). Whether someone is repenting or not, we are obliged to forgive them. It’s very difficult.

Jesus said, “if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5:23-24). Forgiveness isn’t only when you have done something wrong. It’s also for when someone else has wronged you. That’s what we are commanded to do.

Michael Bird says, “this form of forgiveness does not mean that I do not continue to feel the hurt from someone’s sin. But I forfeit my right to show my hurt at someone’s painful actions”. It’s a choice that we make. At the cross Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34). That’s love and mercy rather than resentment, anger and a desire for the punishment of His persecuters. Jesus was a model for His followers by willingly forgiving those who persecuted Him.

That’s what Mrs Gladys Staines did after her husband Graham and two sons were burnt to death in India in 1999. She made a choice to forgive them. It’s the choice of the strongest, not the weakest.

Forgiveness is a destiny

Forgiveness is the destiny for human life. The forgiven life that we have been given is going to continue. Believers are going to become like Jesus Christ. The purpose of God’s gift of forgiveness to fallen humans is to create a new being; “to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). This is Christ-likeness. So forgiveness has implications for this life and the life to come. God’s work of salvation saves sinners from the guilt, penalty, power and the presence of sin to the presence of God. It starts here and takes us to eternity. It’s the same with forgiveness; the healing begins here and brings restoration and freedom and it takes us to eternity to be like Christ in perfection. Forgiveness is a gift given and a task practiced to bring an amazing outcome of wellbeing and wholeness to human existence. This is the ultimate destination of salvation and God’s gift of forgiveness.

The greatest problem in extending forgiveness today is an unforgiving spirit. This can show in many ways. And it can control us. It’s part of our fallen nature. Jesus said, “if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Mt. 6:14-15). Refusing to forgive doesn’t grant us power. Instead it enslaves us to further sin like bitterness, greed, and discouragement.

Mahatma Ghandi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong”. For example, God is all powerful and He is happy to forgive us.

And Frederic Luskin of Stanford University exclaims, the spirit of unforgiving is a spirit of timidity. He argues, why are we afraid to let go of our grievances when forgiving can bring healing and wellbeing? He says, unforgiveness is like being trapped in a jail cell of bitterness, serving time for what someone else committed. Forgiveness is something we do for ourselves as well. We are freeing ourselves of burdens by taking power over situations and managing them well to “become a hero rather than a victim”. Otherwise we will feel unnecessarily victimized. Forgiveness makes us heroes, while unforgiveness makes us victims.

The benefits of forgiveness

Many psychological studies have been done on the benefit of forgiveness of others. Luskin calls forgiveness a “trainable skill of the strong”, not the weak. Moreover, he claims that forgiveness “reduced anger, hurt, depression, and stress while increasing feelings of optimism, hope, compassion, physical vitality, self-sufficiency (power), and confidence”. Forgiveness also improves physical and mental health, reducing hypertension.

The IDEA Fitness Journal stated that “people who are forgiving tend to have not only less stress but also better relationships, fewer general health problems and lower incidences of the most serious illness, including depression, heart disease, stroke and cancer”. So forgiveness is an act of love and strength that leads to wellbeing.

Lisa Firestone concludes, “forgiveness is the final act of love” and “the greatest gift you can give yourself and someone else in psychology today”. Yes, forgiveness is the most beautiful form of divine-human love that reflects a person’s greatness, goodness, inner wellbeing, soundness, confidence, and wholeness.

So extending forgiveness has tremendous benefits to the self. There are benefits in the forgiven life. Forgiveness is worth it. This is where Christianity excels.

Conclusion

Forgiveness is a gift that God freely lavished on us when we were sinners. And forgiveness is a task that God commanded us to practice in our relationships with others. Forgiveness is an act of love and strength that leads to wellbeing. Finally, forgiveness is the believer’s destiny. God wants them to live well here and in eternity in Christ-likeness. They are being transformed every day into Christ-likeness.

If you have forgiveness, give it! If you don’t have it, you can’t give it! But you can seek the gift of forgiveness which is available through Jesus Christ.

However, if this post doesn’t work for you, you can follow the advice of Oscar Wilde, “Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them so much”!

Acknowledgement: This blogpost was sourced from a presentation by Dr. Xavier Lakshmanan on this topic. Dr. Lakshmanan is Head of Theology in the Australian College of Christian Studies.

Posted, August 2019


Are miracles scientific?

Can the Bible’s miracles be explained away by science? Many people who refuse to believe in God think they can explain away His existence and miracles using scientific explanations.

This post comes from a children’s book by Hughes and Cosner (2018).

What is a miracle?

A miracle is an unusual event from God that He uses to tell us about Himself. Examples from the Bible include healings, raising from the dead, and displays of power over nature. This is different from God’s providential care over creation, which can be described scientifically (Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:3). For instance, the laws of physics partially describe how God is upholding creation in an orderly way (1 Cor. 14:33).

Why does God do miracles?

Miracles can have several different reasons. They can deliver people, such as God parting the Red Sea (Ex. 4:1-9; Dt. 6:22). And they can judge people. Like when Elijah asked God not to send any rain to Israel for three years. One of the main purposes for miracles is to prove that a person was God’s chosen messenger. When God did miracles through Moses, Elijah, Elisha, and Jesus, that meant that God was really with those men (Mt. 11:4-5; Acts 2:22-23; 17:31).

Do miracles make people believe in God?

Sometimes, but not always (Ex. 7:8-13). The Pharisees and Jewish leaders saw many of Jesus’ miracles, but they hated Him and refused to believe in Him (Jn. 12:37). Jesus taught that even someone being raised from the dead would not be enough to make people believe in God (Lk. 16:31; Lk.24:1-12). The Bible teaches, rather, that the Gospel – the good news about Jesus’ death for our sins and His resurrection on the third day is what people need to be saved, not miracles. But sometimes miracles in Scripture helped people believe in God (Acts 9:35, 42).

Some people say that because we can’t test miracles, they can’t be real. Are they right?

People who say that assume that God either isn’t real, or that He can’t do miracles. Everyone agrees that miracles don’t normally happen – that’s why they’re called miracles! But we have lots of trustworthy accounts of miracles in Scripture, and we should trust them because that are God’s Word (Lk. 1:1-4; Jn. 21:25; 1 Cor. 15:3-8). There are lots of historical accounts about other things, such as ancient kings and battles, that we trust on a lot less evidence. Also some of the same people that say we can’t trust miracles because we can’t test them believe in evolution, which is a claim about history that can’t be tested either.

But if I’ve never seen a miracle, should I believe that God did them according to the Bible?

We believe in all sorts of things we’ve never seen – if a source is reliable, we tend to trust it. In fact, we have to trust sources for what they say about most of history before we were born! The Bible is God’s Word, so we should believe it (Gen. 6:11-22; Jn. 20:24-31).

Can science explain the Bible’s miracles?

Science can’t test the Bible’s miracles, because miracles are by definition unusual events that scientific laws can’t describe (Ex. 16:4-7). We cannot re-create a miracle to test it. So the best way to determine whether a miracle is true or not is to see whether the source is a reliable one (Lk. 1:5; 3:1-2). The Bible was inspired by God, so it’s completely true, so we can thrust it when it tells us about miracles.

Did people in the Bible believe in miracles just because they didn’t have science?

That’s like saying that people weren’t as smart in ancient times because they didn’t know as much as we do. But ancient people were smart enough to build pyramids and other huge monuments using very precise mathematics. They also knew about astronomy and other facts about the natural world. They knew that miracles were unusual, that’s why they could be special signs from God (Jn. 11:28-44). If people thought that the Red Sea parted every time the wind blew a certain way, it wouldn’t be a special sign of deliverance for Israel like it was (Ex. 14:21-31).

Do scientists really disbelieve in all miracles?

A funny thing is that both Christians and atheists have to believe in miraculous things at the beginning of time. Both Christians and atheists believe there had to be something to cause everything at the beginning of time. Christians believe God was the cause (Gen. 1:1), but atheists must appeal to something outside the laws of science, because something had to cause the laws of science! So both Christians and non-Christians have to appeal to things that science can’t explain.

Conclusion

Science can’t explain miracles. But scientists depend on miracles to explain how we got here!

Science doesn’t invalidate miracles and miracles don’t invalidate science. So we can believe in both operational science and in the miracles reported in the Bible.

Reference

Hughes E and Cosner L (2018), Creation answers for kids, Creation Book Publishers, p.34-37.

Posted, August 2019


What stops you being with God forever?

Here’s a challenge from Outreach Media.

I used to smoke a lot of marijuana. But the first time I got stoned after becoming a Christian I felt embarrassed in God’s presence. I discovered that dope made it hard for me to control silly thoughts and treat God with reverence. It was awkward and I felt ashamed. So I stopped smoking marijuana and haven’t touched it since. That was thirty-five years ago.

When I stopped smoking dope I gave up something from this world so I could be sure of having life in the age to come. You might think it was no loss. And besides, Christians should obey the law anyway. Well, to that I say, ‘Yes, we should obey the law’ (and I would have acted on that I’m sure), but as for ‘no loss’? Well, that’s simplistic. People smoke dope because they have interesting experiences. I certainly felt a sense of loss in giving it up.

I think I was living out what Jesus meant when He said, “what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”

This world offers all kinds of experiences. Many of them are connected to wealth and power. So was Jesus speaking against money and power? Was He saying only the destitute and feeble can ever know God and win eternal life? No. It’s not wrong to own money or possessions nor have power over others. History records many emperors, kings, politicians and public servants who have been devoted to God.

Jesus’s point is that there’s nothing in this life worth having … if the having of it… means you can’t worship God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. I couldn’t do that smoking dope.

This experience of choosing God over something in the world has continued. In the early years of my working life there were situations where I could have cheated and deceived people for financial gain. Indeed, my stubborn refusal was a frustration to an early employer.

As the years have rolled on, the challenges have changed. These days they’re more likely to be internal. For example, with a particular decision I need to make sure I’m not putting personal pleasure ahead of the needs of others.

So how is Jesus challenging you? Are you being honest with yourself… and God? Have you prayed? Is there something you need to give up so that you can have God for all eternity? If there is, then take action.

Prayer: Dear God, give me a fierce honesty to make sure nothing in this world keeps me from being with you forever.

Bible verse: Mark 8:36 Jesus: “what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?“.

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2019

Posted, August 2019


How to overcome fear

Jesus calms a storm

Fear is a response to a perceived threat or danger. Some common fears are of spiders, snakes, heights, flying, dogs, thunder and lightning, injections, public speaking, being alone, darkness, death, failure, rejection, the future, terrorist attacks, nuclear war and germs.

This post looks at when Jesus’ disciples were afraid of drowning in a storm, which is described in the Bible. We will see that because everything is under God’s control, Christians can trust in God no matter how bad the circumstances instead of suffering from fear and anxiety.

Text

This event is described in Mark 4:35-5:1 (NIV):

35 That day when evening came, He [Jesus] said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side [of the lake].” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat. There were also other boats with Him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!”

1 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.

Other versions of this event are given in Matthew 8:18, 23-27 and Like 8:22-25.

Context

Author: John Mark was a close associate of Peter. The book of Mark is Mark’s version of what Peter preached about Jesus (Acts 10:37).

Audience: The book of Mark was written to Gentile believers.

Content: Mark is an account of the life of Jesus Christ. These events occurred before the beginning of the church on the day of Pentecost.

When written (complied): The book was written by 60AD, but it describes events that occurred about AD 30.

What happened before? – Before the incident, Jesus taught a crowd of people near the Sea of Galilee using four parables.

What happened afterwards? – After this incident, Jesus healed a demon-possessed man.

Sea of Galilee: A lake in northeast Israel that is 13 km (8 miles) wide and 21 km (13 miles) long with an area of 167 km2 (64 square miles).

How did God communicate to people in those days? In AD 30 it was via Jesus, the Son of God. And in AD 60 it was via the apostles.

What happened?

When they were with Jesus in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee, the disciples were afraid of drowning because huge waves were breaking over the boat. So they woke Jesus from His sleep and pleaded for His help. Then Jesus calmed the storm by commanding it to stop. He also rebuked the disciples for their lack of trust in Him. The disciples were amazed of Jesus’ power over the forces of nature.

What did it mean then?

What is the main point?

Jesus replaced their fear with peace and amazement. The solution came from the God who created nature, including humanity. It came from a divine source, not a human one.

What other things did we notice?

Jesus allowed them to experience a fearful situation and then removed the source of the fear.

The incident also showed Christ’s humanity (He slept in the stern of the boat) and deity (He calmed the storm).

The storm (of wind and waves) stopped suddenly and completely. It was a miracle showing Christ’s power over nature (1 of 9 in the gospels, see Appendix A). It proved that Jesus was the Son of God (Mk. 1:1). Only God can calm a storm (Ps. 107:23-30).

Jesus’ authority over creation raised a question for the disciples about who He was exactly (“Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!”). This verse shows that the disciples followed Jesus even though they did not know all about Him yet.

What does it mean now?

What has changed since when Jesus lived?

How has the Bible changed? We now have the New Testament. And since then Jesus has returned to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to indwell all believers. Although they had the physical presence of Jesus, we have the spiritual presence of the Holy Spirit. And although Jesus taught about the new covenant, He lived under the old covenant.

Who are God’s people today? Believers in Jesus Christ. They are called Christians, or the church. They can be from any nation – Jews have no special privileges, and Gentiles have no special barriers. They live under the new covenant and not under the old one.

What is the main point?

Like the disciples, we can be afraid or anxious sometimes about things like the unknown or a challenging situation. But instead of fear and anxiety, believers should trust in God’s promises for them in the Bible. Through the Holy Spirit, Christians can be courageous when others are fearful – “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid (fearful), but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7). This power is greater than we can imagine – “Now to Him [God] who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power [the Holy Spirit] that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20).

Prayer is helpful in overcoming all types of fear:
– “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
– “Cast all your anxiety on Him [God] because He cares for you” (1 Pt. 5:7).

Lessons for us

What is the application to unbelievers?

The first step to an anxiety-free mind is to give your life to Jesus Christ. Then you can trust in God’s promises.

What is the application to believers?

Jesus is all-powerful. He has power over all creation (nature). God cares for His followers. He is preparing a place for them in heaven (Jn. 14:2-3). Meanwhile, they should trust in God no matter how bad the circumstances. He has power to help us. Paul said, “I can do all this [endure difficulties] through Him [Jesus Christ] who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13). The challenge is to face our fears by trusting the Lord through it all.

Conclusion

God has awesome power because He controls all the forces of nature. Other demonstrations of God’s power are His creation of the universe, Jesus’ miracles and Christ’s resurrection from the dead. It’s comforting to know that everything is under God’s control. Because of this Christians can trust in God to help them no matter how bad the circumstances, instead of suffering from fear and anxiety.

Appendix A: Miracles showing Christ’s power over nature

Calming the storm (Mk. 4:37 – 5:1)
Walking on water (Mk. 6:48-51)
Feeding the 5,000 (Mt. 4:15-21)
Feeding the 4,000 (Mt. 15:32-38)
Coin in fish’s mouth (Mt. 17:24-17)
Fig tree withered (Mt.21:18-22)
Large catch of fish (Lk. 5:4-11)
Water turned into wine (Jn. 2:1-11)
Another large catch of fish (Jn. 21:1-11)

Appendix B: What the Bible says about fear

There are three types of fear: protective, chronic (anxiety), and respectful.

These passages are from the books of the Bible written to the early church; Acts to Revelation inclusive.

Courage is the opposite of fear; it’s the ability to face danger without fear.

Christians are commanded to be courageous against dangers and difficulties
– 1 Corinthians 16:13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.

Through the Holy Spirit, Christians can be courageous when others are fearful
– 2 Timothy 1:7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid (fearful), but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

Christians don’t fear God’s judgment because Jesus has paid the penalty
– 1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

If you do what’s right, then there is no need to fear those who are in authority
– Romans 13:3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.

Prayer is helpful in overcoming all types of fear
– Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
-1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.

Christians don’t fear death because it brings them closer their Savior. In fact, Jesus frees believers from the fear of death
– Hebrews 2:14-15 Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

Believers are commanded to revere and respect God
-1 Peter 2:17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
– Hebrews 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.

Paul respected the Lord as He is the one to whom Christians are accountable when they are rewarded at the judgement seat of Christ
– 2 Cor. 5:11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others.

Let’s bring all our fears to the Lord in prayer so we can exercise protective fear when we are aware of danger and not lapse into chronic fear based on assumed dangers. Although we shouldn’t be afraid, healthy fears help us live godly lives. And most important of all, let’s be aware of God and Christ so we can practice respectful fear until it is part of our character.

Written, July 2019

Also see: Three types of fear


Jesus gives life to the full

There are so many wonderful things in life. The joy of love, family, satisfaction in hard work, the thrill of the race, or the game, admiring the astonishing beauty of nature, the prospect of a new adventure. It is truly a remarkable world.

Yet in all of these things, there’s always a blemish. And the blemish lies in us and in each thing we experience. For example our own cynicism and doubts prevent us properly enjoying goodness in love and work and family. And, as for the objects of our joy and desire – they always let us down in some measure. So, families fracture and fall out. Children forget their parents and live selfish lives. We chase a project with all our energy only to find it wasn’t worth the chasing.

In every part of life there’s always dissatisfaction. Any number of things can intervene to undermine success… from accidents, to mismanagement, to petty politics, injustice, corruption… even our own boredom, or doubts, or distractions.

The greatest enemy to fulfillment in this life is the knowledge that death awaits. It means that whatever we pursue is futile. Nothing can escape it… even the material universe. Everything must pass away.

If only there were a thread of hope dangling down for us from eternity. In the song, ‘Into my arms’, Nick Cave, the Australian songwriter, speaks of an, ‘interventionist God’ who might prevent his beloved from being harmed. Yet he can’t bring himself to believe that such a good God might exist.

But such a good God does exist and the Bible describes His character and ‘interventions’ in human history in great detail. As creator of the world He made us so that we might relate to Him closely. But since creation we’ve resisted this purpose. Yet no matter how hard we resist, He still loves us and wants us to be with Him. The Bible says that God has ‘planted eternity in the human heart’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Clearly, He meant us to spend it with Him.

When our purpose is eternity with God. How did we ever think we could find it in movies or architecture or holidays or skin cream? Whatever we do apart from God is doomed and destined for disgruntlement.

So give way. Give yourself to God’s ambassador, Jesus Christ, whose mighty intervention on your behalf at the cross means you can have life with God forever. Accept Jesus and the immortal words He offers all people.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  

Prayer: Dear God, I pray that I may have life to the full with You through Jesus.

Bible verse: John 10:10 Jesus: “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full“.

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2019

Posted July 2019