Bible Studies

How to do a Bible study

How to do a Bible study

1.    Start your Bible study with prayer, asking that God would help you and illumine your mind during the time of “digging” into the Word. Come with a reverent attitude because it is God’s Word after all (Psa. 119:18).

2.    Select a passage of Scripture (paragraphs, chapter or context). It is usually best to read over the entire book first to get the big picture before getting into the details of the selected passage.

3.    Do some background study of the history about the book and about the time in which it was written. 

a.    Learn about the culture and society of the day.

b.    Learn about the customs and traditions.

c.    Study about the archaeology, geography, etc.

d.    In other words, immerse yourself as much as possible in the time. Do a little time travel.

e.    Recognize that the Bible was written over a long period of time. God slowly revealed His plan for how He was going to redeem-save a people for Himself. Remember too that the New Testament is built upon the Old Testament, but the Old is rightly interpreted by the New.

4.    Read over the selected text several times. Use different translations if you have them. Get the sense of what is going on.

5.   Do a syntax, grammar, and significant word study.

a.    Usually, unless you have adequate tools or a working knowledge of the original languages, this would be very difficult. Most tools are oriented toward understanding words (their definitions, etc.) The problem with this is that the context will most often determine the meaning of the word. Word are connected. One or two words will not determine theexact meaning of the text. 

b.    A significant word study is useful.

(1)  On the one hand, doing a word study can give you the color, tone, or a fuller sense of the passage. In this case it is very helpful. This, by the way is called hermeneutics

(a)  Study the meanings of the words by seeing what the Bible uses them to mean. For example, the word “sin” has many meanings and uses different terms in the original.

(b)  Study the use of the word(s) in the sentence.

(c)  Study the use of the verbs. This may have tremendous significance in some passages.

(2)   On the other hand, doing a word study can focus upon the meaning of the word with a disregard for the sentence, paragraph, chapter, and  book. Be careful to put too much stock into the meaning of a particular  word, especially when it has many different meanings or nuances. 

6.    Compare other passages of Scripture. This is called the analogy of faith. The true meaning of a passage will be in harmony with the meaning of the rest of the Bible.  As one Bible study helps has put it, “So although the believer is free to examine the Scripture for himself, HE IS NOT FREE TO EXPLAIN IT IN ANY WAY HE LIKES. He must only understand each part in the way in which it best agrees with all other parts. IT MUST BE A WRONG MEANING, IF NO OTHER PARTS OF SCRIPTURE AGREE WITH IT.

7.   Write down your findings and observations. What is this passage saying? How is it significant for the whole of the Bible? For the book? For my life? Organize your material and keep it in a notebook or file.

8.   Compare what others have said by using good commentaries, handbooks, and other resources such as what viable Christian traditions or church fathers have to offer.

Pictures, Windows, and Mirrors in Old Testament Exegesis

Pictures, Windows, and Mirrors in Old Testament Exegesis

by Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr.

[This article was originally written for the Westminster Theological Journal, Vol 45, Spr 1983]  

As hermeneutics continues to occupy the foreground of biblical studies, it becomes increasingly apparent that evangelicals have neglected matters of great importance. One aspect of current discussions which certainly deserves more attention is the role of the reader in biblical interpretation. Well-intended attempts to safeguard biblical authority have led many conservative scholars to shrink back from exploring the implications of the hermeneutical circle.(1) Instead, emphasis has been placed on the receptive role of the reader and interpretation has been described as "essentially monological."(2) The Bible speaks; the reader simply listens. Yet, orthodox theological perspectives suggest that more attention should be given to the impact of the reader's historical circumstances, personality, beliefs, etc., on the interpretation of Scripture. The Reformed tradition, for instance, has emphasized the influential character of commitments and presuppositions in a number of ways.(3) The Bible itself discusses the decisive function of religious dispositions in reading and hearing the Word of God. In line with these traditional concerns, we may suggest that the interpretation of Scripture is better understood through a model which accounts for the impact of the reader. A dialogical model is needed which allows the reader to speak as well as listen. No one is able to approach the Bible tabula rasa.

Everyone understands Scripture from perspectives derived from his or her personal history. To be sure, distinctions must be made between proper and improper contributions from the reader. Moreover, the authority of the text must be maintained. Yet, a dialogical model helps to clarify many problems in biblical interpretation.

One area in which the role of the interpreter has been largely overlooked is exegetical methodology. Procedures in exegesis have surfaced primarily out of regard for the text, not the reader. The text has a certain vocabulary; that vocabulary must be studied. The text shows structure; that structure must be inspected. These and other techniques which are derived from the nature of the text are essential. Yet, attention must also be given to ways in which exegesis is influenced by the reader. Most students of the Bible are well equipped by theological training to make use of the more objective tools of exegesis but few are even aware of their more subjective accoutrements. Consequently, exegetical methodology must also insure that the reader be allowed to speak. It must point out ways of examination which both reflect the phenomenon of Scripture and facilitate the self-conscious participation of the reader.

This investigation will briefly outline and illustrate one dimension of a reader's influence on the interpretation of OT narratives. We will be concerned with intentions toward these biblical accounts. What may we properly intend to discover from such passages? How may we vary our approach toward OT stories? Poythress has explored closely related questions in helpful ways.(4) He distinguishes between the speaker's intentions, the content of the discourse, and the understanding of the audience. By this means he helps to clarify the goals of exegesis. In this study we will deal with additional ways in which readers may approach this speaker-discourse-audience trio.

There are three Christian convictions regarding the OT which point to a useful organization of intentions. They may be summarized as follows:

(1)       The OT is canon.

(2)       The OT is historical.

(3)       The OT is for believers.

Among all the Christian perspectives on the OT, these beliefs are broad enough to provide a heuristic model for the employment of intentions. Three ways of viewing OT narratives are identified by these convictions. The stories may be treated as pictures, windows, and mirrors.

The canonical character of the OT suggests that it be treated as a picture. Commitment to the OT as canon implies that it is received as authoritative, sufficient, and perspicuous. It calls for the reader to arrange his or her understanding of the text according to the canonical presentation. The integral relation of form and content is maintained through processes which have come to be called literary analysis.(5) The structure, style, rhetoric, characterization, etc., in a text are analyzed in ways closely analogous to appreciating the color, texture, balance, and line of a painting. Literary analysis is concerned with the portrait which the speaker intended to relate, the picture actually offered by the discourse, and the portrait received by the audience.

The historical quality of the OT points to the treatment of its narratives as windows. Word-revelation has been correctly characterized as an interpretation of historical act-revelation.(6) As a result, the text can function as a portal to events through historical analysis.(7) Literary form and thematic design become subservient to the reconstruction of historical events and periods. Readers seek to discover the historical information which the speaker intended to offer, which the discourse actually provides, and the audience understood. To be sure, the biblical portrait of events never contradicts actual history. Yet, the appreciation of a text as a literary picture is a different process from reconstructing historical events through the text as a window.

Finally, the relevance of the OT for the life of the believer provides us with the metaphor of a mirror. OT narratives are capable of reflecting the interests and topics of the believing community through thematic analysis.(8) Whether the topics originate in personal needs or in long-standing theological traditions, OT stories may be used to answer questions which are of interest to the reader. In thematic analysis readers intend to understand what the speaker wanted to say about a topic, what the discourse actually relates about it, and how the audience may have understood the theme.

These three approaches toward OT narratives may be outlined as follows:

TEXT-AS-PICTURE

Literary Analysis

What dramatic portrait did the speaker intend?

What picture does the discourse present?

What portrait may the audience have received?

 

TEXT-AS-WINDOW

Historical Analysis

What historical information did the speaker intend?

What historical information does the discourse present?

What historical information may the audience have received? 

 

TEXT-AS-MIRROR

Thematic Analysis

What did the speaker intend to say about the subject? 

What does the discourse say about the topic?

What did the audience understand about the theme? 

 

Each of these avenues is solidly based on Christian commitments and reflects ways in which the church has always treated the OT. Yet, the explicit recognition of these options can greatly benefit the interpreter. As these intentions are consciously pressed into service they provide insights of significant variety and thereby move the interpreter toward new and creative understandings of OT narratives.

  

Gen 12:10–20 is a well-known portion of the OT which illustrates the value of this triadic model. Failure to clarify the options for intentions has caused nearly every Protestant interpreter to follow the same approaches toward this text. A brief survey of commentaries from the left and right of the theological spectrum reveals that literary appreciation has been largely overshadowed by historical and thematic concerns. J. Skinner, for instance, comments historically that the "speech of Abram to his wife is an instructive revelation of social and moral sentiments in early Israel."(9) Moreover, he argues that the text 

is full of "ethical reflection" on the topic of Abram's lie.(10) G. von Rad is interested, on the one hand, with "the arrival of Asiatics in Egypt c. 1350," and with "the reported beauty of Sarai" at such an old age.(11) On the other hand, he is concerned with the theme of Yahweh's intervention and with the moral question of Abram's lie.(12) For both of these commentators, the text serves primarily as a window and a mirror. Conservative interpreters have examined the passage with similar intentions. Keil and Delitzsch suggest that the historical problem of Sarai's beauty can be solved by a comparison with Egyptian women, who were "generally ugly and faded early."(13) They also venture into the ethical problem and wonder how Abram "expected to save honor and retain possession of his wife."(14) More recently, D. Kidner tries to solve the problem of Sarai's beauty by arguing that the "key…lies with patriarchal life span."(15) His other interest is predictably with Abram "using one half of the truth to conceal the other."(16) In each case the primary, if not exclusive, concern has been with historical and thematic dimensions of the story. These reflections are legitimate and important but they ignore the text as a picture. Consequently, they leave untouched much that the story has to offer. A literary analysis of the pericope opens the way for understanding the story in ways which break with traditional approaches.

In order to illustrate the value of the self-conscious employment of intentions, we will examine Gen 12:10–20 as a literary picture. This literary analysis will entail two basic steps. On the one hand, an intrinsic inquiry will be made. The discourse itself will be examined without reference to a specific speaker or audience. On the other hand, an extrinsic inquiry will be pursued. The narrative will be viewed from the vantage points of the speaker and audience. By this means it will become apparent that the interpretation of this narrative can be enhanced by a careful distinction of the reader's intentions.

Intrinsic inquiry into this story may begin with the placement of characters within the drama. When characters appear, they are placed into the action of the story and in relation with each other. Reappearance recalls their previous development and establishes them in new settings. Sequences of character concentration, therefore, may tend to have pivotal or summary significance in some story lines. The identification of significant characters in this story is not difficult. It begins with Abram (12:10 {Gen 12:10}); Sarai is introduced (12:10 {Gen 12:10}), along with the Egyptians (12:12 {Gen 12:12}), who are later incarnated as the court officials and Pharaoh (12:14 {Gen 12:14}). As the plot continues, Abram is given livestock and servants (12:16 {Gen 12:16}). Over halfway through the text, Yahweh appears (12:17 {Gen 12:17}) with a mention of all other characters and quickly leaves the scene. All the characters except Yahweh are recalled to the stage. Pharaoh, Abram, and Sarai meet and talk together (12:10–19 {Gen 12}). Finally, that trio, the court, and Abram's possessions are mentioned in the closing verse (12:20 {Gen 12:20}). (See figure 1.)

Figure 1

            Genesis 12:     10        11        12        13        14        15        16        17        18        19        20

            AbramX         X         X         X                     X                     X         X         X         X

            Sarai                X         X         X         X                                 X         X         X         X

            Officials                                  (X)      (X)      X                                 X                                 X

            Pharaoh                                   (X)      (X)      X                                 X         X         X         X

            Possessions                                                                             X                                             X

            Yahweh                                                                                               X

The significance of these observations becomes clearer when a few grammatical indicators of structure are brought into view. The early portions of the narrative seem to break down easily into four sections, each introduced by the marker wyhy. Verse 10 {Gen 12:10} opens the story in this manner. It occurs again in v 11 {Gen 12:11} and introduces Abram approaching Egypt's border (vv 11–13 {Gen 12}). In v 14 {Gen 12:14} it begins a description of events within Egypt, specifically the incorporation of Sarai into Pharaoh's house (vv 14–16a {Gen 12}). The last appearance of wyhy (wyhy lw) announces Abram's prosperity in Egypt (v 16b {Gen 12:16b}). After this point, the sections of the narrative are more difficult to distinguish. The verse division between 16b {Gen 12:16b} and 17 {Gen 12:17}, along with the punctuation of most English texts, tend to cause the reader to regard v 17 {Gen 12:17} as separate from v 16b {Gen 12:16b}. Yet, this understanding seems less than adequate. Every other occurrence of wyhy in the story has set the stage for successive action indicated by at least one consecutive verb. wynGu (v 17 {Gen 12:17}) functions in this way with v 16b {Gen 12:16b}. 

Vv 16b–17 {Gen 12}, therefore, present a contrast between the prosperity of Abram and the plagues on Pharaoh. The next sequence of the story begins with v 18 {Gen 12:18} and is indicated by the change of place, time, and explicit characters. Pharaoh confronts Abram and Sarai with their deception (vv 18–19 {Gen 12}). Without a doubt, v 20 {Gen 12:20} is to be closely associated with vv 18–19 {Gen 12} but the resumption of consecution after lengthy simultaneity (wysw) and the introduction of new characters gives it some degree of independence.

 

When the placement of characters are collated according to these divisions, the sequences of concentration become apparent. (See figure 2.)

Figure 2

                        I           II                     III                    IV                    V                     VI

            Genesis 12:     10        11-13               14-16a             16b-17             18-19               20

            AbramX         X                     X                     X                     X                     X

            Sarai                X                     X                     X                     X                     X

            Officials                      (X)                  X                     X                                             X

            Pharaoh                       (X)                  X                     X                     X                     X

            Possessions                                                                 X                                             X

            Yahweh                                                                       X

 

In the early verses characters appear slowly—one (I), two (II), and four (III) at a time—and the narrative increases accordingly in complexity and dramatic tension. Section IV collects all the characters with their previous narrative involvements and adds the sudden appearance of Yahweh. After the curse on Pharaoh, concentration drops significantly and only a select number of earlier events are recalled (V). In the end, however, the final verse mentions each repeated character once again (VI). By this means, the text discloses a continuity of thought and conceptual flow which can be easily discerned. I, II, and III raise the intensity of the story. IV is pivotal and places all the characters of the earlier sequences into a new context. V focuses on a portion of the preceding action and VI draws the story into a resolution of previous relationships. In this way the story may be described as accumulative.

In addition to the accumulative nature of the passage, there is also evidence of a symmetry which is conducive to the use of classical descriptions of dramatic flow.  

Verse 10 {Gen 12:10} (I) is the exposition and gives the context out of which the narrative grows. Abram goes to Egypt because of a famine and intends to stay there temporarily (Gwr). In balance with the beginning is v 20 {Gen 12:20} (VI), the denouement or final resolution. The poverty of famine is contrasted with the riches which Abram possesses as he completes his sojourn. Vv 11–16a {Gen 12} (II and III) contain the rising action. The plan to lie is carried through but it leads Sarai into Pharaoh's harem. This section is carefully balanced by the falling action of vv 18–19 {Gen 12} (V). Both portions are predominantly conversations and their correspondence in subject matter is indicated by the sharing of similar language—"You are my sister" (v 12 {Gen 12:12}) and "She is your sister" (v 19 {Gen 12:19}). Finally, the middle portion of vv 16b–17 {Gen 12} (IV), the turning point of the story, forms a skillful interlocking of perspectives. Abram prospers but Pharaoh is cursed. These verses both foreshadow future action and reflect on the previous events of the story. On the one hand, v 16b {Gen 12:16b} anticipates what will happen to Abram; he will gain many riches from the Egyptians. On the other hand, v 17 {Gen 12:17} is a decisive handling of the problems which rose "because of Sarai" (v 17 {Gen 12:17}). In this way, the turning point of the drama looks forward and backward, thus adding to the balance.

With these considerations in mind the dramatic flow may be summarized. Abram intends to sojourn in Egypt. He wishes to protect himself during his stay by lying about Sarai. His plan succeeds in part but it is foiled by the abduction of Sarai. In order to move toward resolving this difficulty, Yahweh distinguishes between Abram and Pharaoh. Abram grows rich but Yahweh sends plagues on Pharaoh. The curse on Pharaoh begins the process of freedom for Sarai and the return to Palestine. The plan to complete the sojourn is furthered when she is given back and is completed when Abram leaves Egypt in safety with Sarai and all the possessions given to him by the Egyptians. The problem of the story is Abram's inability to complete the sojourn; the problem is resolved by the intervention of Yahweh and the subsequent departure from Egypt.

 

The implications of this brief intrinsic inquiry are far too numerous to name them all. Yet, two directions of thought seem appropriate to mention at this point. First, intrinsic analysis has set each portion of the story into the context of the whole narrative. Each part is an integral facet of the narrative world and removal of one section would drastically change the drama. This observation restrains the tendency of interpreters to move quickly to the identification of a center or central theme in the story. As noted above, one typical pattern of interpretation of this passage has been to focus on the ethical questions rising from Abram's lie. When, however, Abram's deception is placed within the movement of the whole narrative, it defies all attempts at making it the most important element of the story in an objective sense. Even von Rad's insistence that Yahweh's intervention is the center fails to allow other portions (e.g., the increase of Abram's wealth, the return to Canaan, etc.) to maintain their prominence. One item may be more significant than another to a reader at any given time but that value rests in the reader, not the text. Intrinsic inquiry calls upon the interpreter to look at the whole passage and to avoid isolating one item as more essential to the story than others.

 

Second, as an integrated pericope the passage can be handled in summary fashion rather than in segments. Historical and thematic analyses often dissect a narrative into its parts and never return to the whole. Intrinsic analysis brings the whole passage into view and offers it as the conceptual unit to which questions of meaning and relevance may be put. In this case the movement of famine/sojourn/captivity/return can easily become the focus of further reflection. It anticipates other portions of Scripture and realities in the life of faith. By drawing attention to the content of the whole story, theological contemplation will find material which is often ignored in other approaches. The disclosure of this larger perspective is another benefit of intrinsic inquiry.

Extrinsic inquiry into this passage faces some difficulties. When dealing with the Pentateuch, the identification of the speaker and audience is complicated. Apart from questions regarding the diachronic development of the text, the identification of the writer and audience of the story as it stands is difficult to determine with certainty. If E. J. Young is to be taken seriously when he says that "there may have been later minor additions and even revisions" of the Pentateuch,(17) then it is insufficient to interpret this passage solely from the point of view of Moses and the exodus audience. A broader field is more in line with what we know about the book of Genesis. Consequently, in this article two sets of extrinsic agents will be adopted. In line with ancient traditions, Moses in the exodus will be the earliest perspective. In addition, the story will be viewed from the perspective of a late exilic or post-exilic setting, the date of the latest possible revision. The question is not whether the narrative as we have it was actually written by or for the agents; both seem feasible from evangelical presuppositions. It is rather how the text may be understood if it is set in the suggested contexts. By following this procedure, the ability of the text to speak to a variety of circumstances will become evident.

This narrative may be easily connected with Moses in the exodus. It has already been observed that the pericope is not a "candid camera" record of an event in Abram's life. It exhibits intentional selectivity and shaping with highly theological purposes. When consideration is given to the experiences of Moses recorded in Exodus and their correspondence to Gen 12:10–20, it becomes apparent that Moses expressed these events in Abram's life in such a way as to make them parallel the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. Abram sojourned in Egypt because of a famine in Canaan; a famine drove Jacob and his sons into Egypt for food. Deception was characteristic of Abram; Joseph's brothers are known for their lies. While in Egypt, Abram prospered but his hope for a progeny was fading because Pharaoh had taken Sarai; Israel increased in number in Egypt but slavery and the slaughter of male infants presented a threat to posterity. A line was drawn between Abram and Pharaoh by the blessing and cursing of Yahweh; the intervention of Yahweh in the exodus protected the Israelites but brought plagues on Pharaoh. Freedom came through open confrontation between Pharaoh and Abram; Moses and Pharaoh had numerous verbal encounters until the king finally said, "Go!" Abram left in safety and riches; Israel was sent away with many Egyptian goods. From these parallels between the exodus and the Abram story, it appears that Moses intended to use this story as a paradigm by which the Israelites could be taught the reasons for, the nature of, and the certainty of departure from Egypt and return to Palestine. In Egypt, along the way, and on the border of the promised land, Moses faced much disbelief and discouragement among the tribes. By relating a portion of patriarchal history in this form, he presented a relevant word to the travelers. One can imagine Moses commenting, "Do not give up! No mistake has been made. What you are going through has already been experienced by your father Abraham. Follow him away from Egypt and rejoice in the power of Yahweh!" Similarly, it is not difficult to hear the faithful among the tribes responding, "Abraham's exodus is our exodus!"

If the same story is placed within a late exilic or post-exilic setting it functions in ways similar and dissimilar to a Mosaic situation. It should be remembered that whether this pericope was formed at this time or not is irrelevant to this project. Whatever the actual time of final composition may be, the story certainly spoke to Israel in these generations. Prophetic speech had already interpreted return from exile as a second exodus. As a result, the parallels existing between the two events provide an understanding of the passage similar to that of the wilderness setting. Nevertheless, there are significant differences. It was Abram's fear of foreign powers which led him to distrust Yahweh's power to protect him. His infidelity ended in captivity in another land; it was Judah's fear of foreign authorities which eventually led to exile in Babylon. Yahweh intervened on the behalf of Abram; he did so for Judah as well. Abram left for Palestine with the riches of Egypt; the exiles returned freely to the land of promise and were given funds from the Babylonian treasuries. When the passage is seen from this perspective, attention is drawn toward Yahweh's faithfulness despite Abram's failure. One can imagine the announcement, "We failed just as Abram did but Yahweh has redeemed us." It is also easy to hear the words which surely followed, "Let us never distrust him again."

This literary analysis of Gen 12:10–20 has been severely limited in its scope. Nothing has been said of suspense, irony, and sarcasm, which are discernible in the story and add to its dramatic quality. Its setting within the larger context of Genesis has been left untouched. These and other aspects would certainly enrich what has been done here. Nevertheless, the analysis has provided a point of view on the text which to my knowledge has been largely overlooked by interpreters in the past. Consequently, it suggests that other narratives should be examined in ways which have been ignored. Moreover, it offers a basis upon which another style of exegetical production can be built. A sermon, for instance, which focuses on the conclusions of the preceding analysis would be rich in newness and power. Abram's exodus is the exodus of the church of Christ. Abram's return from exile is our return in Christ. Literary analysis of passages which have been examined only for history and themes offers a marvelous prize: the discovery of the new in words which often seem so old.

As conservative OT scholarship investigates the dynamics of interpretation it is certain that more concern will need to be shown toward the impact of the reader on the process. It has been pointed out here that readers may freely intend to treat the text as a picture, window, or mirror in exegesis. Yet, much more needs to be said about each of these intentions. How does each approach operate? How may they be integrated with each other? Beyond questions of intention are the many other aspects of a reader's personality and history which affect interpretation. To be sure, these topics are complex and no model will be entirely satisfactory. Nevertheless, as small efforts are made to clarify minute portions of the subject, readers will become increasingly aware of the contributions which they make to the interpretation of the Bible. Hopefully, such self-awareness will reveal the need for every interpreter to insure that the OT is not only approached with highly polished exegetical skills but also with hearts and lives in harmony with the God whose Word it is.

Jesus is risen from the dead - and so have we.

imgres.jpg

“Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. So what!”  Supposedly, this was a response from a serious skeptic while debating a Christian apologist.  The man said he would grant that Jesus died and then came back, but that could have been an anomaly. Such strange things happen all the time. Then he said something like, “All right, Jesus came back from the dead, but what relevance does that have for me or for any of us? Nothing!”

We all might be saying the same thing today were it not for the fact that Jesus’ early followers explained why the resurrection is relevant. Had the Gospels been written, we would have a wonderful, historical account of a great teacher and philosopher. We might even conclude that Jesus was indeed God, and certainly, someone who came to earth to start a kingdom, who died on the cross, was buried, came back to life, and went up into heaven.  This is what is called the Gospel, which literally means “good news.”

Of course, that is the core of our historical, Christian Faith. Yet, think about this – what if that was all we knew?  What questions would we have? What things could we deduce from such this historical record? Pause to consider that for a moment.

Here is what we would probably know beyond that:

  • He is probably who he claimed to be (but the debate is just who did he claim to be?).
  • He is in heaven.
  • He will be coming back.
  • We are to believe in him.
  • We are to live according to his teachings.

Anything else?

The earliest of the Jesus followers knew that much. Thankfully, God sent his Spirit just as Jesus promised. The Holy Spirit brought hearts alive, indwelled, empowered, and then spoke through those early disciples to explain the relevance of the complete story of Jesus (from pre-birth to his ascension). James wrote about how to think wisely and live well as a true follower of Christ.  Two of the letters that Peter wrote were inspired and preserved for us, telling us about the beauty of such good news and its relevance for Christians in the day to day experiences.

Then, we get to Luke’s writings. Luke recorded a short history about Jesus and then wrote how this Gospel impacted the early disciples and caused the initial explosive growth of the Church. It was due to the power of Christ’s resurrection, Christ’s word, and Christ’s Spirit.

Paul, a master teacher, is converted and called by God to teach the disciples the implications and relevance of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.  He presents to us the explicit impact of Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension upon those who trust and believe in Jesus the Christ.

What does Jesus’ resurrection mean for you if you trust and believe in Christ?

Turn to 1 Corinthians 15 and read through this very important passage.

Now, check out a summary of this passage:

  • I Corinthians 15:1-11  –  Jesus was raised from the dead and there was viable evidence as well as plenty of eyewitnesses to testify to the event and to see a risen Jesus after his crucifixion.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:12-19  –  If Jesus was not raised from the dead then we have no basis for our Christian faith. We are without life, without hope, and without truth.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:20-28  –  But Jesus was resurrected from the dead and that resurrection makes us alive, gives hope for a new resurrected body when our bodies die, and assures us the most brutal, unforgiving enemy we have, which is death, is itself destroyed.

But wait! There’s much, much more. Paul, Peter, and John teach us the relevance that Jesus is risen and we are risen, indeed! This is what we, those who have a saving faith in Jesus Christ, can know with great assurance.

Through the resurrection power, assured by Christ’s ascension, our lives are now:

Right

  • We are made right with God the Father (Romans 5).

Good Friday put our sins on Jesus Christ. Resurrection Sunday puts his righteousness on us! We are made right because of Jesus. We are given the status of righteousness (Romans 5:18-22).

  • We are also made alive and given the ability to live rightly before God and a watching world. This is because after Jesus was raised and ascended, he sent his Spirit to apply his life and work in us (Romans 6).

This means that in Christ, through his Spirit, he is in the process of removing sin from our souls in order for us to live rightly and to live well in the presence of God.

 

Incorruptible

Spiritual

  • Our souls and bodies are now adapted to God’s spiritual realm (1 Corinthians 15:44, 50-53).
  • At the Great Resurrection, in the end of all history, we will receive the same type of body as Jesus’ resurrected body.  Imagine having the ability to pass through walls (John 20:19)?

Empowered

  • Through Jesus’ resurrection, we are now empowered by the Holy Spirit (Colossians 1-3).
  • Paul’s first prayer in Ephesians 1 is that God’s people would have the depth of understanding and be enlightened to fully know in our hearts and experiences the profound greatness of his power. That nuclear power, the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from three days of deadness and brought him all the way up into the heavenly presence of God to sit on that throne from which he rules all the universe; that power he gives to us so that we share in his kingdom and his rule (Ephesians 1:19-23).
  • For many reasons I love Ephesians, but primarily because it is all about this resurrection power applied to us who believe. Jesus Christ is risen, and we are risen, indeed! That’s the message. In our American culture, we talk much about empowerment.  As Christians, we have more than the kind of empowerment the world seeks. Ephesians tells us:
    • Real power is from Jesus Christ (Eph. 1)
    • We have the power of life through faith in the risen Christ. And the biggest impact of this power is being united with Christ and united together in Christ. (Eph. 2:1-11)
    • We have the power of solidarity in faith, which means we have union together in Christ (Eph. 2:11-4:6).
    • We have the power to grow in Christ through faith. This means we have the ability to become like Jesus (Eph. 4:7-16)!
    • We have the power of light over darkness through faith. That means because he has risen from the dead, we can live like Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:17-32).
    • We have the power of love through faith so that we can love like Jesus (Eph. 5:1-6:9)
    • Finally, we have the power to conquer by faith so that we can be and are now overcomers in Christ (Eph. 6:1-20)!

and…

Eternal

  • We have the new image, the new likeness of the One from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:48-49). Not even Adam or Eve had this when they were made in the image of God.
  • We will never die again. We are risen, indeed (Romans 6:8-9).
  • We each have our own “tent” made to endure eternity (2 Corinthians 5:1).

New

 

Easter Sunday is Resurrection Sunday. In fact, every Sunday commemorates Jesus Christ’s life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Jesus rose from the dead?  Yes!  Does that event mean anything to us? Yes, if we trust and believe in Jesus Christ as our savior and lord. Our rejoicing on Easter Day is not merely a celebration that Jesus died and came back from the dead. So did Lazarus and many others.   Our rejoicing is over the fact of Jesus’ bodily resurrection and that it has significant, applied relevance for our lives as Christians!  Jesus is risen! And we are risen, indeed!

 

– Dr. Don

 

This article originally posted at http://wp.me/p5C1Oh-NU

Baptism: When heaven meets earth

baptism. donowsley.com.jpg

Do you recall the part in Jesus’ model prayer where he said, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven?”  Simple words. Easily etched into our minds.  Profound words too.  Etching God’s will on our hearts.  “On earth as it is in heaven!”  Have you ever thought of baptism as a contact point where heaven meets earth?  Actually, in a real way, Christian baptism is where heaven meets earth.

Some people are baptized to follow a family’s religious tradition.  Others do so to join a Christian community.  Some are convinced that it is a guarantee of God’s favor and a step toward heaven. Most who become Christians take on the symbol of baptism as a badge of their faith.  For such of us who made a verbal profession, even with a deep heartfelt commitment to believe in Jesus Christ, baptism is often an emotionally moving event. 

Baptism is a sign from the heavenly One and a seal on the earthly one

You know what? Baptism can be all those things.  Yet it is not merely those things.  Baptism is so rich in meaning and so powerful in force that all those good things mentioned above are almost too light when compared to the heaviness of baptism’s heavenliness.  Here is why: baptism is a sign from the heavenly One and a seal on the earthly one.

1 Baptism is a sign from the heavenly One

 A sign points to something else that is more profound than the sign itself. It can be like the stop sign that points to the concept of stopping before entering into an intersection.  It could be a heart sign meaning there is love at some level. Thousands of years before Jesus gave us the new baptism we celebrate today God had given other signs to point people to him, his promises and his work.

Think about this: whenever God engaged his creation and his people it was the intersection of God’s will from heaven to earth, often followed by a sign pointing to what God said and did.  

God repeatedly said he would be the God of his people and his people would belong exclusively to him (Gen. 17:7; Ex. 6:7; Lev. 26:12, etc.).  In fact, all that he is, all that he said, and all that he did for his people is wrapped up in the biblical word, “covenant,” which is code for “I pledge to be your God and you will be my people, and I’ll make it happen!” (Jer. 32:38)

2 There is an obstacle to baptism

However, to make that happen God had to bring rebellious sinners into a right relationship with him.  His people must be like him in his perfection and purity.  As you probably know, God created Adam and Eve of such pure material they could freely engage him (Gen. 1-2).  However, when they crossed the line, defying and rebelling against him, their nature changed so that they could no longer handle being in God’s holy presence (Gen. 3).  There is something about God's unique and indescribable nature that if you do not have a compatible nature you burn up. Think of the angel with a fiery sword guarding the Garden of Eden, the burning bush, or Isaiah’s encounter with God. Think of a lightning strike.  The bad news is that our impurity as sin-infested, rebellious creatures causes us to fry in God’s presence. The good news is that God has done something to change our nature!

For centuries, God has told people about his brilliant and blazing holiness - greater than a million suns.  Actually, it would be far easier for us as sinners to walk through our sun than to walk into God’s presence. Yet, he proved his resolve to lavish his deepest love on people who betrayed him.  We do not have the ability to clean ourselves of the impurity that makes us burn.  Only God can do it.

3 God redeems his people to overcome the obstacle

The pattern revealed in the Bible has been that God performs an act of redemption and reconciliation, and then gives these people a heavenly sign of that act.  It was always something very earthy, simple, or ordinary packed with meaning that’s very profound and extra-ordinary. Like placing fur coats on Adam and Eve, creating the rainbow for Noah and his descendants, or commanding Abraham to circumcise his male children (Genesis 17).

These earthly elements seemed so basic.  However, those who had true faith understood the mystery of those signs’ heavenly meaning: God is our God and we are his people.  He made a promise.  From heaven, he slowly worked out that promise through time until it is complete. Those tangible, earthy signs point to God’s promise and power that he is bringing heaven to earth in order to bring the earthly to heaven (check out Romans 4:11).  His redemptive plan and work fulfilled his promise to overcome that major obstacle.

4 Baptism is related to those old signs

What do those old covenant signs have to do with baptism?  All those signs indicated that in order for God to redeem and reconcile a people it would take the ultimate course.  To get a new nature requires melting away the old with its impurities and reforming it into a new, compatible one.

For Adam and Eve to receive fur coats to cover their naked shame, animals had to die.  The coats were symbolic signs telling that their old dying natures needed death so that new living natures would give them life and that their unrighteous natures would be changed to righteous ones.

Humankind could not make things right with God.  In fact, the vast majority refused to do so and things became so wicked on earth that God had to wipe it clean using a catastrophic decontamination process (Gen. 6-9).  Only Noah and his family were spared because they believed in God's threat and the promise.  The rainbow sign showed that to be in God’s presence one’s sinful impurities must be cleansed.  Wash the old to be dried in the new.  Oh, and by the way, this washing ceremony was repeated many times in different ways in the Old Testament. They are called “washings” but the ancient word is the same word from which we get “baptism” (Deut. 30:6; Isa. 52:1; Jer. 4:4; 6:10; 9:25-26; Ez. 44:7-9; Hebrews).

After Noah, God called Abraham, not because he was good enough, but because God’s love chose to make him, his family and descendants a special people.  Abraham heard God’s voice and believed in what God was saying, yet he was helpless to do anything to leave his rebel world and polluted flesh and be as pure and holy like God.  So, this loving God made a contractual promise with Abraham to have a redeemed and reconciled people (you’ve got to read Genesis 12-17). The ancient contract was not on paper but made by a ceremony.  The sign would be circumcision.  For us, that’s a strange thing but in that ancient culture, the life-giving organ was akin to the life-sustaining organ of the heart. This very painful, bloody sign taught it takes cutting away what is unclean in order to be made clean (Deut. 30:6; Isa. 52:1; Jer. 4:4; 6:10; 9:25-26; Ez. 44:7-9).  The point was - surgery is needed to cut out the tumor of sin so the person can be made well again; and only God can perform that (Rom. 4:11; Col. 2:10; 1 Pet. 2:9ff). 

Faith in God's mercy and grace, trust in his redemptive work, and active belief in his promises brings about the necessary heart and status change.  Once a person is well again, God begins the lifelong process of making her or him less like the old, unclean, sinful person and more like the perfect, holy person of heaven.  Heaven on earth.  Check out Paul's explanation about this in Ephesians 1:1-11 and 2:1-18.

Let’s summarize here

God gave certain signs to point to his promise and his acts of redemption to make certain people pure enough to be with him.  It takes death to bring life, washing to be clean, and surgery to make well.  Only the God of heaven can make that happen to people on earth.  Those signs were then placed on those people like seals (think badge, branding or tattoo).  More on that in Part Two: Baptism is a seal on the earthly one.

What does all this have to do with today’s water baptism?  When the God of the heavens became the Man of earth he did so to accomplish all those old promises.  Jesus, the God-Man, was perfectly pure.  He could complete the Covenant.  He started his work in the wilderness, that place where Adam was sent (check out John 4 as a reversed reenactment of Genesis 1-3).  Jesus worked back toward God and the Garden (the picture of the Garden of Gethsemane).  To take his people all the way to God, he became the sacrifice whose death and resurrection gives us new life and clothes us with righteousness.

Jesus went through the Jewish washing ceremony.  Not that he needed it.  He did it for his people because that baptism indicated a repenting from sin to a sacredness we need (Mark 1:4; 16:16).  His washing makes clean those who believe in him (Acts 22:16).

Jesus also completes the surgery we need to take out the tumor of sin.  He had no sin but as he hung dying upon the cross to pay the penalty for our sin notice that his heart was cut to the core. His surgery gives us a new heart.  Jesus is the perfect intersection of heaven and earth.

Since all those old signs were going to be completely fulfilled by Jesus, he gave his new people a new sign of a different baptism.  Aren’t you glad about that?  It’s a simple, earthy sign filled with rich and heavenly meaning: God loves you and performed incredible works to fulfill his promise that he would be your God and you would be his people (Rom. 6; Col. 2:11-12).  Baptism turns your eyes to Jesus who made it all happen.  It speaks deeply of what it took for God to make you righteous, clean, and well.  It’s the symbol of that glorious intersection of heaven and earth, of bringing heaven to earth.

Dr. Don

God Gave Moses the Constitution

Covenant Constitution.jpg

What if I told you that God gave Moses the constitution?  Yep. That’s right!  I’m perfectly serious about this.  Around 3000 years ago God gave Moses the constitution.

Oh.  You thought I was talking about the Constitution of the United States?  No.  But that might make for a fun storyline in some kid’s adventure book.  The constitution about which I am talking is the one written for the kingdom of Israel.  The one God gave to Moses to give a newly formed kingdom nation.

Before you dismiss this as whacked out weirdness, hear me out.  It all goes back to the time when God’s people who were descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were settled in Egypt.  Initially, what was once a small tribe, led by Jacob and his sons ended up in Egypt due to famine in their homeland.  You can read about it in Genesis chapters 46-50.

The Exodus Story

Flip over to the book of Exodus and you will read how this tribal group grew to quite a sizable nation.  Some say with a population of at least one million.  Because they were not Egyptian, in fact, they were descendants of the Semites from ancient Babylon, the Egyptian leaders decided to force them into slave labor.  They were enslaved some time during the four hundred years they resided in that region.  Things got really bad for Israel.  And like we all tend to do when things get really bad, they cried out to God.  God heard them. However, God did not answer the way they wanted.   Lesson: beware of what you pray.

Exodus also tells us God raised up a man who was the adopted son of the grand leader, called a Pharaoh. Moses was his name, a version of an Egyptian name. Moses had a concern for his blood relatives.  One day he saw an Egyptian severely abusing one of his kinfolks, so he became furious with the Egyptian, killed the guy, got scared and ran away.  In a distant land, he found seven women being harassed by a bunch of bully shepherds, chased off the bullies, met the women’s father who was a priest in the land of Midian, who invited Moses to live among them.  The priest, Reuel (not related to Kalel, aka Clark Kent the Superman) liked Moses so much that he gave Moses one of his daughters to marry.  Zipporah was her name, not to be confused with Zippo the name of a lighter company.  Mo and Zip lived happily ever after.

Well, if you can call living in the middle of some desert as a nomadic shepherd a happy life, then that’s what he had.  He and his wife had a son.  And sheep. They were living the life, minding their own business for quite a while.  

Moses on a Mountain

Then, Moses decides to take a hike up a mountain.  It was there he comes to a bush that seems to be on fire.  Yet the bush is not burning up, and the bush talks to him.  Turns out, this was God speaking through the burning bush.  Not just any god, and not one of the Midianite gods, or anything like one of the Egyptian gods. God told Moses that he was going to use Moses to set his home folks free. You never know what your day may bring, especially if you hike up a mountain.  Can you imagine how Zipporah handled it when Moses came home from work that night?   Okay, so ends happily ever after, right? 

Moses Goes Back to Egypt with a Stick

You probably know the rest of the story?  After arguing with God, Moses does what is told and heads back to Egypt to lead God’s people out of there.  Moses, with his degree from the University of Egypt, experience as a shepherd, and a big stick, went to Egypt.  Moses and his stick went to take on a major leader considered to be a god, with a world-class army.  Isn’t it odd how God does that? Moses had a stick, Samson had his hair, and David had a slingshot.  They all confronted powerful armies but did so with all that they needed:  the Almighty God.

 God does some stunningly remarkable miracles.  Destruction, bloodshed, and terror were repeatedly poured out upon Egypt until Israel was free to leave.  And leave they did.

Moses Leaves Egypt with a Nation

Once they got out into the desert, a major challenge confronted them – what kind of leadership and government would they have?  The Egyptians believed their king was possessed by one of the gods, and for the most part, the religious priests ran the government.  No separation of church and state there.  The people of Israel were influenced by Egyptian culture.

Israel knew very little about their God.  They had the oral traditions passed down for four hundred years.  Now, all of a sudden their God spoke directly to Moses.  Moses was no man-god.  The true and living God did not speak through wood or stone idols.  They had no priests to run a government, though they did have elders.  Later on, their familiar Egyptian traditions influenced them to make a statue through which this invisible God was expected to speak.  God and Moses rejected the golden calf they made.  This was all uncharted territory.  What would they do?

God always communicates to people in ways people can grasp.  He uses familiar customs, traditions, and languages but in ways that do not compromise who he is.  To resolve Israel’s challenge of a new government God used an Ancient Near Eastern system various people groups of that region used.  What was that system?

God the King and His Covenant Treaty

There was the king.  For smaller tribes, this would be someone like a sheik.  Large cities or city-states would have kings.  Successful kings gained more power and control over other clans, tribes, cities, and states.  These kings would typically claim to be man-gods.  When a powerful king conquered lesser kings or leaders he would draft a covenant treaty.

The king’s covenant treaty was typically organized in this way:

  • It began with a preamble. This introduction was the bragging rights of the great and powerful king. He would boast about how wise, strong, virile, and handsome he was.
  • This was followed by a history of his accomplishments such as whom he conquered and how he did it.
  • Then came the stipulations. This outlined what the great king will do, which was usually a promise to send troops to help fight off the enemies. It listed what the conquered people and lesser kings had to do, such as adopt the great king’s god as their main god, pay taxes, obey the kingdom rules, and not rebel.
  • The covenant made it clear that the conquered people belonged to the king and he could do with them whatever he wanted.
  • The treaty had a clause that said the original document would be put in a treasure box that was located at the foot, called the footstool, of the main god.  A second main copy would be given to the lesser kings where they had to store it in their god’s footstool box. The big god was supposed to watch over and protect the treaty.  It also said that the treaty had to be read to the people during religious feast days, so other copies would be made and given to the elders, civic authorities, and judges of the conquered people.
  • The treaty invoked other gods as witnesses to the covenant treaty. In other words, these lesser gods were there to back up the treaty.
  • Finally, the covenant was unilateral. That meant it was imposed on the people whether they liked it or not. If the people listened and obeyed then they would be blessed. If they rebelled and broke covenant they would be cursed and pay the consequences. 

In essence, these covenant treaties became the constitution for the kingdom.

God used this very familiar government arrangement for his newly formed kingdom nation, but with a significant twist.  The invisible God is the mighty sovereign king.  No man could claim that spot.  This Sovereign King was the powerful ruler who rescued a people, not conquered a people (Exodus 19).  The preamble in Exodus 19 is God’s self-declaration and legitimate bragging rights.  It also declared what kind of God-King he was.

Whenever a king gained victory over other groups he had a parade and a major celebration.  In that celebration, the priests would use fire and loud drums and horns to make frightening noises to show how powerful the god-king was.  When the Lord gave his covenant to Moses, the people’s representative, he did so with his own show of power.  Displays of thunder, lightening, thick clouds, darkness, trumpet-like noises, smoke, fire, earthquakes and then his voice.  Why?  To show the power and might of this Sovereign King.  He is a consuming fire like no other (Heb. 12:29).  God put on his own display to elicit fear in his presence, to confirm the mediator of the covenant, threaten all false god-kings, and to back up this kingdom constitution. 

The Day of Dependence

It was on the Day of Assembly (Deut. 9:10; 10:4; 18:16) when this Sovereign King issued his unilateral treaty.  The covenant treaty would spell out how God's people were dependent on God as King.  This constitution established his people as a new kingdom-state.  This treaty was written by God’s finger, not by the scribes of the court (Ex. 31:18 cp. Deut. 9:10).  And he wrote it in the familiar form of an ancient near eastern covenant suzerain treaty:

  • There was the preamble (Deut. 1:1-5).  Unlike worldly kings, God didn’t take volumes to brag.  He did not need to.
  • The historical background of the Sovereign Lord is given (Ex. 20; Deut 1:6; 4:1)
  • God presents a simple list of stipulations.  These are the Ten Words (Deut. 5:26).  This was unlike the long lists human kings wrote.  These ten words were unlike the harsh words of the typical egotistical human kings:  they summarized that the relationship between God and his people and how his people would relate would be from love.  They would love their God-King as he loves them (Commandments 1-3).  God's people would love one another in the same way that they love themselves (Commandments 5-10).  They would take a special day each week to worship and celebrate their God-King, enjoy his presence, be thankful for his blessings and protection, and then reorient their lives and time so that they could properly relate to others (Commandment #4).
  • God made two copies.  One for himself as King and one for the main representative of the people. Handwritten copies circulated among the leaders.  Moses was unique in many different ways.  He was the mediator between God and God’s kingdom people, but he was not a lesser king.  He never tried to be.  In the Ancient Near East, the expectation would have been to make a leader like him into a king or for him to claim kingship.  Also, Moses was not a high priest, though he did priestly things.  He was the voice for God.  Normally, statue-idols were the mouthpieces for those gods and goddesses.  Moses was a human, but he spoke for God as a prophet.
  • In God’s covenant constitution was a special clause that told where the covenant would be placed:  in the footstool box of the only living God.  In God’s own handwriting the Ten Words were written on stone and a second copy made on another stone tablet. Both were placed in the box.  This Ark (box) of the Covenant sat in the holiest of all places at the symbolic feet of this invisible, but very real God King (1 Chron. 28:2; Psa. 99:5; Psa. 132:7).
  • The covenant constitution was read often, especially on feast days.
  • It invoked heavens and earth as witnesses since there are no other gods who could be witnesses.
  • And finally, the constitution declared the sanctions of curses for disobedience and blessings for obedience.

Why this history lesson?

If you’ve read this far, congratulations!  Bear with me a little longer.  Here are important things you need to know if you wish to get a grip on the whole point of God’s Law.

  • This lesson provides some of the behind-the-scenes perspective on why the Ten Commandments came about. The Ten Words that we call the Ten Commandments was originally given to Israel when God formed them into a different kind of national kingdom.  It was their national constitution.
  • The Ten Words are the foundation and the bare bones for how to live with God as Lord and how to live with others in the kingdom whose God is their Lord.  Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy build upon the foundation and add meat to the bones.  Therefore, the first reason for the Old Covenant Law was to serve as the civil-religious constitution for the Kingdom of Israel.          
  • The core of God's covenant constitution was love.  This is very important to understand.  This invisible but only true and living God was unlike all other gods.  He is real. They were not.  He is just and righteous.  They were selfish and sometimes had just laws.  He is gracious and merciful. They rarely were.  The kings ruled out of selfish might with the backing of his army.  The basis of their relationship with their people was terror.  Contrary to common complaints about the “God of the Old Testament,” he was not a cruel and mean God who gave his law to abuse people or to taunt them with failure.  Yes, the Lord ruled with the force of creation to back him up.  While the Lord was to be greatly feared, the basis of his relationship with his people was out of love. 

So, the second main reason for the Old Covenant Law was to show that the moral basis for all relationships is God’s love (Deut. 7:6-11; Zech. 14:9).  Failure to love God and to love others breaks relationships, even destroys them through contempt, divorce, murder, theft, and greed.  The ultimate expressions lead to self-destruction, wars and the like.

God's Constitution was a System to Teach what God's Kingdom Was Like

Overall, God’s kingdom constitution was a system to show what life would be like if everyone had a great relationship with this One True God (Deut. 6:24-25), and lived together through hearts of love that show authentic compassion, mercy, and grace.  If only God’s kingdom people took it to heart and not merely practiced it as a mechanical system.

The covenant was the big blueprint, the overall picture and description of life in God ’s kingdom (Deut. 10:12-21).  How could they live this way?  By real faith that came from the heart, soul, mind, and might that was lived out through love (Deut. 6:1-6; Deut. 8:2; Deut. 11:13-14).  The natural consequences that God set up for a life of faith and love would be a blessing (Deut. 7:12-15).

The Lord told them how to live and they were to respond out of a faith-filled obedience.  He said they had to live this way.  He gave promises for blessing and warnings of cursing (Deut. 28).  He also predicted that they would fail miserably and warned them of the horrible, devastating consequences.  However, the God-King said time and again (Deut. 8) that without faith-filled obedience they could not enter or retain the real estate God was giving for the Kingdom.  At the same time, there was no divine enablement and guarantee by grace for them to trust and obey. As it turned out, the first kingdom generation did not move into the real estate God promised because they did not obey and they did not obey because they did not believe (Deut. 9:1-7; Rom. 11:20; Rom. 11:31; Heb. 3:1-4:2).  The later generations would also end up lacking faith and love, even though several generations tried to work the outward system without the inward soul.

What is in it for me?

The description for what it is like to live in God’s kingdom is the same today as way back then. The requirement to have faith in the One True God-King is the same. The expectations and need for living a life of heartfelt and expressed love for God and for others is the same. The warnings against merely having outward performance and standards are the same.  The failure rate is about the same.

Yet, other things are different now.  How?  Take a break, rest your eyes, and think about what you’ve just read.  I’ll be back with more later on.

By grace;

Dr. Don