Month: February 2016

The Gospel Observer

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
——————–

Contents:

1) Evidences of Faith: The Blood of the Lamb (Jim Robson)
——————–

Exodus12_13

-1-

Evidences of Faith:
The Blood of the Lamb

Jim Robson

In the May installment of Evidences, we looked at the exodus of the Israelites from the land of Egypt. In particular, we focused on the crossing of the Red Sea, and how that crossing foreshadowed the New Testament concept of baptism. This month, we will focus on another event which God brought about in the course of freeing His people from their slavery: the tenth plague.

In order to convince the Egyptians of His deity, engrave the fear of Himself on their hearts, make Himself known to all peoples, and to convince Pharaoh to let Israel go, God sent a series of plagues upon the Egyptians. The tenth — and final — of these plagues was the most terrible of all:

Then Moses said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘About midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt; and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the maidservant who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the beasts’” (Exodus 11:4,5).

This would be the plague to end the plagues, the one that would finally cause Pharaoh to send Israel out of Egypt. Moreover, it was yet one more instance where God showed that He had chosen a specific people to be His own:

“But against none of the children of Israel shall a dog move His tongue, against man or beast, that you may know that the Lord does make a difference between the Egyptians and Israel” (Exodus 11:7).

God had determined that He would shield His people from the death of their firstborn. However, the Israelites would have to do something in order to avail themselves of this protection.

In chapter twelve of Exodus, God instructed the Israelites to conduct a special sacrifice. On the tenth day of that month, which was henceforth to be the first month in their calendar, each household was to choose a lamb. If the household was too small to eat the whole lamb, then two neighbors could share a lamb. It could not be just any lamb, however:

“Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats” (Ex. 12:5).

While it could be either sheep or goat, it had to be without spot. They were to keep this lamb for four days:

“Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two door-posts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it” (Ex. 12:6,7).

It is interesting to note the phrasing of verse six; it is as if the entire people Israel were coming together to kill one lamb. We know from what has already been said that many lambs were to be sacrificed, and so to say that “the whole assembly…shall kill it” seems enigmatic. It is also interesting to note the time of day. If your Bible has marginal notes, it may point out that the ancient Hebrew expression rendered twilight literally means, “between the two evenings.” But more importantly, there is the blood: why put it around the door?

“For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Ex. 12:12,13).

This is why the meal is called the Lord’s Passover (verse 11). God did not enter the houses where the lamb’s blood was on the doorposts and lintel to destroy their firstborn, but passed over them. Thus God’s people would be saved from the death of their firstborn children by the blood of the lamb.

God commanded the people to observe the Passover perpetually, year after year, to remind themselves that it was He who had freed them from slavery and made them into a nation. Along with the Passover, there was also to be a week-long feast. As you recall, the Passover was sacrificed on the fourteenth day of the first month. This day would also mark the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread:

“In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land” (Ex. 12:18,19).

So, no leavened bread could be eaten with the Passover lamb, or for a week thereafter. The Israelites, God’s first covenant people, were to keep this feast perpetually. Thus it would be an ongoing reminder to them that God had saved them from their bondage to the Egyptians.

While there are many instances of God saving His people from various kinds of predicaments recorded in the Bible, the central problem is always sin. This is a problem we all face, for all have sinned (Romans 3:23). And it is a very serious problem, “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). Moreover, it is a problem which we are helpless to rectify on our own, since everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin (John 8:34). In the first epistle of John, we are told that God is all light, purely good, with no darkness, or evil, in Him. Therefore, we who have sinned cannot have any part with Him, because we walk in darkness. Our sins separate us from God, and therefore also from heaven and eternal life, and there is nothing we can do on our own that can take those sins away:

“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from sin” (1 John 1:7).

If we believe in Jesus, and thereby live according to the example He set for us, God will call us His people, and deliver us from the greatest predicament of all:

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:6-10).

So, by the resurrection of Christ, by His victory over death, we have hope of everlasting life: if we have first been reconciled to God by His blood. It is the blood of Christ that frees us from our bondage to sin, and saves us from the death that results.

So then, just as the blood of the unblemished lamb saved the Israelites from the death of their firstborn, so also the blood of Christ saves all of His disciples from the consequence of their own sin: death. The sacrifice of Christ is what allows the just God to pass over His people when He executes judgment upon mankind for their innumerable sins…

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:23-26).

Because of the blood shed on the cross, those who are accounted faithful in Jesus Christ will not receive the punishment for their sins, but will receive life by the grace of God. Thus God has delivered us by a truly great deliverance.

Just as we saw that Exodus 12:6 is written as though there was only one lamb for the entire people of Israel, so we truly have only one Lamb who was sacrificed for us. We also noted that the original Passover was sacrificed at twilight, and that the Hebrew expression literally means “between the evenings.” With that in mind, consider what happened when Jesus was on the cross:

“Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama Sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ Some of those who stood by, when they heard it, said, ‘Look, He is calling for Elijah!’ Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink, saying, ‘Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come take Him down.’ And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last’ (Mark 15:33-37).

The ‘sixth hour’ would have been about twelve noon, and the ‘ninth hour’ about three p.m. So, there were three hours of darkness before Jesus’ death, but normal evening did not begin until about three hours after His death. There were, in effect, two ‘evenings’ that day, and Jesus died between them. The Passover is a vivid foreshadow of the sacrifice of Christ.

The apostle Paul refers to this in the context of instructing the church at Corinth to put away from themselves a man who, though called a Christian, would not repent of his sin. The Corinthian brethren, rather than feeling pain when considering the spiritual state of their fallen brother, were evidently proud of their capacity to embrace him even in his sin, and so Paul rebukes them:

“Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).

Remember the Feast of Unleavened Bread? Just as God’s first covenant people kept that feast beginning with their Passover sacrifice, so also do we. They kept their Passover by killing a lamb; our Lamb has been sacrificed for us once and for all. They kept their Feast of Unleavened Bread by eating that bread; we keep ours by being that bread: by purging out the leaven of sinful attitudes, and living with pure hearts before God.

We have, then, yet another clear example of how the books of the Old Testament anticipate the events and truths recorded in the New Testament. In this present case, the book of Exodus was written about fifteen hundred years before the New Testament was begun, yet somehow the author could foreshadow the cross of Christ. Sure, one may dismiss this as mere coincidence, but then what about the prophecy of Moses, discussed in last month’s issue of the Watchman? Or the bronze serpent (June issue)? Or the crossing of the Red Sea (May issue)? Or the near-sacrifice of Isaac (February)? At some point, we must reject the notion that this is all chance, and admit that there is a pattern. And that pattern leads us to the inescapable conclusion that the Bible is indeed from God.

— Via The Watchman Magazine, November 1, 1998
——————–

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe
in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent
of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith
in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized
in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).     
6) Continue in the faith;
for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
——————–

Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (The old Gospel Observer website that goes back to March 4, 1990)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

The Gospel Observer

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
——————–

Contents:

1) Evidences of Faith: The Suffering Servant (part 2 of 2, Jim Robson)
2) John 6:26-29 (NASB)
——————–

isaiah53_6

-1-

Evidences of Faith
The Suffering Servant (part 2 of 2)

Jim Robson

III. And By His Stripes We Are Healed

When we return to the passage in Isaiah, we find many more remarkable things. In order to fully appreciate how remarkable Isaiah’s prophecies are, we must remember that he wrote more than seven hundred years before Jesus came to earth. Moreover, we must imagine ourselves to be living before the gospel had been preached all over the world. Let us pretend that we never heard of Jesus Christ, and pick up reading where we left off:

“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4-6).

How can we explain such a passage? Who is Isaiah talking about? How could someone else’s suffering help to heal you or me? How can God lay my iniquities on someone else? It is a truly puzzling message.

Of course, if we stop pretending, the answers are easy. For those of us who have heard the gospel message, it is obvious that Isaiah is referring to Jesus. We know this because the New Testament teaches that all have sinned, and that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 3:23, 6:23). It is through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross that sinners have the opportunity to be forgiven, and to be granted eternal life:

“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:27-28).

It is only through the atoning death of Jesus Christ that we have hope of everlasting life, for all “we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

There is yet another point to be observed in these verses. Isaiah indicated that people would think that the Servant had been smitten by God. Rather than seeing that He was suffering willingly, in obedience to God, the people would think that He was being punished by God. And, in fact, that is what happened to Jesus as He hung on the cross:

“And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, ‘He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, “I am the Son of God”‘” (Matthew 27:39-43).

We can see in the sarcastic taunts of these men that they felt Jesus was lying when He claimed to be the Son of God. Thus, from their point of view, His suffering was what He deserved, being a blasphemous heretic. They felt that He had been smitten by God.

IV. As A Lamb to the Slaughter

You will recall that we were led to this study of the suffering Servant by the eighth chapter of the book of Acts, where Philip the evangelist met the Ethiopian eunuch on the deserted road from Jerusalem to Gaza. The eunuch was reading from the prophet Isaiah, and Philip was able to preach Jesus to him beginning with that passage. Let us now turn to the verses which the eunuch was reading when Philip approached his chariot:

“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken” (Isaiah 53:7-8).

Isaiah asserted that the Servant of God would accept His suffering without complaining or defending Himself — even though He was innocent. His suffering, after all, was not for the sake of His own sins, but for the sins of God’s people.

We see here that Isaiah again prophesied about the redemptive nature of Jesus’ sacrifice. Somehow, Isaiah — who wrote more than seven hundred years before Jesus — knew that a Man would give His life to pay for the sins of others — as he wrote a few verses later, the Servant would be an offering for sin (Isaiah 53:10). When considering such a passage, we can see how this would indeed be a perfect place for Philip to begin telling the eunuch about Jesus. On the other hand, if we put ourselves in the place of the eunuch, who had not yet heard of Jesus, we can see why he had trouble understanding these verses. Why would God’s Servant be stricken for the sins of His people?

Of course, it is only in the teaching of Jesus and His apostles that we find the answer to this question. Jesus’ sacrifice was an expression of God’s love for mankind (John 3:16). It was the way of bringing men and women from all nations into one people (Ephesians 2:14-18). It was the only way for God to be just — that is, to punish sin — and also merciful — to forgive the sinner (Romans 3:21-26). Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection were the fulfillment of God’s ultimate plan of redemption, whereby He bought back people from the clutches of sin, and gained the eternal victory over Satan (I Peter 1:17-19; Hebrews 2:14). It is in Jesus that God accomplished the plan of salvation He had announced in the garden of Eden, wherein the Seed of the woman triumphed over the serpent (Genesis 3:15). Once again, we are brought face to face with the fact that the books of the Bible, though penned by some 40 human authors over a period of 1500 years, work in harmony to present one coherent message.

But there is something else about these verses in Isaiah that is striking. Notice that it is prophesied that this Servant, although He did not deserve the punishment inflicted upon Him, would accept it quietly. And, in fact, when we read the passages that describe Jesus’ final hours, we find that He made no attempt to defend Himself, and that He offered no complaints (Matthew 26:47-27:50; Mark 14:43-15:37; Luke 22:47-23:46; John 18 & 19). Although He possessed the ability to eliminate His tormentors in an instant, He accepted their abuse with all the meekness of a sheep before its shearers. Indeed, He is the Lamb of God, the pure and perfect sacrifice for sin (John 1:29).

Again, we need to ask ourselves, why would Isaiah, in the eighth century BC, think to write about these things? What would make him imagine a Servant of God who would suffer for the sins of the people? What would make him think that this Servant would suffer quietly, without defending Himself or complaining? Where would Isaiah get such ideas? It is difficult to explain in naturalistic terms.

In this article, we have looked at eleven verses of Isaiah’s prophecies of the Suffering Servant. We have seen that, in point after point, Isaiah’s predictions were fulfilled in Jesus. The skeptic may suggest that the New Testament writers somehow manipulated their accounts to give the impression that Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophesies, but this assertion is without any factual basis. On the contrary, many of the instances where the New Testament describes how Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy make no mention at all of Isaiah. If they were frauds trying to deceive people into believing that Isaiah’s prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus, they would certainly point out the correlation between their own stories and Isaiah’s prophecies. Moreover, we cannot go to any one book of the Bible to see all of these connections; the passages which show the connections between the Suffering Servant and Jesus are scattered throughout the New Testament. It is simply not within the realm of reason to suppose that all of the men who wrote these books, being in different parts of the world as they wrote, somehow collaborated to produce such a perfectly harmonious correlation between Jesus and Isaiah’s Suffering Servant. Furthermore, when we consider that all of the various passages we have cited blend seamlessly in their context, we conclude that they could not have been fraudulently inserted.

In other words, the passages we have considered are genuine, authentic, and honest. That being the case, we cannot escape the conclusion that Isaiah foretold of a Person and events more than seven hundred years beforehand. That is powerful evidence of the inspiration of the Bible.

— Via The Watchman Magazine, September 1, 1999
——————–

John 6:26-29

“Jesus answered them and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled.  Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal.’  They said therefore to Him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’  Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent’” (NASB).
——————–

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe
in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent
of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith
in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized
in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).     
6) Continue in the faith;
for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
——————–

Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (The old Gospel Observer website with bulletins going back to March 4, 1990)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

The Gospel Observer

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
——————–

Contents:

1) Evidences of Faith: The Suffering Servant (part 1 of 2, Jim Robson)
——————–

Phil2_8_9

-1-

Evidences of Faith:
The Suffering Servant

Jim Robson

In the eighth chapter of the book of Acts, we find Philip the evangelist being sent by God to the deserted road that led from Jerusalem to Gaza. Once there, Philip saw the chariot belonging to the eunuch who was treasurer to the queen of Ethiopia. The Spirit told Philip to overtake the chariot. When he did so, he found the eunuch reading from the book of Isaiah. Specifically, he was reading the passage known to us as Isaiah 53:7-8. Philip established that the eunuch did not understand the prophecy he was reading, and the eunuch asked Philip for help. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35).

This is an amazing thing. Philip began preaching Jesus from the book of Isaiah, which was written more than seven hundred years before Jesus’ birth. How could this be? How could a book written centuries before Jesus was born be used to teach someone about Him? If we go to the passage that the eunuch was reading, we will see that, on its own, it is indeed difficult to understand. However, when we view it through the lens of the New Testament, we can get a glimpse of how Philip could have used this passage to lead the eunuch to Christ. We will also see that it becomes very difficult to explain how or why Isaiah wrote such a passage — unless he was truly inspired by God.

Before we look at the passage in Isaiah, it is important to keep a couple of things in mind. For example, remember that the chapter and verse divisions in our modern Bibles were added almost 2,000 years after Isaiah wrote. These divisions are for ease of reference, and do not necessarily reflect a logical division in the author’s line of thought. Also, you will notice that Isaiah, like other prophetic writers, frequently shifts verb tense. He goes from past to present to future tenses while talking about the same events. This may be to emphasize that, whereas the prophet was writing about things that had not yet occurred, God had decided that they would happen, and therefore they were as good as done. Whatever the reason, however, we do not need to be distracted by these things; for our current purposes, we simply need to be aware of them.

I. Exalted, Extolled, and Marred?

Let us turn now to the fifty-second chapter of Isaiah. In the midst of prophecies concerning God’s promise to redeem His people, we find descriptions of a very special Person:

“Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high” (Isaiah 52:13).

This picture of a Servant of God who would be characterized by wisdom and be held in honor is consistent with other prophecies of the coming Messiah (for example, Psalm 110). From here, however, Isaiah goes in a direction that we would not expect:

“Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men” (Isaiah 52:14).

Why would God’s Servant be marred? Moreover, how does this fit with the idea of Him being exalted and extolled and very high? Already, we can begin to see why the eunuch might have difficulty understanding Isaiah’s prophecies concerning the Servant. We can also begin to see that it is difficult to explain why Isaiah would write in this manner, if he were merely writing of his own initiative. If his goal were to comfort the people with promises of a great and powerful Messiah, why would he say that God’s Servant would be marred? On the other hand, if he were trying to frighten the people into obedience, he would not be writing promises of a wise and glorious leader. If we try to explain Isaiah’s words in purely naturalistic terms, we will keep running into problems.

If we try to imagine ourselves living before the time when the gospel had been preached all over the world, we can see that Isaiah’s words would be very difficult to understand, even if we believed that he was a true prophet, and his book inspired by God. How could it be, that God’s anointed King would be wise and exalted, and yet be marred more than any man? For one who is acquainted with the gospel, however, Isaiah’s message is perfectly clear. Consider the apostle Paul’s words:

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).

Jesus was God in the flesh, and He never did anything but good, yet He was subjected to the form of execution reserved for the most despicable criminals: clearly, His visage was marred more than any man. Yet, as Isaiah prophesied, Jesus was subsequently exalted and extolled above all others.

So then, Isaiah 52:13-14 is a passage that is difficult to explain in naturalistic terms. Moreover, even a believer would have difficulty explaining its meaning — if it were not for the gospel. We see then, that the gospel of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the New Testament more than seven hundred years after Isaiah, provides the explanation for Isaiah’s writing. To look at it another way, Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. If this were an isolated Old Testament passage torn from its context and made to conform to a preconceived idea, then it would not be very compelling. But is that what we have done? Let us return to Isaiah and see.

II. The Mouths of Kings Shut by the Man of Low Esteem

If we pick up the reading in Isaiah where we left off, we find that the prophet had much more to say about God’s coming Servant:

“So shall He sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him; for what had not been told them they shall see, and what they had not heard they shall consider. Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (Isaiah 52:15-53:3).

Where the New King James reads, “sprinkle,” your Bible may say, “startle.” Either way, the prophet is telling us that this Servant of God would have such an impact on the world as to affect many nations. In fact, He would even shut the mouths of kings! And yet, Isaiah tells us that He would not be respected, but rather would be despised and rejected by men. How could both of these things be true?

Once again, we can turn to Jesus to find our answers. In His life as a man, Jesus was indeed despised by the religious leaders of His day (for example, see Mark 12:13,18,28; John 9). Moreover, at the end, multitudes of His own people gathered together and demanded that He be subjected to an excruciatingly painful and disgraceful death:

“Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished. And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’ For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy. While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, ‘Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.’ But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said to them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release to you?’ They said, ‘Barabbas!’ Pilate said to them, ‘What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all said to him, ‘Let Him be crucified!’ Then the governor said, ‘Why, what evil has He done?’ But they cried out all the more, saying, ‘Let Him be crucified!’ (Matthew 27:15-23)

But the Jews were not the only ones to show contempt for Jesus. The Romans, too, treated Him as though He were utterly despicable:

“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified” (Matthew 27:27-31).

Remember that all of this was done after they had beaten Jesus with a scourge, which was a whip with many thongs (verse 26). So, Jesus was treated with the utmost contempt by both Jews and Gentiles. All are guilty of His suffering and death; no one is innocent. When we meditate upon these things, we see that Jesus thoroughly fulfilled the words of Isaiah, “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

But Jesus also shut the mouths of kings, even after His crucifixion. Consider, for example, the emperors of Rome. The Roman Empire covered an enormous territory and encompassed many nations. For centuries, Roman emperors persecuted Christians. Their goal was to put an end to the religion of Jesus Christ and preserve their empire by turning the people back to the state religion. In 311 AD, the emperor Galerius, an ardent persecutor of Jesus’ followers, was struck with an incurable illness that caused him intense pain. Realizing he was near death, he reversed his stance, and issued an order that Christianity should be tolerated. Might we not say, insofar as his attack on Jesus was concerned, that his mouth was shut? Of course, his nephew, Maximin II, disregarded the order, and instead increased the severity of his persecutions. But Maximin was defeated by Licinius in battle, and fled. In 313 AD, co-emperors Licinius and Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, which required that Christianity be tolerated. As for Maximin, he died of poisoning that same year.

Of course, the Roman Empire slowly crumbled, and its emperors have long been silent. However, the kingdom of Jesus Christ, which they fought so tenaciously to destroy, continues to thrive. Indeed, no other person has had as much of an effect on human history as Jesus, yet the secular historians of His own time considered Him to be of little significance: they did not esteem Him. Having said all of that, though, we need to recognize that Jesus’ influence on the affairs of this life is as nothing when compared to His influence in eternity. Jesus has gained the eternal victory for His followers. He has gained the ultimate victory over every attempt of man or Satan to establish a lasting religious or political system. In the end, there will be no pretending to resist Him:

“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power” (I Corinthians 15:20-24).

On the day when God calls all mankind to account, there will be no king, emperor, philosopher, scientist, “pastor,” or “reverend,” who will be able to open his mouth in the presence of the glorified Jesus Christ. However, His faithful servants, though lightly esteemed in this life, will shout and sing with triumph and joy.

— Via The Watchman, September 1, 1999
——————–

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe
in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent
of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith
in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized
in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).     
6) Continue in the faith;
for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
——————–

Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (The old Gospel Observer website with bulletins going back to March 4, 1990)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

The Gospel Observer

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
——————–

Contents:

1) Evidences of Faith: Many Books, One God (Jim Robson)
——————–

heb13_8b

-1-

Evidences of Faith:
Many Books, One God

Jim Robson

Those who claim that the Bible is merely the work of human beings, without God’s guidance or inspiration, will also speak of the evolution of the writers’ concept of God. They claim that the earlier writers had a primitive idea of who God is, whereas the later writers had a more sophisticated notion. Indeed, this is what we would expect from a collection of books written over a span of some 1500 years. But, is it really the case? Did the picture of God change from Genesis to Revelation, or is it truly the same God described throughout? The way to answer this is to look at some specific aspects of God’s character, and see whether the early writers had a different notion of God than the later ones did. For reasons of space, we cannot look at all of the different characteristics of God in this issue. However, we can take a good look at two of them.

Let us start with God’s judgment. This is one of the areas where folks most often insist that the God of the New Testament is different than the God of the Old Testament. The claim is that the God of the New Testament is a God of love and mercy, whereas the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath and justice. (Keep in mind that “justice” means “fairness”; a judge who is just, therefore, must acquit the innocent and punish the guilty.) Let us now turn to the Bible, and see whether there is indeed a difference between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament, in regard to judgment.

If we start in the book of Genesis, we see that Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden of Eden and condemned to death because of their sin (Genesis 3:22-24). In the time of Noah, the entire earth was destroyed by a flood, because mankind had become so completely sinful (Genesis 6:5, 7:23-24). The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their utter sinfulness (Genesis 19:1-24). God is consistently just throughout the Old Testament. Solomon sums it up this way:

“A good man obtains favor from the Lord, but a man of wicked intentions He will condemn” (Proverbs 12:2).

There is no question but that the God of the Old Testament is a just God, and therefore He punishes those who do evil.

But, what about the God of the New Testament? Is He different? Well, Ananias and Sapphira probably don’t think so: they were struck dead instantly for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-11). King Herod was struck dead because he did not correct those who called him a god (Acts 12:20-24). Elymas the sorcerer was struck with blindness for opposing the teaching of the gospel (Acts 13:8-11). Throughout the book of Revelation, there are promises of God’s wrath upon those who reject Him:

“But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

The New Testament tells us that our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).

Furthermore, consider Jesus’ words to those who heard His preaching but did not repent:

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you” (Matthew 11:21-24).

“The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:41).

Finally, consider the judgment scene which Jesus describes in Matthew 25:31-46. In the last verse of this passage, Jesus says that those who did not serve Him would go away into everlasting punishment. Clearly, the God of the New Testament is One who punishes evildoers, just as surely as the God of the Old Testament is.

In this regard, then, there is no difference. The Bible is consistent in its portrayal of a just God. If the Bible is a purely human invention, then we would expect to see the identity of its God develop over time. The God of the oldest books (Genesis through Deuteronomy) should be the most primitive. The God of the later Old Testament books should become more fully defined, more sophisticated, and the God of the New Testament should be even more refined. However, we have seen that, in terms of His justice in judgment, God remains unchanged from Genesis through Revelation. This leads to the conclusion that God revealed Himself to the writers of the Bible, rather than the notion that the writers described God according to their own understanding.

Now let us look at the other side of the coin: God’s love and mercy. Let us go back to the beginning. In the first chapter of Genesis, we see the account of creation laid out for us in order. In this account, we find only one creature made in the image of God: man. Moreover, it becomes evident that everything else was created for the man. Even the heavenly bodies were created for mankind:

“Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons and days and years’” (Genesis 1:14).

What other creature besides man uses the sun, moon, and stars to gauge time? What other creature uses the heavenly bodies as signs for navigation? If God created something as vast and magnificent as the heavens for mankind, then surely this is evidence that He loves us.

As we noted last month, Adam and Eve were punished for their sin. We did not take time to consider, however, the fact that God allowed them to live for some time. He did not obliterate them on the spot; He gave them opportunity to learn from their error, and change their ways. In fact, their punishments seem to be calculated to teach them (Genesis 3:16-19). This shows mercy.

Several generations later, we find that mankind had become so utterly wicked that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5). Again, God does not destroy mankind instantly, but gives him 120 years to repent. Moreover, there is a man named Noah, who found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8). God tells Noah that He will be destroying the earth by means of a flood, and instructs Noah to build the ark for his family and a large group of animals. Noah’s response shows that he believed God:

“Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did” (Genesis 6:22).

Noah, a man who believed in God, and demonstrated his faith through obedience, was saved by God. It is not that Noah was himself sinless; on the contrary, we find him in a drunken stupor after the flood (Genesis 9:21). Therefore, God would have been justified in destroying Noah along with the rest of mankind. However, God had mercy upon him.

Again, in the case of Abraham, we see incidents where he exhibited striking dishonesty and cowardice (Genesis 12:10-20, 20:1-13). On the other hand, we also see that whenever God told Abraham to do something, he obeyed: even to the point of sacrificing his son (Genesis 22:1-13). For His part, God bestowed very special blessings upon Abraham. God’s criterion for doing so appears to be summed up in this verse:

“And [Abraham] believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).

In spite of Abraham’s failings, he was faithful — believed in God — and for this very reason God considered Abraham righteous. In other words, Abraham’s sins were forgiven because of his faithfulness.

We can see, then, that the God of Genesis is a God of love and mercy. Truly, He only extends mercy on His own terms: but this is what we would expect from a God who is just. In a court of law, we might expect a judge to extend some leniency toward a criminal who expresses deep regret for his actions, and who promises not to repeat his offense; on the other hand, we see that the judge is justified in “throwing the book at” the criminal who shows no signs of remorse whatsoever. Mercy is tempered by justice.

Throughout the Old Testament, God’s character does not vary on this point: there are numerous examples of God’s love and mercy, and yet He never loses sight of justice. And when we get to the New Testament, we find that God is still concerned with justice; He does not ignore the problem of sin. In fact, it is because of the seriousness of sin, that He pays such a high price to punish it. On the other hand, in His loving mercy, God formulated a way to punish the sin while simultaneously offering forgiveness to the sinner — although forgiveness is still on God’s terms:

“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

God’s terms have not changed. He still offers forgiveness and eternal salvation to any and all who will be faithful to Him.

Have you made that commitment to be faithful to God? Have you been baptized into Christ for the remission of your sins? If not, why are you waiting (Acts 22:16)?

— Via The Watchman Magazine, March 1, 1999
——————–

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe
in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent
of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith
in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized
in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).     
6) Continue in the faith;
for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
——————–

Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (The old Gospel Observer website with bulletins going back to March 4, 1990)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

© 2020

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑