Friday, August 25, 2017

57 - Salt and Light

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt becomes tasteless, with what shall it be salted? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and to be trampled underfoot by men. Mat 5:13 emtv

The Preserving Salt

In our minds, it is much too easy to separate the Beatitudes from the rest of the Sermon on the Mount.  There is nothing that indicates that while Christ was preaching there was a break between so they persecuted the prophets who were before you and You are the salt of the earth.

You are the salt of the earth.  Christ said this to His followers; it was true then and it is just as true today. Of course, this does not include everyone that attends a Christian church nor does it include everyone that is fluent in Bible talk.  This statement is reserved for those who, in all earnestness, attempt to follow the mandates of the Beatitudes.

but if the salt becomes tasteless, with what shall it be salted? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and to be trampled underfoot by men. Here is an interesting bit of information about salt mining in The Levant. 

Along, on one side of the valley, ... there is a small precipice ... occasioned by the continual taking away of the salt. I broke a piece of it, of which that part that was exposed to the rain, sun, and air, though it had the sparks and particles of salt, Yet It Had Perfectly Lost Its Savour: the inner part, which was connected to the rock, retained its savour. Clarke quoting Mr Maundrell.

It seems somewhat superfluous to say that if a Christian intends to be a preserving influence in society that Christian must stay connected to the rock.  When Christians lose their "saltiness", as preserving agents, they are good for nothing except to be used as gravel on a sidewalk.

The Revealing Light

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 

Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it shines on everything in the house. 

Thus let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works, and they may glorify your Father who is in heaven. Mat 5:14-16 emtv

Not far from what is known as The Mount of Beatitudes is the city Saphet, ... upon a very eminent and conspicuous mountain, and is Seen Far and Near. May we not suppose that Christ alludes to this city, in these words of his, A city set on a hill cannot be hid? Clarke

At the time Christ was living on earth many cities were built on top of hills for the sake of protection.  Any army that would attack the city would be hampered by the incline but, not only that, the attacking soldiers would be visible long before they were at the city gates.

Christ said, A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden and if you are serious about me neither can you hide the fact that you are my follower.  The Christian life is something very high and sublime, to which we cannot arrive without pains: while it withdraws us from the earth, and carries us nearer heaven, it places us in view, and as a mark, to the malice of carnal men.” Clarke.   Do your co-workers know that you are a Christian?  Are you honest in your business dealings?  You bow your head for a table grace before a meal at home; do you also do that in a cafe or are you ashamed of being a Christian?  When Christ said, A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden He may have meant, There is no such thing as a secret Christian.

Christ did not say to His followers, "You are supposed to be the light of the world"; He said, You are the light of the world.  Christ did not implant the light of the world into us so that we could hide it under an upside down basket.

Christ has set us on a lampstand so that His light shining through us will show up whatever is in the rest of our surroundings.  The reason for this is so that they may see your good works, and they may glorify your Father who is in heaven.

As the light of Christ in the lives of Christians grows dim the powers of darkness increase.  This simple fact is clearly seen in the lifestyle of the people of Canada and the United States.  

The USA is proud to speak of Honest Abe, the man who freed the slaves.  However, to find him they must look back 150 years.   

Canada also once had an honest leader, Joe Clark, of him it was said that he did not win the second term because "he was too honest" and to that, I might add, his moral standards were too high to be the leader of a country whose morals were quickly spiralling downwards.

In my opinion, this decline in morality, in North America, is due to our fixation on television and theatres.   Perhaps this is inevitable because it is a sign of the times; an inevitable step to the moral and spiritual darkness that will enshroud the world before the return of Christ

Friday, August 18, 2017

56 - You Will Be Fortunate if You ...

According to the Book of Matthew, this is where the well-known Sermon on the Mount starts.  In Matthew it is three chapters long and we will be with it for awhile.

It is important to remember that in all His preaching Christ was preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom; His coming Kingdom. Mat. 4:23.  He is telling us how we must live if we expect ourselves to be fit to enter that Kingdom.

But lay up treasures in Heaven for yourselves. Mat 6:20  

The gist of the Beatitudes is: You must decide whether you want to live 80 (or so) years in comfort, destroying the lives of others, if you must, to gain what you want or deny yourselves some of the enjoyment of life so that others may have the comforts they deserve and in that way lay up treasures for yourself in heaven.

The Beatitudes

1.  Blessed (fortunate; well off) are the poor (a beggar; cringing) in spirit (mental disposition), for theirs is the kingdom (realm) of heaven (by implication happiness). Mat 5:3

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Luke 6:20

But woe (grief) to you who are rich (wealthy - the meaning of this word is very affluent.  It means having more than enough to live comfortably), because you have received your consolation (solace, comfort). Luke 6:24.

The way some Christians horde wealth and toys or squander their incomes pursuing pleasures one would think they have never heard this beatitude.  

The same idea comes through when one sees the over ornate, money wasting Sunday morning buildings of many groups that call themselves Christian.

2.  Blessed are those who hunger (severe cravingand thirst after righteousness (in character and action), for they shall be filled (to gorge; be fully satisfied). Mat. 5:6 

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled. Luke 6:21

Woe to you who have been filled, for you shall be hungry. Luke 6:25

Do any of us have a severe craving to be righteous?  We don't mind being righteous as long as it does not inconvenience us.

It is so easy to pray for the destitute people of the world but doing something practical to help relieve their hunger pangs is a totally different matter, isn't it?

From the other point of view: it is fantastic to see that organisations such as World Vision, The Red Cross, and many others can keep on fulfilling their mission because so many people keep on giving to the needy.

3.  Blessed are those who mourn (wail), for they will be comforted (to call near; to invite). Mat. 5:4 

Blessed are you who weep (cry; wail aloudnow, for you shall laugh. Luke 6:21

Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Luke 6:25

You may laugh at the unfortunate now but someday such coldness will be taken into account when your heavenly ledger is opened.

4.  Blessed are those who have been persecuted (to pursuefor righteousness' sake (on account of), for theirs is the kingdom (realmof heaven (by implication happiness).  
   Blessed are you whenever they revile (defame; taunt) you, and they persecute you, and they say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 
      Rejoice (be full of cheerand be exceedingly glad (jump for joy; exult), for great (much; many; largelyis your reward (pay for servicesin heaven (happiness, eternity), for so they persecuted (pursuedthe prophets who were before you. Mat. 5:10-12 

   Blessed are you when men (humans) shall hate (detest) you, and when they shall exclude you, and shall revile (defame; tauntyou, and cast out your name as evil (morally diseased), because of the Son of Man. 
   Rejoice in that day (can mean the judgement dayand leap for joy! For behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets. Luke 6:22-23 

Woe to you when men (humansspeak well (usually morally) of you, for in like manner their fathers (literally or figurativelywould do to the false prophets (pretended foreteller). Luke 6:26 

5.  Blessed are the peacemakers (peaceable), for they shall be called sons of God. Mat. 5:9 

bless (speak well of; invoke a benedictionthose who curse (execrate; to pronounce doomyou; pray for those who mistreat (insult; slander) you. Luke 6:28

It really would be a lot easier to hope that something bad would happen to them!

6.  Blessed are the merciful (compassionate), for they shall obtain mercy. Mat. 5:7 

Love (in a social or moral sense) your enemies (odious; hostile), do good to those who hate (detestyou. Luke 6:27

7.  To him who strikes (to pummel with a stickyou on the one cheek, offer (present) the other also. And from him who takes your outer garment (winter coat), do not forbid the tunic either (a hip-length or longer blouse or jacket. Merriam-Webster). Luke 6:29

    Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your belongings, do not ask for them back. Luke 6:30.
   Do not beg them off. This probably refers to the way in which the tax-gatherers and Roman soldiers used to spoil the people. “When such harpies as these come upon your goods, suffer the injury quietly, leaving yourselves in the hand of God, rather than attempt even to beg off what belongs to you, lest on their part they be provoked to seize or spoil more.  Clarke

Here Christ is not saying that, in a normal situation, we do not have a right to protect our property.  He is saying that when a corrupt government official takes more than is justly his you will be further ahead just to "let it go".  You can not win against the officials anyway.

8.  Blessed are the meek (humble, mild), for they shall inherit (obtainthe earth (a region or the solid part of the whole ... globe). Mat. 5:5

9.  Therefore all things, whatever you desire that men should do to you, do even so to them; for this is the Law and the Prophets. Mat. 7:12  The Law (the Books of Moses) and the preachings of the prophets stand on this principle.

And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. Luke 6:31.

This "Golden rule" is one step up from the pre-Christian "do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you".  It should not bother a Christian to be the first one, in any given situation, to do a good deed.

Blessed are the pure in heart (thoughts or feelings), for they shall see (to gaze with wide open eyesGod. Mat. 5:8

What a wonderful promise our Redeemer has given us: we will gaze with wide open eyes at our loving God.  What an incentive this is to keep our thoughts and feelings pure!

All definitions, unless otherwise noted, are from James Strong's dictionary of Greek words. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

55 - Choosing The Foundation Stones of the Holy City

The wall of the city also had twelve foundation stones, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.  Rev. 21:14

12 In the progress of these days he went out into the mountain to pray, and he continued the whole night in prayer to God. 
13  And when it was day, He called His disciples. Luke 6:12-13 MKJV

13 He ascended a mountain and summoned those whom he wanted, and they came to him. 
14 And he formed a group of 12, whom he also named apostles, those who were to accompany him and whom he would send out to preach
15 and to have authority to expel demons.
16 And the group of 12 that he formed were Simon, to whom he also gave the name Peter, 
17 James the son of Zebʹe·dee and John the brother of James (he also gave these the name Bo·a·nerʹges, which means “Sons of Thunder”),
18 Andrew, Philip, Bar·tholʹo·mew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Al·phaeʹus, Thad·daeʹus, Simon the Ca·na·naeʹan, 
19 and Judas Is·carʹi·ot, who later betrayed him. Mark 3:13-19 NW

Twelve Apostles

In his Biography of Christ, Matthew has nothing to say about the choice of the seven last apostles, but Mark and Luke both do. Luke starts with two very important notes which Mark does not include.

1. Christ had some tough decisions to make the next day so He spent the whole night in prayer to God.  This sounds so much more profitable than staying up all night fretting and trying to figure out what tomorrow's decisions should be.

2. And when it was day, He called His disciples. By this time many common folks were following Jesus and they are here called His disciples.  The word disciple means a learner; pupil. Strong G3129.  It was from among all those people that he formed a group of 12, whom he also named apostles. These twelve would go with Him and he would send them out to preach and to have authority to expel demons.

From our studies, we recall that before now He had already chosen Peter and His brother Andrew; James and his brother John and Matthew the tax collector. He needed to add only seven more to have a group of twelve.

These were His twelve chosen disciples:

1. Simon Peter; The name Peter comes from the Greek Petros and it means “a mass of rock detached from the living rock."
2. James; son of Zebedee and his brother
3. John; Jesus gave these two the nickname Boanerges which means "Sons of Thunder".  Some Bible scholars suggest that this happened because James and John said, Lord, do You desire that we command fire to come down from Heaven and consume them, even as Elijah did?
Luke 9:54
4. Andrew; Brother of Peter.
5. Philip; lover of horses.

6. Bartholomew; In the Gospel of John he is known as Nathanael.  Jesus said of him, Behold an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile! John 1:47
7. Matthew; The son of Alphaeus and the writer of the Gospel of Matthew.
8. Thomas; was his Hebrew name and Didymus, the name used by Luke, was his Greek name; it means twin. Then Thomas (he being called Twin). John 11:16. It is believed that he was the twin brother of Matthew or James and that all three of these were brothers.  Because Thomas, at first, did not believe that Christ had risen from the dead that we now have that famous line "a doubting Thomas".
9. James; the son of Al·phaeʹus, just like Matthew.
10. Thaddeus; Mark uses the surname, Thaddeus, but Luke uses his given name, Judas.  However, this Judas must not be confused with Judas Iscariot.  We know this Judas better by the name Jude, the writer of the second last book in the Bible.
11. Simon; The Canaanite
12. Judas; who later betrayed him. Easton Bible Dictionary

A man once asked a theologian, “Why did Jesus choose Judas Iscariot to be his disciple?” The teacher replied, “I don’t know, but I have an even harder question: Why did Jesus choose me?” Guzik

The Sermon on the Mount

And he came down (from the mountain; 6:13with them and took his station on a level place. Luke 6:17.

When he saw the crowds he went up into the mountain. Mat. 5:1.  

This seeming contradiction needs a solution.
It is probably not right to assume that Christ preached all of "the sermon on the mount" in one setting.  Matthew's paraphrase of it is much longer than Luke's is so it is logical that Matthew gathered more material from Christ's various sermons, than Luke did, and laced them together into what appears to be one continuous lecture.

Christ was an itinerant preacher and He preached wherever He went and no doubt He repeated the same thoughts many times because He continuously had a new audience. 

As we have already noticed, the three synoptic Gospel writers did not record all the events in the same sequence.  Some scholars say that since Luke does not say that the sermon was preached immediately after choosing the twelve disciples the location given for the sermon is irrelevant.

Since Bible students suggest that neither Luke's or Matthew's version of the sermon is an actual "copy" of any one sermon it was reasonable for each of them to place Christ at a different location for recording the preaching of the sermon.  

Starting with the next post we will look at some of the highlights of The Sermon on the Mount, although just about every phrase is a highlight.

Friday, August 4, 2017

54 - Justice In The Future Kingdom

14  But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him to kill him.

15  Having come to know this, Jesus departed from there. Many also followed him, and he cured them all, 

16  but he sternly ordered them not to make him known,
17  in order to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, who said:

18  “Look! My servant whom I chose, my beloved, whom I have approved! I will put my spirit upon him, and what justice is he will make clear to the nations. 

19  He will not quarrel nor cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the main streets. 
20 No bruised reed will he crush, and no smoldering wick will he extinguish, until he brings justice with success.
21  Indeed, in his name nations will hope.”

22  Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and speechless, and he cured him, so that the speechless man could speak and see.
23  Well, all the crowds were astounded and began to say: “May this not perhaps be the Son of David?” 
24  At hearing this, the Pharisees said: “This fellow does not expel the demons except by means of Be·elʹze·bub, the ruler of the demons.” 
25  Knowing their thoughts, he said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself comes to ruin, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. 
26  In the same way, if Satan expels Satan, he has become divided against himself; how, then, will his kingdom stand? 
27  Moreover, if I expel the demons by means of Be·elʹze·bub, by whom do your sons expel them? This is why they will be your judges. 
28  But if it is by means of God’s spirit that I expel the demons, the Kingdom of God has really overtaken you. 
29 Or how can anyone invade the house of a strong man and seize his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Only then can he plunder his house.
30  Whoever is not on my side is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Matthew 12:14-30 NW

Let Us Kill Him

But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him to kill him. The previous post ended with these words but the same story continues with the following words.

Having come to know this, Jesus departed from there. Here again, Bible teachers who push the doctrine of the Trinity say that Jesus knew that His life was in danger because He is a God and God knows everything.  If we read the words in verse 15 carefully we notice that there was a time when Jesus did not know this but He did come to know this.  Christ became aware of something that He had not known.  This tells us that Jesus is not omniscient, hence, not the second person of a non-existent trinity.

The Pharisees had openly ridiculed Him and He probably also saw them whispering in small groups.  Any astute person with an "ear to the ground" could have been aware of the threats.  He also knew from past experience that they were not above murdering a preacher they did not like.  We learned this in

Not only that but Many also followed him and it is altogether possible that a few of them overheard the Pharisees whispering and they might have told Christ of the impending danger. 

and he cured them all, but he sternly ordered them not to make him known.  In our studies, we have encountered similar scenes a number of times already. Christ does not mind healing the sick but He does not want any of those that were healed to talk about it.  This countrywide renown hampers His mission which is to preach the gospel of the Kingdom.

Isaiah Said So

My servant whom I chose, my beloved, whom I have approved! I will put my spirit upon him.  While we were studying about the baptism of Christ we learned that it was at His baptism that the Holy Spirit came down in a bodily shape, like a dove on Him. Luke 3:21-22.   This was the fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy.

what justice is he will make clear to the nations.  Now here we have something to get excited about.  In His future kingdom He will show us what justice really is!  No more judges that can be bought; no more policemen picking on minorities; no more teachers that "put down" certain ethnic students.  When Christ sets up His kingdom justice will prevail.

Indeed, in his name nations will hope.  For example - The number of Chinese professing Christianity, ... estimated at more than 70 million — is rising so dramatically that, by some projections, China will have the world's biggest Christian population by 2030. Business Insider - Wikipedia

Protestantism is one of the most dynamic religious movements in the contemporary world. From 1960 to 2000, the global growth of the number of reported Evangelical Protestants grew three times the world's population rate, and twice that of Islam. Christian Population Growth, Wikipedia

By the Power of Beelzebub

Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and speechless, and he cured him ... they began to say: “May this not perhaps be the Son of David?”  As we learned earlier that when the Jewish people used the term the Son of David they meant "the Messiah; the Christ".

the Pharisees said: “This fellow does not expel the demons except by means of Be·elʹze·bub, the ruler of the demons.”  Casting out demons was not unheard of in the Jewish culture and Christ reminded them of the situation when He said, 

1. if I expel the demons by means of Be·elʹze·bub, by whom do your sons expel them?  Oops, this one the Pharisees did not see coming.  By the time this happened, they must have had an intense, internal loathing for Jesus and so the narrow-minded Pharisees just could not see beyond their hatred. 

This is why they will be your judges.  You accuse me of doing the same thing that your own sons (many commentaries use the word "disciples" in place of "sons") are doing, think about that for awhile.  By whose power do your sons cast out demons?

2. every city or house divided against itself will not stand.  If Satan is casting out demons he would be fighting against his own establishment.  You came up with this argument just to make me look bad but you Pharisees cannot have thought this one through. 

However, if it is by means of God’s spirit (some use the word "power" instead of "spirit") that I expel the demons the Kingdom of God has really overtaken (come upon) you.  “If this expulsion of Satan is, and can be, by no other than the Spirit of God, then is his (Satan's) Destroyer (Christ) already in the midst of you, and that kingdom which is destined to supplant his is already rising on its ruins.” JFB

Now Christ gives an example:

3. Or how can anyone (Christ) invade the house (the body of the man a demon is possessing) of a strong man (a demon) and seize (take hold of) his possessions (the soul of the man a demon is inhabiting) unless he (Christ) first ties up the strong man (a demon)? Only then can he (Christ) plunder (take back) his house (the body of the demon-possessed man).