Jesus' Footprints

Archive for November 2011

There are some things in those [epistles of Paul] that are difficult to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist and misconstrue to their own utter destruction, just as [they distort and misinterpret] the rest of the Scriptures (2 Peter 3:16, Amplified Bible).

When I read this, I was reminded of some of the things Paul wrote which people take out of context.  They use what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:8 to support their belief that when a person dies, he or she goes straight to Heaven.

Yet when we read 2 Timonthy 4:8 which says:  “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing”, it is clear that Paul is talking here about Jesus’ second coming.  It’s referred to as “that day”.  The day of His appearing.  That’s when Paul and others will receive the crown of righteousness.   This follows the verses where he talks about his impending death.  In verse 6 he says, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.” If he believed that he would be ushered into the Lord’s presence after he leaves this earth, why didn’t he say, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me when I am absent from this body and present with the Lord.”

Paul knew that when he died, he would be laid to rest in the grave until that day when Jesus comes to resurrect him and the other righteous believers who died in Christ.  What he meant by the expression “absent from the body and present with the Lord” is he would rather be absent from the mortal body with its sickness, diseases and death and present in the glorious, immortal body which he will receive at Jesus’ second coming.  He makes this clear in 1 Corinthians 15:52, 53:  “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

When does the trumpet sound?  Jesus tells us, “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:30, 31).

On that glorious day, God’s people will put on immortal bodies and join their Savior in the air and be taken home with Him where they will reign for a thousand years.

People also claim that the moral law was done away with because of Paul’s letter to the Romans but while he says that we are not saved by the law because the law fails to do what Christ did in the flesh, he did say that we do not made the law void.  On the contrary we establish it.  The law points us to the One who saves us.  When Paul says that we are no longer under the law, he simply meant that we are no longer under its condemnation.  Why?  Because we are walking by the Spirit and not by the flesh.  When we alow the Spirit to guide us instead of our lusts and desires, the law cannot condemn us because we have not broken it.

Some claim that Jesus did away with the law.  They cite Matthew 12:8:  “For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.”  They say that as Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus did away with it.  Is that true?  Why did Jesus say that He was Lord of the Sabbath?  He was talking to the religious leaders who were criticizing the disciples for plucking the ears of corn because they were hungry.  Jesus reminded them that King David went into the house of God and ate the loaves of the showbread–which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for the men who accompanied him, but for the priests only.  And it was mentioned in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple violated the sanctity of the Sabbath but yet were guiltless.  Yet here was someone greater in the temple and all they could do was find fault.  So, Jesus told them that He was Lord of the Sabbath.

As Lord of the Sabbath which He made for man, He knew better than they did the proper way to keep it.  The Sabbath was not just about resting from secular work but showing mercy and compassion towards others.  The disciples were hungry and Jesus showed them mercy by allowing them to have something to eat.  The Sabbath was to be a delight not a burden.  Those same religious leaders would not have hesitated to pull a donkey out of a ditch yet there they were begrudging the hungry disciples for eating the grain.  These men had the wrong idea about how to keep the Sabbath.  They focused more on the letter of the law rather than on the heart of the law.

People use Paul’s writings to claim that Sabbath-keeping is no longer necessary.  When Paul said, So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16, 17), he was not speaking about the weekly Sabbath.  There were yearly Sabbaths and feasts and sacrifices which pointed to Jesus.  The seventh-day Sabbath was instituted at creation and it was to be kept forever.  After Jesus left, the seventh-day Sabbath was still observed.  Paul kept it.  It was his custom to attend the synagogue on the Sabbath.  He even taught the Gentiles two Sabbaths in a row when he could have done so on the first day of the week if  Sabbath-keeping were no longer necessary.

Paul was not talking about Sabbath-keeping in Romans 14:5.  He was addressing the confusion over fasting.  The issue was about fast days not the Sabbath.  Some Jewish Christians believed that there was more merit in fasting on certain days and judged others by their standards.  Paul was simply saying that to fast or not to fast on a certain was up to the individual.  Whatever the person decided to do, it should be to God’s glory and his or her own conscience.  Fasting should not be done to please others.

Another passage that is misinterpreted and used to teach that Sunday is now the new day of worship is Acts 20:7.  Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. It should be noted that this meeting took place in an upper room not in the synagogue and it lasted until midnight.  Paul spoke to them for a long time–so long that one of the men fell asleep and out of the window.  This was not a worship service.  The men were breaking bread together and Paul was there speaking to them.  He had a lot to say because he was leaving the next day.  This meeting was mentioned because Paul raised that young man who fell out of the window from the dead.  This was a miracle that was worth writing about.  This meeting had nothing to do with the disciples meeting on the first day of the week.

Some Bible commentators use the reckoning for a day as outlined in Genesis 1:5 where it says And the evening and the morning were the first day.  So the first part of Sunday would be Saturday evening which means the meeting took place on Saturday evening and ended on Sunday morning.  It was on Sunday morning when Paul travelled.  If Sunday were the new day of rest, Paul should not be spending it in travel.

Believers are encouraged to prayerfully read the Word of God and not to base new doctrine on scriptures that have been taken out of context.  Paul never intended for his writings to teach a different Gospel.  And Jesus never intended for His followers to stop keeping the Sabbath.  He never broke it despite what the religious leaders claimed.  It was His custom to attend the synagogue on the Sabbath.  He kept it by teaching, preaching and helping others.  For Him it was more than a day of rest.  It was a day of healing and restoration.

When the religious leaders sought to kill Jesus because He healed the cripple on the Sabbath, Jesus said to them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (John 5:17).  God’s work is done on the Sabbath.  Resting on the Sabbath does not mean you should rest from doing good–helping others.

Do not change God’s Word to suit yourself.  “It is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).  It was not given for people to interpret what it means.  The Bible interprets itself and it does not contradict itself.

We show our faith by our works.  It’s not enough to say that we believe in God.  We show by our works of obedience, our conduct, our lives, the way we treat others that we have faith in God.  Abraham demonstrated his faith in an act of obedience.  He obeyed God’s command to offer Isaac as a sacrifice.  He demonstrated his faith by leaving his home in Ur to go to a strange land because God told him to.

Rahab demonstrated her faith by helping the messengers.  She saved their lives because she feared their God.  We are justified by works and not by faith alone.

The just shall live by faith.  The just here are those who are righteous in conduct and character.  Just means right, correct, lawful.  The person is just towards others; obedient to the laws of God; upright, honest, virtuous, pious.  This person is living by his faith which is not dead.  This is a faith with works.  What are the works?  His or her character.  Convicted that God exists and is the Creator and Ruler of all things, the Provider and Bestower of salvation through Christ; a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain salvation and eternal life, this person will strive with the help of the Holy Spirit, to live a life that is pleasing and acceptable to God; to become more like Christ everyday.

The just live by the Spirit. They walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh.  We know the just by their works.  James is right–faith, true faith has works.  The works prove that the faith is genuine.  Zacchaeus was justified by his works.  In faith, he declared that he would give half of what he had to the poor and that he would restore whatever he had taken from any man. Zacchaeus became a changed man.  Faith in Jesus should make us want to change for the better.

We are saved by grace through faith and not works but our faith has to bear fruit.  It’s not enough to say you have faith.  Your actions will tell how strong your faith is.  What if God were to tell you to move to another city?  Or He called you to be a missionary?  Or He called you to do something you don’t feel you are qualified to do like Moses?  Stepping up to the plate is faith by works.  You are basically acting on your faith.  You are putting faith into action and you will see the results and praise God.

James gives a very good example of what faith with works is.  “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what [does it] profit?” (James 2:15, 16).  What is the point of saying that you have faith and you don’t lift a finger to help someone in need?  Dorcas had working faith.  She provided coats and clothes for the widows.  She saw a need and in faith, she provided it.  She knew that God was using her to help others. She was a woman known for doing good deeds.

You see a hungry person and you say that you have faith that he would be cared for but what good is that?  Why not buy him a hot drink and a something to eat?  That’s faith with works.  When the five thousand people went to hear Jesus speak, He saw that they were hungry.  He didn’t send them away hungry.  Instead, He had them sit down and in faith He fed them with a little boy’s lunch.  The blind man showed his faith when he obeyed Jesus and went and washed the mud from his eyes.  The four men showed their faith when they lowered their crippled friend through the roof so that he ended up right in front of Jesus.  The woman with the issue showed her faith when she braved a jostling crowd to touch Jesus’ hem.  The mother showed her faith when she refused to give up getting the help she needed for her daughter.

Faith and works go hand in hand.  Faith reaches out and grabs hold of God’s promises.  It takes advantage of opportunities.  It helps others.  It makes a difference.  It is active.  It bears fruit.  We show our faith by our works.

Not so long ago I read 2 Samuel 11 and 12 and reflected on the various things that were recorded.  It all began one evening when King David got out of bed and walked out on to terrace of his house.  It was the custom at that time to rise at daybreak and take a nap when it was hot during the day and to lounge on flat-roofed terraces in the evenings when it was nice and cool.

The author of 2 Samuel 11 made a point of mentioning that it was during the spring of that year, at the time when kings went out to battle.  However, David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel while he stayed in Jerusalem.  David should have been with his men.  That was where he belonged.  Instead of leading his men into battle, the king was being led into temptation.

He came outside just in time to see a woman taking a bath. He must have stopped in his tracks, hardly believing his eyes.  It says that she was beautiful to behold.  This reminded me of Eve.  She saw the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and saw that it was good for food and pleasant to the eyes.  The woman was pleasant to David’s eyes.  He desired to have her just as Eve desired to have the fruit.

In both situations, the temptation appealed to the senses–sight and appetite.  Both wanted to sample what they saw.  They saw no harm in it.  Eve wanted to become wise.  David wanted to satisfy his lust.  The woman was beautiful and he wanted her.  Even after he found out that she was married to one of his men, this didn’t phase him.  This was God offering him a way out.  She’s a married woman.  Leave her be.  Unfortunately, David succumbed to temptation.  He sent messengers to get her and he slept with her.

After they were done, Bathsheba returned to her home.  There was no contact until she became pregnant.  She let David know as soon as possible.  She might have been afraid for her life because if it were known that she had committed adultery she would be put to death. David tried to cover his tracks by sending for Uriah and after some small chat, he sent him home, hoping that he would sleep with his wife.  David paid Uriah one of the greatest compliments by sending him some food from the royal table.  David was going to great lengths to cover up his sin.  He hoped that Uriah would jump at the opportunity to sleep with his wife after being away at war and when the child was born, the unsuspecting husband would think that it was his.

However David’s plan didn’t work.  Uriah, a decent man, didn’t think that it was fair that he should enjoy the comforts of home while the other men were camping out in open fields.  It didn’t seem right to him.  His upstanding character only made David’s sin all the more terrible.  Here was a man who didn’t want to get special treatment.  Some men would call him crazy for passing up an opportunity to sleep with his wife.

David tried his best to get Uriah to do what he wanted.  He invited him to dinner and got him drunk.  Still Uriah didn’t go home to his wife.  Again he slept at the palace entrance with the king’s palace guard. How this must have frustrated David who was growing desperate now.   His plan to pass the unborn child off as Uriah’s failed miserably.  Finally, David changed his strategy.

He wrote a letter which instructed Joab to “station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.” Then he had Uriah himself deliver it to Joab.  This was a cruel and coldblooded act.  He was sending an innocent and wronged man to his death.  Uriah was paying the consequences for David’s actions.  David was the one deserving of death, not Uriah.  Uriah had done nothing wrong.  He was simply a loyal servant of the king.  I wonder what must have gone through Joab’s mind when he read the contents of that letter?  Did it change the way he saw David?  He was an accomplice.  He executed the king’s wishes even though they were wrong.  Was he simply following orders?

When David was told that Uriah was killed, there was no remorse.   And as soon as Bathsheba finished mourning for her husband, David married her. David’s dastardly deeds left an indelible stain on his character.  What a far cry this man was from the ruddy youth and humble shepherd boy with the unshakable faith in the God of Israel.  Lust had led this king to commit polygamy, adultery and murder.  How this must have grieved God.

David’s actions led to consequences he could not have foreseen–the rape of his daughter Tamar by her half-brother, Amnon; the murder of Amnon by his half-brother Absalom; Absalom’s treason and Absalom’s death.  The sins of David affected his children.  David confessed his sin and repented when the prophet Nathan confronted him about it and was forgiven.  We read David’s full confession in Psalm 51.  However, his actions did not go unpunished.

God told David  that “the child also who is born to you shall surely die.”  True to His word, the Lord struck the child and he became ill.  David fasted and prayed but the child died. While he was alive, David said to himself, “Who can tell whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’”  However, God made it clear that the child would not be spared.  His exact words were, “the child also who is born to you shall surely die.”  The child’s fate was sealed.  There was no chance of him living.  This was to be the consequence of David’s actions.  The child he had tried to pass off as Uriah’s had to die.

As I read this, I remembered the same words God said to Adam.  If he ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he would surely die.  It was a certainty.  Death would be the consequence of his disobedience.  Death was the consequence of David’s sin–not his death but the child’s.

God who is righteous and holy had to make an example of David who willfully sinned against Him.  When David committed adultery and murder, he was sinning against God.  He acknowledged this.  “Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight—That You may be found just when You speak,  And blameless when You judge” (Psalm 51:4). The penalty of breaking God’s law was death.  An innocent child died.  Likewise, God’s innocent Son died for our sins.

The lesson of this all is that nothing or no one is worth all of this trouble.  We can’t always get what we want.  If God wanted David to marry Bathsheba, He would have made it happen.   God blesses us with what we have and we ought to be thankful and not try to take what belongs to someone else.  And this chapter in David’s life gives us an idea of what a person is capable of when he is influenced by the desires of the flesh and does not walk in the Spirit.

Today, my husband and I were studying God’s moral law and how it relates to faith and His promise to Abraham.  It was stated that if Abraham’s life was characterized primarily by faith why then did God give the law to Israel about four centuries after Abraham?  Wouldn’t the giving of the law nullify God’s covenant with the patriarch?  The answer is no.  Paul explains why in Galatians 3:17, 18, “And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect.  For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.”  In other words, the law which came after God’s covenant with Abraham could not annul it.  The promise God made to Abraham was changeless.  Nothing could annul it or make it of no effect.  If the law was able to do then our inheritance would have come through the law rather through God’s promise.  We are heirs according to God’s promise to Abraham.  The law does not make us heirs. 

Paul elaborates more in Romans 4:13-17.  “For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.  For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.  Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”).  God’s promise was granted through faith.

God is incapable of breaking His promises.  After He stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, He said to Him, “By Myself I have sworn” The author of Hebrews concurs, “Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath,  that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:17, 18). 

When Paul stated that salvation is by faith and not by the works of the law, he didn’t mean to say that faith abolishes the law.  He was not exalting faith at the expense of the law as some might conclude.  He dispels this by asking the rhetorical question, “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31).  In Romans 7:7, 12, he points out what the law did for him, “I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” ” He concludes that “the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.”

The law existed before Mount Sinai but not in written form.  It was given to the Israelites to redirect them back to God and His grace.  Besides they had been living in a foreign land for many years and were surrounded by idolatry and the worship of other gods.  The purpose of the law is not to save  or redeem us.  It cannot do that.  “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law [is] the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).  “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:3, 4). 

The law was given to reveal our sinful condition and our need for a Savior.  It was to show us more clearly the sin in our lives.  “The law acts as a magnifying glass.  That device does not actually increase the number of dirty spots that defile a garment, but makes them stand out more clearly and reveals many more of them than one is able to see with the naked eye” (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Exposition on Galatians, p. 141).

What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; (Galatians 3:19).  A lot of people think that Paul is saying that the law valid until Jesus comes.  They believe that it was nailed to the cross and that we are now under grace and not under the law.  This could not be farther from the truth.  The role of the law does not end at the first coming of Jesus and it will continue to point out sin as long as the law exists.  If Paul were saying that the law given at Mount Sinai was temporary, He would be contradicting Jesus who testified, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).  Christ fulfilled the law.  He came and did what the law could not do–provide a remedy for sin and to justify sinners to  fulfill His law in them by His Spirit.  The law still stands!  It was not done away with.  It was not destroyed.  It was not nailed to the cross.  Our sins were nailed to the cross with Jesus, thus fulfilling the righteous requirement of the law.  Sin is the transgression of God’s law and the penalty for that transgression was death.  So, the sinless Son of God died for our transgressions so that we could be freed from the curse of the law.

“Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.  But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.  But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.  Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:21-25).  Christ fulfills God’s promise to Abraham.  The law brings us to the Seed (Galatian 3:16).

The Bible makes it clear that only by the shedding of blood can there be the remission of sins.  This is why Jesus, the Lamb of God came in the flesh to shed His blood on the cross for us.  He became a curse for us so that the righteousness of the law which Paul stated was holy and good could be fulfilled in us.  In order for us not to be under the condemnation of the law, we must walk after the Spirit.  “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18).  The Spirit enables us to live in obedience to God’s law. 

It is important to point out that role of the law did not end with Jesus’ coming.  It will continue to point out sin. 

As majestic as the giving of the law was on Sinai, with countless angels in attendance, and as important as Moses was as the lawgiver, the giving of the law was indirect. In stark contrast, God’s promise was made directly to Abraham (and, therefore, to all believers), for there was no need for a mediator. In the end, however important the law, it is no substitute for the promise of salvation through grace by faith. On the contrary, the law helps us better understand just how wonderful that promise really is (http://www.ssnet.org/qrtrly/eng/11d/less06.html#thur).

Take comfort in these words of Paul, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28, 29).



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