One of the most remarkable (true) stories in all of Scripture is the story of David and Bathsheba. I assume the readers are familiar with it. If not, it’s a good read and found in 2 Sam 11-12. Go read it.
Now, under the Law of Moses, sacrifices only worked (to the extent they worked at all) for unintentional sin. For example,
(Lev 4:27-28 ESV) “If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the LORD’s commandments ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, 28 or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed.”
Intentional sins — sins committed with a high hand — resulted in being cut off from Israel — Continue reading
I’m probably the last person on the planet to know this. Grace Schram, now 17 or so, released her first album at age 10 to raise over $30,000 for Africa and Haiti. She is now a professional, produced by the same guy who produced the Civil Wars. Impressive work from a teenager.
The Pew Research Center has recently posted a graph showing the racial diversity of various American denominations.
During Jesus’ three-year ministry prior to his crucifixion, he often forgave sins without baptism. Then again, we know from John 4 that Jesus did, for a while, spend time in the Jordan River region baptizing.
(Joh 3:22-24 ESV) After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison).
The text doesn’t say why Jesus baptized early in his ministry and then appears to have stopped. After all, there’s no record of his baptizing later in any of the four Gospels. It seems likely that Jesus was symbolically approving the work of John — they were not rivals, and John’s baptism was in preparation for the ministry of Jesus. Continue reading
Finally, Matthew records John’s prophecy regarding the Messiah —
(Mat 3:11-12 ESV) “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
John speaks of the Messiah, declaring that he is, in comparison to him, less than a slave. Indeed, while John baptizes with water, the power of forgiveness is found not in the water but in the covenant promises of God found in the Torah. But Torah has been around for 1,500 years by this time, and it’s proven inadequate. Something needs to change. Continue reading
Great, brief article by Ron Highfield on the history and nature of liberal Christianity. No one should ever refer to someone as a “liberal” Christian without first reading this.
In the Churches of Christ (and we are hardly alone in this), it’s become standard practice to refer to someone as liberal if he approves something you don’t. If I’m okay with supporting orphans homes out of the church treasury, and you disagree, to you, I’m a liberal. If I accept some people as fellow Christians and you disagree, then I’m a liberal.
As a result, in Church of Christ discourse, “liberal” means nothing more than “Raca” or “You fool!” It’s just an all-purpose insult, used by Christians who are commanded not to insult each other (e.g., Matt 5:22, 15:19; Eph 4:29; Col 4:6).
But among serious students of the Bible, “liberal” has a very particular meaning, and Highfield explains it very well.
Matthew next records a bit of one of John’s sermons —
(Mat 3:7-10 ESV) But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
“Brood of vipers” obviously insults their parents and them as well. These were not kind words. The allusion may be to Jer 46:22, speaking of Egypt — Continue reading
(Mat 3:3-6 ESV) 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.'” 4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
Matthew explains that John fulfilled the prophecy of one sent by God to prepare the way for the Messiah. He also explains that John wore the same clothes as Elijah and prophesied at the Jordan River — also associated with Elijah.
To the Eastern mind, symbolic actions are often more important than spoken words. John spoke through his clothing and ministry. If he imitated Elijah, then Judea today must be much like the Israel of Elijah. Herod would be akin to Ahab. The Jews would be akin to the Israelites of Elijah’s day — nearly all of whom refused to follow God, preferring Baal. The priests must be like the priests of Baal — false prophets! Why else would a true prophet prefer the wilderness to Jerusalem? Why insist that the people go out to him? Jeremiah prophesied in Jerusalem, even the palace. Why the wilderness? Continue reading
I don’t usually recommend reading materials from an atheist, but this interview with Camille Paglia is a delightful, insightful read.
(Thanks to Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed for bringing to my attention.)
To a First Century Jew raised on the Torah, a central text was —
(Deu 30:6 ESV) 6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
This text was so central that the authors of the NT refer to often so obliquely that we miss it. They understood Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Joel to promise that hearts would be circumcised by the Holy Spirit.
(Eze 36:26-27 ESV) 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
(Eze 37:12-14 ESV) 12 “Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”