During Jesus’ ministry, there were three main sects of the Jews that influenced Jewish politics and culture. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes.
Interestingly, the Essenes are not mentioned in the New Testament writings. Perhaps their tendencies toward asceticism and monasticism separated them from the common Jew, and limited their influence upon Jewish culture. (Note: It is believed that it was an Essene community, Qumran, that was responsible for the penning of the Dead Sea Scrolls).
The Sadducees were characteristically liberal and secular in their outlook. They were political animals, often affluent, and held the highest political offices among the Jews. “They were a political party, of priestly and aristocratic tendency, as against the more religious and democratic Pharisees” (ISBE, Vol. IV, pg. 2659).
Continue reading » Pharisaism
Babylon goes down in Biblical history as the great harlot of lust, pride, and vain glory (see Revelation 17:5). A study of her rise to power, sin, and fall yields great lessons for the Christian of every generation. Continue reading » Babylon
To look into the life of Jeremiah is to gain a greater understanding of our Lord’s character. Jesus once asked his disciples who men say that he is. They answered and said, “Some say John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets” (Matthew 16:13-14). What was it about Jeremiah that caused the people of Jesus’ day to say he reminded them of the prophet of God? A study of the book of Jeremiah bears out two glaring characteristics of the prophet that forever associates him with the Christ. Jeremiah was a meek and fearless preacher who faithfully preached God’s message to a lost and dying people. The prophet of God writes, “If I say, I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name, there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9). Continue reading » Jeremiah
Patience is defined as “enduring, able to bear up under.” The Greeks of old had a belief that the Earth was held up by a Greek god named Atlas. This was in contradiction to what the Bible said about the subject, “…the earth hangeth upon nothing” (Job 26:7). However, we can understand how difficult it would be for a man to hold the earth on his shoulders. That is being “able to bear up under”. The actual meaning of patience is much more meaningful because it applies to spiritual things.
When almost everything was taken from Job, he was able to continue with his faith in God without cursing God and dying as his wife suggested. Patience – that godly quality of godly character that allows us to move forward in a course of action without losing faith or hope. Everyone appreciates a patient person who, when things get tough, can keep going despite the difficulties or even consequences to their actions. It is interesting that the quality of patience is viewed so highly that even impatient people want those around them to be patient. Continue reading » Patience – Godly Quality or Euphemism?
“Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him” (1 Corinthians 8:1-3).
In this text the apostle Paul addressed a conflict that existed in Corinth. How were the Corinthians to handle the eating of meat offered up to pagan idols? Though some of the Corinthians were aware that “an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one” (vs. 4), others “until now eat it [meat offered to an idol] as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled” (vs. 7). Paul recognized that those with superior knowledge could be guilty of acting arrogantly in the matter, and eating meat in the presence of those whose understanding was limited. He asked, “And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?” (vs. 12). In considering the responsibility he had toward his brother, Paul proclaimed his love by writing, “Therefore if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (vs. 13).
While Paul did not devalue the importance of knowledge in this passage, he did indicate that knowledge, in and of itself was not only insufficient, but fraught with danger. Knowing can lead to sinning! In the context, Paul emphasized that such knowledge must be tempered with love for the brethren.
Continue reading » Knowledge Puffs Up
Often times the appeal is made for men to attend the church of their choice. While we certainly appreciate the noble sentiment behind this appeal, we deny that such is in harmony with the Word of God. What does the Bible say about attending the church of your choice? Continue reading » Attend the Church of Your Choice
Even casual discussions with friends and loved ones who are outside of the churches of Christ can reveal a very strange mythology that has developed around them.
They are sometimes mischaracterized, maligned, and ostracized on the basis of misunderstood or poorly explained practices. Not all the criticisms, of course, are unfair or false, even if the scriptural basis for the differences among us goes unexplored. It is the mythology about churches of Christ that concerns us now, the kind of thing one hears about them from those operating according to ignorance or malice. Continue reading » Legends of the Churches of Christ
There are several phrases and themes that are used repeatedly throughout the Bible. One is these is “light” and the ongoing contrast between light and darkness.
The creation of light is the first command given by the God (Genesis 1:3). At the end of the Bible, the light of God is shown as overwhelming and casting out all darkness (Revelation 22:5). Between these two beacons, the imagery of light makes nearly two hundred appearances in the Bible. Continue reading » Let There Be Light
Commentators estimate the Lord’s age at thirty years when his public ministry began with a trip into the wilderness to face the devil’s direct temptation.
He was not the first to be led into the wilderness to meet the devil, but as a victor, he is preeminent as an example to us. In fact, his experience there is so eerily similar to that of the Exodus pilgrims that it becomes plain he is identifying with their plight while demonstrating a surer path to a better Canaan. Continue reading » Wilderness of Temptation
Is the kingdom the church? If the kingdom is the church, then all of the “end time” prophecies of Jesus establishing a kingdom on the earth made by the vast majority of denominations are false. There are two prominent prophecies about the kingdom in Daniel 2:31-45 and 7:1-28. Continue reading » Daniel And The Kingdom
The question, “How are people saved from the consequences of their sins,” is answered in Galatians chapter 3. God revealed to Abraham that justification is by faith far before doctrines such as circumcision, Calvinism, Mormonism, Islam, or denominational-ism in general came to be. When someone tells you that you must “Say the sinner’s prayer” or “Accept Jesus into your heart to be saved” know that before these doctrines came to exist the word of God said, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness” (Galatians 3:6). All who emulate the faith of Abraham today are made righteous by the blood of Christ. Galatians chapter 3 demands that we understand the faith of Abraham that we too can be justified. Secondly, Galatians 3 demands that we respect the authorized word of God and never change it by adding or subtracting from it. Continue reading » How are People Saved? A Study of Galatians 3
I recently read an interesting short article on the use of the term “literally” that I want to share with you, then comment upon.
Two Misuses of “Literally”
“He literally knocked his head off.” No. If he had, the head would have rolled across the floor, separated from the body. “Literally,” in that case, is mistakenly used to intensify a figure of speech, but “literally” does not intensify the figure. It says “knocked his head off” is not a figure of speech but a true description of what he did.
Another misuse of “literally” has to do with word meaning. Someone says, “proskuneo ‘literally’ means ‘kiss the ground toward.’” No, proskuneo literally means “worship.” “Kiss the ground toward” is its etymology, how the word was formed. It is also an archaic meaning; as ancient Persians did literally fall on their faces and kiss the feet or hem of the robe of their deified kings. Etymology does not determine meaning; usage does. The New Testament frequently says, “They fell down and worshipped him” (Matthew 2:11; e.g.). “Fell down” is from a different original word, “worshipped” is proskuneo.
“Literally” does not intensify a figure. A word’s etymological meaning is not its “literal” meaning.
Preacher Talk (Vol. 27, No. 2—April 2012)
The first misuse of the term “literally” is typical in casual conversation. While irritating to those who are sensitive to the mangling of the English language, it is innocuous. However, defining biblical terms by their etymology, (or even their assigned dictionary definitions), without considering context, is extremely troubling as we seek to interpret God’s word.
Continue reading » “Literally” – A Discussion of Definitions
I had the chicken pox when I was about six years old and I can still recall the horrible, Jobian itching that resulted. In my memory as well, however, is the soothing sensation of that lotion which was applied by my mother to the sores on my back and chest, which eased the misery until the illness was gone.
Most everyone realizes our souls often contract a disease just as painful to the conscience, the disease of sin. What will soothe our misery then? The answer is nothing but the unparalleled mercy of God, wrought through the death and resurrection of our savior and his son, Jesus Christ (Romans 7:24-25). Continue reading » Obtaining Mercy
On one occasion, when Jesus was with His disciples in the region of Caesarea Philippi, “He asked His disciples, saying, ‘Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’ So they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ (Matthew 16:13-15).
Just as in the days of Christ, it seems that everyone today has an opinion about Jesus. Some wish Him away by claiming that He never existed. However, the historical evidence proves that He did exist. Some claim that He was a prophet of God and a good man, while others claim that He was a liar and a troublemaker. Christians believe that He is the Son of God, and claim Him as their Lord and Savior. Continue reading » Is Jesus Really the Son of God?
I have wondered how many pages have been written about Jesus of Nazareth. Probably millions. We are going to explore just six verses in two passages of Daniel. The description of Jesus 7:13-14 is a part of a larger vision. Daniel’s vision in 9:24-27 is related to his prayer for Israel’s restoration and the future of the nation. Continue reading » Daniel And The Messiah
The readers of what we call the Hebrew letter were a people in great distress, convinced of the lordship of Jesus Christ, but overwhelmed by the persecution and ostracism that came with it.
To dissuade them from abandoning their faith in the son of God, the now anonymous writer assembled a number of arguments around a theme of the superiority of the new covenant to that of Moses. Like all disciples, they had the free will to choose faithfulness or apostasy, and the stakes involved their very salvation and eternal fate.
Continue reading » Fury of Fire
A Bible book that is most likely neglected in our studies is Psalms. Many people read Psalms yet fail to notice marvelous lessons that cannot be found by surface or casual reading. To begin a study of Psalms is a daunting task. Psalms has 150 chapters. Once one does decide to not only read the Psalms but to dissect each chapter they will be a better and more enlightened man or woman. This study is intended to get all Christians excited about the Psalms. Psalms chapter 7 may not excite you much until you really dig in and see the grand lessons for us today.
Continue reading » Psalms 7
A lot of people know several facts about the Old Testament book Daniel. Very, few, however, know of the prophecies contained in the last half of his book. There are fantastically detailed prophecies about the time between the testaments, the Messiah, and the kingdom of God. Continue reading » Daniel And History