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Greek Manuscript – 1 Timothy 3:16

God – Probably there is no passage in the New Testament which has excited so much discussion among critics as this, and none in reference to which it is so difficult to determine the true reading. It is the only one, it is believed, in which the microscope has been employed to determine the lines of the letters used in a manuscript; and, after all that has been done to ascertain the exact truth in regard to it, still the question remains undecided. It is not the object of these notes to enter into the examination of questions of this nature. A full investigation may be found in Wetstein. The question which has excited so much controversy is, whether the original Greek word was Θεὸς Theos, “God,” or whether it was ὅς hos, “who,” or ὁ ho, “which.” The controversy has turned, to a considerable degree, on the reading in the “Codex Alexandrinus;” and a remark or two on the method in which the manuscripts in the New Testament were written, will show the true nature of the controversy.

Greek manuscripts were formerly written entirely in capital letters, and without breaks or intervals between the words, and without accents; see a full description of the methods of writing the New Testament, in an article by Prof. Stuart in Dr. Robinson’s Biblotheca Sacra, No. 2, pp. 254ff The small, cursive Greek letters which are now used, were not commonly employed in transcribing the New Testament, if at all, until the ninth or tenth centuries. It was a common thing to abridge or contract words in the manuscript. Thus, πρ would be used for πατερ pater, “father;” κς for κυριος kurios, “Lord;” Θς for Θεος Theos, “God,” etc. The words thus contracted were designated by a faint line or dash over them. In this place, therefore, if the original uncials (capitals) were ΘC, standing for Θεὸς Theos, “God,” and the line in the Θ, and the faint line over it, were obliterated from any cause, it would easily be mistaken for OC – ὅς hos – “who.”

To ascertain which of these is the true reading, has been the great question; and it is with reference to this that the microscope has been resorted to in the examination of the Alexandrian manuscript. It is now generally admitted that the faint line “over” the word has been added by some later hand, though not improbably by one who found that the line was nearly obliterated, and who meant merely to restore it. Whether the letter O was originally written with a line within it, making the reading “God,” it is now said to be impossible to determine, in consequence of the manuscript at this place having become so much worn by frequent examination. The Vulgate and the Syriac read it: “who,” or “which.” The Vulgate is, “Great is the sacrament of piety which was manifested in the flesh.” The Syriac, “Great is the mystery of godliness, that he was manifested in the flesh.” The “probability” in regard to the correct reading here, as it seems to me, is, that the word, as originally written, was Θεός Theos – “God.” At the same time, however, the evidence is not so clear that it can be properly used in an argument. But the passage is not “necessary” to prove the doctrine which is affirmed, on the supposition that that is the correct reading. The same truth is abundantly taught elsewhere; compare Mt 1:23Jn 1:14.”

Albert Barnes

Mark 6:14-29 – The Cost of Confronting Sin

Today, there are certain names that are known in every community. It might be a political leader, athlete, or entertainer. But no matter where you go, most people know who that person is because his or her fame has kept them in the news. Their reputation precedes them. In this chapter, we are introduced to a person that everyone at the time would have known. It was King Herod. Who exactly was this man? “Herod Antipas [was] the son of Herod the Great and Malthace, a Samaritan.”4 He “was tetrarch (ruler of a fourth part of his father’s kingdom) of Galilee and Perea under the aegis of Rome from 4 B.C. to A.D. 39 (cf. Matt. 14:1; Luke 3:19; 9:7). Officially he was not a king but Mark’s use of the title probably reflected local custom in view of Herod’s covetous ambitions.”1 (Read Luke 3:1-2 for a list of the other tetrarchs at this time.) What this tells us is that Herod Antipas was the ruler over the area in which Jesus had been ministering. And what we learn about him in today’s study will reveal what he thought about Jesus and how he responded to God’s message.

  1. What Herod thought about Jesus (Mark 6:14-16)

    What does it say?

    As Jesus ministered in various areas, His name became well known to everyone. I wouldn’t be surprised if the formerly demon-possessed man from Gadera was still telling his story on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. But the same could be said about the people who knew about Jairus’ daughter being raised back to life, the woman in the crowd who had been healed by Jesus, or the man healed of a withered hand. These miracles had gotten the attention of the entire area. Jesus did what nobody else could because of who He is.

    But what did people think about Jesus? King Herod had heard about Jesus and believed that He was John the Baptist raised back to life. While that story will be told a bit later, this shows us that “the murder of John had taken place previous to this point in the ministry of Jesus.”3 “Others thought He must be the promised Elijah, who, according to Malachi, was to come to call Israel to repentance before the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”8 Others thought that Jesus was “the Prophet” or at least that he was similar to one of the old prophets. Moses had prophesied that the Lord would raise up a prophet like him that they would listen to in the future (Deut. 18:15). Perhaps the people thought that Jesus was this prophet. But Herod was adamant that Jesus was John the Baptist whom he had beheaded. He believed that John had somehow come back to life.

    What does it mean?

    This part of the passage shows us that people are often ignorant of who Jesus is. As you read through the different responses to Jesus, it is clear that the people were not aware of who Jesus really was. They thought He was John the Baptist, Elijah, or a prophet. In each case, these were speculations that were never confirmed but were talked about nonetheless. How many of these people went to Jesus and asked Him who He was? How many took the time to listen to Him or to consider Who He was? It seems that none of them did. They were content to live with their ignorance about Him.

    How does it apply?

    Things haven’t changed much today. People are still content with their pre-conceived notions about Jesus without spending a whole lot of time investigating His identity for themselves. They look at what the Bible says about Him and find it interesting but not important. He said and did some great things, but none of that really makes a difference in their day-to-day lives.

    What about you? Have you had the same response to Jesus? Have you just considered Him to be another great teacher from the past? Or have you been convinced that He is the Son of God, God who became a man, and the great Savior of mankind? Let me encourage you to continue studying the Bible. Read ahead in the Gospel of Mark and ask God to show you who Jesus really is. What you will find about Jesus (if you trust in Him) will change your life.

  2. What Herod thought about John (Mark 6:17-20)

    What does it say?

    Before Jesus had become well known, John the Baptist was the preacher most talked about in the Jordan area. But his ministry had been curtailed by his arrest and imprisonment. Herod had imprisoned him for the sake of his wife whose name was Herodias. Why did he do this? He did it because John had confronted him about him marrying his brother’s wife. Herod had been married to a Nabataean princess5 but “he became enamored with his half-niece Herodias (daughter of his half-brother, Aristobulus) who was married to Herod’s half-brother … Philip (her half-uncle; cf. Josephus The Antiquities of the Jews 18. 5. 1-2). They [Philip and Herodias] had a daughter Salome. Herod divorced his wife in order to marry Herodias who had divorced Philip.”2 What a mess! When his first wife of many years realized that she was being abandoned for another woman, she fled back to her father. With all that had gone on, is there any wonder why John the Baptist had confronted Herod about his relationship to Herodias?

    But this didn’t go over well with Herod’s new wife. Herodias held a grudge against John the Baptist for what he had said to Herod. She was so angry that she wanted to murder him. “The parallel to the Old Testament story of Jezebel is obvious.”6 But Herodias was not able to do anything because of Herod’s respect for John. He realized that John was just and holy and chose to protect him rather than doing his wife’s bidding. The strange thing is that Herod, despite his sinful relationship with Herodias, gladly listened to John the Baptist for some reason. Perhaps he was being convinced of his sin and need to repent.

    What does it mean?

    This part of the passage shows us that people need to be confronted about their sin. Mark recorded these events to show us how believers should interact with people about their sins against God. John the Baptist confronted Herod (and Herodias) about their adulterous relationship. He told Herod that it was unlawful to have his brother’s wife. This conversation must have been difficult, but it was God’s way of providing sinful Herod and Herodias the opportunity to know the truth and then repent of it. The ultimate goal is for people to know God’s perspective about their sin. When they know about their sin and how it keeps them from having a right relationship with God, they are given the opportunity to change and to be reconciled to Him.

    How does it apply?

    When we talk to people about the Bible, about Jesus, and about faith, we may be tempted to make things easier for them. We could say something like, “Ask Jesus into your life and He will make things so much better.” But is this the message that John the Baptist preached? Is this the message that Jesus preached? Is this the message that the early Christians preached? No, it is not. If we want to be faithful in giving out God’s truth, we must follow in the steps of people like John the Baptist who addressed the sin issue before pointing people to the forgiveness found in Jesus.

    Do you understand that? Here is the problem. Each of us has offended God by our sinfulness. When we lie, steal, lust, hate, and covet, we are going against God’s ways. He hates our sin so much that He will eventually condemn sinners to eternity in the lake of fire. If you don’t address your sin problem, that is where you will eventually end up. And that is why you need to be confronted about your sin. But this is also why you need to learn about Jesus, because He is the only One who can take care of your sins, forgive you, and make you right with God. If you haven’t done so yet, repent of your sins and place your faith in Jesus while you can. The Bible is filled with examples of terribly sinful people who have been reconciled to God when they repented of their sin and put their faith in Jesus. “And such were some of you…” (1 Cor. 6:11).

  3. What Herod did to John (Mark 6:21-29)

    What does it say?

    But there came a day when Herodias had the opportunity to take her revenge against John the Baptist. On his birthday, Herod held a feast for his nobles, upper-level military officers, and the chief men of Galilee. The daughter of Herodias performed a dance in front of these men. Grassmick thinks that her dance was “provocative.”2 Hiebert agrees as “such solo dances were grossly suggestive … comparable to a striptease act in a modern nightclub. They were regularly performed by professional entertainers of low moral character, and it was an almost unprecedented thing for Salome to perform such a dance before Herod’s guests.”7 While this seems shocking to us, we have to remember who Herod Antipas was. He was an adulterous man who had left his wife for another woman. With this in mind, this dance from his step-daughter should not surprise us. Herod and his guests enjoyed the girl’s dance.

    Herod responded to her by offering her anything she wanted up to half his kingdom. Not knowing what to ask for, the daughter consulted with her mother who instructed her to ask for the head of John the Baptist. In other words, she told her daughter to ask for Herod to execute John. The daughter went back to the banquet hall and asked for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. The fact that she asked for his head on a platter seems to indicate that she was as vile a person as her mother was. After hearing her request, King Herod was struck with the foolishness of his offer. He was sorry that he had made her the offer, but because he had sworn to give her whatever she asked and because of the peer-pressure from the people who were sitting around him, he gave in. He sent the executioner to John’s prison cell and had him beheaded. The severed head was then placed on a platter and given to the girl who then gave it to her mother. “One can imagine how Herodias gloated over the gruesome object as she realized those cold lips would never again charge her with adultery or other sins.”9 While Herodias was celebrating her victory over John the Baptist, his disciples came and took away his body and buried it in a tomb.

    What does it mean?

    This part of the passage shows us that people will do anything to cover their sins. Despite his willingness to listen to John, Herod put him in prison because of his adulterous relationship with Herodias. Herodias wanted John the Baptist dead because she loved her sin more than God. Salome, Herodias’ daughter, was willing to follow her mother’s murderous plot because she loved her sinful lifestyle. In each case, the person was willing to do whatever it took to continue their sinful way of life despite the atrocities that needed to be committed. This is ample evidence of what the Bible says elsewhere.

    John 3:19 – “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

    How does it apply?

    What about you? Are you so much better than these people? I don’t mean to infer that you would commit murder to cover your sins. However, there have many people over the years that have gone to great lengths to cover their sins and appease their conscience. Think of King David who tried to cover his adultery and Bathsheba’s pregnancy by bringing her husband home from the war. But when he refused to go home for the night, David decided to plan his death during the next conflict. This terrible story is covered in 2 Samuel 11.

    Have you been attempting to cover your own sin? If so, please note that David was unable to keep God from knowing what had happened. He was later confronted by Nathan the prophet and was judged by God for his sins. You can’t escape God’s judgment by hiding your sin. So don’t even try. Instead, take a moment to allow God to convict you about your sin. As He convicts your conscience, repent of that sin and turn from it to God. This is the only way that you can have God’s forgiveness.

Conclusion

The death of John the Baptist is not an enjoyable story to read. It is gruesome and full of sinful people who were enemies of all that God wanted to do at the time. While their actions removed the person who had confronted them about their sin, their actions did not remove the problem itself. Their sin and its results still remained. Sin is something that has affected many lives over the years. Sins such as adultery, fornication, and drunkenness have torn apart families. But these are not the only ones. Lies, covetousness, theft, hatred, and many more have ruined the lives of many people we know. And these sins still affect people today.

I want to ask you a question. Do you know people who are affected by the sinful choices they are making? If so, do you want them to continue to be hurt by their sins? Do you want them to find God’s forgiveness? Do you want them to know about Jesus and the new life they could have when they repent and believe Him? Then you must be faced with a serious truth. At some point, you need to tell them the sobering truth and confront them about their sin. Their only hope to escape condemnation is knowing the truth. And if you don’t tell them, who will?

Footnotes

1 Grassmick 128.
2 Grassmick 129.
3 McGee 186.
4 Hiebert 162.
5 Hiebert 166.
6 Hiebert 167.
7 Hiebert 168-69.
8 Ironside 92.
9 Ironside 94.

Bibliography

Grassmick, John D., “Mark” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983.

Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. IV, Matthew through Romans, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983.

Ironside, H. A., Mark, Neptune: Loizeaux Brothers, 1969.

Two by Two

When Jesus sent the disciples out to preach, He sent them out in pairs (Mark 6:7-12). As someone who enjoys working by himself, I must admit that I feel more comfortable working alone. However, there must have been a good reason for Jesus to send them out in pairs.

Consider what J. C. Ryle says about this idea.

“There can be no doubt that this fact is meant to teach us the advantages of Christian company to all who work for Christ. The wise man had good reason for saying, ‘Two are better than one.’ (Eccles. iv. 9.) Two men together will do more work than two men singly. They will help one another in judgment, and commit fewer mistakes. They will aid one another in difficulties, and less often fail of success. They will stir one another up when tempted to idleness, and less often relapse into indolence and indifference. They will comfort one another in times of trial, and be less often cast down. ‘Woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.’ (Eccles. iv. 11.) … It is difficult to avoid the conclusion, that if the rule of going forth ‘two and two’ had been more strictly observed, the missionary field would have yielded larger results than it has.”

– J. C. Ryle, Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Volume One, Matthew – Mark, p. 113.

It is definitely something to consider. And as a side note, there is also great benefit to being part of a church family. As we all know, we are commanded not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Heb. 10:25) because we need to be exhorted, challenged, and spurred on toward faithfulness. That is God’s design … and His command. So, let me ask you a question. Will you be with God’s people tomorrow? You are welcome to visit with us.

Mark 3:13-30

When I become a Christian, I was only 19 years old. Although I had grown up in a good home and attended church all my life, I chose to live a worldly life of secret sin. I am so thankful that God chose to pull me away from my sin and save me from Hell. When He saved me, He gave me a new life with new desires. My new desires included wanting to read the Bible and pray. And as I did that a new desire grew in me to find a way to serve the Lord.

Over the years, the Lord gave me opportunities to learn from pastors and Christian teachers who patiently dealt with my quirky personality and impulsive nature. The Lord also gave me opportunities to serve Him in different churches, at Christian camps, and as an evangelist for children. After 34 years, I can look back and smile at how the Lord used me. God is so patient! And so were God’s people.

I was reminded of my own journey as I read the first part of our chapter today. We will begin by looking at how Jesus chose the original twelve disciples. And as we study through the Gospel of Mark, we will see how these men were used by God despite their quirks and sometimes even their bad decisions.

  1. Jesus chooses the twelve disciples (Mark 3:13-19).

    What it says

    After Jesus had healed the sick and cast out demons, he went up on a mountain. Once there, he called4 a number of people whom He wanted as disciples. From this group, He appointed twelve men who were (1) to be with Him, (2) to be sent out to preach, (3) to heal the sick and cast out demons. The names of the twelve are listed in order of importance beginning with Peter and ending with Judas Iscariot who eventually betrayed the Lord. After appointing them, they went into a house together.

    What it means

    Jesus wanted to train others to do the work.

    Peter was the first mentioned and later became the leader of the early church. Jesus’ nickname for him was “Peter, the Greek equivalent of the Aramaic Cephas, which means a ‘stone or rock.’ This probably described his leadership role during Jesus’ ministry and in the early church.”1 He wasn’t the only one and they weren’t the only ones who were used by God in the early Christian church, but they were the first who were trained by and used by Jesus.

    They needed this training because there was a lot they didn’t understand. At one point, when Jesus had been rejected by a community, two disciples suggested calling down fire from heaven to destroy the village. Obviously, they had a lot to learn from Jesus before they were ready to lead the early church and reach the world with the good news of Jesus.

    Jesus wanted to enable others to do the work.

    When Jesus began His ministry, it was a mix of helping people (healing, casting out demons) and preaching repentance and faith. While the disciples could preach, they did not have the ability to miraculously heal people or to command demons to leave a possessed person. But Jesus did and gave these disciples the ability and power to do such things. As they did so, they would be recognized as servants of God and people would listen to what they had to say.

    How it applies

    I still think it is interesting that Jesus would choose to use people instead of doing the work Himself. He could obviously do it better than any of us, and yet He wants to use us. This leads to two questions.

    Do you want to serve the Lord?

    The disciples were used by the Lord during the first century church. But they are long gone and the need is still great. Who will serve the Lord today? Do you have the desire to serve the Lord? Those who are called to serve are Christians (people who have been regenerated by God) and people who are eager and willing to do God’s will. Are you one of these people? If so, you should consider how you can serve the Lord today.

    Are you able to serve the Lord?

    The disciples were not superheroes when Jesus called them. They were people who were not particularly impressive except for one thing. They had been with Jesus. Their time training under Jesus involved watching how He responded to people, how He cared for others, how He spent time in prayer, and how He taught people God’s truth. As they learned from Him, they gained knowledge and experience and were also enabled to do the work. What made them effective was that Jesus enabled them to do the work.

    It may be that you are willing to serve the Lord but are not yet feeling enabled. Who can enable you to do the work of ministry around you? It is God who can enable you. Jesus may not be physically present to train you for ministry, but He has enabled others who can help you.

    Ephesians 4:11-12 – “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

    If you are willing to serve the Lord and are wondering how you can be enabled to do it, think of what this verse says. God gave us the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor teachers to prepare us to do the work of the ministry. One of the ways you can be enabled to do ministry is to attend Sunday School, Sunday services, and prayer meeting. During these services, the Lord will use what you are taught to equip you for serving Him. The you can serve with a better understanding of what God has said and wants to be accomplished.

  2. Jesus refutes a false accusation (Mark 3:20-30).

    Have you ever been falsely accused of something? It may be that you were accused of doing something that you had not done. It isn’t a good feeling, is it? Jesus also went through that. Except what He was accused of was much more serious.

    What it says

    A multitude of people found out where Jesus was and came to see Him. There were so many, that it was impossible even to eat a meal. When his family found out about this, they thought he had become a “mentally unbalanced religious fanatic.”2 Isn’t it interesting how people viewed Jesus’ ministry? To some, He seemed like a weirdo because of His devotion to God’s will. J. Vernon McGee notes that “the musician, the athlete, the businessman, the artist, the statesman who gives himself to his work is recognized for his total devotion. But if a man gives himself in total dedication to the cause of God, he is branded as a fanatic.”3 However, the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem, stated that Jesus was possessed by Beelzebub5 and was casting out demons with Satan’s help. “Instead of recognizing Jesus as the Son of God, the scribes charged that he was the permanent tool of Satan. It was a vicious attack upon His person.”6

    Jesus responded to the scribes in parables. They had attributed his power to Satan but this didn’t make sense. How could Satan cast out himself? How could Satan’s kingdom stand if it was defeating part of its own kingdom? He then used an illustration of someone wanting to plunder a strong man’s house. To do so, you would have to bind the strong man first. Otherwise, it would be impossible. Jesus then made a very clear statement about their accusation. He told them that God will forgive all kind of sins including blasphemies. But if someone blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, he would not be forgiven but would be condemned forever.

    What it means

    Jesus is opposed to Satan and his minions.

    What the scribes were accusing Jesus of was completely false. As you read through the first three chapters of Mark, what do you notice about Jesus and demon-possessed people? You notice that Jesus was opposed to the demons and wanted to free the possessed person from their control. The authority He had over them was not as a general exercises authority over his own soldiers. No, Jesus was God Almighty exerting His authority over His enemies. He even commanded them not to reveal His identity to the world because He wanted no connection between their evil work and Him.

    Jesus is serious about this kind of blasphemy.

    Although Jesus made logical arguments against the scribe’s false accusations, He noted that their sin was unpardonable. What sin had they committed? This is a difficult sin to define. Several commentators say that it wasn’t a particular sin that Jesus referred to but it was the fact that His accusers were hardened beyond the possibility of repentance.8 11 12 While there is evidence for that in other parts of the Bible (the pharaoh during the Exodus), that is not mentioned here. So, we need to look closely at what Jesus says.

    There are two things that Jesus meant to say here.

    First, Jesus stated that all sins will be forgiven by God including blasphemy. Note that when Jesus stated that all sins would be forgiven, it was “not an assertion of universal forgiveness but a declaration that all classes and kinds of sins may be forgiven (with the one exception subsequently stated).”7 By this we understand that God is very merciful. He could hold our sins against us for eternity, but He chooses to grant us forgiveness. That forgiveness is only available because Jesus died in our place on the cross.

    Second, there is a sin that will not be pardoned by God. That sin is what the scribes did here. They saw the Holy Spirit performing miracles through Jesus and still attributed those miracles to the devil. In this case, the unpardonable sin was saying that the works Jesus did were from the devil. This was a bold sin committed by people with hard hearts.

    Consider what one person wrote about this:

    “They had no excuse for such an action. They were not speaking out of ignorance or misunderstanding. The Pharisees knew that Jesus was the Messiah sent by God to save Israel. They knew the prophecies were being fulfilled. They saw Jesus’ wonderful works, and they heard His clear presentation of truth. Yet they deliberately chose to deny the truth and slander the Holy Spirit. Standing before the Light of the World, bathed in His glory, they defiantly closed their eyes and became willfully blind. Jesus pronounced that sin to be unforgivable.”13

    How it applies

    Whose side are you on?

    This section of the chapter shows two types of people. On one hand, there were the people who eagerly listened to Jesus and believed who He was and what He said. These people included the disciples and others who had become convinced as they saw what Jesus did and heard what He said. On the other hand, there were the hard-hearted scribes who were against Jesus. These people came with hardened-hearts and were unmoved by what they saw. They were enemies of Jesus because they were also enemies of God.

    Which side are you on? Have you seen the miracles and heard His teaching and become convinced that Jesus is the Son of God? Then you are headed in the right direction. Keep listening and at the right time God will work in your heart and draw you to Himself. If He is doing that right now, then repent of your sins and place your faith in Jesus. But there was also another group of people in this part of the chapter. Are you like the religious scribes who saw all the evidence in Jesus and rejected Him? Are you still an unbeliever? Have you come to the place where you are willfully rejecting who Jesus is and what He can do for you? Let me say that if this is where you are, you are in a dangerous place. Don’t let your heart become hardened anymore. Turn to the Lord today.

    Have you committed the unpardonable sin?

    It may be that you wonder about your own sins. Have you gotten to the place where God will not forgive your sins? Before you become overly anxious, consider several well-known sinners whom God forgave after committing horrendous sins.

    David – adultery, dishonesty, murder
    Adulterous woman – caught in the act of adultery
    The prodigal son – wasted his money on harlots and wild living
    Peter – cursed and denied Jesus three times
    Paul – persecuted Christians in the early church, part of stoning Stephen to death

    If God could forgive these people who sinned terribly, He can forgive you as well. But it would be good for you to consider these who were not pardoned for their sins. How did they get to the place where they willfully rejected Jesus despite the evidence displayed right in front of their eyes? This happens slowly and surely. When someone rejects what God is showing him, he gets a spiritual callous on his conscience. Then when he continues to sin and rejects the convicting of the Spirit, that callous gets harder. As time goes by, the callous becomes so hard that the person no longer feels bad about his sin and totally rejects God’s Holy Spirit.

    Psalm 95:7-8 – “Today, if you will hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts…”

    Each of us needs to consider our own relationship with God today. I can’t tell where you are in relation to the Lord at this point in your life. But I do know this. If you will listen to what God is saying, there is still hope. Don’t let your heart become hardened to what God is saying. Seek Him today while you can. Repent of your sins and turn to Jesus for forgiveness. It can only come from Him.

Conclusion

In our passage today, we have seen several types of people. First, we saw the disciples whom Jesus called to Himself to train and eventually send out to preach the gospel to many people. Second, we saw curious people who came in large crowds to see Jesus. Not much is said about them except that they came to Jesus and listened to Him. Third, we saw religious scribes who rejected Jesus despite the incredible evidence that He was the Son of God.

Some of you are like the disciples who have been trained to serve the Lord. Let me encourage you to take what you have learned and share it with others. Don’t become complacent. Get up and do something for the Lord. Speak for Him wherever you can.

Some of you may be like the curious crowds who came to see Jesus. You are here listening to this message but have yet to make a choice. Let me encourage you to not put off your decision for long. If God has convicted you of your sin, now is the right time to repent and believe in Jesus.

Some of you may be like the religious scribes. You have already made up your mind that Jesus is not Who He claimed to be. As you have heard the Bible taught today, you have no desire to repent of your sin or to believe Jesus. Be careful. There will come a time when you will regret this. Turn from your sin now and receive God’s mercy before it is too late.

Footnotes

1 Grassmick 116.
2 Grassmick 117.
3 McGee 174.
4 Hiebert 92. “Calleth is middle voice and indicates that Jesus was acting in His own interest.”
5 Hiebert 99. “In the Greek, the name is always Beelzeboul; the familiar ‘Beelzebub’ is from the Vulgate. Some view the name as a derisive corruption of the title of the god of Ekron, Baal-zebub, ‘the lord of the flies,’ to make it mean the lord of dung. More probably it means lord of the dwelling, that is, the dwelling of the evil spirits. This agrees with the reference to ‘the strong man’s house’ in verse 27.”
6 Hiebert 99.
7 Hiebert 101.
8 Hiebert 102.
9 Hiebert 103.
10 Hiebert 104.
11 Ironside 58, 59.
12 Hendriksen 139.
13 GotQuestions.org

Bibliography

Grassmick, John D., “Mark” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983.

Hendriksen, William, Mark, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975.

Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994.

Ironside, H. A., Mark, Neptune: Loizeaux, 1948.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. IV, Matthew through Romans, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983.

“What is the unpardonable sin / unforgivable sin?”, as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=1689 on 9/9/2023.

Does God care about unbelievers?

After becoming a Christian, we cross from darkness into light. We leave the realm of sin and unbelief and enter the realm of repentance and faith. The stark contrast between what we were and what we have become are striking. Now that we are God’s children, we may see ourselves as God’s special people for whom He cares deeply to the exclusion of all others. The Jewish people of Jesus’ day thought this. They enjoyed being God’s special people and thought themselves better than all other people. But was this the case? Or is this the case today? Does God only care about believers?

While God had a special relationship with the Israelites, there are several anomalies which we should investigate. During this study, we will look at several people who could be classified as unbelievers or at least people outside of God’s special attention. After looking at these examples, we will answer our initial question: Does God care about unbelievers?

  1. Did God care for unbelievers in the Old Testament?

    The Book of Genesis traces the godly line from Adam, Seth, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It also covers the ungodly line of Cain before the Flood and the various “other” descendants of Abraham who didn’t follow in his footsteps. While the main focus is on the seed of Abraham, God did have some interactions with a number of people who we would consider unbelievers.

    Cain (Gen. 4:6, 9-15)

    When Cain and Abel brought their offerings to the Lord, only Abel’s was accepted. For an unrevealed reason, God did not respect Cain’s offering. Cain didn’t seem very happy about this and left with an angry countenance. As you know his anger got the best of him and he killed his brother.

    If we only knew that much of the story, we would think that God only cared for Abel and disliked Cain. But that’s not the whole story. God addressed the situation with Cain and offered him a proper reception but also gave him a warning. Did God care about Cain? Yes, God cared enough to address Cain’s problem despite his unbelief.

    Abimelech (Gen. 20:1-7)

    During our adult Sunday School lessons, we have been going through the Book of Genesis. As you may recall, Abraham feared for his life when living in Gerar. Thinking that someone would kill him to take his beautiful wife, he told the lie that she was only his sister. How did that work out? Abimelech, the king of Gerar, took Sarah. What a terrible situation.

    In an interesting turn of events, God appeared to Abimelech in a dream and warned him of his sin. Abimelech pleaded innocence and God acknowledged this. God even revealed that He had kept Abimelech from touching her. He then told him to return Sarah to Abraham so that he could be forgiven. Once again, God showed his care for not only Abraham and Sarah, but also for an unbeliever.

    Joseph’s Pharaoh (Gen. 41:1-8)

    The unbelieving pharaoh of Egypt had two dreams that troubled him. The first involved seven fat cows that were eaten by seven gaunt cows. The second dream involved seven plump heads of grain that were devoured by seven blighted heads of grain. This unbelieving ruler asked his magicians to interpret the dreams but they could not. Eventually, God enabled Joseph to interpret the dreams and warn the Pharaoh about a coming famine.

    What is so interesting about this situation is that God gave the dreams to an unbeliever. Of all the people whom He could have given the dreams, he chose an unbeliever. Why was that? You could say that God was using Pharaoh to accomplish His plan for Israel and that would be true. But could it also be that God was giving Pharaoh an opportunity to know the One, true God?

    Belshazzar’s queen (Dan. 5:10-12)

    Besides Daniel, the main character in the Book of Daniel is Nebuchadnezzar. God got his attention on several occasions and eventually convinced him of his need to submit to God’s sovereignty. But he wasn’t the only unbeliever that God cared for in the book. There was also Belshazzar’s queen. When the supernatural fingers wrote the message of condemnation against the wicked king, the queen took the opportunity to respond. She told him about Daniel “in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God.”

    It would seem that Nebuchadnezzar was not the only one who had been affected by God’s care. The queen, who is only mentioned here in the book, was the silent watcher in the background who saw all that transpired as God was working. This, I believe, is evidence that God cared for this woman from an unbelieving background. And it may also be evidence that she turned from her unbelief to faith in the one, true God.

    Each of these unbelievers experienced something that seems out of place. The Old Testament is usually focused on the history of the Israelites. But if you look closely, you will see that He also cared about people who were outside of Israel. He cared enough to reveal himself to people who beforehand had not believed. Despite their sinful unbelief, God interjected Himself into their lives and gave them a chance to believe.

    Now, if this is true that God cared for unbelievers in the Old Testament, it would seem to be a characteristic that would overflow into the New Testament as well.

  2. Did God care for unbelievers in the New Testament?

    The people we will look at in the New Testament might not be precisely classified as “unbelievers,” but they are people who were outside the normal focus. The initial focus of Jesus and the disciples were the Jewish people. But three people (if not more) were somehow cared for despite not being Jewish.

    Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30)

    When Jesus visited the area of Tyre and Sidon, he tried to get some alone time by entering a house. But it didn’t work. A woman whose daughter was possessed by a demon came and fell down at his feet. She pleaded with Jesus to cast the demon out of her daughter. To this point, this doesn’t sound surprising at all. Jesus healed lots of people. However, this woman was not Jewish. She was a Syro-Phoenician. Jesus, who had come to minister first to the Jewish people, told her it wasn’t right to care for non-Jewish people at that time. But her sweet response won Him over. Because of her response, He told her that the demon had been removed.

    There is something special about this interaction between Jesus and the woman. Their picturesque language and back-and-forth make me smile. But I see this as more than just a feel good story. It is evidence that God cared for unbelievers in the New Testament. I would imagine that this kindness shown to her by Jesus later led this woman (and perhaps her daughter) to place her faith in Jesus.

    Samaritan woman (John 4:1-42)

    The Samaritans were half-Jewish people who were the result of the Assyrian captivity. Although they were half-Jewish, they were viewed as compromisers and unbelievers. This was actually true. Their version of religion was a mixture of truth and error. And because of this, they were shunned by the Jewish people. How strange it must have been for the disciples when they found Jesus talking to the woman at the well. Even she was surprised.

    But Jesus’ interaction with this woman led to her faith and that of many people in Samaria. “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman.” This, I believe, is more evidence that God cares for unbelievers.

    I think you get the point. God not only cared for unbelievers in the Old Testament, but also cared for unbelievers in the New Testament period. It seems to be a characteristic of God. As Jesus said, “God so loved the world.” That world is big and includes people of all types. God cared for all of them.

Conclusion

Did you notice something about each of these people? God cared enough for each of them to interact with them despite their being unbelievers. We Christians often think that God only cares about us. But these examples show us that He cares about people before they believe and even if they do not believe.

Now, let’s take a moment to think about this. Have you always been a Christian? The answer is no. Each of us was an unbeliever at one point until God saved us. So, the truth is that God cared for us when we were unbelievers. Consider what Paul said about this:

Ephesians 2:1-8 – “And you who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Despite our sinfulness and willful rebellion, God loved us. He cared for us when we were believers. And thankfully, He drew us to Jesus and saved us. But this care for unbelievers didn’t end with us. God still cares for unbelievers today. And I would imagine that He is still interacting with them so that they can see His loving care. And all of this has a single purpose. God is caring for people so that they can be saved. And as He does this, He is shown to be the great God who loves people. For this, He deserves our sincerest praise.

Doctrine of the Holy Spirit

As our church works through our doctrinal statement, it has been good to look through what the Bible teaches on each subject. Our most recent section covers a basic understanding of who the Holy Spirit is. While the statement does not cover every mention of the Holy Spirit in the Bible, I think that it is helpful, concise, and biblical.

We believe that the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, is God (Acts 5:3-4) and is co-equal with God the Father and God the Son (Matt. 28:19); that He was active in the creation (Gen. 1:1-3); that He currently restrains lawlessness (2 Thess. 2:7); that He convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-13); that He testifies about Jesus (John 15:26-27; Acts 5:30-32); that He is involved in the New Birth (John 3:5-6); that He seals (Eph. 1:13-14), baptizes (1 Cor. 12:13), indwells (John 14:16-17), guides (Rom. 8:14), teaches (John 16:13), sanctifies (1 Pet. 1:2), intercedes for (Rom. 8:26-27), and equips believers (1 Cor. 12:4–11).

MBU Position Statement on Fundamentalism

While looking at various doctrinal statements, I came across the Position Statements of Maranatha Baptist University. Of interest to me was their statement on fundamentalism and the accompanying statement on separation.

“The Bible faculty are committed to Fundamentalism. The fundamentals of the faith have historically been defined as those beliefs that are necessary to the biblical doctrine of salvation combined with a high doctrine of Scripture, so that we have an inerrant record of those doctrines. Fundamentalism as an idea is absolute allegiance to those doctrines united to a willingness to defend those doctrines and to separate from those who deny or contradict them. Fundamentalism as a modern American movement emerged in the late nineteenth century when theological liberalism began to infiltrate and overwhelm the mainline denominations, and a generation rose up to defend the faith against those onslaughts. The movement has gradually taken shape over the last century as a separatist wing of conservative Christianity, consisting primarily, but not exclusively, of premillennarians and Baptists.

Maranatha’s origin lies squarely within the fundamental Baptist movement. As such, we have self-consciously identified ourselves as a separatist institution serving primarily independent and separatist Baptist churches. We reject the evangelical mindset towards culture and the tendencies to develop strategies for ecumenical evangelism and to cooperate with non-evangelical theologies. We see our mission as a militant defense of the faith once-for-all delivered to the saints. We regard separation from disobedient brethren a sometimes necessary step in order to maintain fidelity to Scripture. In general, we believe that cooperation is possible in proportion to agreement, and separation is necessary in proportion to disagreement. We also reject the attitudes and actions of fundamentalists who elevate tangential and eccentric teachings to the level of the fundamentals of the faith and separate over them. With our fundamentalist forefathers, we believe that unity should be enjoyed when possible, separation practiced when necessary.”

Mother’s Day – 1 Samuel 1

Today we celebrate our mothers. Many of us had the privilege of knowing and growing up under the care of a good mother. She carried us inside her belly for 9 months, fed us, potty-trained us, spanked us, clothed us, and dealt with all of our shenanigans. Despite our best efforts to the contrary, she led us in the way we should go and somehow chose to keep us! So, it is fitting for us to remember and honor our mothers today.

If you were to search for every mention of mother in the Bible, you would come up with a variety of interesting events. In my Bible, I found 306 mentions of the word mother. In the beginning, Adam called his wife Eve because she was the mother of all people. Then there was Sarah who gave birth to Isaac at age 90! Then there was Bathsheba who convinced David to make her son Solomon king. In the New Testament, we read of Jesus’ interesting relationship with his mother Mary. Even while dying on the cross, he put his mother in the care of a close friend.

While there are many stories about mothers in the Bible, the one best remembered is probably the story of Hannah and Samuel. It is the story of a woman with a less than normal family situation, a frustrating desire, and a miracle child. As we look at what happened, you will feel the emotions and see God’s hand at work in the situation.

[Read 1 Samuel 1:1-7.]

  1. Hannah’s odd family situation (1 Sam. 1:1-7)

    Do you ever get the idea that someone else’s family is normal and your own is the weird or troubled one? I suppose that every family has its quirks and probably some secrets as well. Sometimes we think that a godly person must have come from a perfect family where nothing bad ever happened and everyone was perfect examples of faith and propriety. The family situation of Hannah says otherwise.

    a. She was one of two wives (2).

    Imagine what it must have been like to live in such a home. Would you be willing to share a husband with another woman? I think not. It would be a bad situation involving jealousy and mistrust. Not good at all.

    i. This was not God’s plan.

    You only need to go back to Genesis to find God’s perfect plan for marriage. There God gave Adam one woman as his companion not two or three. And from this we learn God’s pattern for marriage: one man and one woman.

    ii. This was not a pattern for happiness.

    Having more than one wife may have seemed like a good idea to Abraham, Jacob, and Solomon, but consider how things turned out for each of them. Abraham added Hagar to give him a son but almost lost his wife. Jacob wanted to marry one but eventually had four women. If you have read the Book of Genesis, you know all of the conflict that resulted from those poor choices. Then there was Solomon who had 300 wives and 700 concubines. Can you imagine that Mother’s Day celebration?

    Like these others, Hannah’s home was not a happy one.

    iii. This was not surprising for the times.

    Being that they lived during the time of the judges, it is not surprising that this was the case. At that time, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25). Does that sound familiar? Perhaps that description could be said of how our current culture operates. And as it was back then, those who stray from God’s blueprint are often frustrated, unfulfilled, and unhappy.

    b. She was unable to have children (2b).

    Many would be mothers struggle with infertility. They have the desire but the desire remains unfulfilled for a variety of unknown reasons.

    i. During this time, children were considered a blessing.

    Have you noticed how angry people are today about “reproductive rights”? Many are angry that the Supreme Court may be overturning Roe vs Wade and making abortion legal. This mindset is at odds with what the Bible says.

    According to Psalm 127:3, “children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” Instead of looking at children as an unwanted obstacle to happiness, we should view them as God does. Children are a blessing given by the Lord.

    This is certainly what Hannah thought about children — especially because she was unable to conceive.

    ii. Note that children are not always part of God’s plan.

    For those who have not been able to have children, keep in mind that God’s plan sometimes is different than what we desire. There are some who never marry. And there are some whom God does not choose to bless with children. It doesn’t mean that you are any less special to God. Instead, His plan for you is just a little different.

    For Hannah, the constant conflict and ridicule from the other woman was more than she could handle. Every day, it was hard for her to get up and smile because the one thing she really wanted was something she could not obtain.

  2. Hannah’s frustrated prayer (1 Sam. 1:8-18)

    [Read 1 Sam. 1:8-18.]

    During the family’s annual visit to the tabernacle, Hannah would weep and pray. Her husband, who loved her more than the other woman, couldn’t understand her emotions.

    a. She was depressed.

    Her husband didn’t know what to do. As is the case with most husbands (or so I have heard), Hannah’s husband was unsure how to help his wife. They had tried to have children but nothing happened. He even asked why she didn’t value him more than ten sons.

    To make matters worse, the other woman provoked her, making things more miserable than they needed to be. You get the idea that she flaunted the fact that she had children and Hannah did not. What a terrible things to do!

    Hannah was quickly sinking into a deep depression that nobody seemed to be able to help.

    What if you were able to talk to Hannah at this point in her life, what would you say? The words of an old song come to mind.

    Are you weary, are you heavy hearted?
    Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus
    Are you grieving over joys departed?
    Tell it to Jesus alone
    Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus
    He is a Friend that’s well known
    You’ve no other such a friend or brother
    Tell it to Jesus alone

    That song has support in the New Testament. Hebrews 4:15-16 reminds us that “we do not have a High Priest [speaking of Jesus] who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

    b. She was distraught (9-11).

    After the meal, Hannah went to the tabernacle to pray. Her emotions were so powerful that she wept in anguish. She was at the breaking point and could find hope in nobody else.

    As she wept, she prayed to the Lord and made a vow. She promised two things. First, if God gave her a male child, she promised to consecrate him to the Lord for life. Second, she would never cut his hair.

    The second part of Hannah’s vow may sound familiar. Like Samson, her son would take the Nazarite vow. This was an outward expression of the person’s consecration to the Lord. Besides not cutting his hair, he would never drink wine or touch a dead body. You can read more about this in Numbers 6:1-21.

    Basically, Hannah made a deal with God that she intended to keep. If he would give her a son, she would dedicate the boy to God’s service for his entire life.

    c. She was accused (12-16).

    Did you notice who was nearby when Hannah arrived at the tabernacle? It was Eli, the high priest, sitting by the doorpost. As he watched her weeping and praying, he got the idea that something was wrong with her. He saw her lips moving but didn’t hear any words. So he assumed that she was drunk.

    Why would the priest think she was drunk? Well, if you read more about Eli you will find that his sons were very wicked. Their evil practices are described in the next chapter. Perhaps his own family experience led him to believe that most people were evil. Or he may have seen many people turn to the bottle to handle their difficulties. Whatever his reasoning, he confronted Hannah and accused her of being intoxicated.

    Hannah quickly denied being drunk and explained her situation. In a play on words, she insisted that she had not been drinking intoxicating beverages, but had been pouring out her heart to the Lord. She explained that her grief had led her to pray fervently to the Lord.

    d. She was comforted (17-18).

    Despite his first impression, Eli quickly changed his tune. He told Hannah that he understood and hoped that the Lord would grant her request. Hannah responded with grace and hurried back to her family.

    If you had been there, you would have noticed a completely different woman. She washed the tears from her face, ate a meal, and skipped down the path like a little girl. Well… we don’t know if that happened, but we do know that she was no longer sad.

    In all reality, Eli hadn’t told Hannah that God would answer her prayer. He only hoped that God would do that. Was Hannah reading into what Eli said? Would her hopes be dashed in the coming days?

  3. Hannah’s happy results (1 Sam. 1:19-20)

    [Read 1 Sam. 1:19-20.]

    a. She worshiped the Lord (19).

    When you have prayed to the Lord and been encouraged that He will answer your prayer, what has been your response? Hannah’s response was to rise the next day and worship the Lord.

    This parallels what God tells us in Philippians 4:6-7:

    “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

    Hannah’s hope in God’s provision had taken away her tears and replaced them with a calm assurance in God’s goodness for her and the future.

    b. She had a baby boy (20).

    Not long after this trip to Shiloh, Hannah became pregnant and had a little boy. How happy she must have been! In thanks to God for answering her prayer, she named him Samuel.

    Samuel (sometimes spelled Samual) is a male given name and a surname of Hebrew origin meaning either “name of God” or “God heard” (שם האלוהים Shem HaElohim) (שמע אלוהים Sh’ma Elohim).”

    It seems that the latter meaning fits best for Hannah’s situation. She had taken her grief to the Lord and was heard.

    c. She gave him to the Lord (21-28).

    [Read 1 Sam. 1:21-28.]

    Can you imagine how Hannah felt after God answered her prayer? The Lord had given her a son but she had promised to give this boy to the Lord. What a conflict of interest! So what should she do?

    After talking things over with her husband, they decided to keep the child until he was weaned and then fulfill her vow. When the boy had been potty-trained and was able to eat regular food (probably 3 years old, BKCOT 434), she made the journey to Shiloh and presented him to Eli the priest.

    When she arrived, she reminded Eli who she was and what had happened several years earlier. She praised God for answer her prayer and explained that she had promised to lend him to the Lord for life.

    Wouldn’t you like to have been there when this happened? All of the women would have been crying and hugging Hannah. All of the men would be scratching their heads and wondering what old Eli was going to do with a little boy in the tabernacle!

    The next chapter reveals that Hannah didn’t stop being a mother to little Samuel. She visited him and brought him a new outfit every year but she kept her promise to the Lord. And because of her willingness to keep her promise, the Lord blessed her with three more sons and two daughters.

Conclusion

Today’s message from God’s Word is heart-warming. We like to see how things turned out for Hannah and her little boy Samuel. But as we read this true story in the Bible, what lesson should we take with us?

1. God can overcome your bad family situation.

If you were to read about Samuel’s future ministry and not know about his family situation, you would think he had come from a godly home with no issues. But that was far from the case, his dad had two wives and his mom didn’t get along with the other woman. It wasn’t the perfect situation, but God chose to bring Samuel into that situation and used him despite of it.

Do you think God could use you despite your family background? We know that God can do anything but often think that we are limited by our upbringing. What if my parents got a divorce when I was younger? What if my dad beat me when he was drunk? What if my family situation contains things I can’t talk about? Could God still use me? The answer is yes. Remember, “with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).

2. God cares for you.

Do you recall how bad Hannah felt while she was childless? Her depression was deep. Her grief was great. Her hopelessness was growing. And yet God was always there.

Sometimes our emotions get the best of us. We think that we are alone and without hope. But is this really the case? Does God leave us to suffer in our situation without showing any interest in our case? I would say no.

Consider what Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:7. There he says that we should be “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” Do you believe that to be true? I think that most of us understand the first part but don’t accept the second. Our circumstances often cloud the truth that God wants us to know.

Today, know that God does care for each of His children. He cares about you and wants you to take all of those burdens that have been pressing down on your shoulders and lay them at his feet. When you do that, believing that He actually does care for you, you will find the peace that only He can give.

It worked for Hannah and it will work for you.

Bibliography

David Erdmann, Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Vol. 3 Samuel-Kings, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1960, reprint 1980, 47-53.

“Samuel (name)” as viewed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_(name) on 5/7/2022.

Eugene H. Merrill, “1 Samuel” in Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1989, 433-34.

Angelic Warfare

Have you ever wondered why certain national leaders have taken such wicked or cruel actions? Think about the Egyptian pharaohs during Moses’ time, Jezabel, Manasseh, Stalin, and Hitler. Each of them chose to kill many people and seemingly with no good explanation for their actions. What caused them to go to such extreme steps?

Daniel 10 gives insight into what is happening in the spiritual realm. Angels are fighting other angels as they seek to influence nations in either a good or bad direction. The following quotation is a good summary of what is happening.

“Although the entire subject of the unseen struggle between the holy angels and the fallen angels is not clearly revealed in the Scriptures, from the rare glimpses which are afforded, as in this instance, it is plain that behind the political and social conditions of the world there is angelic influence—good on the part of the holy angels, evil on the part of the angels under satanic control. This is the struggle to which Paul referred in Ephesians 6:10-18.”

John Walvoord in Daniel The Key to Prophetic Revelation, Chicago: Moody, 1971, 247.

He Shall Save His People from their Sins

During Christmas, we often read Matthew 1:21 and consider the reason why Jesus was born. The angel said, “He will save His people from their sins.” We have already learned that “His people” refers to all Jews and Gentiles who received Jesus as opposed to just the Jewish people. We have also already learned that Jesus saves us from not only the eternal consequences of our sins but also the current problem of sin’s control over our lives.

However, we have pretty much only looked at the principle as opposed to specific evidence in the Bible that shows what Jesus did. Were there people in NT Bible times whose lives were set free from the power of sin both current and future? I can think of several examples.

1. The paralyzed man (Luke 5:17-25)

   a. Jesus forgave him (20).
   b. Jesus proved he could forgive by healing him (21-24).
   c. The paralyzed man was healed and forgiven (25).

2. Zachaeus (Luke 19:1-10)

   a. He was known to be a sinner (7).
   b. He was repentant after meeting with Jesus (8).
   c. Jesus saved him (9-10).

3. The woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-12)

   a. The woman was caught in the act (3-4).
   b. Jesus knew about ALL of them (7-9).
   c. Jesus gave the woman a second chance (10-11).
   d. Jesus gave the woman a light to follow (12).

4. The thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43)

   a. The first thief mocked Jesus (39).
   b. The second thief recognized his guilt (40-41).
   c. The second thief asked for mercy (42).
   d. Jesus promised him paradise (43).

Conclusion

In each of these examples, the person whom Jesus met had a sin problem.

  • The paralyzed man needed to be forgiven.
  • Zachaeus needed to leave his sinful lifestyle.
  • The adulterous woman needed to be freed from her sin.
  • The thief on the cross needed mercy.

In each of these examples, Jesus (who is the Savior) saved the person from sin.

  • The paralyzed man lived a joyful life both healed and forgiven by God.
  • Zachaeus lived a joyful life, repaid those he wronged, and left his sin.
  • The adulterous woman was given a second chance to leave her sin.
  • The thief on the cross repented of his sin and found paradise.

Just as Isaiah 7:14 was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, so Matthew 1:21 was fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus. He saved these people from their current sin problem and gave them hope for eternity as well.

Today, we know many people who do not know the Lord. They, like us, have a sin problem that cannot be helped with money, pleasure, alcohol, or drugs. While they may look good on the outside, deep down they have a problem that can only be solved by Jesus. They need to know what Jesus can do for them. Will you tell them about the Savior who saves people from their sins?