Monday, November 30, 2009

Trinity - 1 Peter 3:18b-20a Part 1

He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. (NIV)

I had to take the last part of verse 18 and the first of 20 to get one whole sentence. This last paragraph in Chapter three is very interesting because of the many different subjects that I can think about. For instance, I mentioned the trinity in my last writing and commented that Jesus is God. Since it was not the main topic, I didn’t pursue it further. However, I have studied it quite thoroughly and can with all convection say that Jesus is indeed the Almighty God. Christmas time is approaching and one of the reminders of Jesus being God is found every Christmas. Isa 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (NIV) The triune nature of God is clearly seen in this passage. The son is called the wonderful counselor, who is the Holy Spirit. He is called the Mighty God and Everlasting Father. Now who else can that be other than God the Father? He is called Prince of Peace – the son.

What did Jesus have to say of Himself? John 10:30 “I and the Father are one." (NIV) Did Jesus mean that He is one only in purpose (as some claim) or did He mean more when He said that? Let the people who heard Him explain what He meant. John 10:33 "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God." (NIV) The Jews new exactly what Jesus meant. Now if I made a statement like that and someone misunderstood me, I would quickly clarify that they misunderstood and there would be no problem. Did Jesus try to correct their misunderstanding? Not at all. Read the next few verses and you will see that they still tried to kill Him.

Still skeptical about the fact that Jesus claimed to be God? How about John 8:58-59 "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. (NIV) Jesus used the words “I am” to convey clearly that He is God and that He has always existed as God, even before Abraham was born. Again, the Jews, who knew exactly what he meant, tried to stone Him for these comments.

Jesus made it clear that God is the only one to be worshiped. Matt 4:10 Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" (NIV) I would think it strange that Jesus would say this then later accept worship if He were not God. Matt 28:9 Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. (NIV) Did Jesus rebuke these women for worshiping Him? Not at all. When Thomas called Jesus his Lord and God in John 20:28, did Jesus correct him? Not at all. Did Thomas say God but not mean the Almighty God? There is nothing in the passage or the original language that suggests anything else, contrary to what some would say.

If Jesus were not God, then He has committed a sin that is the same that caused Satan’s downfall. He has accepted worship and called Himself God. What happened to Herod when he let people simply call him a god? Acts 12:21-23 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man." Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. (NIV). How much more would God not approve of someone who claimed to be God and accepted worship.

One thing is for sure, if Jesus were not God but claimed to be God, if He were not God and accepted worship, the resurrection would have never happened. Jesus would have died for His own sins and His death on the cross would have no meaning for me or anyone else. His disciples would have disbanded and the name of Jesus would only be a minor blip in history. However, over and over in the Bible, Jesus is upheld as sinless. His sinless death bought my redemption. If He were sinful then His death could not purchase my pardon. He is upheld as God by Christians around the world in spite of those who would try to minimize Him and thus play into Satan’s hands. You see, if you believe that Jesus is not God then you believe in a Jesus who is not able to save you from your sins. If you are not saved from your sins then there is only one eternal outcome and that isn’t good.

Either Jesus has to be God or He has to be a blasphemer or a lunatic. If He was either of the latter two then there is no way He should be followed just as Jim Jones and other lunatic cult leaders should not be followed let alone worshiped. On the other hand, if He is God, then I need to bow down and worship Him along with those through history who have affirmed that He is God and that there is no other name under heaven by which I can be saved (Acts 4:12.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Once for All – 1 Peter 3:18

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; (RSV)

Jesus died once for all and that includes me. I think this is one of the greatest statements in the Bible. It is used six other times to explain that Jesus died only once and that His onetime death was a sacrifice for all of my sins. His onetime shedding of His blood was sufficient to provide me with eternal redemption. His sacrifice has done away with sin once for all meaning that it works forward in time from His death as well as backward. He doesn’t have to die each day to cover my sins committed from one day to the next. His onetime death is able to cleanse my conscience from guilt because that death is able to make me holy. See Romans 6:10, Heb 7:27, 9:12, 9:26, 10:2, and 10:10.

You will note that I used the words “is able” a couple of times. I used those words because not everyone is cleansed from guilt, given eternal life, or made holy. Only those who accept this and turn to Jesus in repentance of their sins will have this. God didn’t automatically forgive everyone on the earth when He accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for sin. Just like the people in the O.T. who had to come before God and lay their hands on the goat or lamb that was about to be slaughtered and confess their sins, so I also had to do that in a symbolic way. I couldn’t physically put my hands on Jesus’ head and transfer my sins to Him in the same symbolic way. So God had to do that. 2 Cor 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (NIV) However, it wasn’t until I confessed my sin and turned from it that I could claim to be forgiven and obtain the righteousness that He provided.

Being made holy or righteous must sound really radical, weird, arrogant, and or cultish to someone who hasn’t turned to Jesus. Yes, Jesus has made me holy. It isn’t as if I’ve achieved perfection or even claim to be perfect though. His declaration that I’m holy simply means I’m forgiven and when I stand before God, Jesus’ holiness will be seen and not mine. It also means that from now on, I’m being made holy – day by day I’m getting cleaned up, one sinful habit and slipup after another. It’s a lifetime endeavor and won’t be completed until I reach heaven.

Before I came to know Jesus, I believed that the whole death and resurrection of Jesus was an elaborate hoax. I knew all the theories that people have used to try to explain why He either didn’t really die or that He didn’t really raise from the dead. A careful reading of the Gospels reprove each of the theories.

He didn’t really die. Hogwash! He was scourged and many people died during that ordeal. He was almost at the point of death and then nailed to the cross. Witnesses saw Him die. The Roman soldiers, who were experts at crucifying people, testified that He was dead. The blood and water that poured from His side proved that He was already dead because it showed that His blood had already separated into components. Joseph and Nicodemus took His body and wrapped it in 75 pounds of spices and cloth. Can you imagine that Jesus could have survived that? Can you imagine two of His followers doing that if He were still alive?

He wasn’t raised but His body was stolen by His disciples. Yeah, sure, if you believe that, I have a bridge I want to sell you. You really expect that His wimpy disciples who ran away when Jesus was arrested would mount an attack on the Roman guards? These guards lost a body; by Roman custom, they should have been executed for failure to carry out a simple mission. Why weren’t they? There is only one explanation. Matt 28:12-15 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day. (NIV) By the way, Roman guards don’t fall asleep while on duty – another possible death sentence. The guards had the money to escape punishment and the story is still being told to our generation as well.

Some complain and say that if Jesus was God and God died then how can He raise Himself? The verse today says that He was made alive by the Spirit. So the whole Trinity thing comes into play here. Do I understand how God can be three Persons in one God? No, not really. I simply have to go on the fact that Jesus said He was God, that the Spirit is mentioned throughout the Bible, O.T. and N.T. As early as Gen 1:26 and 11:7, God revealed His triune nature when He said “Let Us.” Since we can’t really understand God, we have to take it on faith that He is triune, that He could empty Himself of His God nature and become a man (Phil 2:6-7.) If He can do that, then Jesus could really die and the Spirit could make Him alive again.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Hope That I Have – 1 Peter 3:13-18

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (NIV)

Peter knew full well that Christians were being harmed for no reason. They were trying to do good, yet they were being persecuted. It is still happening today as it has always been. David ran into this problem .Ps 38:20 Those who repay my good with evil slander me when I pursue what is good. (NIV) Jesus warned us that it would happen to us simply because we belong to Him. John 15:18 "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (RSV) The main reason is that when we do good, it reminds others that they are not a right standing with God and therefore want to remove anything that convicts them of that. John 15:22-23 “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father also.” (RSV)

I realize how intolerant it is to tell someone or even show someone the errors of their ways. Today, everything is a matter of one’s own judgment. Therefore I deserve to be ostracized or even worse if I point out that certain behavior is actually wrong based on an absolute standard that is not within my own judgment, i.e. God’s. However, isn’t that being intolerant of my belief? The only way I can suffer for what is right and know that I’m doing right is to have a standard that supersedes what others believe to be right based on their own desires and dreams.

What do “they” fear? Most people fear death more than anything else. That is most often the threat of severe persecutors. They believe that under the threat of death, Christians will recant their faith. It burns them to no end when it doesn’t work. It only makes them madder and they often carry out their threats.

How can I not be frightened under those circumstances? By setting apart Christ as Lord in my heart. If I really believe Him, then death is not the worst thing that can happen to me. Rev 1:17-18 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (NIV) When I belong to Jesus, I am promised eternal life. Jesus rose from the dead and defeated death. He now holds the key to death so that when I die, I’ll be brought into his eternal life and live with Him forever. With that view, the threats to succumb to the world’s standards of right and wrong are pure foolishness. The temptations to live life for today and worldly pleasures are overcome by the knowledge that something far better awaits me.

This is the hope that I have. The tough part is letting others know about it with humility and respect. I’ve been accused of being arrogant because I know where I’m going and most people don’t think anyone can know that. But that is what God’s Word tells me. 1 John 5:13 I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. (RSV)

Sometimes I just want to thump a person on the head and yell, “Wake up!” (Not very respectful.) Many people have their own ideas of who God is. Their ideas are based on their own wishful thinking. They somehow think that thinks and acts just like they do so they do as they please. Ps 50:21 These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face. (NIV) Even though God will rebuke and punish them for those ideas and actions, they think it is totally wrong for me to warn them. They’ve heard that Jesus is only one way and they don’t like it. The excuses are plentiful – everything from thinking that Jesus didn’t really mean that, to simply ignoring it and saying that they believe there are many roads to heaven. Don’t they know that there are many roads to hell and only one to heaven? They have the same excuses for ignoring that as well.

So they slander Christians as being intolerant among other things. However, they will still see the good things I do and realize that they are wrong even if they don’t want to admit it.

Yeah, there are some who call themselves Christians and do some pretty horrific things. They will suffer for their wrongs, sooner or later. Some claim to be martyrs but the truth is, they are getting what they deserve. But that’s not where I want to be and it isn’t where God wants me to be.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Clean Heart – 1 Peter 3:10-12

For, "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." (NIV )

Deut 32:46-47 speaks of the very words that God gave to the Israelites just before they entered the Promised Land. He said that if they took His words to heart and taught them to their children, they would enjoy long life. He said that the words were not idle but were their life. Do I treat God’s Word as my life? Is it the most important part of my life? If so then I will be diligent to teach my children. My kids are grown and I have grandchildren. I tried to teach them as they grew up and now they are doing the same with their kids. That is a joy to see.

Part of taking God’s words to heart includes keeping my tongue from evil and deceitful speech. Peter is quoting Psalm 34:12-16. In it, God has given us a very simple formula for living a good life. The first part involves the heart and mind. Jesus said in Matt 15:18-20 that what comes out of my mounth reveals what is in my heart. If my heart is harboring evil, then I will naturally speak evil. I won’t be able to stop it. I may, by the will of my own being, attempt to keep my speech clean and even succeed, however it will sneak out at the least opportune time. The only way to resolve that problem is to ask God for a clean heart.

Ps 51:10-12 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (RSV) The only way to have a clean mouth is to have a clean heart and mind. With the power of His Holy Spirit, I can speak in the way He wants. I can build others up according to their needs and not tear them down. (Eph 4:29)

The second part of taking God’s word to heart is to put them into practice. It doesn’t do any good to conform to correct speech without physically following through. “Put your money where your mouth is.” If I say the right things, but by my actions, convey a different attitude, then my heart hasn’t really been cleansed by God. I haven’t submitted to Him if I don’t actually do what He says. James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (NIV) I can actually listen to God’s word and deceive myself by thinking that by simply knowing His Word, it is going to save me.

God listens to me when I have actually submitted to Him and have a clean heart. Does that mean that He gives me everything I want in prayer? No, it means that He works everything for my good (Rom 8:28) even the bad things that happen. I can’t toss all the other verses in 1st Peter and assume that everything is going to be roses all the time. However, I can rest assured that the God of the universe, the Creator of all things, He who controls all things has my best interests at heart. I may not see the results until I reach heaven, but I know that it will all make sense then.

This same God and Father who loves me has not promised good for those who do not love Him. The Psalm says quite the opposite. His face is against the unrighteous. In fact the Bible says a lot about the outcome of those who do not love God. Heb 10:31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (NIV)

There is a simple test to determine if I really love God. John 14:21 “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." (NIV) So what are these commands that Jesus says I need to obey? 1 John 4:20-21 If any one says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also. (RSV)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Harmony 1 Peter 3:8-9

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (NIV)

It seems quite simple and straightforward to me. The commands are clear and easy to understand. At the beginning of the verses are the ways I should act towards other. It is followed by how I should respond to people who don’t follow these rules. Then there is the reward for doing it. Ok, next blog. Well, maybe not. If it were that easy, I’m sure there would be less conflict in churches and the world in general. Doing these things is a lot harder than knowing that I should do them.

Rom 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. (NIV) I need to address pride and conceit in myself if I actually want to be able to live in harmony. I can’t be proud. I looked this up in the dictionary and it didn’t sound so bad. (Feeling pleased and satisfied, e.g. about having done something or about owning something.) Hmmm, shouldn’t I feel good about getting something done? That doesn’t sound so bad. However, I can see that pride of ownership can cause problems, especially when it makes others who don’t have the same things feel out of place or inferior. That’s a good one to work on. I don’t’ want to let my possessions cause others to be intimidated or feel that I think less of them.

Another definition of proud is arrogant (having an exaggerated opinion of personal worth or abilities.) Other versions of the Bible use the word haughty instead of proud. It comes from the Greek word is hupselos (hoop-say-los') which means loft (in place or character.) That seems to fit better, especially in context with the part about being willing to associate with people of low position. I don’t want to appear to be above them. Shoot, I don’t even want to think that I am above others. Romans 12:3 says that I should not think of myself more highly than I ought. Remembering that it is only by the blood of Jesus that I’m in God’s grace and not because of my own worth is a good way to help me from being proud, arrogant, or haughty.

It is also good to acknowledging God’s sovereignty. I didn’t choose where I was born, who my parents were, or any of my natural abilities. I remember talking to a man who was offended that I suggested that he wasn’t in control of his life. He assured me that he had worked hard for his wonderful house, job, education, and everything that he had. When I asked him if he chose where he was born or that he was born to white middle class parents, he essentially asked what that had to do with anything. He didn’t get it. Lord, help me to always acknowledge that everything I am and that I have comes from You!

Don’t repay evil for evil, etc. I think I’ve already gone over that. If not, well this proverb says a lot. Prov 19:11 A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. (NIV) If I don’t overlook offenses, I’m pretty stupid. I want to do what pleases God and He says that I’ll be rewarded when I overlook offences. It takes patience to do that and that shows my wisdom or lack of it when I lose it. It’s hard, in the middle of a life situation, to keep my mouth from blurting out hurtful things before I think about them. That’s why it takes practice to hold my tongue. Ps 141:3 Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips! (RSV) It also takes a dependence on the Holy Spirit.

Having the right attitude toward others and not seeking revenge will provide for me an inheritance that won’t fade or spoil. These are the treasures that I can store up in heaven.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Husband – Wife Relationship – 1 Peter 3:1-7

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. And let not your adornment be merely external — braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.

You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (NASB)

I wonder why Peter devoted six verses to wives and only one to husbands. My first thought is that he had to educate women about how dense guys are. Men, with their caveman mentality and different biological makeup, are very externally stimulated and need to see more than the external if they are going to be obedient to the Word.

I’ve seen some sects that take these verses to mean that women shouldn’t do any of the things mentioned. The verses make no prohibition against outward adornment, but instead, point out that inward beauty will not only help improve their husband but is what pleases God.

The way the world is going now, guys have the same problem. Most think they have to be some kind of macho dude to get the chicks. However, if I develop character that pleases God, I will attract and have a spouse that has the same character. I hope that my character pleases God, as I can testify that my wife attracted me with her hidden person of the heart before we were married.

I’ll let a woman talk about what it means to be submissive to her husband. I need to concentrate on what I should be as a husband and leave that up to my wife. These verses make it clear that I need to understand my wife. I need to make every effort to know what she likes and dislikes. I need to know how to speak to her so that she knows I love her and want the very best for her. I need to treat her with respect and gentleness. Men don’t know their own strength and how easy it is to hurt their wives physically. Neither do they know how easy it is to hurt them emotionally. Then there are some jerks that take the submissive thing to the point that they want to control their wives, physically and emotionally. There is no room for that in the Christian walk. Peter warns me that my prayers will be hindered if I’m not treating my wife the way I should.

Eph 5:25-33 has the most comprehensive prescription for being a husband. A few points from those verses make it impossible to be perfect husband. There is no way I can love my wife with the same unconditional, unselfish love that Jesus has for us. That doesn’t mean I don’t try.

I’m to protect her purity. That means I have to be pure and stay away from any kind of pornography, sexual deviation, greed, idolatry, or any other sin.

Paul says that no one hates is own body but loves it. Some may argue that, especially with the high suicide rate, but even there, a person is trying to do what they think is best for their body by escaping from the torment or pain they are going through. Regardless, Paul is using this to make sure that I know that I need to give my wife the same attention that I give myself.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What Does “Thou shalt not kill” Mean?

To answer the question about the meaning of any word in the Bible, I have to apply some logic. The first step of logic is to view the word in context with the verses around it. The next is to study it in relation to the rest of the Bible. If my interpretation contradicts other passages, then I may very well have the wrong meaning. I can also view the word in context of the society to which it was addressed; in other words, I try to determine what the original readers thought it meant. I can also look at more modern translations of the Bible. The King James Version was written so that commoners could understand it in 1604. Since then, the English language and the meaning of many words have changed. Modern translations also do a much better job examining the original languages and culture.

When I look at Exodus 20:10 in several newer translations, they all use the word “murder” and not “kill.” I think they are correct because of the immediate context of the other verses. Exodus 10:2-17 comprise the text of the Ten Commandments. The first four are commands regarding our relationship to God. The last six are commands regarding our relationships with each other.

Since these are commands regarding people, I can immediately eliminate the possibility that the command is telling me I shouldn’t kill animals. This agrees with Gen 9:2-3. The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. (NIV) If you think that God had changed the rules in the N.T., then you can look at Acts 10:11-13. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." (NIV)

Eliminating one possibility leaves only one option and that the command is a prohibition against killing people. Does this mean that there are no circumstances when I am allowed to kill another or does it relate specifically to murder as the modern translations indicate? Again, I’ll look to other Scripture to see what it says.

Num 35:16-20 “'If a man strikes someone with an iron object so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. Or if anyone has a stone in his hand that could kill, and he strikes someone so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. Or if anyone has a wooden object in his hand that could kill, and he hits someone so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death; when he meets him, he shall put him to death. (NIV)

The Hebrew word for murder used in this verse is ratsach (raw-tsakh'.) It is the same word as used in Exodus 20:13. If you read the verses around Numbers 35:16-20 you will get a clear indication of the meaning of the word murder. It includes the motives of malice and hostility. Finally, there is not a prohibition against all killing. The “avenger of blood” (usually a close relative of the victim) not only was permitted to kill the murder, but it was his duty. The remaining verses around these talked about the cities of refuge where an accused killer could run, face a trial, and be protection if he was innocent.

Does the N.T. change things? Romans 13:1-4 make it clear that the government is responsible for the punishment of wrongdoers. Does it include capital punishment? Yes, it may, depending on the government. That is, if the government is going to use the principals found in the O.T.

I find three reasons for capital punishment in the O.T. The first is spiritual. Num 35:33-34 “So you shall not pollute the land in which you are; for blood pollutes the land and no expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it. And you shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the Lord am dwelling in the midst of the sons of Israel.” (NASB) God lives in the land. He is among us and it ticks Him off when someone murders another person. In a spiritual sense, if the government doesn’t do something about the murder, then everyone is polluted by that crime. God says that there is no expiation, or no way to make amends except by the death of the murder.

This leads right into the practical reasons for the death penalty. Ten times in the NIV translation the phrase “You must purge the evil from among you (or Israel.)” is used as the reason for the death penalty. The most practical reason is that there is absolutely no opportunity for the person to commit another crime. You can look up the verses and see that there were quite a few crimes, some of which we wouldn’t even consider as a capital crime today. (Deut 13:4, 17:7, 17:12, 19:19, 21:21, 22:21, 22;22, 22:24, 24:7, and Judges 20:13) I think the point is clear, when the government decides that a crime is so repugnant that it deserves death, then that criminal never has a chance of repeating it.

Deut 21:21 provides the last reason for capital punishment. Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid. (NIV) People argue that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent to crime. As far as I’m concerned, if God said it was, then it is.

Now I don’t want to put myself in the place of government and make the decisions of which crimes are punishable by death. If I were to go through all ten verses above and comment on them, I feel I would never finish this article. Do I have to agree with my government when it pronounces death for someone because they changed their faith as example? No, I don’t. The same applies to war. I have to obey my government when it goes to war. Do I unconditionally support my government when that war is unjust or the consequences of continued action no longer achieve the original purpose? No I don’t. In a previous blog, I talked about when it is right to disobey your government so enough said for now.

Finally, I need to address Jesus’ view of killing. I’m going to back into this with an example. John 8:10-11 Jesus looked up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again." (RSV) According to the O.T. commands given above, this woman deserved to be stoned for adultery. If Jesus wanted me to continue to follow the O.T. law, He would have let the people stone her. However, Jesus came to fulfill the law. Matt 5:17-18 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (NIV) There is a big difference between abolishing the law and fulfilling it. If Jesus wanted to abolish it, then He would have said that it was ok to commit adultery. Instead, He acknowledged her sin but fulfilled the law by giving her mercy and another chance. Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the law because He took my sin upon Himself so that I can receive mercy from God. This encounter with the woman was a preview of what He was going to do for all of us.

Regarding killing, Jesus had some choice words about it. Matt 5:21-22 "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire.” (RSV) Jesus cut past the action of murder or killing to the matter of the heart. If I’m angry with another person, I am no different from a murderer. I have committed murder in my heart and I stand condemned. If there is any doubt about what condemned means, Jesus added that little bit about the fires of hell. He is talking about eternal condemnation, not the death penalty.

In thepassages that follow, Jesus expands on the meaning of some of the other Jewish laws and traditions. He boiled adultery down to simply lusting after another person. I’m guilty again. He said that I must love my enemy and pray for anyone who persecutes me instead of hating them. Jesus was making it perfectly clear that there is no way that I can possibly meet the strict requirement of the law.

The question now is not “What does ‘thou shalt not kill’ mean?” It is now, knowing that I am a murder, what can I do to escape the just punishment of God? It is simple, yet profound. I admit that I am a murder, thief, liar, and many more things, any one of which is punishable by eternal hell fire. I believe that Jesus, when He died on the cross, paid the penalty for all my sins and those of the whole world. I accept, by faith, that free gift of eternal life. I prove my faith by repenting (changing my mind about how good I am and agreeing with God that I’m not) and surrender myself to Jesus to do as He wants with me. That mean He is my Lord and I will obey Him.

In prayer I have asked Him to forgive me and take over my life. When I did that, many years ago, He changed me so that my desires changed. I haven’t lived perfectly and have even hated and lusted since then. However, I come back to Him and slowly but surely He keeps on changing me. Will I fail Him again? Probably. Do I want to fail Him? Absolutely not. This I know, I am forgiven and I will be with Him forever should I die or He comes back before then.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Taking a Break

I'm taking a break from 1st Peter to do an extesive article on the meaning of "kill" as in "Thou shalt not kill." This may take a while.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

He Died For Me – 1 Peter 2:24-25

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. (RSV)

What did Jesus’ suffering accomplish? When Jesus died on the cross (the tree,) He fulfilled the requirement of the Law as a payment for sin. Deut 21:22-23 If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. (NIV) Jesus took the curse of God’s wrath upon sin on Himself. Over and over, it has been emphasized in the N.T. that Jesus was not guilty of any sin, yet He was executed. On the cross Jesus called out asking why the Father had forsaken Him indicating that God’s wrath was truly on Him. If Jesus were not guilty, then why would the Father abandon Him? The answer can only be that my sin was placed on Him. 2 Cor 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (RSV)

How do I know that Jesus took my sin and that it was a satisfactory substitution for my death? I believe that the resurrection of Jesus proves that. Jesus made many statements about eternal life and that it only comes through Him. John 5:24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." (RSV) Remember, if Jesus had committed only one sin, then His death would have been the payment only for His own sin. He would not be able to pay for mine. If either of these two statements that Jesus made are false, then He was a liar and could not possibly pay for my sin. Since God did raise Jesus from the dead, it proves that everything Jesus said is true. It proves that He and only He gives me eternal life so that I can go to the Father also.

If there were any other way for me to get eternal life, then Jesus’ death was a waste. Paul says in Gal 3:21b-22 For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. (NIV) He affirms, with Peter, that I am a sinner.

I went astray and now have come to Jesus, the Sheppard and Guardian of my soul. He who has saved me will guard me and keep me safe until that day He escorts me into the presence of the Father.

When Peter was writing these two short verses, He was either quoting from the O.T. or had it in mind. Read Isaiah 53: 4, 5, and 11. These verses are a vivid prediction of Jesus’ suffering and atonement for my sin.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Called to Be Like Jesus – 1 Peter 2:21-23

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (NIV)

This is a continuation of the same thought as my previous blog – suffering for doing right, not wrong. Obviously, Jesus is the prime example of suffering. I took a quick review of Jesus’ “trial” and execution in John 18:19 – 20:30. It doesn’t have all the details but it brings out enough to substantiate what Peter wrote.

I don’t know if I would be able to be as trusting as Jesus was if I were thrown in prison then beaten for my faith. I’m pretty sure I would yell and scream at the beatings. I would make every effort to escape but not by denying to know Jesus. However, I have made up my mind that I would not seek my own revenge – I would not retaliate. I’m sure that if by some chance I had to stand trial or was asked to testify against my persecutors, I would tell the truth and not hold it back in order to appear meek and humble. I don’t think that this is what Jesus would want nor is it what Peter was advocating.

There are many examples in the Gospels where Jesus went head to head with those that wanted to kill Him. Sometimes He answered them with parables as in Matt 21:23-46. Sometimes He answered with Scriptural logic as in John 8:31-59 which ended when Jesus made an unmistakable claim to be God. As a result, His enemies started to stone Him. In that instance, He slipped away before they could harm Him. In Matt 12:24-45 Jesus even called His detractors a brood of vipers and a wicked and adulterous generation. This doesn’t seem to fit the mild, meek Jesus who Peter was describing. He even chased the merchants with evil intent from the temple with a whip. However, He never took up a sword to kill. He never resorted to physical violence to advance His cause or protect Himself or His disciples.

I think that Peter was viewing the situation from the perspective that Jesus described in Matt 10:18-20 “On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (NIV) If I entrust myself to the Lord, then I can be confident that He will give the right words and the right actions when the time comes. If I do not trust Him, then I am very likely to be a bad witness for Jesus. It is very likely that I’ll want my revenge. If I do that, I will bring disgrace to the name of Christians everywhere. History has shown that when people who call themselves Christians (whether they are or not doesn’t matter) do not take these passages to heart then the world eagerly points out their abuse and maligns the good name of Jesus.

There is no guarantee that I will be spared from persecutions. My brothers and sisters in Pakistan are currently facing an increase in persecution as the Taliban and other factions are increasing pressure on Christians. There has been more bloodshed, false imprisonment, and beatings. Matt 24:9-14 "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men's love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come." (RSV) My prayer for them is that they will be able to be a testimony to those who watch and those who persecute. I pray that in that suffering, Jesus may be glorified, the ignorant talk of foolish men may be silenced, and that many will come to know Jesus. I pray that as a result of their hardship, the righteous Judge may find many more who call on the name of Jesus when He comes.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Persecution or Stupidity – 1 Peter 2:18-20

Servants, you must respect your masters and do whatever they tell you-not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are tough and cruel. Praise the Lord if you are punished for doing right! Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong; but if you do right and suffer for it, and are patient beneath the blows, God is well pleased. (TLB)

This must be one of the most quoted Bible verse for employer-employee relationships. Now that I’m self-employed, I only have one boss, Jesus. Well, actually I now work for several people – clients and customers. While working for a company, if I had thought of my employer as a customer for my services, there wouldn’t be much difference.

Sometimes, a difficult part of working for others is telling them that what they are asking you to do isn’t necessarily in their best interests. At these times it can seem that they are not kind or reasonable. However, if I’m doing my best to do what is right, I’ll have to trust the Lord that the end results will be good.

I’ll digress a bit because many people use these verses to claim that they are suffering for Christ in the workplace when they are simply being punished for doing wrong. The usual complaint comes when a Christian shares some nuggets of faith with another co-worker or even a client during work time. The boss or other employee’s overhear or are the subject of the sharing and complain to management. The boss then reprimands the Christian for engaging in non-work activities and the Christian tells everyone that he or she is suffering for Christ.

Not so. I am not being paid to share Jesus with others during work time. I’m being paid to do my work. It doesn’t matter that the person in the next cube or workstation is talking about last night’s football game or anything else. It doesn’t give me the right to steal time from my employer. The idea is that I have to live a life that will silence the talk of foolish men as Peter stated before.

So when can I share the Gospel with someone at work? There are breaks and lunch when you can do it if you are not violating common sense and company policy. It is one thing to know how to engage a person in spiritual conversations that lead to sharing Jesus and it is another to buttonhole a person on break and back them into a corner. The first is Spirit led and the second is worldly passion. Handing out tracts is usually against company policy – they consider that soliciting even though you aren’t selling anything.

With all that said, there are laws that protect you at the workplace and you should know them as well. In general, your employer can’t tell you not to wear Christian jewelry when others can wear jewelry. They can’t prohibit having a Bible on your desk if others can have non-work related books. The same goes for mottos, calendars, and pictures.

In my work career, I only had one run-in with personnel over Christian witnessing. A co-worker and I were asked by another co-worker if we would talk to her about Christianity. We agreed and set up a time in the cafeteria during lunch. A few days later, my boss told me personnel had informed him to reprimand me for proselytizing. My co-worker had the same conversation with her boss. We wracked our brains and realized that the lunchroom meeting was the only thing that could have been construed as proselytizing so we ask the woman if she had complained. She assured us that she hadn’t.

Armed with that knowledge we requested and audience with personnel and we were told we had violated company policy by trying to find out who had accused us even though that person had not filed the complaint. At that point I assured the personnel representative that I knew my rights and she had violated them by accusing us without proper investigation. That ended the matter and nothing was ever placed in my record or on my performance reviews. The person we shared with later discovered that a third party had reported us to her boss based on seeing us together in the lunchroom.

If, in that situation, we had been reprimanded, pay docked, or anything else, then we would have known that it pleased God. If we had really violated company policy in our attempts to witness, then God would not have been pleased.

I’m afraid that there are too many cases when Christians are poor workers or do stupid things and then claim to be suffering for Christ when they lose their job or are passed over for promotion. I pray that it happens less and less.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Live Free - 1 Peter 2:15-17

For it is God's will that by doing right you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (RSV)

I have observed that doing right doesn’t silence the talk of foolish men in this world. I recently read an article on a very liberal web site that accused Christians of having an agenda to overtake the U.S. The means of doing this is by home schooling and private Christian schools. The claims are that Christians have been brainwashing the next generation and that we are the most dangerous of all factions. There was much name-calling in this article. It was written by the son of a well-known Christian theologian. He had been home schooled and advanced the very causes that he now rejects. If you think I’m just making this up, you can find the article at

In light of the current world, how am I to interpret these verses? I can only think that this must refer back to verse 12 where Peter says that they will glorify God on the day of visitation. Certainly, Jesus predicted that we would be maligned and even worse. John 15:20-21 “Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.” (NIV) I have a feeling that the foolish men will not be silenced until Jesus comes back.

In the mean time I need to live a free man. So what does that mean? Jesus said in John 8:31-36 that the truth will set me free. The Jews were shocked just as the people of the world are shocked at Christian behavior. They didn’t consider themselves slaves just as non-Christians don’t consider themselves as slaves to sin. But that is exactly what Jesus was said.

So I need to live free from sin. Some read into Paul’s writings that my freedom includes freedom from the Law and that is true. However I capitalized that word Law to limit Its meaning to encompasses the Levitical law of sacrifices and all that went with it. Regarding sin, Paul said in Rom 6:15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! (NIV ) When I live free from sin and the law, I live by God’s standards, which are even higher. That is why Peter added that I must live as a servant of God.

In conclusion, this requires me to honor all men. It doesn’t give me the right to abusive speech toward anyone in private or public. If someone is wrong, I can still point that out, not with name-calling, but with carefully researched truth.

I must also love the brotherhood – meaning that I am to love all Christians. I can’t pick and choose which Christians I am to love based on their denomination. Again, that doesn’t mean I have to condone heresy or bad doctrine that is taught in some denominations, but I am to love true believers.

Finally, I need to honor the king, emperor, president, prime minister, governor, mayor, or whoever is leading the country, state, city, or county. That means that I need to treat them with the respect that is due their office. If they are in the wrong, I can still point that out, but in the same way as mentioned before.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Government – 1 Peter 2:13-14

Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. (RSV)

What a timely topic for an election day. It’s too bad I didn’t do this before or even finish it on Tuesday.

It’s hard for me to put together submission to human organizations in the same sentence with doing something for the Lord. But, there it is in black and white. The hard part of this is that Peter was writing to people who had been persecuted by the government. It was written about 66 AD which was two years before the end of Nero’s reign of terror. He picked on Christians because they were easy targets and could divert attention away from his own political failings. I sometimes wonder how Peter could make this statement considering who was in power. However, it is evident that the power of the Holy Spirit was moving him to act justly and in accordance with the law of the land.

Of course we can point back to where Peter was called before the Jewish authority. Acts 4:18-20 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." (RSV) This is probably the most often used passage used to disobey government edicts. It sets precedence for Christians everywhere to disobey the government when that law is violating God’s commands. In my opinion, however, it does not give me the right to violate God’s law in order to oppose the government. In other words, I can’t assassinate Nero because he has been wiping out Christians.

Romans 13:1-7 is Paul’s comprehensive exposition on Government. Take the time to look it up and read it. In it, Paul asserts that all governments are established by God. You can look back at the O.T. and see how God used ungodly rulers to punish Israel and Judah. He says that if I rebel against the government, I am likely to bring God’s judgment on myself. Regardless of the government, I’m to do right because government is God’s servant to bring wrath on the wrongdoer. This is not easy to hear, especially if I’m living under an oppressive government. Paul continues to say that I must submit to that authority. I am to pay taxes because the government is God’s servant who gives full time to governing.

I can understand why many Christians did not support the American Revolution. They were ostracized by their fellow citizens who wanted to break free from England. However, they couldn’t see any moral reason to rebel against the king. Taxation without representation was not a violation of God’s commands in their eyes.

Today, I feel that people who are creating and supporting initiatives to cut taxes are not looking at the big picture that Paul presented. They are only looking at their own pocketbook. There is a prevalent attitude among many that government is too big and should be scaled back. I believe that when Christians are not providing the needs of others in the community that the government has the right to tax us to provide those needs. I generally vote for levies because this is the means of paying for services that are beyond the Church’s realm. Fire protection, police forces, public schools, libraries, roads, armed forces, you name it. The Church doesn’t take care of these things.

However if I only pay taxes and don’t get involved in any other way, then I shouldn’t complain when the government is ungodly. 1 Tim 2:1-2 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. (RSV) The first and foremost thing is to pray daily for our leaders, whether we like them or not. Titus 3:1-2 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for any honest work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all men. (RSV) Included in that is not to continually bad-mouth our leaders. We should show perfect courtesy, not jump up during a speech (or town meeting) and shout insults.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Flesh - 1 Peter 2:11-12

Beloved, I beseech you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against your soul. Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that in case they speak against you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (RSV)

This is Peter talking to people who have been scattered to people because of persecution. How does this pertain to me? As mentioned before, I am an alien in this world and for that reason I should resist the passions of the flesh even more so. When it comes to these passions, the Bible is quite clear about them.

Rom 13:13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. Gal 5:17-21 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (NASB)

As I look over the lists of fleshly passions, I notice that greed isn’t listed. However Eph 5:3 ties greed right in with impurity. Lev 19:11 takes care of lying and stealing also. There just isn’t any wiggle room for me to indulge myself in the things that the world has approved. The world gives lip service to avoiding many of these things but sexual promiscuity (including impurity) and carousing are probably the two most “tolerated” sins that I see in society. I also find it interesting that sorcery and idolatry are listed in the deeds of the flesh. Both of these are becoming more commonplace.

What exactly is Peter talking about when he mentions the flesh? Some versions use the term sinful desires or sinful nature. The dictionary has a definition of flesh that explains it in secular terms: the physical body along with its needs and limitations, as opposed to the soul, mind, or spirit. There are limitations in me that are going to want to do the things listed. How can I abstain from these? The answer is in Gal 5:18. I must be lead by the Spirit. That means I must yield my desires and emotions (soul), my thinking which results in my goals (mind), and my body to God. Since my spirit has been born again, it is the only thing in me that is already yielded to God. It is the means by which the Holy Spirit lives in me and changes my desires to do God’s will. Yielding is an ongoing process until one day I’ll be completely submissive to God. That will be the day of His visitation (when Jesus returns again) or when I die and am finally with Him and free from all the temptations of the flesh.

Peter refers to the world as the Gentiles. Gentiles didn’t have God’s law and in the Jewish mind they did all these things since they had no restraint. The world in Peter’s era, for the most part, acknowledged that most of these things were wrong. Even today the world agrees, otherwise we wouldn’t have everything from anger management classes to specific laws. This reveals that even a person who isn’t being led by the Holy Spirit (a non-Christian) still has a sense of right and wrong.

When Jesus comes back again, it will be too late for non-Christians. However, they will still give glory to God. They will then have to admit that their accusations against us were false. I note, however, that they will do this because they will see my good deeds. One way of avoiding all the lusts of the flesh is to replace them with good deeds. Eph 4:25-32, 5:4, 11, and 17 lists sins and what I should do to replace those sins in my life. When I’m doing these things, the world will see and note it.

Don’t be mistaken, the world knows how a Christian should behave even if they don’t agree. Sometimes they know better than some Christians. They are watching and my strongest witness comes when my actions match my words.