The normal state of the believer (Philippians 1:20)

INTRODUCTION. A brief glance at the events of our world today would be enough to discourage all but the most determined optimist. In every sphere of life, things seem to be in a state of upheaval and change, and the change is not for the better. The cumulative effect of all this change and simmering (and not-so-simmering) chaos is that people feel weary and beaten down. Hope for better days is fading, our joy has become stoic, feelings of peace have been replaced with a sense of foreboding. So, where do we look for a restoration of our hopeful and joyful outlook on life?

In this post, we will look no farther than the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Philippians to see how we can weather stormy, unsettling circumstances while letting our light for Christ shine bright (Matt. 5:16) and while continuing to point to Jesus as the source of our joy and peace and contentment.

THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN

Based on what Paul writes in Philippians, we have a prescription for the normal state of the believer.

The normal Christian is hopeful, joyful, peaceful, thankful, and content.

One more important point should be made about Paul. The apostle Paul is the normal Christian. The New Testament presents Paul’s life as the normal life of the believer. By that I mean that, if you want clarification on any important aspect of the life of a believer, look at the life of Paul. What does conversion look like? What does baptism look like? How should a Christian evangelize? What is the believer’s commitment to Christ like? How does a believer pray? What is the believer’s attitude toward suffering? How does a disciple look at death? Look at Paul and you will have answers to your questions.

PAUL’S CIRCUMSTANCES

What are Paul’s circumstances as he writes this letter? For you may argue that it is easy for somebody to be all peppy and joyful when they are in comfortable surroundings. As Paul writes this epistle, he is imprisoned in the cause of Christ (1:13). More than that, he is aware that dubious men are preaching Christ, he is in danger of being executed, his friend Epaphroditus has almost died from disease, he has heard of a dispute in the church back home, and, up until recently, he had been in some degree of want. Paul is not in a palace, but in a prison, and yet he lives with power and energy because he is filled with the Holy Spirit.

THE BELIEVER IS NORMALLY HOPEFUL

The words we would find in Scripture would be words like “in hope,” “with hope,” or just “hope,” either noun or verb. The normal state of the believer is to be evidently hopeful.

In the Scripture, there are two ways that “hope” is used. There is Hope with a capital H. This is the idea of a settled confidence that an amazing event which has been promised by God will certainly take place, but it has not taken place yet. Therefore, the believer eagerly Hopes for the occurrence of that event. Consider, for example, Hebrews 6:19, which says,

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil. – Hebrews 6:19

The author of Hebrews is talking about the hope of the return of Christ, and he says that this promise is certain to take place and therefore acts as “an anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast.” The believer who is rooted in Christ can endure the riptides of life because their Hope is the anchor of Jesus Christ.

So, the more powerful use of the word “Hope” refers to the unshakeable confidence we have that Christ is coming back soon to judge the world and take us to heaven to be with Him forever.

But there is a second use of “hope” that is derived from the more powerful use. The believer is hopeful, not only because of our ultimate hope in the Resurrection and the return of the Lord Jesus, but from that ultimate hope we derive, through spiritual discipline, a confident, hopeful attitude toward all of life, knowing that the God who has chosen us (Eph. 1:4) and redeemed us (Isaiah 43:1) and called us (2 Tim. 1:9) is also with us (Matt. 28:20). He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) and He has promised to work all things together for good for us (Romans 8:28). Therefore, because of all His promises to us, promises which have been sealed by the blood of the Lord Jesus, the believer is hopeful. “The LORD is with me like a dread champion.” – Jeremiah 20:11. Since that is the case, I am hopeful.

and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. – Romans 5:5

Our hope does not disappoint us. God has given us promises and He has sealed us with His Holy Spirit as a pledge that He will fulfill His promises.

Finally, Paul speaks of his hope from his prison cell.

according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. – Philippians 1:20

With Paul, our earnest hope is that Christ shall be exalted in our lives, whether by our life or by our death. “Oh Lord, use me for Your glory.”

Therefore, the normal state of the believer is to be hopeful.

SDG                 rmb                 1/12/2022                   #482

Persevere in the New Year

For many people, including yours truly, 2021 has been a year of ongoing disappointments as earthly sources of pleasure and comfort and contentment have been systematically compromised or eliminated. As a follower of Jesus and, therefore, as a person with a God-centered worldview, I believe that the Lord is taking away the temporal comforts of this world and is withdrawing His common grace from the earth so that His people will long for their heavenly, eternal dwellings which will come when the Lord Jesus Christ returns on the clouds in power and glory. Yes, God is allowing the world to experience the ugliness of its sin so that God’s people will more eagerly await the coming of our King. And I think that this pattern will continue and actually intensify in 2022.

In light of this, how is a Christian to respond? How will we as Christians respond to the deteriorating moral climate and to the ongoing flood of disappointments?

I suggest that we respond with perseverance. In fact, I suggest that the key word for 2022 will be “PERSEVERE.” I am establishing the mindset that I will persevere in this new year. That is, that I will continue steadfastly along the path that God has given me to walk.

Can we be more specific in carrying out this goal of perseverance? That is, can we put a little more “shoe leather” on this objective? Here is my proposal:

Persevere in faithfulness, in hope, in fruitful labor, and in joy no matter the earthly, visible circumstances.

FAITHFULNESS: Continue to fulfill your roles and your responsibilities and your commitments. If you are an employee, continue to do your work heartily as to the Lord and not to men (Colossians 3:23). Be a light in your workplace (Matt. 5:16). Are you married? Then, love your wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25) or submit to your husband as the church submits to Christ (Ephesians 5:24) and let your marriage be a picture of Jesus Christ and His church to the watching world (Ephesians 5:31-32). Are you single? Use your freedom as an unmarried person to serve Christ with undistracted devotion (1 Corinthians 7:32-35). In all things, act with integrity, honesty, and purity. Each day is another day to live for Christ and to shine your light for Christ, so be faithful with your days. Be a good steward of your money and especially of your time by spending both wisely. When spending your money, be sure that you could tell Jesus about that expenditure with a clear conscience. Time cannot be saved but only spent, so be careful how you spend your time. Walk intentionally through your days, fixing your eyes on the end goal of glorifying Jesus. In other words, persevere in faithfulness!

HOPE: There is a reward promised to the follower of Jesus. God has made promises to His children that He will certainly fulfill. It is these promises that have been cast together as our hope, “an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19). Our hope is that no matter the trials of this earthly life, God will certainly be faithful to His promises. God’s children await the certain fulfillment of God’s promises. So, when there is grief or sorrow or sadness, we remember that we have been promised a resurrection when we will receive a glorified body, and we persevere with hope. When confronted with disappointment or pain, we remember that these are temporary, but our home in heaven will last forever, so we persevere in hope. As we walk through “the sufferings of this present time,” our mind is fixed on the hope of the “glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Persevering in hope means casting our minds out into the future when we will forever be with Christ in glory so that our anticipation of God’s promises overwhelms our concerns about today’s trials. So, in 2022, we will persevere in hope.

FRUITFUL LABOR: This term is taken from Philippians 1:22 when, after saying, “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (1:21), Paul declares that, even though he would prefer to depart and be with Christ (in other words, he would prefer to die), he remain because he has “fruitful labor” to do. It is evident that Paul is referring to kingdom work, to direct gospel ministry. Paul chose to persevere in fruitful ministry with its trials and pains rather than departing for his deserved heavenly reward. And so should we. So, during 2022, I urge you to find your place of “fruitful labor,” to discover your role in gospel ministry, and to persevere and “to spend and be expended” (2 Cor. 12:15) in that role for the glory of Christ.

JOY: This is that characteristic that most dramatically distinguishes the believer from the rest of the world. The follower of Jesus is not just happy when all his circumstances are favorable, and all his paths are clear. Rather, the believer has a persistent internal joy that beams out regardless of circumstances. Let 2022 be the year that we amp up our joy and persevere in obvious Christ-filled and Christ-honoring joy in all twelve months. Think of all that the Lord has done for us and all that awaits us in heaven when we are with the Lord forever, and let the joy pour out of you until the corners of your face start to break. “The joy of the LORD is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

SUMMARY:

I anticipate that the future is going to be difficult for followers of Jesus. Paul told Timothy, “But realize this, that in the last days, difficult times will come” (2 Tim. 3:1). Judging by the signs we see in our world, there is reason to believe that our days are those days. But the follower of Jesus has no reason to be discouraged. The mission given to us by the Lord Jesus Himself goes on (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:8), and we continue to proclaim the gospel. We accept whatever persecution may come, considering it an honor to suffer for Christ (Acts 5:41) and knowing that those who are persecuted are blessed (Matt. 5:10-12; 1 Peter 4:14). In a word, we PERSEVERE until our Lord calls us home or until He catches us up with Himself in the air (1 Thess. 4:17). The word for 2022 is persevere.

SDG                 rmb                 1/1/2022                     #478

Considering 2 Peter 2:1 – “the Master who bought them”

INTRODUCTION: This post is longer than most and is more of a study of 2 Peter 2:1 than it is a typical blog. As will be seen in the body of the post, this verse poses significant difficulties in interpretation. I have studied this verse for a long time and wanted to set aside some time now to produce my “once and for all” interpretation.

Here is the verse according to the NASB:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 Peter 2:1 (NASB)

THE DIFFICULTY STATED

The difficulties in this verse are created by the phrase, “even denying the Master who bought them,” and by the significant implications of this phrase with regard to the extent of Christ’s atonement. It seems that Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21), is here stating that “there will be false teachers who introduce destructive heresies” into the church, whom the Master has bought (Greek active aorist participle from the verb ἀγοράζω, meaning buy, redeem, ransom). In the context, the identity of the Master is clearly the Lord Jesus, and His buying or redemption of these false teachers refers to His substitutionary atoning death on the cross. This means that Christ atoned for some who will perish, for the verse concludes by telling us that these false teachers of destructive heresies will “bring swift destruction on themselves.” If this understanding of the verse is correct, then it poses a serious challenge to the doctrine of particular redemption (also known as “limited atonement”), which states that Christ died for the elect, and for the elect only, and that everyone for whom Christ died will certainly be justified and glorified. What I wanted to research, then, is how those who hold firmly to the doctrine of particular redemption as just stated (which is the doctrine I hold firmly and which I believe to be the biblical position) have interpreted 2 Peter 2:1 such that the biblical doctrine stands unshaken.

JAMES BOICE AND PHIL RYKEN IN THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE

James Boice and Phil Ryken address this verse in their book, The Doctrines of Grace. In the section of the book speaking of the perseverance of the saints, they offer the perspective that these false teachers “seem to have been purchased by Christ and will show outward signs of such deliverance, but they will still be false prophets and professors” (p. 171f). My understanding of this interpretation is that, while they appeared for a time to be genuine followers of Jesus, their pretense eventually became evident in their heretical teachings. When these false teachers persisted in their heresies, it became plain that Christ had not, in fact, purchased their salvation.

In addressing the question of how this verse relates to the doctrine of particular redemption, Boice and Ryken suggest, “The best approach is to think of this as describing what these unbelieving teachers claimed (emphasis mine) rather than what they had actually received from Jesus” (p. 129).

JOHN OWEN IN THE DEATH OF DEATH

In John Owen’s masterful work, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, there is a large portion of the book devoted to addressing problem texts. Here we find 2 Peter 2:1 in the section discussing the argument “of the Arminians and their successors from texts of Scripture as seem to hold out the perishing of some of them for whom Christ died, and the fruitlessness of the blood in respect of divers for whom it was shed.” In other words, the Arminians claim that there are certain texts of Scripture which teach the eternal perishing of some of those for whom Christ died. From this statement, those who argue for universal atonement (or universal redemption) draw the conclusion that “If Christ died for some reprobates and for some that perish, then He died for all and everyone universally and without distinction.” Owen vigorously opposes the Arminian position and presents his arguments against their understanding of this verse.

THREE POINTS TO BE PROVEN BY THE ARMINIANS

Owen begins by presenting three points that must be proved by those who maintain universal redemption from this verse. The first point is that the “Master” here mentioned refers to Jesus Christ. Second, that “bought” refers to Christ “purchasing them with the ransom of His blood.” And third, that Peter speaks of this purchase in respect to its reality, and not in respect to the estimation of others based on outward appearances (their behavior and changed lives) and based on the public professions of these false teachers. In other words, the Arminians need to prove that Peter is not speaking here of a purchase (“bought”) that is assumed by the human believers in the church based on external evidence (what humans see and hear), but that Peter intends “bought by the Master” to be understood as a reality from the divine perspective.

Here are my own thoughts about these three points. It is my view that “Master” as used in this verse does, in fact, refer to the Lord Jesus, for I cannot imagine who else Peter could intend. Likewise, “bought” here refers to Christ’s atoning death on the cross because, again, there does not seem to be another option. The third point, however, that Peter is speaking of the reality of these heretical teachers being bought by Christ’s blood rather than the mere external appearance of that purchase based on human observation, is much less certain. The substance of Owen’s argument of this third point is given below.

(Just to be sure I am communicating what is happening here, Owen is going to be arguing that, in 2 Peter 2:1, the phrase, “the Master who bought them,” does not mean that Christ actually bought them with His blood, but that the behavior and the professions of these heretical teachers led the church to assume that Christ had bought them. In other words, the verse speaks of the appearance on earth rather than the reality in heaven.)

Here are Owen’s arguments (On p. 252 of The Death of Death). He says first that it is not “certain that the apostle speaketh of the purchase of the wolves and hypocrites in respect to the reality of the purchase and not in respect of that estimation which others had of them – and by reason of their outward seeming profession, ought to have had – and of the profession that they themselves made to be purchased by Him.” In other words, the “purchase” mentioned in this verse is referring not to the reality of their profession, but to the estimation others in the church had of its reality. Also, the estimation, that professing followers of Christ in the church are genuine believers, is the proper estimation to have, at least until their profession is called into question by other evidence. Also, these people, before their heresy, had claimed to be blood-bought followers of Christ. So, the estimation of others based on the hypocrites’ external behavior, the gracious assumption of others that, since they remained in the church, they were genuine believers, and the assumption that the hypocrites’ profession of faith in Christ was genuine all led to the estimation that the Master had bought them.

Owen continues his argument by saying “that it is the perpetual course of the Scripture to ascribe all those things to everyone that is in the fellowship of the church which are proper to them only who are true spiritual members of the same, as to be saints, elect, redeemed.” By this, Owen is saying that the Scriptures typically refer to all members of the church as if they were elect. So it is here. Until these wolves revealed their false profession by their heretical teaching, they were viewed as bought by the blood of Christ. Thus, they ruin their testimony by their heresy, but they do no violence to the divine decree of election. They were only apparently bought by the Master, and their heretical apostasy revealed that their purchase by Christ was only apparent.

CALVIN’S COMMENTARY ON THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PETER

The third source we will consult is Calvin’s commentary on 2 Peter. While Owen directly confronts the difficulty in this verse with his exegetical artillery, Calvin seems to overlook the problem. This may be due to the intent of their writing. Owen writes his treatise to demolish all suggestions of a universal ransom, and Calvin writes his work as a general commentary on the epistle.

Calvin considers that these false teachers are the same as those who “turned the grace of God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). He then reasons that, “Christ redeemed us, that He might have a people separated from all the pollutions of the world and devoted to holiness and innocence” (p. 393, Volume XXII of Calvin’s Commentaries). Many Scriptures could be cited here, but Titus 2:11-14 may fit best. But if Christ redeemed us so that we would separate ourselves from the lusts of the world and would henceforth live holy lives, “They, then, who throw off the bridle, and give themselves up to all kinds of licentiousness, are not unjustly said to deny Christ by whom they have been redeemed.” In other words, Calvin focuses on the Bible’s insistence that genuine believers are to be holy (See 1 Peter 1:14-16), so that those who continue in their licentiousness or who drift into persistent immorality are revealing that they are not true believers.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the best way to understand this verse is to say that those whom the Master bought claimed to be genuine believers and behaved as genuine believers so that they could “secretly introduce destructive heresies” into the church. Their exposure as heretics revealed that their claim to be bought by Christ’s blood was false. In this way, they brought swift destruction upon themselves.

SDG                 rmb                 12/29/2021                 #477

A study in baptism based on Romans 6:4

INTRODUCTION: One of the clearest verses on the doctrine of baptism is Romans 6:4. Paul’s unambiguous teaching here declares the purpose and the meaning of baptism. This article studies this verse.

Baptism is a New Testament ordinance given to us by the Lord Jesus Himself. At the beginning of His earthly ministry, Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:15) in the Jordan River, and at the end of His first advent, He commanded His church to baptize His disciples in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). But while Jesus modeled baptism and commanded baptism, we are going to turn to Paul’s teaching in Romans 6:4 to learn about the purpose and the meaning of baptism.

Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. – Romans 6:4

The purpose of the ordinance of baptism is to mark the beginning of the believer’s new walk of holiness as he now walks with Jesus. The old life of sin has been buried with Jesus in the waters of baptism, “so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

In baptism, the believer publicly declares their commitment to forsake their old life of sin and godlessness by repentance from sin, and vows by faith to live for Jesus Christ as they strive for holiness. Baptism is the outward illustration of an inward transformation. Water baptism pictures the realities of Romans 10:9, and of 1 John 1:9, and of Matthew 22:37.

Romans 10:9 – In biblical baptism, the believer publicly confesses with their mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord of their life, and they declare their faith in Christ and in His resurrection. Thus, baptism is for those who can confess their submission to Christ and their faith in Him.

1 John 1:9 – Water baptism is the occasion of the believer’s public confession of their sin and of their willfully turning away from their sin.

Matthew 22:37 – Water baptism marks the believer’s intention to love the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love his neighbor as himself. His love for the Lord will henceforth be manifested in obedience to all the Lord commanded us.

Both for Christ and for the believer, there is a death and burial, and there is a resurrection from the dead. Paul’s analogy is beautifully pictured in the waters of baptism. The analogy is understood by the paradigm, “As Christ physically, so the believer figuratively and spiritually.” As Christ physically died and was buried to mark His vanquishing of sin, so the believer figuratively and spiritually dies and is buried in the baptismal waters to mark their relinquishing of sin. The posture of the believer being pushed back into the water is significant because it pictures the believer’s weakness and helplessness, and their surrender to the Lordship of Christ. Then, as Christ was physically raised from the dead in glorious resurrection, never to die again, so the believer is spiritually raised to walk in newness of life, never to be condemned again. As Christ was physically raised by the power of the Father (Ephesians 1:19-20), so the believer is raised from the water by with the help (“power”) of the pastor.

As Christ confessed His intentions (Mark 10:45; John 10:11, 15, 17, 18; Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19) and consequently submitted to His physical death, so in baptism the believer confesses their intentions (Romans 10:9; 1 John 1:9; etc.) and then submits to burial into the water.

Thus, it is clear that believer’s baptism is what Christ commanded for His church.

SDG                 rmb                 12/27/2021                 #476

Genesis 22 – Part 1 – Foreshadowing the cross

INTRODUCTION: In many ways, Genesis 22 is the culmination of the Bible’s story of Abraham, for in this chapter we see the foreshadowing of the cross of Jesus, we again encounter the angel of the LORD, and we see the supreme demonstration of Abraham’s faith as he takes his son, his only son, whom he loves, Isaac, to the land of Moriah to sacrifice him there (22:2). This series of articles will cover these different elements of Genesis 22.

The first article will focus on the way the circumstances and details of this narrative in Genesis 22 paints for us a clear foreshadow of the cross of Jesus Christ.

FORESHADOW (TYPE) OF CHRIST (GENESIS 22:1-10)

No word or detail of the inspired text of the Bible is random. The Bible is God’s word to His people, and God has chosen each word precisely for its intended purpose. As we read the Bible, then, we are alert for details that God has placed in the text to communicate His message to us. It is not surprising, then, that a first reading of Genesis 22:1-10 reveals that this father and son event points toward another Father and Son event out in the future. The details of this passage foreshadow Jesus’ crucifixion.

GENESIS 22:2

Examining the passage, then, we first observe that God tells Abraham to “take your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as an offering on one of the mountains” (22:2).

Abraham the father was to take his only son. This son was the answer to all his waiting and all his hope. This was his ONLY son. There would not be another. All God’s promises to Abraham rested on this son, his only son. This only son, Isaac, was the son whom Abraham loved. This detail is not given for information, but for emphasis. Can you feel the agony of this assignment? Imagine the father’s pain in taking his beloved only son to Moriah and offering him there as an offering. Notice, also, the place of the offering. Moriah was the place where, a thousand years later, Solomon would build his temple, there to offer sacrifices. So, Moriah was associated with sacrifice and burnt offering. But another thousand years after Solomon, Moriah was also the place outside of Jerusalem where the Romans would crucify criminals. And Abraham was to take his beloved only son to Moriah to offer him as a sacrifice.

These details are given to us here in Genesis 22:2 so that, when we see the events of Jesus’ journey to the cross, we can see that these events were pictured for us in this narrative so many years before. For we know that Jesus was the Father’s only begotten Son. There will never be another. He is the only Son of the Father. Jesus is the Beloved Son. Jesus said, “For the Father loves the Son” (John 5:20). And in the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus was praying to the Father and said, “You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). So, what we see in Jesus’ crucifixion is the Father giving His beloved only begotten Son as a sacrifice on the hill of Moriah.

GENESIS 22:3

The detail to be noticed in this verse is the wood. Abraham “split the wood for the burnt offering.” The wood was necessary for the burnt offering. The sacrifice was not possible without the wood. For our Lord Jesus, His sacrifice was also not possible without the wood of the cross, So, both for Isaac and for Jesus, the wood is essential to the sacrifice.

GENESIS 22:4

Another detail is inserted here in the inspired Scripture – “On the third day.” It is not important that Abraham and Isaac traveled three days to get to Moriah, but that fact is mentioned to draw attention to the immense importance of this passage. To make the passage stand out, Moses mentions the third day. This time period of three days occurs many times in Scripture, and is associated with significant events, so its occurrence here is another part of this narrative that would cause the reader to pause and take notice.

GENESIS 22:5

Abraham announces to his young men, “I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” At no point does Abraham suggest that he is not going to sacrifice his beloved only son Isaac, so this statement to his young men should be interpreted as meaning that Abraham believed that his son would be given back to him by resurrection (Hebrews 11:17-19).

But now consider that, as outrageous as Abraham’s belief was, Jesus Christ publicly made statements that foretold His own resurrection after His sacrifice. In fact, Jesus declared that He must be killed to accomplish His mission, and He would certainly be raised up on the third day. Again, we see the details of Abraham and Isaac’s experience clearly contained in the events of the cross.

GENESIS 22:6-8

The plot thickens as the father and the son draw near to the place of sacrifice. The details in Genesis 22:6 are so carefully chosen. “Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son.” The wood of the sacrifice is laid on the son. No doubt, the wood was heavy, and its splinters rubbed into the son’s shoulders, but he carried the wood without complaint. The wood was his to carry, so he carried it willingly. Abraham took the fire and the knife, the instruments of sacrifice, and readied himself for the awful task. The father would sacrifice his beloved only son. “So the two of them walked on together.” The son trusts the father and the father loves the son, so the son does not run away, and the father does not disobey. The father and the son walked on together. Ever since Isaac could walk, father and son have walked together. Now they walk together to the place of sacrifice.

The poignancy of the scene increases still more in Genesis 22:7, as Isaac speaks to Abraham his father. “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Isaac is old enough to know the elements for an offering. There must be a sacrifice, but where is the lamb?

Abraham speaks words of immense faith, or at least of great hope. Abraham knows that Isaac, the son of promise, is to be the sacrifice, but the father tells the son, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (22:8). The father cannot bear to tell the son that the son whom he loves is to be the sacrifice. Isaac accepts the vague answer, and then “the two of them walked on together.” Trust. Love. Father and son going up the hill together to the place of sacrifice. Will God provide the lamb for the sacrifice? Where is the lamb?

Once again, the details so carefully woven into the narrative of Abraham and Isaac clearly give us a foretaste of the events of the cross. The Father figuratively lays the rough wood of the cross on the shoulders of His Son, where the splinters will enter His shoulders and back. Jesus the Son must bear this load alone, the heavy wood of the cross, but more, the terrible weight of the wrath of God. He will groan but not complain, for this is the work, His terrible work. Although the Father is with the Son as He climbs the hill, the Father cannot be seen by the eye of sinful man. Father and Son go on together to the place of sacrifice. The words of Isaac spoken so long ago still hang in the air over Moriah – “Father, where is the lamb?”

GENESIS 22:9-10

Having arrived at the place of sacrifice, the father “built the altar and arranged the wood and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood” (22:9). Abraham is old and frail, and Isaac is young and full of the strength of early manhood. It is certain, therefore, that the father could not possibly force the son onto the altar, but the son yields in submission and obedience to the father’s will. The child of promise is now on the altar as Abraham raises the knife to slay his son.

Abraham and Isaac on Moriah give us a biblical “type.” That is, this father and son foreshadow for us the much more significant event of the cross of Christ. In the real event, the ultimate event, God the Father has appointed the crucifixion of God the Son. The Son yields in complete submission to the will of the Father (“not My will, but Thy will be done”) and allows Himself to be scourged and crowned with thorns and led up Moriah’s hill, the hill we know as Calvary. Here is the Lamb of God, the Lamb that Abraham said God Himself would provide. Jesus the Lamb is laid on the wood of the cross and then is lifted up so that He can be despised and forsaken of men. Isaac, the son of promise, is allowed to go free and to live while a ram is sacrificed in his place, but Jesus as the Lamb of God is the substitute. He is the sacrifice found in the thicket (Genesis 22:13) that is sacrificed in the place of the repentant, believing sinner, so that the sinner covered by His blood can be forgiven and go free. God the Father forsakes God the Son (unfathomable mystery!) so that the Son can bear the wrath of the Father’s judgment in the place of His people.

In the next post, we will take a close look at the angel of the LORD who appears in Genesis 22:11 and try to understand who he is. It should be a fascinating study.

SDG                 rmb                 12/15/2021                 #470

“They will come to Me” – (John 6:37 – Part 3)

INTRODUCTION: This is part of a series of blog posts studying John 6:37, a verse in which Jesus teaches us about the sovereignty of God in salvation. In this series, we will examine not only what Jesus explicitly teaches in this verse, but also its implications based on other passages of Scripture and plain reasoning.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” – John 6:37 (NASB)

In our second study in this series, we considered the next phrase in the verse, “will come to Me.” (See post #468 on 12/10/2021.) In that post, we focused on answering the question, “Who will come to Jesus?” This led to a detailed study of the nature of the elect and election, and how this displays God’s sovereignty in salvation.

But now, in this post we seek to answer the extremely important question, “What does it mean for the sinner to ‘come to Jesus’?” Since it is only those who “come to the Son” who are saved from eternal condemnation, we should strive to know what “will come to Me” means.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ‘COME TO JESUS’?

The expression “come to Me” appears twice in this verse. Jesus says they “will come to Me” and He says, “the one who comes to Me.” To “come to Jesus” is one the most important themes of the entire Bible. Jesus Christ, God the Son, was sent from heaven to earth on a rescue mission, “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10) as He “gave His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The only way that anyone receives salvation is by coming to Jesus. The Bible teaches that God has divinely chosen those people whom He will bring to salvation, but this doctrine of God’s election is given to us so that we may know the power of God’s sovereignty in salvation, not so that we may be confused about how to be saved.

Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me.” For the human sinner, the most important part of Jesus’ statement is, “will come to Me.” If you want to be saved, there is something that you need to do. If you want to be saved, you must actively come to Jesus.

“What does it mean to ‘come to Jesus’?” First, you must believe in Jesus. In John 1:12 says that to those who believed in Jesus’ name become children of God. In John 20:31, the Bible says that those who believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have eternal life in His name. This believing can be understood as an unshakeable trust in Jesus, that He is who He said He was and that He is my Savior and my Lord.

Second, this inward faith and trust in Jesus manifests itself in an outward profession. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Faith in Jesus cannot remain an inner, silent thing, but must be expressed outwardly in a verbal profession. When you come to Jesus, others should know that Jesus has become your Lord and Savior.

Also, to come to Jesus means to repent of your sin and to begin to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt. 5:6). John the Baptist cried out, “Bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). At Pentecost, the people asked, “What are we to do (to be saved)?” Peter replied, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). The Philippian jailer asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31).

Finally, to come to Jesus, the Son of God, means obeying Him. In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” If you have come to saving faith in Jesus, you will have a desire to obey His commands and to walk in holiness and righteousness. You will forsake the wicked ways of your past. Paul says that, if you have come to Jesus, “you laid aside the old self with its evil practices” (Colossians 3:9). Jesus says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” (John 14:23).

As we conclude this post, we should notice two things. First, all those who come to Jesus will be saved. This should be an encouragement to anyone who desires to be saved from the coming judgment. But second, only those who come to Jesus will be saved. This should instill a sense of urgency. Those who were thinking about coming to Jesus but never did, and those who never expressly rejected Jesus, but who also never came to Him in repentance and faith alike will perish forever. All second chances are forever blown away at the final heartbeat. At that moment, eternity opens wide, and the lake of fire receives another unrepentant sinner. I urge you to come to Jesus.

In our next post in this series, we will examine the truth that the one who comes to Jesus He will certainly not cast out.

SDG                 rmb                 12/11/2021                 #469

The angel of the LORD went out (Isaiah 37:36)

INTRODUCTION: This post is about a pompous Assyrian king who blasphemes and reproaches the LORD, and who then encounters the angel of the LORD. Those who blaspheme and reproach the LORD will, sooner or later, have to deal with the angel of the LORD.

In Isaiah 36-37, we find Isaiah’s account of the failed Assyrian invasion of Judah by Sennacherib, the Assyrian king. Or rather, “the great king,” as he calls himself. (This incident is recorded three times in the Old Testament: here in Isaiah, and also in the two history books of 2 Kings 18-19 and in 2 Chronicles 32.) The biblical narrative has a stunning conclusion as what seemed to be certain victory is switched into a crushing defeat.

When Sennacherib king of Assyria sends his spokesman, Rabshakeh, to meet King Hezekiah’s officials, the Assyrians are overflowing with confidence and contempt. Their army has rolled down from Nineveh in conquest and has reached as far as Jerusalem with little resistance. Kingdoms with their pagan gods have fallen like dominoes, and Sennacherib sees no reason Judah and Jerusalem will be any different. Yes, it is true that the Assyrians have heard of the God of Israel, the LORD, but the king of Assyria views YHWH as no different than the gods of wood and stone. Why would anyone have confidence or put their trust in a God you cannot see? And so, Sennacherib sends Rabshakeh to terrify Judah and to blaspheme the LORD and to urge Hezekiah to surrender. Clearly, Sennacherib is the great king.

THE TAUNTS AND THE BLASPHEMIES

As Rabshakeh meets Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah by the upper pool (Isaiah 36:2), his intimidation guns are blazing. The Assyrian spokesman is skilled at taunt and blasphemy.

“What is this confidence?” (36:4). You are outnumbered and you will be overwhelmed. Face it, you are doomed. You have no reason for any confidence.

“On whom do you rely?” (36:5). Look around you. There is no one who can rescue you from the great king of Assyria. Do not rely on your army or on the cleverness of your king. And surely you are not relying on the LORD to protect you!

“We trust in the LORD our God” (36:7). You have got to be kidding! Where do you see the LORD? And besides, the LORD is the one who told us to come up against Judah in the first place, and now you are trusting Him to protect you from the great king? No way!

“Do not let Hezekiah deceive you” (36:14). He thinks that his God is going to help you, but he is dreaming, and he is trying to deceive you. You don’t have a chance.

“Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD” (36:15). You would be foolish to trust in the LORD. If you let Hezekiah trick you and deceive you, the great king of Assyria will come into Jerusalem and kill you. The LORD is not to be trusted.

“Beware that Hezekiah does not mislead you saying, ‘The LORD will deliver us (36:18).’” None of the other gods have been able to deliver their people, so why would you think that YHWH will help you. The LORD is just like the other gods. He is powerless and useless, but Sennacherib is the great king. Give up, for the LORD cannot help you.

Rabshakeh has already crossed the line and his doom is already sealed. Certainly, the LORD has heard enough from this blasphemer about his pipsqueak king, But Rabshakeh has more reproach and contempt to pour out.

“Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you, saying, ‘Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria (37:10).’ Did the gods of those (pagan) nations deliver them?” (37:12). Now not only is Rabshakeh saying that the LORD cannot defend Jerusalem against the king of Assyria, but he is also accusing the LORD of deceiving His people. He blasphemes God by accusing the God who cannot lie of deception. Rabshakeh declares trust in the LORD to be foolish and compares the LORD to the powerless pagan gods of the nations.

Up to this point, the LORD has been patient and has allowed the Assyrians to rant and to blaspheme against Him, but when Hezekiah prays to the LORD and asks Him to “deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, LORD, are God” (37:20), the LORD moves in power to destroy the upstart king.

“For I will defend this city to save it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake” (Isaiah 37:35).

THE ANGEL OF THE LORD WENT OUT

The LORD will not long tolerate blasphemies against His name or open contempt from evil people. He will bring a just recompense and He will bring it swiftly. Sennacherib’s arrogant blasphemy against the LORD has sealed his destiny. Like the proud questioning of Pharaoh before him (Exodus 5:2) and like the blasphemous rants of the beast at the end of the age (Daniel 7:8, 11, 25; 11:36; Revelation 13:5, 6), so Sennacherib has reproached and blasphemed the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 37:23). Therefore, as the LORD destroyed Pharaoh for his arrogance, and as He will destroy the beast for his blasphemies (2 Thess. 2:8; Rev. 19:20), so the LORD recompenses Sennacherib for his arrogance and his raging against the LORD (Isaiah 37:28-29).

“Then it happened that night that the angel of the LORD went out” (2 Kings 19:35). We have met the angel of the LORD before in the Old Testament. He spoke to Hagar and to Abraham. He met Joshua as he was preparing to conquer Jericho. He spoke to Gideon and to Manoah. He fed Elijah when the prophet was discouraged. And now, “the angel of the LORD went out.” He is the mysterious figure who seems to be God, although He also appears to be somehow separate from God. He speaks as the LORD, with all the authority of the LORD, yet He somehow is not the LORD. And here we see “that the angel of the LORD went out.” With all the authority and power of the LORD, He rises up to take vengeance (Psalm 94:1-2) on the Assyrians. It is one against the entire Assyrian army, and the Assyrians are vastly outmatched. The angel of the LORD brings divine judgment on Sennacherib for his arrogance and his blasphemies against the living God. “The angel of the LORD went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians” (Isaiah 37:36). With his armies decimated and himself humiliated, Sennacherib returns to Nineveh where he is killed by his own sons in a pagan temple. So much for the great king of Assyria.

CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION

In our walk through this world, the believer can feel attacked by the world and overwhelmed by the perceived forces arrayed against us. There are times when, like Hezekiah, the voices of evil people and the whispers of doubts in our head can threaten to undo us, and our faith can waver. In those times, remember God’s power. Remember that you are the Lord’s delight and that He has promised to be your shield and defender. Remember that He is with you like a dread champion (Jeremiah 20:11). Remember that, like Hezekiah, you can call upon the Lord, and He will hear you. Remember that “He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11). We are given this story to remind us that the LORD, He is God (1 Kings 18:39), and He is always with us. When the Rabshakehs in your life begin to taunt and blaspheme the living God, turn to the LORD and cry out to Him.

SDG                 rmb                 12/9/2021                   #467

The local church as the disciple’s most accessible marketplace

INTRODUCTION: For the disciple of Jesus Christ, their local church is their most accessible marketplace for growing in spiritual maturity. This article will explore factors in the local church that affect discipleship and that largely determine how quickly and how much the disciple can grow in Christlikeness.

NEW IN CHRIST

Through the miracle of the new birth, a sinner comes to faith in Christ, passes from death to life (John 5:24), becomes a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), and begins his walk with the Lord. Now this sinner has become a saint. He is pointed toward Christ, and he hungers and thirsts for righteousness (Matthew 5:6). And so, his journey in discipleship has begun. Even before he recognizes it, the Lord is purifying him with hyssop (Psalm 51:7) and is beginning to flush out the old man with his evil practices (Colossians 3:9) and is beginning to conform him to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). And the result of a healthy new birth is that the disciple has a zeal to grow in practical holiness. Having been declared righteous through his faith in Jesus, the disciple now seeks to make his practical righteousness look more and more like his declared righteousness. But where is the best place for the disciple to grow?

THE LOCAL CHURCH

The answer to that question is, “In a good local church.” For the disciple of Jesus Christ, the best place to grow in practical righteousness and in Christlikeness is in a good local church. No matter where the person is in their spiritual journey, whether still a spiritual toddler or a spiritual grandfather and role model to others, the local church is God’s appointed vehicle for growing the disciple to greater maturity as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Having established the fact that the local church is the place where disciples grow, it must also be acknowledged that, among local churches, there is a wide range of effectiveness in making mature disciples. Why is that? Why are some churches known for the maturity and fruitfulness of their disciples while most churches seem to have no fruit at all? I believe there are several factors that determine how effective a church is in making disciples.

THE FACTORS FOR EFFECTIVENESS

ARE THERE MATURE DISCIPLES THERE? The first factor I will mention is the actual maturity of the local church. Are there mature disciples in the church from whom younger disciples can learn? In a given church, there may be those who are physically mature, and there may be some who have been professing Christians for a long time, but that is not the question. It is very possible to be a member of a local church for a long time and to have not grown much. Does the church have a robust theology that they live by? Are there members of the church who are steeped in the Bible? Does the church pray a lot? Are there members of the church who have been with Christ in their times of testing? Have they seen God’s faithfulness in suffering or in loss or in waiting? Are there any people in the church who could be role models, about whom you would say, “I want to be like him”?

What is the “maturity density” in the church? This is a question about the average maturity that would determine growth by means of “random discipleship,” what we might call “drive-by discipleship.” In churches that have a high “maturity density,” there are ongoing opportunities for discipleship in ordinary encounters on Sunday mornings or in community groups or in breakfasts or lunches. In these sorts of churches, “Iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17) on a regular basis in ordinary conversations, but in churches that lack spiritually mature disciples, ordinary conversations remain ordinary. So, the first factor is the actual spiritual maturity of the local church.

CHURCH’S ATTITUDE TOWARD DISCIPLING: The next factor that influences the progress of the disciple is the overall attitude of the church toward discipling. Is the church motivated by 2 Timothy 2:2ff, that there are to be generations of disciples “teaching others also”? Does the church practice and even prioritize discipleship, as opposed to people who merely profess to be Christians but never really grow or show any meaningful fruit? Would the church be described as a country club or as a gymnasium? Is the church a place where many different spiritual growth opportunities are constantly being presented, or are real spiritual growth opportunities hard to come by? Is discipleship and spiritual growth championed by the lead pastor from the front? Is the lead pastor constantly talking about the expectation that church members will grow spiritually? Does the church expect members to be helping others grow in maturity or to be actively seeking their own spiritual growth, or is there no real expectation that anyone would be actively seeking spiritual growth?

A church that is serious about discipleship will manifest that attitude in many growth opportunities, such as theologically rich sermons, one-on-one discipleship, training classes like Oakhurst’s Equipping classes, Bible studies, small groups like OBC Community Groups which focus on Word and prayer in a fellowship context, and Spirit-filled worship. In a discipling church, there will be opportunities for sacrifice, suffering, theology, missions, evangelism, encouragement, prayer, and so on.

If you want to grow as a disciple of the Lord Jesus, look for a church the gives evidence of these kind of qualities. Look for a church that is serious about discipling its people.

ZEAL OF THE DISCIPLE. The third factor that will determine the rate of spiritual growth and the upper limit of spiritual growth is the zeal of the disciple himself. In the final analysis, your discipleship is 100% your responsibility. Although a mentor or a pastor may be personally invested in your spiritual growth, at the end of the day, growth is the disciple’s project. The disciple is the one who must be motivated to grow and to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Are you hungry to grow in your faith? In the richest discipleship environment on earth, a disciple can languish and backslide and stagnate in their spiritual life is they will not put out the needed effort. Do you actively seek growth opportunities? Do you prioritize your spiritual growth? There are many things, even many good things, that can distract a disciple from the path of spiritual growth and of increasing usefulness to the Master. If you are not willing to act on discipleship opportunities, and if you are reluctant to take risks and to try new things and to exercise your faith, then you should not expect to ever make much progress in practical holiness or Kingdom usefulness.

SDG                 rmb                 12/07/2021                 #466

“All that the Father gives Me” (John 6:37) – Part 1

INTRODUCTION: This is part of a series of blog posts on John 6:37, a verse in which Jesus teaches us about the sovereignty of God in salvation. In this series, we will examine not only what Jesus explicitly taught in this verse, but also its implications based on other passages of Scripture and plain reasoning.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” – John 6:37 (NASB)

In our study, we will examine the verse in small bites.

All that the Father gives Me” – From this opening phrase, we conclude that there is a specific, fixed number of souls that the Father has given to the Son. The Father has not given every soul to the Son, but only “all that the Father gives Me.” This phrase limits the number of those who will be saved to only those given by the Father. We know, therefore that all will not be saved.

It is also true that the Father certainly knows the number who will be saved, for “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19). If the Father knows the number of hairs on each person’s head (Matthew 10:30), then He certainly knows the exact number of souls that He has given to His Son, so we can say with confidence that the number is specific and fixed.

We also know that the number of those who are given to the Son for salvation is specific and fixed because these were chosen by the Father “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). At a time that was before all time, “before the foundation of the world,” God the Father chose the full number of those who would ever be in Christ. Once the Father “chose us in Him,” the full number of future saints was forever established and could not be changed. Thus, we can say that the number is specific and fixed.

Notice also that the Father is completely sovereign in this giving of souls to the Son. The Father alone has determined the exact number of souls that will be given to His beloved Son, and the Father alone is the One who gives them. The people who are chosen by the Father for salvation and then given to the Son are passive. (NOTE: This does not mean that we are saved passively. We will address what it means to come to Jesus for salvation later in this series, but our salvation is not passive. What we are discussing here is that we who are the recipients of salvation made no contribution to our being chosen by the Father and being given to the Son.)

Finally, we call “all the Father has given” to the Son “the elect” or “the chosen.” Substituting this term into the opening phrase yields, “All the elect (will come to Me).”

In the next post, we will consider the phrase, “will come to Me.”

SDG                 rmb                 12/6/2021                   #465

The Muslim view of the crucifixion of Jesus

INTRODUCTION: Several groups have invented their own versions of the crucifixion of Jesus and how it “really” happened. In this post I want to explore the Muslim view that Jesus did not die on the crucifixion, but Judas was crucified in His place. Is that possible?

NOTE: My purpose in these blogs is to seriously consider alternative views. As such, I am not intentionally portraying any of these views falsely or as caricatures. I apologize in advance if what I present here is not consistent with the real alternative idea. Let me know if I have inaccurately presented a view and I will endeavor to correct it. rmb

THE MUSLIM VIEW

The Muslims do not believe that Jesus was crucified at all. Rather, they believe that the person who appeared as Jesus was actually Judas. Yes, that’s right, the Muslim account of the crucifixion says that Judas was crucified at Calvary, not Jesus. Is this possible? Could Judas have been the one crucified instead of Jesus?

THE INSURMOUNTABLE DIFFICULTY: The first and greatest difficulty with the Muslim view is that it contradicts every foundational teaching in the New Testament about Jesus. Every book of the New Testament insists on or necessarily assumes not only that Jesus was crucified, but also that He rose from the dead in glorious resurrection, ascended into heaven where He is ruling and reigning now, and is going to return at the end of the age to judge the living and the dead. The suggestion that Jesus was not crucified on the cross of Calvary renders the entire Bible as the most intricately and miraculously fabricated lie imaginable. No. The indisputable historical fact is that the Man that we know as Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem as a criminal by the Roman authorities around AD 30. Considering other problems with the Muslim view will only be done after unapologetically stating that the basic Muslim premise that Jesus was not crucified is in error.

CLAIM: “It was Judas, not Jesus, who was crucified.”

PROBLEMS WITH THIS CLAIM (not in any order):

  • Judas was the person who led the soldiers into the Garden of Gethsemane when they arrested Jesus (Matthew 26:47-50). Judas specifically identifies Jesus to the soldiers by betraying Him with a kiss (26:48-50). Why would the soldiers crucify Judas instead of Jesus when they knew Judas and Jesus had been clearly identified?
  • Judas was known to the chief priests in Jerusalem (see Matthew 26:14). The chief priests hired Judas to betray Jesus to them. Why would the chief priests crucify Judas instead of Jesus? Jesus was the Man they wanted dead, not Judas.
  • The gospel of Matthew describes exactly how Judas died (Matthew 27:3-5), so there is no doubt that Judas was not the one who was crucified. (NOTE: Again, it is clear from this text that the chief priests and the elders knew Judas well and would never have crucified him instead of Jesus.)
  • Jesus made three clear predictions of His upcoming crucifixion during His earthly ministry well before there was any possibility of crucifixion (Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19), and these predictions were fulfilled by His crucifixion. Jesus declared that He would give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). He predicted that He would lay His life down for His sheep (John 10:11-18). All these predictions required His crucifixion.
  • Jesus was crucified in public and in broad daylight. All the crucifixion accounts attest to this. There was no possibility of mistaken identity. It was certainly Jesus who was on the cross.
  • His executioners were trained Roman soldiers whose job it was to crucify Jesus. They could not have been mistaken about whom they nailed to the cross.
  • Also, His executioners had already scourged Him and mocked Him (Matthew 27:26-31), so they knew for certain that this Man was Jesus, not Judas. (Also, by this time, Judas has already hung himself (Matthew 27:3-5).)
  • Jesus spoke throughout His trial and continued speaking while He was on the cross, even up to His last breath. The human voice is unique and instantly recognizable, and virtually everyone in the crowd around the cross had heard Jesus’ voice when He had been teaching in the temple in the days prior to His crucifixion. It was certainly Jesus whom they heard speaking from the cross, not Judas. The people heard Jesus’ voice when He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).
  • More regarding His face and His voice: Jesus’ ministry lasted for about three years, so tens of thousands of people knew His face and His voice. Both the face of a person and the sound of their voice is unique to them. Both are instantly distinguishable and cannot be duplicated. The thousands of people who had heard Jesus and had seen Jesus knew that it was Jesus, not Judas on that cross.
  • His disciples who had been with Him day and night for three years saw Him die and testified that it was Jesus whom they saw die.
  • From the time that Jesus was betrayed by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane until He was finally sealed into the tomb after He died, Jesus was always in the presence of other people, and usually was surrounded by people who were hostile to Him and were eager to see Him crucified. The Muslims suggest that at some point Jesus and Judas swapped places, but there was never an opportunity for that to happen. (And we must remember that Judas hung himself shortly after he betrayed Jesus (Matthew 27:3-5).)
  • Why would Judas willingly switch places with a Man who was destined to be crucified, a Man whom he himself had that very night betrayed to the Roman guards? In other words, why would Judas betray Jesus to His enemies and then take Jesus’ place on the cross? I cannot conceive of any answer to those questions.
  • God’s plan of salvation as revealed in the gospel requires that the Messiah offer His life as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of His people. Jesus’ death was required.
  • The chief priests and the elders were with Jesus throughout His passion, and they made sure that it was Jesus who was on trial and that it was Jesus who was crucified. The chief priests did not create their plot to kill Jesus and then somehow have the wrong guy crucified. No, the chief priests were sure that Jesus was crucified.

That’s enough for starters. If there are some Muslim scholars out there who can explain or give answers to these questions and issues, I welcome your comments. More tomorrow.

SDG                 rmb                 12/3/2021                   #464