The Discipline of the Lord – Part 2 (Hebrews 12:5-11)

THE PASSAGE – HEBREWS 12:5-11

Hebrews 12:5-11 is the classic passage in the Bible about “the discipline of the Lord.” This is the second post in a series of studies covering this section of Scripture. The last post established a basic interpretation of the passage, but also revealed that there is still work to do to see how this interpretation works itself out in life. What I mean is that we understand what the discipline of the Lord does, but we have not yet made clear what the discipline of the Lord is. This part of our study will dig deeper into the meaning of the passage.

and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. – Hebrews 12:5-11

WHAT IS THIS “DISCIPLINE”?

What is the “discipline” in the discipline of the Lord? This is a crucial question for understanding this teaching, and so we will take some time to consider the meaning and the definition of this “discipline.” Here is our approach:

  1. What can we learn about “discipline” from the passage itself?
  2. Find dictionary definitions for the Greek and English words.
  3. How is “discipline” been understood by other Christians?

WHAT DOES THE PASSAGE ITSELF TEACH US ABOUT “DISCIPLINE”?

By carefully reading these verses, we can learn a lot about what “discipline” is and what it is not.

  • The Lord loves those whom He disciplines (12:6). We can therefore conclude that the Lord does not discipline in anger and that the Lord’s discipline is not intended to punish. (See 1 John 4:18.)
  • All believers will receive the discipline of the Lord as evidence that they are His children (12:6, 7, 8). But if all the Lord’s children receive His discipline, then the discipline of the Lord is not sent to correct or punish specific occurrences of sin or misbehavior in particular believers. Instead, the Lord’s discipline is sent, at the Lord’s discretion and providence, upon all believers universally to bring about the same result in all; namely, that they would share the Lord’s holiness (12:10) and would produce the peaceful fruit of righteousness (12:11).
  • Discipline is “sorrowful” (12:11). The disciple must “endure” the discipline of the Lord (12:7). The quote from Proverbs tells us “not to faint” and declares that the Lord “scourges” (The Greek word is understood figuratively, but literally means “beat with a whip.”) every son He receives. Thus, we conclude that the discipline of the Lord involves pain and affliction and suffering.
  • The discipline of the Lord has a purpose. The Lord “disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness” (12:10). This discipline is for training in holiness and has no retributive component.

FROM THE PASSAGE ITSELF

Just by studying the passage carefully we have gained a good understanding of what this discipline of the Lord is. The Lord disciplines in love all believers so that they will be trained to walk in greater holiness and to produce the fruit of righteousness. Nevertheless, this discipline of the Lord requires endurance (or “perseverance”) because it is administered by the Lord through suffering and pain and affliction.

FIND DICTIONARY DEFINITIONS FOR GREEK AND ENGLISH WORDS

Now that we have grasped the meaning of “discipline” from the context of the passage, our next task will be to learn what we can from dictionary definitions for the Greek and English words. That will be tomorrow’s post.

SDG                 rmb                 2/17/2022                   #489

For the Son of Man is coming (Matthew 16:27)

This is the final post in the short series, “A life spent for the King,” based on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 16:24-27. The one who desires to come after Jesus must willingly take up his cross and follow Jesus (16:24; October 26). The one who would find meaning and peace and joy in life must lose his life for Jesus’ sake (16:25; October 31). Every person faces the choice of deciding they will live for this life, or they will live for eternity. What will you give in exchange for your soul? (16:26; November 5)

“For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels and will then repay every man according to his deeds.” – Matthew 16:27

This verse is the fitting culmination of Jesus’ teaching, for He now reveals the reason for His implicit warnings and exhortations. Jesus offers salvation now because there is coming a day of recompense and judgment when there will be no place to hide. Soon Jesus will be crucified (Matt. 16:21) as an atoning sacrifice for sinners and His death will finish and accomplish His work of redemption (John 19:30; 17:4). Then He will be raised up on the third day and will ascend to heaven to await His triumphal return.

So, if you desire to be protected from “that day,” then deny yourself now, and take up your cross and follow Jesus (Matt. 16:24). Learn today what it means to carry your cross so that you will not be forever judged on that day when the Son of Man comes.

“For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father.”

Make no mistake about it. The Son of Man is certainly coming on the Last Day in power and “in the glory of His Father” to judge all the unrighteous (Psalm 96:13). It is futile for you to try to save your own life (Matt. 16:25) because you do not have the power. If you try to save your life, you will certainly be consumed in the judgment. But if you surrender your life to Christ, then He will save you and you will find life indeed.

“For the Son of Man is going to come and will then repay every man according to his deeds.”

Yes, He is surely coming to judge the earth. He will tread out the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty (Rev. 19:15). Jesus will judge the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1). And how can you be spared this terrifying judgment? For, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). The prophet Micah considered offering rams and rivers of oil, even his firstborn. “Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul” (Micah 6:7)? Elsewhere, the writer of Psalm 49 acknowledges that he knows of no suitable ransom for redemption. “No man can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him. For the redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever.” Where then is the answer? What is a man to do on the day of judgment?

The apostle Peter proclaims that there is salvation in Jesus, and in Jesus alone.

“Jesus Christ the Nazarene He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:11-12

Peter declares the good news that on the Last Day, at the coming of the Son of Man, there are those who will be rescued. But that salvation must be put into effect now in this life. Therefore, Paul says, “Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’” (2 Cor. 6:1-2). The apostle is urging one and all to come to faith in Christ now.

Thus, Jesus tells us what it is to spend our life for the King. We will take up the cross that Christ gives us, and we will follow Him where He leads. We will give our life away for His sake. We will forfeit the treasures and pleasures of this world for the joys and riches of the Kingdom of heaven. And we will do this knowing that, when the Son of Man comes in the glory of His Father with all His angels, He will repay us with all the riches of heaven.

SDG                 rmb                 11/12/2021                 #454

The two witnesses and Christ’s ministry – Part 2

This is the second post on the interpretation of Revelation 11:3-12 about the two witnesses. Yesterday (Nov. 1), I presented an exegesis of this passage that revealed the meaning of the events at the end of the age. In this post, I want to demonstrate how the persecution of these “two witnesses” (the faithful church) at the end of the age parallels the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus in His earthly ministry.

PARALLELS BETWEEN THE FAITHFUL CHURCH AND THE MINISTRY OF JESUS

In Revelation 11:3-6

The two witnesses, representing the faithful church, “will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth” (Rev. 11:3). Notice first that the duration of their prophesying is about three and a half years. Second, the expression “clothed in sackcloth” speaks about the pain and the difficulty of their ministry. The church will prophesy at the end of the age[i] in the face of persecution and opposition. The world will be actively antagonistic to their message and will hate the witnesses (see Rev. 11:10).

From His baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist to His ascension to heaven following His resurrection, the duration of Jesus’ earthly ministry was about three years. Also, from His rejection at Nazareth to His opposition by the Pharisees and religious leaders to His betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion, Jesus’ ministry was conducted in the face of persecution and opposition. The world hated Jesus (John 15:18) and was actively antagonistic to His message.

In Revelation 11:7

When the two witnesses, representing the faithful church, “have finished their testimony” (see Acts 1:8; Matthew 24:14), “the beast will make war with them and overcome them (see Rev. 13:7; 16:14; 20:8) and kill them.” When the faithful church has accomplished the mission given to her by her King, then the beast will be allowed to overcome and kill the church.

When Jesus had accomplished the work of redemption that the Father had given Him to do (John 17:4), when His time had come (see John 12:23; 13:1), only then were Jesus’ enemies allowed to rise up against Him and kill Him.

In Revelation 11:9

After the two witnesses (the faithful church) are killed, “those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days” (11:9).

After Jesus died on the cross, He was buried and “the Son of Man was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40).

In Revelation 11:10

When the dead bodies of the two witnesses lie in the street, “those who dwell on the earth rejoice over them and celebrate.” The world is glad to finally be rid of the faithful church.

Speaking of His death, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice” (John 16:20).

In Revelation 11:11

After the defeat at the hands of the beast, the faithful church will be resurrected in glory. “But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet.” As was explained in the earlier post, this is the Resurrection at the end of the age.

As is proclaimed many times in the New Testament as the main message of the New Testament, after three days, Jesus was raised from the dead in His glorious resurrection.

In Revelation 11:12

After their Resurrection, the faithful church ascends from the earth to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:17). “And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” Then they went up into heaven in the cloud” (Rev. 11:12).

Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus ascended to heaven while His disciples watched. “And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9).

SUMMARY

What we have seen in this exploration of Revelation 11:3-12 is that the ministry of the faithful church at the end of the age, “the two witnesses” of this passage, unfolds in a very similar way to the earthly ministry of Jesus the Messiah. The ministries of both face opposition and hostility. Thinly veiled hatred from the world eventually erupts in violence and destruction. Christ is crucified, while the faithful church is annihilated, and the world rejoices in apparent victory. Then comes the Resurrection and the ascension, and defeat of the Messiah and of His church is immediately turned into victory.

SDG                 rmb                 11/02/2021                 #450


Losing your life for the King (Matthew 16:25)

Back on October 26, I had begun a series of posts on how to spend life for the highest purpose. This topic is critically important because, it turns out, life can only be spent. Not one second can be saved or stored up for later, but every second must be spent. And, once gone, time can never be recovered. Therefore, the issue for every person becomes, “How shall my life be spent for the highest possible value?”

In a brief section of Scripture in Matthew 16:24-27, Jesus declares to all His would-be disciples how to spend their lives for the highest possible purpose.

In Matthew 16:25, Jesus gives His disciples the paradox that, if you want to spend your life well, you must lose your life.

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

There are many who wish to save their lives. The one who “wishes to save his life” is the one who wants to keep his life for himself. He is under the impression that he is free to do with his life whatever he wants to do. He believes that his life is his own. He is the king of his own life, and no one can tell him what to do.

Before I knew Christ as Lord and Savior, I had grand ambitions for how to make my life significant. Although these schemes now seem like foolish wastes of time, without Christ to rule my life, dreams of money and mansions and impressive accomplishments were fuel for my engine. All my desires were selfish wishes for self-glory. I was chasing disappearing mirages and vanishing mists. I wished to save my life, but I was losing my life in vain pursuits.

Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” I was blindly running down the way of death.

In Ecclesiastes 1-2, the author accomplishes much “under the sun,” but in the end spending his life on grand projects for his own glory and pleasure proved meaningless. “And so I hated life; everything is futility and striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:17).

“But whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” “Loses his life” means surrendering the control of my life into the Lord’s hands. My life is no longer my own (I have been bought with a price – 1 Corinthians 6:20). My life has been placed in Jesus’ hands and He is free to dispose of it or use it in anyway He chooses. And it is here, as an instrument in Jesus’ hands, that life indeed and full satisfaction are to be found. When I lose my life, and my life becomes His life to use as He sees fit, then I find my life and find the joy and peace that a useful life brings.

Jesus Himself modeled this losing His life for the Father’s use when He was in His greatest anguish in Gethsemane. He said to the Father, “Yet not My will, but Yours be done.”

The goal, then, is to give our lives away to find them.

SDG                 rmb                 10/31/2021                 #448

The Last Act of the Drama is published

For more than a year I have been spending a significant portion of my writing bandwidth on a book project creating a guide for the end-times. Finally, after many hours of writing and rewriting, and many hours of prayer, the work has been completed and it has now been self- published on the Amazon KDP platform.

The work is called:

The Last Act of the Drama: A guide to the end-times. Here is the URL link.

Why would I write a book on the end-times? Many believers find the study of end-times prophecy in the Bible (eschatology) intimidating and confusing, a few are passionate about eschatology, but all Christians and many non-Christians should be interested in end-times prophecy now because of the unprecedented events that fill our daily news feeds. In every corner of the globe and in every sphere of human endeavor, startling events are occurring with bewildering frequency, and the question must be asked, “Are we nearing the end?” Are all these crazy events somehow related to the return of Christ? The only way to answer that question is to have a firm grasp on what the Bible says about the end of the age and about the return of Christ. That is the intended value of this guide, that it will help the average Christian to understand the end-times.

Specifically, here are excerpts from the book:

“This book is written to help the follower of Jesus better understand the final act of God’s grand drama by showing how the end-times passages in the Bible fit together to create a cohesive and unified whole. The Bible presents the end of the age as a completed puzzle with no extra pieces and no missing pieces. All prophecy is fulfilled, and all promises are kept. The challenge lies in seeing how all the pieces fit together and in grasping the meaning of the individual pieces so that their place in the drama can be understood.”

Regarding the purpose of the book:

“The PURPOSE of this book is to help the believer understand the Bible’s teaching about the end of the age and the return of the Lord Jesus Christ so that their hope in Christ is strengthened and their anticipation of the Lord’s appearing is heightened. To achieve this purpose, the attempt has been made to make the explanations and interpretations readily accessible to the sincere student of Scripture.”

So, I invite you to check the book out on the Amazon site with URL above. SDG                 rmb                 10/27/2021

The man of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:3-10)

In any discussion of the end-times in the Bible, the conversation will eventually touch on the antichrist. The speculation about the antichrist is often wild and unbridled, conjuring up images and activities that are completely foreign to any biblical text, but in those situations where the speculation is sober and biblically based, attention will turn to 2 Thessalonians 2 and the passage about “the man of lawlessness.” The man of lawlessness represents the clearest and most explicit teaching about the antichrist in all of Paul’s writing, and therefore deserves serious consideration when discussing the antichrist at the end of the age.

In my upcoming book, The Last Act of the Drama, I cover 2 Thessalonians 2 in depth, along with other eschatological Scriptures that highlight biblical manifestations of the antichrist, so this article is not about my thoughts, because they are expressed there. Rather, this post is about the thoughts of Herman Ridderbos, a Dutch biblical scholar, and are taken from his magnificent work, Paul: An Outline of His Theology. Ridderbos carefully exegetes this passage in 2 Thessalonians 2 and gives clear and helpful guidelines for how to understand this evil person who will appear at the very end of the age. I have selected quotes from his writing below that I think are most insightful and helpful in any study of the man of lawlessness. A careful reading of these quotes will give you a solid understanding of the biblical antichrist.

“The most striking thing of course is that this power inimical to God is concentrated here in the figure of what Paul calls the man of lawlessness.” (RMB: It is noteworthy that Paul concentrates all this evil in a single man.) “Furthermore, it is certainly indicated in the denotation “the man of lawlessness” that this man is not merely a pre-eminently godless individual, but that in him the humanity hostile to God comes to a definitive, eschatological revelation.” (p. 514)

Also, “just as Paul places Adam and Christ over against one another as the first and second ‘man,’ as the great representatives of two orders of men, so the figure of ‘the man of lawlessness’ is clearly intended as the final, eschatological counterpart of the man Jesus Christ.” “The coming of ‘the man of lawlessness,’ just as that of Christ, is called a παρουσία. It is marked by all manner of power, signs, and wonders, like those of Christ in the past.” (p. 514) “The man of sin (lawlessness) is the last and highest revelation of man (humanity) inimical to God, the human adversary of the man Jesus Christ, in whom the divine kingdom and the divine work has become flesh and blood. The divine antithesis between God and Satan that dominates history is decided on the human plane in those (two individuals) who as ‘the man’ represent salvation and destruction.” (p. 515) (RMB: Consider the parallel in 1 Samuel 17 when David, the coming king of Israel, fights Goliath, the champion of the enemies of Israel. Each represents their people, such that, as the champion fares in the battle, so go the people. David, as a type of Christ, vanquishes Goliath, who is a type of the antichrist. At the end of the age, the ultimate representatives will face one another, and the man of lawlessness (antichrist) will be finally vanquished by the returning Jesus Christ. That’s Ridderbos’ picture here.)

“As Christ is a person, but at the same time one with all who believe in Him and are under His sovereignty, so the antichrist is not only a godless individual, but a concentration of godlessness that already goes forth before him and which joins all who follow at his appearance him into unity with him. (He is now restrained because at his appearance unbelief, lawlessness, and godlessness will attempt to set themselves as an organic unity over against God and Christ.” (p. 516) “Paul does not stop with an ‘it,’ with an idea, or with a force, but the organic and corporate unity of human life finds its bearer and representative, as in Adam and Christ, so also in the antichrist, in a specific person. The antichrist would be no antichrist if he were not the personal concentration point of lawlessness, if he were not the man of lawlessness.” (p. 516)

Satan’s activity and God’s sovereignty in the end-times

NOTE: This article is an excerpt from my book on the end-times, “The Last Act of the Drama,” a guide for the end-times that will be completed and self-published soon. rmb

There is no doubt that our world today gives us reasons to fear. A lot of people, myself included, see a marked increase in evil in many spheres and at many levels, and it is unsettling. Things in which we used to trust as rock-solid and unchanging have collapsed and worst-case scenarios are common. Most challenging of all is that the trajectory into the future seems to be for things to get more chaotic and for losses to continue to outpace gains. Yes, the view is troubling and we as believers can be tempted to think that God is no longer in control and that Satan and wickedness have gotten the upper hand.

It is in times like these that we open our Bible and dig deep to find out what God has said in His Word. With regard to what we see in our present times, our Bible gives us a foundational truth that never changes:

Our God is always in absolute control of all things.

But, if God is in sovereign control of all things, why do we see escalating wickedness in our world? How can God’s sovereign control be reconciled with Satan being able to increase evil and lawlessness in the world? Doesn’t a rise in Satan’s work of chaos and strife and violence indicate that God is not in complete control?

The short answer is, “No.” God remains in complete control, but as the world moves toward the end of the age, God will manifest His sovereign control by using Satan’s activity to take history in a new direction. At the appropriate time, God will begin to fulfill all the prophecies about the end-times that are written in His Word so that the world will be prepared for the glorious return of the Lord Jesus.

This means that, as we study the end-times and see Satan and his demons creating chaos and strife, we must maintain a settled view of Satan’s power and his role. Despite his reputation, the Bible reveals that Satan is merely another character on the Lord’s stage. As Judas was chosen as one of the Twelve because the Lord Jesus needed a betrayer, so Satan has been created because the Lord required someone to do the grand evil acts scripted into His great drama. The Lord needed someone to tempt Adam and Eve, and Satan was ordained as the tempter (Genesis 3:1-6). God needed someone to test Job, so Satan was selected for that part (Job 1, 2). Someone was needed to test the Lord Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), so Satan received that part, as well.

So it will be in the future, when Satan is released from the abyss (Revelation 20:3, 7) to play his role as God’s supporting actor and to fulfill everything that God has created him to fulfill in the last act of the grand drama. “The great dragon, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan” (Revelation 12:9) is the actor needed to move history toward the end of the age. In his role, the devil will accomplish exactly as much destruction and lawlessness as the Lord, before the foundation of the world, ordained for him to accomplish, but not even the slightest bit more. Satan will freely choose to do all the evil that the Lord has sovereignly scripted for him to do, and he does not get to adlib. He is an actor on God’s stage, and he enters and exits that stage according to the Director’s precise instructions. He can do no other.

Therefore, we need not be frightened when, as we approach the end of the age, we see Satan doing those things that the Bible declares he must certainly do. He is simply playing the role that God has sovereignly ordained for him to play. The Lord Jesus Himself told us these things would surely take place and He told us these things so that we would not be frightened when they came to pass (Matthew 24:5-13, 21-28). We conclude that Satan acts exactly as God has decided for him to act, completely contained by God’s sovereignty.

SDG                 rmb                 7/21/2021                   #424

Ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:15-21)

In this passage, the apostle Paul teaches how it is that the “not many wise and not many noble (1 Corinthians 1:26)” who make up the majority of the people of God are transformed into ambassadors for Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:15-21

15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

16 Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

5:15 – The apostle starts by telling us that we (believers in Jesus) are “no longer to live for ourselves.” That means that “I” have moved way down the list of priorities. I am no longer consumed with the question, “How can I benefit from this?” I am not obsessed with “what’s in this for me?” My desire now is to be useful to Jesus.

I have been bought by another. My life is not my own and, therefore, my life and its preservation and pleasure are not my concern. Another now holds the title deed to my life. I am no longer the master. Instead, I serve the Master, the Lord, and do what pleases Him.

I now “live for Him who died and rose again on my behalf.” Therefore, my new first question is, “What is my Master’s will?” What is His highest priority? What has He bought me to do for Him? What has He called me to do for Him, in general and specifically?

5:16 – Now we do not assess a person based on what they are “in the flesh.” In other words, we do not judge our fellow believers on the basis of outward appearance or worldly circumstance. It is immaterial if the brother is rich or poor. It is of no consequence whether the disciple is a man or a woman, young or old. Their ethnicity is only a feature of their personhood. “We recognize no one according to the flesh.” Why?

5:17 – Now we see every believer as a new creature in Christ. Whatever came before has passed away. Were you a drunk or a drug addict? It matters not. You are now a new creature in Christ, and new things have come. Were you a homosexual or were you a prostitute? Gone! Those things have passed away and you have now put on Jesus’ white robe of righteousness. You are a new creature in Christ. Were you a thief or a liar or a cheat? Did you have a foul mouth and a fouler mind? Were you angry and hateful and vengeful and cruel? For His people, Christ has vanquished all these things by His death on the cross. “If ANYONE is in Christ, he is a new creature!” The old is GONE. The new has come.

5:18 – So we have been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ and, having been reconciled and made new, we have been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation. Having experienced the power of the ministry of reconciliation, we are now to be participants in proclaiming reconciliation to as many as we can.

5:18-19 – God has reconciled us to Himself so that our highest priority is to fulfill our ministry of reconciliation. We have been reconciled to be reconcilers.

Since we have been saved by the gospel, we are now obligated to proclaim the gospel. God has committed us to the word of reconciliation.

5:20 – THEREFORE! What is the reason that Paul has told us about this ministry of reconciliation? Why has he declared to us the glories of the new birth, that if ANYONE is in Christ, they are a new creature? Where has Paul been headed in this passage? Well, he has been headed here! This has been his intended destination. Because we now no longer live for ourselves but now all believers live to please Christ. Because, regardless of the wreckage of our past, we are new creatures in Christ, and the old has passed away. And because we have now received the ministry of reconciliation, THEREFORE, we are ambassadors for Christ. The living God makes His appeal to lost sinners through us. THEREFORE, the disciples of Christ beg the perishing to be reconciled to God through Christ. This is our mission.

5:21 – And what is it that we are to proclaim to those who are outside of Christ? What are we to tell those who are still hell-bound? Here is 2 Corinthians 5:21 we have a one verse summary of the gospel.

21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, has died an atoning death on the cross so that all who believe in Him will receive His righteousness imputed to them and will be reconciled to God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us commit fully to our role as ambassadors for Christ and let us fulfill our ministry of reconciliation.

SDG                 rmb                 6/29/2021                   #419

The Angel of the LORD and Moses (Exodus 3)

This article is another of our studies on the mysterious character of the angel of the LORD. As we go through the appearances of this person in the Old Testament, it will quickly become obvious that this is no ordinary angel. In fact, my conviction is that this is none other than the pre-incarnate Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity before His appearance in Bethlehem. My goal in these posts is to demonstrate how the Scriptures present the angel of the LORD as divine and thus to show that He prefigures Jesus Christ. I also want to discover what characteristics the angel of the LORD displays which will later be manifested by Jesus in His earthly ministry. Finally, an objective in all my posts is to show the beauty and the power of the Scriptures, and to make plain that the Scriptures are God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).

EXODUS 3: MOSES AND THE BURNING BUSH

The basic story of Moses and the burning bush is very well known. Many people in our culture even today can tell you that Moses was in the desert and God spoke to him out of a bush that was burning but was not being burned up. It is as we dig deeper down into the details of Exodus 3, however, that we begin to see the complexity and the mystery of what, on the surface, appears to be a simple story. Our focus here will be on the angel of the LORD and trying to determine his identity. As the story opens, Moses has been a shepherd in Midian for forty years. One day, he wanders over into the west side of the wilderness and comes near Mount Horeb.

Then the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of the bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not being consumed.

COMMENTS: Observe that the Scripture explicitly says that the angel of the LORD (AOTL) appeared to Moses. The AOTL was visible to Moses, as if the AOTL allows God to be seen.

Also, “the AOTL appeared to him in a blazing (flaming) fire from the midst of the bush.” We will see later in Exodus 3:4a that “God called to him (Moses) from the midst of the bush.” The repetition of the exact phrase is the literary means of intentionally connecting God with the AOTL.  

The final comment from this verse is the author’s choice of the Hebrew word for “blazing,” elsewhere translated as “flaming.” This same Hebrew word appears in two other passages involving the AOTL, in Judges 13:20 when the AOTL announces the conception of Samson and in Isaiah 10:17, an allusion to the destruction of the Assyrian army by the AOTL.

The point of these comments is that they begin planting seeds in our thinking that this AOTL is not just an ordinary angel but may be much more.

When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”

COMMENTS: In commenting on Exodus 3:2, we had observed that the AOTL appeared, and that God called to him from the midst of the bush. The message being communicated by this repetition of phrase is that persons who do the same things are very closely related to each other.

There is further mystery here, as “the LORD saw that he (Moses) turned aside,” but then God is the one who called to Moses from the midst of the bush. For those keeping track, we now have the AOTL, the LORD, and God all in the midst of the bush.

One of the characteristics of this appearance of the AOTL, and of appearances of the AOTL in general, is that there is intentional ambiguity about identity. When the AOTL and God and the LORD appear in the same scene, it is difficult to determine where one ends and the other begins. This is done intentionally in the text to convey the idea that there is a lot of overlap in these characters. So, right now it seems that the AOTL is closely related to God.

Since God is now calling to Moses from the midst of the bush, we need to ask the question, “What happened to the AOTL?” The AOTL does not appear again in the chapter. Where did He go? Did He just disappear? Also, when did God enter the scene? The solution could be that the AOTL is the visible manifestation of God. It could be that the AOTL is “the image of the invisible God” (spoken of Jesus Christ in Colossians 1:15).  

Another interesting observation is seeing how God calls Moses. “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” In an earlier encounter with the AOTL in Genesis 22, we saw that the AOTL called Abraham by saying, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” (Genesis 22:11) Again, it is significant when the Scripture presents this sort of repetition: A double calling of the name with a response of, “Here I am.” This serves to create further ambiguity between God and the AOTL. “If they speak the same way, maybe they are the same person.”

Up to this point, then, both the AOTL and God act from the midst of the bush, but also both God and the AOTL call people in the same way. Hmmm. They certainly have a lot of similarities.

16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has appeared to me, saying, “I am indeed concerned about you and what has been done to you in Egypt.”’

COMMENTS: We are skipping down to this verse (3:16) to see what God instructs Moses to tell the people of Israel: the LORD, the God of Abraham has appeared to him. What is interesting is that, in this chapter, only the AOTL is recorded as having appeared to Moses (Exodus 3:2). What do we conclude from this? The conclusion seems to be that when the AOTL appears, it is as if the LORD Himself has appeared. An appearance of the AOTL is an appearance of the LORD.

GENERAL COMMENTS: It is difficult to tell how many people are in this scene. We see the AOTL, the LORD and God all mentioned in this chapter, but the Person talking with Moses is only one person. In other words, the name changes between the AOTL and the LORD and God, but it is obviously the same person speaking throughout.

CONCLUSION

Even though the angel of the LORD is only mentioned once (in 3:2), it seems that throughout the chapter, the AOTL is the visible manifestation of the LORD and of God. Just as Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, could say, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father,” so in the Old Testament the one who had seen the AOTL had seen the LORD.

SDG                 rmb                 3/18/2021

Raised together with Christ – Colossians 3:1-12 Part 3

DOCTRINAL TRUTH THAT EMPOWERS OBEDIENCE (3:9-11)

In the two previous articles we have been attempting to answer the question, “If, for the believer, the ‘old self’ has died (Colossians 3:3) and our sin has been atoned for and forgiven because of Christ’s death on our behalf (Colossians 1:13-14), why does sin and the ‘old self’ continue to plague us?” Colossians 3:1-12 has been chosen as our study passage because here, in these verses, the apostle Paul gives doctrinal teaching and exhortations that directly address this question. On March 1, 2021, I had posted an article focused on the commands Paul issues to the believer because the believer has been raised up with Christ.

We may wonder, however, where we are supposed to find the ability to obey all these commands. Paul has given us these commands, but these are not trivial, especially if we were in the “old self” for a long time. Putting sins to death (3:5) and putting other sins aside (3:8) and stopping my habits of lying (3:9); that is a pretty tall order! How do we do this?

After he issues his commands, Paul then tells of the power supply for obedience. What Paul presents as fact is that, when you were raised up with Christ in salvation, you simultaneously laid aside the “old self” (3:9) and you put on the “new self” (3:10), and the “new self” that you put on is itself being renewed into the image of Christ (3:10; Romans 8:29). Best of all, this renewal of the “new self” is a process called sanctification that continues (Phil. 2:12-13) in every believer from the moment that you are raised up with Christ (conversion) to the day of your physical death. For those who were counting, there were four doctrinal truths given. We will unpack all four briefly.

When you first responded to the gospel by trusting Christ as Lord and Savior, part of the salvation package was that you laid aside the “old self” (3:9). This is not something that you consciously did but was rather something that was done for you because you trusted in Christ. Having laid aside the “old self” (3:9), you laid aside the old self’s love of sin. Since the old self died (3:3), the old self’s craving for the evil pleasures of sin also died. Although it may have taken some time, maybe even a long time, for you to fully experience this death, the doctrinal truth is that, at the moment of conversion, your love of sin was doomed. And this laying aside of the old self is a universal experience for all believers.

Having laid aside the “old self,” you then needed something to put on in its place. Thus, the “old self” was put off and the “new self” was put on (3:10). This “new self” or “new man” is the spiritual counterpart to the “old self” and is also part of the salvation package. As the “old self” loved sin, so the “new self” loves holiness and righteousness. As the “old self” spoke lies, so the “new self” speaks truth. As the “old self” loved self, so the “new self” seeks to love others. All believers have put on the new self.

Having put on the new self (3:10), the believer is ready to begin growing in practical holiness, a process that is called sanctification. When you first trust Christ and when you have just been raised up with Christ, the new self is like a spiritual toddler. But as the believer walks with Jesus and begins to drink the spiritual milk of the Word (1 Peter 2:2; Colossians 3:16) and fellowships with other believers, “the new self is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him (3:10).” This means that another part of the salvation package (“being raised up with Christ”) for all believers is that we are being conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).

But there is still more doctrinal truth here. This “renewal,” that we also know as sanctification, is a process that occurs in all believers, regardless of any social or cultural consideration. Paul lists groups of people who are as diverse as people can be (3:11) to show that anyone who has been raised up with Christ has an equal opportunity to be “renewed.” All believers without distinction should be growing in obedience and sanctification, whether their “old self” was as uncivilized as a Scythian or as self-righteous as a Pharisee. This is because their “new self” is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16), and this renewal continues in the believer until their race here on earth is finished.

CHOSEN, HOLY, AND BELOVED (3:12)

Finally, Paul states the strongest doctrinal truth of the passage: “Therefore, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved (3:12), put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” The doctrinal truth contained in this verse is essentially a definition of a Christian. All Christians are “chosen of God,” they are “holy,” in that they have been set apart to God, and they are “beloved” by God. Because this is true, “therefore” the Christian is duty-bound to put on a heart of compassion, kindness, etc.

SUMMARY

What we have seen in the passage is that the doctrinal truths of salvation obligate us to holy and righteous living and compel us to reject our old life of sin. These same doctrinal truths provide the believer with the power they need to obey the demands of a sanctified life.

SDG                 rmb                  3/2/2021