Jews and Greeks

This entry is part 157 of 164 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by truthseeker08 from Pixabay

Who was Paul talking to when he said, “Neither Jew or Greek”? Was it Israelites following after Greek gods or other nations?

This quote comes from Galatians 3:28. The book of Galatians was written to the region of Galatia. All of the churches in that region passed this circular letter around so that they could all read it.

The audience of the book of Galatians was Jews and Gentiles in that area who became believers in Jesus Christ. It was to the Saints in the churches of the Galatia region. One of the problems Paul had was a group called the Judaizers.

Judaizers were Jews from the region in Palestine of Judea. They followed Paul around and after he left one of his found in churches they would come in and teach the people that Jesus wasn’t enough. They needed more than Jesus. They needed to follow parts of the Mosaic law to be true Christians.

They teach things like kneading circumcision to be part of God’s people. This is why Paul throws a fit against it in the book of Galatians. He calls their teaching, “another gospel” (Galatians 1:6). The whole message of Galatians is that Jesus is enough for salvation and no one, Jew or Gentile, needs anything else but him.

The Gentiles and Greeks in Galatia took this message of the Judaizers to heart. They were asking Paul questions about circumcision, following Mosaic feasts and festivals, etc. they thought they had to do more than just believe in Jesus.

Paul’s argument in the book of Galatians is that they need nothing else. Jesus has done the complete work of salvation and all they need to do is accept his sacrifice. He includes a lot of material on the Holy Spirit and life in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). All of that follows because Jesus has made Christians free with sacrifice (Galatians 5:1).

So this quotation tells the Galatians it’s not about becoming Jewish to be a Christian or anything else. Because Jesus has made everyone who believes in him one people belonging to God there is no Jew or Greek or slave or free. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, part of the same family of God.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Mind Gate

This entry is part 40 of 40 in the series Holiness Matters
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

We have all kinds of ways to evaluate the mind. We have IQ tests, games that require quick thinking, essays and stories to test our creative thinking, and many more. We are fascinated by the way the mind works.

The Bible is no different. It discusses the mind on many occasions but I want to focus on the New Testament. It’s interesting to see how the writers of the New Testament explain what happens in the mind of an individual as they go from unbeliever to believer in Christ.

We’ve been talking about temptation and all the different ways to look at it from a New Testament point of view. Temptation usually starts in preys upon the desires of our flesh. But if our minds are not prepared to face the onslaught it brings, we will never be able to fend it off.

The mind becomes one of the center internal targets of holiness. As the Spirit works from the inside out, the mind has much to do with his work in making us new creatures and working out our salvation.

Some have said that the battlefield of the mind is the most important frontier for every believer in Jesus. I believe that this is right. Many of our problems stem from a misunderstanding of our identity in Christ given to us at salvation. This may be the reason one of the pieces of the armor of God is the helmet of salvation (Ephesians 6:17).

Before we knew Christ, our minds made us futile in our thinking (Romans 1:21). Every thought we had didn’t gain us an inch when it came to spiritual matters. We focused on worshiping creatures rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25).

We didn’t listen to God so he gave us over to a debased mind that thought of all kinds of new evils and sins to act out (Romans 1:28). The worst part is that we knew what God expected and yet we turned to sin and approved of others who did sin as well (Romans 1:31).

But everything changes when we follow Christ. He is transforming us from the inside out, including our minds. The mind is one of the inner parts of our person and one of the main things God changes as he changes our character.

Those same minds that supplanted any relationship with God are now used to love and glorify him. When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, he quoted from Deuteronomy 6:4, subtracting “might” and adding “mind” (Matthew 22:37). Originally, the Hebrew concept of the heart included the mind. But the Pharisees lost their way.

Paul talks about having the mind of Christ as people who are ruled by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:16). The Spirit knows the mind of God and he helps us to understand the things God gives us. To know the things of God is one of the results of being controlled by the Spirit.

So how do we love the Lord our God with our minds? It all starts with being continually renewed and transformed in our minds (Romans 12:2). A transformation comes through renewing our minds in Christ regularly.

Renewing our minds begins with focusing on the things that please God, that are good and acceptable to him. Philippians 4:8 expands on this idea even more. But it all starts with replacing anxiety with prayer. That’s when God brings his peace into our lives, which doesn’t make much sense to us but that’s what God brings.

God’s peace guards our hearts and minds. So our minds are free to focus on eight qualities that please God, the right kind of brain fuel. We think on whatever is

  1. True
  2. Honorable
  3. Just
  4. Pure
  5. Lovely
  6. Commendable
  7. Excellent
  8. Worthy of Praise

We must also monitor the way we think. Our minds are involved in spiritual warfare as we destroy every argument and opinion that contends against the knowledge of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Anything that comes from worldly wisdom or worldly thought processes we strike down before it gains a foothold.

Because our minds are so important to understanding own salvation and our identity in Christ we must continue to renew them in the things of God. The second part of that verse tells us to take every thought captive to Christ. We are not only monitoring our thoughts but are actively making them captive and obedient to Christ.

If a thought or a process goes against Christ in any way, we have the ability with the mind of Christ through the power of the Spirit to destroy arguments and opinions and to captivate the thinking that doesn’t honor Christ in ourselves.

How will we know? If it doesn’t agree with Scripture, God’s Word, or if the Holy Spirit convicts us about the things we are thinking or the way we’re using our minds, we can think a different way or have a different thought. When our minds are continually renewed by God’s Word and Spirit, we come under the obedience of the Spirit to think the things and ways that please God.

Twice in his letter James talks about being double-minded (James 1:8; 4:8). The first time James mentions the double-minded person is in the context of praying for God’s wisdom (James 1:5). But the principle of asking without doubt (James 1:6) applies to all of our prayers despite the request.

Every prayer must be a prayer of faith or there’s no point in asking God. This is where James talks about being double-minded. He describes this person as unstable in all his ways. Double-minded means that we are divided in our interests or decisions. It’s like riding the fence.

The second time James uses it is after a discussion on being a friend of the world and a friend of God (James 4:4-6). Then he gives two commands, first to submit to God and then to resist the devil (James 4:7).

Then in James 4:8 he tells us to draw near to God. Every time that we draw near to God he draws near to us. This is the opposite of the worldliness and trying to be friends with the world mentioned earlier. To draw near to God is to cleanse our hands (actions we commit) and to purify our hearts, the opposite of being double-minded.

Double-mindedness is to be divided in our allegiances, thoughts, intentions, and decisions. This mixing in our minds can only be set right through purifying our minds. Purity is the opposite of being mixed or divided.

Peter also talks about thinking and the mind. He always speaks about being sober-minded (1 Peter 1:13; 4:7; 5:8). Here, Peter is using the idea of being temperate, self-controlled, and well-balanced in our thoughts.

He commands us to prepare our minds for action (1 Peter 1:13). To prepare yourself mentally for battle must be well-balanced and self-controlled in your thoughts. It seems similar to Paul telling us to think on the things that please God in Philippians 4:8.

Because the end is near, every Christian must be sober-minded especially in our prayers (1 Peter 4:7). Many things happen in the end times and we must be prepared for the events the Bible has told us will be coming.

The final time Peter talks about being sober minded is in connection with the attacks of the enemy, the devil who prowls around like a roaring lion seeking to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). We must be aware of his attacks and all his tactics. This doesn’t mean that we concentrate our thoughts on the enemy but that we are prepared for his schemes.

These are some of the ways the New Testament focuses on the mind of the Christian and the importance of our thoughts, imagination, ways of thinking, and focus. We must commit ourselves to thinking like Christ and pleasing him with our thoughts. After all, the mind is the center of everything else in the body. It controls everything else from actions to feelings.

It’s amazing to see how important the mind is to our sanctification and to becoming holy. The way we think and the thoughts that we think have incredible power over our walk with God. Leave a comment and tell us ways you renew your mind in Christ.

Posted in Holiness Matters | Tagged , | Leave a comment

God’s Omnipresence

This entry is part 156 of 164 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by composita from Pixabay

What are some scriptures that support God being present everywhere?

God is present throughout his entire creation. Because he is Spirit () he can be anywhere all the time. At the beginning of creation, all three members of the Trinity took part in creating the universe.

God used his voice to speak creation into existence. The Holy Spirit hovers over the water (Genesis 1:2). And John tells us that Jesus was also present as a preexistent being, called the Logos, or Word (John 1:1-3).

Perhaps the best evidence is what David says as he speaks about God, “Where can I go from your presence? (Psalm 139:7). David makes the point throughout this Psalm that he cannot get away from God even in Sheol, the underworld of the dead or the grave.

Even in death God’s presence is there with humanity. He is with us no matter where we go because all of creation belongs to him. Being present everywhere doesn’t mean that he is a pantheistic God.

He does not dwell in all of creation itself. He is separate from his creation. Pantheists teach that God is in everything around us. The Christian God is not in all of his creation, existing as his creation, but he is all throughout his creation.

Here are some other scriptures (to name a few) that talk about God’s presence everywhere at the same time:

  • 1 Kings 8:27
  • Acts 17:24-25
  • Amos 9:2-3
  • Hebrews 4:13
  • Deuteronomy 4:13
  • Deuteronomy 10:14
Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Stephen

This entry is part 155 of 164 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Karen Arnold from Pixabay

As righteous as Stephen was before he was stoned, why didn’t he write any of the books of the Bible?

All of the books of the New Testament were written by either apostles, those who had first-hand eyewitness account from an apostle who influenced the writing of the book or knew Jesus on a first-hand basis.

This was the general rule for acceptance of one of the New Testament books in the early church councils. But it all comes down to which books the Holy Spirit testified with the church that he inspired the writer of the book.

  • Matthew was an apostle who wrote Matthew.
  • John Mark used the eyewitness testimony of Peter to write Mark.
  • Luke traveled with Paul when he wrote Acts and researched and used historical eyewitness testimony for the Gospel of Luke.
  • John the apostle wrote the Gospel of John, 1-3 John and Revelation.
  • Paul was an apostle who had an eyewitness account of Jesus during his conversion in Acts 9, we counted three times in the book of Acts. He wrote Romans-Philemon, 13 New Testament books.
  • The writer of Hebrews is the only one we don’t know who the author was. The author does not tell us to he is anywhere in the book. But he was well-versed in Scripture and it is clear that the Holy Spirit inspired him to write.
  • James was the pastor of the Jerusalem church and wrote the book of James.
  • Peter was an apostle and wrote 1-2 Peter.
  • Jude was a brother of Jesus and wrote Jude.

Stephen was connected with the apostles and chosen by them to do the ministry of the deacon (Acts 6:1-6). But this job entailed that he was a manager or steward within the church. Because he did not have a direct connection with Jesus as an apostle, this is one of the reasons he did not write.

Aside from this, if he would have written a book, it would’ve been in consideration by the Holy Spirit and the church during one of the councils. As far as we know, he didn’t write any books.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Beasts of Revelation

This entry is part 154 of 164 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Michael Siebert from Pixabay

What is the difference between the beast of the sea in Revelation 13:1 and the second beast of the earth in Revelation 13:11?

These two beasts are the agents of the Dragon, or Satan. They both serve him but in slightly different ways. The first beast probably speaks of the Antichrist well the second beast speaks of his prophet. They are two of the three parts of the false Trinity.

The first beast resembles the beast that Daniel prophesies about (Daniel 7:1-8). People say it is the representation of the Antichrist because it has horns and diagrams (crowns), speaking of its political command over many nations.

The leopard beast in Daniel and also mentioned here in Revelation may signify a new Rome. The Roman Empire died off in antiquity but a new Roman Empire may refer to John’s imagery not only of Rome but also of Babylon. This is the Empire that does whatever it wants whether it is moral or not.

The Antichrist heads up this new Roman Empire. The Dragon (Satan) gives the Antichrist all of his power to do whatever he wants on the earth. To control the people religiously the Antichrist is injured with a mortal wound that is healed, probably symbolizing a connection to Jesus’ resurrection. Remember, he is part of the false Trinity trying to convince the nations that he is greater than God.

He speaks against God and blasphemes Him, Reminiscent of the man of lawlessness in 1 Thessalonians 2, who takes his place in the Temple as the new religious leader of the world. He also attacks the saints. Other than Christians, the whole world worships the Antichrist, the first beast.

Right after this, John continues to explain that there is a second beast. This second beast is a sort of evangelist for the first beast. It speaks like the Dragon, like the first beast, and it also has the authority of the first beast.

His job is to make the world worship the Antichrist. He does many miracles to convince the people to follow the Antichrist. He resembles the Holy Spirit as part of the false Trinity. Just as the Spirit only testifies about Jesus, so also the second beast, the prophet of the Antichrist speaks about the Antichrist.

Just like the Dragon and the Antichrist, the prophet deceives the nations so that they fall into the trap of worshiping the devil. John talks about an idol of the Antichrist the world worships. The prophet makes the Antichrist idol speak before the people to continue to deceive them.

The final goal of the profit of the Antichrist is to make the whole world take the Mark of the Beast. This is placed either in the four head on the right hand. Without it, people cannot join in commerce or society.

So the first beast represents the Antichrist and the second beast represents his prophet. They work with the Dragon, Satan, to deceive the nations into falling away from God and wanting them to be God instead. They represent the counterparts to Christ and the Holy Spirit in their actions.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Matthew 24-25

This entry is part 153 of 164 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Quinton Delmar from Pixabay

Why is Matthew 24 so important in the Bible?

Matthew 24 is the first half of Jesus’ instructions in telling us what will happen in the last days and end times. I separate the last days from the end times. The last days began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17). We live in the last days now.

The end times will begin a cataclysmic and tribulation filled time at the very end of human history. Matthew 24-25 tell us what will be expected leading up to the end times. Jesus begins with the prophecy about the Temple in Jerusalem being destroyed in 70 AD (Matthew 24:1-2).

But after that, the entire chapter is devoted to discussions of the end times and what they will be like. He begins with describing the signs of the end of the age (Matthew 24:3-14). These are not end times events. They are the events that lead up to the end times. They happen in the last days.

Jesus describes next the abomination of desolation prophesied originally by Daniel (Matthew 24:15-28). Jesus ended the last section by saying, “then the end will come.” So this abomination happens at the beginning of the end, to signify that the end times are swinging into full force.

Paul also describes this with the man of lawlessness in 1 Thessalonians 2. This is the rise of the Antichrist to power. Part of his power will be religious power that he grabs by going into the Temple in Jerusalem and presented himself as God.

At the same time the Antichrist is rising the power will be the time of the coming of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:29-31). He will send his angels and gather the church to himself. The world will realize that it has missed the boat, so to speak. This will be a crazy time and great tribulation will be upon the earth.

Jesus talks about the lesson of the fig tree (Matthew 24:32-35), saying that the farmer knows when the tree is ready. In the same way, we should be watching the times and seasons so that we know when these things are happening.

Jesus does say that this generation will pass away before these things happen. I believe the best way to interpret this is that this generation refers to the generation that sees the abomination of desolation and the other signs greatly intensifying in the beginning of the chapter.

The reason we must interpret the seasons and times of these events is that no one knows the day that the Son of Man will arrive before he comes (Matthew 24:36-52). Believers must always be prepared for his coming, hence the reason for discerning the times and seasons.

But the rest of the world will act as it did in the days of Noah. It will be like nothing is happening. They will ignore all of the signs and warnings of the changing of the times. Just like in those days when God’s rain came upon the earth and flooded it, the people will marry and buy and sell.

They will lack the discernment to see that the Son of Man is about to arrive, and the end times are about to begin. When he arrives, two people will be working and one will be taken. This will surprise the world because they aren’t paying attention to the signs and times.

Jesus focuses on the faithful servant whose master (Jesus) finds him doing what Jesus has told him to do when he comes. If we are faithful, when Jesus arrives we won’t have to worry about the day and hour he comes. We will be doing things that please him no matter when he comes.

Matthew 25 continues the theme of the end times by describing it in the sense of parables. The parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), the first, focuses on those who are not ready. Five of the virgins do not have enough oil and are not ready for the bridegroom’s arrival.

The second parable, the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), focuses on our ability as disciples to do the work that pleases the Lord until he returns. The master of the house leaves three servants three different amounts of talents. Talents are money.

The first and second double their profits but the third servant has preconceived notions of the morality of the master and does not even gain interest with the one talent he is given. He receives no reward and the talent is given to the first servant. Jesus rewards those who work hard for him.

I must explain from Matthew 24 and Matthew 25 that the second coming of the Son of Man comes in two parts. In Matthew 24, he comes in the clouds and takes the church away. The angels are the ones to collect them. But in Matthew 25 the Son of Man comes in physically plants his feet on the earth, judges the world, and is King.

He describes his judgment where he will separate the sheep from the goats. The sheep are the ones that believe in the Son of Man and treat others well. He says that he represents the needy and that they have passed his test by taking care of the needy.

But the goats are the ones who don’t believe in him and do not treat the needy well. They complain that they never saw him or they would have helped him. That’s when he identifies with the needy and says that if they helped the needy they helped him. He then tells them to leave his presence.

These two chapters contain the themes of preparing for the Lord’s coming, being faithful until he arrives, and believing in him and doing good works before his arrival. They are important to the Bible because they outline the end times events and make disciples of Jesus ready for his arrival.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Faith by God’s Word

Romans Miniseries Part 2

Image by Monika Robak from Pixabay

Being part of a family can be pretty awesome. You have the joy of the relationships in the family. You get to know everyone and everyone gets to know you. You’re part of something, you belong. And there’s also the pride of having that name and that history, along with the inheritance.

But some people don’t have the greatest of families. The fact is that none of us chooses the family we are born into. We have no say in our last name or our inheritance, if we get one. There are good fathers who treat their children right and there are bad fathers who squander the family wealth and inheritance and leave their children with nothing

God isn’t that way. He uses a completely different way to make his family. He doesn’t do it based on your background, where you grow up, you race or ethnicity. He does it based on your trust in him, your faith in the promise of his son Jesus.

It’s like getting into the best family you could possibly imagine. But you don’t have to do anything special. All you have to do is trust in God’s goodness and mercy to let you in. All you have to do is follow Jesus and obey him.

Back to Romans 9-11

We’ve looked at Romans 9 and how Paul deals with the chosen people, his people of Israel, not all being chosen. How God opened the doors to the Gentiles through his mercy even though they didn’t try to that like the Israelites did.

Now we’re going to look at Romans 10 and how he talks about getting into God’s family. It’s not what the Israelites thought, that they are simply descendents of Abraham, the first chosen person. Becoming chosen isn’t based on your heritage, background, or ethnic group.

We all join God’s family the same way Abraham did. Not based on what we are but based on choosing to trust in God’s promises. This is the only way to become one of his children and part of his family. This is how God chooses us because we trust in him.

Paul’s Hope (Romans 10:1)

We discussed in Romans 9 that these three chapters are all about Paul’s hope that his people, Israel, will come to God through Jesus Christ. All three chapters are colored by this hope. We see it once again in the opening verse of chapter 10.

Paul sees that his countrymen have fallen into the trap of thinking they can do the law to be part of God’s family. This is true but they have not had faith in God’s promises. They expect that when they do the law and fulfill God’s covenant that it’s good enough.

Paul tells us that his heart’s desire, his longing, is that his people will be saved into the family of God (Romans 10:1). He has been trying to talk himself through God’s sovereign choice of Abraham and Isaac, as well as Jacob.

But he also sees in his own ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles that God has opened the door for them to be part of his family as well. The only way this can happen is if people have to come to God through the promise of his son Jesus rather than their own genetics and ethnic origins. Just because the Jews are Jews doesn’t mean they are spiritual Israel.

Righteousness Versus Faith (Romans 10:2-7)

Paul now has to explain how his people as a nation have missed it. Don’t think Gentiles can’t miss it also. They never had a shot in history in the first place. They only come to God through his grace and faith in him. The problem is that the Israelites are caught up in following the law and making their own righteousness instead of trusting in God’s righteousness (Romans 10:2-3).

The Israelites are full of zeal but it is for a knowledge of their own righteousness rather than a knowledge of God’s righteousness in them. They followed the letter of the law thinking that was enough to make them righteous. They must put their trust not in their own ability to fulfill God’s law as a path to righteousness but God’s promise.

Isaac was the first promised son but not the last. Jesus was the final promised son, coming straight from God to finish God’s plan of salvation (Romans 10:4). Instead of making our own righteousness, Jesus came to put his righteousness on us. Instead of trusting in our own righteousness, we must put our trust in his righteousness.

Paul compares our own righteousness with the righteousness of Christ. He starts with the righteousness that comes from the law, the righteousness we think we can earn for ourselves by following every commandment to the letter.

Moses says that if we commit ourselves to gain righteousness through the letter of the law we are responsible to live by every law (Romans 10:5). This means there is no wiggle room for us to fail. Righteousness can only be gained by perfectly following every law. But no one in human history except for Jesus has ever done this.

Instead of relying on our own righteousness through the law that God gave, we can gain righteousness through faith in the promise of Jesus. We don’t need to worry about ascending into heaven based on our righteousness. We can leave that up to Christ through faith (Romans 10:6-7).

The Message of Faith (Romans 10:8-13)

Faith in Christ comes through the message of the gospel, the good news of Jesus. God’s Word is the foundation for faith in him. That is why we look to see what it says. Paul reminds us that God’s Word tells us that the word is near us, in our mouths and in our hearts (Romans 10:8).

What does that mean? Paul clarifies that the word that is near us is the word of faith. This is the word we believe in our heart and speak with our mouth to know Christ, to begin a relationship with him.

He outlines the way faith works in us to bring God’s salvation, whether we are Jews or Gentiles. This is how we become part of God’s family. Every part of it matters and every part of it must happen for God’s work to begin in us.

First, we confess with our mouth what we believe in our heart, that God raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 10:9-10). The resurrection of Jesus is the linchpin of faith. He died for our sins but was raised for the hope of eternal life. The forgiveness of sins followed by eternal life completes God’s plan of salvation.

  1. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord.
  2. Believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead.
  3. You are saved.

What’s happening under the hood: we believe in our hearts and that trust, that faith in God that all of his promise is true is what justifies us. Belief in God justifies, not doing the works of the law (Romans 10:10). Then we confess our belief that Jesus is the Lord of our life and on the throne of our heart, confessing the salvation that has already happened in our life and heart (Romans 10:10).

And the great thing about salvation is that anyone who trusts in Jesus will never be put to shame (Romans 10:11). The law made a distinction between Jews and Gentiles. Jews had the law of God to guide them but Gentiles relied on their consciences. Neither save the soul. We must trust in Jesus, God’s promised son.

But when we confess Christ as our Lord and believe in his work of redemption there is no distinction between any of us. Jesus is Lord over everyone who follows the process to be saved (Romans 10:12-13).

This is what Paul’s fellow countrymen lacked and had to do. Following the law to its letter would not lead to salvation unless they saw Christ as the end of the law (Romans 10:4). As long as they relied on their own ability their righteousness would never be enough. And this is why Paul longed for his people to hear and know the gospel that saves (Romans 10:1).

Ears of Faith (Romans 10:14-21)

this means that there is only one way to bring the opportunity of salvation, the message that brings hope, to everyone, including Paul’s people. People don’t believe in Christ because they haven’t heard of him (Romans 10:14).

They can’t call on God with their mouths or believe in their hearts if they don’t hear the message of salvation through the gospel. It requires the proclamation of the gospel, whether that is preaching or witnessing (Romans 10:14).

It is through proclaiming the gospel that people here and have the opportunity to believe in their hearts and speak with their mouths the confession of faith in Christ. But the preacher or proclaimer must be sent by God (Romans 10:15).

This is one of the reasons Paul always began in the synagogues in every city that he went to. And if the people did not believe after hearing (and he always saw a remnant of some who did) Paul would take the message to the Gentiles. Everyone deserves to hear the gospel no matter what their background, ethnicity, or life situation. God wants everyone to be saved (2 Peter 3:9).

Just because people hear the gospel doesn’t mean they all believe it and obey it (Romans 10:16). That is the risk those who proclaim the gospel bear. Some will not believe in only a remnant will be saved. But it is not because Christ only offers to some. He offers to all but belief does not always happen every time the gospel is proclaimed.

The Jews heard the gospel through the law and the prophets throughout their history, and yet only a remnant of them believed. But hearing the word of Christ through the gospel is the only way to belief in him (Romans 10:17).

Paul asks two questions about the Israelites who have yet to believe in the gospel. Have they not heard or have they not understood (Romans 10:18-20). He says that they have heard because creation, the skies and heavens, crying out the truth of God’s proclamation from Psalm 19:4.

On the question of the understanding of unbelievers, especially Israel, Paul refers to Moses and Isaiah. In Moses’ song in Deuteronomy 32, God talks about how Israel made him jealous by turning to idols. They understood what they were doing.

So God said that he would turn to another nation (Romans 10:19). In history this probably referred to the exile but now may be used by Paul to refer to opening the gospel and the kingdom to the Gentiles.

Second, Paul quotes from Isaiah who prophesies that God turns to another people instead of his chosen people who have spurned him and ignored him from the beginning of Isaiah 65. This is the prophecy of God opening his arms to the nations, or the Gentiles.

Paul finishes with the God who opens his arms to a people who reject him, the chosen people he has carried along through the wilderness to the promised land all this time. But they have turned to other gods. The God who is rejected by the nation he made rejects them.

Coming Up

What a way to end this part of Paul’s argument! He leaves us in such a dark place that we have to come back for more and read Romans 11. No one wants to be left at a place where God has taken all of this time and effort to make for himself a people that reject him completely.

But don’t worry. There is hope and it is coming in Romans 11. Tune in next time to look at Romans 11 and see how Paul begins to resolve the situation between Jews and Gentiles through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the making of his great Church.

Posted in Theology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Guardian

This entry is part 152 of 164 in the series Inquiring Minds

What does “guardian/tutor” mean in Galatians 3:24?

The guardian was much like what we would think of as a nanny today. Before the son of the house was old enough to receive the inheritance, the guardian kept it safe for him. This required the guardian to make sure the sun was safe and did what he was supposed to.

The guardian is represented by Paul as the law of Moses. It kept us in check and made sure we were living a holy life that would please God. But once Jesus came, he completely fulfilled the law and there was no need for the guardian any longer.

While the Israelites waited on God’s promised Messiah to come, they relied on the law of Moses. But the law can only tell you what you’re doing wrong. It can talk about the outside actions. It can’t see the heart or judge the inner person.

So the law feels like we are imprisoned by legalism and rules that we must follow. And yet inside we can violate the spirit of the law easily. Like the sun who wants to do his own thing, we are limited on the outside but not on the inside. We can sin all we want on the inside.

But when Jesus came, he changed everything. He was the promised Messiah. He fulfilled the law and was the end of the law (Matthew 5:17-20; Romans 10:4). Now that Jesus has arrived we are God’s children and the inheritance is ours by faith instead of by working to fulfill the law on our own. The law taught us righteousness but now we come under the righteousness of Christ.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Red Sea Vs. Reed Sea

This entry is part 151 of 164 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by WorldEnglish from Pixabay

What’s the difference between the Red Sea and the Reed Sea? I’ve heard theories that the Israelites walked through the Reed Sea instead of the Red Sea.

Depending on what route the Israelites took, they ran into the Red Sea or the Reed Sea (Sea of Reeds). Secular scholars say that the Israelites went through the Reed Sea. This is a misnomer that secular scholars throw up.

The literal translation of the Hebrew Bible is “Sea of Reeds.” But scholars take liberty with this and suggest that the Israelites passed through some shallow marshes instead of a deeper body of water. It makes it easier for them to discount the miracle of the Israelites walking over on dry land.

But the Red Sea is deep enough in the middle to kill Pharaoh and all of his soldiers who chased the Israelites into the Red Sea. They easily drown because it was so deep. God removed the waters and built up a wall on one side so the Israelites could pass through on dry land.

Then when Pharaoh and his army followed them on dry land, when they were probably in the middle and completely in the sea, God then let the wall of water go over them and crush them, drowning them.

The option of the shallow marsh means that Pharaoh and his armies had heavy equipment like chariots that got stuck in the middle of the marsh in the wet mud. The problem with this is that the water would not have drowned them in that scenario.

Later on King Solomon builds a fleet of ships on the Red Sea (1 Kings 9:26). We know this wasn’t close to Egypt. But the Mediterranean Sea pushes inward onto the land in a couple of places. It was on these fingers of the Mediterranean Sea, specifically the northwest finger of the Red Sea known today as the Gulf of Aqaba.

It’s more likely that the other finger of the Mediterranean Sea is where the Israelites crossed, also known as the Red Sea. It was deep enough to drown the Egyptians instead of them getting stuck in the shallow marsh.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Hurting God’s Heart

This entry is part 39 of 40 in the series Holiness Matters
Image by James Chan from Pixabay

One of the most foundational experiences as human beings is to share relationships with one another. We all relate to one another through these relationships, fathers, mothers, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.

There are many people around the world who also enjoy a relationship with some type of deity. Some don’t have relationship at all with their god or consider them unreachable. Christians worship God and have relationship with him through the Holy Spirit. We celebrate the fact that Jesus is alive and rose from the grave.

But what does relationship have to do with temptation and sin? God established a relationship with humanity from the very beginning. Adam and Eve in the garden enjoyed time with God as they walked in the cool of the day.

God had relationship with humans throughout history and focused on Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He created covenants as a framework for his relationship with them. And those carried through the old and new Testaments.

In the Old Testament, God usually focused on a few people here and there. Only a few had the presence of the Holy Spirit come upon them for works of service and to carry out the duties of their offices. Most people witnessed God in some form but didn’t necessarily have a lasting relationship with him.

It was different when God created the new covenant. He promised to pour out his Spirit on all people. For the first time in history everyone could have an intimate, ongoing relationship with God. Christians enjoy that precious relationship today.

But we don’t always think about it when we are tempted to sin. We have been programmed since the Reformation and the beginning of Protestantism (probably even further back) to think of our relationship with God more in terms of legalism and the law instead of relationship.

Most of us are tempted to sin and we immediately begin to weigh the consequences legally, rationalizing the possibility of following the process of asking forgiveness and being restored in our relationships. But this is the legal explanation of what is going on.

In the back of our minds we know that sin separates us from God. We feel that separation but we only think of the guilt of violating God’s laws. Seldom do we think of the fact that we have cut God to the heart with our actions. We have turned on our deep and intimate relationship with him.

Because we read the New Testament and think of things like grace versus law this is our thought process. We rationalize the fact that God’s grace is so encompassing but it’s okay to commit a sin here and there.

As long as we go through the process of reconciliation everything will turn out fine. But we miss the finer points of relationship when we think about it in only a legalistic way. This makes it easier to rationalize our sin, even premeditated sin.

God has always been a relational God. He is not far off. His Spirit lives inside of us and is integral to our life every day. God built his relationship with Israel on the idea of marriage. Even a cursory reading of the major and minor prophets shows how he relates to Israel through marriage.

Hosea married a prostitute to show what it was like for God when the Israelites turned to idols that couldn’t even speak or hear them. And if you think we got away from that through the new covenant consider that the ending of Revelation has a marriage supper with the Lamb, Jesus.

And we are called the bride of Christ several times throughout the New Testament. In fact, marriage itself is an image of the marriage between Christ and his Church (Ephesians 5:25-27, 31-32). Sorry guys, but we’re all the bride of Christ in the New Testament.

Joseph was particularly attune to his relationship with God. When Potiphar’s wife tempted him to sleep with her and was quite forceful about it, Joseph told her that he couldn’t do it. His main problem with committing such a sin was that it would be against her husband (Genesis 39:8) and it would be wickedness to sin against God (Genesis 39:10).

He thought completely in terms of relationship for her and himself if they would commit adultery. He didn’t check off all of the marks of rationalizing how he could get away with it. Joseph was concerned that several relationships would be destroyed in the blink of her passions.

He did not mention how it might destroy his career as Potiphar’s right-hand man. He was more concerned that she was Potiphar’s wife, the only person in the whole house that he had no control over. She wasn’t his to control or manage.

Joseph isn’t the only person throughout the Bible who thought of relationship first when it came to temptation and sin. Job makes a covenant with his eyes (Job 31:1) to avoid the temptation that the young maidens around him would’ve presented a rich man like himself.

It would have ruined his relationship with his wife, his children, and especially his God. He took the initiative to stop the possibility of this ever happening. The kind of temptation that he could have easily had the means to pursue he put under lock and key.

And our relationship with God must come before any desire to sin. Sin always separates us in our relationships. It separates us from the people around us that we committed against. But it also separates us from God.

Even if you think your sin won’t hurt anyone else, it hurts God. He put his Spirit inside of us for a reason. And the guilt that we feel may actually be separation. We think of it as guilt for trespassing God’s laws but it is separation that we truly feel.

I am convinced that if we began to think about sin in a more relational than legal sense we would sin a little less. So many of us think of the consequences of sin, the judgments that will flow from God because of our legal breaking of his laws.

But think of how much you would hurt your spouse or children, how much they would hate you, be disgusted with you, be angry with you. Well God gets just as angry and jealous when we allow something else above him, to take his place on the thrones of our hearts.

Instead of thinking and legal terminology, think with your heart and with your emotions. You know how you would feel (not what you would do) if someone broke your heart. Replace those feelings with God’s feelings. We have feelings because God gave them to us. And he has them too.

It’s not that the legal things don’t happen as well. Sin does bring consequences. Sin is transgressing God’s laws and breaking his commandments. But it is also a matter of relationship and emotion. Temptation brings our relationship with God to a halt.

We have a choice to make that we don’t just make mentally but emotionally. To choose anything other than God brings the same emotions of heartbreak and relational separation it would with anyone we love. The next time temptation comes around, don’t just think of all of the consequences but think of the emotion and heartbreak of God if you chose what temptation offers.

Let’s protect our relationship with God like we protect our marriage. Because it is also a marriage. Don’t let temptation steal the affections of your heart. Leave a comment and tell me what you think about this way of looking at temptation.

Posted in Holiness Matters | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment