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Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Why Four Gospels?

The question is often asked, why does the Bible include four different Gospels? Forming the first books of the New Testament; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all tell the story of the life and ministry of Jesus, with many similar details and more than a few differences. The first three are often referred to as the Synoptic Gospels (literally meaning to see together) because of the abundance of parallel details recorded in each one. Some scholars have even become convinced that the first three evangelists must have all copied copiously from an as-yet-undiscovered common source which they have labeled “Q.” The Gospel According to John, agreed almost universally to be the last one to be written, diverges in so many instances from the Synoptics and contains so many unique characteristics that, apparently, either the aged apostle did not know about this “Q” document or he chose not to use it.

In my opinion, I do not believe that similarities in detail and structure of narrative necessitate a common source but rather reflect the recounting of events that were well known and established within the minds of the Gospel writers. Matthew was an eyewitness to most of the account he records (which is why it has always puzzled me that some scholars would think that he needed to read somebody else’s book to know what happened!) while Luke and Mark were both traveling companions of the Apostle Paul (2 Timothy 4:11), who was in close contact with many eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus, with tradition maintaining that Mark was not only present during much of Jesus’ ministry, but was also a protege of the Apostle Peter after the Resurrection. Why would Mark need to consult some now lost, anonymous record of the Lord’s ministry when he doubtlessly had many times heard the reports of Simon Peter himself in rich and vivid detail?

The reason that we have four accounts of the Gospel which are often parallel but at times variant is that they are telling the same story from four different perspectives. The focus of each Gospel is slightly different, the original audience for each one is different, and even the purpose of each account is a little different. The metaphor has been given that one Gospel record would provide us with a beautiful portrait of Jesus Christ, like a two-dimensional painting, filled with color and texture. But when we take all the Gospel accounts together, we have something more like a three-dimensional sculpture showing us a much deeper image bursting to life with vividness.

Matthew, Writer to the Jew

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)

As far as chronological order goes, the Gospel came first to the Jews before the Gentiles. It is fitting that the first Gospel to appear in the New Testament would be addressed to a primarily Jewish audience. Matthew’s Gospel bridges the New Testament to the Old as he establishes that Jesus is the long-awaited, promised Jewish Messiah. Matthew is quick to point out that the events he writes about happened to “fulfill what was spoken by the Lord” (e.g., Matt. 1:22). Fulfilled prophecy is a non-negotiable credential of the Messiah and any Gospel to be believed by the Jewish mind must contain it. Matthew opens his book with a genealogy linking Jesus back to Abraham, establishing His identity as a Jew. He also links the Lord to King David, establishing the Lord’s earthly right to reign as King of Israel as a Descendant of the king. Many scholars believe that Matthew originally wrote his Gospel account in Hebrew (as I believe also) because it was a Jewish audience he was primarily addressing.

Mark, Writer to the Romans

If the Jew was rooted in the past as one interested in tradition, the Roman was a man of the present. Stretching across most of the known world, the Empire of Rome ruled today, in the now. Carpe Diem was the philosophy and a strong focus on the present was the mindset of Rome’s citizens. Scattered throughout Mark’s Gospel are words like immediately which denote the fast-pace with which he is unfolding his message. This is the Gospel of action and is consequently the shortest of the four. Additionally, Mark focuses less on Jewish religious politics and makes sure to explain the Hebrew customs that he does mention. No genealogies are given because the Roman audience would not be interested in such details.

Luke, Writer to the Greeks 

“It seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus;” (Luke 1:3)

Although Luke specifically addresses his Gospel (as well as the Book of Acts) to what seems to be one person, he clearly had a Greek-minded audience in mind when he wrote it. While the other Gospels often followed themes rather than a chronological order (Matthew would record miracles close together even when they may have taken place at very different times), Luke’s Gospel is more systematic, reflecting the observational skills of a physician and scholar. Luke presents Jesus Christ as the “Son of Man”, belonging not only to Israel but to anyone, Jew or Gentile, who would come to faith in Him. This is the Gospel which gives us insights, few as they may be, into the childhood of the Lord and focuses more on those on the fringe of Jewish society than the other Evangelists.

John, Writer to the Believer

Though the Apostle John explicitly states his purpose for writing his Gospel in John 20:31, that is, so that the reader might believe in Jesus Christ and have eternal life in His name, this last Gospel written seems aimed at giving a more in-depth revelation of exactly who Jesus is. John reveals Jesus as not only the “Son of God”, but as God the Son. John’s is a more spiritual Gospel that goes into areas that the other writers did not divulge in their accounts. By the time the fourth Gospel is set down on paper, Christianity had been around some sixty years or so and had already suffered heretical attacks from many sides. Whether it was the sophistry of the Greeks or the twisted reasoning of the Gnostics, John’s Gospel serves almost as an apologetic refutation of errors that had already begun to invade the infant Church. It is fitting that “the Disciple whom Jesus loved” would be the final voice to vindicate His Master’s Words at the close of the First Century, leaving a foundation of Gospel Truth upon which the Body of Christ could rest firmly before the curtain closed on the Age of the Apostles.

Four Perspectives on One Gospel

Thus the Gospel, though told from four different perspectives, is really one Gospel. It is the “Good News” not only for Israel but for the entire world. Jews and Gentiles, Romans and barbarians, slaves and free people, and men and women all could come to Jesus Christ for Salvation. None would be excluded on any basis other than their own decision to reject the only One sent by God the Father to save sinners. And regardless of a person’s background, there is a Gospel written that speaks directly to them. The sign which Pontius Pilate placed on Jesus’ Cross was written in three languages, to address the three main types of people present at the Crucifixion (John 19:20). This is reflected in the original target audience of each of the first three Gospels: Hebrew (Matthew), Latin (Mark), and Greek (Luke).

” Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.” (Acts 10:34-35)

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission

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Which Bible Version Do You Prefer?

A few weeks ago, I purchased a copy of the new Spurgeon Study Bible published by Holman Bible Publishers. This Bible uses the text of the Christian Standard Bible, a recent update of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, produced by the same publisher. My thoughts so far on this particular version is that it is an excellent English rendering of the Scriptures that seeks to blend the accuracy of a strict word-for-word translation with a clearer thought-for-thought wording where the original meaning might not be as readily understood by the 21st Century English speaker. They have labeled this approach “Optimal Equivalency” and it seems like a very good translation strategy, particularly for younger readers or new Christians.

Personally, I really enjoy reading a lot of the newer Bible versions that have hit the shelves in the past decade or two, although I do concur with the thoughts of many that we might be getting a little excessive with just how many new versions and constant updates of these versions are continuing to flood the market. And every time I see a new translation or update, I am reminded of just how passionate people can be about which Bible versions are superior to others. Some go so far as to be very dogmatic and rigid about which versions are indeed valid at all and which ones are corrupt, heretical, or outright perversions intentionally designed to lead people away from God. While most of us would never be so adamant about defending one translation over another, I believe that a lot of Christians have a particular version or versions that they certainly feel more comfortable with and maybe trust a little bit more because it is a version with which they are more familiar.

Having experimented with using several different versions on this website for Scripture quotations, going forward I would like to reference primarily one translation in order to remain consistent and avoid confusion (especially my own confusion!). I praise God that this website has gained quite a few regular readers recently and I really want to proceed carefully and prayerfully in deciding which version to choose for this. In articles that I have read in my own research, some have commented that they will not even read a blog or listen to a preacher that doesn’t use, for instance, the King James Version while others feel just as strongly opposed to those who do. It would be truly sad to alienate readers by using a version that they do not trust. In my opinion, there are several very good translations that would work nicely for the purpose of this website, but I would be very interested to know how those of you who take the time to read these posts feel before deciding. Below you will find a poll asking which, if any, Bible version you prefer and would most like to see quoted and referred to in these Bible studies.

Even if you are not a regular visitor, I would greatly appreciate your opinion. Please feel free to share any detailed thoughts in the comments section if you would like. Lord willing, in the coming weeks we will conclude the reposting of our Genesis study and will move over into a new study in the Gospel of Matthew. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any of the new posts as they come out. As always, may the Lord richly bless you in the study of His Word and thanks for reading!

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

 

Mephibosheth: A Portrait Of The Sinner

“Then David said, “Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Samuel 9:1)

Last time, we took a look at the great civil war between Israel and Judah with the armies of the House of Saul fighting against the armies of King David. I would like to look now at a single person from Saul’s family and the kindness that David the king showed him.

As Chapter 9 of Second Samuel opens, we find King David sitting on the throne of a united Israel and Judah with the civil war over and most of the other enemies of David conquered. He had moved his capital from Hebron to Jerusalem, after capturing it from the Jebusites, and had defeated Israel’s perpetual enemy, the Philistines. The Ark of the Covenant had been brought into Jerusalem and, although God had decreed that it would be built during the reign of his son, Solomon, David had sought to begin construction of the Temple. God blessed David and promised that his kingdom would endure forever (2 Sam. 7:16) and that the lovingkindness of the Lord would not depart from him as it had from Saul.

Success tests the character of the most virtuous of men and, in the words of the First Baron of Acton, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But King David was a man “after God’s own heart” and we are repeatedly told throughout the narrative that he “showed kindness” to various people; a trait seldom found in rulers. Sitting upon his throne in Jerusalem, his mind not distracted by the demands of government nor the strategies of war, he reflects upon his late friend Jonathan, son of Saul, and he wonders if there is anyone left alive within Jonathan’s family to whom he may show kindness.

It turns out that there was a son of Jonathan still alive. We are first told about Mephibosheth back in Chapter 4 where we find him as a little five-year-old boy being rushed from his house by his nanny after hearing the news of the death of his father Jonathan and his grandfather Saul (1 Sam. 31:1-6). Urgently escaping as quickly as possible before the Philistines could finish off any surviving sons of the House of Saul, Mephibosheth fell and injured his feet, leaving him crippled (2 Sam. 4:4).

A Dead Dog Like Me

Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and prostrated himself. And David said, “Mephibosheth.” And he said, “Here is your servant!” David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly.” Again he prostrated himself and said, “What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?” (2 Samuel 9:6-8)

Within the relationship that develops between David and Mephibosheth, we find a wonderful illustration of God’s mercy to the sinner. When the two men first meet, King David offers Mephibosheth gifts and honors that are truly astounding to the son of Jonathan. A vain and prideful man might have been ungrateful, feeling that this was the least that the king who ruled where his own grandfather once had could do for him. But, no, Mephibosheth was neither vain nor proud. He prostrated himself before the king in humility and was keenly aware that this act of grace and mercy was unmerited.

Mephibosheth’s words echoed David’s own words to God when he marvelled in the Eighth Psalm,

“What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?” (Psalm 8:4)

Like the sinner who first comes to Christ, Mephibosheth was blown away by the mercy that the King was showing him. And as is for all who are humble at heart, he recognized who he was compared with who the king was and that he in no way deserved the kindness he was being shown. Remember Peter’s reaction when Jesus miraculously provided an overwhelming catch of fish where he himself was unable to bring in a single one. Falling before the Lord he shouted, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). Or Isaiah’s reaction to his vision of God’s glory filling the Temple:

“Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5 KJV)

The heart that is most receptive to the grace and mercy of God is the heart that acknowledges just how undeserving it is. Mephibosheth referred to himself as a “dead dog” and the sinner, too, must recognize that he is dead in his sins (Ephesians 2:1).

For The Sake Of Jonathan

David showed kindness to Mephibosheth, not because of who Mephibosheth was or what Mephibosheth had or had not done, but for the sake of Jonathan. God the Father shows mercy and grace to us, sinners, for the sake of Jesus. It is because of our relationship to Christ that we are invited to eat at the King’s table.

When David looked upon Mephibosheth, he saw Jonathan and it was his love for Jonathan that compelled him to treat Mephibosheth with kindness and mercy. God the Father does love us, but it is our relationship to Jesus Christ that compels Him to show us grace and mercy. God loves all the people of the world (John 3:16), but He only shows grace and mercy to those who are covered by the blood of Jesus.

It is noteworthy that David never mentions anything about the feet of Mephibosheth. His feet were broken, lame, and crippled just as we are broken, lame, and crippled by our sin.  God does not look upon the sinful flesh of those whom Christ has redeemed, but sees us through the lens of the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:19, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 3:9). Crippled feet did not exclude Mephibosheth from the king’s table, neither does sin exclude us. If we are in Christ, then that sin has been removed from us to be remembered no more (Psalm 103:12).

Verse 11 of Second Samuel 9 tells us that Mephibosheth ate at the king’s table as one of the king’s own sons. Passages such as Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:5, and Ephesians 1:5 remind us  who are in Christ Jesus that we, too, have been adopted as sons and daughters of God. Like Mephibosheth, we will take our place at the table of the King with the same privileges and benefits of any other child of the King. One day, we will live in that place where our own King lives, the New Jerusalem, just as Mephibosheth moved to the city of David to be where he was. And God will show us great kindness and mercy for the sake of Jesus, not looking upon our sins and lame feet, but seeing us with the same love that He has for the Son.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

New Comment Policy

My intention when first beginning this blog was to allow any and all appropriate comments and questions to be published. As long as the opinion expressed was free from obscenity I have always been careful to allow even the most disagreeable comments to appear on Answers From The Book. I believed that remarks which challenged my beliefs and writings were mostly healthy and, since I really have nothing to fear from opposing viewpoints, could possibly open a door for a fruitful discussion.

Over the past 7 and a half years, I have received hundreds of messages ranging from the inspirational and uplifting to the debased and blasphemous. At one point, I had the time and interest in addressing many of these negative comments with the hope that, even if the person writing the comment itself was unreceptive, perhaps someone else reading the discussion might find the information helpful. Long ago I abandoned trying to directly respond to each and every detractor and became much more selective over which ones I would engage with.

Now I find it necessary to take things a step further. Over recent months, this website has attracted the attention of more and more people who seem to enjoy spending their time heckling websites about Christianity, a belief-system that they vehemently assert they reject entirely. What would possess someone to compose lengthy attacks against something that they regard as nonsensical fairy tales is curious in itself, but such is the nature of their obsession.

To be honest, I myself have grown tired of reading their garbage and no longer wish to have my website littered with their hateful diatribes. I have spent a great deal of time attempting to reason with many of these folks and have learned that most of them have no real interest in what those who disagree with them have to say. Anything that challenges their pre-conceived notions is usually brushed aside or ignored altogether.

This blog is written for the purpose of edifying Christians and for presenting the Gospel message to the unsaved who are willing to listen. It is not a sounding board for militant atheism and those frustrated and angry with the Christian Faith. There are enough websites and forums for that and precious few which present a God-centered, Biblical worldview.

It is not my intention to silence opposing views but to discontinue allowing those with their own agenda to come here and attempt to “shout me down” in the comments. I’m not afraid that their arguments are unanswerable, it’s just not worth my time and effort to try to persuade those who won’t even listen. I would never allow skeptics to come into a church and spray paint their anti-Christian messages on the walls and I suppose that I feel similarly about allowing them to virtually do the same thing here.

I will still be allowing comments on my posts, but if your purpose is to ridicule, mock, heckle, and attack Christianity in general, be aware that your comments will not be published.

Loren

Blood Tipped Ears, Thumbs, and Toes

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“Then he presented the second ram, the ram of ordination, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram. Moses slaughtered it and took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear, and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.” (Leviticus 8:22-23)

Many of the rituals mentioned in Leviticus may seem strange to us unless we remember that “blood” throughout this book is a foreshadow of the blood of Christ which covers all believers. The blood mentioned in Leviticus 8:22-23 is no exception.

The event being described here is the ordination of Aaron the High Priest and the other priests who will serve in the Tabernacle. Aaron and his sons were being prepared for priestly service and were being covered with the blood of sacrifice.

Since the New Testament tells us that every believer has been called into the priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), that is, into service to Jesus Christ our Lord, much of the symbolism present here is applicable to those of us in the Body of Christ. First of all, to be fit for service, a person must be covered in the blood, the blood of Jesus Christ. How many hypocritical “servants” of the Lord have done great harm to the cause of Christ because they never really knew Him? Before we are fit to serve, the sin question in our own lives must be resolved and we must be trusting in the Lord Jesus for our own Salvation. Before a Levitical priest could be ordained for service he had to be covered in the blood of sacrifice.

But why the ear? the toe? the thumb? Because the ear must be anointed to hear and rightly divide the Word of God. Any service or ministry must be grounded in the Word. We are not all called to teach or preach, but our service, whatever it might be, must be grounded in Biblical truth. Whether our calling is evangelism or tending the nursery during church services, our ministry is not as effective as it should be if we remain ignorant of the Bible.

The thumb represents our actions and our labor. Every ministry is a ministry of action and a blood-covered and anointed thumb speaks of this. That action may be the arduous labors of a missionary to a Third-World country or it might be the action of a wheelchair-bound widow folding her hands to pray for God’s people. God has not called any of us to sit on the sidelines and watch. Service to the Lord is not a spectator sport.

The toe speaks of movement; service is a mobile endeavor. No, we are not all supposed to travel abroad in order to serve God, but our steps should be leading us along the path He has laid out for us. “GO into all the world…”, Jesus said (Mark 16:15). Not “Sit and wait for the world to come to you.” So many churches have been built, furnished, decorated, prayed over and dedicated, and then filled with a few folks who wait anxiously for people to come and find them. Service to God involves going out to where the people in need are. We can’t just build a building and hope they come, we should be taking the Gospel to them and inviting them to come into our churches with us.

Finally, notice that the ear, thumb, and toe mentioned are the right ear, thumb, and toe. The right-hand side is spoken of in the Bible as the side of strength and power since most people are right-handed. Rachel wanted to name her son Ben-oni, the son of my sorrow since she felt her life slipping away during her labor. But Jacob, his father, named him Ben-jamin, son of my right hand since he would need to lean on the boy for strength now that his beloved Rachel was gone.

Christian service is to be done in our strength and with the fulness of effort. We are not supposed to just give a little bit of time and effort that we have left after everything else we wanted to do is done. God does understand and expect us to fulfill our obligations to work and family, but too often we relegate any service to Him into the “if I have enough time to squeeze it in” category. This one does sting a little because I know that I can do better in my own service and ministry which is writing this blog! Praise God He’s still working on me.

It is my prayer that everyone within the Body of Christ, including myself, will be more mindful of the service and ministry into which God has called us. Let us go forward with blood-tipped ears, thumbs, and toes and make 2016 the year where we begin to reclaim territory that has been lost.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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