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Tag Archives: Theology

The Bible’s Prologue Concludes

Table of Nations

“Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.” (Genesis 11:9)

Starting at Genesis 11:10, there is a great shift of focus in the Bible from worldwide, universal events to localized, specific details in the lives of individuals. Up to this point, God has been dealing with mankind in general, no distinction has been made concerning race or ethnicity, but humanity only. Now, the Lord of Heaven will pluck from the tree that contains all the nations of the Earth a single branch with which He will deal directly. God will prune and cultivate this single branch, that is, the nation of Israel, with the purpose of preparing it to bear the Fruit that will come forth from it: the Lord Jesus Christ, the Promised Messiah.

The first 11 chapters of Genesis cover the span of history from the very dawn of time until the first part of the life of Abraham. The narrative deals in eras and epochs and speaks of the human condition in general – giving very limited detail whatsoever – moving rapidly from one monumental incident to the next. These chapters, although they literally cover an immensely greater span of time than the entire rest of the Bible combined, are really simply a background given to familiarize the reader of Scripture with the setting against which the remainder of the Word of God will unfold. Even though the details and explanations are often minimal and meager, many of the most perplexing questions and dilemmas that have plagued the thoughts of man since the most ancient of times are summarily resolved within these first 11 chapters of Genesis. Where did man come from? Why are we here? Are we alone in the Universe? Why does there exist a universal yearning in the hearts of all men for spiritual fulfillment –  for a connection with our Creator – that seems so impossible to fulfill? What is it that has separated us from the One Who put us here in the first place?

Sin And Judgment

If we were pressed to arrive at a simple, recurring theme throughout these first 11 chapters of the Bible, we could summarize this theme as one of sin and judgment. Since Adam, I think that it would be very hard to find a single, honest individual who did not look at the world around them and conclude that something was very, very wrong. Whether they be men of faith or not, whether they be spiritual, philosophical, contemplative, or simply given to pure logic apart from emotion; most people realize that the world is not the way that it should be. Something has gone terribly wrong. Just about the time that another secular philosopher is ready to again advance the concept of the innate goodness of the heart of man, another catastrophic tragedy grips the headlines and leaves people shaking their heads and wondering what this world is coming to.

But the Bible makes it clear that there has always been evil in the heart of man, since the very beginning. From Adam and Eve’s Fall in the Garden of Eden, to Cain’s murder of Abel, to the people living in the time leading up to the Flood, to the denizens of Babel and their audacious Tower; the case is clearly made that the problem of man is his sin and it is his rebellion that separates him from God. If we learn nothing else from this portion of Scripture, we can be sure of one thing: God judges the sins of man.

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John 2:16)

The antediluvians fulfilled all the lusts of their flesh; Cain demonstrated the pride of life in his arrogant, self-reliant offering to God; and the early Mesopotamians at the Plain of Shinar catered to the lust of their eyes when they sought to construct the Tower of Babel. Man has been opposed to God since the very beginning. It is in this setting and against this background and with this understanding that we will now meet Abraham: the man of faith. From this point on, the Bible will deal primarily with individuals rather than global events. We have heretofore gazed at the entire world, as through a telescope; now we will look upon more specific locations, as through a microscope. The pace will also greatly slow down as the elapsed time between one chapter to the next will be measured by days, months, and, sometimes, years; rather than decades, centuries, and millenia.

We have been introduced to the human condition in these first chapters of Genesis with scarcely a brief glance at the remedy that God would eventually provide for the problem of man’s sin. Starting in Chapter 12, we will now see how God moved toward providing the break in the endless cycle of sin and judgment and how man can again be reconciled to his Creator.

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 15, 2009]

**All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) Bible

[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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What Does The Bible Say About The Death Penalty?

Gallows (Line Drawing By: Pearson Scott Foresman)

“Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God He made man.”  (Genesis 9:5-6)

During the modern era, the application of capital punishment, for even the most heinous of crimes, has become very controversial in the industrialized nations of the world. It has been called “barbaric”, “inhumane”, “cruel”, and an antiquated relic of a less civilized era. There are those who object to the use of it under any circumstances: thinking of themselves as enlightened and sophisticated, while the proponents of the “death penalty” are vengeful and bloodthirsty.

Since even some sincere Christians are whole-heartedly opposed to the implementation of capital punishment, it is worthwhile to consider what the Word of God has to say on the matter. In the “Noahic Covenant”, God lays out some fundamental changes in how man is permitted and instructed to behave with regards to the taking of life. As we considered last time, man was now afforded the liberty to consume meat and , thus, take the lives of animals for food consumption. Additionally, man was also issued the responsibility of acting on behalf of the Lord Himself by executing capital punishment on those guilty of capital crimes: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.”

In order to determine how this command applies to those living today or if it is even still valid at all, let us examine a few points of consideration in relation to it:

Since This Is Given In The Old Testament, Doesn’t The New Testament Override Or Even Revoke Its Implementation?

Many people either discount entirely or else severely “water-down” any and all commandments and instructions that appear in the Bible before Matthew 1:1. Obviously, a great many of the commandments that appear in the Law of Moses (contained in Exodus through Deuteronomy) were given specifically to the nation of Israel and are not in force for the believer today. Laws concerning the Tabernacle, Temple Sacrifice, Dietary Laws, the Ark of the Covenant, etc. have all been superseded by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. But we must remember that the words which the Lord spoke to Noah and his sons occurred before the Law of Moses was given.  These edicts were not issued within the context of the Theocratic government of the nation of Israel, but were universally given to every living person on the Earth at the time. Although that was only eight people, verse 9 of Genesis 9 clarifies that God is speaking to them and to all of their seed after them. This would include everyone who would ever live after them.

Does The New Testament Give Any Support For Carrying On Capital Punishment?

“For [government authorities are] a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for [they do] not bear the sword for nothing; for [they are] a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. (Romans 13:4)

There is never a time in the New Testament when any apostle or even the Lord Jesus Christ Himself would decry the “injustice” or “barbarism” of capital punishment. They never set about to enact social reform, they never preached about the evils of the criminal justice system. If anyone ever had a valid reason to object to the unfairness and injustice of criminal execution, the apostles Paul and Peter certainly did as they languished away in Roman prisons – awaiting their cruel fates. But they never protested the use of capital punishment itself, even though they were innocent men, guiltless of any crime worthy of death (as, of course, our Lord was too). In fact, Paul even tells the Roman governor Festus, as he lays out his defense against the charges made against him:

“If, then, I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die…” (Acts 25:11a)

No, Paul preached and lived the words that he penned in Romans 13:4. God is the One Who puts governmental authorities in power for the carrying out of justice. This includes capital punishment.

But What About The Teachings Of Jesus?

Many believers object to seemingly harsh penalties like capital punishment because of the Lord’s teachings about “turning the other cheek” or “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But the Lord was referring to personal behavior between individuals with these teachings. We are in no way supposed to enact a sort of “vigilante justice” and take matters into our own hands. Retribution and punishment belongs to God (Romans 12:19), not to the individual. But He has delegated some of this authority to governmental powers for the carrying out of justice. Capital punishment is to be employed by a society, as represented by their leaders, not by private lynchings.

Summary

It is the opinion of some that we demonstrate an enlightenment and civility as a society when we forgo the use of capital punishment. Modern sensibilities dictate, they say, that we must behave in a morally superior fashion than our ancestors. The Russian novelist, Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote: “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” But is it morally acceptable to allow the most violent members in a society to kill without fear of reprisal? Without a very real fear of severe retribution, what would deter those without conscience from following their most base passions? Sadly, we are witnessing this very thing in many modern societies.

I am not writing this article as a political argument in favor of capital punishment. My interest, as always, is to share what the Word of God teaches. But if I may be at liberty to express my own opinion, I believe that it is abundantly evident that swift and appropriate punishment for crime serves as the greatest deterrent. This is not based on a sort of primal “bloodlust” or an extreme sense of vengeance, it is simply the realization that if a would-be murderer knows for a fact that he is going to forfeit his own life by taking another, he is going to think twice before doing it. It is terrible that the death penalty is ever necessary to be carried out, but as long as there are those who so degrade human life to the point that they believe they possess the right to terminate it at will, then it is a society’s God-given responsibility to act appropriately and protect the rest of its citizens from such wanton brutality. This is what I believe to be true and it is what the Word of God teaches here in Genesis 9.

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 4, 2009]

**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?“]

From Ark Builder To Altar Builder

"Leaving The Ark On Mount Ararat" (Raffaello Sanzio - Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican)

“And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.” (Genesis 8:20-21)

Noah did two very interesting things when he came out of the Ark:

  1. He built an altar
  2. He made offerings to the Lord

“Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.” (Genesis 6:22)

As we see in Hebrews 11:7, Noah was a man of faith. He carefully obeyed all of the instructions that God gave him and he built the Ark to the exact specifications that the Lord told him. But we see in the first two actions that Noah performed after disembarking from the Ark a subtle difference. These two actions were voluntary, God had not given him instructions to do them.

It is very telling about what kind of a person Noah was that his first priority was to tend to the things of God. After spending  a year aboard the Ark, it would seem that the first  step would be to set about building shelters to live in and providing for all of the necessities of survival in a new, desolate world. But Noah would not build a place to live in before he built a place to worship God. This time, God gives no blueprint of what His altar should look like, nor does He even encourage Noah to build an altar at all. It is the heart filled with gratitude toward God’s saving grace that is compelled out of pure thanksgiving to honor the Lord of Heaven in such a way. What a contrast between Noah and the world that he had been born into: those who perished in the Flood had failed to acknowledge God at any time or in any way and here we see that Noah put God above all else!

Secondly, Noah made burnt-offerings unto the Lord of one each of the clean animals from the Ark. As one in seven days were a Sabbath dedicated to the Lord, one in seven of these clean animals would be given to the Lord, as well. We are told in verse 21 that Noah’s offerings were a “sweet savour” to the Lord, that is, God accepted his offerings. Like the altar that Noah built, we learn in the Book of Leviticus that a “burnt-offering” is characterized as a voluntary offering, not a required offering (Leviticus 1:3). Although the burnt-offering is voluntary, it speaks of atonement for the one making the offering. In Noah’s actions we see his voluntary recognition of his own sin and his need for atoning sacrifice.

Then we read something rather peculiar in verse 21: “…The Lord said in His heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.” It seems that God’s diagnosis of the heart of man did not change after the Flood from what it had been before the Flood (Genesis 6:5). So what had changed? The difference was a recognition of sin on the part of man. We can only speculate, but Noah had likely made offerings unto God even before the Flood. But now, after God has judged the entire world, Noah’s offerings to God take on a whole new meaning.

Noah’s burnt-offerings to God represent how man will ultimately be reconciled to God. These “sweet savour” offerings point to the “Sweet Savour” offering that alone can make full remission of the sins of man possible (Ephesians 5:2). Man is still sinful with a heart filled with evil imaginations, but if we will voluntarily acknowledge our sins to Him and accept the substitutionary sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ as payment for those sins, we can receive God’s mercy and grace rather than His judgment.

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published October 30, 2009]

**All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) Bible

[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?“]

Does God Change His Mind?

"And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart." (Genesis 6:6)

“And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” (Genesis 6:6)

We come across a very unusual statement in Genesis 6:6. We are told that God “repented” that He had made man. This brings us to ask the question: Does God change His mind? Why would a God Who is omniscient and knows the end from the beginning need to change His mind about anything? Are we really being told here that God regretted His decision to make mankind or is something else going on?

“God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19)

We have a dynamic that is repeated again and again throughout the Old Testament wherein God “repents” or “changes His mind” about something. Normally, this change of mind has to do with a judgment that God has pronounced and then withholds (e.g., Exodus 32:10, 14). Invariably, there is a change of mind or repenting on the part of man that is followed by a change of mind or repenting on God’s part. In the example from Exodus 32, God had declared to Moses that He intended to wipe out the entire nation of Israel for their plummet into idolatry and rebellion and begin again with the line of Moses (like He did here in Genesis with Noah). Moses interceded on behalf of the people, causing God to change His mind.

The key thing to see when God “repents” is that it is always the result of the actions of man. God, in His infinite wisdom, does not regret the decisions that He has made, but in His infinite holiness is compelled to change the way that He deals with man based on man’s actions. It was not God’s intention when He created man that it would one day become necessary for Him to blot out all but eight people, but the severity and totality of man’s sinfulness required that He do so. Mankind had become incorrigible to the uttermost, wholly beyond repentance himself. Man would not change his mind about sin, so God was compelled to change His mind about man.

“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:” (Isaiah 46:9-10)

Without a doubt, God knows the choices that man will make and how He will respond accordingly. God is not surprised by anything that man does, but He is obliged by His own holy nature to adjust how He deals with man based upon man’s obedience (or disobedience) to Him. God does not truly “change His mind”, but He does change His interactions with man in response to the changes in man’s behavior.

God repented and changed His dealings with mankind in the days of Noah because of the extreme depravity that had completely filled the entire world. It is simply not possible for a righteous and holy God to allow sin to remain unrequited indefinitely. God will judge sin. God strove with man that man would repent and change the way that he dealt with God (Genesis 6:3). Since man did not, God changed the way that He dealt with man.

We have today the indescribable privilege of choosing how our own sin shall be judged(and it certainly will be judged). If we repent of it and come to Christ that the sin within us is “judged” and ultimately destroyed, we will live. If we remain unrepentant, if we refuse to change our mind about our sin, God will still judge the sin within us – but we will perish with it.

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published October 10, 2009]

**All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) Bible

[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?“]

Why Did God Send The Flood?

"And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6:5)

“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5)

Genesis 6 lays the background of the world at the time leading up to Noah and the Great Flood. In order to understand why God sent the Flood, it is important to consider the circumstances that preceded it, including the actions of mankind and the actions of God.

“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5, emphasis added)

Mankind’s depravity had reached a level that evil entirely permeated every part of his being. His wickedness was great, that is, his actions were wicked. Every imagination was evil,  his mind was wholly corrupted. Every thought of his heart;  his will, his desires, his emotions, his passions, had all become so sin stained that there remained nothing within them that was  not evil. These people upon whom God poured out the Flood were not merely dabbling in sin here and there, everything that they were doing was an horrific abomination!

“The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” (Genesis 6:11-13, emphasis added)

Lest we have any doubts, let me say that the Earth was corrupted and filled with violence! There is a linguistic device employed in Hebrew that we see throughout the Old Testament, and that is emphasis through repetition. Whenever a word or phrase is used repetitively, it indicates a stronger or greater degree of the expression. The evil depths that the people who lived before the Flood had sunk to is strongly emphasized and amplified here in verses 5  and 11-13.

In considering why God sent the Flood, we must first realize that those living upon the Earth were completely and utterly wicked beyond the hope of changing. There were no innocent bystanders caught up in the Flood; everyone was guilty of the most deplorable sinfulness. The rebellion against God that we saw taking root in Cain and his descendants had now reached a fruition that God could not overlook.

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published October 7, 2009]

**All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) Bible

[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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