jump to navigation

John the Baptist Prepares the Way October 21, 2017

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

Here are my thoughts on Matthew 3:1-12.

Summary: In this passage, John the Baptist proclaims the impending arrival of the kingdom of God – thereby fulfilling a prophecy in Isaiah 40:3. In particular, he calls his compatriots to:

  • repent of their sins
  • display their repentance via baptism in the Jordan River.

When several Pharisees and Sadducees come to observe his ministry, he rebukes them – as they refuse to repent of their sins. While they place their confidence in their Jewish ancestry, he asserts that God requires them to:

  • repent of their sins
  • display their repentance via good deeds.

Moreover, he warns them that the Messiah is coming – and He will judge them based on their repentance, or lack thereof.

Thoughts: Here, we see that when John the Baptist addresses the Pharisees and Sadducees, he makes two references to “fruit.” This is a valuable reminder that good fruit naturally results from the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. In particular, reading this passage spurred me to consider how I can continue to bear good fruit as I continue my walk with God. One thought is that I can bear good fruit in situations where my faith is stretched – i.e., situations where I am not in my comfort zone. My prayer – with great fear and trembling – is that God would continue to place me in these situations and enable me to bear good fruit while experiencing discomfort.

This passage also reminds us that Jesus will judge the world – rewarding those who belong to Him while punishing all others. Ryle offers some thoughts on this point:

We need to be warned severely that it is no light matter whether we repent or not; we need to be reminded that there is a hell as well as a heaven, and an everlasting punishment for the wicked as well as everlasting life for the godly. We are fearfully apt to forget this. We talk about the love and mercy of God, and we do not remember sufficiently his justice and holiness.

In terms of evangelism, one thought is that nonbelievers reject the love and the justice of God. For example, they may:

  • be offended by the concept of hell
  • respond to a description of His love with difficult questions regarding evil and suffering.

Clearly we must rely on the work of the Holy Spirit – and His assistance in our prayers – when it comes to the salvation of unbelievers.

Peter Addresses the Crowd April 14, 2016

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

Here are my thoughts on Acts 2:14-41.

Summary: In this passage, Peter addressed the Jews from the previous passage – including those who dismissed the Twelve as drunkards. In particular, he used the following Old Testament passages to prove their sobriety:

  • Joel 2:28-32, where God asserts that He will pour out the Holy Spirit on all people after the coming of the Messiah
  • Psalm 16:8-11, where God asserts that He will raise the Messiah from the dead
  • Psalm 110:1, where God asserts that the Messiah will be seated at His right hand in heaven.

Peter then asserted that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled all of these prophecies; he also stated that the other members of the Twelve concurred with him in this regard. Therefore, Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. Many of the Jews were mortified by Peter’s assertions and were befuddled as to how to respond to them; he stated that they needed to:

  • repent of their sins
  • accept the forgiveness of Jesus Christ
  • be baptized as an outward sign of this fact.

About three thousand Jews responded appropriately that day, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Thoughts: In this passage, Peter makes several salient points:

  • the Old Testament states that the Messiah will die
  • the Old Testament states that God will raise the Messiah from the dead
  • the Old Testament states that the resurrected Messiah will sit at the right hand of God in heaven
  • the historical person, Jesus of Nazareth, fulfills all of these prophecies
  • therefore, Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah.

These points are essential components of the Christian worldview; thus, believers – and nonbelievers – should ponder them in their hearts. For example, we should consider the true meaning of the name “Jesus Christ”. Also, we should consider the fact that Peter’s salient points are interdependent; if any of them were to be falsified, then all of them would be called into question. This reminds me that I should read The Resurrection of the Son of God at some point.

In this passage, it appears that Peter serves as the spokesman for the Twelve. Now since his audience on the day of Pentecost consisted of Jews from sundry parts of the Roman and Parthian empires who spoke different languages, how did he communicate with them? Did the other members of the Twelve act as interpreters for those Jews who could not understand him – and if so, was the audience divided into linguistically homogeneous groups? What language did he use to convey these important truths to his audience?

In verses 37 and 40, we see that some of the Jews in this passage “were cut to the heart” by Peter’s message, while “he pleaded with” other skeptical Jews. Calvin offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 40:

It was not easy for the Jews to leave their erroneous ways and break away from the priests whose rule they were accustomed to. So it was up to Peter to haul them out of this mire. They could not belong to Christ unless they parted company with his professed enemies. The priests and the scribes were very powerful, and under the guise of leading the church they deceived the simple.

I certainly hope to meet at least some of the Jews in this passage in the next life and learn how they initially responded to Peter’s message. Had they heard about the historical person, Jesus of Nazareth, before the day of Pentecost? If so, did Peter’s message furnish them with a new perspective on Jesus? Did they view themselves as being complicit in the execution of Jesus? Were they convinced by Peter’s arguments that Jesus had been raised from the dead?

Divisions in the Church June 12, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

Here are my thoughts on 1 Corinthians 1:10-17.

Summary: Paul begins by exhorting the Corinthians – out of their regard for Christ – to agree with one another; this would stop 1) the alienation of feelings that existed between them and 2) the party strife that was occurring in their church, leading to unity in faith and love. Indeed, some of the members of Chloe’s household had told Paul that the Corinthians had been wrangling over their religious teachers. Some of the Gentile believers claimed to be disciples of Paul, while other Gentile believers who were more highly educated claimed to be followers of Apollos; the Jewish believers claimed to be followers of Peter, while still other believers claimed to have a special relationship with Christ that the other parties lacked. Paul then asks, rhetorically, whether

  • Christ can be divided
  • Paul has redeemed them by his sacrifice
  • they have been baptized into the name of Paul, so that their faith is in him and they must confess his name.

Paul then rejoices in God’s having allowed him to only baptize a few people in Corinth – including Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and Gaius, who hosted him while he wrote the book of Romans – so that he could not be accused of baptizing in order to gain followers. It should be noted that Paul did baptize the family of Stephanas; in fact, he is not omniscient regarding the baptisms that he previously performed. Now Paul had only baptized a few people in Corinth because his main purpose in going there was to preach the Gospel message – and his preaching was not with words of human wisdom, which would have nullified the power of the cross of Christ.

Thoughts: In verse 12, we see the nature of the divisions that existed in the Corinthian church – believers were claiming to be followers of certain religious leaders and quarreling with others who claimed to follow other leaders. Hodge offers some thoughts on this issue:

…it is probable that the converts from among the Gentiles claimed Paul as their leader, and the Jewish converts appealed to the authority of Peter…As Apollos was an Alexandrian Jew distinguished for literary culture and eloquence, it is probable that the more highly educated among the Corinthian Christians were his special followers.

Unfortunately, such divisions can be found in the modern church. They usually manifest themselves in the following way: a believer will note, “well, I really do enjoy this pastor’s preaching and teaching. The last church that I attended had a pastor who gave rather superficial and fluffy sermons, so I left that church.” Clearly Paul is instructing his readers to not focus on the relatively unimportant qualities of their leaders and to focus more on Christ, who unifies all of them into one body.

In verse 17, we see that Paul prioritized preaching the Gospel message over performing the important sacrament of baptism. This interesting statement is explained by Hodge as follows:

The main thing was to make disciples; recognizing them as such by baptism was subordinate, though commanded…During the apostolic age, and in the apostolic form of religion, truth stood immeasurably above external rites. The apostasy of the church consisted in making rites more important than truth.

So while we should not treat baptism as unimportant and unworthy of being performed, it should be noted that if a choice between the two must be made – e.g. in the middle of a life-or-death situation – one should opt for delivering the Gospel message and desire to obtain a profession of faith from the one who hears it, as opposed to only baptizing the person in question. Indeed, acceptance of the Gospel message is what truly brings life, not any external rite.