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The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees May 25, 2018

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 16:5-12.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus and His disciples return to the Decapolis. The disciples have failed to make arrangements in terms of food – and Jesus uses this opportunity to exhort them to shift their focus from physical needs to spiritual needs. In particular, they must shun the evil influence of the external religion of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The disciples fail to comprehend this exhortation; thus, He reminds them of two instances where He met their physical needs. In light of this, they should focus on spiritual needs.

Thoughts: Here, we see that Jesus exhorts His disciples to reject the words and deeds of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Ryle offers some thoughts on this point:

Some want to add to the Gospel, and some want to take away from it; some would bury it and some would pare it down to nothing; some would stifle it by heaping on additions, and some would bleed it to death by subtraction from its truths. Both parties agree only in one respect: both would kill and destroy the life of Christianity if they succeeded in having their own way. Against both errors let us watch and pray.

Of course, one must determine the entirety of the Gospel to answer the following question: are others attempting to add to it or subtract from it, and if so, how? I would assert that the Five Solas constitute the entirety of the Gospel, but that is debatable (e.g. the phrases “grace alone” and “faith alone” often yield divisions between Catholics and Protestants). Some may advance arguments that are clearly heretical (e.g. they deny the dual nature of Christ), but others may advance arguments that are difficult to assess (e.g. they believe that the Holy Spirit still dispenses charismatic gifts). Truly we need God’s guidance in:

  • making our best effort to discern truth from error
  • placing unresolved issues in His hands.

The Demand for a Sign May 20, 2018

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 16:1-4.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus returns to Jewish territory, where His enemies attempt to publicly discredit Him.

Jesus responds by asserting that while they are experts in physical matters, they are mere dilettantes in spiritual matters. Moreover, since they have abandoned God, He has abandoned them.

Thoughts: Here, we see that Jesus reiterates the point that He made in Matthew 12:39. Ryle offers some thoughts on this point:

This repetition shows us that our Lord was in the habit of saying the same things over again. He did not content himself with saying a thing once, and then never repeat it. It is evident that it was his custom to bring forward certain truths again and again, and so impress them more deeply on the minds of his disciples.

When I work through an inductive Bible study, I highlight recurring words and phrases, as they usually facilitate my search for the central point of the passage at hand. Indeed, recurring words and phrases reveal points of emphasis for the original audience of a particular passage. Perhaps this principle can be applied in other settings. For example, do praise songs contain recurring words, phrases or themes? Does your pastor emphasize certain points in their sermons? I should note that while applying this principle enables us to comprehend what God is saying to us, we still need to put His words into practice – and that is where I continue to struggle.

Before the Sanhedrin November 30, 2016

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Acts 22:30-23:11.

Summary: In this passage, Paul appeared before the Sanhedrin. He declared that he had a good conscience before God – sparking a dispute with the high priest, Ananias. That dispute led Paul to conclude that he would not receive a fair hearing before the Sanhedrin; thus, he fomented a kerfuffle between the Pharisees and the Sadducees by declaring his belief in the resurrection of the dead. The intensity of that kerfuffle led the commander of the Roman troops in Jerusalem to bring Paul back to the barracks. Later, the Lord appeared to Paul in a vision – declaring that he would eventually preach the Gospel message in Rome.

Thoughts: In verse 5 of chapter 23, we see that Paul feigned ignorance regarding the identity of the high priest. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point:

Should we obey a ruler even if he exercises tyranny? If someone who does his job badly is still to be respected, was Paul wrong to rob the high priest of his honor? But there is a difference between civil magistrates and church leaders. When worldly or civil rule is mismanaged, the Lord still wants people to remain subject to the rulers. But when spiritual government is degenerate, believers are set free from obeying…

Thankfully, I have never attended a church where the leadership could be characterized as “degenerate.” Sadly, scandal-ridden churches do exist, and their congregants often suffer due to the “degenerate” actions of their leaders. Now this raises the question as to what constitutes “degenerate” behavior on the part of a church leader. I believe that certain actions fit that description, including:

  • sexual immorality
  • drunkenness
  • gambling.

Other actions, though, are subject to debate in this regard, including:

  • advocating a church building project with significant financial risks
  • excluding certain parts of the Bible when selecting sermon topics.

In any event, we should continue to pray for our spiritual leaders – asking God to grant them wisdom and humility as they shepherd their respective flocks.

In verse 11 of chapter 23, we see that God appeared to Paul in a vision concerning his impending trip to Rome. Calvin offers some insights on this point:

The Lord did not promise to set him free; he did not even say that Paul would have a happy end. He only said that his troubles would continue for a long time. But from this we see how very important it is to be confident that the Lord is looking after us in our troubles, even if he does not immediately reach out to help us.

This is an important point, especially in light of the prosperity gospel and its impact on the American church. As believers, we must be mindful of the fact that God does not promise earthly comforts for His disciples. In fact, one can use Scripture to argue that the earthly existence of a believer necessarily involves some level of suffering. While this point can be rather discouraging, we would do well to ponder these questions:

  • What is our reward in heaven?
  • How does our knowledge of this heavenly reward equip us to live victoriously in a broken, suffering world?