Monthly Archives: August 2012

Is Jesus Who the Bible Says He Is?

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins … And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

Suppose someone suggests to you, in a conversation:

1. How do I know for sure that Jesus is Who the Bible says He is?  After all, most of what we know about the historical Jesus is what is written in the Bible about Him.

2.  Is there any kind of proof that I am obligated to recognize about Jesus, other than the Bible itself?  (In other words, is the Bible the only ‘witness’ that Jesus is Who the Christians claim He is?)

3. How do I know that the Bible itself is really true, i.e., that it is both authentic (as opposed to corrupted by many errors that occurred as part of the handwritten copying process) and accurate (as opposed to infected by mistaken impressions or memories or unreliable hearsay by those authors who composed it years after the events), as a record of Who Jesus is/was?”

How would you reply?

To address the first question, our very calendar is a testimony to the historicity of Jesus.  Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian of the first century, documented the historicity of Jesus.  Aside from this, the fact that Christianity exists at all testifies to the fact that Jesus was a historical figure.  No one doubts the historicity of Buddha, Confucius, Mohamed, Plato, Socrates or Aristotle yet there is less documentation for these men than there is for Jesus and no one questions their historicity.  The fact that the Christian church spread across the globe in spite of severe persecution for the name of Jesus gives testimony to the authenticity of Jesus.  Furthermore, there are few, if any in modern scholarship, that question the historical Jesus.

Secondly, there is proof that one is obligated to recognize about Jesus outside the Bible itself.  The empty tomb is proof.  All other leaders of religious movements have died and have been buried and people can visit their graves, but Jesus’ tomb is empty.  I have been told that there are at least seven possible sites around Jerusalem where Jesus may have been buried, but they all have one thing in common – they are all empty.  Jesus rose from the dead just as He said He would, and the empty tomb is proof that He did.  This fact could have been easily debunked early on.  All it would have taken was for the religious leaders of that time to drag Jesus’ body out of the tomb and parade it around for all to see; but they could not because the tomb was empty.  Skeptics have gone to great lengths to attempt to prove His resurrection as a hoax, but they are the ones that have come away looking foolish.  Just recently an ossuary was supposedly discovered in Jerusalem that was supposed to have contained the bones of Jesus.  Inscribed on the ossuary in Hebrew script were the words “Jesus Bar Joseph” – Jesus son of Joseph.  The ossuary was quickly exposed as a forgery making the claimants look foolish indeed.  The proof for Jesus is His empty tomb.

Finally, we can know that the Bible is true by the truth it reveals in matters of history and science.  Although the Bible is not intended to be a textbook on history or science, it is nonetheless historically and scientifically accurate.  For years, archaeologists have used the Bible to locate ancient sites mentioned in its text.  Ancient civilizations mentioned in the Bible, like the Hittites, thought at one time not to have ever existed have been discovered just as the Bible says.  Historical figures, like Belshazzar mentioned in Daniel 5, were once touted as biblical fallacies until recent archaeological discoveries, like the Nabonidus Cylinder, were found with those names inscribed on them. Likewise, science has been unable to refute the Bible on scientific grounds.  The Bible proclaimed that the earth was a sphere before anyone had circumnavigated the globe or witnesses an “earthrise” from the surface of the moon. (Isaiah 40:22).  The Bible claimed that the earth was “hung on nothing” before man ever escaped the bounds of the atmosphere and navigated the emptiness of space (Job 26:7).  The Bible said that there were “paths in the seas” long before the ocean currents were ever mapped (Psalm 8:8).

More incredible than the Bible’s historical and scientific accuracy, is the accuracy of its prophecies.  The Bible contains numerous prophecies in the Old Testament that were fulfilled in Old Testament times.  Some of these include God’s promise to Abraham to make of him many nations  (Genesis 17:4-5); the children of Israel would be slaves for 400 years (Genesis 15:13); much later they would be carried away captive to Babylon (Jeremiah 13:19) for 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11-12).  Arguably, these could be taken as fabrications after the fact – they are not—but even more impressive are the prophecies concerning Jesus.

There are over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament concerning Jesus.  Many of these prophecies deal with His first coming, and the remaining deal with His second coming.  The Bible says that Jesus would be born of a woman (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14); He would be a descendant of Abraham (Genesis 18:18; 22:18), Isaac (Genesis 26:4) and Jacob (Genesis 28:14); He would be of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:8-10); He would be a descendant of David (2 Samuel 7:16; Psalm 2); He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2); He would be brought out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1); minute details of His crucifixion were predicted long before crucifixion was known (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53); His resurrection (Psalm 16:10), and many others.  It has been estimated that the probability of one man fulfilling only 8 of the prophecies ascribed to Jesus would be 1 in 1017 (1 followed by 17 zeros), and yet, Jesus fulfilled all of the prophecies concerning His first coming.

There is left the question regarding the integrity of the transmission of the biblical texts.  The Dead Sea Scrolls have removed any doubt about the integrity of the Old Testament.  As for the New Testament, we have over 5000 manuscripts (whole and in fragments), some dating as early as the beginning of the second century.  These manuscripts have been examined and found to be consistent with our current Bible.  In the few instances where variances do occur, they are usually minor and never have there been any variances found that raise a question of doctrine.  Aside from that, there are many extra-biblical writings that quote directly from the New Testament so that if all copies of the New Testament were lost, most of it could be reconstructed from these alone.  There is nothing in existence today of ancient writings that is so well documented and so well preserved as the text of the Bible.  The Bible is trustworthy, and what it says about Jesus is true; the question is whether you are willing to trust what it says and submit to the Lord it proclaims.


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The Greatest Commandment

Master, which is the great commandment in the law?  (Matthew 22:36)

Many people are often repulsed by Christianity because they view it as a system of regulations and restrictions designed to remove all the joy of living.  They equate church affiliation with an endless list of “thou-shall-not’s.”  Sometimes Christians themselves fall prey to this perception.  I remember my oldest son once protesting my exhortation to live a holy life by saying, “Do you expect me to become a monk!” Leave it to teenagers to exaggerate and be overly dramatic!  But in reality, that is how Christianity is often viewed.  “If I become a Christian, I’ll have to give up drinking beer, going to honky tonks, sleeping around, shacking up with my girlfriend.  I’ll have to quit going to the football games on Sundays.  I’ll have to cancel my subscription to my girly magazines” – and on and on the list would go.

 This encounter with the Pharisee (in our verse) came during Passion Week, before Jesus was crucified.  The religious leaders had swarmed around Jesus like a school of piranhas firing questions at Him in hopes of tripping Him up in order to find an excuse to have Him executed.  Jesus masterfully fielded all of their questions so that they were confounded as to how to respond.  Finally, this Pharisee approaches him with this profound question.

 The Pharisees took pride in their adherence to the law of Moses.  They knew the law so well, that they had devised clever ways to circumvent the law when it became too inconvenient for them.  For example, the fifth commandment said, “Honour thy father and thy mother” (Exodus 20:12).  Among other things, this commandment implied that children were to care for their parents in their old age.  This, as you might imagine, would involve some expense.  The Pharisees had devised a work-around where they would dedicate to God what they had set aside for the care of their parents.  Of course, they were free to use it for themselves, but it got them out of the expense of caring for elderly parents.  Jesus called them hypocrites (Matthew 15:3-9).

 So now, this Pharisee approaches Jesus in all of his self-righteous arrogance, sure that he will stump this simple Galilean carpenter, and asks this most profound question that only someone of his high intellect and learning can answer.  “Master,” he begins with tongue in cheek, careful not to burst out in laughter, “which is the great commandment?”  Perhaps he expected to hear one of the Ten Commandments like the fourth: “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8).  Jesus had often been accused by the Pharisees of breaking the sabbath.  Perhaps he expected to hear something from the Talmud, a collection of rabbinical traditions.  Jesus responded by quoting from the Shama: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.  And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6).

 Why would Jesus quote this passage rather than the first of the Ten Commandments – “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3)?  Likewise the second commandment says, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image …” (v. 4).  And the third says, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain … (v. 7).  Why not one of these?

 The answer lies in recognizing Who God is.  The commandments are just so many rules, and as the saying goes, “rules are made to be broken.”  The Pharisees were expert in bending the rules. They had no love for God.  To them, God was, for all practical purposes, an academic exercise.  They did not deny God, but to them God was an impersonal being that must be appeased by strict adherence to His laws, which could be circumvented given the right conditions.  So, they had the first commandment covered, they did not recognize any other gods and they disassociated themselves from anybody who did.  They had the second commandment down; they disallowed any graven images.  In fact, they would not allow Roman coins into the temple because they bore the image of Caesar, hence they had money changers at the door of the temple that would exchange Roman coins for kosher temple coins (for a price).  They had become so proficient at not pronouncing the name of God (Yahweh) by simply replacing the Name with “LORD” (Adoni) that they literally forgot how to pronounce it!  This was all bound up in legalism, and it expressed no love toward God.

 “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38).  What makes this the greatest commandment is that it recognizes God as supreme in all things.  He is Creator (Genesis 1).  All creation belongs to Him.  The heavens, i.e., the universe, belong to Him (Job 41:11; Deuteronomy 10:14).  The earth belongs to Him (Exodus 9:29; Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 24:1; 50:12).  All the wealth of the earth belongs to Him: the animal kingdom (Psalm 50:10), and all the mineral wealth (Haggai 2:8).  All of the land belongs to Him (Leviticus 25:23).  The kingdoms of the world belong to Him (Psalm 22:28), and we each, individually, belong to Him (Leviticus 20:26; Ezekiel 18:4).  It is this last one, if the others aren’t enough, that should give us pause for concern, for Ezekiel 18:4 ends with this phrase:  “the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”  To break the greatest commandment is eternally fatal.

 We often show contempt for God when we presume ourselves to be self-sufficient, and that all we have comes by our own efforts.  When we come to that conclusion, God reminds us that when “thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth … thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth …” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18).  When you understand that ALL belongs to God and nothing belongs to you, then you can begin to recognize and be sincerely thankful for all He has given you.  That begins with your very existence – every breath, every beat of your heart, is a gift of God.  Then you can thank Him for your parents and all your ancestors before you without whom you would not exist.  You can thank Him for your spouse and for the children He has given to your charge – they are His and He has granted you oversight of their lives.  You can thank Him for your health and your intellect that allows you to be gainfully employed or conduct your own business.  You can thank Him for the nation in which you live.  If you are a Christian, you can thank Him for your brothers and sisters in Christ that gather around you in spiritual and material support when you are in need.  There are so many things that come from His hand for which you have to be grateful.

How can you love Him with all your heart, soul and mind?  Your heart is the seat of your emotions.  Your desire should be to have fellowship with Him, just as you desire to be with any person you love.  I love my wife, and I want to be with her always.  She is my best friend, and when she is away from me, there is an emptiness that only she can fill.  Our desire for God should be no less heartfelt than that.  To love God with your soul means that you yield every fiber of your being to His will.  Does that mean to become a monk?  Yes, if that is His will for you.  Does it mean that you surrender your life to be a missionary in a third-world country where there is a danger of losing your life?  Yes, if that is His will for you.  But mostly what it means is that you are willing to serve Him exactly where He has placed you:  to be the husband and spiritual leader of your family; to be a godly father or mother to your children; to stand up for your Christian beliefs even when it is inconvenient for you.  To love Him with all of your mind means that you spend time reading His word rather than filling your mind with the useless and unfruitful noise of the this world.  Paul said, “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

How can you know that you are keeping the greatest commandment?  Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).  What Jesus is saying here is that, if you keep the greatest commandment (love Me with all your heart, soul and mind), you will keep My commandments.  He also said, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:10).  When you love God/Jesus with all your heart, soul, and mind, His love inhabits you, which enables you to love Him more.  When you love Him with all your heart, soul, and mind, you will find that those things you treasured before are not so valuable after all, and the things you thought you would lose by surrendering your life to Him, you will find that He replaces with greater blessings.  The greatest commandment ensures that you have nothing to lose (because it’s not yours to begin with), but you have everything to gain (because as your heavenly Father, everything that is His He gives to His children).

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Holding All Things Together

And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.  (Colossians 1:17)

One of the irrefutable laws of physics is the First Law of Thermodynamics or the Law of Conservation, which states that matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed — at least as it is observed today.  However, the Bible makes it clear that matter and energy did indeed have a starting point.  “In the beginning [time] God created the Heaven [space] and the earth [matter/energy]” (Genesis 1:1).  Scripture also makes it clear that the Creator was Jesus. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same [Word] was in the beginning with God.  All things [matter/energy] were made by him [the Word], and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3).

Our verse further emphasizes this truth: “He is before all things.”  Before there was matter/energy, before there was time, before there was space, there was Christ.  Space and matter/energy can only be experienced in time, so it only makes sense that the Creator created time “in the beginning” for us to experience the rest of the universe.  It also makes sense that the Creator must exist outside of time in order to create time; hence, “He is before all things” including time.  The Greek word translated “all things” is pántoon, which simply means “all.”  This phrase could more accurately and simply be translated “He is before all” – not just things, but everything: time, space and matter/energy.

Not only did He exist before all, but He also created all.  “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (v. 16).  Very simply, there is nothing that exists that Christ did not create!

The second part of the Law of Conservation is confirmed by the second part of our verse: “by him all things consist.”  The verb “consists” is the Greek verb sunésteeken, which means to “set together” or “to constitute.”  He holds all things together.  “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.  And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made” (Genesis 2:1-2).  So, matter and energy are no longer being created.  He made it all, and he maintains it all; so we sing “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11).  By the way, we too were created for His pleasure.  Would that He might find pleasure in us!

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Well worth the read …

For Christ and Culture

*Posted by Kirk Spencer

“I am a worm and not a man.”
Psalm 22:6

When I was in prison, I met some bad people who had done bad things; as a matter of fact, “doing bad things” was their chosen career.  They were very business-like about it, explaining how careful they were to choose a time and location which would give them the best chance of doing the “most bad” with the least risk.  Such “career planning” can be seen in the fact that we don’t hear much about “shooting sprees” (or gun-crimes) at gun ranges, or gun shows, or police stations.  Someone might say “Well, what about Fort Hood… that was a shooting spree on an army base…  What about that?”  Good point.  How in the world does a lone gunman kill 13 people and wound 29 others on a military base—of all places—where everyone has a gun? …

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All You Need Is Love


He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. (1 John 4:8)

In June of 1967, The Beatles recorded a hit single entitled “All You Need Is Love.”  The main theme of the song is that there is nothing you can do that cannot be done by someone else, so why bother – “all you need is love.”  In May 2003, Dr. Pepper Schwartz published an article in Psychology Today entitled “Love Is Not All You Need.”[1]  In the article she says, “Unlike some societies that think of passionate love as a nuisance that can undermine sound reasoning about whom and when to marry, we think passion is our truest guide.”  Of course she is talking about human relations, and the kind of “love” she addresses is physical and emotional and has little or nothing to do with God’s kind of love.

To say that all we need is love because God is love, we must understand God’s kind of love and then love in the same way that He loves.  John tells us that “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God in him” (1 John 4:16).  The Greek word translated “love” here (and in almost every other passage in the New Testament) is agape, and it refers to an unmerited love that is offered without expectation of reciprocation.  Human nature precludes this kind of love.  Human nature is basically selfish, and it is unwilling to give something without the expectation of getting something in return.  In our human nature it is impossible to obey Christ when He says: “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12).  Jesus’ love is sacrificial.  “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his live for his friends” (John 15:13).  When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.  And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  There is none other greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).   The love rendered to God must be equally as selfless as the love God gives.  The same caliber of love must then be rendered to our fellow man.

Were it possible for man to love as God loves, it might then be true that all you need is love.  However, outside of God’s indwelling presence in a person’s life, it is impossible for man to love as God loves.  Furthermore, God has other attributes besides love.  He is also holy, which means that he is transcendent, set apart.  He is so far removed from any other god that there is no comparison.  In keeping with His holiness, He is also jealous of His position and unwilling to share His place with any other god.  Above Jesus quoted the Shema, which begins, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord” (Mark 12:29 quoting Deuteronomy 6:4).  It is no wonder that God’s first commandment is: “Thou shalt have no other God’s before me. … for the LORD thy God am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:3, 5).  In addition to His holiness, God is just.  “Doth God pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty pervert justice?” (Job 8:3).  “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth” (Jeremiah 23:5).  Because of His justice, God cannot overlook sin.  He must deal with it.  “Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out: he is excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice” (Job 37:23).

Humanly speaking, Dr. Schwartz is nearer the truth: “[human] love is not all you need.”   As demonstrated above, humans are incapable of loving God or loving one another in the same way that God loves.  Furthermore, God is set apart (holy) from humanity and from any god or any religious system the human mind can conceive.  God is exclusive and will not share His place with any other.  By the same token, He does not accept any religion that acknowledges a different god or gods, so more is needed than just love.  The truth of the matter is that “all you need is Jesus.”  Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life:  no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6).  After His resurrection and ascension, His apostles continued the same message:  “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  Indeed, there is nothing, humanly speaking, that can be done to earn God’s favor other than accept His gift of grace (unmerited favor).  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Anyone insisting that “all you need is love” might want to heed this warning from Jesus:  “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in there at:  Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).  The “wide gate,” and “the broad way” is the one that says that “all you need is love,” and that it really does not matter what one believes.  God does not share the same view.  You may want to consider changing your tune from “All You Need Is Love” to “Jesus Is All the World to Me!”



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