Category Archives: Bible

Fear

For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. (Isaiah 41:13)

Dictionary.Com defines “fear”[1] as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.” Note, first of all, that fear is an “emotion;” thus it is subject to irrationality. Note also that fear can be stirred up by a sense of “impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined.” Fear is rational when the danger is real as in the case of a physical attack. Fear is irrational when the danger is imagined as in the case of less than a 1% chance of catching COVID-19. In either case, the emotion of fear can cause us to react in an irrational manner.

We can prepare ourselves to confront fear rationally by training for a variety of scenarios. We can prepare for a physical attack by taking self-defense classes and practicing, at least mentally, for different situations in which we may come under attack. Our military and police do this on a regular basis so that when they come under threat, they can respond rationally to a fearful situation.

In the case of COVID-19, or any disease that may afflict us, we can prepare ourselves mentally with information, so that we can take proper and sensible precautions. The danger of COVID-19 is real, but it is not a threat to everyone. Ninety-nine percent of the population will not contract the virus. Yet the media bombard us daily with increased percentages of “cases” of COVID – not deaths, only “cases.” When they report a 50% increase in cases, that sounds like a lot, but they never report on what the percentages are based. Does 50% mean half of the entire population or only half of what was previously reported? Such careless reporting serves only to feed the fear in the audience who by and large do not exercise critical thinking when listening to news reports.

And how accurate are the tests anyway? Recently, Elon Musk tested positive and negative for COVID-19.[2] He tested four times. Two tests returned positive results and two tests returned negative results. With inconclusive results, he still has no idea if he really has had the virus.

By the way, has anyone, besides me, noticed that no flu deaths have been reported by the media this year? Yet, “During the 2019-2020 influenza season, CDC estimates that influenza was associated with 38 million illnesses, 18 million medical visits, 405,000 hospitalizations, and 22,000 deaths”[3] compared to 34,200 deaths in 2018-2019.[4]  Why do we not hear about flu deaths? Could it be that the flu is less sensational?

As for deaths from COVID-19, only 6% of the deaths associated with the novel coronavirus died solely from the virus, the rest were brought about by other underlying conditions. In an article by “LiveScience” attempting to debunk the social media claim “that ‘only 6%’ of the reported COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are solely attributable to the new coronavirus,” the writer seems to validate the claim. He says,

This claim stems from an Aug. 26 update the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) posted on its website, which provides a detailed breakdown of the accompanying health conditions (known as comorbidities) and contributing causes of death reported in people who have died of the new coronavirus in the United States. The CDC noted that “For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned.”

In other words, 6% of people who died when they had COVID-19 didn’t have underlying conditions, such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease, and didn’t experience any medical complications, such as kidney failure or sepsis. But the other 94% of deaths were still caused by COVID-19, infectious disease experts said. That’s because many chronic, underlying conditions can make diseases that a person might otherwise recover from, such as COVID-19, suddenly deadly.[5] (Emphasis mine)

The fact remains that of those that have died with COVID-19, only 6% died solely of COVID-19. The claim (in bold above) that the other deaths were “caused by COVID-19” is misleading. The deaths were caused by multiple complications including COVID-19.

A Google search on “Current COVID Deaths” reported 245,000 deaths with COVID-19 to death – at 6%, only 1470 from COVID only compared to 22,000 deaths from the flu. The current population of the United States is 328,200,000. Using simple math to calculate the percentage of the population that has died with COVID-19, results in an unimpressive 0.0074649% of the population.

Each one of us has a 0.007% chance of dying with COVID-19, and only 6% of those have a chance of dying from COVID-19 alone.

Why are we living in fear over COVID-19? Why have our churches been restricted from exercising our First Amendment right to assemble and worship as we please? Why have our churches capitulated to unconstitutional mandates rather than adhere to God’s command that we not forsake our assembling together (Hebrews 10:25)? Why do we continue to succumb to the irrational edicts of those who only desire to exercise control over our lives?

I, for one, am tired of wearing masks. I am tired of social distancing. I am tired of going to church in limited numbers. I am tired of singing praises with my face covered and muted. I am tired of restricting the fellowship with my brothers and sisters to the church parking lot – at a social distance, of course. I am tired of all the senseless restrictions imposed by self-appointed demagogues pretending to have our best interest at heart. Stop with the fear-mongering!

I have heard it said that the Bible has 365 admonitions to “fear not”[6] – one for every day of the year. I have not counted them for myself, but they do seem to come up frequently in my reading. The first “fear not” appears in the Book of Genesis. There God tells Abram, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1). A shield protects us from incoming blows, and a reward is something we get for doing something right. What did Abram do that was right? “And he believed in the LORD; and [the LORD] counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). In the last book of the Bible, Jesus says to John, “Fear not; I am the first and the last” (Revelation 1:17). The Apostle Paul reminds Timothy, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, why do we allow ourselves to get sucked into the fear over that which we cannot control?

C. S. Lewis once said, “If we are going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb [or the coronavirus], let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint [he wasn’t Baptist!] and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs [or COVID-19]. They may break our bodies (any microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”[7] That sounds like excellent advice to me!

Notes:


[1]  Fear – https://www.dictionary.com/browse/fear?s=t

[2]  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/13/world/does-elon-musk-have-the-coronavirus-after-four-tests-he-still-doesnt-know.html

[3]  https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/2019-2020.html#:~:text=During%20the%202019%2D2020%20influenza,405%2C000%20hospitalizations%2C%20and%2022%2C000%20deaths.

[4]  https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/2018-2019.html#:~:text=CDC%20estimates%20that%20the%20burden,from%20influenza%20(Table%201).

[5]  https://www.livescience.com/covid-19-comorbidities.html

[6]  “Fear Not” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/08/16/fear-not/

[7]  Martindale, Wayne & Jerry Root, The Quotable Lewis, (Tydale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Illinois, 1990), p. 606, quoting Present Concerns: Essays by C. S. Lewis, “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948), para. 3, pp. 73-74.

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Jesus And The Fig Tree

Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: (Matthew 24:32)

During Jesus’ last week of His earthly ministry before His crucifixion and shortly after His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Matthew and Mark record a strange incident when Jesus cursed a fig tree because it had no fruit and immediately, the tree withered.

Jesus entered Jerusalem on what we know as Palm Sunday. He went directly to the Temple cast out the money changers and those who sold animals for the upcoming Passover sacrifice.[1] To us Gentiles, it seems strange that it offended Jesus that these men were turning the Holy Temple into a marketplace. However, as Jesus drove out the merchants, He exclaimed, “Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Mark 11:17).

A long-held Jewish tradition during Passover is to get all the leaven out of the house before the Passover celebration. Leaven represents sin, and it must be removed from the house. The Temple was Jesus’ house, and He was cleansing it from the sin within in preparation for the coming Passover.

At this point, I need to mention an apparent contradiction between Mark’s account of the Temple cleansing and that of both Matthew and Luke. Both Matthew and Luke record that the cleansing took place on the same day as the Triumphal Entry – Palm Sunday.[2] However, Mark indicates that the cleansing took place on the following day (Monday). Mark records that on Palm Sunday, “Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve. And on the morrow [Monday], when they were come from BethanyAnd they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple” (Mark 11:11-12, 15, emphasis mine). So, did Jesus cleanse the Temple on Palm Sunday or on the following day? Great biblical minds have no clue! I am not one who finds contradictions in the Bible because “God is not the author of confusion.”[3] Two Gospel writers say the cleansing took place on Sunday, and one (Mark, who was not an eyewitness) says it was on Monday. I believe all three accounts are correct. It is possible that there were two cleansings, one on Sunday and one on Monday. I will leave it at that for now.

Only Matthew and Mark record the incident with Jesus cursing the fig tree, and both agree that it happened on Monday morning as Jesus returned to Jerusalem from Bethany where He was probably staying in the home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary.[4] What happened next seems rather strange. Jesus spotted a fig tree along the way and being hungry, He went to see if it had any figs.[5] Mark remarks that “the time of figs was not yet” (Mark 11:13). Finding no figs on the tree, Jesus cursed the tree, and it soon “dried up from the roots” (Mark 11:20).

It seems strange that Jesus, the Creator,[6] would not know that it was not the time for figs, So, why would He expect to find figs on the tree? Some commentators suggest that the tree should have had some unripe fruit on it that could be eaten.

“Toward the end of March the leaves begin to appear, and in about a week the foliage coating is complete. Coincident with [this], and sometimes even before, there appears quite a crop of small knobs, not the real figs, but a kind of early forerunner. They grow to the size of green almonds, in which condition they are eaten by peasants and others when hungry.”[7]

That makes some sense. Both Matthew and Mark remark that Jesus found nothing but leaves on the tree. There were not even “knobs” to eat on the tree. But was that sufficient cause for Jesus to curse the tree? The same commentators quoted above, suggested that Jesus used this incident as an object lesson to emphasize Luke’s parable about the fig tree that bore no fruit.[8] However, neither Matthew nor Mark includes that parable in their Gospels, and Luke omits the cursing of the fig tree, so their argument does not seem to be very strong.

Jesus, the Creator, knew it was too early for figs, and He knew He would not find figs on the tree. So the cursing of the tree had another purpose. Jesus never did anything without a purpose.

Later in the week as Jesus sat with His disciples on the Mount of Olives, they asked Him for signs of the last days and the end of the world. The detailed description of the last days, known as the “Olivet Discourse,” is found in all three Synoptic Gospels.[9] “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36). However, Jesus said the times would be discernible, and He used the fig tree to illustrate. “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:32-34, emphasis mine).

The fig tree represents the nation of Israel. Several passages in the Old Testament make this association. God says, “I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time …” (Hosea 9:10, emphasis mine). “He [the king of Babylon] hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white” (Joel 1:7, emphasis mine). God also refers to Israel as His (grape) “vine.” Concerning Israel’s restoration, Scripture says, “Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people … Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength” (Joel 2:18, 22, emphasis mine).

Jesus’ parable of the fig tree gives the signal for the beginning of the end-time events. Israel, the fig tree, budded on May 14, 1948, signaling that “summer” is near. Jesus said that “this generation,” the one that sees the fig tree bud, will not pass until all these signs are accomplished. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

So, why did Jesus curse the fig tree? God chose Israel to be a “priest nation” to all the nations of the world, beginning with Abraham; “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3, emphasis mine). To Israel, God says, “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation …” (Exodus 19:6). It was Israel’s task to reveal God to the nations of the world. Instead, Israel followed in the idolatrous steps of the surrounding nations. Israel, the fig tree, did not produce the fruit God expected. Jesus’ object lesson in cursing the fig tree demonstrated that God would no longer use Israel to bless the nations and to be the priest nation to the world. Instead, He assigned that task to other “husbandmen.”[10] To these new husbandmen, i.e., the Church, Jesus said, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8, emphasis mine).

So, the fig tree withered and can no longer produce fruit. Instead, Jesus assigned the task of bringing God to the world to the Church. As for the fig tree, “they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24, emphasis mine).

That time is near. It started when the fig tree budded in 1948. The fig tree has yet to produce any fruit, but that is because the Church is still yielding fruit, albeit at a waning rate. Soon, the Church will be plucked up, and God’s fig tree will have another opportunity to yield its fruit. “And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel” (Revelation 7:4, emphasis mine). During the Tribulation, the 144,000 Israeli evangelists will carry the Gospel to all the world and produce much “fruit” for the Lord. “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands” (Revelation 7:9, emphasis mine).

In the end, the fig tree will produce the fruit for which it was created. However, it must be understood that not every individual Israeli will be saved. Their salvation does not come from their nationality (Israel) or their religion (Judaism). Just as with every other person, salvation comes only through faith in Jesus the Messiah. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). The 144,000 remnant of Israel that carry the Gospel to all the world will be saved by the same message that “whosoever believeth in him [Jesus] should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Those that hear and believe the message of the 144,000 will be saved the same way.

Reader, if you do not know Jesus, now is a great time to get acquainted. Read my page on “Securing Eternal Life” and get that settled today.

Notes:


[1]  Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46

[2]  Matthew 21:8-13; Luke 19:35-46

[3]  1 Corinthians 14:33

[4]  John 11:2

[5]  Matthew 21:18-19; Mark 11:12-13

[6]  John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16; Revelation 4:11

[7] Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Peter H. Davids, F.F. Bruce, Manfred T. Brauch, Hard Saying of the Bible, (InterVarity Press Academic, Downers Grove, Illinois, 1996), p. 442, quoting W.M. Christie, “The Barren Fig Tree.”

[8]  Luke 13:6-9

[9]  Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21

[10]  Matthew 21:33-41

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Jesus And Genesis

But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. (Mark 10:6)

If one wants to criticize and discount the Bible, there is no better place to start than at the beginning with Genesis. Those who reject God find it easier to believe the absurdity that nothing expanded and resulted in everything. They claim to believe the “science.” However, scientific proof requires the implementation of the “scientific method.” As an elementary school teacher just 12 years ago, we still taught the “scientific method” which included observation, hypothesis, experimentation, and falsification. God deniers profess science without employing the scientific method to support their hypothesis. No one observed the Big Bang. No one can experiment to reproduce the Big Bang. (It would be scary if they could!) And no one can falsify the Big Bang, yet they claim to be “scientific.”

The same can said for Creation. Creation cannot be proven by the scientific method. It was a unique, miraculous, one-time event. Creation differs from the Big Bang in that it started with Someone; it did not come from nothing – “In the beginning, God”[1] and God recorded His work in the first chapter of the Book of Beginnings – Genesis. The thinking person (not the God denier – they do not think) only needs to consider the creation account for what it says, recognizing the implied characteristics of the omnipotent Creator’s ability to do what He said He did and compare that to the order out of chaos suggested by the Big Bang proponents. Because of the vast complexity of the universe and life on earth, logic supports creation by an intelligent Creator over life by luck. Of course, some God deniers reject the Big Bang for that very reason and opt to believe that life on earth was “seeded” by extraterrestrials from other worlds, but that raises another question. How did the extraterrestrials originate? That question cannot be answered.

God deniers will not be convinced with logic. They reject God by choice. I am more surprised by those who say they believe the Bible but reject the Genesis account. They have been taught that the Big Bang is a fact and that life on earth arose through the process of evolution. In order to keep their faith in God intact, they rationalize that God somehow used the Big Bang and evolution to create. That makes sense. God can do anything He wants to do and use whatever means He chooses to do it. He is God! However, in reading the straightforward creation account in Genesis 1, one cannot find the logical steps of evolution. God created the universe by His spoken word, not with a bang.[2] He created plant life[3] before He created the sun. He created the sun and moon before creating the rest of the stars as sort of an afterthought.[4] He created marine and avian life before creating the dinosaurs (land creatures). Secular scientists claim that birds evolved from dinosaurs, but Genesis says that birds came first. Furthermore, the Genesis account of creation records that each day of creation was a 24-hour day;[5] that amount of time does not allow for evolution to take place.

Some overly educated theologians dismiss the Genesis account of creation as poetry or allegory. Somehow in all of their education, they miss the fact that Hebrew poetry is distinct by its use of parallelism. There is none of that in the Genesis account. Any Hebrew language novice understands that the first three chapters in Genesis, which take the brunt of the criticism, are written in narrative form like any other historical portion of Scripture. Genesis is not poetry. It presents a factual account, or at least it is factual to the author.

Jesus, who the New Testament credits as Creator[6], affirmed the validity of Genesis. When the Pharisees challenged Him on the question of divorce, Jesus referred them back to Genesis. “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female” (Mark 10:6, emphasis mine). The making of the first human pair is recorded in the first chapter of Genesis. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27, emphasis mine). For the sake of this confused world today, it should be noted that God made one pair of opposite, yet complementary sexes. They were not androgynous with the option to choose their sex. God did not create two males to mate with each other or two females to cohabitate. God designed the sexes for reproduction. Two males cannot reproduce, nor can two females reproduce. The union is not about “feeling” but about “function.” Male and female “fit” together. The way God designed it works. The way modern man has perverted it often ends in tragedy.

Genesis records that Adam’s first son was Cain and the second was Abel. Cain murdered Abel in a fit of jealous rage,[7] and Jesus referred to that as a factual account. As Jesus excoriated the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, He said, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar” (Matthew 23:33-35, emphasis mine). Jesus again affirmed the veracity of Genesis in citing Abel as a real person. As an aside, I find it interesting that Jesus takes credit for sending the prophets – “I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes.” That is what God does. Therefore, Jesus claims to be God.

The Global Flood account in Genesis 6-9 is also a major point of contention with Bible critics, even those claiming to be Christian. However, Jesus vouched for its authenticity. In speaking on the last days, Jesus said, “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:37-39, emphasis mine). So, to those who claim to be Christian yet reject Genesis, do you reject Jesus’ words as well? If you doubt the first eleven chapters of Genesis, how can you believe the words of Jesus? He spoke of the Genesis account as fact.

Jesus created[8] man in His image[9] knowing the kind of body He would one day inhabit.[10] Jesus accepted Abel’s sacrifice[11] over that of Cain’s, and when Cain murdered Abel, He demonstrated mercy toward Cain by setting a mark on him to spare his life.[12] God had Noah build an ark with only one entrance. The Ark was large enough to accommodate thousands of more people than Noah and his family, but only those eight that believed God and entered through the only door were saved from the Flood. Jesus is our Ark of salvation. He said, “I AM the door.”[13] He is the only entrance to eternal life; there is no other way. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6, emphasis mine).

I understand God deniers rejecting the Genesis account of creation. They are lost and hell-bound. But there is no excuse for Christians rejecting the Genesis account if indeed they believe Jesus’ words.

Reader, if you are questioning the veracity of Scripture, particularly where it comes to creation, perhaps the first thing you need to consider your eternal standing before God. Read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 1:1

[2]  Genesis 1:1-5

[3]  Genesis 1:11-12

[4]  Genesis 1:14-16

[5]  “A Day Is A Day” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/10/25/a-day-is-a-day/

[6]  John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16-17; Revelation 4:11

[7]  Genesis 4:1-8

[8]  John 1:1-3

[9]  Genesis 1:26-27

[10]  John 1:14; Philippians 2:7-8

[11]  Genesis 4:4

[12]  Genesis 4:15

[13]  John 10:9

 

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Feet Only

Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. (John 13:10)

On the evening before His crucifixion, Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples. The Apostle John records in his Gospel that Jesus “laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself” (John 13:4) and proceeded to wash the feet of His disciples.

In those days, the majority of travel was done on foot. The footwear of the day protected only the sole of the feet leaving the rest of the feet exposed to the elements. Most of the roads were no more than dirt trails so that feet collected a good amount of road dirt.

It was customary for the host of a house to welcome the traveler by washing the road dirt off their feet. This task was assigned to the lowest servant or the youngest member of the household. For whatever reason, no one performed the customary foot washing at this house, perhaps because it was a private gathering not hosted by the homeowner.

Whatever the reason, Jesus chose this time to give an object lesson. Jesus rose from the table, removed his outer garment, took a towel, and some water, and performed the task of the lowliest servant. Jesus washed all of the disciples’ feet, but when he got to Peter, Peter protested. “Lord, dost thou wash my feet?” (John 13:6). Peter was not being “holier than thou,” in his refusal to have Jesus wash his feet. Perhaps, as he watched Jesus wash the other’s feet, he thought, “Why didn’t someone else do that? The Master should not be the one doing that! Maybe I should be the one washing feet.” Whatever may have crossed his mind, it was obvious that he was humiliated that his Lord should lower Himself to that position.

“Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter” (John 13:7). We seldom know what God is doing in our lives when we go through trials, but when we look back on our lives, we can see how God directed our circumstances for our good.[1] Peter did not get the lesson; “Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.” (John 13:8-10).

Jesus washed all of the disciples’ feet. They did not need a bath; only their feet needed washing, but Jesus said not all were clean. The unclean one to whom Jesus referred as Judas Iscariot who would betray Him. It’s not that Judas failed to take his Sabbath Day mikvah; Jesus referred to Judas’ spiritual condition, not his physical cleanliness. Therefore, the significance of the foot-washing act goes deeper than road grime.

The disciples were “clean” because they believed that Jesus was their expected Messiah. When Jesus had asked, “Whom do you say that I am?” Peter confessed, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). The key to salvation (i.e., cleansing) is “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9). Obviously, Judas had not believed: therefore, he was not clean.

As we traveled to Washington, D.C. for the Franklin Graham 2020 Prayer March[2] last week, this topic came up in our conversation. My brother Eli made a very interesting analogy applicable to the Church today. Like Jesus’ disciples (and we too are disciples) we walk around in this filthy world every day, and the grime of the world cannot help but stick to our “spiritual feet.” Then, every time we gather for worship and fellowship, we have the opportunity to wash each other’s feet. We do not need a bath because the Bible says that “ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). Our “spiritual” feet only need washing. Therefore, the Bible encourages us to gather together. “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure waterNot forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:22, 25, emphasis mine). Our gathering together is the way we wash each other’s feet by praying for each other and encouraging one another in the faith.

Another parallel that can be drawn from this account is that not all are clean. The twelve apostles walked with Jesus for three years of His earthly ministry, yet one of them was lost, i.e., not clean, the entire time. In the same way, not all within the Church are all saved. Some practice all the “right things” on the outside, but inwardly they have not truly believed. Jesus referred to these as “tares.”[3] When He returns for His Bride, the Church, these will be left behind. For now, feet only need washing if you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ. If not, you need a bath. If you are not sure of your standing before God, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Romans 8:28-29

[2]  https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/10/01/reflections-on-the-washington-2020-prayer-march/

[3]  Matthew 13:24-30

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Tongues Of Fire

And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  (Acts 2:3)

My youngest brother, Eli (there are three of us of which I am the oldest), enjoys Bible study as much as, if not more than, I do. He has a gift of looking deeper into Scripture than your average Bible reader, and he is always eager to share his insights with me. It makes for wonderful and enlightening conversations.

Recently Eli shared his thoughts on Pentecost and the “coming” of the Holy Spirit. Conventional thought maintains that the Holy Spirit did not descend upon the disciples until the Day of Pentecost when 120 of them were gathered in the Upper Room as instructed by the Lord Jesus. “And, being assembled together with them, [Jesus] commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:4-5, emphasis mine).

This “promise of the Father,” most agree, is the Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost in the KJV) which Jesus promised would come after He was gone.[1] “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7, emphasis mine). Luke, who also authored the Book of Acts, wrote more about the Holy Spirit in his Gospel (and Acts) than the other Gospel writers, including John. He records these words of Jesus before His ascension. “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49, emphasis mine). Both Luke and John indicate that the coming of the Holy Spirit would come at a later time, and Luke’s account of the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 seems to confirm Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit coming at a later time – ten days after His ascension.

However, John seems to throw a wrench into conventional thinking, as Eli points out. After His resurrection, Jesus met with His disciples, not just “the twelve,” on several occasions. In fact, Paul records that He was seen by as many as 500 at one time.[2] On the evening of His resurrection (it was Sunday evening), John records that, “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week [Sunday], when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you” (John 20:19, emphasis mine). They were startled as one might imagine, and Jesus proved His identity by showing His wounds.[3] Then at this point, His ascension is still 39 days away, Jesus gives His Great Commission for the first time.[4] “Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:21-22, emphasis mine).

Well, that raises the question. When did the disciples receive the Holy Spirit, on the Resurrection Sunday, or at Pentecost? Something so dramatic definitely happened at Pentecost that Luke records that 3000 souls were saved![5] Contrary to Luke, John records the giving of the Holy Spirit prior to Pentecost in spite of his own record that the “Comforter” would not come until after Jesus was gone. It is very difficult to build a case on just one verse (John 20:22) when so many other verses seem to contradict, and Scripture never contradicts itself, even when we do not understand it clearly. “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33). So what is the answer?

Eli suggests that the miraculous event at Pentecost was a “manifestation” of the “power” of the Holy Spirit. Take our own experience for example. We come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit on our spirit to convince us of the truth of God’s Word, convict us of our sin, and convey our need for the Savior.[6] When that takes place and we trust in Jesus for our salvation, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our lives and instantly the “light comes on,” and we know that the transaction took place. For most of us, that moment comes quietly and without a lot of fanfare – certainly nothing like what happened at Pentecost. We do not immediately start speaking foreign languages previously unknown to us or performing miracles. We do not suddenly possess a deeper understanding of Scripture. That comes along through study and prayer, but it is the Holy Spirit within us that guides us into greater understanding. That comes with time and with the degree to which we submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

My point is that receiving the Holy Spirit is generally not some kind of dramatic experience. That often disappoints some who are expecting some sort of “rush” from the experience. That expectation often causes them to doubt that their salvation experience really “took.” Trust me. If you “believe,” it took.

So, when Jesus breathed on the disciples that evening in the Upper Room, nothing out of the ordinary took place, yet John records that they received the Holy Spirit. So what was it that took place at Pentecost?

Eli makes a distinction between receiving the Holy Spirit, which happens when we believe, and being “empowered” by the Holy Spirit to perform acts of which we were heretofore incapable, like speaking in languages we had not previously learned, or performing miracles of healing or raising of the dead – all of which the disciples did in the early church.

(At this point it is incumbent on me to stress that the “powers” granted by the Holy Spirit in the early church were for the purpose of giving evidence to the truth of the Gospel and for the purpose of edifying – building up – the church. It was not for the purpose of the personal aggrandizement of the individual.

All of these “gifts” still exist today, but they are always for the purpose of spreading the Gospel, and they are given only as the Holy Spirit determines, not the individual. There is not much need of that here in America because we all speak the same language, we have ready access to God’s Word – the Bible is freely available to everyone – and the Word of God is clearly preached on radio, TV, and the internet. If anything, we have such a glut of the Gospel that many just turn a deaf ear to it.

There is no excuse for anyone here in America not to respond to the Gospel. That was not the case at Pentecost. Jesus had just risen from the dead and ascended to heaven. Most people were unaware of that fact and the Gospel was brand new. In addition, at Pentecost, visitors came to Jerusalem from all over the Roman Empire. The Gospel message needed a special “kick-start” from the Holy Spirit!

By the way, all born-again believers are endowed with certain gifts of the Holy Spirit that are not as sensational as performing miracles or speaking in previously unknown languages.[7] The ability to understand Spiritual truths being, I think, the most useful. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14, emphasis)).

So, as Eli points out, the disciples were already indwelt by the Holy Spirit when Jesus breathed on them (John 20:22), but what they received at Pentecost was “power from on high.”[8] This was a special “unction” – an “anointing” by the Holy Spirit. Luke records Jesus saying, “For John [the Baptist] truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:5, emphasis mine). That word “baptized” is the Greek word βαπτίζω (baptizō) which means “to make whelmed;” “to submerge; engulf; overcome utterly;” “to immerse, to overwhelm.”

Again, this event was yet future which goes back to Jesus saying that “the comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7).  Could it be that Jesus referred to His departure at the cross when He died? Jesus also said, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16-17, emphasis mine). So, according to Jesus, the disciples (the twelve at this instance) were already indwelt with the Holy Spirit. This was before the crucifixion, before His resurrection, before His ascension, and before Pentecost. This further indicates that the event at Pentecost was a special manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s power for the purpose of “kick-starting” the Church, and not necessarily the first time the Holy Spirit came to reside in believers.

The Old Testament records many examples of the Holy Spirit empowering individuals to do God’s work. David experienced the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and prays, “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11, emphasis mine). David’s request further emphasizes the temporary nature of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling individuals in the Old Testament. That changed with Jesus’ advent.

Eli then draws a parallel to the creation account in Genesis when God created Adam – Man. In Genesis 2:7 we read that “the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (emphasis mine). That “breath” was God’s Spirit distinct from the nephesh of the other creatures God created from the dust of the ground.[9] That “breath,” to a certain extent, was lost at the Fall[10] so that man died spiritually.[11] Jesus restores that life once more when He once again breathes out the breath of life into His disciples, “and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22, emphasis mine).

Another interesting insight Eli has concerns the appearance of the “cloven tongues like as of fire” that appeared over the heads of the disciples at Pentecost.[12] The description, first of all, is a simile – “like as of fire,” not actually fire. That they were “tongues” denotes the shape, and “cloven” indicates that they were divided either as a flame sometimes splits, or as candle-like flames distributed among the 120 present. Eli harkens back to the Tabernacle in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt. God manifested His presence with the Children of Israel by way of a column/pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night over the Tabernacle. Today, God dwells within His children, born-again believers, by way of the Holy Spirit. “Know ye not that ye are the temple [i.e. “tabernacle”] of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16, emphasis mine). So, like the pillar of fire over the tabernacle in the wilderness, the “tongues of fire” over the heads of the disciples signified the new dwelling place of God within the lives of believers. I found that to be pretty insightful! I really enjoy plunging the wonderful depths of God’s Word with my little brother, Eli!

If you are reading this, and it makes little or no sense, it could be that the Spirit of God does not reside in you, so that it is all foolishness to you. That will change when you trust in Jesus and receive His Spirit who will help your understanding. Read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  John 14:16-26; 15:26; 16:1-16

[2]  1 Corinthians 15:6

[3]  John 20:20

[4]  I say the “first time” because Matthew 28:18-20, and Acts 1:8 record the Great Commission given immediately before Jesus’ ascension which was 40 days following His resurrection. John has Jesus giving His Great Commission on the same day (at evening) of His resurrection. Is this a contradiction? I do not think so. During His 40 days, I feel certain He reminded them often of what He expected of them and the final reminder was at His ascension.

[5]  Acts 2:41

[6]  John 14:17, 26; 15:26; 16:8, 13

[7]  1 Corinthians 12:7-11; Galatians 5:22-23 (“fruits” of the Spirit)

[8]  Luke 24:49

[9]  Genesis 1:24-25

[10]  Genesis 3

[11]  Romans 5:15,17

[12]  Acts 2:3

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