Category Archives: Bible

How to become a better listener

By Spencer D Gear PhD[1]

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(Source)

This article was provoked by the need to deal with a woman who sits at our dinner table (I’m in aged care). No matter what I or others discuss, her constant comeback is to give examples from her own life. She doesn’t seem to notice how self-centred her conversations become. Her conversations go something like this:

John: I have a bad chip in my thumbnail that looks as though it will tear away. I need help with somebody to clip the nail and not tare the skin underneath as I take a blood thinner.

Betty: That’s easy. Get one of your carers to do it. Look at my thumbnail that was clipped by a carer. That’s your best step. Another person at the table agreed with Betty.

Whenever I raise a topic, Betty most often goes to her own agenda and is very egocentric in how she responds.

Personal tips

These are my observations of what poor listening does to my communication:

I need eye contact to be maintained. If Betty’s eyes wander, it’s an indicator

she’s not listening. She is on track to give me her examples and not deal with my issue.

One of the best ways for me to know she is listening is for her to engage with me by questioning. I’ve raised the topic of the thumbnail. She could ask: “Since you have problems with the thumbnail on your left hand, why can’t you use the nail clippers yourself?” I’ve tried that but the nature of the nail tear caused me to not cut the nail. That led to her mentioning the need for a carer to do it for me. I’m reluctant to ask a carer as that has led to rejection previously.

I generally find the best way to keep the subject focussed is by questioning the other people. This also keeps the other people on task. Open-ended questions are the best, e.g. What would you consider is the best approach with this thumbnail crack?

Hal Gregersen, executive director of the MIT Leadership Center, said, “It’s really hard to walk into a conversation without my agenda being written on my forehead and your agenda written on yours,” he says. “Unfortunately with the hectic, chaotic, complicated pace of work life today, people are even more committed to getting their own agenda accomplished.”[2]

Tips for better listening

Young Caucasian Woman Isolated On Blue Background Listening To Something By Putting Hand On The EarThe keys to better listening are to keep the discussion on the other person’s topic and not on your response. Stephanie Vozza gives “6 Ways To Become A Better Listener.”[3]

If you want to get something done, remember that human beings have an 8-second attention span.[4]

It’s difficult to join a discussion, without taking my agenda with me.

Stephanie’s 6 Tips are:[5]

1. Listen to Learn, Not to be Polite.

2. Quieten Your Own Agenda.

3. Ask More Questions.

Listening with real intent means I’m going to be open to being very wrong, and I’m comfortable with that in this conversation, says Gregersen. “In a world that’s getting more polarized, being able to listen is critical to reducing unnecessary conflict at any level, within a team, organization, or on a broader political country level,” he says.[6]

4. Pay Attention to Your Talk/Listen Ratio.

Strive for a 2:1 ratio of listening to talking, says Eblin. “If you’re a note taker during meetings or conversations, try keeping track of how much you listen versus how much you talk,” he says.

5. Repeat Back What You Heard.

6. Actually Wait Until Someone is Done Talking Before You Respond.

This is the message of the Bible in James 1:19, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (NLT). I have broken this command personally, with its severe repercussions in my relationships.

Notes


[1] http://www.wright.edu/~scott.williams/LeaderLetter/listening.htm.

[2] Stephanie Vozza, https://www.fastcompany.com/3068959/6-ways-to-become-a-better-listener (Accessed 25 May 2022).

[3] Fast Company, “6 Ways To Become A Better Listener,” Available at: https://www.fastcompany.com/3068959/6-ways-to-become-a-better-listener (Accessed 25 May 2022.)

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 31 May, 2022.

Vector image of red line art decorative borderVector image of red line art decorative border

Grow up in your faith: I Peter 2:1-3[1]

Plant Growing On The Tree Trunk

(image courtesy publicdomainpictures)

By Spencer Gear

A. Introduction

As we begin a new year, it is good to look back over the last year to see how the Lord has blessed and to see what needs to be changed in our lives. On June 2 2006, I had the honour, sad though it was, to conduct the funeral service of my father-in-law, who died at age 95.

Dad had lived with my wife and me for the last 12 years of his life. During our conversations he had made it clear that he wanted me to conduct the funeral if I were alive. But he must not be buried from the evangelical church in which he was raised. He attended that church until 1992, because of his wife’s commitment to the Lord Jesus.

But he was adamant. Do not bury me from that church. I want nothing to do with that church, even at my death.

Why? His mother died when he was 8 years old from the influenza that swept the world in 1919. His father remarried and his step mother would go to that church and praise the Lord with hallelujahs and other spiritual gestures. But during the week she would treat the five step-children like second-class citizens – so he told us.

This was an example that turned Dad right off the Christian faith –his step-mother’s hypocrisy. Dad lived with that nasty memory for 87 years.

You and I know that his step-mother will not be an excuse when he stands before God. But this matter of the Christian life and the gap between what we say we believe and how we live, is how the apostle Peter begins the second chapter of I Peter.

From I Peter 1:13 to 2:3, we are taught:

1:13-16 As he who called you is holy, you also be holy

1:17-21 Live in reverent fear (of God)

1: 22-25 Love one another

In this article, we deal with 1 Peter 2:1-3. It begins with “therefore” or “so.” It is based on what has preceded this verse.

v. 23: You have been born again;

v. 25: “The word of the Lord remains forever”;

“This word is the good news that was preached to you.”

Therefore, what are we do as people who are genuinely Christian and who stand on the eternal Word of God?

In the first 3 verses of I Peter 2 we have the fourth teaching on what it means to live a holy life to grow spiritually. To grow spiritually, we must

blue-satin-arrow-small Put away certain things;

blue-satin-arrow-small We must long for or crave for certain things; and

blue-satin-arrow-small We must have tasted something.

B. First, if we are to grow spiritually, we must “put away” or get rid of certain things in our lives (v. 1)

Tree With Green Leaves And Roots. Isolated On White Background. Flat Style, Vector Illustration. What are they?

 

1. You must put away

clip_image001 All malice

clip_image001[1] All deceit

clip_image001[2] Hypocrisies

clip_image001[3] Envies

clip_image001[4] All slanders

Paul uses “all”, three times in this list. If we are to be growing Christians, there must be zero malice in our lives; zero deceit; zero hypocrisy, zero envy and zero slander. All of these apply to our relationships with other people. This is where people will notice the most important change that comes into your life when you become a genuine Christian.

Peter says that we must get rid of these:

a. All malice

This is totally comprehensive – all malice must be gone if we are to be truly Christian in our living. If we express malice in our relationships with others our love for others disappears.

“Malice [in English] is a desire to inflict pain, harm, or injury on [other human beings][2].”[3] Most often we do this with our words but it can lead to physical injury of other people in our anger.

Here, this word does not mean viciousness (although there should be no viciousness in the language and deeds of a believer), the word (kakia) is “a special form of vice . . . the evil habit of the mind.”[4] This is the kind of evil thinking that leads to all kinds of evil actions. It means “baseness, meanness, all good-for-nothingness, disgracefulness.”[5]

Getting rid of malice towards others relates to the second half of the 10 commandments (Ex. 20:12-17) and their equivalent in the New Testament. See my article, “Compare the Ten Commandments with New Testament teaching.”

clip_image003 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Dishonouring your parents must be gone if you are really Christian. This becomes especially touchy if a Christian’s father has physically abused the mother; if the mother has committed adultery; if father or mother has sexually abused another, and there are other disturbing family circumstances.

The Scriptures require you as a Christian to get rid of any dishonour towards your father or mother. You must not endorse any such evil behaviour. You must oppose such evil actions, but they are still your parents. Honour your father and your mother does NOT mean you endorse their behaviour. Get rid of all dishonour in the way you treat your mother and father.

clip_image003[1] Back to the 10 commandments: “You shall not murder.” This should be self-evident. Put away all baseness in your thinking towards those who have committed murder. You must get rid of thinking about killing anyone. You must not kill another or yourself.

clip_image003[2] “You shall not steal.” What do you do with the boss’s time? Are you an honest worker? Do you give an honest week’s work for your pay, or do you steal your boss’s time. It’s so easy to take little things from your place of work. That’s stealing.

clip_image003[3] “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.” It’s so easy to gossip about another. Sometimes that’s false testimony.

clip_image003[4] You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”

Let’s put this into 21st century language: “You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife or husband, or any of your neighbour’s circumstances, including the cars your neighbours drive, the house they own, the TV, computer, goods of any sort that they own.” If we covet human or physical things, we are not growing up in our faith. The only thing that I want to covet is a better relationship with Jesus which will mean better relationships with other human beings.

The next few things that Peter mentions that we must “put away” are examples of kakia (baseness) that we have just been teaching about.

Get rid of

b. All deceit

Put away your crafty ways, your cunning methods, any thinking and actions that are meant to con another. That was part of your old lifestyle and it cannot continue. The original meaning of this word for “deceit” was “a bait for fish.”[6] Get rid of all intents that you have “to deceive and to mislead others to their own hurt and to our own supposed advantage.”[7]

In 30 years of family counselling, I have encountered more than my share of Christian parents, youth and children who are deceivers in how they relate to one another. Nothing undermines marriage and family as much as parents and children who are not up front and honest in the family. Deceivers in a family devastate family unity.

How have you been deceiving your parents? How have you been deceiving your spouse? Get rid of it immediately. Confess to God and to that other person. Yes, confess to the other.

Another form of wickedness that must be gone from the Christian’s life is:

c. Hypocrisy

I’ve already introduced this in my own extended family, of how a mother’s hypocrisy left a permanent mark for 87 years on her step-son. We as the people of God need to talk about how our hypocritical living affects us personally, the family, relationships in the church, and relationships with others.

It must be gone in all relationships. There must be no difference between what we say we believe and the way we live. If Jesus doesn’t make a difference in our relationships, I have to question the person’s salvation.

There’s more bad behaviour that must be gone after we become Christian.

d. Envy

Set Of Banana Palm Tree With Fruits. Exotic Tropical Plants With Green Leaves And Flower, Isolated On White Transparent Background. Eps10 Vector Illustration.This is more difficult for us in a materialistic Western society. We envy the things of others; the jobs they have. When we see the good fortune of others, we envy what they have. Get rid of all envy in your life. Next is . . .

e. Slander

We know what this means. Or do we? Get rid of “all speaking against others that runs them down.”[8] Remember what Jesus said in Matt. 5:22? ‘I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, “Raca,” [an Aramaic term of hatred] is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.’

Slander has no place in the Christian life.

Imagine what would happen if Christians were known for no malice, no deceit, no hypocrisies, no envies and no slanders? Do you think that a few people would we attracted to our Jesus because of the change in US?

First, if you want to grow spiritually, you must get rid of those things.

 

C. Secondly, if you are to grow spiritually, you must long for or crave something (v. 2).

You not only have to get rid of some things, you need to deal with some growth issues.

1. You start doing certain things (vv. 2-3):

a. Live like newborn spiritual babies.

This is a parallel verse to:

clip_image0051 Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,. . .”

clip_image005[1] It’s also similar to 1 Peter 1:23, “You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.”

man reading BiblePlease note what I Peter 2:2 does not say. It does not say, “I’m speaking just to brand-new Christians; this is teaching only for babes in Christ.”

Remember to whom Peter is writing! In 1 Peter 1:1 he wrote: “To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout” Asia Minor (which is Turkey today). This is not teaching just for new Christians, but for all believers – elected by God for salvation: Live “like newborn [spiritual] babies.” Peter is not contrasting solid spiritual food for grown Christians with spiritual milk for new Christians.

Peter wants all believers, whether new or old in the faith, to crave to be nourished by the Word of God. His point in using this kind of language, “like newborn babies” is this: “A baby[9] longs for nothing but his/her mother’s milk and will take nothing else, so every Christian should take no spiritual nourishment save the Word of God. The imagery is beautiful and expressive. Look at a baby at his/her mother’s breast. In this way you should [always][10] drink the milk of the Word.”[11]

Peter understood the meaning of what Jesus stated in Matt. 18:2-3, ‘He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”’ Peter carried this further to apply it to all Christians: Live like newborn spiritual babies.

What does that mean?

b. “Long for pure spiritual milk” (v. 2)

If you don’t have this desire, your salvation must be questioned. What is pure spiritual milk? How do I long for it? The word “spiritual” (ESV) is based on the Greek, logos, the Word. It’s an adjective, the logikos. The KJV helps us with a translation that is closer to the original understanding: Crave or long for “the sincere milk of the Word.” The NASB, “the pure milk of the word.”

We don’t have an exact equivalent in English for the logikos that the KJV and NASB translate as “the word.” This word is used only twice in the NT, the other place being Rom. 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” KJV: “reasonable service.”

Here in I Peter 2:2 we should think of this word in association with the milk. It seems that 2:2 is reflecting back with us to I Peter 1:23, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” So, if you are to grow in your faith, you must crave the Word of God. Remember how this Word is described in 1:23: “the living and enduring word of God.”

Yet, this is what is attacked so often today. I sometimes interact on Internet forums with atheists and agnostics. One of their most frequent targets is what they call the old fashioned, antiquated, irrelevant Word of God. For those of us who want to grow in the faith, we know that we get our world and life view from “the living and enduring word of God.”

reading children's biblePeter is saying that all Christians must live like new spiritual babies, with a craving for “the milk of the Word” (KJV).

Notice what Peter calls this “milk of the Word”? “Pure” or “unadulterated” milk that belongs to God’s word. It is not like any other spiritual food. ‘It is without the least guile to mislead or to deceive. [Any] other (human) word (teaching, doctrine, spoken or written) is not “guileless.” This divine Word . . . is perfectly safe for babes to take although they, being just born, have no ability to be careful as to what they drink.’[12]

You are to crave this Word of God if you want to grow up in your faith. You are to “long for this milk and no other. . . . To cease longing for the divine milk is the most serious sign of spiritual decline, which soon ends in spiritual death.”[13]

I’m reminded of Ps. 119:20, “My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.”

There’s a problem in doing this for some in our world. I was reading The Voice of the Martyrs magazine, April 2006, and I read this:

clip_image007 Whom do you think might have made this statement? “We and other reverend fathers of the spirituality have determined the said and untrue translations to be burned with further sharp correction and punishment against the keepers and readers of the same.”[14]

These are the words of the King of England’s “declaration regarding those associated with the first English New Testament to be printed. It was translated by a brilliant Christian and fugitive—William Tyndale.”[15]

clip_image007[1] I also read: “Vietnamese Pastor Than Van Truong won 44 new believers to Christ while imprisoned for his zealous Christian witness [in Vietnam]. After his release, following [a Voice of the Martyrs’] postcard campaign, we asked him what his greatest need was and he said. . . We need more Bibles![16]

Why did he suffer? It was for promoting the Word of God. All Christians around the world are commanded to crave the milk of the Word. For some, that will place them in jail; for others they lose their lives.

We are favoured here in the Western world. I have 20 different English Bible translations in my library. According to the Bible League:

clip_image008 “in Africa there are an estimated 200 million church members still waiting for their own copy of the Scriptures.

clip_image008[1] “In Indonesia, there are approximately 2,400 people a day making commitments to Christ, and about half of these new converts will not have access to a Bible.”[17]

Two years ago my wife and I took our annual leave and attended the

Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne. We arrived a few days early and read this in The Age newspaper (Melbourne, Australia):

clip_image009 ‘An evangelist who preaches the “old time religion” [that’s the Bible-believing Christianity I believe] is asking hearers to stake the living of their lives upon beliefs for which there is no evidence whatsoever and that fly against humankind’s painfully acquired knowledge of the world and of themselves. That is not simply, as we today are taught to say, a ‘big ask’ but an outrageous ask.”[18] Who said this? It was no secular journalist ruminating on the Christmas message. It was John K. Williams, a retired Uniting Church minister, in a message he preached at St. Michael’s Church, Collins St., Melbourne, January 18, 2004.’

Why do you need to crave the milk of the Word?

c. “So that you may grow up in your salvation” (v. 2)

Surely that’s stated as clearly as it can be. If you are to grow spiritually and mature in your salvation, you must crave, long for, the Word – and spend time with God in His Word.

Peter speaks of childhood and growing into adulthood as God’s ideal for our growth. We are to be like babies, always longing for God’s milk in the Word so that we grow in salvation. That is our destiny, the design of our faith.

Let’s stop for a moment to draw out some practical applications.

clip_image011 How many times this last week have you craved for the milk of the Word of God and spent time with God in His Word? You will tell us your view of being obedient to God by being obedient to what God is teaching from this passage.

clip_image011[1] If you are not longing for the Word and spending time in it, you will NOT grow in your salvation. God knows no other way of getting worldly thinking and action out of your system.

clip_image011[2] Do you have a method of reading through the Word of God? You need exposure to both OT and NT.

clip_image011[3] For me, it takes about 18 months to read through the entire Bible, reading 2-3 chapters a day. There are 1175 chapters in 66 books of the Bible. You can get through the entire Bible in a year if you read 3.2 chapters a day. That’s not a lot (until you reach the one chapter of Psalm 119).

clip_image011[4] Why is it important to get the Word of God into your soul? So that “you may grow up in your salvation.”

If you spend time with mainly ungodly people and feeding your mind with TV, newspapers & radio, you’ll be programmed by non-Christian and ungodly thinking. If you program your mind with the Simpsons, Home & Away, and Harry Potter, you’ll not grow in your faith. I’m convinced that Bible reading, Bible study, and prayerfully meditating on the Word, should be helping us to know God’s view of all things that are happening in our world:

clip_image013 What’s God’s view on marriage, homosexual marriage, defacto relationships, rebellious children, and unfaithfulness in sexual relationships?

clip_image013[1] How does God view war, abortion, euthanasia and suicide?

clip_image013[2] What about submitting to government – local, state and federal? What does God say?

clip_image013[3] John Blanchard has written a brilliant book, titled: Does God Believe in Atheists? Read Romans 1 for your answer.

You will never get God’s understanding of all of life without a good understanding of God’s Word. To grow, crave and spend time in the Word.

One of the most damaging things that is happening in so many churches is that preachers no longer want to systematically preach through the Bible (that’s not the case in this church). I believe we need to do that to be obedient to what Paul said to Timothy in 2 Tim. 4:2: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.”

I hear many preachers who preach about the Word but few who actually preach what the actual Word says. We get lots of preachers’ opinions that don’t seem to be directly related to the Word. I’m not talking about hints about how to apply the Word of God. “Preach the Word” is what Paul told the young pastor, Timothy. I’m convinced “It’s a sin to bore God’s people with God’s word.”

That means there is a need for clear outlines by the preacher, along with plenty of applications for the people in the pew.

If you are to grow in your salvation, you need to crave for the milk of the Word.

 

D. Thirdly and finally, if you are to grow spiritually, you must have “tasted.”

Young Trees At Water ShoreYou will never ever be motivated to grow in your salvation and to get to the point of craving the Word of God, if you have not tasted that the Lord is good. Peter is asking his readers to recall their Christian life with the Lord.

Perhaps Peter is reminding us of the Psalmist in 34:8, “Taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”

Please note what this does NOT say. It does not encourage us to “taste” or experience God. We are to taste “that the Lord is good.” The Lord is good in making salvation available to us, but he is especially good in making the precious milk of the Word available so that we may grow in our salvation. You will especially taste the Lord’s goodness when you read the word.

Is this world going to go on forever? What’s the end of the world going to be like? Why is there so much evil in the world? When I watch the evening TV news, I have to ask: Where does all of this violence and sadness come from? Where will the Christian and non-believer be one minute after death? You won’t find ultimate answers to any of these questions than from the Bible – the Word of God.

E. Conclusion

Why do we treat the Bible as though it is just another book? Why don’t we spend more time with God in reading the Bible more often? Could it be because we are disobedient Christians? The consequence is that we will not grow in the faith if we do not do this.

Have you tasted the Lord’s goodness?

Since the pure milk of the Word is the place where you will be helped to grow up in your salvation, it should not be surprising that some liberal church leaders and the secular world attack the Bible.

This is what God says in his Word:

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation– if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (ESV)

Will you believe God and act on His Word and so grow in your faith? That’s the challenge of the Word of God today.

F. Bibliography

Kistemaker, Simon J 1986. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Lenski, R C H 1966, Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter; St. John, and St. Jude. Peabody, MASS: Hendrickson Publishers.

Trench, Richard C 1953.[19] Synonyms of the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Available at: https://archive.org/details/synonymsofnewtes00treniala/page/n5/mode/2up (Accessed 31 January 2022).

G. Notes


[1] I preached this sermon at Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church, 7 January 2007.

[2] The original said, “Our fellow man.”

[3] Simon J. Kistemaker New Testament Commentary: Peter and Jude, p. 31.

[4] Richard C. Trench 1953, Synonyms of the New Testament, p. 38.

[5] R. C. H. Lenski 1966, Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter; St. John, and St. Jude, p. 77.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Lenski used the word, “Babe,” and I have used baby for all “babe” uses in this passage.

[10] Lenski used “ever.”

[11] Lenski, p. 78.

[12] Ibid., p. 80.

[13] Ibid., p. 78.

[14] Brian Edwards 1976, God’s Outlaw: the Story of William Tyndale and the English Bible, Darlington, England: Evangelical press, p. 93, cited in The Voice of the Martyrs, April 2006, p. 9.

[15] Ibid., VOM, April 2006, p. 9.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Bible League, available from: https://www.thebiblenetwork.org.uk/about-us/faq/ (Accessed 31 January 2022).

[18] Williams, J. K. 2004, ‘It’s not good enough for us’, The Age (Melbourne, Australia), [Online], January 19, Available from: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/01/18/1074360629928.html [10 June 2006].

[19] The original edition was published in 1894.

Field And Tree At Sunset

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 31 January 2022.

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Introduction to 1 Peter

Prepared by Spencer D. Gear PhD[1]

clip_image001

1.   INTRODUCTION

Have you witnessed to people about your faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and experienced these kinds of reactions? “I don’t want to listen to that nonsense. You’ve got to be joking. Just take a look at all those religious paedophiles who have sexually abused children placed in their trust. Especially after the Royal Commission into sexual abuse,” OR

clip_image002 “Christian! Huh! Hypocrites, that’s all they are. Remember Jimmy Swaggart and his prostitute? Jim Bakker, high flying TV evangelist jailed for 45 years for fraud – and of course, there was adultery by that person? Don’t mention the church to me.” OR

clip_image002[1] How can I believe in your God of love with so much evil in the world? Hitler and your God allowed all that! Saddam Hussein & what he did to Iraq.

In the language of some of the kids I counselled in the 17 years before I retired, “Life sucks.” You may get to the point of asking yourself, “Is it worth it? I should chuck this in.”

For those who are tempted to chuck it in, this Book of I Peter has some profound things to teach, to encourage you to keep on keeping on, and NOT to give up when the going gets tough.

Before we examine this wonderful encouragement, we need to note:

2. SOME THINGS ABOUT THE BOOK OF 1 PETER [2]

clip_image003First verse, it claims to be from “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ” (1:1). Sounds pretty straight-forward. Peter the Apostle wrote it. Yet some liberal scholars promote the view “that First Peter is a pseudonymous [false] work of the post-Apostolic Age . . . [Peter] could not have written the letter.”[3] Why do they claim this is not the apostle Peter who wrote, but a person who falsely used the name of Peter? Because these scholars want us to believe that the “persecutions mentioned in the book” are “those of the reign of [Roman Emperor] Trajan (ca. AD 98-117).”[4]

clip_image003[1]If we make the writing as late as during the reign of Trajan, it would be 70-90 years after the death of Christ and Peter could not have written the book, as he was probably dead and gone. Then somebody from the early church, not the real Peter, wrote the book, and claimed he was Peter.

clip_image003[2]NO, NO, NO! This Peter, 1 Peter 5:1 says, was the one who was “a witness of the sufferings of Christ.” This is no fake Peter, but the apostle Peter, who was Christ’s apostle, denied him 3 times, and was there as an eyewitness of Christ’s death. Why do these liberal theologians invent such things? Here is a link to the non-canonical, apocryphal Gospel of Peter (Raymond Brown translation).

clip_image003[3]In 1 Peter 5:12, he wrote it “with the help of Silas/Silvanus . . . a faithful brother.” This is probably the Silas of Acts 15:22; 1 Thess. 1:1;

clip_image003[4]When was this book written? If you read 2 Peter 3:1, it speaks of “This is now my second letter to you.” Perhaps this is referring back to 1 Peter as the first letter. There’s a writing from the early church called I Clement (5:4-7), written by Clement of Rome to the Corinthian church, written about A.D. 96.[5] It speaks of Peter and Paul suffering persecution.[6]

clip_image003[5]http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/e-catena/ church fathers allusions.

clip_image003[6]Why could these early church fathers not give us a chapter and verse from 1 Peter? Why did they simply refer to the content without any mention of which verse it appeared in?

There’s a simple reason. What could it be?

3. THEMES [7]

Although 1 Peter is a short letter, it touches on various doctrines and has much to say about Christian life and duties. It is not surprising that different readers have found it to have different principal themes. For example, it has been characterized as:

clip_image004clip_image002[2] a letter of separation,

clip_image002[3] of suffering and persecution,

clip_image002[4] of suffering and glory,

clip_image002[5] of hope,

clip_image002[6] of pilgrimage,

clip_image002[7] of courage,

clip_image002[8] and as a letter dealing with the true grace of God. Peter says that he has written “encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God” (5:12). This is a definitive general description of the letter, but it does not exclude the recognition of numerous subordinate and contributory themes. The letter includes a series of exhortations (imperatives) that run from 1:13 to 5:11.

4. Compare verses in 1 Peter with some statements I’ll read.

I would like you to compare what I read with verses in 1 Peter. Read . . .

1 Peter 1:6-8 (NIV):

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy’.

How does that compare with this quote?

[8][. . . .] Though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations; that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than that of gold which perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise, and honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ; whom, having not seen, you love; in whom, though now you see Him not, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Do any of you have any idea where that quote came from? Does it sound anything like 1 Peter 1:6-8?

It was by Clement of Alexandria Stromata Book IV, ch 20.[9]

Clement of Alexandria

clip_image005

Clement depicted in 1584

In Book 4, ch 2, Clement explained what Stromata means: “As the name itself indicates, patched together — passing constantly from one thing to another, and in the series of discussions hinting at one thing and demonstrating another.”[10]

When did Clement of Alexandria live? He was born AD 150 in Athens and died between 211 and 215.[11]

I deliberately left out something at the beginning of that quote. It reads: ‘[12][Peter in his Epistle states]: Though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations.

So as early as the late second century, Clement of Alexandria was quoting the Epistle of Peter, naming it as from Peter, and we now know it was from 1 Peter 1:6-8.

1 Peter 1:8

Read v. 8 again (NIV): ‘Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy’.

How does that verse compare with this quote?

In whom, though now ye see Him not, ye believe, and believing, rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Saint Polycarp

clip_image006
Martyr, Church Father and Bishop of Smyrna

That’s from the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians. Polycarp was a bishop at Smyrna. Where’s that? It was on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor (Turkey).

clip_image008clip_image010Smyrna, shown within Turkey on the Aegean Ocean line.

One of Polycarp’s famous quotes is from when the fire was about to be lit. He said: “When they were about also to fix him with nails, he said, Leave me as I am; for He that gives me strength to endure the fire, will also enable me, without your securing me by nails, to remain without moving in the pile” (The Martyrdom of Polycarp, “The funeral pile is erected,” ch. 13).

His martyrdom was the first after the time of the NT and he was in his 80s when he died.

When did Polycarp live? His age span was AD 69-156.[13] He was very close to the time of the original 12 apostles. Encyclopaedia Britannica states of him:

Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians is doubly important for its early testimony to the existence of various other New Testament texts. It probably is the first to quote passages from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the Acts of the Apostles, and the first letters of St. Peter and St. John.[14]

I wonder if we would have the same courage as Polycarp if we were faced with being a martyr for our faith:

Because he was born in 69 A.D., as a young man he knew the Apostle John and his faith grew from there. The local magistrate is reluctant to kill him but has no choice when Polycarp refuses to deny Christ.

In Polycarp’s famous words before his martyrdom, he stated: “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?” (New Advent, “The Martyrdom of Polycarp,” ch. 9)

Polycarp was sentenced to be burned. As he waited for the fire to be lit, he prayed:

“Lord God Almighty, Father of your blessed and beloved child Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of you, God of angels and hosts and all creation, and of the whole race of the upright who live in your presence:

“I bless you that you have thought me worthy of this day and hour, to be numbered among the martyrs and share in the cup of Christ, for resurrection to eternal life, for soul and body in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit.

“Among them may I be accepted before you today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, just as you, the faithful and true God, have prepared and foreshown and brought about. For this reason and for all things I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal heavenly high priest Jesus Christ, your beloved child, through whom be glory to you, with him and the Holy Spirit, now and for the ages to come. Amen.”[15]

1 Peter 1:8

There is something different about this quote from another of the church fathers. What is it? Listen carefully.

And this it is which has been said also by Peter: “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom now also, not seeing, ye believe; and believing, ye shall rejoice with joy unspeakable.”

That citation is from Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book V.

Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon (in what is France today) born c. 120, /140, Asia Minor—died c. 200, /203, probably in Lyon.[16]

What is stated here that was not in the other 2 quotes from the church fathers? Answer: The name of ‘Peter’.

Question: Why would I raise these parallels between today’s Bible (1 Peter) & the early church writers quoting 1 Peter?

Answers:

1. They show that the early church fathers quoted from Bible books even though they weren’t in a combined canon of Scripture. When were the 27 books of the NT formed into a single NT?

‘The first time a church council ruled on the list of “inspired” writings allowed to be read in church was at the Synod of Hippo [called Annaba, Algeria today] in 393 AD. No document survived from this council – we only know of this decision because it was referenced at the third Synod of Carthage in 397 AD’.[17] Today, Carthage is on the Mediterranean Sea of northern Tunisia.

2. How the individual books of the Bible came to be accepted as a collection of books inspired by God took 2-3 centuries. But as early as Polycarp in the late 1st and early 2nd centuries, a disciple of John, quoted from a number of books.

3. Why did some of these early writers after the NT not refer to the name of Peter and exactly which chapter and verse they referred to?

There’s a wonderful website that gives brief answers to most doctrinal questions. It’s called Got Questions? Beware that it is Calvinistic in tone. This is how this website explained the reasons why early church fathers could not quote chapter and verse:[18]

Question: “Who divided the Bible into chapters and verses? Why and when was it done?”
Answer:
When the books of the Bible were originally written, they did not contain chapter or verse references. The Bible was divided into chapters and verses to help us find Scriptures more quickly and easily. It is much easier to find “John chapter 3, verse 16” than it is to find “for God so loved the world. . . .” In a few places, chapter breaks are poorly placed and as a result divide content that should flow together. Overall, the chapter and verse divisions are very helpful.


The chapter divisions commonly used today were developed by Stephen Langton, an Archbishop of Canterbury. Langton put the modern chapter divisions into place around A.D. 1227. The Wycliffe English Bible of 1382 was the first Bible to use this chapter pattern. Since the Wycliffe Bible, nearly all Bible translations have followed Langton’s chapter divisions.

The Hebrew Old Testament was divided into verses by a Jewish rabbi by the name of Nathan in A.D. 1448. Robert Estienne, who was also known as Stephanus, was the first to divide the New Testament into standard numbered verses in 1555. Stephanus essentially used Nathan’s verse divisions for the Old Testament. Since that time, beginning with the Geneva Bible, the chapter and verse divisions employed by Stephanus have been accepted into nearly all the Bible versions.

clip_image011 Peter says that he wrote the book from “Babylon” (5:13). Among the interpretations that have been suggested are that he was writing from

(1) Egyptian Babylon, which was a military post, (2) Mesopotamian Babylon, (3) Jerusalem and (4) Rome. Peter may well be using the name Babylon symbolically, as it seems to be used in the book of Revelation (see Rev 14:8; 17:9–10 and notes). Tradition connects him in the latter part of his life with Rome, and certain early writers held that 1 Peter was written there.

Who received this letter? Verse 1, “To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” These were cities in northern Asia Minor, what is known as Turkey today. It was written to God’s people who were scattered, for some reason, across Turkey. If you read 1 Peter 4: 3-4, it suggests that these believers had probably “been converted out of paganism rather than out of Judaism.”[19]

First Peter 4:3 states, ” For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do–living in debauchery,[20] lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.”[21]

This probably refers to the persecution under Emperor Nero[22] of Rome following the fire that destroyed Rome in AD 64. 1 Peter “was probably written from Rome shortly before Nero’s great persecution — that is, in 62-64.”[23]

clip_image011[1]Why did Peter write this letter?

It is a very warm pastoral letter with lots of encouragement for Christians who are scattered. I Peter 5:12, ”I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.”

clip_image013 These Christians shared a common faith;

clip_image013[1] But they faced common problems. Their basic problem was that they lived in a society that was ignorant of the true and living God. What country does that sound like today?

clip_image013[2] As Christians, they would be misunderstood and given some cruel treatment;

clip_image013[3] Peter wrote this epistle so that these early believers would “see their temporary sufferings in the full light of the coming eternal glory. In the midst of all their discouragements, the sovereign Lord will keep them and enable them by faith to have joy.”[24]

clip_image013[4] This is a very practical and relevant message for us in Queensland and around the world in the 21st century.

clip_image015

Notes


[1] Prepared on 11 February 2019. Some of the material is taken from my sermon online, 1 Peter 1:1-2, Don’t chuck it in because of who you are as the people of God. (Accessed 11 February 2019).

[2] These points are based on: Edwin A. Blum, 1 Peter, in Frank E. Gaebelein (gen. ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (vol. 12). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981, p. 210-213.

[3] Ibid., pp. 210-211.

[4] Ibid., p. 211. B. C. Caffin states that Peter “must have written before the outbreak of any systematic attempt to crush out Christianity, or any legalized persecution such as that under Trajan. Judgment was about to begin at the house of God (ch. iv.17)”, I Peter, The Pulpit Commentary, Spence H.D.M. & Exell, J. S. (eds.), (Vol. 22), Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1950, p. viii.

[5] F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture. Glasgow: Chapter House, 1988, p. 121, gives these details.

[6] Blum, p. 212.

[7] This section is from Biblica 2011-2019, 1 Peter (online), NIV Study Bible. Available at: https://www.biblica.com/resources/scholar-notes/niv-study-bible/intro-to-1-peter/ (Accessed 11 February 2019).

[8] This segment began with the words: ‘Peter in his Epistle says, . .’

[9] Also available at New Advent 2017 at: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/02104.htm (Accessed 12 February 2019).

[10] New Advent 2017. Stromata (online, Bk4, ch 2. Available at: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/02104.htm (Accessed 12 February 2019).

[11] From Encyclopaedia Britannica 2019 (s.v. Saint Clement of Alexandria). Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Clement-of-Alexandria (Accessed 12 February 2019).

[12] This segment began with the words: ‘Peter in his Epistle says, . . .’

[13] Ibid.

[14] Encyclopaedia Britannica 2019. s.v. Saint Polycarp. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Polycarp (Accessed 12 February 2019).

[15] Cited in Landon Meadow 2016. God’s gift is given through Christ. Leaf Chronicle (online), 10 June. Available at: https://www.theleafchronicle.com/story/news/2016/06/11/message-gods-gift-given-christ/85663344/ (Accessed 12 February 2019).

[16] Encyclopaedia Britannica 2019. s.v. Saint Irenaeus. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Irenaeus (Accessed 12 February 2019).

[17] R A Baker 2008. How the New Testament canon was formed. www.churchhistory101.com. Available at: https://www.churchhistory101.com/docs/New-Testament-Canon.pdf (Accessed 12 February 2019).

[18] Got Questions Ministries 2002-2019. Who divided the Bible into chapters and verses? Available at: https://www.gotquestions.org/divided-Bible-chapters-verses.html (Accessed 11 February 2019).

[19] Ibid.

[20] “Debauchery” means “excessive indulgence in sex, alcohol, or drugs” (Oxford English Dictionary 2022. debauchery), available at: Excessive indulgence in sex, alcohol, or drugs (Accessed 16 January 2022).

[21] This section is from the NIV Study Bible’s introduction to 1 Peter. Biblica 2011-2019, 1 Peter (online). Available at: https://www.biblica.com/resources/scholar-notes/niv-study-bible/intro-to-1-peter/ (Accessed 11 February 2019).

[22] Caffin’s view is that “all this seems to point to the time of the Neronian persecution. Before that date, we gather from St. Paul’s Epistles, there was no actual persecution in Asia Minor” (p. viii).

[23] Blum, p. 212.

[24] Ibid., p. 213.

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 17 January 2022.

STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH[1]

PAKISTAN: Supreme Court Grants Bail for Christian Accused of Blasphemy

(image courtesy Voice of the Martyrs, Australia)

12 January 22 | All Posts, I Commit To Pray, News

(I Peter 1:1-2)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Bible Reading:

NIV, 1 Peter 1:1-12

1. INTRODUCTION

For the first time, North Korea [has] replaced Saudi Arabia as the country where Christians are most severely persecuted, according to the recent “World Watch List” released by Open Doors on August 9, [2004]. . . .

“For years, Saudi Arabia has held the top spot on the list. The desert kingdom, which sees itself as the guardian of Islam and its sacred cities of Mecca and Medina, requires all [of] its citizens to be Muslims. A Saudi who converts to another religion faces the death penalty for apostasy.

“But growing evidence of severe oppression in North Korea has confirmed what many observers have believed for years, that the communist dictatorship of Kim Jong Il stops at nothing to eradicate all belief systems other than the worship of Kim himself and his deceased father, Kim Il Sung. Both father and son have made every attempt to purge the land of Christians.

“Nevertheless, the church has survived in North Korea. Christian refugees escaping North Korea’s devastating famine have told of small house churches. They rarely number more than 10 individuals, often including only family members for security. One refugee told of how a house church of 20-30 people simply disappeared in [the year] 2000.

“In relative terms, however, it doesn’t matter who is ranked number one on the list,” an observer said. “The conditions facing a Saudi or North Korean Christian are unimaginable for those of us in the West.”[2]

In case you are interested, Open Doors rated the top ten countries for persecuting Christians [in 2004] as: North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Laos, Vietnam, Turkmenistan, Maldives [Islands in the northern Indian Ocean towards India], Bhutan [near Nepal, north of Bangladesh], Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia [north Africa, near the mouth of Red Sea, E of Ethiopia].[3] China ranks at no. 12.

In 2020, Christianity Today listed:

Where It’s Hardest to Follow Jesus:
1. North Korea
2. Afghanistan
3. Somalia
4. Libya
5. Pakistan
6. Eritrea
7. Sudan
8. Yemen
9. Iran
10. India
[4]

If you were sending a Christian letter to encourage churches in North Korea that are severely persecuted, how would you begin your letter and what would you say? G’day, mate, how’s it going? OR, Greetings brothers and sisters in the Lord? How would you commence a letter to those who were being thrown into prison or prison camps and severely treated for their faith? [I’ll wait for your replies]

That’s the kind of situation Peter faced when he wrote First Peter. He wrote to Christians scattered across Asia Minor, which is Turkey today. This was happening to them:

I Peter 1:6, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”[5]

2:20b, ” . . . if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.”

4:12, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.”

4:16, “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”

You may not be in a situation as bad as North Korea or Saudi Arabia, but some of you know the hostility of people against you when they know that you are Christians. Or the scoffing at you: What a God you have who allows September 11, Sadam Hussein, the Iraq war, and paedophiles in the church!

You may get to the point of asking yourself, “Is it worth it? Should I chuck in this Christianity? It’s not worth the opposition.” If that’s how you think, you need the message of I Peter – don’t give up when the going gets tough.

Peter gives FIVE very specific statements in his introductory greeting that are so important for those whose faith is being severely tested. In the greeting, the first two verses, to these suffering Christians, Peter wants to get across to them and to us:

2. STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH BECAUSE OF WHO YOU ARE AS THE PEOPLE OF GOD (vv. 1-2).

So “stand firm in the faith” is Peter’s emphasis in this book of I Peter: 5:9,

“Resist [the devil], standing firm in the faith,” 5:12, ” I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.”

To these Christian believers who are suffering terrible persecution, Peter greets them with facts that are core to the Christian faith. This is NO “Greetings brothers and sisters in the faith,” but God’s assurance to God’s people.

You are:

clip_image002Firstly, “God’s elect”; according to the foreknowledge of God

clip_image004Secondly, you are “strangers in the world”;

clip_image006Thirdly, “by the sanctifying work of the Spirit”;

clip_image008Fourthly, “for obedience to Jesus Christ”;

clip_image010Fifthly, “for sprinkling of blood.”

Let’s unpack this.

A. FIRSTLY, STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH BECAUSE YOU ARE GOD’S ELECT.

Peter wanted the first century Christians (and us) to remember who we are in Christ! It’s a great honour for the church to be chosen by God. But God elected you into His kingdom, not for you to be proud about it, but for a purpose.

What did it mean that the believers in the first century were “elect”? Eph. 1:4 states: “For he chose us [elected us] in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”

The teaching on election has caused much spiritual heartburn and conflict in Christian circles, thanks to the teaching of St. Augustine (4th. century) but especially John Calvin (16th century).

Calvin (and St. Augustine) taught this:

(1) “God chose out of the condemned race of Adam those whom He pleased and reprobated [i.e. rejected and damned] whom He willed.”[6]

(2) Calvin wrote in his Institutes of the Christian Religion: “All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and accordingly, as each has been created for one or the other of these ends, we say that we have been predestinated to life or to death” (3:21:5).[7]

A leading Calvinistic theologian today, R. C. Sproul, puts it this way:

From all eternity, before we even existed, God decided to save some members of the human race and to let the rest of the human race perish. God made a choice—He chose some individuals to be saved into everlasting blessedness in heaven and others He chose to pass over, to allow them to follow the consequences of their sins into eternal torment in hell. . . The elect do choose Christ, but only because they were first chosen by God. . . The non-elect receive justice. The elect receive mercy.[8]

In other words, God unconditionally elects you to salvation, but God unconditionally damns most of humanity to hell.

You are God’s elected, chosen people. This is who you are. You are not an accident of history or some weirdos. You are people chosen by God for a purpose. But let’s get this very clear, none of us would come to Christ, unless God moved in our lives by the Holy Spirit to draw us.

Henry Thiessen gives an excellent definition of election: “By election we mean that sovereign act of God in grace whereby He chose in Christ Jesus for salvation all those whom he foreknew would accept Him.”[9]

But does that mean God chooses to save a small percentage of people throughout human history, and God chooses to send most people to hell?

I am convinced this is NOT a biblical view. This view of God makes him like an ugly monster. Opening the door for you, by his sovereign act, but giving most of the world the flick into a hell of horror, is grossly unjust in my view. It is inconsistent with the attributes of the God, revealed in the Scriptures.

I do not believe this is biblical Christianity for these reasons:

Firstly, this would make God very unjust, as one who chooses to unconditionally damn people to hell, but unconditionally chooses some for heaven. Ezek. 18:23 states, “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD . Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” What is God like? He takes no pleasure in the death of ungodly people, but he takes pleasure in those who repent of their sinful ways and turn to him.

Secondly, we know that unconditional election of a minority of the human race is NOT the nature of God as he states in 2 Peter 3:9, ” The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Thirdly, Titus 2:11 states, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people” (NIV).[10] Or as the ESV puts it: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.”

Fourthly, John 3:16, ” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

While all true believers are God’s elect, I Peter 1:2 says that they are

1. Elect according to the Foreknowledge of God the Father (v. 2)

Pause with me a moment to consider the nature and attributes of God, especially as it applies to God’s foreknowledge. Foreknowledge means “knowledge beforehand.”[11] But knowledge beforehand does NOT CAUSE things to happen. “Free actions [by human beings] do not take place because they are foreseen [or foreknown] by God, BUT they are foreseen because they will take place.”[12]

Also think with me about God’s omniscience – God’s all-knowing ability. For God, that means:

¨He and only He knows Himself and all other people and things.

¨He knows whether they are things that actually happen, will happen, or are merely possible;

¨God knows comprehensively and completely about people and things in the past, present and future;

¨God knows perfectly and from all eternity.

¨God knows all people and things at the same time, exhaustively and truly.[13] [See passages such as: I Sam. 23:11-12; Ps. 33:13-15; 139:1-10; 147:4-5; Prov. 15:3, 11; Jer. 23:23-25; Matt. 6:8, 32; 10:29-30; 11:21-24; I Cor. 2:11; Heb. 4:13].[14]

Let’s look at a sample of how much God knows about you, everybody, our world, and about Himself.

  •  Proverbs 15:3 (ESV), “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”
  •  Hebrews 4:13 (ESV): “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
  •  Matthew 10:30 (ESV), “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” For some of us men that is a challenge, but not to God.

We don’t have space to look comprehensively at the Scriptures in this article, but we need to note God’s foreknowledge means that for US, it is God seeing into the future. For God, it is God having knowledge in the eternal present. There is no past and future knowledge with God. He is eternal and omniscient – all knowing.

clip_image012 God knows himself (the Trinity) intimately and only he knows himself (see Matt. 11:27; 1 Cor. 2:11); God knows things that are actually existing:

clip_image013 The inanimate creation (Ps. 147:4);

clip_image013[1] People and all of their works (Ps. 33:13-15);

clip_image013[2] People’s thoughts and hearts (Ps. 139:1-4);

clip_image013[3] God knows your needs (Matt. 6:8, 32); God not only knows things in the past and present, but he also knows all things that are possible:

clip_image015 He knew that Keilah would betray David to Saul, if he remained in that vicinity (I Sam. 23:11-12);

clip_image015[1] Jesus knew that Tyre and Sidon would have repented if they had seen the miracles that were performed in Bethsaida and Chorazin (Matt. 11:21);

clip_image015[2] Jesus knew that Sodom and Gomorrah would have been spared disaster if they had seen the works that were done in Capernaum (Matt. 11:23-24).

n God’s foreknowledge means that he knows the future as the present for Him. Can you get a handle on that? However, we need to understand that from our “standpoint God’s knowledge of the future is foreknowledge, but not from God’s [point of view] since He knows all things by one simultaneous intuition (Acts 2:23; 3:18, etc.).[15]

So, Peter’s readers were “elect/chosen” believers “according to the

foreknowledge of God.” God knew beforehand what they (and we) would do with the proclamation of the Gospel. Would they respond or reject Christ? We know that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” [Romans 10:17 (ESV)]. But we can’t come to Christ unless the Holy Spirit draws us

n Jesus said: John 6:44 (ESV), “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

Here in I Peter 1, the “foreknowledge of God the Father” means that God knew ahead of time what we were like and what we would do with his gracious offer of salvation in Christ.

First, Stand Firm in the Faith Because You are God’s elect.

B. SECOND, STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE STRANGERS IN THE WORLD.

The original language does not include “in the world” but the idea is there. Other translations call them “aliens” (NASB, REB, NJB), “exiles” (NRSV, ESV), “refugees” (GNB), “sojourners” (NAB).

The idea is this: the chosen people of God are:

Persons who belong to some other land and people, who are temporarily residing with a people to whom they do not belong. They are for a time being aliens, foreigners, strangers and not natives. They never expect to become [naturalised citizens of this world]. They do not want to be considered or treated as natives by the . . . people among whom they happen to be living. . .

Aliens are often held in contempt by the natives among whom they dwell. To this day they may be placed under severe restrictions in times of war; they may be [thrown into prison] or even repatriated.”[16]

Yet, despite this treatment by the people living in this world, Peter states that you are “God’s chosen people.” “God’s election has made the Christians `foreigners’ to the rest. At one time [you] were common natives and lived on the same low level as the rest.”[17] You are not like that any longer.

We “live in the world but are no longer of the world. [We] have become like Abraham; [we] are merely sojourners in a land that is now strange to [us]. [We] look for a city which has foundations, whose designer and maker is God; heaven is [out] home and fatherland.”[18]

We are strangers as Christians living in Australia. Our desire is for a better country, a heavenly one, the city that God has prepared for us (see Heb. 11:9-16).

Don’t you feel like this sometimes? You are out of step with the direction the world is taking. We walk to the beat of a different drum. This is the way God wants it to be.

C. THIRD, STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH BECAUSE OF THE SANCTIFYING WORK OF THE SPIRIT.

In v. 2, it is speaking of the Holy Spirit who applies God’s work of redemption to believers so that they will be holy—set apart—purified, and equipped for the task of serving Jesus in this wicked age. However, the Spirit will never sanctify you if you do not submit to him. Following conversion, the Spirit continues this sanctifying work by giving you power to overcome sin. This does not mean that you don’t blow it. Just remember the apostle Paul’s life in the Spirit. Listen to his struggle in Romans 7:15, 19, 21-25:

15 “I do not know what I am doing. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. . .”

19 “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. . .”

21 “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

22 “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;

23 “ but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.

24 “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

25 “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”

This was Paul’s struggle with sin after becoming a believer. It will be yours too. However, you will be set apart to live a sanctified life by the work of the Spirit. This is how Paul described it in Romans 8:13, “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”

Application:

Do you struggle with sin? I do! If you are finding it difficult to gain victory over a particular sin in your life, you must seek the Lord’s help and, perhaps, Christian counsel. However, since we are to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2) and to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed” (James 5:16), why don’t you speak to a Christian friend after the service or phone a friend whom you trust and ask for assistance? God uses the counsel and prayer support of other Christians. We are not lone ranger Christians. We need one another.

If people are brave enough to confess their faults to you, please don’t ever break that confidence. I want to tell you honestly that I’m wary of confessing my sins to people in the church because I don’t know what they will do with that information.

The Spirit, also, gives us assurance of sins forgiven (Rom. 8:16). The Spirit helps us with new ways of living – for example, the fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22).[19]

Imagine if everybody in this church treated each other with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control! Imagine what would happen if you treated your boss, your husband or wife, fellow employees, your children, your parents, this way?

That is the sanctification God is calling us to. And it is absolutely possible through the Spirit’s work.

D. FOURTH, STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH IN OBEDIENCE TO JESUS CHRIST.

Do you know one of the things that really bothers me about preaching,

my preaching, the pastor’s preaching? I am deeply concerned about how many of us leave this place, after hearing a message, and have no real desire to obey the message that was preached.

Parallel verses to I Peter 2 are Romans 8:29-30: “For those God foreknew he also predestined [or elected].” For what purpose? “To be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Rom. 8:30 goes on to say that “those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified he also glorified.”

God elects the church with a purpose in view. In Romans 8, it is so that we might become more like Jesus in our thoughts and actions.

Or we could paraphrase Romans 8:29, “Because although he foreknew us, although he understood all about us and our weaknesses, yet he gave us this great destiny and task of becoming more like Jesus so that people will be attracted to the Master.”

Here in I Peter, the purpose is “obedience to Jesus Christ.” Same thing, isn’t it? I’m reminded of . . .

James 1:22-25:

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror

24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

As an example of what this means, Jesus said: “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). The aim of being God’s elect is that we will be obedient to Jesus Christ. Romans 1:5 reminds us that this is “obedience that comes from faith.”

Our obedience is based on faith. I will never obey God’s word if I don’t

have absolute faith in God. However, the other side of the coin is that my obedience springs from faith. Because of my faith, I want to obey. Faith and obedience are like identical twins. “When you see one you see the other. A person cannot have genuine faith without having obedience.” There will be no consistent obedience without true faith.[20]

We see this wonderfully illustrated in the Book of Romans:16:19 Paul writes, “Everyone has heard about your obedience…”

When you become a true Christian, it is “by means of obedience of faith.”[21] To talk of a Christian who is full of faith in Jesus Christ and is not obedient to Jesus, is a paradox. To have genuine faith in Christ, you must be obedient. There is no other alternative. If you do not obey Jesus, your faith must be called into question.

clip_image017Application:

How are your faith and obedience going?

clip_image017[1]What does God say in His word that you are rebelling against?

clip_image018If your thought life became visible before our eyes, what would you be ashamed of?

Would Christ be pleased with what you have thought about this last week?

clip_image017[2]Has your viewing been to the glory of God? I find this a very helpful question: If Jesus sat beside me, would he approve of the books and magazines I read? What about the TV programs and videos I watch?

clip_image017[2]A Christian family sat in my counselling office a few years ago and said, “We don’t allow our kids to watch much TV. But they do enjoy, “Home and Away.” Have you ever considered the values that are promoted in “Home & Away” that are contrary to God’s word and holy living? I think you’d be surprised.

clip_image017[3]What about your conversation? Has your language been pleasing to God this week? To your wife, husband, kids, the boss, other employees, the person at the store?

clip_image018[1]How have I treated other people this week?

May the Lord convict you about what is not pleasing to Him and help you, starting today, to have these things sanctified by the power of the Holy Spirit.

E. FIFTH & FINALLY, STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH BECAUSE YOU ARE SPRINKLED BY HIS BLOOD.

My mother told me just a few weeks before she was called home to glory in 1997 that one of our relatives asked her, “Why is your Christianity such a bloody religion?” And he wasn’t swearing! To those who don’t understand, this is unusual language—sprinkling of blood—as the core of what it means to be God’s elect people. Jesus’ death is not mentioned in this phrase, but that is certainly what is meant.

“It is by means of the death of Christ that election is made possible. His death opened the way back to God [and caused the church – God’s chosen people – to come into being.]

The image of sprinkling with blood comes out of the Jewish sacrificial system. The blood of a bird was sprinkled on a leper when he was healed to signify cleansing (Leviticus 14:1-7). Blood was sprinkled on priests to signify that they were set apart for the service of God (Exodus 29:20-21; Leviticus 8:30). The primary Old Testament reference, however, is to the acceptance of the covenant by the people of Israel (see Exodus 24:1-8). God expressed his choice of Israel by means of a covenant in which he agreed to be their God and they agreed to obey him. To certify their acceptance of this covenant, Moses took half the blood of the sacrificial animals and sprinkled it on the altar and the other half he sprinkled on the people.[22]

The Spirit applies the death of Jesus to you and me (the church) to make us more like Jesus. Get the picture?

When the going gets tough, STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH BECAUSE OF WHO YOU ARE AS THE PEOPLE OF GOD. What hope and encouragement we have, knowing that God has chosen us for obedience and provides the means through the cross of Christ, applied by the Spirit.

Notice the involvement of all the members of the Trinity here:

clip_image020 God the Father’s foreknowledge of you;

clip_image020[1] The Son’s blood that was shed; and

clip_image020[2] The Spirit’s sanctifying work.

No wonder Peter can greet these believers, scattered throughout the Turkey region today, with “grace and peace be yours in abundance.” Wow! What a statement about what is ours in Christ. God’s grace, his favour to rotten, rebellious sinners, which we don’t deserve, has been extended to human beings who will believe. “Peace” (in the Hebrew it’s Shalom) places emphasis on well-being. Peter’s prayer is that these divine mercies of grace and peace will be ours in abundance.

F. Conclusion

The concept of chosen or elect people comes originally from the OT. In Deut. 14:2, Moses told the tribes of Israel, “Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.” Isaiah often spoke of Israel “whom I have chosen” (Isa. 41:8; 44:1; 45:4).

But here Peter shifts this thought to the Christian community. We, the born-again people of God—the church—are the elect. How is it possible for people who were enemies of God, rebels and hostile towards Him, to be chosen by God? How could this take place?

I remember two different funerals I attended in the last few years. One I went to, this fellow was preached into heaven with all Christians. I knew him. He was a nice guy, but in my experience he never gave evidence of knowing the Lord Jesus personally. I left that funeral, saying to myself: “I must live so that the preacher can tell the truth at my funeral.”[23]

The other funeral I attended was that of a friend of my family, George Clarke (whom some of you might have known. George was Brad Clarke’s father. Brad & Deb attended Central Baptist until they went to Brisbane.) George was a former criminal, a gangster, whom God radically changed when he repented of his sin and trusted Christ alone for his salvation. His funeral was a time of sadness, but a time of rejoicing, because we knew that calling George a Christian meant that believers would meet with him again at Christ’s return. He was one of God’s elect.

Are you among God’s elect? Do you really know the Lord? Where will you be one minute after your last breath? Are you sure about your eternal destiny? If you have doubts, please talk with me after the service or talk with the pastor.

What will you take away from this sermon that you will obey before God this week?

G.  Notes


[1] This sermon was preached at Gin Gin Baptist Church, Qld., Australia, 25 May 2003.

[2] Open Doors, “North Korea Tops Open Doors ‘World Watch List,’” Available at: http://www.odusa.org/ArchiveDisplay.asp?ID=9AB1FC24-64C7-4E23-8B6D-BB63E9C32D05&Category=Articles (Accessed 11 October 2004).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Jayson Casper, Christianity Today, “The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Be a Christian (2020),” January 15. Available at: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/january/top-christian-persecution-open-doors-2020-world-watch-list.html (Accessed 13 January 2022).

[5] Unless otherwise stated, all Bible verses are from the NIV.

[6] John Calvin, ‘A treatise of the eternal predestination of God, etc. etc., Section IV [Online], available from Calvin’s Calvinism, transl. Henry Cole, at: http://www.the-highway.com/Calvin_sectionIV.html [11th October 2004].

[7] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (3.21.5), transl. Henry Beveridge [Online], available from: http://www.ccel.org/c/calvin/institutes/bookiii/bkiii25.htm [11th October 2004].

[8]R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992, 161-62.

[9] Thiessen, H. C. 1949, Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 344.

[10] Today’s New International Version, available from: http://www.tniv.info/pdf/TNIV_NewTestament.pdf [11th October 2004].

[11] Progn?nsis: Thayer states that the verbal form, progin?sk?, means “to have knowledge of beforehand; to foreknow.” For the noun form he simply defined as “forethought, pre-arrangement” [Thayer, JH (transl, rev., enlarged) 1962, Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 538]. Progn?sis, the noun, only appears twice in the NT at Acts 2:23 and I Peter 1:2.

[12] Thiessen, p. 126.

[13] Based on Thiessen, p. 124.

[14] From Thiessen, pp. 124-125.

[15] The above Scriptures are based on ibid., pp. 125-126.

[16] R.C.H. Lenski, An Interpretation of I and II Epistles of Peter, the three Epistles of John, and the Epistle of Jude. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966, 21.

[17]Lenski, 21-22.

[18]Lenski, 22.

[19] Suggested by Lyman Coleman and Richard Peace, A Study Guide for the Book of 1 Peter (Mastering the Basics). Littleton, Colorado: Serendipity U.S.A., 1988, 17.

[20] Based on William Hendriksen, Romans Chapters 1-8 (New Testament Commentary). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1980, 45.

[21] Hendriksen, 45.

[22] Coleman & Peace, 17.

[23] This was the funeral of Ray Martin, Director of YACCA, YMCA Bundaberg, who dropped dead of a heart attack in Bundaberg, in May 2003.

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 January 2022.

"Wholesome thinking" is more than getting sex off your mind

(2 Peter 3:1-10)

by Spencer Gear PhD

A. Introduction

I exhort you to have

3d-red-star-small “pure thoughts in your mind,” (GNB)[1] to

3d-red-star-small have a “pure mind,” (Moffat’s translation)[2] to

3d-red-star-small do some “wholesome thinking,” (NIV)[3]

3d-red-star-small To stir “up your sincere mind” (ESV)

3d-red-star-small To clean up your mind.

What do you think I am referring to?

Some may think that I am telling you to keep away from x-rated videos that are now called “non-violent erotica” or porn on the Internet. Others would think that certain magazines are off limits.[4] Or get your mind off the sensual and sexual.

Today I want to “stimulate you to wholesome thinking.” (NIV)[5] But I want you to get your mind off sex. “‘Wholesome thinking’ is more than getting sex off your mind” — that’s the title of my message.

Read 2 Peter 3:1-10

These two letters of 1 & 2 Peter were written to “stir up your pure minds” (KJV), according to 3:1. Other translations speak of:

  • “sincere mind” (RSV, NASB, RV, ESV),
  • “honest thinking” (Contemporary English Version),
  • “unsullied (sincere) mind” (Amp. Bible),
  • “unclouded understanding” (New Jerusalem Bible)
  • “minds uncontaminated with error” (J.B. Phillips),

The idea is this: If you read chapter two of 2 Peter, you will see that the church of the first century was faced with what is happening in Australia today. False teachers and false prophets were propounding their destructive heresies.

Peter says: “Dear friends,” or “Beloved” (he uses this word 4 times in this third chapter, vv. 1, 8, 14, 17), suggesting that Peter had an “affectionate interest in his readers.”[6] But he was desperately concerned that they might be led astray by false teaching. He began to address this in chapter 2 of this epistle. So here, he wants to stir up their “minds” or “stimulate” them in their thinking.

This is not the normal Greek word for mind, nous. Rather, this is dianoia. It is referring to our ability to “reflect,”[7] our “understanding.” [8] It’s a similar idea to what we find in I Peter 1:13, “Prepare your minds for action.”[9]

Peter is calling upon these believers (and us, by application) to have thinking that is “uncontaminated by the lust and heresy all around them.”[10] “Pure” or “wholesome” is in the sense of “unmixed”[11] with error and impurity.

This is probably why the J.B. Phillips’ paraphrase is pretty close to the mark. We must have “minds uncontaminated with error.” But what kinds of error? It was the kind of error that was around in the first century and it is is with us today.

Yes, we can engage in unwholesome thinking when our minds are bombarded with sex. But there’s other dangerous, unwholesome thinking that is more subtle than that. And we are subjected to it in deluge proportions today.

B. We are to clean up our thinking in four areas:

Firstly: Peter says: This world is dominated by very naturalistic thinking. There is nothing supernatural, just matter – some say. Human beings do not have a soul or spirit. I was talking to a Christian drug counsellor in Brisbane recently and he said that a psychiatrist raised his voice at him and thumped his fist on the table: “We are nothing but flesh, and legal drugs are the only cure for our ills.” Matter is all that matters.

Peter challenges us: that is “unwholesome thinking.”

Secondly: Your “unwholesome thinking” can get you to think that it is NOT God who acts in human history, but the USA, the United Nations, and the Australian government as a small player. Look at Kosovo, Vietnam, Uganda, Iraq, September 11 2001, and the Middle East. If you think this way, your thinking is not pure. It is mixed with error.

Thirdly: Peter wants you to meditate on this: even though there is evil, slaughter and strife all around us, God’s delay in acting (holding back Jesus’ second return) is not because God is powerless. God has excellent reasons for stalling Christ’s return.

Fourthly: Human history is not going around in circles (as my doctor said to me), it is heading for an enormous climax. President Joe Biden (USA President 2022) and Scott Morrison (Australian Prime Minister 2022) will not be in control. Neither will the United Nations be able to do it.

While there may be what looks like a repeat of certain events in world history, God’s pattern is NOT cyclical. God’s view is teleological. That’s a big word, but it comes from the Greek, teleos, meaning “ultimate purpose and design.”[12]

This world is heading towards God’s GRAND conclusion to the world and it is right on track. God has a design and nobody in this world will change it.

Let’s see how Peter challenges us to “wholesome thinking.”

C. First Challenge (v. 3),

scoffers (mockers) will come “in the last days”.

When are the last days? This is not just the time immediately before Christ’s second coming. The “last days” is the period that extends from Christ’s first coming to his second coming.[13]

What were these mockers saying?

  • “scoffing”; It’s an interesting phrase, “scoffers will come, scoffing” (v. 3). They are “mocking at holy things.”[14] These scoffers will be:
  • “following their own evil desires”; Sounds like today!
  • “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?” they ask;
  • “everything does on as it has since the beginning of creation” (vv. 3-4).

This is a description of Australia today—we have droves of people who deny biblical truths and live in ungodly ways.

I have done a little writing in “letters to the editor” to local papers down through the years, opposing the use of marijuana and showing how dangerous it is, from a scientific perspective. Also, I do not hide my Christian commitment when I write, if it is relevant to the point being debated.

A person responded to some of the issues others and I have raised with this language:

  • “right-wing religious zealots who dominate much of our local anti-drug groups”;
  • “effective drug policy should never be confused with moral crusades”;
  • “Some may ask why I seem [so] interested in drug issues?
  • The reason is that I have probably seen more pain and suffering caused by drug abuse than all our born-agains put together.”
  • “our local anti-marijuana crusaders”;
  • “Right wing anti-drug groups.”[15]

The Bible is right on target, “in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing, and following their own evil desires.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher of the 19th century, influenced Adolf Hitler and his super-race mentality. Nietzsche wrote:

“Christian morality is the most malignant form of all falsehood… It is really poisonous, decadent, weakening. It produces nincompoops not men… I condemn Christianity and confront it with the most terrible accusation that an accuser has ever had in his mouth. To my mind it is the greatest of all conceivable corruptions. . . . I call it the most immortal blemish on mankind.”[16]

It was Nietzsche who described modern people this way: “God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed Him.”[17] It’s easy to think that this happened a century ago with Nietzsche. It is NOT relevant to us in Australia, right now.

I encountered a classic example of what the Bible is talking about, a few years ago—here in Australia. I was walking the streets of one of our capital cities, inviting people, young and old, to come to a Christian coffee shop we were operating on a voluntary basis.

A young man, about 18-years-old, wandered into the coffee shop. I was engaged in some good conversation with him. But when I began to share the reality of Jesus Christ and his need to repent, it was as if all hell broke loose.

He sneered, scoffed and then began shouting at me, “You Christians must be out of your mind. How ridiculous you are. You’ve been preaching this stuff for 2,000 years. Jesus will save you, make you clean, and he’s coming again. What rubbish! You’ve been preaching this myth for 2,000 years.”

He began to laugh loudly, “Ha! Ha! Where’s this Jesus you’re talking about? Where’s this promise about His coming again? It’s all hot air. You’ve got to be joking.” I turned to 2 Peter 3 and shared this passage with him. His head dropped, but he walked away – scoffing!

These scoffers in Peter’s day continued:

  • “everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation” (2 Pet 3:3-4).

This is the argument of evolution, called uniformitarianism. Harvard University’s astronomer, Harlow Shapley, said a few years ago:

“Some say, ‘In the beginning God. . .’ but I say, ‘In the beginning hydrogen.'” What he essentially meant was, “Give me hydrogen, time, and the natural laws, and I will give you the universe. Then we can be done once and for all with myths and fables about God or gods.”[18]

So, are the scoffers correct? Has everything gone on “as it has from the beginning of creation”?

On the one hand, “Yes.” I am glad that the sun will rise tomorrow morning as it has done for thousands of years, millions of days. It does it like clockwork. And yet it’s not the sun rising at all. It is the earth revolving around the sun.

I am happy gravity operates consistently. It would be impossible to live in a world where, one minute I throw a ball out of the window and it falls to the ground. Another time that ball goes up, up and away into orbit. Imagine what it would be like living in such an unpredictable world.

If there was no uniformity to the way things happen, scientific investigation would not be possible. Yes, some things happen as they have since the “beginning of creation,” and we are glad.

On the other hand, DEFINITELY NOT! Peter reminds us that things have NOT gone on in a uniform way since creation. There have been massive interventions by God into our world that floors any argument for evolution’s uniformitarianism.

3d-red-star-small First, “By the word of God, the heavens existed [were created] and the earth was formed out of water and with water” (v. 5). How? By the supernatural intervention of God at creation. Read about it in the first chapter of Genesis.

3d-red-star-small Second, Everything had not gone on in a uniform way and 2 Peter 3:6 gives us a striking picture of the Great Flood that came at Noah’s time: “By water also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.”

3d-red-star-small There’s going to be a third time. Note v. 7, “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”

When judgment comes at the close of this age, the heavens and the earth will be burnt up in a great inferno, and ALL ungodly people will be judged. NOBODY will get away with anything before God.

That’s why our proclamation of the gospel is so urgent in these days of cultural crisis. Most will turn away, but God will be about the work of saving some. We dare not be negligent in these dangerous, materialistic days in which we live.

Peter challenges us to “wholesome thinking.” Here, Peter is saying that your “pure mind” has nothing to do with sex. Your “pure thoughts” will know this: First (v. 3), scoffers (mockers) will come “in the last days.” Don’t be surprised when you are mocked for your faith.

There’s a second dimension to this “wholesome thinking”:

D.   (v. 8), if you overlook God’s perspective on time, your thinking will be putrid, not pure.

You must get the Lord’s perspective on time:

  • “a day is like a thousand years,” and
  • “a thousand years are like a day.”

What does this mean? There is a parallel verse in Ps. 90:4, “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.”

Everyone in this church, everyone in the world, will accept one of two positions in life:

  • First, you will accept the ideas of human beings and their philosophies of history and their forecast for the future of the world.

I noticed on the TV news one time that one of the missions of a USA spacecraft was to further investigate the origins of the universe, billions of years ago.

For the Christian, this is “unwholesome thinking.” If you are looking to the world’s ideas of how time began, when and how the world came into being, as human beings think – this is ungodliness.

God’s views of creation and time are radically different.

  • There’s s a second position. You can accept God’s perspective on time and where the world is heading — from the Bible (The Word of God), the prophets and apostles God has chosen. They will give you God’s account of the world and history. The truth, not human speculation.

If God has the power to stop what is going on in the world, why doesn’t he? Why doesn’t he stop what’s going on in Bosnia, the slaughter of tourists in Uganda, and stopping the floods in Bangladesh that killed so many?

Let’s remember this:

  • We must not be curious about “times and seasons.” The disciples

asked Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” What was His reply? “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (Acts 1:6-7).

Quit worrying about times, dates and seasons in God’s timetable. They are in the capable hands of the Lord Almighty. By the limitations of our humanity, we cannot fully understand the mind of God. Leave the future with Him, while we go about, as v. 11 says, living “holy and godly lives.”

Also remember:

3d-red-star-small God’s relationship to time is so far removed from our thinking.

3d-red-star-small God is above time. He made time, but he chooses to act in time.

3d-red-star-small Listen to these words from Genesis concerning people and time: “Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal. . . .” (Gen. 6:3); “For the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure” (Gen. 15:16).

God’s striving to get through to the human heart will end one day. Think of what the Lord did in a day!

3d-red-star-small The days of creation.

3d-red-star-small The day on which Noah’s Flood came.

3d-red-star-small “If we think of the last day of our Lord’s Passion, how much affecting human history, and affecting angelic history, and affecting even God himself, was crowded into it”[19] – ONE DAY?

We think of a day as a short time, almost like an insignificant period of time, and a thousand years as a long period of time. Not so with God. “A thousand years may be a short time with God”[20] who is beyond time.

Just think of the enormous world-wide influence of one day — our Savior’s death. That one day will have more profound influence than thousands of years of human history.[21]

Many people can waste away 70 years of life and accomplish very little. It is not the years that count in your life. It’s the thought, love and action that measure a good life, not the hands of the clock and the lapse of hours and years.[22]

Thank God he’s eternal, the God of eternity. The psalmist put it so profoundly when speaking about God, “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. . . . From everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Ps. 90:4, 2).

There’s a third dimension to your “wholesome thinking”:

E. Third (v. 9), there’s a reason why God doesn’t end world history NOW. His delay is because of His grace.

If I said to my wife, I will mow the lawn and I don’t do it, she has every reason to say that I am slack, I break my word, and cannot be relied on.

Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3).

But he hasn’t returned! We have been waiting 2,000 years and he hasn’t honoured his promise. If I don’t mow the lawn, I can be accused of being slack, breaking my word, and not being reliable. Can the same accusation be made about Jesus? That’s what the mockers of Peter’s day were doing. Look at v. 4 of this chapter in 2 Peter 3 that we are studying: “They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?”

From v. 9, it seems that the Christians to whom Peter is writing, are beginning to accept what the mockers were saying. R. C. H. Lenski put it this way:

Since the [Second Coming][23] has not yet come, and since time keeps going on, ‘some’ who are unable to account for this ever-increasing delay and who let what verse 8 states escape them, get uneasy and think that the mockers are perhaps right in claiming that there is nothing to this whole promise of Christ’s return.[24]

So, what’s the answer? Do we have an unreliable, slack Jesus who can’t keep his promises?

Peter says in v. 9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.” That word “slow” in the NIV, “slack” in KJV, means, “The Lord is not tardy.”[25] “The word implies, besides delay, the idea of lateness with reference to an appointed time.”[26]

If you are thinking, like these early Christians, that Jesus’ delay in not returning makes him tardy and slack, you are engaging in unwholesome, impure thinking. This kind of slackness can NEVER be attributed to God. If God says he will do something, and we think it is not fulfilled in OUR puny way of thinking of time, there is a REAL reason for the delay. And it has nothing to do with a slack, impotent God.

v. 9 gives us the clear reason for the delay: “He is patient [or longsuffering, KJV] with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

There is one and only one reason for the delay of Christ’s second coming: It’s the grace of God towards sinners.

God uses time so as to serve his purposes of grace. For that purpose a single day is as a thousand years to him, a thousand years as a single day. To him time, whether it is brief or long, is an entirely minor matter just so his gracious purpose is accomplished. Look at it this way. Then you will not think of delay, procrastination],[27] emptiness of promise. Then you will see that the Lord’s waiting is his longsuffering toward you, his holding out long with the blessed intention[28] . . . that none are to perish.”[29]

The reason for the delay is the patience of God. He is extending time, putting off the Second Coming of Christ. “What is a thousand years to the Lord if he can thereby bring many to repentance?”[30]

God said through Ezekiel: “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways” (Ezekiel 33:11).[31]

Christ has not returned because God is extending the time so that we, the church, can get off our backsides, become active in proclaiming the Gospel so that God will bring many more into the kingdom.

Frankly, it is not a SLACK Lord, but a TARDY church. Paul, in Romans 2:4, said: “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?”

Matthew 24:14 gives us a further clue: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Your “wholesome thinking” again has nothing to do with sensuality in Peter’s context. God’s delay is not a broken promise, or tardiness. It is God’s grace. His desire is that ALL will be saved. Through the Cross, the convicting and drawing work of the Holy Spirit, and God’s providence in the world. God is delaying his coming so that MORE will have the opportunity to repent.

We MUST respond with evangelism in the cities and towns where we live.

We MUST be committed to world evangelism, missions. Otherwise, we are engaging in worldly, impure, unwholesome thinking. That’s Bible.

There’s a fourth and final dimension that must be a part of your “wholesome thinking”:

F. Fourth (v. 10), God will end human history suddenly.

READ v. 10:

First Thess. 5 2 confirms this: “You know very well that the day of the

Lord will come like a thief in the night.”

Jesus agrees: “But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Luke 12:39-40).

By the “day of the Lord,” we are to understand it to be the glorious Second Coming of Christ. Its coming is as certain and as sure as God Himself.

Flower2 It will be an awful day;

Flower2  It will come like a thief entering your house in the darkness;

Flower2  People will be eating, drinking, partying, marrying, defacto-ing, without a thought of God, and ZAP — the end will come.

Flower2 It will be a catastrophe of humungous proportions. This will make the eruption of Mt. St. Helens look like a kids’ party.

Flower2 The crash of a world falling apart;

Flower2 The roar of destroying flames;

Flower2 The dissolution of the elements into chaos;

Flower2 The holocaust that will burn up the earth and everybody in it;

Flower2 The palaces of kings, the forts around cities, the cathedrals and church buildings, burnt up in an instant of tremendous ruin.

Flower2 This is God’s sudden judgment on a world that

cubed-iron-sm thumbs its nose at him,

cubed-iron-sm scoffs at the thought of his coming again,

cubed-iron-sm treats Christians as idiots from another planet.

On that day, the heavens that at one time sent down a deluge of water in the time of Noah, “will themselves pass away . . . with a sudden crackling, sizzling, sputtering roar.”[32]

G.  Application

Let’s pause for a moment to meditate on this message and apply it to us. You must have wholesome thinking, minds uncontaminated by error.

1. Mockers were around in the first century church. They are still with us. They scoff at holy things. Like the fellow writing to the Bundaberg, Qld., Australia News-Mail: “I have probably seen more pain and suffering caused by drug abuse than all our born-agains put together.”

Expect it. But what’s your response? Will it be gruff and

antagonistic, or considerate as you respond to a person made in the image of God? It’s hard!

2. Men and women of science will constantly come up with new theories of how the world evolved billions of years ago. Will your faith remain rock solid on the FACTS of God’s Word, “In the beginning, God [not the force of evolution] created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).

In spite of NASA sending satellites to try to discover the origin of the world and human life, will you remain firmly committed to the God of the Bible who has told us HE created it in the beginning?

No matter how sarcastic and arrogant the scientific community may become in asserting the certainty of uniformitarianism and evolution, will your faith remain solid in its commitment to the Lord of the universe?

2. Will you quit placing limitations of time on God? Will you let him be his eternal self? Pray fervently for God to save your family members, your neighbours and the people of the world, but leave the timing to him.

3. This world is becoming more putrid by the minute. People seem to sin their way into stupidity. Why hasn’t the Lord come by now? It’s His grace.

Since the second coming of Jesus has been delayed, what should your response be in sharing the gospel with family members, your neighbours, and taking the Gospel to the world? Mission societies are always struggling for funds to keep missionaries on the field. Will you become part of the financial solution, even if it is only a few dollars a week? Will you sacrifice, so that others will hear?

Wise people do not lay up treasures on earth. I plead with you to live with heaven on your mind, and not to live as though this dying, wretched world is your home.

4. “Suddenly, instantaneously, the end will come. The Lord will need no time at all. But there will come the Lord’s day as a thief, in which the heavens with a cracking crash… shall pass away; moreover, elements, being heated, shall be dissolved, and earth and the works in it shall be burned up.[33]

Peter is so certain about this sudden destructive blaze that will envelop and destroy the entire world that he repeats it in v. 12, “That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.”

In light of this FACT, Peter gives the application in v. 11, “What kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.”

God has intervened in judgments in the past: he did it when Adam and Eve sinned, through the World-wide Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the confusion of languages at the Towel of Babel; Israel was judged in being sent to Egypt and Babylon.

God will do it again when the world ends in a massive inferno. In light of this, I urge you to live godly lives as you live for Jesus in the town where God placed you and proclaim Christ in an antagonistic culture.

Believers, remember that v. 13 follows: “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”

Is your mind clean, clear, pure and wholesome in God’s way of thinking?

H.  Works consulted

Alford, Henry. Alford’s Greek Testament: Volume IV, Part II, James -Revelation (containing revisions by Henry Alford up to the time of his death in 1871). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Guardian Press, 1976,

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Geisler, Norman L. Ethics: Alternatives and Issues. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971.

Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966.

Parker, Gary. Creation: The Facts of Life. San Diego, California: Master Books, 1980

Robertson, A. T. Word Pictures in the New Testament (Volume VI: The General Epistles and the Revelation of John). Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1933.

Shapley, Harlow (ed.), Science Ponders Religion. New York: Appellation Century-Crofts, 1960.

Spence, H.D.M. and Joseph S. Exell (eds.), The Pulpit Commentary (Vol. 22, Epistles of Peter, John & Jude, The Revelation). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950, The Second Epistle General of Peter, exposition and homiletics by B.C. Caffin.

The Heritage Illustrated Dictionary of the English Language: International Edition. Boston: American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc., 1975.

I.  Notes


[1] 2 Peter 3:1, Good News Bible.

[2] 2 Pt. 3:1, Moffatt’s Bible translation, New King James Version.

[3] 2 Pt. 3:1, New International Version (NIV).

[4]Eg., Playboy, Penthouse and Picture magazines.

[5] 2 Pt. 3:1, NIV. Other translations of “wholesome thinking” are: The literal Greek means “pure mind”; “pure thoughts in your mind” (Good News Bible), “sincere mind” (RSV, NASB, RV), “sincere intention” (NRSV), “sincere disposition” (New American Bible), “honest minds” (New Century Version, Weymouth), “honest thought” (NEB, REB), “honest thinking” (Contemporary English Version), “unsullied (sincere) mind” (Amp. Bible), “minds uncontaminated with error” (J.B. Phillips), “unclouded understanding” (New Jerusalem Bible).

[6] Pulpit Commentary, vol 22, 65.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol VI, 172.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Michael Green, 2 Peter and Jude (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries). London: The Tyndale Press, 1968, 123.

[11] Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (Vol. 1). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., originally published 1887, reprinted 1946, 703.

[12] The Heritage English Dictionary, 1323.

[13] Caffin in Spence and Exell, The Second Epistle General of Peter, 85.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Letters to the Editor, “Marijuana would remain illegal,” M. Buscombe, Bundaberg, in the Bundaberg News-Mail, March 5, 1999, 13.

[16] Friedrich Nietzsche, Anti-Christ. New York: Knopf, 230, in Geisler, Ethics: Alternatives and Issues, 1971, p. 33.

[17] Friedrich Nietzsche, Joyful Wisdom, translated by Thomas Common, Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1960, section 125, 167-168, in Geisler, 1971, p. 33.

[18] In Gary Parker, Creation: The Facts of Life. San Diego, California: Master Books, 1980, 139. See also Harlow Shapley (ed.), 1960, 3.

[19]Spence, Exell, Caffin, 86.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Suggested by ibid., 67.

[22] Suggested by ibid., 73.

[23] The original said “Parousia.”

[24] Lenski, 345.

[25] Alford, 415.

[26] Vincent, 705.

[27] The original said, “dilatoriness.”

[28] My deleted section reads, “boulomai [in Greek characters] is often used in this sense, notably in I Tim. 2:8; 5:14; Titus 3:8; etc., Lenski, 346.

[29] Ibid., 345-346, emphasis added.

[30] Ibid., 346.

[31] See also Ezekiel 18:23, which asks: “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”

[32] Ibid., 347.

[33] Lenski, 346, emphasis in original.

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 January 2022.

The Bible and Chance

Casino Roulette - 3d Render

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Does the Bible teach a doctrine of chance in Ecclesiastes 9:11? This verse reads:

designBlue-small “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all” (NIV).

designBlue-small  “I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time” (NLT).

designBlue-small  “Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all” (ESV).

designBlue-small “I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning, nor favor to the skillful; for time and chance overtake them all” (NASB).

designBlue-small  “Again, I observed this on the earth: the race is not always won by the swiftest, the battle is not always won by the strongest; prosperity does not always belong to those who are the wisest, wealth does not always belong to those who are the most discerning, nor does success always come to those with the most knowledge–for time and chance may overcome them all” (NET).

Typography: Ecclesiastes 3:11 - YMIIs this a message only for the Israelites? How can “time and chance happen to all” (ESV) or “overtake them all” (NASB)? The contemporary understanding of chance,[1] in a universe controlled by the Sovereign Lord, do not harmonise.

Don Partain explained the meaning of “time and chance”:

“I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise, nor wealth to the discerning, nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.” Ecclesiastes 9:11

The writer of Ecclesiastes (who appears to be Solomon) emphasizes how quickly passing, uncertain, and even unfair earthlife is—it’s “vanity.” He doesn’t do this to depress us, but to stress how important it is to live for values and goals that are eternal—and not just be living for earthly pleasure, knowledge, our work, etc.

If we do choose to just live for earthly goals and pleasures as our ultimate goals, we are going to be sorely disappointed—not only after this life is over, but even during this life on earth. You will be disappointed over and over and over!

Here in 9:11, Solomon illustrates how earthlife often just isn’t fair! He says, “the race is not to the swift”—but, it should be, shouldn’t it? In other words, if you are the fastest runner in a race, isn’t it right and fair that you win—and not the slowest runner? And yet, the fastest runner might get “accidentally” bumped off the track, and even injure himself so that he can’t even finish the race. It does happen upon this earth.

Same thing is true about the rest of the statements: “the battle is not to the warriors”. That is, by all rights, the warriors should win the battle—not the on-lookers. But sometimes, the latter are the winners. “The bread” should be to the wise—and “wealth” should be the claim of the “discerning.” But sometimes, fools destroy the fields of the wise, and they extort wealth from them. Lastly, “men of ability” should be the ones winning the favor of those who can employ them. But sometimes, those of little—or no—ability win out instead, by their bribery.

“Time and chance” are things none of us can either know or control. And, they often end up resulting in things that are just not fair.

But, no surprise: as Genesis 3 tells us, we are living upon a cursed earth—and it’s a dead-end, in itself. But it’s a moral and spiritual character builder if we live it by God’s direction, seeking His help, with eternal life with Him in our sights: “The conclusion is, ‘Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man’”. Ecclesiastes 12:13 (What does the Bible mean when it says that “time and chance happen to them all”? Ecclesiastes 9:11, Quora.)

“Time and chance” are not to be seen as above the powers and reign of God. We know this because they are things “under the sun,” under God’s control. This is indicated by the use of the singular verb, yikreh, which combines them into one compact idea, as in Isa 13:22 (judgment) and Ezek 7:7 (God’s activity). Chance (pega) is also in 1 Kings 5:28 (in the Hebrew Bible), v. 4 English Bible. It is derived from the verb meaning “to meet.” It usually has the connotation of evil as in “evil occurrence” (1 Kings 5:4).

In summary, people may have resources at their disposal to bring victory in events but God causes things to transpire (‘by chance’) that overthrow the enemy. “Time and chance” are events that happen “under the sun” but they are always under the control of Almighty God. A chance lottery is never something that happens with God.

Notes


[1] The Oxford English Dictionary defines chance as, “A possibility of something happening,” (2021. chance), https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/chance (Accessed 12 December 2021.)

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 December 2021.

How to write a biblical fairy tale

Fantastic Landscape With Mushrooms. Illustration To The Fairy Tale "Alice In Wonderland"

(image courtesy PublicDomainPictures.net)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

WriteShop gives this advice on how to write a fairy tale:[1] Kim, on this blog, states a fairy tale contains these elements:

The fairy tale genre needs to include certain basic elements. Otherwise, it may not be a fairy tale at all!

These characteristics mark a story as a fairy tale:

  • It usually begins with “Once upon a time,” “Long ago,” or “Once there was a …”
  • The story takes place in a distant or make-believe land.
  • It features imaginary characters such as dragons, fairies, elves, and giants.
  • Things happen in threes and sevens (three bears, three wishes, seven brothers).
  • Wishes are often granted.
  • A difficult problem is solved at the end of the story.
  • Good triumphs over evil.
  • The story has a happy ending.

In addition, a fairy tale will often include:

  • Royal characters such as kings and princesses
  • Talking animals
  • Magical elements such as magic beans, fairy dust, enchanted castle

J.J. Sunset’s Blog gives these steps:[2]

Instructions

clip_image003 Step 1

Decide what lesson your fairy tale is going to teach before you write it. At their core, fairy tales are morality tales from the horror of stepmothers to not talking to strangers. They are generally teaching something and yours should do the same.

clip_image003[1]Step 2

Create a good character. A fairy tale needs someone to root for. They don’t have to be perfect. Just think Jack in “Jack and the Beanstalk” or Red in “Little Red Riding Hood” but your readers should like them and want them to succeed.

clip_image003[2]Step 3

Devise an evil character. A fairy tale must have an evil character that works as an antagonist to the good character. The evil character usually has special powers of some sort and they must use those powers in a way to cause the good character pain.

clip_image003[3]Step 4

Design a magical character or object to write into the fairy tale. The magical character can be the evil character but many fairy tales have both good and evil magical characters that work to off-set the other’s influence.

clip_image003[4]Step 5

Identify what obstacles your good character is going to have to face. Whatever the obstacle, it should seem insurmountable and genuinely require a bit of creativity by your good character and a little magical assistance.

clip_image003[5]Step 6

Cute Cartoon Castle. FairyTale Cartoon Castle. Fantasy Fairy Tale Palace With Rainbow. Vector IllustrationWrite a happy ending. A fairytale isn’t a fairytale unless it has a happy ending. Your good character must succeed and your evil character must lose and lose in a big way so you can write your “happily ever after.”

I gave these two examples of how to create a fairy tale because sometimes scholars state the Bible is a fairy tale.

How to pick fiction from nonfiction

Matt Grant explained:

For writers and readers alike, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between fiction and nonfiction. In general, fiction refers to plot, settings, and characters created from the imagination, while nonfiction refers to factual stories focused on actual events and people. However, the difference between these two genres is sometimes blurred, as the two often intersect.

He further made the assessment that nonfiction is factual, based on true events such as histories, biographies, journalism and essays. If fiction has “a few smatterings of fact” in it, that does not make the nonfiction true. However, “a few fabrications” in nonfictions “can force that story to lose all credibility.”

Here are a few indexes to use to determine the historical reliability of an historical writing.

Indexes (criteria) of historical trustworthiness[3]

These include:

1. Early Multiple Attestation

Multiple Attestation refers to a fact or event that appears to have been preserved down multiple lines of independent tradition is more likely to be true than one that is only preserved down a single line.

2. Dissimiliarity

The ‘criteria of dissimilarity’ . . . essentially contains two different criteria, that of the ‘criteria of distinction from Judaism’(CDJ ) and ‘Criteria of distinction from Christianity‘(CDC) [Swales 2008].

3. Embarrassment

A fact or event that appears to cause embarrassment to the theology of the gospel authors is less likely to have been invented by them than a fact or event that bolsters their theology.

For example, since the Jews had a low view of women, the women who were waiting for Jesus at the empty tomb, makes the account more credible.

4. Coherence

Coherence: A fact or event that appears to be consistent with our present understanding of the historical context is more likely to be true than one which appears to be at odds with it.

5. Semitisms

This criterion states that the historicity of a New Testament sentence p is more probable if it contains traces of an Aramaic or Hebraic origin. Since the New Testament was written in Greek and Jesus spoke Aramaic, traces of Aramaic in the Greek of the New Testament argue in favour of a primitive tradition that originates in Jesus. We see this, for example, in Paul’s quotation of a creedal tradition in Corinthians. “I delivered to you,” he reminds the Corinthians, “what I also received,” suggesting the transmission of an oral tradition. Paul then recites a list of eyewitnesses to the risen Jesus which, as Habermas and Licona point out, contains numerous hints of an Aramaic origin that would seem to vouch for its authenticity—including the fourfold use of the Greek term for “that,” hoti, common in Aramaic narration, and the use of the name Cephas (“He appeared to Cephas”) which is the Aramaic for Peter (Miles 2018).

Conclusion

I’ve shown how to write fairy tales in that genre. We are being absolutely unreasonable with language and research if we want to turn biblical research into making fairy tales. The Gospels are stoutly historical – based on the indices of authenticity applied to them.

Works consulted

Mines, Ben 2018. Thinking Matters, “The Criteria of Historical Authenticity,” 4 February, accessed 8 October 2021, https://thinkingmatters.org.nz/2018/02/the-criteria-of-historical-authenticity/.

Swales, Jon 2008. Theological Ramblings, “The Quest for the Historical Jesus: Criteria of Dissimilarity,” 10 March, accessed 8 October 2021, https://ordinand.wordpress.com/2008/03/10/the-quest-for-the-historical-jesus-criteria-of-dissimilarity/.

Notes


[1] Available at: https://writeshop.com/genres-how-to-write-a-fairy-tale/, accessed 8 October 2021.

[2] Available at: https://jjsunset.wordpress.com/sunsets-factory/writing-a-fairy-tale-step-by-step-instructions/, accessed 8 October 2021.

[3] These are based on: Ben Mines 2018. The criteria of historical authenticity, Thinking Matters (online), 4 February. Available at: https://thinkingmatters.org.nz/2018/02/the-criteria-of-historical-authenticity/ (Accessed 5 August 2019).

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 08 October 2021.

Was the Apocrypha in the Hebrew Old Testament Bible?

clip_image001

Copies of the Luther Bible include the deuterocanonical books as an intertestamental section between the Old Testament and New Testament;

they are termed the “Apocrypha” in Christian Churches having their origins in the Reformation (image courtesy “Wikipedia”)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Why would the issue of the contents of the Apocrypha become important for a Christian? Should Christians be reading the Apocrypha as a normal part of Bible reading?

I was alerted to this when I was interacting with an Eastern Orthodox Church (EOC) person or priest on a Christian Forum. He stated:

Church of St. George, Istanbul (August 2010).jpg

Saint George’s Cathedral, Istanbul, Turkey (courtesy Wikipedia)

I am personally not prepared to say that nobody outside the EOC, who has heard the Gospel and believed and lived as a Christian, was never saved. Note that the EOC also believes that growth toward God continues after death. I will not say that John Wesley or Mother Theresa will be cast into a lake of fire because they were not under a particular bishop. I will say, though, that I believe that the EOC has the fullness of Christian truth and worship, and that it is where all Christians should be. I also believe that there is need for great humility on all sides, including and maybe especially on ours, as we strive to actually understand what others are saying, and recognize what we have in common rather than focus on what keeps us apart.[1]

In this response, he proceeded to advocate prayer for the dead, praying to the dead, prayer to angels, icons as a meeting point between the living and the dead, the grace of God being active in the relics of the saints, salvation only in the EOC or not.

In an earlier response he stated:

You’ve once again hit on the key difference between us. And it was the key difference for me also, when I first encountered Orthodoxy.
It isn’t what you’re saying, but rather what you are not saying. If I can fill in as best I can, based on our past interactions…
“You provided too many examples…regarding icons…etc…that are not compatible with [my interpretation of Scripture, which is informed from Evangelical Protestant traditions about Scripture, its interpretation and applications, and presuppositions about what the Church is and where it is found, and based on a hermeneutical method of Critical Realism, which largely dates to the 20th Century and is mostly the product of Evangelical Protestant theologians].”
Without mincing words, your hermeneutic (and the philosophy behind it) is a TRADITION. So I have to ask, on what basis is your tradition–or that of McGrath or Wright or other “critical realists”–to be preferred over the much older and much broader orthodox/catholic tradition?

The fact that the answers I gave above, don’t measure up to your understanding of Scripture, could mean that I (and a huge portion of Christians going back to the early Church Fathers on most of those topics) are all wrong. Or, it could mean that your tradition of protestant hermeneutics and critical realism fails to measure up to the tradition of the Church.
Just something for consideration. But really, I’d like to hear your answer on why your tradition of interpreting Scripture, is better than Orthodoxy’s. Where is Critical Realism found in Scripture?[2]

My rejoinder was:

I object strongly to what you did here. I stated:

You provided too many examples in your response regarding icons, communicating with the dead, angels, etc. that are not compatible with Scripture. I would not be pursuing any EOC action.

So what did you do? You distorted and contorted this with your interpretation of what I DID NOT state:

You provided too many examples…regarding icons…etc…that are not compatible with [my interpretation of Scripture, which is informed from Evangelical Protestant traditions about Scripture, its interpretation and applications, and presuppositions about what the Church is and where it is found, and based on a hermeneutical method of Critical Realism, which largely dates to the 20th Century and is mostly the product of Evangelical Protestant theologians.

That is your imposition on what I stated. It is eisegesis of my writings.
Your foray into Critical Realism is a red herring logical fallacy. It doesn’t relate to the topic of the thread. If you have difficulty with a critical realist epistemology, please start a separate thread to address your concerns.
My authority for determining the boundaries of doctrine is Scripture. I do not find these doctrines in Scripture that you affirmed that the EOC teaches:

  • praying to the dead;
  • prayer to angels;
  • icons as a “meeting point” between the temporal and the eternal;
  • prayer for the dead;
  • The grace of God being active in the relics of the saints;
  • salvation is to be found in the EOC;
  • The presence of God himself is made real to us in the sacraments.
  • growth toward God continues after death;
  • I believe that the EOC has the fullness of Christian truth and worship, and that it is where all Christians should be;
  • I hold baptism to be necessary but not sufficient [for salvation];

I think that we’ll need to agree that the teachings of our various denominations are incompatible with each other. [3]

Scripture or tradition?

I asked this person:[4] 2 Tim 3:16-17 states: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (ESV).
To which Scripture is Paul referring that is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”?
He is not telling us which tradition is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
To which Scripture is Paul telling us to go for teaching?

Part of his response was:

In context, he’s referring to the Jewish scriptures with which Timothy had been taught from childhood. I’m not entirely sure just which books Timothy would have considered canonical, but I believe there’s a good chance that the LXX including what came to be called “deuterocanonical books” [the Apocrypha] were part of that corpus. We can’t be 100% sure of the exact bounds of the canon of Scripture at the time this epistle was written. Clearly, Timothy was meant to infer from his own situation, just which Scriptures were being referred to….

As early as Ignatius of Antioch, we see a letter written to the church in Ephesus likely only a few generations after Timothy himself had been a bishop…admonishing his readers to continue in submission to their bishops, elders and deacons.
Clearly, the sufficiency of the Scriptures is not at odds with the authority of the Church’s ordained ministry. It is the task of the entire Church, led by those ordained to that ministry through the laying on of hands, to safeguard the entire tradition received from the Apostles, within which the Scriptures can be properly understood and lived out.[5]

What about the Apocrypha?

What were the books of the Jewish Scriptures? Did they include the Apocrypha?[6]
My copy of The Apocrypha (The Oxford Annotated Apocrypha, New York: Oxford University Press, 1973, RSV) states in the Preface and Introduction that:

  • “They are not included in the Hebrew Canon of Holy Scripture” (1973:vii); “none of these fifteen books is included in the Hebrew canon of holy Scripture. All of them, however, with the exception of 2 Esdras, are present in copies of the Greek version of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint. The Old Latin translations of the Old Testament, made from the Septuagint, also include them, along with 2 Esdras. As a consequence, many of the early Church Fathers quoted most of these books as authoritative” (1973:x);
  • “In the Old Testament Jerome followed the Hebrew canon and by means of prefaces called the reader’s attention to the separate category of the apocryphal books. Subsequent copyists of the Latin Bible, however, were not always careful to transmit Jerome’s prefaces, and during the medieval period the Western Church generally regarded these books as part holy Scriptures” (1973:x);
  • “In 1546, the Council of Trent decreed that the Canon of the Old Testament includes them (except the Prayer of Manasseh and 1 and 2 Esdras)” (1973:vii-viii);
  • ‘”the Apocrypha” is the designation applied to a collection of fourteen or fifteen books, or portions of books, written during the last two centuries before Christ and the first century of the Christian era’ (1973:ix);
  • ‘The terms “protocanonical” and “deuterocanonical” are used to signify respectively those books of Scripture that were received by the entire Church from the beginning as inspired, and those whose inspiration came to be recognized later, after the matter had been disputed by certain Fathers and local churches’ (1973:x);
  • ‘The introductory phrase, “Thus says the Lord,” which occurs so frequently in the Old Testament, is conspicuous by its absence from the books of the Apocrypha’ (1973:xii).
  • “In the fourth century many Greek Fathers (including Eusebius, Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nazianzus, Amphilochius, and Epiphanius) came to recognize a distinction between the books in the Hebrew canon and the rest, though the latter were still customarily cited as Scripture” (1973:xiii).
  • “In the Latin Church, on the other hand, though opinion has not been unanimous, a generally high regard for the books of the Apocrypha has prevailed” (1973:xiii).
  • “At the close of the fourth century, Jerome spoke out decidedly for the Hebrew canon, declaring unreservedly that books which were outside that canon should be classed as apocryphal” (1973:xiii).
  • “Disputes over the doctrines of Purgatory and of the efficacy of prayers and Masses for the dead inevitably involved discussion concerning the authority of 2 Maccabees, which contains what was held to be scriptural warrant for them (12:43-45)” (1973:xiv).

The facts are, based on this publication, that the Hebrew canon at the time of the NT writing did not include the Apocrypha.

Some valid questions:

This EOC person left me with some valid and provocative questions:

The list of things from your copy of the apocrypha demonstrates clearly that (a) there were different canons of the OT between the Hebrew-speaking and the Hellenic Jews, (b) that it was the latter that the Early Christians accepted as normative and authoritative.
1. Why do you assume that Timothy, a Greek-speaking Jew from the region of Ephesus, would have not “been taught from his youth” from the Greek translation and canon of the Jewish scriptures?
2. Why grant greater authority to the canonical tradition of the Hebrew-speaking Jews, than to the Greek-speaking?
3. Why grant greater authority to one particular Jewish tradition, than to the Christian tradition itself?
I’d appreciate clear answers to the above, in what little time you can spare. Oh, and one more, a simple yes/no.
*** Do you consider your canon, your methods of interpretation, and your philosophical outlook brought to the texts, to be traditions, or not?[7]

We need to remember that the Apocrypha was from the last 2 centuries before the NT and was not included in the Hebrew canon. It was in the Greek LXX but not the Hebrew canon.
I have not been able to find any NT books that make a direct quotation from any of the 15 books of the Apocrypha although there are often citations from the 39 books of the Hebrew canon of the OT. There may be allusions to some apocryphal books in some NT writers (e.g. Romans 1:20-29 with Wis. 13:5.8; Rom 9:20-23 with Wis.12:12.20; 15:7; 2 Cor 5:1, 4 with Wis. 9:15).

Paul was a Jew and it could be expected that he would communicate with his child in the faith, a Greek-speaking Jew, Timothy, what was in the Hebrew canon. It did not include the Intertestamental books of the Apocrypha.[8]

Eastern Orthodox Church and the Apocrypha

The outlook of the Orthodox Church in America is:

The Old Testament books to which you refer—know[n] in the Orthodox Church as the “longer canon” rather than the “Apocrypha,” as they are known among the Protestants—are accepted by Orthodox Christianity as canonical scripture. These particular books are found only in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, but not in the Hebrew texts of the rabbis.

These books—Tobit, Judah, more chapters of Esther and Daniel, the Books of Maccabees, the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon, the Book of Sirach, the Prophecy of Baruch, and the Prayer of Manasseh—are considered by the Orthodox to be fully part of the Old testament because they are part of the longer canon that was accepted from the beginning by the early Church.

The same Canon [rule] of Scripture is used by the Roman Catholic Church. In the Jerusalem Bible (RC) these books are intermingled within the Old Testament Books and not placed separately as often in Protestant translations (e.g., 1611 version of KJV).[9]

The Orthodox Christian Information Center provided this assessment:

All Scripture is inspired and, in both St. Paul and St. Timothy’s mind, that meant the LXX. So much is clear. But the LXX included the books we know today as the Apocrypha.

The earliest copies of the Greek Bible we possess, such as the Codex Alexandrinus and Codex Siniaticus [sic] (4-5th centuries) include the Apocrypha. And it is not placed in a separate section in the back of the codex but is rather interspersed by book according to literature type—the historical books with Kings and Chronicles, the wisdom literature with Proverbs and the Song of Solomon, and so forth.

These books were used by the Hellenic Jewish communities and certain Palestinian Jewish groups such as the Essenes. The Apocrypha retained respect in various Jewish communities until around thirty years after Paul’s death when the Pharisees, in the council of Jamnia, and discussed a number of issues, among which was the Jewish canon. Although the influence of this council is disputed, what is clear is that in its aftermath the Apocrypha was decidedly rejected by the Pharisees, who then proceeded to dominate Judaism.[10]

These kinds of comments lead one to accept the Deuterocanonical books (Apocrypha) because:

  • These books, being part of the longer canon, were accepted from the beginning of Christianity by the early Church.
  • The earliest copies of the Greek Bible (the Septuagint – LXX) include the Apocrypha, not in a separate section at the conclusion of the OT but the books are interspersed throughout the OT according to literature type.
  • The Apocryphal books were used by Jewish communities until about the time of Paul.
  • See below for an assessment why the Apocrypha should be rejected.

Roman Catholic Church and the Apocrypha

There’s a pretty good overview of the issues surrounding the Apocrypha from a Roman Catholic point of view by A Catholic Response Inc in ‘Apocrypha?’ (1994). The conclusion reached is that

the Catholic Church did not add to the OT. The Catholic OT Canon (also the numbering of the Psalms) came from the ancient Greek Septuagint Bible. Protestants, following the tradition of the Pharisaic Jews, accept the shorter Hebrew Canon, even though the Jews also reject the NT Books. The main problem is that the Bible does not define itself. No where in the Sacred Writings are the divinely inspired Books listed completely. (The Table of Contents is the publishing editor’s words, like the footnotes.) The Bible needs a visible, external authority guided by the Holy Spirit to define both the OT and NT Canons. This authority is the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. As St. Augustine writes, “I would not have believed the Gospel had not the authority of the Church moved me.”

This article also affirms that

the Catholic Church is not alone in accepting the Books which Protestants label as “Apocrypha.” The Coptic, Greek and Russian Orthodox churches also recognize these Books as inspired by God. In 1950 an edition of the OT containing all these Books was officially approved by the Holy Synod of the Greek church. Also the Russian Orthodox church in 1956 published a Russian Bible in Moscow which contained these Books.

I recommend a read of the CatholicCulture.org article, ‘What are the Apocrypha?’ (Hugh Pope 2015).[11] In it, Pope cites St Augustine’s view of the Apocrypha:

Emblem of the Holy See
Catholic Church

Ecclesia Catholica

Saint Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City (image courtesy Wikipedia)

Let us omit, then, the fables of those scriptures which are called apocryphal, because their obscure origin was unknown to the fathers from whom the authority of the true Scriptures has been transmitted to us by a most certain and well-ascertained succession. For though there is some truth in these apocryphal writings, yet they contain so many false statements, that they have no canonical authority. We cannot deny that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, left some divine writings, for this is asserted by the Apostle Jude in his canonical epistle. But it is not without reason that these writings have no place in that canon of Scripture which was preserved in the temple of the Hebrew people by the diligence of successive priests; for their antiquity brought them under suspicion, and it was impossible to ascertain whether these were his genuine writings, and they were not brought forward as genuine by the persons who were found to have carefully preserved the canonical books by a successive transmission. So that the writings which are produced under his name, and which contain these fables about the giants, saying that their fathers were not men, are properly judged by prudent men to be not genuine; just as many writings are produced by heretics under the names both of other prophets, and more recently, under the names of the apostles, all of which, after careful examination, have been set apart from canonical authority under the title of Apocrypha (The City of God 15.23.4).[12]

CatholicAnswers asks: ‘Didn’t the Catholic Church add to the Bible?’ (2015). Part of its answer is that

the canon of the entire Bible was essentially settled around the turn of the fourth century. Up until this time, there was disagreement over the canon, and some ten different canonical lists existed, none of which corresponded exactly to what the Bible now contains. Around this time there were no less than five instances when the canon was formally identified: the Synod of Rome (382), the Council of Hippo (393), the Council of Carthage (397), a letter from Pope Innocent I to Exsuperius, Bishop of Toulouse (405), and the Second Council of Carthage (419). In every instance, the canon was identical to what Catholic Bibles contain today. In other words, from the end of the fourth century on, in practice Christians accepted the Catholic Church’s decision in this matter.

By the time of the Reformation, Christians had been using the same 73 books in their Bibles (46 in the Old Testament, 27 in the New Testament)—and thus considering them inspired—for more than 1100 years. This practice changed with Martin Luther, who dropped the deuterocanonical books on nothing more than his own say-so. Protestantism as a whole has followed his lead in this regard.

So, for these Roman Catholic cites give these reasons for accepting the deuterocanonical books:

  • The Roman Catholic canon of the OT came from the ancient Septuagint – the OT in Greek that included the Apocrypha.
  • The Roman Catholics did not add to the OT books but the Protestants at the time of the Reformation deleted 7 OT books (the Apocrypha) that had been accepted as part of the canon for 1100 years.
  • The Bible itself does not define what books should be in or out of the Bible. That is left to the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. So, from the end of the 4th century to the Reformation, the books contained in the Roman Catholic Bible were accepted as the canon.
  • Orthodox churches also accept the Apocrypha.
  • However, it was conceded what St Augustine stated of the Apocrypha that they contain so many false statements that they cannot have canonical authority.

Hebrew canon of Scripture and the Apocrypha

What did the Hebrews of the Old Testament era consider was the list of books in the Hebrew canon of Scripture?

Why the Apocrypha should be rejected

Ryan Turner has provided an excellent summary on ‘Reasons why the Apocrypha does not belong in the Bible(CARM). His major points are:

  • Rejection by Jesus and the apostles;
  • Rejection by the Jewish community;
  • Rejection by many in the Catholic Church;
  • False teachings, and
  • Not prophetic.

He refers to:

Norman Geisler and Ralph E. MacKenzie, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995, pp. 157-75.

Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999, pp. 28-36.

Wayne Jackson has written an excellent assessment: ‘The Apocrypha: Inspired of God?’ (Christian Courier 2015).

Notes


[1] Ignatius#21, 9 June 2014, Christian Forums, General Theology, Salvation (Soteriology), ‘Reasons why you are very unwise to trust your church’s doctrines’ (online). Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7825081-4/ (Accessed 24 December 2014).

[2] Ibid., Ignatius21#39.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#43.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#57.

[5] Ibid., Ignatius21#58.

[6] These details are in ibid., OzSpen#62.

[7] Ibid., Ignatius21#65.

[8] I mentioned this in ibid., OzSpen#67, #70

[9] Orthodox Church in America, ‘Canon of Scripture’ 2015. Available at: https://oca.org/questions/scripture/canon-of-scripture (Accessed 2 June 2015).

[10] ‘All Scripture is inspired by God’. Available at: http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/otcanon.aspx (Accessed 2 June 2015).

[11] The Catholic University of America Press 2015. Available at: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=9069 (Accessed 2 June 2015).

[12] The citation from The City of God in CatholicCulture.org is shorter than this version this Augustine publication which I have taken from the Roman Catholic website, New Advent.

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 08 October 2021.

Biblical authority: On Line Opinion

(The Isaiah scroll, which is a part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, contains almost the whole Book of Isaiah. It dates from the 2nd century BCE.)

Spencer D Gear PhD

I write articles for and engage with those who make Comments to the articles in On Line Opinion. It is here that I meet those with, (1) A low or skewed view of biblical authority, and (2) A twisted understanding of biblical content concerning demon possession.

I’ll deal with two of them:

A. “Alleged biblical text”

Firstly, this poster is a constant biblical antagonist and often he gets his facts badly skewed as seen here with his statement: “In the days when alleged Biblical text was written, some 350 years after the event? Many books were left out at the behest of Constantine and or, his hand-picked minions!”[1]

This was a response to my article: Have politics changed ScoMo’s Christianity?

Notice what Alan did! He didn’t write of biblical texts with questionable dates but they were “alleged Biblical texts.”

Then he asked a question but it reads more like a narrative, “They were written 350 years after the event.” Not one example was given to prove what he wrote. Not even one book of the Bible was given as a source for his outrageous claim. Was he talking about the writing of Joshua, Isaiah, Luke or Titus?

Joshua

If Joshua was the author [internal evidence suggests so], then the date of writing the book is a fairly simple matter: it must have been written before his death and after the last event narrated in the book. Joshua was 110 years old when he died (24:29) [Madvig 1992:243].

This is nowhere near the 350 years the adversary Alan B suggests. Alan B is outrageous in his lack of biblical knowledge:

Love never ever demands obedience or blind unquestioned faith! But only asks you follow example. Never ever demands you ignore your God-given, natural instincts![2]

The God who is love (1 John 4:8 ERV) commanded (demanded) the ethical standards of the Ten Commandments for God’s OT people. Even for the NT, God’s commandments included, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:33-35 NIV; John 15:12, 17) and “I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44 NIV). Both of these examples are in the imperative mood (commands) for the verbs, “love.”

So the God who is love commands His New Covenant people to love not only other Christians but also enemies and those who persecute them.

For the NT, God also provides blessings for those who keep the Beatitudes (Matt 5-7):

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(Image courtesy Crosspoint Community Church)

Nadvig suggests some other issues with dating.

Isaiah

Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran, the only text available to the Jews was the Masoretic Text (MT). At Qumran, two Isaiah MSS were discovered: IQIsaa and IQIsab. These two MSS thus were older than the MT by 1,000 years, thus dating them to before Christ. This is an important issue since the standard text of the OT is dated by the Talmud to about A.D. 100.

The Qumran texts “show a large measure of agreement with the MT, revealing extreme care with which the text of the book must have been copied by the scribes over the centuries but there are occasional interesting agreements with the LXX. The majority of variations from the MT are, however, in spelling, which make no real difference to the text” (Grogan 1986:22).

Let’s now examine a couple NT books for a timeline of authorship.

Luke

Don Stewart’s assessment was:

If Acts were written about A.D. 62, then this helps us date the four gospels. The Book of Acts is the second half of a treatise written by Luke to a man named Theophilus. Since we know that the Gospel of Luke was written before the Book of Acts, we can then date the Gospel of Luke sometime around A.D. 60 or before (Stewart 2021).

Titus

The Epistle to Titus was written in approximately AD 66. Paul’s many journeys are well documented and show that he wrote to Titus from Nicopolis in Epirus. In some Bibles a subscription to the epistle may show that Paul wrote from Nicopolis in Macedonia. However, there is no such place known and subscriptions have no authority as they are not authentic (Got Questions Ministries, Summary of the Book of Titus).

So a survey of four books, two from the OT and two from the NT, reveals Alan B is right off base with his claim the books were written 350 years after the actions described. Thus, it makes him an ignoramus concerning biblical scholarship.

B. Kill witches, but witches do not exist.

This is a comment regarding my article, Intolerant intolerance. LEGO’s view was:

God told his followers to kill witches, but witches do not exist. The whole idea is potty and it had extremely tragic consequences for the numerous innocent victims of this stupid thinking. Ozspen seems to imply that witches do exist, so I will leave that to the judgement of our readers to judge Ozspen’s mental state.[3]

Notice what LEGO does:

  • He doesn’t reference his “no witches” source in Scripture. I’ll do that for him. “In 2 Chronicles 33:6, King Manasseh is condemned for his many evil practices, including sorcery: “And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger” (Got Questions Ministries, What does the Bible say about sorcery?)

This is under the Old Covenant where God wanted to keep His people holy.

So LEGO believes “witches do not exist.” That is nothing more than his opinion or assertion. He should go to Peru and meet with some witches to decide if they exist or not. Missionaries in this country regularly encounter the reality of witchcraft.

Then he engaged in his use of logical fallacies:

  •  “The whole idea is potty” and
  •  “it had extremely tragic consequences for
  •  “the numerous innocent victims of this stupid thinking.”

Instead of “stupid thinking,” I’m creating examples of reality in the Western world as well as Peru. The Encyclopaedia Britannica describes the movement:

Wicca is a predominantly Western movement whose followers practice witchcraft and nature worship and who see it as a religion based on pre-Christian traditions of northern and western Europe. Adherents of Wicca worship the Goddess, honour nature, practice ceremonial magic, invoke the aid of deities, and celebrate Halloween, the summer solstice, and the vernal equinox (Contemporary witchcraft).

It is LEGO who is acting the potty and engaged in the “stupid thinking” that witchcraft does not exist.

Walter Martin told of an example that happened with him in Southern California, recorded by the Berean Bible Church. It was published after his death:

He discussed a call he received stating:

“We have been praying for this girl for four hours; we’re simply exhausted. Please tell us what to do.”

“What has happened so far?” Martin asked.

“Well, she is possessed by multiple devils.” “Did you get a count?”

They said “Yes. We asked them in Jesus Christ name how many they were and they told us 56.”

Martin said, “Well, that’s a good beginning. Did you get their names?”

“Every one of them named themselves (screeching) whenever we commanded them in the name of Christ.”

“Good. Have you been exorcising them one at a time?”

“Yes, and quite a few of them are gone.”

“What is the girl’s background?”

“She is involved in Satanism. We found the Satanic Bible in her bureau drawer; she has been on drugs for some time. “We also found some symbols of satanic worship.”

The story continues on about how they continued removing the demons one at a time, having the most struggle with the final one, but ultimately removing it, releasing the girl from the bondage of drugs, and how she dedicated her life to Christ and ministry. Martin concludes the story by stating:

These things happen. They are real. Denying them does not make them go away, and the skepticism of modern society has no power to dismiss them; it simply amuses them. Viruses are invisible to the naked eye, but we know they exist because we developed the equipment that enabled us to see them. We may not be able to place a demon under a microscope, but God gave us the means to see them:

1. Demons speak in multiple voices and in multiple languages unknown to the person they possess.

2. Demons exhibit superhuman strength.

3. Demons have access to private information that a possessed person could never know.

4. Demons respond to and obey authority in the name of Jesus Christ.

This experiment has been repeated countless times and it has been proved, beyond doubt, that evil, sentient beings called demons do exits. (Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Occult, 2008 Thomas nelson edition, Pgs 423-425).

Martin states:

Demons are quite literally Satan’s children; fallen angels or spirits who followed Lucifer in his rebellion against the throne of God. They worship the devil, not God.

Demons most definitely were active in Southern California. LEGO doesn’t know what he is talking about.

Works consulted

Grogan, Geoffrey W, “Isaiah,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Frank E. Gaebelein (gen. ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986.

Madvig, Donald H. “Joshua,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Frank E. Gaebelein (gen. ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Stewart, Don. “When Were the Four Gospels Written?” Blue Letter Bible, accessed 4 October 2021, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/stewart_don/faq/historical-accuracy-of-the-bible/question10-when-were-the-gospels-written.cfm, 2021.

Notes


[1] Posted by Alan B., Wednesday, 6 November 2019 9:50:01 AM, https://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=20592.

[2] Ibid., Posted by Alan B., Wednesday, 6 November 2019 2:57:05 PM.

[3] Posted by LEGO, Thursday, 28 February 2019 11:28:40 AM, https://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=20172&page=8.

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 05 October 2021.

My New Book Is Coming!

My New Book Is Coming!

Title: How to ruin your education and TV viewing: Five easy lessons[1]

Spencer D Gear PhD

What will you do as a parent if your 14-year-old comes home from school and says, “You and the teachers have been telling me Columbus discovered the Americas? You’ve lied to me because that isn’t true. There are no such things as facts and I decide the meaning of what is written in my text books? I’m the one who chooses the interpretation of any writing, including history.”

How are you going to answer, especially in light of what the Encyclopaedia Britannica states about Columbus?

Enter John Dominic Crossan

This leading historical Jesus’ scholar provides a creative definition of history: “History is the past reconstructed interactively by the present through argued evidence in public discourse.”[2]

clip_image001(image courtesy Wikipedia)

Chew over that definition at dinner tonight as you discuss its application or rejection to the terrorism and what happened with the twin towers in New York City on 11 September 2001, the Nazis slaughter of 6 million people in World War 2, and who won the Super Bowl in 2000.

Another piece of information grabbed my attention and that is Crossan’s belief that Jesus’ resurrection was not a bodily resurrection but an apparition.[3]

An Application

Are these details fact or fiction? Can we create other versions of these incidents that are as valid as the information above, by introducing deconstructionist free play? This book investigates why this traditional model of history is being questioned and pursues an alternate view promoted as outdated. The key question is: Should the historical evidence be deconstructed?

The book is a critique of the danger of free play and the need to return to a traditional version of history.

Notes

[1] Wipf and Stock Publishers, https://wipfandstock.com/.

[2] Crossan, “Historical Jesus as risen Lord,” 3, emphasis in original.

[3] Crossan, The Birth of Christianity, xxviii-xi. An apparition is a ghost or ghostlike appearance of a person or “a remarkable or unexpected appearance of someone or something ” (Oxford English Dictionary 2021, “apparition.”)

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 30 September 2021.

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