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Crucified Before the Foundation of the World

"Crucified before the foundation of the world." What does that mean? How could that even happen? Historians and archaeologists ta...

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Reason for the Law

Romans 7:1-14
Paul gives a very good explanation for the purpose of the law.  God never expected that men and women would be obedient to the law.  He told Adam and Eve not the eat of the fruit of only one tree.  They were free to eat of all the other pleasures in the garden, but this one tree was special and reserved.  They knew it was forbidden, but they ate anyway.  With disobedience came death. 

Until the Children of Israel were ready to leave Egypt, death was the consequence of their lives.  Some found grace and blessing through obedience, but there was no general law until Moses received the Commandments.  The Commandments never made people righteous.  They only showed us what sin was.  In the Passover, God showed them the blood of the lamb smeared on the doorpost as a symbol of the sacrifice for their sin.  They ate the dinner inside the house and the Angel of Death passed over the places where the blood was.

Now Paul says that the Law is good and spiritual and righteous, but in us it is intended to show where the sin resides.  The stark perfection of the law reveals the sinful attitude and broken promise of a human life.  The Blood of the Lamb obscures the sin and covers the black mark with his sacrificial purity.

It is not that the law is no longer effective, but that we have died to the law by being made alive to Jesus Christ.  This is a difficult concept to understand.  We don't feel dead to the Law:  We feel condemned by it.  If we could move on to the point that we feel our sins condemned by Jesus, rather than the law, we may be able to understand the forgiving and cleansing that comes through his blood.

When we feel condemned by the Law there is no recourse.  The Law says:  The soul that sins shall die.  Jesus says: The soul that sins shall be forgiven.  Of course he called us to die to sin and to the Law; then we are raised to resurrection life by his forgiveness, by his blood.

Friday, July 15, 2011

On the Question of Homosexuality

Genesis 2:24 is quoted by Jesus in Matthew 19:4 and by Paul in Ephesians 5:31--"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." 

The question arises about the position of people of homosexual orientation before God.  Gays and lesbians are the same as heterosexuals--we are all sinners before God, and we all require salvation to live in communion with him.  Sexual orientation is not the dividing line.  Sexual behavior is.  Sex is not essential to life and you can live without it.  Many of us should.  If you are not married, you should not be engaging in sex.  Yes, heterosexual as well as homosexual sex is forbidden when the participants are not married. 

There are a number of passages that denounce the practice of homosexual behavior.  They seem vague and non-specific to a litigious generation.  In Leviticus 20:13 the Bible says that man must not lie with a man as with a woman.  That is pretty specific and non-ambiguous.  Some people want to exclude Old Testament passages because they say you must take all the Levitical Law or none of it.  I don't know that I agree.  Jesus took some and not all.  Paul in Romans 1:26-27 warns against all same-sex practices. Defenders of the practice claim that only one passage in New Testament condemns homosexuality, and gays and lesbians should be able to marry in the same manner as heterosexuals.  The defenders claim their civil rights are being violated, and their opportunity to experience a full life is curtailed.  I'm not convinced that God is concerned with civil rights or fair play.  He is concerned with salvation from sin.

The passage found in Genesis quoted above states what God approves; however, not every instruction applies to everybody.  Paul in Ephesians says you may marry or stay single.  There are people in the Bible whom God did not permit to marry.  Some traditions, like multiple wives, were tolerated for a while, but eventually abandoned.  If the Bible is not specific in forbidding homosexual marriage, it certainly never approves it.

Nothing in the Ten Commandments or the teachings of Jesus implies that we should expect to be happy and content.  Homosexuals and heterosexuals are equally commanded to be obedient, to love the neighbor, to live righteously, and to confess their sins.  If these commands limit human happiness, so be it.  Marriage is between men and women.  Other practices are not approved by God.  I can't see the value of saying that we might get away with it since there is only one direct and specific prohibition against it in the New Testament.  I think it is presumptuous to assume things to be the way I want just because it will make me happy.  God is not concerned with my happiness, but my salvation.  King Saul experienced the consequences of acting presumptuously before God.  It cost him his sanity, the Kingdom, and eventually his life.

There are considerable risks to rewriting the Bible!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Proverbs 7--The Woman on the Corner

"Warning: these enemies are still lurking...Image via WikipediaThe first five verses of Proverbs 7 records a father's urging to his son to remain virtuous and avoid foolish behavior and cherish wisdom as a sister.  The father is insistent in his charge to his son to rehearse the teachings and commands that will spare him much trouble and distress.

The father then tells a story of the young men he saw in the street from his window.  Among them was one who lacked good judgment.  Perhaps he had not been taught to avoid foolish choices, but, in any case, he allowed himself to be influenced by a sinful woman. 

He seems to have known where she would be and how to find her.  He knew the corner she frequented, and he knew where her house was.  As night fell, he made his way there.

She came to meet him dressed to allure him.  She was crafty, and her intent was to seduce him.  She went to the town square and the shops advertising herself in a brazen manner, and she had no modesty or virtue about her.  Her intent was to sell herself for money.  This simple, foolish young man would be easy for her.

She assured him that she had performed her duties of fellowship offerings.  It is strange to think that she had taken pains to obey the law in this matter, but she felt no pang of guilt for her adultery or for destroying his honor.  She described her husband's trip and absence which gave her leave to behave in a scandalous manner.  It is not clear whether she desired sexual experience in her husband's absence or money for her service, but all her motives are equally disgusting and destructive.

The writer offers many metaphors to describe her violation of the foolish young man:  She pursuaded him with smooth talk and flattery; she led him like an ox to the slaughter; like a deer stepping in a noose; like an arrow piercing his liver; like a bird in a snare, and he doesn't even realize that it will lead him to death.

The deadly consequence of his yielding to her call is not explained in the text.  Perhaps it indicats the prevelance of disease in sexual contact with many partners.  Perhaps it refers to the death of the soul in sin.  Perhaps it means the loss of honor that would make him unacceptable for marriage.

The final four verses are an appeal to the son to prevent this from happening to him.  He had been taught righteousness, and his father had shown him the result of the sinful path.  It is true that experience is the best teacher, but it is possible to learn from the experience of those around us.  We don't have to experience everything.  Others had been slain by association with her and her sin. 

How much easier would life be if we learned from the wisdom of parents?

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Inspiration of the Reader and the Listener

the Stainned Gless of depicting the Holy Spirit.Image via WikipediaThere is a great deal of emphasis on the inspiration of speakers and writers.  We all feel blessed when a gifted speaker or writer enlightens us on deep matters, and we label that one INSPIRED!

What about the readers and listeners?  I believe we are inspired to receive teaching through the written word or through the spoken word when God confirms his truth to us.  That is inspiration too.

In Luke 24:30-31 the disciples who ate with Jesus after the resurrection recognized him "when their eyes were opened."  They saw him, but they did not know him until he revealed himself to them.  Their spiritual eyes were opened.  Their inspiration had begun while they were talking with the risen Jesus on the road.  They testified that their hearts had burned within them when he opened the scriptures to them.  They had been inspired.  Their spirits had grasped God's truth even before they knew who they were talking to.

Believing the scriptures when we read them is a different quality of knowing and understanding than having them revealed to us by divine counsel.  The disciples on the road were Jews who knew the Old Testament and understood its instructions, but Jesus opened a new level of truth to them through the Spirit and their hearts burned.  

Paul supports this understanding of inspiration for both speakers and listeners, writers and readers, in 1 Corinthians 2:9:

 “No eye has seen,
   no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
   what God has prepared for those who love him."   

Then he continues to promise that God has revealed by his Spirit these truths.  They are intended for us to know and understand.  They are available and we can apprehend them.  They require us to surrender our minds and wills and attitudes for the Spirit to instruct.  It will be a demanding discipline, and he will correct and convict as he instructs.  Submit to the Spirit and receive of his teaching and be inspired.

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