The number of the beast (666) in Revelation 13 is directly associated with man, man being a servant of the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). This means, in religious terms, man-made religions and churches are directly associated with the mark of the beast because their origins are related to man’s wisdom. Whatever the specific application of 666 in the context of Revelation 13, the principle of man-made religions still applies (Prov. 14:12). There needs to be more respect for God and His Word / Authority than exhibited in the religious world and it people’s lives. RT
If the blind lead the blind, then both the blind and those led by the blind will fall into the ditch.
Who are the blind? When Jesus spoke His words (Matthew 15:14), He was speaking of the religious leaders and their precepts or commands of men. The word tradition, a word Jesus used in this context, is a word that means “passing down.” The word can be understood in a favorable context as well as unfavorable. When Jesus used the word, it was most certainly unfavorable. Why so unfavorable? Because the passing down of teachings from men had the effect of neutralizing God’s word, His will for the nation of Israel. This resulted in religious leaders and teachers setting to the side the Lord’s express will and living by the guidance of man. Jesus called these leaders blind, and to make it even worse, those who follow their teachings are themselves blind.
We live in a context today that is similar. We have blind religious leaders leading blind religious people (or semi religious) and both will fall into the ditch. Here are some examples. First, there is the common teaching that many churches subscribe to what is called the sinners prayer. Here is what they mean: a contrite person is to pray a particular prayer asking Jesus into that person’s heart. This is not Bible teaching; the closest one can get to wanting the Bible to teach this is Luke 18:9-14. Read it, ask yourself if this is a prayer by a sinner asking Jesus into his heart. Now compare that with what Peter said to those in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
The difference can’t be more obvious. If that is the case, then why do so many people follow this way of thinking? Just like they were in Jesus’ day, they are today. The blind lead the blind. If the blind don’t know (or refuse to believe) what the Bible teaches, how are they going to accurately teach? They can’t.
Lesson: search the Scriptures to see if that which is taught is so (Acts 17:11). If the thinking of your way can’t hold the day throw it away.
The scriptures are clear. The Lord’s apostle said the saints are to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). That can hardly happen where there is present a “Mr. Diotrephes” or a “Mrs. Diotrephes.” John wrote with regard to the “Diotrephes” spirit, “I wrote somewhat unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not” (3 John 9). This is the disposition of a person who wants his (or her) say and way. Those who are of this attitude and spirit have no regard for the words of the Holy Spirit.
In the “funnies” section of the newspaper, the cartoon “The Middletons” make a perfect illustration. There are two dogs barking continuously (like dogs sometimes do). One dog stops and asks, “What are we barking at?” The other dog replies, “A leaf fluttered to the ground.” “Oh” came the reply. The dogs resume barking fervently. This a perfect illustration of the Diotrephes spirit that exists with some. It begins with a lack of biblical knowledge, continues with failure to gain knowledge of the situation as it needs to be properly understood, then proceeds with a lack of a charitable disposition toward the thinking and ways of someone else, coupled with a desire to have control / power / influence over others (all in a compelled sort of way, at least some of the time), all to arrive at a point of “we don’t need a reason of substance, let us just make up one.”
The Diotrephes spirit in a local congregation is exhibited in more than just what the Lord’s apostle wrote; it’s exhibited in identifying “sound brethren” and only those who are identified can be fellowshipped, in telling a preacher from what exclusive translation he can preach (and it better not be the Greek text!), how the preacher can make no use of illustrations that come from life but can only come from Genesis to Revelation (Paul and Jesus would both have been condemned by the Diotrephes spirited person). The Diotrephes spirit splits churches, sometimes those splits manifest themselves in a congregation imploding, the majority of the saints walking out to start a new work or wandering off “back into the mire.”
Maybe you know someone in the congregation where you worship manifesting all of this, or only some of it. If so, you are headed down a path that brings frustration, confusion and heartache.
What the Lord’s apostle said in Ephesians is not an option or suggestion, it is a command of the Holy Spirit. Those who divide churches because of the Diotrephes spirit will answer the Lord for their self-exultations. We may wonder, sometimes, who is guilty of this sort of thinking. Generally speaking, however, the Diotrephes spirited person is manifest to all. When we wonder, we can be sure the Lord knows! “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3, ASV). RT
Teach and Help Them
Why do people leave the Lord? There are a number of reasons; let me identify some. First, parents talk better than they live; when the child grows up, since the Lord’s way made little to no difference to the parents in the way life was lived, it must not be all that important for the child in his or her own life. Second, what I learn in my science classrooms (through the years), the preacher and the elders can’t or won’t refute (such as evolution). It must be the preacher and the elders are not all that certain about what they believe. Perhaps the preacher and elders have no depth of knowledge to help me as I try to understand the difficulties of life. If they can’t help when science challenges, why should I think they can help in other areas. Third, there is too much confusion in the religious world; I can hardly make sense of it all. All these people who say they believe in God hardly agree on much of anything! Even though I have heard God is not a god of confusion, it seems exactly the opposite is the case. Fourth, I see all these people come to the church building and pretend they are religiously devoted, but then I hear them as they go out the door speak badly about someone or something; I wonder if there is any good that comes from their mouths. Fifth, I have had bad experiences with those who call themselves Christians. The list could go on, but you get the point. I received an email the other day from The Worldview Bulletin Newsletter that spoke of a research project about people leaving the church (this research was conducted by UCLA; they have a broader understanding of the word church than what the New Testament teaches). The reasons were multiple; the paragraph above reflects some of those reasons. What can we do to give attention to this? First, live what you believe! If you call yourself a Christian, live as Christ did. Don’t be a “fake” Christian. Second, do not have a superficial knowledge of the Bible, but have substantive knowledge, knowledge that can be instilled in the youth because you not only know what the Bible teaches, where it teaches it, but also why it is taught and the importance in living that way. This entails effort on your part, much effort. Put what you learned to good use. Third, don’t make “church going” a matter of convenience or duty, but because you are devoted to the Lord and would rather be no other place. You’ll help yourself by not having too many activities going on. The Lord is your priority, and His saving institution (the church) is your priority also. If you say that you do, and show up infrequently, your children have already learned your priority. Fourth, if problems arise in the church be sure you contribute to a solution rather than the problem. Too many run away. This teaches volumes! Some will turn away regardless, but don’t let that be you. Do what you can to teach them and help them to stay. RT
The Proverbs of Solomon. The memory of the righteous is blessed; But the name of the wicked shall rot (Proverbs 10:7 ASV). Sometimes all we have left are the memories. The memories of my dad, your mother, our best friends. If one were to ask, what is the greatest memory that you have of those who have gone on to their reward, what would you say? With regard to your father, would you say he was there when times were physically tough? What about your mother? There is something about a mom that a dad can never fill, try as he might. Perhaps in your family, your dad was the firm, steady hand that corrected the ship when it got off course. It was that way in my family. My mom, on the other hand, always had a role on the ship’s direction, but her role was more in smoothing out the tempestuous seas of the trip. Maybe an over-powering memory in your life was not a good one at all. Perhaps your father or your sibling was something of a scoundrel. The influence they left on you is one you would like to forget. Quite unfortunate, but one that many have when they think of some family members. What memory will people have of you? Will they remember you as a good teacher, administrator, preacher? Let them remember you as one who lived righteously, made a difference with the words spoken and made an impact in life that is immeasurable
The love of God is perfected in a person’s life when he or she obeys from the heart the words of Christ (Rom. 6:16-18); without obedience, one has not reached a mature state (1 Jn 2:5). Perfection is not a matter of being flawless or sinless (in this context), but the willingness and desire to allow the will of God to control one’s life. It was Jesus who said to those around Him, “Why do you call me ‘Lord’, ‘Lord’ and do not the things that I say?”
Perhaps you heard someone say something like the following: “The last time I went to church, some lady named Mary seemed to be very unpleasant. I can move past that, I thought, but when I sat down, I received cold stares because,” I was told, “you are sitting in Brother and Sister Pleasant’s seats. That was it, I moved on. Thought to myself, if that is ‘church,’ I’ve had my fill of it!”
Has this or something similar happened to you? Perhaps not. Many, however, have had an experience like this, maybe even worse. If you’ve had a bad experience, let me encourage to think afresh about “church.”
In the New Testament, the word “church” is directly related to people called out of the world of sin into a world where people assemble to praise the Almighty for the salvation He freely gave and gives to each. With all the baggage they should have left behind, many present themselves to the Lord with it. Sue has been divorced three times and now married to her fourth husband. Mike has spent the last eighteen years fighting his drug addiction. Tim and Mary have children that are very undisciplined because Tim and Mary are also undisciplined. The list of all the baggage that people bring goes on and on. I, too, have my own baggage.
Yet, here they are inside a building where people gather together to be taught the Lord’s word, sing and praise His holy name in worship. Not a one has lived life without some blotch (or many) on their personal record of failings. Some hide it well; others live with it openly.
After a moment’s reflection, is it not best to be in the environment where people gather to praise the Lord and taught His holy way? It was Peter who said to the Lord, after the Lord asked His disciples if they were also going to turn away from Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” To whom will you go?
Why not consider, again, the Lord’s church and what He intended the church to be, spiritually sick people who recognize the Lord’s mercy and in real need of it. RT
(Written for House to House and heart to Heart for our Fall mailing)
It was Paul’s habit to go into a community of Jews and reason with them from the scriptures. Paul did this because of his conviction; he wrote to the church in Rome, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16, KJV). Paul did not pursue an intellectual path, discussing the finer points of the Law of Moses. Instead, he made it his mission to convert those of his country, his heritage (cf. 1 Cor. 9:19-22; Rom. 9:1-5).
It was Paul’s intent to persuade and convince those of his heritage that Jesus was the Christ, the anointed of God. Many of the Jewish community rejected this, although some were convinced.
The approach Paul took has intrigued me for years. I do not live nearby a Jewish synagogue, but if I did would I be capable of doing the same? No, I could not. Because I was not able to, I set in motion for myself to learn from Rabbinic writings what they say about the Scriptures, especially in relation to Messianic passages of Scripture.
This article and some following articles will give attention to this very matter. Whether we live near or in a Jewish community, the principles of Paul should be applied by each New Testament Christian as one seeks to reason with people of faith, seeking to learn together and persuade others about New Testament Christianity, getting back to the Bible, doing Bible things in Bible ways as well as speaking with Bible words.
Messianic Passages in Genesis
In the beginning, the Lord created Adam and Eve putting them in His garden, the Garden of Eden. It was there the Lord directed they were to work. They could eat of anything the Lord put in that garden, but not from one specific tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Lord had His reasons for this prohibition, and it was the obligation of the first couple to comply with the Lord’s directive.
God desired man to experience the joys of living in His created world, but this joy could not (and cannot) be realized as God intends if man is disobedient to His revealed will. History told us the first couple failed to enjoy God’s intended blessings in this life. The Lord responded to this failure:
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. (Genesis 3:14-16, KJV).
I want to notice the words of the Lord to Eve and the one who generated the temptation. Notice: 1) there was separation between the pinnacle of God’s creation (human beings) and the beasts of the field (represented by the serpent); 2) the serpent was controlled by the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4) utilizing deception and lying to bring down God’s pinnacle; 3) the beast of the field was subservient to human beings; 4) man’s great adversary (Satan) as represented by the serpent would have his head crushed; 5) man’s great adversary will not go down without a fight (so to speak) for he will bruise or sting; 6) human beings cannot crush the serpent’s head, that is, overcome the great adversary. This can only be done by God’s hope given to humanity as revealed in these words.
In the words of the Holy Spirit to Adam and Eve there was hope given by God. Admittedly, the hope is not easily seen, but it is there. From the New Testament, we know it is there. Notice: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” The pinnacle of God’s creation will be (and is) hurt terribly, but the tempter is crushed. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:55-57). Where did that “sting of death” come from, but in the Garden! Paul wrote to Timothy, “But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10).
What did the Rabbis teach on Genesis 3:15? I was disappointed in what I read, for it was not at all what I thought I would see. Some of interpretations move from the reasonable into strange and weird speculation (completely useless). There is nothing said in what they wrote about hope overcoming Satan except to say this will occur with the study of the Torah (the Law of Moses as revealed in the first five books of the Bible). Nothing is said about the serpent’s head being crushed by man, except to make known to a reader what intentions the serpent had (who had hands and feet walking uprightly), “The serpent’s plan was to have Adam die and to then marry Chavah [Eve].” Michael Brown, in a footnote, gave attention to Genesis 3:15 being understood by some (not all) in the Jewish community as Messianic.
I thought I would consider what some through the centuries said on the passage. Jerome, biblical scholar of the 5th century, wrote, “Later revelation will confirm this first vague message of victory [Gen. 3:15] and specify the manner in which the victory will be attained.” Alfred Edersheim, a 19th century authority on Jewish ways and teachings, did not give attention to what the Rabbis taught in regards to Genesis 3:15, but did offer his perspective that the passage is Messianic in early form (protoevangelium). The 16th century reformers are on both sides as to whether the passage is Messianic or not, most thinking it is. In fact, of the 18 citations, only two (John Calvin and Johannes Oecolampadius) doubted the exegetical application. “If we should cite this text to dispute against the Jews, I fear we would more likely be ridiculed than accomplish anything” (Reformation 161).
Can Genesis 3:15 be exegetically understood to refer to the Christ? Even though Judaism does not regard the Messiah as being a necessary interpretation here , clearly a case for the Christ must start here. Admittedly, it is from a New Testament context and from an overall picture of the Old Covenant that one is better able to see it unfold. Consider the following points. First, there is an adversarial relationship between what the serpent represents and man. In Revelation 12:9, the serpent is the dragon making war against those of God’s creation. “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (12:17). Second, the enmity between the woman and the serpent was separation, hostility, hatred. Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) and his only intent is to separate man from his Creator, developing within him hatred and bitterness toward the Almighty. He has had great (numerical) success at this. Third, the serpent will bruise the heel of man, but man will crush the head of serpent. Coffman, who is dismissive of those who reject the protoevangelium, said, “‘Thou shalt bruise his heel…is undoubtedly a reference to the Crucifixion.’ The reason many scholars fail to see this is because ‘[t]heir blindness is due to their failure to recognize that the key to understanding the O.T. is Jesus Christ (2Cor. 3:15-16). The terminology of this verse is such that it cannot apply to anything in heaven or upon earth except the long spiritual conflict between Christ and Satan’.”
A case can be made that Genesis 3:15 is the first reference to man’s hope, albeit an obscure reference and one that can only be seen in the context of the whole of Scripture.
The Chumash with the Teachings of the Talmud, The Milstein Edition, p. 30.
Michael Brown, Answering Jewish Objections: Messianic Prophecy Objections, Vol. 3; Baker Books, p. 198.
The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice Hall, 2:28, p. 13.
Alfred Edersheim, Bible History: Old Testament, Hendriksen Publishers, p. 14.
Reformation Commentary on Scripture: Genesis 1-11, Vol. 1; IVP Academic, pp. 156-162.
“In Judaism, the estrangement caused by the innate human appetite for evil does not require an act of messianic redemption to be healed” (The Jewish Study Bible, p. 18).
James B. Coffman, Commentary of Genesis, pp. 68, 67.
Keeping up appearances is only a façade, a covering that hides the struggle and anguish of one’s loneliness and shame underneath. It’s not always easy to address, but it must be given attention. The attention one must give, however, is not a wall to keep out others, but a door opened when Jesus comes knocking.
In the minds of many folk at this time of the year, there is significance to the December 25th date. It does not matter if you tell them the Scriptures do not speak of any special-remembrance to the date of the Lord’s birth. What matters to them is that “the reason for the season” is a time to remember the Lord’s birth, coupled with gift-giving.
Perhaps we can resist that and be accurate in doing so, or we can take a different approach and move (teach) people from where they are to where they should (or could) be in their own understanding. This is my approach.
The text of this article comes from Matthew 27:27-31, Jesus was mocked by those who sought His death. I readily admit there is nothing in the text of Matthew 27:27-31 that lends itself to the Christmas season, but that is my point. Though I will speak against the “reason for the season” approach that most take, my primary focus is in telling others why Jesus came and the humiliation He suffered for having done nothing wrong, not even a single thing!
Jesus walked on the earth teaching the Father’s command to a people (the nation of Israel) steeped in rebellion to His revealed word. The Israelite nation would have, and did, reject the notion they were in rebellion to the Almighty’s exhortations as revealed in Scripture. Yet, Jesus, time and time again pointed out and demonstrated that is exactly what was occurring with them. More than that, though He pointed out their rebellion, it was only a part of His message. The other part was that He (Jesus) was the fulfillment of prophetic Scripture declarations. For instance, He said: Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished (Matthew 5:17-18, ESV).
This was more than the people of the nation wanted to hear, especially the religious leaders. Consequently, the leaders set themselves to be against Jesus. There were opportunities get Him, but they could not pull it off. Finally, they were able to arrest Him and put Him on trial. They did not realize that this was all a part of God’s plan. For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him (Acts 13:27).
Jesus stood before Rome’s governmental representative in the text of Matthew 27:27-31. The people in that court-setting looked at Jesus and with disdain mocked Him as they rejected His mission and message. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head (Matthew 27:28-30).
Jesus came to this earth to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), but the lost did not recognize their very-bad-standing in the Lord’s presence. Consequently, they rejected Him and His message. Because they failed to understand and most of the people living to day have failed to understand – the reason for the season is lost on everyone. What is the reason for the season? The reason for this season and every season of the calendar year is for the Christian to live and preach Jesus.
Here you have it. RT