Who Is Most Condemned By The Cross?

March 30 2015

Hebrews 6:4-6

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

This is the sixth blog dealing with Questions Concerning The Cross.  Today let’s consider Who Is Most Condemned By The Cross?  In Friday’s blog I pointed out that according to John 16:11, “…the ruler of this world is judged.”  Satan is the ruler of this world, having usurped that authority from Adam when he chose to obey the devil rather than God (see Genesis 1:26, 28; 3:1-6).  The evil one was judged when Jesus died, His death and resurrection redeeming all creation from the curse of sin.  The Lord experienced the worst that the prince of darkness could do – the cross – and He achieved the ultimate victory when He arose from the dead and ascended back to the Father.  Satan might be a candidate for being Most Condemned By The Cross, but there are other candidates also:

•      Is Judas Iscariot the one Who Is Most Condemned By The Cross?  After all, he was one of the twelve disciples who were with Jesus for the greater part of His three-year ministry!  Judas heard the teachings from the Lord Jesus Himself.  He was there helping distribute five little loaves of bread and two fish when Christ fed “…about five thousand men, besides women and children…,”  and they had “…twelve baskets full…” of leftovers! (Matthew 14:15-21).  In the next chapter, Matthew 15:32-38, Judas helped serve “…seven loaves…and a few little fishes…” feeding four thousand men plus women and children, with seven large baskets left over! (Matthew 15:32-38).  He experienced the raging storm on the Sea of Galilee quieted by just three words spoken, “Peace, be still.” (Mark 4:39).  He saw the amazing healing miracles performed – even Jesus touching the untouchable leper and instantly curing that disease! (Matthew 8:2, 3).  And at least twice Judas was there and witnessed the Master raising people from the dead! (Luke 7:11-15; John 11:38-44).

And yet according to Matthew 26:14 through 16, it was Judas who betrayed the Lord for a measly thirty pieces of silver!  (See also Matthew 26:21-25; 26:47-50; Luke 22:47, 48; Acts 1:16-20).  But further testimony from Jesus Himself identifies this man Judas as “…a thief…” (John 12:4-6); and “…the son of hell…” (John 17:12 – The Living Bible).  So despised is Judas through history that the fourteenth century Italian poet Durante degli Alighieri, in Dante’s Inferno, describes this betrayer of Jesus as occupying the ninth level of hell – the lowest and most torturous place a soul could be!  But he the Most Condemned By The Cross?

•      Is Pontius Pilate the one Who Is Most Condemned By The Cross?  The damning evidence to bolster this charge that a prosecutor might introduce is John 18:37 and 38:

      Pilate…said to Him, “Are You a king then?”  Jesus answered, “You say rightly
      that I am a king.  For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come
      into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the
      truth hears My voice.”  Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”  And when he
      had said this, he went out…

Jesus had plainly stated in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.Jesus is the Truth! He speaks the truth! He is the embodiment of truth! Pilate had the Truth standing right in front of him, and he turned away and went out – to his own destruction! Pontius Pilate is rightly condemned, but is he The Most Condemned By The Cross?

•      Are the Jewish leaders the ones Who Are Most Condemned By The Cross?  Many of those leaders plotted, planned and called for the death of the Lord Jesus Christ!  When Pilate tried to expunge himself from guilt concerning Jesus, he publicly washed his hands and said to “…the chief priests and elders…I am innocent of the blood of this just Person.  You see to it.” (Matthew 27:12, 24).  The Jewish leaders are the ones who incited “… all the people…[to say] ‘His blood be upon us and on our children.’ ” (Matthew 27:25).  Those unrepentant Jewish leaders stand condemned!  But are they the Most Condemned By The Cross?

I find the answer to Who Is Most Condemned By The Cross? in Hebrews 6:4 through 6:

      …it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the
      heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted
      the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to
      renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the
      Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

I believe in eternal security – once you are truly saved, you will never totally fall away again into unbelief.  But this discussion is for future blogs.  Here, I think those to whom the writer of Hebrews is referring are those who have come close, but never made a heart-felt personal commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ!  They were enlightened but never came into the brilliance of “…the light of the world…” (John 8:12; 9:5).  They have “…tasted of the heavenly gift…the good word of God and the powers of the age to come…” (Hebrews 6:4, 5), but have never heartily consumed the Son of God as He Himself taught in John 6:51 through 58.  These are like the ones described in The Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:5, and interpreted by the Lord in Matthew 13:20 and 21:

      But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word
      and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but en-
      dures only for awhile.  For when tribulation or persecution arises because of
      the word, immediately he stumbles.

This one is Most Condemned By The Cross because he has heard and somewhat understood, and yet falls away!  This is the one about whom Jesus speaks in Luke 12:47:  “And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself to do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.”  Again, from Luke 8:18:  “…take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to Him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.

The warning of severe condemnation is clear: …it is impossible…if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.” (Hebrews 6:4, 6).  These, I believe, are those Who Are Most Condemned By The Cross!

What Did The Cross Accomplish? – II

March 27 2015

John 16:7-11

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Continuing with the forth Question Concerning The Cross, What Did The Cross Accomplish? it occurred to me that we did not entirely cover the second of the three things accomplished according to John 16:7-11.  Here are all five verses of this scripture which features these three accomplishments:

      …I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not
      go away, the Helper [the Holy Spirit] will not come to you; but if I depart, I
      will send Him to you.  And when He has come, He will convict the world of
      sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:  of sin, because they do not be-
      lieve in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and you see Me no
      more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

•      John 16:8, 10 – “…He will convict the world…of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and you see Me no more…

We learned that the resurrection of the Lord and His ascension back to the Father was vindication that Jesus’ sacrifice is accepted by God.  The Son had paid for the sin of man and had satisfied the righteousness of God!  The penalty for sin had been set, and it is recorded in Ezekiel 18:4 and 20 – “The soul who sins shall die.”  When Jesus died, He died as the sinner, loaded with all the sin of the world ever committed!  But He had never sinned!  So He was the righteous Lamb of God sacrificed in place of the sinner – you and me!  Both the righteousness and the judgment of God were upheld!  And His mercy and grace were extended to us!  Now all we have to do is believe in that One and receive Him into our hearts and lives – that One who died and lives again for us!

That’s the first part of verse 10, and we covered this in our last blog.  But how does “…and you see Me no more…” fit into convicting “…the world…of righteousness…?

After Jesus had risen from the dead, He appeared to ten of the disciples in the upper room.  “But Thomas, called Didymus, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.” (John 20:24).  When Jesus appeared again eight days later, recorded in John 20:25 through 29, Thomas was with them.

      Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands;
      and reach your hand here, and put it into My side.  Do not be unbelieving,
      but believing.”  And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my
      God!”  Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have
      believed.  Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.”

Multitudes over the centuries have not seen Jesus Christ in the flesh, and yet they have believed and been declared righteous before the Father – their sin cleansed away…by the blood of the Lamb…” (Revelation 12:11).  Their salvation and resultant changed lives for God and good are a powerful testimony to the righteousness of God!

This completes the second of the three things that the cross accomplished.  The third is as follows:

•      John 16:8, 11 – “…He will convict the world…of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”  Who is the one who has caused the most damage in God’s creation?  It is Satan, here called “…the ruler of this world….”  The devil is the one who introduced sin into God’s perfect creation by rebelling against his Creator and conspiring to take the ultimate place of control! (see Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:12-19).  Then, in the form of a serpent in Genesis 3:1 through 6, he offered man the same temptation which caused the devil’s own downfall – “…you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5).  Adam bit, and so sin entered into mankind!

Satan, here in John 16:11, is the embodiment of sin!  And sin was judged and conquered at the cross!

Why is Satan is called “…the ruler of this world… Because in Genesis 1:26 and 28 God gave Adam dominion over all the earth!  But when the first man obeyed the devil instead of God, that dominion was transferred to the usurper, the wicked one!  This is confirmed by what Satan told Jesus on the Mount of Temptation in Luke 4:6:  “All this authority […all the kingdoms of the world… (Luke 4:5)] I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.

The crucifixion represented the best plan of the devil to get rid of Christ!  The worst was done to the Lord at Calvary, and Jesus gained came through victorious when He rose from the dead!  The Holy Spirit now shows forth that victory –…the ruler of this world is judged…!

What Did The Cross Accomplish? – I

March 25, 2015

John 16:7-11

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

This blog is the fourth in the series, Questions Concerning The Cross.  Today’s offering is What Did The Cross Accomplish?  In John 16:7-11 Jesus is technically referring to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, to dwell in those who accept Him as Savior – the founding of the Church. But the Lord had “…to go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7).  To “go awayHe had to die on Calvary’s cross!  The rest of our scripture tells us three things that were accomplished by that – verses 8 through 11:

      And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteous-
      ness, and of judgment:  of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of right-
      eousness, because I go to My Father, and you see Me no more; of judgment,
      because the ruler of this world is judged.

Let’s look at these three things:

•      John 16:8, 9 – “…He will convict the world of sin…because they do not believe in Me….”  You might say, “The greatest sin, if identified, would included all other sins, they being lesser.”  What is the greatest sin of all?  It is that which affects in the greatest way our eternal destiny.  And that sin would be rejecting the Savior and what He accomplished on our behalf on the cross!  He died, bearing our sins and totally paying the price before His Father to make us clean by His blood, declared righteous in Him, reconciled to God, and – as it says in Ephesians 1:6 – “…accepted in the Beloved.”  To reject His sacrifice is the unforgivable sin!

I know the unforgivable sin is described by Jesus differently in Matthew 12:31 and 32:

      …I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blas-
      phemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.  Anyone who speaks a
      word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks
      against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in
      the age to come.

But think about it – the job of the Holy Spirit is to draw a person to the Son so he or she can be reconciled to the Father through the sacrifice of the Son (see John 6:44; Romans 8:14; I Corinthians 2:10).  A person so drawn to Jesus must then decide whether to accept Him and His sacrifice on his or her behalf, or reject Him.  As it says in I John 5:11 and 12:

      …this is the testimony:  that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in
      His Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God
      does not have life.

If rejecting Christ is so great a sin as to seal one’s eternal destiny – forever in torment in hell! – then it is no wonder that Jesus used this to summarize all sin!  The Holy Spirit…will convict the world of sin…because they do not believe in Me…” (John 16:8 and 9).

•      John 16:8, 10 – “…He will convict the world…of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and you see Me no more…”  How does the return of Jesus Christ back to the Father in heaven reveal God’s righteousness?  God’s righteous nature demands that sin be paid in full! What the debt because of sin was incurred before God?  Ezekiel 18:4 and 20 – “The soul who sins shall die.”  God told Adam in Genesis 2:16 and 17:

      Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the know-
      ledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you
      shall surely die.

The basis of that first sin was willful disobedience of the direct command of God!  Eve and Adam ate and they died – spiritually first, being separated from the fellowship with God (see Genesis 3:8-10); and then physically many years later (see Genesis 5:3-5).  Paul tells us in Romans 5:12 how all of us then inherited that deadly condition:  “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned….

The soul who sins shall die.”  So death will follow the sinner – all the way through eternity – unless that debt is paid!  But a sinner cannot pay that debt!  All that a sinner can do is tainted by sin!  Even the best actions of a sinner is more sin! (see Isaiah 64:6).  But if someone sinless could be found….

When Jesus died on the cross, He died as a man accused of horrendous crimes against the Roman government and against the Jewish religion.  He was condemned as an egregious sinner!  But what was it that showed He was not a sinner – that He was the righteousness of God Himself?  The Father raised Him from death and received Him back into heaven to be at His own right hand (see Ephesians 1:20-23).  So the cross – the Lord’s return to heaven and the sending of the Holy Spirit following Jesus’ death on the cross –…will convict the world…of righteousness…because I go to My Father….

We will continue in the next blog with the last of the three things that were accomplished by the cross.

When Did The Cross Happen?

March 23, 2015

Revelation 13:8; I Peter 1:18-20

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

When Did The Cross Happen?  What was the date when Jesus of Nazareth was crucified just outside of Jerusalem?  To pin down the exact date is difficult for the following reasons:

•      Dionysius Exiguus published his research in 527 AD that Jesus was born on December 25th in the 754th year after the founding of Rome.  And so he introduced the idea that Christ was born in the year 1 AD.

But Matthew 2:1 it says “…Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king….”  But Herod the king died as early as 8 BC! (See www.biblical chronology.com/herod.htm for a good discussion of the chronological evidence involved).  As recorded in Matthew 2:2 the Magi came to Jerusalem and inquired, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews? ”  Herod felt his rule threatened and in Matthew 2:16 it says, “…he…was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under.”  ‘The slaughter of the Innocents’ – by which this heinous deed is known – took place up to two years after the coming of the Magi, according to Matthew 2:7.  So the latest estimates (incorporating Josephus’ writings and other extra-biblical sources) put Jesus’ birth as early as 10 BC!

This would date Jesus’ crucifixion around 23 AD, since it is thought he was around 33 years old when He died.

•      Another reckoning from the Biblical record is from the information given in Luke 3, verses 1, 2 and 23:

      Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate
      being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother
      Philip tetrarch of Iturea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias
      the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the
      word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness….Now
      Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age….

On September 17, 14 AD, Tiberius became emperor of Rome.  In his fifteenth year the date would have been either late 28 AD or into 29 AD.  The reigns and time in the positions of the others named in these verses also confirm that date.  Close to this time it says that Jesus was “…about thirty years of age….”  If, as the gospels suggest, His ministry lasted around three years, His crucifixion would have taken place around 32 AD.

You can begin to see the chronological problems!

But let’s shift our focus to our featured scriptures – Revelation 13:8 and I Peter 1:18-21.  I put these in reverse order from where they are found in the Bible because of the thoughts they convey:

•      In Revelation 13:8 it tells us that Jesus is “…the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

•      I Peter 1:18 through 20 says, “[you know] that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.  He was indeed foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you….

The emphasis in both of these scriptures is “…from [or]…before the foundation of the world….”  In other words, the Triune God planned the redemption of fallen man through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross long before the world was even created!  And in the mind of God it was an accomplish fact from eternity past!

This raises another question:  God being omniscient – all-knowing – why did He create the world and mankind if He knew man would fall into sin and all creation would be placed under a curse?  Why did God go ahead with it if the redemption of creation would cost Him the life of His Son?

I think it demonstrates some aspects of God’s attributes we would not have otherwise seen.  These would include…

•      He shows forth His love, mercy and grace toward His creation.  (Remember, according to Romans 8:19 through 23, Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection redeemed not just the souls of sinful human beings, but of all creation!)

•      He reveals His infinitely powerful mind, devising such a profound yet simple plan to redeem all creation!

•      He demonstrates His omnipotence (being all-powerful).  By His power, God overcame all the opposition Satan and his hosts could throw against Him!

•      He brings forth His glory as redeemed people grow more and more to be like Jesus!

So When Did The Cross Happen?  In time – almost two thousand years ago.  In the mind of God – infinitely long ago!

What Held Jesus On The Cross?

March 20, 2015

Hebrews 12:2

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Today’s blog deals with the second of eight Questions Concerning The Cross – What Held Jesus On The Cross?  One of the most obvious answers would be the nails.  In 1968 an ancient first century tomb was discovered northeast of Jerusalem.  Eight ossuaries were found in this tomb containing the bones of 17 individuals.  An ossuary is a burial box for bones after the flesh has decomposed – about a year after death.  The ossuary of one man was inscribed with his name, Yehohanan, the son of Hagakol.  He was about 28 when he died – the result of crucifixion!  And his remains are the only ones of a crucified individual discovered to date.  His heel bones were found to be nailed together with a seven inch iron nail, bent into a severe curl at its end.  A small chunk of olive wood was still clinging to the curled nail.  Apparently, the man’s legs were bent sharply and forced to his left, and a nail driven through both feet into the cross upon which he died.  But the nail was driven into a large hard knot and the tip bent as it was pounded in.  The nail was then so difficult to extract when the body was removed from the cross that the feet had to be amputated!  When the feet were finally retrieved, part of the olive wood cross came with it!  You can read the article in Biblical Archeological Review and reproduced online at www. biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/crucifixion/a-tomb-in-jerusalem-reveals-the-history-of-crucifixion-and-roman-crucifixion-methods/

But we have to keep in mind the power at Jesus’ disposal!  Just before being taken into custody by “…a great multitude with swords and clubs…[sent from] the chief priests and elders of the people…” (Matthew 27:47), Jesus stated, “…do you think that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).  Seventy-two thousand plus angels!  (A Roman legion at full strength consisted of 6,000 soldiers).  If, as recorded in II Kings 19:35, one angel in one night killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers who were besieging Jerusalem, what could …more than twelve legions of angels… accomplish?!  Surely, they could have delivered Jesus Christ from His tormentors and from His death upon Calvary’s cross!

Further, consider the power of Jesus’ word and touch.  Multiple times in scripture the Lord touched people with all sorts of diseases, and they were healed (see Matthew 8:1-14 and many other scriptures).  In Matthew 8:8 “The centurion…said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof.  But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.’ ”  The Lord did, and he was!  It is recorded in Genesis 1:3, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light.”  And in Colossians 1:16 and 17 Paul writes:

      For by Him [Jesus Christ] all things were created that are in heaven and
      that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or
      principalities or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him. 
      And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

Jesus Christ is the Word of God (see John 1:1, 14).  So it was Jesus who spoke the words,Let there be light….”  According to the Colossians scripture above, the word of the Son of God brought all creation into existence, and it continues to sustain all creation.  His word is that powerful!

Could not Jesus have simply spoken the word and the nails would have flown out of His hands and feet, He would have been totally healed, and would no longer be hanging on the cross?  He also could have annihilated the Roman soldiers and the opposing Jews with just a spoken command!

No, the nails did not hold Jesus on the cross!

But what held Him there?  The answer is in Hebrews 12:2:

      …looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy
      that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has
      set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

So it was joy that held Him there!  What was the object of such joy that could hold the Savior through such torture?  That joy was you and me – made clean by His blood, reconciled to the Father through the sacrifice of the Son suffering and dying in our place, and paying totally for our sins!  Jesus looked ahead and saw many sinful human beings cleansed and brought back into a close and loving relationship with the Triune God through Himself and what He did on the cross.

May this idea of What Held Jesus On The Cross? give you a new appreciation of how much God loves you!

Who Put Jesus On The Cross?

March 18, 2015

John 10:17, 18

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

There are eight blogs to be written before Easter Sunday, April 5. We are going to explore eight Questions Concerning The Cross, the first being Who Put Jesus On The Cross?  I have heard the following answers:

•      The Romans put Jesus on the cross.  After all, crucifixion was the method of capital punishment the Romans reserved for slaves and the worst criminals – murderers, insurrectionists, and sometimes thieves.  Romans citizens were supposed to be exempt from this cruel method of death.  It was the Roman governor, Pilate who gave the order to crucify Jesus (see Mark 15:15).  And it was the Roman soldiers who carried out the order, compelling Him to carry the cross – until they recruited Simon of Cyrene to carry it for Him (see John 19:17; Matthew 27:32).  And when they reached Golgotha, it was the Roman soldiers who stripped the Lord and nailed Him to the cross.  And one of their own speared Him in the side (see Psalm 22:16, 18; John 20:25).

•      The Jews put Jesus on the cross.  Many of the Jewish religious leaders, members of the Sanhedrin, including the high priest, plotted to silence Jesus’ teachings.  They were too often on the receiving end of the Lord’s strong criticism, especially directed at the Pharisees and scribes who loaded down God’s commands with restrictive man-made laws (see Matthew 23:1-36).  So they sought a way “…to put Him to death…,” (John 11:53), finally condemning Jesus by means of an illegal Sanhedrin trial (see Matthew 26:59; 27:1).  Then they “…delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor…” (Matthew 27:2) who gave the sentence of crucifixion after “…the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas [an insurrectionist, murderer and robber] and destroy Jesus.” (Matthew 27:20).  Also, the Jews took upon themselves the blame of Jesus’ death when they cried out to Pilate in Matthew 27:25, “His blood be upon us and on our children.

•      Satan put Jesus on the cross.  From the beginning, the devil tried to thwart God’s plan of redemption – first announced in Genesis 3:15 (see Genesis 4:8; Exodus 1:16, 22; Esther 3:6; Matthew 2:16; Luke 4;1-12 for examples of his opposition).  Finally, Satan plotted the death of Jesus by stirring up the hatred of the Jewish leaders and the fears of insurrection of the Roman overlords.  In I Corinthians 2:7 and 8, Paul wrote:

      But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which
      God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of
      this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord
      of glory.

The Greek word for “…the rulers of this age…” (NKJV) or “…the princes of this world…” (KJV) is ar-khone’ which means “a first (in rank or power) – chief (ruler), magistrate, prince, ruler.” (Strong’s Dictionary of the Words in the Greek New Testament).  In the New Testament ar-khone’ is used more than once for the devil (see Matthew 9:34; 12:24; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; Ephesians 2:2).  And a related word is ar-khay’ – “…chief (in various applications of order, time, place or rank)” (ibid.).  Ar-khay’ is used to refer to the demonic rulers under Satan’s authority, and for the devil himself (see Romans 8:38; Ephesians 3:10; 6:12; Colossians 1:16, 21; 2:10, 15).

Putting this together, Paul is saying in I Corinthians 2:8 above that although the devil and his minions thought they had planned Christ’s crucifixion, it proved to be their ultimate undoing.  So “…had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”  No, it was not ultimately Satan who put Jesus on the cross.

•      We put Jesus on the cross.  I am referring to “we” as sinners! Yes, Jesus hung on the cross bearing out sins (see II Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 2:24; I John 2:2).  If we had not sinned, He never would have had to go through the suffering and torment of such torture and death to save us!  But we did not put Him on that cross (i.e. force Him to die on it)!

So who did put Jesus on the cross?  The answer is in our scripture, John 10:17 and 18:

      Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life, that I may take
      it again.  No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.  I have power
      to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.  This command I have re-
      ceived from My Father.

Jesus is the One who put Himself on the cross! I lay down My life….No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.

And this leads into the next of the Questions Concerning The Cross – What held Jesus on the cross?

Baptism – III

March 16, 2015

Acts 8:36, 37

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Our scripture is from Acts 8:36 and 37, and it is in support of adult or believer’s baptism:

      And as they went down the road, they came to some water.  And the eunuch
      said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”  Then
      Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”  And he answered
      and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

There is argument against the validity of verse 37 – the second half of our scripture.  And that verse is the bolster point I have chosen for today’s emphasis.  Researching the question of this verse’s validity, I found this information on http://www.ecclesia.org/truth/manuscript_evidence. html, “Manuscript Evidence for Disputed Verses”:

      However, the verse is found in uncial E (6/7th century), the Old Latin (2nd century),
      the Vulgate (5th century) and is cited by Irenaeus (180 AD) and Cyprian (250 AD)
      ….Tertullian (2nd century), Pacian (370 AD), Ambrose and Augustine (4th century)
      …[knew] of the verse.

By the way, according to Wikipedia, “A New Testament uncial [mentioned above] is a section of the New Testament in Greek or Latin majuscule letters, written on parchment or vellum.

But the statement of Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch summarizes the general teaching of the New Testament on Baptism (see Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 2:38, 41; 8:12, 16; 8:36-38; 9:18; 10:47, 48; 16:14, 15; 16:31-33; 18:8; 19:5; 22:16; Romans 6:3, 4; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12).

Believer’s baptism is just that – one must have active faith in the Lord Jesus Christ before baptism. Baptism is then a testimony of that faith.  And water baptism – especially and only immersion in water – shows our identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

•      We are identified with His death in that we are plunged into the water.

•      We are identified with His burial in that we are completely submerged under the water.

•      We are identified with His resurrection in that we are then raised up out of the water to live a new life in Jesus.

But let me be clear on that last statement: Baptism does not save anyone!  After all, the Lord told the thief on the cross, after his confession of faith in the Messiah being crucified next to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”  No way could the repentant thief have been baptized! He was hanging on a cross and dying!  Baptism is a matter of obedience, not salvation!  And it should be one of the first demonstrations of obedience by the Christian who has put his or her faith in the Lord!

I contend (humorously) that there are other mediums in which one can be baptized – such as dirt!  A hole can be dug in the ground, the believer can be dumped in and buried.  But that one might not be dug up in time!!!  So water is the perfect medium for a believer to proclaim his or her identity with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.  And water has been used for millennia for such rituals of baptism.

An infant or young child does not have the understanding of the purpose and work of Jesus Christ to put their faith into what He has accomplished on behalf of them.  That one has to be mature enough to understand the basics of the of the gospel.  Paul summarized those basics in I Corinthians 15:3 and 4:

      For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for
      our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose
      again the third day according to the scriptures….

I have baptized by immersion a young lady at the age of seven.  But she was spiritually precocious, having an understanding of the gospel more advanced than some adults!  After careful questioning, I heartily agreed she was ready to proclaim her faith to the world.  Thirty years later, my decision is still confirmed – she is a strong and active believer in and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ!

These three blogs certainly do not put to rest the heated discussion that has been part of Christianity for centuries.  But perhaps it will stimulate your further interest and study.  May God lead you as you do your own reseach and make your own decisions.

Baptism – II

March 13, 2015

Acts 16:26-34

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

In the last blog I said we would explore the evidence that supports infant baptism.  Being a Baptist, I admit I am biased toward adult baptism – believer’s baptism.  But I want to be fair in presenting both sides of this controversial issue.  I do have to say I do not find a lot of convincing evidence, especially from the scriptures, that supports infant baptism.  However, one such passage is Acts 16:26 though 34. Paul and Silas had been arrested, beaten and imprisoned in the city of Philippi in Greece.  Instead of bemoaning their lot, these two disciples of Jesus “…were praying and singing hymns to God…” during the night (Acts 16:25).

      Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison
      were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s
      chains were loosed.  And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and
      seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his
      sword and was about to kill himself.  But Paul called with a loud voice,
      saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”  Then he called for a
      light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.  And he
      brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  So they
      said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and
      your household.”  Then they spoke word of the Lord to him and to all who
      were in his house.  And he took them the same hour of the night and washed
      their stripes.  And immediately he and all his family were baptized.  Now
      when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them, and he
      rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

It says, “…he and all his family were baptized.”  A Roman centurian’s family would most likely be large, including servants and their families.  There certainly could be children and even infants in this one household.  Being a male-dominated society in those days, when the head of the house made a family decision, all the members of that family would follow suit.  It does not say in the above scripture that infants and/or young children were baptized, but it could be inferred.  More than anything else, it is an argument from silence on the subject!

An argument in favor of infant baptism is also presented from a Covenant Theology position.  The idea is that the child is brought into the faith of his or her parents and the church family through baptism.  It is then the responsibility of the church family (especially the parents) to see that that child is trained up in the Christian faith, personally trusting in the Savior when he or she reaches responsible age.

The actions and commands of God toward His covenant people in the Old Testament are seen as infant Baptism support through types:

•      God commanded Abraham in Genesis 17:10 and 12, “Every male child among you shall be circumcised….He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised….” This was to be the sign forever of God’s covenant with Israel.  Many see circumcision as pointing to baptism (including infant baptism) – the sign of God’s covenant of saving grace.

•      As recorded in Exodus 14:22: “…the children of Israel went into the midst of the [Red Sea]…on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.”  Obviously that included adults, children and infants!  The Red Sea passage is often seen as a type of water baptism.

•      According to Numbers 14:29, when Israel rebelled against God at the negative report of ten spies and refused to enter the Promised Land of Canaan, the Lord told Moses, “Say to them…‘The carcasses of you who have murmured against Me shall fall in this wilderness, your entire number, from twenty years old and above.’ ”  But those under twenty were not held responsible for their actions!

Some say the New Testament argues for infant baptism in the following ways:

•      Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20).  John the Baptist was “…filled with the Spirit, even from His mother’s womb.” (Luke 1:15).  This is to show that God lays claim to children, infants and even the pre-born!

•      In Matthew 19:13 through 15 Jesus received and blessed children, saying in verse 14, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

•      In Luke 10:21 Jesus prayed to the Father, “You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.”  But the Lord could have been referring to “…the wisdom of this world [which] is foolishness with God.” (I Corinthians 3:19).

•      Jesus warned His disciples in Matthew 18:6 not to cause “…one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin….”  But was He talking about those who are immature and are called children in their faith? (see Hebrews 5:11-14).

•      Paul argues in I Corinthians 7:14 (NIV) that the unsaved mate of a Christian husband or wife “…has been sanctified through his…” or her mate.  “Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

In summary, baptism – which includes infant baptism…

…is not primarily a sign of repentance and faith on the part of the baptized….It
is a sign of the gracious election of the Father who plans and establishes the
covenant….a sign of God’s calling….also a sign of the substitutionary work of the
Son in which the covenant is fulfilled….Finally, baptism is a sign of the regenera-
tive work of the Holy Spirit by which individuals are brought into the covenant in
the responsive movement of repentance and faith.” (Geoffrey Bromiley, Baker’s
Dictionary of Theology, “Baptism, Infant”)

Baptism – I

March 11, 2015

Matthew 28:18-20

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

A criticism of our pastor has recently arisen in the Baptist church to which I belong.  One regular attendee has been spreading his displeasure about what the pastor allegedly said in a sermon – that “If you are not baptized, you are going to hell!”  First, let me be clear that our pastor did not say this – and he does not believe this!  Apparently, the offended attendee (not a member) heard wrong!  What was said in the sermon – and in more than one sermon, by the way – was that baptism is a matter of obedience, and you cannot be an obedient Christian if you have not been baptized!

What is the scriptural basis for such a statement?  One main scripture is from Jesus’ lips, recorded in Matthew 28:18 through 20:

      All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and
      make disciples of the all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and
      of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have
      commanded you; and, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

There are other scriptural instructions and examples concerning baptism (see Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 2:38, 41; 8:12, 16; 8:36-38; 9:18; 10:47, 48; 16:14, 15; 16:31-33; 18:8; 19:5; 22:16; Romans 6:3, 4; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12).

Let’s look first of all at something that has divided Christiandom for centuries – the interpretation of just what is baptism.  Many major denominations, both Protestant and Catholic, hold that baptizing infants is the proper thing to do. Baptists – for 42 years I have been an American Baptist pastor – generally believe in and practice adult baptism, or what is referred to as believer’s baptism.  What do the scriptures say?

•      The Greek word for baptize is bap-tid’-zo, and literally translated it means (according to Strong’s A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament) “to make whelmed (i.e. fully wet); used only (in the New Testament) of ceremonial ablution, especially (technically) of the ordinance of Christian baptism….”  The prime verb of bap-tid’-zo is bap’-to meaning, “to whelm, i.e. cover wholly with a fluid….”  Hence to baptize means to immerse!

•      The only waters of baptism that are identified in the New Testament are mentioned in John 3:23.  That place is about 25 miles south of the Sea of Galilee where John the Baptist was baptizing later in his ministry:  “…in Aenon near Salem, because there was much water there.”  The words “much waterimply immersion.

•      Considering believer’s baptism mentioned above, saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ should always precede baptism!  On the day of Pentecost, the Jews who attentively listened to Peter’s first sermon (Acts 2:14 through 36), cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do? ” (Acts 2:37).

      Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the
      name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift
      of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38).

It is also written in Acts 2:41 of those Pentecost believers:  “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized….

Saul (the Apostle Paul) experienced the same order of faith and baptism.  He was saved on the Damascus Road when the glorified Christ appeared to him in a special vision (see Acts 9:1 through 9).  But three days later, after Ananias prayed for him, it says in Acts 9:18, “…and he arose and was baptized.

Other New Testament personalities experienced this same order – the Samaritans who responded in faith to Philip’s ministry (Acts 8:5-12); the Roman centurian Cornelius and his family and friends (Acts 10:24 through 48); the Philippian jailer and his family (Acts 16:30 through 34); Crispus and many other Corinthians (Acts 18:8); and the Ephesian disciples (Acts 19:4 and 5).

But Jesus had previously instructed His followers to observe that very order of baptism following saving faith in Matthew 28:19:  “Go…and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Again in Mark 16:15 and 16 the Lord said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved….

Those who practice believer’s baptism ask advocates of infant baptism,How can an infant understand the gospel? How can such a one have saving faith in Jesus Christ?

We have not dealt with the question raised at the beginning of this blog – is baptism necessary for salvation?  We will examine this in due time – after we look in our next blog at what support there is for infant baptism.

Three-Act Play, Act Three, Scene III

March 9, 2015

I Peter 1:18-21

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

The Three-Act Play known as the Prodigal Son seems to close in Luke 15 after the end of Act Two which tells us of the elder brother – obedient in his self-righteousness because he wanted to gain control of his father’s wealth!  And we saw how he failed in his familial duty to seek his prodigal younger brother and bring him home from the pig sty in a far country, reconciling him to his father and family.  He represents the self-righteous “…Pharisees and scribes…” in Luke 15:2 who failed to seek out for God “…the tax collectors and sinners…” (Luke 15:1), represented by the younger brother.  If in Luke 15 the final curtain of the play comes down, then we are left with a terrible dilemma – the younger son has repented and is reconciled to the father, but the elder son is still estranged!

But we have gone on to Act Three.  This Act is not part of the parable, but it is implied by the Lord: Jesus Christ is to true Elder Brother who…has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10).  In the last blog we asked, “What hardships did Jesus endure to seek and to save us?  What were the costs He paid to redeem us?”  The hardships included the King of glory leaving heaven and coming all the way to earth to be a human being, a submissive servant!  The costs are summarized in I Peter 1:18 through 21:

      …you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your
      aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious
      blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.  He indeed was
      foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last
      times for you, who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead
      and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

We are…redeemed…with the precious blood of Christ….  Act Three is written in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ!  This is what it cost Him – His life!  When we think of Jesus being crucified, we focus on the horrible physical suffering through which He went:

•      He was so distressed as He prayed in the garden that He sweat blood (Luke 22:44).
•      He was arrested, bound, & manhandled to the high priest’s house (John 18:12, 13).
•      He was struck by a temple soldier at Annas’ residence (John 18:22).
•      They spit upon Him and hit Him after the illegal trial at Caiaphas’ house (Mark 14:65).
•      The Jewish leaders bound Him again & shoved Him to Pilate’s palace (Matthew 27:2).
•      He was taken to King Herod whose troops contemptuously mocked Him (Luke 23:11).
•      Pilate condemned Him to be whipped and then crucified (Mark 15:15).
•      Roman soldiers crowned Him with thorns, robed Him and beat Him (Mark 15:17-20).
•      He carried His cross until Simon of Cyrene was recruited (John 19:17; Mark 15:21).
•      He was crucified on Golgotha, nailed to the cross (Matthew 27:35; John 20:25).
•      He was speared through His side and into His heart by a Roman soldier (John 19:34).

But more than the physical abuse and suffering, Jesus was…made…to be sin for us…” (II Corinthians 5:21), taking upon Himself…the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:2 – KJV).  He…Himself bore our sins in His own body on the [cross]” (I Peter 2:24).  Since “…the wrath of God abides on him…who does not believe the Son…” (John 3:36) to have his sins washed away “…in His [Christ’s] own blood…” (Revelation 1:5), the wrath of God was poured out upon Jesus Christ as He was on the cross!  I believe that somehow Jesus suffered eternity in hell in the last three hours of the crucifixion when…there was darkness over all the land.” (Matthew 27:45).  Is it any wonder that He who had never been separated from the Father (see John 8:29), when He was made sin and sinner, He cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34).

That was the price Jesus paid…to save that which was lost…” (Luke 19:10) – physical and spiritual death – for us!  As it says in II Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

Now here is the irony of this parable:  The younger brother tried to gain control of his destiny through rebellion and sin. He was obviously lost!  But he repented and found his way back to his father.  He would forever enjoy his father’s wealth!  The elder brother tried to gain control of his destiny by being good and obedient, but he remained estranged from his father and the father’s riches!  He too was lost!  Yes, both of them were lost and needed to repent!

Both groups of listeners – the tax collectors and the sinners, and the Pharisees and scribeswere lost and needed to repent.  And Jesus – the true Elder Brother – made the way for all to be reconciled to the Father.  But it was much easier for the first group to recognize their need of the Savior because they knew they were sinners!  Self-righteousness and pride is much harder to overcome, and kept most of the second group far away from God!

Where are you in all this?  Have you recognized there is an Act Three written with Jesus’ own blood?  Has the true Elder Brother found you?  Are you made clean and acceptable to the Father by His blood?