One of the images God used for his people, the nation of Israel, was that of an olive tree which he had planted.
“The LORD once called you ‘a green olive tree, beautiful with good fruit.’ But with the roar of a great tempest he will set fire to it, and its branches will be consumed. The LORD of hosts, who planted you, has decreed disaster against you, because of the evil that the house of Israel and the house of Judah have done, provoking me to anger by making offerings to Baal.” (Jeremiah 11:16-17 ESV)
This image is taken from Psalm 52:8, where David describes himself as a green olive tree in the house of God. In Hosea 14:6 the nation of Israel after being restored to God following captivity is described as a beautiful olive tree with its shoots spread out. Continue reading “We are the Israel of God”
It is interesting how the titular heads of the world’s religions often explain inconsistencies in their teachings by appealing to the constantly changing situations in the world, although they are supposed to represent an immutable and holy God.
In the May 2011 issue of Christianity Today, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, the head of external relations for the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church was asked if wrong choices were made in the Cold War when the patriarchs cooperated with the Soviets.
“Some people say that the church made wrong choices. I don’t think this was the case, because the church had to exist under the conditions that were set without consulting her (the church).”
He said the situation the church found itself with the Soviets was identical to what the early church experienced and “the situation of total control of church life by the Communist regime was a very unhealthy situation. But this was the situation in which the church could live.”
The facts about the early church do not square with the Metropolitan’s statement. Many members of the Lord’s body went to their deaths on the cross in the Roman coliseum rather than deny their Lord. Others were eaten by animals in that same arena while singing praises to God.
God gave his inspired word so that man could follow an objective standard, one given by an immutable and holy God who breathed his word into the apostles (2 Timothy 3:16). Jesus words in Revelation 2:10, “Be thou faithful unto death,” did not end with “only if the situation warrants it.”
The allegations suggested by the interview had to do with the Russian Orthodox Churches’ priests and bishops turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the unmitigated suffering of the Russian people under Communist rule. The Metropolitan’s answer was basically, “that was the situation.”
by John Henson Very few people deny the existence of Jesus Christ. There’s too much evidence inside the Bible and in history books.
But, when the resurrection is discussed, there are many who deny its truth. Often, the attack on the resurrection is that the witnesses lied.
There are four reasons for witnesses to lie: 1) they may lie because of fear. 2) They may lie expecting gain. 3) Witnesses may lie for ambition’s sake. 4) A witness may be incompetent.
If any of these four can be established, then their testimony may be proven false.
The witnesses of Christ’s resurrection, described by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 fit none of these.
They did not lie for fear of their lives, indeed they gladly sacrificed themselves for their testimony because they knew it to be true.
The witnesses did not lie expecting monetary gain. Most Christians lived in poverty. The Christians in Judea suffered through a famine and were denied food, even when there was money enough to pay for it.
The witnesses of the resurrection did not lie to feed their ambition, for they willingly laid down all desire for higher physical station in life. They knew the highest standing was within the title they wore and the Lord they served (1 Peter 4:16).
As for incompetency, the proof of the soundness of mind is offered in the person of the Apostle Paul, who changed 180 degrees from imprisoning Christians to becoming one himself and writing at least 13 books of the New Testament. This is irrefutable truth of his lucidity.
Since it is clear that the witnesses of the resurrection did not lie, the resurrection to which they testified must be true.
God’s eternal existence is a theme that is sounded through the entire Bible.
If one aspect of God’s eternality is true, then God exists. Since the universe and the world exist, there must have been a cause for that creation. The cause is God, plain and simple. There has never been proof of the contrary, and there is plenty of proof the cause is God. Continue reading “God’s Eternality”
by John Henson The virgin birth of Christ is, and has been, a dividing line between those who believe the Bible and those who don’t; it has been a stumbling block for those who wish to be religious, but only wish to express a form of godliness (2 Timothy 3:5).
Matthew, the apostle of Christ and the penman of the first gospel account, begins his story of Jesus by stating in no uncertain terms, a prophecy from Isaiah 7:14, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, ‘God with us.'”
Men believe in the name Emmanuel. They believe Jesus was born and they believe his mother was with child. But they fight continually that Jesus was conceived from the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin.
One commentator of Matthew wrote, “This is a doctrine that presents us with many difficulties; and we are not compelled to accept it in the literal and physical sense.”/1 The only difficulty anyone should have with Matthew 1:23 is the difficulty to believe God’s word and obey it.
The proof of the virgin birth is what the Bible says. For those who believe the Bible, that is enough to prove the virgin birth. Additionally, the doctrine of the virgin birth has been settled from the beginning of the church.
Ignatius, of the Antioch Church of Syria, affirmed the virgin birth in his writings. Justin Martyr, another one of the acknowledged early Christian leaders, defended the virgin birth against opponents both Jewish and Gentile, as did Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian and Origen.
The strongest assaults against the virgin birth have come from rationalist philosophers in the 18th century./2
Modernists wish to make Christ an ordinary man and not God our Savior (Titus 1:3, 4). To do this, they preach that while Jesus was a genius, he is just an ordinary man. In order to solidify their doctrine, the virgin birth is the first casualty.
They do not give enough attention to Isaiah 7:14, for there Isaiah points to the physical birth of a male child, descended from King David; a man who will bear as king of David’s throne the government, and that his name would be “Mighty God, the Everlasting Father.”
As Turner observed, “How can a child of physical birth be Mighty God, the everlasting father? /3
Without a knowledge of the virgin birth, how can anyone truly appreciate God’s love and his giving of his son on the cross for the sins of the world?
1/ William Barclay, “The Gospel of Matthew,” Page 23
2/ “Systematic Theology” by Rex A. Turner, Sr., Page 163
by John Henson The best defense of the deity of Jesus in my library is within the pages of Rex A. Turner, Sr.’s scholarly work entitled “Systematic Theology” where he wrote an amazing 16-page exposition of the virgin birth of Christ.
Turner begins his defense by saying, “there were three classes of errorists who vehemently denied the doctrine of the virgin birth ? namely, the Ebionites, the Docetics, and the Cerinthians.”
Turner wrote the virgin birth has been continually attacked for the last three hundred years by rationalists, modernists and scientists who believe the doctrine has no basis in natural law or the laws of uniformity.
The reason why attacks on the virgin birth continue is that it points to the supernatural. If Jesus was born as any other man, he was just a man. If, however, the virgin birth is true, then Jesus is, indeed, God the Son and divine.
Turner’s conclusions review the many pages of his defense. There are six of them summarized here:
1. If Jesus was begotten of God, then he held a supernatural advantage over man from the beginning.
2. If Jesus was begotten of God, then he was/is deity and died in the place of fallen man.
3. If there was no virgin birth, then the deity of Christ would be relegated to the region of the wildest surmises, fantasies and imaginations of the human mind.
4. Rejecting the virgin birth rejects Jesus as more than what any other man is or may become.
5. Rejecting the virgin birth rejects the authority and infallibility of the scriptures.
6. Rejecting the virgin birth embraces a system of Christless Christianity.
In next week’s article, proofs for the virgin birth of Christ will be presented.
by John Henson Socrates used to irritate people when he asked the seemingly simple question, “What is good?”
Mankind has stumbled upon the definition of what is good since the beginnings of philosophy to the present day. Lately, they have decided that whatever works is good, as in pragmatism, or they have decided “whatever feels good,” is good.
The truth is, apart from God, man has no idea what good is.
Justice and righteousness are two attributes that demonstrate and define God’s goodness. Indeed, “there is no greater attribute in the society of men than the attribute of justice.”/1
When I say God is just, I mean he is holy and righteous. Every action God has ever taken is righteous. God’s holiness is the standard of good in the world, and even the world gets its ideas of justice from God. In most of the advanced civilizations of the world, the rule of law is maintained.
Because God does no wrong, he judges all men equally without regard to riches or political power. In addition, God’s lovingkindness recognizes good in people and he patiently waits their repentance and obedience (2 Peter 3:9).
That atheists accuse God of behaving wrongly against mankind demonstrates their own failure to understand how God uses justice to instruct and point the way to redemption. It has been said, “justice is a process of soul building, or preparation for an eternal home with God.”/2
The apostle Paul wrote:
“Do you suppose, O man– you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself– that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”(Romans 2:3-4 ESV).
God uses his justice to lead men to change their ways so they may be forgiven.
1/ “Systematic Theology,” by Rex A. Turner, Sr. page 49
2/ Ibid. Page 53
by John Henson What kind of God would be inaccessible, so that when we need him, he is so far away and disinterested as to be unconcerned?
Yet, when one thinks about the gods of the Greeks, isn’t this the picture? The Greeks often refused to pray to the gods of Olympus because they believed they didn’t care. Because the characteristics of gods were considered almost identical to humans, people had little respect.
Homer wrote in the Iliad:
“The immortals know no care, yet the lot they spin for man is full of sorrow; on the floor of Zeus’ palace there stand two urns, the one filled with evil gifts, and the other with good ones. He for whom Zeus the lord of thunder mixes the gifts he sends, will meet now with good and now with evil fortune; but he to whom Zeus sends none but evil gifts will be pointed at by the finger of scorn, the hand of famine will pursue him to the ends of the world, and he will go up and down the face of the earth, respected neither by gods nor men.”
It is easy for atheists to paint this picture of God because they believe he cares as little as did Homer’s gods. Including the one, true God of the Bible with fictional gods, however, is an unjust characterization.
God is often accused of being the deity of the Jews and not of anyone else. Such is not true at all. Isaiah wrote, “In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples–of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:10 ESV).
The word nations in this translation, is also rendered, “Gentiles,” in others. God cares for all.
Man may obey the commands of God in the New Testament and have complete access to him 24 hours a day, seven days per week.
In Matthew 28:18-20, the Bible tells us:
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,'” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV).
by John Henson One of the great attributes of God, which is often less explored, is his longsuffering or patience with people.
True, God has released his anger on those who are disobedient, but not before he had given them every chance to turn from their sins and repent.
In fact, there have been times when people questioned God about why he would not send his punishment. After Jonah was creatively convinced to do what he was told, he went to Nineveh and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown,” (Jonah 3:4 NASB).
Jonah wanted Nineveh’s destruction and was angered when God changed his mind because the people, led by the king, repented. In addressing God, Jonah told the truth about God’s longsuffering and said, “for I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity,” (Jonah 4:2b NASB).
Why does God allow the sinful to remain on the earth? Because it may be that some may repent and turn. The Apostle Peter wrote, “The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance,” (2 Peter 3:9 NASB).
by John Henson “Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:23-24).
God has the ability to be everywhere at the same time.
This attribute is called omnipresence and there is much conjecture about it. Of course, the major problem is the same problem with many of God’s attributes: people often look at the attributes of God from a human perspective instead of remembering God is not human.
Jesus, in John 4:24, said, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” So, we cannot think of God as being a physical or corporeal being and one who perceives things necessarily the same way we do.
Therefore, it is possible for God to be with a person in Paris, and with me in the United States.
The mistake many people make is that God is too often away looking into other things and not present watching them. God told Jeremiah, “Am I a God at hand, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him?”
Such an idea betrays man’s thinking as simply too human. God is not human. He fills heaven and earth, as Jeremiah wrote.
This is proven in Jesus, the Son of God, and his knowledge of Nathaniel in John 1:47-49. Jesus’ ability to have knowledge of Nathaniel showed this attribute of omnipresence.
The psalmist wrote, “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether,” (Psalm 139:2-4, ESV).
When the psalmist wrote God had the ability to “search out” David’s path, he meant that God has the ability to peer right into the very essence of David’s thought and character. And, so, he knows each of us on that very same level.