From heaven or from men

The Tuesday before his crucifixion Jesus made his way into the temple. He was approached by Jewish leaders who questioned his authority, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23).

It was a good question, though obviously not born out of sincerity. The need for authority in religious practice often is regrettably ignored, forgotten, or abused. Continue reading “From heaven or from men”

The Lord of the Sabbath

“Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:5-8, ESV).

The question of rules and laws is difficult. Without laws societies break down and survival often becomes a matter of strength and ruthlessness. But the rule of law may result in a rigid system which is void of mercy and compassion. Legalism values rules above human needs. Situation ethics and similar moral systems often lead to the suspension of law based only on subjective feelings or opinions. What is sufficient reason to “break” a rule is different for each one who faces difficulties. Is there not a reliable standard which may be enforced in all circumstances? Continue reading “The Lord of the Sabbath”

Credentials

“Master Gardener” — now there’s an oxymoron, if we are being honest. While there is a level of knowledge and expertise that one gains by attending classes and working with plants and landscapes, one never really gains mastery over those plants in general. They’ll just do as they want more often than we care to admit.

In fact, the speaker at the last local Master Gardener event bemoaned the demise of a very expensive Monkey Puzzle tree at the display gardens in Jackson, Tennessee. Apparently, the more pricey the plant, the less likely it will do what you want it to do. Continue reading “Credentials”

Logically right but spiritually wrong

“Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matthew 4:7).

Following Jesus’ baptism, God said: “This is my beloved son” (Matthew 3:17). Immediately afterward, Jesus was taken to the wilderness to fast and be tested 40 days.

Satan tempted him there. His temptations all began with, “If you are the son of God…” He began with something that seemed perfectly reasonable: make stones into bread and feed yourself.

Men easily err when they think of what is perfectly reasonable to them, but fail to consult God. Why not turn stones to bread? He had the power. He had the opportunity. Continue reading “Logically right but spiritually wrong”

“The Real McCoy”

Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew chapters five, six and seven is wholly original. Nothing like it had ever been preached before. While Pharisees and scribes almost always cited Old Testament references for their lesson points, Jesus used the Old Testament in a different way.

Six times in Matthew chapter five the phrases, “it was said,” and “but, I say to you,” were given by the Lord. Jesus was showing the truth of the Bible’s teachings in contrast to the narrow, limited and often mistaken applications of Jewish leaders. Continue reading ““The Real McCoy””

The Bible means what it says. Or, does it?

It is written” (Luke 4:12).

“The Bible means exactly what it says!” I’ve heard this a number of times, and in one sense, I agree. In another sense, that statement could inadvertently be more dangerous than it seems.

The Bible is not just a literal composition. Yes, it is a rule of thumb to understand any passage literally unless there is good reason or evidence to understand it otherwise. However, it should also be understood by all students of the Bible that there is plenty of reason to not take some passages literally. We will illustrate this in a moment. Continue reading “The Bible means what it says. Or, does it?”

Authority is given

“All power is given unto me” (Matthew 28:18)

Many of the sayings of Jesus are paradoxical in nature. In other words, they appear to contradict. Note: they do not actually contradict, but they appear to; that’s the nature of a paradox.

The statement above is one such paradox. If Jesus is divine as he claimed to be, how can he possibly receive authority from someone else? Continue reading “Authority is given”