Our world abounds with controversial issues ranging from politics to scientiﬁc theories, from social policy to religion. Among the chorus of dissenting voices rise competing perspectives regarding baptism. Continue reading “Clarifying Conversion Confusion”
Learn what it means for Jesus to be our propitiation.
Who trembles before the fearsome God? Today, people speak with contempt of the times when they talked about divine justice, God’s wrath and his holiness. There was certainly manipulation and exaggeration in it. But such seriousness is better than talking about God as Daddy in heaven and treating him as if he were a heavenly Santa Claus. Can we restore the following truth to our faith? Continue reading “God is always the same, in this way, too”
God uses the strong man of the Bible, despite himself.
Samson is one of the leaders of Israel that we remember – after all, he was the strong man of the Bible. He was a man called by God before birth to lead Israel and to lead a rather austere life. But even though he was called by God the life he lived was far from what God wanted. Continue reading “God works for his people’s good”
His main function: revealing the will of God.
We have seen the Holy Spirit was active in the Old Testament, particularly in inspiring the prophets. His work did not end there. Continue reading “The Holy Spirit and the New Testament”
John’s usages of “I AM” both inform and invite pondering
Through seven great “I am” metaphors, John powerfully communicated Jesus’ purpose. Jesus’ claims are readily recognizable: I am the bread of life; I am the light of the world; I am the door of the sheep, I am the good shepherd; I am the resurrection and the life; I am the way, the truth and the life; and I am the true vine.
Yet, these are not his only “I am” assertions in John’s Gospel. On several other occasions Jesus simply said, “I am” without completing the predicate. Perhaps the most well-known example of these is “Before Abaham was, I am” (John 8:58).
When Jesus made this claim, the crowd’s reaction revealed they understood Jesus to be uttering blasphemy. Not only had he claimed a greater than human existence, they likely understood Jesus to be using the language of Exodus 3:14 to identify himself with God.
The crowd understood his claim. From the start of this Gospel, John had developed the theme of Jesus’ divinity (John 1:1,14,18). This phrase “I am” provided John with one more tool. And so, we find it popping up in other stories as well.
On his final night Jesus crossed the book Kidron to enter a garden. As the evening progressed he would encounter a cohort of soldiers sent to arrest him. Jesus acknowledged to them that he was ‘Jesus the Nazorean’ by simply asserting, “I am” (John 18:5). At this the whole band of soldiers, perhaps around 600, retreated and fell to the ground (John 18:6).
This powerful scene reveals the truth of Jesus’ previous claim about his authority (John 10:18). No one would take his life from him, including a whole cohort of soldiers. Rather, he would choose to lay it down.
In the original language Jesus simply pronounced two words, “I am.” Yet, our Bibles typically render this as “I am he.” They are correct in doing so because this expression can convey a simple acknowledgement. Accordingly, the man born blind said “I am” to confirm who he was (John 9:9).
John can use “I am” on Jesus’ lips with a dual function. They can serve an overt declaration of his divinity as well as identify him as the Nazorean. The lines can become blurry.
In the dialogue leading up to this claim that before Abraham was born ‘I am,’ Jesus taught the crowd: “you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am, you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). Based upon their response, the Jews clearly did not understand this as a claim to divinity (John 8:25).
While we can certainly agree that people must acknowledge Jesus is the Christ to be forgiven, did John also hint at more? Should we be surprised that commentators understand Jesus’ words in two ways, especially when Jesus’ claim parallels a similar claim by God? Isaiah 43:10?
Stepping backward through the Gospel we arrive at the stormy night on the Sea of Galilee. The disciples had rowed several miles into the sea when Jesus came to them walking on the water. Stepping upon the water, Jesus said, “I am. Do not be afraid (John 6:19-20).” Should we be surprised that commentators understand Jesus’ words in two ways?
Even closer to the Gospel’s beginning we encounter Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. After she revealed that she knew the Messiah was coming, Jesus responded, “I am, the one who is speaking to you” (John 4:26). Jesus clearly indicated he was the Messiah.
Is this all that John was communicating? Perhaps. And yet in view of God saying to his people, “I am the one who says” (Isaiah 52:6), perhaps an initial soft drumbeat has struck that will grow into a crescendo with a band of soldiers falling down before Jesus.
Overstatement is not good. We must be careful. Repeatedly, Jesus did identify himself as being the person in question – just as any other person would do. John also used this same phrase to reveal much more. Given the highly thematic nature of this Gospel, John’s Gospel can draw us in to ponder.
Perhaps John intended us to spend time pondering Jesus of Nazareth who looked like any other human being, but who was at the same time the Son of God. What we can be certain is that if we will believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, we will have life in his name.
It all starts with a decision about God or not God.
It’s not philosophy, nor psychology, but decisions about reality and how it impacts our daily choices. It starts with a decision about God or not God. Continue reading “Decisions of realty”
Here’s one often uncounted blessing.
BY GERALD COWAN ─ Your attitude can make or break you, heal or hurt you, bring you happiness or misery, success or failure. Perhaps if we work on one thing – thanksgiving – other things, like praise, will develop and come naturally. Continue reading “An uncounted blessing”
Do we step forward when leadership is needed?
One of the leaders God raised up when Israel had forsaken him and had been subdued by an enemy was an unlikely man named Gideon. I say ‘unlikely’ because he really didn’t have the qualities we would look for in a leader. He is introduced in Judges 6. Continue reading “God’s kind of leader”
The Spirit was active in the Old Testament.
The work of the Holy Spirit can be seen throughout the Old Testament. He often inspired men to deliver God’s message, called forth-telling. He also caused men to declare things that would happen in the future, or foretelling. We will look at just a few of these. Continue reading “The Holy Spirit and the prophets”
In the English language we face a problem with the word love.
Regardless of economics, race or status, people value love and recognize love shapes what is good and true. However, in the English language we face a problem. We use love so broadly it looses clarity. I love ice cream. I love my dog. I love my spouse. I love my friends. Continue reading “A short handbook on love”