“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things].” (Isaiah 45:7)
“[Thou art] of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity:…”(Habakkuk 1:13)
“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:” (James 1:13)
In above set of Scriptures, we find one of the supposedly contradictory texts of the Scriptures. On one hand, from the lips of the Lord Himself, He clearly states that “I create evil”. Then later in the Scriptures we find Habakkuk, as he speaks concerning the Lord, says “[
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Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is leading an effort by politicians and human rights groups to push the United States government to make the fight against Christian persecution a policy priority, including increased pressure on Iran to free American pastor Saeed Abedini.
Simply put, the meaning of the cross is death. In ancient times (i.e., from about the 6th century BC until the 4th century AD), the cross was an instrument of death by the most torturous and painful of ways. Crucifixion, which comes from the Latin “to fix to a cross,” was an ancient form of execution in which a person was either tied or nailed to a wooden cross and left to hang until dead. Death would be slow and “excruciatingly” (again from the Latin “out of crucifying”) painful. However, because of Christ and His death on the cross, the meaning of the cross is completely different.
In Christianity, the cross is the intersection of God’s love and His justice. Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). The reference to Jesus as the Lamb of God points back to the institution of the Jewish Passover in Exodus 12. The Israelites were commanded to sacrifice an unblemished lamb and smear the blood of that lamb on the doorposts of their homes. The blood would be the sign for the Angel of Death to “pass over” that house, leaving those covered by blood in safety. When Jesus came to John to the baptized, John recognized Him and cried: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29), thereby identifying Him and God’s plan for Him to be sacrificed for sin.
One might ask why Jesus had to die in the first place. This is the over-arching message of the Bible—the story of redemption. God created the heavens and the earth and he created man and woman in His image and placed them in the Garden of Eden to be his stewards on the earth. However, due to the temptations of Satan (the serpent), Adam and Eve sinned and fell from God’s grace. Furthermore, they have passed the curse of sin on to their children so that everyone inherits their the sin and guilt. God the Father sent his One and Only Son into the world to take on human flesh and to be the Savior of His people. Born of a virgin, he avoided the curse of the fall that infects all human beings. As the sinless Son of God, he could provide the unblemished sacrifice that God requires. God’s justice demanded judgment and punishment for sin; God’s love moved Him to send His one and only Son to be the propitiation for sin.
Because of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross, those who place their faith and trust in Him alone for salvation are guaranteed eternal life (John 3:16). However, Jesus called His followers to take up their cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). This concept of “cross-bearing” today has lost much of its original meaning. Typically, we use “cross-bearing” to denote an inconvenient or bothersome circumstance (e.g., “my troubled teen is my cross to bear”). However, we must keep in mind that Jesus is calling His disciples to engage in radical self-denial. Remember, the cross meant only one thing to a 1st century person—death. “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). Galatians reiterates this theme of death of the sinful self and rising to walk in new life through Christ: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Now those who live in the 21st century, particularly in North America and Europe, are probably not going to face severe persecution for being a Christian in our lifetimes. Yet there are places in the world where Christians are being persecuted, even to the point of death, for their faith. They know what it means to carry their cross and follow Jesus. For the rest of us our job is to remain faithful to Christ. We may never be called upon to give the ultimate sacrifice, but we must be willing to do so out of love for the One who saved us and gave His life for us.
Muslims ask, “How could Allah, being one, have a Son?” Misunderstanding the Trinity, they sometimes charge Christians with worshiping three gods. However, Christians believe that only one true God exists.
Jesus Himself upheld monotheism. When asked for the greatest command, Jesus responded, “… The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:29–30).
Jesus taught that God is one, and Jesus taught that He was one with God (John 10:30). In response, the Jews picked up stones to stone Jesus because they thought He was guilty of blasphemy. Similarly, Muslims would say a man claiming to be God would be guilty of “shirk.” However, Jesus is not a mere man claiming to be God. He is the Son of God in human flesh (John 10:36–38).
The title “Son of God” does not mean Jesus was literally born from God. The Bible does not teach a physical relationship between God and Mary, as Muslims sometimes charge. At the birth of Jesus, the angel told the virgin Mary:
“… ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.… of his kingdom there will be no end.’ And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’ And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God’ ” (Luke 1:30–35).
Pastor John MacArthur explains these verses: “Since a son bears his father’s qualities, calling a person someone else’s ‘son’ was a way of signifying equality. Here the angel was telling Mary that her Son would be equal to the Most High God” (The MacArthur Study Bible).
Man’s testimony that Jesus is God’s Son
When people witnessed Jesus’ miracles, teaching, death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven, many believed Jesus is the Son of God.
• Followers of Jesus testified after He calmed a storm: “And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’ ” (Matthew 14:32–33).
• Peter testified: “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven’ ” (Matthew 16:13–17).
• A woman, whose brother Jesus raised to life, testified: “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world’ ” (John 11:25–27).
• Even the demons know Jesus is the Son of God: “Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God’ ” (Mark 3:11).
• A military officer and soldiers who were guarding Jesus at His death on the cross testified: “When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’ ” (Matthew 27:54).
• Thomas testified after Jesus rose from the dead: “Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.’ Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’ Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:24–31).
Jesus’ own testimony that He is God’s Son
• “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill [Jesus], because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life’ ” (John 5:18–24).
• At Jesus’ trial, He testified: “… Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’ And Jesus said, ‘I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven’ ” (Mark 14:61–62).
• “We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).
God’s testimony that Jesus is His Son
• God spoke at Jesus’ baptism: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
• “While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him’ ” (Luke 9:34–35).
• “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:9–13).
• Previously, God had spoken to man through His prophets, but then He sent His own Son: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers by the prophets at many times and in various ways. But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son whom He has appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 1:1–3).
Jesus is the “exact representation” of God. Although one with His Father in essence, Jesus is also distinct in Person as God’s Son. God has revealed Himself as one God manifest in three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Even before the world began, Jesus was always with God and was God (John 1:1–2; 17:5). God created all things in the universe through Jesus (John 1:3; Colossians 1:15–20).
Although eternally one with God, Jesus came to earth in the form of man (Philippians 2:5–11). Born to the virgin Mary, Jesus is fully God and fully man at the same time (the incarnation: Matthew 1:22–23; John 1:14; Romans 1:3–4; Colossians 2:9; 1 John 4:1–3; 5:20).
Believe in the Son of God
We must believe God’s Word that Jesus is God’s Son, even though it’s hard to understand. We will die with many hard questions unanswered. But we dare not die without responding to God’s promise of judgment and salvation through His Son (John 3:35–36; 5:25–29; Acts 10:38–43; 17:30–31; 1 John 4:14–15).
As the perfect Son of God, Jesus didn’t deserve the punishment for sin, death (Romans 6:23). But by dying on the cross and rising from the dead, Jesus paid the penalty of sin and broke the power of sin for those who would be in Him (Romans 8:1–3).
God is calling sinners to turn from their own way to follow the living Lord Jesus in repentance and faith (Luke 24:46–47). We cannot save ourselves. Only those who turn from sin and trust in the Son of God are saved from sin and eternal death.
“God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16–18).
The Bible is not perfectly clear as to the nature of the human soul. But from studying the way the word soul is used in Scripture, we can come to some conclusions. Simply stated, the human soul is the part of a person that is not physical. It is the part of every human being that lasts eternally after the body experiences death. Genesis 35:18 describes the death of Rachel, Jacob’s wife, saying she named her son “as her soul was departing.” From this we know that the soul is different from the body and that it continues to live after physical death.
The human soul is central to the personhood of a human being. As C. S. Lewis said, “You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.” In other words, personhood is not based on having a body. A soul is what is required. Repeatedly in the Bible, people are referred to as “souls” (Exodus 31:14; Proverbs 11:30), especially in contexts that focus on the value of human life and personhood or on the concept of a “whole being” (Psalm 16:9–10; Ezekiel 18:4; Acts 2:41; Revelation 18:13).
The human soul is distinct from the heart (Deuteronomy 26:16; 30:6) and the spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 4:12) and the mind (Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). The human soul is created by God (Jeremiah 38:16). It can be strong or unsteady (2 Peter 2:14); it can be lost or saved (James 1:21; Ezekiel 18:4). We know that the human soul needs atonement (Leviticus 17:11) and is the part of us that is purified and protected by the truth and the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:22). Jesus is the great Shepherd of souls (1 Peter 2:25).
Matthew 11:29 tells us that we can turn to Jesus Christ to find rest for our souls. Psalm 16:9–10 is a Messianic psalm which allows us to see that Jesus also had a soul. David wrote, “Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” This cannot be speaking of David (as Paul points out in Acts 13:35–37) because David’s body did see corruption and decay when he died. But Jesus Christ’s body never saw corruption (He was resurrected), and His soul was not abandoned to Sheol. Jesus, as the Son of Man, has a soul.
There is often confusion about the human spirit vs. the human soul. In places, Scripture seems to use the terms interchangeably, but there might be a subtle difference. Otherwise, how could the Word of God penetrate “even to dividing soul and spirit” (Hebrews 4:12)? When the Bible talks about man’s spirit, it is usually speaking of an inner force which animates a person in one direction or another. It is repeatedly shown as a mover, a dynamic force (e.g., Numbers 14:24).
It has been said that there are only two things that last: the Word of God (Mark 13:31) and the souls of men. This is because, like God’s Word, the soul is an imperishable thing. That thought should be both sobering and awe-inspiring. Every person you meet is an eternal soul. Every human being that has ever lived has had a soul, and all of those souls are still in existence somewhere. The question is, where? The souls that reject God’s love are condemned to pay for their own sin, eternally, in hell (Romans 6:23). But the souls that accept their own sinfulness and God’s gracious gift of forgiveness will live forever beside still waters with their Shepherd, wanting for nothing (Psalm 23:2).
Last week, we looked at the Epicureans, who sought to maximize individual pleasure. Two weeks ago, we looked at the Stoics, who sought freedom from the world. Now let’s look at another competitor with early Christianity, this one much closer to home—the Gnostics.
Everyone knows that Gnosticism, popular in the first few centuries AD, was rejected as heresy. What’s really interesting is what it meant for the early church.
“Our country is in great need of a spiritual awakening. There have been times that I have wept as I have gone from city to city and I have seen how far people have wandered from God,” the pastor said in what is expected to be his final video production. “Of all the things I have seen and heard, there is only one message that can change people’s lives and hearts.”
That message, as billions around the world have heard for more than six decades, is salvation and the need to live a new life because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
When you hide your sin, pretending to be a perfect Christian, you’re actually telling the world that God is a liar. Did Jesus, or did Jesus not, need to suffer and die for your present sins? When you feign perfection, you’re saying you didn’t need Him to do this for you.
– See more at: http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2013/11/free-to-say-weve-sinned.html