Daily Archives: September 8, 2014

Questions about Jesus Christ: Was Jesus a Prophet?

 

Prophets are presented in the Bible as having several functions. First, prophets are spokesmen for God. When the people of Israel asked the prophet Samuel for a king, God told Samuel, “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king” (1 Samuel 8:7). Samuel was responsible to relay the Word of God to the people of Israel, and God states that He was the source of Samuel’s authority and words. Thus, Samuel the prophet was God’s representative.

Many other passages in the Old Testament have statements such as “the word of the Lord came to …” indicating that the source of the message was God and not the prophet (e.g., 2 Samuel 7:4; 2 Kings 20:4; Jeremiah 1:4; Ezekiel 3:16; and the opening verses of Hosea, Joel, Micah, Jonah, and Zephaniah). Similarly, Jesus taught a heavenly message: “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me” (John 7:16). He also stated that He spoke “just what the Father has taught me” (John 8:28). In Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, He says, “I gave them the words you gave me” (John 17:8). Thus, Jesus clearly fulfilled the role of a prophet, as He was a spokesman for God.

The second primary function of a prophet in the Bible is what people commonly think of when they hear the term prophecy, and that is foretelling or predicting future events through divine revelation. Foretelling, though not the prophets’ most common task, is another form of their primary role. In speaking on God’s behalf, sometimes the message would include predicting the future. Jesus predicted the future when He told His disciples “that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Matthew 16:21). This prophecy is recorded as fulfilled in all four Gospel accounts (Matthew 27–28; Mark 15–16; Luke 22–24; and John 18–20). Jesus also predicted that, shortly after His ascension, the disciples would receive power at the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). Acts 2 records the fulfillment of the prophecy: the apostles received the Holy Spirit and spoke in languages they did not know to proclaim the gospel to at least fifteen different language groups present in Jerusalem for Pentecost. Thus, Jesus clearly fulfilled the role of a prophet, as He spoke predictively.

A third function of some of the prophets was healing and miracles. Moses performed many miracles, including parting the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21–22). Elijah performed a miracle when he called fire down from heaven to burn up a sacrifice (1 Kings 18:36–38). Elisha performed a miracle when he made the ax head float in the water (2 Kings 6:6). All four Gospel accounts record Jesus performing many miracles and healings (e.g., Matthew 8:14–15; Mark 1:40–45; Luke 8:42–48; and John 6:16–21).

The title “prophet” is used many times in the Gospels when other people refer to Jesus (Matthew 21:11; Luke 7:16; John 4:19). Jesus also alluded to Himself as a prophet in Mark 6:4.

God had told Moses that someday He would send another prophet to Israel, “and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him” (Deuteronomy 18:18). Jesus was the prophet who fulfilled that prophecy (see Acts 3:22; 7:37). Jesus fulfills all the requirements for a prophet in title, word, and deed. He is the ultimate prophet in that He is the very Word of God Himself (John 1:1).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Bible Translations: What Is the Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)?

Easy-to-Read Version—History The Easy-to-Read Version of the Bible, published in 1989 by the World Bible Translation Center—founded in 1973 in Arlington, Texas—was initially prepared to meet the special needs of the deaf and was first published by Baker Book House as The English Version for the Deaf. The first-draft work on The English Version for the Deaf was done by WBTC’s in-house translators who are Greek and Hebrew scholars and deaf-language consultants. The Easy-to-Read Version has also recently undergone a major revision to better meet the needs of its target audience and evangelistic outreach (via ministries to prisons, the homeless, or children) as well as those with limited English. The revised text is also more suitable for oral reading, since many who understand spoken English are not literate.

Easy-to-Read Version—Translation method The revision of the English Version for the Deaf into the Easy-to-Read Version was not a translation as such, but rather a reworking of the EVD for the hearing population. The WBTC enlisted English stylists to smooth the text and an ecumenical panel of New Testament scholars to review the edited drafts and make suggestions. There were very few changes in content. Most of the changes involved a move toward more standard English style, i.e., less redundancy, and a more complex sentence structure. According to the WBTC: “Besides improving the English style, the revised Easy-to-Read Version reflects a better understanding of many passages. This has been made possible, in part, by the greatly expanded resources now available to our translators. Also, these translators have benefited from their involvement in over 30 different language projects. As they compared the drafts of these translations with the original texts, they often noted how the same passages were translated in the Easy-to-Read Version, resulting in many improvements. In addition, the Easy-to-Read Version has benefited from input from numerous outside scholars who have served as consultants in the process of evaluating WBTC’s translations.”

Easy-to-Read Version—Pro’s and Con’s The Easy-to-Read Version is very aptly named, as it is definitely easy to read. For that, the ERV is to be commended. It is a good thing to have the Bible translated so that those who struggle with English can understand it. While the Bible is very deep in what it proclaims, the wording usually does not need to be complicated. The primary weakness of the ERV would be that sometimes its renderings are so simplified that they do not fully communicate the message that was in the original languages. The ERV is definitely on the “dynamic equivalence” side of Bible translations, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It does, however, open the door for interpretation to be done instead of strict translation.

Easy-to-Read Version—Sample Verses John 1:1, 14—“Before the world began, the Word was there. The Word was there with God. The Word was God. The Word became a man and lived among us. We saw his glory—the glory that belongs to the only Son of the Father. The Word was full of grace (kindness) and truth.”

John 3:16—“Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son. God gave his Son so that every person that believes in him would not be lost, but have life forever.”

John 8:58—“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth. Before Abraham was born, I AM.’ ”

Ephesians 2:8–9—“I mean that you are saved by grace. And you got that grace by believing. You did not save yourselves. It was a gift from God. No! You are not saved by the things you have done. So no person can boast {that he saved himself}.”

Titus 2:13—“We should live like that while we are waiting for the coming of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. He is our great hope, and he will come with glory.”[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Humanity: Individualism vs. Collectivism—What Does the Bible Say?

 

Individualism can be defined as putting the interests of the individual above those of the group. The idea of collectivism is that the needs of the group take precedence over each individual in it. There are entire cultures that have a bent toward one of these two philosophies; for example, the United States has historically encouraged individualism, while the culture in South Korea leans more toward collectivism. Is one better or worse than the other, from a biblical standpoint? The answer is not a simple “Thus saith the Lord.” The truth is, the Bible gives examples of both individualism and collectivism.

Individualism puts the focus on doing whatever’s best for “me,” regardless of what effect that has on the “group.” Collectivism puts the focus on doing whatever’s best for “the group,” regardless of its effect on individuals within the group. From a biblical perspective, neither of these ideologies—when played out to their full extent—are what God intends. Ultimately, God created humans for His sake (Isaiah 43:7), not for their own or any other person’s sake. A godly focus would be to do what is best for God and His kingdom (Matthew 6:33a).

There are verses in the Bible that illustrate collectivism to a certain extent. Caiaphas’s inadvertent prophecy that “it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish” (John 11:50) is one case of collectivist thought. In the early church in Jerusalem, people pooled their resources and gave to those in need so that no one lacked anything (Acts 2:44–45; 4:32–35). In 2 Corinthians 8:12–14, Paul encourages the church in Corinth to give financially to the church in Jerusalem “that there might be equality” (verse 13). The key to note in these examples, however, is that the people who gave had a choice in the matter. Their giving was strictly voluntary (Acts 5:4). No one was forced to give his resources for the benefit of the group, but they willingly did so out of love for the Lord and for the church. As an individual gave to benefit the group, that individual was blessed, as well (2 Corinthians 9:6–8). This principle of the Kingdom contains some elements of collectivism but goes beyond it. Our motivation for serving the church is not just to benefit the church as a collective; our motivation is that it pleases God (see Hebrews 13:16).

Other verses in the Bible illustrate the value and significance of the individual. In one of His parables, Jesus emphasizes the importance of growing and stewarding well the things God gives us because individually we are held accountable (Luke 19:15). In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of a shepherd who left his flock to seek one lost lamb and the story of a woman who turns her house inside out to find an individual piece of an heirloom (see Luke 15:3–10). Both parables illustrate the value God places on the individual over the group. As we saw with collectivism, though, these examples demonstrate the idea of individualism only partially. God values the individual over the group at times because it pleases Him and gives Him glory. When God is glorified, everyone benefits, individuals and the group—notice that in the parables of Luke 15, every time what was lost is found,everyone rejoices (Luke 15:6, 9).

God values both the individual and the collective. The Bible doesn’t really argue for either individualism or collectivism as the correct ideology. Instead, it offers something else altogether, illustrated in the description of the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12. Paul tells us that individual believers are like parts of a body, each playing an incredibly important and vital role to the success of the body to function as it should (1 Corinthians 12:14, 27). The various parts of a body function only when they are a part of the body as a whole. A thumb can do things no other part of the body can do, but only when it’s connected to the hand! (see 1 Corinthians 12:18–20). Likewise, the body as a whole is an amazing organism, but only when all the parts are taken care of individually (see 1 Corinthians 12:25–26).

The debate over what the Bible says about individualism vs. collectivism will no doubt continue; nevertheless, we can all learn from C. S. Lewis on the topic, no matter what position we take: “I feel a strong desire to tell you—and I expect you feel a strong desire to tell me—which of these two errors [individualism or collectivism] is the worse. That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs—pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them” (from Mere Christianity, book 4, chapter 6).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

But who do you say that I am?

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

18 And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?” 19 They answered and said, “John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again.” 20 And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “ The Christ of God.” (Luke 9:18-20 NASB)

In our last several posts we have looked at the growing apostasy that appears to be consuming the Church. Let us not forget that there are many who claim to be “christian” who view what we have been discussing and exploring as the very thing they are trying to accomplish. They view our exposition of it as “interference” and “over reaction.” We must never forget that only those…

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WHEN GOD CALLS

Samuel at Gilgal

Thomas WatsonThomas Watson:

When God calls a man, He does not repent of it. God does not, as many friends do, love one day, and hate another; or as princes, who make their subjects favorites, and afterwards throw them into prison. This is the blessedness of a saint; his condition admits of no alteration. God’s call is founded upon His decree, and His decree is immutable. Acts of grace cannot be reversed. God blots out His people’s sins, but not their names.

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