Knowledge, Christian freedom, and love

Roman idol sacrifice

Roman relief: sacrifice of bull. Now at the Antiques Museum, Royal Palace, Stockholm

Have you ever noticed that the world of the Bible is very different from our own society? Sometimes it can seem hard to relate to some of the topics.

But we’re not as far removed from the ancients as we like to think. After all, we’re human, too.

The church at Corinth sent Paul a letter with some questions. We can reconstruct them in the structure of 1 Corinthians.

Paul begins various sections with the phrase “now concerning.” In 1 Corinthians 8, it’s “Now concerning meat sacrificed to idols.”

It still matters.… Read the rest

Do you know that you know Jesus?

Jesus light of the world

Light of the World / William Holden Hunt (1853)

Do good people go to heaven? No. There aren’t any! Only redeemed people go to heaven, and we’re redeemed only through knowing Jesus.

It takes more than going to church. It takes more than acknowledging Jesus as a historical figure. The living Christ is a real person. He is active in the world—and in the life of every individual.

He does not appear to our physical senses. We can neither see him, touch him, nor hear the sound of his voice. How can we know that we know him?

The Bible has a simple answer: “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 John 2:3, NASB).… Read the rest

Jesus and Judas in Holy Week

judas receives silver

Judas receiving silver for betraying Jesus. 16th century fresco painting on the vault in the Saint Sébastien Church, in Planpinet. Clarée valley, Hautes alpes département, France.

I wrote of Jesus’ trial before Pilate a couple of years ago and noted that Jesus had to work very hard to keep from being acquitted. Studying the Last Supper and events leading up to it, I notice that Jesus had to work just as skillfully to orchestrate his betrayal.

Judas went secretly to the chief priests and offered to betray Jesus. Luke’s account (Luke 26:3) specifically says that Satan entered him. Once the conspirators agreed on the fee, He kept his eyes open for an opportunity.… Read the rest

Is God a light switch?

light switchHow does a person find God? Someone suggested it’s like leading them into a dark room and encouraging them to find a light switch on the wall.

I have some experience going into total darkness and finding the switch, but I’ll only enter if I know where the switch is. Can a believer tell or show someone else where the switch is?

I think that’s the wrong question. God is the light of the world. There is no darkness in him, and he is not in darkness.

Where, then, does darkness come from? The simple answer is that darkness comes from Satan, and if people are looking for a switch, then the switch must be the light of God in a believer.… Read the rest

Being spiritually dressed

Paul had quite a lot to say about clothing. No, I don’t mean any comment that could be taken as a dress code. We all have earthly clothing. We have to take it off from time to time to wash both it and our bodies. It wears out and we have to repair or replace it. Spiritual clothing is different. We need to have that on at all times. We are already clean, and spiritual clothing can never wear out or become soiled.

For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Read the rest

Basic social justice: what weakness hampers it?

Every society wants justice. That’s every society throughout the world beginning in prehistory. Take away superficial differences, and it appears that every society has similar views of what justice means. We’ll look at a passage from Exodus that would probably not be controversial anywhere.

Justice is hard to get when thugs take over. See the latest headlines from Syria. But I’ll bet even Assad’s courts have dispensed justice whenever it has not been against the regime’s interests to do so.

On the other hand, it doesn’t take an evil government to pervert justice. Ordinary human nature can do quite nicely at that even with the best of governments.… Read the rest

Gay marriage, politics, and the Bible

Men arguingNorth Carolina has just become the 30th state to enshrine the definition of marriage as one man and one woman in the state constitution. I am pleased by the outcome, but dismayed by the process and the rhetoric.

In the local newspaper, proponents and opponents of the marriage amendment lobbed scriptures back and forth as if a couple of verses settled the matter. That’s wrong for at least three reasons.

Read the rest

How do we know that we know Jesus?

Light of the World / William Holden Hunt (1853)

What does it mean to be a Christian? It means much more than going to church and trying to be a good person. In fact, it means acknowledging that we can’t be a good person on our own. We need Jesus to help us.

The risen Lord can’t be a historical character that we read about, but a person whom we know as much or better than any other person we know. We can’t see him. We can’t touch him. We can’t hear the sound of his voice. How, then, do we know that we know him?… Read the rest

The man born blind: discuss or heal?

In John 8, Jesus had a heated discussion about his ministry and credentials with Jewish leaders in the temple. He left, noticed a man born blind, and healed him. It was the Sabbath, so the leaders who were offended at him before became more offended and took out their frustration on the formerly blind man. Jesus’ disciples also saw the blind man, but they took it as a springboard for a theological discussion about sin (John 9:1-7). Has the church to this day understood what Jesus said and did?

Who sinned?

Christ heals the Man born blind

Healing of the Blind Man / by Duccio di Buoninsegna (1308-11)

A blind man sat near the entrance to the temple.… Read the rest

Faith, hope, and love—in 1 Thessalonians

Probably anyone with a nodding acquaintance with the New Testament, believer or not, knows about the ending of 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul says that faith, hope, and love abide and identifies love as the greatest of the three.

Perhaps the very familiarity of the passage robs us of the power inherent in the juxtaposition of those three virtues. Fortunately, there are plenty of lesser-known passages where we can see the power with fresh eyes.

1 Thessalonians is the earliest extant letter of Paul. People study it less than some of the others not because it’s harder to pronounce, but because the themes that characterize Paul’s teaching are not yet fully developed.… Read the rest