God is love, right? And doesn’t he command us to love our neighbor as ourselves and to honor our parents? So when he says, “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated” (Romans 9:13, quoting Malachi 1:2-3) or “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother. . . such a person cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26), it makes us uncomfortable.
Biblically illiterate people (who, alas, include preachers and the seminary professors who mistaught them) will claim that Jesus said no such thing and that the Old Testament misrepresents God. Let us not forget some important facts:… Read the rest
Matthew’s gospel records six parables in Matthew 13 that start, “the kingdom of heaven is like. . .” Three more gospels of the kingdom appear later in Matthew. In this post, we will look at the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35), which starts, “the kingdom of heaven is like a king . . .”
The parable immediately follows Peter’s question about forgiveness. According to typical rabbinic teaching, forgiveness was unnecessary after the third offense. Peter asked if he needed to forgive seven times. In other words, Peter asked if forgiving more than twice as much as other rabbis required is good enough.… Read the rest
A familiar Advent scripture says that a child will be born to us and the government will rest on his shoulders. A less obviously Advent-related scripture explains what that government will be like. The child, of course, is Jesus. In both scriptures, he has an extensive list of important titles.… Read the rest
God commanded Ezekiel to pose a riddle and speak a parable to his people, which comprises Ezekiel 17. At the time, it was a commentary on current events. For us, it’s ancient history. Many people these days have trouble grasping why ancient history matters today. In fact, the difference between Ezekiel’s time and ours is no more than window dressing. Today’s societies all exhibit the same sins as his.
The parable concerns two eagles and a vine, which all behave like humans in both their glory and shame. We don’t have to guess what it means for ancient Israel. The chapter explains the allegory in detail.… Read the rest
God is at work in your life. It might not be evident to you, though. Does looking through the Bible to discern God’s activity in us seem frustrating? After all, most of the Bible seems to be about dramatic stories of heroes of the faith. Who can really relate to God speaking to Abraham on Mount Moriah or Moses from the burning bush? So let’s look at the book of Ruth instead for more down-to-earth examples.… Read the rest
The Bible uses several metaphors to describe the church. All of Paul’s extended descriptions of God’s gifts give attention to various concepts I like to think of as the giftwrapping. Prominent among them is the metaphor of the human body. The church, that is, is not a building or a random group of people but the body of Christ.
The most extensive description of gifts (1 Corinthians 12-14) includes the most extensive description of the church as the body of Christ. Let’s take a careful look (quoting from CSB).… Read the rest
The kingdom of heaven is a major theme of Matthew’s gospel, including most of the parables in Matthew 13. The chapter begins with the parable of the sower (or the four soils) and its explanation. All the other parables in the chapter compare the kingdom of heaven to something or someone. Four other chapters include parables that illustrate what the kingdom of heaven is like.
This post will examine the short parables at the end of Matthew 13. He spoke these parables to the disciples alone, not to a crowd.… Read the rest
The Parable of the Sower appears in all three synoptic gospels. Jesus implied it is the key to understanding his other parables. Today, thinking of it as the parable of the four soils might make it easier to grasp. After all, the sower went out to sow seed, and the parable never mentions him again. It doesn’t really say much about the seed, either, except that it’s apparently some kind of grain. But the soils? They’re crucially important.
The three accounts are a little different, but the differences don’t alter the basic points.
A sower went out to sow seed. In those days, that meant taking a bag of seed and throwing it on the ground.… Read the rest
It’s easy to think that Jesus ministered for three years and then the Holy Spirit showed up on Pentecost. In fact, Jesus’ earthly ministry could not have happened without the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit empowered Jesus the same way he empowers believers today. In part, that means mostly operating in the background.… Read the rest
Christ is risen!
Jesus’ resurrection is the central fact of Christianity. Believers’ resurrection is a corollary. Some in Corinth, however, seem to have taught that only Jesus rose and claimed that there is no resurrection otherwise. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul insists that if there is no believers’ resurrection, our faith is in vain.
Paul preached Christ’s death and resurrection as of first importance when he arrived in Corinth. 1 Corinthians 15:5-9 enumerates the appearances of the risen Lord and, in verse 11, Paul insists, “this is what we preach, and this is what you believed” (NIV).
But verse 12 goes on to ask, “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection from the dead?”… Read the rest