The Deity of the Messiah (Hebrew Moshiach)

The Deity of the Messiah (Hebrew Moshiach)

 

First Fruits Being Offered to Hebrew Priest. The Messiah is our First Fruit!

Within the Jewish Writings (Non Christian)

Most of the Jewish writings (noncanonical) from which these Messianic expositions come are found in the following broad categories:

  1. Pseudepigraphical
  2. Apocryphal
  3. Mishniac
  4. Midrasic
  5. Haggadahic
  6. Gemmaric
  7. Talmudic
  8. Kabalistic
  9. Medieval Rabbinic
  10. Modern Rabbinic

The word Messiah in Hebrew means the Anointed One. In the Jewish writings the Messiah was described as a person of the line of King David (a “ben yishai” – son of Jesse, father of David) who will return the Jews from exile, rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and initiate a period of prosperity and peace. In that sense, belief in Messiah was simply belief in restoration of Israel and an end to present troubles. The Messianic idea became prevalent and gained adherents in times of extreme desperation, such as the conquest of Judea by the Babylonians, the Roman conquest, the rule of Hadrian after the Bar Kochba revolt and various periods in the Middle Ages such as the Spanish Inquisition.

So then according to the Jewish definition of the term, the Messiah will make changes in the real world, changes that one can see and perceive and be able to prove because these changes take place in the real world. It is for this task that the real messiah has been anointed in the first place, hence the term, messiah — one who is anointed. He will bring about these changes as a result of his special anointing by God. They do not say he is God. Therefore the subject of his deity is obscured at best in the Jewish writings.

Modern Jewish scholars suggest that the messianic concept was introduced later in the history of Judaism, during the age of the prophets. They note that the messianic concept is not mentioned anywhere in the Torah. The moshiach will be a great political leader descended from King David (Jeremiah 23:5). The moshiach is often referred to as “moshiach ben David” (moshiach, son of David). He will be well versed in Jewish law, and observant of its commandments (Isaiah 11:2-5). He will be a charismatic leader, inspiring others to follow his example. He will be a great military leader, who will win battles for Israel. He will be a great judge, who makes righteous decisions (Jeremiah 33:15). But above all, he will be a human being, not a god, demi-god or other supernatural being. We will touch on his other characteristics as we move through this paper but suffice it to state for now that the Jews by and large do not promulgate the notion that moshiach is God.

The Jewish literature has said that in every generation, a person is born with the potential to be the moshiach. If the time is right for the messianic age within that person’s lifetime, then that person will be the moshiach. But if that person dies before he completes the mission of the moshiach, then that person is not the moshiach. So they wait.

Within The Bible

It is interesting to note that many Jewish authors attempting to discredit Jesus as the Messiah, do not take the entire Scripture as a whole and read it with proper hermeneutics, misstate verses or use denominational teaching to supplant the plain truth of Scripture to make their point. Most do not understand the Olivet Discourse or the book of Revelation to realize that the Second Coming will fulfill all the rest of the prophecies that are yet unfulfilled in the Old Testament. Therefore they discredit Jesus as the Messiah. The entire second Psalm speaks to this issue.

PSALM 2

1 Why do the nations rage, And the peoples meditate a vain thing?

 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against Jehovah, and against his anointed, saying,

 3 Let us break their bonds asunder, And cast away their cords from us.

 4 He that sitteth in the heavens will laugh: The Lord will have them in derision.

 5 Then will he speak unto them in his wrath, And vex them in his sore displeasure:

 6 Yet I have set my king Upon my holy hill of Zion.

 7 I will tell of the decree: Jehovah said unto me, Thou art my son; This day have I begotten thee.

 8 Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance, And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

 9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

 10 Now therefore be wise, O ye kings: Be instructed, ye judges of the earth.

 11 Serve Jehovah with fear, And rejoice with trembling.

 12 Kiss the son, lest he be angry, and ye perish in the way, For his wrath will soon be kindled. Blessed are all they that take refuge in him.

A few of the prophecies in Scripture that attest to messiah in the Old Testament related to His first advent and their fulfillment in the New Testament in the person of Jesus of Nazareth are as follows:

  1. Born in Bethlehem:                 Micah 5:2 Fulfilled in Matthew 2:1-5
  2. The Son of God:                     Psalm 2:7 Fulfilled John 3:16-17
  3. Of the tribe of Judah:              Genesis 49:10 Fulfilled Hebrews 7:14
  4. Of a virgin:                              Isaiah 7:14 Fulfilled Matthew 1:18-22
  5. A prophet like Moses:           Deuteronomy 18:15 Fulfilled John 7:15-17
  6. The King of Israel:                  Zechariah 9:9 Fulfilled John 12:12-15
  7. Rejected:                                 Isaiah 53:3 Fulfilled John 1:11
  8. Beaten:                                    Micah 5:1 Fulfilled Mark 15:19
  9. Silent:                                      Isaiah 53:7 Fulfilled Matt 27:12-14
  10. Betrayed:                                Psalm 41:9 Fulfilled Mark 14:17-20’
  11. Tried and condemned:             Isaiah 53:8 Fulfilled Matthew 27:1-2
  12. Crucified:                                Psalm 22:16 Fulfilled John 19:17-18
  13. His garments divided:             Psalm 22:18 Fulfilled John 19:23-24
  14. Given vinegar and gall:            Psalm 69:21 Fulfilled John 19:31-36
  15. His bones not broken:             Exodus 12:46 Fulfilled John 19:31-36
  16. He is our sacrifice:                  Isaiah 53:5-6 Fulfilled 1 Peter 2:24-25
  17. And raised from death:           Psalm 16:10 Fulfilled Luke 24:1-7, 47

A plain reading of the Bible by an unbiased observer can see from these few prophecies and fulfillments that Jesus is Messiah. Here are some examples of how the blinded Jews miss key passages in the Old Testament as being fulfilled in the New Testament relative to the Messiahship of Jesus. They correctly identify the correct criteria for Messiah’s characteristics though obscured in their literature, but through lack of knowledge about the Second Coming or mis-reading the Old Testament they disbelieve.

They correctly read Isaiah 11:12 to state that Messiah will gather the Jewish people from exile and return them to Israel. They miss the essence of this passage in its yet future fulfillment when they are back in “belief” at the end of the Tribulation.

Another passage which states Messiah’s rule, is Isaiah 66:23, which speaks of the Millennium, also know as the Messianic Kingdom. It states, “He will rule at a time when all people will come to acknowledge and serve God.” Their writings look at the earth today with all its problems and unrest and simply fail to attribute the Second Coming to accomplish this. Failure to see this and to strictly limit the first Advent of Christ as the only advent will keep them blind as to the person who is the true Messiah.

A third misunderstanding is from Micah 4:3. The essence of this verse is that He will rule at a time of world-wide peace – “…they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” They observe, “anybody can see” that since Jesus came there has been no world peace. This again is a lack of realization that there are two advents. The second will usher in the time of worldwide peace.

For the true believer, the Messiahship of Jesus is clear. For the Jew who has been blinded because of their sin and unbelief, it is difficult if not almost impossible for them to come to faith in Jesus. As He said, the way is narrow and few there be that find it, including His people who rejected Him at His first advent.

 

Daniel E. Woodhead Ph.D.

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The Authority of Scripture Ascertained Through Evidence

 

The Judgment of Solomon by Raphael 1518-19

Frequently, authors will avoid using the Bible as history, citing it as historiographically unreliable.[1] This is apparent as we examine the various secular authors who speculate on empire collapse. They simply ignore the facts contained within the Bible. Admittedly it is primarily a theological document, which uses world history to present God’s sacred history and the methods by which He approaches humankind.  God paints Himself, which we call theology, on a canvas of human history. Therefore, just because there is minimal material other than the Bible to provide insight into ancient history, it is unwarranted that one should simply avoid the Bible by citing it as solely theological and therefore nonhistoriagraphic. The Bible has been proven by the standards of the sciences of evidence, archaeology and prophecy to be reliable. Certainly Israel’s enemies will always use the lack of empirical evidence as to its historical accuracy to deny the Jews their accurate origin and place in the story of the world. So what means are available to us to ascertain the authenticity of the Bible? There are several. They all flow from the science of evidence.

Society uses this scientific evidentiary process to identify truth. For example we use it in courts of law and forensic laboratories. The science of evidence is appropriate to utilize for a fair evaluation of the Biblical text in order to validate its authenticity and truth.

One of the chief proponents of the field of evidence was Dr. Simon Greenleaf. He was a decorated Professor of Law at the Harvard University School of Law in 1846. A known expert in the field of evidence, Greenleaf’s well-known work, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, is considered a classic of American jurisprudence. It was a standard textbook in American law throughout the nineteenth century. However, his contribution to biblical Christianity is the authoritative treatise, The Testimony of the Evangelists Examined by the Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice that remains an accepted primer in modern Christian apologetics. [2]

Greenleaf began his book by arguing for the elimination of prejudices and allow the evidence to tell the story. This is simply placing a reliance on evidence. He stated that one should, ” follow the truth wherever it may lead us.”[3] He further stated that Christianity does not “bring irresistible evidence” but offers sufficient evidences for “the serious inquirer.” [4] He focused his book to an inquiry “to the testimony of the Four Evangelists, bringing their narratives to the tests to which other evidence is subjected in human tribunals.” His specific inquiry was concerned with testing “the veracity of these witnesses by the same rules and means” employed in human tribunals. Greenleaf argued the case by first inquiring as to the genuineness of the four gospels as ancient writings. Here he applied what is technically known in law as the “ancient documents rule.” He stated:

“Every document, apparently ancient, coming from the proper repository or custody, and bearing on its face no evident marks of forgery, the law presumes to be genuine, and devolves on the opposing party the burden of proving it to be otherwise.” [5]

Greenleaf maintained that the four gospels do not bear any marks of being forgeries and the oldest extant copies can be received into court as genuine documents. In other words unless there is compelling evidence to the contrary we must accept the gospels as fact. Frequently in an attempt to discredit the biblical accounts of Christ detractors will engineer specious arguments that have no basis. Because there is no evidence for their weak arguments they fail to persuade the critical thinker. Only those with a sloppy thought process will be persuaded to accept an argument that has no foundation.

The second step in Greenleaf’s argument is: “In matters of public and general interest, all persons must be presumed to be conversant, on the principle that individuals are presumed to be conversant with their own affairs.” [6] On the basis of this legal rule Greenleaf then briefly profiled the traditional authors of the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, concerning their first hand knowledge of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, or as in the case of Mark and Luke their intimate personal links with the apostles. Greenleaf then built a cumulative case by conducting a shadow cross-examination of the oral testimony of the evangelists in their accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Greenleaf developed his case on the basis of the following tests:

“The credit due to the testimony of witnesses depends upon, firstly, their honesty; secondly, their ability; thirdly, their number and the consistency of their testimony; fourthly, the conformity of their testimony with experience; and fifthly, the coincidence of their testimony with collateral circumstances.” [7] Greenleaf then argued that the gospel writers can be shown to be honest in their character and do not show any motives to falsify their testimony. [8] He claimed that Matthew and Luke related keen observations and meticulous details, and he concluded this demonstrated their ability. [9] Greenleaf noted that there are parallel accounts from the evangelists concerning the central events of Jesus the Christ’ life and that these accounts are not verbally identical. He maintained that discrepancies in their accounts are evidence that the writers are not guilty of collusion, and that the discrepancies in their respective accounts can be resolved or harmonized upon careful cross-examination and comparison of the details. [10] Greenleaf argued against the skeptic Scottish philosopher David Hume concerning reports of miracles. He found fault with Hume’s position about “immutable laws from the uniform course of human experience,” [11] and went on to assert that it is a fallacy because “it excludes all knowledge derived by inference or deduction from facts, confining us to what we derive from personal experience alone.” [12] Greenleaf took, as his own assumption that as God exists then such a being is capable of performing miracles. He then argued that the various miracles reported in Jesus ministry occurred in open or public contexts where friend and foe alike were witnesses. [13] Interestingly, Jesus’ miracles were specifically chosen by Him to be irrefutable by the detractors of His day. For example, he chose to heal a person who was blind since birth. No one could say the person was faking his blindness. He chose to heal a crippled person again who suffered this infirmity since birth. Perhaps His greatest miracle was raising Lazarus from the dead. He waited four days to insure that all the witnesses fully realized that Lazarus was indeed dead before Jesus raised him.

Lastly, Greenleaf examined the problem of uniform testimony among false and genuine witnesses, and found there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to support the accounts of the Four Evangelists.

Greenleaf summed up his argument with the following plea:

“All that Christianity asks of men on this subject, is, that they would be consistent with themselves; that they would treat its evidences as they treat the evidence of other things; and that they would try and judge its actors and witnesses, as they deal with their fellow men, when testifying to human affairs and actions, in human tribunals. Let the witnesses be compared with themselves, with each other, and with the surrounding facts and circumstances; and let their testimony be sifted, as if it were given in a court of justice, on the side of the adverse party, the witnesses being subjected to a rigorous cross-examination. The result, it is confidently believed, will be an undoubting conviction of their integrity, ability and truth … Either the men of Galilee were men of superlative wisdom, and extensive knowledge and experience, and of deeper skill in the arts of deception, than any and all others, before or after them, or they have truly stated the astonishing things which they saw and heard.” [14]

 

Dr. Greenleaf skillfully established the veracity of the Scriptures. Within the body of New Testament text he examined we find Jesus establishing the truth of the Old Testament (John 5:39-47 etc.). Christ’ words must also be true reasoning through Dr. Greenleaf’s methodology. Therefore, the entire chronology of the Old Testament must also be true.

We have a reliable body of truth in the Old and New Testaments. They can and must be relied upon to give us factual data related to the origin and early persecutions of the Jews. There is no logical reason not to use the Bible as reliable historiography. We refer to this entire concept of reliability of the biblical text as infallibility and its closely related concept of inerrancy. Infallibility is the subjective consequence of divine inspiration and inerrancy is the concept of the Bible being free from material errors or internal contradictions. Some may believe that these concepts are untrue but they come to those conclusions out of ignorance of the relevant data.[15]

 Evidence Through Archaeology

Archaeological evidence is another body of information and inquiry, which has produced factual data in support of the Biblical text. The following quotations from men acquainted with or conducting archaeological expeditions provide a firm basis for support of the veracity of the Biblical text through archaeology.

“It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference.” The renowned Jewish archaeologist continued in commenting “the almost incredibly accurate historical memory of the Bible, and particularly so when it is fortified by archaeological fact.” [16]

 

“On the whole, however, archaeological work has unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of the scriptural record.” [17]

 

“Old Testament archaeology has rediscovered whole nations, resurrected important peoples, and in a most astonishing manner filled in historical gap, adding immeasurably to the knowledge of biblical backgrounds.” [18]

 

“Archaeological and inscriptional data have established the historicity of innumerable passages and statements of the Old Testament.” [19]

 

“We pointed out that numerous passages of the Bible, which long puzzled the commentators, have readily yielded up their meaning when new light from archaeological discoveries has been focused on them. In other words, archaeology illuminates the text of the Scriptures and so makes valuable contributions to the fields of Biblical interpretation and exegesis. In addition to illuminating the Bible, archaeology has confirmed countless passages which have been rejected by critics as unhistorical or contradictory to known facts.” [20]

 

During the excavations of Jericho (1930-1936) John Garstang found something so startling that a statement of what they found was prepared and signed by himself as well as other members of the team. In reference to these findings Garstang says:

“As to the main fact, then, there remains no doubt: the walls fell outwards so completely that the attackers would be able to clamor up and over their ruins into the city.” [21]

 

Why so unusual? Because walls of cities do not fall outwards, they fall inwards. And yet in Joshua 6:20 we hear “ . . . the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city every man straight ahead, and they took the city.”

Some archaeologists, such as Kathleen Kenyon work against any pro-biblical support for the Jews. She, as a staunch anti-Zionist, was commissioned by the Jordanian government in 1960 to examine Jericho in order to refute Albright’s work. She further refutes all of the biblical historiography according to the story of the Jews. It is no surprise that Israel’s enemies deny her history. [22] Nevertheless the preponderance of archaeological evidence supports the authenticity of the Biblical narrative.

 

Evidence Through Prophecy

The last method of evidence presented here is that of Biblical prophecy. The Old Testament has a significant number of prophecies, which have already been fulfilled. Many of them relate to the timing and circumstances surrounding the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth on earth. All of these prophecies were written hundreds of years before the birth of Christ and were well documented.  Isaiah and Micah, for example, wrote their prophecies about 700 years before Christ. Daniel wrote his about 500 years before Christ. Zechariah also wrote about 500 years before Christ too. The Psalms were written over 900 years before Christ. It is a fact that the Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint was written between 200-300 B.C. which is well before the time of Jesus the Christ of Nazareth’s birth. This translation has all the prophecies within it. Therefore one cannot say that the prophecies were written after the events of which they prophesied! It is clear that these prophecies were in this verifiable translation well prior to Christ’s first advent. The following quote from Max L. Margolis validates the timing of the writing of the Septuagint:

It is in the reign of the second Ptolemy, surnamed Philadelphus (285-247 B. C.), that the translation of the Law (Pentateuch) into Greek is placed by the circumstantial narrative known as the Epistle of Aristeas which purports to be a contemporary record by one of the king’s courtiers. Nay, according to the story, the initiative proceeded from the king or rather the king’s librarian, Demetrius of Phalerum, who advised that a copy of the Law of the Jews should be deposited in the royal collection of books then already numbering upward of two hundred thousand volumes. [23]

It is quite clear that humans do not have the capacity to accurately predict the future hundreds of years in advance. The Bible claims to be the very Word of God and states that God lives outside of our time and space domain (Isa 57:15). Therefore He is able to see and write history before it happens. In fact he causes history to happen. The issue of fulfilled prophecy is additional compelling evidence that the Bible is true, accurate and verifiable as fact.

The open-minded person, seeking truth, while reading the Scriptures expectantly, will find that the Scriptures are verifiably accurate in their exposition of all things of which they speak. This includes the origin and development of the Jewish nation. It is important to this work that the Bible is recognized as trustworthy historiography.

Daniel E. Woodhead Ph.D.


[1] Cantor, Norman F. The Sacred Chain. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1994, 3.

[2] Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ-A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan Publishing House 1998  45-46

[3] Greenleaf, Simon. Testimony of the Evangelists Examined by the Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice, 1846. Reprint Newark, NJ: Soney & Sage, 1903, 1.

[4] Ibid, 2.

[5]  Ibid, 7.

[6]  Ibid, 9.

[7] Ibid, 28.

[8] Ibid, 28-31.

[9] Ibid, 31-32.

[10] Ibid, 32-35.

[11] Ibid, 36.

[12] Ibid, 37-38.

[13] Ibid, 39-42.

[14] Ibid, pg 46-53

[15] Comfort, Philip Wesley gen ed. The Origin of the Bible. Wheaton, IL. Tyndale House Publishers. 1992  38-39

[16]Glueck Nelson. Rivers in the Desert: History of Negev. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Cadahy, 1959, 31.

[17] Burrows, Millar. What Means These Stones. New York: Meridian Books, 1957,

[18] Unger, Merrill F. Archaeology and the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Co., 1954, 1.

[19] Albright, W.F. “Archaeology Confronts Biblical CriticismThe American Scholar, April 1938, 181.

[20] Free, Joseph P. Archaeology and Bible History, Wheaton: Scripture Press, 1969, 1.

[21] Garstang, John. Joshua & Judges. London: Constable, 1931, 146.

[22] Cantor, Norman F. The Sacred Chain Harper, New York: Collins Publishers, 1994, 2-3.

[23] Margolis, Max L. The Story of Bible Translations. Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Society of America, 1916. 30.

 

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What The Lord Jesus Suffered For Us

PETER PAUL RUBENS: Le DESCENTE DE CROIX 1611

The Church is a group of people who have suffered in this life, but have been redeemed. We know where we are going when we leave this earth. Deaths, divorce, financial issues, health problems and more have altered our lives. Unfortunately it is the condition of the world into which we have been born. No matter how much difficulty we experience in this world the God of the universe has suffered more than we can imagine correcting it. It is helpful that we take this time to attempt to develop an understanding however feeble of what God has done for us and how He suffered in doing so. He created us in His image. In doing so we have emotions and experience pain just like God does. His are on a magnitude much greater then ours though.

Sometime in the past the anointed Cherub Lucifer performed sinful deeds while his domain was in Heaven. In doing so he brought corruption into Heaven. The Bible states that the heavens themselves needed cleansing by the blood of Christ (Hebrews 9: 23-26). God judged him and cast him to earth. In doing so he drew a third of theangels in Heaven that were foolish enough to make the choice to follow him thereby sealing their doom (Revelation 12: 4). Lucifer then became the adversary (Hebrew Satan) and entered the Garden of Eden to corrupt our first parents bringing the sin he had into the world. God judged him and all that he had corrupted. At that time God announced to him that He would bring a redeemer (the seed of the woman) into the world to correct these environments, which Satan had polluted. Knowing this he tried as hard as he could to prevent the coming of the Messiah. One of those methods he employed was sending the corrupt angels to earth to intermarry with women produce a hybrid corrupt offspring (Nephilim) and stop the required purity of the Messianic line from progressing.

Just before the Great Flood He brought upon the world to cleanse it from Satan’s corruption and to wipe out the Nephilim, our God expressed His sorrow over His creation.

Genesis 6: 5-6

5And Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6And it repented Jehovah that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart (ASV 1901).

The Hebrew word that gets translated into English as “and repented” is vaieenechem וַיִּנָּחֶם. It means to be sorry to the point of suffering grief. It is a past tense (perfect tense in Hebrew) verb that has the characteristic of the subject (God) being part of the object (mankind) of the sentence. So it should read that God suffered, Himself, at the experience of the sins of His creation. In fact one of the prominent aspects of this verb is that the degree of suffering is referred to as to breath pantingly in this grief. He hurt so much at the sinfulness of humankind that He grieved as if He could not get His breath. His pain reached a level that we can never understand or experience. His suffering was greater than anything we could ever suffer. So often our suffering takes the form of lashing out at others and assigning blame. God did not do that. He set up His own plan to redeem the world by bearing the grief and sorrow in a way that allowed Him to provide the redemption of mankind by taking the God imposed penalty for sin upon Himself. In doing so He would have to suffer more than He had as of yet and again a level of suffering we cannot imagine. God prophesied to Isaiah in the eighth century B.C. that He who suffered much grief over mankind would come to the earth to provide redemption for mankind.

Isaiah 53: 1-12

1Who hath believed our message? and to whom hath the arm of Jehovah been revealed? 2For he grew up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3He was despised, and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and as one from whom men hide their face he was despised; and we esteemed him not 4Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7He was oppressed, yet when he was afflicted he opened not his mouth; as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. 8By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who among them considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due? 9And they made his grave with the wicked, and with a rich man in his death; although he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.10Yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand. 11He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by the knowledge of himself shall my righteous servant justify many; and he shall bear their iniquities. 12Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors: yet he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors (ASV 1901).

Jehovah God sent Himself a suffering servant in the body of a man to atone for the sins of the world. His suffering reached a level of pain before and during the crucifixion that we cannot imagine. Daniel writing in the late sixth century B.C. received a prophecy from the angel Gabriel about the death of Christ.

Daniel 9: 25-26a

25Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. 26a And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: (KJV).

 Gabriel speaking to Daniel regarding the timing of Christ’s appearance on the earth gives him the timetable for it. He concludes this part of the longer prophecy by saying that the Anointed One, The Prince shall be cut-off (killed) but not for himself. This prophecy gives us assurance that God was going to suffer a murder of Himself so we could be redeemed.

The night of what we call the last supper Christ gathered His apostles into an upper room to tell them many things about His need to be sacrificed. That was on Thursday before the Passover. It was customary to sing Psalms 113-118 at the close of the meal before Passover. Psalm 118 describes how God guides the righteous through distress and the impending death. Jesus asked the Father to have this obligation pass from Him if possible. Jesus was saying in effect, “Father, if there is any other way by which sinners can be saved than by My going to the cross, reveal that way now! But in all of this, I want it known that I desire nothing contrary to Your will.” He then went to Gethsemane with Peter, James and John.

The name Gethsemane means “oil press,” which suggests that the place Jesus went to pray was going to provide him with an excruciating and crushing spiritual experience. Both Luke and John mention this as a customary meeting place for Jesus and His disciples (Luke 22:39; John 18:2). He had told them about the suffering he would endure but they did not understand. Luke 12: 50 states, ” I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished“

He was experiencing a sorrow over the spiritual heaviness He sensed that when He said to the apostles, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me (Matthew 26: 38b KJV). His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane was the culmination of all the suffering He experienced in His ministry beginning with Satan’s temptation in the wilderness up to the point of the actual crucifixion and His separation from God (forsaken).

The agony itself that He experienced is described; He began to be sorrowful, and very heavy. The pain or torment that he was experiencing was coming from within; he troubled Himself (John11: 33). The words used are very emphatically stated; he began to be sorrowful, and be in a vaieenechem type pain. Luke 22: 44 tells us that Jesus’ sorrow was so strong His pores secreted a substance like blood. [1] He probably was experiencing the condition described in the medical dictionary as Hematidrosis, which is the excretion of blood or blood pigment in the sweat. It may occur when a person is suffering extreme levels of stress, for example, facing his or her own death. Leonardo da Vinci described a soldier who sweated blood before battle, and when men were unexpectedly given a death sentence. The degree of sorrow signifies such a sorrow as a weight of lead upon his spirits. Now was fulfilled, the Messianic Psalm 22:14, where it is stated, I am poured out like water, my heart is like wax, it is melted.

But what was the cause of all this? What was it that put him into his agony? There are two realms of life pictured in the suffering He experienced in the garden.

 

  1. He met with the powers of darkness which He described (Luke 22:53); This is your hour, and the power of darkness: and he spoke of it just before (John 14:30, 31); “The prince of this world cometh. I see him marshaling his forces, and preparing for a general assault; but he has nothing in me therefore his attempts, though fierce, will be fruitless: but as the Father gave me commandment, so I do; however it be, I must have a struggle with him, the field must be fairly fought; and therefore arise, let us go hence, let us hasten to the field of battle, and meet the enemy.’ Now is the close engagement in single combat like between Michael and the dragon, hand to hand; now is the judgment of this world; the great cause is now to be determined, and the decisive battle fought, in which the prince of this world, will certainly be beaten and cast out, (John 12:31). Christ, when he wrought salvation for us is described like a champion taking the field, (Isaiah 59:16–18). Now the serpent makes his fiercest onset on the seed of the woman, and directs his sting, the sting of death, to his very heart and the wound is mortal.

 

  1. He was now bearing the iniquities, which the Father laid upon him, and, by his sorrow and obedience he accommodated himself to his undertaking. The sufferings he was laying upon Himself were for our sins; they were all made to press upon him, and He knew it. As we are obliged to be sorry for our particular sins, so was He grieved for the sins of us all. He knew how malignant the sins were that were laid upon him, how provoking to God, how ruining to man; and these being all set upon Him to bear. He was sorrowful and very heavy.

 

Satan tried all he could to prevent Christ’s crucifixion. The death He experienced cleansed the heavenly tabernacle (Hebrews 9: 23-26), which Lucifer polluted with his sin and fall, as well as providing for the salvation of all who would believe the gospel of Christ (II Corinthians 5: 21). It is these sorrows we must try and realize as we struggle with our limited understanding of the workings of God. He did it for us and we are most blessed. When we consider our own travail on this earth remember His sacrifice and sorrow. He did it for us so we could give Him our burdens, which He willingly took upon Himself.

Matthew 11: 28-30

28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

 

Praise Him!

Daniel E. Woodhead PH.D


[1] Holoubek, JE, “Blood, sweat and fear, A classification of Hematidrosis.”  Journal of Medicine 1996, 27 (3–4): 115–33. PMID 8982961

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THE SABBATH: A Christian Biblical Perspective

The Sabbath: A Christian Biblical Perspective

By Daniel E. Woodhead, Ph.D 

The word Sabbath as a  direct command, first appears in Scripture in Exodus. It is first stated during the narrative of the story of the Jews who were traveling from Elim to Sinai. It would be at Sinai where they would receive the Law from God after leaving the four hundred year captivity in Egypt.

 

Exodus 16: 23 And he said unto them, This is that which Jehovah hath spoken, Tomorrow is a solemn rest, a holy sabbath unto Jehovah: bake that which ye will bake, and boil that which ye will boil; and all that remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.

In keeping with God’s seventh day of creation where Scripture says He rested (Hebrew shabot Genesis 2: 2-3) God through Moses wanted the Jews to rest on the Sabbath. The Law had not been formally implemented that is, given by God, was nevertheless being observed with a declaration by Moses to the Children of Israel. They were to rest on the Sabbath. Other pre-Law passages affirm this commandment for the Jews to rest (Exodus 16: 25, 26,29). In fact the manna, which was their God given bread from heaven, was there for them each day except the Sabbath (Exodus 16:25). God wanted them to not gather the manna on the Sabbath. He wanted them to rest.

When the Children of Israel reached Sinai God gave Moses the 613 commandments, the first ten are called the Ten Commandments or the Decalogue. In the forth commandment the observance of the Sabbath was enacted into Law for the Jews under the Mosaic Covenant.

Exodus 20: 8-11 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is a sabbath unto Jehovah thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore Jehovah blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

For those Jews who did not observe the Sabbath they were to be put to death (Exodus 31:15). And Scripture makes it quite clear that only the Jews were to be responsible for keeping the Sabbath (Exodus 31: 16). It did not apply to any other people group. Some Bible expositors and pastors see the New Testament Church of Christ in these verses. Typically the pivotal terminology they employ to link the Church to the Nation Israel is the “Church of the Old Testament.” However, the word Church never appears in the original Hebrew language or the English translations of the Old Testament. Further the Jews belonged to the Nation of Israel. There is no Church in the Old Testament. The first time in the long chronology of the whole Bible text the word Church appears is Matthew 16: 18 where Jesus during His first advent was discussing with Peter the building of the institution known as His Church. Even then He refers to the Church as yet future to that time. It is simply outside biblical orthodoxy to try and merge the New Testament Church to the Old Testament Law given to the Nation Israel.

In addition to being exclusively directed to the Nation Israel the Sabbath mandated a series of activities, which were restricted for the Jews. Some of those are:

  1. The whole family was prohibited from doing any work on the Sabbath; that is, sons, daughters, manservants, maidservants, even livestock and visitors as well converts to Judiasm (Exodus 20:10).
  2. No fires could be kindled (Exodus 35:3).
  3. The priest would wave a sheath on the next day after the Sabbath to the Lord (Leviticus 23: 11).
  4. In the seventh month in the first day of the month a Sabbath memorial was to take place, which included a blowing of trumpets and a holy convocation (Leviticus 23:24).
  5. The First Fruits Feast on the 15th day of the Seventh month was followed by a Sabbath observance (Leviticus 23:39).
  6.  Each Sabbath twelve fresh baked cakes each containing two tenths of an ephah would be set in two rows of six each on a pure table before the Lord. Putting pure frankincense on each of the cakes followed this. This is a Sabbath memorial offering by fire to the Lord (Leviticus 24: 5-7).
  7. A land Sabbath was commanded. This was for an entire year each seven years for allowing the land to lie fallow so as to give it a rest (Leviticus 24: 2-6).
  8. An offering each Sabbath was to consist of two lambs one year old or less that were spotless and two tenths of an ephah of flour mingled with oil and the drink offering (Numbers 28: 9-10).
  9. If any of these observations of the Sabbath were not followed death was the penalty, typically by stoning (Numbers 15: 32-36).
  10. Each fiftieth year, the Jubilee was sabbatical as well (Lev. 25:8-13). The land was to lie uncultivated during these times, indentured servants were released, and debts were to be cancelled (Dt. 15:2)

In a fifty-year span upon reaching the Jubilee, the faithful Hebrew, to one degree or another – depending upon the specific requirement of the law, would observe 5,830 Sabbaths. These Characteristics embody the bulk of Sabbath observance commanded to the Jews under the Mosaic Law. This is the biblical concept referred to as “Keeping the Sabbath.” Any other activity, memorial or single day observance is contrived and not of the Bible. These activities never were meant for the Christian Church. Anybody in New Testament Christianity that believes they are following the Sabbath is unaware of the biblical requirements of the Sabbath. Typically what one finds is the New Testament Christian that does not understand the Bible will pick and choose which parts of the Scripture they will follow, somehow thinking this is appropriate.

Shabbat (Jewish word for Sabbath) is still a most important ritual observance in Judaism. It is the only ritual observance instituted in the Ten Commandments. It is also the most important special day, even more important than Yom Kippur. Shabbat is primarily a day of rest and spiritual enrichment. The word “Shabbat” comes from the root Shin-Bet-Tav, meaning to cease, to end, or to rest.

First Worldwide Church Council Refutes Mandatory Law Keeping

Within the very early church there was an ongoing conflict between two groups who both claimed to be followers of Jesus Christ. One group held to the teachings of Jesus as taught by the apostles regarding salvation in Christ alone. The other group also held to the teachings of Jesus but added adherence to the Mosaic Law, particularly circumcision. Paul waged a steady campaign against a group of false teachers, commonly known as Judiazers, who had sown great confusion among the apostle’s recent converts by teaching that becoming Jewish and following the Law was necessary for salvation.

Paul was particularly forceful in his instructions regarding the Judiazers and their gospel+religious works. The apostle charged, “Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.” Paul’s solution to this problem was that “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” The gospel of the Judiazers “is really no gospel at all.” (Galatians1: 6-9)

The apostles instructed believers to give no ground when it came to preserving the purity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. John stated, “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God.” (2 John 9)

Regardless of how many other biblical truths might be held in common, anyone or any group that adds anything onto the Gospel receives the sternest of rebukes and a severe condemnation by the inspired Word of God. Dr. John Walvoord points out the seriousness of such an act, “When the gospel message is corrupted, the way of salvation is confused and people are in danger of being eternally lost.”

Belief in religious works does not die easily. Many people today believe that it is necessary to keep the Sabbath. In order to ease out of the true biblical requirements of the Sabbath including death for non-compliance they make up their own Sabbath. Church history shows evidence of an effort to impose Old Testament practices as religious work necessary for salvation or sanctification.

The Judiazers had a strong hold on the Galatians convincing them that they had to follow the Jewish Mosaic Law and this new heresy had to be dealt with by the first worldwide church council. Acts chapter fifteen describes this.

The Sabbath was a sign of the Law Covenant (Mosaic). Israel was a nation and needed laws like any other nation. The Church is not a nation so to speak and God never commissioned it to enforce civil laws. Many Christian groups make the mistake that only the animal sacrifices of the Law were abolished. The Bible declares that the Old Mosaic Covenant was to be replaced by an entirely New Covenant for Israel and was based upon an entirely different principle (Jeremiah 31:31-34). The New Covenant is primarily for Israel. It is particularly addressed to Israel (northern 10 tribes) and Judah (southern 2 tribes) not the Church. It is important to keep the two separate. The Church does participate in the New Covenant through Christ. The Church does not appear anywhere in the Old Testament. The apostle Paul states that the Law, which was engraved on tables of stone, was “done away” and “abolished” (II Corinthians 3: 7).

The Law was a covenant. The Old Covenant has been annulled through the death of Christ. The New Covenant made in Christ’s blood, was made with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not with the Gentiles in the Body of Christ (Ephesians 2: 15; Colossians 2:14).

We as the Church are the “Bride of Christ.” This was a mystery in the Old Testament. The New Covenant is only for Israel and Judah. We were given salvation to make the Jews jealous.  Under the New Covenant the saved Jews (now part of the Church) can continue to celebrate the feasts if they so choose. There is no longer any obligation to do so. The Gentiles may do the same if they choose to do so. They also are under no obligation to do so. The unsaved Jews are still under the Law and are required to keep the Law. Try to think of Christians a riding on the New Covenant under unsaved Israel. We will become detached some day at the Rapture and be with Christ forever more. For now our Law is Christ’s Law given in the New Testament. Interestingly, nine of the Ten Commandments get restated in the New Testament. It is only the Sabbath that does not appear in the NT. During the Millennial Kingdom all the ordinances will be reestablished under King Jesus. Of course they will be ceremonial for the King Himself provided the sacrifice.

The Sabbath Terminated

The Scriptures are emphatic that the requirement to keep the Sabbath has been terminated. New Testament data lead to the conclusion that the Law of Moses (with all of its components – including the sabbath) has been abrogated. Paul affirmed that the “law of commandments” was abolished “through the cross” (Eph. 2:14). Similarly, the “bond written in ordinances” (which contained such things as feast days, sabbaths, etc.) was taken out of the way, having been nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14-16). Sabbatarians allege, however, that only the ceremonial features (e.g., animal sacrifices) of the Mosaic covenant were abolished at the cross. The moral elements of the law (e.g., the ten commandments), it is argued, continue to this very day. There is no biblical proof that this is correct. If it were the case the Sabbath, which is the only ceremonial commandment of the Decalogue, would cease to be mandatory. Their position is arbitrary, artificial, and will not stand the test of scripture. The New Testament Law replaced the entire OT Law. It was a complete replacement not a partial one. Observe the following:

God promised to make a “new covenant,” which would not be like the one given to Israel when the nation left Egypt (Jer. 31:31). When that “new covenant” was given, a “change” in laws was made (Heb. 7:12). But the old law, bestowed when Israel came out of Egyptian bondage, contained the Ten Commandments (1 Kings. 8:9,21). Thus, the Decalogue passed away when the Old Testament was replaced by the New.

In Romans 7, the apostle argued that the Christian is “dead to the law through the body of Christ” (4). He further contended that the child of God is “discharged from the law” (6).

Well, exactly what “law” was in view? Merely a “ceremonial” law? No that is not the case, for subsequently Paul says: “For I had not known coveting, except the law had said, ‘You shall not covet’” (vs. 7; cf. Ex. 20:17).

Clearly, the law to which the Christian is “dead,” i.e., separated from, and from which he is “discharged,” included the Ten Commandments. The Christian is not under obligation to keep the Sabbath.

The fact is, just after he affirmed that the law was “nailed to the cross,” Paul declared that no one could “judge,” i.e., condemn a Christian for not keeping feast days, sabbaths, etc. (Col. 2:16). That statement could not have been made had the sabbath-law still been operative.

There is no doubt that many Sabbatarians are genuinely sincere in their profession of keeping the seventh day. But sincerity alone does not justify. First they have devised their own Sabbath. They avoid the terms of Sabbath keeping given in the Bible. Second they make Sabbath keeping a requirement for salvation and /or sanctification both of which constitute the heresy of legalism. The modern practice of “sabbath-keeping” is simply erroneous.

First Century Christian Practice

There is no evidence that the early church observed the Sabbath with apostolic approval. Yes, it certainly was the case that the apostles frequented the synagogues on the Sabbath for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel. That is where the greatest concentration of Jews would have been (cf. Acts 13:14; 17:1-2, etc.), and the message regarding Jesus was to be spoken first to them (Rom. 1:16).

But there is no evidence that the early church, under divine guidance, came together to worship God on the Sabbath day, nor did they move the Sabbath to Sunday.

The kingdom of Christ was established on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1), which always fell on “the morrow after the sabbath” (Lev. 23:15-16), hence, on Sunday. So the church started out meeting for worship on the first day of the week not to observe the Sabbath (cf. Acts 2:42).

The disciples at Troas “were gathered together” [passive voice] upon “the first day of the week” to break bread, i.e., to worship, (Acts 20:7). The specific day of meeting was no accident. Though Paul was anxious to get to Jerusalem (20:16), he waited seven days for the opportunity to assemble with the church.

Moreover, the passive voice (see above) indicates that someone other than the disciples orchestrated the assemblage; it was of divine initiative. It was not a commandment of New Testament Law. It simply meant that they decided to “meet” on the first day of the week. It says nothing about keeping the Sabbath.

The saints in Corinth were assembling, and contributing into the church treasury, “every first day of the week” (1 Cor. 16:2 – Greek text; cf. NASB).

The Gospel narratives, of course, make it clear that the resurrection occurred on Sunday. While Revelation 1:10 would not be conclusive by itself, the very fact that the day is specifically mentioned is significant.

While it was true that some weak or uninformed Christians had a problem making a clean break with the Mosaic economy (Rom. 14:1ff; Gal. 4:10-11), it is important to recognize that inspired apostolic teaching sought to correct this error.

Also, there is the record of the post-apostolic patristic writers. For the first three centuries of Christian history, the testimony is uniform that the original disciples of Jesus Christ worshipped on Sunday. They did not worship on the Sabbath and they did not call Sunday the Sabbath. Here is a sampling of that testimony.

The Didache (c. A.D. 120) declares that “every Lord’s day” the Christians gather themselves together and “break bread” (ANF.VII.381).

The Epistle of Barnabas (c. A.D. 120), in discussing such things as incense, new moons, and Sabbaths, says that the Lord “abolished these things” in deference to “the new law of our Lord Jesus Christ” (ANF.I.138). Later, it is affirmed: “Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead” (I.147).

Justin Martyr (A.D. 140) declared that “on the day called Sunday” the primitive Christians met for worship. He further stated that this was the day on which Christ was raised from the dead (I.186).

Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 194) spoke of the one who “keeps the Lord’s day” as “glorifying the Lord’s resurrection in Himself” (ANF.II.545).

Tertullian (A.D. 200) argued that the “old law” had been consummated; thus the “observance of the Sabbath is demonstrated to have been temporary” (ANF.III.155). Elsewhere he says that “Sabbaths are strange” to Christians, and that they share together “the Lord’s day” (70).

Eusebius (A.D. 324), known as the “father of church history,” stated that Sabbath-observance does not “belong to Christians.” On the other hand, he asserted that Christians “celebrate the Lord’s days . . . in commemoration of his resurrection” (26,113).

Noted historian Philip Schaff concludes: “The universal and uncontradicted Sunday observance in the second century can only be explained by the fact that it had its roots in the apostolic practice” (478-479).

Many Bible elucidators have erroneously referred to Sunday as the Sabbath. They have done so for a variety of reasons. Chief among them has been an unwillingness to separate the New Testament Church from the Mosaic Law written to the Jews in the Old Testament. The apostle Paul dedicated the book of Galatians to refuting the mandatory “keeping of the Law” for those coming into the Church. This included both Jews and Gentiles. Due to the freedom we have in Christ some Jews that became Christians wanted to continue keeping the Law, which includes the Sabbath, but they did so out of preference not out of commandment. We must make the distinction out of the two motivators, commandment and preference. (Galatians 5: 1; Colossians 2: 14-17)

Finally, we must make this comment. It is incorrect to refer to Sunday as “the Christian Sabbath.”

Daniel E. Woodhead

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God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility

Conversion of the apostle Paul by Rubens cir. 1601-02

Conversion of the apostle Paul by Rubens cir. 1601-02

 

Ephesians 1: 3-6 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved (KJV).

This verse begins one long sweeping statement and goes without a major stop from the beginning of verse three to the end of verse fourteen. Paul touches on all the great biblical themes in that complex sentence—sanctification, adoption, redemption, and glorification—and they all rest on one foundational doctrine, the doctrine of election also known as predestination. The highest spiritual blessings stand on Ephesians 1:4 where the text says that God has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world. It also says that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. God didn’t look down the corridor of time to see who would choose Him before He decided or even acted in some random way to select us. Rather, by His sovereign will He chose who would be in the Body of Christ. The construction of the Greek verb for “chose” indicates God chose us for Himself. That means God acted totally independent of any outside influence. He made His choice totally apart from human will and purely on the basis of His sovereignty.
The term predestination, which follows those words, simply means to determine ones destiny beforehand. The Bible never says how God does the choosing. This is exclusively God’s territory. It never gives us His methodologies. This term has produced much division in the Church of Jesus Christ since He departed back to Heaven. Mostly though this heated up with the reformers in the sixteenth century.  Many theologians and Bible teachers have engaged in intensive debate over this term and entire denominations have been split as well as formed around it. We will provide a comprehensive explanation so that we can understand what the Bible teaches on this subject and also what some denominations teach that is actually outside the biblical text. Most discussions of this topic produce too little light and too much heat. It is taught in seminaries as a part of Soteriology, (the doctrine of salvation), within systematic theology.

Four very important truths must be first advanced:

  1. God is entirely sovereign over His creation, is in complete control of it, and He can do whatever He likes (II Kings 19:15; Job 26:13; 38:4; Psalm 103:19; Proverbs 3:19; Isaiah 42:5; 44:6; 45:12; 66:2; Jonah 1:9; Revelation 1:8; 3:14; 4:11).
  2. Man, living in time and space is incapable of realizing a full understanding of God and all His ways (Job 38 & 39 etc.).
  3. Because He lives outside of time and space He can look down the long corridors of time and see all events and decisions simultaneously. He knows what will be decided in the human heart and what will happen in the future before it happens (Isaiah 44:7-8; 45:21; Psalm 139; Genesis 3:15;)
  4. Prior to salvation all humans deserve to enter Hell. Without God we cannot change and save ourselves. NOWHERE IN THE BIBLE DOES IT SAY THAT GOD HAS SPECIFICALLY CHOSEN SOME TO ETERNAL DAMNATION.

Jeremiah 13: 23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil (KJV)?

Romans 3: 10-12 according as it hath been written — `There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who is understanding, there is none who is seeking after God. All did go out of the way, together they became unprofitable, there is none doing good, there is not even one (KJV).

Jesus said to His disciples, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). And in the same Gospel, John wrote, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). And Paul said, “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (II Thessalonians 2:13).

Those statements defining God’s sovereign choice of believers are not in the Bible to cause controversy, as if God’s election means sinners don’t make decisions. Election does not exclude human responsibility or the necessity of each person to respond to the gospel by faith. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37). Even though a simple reading of this verse appears to mean that God has chosen people to salvation before the world was formed, other verses indicate that mankind has to choose God in order to be saved (John 3:15; Acts 16:31 etc.). The dichotomy grows wider with predestination seemingly tightening to mean that God has chosen some people but not all to salvation (Romans 9:18; John 10: 25-29). On the other hand some verses indicate that God wants all people to be saved (John 12:32; 2 Corinthians 5: 14 etc.).

You must understand that your faith and salvation rest entirely on God’s election

(Acts 13:48). And yet the day you came to Jesus Christ, you did so because of an internal desire—you did nothing against your will. But even that desire is God-given—He supplies the necessary faith so we can believe (Ephesians 2:8). If your salvation depends on you, then praise to God is ridiculous. But, in truth, your praise to God is completely appropriate, because in forming the Body before the world began, He chose you by His sovereign decree apart from any of your works. The doctrine of election demonstrates God being God, exercising divine prerogatives. For that we must praise Him.

Some are shocked to find that God seemingly didn’t choose everyone to salvation. Jesus said, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39). God the Father chose certain individuals to form a Body as a gift to Jesus Christ. Every believer is part of that love gift to Christ—a gift of the Father’s love to His Son.

To those who say that is unjust, Paul answers: “What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “ ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Romans 9:14-15).

So why does God still find fault in unrepentant sinners when He didn’t choose them? Doesn’t this deny human responsibility? Is it fair for God to still hold them accountable? FAIR? What is fair? Humans all have a different vision of fairness depending on our experience base. God is in control of His creation and as such can make His own rules. God’s choices are always perfect. In our weak human understanding we see a sense of unfairness with God’s choice. But we must remember He know everything all events, past, present and future. His choices are always perfect or else He would not be God. He has not left anybody out. He made perfect choices.

Paul answers all such questions with a rebuke:

Romans 9: 20-21 20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? (KJV)

Certainly HE does!

Some believe that is terribly cold and calculating. But that is only one side of God’s sovereign election. Paul continues in the next chapter by saying:

Romans 10: 9-13 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “WHOEVER calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (NKJV)

These two sides of God’s truth; His sovereignty in choosing us; (Romans 9) and our responsibility to confess and believe (Romans 10) is IMPOSSIBLE for us to reconcile and understand. But Scripture declares both aspects of salvation are true (John 1:12-13). It’s our duty to acknowledge both and accept them by faith.

This seemingly unsolvable difference in two truthful biblical concepts that can’t be reconciled is called an antinomy. It is not a paradox or a contradiction. Those concepts require that one or the other is untrue. This situation is when both are true. Another biblical antinomy is the Trinity. God is one God in three persons. Both of those imply that either one or the other is true, not both. However, both God’s Divine Sovereignty and man’s ability to choose are true. Hence, they provide antimony. The human’s problem is that we are unsettled with antinomies and try to take one side or the other.

Many denominations take the predestination verses in the Bible as fact and while they can’t reconcile predestination with man’s choice they say man has no choice. In taking this position they must invalidate the verses that clearly show that man has choice. Others take the opposite position and say man has all the choice and God does not choose. They then relegate the verses, which clearly state that God has chosen us to obscurity, or restate them to mean something else. When we don’t accept both ideas as fact and choose one or the other we are engaging in heretical acts. Reformed churches historically take the total predestination position and Baptist churches usually, but not always, take the other. The total predestination position is usually called Calvinism after John Calvin the French reformer of the sixteenth century. The entire emphasis on man’s exclusive choice in the matter of salvation is usually called Arminianism after Jacob Arminius a sixteenth century Dutch theologian who advanced this concept. The problem for us is that both concepts are true and we must accept them as such.

Somewhere in the councils of God this makes sense but on this earth it never will and many have tried to no avail unless they take one side or the other. This then results in heretical teaching. The doctor of souls will do all he can to keep heresies out of the church. They are to the Church of Jesus Christ what disease is to a medical doctor that cares for human bodies in time and space. Both legitimate doctors will do all they can to prevent or stop heresies and diseases in their respective bodies. Unfortunately there are more quacks in the spiritual realm than in the physical temporal one. This is because the prize for pure spiritual truth is eternal life. It is the greatest prize on earth to receive. Nothing has greater value. As evidence of this we see many false prophets, corrupt denominations, and seminary teachings. As a result few find eternal salvation and Satan has accomplished one of his goals: the eternal destruction of human souls.

Matthew 7: 13-15 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

The deception leading into heresy by religious authorities is not new. Jesus condemned the religious authorities of His day for leading the Jews away from eternity.

Matthew 23: 13-15 13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. 14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. 15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves (KJV).

What is important for us to do is clearly explain the antimony and continue to witness for Christ. We never know who will accept. We also cannot take the position that God has chosen those who will accept His call and stop telling others. We must always praise the God of the universe for who He is and stay humble for allowing us to believe. FINALLY IT IS IMPORTANT TO REALIZE THAT WE ARE NOT GOD. IT IS NOT UP TO US TO CHOOSE WHOM HE HAS CHOSEN OR ASK WHY. His choices for salvation and ministry are entirely His providence. That is entirely God’s domain and not ours. It is best that believers NOT argue about this and try to enforce their position. This all belongs to God. God is sovereign and man has responsibility to Him. If you keep arguing about this you will just cause divisions in the Body of Christ. This all belongs to our Lord. He is in charge. Keep teaching and witnessing and lastly, Never, never, never, never, give up.

Daniel Woodhead

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