Category Archives: Articles

The Two Mans (yes, I said “mans”)

Did You Know?

While Jesus was on earth, He was called a “man” in two different ways.  Obviously, Jesus was a male, and as such was called a “man” by His cousin, John the immerser (John 1:30).  The Greek word for a male is aner. (Interestingly, every time the word “husband” appears in the New Testament, it is the same Greek word).

But Jesus, while on earth, was also a human.  He frequently identified Himself as “the Son of man,” or more literally, “the Son of a human.”  You’re probably more familiar with this Greek term (almost always translated as “man” or “men” in the New Testament)—it is anthropos (as in anthropology).

But now Jesus is in heaven at the right hand of the throne of God.  So, is Jesus still “man” in either way?  2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul tells the church that he has espoused (betrothed) them to one “husband,” Jesus Christ.  The Greek word there is aner, a male.  So Jesus is still described as a “man” in that way, even though He is in heaven.  But what might surprise you is 1 Timothy 2:5: “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”  In this verse, Paul describes the current role of Jesus as Mediator in heaven.  And there, by inspiration, Paul says Jesus is human (anthropos).  Jesus, though ascended and glorified in heaven, still retains His humanity so He can be our perfect mediator with the Father.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Judas the Assassin?

Did You Know?

There is debate among Biblical scholars over Judas Iscariot.  I’m not talking about those goofy people who believe that Judas was somehow Jesus’ “chosen one” who was hand-selected by Christ to carry out God’s plan (as seen in the ridiculous 2nd century forgery, the Gospel of Judas).  I’m talking about those who believe in the inspiration of the Bible.  This debate deals with the question, “What does Iscariot mean?”

There are generally two schools of thought on this one.  The predominant view (overwhelmingly so) is that it means “Man from Kerioth,” which is a town in Judah.  If indeed this is the case, then it is proof that Judas was the only one of the apostles who wasn’t from Galilee (see Acts 2).

But, there is another possibility, and it is something that you might never have expected.  Some believe that Iscariot means “member of the Sicarii.” Now I’m sure you’re wondering, What is the Sicarii?  The Sicarii was a sect of the Jews, the most extreme of the Zealots (Simon was a Zealot).  These extremists prided themselves on their assassinations of Roman officials, Roman nobility, and prominent Roman sympathizers.  They would murder these people in broad daylight, among crowds, that way by the time the victim fell to the ground, they were lost in the crowd.  In fact, it was the growth of these actions that later led to the Roman-Jewish War that left Jerusalem in ruins and 1.1 million Jews dead.

And if Judas was one of these kind of men, it puts a whole new twist on his actions.  It is a possibility.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Why did Artaxerxes Care?

Did You Know?

Nehemiah, the cup-bearer of Persian King Artaxerxes, was upset because he had heard about the Jews who had gone back to Judea being persecuted, and about the wall around the city being broken down.  The king saw he was sad, asked what was wrong, and when Nehemiah told him, the king responded, “What is it that you desire?”

When Nehemiah told him he wanted to go to Jerusalem to help rebuild the wall, the king, it seems, didn’t blink, but asked, “How long are you going to be gone?”  The king also sent letters of passage, and letters of permission to log the forests to rebuild the gates, walls, and a house.  Additionally, he sent soldiers with Nehemiah.  The question is Why would Artaxerxes care about the city wall of a conquered people?

The answer is this.  Queen Esther was married to Ahasuerus, King of Persia.  Ahasuerus is more well-known by the name Xerxes. During the days of Nehemiah, the Persian king was Artaxerxes—literally the son of Xerxes.  Artaxerxes cared about the Jewish people and their city because his mother (or step-mother) was Queen Esther—a Jew.  In other words, he cared because the Jews were family to him.

Did You Know?

-Bradley S. Cobb

Who was Jesus Praying About?

Did You Know?

One of the joys of using the King James Version is those dreaded thees and thous that everyone seems to hate so much.  But they’re actually quite helpful in understanding what is going on in some Bible passages.  Here’s an example.

And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not… (Luke 22:31-32).

When the words “you” and “ye” appear in the King James Version, it shows that the original language is plural, a group of people.  The words “thee” and “thou” (and “thy”) indicate a single person being spoken to.  This is a distinction that is missing from almost all modern translations.  Taking that knowledge, let’s look at that passage again:

And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you [apostles], that he may sift you [apostles] as wheat: But I have prayed for thee [Peter], that thy [Peter’s] faith fail not…

Jesus didn’t pray for all the apostles in the face of Satan’s impending attack on them.  He prayed for Peter, that Peter’s faith would not fail.

Did you know?

-Bradley S. Cobb

Put that Snake on a Sign?

Did You Know?

It is interesting how many times the same words are used in Greek and Hebrew, but our English translations don’t bring it out.  Here’s one such example.

The Israelites are whiners.  Plain and simple.  And then finally God has enough of their nonsense, and sends fiery serpents among them, and those serpents start biting the Israelites, and people die.  Then they realize “Oh, we messed up!” and beg for Moses to do something about it.  So, Moses talks to God, and God tells him to make a brass serpent and put it on a pole.  Right?  Well, sort of.

The exact same word translated “pole” in Numbers 21 is translated as “sign” just five chapters later.  You might remember that Korah and company tried to rebel and overthrow Moses’ leadership.  Then Moses called for the ground to open up and swallow Korah and his crew alive.  It happened, and God said that this was done as a sign to the people.

The word in Hebrew almost always refers to something done or raised for others to see.  It is called a standard (a.k.a., battle flag), an ensign (a.k.a. flag of conquest), or a banner (you’re noticing a trend here, right?).

God told Moses not just to put the snake up on a pole, but to put it on a sign, raise it up for people to see the power of God, who through the snakes had declared war on the complaining Israelites.  The brazen serpent served as God’s battle flag.

Did you know?

-Bradley S. Cobb

The Non-Hebrew Writer of the Old Testament

Did You Know?

If you ask people—even Christians who read their Bible every day—to identify the biblical writers, they would probably all agree that the Bible (at least the Old Testament) was written by Israelites (which, today, is used synonymously with the word “Jew”).  Most Bible scholars will point out that Luke was probably a Gentile, but the near-unanimous opinion of all is that the Old Testament was written exclusively by Israelites.

Not so fast.

While that’s true for the most part, there is one chapter that wasn’t written by an Israelite at all.  And it is an inspired message from God.

To make it even more interesting, in many ancient copies of the book, this chapter is not written in Hebrew, but in the Chaldee language—the language of Babylon.

The author? King Nebuchadnezzar.  The chapter? Daniel chapter 4.

So, if someone ever asks you about the writers of the Bible, don’t forget to add that formerly heathen king who learned his lesson by being sent out to pasture (literally) by God.

Did you know?

-Bradley S. Cobb

The National Church of America???

I was quite surprised to read that some people descended from the Restoration Movement actually made the claim that they were the closest thing to a national church in America that there was–and that they foresaw the day when that vision became a reality, where all the denominational groups would join together with them.

Now, some might scoff at that statement and say that the Campbells looked to unite all the denominations into one body, and that I just don’t know my history.

No, there’s a difference.  The Campbells were trying to stop the division among the denominations based on clear teachings of the word of God.  These people I’m talking about took pride in saying that none of the sermons they preached would be offensive in any denomination.  They took pride in saying that they were the only church who weren’t offensive to anyone, and who would accept anyone, so long as they would acknowledge the Bible as the word of God (whether they accepted what was written in there apparently didn’t matter, as we’ll see momentarily), and displayed a Christian attitude.

If they accepted infant baptism, sprinkling or pouring as baptism, or rejected baptism completely, it didn’t matter.  If they used instruments and women preachers, no big deal.  Ignore the Lord’s Supper?  Who cares! As long as you take the word of God and act nice, you’re more than accepted!

We have brethren today who may not be as far gone, but they’re getting close.  In the name of “Christian Unity,” they are willing to ignore anything “doctrinal,” anything to do with worship, leadership roles, and even things the Scripture clearly connects with salvation, and just proclaim to people that their sins are all forgiven and that they have a home eternally with God awaiting them–WITHOUT OBEYING THE GOSPEL!

The people that brought this post about were the early 20th Century descendants of the Christian Connexion.  In 1911, Martyn Summerbell gave a short lecture called “An Address on the Origin and Principles of the Christians,” and in it he made the claim that the “Christians” were the only ones who could bring together all the denominations.

Perhaps they could.  But bringing together all the denominations into one body still doesn’t make them the church if they haven’t come to the Father through Jesus Christ in obedient faith which exhibits itself in repentance, baptism, and a faithful life in service to our Lord.

The address, fully reformatted and corrected (and searchable) can be downloaded below.

Address on the Origin and Principles of the Christians (Martyn Summerbell)

-Bradley S. Cobb

Faith Comes by What?!?

Did You Know?

When Paul works his way backwards from salvation to God in Romans 10, he says those “who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (verse 13).  He then asks rhetorical questions, “How can they call on Him in Whom they have not believed?  How can they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they be sent?” (verses 14-15).  He points out that preaching alone didn’t save people, then quotes Isaiah, saying “Who has believed our report?” (verse 16).  That word “report” is important to remember.

We all know the next verse: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

But did you know that this isn’t actually what the verse is supposed to say?  The word “report” in verse 16 is a noun.  It is a message, something delivered to people.  The word “hearing” in verse 17—in the original—is the EXACT SAME WORD.  That’s right, it is supposed to be a noun, not a verb.  Not only that, but there’s another word in the Greek that isn’t in most English translations—the word that means “the.”  Literally, this verse reads:

“So then the faith comes by (our) report, and (our) report (comes) from the declaration of God.”

Romans 10:17, instead of being designed to show a step in the plan of salvation, is stressing the origin of the message that saves: the faith (see Jude 3) comes from the message we preach, and that message comes from God.

(Note: the Modern Literal Version, and Young’s Literal Translation both make this point clear in their translations)

-Bradley S. Cobb

New Additions to the eLibrary

TWO NEW BOOKS!

Chester Estes was a fine man, and perhaps an even better preacher.  In his life, he wrote untold numbers of articles and sermons; and also wrote commentaries.  He even did his own translation of the Bible!

He also wrote some other books, one of which is being added today to the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary.  It’s called “What is Truth?”

The eBook that you can download below is a scan of the original book.  I realize that isn’t our normal operating procedure (usually we completely reformat and proofread/correct every book we post), but hopefully you’ll forgive us for giving you the original this time.  🙂

What is Truth? (Chester Estes)

Now, for the people who really want to dig deep on the myth of evolution, we are presenting a booklet called “The Man from Monkey Myth,” written by Douglas Dewar.  This was originally published in a magazine in 1944, and later reprinted by James D. Bales as part of a campaign against evolution.

Dewar speaks the scientists’ language, as he shows their conclusions are unwarranted and untrue.

Fully reformatted and searchable, you can download it by clicking the link below.

Man from Monkey Myth (Douglas Dewar)

 

Can You Bear the Light?

 

Introduction

Wouldn’t it be great to be imprisoned?  To not be able to go anywhere?  To not have the freedom to get up and walk somewhere?  I mean, think of how happy you’d be if only you were in chains!!

Okay, not really.  But Paul’s example is a great one to follow.  He’s imprisoned, awaiting trial, and yet he repeatedly speaks of his joy.  Obviously his joy isn’t because he’s imprisoned, but he can have joy nonetheless.  There’s several passages throughout Philippians that prove this point—but as they aren’t the focus of this lesson, we’ll not delve into all of them.  Instead, I want you to look at Philippians 2:12-18 with me, and we will see that one reason Paul had joy was because faithful Christians are light-bearers in the world.

Light-bearing involves faithfulness to God’s commands (2:12-13)

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

First, Paul loves them.  The word “beloved” is the noun form of agape.  Literally, it is “loved ones.”  Because he loves them, he praises them, and he also encourages them.  Isn’t that a great example of shining like a light?  When someone does something good, praise them, and encourage them to continue!

Second, they were obedient to the things Paul had delivered to them from God.  In other words, they were faithful to the commands of the Lord.  The word “obeyed” in the original is two words put together: under and hearing.  They listened to the one whom they were under (ultimately, God), recognizing Him as the Master and Ruler.  Since “obedience” includes the word “hearing,” is it really possible for someone to obey God without hearing what His word says?  And remember, that this is being spoken to Christians—Christians need to continue to “hear the word of the Lord,” or “study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  If you want to shine like lights in the world, drawing people to Christ, then you have to read, study, listen to the commands of God.

Third, Paul encourages them to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”  The phrase “not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence” actually goes with this encouraging phrase.  They were concerned about their salvation, they energetically worked to maintain their standing before God, while Paul was present.  Now, however, Paul encourages them to do it even more so—literally, to work out fully their own salvation—in his absence.  It’s like a parent watching his children as they clean their room, or do the dishes, or mow the yard, or whatever task it might be.  The children might work steadily and diligently while mom or dad are standing there watching, and the work will get done.  But it is far more important, far more impressive, when they do that work without mom and dad’s personal presence right there.  How those children obey, how they work when the parents aren’t right there shows what kind of person they truly are.  In the same way, Paul encourages the Philippian Christians (and us today as well) to take personal responsibility, to show our true dedication to the Lord by working out our own salvation.  2 John 8 says “Look to yourselves that we lose not the things for which we have worked, but receive a full reward.”

Fourth, they are to work out their own salvation “with fear and trembling.”   This doesn’t mean that we are shaking in our boots, afraid that God is going to strike us down the first time we sin.  This isn’t talking about never having confidence in our salvation.  It is a warning against overconfidence.  God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power.  Wardlaw says:

This fear is self-distrust; it is tenderness of conscience; it is vigilance against temptation; it is the fear which inspiration opposes to high-mindedness in the admonition ‘be not high-minded but fear.’ It is taking heed lest we fall; it is a constant apprehension of the deceitfulness of the heart, and of the insidiousness and power of inward corruption. It is the caution and circumspection which timidly shrinks from whatever would offend and dishonor God and the Savior. And these the child of God will feel and exercise the more he rises above the enfeebling, disheartening, distressing influence of the fear which hath torment. Well might Solomon say of such fear, ‘happy is the man that feareth always”

This goes along well with what Paul says in Galatians 6:1: “If you see a man overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual restore such a man in a spirit of meekness, considering yourself, lest you also be tempted.”  In other words, work to gain the full reward, but realize that you can indeed fall, so don’t get overconfident.

Fifth, as light-bearers, those who are faithful to God’s commands, we must realize that it is God working in us.  We aren’t the source of the light, God is.  When we do good for others, it is God working in us.  People in the world don’t see God working and blessing their lives, offering them salvation, except through His people who have the desire (the “will”) and who follow through with the work (the “do”).  Just as it is said that Jesus baptized more disciples than John, yet He didn’t do it personally, but through the apostles—one way God works on the hearts and lives of people (Christians and non-Christians) is through His chosen people: faithful Christians.  It’s a solemn responsibility and a great honor to know that God is working in us!

Light-bearing involves the proper attitude (2:14-16a)

Do all things without murmurings and disputings so that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life.

It is very rare (if at all) that a biblical writer says anything in a vacuum.  That is, it is very rare (if at all) that anything recorded in the Bible isn’t connected in some way to the context around it.  Verse 14 is often used without consideration of its context.  The principle is still valid, but there’s a purpose behind Paul’s saying “do all things without murmurings and disputings” (without whining and complaining).  And here’s the purpose in a nutshell: you can’t shine as lights in the world, bearing the light of God to souls both lost and struggling, when you’re complaining.

My family and I drove across the country to the east coast a couple years ago.  In order to save money, we decided to drop in on some family members along the way, making use of their spare bedrooms.  In each place we went, we were told we were welcome to stay (we did contact them all ahead of time, so it wasn’t a surprise).  However, at one place, it was made clear to us that it was an inconvenience for them to let us stay the night.  They were put out.  Their attitude in helping us out was such that we won’t ever go there again.

You can’t take the gospel to others and expect them to respond when you have a complaining attitude.  Imagine it.  You go up to someone and say, “I’ve got this great news.  Wish I didn’t have to tell it to you, though.”  What kind of response are you going to receive from that?  I’ll tell you: You’ve lost the chance of ever reaching them with the gospel ever again.

The NIV translates it as “complaining and arguing.”  We snuff out our light when all that people see from us is arguing.  While there is a time and place for discussing biblical topics with brethren—yes, even having disagreements and perhaps even arguing (depending on what the other person is advocating)—your public Facebook feed probably isn’t the place for it.  Some people’s Facebook profile is nothing but calling out or condemning people in the church!  And one such person, when asking a friend to study the Bible with him, received a rejection because all he saw from this man was arguing with his own brethren!

After making that statement, Paul explains why they should “do all things without murmurings or complainings: “So that you might become blameless and harmless, children of God, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation [literally, generation], among whom you shine as lights in the world.”

We need to be concerned about how we are viewed by non-Christians.  We must live blamelessly—live in a way that we can’t be accused of maliciousness or evil intent.  We must live harmlessly—doing no damage or injury to others by what we say or do.  We must show ourselves to be children of God.  Jesus said that “by this shall all me know that you are my disciples: if you have love one for another.”  He also included a similar idea in His prayer in John 17: “that they may be one…so that the world can see that you have sent me.”  A requirement for elders is that they “must have a good report from those outside” (1 Timothy 3).

We become blameless, harmless, children of God, and we shine as lights in the world when we have the proper attitude and use that godly disposition to show the love of Jesus Christ to others!  The world is in darkness, and God shines forth, giving light to those lost and stumbling in sin through us.

But Paul closes this thought with a reminder that it isn’t just the attitude, it must include the Scriptures as well: “Holding forth the word of life.”  We keep our lives aligned with the word of God, and when we share the love of Christ with others, we make sure to point them to the same thing: the engrafted word which is able to save their souls (James 1:21).

Light-bearing leads to eternal rejoicing (2:16b-18)

So that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me.

Ultimately, God through Paul is saying that true light-bearers will receive the eternal reward. It will be a day of great rejoicing on different levels.

First, Paul himself would rejoice “in the day of Christ.”  He would rejoice to see familiar faces in that great resurrection reunion.  His rejoicing was because he would be reunited with friends and loved one, but also that his work among them was not in vain.

Three years ago, Jesse and I took in three Indian boys in order to keep them out of “the system” when their parents went to jail.  It was a rough couple months for us, as those boys hadn’t been disciplined, hadn’t been trained, didn’t care about schoolwork.  But we labored with them until their parents got out of jail.  Earlier this month, I got a message from one of the boys thanking us for everything we did for them, and how the time with us is a bright memory for them.  When you hear things like that, you can’t help but rejoice that your labor was not in vain—that the work you did had an impact on the lives of others.  It’s no wonder Paul said he would rejoice in the day of Christ!

Second, Paul would rejoice that he had the smallest part in helping them—and that they had the larger part to play.  Literally, Paul says “if I be poured out on the sacrifice…” In both Jewish and pagan sacrifices, the drink offering, which was poured out, was the smallest part of the offering.  Paul said that the “sacrifice” (the main part of the offering) was their faith.  Paul knew that bringing the gospel to them, working with them, and teaching them was important—but their final salvation ultimately rested on their faith put into action.  Paul’s rejoicing came as a result of knowing that the little work he did with them led to their own personal faith and works in the Lord as light-bearers.

Third, the Christians in Philippi would rejoice as well because of their soul’s salvation in the day of Christ.  Paul says “I joy, and rejoice with you.”

Fourth, the Christians in Philippi would rejoice because they got to be reunited with the one who brought the gospel to them: “For the same cause, you also rejoice, and rejoice with me.”

Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,
Sing His mercy and His grace,
In the mansions, bright and blessed,
He’ll prepare for us a place
When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be
When we all see Jesus
We’ll sing and shout the victory.

Conclusion

From the time I was a little kid, sitting in Sunday school, I sang the song “This little light of mine.”  (sometimes “Christian light” or “gospel light)  In that song, we try to teach the children to let their lights shine for Jesus.  “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  We try to teach this principle to the children, but we might want to start realizing it applies to us adults as well.

Hide it under a bushel?  No!  I’m gonna let it shine!

Won’t let Satan [blow] it out, I’m gonna let it shine

Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.

If we let God’s light shine through us by our obedience, our love, our attitude, and our actions, then we will make it to heaven—but more than that, we will be able to rejoice because of others who are there as a result of our labor with them.

Are you a light-bearer?

-Bradley S. Cobb