Category Archives: Sermons

Be of Good Cheer, I Have Overcome the World!

It is Jesus’ darkest hour.  The hour when His disciples abandon Him.  The hour when one of the men who had performed miracles, who had preached “the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” betrayed Him with a kiss.  The hour when He agonized in prayer, sweating as it were great drops of blood.  His final 24 hours of life before being tortured, beaten, mocked, and killed.

They bound the hands of Jesus in the garden where He prayed; They led Him through the streets in shame; They spat upon the Savior, so pure and free from sin; They said “Crucify Him! He’s to blame!”

And in this hour—the hour in which Jesus pleaded with the Father, “Please, let this cup pass from me”—we catch a glimpse of Jesus as an encourager.

How is it that someone who knows they are about to suffer excruciating pain [the word “excruciating,” meaning out of the crucifix, was created because there was no word strong enough to convey the pain of being on a cross]—how is it that He could possibly think about encouraging people at a time like that?

Look at John 13 with me.  We’ll start there.

You’re Going to Suffer

We are in the final evening of Jesus’ life.  He, along with the twelve apostles, have been in the upper room, sharing what would be their final meal together before the darkest event in human history took place.  The Passover has been celebrated, Jesus has washed their feet, then Judas leaves—setting everything into motion for the grand finale of the Jews’ plans to rid themselves of this Jesus.  This is the setting in which some of Jesus’ most famous statements are found.

It is here that Jesus said, “I shall [only] be with you a little while longer…Where I am going, you cannot come” (13:33).  The person that they had followed for 3 ½ years, that they were dedicated to—the man who was both their hero and their friend—says He’s about to leave, and from here on out, they won’t be coming with Him anymore.  If you’ve ever had to say goodbye to someone you loved, knowing that you’d never see them again this side of eternity, you can understand the pain and heartache this would cause in the disciples.

It is here that Jesus cryptically tells Peter specifically that the apostle will be killed too: “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, but you shall follow me afterward [or, later]” (13:36).  Peter expresses his devotion to Jesus, says that he will die for the Lord, only to hear the words “Will you lay down your life for my sake?  Most assuredly I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied me three times!” (13:37-38). Peter, especially, suffers internal disappointment here, knowing that his Master doesn’t believe him.  Worse yet, the Master thinks that he will forsake Him.

Just a bit later, in chapter 15, Jesus drops another bomb on them.  Once He leaves, things are going to get bad.  “The world hates you…If they persecuted Me [and oh did they ever], they will also persecute you” (15:19-20).  You can imagine their thoughts here: Wait, you’re leaving, and then they’re going to start attacking us?

“They will put you out of the synagogues” [literally, make you outcasts from the synagogue] (16:2).  The Jews will excommunicate them.  The synagogue was the center of the Jews’ religious life week in and week out.  Being an outcast from the synagogue in essence made you an outcast among the Jews—the very ones they wanted to save.

“Yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service” (16:2).  Wait, what?  KILL us?!?  They will be so rejected, so persecuted, their names and character besmirched so much that the Jews would think that killing them is actually doing God a favor, a service, by removing the worst kind of false teachers possible.  This is some heavy-duty hatred and persecution that they’re in for.

“Because I’ve said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart,” Jesus says (16:6).  “Most assuredly I say to you, that you will weep and lament” (16:20) because Jesus was going to “go away”—that is, going to die.

Then Jesus completely cuts the legs out from under them.  Not only will all these bad things happen to you after I leave, Jesus says, but “Indeed the hour is coming—yes, has now come [it is here!]—that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave me alone” (16:32).  Outside pressures are hard.  Persecutions are hard, but if you know you’re being persecuted for doing the right thing, at least you have some kind of peace in that knowledge.  But Jesus tells them, in essence, ‘Y’all are about to cave to the pressure; you’re about to show your weakness; you who claim to love me are going to completely abandon me, run away like scared little children, and hope no one knows you were my disciples.’  They were going to have internal character failure, which is often the most difficult kind of persecution there is—knowing that you failed someone else in their time of need.

Really put yourselves in their sandals.  No one wants to be persecuted, but they were going to be—that had to scare them.  No one wants to be hated, but they were going to be—that had to cause their heart to drop.  No one wants to be thought of as a coward, but that’s what they were going to be—and that had to make them sad.  No one wants to lose their hero, their friend, but that was about to happen—and that would make them sad for their own loss.   But the worst part of it all is that no one wants to watch their friend get tortured, mocked, spat upon, beaten, and killed—the helpless feeling had to overwhelm them as they realized they couldn’t save Jesus.

We all like to think that we could be a hero, stopping injustice, stepping in when someone is being wronged, standing up for the ones who are falsely accused or punished.  But seeing Jesus on the cross, they wouldn’t—couldn’t—do anything.

Then in verse 33, Jesus gives the understatement of the evening: “In the world, you will have tribulation.”  The sinful world, the world that doesn’t follow God, who doesn’t care about the doctrine of Jesus Christ—they will do their best to destroy you.  They will try to undermine your efforts for God.  They will make fun of you.  They will mock you.  They will try to discredit you.  They will try to make you feel guilty for sharing the truth.  They will try to pass laws to keep you from speaking up against sin.  And that’s every bit as true today for us as it was for the apostles.

If we just left it here, it would seem like Christianity is a life of constant misery.  If Jesus just stopped with the things we’ve touched on, then who could have blamed the apostles for running off?

But Jesus didn’t stop there, and we shouldn’t either.

Cheer up!

A quick glance through the same few chapters gives us some interesting insights.  It seems that Jesus wasn’t trying to scare them, He was trying to prepare them.  He wasn’t trying to frighten them, He was trying to enlighten them.  He didn’t want to bring them fear, but cheer!

“Let not your heart be troubled,” Jesus said.  “You believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (14:1-3).  Jesus says, Yes, I’m going away, but don’t be afraid or sad.  I’m going to get a place ready so we can all be together forever and never have to separate again!  I’ll be coming back to get you.  This separation is only temporary!

“My peace I give to you… Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  You have heard me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’  If you loved me, you would rejoice, because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for the Father is greater than I.  And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe” (14:27-29).  Jesus says, Don’t be sad, and don’t be afraid.  In fact, you should be happy for me, because I get to go home to be with the Father!  But I want you to know what is going to happen ahead of time, so it doesn’t take you by surprise.

“Greater love has no one than this: than to lay down one’s life for his friends.  You are my friends…” (15:13-14). I’m going to die, the Lord says, but I am doing it for you—because you are my friends.

There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus, No, not one; No, not one.

“They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service… But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them” (16:2, 4).  Yes, bad things will happen to you, but you will be prepared, and not be taken by surprise at the persecutions.

“You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.” (16:20).  My death will cause you great sadness, but it will lead to a greater joy than you’ve ever known.  I will be coming back, and your world—nay, the entire world—will never be the same.  You will be persecuted, but instead of depressing you, you will rejoice over it!  You will be blessed beyond measure to see some who persecute you turn in humble repentance and become your friends, co-laborers, and fellow-heirs of salvation.  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake indeed!

“You now have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one can take from you” (16:22).  When I come back, nothing will be able to take away your joy, your inner happiness.  Because when I come back, you will know that your work is vindicated.  You will know that you are truly serving the one true God.  You will know that death is no longer anything to fear—because I will have conquered death.  And if I am raised, you can know assuredly that you will be raised too.

On that resurrection morning when the trump of God shall sound, we shall rise (Hallelujah) we shall rise!

“You will be scattered…and will leave Me alone.  And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me” (16:32).  You are going to see me alone on trial, alone on the cross, and you’re going to be sad for my sake—but don’t be.  The Father is with Me—I’m never truly alone.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace” (16:33).  It is turbulent, trying to live in the world, living by the world’s standards and judgments, being surrounded by people who don’t know or don’t care about God and His word.  But there is a peace—a peace that surpasses all understanding—that I want to give to you.  Put your trust in Me, keep my commandments and be My friend, and know that I will come back to get you.  Know that I will have a place prepared for you in the home of the One who loves you, who cares for you, and who wants to take care of you and be with you forever.  I want you to know that in Me, you can have that peace.

“In the world, you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (16:33).  The god of this world will come after you—He came after me too.  But I won.  His power is broken. It might seem like the world—his world—wins later today, as I am lifted up on a cross and murdered, but it will really be his undoing.  And through my overcoming, you can overcome.

Then Jesus prayed for them (John 17).

Throughout this time of stress, this time of impending doom and trial, Jesus gave His apostles encouraging words.  They were going to suffer, but they would be able to endure.  Not just endure, but rejoice.  Not just rejoice, but emerge victorious!

But Does this Mean Anything to You?

Obviously, we aren’t the apostles—we weren’t the ones specifically being spoken to on that fateful night/early morning.  So what, if anything, do these sayings of Jesus mean to us?  The answer is plenty!

The last thing we mentioned that Jesus did for the apostles was pray for them.  But did you know that Jesus also prayed for you at the same time?  Yes, you, sitting there in the pew, were prayed for specifically by Jesus Christ less than 24 hours before He was brutally murdered.

Neither do I pray for these alone [the apostles], but for them also who shall believe on Me through their message (John 17:20).

How do we believe in Jesus Christ today?  We didn’t see Him in person; we didn’t walk with Him or see His resurrected form ascend into heaven.  No, but we have the written accounts from eyewitnesses, and from those who were inspired by God!  This is what we need in order to believe! (John 20:31).  Therefore, Jesus prayed for us before He died!  This message of hope, of peace, of cheer—it is for us too!

There is a peace that comes only in Him (16:33).  Now, if it is possible for us to be “in Him,” then we, too, have access to that peace.  And it so happens that we can!  When we believe in Jesus with all our heart, turn to Him in repentance, and are baptized “into Christ,” we can enjoy all the spiritual blessings that can only be found “in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3, Romans 6:3-4, Galatians 3:27).  We can take hold of the peace that is so powerful that it surpasses all understanding.  It allows us to be content when the world is crashing around us.  It helps us to rejoice when we are tempted, knowing it helps to create patience.  It helps us to endure the fiery darts of the wicked and continue to march in the fight against Satan’s wickedness (Ephesians 6).

We look at these passages of encouragement from Jesus, and we can know that it extends to each one of us as well.  It reaches through the centuries, up from the pages of your Bible, and deep into your heart—if you will let it—to cheer you on your journey through this land.

Footprints of Jesus, that make the pathway glow!

“In My Father’s house are many mansions”—that’s because we have a place there too!

“I go to prepare a place for you.  I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”  When He comes again, the dead in Christ shall rise, and the living Christians at that time will rise to meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4).  Brethren, this is a promise for every Christian throughout the last 2,000 years, and through the end of time itself—and it includes you!  Jesus is coming back to get you, and take you home to be with Him!

“Greater love has no one than this: than to lay down one’s life for his friends.  You are my friends if you keep My commandments.”  Jesus’ death is for His friends—His church (Acts 20:28)—those who are trying to walk in the light (1 John 1:7).  Does that describe you?

I’ll be a friend to Jesus.  My life, for Him, I’ll spend.  I’ll be a friend to Jesus until my years shall end.

We know that we will have trouble in this world, because the god of this world is Satan.  But Jesus died to crush the power of Satan, to give mankind hope, to bring about the eternal kingdom of God, to make salvation possible, and to bring true joy and peace.  Yes, we will have tribulation in this world.  But cheer up—celebrate!  Because Jesus overcame the world—and He did it for us so that we can do it too.

For whoever is born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that overcomes the world: our faith (1 John 5:4).

Or to put it a more familiar way:

Encamped among the hills of light, you Christian soldiers, rise and press the battle ‘ere the night shall veil the glowing skies.  Against the foes, in vales below, let all our strength be hurled.  Faith is the victory, we know, that overcomes the world.

His banner over us is love; our sword the word of God.  We tread the road the saints above, with shouts of triumph, trod.  By faith they, like a whirlwind’s breath, swept on o’er every field!  The faith by which they conquered death, is still our shining shield.

On every hand, the foe we find, drawn up in dread array.  Let tents of ease be left behind, and onward! To the fray!  Salvation’s helmet on each head, with truth all girt about, the earth shall tremble ‘neath our tread, and echo with our shout!

To him that overcomes the foe, white rainment shall be given.  Before the angels, he shall know his name confessed in heaven.  Then onward from the hills of light!  Our hearts, with love aflame, we’ll vanquish all the hosts of night in Jesus’ conquering name!

Faith is the victory!  Faith is the victory!  O, glorious victory that overcomes the world!

Listen to the confidence, the certain hope, the peace, the joy in knowing that we have salvation in Jesus Christ.

There will be tribulation, but don’t be sad.  We will overcome the world too.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Jesus – Our Great High Priest

(It’s been a while since we’ve posted anything, but perhaps this will be ‘worth the wait,’ so to speak. Thanks to those who have encouraged us and asked [demanded?] that we write more and post more often.)

Introduction

It wasn’t until studying for this lesson that I discovered an interesting fact.  The phrase “high priest” appears in 21 verses of the Old Testament. Just four times in the Pentateuch (the “books of Moses,” Genesis through Deuteronomy).  Yet the phrase appears in 56 verses of the New Testament—16 times in the book of Hebrews alone.  That should give us a clue: the New Testament has just as much to say—if not more—about the true meaning of the High Priest than the Old Testament does.

The writer of Hebrews addressed an audience of Israelites—those who were raised to hear, believe, and obey the Law of Moses.  It’s important that before we look into the idea of Jesus as the “Great High Priest,” we try to get some grasp of the background that the original readers would have had, and the ideas that would have sprung to mind when discussing this issue.  As we look at these Old Testament passages, try to picture in your head how these things pointed forward to Jesus Christ, and how He fulfills these things even today.  We will discuss the connections later in the lesson, but try to make those connections as we go through these verses.

The High Priest in the Old Testament

Though it isn’t the first time we read about the high priest, the words “high priest” first appear in Leviticus 21:10-14.

He who is the high priest among his brethren, on whose head the anointing oil was poured and who is consecrated to wear the garments, shall not uncover his head nor tear his clothes; nor shall he go near any dead body, nor defile himself for his father or his mother; nor shall he go out of the sanctuary, nor profane the sanctuary of his God; for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is upon him: I am the Lord. And he shall take a wife in her virginity.  A widow or a divorced woman or a defiled woman or a harlot—these he shall not marry; but he shall take a virgin of his own people as wife.

First, note that the high priest (“priest who is chief” – ESV) is a brother, a relative, to those he serves.  It would have been unthinkable for the Israelites—God’s chosen people—to have to rely on a foreigner to lead them in the spiritual matters which included the removal of their sins as a nation.  God chose the tribe of Levi, specifically Aaron and his lineage, to serve as priests. But the fact remains, they were all Israelites.

Second, note the high priest’s anointing (see Exodus 29:5-7).  This was something done in order to set him apart for a specific task to which he was called.  God used the same method to set apart kings (1 Samuel 15:1; 1 Kings 1:34; etc.) and prophets (1 Kings 19:16).  The high priest was chosen by God to serve His people in their need for sin removal.

Third, note that even in the event of the death of close relatives, the high priest was not to cease performing his work.  Though some might view this to be harsh, the work of serving God and serving the nation of God’s people had to come first.

Fourth, note that he was only permitted to marry a virgin—a pure bride—of his own people.  The high priest was not permitted to marry someone who was not a follower of God, one of God’s chosen people.

Now, look at Exodus 30:7-10:

And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the LORD throughout your generations. You shall not offer unauthorized incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering, and you shall not pour a drink offering on it. Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD.

The altar of incense, which stood before the veil to the Most Holy Place, is under consideration in these verses.  Every morning and evening, the high priest burns incense to the LORD.  But the only incense allowed is what God has commanded/authorized.  Then at the end of this section, God reveals that the blood of the atonement sacrifice makes the incense acceptable.

Now, Leviticus 16:32-34:

“And the priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the holy linen garments. He shall make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.” And Aaron did as the LORD commanded Moses.

Here we have the Day of Atonement sacrifice described.  It cleanses the tabernacle, and it removes the sins of the people of God—and this setup was given by the command of God.

We could appeal to several more passages to get even more in depth about the high priest, but these will have to suffice.  The question we want to ask before we go any further is: How did the Jews view the high priest?

  1. They viewed the high priest as absolutely essential to having their sins forgiven.
  2. One could pray to God, but it was understood that only the high priest could approach the presence of God on behalf of the people.
  3. The high priest was the visual representation of the entire Mosaic worship system. When the people thought about the Law of Moses, one of the first images that would come into their heads is the high priest in his robe and crown, offering sacrifices for the people on a constant basis.
  4. Though they understood (intellectually) that the high priest was still a human and susceptible to sin, he was viewed as “HOLY BEFORE GOD” (that message written across the crown he wore). Thus, he was seen as more holy than everyone else—or at least they knew he was supposed to be.

Of course, by the time of Jesus, the purity and holiness of the office of high priest had faded badly.  Instead of following the God-given directive to have a high priest for life, the Jews had multiple high priests, alternating their years of filling that role (see Luke 3:2; John 18:13).  In the few centuries leading up to the birth of Christ, the office of high priest was filled by whoever paid the ruling nation (be it the Seleucids, Ptolemies, or Romans) the most money—it became a political office instead of a religious one.

So the time was ripe for a new high priest to emerge.

Jesus as the Great High Priest

When Jewish Christians, torn by doubt, persecution, tradition, and family pressure, began to go back into Judaism, God inspired a man to bring them a powerful message about what they had in Christ—and how vastly superior Jesus Christ is than the fading relics of the Law of Moses.  One of the main areas of emphasis in this book is how Jesus’ priesthood is better than the priesthood of Aaron.  In other words, Jesus is the High Priest above every high priest who had ever existed before Him.

Speaking of Jesus, this inspired penman states:

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:17-18).

The first thing we noted earlier was that the high priest had to be related to the people he served.  Here, Jesus is the merciful and faithful high priest for “his brothers.”  But unlike the Jewish high priests (especially in the centuries prior to the birth of Jesus), He served as a merciful High Priest, and a faithful High Priest.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).

The Old Testament high priest came into the presence of God only by means of coming into the Most Holy Place, and approaching the mercy seat.  But Jesus didn’t have to bother with that.  Instead of going into the tabernacle and standing before the Ark of the Covenant, Jesus “passed through the heavens” and went to the Father in person for us.  The blood of the sacrifice—His own blood—was taken into heaven.

More than that, because He has cleared the path for us, we can approach God with confidence, praying to the Father through His Son Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 3:17; Philippians 4:6-7). He is there, and He lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25-26).  Our High Priest doesn’t have to go to an appointed place on an appointed day and wait for God to come and accept the offering.  Our High Priest is right next to the Father in heaven, and delivers our requests personally!

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power… (Acts 10:38).

The Old Testament priests had to be anointed by a man in order to serve (Aaron was anointed by Moses).  If they weren’t anointed, then their offerings wouldn’t be accepted.  But instead of being anointed by man, our Great High Priest was anointed directly by God Himself!  He was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power after His baptism (see John 1, Matthew 4).  If this hadn’t happened, He couldn’t have offered the sacrifice acceptably—Jesus had to be a priest to make that sacrifice acceptable.

He holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens (Hebrews 7:24-26).

We saw before that the Old Testament high priest was not permitted to cease his duties, even in the event of the death of a loved one.  Our Great High Priest “lives to make intercession” for His people.  He never stops His role as our High Priest.  When one of His near relatives (faithful Christians) dies, He rejoices, for “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).  And if one of His brethren should die spiritually, that is incredibly sad, but Jesus does not stop His work on behalf of the remaining saints—His role is of the utmost importance for us.  He loves us so much that He keeps working for us, even through heartache for those who fall away.

You may also recall the responsibility of the Old Testament high priest to offer up incense to God, every day, morning and evening.  Revelation 8:3-4 pictures this burning incense as delivering the prayers of the saints to God.  As our Great High Priest, Jesus delivers those prayers—not just once or twice, not weekly, not monthly, but continually.  Every day.  Morning and evening He presents our petitions to the Father and intercedes on our behalf.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25-27).

Just as the Old Testament high priest was only permitted to marry a virgin, a pure woman, so our Great High Priest is married only to a pure, unspotted bride.  And to make sure His church is this unspotted bride, our High Priest purified her, cleansed her by the washing of water (baptism) through the word (from which we can have faith).  We are made new creatures in Christ (Romans 6:3-4), and only through that can we be part of the bride of the Greatest High Priest.

Hebrews 9:7 spells out that the Day of Atonement sacrifice was done for the “errors” (KJV) or “sins done in ignorance” (NIV) or “unintentional sins” (ESV) of the people.  Then God inspired the writer to say this:

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. (Hebrews 9:11-17)

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:24-28).

The sacrifice of our Great High Priest is so powerful, so effective, that He only had to offer it one time.  That sacrifice purges us of our old sins (2 Peter 1:9). But more than that, it continually cleanses us of our sins—every day, morning and evening, when we “walk in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7).

One of the greatest worries of many Christians is that they have sinned, but they didn’t realize it, and therefore didn’t ask for forgiveness.  But if the Old Testament high priest could offer a sacrifice that removed the punishment for the “unintentional sins” or the “sins done in ignorance” (that is, sins they didn’t realize they committed), then even more so will the blood of Christ completely take care of that for us as well!  “If we confess our sins [we can only confess that which we know we have done], He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, lives to make atonement and intercession for us, and His blood continually covers all our sins—the ones we know about and repent of, and the ones we don’t know about.  In other words, our Great High Priest takes the worry out of being a follower of God.  And He does it every day.

One final thought, and then we will close.  The Old Testament high priest served until he died, and then a new high priest took over.  There might be times when that happened that there was a bit of learning on the job, of nervousness or worry from the new guy.  After all, can you imagine having the sins of millions of people resting on what you were doing at that very minute?  But with Jesus, there is no worry, no nervousness, no learning on the job.  He is the Great High Priest who will never die, never be replaced, and who never—not even once—fails to fulfill His role perfectly.

And He does it all for us.

Praise God for our Great High Priest!

-Bradley S. Cobb

Jesus’ Salvation is Better than Old Testament Salvation

In the midst of discussing the ways in which Jesus is superior to angels, Old Testament leaders, and the entire Old Testament religious system, a statement is made that shows the absolute supremacy of Jesus over anyone else in history.  Of course, that is perhaps the main theme of the entire book of Hebrews, but it is nowhere stated more succinctly than in Hebrews 5:9.

And being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey Him.

“Salvation” in the Old Testament.

The inspired penman writes to religious Jews, men and women who were very aware of their proud (and sometimes not-so-proud) history as a nation.  As people well-versed in the Old Testament scriptures, they understood certain words and phrases in specific ways.  For many of them, it was difficult to comprehend that some of the Old Testament prophecies were talking about things spiritual instead of literal.  This is likely true of the word “salvation.”

Throughout the Old Testament, the words “saved” and “salvation” almost always refer to some kind of physical salvation, whether it be deliverance from sickness (like Hezekiah, Isaiah 38:20), from barrenness (like Hannah, 1 Samuel 2:1), or from enemies (most other places in the Old Testament).  Even Joel 2:32, which was quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost, if you look at the context of that prophetic book, had every appearance of a physical deliverance.  It indeed included that idea, but these were mere shadows of the greater salvation that was coming.

It is important that we understand that throughout the Old Testament, God was giving shadow after shadow of this greater salvation that was to come through Jesus Christ.  He was using these various deliverances—these salvations—from the enemies of Israel to prepare them to accept the eternal salvation—the better salvation—that comes through Jesus Christ.

Read these passages, which are just a sampling, and see for yourself what the primary type of salvation was in the Old Testament.  When the Israelites were standing on the shores of the Red Sea, the Egyptians hot on their heels, scared that they were going to be killed, Moses said:

Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show to you today: for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you shall see them again no more forever! (Exodus 14:13).

After Moses raised his rod, the Red Sea split, and the Israelites walked across on dry ground.  When the Egyptians tried to follow them, God brought the walls of water crashing down on them, drowning Pharaoh’s entire army.  The inspired record then says:

Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore (Exodus 14:30).

Forty years later, the Israelites are at the side of another body of water, the Jordan River, and Moses is giving a series of sermons, delivering to this new generation the laws and commands of God, as well as the promises.  Hear what he says to them:

It shall be, when you are come night unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people, and shall say to them, “Hear, O Israel, you approach this day unto the battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; for the LORD your God is He that goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” (Deuteronomy 20:2-4).

This is the same thread that runs throughout the books of history.  Judges 6 and 7 uses the word several times to describe the salvation that God would bring to Israel by the hands of Gideon and his 300 men.  Salvation from the Philistines is mentioned several times in the books of Samuel.  Here’s just one of those passages:

By the mouth of my servant David I will save my people Israel out of the hand of the Philistines, and out of the hand of all their enemies (2 Samuel 3:18).

In the books of Kings and Chronicles, there are instances of the people going to God in prayer, crying “Save us!”  But these are all asking for physical salvation from their enemies.

Now therefore, O LORD our God, I beseech Thee, save Thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that Thou art the LORD God, even Thou only (2 Kings 19:19).

What we need to recognize in all of these is that they weren’t asking for salvation from sin; they were asking for physical deliverance from their enemies.  But make no mistake about it, there was a spiritual component to this as well, as we will see.

Old Testament Salvation Based on their Attitudes and Actions

In the book of Judges, we see over and over the rollercoaster of the Israelites—they go from faithful to fallen, then God sends a nation to conquer them.  Eventually, they cry out to the Lord in repentance, and God sends a deliverer, a judge, to save them from their enemies.  In short, God didn’t save them when they continually rejected Him.  This is a constant theme throughout the entire Bible (Old Testament and New Testament).  If you doubt it, just read Hebrews 10:26-31.  Moses, soon before his death, told the Israelites that they needed to learn the lesson of faithfulness:

It shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes which I command thee this day, that all these curses shall come upon thee and overtake thee. … And thou shalt grope at noonday as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man [literally, “no one”] shall save thee (Deuteronomy 28:15, 29).

Obedience was required if they wanted physical salvation.  But so was humility.  After David had been saved from Saul (The king of God’s people, the Israelites), he was inspired to write:

The afflicted people [“humble people,” NKJV] You will save, but Your eyes are upon the haughty, that You may bring them down (2 Samuel 22:28).

Here is a contrast being made between two people who are in a covenant with God.  On one hand, you’ve got the mighty King Saul, the haughty, high-minded King Saul.  On the other hand, you’ve got the humble servant of God, David.  Being saved physically in the Old Testament was based on one’s attitude towards God.  And brethren, our salvation today is based on our attitude of humility as well—

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up (James 4:10).

He will save the humble person (Job 22:29).

The sixth Psalm shows the heart of a humble person before God, including these words:

Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak: O LORD, heal me, for my bones are vexed.  My soul is also sore vexed: but Thou, O LORD, how long?  Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: of save me for Thy mercies’ sake (Psalm 6:2-4).

When David’s son Solomon went before the people after the completion of the magnificent temple in Jerusalem, he preached to them and offered a public prayer to God.  In it, he showed the connection between their physical deliverance and their spiritual condition.  Hear his words:

If they sin against You (for there is no man which does not sin), and You be angry with them, and deliver them over before their enemies, and they carry them away captives unto a land far off or near.  Yet if they consider themselves in the land to which they are carried captive, and turn and pray to You in the land of their captivity, saying, “We have sinned, we have done amiss, and have dealt wickedly”; if they return to You with all their heart and all their soul in the land of their captivity to which they have been carried captives, and pray toward their land which You have given to their fathers, and toward the city which You have chosen, and toward the house which I have built for thy name; then hear from the heavens, even from Your dwelling place, their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive Your people which have sinned against You (2 Chronicles 6:36-39).

Without any doubt, the lost people of God, in order to expect salvation, had to repent of their sins against God.  It was a requirement for their salvation.  In short, for them to expect a physical salvation, they had to obey the Lord.

The Eternal Salvation

The writer of Hebrews shows that Jesus’ priesthood is a God-ordained one (Hebrews 5:4-6).  Just as Aaron was called by God to be a priest, so was Jesus.  But the priesthood of Jesus Christ was different, was superior to the Levitical one.  Aaron’s high-priesthood ended at his death, and the next priest was his son—and so it continued more or less for some 1500 years.  But Jesus’ role as high-priest is “forever,” and began at His death, when He offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for sin.  Additionally, Aaron (and his sons) required the assistance of another human (Moses) to ordain them to serve as priests.  Jesus was ordained straight from the Father, without any human go-between.

Given the focus of this lesson, we must point out that while Aaron was able to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people, Aaron didn’t originate this system.  He simply followed the instructions given to him by Moses (who received them from God).  By way of immense contrast, Jesus is the Author, the Originator, the Cause of eternal salvation.

The salvation offered by Jesus is also universal in availability.  The inspired writer doesn’t say “He is the author of eternal salvation to all the Jews who obey Him.”  It is for all—Jew and Gentile alike (Acts 10-11).

Our Messiah’s sacrifice of Himself for us was a one-time act, not something that had to be done every day (Hebrews 7:27; 10:1-2).  It was not a sacrifice which led to temporary salvation, which was lost upon each subsequent sin (requiring yet another sacrifice).  The Sacrifice of our Sovereign is one which leads to eternal salvation.  His salvation doesn’t require another sacrifice to purge or cleanse sin from His followers; His sacrifice continually cleanses us from sin if we walk in the light (1 John 1:7).  In other words, salvation through Jesus is better than salvation under the Old Testament sacrificial system.

Make no mistake about it, there was forgiveness of sins offered in the Old Testament (see 2 Chronicles 6:39, Psalm 51).  But it, like so much else, was a shadow, which needed the reality of Jesus the Messiah to give it meaning and effectiveness.  The sins of the Old Testament saints were forgiven based on the then-future sacrifice of the Majestic Messiah (Hebrews 9:15).  The sins of the New Testament saints are forgiven based on the death of the Suffering Savior (Acts 2:36-38; 1 John 1:7).  The salvation from sins offered under the Old Testament was one which required faith in something that most of them would never see in their lifetime.  Salvation under the New Testament is based on something that has now actually taken place. It is much like Peter’s words to the church: “We have a more certain word of prophecy” (2 Peter 1:19).

The salvation offered by Jesus Christ is His.  He is the Author.  He is the Sacrifice.  He is the Judge.  He is the Advocate.  He is the Forgiver.  And as long as one obeys Him, confessing sins to God as they are recognized, that salvation is guaranteed (1 John 1:9).

Father, grant us that eternal salvation, which is far superior to physical deliverance from enemies, and which is certain and solidified for us through the death of Your Son, Jesus the Savior.

-Bradley S. Cobb

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

The Role of Women in the Church (Part Three)

Introduction

Easily one of the most confusing passages in the New Testament regarding the role of women in worship is found in 1 Corinthians 11.  Some people avoid it like the plague.  Others, however, flock to it to try to make it prove their side of the argument.  The funny part about it is that those who go to one extreme (women preachers) will hold this passage up as evidence; while those who are on the other side (women can’t speak, and they also have to have their heads covered) also hold this passage up as evidence.  What are we to make of this?

Turn to 1 Corinthians 11, and we will look to see what this passage has to say for us today, as well as how it fits into the question about the role of women in worship.

I Praise You…But (1 Corinthians 11:2-3)

Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things, and (that you) keep the ordinances as I delivered them to you.  But, I desire you to know that the head of ever male is Christ; and the head of the female is the male; and the head of Christ is God.

Ordinances

The word “ordinances” is usually translated “traditions,” and while it usually refers to the traditions of men, Paul uses the word to refer to the things taught by the apostles.  But in every case, it describes an act that was done for a religious purpose.

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, either by word or by epistle (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

We command you, brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother that walks disorderly, and not after the traditions which he received from us (2 Thessalonians 3:6).

Though it probably didn’t need to be said, we’ll say it anyway: Paul is speaking to Christians in 1 Corinthians 11, describing the things which he taught them to observe in religious service to God.  So, the context that we are looking at has to do with obeying that which is taught by God through the apostles in religious service to God.  This is why it is pretty much universally agreed that the context here has something to do with worship assemblies.

But…

Even though the Christians in Corinth (for the most part) were keeping the ordinances, there were some things that they didn’t understand.  The biggest problem with the Corinthian Christians was not lack of knowledge about the actions they were supposed to engage in, but the attitude behind it (see their treatment of the Lord’s Supper, and their desire to brag because of certain spiritual gifts).

The head of every man is Christ

Paul here immediately puts all the men (literally, males) in their place by saying that it is not up to them on how things are to be done in worship to God.  All Christian males are under the authority of Jesus Christ, and must answer to Him.  Just because a man may lead in an aspect of worship does not mean that he has the authority to change God’s divine pattern.

Paul is appealing to a higher authority than man—He is appealing to Jesus Christ.

The head of the woman is the man

One person told me that this is a universal law to be applied everywhere.  The conclusion to that doctrine is that, men, the most depraved man in the penitentiary is the head of your wife and daughters.  Not only does that violate the context, it also violates common sense.

It has been argued that this phrase should be translated “the head of the wife is the husband.”  And while that expresses a truth, it doesn’t fit the context.  And in addition to that, the same word “man” (Greek aner) is used twice in this verse.  If we are supposed to translate it as “husband” in one part, by what logic does the exact same word get translated differently in the exact same verse?  Look at the verse.  If we insert “husband,” then we would have to make the verse say, “The head of every husband is Christ…” which means that Christ isn’t the head of unmarried Christian men.  This cannot be the right interpretation, either.  And if we make this say “wife,” then we are forced into the conclusion that nothing in verses 3-16 applies to an unmarried woman or a widow—and by extension, that there is nothing in this passage that speaks to an unmarried man or a widower.

Remember the context in which this is spoken: in keeping the “ordinances” (religious directions) that had been delivered to them.  Thus, this is in the context of the church, when the religious directions were being observed.  In other words, this is during the worship assembly.  The Christian woman, in the worship assembly of the church, is to be in submission to the Christian males who are leading (1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:11-12).

The head of Christ is God

Just in case there were those in Corinth who wanted to question Jesus’ authority to make commands regarding the worship of His people, Paul informs them that the authority which comes from Christ originates with the Father.  In other words, these points are not up for debate or discussion—they come from the ultimate Judge and Lawgiver, God.

Praying and Prophesying (1 Corinthians 11:4-5)

Most sermons and studies on this passage focus on the head “covering,” and often the writers and speakers gloss over (or completely ignore, in some cases) the idea of “praying and prophesying.”  But it must be addressed, for this is one of the passages that those who wish to promote women preachers cling to.  Are they right in saying this passage authorizes women to lead in public worship?

Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered dishonors his head.

Literally, Paul says “having down (from) head,” but it is not specified whether it is his hair or if it is a veil.  The purpose, though, for Paul mentioning this is that if he has his head covered (in whichever way it may be) in worship, it is a sign that he has a different spiritual head (authority) than Christ.

I believe there is enough evidence to conclude that the head covering was something cultural for the Christians in Corinth, and since the focus of this lesson is not on the head-covering, but on the “praying and prophesying” aspect, we aren’t going to dwell a lot on the covering in this lesson.

The word “praying” is the general word for such, and is the same word found in 1 Timothy 2:8—”I desire that males pray everywhere…”

The word “prophesying” is the same one used in chapter 14, and is a reference to miraculous speaking for God, or speaking words from God.

But every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaved.

Before we get into this, it needs to be said up-front that the exact same words are used for “prays” and “prophesies” in this verse as in the last verse.  In fact, this verse should be translated, “But every woman, praying or prophesying…”  So there’s nothing in these words themselves that make a distinction between the male and female.

But note that Paul tells the Christian women in Corinth that they are required to have their head covered so that they do not dishonor her head (the man/men leading in the worship).  This is a symbol of submission, of being under the authority of someone else.  I used to think this was talking about husbands and wives, and that a wedding ring was the same kind of thing, but I do not believe the context supports that conclusion.

So, how exactly is the Christian woman to engage in “praying and prophesying” while yet being in submission to the one leading in worship?  Let’s make some specific points very clear:

  1. The Bible does not contradict itself, for it is inspired by God.
  2. If an interpretation of a difficult passage of Scripture clearly violates the teaching found in an easy-to-understand passage of Scripture (in the same covenant), then that interpretation is false.
  3. This is even more clearly true when it is the same writer dealing with the same issue—and even more abundantly true when it is written to the same people…in the same letter.

There are those who point to this passage and say “women have the right to pray and preach in the public worship assembly, based on Paul’s words here.”

How does that match up with those three points we mentioned just a second ago?

  1. The Bible does not contradict itself—so if this passage teaches that women can lead in prayer and preaching in the worship assembly of the church, then we shouldn’t find anywhere in the New Testament that says otherwise.
  2. The Bible teaches plainly that it is only male Christians who are to lead in prayer in the church (1 Timothy 2:8); and that Christian women are not permitted to teach (this would include preaching) or to exercise authority over a Christian men in the church (1 Timothy 2:11-12, 3:15). Therefore, the interpretation that “women have the right to pray and preach in the public worship assembly” is false, because both points are contradicted in easy-to-understand passages of the same covenant.
  3. That passage (1 Timothy 2:8-12) is written by the same author, making it even clearer. But let’s make it abundantly clear by looking at not only the same author, but the same letter!  1 Corinthians 14:34, in the context of speaking miraculously (prayer and prophesying are both mentioned in this chapter), says: “Let your women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted to them to speak; but to be under obedience, as also says the law.”

Therefore, if our passage (1 Corinthians 11:5) permits women to pray and prophesy in the worship assembly, then the Bible contains contradictions and cannot be trusted.

But suppose you don’t want to go that far; then how about this: If this passage permits women to pray and prophesy in the worship assembly, then Paul was wrong (thus, uninspired) when he wrote 1 Timothy, as well as just a few chapters later in 1 Corinthians 14; thereby throwing everything Paul wrote into question and leaving us with the impossible task of determining which letters are inspired and which parts are not.

But suppose you aren’t willing to even go that far (though those are the required conclusions to this doctrine).  If this passage permits women to pray and prophesy in the worship assembly, then you can’t even know which parts of even this one letter are inspired—especially when Paul himself said that the command for women to keep silent was “the commandment of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37).

To take that interpretation of the passage destroys the entire credibility of the Bible.  But let’s, for a moment, pretend that such an interpretation is accurate.  Pretend for a moment that it isn’t a contradiction of other Bible passages.  Look at the verse again and see what would be required for the women to lead in prayer or to prophesy (preach) in the worship assembly.

Every woman, praying and prophesying with her head uncovered, dishonors her (spiritual) head: for that is even all one as if she were shaved.

If we pretended that their interpretation is correct, then the text requires that the woman only does it when her head is covered, showing her submission to the Christian men who are leading in the “ordinances” … or else she is supposed to be shaved bald (a symbol of shame).  No one who argues for women to be able to preach and lead prayer in the assembly would ever suggest that she is supposed to show a sign of submission to the Christian men leading in the worship—How dare you even suggest such a thing!  You note the hypocrisy there, I hope, that they want to take half of the verse and shove the other half as far away as possible.

I would love to see someone try to explain how one can be in submission to someone during the teaching, yet still be the authoritative teacher over that person.  It cannot be done!

So what does this verse mean/permit?

There are some different interpretations regarding these two verses that attempt to reconcile Paul’s wording (praying and prophesying) with the specific commands regarding Christian women keeping silence in the church (in regards to leading in worship).

The first interpretation is that Paul is speaking about women praying and prophesying, but not in a mixed assembly, that is, in a women’s-only gathering (ladies’ day, ladies’ class).  Some might claim there is no historical precedent for these kind of assemblies, but turn your attention to Exodus 15:20-21:

And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and dances.  And Miriam answered them, “Sing out to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously!  The horse and his rider has He thrown into the sea!”

There, the prophetess went with the women only and spoke with them, leading them in worship to God.  That was around 1500 years prior to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, so there is indeed historical precedent for a women-only assembly worshiping God.

The problem with this interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11 is that the context shows the men and women together (“the head of the woman is the man,” verse 3).  And what is the purpose of describing submission to the male Christians leading in worship if Paul’s describing a setting where no male Christians are present?

The second interpretation is that Paul is using the phrase “praying and prophesying” as a way to describe the worship service.  In other words, that all Paul is saying is, “But a woman, participating in the worship service…”  Most authors agree that “praying and prophesying” isn’t an exhaustive list, but includes everything that is done in the worship assembly—otherwise, you’d have the strange requirement that women in Corinth cover their heads only during certain parts of the worship (praying and proclaiming), but not others (like singing and the Lord’s Supper).

The idea, then, would be that Paul isn’t saying that the women lead in prayer or in prophesying (which would violate other passages), but that they participate in the worship by listening and assenting to the prayer and actively paying attention to the proclamation of God’s message.

David Lipscomb made a good point, which goes along with this idea (this is my paraphrase): Man cannot come to God without submitting to the authority of Jesus Christ (John 14:15).  In the same way, The Christian woman during the assembly cannot offer acceptable worship without submitting to the authority of the male Christians leading the worship.

Obviously, if there are no men present, then that no longer applies.

There may be other interpretations of which I am not aware, but this second one, I believe, is rational, logical, and in perfect agreement with what is said on the topic elsewhere in Scriptures.

Conclusion

This is somewhat reminiscent of the issue of “baptism for the dead,” in that once we know what it can’t be (by process of elimination, Bible-style), we are left with what it must be.

God’s word does not contradict itself.  God does not permit something in one part of the New Testament, only to forbid it in another.  That would make God a liar—something which is impossible.  Instead, we must take the totality of what Scripture says, and interpret in a way that harmonizes all of the passages dealing with any given subject.

There is nothing more important to which this applies than in salvation.  We have all messed up in our lives.  We’ve ignored the commands of God, we’ve sinned, and as a result, we’ve aligned ourselves against Him and joined with His enemy, Satan.  Satan, however, isn’t as powerful as he lets on.  In fact, he’s already lost the war, even though he’s still trying to take down as many people as possible in the process—like a kamikaze.  My job, and the job of Christians everywhere, is to invite people to join the winning side, to avoid the destruction that will come as a result of being God’s enemy.  We are to tell them about Jesus Christ and Him crucified, so that they might have faith (Romans 10:17).  But though there are verses that talk about believing as a prerequisite to salvation, there are other passages as well—passages that do not in any way contradict the ones about belief—that show belief is just the first step in a proper response to the gospel.

One must also make the decision to change sides, to join Jesus Christ.  The person who makes that decision must state his belief in the Lord, and be immersed, baptized, by the authority of Jesus.  When that is done, the person has become a Christian.  Then comes the command to grow, to “study to show thyself approved to God,” to “walk in the light.”  We want to help you be right with Jesus Christ.  If we can help you, please let us know as we stand and sing.

-Bradley S. Cobb

The Role of Women in the Church (Part Two)

Introduction

A Christian woman is a blessing to her family, to her friends, to her brethren, and to her Lord.  In the Bible, we can read of Christian women like Lydia, who showed hospitality to fellow-Christians (Acts 16); like Phoebe, who is called an “assistant” (Romans 16:2, MLV) or a “patroness” (Thayer) of the brethren; like Priscilla, who is called a “fellow-laborer” who had risked her own life for another Christian (Romans 16:3-4); like Lois and Eunice, who passed on their faith to a young man who became a missionary named Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5); and countless others whose names are not recorded in the Bible, but whose work helped to encourage and strengthen the saints, while also helping to convert sinners to Jesus Christ.

If not for the influence of Christian women, many of us in this room would not be here, meeting together, serving the Lord.

There are some, however, that would say, “That’s not good enough!”  Like Aaron and Miriam of old, there are those who try to argue that the ones leading have taken it all on themselves, and that they are just as qualified to lead.  These people run to Galatians 3:28 and say that “In Christ, there are no more male and female distinctions!”  Let’s take a look at that passage, and we’ll also look at some others as we consider the role of women in the church of Jesus Christ.

“Neither Male Nor Female…”

As is often the case, verses (or even phrases from inside a verse) are pulled from their context and applied to things that they were never meant to apply to.  We could mention several examples, but for the sake of staying on-topic, we’ll just stick with the point at hand.  Look with me at Galatians 3:26-29.

For you are all children (literally “sons”) of God by the faith in Christ Jesus, because as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you be Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Again, note verse 26, which literally says “sons” instead of “children.”  Under the Old Testament, it was the son—not the daughter—who received the inheritance.  Slaves did not receive inheritance.  Gentiles definitely did not receive the inheritance.  Yet, in Christ, all these groups have access to the inheritance through Jesus Christ.

Those who try to rip “there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus” in order to “prove” that both genders are authorized to perform any and every role/function in the church miss the point.  Male and female absolutely still existed, literally, in the church.  Jew and Gentile absolutely still literally existed in the church.  Free men and slaves absolutely still existed literally in the church.  Therefore, Paul isn’t speaking about the literal distinctions being done away with.

What he’s saying is that in Christ, EVERYONE can be an heir of the promise made to Abraham.  He’s not talking about roles in the worship—otherwise he completely contradicted himself 10 or so years later when he told Timothy that God placed the leadership in worship upon the shoulders of male Christians (1 Timothy 2).  He’s not talking about roles in the family—otherwise he contradicted himself 10 or so years later when he told wives to “submit” to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22-24).  Just like becoming a Christian didn’t make a slave no longer a slave—see the book of Philemon—he still had a specific role to fulfill, being in submission to his owner (who might or might not have been a Christian).

When we consider the context in which Paul says “there is neither male nor female,” we are required to come to the conclusion that it means there are no class, gender, or race distinctions of any kind that would keep someone who has truly put on Christ in baptism from receiving the inheritance from God through Jesus Christ.

There is nothing at all in the context about worship roles in the church.

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted for them to speak;

Turn to First Corinthians 14.  I realize that it’s 40 verses long, but read along with me through the whole chapter.

(Read entire chapter)

Now I want you to take notice of three main points throughout this text.  First, I want you to look at the context—what is it that Paul writes about here?  He writes about spiritual gifts (miraculous gifts) including prophecy (v 1 and others), speaking in tongues (v 2 and others), interpreting tongues (v 5, 13), revelation (v 6), miraculous knowledge (v 6), inspired teaching (v 6), praying in tongues (v 14), and leading a song (v 14, 26).  These are all roles of speaking in the worship assembly.  They are what is generally referred to as leadership positions in the worship.  This is the context.

Second, take special notice that it is specifically in reference to the assembly of the church, when it comes together for prayer, singing, teaching, and encouragement.  Verse 4 shows that the purpose of prophesying was to “edify the church.”  Verse 5 says that speaking in tongues, when there is an interpreter to relay the message, is so that “the church may receive the edifying.”  Verse 6, Paul says “brethren (Christians), if I come to you,” that is, to them all gathered together.  Verse 19 says “In the church…”  Verse 23, “if the whole church comes together in one place…”  Verse 26, “Brethren, when you come together…”  Verse 28, “if there is no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church…”  Verse 33, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”  Verse 34, “Let your women keep silence in the churches.”  Verse 35, “It is a shame for a women to speak in the church.”  The context is when Christians are gathered together for worship to God and receiving instruction from His word.

Third, I want you to, even more so than the others, pay super-special attention to this next point.  Paul says that the women are not permitted to “speak” in the church.  That word translated “speak” appears a whopping twenty-four times in this chapter.  Let’s look at them:

  • (verse 2) He that speaks in an unknown tongue does not speak to men, but unto God: for no man understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks
  • (verse 3) He that prophesies speaks
  • (verse 4) He that speaks in an unknown tongue…
  • (verse 5) I wish that you all spoke with tongues, but rather that you prophesied: for the one who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues…
  • (verse 6) brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, unless I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
  • (verse 9) unless you utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? For you shall speak into the air.
  • (verse 11) If I don’t know the meaning of the voice, I shall be to him that speaks a barbarian, and he that speaks a barbarian to me.
  • (verse 13) Let him that speaks in an unknown tongue…
  • (verse 18) I thank my God that I speak with tongues…
  • (verse 19) In the church, I would rather speak five words with my understanding…
  • (verse 21) In the Law it is written, “With other tongues and other lips will I speak to this people…saith the Lord.”
  • (verse 23) …and all speak in tongues…
  • (verses 27-28) if any man speak in an unknown tongue…if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church, and let him speak to himself and to God.
  • (verse 29) Let the prophets speak
  • (verses 34-35) Let your women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted for them to speak, as also says the Law…it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
  • (verse 39) covet to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues.

Do you notice the trend there?  The same word is used over and over in this chapter, and it is a reference to speaking in front of the congregation by inspiration (tongues, prophecies, songs, revelations, etc.).

Now, it is quite possible God had given some of the female Christians in Corinth the ability to prophesy (perhaps referenced in 1 Corinthians 11:5, which we will deal with in another lesson), and Philip had four daughters who prophesied as well (Acts 21:8-9).  But even though they had the miraculous ability to do those things, God stated plainly that they were not permitted to use those gifts when the church was gathered together.  And if God was that strict on women speaking in the assembly when they had miraculous capabilities to do so, how can anyone possibly think that He’s lifted that restriction now that they don’t have the miraculous gifts?

Though the context is miraculous, the principle still remains (and fits perfectly with what Paul said in 1 Timothy 2, that we looked at last week), women are not permitted to speak (that is, to lead in any aspect of the worship) in the church.

Now, look again with me at verses 27-28 of this chapter.

If any man speaks in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course (or, one at a time); and let one interpret.  But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.

Other than the him/her, this is the exact same wording as for the woman in the original.  Whatever it means for the man here, it means for the woman in verse 34.  This man is commanded to keep quiet from speaking in tongues if there is no interpreter.  It doesn’t mean he’s not permitted to lead a prayer in the normal language of the people at the close of the service; it’s talking about the speaking in tongues.  In short, THERE IS A CONTEXT!

So, when Paul says, “Let your women keep silence in the churches,” he’s got reference to leading in worship.  The chapter gives all the different “speakings” that are under consideration—praying, preaching, teaching, interpreting, speaking in tongues, leading a song.  “Speaking” in the assembly is a role that God has placed upon the shoulders of male Christians.

But it’s almost as though Paul expected that statement about women exercising their gifts in the assembly to be taken badly by his readers, because right after saying it, he says:

What?  Did the word of God come out of you?  Or did it only come to you?  If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I am writing to you are the commandments of the Lord. 

Then he says, (KJV) “If any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.”  A more literal translation might be, “If any man is actively ignorant (in this matter), do not recognize him.”

My brethren, those are some incredibly strong words from God.  Those who reject God’s commands regarding who is permitted to lead in the worship aren’t really spiritual; they are actively ignorant, rejecting the commands of the Lord; and they are not to be recognized as being right with God.

Invitation

Being right with God isn’t just something nice to be, it is absolutely essential to our holiness and happiness and hope.  You can’t be wrong with God here and expect to be right with God at judgment!  My friends, a home with God Himself is there for you if you will submit to His authority and do your best to follow His commands.  That might sound domineering, but it’s like saying “just obey the law, and you’ll be fine.”  The law of God says that those who believe in Jesus have the power to become children of God (John 1:12).  These believers have to put their belief into action by repenting of their sins, confessing that Jesus is the Christ, and being baptized in submission to His will.  Only those who have done these things are made citizens of that heavenly kingdom!  And after you become a citizen, “just obey the law, and you’ll be fine.”  When you mess up, when you sin, when you fall away, God is merciful and will forgive you when you go to Him in prayer, confessing your sin and repenting of it.

God loves you and wants you to be saved. He’s giving you an opportunity right now to do it.  Won’t you do it now?

-Bradley S. Cobb

The Role of Women in the Church (Part One)

Introduction:

The Bible is, and will always be, the rule of faith and practice for God’s people.  We know from its pages, from the words of Jesus Christ, from the examples of the Christians in Act, from the letters God inspired to be written to Christians, how we are to live our lives, and what God desires from us in our worship.

His Divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that has called us to glory and virtue (2 Peter 1:3).

All Scripture is inspired by God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, so that the person of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The question that we must ask ourselves is: “Do we believe that?”  Some people don’t.  Some people in the church don’t believe it!  Oh, don’t get me wrong, they’ll say they believe it, but then they will do things, promote things, preach about things in such a way that they’re only paying lip-service to God’s word.

Let’s consider those two passages again.  Peter says that the Divine power has given (past tense) us all things that pertain to life (spiritual life) and godliness (literally, the word is “good-worship”).  If we have been given everything that has to do with spiritual life and true reverence and worship to God, then that means if we can’t find it in the Bible, it doesn’t pertain to spiritual life or to godliness/good-worship.  In other words, if it’s not found in the Word of God, then it is a commandment of men, an unauthorized addition which results in worthless worship (“In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men” – Matthew 15:9)

Paul told Timothy that the Scriptures were sufficient to make someone perfect or complete, and to equip that person for every good work.  If it isn’t from the Bible (whether by precept or principle), then it isn’t a good work.

Lately, I’ve heard of several Christians who are trying to push the idea that there are no gender roles in the church: that whatever a man is authorized to do in worship, the woman is as well.  Since God has given us everything necessary for godliness (and remember that word in Greek literally means “worship”), we ought to be able to find either (1) examples, (2) commands, or (3) principles that permit such a thing—if such a thing is truly permitted.

I was requested to do a series of lessons on this topic, and my prayer is that they will be clear, understandable, and in keeping with God’s word.  Please, turn in your Bibles to 1 Timothy 2.

“Let the woman learn in silence”

First Timothy, chapter 2, describes worship in the church.  There are some of our brethren who disagree with that, and so let’s just prove it real quick.  In the next chapter, Paul tells Timothy what the whole purpose of this letter is:

I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you shortly, but if I delay long, that you might know how you ought to behave yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:14).

The instructions given in First Timothy are about matters in the church.  But let’s go a little further in proving the point.  Look, now, at chapter 2.  Verse eight helps prove the point:

I desire that men [males] pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting (1 Timothy 2:8).

The command of God from Paul is that males are to pray everywhere.  If, as some brethren contend, this chapter isn’t about the church, then that means women are forbidden to pray anywhere—ever—because only men are allowed to pray.  This is speaking about when the church is gathered together.  Paul used the phrase “everywhere” in 1 Corinthians 4:17, and clarified that by “everywhere,” he meant “in every church.”  Coupling this with what we read from elsewhere in the same letter to Timothy, we have conclusive proof that Paul is giving instructions relating to things “in the church,” or to say it another way, “when the church is gathered together.”

We might also add to this list of evidence the fact that Paul say women aren’t allowed to teach a man, yet we have an approved example of a woman assisting her husband in teaching a man—outside of the assembly (Acts 18, Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos).  Thus, this command obviously doesn’t apply to teaching outside the assembly—only inside the assembly.

So, in 1 Timothy 2:8, we have divine instruction that only males are to lead in prayer when the church is gathered together.  Obviously, God is not authorizing just any male to lead prayer, but only a Christian male—since this is speaking about things “in the church.”  This is important to remember as we get further in the chapter.

Having thus shown that the context is about the assembly of the church, let’s look at verses 11-12:

Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.  But I do not permit a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

First, consider that in verses 9-10, Paul instructs women to dress and behave in such a way as to not draw attention to themselves (modest apparel, not expensive flashy jewelry, but instead clothing themselves with good works).  Likewise, then, women are not to draw attention to themselves in the assembly by seeking to be in a position of authority.

Second, look at the word “silence.”  The word here is not a prohibition of all sound, but a quiet, humble attitude that recognizes that she is not in authority in the worship of God.  The word only appears four times in the New Testament: twice here (1 Timothy 2:11-12), once in Acts 22:2 and in 2 Thessalonians 3:12.  In Acts 22:2, Paul began speaking to the crowd of Jews in Hebrew, which surprised them, and they became quiet so they could hear him.  But in 1 Thessalonians 3:11-12, Paul chastises the busybodies, telling them to work with “quietness.”  It’s not that they aren’t allowed to ever utter a word, but they are to cease from gossiping, being meddlers in other men’s matters.  They are to be quiet in regards to those things.  In the same way, the women are commanded to be silent in regards to (1) praying, (2) teaching over a man, and (3) taking authority over a man in the assembly.  In other words, they are not to take any kind of leadership role in the worship of the church.

Women don’t have to be completely without sound in the assembly—all saints are commanded to sing, “speaking to yourselves in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).  “Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16).

The phrase “with all subjection” teaches us that in the worship assembly, the woman is to be in submission, or under the authority, of the men who are leading in the worship.  The woman doesn’t preach the lesson, lead the singing, lead the prayers.  She sits and accepts that these are roles which have been given to male Christians by God.

“I do not permit a woman to teach…”

Some people have taken this phrase and ignored the context, trying to make it say something that it was never meant to say.  I’ve had discussions with men who believe that having a Bible class is sinful, and as evidence, they say “women aren’t permitted to teach.”  But look at the verse.  Paul says that a woman is not to teach…a man.  This doesn’t say she’s not allowed to teach at all (Titus 2:3-5 actually commands the older women to teach the younger women), it says she’s not allowed to teach a man.  And it’s not just any man.  Go back to verse 8.  Who is that “man,” that “male,” that is under consideration?  It’s a Christian male.  That is the only male in the context.

What God, through Paul, is forbidding here is not a woman teaching children, nor is it a woman teaching male children, nor is it a woman teaching adult males outside of the assembly.  What God has strictly forbidden is Christian women teaching Christian men in the assembly.

But we also need to couple this with the next phrase Paul uses:

“I do not permit a woman…to usurp authority over the man.”

I’ve heard the argument more times than I care to remember: “She’s not usurping the authority if the elders give it to her to teach/pray/preach/etc…”  The word translated “usurp authority” means “exercise authority” or “have authority” over someone.  Some translations render it “have dominion” over a man.  Basically, then, what this means is that the Christian woman is not permitted to have, to use, or to exert any authority over Christian males in the assembly.

Oh, it is said, but if she doesn’t usurp the authority, it’s okay.  The elders don’t have the right to give a woman authority in the assembly.  It’s not up to them!  This is something that GOD HIMSELF has set in place—He is the one who determined who has authority, who leads in the worship assembly when the church gathers together.  Even if a group of elders decides they’ll let a woman preach, teach, lead prayer, lead singing, or anything else that is a position of leadership in the assembly, GOD has said that women are to “learn in silence, with all subjection.”  Note that clearly!  God says “ALL subjection.”  He doesn’t say, “with SOME subjection,” but “with ALL subjection”!  That means that Christian women, in the assembly, are not permitted by God to have any authoritative role that would make a Christian male to have to show some kind of submission to her.

Teaching (which would include preaching) is explicitly forbidden (1 Timothy 2:12).  Leading in prayer is explicitly forbidden (1 Timothy 2:8).  Anything that would make the woman the leader is explicitly forbidden (1 Timothy 2:12)—that includes serving at the Lord’s Table, even if she isn’t saying the prayer, because the woman would be in front of everyone, and would be exercising authority in passing around the Lord’s Supper and collecting the funds contributed.  Leading in singing is also forbidden explicitly in 1 Corinthians 14 (but we’ll look at that later).

Paul concludes that thought by repeating that the Christian woman, during the assembly, is “to be in silence.”  Again, the “silence” is limited by the context to (1) praying, (2) teaching, and (3) anything that would put her in a position of authority over a Christian man.

What About Speaking in a Bible Class?

It has been argued that women are not permitted to speak up in a Bible class, because when they speak in class, they are teaching, and that they are commanded to be in silence.

Jesus Himself led His disciples around, and was their teacher.  They spoke to Him quite frequently during these teaching sessions, asking questions, making observations, showing their agreement or disagreement.  But did they ever become the teacher?  Was there ever a time during these teachings that Jesus ceased to be the teacher, and ceased to have authority?  Of course not.  To ask questions during a Bible class is not the same thing as teaching or having authority.  To make observations during Bible class is not the same thing as teaching or having authority.  If a non-Christian male came into the Bible class and asked questions or made an observation, we wouldn’t for a moment accuse him of “teaching” and “usurping authority” over the teacher of the class.  Why, then, would we make that same accusation when a woman does it?

Can there come a time when a Christian woman might talk so much, in effect filibustering the class, that she’s taking it over?  Yes, of course, and such is wrong and condemned by 1 Timothy 2:12.  But simply speaking up in class is not “teaching” or otherwise “exercising authority” over Christian males.

Some will appeal to 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, saying “Let your women keep silence in the churches…if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church.”  We will deal with that passage more in-depth in another lesson, but the answer to their objection is the context!  The context of the entire chapter is public leadership roles when the church is gathered together.  Prophesying, speaking in tongues, interpreting, leading singing, praying—these are the items under consideration.  And it is in this context that women are told to be silent.

What About Teaching a Bible Class?

God gave some women in the first century miraculous abilities (and we’ll deal with that in a later lesson), which included being able to prophesy (Philip had four daughters who did just that).  Yet they were not permitted to use that ability when the church gathered together to worship (1 Corinthians 14:34-35).  God wouldn’t give them that ability and then not permit them to ever use it.  Thus, they would have been able to use it in teaching non-Christians (primarily women, but in private they could also teach non-Christian men), or other Christian women, or even children.

The ones who are so opposed to Bible classes say “You let women teach Bible classes, so you’re in sin!”  But remember what we said earlier: the prohibition on women teaching was “over a man”—that is, over a Christian man.  When God gives a specific command, we have no right to expand that command to include things that God didn’t.  So it is wrong to say this verse prohibits women from teaching a Bible class with babies, or children, or Christian young women.  The only prohibition was against a Christian women teaching Christian men.

One Final Example: Jezebel

Lord willing, we will be able to continue this study and deal with several passages that help us understand the role of women in the church.  But for tonight, we will just look at one last passage briefly: Revelation 2:18-23.

To the messenger of the church in Thyatira, write: “These things says the Son of God, who has His eyes like to a flame of fire, and His feet are like fine brass: I know your works, and charity, and service, and faith, and your patience, and your works; and the last more than the first.  Notwithstanding, I have a few things against you because you permit that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.  And I gave her space to repent of her fornication, and she did not repent.  Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.  And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the reins and hearts: and I will give to every one of you according to your works.

Jesus condemns this loving church, this working church, this serving church because of two things: (1) they permit that woman to teach, and (2) they permit that woman to seduce servants of God to sin.  The second one is bad, but so is the first one.  They were condemned because they were allowing a woman to teach in the church.  The fact that she was seducing Christians to sin makes it even worse, but in the Greek, they are two separate things: (1) teaching and (2) seducing Christians to do evil.

My brethren, if Jesus Christ would condemn a loving, working, serving church because they allowed a woman to teach in the church, that means He would do the same to us as well if we permit such things to happen here!

Invitation

Here’s the deal: we have been given everything we need for spiritual life and for proper worship.  We don’t go by feelings or by I think; we go by God said.  This principle, when followed, guarantees us a home eternal with the Lord Jesus Christ.  This principle applies not just to the role of women in the church, but also to salvation.

We were listening to “Adventures in Odyssey” yesterday (which is produced by Baptists, if I’m not mistaken), and one of the characters was questioning her salvation, saying “Did I not say the prayer right?”  She’d been taught that salvation comes from uttering a “Lord, come into my heart” prayer that isn’t found in the Bible—nowhere is a non-Christian told to pray in order to be saved.  There are those who use what they call the “mourner’s bench,” where you go up front to this bench, agonize over your sins, while everyone else tries to pray until you are “prayed through,” and have this feeling of relief, which they take as a sign that you’ve been saved.  This is trying to rely on feelings instead of God’s word!

God only gave one gospel, and it is spelled out for us in the Bible.  There is no salvation apart from obedience to His commands regarding how to get into Christ.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Don’t Miss the “Must”

SermonWednesday

We went to Lowe’s recently, and on the receipt, there was a website listed where you can be entered for a $300 Lowe’s gift card, just by filling out a survey.  The survey took about four minutes, but there was one part that really stuck out: you have to enter in your name, address, and phone number in order to be entered into the drawing.  It said you must fill out all the information requested in order to be entered.

That word “must” is pretty clear.  It means that if you don’t fill out all the information, you lose out on the potential reward.  If you fill out some, you aren’t entered.  If you fill it out incorrectly, you aren’t entered.  There is no wiggle room when they use the word “must.”  Pretty much everyone understands that when you use the word “must,” you are saying that it is a requirement, that it is mandatory, that you cannot be or receive what is offered without meeting the conditions stipulated by the word “must.”

The Bible uses this word as well, and it is very important that when God uses the word “must,” His followers pay attention!

Old Testament – Circumcision

The first time the Bible uses the word “must” is in Genesis 17:13.  He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.  This is God speaking to Abraham, making a covenant with him that he would be the father of many nations (Genesis 17:5).  Notice what God says:

 Genesis 17:10-14 – This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.  And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.  And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.  He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.  And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

In order to be part of the covenant with God, the descendants of Abraham must needs have been circumcised.  The ones who were not circumcised were cut off from the people.  In order to be part of this covenant, circumcision was an absolute requirement; it was mandatory; there was no wiggle room or loophole.  Being a physical descendant of Abraham wasn’t enough to be in this covenant—circumcision was required—and it was non-negotiable!

Don’t miss the “must” here!  People could claim to be in this covenant with God, but if they were not circumcised, they were claiming a falsehood—they were lying!  By claiming to be in the covenant with God without circumcision, they were calling God a liar—saying that His requirements weren’t really requirements at all.

Old Testament – The Passover

In Leviticus 23, God gives commands regarding the various feast days that the Israelites are to observe.  One of those is the Passover.  You’ll remember that God instituted the Passover back in the book of Exodus, to commemorate His passing over the Israelites when He brought the tenth plague on the land of Egypt.  But here in Leviticus, God uses the word “must.”

Leviticus 23:4-8 – These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.  In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. In the first day ye shall have a holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is a holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.

When God issues this command to Moses to pass on to the Israelites, He doesn’t give every detail—He doesn’t mention the Passover Lamb, the time in which it is to be killed, the casting out of all leavening from the house—but He does make one thing abundantly clear: they must eat unleavened bread for seven days in order to keep this holy feast.

Don’t miss the “must” here!  If they ate leavened bread, they weren’t keeping the holy feast.  If they had unleavened bread in the house, but they didn’t eat it, they weren’t keeping the holy feast.  People could claim to be keeping the Passover, but if they didn’t eat unleavened bread for seven days, then they were claiming a falsehood; they were profaning God’s divinely-instituted feast.

Somewhere along the way, after this command was passed on from God to Moses to the Israelites, the people had left the proper observance of the Passover—some believe they had forgotten the Passover completely!  But after the book of the Law was rediscovered in the days of Josiah, it was observed properly again.

2 Kings 23:21-23 – And the king commanded all the people, saying, Keep the Passover unto the LORD your God, as it is written in the book of this covenant.  Surely there was not holden such a Passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah; but in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, wherein this Passover was holden to the LORD in Jerusalem.

Other Old Testament Examples

We could also mention how the ones who took the Nazarite vow were told that they “must” keep the vow in a certain way (Numbers 6:1-21, especially verse 21).  We could show that Moses had been shown by God that he “must” die without being able to cross into the Promised Land because of his sin (Deuteronomy 4:21-22, 31:14)—which means that if Moses made it across the Jordan River, God was a liar. We could show that the Angel of the LORD told Manoah, “If thou wilt offer a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto the LORD” (Judges 13:16)—which means that God would not accept any burnt offering that was offered to anyone else.  We could look at the reaction of the Israelites when Ezra told them they had to make confession to God and put away their strange wives—they said, “As thou hast said, so must we do” (Ezra 10:11-12).  They understood that to be right with God, they were required to confess their sin and show their repentance through action—any other response would have been inadequate; they could claim to be following God, but without the confession and repentance, they would have been lying.

Don’t miss the “must”!  In each of these examples from the Old Testament, if the person didn’t follow the “must,” they weren’t truly followers of God.  They could claim it all they wanted, but they would have been doing nothing more than usurping the title of “children of God,” profaning the commands of God, and implying that God is a liar.

Certainly, the word “must” is important!

But let’s now look at some “musts” from the New Testament.

New Testament – The Sufferings of the Messiah

The Jews, for the most part, had a much different view of the Messiah, the Christ, than God did.  They expected a military marvel, a sequel to the victorious David, leading their armies to prominence and their nation to freedom from the Roman Empire.  But that’s not how God had it planned.

After hearing the confession of Peter, that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, and foretelling that He would build His church, the Scriptures say this:

Matthew 16:21 – From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

Mark’s account says that Jesus told them the “Son of man” must suffer those things (Mark 8:31).

After the transfiguration, Jesus answered their question about the Elijah that must come first, and said again that the Son of man must suffer many things and be set at naught (Mark 9:11-13).

The night of Jesus’ betrayal, Peter took out his sword and attempted to protect his Master.  But Jesus told him to put away the sword, and said:

 Matthew 26:53-54 – Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?  But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?

There are other passages that make this same point, but these should suffice.  Jesus said unequivocally that He must suffer; He was required to suffer and die.

Don’t miss the “must”!  If Jesus did not suffer and die, then He was not the Messiah.  If Jesus did not suffer and die (and rise up again on the third day), then He was a usurper of the name “Christ,” He was a liar, He was a blasphemer, and He is someone who should not be followed.  However, the evidence shows conclusively that Jesus did suffer, that He did die, and that He was raised from the dead.  He said that it must happen, and it did!

New Testament – Born Again

When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, in John 3, Jesus said to him (starting in verse 3),

“Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus saith unto him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?”  Jesus answered, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.   That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”

Notice what is said there—without being born again, you can’t see the kingdom of God; and Jesus equates being born again to being “born of water and spirit” (the word “the” isn’t in the Greek there). Then to make it abundantly clear, the Lord says “You must be born again.”

Don’t miss the “must”!  There are people today who claim to be Christians, but who have never been born of water and spirit—they have never been born again!  They have simply taken the divinely-given name, claimed it for themselves, all the while never doing that which makes the name valid: being born again.  My friends, these people are not Christians!  No amount of claiming the name will make it so!  They are not part of the kingdom of God, because they haven’t done the thing which Jesus said must be done to be part of it!

The Scriptures define what being “born again” is.  Romans 6:3-5 describes the process which culminates in “rising to walk in newness of life”—a new life, a new birth out of the water (John 3:5 literally says “born out of water”) to be free from sin.

Conclusion

When God says “must,” you’d better pay attention!  If someone wasn’t circumcised, they were not part of the covenant—no matter what they claimed.  If someone didn’t eat unleavened bread, they were not observing the Passover—no matter what they claimed.  If Jesus didn’t suffer, die, and rise again, then He wasn’t the Christ—no matter what He might claim.  If we are not baptized for the remission of sins, then we are not Christians—no matter what we claim.

Did Jesus Really Exist?

 

BibleQA(new)

Introduction:

  1. One of the many attacks against Christianity and the validity of the Bible is that Jesus Christ never even existed.
    1. Albert Schweitzer said “Jesus never had an existence.”
    2. One of the founders of our nation, Thomas Paine, said Jesus was not a real person.
  2. This accusation truly cuts to the core of belief in the Bible.
  3. If Jesus did not exist, then there is no justification for Christians or Christianity.
  4. If Jesus did not exist, the entire NT is useless!
  5. If Jesus did not exist, we have wasted our lives in studying about Him.
  6. The purpose of today’s lesson is to examine the evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel records show the existence of Jesus Christ.

Intellectual honesty demands that all ancient documents be treated as historically accurate until proven otherwise.

  1. This is the standard used for all other historical records.
  2. It is this standard that gives us an enormous part of our knowledge of history.
  3. We know of wars and dates from history because of documents and inscriptions.
  4. The Bible should be given the same assumption of authenticity.
    1. It is an ancient document.
    2. It claims to be a reliable historical account.
    3. It has NEVER been proven false by archaeology or other historical documents.

The gospel records all attest to the existence of Jesus.

    1. His birth is recorded (Matthew 2:1).
    2. His earthly parents are described (Luke 2:48).
    3. His friends are mentioned (Matthew 10:1-4).
    4. Many of His teachings are recorded (Matthew 5-7).
    5. He was hungry (Matthew 4:2).
    6. His hometown is mentioned (Luke 2:52).
    7. His trials are recorded (John 18-19).
    8. His death is described (Mark 15:24-37).
    9. His burial is recorded (Mark 15:42-46).

The gospel records were written by reliable historians.

  1. Matthew was a disciple of Jesus Christ.
    1. Matthew wrote, giving his occupation: a tax collector (Matthew 10:3).
      1. If Matthew was not a reliable historian, he would have left that bit of information out.
        1. Tax collectors were seen as traitors to the Jewish people because they took money from Jews and paid it to Rome.
        2. Matthew’s primary purpose in writing was to show the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.
        3. If Matthew was willing to lie about anything in his writing, he would have lied about his occupation.
        4. Lying about his occupation would have taken away some animosity towards his writing by the Jews.
    2. Being a disciple (one of the 12 apostles) of Jesus Christ, Matthew had first-hand knowledge of the things he wrote.
    3. He was an eye-witness to the life and teachings of Jesus.
  2. Mark was a companion to two different apostles.
    1. Mark was a nephew of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10); Barnabas was a close associate of the apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 4:36) as well as a close friend of Paul (Acts 9:26-28).
    2. Mark was with Paul on his first missionary journey (Acts 12:25), though not on the second (Acts 15:37-39).
    3. Mark was requested to come to Paul while he was in prison (II Timothy 4:11).
    4. Mark was also a companion of Peter (I Peter 5:13).
    5. The church in Jerusalem gathered at his mother’s house, indicating that he was possibly familiar with all the apostles (Acts 12:12).
    6. Some believe Mark mentions himself in Mark 12:51-52, which—if true—would have Mark following Jesus while he was on earth.
    7. The evidence shows that Mark would have been a person who could easily ascertain the facts from multiple eyewitnesses, and may have even been an eyewitness to many of the events himself.
  3. Luke was a dedicated historian and a companion of an apostle.
    1. Luke declares that his gospel account came from eyewitness accounts (Luke 1:2).
    2. He declares that he writes because he has “perfect understanding” of the events
      • ASV says “have traced the course of all things.”
      • This is to say that Luke claimed to have done extensive research to make sure his account was true.
    3. He states that his account is trustworthy (Luke 1:4).
    4. He was a travelling companion of the apostle Paul (Colossians 4:14, II Timothy 4:11).
    5. His second book (Acts) has been said to be written by a “historian of the first-degree” by a man who was an atheist intent on proving Acts false (Sir William Ramsay).
    6. Because of his historical reliability (especially seen in the people and places mentioned in Acts), Luke gains instant credibility as a historian.
    7. Though Paul was not an apostle during the lifetime of Jesus, he was likely in Jerusalem during much of Jesus’ ministry, and would have been able to pass on eyewitness accounts as well.
  4. John was one of Jesus’ most trusted and beloved apostles.
    1. He is called “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20-24).
    2. He was one of the first disciples to follow Jesus after His baptism (Mark 1:16-20, possibly John 1:35-41).
    3. He was one of only three (the others being James and Peter) who were chosen to see Jesus transfigured (Luke 9:28-36).
    4. He was one of the three taken to keep watch while Jesus prayed (26:36-38).
    5. He was possibly at the trial of Jesus (John 18:15).
    6. He was at the cross while Jesus was dying (John 19:25-27).
    7. He claimed to teach only what he heard, saw, examined, and touched (I John 1:1-4).
    8. John was an eyewitness, a companion with Jesus during his entire ministry, and would be in a perfect position to write about the life of Jesus.

Early Christian writers attest to the truth of the existence of Jesus.

  1. The epistles of the apostles state that Jesus truly existed.
    1. Paul spends an entire chapter dealing with the resurrection of Jesus (I Corinthians 15).
      1. In order for one to be raised from the dead, he had to have died.
      2. In order for one to have died, he would have to have been alive.
      3. Paul, therefore, asserts that Jesus lived.
    2. Paul states that Jesus came to earth as a man and died on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8).
    3. John states that he was an eyewitness to Jesus (I John 1:1-4).
    4. Peter describes being on the mount of transfiguration with Jesus (II Peter 1:16-18).
    5. Jude condemned those who denied Jesus as Master (showing He existed – Jude 4).
      1. He spoke of the apostles of Jesus Christ (showing he believed in the truth of the gospel accounts – Jude 17).
      2. He called himself the brother of James (likely James, the brother of Jesus – Matthew 13:55).
    6. James calls himself a servant of Jesus Christ (James 1:1), and was likely the brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19).
  2. The post-Biblical writings of Christians show that Jesus actually existed.
    1. Christianity had spread across the Roman Empire, and it was being fought tooth and nail by the leaders of Rome.
    2. Still, Christians wrote in order to convince the heathen (Jews and Gentiles) that Jesus was indeed the Christ.
    3. Justin Martyr wrote trying to convince Trypho (a Jew) that Jesus was the Christ prophesied about in the OT, and that he was resurrected (indicating He had actually lived).
    4. Papias claimed to get some of his information from those who were disciples of Jesus Himself, as well as from those who studied under the 12 apostles.
    5. Quadratus spoke of knowing some of those who were healed or raised from the dead by Jesus and His disciples, showing a historical belief that Jesus existed.

Non-Christian writings prove that Jesus existed.

  1. Josephus mentions Jesus Christ as a real person.
    1. In Antiquities of the Jews, he states, “About this time came Jesus, a wise man, if indeed it is appropriate to call him a man. For he was a performer of paradoxical feats, a teacher of people who accept the unusual with pleasure, and he won over many of the Jews and also many Greeks. He was the Christ. When Pilate, upon the accusation of the first men amongst us, condemned him to be crucified, those who had formerly loved him did not cease to follow him, for he appeared to them on the third day, living again, as the divine prophets foretold, along with a myriad of other marvellous things concerning him. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.
      1. Some textual critics say that part of that quote was added or embellished by later Christian scribes in order to make their case for Jesus.
      2. Other manuscripts have been found which read differently, but still they mention Jesus: “At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon their loyalty to him. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive. Accordingly they believed that he was the Messiah, concerning whom the Prophets have recounted wonders.
    2. In another passage of the book (one which is not disputed), he mentions James, the brother of Jesus.
      1. “Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned.”
      2. Josephus did not believe in Jesus as the Christ, but fully acknowledged that there was a man named Jesus who was crucified (as in the earlier passage) that was called by many “Christ.”
    3. This report is from a Jew, who was opposed to Christianity; yet, he still admits that Jesus was a real person.
  2. Pliny the Younger mentions followers of Christ.
    1. Pliny was a governor of sorts in Bithynia shortly after the first century.
    2. He wrote to the emperor asking what to do with the Christians, and stating what he had been doing up to that point.
    3. In a letter to the emperor Trajan, he stated, “Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ — none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do — these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshiped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.”
    4. For some to be a follower of Christ, even at a time in the past, they must have believed He was a real person.
  3. The Talmud says that according to early rabbis, Jesus was a transgressor in Israel which led the people astray, claiming not to destroy the Law, but to add to it.
    1. This is a Jewish source, which was very hostile to Christianity.
    2. They still admitted Jesus was an actual person.
  4. Tacitus, a Roman historian (wrote in 116), admits Jesus existed.
    1. He said: “Nero fastened the guilt of starting the blaze and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.” (Annals)
    2. The Roman Empire persecuted the Christians, but they also were very aware that Jesus was an actual person.
  5. Suetonius (Lives of the 12 Caesars) describes an event involving Christians.
    1. As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [ Claudius ] expelled them [the Jews] from Rome“.
    2. This event has its Biblical parallel in Acts 18:2 – “And found a certain Jew named Aquilla, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome), and come unto them.”
    3. At this point in time (AD 49), Christianity was viewed by many as a sect of Judaism.
    4. Because of the riots which came about from the Jews persecuting the Christians, all Jews were forced to leave Rome.
    5. That there were Christians 19 years after Jesus died is confirmed by historical record.
    6. This shows that less than two decades after His death, people believed Jesus was a real person, and that belief had spread all the way to Rome from Jerusalem.
  6. Lucian, a satirist (AD 125-180), acknowledges the belief that Jesus was a real person around 100 years after His death.
    1. “The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day — the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account… You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.”
    2. He shows that he is not in agreement with the actions of the Christians, but he does acknowledge that Jesus lived and was crucified.
  7. Mara bon Sarpion alludes to Jesus.
    1. This man was in prison, and wrote a letter to his son asking him to pursue wisdom (approximately 73 AD).
    2. What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given.”
    3. The only person who fits the description of the “wise king” is Jesus.
      1. This would fit in perfectly with the time period in which this letter was written.
      2. Jesus was well-known as “the King of the Jews,” for Pilate even had heard of it before meeting Jesus.
    4. This is a non-Jewish, non-Christian reference to the existence of Jesus, written in the first century!

Conclusion:

  1. Did Jesus really exist?
  2. The consensus of historical writings says that He did.
  3. Both friends and foes of Christianity speak in favor of His existence, all within 100 years (some even earlier) of His death.
  4. One admitted unbeliever in the Jesus of the Bible admits that “It was a group of French philosophers during the French Revolution in the late 18th century who first suggested that Jesus was a mythical character” and “The vast majority of historians and theologians have always believed in the reality of Jesus’ life.”
  5. We can have confidence that Jesus Christ did indeed exist!
  6. We do not follow cunningly devised fables!
  7. What are you doing with Jesus?
    1. Are you with Him or against Him?
    2. You cannot be neutral!
    3. Come to Jesus today!

-Bradley S. Cobb

Salvation in the Old Testament

Today’s post is a lecture that I gave recently at a congregation in Oklahoma City.  I hope you find it interesting and encouraging!

Introduction

The word “saved” (or “salvation” or any of their various forms) is used in different ways in the Bible.  For example, the same word translated “saved” in the New Testament is also translated “healed,” “made whole,” “do well,” and “preserve.”  The basic idea is taking someone from a bad state and placing them in a better state.  Taking someone from sickness to health, from slavery to freedom, from sinner to saint, from earthly life to heavenly life—the Bible uses the Greek word sozo to describe each of these transitions.

The topic for this lesson is salvation in the Old Testament, but I wanted you to understand before we get there that the word “saved” in the Bible doesn’t always mean salvation from sin (though it is also used in that way).  In fact, most of the time that we see that word in the Old Testament, it doesn’t specifically describe salvation from sin.

The Main Meaning of “Salvation” in the Old Testament

God sent Isaiah to King Hezekiah, to tell him to “Set your house in order: for you shall die and not live” (Isaiah 38:1).  But Hezekiah went to God in tears, pleading for more time.  And after God granted him another 15 years, Hezekiah wrote the words “The LORD was ready to save me” (Isaiah 38:20).  This is salvation from sickness.  But this isn’t how it is normally used.

Hannah was horribly depressed.  She was one of two wives to her husband Elkanah.  His other wife had given him children, but Hannah was barren, and the other wife missed no opportunity to rub that in her face.  We all know the story about how the family went to Shiloh, and Hannah went off by herself to pray, mouthing the words, but making no sound.  She was praying for a son, and said that in return, she would dedicate him to God.  After her prayer was answered, and she fulfilled her vow to God, she prayed again, this time with the words, “My heart rejoices in the LORD, my horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over my enemies, because I rejoice in Thy salvation” (1 Samuel 2:1).  This is salvation from the mocking of her husband’s other wide, salvation from her barrenness.  But this isn’t how it is normally used.

Read these passages, which are just a sampling, and see for yourself what the primary type of salvation was in the Old Testament.

When the Israelites were standing on the shores of the Red Sea, the Egyptians hot on their heels, scared that they were going to be killed, Moses said:

Moses said to the people, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show to you today: for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you shall see them again no more forever!” (Exodus 14:13).

After Moses raise his rod, the Red Sea split, and the Israelites walked across on dry ground.  When the Egyptians tried to follow them, God brought the walls of water crashing down on them, drowning Pharaoh’s entire army.  The inspired record then says:

Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore (Exodus 14:30).

Forty years later, the Israelites are at the side of another body of water, the Jordan River, and Moses is giving a series of sermons, delivering to this new generation the laws and commands of God, as well as the promises.  Hear what he says to them:

It shall be, when you are come night unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people, and shall say to them, “Hear, O Israel, you approach this day unto the battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; for the LORD your God is He that goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” (Deuteronomy 20:2-4).

This is the same thread that runs throughout the books of history.  Judges 6 and 7 uses the word several times to describe the salvation that God would bring to Israel by the hands of Gideon and his 300 men.  Salvation from the Philistines is mentioned several times in the books of Samuel.  Here’s just one of those passages:

By the mouth of my servant David I will save my people Israel out of the hand of the Philistines, and out of the hand of all their enemies (2 Samuel 3:18).

In the books of Kings and Chronicles, there are instances of the people going to God in prayer, crying “Save us!”  But these are all asking for physical salvation from their enemies.

Now therefore, O LORD our God, I beseech Thee, save Thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that Thou art the LORD God, even Thou only (2 Kings 19:19).

What we need to recognize in all of these is that they weren’t asking for salvation from sin; they were asking for physical deliverance from their enemies.  But make no mistake about it, there was a spiritual component to this as well, as we will see.

Old Testament Salvation Based on their Attitudes and Actions

In the book of Judges, we see over and over the rollercoaster of the Israelites—they go from faithful to fallen, then God sends a nation to conquer them.  Eventually, they cry out to the Lord in repentance, and God sends a deliverer, a judge, to save them from their enemies.  In short, God didn’t save them when they continually rejected Him.  This is a constant theme throughout the entire Bible (Old Testament and New Testament).  If you doubt it, just read Hebrews 10:26-31.  Moses, soon before his death, told the Israelites that they needed to learn the lesson of faithfulness:

It shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes which I comman thee this day, that all these curses shall come upon thee and overtake thee. … And thou shalt grope at noonday as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man [literally, “no one”] shall save thee (Deuteronomy 28:15, 29).

Obedience was required if they wanted physical salvation.  But so was humility.  After David had been saved from Saul (The king of God’s people, the Israelites), he was inspired to write:

“The afflicted people [“humble people,” NKJV] thou wilt save, but Your eyes are upon the haughty, that You may bring them down” (2 Samuel 22:28).

Here is a contrast being made between two people who are in a covenant with God.  On one hand, you’ve got the mighty King Saul, the haughty, high-minded King Saul.  On the other hand, you’ve got the humble servant of God, David.  Being saved physically in the Old Testament was based on one’s attitude towards God.  And brethren, our salvation today is based on our attitude of humility as well—Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up (James 4:10).

He will save the humble person (Job 22:29).

The sixth Psalm shows the heart of a humble person before God, including these words:

Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak: O LORD, heal me, for my bones are vexed.  My soul is also sore vexed: but Thou, O LORD, how long?  Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: of save me for Thy mercies’ sake (Psalm 6:2-4).

When David’s son Solomon went before the people after the completion of the magnificent temple in Jerusalem, he preached to them and offered a public prayer to God.  In it, he showed the connection between their physical deliverance and their spiritual condition.  Hear his words:

If they sin against Thee (for there is no man which sinneth not), and Thou be angry with them, and deliver them over before their enemies, and they carry them away captives unto a land far off or near.  Yet if they bethink themselves in the land whither they are carried captive, and turn and pray to thee in the land of their captivity, saying, “We have sinned, we have done amiss, and have dealt wickedly”; if they return to thee with all their heart and all their soul in the land of their captivity wither they have carried them captives, and pray toward their land which thou hast given to their fathers, and toward the city which thou hast chose, and toward the house which I have built for thy name; then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place, their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive thy people which have sinned against thee (2 Chronicles 6:36-39).

Without any doubt, the lost people of God, in order to expect salvation, had to repent of their sins against God.  It was a requirement for their salvation.  But I want you to notice something very specific from this passage, and that is:

Forgiveness (and therefore Salvation from Sin) Existed Under the Old Testament.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say that the people under the Old Testament weren’t forgiven, their sins were just “rolled forward” until the cross.  I wish someone would give me book, chapter, and verse for that, because I’ve never seen it.  Now, I will readily agree that the forgiveness, and thus salvation from sin, under the Old Testament was on the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:15 makes that pretty clear), but that doesn’t mean forgiveness somehow didn’t exist under the Old Testament.

The Law of Moses is filled with all the various sacrifices which had to be offered in order for someone to receive forgiveness of their sins (see the book of Leviticus).  When you knew you had sinned in a certain area, it was off to the priest so you could offer a sacrifice.  You might wonder why God commanded these sacrifices to be offered, and there are some very good reasons for it: (1) to show that sin deserves death.  Have you ever considered that it was God’s amazing grace that allowed people to offer animal sacrifices to atone for their sins?  Since sin deserves death (Romans 1:28-32, 6:23), God could have required the death of the sinner—but in most cases He didn’t.  (2) To make people think about the cost of sin.  Animals weren’t cheap, and the animals that God required for sacrifices weren’t the cheap ones (unless the person was extremely poor and couldn’t afford one of the other animals).  Imagine you’re a farmer, and you’ve sinned.  Your sin just cost you one of your best cows.  Do you know how much a cow sells for today?  Do you think you could easily lose that much money each time you wanted forgiveness from God?  It would act as a deterrent of sorts, because someone might think twice before sinning when they realize what it is going to cost them.

But even more than sacrifice, what was really required for forgiveness of a child of God under the Old Testament was (1) confession of sin, (2) repentance, and (3) a humble spirit.  People could offer sacrifices all day long, but if their heart wasn’t right, it didn’t matter.  Psalm 51 is David begging God for forgiveness for what he did with Bathsheba and to her husband Uriah.  In verse 3 he confesses: “I acknowledge my transgression, and my sin is ever before me.”  In verse 13 (among other places) he shows his repentance: “I will teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.”  He shows his humble spirit in verses 16-17: “Thou desirest not sacrifice; else I would give it.  Thou delightest not in burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

To add to the reality of salvation from sin under the Old Testament, let’s look at Ezekiel 3:17-21:

Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning for me.  When I say to the wicked, “Thou shalt surely die;” and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.  Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling-block before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.  Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou has delivered thy soul.

Not a bit of this statement from God is about salvation from something physical.  This is completely about being saved from their sin.  If they die in their iniquity, they are lost eternally; but if they repent, their soul is saved.  This was written to Ezekiel, who was preaching to people in Babylonian captivity—people who, for the most part, would never return to their home of Judah.  There was no physical salvation for the majority of the people Ezekiel preached to.  My friends, this is speaking of spiritual salvation, salvation from sin!

It all pointed to Jesus Christ

Later on in Ezekiel, the prophet spoke on behalf of God and foretold that God would:

save them out of all of their dwelling-places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.  And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one Shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them (Ezekiel 37:23b-24)

David had been dead and gone for hundreds of years when this was written, but the Jews knew that God had foretold a descendant of David would rule over His people.  This descendant was known as the Messiah in Hebrew, or in Greek, Christ.

The apostle Paul helps us to see that the physical salvation that the Israelites experienced in coming out of Egypt and through the Red Sea was a type, a picture of what salvation would be in the New Testament:

I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:1-4).

Just as they were baptized, leaving slavery behind, being made free in crossing the Red Sea (a baptism into Moses), we are baptized, leaving slavery to sin behind, being made free in being baptized into Christ.

The physical salvations of the Old Testament point forward to the spiritual salvation in Jesus Christ!

Conclusion

If you take nothing else from this lesson, remember this one thing: Though salvation in the Old Testament was usually a reference to a physical deliverance from enemies, it was still based on the obedience and repentance of the people; and ultimately gives us a picture of salvation in the New Testament.

There are numerous examples in the Old Testament of God’s children losing their salvation, and we’ve already looked at passages that showed what was required for them to get it back: confession, repentance, and a humble spirit.

If you’re a child of God who has gone astray, take this lesson to heart and come back to God.