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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.

The Preacher Who was Kicked out of the Church…

martindale-elijah

Elijah Martindale, a pioneer preacher of the 1800s, was quite an interesting character.  If you read the free preview edition of the Quarterly (you can download it here), then you got to read some of the interesting things that happened in his life, including the fact that he was kicked out of the church that he was preaching for…

because he preached the truth on baptism and salvation.

There are a lot of interesting things that happened in this man’s life, and we only touched a few of them in the Quarterly.  But today, we are giving you a much fuller picture.

Today’s addition to the absolutely free Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary is The Autobiography and Sermons of Elijah Martindale.  Take a look at what you can read in this free eBook:

  • Chapter I.
    Birth and Early Training — Emigration to Ohio — To Indiana — Indian Troubles — Returning a Second Time to Our New Home — Religious Impressions.
  • Chapter II.
    Marriage — Deep Conviction for Sin — Christian Experience and Baptism — A Journey with William Stubbs — Uniting with the Newlight Church.
  • Chapter III.
    Ordained to the Ministry — First Sermon — Poverty and Persecution — Mourners Uncomforted — Preaching Near New Lisbon — Flattery.
  • Chapter IV.
    The Jerusalem Doctrine Calls Down Persecution — Voted Out of the New House — Some Things Lacking — Controversial Preaching — Ministers Exhorted to Faithfulness.
  • Chapter V.
    Preaching the Gospel — Desire for Union — Love for the Erring — Zeal of the Old Preachers
  • Chapter VI.
    Preaching Near Middletown.
  • Chapter VII.
    Preaching at Bentonville.
  • Chapter VIII.
    A Flourishing Church at Hillsboro.

Sermons and Articles

  • Chapter IX.
    On Family Training.
  • Chapter X.
    The Gospel Invitation.
  • Chapter XI.
    A Sermon on Supporting the War
  • Chapter XII.
    Sermon On Prayer.
  • Chapter XIII.
    Letter To Church Members.
  • Chapter XIV.
    Object And Form Of Local Churches.
  • Chapter XV.
    On Exhortation.
  • Chapter XVI.
    Parable Of The Ten Virgins.
  • Chapter XVII.
    Religion And Politics.
  • Chapter XVIII.
    Where Is The True Church Of Christ?.
  • Chapter XIX.
    Letter To My Brother John.
  • Chapter XX.
    Extract From Speech Delivered At An Old Settlers’  Meeting At New Castle, Ind.
  • Chapter XXI.
    Sermon delivered at the Christian Chapel, New Castle, April 13, 1873.
  • Song I Used To Hear My Father Sing.
  • A Brief Excerpt Of The History Of The Martindale Family In America.

I found this to be a very interesting read, and I think you will too.  It’s not that long–actually only 67 pages.

If you like the church, the truth, conflict, and history, you’ll get all of it in this book that we’ve proofread, reformatted, and made into a nice-looking eBook just for you!

Read it online, or download it for later reading by clicking the link below:

Autobiography and Sermons of Elder Elijah Martindale

-Bradley S. Cobb

Did Jesus Really Exist?

 

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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

Teaching About the Sower

The Text: Mark 4:1-20 – He began again to teach by the seaside; and a great multitude was gathered together with Him, so that He entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.  And He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching:

“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow [seed].  And it came to pass, while He sowed, [that] some fell by the roadside, and the birds of the air came and devoured it up.  And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much soil; and immediately it sprang up, because it didn’t have deep soil.  But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.  And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other [seed] fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased.  And [they] brought forth [fruit], some thirty, and some sixty, and some a hundred.”

And He said to them, “He that has ears to hear, let him hear.”

And when He was alone, those who were around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable.  And He said to them, “To you it’s given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God, but to those who are outside, all [these] things are coming in parables.  So that ‘Seeing, they may see and not perceive; and hearing, they might hear and not understand; lest at any time they might be converted, and their sins might be forgiven them.’”

And He said to them, “Do you not perceive this parable?  And how, then, will you know all [these other] parables?

“The sower sows the word.  And these by the roadside are they where the seed is sown, but when they have heard, Satan comes in immediately, and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.  And likewise, these which are sown on stony ground are they who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and have no root in themselves, and so [they] endure only for a time.  Afterwards, when affliction or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they are caused to stumble.  And these which are sown among the thorns are they such as hear the word, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches and lusts of other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.  And these which are sown on good ground are they such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

Introduction

The parable of the sower is one of the best-known of Jesus’ parables.  I don’t have any idea how many times I’ve heard some part of it referenced (often the “cares of this world” line), but it’s a lot.  It’s mentioned by Matthew (chapter 13), Mark (chapter 4), and Luke (chapter 8).  And though many people refer to it as the “parable of the soils,” Jesus called it “the parable of the sower” (Matthew 13:18).  Therefore, while Jesus spends a lot of time dealing with the different kinds of soils, His main emphasis is on the sower.

The Text, part 1 – The Setting (Mark 4:1-2)

[Jesus] began again to teach by the seaside.  And a great multitude gathered [together around] Him, so that He entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.

Matthew 13:1 tells us that at first, Jesus sat to teach by the seaside (most likely next to the sea of Galilee).  But the crowds gathered, and Jesus stood up, walking to a ship that He could board so that He could teach the crowds without being mobbed.  Then, He sat down on the ship and began to teach the multitude that was on the shore.  This wouldn’t have been like a rowboat, but probably one of the fishing boats.  Jesus must have had a very strong voice to be able to teach this great crowd of people while sitting on this boat.

And He taught them many things by parables.

The word “parable” comes from the Greek parabole, which literally means “to throw beside.”  It’s the idea of putting two things side-by-side for comparison’s sake.  A parable is often described as “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning,” and quite often that is true.  I’d be more specific, and say that a parable is a story dealing with things that are known and understood in order to explain something that is not necessarily known or understood. Every parable that Jesus gave dealt with things that the listeners could identify with and understand, things like planting and harvesting, or losing something valuable and rejoicing when it is found (Luke 15).  And behind all these parables were deeper truths.  Some parables foretold the rejection of the Jews (Matthew 21:33-45), while others taught Godly attributes (like the Good Samaritan).

And in His teaching to them, He said “Listen.”

Jesus didn’t speak to waste His breath.  He expected those people who gathered around to pay attention to the things He was trying to teach them.  As followers of Jesus Christ today, we should respect the Lord enough to listen to Him and listen to His word being proclaimed.

The Text, part 2 – The Parable Given (Mark 4:3-8)

“Behold”

This word means not just to look, but to perceive, to comprehend.  So, as Jesus began to speak, He opens with the words, “Listen.  Perceive.”  In other words, Jesus is telling them that in order to understand His teaching, they would have to pay attention, and do some thinking.  He explains why a little later on.

“A sower went out to sow”

Literally, “the scattering one went to scatter.”  This kind of sowing is done by a person with a large bag, like a large purse, with the handle over his shoulder and neck.  He reaches inside the bag, grabs a handful of seeds, and then scatters them all across the field as he walks.  He knows ahead of time that not all the seeds will take root, but given the sheer number of seeds that he throws out there, he knows that some of them will produce the desired plant.

“Some [seed] fell by the road, and the birds of the air came and devoured it up.”

The road, whether it be rock or dirt, was packed down so hard that no seed could penetrate—so it just sat there, and was free food for the birds who gladly take advantage of it.

“Some [seed] fell on stony ground, where there was not much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil.”

You might imagine soil with lots of gravel or little rocks mixed in with it, but that’s not what Jesus is describing.  He’s describing ground where there is a very small layer of soil, and underneath that is just rock.  That’s why He says “it has no depth of soil [or earth].”  Anyone who has ever tried to plant a garden in this kind of soil knows that it is almost impossible to get much to grow and produce, because there’s simply not enough soil to support the plant.

“But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.”

When Luke records this statement, he says that the plant withered away because it “lacked moisture.”  The thin layer of dirt couldn’t hold on to the necessary moisture to sustain these plants, and the plants died as a result.

“Some [seed] fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.”

These are weeds among which the seed fell.  These weeds, with thorns, stole moisture and nutrients from the soil, and worked to overtake the plant, keeping it from being able to produce any fruit.  This is why anyone who has much experience with gardening knows you’ve got to “weed” (or de-weed) your garden so that your crops can grow and produce.

“Other [seed] fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some a hundred.”

This here is the reason why the sower goes out and scatters the seed: because there is good soil out there, and if he scatters enough seed, some of it will land in that soil.  That seed will then sprout, take root, and produce a good harvest.

The person sowing the seed during those days wasn’t usually the land owner—at least not on the bigger fields.  It was someone working for the person who owned the field.  Usually, there were several working the fields at once, and they would scatter the seed all over the place, covering every possible area.  Some of it would land in bad soil, but some of it would land in good soil.  These workers oftentimes had no way of knowing what kinds of soil were all around them.  Their job was merely to scatter the seed.

The Text, part 3 – Hearing and Understanding (Mark 4:9-13)

He said to them, “He that has ears to hear, let him hear.”

This is something that Jesus said on more than one occasion.  He said it after telling His disciples that John the Immerser was the fulfillment of the prophecies about Elijah (Matthew 11:7-15); after asking them whether a candle should be hid under a bushel (Mark 4:21-23); after chastising the Pharisees for elevating their traditions over God’s word (Mark 7:1-16); after explaining the parable of the tares (Matthew 13:36-43); after instructing the multitude on the cost of discipleship (Luke 14:25-35); and at the conclusion of each of the letters to the seven churches in Asia (Revelation 2-3).

The phrase means that everyone (because they all have ears) is supposed to listen.  In fact, the phrase “let him hear” is the same as the word translated “Hearken” (KJV) or “Listen” that Jesus used back in verse 3.  It is a command to hear the message that is being presented.

But not everyone understood the message…

When He was alone, they that were around Him, with the twelve, asked Him about the parable.

Mark is the only one who gives us this piece of information, that is, that they waited until Jesus was alone to ask this question.  They apparently didn’t want to ask the question in front of the multitude, and they also didn’t want to interrupt Jesus’ teaching.  So, they waited until later.

Mark is also the only one who tells us that it was more than just the apostles asking this question.  Matthew and Luke simply say “the disciples,” which sometimes is a reference to just the twelve.  But this was the entire group of Jesus’ disciples, all the ones who were faithfully following Him—including the apostles.

It appears that none of them understood the deeper meaning behind Jesus’ parable of the sower.

He said to them, “To you, it’s given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God, but to those who are outside, all these things are coming in parables.”

The disciples, including the apostles, were being taught about the Kingdom of God by Jesus.  He told them that it was “at hand,” and showed its power to them by casting out demons and healing the sick.  But there was more to it than just power.  The Kingdom of God included enduring rejection by the very people Jesus came to save.  The disciples needed to understand that the key to understanding Jesus’ parables was knowing about the Kingdom.  The Kingdom would be spread by sowing the word of God (as He will allude to momentarily) in the hearts of people.

But to those who don’t understand, who haven’t opened their eyes to the reality of Jesus spiritual kingdom, these parables would have no meaning—for they didn’t have the key.

The KJV says these things are “done” in parable, but literally, He says they are “coming” in parables.  That is, He’s presenting those things in parables to the masses.

“So that ‘Seeing, they might see, and not perceive; and hearing, they might hear, and not understand”

Jesus quotes Isaiah 6:9, and applies it to His own teaching in parables—a definite claim that He is the Messiah.

The parables are spoken, according to Jesus, so that they would have the opportunity to see and perceive, to hear and understand—if they had the right heart and desire.  It isn’t made clear in English, but the verbs are in the subjunctive mood, showing possibility.  So, literally, Jesus is saying “Seeing, they might see, and might not perceive; and hearing, they might hear, and might not understand.  Some people have accused Jesus of intentionally hiding the truth from people so that they couldn’t understand it—but that’s not the case at all.  He’s teaching in a way that helps those who sincerely want to understand to put everything together.  In fact, the word translated “understand” is a compound word in Greek which means “bringing together.”

“‘Lest at any time they might be converted, and their sins might be forgiven them.’”

Again, these are conditional statements.  Some of the people did listen to Jesus, and some of them were converted, and did have their sins forgiven.  But the majority did not.  In Isaiah 6, where this statement came from, the Lord sent Isaiah to proclaim the truth that the people really didn’t want to hear—that their cities were going to be utterly wasted.  And the more they heard that they didn’t like, they more they ignored the prophet.

The same thing happened with Jesus (see John 6:66).  There were hard-hearted people who didn’t want the message of a spiritual kingdom that required godly living and evangelism and obedience.  So, Jesus spoke it to them in parables, keeping the true meaning just under the surface—those who were spiritually-minded would dig and find it, while those who weren’t interested would just think it was a story and shrug it off.

And He said to them, “Do you not perceive this parable?  How then will you perceive all [the other] parables?”

Jesus was kind (because He explains the parable to them), but at the same time, this statement expresses a disappointment in the disciples.  They, the ones who should be best equipped to understand the meaning, didn’t see it.  And you have to know that it stung a bit when Jesus quoted Isaiah 6:9, and then immediately afterwards asked them if they were among the ones who fit the description of “not perceiving.”

This parable is a fairly straight-forward one, and when we understand that it is about the kingdom of God, the rest of the pieces fall into place pretty easily.  And Jesus asks them how they could hope to understand His other parables if they didn’t understand this parable.  So many people want to jump headfirst into the deeper matters of the Bible without first having an understanding of some of the simpler parts.  If you can’t grasp the simple parts, you have no hope of understanding the more difficult ones!

The Text, part 4 – The Explanation (Mark 4:13-20)

“The sower sows the word.”

That statement is the key to the entire parable.  Luke records it as “the seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11).  Without this knowledge, the parable is hidden in a mist of confusion.  But when you know that “the seed is the word of God,” everything else makes sense.

“These by the road are they where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.”

The word of God makes no lasting penetration into these hearts.  Just like the birds eating seed off the hard ground, Satan has no trouble removing the word of God from the hearts and minds of this kind of people.  They aren’t really spiritually-minded to begin with, and so they don’t take in the word of God, they don’t treasure it.  It’s just there, ready to be forgotten at the first opportunity.

“Likewise, these which are sown on stony ground are they who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so they endure but for a time.  Afterwards, when affliction or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately, they are caused to stumble.”

These are what you might call “shallow” Christians.  They want the salvation that comes through Christ, but they don’t have any roots, no depth to their faith, and so when things get tough, they simply fall away.

It’s interesting that in the parable, Jesus described the sun as part of the reason the plant died, and then he describes affliction and persecution as what causes a believer to die (spiritually).  But the sun has a very positive effect on plants which are properly planted; and persecution and affliction has a very positive effect on Christians who are properly planted in God (see James 1:2-4, Acts 5:40-41).

The word “offended” (KJV) or “stumble” (NKJV) is the Greek word scandalizo.  It’s where we get the word “scandal.”

“These which are sown among thorns are those, such as hear the word, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”

In contrast to the previous people, these aren’t “shallow” Christians.  These are people who know the truth, believe the truth, and may have even at one time been very fruitful in the truth.  But they are the ones who have gotten caught up with cares of the world (friends, family, work, politics, fun, pleasure) and as a result, they’ve relegated God’s word to second place (or third or fourth or fifth…) in their lives.  These are the ones who have allowed the material things to become the focus of their lives (money, wealth, things).  Jesus adds that it’s also “the lusts of other things.”  It’s basically Jesus saying, “and other things like these.”

When those things become the focus, it chokes out the word of God in your life, and you become unfruitful.  Even if you were at one point in time an active, evangelistic, fruitful Christian, you can still fall—you can still get so tangled up in the cares of this world that you end up forgetting that this world isn’t our home, and we’ve got a better world awaiting us.

“These which are sown on good ground are those, such as hear the word and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

These are active, faithful, working Christians.  These are those who are productive for the Lord.  There’s two different ways we can look at what this “fruit” is:

First, we could use the word “fruit” as John the Immerser did in Matthew 3:8, “Therefore, bring forth fruits suitable for repentance.”  By this, the “fruit” would have a reference to works (in our context, it would be good works).  Paul uses the phrase in a similar way in Romans 7:5-6.

Second, we could look at something God says about “fruit” in the creation account in Genesis 1:11: “And God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed is in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”  Since the fruit has the seed inside it, and the seed is the word of God, then to “bring forth fruit” would be converting people to Christ.  Each person you convert to the Lord now has the word of God (the seed) inside them.

Ultimately, the two options are really two parts of the same thing.

Application

Preparing the Sower

Since Jesus called it the “parable of the sower,” He wanted His disciples to view it from that direction first.  In telling them this parable, He was preparing them for the different kinds of reactions that they would receive when they went about preaching the word.  We need to take the same lesson from it as well, and know ahead of time that there will be people who are so hard-hearted that the word of God won’t take hold in their heart.  We need to realize ahead of time that some people will accept it, but they will be shallow and fall away.  Some will accept it, and stick with it, but they won’t bear fruit because they’re too busy with the things of this life.  These things aren’t our fault—that is on them.  But we also need to know that there are people out there who will gladly receive the word of God and who will bear fruit.  That is the reason we need to keep trying to bring others to Christ, because these kind of people are out there!

Preparing the Soil

The secondary purpose of this parable is from the standpoint of the soils, or the heart.  What kind of heart do you have?  Is it a hard heart?  A shallow heart?  A rocky heart?  Or a good and pure heart?  As most of you are certainly aware, bad soil doesn’t have to stay bad soil.  It can be broken up, tilled, cared for, rocks removed, weeds removed, and it can become productive.  The same thing is true of your heart.  If you honestly look at your heart and discover that you are one of the first three, then you can do something about it!  You can cultivate your heart, be more conscious of where your focus is, on what is most important, and then you can start being fruitful for the Lord!

Invitation

Just possessing he seed isn’t enough.  Just tossing it on the ground isn’t enough.  In order for that seed to produce a plant, there’s something else that has to be present, and that’s water.  The same thing is true with the word of God.  Just having it isn’t enough to save you.  Just believing it isn’t enough to save you (for the demons believe and tremble, James 2:19).  It’s when you make the decision to repent of your rebellion to God, and add water—being baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of your sins—that you become a Christian.

Won’t you please become a fruitful follower of the Lord today?

-Bradley S. Cobb

Identifying the True Family

The Text: Mark 3:31-35 – His brothers and His mother then came there, and standing outside, they sent to Him, calling Him.  And the multitude sat around Him, and they said to Him, “Behold, your mother and your brothers outside are looking for you.” 

And He answered them, saying, “Who is my mother or my brothers?”  And He looked around at those who were sitting around Him, and said, “Behold, my mother and my brethren!  For whoever will do the desires of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and my mother.”

Introduction

Jesus gave some difficult commands in His life, but they were always ones that He Himself was ready to follow as well.  He has been preaching and teaching, proclaiming the Kingdom of God in the face of opposition from His associates (who thought He was crazy) and the scribes (who claimed He was possessed by Satan), but He didn’t stop.  And now, Jesus’ family shows up, wanting Him to stop teaching so He can come talk to them.

The Text, part 1 – Earthly Family Calling (Mark 3:31-32).

Satan uses peer pressure and false accusations to try to disrupt God’s work.  That’s what he did against Jesus earlier in this chapter.  Now, he uses another—very potent—device to try to stop Jesus: His own family.

Then, there came His brothers and His mother

Let’s just get this out of the way from the start.  These aren’t Jesus’ cousins.  These are the children of Mary and Joseph, all younger than Jesus, who arrived with their mother, Mary.  Matthew 13:55-56 shows that Jesus was known by the people in His own area as “the carpenter’s son” whose mother was named “Mary,” and “His brethren, James and Joses and Simon and Judas” and who had “sisters.”  It is ridiculous to claim, as the Catholics do, that the people who knew Jesus had to identify Him by His earthly father and mother, and then rattle off the names of four of His cousins, and then add that He’s got female cousins (“sisters”) too.  These are the actual brothers (half-brothers, to be specific) of Jesus who have come with Mary.

Some Greek manuscripts also include “sisters” with this group that was trying to get to Jesus.

This is the family that Jesus has known His whole earthly life.  He certainly had a spot in His heart for them.  Even though John 7 portrays them as non-believers, He visited James after the resurrection, which led to all of the brothers being present in Jerusalem, gathered with the disciples (Acts 1:13-14), and later becoming well-known Christian examples (1 Corinthians 9:5).  So these brothers of Jesus were not beyond reaching with the gospel, and Jesus knew that.  This fact would have made it very tempting for Jesus to go talk to them and try to convince them to believe in Him.

Standing outside, sent to Him, calling Him

Luke tells us that they couldn’t get to Jesus because of the massive crowd of people (Luke 8:19) who were sitting around Jesus, so instead of going to Him, they began calling to Him.  The Greek word is “phoneo,” which means they were using their voices.  So, they were telling people at the edge of the crowd, “Tell Jesus that we’re out here, and that we are looking for Him.”  So, from the edge of the crowd, this message was sent (the Greek word is “apostello”) until it reached Jesus.

The multitude sat around Him

This is something that only Mark mentions. Remember that earlier in the chapter, those close to Jesus thought He was crazy because He was allowing these massive crowds of people to crowd around Him.  But Jesus is in no danger of being crushed.  The multitude is sitting around Him.

They said to Him, “Behold, your mother and your brothers are outside looking for you.”

The message had made its way through who knows how many people to finally get to Jesus.  He’s told that they are “seeking” Him.  The same word is used in Matthew’s account, where it is translated “desiring” to speak to Jesus (Matthew 12:46-47).  In other words, they wanted Jesus to stop what He was doing and come outside to talk to His physical family.

The Text, part 2 – True Family Identified (Mark 3:33-35)

As Jesus’ family stood outside, the crowd looked at Him, probably wondering what He would do.  Would He stop preaching and teaching to go talk to them?  Would He send them a message back through the multitude?  Would He ignore them?

He answered them, saying “Who is my mother or my brothers?”

As literally-minded as some of Jesus’ disciples were, you have to think that some of them were quite confused by this statement.  What?  Jesus, you know…your mother?  Mary?  Don’t you remember her?  And your brothers, the ones you lived with for years?  What do you mean, “Who is my mother or brothers?”  Maybe this statement, for a moment, reinforced the idea that some of them had that Jesus had lost His mind.

But Jesus wasn’t pleading ignorance, nor was He crazy.  He was asking a question to get the people to start thinking.  He wanted them to start thinking about which relationships are most important.  He wanted them to change their focus from the physical to the spiritual.

He looked around at those who sat around Him

This is Jesus pausing for effect, looking at the people who were listening, making sure they are paying attention.  Then Jesus lifts up His hand, and points it towards His disciples (Matthew 12:46-47).

And [He] said, “Behold my mother and brethren!”

The crowd had said “Behold, your mother and brother are outside,” and Jesus’ response is “Behold, my mother and brother” are right here!  Jesus explains what He means by this in the next verse, but I want you to put yourself in the shoes of Mary, or of James, Jude, Simon, or Joses.  The message certainly got back to them, and it probably didn’t make the brothers too happy.  But what about Mary?  Do you think another incident popped into her head?  Perhaps an incident that the Bible says “she kept…in her heart”?

Now His [Jesus’] parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.  When He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.  And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and His mother did not know it.  But they, supposing He was with the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought them among their relatives and acquaintances.  And when they did not find Him, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking Him [this is the same word as in Mark 3:32].  And it came to pass, that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both hearing them and asking them questions.  And all that heard were astonished at His understanding and answers.  And when they saw Him, they were amazed: and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have you dealt this way with us?  Behold, your father and I have sought you, sorrowing.”  And He said to them, “How is it that you sought me?  Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?”  And they did not understand the saying which He spoke to them.  And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them: but His mother kept all these sayings in her heart. (Luke 2:41-51).

Even from the time Jesus was 12 years old, He knew the difference between His earthly family and His true family.  The incident from Jesus’ boyhood, along with the incident in Mark 3, shows us without a doubt that Jesus knew which family was most important.

For whoever shall do the desires of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and my mother.

Now, just to make things crystal clear, Jesus isn’t saying that His disciples were somehow His spiritual mother (or sisters).  He is saying that His true family is the spiritual family.  His true family are the people who obey the Father’s will.  Here’s something that you might want to contemplate: your earthly family is only temporary.  Your spiritual family is forever.  But praise God when your earthly family is counted as part of your spiritual family too!

The Peter began to say to Him, “Look, we’ve left everything and followed You.  And Jesus answered and said, “Truly I say to you, there is no man that has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive a hundred-fold now in this time, houses and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come, eternal life. (Mark 10:28-30).

The ones who have put Jesus ahead of their earthly family will receive a much greater family—brothers and sisters of untold numbers—here, in this life.  A person who obeys the gospel immediately gains a family of brothers and sisters in Christ—and new family members are made every day!

Jesus warned about placing your physical family ahead of Him—being a disciple of Jesus must come first in your life!

[Jesus] said to them, “If any man comes to me, and does not hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes, and even his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26).

Jesus isn’t saying that you have to despise your family, but He is saying that you have to put Him first.  Earthly ties are to be secondary to your ties to Jesus Christ.

Application

Put Your Family First—Your TRUE Family.

I don’t need to tell you that people have fallen away from God, left the family of God (the church, 1 Timothy 3:15), because of their physical family.  Maybe it’s a domineering husband who berates his wife for going to worship with the saints.  Maybe it’s a wife whose religious ties are to a denomination, and she’s nagged or guilted her husband into joining her.  Maybe it’s someone who has children who are living in wickedness, but they can’t bring themselves to admit that they are lost, so they stop worshiping with the saints, lest someone ask about them, or lest they hear a lesson that deals with the sins that their children happen to be guilty of.  I know a man who left the church and tried to split it on his way out because someone dared to tell him that it was wrong for his daughter to be cheating on her husband.

We must be like Jesus, and realize that regardless of our earthly ties, it is our Father’s family, our true family that matters the most.

How Do I Become Part of God’s Family?

We become part of a physical family by being born into it.  Similarly, in order to become part of God’s family, Jesus’ family, the spiritual family, the family that Jesus claimed as His own, we must be born into it as well.  But this birth isn’t something done when you come out of your mother’s womb.  Since this is a spiritual family, it requires a spiritual birth.

“Truly I say to you, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus said to [Jesus], “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, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless a man is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:3-5).

James 1:18 says “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”  The word “begat,” when describing a father’s actions, means that he has provided the seed so that a new creature can be born. In the genealogical lists, it is said “Adam begat Seth” or “Abraham begat Isaac” and so on. The fathers didn’t give birth to them, but they provided the seed so that a birth could follow. When God begat us, He provided the seed so that a birth could follow. But what was that seed?

James tells us that it is “the word of truth”

The seed that God provided so that our new birth could take place is the word of God. The word of God is described as the seed from which Christians come (Luke 8:11). In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13), Jesus described the seed (the word of God) as going to people’s hearts. When it took hold of good and honest hearts, Christians came forth.

There is NO CHANCE of being born again without the Scriptures—the word of truth. Some people claim they had some religious “experience” and they could tell by their “feelings” that they were saved. James says quite plainly that the new birth comes by the word of truth. Being born again doesn’t come from feelings, from experiences, or from a direct action of God upon the person. It comes from following the word of God.

Peter reiterates the same idea in saying “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which lives and remains forever” (1 Peter 1:23).  You read the Scriptures (the seed) and plant it in your heart. The birth which follows comes when you obey the commands to believe (John 3:16), repent (Acts 2:38) and be baptized (Acts 22:16).

For you are all children of God by the faith, in Christ Jesus, Because as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:26-27).

Come be a part of God’s family today!

-Bradley S. Cobb

Questioning Jesus’ Sanity and Source (The Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit)

The Text: Mark 3:20-30 – The multitude came together again, so that they couldn’t so much as eat bread.  And when those close to Him heard, they went out to restrain Him, for they said, “He is crazy!”

And the scribes which acme down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub, and by the prince of demons He cats out demons.”  And He called them, and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan?”

“And if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.  And if Satan rises up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end.”

“No man can enter into a strong man’s house and take his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then he can rob his house.”

Truly I say to you, ‘All sins shall be forgiven to the sons of men, and blasphemies as many as they shall blaspheme; but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.”

[Jesus said this] because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Introduction

In the last half of Mark chapter three, the writer deals with what people thought about Jesus’ mental state and His allegiance; and that’s followed by Jesus’ words regarding who His true family was.  While Mark records actual, 100% true events, they might not be recorded in chronological order.  Luke, who claimed to write his gospel “in consecutive order” (1:3, NASB), records some of these events in chapter 11, and then the last part seen in Mark 3 is recorded in Luke 8.  This doesn’t affect the inspiration of the Scriptures at all, for Mark never made the claim that he was writing chronologically.  Instead, there’s a logical progression to Mark’s unfolding of events.

The Text, part 1 – The View of His Associates (Mark 3:20-21).

In verses 20-21, the focus is on how certain people close to Jesus viewed His mental state because of His actions here.

And the multitude comes together again

This is the great crowd of people who just about crushed Jesus earlier in the chapter.  Jesus requested a small ship be prepared so that He wouldn’t be “thronged” or crushed like a grape.  But now, the same scenario arises again—except that this time there’s no ship, because Jesus is at a house (see verse 19).

So that they couldn’t so much as eat bread.

Whoever the “they” is (whether it’s Jesus and the apostles, or the crowd), the point is that there was so many of them that having the space and taking the time to eat was an impossibility (literally, they did not have the power even to eat).  The crowd wanted Jesus’ time and attention—it’s all they cared about.  It seems as though this is the same kind of thing that happened when Jesus ended up feeding the 4,000:

Jesus called His disciples and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way (Matthew 16:32).

Have you ever been so focused on Jesus and wanting to be close to Him that you forget to eat—or don’t think eating is important enough to stop reading His word and going to the Father in prayer?  Jesus said “blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6); and He told His disciples, “My [food] is to do the will of Him that sent me” (John 4:34).  When our hunger for spiritual things becomes greater than our hunger for physical things, we have grown greatly in Jesus Christ.

Many of those who followed Jesus (including, certainly, many in this multitude) were not interested in His teachings, but in seeing a miracle or being the recipient of His healing power (Mark 3:10).

And when those near Him heard of it…

There’s debate as to who these people are.  The KJV and ASV say “friends,” the NKJV and NASB say “His people,” while the ESV (and many commentators) says “His family.”  Literally, the text says “the ones beside Him.”  Regardless of who it was (I tend to think it is His newly-appointed apostles whom He said would be “with Him”—Mark 3:14), these were people who cared about His well-being.

They went out to grab hold of Him

They wanted to rescue Him, to save Him from the crowds that put His life in danger before by mobbing Him.  Given the size of the crowd, it took some courage for these people to work their way to Jesus and try to take Him away from the mob.

For they said, “He is beside Himself!”

Literally, they said “He is crazy!”  It’s as though they were questioning Jesus’ sanity in going back out to the mob that all wanted to touch Him and crowd Him.  If indeed it is the apostles under consideration, imagine what they’re thinking.  They were selected that morning, and now, to them, it looks like Jesus is trying to commit suicide by letting the mobs come rush Him again.

But Jesus wasn’t crazy.  What His associates didn’t understand is that Jesus had the power to stop the mob in their tracks if He wanted.  He could have simply walked through the crowd like He did in Luke 4:28-30:

And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, so that they might cast Him down headlong.  But He, passing through the midst of them, went His way.

Mark doesn’t tell us what happened next.  He doesn’t say that the associates of Jesus pulled Him into the house, and doesn’t say they Jesus told them not to worry.  It’s simply left with their thought that Jesus was crazy.

The Text, part 2 – The View of the Scribes (Mark 3:22)

And that leads directly into verse 22, which tells us that the scribes held a somewhat similar view—but with a completely different motive.

The scribes which came down from Jerusalem…

These were some of the religious teachers who were supposed to be well-acquainted with the Law of Moses, having copied much of it by hand.  The fact that they were the scribes in Jerusalem meant that they were the most prestigious scribes in the nation.  Their words held a lot of weight with the people.

They came “down” from Jerusalem, because Jerusalem is situated on a mountain.  They weren’t using “down” to mean “south” like we do when looking at a map.  They walked, and so anywhere out of Jerusalem was “down” to them.

[They] said, “He has Beelzebub”

Beelzebub is a name the Jews used for Satan.  Literally, it means “Lord of the flies,” but it’s also been said that this originated with the idea that the flies buzz around piles of poop.  Thus, according to some who have studied the issue, the name Beelzebub is a derogatory name to describe Satan as “poop lord” or “the poo-poo god.” (and yes, that is a direct quote).

So when the scribes from Jerusalem made this accusation, it wasn’t just that they were questioning Jesus’ power and authority (which, if we are really lenient, we might say they did in ignorance), they were also degrading Jesus.  It wasn’t a scared, fearful, “He serves Satan,” but instead a sneering and mocking, “He has the poo-poo god.”

In the Old Testament (1 Kings 16), the Philistines worshiped “Baalzebub,” which is almost definitely the same name.  Ahaziah, one of the kings of Israel, was sick and injured, and instead of enquiring of God as to whether he would recover, he sent messengers to go enquire of Baalzebub.  Elijah stopped them and sent them back with a message: because the king would rather enquire of Baalzebub than of the God of Israel, he was going to die.  Over a hundred men were killed with fire from heaven in the course of the chapter, all going back to the actions of the king.

“By the prince of demons, He casts out demons.”

There’s not a single good motive behind what these scribes said of Jesus.  They said that He has Beelzebub, as though He’s possessed, not just by any demon, but by Satan himself, the ruler of demons!  He who was casting out demons, they claim, is the most possessed man there is!

Now don’t miss what they’re saying.  They are admitting, without a doubt, that Jesus was casting out demons.  Thus, they are admitting that Jesus possesses supernatural power—miracle-working power.  And they are so opposed to Jesus that they take the ridiculous position that He’s actually working for and with Satan!

Now, for the sake of the argument, we should recognize that in casting out demons, there were only two possibilities—either the power of God was behind it, or the power of Satan (the ruler over demons) was behind it.  The scribes tried to convince the people that Jesus was controlled by Satan, or working with him, in an effort to trick people into following Satan, by casting out the demons.  In effect, their accusation was that Satan was trying to pretend to be an angel of light to draw away followers after himself.

His associates thought He was crazy, but His enemies claimed He was Satan-possessed!

The Text, part 3 – A House Divided (Mark 3:23-27).

Jesus’ response is to show the ludicrousness of their accusation.  Mark doesn’t give us everything Jesus used in response, but he gives us enough to make the point pretty clear.

He called them, and said to them in parables, “How is Satan able to cast out Satan?”

Mark wants to make sure that his readers don’t miss the point of these parabolic statements from Jesus.  They each are given as ways of asking the same question, “How is Satan able to cast out Satan?”  The word translated as “can” in the KJV is the word dunamai, the noun form of which is very frequently used to describe miracle-working power.  When it appears here, the question is “How does Satan have the ability [or power] to cast himself out?”

Jesus, who knew what the scribes were thinking and saying, called them and presented a series of arguments to them.

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.”

Imagine a king who tries to undermine the very laws that he uses to govern people.  Or a ruler who bombs his own army.  If Satan is casting out Satan, it’s the same as though a king was banishing himself from his own kingdom, or perhaps banishing all his subjects (since Satan is the ruler of the demons).  Once there are no more subjects, there’s no kingdom.

Jesus’ point is that no one with any sense at all would actively seek to destroy his own kingdom, and Satan isn’t stupid—he isn’t going to actively try to destroy his own power, and therefore himself.

“If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

Jesus goes from the large (the kingdom) to the small (the family) to show that this principle applies all the way around.  A family which does nothing but fight isn’t really a family at all any more, except perhaps in name only, because the people in that family have destroyed it.

“If Satan rises up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end.”

Jesus makes it clear that the demons that have been cast out are loyal to Satan; by casting out the demons, it is an attack on Satan himself.  Thus, if this is being done by Satan’s power, then Satan is attacking himself.  And if Satan is attacking himself, neither he nor his kingdom can stand.  If Satan is attacking himself, he has an end—he is committing suicide.

However, Satan isn’t stupid.  Satan isn’t attacking himself.  Satan isn’t committing suicide.

But something is going on… Satan is being attacked… His soldiers are being defeated…  His kingdom is shaking.

No one can enter into a strong man’s house and steal his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then he can rob his house.

The scribes’ accusation was that Jesus was possessed by Satan.  Jesus’ response is to say, in essence, Are you kidding me?  Satan’s kingdom is falling, and he’s not doing it himself.  I’m the one who is doing it, for Satan—as strong as he is—is no match for me.  I’m taking his kingdom.

It is a statement of Jesus’ amazing power.  He, as God in the flesh, has come and beaten Satan at his own game.  Satan went after Him hard and heavy, tempting Him during those forty days (Mark 1:13), but Jesus came out victorious, and began to announce that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand.  Satan continues to fight back, but his kingdom is losing power every day that Jesus works.  Satan is the “strong man,” but Jesus is even stronger!

The Text, part 4 – The Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-30).

Understanding the context is key to understanding what the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit actually is.  Jesus didn’t just spit out these words are a random moment; He thoughtfully said them in response to an actual event.  And it’s rather important that we notice the progression of what’s happened here in His interaction with the scribes.

  1. They make the accusation that He’s doing miracles by the power of Satan.
  2. He shows the ridiculous nature of their accusation.
  3. He declares His superiority in power over Satan (which is actually a claim to be Deity).

And now, Jesus warns them that eternal damnation (which He has in His power to administer) awaits those who make such accusations.

“Truly I say to you, All sins shall be forgiven to the sons of men”

Murder, robbery, hatred, etc., all of the things we think of as sin will be forgiven by God if we repent.  Of course, this is not saying that God will forgive every sin period.  There is no grace for those who sin willfully (Hebrews 10:26), or for those who don’t know God or who reject the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:8).  But Jesus is saying that forgiveness is available for all sins…except for one.

“Even blasphemies, as many as they shall blaspheme”

Blasphemies are speaking evil of someone, speaking against them.  Even blasphemies will be forgiven by God.  Saul of Tarsus blasphemed (1 Timothy 1:13), but was forgiven.  Blasphemy itself does not guarantee eternal damnation.  But one kind does…

“But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.”

Jesus brought this up for a reason, which Mark gives in verse 30.  The scribes had seen first-hand the power of Jesus to cast out demons (see Luke 11:14-15), but were so hard-hearted that they’d rather give the glory for this wonderful miracle to Satan than to Jesus, who did it by the power of the Holy Spirit.  They, the teachers of the law, the supposed experts, were calling good “evil.”

Woe to them who call evil “good,” and good “evil”; that put darkness for light and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to them who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! … Therefore as the fire devours the stubble, and the flame consumes the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.  Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against His people…(Isaiah 5:20-21, 24-25).

Miracles, which came from the Holy Spirit, were given as absolute confirmation from God Himself that the things spoken were divinely approved, and that the messenger was from God (Mark 16:20, Mark 2:10).  If someone saw the evidence given by God, and still rejected it, and even worse, claimed that it was Satan that was doing it?  That is a full-on attack on God Himself, His nature, His goodness, His power, and His deity.  The person who is that hard-hearted has destroyed his chance at forgiveness.

Some Greek manuscripts read “guilty of eternal sin,” which gets the same basic idea across.  It is a sin that never dies, that never goes away.

People often wonder (and worry) about possibly committing this same sin today.  First, you need to remember what it is: accepting the miracles of the Holy Spirit, but rejecting the message, the messenger, and attributing those miracles to Satan.  So, the only way you could commit this unpardonable, eternal sin today is if you admitted the miracles of Jesus and the apostles took place, but agreed with the scribes that it was done through the power of Jesus.  Or perhaps if you said that the Bible itself (given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) was a product of Satan, and not of God.

The point to remember is that if you’re trying to be right with God, there is ZERO chance that you could commit this sin.  It isn’t a sin that is committed on accident.  The scribes intentionally spoke against the miracles of Jesus.  It wasn’t that they questioned them, or just weren’t certain; they did it on purpose.  That is what made it unforgiveable.  They knew it was a miracle, and they intentionally gave credit to Satan for it instead of God (via the Holy Spirit).

[He said this] because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Jesus has completely turned the tables on them.  They came with what they probably thought was an ingenious argument, and they left exposed and condemned.  Their condemnation came because they had said Jesus Himself had an unclean spirit—specifically Satan—guiding His movements.  How hard-headed and close-minded do you have to be to claim in one breath to believe in God and His word, and in the next denying God’s power, and by implication praising Satan???

Is it any wonder that they left condemned?

Application

You Might Not Know the Whole Story…

The associates of Jesus (regardless of who they were) wanted to help Him, to essentially save Him from Himself.  But they didn’t understand the whole story.  They didn’t fully grasp what was going on, who Jesus was, and what power He had.  There are times in our lives where we make assumptions about other people, and sometimes those assumptions turn out to be completely wrong.  The ones who went to grab Jesus were acting out of concern for His well-being, and that is absolutely commendable.  It’s an example we should follow.  But at the same time, they were acting on an assumption.

When you start to question the motives of others, stop and ask yourself if you’re assuming they have bad motives, or if you know for certain that such is the case.  It might be that you have misunderstood what is happening.  It might be that their motives are pure and they simply made a mistake.  It might be that they just plain don’t have the same level of understanding that you do in some matters.  In all things, instead of making assumptions, we should go to the person and help them, make sure we know the truth about any given situation so that we can be able to act based on facts and not assumptions.

The Other Unforgiveable Sin

Jesus said that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was not forgivable; but there is another sin that is unforgiveable.  That sin is the one that you know you’ve done, but don’t repent of.  Hebrews 10:26 says “if we sin willfully, after having received a knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins…”  To sin willfully is to know you’re sinning, to do it on purpose.  1 John 1:9 says “if we confess our sins” (and the idea is not just saying “yep, I did this,” but confessing it to God with a repentant heart), “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  That word “if” means that when you don’t repentantly confess your sins to God, you won’t be forgiven.

Brethren, when you know you’ve sinned, repent and ask God for forgiveness for it, and He will forgive you.

Invitation

Those verses were written to Christians who had already taken hold of the blood of Jesus Christ through humble obedience to His word.  The very first sermon delivered after the resurrection of Jesus is found in Acts 2.  In that sermon, Peter’s goal was to help people be saved.  After getting their attention, Peter said, “hear these words,” and proceeded to tell them about the death and resurrection of Jesus.  He appealed to both Scripture and miracles to prove it to them, so that they would believe it.  When the people realized he was telling them the truth, they were cut to the heart and asked, “What shall we do?”  Peter’s response to these people who were not yet Christians, and who wanted to be forgiven, was this: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, for the remission of sins.”

If you have not obeyed the gospel commands, please delay no longer.  Follow those simple God-given directives and enjoy a new life with your old sins all erased!

-Bradley S. Cobb

Choosing Twelve Men

The Text: Mark 3:13-19 – He goes up into a mountain, and calls [those] whom He wanted; and they came to Him.  And He ordained twelve, so that they should be with Him, and so that He might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out demons:  And Simon He surnamed Peter; and James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James, He even surnamed them Boanerges, which is “The Sons of Thunder”; and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus, and Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed Him.  And they [all] went into a house.

Introduction

One of the most important decisions Jesus had to make while on earth was in choosing His apostles.  These were the men that would be His representatives, the men who would prepare people for entrance into Heaven’s Empire—the Kingdom of God.  People would look on these twelve men as examples, as spokesmen for Jesus Himself.  And if the wrong men were chosen, then that would reflect badly on Jesus, and people might reject the message—in other words, there were literally souls at stake: that’s how important this choice actually was.

The Text, part 1 – Jesus and the Mountain (Mark 3:13)

Some time after the events recorded earlier in the chapter, Jesus has gotten away from the mob of people and takes some time to be alone.

He goes up into a mountain

Mark, writing to the Roman audience, didn’t deem it necessary to include information supplied by Luke: that Jesus went to the mountain and spent all night in prayer to God (Luke 6:12).  Don’t miss this point: Jesus, even though He is God in the flesh, felt it necessary to get away from people and spend time alone talking to the Father.  The next day, He knew, would be when He chose twelve men to represent Him to others.  This was an extremely important decision to make, and one that He wouldn’t think of doing without prayer first.  Then there is the fact that He prayed all night.  Have you ever been that dedicated in your petitions to God that you prayed for hours straight?  Now, spending hours straight in talking to God is not a requirement for an acceptable prayer, but maybe this example of Jesus will encourage us to spend more time in prayer than we normally do.  Perhaps the most important lesson to learn from this is take time to pray.  Don’t let the pressures of the world take you away from your time alone with God.

He calls [to Himself] those who He wanted

Instead of the massive crowds that were running towards Him earlier in the chapter, Jesus calls a specific group of people.  Luke’s account says that these people were Jesus’ disciples.  He didn’t call everyone, but only a specific group of people.  The word translated “calls” is the same word used in Acts 2:39, and refers to calling for a specific purpose.  There it was a calling for the purpose of miraculous gifts, here is it a calling to select apostles (who would also be given miraculous gifts).

The phrase “whom He would” (KJV) means “who He wanted.”  He would only choose the apostles from among those who were His disciples already.  Thus, those are the only ones He called.

They came to Him

Going back to Mark’s portrayal of Jesus as the King who is announcing His impending reign and overthrow of the Kingdom of Darkness, His authority is displayed here.  Jesus has had men following Him for some time—Simon, Andrew, James, John, and Levi have all been named—and they obey when He calls them.  Jesus has a call for His people today, to go into the human fields and work, bringing in souls to Him.  Do we answer that call?

The Text, part 2 – Jesus Chooses Missionaries (Mark 3:14-15)

He ordained twelve

Literally, Jesus made twelve.  This was His choice to make a new group from among His disciples; a special group with a special role, with special gifts to go along with it.

Why twelve?  Some have asked what the significance of this number twelve is.  One of the first answers that springs to mind is that the Old Testament was given by God to the twelve tribes of Israel, and so the number twelve had a special significance to the Jews.  Also, there’s this answer that goes along with it: In Jewish thought, numbers had certain significances, certain meanings beyond their literal count.  For instance, the number three was representative of God (we can think of this as the three persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit); the number four, it is said by those who have studied numerology, is representative of mankind (perhaps because our four limbs?).  Thus, when you multiply the two together, you have the number 12, which represents the interaction between God and man (the Law given to the twelve tribes, and the gospel given by the twelve apostles).

We could even go into the book of Revelation and see the number of saved as 144,000, which is 12 x 12 x 1,000.  Or, in other words, the saved of the Old Testament, and the saved of the New Testament, a huge number (1,000 means an innumerable amount).

Jesus chose twelve men, because this was to be representative of a new interaction between God and mankind.

That they should be with Him

These twelve men, who would come to be known as “apostles” (a word which, surprisingly, Matthew and Mark only use once, and John doesn’t use at all except in Revelation), were men that were basically giving up their normal lives to be with Jesus.  Their jobs had to be left behind, their families, their friends, their homes.  These men followed Jesus wherever He went, except when…

He might send them forth to preach

These men were going to follow Jesus, but they would also be getting some on-the-job training.  They were expected to preach the same thing that Jesus preached: that the Kingdom of Heaven was “at hand.”  This is a wise move on Jesus’ part for a few reasons:

First, it prepares the ones who would carry on the message after His death on the cross.

Second, it helps spread the load of proclaiming the message; Jesus wouldn’t have to do it all by Himself anymore.

Third, it also may have helped with crowd control.  Mark made it clear that the people came from all over the place to Jesus because of the miracles He had done.  Now, with the addition of twelve more miracle-working men, people wouldn’t always be flocking to Jesus—they might have someone closer to home that they could go to, seeking healing.

But don’t miss that the primary reason given for choosing these men is so that they could preach.

And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out demons

The miracles that drew people to Jesus, the powers that amazed the crowds (and the disciples as well) were passed on to these twelve men.  The miracles were not for show, but as a confirmation of their preaching message, showing that the prophesied Kingdom was truly near.  This is what the Jewish people had been looking forward to, longing for, for generations.  And these miracles would confirm that their hopes were about to be realized in Jesus.

The Text, part 3 – Jesus and the Men (Mark 3:16-19)

Knowing that his readers would naturally want to know who these twelve men were, Mark gives their names, along with a few descriptive phrases.

Simon He surnamed Peter

The readers see the first name, and think, Simon, okay, I remember him.  He’s one of those fishermen, whose mother-in-law was healed by Jesus.  This Simon was one of the first disciples of Jesus (actually the very first one mentioned by Mark), and so his inclusion here is not really surprising.  His name appears first in every list of the apostles, and there is no denying his special place in Jesus’ plan.

Jesus gave Simon a new name, which in Hebrew is Cephas, but which in Greek is Petros, or Peter.  Both Cephas and Peter mean the same thing: a stone or a rock.  This name stuck, because with very few exceptions, he is known by the names “Peter,” “Cephas,” or “Simon Peter” from this point forward.

It is said by many of the ancient writers that Mark’s gospel was written using the information given to him by Peter (with whom he was working, according to 1 Peter 5:13).  But this isn’t the reason why Peter is first-named among the apostles (for he appears there in all the other lists as well).

Peter was told that he specifically would be given the keys to the Kingdom (Matthew 16:18-19).  Jesus also gave Peter a specific commission that applied only to him: When you have returned (from denying Jesus), strengthen the brethren [the rest of the apostles] (Luke 22:31-32).

Though he abandoned the Lord in His hour of trial, and denied Him with an oath, Peter repented; and he went on to stand up with the other apostles on the Day of Pentecost and preach the first gospel sermon.  He is the first person recorded who told a wayward Christian what to do for forgiveness of sins (Acts 8:22).  He was the first to preach the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10-11, 15).  And he is one of only a handful of men whose writings were included in the New Testament.  Certainly, Peter’s spot at the top of the list is appropriate.

James, the son of Zebedee

The readers would have recognized this name too.  When James and his brother John are mentioned together, James always comes first (except for in Luke 9:28).  It’s interesting to note that James is always mentioned second in the list of the apostles, before his brother, John; but his brother is more well-known and figures more prominently in the book of Acts than James does.

James was one of the three apostles who was permitted to witness the transfiguration.  He preached and baptized on Pentecost.  But sadly, the most well-known event in his life may well have been his murder by Herod in Acts 12.  This was in fulfillment of the prophecy that Jesus gave to James and John that they would both be baptized with the baptism that He was about to be baptized with—that is, the baptism of suffering and martyrdom.

Since he’s almost always mentioned before John, and since John is quite frequently called “the brother of James,” it is logical to conclude that James is the older of the two.

John, the brother of James

Like Peter and James, John was one of the three who were permitted to witness the transfiguration.  Most scholars believe that John is the disciple spoken of in John 18:15 who entered into the high priest’s palace with Jesus for His trial.  He is also the only one of the apostles who was mentioned as being at the cross (John 19:25-27).  John was a prominent member of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2), and wrote a large section of the New Testament (John, the three letters, and Revelation).

Whom he called Boanarges, which is, “The Sons of Thunder”

Perhaps this is due to their fiery attitude, which was displayed in Luke 9:54, where they both wanted to call down fire on the Samaritan villages which rejected Jesus.  It’s a nickname that Jesus gave them that is only mentioned by Mark—none of the other writers ever use it.  But it is worth noting that Jesus gave nicknames to each of these three, Simon, James, and John, who would also form His “inner circle” of the apostles.

Andrew

Mark is the only one of the writers to place Andrew after James and John in the list of the apostles.  But while Andrew didn’t have the prominence of Peter in the biblical writings, he does hold the distinction of bringing Peter to the Lord in the first place (John 1).  Andrew taught, preached, baptized, and performed miracles prior to his death as a faithful saint of Jesus Christ.

Philip

Like Andrew, Philip was anxious to bring others to Jesus.  It is he that brought Nathanael (Bartholomew) to the Lord (John 1).  He (along with Andrew) brought some Greeks who wanted to see Jesus (John 12:21-22).  Philip died as a faithful servant of Jesus Christ.

Bartholomew

This man was also known by the name “Nathanael,” and was among the very first disciples of Jesus (John 1).  He was from Cana in Galilee, and was the first of the disciples to confess that Jesus was “the King of Israel” and “the Son of God” (John 1).

Matthew

Elsewhere called “Levi,” Matthew was a tax collector in Capernaum who left the toll booth by the sea in order to become a disciple of Jesus.  He held a great feast in Jesus’ honor, with a great multitude of tax collectors in attendance (Mark 2, Luke 5).  After preaching on Pentecost, and staying behind in Jerusalem when the persecution broke out under Saul of Tarsus, Matthew took the opportunity to write the gospel account which bears his name in an effort to prove to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.

Thomas

First mentioned as a disciple who was willing to die with Jesus (John 11), Thomas was the last of the apostles to accept that the Savior had risen from the dead.  But after seeing it for himself, Thomas made the great declaration that Jesus is “my Lord and my God” (John 20).  Like most of the other apostles, Thomas died as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.

James, the son of Alphaeus

Other than his father’s name, not much is known about this apostle.  He is the brother of Matthew (who Mark said is the “son of Alphaeus” in 2:14), and he might be the same person described in Mark 15:40 as “James the less,” or literally, “little James.”  He was a preacher, a teacher, a baptizer, and a miracle-worker who died in faith.

Thaddaeus

Matthew tells us that this man’s name was Lebbaeus, and that his surname was Thaddaeus (Matthew 10:3).  In Luke’s lists, he is called “Judas, [the brother/son] of James” (Luke 6:16, Acts 1:13).  The best way to understand it is that his father was named James (because the phrase “of James” is identical in form to “of Zebedee” and “of Alphaeus,” and in both of those instances it is translated “son of…”).  It is possible, then, that Thaddeaus was the son of James the Less (who was mentioned immediately before him).  In order to make sure that he was distinguished from the Judas who betrayed Jesus, John called him “Judas…not Iscariot” (John 14:22).

Simon the Canaanite

This man was a political revolutionary, described by Luke as “Simon Zelotes,” or “Simon the Zealot” (Acts 1:13, Luke 6:15).  The Zealots were very much opposed to the removal of Jewish customs, and to the taxation from the Roman government, and desired to overthrow them—oftentimes by murder.  Simon changed his allegiance from Jewish nationalism to the real Kingdom of God, headed by Jesus the Messiah.  And this disciple stayed faithful unto death, and was a partaker of the promised “crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him

Mark doesn’t give any misdirection or mystery when it comes to Judas: he introduces him to his readers as the betrayer, the one not to be trusted.  At the time he was chosen, he was a willing and faithful disciple of Jesus, but he was still human, and gave in to the doubts, temptations, and greed that led to his betrayal of the Lord.  This is why Luke 6:16 says that Judas “became a traitor” (ASV) or “turned traitor.”  The name “Iscariot” is generally thought to mean “of Karioth,” a city in Judah, though some have suggested it means “man of Issachar,” or that it is from a Greek word meaning “Dagger carrier,” describing some of the murderous assassins that whose work eventually brought the Roman army in to destroy Jerusalem.

The Bible tells us plainly that Jesus knew ahead of time that Judas was the one who would betray Him.  John 6:64 says “Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that did not believe, and who should betray Him.”  And just a few verses later, Jesus said, “Have I not chosen you twelve? And out of you, one is a devil!” (John 6:70).

And they went into a house

From the mountain to the house, these newly-chosen men go.  This was a most momentous day for all thirteen men (the twelve chosen, plus Jesus).  It was a day of joy, of satisfaction, of nervousness, and for some who weren’t chosen, it might have been a day of disappointment.  But whether they all realized it or not, Jesus had done something that day that still has effects nearly 2,000 years later!

Application

How Will You be Remembered?

To mankind as a whole, and even to Christians specifically, some of the apostles are nothing more than names.  They are remembered for being apostles, disciples of Jesus, but that’s it.  James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot are all men whose works for God are mostly unknown to us today.  Meanwhile, you’ve got Matthew, who is known more for his writing than anything else he did.  Then there’s John, who is known for both his writings and some of his works as an apostle.  And of course, none of us can forget Peter, who is well-remembered for his actions (both pre- and post-resurrection) in addition to his writings.  But, there’s also Judas Iscariot.  No one remembers him at all as the dedicated disciple he once was—but the traitor who he became.

Of course, how man remembers us isn’t as important as how God remembers us.  For example, the twelve apostles (that includes Matthias as the replacement for Judas) all died in faith, and their names are inscribed on the foundation of the heavenly city of New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:10-14).  Simon and Thaddaeus are just as important in God’s eyes as Peter and John.  But Judas, by transgression, fell and went to his own place (Acts 1:25).

If we were to ask your friends to describe you, how long—if ever—would it take for the word “Christian” to come up?  Is that what you’re known for?  At all?  If very few (if any) would describe you as a Christian, what does that say about your influence and your example for Jesus Christ?

Now, if God materialized in front of us right now, and began to describe each one of us as HE sees us, would He use the word “saved” or “lost”?

Invitation

On the great day of judgment, there will only be two groups of people: (1) those who are told “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your Lord,” and (2) those who are told, “You wicked and lazy slave!” and who hear the words “cast the unprofitable slave into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The Lord remembers what you do here on this earth, whether you obey Him or decide to do your own thing.  He will bring that up at the judgment.  You will have to give an answer.

If your answer is “I believed in Jesus Christ; I repented of my sins; I confessed His name; I was baptized; and I tried to always live for Him,” then you will hear the words “Well done.”  But if your answer leaves any of those out; if your answer is “I believed in Jesus Christ, but that was it”; or if your answer is “I believed in Jesus Christ; I repented of my sins’ I made that confession; and I was even baptized; but I didn’t really live for Him,” then you will hear the words “depart from me.”

The judgment of God is completely up to you—how you live your life here determines what you will hear from the Lord up there.  Why not make certain of your salvation today?

-Bradley Cobb

An Angry Jesus Doing Good

The Text: Mark 3:1-12 – And He entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand.  And they watched Him, whether He would heal on the Sabbath Day; so that they might accuse Him.  And He says to the man which had the withered hand, “Stand forth.”  And He says to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath, or to do evil?  To save a life, or to kill?”  But they held their peace.

And having looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for their hardness of hearts, He says to the man, “Stretch forth your hand.”  And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

And the Pharisees went forth, and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.  But Jesus withdrew Himself with His disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan, and a great multitude of those around Tyre and Sidon, when they had heard what great things He did, came to Him.

And He spoke to His disciples, so that a small ship should wait on Him because of the multitude, lest they should throng Him.  Because He had healed many; insomuch that they pressed on Him in order to touch Him, as many as had plagues.  And unclean spirits, when they saw Him, fell down before Him, and cried, saying “You are the Son of God.”  And He strictly charged them that they should not make Him known.

Introduction

The King who has been announcing His coming Kingdom has already conquered some of the knights of the Kingdom of Darkness.  But lately, as He’s trying to prepare people for His impending rule, a group of religious leaders—spokesmen for the way things are—have been growing bolder and bolder in opposing Him.  The King has been relatively patient with them, all things considered, but that ends today.

The Text, part 1 – Getting Jesus Angry (Mark 3:1-5).

When we consider Jesus and His personality, most often we think of His caring, kindness, and compassion.  We think of His helping the helpless, lifting the fallen, caring for the heartbroken.  We don’t usually think of Him staring down a group of people with anger in His eyes—but that is what Mark paints for us in this passage.

He entered again into the synagogue

We mentioned this several lessons ago, but Jesus made it a point to meet in the synagogue each Sabbath Day.  This serves as an example for us: make the time to meet together each week for worship to God.

There was a man there who had a withered hand.

Luke tells us that it was the man’s right hand that was withered (Luke 6:6).  The Greek indicates that he was not born this way, but that it was withered as the result of something else, either a disease or an injury (Vincent’s Word Studies, and Robertson’s Word Pictures).  The word “withered” means that his hand had shriveled up due to a lack of moisture and nutrients, and became completely unusable.

Think about the horrible situation this man must have been in.  In a time when most people did manual labor to support their family, this man couldn’t.  He couldn’t hold the plow, couldn’t hoe the ground, couldn’t hammer nails (you need a hand to hold the nail in place)—he couldn’t even sweep the floor.  Perhaps he had sons who could help with the work to support the family, but we don’t know that for certain.  It’s just as likely that this man was in dire straits, feeling like a failure because he wasn’t able to do what a man is expected to do—provide for his own.

They [the Pharisees] watched Him, whether He would heal on the Sabbath Day, so that they might accuse Him.

The Pharisees, the ones who have been stirring up trouble, trying to call Jesus into question on seemingly everything He does, sat in the synagogue—not to hear the word of God proclaimed, but because they were trying to find something that they could use against the preacher.  What a horrible attitude to have!

It seems that as irritated with Jesus as the Pharisees were, they knew that they had been beaten in trying to find things to use against Him earlier.  Otherwise, they would have already been satisfied with the evidence they had to accuse Him.  But this, they believed, was the prime opportunity—healing a man must be considered working; therefore it cannot be done on the Sabbath!

Now a quick question: why are you here?  What is it that you are focused on?  Is it on trying to criticize people: the prayer leaders, the song leader, or the preacher?  Or is your focus on worshiping God and trying to be right with Him?  Because the man leading the prayer is going to occasionally mis-speak or stumble over words.  The song leader will sometimes get the song too high or too low or get mixed up on the verses or words.  The preacher, too, will sometimes say the wrong book, chapter, or verse, or will get his words mixed up.  If being critical is what you’re here for, you will find something, because we aren’t perfect.  But by the same token, if you are here to worship God, and have your focus on Him, His will, and on how you can be a better Christian, then you will be blessed by the songs, prayers, and sermons on the Lord’s Day.

He says to the man which had the withered hand, “Stand forth.”

Jesus didn’t do this miracle in a corner, hidden away from everyone else.  He wanted the crowd to see what was about to happen.  Some people might say that this is a contradiction of Jesus’ command to do your alms in secret (Matthew 6:1-4).  But the purpose of Jesus doing this miracle was to cause people to believe in Him and listen to His message.  Whereas, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructed His disciples to help people for the sake of helping them, not because it made you look more spiritual, drawing praise from men.

So, He commands the man to stand up.

And He says to them

He’s now turned His attention, for a moment, from the man to the Pharisees, whom He knows are trying to be critical of Him and find something to accuse Him of.

“Is it lawful on the Sabbath Day to do good, or to do evil?”

Jesus isn’t asking them if it’s permissible to do anything on the Sabbath, but presenting to them two options.  All the Pharisees would agree that not everything is forbidden on the Sabbath Day, so that means some things are allowed.  The question to them is: What does the Law allow on the Sabbath—good deeds or evil deeds?  There was nothing they could do to get around this question.  Obviously, the Law never permitted evil to be done, so that wasn’t the answer.

At the same time, as Jesus asks this question, He’s laying some groundwork for what He’s about to do.  He could not perform a miracle, healing this man of his withered hand, except through the power of God.  And if Jesus heals the man, it shows that God approves of doing good on the Sabbath—in other words, it would prove Jesus right and undermine the foundation of the Pharisees’ thinking.

“Is it lawful on the Sabbath Day…to save a life or to kill?”

It was obvious to all that were there, especially when Jesus told the man to stand up, that He planned on healing this poor man.  Jesus began His question to the Pharisees with just a general “is it lawful to do good or to do evil?”  But now He takes His question to the extreme, “Is it lawful to save a life or to kill?”  Most rational people (even among the Pharisees) would admit that it was permissible to save a life (regardless of how much work it would take) on the Sabbath.  The man with the withered hand was a case that certainly fell between simply “doing good” and “saving a life.”  Thus, Jesus proved His point.

But it is also interesting that Jesus proposed to do good on the Sabbath, while the Pharisees were thinking evil, trying to take mental notes so that they could make accusations against Him later.  And after this incident, as we will see momentarily, they started making plans to kill Jesus that very Sabbath.

But they held their peace.

The answer to the question was so clear, so obvious, but they refused to answer because it would incriminate them, their motives, and their teachings.  Just like when Jesus asked them later about the baptism of John, they refused to give an answer because they would look bad either way.

Matthew records Jesus asking another question: “What man will there be among you, that will have one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath Day, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?  How much then is a man better than sheep?  Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath Days” (Matthew 12:11-12).  The Pharisees would absolutely save their sheep on the Sabbath, but they wanted to hold Jesus to a different standard than they were willing to hold themselves.

How often do we see this happen in families, in our jobs, and even in the church?  Look, let’s make this abundantly clear—we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and held to the STANDARD, and that is the Word of God.  If we are faithful to God’s word, then we will be saved, regardless of whether we match up with someone else’s standard or not.  It’s like the preacher who was told by a member, “I don’t have to visit, but you’ll be fired if you don’t.”  And Jesus has some words for people who are like that: “Do not judge [condemn], so that you will not be judged [condemned], for with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged” (Matthew 7:1-2).  When you start making demands of others, yet don’t follow them yourself, you are a hypocrite; and at the judgment, you will be judged by God in the same way that you have judged others.

And having looked around at them…

The word here is a form of periblepo, which means not just looking at them, but looking around at them, making sure he looked at every one of them.  And this word doesn’t just express the fact that He looked at them all, but that He looked at each one of them for Himself.  He looked at their faces, confirming what He already knew.  Some probably stubbornly looked at him without a word, while others probably glanced away or looked down so they didn’t have to meet His eyes.

…with anger

Picture the face of Jesus with the scowl, the angry fire in His eyes as He looks at each of these men who had their own disciples, but weren’t willing to answer a relatively simple and obvious question.  Mark tells us exactly what it was that made Jesus angry.

Being grieved because of their hardness of heart

People who were sincere and honestly wrong, Jesus and the apostles had patience with; but the Pharisees weren’t sincere, nor were they honestly wrong (as in simply mistaken).  They were intentionally stubborn, recognizing the truth of what Jesus said, but unwilling to admit it or live by it.  They were more interested in their position as leaders than they were in doing what was right.  They liked the power and weren’t about to give any of it up, even though they were about as ungodly as one can be.

This attitude of stubbornness angered our Lord and Savior then, and brethren, it still angers Him today.  There are members who have the attitude of criticism toward others.  There are members who stubbornly reject commands of Jesus because they simply don’t feel like following them (mostly attitude ones).  And if anyone dares point that out to them, watch out!  My friends, that is the hardness of heart that made Jesus angry—and you do not want the Judge of the world to be angry with you!

He says to the man, “Stretch forth your hand.”  And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored whole as the other.

After making His point to the Pharisees (and the other people in the room certainly caught it as well), Jesus went ahead and healed the man.  If, as many believe, this man’s hand was withered to the point that his arm was also affected, then Jesus asked him to do something that he hadn’t been able to do in some time, but the man, in faith, tried, and discovered that his hand had been completely healed!  What joy was on that man’s face and in his heart!  What amazement there was among the honest people in that synagogue!  But not everyone was happy…

The Text, part 2 – Getting Angry at Jesus (Mark 3:6)

Jesus got angry with the Pharisees because they were hard-hearted.  The Pharisees, in return, got angry with Jesus.  Why?  Because they couldn’t control His every move.  Because He dared to point out their traditions weren’t Scripture.  Because he wouldn’t cater to their self-centered whims.  And because people were happy with Jesus’ life and work—the Pharisees were losing some of their power over people.

And the Pharisees went forth and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.

Just how angry were the Pharisees?  They were so angry that they immediately contemplated murder.  They were so angry that Luke describes them as “filled with madness” (Luke 6:11), or perhaps more literally, “filled with insanity.”  They were so angry that they went to their political enemies, seeking to work together to destroy Jesus.  The Herodians were a sect of the Jews who were very enthusiastic supporters of the Roman government, specifically of the Herods who had ruled over them (for Rome) for the previous several decades.

But when you dislike someone and you’re trying to get rid of him, it doesn’t really matter to you how you do it, so long as you can actually get it done.

The Text, part 3 – Continuing to Work (Mark 3:7-12)

Even though Jesus knew what was on the minds of the Pharisees, He didn’t let that stop Him from doing the good that He came to do.  Even when we might be persecuted by Satan and his minions (yes, sometimes that even includes members of the church), we can’t let that stop us from doing the work of God—that’s what Satan wants!

But Jesus withdrew Himself with His disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed Him

The Pharisees went out, discussing how to get rid of Jesus.  Meanwhile, Jesus went out, continuing to work for God.  His fame had spread throughout all of Galilee (most of the events in Mark up to this point took place there), and so it’s no surprise that huge numbers came out to see Him and hear Him and ask for healing from Him.

And from Judea

This is the southern portion of the Promised Land, where Jesus had spent some time baptizing people (through His disciples) back in John 3-4.

And from Jerusalem

The people following Jesus were not just the smaller towns and villages of Judea, but some were from the capital city of Jerusalem itself!

And from Idumaea

Idumaea is the land of Edom, descendants of Esau.  About 150-200 years prior to this event, a Jew named John Hyrcanus took over and reigned as king over the Jews.  One of the things he did was force the Edomites to either submit to circumcision and become Jews or die.  So, while these weren’t pure-blooded Jews, they were related, and had been proselytized to Judaism.

And from beyond Jordan

The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh took up residence on the eastern side of the Jordan River when they came to the Promised Land.  Even hundreds of years later, by the time Jesus arrived on the scene, there were still Israelites that lived there.

And those around Tyre and Sidon

These cities were to the north-west of the Sea of Galilee.  Tyre was destroyed in part by Nebuchadnezzar, and then the job was finished by Alexander the Great.  But there were still Jews that lived in that general area.

A great multitude

There was a great multitude from Galilee, and a great multitude from these other areas, which covers practically the entire area that God had promised to the Israelites in the Old Testament.  This was an enormous group of people coming to Jesus.

When they heard what great things He did, came to Him

They heard about the great works Jesus was doing, and they wanted to come to Him and see for themselves, and to receive some of the same healings.  To an extent, we can look to this as an evangelistic outreach—when we do things for other people, word spreads.

And He spoke to His disciples, so that a small ship should wait on Him, because of the multitude, lest they should thong Him.

There were so many people coming and crowding around Jesus that He needed a way of escape to keep from being thronged—Thayer says the word means pressed like a grape.  It wasn’t Jesus’ time to die, and being crushed to death by His followers didn’t exactly fit with the prophecies of the Old Testament.

Sometimes, we need to get away for a little while.  Sometimes we’ve got so much going on, so many people wanting part of our time, that we need to have a way to get away from it all, our own “small ship,” so to speak.  Because it we don’t, we could find ourselves crushed, and lose our ability to bear fruit for the Lord.

Because He had healed many; insomuch that they pressed on Him to touch Him, as many as had plagues.

Literally, they were rushing on Him, crowding Him, shoving at each other in an effort to get to Him and touch Him, in the hopes that by doing so, their sicknesses would be removed.  They had seen/heard others that were healed, and they wanted it too!

And unclean spirits, when they saw Him, fell down before Him

Matthew 12:15 says that Jesus healed everyone that came to Him, so Mark is probably talking about the demon-possessed people falling down before Jesus because of the demons inside them recognizing Him.  As James tells us, “the demons also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19).

And they cried, saying, “You are the Son of God.”

These demons must have known that they were about to be cast out, and so they tried to do what they could to hamper Jesus’ work.  If the crowd was close to crushing Jesus to begin with, how much more so do you think it would get if they caught wind that Jesus was not just a man sent by God, but was in fact very the Son of God?

And Jesus strictly charged them that they should not make Him known.

The way it is written in Mark makes it seem like He’s telling the demons not to make Jesus known, but He’s actually talking to the people, the great multitudes that came to Him, whom He healed.  We know this because of Matthew’s account—Jesus healed them all, which would include the demon-possessed people.  Therefore, those demons would have been cast into the abyss (Luke 8:31), and not had the opportunity to make Him known.  Also, in Matthew’s account, the demons aren’t mentioned, and Jesus “charged them [the people who were healed] that they should not make Him known.” (Matthew 12:15-16).

Jesus didn’t want the talk of the miracles to spread even further, because there was already a dangerously-sized crowd mobbing Him.  It was already to the point where everyone was primarily interested in the miracles—not in the message that Jesus had to speak.  Jesus didn’t want that trend to continue and perhaps grow even worse.

It would be, I would think, incredibly difficult to keep it to yourself if you’d been healed, though.  But like some other commands, Jesus still expects us to follow them, even if they are difficult.  That’s why He said the words “Be thou faithful unto death—[even if it means dying]—and I will give you a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

Application

Helping Others Get Back to Work

Jesus had compassion on a man whose physical ailment kept him from being able to work.  It was in His power to fix the problem, to help the man, and so He did.  If we have it within our power to help someone to be able to work, to support themselves and their family, then we ought to also have compassion on them enough to offer that help.  It could be something as simple as giving someone a ride to fill out an application, or making a phone call to a friend who might be looking to hire someone.  But take compassion on those who can’t work.

It’s Okay to be Angry

Jesus was angry, yet He didn’t sin.  His anger stemmed from the sinful attitude of the Pharisees—the religious leaders of the day.  They were continually looking for things to throw at Him—even though those things weren’t sinful.  It made Him angry when their hard-heartedness kept them from admitting the truth.  It made Him angry when they were looking for reasons to criticize Him instead of seeing that God approved of His actions and teachings through the miracles.

As a side note, Jesus also shows that there’s never a wrong time to do good for others.

Invitation

Jesus did a good deed in healing that man, but the greatest thing He ever did was dying on the cross, taking with Him the sins of all of God’s faithful followers.  That sacrifice is meant for me and for you, but only if we come to Jesus in faithful obedience, believing in Him, repenting of our sins, and being baptized.  Then we must continue to grow, staying true to Him, even during the difficult times.  When we mess up as one of God’s children, we come to Him in prayer, seeking forgiveness.  Won’t you come take hold of that precious gift of salvation today?

-Bradley Cobb