Archive for the ‘JesusLifeAndTeachings’ Category

God’s Will on Earth as in Heaven

August 15, 2022

This week I’ve fallen ill with Corona, but I have to say I’m so thankful to God that I’m still here.  So many people have died and suffered.  Since it started that we should count our blessings, that we’re still here in that sense.

It’s an interesting thing that happens to you when you get Corona.  The fact is that you are put into isolation, but it also hurts your family as much as it hurts you it’s not a very nice feeling.  The truth is that wherever your family is they are also in isolation from you even if they have freedom to walk anywhere, they like because of the bond of love.

Usually, I live in the countryside and the forest, but my son is going to go and study in Helsinki, so we had to find a place for him to live.  So, we went down to Helsinki, and we found a place for him, and he’s going to start his course very soon in animation and then OK, when I came back on the train, I didn’t think anything about it.  We were going to go for a second trip down to Helsinki to give a soft landing and lo and behold that particular morning after a corona test, I had caught corona.  I believe I caught it whilst we were on the train or in Helsinki (From the first visit)

I’m thankful to God for these little blessings such as the injections I had previously because it means that it hasn’t hit me as hard as some people have been hit.  The only symptoms I really had was a headache and blowing my nose.  I haven’t really felt weak or ill or coughing myself to death just had a couple of nights so there was not so much sleep.

Why am I saying this?

Well, the truth is bad things happen to people who have faith and bad things happen to people who don’t have faith it can happen to anyone and everyone no one person is an island.  At this juncture, I want to remember that all those things come from our Creator, God.

At this point, most religions agree that there is a Creator who gives good gifts too.  Within the Trinitarian definition Father, Son and Holy Spirit God the father cannot be seen.  The only way that we know anything about the Father is by the two hands of God, as Irenaeus would say, through the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Indeed, Jesus points beyond himself in the Lord’s Prayer when he starts with our Father, or in John 17 when Jesus talks to the father in the Great High Priestly prayer, John 17.

So, then what is prayer?

I want to start with a general definition. I will keep it very simple that even a child could understand it.

My definition is:

  • Talking with God.

When you have a conversation with a with a person there are certain things that you have to take for granted that the person, you’re talking to is a human being, although nowadays I’m sure that there are people that talk to robots. When you talk to a human being, another person, let’s say it’s your mother or your daughter, or your son, or your brother, or your sister.

There’s an assent that that person is important enough to talk to.  There’s a family bond of affection. Even with a complete stranger there is a mutual respect.  These basic things that we actually learned in the family before we went into the big wide world.  I will use myself as an example, When I was a child, I remember that I spent a lot of time with my mother and my brothers in Cyprus and we had a great time.  I remember once when we were still living in a mobile home, we were having some food outside probably over a fire or something and it was nice family time. For fun I wanted to see how far I could throw my voice and I threw my voice.  My dad laughed about it.  Made jokes about it and stuff it was a great time.

I was protected I didn’t really know what was going on around me.  In actuality, there were Greek kids in that village as well, but I never actually met a Greek kid in the village, which is really sad. The political atmosphere for dialogue between the two communities was poisoned at that time.  I remember going to preschool for a year and I was just learning some basics I was really enjoying this day school thing. It was great fun and then the year after I started to go to a proper school and I started to mix with other students and I remember even though I was about 7 years old that basically I got on with some people and I didn’t get on with other people, just like family members.

But now there is an extension it’s moved from just the family to in a sense a reflection of the community and then later on obviously I eventually left Cyprus because of the war and the troubles, and I grew up in England, I failed school because of parental marriage breakdowns and stuff which affected me.

Eventually I went back to college and got to university, and I did everything I should have done a bit earlier on in life but throughout that whole time, I wonder how many conversations I had with people, how many friends I made, how many people didn’t like me a lot and that’s something about us.

We need to communicate with others; Who is the most important Person in the whole of the universe that we should communicate with its God.  God is the one who created us.

I think about my parents realized that they have lots of faults, I have lots of faults, there’s no one who is perfect.  Only God is perfect.  So, what better place and what safer place can there be but in God’s arms?

Who loves your soul?

Obviously, I take a Trinitarian view, but in in general any human being can call upon God no matter what religious background or no religious background at all. Anyone can call on God 24/7 is open doors.  The Lord’s Prayer also as well, although it’s in Matthew’s gospel.  ‘The Our Father prayer’ was nothing new by the time of Jesus, we found Jewish manuscripts within other Jewish traditions but basically explains The Lord’s prayer, nearly verbatim so all the different components that have, have always been there.

Our Lord decided upon these particular components found in the Lord’s prayer.  So that’s what we’re going to be looking at, we need to remember that conversing with the Ultimate Creator is a privilege. 

When we come to the Lord’s Prayer in Christ, and we’ve got rid of some of the baggage (wrong inner attitudes and intentions) before we even start praying.  We are then ready to pray as Jesus is going to teach us how to pray.

As Christians, you have probably read the Lord’s Prayer thousands and thousands of times, or you have recited it on many occasions.  What I’m asking you perhaps (and myself as well) we need to come back to the Lord’s prayer in humility and let’s see what we can learn together.  Let’s see what we can reason together with the Lord’s prayer and spend time at the feet of our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our Lord says:

9 “Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]
14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. Matthew 6:9-15

From NASB

Luke’s version:

2 He answered, When you pray, say,

Father, may your name be hallowed;

your kingdom come.

3 Give us each day our daily bread.

4 And forgive us our sins, for we too

forgive all who have done us wrong. And

do not put us to the test.

From; 1989 Revised English Version

(updated New English Bible)

The general feel of the prayer

First, the object of Prayer is God the Creator (Omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, invisible God)

Secondly, we notice that our Lord speaks in the first-person plural (such as; we our)

The term Father used in the various religions

Bot Judaism and Christianity have used the term, Father.  Judaism uses the term metaphorically and perhaps in the Lord’s prayer it could be interpreted as metaphorical for it is for all intents and purposes a Jewish prayer.  Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi while he on earth.

Islam

In Islam the use of Father is discouraged because they want to emphasize the complete separation from the Trinitarian view.  A chasm forms that God cannot be touched:

“Unlike in Judaism, the term “father” is not formally applied to God by Muslims, and the Christian notion of the Trinity is rejected in Islam.[65][66] Even though traditional Islamic teaching does not formally prohibit using the term “Father” in reference to God, it does not propagate or encourage it. There are some narratives of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in which he compares the mercy of God toward his worshipers to that of a mother to her infant child.[67]

Islamic teaching rejects the Christian father-son relationship of God and Jesus, and states that Jesus is a prophet of God, not the Son of God.[65] Islamic theology strictly reiterates the Absolute Oneness of God, and totally separates him from other beings (whether humans, angel or any other holy figure), and rejects any form of dualism or Trinitarianism. Chapter 112 of the Quran states:

    Say: He is God, the One and Only; God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him. (Sura 112:1–4, Yusuf Ali)”  From (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_the_Father) As it says in this quotation Father is not a prohibited term although it has been discouraged.   Concerning the Lords Prayer Taymaz Tabrizi writes:

” The prayer although widespread in Christianity, has historically been absent in Muslim rituals for the most part yet some Muslim traditions purport that it was recommended and perhaps even recited by the Prophet Muhammad albeit in an altered version that would befit Qur’anic theology.”

He then quotes an old version equivalent to the Lords Prayer.  If you look at it very carefully one can see parallel to the Matthean version:

“Abī al-Dardā said: I heard the messenger of God (s) saying: if any of you or his brother is suffering from anything, then he should say:

O Lord God who is in heaven,

Hallowed be your name,

Your decree is in heaven and the earth,

As your mercy is in heaven,

Forgive us our sins and trespasses,

You are the Lord of the good folk,

Send down a mercy from your mercy,

And a healing from your healing upon this pain so that it may be healed”

From (bliis.org/essay/lords-prayer-islam/#ftn3) Taken from The Lord’s Prayer in Islam

By: Taymaz Tabrizi; January 13, 2018

In some of the Eastern religions the term Father is not a problem

Sikhism

The Guru Granth consistently refers to the creator as “He” and “Father”. This is because the Granth is written in north Indian Indo-Aryan languages (mixture of Punjabi and dialects of Hindi) which have no neutral gender. Since the Granth says that the God is indescribable, God has no gender according to Sikhism.[73]

God in the Sikh scriptures has been referred to by several names, picked from Indian and Semitic traditions. He is called in terms of human relations as father, mother, brother, relation, friend, lover, beloved, husband. Other names, expressive of his supremacy, are thakur, prabhu, svami, sah, patsah, sahib, sain (Lord, Master).[73]

Hinduism

In Hinduism, Bhagavan Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, chapter 9, verse 17, stated: “I am the Father of this world, the Mother, the Dispenser and the Grandfather”, one commentator adding: “God being the source of the universe and the beings in it, He is held as the Father, the Mother and the Grandfather”.[62] A genderless Brahman is also considered the creator and Life-giver, and the Shakta goddess is viewed as the divine mother and life-bearer.

These quotations have been taken from the Wikipeadia:  (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_the_Father)

So then whatever tradition one is from here in Matthew’s text God is called Father but in Islam he has been interpreted as Creator.  We are talking about the same God who made the whole human race. 

Commentary

  • ‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Luke 11:2
  • ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Matthew 6:9

Here are the two opening versions.  Jesus Talks to his disciples and begins by showing them where all good things come from. Matthew’s version puts the emphasis on the Father ‘we’ all the disciples share.  Forget about interpretations of ‘daddy’ the word ‘hallowed’ (holy) dismisses that. Judith Lieu warns us of this danger as well in her Luke commentary, page 89.  Christianity can learn both from Judaism (Father as Metaphorical) and Islam (God is Creator a warning for Christians not to abuse the term Father). We can only come to the Father through the Son.  If we try to come to God on our own merit, we will be burned up in judgement.  We should always keep the respect (The fear of the Lord in front of us)

As we read above boundaries are set.  Hallowed is a form of the word holy.  Holy is about separating the religious from the non-religious.   The utensils found in a temple, church, cathedral or other institution is always to be used for that particular purpose.  One does not take the communion cup and drink beer from it in the local pub.  This is sacrilegious and an abomination.  No, my friends in the same way God is Holy and separate from his creation though creation relies on Him for its very existence.  

We are also to keep God’s name Holy.  I can understand why in Judaism Ha Shem is used ‘the name’.  As Christians we feel completely liberated because of what the Son has done for us.  We are liberated but does that mean that we should use the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) which is a very holy name in Judaism.  I’m thinking about the ethical issues around these things.  Because The Church and the Synagogue separated a long time ago, we seem to forget that Paul for example did not stop seeing himself as Jewish.  We ought to respect the background of the Apostles as much as the written word they gave to us.  If we really want to foster Christian love in the world; Are we practicing in such a way that helps to build bridges.

  • ‘Your kingdom come.  Your will be done,  On earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10
  • Your kingdom come. Luke 11:2

We have spoken about the fulfillments of the eschaton (end of the age) a lot.  It is at the heart of the Lord’s prayer.  An alignment of God’s will, will take place in the whole of Creation from the heavens to the deepest recesses of the earth.   We are supposed to pray and live this. Luke has the shortest and most direct version. Luke takes it for granted that God speaks from heaven to every situation and perhaps his Greek readers appreciate more directness in his Gospel.

  • ‘Give us this day our daily bread. Matthew 6:11
  • ‘Give us each day our daily bread. Luke 11:3

Moses new that obeying God was more important than eating bread and sustenance.  Jesus here has purposefully put God’s will before food.  Bread was seriously important, and this idea possibly comes from the ‘Manna’ in the wilderness.  The people needed to be fed day by day but doing the will of God was not at the forefront of their minds.  We too need to learn from the Lord’s prayer to seek his kingdom first and then our needs indeed will be met. 

  • ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]  14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. Matthew 6:12-15
  • ‘And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.’” Luke 11:4

We have come full circle on the Lord’s Prayer.  As I said earlier God’s name is sacred.  Here in these closing verses of the prayer we see the Father as Judge.  The Father will judge according to the measure that we can forgive.  Did not Jesus himself forgive his persecutors from the cross? 

Sin or debt?

Luke uses the word sin (hamartia) missing the mark.  This is a more natural words to use for Luke’s Greek readers; (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamartia). 

Matthew uses debt (opheiletēs) this is about meeting obligations.

I think both can be used but ‘debt’ for me has a more personal usage.  You owe a debt to a person whereas if you sin it relates more to you and is impersonal.  In both meanings a wrong has taken place and there needs to be forgiveness. Our Lord expects us to forgive our fellow brothers and sisters.

Transgression or Temptations

I think in Luke’s version ‘temptation’ is not the best word to use. We do not test God but God can test us. 

Dictionary definitions

g3986. πειρασμός peirasmos; from 3985; a putting to proof (by experiment (of good), experience (of evil), solicitation, discipline or provocation); by implication, adversity: — temptation, x try.

AV (21) — temptation 19, temptations 1, try 1;

1. an experiment, attempt, trial, proving

A trial, proving: the trial made of you by my bodily condition,

since condition sewed as to test the love of the Galatians

toward Paul (Cal. 4:14)

B. the trial of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy

1. an enticement to sin, temptation, whether arising from

the desires or from the outward circumstances

2. an internal temptation to sin

a. of the temptation by which the devil sought to divert

Jesus the Messiah from his divine errand

3. of the condition of things, or a mental state, by which

we are enticed to sin, or to a lapse from the faith and holiness

4. adversity, affliction, trouble: sent by God and sewing to

test or prove one’s character, faith, holiness

(. temptation (i.e. trial) of God by men

1. rebellion against God, by which his power and justice

are, as it were, put to the proof and challenged to show themselves

(This has been taken from the Olive Tree enhanced Strongs dictionary)

Reflection

I think as we have looked at the Lord’s Prayer, we need to be mindful of who’s company we are in.  Our Lord Jesus has been carefully teaching us about our own limitations in our attitudes and intentions.  This prayer also teaches us about morality that we are not only individuals, but we are part of God’s Holy Society.  We are called by God to love one another and to look out for the needs of one another.  The question do we do this? The truth is a lot of the time we only look out for our own individual needs.  God has very high standards and we cannot meet them.  Only by grace can we come before the throne of God and we can only stand by what Christ has done for us not what we have done for him.

However, the Sunday School acronym ACTS fits all the pieces together for us

  • A = Adoration
  • C= Confession
  • T= Thanksgiving
  • S= Supplication (asking)

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13 14 NASB

Lasering Our Motives and Intentions Before Prayer Time (Matt. 6;1-8)

August 6, 2022

Today we are going to start looking at prayer.  Where do we begin?   In our understanding of God there is a Creator who made heaven and earth. We have a Father in Heaven who loves and cares for us and through the life, work, death and resurrection of Christ the Believer can be drawn into a meaningful relationship with God.  This is my premise. 

There are those who prefer the comparative route of understanding religion, the idea that ‘all roads lead to Rome’ (universalism).  I am not of that school as I believe that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world in Christ through the gift of faith.  This does not mean that Christianity cannot have a meaningful dialogue with other religions.

Christianity can have dialogue because other religions also have their own particularity of beliefs and doing things differently.  Precisely because we are different, we can discuss about God and the Infinite.  It would be very boring if all humans held the same views, believed the same things, and agreed on everything.  This way of living would not be much different to the Cyborgs in Dr Who, in which they all had the same agenda. This to me is the problem with comparative religion because they emphasize sameness to such an extent that religion becomes a spaghetti junction.  I like spaghetti but not as a belief system.

So then we are talking about prayer with a Christian understanding to it. However, the Bible is clear that God has created all of us and anyone can call on God for help. Whether a person is a Christian or not they can call on the name of the Lord and be saved from their distresses. Prayer in its purity is universal but unfortunately because of the Fall our prayers can be ineffective because we ask for things from a selfish and greedy heart. 

Our Lord Jesus in this part of the sermon as a spiritual surgeon teaches us about our attitudes to God, others and ourselves.  What our Lord Jesus is going to say is going to hurt our pride, as he shows the ugliness that can be found in the human soul. As a masterful surgeon using the latest technology, he will cut through all the evil and makes us like diamonds gleaming in the light of the Son.

As before we will use the beatitudes as a mirror to understand this section of the Sermon on the mount.

Matthew 61

1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise, you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

Before looking at the above verse I think it is good to have a definition of religion:

Definitions of religion

  • A personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.
  • The service and worship of God or the supernatural.
  • Commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance.

(merriam-webster.com/dictionary/religion#synonyms )

There are hundreds of definitions for religions, but the basic idea of a religion is what we can do for the divine object that we worship. 

Jesus turns this idea on its head, and he shows us that there is nothing that we can do for God.  Actually, God has done everything for us.

We sinned and ruined God’s creation which he Loved.  To bring creation back into balance and to save us from Hell (Complete separations for God):

  • God became a man to reach out to us
  • God the Son died on the cross so that we could be saved
  • God the Holy Spirit fills us with Himself
  • God brings us into his eternal glory.

A proud and selfish person cannot accept these premises as he/she wants to reach heaven in his/her own power and volition.  The big I replaces God, and he/ she is so arrogant that they reject this premise!

When we look at verse one, our Lord shows us that there is something in our character that wants to be in the Hot Seat; that we are the centre of attention.

Anyhow let us continue with our commentary

When we read this section, one has to remember that God sees our our attitudes and intentions and God knows us better that we know ourselves.

Verse One

1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise, you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

So, then there is a universal rule that God taught us here. Why do we go to the church or another place of worship? What is the driver in our soul and wants us to be seen as perfect? If the driver in us is some form of pride in our own strength this is as rubbish in God’s eyes and we certainly wont, get any reward in the eschaton.

Verse Two

‘2 “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honoured by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.’

When a person gives to those in need, the question is; What is the motive?

Only God really understands the motives for giving.  It may be that one gets street credibility ‘ah look at what a good fellow he is.’  Actually, the giving maybe for selfish reasons to get even more honour instead of giving through high intensions towards a needy human being.

Verses three four and five

‘3 But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.’ 5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners  so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. Matthew 6:5

I think our Lord is saying that when we give, let us give as though God is watching us.  We can do things on the quiet.  God loves his creation and people.  We ought to also love creation and our neighbour so that we are in line with his teachings.

Our relationship with God is not dependent on what others see.  Our relationship is between our heavenly Father and us.  It is the relationship that is important, anything extra is just baggage that needs to be thrown away.

Verses six and seven

6 But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.

So, God commands us not to be on show with our many words so that we can get ‘praise and gifts’.

Unfortunately, those who get gifts and praise a lot of the time have been done through evil motives.  We see this in the news on a daily basis where some people would like a little help from the government.  It is corruption but one can find corruption even in a church or another place of worship.  I remember the story of Jesus driving out the money dealers and merchants from the Second Temple in Jerusalem.  Some religious organisations are very rich and there could be a person at the top who rakes in all the money.  It is also a danger for the local Church or other religious institution.

Verse Eight

‘8 So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.’

So then in the previous verses our Lord Jesus gave us a lot of pitfalls for us to fall into. We do not need to rake in:

  • Dirty money and wealth
  • Dirty gifts with dirty motives
  • Dirty praise from selfish pride
  • Dirty ambition and one pretends to be an angel of light but is an angel of greed
  • Dirty glory by getting praise through a false image of oneself.

I’m sure that I have missed somethings out, but we need to do soul searching of our actions in Christ by the Holy Spirit.

Reflection

What our Lord taught here in these verses is about seeing into the dark recesses of our souls.  Holy Communion is a time to weed out some of these corrupt attitudes that stains us.  We need to consider prayerfully how we approach our heavenly Father.  No one is perfect and perfection comes over time and into the eschaton.  However, these teachings can gauge the morality of the society we live in at the macro and micro levels. How?

  • In yourself
  • In your local church
  • In your local organizations
  • In your workplace
  • In your area
  • In your political party
  • In your local government
  • In your national political parties
  • In your national government
  • In your international organizations.

Our Lords teachings are like a laser, and it cuts through to the marrow of the problem.  So my friends, let us judge ourselves fairly and through prayer so that in Christ we become more holy and precious to our Trinitarian God daily.

Addendum

A lot of things I have mentioned show a lack of morality in our society.  Unfortunately, people are looking out for their own interests at the cost of the neighbour.  I am still reading the book Morality by the Late Jonathan Sacks.  The more I read it, the more I realize how low our civilization has come.  Let’s see if we can start to live as ambassadors of heaven and begin to bring God’s goodness back into this fallen world.

You Have Heard It Said… Matthew 5 21-48

July 22, 2022

In this section of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus uses the above saying 5x:

“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ Matthew 5:21

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; Matthew 5:27

“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘ YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’ Matthew 5:33

“You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ Matthew 5:38

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ Matthew 5:43

The form of the sentences

  • The Formula (You have heard it said)
  • The quotation (from the Law)
  • The commentary

This would possibly be the same form that rabbis used when discoursing.  (I need to check this up).  Even if it isn’t the case modern Bible commentaries follow this type of format.  The quotation and then naturally with the commentary.

The grammar

In the root ‘to hear’ and ‘to say’ are both in the aorist and plural.   He was speaking to his disciples and not just one disciple.   In the saying ‘you have heard it said’, the main verbs are in the aorist or passive aorist.  It seems to be a formula that introduces something very important from the Law.

General description of the formula ‘You have heard that it was said’. 

In every verse of this found here in Matthew the grammar is the same.  This is understandable as it is just the flow of the Gospel story.

 And I say to you…

I found this interesting and it validates what I said earlier about the form of speech Jesus used was a traditional rabbinic ways of speaking about the Law and explanations:

“the second half of the comparison used by Jesus, ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, “but I say to you” (in all six antitheses: vv 22, 28, 32, 34, 39, and 44), involves an authority that is alien to the spirit of the rabbis—especially, of course, where the new interpretation seems to stand in tension with the direct statement of Scripture. The rabbis, who never would pit their views against Scripture, preferred to support differing interpretations by appealing to other earlier representatives of the rabbinic tradition. Jesus’ remarkable use of the “but I say to you” formula is to be explained by his identity as the messianic bringer of the kingdom (Hengel points out that the element “to you,” which gives each antithesis the tonality of a kerygmatic statement, is lacking in the rabbinic parallels [TRu 52 (1987) 376]). It is the Messiah’s interpretation of the Torah that is finally authoritative.”

From Hagner, D. A. (1993). Matthew 1–13 (Vol. 33A, pp. 111–113). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

Our Lord as the Messiah and the King of Israel relied on his own authority.  There would have been many interpretations but for the disciple it is the Lord’s understanding of it that counts as it is the true understanding (Trinitarian revelation). Jesus did not do what these Rabbis did by finding earlier quotes from past teachers.  Our Lord as the second Person of the Trinity had the correct interpretation through divine access to the original and deeper spiritual meaning.

What is our Lord doing?

In each section after he says ‘You have heard it said’ he then quotes from the First five books of the Law.   It is interesting that there is only five.  My question is, did Matthew choose 5 as symbolic of the five books of Moses.  I don’t know the answer to that. 

Our Lord is taking examples from the Law and giving it a twist that brings out the real meaning behind each saying through ‘but I say to you’.  We have seen that the beatitudes are mainly spiritual and hence our lord is taking us deeper into the text and how it ought to be interpreted.  Perhaps using our Lords method, we could also build on this for ethical decisions. 

In a scientific way our Lord is taking the moral object and then having interrogated through the beatitudes, he explains the meaning to us.

Let’s now look at the first saying in more detail:

21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’

22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

23 Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,

24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

25 Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent. Matthew 5:21-26

The law from the 10 commandments is very basic.  If one murders, one is guilty before the law courts.  This is the same as in British Law or any Western Law. Murder is murder.  However, our Lord brings out some steps in this law.  We can see them

  • Anger with the brother = guilty before the court!
  • Saying ‘good for nothing’ to one’s brother= guilty before the Supreme court!
  • Whoever says ‘You fool’= guilty enough to go into the fiery Hell

Why such strong sayings from our Lords mouth?

God is the giver of the law.  It is God who is the Creator of the universe.  Our Lord then takes us into the Second Temple Institution (before it was destroyed in AD 70). Jesus says:

” Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,”

We know what the two great commandments are, loving God and loving our neighbour. We cannot love God if we do not love our brother.  This is an impossibility.   God will not accept anything less.  These are standards that would test any religious and non-religious institution to its limits.

Jesus our Lord continues by saying:

“25 Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.

26 Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.”

Hmm when I look at the context, I ask myself who this ‘opponent’ is.  I feel that the opponent here would be God.  I also feel that the prison would be hell.  This is a prison with no key because the price cannot be paid.

In a sense we are all prisoners locked up in our sin but what is impossible with us is not impossible with God.  Christ died on the cross so that we could be released from this prison. 

So, then Matthew seems to emphasize close relationships whereas Luke seems to emphasis Judgement

“Christ Divides Men

49 “I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! 51 Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; 52 for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

54 And He was also saying to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming,’ and so it turns out. 55 And when you see a south wind blowing, you say, ‘It will be a hot day,’ and it turns out that way. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze this present time?

57 “And why do you not even on your own initiative judge what is right? 58 For while you are going with your opponent to appear before the magistrate, on your way there make an effort to settle with him, so that he may not drag you before the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. 59 I say to you, you will not get out of there until you have paid the very last cent.” Luke 12:49-59” (NASB)

Reflection

The kingdom of God is Here and with the eyes of faith we know that the next time our Lord comes will be a time of reckoning and judgement. 

What have we learned?

Positively

  1. We need to love our neighbour.
  2. We need to keep in step with our Lord’s sayings and be ready to forgive
  3. We shouldn’t hold grudges and sort things out while we still can.

Negatively:

  1. Hate has dire consequences
  2. If we do not forgive, we should expect the same from God
  3. Holding grudges pulls us down and away from the Kingdom of God

Following in the steps of Christ in our strength is impossible.  But Jesus died on the cross for us and in Him our election is sure through the gift of faith and its fruit of good works.  Pertaining to salvation it has all been done by God.

  • God came down to earth in the incarnation
  • Christ is the High priest who mediates for us
  • Christ is the sacrifice for us
  • Christ by the Holy Spirit brings us into the Trinitarian life through the resurrection of Christ.

All we need to do is confess him as our Lord and believe that God the Father by the Holy Spirit raised him from the dead.  We in our strength can do nothing to please God.  After we have been saved good works flow from gratitude for what He has done for us.  By faith gratitude flows by remembering our neighbour whoever our neighbour might be.

What is the relation of Jesus to the law and hence our relationship to the law and duty.

July 13, 2022

Today I’ve been thinking about when Jesus said that our righteousness has to surpass that of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.  These are actually incredible words because If we think about it Jesus had many run ins with the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and they were always trying to trip him up.  Yet Jesus said, your righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.  Nicodemus was also a Pharisee he was a Pharisee that actually believed in Jesus, secretly, that he was the Messiah.

Now the question is:

How can our righteousness surpass that of the Pharisees and the Sadducees?

The Pharisees and the Sadducees kept the law absolutely perfectly, and they even made a fence around it so that it would be impossible to break the law when our Lord and saviour grew up in a place where the Temple, the Second Temple, was still around also there was a place in the desert where people worshiped God, because for them the Temple in Jerusalem had become unholy.

In that sense the New Testament isn’t only important to Christians but it’s actually important to Judaism as well.  At one point, Christianity is a critique of Judaism in a particular form.  Perhaps one of the problems of Judaism at the time of Jesus was that the rabbis and the priests and so on may have come to a place of pride because they were so important to the functioning of the Temple that perhaps the logic was, they were more important than the ordinary person in the street.  From that point of view, Jesus can be seen as the great equalizer in Judaic society.

The truth is that what Jesus taught was so radical that it changed the whole ancient world and brought in a new religion, Christianity.

So, the question is.

What was so radical about what Jesus taught?

I think Jesus got behind the action. This is a very important point this is why the Beatitudes are so important.  This is why the Beatitudes are the key to understanding Jesus’ teachings.

It is true that the Pharisees and the Sadducee’s were able to keep the law absolutely perfectly.

They were perfect on the outside, but Jesus looked beyond the outside.

He looked at what is within the human heart.

On the outside, you can be pretend to be Mr Goody 2 shoes but on the inside, you can be somebody completely different.  Jesus revealed the hypocrisy that was going on in human beings universally.

This teaching of Jesus is a lot bigger than the Pharisees and the Sadducees, It is a bit lot bigger than Christendom.  It’s a lot bigger than any political system.  The teachings of Jesus hints at what it means to be human and how we ought to live our lives.  Jesus cuts through all of this. Surface social perfection and doing good things where people can see what you are doing.  He cuts through all the way through to the soul and what it is that makes a person tick.

The thing is that some Christians tend to put the emphasis on grace and that the law was done away with.  This is a misreading really. The main thing that was done away with is the ceremonial law.  The 10 Commandments stay effective forever, is part of the moral law.

So, then what was done away with the death and resurrection of Jesus was the ceremonial law where animals had to be killed regularly so that we could have our sins forgiven and this was done by the priest.

The big problem was that in AD 70 the actual Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and Judaism itself had an identity crisis and this is when, in a sense, the rabbis went on a particular Road.

But for Christian Judaism, I don’t think this was such a problem because the death and resurrection of Christ meant that there was no physical Temple that Jewish Christians had to rely on.

Looking at a commentary on Matthew here I read the following:

“The larger context of the verse (e.g., the grace of the beatitudes) forbids us to conclude that entrance into the kingdom depends, in a cause-effect relationship, upon personal moral attainments. The verse is addressed, it must be remembered, to those who are the recipients of the kingdom. Entrance into the kingdom is God’s gift; but to belong to the kingdom means to follow Jesus’ teaching. Hence, the kingdom and the righteousness of the kingdom go together; they cannot be separated. And it follows that without this righteousness there can be no entrance into the kingdom.”

(By Hagner, D. A. (1993). Matthew 1–13 (Vol. 33A, p. 109). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.)

I can see from the Beatitudes that God searches not only, cause and ‘effect but he also searches deeper than that, the ‘intentions and attitudes of the soul’.  Hence because of the Fall we need Christ to bring us into His holiness and glory. 

The same writer continues:

“Only an interpretation of the present pericope such as this is compatible with the bearing of Jesus toward the law throughout the Gospel. These words do not contradict what is said elsewhere in the Gospel nor do they involve a misunderstanding of the ministry of Jesus. Although they unmistakably reflect the idiom of the Pharisees, and to that extent may be misleading if taken literally, they make a valid point concerning Jesus and his attitude toward the law. The words may not have been adequately understood at their first hearing, but in retrospect, given the whole sweep of events recorded in the Gospels, their meaning would have become clear to the early Church. The evangelist is of course delighted to seize these sayings and incorporate them into this discourse on the righteousness of the kingdom. His Jewish-Christian readers needed to know—especially in the light of repeated counter-claims—that the pattern for righteousness taught by Jesus reflects the true meaning of the Torah, and thus that the Torah in its entirety is preserved in and through the ethical teaching of the Church”

(By Hagner, D. A. (1993). Matthew 1–13 (Vol. 33A, p. 109). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.)

So, then we as believers have a true understanding of ‘righteousness’ by following the teachings of Jesus.  By faith we follow our Saviour and by faith one day we will meet him in the Celestial City for all eternity.  Matthew is an amazing book, and it blows away a lot of our misconceptions away.

Reflection

My reflection on the Sermon on the Mount has slowed me down in my writing because I realize how little I actually understand.  Thus, I have been reading some background stuff to get up to speed.  At the same time, I have started book two of Herman Bavincks Ethics and he is actually going to go through all of the 10 commandments.  He begins by looking at duty and in his introduction, he has shown us the pitfalls of the new philosophy through the eyes of Kant.  Actually, Bavinck looks at Matthew’s Gospel for the Trinitarian ethics which goes against our Culture.  I’m sure that I will feed his teachings into the Sermon on the Mount!

Nevertheless, I can say that at the time of Christ the world was a melting pot of various cultures.  This is what is happening to the world today.   There were many streams of thought at the time of Christ and our time is very similar.  They had powers and authorities and today we have powers and authorities.  When Jesus said these things, it was before the Second Temple was destroyed.  Jewish Christians also worshipped in the Temple as Judaism and Christianity at that moment in history did not go their separate ways.  With the destruction of the Temple this changed.  Christians were being persecuted by the powers of the age.  The destruction of the Temple was from my point of view a cataclysm that would change the world forever.   For Christians today the Temple of God is the Church.  We do not need a building to worship in.  The sacrifice of Christ on the cross and His resurrection was enough to bring us into the presence of God through the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are blessed.  Judaism has also survived the destruction of the Second Temple and flourished, and the synagogue has played a massive role in this.

The word duty is not found a lot in the Bible.  In the Bible it is found in about eight books in the Old testament and once in the New Testament (NASB, exhaustive concordance).  Herman Bavinck said the same type of thing on page 7 of his Ethics volume 2.  He actually said that duty in the Dutch Bible is really only found in the Dutch Psalter. However, he explains something very important to us:

“Duty presupposes Law.”

This then leads Herman Bavinck to raise the more important question:

“What is the relation of the believer to the law?” (Around page 7 of his ethics).

However for this piece of writing I can ask the question:

“What is the relation of our Lord Jesus to the Law?”

Then this would lead into Bavincks question.

So then as we can have seen in Matthew, Jesus said in Matthew that he did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfil it.  As Bavinck says, when it came to the Judaic law Jesus was very conservative. 

“Jesus says no word, nor performs any deed to abolish the law.”

Bavinck then goes on to say,

“Jesus demands a righteousness that ‘surpasses’ the Pharisees.” 

As we have seen from the Beatitudes that Jesus ‘gives an internal spiritual explanation of the law.’ (Around page 7 of his ethics).  Righteousness (δικαιουσυνη) is an attitude of the Kingdom of God. 

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”(Matthew 6:33; Olive Tree, NASB Bible)  Bavinck reminds us of how Jesus describes  this ‘righteousness’ through the use of metaphor:

Being clothed with wedding garments

 “But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, 12 and he *said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:11-14

Jesus family are his disciples

“For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:50

God’s will is revealed in the Law and the Prophets

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Matthew 7:21

And again

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24

Jesus starting point is the Law

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. Matthew 5:17

Again,

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12

Again,

 “On these two commandments depend on the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:40

Summing up Bavinck on Duty

We need to take Jesus’ words very seriously on righteousness and there is a direct correspondence between ‘righteousness’ and our understanding of duty.  Duty carries in itself the idea ‘that we must do the right act’. When we dive deeper into the text there are other verbs that point to this ethical necessity:

 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:17

The phrase above ‘He had to’ οφειλω.

Or again in Vines Dictionary

“Behoved dei (1163), “it is necessary,” is rendered “behoved,” in Luke 24:46; RV, (that the Christ) “should” (suffer). Dei expresses a logical necessity, opheilo, a moral obligation; cf. chre, Jas. 3:10, “ought,” which expresses a need resulting from the fitness of things (Trench, Sec. cvii). Luke 24:46”

Reflection

Jesus’s teachings of the kingdom of God necessitate Holiness and the truth is that no person on this earth in their own strength and will can make themselves perfectly holy.  Jesus dis not lower the bar on the law.  In fact, Jesus did the opposite.  It is only when we realize that we cannot be Holy in our strength that we realize that we ought to humble ourselves before a Holy God. This is the starting point, by faith through the work of the Trinity that we can even have a sniff of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus’ teachings engenders humility something that deals with pride in people. Dare I say it! The pride that is found even within our own being. So then let us come to Christ in humility confessing Jesus as Lord, believing that God raised Jesus from the dead and through his atoning work as The True High Priest, and once and for all sacrifice, that we may walk into the heaven-lies as beloved children of God.

Jesus’ relationship to the Law and the state of the Human Heart

June 19, 2022

Jesus said:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfil. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-20

At the time of Christ, the world was in movement and flux, and we know that there were many thriving religious communities thinking about the end times.  The Dead Sea Scrolls have shown us this to be the case.  There are many verses in the Bible especially the Pauline epistles that on the surface look like they are anti-law. Jesus was certainly not against the law but rather he was the fulfilment of the law.

We need to remember that there are various aspects of Jewish Law.  There is the ceremonial and the moral.  The 10 commandment and the moral law will never change but the other laws became obsolete.   I am not doing very well in explaining this, but Herman Bavinck certainly looked at this detail.  It is important for us to look at the nature of the law as this will influence how we look at Jesus our Lords interpretation of the law.

From this point I want to cover an earlier blog because it has direct importance for our understanding of how Jesus perceived the law.

We cannot always see everything; The legal people of Jesus time completely missed the point; We also need to humble ourselves

When we look at the content of the law Bavinck mentions the three branches:

1.       Ceremonial

2.       Judicial

3.       Moral

He hits the nail on the head when he says that the law has not been abolished but fulfilled.  Bavinck ebbs the Bible when he says:

 “The shadows vanish when the body is present. What was merely a type in the Old Testament is now exactly what is completely spiritualized and realized. The form has changed; the essence is the same. All sacrifices and priests culminate and find their full realization in the one sacrifice and in the one high priest, in the same way that all the prophets and Davidic kings find their purpose realized in Christ.” (From Reformed Ethics; Herman Bavinck; edited by John Bolt; page 222)

Digression

I’ve just completed writing my commentary on Hebrews 7 and 8 and I can see Scripture from their imbibed in Bavinck here. From https://weaver1hasonline.international/

The reality of the law is here through Christ.  Heaven has broken into this earthly shadowy world.  The earthly tabernacle, the Levitical high priesthood and the sacrifice are only shadows of the reality.  If you read Hebrews chapters 7, 8 and 9 you will see this to be the case.   The prophets and the Davidic kings are correct as well.  In the book of Hebrews there is a shift of accent who the messiah is in light of the Prophets and the Psalms (Royal, Messianic Psalms).    We find this pattern in the quotations of the Old Testament in the argument of Hebrews.  (My own opinion is that Apollos wrote Hebrews) So, the whole Law in the Old Testament including the ceremonial, judicial and moral law finds its realization and fulfilment in Christ. (Page 222).

God and the Moral Law

Having said this when Bavinck talks about law from this moment it will be about the ‘moral law’.   This should not surprise us as he is writing his Reformed Ethics.  Focusing on the moral law Bavinck finds three types of interpreters in scholarship:

1.       “According to some this law is based solely on God’s will: something is good only because God says it is good.

2.       For others the law is based entirely on God’s being.

3.       And for a third group the moral law is based partly on God’s nature—such as the first table of the Decalogue—and partly on God’s free will, as is the case with needing to celebrate the Sabbath on the seventh day, the prohibitions of polygamy and theft, and so on.”  (Taken from page 223 of Reformed Ethics)

So, then we will find out whether or not the law is based on:

1.       God’s will.

2.       God’s being and or not

3.       God’s nature.

Sometimes what looks like a dispensation such as Hosea marrying a prostitute or Moses killing an Egyptian.  I think this covers aspects of ‘God’s will; What God allows.  They are only examples.  Herman is just giving us an outline he is not giving reasons why these things happened. (From Page 223). ’These and more are interesting facts, but Bavinck does not go into detail as he is moves on to the relationship of Law to God’s being (nature).

What Bavinck says about Gods Nature and Gods Law page 223

The law is unchangeable because God in his nature is unchangeable.  Bavinck explains the law is spiritual and he gives us some references as well.  He starts from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and also quotes St Paul and Psalms.  As well as these we can take into account (which Bavinck he also quotes):

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt 22.37)

Both Jesus and the faithful followers of Christ see the law as spiritual.   Matthew chapter 5 is cited, and this is correct as Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfil it (verse 17 for example.  This reference is mine and is not found on page 223).

Bavinck then give us some examples of what this content of the law actually means, and he summarizes this:

“Nothing, then, can be added to it (the law) or taken away from it (the law), because the law orders us to love God and our neighbour, which is everything and includes everything.” (Page 223)

So, then we are to be perfect just like our Heavenly Father.  So how does the law work?

In Bavinck’s own words concerning the law:

“(a) all prohibitions include their opposite as a commandment, and vice versa—divorce is prohibited, so chastity is commanded.

(b) under the heading of a Virtue or vice all corresponding items are included—for example, the commandment to honour one’s parents encompasses love and obedience, including those toward other authorities.

 (c) with an external sin, its source and cause are also condemned—for example, the prohibition against murder includes anger (cf. Matt. 5:22; 1 John 3:15) and even the pretence of anger (cf. 1 Thess. 5 :22).” (Reformed Ethics; Herman Bavinck; edited by John Bolt; page 223)

So, who can keep the whole law without sinning?  The answer is no one.  Bavinck understands the nature of the law that it includes aspects also that are ‘unwritten’.  This is a very important point.   With the interpretation he gives all have failed to reach the perfection of the law.  The Master theologian shows that here isn’t a single man on earth except Christ could fulfil this law.

Old Reflection

On content of the law Bavinck has managed to capture the essence of what the law of God actually means but I wonder why he didn’t tackle the question of how we can approach God’s presence under such heavy circumstances.  I think he will probably do this in section of his book in ‘Converted Humanity’ which he will, but I think the beatitudes’ are seriously important for the believer.  Especially the fist one of Jesus’ sayings:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3 NASB

If you actually go through all the sayings of Jesus in Matthew 5, 6 and 7 one comes to a realization that no ordinary person will ever reach these standards.  When we come to God, we need to realize that we are spiritually dead (running on empty).   Jesus gives the oracles of God and according to the Law we are all locked up in sin.  Our best is never good enough.  This was a seriously bitter pill for the pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes to swallow.  However, we should not point the finger just at them this includes all of us whoever we are.  This was difficult for the Pharisees and Sadducees because as far as they could see, they kept all the written laws.  I actually think they did but then a bombshell hit; This also includes all the laws that were unwritten!

We have all sinned and for Christians there is only one way, Jesus Christ.  In Jesus God became a man, lived among us and died on a cross. On the third day by God’s Authority, he conquered death.  We can only approach God if we first realize we have done wrong and ask God in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit for forgiveness.   Jesus is at the door of your heart.  Making Jesus Lord in your life means taking on a new way of living.

Mini reflection

So, from my point of view essentially for Jesus the essential interpretation of the law ought to be spiritual rather than ceremonial.  When we look at the beatitudes, we see a staircase into the Divine Presence.  We need to realize in our selves there is essentially nothing that is good enough to allow us into God’s presence.  The prophets emphasised humility before a Holy God on the other hand those who practised the law and the ceremonies got puffed up with self-importance.  Jesus pointed out the pharisees and the Sadducees because they were the (spiritual) religious leaders of the day.  For me giving a 21st century twist on the pharisees and the Sadducees; we see them in every walk of life trampling on those who are needy and giving bad advice on how to best serve God and relating to their neighbours.

Jesus our Lord was purifying the essentials when it came to the law:

  1. Love towards God
  2. Love towards the neighbour

As I read somewhere else in Herman Bavinck that Faith is the root and good works flows from this by grace. 

We are now ready to go back to Jesus’ sayings:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfil. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Matthew 5:17-18

As I said earlier Jesus interpreted the law as spiritual.  What does Calvin have to say about this?

[The Following has been copied from The Ages Library]

<400517>Matthew 5:17. Think not. With regard to the perfection of his life,

Christ might justly have maintained that he came to fulfill the law: but here

he treats of doctrine, not of life. As he afterwards exclaimed, that “the

kingdom of God is come,” (<401228>Matthew 12:28,) and raised the minds

of men with unusual expectation, and even admitted disciples by baptism,

it is probable, that the minds of many were in a state of suspense and

doubt, and were eagerly inquiring, what was the design of that novelty.

Christ, therefore, now declares, that his doctrine is so far from being at

variance with the law, that it agrees perfectly with the law and the

prophets, and not only so, but brings the complete fulfillment of them.

There appear to have been chiefly two reasons, which induced him to

declare this agreement between the law and the Gospel. As soon as any

new method of teaching makes its appearance, the body of the people

immediately look upon it, as if everything were to be overturned. Now the

preaching of the Gospel, as I mentioned a little ago, tended to raise the

expectation, that the Church would assume a totally different form from

what had previously belonged to it. They thought that the ancient and

accustomed government was to be abolished. This opinion, in many

respects, was very dangerous. Devout worshippers of God would never

have embraced the Gospel, if it had been a revolt from the law; while light

and turbulent spirits would eagerly have seized on an occasion offered to

them for entirely overthrowing the state of religion: for we know in what

insolent freaks rash people are ready to indulge when there is any thing

new.

Besides, Christ saw that the greater part of the Jews, though they

professed to believe the Law, were profane and degenerate. The condition

of the people was so decayed, every thing was filled with so many

corruptions, and the negligence or malice of the priests had so completely

extinguished the pure light of doctrine, that there no longer remained any

reverence for the Law. But if a new kind of doctrine had been introduced,

which would destroy the authority of the Law and the Prophets, religion

would have sustained a dreadful injury. This appears to be the first reason,

236

why Christ declared that he had not come to destroy the Law. Indeed, the

context makes this abundantly clear: for he immediately adds, by way of

confirmation, that it is impossible for even one point of the Law to fail,—

and pronounces a curse on those teachers who do not faithfully labor to

maintain its authority.

The second reason was, to refute the wicked slander which, he knew was

brought against him by the ignorant and unlearned. This charge, it is

evident, had been fastened on his doctrine by the scribes: for he proceeds

immediately to direct his discourse against them. We must keep in mind

the object which Christ had in view. While he invites and exhorts the Jews

to receive the Gospel, he still retains them in obedience to the Law; and, on

the other hand, he boldly refutes the base reproaches and slanders, by

which his enemies labored to make his preaching infamous or suspected.

If we intend to reform affairs which are in a state of disorder, we must

always exercise such prudence and moderation, as will convince the

people, that we do not oppose the eternal Word of God, or introduce any

novelty that is contrary to Scripture. We must take care, that no suspicion

of such contrariety shall injure the faith of the godly, and that rash men

shall not be emboldened by a pretense of novelty. In short, we must

endeavor to oppose a profane contempt of the Word of God, and to

prevent religion from being despised by the ignorant. The defense which

Christ makes, to free his doctrine from slanders, ought to encourage us, if

we are now exposed to the same calumnies. That crime was charged against

Paul, that he was an apostate from the law of God, (<442121>Acts 21:21)

and we need not, therefore, wonder, if the Papists endeavor, in the same

manner, to render us odious. Following the example of Christ, we ought to

clear ourselves from false accusations, and, at the same time, to profess the

truth freely, though it may expose us to unjust reproaches.

I am not come to destroy. God had, indeed, promised a new covenant at the

coming of Christ; but had, at the same time, showed, that it would not be

different from the first, but that, on the contrary, its design was, to give a

perpetual sanction to the covenant, which he had made from the beginning,

with his own people.

“I will write my law, (says he,) in their hearts, and I will remember

their iniquities no more,” (<243133>Jeremiah 31:33, 34.) f370

237

By these words he is so far from departing from the former covenant, that,

on the contrary, he declares, that it will be confirmed and ratified, when it

shall be succeeded by the new. This is also the meaning of Christ’s words,

when he says, that he came to fulfill the law: for he actually fulfilled it, by

quickening, with his Spirit, the dead letter, and then exhibiting, in reality,

what had hitherto appeared only in figures.

With respect to doctrine, we must not imagine that the coming of Christ

has freed us from the authority of the law: for it is the eternal rule of a

devout and holy life, and must, therefore, be as unchangeable, as the justice

of God, which it embraced, is constant and uniform. With respect to

ceremonies, there is some appearance of a change having taken place; but it

was only the use of them that was abolished, for their meaning was more

fully confirmed. The coming of Christ has taken nothing away even from

ceremonies, but, on the contrary, confirms them by exhibiting the truth of

shadows: for, when we see their full effect, we acknowledge that they are

not vain or useless. Let us therefore learn to maintain inviolable this sacred

tie between the law and the Gospel, which many improperly attempt to

break. For it contributes not a little to confirm the authority of the Gospel,

when we learn, that it is nothing else than a fulfillment of the law; so that

both, with one consent, declare God to be their Author.

So then I also found it interesting that there is a quotation from Jeremiah:

“I will write my law, (says he,) in their hearts, and I will remember

their iniquities no more,” (Jeremiah 31:33, 34.)

Reflection

As far as Jesus’ teachings are concerned Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and by faith, we have had God’s law ‘written on our hearts’ by the Holy Spirit.  There is nothing here external about the law as it has been written onto the tablet of our hearts.  The truth is we were dead twigs and the Holy Spirit brought us back to life that we can once again worship a Holy God.  The Sermon on the mount drills down into the intentions and attitudes of the human being and shows the filth of fake worship towards God.  Jesus also gives us the remedy that by believing in Him and obeying him, through the beatitudes by the Holy Spirit we can once again worship in Spirit and truth.

Jesus said to his disciples;”You are the Light of the World.” What does this actually mean?

June 9, 2022

Our Lord and Saviour explains to us his disciples that we are the light of the world. Our question today is; How are we the light of the world? I hope to answer this question today through some references from both the Old and New Testaments.

You are the light of the world

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

Chiasms also exist throughout the Old Testament.

Jeff A. Benner wrote:

“As Hebrew poetry is written much differently than our own Western style of poetry, many do not recognize the poetry which can cause problems when translating or interpreting passages written in poetry.

Approximately 75% of the Hebrew Bible is poetry. All of Psalms and Proverbs are Hebrew poetry and many other books, such as the book of Genesis, are filled with poetry. The reason much of the Bible was written in poetry is that it was originally sung and stories that are sung are much easier to memorize that when simply spoken. There is much more poetry in the Bible than most realize because most people do not understand it.

The most common form of poetry in the Hebrew Bible is parallelisms, which is the expression of one idea in two or more different ways.”

[From: ancient-hebrew.org/poetry/about-hebrew-parallelism-called-chiasmus.htm]

It shouldn’t surprise us that our Lord used Chiasms in the Gospels especially in the Sermon on the Mount.  Last time was saw that light is a powerful metaphor in religions of the World.  After God created formless matter He then spoke:

“The Creation

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 Genesis 1:1-5”

John’s Gospel is also interesting because he builds on the above motif:

“The Deity of Jesus Christ

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1-5”

Then in the I Am sayings Jesus says the following:

“Jesus Is the Light of the World

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12”

When we read Jesus’ sayings on his disciples being the light of the World.  We need to remember where we came from in the Sermon on the Mount.  Before Jesus said these words, he taught us what his disciples are supposed to be through the beatitudes.   We see a direct correlation with Jesus who is the genuine, real, only, Light of the World.  As disciples of Jesus, we share this light with Him as we walk the walk of faith in complete trust and obedience by grace.  There is a direct correlation between light as a metaphor and the moral walk with God.  There is a direct relationship on How Jesus lived and how the disciple are supposed to live by the Help of the Holy Spirit. We can go on there is a direct relationship with the death and resurrection of Jesus and so on.

When Jesus came, he did not do away with the Old Testament. He is the Fulfillment of the Old Testament.  God’s Moral litmus test cannot be reached by any human in their own capacity. This is what we already learned in the Beatitudes.  The other sects in Israel at the time failed the litmus test of the beatitudes.  It is only when one lets go of one’s pride and allows God to be in the driving seat through grace, faith, attitude and the enabling by the Holy Spirit who can bring a dead twig back to life.  We were the dead twigs my friends but by God grace we were made alive to follow our Saviour.

However, I just want to return to the saying about the disciples being the Salt of the Earth.  Salt is also a metaphor in other religion, but I just want to focus on the relations of salt to light in this section of the Sermon on the Mount.

The salt and light metaphors are saying the same thing except:

This structure is composed of two parallel parables. The former is negative, and the latter is positive. Readers are expected to become the latter one.

[From; bible.literarystructure.info/bible/40_Matthew_pericope_e.html#14

I think the work of Hajime Murai from the Future University Hakodate is very interesting because he has used IT to try to trace all of the chiasms in the Bible. If I did that by reading it would be an impossible task.]

I think the work of Hajime Murai from the Future University Hakodate is very interesting because he has used IT to try to trace all of the chiasms in the Bible. If I did that by reading it would be an impossible task.]

Reflections

Scholars say that the world is made up of science, ethics and aesthetics.   Obviously, God who created the universe is the greatest of artists, ethicists and artists and we can only be a pale image of the genuine thing.   In Christ however we are under the shadow of heaven and our home is not of this earth.  Even as Abraham believed God and he left his home we too in the same manner hope to reach the same city ‘made without hands’.

Scripture is full of Truth Goodness and Beauty.  Our Saviour is the greatest of artists and teachers who through his beautiful words prepared a path to heaven itself for us to walk.  Let us walk this Trinitarian path to the Father by ‘the Two hands of God’ (the Son and the Holy Spirit (a saying by Irenaeus that Professor Gunton liked to quote while I was at kings College London))

A general Introduction to Light as a metaphor in the religions of the world.

May 29, 2022

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp-stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

Before we start to delve into the depths of the above verses let us first have a general discussion of light.

The world of light until the 19th century is not the same world we live in today.  We take it for granted that electricity keeps the lights running and this is generally clean.  I remember the time as a student teacher we had a trip to the British Museum, and I held a clay oil lamp in my hand that was thousands of years old.  It was very smooth, light and beautiful to look at. So then where there was light, there would have been smoke and the smell of burning.  Most ancient cities were set on a hill or a tell and the surrounding country sides would have had small villages.  It would be interesting to envisage coming up to one of these cities at midnight.  Even though the houses would have had oil lamps burning, the cities at night-time would have really stood out. Jerusalem sits on a hill, and I think it is quite possible that Jesus may have used it as an object lesson for his hearers from where he preached. Matthew says it was a mountain, but Luke says:

“Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place; and there was a large crowd of His disciples, and a great throng of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon, Luke 6:17”

What about how light is used as a symbol generally?

Light is one of the most powerful motifs in the religions.  Light is a universal phenomenon that touches all of life on this earth. It is no wonder that all the religions use light as a metaphor for aspects of divine realities.  At the level of God as Creator there can be real discussion among the religions.  Obviously when it comes to the particulars of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and other religions we go are separate ways.  Every religion has a right to their own belief systems.  Liberal theology which tries to talk about religion ‘evolving’ have made a categorical mistake and it is disrespectful to all religions because it does not respect their exclusivity.  The exclusivity comes from the concept of the Divine Infinite breaking into our space and time.  As a devoted follower of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are blessed to have the Bible, the word of God which reveals the True Word (Logos) of God to us.  Let us hold onto our exclusivity but still love our neighbour (which we may or may not agree with).  The following are quotes from World Scripture; A comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts;  pages 380 through to 383:

In the following section I have taken some passages that were prepared by world experts on the religions:

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path

Judaism and Christianity” Psalm 119.105

“The truth has come, and falsehood has vanished away. Surely falsehood is ever certain to vanish”

Islam Quran 17.85

“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12

“God is the Light of the heavens and the earth.

The parable of His Light

is as if there were a Niche,

and within it a Lamp;

the Lamp enclosed in Glass:

The Glass as it were a brilliant star:

Lit from a blessed Tree, _

an olive neither of the East nor of the West,

whose oil is well—nigh luminous,

though fire scarce touched it.

Light upon Light!

God guides whom He will to His Light:

God sets forth parables for men, and God

knows all things.”

Islam. Qur’an 24.35

“Him the sun does not illumine, nor the moon, nor the stars nor the lightning—nor, verily, fire kindled upon the earth. He is the one light that gives light to all. He shines; everything shines”

Hinduism. Katha Upanishad 5.15

“It is wonderful, Lord! It is as if, Lord, one might set upright that which had been upturned, or might reveal what was hidden, or might point out the path to one who had gone astray or might bring an oil lamp into the darkness so that those with eyes might see material shapes.”

Buddhism. Udana. 49

“The holy Preceptor by the Word lighted a lamp;

Thereby was shattered darkness of the temple of the self,

And the unique chamber of jewels thrown open.

Wonderstruck were we in extreme on beholding it—

Its greatness beyond expression.”

Sikhism. Adi Granth, Bilaval, M5, p. 821

“The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35 Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness. 36 If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illumined, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays.” Luke 11:34-36

“The Atman is the light:

The light is covered by darkness:

This darkness is delusion:

That is why we dream.

When the light of Atman

Drives out our darkness

That light shines forth from us,

A sun in splendour,

The revealed Brahman”

Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 5.15-16 (Note: Brahman ins the ‘Unknowable’ e.g.  God)

The candidate obtains this mystical light

after long hours of waiting, sitting on a bend}

in his hut and invoking the spirits. When he

experiences it for the first time, it is as if the

house in which he is suddenly rises, he sees far

ahead of him, through mountains, exactly as if

the earth were one great plain, and his eyes

could reach to the end of the earth. Nothing is

hidden from him any longer; not only can he

see things far, far away, but he can also discover

souls, stolen souls, which are either kept concealed in far, strange lands or have been taken

up or down to the Land of the Dead;

Native American Religions.

Iglulik Eskimo Shaman Initiation

“Those who believe will stand alongside [the Prophet], their light streaming on ahead of them and to their right. They will say, “Our Lord, perfect our light for us, and forgive us!”

Islam. Qur’an 66.8

Reflection

Jesus is the True light of the World and all who come to him will be saved:

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12

Then in Matthews Gospel he says the disciple are the ‘Light of the world’. 

 “You are the light of the world…”; Matthew 5:14

Let us then ‘walk in the light’ by Faith in Christ following our Light House.  The One who is our compass into everlasting life.  The True Light has broken into our space and time.  Jesus our Lighthouse lived a holy life, died on a cross and was resurrected, giving us the same hope of eternal life; as disciples we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit who will guide our ship through the many storms of life and to the eternal safe harbour. All people no matter what background, no matter what religion or no religion are invited to follow Christ:

“That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” Romans 10:9-13; NASB from Olive Tree Bible Software.

The Great Chef says that at the eschaton ‘everyone will be salted with fire’

May 22, 2022

What does this mean?

No life can survive without salt!   If you do a quick Google search, you’ll see that lots of animal’s such as the Alpine Ibex lick salt.   One example I saw was the Alpine Ibex climbing the concrete water dam to find their salt.

The thing about salt is that if you have too much, it can kill you.   But if you don’t have enough, it can kill you as well.   So, it’s very important for life itself.   Salt is very interesting because if it’s too much of it in some region, you’ll notice that those areas where there’s too much salt that all life is dead.

There is no life where there’s too much salt yet.  The oceans have got plenty of salt and the oceans are absolutely thriving with life.

It doesn’t surprise me that many religions and cultures around the world use salt in their in their everyday rituals and things.

In today’s discussion, we’re going to begin by looking at salt in general, from the Old Testament and find verses and see what we can learn.

After we’ve done that, we’re going to look at what Jesus means when he says that we are the salt of the earth.

The covenant of salt

….jtsa.edu/torah/a-covenant-of-salt/

…en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt_in_the_Bible

“The role of salt in the Bible is relevant to understanding Hebrew society during the Old Testament and New Testament periods. Salt is a necessity of life and was a mineral that was used since ancient times in many cultures as a seasoning, a preservative, a disinfectant, a component of ceremonial offerings, and as a unit of exchange. The Bible contains numerous references to salt. In various contexts, it is used metaphorically to signify permanence, loyalty, durability, fidelity, usefulness, value, and purification.”

Let us begin by reading some texts on salt from Matthew, Mark Luke and John:

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. Matthew 5:13

42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, 44 [where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.] 45 If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, 46 [where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.] 47 If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, 48 where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.

49 “For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.” Mark 9:42-50

Discipleship Tested

25 Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.

34 “Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? 35 It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 14:25-35

Commentary starter

Salt is mentioned in Matthew, Mark and Luke.

Matthew

In Matthew we learned about the beatitudes.  Matthew focused more on the inner life of the believer and ended with the objective effects of what it means to follow Christ.

Mark

Mark is a lot more about the judgement of God and here everyone ‘will be sprinkled with salt’.  Salt here is a metaphor in which the disciples and those who are not disciples will be tested which includes a metaphor of hell:

 ‘[where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.]’

Luke

Luke is writing in context of the disciples being tested. How committed are we in following Christ?

Reflection

The Judgement of God begins with the Church, and we are to be ‘salted by fire’.  Will the fire burn up all our so-called good works? Or will the salt of the Gospel enhance and taste God’s good work in us by the Great Chef.  How will we fair on the Day of Judgement, on the day of God’s wrath?

Digging deeper

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. Matthew 5:13

Jesus is talking directly to his disciples, and he says that our walk with God ought to be ‘spicy’.  The opposite of spicy is ‘not spicy’.  As believers in Christ how spicy are we for the Gospel?   My point of view is that we need God’s grace working in our lives to really spice things up and bring more souls into the Kingdom of God.

The Walk of Faith and the Paradox of Suffering in the Beatitudes

April 24, 2022

When we read John Calvin on this verse near the beginning, he starts by saying “We can fight Christ’s battles on no other terms than for the majority of the world to be risen up in enmity against us, and to be our persecutors, even unto death.”

This Sermon is for the followers of Christ.  As a general rule of thumb and more the world hates the Christian message. Calvin reminds us that:

 ‘Satan as the prince of this world will never stop arming his ranks in a frenzy to assault the members of Christ.”

We need to remember even way back in the book of Job it was Satan who was accusing Job of evils.  This same Satan is also the one who tried to force the hand of Jesus to worship him rather than God!

Calvin goes on to tell is about 1 Peter 3:3. However for the sake of context I have quoted some more:

“Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defence to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ will be put to shame.” 1 Peter 3:13-16

Calvin goes on and he uses the ‘I repeat’ that means he is pressing the main point home:

“I repeat what I have just said, that all who wish to live a godly life in Christ are liable to persecution; Paul’s testimony applies to all the faithful alike (11 Tim, 3.12).”

“Indeed, all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” 2 Timothy 3:12-13

Calvin goes on to say:

“As throughout this life the way of the godly is most miserable, Christ duly lifts our thoughts to hope for the life of heaven.   Christ’s paradox here is vastly different from the commentaries of the Stoics, where men are told to be satisfied in their own judgement, and each to decide on his own happiness to empty imaginings, for he establishes it upon the reward of a future hope”

As we said earlier in another blog Martin Luther King junior who practiced peaceful protest became a target for doing the right thing.  Every human being has been created in the ‘image of God’.  We see this concept and truth attacked from many sides. When John Calvin penned these words, the world was in full movement and flux and many people died for having a separate confession about reality.  Calvin reminds us that this persecution of the Church is a staple diet of the world.   There is so much evil in the world at the moment; death and destruction in Europe for silly stupid reasons. 

We need to remember that the God we serve is a God of love.  Anyone who purports to be flying the Christian flag and openly murders innocent people is an ‘anti-Christ’.  There have been many anti-Christs throughout the centuries, and we have them even in the 21st century.  They may pretend to be Christian but by murdering innocent people they show themselves to be doings Satan’s will.  Let us love and be willing to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves in this way we follow the teachings of Christ. 

Reflection

Interesting that for the word righteousness Vine says:

“Righteousness dikaiosune (1343), is “the character or quality of being right or just”; it was formerly spelled “rightwiseness,” which clearly expresses the meaning. It is used to denote an attribute of God, e.g., Rom. 3:5, the context of which shows that “the righteousness of God” means essentially the same as His faithfulness, or truthfulness, that which is consistent with His own nature and promises; Rom. 3:25, 26 speaks of His “righteousness” as exhibited in the death of Christ, which is sufficient to show men that God is neither indifferent to sin nor regards it lightly.”  (From Vines dictionary; Olive Tree Bible software)

I come to the same conclusion as Calvin that the follower of Christ who lives the way of Christ is going to suffer.  There is an alignment of the righteousness and the follower of Christ.  It is in Christ that as Paul would say we are justified.  It is precisely for this reason that the prophets suffered.  They suffered because they aligned themselves in obedience to God’s word. 

I can think of Isaiah:

“1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to another and said,

“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts,

The whole earth is full of His glory.”

4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. 5 Then I said,

“Woe is me, for I am ruined!

Because I am a man of unclean lips,

And I live among a people of unclean lips;

For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” Isaiah 6:1-7

God has high standards, and in our strength, we cannot reach this standard.  Grace was given to Isaiah as his lips were purified.  Coming to the conclusion of the beatitudes we see steppingstones. We realize that all the goodness we have stems from the work of Christ. 

As Bavinck would say the natural man would reject this way of doing things.  The natural man wants to do things in their own strength and prove how strong they are.  On the surface it might look like righteousness but dig under the surface and one can see that it is fake righteousness.  True righteousness has roots coming from God’s grace.  Fake righteousness has its roots in self-empowerment.

Christ turns the values of this world on its head and shows how ugly they are:

 In fact, the follower of Christ’s city is in heaven.  The Christian is happy because he can see beyond the horizon.  This world is not our goal we are not interested in amassing wealth here.  True wealth is spiritual not material.  The legacy of the follower of Christ is to share love to all and sundry.   

The values of the world maybe:

That one is proud that he pays his taxes on time; You are a proud successful businessman who in reality only thinking about how good you are; You have achieved everything by your own wisdom. Or you are poor and jealous of someone who has the latest things, and you want the same.  It maybe that that person only cares about themselves.   

The examples above are probably not very accurate as I used a wide brush stroke here, but the main point is that the beatitudes for the follower of Christ is a mirror that can help weed out the sin in our lives.  As followers of Christ, we realize that we are completely dependent on God for our daily living.

The natural man and the follower of Christ look through completely different spectacles.

As Calvin used the word paradox in relation to Christs teachings.  It does look like a paradox that we are called to be happy and the way to be happy is to critique selfish empowerment.  At the end we are also to rejoice in our sufferings!  

No believers are not sadomasochists who like to inflict pain on themselves for enjoyment’s sake.  No, my friends; What we have here is a meditation to make us true believers in Christ. The small word ‘shall’ have been used a lot through these happy sayings.  We look beyond the horizon to Christ, to our redemption:

“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:12”

Reflection

This brings us to the end of the beatitudes but from my point of view this is the very key to understand all the teachings found within the Sermon on the Mount.  This has not been an easy ride theologically, but I hope as a follower of Christ you have grown in the grace of Christ as we become by the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit more genuine in our faith.

If you are not a follower of Christ, I hope that the beatitudes have given you an appreciation to what Christ is actually saying and I hope one day that you too could follow in the steps of Christ.

{For the writings of John Calvin I used his Harmony of the Gospels translated by A.W Morrison; pages 172-173; WM. B. Eerdmans publishing house}

Happy are the Peacemakers because in the Eschaton they will be known as the Children of God

April 9, 2022

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9

In the last beatitude the pure would see God.  In this beatitude Our Lord is going up a level and he explains to his disciples that with this new ‘Happy saying’ they will be called ‘sons of God’.  Sons should be all inclusive for women too. Many of Jesus’s disciple were women and Saint Paul said in Galatians that there is neither male nor female.  In the Kingdom of heaven men and women are equal.  Anyhow before I dive into this beatitude, I want to think about the importance of peace makers.  I can think of some from the top of my head. 

  • Muhammad Ali
  • Gandhi
  • Martin Luther King
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Dalai Lama
  • Bishop Tutu
  • Greta Thunberg (Global warming that affects all of us)

Peace making comes at many different levels and God loves genuine peacemakers.  I’m not speaking from a salvific point of view but generally.  When God created the world ‘It was good’.  When He created Adam and Eve ‘it was good’.  The moral order of the family was set in place one man and one woman, and they were told to be fruitful.  We were created in the image of God and what does that actually mean.  For me Jesus as the Logos is the prototype image of God.  From the teachings of our Lord, we learn about the importance of loving Good and our neighbour. 

What is the opposite of peace?

It is war!

Jesus was the ultimate peace maker and I find it very interesting that Gandhi a Hindu studied the teachings of Christ which helped him to put together his ethic of love to fight British oppression in India. 

It doesn’t stop there; Martin Luther King Junior then studied Gandhi and using the ethic of Love fought for equal rights for people of colour and all people. 

I could go on people of peace attract other people of peace for example did you know that Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama became good friends?

In Christianity, peace is a very important concept.   First of all.   There are scriptures that refer to God as the God of peace and in this beatitude, we find that the peacemakers are going to be called the Sons of God.

Sometimes when you make peace, you have to in a sense, there’s some sort of war I don’t mean physically but in various forms.  So I’m just going to go through a few people that have shown the quality of peace:

In making peace Muhammad Ali, for example stood up against the American government because he did not agree with the Vietnam war and he had his world title belt that he won fair and square taken away from him.   Although after he did his time in prison, he got his belt back.

Then of course you have Gandhi who had the philosophy of ahimsa. The idea that you’re not allowed to hurt any living thing, and he lived at the time when Britain was in charge of India.   Using the concept of ahimsa, he was able to defeat the British and expel the British peacefully

Following in Gandhi’s footsteps, we have, Martin Luther King And he used the ethic of love to fight for the civil rights movement and it’s interesting that sometimes people who stand up for doing the right thing and are peaceful people usually sometimes end up being persecuted or killed.

Then we have Nelson Mandela who spent many years in prison he realized that peaceful protest is more powerful than the use of violence and he got rid of the apartheid system and became the First South African president and I have to say that I think John Calvin is the is the best one because it’s very simple and it gets to the point.

So it begins like this:

“Blessed are the peacemakers.  He means those who have an enthusiasm for peace and as best they may avoid all quarrels and also those who take pains to settle.  The dissensions that break out between others being agents of peace to all ready to stifle hatreds and rivalries, this is no light declaration.  The result is that each wishes to have everyone in his pay to fight on his side that we may not then depend on men favours.   Christ bids us to look to the judgment of the father for us.  He is the God of peace.   He reckons us among his sons as we work for peace even though our efforts do not please men. To be called has the same force as to be reckoned. “ (This is from.  Calvin’s New Testament commentaries, new translation. Translated by Morrison. Edited by TF Torrance, on page 172) 

I looked at four  commentaries about this particular verse in the Sermon on the Mount.

The four were:

  • by John Calvin (above).
  • William Barclay
  • Doctor Martyn Lloyd Jones commentary on the Sermon on the Mount.
  • Jamieson Faucet and Brown (Olive tree Bible software)

The reason I liked Calvin’s the most is actually because it gets to the point.   It’s very, very simple and he tries to get to the meaning of the text.   The modern commentary was actually invented by John Calvin.   He was the first to write Bible Commentaries in a scientific manner.   When we look at the text in the New Testament, we have to ask ourselves the question:

  • Do I have the real meaning of the text?
  • What did it mean to those who first heard those words?

What is important is what Jesus meant by these words.  It is not what I think Jesus meant by these words.   It can be very difficult sometimes to get to the meaning that the writer wanted us to understand. There are two keywords that explains all this (eisegesis and exegesis):

The first word (eisegesis)suggests this; You read your own biases into the text.  In this situation the text becomes gobbledegook (a myth, not true, false). It’s not reality.

Exegesis, on the other hand, means reading out of the text what is there. The text is actually telling you what it’s saying.   So, when we’re looking at this particular beatitude that Jesus gave there isn’t a really lot to go on.

So, this is why I think that here Calvin is actually better than William Barclay et al.  It just gives you the basic meaning. So then let’s start looking at it in a bit more detail and find out what we can learn.  I just want to look at the reflection of Calvin on this after we said basically what a peacemaker is.

Calvin Finishes off by saying this, “that we may not then depend on men’s favours.  So, we shouldn’t look at doing your boss, a favour, or whoever a favour, what’s important, Calvin says, is Christ bids us to look to the judgment of the Father, it’s what God wants us to do.   It’s not what other people want us to do for as he is the God of peace, He reckons us among his sons as we work for peace.  To be in a sense, to be a true image of God.   One of those characteristics is actually to make peace, even as God makes peace.

The greatest example of that is when Jesus died for us so that we could have peace with God.  He reckons us among his sons as we work for peace even though our efforts do not, please men.  Yeah, being a peacemaker and doing what God wants us to do is going to please very, very few men.   People, should I say for example.

When we talk about the 10 Commandments that God has given which is for everyone at all times.  A lot of people kind of accept those.  This causes problems, so we’re going to have problems to be called has the same force as ‘to be reckoned’, Calvin said. Yes, so we are reckoned to be as children of God.

It means the same thing and I wonder what it says in the Greek.   I’ll have to look at that a bit later on.

The Judaeo-Christian ethic is that we should love God with all of our heart with all of our mind and all of our strength and as a general rule, the natural man who hasn’t seen God’s goodness is only interested in himself and pleasing himself.   A lot of people nowadays they don’t want anything to do with God. They just want to go their own way doing their own thing, living the way that they want.   For example, marriage is thrown out with the bath water.   Sad to say, for example, in places like London Knife crime is very, very prevalent.  There’s a mood in large chunks of society that life isn’t worth very much.   if a person gets stabbed by another young person and they die (that isn’t seen as a problem).  There is no Fear of God, there is no sense of duty.   Let’s look at some people who have spoken about peace in the world.

For example, in the USA Martin Luther King when he was around at the marches and the civil rights movement.  He was assassinated for doing the right thing and it’s a problem that comes right into the 21st century where people think that if you’re white, you’re better than blacks, and if you’re black, you’re better than whites.   Bruce Lee went against the current of racism; In one of his interviews, he was asked if he was Chinese or if he was American.   Bruce Lee said, “I’m a human being.  It doesn’t matter about what colour you are, what race you are under the Sun we’re all the same. “  We’re human beings and we should treat each other with the dignity that everyone deserves.

For the Christian; God created us in his image.  We’ve been created in the image of God.  We are very, very special.  We are sacred but unfortunately, the world doesn’t actually always see that.

Some people choose to interpret this particular beatitude only in a churchy spiritual way and internalize peace making from within and the objective reality is lost.   That it only means making peace with God within you the struggle inside you.

But I don’t agree obviously I accept the spiritual but people like Martin Luther King has shown us that it has practical life changing elements for the real world outside the Church

After we’ve become Christians and we’ve learned how to do this walk with God because of God’s grace. We come to a position where we can actually take part in the world and start to try to bring peace by the help of The Holy Spirit; Peace with people and peace with God.

It’s a very objective thing.   It’s something that that can change the world, save lives and then also bring people to know Jesus Christ as we know Jesus Christ as well the ultimate peace with God.

All the commentaries failed me when looking to this beatitude, but they gave me clues.

I found it very interesting that William Barclay reminded us about the word Shalom can mean a peace but has various meanings.  Peace means not only be “freedom from all trouble” but it can also mean “enjoyment of all good.”

So I did a bit of research and I went to the Wikipedia on shalom.   Barclay is right and It can mean that as well because it’s used in everyday greetings for health and everything but it still didn’t answer my question:

  • What Jesus means by peacemaker

And lo and behold, I went to Matthew chapter 1012

Let me just tell you a bit a little bit about the context:

Jesus has chosen the 12 disciples and he sent them out to the House of Israel.

And they’re going to greet everyone.  This is what Jesus says in one of the verses with me paraphrasing, he says.  “As you enter the house, give it you’re greeting.  If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace but if it is not worth of it, take back your blessing of peace.

And then a bit later on:

Jesus talks about the persecution that the believers are going to face in the future.   

Now it’s very interesting that when we look at the Beatitudes in Matthew Chapter 5 verse nine and verse 10, one is about making peace and the next one is about persecution and in Chapter 10 from verses 5 all the way through to verse 23 the same order is followed.   When disciples do peace-making, they are going to face persecution and I think that’s probably the best way to interpret that particular beatitude.

Why did I use the word shalom?

You need to remember that Greek was the prevalent language around the Middle East at the time of Christ.  Even the Old Testament was translated into Greek known as the Septuagint (LXX as the abbreviation for the Septuagint (meaning 70 ‘the Seventy Elders’).  It is a fact that the Apostles favoured the Septuagint to that of the Hebrew at the time.  Scholars think that Jesus actually spoke Aramaic a local dialect! 

Reflection

If you are a disciple of Christ, then you are a peacemaker.  ‘Love changes everything’.  God sent his only Son into the world to open the way for us to walk into God’s Kingdom.  Being a peacemaker is not an easy task spiritually or objectively.   The hard example of this beatitude for us is in Matthew chapter 10. 

External links for further general reading:

Martin Luther King and Gandhi links

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King_Jr.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahatma_Gandhi

A Messianic-Jewish interpretation of Matthew 5 verse 9

https://www.biblestudytools.com/cjb/matthew/5-9.html