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))

The Teleological Argument and Herman Bavinck

June 5, 2022

Objections to the teleological argument

Bavinck saw that there were scholars who denied the teleological grounds and purpose of creation:

“First of all, materialism asserts that there is no purpose in things, and the teleological interpretation of nature must give way to the mechanical one. Pantheism, moreover, affirms that the presence of order and purpose in the universe gives us absolutely no warrant to posit the existence of a conscious, intelligent cause since, both in the case of the individual human and that of the world as a whole, the unconscious functions with more wisdom and certainty than conscious reflection and deliberate calculation. Finally, Kant raised the objection that this argument at most leads to a world-shaper not to a World creator” (pages 82 to 83)

Bavinck Replies to these objections

In this section Bavinck answers the objectors firstly through Jewish Christian writings.  After this he will show that the Ancient Greek Philosophers held to idea that nature has purpose.

The Jewish Christian World view as found in Scripture

Bavinck the Master Theologian begins by turning to Scripture and here we see that there is purpose in Creation:

Genesis 1 shows us that God gave creation a purpose and ‘it was good’:

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 God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

6 Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 God made the expanse and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. 8 God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

9 Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. 13 There was evening and there was morning, a third day.

14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. 17 God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. 19 There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

20 Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.” 21 God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. 25 God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to everything that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” Genesis 1

We then have Wisdom calling out to us!

“Does not wisdom call,

And understanding lift up her voice? “Proverbs 8:1

All things belong to Christ:

“So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.” 1 Corinthians 3:21-23

As believers in Christ God’s purposes are working themselves out in His love every day:

“28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

The ancient Greek philosophers

Here are some Greek philosophers that Bavinck points to who actually used the teleological arguments.

  • Anaxagoras
  • Socrates
  • Plato
  • Aristotle

At this point he just gave these names as a matter of fact.  If you want to follow this through you can read the notes below taken from Wikipedia.  I included the notes here though for those who wanted to know what the Greek philosophers were thinking.  

In his argument Bavinck reminds us that purpose can be seen in such things as:

  • The seasons
  • Water temperature
  • Fertilization of Plants
  • Blood circulation
  • Organisms such as the hand or the eye

We could go on with his examples, but he says that Homers Iliad could not have come into being by chance.  This means other things too.

Before continuing into Bavinck and his view on Darwin’s natural selection arguments.  We need a basic idea of what it is.   In a nutshell:

“Darwin proposed a theory of the survival of the fittest by natural selection. The fittest, healthiest members of a species survive, and their characteristics become a part of the character of the species.” (From scandalon.co.uk/philosophy/teleological_mill_darwin.htm)

This theory of evolution has been a bomb shell as it gives a reason not to believe in a deity.  Having said that I don’t think even Darwin envisaged this and how this idea of the ‘fittest surviving’ could lead to the atrocities committed by Germany in WW2. 

The Nazis milked Nietzsche’s idea of the “Superman” for themselves:

“The Italian and German fascist regimes were eager to lay claim to Nietzsche’s ideas, and to position themselves as inspired by them. In 1932, Nietzsche’s sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, received a bouquet of roses from Adolf Hitler during a German premiere of Benito Mussolini’s 100 Days, and in 1934 Hitler personally presented her with a wreath for Nietzsche’s grave carrying the words “To A Great Fighter”. Also in 1934, Elisabeth gave to Hitler Nietzsche’s favourite walking stick, and Hitler was photographed gazing into the eyes of a white marble bust of Nietzsche.[23] Heinrich Hoffmann’s popular biography Hitler as Nobody Knows Him (which sold nearly a half-million copies by 1938) featured this photo with the caption reading: “The Führer before the bust of the German philosopher whose ideas have fertilized two great popular movements: the national socialist of Germany and the fascist of Italy.”” 

From en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Influence_and_reception_of_Friedrich_Nietzsche

Following this recipe of the Superman deifies Man as ‘divine’ and gives him control over the elements.  Whenever man is made divine the world runs into serious problems. 

However, we also need to remember that natural selection was never a new idea.  The Greek philosophers of Ancient Greece looked at its philosophical implications and was rejected by Aristotle, one of the greatest minds of the ancient world. Aristotle fell on the teleological side of natural selection:

“   So what hinders the different parts [of the body] from having this merely accidental relation in nature? as the teeth, for example, grow by necessity, the front ones sharp, adapted for dividing, and the grinders flat, and serviceable for masticating the food; since they were not made for the sake of this, but it was the result of accident. And in like manner as to the other parts in which there appears to exist an adaptation to an end. Wheresoever, therefore, all things together (that is all the parts of one whole) happened like as if they were made for the sake of something, these were preserved, having been appropriately constituted by an internal spontaneity, and whatsoever things were not thus constituted, perished, and still perish.

    — Aristotle, Physics, Book II, Chapter 8[7]

But Aristotle rejected this possibility in the next paragraph, making clear that he is talking about the development of animals as embryos with the phrase “either invariably or normally come about”, not the origin of species:

    … Yet it is impossible that this should be the true view. For teeth and all other natural things either invariably or normally come about in a given way; but of not one of the results of chance or spontaneity is this true. We do not ascribe to chance or mere coincidence the frequency of rain in winter, but frequent rain in summer we do; nor heat in the dog-days, but only if we have it in winter. If then, it is agreed that things are either the result of coincidence or for an end, and these cannot be the result of coincidence or spontaneity, it follows that they must be for an end; and that such things are all due to nature even the champions of the theory which is before us would agree. Therefore, action for an end is present in things which come to be and are by nature.

    — Aristotle, Physics, Book II, Chapter ” From en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_selection

Darwin Summarized his ideas on Natural Selection:

   “ If during the long course of ages and under varying conditions of life, organic beings vary at all in the several parts of their organisation, and I think this cannot be disputed; if there be, owing to the high geometrical powers of increase of each species, at some age, season, or year, a severe struggle for life, and this certainly cannot be disputed; then, considering the infinite complexity of the relations of all organic beings to each other and to their conditions of existence, causing an infinite diversity in structure, constitution, and habits, to be advantageous to them, I think it would be a most extraordinary fact if no variation ever had occurred useful to each being’s own welfare, in the same way as so many variations have occurred useful to man. But if variations useful to any organic being do occur, assuredly individuals thus characterised will have the best chance of being preserved in the struggle for life; and from the strong principle of inheritance, they will tend to produce offspring similarly characterised. This principle of preservation, I have called, for the sake of brevity, Natural Selection.

    — Darwin summarising natural selection in the fourth chapter of On the Origin of Species”

From en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_selection

Natural selection is not the problem.  It becomes a problem when the theory is used to deny the existence of God.   We are now ready to turn to Herman Bavinck and think about what he has to say.

Bavinck says that the initial characterization of Darwinism was one of substitution.  Substituting purpose for cause.  This brought to the fore how important teleological views are. As Bavinck continues one of natural selections goals was to explain how things worked (‘functionality of things’). ‘Matter, force and motion’ fails to explain everything rather direction is needed too.  As Bavinck says, ‘direction is inconceivable without purpose.’ The latest research around the turn of the century ‘Teleology and causality certainly do not exclude each other’.

Bavinck goes on to say that there is also room for the teleological world view for ‘mechanical causality’.  However, Bavinck warns that trying to explain ‘all phenomena’ found in our world would be a serious mistake.  There are limits then even for teleology. Teleology can be used for:

  • Matter
  • Metabolism
  • Conscious
  • Mental

However, Bavinck explains to us that not all intelligentsia agree with teleological arguments but rather there are those who try to disprove teleology.  

Bavinck points to a scholar from 1900 Von Hartmann who took the opposite view to teleology. ‘Instinct’ as ‘an unconscious lack of cogency’ is argued by Hartmann.  However even in the product of instinct it still points to a preconceived purpose.

Bavinck makes the point that even if teleology points to a World-shaper this is going in the right direction.  {With the context I think Bavinck may mean World shaper = One who forms creation from something already there instead of ex nihilo (the Christian view of God the Creator.  I’m not 100% sure at the moment)} There are other objections but on a practical level:

“Everything here depends on the presence of purpose in the world.  Once this is established the existence of consciousness of a Supreme Being are implied.”

Reformed Dogmatics; Herman Bavinck; Volume 2; page 83

Reflection

Darwin could not see the big picture on how the world works and how his natural selection fits in.  Sad to say, the idea of ‘natural selection’ when divorced from the existence of a Creator put Man in the driver’s seat. This ideology led to the Holocaust tempered with anti-Semitism. 20 million Russians also died because of Stalin.

When the Creator is denied something else has to fill the vacuum and we know from human history that death and destruction follows. 

With teleology a relational harmony takes place between God and nature; between the Creator and creature.

With God as Creator, ethics is tempered by God’s revelation from Scripture and nature that the world has purpose and reason to exist.

Bavinck reminds us that by God’s grace the world runs.  The world is not an accident and as custodians of nature here on earth we have a responsibility to put God in his rightful place by better taking care of the natural world.

Notes on the Greek Philosophers and the Teleological argument

Anaxagoras

(Taken from ://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anaxagoras)

“Anaxagoras brought philosophy and the spirit of scientific inquiry from Ionia to Athens. According to Anaxagoras all things have existed in some way from the beginning, but originally they existed in infinitesimally small fragments of themselves, endless in number and inextricably combined throughout the universe. All things existed in this mass, but in a confused and indistinguishable form. There was an infinite number of homogeneous parts (ὁμοιομερῆ) as well as heterogeneous ones.

The work of arrangement, the segregation of like from unlike and the summation of the whole into totals of the same name, was the work of Mind or Reason (νοῦς). Mind is no less unlimited than the chaotic mass, but it stood pure and independent, a thing of finer texture, alike in all its manifestations and everywhere the same. This subtle agent, possessed of all knowledge and power, is especially seen ruling in all the forms of life.[d] Its first appearance, and the only manifestation of it which Anaxagoras describes, is Motion. It gave distinctness and reality to the aggregates of like parts.”

Socrates and the pre-Socratics

(From ://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teleological_argument#Socrates_and_the_pre-Socratics)

“The argument from intelligent design appears to have begun with Socrates, although the concept of a cosmic intelligence is older and David Sedley has argued that Socrates was developing an older idea, citing Anaxagoras of Clazomenae, born about 500 BC, as a possible earlier proponent.[13][14][15] The proposal that the order of nature showed evidence of having its own human-like “intelligence” goes back to the origins of Greek natural philosophy and science, and its attention to the orderliness of nature, often with special reference to the revolving of the heavens. Anaxagoras is the first person who is definitely known to have explained such a concept using the word “nous” (which is the original Greek term that leads to modern English “intelligence” via its Latin and French translations). Aristotle reports an earlier philosopher from Clazomenae named Hermotimus who had taken a similar position.[16] Amongst Pre-Socratic philosophers before Anaxagoras, other philosophers had proposed a similar intelligent ordering principle causing life and the rotation of the heavens. For example Empedocles, like Hesiod much earlier, described cosmic order and living things as caused by a cosmic version of love,[17] and Pythagoras and Heraclitus attributed the cosmos with “reason” (logos).[18] In his Philebus 28c Plato has Socrates speak of this as a tradition, saying that “all philosophers agree—whereby they really exalt themselves—that mind (nous) is king of heaven and earth. Perhaps they are right.” and later states that the ensuing discussion “confirms the utterances of those who declared of old that mind (nous) always rules the universe”.”

Plato and Aristotle

(Taken from ://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teleological_argument#Plato_and_Aristotle)

Plato’s Timaeus is presented as a description of someone who is explaining a “likely story” in the form of a myth, and so throughout history commentators have disagreed about which elements of the myth can be seen as the position of Plato.[15]: 132  Sedley (2007) nevertheless calls it “the creationist manifesto” and points out that although some of Plato’s followers denied that he intended it, in classical times writers such as Aristotle, Epicurus, the Stoics, and Galen all understood Plato as proposing the world originated in an “intelligent creative act”.[15]: 133  Plato has a character explain the concept of a “demiurge” with supreme wisdom and intelligence as the creator of the cosmos in his work.

Plato’s teleological perspective is also built upon the analysis of a priori order and structure in the world that he had already presented in The Republic. The story does not propose creation ex nihilo; rather, the demiurge made order from the chaos of the cosmos, imitating the eternal Forms.[22]

    Plato’s world of eternal and unchanging Forms, imperfectly represented in matter by a divine Artisan, contrasts sharply with the various mechanistic Weltanschauungen, of which atomism was, by the 4th century at least, the most prominent… This debate was to persist throughout the ancient world. Atomistic mechanism got a shot in the arm from Epicurus… while the Stoics adopted a divine teleology… The choice seems simple: either show how a structured, regular world could arise out of undirected processes, or inject intelligence into the system.[23]

    — R. J. Hankinson, Cause and Explanation in Ancient Greek Thought

Plato’s student and friend Aristotle (c. 384 – 322 BC), continued the Socratic tradition of criticising natural scientists such as Democritus who sought (as in modern science) to explain everything in terms of matter and chance motion. He was very influential in the future development of classical creationism, but was not a straightforward “creationist” because he required no creation interventions in nature, meaning he “insulated god from any requirement to intervene in nature, either as creator or as administrator”.[15]: 204  Instead of direct intervention by a creator it is “scarcely an exaggeration to say that for Aristotle the entire functioning of the natural world, as also the heavens, is ultimately to be understood as a shared striving towards godlike actuality”.[15]: 171  And whereas the myth in the Timaeus suggests that all living things are based on one single paradigm, not one for each species, and even tells a story of “devolution” whereby other living things devolved from humans, it was Aristotle who presented the influential idea that each type of normal living thing must be based on a fixed paradigm or form for that species.[15]

Aristotle felt that biology was a particularly important example of a field where materialist natural science ignored information which was needed in order to understand living things well. For example birds use wings for the purpose of flight.[24] Therefore the most complete explanation in regard to the natural, as well as the artificial, is for the most part teleological.[25] In fact, proposals that species had changed by chance survival of the fittest, similar to what is now called “natural selection”, were already known to Aristotle, and he rejected these with the same logic.[25][26][27][28][29] He conceded that monstrosities (new forms of life) could come about by chance,[30][31] but he disagreed with those who ascribed all nature purely to chance[32] because he believed science can only provide a general account of that which is normal, “always, or for the most part”.[33] The distinction between what is normal, or by nature, and what is “accidental”, or not by nature, is important in Aristotle’s understanding of nature. As pointed out by Sedley, “Aristotle is happy to say (Physics II 8, 199a33-b4) without the slightest fear of blasphemy, crafts make occasional mistakes; therefore, by analogy, so can nature.”[15]: 186  According to Aristotle the changes which happen by nature are caused by their “formal causes”, and for example in the case of a bird’s wings there is also a final cause which is the purpose of flying. He explicitly compared this to human technology:

    If then what comes from art is for the sake of something, it is clear that what come from nature is too […] This is clear most of all in the other animals, which do nothing by art, inquiry, or deliberation; for which reason some people are completely at a loss whether it is by intelligence or in some other way that spiders, ants, and such things work. […] It is absurd to think that a thing does not happen for the sake of something if we do not see what sets it in motion deliberating. […] This is most clear when someone practices medicine himself on himself; for nature is like that.

    — Aristotle, Physics, II 8.[34]

The question of how to understand Aristotle’s conception of nature having a purpose and direction something like human activity is controversial in the details. Martha Nussbaum for example has argued that in his biology this approach was practical and meant to show nature only being analogous to human art, explanations of an organ being greatly informed by knowledge of its essential function.[25] Nevertheless, Nussbaum’s position is not universally accepted. In any case, Aristotle was not understood this way by his followers in the Middle Ages, who saw him as consistent with monotheistic religion and a teleological understanding of all nature. Consistent with the medieval interpretation, in his Metaphysics and other works Aristotle clearly argued a case for there being one highest god or “prime mover” which was the ultimate cause, though specifically not the material cause, of the eternal forms or natures which cause the natural order, including all living things.[citation needed] He clearly refers to this entity having an intellect that humans somehow share in, which helps humans see the true natures or forms of things without relying purely on sense perception of physical things, including living species. This understanding of nature, and Aristotle’s arguments against materialist understandings of nature, were very influential in the Middle Ages in Europe. The idea of fixed species remained dominant in biology until Darwin, and a focus upon biology is still common today in teleological criticisms of modern science.

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.

Do Pets Go To heaven? Dealing with the death of our pets.

May 14, 2022

Will Leo our Pet rabbit go to heaven at the Eschaton?

This week we lost a pet Rabbit. His name was Leo and we had him for about seven years.   I have to say that Leo has taught me a lot about love and compassion.   I’m not one of these people that believes that animals don’t have sentience.   I believe that animals were created by God. I also believe that there are animals in heaven. 

And why do I think this? 

Well, for example? 

Elijah was taken to heaven by a chariot of horses and animals, obviously in the Bible had a certain amount of intelligence. For example, when God commanded a donkey to speak to its owner, or the owner would have been killed by an Angel, or the time when the Ravens were commanded to go and feed Elijah. So, animals are very very pecial. Now for a lot of people they want to know if their pet is going to heaven. 

My own personal opinion is that I actually believe that pets can go to heaven.   I never really thought of it that deeply, but when you’ve been working with a pet and you’ve taken care of them and they’ve been your friend. And you see them every day and you do things with them. The thing about Leo was that he was bilingual. We spoke two languages. We spoke in Finnish, and we spoke in English. 

Every day I used to cut very fine apple for him because he wasn’t well and I’d say Leo,

“Where could the apple be? Where could it be?  He got really excited, and he would run around looking for it. He just he just ebbed with intelligence. 

But the main question today is: 

Is Leo in heaven?

Is there a possibility that Leo is in heaven?

Is there a possibility he’s going to be here after the resurrection at the end times? 

My conclusion is actually yes. 

I actually believe that animals, pets, especially, Comeback. It’s actually an indirect route in Scripture But I think that it’s a very interesting route. 

The first place I would probably start is before the Fall. One group God created the heavens and the earth We saw that.   When he created each part, he’d said that it was ‘good’. It was good. It was good so from God’s perspective when he created everything, it was good. It wasn’t bad. And I think that it’s important to start here even after the Fall. The world still gives us our food. It rains for us. 

You know, lots of good things come to us from the earth. So, it’s still good within some Christian traditions. It seems to be a little bit gnostic. 

What I mean is that when it comes to the material world, there’s a negativity about the material world that that it’s somehow bad. Just because there was a fall Doesn’t mean that everything is bad, they’re still good there. 

Now it is the case that. The main the main people Group that are going to find this salvic salvation or are believers who believe in Jesus Christ Where does that leave the theater? 

The theater that where we live the theater is our world. We’re on the stage and each of us has to play a part. I got some information from Herman Bavinck in his volume four of the reformed.  In there, after we’ve had our salvation, and that work is concluded. 

Even the world itself, the universe itself. Will be renewed. The world itself is going to be ‘born again’. 

It’s going to be regenerated. It’s going to be renewed. if the world is going to be regenerated and renewed, what does that actually mean? 

What a boring place it would be if there weren’t any animals. You know after the eschaton and we’ve gone to be to live with the Lord. My main drive really now is to go through that section of a Bavincks writings And to think about how creation is going to be re renewed. 

Obviously, it doesn’t directly say that Leo is going to be in heaven but if the whole world is regenerated.

Anyhow, the main thrust now is going to be to go through that section, and you might find you don’t have to read the whole section, but I just need to dig deep into what he actually says. 

I’m going to look at the verses a lot more closely than usual. The reason I’m going to look a lot more closely is because I want an answer to my question. Is Leo going to be with us in the resurrection? 

And that that to me is an important question. And I think that there are lots of people who’ve been thinking about other pets going to heaven. I have to say that the church doesn’t want to give any sort of answer to that sort of question for me it’s a very, very important question. 

My pet rabbit or our pet rabbit has brought me to the conclusion that animals have got lots of love and empathy and they’ve got a lot of feeling power. They have soft logic, but they also show filial love and devotion to their masters (good masters). 

Humans have hard logic. That’s why in a sense that we were created the image of God. The reason why this world ended up in a mess is because of the fall because of sin; Because we’re selfish, we put ourselves first, but it was never meant to be that way. 

Leo and the New Creation

In the end of time what will happen to this world and all the creature in it?

There are two extreme views:

  • The world will carry on the way it has forever
  • The world will be completely destroyed and replaced by a new one.

Scripture rejects both these views and is somewhere in the middle. 

  • The first view builds on the work of Aristotle into the present age.
  • The second view presumes that there is nothing worth salvaging in this world.

Both these conclusions are wrong, and we need to follow through what Scripture says.  The argumentation that I will be using is found in the Reformed Dogmatics volume 4 written by Herman Bavinck.

At the Eschaton of the Day of Judgement, Scripture is very graphic and there will be perishing but not complete dissolution of the elements.  This second part we will touch on later but not yet. Let us consider some verses:

20 To hear the groaning of the prisoner,

To set free those who were doomed to death, Psalms 102:20

4 And all the host of heaven will wear away,

And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll;

All their hosts will also wither away

As a leaf withers from the vine,

Or as one withers from the fig tree. Isaiah 34:4

6 “Lift up your eyes to the sky,

Then look to the earth beneath;

For the sky will vanish like smoke,

And the earth will wear out like a garment

And its inhabitants will die in like manner;

But My salvation will be forever,

And My righteousness will not wane.

7 “Listen to Me, you who know righteousness,

A people in whose heart is My law;

Do not fear the reproach of man,

Nor be dismayed at their revilings.

8 “For the moth will eat them like a garment,

And the grub will eat them like wool.

But My righteousness will be forever,

And My salvation to all generations.”

9 Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD;

Awake as in the days of old, the generations of long ago.

Was it not You who cut Rahab in pieces,

Who pierced the dragon?

10 Was it not You who dried up the sea,

The waters of the great deep;

Who made the depths of the sea a pathway

For the redeemed to cross over?

11 So the ransomed of the LORD will return

And come with joyful shouting to Zion,

And everlasting joy will be on their heads.

They will obtain gladness and joy,

And sorrow and sighing will flee away.

12 “I, even I, am He who comforts you.

Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies

And of the son of man who is made like grass,

13 That you have forgotten the LORD your Maker,

Who stretched out the heavens

And laid the foundations of the earth,

That you fear continually all day long because of the fury of the oppressor,

As he makes ready to destroy?

But where is the fury of the oppressor?

14 The exile will soon be set free, and will not die in the dungeon, nor will his bread be lacking. 15 For I am the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea and its waves roar (the LORD of hosts is His name). 16 I have put My words in your mouth and have covered you with the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’” Isaiah 51:6-16

17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;

And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.

18 “But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;

For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing

And her people for gladness.

19 “I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people;

And there will no longer be heard in her

The voice of weeping and the sound of crying.

20 “No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days,

Or an old man who does not live out his days;

For the youth will die at the age of one hundred

And the one who does not reach the age of one hundred

Will be thought accursed.

21 “They will build houses and inhabit them;

They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

22 “They will not build and another inhabit,

They will not plant and another eat;

For as the lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of My people,

And My chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands.

23 “They will not labor in vain,

Or bear children for calamity;

For they are the offspring of those blessed by the LORD,

And their descendants with them.

24 It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,” says the LORD. Isaiah 65:17-25

22 “For just as the new heavens and the new earth

Which I make will endure before Me,” declares the LORD,

“So your offspring and your name will endure.

23 “And it shall be from new moon to new moon

And from sabbath to sabbath,

All mankind will come to bow down before Me,” says the LORD.

24 “Then they will go forth and look

On the corpses of the men

Who have transgressed against Me.

For their worm will not die

And their fire will not be quenched;

And they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.” Isaiah 66:22-24

Bavinck makes the point that ‘abad’ (to perish) when used on its own never means an absolute destruction of the substance of the world.  Indeed, when it comes to the judgement of God Hell does not only mean being separated from their creator but that they will live with this ‘ever conscious torment’.  The soul and spirit are not destroyed. 

He then looks at the word ‘create’ (bara).  He makes the point that it does not always mean ‘God creating from nothing’ (ex nihilo).   Bavinck then gives us a set of single verses:

17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;

And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind. Isaiah 65:17

20 You have seen many things, but you do not observe them;

Your ears are open, but none hears. Isaiah 42:20

7 Everyone who is called by My name,

And whom I have created for My glory,

Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” Isaiah 43:7

16 “Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals

And brings out a weapon for its work;

And I have created the destroyer to ruin. Isaiah 54:16

18 “I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;

I will lead him and restore comfort to him and to his mourners,

19 Creating the praise of the lips.

Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,” Isaiah 57:18-19

Activity for the above verses

Perhaps you should find every reference ‘to create’ in the above verses and see how they are used.  In the verb ‘create’ one can see ‘create’ is used in other contexts that do not have ex nihilo (out of nothing) as the driver of the verb.

Reflection

I find it interesting that he chose the Hebrew verbs ‘to create’ and ‘to perish’.

We found out that God does not always create out of nothing.

We also found out that when God Judges and works in the affairs of humans it never means the complete annihilation of substance but rather ‘purification’.

The master Theologian continues to explain that even when the world of Noah was destroyed by water, it was the corruption in the world.  In the same way when we look at the destruction of the world by fire it is a purification, and we are created new, but we haven’t lost our soul, but it has been transformed through a resurrection body.  Corruption needs to put on incorruption.  We as the human race needed to be purified first and through repentance and faith we are continually being purified by the Holy Spirit. 

According to Bavinck ‘the physical world’ will also be born again ‘regenerated’.  Through the death and resurrection of Christ in the end even the physical theatre in which we live in will be born again.

So, Bavinck wrote:

“For that reason, it also frequently alternates with planting, laying the foundations of, and making (Isa. 51:16; 66:22). The Lord can say (Isa. 51:16) that he begins the new creation by putting his word in Israel’s mouth and hiding them in the shadow of his hand.

In the same way, the New Testament proclaims that heaven and earth will pass away (Matt. 5:18; 24:35; 2 Pet. 3:10; 1 John 2:17; Rev. 21:1), that they will perish and wear out like clothing (Heb. 1:11), dissolve (2 Pet. 3:10), be burned with tire (3:10), and be changed (Heb. 1:12). But none of these expressions implies a destruction of substance. Peter, for example, expressly teaches that the old earth, which originated as a result of the separation of waters, was deluged with water and so perished (2 Pet. 3:6), and that the present world would also perish, not-thanks to the divine promise—by water but by fire. Accordingly, with reference to the passing of the present world, we must no more think of a destruction of substance than (we would) with regard to the passing of the earlier world in the food. Fire burns, cleanses, purifies, but does not destroy. The contrast in 1 John 2:17 (“the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever”) teaches us that the first statement does not imply a destruction of the substance of the world but a vanishing of the world in its present, sin-damaged form. Paul, accordingly, also states very clearly that the present form (to oxnua, to schema) of this world passes away (1 Cor. 7:31). Only such a renewal of the world, for that matter, accords with what Scripture teaches about redemption. For the latter is never a second, brand-new creation but a re-creation of the existing world. God’s honour consists precisely in the fact that he redeems and renews the same humanity, the same world, the same heaven, and the same earth that have been corrupted and polluted by sin. Just as anyone in Christ is a new creation in whom the old has passed away and everything has become new (2 Cor. 5:17), so also this world passes away in its present form as well, in order out of its womb, at God’s word of power, to give birth and being to a new world. Just as in the case of an individual human being, so at the end of time a rebirth of the world will take place as well (Matt. 19:28). This constitutes a spiritual renewal, not a physical creation.”  (From Reformed Dogmatics; Herman Bavinck; page 717; Translated by John Vriend; edited by John Bolt.)

In Christ God became a man and he died for us so that we might live.  This was a physical death, but he also had a physical resurrection.  When Jesus returns, it is a physical return.  Our election proceeds from the ‘the first born of the elect’.  Our election is ‘in Christ’ as Ephesians puts it.  As Karl Barth would put it ‘the Judge (God) was judged (God was judged) in our place’.  It so follows that Jesus is the true ‘image of God’.

The great reversal is taking place in human history.  When God created the earth, it was perfect.  Sin came into the world through the agency of Adam and Eve. However, God being rich in mercy and loving his ‘own creation’ came into this world to make things right.  Humans can be born again “regenerated” but in the end creation itself will also be purified and made perfect again. 

My own opinion

When God had created nature which included plants, animals, and humans he said that ‘it was good’.  This to me is a baseline for salvation.  God didn’t say that creation was bad, no he said it was good.  Recently our pet rabbit died and yes, I believe he has a soul:

“Every living thing has a soul, but humanity is special because God breathed into Him

10 In whose hand is the life of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind? “Job 12:10

Animals can show filial devotion to their masters.  Archaeologists all over the world have found animals buried with their masters throughout human history.  I know why that is.  The masters and their pets had a true bond of love and affection.

With these evidences, I believe I will see our pet rabbit again.  

Creation groans for the end times when it will be born again even as we as believers can be born again by the Father sending his son and the promise of the Holy Spirit.

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}

Easter Special

April 13, 2022

These events happened before the destruction of the second Temple by the Romans.  Up to this point, Jesus had been preaching for about three years.  Jesus’ popularity grew over this time and there were many who were jealous of this.  This would be the last time that Jesus would visit Jerusalem.  The next time will be at his Second coming.  These narratives found at the end of the Gospels are referred to as the Passion narratives.  They are central to the Christian message. 

By reading the Apostolic Writings of the New Testament in general they all point to these events. 

Before Jesus was actually captured, he told his disciple that he would be crucified:

“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.” Matthew 26:2”

It doesn’t surprise me that a lot of the leaders wanted Jesus dead because he revealed the religious corruption that was going on.  Under Roman occupation these corrupt leaders could make a large profit.  However, if there were riots this could alter their game plan:

5 But they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people.” Matthew 26:5

Jesus had now reached Bethany about six days before the Passover.  He visited the house of Simon the Leper.  If Simon was a leper then according to purity rules Jesus ought not to have been there and then on top of that a woman comes in and anoints Jesus with very expensive perfume.   She anointed Jesus head with oil.  Jesus took this as a sign for his burial whilst the disciple were more interested in the cost of the perfume:

10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me. Matthew 26:10

Jesus corrects the disciples’ assumptions:

12 For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. Matthew 26:12

Judas on the other hand was a thief and his devotion to Jesus was not genuine although later on he commits suicide:

14 Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. 16 From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus. Matthew 26:14-16

The seed for Jesus’ crucifixion had been set.  Jesus and his disciples are now to celebrate the Passover for the very last time until Jesus returns.

The original Passover is about God saving the Israelites from Egypt and bringing them to a land of milk and honey.  The Passover lamb’s blood in the original story was put on to the door of every Israelite house.  When the angel of death came to such a house, He would Passover that house and they would not be affected with the death of their firstborn sons.  This was not the case for the Egyptians who lost many first-born sons up to Pharoah himself (His son).

For Christians this Passover would take on meaning.  The original Passover lamb saved the Israelites from the death of their firstborn sons.   For Christians Jesus is the ‘Lamb of God’ (Passover lamb).  Jesus’ death means that the second death of eternal judgement would Passover us and not affect us in any way.  So, it should not surprise you that Passover and Easter are in some way forever linked.  This Last Passover meal is a new covenant in Jesus’ blood. 

God has made various covenants with his people along the way but in a way this covenant is the seal of the covenants.

•          The covenant with Noah

•          The Covenant with Abraham

•          The covenant of Moses

•          The covenant with David

•          The seal of the covenants, Jesus’ death and resurrection

As we already said this covenant was instituted at the last Supper:

“The Last Passover

20 Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples. 21 As they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.” 22 Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23 And He answered, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me. 24 The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” 25 And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” Jesus *said to him, “You have said it yourself.”

The Lord’s Supper Instituted

26 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

30 After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

31 Then Jesus *said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BE SCATTERED.’ 32 But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” 33 But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 35 Peter *said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too. Matthew 26:20-35”

You will find this in all mainline churches at Holy Communion.   Christianity is a religion of remembering, when we look back to what our Lord did for us.  Jesus died at the cross that we might have eternal life.  Jesus told us to remember him through the act of drinking wine and breaking bread. 

Different denominations have various takes on this, but I don’t want to get bogged down with the details.  For myself I believe that Jesus is present through the work of the Holy Spirit.  It is about our union with Christ. 

I found this on the internet:

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

Various churches place emphases on what this union is.  The following has been taken from the above wiki page:

Roman Catholic

Traditional Roman Catholic theology centres the union with Christ in a substantial sense on the unity of the institutional church, past and present. “The communion of saints is the spiritual solidarity which binds together the faithful on earth, the souls in purgatory, and the saints in heaven in the organic unity of the same mystical body under Christ its head.”[7] Christians, according to Roman Catholic theology, are united to Christ through the sacraments.[8]

Medieval conceptions of union with Christ were influenced in large part by mysticism, such as in the preaching of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. St. Bernard applied the concept of bridal love in the Hebrew Bible’s Song of Songs to a “mystical union” with Christ, wherein Jesus was bridegroom & the worshipper/church (humanity) was His bride. In this conception, Jesus’ love for humanity was manifested in his sacrifice on the cross, something that was reenacted everyday in the Eucharist. In medieval mystical union theology, the sacrament of the Eucharist was the foremost conduit with which humanity found union with Christ.

Reformed

In Reformed theology, union with Christ is understood to be a comprehensive category that runs through the entire doctrine of Salvation.  John Murray observes: “Union with Christ is a very inclusive subject. It embraces the wide span of salvation from the ultimate source in the eternal election of God to its final fruition in the glorification of the elect.”

Sinclair Ferguson distinguishes six categories of union with Christ. Union with Christ is federal or covenantal in the sense that Christ’s obedience is accounted to believers. It is carnal or fleshly in the sense that Christ became incarnate and thus became one with humanity. Union with Christ is also a faith union in which by faith Christians depend on Christ for nourishment. It is a spiritual union because Christians are united to Christ by the agency of the Holy Spirit. It is an extensive union in that Christians are united with Christ in everything he has done, including his life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and session. It is finally a union of life because Christ lives in Christians, and he is visible in their lives.

As a step in the order of salvation, union with Christ was seen by John Calvin to be the basis for both justification and sanctification. Alister McGrath notes that while Martin Bucer suggested that justification causes (moral) regeneration, Calvin argued that “both justification and regeneration are the results of the believer’s union with Christ through faith.”

Evangelical

Some Evangelicals see union with Christ as a discrete stage in the “order of salvation.”[13] The evangelical theologian William Shedd comments “The impartation of Christ’s righteousness presupposes a union with him.”[14] Robert Dabney, while avoiding deification, said that the bond of the union is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.[15]

Eastern Orthodox

Eastern Orthodox theology emphasizes the incarnation as the starting point for our union with Christ.  “In Christ God becomes one with us in order to make us one with him; he stooped to take our nature, in order that we might be restored to become partakers of his nature.””

The Wiki continues and speaks about the Scriptural basis for Union with Christ:

“12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. 20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:12-21”

In these Scriptures we have the rationale why God had become man.   Paul’s writings became a bulwark against the gnostic heresies of the early centuries. Having said that there are many who would deny the humanity of Jesus.

It is interesting what Irenaeus says in his Against Heresies:

“7. Therefore, as I have already said, He caused man (human nature) to cleave to and to become, one with God. For unless man had overcome the enemy of man, the enemy would not have been legitimately vanquished. And again: unless it had been God who had freely given salvation, we could never have possessed it securely. And unless man had been joined to God, he could never have become a partaker of incorruptibility. For it was incumbent upon the Mediator between God and men, by His relationship to both, to bring both to friendship and concord, and present man to God, while He revealed God to man. For, in what way could we be partaken of the adoption of sons, unless we had received from Him through the Son that fellowship which refers to Himself, unless His Word, having been made flesh, had entered into communion with us? Wherefore also He passed through every stage of life, restoring to all communion with God. Those, therefore, who assert that He appeared putatively, and was neither born in the flesh nor truly made man, are as yet under the old condemnation, holding out patronage to sin; for, by their showing, death has not been vanquished, which “reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression.” Romans 5:14 But the law coming, which was given by Moses, and testifying of sin that it is a sinner, did truly take away his (death’s) kingdom, showing that he was no king, but a robber; and it revealed him as a murderer. It laid, however, a weighty burden upon man, who had sin in himself, showing that he was liable to death. For as the law was spiritual, it merely made sin to stand out in relief, but did not destroy it. For sin had no dominion over the spirit, but over man. For it behoved Him who was to destroy sin, and redeem man under the power of death, that He should Himself be made that very same thing which he was, that is, man; who had been drawn by sin into bondage, but was held by death, so that sin should be destroyed by man, and man should go forth from death. For as by the disobedience of the one man who was originally moulded from virgin soil, the many were made sinners, Romans 5:19 and forfeited life; so was it necessary that, by the obedience of one man, who was originally born from a virgin, many should be justified and receive salvation. Thus, then, was the Word of God made man, as also Moses says: “God, true are His works.” Deuteronomy 32:4 But if, not having been made flesh, He did appear as if flesh, His work was not a true one. But what He did appear, that He also was: God recapitulated in Himself the ancient formation of man, that He might kill sin, deprive death of its power, and vivify man; and therefore, His works are true.” From AH 3.18:7

Reflection

So, then my friends at this time of Easter let us share the love of Christ to all.  Jesus died so that we might live.  Jesus died so that we could be brought back into a right relationship with God. The Last Supper is seriously important to all Christians.  No matter what denomination one belongs to Easter is very important and the climax is the last Supper with the thanksgiving meal (Eucharist= thanksgiving).

Unfortunately, sometimes because of the disputations instead of love there is hate…

The Eucharist has been interpreted in different ways.  For Protestants transubstantiation is a problem. The original Aristotelian logic made a differentiation between substance and accident.  So, for Protestants to actually say that the eucharist turns into the actual body and blood of Christ is anathema. Having said that even though I don’t agree I have to say that it probably developed this way as a refutation of Gnosticism which denied that Jesus was a real man. 

As Christians we ought to focus on loving God and our neighbour especially the invisible Church.  It is by faith in Christ by the Holy Spirit that we have access to our Father in heaven. 

The Bible teaches that we stand by the gift of Faith.  I don’t actually think that God cares about what denomination a person belongs to.  God sees the person He created who is living the life of faith.

Anyhow originally the Church may have met in synagogues that accepted the Apostolic teaching and, or, or both in people’s homes.  It was free flow and while the Apostles were alive, the Apostles were ‘The New Testament’.  When the Apostles died off the Christians who were left realized how important their writings were and put it together as what we now call the ‘New Testament’.  We also need to remember that the Holy Spirit has never left the Church; The Holy Spirit is our Comforter and teacher who points us to Christ and to our eternal home in heaven.

So, we have covered:

  • some passages from the Gospels surrounding Easter
  • The importance of the union with Christ
  • Christian theology in various denominations around the Eucharist
  • Irenaeus and his theology of recapitulation by his own words
  • The importance of empathy for other views on the Eucharist taking the historical contexts into account.

As well as loving those who are our brothers in Christ, the love of God should go out to the whole world.  As a Religious Educator I noticed that Passover, Easter and Ramadan actually converge this year:

Easter Sunday,17 April 2022

Pesach Friday, 15 April 2022

Ramadan Friday, 1 April and ends in the evening of Sunday, 1 May 2022

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