The Meaning of Life

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1:1-4).’

World View?

Professor Brian Cox has presented shows around the world with the aim of explaining to large audiences what is the current understanding about the origin and evolution of our solar system and the universe. The title of his shows is ‘Universal: Adventures in Space and Time’, and the advertising blurb says that Brian and his fellow podcaster, Robin Ince, offer ‘a fascinating insight into the workings of nature at the most fundamental level.’

Selina Altamonte says in an article at *Honeycombers that at an interview with Brian before the start of his Singapore show he was asked the question, “As a scientist, where do you find the sublime?”

He replied: “That’s the foundation of this show, actually. It may be an exaggeration, but I think the only interesting question is, ‘What does it mean to live a small, fragile and finite life in an infinite universe?’ What the show does is give an insight into the size and scale of the universe – and how physically insignificant we are in that universe. But also, I argue that as an intelligent civilisation, we may be quite rare in the universe – and therefore valuable.”

He went on to share a quote of the physicist Richard Feynman,What, then, is the meaning of it all? What can we say to dispel the mystery of existence? If we take everything into account, not only what the ancients knew, but all of what we know today that they didn’t know, then I think that we must frankly admit that we do not know. But, in admitting this, we have probably found the open channel.”

With regard to, “What is the meaning of it all?” he said, “But I argue that meaning exists because we exist. I don’t think there’s any such thing as ‘global meaning’ – I think that meaning is local and emergent and temporary. But, let’s say that in the Milky Way Galaxy, Earth is the only planet with a civilisation on it – which is quite possible. I’d argue that from a biological perspective, that means that this planet is the only place where meaning exists in the Milky Way. And that, for me, is sublime.”

At the end of the interview he comes to the conclusion, “Earth – is extremely rare. If, as I think, that meaning is an emergent prophecy, the universe means nothing without life. And there might be very few places where there’s complex life, and therefore very few places where meaning exists. This is one of them.”

Biblical View?

When you see the universe through the lenses of a telescope you observe the glorious creation of God. You see elements of His glory. The Psalmist states, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world (Psalm 19:1-4).’

This is sublime meaning. God created His universe to reveal Himself to mankind. This Psalm continues, ‘The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple (V. 7).’

John the Apostle points to the life-giving Creator, saying, ‘“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life (1 John 5:11, 12).”’

Brian asked the question, “What does it mean to live a small, fragile and finite life in an infinite universe?”

From the believer’s understanding, if there is no God and no eternal life, there is no real meaning to our present existence. The smallness and the fragility of life has its purpose; for we are made aware of the vastness of God, and of His eternal nature. We are given a glimpse of His kingdom yet come (Revelation 21:1, 2), and He has sealed us with the Holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13) – He who bears witness of our sure hope of eternal life with Him (Hebrews 6:19, 20).

Brian observed, “We may be quite rare in the universe – and therefore valuable.”

Biblically, the earth is singular, and it is unique. God made it (John 1:1-5), and He will sustain it for as long as He has predestined it to exist (Cf. 2 Peter 3:10). We are indeed, valuable; for God values us (Cf. 1 Peter 2:4) to the extent that He sent His Son to die on the cross (Romans 5:8) for those whom He loves. He rose from the dead so that we [believers], like Him shall rise from death to eternal life (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

Brian asked, What can we say to dispel the mystery of existence?” He replied: I think that we must frankly admit that we do not know.”

Life for him is a mystery, because it has not been revealed (Colossians 1:26) to him that God is real. God is Spirit (John 4:24), **all-knowing, all-powerful, and He exists everywhere. For those who know these truths, there is no mystery, because for them the Light (John 8:12) shines in the darkness. The One who made the universe (John 1:1-5) has been manifested (Ephesians 5:13, 14).He is the Son of God who came to earth to reveal the mystery of existence. Therefore there is now no mystery for those who believe. Christ has come, He has risen and He will return from heaven for His elect (Matthew 16:27).

‘Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began but now has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith – to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen (Romans 16:23-27).’

*Honeycombers

https://thehoneycombers.com/singapore/about-us/

**The Omniscience, Omnipotence and Omnipresence of God

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2018/04/14/the-omniscience-omnipotence-and-omnipresence-of-god/

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Church Ministries

Ephesians 4:11, 12, 15, 16: ‘And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for equipping the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ ….. that …..speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.’

Every member of a church has a ministry in addition to proclaiming the gospel. God equips the people of His church with the *gifts and skills that are required for the building up of the body in love (V. 16), but what is sometimes overlooked is the defined roles of certain members. Take for example, the passage above where five separate ministries are identified. Each of them have distinctive job titles; there are: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.

Apostles

An Apostle [ap-os’-tol-os] is one who is sent out from the church as a delegate to meet people. He is a representative of the Church as well as being a commissioner of Christ. He’s very much like an ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20). Christ sent His disciples to preach repentance, heal the sick and to cast out demons (Mark 3:14, 15; 6:10-12).

Prophets

A New Testament Prophet [prof-ay’-tace] is one who speaks openly proclaiming divine messages. Agabus was one such prophet (Acts 21:10). He prophesied of the time when Paul the Apostle would be bound in chains at Jerusalem (V. 11; 21:33). Judas and Silas were also prophets (Acts 15:32-34). If a prophet spoke at a meeting, others were to judge what he said (1 Corinthians 14: 29-33), but women were to remain silent (V. 34), and if they wanted to learn something, they were to ask their husbands at home (V. 35).

Evangelists

Evangelists [yoo-ang-ghel-is-tace’] are preachers of the Gospel. One such person was Philip who lived in Caesarea. He had four daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:8, 9). Jesus is the One who commissions them (Ephesians 4:11). Paul told Timothy he was to do the work of an evangelist to fulfil his ministry (2 Timothy 4:5). Basically, an evangelist is one who proclaims glad tidings and the good news of the gospel (Isaiah 52:7).

Pastors

Figuratively Pastors [poy-mane’] are shepherds, whose job it is to tend their sheep. The risen Jesus commissioned Peter to be His shepherd with instructions to feed His lambs, and to tend and feed His sheep (John 21:15-17). That is the way in which a pastor fulfils his calling. He should be caring and vigilant. In the New King James Bible, the actual word ‘pastor’ occurs only once, and it ranks fourth in a list of five offices/appointments (Ephesians 4:11).

Teachers

Teachers [did-as’-kal-os] are the last-mentioned of the five callings that are listed in Ephesians 4:11. Their function is to provide instruction. Literally, they are instructors. Although placed last by Paul, that does not necessarily mean they are the least important; for Jesus Himself was the greatest of teachers (Matthew 4:23; 23:8; John 3:2). James warns teachers of the consequences of getting their teaching wrong. He tells them: ‘My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that you will receive a stricter judgment (James 3:1).’

Deacons/Ministers

Another ‘office’ of the church is that of Deacon [dee-ak’-on-os] or Minister. He’s the equivalent of an attendant, waiter or servant. Timothy says of him: ‘Likewise, deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience, But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. …. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife (1 Timothy 3:8-10, 12).’ It’s not a trivial job, but a position for the truly humble who can have the privilege of serving the church in the likeness of Jesus (Matthew 20:28; John 13:14, 15). [Note: In the New Testament Deacons and Ministers are identical; they are one and the same.]

Conclusion

1 Corinthians 12:28 sets out what would appear to be an order of priority with three of the ministries we have been considering in Chapter 4 of Ephesians. Here’s the Corinthian text: ‘And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, and after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.’

So Paul may have had it in mind that some ministries are more important than others, but one thing is obvious, there are six identifiable ministries; each of them with their own job titles. They are not necessarily hard-cut and fixed, because there may be blurring at the edges between ministries; for example, a teacher of the Word by the very nature of his calling is one who serves.

In many of today’s churches Pastors are expected to be jacks of all trades, and doers of them all! This is an unfair burden, and members of a church where this is the case would do well to look to the Lord and ask Him if they can help in any way.

As stated at the beginning, ‘Every member of a church has a ministry in addition to proclaiming the gospel. God equips the people of His church with the *gifts and skills that are required for the building up of the body in love (Ephesians 4:16).’

*Gifts from God

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2019/10/21/gifts-from-god/

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To Whom Shall We Pray?

‘And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call upon the name of the LORD (Genesis 4:26).’

While participating with my friends on Twitter, someone asked the question, “To whom does a Christian pray?” It seems pretty obvious it is to God, but there was some confusion. They were asking if one should pray directly to God the Father or to Jesus His Son or to the Holy Spirit. Some said you never pray to the Spirit, but always to the Father, through or by the Spirit. Others said you pray to Jesus who is the Advocate who presents your prayers and petitions to the Father. He is the One who makes them acceptable to His Father, and pleads to Him on your behalf. You pray in His name for His name’s sake (Psalm 23:3; 1 John 2:12), and ultimately every prayer is said *to the glory of God.

If we examine prayers that have been said by the saints of the Old and the New Testaments we should come up with a positive answer to the question, “To whom does a Christian pray?”

Prayers in the Old Testament

In the Old Testament the first instance of the mention of prayer is in Genesis 4:26, which says, ‘ …. men began to call upon the name of the LORD. This is Jehovah, the self-existent, eternal God; the God to whom Moses prayed these words: ‘“LORD why does Your wrath burn against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand (Exodus 32:11)?”’ It’s straightforward; he prayed to the LORD who is Jehovah, the self-existent eternal God.

Daniel prayed in Aramaic to the same God who was the God of his fathers. He said,“I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers; You have given me wisdom and might, And have now made known to me what we asked of You, For you have made known to us the king’s demand (Daniel 2:23).”’  He prayed this prayer to the Almighty God, his ‘elahh.

In Old Testament times God gave the Holy Spirit on a temporary basis to certain individuals to enable them to carry out special tasks. He would anoint them with the Holy Spirit (Cf. Samuel 16:14) for their empowerment. King Saul was one such person, and he prophesied as a result (1 Samuel:10:6, 11), but there is no record or him praying ‘in the Spirit (Cf. Ephesians 6:18)’; Jude 1:20). He did, however, pray to God, enquiring of Him, “Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will You deliver them into the hands of Israel?” ……. (1 Samuel 14:37).’

Many other Old Testament characters such as Moses and Aaron prayed to the LORD. One of the more famous prayers is that of King Solomon, when he stood before the altar of the LORD at the dedication of the temple. He said: “LORD God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts (1 Kings 8:23).” This long prayer of praise and supplication continues until verse 53 where Solomon concludes by asking His LORD to listen to his prayer because it was for His people whom He had brought out of Egypt, according to the promise He made to Moses.

Prayers in the New Testament

When instructing the Disciples as to how to pray, Jesus told them to pray to His Father, just as He did (Luke 22:42; 23:34; John 17:1). He said,“In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come (Matthew 6:9, f.f.).”’

A revealing insight into New Testament prayer can be found in 1 Corinthians 14:15, where Paul instructs the church that it is more profitable to pray with the spirit and with understanding, than with a **tongue which cannot be understood, unless there is an interpreter. He notes that speaking in a tongue is a spiritual gift (V.V. 1, 2). The one praying normally prays, ’with the spirit,’ and, ‘with the understanding.’ Spirit’ with a small ’s’, as in this instance, means a person’s ‘rational soul’ – not the Holy Spirit. Praying with ‘the understanding’ means ‘with the intellect.’ So the one praying to God (V. 2) speaks intelligibly as he normally does. In this way he can be understood by those who have gathered with him in prayer, thus enabling them to add their ‘amens’ if they so wish.

Interestingly, Stephen when he was being stoned to death, prayed to ‘Lord Jesus’, i.e., his Master Jesus. Here are his words: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep (Acts 7:59, 60).’

Paul also prayed to the Lord. He explained to the Corinthians, ‘Concerning this thing [a thorn in the flesh] I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:8, 9).”

Paul wrote to the Ephesian church advocating they should pray ‘in the Spirit’ with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18).’ Unlike the Corinthian passage mentioned above (1 Corinthians 14:15), where Paul spoke of praying ‘with the spirit’, in this instance the praying is under the influence of the Holy Spirit, i.e., the words are given to the speaker from the Spirit. The one praying ‘breathes’ them out. This is Holy Spirit generated prayer from one who has received the Spirit (Cf. John 20:22).

Paul and Silas prayed directly to God, as recorded in Acts 16:25: ‘But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.’ This is a demonstration of Spirit generated prayer. It was done in faith (Mark 11:23, 24; James 1:6) and God acted accordingly.

Conclusion

God hears our prayers (1 John 5:14), and in post-Pentecostal times, we Christians have the Holy Spirit who indwells us (1 Corinthians 6:19); therefore we can pray ‘in the Spirit’ or ‘with our spirit’. And we are free to pray directly to our Father, just as Jesus has taught us. Because we have a personal ***relationship with our Lord, we can also pray directly to Him (Cf. 2 Corinthians 12:8).

The Holy Spirit gives life to those who are spiritually dead (John 3:3-8). He empowers (Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 2:4) and He leads (Romans 8:14). He also sends (Acts 13:4), but I cannot find an instance in the Bible where ii is mentioned that He he has been prayed to. He lives within us and He is our Helper (John 16:7) who helps us pray.

Paul exhorts us to: ‘take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints- (Ephesians 6:18).’

Please take note that ‘The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16b).’

*Do All to the Glory of God

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2018/01/05/do-all-to-the-glory-of-god/

**Speaking Tongues

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2019/05/20/speaking-tongues/

***God/Man Relationships

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2017/11/17/relationships/

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The Law of Christ

‘For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).’

 ‘This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you (John 15:12).’

‘You are My friends if you do whatever I command you (V. 14).’

Didn’t Christ come to set us free from the fetters of the law?

The Law of Sin and Death

Indeed, Jesus did come to set us free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2) and to bring us into His kingdom (Matthew 6:33) of everlasting life (John 3:36) and love. In the ultimate kingdom (Revelation  21:1) will there be a need for any law?

Out of the nations, God chose the Jews to be His very own; a special people (Deuteronomy 7:6) precious unto Himself. He gave them His law (Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5, 6), and if they obeyed it to the letter and from the heart, He would take them from slavery in Egypt to a land of plenty which would be their very own (Exodus 3:8). They would live there in peace and plenty (Ezekiel 34:25-30). But, as we know, they utterly failed to keep His law (Jeremiah 9:13-16). They were a faithless, unbelieving nation, and as a result they suffered badly. They were torn from the land God gave them, and they were forcibly taken to other lands (2 Kings 17:5-23; 18:11; Jeremiah 39:9).

Despite their disobedience to God’s law, He had mercy on them (1 Kings 8:23; 2 Chronicle 6:14), and for the sake of His name (Isaiah 48:9-11) and promise, He gave them a time of peace (1 Kings 5:12) and prosperity (2 Chronicles 9:13-22) in the land during the reign of Solomon. He was appointed by God, and God gave him wisdom (1 Kings 3:11-13), but he disobeyed Him and took to himself many wives and concubines. They led him astray to the extent that he worshipped their gods (1 Kings 11:4-11).

Towards the end of his life, Solomon wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes in which he truthfully revealed his understanding of life. He concluded that man should, ‘Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether it is good or whether it is evil (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14; Cf. Deuteronomy 10:12).’

The truth of this is beyond question (2 Peter 1:19-21), but if we consider the matter further, how does it fit with the teachings of Christ? Well, we must understand that He fulfilled His Father’s law precisely and perfectly. He was without sin, and never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). He came to fulfil the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17), and that is what He did. Why? Because He came to call a new nation out of a metaphorical Egypt, i.e., the world (John 3:16), and to take them into a land of peace and plenty (Matthew 19:29; John 10:10).

The Law of Righteousness and Life (The Law of Christ)

As God chose the Jews (Deuteronomy 10:15), from whom came the Christ (Hebrews 7:14), so He also chose a new people who would be precious unto Himself (1 Peter 2:9, 10). Jesus would draw this people to Himself (John 12:32). They would be taken from a land of darkness and evil, and they would be transported to a land of light and love (Colossians 1:13). God chose to do this because He loved the world (John 3:16).

This brings us to a point where the law of Christ was established at the cross. Jesus said, “It is finished (John 19:30).” He had done everything necessary to bring it about. – a new law for a new people. In a nutshell, Christ established His law (Hebrews 7:12) of love. God Himself is love (1 John 4:8) and He sent His Son (V. 9; Galatians 4:4) to reveal to the world the nature of His love. He came in Person to take us [believers] to a new land (John 13:36) of peace and of love where we shall dwell with Him forever (John 14:3).

However, there are some who claim they are Christians, and yet they try to live their lives by obeying God’s Old Testament law [the law of Moses (Deuteronomy 31:24-26; Ezra 7:6)], instead of living by faith in His Son (Romans 1:17; Galatians 2:16) and in obedience to the law of His Son (Revelation 22:14).

All true Christians endeavour to obey the law of Christ, by loving Him and loving one another (John 13:34, 35). It’s as simple as that, but it is only possible for those who have been born of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8; 1 Corinthians 2:14). In bearing the burdens of others they obey the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). It is not their obedience that brings their salvation, but their faith in Christ, which is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).

Christians fail (1 John 1:8), just as the Old Testament Jews failed, but God accepts Jesus’s sacrifice (Hebrews 7:27) on the cross as full payment for their sins. Jesus suffered (1 Peter 2:21) on their behalf (3:18) and set them free (Galatians 5:1) from everlasting torment in hell (Matthew 25:46), which is their just reward (Romans 1:32).

They are taken from fetters in a land of darkness and death (Cf. Job 10:21), and they are translated into a land of light (1 Peter 2:9, 10) and love, where they serve their Lord and God in perfect freedom (Galatians 5:13, 14). This is the land of Love [God] where the only law is love (Romans 13:8, 10).

We [believers] have the Land (Kingdom) in part now, but in full (1 Corinthians 13:12) when Jesus comes again for His own (Matthew 16:27; 25:31).

“Maranatha. Come Lord, come!”

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Gifts from God

Paul the Apostle was passionate about God’s gifts to His sons (Galatians 4:4, 5), and he often drew attentions to them in his epistles to various churches. His desire was for members of the churches to use their gifts for the building up of God’s body (1 Corinthians 14:12), for enabling them to preach the gospel of salvation (Cf. Matthew 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15) to those in darkness to bring them into the light (Cf. Acts 26:18).

In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul highlights various kinds of gifts that are given to members of the church. They are distributed to them by the Spirit (V.V. 9, 11). Out of all of the gifts Paul states that love is the greatest (1 Corinthians 13:13). He says, ‘And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing (13:3).’  At the end of Chapter 13 he tells them that they should abide in faith, hope and love, the greatest of which is love (V. 13).

Paul refers to these gifts as being ‘spiritual (12:1),’ and they are distributed by (V.4) or through (V. 8) the Holy Spirit. They are manifestations of the Spirit (V. 7), and they are ‘for the profit of all (V. 7).’ He identifies gifts of: ‘healings (V. 9), working of miracles, prophecy, discerning spirits, different kinds of tongues’ and ‘the interpretation of tongues (V.V. 8-10).’ He also mentions: ‘gifts of …… helps, administrations,’ and he speaks again of ‘varieties of tongues (V.V. 28, 30).’  All of these gifts are given to members of the body ‘as He wills (V. 11).Members of the body (1 Corinthians 12:27) were to desire the ‘best’ gifts (V. 31).’ [Some translations replace ‘best’ with ‘greater’ or ‘higher.]

Paul told them that *speaking in tongues edified the speaker (1 Corinthians 14:4), but prophesying edified the church, and the one who prophesied was greater than the one who spoke with tongues, unless the speaker of tongues interpreted what was being spoken (V. 5). He explained that it was important for speakers to profit the church by speaking ‘revelation, knowledge, prophesying and teaching (V. 6).’

The great thing about these gifts is that they are for building up the church, which is then equipped (Ephesians 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:17) for preaching the gospel of salvation to the world. This is the church’s primary role – to carry out the great commission of the risen Jesus. He commanded His disciples thus: ‘“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19, 20).”’

Now for these gifts of the Spirit and of God to be exercised, the church must meet in ways conducive for practising them. The way most churches meet is not helpful. Normally the main meeting is on a Sunday, and the members usually sit in rows facing so-called leaders who address the assembly. There is no interplay between the ‘speakers’ and the ‘recipients’, and there is little input by the mainly, passive ‘audience’. The exceptions are when they sing hymns and songs, and when they add their “amens”  to prayers said by those doing the leading.

Sadly, the question that should be asked is, “Who is doing the leading?” Is it the Holy Spirit? Should not the Holy Spirit speak or express Himself through every member of the body? You might say, well, He does, because each person present is tuned into Him and speaks with Him silently in their hearts. They are therefore not passive, as one would assume by observation. Yes, to a certain extent this is true – if they are born of the Spirit (John 3:3). So perhaps it’s not as sad as one might suppose?

Nevertheless, there is room for much improvement in the churches. Perhaps they should consider offering more meetings of the type that was typical of the early church, i.e., in peoples’ homes? They met together for fellowship; quite often to eat meals and to give thanks for their salvation (Acts 2:42). At these gatherings, the members would be ‘filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in’ their hearts ‘to the Lord ….. submitting to one another in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:19-21).’

These were all-member participation meetings where the gifts of the Spirit were exercised by each according to the measure of their gifts. In this way the church was built up, and it was very effective in evangelising by preaching the gospel of the good new of Jesus Christ to the world (Acts 2:47).

Paul said the greatest gift was love (1 Corinthians 13:13), and he was absolutely right; for God is love (1 John 4:8), and He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16) to demonstrate His love (1 John 4:9, 10).

*Speaking Tongues

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2019/05/20/speaking-tongues/

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2-D and 3-D Representations of Our Lord Jesus Christ

‘Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen (1 John 5:21).’

When believers express viewpoints arrived at by studying the Scriptures they may not always align with the viewpoints of other believers, but at the same time they subscribe to the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. Therefore it is not uncommon for Christians to worship within denominations that are sympathetic to their own viewpoints.

So, if what I am about to present is different to how you view it, I ask you to bear with me (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13); for I do it in love, and in what I believe to be the truth. Love and truth are inextricably bound together (Ephesians 4:15), just as all believers are bound together in the love of Jesus. We are united in Him, and in His love for us (John 13:34, 35). Christ loves us, and we love Him.

Twitter Images

I’m a subscriber to Twitter where I delight in sharing with other Christians. We praise God, love Him and adore Him, but do we honour Him when we post pictorial images that are meant to represent His Son? The motivations behind our postings are noble, because we want to give Him the glory and honour (1 Timothy 1:17; 1 Peter 1:7).

From a biblical perspective, the second commandment states: ‘You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments (Exodus 20:4-6).’

There is no ambiguity to the commandment. We are not to make ‘any likeness of anything,’ and we are not to ‘bow down to them nor serve them.’ In the broadest sense, we are not to worship idols, and categorically we are not to make them!

Images Beyond Twitter

Sadly, many who say they are Christians blatantly disobey God’s commandment. In the buildings where they assemble for worshipping God they proudly exhibit paintings, mosaics, stained glass images and sculptures that are meant to represent biblical characters, even those purporting to portray a semblance of Jesus. Some will try to justify their disobedience to the commandment by claiming the artistic representations of God’s Son reveal characteristics of His earthly or heavenly nature.

Astonishingly, there are people who revere these images and pray to them, believing that they will be blessed or healed as a result. There are some who believe by kissing an image they will have a better chance of receiving God’s blessing! It is no wonder that the Apostle John ended his first epistle with these words: ‘Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen (1 John 5:21).’

The recipients of John’s epistle were not guilty of misrepresenting Jesus by making images of Him, but John wanted them to be aware of the wiles of ‘the wicked one (V. 19),’ who would have them worship idols. They were to keep themselves separated from the wicked one, and to remain in Jesus, who ‘is true (V. 20).’

Verbal Representations

Biblical verbal representations of Christ express truths of His nature. They do not portray His literal appearance in terms of height, colour of His skin, facial characteristics, stature etc.. Take for example, John the Apostle’s description of Christ in the first chapter of Revelation. In verse 12, John turns around to ‘see’ the voice that spoke to him. It was the voice of: ‘One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and His hair were like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; (V.V. 12-14) ….. ‘He had in His right hand seven stars, out of HIs mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength (V. 16).’

These are figurative, verbal descriptions of the *omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent Jesus who holds the churches in His hand (V. 20).

John’s words do not describe the physical appearance of the risen Jesus. Their purpose is to impart knowledge as to the ‘nature’ of the Son of God. On grasping and taking in this glorious knowledge, you may be moved to bow down before Him. God forbid that you would bow down before a manmade image of Him, and yet some bow before images of the virgin Mary! No knowledgeable, believing Christian would ever bow in reverence before images of the Lord Jesus Christ or of His mother. It would be idolatry.

My Appeal

So it is my appeal for all to take heed to the second Commandment and to obey it. On account of this commandment there should be no making of idols, nor should they be worshipped. To my mind there is no place for pictorial representations of Jesus on Twitter, or similar social media outlets. All such representations of Jesus are untrue.

Artists sometimes depict Him as if a glowing light emanates from Him, and they may adorn Him with a halo, but the Scriptures never describe Him as having these characteristics. The nearest inference to them can be found in the account of His transfiguration when He appeared to three of His disciples and, ‘His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light (Matthew 17:1, 2).’  [See also Mark 9:2-3 and Luke 9:28-31.] These verbal descriptions are totally true, but any artistic representations of them would be erroneous.

Question: Do we feed our children with untruthful images of our Lord, the sort that are often found in so-called children’s Bibles? Such images are false. They demean and diminish His glory.

Remember our Lord’s words, “For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve (Matthew 4:10b).’”’

*The Omniscience, Omnipotence and Omnipresence of God

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2018/04/14/the-omniscience-omnipotence-and-omnipresence-of-god/

Note

Recommended for reading: ‘Seeing Jesus’ The Case Against Pictures of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by Peter Barnes. It was published by The Banner of Truth Trust in 1990. ISBN 085151 580 0. Cost to buy at the time was 50p.

However, a version of this booklet can be purchased today from Amazon Co UK for £25.69, which is absolutely ridiculous!

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Letter to an Unbelieving Friend

Dear Friend,

Before you depart this life there is something essential you should know, and that is to know Jesus (1 John 5:20) – to know Him personally. If you know Him, trust Him and believe in Him, God will give you eternal life after death (5:11).

Jesus commands everyone to repent and to believe (Mark 1:15), and in return, those who obey Him will be granted a new and beautiful, pain-free life after death (Revelation 21:4). Jesus Himself rose from the dead (Romans 14:9) after suffering for the sins of those for whom He died (Hebrews 13:12). He lived a perfect and sinless life on behalf of all those who believe in Him. He died as a substitute to *atone for their sins and to satisfy the wrath (Romans 2:5) of His Father.

All without exception deserve to die (Romans 1:32) for their rebellion against God, just as Adam deserved to die for His disobedience to God. He ate of the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:6). Therefore all of his offspring, i.e., you and me, are tarred with his sinful nature (Romans 5:12). We naturally do things contrary to what God commands us. He commands us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30), and yet we naturally disobey Him, because we are in Adam. We are Adam’s offspring in the flesh. Therefore we all deserve death (Romans 1:32). We deserve to be estranged from God (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Furthermore, we deserve everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:46).

The natural response to this is to ask, “Why me?” And in protest you may claim, “I don’t deserve to die; I’m a good person.”

To justify yourself you might claim you have led a good life (Cf. Romans 3:12). You have hurt no one; you have not held a grudge against anyone. You have not told a lie. You have never stolen anything. You have never coveted anything. Besides, you have helped your neighbours; you have helped build your community, and you have done other magnanimous works, like caring for and loving your family.

The truth is, you are far from perfect, and if you are to live in God’s holy presence in His perfect kingdom, you must be perfect (Cf. James 3:2) and without sin (Romans 3:23). There is no way by your own efforts you are going to achieve the perfection of holiness which is required for being in the presence of God. You need to be made clean, and free of all sin.

The way of achieving this perfection is by believing and trusting in God’s Son (Ephesians 1:13) – Jesus, who died for you in your place (2 Corinthians 5:21). He became your substitute and received the punishment due to you. He suffered in your place (1 Peter 4:1). Furthermore, He rose from the dead (Romans 14:9) and ascended into heaven, from whence He will come with His angels (Matthew 25:31) to take you to be with Him to live with Him in His new earth (Revelation 21:1).

If you have not yet asked God to forgive you for the things you know you have done that did not please Him, then ask Him right now for His forgiveness (1 John 1:9). Repent of these sins before Him, and He will no longer hold them to your account. He will forget them (Psalm 103:12).

He is loving and merciful, and in His mercy (Exodus 34:6, 7) He will forgive you. He will welcome you into His kingdom (John 14:2).

How can you know that this is true? Simply believe (V. 1), just as the thief on the cross, who one minute was cursing Jesus (Matthew 27:44), but the next realised who He was – the Son of God. In faith he pleaded for Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom (Luke 23:39-42). Jesus forgave him his sins saying, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise (V. 43).”

In your believing, God gives you HIs gift of faith, and through faith in Jesus you are saved (Ephesians 2:8).

This is my message: Believe and you will be saved (Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9). You will receive the riches of Christ (2 Corinthians 8:9) and everlasting life (John 3:36). Don’t wait. Today is the day of salvation (6:2).

Your forever Friend.

P.S.

To learn more about Jesus, I suggest you read the Gospel of Luke or the Gospel of John in the **Bible. If you are able to visit a Bible believing church, one where the Bible is truthfully taught, the members of that church will support you and encourage you in your walk with the Lord. You will never walk alone (Matthew 28:20). He will always be at your side. He will comfort you with His love.

*Limited Atonement

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2019/09/11/limited-atonement/

**Bible Versions

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2019/08/18/bible-versions/

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