Sunday, 23 September 2018

What Do Fig Trees Do?

“Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.” (James 3:12)

The answer to these rhetorical questions obviously is “No.” A fig tree cannot become an olive tree in one growing season, or in a million of them. Nor can a grapevine evolve into a fig tree, no matter what happens to it (grafts, mutations, chemicals, radiations, anything).

In the very first chapter of the Bible, each kind of plant God created was given the genetic information by its Maker to “reproduce” only its own “kind” of plant, not to diverge into some other kind, although its offspring could develop into many varieties of the parental kind (but even that only within strict limits). The same was true with the animals. Ten times in Genesis 1, God, in five verses, tells us that each created kind of plant and animal was coded to reproduce just its own kind (Genesis 1:11-12, Genesis 1:21, Genesis 1:24-25).

Just in the event that some skeptic might reject Genesis 1 as factual, the same theme is reiterated in the New Testament, not only in our text but in Paul’s great chapter on death and resurrection. “God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed its own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds” (1 Corinthians 15:38-39).

This biblical truth is confirmed by every scientific observation ever made on plants and animals—whether living, dead, or fossilized. No one has ever seen a frog evolve into a prince, or a vine into an olive tree, either in the present or in the fossil record of the past. “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that man should fear before him” (Ecclesiastes 3:14).

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Propitiation

“And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)

Most words in the King James Bible have one or two syllables. Our text verse, for example, has 21 such short words and only one big word; but that word, “propitiation,” has five syllables, and so has elicited much complaint from folks who don’t like to use dictionaries. What does “propitiation” mean?

The Greek word is hilasmos and occurs just two other times. These are as follows:

“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Romans 3:25). “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

As an aside, note that these two verses contain two words of two syllables, three of three syllables, and 48 of one syllable. But both also include “propitiation,” and that seems to be a problem. Nevertheless, “propitiation” is certainly the most accurate word to convey the meaning of the original. The dictionary gives “expiation” and “conciliation” as definitions, but that probably doesn’t help much.

In any case, the action of the Lord Jesus in submitting His body to be a substitutionary sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sins and to endure God’s wrath against all the sins of the world, thereby enabling Him to be reconciled to us, with Christ’s perfect righteousness credited to our account, is seen in these three verses to be a basic theme of this great truth of Christ’s propitiatory work on the cross. And surely, as John says: “Herein is love,” that God would so love us that He would offer up His Son, and Christ would so love us that He would die for us. Surely, this is love!

Friday, 21 September 2018

The Similitude of God

“Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.” (James 3:9)

Here inserted within a very sober condemnation of the misuse of our God-given privilege of speech is what seems almost an incidental reference to the image of God in man. It is not a trivial reference, however, but very significant.

It tells us that even though the image of God in man has been severely marred by sin, it is still there! That is, man is eternal just as God is eternal, and we will all continue to exist forever, either in the presence of God, or away from His presence. That “image” is not shared with animals, even the higher animals. The latter do have a body, soul (in the sense of mind), and spirit (in the sense of breath), but they do not possess “the image of God” that was specially created in man alone after all the animals had been created (note Genesis 1:21, 27).

Another implication is that the word “similitude” includes the meaning of a physical resemblance. While God in His full essence is omnipresent and therefore invisible to human eyes, it is still true that, when God became man, He took on an actual physical body. Furthermore, our Lord Jesus, God the Son, still is “that same Jesus” and therefore still in that body (note Acts 1:11; 1 John 3:2; etc.).

Since His incarnation and His work of salvation were planned by the triune God “before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20), man was apparently created in the image of that body that Christ had planned to take on when He would eventually become man.

That being the case, our bodies are even more sacred than otherwise we might have assumed, and it is indeed a serious matter to misuse the tongue or any other member of the body, which is made after the similitude of Christ.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Whom Do You Know?

“For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

A person who thinks he is a Christian, or hopes he is a Christian, probably isn’t a Christian. One should know, when it comes to this most important of all questions. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). It’s a matter of who you know, not what you know. Paul said: “I know whom I have believed”—that is, he knew the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

But just how can we know that we have eternal life? In the first place, we know because He has said so in His Word. Furthermore, He knows us! “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28).

We also “know . . . that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit” (1 John 4:13), which “beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16). If the Holy Spirit truly has become a part of our lives (as He surely has if we genuinely came to Christ as lost sinners, trusting Him alone for forgiveness and salvation, and yielding our lives and eternal souls to Him), then we will also come to love the Word which He inspired. “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. . . . But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him” (1 John 2:3, 5).

There are many other things we can know when we know we are saved. Best of all, “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

To Die Is Gain

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

Although the glorious resurrection bodies that have been promised all believers must await the return of Christ, even the spirit-existence after death is better than this present life for the believer. Paul himself expressed “a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Philippians 1:23)—“to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).

Thus, it is “gain” when a Christian dies! Since Christ, in His resurrection body, is in heaven at the right hand of the Father, the spirits of “sleeping” Christians are also there. The intermediate state is somewhat analogous to the dreaming state, in which the consciousness travels to various places and experiences while the body is asleep. In fact, death is called “sleep” for the Christian (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

However, in some amazing way, these conscious spirits of believers are still distinct and recognizable. Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:3), as well as Samuel (1 Samuel 28:12-19), were identifiable in their spirit-form, even by people here on Earth.

One of the greatest blessings of dying and going to be with the Lord will be the joy of returning with Him “at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:13). “Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. . . . And the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:14, 16), just before the “rapture” and glorification of the saints who are still living. As wonderful as it might be to live until Christ returns, it will be even better to be with Him!

The death of a Christian, therefore, may be a time of loss and grief for those left behind, but it is a time of joy and blessing for the one who dies, including a happy reunion with those who have gone before.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Identifying Antichrists

“Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.” (1 John 2:18)

Evangelicals expect “the” Antichrist to be revealed in the future, yet there are more warnings about “many” antichrists who are currently and actively plotting evil. John lists two specific identifying factors that enable us to spot these “anti” Christs.

“Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22).

“And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist . . . and even now already is it in the world” (1 John 4:3).

This much is clear. Anyone who refuses to accept the incarnated Christ as the Son of God is anti-Christ. Perhaps we need to see this term in its simplicity. Those who are “anti” Christ (oppose, reject, against, opposite to, before, instead of, in place of) are antichrists!

Peter warns that false prophets and false teachers are also “anti” Christ—and that they may well come from among the Lord’s visible Kingdom.

“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1).

Thus, we are told that Satan’s “ministers also [are] transformed as the ministers of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:15). No wonder we should have caution. This is the last time (days), and we need to be alert!

Monday, 17 September 2018

The Name above Every Name

“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.” (Philippians 2:9)

Three primary names for God are used in the Old Testament: Elohim, Jehovah, and Adonai. In the New Testament, both Jehovah and Adonai are translated as “Lord” (Greek kurios) and applied to Christ. This word is also applied occasionally to human “lords” but is specifically used as a name or title of God or Christ no less than 663 times.

His human name was Jesus (“Jehovah is Savior”), but this is used by itself only 22 times in the epistles—always with special emphasis on His humanity. Although it was the common name used repeatedly in the gospel narratives, it is significant that the disciples and other believers almost always addressed Him personally as “Lord,” never simply as “Jesus.” Unbelievers and demons, on the other hand, never addressed Him as “Lord.”

The name “Christ” means “anointed one” and is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Messiah. Thus, Christ is His divine title as God’s “anointed” prophet, priest, and king; Jesus is His human name, as our example and Savior; Lord is His title of spiritual relationship to those He has saved. All three names are of paramount importance. Thus, Peter said: “God hath made that same Jesus . . . both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). His “full name,” so to speak, is therefore “the Lord Jesus Christ.” This complete name is used over 100 times; “Christ” and “Lord” are used even more.

In the great testimony of His coming exaltation, Paul says He has been given “the name” (the definite article is in the original) above every name. At this “name of Jesus” (with the “of” indicating the possessive—that is, “the name now belonging to the man Jesus who died on the cross”), every knee must bow, and every tongue must someday confess “that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10-11).