Friday, 4/10/20 – Friday Tough Question

Who are the ‘Imprisoned spirits?’

The question as it came to me this week: “I’m reading 1 Peter 3, what does verse 19 & 20 mean?”

“After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water” (1 Pet. 3:19-20 – NIV).

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Bible scholars recognize that this is one of the most difficult passages of scripture to understand. Multiple questions emerge immediately. Who are these “imprisoned spirits?” What is the nature and location of their imprisonment? How and why did Jesus ‘preach’ to them? What was the content of His message? Is this describing an actual or a symbolic event? Is it past, present or future?

Matthew Henry suggests that just as Christ came to speak God to us, so God spoke to the people of Noah’s day by the Spirit speaking through Enoch and Noah to point them to the salvation of the ark. They did not listen, thus perished. Consequently Peter calls them “spirits now in prison.” – Says Henry: “their spirits cast into hell, which is called a prison… but Noah and his family, who believed and were obedient, were saved in the ark.”

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Bridgeway sees this differently. After triumphing over death, Christ, whose sinless, eternal now un-incarnate Being could not be bound, next visited the realm of darkness: “He then went to the place where evil spirits are imprisoned awaiting final judgment and announced his victory.”

Barnes leans toward the interpretation of Henry: “Christ delivered a message to the antediluvian race by the agency of Noah. No argument, therefore, can be derived from this language to prove that Christ went and personally preached to those who were confined in hades or in prison.”

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Clarke mentions that some take the passage to mean the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles. (That seems a bit of a reach to me.)

It is from this passage alone that Catholicism builds its doctrine of purgatory. But it is very dangerous to build any doctrine from only one passage. The whole counsel of God must be sought.

Personally I see this passage as describing in some small way what I’d call a sort of ‘Ta-da!’ moment possibly occurring from our perspective during the time Christ’s body lay in the tomb. Christ, having finished mankind’s redemption now appears in some way to those – possibly souls of mortals and angel spirits alike* – who refused God’s authority and will. He ‘preaches’ (i.e. announces) to them the fact of His great victory, the culmination of man’s salvation and thereby demonstrates to these poor ones that their punishment is indeed just.

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These are my thoughts on this at the present and are probably best taken as merely opinion. There are many things about which we must wait for eternity to fully grasp (John 16:12), if indeed the Lord deems it appropriate.

The great thing for us to understand now is that Christ is Lord of all and Judge of all and all His ways are just. Christ now “has gone into Heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to Him.” (1 Pet. 3:22).

Press on…

* see 2 Pet. 4:2, Jude 6.

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 4/3/20 – Friday Tough Question

What’s possible?

woman in workout gear hanging upside down on doorway near green plants

I did a word study this morning on the occurrence of “possible” / “impossible” in scripture. I was surprised to discover there were no occurrences of either word in the Old Testament and only about 25 instances in the New Testament.

Of these 8 ask IF a thing might be possible: 2 ask if the “elect” could be deceived (Matt. 2424; Mk. 13:22), 2 occur where Christ entreats whether redemption might be accomplished some other way (Matt. 26:39; Mk. 14:35-36), and the rest in the context of Paul wondering if he might make it to Jerusalem by Pentecost, might navigate the ship a certain way, or if the Galatians might have given him their eyes and finally if men might live together peaceably (Acts 20:16; 27:39; Gal. 4:15; Rom. 12:18).

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Though all things are possible with God it is impossible for God to act contrary to His attributes. Thus it is impossible for God to lie (Heb. 6:18), or for the sacrifices of sinful mortals to provide atonement (Heb 10:4). A sinless sacrifice is necessary lest God act in ways contrary to His holiness, justness or purity. Since that sacrifice had to be Christ it is impossible to be saved apart from Him (Heb. 6:4). Because Christ is Himself Eternal God it is further impossible that death could hold Him (Acts 2:24).

Throughout these passages the definition of the Greek word used of things impossible is constant. The words ἀδυνατέω [adunateō] or ἀδύνατος [adunatos] mean “not to have strength, power, or ability, to be weak, unable, to be without strength, impotent, powerless, weakly, or disabled.”

Three times the incarnate Word draws the contrast that what man cannot do, God can:

“But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is IMPOSSIBLE; but with God all things are POSSIBLE.” (Matt. 19:26)
“And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is IMPOSSIBLE, but not with God: for with God all things are POSSIBLE.” (Mark 10:27).
“And he said, The things which are IMPOSSIBLE with men are POSSIBLE with God.” (Luke 18:27).

man standing near snow field

This word “possible” in the Greek, δυνατός [dunatos] carries the meaning of “able, powerful, mighty, strong, mighty in wealth and influence, strong in soul, able to bear calamities and trials with fortitude and patience, strong in Christian virtue, to be able (to do something), mighty,  excelling in something, having power for something, powerful or capable.”

This is our God.

As we rest our faith in Him He works His power and peace in and through us. (Matt. 17:20; Mark 9:23). We walk by faith not sight. Do not be moved by fears all around you. God is in control. What He allows He meets with His Grace. Grace to endure or grace to overcome. Both require faith (Heb 11:6). “For with God nothing shall be imPOSSIBLE.” (Luke 1:37).

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

 

 

Friday, 3/27/20 – Friday Tough Question: “What are we supposed to do?”

What are we supposed to do?

Recently I received an email citing a number of Christian leaders on the COVID-19 pandemic. One I’d like to focus on today is this:

“Anyone can rejoice when things are going reasonably well. But when we’re facing adversity or sickness or hardship or death and then we rejoice, we are obeying God. God is on his throne. He loves you and is watching out for you. So rejoice in the Lord.” – Pastor Greg Laurie, Harvest Christian Fellowship, Riverside, California.

20200326_131206It reminded me of an excerpt from C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters which I had also recently re-read. This is an excellent book and every Christian should read it – it’s right up there with Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress in my opinion. I believe both can be found and freely read online.

The Screwtape letters is a fictional account of “letters” written by a Senior devil “Screwtape” to his understudy demon “Wormwood.” In each chapter Screwtape advises this Jr devil how to best tempt and destroy faith in us humans. Screwtape writes,

“Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” – C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

We make the devil shake when we show faith despite adversity! This IS a war, but all we must do is stand still — and stay standing. Paul urges,

“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Eph. 6:10-13).

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Interesting fact: Paul was in social isolation when he wrote this! He was in prison for the cause of Christ. John, “the beloved disciple” also experienced social isolation. He was in exile on the isle of Patmos – you know, the place from which he wrote Revelation!

I believe Elder Don once urged us to this same simplicity as he shared from Exodus. Facing huge opposition Moses assured the Hebrews,

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exod. 14:14)

Or as I like to put it…

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 3/20/20 – Where Peace? – The Great Equation…

Where Peace? – The Great Equation…

man wearing eyeglasses

Some of the scriptures we’ve looked at through this week have actually been promises… almost equations… the Lord gives to His children. When worries come: Think on Christ. Talk with Him. Assurance and Peace will come to you.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isa. 41:10)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7).

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David writes of his response to worry: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” (Ps. 46:4), and testifies of the Lord’s reliable reply, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” (Ps. 94:19)

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Peter urges (1 Pet. 5:7). Isaiah, David, John, Paul and Peter all agree: God’s Presence = Peace!

Perhaps Isaiah sums up this truth most succinctly,

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Isa. 26:3)

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Look to Jesus! It’s as simple as that. If you want to see the sunrise you must look to the eastern horizon. You’ll never experience it staring southward.

“They cried out… terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’” (Mark 6:49b-50)

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 3/13/20 – Tough Question: “Why the extravagance?”

Why the extravagance?

20200311_224048“I’m puzzled! Why do we see such items of wealth poured into the construction of the Old Testament Tabernacle, yet when Christ was born He chose to come through the poorest and lowest, even to be born in a stable?”

It is true that Christ came into this world among the lowly and during His ministry years we know He had no home (Matt. 8:20), relied on others to meet His physical needs (Mark 15:40-41), and apparently only a very few items of clothing, which soldiers divided and gambled for beneath His cross (John 19:23).

But we must also remember that this lowly Jesus is now glorified Lord of all. John describes Him…

“…dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” (Rev. 1:13-16).

20200311_224131The O.T. Tabernacle, Solomon’s Temple and others described in scripture all portray to us the great worth of our Saviour. It is fitting that they and what they represented should be constructed of the richest of elements.

But do not fear that these construction materials came at great cost to the Hebrews. The gold and other items they gave came from the plunder of their Egyptian captors, all according to the instruction of God.

“And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.” (Exod. 3:21-22). [This the Hebrews did: see Exod. 12: 35-36].

bullion gold gold bars golden

David and Solomon provided materials for the temple, and Solomon was the richest man of all, estimated by some to have a worth of $2 trillion. (Read about his wealth in 1 Kings 10:14-29).

The real wonder is not that earthly temples were constructions of wealth but that Christ visited us by setting all this aside in order to identify with us and restore us to fellowship with Him.

All things are the Lord’s anyway. His purposes are to teach us the respect and honor due Him. Gold is symbolic, and remember too that in heaven’s economy gold is no more than pavement! (see Rev. 21:21).

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 3/6/20 – Friday Tough Question

Why the walls and gates?

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Here’s the full question:

“In Revelation [Rev. 21:9-18] it says that the new Jerusalem will have walls and gates. What is the purpose of walls and gates? To me walls are for protection; why will the new city need protection?”

You’re right in thinking city walls typically served as a defense against enemy attack. In scripture we read of the walls of Jericho miraculously coming down after the Hebrews obediently marched around them (Joshua 6:2-5). We read how the walls of Jerusalem protected the people against the Assyrian army led by Sennacherib (2 Chronicles 32:1-8). And we have the thrilling story of Nehemiah as he and a ragtag team of faithful few rebuilt the ravaged walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 3-4).

But the walls described in Revelation are not for defense. We know this from reading further…

“On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Rev. 21:25-27).

abandoned ancient antique arch

Normally the gates of a walled city are closed at night, but in the new Jerusalem there will be no night, no evil, no need to close the gates. No locks, no keys, no security systems or police force! Here we have a city where free and open travel is always possible. One reason for the new Jerusalem having gates may be to portray to us this truth that they will always be open.

These walls speak to us of God’s strength and protection. They tell us that we will be surrounded with God’s might and security. It is beautiful wall, a costly wall, and a wall commemorating and uniting both old and new covenants of God with mankind (see Rev. 21:12–14). The enormity of the walls display the greatness of the Lord and reminder us this city is only for the redeemed of the Lord. The unredeemed cannot gain access (v15-21). The gems of the walls portray the riches of the Lord. (v18-20). The names of the 12 tribes and 12 apostles represent the foundational faithful of the two covenants.

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In Matthew 16:18 Jesus declares that against God’s Kingdom “the gates of hell” — all the opposing or resisting might the devil has to offer — “will not prevail” – will not be able to defeat or withstand the purposes and judgment of God. In Christ we are on the winning team! The eternal city will be our ultimate home! Let us remember our true citizenship and so live as its ambassadors while we yet remain in this dying world.

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 2/28/20 – Friday Tough Question

Personal experience, Scripture, or the Holy Spirit?

Here is the full question as I received it:

To what extent does your experience of God have to be bound to Scripture? God has worked in others’ lives in ways that aren’t specific in Scripture. Does your experience of God need to match Scripture or not go against Scripture? And how does the Holy Spirit play a part in this?

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God does work in some pretty weird and wacky ways sometimes and we must never put Him in any kind of a box or have any kind of a limited expectation of what He may do. God is Sovereign. As some folk say, “God is God and I am not.”

But at the same time God is immutable… unchanging in character and attributes. What He has revealed to us in scripture as truth is truth, has always been truth and will always be truth. “I am the Lord, I change not.” (Mal. 3:6), “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). The Holy Spirit personally guides the believer into all truth, but He does not present us with any new truth, rather, He reminds us of the truth and points us to personal applications of the truth.

“…the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” / “…He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come… the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (John 14:26; 16:13, 15).

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This question comes very close to asking if Feelings can sometimes trump Facts. The answer here is a resounding “NO!” This juncture is what Faith is all about. Of Abraham Paul writes, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed…” (Rom. 4:18).

Paul urged the Galatians “…even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” (Gal. 1:8).

Paul also knew he could not even trust his own estimations of himself. Our conscience can be our guide only so far as it has been accurately informed. Writes Paul, “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” (1 Cor. 4:4).

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So, while God is free to act in unique ways with each individual He is not the Author of confusion. He does not work at cross purposes to Himself, show favoritism, or contradict His own attributes or nature. Thus, for example, He cannot admit sinners into Heaven, for to do so would contradict His justice and holiness. His Love does not want anyone to perish, thus His Mercy and Grace act in Christ to provide atonement for all who call upon Him.

Experience, feelings, and emotions should be challenged whenever they are in disharmony with the Word of God.

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Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.