Cyprian’s Letter to Christians in Prison

Cyprian’s Letter to Christians in Prison

Cyprian’s letter to his Christian friends who were in prison for their faith and condemned to forced labor in the mines is one of my favorite writings from the early church fathers:

“For a Christian body is not very greatly terrified at clubs, seeing all its hope is in the Wood. The servant of Christ acknowledges the sacrament of his salvation: redeemed by wood to life eternal, he is advanced by wood to the crown. But what wonder if, as golden and silver vessels, you have been committed to the mine that is the home of gold and silver, except that now the nature of the mines is changed, and the places which previously had been accustomed to yield gold and silver have begun to receive them? . . . Moreover, they have put chains on your feet, and have bound your blessed limbs, and the temples of God with disgraceful chains, as if the spirit also could be bound with the body, or your gold could be stained by the contact of iron. To men who are dedicated to God, and attesting their faith with religious courage, such things are ornaments, not chains; nor do they bind the feet of the Christians for infamy, but glorify them for a crown. Oh feet blessedly bound, which are loosed, not by the smith but by the Lord! Oh feet blessedly bound, which are guided to paradise in the way of salvation! Oh feet bound for the present time in the world, that they may be always free with the Lord!”

Epistle 76

Advertisements

Sunday Meditation – To Be Satisfied Even Then

Sunday Meditation – To Be Satisfied Even Then

“Can you now praise God, and be satisfied in times of drought? And you, friend, when you are in good full work, and wages are high, and the house is well-furnished, and the cupboard is full, it is very easy then for you to kneel down at family-prayer and thank God for his kindness; but how about it when the husband is sick, when the funds have got very low, and when the little children look at their father wondering where the next meal will come from — to be satisfied even then that it is all right! Oh this is a grand thing! This is just the mark of difference between the Christian and the worldling. The worldling blesses God while he gives him plenty, but the Christian blesses him when he smites him: he believes him to be too wise to err and too good to be unkind; he trusts him where he cannot trace him, looks up to him in the darkest hour, and believes that all is well. O Christian, if your heart is right, you will understand this spiritual satisfaction, and your soul will be satisfied in times of drought.”

Charles Spurgeon

The World in John’s Writings

The World in John’s Writings

One of the most common words in the writings of the Apostle John is “world.” In fact, the New Testament uses the term at least 150 times. Understanding the different ways the term can be used is essential for understanding his writings. Often, it describes the world in which we live: the planet earth to which Christ came. A second way it is used is to refer to the Satanic world system ruled by demons that is opposed to Christ. It is the present evil age that is hostile to God. A third way John uses the term is to describe the world as the present time we live in now in contrast to the world to come and can overlap with the second meaning. A final way John uses the term is to describe all people groups in the world: every tribe, language, people, and nation.

A verse which illustrates this last usage is John 4:42 which says, “They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’” Here, Jesus is called the savior of the world. Christ is the savior of the Samaritan people, but not every single Samaritan. He is the savior of the world, but not every single individual in the world. He is the savior of all without distinction (all people groups regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, or economic status) but not the savior of all without exception (universalism). Salvation is not just for Jewish people, but for Gentiles as well. John 12:32 teaches the same truth: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” No people group is excluded from God’s saving work.

This usage of world is not a quantitative term meaning every single person who has ever lived, lives, or will live, but a qualitative one meaning every people group in the world. The emphasis is ethnological. Christ takes away the sins of every people group because representatives from every nation will be among the redeemed (Rev 5:9). This is in contrast to the particularism of the Old Testament when God was primarily focused on the people of Israel. Now, the scope of salvation is for all people groups, both Jews and Gentiles.

Sunday Meditation – A Strange Conjunction

Sunday Meditation – A Strange Conjunction

“In the cross of Christ we glory, because we regard it as a matchless exhibition of the attributes of God. We see there the love of God desiring a way by which he might save mankind, aided by his wisdom, so that a plan is perfected by which the deed can be done without violation of truth and justice. In the cross we see a strange conjunction of what once appeared to be two opposite qualities-justice and mercy. We see how God is supremely just; as just as if he had no mercy, and yet infinitely merciful in the gift of his Son.”

Charles Spurgeon

Did God Approve of Human Sacrifice in 2 Kings 3:27?

Did God Approve of Human Sacrifice in 2 Kings 3:27?

Many critics of the Bible argue that 2 Kings 3:27 portrays God as approving of human sacrifice. The text reads: “Then he took his oldest son who was to reign in his place and offered him for a burnt offering on the wall. And there came great wrath against Israel. And they withdrew from him and returned to their own land.” It is argued that the phrase translated as “great wrath” is describing God’s wrath against Israel that was provoked in response to the offering up of the son of the king of Moab by him as a burnt offering which resulted in Israel’s defeat. The NET translation even translates the phrase as “an outburst of divine anger” in agreement with this interpretation. Since Deuteronomy 12:31 and 18:10 say that burning sons and daughters as a burnt offering is an abomination to the Lord, critics argue that this is a contradiction in the Bible since Deuteronomy teaches one thing while 2 Kings teaches another.

It is true that the Hebrew word qatsaph translated as “wrath” often describes God’s wrath. But this is not always the case. In Genesis 41:10, the same word is used to describe Pharaoh’s wrath against his servants. In Esther 2:21, the word describes the anger of Bigthan and Teresh who sought to kill King Ahasuerus. Therefore, another way to interpret 2 Kings 3:27 is that the wrath of this verse is not God’s wrath, but the wrath of the Moabites against Israel. They became filled with rage against Israel because of the death of the king’s son who was sacrificed to turn the tide of the battle. Because of his death, the people of Moab became enraged and vowed to fight to the death against Israel since they viewed Israel as the reason why he had to die. This rage and their belief that their god was supporting them gave them the edge in the battle to overcome a less determined foe.

Sunday Meditation – Jesus’ Immutable Love

Sunday Meditation – Jesus’ Immutable Love

“This love of his is infinite. Jesus does not love his own with a little of his love, nor regard them with some small degree of affection, but he says, ‘As the Father hath loved me, even so have I loved you,’ and the Father’s love to the Son is inconceivably great, since they are one in essence, ineffably one. The Father cannot but love the Son infinitely, neither doth the Son ever love his people less than with all his heart. It is an affection which no angelic mind could measure, inconceivable, unknown. Jesus loved his people with a foresight of what they would be. Love is blind, they say, but not the Savior’s love. He knew that ‘his own’ would fall in Adam; he knew that as they lived personally each one would become a sinner; he understood that they would be hard to reclaim and difficult to retain, even after they had been reclaimed; he saw every sin that they would commit in the glass of the future, for from his prescient eye nothing can be hidden. And yet he loved his own over the head of all their sins, and their revoltings, and their shortcomings. Hence we see that he bears towards them an affection which cannot be changed, for nothing can occur which he has not foreseen, nothing therefore which has not already been taken into calculation in the matter of his choice. No new circumstance can shed unexpected light upon the case. No startling and unforeseen event can become an argument for a change. Hence Jesus’ love is full of immutability.”

Charles Spurgeon

The Universality of Noah’s Flood

The Universality of Noah’s Flood

I have never understood the belief that the author of Genesis intended us to interpret Noah’s Flood as a local event instead of a global one. The real motivation behind this interpretation is not the text of Scripture, but to accommodate an old-earth interpretation of the Bible and science. After studying this issue for some time, I am shocked at how many old-earth creationists actually believe the Bible depicts Noah’s flood as a local event instead of a global one. While this belief might be more respectable among scientists, there are several major problems with this interpretation. Here are some of them:

1. The covenant promise of God that he would never again send “a flood to destroy all flesh” (Gen 9:11) only makes sense if Noah’s flood was universal. If this was just a local flood, then that would make God a liar because there have been many local floods since Noah’s Flood that have killed millions of people. The flooding of the Yangzi-Huai River in China in 1931 killed between 1-4 million people. The flooding of the Yellow River in China in 1887 killed between 900,000 to two million people. This fact alone is enough to refute the belief that Noah’s Flood was only a local event since these floods were likewise only local events but God promised that he would never again send a flood like the one of Noah.

2. Noah’s Flood in the Bible is always presented in universal terms and never in local ones. It says, “And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark” (Gen 7:21-23) and “I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die” (Gen 6:17).

3. If Noah’s Flood was only local in nature, there would have been no need to have two of every kind of animal on the ark. The area would have been repopulated after the flood by those animals outside the flood zone as they migrated. Having two of every kind of animal only makes sense if there are no more animals left to repopulate the earth.

4. Genesis presents the sons of Noah as the ancestors of all the people groups on earth: “These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed” (Gen 9:19).

5. Jesus interpreted Noah’s Flood in universal terms: “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:26-27). Noah’s Flood left no survivors just as no wicked men will escape the day of judgment when Christ returns.

6. Peter believed that Noah’s Flood destroyed the entire ancient world leaving only Noah and his family: “If he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly” (2 Pet 2:5). Genesis indicates that only Noah and his family were righteous in God’s sight (Gen 7:1). The universality of Noah’s Flood is a picture of the universality of God’s judgment at the second coming: “And that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” (2 Pet 3:6-7).

7. A strong scientific case can be made for a universal flood in the recent past. The work of Andrew Snelling is excellent here. This documentary at 1:18 presents further evidence for a global flood.