Saturday, February 6, 2016

Two trees

THE TALE OF TWO TREES
(Genesis 2:16-17; 3:22; 24; Revelation 22:2;14,19)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2015

When parents talk to their children, especially when giving them instructions, those parents may wonder if their children are actually paying attention.
A mother was helping her son review his math while her daughter was in the next room. “You have seven dollars and seven friends.” she said. “You give a dollar to two of them but none to the others. What do you have left?” From the next room her daughter called out… “Two friends.”
When parents talk to their children, especially when giving them instructions, those parents may wonder if their children are actually paying attention. When God first gave instructions to Adam and Eve, they were not paying attention, and they ignored some very important instructions.

In the beginning, when God created the earth and man,1 He placed our first parents in an idyllic setting, the Garden of Eden, where there was an ample food supply, with a variety of options:
The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Gen 2:9)
They could eat anything they wanted, any of the leaves, nuts, or fruit.2 He gave them only one restriction:3
The LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17)
This is The Tale of those Two Trees. Note that…

I. Initially, the two trees had the same accessibility.

Before the Fall of man…
A. The tree of life was unrestricted.
B. The tree of knowledge was unrestricted.
There was no fence blocking man from either tree. The only thing stopping him (or giving him pause) was God’s verbal prohibition:
You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die. (Gen 2:17)
Why would God impose this limitation? Why would God keep from man such important information as discerning the difference between right and wrong? Why would God put such information within reach of man only to deny it for him? Is not full disclosure up front the best policy? Surely man would need to make (other) moral choices in the new world order, and handicapping him would make those decisions unnecessarily difficult. But the author of Genesis does not say if God intended the restriction to be permanent or temporary.4 Perhaps He was just waiting to see if man would obey.5

Friday, February 5, 2016

Winning the prize (1 Cor 9:24-27)

PAUL'S FITNESS PROGRAM (1 Cor 9:24-27)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2015

As people get older, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay in good physical condition. Too little exercise and too many calories eventually affect even a once trim figure.
The army physical-training program requires soldiers to run two miles every other day in platoon formation. Jeff, being somewhat older than the others in his unit, had trouble running faster than a ten-minute mile. During a recent run, he was finding it difficult to complete the two miles without stopping, so he paused and raised his hands above his head, attempting to expand his diaphragm and gain a second wind. Suddenly, he heard a voice from behind say, “Forget it, Sarge…we don’t take prisoners.”
As people get older, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay in good physical condition, and they usually need to adopt some sort of fitness program. The same is often true of people’s spiritual condition. In our passage this morning, we have Paul’s Fitness Program, which he recommends to the Christians at Corinth.

The apostle Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth addresses questions he received from the church (chapters 1-6) and concerns he has for the church (chapters 7-16).1 In the second section he likens the Christian experience to a physical training program, the kind one would undertake in preparation for a foot race or a boxing match.2 In Paul’s Fitness Program, he relates how one becomes an effective competitor in the Christian games of life:
1 Cor 9:24 Do you not know3 that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
In the first century, athletic events were a popular part of Greek society and a regular source of entertainment as participants competed for prizes and fame. Sports included foot and horse races, wrestling and boxing matches, discus and javelin throwing. Participants prepared on local tracks and in gymnasiums. Because these games were common in major cities throughout the empire, Paul alluded to them frequently in his letters to various churches.4 Two of his favorite sports to use were racing and boxing because they held parallels to the Christian life. This was especially evident in the passage he wrote to believers at Corinth. He begins by stating simply:

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The unfairness of life (Psalm 73)

PERCEPTION AND REALITY (Psalm 73)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2015

Good communication, the kind that makes for a smooth-running marriage, is not necessarily obvious to the average observer.
On his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, Steve remarked that his father and mother never seemed to fight. “Oh, we argued,” his father said, “but it never amounted to much. After a while one of us always realized…that I was wrong.”
Good communication is not necessarily obvious to the average observer. In other words, there may be a difference between Perception and Reality, between the way things appear and the way they actually are. That difference is what Asaph discusses in Psalm 73.

Theodicy is an aspect of theology that deals with the presence of evil in the world. The biblical book that addresses this subjest most directly is Job, which depicts a man’s suffering in a vain attempt by Satan to undermine that man’s faith. The biblical psalm that deals with theodicy most directly is our text this morning: Psalm 73.1

There is a facade, a veneer, that covers reality as we perceive it. We see other people in situations much like our own who seem to conduct their affairs without recourse to God with equal or greater success than we do who depend on God. It makes us wonder: Why is our life not noticeably better (v. 3)? Does our commitment to Him really matter all that much (v. 13)? Those are questions Asaph, the author of Psalm 73, asks:
I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked…. Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. (Psalm 73:3,13)
As we also wrestle with these questions, we must recognize at least three things, observations that the author of this psalm makes.

Asaph’s first observation is that, despite the assertion of our US constitution…
I. All people are not created equal (Psalm 73:4-5).
Some people have more ability, talent, or natural fortitude than others.
They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. (vv. 4-5)
Hence, it is quite possible that you might not perform as well as others.
  • Some people are more physically endowed.2
The biblical writers identify several individuals with outstanding physical characteristics, perhaps the most impressive being a soldier in the Philistine army: Goliath.3
1 Sam 17:4b He was over nine feet tall. 5 He …wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels [125 lbs.]…. 7a His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels [15 lbs.]…. 24 When the Israelites saw the man, they all ran from him in great fear.
Despite his impressive appearance, however, he was no match for the Lord’s champion, a young boy (who found the king’s armor too cumbersome).
1 Sam 17:50a David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone…. 51c When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.
All people are not created equal. Some people are more physically imposing and assume they can do without God.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A true prophet? (Deut 18:9-22)

PIERCING THE VEIL—CONTEMPTIBLE OR COMMENDABLE? (Deut 18:9-22)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2015

Some husbands who want try to keep a little mystery in their marriage will take extreme measures to keep a secret.
Sam worked at a snowmobile dealership. One day he approached a customer who said he wanted a certain kind of snowmobile and that it had to be yellow. Sam had the right make, but not in yellow. “It has to be yellow,” the customer insisted. Curious, Sam asked why. “Because,” the man replied, “I’ve been buying a new snowmobile every year—and my wife hasn’t noticed yet!”
Some husbands will take extreme measures to keep a secret. Yet, some secrets should not be kept, especially secrets about pagan deities. That is how Moses felt as Israel was poised to enter the Promised Land: Make sure people know what they will encounter there.

In the movie, The Wizard of Oz, the wizard is a mysterious figure behind a curtain who gives advice on various matters. When Dorothy meets him initially, she is in awe of his vast knowledge. When Dorothy meets him subsequently, she learns that he is an ordinary man who has deceived people with special effects. In the wilderness, the Lord is also a mysterious figure behind a curtain who gives advice on various matters. When the Israelites meet Him initially, they are in awe of his vast knowledge. More than that, they are in awe of His great power, especially after their exodus from Egypt, and they sing a song about Him: “Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exod 15:11). Subsequent meetings do not change their initial impression.

The LORD worked primarily through a spokesman, often several, who would communicate His will to His people. Unfortunately, there were also charlatans, individuals who only pretended to represent God but who had their own agenda. Is Piercing the Veil possible, determining if those behind the curtain are Contemptible or Commendable? Moses answers that question in Deut 18, where he discusses true and false prophets. He begins with an exhortation:

I. Do not listen to a false prophet (vv. 9-13).
Deut 18:9 When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. 10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. 13 You must be blameless before the LORD your God.
God expelled the Canaanites because of an assortment of pagan practices that defiled the land He considered holy1 and would eventually give to the descendants of Abraham.
In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure. (Gen 15:16)2
The problem with many of the practices He lists here is that they seek information or confirmation about the future from sources God does not sanction. To make matters worse, all of these practices deny God.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The cost of salvation (Num 25:1-18)

THE HIGH COST OF SIN AND SALVATION (Num 25:1-18):
Dr. Paul Manuel—2015

Many people rack up more bills than they have money to pay, but sometimes it is unavoidable.
Jack and his wife Jill, both graduate students, recently celebrated the arrival of their first child. At Jill’s insistence, they paid their entire medical bill and were now worried about meeting other payments. They were discussing their sad financial situation one evening when their son demanded a diaper change. As Jill leaned over the baby's crib, Jack heard her mutter, “The only thing in the house that’s paid for…and it leaks.”
Many people encounter the common difficulty of having more bills than money to pay, but sometimes it is avoidable. Israel got involved with idolatry before realizing (or ignoring) what it would exact from them, especially given The High Cost of Sin and Salvation.

The people of Israel had left Egypt the previous year1 and had encountered few peoples on their trek through the wilderness. A year had also passed since they left Mount Sinai, where Moses received the prohibition in the Decalogue against idolatry.2 The Israelites disobeyed that command with the golden calf incident soon after they received it, and they suffered for it.3 Nevertheless…

I. The Problem of Paganism in Israel (Num 25:1-3)

…continued to haunt the nation.
Num 25:1 While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, 2 who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate and bowed down before these gods. 3 So Israel joined in worshiping the Baal of Peor.4 And the LORD’S anger burned against them.5
This was the first group of people they encountered since leaving Egypt, people who seemed glad to meet them and who went out of their way to greet them.6 Unfortunately, this encounter led the Israelites away from God. He had previously warned them against fraternizing with the pagans they would meet.7
Exod 23:24 Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices.
In Num 25, the Lord is angry with the people because they have disobeyed a cardinal yet simple rule: “Do not worship any other god” (Exod 34:14a).8

But is idol worship all that bad? Should people not be tolerant of others, even accepting and inclusive of their beliefs? Surely God would prefer that everyone just “get along.” What is His objection? …Idolatry is bad because…

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Merry Chiristmas 2015

Dr. and Mrs. Paul Manuel
Christmas 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

This past year has marked a significant change for us: retirement. Many of the activities that gave life regularity because we did them every week are no longer part of our routine. We have had to develop new patterns. Although we miss some of the old activities (e.g., choir), we realize that such change is inevitable. Nevertheless, it is good that some things do not change, that some things continue to be a regular part of life. If everything changed at once, it would be too unsettling, too confusing. Christmas is one of those things that does not change, and though we may bemoan the “holiday creep” as seasonal music and store decorations seem to manifest earlier every year, we can still appreciate the regularity this day brings as it recurs each December 25. In a way, the regularity of Christmas reflects the immutability of God, that He does not change:
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)
Yet it was not always so. There was, after all, no Christmas before the first Christmas. God introduced a measure of regularity into the lives of His people by marking significant occasions of His intervention, like Passover, that celebrates the physical redemption of God’s people from slavery. Fifteen hundred years later, He marked another significant occasion of His intervention, with Christmas, that celebrates the spiritual redemption of God’s people from sin. As the angel said to Joseph about Jesus, “he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21).

Some think of regularity as boring, and they wait for a new experience to excite their senses, like Jesus’ return: 
They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:4)
Predictability is not the kind of regularity that God employs. On the contrary, despite appearances He will disrupt the status quo (our schedule) when it suits His purpose. That is what He did when Jesus appeared the first time. It was not according to someone else’s expectations but “when the time had fully come” (Gal 4:4) according to God’s plan. That is also when Jesus will appear the second time. It will not be when people are saying “peace and safety” (1 Thess 5:3) but at a time “the Father has set” (Acts 1:8).

Even though God’s schedule is different from our schedule, and even when time marks significant change for us, His program still possesses a regularity upon which we can depend, and Christmas is an annual reminder of that regularity. May the stability of the season be an ever-present reminder of the love God expressed when He sent Jesus to “save his people from their sins.”

Merry Christmas!
Pastor and Linda

Friday, December 18, 2015

The role of the Law

FOUR STAGES IN A BELIEVER'S LIFE
An excerpt from The Soul Set Free: Recounting Redemption in Romans
Dr. Paul Manuel—2011

There are four stages in a believer’s life during which the law plays different roles, from some to none.


Stage #1: The process of conversion is a person’s gradual awakening to his need for God’s pardon. Whether it takes years or minutes, the person becomes increasing aware of his sinful condition. In that process, the law plays a convicting role, showing God’s standard and exposing man’s deficiency.1
Rom 3:20b …through the Law [comes] the knowledge of sin.
Stage #2: The moment of justification is God’s declaring a person to be righteous.2 It is immediate, occurring the instant a person turns to God in repentance and faith. At that moment, the law plays no role; justification is entirely and exclusively by God’s grace.3
Rom 3:24a being justified as a gift by His grace…
Stage #3: The process of sanctification is a person’s gradual aligning of his life to God’s perfect standard. It is a long-term undertaking by which the person becomes increasingly godly. In that process, the law plays a conforming role (instructing the believer about the righteous lifestyle he should adopt).4
Rom 6:19 …present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.
Stage #4: The moment of glorification is God’s transforming a person to perfection. It is immediate, occurring the instant a person receives his resurrection body. At that moment, the law again plays no role; glorification is entirely and exclusively by God’s power.5
Rom 8:30c …these whom He justified, He also glorified.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Trinity and Creation

THE TRINITY AND CREATION1
Dr. Paul Manuel—2006

The standard trinitarian formulation describes God as three persons in one essence, co-equal and co-eternal.2 When the Bible mentions them together, they are distinct individuals yet having the same status (i.e., deity).
Matt 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
2 Cor 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
This is most clearly stated with the person of Jesus, who identifies himself with the Father.
John 10:30 I and the Father are one.
The predicate nominative is literally “one thing,” not the same person—they are distinct personalities—but the same substance (“god stuff”). As John writes,
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Father and the Son are separate individuals, but they consist of the same material, they possess the same qualities, and they pursue the same agenda.3 Despite their similar make-up, Father and Son do not have the same role. Jesus became subject to the Father in order to fulfill his redemptive mission.4
Phil 2:6 [Jesus], being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Likewise, the Holy Spirit’s activity is also subject to the Father’s direction.5
2 Cor 5:5 Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Dreams and Visions

OTHER MEANS OF REVELATION1
Dr. Paul Manuel—2015

When God wants to communicate with man, He uses a variety of ways.2 The most common method is verbal, as when He speaks to His people through an angel or a prophet.3 In addition to what is then recorded in scripture, God employs other means of revelation,4 both natural and supernatural.

I. Natural means of revelation
 A. Stellar creation5
Rom 1:20 …since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
B. Human conscience
Rom 2:15 …they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.

II. Supernatural means of revelation
A. Angelic visitation6
Gen 19:15 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”

Luke 1:13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.”
B. Prophetic inspiration
Isa 7:7 Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “‘It will not take place, it will not happen,’”

Mic 4:4 Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The worship service

TEN YEARS OF WORSHIP
Dr. Paul Manuel—2008

Pastor Manuel served the German Seventh Day Baptist Church in Salemville. Pennsylvania.  In 2008 he published this summary for the congregation of their worship experience over that time. The appendices (available on this pdf) contain many resources for worship.

Over the past ten years, we have held more than 500 services in obedience to the oft-repeated command in scripture to worship God.1 Most of those services have been thematic, focusing on the many divine attributes and actions that call forth our praise. Through those various themes, I hope that you have come to know better the One we serve2 and that you have been able to draw closer to Him. Because any increase in your understanding of God should also increase your devotion to God, I hope you have seen growth in your relationship with Him as well, growth that is manifest by a greater desire to please Him in what you say and do. Moreover, worshiping God now prepares you to meet God later, when you will see Him face to face.3 Hence, in addition to focusing what we do on Sabbath morning, these services have been part of your orientation for that heavenly appointment.

What follows is a summary, reviewing some of the manifold reasons we have employed to worship God. They are certainly not exhaustive, but they are illustrative of why He is worthy of our constant devotion. There are many reasons the LORD deserves our worship, far more than we could list.4 Some of these service themes we have used more than once, which is appropriate of course, given the greatness of the God we serve. Ultimately, however, the fact that He is God is sufficient reason to worship Him.

Each service begins with a meditation passage and a meditation hymn (which is also the closing hymn) that introduces the theme and allows people to prepare for their time of adoration before God. What follows is a biblical passage that calls the congregation to worship, an invocation in prayer, and three more sections of scripture and hymns that explicate the theme. In most cases, this constitutes the worship service before the sermon. Depending on the time for preliminary matters (e.g., announcements, offering, children’s message, prayer concerns) and the length of the sermon itself (average 20-30 minutes), the whole session together should be about one hour. Although it is certainly possible to abbreviate the service by shortening the biblical passages or singing fewer verses of the hymns, most often the pressures of time constraints arise because we give more attention to our interests than we give to God’s interests, more attention to what we have to say than to listening for what God has said, more attention to satisfying us than to seeking God. Of all that we do on Sabbath morning, however important those other activities may be, by far the most important activity is what prepares us for what we will be doing for all eternity: worshiping God.

The Appendices contain a selection (50+) of the thematic services we have used at the German Seventh Day Baptist Church. The NIV is the Bible translation throughout, unless noted otherwise. The congregation has two hymnals: Favorite Hymns of Praise (FHP) and The Worshiping Church (WCh).5 The verse portion in italics below the hymn selection is what connects the hymn to the preceding scripture. All service themes begin with, “We worship God because He….”

Monday, December 14, 2015

A suffering God?

DIVINE SUFFERING—AN IMPROPER WORSHIP THEME
Dr. Paul Manuel—2004

God’s attributes and actions offer many reasons to worship Him. Those occasions do not, however, include the supposition that we worship God because He suffers or (at some point) suffered for us. While Jesus in his incarnation certainly suffered, God the Father, the proper object of worship, did not, and assertions to the contrary anthropomorphize God beyond what the scriptures support. Passages that allegedly buttress such a claim actually indicate a different divine attitude, one an English translation (e.g., NIV) does not always represent. As in all such cases, context controls meaning.

About God the Father…
1. It is not true that He suffered because of us.
Gen 6:5-6 The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved [regretted] that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain [annoyed].
N be sorry, console oneself; LXX = ponder
HtD (2x, also Gen 34:7) provoke, annoy; LXX = consider (Gen 34:7 = strike, stun)
1 Sam 15:10-11a [T]he word of the LORD came to Samuel: “I am grieved [regret] that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.”
N be sorry, console oneself; LXX = call > (be) comforted
Ps 78:40 How often they rebelled against him in the desert and grieved [annoyed] him in the wasteland!
H (1x) cause pain or grief; LXX = provoke to anger
Isa 63:9b-10 In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Yet they rebelled and grieved [annoyed] his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The focus of our devotion

WHO IS THE PROPER OBJECT OF WORSHIP?
An excerpt from yesterday's "What Does It Mean to Worship?"
Dr. Paul Manuel—2011

Contrary to the character of most hymns,1 the focus of our devotion should be on God the Father,2 rather than on Jesus3 or on the Holy Spirit (i.e., theocentric not christocentric or pneumocentric).4 This is the clear and consistent teaching of scripture, where “[t]he normal manner [is to worship] the Father, on the merits of the Son, in or through the Holy Spirit” (Thiessen 1979:304).5 As Paul says,6
Eph 2:18 …through him [Jesus] we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Eph 5:18b …be filled with the Spirit…. 20 …giving thanks to God the Father…in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This order does not negate the deity of Jesus or of the Holy Spirit; it simply recognizes the hierarchy and respective responsibility that exists in the Godhead, that each member (though equal to the others) has a different role, and that it is the role of God the Father to receive worship.

For the Bibliography and Endnotes, see the pdf here.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

How should we worship?

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO WORSHIP?
Examining the Biblical Model for Expressing Devotion to God
Dr. Paul Manuel—2011



“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”
Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647)

Contents

Introduction
I. The People Involved in Worship
A. Who worships?
B. Whom do we worship?
Clarification: Who is the proper object of worship?
II. The Purpose and Content of Worship
A. Why do we worship?
B. What is worship?
Query: Does God help us to worship?
III. The Time and Place of Worship
A. When should we worship?
B. Where should we worship?
IV. The Method Involved in Worship
A. How should we worship?
Query: Should there be a fear of God in the worship of God?
B. How do we worship?
Chart: The Development of the Worship Service
Conclusion: Erroneous Assumptions and Essential Attitudes about Worship
Postscript
Handout: Using the Psalms to Worship
Bibliography
Endnotes

Introduction

The Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647) states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”1 Indeed, worship is the most important thing we do, individually and collectively.2 In this study, we will consider what it means to worship. As a way of organizing our discussion, I have chosen the reporter’s traditional inquiries using the five W’s—who, what, when, where, and why, with the addition of how.

Perhaps more than any other subject, it is essential that we apply what we learn about worship to worship, particularly to what we do collectively. Toward the end of each session, we will discuss specific ways that we can use what we have studied to improve our worship. According to the OAD (Ehrlich 1980:803-804)…
  • As a noun, worship means…
  • Reverence and respect paid to God or a god
  • Acts or ceremonies displaying this
  • As a verb, worship means…
  • To honor as a deity; to pay respect to
  • To take part in an act of worship
  • To idolize; to treat with adoration
We will enlarge and refine our understanding of worship beyond this definition, but it provides us with an initial idea and a point of departure for our study. The first question pertains to…

Because of its length (84 pages) the complete study isn't available online. "What Does It Mean to Worship" along with its Bibliography and Endnotes, can be downloaded as a pdf here.

Friday, December 11, 2015

"Son of God"

SON OF GOD1
Dr. Paul Manuel—1995

The title “Son of God,” as it is used of Jesus, is often considered to be a reference to his deity. Indeed, there is ample evidence for this doctrine on other grounds.2 Nevertheless, an examination of the grammatical and historical data does not support such a definition of this phrase.

The Hebrew construct “son(s) of” with other objects suggests that such specificity in meaning is more than the phrase will bear. The bound form of stands in a relationship to whatever free form that follows in one of six ways, several of which appear in Matthew (marked by asterisks). Only context can determine which way the author intends, and some of the examples offered below may fit in more than one category. Rarely, if at all, does the meaning remain the same without the bound form (only in IV.B. and IV.A.). That is, “son(s) of X” is not, as a rule, the equivalent of “X” alone.
I. Physical
A. Related by immediate descent3
  1. Eleazar, son of Aaron
  2. * Zacharias, son of Barachias
  3. * James and John, sons of Zebedee
B. Related by distant descent4
  1. Mephibosheth, (grand)son of Saul
  2. * Jesus, son of David
II. Temporal
A. Age of the father5
  1. Son of (one’s) youth
  2. Son of (one’s) old age
B. Age of the person or thing6
  1. Son of 500 years
  2. Son of a night (= 1 night old)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Old Covenant and New

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE OLD COVENANT AND NEW COVENANT
An excerpt from "A Study of Law and Grace"
Dr. Paul Manuel—2011

Many Christians read Jesus’ statement during the Last Supper—“This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20b)—and they assume that he is identifying the new covenant with his death, that his vicarious sacrifice is the new covenant or, at least, an integral part of that agreement. Those two elements of God’s plan are, in fact, quite distinct. Deliverance from sin is not a provision in the new covenant any more than deliverance from slavery was a provision in the old covenant. Deliverance of either kind is, rather, a prerequisite to the contracts God makes.

To most Christians, this may seem an overly fine distinction. What difference does it make if Jesus’ sacrifice is a provision in or a prerequisite to the new covenant? Either way, believers still benefit. …While the advantage is the same, the attending obligations are not.
  • If Jesus’ sacrifice is a provision in the new covenant, part of that contract, then gentiles who avail themselves of the pardon his death affords are party to this agreement and must keep its terms. Thus, gentile believers have to obey the laws God gave to Israel.
  • If Jesus’ sacrifice is a prerequisite to the new covenant, separate from that contract, then gentiles who avail themselves of the pardon his death affords are not (automatically) party to this agreement and are not (thereby) required to keep its terms. Only when gentile believers subsequently choose to enter the new covenant must they obey the terms of that contract—the laws God gave to Israel.
God makes the Messianic covenant, like its Mosaic predecessor, with the people of Israel. Also like the earlier agreement, the later one allows non-Jews to participate but does not obligate them. The primary difference between the two contracts is that the first admits anyone, whereas the second admits only certain ones: Whoever would enter the new covenant must first experience the new birth.

Israel has not yet realized the New Covenant fully, for God has not yet gathered all the exiles to the land as He will when the messiah returns, and many of Abraham’s descendants do not yet have the intimate knowledge of God they will possess when the messiah returns. In this sense, Jews who are faithful to God but who do not consider Jesus to be the messiah, still regard themselves as operating under the Old Covenant. For Jews who are faithful to God and who do consider Jesus to be the messiah, his death ratifies the New Covenant and enables them to appreciate the unfolding of God’s plan even before Jesus’ second advent. This overlap of the two covenants accords with the statement in Hebrews that indicates there will be a gradual transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant as more Jews recognize Jesus to be the messiah:
Heb 8:13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.
For some Jews, that transition happens sooner rather than later.