Thursday, February 28, 2013

A communion meditation

A Spiritual Chain Reaction

Romans 5:1-2

Dr. Paul Manuel—2011

When one event precipitates another, which then precipitates another, we describe that series variously as a chain reaction (nuclear physics), as a cascade (chemical engineering), domino (political theory), or a snowball effect. These are all terms for events that occur in science, politics, or nature, that is, in the physical realm. What we do not often consider is that a similar process occurs in another realm as a result of Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf—A Spiritual Chain Reaction. The apostle Paul describes this series in his letter to the church at Rome.1 In Rom 5, the apostle lists four consequences of Jesus' death, four ways that believers benefit from what others might regard solely as a tragic event.
Rom 5:1 ...since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Worshiping in the House of God

  Psalm 84 [Sermon]

Dr. Paul Manuel—2010

When you are traveling, it is important to keep your destination in sight. Some people, preoccupied with where they have been, repeatedly look back.
A SS teacher was describing how Lot's wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt, when little Jason interrupted, "My mom looked back once while she was driving...and she turned into a telephone pole!"
When you are traveling, it is important to keep your destination in sight. That is easy if where you are going is attractive or if what you will do when you arrive is exciting, like Going to the Temple.

Our text is Psalm 84, which is a pilgrim psalm, probably sung by those who traveled to the temple in Jerusalem.1 God commanded that all adult males in Israel appear before Him three times a year—during the feasts of Unleavened Bread (Passover), Weeks (Pentecost), and Tabernacles.2 We do not talk much about what went on at these festivals; even less do we consider the difficulty they must have posed.
  • People had to arrange their schedules around these holidays.
  • Some men probably took their families with them, but others had to leave their wives and children behind to tend the farms and livestock or to keep the business going.
  • In addition to the social and economic difficulties these holidays entailed, the depletion of manpower from the outlying regions left the countryside vulnerable to foreign invasion?3
Despite these hardships, however, the prospect of going to the temple was exciting, because it reaffirmed the people's relationship with God and reminded them of the blessings they enjoyed as a result of that relationship.

The psalmist is one of those who makes the journey, and he writes about it here.
  • In Psalm 84:1-4, he extols the wonder of God's house, explaining what it is that attracts people to Zion.
  • In Psalm 84:5-8, he recounts the way to God's house, testifying about the Lord's care as they travel.
  • In Psalm 84:9-12, he describes the worship in God's house, what it means for the author to be in the divine presence.
As we move through the psalm together, try to picture what it must have been like to be part of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and consider how this writer's journey to fellowship with God relates to your journey here. He begins with...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Suicide, hope, and despair

Dr. Paul Manuel—2010

How does Samson's last request—"Let me die with the Philistines!" (Judg 16:30)—inform our understanding of suicide? ...That God would empower Samson to take his own life should make us cautious about adopting too rigid an opinion on the matter. The Bible contains no specific prohibition against suicide, no designation of it as a 'mortal sin' (as in Catholicism). Commentators and ethicists often cite the laws on murder in this regard, but those statutes govern homicide not suicide (Manuel 2006). The penalty for transgressing the commandment against murder is death (i.e., execution), indicating that this particular prohibition concerns the taking of another person's life not the taking of one's own life. In other words, the Bible distinguishes suicide from homicide. Although scripture contains several examples of suicide, the writers simply record the act without comment, neither commending (as courageous) nor condemning (as cowardous) the party responsible.

So, what can we say about suicide? At its heart, suicide is linked to suffering. It is either an act of despair by one who is experiencing great suffering or an act of dread by one who is expecting great suffering. Incidents of suicide in the Bible include the following:2

Monday, February 25, 2013

Disobedience is not without consequence

A Demonstration of Depravity or Devotion

Dr. Paul Manuel—2013

Once a person establishes a relationship with God (through repentance and faith), he must maintain that relationship by obedience to God. For many Christians, obedience is a nebulous process, marked by uncertainty about what He expects. For Jews, there is little ambiguity, because God has issued clear commands to His people covering many aspects of life. To what extent these commands are relevant also for gentile Christians is a separate matter that depends on several factors.1

This brief study will consider an issue that is clear for Jews, involving a matter common to all and one that appears several times in scripture as it recurs in the nation's history: food, specifically what constitutes the proper fare for God's people. Although His commands are clear, His people's compliance has not been consistent. There have been periods of gross disobedience with serious and far-reaching consequences. While not the most important matter, diet can be a demonstration of depravity or devotion.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Christians and the Law

How Many of the 613 Commandments Apply to Christians?

Dr. Paul Manuel—2007
This paper, because of its length, does not appear in its entirety in this post, but can be found, with footnotes and bibliography, here as a pdf.
Should you, as a believing gentile, keep the law God gave to Israel? Which of those many commandments apply to Christians? The short answer might be the one person gave when the Young Adult class began this study. She said, "all of them." I could leave it at that, except you would probably prefer a more substantial response, so we will approach this topic in three ways.
  • First, we will deal with the issue broadly, by looking at some basic principles from scripture, which is our primary source of authority on such matters.
  • Second, we will deal with the issue closely, by looking at specific precepts from scripture, a sampling of the many God gave through Moses at Sinai.
  • Third, we will consider the issue again, by looking at where we are.
When we finish, you should be in a more informed position to answer the question and to decide what you should be doing. Let us begin by...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Praying for the Church

Colossians 1:3-14
Dr. Paul Manuel—2012

As we grow up, we need to learn how to deal with peer pressure and with people's opinions, including their opinions about us.
On Sabbath morning a mother knocked on her son's bedroom door and said, "It's time to get up and go to church." "I'm not going to church this morning," came his sullen response. "You have to get up and go to church," his mother insisted. "No, I'm not." "Yes you are." "No, I'm not," This was getting her nowhere. Trying another tack, she said, "Tell me why you don't want to go." "They don't like me," her son replied, "and I don't like them. Give me one good reason why I have to go." His mother said, "I'll give you two reasons. First, you're 55 years old...and second... you're the minister!"
As we grow up, we need to learn how to deal with peer pressure and with people's opinions, including their opinions about us. Nevertheless, staying in bed is not the way to deal with them. God has given us other means to address individual and corporate concerns, one of which is appealing to Him for help. That is the apostle Paul's advice as he writes to believers at Colosse and asks, in light of the difficulties you are facing as a congregation, What Are You Praying for the Church?

The apostle Paul often opens his letters by assuring his readers that he has been praying frequently and fervently for them.1 As I was reading his epistle to the Colossians, I saw not only Paul's constancy in prayer but also his content—what he prayed for the church. This assembly in Colosse was not without its problems. The gospel was competing with a particular form of Gnosticism, a heresy that promoted theological division in the church, so it would have been natural for Paul to allow the problem in the church to direct his petition to the Lord.2 Yet Paul's focus in prayer is not on the church's problem but on its potential. Turn to the first chapter of Colossians, and we will examine the substance of Paul's prayer, both his thanksgiving and his petition for this church.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The purpose of the Sanctuary

Dr. Paul Manuel—2004

The traditional Christian view holds that the tabernacle/temple was necessary as a place for the sacrificial system, because that institution provided a temporary means of atonement (and pardon) for the sins of God's people. Later, Jesus' death on the cross provided the permanent means of atonement (and pardon) for the sins of God's people. There are at least three problems with this view:
  • First, it misses the purpose of the sanctuary, which is to provide a place for sacrifices.
  • Second, it implies that, in the absence of a sacrificial system during the Babylonian exile, God did not or could not forgive people's sins.
  • Third, it renders inexplicable the many passages that speak about or that assume a rebuilding of the temple and a reinstatement of the sacrificial system in the Messianic Age.
Contributing to this misconception regarding the sanctuary is a related misunderstanding concerning Jesus' atoning work on the cross.

During the late Second Temple Period (1st C.E.), there were some within Judaism who were familiar with the gospel but who considered it a competing alternative to the temple service as a means of reaching God. They also viewed angels as having an important role in the divine cosmology and seemed to regard Jesus as a lesser being in the hierarchy of creation. The author of Hebrews addresses both these issues. He deals briefly with Jesus' superiority to angels,1 then devotes considerably more attention to the relationship of Jesus to the temple (implying that the second concern is the more pressing).

Although the Church has long recognized Jesus as "head over everything" (Eph 1:22), including the angelic realm, it has generally accepted the notion that the temple offerings and Jesus' death were competing (or at least chronologically sequential) methods of atonement; in either case, that the efficacy of Jesus' sacrifice replaced the deficiency of animal sacrifices. This misunderstanding has generated a number of difficulties for Christians, such as an inability to understand biblical references to a future temple and to renewed animal sacrifices.2 What could possibly be the reason for restoring them if Jesus' atoning work accomplished the same end once for all?

Related to an erroneous view of sacrifices is the false assumption that the temple's purpose was to provide a place for sacrifices. On the contrary, the purpose of sacrifices was to provide a place for the temple.3 That is, the LORD chose to manifest His presence among His people as visible proof of His covenantal commitment to be their God,4 and He instituted the sacrificial system to preserve the holiness of that sacred place from the inevitable defiling influence of those same people. Hence, the kind of atonement that animal sacrifices provide is different from the atonement that Jesus' sacrifice provides, as the author of Hebrews makes clear.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Teach us to number our days

Psalm 90

Dr. Paul Manuel—2012
(This was a New Year's sermon, and originally contained several references to that day. It is, however, perfectly relevant any time of the year so I have removed some of the references which can be found in the pdf linked above)
There are certain accommodations that often come with age.
  • Younger folks hold the door open for you.
  • You qualify for the senor citizens discount.
  • People in general may be more deferential.
... or not.
Just as she was celebrating her 80th birthday, Margaret received a jury-duty notice. She called to remind the court office that she was exempt because of her age. "You need to come in and fill out the exemption forms," the clerk said. "I've already done that," she replied. "I filled it out last year." "You have to do it every year," the clerk answered. "Why? ....Do you think I'm going to get younger?"
Contrary to what that clerk might have thought, age only goes in one direction. The sole exception is God, who is ageless, and He alone is able to give the span of your life meaning.

Please turn to Psalm 90, which is about time. In fact, Moses makes more than twenty references to time in this psalm (e.g., "day" 6x). It is titled "a prayer" which Moses addresses to God, and it falls neatly into two parts:1
  • Moses' Description of God (vv. 1-12)
  • Moses' Petition to God (vv. 13-17)
Each part has three subsections in which this "man of God" reflects on what he considers a proper outlook for the future, appropriate for us as we, too, consider the future.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The name of the Lord

Dr. Paul Manuel—2008

The biblical scholarly community has made extensive and free use of the tetragram(maton) for many years, both in writing and teaching. The practice is gaining acceptance among pastors and is even prevalent among the laity of certain denominations (e.g., Sacred Name). Some view this as a positive trend, one that enables people "to call on the name of the LORD" (Ps 116:13, 17), yet the result may actually be to make profane (common) what should remain sacred. Although use of the divine name is not a doctrinal issue basic to the faith, it is a concern to some of God's people and, as such, is a matter about which others should be aware. This brief discussion, in part, reflects the attitude and custom of many observant Jews (Messianic and non-Messianic), but the position it espouses derives support from what God has said on the matter, from the many traditions that have arisen as a result, and from the likely negative implications of a more tolerant approach.

The third commandment of the Decalogue is a suitable place to begin. Its most obvious meaning is that people should not use God's name in any way that would reflect improperly on His character, whether directly or by inference.
Exod 20:7 [= Deut 5:11] You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
Commentators and preachers frequently read this passage as a prohibition against vulgar language1 or (less directly) as a metonymy for wrong behavior. The most obvious meaning, however, does relate to speech, but examples from the biblical text point primarily to speech of a specific kind: the use of the Name in oaths.2
Lev 19:12 Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.
Deut 6:13 ( 10:20) Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.
The Bible offers one other example of improper use of the tetragram in speech: blaspheming the Name.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Ark of the Covenant

What Did It Look Like and What Happened to It?

Dr. Paul Manuel—2004

An artist's impression of the Ark (Byers, 1995)
What did the Ark of the Covenant look like?

The Bible offers a description of the ark's appearance in the building plans of Bezalel.
Exod 37:1-9 Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood—two and a half cubits long [3.75 ft], a cubit and a half wide [2.25 ft], and a cubit and a half high [2.25 ft]. He overlaid it with pure gold, both inside and out, and made a gold molding around it. He cast four gold rings for it and fastened them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other. Then he made poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold. And he inserted the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry it. He made the atonement cover of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. Then he made two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. He made one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; at the two ends he made them of one piece with the cover. The cherubim had their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim faced each other, looking toward the cover.
Bezalel constructed the ark around 1450 B.C.E., but there were no pictorial representations of his work for almost two millennia.

In the earthly sanctuary, the ark was the throne of God, and His physical presence hovered above it.1 The angelic figures may have been the ark's most striking feature, for biblical authors often described God as the one "enthroned between the cherubim.2 Inside the ark were the tablets of the law He gave to Moses (hence, the term "the ark of the covenant" 33x).3

Monday, February 18, 2013


Dr. Paul Manuel—2007

Most people, including many Christians, use the word "miracle" in a broad and loose fashion.
  • "I forgot to set the alarm. It's a miracle I woke up on time."
  • "This new computer is a miracle of human ingenuity."
  • "The miracle of childbirth"
  • "The miracle of modern science"
Are these really miracles? That is, do they match the biblical definition of the term? By using the word in this conventional way, have we changed how we think about the miraculous? Have we, thereby, become accustomed to or satisfied with calling miraculous something less than God intended? If so, it may affect our understanding of God and of how He works. So, what is a miracle?

The main Hebrew and Greek words that designate the miraculous are often translated "sign," Although this term can refer to the natural or the supernatural, a "sign" is a marker that points to something greater than itself. By examining how scripture uses this term, we can determine a biblical definition and adjust our own definition accordingly.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

God is in control

Dr. Paul Manuel—2011

Everything that happens in this world is under God's sovereign control, which He exercises in conjunction with man's free will. That is, He is able to integrate our (micro) choices into His (macro) plan without those choices in any way altering that plan.

We perceive God's working in two basic ways: directly (supernaturally) and indirectly (providentially) although, from His perspective, there is little difference between them. From our perspective, the difference is that the former is overt (obvious) whereas the latter is covert (obscure). Moreover, His providential (behind-the-scenes) activity appears to us on a sliding scale from more evident to less evident, depending on our proximity to the nexus of the event. In other words, the more an event affects us, the more attuned we would be to His involvement.

Unlike God's supernatural work, where His role is immediately evident to those in attendance, His providential work may not be immediately evident. There may be a delay in one's realization (or recognition), pending other events or further reflection. Moreover, the extent of that delay may depend on the relevance (or proximity) of the event to the person in question.

For example, I awaken on Monday and want to accomplish two tasks: begin my sermon preparation and do some hospital visitation. I decide to start with the sermon and go to the hospital that afternoon. From my perspective, given what I know, the order does not matter. I arrive at the hospital and learn that the patient's doctor has just given him the results of an important test, which he relates to me, enabling me to pray more specifically for his condition. When I initially ordered my schedule for the day, I was unaware how God would use other events, like the doctor's visit, to make my time more effective.

Had I chosen to reverse the order in my schedule, it would have changed what I did but, as I live in obedience to God, it would not have reduced the effectiveness of my ministry, simply shifted that effectiveness to another area (presumably sermon preparation, although something unplanned or unexpected is possible as well). Success is guaranteed for all who serve Him, and He is able to meet the needs of His people through a multitude of channels. Regardless of whether or not we are living in obedience, though, God is not limited by our choices.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Fulfilling God's will

Dr. Paul Manuel—1994

A question Christians, especially young Christians, often ask at some point in life is: What is God's will?1 When they have to choose from more than one option, they want to know: Which way does He want me to go? For many people, finding the answers is a game of "hide and seek" (or multiple choice). They assume God has a plan for their lives, but it is not immediately obvious, and they must discover it if they are to reach their full potential for Him. While there are occasions when God may have a particular task for us to accomplish, His will (or His way) is usually that we heed what He has already revealed to His people in His word.

In the broadest sense, God's purpose in history is to manifest His glory. He says to Moses (Num 14:21),
[A]s surely as I live, the whole earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD.
Like a good chief executive officer, God does not micro-manage, yet neither does He leave people in the dark about His expectations. That is, He gives them general guidelines (commands), which He expects them to follow as they take part in fulfilling His plan. He then works behind the scenes (providence), offering advice or coordinating logistics to help keep the plan on track. He allows people latitude to make wrong choices (e.g., the prodigal son) or to waste resources (e.g., the single talent), even to oppose the plan to some degree (e.g., the vineyard tenders). He steps in, however, exercising His authority (sovereignty) as CEO when there is an actual threat to the plan.

Friday, February 15, 2013

God's permissive will


Dr. Paul Manuel—2000

By giving man freedom to choose (albeit limited), God recognizes (and even makes possible) that some of man's decisions will be at odds with the divine plan. In such cases, God may offer an alternative, a difference between...
  • God's perfect (or prescriptive) will (the command of God), or what He approves (prefers), and
  • God's permissive will (the concession of God), or what He allows (permits).1
We must not view these as two options with no appreciable distinction. Our responsibility is always to obey Him, and choosing His perfect will is the sure (and sole) path to His blessing. Nevertheless, God knows our propensity to go our own way, and He may make provision for our deficient devotion, offering an alternative path that is acceptable to Him, albeit less satisfying to us.
  • In principle, believers should, of course, always seek to fulfill God's will, at all times and in all things.2
  • In practice, however, because the ideal is difficult to achieve, God may make allowances for the struggle and accept something less than perfect obedience.
Nevertheless, any alternative to God's perfect will comes at a price.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Dr. Paul Manuel—2002

"The Shield of the Trinity" (Scotum Fidei)
The standard Trinitarian formulation describes God as three persons in one essence, co-equal and co-eternal. This doctrine originates in the early church (before Catholicism) and finds support in several New Testament passages, although the term 'trinity' (Latin Trinitas) does not appear in this regard until the third century.1 When the Bible mentions Father, Son, and Spirit together, they are distinct individuals (not three gods) yet having the same status (all fully God).2
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

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Clean and unclean

The Significance of Clean and Unclean Animals

Dr. Paul Manuel—April 2006

When the church separated from the synagogue, it jettisoned customs considered no longer relevant for Christians. Practicing circumcision, keeping the festivals, observing the Sabbath were all part of the law Jesus supposedly abolished. As a result, most Christians today, unfamiliar with these ordinances, find them puzzling. Why did God give such instructions to His people? What was their purpose? Another example of a custom Christians find confusing is the distinction between clean and unclean. In scripture, these two categories can apply to people, places, and things.1 We will confine our study, though, to its application to animals, considering what God has revealed at three periods in biblical history. Then we will ask what difference, if any, this distinction means to us. The first mention of clean and unclean in scripture is...

I. At the Time of the Flood
Gen 7:2 "You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are unclean [lit. not clean] two, a male and his female.... 8 Of clean animals and animals that are unclean [lit. not clean] and birds and everything that creeps on the ground, 9 there went into the ark to Noah by twos, male and female, as God had commanded Noah.
Gen 8:20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
A. God instructs gentiles about the distinction.2

B. God accepts only clean animals for sacrifices.

Although this is the first reference in scripture to the distinction between clean and unclean, it may not be Noah's first exposure to the concept. God tells him how many of each animal to take but provides no explanation, as if the need for more of one kind than the other would be obvious. Noah also seems to know which kind of animal to offer God, for he makes the proper sacrifice without further instruction. This is the only explicit application here for the use of clean animals: Noah employs them for sacrifice.3 There is no mention that he also uses them exclusively for food. On the contrary, God seems to advocate no restriction upon what man
may consume after the flood.4
Gen 9:3 Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as [I gave] the green plant.
Nevertheless, the connection to vegetation—"as I gavel the green plant"— and to the earlier restriction of it (only what is "yielding seed" Gen 1:295), may indicate an implicit restriction for meat as well.6 That is, only what is acceptable food for the deity is appropriate food for the devotee.7 As we will see, God makes this restriction explicit for Israel.8 The next mention of clean and unclean in scripture is...

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Holy Days of Israel

Dr. Paul Manuel—April 2004

What is the gentile believer's relationship to the holy days of Israel? That is, what should he observe today? The answer lies with identifying which of God's commands apply in the absence of the temple and in view of the varying relationships gentiles have to God's people.

I. The enduring (permanent) responsibilities of God's people

Several phrases in Torah indicate the abiding relevance of divine ordinances in the divine economy.

A. Phrases that mark permanent responsibilities
  1. An "eternal covenant" is a contract with no termination in view.1
  2. An "eternal ordinance" is legislation that also bears no expiration date.2
  3. The phrase "throughout your/their generations" indicates continuation as long as the nation exists.3
To stress the ongoing importance of certain commands, two or three phrases will appear in combination,4 although most of those instructions pertain to the sanctuary and are not possible to observe apart from it. The phrase "before the Lord" (after construction of the tabernacle) also marks activity in the sanctuary and applies to most holiday observances.5 In contrast, the phrase "in all your dwellings" marks a practice that obtains beyond the sanctuary into the local community and may, thus, designate what is pertinent today (in the absence of a temple),6 especially when this phrase7 appears with those marking permanent responsibilities.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Will My Cat Go to Heaven?


Dr. Paul Manuel—2000

What happens to animals when they die? Do they cease to exist, or do they, like some people, go to a better place? You may consider whether or not animals go to heaven a silly question. "What difference does it make? Why give it the serious attention of a Bible study? Surely there are more important subjects we could investigate!" Nevertheless, for some, this is a serious question. Their pet is part of the family, and they want to know what will happen to it at death. As God has made eternal provision for humans, has He also made provision for animals? Even for those of us who do not have pets, such a study can be valuable for at least two reasons.
  • First, it illustrates how we can attempt to answer a question the Bible does not address directly, and there are many of those (e.g., self-defense, suicide). It shows how, by gathering evidence from various sources, we can arrive at a tentative (if not completely satisfying) answer, instead of just throwing up our hands and saying, "We don't know."
  • Second, it helps us to understand the mind of God. Investigating His attitude toward animals offers another perspective on the character of the one we humans serve.
So, while the question of faunal fate may not be a burning issue for you, searching for the answer can still be a worthwhile endeavor. What, then, can we say about animals? We will begin by surveying man's relationship to animals (I-Ill), then we will examine God's attitude toward animals (IV-VI).

I. God has placed animals under man's dominion (Gen 1:28b).

Since creation, the fate of animals has been linked to man's fate. God said to Adam,1
Gen 1:28b Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.
At first, the relationship was apparently neutral, with neither party adversely disposed toward the other. Eve, for example, did not hesitate to converse with the serpent. In fact, they seem to be on good terms until after the Fall.
Gen 3:1b He said to the woman.... 2a The woman said to the serpent.... 15a And I will put enmity between you and the woman....
A. There were only herbivores before the flood (Gen 1:29-30).

Friday, February 8, 2013


Dr. Paul Manuel—2002

In a desire to be culturally relevant, churches have checked and sometimes changed their views on various issues (e.g., divorce, women in ministry). One issue that has generated both discussion and division is sexuality, particularly homosexuality. Several mainline denominations have adopted positive positions on this activity and on relations with practicing homosexuals, from admitting them into membership to ordaining them for ministry.

Where these same denominations address what God has said about the matter, it is either to revise or reject what the Bible teaches.
  • Revision: The Bible's condemnation of homosexuality refers only to those relationships that are unloving or unfaithful.
  • Rejection: The Bible's condemnation of homosexuality is outmoded and does not apply in modern society.
While the church should attempt to reach all segments of society, the church must not condone (explicitly or implicitly) what God condemns.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Ten Commandments: Sermon Series


Links to Paul Manuel's sermon series: "The Ten Commandments":

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Ten Commandments: The Tenth Commandment


The Tenth Commandment:
On Cupidity (Exod 20:17)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2006
(There are different divisions of the Commandments in different traditions: In Protestantism (for the most part), v. 2 is the introduction and v. 3 is the first command. In Judaism, vv. 2-3 together are the first command. In Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism, vv. 2-6 are the first command, and v. 17 contains two commands. This study follows the primary Protestant division, recognizing that v. 2 is declarative and v. 3 contains the first imperative.)

What you hear is not always what you remember, and what you remember is not always accurate.
A children's SS class was studying the Ten Commandments. The students were proceeding down the list, quoting each command as best they could remember. There was a pause, though, when they came to the last one, and the teacher asked if anyone could tell her what it was. Finally, Susie raised her hand, stood tall, and said, "Thou shall not take the covers off thy neighbor's wife."
That version may not be quite accurate, but it does capture what might lead to coveting.

In the final command of the Decalogue, God departs from His previous pattern by giving a precept that is not about an action but about an attitude.1 Please turn to Exod 20:17 for the commandment On Cupidity.2

Exod 20:17 You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Deut 5:21 You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor's house or land, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

There are several other commands, important commands that continue the pattern God established of addressing actions, behavior that is obvious. Like...3
Lev 19:11a Do not steal.
Deut 7:3a Do not intermarry with [pagans].
Lev 18:22a Do not practice homosexuality. (Actually: Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman....)
Why does God not choose one of these or something similar and be consistent here?

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Ten Commandments: The Ninth Commandment


The Ninth Commandment:
On Perjury (Exod 20:16)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2006
(There are different divisions of the Commandments in different traditions: In Protestantism (for the most part), v. 2 is the introduction and v. 3 is the first command. In Judaism, vv. 2-3 together are the first command. In Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism, vv. 2-6 are the first command, and v. 17 contains two commands. This study follows the primary Protestant division, recognizing that v. 2 is declarative and v. 3 contains the first imperative.)

The Bible addresses many transgressions of the tongue. One that it categorically condemns is the sin of gossip.1 Still, there are some Christians who engage in this activity, oblivious to the trouble they cause.
The small-town church gossip and self-appointed arbiter of congregational morals kept sticking her nose into other people's business. Although most members did not appreciate her activities, they feared her enough to maintain their silence. She made a mistake, however, when she accused Gary, a new member, of being drunk after she saw his pickup truck parked in front of the town's only bar one afternoon. After church, she told Gary what she had seen. "You know," she said loudly enough for several others to hear, "Everyone who saw your car in front of that bar would know what you were doing there." Gary, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and just walked away. He didn't explain, defend, or deny. He said nothing. Later that evening, Gary quietly drove his pickup to her house... and left it parked there all night.
A person needs to be careful what he says, especially about others, lest his words get him in trouble. That concern and caution is also behind the ninth command in the Decalogue, the one On Perjury.

Several weeks ago, when our congregation hosted the Appalachian Association Annual meeting, Roy Gearhart had a very entertaining version of Israel's wilderness experience entitled, Moses on Spiritual Safari. In that presentation, he involved the audience at several points, including a review of the Ten Commandments, in which he asked the congregation to name each statute. People did well recounting commandments one through six, but needed some prompting for the others, which he helpfully offered. When they seemed uncertain about commandment nine, He provided the common version that often comes to mind: You shall not lie, which does appear in Lev 19:11.2 While that wording conveys a sense of the prohibition, and matches the brevity of the previous three commands—"You shall not murder...commit adultery.... [or] steal"—God has something more specific in view with the Decalogue's penultimate precept. Please turn to...

Exod 20:16 You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

Deut 5:20 You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

This wording, more detailed than "You shall not lie," has a particular situation in view, namely the statement a witness makes in court.3 Here...

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Ten Commandments: The Eighth Commandment


The Eighth Commandment:
On Thievery (Exod 20:15)
Dr. Paul Manuel
(There are different divisions of the Commandments in different traditions: In Protestantism (for the most part), v. 2 is the introduction and v. 3 is the first command. In Judaism, vv. 2-3 together are the first command. In Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism, vv. 2-6 are the first command, and v. 17 contains two commands. This study follows the primary Protestant division, recognizing that v. 2 is declarative and v. 3 contains the first imperative.)
This sermon series is not particularly easy to preach, because it is often about the negative, about what you should not do. It concerns such an important passages, though, I thought it appropriate to treat them, even if it causes some discomfort. There is also the hope that it will encourage people to act accordingly.
A man was quite unhappy because he had lost his favorite hat. Rather than purchasing a new one, he decided he would go to a nearby church and steal one out of the vestibule. When he got there, though, an usher intercepted him at the door and took him to a pew where he had to sit and listen to a sermon on the Ten Commandments. After church, the man met the preacher in the vestibule doorway, shook his hand vigorously and said, "I want to thank you for saving my soul today. I came to church to steal a hat, but after hearing your sermon on the Ten Commandments, I decided against it." "You mean the Commandment, 'Thou shall not steal,' changed your mind?" the minister asked. "No, the one about adultery did," the man replied. "As soon as you said that... I remembered where I left my hat."
I am hopeful that this series on The Decalogue: A Summary of God's Precepts for God's People, will inspire a better response, including the message this morning, On Thievery.

Whether God thought a simple phrase would be easy to remember or, because eyeglasses had not yet been invented, He wanted to keep it short so the print could be larger, the eighth command is as concise as numbers six and seven—a few words in English, just two words in Hebrew.1

Exod 20:15 [= Deut 5:19] You shall not steal.

As with other commands in this list, God provides no particulars, nothing more than the basic admonition. We do not know how pervasive the problem of theft was in Israelite society, but it has been a recognized problem in civilizations throughout history.2 Evidently, theft was also common enough among God's people3 for Him to include the prohibition here and to address the matter in more detail elsewhere.4