Sunday, March 31, 2013

God doesn't need you

"God Doesn't Need You"
(Luke 19:37-40)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2013

Some people have an inflated view of their own importance. Whether it is because of good looks, unusual talent, or social status, they imagine they have an advantage that warrants them special treatment from others... until they meet someone whose importance is not imaginary.
There was a hierarchy among the university faculty that dictated how long students were to wait for the teacher before leaving if he were not there for the class at the appointed time. A full professor rated fifteen minutes. An associate professor only ten. A mere instructor was expected to be on time, if not early. This system worked only one way, however; and students were afforded no such grace. One professor, the foremost authority in his field—by his own admission—registered distinct annoyance when a certain student, recently out of the military, was late to class for the third day in a row. "Tell me," the professor asked, "exactly what did they say in the Army when you sauntered in late like this?" "Well," the student replied... "first they saluted, then asked, 'How are you this morning, sir?"
Some people have an inflated view of their own importance... until they meet someone whose importance is not imaginary. It was so in Jesus' day among the religious elite, who thought God had given them an indispensable role in Jewish society, and they were probably shocked to hear him say, "God doesn't need you."

Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus' entry into Jerusalem during the last week before his death. There is no thought yet of that unhappy event. This is a joyous occasion when the disciples proclaim openly their belief that Jesus is the messiah. As they draw close to the city, others join the procession, lining the pathway with palm branches, which symbolize a leader's victory1 and anticipate the deliverance from foreign oppression the messiah will bring. It is a festive atmosphere as Jesus'...

I. Disciples praise the Lord (Luke 19:37-38).
Luke 19:37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 38 "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" [Ps 118:261 "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"

Thursday, March 21, 2013

On the third day

Contradiction or Approximation?
Dr. Paul Manuel—February, 2001

The New Testament provides several details of Jesus' final days that enable modern readers to reconstruct a relative chronology of that fateful period. He was crucified on the "Preparation Day," which refers to Friday, the day before the Sabbath, and each of the gospel writers uses this phrase.
Matt 27:62 Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate,
Mark 15:42b it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath,
Luke 23:54 It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin....56b And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
John's use of this phrase has made some wonder if it referred to the day before the Passover.
John 19:14a Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour.... 31 Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and [that] they might be taken away.... 42 Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The power of praise

2 Chronicles 5:1-14; 20:1-24

Dr. Paul Manuel—2013

One of life's challenges is knowing when to speak your mind and when to hold your tongue; especially in marriage, and especially early in that relationship.
Late one night, the wife of a newly married couple thought she heard a noise downstairs. Nudging her husband, she whispered, "Wake up, wake up!" "What's the matter?" he asked. "There are burglars in the kitchen. I think they're eating the tuna casserole I made tonight." As her husband rolled over, she heard him mutter... "That'll teach 'em!"
In marriage, it is usually best for a husband to praise his wife; otherwise he should probably hold his tongue, especially early in their relationship. In worship, it is always best to praise the Lord, including early in the relationship, as the Israelites do during the reign of King Solomon, when they also learn The Power of Praise.

The writer of Hebrews understands the importance of praise and exhorts his audience, saying...
Heb 13:15 ...let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise....
Why should we do that? ...The NT author does not give a reason, probably because it is obvious to his readers. They are familiar with the reason the author of
Ps 33 gives, that...1
Ps 33:1b it is fitting [or warranted] for the upright to praise him.
This is the primary reason, of course. We praise God because He deserves our praise, in part, because He does wonderful things for us.2
  • He delivers us from evil.
  • He forgives us our sin.
  • He heals us of disease.
  • He provides us with food.
These and other divine blessings give us countless reasons to praise our God,3 but praise is usually after the fact. That is, we are usually extolling God's goodness to us in response to what He has done for us. Is there such a thing as praise before the fact, (proleptic) praise that anticipates or invokes God's response. In other words, does our general praise of God ever bring a response from God? If so, then we may actually be missing a blessing by waiting for Him to act before we express our appreciation.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Two judgments

Dr. Paul Manuel—2013

The Bible speaks about two periods of judgment. The first period of judgment ("particular judgment") is after death. The author of Hebrews says,
Heb 9:27 [M]an is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.
This judgment determines a person's intermediate state (i.e., between death and resurrection) and coincides with a degree of reward (in the form of comfort) for the righteous or a degree of punishment (in the form of torment) for the unrighteous. Jesus notes the difference in a story about two individuals.
Luke 16:23a In hell, [the rich man] was in torment.... 24 So he called... 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.' 25 "But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.'"
This preliminary judgment also determines (but does not officially finalize) a person's ultimate state, either of continued existence with God or of continued existence apart from God. Having reached this point, however, it is not possible to revise one's fate.

Later, the dead will be raised, a change from their intermediate state, albeit in the order Paul indicates.
1 Cor 15:22 [A]s in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Investigative Judgment?

Dr. Paul Manuel—1995

In examining the person and work of Jesus, we noted how certain groups deviate so much from clear biblical teaching that they cannot be classified as Christian, because they do not hold to what we would consider essential (orthodox) beliefs. That implies there are non-essential or marginal beliefs, areas in which Christians can disagree without jeopardizing or compromising their faith.

One such tenet for Seventh-day Adventists is investigative judgment. It is a complex idea that is not always clear to those who espouse it and often generates misconceptions among non-Adventists.2 According to SDA doctrine, part of Jesus' present work consists of three phases (Representative Group 1957:422).
It is our understanding that Christ, as High Priest, concludes His intercessory ministry in heaven in a work of judgment. He begins His great work of judgment in the investigative phase. At the conclusion of the investigation, the sentence of judgment is pronounced. Then...judge Christ descends to execute, or carry into effect, that sentence.

This particular notion has its roots in three suppositions: one about Jesus' ministry, one about man's destiny, and one about biblical prophecy. I will list them, indicating their significance for investigative judgment, and then we will evaluate them.

I. Suppositions of this belief

A. Regarding Jesus' ministry3
  • The Old Testament sacrificial system was a type of Christ's sacrifice.4
  • Typology, at least the way many Christians use it, implies a kind of revelation—"God intended this to mean that."
According to this view, the reason God instituted the sacrifices was to prefigure Jesus' atoning work. Consequently, by studying what took place in the earthly sanctuary, we can understand what took place in the heavenly sanctuary. Proponents appeal to New Testament writers, especially to the author of Hebrews, who use the temple service to explain what Jesus achieved. Investigative judgment depends heavily on typological interpretation, especially for the Day of Atonement.
B. Regarding man's destiny5
  • Believers do not enter God's presence immediately upon death but sleep until the resurrection.
Thus, is it possible for Jesus to leave the investigation of their lives until the end of his heavenly ministry, just prior to his return, rather than having to make a decision at the moment each person dies.
C. Regarding biblical prophecy
  • In 1844 Jesus fulfilled the prophecy to re-consecrate the heavenly temple (Dan 8:14; Heb 9:23).
A particular interpretation of Dan 8:14 fueled messianic expectation in Europe and America during the first half of the nineteenth century.
Dan 8:13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, "How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, and the surrender of the sanctuary and of the host that will be trampled underfoot?" 14 He said to me, "It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated."
Calculating one day as equal to one year, 2300 years would pass from the construction of the second temple, which began in 457 B.C., to its re-consecration when Jesus would return in 1844. The expectation seems to have been that Jesus would use the temple site as headquarters for his millennial reign. One of the advocates of this view in the U.S. was the Baptist preacher William Miller, whose followers increased as the time drew near.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Belief and baptism

Mark 16:15-16
Dr. Paul Manuel—November 10, 2012

We are here to witness Jim's baptism. A variation of this event took place much earlier in his life. In the New Testament, however, there are no instances of infant baptism. That is because baptism accompanies decisions a child cannot make and his parents cannot make for him, such as confession of sin and repentance from sin.1 Another personal decision baptism accompanies is belief, which raises two questions.
  • First, what must a person believe?
  • Is there a prescribed subject for this faith, or can he believe anything he wishes?
  • Second, when must a person believe it?
  • Is there a proper sequence to these steps, or can he do them in any order he wishes?
Jesus answers both questions with the final instructions he gives the disciples before his ascension.2