Monday, September 30, 2013

Sermon: The foremost commencement (Rev 20:6, 14-15)

The Foremost Commencement (Rev 20:6, 14-15)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2011
(This sermon is part of Dr. Manuel's sermon series: "What is Foremost?" Links to
each of the sermons in the series will be found here
as they are posted.)
Some people do not give much thought to the future, even though they probably should.
A zealous young preacher came upon a farmer working in his field. Being concerned for the farmer's soul, the preacher asked him, "Are you laboring in the vineyard of the Lord?" Continuing to work, the farmer replied, "Nah, these are soybeans." "You don't understand," said the preacher. "Are you a Christian?" With the same amount of enthusiasm as his previous answer showed, the farmer said, "Nope my name's Jones. You must be lookin' for Jim Christian. He lives a mile south of here." Undeterred, the preacher tried again, "Are you lost?" "Nope," the farmer answered. "I've lived here all my life." Pressing on, the preacher asked, "Are you prepared for the resurrection?" This caught the farmer's attention, and he responded, "When's it gonna be?" Thinking he had accomplished something, the young preacher replied, "It could be today, tomorrow, or the next day." Wiping his brow with a handkerchief, the farmer remarked. "Well, don't mention it to my wife. She doesn't get out much...and she'll wanna go all three days."
Some people do not give much thought to the future, even though they probably should. The resurrection will not be a three-day affair. It will not even take a day but will take place "in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Cor 15:52). It is also not an event to miss.

What happens to a person when he dies? ...Some think nothing happens, that one simply ceases to exist, because this world is all there is to life. There is nothing more or, as the old Budweiser commercial put it: "You only go around once, so grab all the gusto you can get."

The Bible gives a much different account, one that makes death the beginning of another existence.1 For those who know God, who have adopted The Foremost Comportment, which is by exhibiting the piety of God, that next state will be one of comfort. For those who do not know God, that next state will be one of torment. In other words, a person's decision in this life will determine his destination in the next life. Please turn to Rev 20, where John notes that for both groups, this determination will be...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sermon: The foremost comportment (1 Tim 4:8)

The Foremost Comportment (1 Tim 4:8)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2011
(This sermon is part of Dr. Manuel's sermon series: "What is Foremost?" Links to
each of the sermons in the series will be found here
as they are posted.)
The typical student is concerned about his grades, because those evaluations reflect his performance and may affect his future—for example, if he is eligible for financial aid or, in extreme cases, if he will graduate.
After receiving the results from an exam, a student entered his instructor's office and said, "Professor, I don't believe I deserve this F you've given me." To the student's surprise, his instructor replied, "I agree." ...then added... "but it's the lowest grade the university allows."
The typical student is concerned about his grades, because those evaluations reflect on his performance and may affect his future.

When I was a student, then later, when I was a teacher, one of the most common questions from a class, especially when exam time drew near, was:
What will be on the test? Of all there is to know about this subject—and recognizing that it is far more than any one person can know (except, of course, the teacher)—what do we actually have to know to get a good grade?
While an instructor might want to examine students on everything he has covered, that is simply not practical; so, he must decide between what to include and what to exclude. He must assign a relative value to the material, saying, "This is what is most important."

God has done something similar. While everything He has revealed in scripture is significant, He has indicated what is most important, What Is Foremost. We have considered three items thus far, all from the gospel of Matthew. Today, we will examine one from the epistles of Paul...

IV. The Foremost Comportment1

...your conduct on a regular basis, which exhibits...
  • The piety of God (1 Tim 4:8) Please turn to...
1 Tim 4:8 [P]hysical training [has] value [for some things], but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.2

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sermon: The foremost commitment (Matt 6:31,33)

The Foremost Commitment (Matt 6:31,33)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2011
(This sermon is part of Dr. Manuel's sermon series: "What is Foremost?" Links to
each of the sermons in the series will be found here
as they are posted.)
We all face challenges in life, although some of them are more demanding than others.
A pig and a chicken were walking by a church where a large and colorful sign announced a fair that weekend featuring games, rides, and a prize-winning, breakfast cook-off. Getting caught up in the spirit, the pig suggested to the chicken that they each make a contribution toward the breakfast. "That's a great idea," the chicken exclaimed, "and I know just what will win. Let's offer them ham and eggs?" ..."Not so fast," said the pig. "For you, that's a limited contribution.... For me, it's a total commitment."
We all face challenges in life, some of them more demanding than others. The question is how to decide which challenges warrant our limited contribution and which challenges warrant our total commitment.

Matthew describes an event where Satan tries several times to sidetrack Jesus before the rabbi even begins his public ministry. The final attempt is a blatant challenge to the sovereignty of God in which Jesus' response shows that he understands what is foremost.
Matt 4:8 ...the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." 10 Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only."
Jesus' answer is from Deuteronomy 6 (v. 13) and restates what he identifies later as The Foremost Commandment, which is to possess a passion for God. This should certainly be at the top of every believer's list of What Is Foremost, but it must not be the only thing on the list. Jesus then talks about The Foremost Complement to that command, which is the pairing by God with another command. In an earlier sermon, Jesus says that catalog should also include...

III. The Foremost Commitment1

...which promotes...
  • The program of God (Matt 6:31, 33)2
In the sermon, Jesus addresses a host of topics, from the authority of scripture to acts of devotion. One such topic is about setting priorities, finding the right balance between serving a person's own interests and serving God's interests. Please turn to...
Matt 6:31 [Jesus admonished his disciples: D]o not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' ...33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Sermon: The foremost complement (Matt 22:39)

The Foremost Complement (Matt 22:39)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2011
(This sermon is part of Dr. Manuel's sermon series: "What is Foremost?" Links to
each of the sermons in the series will be found here
as they are posted.)
As time passes and people get older, their memory is often not as sharp as it used to be.
Two elderly men were sitting on a park bench in Miami, appreciating the sunshine. They had been meeting in that park every day for many years, chatting and enjoying each other's company. One day, the younger of the two, turns to the other and says, "Please don't be upset with me. I'm embarrassed but, after all these years, I just can't remember your name. I've been trying to recall it, but I just can't." The older friend stares at him, obviously distressed, but says nothing. Finally, he replies..."How soon do you have to know?"
Even if you have not experienced this feature of getting older, you have probably encountered other challenges to your recall ability. For those in the first century, one of their challenges was to remember all the precepts God expected His people to keep. To help with that task, the rabbis developed several summaries, including the one Jesus preferred.

In our consideration of What Is Foremost, we noted Jesus' identification of The Foremost Commandment, which is to love God. Jesus then proceeds to address a related matter. Please turn to Matt 22 where Jesus discusses...

II. The Foremost Complement1 that command, which is...
  • The pairing by God (Matt 22:39)
with another command. Please turn to ...2
Matt 22:39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sermon: The foremost commandment (Matt 22:37-38)

The Foremost Commandment (Matt 22:37-38)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2011
(This sermon is part of Dr. Manuel's sermon series: "What is Foremost?" Links to
each of the sermons in the series will be found here
as they are posted.)
With the New Year comes a host of good intentions called resolutions, decisions for self-improvement, often physical, like eating healthier and exercising more.
Simon was concerned that he might have eaten more than was prudent over the holidays, especially as his clothing was fitting more snugly. To confirm his suspicion, he decided to calculate his Body Mass Index, which uses a person's height to determine approximately what he should weigh. The results classify a person in one of four categories, ranging from underweight to normal weight to overweight to obese. Fortunately, Simon was not in the obese range, but he was technically overweight. He hated exercise, and dieting had never worked, but he was determined. "My New Year's resolution," he declared, "will be to get myself back to a healthy BMI." After a thoughtful pause, he added.... "All I have to do is grow four inches."
With the New Year comes a host of good intentions, decisions for self-improvement. Whether or not you attempt any physical self-improvement, an area you should not neglect is the spiritual.

I once asked a young man who was about to get married what he thought the most important things in life are, in particular, what should take priority in his life. He listed family, job, and education. I asked him if God made the list. "Yes," he replied, "God was next." As we spoke further, he mentioned that God was certainly important but not as much as the others on his list. When I asked the young man where he thought God would want to be on the list, he did not know but assumed that God (being family oriented) would put family first. The young man claimed to be a Christian but was not very familiar with the Bible, so I gave him some passages to consider.

That conversation, though, made me wonder: "What does the Bible identify as most important? If I were to make such a list, what would be on it?" More to the point, what would God want on it? As I searched the scriptures, my list grew (far beyond Letterman's top ten to more than fifty items). This series of messages will offer the current state of that list, and I encourage you to consider them for your own list. You may discover more, but this is a good place to start as we answer the question, from God's perspective, What Is Foremost?

Sermon series: What is foremost?

Dr. Paul Manuel—February 2011 to September 2013

This is a seventy sermon series considering God's priorities. These items fall into two categories, priorities God has for man, that which he can and should recognize as well as aspire to attain and priorities God has for Himself (marked by *), that which He will attain and which man will witness.
(Each sermon is linked through its title below.)

Series Contents:

  • The passion for God (Matt 22:37-38)
Matt 22:37 [Jesus said:] "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment."
  • The pairing by God (Matt 22:39)
Matt 22:39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
  • The program of God (Matt 6:31, 33)
Matt 6:31 [Jesus admonished his disciples: D]o not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' ...33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Was Paul a Universalist?

Does Paul Teach Universal Salvation
in Philippians 2?

Dr. Paul Manuel—2007

Phil 2:10 the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The key word in this passage is "confess" and, from other New Testament uses, some commentators assume its presence here indicates a universally joyful welcome of Christ's reign, when all people will have been saved. The word can, however, indicate acceptance that has no positive connotation.
[W]hile the verb has in the LXX the secondary sense of 'praise and confess', the simple meaning is 'to declare openly or confess publicly' and this rendering should be retained here at v. 11, since a neutral sense such as 'admit, acknowledge' best fits the context of vv. 9-11.... [T]hus BAGD [p. 227] translates the 'acknowledged'.... (O'Brien 1991:247-246)
While the Old Testament source of Paul's quote might attest a neutral recognition, it more likely indicates a grudging admission.
Isa 45:23 By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear.... 24b All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame.
Cf. Ps 110:1 The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."
All will acknowledge God's sovereignty, but they all will not do so gladly or willingly. Some will do so only because they have no choice, because He imposes their recognition forcibly, and they will not like the alternative ("no rain" Zech 14:17). In the end, much of the opposition will maintain its defiance even in defeat.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Oaths and vows in Israel

The Use of Oaths and Vows in Israel
Dr. Paul Manuel—2010

Oaths and vows are important features of ancient Israelite society. While both forms of speech appear together (e.g., in Judges) and may even be used together,1 they are not the same thing.
  • An oath is a special appeal that strengthens the credibility of a statement and is separate from the assertion it supports.
  • Oaths are obligatory in certain legal matters.2 For example:
  • If someone is suspected of stealing another's property entrusted to his care, he may certify his innocence "by taking an oath before the LORD" (Exod 22:11) to that effect, and the other party must accept it.3
  • In the New Testament, Caiaphas wanted Jesus to certify his messianic identity with an oath.
Matt 26:63b The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God."
  • Oaths have religious significance, because they invoke confirmation by God. They request His involvement in the legal process.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Spiritual Israel

Spiritual Israel1
Dr. Paul Manuel—2003

There is a curious notion in some Christian circles that believing gentiles constitute "spiritual Israel" and, as such, have displaced physical Israel in God's plan.2 This idea comes from misunderstanding something Paul says...3
Rom 2:28 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.
As Paul makes clear in the context, he is addressing Jews (not believing gentiles) and is indicating that God's concern for His people goes beyond their physical status.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Church Discipline

Church Discipline1
Dr. Paul Manuel—2013

Because of most people's natural tendency to avoid confrontation, church discipline is often neglected in congregations today.2 As a result, what may begin as small matters, minor disagreements or moral lapses, go unchallenged and unresolved. Left unattended, such issues can escalate and expand to touch a greater number of people, adversely affecting overall unity and productivity. This can lead to discouragement and dissatisfaction among members, who may leave the congregation or even split the church. Either way, the "body of Christ" suffers.3
  • The primary instruction for church discipline is where Jesus tells the disciples how to conduct it (Matt 18:15-17).
Matt 18:15 If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Jesus' remedy entails a series of steps that expand the circle of those involved incrementally, pressuring the offender to concede the problem and correct it. Should the offender steadfastly reject all appeals and refuse to repent, the only option left is to remove him from the group. That is only possible, of course, if he bears some official connection to the church (e.g., membership).

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Apostle Paul and women

Gender Restrictions1
Dr. Paul Manuel—2012

The apostle Paul makes some odd, even outrageous-sounding statements about women, gender restrictions that have caused others to apply them by adopting extreme views about the role of women in the church. As with any such pronouncements, though, it is important to understand them in light of what Paul says elsewhere and in light of what other biblical authors have to say. There are two presuppositions we must hold for interpreting scripture, lest we find ourselves adrift in relativism, with neither a rudder directing us to the right place nor an anchor holding us in place once we arrive.

The primary presupposition we must hold for interpreting scripture is about the divine author. Although man has a part, God is ultimately responsible for what we have in scripture.
2 Tim 3:16a All Scripture is God-breathed...
2 Pet 1:20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Consequently, scripture reflects the perspective of God as well as the character of God, who is consistent (immutable) in His person and His plan.2 God's perspective on a matter does not mature over time. His opinions are fully developed and fully dependable from the start. Therefore—and here is the primary presupposition—
  • What the divine author says in one place will not contradict what He says in another place.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The priesthood of all believers

The Priesthood of All Believers1
Dr. Paul Manuel—2000

A belief many Protestant groups espouse is in "the priesthood of all believers." The doctrine, as such, originated during the Reformation in Martin Luther's reaction to the papal claim that its priests mediate God's grace to the laity through the sacraments (Latourette 1975 2:837). From certain New Testament passages, this Protestant tenet makes two assertions, each of which has a premise and a consequence:
1. An assertion concerning Jesus' atonement
a. Premise: Jesus' atonement eliminated the need for priestly mediation.
b. Consequence: Jesus' atonement, thus, abrogated the priestly caste.
2.. An assertion concerning believers' access to God
a. Premise: Believers now have direct access to God.
b. Consequence: Believers, thus, have become priests themselves.
Both premises are false, because they assert that certain conditions after the cross are different from conditions before the cross. The consequences are also false in that they either violate the constraints of context in (allegedly) supportive passages or they contradict the clear teaching of other passages. The primary error, though, is in failing to distinguish biblical priests from ecclesiastical priests.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Evangelists in the New Testament Church

Who Did Evangelism in the Early Church?1
Dr. Paul Manuel—2012

The book of Acts chronicles the development of the early church, recounting the role various individuals played in the emerging organization. Before Jesus' ascension, he gave explicit instructions to a particular group, "the apostles he had chosen" (Acts 1:2), and it was primarily (almost exclusively) members of that group who engaged in evangelism.2
Acts 1:8 " will receive power when the Holy Spit-it comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
The apostles' testimony during Pentecost led to the first significant increase in the number of believers.
Acts 2:14 ...Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.... 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.... 38a ...Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.... 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The task of evangelism

The Task of Evangelism1
Dr. Paul Manuel—2013

One issue we touched only lightly is the church's part in the task of evangelism. All would agree that the church has a responsibility to spread the gospel. The question is: What part of the church is responsible for evangelism? From the biblical data, we can make three observations.

I. Observations from the book of Acts and the epistles
A. Local churches, as such, do not engage in (congregational) evangelism.
1. The primary work of a church (as we noted earlier) lies in other areas (i.e., glorification, edification, and purification).
  • Nowhere does Jesus or any New Testament writer charge or chasten congregations regarding evangelism.
2. The secondary work of a church may, however, include this area.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Theology Series Chapter 8: Ecclesiology

Chapter VIII: Ecclesiology
Dr. Paul Manuel—2013

In the previous unit, we covered why and how God saves us. As we noted, salvation entails a number of steps that culminate with our glorification. As we await that final step, we must continue to live in obedience to God. We are not on our own, however, but have contact with others of like faith in a community known as the church,1 the study of which is called ecciesiology. We will consider the design (nature and purpose) and leaders (offices and ministries) of this institution. Because this is a survey, we will only touch lightly on some subjects (e.g., church government).

"The Jews" in John's Gospel

"The Jews" in John's Gospel
Dr. Paul Manuel—1999

John's gospel mentions "the Jews" more than any other biblical book (69x). This is essentially an in-house term (i.e., used of Jews by a Jew) and is not, by definition, pejorative. Because most of these occurrences refer to members of the religious establishment (50x), whether opponents or proponents of Jesus (the latter in italics below), the term may best be rendered "the Jew[ish authoritie]s." Nevertheless, reference to those who oppose Jesus often includes a negative connotation.
John 1:19 Now this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was.
John 2:18 Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?" ...20 The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?"