Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Christian ethics

Dr. Paul Manuel—2002

The following study was one of the most engaging and entertaining I have taught. Unfortunately, it was also one of the most demanding of student participation. Consequently, I was not able to go as far as I had hoped. ....I was able to cover the practice cases but not move on to current problems. I had hoped to return to it one day, perhaps with a different study group but, alas, that was not to be. What I did manage to complete can stand alone....

(This study is lengthy so I have not reproduced it on this site. It can be downloaded as a pdf here. The Table of Contents is below.)

I. Introduction
The Case of the Negligent Neighbor
     Chart: Assessing the Strength of Your Convictions
II. Practice Cases1
A. The Case of the Mangled Monkey 12
     Chart: How to Make a Moral Decision
     Chart: Old Artifacts with New Associations
B. The Case of the Devastated Detective 19
C. The Case of the Family Feud 23
D. The Case of the Immodest Model 28
E. The Case of the Dissenting Deacon 32
F. The Case of the Filched Final 36
G. The Case of the Gambling Guardian 40
H. The Case of the Trusting Trimbles 46
I. The Case of the Persecuted Pressman 50
J. The Case of the Dubious Detergent 56
K. The Case of the Liberated Leader 62
III. Conclusion 67
Bibliography 68
Endnotes 70

For the Complete Study (93 pages), see the pdf here.

Monday, April 28, 2014

"What is truth?" (John 18:33-38)

(John 18:33-38)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2014

What is truth? Does it even matter? Is it only what you think it is, or is there some objective standard?
The first mate on a ship decided to celebrate with a bit of stowed-away rum. He was still a little drunk the next morning when he had to report for duty. Later in the day, when the first mate had sobered up, he looked in the ship's log and read the captain's entry: "The first mate was drunk today." "Captain," the mate pleaded, "please don't leave that in the log. This could add months or years to my becoming a captain myself." "Is it true?" asked the captain, knowing full well it was. "Yes, it's true," admitted the mate. "If it's true, it has to stay in the log. That's the rule. If it's true, it goes in the log. End of discussion!" the captain said sternly. Weeks later, it was the first mate's turn to make the log entry. He wrote: "The ship seems to be in good shape.... The captain is sober today."
What is truth? That was one of Pilate's Questions to Jesus when the rabbi appeared at trial.

After Jesus' arrest in the garden, representatives from the Sanhedrin bring him to Pilate, the Roman prefect or governor of Judea.
John 18:29-30 ...Pilate came out to the [Jewish leaders] and asked, "What charges are you bringing against this man?" 30 "If he were not a criminal," they replied, "we would not have handed him over to you."
That, of course, does not answer the governor's question, so...
John 18:31 Pilate said, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law." "But we have no right to execute anyone," the [Jewish leaders] objected.1
At the governor's insistence, the leaders cite charges against Jesus they think will get Pilate's attention.
Luke 23:2c "He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king."
With this in mind, we continue the narrative in....
John 18:33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus, and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" 34 "Is that your own idea," Jesus asked, "or did others talk to you about me?"
Again, that does not answer the governor's question.
John 18:35 "Am I a Jew?" Pilate replied. "It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?"
In other words, "This is not about me; this is about you. Just answer the question, Jesus, because you have obviously done something to make them so angry. Is it because you claim to be someone they cannot accept?" This is the crux in...

I. Pilate's question to Jesus about identity (John 18:33)
  • "Are you the king...?"

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Jesus' coming of age (Luke 2:42-47)

JESUS' COMING OF AGE (Luke 2:42-47)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2001

Luke records that Jesus, when he was twelve years old, visited Jerusalem and spent time with teachers in the temple.
Luke 2:42 And when He became twelve, they went up [there] according to the custom of the Feast; 43a and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.... 46 Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.
Several commentators have mistakenly identified this experience with a boy's bar-mitzvah,1 his coming to an age of responsibility according to Jewish law, but that event does not occur until he is thirteen.2 Nevertheless, rabbinic sources attest to a boy's preparation during the preceding year.3
m Yoma 8:4 As to children...they educate them a year or two in advance, so that they will be used to doing the religious duties.
It is in this preparatory period that Jesus' visit belongs. The astonishment of the teachers at Jesus' understanding is probably that one just beginning his preparation for adult responsibilities would already know so much.

For the Bibliography and Endnotes, see the pdf here.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Sermon: A Thief's confession

By a Thief (Luke 23:39-43)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2014

Several years ago (2004), I preached a sermon series entitled Tentative Admissions and True Confessions, in which we looked at four statements about Jesus by a variety of those who encountered him in the course of his ministry, statements...
As I was reading recently, I realized that I should have included the statement by a thief, the criminal executed with Jesus in Luke 23.

There are three actors in this scene from the passion account: two actual criminals and one falsely accused.
Luke 23:32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with [Jesus] to be executed.... 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"
This man was looking for what many hoped the messiah would bring: deliverance from Rome. He was also hoping for some immediate relief, as is evident in his comment to Jesus: "Save yourself and us!"
Luke 23:40 But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."
The other man being executed with Jesus was looking for what relatively few knew the messiah would bring: deliverance from sin.

I. The second criminal makes a discerning observation (Luke 23:40-41)
...that applies to everyone.
A. We face the same sentence, like Jesus' sentence (i.e., death).
B. We face a just sentence, unlike Jesus' sentence.
"We are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."

Friday, April 25, 2014

The significance of baptism

The Significance of Baptism 
Dr. Paul Manuel—1999

The ceremony we witness today is a familiar one to us, something every member of the church has experienced, yet its significance is not always clear, even for those who have been members for many years. We know that Jesus commanded it of his followers, and that alone is sufficient reason to obey.1 We also know that baptism is not necessary for salvation, a status God grants by His grace in response to our faith. Yet, are there other reasons, pertaining to something baptism signifies that enhances its value. Indeed, there are two other reasons, and by understanding them, we can appreciate the importance of this act.

What does baptism signify? The answer lies first in its original setting within the context of Judaism. God is holy, and He expects His worshipers to be holy as well. To that end, He gave instructions about maintaining purity and remedying impurity. The treatment for the most serious causes of defilement included immersion. God commanded that anyone who recovered from an infectious skin condition or who came in contact with a dead body must undergo immersion as part of the cleansing process.2 These are not moral issues, but disease and death are results of the Fall, and they remind us that God is concerned about everything which renders man unacceptable to Him. The same requirement applied to gentile converts, whose likely contact with idols made them unclean.3 Upon repentance and faith in the true God, they underwent immersion to cleanse themselves of their pagan past. Although many of these directions are foreign to us, in part, because they concerned temple worship, this third application of immersion has continued even in the absence of a temple and is the origin of baptism in Christianity. It also identifies the first significance of baptism, which is purification.4

When the temple still stood, baptism rendered a person ceremonially fit to enter God's presence there. This is "not the removal of dirt from the body" (1 Pet 3:21)—you will notice we do not do any soaping or scrubbing here. This is also not the cleansing of one's conscience—no amount of water can penetrate sufficiently to affect that.5 This is, rather, an act marking what God has already done in response to the candidate's repentance and faith. It is an external demonstration of the internal work of God in a person's heart and mind. Baptism signifies purification from a sinful past.6

There is another significance that looks to the future. The apostle Paul saw in baptism a metaphor of the believer's union with Christ. Writing to the church in Rome, Paul offers the symbolism that most Christians associate with this act.7
Rom 6:4 We were...buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
Paul superimposes a picture of Jesus' passion on the believer's experience. As these Christians in Rome undergo their own baptism and then witness the baptism of others, he wants them to imagine that they are following the example of Jesus. By going under the water, they are entering the grave, as Jesus did, and leaving behind their former way of life. By coming up from the water, they are rising from the dead, as Jesus did, and embarking on a new way of life.

From this passage, some would say that baptism signifies identification with Jesus. Although Paul is surely identifying the believer's experience with Jesus' experience, that is not the point he is making. Paul is adapting the common rabbinic dictum that...
b Yeb 48b One who has become a proselyte is like a child newly born.
This is the second significance of baptism. It marks initiation to "a new life." Having been freed from slavery to sin, the believer can now live in devotion to God!8

This baptism in obedience to Jesus' command is a public declaration of what God has done, the purification from a sinful past. Moreover, it is a public declaration of what the candidate will do for God, in pursuit of this initiation to a new life. It is also an opportunity for you to recall your own declaration. Are you maintaining the purification your baptism signified, or are you defiling yourself with old habits? Are you pursuing your initiation to a new life, or have you never really gotten off the mark? Baptism is not something we should enter lightly, for it is not the just the act of immersion that Jesus commands. We must also recognize the significance of what we are doing, for our past and for our future.

For the Endnotes, see the pdf here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Genesis Series: "A coat of many colors" (Gen 37:3)

"A Coat of Many Colors" (Gen 37:3) 
Dr. Paul Manuel—2002

Being the oldest in a family comes with several disadvantages that younger siblings do not suffer. If you had the distinction of having entered the world first, then you were the test subject, the one who experienced the trial and error of parents' discovering how to raise children. At some point, you were probably also the babysitter, the one who had the privilege of keeping younger siblings from setting the house on fire or from seeing how well the cat could swim.
Steven, who often had to watch his younger sister, protested when his mother asked him to take her along fishing. "Do I have to? The last time she came, I didn't catch a single fish." "I'll talk to her," his mother said, "and tell her not to make any noise." "It wasn't the noise, Mom.... She ate all my bait." (Adapted from Streiker 1998:206)
Sometimes younger siblings can be more of a bother than a blessing. That was certainly what Joseph's brothers thought, especially after their father gave him "A coat of many colors."1

This sermon is the final installment of the series, The Generations of Genesis, which noted that the phrase, "these are the generations of," appears frequently in the first biblical book to mark major sections in the narrative. Please turn to chapter 37, which has the last occurrence of this phrase.
Gen 37:1 Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan. 2 This is the account ["the generations"] of Jacob. Joseph, a young man of seventeen.....
Do you notice anything odd? ...Was Joseph Jacob's eldest son? Most genealogical discussions start at the beginning, with the firstborn, not toward the end. Jacob had twelve sons, and Joseph was number eleven, which is pretty far down the line to appear so early in "the generations of Jacob." The biblical author is alerting us to the fact that the most significant son in Jacob's lineage may not be the oldest son,2 which raises our expectations about what we will learn. This chapter must recount the great things Joseph does. Perhaps he establishes a mighty city or distinguishes himself as a successful military leader. As the story unfolds, however, we realize that our high expectations of Joseph's exploits may be premature. In fact, he seems anything but a candidate for greatness. Look again at Gen 37:2.
Gen 37:2b Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.
Joseph was a snitch, a tattletale, an informer. In a family, someone who rats out his siblings is the lowest life form. This does not bode well for his future. Apparently, his father Jacob, also called Israel, did not discourage this behavior in Joseph. As we read further, we see that Jacob doted on this, his youngest son.3
Gen 37:3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him [KJV "a coat of many colors"].
For most people in the Ancient Near East, clothing was utilitarian. It had to keep them warm and had to be sturdy enough to stand the stresses of work. Fancy clothing was appropriate only for special occasions or for those who led privileged lives. Here...

I. Receiving the robe marked Joseph's favor.

...favor Jacob did not extend to his other sons, as they were well aware.
Gen 37:4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
If you were seventeen years old and you knew that your brothers—your older brothers—felt this way, the wise course would not be to make a big deal about being dad's favorite son.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Genesis Series: "A stairway...reaching to heaven" (Gen 28:12)

"A Stairway...Reaching to Heaven" (Gen 28:12
Dr. Paul Manuel—2002

Some things in life we do not understand or appreciate until we have a few years behind us.
A certain man was appointed president of a bank while he was still quite young. He approached the venerable Chairman of the Board and asked for advice. The old man came back with just two words: "Right decisions!" "That's really very helpful," the young man replied, "and I appreciate it, but could you be more specific? How do I make right decisions?" This time the Chairman simply responded: "Experience!" Somewhat frustrated, the new president said, "That's the reason I'm here. I don't have the kind of experience I need. How do I get it?" To which the old man replied, "Wrong decisions!" (Adapted from Hodgin 1994:144)
This is often our dilemma when facing a new set of challenges or an uncertain future, and not just when we are young. We want to make right decisions but often lack the necessary experience. We may look to those older and wiser for guidance, but in the end the choices, right or wrong, are ours to make. In our text this morning, Jacob is facing a new set of challenges and an uncertain future, and he must make a decision, one he seems to have put off until he sees "A stairway...reaching to heaven."1

The Generations of Genesis begin with the history of the heavens and the earth, then proceed to the history of such notables as Noah and the Patriarchs.2 The time between the genealogies are growing shorter, as are the gaps between the people they list. What was several generations and many years following creation and the flood becomes a single generation and only a few years after Abraham, as we see in the brief genealogy of chapter 25 (KJV).
Gen 25:19b Abraham begat Isaac:
Through vision and dream,3 God appeared to the two patriarchs, and accounts of these visitations as well as stories of His deeds became part of the growing oral tradition that parents told their children. Abraham related what he received, coupled with his own experiences, to Isaac, who did the same with Jacob. For at least the first forty years of Jacob's life,4 though, there is no indication he had any personal contact with God. All he knew was what his father had told him. Then Isaac sent him to Haran, whence Abram came, to find a wife from among his distant relatives there. In the course of his journey, Jacob has an encounter with God and learns several things about Him that are good for us to remember as well. The meeting takes place in...

I. The Vision of Jacob

Monday, April 7, 2014

Genesis Series: "Credited to him as righteousness" (Gen 15:6)

"Credited to Him as Righteousness" (Gen 15:6
Dr. Paul Manuel—2002

Trustworthiness is a valuable trait that marks a person on whom others can depend. An individual is trustworthy in that his actions match his words; what he says, he will do. Unfortunately, it is also a rare quality, so we often find ourselves not trusting people, either because we do not know them or because we do (McKenzie 1980:101). God, of course, is trustworthy, but it is not always easy to accept that.
A man fell off a cliff but, at the last moment, managed to grab hold of some shrubbery. He hung there in space, terrified, and cried out, "Is anyone up there?" A calm, powerful voice came out of the sky and said, "Yes." The man, in desperation, pleaded, "Can you help me?" The calm voice replied, "Yes, I can. Just let go of the bush, and everything will be fine." There was a tense pause, then the man yelled, "Is anyone else up there?" (Adapted from Hodgin 1994:356; cf. Wright 1985:135)
It is not always easy to trust God, but the longer we walk with Him, the more our confidence in Him grows, for we realize that what He says, He will do. Continuing in our series, The Generations of Genesis, we come to the history of Abraham, a man whose long-standing relationship with God gave him confidence in the trustworthiness of God, and whose faith God "Credited to him as righteousness."

Like the period between Creation and the Flood, it is uncertain how much time passes between Noah and Abraham, or Abram, as he is first called. Again, it is at least several generations (almost 1000 years), as we see in the genealogy of chapter 11 (KJV).
Gen 11: 10b Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad.... 12 [who] lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah.... 14 [who] lived thirty years, and begat Eber.... 16 [who] lived four and thirty years, and begat Peleg.... 18 [who] lived thirty years, and begat Reu.... 20 [who] lived two and thirty years, and begat Serug.... 22 [who] lived thirty years, and begat Nahor.... 24 [who] lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah... 26 [who] lived seventy years, and begat Abram....
When Gen 15 opens, Abram has been in Canaan for several years and "had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold" (Gen 13:2).1 He even has his own security force, "318 trained men born in his household" (Gen14:14) whom he can call to active duty at a moment's notice. Abram wants for nothing...or does he? Indeed, there is something he lacks, something important to the divine plan, something God offers to provide with...2

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Genesis Series: "Favor in the eyes of the Lord" (Gen 6:8)

"Favor in the Eyes of the Lord" (Gen 6:8)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2002

We are all concerned with how others view us, especially those whose favor we hope to win, and we are often careful to behave in a way that will meet with their approval.
Calvin Coolidge, our 30th president (1923-29), once entertained some visitors from Vermont. The guests were concerned that they display proper table manners to win the President's respect, so they observed him very carefully and followed his example in detail. The meal passed smoothly, then came time for coffee. President Coolidge poured his into his saucer. The guests did likewise. Then the President added cream and sugar. The visitors did the same. He then leaned over and gave the saucer to his cat. (Adapted from Wright 1985:123)
We may never dine with the President, but we do care about meeting someone else's approval, that of God. The text of this message offers us the example of a person who did just that. In our series on The Generations of Genesis, we come to the account of Noah, a man who found "Favor in the eyes of the LORD."

It is unclear how much time passed since God created man but at least several generations (1000+ years), as we see in the genealogy of chapter 5 (KJV).
Gen 5:3 ...Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat...Seth... 6 [who] lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos 9 ...[who] lived ninety years, and begat Cainan  12 ... [who] lived seventy years, and begat Mahalaleel 15 ...[who] lived sixty and five years, and begat Jared 18 ...[who] lived an hundred sixty and two years, and he begat Enoch.... 21 [who] lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah 25 ...[who] lived an hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech 28 ... [who] lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat [Noah]....
The verses that follow this genealogy, though, opening chapter 6 (NIV), are a little puzzling.
Gen 6:1 When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.... 4a ...the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them.
Who are "the sons of God"? One view holds that they were fallen angels, who cohabited with human women.1 Another view holds that they were the righteous descendants of Adam and Eve through Seth, and that "the daughters of men" were the descendants of Adam and Eve through Cain.2 Unfortunately, the passage is too vague and the evidence is too scanty to bear either interpretation with certainty. Whatever this means, the eventual result of their union is a profound moral decline, and the author of Genesis notes....

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Genesis Series: "In the beginning" (Gen 1:1)

"In the Beginning" (Gen 1:1)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2002

One of the teenagers in my previous congregation requested that I preach on the creation narrative to resolve a question she had. I assumed she was interested in how the theory of evolution relates to the biblical account. It is a difficult and complex issue, one that does not lend itself readily to treatment in a sermon, so I was relieved when she said that her question was different. I thought, "Ah, something easier." "What I want to know," she continued, "is 'Where does God come from?" I knew then that I had moved from the frying pan to the fire.

Since I could not determine which question was worse, I decided to throw caution to the wind and attempt to answer both.
  • Where did God come from?
  • Where did we come from?
For our next few sessions together, we will look at the book of Genesis starting, appropriately, with these questions of origins, what happened "In the beginning."

Moses, the traditional author of Genesis, lived centuries after the events he records. So, how did he know what to write? How did he know what happened? Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,1 Moses used oral and written sources to trace the unfolding of God's plan. Among his main sources were genealogies, those dry lists that say "Person A begat person B, who in turn begat person C." As if to draw attention to these lists, one of the key phrases Moses repeats to mark off various sections in the book2 means "These are the generations/origins/history of...." This series of messages will use these markers to focus our attention on various individuals who play prominent roles in the first biblical book. The first of these phrases, in Gen 2:4, stands between two accounts of creation.

"These are the generations of the heavens and the earth."

We will consider the more general of these accounts this morning, as we try to answer...

I. The First Question: Where did God come from?

The introductory statement to the section, Gen 1:1, is a likely place to look as we start with...
A. What Moses says (Gen 1:1; Ps 90:2)
The Bible's opening sentence is so familiar to us that we could probably quote it together.
Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
"In the beginning": In the beginning of what? Moses starts with the coming into existence of our universe, the place in which man, who arrives later, will live. This is also the start of time as we know it, that moment in the past to which we ascribe the initiation of all events. Whatever people's view of origins—creation, evolution, or something in between—most everyone agrees that the universe's clock began ticking at some point. For Israel and for us, it was when God created the universe.

Friday, April 4, 2014

God's highest value

Dr. Paul Manuel—2009


The biblical writers use many different attributes to describe God—righteous, just, good, merciful—but there is one attribute that encompasses all others. It is the one the seraphim call out before the heavenly throne: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty" (Isa 6:3; Rev 4:8).
Holiness occupies the foremost rank among the attributes of God. It is the attribute by which God wanted to be especially known.... It is emphasized by the bounds set about Mt. Sinai when God came down upon it...the division of the tabernacle and temple into the holy and most holy places...the prescribed offerings that must be brought if an Israelite would approach God...the special priesthood to mediate between God and the people...the many laws about impurity...the feasts of Israel...and the special position of Israel in [Canaan].... The Lord is called "the Holy One" some thirty times in Isaiah alone. (Thiessen 1979:84)1
Holy is the attribute God uses more than any other to describe Himself. It is also that quality He expects will characterize those who serve Him. Holiness is The Highest Value in God's Economy. It is, therefore, the standard by which we measure and seek to understand what God does and what He demands. The term occurs over a thousand times in scripture!2

Because we have few representations of holiness in society today, it is an abstract concept to most people.
  • We may understand that to be holy is to be set apart, but the implications of this notion are vague: Set apart how and to what end?
  • We may also think too narrowly about holiness, that it means only separation from sin. There is more to it than that.
God expects His people to be holy, and He has provided for them, in considerable detail, A Roadmap to Holiness.3

Our task in this study is to survey what God has said about holiness, especially in the Old Testament, which has the greatest number of references to that subject. As I attempted to collate the vast amount of material here, I began to feel like a guide who has far less time than he needs to show a tour group the magnificence of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with its three floors (excluding the Cloister), twenty-five collections, and hundreds of galleries—not to mention four gift shops, two libraries, an education wing with classrooms, and a restaurant. If we move quickly, we might make it from one end of the building to the other before the bus leaves, but we cannot pause to admire or contemplate what we see. You will forgive me, then, if I hurry us along.

The foundation of divine revelation is the Pentateuch, the Five Books of Moses, the Torah.

It is the first collection that God's people recognized as inspired, and all subsequent additions to the biblical canon rest on its authority.
  • The Prophets evaluate God's people by their adherence to Torah.
  • The authors of the Writings (like Psalms and Proverbs) illustrate life in obedience to Torah.
  • The New Testament authors and Jesus repeatedly appeal to Torah as their authority.
It is likely, therefore, that we will find the primary instruction for the topic of holiness in Torah, as indeed we do. Of the 700+ times the word appears in the Old Testament, almost half those occurrences (335) are in the first five books.4 Therefore, we will concentrate our study on what God has revealed in the Pentateuch about this subject.

What is the first reference in the Bible to holiness? Does it describe the character of God or the conduct of God? ...Turn to...
Gen 2:3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The pressure to conform

Dr. Paul Manuel—2007

How independent are you? Are the decisions you make or the opinions you hold yours alone, or are they influenced (even coerced) by others, a person or a group whose approval you hope to win or whose support you think you need? There are many people who might have you behave or believe in a certain way, not because it is in your best interest but because it benefits them, supporting their agenda or simply demonstrating their power over others. Such pressures come in various forms and from various sources, but they often have the same purpose: influencing you in a way that is not necessarily to your benefit. To examples in scripture of such pressure, people have responded variously.

I. Peer pressure
A. In response to pressure from other prophets to misrepresent God, Micaiah resisted (1 Kgs 22:13-14).
1 Kgs 22:13 The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, "Look, as one man the other prophets are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably." 14 But Micaiah said, "As surely as the LORD lives, I can tell him only what the LORD tells me."
B. In response to pressure from other prophets to misrepresent God, Micah resisted (Mic 2:6).
Mic 2:6 "Do not prophesy," their prophets say. "Do not prophesy about these things; disgrace will not overtake us."
C. In response to pressure from other religious leaders to misrepresent God, Jeremiah resisted (Jer 26:11-13).1
Jer 26:11 Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and all the people, "This man should be sentenced to death because he has prophesied against this city. You have heard it with your own ears!" 12 Then Jeremiah said to all the officials and all the people: "The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the things you have heard. 13 Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the LORD your God. Then the LORD will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"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 with the term.
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?"
John 5:10 and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat." ...15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him.... 18 For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
John 6:41 At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." ...52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Not a local deity

Dr. Paul Manuel—2008

Unlike other gods of the Ancient Near East, the Lord is not limited to a particular geographical locale. In fact, He and the biblical writers state numerous times that, while He may have a vested interest in Canaan, His involvement is not at all restricted to it. Quite the contrary, His authority extends beyond any borders as does His ability to act.

I. The LORD is not a local deity.
A. His jurisdiction is not limited to one place.
Exod 8:22 But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the LORD, am in this land.
Exod 19:5c ...the whole earth is mine....
Ezra 1:2 This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: "The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah."
Ps 24:1 The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; 2 for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.
Ps 89:11 The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it.
B. His presence is not limited to one place.
Gen 28:15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.... I will not leave you....
Gen 31:3 ...Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.