Saturday, December 31, 2016

The apple of His eye

SHOULD WE SUPPORT THE NATION OF ISRAEL?
Dr. Paul Manuel—2009

As the descendants of Abraham, Israel is God's covenant people ("the apple of his eye" Deut 32:10). God promises blessing for those who help His people and judgment against those who harm them.
Gen 12:3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
Those peoples who have sought Israel's harm—and there have been many—have not fared well. Specific offenders have included...
  • Ammonites
Jer 49:1 Concerning the Ammonites: This is what the LORD says: "Has Israel no sons? Has she no heirs? Why then has Molech taken possession of Gad? Why do his people live in its towns? 2 But the days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will sound the battle cry against Rabbah of the Ammonites; it will become a mound of ruins, and its surrounding villages will be set on fire. Then Israel will drive out those who drove her out," says the LORD.
Ezek 25:6 For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because you have clapped your hands and stamped your feet, rejoicing with all the malice of your heart against the land of Israel, 7 therefore I will stretch out my hand against you and give you as plunder to the nations. I will cut you off from the nations and exterminate you from the countries. I will destroy you, and you will know that I am the LORD."
  • Babylonians
Jer 50:17 "Israel is a scattered flock that lions have chased away. The first to devour him was the king of Assyria; the last to crush his bones was Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon." 18 Therefore this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: "I will punish the king of Babylon and his land as I punished the king of Assyria.
Jer 51:24 "Before your eyes I will repay Babylon and all who live in Babylonia for all the wrong they have done in Zion," declares the LORD. ...49 "Babylon must fall because of Israel's slain, just as the slain in all the earth have fallen because of Babylon.
  • Edomites
Ezek 25:12 "This is what the Sovereign LORD says: 'Because Edom took revenge on the house of Judah and became very guilty by doing so, 13 therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will stretch out my hand against Edom and kill its men and their animals. I will lay it waste, and from Teman to Dedan they will fall by the sword.
Obad 10 Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever. 11 On the day you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them. 12 You should not look down on your brother in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction, nor boast so much in the day of their trouble. 13 You should not march through the gates of my people in the day of their disaster, nor look down on them in their calamity in the day of their disaster, nor seize their wealth in the day of their disaster. 14 You should not wait at the crossroads to cut down their fugitives, nor hand over their survivors in the day of their trouble.
  • Philistines
Ezek 25:15 "This is what the Sovereign LORD says: 'Because the Philistines acted in vengeance and took revenge with malice in their hearts, and with ancient hostility sought to destroy Judah, 16 therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am about to stretch out my hand against the Philistines, and I will cut off the Kerethites and destroy those remaining along the coast.
  • Phoenicians
Ezek 26:2 "Son of man, because Tyre has said of Jerusalem, 'Aha! The gate to the nations is broken, and its doors have swung open to me; now that she lies in ruins I will prosper,' 3 therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you, like the sea casting up its waves.
  • Egyptians
Ezek 29:6 Then all who live in Egypt will know that I am the LORD. "You have been a staff of reed for the house of Israel. 7 When they grasped you with their hands, you splintered and you tore open their shoulders; when they leaned on you, you broke and their backs were wrenched. 8 "Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will bring a sword against you and kill your men and their animals.
  • Idumeans
Ezek 35:5 "Because you harbored an ancient hostility and delivered the Israelites over to the sword at the time of their calamity, the time their punishment reached its climax, 6 therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I will give you over to bloodshed and it will pursue you. Since you did not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you.
  • Moabites
Zeph 2:8 "I have heard the insults of Moab and the taunts of the Ammonites, who insulted my people and made threats against their land. 9 Therefore, as surely as I live," declares the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, "surely Moab will become like Sodom, the Ammonites like Gomorrah—a place of weeds and salt pits, a wasteland forever. The remnant of my people will plunder them; the survivors of my nation will inherit their land." 10 This is what they will get in return for their pride, for insulting and mocking the people of the LORD Almighty.
The present-day nation of Israel is still the primary body of God's covenant people, the entity He will rescue and restore in the Messianic Age.
Joel 3:2 I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land.... 5 For you took my silver and my gold and carried off my finest treasures to your temples. 6 You sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, that you might send them far from their homeland.
Zech 2:8 For this is what the LORD Almighty says: "After he has honored me and has sent me against the nations that have plundered you—for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye.
Zech 14:12 This is the plague with which the LORD will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths.
Therefore, while some may not agree with everything the modern nation does, even as some would not have agreed with everything the ancient nation did, it is in their (our) best interest to support Israel.

For a pdf see here.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Persecution

SHOULD CHRISTIANS SEEK PERSECUTION?
Dr. Paul Manuel—2012

Some people think that, absent external pressures, the Church grows soft and lethargic, that it needs such forces to remain focused and committed, and, therefore, that believers should welcome persecution, even seek it. Should we seek persecution?

No. Quite the contrary, we should avoid it if possible, and Jesus counsels as much.
Matt 10:17 Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you....
Matt 24:20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now...
Yet, he and Paul also recognize that avoiding persecution may not be possible.
Matt 24:9 Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.
2 Tim 3:12 ...everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Holy Days

THE GENTILE BELIEVER AND THE HOLY DAYS OF ISRAEL
Dr. Paul Manuel—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
  3. bears no expiration date.2
  4. 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" (146x 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" (9x) 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.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Law and Christians

THE SINAITIC LAW AND THE GENTILE BELIEVER:
How Many of the 613 Commandments Apply to Christians?
Dr. Paul Manuel—2007


Contents

I. Looking Broadly at the Principles
A. God makes obedience to His law the standard for...
B. God does not make obedience to His law a requirement for...
C. God does make obedience to His law the requirement for...
D. God invites gentiles to keep the revealed law because...
E. God gave the Ten Commandments as...
F. God does not alter or abrogate His law as...
Diagram: The Christian Continuum of Commandment Compliance
II. Looking Closely at the Precepts
A. The commands God gave to Israel are more than....
B. The commands Christians could keep are fewer than....
Worksheet: Commands Christians Could Keep
III. Looking Briefly at the Problems
A. Some commands Christians can keep are ones they...
B. Other commands Christians can keep are ones they...
Diagram: The Christian Continuum of Commandment Compliance
Appendix: The 613 Commandments
Bibliography
Endnotes

***********************

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 what 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.1
  • 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...

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Justified by faith

GALATIANS: JUSTIFIED BY FAITH
Dr. Paul Manuel—2016

A man is not justified by observing the law,
but by faith in Jesus Christ. (Gal 2:16)

An Outline of Galatians

I. Paul opens the letter (Gal 1:1-24).
A. He extends his greeting (Gal 1:1-5).
B. He explains his writing (Gal 1:6-9).
C. He extols his gospel (Gal 1:10-24).
1. It came not from man (Gal 1:10-12).
2. It required a lifestyle change (Gal 1:13-17).
3. It led to a discrete meeting (Gal 1:1-24).
Application: You must understand what God has revealed and recorded in His word in order to distinguish the real gospel from pretenders (John 8:31-32).

II. Paul confronts an apostle (Gal 2:1-21).
A. He goes to Jerusalem (Gal 2:1-10).
B. He opposes Peter's hypocrisy (Gal 2:11-14).
C. He lives by faith (Gal 2:15-21).
Application: You must be aware of how your actions have a direct link to your testimony, of how others view you and view the God you represent (Matt 23:3).

III. Paul defends their justification (Gal 3:1-29).
A. Receiving the Spirit is a matter of faith (Gal 3:1-5).
B. Receiving justification is a matter of faith (Gal 3:6-9).
C. The law does not lead to justification (Gal 3:10-14).
D. The law does not supersede God's promise (Gal 3:15-18),
E. The law serves as a signpost to Christ (Gal 3:19-25).
F. The promise encompasses both Jews and gentiles (Gal 3:26-29). 
Application: You must have as the leading characteristic in your relationship with God what is common to all His people—faith (John 10:16).

IV. Paul recounts his ministry (Gal 4:1-31).
A. They should conduct themselves as heirs (Gal 4:1-7).
B. They should not return to their former lifestyle (Gal 4:8-11).
C. They should recall Paul's first visit (Gal 4:12-16).
D. They should recognize the motive of false teachers (Gal 4:17-20).
E. They should understand the two sons allegory (Gal 4:21-31).
Application: You must realize that what you relinquish for God in no way compares to what you will receive from God (Matt 19:29).

V. Paul applies the gospel (Gal 5:1-26).
A. You are confused about the purpose of circumcision (Gal 5:1-6).
B. You are confused about the value of circumcision (Gal 5:7-12).
C. You should be experiencing the freedom of the Spirit (Gal 5:13-15).
D. You should be experiencing the life of the Spirit (Gal 5:16-18).
E. You should be expressing the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:19-26.
Application: You must be willing to give up anything that might stand between you and Jesus, not that he will require you to do so, but you must be ready to do so should he ask (Matt 19:27-29).

VI. Paul closes the letter (Gal 6:1-18).
A. He issues some final advice (Gal 6:1-10).
B. He offers some concluding thoughts (Gal 6:11-18).
Application: You must fulfill your particular obligation toward fellow believers, in part because of the witness it provides (John 13:35).

**********************

The apostle Paul, author of this epistle, is probably on his third missionary journey1 visiting churches he had established earlier.2 These groups consist of gentiles as well as Jews because Paul's initial outreach in a new area was generally to synagogues with some God-fearers in attendance.3 This is after the Jerusalem Council, when the status of gentile believers is officially settled: They do not need to become Jews to be saved.4 Paul is bringing news of the Council's ruling to congregations in Asia Minor and may be writing this letter from Antioch5 or Ephesus.6

Paul begins this epistle as he does many of his other letters, with an address that includes some standard elements.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Word became flesh

A TASTE OF ETERNITY (John 1:14, 18)
Dr. Paul Manuel—Christmas 1996

One of the most conspicuous elements of the holiday season is food, often an abundance of it and in great variety. This poses something of a threat to those who try to regulate what they eat. The temptation to consume that which is too sweet, too high in fat or salt, and invariably too much is often overwhelming. So much so that—for you Star Trek fans—many people take a "Borg" approach to all this food—"Resistance is futile!"—and they just set their diets aside for a few days.

There is another aspect of Christmas that is neither high in calories nor cholesterol, one to which the apostle John alludes in the first chapter of his gospel, because Christmas is a taste of eternity.
John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.... 18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.
Moses once asked God to reveal Himself, but God replied, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live" (Exod 33:20). Paul calls God the one "who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see" (1 Tim 6:16). In his Revelation, though, John says that those who have a part in the new heaven and new earth God will create for His people will do what no one else has ever done: "They will see his face" (Rev 22:4a; cf. Matt 5:8).

The significance of Christmas is that it gives us a taste of that future reality. John says, "No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." Jesus has revealed what we would not, what we could not see this side of eternity—the embodiment of the attributes of God, those qualities that describe who and what God is. So what do we see in Jesus?
  • Faithfulness to the promise of a Savior
  • Compassion to heal the sick
  • Wisdom in teaching
  • Glory at the transfiguration
  • Power to raise the dead
  • Love at Calvary
All these and more help us to visualize God. They offer us a partial glimpse now of what no one has ever seen or could see, a flash of what we may see fully later.

"May see" sounds pretty tentative. How can we be sure of securing a place in eternity with God? John tells us that too, as he describes another reason for Christmas.
John 3:16 God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.... 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in... God's one and only Son.
Our sin has separated us from God, and Jesus came to repair that breach by suffering the penalty in our place.
1 John 4:9b [God] sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
The benefit of his sacrifice, though, only comes to those who believe, who appropriate what he has done for them. It is in this way that we ensure what was once impossible will become a reality, forever.

As you contemplate all the extra food this season, remember what else Christmas offers: a taste of eternity—of what it will be like to see God and of what it takes to live with God.

For a pdf see here.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Why did He come?

WHY DID JESUS COME?
Reasons for the Incarnation in the Savior's Own Words
pdf (84 pages)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2014

I. Jesus came to reaffirm the scriptures (Matt 5:17-20). 5

Matt 5:17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
II. Jesus came to reach the lost (Matt 9:9-13). 10

Matt 9:13b For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
III. Jesus came to reject the status quo (Matt 10:34-39). 15

Matt 10:34 Do not [think] that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn "a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law
IV. Jesus came to rebuke the selfish (Matt 11:16-19). 21

Matt 11: 19a The Son of Man came eating and drinking....
V. Jesus came to rescue the perishing (Matt 20:20-28) 26

Matt 20:28 ...the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
VI. Jesus came to represent the Father (John 8:37-42) 31

John 8:42b I have not come on my own; but he sent me.
VII. Jesus came to refresh the weak (John 10:7-10). 36

John 10:10b I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
VIII. Jesus came to reveal the truth (John 18:33-38). 43

John 18:37c for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth.

Bibliography 48

Endnotes 49


Why Did Jesus Come? If you ask that question today, you will get various answers.
  • He came to show people the right way to live.
  • He came to start a new religious movement.
  • He came to restore Israel's independence.
Is any of these answers correct? If you had asked that question in Jesus' day, you also would have gotten various answers.
  • He came to set aside the law.
  • He came to rally the righteous.
  • He came to usher in a new age of peace.
Again, are any of these answers correct? Christians, of course, know the right answer: Jesus came to make atonement for sin. But is that the only answer?

To dispel some faulty notions circulating in the first century, Jesus offers his own explanation, using very assertive language ("I came to..."—or—"I did not come to..."). In this eight-week study, we will consider eight of these statements and their implications for us: Reasons for the Incarnation—in the Savior's Own Words.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Predictions of Messiah

EXAMINING OLD TESTAMENT PREDICTIONS ABOUT THE MESSIAH1
Dr. Paul Manuel—1995

Contents

Introduction 2
The Opposition of His Coming (Ps 2) 4
The Offices of His Coming (Ps 110) 6
The Joy of His Coming (Isa 9:1-7) 8
The Justice of His Coming (Isa 11:1-10) 10
The Ministry of His Corning (Isa 52:13-53:12) 12
The Mourning of His Coming (Zech 12:10-13:1) 15
The Place of His Coming (Mic 5:1-6) 16
The Prominence of His Coming (Dan 7:9-14) 18
Conclusion 20
A Summary of How God's People Understood Messianic Prophecy    21
Bibliography 22
Endnotes 23

Introduction

...[W]e have looked at all the Old Testament quotes in Matthew to determine how many are actually predictions of the messiah and discovered that there are relatively few. More common are simple quotes or analogous quotes. When we expand the scope of our search to include the entire Bible, we discover a similar phenomenon—relatively few Messianic passages.

The texts that do fall in this category are not all equally informative. Some passages are short and vague in that they may or may not actually refer to the messiah (e.g., Gen 3:15; 9:26-27; 49:10; Num 24:17; Deut 18:15-18). Other passages are long but general in that they refer more to the Messianic Age than to the messiah himself (e.g., Jer 31:31-40; 33:14-26; Ezek 34:22-31; 37:22-28). A few passages, however, are both clear and specific, concentrating fully on the individual whom Jewish tradition identifies as the messiah and whom the New Testament identifies as Jesus (e.g. Ps 2; 110; Isa 9:1-7; 11:1-9; 52:13-53:12; Dan 7:9-14; Mic 5:1-6). It is those passages we will study together. In each case, I want us to consider how people understood these passages at various stages in history and consider how you can use the prophecies (as well as their interpretation) in communicating your faith.

1. Old Testament Understanding: How would those who lived in Old Testament times have understood the passage? To answer that question, we will consult background information for the Old Testament text.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

"That was then..."

"THAT WAS THEN; THIS IS NOW"
Dr. Paul Manuel—2014

Much of life involves a series of changes, some of which are large, others of which are small. Many of those changes test our ability to respond with wise choices, consistent with our commitment to God. Dealing with changes, whether large or small, and making the choices they require, is often a matter of perspective, of viewing life (as much as possible) from God's perspective and realizing the wonder of His grace along the way. In some cases, it means recognizing a particular change is permanent, and there is no going back: That was then; this is now.

When first diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, I was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and knew nothing about the disease. A doctor at the hospital there recommended a series of steroid infusions he said might force it into remission. I followed his advice and thought no more about the matter, going on to finish my degree and continuing my involvement in the martial arts, an activity I had begun sometime earlier.

Eighteen years later, having been in pastoral ministry for quite a while, the MS returned—there is no (further) treatment for the kind I have—and I steadily lost the ability to move about without assistance. (After forty years, I taught my final martial arts class last year, from a walker.) Noting the obvious physical difficulty I was having, the deacons and elders at the church wisely recommended that I seek early retirement. The physical change is permanent, and there is no going back: That was then; this is now.

To be sure, "now" is certainly different from what I experienced before, but God has not changed, and He still enables me to choose how I will respond to this change. While I miss being physically active and being more fully engaged in ministry, I also realize that the more I can align my perspective with His perspective, the more my response to this change will accord with His will and the more I realize the wonder of His grace along the way.

The change has not affected everything. While no longer teaching martial arts, there are still opportunities to minister. I do not get out much, but people come to see me, which I enjoy (although why they do so is often a mystery to me). I am also able to post studies and sermons to my blog that would otherwise remain in notebooks. (My wife says that I now have time to read for pleasure, which I have not done since college and grad school.) While the future is unknown, it need not be unproductive, and I trust that my continuing walk with God will yet yield fruit, because that was then; this is now.

For a pdf see here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Contradictions?

CONFLICTING COUNSEL: SUPPOSED CONTRADICTIONS IN SCRIPTURE
Dr. Paul Manuel—2016

A common objection people raise to the authority of scripture is that the Bible contains many contradictions undermining any claim to divine authorship. After all, how could a perfect God produce an imperfect work? Some critics settle inconsistencies by appealing to different strata in the Bible, to books or portions thereof composed at different times or written by different authors (i.e., source criticism). This brief study assumes that one author (God) supervised the entire composition process and that any solution to apparent inconsistency lies in a better understanding of the text itself.

Perceived inconsistencies often represent different circumstances or perspectives which become clear as one understands the context. To assume an inconsistency is an error may offer an easy resolution but not necessarily the correct resolution. Consequently, most Supposed Contradictions in Scripture fall into one of two categories, depending on the clarity of the context.
  • Simple opposites: Apparent contradictions with insufficient context for resolution.
These are mainly passages that appear in isolation, such as doublets in the biblical book of Proverbs. The author probably intends each aphorism for a different set of circumstances and leaves to the reader the proper selection of those circumstances.
  • Complex opposites: Apparent contradictions with sufficient context for resolution.
These are mainly passages that are part of a larger discussion. The biblical author regards the context of these to be clear enough for the reader to grasp the correct meaning.

Simple Opposites

Two proverbs warn against the dangers of responding to a fool, implying that it is best not to engage with him at all lest one's efforts prove unproductive or even detrimental:

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. (Prov 26:4)

One danger of responding to a fool is that a person's counsel will not only confirm the fool's conduct but will draw the counselor into the same bad behavior.

Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. (Prov 26:5)

Another danger of responding to a fool is that counsel will actually have the opposite effect, confirming the fool in his bad behavior.