What Makes You a Child and Heir of God?

TODAY’S READING: ROMANS 8-10

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” – Romans 8:16-17

More and more with each passing day I am convinced that there is one thing that I must truly know and apply in my life.

It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead.

Jesus’ entire life and ministry was driven toward the hour that he would suffer and rise from the dead.

The necessity of his suffering and rising from the dead is the sum total of everything Jesus taught his disciples during the time between his resurrection and ascension.

Luke 24:25-27 says, “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

The necessity of the Christ suffering and rising from the dead was the word that Paul was occupied with and completely consumed by. (See “What Was Paul Occupied With?“) It is this single word that incredibly changed Paul from a persecutor of the church, and therefore Jesus, to, arguably, the greatest sufferer for the sake of the church, and therefore Jesus, in history.

The Bereans searched the scriptures daily to see if what Paul preached to them – the necessity of the Christ’s rising and rising from the dead – was really true. (See “Why Were the Bereans Examining the Scriptures Daily?“)

While Romans is the first of Paul’s letters in the Bible, it was actually the last of the letters in the Bible that we wrote. Consequently, Romans contains Paul’s most complete understanding of God and Jesus. It is Paul’s magnum opus.

And, if Paul was occupied with, consumed by, the necessity of the Christ’s suffering and rising from the dead, then surely this letter to the Romans would have been inspired by this single word.

Therefore, if we want to truly understand what Paul is writing to the Roman church, then we must read every statement he makes through the fact that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead.

This morning I could have read Romans 8 over and over again, meditating on each word as it relates to the necessity of the Christ suffering and rising from the dead.

Paul says that the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. God is our father and we are his sons and daughters.

Now, if you are a son or daughter of a man, then you are his heir. Therefore, because the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God, then indeed we are heirs of God. More than that, we are heirs together of Christ.

The Holy Spirit speaks this truth to us if one other thing is true.

“Provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

We are children of God and heirs of God “provided we suffer with him.”

We are children of God and heirs of God

  • not because we have a large and growing ministry
  • not because we are a great preacher
  • not because you are a worship leader with an awesome music minsitry
  • not because we have led many people to salvation
  • not because we have great political influence
  • not because we are rich and famous
  • not because we are healthy, wealthy, and wise
  • not because we are living our best life now
  • not because we have found our purpose and calling
  • not because we tithe
  • not because we pray the right way
  • not because we strictly maintain specific rules, laws, and moral codes

but because “we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

While it’s not a major issues, I would argue that this should be translated “if we really suffer together in order that we may be glorified together.”

The Greek word translated “suffer with him” is sympascho. It is used only one other time in the Bible, and the one other use was also by Paul.

First Corinthians 12:24-26 says, “But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together [sympascho]; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

Our suffering together, for one another, shows that we truly know and understand who God and Jesus Christ are. For, it was necessary that the Christ suffer and rise from the dead.

Where did Paul get this idea?

In Matthew 5:9, at the beginning of the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”

The sons of God are peacemakers.

How do you make peace?

The world tries to make peace through war, violence, domination, and oppression. The world tries to make by inflicting suffering.

The night before he suffered, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.” (John 14:27)

Unlike the world, Jesus makes peace by suffering and dying. God makes peace, not by causing suffering, but by suffering himself. God makes peace not with violence but by being violated.

So, the sons of God are peacemakers in the same way that Jesus was a peacemaker.

 

For the rest of his sermon, Jesus tells us what it looks like to make peace through suffering.

“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

“If anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”

“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”

“Give to the one who begs from you.”

“Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is heaven.”

“When you pray…pray then like this…”

“If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”

“Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”

“You cannot serve God and money.”

“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”

“Judge not, that you be not judged.”

“First take the log out of your own eye.”

“Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.”

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

So, Jesus says those that make peace are the sons of God. Then, he tells us the actions, the suffering, that makes peace.

In Romans 8, Paul has told what makes us a child of God. We suffer together. This is how we make peace. This is how “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21)

And, after Paul tells us that we are children of God by making peace, even for the whole creation, he gives us his understanding, his retelling, of the sermon on the mount.

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, but fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves.” (Romans 12:9-19)

This is how we suffer together.

This is how we make peace.

This is how we know that we are children and heirs of God.

Are You an Instrument of Righteousness?

TODAY’S READING: ROMANS 4-7

“Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” – Romans 6:13

What is an instrument for righteousness?

How do I know if I am an instrument for righteousness?

First, we have to know what righteousness is.

The word righteousness sounds like being right. Therefore, we tend to get it in our minds that righteousness is behaving rightly or correctly according to some set of rules, laws, or moral code. Conversely, if we break one of those rules or law, if we violate our moral code, then we are unrighteous.

But, this is not what righteousness is, at least according to God.

In “What Is the Righteousness of God and Its Effect?“, I showed that the righteousness of God was manifested at an appointed time. This time was the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Paul wrote that the scriptures – the law and the prophets – bear witness to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus as the righteousness of God.

This is the very thing that Jesus taught the disciples. Luke 24:44-46 says, “Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.'”

Romans 5:18 says, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.”

The one act of righteousness is the suffering and rising from the dead of Jesus. That one act, which is the righteousness of God, justifies and gives life to all men.

Therefore, the righteousness of God is suffering and dying for others at the expense of oneself while trusting God to raise you from the dead to life. That sounds a lot like love and how we know love according to 1 John 4.

Consequently, unrighteousness is seeking my own advantage, benefit, blessing, comfort, contentment, ease, favor, and pleasure at the expense of others while becoming death. That sounds a lot like living in fear, which is the opposite of love according to 1 John 4.

On the one hand Paul says to present our members to God as instruments for righteousness. But, on the other hand, Paul says to not present our members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness. It’s a direct contrast that Paul is making.

Except Paul tells us to present ourselves, not just our members, to God “as from death to life” (that’s the literal Greek).

What does Paul mean?

He means that we should present ourselves, our whole beings, to God just as Jesus did. To truly present ourselves to God we must know that it is necessary to suffer so that we can be raised to life. We cannot be raised to life without suffering.

And, if we do that, then we can present our members to God as instruments for righteousness.

Just what is an instrument for righteousness?

It means that we suffer to be raised to life for others.

But, the Greek more literally translates as weapons of righteousness.

To present our members to God as instruments for righteousness is to to present our bodies as weapons of suffering and rising to life for others.

Do you get that?

We are to be weapons of suffering.

This is how we fight in God’s war against evil.

We present our bodies as weapons of suffering.

We do not fight in God’s war against evil by trying to perfectly live up to rules, laws, or a moral code.

We fight in God’s war as weapons of suffering.

We love our enemies.

We bless those that persecute us.

We return evil with good.

As Paul says in Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

In Romans 12:10-19, Paul says, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves.”

If you do those things, then you be a weapon of suffering.

In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Paul says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

The Greek word for weapons in verse 4 is the same Greek word that Paul uses in saying we are to presents our members to God as “instruments for righteousness.”

So, what are “the weapons of our warfare?”

The righteousness of God.

Suffering, dying, being raised to life.

It is out suffering in the very face and onslaught of evil that has divine power to destroy the strongholds in the mind of the evil doer. It is our suffering in the face of persecution that destroys evil and wicked thoughts against the true knowledge of God.

Is this not what Christ demonstrated on the cross in his one act of righteousness?

Is this not what Jesus said all of the scriptures testify to?

Look at what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:2-7.

“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons [same Greek word] of righteousness for the right hand and for the left.”

Afflictions.

Hardships.

Calamities.

Beatings.

Imprisonments.

Weapons of righteousness.

Weapons of suffering.

In the right hand and the left hand.

Where was Christ nailed to the cross? Where were Jesus’ weapons of suffering?

Ephesians 6:10-11 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”

The Greek word for “whole armor” has the same root as the word Paul has been using for weapons of righteousness. We can truly stand against Satan and his schemes when we present our members to God as weapons of suffering. When we do that we cannot be deceived by Satan’s schemes to act in our own self interest. This is how we war “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:1-2)

Peter makes the direct comparison that since Christ suffered for others then we should think the same way. When Peter says to arm ourselves, the Greek word for arm has the same root as the word for weapons and instruments.

So, to be an instrument of righteousness is to be a weapon of suffering. We need to have the same mind as Jesus – the necessity of suffering to be raised to life.

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-12)

What Is the Righteousness of God and Its Effect?

TODAY’S READING: ROMANS 1-3

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justified of the one who has faith in Jesus.” – Romans 3:21-26

I have heard this passage of scripture used in a way that sends a whole lot of people to hell.

I believe Paul’s words get used this way because the translation suffers due to the theological bias of the translators and a misunderstanding of the righteousness of God. The translations are biased and the righteousness of God misunderstood because so many Christians do not see God as only good, as a giver of only life, and as being just because he punishes the wicked with the eternally tormenting fire of hell.

However, if you see God as only, as a giver of life only and never death, and as being just because by grace and mercy he forgives us all for doing what we did not know we were doing, then you will understand these words of Paul in an entirely different way. This other way is more suited to God’s character – light and not darkness, love and not fear that has to do with punishment – and, in my opinion, supported the actual Greek Paul wrote.

Therefore, I will do my best to reveal to clearly and simply reveal by the Spirit what Paul is saying.

Let’s start with the phrase “righteousness of God.” The word righteousness in the Greek is dikaiosyne. This is the word dikaios with the suffix syne.

The ultimate root of dikaios is the dike. According to the Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, “It is generally agreed the dike, the basic term in this group, is related to deiknymi, ‘show, indicate.’ Thus its root meaning would be ‘that which is indicated, is in usage, is customary,’ and it from this starting point that it ends up meaning justice. The first appearance of this meaning is as a mythical divine being: ‘There is a virgin, Dike, daughter of Zeus, honored and revered by the gods, inhabitants of Olympia,’ who denounces the unjust deeds of humans before her father and call for their punishment.”

Wait.

What?

Did you get that?

The ultimate root, dike, of the all the words meaning righteousness and justice in the Bible first appeared meaning justice in the context of the virgin of daughter of Zeus who denounced the unjust deeds of humans before her father and called for their punishment.

Is this not what many Christians believe about God?

Is this not what many Christians believe Jesus is going to do at his second coming?

Many Christians believe that Jesus is going to come back and denounce all those that failed to believe in him, which is their unjust deed, and call for their punishment, sending them to fires of hell for eternal torment.

Dear Christian, are you worshiping Dike, the virgin daughter of Zeus, or Jesus, the son of God?

I’ve barely begun and should not alarm bells be going of in our heads?

Am I to believe that Jesus came to reveal that God is actually like Dike, the virgin of Zeus?

Of course not.

Dikaios is an adjective that means something is just, right, or equitable. With dikaios, we can say that something is just, right, or equitable really, actually, factually, concretely, materially, or objectively.

But, Paul is not writing about the dikaios – the actual or objective justness or rightness – of God here. No, Paul is writing about the dikaiosyne of God.

The Greek suffix syne makes the noun it is attached to abstract. Something is abstract if it is disassociated from any specific instance, difficult to understand, insufficiently factual; dealing with a subject apart from an object.

Paul is writing about the abstract – hypothetical, philosophical, complex, deep, real, intellectual, non-concrete, transcendental – righteousness of God. This righteousess of God is not associated with any specific instance, difficult to understand, and insufficiently factual.

Until…

“It was manifested.”

The abstract – hypothetical, philosophical, complex, deep, real, intellectual, non-concrete, transcendental – righteousness of God was manifested. The Greek word for manifest, phaneroo, means to reveal, make clear, make manifest. Something is manifest if it is readily perceived by the senses, especially by the sight or easily understood or recognized by the mind. Therefore, the righteousness of God, which was hard to understand, has been made easy to understand. The righteousness of God, which we could not see because it was hypothetical and philosophical, has been made visible. The righteousness of God is now something you can really and clearly see with your own eyes.

How was the abstract righteousness of God manifested?

“Apart from the law.”

The Greek word for “apart from” is choris. It also means without. There is no Greek word the in the original. Therefore, the abstract righteousness of God was manifested “without law.”

Do you understand what Paul is saying?

God’s abstract righteousness, which is hard to understand and perceive, was made real and visible without law. You don’t need law, any law, to understand the righteousness of God. As Western Christians, to understand what is just and right without law goes against everything we know and believe about justice and righteousness. Because in our minds, we only know, conceive, and perceive justice and righteousness if there is a law that can or cannot be broken.

If the abstract righteousness of God was manifested without law, then how did we come to see this righteousness and have it clearly revealed to us?

“Although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it.”

Now, we start getting into some translation problems.

There is no Greek word for although in Paul’s writing. However, there is an untranslated Greek word, de. De means but or and, which is how it is translated the vast majority of the time. I believe this word that was left untranslated should be translated “but.”

Immediately after the untranslated de is a second dikaisyne theou, the righteousness of God. This will be very important as we go.

We might say, “But the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it.”

However, this is still not correct.

“Bear witness to it” is the Greek word martyroumene. The way this has been translated makes it sound like “the Law and the Prophets” are actively bearing witness to the righteousness of God. But, this cannot be correct because martyrourmene is a singular, present, passive, participle.

Basically, a participle is a verb that becomes an adjective. In English, we typically add -ing to a verb to make a participle. In our case, the word would be witnessing.

The voice passive means the subject is being acted upon by the verb. Therefore, if “the Law and the Prophets” are the subject of the passive martyroumene, then it should read something like “but the Law and the Prophets being witnessed.” It would be “the Law and the Prophets” that are being witnessed. But, “the Law and the Prophets” are not being witnessed. We know from the rest of the Bible that “the Law and the Prophets,” which are together known as the scripture, do the witnessing. In John 5:39, Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.”

The present tense means an action that is continuous and ongoing. The passive action of being witnessed to that is happening to the subject is continuous and ongoing. Again, this makes it clear that “the Law and the Prophets” are not being witnessed on a continual and ongoing basis.

This present, passive participle is singular. The singular thing Paul is writing about is the righteousness of God. The righteousness of God is the subject that is passively being witnessed to on a continual and ongoing basis.

Also, there is another untranslated word in the Greek, hypo. The vast majority of the time this word is translated “by.”

Let’s put all of this together so far.

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.”

To what do “the Law and the Prophets” witness?

“Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.'” (Luke 24:45-47)

“The Law and the Prophets,” the scriptures, witness to the necessity that the Christ suffer and rise from the dead. That Jesus suffered and rose from the dead is clearly perceived, easily understood, seen by the eyes of more than 500 witnesses. Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection was the manifestation of God, and Jesus said the scriptures are a witness to that.

Now, it should be clear that the abstract – hypothetical, philosophical, complex, deep, real, intellectual, non-concrete, transcendental – righteousness of God is manifested, clearly perceived, easily understood, and visibly seen in the suffering, the crucifixion, of the Christ and his resurrection from the dead.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.”

How did this come about?

“Through faith in Jesus Christ.”

Now we have more translation problems. I know this is a hotly debated subject.

The word “in” does not exist in the Greek.

Jesus Christ is a noun in the genitive case. Basically, this means that the noun possesses another noun. The other noun that is possessed in our case is faith. Therefore, I side with those who say Paul wrote “the faith of Jesus Christ” not “faith in Jesus Christ.”

The “faith of Jesus Christ” makes more sense when we consider that is “through,” or by means of, “the faith of Jesus Christ that the righteousness of God was manifested without law. It was not our faith in Jesus, which, if we are honest, is at best fickle and wavering, that manifested the righteousness of God but the faith of Jesus that did so.

Why is it the faith of Jesus that is necessary and not our faith in Christ?

The entirety of scripture witnesses that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead.

Who’s faith made it possible for Jesus to be crucified and rise from the dead?

Yours or his?

Pretty obvious isn’t it.

Jesus required faith in his Father that his Father would raise him from the dead after he laid down his life and let us torture and crucify him.

That is a tremendous amount of faith.

Care to put your faith into action like that?

You wouldn’t stand a chance.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ.”

Why “through the faith of Jesus Christ?”

“For all who believe.”

Again, we have more translation problems.

The Greek word  for “for” is eis. It is by far most often translated to, into, or in.

“To all who believe.”

Who believes though?

“Who” is not in the Greek.

Believe is translated from pisteuontas. It is a present, active, accusative, participle. The accusative case is the case of the direct object. The direct object receives the action of the verb.

While it is tempting to think that we are the direct object of Jesus’ faith, faith is a noun. Therefore, the believing are not the direct object of Jesus faith in this case.

There really is only one verb that pisteuontas could be the direct object of. That verb is manifested. If we strip everything extraneous away, then we would have “And now the righteousness of God has been manifested to all the believing.” Although it is possible to see the the believing as the direct object of being witnessed as well.

The believing are those to whom the abstract righteousness of God has been made visible and clearly perceived without law, being witnessed by the by the law and the prophets that is was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead through the faith of Jesus Christ.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing.”

Are there any that the righteousness of God has not been manifested to?

Is it not the Holy Spirit that manifests and witnesses the righteousness of God to us?

Is this not why the Holy Spirit was poured out on all flesh after Jesus ascended to heaven?

Sure, the manifestation and witness is more and less from person to person, but I believe scripture clearly shows that the manifestation and witness is happening, and will happen, to all.

Therefore, Paul writes, “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Where is there no distinction?

Between Jew and gentile. The Jew has the law. The gentile has no law. But, it doesn’t matter because there is no distinction between them. In fact, all Jews and all gentiles sin and fall short of the glory of God.

But, what else happens to them all?

“And are justified.”

Justified is the present, passive, plural, nominative participle of dikaioo. Dikaioo means justify, declare righteous, set right, vindicate. The nominative case means that this participle is the subject of the sentence. It is passive, meaning the subject is being acted upon. It is present, meaning the process of being justified is ongoing and continual. And, it is plural.

The only possible noun that fits all of these requirements is the all that have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

“All are being justified.”

How are all being justified?

“By his grace.”

In what manner?

“As a gift.”

This is the Greek word dorean. It is an adverb, meaning it describes a verb.

Grace is a noun and not a verb. But, the translation makes it seem like “as a gift” is describing God’s grace.

The only verb dorean could be describing is “being justified.” Dorean means freely, gratuitously, without a cause, without cost, free of charge, without payment, for no reason, for no purpose.

All are being justified freely, gratuitously, without a cause, without cost, free of charge, without payment, and for no reason.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace.”

There is nothing you ever do to warrant justification, being declared righteous. It is by grace.

Therefore, there is nothing you could ever do to not warrant justification, to prevent God from justifying you.

“Through the redemption that i in Christ, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”

You guessed it. More translation problems.

The Greek word for “as a propitiation” is hilasterion. It is the word in the Greek Old Testament that means mercy seat.

God intended Jesus to be a mercy seat, a place of atonement.

“By his blood.”

The Greek word for by is “en.” It is by far most often translated in.

God intended Jesus to be a mercy seat in his blood, that is covered in his blood.

“To be received by faith.”

The words “to be received” are not in the Greek. And, they should not be in the English.

Who handles the blood on the mercy seat?

The chief priest. The high priest.

Hebrews 9:11-12 says, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing eternal redemption.”

Who took Jesus’ blood into the heavenly tabernacle and put it on the mercy seat?

Jesus.

Who’s faith was required to do that?

The faith of Jesus.

Not you. You don’t cover the mercy seat in the blood of Jesus

We are talking the same faith, the faith of Jesus, that we saw above.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God intended to be a mercy seat in his blood by faith.”

In the translation, the next sentence starts, “This was to show God’s righteousness.” However, I think this is the actual conclusion to the sentence we just read. “This was” is not in the Greek. Nor is the word God. It’s the word for his.

It really should just say “to show his righteousness.” That is, the abstract kind.

The Greek word for show, endeixin, is interesting. It also means to demonstrate or prove. An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon says it means “a pointing out,”  and as a law term “a laying information against one who discharged public functions for which he was legally disqualified.” Jesus carrying his own blood to the mercy seat in the heavenly tabernacle was information against all of us and Satan who discharge the public function of crucifying Jesus illegally.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace in proof of his righteousness.”

I think the next sentence and its repeated use of endeixin proves (pun intended) why I put the previous one at the end of the last sentence.

Now Paul writes, “Because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time.”

“It was” is not in the Greek. I think this is one thought from Paul that is the preface to his concluding statement.

Further, the words “he had passed over” are misleading. This the Greek word paresin. The root word for paresin is iemi, which is where we get the word forgive in the New Testament. The Greek prefix par means beside, alongside, related to; disordered, sideways, wrong, contrary to, different from.

To translate this as “he had passed over” seems a little misleading given the Hebrew feast of Passover, the whole context of what we have covered so far, and what we will cover below. Paresin more literally means tolerate.

The word for time is karios. It means a set or proper time, the right point of time. The word for present is nyn, which is almost always translated now. The now time is the appointed time. Of course, the appointed time was the crucifixion of Jesus, that was “the hour” his entire life and ministry was headed towards.

Therefore, the preface to Paul’s concluding statement is “Because in his divine forbearance he tolerated former sins to prove his righteousness [the abstract kind again] in the appointed time.”

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace in proof of his righteousness. Because in his divine forbearance he tolerated former sins to prove his righteousness in the appointed time.”

Now, what is Paul’s concluding statement about the abstract righteousness of God that was manifested at the appointed time of the cross?

“So that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

Again, we have more translation problems.

“So that” is eis, which is almost always translated to, into, or in. I think is most appropriate here.

In the translation, he is the subject of the sentence. But, in the Greek he, auton, is in the accusative case, meaning it is the object of the verb.

“Might” is not in the Greek.

“Be” is the only verb in the sentence. So, he is the subject of be or being.

“Justifier” is the present, active, accusative singular participle of dikaioo. Therefore, it should be justifying and is the object of the verb being.

“Of the one who” is the word ton. It is in the accusative and goes with the accusative participle of dikaioo. Therefore, it is ” the justifying one” not “the justifier of the one who.”

“Has” is not in the Greek. It is the word ek, which means from, of, out of.

“Faith in Jesus” is the same as we saw above. It should be the “faith of Jesus” or “Jesus’ faith.”

So, what then is Paul’s concluding statement?

“in being him the just and the justifying one of Jesus’ faith.”

How is God being the just and the justifying one of Jesus’ faith?

Recall from above, the mentioned Jesus needed faith to be the Christ who had suffer, be crucified, die, and rise from the dead. He had faith in his Father to raise him from the dead after he laid down his life and let us crucify him.

Why did Jesus do this?

Go back above to Luke 24:47.

Jesus suffered and rose from the dead so “that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name.”

Forgiveness of sins could only be proclaimed in his name if they were actually forgiven.

What did Jesus ask his Father for on the cross?

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Jesus asked this of his Father in faith.

The Father answered his request, forgiving everyone, justifying all that have sinned for no reason, so that the Father could be the just and justifying one of Jesus’ faithful request for forgiveness for all.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace in proof of his righteousness. Because in his divine forbearance he tolerated former sins to prove his righteousness in the appointed time, in being him the just and the justifying one of Jesus’ faith.”

Yes, the meaning I have given Romans 3:21-26 is entirely different than what most translators and preachers have said it means. But, it is all in the original Greek if you know what the righteousness of God is that Jesus was manifesting on the cross, what the whole witness of scripture is, and what God wanted to show the world about himself.

Did God want to show the whole world that he was like Dike, the goddess of justice who denounced the unjust deeds of humans before her father and called for their punishment?

Or did God want to show he was something altogether different?

God is just.

God is merciful.

God is forgiving.

Of all, for no reason other than his Son asked him to.

Jesus, the Christ, God’s son, for whom it was necessary to suffer, die, and rise from the dead, according to all the scriptures.

 

Suffering, dying, and rising for the sole purpose that repentance, changing our minds about who God is, a forgiver not a condemner like Dike, and the forgiveness of sins.

Yes, God is justifying the faith of his son Jesus by declaring all righteous, all forgiven.

A Sign of the Two Becoming One?

TODAY’S READING: ACTS 27-28

“After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead.” – Acts 28:11

Paul was on three different ships as he sailed from Caesarea to Rome. Regarding the first ship, Luke simply writes that it was of Adramyttium. Regarding the second ship, Luke simply writes that it was of Alexandria. But, regarding the third ship, the ship that Paul finally reached Rome in, Luke noted it had “the twin gods as a figurehead.”

Why would Luke record this seemingly insignificant detail?

In the Greek, “the twin gods” is Dioskouroi. The twin gods were the sons of Zeus. In Latin, the twin gods were the sons of Jupiter, Castor and Pollux. Castor and Pollux are the two brightest stars of the constellation Gemini, which means twins.

So, the boat that Paul reached Rome in was marked with the stars of the twins as a figurehead. The Greek word for figurehead is parasemos. Para means from beside, at, or in. Semeion means a sign, as in a miracle or wonder. Parasemos literally means side-marked, but we can think of it as a sign in the side.

Semeion is the Greek word for signs in the Septuagint in Genesis 1:14, which says, “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.”

God created the stars as signs to be lights to give light on the earth. Of course, light was created on day one. So, perhaps we are to understand that God created the stars as lights, signs, that give light upon the earth to be signs that give revelation.

What kind of revelation were these stars, signs, to give?

“And behold, the word of the came to him: ‘This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.’ And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.'” (Genesis 15:4-5)

Abram told God that he had not given him an heir yet despite the promise he would have one. God told Abram that indeed he would have an heir that was his very own son. To prove it, God told Abram to go outside, look up to the sky, and “number the stars” because “so shall your offspring be.”

In Galatians 3:16, Paul wrote, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.”

Therefore, God told Abram to number the stars because his offspring, singular, Jesus Christ, would be as the stars. Now, God was not telling Abram to number, as in physically count, the stars. There was only one offspring. So, there was no need to physically count the stars.

The English word number is actually two Hebrew words (basically the same word used twice). Both of these words basically mean to count, to make a written record, to make known or announce, to report or tell. God is not telling Abram to count how many stars are in the sky. He is telling Abram to look toward heaven and make a written record of what the stars are saying, if he can indeed make a written record of it, because that is how his offspring shall be.

Am I saying the stars tell the story, the gospel, of Jesus, the offspring of Abraham?

Yes, I am.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has sent a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.” (Psalm 19:1-6)

David is saying that God has created the stars in the sky, the constellations, as a circuit, a path, that the sun travels. As the sun travels this path through the constellations, the constellations pour out speech and reveal knowledge. The voice of the constellations goes out to all the earth and the words, or message, of the constellations goes to the end of the world.

David is writing the mazzaroth, the Hebrew name for the zodiac, a group of constellations that have served as astronomical or astrological signs throughout man’s history in every culture.

Lest you think that Christians should not have anything to do with the mazzaroth or zodiac, when God is questioning Job regarding what he knows about the creation, God says, “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season, or can you guide the Bear with its children? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth?” (Job 38:31-33)

Paul knew all about this. In fact, he quoted David and Psalm 19.

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have for ‘The voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.'” (Romans 10:14-18)

Paul says you can’t believe if you haven’t heard. And, you can’t hear if there isn’t a preacher.

So, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. But, Paul is not talking about the scriptures or the Bible here.

Paul says that the Jews can believe because they have heard because they have had a preacher.

Who is the preacher?

Paul quotes Psalm 19 to say that the stars, the constellations, the mazzaroth, the zodiac, are the preachers. Their words of the gospel, the word of Christ, has gone out to the end of the world.

Clearly, Paul was very familiar with the mazzaroth and the zodiac and the idea that sing the foundation of the world God had created the stars and constellations to tell us the story of Abraham’s offspring, Jesus Christ. Given Paul’s seemingly intimate knowledge of the message of the stars, it is not so surprising that Luke would record that the ship Paul and he were traveling to Rome in was side marked with the sign of Gemini, the twins. I suspect that this was a topic of conversation between Paul and Luke as they sailed to Rome.

There is a mythology, a story, about Gemini that I won’t go into. But, I will say that the Greek word parsemos, the figurehead, side-mark, or sign in the side of the ship, also means marked amiss; falsely, counterfeit; falsely stamped. The constellation Gemini represented a false story to the Greeks and Romans.

But, I venture to say that the true story of this constellation, its true speech, was the topic of conversation for Paul and Luke.

All the way back in Acts 23:11, Jesus said to Paul, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.” Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, God’s people. Rome was the capital of the world, the Gentiles. Paul had testified in the one, and he was going to testify in the other.

When Paul was making his defense just before he was sent to Rome, he said Jesus told him, “For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I shall appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles – to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:16-18)

Jesus gave Paul the task of taking him, the light, to all the nations to the end of the world so that Gentiles could have a part in God’s salvation just as the Jews did (see Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6).

We should note what Luke writes about their time in the tempest before they got on the ship marked with the sign of Gemini.

“And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.” (Acts 27:19-20)

The third day, the day of resurrection, the day of salvation, has come. But, there was no sun and no stars in the sky. In other words, their voice, their message, the gospel, could no longer be heard. Their hope of being saved was lost. Paul was not going to make it to Rome to fulfill Jesus’ purpose of preaching in Jerusalem and Rome, to the Jew and the Gentile, from the center to the end of the earth.

So, when Paul got on the ship with Gemini, the twins, as the figurehead it was a sign to him that Jesus would fulfill God’s purpose and the purpose he had for Paul.

Paul would fulfill Jesus’ purpose for him of preaching to Jerusalem and Rome, the Jew and the Gentile. And, Jesus would fulfill the purpose of God by making the two – Jew and Gentile – one. They would become twins – two stars, two people, in one constellation.

Indeed, the twins, Gemini, Castor and Pollux, were quite a sign for Paul. Perhaps they influenced his writing of Ephesians 2:11-22.

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands – remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

How Did Paul Worship God According to the Way?

TODAY’S READING: ACTS 24-26

“But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets.” – Acts 24:14

The Way was the first name given to the group of apostles and disciples who believed and followed Jesus. The name implies that believers in Jesus are on a journey, a road, from one place to another.

In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

The apostles and disciples were on the narrow way that leads to life. They were called the Way because they were on a journey from death to life.

“In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.” (Proverbs 12:28)

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24)

“Present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life.” (Romans 6:13)

“We know that we have passed out of death into life.” (1 John 3:14)

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness [death] and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son [life].” (Colossians 1:13)

Paul was once on the easy way that led to broad gate that opened to destruction, to death. “But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1-2)

As Paul confessed to King Agrippa, “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.” (Acts 26:9-11)

Paul went about threatening, persecuting, approving of, voting for, and seeking the murder of those he disagreed with. He was on the broad way, entering the wide gate, going to death and destruction and destruction.

But, something happened to change that changed his way from death to life. “At midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me.” (Acts 26:13) Paul encountered Jesus. And, it was Jesus, the Lord, that Paul himself was persecuting, seeking to murder, and putting to death.

Why did Jesus appear to Paul?

“For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and the Gentiles – to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:16-18)

Jesus appeared to Paul so that Paul could turn Jews and Gentiles from darkness to light.

Jesus appeared to Paul so that Paul could turn Jews and Gentiles from the power of Satan to God.

What is the power of Satan?

“The one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” (Hebrews 2:14)

Jesus appeared to Paul so that Paul could turn Jews and Gentiles from death to life, the way of death to the way of life.

Paul would turn people from death to life by worshiping God according to the way.

How would Paul worship God according to the way?

“By believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets.”

Does this mean that Paul believed everything written in the scriptures, the law and the prophets, literally?

Does this mean that Paul believed everything written in the scriptures, the law and the prophets, word for word?

Does this mean that if the scriptures said then Paul believed it, no questions asked?

The answer to each of these questions is no.

Emphatically no.

“And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit [life] have even more glory? For there was glory in the ministry of condemnation [death], the ministry of righteousness [life] must far exceed it in glory.” (2 Corinthians 3:3-9)

At one point in time, Paul believe the scriptures according to the literal letter, word for word. If the scriptures said it, then he believed it. But, Paul said this is a ministry of condemnation and death for the letter, the literal reading of scripture, kills. Indeed, this is exactly what testified to  in front of King Agrippa.

But, not Paul reads the scriptures by the Spirit instead of the literal letter. The Spirit has a ministry of righteousness that gives life. Paul no longer literally read the scriptures word for word. Instead, Paul read the scriptures by the Spirit.

How did this change come about in Paul?

“Since we have such hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:12-18)

Paul no longer read the scriptures literally, word for word, by the letter because Christ removed the veil that was over them. Christ removed the veil over the scriptures when he was crucified. This was when the veil in the temple that prevented anyone from seeing the most holy place was torn in two.

Therefore, it was Christ’ suffering on the cross and rising from the dead that allowed Paul to read the scriptures by the Spirit instead of literally, word for word, by the letter.

What did reading the scriptures by the Spirit instead of literally, word for word, by the letter, do to Paul’s reading of the scriptures?

Regardless of what the scriptures said, Paul now read all death and destruction as coming from Satan. Paul now saw it just as Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Paul even gives us an example of how he assigns death and destruction to Satan even if the Old Testament literally says that God is responsible for it.

Numbers 21:6 says, “Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit people, so that many people of Israel died.”

Numbers 14:26-35 says, “And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, ‘How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me? I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me. Say to them, “As I live, declares the Lord, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, i will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have rejected. But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. And you children shall be shepherds in this wilderness for forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which spied out the land, forty days, a year for each day, you shall bear your iniquity forty years, and you shall know my displeasure.” I, the Lord have spoken, Surely this will I do to all this wicked congregation who are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall come to a full end, and there they shall die.'”

Who did Moses say sent the fiery serpents that bit the people and caused them to die?

God.

Who did Moses say would kill all the people in the wilderness that grumbled against God?

God.

Paul at one time believed this. But, now he sees it differently because the Christ that suffered and rose from the dead has removed the veil.

“We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.” (1 Corinthians 10:9-10)

While Moses said these deaths were caused by God, Paul says the deaths of the people in the wilderness were caused by the serpents and the Destroyer. The deaths were caused by Satan.

Remember, Jesus told Paul he was going to turn people from the power of Satan to God. Paul’s ministry is to open the eyes of Jews and Gentiles to the fact that darkness and death belong to Satan but light and life belong to God.

Therefore, Paul interprets the scriptures by the Spirit, who is life and gives life, to show that the Old Testament is wrong when it literally attributes actions that brought death to God. Those actions were actually done by the power of Satan, who is the one with the power of death.

So, Paul concludes his testimony to King Agrippa, saying, “To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and the Gentiles.” (Acts 26:22-23)

Here we are again at the theme of the last week – the Christ must suffer and rise from the dead. This is what we are to see and know from the scriptures. This is what Christ shows the disciples in the scriptures in Luke 24.

That the Christ must suffer and rise from the dead is the meaning of the scriptures.

The Christ must suffer.

God suffers.

The Christ dies.

God dies.

The Christ does not cause suffering.

God does not cause suffering.

The Christ does not kill.

God does not kill.

It was necessary that the Christ suffer and rise from the dead must be firmly rooted in our hearts and minds. It must be written on our hearts by the Spirit. We must have no doubts about this.

If we do doubt this, then we are blinded by Satan, led down the wide way to the broad gate that leads to destruction, to death, which Satan has the power of.

By saying the Old Testament is wrong when it ascribes death to the hands of God, by saying we need to reinterpret the the Old Testament by the Spirit instead of reading it literally, word for word, by the letter,

  • I know I will be mocked
  • I know I will be told I’m wrong
  • I know my salvation will be questioned.
  • I know I will be told I’m leading people astray
  • I know I will be called a false teacher
  • I know I will be told I’m out of my mind

But, that’s exactly what happened to Paul.

“And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.'” (Acts 26:24)

Festus told Paul that all his learning and all his study was making him say crazy things. Perhaps, Festus even meant that Paul was creating his own God.

“But Paul said, ‘I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.'” (Acts 26:25)

I am not of out my mind.

I am not creating my own God.

I am speaking true and rational words.

I am speaking the only words that make sense when you know that is was necessary that the Christ suffer and rise from the dead.

I am speaking the same words as Paul.

I am speaking the same words as Jesus.

I will worship God according to the way, believing the scriptures say that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead.

Is Your Zeal for God Saving You?

TODAY’S READING: ACTS 22-23

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.” – Acts 22:3

In the first words of his own defense before the Jews who wanted to do violence to him, Paul said that he zealous for God. But, Paul said that he was zealous for God just as were all the Jews were threatening him at that very moment.

To be zealous is to be filled with or characterized by zeal, which is eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of something, or to be marked by fervent partisanship for a person, a cause, or an ideal.

Zeal can be a good thing.

When Jesus drove the animals out of the temple and flipped over the tables of the money changers, he said, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” And, the disciples remember that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:17)

Jesus had an eagerness and ardent interest in his Father’s house. He was fervently partisan to his Father and his father’s cause. Jesus’ zeal certainly seems like a good thing.

In Romans 12:8, Paul said that “the one who leads [gives aid], with zeal.”

And, in Romans 12:11, Paul said, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”

And, there are other places in the New Testament where we are encouraged to be zealous.

But, is being zealous always a good thing?

Just after he said that he was zealous for God just as the Jews who wanted to do him harm, Paul said, “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women.” (Acts 22:4)

Paul is saying his zeal for God drove him to persecute others just as the zeal for God of the Jews confronting him was driving them to persecute him.

We know our zeal is good based on what it is driving us to do. Zeal is only good if it is driving us to submit to God’s righteousness. Submitting to God’s righteousness is a rather vague notion. What exactly does it mean?

Go back to John 2 and Jesus’ cleansing of the temple. The disciples remembered that according to the scriptures zeal for God’s house would consume Jesus.

What did Jesus’ zeal for God’s house drive Jesus to do?

Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19) Of course, Jesus was speaking about the temple of his body. Jesus was saying that he had to suffer and rise from the dead, which has been our theme for several days now.

Zeal is good when it drives us to suffer and die for others. Zeal is good when it drives us to the cross.

Paul talked about this in Romans 10:1-4.

“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

Zeal goes wrong when we are ignorant of the righteousness of God, seek to establish our own righteousness, and do not submit to God’s righteousness.

What is the righteousness of God?

Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. The Greek word for end is telos. It basically means the goal or the fulfillment. Christ is the goal or the fulfillment of the law for righteousness.

How so?

The theme that we have been reading about for the last several days – that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead. “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27)

Everything in the law pointed to Jesus needing to suffer and rise from the dead. That was the goal, the fulfillment, the end, of the law for righteousness. If you know that, then you are not ignorant of God’s righteousness. If you submit to God’s righteousness – the necessity of suffering, going to the cross, and rising from the dead – then your zeal will lead to good works.

But, if you do not understand that the righteousness of God leads to the necessity of suffering, then you will seek establish a righteousness of your own. You will establish your own righteousness through violence and persecution, verbally and/or physically, of others. This is just what Paul’s zeal drove him to until Jesus shined his light upon him. And, throughout the entire book of Acts, this is what the zeal of the Jews was driving them to do.

Paul says that we can have a zeal for God, but that the zeal we have is not according to knowledge. The Greek word for knowledge here is epiginosko. Ginosko means to know. Epiginosko means a full knowing. It suggests a more special or advanced knowing because of a special participating in or with the thing that is the object of knowing.

Zeal for God that is not according to knowledge leads to persecution because we have not fully known who Christ is – that it was necessary for him to suffer. This zeal is not according to full knowledge because we have not participated with Christ in his suffering.

We have a true zeal for God when that zeal leads us to suffer, to lay down our lives, to go to the cross.

If we, in any way, are persecuting others, doing violence to them, making war, etc., then our zeal is leading us away from God and down a path of destruction.

Look at how Paul addresses zeal and the righteousness of God in Philippians 3:4-11.

“If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law; blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

If our zeal is leading us to do any sort of violence at all, without exception, then it is not true zeal for God.

We have a true zeal for God when our zeal leads us to shun every appearance of evil, wickedness, and violence in our lives. We have a true zeal for God when that zeal is driving us to suffer for the sake of others, to lay down our lives for others, to love our enemies.

If we have this true zeal for God, then our zeal is saving us.

This is what Paul means in Titus 2:11-14.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”

Go back to Romans 10:1-4. Paul said that his “heart’s desire and prayer to God them [the Jews] is that that may be saved.”

How would they be saved?

Having a zeal for God that was according to knowledge. A zeal for God that drove them to suffer and lay down their lives for others just as their Messiah did.

This is what it means to be saved.

Your zeal for God is saving you when your zeal turns you from persecuting others, from violence toward others, to suffering for others, including loving your enemies.

What Is Repentance toward God and Faith in Jesus?

TODAY’S READING: ACTS 20-21

“How I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Acts 20:20-21

Paul is going to Jerusalem. He doesn’t know exactly what is going to happen to him there, but Paul does know that the Holy Spirit has testified to him repeatedly that imprisonment and affliction awaits him. Yet, this is not a deterrent to Paul.

Nearing the end of his journey to Jerusalem, the ship Paul is on stops in Miletus. He calls for the elders of the church in Ephesus. Ephesus is where Paul had spent several years teaching and preaching. Ephesus seemed to be the base of Paul’s ministry. We could imagine that the elders of the church in Ephesus were some of Paul’s closest and most trusted advisors.

When Paul calls these elders to him, he recounts for them how he had lived with them from the first day he set foot in Asia. And, he tells them that this will be the last time they see him face to face. At the close of Paul’s speech we are told that the elders were sorrowful that they would not see him again.

It’s amazing how Paul’s life mirrored Jesus’ life.

In Luke, we read several times that Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem, knowing that the cross, his ultimate suffering, was before him.

In John, we read of Jesus’ last night with his disciples. Jesus tells the disciples he still has much to say to them, but it cannot be explained, nor would they understand it, that night. But, Jesus tells them it will be for their good.

So, as the end of Paul’s life was drawing near, he spoke of the same things that Jesus spoke of as the end of his life was drawing near.

What were the things Jesus spoke of?

What Is the One Thing Jesus Spoke Plainly?

“And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.’” (Mark 10:32-34)

Jesus spoke plainly that, as the Christ, he had to suffer and to rise from the dead.

After his resurrection, what did Jesus tell the disciples all the scriptures were about?

“And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27)

Before his death, Jesus spoke one thing plainly to the disciples. After his resurrection, he spoke the same thing plainly to his disciples, showing them in all the scriptures where the plain thing was.

It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead.

Why was it necessary that the Christ suffer and rise from the dead?

“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke with you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.'” (Luke 24:44-47)

Why did Jesus speak plainly about the necessity of his suffering and rising from the dead?

Because it is this one word that allows repentance and forgiveness of sins to be proclaimed to all nations.

Why Were the Bereans Examining the Scriptures Daily?

“And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.’” (Acts 17:2-3)

The Bereans were looking for that one word that Jesus, and now Paul, spoke – it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead.

What Was Paul Occupied With?

Paul’s entire life, his every action and his every word, was occupied by the very same word that Jesus spoke plainly. Paul was compelled to do what he did and say what he said because it was necessary that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead so that repentance and the forgiveness of sins could be proclaimed to all nations.

So, in Acts 20, near the end of Paul’s life, he tells us how he spoke this one word – that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead – so that repentance and the forgiveness of sins could be proclaimed to all nations.

Paul said, “If only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24)

He said, “For I did not shrink back from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27)

Paul said, “And now I commend to God and the word of his grace.” (Acts 20:32)

Which are all different ways of saying, “How I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public from house to house, and testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:20-21)

The clear, concise, and overwhelming message of Jesus and Paul, the whole counsel of God, the gospel of God’s grace, is that it was necessary that the Christ suffer and rise from the dead so that repentance and the forgiveness of sins could be proclaimed to all nations.

This is everything that Jesus wants us to know in the scriptures.

This is everything that the Holy Spirit speaks to us today.

Jesus said the reason for this one word was repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

Paul said the reason was repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Repentance is not changing our mind.

Repentance is changing our mind in a very specific way – toward God.

What does it mean to repent, change your mind, toward God?

Think about, meditate on, the first part of the one word that Jesus spoke plainly.

It was necessary that the Christ had to suffer.

It’s worth repeating.

It was necessary that the Christ had to suffer.

Jesus is the Christ, the son of God. He is God.

It was necessary that God suffer.

Why was that necessary?

Because since the foundation of the world, from Adam on, mankind believe that God caused suffering.

Just look at all the suffering the Bible claims came from the hands of God.

According to the Bible,

  • God drowned all flesh in a global flood
  • God sent plagues of utter destruction on a nation and then drowned its leader and army in the sea
  • God caused fire to come out of the tabernacle and burn men alive
  • God opened the earth so that it swallowed thousands of people, including women and children, alive
  • God practiced genocide, commanding his people to devote seven nations to complete and total destruction
  • God caused infants to be torn to pieces
  • God  caused women to be raped
  • God punished Israel by sending other nations to defeat them in war and bring them into captivity
  • and on, and on, and on.

In other words, mankind believe that God was responsible for everything. Yes, God was responsible for the good that happened to mankind. But, he also caused the evil that happened to mankind too.

That Christ had to suffer so that mankind would know that God did not do these things.

The Christ suffered and died the most shameful death known to man on the cross to show that

  • God suffers instead of causing suffering
  • God is rejected instead of the one rejecting people from his presence
  • God is mocked and ridiculed instead of the one mocking and ridiculing
  • God is pierced through instead of the one doing the piercing
  • God is the one who’s body is torn instead of the one tearing bodies apart
  • God is killed, murdered, and executed instead of the one killing, murdering, executing, and taking life of mankind whenever he feels like it
  • God lays down his life and does not fight or war instead of fighting, warring and committing genocide

We repent, change our minds, so that we move toward God, so that we see God for who he really is.

That is why Jesus the Christ had to suffer. There was no other way to show us how wrong our view of God was and still is.

God is good and only good.

“God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

“God is love…There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:16, 18)

“If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater…And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” (1 John 5:9, 11)

But, the one word that Jesus, and Paul, spoke plainly does not end with Christ’s suffering.

It was necessary that the Christ rise from the dead.

It’s worth repeating.

It was necessary that the Christ rise from the dead.

Why was that necessary?

Jesus, the Christ who had to suffer and die, could not, would not, be defeated.

“God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:24)

In other words, the grave could not hold Jesus down.

“I am…the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore.” (Revelation 1:17, 18)

Jesus had to rise from the dead “because of his [God’s] own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:9-10)

It was necessary that Jesus rise from the dead so “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)

It was necessary that Jesus rise from the dead to defeat death, which we have feared and been enslaved to from the beginning, so that, through the grace of God, he could bring us life and immortality. God gave us this in Christ – the one who needed to suffer and rise from the dead – before the ages began.

The most dramatic and significant way God could express his life defeating death was for Jesus, the Christ, who had to suffer, in the midst of his most extreme suffering on the cross, when all the wrong thoughts of God throughout the history of man converged on a single person at a single point in time, to say,

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Had Jesus remained in the grave, not rising from the dead, would God had forgiven us?

Jesus had to rise from the dead to confirm that God truly does forgive our sins, all our wrong thoughts about him.

Knowing that we are forgiven by God for the wrong we have done to him is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Repentance toward God and faith in Jesus, the forgiveness of sins is not about adultery, strife, stealing, lying, coveting, mean words, etc.

Mankind knows those are wrong. The Jews knew those were always wrong from the law of Moses. And, Paul writes in Romans that even Gentiles have a law unto themselves and know these things are wrong. Therefore, no one needs to change their mind that these things are wrong. We’ve always known that.

But, we didn’t know what God was like.

In fact, no one had ever seen God.

Until Jesus.

Jesus was God in the flesh.

Jesus was God dwelling among us.

If we see Jesus, then we see God.

So, when we see that it was necessary for Jesus to suffer and rise from the dead, then we see God

God suffers and forgives.

This is the good news.

This is the gospel.

This is God’s grace.

This is the one word that Jesus spoke plainly.

Jesus spoke it, and Paul testified about it to Jews and Greeks, to proclaim repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins.

What Was Paul Occupied With?

TODAY’S READING: ACTS 18-19

“When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus.” – Acts 18:5

Paul was occupied with the word.

A simple statement.

But, it is a statement with a depth of meaning that belies the simple declaration of it.

What is the word Paul was occupied with?

In “Why Were the Bereans Examining the Scriptures Daily?“, I wrote that the word is that Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. Acts 17:2-3 says, “And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.'”

Jesus, the man who was crucified, is the Christ, the Messiah, the long awaited king. He had to suffer. It was absolutely necessary for Jesus to suffer. Jesus died, but he rose from the dead.

It cannot be stressed enough that the Christ had to suffer. God had to suffer.

God suffers.

He does not cause suffering.

It cannot be stressed enough that the Christ died. God had to die.

God dies.

He does not cause dying.

But, the Christ rose from the dead. “I am the resurrection and the life.” God is the living God.

God resurrects and gives life.

He does not condemn to death.

This is the word, the essential word, the only word, for Paul. This is the word that Paul testified to the Jews, “that the Christ was Jesus.” Paul was testifying to the Jews that their long awaited king was a king that suffered and died but was resurrected.

That’s quite a word for a people who were being oppressed and afflicted by the Roman empire, one of the greatest empires the world has ever known.

Yet, Paul was occupied with this word – it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead.

To say that Paul was “occupied” with the word almost sounds to soft for the Greek word used here. Occupied is the Greek word synecho. Synecho has a range of meanings all tied to the same idea. This is evidenced in that the synecho is used 12 times in the New Testament and the ESV translates it with 12 different English words.

Eleven of the uses are:

  • “oppressed” by demons
  • the greatness of Jesus’ “distress” until the baptism of the cross was complete
  • “hemmed” in on every side by enemies
  • Jesus being “held” in custody waiting to be crucified
  • Simon’s mother-in-law was “ill”
  • “seized” by fear
  • “surrounded” by crowds
  • “occupied” with the word
  • sick “with” fever and dysentery
  • ears that were “stopped”
  • “pressed” between two choices

Synecho literally means to hold together, to compress, to arrest. Figuratively, it means to compel, perplex, afflict, or preoccupy. These figuratively meanings lead to 12th use of synecho.

“For the love of Christ controls [synecho] us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” – 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Paul says that he is controlled, seized, compelled by the love of Christ. We could even say that Paul was preoccupied, afflicted, or oppressed by the love of Christ.

We could even say that Paul was perplexed by the love of Christ. To be perplexed is to be made unable to grasp something clearly or to think logically and decisively about something. Paul was perplexed, or occupied, with the word – that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead – that it was the only thing he could think about.

So, we have the word that Paul was occupied with linked with the love of Christ that controlled Paul.

The word – that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead – is the same thing as the love of Christ.

Because this word was how the love of Christ, the love of God, was manifested to us.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” – 1 John 4:7-11

Love was made manifest in that Christ suffered, died, and rose from the dead.

For the forgiveness of sins.

So that we live through Jesus, through God.

That Paul was occupied with this word, which is the love of Christ, should give new meaning to 2 Corinthians 4:7-12.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”

When we read Paul say he was afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down, our minds immediately turn to his enemies doing these things to him.

But, is Paul talking about his enemies?

Perhaps.

Or, is it possible that Paul is saying the word, the love of Christ, that occupied and controlled him was in some spiritual sense afflicting, perplexing, persecuting, and striking him down?

Was Paul perplexed by his enemies?

I doubt it. He was once that enemy. He understand the thinking of his enemy.

Or, was Paul perplexed by the word, the love of Christ?

The word – that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead – is the love of Christ.

The love of Christ “afflicts” us but does not crush us.

The love of Christ “perplexes” us but does not drive us to despair.

The love of Christ “persecutes” us but does not forsake us.

The love of Christ “strikes us down” but does not destroy us.

Therefore, Paul links afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down with “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” But, this is none other than the word – it was necessary for the Christ to suffer (the death of Jesus) and to rise from the dead (the life of Jesus) – that compelled Paul to testify, or be a channel of witness, that Jesus was the Christ.

What a word that Paul was occupied with. What a word that Paul testified to the Jews in Corinth.

But, the Jews opposed and reviled Paul because of this word. They rejected that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead. And, this helps to explain Paul’s answer to the Jews.

Paul said, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent.”

To preach the word that the Christ suffered and died but rose from the dead is to say that the way to life is suffering and dying, picking up your cross. The way to life is not taking vengeance. The way to life is not violence.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

The Jews rejected this word. They wanted to reach life through a Messiah that was violent and took vengeance upon their enemies not one that suffered and died.

However, as Jesus said, “All who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)

Paul is telling the Jews that by rejecting the suffering and dying Christ they are rejecting the non-violent way to life that God has revealed. Therefore, their own violence is going to come back on their own heads. As Psalm 7:14-16 says, “Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends.”

While the Jews rejected the word, many of the Corinthians believed that Paul that Jesus was the Christ who had to suffer and rise from the dead so that their sins might be forgiven and that they might live through him.

“But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal [the bema, the judgment seat – see “What is the Judgment Seat?“], saying, ‘This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.'”

What did the Jews mean that Paul was persuading people to worship God contrary to the law?

The Jews’ view of God in the law was that God was good and evil. God did both. God would save the Jew but destroy their enemies. God took Israel into the promised land, saving them, but told them devote to destruction the men, women, and children of the nations already in the land. On the other hand God gave and protected life, but on the other hand God took and destroyed life. This was how the Jews read the Old Testament, the law.

But, Paul did not teach that God did these things. He taught that instead causing suffering, God suffered. Instead of causing death, God died. This was not how the Jews interpreted the law or the prophets, the Old Testament. And, this was why the Jews said that Paul was teaching contrary to the law.

However, Paul did teach the Old Testament, the law and the prophets, just as Jesus himself taught it.

“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.'” – Luke 24:44-47

This is the word that occupied Paul.

This is the word that should occupy us.

Why Were the Bereans Examining the Scriptures Daily?

TODAY’S READING: ACTS 16-17

“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” – Acts 17:11

Paul and Silas escaped Thessalonica at night and went to Berea. When they got there, Paul and Silas went to the synagogue. The two spoke the word to the Berean Jews. And, the Berean Jews were examining the scriptures daily to see if the word Paul and Silas spoke was true.

Christians make much of these Bereans.

“We need to be like the Bereans, examining the scriptures every day.”

“We should be like the Bereans and read our Bibles every day.”

However, based on how I see many Christians studying the Bible and the beliefs they espouse as a result, I deduce that these Christians are not really examining why the Bereans were examining the scriptures and what they were looking for.

So, why were the Bereans examining the scriptures daily?

Let’s break it down.

The Greek word translated scriptures is graphe, which means a writing, a scripture, a drawing, a letter. Graphe generally means a document. It can mean a picture or a painting. It can even mean an indictment in a public prosecution.

When we see the word scriptures, our minds immediately go to the Bible. However, it is unlikely that any of the New Testament would have been available to the Berean Jews for examining. At best, the Bereans would have been examining the Old Testament.

In Acts 17:11, graphe is plural. Therefore, the Berean Jews were examining the writings, the documents, the scriptures. It is possible that the documents they were examining included documents outside of what we consider scripture today. For example, the Bereans may have been examining documents such as the apocrypha (1 and 2 Esdras, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Tobit, Wisdom, etc.), the books of Enoch, the midrash, and mishnah.

I point this out to demonstrate that if we are going to examine the scriptures like the Bereans then we cannot bring our presuppositions to the text. We have to dig into the text and look at all the possibilities of what it means.

Now that we know something about the writings, let’s look at how the Bereans were examining them. The Greek word for examining is anakrino. The Greek word krino means to judge, pass judgment on, consider, separate, decide, distinguish, or evaluate. The prefix ana means up or severally, but in compound words it typically implies repetition, intensity, reversal.

The Bereans were repetitively judging, considering, separating, deciding, distinguishing, and evaluating the scriptures.

The Bereans were intensely judging, considering, separating, deciding, distinguishing, and evaluating the scriptures.

The Bereans were judging, considering, separating, deciding, distinguishing, and evaluating the scriptures with a mind towards reversing what they previously believed the scriptures to say.

So, the word anakrino means to scrutinize, investigate, interrogate, examine, judge, criticize. To really understand what anakrino means, perhaps we should look at what these English words mean.

  • scrutinize – to examine closely and minutely
  • investigate – to observe or study by close examination and systematic inquiry
  • interrogate – to question formally and systematically
  • examine – to inspect closely, to test the condition of, to inquire carefully into, to interrogate closely, to test by questioning in order to determine progress, fitness, or knowledge
  • judge – to form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises
  • criticize – to consider the merits and demerits of and judge accordingly

The Bereans were examining the scriptures the way I’m doing right now. They looking into the meanings of the words. They were digging deep into the text. They were picking the text apart. They were looking at all the possible meanings, developing premises and hypotheses and testing them to see if they were true. They were questioning the text. They were mulling these things over in their minds.

The Bereans were doing all of this with the intention of reversing what they previously believed about the text.

What were the Bereans not doing in examining the scriptures?

They were not beholden to the literal meaning of the words only.

They were not sticking with the plain meaning only.

They were not going by what someone else told them, what someone else taught them, or the traditions they had grown up with.

They were not hearing the scriptures once a week when they showed up for church.

When they were examining the scriptures, what were the Bereans looking for?

What was their purpose in scrutinizing, investigating, interrogating, examining, judging, and criticizing the scriptures?

The Bereans were seeking to know if the scriptures spoke the word.

What word?

The same word that Paul and Silas taught in the synagogue in Thessalonica.

What word was that?

“And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.'” – Acts 17:2-3

Paul had a custom, a pattern that he followed. He reasoned, argued, discussed, conversed, made a speech from the Scriptures to explain and prove that Jesus Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead.

The Bereans were examining the scriptures to see if what Paul was saying – that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead – was true. The Bereans were scrutinizing, investigating, interrogating, examining, judging, and criticizing the scriptures to see where, when,  and how they said the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead.

And, the Bereans were doing this with the intention of reversing what they had previously believed the scriptures said.

The Bereans were not examining the scriptures to prove that the Bible was literally true, that the Bible was inerrant, that the Bible was infallible.

The Bereans were not examining the scriptures to prove that creation was literally created in six days in attempt to fit their scientific understanding with Genesis 1.

The Bereans were not examining the scriptures to know what laws Moses said they should keep and what sacrifices they needed to make.

The Bereans were not examining the scriptures to prove why people should tithe.

The Bereans were not examining the scriptures to prove that everything historical event recorded in the Bible was literally true, word for word.

The Bereans were examining the scriptures for one thing and one thing only.

Did Jesus Christ have to suffer and rise from the dead?

Was Paul correct?

Was this word true?

It is no coincidence that this word, the word that Paul made a custom of teaching in the synagogues, was the same word that Jesus taught the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

“And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” – Luke 24:25-27

Jesus showed these two disciples in all the scriptures – from Moses to all the prophets – how he had to suffer and rise from the dead, the same word that Paul made a custom of teaching in the synagogues.

Notice that Jesus had to interpret the scriptures for them. That the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead wasn’t the plain and obvious meaning of the scriptures. It wasn’t the literal meaning of the scriptures.

Jesus did the same thing with all the disciples a short while later.

“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that i spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.'” – Luke 24:44-46

Jesus opened their minds.

The word opened is the same word used in Acts 17:3 to say that Paul was “explaining” from the scriptures to the Thessalonican Jews that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead. Paul was giving the same word that Jesus gave.

Because they were examining the scriptures daily for the word – that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead – we are told that the Bereans were more noble than those in Thessalonica.

We tend to think of nobility as your social standing due to birth. And, the Greek word used here can mean that. But, the Greek word also means noble in mind, sentiment, character, and morals. It also can have the connotation of being open minded.

Why the Berean Jews were more noble, dare I say more open minded, than the Thessalonican Jews?

Because “they received the word with all eagerness.”

The Greek word eagerness is prothumia. Thymos means passion, as if breathing hard. It is the word for anger, wrath, indignation, fierceness. The prefix pro means before, in front of, prior to.

Think about the implications of prothumia then.

The Bereans’ eagerness for the word implies that they were breathed into before, prior to, hearing the word – that Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead – from the Paul. This eagerness for the word was a wrath, an indignation, a fierceness that came upon them. (Think about what this says about God’s wrath.)

Therefore, prothumia means a predisposition, alacrity (promptness in response, cheerful readiness), a forwardness of mind, a readiness of mind, a ready and willing mind.

The Berean Jews were more noble than the Thessalonican Jews because they received the word – that Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead – the word that was not literally stated in the scriptures but had to be interpreted, explained, and proved with a predisposition to believing the word.

Therefore, when the Bereans were examining the scriptures they were looking to reverse what they had previously believed about them. The Bereans were eager to change their minds, to repent.

When we get right down to it, the Bereans were examining the scriptures to change their minds about God. They were ready and willing to believe that God suffered for them, that God made himself a sacrifice for them, that God died.

They had to change their minds, reverse the way they understood the scriptures. Because the literal reading of the scriptures said that God killed, murdered, raped, plundered, and utterly destroyed people. The literal reading of the scriptures said that God practiced genocide against those nations in the land of Canaan.

So, yes, let’s be like the Bereans, examining the scriptures daily.

But, let’s not fool ourselves.

We cannot be like the Bereans and come to the scriptures to prove our traditions, to prove what we have been taught, to prove the literal meaning of the scriptures. We cannot be like the Bereans and immediately and continually disagree with our traditions and something that we do not understand. We cannot be like the Bereans and rely on the Old Testament alone, always quoting from it.

Instead,  if we want to be like the Bereans and not the Thessalonican Jews, who by the way persecuted Paul and Silas and drove them from the city, then we must come to the scriptures with an eagerness to have our minds changed, reversed. We must come to the scriptures carefully looking for how we repent – change what believe about God. We have to listen to Jesus.

To be look like the Bereans, examining the scriptures daily, we need to study them for one thing and one thing only.

Christ suffered and rose from the dead.

Does God Require Sacrifice?

TODAY’S READING: ACTS 14-15

“Men, why are you doing these things? We also are me, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them..” – Acts 14:15

Barnabas and Paul traveled to Lystra where they spoke about Jesus. Paul saw that a man crippled from birth and unable to walk was listening intently to his preaching. So, Paul said to the man, “Stand upright on your feet.” The man immediately got up and walked.

When the crowd saw this, they thought the gods Zeus and Hermes had come to them as men. Lystra had a temple of Zeus at the entrance to city. So, the priest of temple got oxen and garlands to offer a sacrifice. But, Barnabas and Paul are distressed, tearing their clothes, that the priest and the crowd want to offer sacrifice.

They cried out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”

“Why are you doing these things?”

Why are you offering sacrifices?

This is what Barnabas and Paul are asking the men of Lystra.

The basic question is this:

Does the God and Father of Jesus require sacrifice?

The Old Testament gives conflicting answers to this simple question.

Leviticus 1:1-2 says, “The Lord called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, ‘Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock.” Leviticus 2:1, Leviticus 3:1, Leviticus 4:1-3, 13-14, 22-24, Leviticus 5:1-6, 14-15, and Leviticus 6:1-7 all say something similar.

Moses certainly thought that God required the Jews to offer sacrifices of dead animals to him. So, on the one hand, the Old Testament says that God requires, in fact he needs, a sacrifice for the cleansing and removing of sin.

But, almost every writer of the Old Testament outside of Moses says something different.

“And Samuel said, ‘Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.'” – 1 Samuel 15:22

“For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” – Psalm 51:16-17

“To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” – Proverbs 21:3

“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations – I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” – Isaiah 1:11-17

“He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck; he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig’s blood; he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like who blesses an idol.” – Isaiah 66:3

“What use to me is frankincense that comes from Sheba, or sweet cane from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices pleasing to me.” – Jeremiah 6:20

“For in the day that i brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.” – Jeremiah 7:22-24

“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” – Hosea 6:6

“I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” – Amos 5:21-24

“‘With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall i give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’ He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:6-8

Almost all the writers outside of Moses say that God does not require sacrifice of any kind, whether it is the sacrifice of animals or the burning of incense to an idol. In fact, if you do offer the sacrifices that Moses said God requires, then you are just like all the other nations. Further, if you offer the sacrifice of an ox, then it is as if you have killed a man.

And, these writers say that instead of sacrifice God wants people to listen to his voice. God wants people to obey him. According to the writers that said God does not require sacrifice, what does obedience to God look like?

Have a broken spirit.

Have a contrite heart.

Do righteousness.

Do justice.

Remove your evil deeds from before God’s eyes.

Cease to do evil.

Learn to do good.

Correct oppression.

Bring justice to the fatherless.

Plead the widow’s cause.

Walk in the way that God commands you.

Do justice.

Love kindness.

Walk humbly with God.

So, should we offer sacrifices or not?

Who is right – Moses or almost every other writer, the prophets, of the Old Testament?

How do we decided?

We listen to Jesus.

This is the most fundamental thing of being a Christian. Yet, it is the one thing most Christians fail to do. So, let me say it again.

We listen to Jesus.

This is the point of the Jesus’ transfiguration. Moses, the law, and Elijah, the prophets, both appear with Jesus. But, when Peter tries to put them all on equal fitting, Moses and Elijah disappear and only Jesus remains. Then God says, “This is Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” (Luke 9:35)

We decide what is true, what is really God in the Old Testament, by letting the voices of Moses and the prophets, the voice of the writers of the Old Testament, disappear. And, we listen only to the voice of Jesus, the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these days he has spoke to us by his Son.”

God spoke through Moses. God spoke through prophets. He gave them many visions, images, symbols, and pictures to communicate to the people. But, because Moses and the prophets had never seen God face to face, they were not able to give a clear picture of who God was and what God required.

But, in these last days, today, God speaks through Jesus. For, no one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side; he has made him known.” (John 1:18) Only Jesus has seen God face to face. Therefore, only Jesus God tell us what God is really like and what he requires.

So, what did Jesus say about sacrifices?

What was Jesus’ answer to the dispute in the Old Testament about God requiring sacrifices?

Did Jesus ever quote from Leviticus, from Moses, to tell us that God requires sacrifices from us?

No.

Did Jesus ever quote from the other writers of the Old Testament that God does not require sacrifices but obedience, justice, mercy, etc.?

Yes he did.

In Matthew 23:23, Jesus alludes to Micah 6:6-8 when he says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done without neglecting the others.”

In Matthew 9:13, Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 when he says, “Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.'”

In Matthew 12:7, Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 again when he says, “And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.”

Look very closely at what Jesus says in Matthew 12:7.

If you had known that God did require sacrifices but mercy, then you not have condemned the guiltless.

Because the Jews believed God required sacrifices, just like the Gentiles, all the other nations, believed, who was the guiltless one that they condemned?

Jesus.

In John 18:38, Pilate said of Jesus, “I find no guilt in him.”

In John 19:6, the Jews cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!”

Pilate responded, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.”

Who demanded the sacrifice, the crucifixion, of Jesus?

The Jews.

Men.

All nations, all men, believed that God required sacrifices. Therefore, Barnabas and Paul said to the men of Lystra, “In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways.” Did you notice that this is what the writers other than Moses continually said? The Jews were walking in their own ways and counsels, not God’s, by offering animal sacrifices.

Since men demanded the sacrifice, the crucifixion, of Jesus, who is God, then where does that leave God in the whole equation?

The sacrificed.

God doesn’t require sacrifice.

He is the sacrifice.

Men, all nations, have required a sacrifice. So, Jesus, God in the flesh, became that sacrifice for us.

When we read Moses, Jesus, and therefore God, is not the priest doing the sacrificing.

No, not at all.

Instead, Jesus is the ox, the sheep, the goat, the bird, the grain that is sacrificed. We see Jesus in the innocent animal that was slaughtered and burned on the altar at the hands of men.

Remember, Isaiah said that to offer an ox was the same as killing a man. To offer animal sacrifices is the same as killing, crucifying, Jesus.

Seeing God as the one who sacrifices, the one who demanded Jesus be crucified, the one who requires sacrifice, does not free us from our sins.

No, Jesus, and therefore God, is not the priest who sacrifices.

Instead, seeing Jesus, and therefore God, as the one who is sacrificed by men, by you and me, when we should have offered mercy to him as a guiltless man, when we should have done justice to the one that was oppressed, is what cleanses us from our sin.

It’s seeing Jesus, and God, as the one who is sacrificed that causes us to repent, to no longer be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Seeing Jesus as the sacrifice was meant to open our ear to voice of God, the voice of Jesus.

Therefore, Psalm 40:6 says, “In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.”

God did not delight in the sacrifice of Jesus. But, the sacrifice of Jesus was meant to give us an open ear. The Hebrew literally says “ears you have dug for me.” Jesus becoming the sacrifice on the cross was meant to dig through all the other messages and voices blocking our ears from hearing God. Seeing God as the sacrifice on the cross clears away all religious clutter and tradition that keeps us from truly walking in the ways of God.

Why does God not require the sacrifices of dead animals?

Because God is “a living God.” (Acts 14:15)

God “made the heaven and the earth and the sea.” (Acts 14:15)

Why does Paul say this?

He is referring back the creation story in Genesis 1. Paul is saying, “Look and see what God did. He made the heavens, the earth, and the sea, and he filled them with life.”

God is a living God. Therefore, God brings life to every situation and every circumstance. He is always and only bringing life.

“Yet he not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17)

What was God’s witness to us?

A trail of death in animal sacrifices?

No.

God did good.

He gave us rain and fruitful seasons.

In other words, God brought life to us.

And the life God brought satisfied us with food and gladness.

Therefore, why would a living God require sacrifices of dead animals to be given to him?

The answer is that God doesn’t require sacrifices, dead animals, to be given to him.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:1-2

The whole world, all nations, all men, demands a sacrifice. Paul says that we, as followers of Christ, should no longer be conformed to that way of thinking. Stop thinking that God requires sacrifices of dead animals.

Instead, be transformed by the renewal of your mind. Repent, Change your mind. Instead of demanding the sacrifices of dead animals, the sacrifices of the guiltless – the oppressed, the fatherless, the orphan, the widow – present your bodies as a living sacrifice. Become a living sacrifice to God.

This is how we truly worship God.

Why should we become a living sacrifice?

God is a God of the living.

How do we become a living sacrifice?

Listen to Jesus and Jesus only.

Have a broken spirit.

Have a contrite heart.

Do righteousness.

Do justice.

Remove your evil deeds from before God’s eyes.

Cease to do evil.

Learn to do good.

Correct oppression.

Bring justice to the fatherless.

Plead the widow’s cause.

Walk in the way that God commands you.

Do justice.

Love kindness.

Walk humbly with God.

Stop requiring sacrifices.

Become the sacrifice.