How Is the Word of the Cross Folly and the Power of God?

TODAY’S READING: 1 CORINTHIANS 1-4

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18

Paul is making a seemingly simple statement. For some people, the word of the cross is folly. For other people, the word of the cross is the power of God.

But, we also know that what Paul is saying here is not as simple as it sounds. Because, in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, Paul says, “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh.”

Despite Paul’s seemingly simple statement, we need to ask a question.

How is the word of the cross folly to some and the power of God to others?

To begin answering this question, we have to look at the two groups of people Paul is coming – those who are perishing and those who are being saved.

I find the word perishing a little deceiving. My first associations with the word perishing are expiring or dying. These are people that are dying. So, we are comparing those dying with those being saved. Then, it is quite easy to make the leap that the word of the cross is folly to those going to hell but the power of God to those going to heaven.

But, that is not at all what Paul is talking about.

The word perish does not simply mean dying or expiring. It literally means to become destroyed or ruined. The Greek word translated perishing is apollymi. Its literal meaning is to destroy fully.

Now, you may be thinking that Paul is comparing those who are being destroyed with those who are being saved. Therefore, this makes it even more clear that Paul is comparing those going to hell and those going to heaven.

But, not so fast.

Apollymi is participle, but it is unclear if it is in the passive or middle voice. The passive voice means the action is being done to you. But, the middle voice means you are acting in your own interest, acting on your own behalf, or participating in the results of the action.

Therefore, if apollymi is in the passive voice, then it would mean “those who are perishing” or “those who are being destroyed.” However, if apollymi is in the middle voice, then it would mean “those who are destroying” or “those who are destroying themselves.”

If the Greek scholars are unsure, then how do we decide?

We consider the context of all scripture.

There is a theme that runs throughout scripture that the evil and the wicked destroy themselves by own plans of destruction. Psalm 7:14-16 says, “Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant 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, and on his own skull his violence descends.”

“Those who are being saved” is in the passive voice. This means that the act of saving is being done to them. Those who are being saved have no role to play in the act of salvation.

Therefore, we should understand Paul as comparing those who are destroying but really destroying themselves with those who are being saved.

What is Paul really getting at here?

Who has power?

What is true power?

What is the consequence of wielding power?

Those who are destroying are doing so to have power over others. These people believe they can bring about their desired outcome by having power over others through the destruction of others. Ultimately, these people that they will have the life they want by destroying. To the natural man, this seems like the only logical way to live.

However, to these people the word of the cross is folly.

Folly is the lack of good sense or normal prudence and foresight. The Greek word folly also means absurd. Absurd means ridiculously unreasonable, unsound, or incongruous, having no rational or orderly relationship to human life.

Why is the word of the cross folly, an absurdity, to those who see destroying as the only logical way to live?

What is the word of the cross?

We know that Jesus said all scripture is about the necessity of his suffering and rising from the dead. Jesus suffered and died for others only to be resurrected to life to becoming a life-giving spirit for all.

Jesus suffered for three-and-a-half years. The intensity of his suffering climaxed on the cross. In the midst of his most intense suffering, what did Jesus say?

What was his word from the cross?

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

The word of the cross is forgiveness for the ones causing your most intense suffering, forgiveness for your enemies, forgiveness for those who are destroying you.

To those who are destroying, seeking to live by power over others, to forgive the one who is destroying you is folly. It is absurd. It is ridiculously unreasonable. It is has no rational relationship to human life.

Ah, but to those who are being saved the word of the cross, forgiving in the midst of your most intense suffering those who are destroying, is the power of God. This is true power. This is the power that allows you to live, truly live.

This is why those that are being saved who given up all violence. Violence cannot save you. Violence cannot protect you. In fact, whatever violence you do comes back on your own head and destroys you.

Those that are being saved have come to know that the only way to overcome violence down to them, the only way to victory, the only way to life, is to forgive.

Forgiveness, the word of the cross, is the absorption of violence. This is what 1 Peter 2:24 means when it says that Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the tree.”

So, the word of the cross is folly to those who are destroying because forgiveness is ridiculously unreasonable and has no rational relationship to them living.

But, the word of the cross is the power of God to those who are being saved because forgiveness is the only way to live.

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.

Why Did Jesus Breathe the Spirit on the Disciples?

TODAY’S READING: JOHN 20-21

“And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'” – John 20:22

After his resurrection, Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene on the morning of the first day of the week. Later that night Jesus appeared to the disciples. It was on this night, in his second post resurrection appearance, that Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on his disciples.

The context of this event is fascinating and yields some wonderful insights if we study it carefully. Let’s look at each step of Jesus’ second appearance.

  1. Jesus said to the disciples, “Peace be with you.”
  2. Jesus showed the disciples the wounds in his hands and his side.
  3. Again, Jesus said to the disciples, “Peace be with you.”
  4. Jesus said to the disciples, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
  5. Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
  6. Jesus said, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Jesus’ first words to the gathering of the disciples were “Peace be with you.” He said this twice. But, between his two utterances of “Peace be with you,” Jesus did something very interesting. “He showed them his hands and his.” Jesus showed the disciples his wounds.

But, Thomas was not at this gathering of the disciples. So, eight days later Jesus appeared a third time. This time Thomas was present. When Jesus showed up, he said, “Peace be with you.” And Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side.” Again we have the linkage of the words “Peace be with you” with the showing of Jesus’ wounds.

Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

Jesus is showing the disciples the fulfillment of this scripture. He is showing them his pierced side. He is letting them see the wounds in his hands. The piercing of his side and the nails that went through his hands brought us peace and healed us.

Yes, Jesus spoke the words “Peace be with you” to the disciples, but those words sandwiched the revelation of the act that brought peace to the disciples. Jesus’ pierced side and nail scarred hands brought peace to us because of forgiveness, which we will see as we go on.

Having shown the disciples his wounds, which brought them peace, Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Earlier this week I wrote about God sending Jesus in “Why Did God Send Jesus?

The first time that gospel of John speaks of Jesus being sent is in John 3:34. “For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.” Jesus was sent to speak the words of God and give the Spirit without measure, without any limit.

What is the Spirit?

The Spirit is life and peace.

Romans 8:6 says, “To set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

John 6:63 says, “It is the Spirit who gives life.”

2 Corinthians 3:6 says, “The Spirit gives life.”

Romans 14:7 says, “For the kingdom of God is…righteousness and peace and joy and in the Holy Spirit.”

Galatians 5:22 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is…peace.”

Ephesians 4:3 says we should be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Indeed, Jesus is “the last Adam” who “became a life-giving spirit.” (1 Corinthians 15:45.

So, God sent Jesus to give life and peace without measure, without limit. Now, Jesus tells the disciples, and us, that he is sending us the same way that the Father sent him.

Having said that he was sending the disciples, and us, the same way he was sent, Jesus breathes on the disciples and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus, as the son of God, is breathing into men.

The first time we see God breathing into men is in Genesis 2:7, which says, “Then the Lord God formed the man of the dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”

God breathed in the man he formed from the dust, and Adam became a living creature.

“Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”

We were once living beings like Adam. But, Jesus says he is sending us in the same way he was sent. So, he is breathing into us, not to become living beings again, but to become life-giving spirits just as he was sent to be a life-giving spirit, a spirit which brings peace to you through his wounds.

“The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” (1 Corinthians 15:47-49)

We are to bear the image of the man of heaven, the life-giving spirit. We are to become life-giving spirits. We are to give life and peace without measure, without any limit. And, like Jesus did this through his wounds, we primarily give life and peace to others through our wounds, through our response to the wounds others inflict upon us.

So, Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

The word breathed, although in two different Greek words, appears just four times in the gospels. All are an action of Jesus. All are connected to the Holy Spirit.

Mark 15:37 says, “And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.”

Mark 15:39 says, “And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!'”

Luke 23:46 says, “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last.”

In each of these three verses, the Greek word for breathed is ekpneo. It means to expire, to breathe out, to exhale.

On the cross, the place of Jesus’ piercing and wounding, the last thing he did was breathe out.

What did he breathe out?

The Holy Spirit.

What did he say shortly before he breathed out the Holy Spirit?

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

So, Luke connects the breathing out of the Spirit with the forgiveness that Jesus gave.

But, Mark does so in a very subtle fashion as well.

Mark 15:37 says, “And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.”

The Greek word for uttered in this verse is aphiemi. Aphiemi has a number of meanings, but the most common translation is forgave, forgive, forgiven.

Is it possible to get the sense that Jesus, forgiving with a loud cry, breathed out the Holy Spirit?

They may not be the literal translation or meaning, but I think it is possible to see this in Jesus’ actions, especially given Luke’s account.

While Matthew’s account doesn’t mention breathing, perhaps it is interesting that aphiemi is used.

“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded [aphiemi] up his spirit.” (Matthew 27:50)

So, Jesus forgave us and breathed out the Holy Spirit on the cross. The next, and last time, breathed is mention in the gospels is our passage under consideration.

“And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'”

However, breathed is a different Greek word here. Here the Greek word for breathed is emphysao. It means to breathe into, breathe on, or blow in.

Jesus breathed out his Spirit on the cross. But, after the resurrection, Jesus breathes his Spirit into us.

Jesus forgave us and breathed out his Spirit, who is life and peace. Jesus resurrects and speaks peace showing us his wounds, and breathes his Spirit, who is life and peace, into us. And, he does this because he is sending us the way his Father sent him – as a life-giving spirit to give the Spirit, who is life and peace, without measure, without any limit.

Therefore, when Jesus tells the disciples to “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he gives them a specific instruction.

“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.

Jesus forgave us. Then he breathed out his Spirit.

Now, he breathes his Spirit into us because he is sending us as the Father sent him. Then Jesus tells us to bring life and peace to everyone by forgiving their sins.

In Jesus’ instruction to forgive the sins of any, he uses the word aphiemi. While the most common meaning of aphiemi is to forgive, the next most common meaning is to leave.

“If you leave the sins of any, they have left them.”

 

How did Jesus get us free from our sins, our sins that he bore in his body, our sins of violence that led to his crucifixion?

He forgave us.

Jesus caused our sins to leave us because he forgave us.

We wounded him and he forgave us.

“With his wounds we are healed.”

“Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace.”

How are others to get free from their sin?

We forgive them.

How are others freed from their desire to wound us?

We forgive them.

How are others healed?

Despite their wounding us, we forgive them.

“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 may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”

When others wound us and we forgive, death, Jesus’ death, is at work in us. But, the death, Jesus’ death, that is at work in us brings life, brings peace, to others.

There is another interesting connection between Jesus’ instruction to forgive, aphiemi, and peace.

In John 14:27, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.”

The word leave is aphiemi. But, there is no Greek word for with in the original text.

Perhaps a more literal reading, or at least an underlying subtext, of what Jesus said is, “Peace I forgive you.”

How does Jesus bring peace?

Forgiveness.

Forgiving our violent sins against him that led to his crucifixion.

Jesus gives us this peace. He gave us his Spirit, who is life and peace.

But, Jesus doesn’t give as the world gives. The world gives peace through violence and war. War and violence until you were subdued was the peace of Rome, the pax Romana.

Rome, the kingdom of this world, doesn’t forgive sins. It uses sin, war, murder, violence, to subdue you and bring a false peace.

So, while Jesus instructs us that whoever we forgive of their sins has their sins forgiven, if we withhold forgiveness from anyone then they, their sins, are withheld.

The Greek word for “withhold forgiveness” is krateo. It means to seize, arrest, be strong, take possession of. It’s the same word to describe what the Jews and Romans did Jesus. It has the idea of taking control of someone.

See what Jesus is saying?

You can forgive and free others from their sins. Give peace as he gave it.

Or, you can take hold of others, control them, and keep them bound in their sins. Give a false peace through violence as Rome, the kingdom of this world gives it.

So, why did Jesus breathe on the disciples?

So, they would become life-giving Spirits just as he was. And, in this way, the disciples could give peace and Jesus gave it. As they were wounded, they could forgive. This would be peace, life, healing, the freeing from sin for others.

What Is the One Thing Jesus Spoke Plainly?

TODAY’S READING: MARK 10-11

“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

This is the third and final time in Mark that Jesus tells the twelve disciples that he was going to be delivered to his death and rise three days later. Mark writes something very interesting the first time Jesus speaks about his death and resurrection.

Mark 8:31-32 says, “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly.”

“And he said this plainly.”

The Greek word for plainly is parresia. It means boldness, confidence, plainly, frankness. According to the Theological Lexicon of the New Testament parresia means freedom of speech, candor, boldness, public speech, categorical affirmation. It was originally a political term, which was the sign of one’s political liberty. The very act of speaking with such freedom implied the truth of what was being said. But, speaking with such freedom exposed the speaker to significant danger.

So, when Jesus spoke of his death, he spoke boldly, confidently, plainly, frankly. He did not mince words. Jesus was clear. He was not trying to obfuscate what he was saying or making it hard to understand.

His suffering, death, and resurrection is the one thing that Jesus spoke about plainly.

Mark 4:2 says, “And he was teaching them many things in parables.”

Mark 4:33-34 says, “With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.”

Why would Jesus speak so plainly about his suffering, death, and resurrection with his disciples but only speak in parables to everyone else?

Mark 4:11 says, “And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables.”

Jesus gave the secret, the mystery, of the kingdom of God to his disciples. He spoke to them plainly about it. The secret, the mystery, of the kingdom of God is that the Christ must suffer, die, and be resurrected three days.

Why did Jesus tell his disciples this one thing – his suffering, death, and resurrection – so plainly?

I believe because it is so antithetical, so opposite, to the way we naturally think.

Mark 8:29 says, “And he asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, ‘You are the Christ.'”

It was immediately after Peter’s confession, on behalf of all the disciples, that Jesus began to teach that he would, be killed, and rise three days later. But, even though Peter had just confessed Jesus as the Christ, this plain teaching of Jesus made no sense to him.

Mark 8:32 says, “And he [Jesus] said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.”

The one thing Jesus taught plainly, Peter said no way.

Jesus taught about his suffering, death, and resurrection a second time in Mark 9:30-32. Immediately after the second teaching, Jesus and the disciples journeyed to Capernaum. Along the way, the disciples argued, not about Jesus’ teaching that he would suffer, die, and rise even though they did not understand it, but about who would be the greatest in the kingdom. So, Jesus told them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

The third and final time Jesus teaches that he will suffer, die, and rise, James and John ask Jesus that he would grant them to sit on his right and left hand. Yet, again when Jesus teaches plainly the secret of the kingdom – that the Christ, the Messiah, the king would suffer, die and rise – the disciples are still trying to be great according to the way of the world. They want to rule.

The other disciples became indignant at James and John. They are still arguing about who is going to be the greatest. In Mark 10:42-45, Jesus responded, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus had to speak the secret, the mystery of the kingdom, plainly to his disciples because it was completely the opposite of everything they thought and believed about the way the world worked, who the Christ was, and what he would do.

Not only did Jesus speak plainly that he would suffer, die, and rise, but he acted plainly. In John 16:25, Jesus said, “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly [parresia] about the Father.”

Jesus would tell them plainly about the Father in the hour. The hour is a reference to Jesus’ crucifixion. It was on the cross that Jesus’ actions would plainly reveal the Father just as he had spoken plainly to the disciples about his suffering, death, and resurrection.

Colossians 2:13-15 says, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to an open [parresia] shame, by triumphing over them in him.

The crucifixion of Jesus was God disarming the rulers and authorities, those that had all mankind bound in sin and death. The crucifixion was Jesus plainly showing us who God is.

Did you catch the significance of this plain speaking about the Father in Colossians 2:13-15?

“Having forgiven us all our trespasses.”

Jesus taught his suffering, death, and resurrection clearly because he wanted to boldly, confidently, frankly tell us that God forgives us.

Why did Jesus speak clearly to the disciples the secret of the kingdom yet in parables to those outside?

Mark 4:11-12 says, “and he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that ‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.'”

Here Jesus links his plain speaking as opposed to his teaching in parables with forgiveness.

When Jesus was on the cross, when his actions most plainly told us about the Father, what did Jesus say?

Luke 23:34 says, “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'”

The secret, the mystery, of the kingdom is so foreign to us that despite Jesus’ plain teaching and acting out his teaching on the cross, the disciples still did not understand.

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.

So, Luke 24:44-48 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 he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for [the correct word is and] the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Why did Jesus speak plainly about his suffering, death, and resurrection?

So, that repentance and forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed.

How did you Jesus start his ministry?

Jesus first words in the gospel of Mark are, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Repentance is the first message of the kingdom.

How did Jesus end his ministry?

Luke 23:34 says, “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'”

Forgiveness is the last word of Jesus’ ministry.

So, Jesus told the disciples to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to the whole world. This was the evidence that the disciples had been transformed. See yesterday’s post.

Proclaiming repentance and forgiveness of sins to the world is just what the disciples did. And, they did it plainly.

In the first sermon, Peter preached “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raise him up.” Peter preached that the Christ must suffer, die, and be resurrected. Peter did not preach, “Believe in Jesus, get saved, or you are going to burn in hell forever.”

The disciples never once preached hell. They preached the secret, the mystery, of the kingdom – Jesus Christ suffered, died, and was resurrected. They preached the gospel.

In acts 2:29, 32, Peter said, “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence [parresia] about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb us with us to this day…This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses.”

When confidently, boldly, plainly taught the secret of the kingdom, the gospel, those who were gathered were cut to heart and asked what should they do?

“And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

The disciples knew the secret of the kingdom, the gospel – Jesus Christ suffered, died, and was resurrected. Therefore, they proclaimed repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all.

Acts 4:13 says, “Now when they saw the boldness [parresia] of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

Acts 4:29-31 says, “‘And now, Lord, look upon their hearts and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with boldness [parresia], while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ And when they had prayed, the place in which there gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness [parresia].”

Acts 28:30-31 says, “He [Paul] lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness [parresia] and without hindrance.”

To speak the word with boldness is not

  • proclaiming the ten commandments
  • quoting the law and the prophets literally
  • telling people to obey rules and moral commands
  • preaching get saved or burn in hell forever.

To speak the word, the word of God, Jesus Christ with boldness is to proclaim that Jesus is the Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. And, as the Christ, the true king of the world, Jesus became the least of all, a servant, a slave. He willingly suffered and was crucified at your hands. But, God raised Jesus up. Jesus did this so that you could repent of your violence, your desire for vengeance, and receive God’s forgiveness for your sins and proclaim God’s forgiveness to the world.

This is what Jesus spoke plainly.

As the Lord Lives, or Jesus Is Lord

TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 4-5

“If you return, O Israel, declares the Lord, to me you should return. If you remove your detestable things from my presence, and do not waver, and if you swear, ‘As the Lord lives,’ in truth, in justice, and in righteousness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and him shall they glory.'” – Jeremiah 4:1-2

If Israel was going to return to God and if they were to swear “As the Lord lives” in truth , justice, and righteousness, then the nations would be blessed and glory in the Lord.

Israel was originally called by God to be a witness of him, a light, to the Gentile nations. They had failed in that calling because they had become enslaved to idols and false gods. But, if they would return to God, turn from their false idols, then they would once again be a witness of God to the nations and the nations would be blessed through them.

A condition of their returning to God was to proclaim “As the Lord lives” in truth, in justice, and in righteousness.

What does “As the Lord lives” mean?

And, how do we see Jesus in this proclamation?

“As the Lord lives” was something Israel was to swear. Therefore, this phrase is an oath. And, it is used that way all throughout the Old Testament.

However, you could swear “As the Lord lives” falsely.

Jeremiah 5:1-2 says, “Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look and take note! Search her squares to see if you can find a man, one who does justice and seeks truth, that I may pardon her. Thought they says, ‘As the Lord lives,’ yet they swear falsely.”

Israel was proclaiming “As the Lord lives,” but no man could be found who did justice and sought truth in all Jerusalem. In other words, men were claiming “As the Lord lives” but their actions revealed that oath they swearing was not a reality in their lives. So, the profession “As the Lord lives” was false because their words did not line up with their actions.

Jeremiah 23 connects the oath “As the Lord lives” to Jesus.

Verses 5-6 say, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.'”

Remember that Israel was to declare “As the Lord lives” in truth, justice, and righteousness but not one man could be found to do so. However, in Jeremiah 23:5-6, we find just such a man.

Of course, these verses are referring to Jesus, the righteous branch, that came forth from David. This one man, Jesus, does not profess the oath, “As the Lord lives,” verbally, but he does profess it with his life. Notice that these verses say Jesus would reign as king and deal wisely and execute justice and righteousness. In other words, by the life he lived, Jesus professed “As the Lord lives” in truth, justice, and righteousness and all the nations are blessed in him, just as Jeremiah 4:1-2 says. Here is the one man in all the streets of Jerusalem that could not be found in Jeremiah 5:1-2.

In Revelation 1:18, Jesus said, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” Jesus declared of himself that he is the living one, alive forevermore, the Lord that lives.

In the New Testament, we do not find the words “As the Lord lives,” but we find a similar oath.

Romans 10:8-9 says, “‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

1 Corinthians 12:2-3 says, “You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.”

In the New Testament, instead of professing “As the Lord lives” we profess “Jesus is Lord.” This is our oath. This is the declaration we swear to live by. But, we can swear it falsely, just like in the Old Testament, if our the actions of our life do not line up with the words we say. This is why Paul says that no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. Not because you can’t literally say the words “Jesus is Lord” without the Holy Spirit, but because you can’t actually live the life that reflects the reality of the words “Jesus is Lord” without the Holy Spirit.

How do we go about professing “Jesus is Lord?”

Notice that back in Jeremiah 4:3-4 it says, “For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: ‘Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem.'”

Jeremiah stated that in order to swear truthfully “As the Lord lives” one had to break up their fallow ground and be circumcised, removing the foreskin of their hearts. In other words, one had to repent and be baptized.

This is exactly what we see in the New Testament. In Acts 2, Peter delivers the first sermon in church history. He closes it in verse 36, saying “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” In other words, Peter closed by saying, “Jesus is Lord.”

What was the response of the hearers?

Verse 37 says, “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?'” The hearers had come to see that “Jesus is Lord” just as Peter proclaimed. What should they do in response?

Verse 38 says, “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Just like Jeremiah 4, you need to repent and be baptized to truly profess “Jesus is Lord.” And, Peter says that you will receive the Holy Spirit to ensure that the profession of your mouth lines up with the profession of your life.

So, what will the life of one who proclaims “Jesus is Lord” with his mouth and the actions of his life look like?

I believe there are threes specific actions the flow out of allegiance to the oath “Jesus is Lord.”

Isaiah 53:9 says, “Although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.”

Daniel 9:9 says, “To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness.”

Jesus lived a life that was marked by absolutely no violence and no lies. This is why he was also to go to the cross and be crucified to be free us from our bondage to sin, idols, and false gods. And, it was because Jesus lived a life marked by no violence and no lies that he was able to proclaim forgiveness, mercy, to us from the cross.

Jesus proclaimed that the same should be true of us. In John 8, Jesus said that Satan was the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning. He told the Jews he was talking to that Satan was their father, meaning their lives were marked by murder, violence, and lies. But, Jesus told them that those whom the son sets free are free indeed. Therefore, to say that “Jesus is Lord,” means that your life is no longer characterized by the works of Satan – murder of lies – but by Jesus, who did no violence and no lies.

In the context of loving your enemies, in Luke 6:36, Jesus said, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” The ultimate display of that mercy was Jesus’ forgiveness of us even as we were crucifying him. Therefore, our lives should be marked by the same level of forgiveness.

Remember that Jeremiah 23 said that Jesus was the one man that was found who said “As the Lord lives” in truth, justice, and righteousness. And, that Israel would truly swear “As the Lord lives” if there profession was lived out in truth, justice, and righteousness.

To live in truth is to live without lies.

Righteousness is not the right moral action alone. It is more than that. Righteousness is setting things right. For Jesus, this meant bringing to life. In John 10:10, Jesus said he came to give life and life more abundantly. This will be fulfilled when the last enemy, death, Satan’s chief weapon, is defeated. To live in righteousness is to bring life and overcome death, murder, violence.

To live in justice is to give mercy. Mercy, forgiveness, was Jesus’ justice from the cross. James 2:13 says, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Paul sums this profession, “Jesus is Lord,” in two ways for me.

First, in 1 Corinthians 1:31 and 2 Corinthians 10:17, he says, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” And, in Galatians 6:14, Paul says, But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Second, in Galatians 2:20, Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Let me close with two final points.

First, “As the Lord lives” is used eight times in the book of Jeremiah. Eight is the number of new beginning or new creation. When we proclaim “Jesus is Lord” and truly live a life marked by no violence, no lies, and complete forgiveness as Jesus did, then we participate with him in ushering in the new creation and causing the nations of the world to be blessed and glory in Christ.

Second, “As the Lord live” us used 35 times in the Old Testament. The number 35 speaks to vindication and hope. Remember, we can say Jesus is Lord because he is the living one who died and is alive forevermore. That Jesus lives and is Lord is both or vindication and our hope.

1 Corinthians 15:13-14 says, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” In other words, if Christ has not been raised, then our faith would be without hope, without vindication.

However, 1 Peter 1:21 says, “God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Jesus has been raised, resurrected. He is the living one. “As the Lord lives” he is our vindication and hope.

Jesus is Lord!

Why Are God’s Thoughts and Ways Higher than Ours?

TODAY’S READING: ISAIAH 53-56

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

Why?

That is the all important question.

Why is an important question. It is a particularly important question in regards to these verses because these verses are a favorite of Christians.

I have heard Christians use these verses to justify the violence attributed (wrongly I might add) to God in the Old Testament. When I have asked if God would really have women raped, babies dashed against the rocks, or whole cities and everything in them burned to destruction, I have had Christians respond, “Well, God’s ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts higher than our thoughts. So, yes, God can do whatever he wants and he really did those things.”

And, because many Christians believe God’s higher ways and thoughts can be used to justify a violent God, they then use God’s higher ways and thoughts to justify a God that would torment someone in hell in flames forever.

But, these Christians have completely missed the reason why God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours.

Why are God’s thoughts and ways higher than our thoughts and ways?

All we need to do to know why God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours is look at the previous two verses. Indeed, that is what the word “for” at the start of verse 8 is telling us to do. The “for,” which also means because, is telling us to look at what we just read to know why God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours. For (linking back to what I just said), there is a very specific reason why God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” – Isaiah 55:6-7

Why are God’s ways and thoughts higher than our ways and thoughts?

Pardon.

Which is a synonym for forgiveness. In fact, the Hebrew word literally means to be indulgent towards, to forgive.

But, not just forgiveness.

Abundant forgiveness!

God’s ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and thoughts because of of one very specific reason – God’s abundant forgiveness!

Therefore, the reason God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours is actually just the opposite of the way many Christians use God’s higher thoughts and ways to justify a violent God maiming, torturing, slaying and destroying whomever he wants.

At least one of Jesus’ parables reveals that God’s abundant forgiveness was the reason God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours.

In Matthew 18:21-35, Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered Peter, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Some translations say seventy times seven.) While Peter thought seven times would be enough forgiveness, Jesus told Peter to forgive so much that you would lose count of how many times you had forgiven. In other words, Jesus told Peter to be life the Father, to make his thoughts and ways like God’s by practicing abundant forgiveness.

In the parable itself, Jesus showed how God’s abundant forgiveness, his thoughts and ways, is dramatically higher, higher as the heavens above the earth, than ours. In the parable, the king completely forgave the debt of the servant, which was an incredibly high amount that the servant could only have paid back if he had lived thousands and thousands of years. However, when the servant left the king’s presence, having received his forgiveness, he wouldn’t even forgive the relatively tiny amount that a fellow servant owed him.

So, Jesus revealed God’s abundant forgiveness in the parable of the wicked servant, but the Hebrew word for forgiveness tells us something about God’s abundant forgiveness as well

The Hebrew word for forgiveness is salah. According to the Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament, the only individual in the Old Testament that is the subject salah, to forgive, is God. In other words, God is the only one the Old Testament associates with the capability of forgiveness. That right there shows that it is forgiveness that makes God’s ways and thoughts higher than ours.

The root word salah occurs 50 times in the Old Testament. The number 50 is significant because it was the year of Jubilee.

Deuteronomy 15:1-2 says, “At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. And this it the manner  of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the Lord’s release has been proclaimed.” Israel was commanded to release, or forgive, the debts of their neighbor every seven years because God’s release, or forgiveness, had been proclaimed.

But, God magnifies this idea of the seventh year in Leviticus 25. Leviticus 25:8, 10 says, “You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years…And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan.” In the 50th year, all debts were completely forgiven and liberty proclaimed to everyone.

Of course, this is linked to the day of Pentecost, which took place 50 days after Jesus was crucified. In Acts 2, on the day of Pentecost, Peter quoted from Joel 2 that God was pouring out his Spirit on all flesh. This pouring out of the Spirit was a result of Jesus having been exalted because of his crucifixion.

And what is the supreme revelation from Jesus on the cross?

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

On the cross, while we were maiming, torturing, slaying and destroying Jesus, the innocent and perfect man, the son of God, Jesus was revealing God’s abundant forgiveness. When Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” he was revealing exactly how God’s ways and thoughts  were higher than ours.

Also, tt was Jesus’ crucifixion, the moment of revealing God’s abundant forgiveness, that brought about our jubilee, the canceling of all our debts.

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” – Colossians 2:13-14

Why are God’s thoughts and ways higher than ours?

Forgiveness.

The forgiveness of all our trespasses.

Now that we know why God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours – abundant forgiveness of every sin, every debt, complete and total – how is that God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours?

How is such abundant forgiveness possible?

“God is love.” – 1 John 4:8

God’s abundant forgiveness is possible because God is love.

How do we know God’s love?

Consequently, how do we know God’s forgiveness?

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.”- 1 John 3:16

We know God’s love, and therefore his abundant forgiveness, which reveals God’s ways and thoughts as altogether higher than our ours, because Jesus Christ laid down his life on the cross.

And, what does Jesus tell us about God’s love?

“But i say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends his rain on the just and on the unjust.” – Matthew 5:44-45

God’s love is indiscriminate. God gives his love to all, deserving or not, just as the rain and sun fall on every person, deserving of their blessings or not.

And, if God’s love is indiscriminate in its nature, and God’s forgiveness flows from his flow, then God’s forgiveness is indiscriminate too.

Notice that on the cross Jesus put no qualifiers on who he was praying forgiveness for. Jesus simply prayed for “them.”

How marvelous is God’s forgiveness, the very reason his thoughts and ways are higher than ours.

What a wonderful revelation from Jesus.

Jesus: I Am the Burning Bush

Today’s Reading: Exodus 1-4

In John 1, we read that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. Rightly, we understand that this is Jesus. We know that Jesus came into the world. Wrongly, many of us think that this is the first time that Jesus appeared in the world. The Word made flesh was when Jesus, God, became a man, became like one of us. But, it was not the first time that Jesus appeared in the world. Jesus, the Word of God, was and living active in the creation from the beginning of creation. The entire Old Testament testifies to this.

Exodus 3 is one such testimony of Jesus.

In this chapter, Moses leads his flock to the west side of the wilderness. Throughout the Bible, east is the direction away from the presence of God. But, as we move west, we draw closer and closer to God’s presence. So, it’s important to recognize that Moses led his flock to the west side of the wilderness to Horeb, the mountain of God.

Verse 2 says, “And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.”

It is important to recognize that the angel of the Lord is Jesus in his pre-incarnate form, before he took on flesh and became a man. I have written about this before – most recently in Jesus Meets a Woman at a Well and God Provides Himself the Lamb.

The angel of the Lord is not just another angel that God sends to do something. We know this because in every place the angel of the Lord appears he speaks in a way that equates himself with God, but he also seems to be in submission to God. After the angel of the Lord appeared, notice that the rest of Exodus 3 says that “God called to him”, “I am the God…”, “the Lord said…”, “Moses said to God”, “God said to Moses”, and so on. Is it the angel of the Lord or God speaking to Moses? Is Moses speaking to the angel of the Lord or to God? Yes and yes.

Also, it is very important to see that the angel of the Lord “appeared” to Moses. Typically, when the angel of the Lord shows up in scripture, we read that he “appeared.” This is not referring to a vision, but a physical manifestation of the presence of God. Not physical in the sense of God made flesh, but a physical manifestation none the less. Appeared is the Hebrew word ra’ah. Generally, it means to see, to show, to look at. But, most of the time when it is translated “appeared” it is referring to the Lord manifesting himself to someone.

John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” Then, in John 6:45-46, Jesus says, “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me – not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.” Jesus says we can hear the Father, but we can’t see him. If we have heard the Father, then we will come to Jesus. Jesus, the angel of the Lord, who is from God, is the only one that has seen the Father.” Further, in John 14:7, Jesus says, “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” To see Jesus is to see the Father, because Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in him.

Therefore, when the angel of the Lord appeared to Moses, he did not see the Father. No one has ever seen the Father. But, Moses did see Jesus.

How did the angel of the Lord appear to Moses? In a flame of fire out of the midst of the bush.

This Hebrew word for bush (which sort of sounds like Sinai – is it a pun?) is only used five times in the Bible. Four are found in the passage we are looking at. The fifth is in the blessing Moses speaks to the tribe of Joseph in Deuteronomy 33. Joseph will be blessed by “the favor of him who dwells in the bush.” This bush is a brier or species of bramble. What is significant about brier or bramble bushes? They have thorns. Adam’s sin caused the ground to be cursed and, because of the curse, the ground would produce thorns. (Consider that the dry ground that appeared on day three in Genesis refers to Jesus.) So, in this sense, thorns are the fruit of sin. The angel of the Lord, Jesus, appeared in the thorny bush. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin.” And, seeing Jesus in this thorny bush gives new meaning to 1 Peter 2:24, which says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”

The angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a flame of fire. Did you know that there are actually bushes in the wilderness that secrete an oil that, when under enough heat, will catch fire? They are called gas plants, or burning bushes. But, generally the flame burns out quickly. But, in verse 3, Moses says, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” I think Moses was used to seeing one of these bushes catch fire. But, what caught his eye was that the fire on this bush lingered. The fire on this bush did not go out. Moses saw that the bush was burning but was not consumed. The word “consumed” literally means to eat or devour. But, it also means destroyed. The angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a bush that was burning but was not destroyed.

In the Bible, fire symbolizes judgment. The angel of the Lord appeared in a thorny bush that was on fire but not destroyed. Jesus was made sin for us and bore our sins on the cross but was not destroyed. Jesus is the burnt offering. Referring to his crucifixion, Psalm 22:14 says, “My heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast.” Jesus’ heart was burned and melted like wax on the cross. And, when Jesus’ side was pierced on the cross blood flowed out. Revelation 1:15 says that John saw Jesus’ “feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace.” His feet that touched the ground, which was cursed and produced thorns, were burnished like bronze in a furnace. But, immediately after John sees this, in verses 17 and 18, Jesus says, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore.” Jesus was burned but consumed, burned but not destroyed. “I died, but ‘I Am’ alive forevermore.”

Notice that angel of the Lord, Jesus, appeared out of the midst of the bush. The midst is the place where God dwells. The Word of God, Jesus, was made flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among, in the midst of, us.

Meditate on where the angel of the Lord appeared to Moses. And, meditate on where Jesus has appeared to you. We truly see Jesus in the innocent, just, and righteous one that was made the thorny bush of sin, burned on the tree, died, but was not destroyed, and is alive forevermore. The sin, the burning, the death Jesus died was done by his own creation. Jesus, the one through whom all things were made (John 1:3). Or, as Colossians 1:16 says, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.” What Jesus created murdered him.

How was Jesus burned but not destroyed? How was Jesus burned, murdered by his own creation, but not destroyed, alive forevermore?

In Luke 23:34, when Jesus was on the cross, in a flame of fire in the midst of his creation on the tree, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Forgiveness. Life overcoming death.

He was not destroyed because he forgave. He defeated death and became a life-giving Spirit because he forgave.

This is to know Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 and 1 Peter 2:24, why did Jesus become sin for us? Why did he bear our sin in his body on the tree? “That we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” “So that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

What does this look like?

In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus tells us to pray “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” In Mark 11:25, Jesus says, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Paul writes in Colossians 3:13, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

To know Jesus is to be aflame in the burning bush with him and not be destroyed but live forevermore with him through forgiveness. But, this is to know, not just Jesus, but God.

Moses sees this burning bush that is not consumed and asks the name of the one he is speaking to. The angel of the Lord responds, “I Am.” Reread Revelation 1:17-18. Jesus says “I Am” the first and the last. “I Am” the living one. I died. But, “I Am” alive forevermore.

In Exodus 3:15, the angel of the Lord, Jesus, says, “This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”

Jesus! I am the burning bush in the midst of all men that was not destroyed. I forgive you!