Monthly Archives: April 2018

The Beginning of the Gospel — Post by Michael J. Findley

Four_Evangelists_Jordaens_Louvre_Inv1404

This is the record of the life of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Matthew 1:1

The Jews knew the Law, the Old Testament, and understood the Messiah. This introduction to the first gospel ever written, just a few years after the resurrection of the Messiah, was either a declaration of the power of God or absolute blasphemy. To the Jewish audience and non-Jews who understood Judaism, this was the clearest possible declaration that Jesus had the legal authority to be the Messiah.

Since many people have attempted to write an orderly account of the events that have transpired among us, just as they were passed down to us by those who had been eyewitnesses and servants of the word from the beginning, I, too, have carefully investigated everything from the beginning and have decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4

Written after Matthew, probably before Mark, and decades before John, Luke was the only gospel writer who did not personally witness the life of Jesus on earth. Luke’s gospel is based on careful investigation of eyewitnesses. This provides us a different point of view, probably a Greek point of view. Because of his Greek name, many also assume that Luke was not a Jew. Since many people attempted to write about the Messiah, we know that the Spirit of God did not see fit for most of these attempts to survive.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark 1:1

Mark is the gospel to the Romans, written decades after Matthew and Luke were well known. It was intended to communicate as much information as possible to very busy people who, at least on the first read, would not spend much time with yet another religious book. However, Romans were used to multitasking and assimilating written material.

So what is this beginning of the gospel? It immediately relies on the authority of the Old Testament, “As it is written in Isaiah the Prophet…” Mark 1:2

Under Solomon, Israel controlled the eastern Mediterranean and sent trading ships far beyond any boundaries the Romans knew. They defeated a million-man army out of Egypt and Africa. Israel still existed as a nation, unlike Assyria, Persia, the Hittites, the Babylonians, and the other kingdoms of the Middle East.

Jews friendly to Rome lived throughout the Roman Empire, including in Rome. The Jewish temple of Herod was larger, covered in gold and the most magnificent building in the entire Roman Empire. The thick, tall walls combined with the water supply of the pools of Bethesda made Jerusalem more defensible than any city in the Roman Empire, including Rome. Jerusalem was also rebellious and difficult to govern. For these and many other reasons, the average Roman was very much of aware of the Jews and their prophets, even if they did not know Isaiah by name.

The Romans also believed in a recent creation by God, or gods, as described in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The Romans believed in just laws and just administration of those laws. Though Roman beliefs were very different from taught by Moses and in the Torah, Mark believed that he could omit Creation and the Law from his gospel and go immediately to Jesus the Messiah based on the prophets and the testimony of John the Baptist.

Decades later the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were known throughout the Roman Empire and available to anyone who was interested. John wrote the final gospel to the philosophical Greeks to combat Gnosticism. He took a very different approach, beginning with Creation and Jesus as the Creator.

In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And God was the Word. All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made which was made. John 1:1,2.

Creation is where God’s revelation to the Jews begins.

In the beginning, God created the universe. Genesis 1:1

The entire universe came into existence by God speaking it into existence. God did not wave a wand, cast a spell, or use intermediates such as angels. God did not think the universe into existence. God spoke it into existence. Without creation, there is no gospel.

For by him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether they are kings, lords, rulers, or powers. All things have been created through him and for him. He himself existed before anything else did, and he holds all things together. Colossian 1:16,17

He holds everything together by his powerful word. Hebrews 1:3

“What happened to the Messiah’s promise to return? Ever since our ancestors died, everything continues as it did from the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately ignore the fact that long ago the heavens existed and the earth was formed by God’s word out of water and with water, by which the world at that time was deluged with water and destroyed. 2 Peter 3:4-6

All Scriptures are from the International Standard Version.

Image Credit: The Four Evangelists — Painting by Jacob Jordaens  1625–1630. Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen (2005), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

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To Glorify God — Post by Michael J. Findley

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Westminster Shorter Catechism: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:14

Let your light shine before people in such a way that they will see your good actions and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Every believer I know agrees that every thought and action should glorify God; many with a shrug. because it should go without saying. But many who call themselves believers simply are not living this way.

However, when the woman saw that the tree produced good food, was attractive in appearance, and was desirable for making one wise, she took of its fruit and ate it. Then she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate some, too. As a result, they both understood what they had done, and they became aware that they were naked. Genesis 3:6,7

“If you think it’s the wrong thing for you to serve the Lord [Wrong; certainly not. Inconvenient at times. It’s just that serving the Lord isn’t always the thing I want to do.], then choose for yourselves today whom you will serve—the gods whom your ancestors served on the other side of the Euphrates River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose territories you are living. (Certainly not. My gods were only invented a few years ago.) But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

There will be suffering and anguish for every human being who practices doing evil, for Jews first and for Greeks as well. But there will be glory, honor, and peace for everyone who practices doing good. Romans 2:9,10

Who are you to tell me that doing what I enjoy is evil?

I therefore urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercies, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices that are holy and pleasing to God, for this is the reasonable way for you to worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but continuously be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may be able to determine what God’s will is—what is proper, pleasing, and perfect. Romans 12:1,2

To the messenger of the church in Laodicea, write:
‘The Amen, the witness who is faithful and true, the originator of God’s creation, says this:

‘I know your actions, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. Since you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to spit you out of my mouth. You say, “I am rich. I have become wealthy. I don’t need anything.” Yet you don’t realize that you are miserable, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore, I advise you to buy from me gold purified in fire so you may be rich, white clothes to wear so your shameful nakedness won’t show, and ointment to put on your eyes so you may see. I correct and discipline those whom I love, so be serious and repent! Look! I am standing at the door and knocking. If anyone listens to my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he will eat with me. I will give a place to sit with me on my throne to the one who overcomes, just as I have overcome and have sat down with my Father on his throne. Revelation 3:14-21

All Scriptures are from the International Standard Version (ISV)

Public domain image from a painting by  John Rogers Herbert

 

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Music In The Early Church — post by Michael J. Findley

lastsupperJesus and the disciples attended Jewish synagogues and temple worship. These services included stringed, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The book of Psalms was the hymn book of the second temple. After finishing the Passover meal they sang a hymn, presumably not a Psalm, and presumably without instruments, before walking across the Kidron Valley to the garden of Gethsemane. Until forced out, first century Christians continued to worship in synagogues and follow Jewish customs.

Paul wrote to the new Gentile converts “Let the word of the Messiah inhabit you richly with wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and singing to God with thankfulness in your hearts.” Colossians 3:16 and “Then you will recite to one another psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; you will sing and make music to the Lord with your hearts,” Ephesians 5:19. This admonition was taken by some to mean antiphonal singing, with either two choirs or dividing the congregation into two parts and alternating the parts of the hymn or song.

Pliny the Younger wrote a letter to Trajan (61-113) about the proper punishment of Christians. “They had been accustomed to come together on a fixed day before daylight and to sing responsively a song to Christ as God.” (AD 112?)

Five times in the book of Revelation a song is sung in heaven; 5:9, 5:11, 14:1, 14:3, 15:3. Harps are played heaven. Revelation 5:8, 14:2, and 15:2. The musical instruments of Babylon are condemned, Revelation 18:22. Trumpets in heaven are sounded, but not used as musical instruments. Zechariah 9:14, Matthew 24:31, 1 Corinthians 15:52, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, Hebrews 12:19, Revelation 1:10, 4:1, 8:2, 6,7,8,10,12,13, 9:1,13,14

Justin the Martyr wrote (AD 155?) in his Apology to the Emperor Chapter 13 “to use [material possessions] for ourselves and those who need, and with gratitude to Him to offer thanks by invocations and hymns for our creation …”

“Chapter 41. The crucifixion predicted And again, in another prophecy, the Spirit of prophecy, through the same David, intimated that Christ, after He had been crucified, should reign, and spoke as follows: Sing to the Lord, all the earth, and day by day declare His salvation. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, to be feared above all the gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols of devils; but God made the heavens. Glory and praise are before His face, strength and glorying are in the habitation of His. Give Glory to the Lord, the Father everlasting. Receive grace, and enter His presence, and worship in His holy courts. Let all the earth before His face; let it be established, and not shaken. Let them rejoice among the nations. The Lord has reigned from the tree.”

Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus of Rome, approximately AD 235? “Then, rising up after supper, the children and virgins having prayed, they shall sing psalms. Then the deacon, holding the mixed cup of the offering, shall say a Hallelujah Psalm. Then, the presbyter having commanded, ‘And also such-and-such Psalms,’ after the bishop has offered the cup with the proper thanksgiving, all shall say “Hallelujah” as the Psalms are sung. And they shall say: We praise Him who is God most high; Glorified and praised is He, Then, when the Psalm is completed, he shall give thanks over the bread, and shall give the fragments to all the believers.”

Music had only two purposes in the earliest Church. It was used to instruct, build up, edify, believers. It was also used in direct address to God to worship God. There are no recorded instances of performing music to please those who listened. Performing music just to please the listeners has been condemned as a sin by thousands of pastors for over 1500 years. At the same time, music to glorify God is essential to worship in the Christian Church. The Spirit of the prophet must be controlled by the prophet and this includes music.
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