Friday, July 24, 2020

Election and Predestination

Fate, destiny, genetics, determinism, fatalism, bondage of the will.

Freedom, choice, liberty, libertarian free will.

A philosophical debate has been going on among us human beings for over 3000 years. The debate centers around this:
  • Do human beings have the ability to freely make choices that effect the direction of their lives?
  • OR
  • Is everything that happens in our lives including the actions we take and the mental "decisions" we make pre-determined by a force or forces beyond our control?
There are not two clear "sides" to this debate and there are a whole range of views in between two extremes. The extreme view on one side is that human beings have no control or will at all and that every detail of their lives is controlled and determined by outside forces. In this view the external cause may be a "god", the universe, genetics, etc. The other extreme would be that human beings have absolute freedom to will or cause or control everything that happens to them.

Here are two quotes about this from the secular, non-religious perspective:

Somewhere around 400 BC the Greek Philosopher Leucippus said this:
“Nothing happens at random, but everything for a reason and by necessity.”1 
And as a more modern example, the well known physicist Stephen Hawking has said this:
“Free will is just an illusion.”2
“This book is rooted in the concept of scientific determinism which implies...that there are no miracles or exceptions to the laws of nature.”3
Unfortunately, this debate has crept into Christian thought and beliefs as well. Here are some quotes from Christian theologians who have embraced a deterministic view of God, human existence, and salvation. John Piper says this:
"...God is the only being who is ultimately self-determining, and is himself ultimately the disposer of all things, including all choices — however many or diverse other intervening causes human being has free will, at any time. Neither before or after the fall, or in heaven, are creatures ultimately self-determining."4
And he also says this:
“God...brings about all things in accordance with his will. In other words, it isn’t just that God manages to turn the evil aspects of our world to good for those who love him; it is rather that he himself brings about these evil aspects for his glory."5
Another Calvinist theologian, R.C. Sproul says this, referring to God:
“The reason why he knows everything that is going to come to pass is because he has ordained everything that is going to come to pass.”6
But what does God's word, the Bible, actually say about this?

Does God actually cause evil events?

First, I would like to present a Biblical response to John Piper's claim quoted above that God actually "brings about", that is, causes the evil events that occur. Please look at Jeremiah 19:3-7. Here Jeremiah is delivering God's message of coming judgement to the king and people of Israel:
Say, ‘Listen to the Lord’s message, you kings of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem! This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, has said, “Look here! I am about to bring a disaster on this place that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it ring. I will do so because these people have rejected me and have defiled this place. They have offered sacrifices in it to other gods that neither they nor their ancestors nor the kings of Judah knew anything about. They have filled it with the blood of innocent children. They have built places here for worship of the god Baal so that they could sacrifice their children as burnt offerings to him in the fire. Such sacrifices are something I never commanded them to make. They are something I never told them to do! Indeed, such a thing never even entered my mind."' (NET) (emphasis added)
Note the phrases that describe the actions of the people: "These people have rejected me"; "They have offered"; "they have filled"; "they have built". These phrases clearly indicate that the people, through their own choices, did these things. Also note that God clearly says that he had nothing to do with these evil actions.

  • "Such sacrifices are something I never commanded them to make."
  • "They are something I never told them to do!"
  • "Indeed, such a thing never even entered my mind."
God is clearly saying here that he did not plan or force or decree or determine these human action.

Here are two quotes from the New Testament that also indicate that evil deeds and events come from the world and from human choice, not from God.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. (James 1:13-14 NET)
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him, because all that is in the world (the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the arrogance produced by material possessions) is not from the Father, but is from the world. (1 John 2:16-17 NET)
 What about salvation?

The most disturbing claim made by those holding to the Calvinist deterministic view is that human beings have absolutely no choice in salvation. They say that, because of sin, human beings are totally unable to even respond to God. Therefore, God has arbitrarily chosen certain people to be regenerated and accepted into the kingdom of God, and he has left the others to eternal separation from Him.

The majority of Christians, however, do not accept this position. We believe that all people are sinners and are not capable of living up to God's standard without help from God, but we believe that people are able to hear the message of the gospel and then to freely choose whether to accept the message or to reject it.

What does God's word, the Bible have to say about this? I am going to quote some Bible passages and then explain why each one supports the concept of human freedom of choice.
“And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what you have said: “Our rebellious acts and our sins have caught up with us, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?”’ Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but prefer that the wicked change his behavior and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil deeds! Why should you die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezekiel 33:10-11 NET)
Looking particularly at these two phrases...

  •  but prefer that the wicked change his behavior
  • Turn back, turn back from your evil deeds!

It is clear that people have the ability to turn to God for help, and indeed, the scripture indicates that God desires that they make the choice to turn to him.
Then those who respected the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord took notice. A scroll was prepared before him in which were recorded the names of those who respected the Lord and honored his name. “They will belong to me,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “in the day when I prepare my own special property. I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you will see that I make a distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between the one who serves God and the one who does not.  (Malachi 3:16-17 NET)
Again, the clear indication of the language here is that people have a choice to respect God or to reject God; and those who respect God of their own free choice will be treated like sons by him.

Confusing words

I now want to look at some words or concepts used in the Bible that have caused confusion and debate among Christians regarding free will and salvation. The words are chosen or elect, and predestination.

Chosen, Elect

The Greek word eklektoi is used a number of times in the New Testament and it means to choose, to select, or to set apart. Jesus uses the word several times in his teaching and I want to look at one of those times now. In Matthew 22:1-14 Jesus tells this parable:
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to summon those who had been invited to the banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Look! The feast I have prepared for you is ready. My oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.”’ 5 But they were indifferent and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his slaves, insolently mistreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was furious! He sent his soldiers, and they put those murderers to death and set their city on fire. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but the ones who had been invited were not worthy. 9 So go into the main streets and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 And those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all they found, both bad and good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 But when the king came in to see the wedding guests, he saw a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ But he had nothing to say. 13 Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Tie him up hand and foot and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” (NET)
First, I will explain what I think is the meaning of this parable and then I will explain what I think it has to do with free will vs determinism.

The meaning is as follows:

  • The king is God and the son is Jesus.
  • The wedding banquet is salvation.
  • The first group invited were the people of Israel, the majority of whom rejected Jesus as the Messiah.
  • The second group invited were the Gentiles, that is, everybody else.
Here is what I believe are the significant conclusions we can gain from this parable regarding free will and salvation:

  • In both cases the people were "invited" but were not forced to come.
  • The fact that the king invited them indicated that he wanted, desired them to come.
  • The first group chose NOT to come of their own free will.
  • The second group chose to come of their own free will.
  • Everyone was invited, whether they were "bad" or "good".
    • You don't have to be "good" before you come in, but once you are in God will help you become good.
  • I am not absolutely certain about the person who was kicked out because he wasn't dressed properly, but I think it is because he came without humility and respect for the king and his son.
Jesus concludes the parable with this statement: "For many are called, but few are chosen." The word "chosen" could have been translated "elect". What did he mean by that? Who are the "called" and who are the "chosen"?
  • The called are those who are invited; the gospel is the invitation.
  • The language Jesus uses makes it clear that they have a free choice to come or not. 
  • The chosen are the ones who freely choose to come.
I think Mark Moore put it very well in his Core 52 book:
Jesus' parable explains the basic process of election: they were invited and they came. It's that simple. Many prominent people were invited but refused to come. They were not elected. Others never deserved an invitation but received one and came gladly.They were elected. One guy came for the wrong reason and without the dress of respect. he was rejected.

Calvinists use the word predestined to describe those people whom God supposedly chose arbitrarily for salvation before creation. But let me say clearly that predestine is NOT the same as predetermine. A destination is a place or a condition and it has nothing to do with fate or determinism. Lets look at one scripture in this regard, Ephesians 1:11-14:
In Christ we too have been claimed as God’s own possession, since we were predestined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, would be to the praise of his glory. And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation)—when you believed in Christyou were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory. (NET)
I highlighted several phrases - lets look at them:

In Christ - Salvation is all about our relationship with Jesus Christ.
...predestined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will.
Here is a question: What is God's will regarding our relationship to him and salvation?
And here is the answer:

  • When you heard the word of truth, the gospel
    • When you believed in Christ
      • You were marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit - that is salvation
The answer is that you play a part and God plays a part:
You realize your need for help, you humble yourself, You believe in and trust Jesus.
God saves you and helps you.


If you want to pursue this subject further, here are some resources you may find helpful.

The website Soteriology101 has various resources that deal with this subjetc from a free will prespective.

This book by a Christian pastor, teacher, and theologian who was a Calvinist for 10 years but changed to a free will perspective.

Leighton C. Flowers, D.Min, The Potter's Promise, A Biblical Defence of Traditional Soteriology
Copyright 2017 Trinity Academic Press


1. Leucippus, On the Mind
2. Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design, p.32
3. Ibid, p.34
4. John Piper at
5. John Piper at
6. R.C. Sproul in a question and answer session in a YouTube video.

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible® 
copyright ©1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

This post is the result of my studies based on the book by Mark E. Moore, Core 52: A Fifteen-Minute Daily Guide to Building your Bible IQ in a Year, published by WaterBook (Penguin Random House)
Trade Paperback ISBN 978-0-525-65325-7
ebook isbn 978-0-525-65326-4

Saturday, July 11, 2020

The Gospel

What is the Gospel?

The Greek word that is translated as “gospel” in the Bible means “good news”. It was first used in a secular political way to describe messages of good news sent out from the government in Rome such as the birth of a child to a Roman Emperor or a victory of a Roman general. Christians picked up the word and used it to describe the “good news” about their leader and ruler Jesus. In fact, Jesus himself used the word to describe the “good news” of the work he was going to do and of the kingdom he was going to establish.

The Apostle Paul was in Corinth, Greece in 57 AD. He knew some Christian believers in Rome and he wanted to go there to preach and teach, but he had not been able to do so at this point. Because he was not going to be able to go there immediately, he wrote a letter to them explaining the gospel mesage that he preached and taught. I am going to highlight some quotes from Paul's letter to berifly answer the question, "What is the Gospel?"

The solution, the way out of trouble - Romans 1:16-17

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, “The righteous by faith will live.” (NET)

Man is without excuse - Romans 1:18-20

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. (NET)

Because they have a choice to acknowledge God or not, to do good or to do evil, people are responsible for their own behavior - Romans 1:28,32;2:1

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done... Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them. Therefore you are without excuse, whoever you are, when you judge someone else. For on whatever grounds you judge another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge practice the same things. (NET)

Trying to obeying the law is not the answer; trying to “follow rules” is not the answer - Romans 3:19-20

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. (NET)

Faith in Jesus is the answer - Romans 3:21-26

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (although it is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed— namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. This was also to demonstrate his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness. (NET)

Humility and faith - Romans 3:27-28

Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded! By what principle? Of works? No, but by the principle of faith! For we consider that a person is declared righteous by faith apart from the works of the law. (NET)

To Summarize:

  • God has revealed himself in several different ways:
    • Through the creation of the universe.
    • Through the written words in the Bible.
    • Most importantly, through his son Jesus.
  • Human beings have a choice to believe in God or not, to do good or to do evil.
  • Therefore, human beings are responsible for their behavior and their choices and are without excuse.
  • Trying to follow the rules is not the answer.
  • God has offered you a gift, a way out of this predicament.
  • He has offered to “pay your fine”, to “commute your sentence”.
  • You accept this gift by humbling yourself, admitting your failure, believing in and trusting in Jesus.
  • Faith is not about boasting.
    • “I’m a good person; I’m certainly better than that guy.”
  • Faith is about humility.
    • “I know I am not perfect and I need help.”

We will talk more about faith in the next blog.


Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible® 
copyright ©1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

This post is the result of my studies based on the book by Mark E. Moore, Core 52: A Fifteen-Minute Daily Guide to Building your Bible IQ in a Year, published by WaterBook (Penguin Random House)
Trade Paperback ISBN 978-0-525-65325-7
ebook isbn 978-0-525-65326-4

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

The Supernatural

There was a popular Music group in the 60s and 70s named “The Fifth Dimension”. I’m not sure why they chose that name but it reminds me of a way to explain the existence of God and the “spirit world”.
In physics there are three dimensions of physical structure: height, width, and depth. Albert Einstein said time was a fourth dimension. Christians as well as those who practice other religions believe there is a fifth dimension beyond these four physical dimensions that we call the spiritual dimension. God, angels, the devil, and demons are all part of this dimension. We human beings can’t see it or touch it, but we are also part of it. We are unique in the creation because we have both a physical nature and a spiritual nature. We are both body and spirit.

Before we get into a description of the “spiritual dimension”, I want to define some terms that I use below.

  • Believer - One who realizes he has fallen short of God’s standard, believes that God exists, believes that Jesus is the Son of God, believes that Jesus rose from the dead, has accepted God’s gift of salvation, and has chosen to serve in God’s kingdom.
  • Unbeliever - One who may or may not believe in God, but does not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, does not believe that Jesus rose from the dead, and has basically chosen not to have anything to do with God.

As we read the Bible we are introduced to several terms that describe the spiritual dimension and the living beings that are part of it. Here is a brief summary.


The English word “heaven” has come to have several different meanings, some of which are supported by Biblical statements, and some of which are just popular beliefs. It can refer to the place ”somewhere out there” where God lives. It can refer to the sky or the universe around us.
“Heaven” is also used to describe two aspects of continued life after the physical death of the human body:

  • Where the believer’s spirit goes when their body dies.
  • Where the believer will reside after their body is resurrected and joined with their spirit again.

Key truth: God is present there; Jesus is there. Those believers who have passed on are in the presence of God.


The English word “hell” also has a wide variety of uses in our culture, but in the context of continuing human life after death of the body, it also has two different aspects:

  • Where the UN-believer’s spirit goes when their body dies.
  • Where the UN-believer will reside after their body is resurrected and joined with their spirit again.

Key truth: God is not there. Those who reject God and any relationship with him get what they want - separation from God. God does not “send” anyone to hell. Everyone who ends up there will be there as a result of their own choice.


If you believe the Bible, and I do, then demons are real. Their most prolific interaction with people was during the time that Jesus was here on earth carrying out his mission. It seems that Satan made an extra effort to derail God’s plan during that time. Here are several scriptures that describe demonic activity during Jesus time here: Mark chapter 1, chapter 9; Matthew chapter 11, chapter 12, chapter 17. While not all christians would agree, I believe that demons are still active among people today, although not to the extent they were at the time of Jesus. I believe that demon possession (the demon takes control of the person mentally and physically) is possible but only if the person invites the demon in by engaging in certain activities related to Satan worship, witchcraft, or related activities. I do not believe that a Christian who is living under the influence of the Holy Spirit can be possessed.


The word “Angel” comes from the Latin angelus and the Greek angelos both of which mean “messenger”. Thus, angels are spirit beings who serve God and, in so doing, sometimes interact with people. Here are just a few biblical examples:

In Genesis chapters 18 and 19 God and two angels appear to Abraham as three “men”. During this meeting God informs Abraham that he will have a child in his old age and he informs Abraham that he is going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. God then sends the two angels to rescue Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family who were living in Sodom at the time before they destroy the two cities.

The Old Testament prophets often received messages from God through angels. The book of Daniel is a good example.

After his baptism Jesus went to a deserted wilderness area where Satan came to him and tried to tempt him to betray God’s plan. At the end of that time angels came to  serve him and take care of his physical needs. “Then the devil left him, and angels came and began ministering to his needs.” (Matthew 4:11 NET)

Angels appeared to the disciples on the days following Jesus’ resurrection including the day he ascended up to heaven to the presence of God.

Are angels actively interacting with the physical world and with people today? We seem to have less evidence of that, or perhaps we are less inclined to believe it when we see it. I will say this though; I think there is evidence in God’s word, the Bible, that God’s plan entered a new phase with the resurrection of Jesus. Look at Hebrews 1:1-4:

After God spoke long ago in various portions and in various ways to our ancestors through the prophets, in these last days he has spoken to us in a son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he created the world. The Son is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence, and he sustains all things by his powerful word, and so when he had accomplished cleansing for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. 4 Thus he became so far better than the angels as he has inherited a name superior to theirs. (NET)

Then in the rest of chapter one the writer makes a strong case that Jesus is far greater than the angels. Then in chapter two he says this:

Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken through angels proved to be so firm that every violation or disobedience received its just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was first communicated through the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard him, while God confirmed their witness with signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2:1-4 NET)

It seems to me that God is emphasizing to us that his primary message to us now comes through the life and teaching of Jesus, preserved and explained by the apostles, that is, what we call the New Testament. As the book of Hebrews says, Jesus is greater than the angels so his words are greater than the messages of angels.

I conclude with one thought about the supernatural. Sometimes we may think of “heaven” as someplace else, or of God as dwelling or living someplace far away. We should, instead, think of the supernatural as being all around us and engulfing us; that is the Biblical view. The Bible teaches that God is close to us; that he is “omnipresent”, that is, everywhere at once. And for those of us who have chosen to believe, God is IN us in the form of the Holy Spirit.

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible®
copyright ©1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

This post is the result of my studies based on the book by Mark E. Moore, Core 52: A Fifteen-Minute Daily Guide to Building your Bible IQ in a Year, published by WaterBook (Penguin Random House)
Trade Paperback ISBN 978-0-525-65325-7
ebook isbn 978-0-525-65326-4

Saturday, June 13, 2020

The Cross

Who do you say Jesus is?

This post is a little different than previous posts. This time I am giving you a scripture to consider and some questions to guide your thoughts.

The Identity

Matthew 16:13-17
Jesus asked his disciples:
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
Why do you think Jesus asked his disciples this question?
What did they answer?

  • John the Baptist
  • Elijah
  • Jeremiah or one of the prophets

What is significant about these answers?

  • All three of these men represented a messenger from God.
  • According to what the disciples said, people saw Jesus as someone sent from God.
  • Maybe even one of these men had come back from the dead.

Do you find it strange that the disciples did not mention something like these?

  • They say he is a fraud.
  • They say he is crazy.
  • They say he is just trying to make a name for himself.
  • They say he is from the devil.

Who do people around you say Jesus is?

Have you ever asked someone: 
What do you think of Jesus?

What would you say if someone asked you that question?

Then Jesus asked:
“But who do you say that I am?”
Of course Peter, the outspoken one,  is the one that answered.
“You are the Christ [Messiah], the Son of the Living God.”

 How does this answer go beyond what the other people were saying?
The Messiah goes beyond just being a prophet.

  • To the Israelites, the Messiah would rescue them from oppression and make them a great nation again.
  • But as Jesus said, he came for a personal spiritual rescue, not a national rescue.
    • "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36 NET)
  • Son of God goes beyond just being a human messenger of God. 
  • Son of God means that God came down to live among us as a human being.

Jesus responds to Peter:
“You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven.”

  • “Flesh and blood” How do you understand this phrase?
    • Two possible interpretations:
    • Any human being: “You didn’t get this from someone else.”
    • Peter himself: “You didn’t discover this on your own.”
  • Why was Peter blessed?
  • Because God made known to him the truth about Jesus.

The Cross

Matthew 16:21-23
Jesus started to tell his disciples what was going to happen to him before long:

  • Suffer many things at the hands of the authorities
  • Be killed
  • Be raised from the dead


  • Took him aside
  • “NO WAY, this can’t happen!”

Based on his comment, did Peter really understand what he had said earlier?
“You are the Messiah…”

Jesus' response:

  • Get behind me Satan…
  • You are a stumbling block to me…
  • Your mind is not on God’s agenda, but on a human agenda.
What do you think of this response?

Your Cross

Matthew 16:24-25
Jesus took up his cross. We have a cross to take up too.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25 NET)

What do you think of this statement?
“To bear the cross means to accept the rejection of the world for turning to Jesus and following him. Discipleship involves a death that is like a crucifixion.” (NET Bible study note)

Galatians 6:12-15
But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Verse 14)

What do you think of this statement?

“Take up your cross” doesn’t mean we give up the things we do every day to survive and even enjoy life; It means we try to put Jesus in those things, use them for his kingdom.

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible®
copyright ©1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

This post is the result of my studies based on the book by Mark E. Moore, Core 52: A Fifteen-Minute Daily Guide to Building your Bible IQ in a Year, published by WaterBook (Penguin Random House)
Trade Paperback ISBN 978-0-525-65325-7
ebook isbn 978-0-525-65326-4

Monday, June 01, 2020

The Golden Rule

The Law was given to Moses and the Israelites and written down about 1400 years before Jesus’ time here on earth. After the Babylonian captivity, about 500 years before Jesus, as the Jewish people struggled to understand the Law and live it out, they began to rely on a group of scholars and teachers whose purpose was to study, understand, interpret, and teach the Law for the benefit of the people. In English translations of the Bible, these men were known as “scribes”, lawyers”, or “experts in the Law”. Unfortunately, these men became entangled in the technicalities of the Law and they missed its true purpose.

As Jesus gained fame during his three and one half years of teaching and service in Palestine, he was acknowledged by many to be a rabbi, that is, a teacher who imparts wisdom and understanding concerning the Law. It could be said that the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ explanation of the true meaning of and purpose for the Law. As we have discussed in recent posts, it is clear that Jesus was trying to lead people to embrace the “spirit of the Law”. Jesus makes this statement as he explains the Law:

"In Everything, treat others as you would have them treat you, for this fulfills the Law and the Prophets."1

This statement has become known as "The Golden Rule". This statement really includes a comparison: how you treat others compared to how you would want to be treated. And what is the context of this statement? I found it interesting that, leading up to this statement, Jesus was also talking about the consequences of judging people and I think there is a similarity here. He said:


"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive."2

This is also describing a comparison: How we judge others compared to how we will be judged. Jesus is saying that we will be judged based on the same standard we use to judge others. It makes us think, doesn't it? How would we do when judged by our own standard? Do we really live up to our own standard?

The Speck and the Log

"Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own?"3

Here Jesus uses what we call hyperbole, that is, an extreme exaggeration. We see some flaw in our brother that is only the size of a speck of sawdust compared to the flaw in our own life which is the size of a wooden beam or log. The implication is that we see ourselves as better that the other person and, therefore, they need to change but we don't. What is Jesus' response to this situation?

"You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."4

  • Hypocrite: I think the implication here is that, deep down, we know we are flawed but we don't want to admit it.
  • First correct the shortcomings in your own life.
  • Then you can help your brother with his shortcomings.

The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule is a comparison: it is comparing how we treat others to how we would like to be treated. Do you see others as equal to or even better than yourself? Whatever is "fair" for you should be "fair" for the other person. We all expect to be treated with kindness and love so we should do the same for others.

Jesus said, "for this fulfills the Law and the Prophets." "Keeping the Law" is not so much about "following the rules". it is about loving God and treating those people around you fairly, with kindness and compassion.

1. Matthew 7:12 (NET)

2. Matthew 7:1-2 (NET)

3. Matthew 7:3-4 (NET)

4. Matthew 7:5 (NET)

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible®
copyright ©1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

This post is the result of my studies based on the book by Mark E. Moore, Core 52: A Fifteen-Minute Daily Guide to Building your Bible IQ in a Year, published by WaterBook (Penguin Random House)
Trade Paperback ISBN 978-0-525-65325-7
ebook isbn 978-0-525-65326-4

Thursday, May 21, 2020


If you look at the ten commandments 1 in the Old Testament you can see that four of them have to do with our relationship to God...
  • You shall not have any other gods before me.
  • You shall not make any carved images [fake gods].
  • You shall not take my name in vain.
  • Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy [set aside time in your life for God]
...and the other six commandments have to do with our relationship to others.
  • Honor your parents
  • Don't murder
  • Don't commit adultery
  • Don't steal
  • Don't give false testimony [lie] about your neighbor
  • Don't covet [wish you had for yourself] your neighbor's stuff or his wife.
 In addition, if you look at the other 600 plus laws recorded in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, you will see that they all derive from the principles described in these ten.

While Jesus was here on earth living among us, a lawyer asked him what he thought was the greatest commandment in the Law, Jesus said,
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments. 2
By quoting from the Law itself 3, Jesus made the point that the Law, summarized by the ten commandments, is all about loving (getting along with) God and your neighbor. And That is how Jesus lived out his life while he was here.

So you are asking, what does all this have to do with Prayer? "Getting along with" someone, whether God or your neighbor, involves communication. The best way to get to know someone, or to resolve a problem you have with someone, is to talk to them, and then listen to them. Think of prayer as our means of talking to God, or talking with God. And then God talks to us in several ways:

  • Through his WORD, the Bible, his written message to us.
    • Particularly through the words and life of Jesus recorded in the four Gospels.
    • We discussed in a previous post that Jesus is the Son of God, God in the flesh, so Jesus' words are God's words.
  • Through his Spirit, the Holy Spirit.
    • That could be through some other disciple or follower of Jesus who has a word of encouragement or a word of good advice for you.
    • Or through a family member who cares about you.
    • Or through your own thoughts as you listen to and think about God's written word.
 In the gospels of Matthew and Luke Jesus gives us some examples of prayers that can help us understand how to pray.

The Arrogant Prayer

In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus gives us two different examples of people praying . He describes the prayer of a Pharisee who thinks he has everything under control. This man seems to be praying a boastful, prideful, self centered prayer to himself and about himself, a  prayer.
  • "Thank you that I am not like these other people: swindlers, sinners, adulterers, or even this tax collector."
  • "I fast twice a week.
  • "I give a tenth of everything I get."
The Humble Prayer
Then Jesus gives an example of a humble prayer by a man who acknowledges his weaknesses. Compare the demeanor and words of this man with those of the Pharisee.
  • He stood far off.
  • He would not even look up to heaven. 
  • He beat his chest (in sorrow and humility).
  • "God be merciful to me, sinner that I am."
And notice the comment that Jesus made about these two men:
"I tell you that this man (the humble tax collector) went down to his home justified (that is, forgiven by God) rather than the Pharisee. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Think about this last sentence. What do you think Jesus meant?

The "Model Prayer"

Jesus basically teaches over and over again that humility is the best and most rewarding lifestyle. In another setting (Matthew 6:5-14), maybe two years before the above incident, Jesus is speaking to his disciples and some others and he also addresses the subject of prayer. As in the other incident, he contrasts loud boastful prayer and quiet, humble, personal prayer. Then he gives his disciples (and us) an example, an outline of how we should pray. This is traditionally called "The Lord's Prayer",and it is a prayer, but it is more that that. It is a guide to lead us to a humble and meaningful prayer life. Here is the prayer with a few thoughts to consider.
  • Our Father in heaven, Holy is your name.
    • Our - we are all in this togehter.
    • Father - A family member who loves you; he adopted you as his own
    • Holy - he is the head of the household, worthy of respect
  • Your kingdom come
    • He is in control; better things will come. 
  • Your will be done. 
    • He has your best interest in mind and knows better than you what you need
    • God’s will over your will - it will be better for you in the long run
    • Seek his will.
  • Give us this day our daily bread.
    • Give us - Meet our basic needs
    • Daily - Trust god daily to take care of you
  • Forgive us our debts...
    • Acknowledge our debt, obligation to God
    • That we have failed to live up to his standard
    • Forgive our debts - when we have fallen short of God’s standard and/or hurt or failed other people.
  • As we forgive our debtors
    • How can we ask for forgiveness if we are not willing to forgive others?
  • Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
    • Lead us - this is not suggesting that God causes temptation, but is a rhetorical way to ask for God’s protection from sin.
    • Temptation - protect us from our own selfish desires
    • Deliver from Evil - protect us from outside evil influences.
    • We acknowledge that we need God’s help, we cannot avoid sin on our own.
Notice that in verse 14 Jesus specifically emphasizes the part about forgiving and being forgiven.
“For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins."
If we receive and understand forgiveness, we will also be inspired to forgive others. Think about how these things are intertwined and cannot be separated. Prayer is directly linked to our daily relationships with God and with the people around us.


1. Exodus 20:3-27

2. Matthew 22:37-40 (NET)  

3. Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations are from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

This post is the result of my studies based on the book by Mark E. Moore, Core 52: A Fifteen-Minute Daily Guide to Building your Bible IQ in a Year, published by WaterBook (Penguin Random House)
Trade Paperback ISBN 978-0-525-65325-7
ebook isbn 978-0-525-65326-4

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Deeper Morality

Rules and Laws

What do you think about the rules and laws we live by every day? Laws enacted by governments. Unwritten rules of social interaction. Why do we need all these rules? Why can't we just have the freedom to do what we want? Secular philosophers would say that rules and laws exist so that people can interact with each other in a reasonably peaceful and orderly manner, to avoid conflicts as much as possible. Christian theologians would generally agree with that and would also add that rules and laws also exist so that people can have a peaceful and appropriate interaction with God.

Pharisees - "Letter of the Law"

There was a group of religious leaders in Judea during Jesus' time here on earth who had a very legalistic, technical understanding of the law. They would spend hours at a time studying, parsing, and discussing the Law of Moses. Their goal was to define the law in such a way that they could do certain things and avoid certain things so they could say they successfully obeyed all of the Law, that is, so they could say they were "righteous". What was their idea of "righteous"?
  • What is the minimum I can do to stay within the letter of the law?
  • What actions can I do to earn "brownie points" with God?
  • What can I do to earn my ticket into Heaven?
  • What can I do so that everyone will know that I obey all the rules?
Jesus - "Spirit of the Law"

In Matthew Chapter 5 Jesus gave us some guidance on how we should view laws and rules, and his guidance comes down to attitude and motive being the key to “keeping the law”; that “keeping the law” was about being concerned for and caring about others. I want to look at a couple of examples from that chapter.

“You have heard that it was said to an older generation, ‘Do not murder,’ and ‘whoever murders will be subjected to judgment.’ But I say to you that anyone who is angry with a brother will be subjected to judgment." (Matthew 5:21-22 NET)
In defining the true meaning of the law, Jesus goes beyond the action of murder to the motive or attitude of anger.  Jesus looks at our attitude, our motive, what is in our heart, before we ever take a violent action. If you are angry with your brother you are just as guilty of breaking the law as if you had murdered him. What is Jesus' remedy to this situation?
So then, if you bring your gift to the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother and then come and present your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24 NET)
Jesus wants us to take the initiative and reconcile with our brother, to live in peace and harmony as much as possible. By the way, the word "brother" here does not just refer to your physical blood brother, it refers to relatives, friends, classmates, co-workers, anyone you know and interact with.

Getting Even

There is a term used today: "I will get even with him." There is a biblical term in the Law of Moses that has a similar meaning: "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth". Many saw this phrase in the law as approval for or even a requirement for retaliating for a wrong done to you, but this phrase was actually intended to be a limit on retaliation. In other words, if someone wrongfully takes something from you, you cannot take back any more than they took from you. But what does Jesus say about this:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist the evildoer. But whoever strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your coat also. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to the one who asks you, and do not reject the one who wants to borrow from you."
(Matther 5:38-42 NET)
 Jesus seems to go beyond limiting retaliation; he seems to say that, not only should we not retaliate ("get even"), we should sacrifice something of ourselves and do good to the person who has wronged us. Again, Jesus is looking at our motives and attitudes, not just our actions.

A Higher Standard

Jesus is calling us to a higher standard than just obeying the letter of the law, a standard of loving and caring about the other person, even if they have wronged us; a standard based not only on our actions, but more importantly on the attitude in our heart.

A few days before he was crucified, Jesus was being harassed by the legalistic Pharisees, trying to trip him up with their legal tricks. What was his response?
Now when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they assembled together. And one of them, an expert in religious law, asked him a question to test him: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” 
(Matthew 22:34-40 NET)

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible®
copyright ©1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

This post is the result of my studies based on the book by Mark E. Moore, Core 52: A Fifteen-Minute Daily Guide to Building your Bible IQ in a Year, published by WaterBook (Penguin Random House)
Trade Paperback ISBN 978-0-525-65325-7
ebook isbn 978-0-525-65326-4