Archive | August 2014

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final Thoughts on Hebrews 1:1-4

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.           NKJV

Unlike the other New Testament epistles, which all open with an introduction by the writer of the book, the epistle of Hebrews skips the introduction entirely, immediately launching into a discourse on the fact that Jesus is the Messiah. Who was the writer of Hebrews?

The early church generally held that the Apostle Paul was the writer of Hebrews. In fact, not one of the early Greek Christian writers ascribed the epistle to anyone other than the Apostle Paul. So ingrained was Pauline authorship in church history that the King James translators not only believed that Paul wrote the letter, but prefaced it with “The Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Hebrews.”

However, despite the prevalent tradition of the early church that Paul was the writer of Hebrews, some scholars have suggested other authors wrote the letter, including Luke, Apollos, Barnabas, Priscilla, Aquila, Silas, and Philip. The following are the major objections to Pauline authorship along with responses to these objections:

Objection: The writer does not identify himself as Paul did in all of his letters.
Response: It is clear in verses such as Acts 9:23-24; 13:45; 14:19; 17:4-5, 13; 18:5-6, 12; 20:3, 19; 21:11, 20-21, 27-28; 22:30; 23:12-14, 20-21, 27, 30; 24:1, 5, 27; 25:2-3, 7, 14-15, 24; 26:2, 7, 21; 28:17-19, and II Cor. 11:24 that the Jews harbored deep hatred for the Apostle Paul and would not have read the letter if Paul had identified himself as the writer.

Objection: The writer of Hebrews states that salvation was “confirmed to us by those who heard Him (the Lord).” Paul never met any of the Apostles before his conversion on the road to Damascus.
Response: This objection is based on conjecture and not fact. In Acts 4:1-3, 5-7, 13-18, 21; 5:27-28, 33, 40-41 (compare with Acts 22:3; 23:6; Phil. 3:5) the Apostles were brought before the Sanhedrin. As a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, Paul had a number of opportunities to hear the Apostles confirm the gospel.

Objection: The language of Hebrews is similar to that of Luke, therefore Luke must have written Hebrews.
Response: As Luke was Paul’s frequent traveling companion and pupil (Colossians 4:14, II Timothy 4:11, Philemon 24), it should come as no surprise that the two of them would use similar language.

In addition to the fact that Luke had been Paul’s companion for a long time, there is a greater understanding and familiarity with Jewish doctrine and practices in Hebrews than Luke would have had as a Gentile, and upon examination, the language of Hebrews is virtually identical to that of Paul’s other letters. The following examples are used exclusively by Paul in his letters:
A. “Image of God” Compare Hebrews 1:3 with Colossians 1:15
B. “Mediator” Compare Hebrews 8:6 with I Timothy 2:5; Galatians 3:19-20
C. “God of peace” Compare Hebrews 13:20 with Romans 15:33; I Thessalonians 5:23
Many other examples are clearly consistent with Paul’s literary style and use of metaphors. These include the following:
D. “All things under His feet” Compare Hebrews 2:8 with I Corinthians 15:27
E. “His enemies under His feet (made His footstool)” Compare Hebrews 10:13 with
I Corinithians 15:25
F. “Christ was a sacrifice for our sins.” Compare Hebrews 9:26; 10:12 with I Corinthians 5:7
G. “The just shall live by faith.” Compare Hebrews 10:38 with Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11
H. “Righteousness (justification) by faith” Compare Hebrews 11:7 with Galatians 3:11; Philippians 3:9
I. “The word of God as a sword” Compare Hebrews 10:38 with Ephesians 6:17
J. “Immature Christians fed milk not solid food” Compare Hebrews 5:12-14 with
I Corinthians 3:2
K. “Boldness to enter the presence of God” Compare Hebrews 10:19 with Ephesians 3:12
L. “The Christian life is a race.” Compare Hebrews 12:1 with I Corinthians 9:24;
Philippians 3:14
M. “Subject to bondage” Compare Hebrews 2:15 with Galatians 5:1
N. “Grace be with you.” Compare Hebrews 13:25 to any of Paul’s letters which always end with this expression.

Other characteristics of Paul’s style appear in Hebrews such as a propensity to focus on a word and enter on a long parenthesis suggested by that word, a fondness for play upon words of similar sound, a disposition to repeat some favorite word, frequent appeals to the Old Testament, and quotations linked by “and again,” (compare Heb 1:5 2:13 with Rom. 15:10-12). Finally, a large number of manuscripts conclude Hebrews with “Penned to the Hebrews from Italy, by Timothy. Since Timothy often penned Paul’s letters as the Apostle dictated them, this is strong evidence for Pauline authorship.

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From the Pastor’s Pen

Final Thoughts on James 5:17

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months.               NKJV

Thank God that Elijah was just like us! He sat under a tree, as you and I have often done; he complained to God as we have often done, and expressed his unbelief—just as we have often done. Yet this was not the case at all when he was truly in touch with God. Though Elijah was a man just like us, yet “he prayed earnestly.” What is the lesson here? For the child of God, there is power in earnest prayer.

Climb to the top of Mount Carmel, and see that remarkable story of faith and sight. The man who had prayed for fire to fall from heaven could bring rain using the same method—prayer. Elijah bowed with his face between his knees (I Kings 18:42), shutting out all sights and sounds. He put himself in a position beneath his robe where he could neither see nor hear what was happening.

Elijah then said to his servant, “Go and look toward the sea.” (I Kings 18:43). The servant went and came back, and said, “There is nothing there!” We would likely say, “It is just as I expected!” and stop praying. But did Elijah give up? No, in fact six times he said to his servant, “Go back.” Each time the servant returned saying, “There is nothing!”

Yet the seventh time he went, the servant reported, “There is a cloud as small as a man’s hand.” What a fitting description, for a man’s hand had been raised in supplication before the rain came, and shortly afterward, the rain came down in torrents. This is a tale of faith and sight—faith cutting itself off from everything except God; sight that looked and yet saw nothing. Yet in spite of seeming hopeless reports received from sight, faith goes right on praying.

Do you know how to pray that in way—how to prevail in prayer? Let your sight bring you reports as discouraging as is possible, but pay no attention to them. The living God, our heavenly Father, is still the sovereign ruler over all of creation, and even the delays of answers to our prayers spring from His goodness.

Each of three young boys once gave a definition of faith that illustrates the importance of tenacity. The first boy defined faith, “taking hold of Christ”, the second as, “keeping hold of Christ”, and the third as, “not letting go of Christ.”                       L.B. Cowman

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final Thoughts on Psalm 38:1-12

O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your wrath, Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure! For Your arrows pierce me deeply, And Your hand presses me down. There is no soundness in my flesh Because of Your anger, Nor any health in my bones Because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds are foul and festering Because of my foolishness. I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. For my loins are full of inflammation, And there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and severely broken; I groan because of the turmoil of my heart. Lord, all my desire is before You; And my sighing is not hidden from You. My heart pants, my strength fails me; As for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me. My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague, And my relatives stand afar off. Those also who seek my life lay snares for me; Those who seek my hurt speak of destruction, And plan deception all the day long.              NKJV

Psalm 38 was written by David at some point in his life when the Lord was chastening him for some type of sin. Just as an earthly parent will chasten his child for disobeying, so God, as our heavenly Father, will chasten us for disobeying His commandments (Heb. 12:5-8). In our text, we see three truths regarding our heavenly Father’s chastisement.

First, in verses 1-2, God chastises by convicting the conscience. Sin defiles the conscience (I Cor. 8:7), but repentance cleanses the defiled conscience. The inward effect of a defiled conscience is conviction and the emotional weight of guilt (vs. 2, 4). The cure for the emotional weight of a guilty conscience is repentance and confession of our sin to the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 2:1-2, Matt. 11:28, I Jn. 1:9). The emotional weight of our guilt robs us of our joy as Christians, thus bringing about depression (vs. 6, 8; Psa. 51:12). Again, the cure for this depression is repentance.

Second, we see in verse 3, that God sometimes chastens his children by bringing physical illness upon them (vs. 5, 7, 10). Like an earthly father who is unable to get his child’s attention through mere verbal rebuke, when God cannot get our attention by convicting our consciences, He usually resorts to more severe methods. Physical illness is our heavenly Father’s equivalent of a spanking. If physical chastening fails to correct the His child’s transgressions, God may even take the life of the rebellious Christian, thereby bringing an end to the shaming of His holy name by His disobedient child (I Cor. 11:30, Jas. 5:19-20). The Lord struck King Uzziah with fatal leprosy because, in his pride, Uzziah disobeyed God and usurped the authority of the priests by going into the temple himself to burn incense (II Chron. 26). In Acts 5, The Lord slew Ananias and Sapphira because they lied to the Holy Spirit regarding the amount of money they had given to the church at Jerusalem.

Third, God’s chastisement sometimes ends in broken relationships. Sin can wreck even the strongest of relationships. How many marriages have been wrecked by the sins of adultery, or drunkenness? Sometimes the broken relationships caused by sin lead to outright hatred and a desire for revenge (v. 12). David experienced some of these situations himself in his broken relationship with his own son, Absalom, and his counselor, Ahithophel (Psa. 22:12-14). Jacob’s deceit and lies led to his brother, Esau, swearing to kill him (Gen. 27). It takes a long time and a lot of effort to build relationships, but it only takes a moment to tear them down.

How do we build relationships? By accounting others as more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:3), by doing what is always good for the benefit of others (Eph. 4:29), and by treating others in the same way that we would like to be treated by them (Lk. 6:31).

How is your relationship with others? How is your relationship with God? Is your conscience clean and guilt free? Or are there things in your life that you need to repent of and seek God’s forgiveness for; and perhaps that of other people as well?