Archive | September 2014

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final thoughts on Hebrews 2:1-4

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?           NKJV

Hebrews, chapter one, makes the case that Jesus is the Messiah. Chapter two begins with the word, therefore, meaning since or because. Since Jesus is the Messiah, this (the exhortation of our text) is what we need to do; this is how we are to respond. In these four verses, we see three necessary responses to Jesus the Messiah.

First, we need to keep our focus on Jesus lest we drift away (v. 1, Heb. 12:2-3). One of the great Biblical doctrines of the Christian faith is the preservation and perseverance of the saints. That God preserves His Saints in their salvation can be clearly seen in passages such as John 6:37-39, 10:27-30; Philippians 1:6; and I Peter 1:5, and in Baptist circles we commonly quite such verses to defend the Biblical teaching of the eternal security of the believer. However, the other side of this coin is the perseverance or endurance of the saints. Sadly, in Baptist circles, we often have a tendency to emphasize the preservation of the saints with little or no emphasis on the perseverance of the saints. Often professing Christians, who otherwise show no evidence of conversion and spiritual regeneration in their lives, are passed off as backslidden without admitting the much more likely truth that they have never been born again, and are in fact, unsaved. The scriptures plainly teach that once a person has truly been born again, and is in fact saved, that he or she will indeed persevere in the Christian faith (Job 17:9, Matt. 24:13, Col. 1:22-23), and that if they drift away from the Christian faith, they were never saved to begin with (I Jn. 2:19). In verse one of our text, the Lord is calling for self-examination of our personal doctrine and lives in light of what the Scripture declares to be true about the perseverance of a Christian (II Cor. 5:17, 13:5).

Second, if God was serious regarding the consequences of disobeying His laws, how much more serious is His charge to trust Christ and be saved. God gave the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai through angels (v.2; Psa. 68:17; Acts 7:38, 53; Gal. 3:19), and every time the Jews broke God’s laws, they paid the penalty for doing so (v.3); and ultimately the penalty for breaking God’s law is still being paid by every person on earth (Rom. 3:23, 6:23). If God did not spare those who broke His laws, how much more will He bring condemnation on those who reject His commandment to repent of their sin and trust Christ as their personal Savior (v. 3; II Thess. 1:7-9; Jn. 3:16-18).

Third, God has born witness of the truth that Jesus is the Messiah. When the Apostles began preaching that a Jew from Nazareth, who had been condemned as a criminal and crucified, had been raised from the dead and was, in fact, the Messiah, why should their listeners have believed their message? The answer is; because God bore witness with signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit that what they taught was indeed the truth, and that Jesus was the Messiah and Savior (v.4). The Jews from all parts of the Roman empire who came to the feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem saw the miraculous tongues of flame that rested on the heads of the Apostles and heard them speak in languages that they could not possibly have known (Acts 2:3-12). They recognized that this miracle was done in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Acts 2:16-18, I Cor. 14:21), and as a result, they believed the Apostles’ message that Jesus was indeed the Messiah and Savior. Later on, when the multitudes saw the miracles that Phillip did, they believed his message about Jesus. When the Jews saw Peter raise Tabitha from the dead, they too believed on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 9:42). When Paul, through the power of God, struck Elymas the sorcerer blind, the Proconsul, who bore witness of the miracle, believed that what Paul taught was in fact of the Lord (Acts 13:12). In Romans 15:19, the Apostle Paul states that his preaching of the gospel of Christ was verified by God through mighty signs and wonders.

Of course, the greatest miracle of all, the resurrection of Jesus, was seen by over 500 people at one time (I Cor. 15:6), and the empty tomb is still there to prove that Jesus, the Messiah, lives. Have you repented of your sins, and trusted the resurrected Jesus as your personal Savior?

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From the Pastor’s Pen

Final thoughts on Hebrews 1:11

They will perish, but You remain; And they will all grow old like a garment;           NKJV

You remain;” what glorious words and what a wonderful promise for us. There are multitudes of people who live out their lives in loneliness and cannot restrain the tears that flow, but there is someone who is unseen and just within their reach. If they would only believe in Him, they would realize His presence, which is blessed, yet quite rare. Even among we who are true believers, being aware of our Savior’s presence is often dependent upon our moods, our feelings, our physical condition, and even the weather. The unending rain or thick fog outside, the lack of sleep, or the intense pain affects our mood and blurs our vision so that we lose sight of His presence.

There is however, something even better than realizing our Savior’s presence, and even more blessed. It is completely independent of these other conditions and is something that will abide within us. It is this: recognizing our Lord’s unseen presence, which is so wonderful, quieting, soothing, calming, and warming. So recognize the presence of the Master. He is here, close to you, and His presence is real.

Christ is not just someone off in the far reaches of heaven, but he is immeasurably more. He is present, and He is a compassionate Friend and the all-powerful God and creator of all things. This is a joyful truth for weeping hearts everywhere, no matter the reason for the tears, or whatever may be happening in the storm of life that surrounds us: He remains!

When from my life the old-time joys have vanished,
Treasures once mine, I may no longer claim,
This truth may feed my hungry heart, and famished:
Lord, THOU REMAINEST THOU art still the same!
When streams have dried, those streams of glad refreshing–
Friendships so blest, so rich, so free;
When sun-kissed skies give place to clouds depressing,
Lord, THOU REMAINEST! Still my heart hath THEE.
When strength hath failed, and feet, now worn and weary,
On gladsome errands may no longer go,
Why should I sigh, or let the days be dreary?
Lord, THOU REMAINEST! Could’st Thou more bestow?
Thus through life’s days–whoe’er or what may fail me,
Friends, friendships, joys, in small or great degree,
Songs may be mine, no sadness need assail me,
Lord, THOU REMAINEST! Still my heart hath THEE.           J. Danson Smith

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final thoughts on Song of Solomon 1:1-2

The song of songs, which is Solomon’s. Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
For your love is better than wine.           NKJV

It is clear from the very first verse of the book, that Solomon is the author of the author of Song of Solomon. Song of Solomon is titled “Song of Songs” in the Hebrew text and in the Greek Septuagint. Early Latin translations titled it “Canticles” (Latin for Song of Songs). English translations began titling the book “Song of Solomon,” thus giving the fuller sense on 1:1. The phrase “song of songs” means “the superlative (best or most excellent) song.” Song of Solomon was written early in Solomon’s reign which began in 971 B.C., but before he took Pharaoh’s daughter as his second wife (I Kings 3:1).

The main theme of Song of Solomon is the love that should exist between a husband and wife (Song. 1:2, 13-16; 2:16; 3:11; 4:9-11; 5:1, 16; 6:3; 7:10). Two people dominate this true-life, dramatic, love song. Solomon, whose kingship is mentioned 5 times (Song. 1:4, 12; 3:9, 11; 7:5), appears as the beloved husband. The Shulamite maiden (Song. 6:13) is the beloved wife. In 1826, Heinrich Ewald, a liberal scholar, proposed a triangle in which the Shulamite falls in love with a shepherd who is not Solomon, but a young man from the maiden’s home town. In Ewald’s interpretation, the Shulamite actually resists the overtures of Solomon to be his wife, longing to be with the young shepherd from her home instead, and eventually she and her shepherd are reunited and marry. Ewald based his interpretation on the argument that Solomon was a polygamist and therefore could not have written a book on the purity of wedded bliss. However, this interpretation is not only dishonoring and without historical foundation, it assumes that Solomon could not have truly loved only one woman early in his reign as king. It is important to note that Solomon entered into his later marriages for political reasons, not for love.

The Shulamite is never mentioned by name in the book, but according to Jewish tradition, she is Abishag, the Shunammite maiden, who cared for King David on his death bed (I Kings 1:3-4, 15; 2:17-25). There are a number of parallels between the Shulamite and Abishag. Both were from Shunem (the consonants, lamed and nun, are frequently interchangeable in Semitic languages and some Hebrew manuscripts (as well as the Septuagint) read Shunammite instead of Shulamite). Examples of this interexchange of lamed and nun can also be seen in Hebrew words such as Azal and Azan (both meaning “to go away from”) and Ya`al and Ya`an (both meaning “to have purpose”). The same type of letter exchanges can be found in most languages, including English (examples: cipher and cipher, offence and offense, gray and grey, sceptic and skeptic, adviser and advisor, barbecue and barbeque, and enquire and inquire). Both the Shulamite and Abishag were outsiders brought into the court. Both of them were contemporaries of Solomon. Both of them knew him personally. Both of them were in an emotionally charged situation involving marriage. Both were virgins. Both were beautiful. Both were brought in to serve kings. Both of them vanish from the pages of scripture before Solomon marries Pharaoh’s daughter. Since the love between Solomon and the Shulamite is a picture of the love between Christ, the shepherd/king, and His bride, the church (Eph. 5:25-33), it is worth noting that Abishag actually served the shepherd/king, David.

It is curious that the Shulamite vanishes from the pages of scripture before Solomon marries Pharaoh’s daughter. Roberta Kells Dorr, a former Middle Eastern scholar and author, in her book, Solomon’s Song, makes the compelling case that, as happened so often in those days, the Shulamite died in childbirth and suggests that it may have been at that time that Solomon wrote his great love song. In Song of Solomon 8:5, the references to death” and “the grave” may have forshadowed the Shulamite’s early death.

Some have objected to the inclusion of Song of Solomon in the canon of scripture, claiming that God is never mentioned in the book, but a closer examination of the book will demonstrate that this claim is in fact, not true. The name of God is actually found in Song. 8:6 in the phrase “most vehement flame.” This entire phrase is one word, “shalhebeth” in Hebrew and literally means “flame of Yah.” “Yah” is the shortened name of “Yahweh” or the “LORD,” the Hebrew name for God, so the phrase “most vehement flame” literally means “flame of the LORD.”

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final Thoughts on Colossians 2:1-3

For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.                NKJV

Any hard job is easier if you love what you are doing. Paul shares in verse one of our text that he was in a struggle, but we know that Paul loved what he was doing. The churches at Colossae and Laodicea were dear to Paul and his desire was that they remain close to the Lord and true to the Word of God that he had shared with them. Obviously there were false teachers invading these churches and twisting the truths of God’s Word. An example demonstrating that some of this false teaching did influence these churches is found in Revelation 3:14-22 in which we find that the church at Laodicea had succumbed to being lukewarm or indifferent in their fervor to teach and minister God’s Word to the people.

Paul encourages believers to keep their hearts on the truths of God’s Word and to be united against false teachers bringing dissension to their churches. He exhorts them to look to Jesus and all the Word of God in light of the life of the Son of God, who never acted unless directed by His Heavenly Father to do so. His life is our example. He is the Incarnate Word.

Churches today are in flux more than ever before, being pressured to adopt the ways of the world. Those who hold to the fundamentals of the Christian faith are being mocked and ridiculed as religious extremists. As a Pastor, I was called by God to lead the church to hold fast to the truths of God’s Word, including the fundamentals or essentials of the Christian faith, just as I have been called to do the same myself. As Bible believing Christians, we are being attacked from all sides by our worldly, humanistic society, and it is a struggle to hold fast to the teachings of God’s Word.

The challenges to our churches go beyond simply a hell or heaven issue. The authority of Christ and His word is under attack as the powers of darkness attempt to undermine the very foundation upon which we stand. If this foundation is destroyed, all of the essentials of the Christian faith will be lost. In this midst of this intense spiritual battle, the Lord, through Paul’s writings, exhorts us to let our hearts be encouraged, to be united upon the Word of God, and to realize the full assurance of understanding that all of us can have; the knowledge of God through His Word and a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. No one need be doomed to an eternity in the lake of fire. By repenting of our sins, and trusting Jesus Christ alone for our salvation, we can all have the assurance of eternal life and a home in heaven.