We post the slides from each week on Facebook, but it can be a tad confusing if you are new to the group. Here is the direct link to the Facebook private group page (where we can upload files every week, along with prayer requests and other stuff) that will get you directly to all the files with the slides.
I recently was asked my position on Baptism. I am typically standing upright in about waist deep water and bend slightly over, the position of the person being baptized is typically to lean backwards into the water. Ok, dad joke. Seriously, it is a pretty big deal in Christianity, but knowing why it is and how to deal with the topic is a key issue for every believer. Ultimately, it is a matter of life and death… but not one you have any control over at all.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized intoChrist Jesus were baptized into his death? – Romans 6:3
Notice that the verse above is passive on your part, you have been baptized. It happens to you. Yes, you consent to the physical act, but you still cannot baptize yourself. That is a pretty important point. So, where do you start in figuring out what this is all about?
I suppose it comes up so often because the scriptures are loaded with references to it and I find myself mentioning it all the time, but typically in a summary fashion like, “we are baptized into death”. The question then naturally comes up for a variety of reasons, the most common of which include:
- I was christened / baptized as an infant, should I be again?
- I got dunked as a kid, but I [did / did not] understand the process, should I as an adult go through the process again?
- I got baptized, but it did not stick because I had a really rebellious season.
- I was baptized [in another faith tradition] that did not teach what you were talking about in that last sermon, explain this to me?
- I think that baptism is a cultural thing and not required for salvation, so why should we still bother with it?
- I have doubts about God and Jesus, but I generally think of myself as a Christian, should I get baptized or avoid it?
All of these are great questions and most of them are pretty straight forward to answer in a one-to-one conversation, but answering them in person and walking them out with someone who has some discernment is a good idea because no two people have the exact same story or questions. Needless to say, there are a common set of scriptures that underpin the whole doctrine of baptism, and two thousand years of church study and teaching on the topic to look at for how people have wrestled with these and similar questions. I won’t pretend that this brief article will touch anywhere near the whole well of information on the subject. It should be, however, a pretty good FAQ on the most common set of answers and information. It will help guide the dialogue.
First, we should look at what the basic premise of baptism is in the New Testament: a funeral and resurrection celebration. This sacrament* was taught by the earliest believers as a public proclamation of their faith. Many people miss the basic premise of baptism, thinking of it either as a rite of passage or as a requirement for salvation. Some churches do teach both of these things, however that misses the basic symbol that the Scriptures use to describe this wonderful “sacred oath” that believers in Christ freely observe after their acceptance of the Gospel.
*The word Sacrament is used for some religious ceremonies and derives from a term meaning “solemn oath”, so it is a specific kind of profession of faith through action, a statement of belief. There can be a lot of confusion around this term, including common dictionary explanations of it as “a means of grace”, but as will be explained that is an incorrect definition, for Christ is the only means of Grace and baptism is a metaphor in action. Basically, most Protestant churches teach the idea of sacrament very differently than their Catholic counterparts.
First, a little basic common sense: Baptism cannot be a core requirement for salvation for several reasons, not the least of which is that one must already be a believer in the resurrection of Christ and understand the symbol that this act entails before obeying the requirement. Is it a requirement for believers? Yes, but that is an act of the will AFTER one believes, this is a RESPONSE to salvation. How can we know? Quite simply, Jesus proclaims with His own words that a thief on the cross next to him will be with Him in paradise (Luke 23-40-43), which meant that he would never be able to be baptized into this belief before he died that very day. Baptism symbolizes, or is a metaphor of, death and resurrection. Christ spoke of it figuratively linking both the “cup” and the “baptism” with his own death as a ransom.
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. – Colossians 2:11-12
This should actually help a new believer understand another major topic of Scripture, circumcision, in a new light as well. The New Testament dwells on the topic enough to raise a question in the mind of any believer, one of Jewish heritage especially, about how this essential and core requirement for Jews was simply done away with in Christ. The answer is quite simple: Circumcision was a prophetic foreshadowing of the death of the firstborn son (for Abraham, that point to Issac at the Akhedah, but for all future believers it pointed to Christ) and it was always considered a matter of the heart (an outward act that reflected an inward belief, compare Romans 2:28-29 with Deuteronomy 10:12-16). This topic will not deal in detail with the issue of circumcision, but as Paul mentioned in Colossians, we have more (not less) in Baptism. Once this first act was literally fulfilled in the death of Christ, something else took the place as a proclamation of faith – this time pointing not to the death only but also to our resurrection with Him!
Jesus also used Baptism as a metaphor of death:
Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” – Mark 10:38-39
This is particularly interesting because Jesus had already been baptized at the start of his ministry, but here he spoke of it as a future event. There were two kinds of baptism referenced: John’s and Christ’s. John preached remission of sin, the outward washing which is a symbol of what Christ has come to do and what only He can accomplish; this is a surrender.
Baptism is a symbol of both death and resurrection, not only of washing away sins, but dying to the bondage of sin. What this means, in practical terms, is that you are free from sin, not that you will never sin again as a believer. Put simply, you were a slave, owing a debt that you could not pay, and Christ in making you free has purchased that debt – thus it is as if you were already dead, legally speaking, and no penalty could be further applied to you because your life is now His. Baptism celebrates the burial of your old self and resurrection of the new, but you still have a journey ahead of you!
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. – Romans 6:4-11
John’s baptism was known already, lots of research into ancient ceremonial baptisms is around on the web within an easy search, and people were able to understand in part the idea of symbolic ceremonial washings. But just like communion, which uses simple bread and wine, Jesus took a very common thing that people knew in the area around them and loaded it with a very specific meaning for the believer. One of the most common questions that arises is based on whether this baptism of Christ must always be followed by a spiritual gift. This confusion often arises because of a specific passage. Note that there is quite a lot going on in this, not just the issue of John vs Christ’s baptism. However, note also very clearly that Apollos was ALREADY a Christian BEFORE he was baptized and received his particular special gifts. It is helpful to read the end of Acts 18 and the beginning of Acts 19 without the break in the chapter marker…
18:24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus. – Acts 18:24-28
19:1 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. – Acts 19:1-6
Note: While there is not space here to give an exhaustive discussion on spiritual gifts, especially tongues, if this is an area of concern you should read 1 Corinthians 14 in whole. Prophecy can be simply understood as proclaiming the Gospel (especially with boldness) as seen in Acts 19:8, a few verses after the above passage, with respect to Apollos. You also find this in numerous places in scripture if you search for “bold” or “boldness”. Also note that in v6 from the above passage shows that this instance was accompanied by a sign of filling, but other instances of baptism do not show a corresponding sign, so it should not be taught as mandatory expectation or evidence; the link is that they were not baptized only away from sin but into the name of Christ. A similar issue occurs in Acts 8:9-24 with Simon the magician. If we made the unique situations common, then we should expect to be carried away like Philip in Acts 8:39!
The straight forward point is that Baptism is an act, often the very first act, of obedience on the part of a believer in publicly proclaiming their understanding of the Gospel message. The proclamation of the Word of God and the movement of the Spirit first cuts to the heart, then we respond with baptism. It is not the water that is the point, it is the name of Christ that is significant… Peter explains this as the proper response to hearing the Gospel after his sermon in Acts 2:37-41 and then again in his letter, where he specifically refutes the idea that baptism is a washing (it is internal, an act of the conscience and thus of the will to be obedient for one that believes).
…God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. – 1 Peter 3:20-22
For clarity, when Peter says that Baptism now saves you, he is is not saying that the act of going under the water saved you any more than the act of the flood saved mankind (Noah + 7) – it was the ark, a specific provision from God, that saved them – they acted in obedience and were immersed* into God’s provision, then when the flood came they were saved through it. This is just like the verse above that speaks of circumcision as a heart issue, baptism is an internal reality of what actually happens at your conversion to Christ, the old dies and the new is born. The physical act of baptism is not what saves you, it is just the outward act of obedience to proclaim the new inward reality.
Note: The word baptism means submersion or immersion (see here). This is speaking of the full and complete subjection of the self into Christ, not necessarily requiring that full immersion in water be absolutely required. The early church taught this clearly in a book called the Didache, which was a first century order of services manual that dealt with practical issues in the church, such as baptism in the winter when it was too cold to find a moving stream or lake.
The links to symbols in the old testament revealed in the new are not limited to Noah and the flood. Baptism followed the death of the firstborn in the Exodus, hinted at in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2, which talks of both the cloud of God and the sea as foreshadowing of baptism Granted, the term here may simply mean “immersed in”, but Paul’s context is that this was a crossing-over, like Christian baptism, and thus we should no longer serve idols because we have been baptized into, or immersed into life with, Christ. The context of 1 Corinthians 10 as a whole really deals with not making religion an idol ESPECIALLY Christian symbols (the latter verses allude to communion).
Perhaps the most important summary point is that disciple makers should always present the option to obey the call to be baptized, but should not be heavy handed with it. If it is clearly explained, it is difficult to imagine why any believer would not want to join in the joy of proclaiming the Gospel in this way. Baptism should be desired by the believer, often quickly upon conversion, such as with Phillip and the Ethiopian, even directly after a presentation of the Gospel Acts 8:34-39. Don’t miss the fact that this Ethiopian had already been in a detailed study of the scriptures, a personal copy of which was not an inexpensive thing to possess in that time, and was already on a quest for the truth. So, does every believer need to be baptized? Yes, but that happens at the hands of God (Titus 3:3-7 especially v5). Disciple-makers are called into obedience to baptize the bodies of all who will come, but it is the Spirit that gives life. It is really important to note that it is more than OK to have doubts before baptism – the disciples themselves worshiped and doubted, but they also obeyed the call.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”– Matthew 28:16-20
The practice of bodily, if possible immersive, baptism should be performed by every believer. For good reason, many churches (including ours) require a believer to have been baptized at some point (whether here or somewhere else) as a requirement for membership. The reason is quite simple and practical – if someone cannot obey or publicly proclaim their faith in this way, how can they carry forward in other responsibilities of membership? However, it is not core essential when matters of actual physical life and death are clearly at stake; consider the jailer in Acts 16. While it is likely that he and his household were eventually baptized, the text is silent on the timing and details, but if he had died that night his salvation would not have been in question for the disciples that told him to simply “believe”. Therefore, one does not have to be baptized to be saved, but one must be saved before they are baptized – otherwise they are just taking a bath! (Remember 1 Peter 3, above.)
Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” – Acts 16:30-31
We recognize that there is only one baptism, just as there is only one death and resurrection. The person doing the baptism does not appear to matter all that much (certainly it is not a “priestly only” duty) and the place or congregation you were baptized in is irrelevant to the fact that there is only one Church anyway, with Christ as the head. Compare (Eph 4:4-6; 1 Cor 1:13-15; 1 Cor 12:13)
We also recognize that the new man comes from the work of God in us, having been raised with Christ in the present tense. Christ is the fullness of God, so not outward act (like circumcision) forces God to grant us forgiveness, but because of this the act of baptism recognizes what Christ has done. Because his act of obedience was complete, and only because of who He is, we are then fully forgiven and free not because of our act but his. Baptism, then, is a response of worship that proclaims Christ.
Consider: Col 2:9-14; Gal 3:23-29
For further research and reading, there are a whole slew of articles here:
- The Gospel Coalition, Baptism Topic Page
- Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry: Baptism Topic Page
- Christian Research Institute: Baptism Topic Page
Of course, there are innumerable articles and viewpoints on the subject, thus the scriptures should be your rule and authority. With the verses presented above, and the opportunity to address your conscience on the subject, you should make a conscious choice to obey or not. The leadership of Berean Church would be honored to help you walk that journey out, so if your questions lead you to speak with us, please let us know.
NOTE: DRAFT NOTES FROM HERE ON… These may get edited more in the future, but much has already been written on these topics in other places!
This topic does not deal with the unique circumstances of Christ’s baptism by John. Some additional scriptures and terse references are included below for self study.)
Mat 21:25-27 – Christ asks whether John’s baptism came from God or men.
Mark 1:4-8 – John the Baptist’s ministry is described as, “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” and he states that while his baptism is of water that Christ baptizes with the Holy Spirit.
Luke 7:29 – an interesting place where those who had been baptized by John also recognized his role as prophet ushering in the Christ.
Acts 10:36-39 – the early church recognized the uniqueness of Christ being baptized as the start of His ministry
Also – Acts 13:23-24
Christ baptizes with the Spirit
Links to Great Commission
Also, it is not baptism as an act that accomplishes anything, but belief and baptism are both acts of surrender available to all… consider Mark 16:16
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved…”
(note, it says whoever does not “believe” will be condemned, but is silent on baptism in the second half, which some may use to say baptism is required and others to say is the first act of obedience as a disciple)
This is the audio from a 2014 talk that John gave at UAH (to CRU) on the opening of the book of John “In the beginning was the [Logos]…”.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:1-5 (ESV)
Note from John: My study notes, typos and all, are pasted here. These are still DRAFT, but I will keep updating it a little at a time until the text below is useful – it is NOT a transcript of the audio, just my notes from preparing for the talk. Enjoy!
There is some literary evidence that the opening of John may be a creed or hymn that pre-dated the writing of John based unique words and poetic style (referring to the “stair-step” method).
We study John to build a defense of our faith to others, but more importantly to build our own foundation of faith (John 20:30-31)
I) God and His Purpose are inseparable
2) Our meaning or reason in life drives our response to life
3) We will ultimately answer the question, “What was your reason for living?”
There are three distinct thoughts in John 1:1-5:
1.1) In the beginning was the Word (ref Gen 1:1, not AFTER the beginning, but preexistent)
1.2) The Word was with God (not created, but with, together and distinct)
1.3) The Word was God (unified in the way that what we consider to be one fails to grasp)
What does John mean by “The Word”? It must be more than language. Frege said the thought is immaterial until it wraps itself in a sentence to be perceived, and in this way we can also understand God who is unseen wraps Himself in the word to become visible to us.
This particular triad centers on one very unique and loaded Greek term, Logos. So unique was this term that when the Bible was translated into Latin, they really didn’t have a term for it, so it got translated into something that basically means “word” and the English followed that tradition. But it means much more. It is the root word of Logic, it implies reason and purpose. I hope to show that it is vital for us to get that this is not just a statement of language.
Re-read John 1:1 with Reason; Purpose; Meaning; Logic; Message
In the beginning was the Reason…
In the beginning was the Meaning….
We recently talked at length about the deception of making God disappear from the equation, leaving some scientists with a bent to comment on religion and philosophy, speculating that life itself is devoid of all meaning and left only to the present tense enjoyment (albeit meaningless and temporary) of our perception of joy and beauty, which is, of course, meaningless.
But this is certainly not a modern argument, one has only to look at Eccl 1:1 to realize that modern nihilist philosophers are just plagiarizing an ancient dilemma. This is tremendously important, however, because if there is authority, then there is no line on which anything can be declared either good or bad. What is bad if there is not a definition of good? What is evil if there is no rational explanation of utopia (a place without evil); we can’t even imagine such a place, and yet we can clearly identify many aspects of life and human brokenness as wrong, unjust, evil, and bad.
During that recent talk, I mentioned that people who have removed God as Creator will tend to glorify death as the author of life. In other words, giving blond chance and the drive of a driverless natural selection makes life and intelligence the unintended byproduct of massive numbers of unplanned experiments in mutation by the unseen force (which the same folks will then say is not actually any kind of force because that would imply intent, which implies persona). Listen to this quote by Steve Jobs:
“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.”
Quite true? Has truly no one ever escaped death, and how would he know for certain? We have statistics on the side of that! The atheistic worldview glorifies death as the author of life, thus life has no purpose. Yet, devoid of a reason and meaning in life other than the work of our hands that will, according to atheistic thoughts, simply disappear in the vast expanse of eventual destruction of the universe. Steve’s closing remarks were to quote a photograph caption, “Stay hungry. Stay Foolish.”
In other words, be driven by passion and not by dogma because there is no point anyway, just be hungry and foolish because, ultimately, you die and it doesn’t really matter. This causes the foolishness and hunger to be the drive, but what of the consequences on yourself and others? Are we simply the “random colocation of atoms?” Well, it must not matter!
Sidebar: I assume that Steve Job actually meant, speaking to intellectuals, that we should be hungry and foolish with good intentions, don’t you think? He certainly would not have said the same thing to warlords in the third world, would he? To them one might say, “be disciplined, stop letting your selfish hunger drive you, and act with purpose that avoids foolishness!” But I can’t ask what he might have said to a different group of hungry foolish people.
If life really has no meaning, then the quest for answers that everyone is on is just as meaningless – the answers will end up empty and useless for filling the void of the question that is really driving us. If there is no Logos (Meaning, Reason) for life, then there is no such thing as “human rights” because “wrong” cannot be qualified as actually wrong. The reason this is such an important thing to consider, the reason that philosophers wrestle with the idea, is summed up by C.S. Lewis:
“You may still in the lowest sense, have a ‘good time’, but just in so far as it becomes very good, just in so far as it ever threatens to push you on from cold sensuality to real warmth and enthusiasm and joy, so far you will be forced to feel the hopeless disharmony between your emotions and the universe in which you think you really live.”
We can escape the discomfort of realizing there is no beauty, love, or hope because everything is dust; by not thinking about the real meaning in life we can avoid the depth of loss associated with real connection, we can ignore the gloomy feeling that death will simply wipe us away, with all our hopes and joys and fears and loves. But John says that there was meaning, even before there was life, and that meaning itself was not just preexistent, but it was with God, and it was a person, and He is God himself. To John, the message he passes on to us, is that meaning is not just some abstract thing we find in Christ but it is Christ Himself!
That’s all well and good – but how does one practically appropriate Christ as the reason into every day life? Some will just relegate it to a separate spiritual dimension (all this will pass away, leaving only the spiritual). But that is an escape, avoiding the reality that God became flesh in a world that He created. The purely spiritual world of pantheism (god is a concept that is in everything and everything is just an illusion, a common theme in Eastern religion) has no problem with meaninglessness in the physical world because it is just an illusion. C.S. Lewis (in “Mere Christianity”) puts it this way:
“Confronted with a cancer or a slum, the pantheist can say, ‘If you could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realize that this also is God.’ The Christian replies, ‘Don’t talk damned nonsense.’ For Christianity is a fighting religion. It thinks God made the world … But it also thinks that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.”
Lewis uses the term “damned nonsense” on purpose, describing the state of the world as damned and clarifying the very reason Christ had to come. Ignoring it will not make the cancer or the slum go away. This is a vain attempt to wish the slum away. Saying “there is no slum” is just nonsense, yet we do exactly that.
If the Logos is more than language (e.g. written and spoken words) then the implications are profound on our every choice. This is why grasping the term Logos is so very important, because when we make it just “word”, written expressions of thoughts, then we loose the depth of what John is saying, and I will argue what the whole of Scripture is about – expressing God’s divine purpose – not simply communicating information.
First use of the term Logos in the NT is Mat 5:32, which is quite instructive because there it takes the Greek meaning of “reason” that is lost in the English translation. It can also mean “intent” or “purpose”, such as in Acts 10:29, Peter asks, “for what logos [purpose, reason] was I sent for?”
Consider that Heb 4:12-13 implies that the Logos is a person! This was likely written before John and likely implies that Christ being called the Logos may have been understood by some prior to John’s definitive statement. If that is the case, then Christ knowing that when He spoke in Mat 13:19 means not just the sayings of God were planted, but that He himself was the seed, buried in the Earth and growing up to new life. John is saying that creation was not just about making stuff, but the reason for life itself is more than just the thing created.
Compare Gen 1:1-3 to 2 Pet 3:5 and Ps 33:6 (logos in LXX)
This personification of the Word of God is present in the Old Testament as well, such as in 2 Sam 22:31; Ps 18:30; Ps 147:15 or especially Prov 8 as Wisdom, understanding take voice in the personification of a full picture of the Creator as more than just will and power.
This lines up with the interpretation that John was speaking to the Greek Platonist, Epicurean, and Stoic use of the term, the debating philosophers who were wondering if there was any meaning [logos] to life. Tim Keller (in his book “The Reason for God”) modernizes this a bit,
“…the Epicureans and the Stoics, as different as they looked … the Stoics were real moral types, and the Epicureans were real wild types … the one thing they agreed on is the way to deal with the fact that there are no answers: don’t think about it.”
Keller goes on to use the example of a poet, who all the students can comment on the meaning of the poem and not be wrong – until the author speaks and says what the intent is, and then no one can dispute the author.
However, in the LXX, the term is regularly used as well, such as in Deuteronomy 32:45-47, where it would seem to imply that the early Christians who read the Greek LXX likely saw the Logos all throughout the OT! The term “davar” or “dabar” [H1697] is translated in the LXX often as Logos. There is another Hebrew term as well translated word, [H565], “imrah”, which refs specifically to the Torah often but generally means speech. Both terms are used extensively in Ps 119.
imrah [Ps 119:11; Ps 119:82; Ps 119:41; Ps 119:50; Ps 119:103; Ps 119:123; etc]
davar [Ps 119:9, Ps 119:17, Ps 119:25, Ps 119:28, Ps 119:42, Ps 119:57, Ps 119:81, Ps 119:101, etc]
Read carefully Ps 119:9-16, from the Hebrew Alphabet poem!
Read Ps 138:2 – One example of “imrah” that is profound in significance is seen here. God has exalted His Word even above His Name?! When one considers how seriously God takes His name throughout scripture (see the Second Commandment) this is HUGE in significance!
In fact, several decades before Christ was preaching, the Hellenistic Jew Philo was equating the Logos with the Angel of The Lord in the LXX (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logos) and Philo himself “regards the Bible as the source not only of religious revelation, but also of philosophic truth; for, according to him, the Greek philosophers also have borrowed from the Bible” (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12116-philo-judaeus#anchor8). My supposition then is John is primarily contrasting Hellenistic Jewish thought, not simply Greek Hellenistic thought, by emphasis on the literally preexistence of the Logos, John is saying that the Genesis 1 account of creation is literally true.
The reason, purpose, cause of anything is its logos, its word. It is quite a fun exercise to read scripture replacing the term “word” with “reason”, and quite reveling about how casually we have tossed around words. For example, John 8:51, do we keep the “words” of Christ, or do we go deeper and keep the reason of Christ? The term is sometimes also cast as “saying”, so replace that with “reason” in John 19:8 and see a real reason to tremble. When you overlay that onto verses like Acts 12:24, it was the purpose and intent of God that grew and multiplied, not just the words.
Luke 1:2 and Acts 1:1 also use the term, thus John is not the only book that opens that way!
Throughout all of the NT over 300 times, often as the “Word of God”.
An odd use of the term is found in Acts 14:12, where Barnabas and Paul are considered to be the gods Zeus and Hermes, the chief “logos” (speaker) of Zeus. So then, if it was common for the Greek minds to think of a logos in relationship this way, the speaker of God, then John’s rendering was highly intentional as often cited by commentators, and yet John goes further to say that this Logos was in fact there with God in the beginning and in fact was God himself and in fact made everything, the Logos is not just the reason and purpose for everything that exists, but the Creator Himself! If Christ is your Logos, then he speaks for God into your life – as we read Scripture, do we really accept the idea that Christ is actively speaking the reason and meaning of God’s plan for you directly into your life?
So let’s consider that in light of the namesake verse of Bereans, Acts 17:11, who received the Logos with all readiness of mind and then searched the Graphe (Scriptures) to see if these things were true. They received Christ, then found Him in the Scriptures. This is not about Bible study, that comes as a response to an encounter with the Logos! We receive the Logos, and then we search the Graphe!
In fact, each of us will give a logos regarding our own life, the term is rendered “account” in Rom 14:12 – does the purpose of our life align with the Logos of Christ? (also 1 Pet 4:5) Do people know the reason of God, His purpose, by looking at us? 1 Cor 1:18 says that the logos of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, not just the word of it or the preaching of it, but the very reason of it! In fact, 2 Cor 5:19 says that we are given the logos of reconciliation!
We give a reason (a logos) for the hope that is in us, 1 Pet 3:15. We must have an active purpose driving our lives, we plunge into the slum with every intent to transform it! Can someone else look at your life and determine you purpose, your reason?
I cannot help but wonder if this is why so much of scripture is also about our tongues being such a view into our hearts. Consider the expression, “to keep your word”. Do we believe God will keep His Word? Do we always keep ours? I for one am humbled particularly by God’s patience with me on this count. The scripture has much to say about the use of our tongues.
Christ says that words have much more significance than we realize: Mat 12:34-36. Now this statement in 36 is not what we might expect, for what he says is that for every idle term (rhema) we will give an account (logos) – it is the words that we give a reason for. This is also seen in the verse we looked at earlier, Heb 4:12-13, we give an “account” (logos) to God in the end. Then the words on Earth that we speak with our mouths that do not find a reason in the true Logos have been drawn from a source in our hearts that is some other logos, some false reason, some idol that was not the Creator. Going one step further, Matthew says that by your own logos [reason] (not rhema) we are justified or condemned (Mat 12:37).
Your Logos is the meaning of your life, your very purpose. What you make your Logos makes all the difference.
Last week, when we unpacked the difficulty of translating Psalm 32:5, particularly when translation the Hebrew word “Nasa” (Forgive, to bear) I mentioned posting links to the root word study for aiding in some devotional time in your private study of the Psalms. Here are those links.
Occurrences of the word “Love” in the Psalms (ESV, this will vary by translation):
Some of the key themes we talked about this past Sunday during our dialogue time are reposted here with the links. Remember, that if you use BlueLetterBible (shortcut, use blb.org) that clicking on the Book Filter on the right will give you just the Psalms. For example, here is Redeemer in the whole Hebrew OT…
…and here it is in just the Psalms, so you can narrow a search.
Most of these searches have been narrowed to just the Psalms.
Yeshua – Salvation https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H3444&t=ESV
Ahav – Love https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H157&t=ESV&bn=19#lexResults
Esher – Blessed https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H835&t=ESV&bn=19#lexResults
Checed – Mercy, Loving Kindness https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H2617&t=ESV&bn=19#lexResults
For fun, you can combine searches so that you can look at words occurring together. For example, here is “Love + Salvation” only using the exact Hebrew search it is “H157+H3444” (the word numbers are from Strong’s concordance)
Here is “Mercy + Salvation”
Here is a root of the word Salvation, “Save + Mercy”
For the broader view, to see how often a particular OT book is quoted or alluded to in the NT, check out this resource.
There is obviously a ton on this topic posted all over the net, and hundreds of books on the subject, but as always, the best resource is just looking at the cross references and reading the Bible for yourself.
This devotional is from our “God is Love” series from the sermon “The Father’s Love – The Akedah (Binding of Isaac)” See also: Genesis 21:9-12; Genesis 22:1-19; 1 John 4; Heb 11:1-19; Ps 102:20-21; Mat 3:9; Luke 16:23-31; Luke 20:37-38; John 8:48-58; Acts 3:25; Acts 7:8; Galatians 4
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. (Hebrews 11:17-19)
The writer of Hebrews refers to a “parable” (translated in many modern translations by the words “figuratively speaking”) that Isaac would be raised from the dead. Some have wondered about this in modern times because we may be unfamiliar with the Hebrew word for parable – “midrash”. There are a set of writings which are the teachings of ancient rabbis, called the Midrash, and they do indeed have interpretations of the events in Genesis 22 that Isaac would (or in some rabbis’ interpretations in fact did) experience actual death and resurrection in the Akedah (The “Binding of Isaac”). This is the first time that the word “love” appears in scripture. Abraham was promised that he would be the father of many nations through Isaac, whom he loved; so why sacrifice him?! Commentators often point out that in Abraham’s time there was a culture of child sacrifice to an idol named Molech; however, in this amazing (and to modern readers, often horrific) story of Isaac what we may miss is that God is totally doing away with child sacrifice in the new culture being established through Abraham. God is creating a new culture, one of justice, mercy, and protection for the weak. Yet God was also doing something else, he was creating a prophetic type that firmly established a principle in Jewish (and therefore in Christian) teachings: that God will keep his promises through the resurrection of the Promised One. Jewish rabbis were teaching that God is so serious about keeping his promise through Abraham that the “one who is bound*” would be freed from death. This became the benchmark for what became a “substitutionary” sacrifice, the lamb of God in place of the sinner; but only a man can pay for the crimes of a man, so these were temporary, repetitive. Scripture says that Christ came, as the Son of Promise, at precisely the right time to die in our place so that God could give you and me an inheritance, adopted in to take his place as heirs while he took our place in judgement. That is how deep the Father’s love is for us.
- What do you think about the parallels between the story of Isaac and the death of Jesus? Do you agree with the early Christian doctrine about Isaac as a prophetic type pointing forward to Jesus?
- Why do you think this is the first time God inspired “love” and “worship” to be used in scripture?
Things to Pray about:
- Pray for a deeper passion in understanding the promises of God and his love for us.
* Psalm 102:20-21,translated as a plural “prisoners” for modern readers not familiar with Jewish teaching, but is singular in the original text.
This devotional is from our “God is Love” series on Leah, “God’s Love for the Unloved”
When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.” She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon. Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore his name was called Levi. And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she ceased bearing. (Gen 29:31-35)
A few things stand out if we read the Bible without blinders; these things likely reflect a record that was not “adjusted” by later generations to polish up their past. Story touches parts of our hearts that simple reporting of facts would not; the Bible is much more than just a book of history. In Genesis 29, several of these come right out to the surface. First, the hero stories are often filled with less than favorable reflections of their characters. In the case of the origins of the 12 Tribal Patriarchs, their names and origins are attributed to the emotional struggle of two sisters in tension over who would be loved by their common husband, hardly the most favorable way to introduce the national fathers! Second, the story (among many others) paints an unfavorable light on polygamy. Also, this story shows something that almost never appeared in ancient literature – that women are also made in the image of God and that their emotions matter deeply to God. In fact, ancient literature rarely even mentions women, much less what is going on in their heart! Similarly, the ancient promotion of the first born son (called “primogeniture”) is constantly thwarted in Genesis, reflecting an honest account of how things really were, but also of how God is not subject to human institutions for His plan. In fact, women and second born sons got protection unparalleled in the ancient world. We could go on, and we should study for these things, but one final thought on this passage should resound deeply with us – God loves the unloved. In fact, the love of God for the hidden pain of the brokenhearted matters so much that, in the story of Leah, he chose an ugly, unloved, sad woman to be the torch-bearer of praise in spite of her emotional distress; we too can reach for God’s love when earthly love is unreachable. For Leah, her reaching out to God in praise has her forever recorded as the matriarch of the coming Christ. His love, you see, is eternal.
- Why do you think about Leah’s story of being unloved? How does it speak to the broken hearted?
Things to Pray about:
- Pray for God’s heart of love to be real and tangible to the lonely and the unloved.
This devotional is from our “God is Love” series from the sermon on Joseph
So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Gen 45:4-8)
The story of Joseph is a wonderful part of history, one which should be studied, retold, and woven into our cultural fabric (as it sometimes is). Like all good stories, there are twists and turns, subplots, morals, and principles such as stewardship, hard work, planning, and forgiveness. But if we only look at the story of Joseph as a literary treasure, we may miss the fact that it was woven into scripture as part of the overall story of God. In this story, the supposed death of a brother brought life to the nation, after he was sold for a few silver coins. In the end, it was the love of God through Joseph that could see the bigger plan, that it was God working through him that brought about salvation (from the famine). There are a number of ways we can see the pattern of God’s love through Joseph’s life and, as we study the character of God that desires to restore, forgive, and preserve life, we can look at the life of Joseph as a foreshadowing of God’s own son, whom he would allow to go down into the pit of Hades to save us all.
- How can we learn from Joseph’s story about the blessing of letting go of past hurts? What kind of hurts did Joseph need to overcome in order to be a wise, gracious, and effective steward of Egypt?
- Given the many family dynamics of Genesis before Joseph, what do you think about the way he is reconciled to his brothers? How is this different than other “brotherly” examples from Genesis (hint, those resulted in multiple nations – what nation did Joseph save)?
- How do forgiveness and love work together in the story of Joseph?
- What do you make of the prophetic types of the Baker and Wine Steward?
- What do you make of the story of Joseph’s empty tomb?
Things to Pray about:
- Pray for our hearts to be softened towards those who have wronged us, especially family.
- Pray for insight as we study the character of God’s love and that we would reflect His love to others; pray that we, like Joseph, would see our distress in the light of God’s love for us.
This devotional is from our “God is Love” series, from the sermon “Exodus to Grace”
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:39-47)
We have a very difficult time reconciling love and justice. We demand that the oppressed be set free, but do we demand that the oppressor be condemned? Some would see mercy, others would see retribution. We can look back at the history of Israel, particularly in the Exodus, and see justice and oppression being balanced in a way as never before in history – the nation was called to remember the poor and oppressed because they were once poor and oppressed. The justice that was demanded by the grumbling heart was one that could simply set boundaries, limits on retribution and action, but not one that could be free to extend the love that represents the character of God himself. That takes a kind of discipline that allows us to work for good, in spite of the evil done to us, and thus to follow in the steps of Christ. Freedom from the law came at a great price. God freed Israel from Pharaoh, and they expected freedom from Rome in the Messiah they awaited; Christ came to free us from our own hearts, bound in grumbling, anger, and the bondage of imperfection.
- Why do you think man struggles with power to oppress others to begin with? What is it about the human heart that causes us so often in our history to abuse power rather than use it for good?
- How does God use justice as a stop-gap to limit the authority of those in power? Does the law fix our heart, or just stop our hand?
- How is Christ “the one Moses wrote about”?
- What do you think of the New Testament interpretations of Christ as having fulfilled the types and patterns of the Old Testament?
- Do you take this as later reinterpretation or do you see you Christ was the Messiah that Israel was waiting for?
- What power does Christ follower have, really, to act out of love, rather than out of legal obligation?
Things to Pray about:
- Pray for God to free the captive, bind up the broken hearted, and bring justice through our hearts renewed in Christ and our hands set towards His will.
This devotional accompanies the sermon series “God is Love: Ruth and Our Kinsman Redeemer”
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Titus 2:11-15)
Humanity has a very difficult time reconciling the idea of poverty. Those of us who have been born into the privileged life of an American citizen, with food and shelter abundantly available even for our poorest, when we grumble and complain about our lack we can be pointed to those who live on less than $1 each day overseas and count ourselves lucky. But is our case, even when we are not in material need, really better? Our lives, even in abundance, are deeply entrenched in depression, doubt, anger, loneliness, and the kinds of pain and suffering we cannot fully put words to. These are part of the universal “human condition.” We suffer and groan under a debt that we do not understand and that we cannot pay. We are the poorest of the poor, we only mask that and numb it with material things, temporary passions, and dim hope. But real hope has come! What now if we were to truly release our hearts into a full acceptance of God’s love for us and his purchase of us? Would it not make us the most loving of all people (1 Peter 1:18-23)? If we can accept it, God will lavish his love on us in a way we could never fully comprehend but that we desperately need, for our Redeemer lives.
- What do you make of the book of Ruth, is it merely a beautiful ancient love story or do you see the pattern of God’s saving plan for mankind?
- The prophet Isaiah proclaimed God as the Redeemer, the one who would bear the iniquities of the world. There are only three possible ways to take this: Do you see this as wishful thinking to a nation in bondage, an unfulfilled prophecy so that we should wait for another, or is it fulfilled in Christ?
- How has the redeeming love of God freed us to love one another and those around us?
Things to Pray about:
- Pray for the poor, especially those without access to the basic necessities of life (food, basic health care). Pray for generosity as we approach a season of giving in the US to bring aid overseas and here at home to those in need.