David Grabbe, cautioning us to avoid using Strong's Concordance as final arbiter of the meaning of a Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic word, points out that all words have multiple meanings and consequently do not yield to the faulty "one meaning" or "exact meaning" assumption. The meaning of the noun spirit, for example, is highly variable, based on context. The meaning of the Ephesians' "losing their first love" can in one context refer to their loss of original enthusiasm, but the phrase can also refer to their gradual reprioritizing, lowering God to a less dominant position in their lives. It is improper to build a doctrine on one Scripture. We need at least two reliable Scriptures (and hopefully more) to establish any doctrine, a lesson we learn from God's standard of evidence—that any important matter must be decided "at the mouths" of at least two witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15). Strong is correct to assert that the Greek words agape or agapeo can mean in one context "social love," but sadly, because a decadent culture has distorted the concepts underlying the meaning of the noun social, Strong's definition is too general to be reliable. It is best to rely on the maxim in Proverbs 11:14: "In a multitude of counselors there is safety."
David Maas, continuing his sixth (penultimate) installment of the W's and H's of Meditation, returns to the topic of Scripture memorization as an integral part of meditation—the necessary fuel in the absence of an electronic or paper Bible. The admonition to remember is one of the most dominant themes in both the Old and New Testaments. Jesus' brother James has taught us that the most important spiritual agronomy and horticultural project we can engage in is the cultivation of our minds, submitting to the implanted word which can save our souls. When we plant the Word of God into our nervous systems, we are ensuring that the genotype (the earnest payment of His Holy Spirit) grows into a mature spiritual phenotype (the glorified spiritual body we will have at our resurrection). By investing in a mere 15-20 minutes per day, we can stockpile entire books of the Bible, providing the precious nutrients or plant food to ensure an abundant crop of the Fruits of Righteousness—the mature fruit of God's Holy Spirit.
David C. Grabbe: Years ago, I had a discussion with a man whom I had known for quite some time, so we generally knew where the other stood on various religious topics. ...
Martin Collins, focusing on the designation of six cities of refuge in Exodus 21:12-13, finds a spiritual parallel outlined in God's annual Holy days, beginning with Christ as a refuge for us in the Passover and our making a refuge for others during the Feast of Tabernacles. The institution of cities of refuge, havens for those who have committed unintentional manslaughter, highlights the great importance God placed on the sanctity of life, especially in beings created in God's image. In the Ancient world, where blood revenge was widely practiced; a large number of people died violently. The cities of refuge prefigure Christ's final refuge from death, protecting us from Satan's murderous intentions. The elders of the city, Levitical priests, trained to counsel individuals in the ways of God, would examine the weapons used in the killing and would investigate the history of prior relationships between the killer and the victim in order to determine whether the verdict of manslaughter or murder be handed down. If the seeker of refuge were exonerated, he was confined to the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest, at which time he could return home. When Christ, our High Priest, died for our sins, we were set free and allowed to reconcile with our Heavenly Father. Besides providing refuge for the twelve tribes of Israel, these cities became a refuge for non-Israelites who had killed another person unintentionally. The cities of refuge did not provide protection for premeditated murderers, unlike the bogus 'sanctuary cities' created by liberal progressives, which protect law-breakers and felons instead of protecting the innocent. The code of law in God's sanctuary cities is universal, not one set of standards for one ethnic group and one for another. Christ is our place of safety; we have refuge in Him at all times. The names of these cities all represent aspects of Christ's character. For example, Kedesh signifies setting apart as holy (Passover) while Golan represents joy and dancing in the Millennium.
Richard Ritenbaugh, asserting that there is far more corroboration of evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ and his life experiences than that regarding Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar, lampoons the smug, self-important 'scholars' who craft contorted, mind-bending, absurd theories of supposedly more believable explanations for the "impossible" resurrection of Christ. Tacitus and the Talmud, both highly respected non-Biblical sources, corroborate the veracity of the events of the Crucifixion. Nevertheless, crackpot theories abound, attempting to explain away this event, including: (1) the women, confused about direction, went to the wrong tomb, (2) the disciples stole the body and then claimed He was resurrected, (3) the disciples colluded on a bogus deception, (4) someone else died on the cross in His place, and (5) the whole event of the crucifixion, as well as the multiple occasions in which He talked to people, was a powerful mass hallucination, (6) Jesus was not really dead but preserved Himself with a drug-induced coma, allowing Him to later escape from the tomb. Pilate, the Centurion, and Joseph of Arimathea all corroborated the stark reality of Christ's death. The precautions Pilate took to seal the tomb refutes any notion of the disciples stealing the body. The vast number of eye witnesses precludes any notion of a hoax or collusion on the part of fanatic followers. The once timid followers of Christ were emboldened by His resurrection, and were now willing to put their lives on the line. Twenty-seven separate documents—the books of the New Testament—provide evidence of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, providing far more evidence than the minimum required in a court of law. All of this testimony gives us confidence and hope of a resurrection for us as well.
A common scriptural refrain—and especially in the book of Deuteronomy—is God's admonishment to be careful to observe His commands. Pat Higgins applies the principle of being careful to observe to two verses that have great significance to us as we near the end of the age, as our carefulness in living by God's every word may have life-or-death consequences.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the verdict of the macabre case in North Carolina, in which a couple had been collecting welfare benefits for an adopted daughter who had been mysteriously missing for two years, concludes that Judge Thomas Schroeder acted within the principles of biblical law, even though the majority of the citizenry would have liked to see the parents executed. Physical evidence failed to convict these scoundrels of anything more than welfare fraud. Real justice can only be based on the truth, potentially dangerous to the perpetrator or the victim. Though the Old and New Testament are complementary to one another, with the apostles directly quoting from the prophets, establishing Jesus Christ's Messianic identity, the emphasis of justice in the New Testament switches from national to personal in scope, from the nation of Israel to the Israel of God (the Church). The New Testament builds on and amplifies the Old Testament. Jesus magnifies the Law, fusing external motor behavior (or deeds) with internal psychological motivation. All sin begins as thought. Matthew 5: 17-20 encapsulates Christ's change in approach, taking the elementary literalist approach of the Pharisees into the real heart of the matter, focusing on what could and should be done on the Sabbath as opposed to what cannot be done. From the New Testament applications amplifying Old Testament principles, we find legal tenets practiced consistently in Israelitish countries, such as the need for two or three witnesses, protection against mob rule, penalties for frivolous lawsuits and hasty litigation, the principle of recompense and equity, conflict of interest considerations, separation of church and state, penalties against collusion, legitimate use of civil rights, and judicial clearing. While we are still learning the ropes of godly judging, we are commanded to refrain from presumptuously passing or executing judgment until Christ gives us our credentials.
Richard Ritenbaugh, describing a horrific case of child abuse occurring in Pennsylvania in 2012, and the judge's decision as to its resolution, eliciting a mixed review of condemnation and approval, asks us, as future judges in God's Kingdom, if we have the biblical savvy to come to an equitable judgment. Are we ready, at this stage in our spiritual growth, to apply chapter and verse all the biblical principles that apply in this case. In the last message, Richard Ritenbaugh enumerated seven such principles: (1) All authority for law and justice resides in God, (2) the breaking of any law incurs a penalty, (3) sinful actions have inherent cause-and-effect consequences, (4) God has relegated the execution of judgment to constituted authority, (5) everyone is equal under the law, (6) everyone must obey the same laws, and (7) jurisdictions should organize courts in a hierarchical manner to handle cases of increasing difficulty. In this sermon, Richard Ritenbaugh expands his enumeration of principles of godly jurisprudence. The principles of justice in Exodus 21:22-27, sometimes simplified to the "eye for eye' principle or lex talionis, that the punishment should fit the offence , has been applied differently from culture to culture, with the Muslims applying it literally, chopping off a hand of a thief, while the Israelitish cultures apply the principle of proportional or monetary restitution. Jesus Christ applied a much higher standard in the Sermon on the Mount, based upon mercy and forgiveness—a standard that not even His followers, burdened with human nature, can yet attain. The monetary penalties prescribed by Old Testament law were intended to serve as deterrents to crime, as were the stern laws imposed on false witnesses and any form of perjury. Mob or vigilante behavior was outlawed, as well as partiality in judgment and bribery. The judge, in the interest of truth, had to have the intestinal fortitude and the strength to withstand the pressures of errant public opinion. God's judicial system purp
In concluding this series, Richard Ritenbaugh explains that before the Beast kills the Two Witnesses, they will have accomplished their work. Revelation 11:7-14 contrasts the Beast (a disciple of Satan) and Christ's Two Witnesses, showing stark diametrical contrasts between righteousness and defilement. The 'great city' where they die must be Jerusalem (called in this context 'Sodom' and 'Egypt' for its sinfulness and ungodliness). Humanity, totally given over to carnality, will feel short-lived relief at the Witnesses' death—whom they consider to be tormentors—but stark terror at their resurrection, when 7,000 are exterminated, perhaps many of whom are prominent supporters of the Beast. The glorification of the Two Witnesses will follow the pattern of Jesus Christ.
Richard Ritenbaugh reiterates that the Two Witnesses seem to have carte blanche authority from God to annihilate those who interfere with their work as well as power over weather patterns and natural elements in the spirit, power, and manner of Elijah and Moses. These miracles dramatize just how far mankind has turned from God. The lack or pollution of water signifies the lack or the defilement of God's Holy Spirit. The pattern of two witnesses (God often works in pairs) was established as a precedent from the very beginning (Genesis 1:26; Deuteronomy 19:15), and is repeated many times throughout the scriptures.
What is a witness? Martin Collins shows how the term was used in both Old and New Testaments. He also briefly covers the Two Witnesses and the everyday witness of a Christian.
The law says a matter is established out of the mouth of two or three witnesses. Charles Whitaker contends this can also be two different trips or appearances by the same person. The second coming of Christ will be a second witness, and the same kinds of people will either accept or reject Him. Into which of these groups do you fit?
In this sermon, John Ritenbaugh expounds the symbolism of the blood as a witness in I John 5:6. Blood atonement, referenced 427 times in the Bible, dramatically magnifies the seriousness God places on the consequences of sin. Only blood can atone for sin (Leviticus 17:11, Hebrews 9:22). No forgiveness of sin is possible without death. We dare not minimize or trivialize the impact or consequences of our sins. Forgiveness is not a casual matter with God. The pain of seeing the mangling of His Son's body makes forgiveness a most anguishing and sobering matter. The blood of Christ, a propitiation or appeasing force, the only means to satisfy God's pure sense of justice, is a testimony of God's intense love for us. This willingness to sacrifice needs to be incorporated in our relationship with our brethren (I John 4:10-11).
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