Friday, June 5, 2015

On “Loving your neighbor as yourself”

Whenever we as Christians are speaking out against the sins of this world or are trying to engage in worldview discussions, we often have an attempt to shut us down with a saying of Jesus. A saying that, to be honest, is a wonderful example of how we as believers should try to live our lives.

It is an almost universal attempt to turn the tide of a debate and force the Christian to stumble or not know how to respond. For example, there is a current discussion over how we as society in general (and Christians specifically, for my purposes) should treat and love people who are living their lives in direct opposition to how God “created them male and female”. Specifically, if a man chooses to “identify” himself as a woman the Christian is simply told that “Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself”. That is framed in such a way that if we disagree with the statement we are unloving and do not deserve a seat at the table. End of discussion – the Bible-believing Christian is simply unloving.

While this is an amazing statement of Jesus, there is more to it!

In the 12th chapter of the book of Mark, some religious leaders of the day were asking Jesus what the greatest commandment is. Jesus’ response is where we are often sent during times of pointing out the sins of others’ lifestyles. Jesus said:
Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord;and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (emphasis mine)
We are to love. That’s what Jesus said we should do. Yes! “They will know us by our love” is how the Holy Spirit directed John to write it. Fortunately for us as believers, there is more to this command. We call it “context”. Jesus was was quoting from the single passage in the Old Testament that has this phrase. (He as the “Word” inspired it in the first place and he’s re-quoting it in The Gospels).

This quote from Jesus came from Leviticus 19:18 where we read “you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.” However, I still haven’t gotten to the “there’s more” part. This section from Leviticus (specifically chapters 18-20) are, quite frankly, shunned and mocked by today’s society. But this is what Jesus is quoting. This is where His mind was focused. One cannot isolate Jesus’ words in The Gospels from the context of Leviticus 19.

It is actually a wonderful chapter with exhortations to not oppress your neighbor. We’re told not to be unjust or slander, etc… But in the verse right before what is supposedly the most powerful statement that Jesus ever made (at least as it’s often used to shut down discussions) to “love your neighbor as yourself” we read this.
‘You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. (emphasis mine)
Ahh! But there’s the rub. In the same section that we originally read to love our neighbors, we are told that we may surely reprove our neighbors! When the neighbors we love as ourselves are not following the best path that God has for their lives, we may (and should!) reprove them. Correct them. “Rebuke your neighbor frankly” is what we are told.

But why? So that we “shall not incur sin because of him”.

If you are reading this and you are fond to cite Jesus’ citation of Leviticus 19:18 please understand that it must be framed in the context of Leviticus 19:17. You cannot expect that the “conservative” Christian should pick and choose what to believe. The discussion should move beyond cherry-picked Bible verses without considering the context of the verse, chapter, book, and Bible as a whole.

Most of us do try to love our neighbors as ourselves and we understand that along with that comes loving them in such a way that includes reasoning and rebuking them when necessary. With love.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Last Blog Post Here

Just letting all of my loyal readers - lol - know that I will no longer be making new posts on this Blogspot blog.

New posts will be on a WordPress-based site running on a vm at my house. :) That's over at This site will be where I post about personal items, books, and Christianity.

The feed for that blog is:

And for those of you interested in Lotus articles, I will still be posting over at BleedYellow.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Something You Don't Want to Miss From The Dead Sea Scrolls

I heard someone speaking about this on a podcast and thought I would look it up for myself. At one point in Church History, before the Dead Sea Scrolls were found beginning in 1947 and subsequently translated, it was thought that Gabriel's description to Mary of Jesus (Luke 1:32) was not an Aramaic phrase but was rather Graeco-Roman.
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, (Luke 1:32, ESV)
Before the Scrolls, there was not much evidence to refute this claim. The "problem", as detractors would state, was either that Luke was inserting language into what the angel would have said to Mary or that the Gospel was simply written at a much later date and the later language was used.

However, in manuscript # 246 found in Cave 4 at Qumran (known as 4Q246), we read this, according to the translation I have at home:
"[Also his son] will be called The Great, and be designated by his name. He will be called the Son of God, they will call him the son of the Most High." (1)
First of all, this would have been written by the Jewish sect sometime before 150 B.C. This would definitely not be Graeco-Roman language. This is yet another reason the Scrolls have proven beneficial to Christianity in relation to historical and textual "issues." Secondly, this is NOT a Qumran text that is about their expected Messiah, or Man of Righteousness. It is actually more likely a text about some type of coming Anti-christ who would not be a religious figure but rather from a conquering army.


(1) The Dead Sea Scrolls, A New Translation by Wise, Abegg, and Cook. 1996, page 269

Thursday, February 21, 2013

An Adventure In Romans, Part 6 - Charles Hodge (Chapters 9-12)

Following are some quotes from Charles Hodge's Commentary on Paul's Letter to the Romans. These are quotes that stood out to me as I have been reading through this commentary. This only covers chapters 9-12. Some background to this is posted here. I think most of the quotes are self-explanatory, but please comment if you have any questions.

The plan of salvation by faith does not require us to do what cannot be done and which is now unnecessary; it does not require us to provide a Saviour, to bring him down from heaven, or to raise him from the dead. A Saviour has been provided, and we are now required to believe.- Charles Hodge on Romans 10:6-7

It is very important to know what the Bible teaches both about the object and the nature of saving faith That object is Christ, and saving faith is trust. He is so complete a Saviour as to be able to save all who come to God through him; and therefore everyone who trusts in him will not he put to shame.
- Charles Hodge on Romans 10:11

It is obvious that foreseen works are excluded as much as any other. For a choice based on the foresight of good works is really made because of works as much as any choice can be, and consequently is not of grace in the sense asserted by the apostle.
- Charles Hodge on Romans 11:6

The apostle, having finished his description of the plan of redemption and presented clearly the doctrine of justification, sanctification, the certainty of salvation for all believers, election, the calling of the Gentiles, the present rejection and final restoration ot the Jews, in view of all the wonders and all the glories of the divine dealings with men, pours out this sublime and moving tribute to the wisdom, goodness, and sovereignty of God. Few passages, even in the Scriptures, can be compared with this for the power with which it presents the idea that God is all and man is nothing.- Charles Hodge on Romans 11:33-36

Whatever gratitude the soul feels for pardon, purity, and the certain prospect of eternal life is called on to ensure its consecration to that God who is the author of all of these mercies.
- Charles Hodge on Romans 12:1

Believers are to share in everything, because they are all members of the body of Christ. The members of the same body have the same interests, feelings, and destiny. The joy or sorrow of one member is the joy or sorrow of all the others. The necessities of one are, or should be, a common burden.
- Charles Hodge on Romans 12:13

Thursday, February 7, 2013

An Adventure In Romans, Part 5 - WH Griffith Thomas (Chapters 9-12)

Following are some quotes from WH Griffith Thomas's Commentary on Paul's Letter to the Romans. These are quotes that stood out to me as I have been reading through this commentary. This only covers chapters 9-12. Some background to this is posted here. I think most of the quotes are self-explanatory, but please comment if you have any questions.

The clay of human life can be moulded by surrender; it can also he marred by disobedience; and above all it can be made by obedience. Those two truths, God's Sovereignty and Man's Responsibility, are to be believed firmly, held tenaciously, proclaimed fully, and our life is to be lived in the light thereof.
- WH Griffith Thomas on Romans 9:19-29

He asks for trust even though He does not explain, and the result of our trust in Him is that we are not put to shame. Faith gives insight and foresight. Faith gives fearlessness and fortitude. Faith uplifts and transforms life. Faith brings salvation and satisfaction. Faith inspires life and elicits hope. Faith gives value to all problems and mysteries in life. Faith gives victory over all the conflicts of life.

- WH Griffith Thomas on Romans 9:30-33

When a man comes to realize that life demands righteousness he can proceed along one of three ways: (1) He may endeavor to restore himself; or (2) to rest upon the mercy of God; or (3) endeavor to blend the two methods and divide the work between God and himself. But he very soon comes to see that the second course is the only possible one. He cannot remove the guilt of his own past, for God only can do this. Nor can man guarantee his own efforts the absolute perfection of righteousness in regard to character and conduct. Hence it is wholly impossible for him to be saved, unless he is willing to saved in God's way.

- WH Griffith Thomas on Romans 10:1-4

This twofold emphasis on heart and mouth is important; the mouth without the heart might be hypocrisy, while the heart without the mouth might be cowardice.
- WH Griffith Thomas on Romans 10:9-10

We trust people by knowing them. The longer we spend with our Bible in getting acquainted with God, the stronger, more practical, and more blessed will our faith be.
- WH Griffith Thomas on Romans 10:17

There is no goodness in things evil, and God can never bring good out of evil, because there is no good in it to bring out. What God does is bring good to pass instead of evil.
- WH Griffith Thomas on Romans 11:11-16

"Saved to serve." God's chosen men are His "choice" men, and all through Scripture His choice men do not lie on "flowery beds of ease" but endure hard, sometimes sacrificing on behalf of others. We must never forget this.
- WH Griffith Thomas on Romans 9-11

The grace that saves has already been established as the foundation principle of salvation, and this is necessarily the ground of all Christian consecration and morality. It is because we are already recipients of the mercies of God that we must and can live the true life. We work from, not for salvation. The should that is united to Christ by faith is ready to learn and to do its duty, for the simple but sufficient reason that it knows it can appropriate without reserve the marvelous resources of Divine grace.
- WH Griffith Thomas on Romans 12:1-2

Humility is the direct effect of consecration, because pride is, and ever has been, the great enemy of true righteousness. Even the Apostle in making this appeal expresses his own true Christian lowliness, for he speaks "through the grace that was given."
- WH Griffith Thomas on Romans 12:3

If only the spirit of preference for others, and determination to sink our own position and reputation had been more in evidence in the Christian Church, what differences it would have made in individual and corporate life.
- WH Griffith Thomas on Romans 12:10

Sunday, December 23, 2012

An Excellent John Piper Book I Read Recently

A couple of weeks ago, I finished reading Jesus: The Only Way to God--Must You Hear the Gospel to be Saved? by John Piper on my Kindle app (have I said I love reading on my tablet?).

This book was an enjoyable read, and at only 123 pages isn't very lengthy. Piper gets to his points backing them up with scripture. Below are jsut some of the 29 passages I highlighted in the book. Here's a link to them all (if you have an Amazon account, you can login and see my highlights).

Though this quote is at the end of the book, I will put it first so that you will have an idea of what Piper's argument is in this book:
I have tried to answer three questions with arguments and illustrations from the Bible: Is there an eternal hell of conscious torment to be rescued from? Answer: Yes (Chapter 2). Is the death and resurrection of Christ essential for that rescue? Answer: Yes (Chapter 3). And do people need to hear this good news and believe it in order to be rescued? Answer: Yes (Chapters 4-7).
Many believe that the Bible is something that enslaves us and that without it we may be free. Piper asserts, correctly, just the opposite:
If we are cut loose from the anchor of God’s Word, we will not be free. We will be slaves of personal passions and popular trends.
Here, Piper is showing us the positive aspects of being rescued from hell as well as pointing out those blessed things which the lost will not have.
Implicit in the rescue from hell is the experience of praising God forever, and loving people forever, and enjoying creation forever, and creating beauty forever. All of this will be lost by everyone that the good news of Jesus does not reach. So what is at stake in diminishing the universal necessity of the gospel is the everlasting pleasures of people personally praising God, loving others, enjoying God’s creation, and creating beauty. This is what people lose by not hearing and believing the gospel of Jesus.
Perhaps one of the best brief explanations of Romans 5:
As the sin of Adam leads to condemnation for all humanity that are united to him as their head, so the obedience of Christ leads to righteousness for all humanity that are united to him as their head—“those who receive the abundance of grace” (Romans 5:17).
The following quotes are related to the question of whether people can be Christians by either (1) ignorantly worshiping God, (2) never hearing the gospel, or (3) believing in Jesus but never knowing His name:
(1) And we will see that even when there is some knowledge of the true God (as in the case of Cornelius in Acts 10), the worship of the true God “ignorantly” is not a saving act.

(2) N
otice that the message itself is essential. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation.

If one is saved by Jesus incognito, one does not speak of being saved by his name.
In response to devoutly following one's own convictions but not having saving faith, Piper relates to us when and with whom the gospel began:
The gospel got its start among the most devout people in the world at that time—the Jews. They had more advantages in knowing God than any of the other peoples of the earth. Yet they were told again and again: Devoutness and works of righteousness and religious sincerity do not solve the problem of sin. The only hope is to believe on Jesus
And there is hope because God still has a people to call His own!
And he will now gather in all those among the nations who are called by his name! It is his new work! All those who are predestined will be called (Rom. 8:30). All those who are foreordained to eternal life will believe (Acts 13:48). All those who are ransomed will be gathered from every people under heaven (Rev. 5:9). God himself is the chief agent in this new movement, and he will take out a people for his name among the nations (Acts 15:14).  
Finally, we as believers must take this to heart and be convicted to reach the lost for Christ!
Charles Hodge is right that “the solemn question, implied in the language of the apostle, HOW CAN THEY BELIEVE WITHOUT A PREACHER? should sound day and night in the ears of the churches.” 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Some thoughts on how we read the Bible

While chapter and verse numbers are wonderful, I have to wonder if perhaps we turn them into stopping points when they shouldn't be?

For instance, let's look at Isaiah 5 and 6 starting with that wonderful passage in chapter 6.

Isaiah 6:4-8 ESV

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for." And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."

So we have an idea here that Isaiah feels unclean, especially now that he has seen The Lord. Specifically he knows that his lips are unclean and an angel cleanses him. Then that great question is asked "who will go for us?" and Isaiah answers the call.

Overall that isn't a bad interpretation of the passage and it conveys a sufficient meaning for us. But what if we take just a broader look at the context? What just happened?

In chapter 5, the Lord states to Isaiah that He will destroy his vineyard, which is Israel. Then God calls down "woes" upon 6 groups of wicked people. These are those who hoard property, who seek drunkenness, who call evil good. These are people that the Lord says he will strike down and against whom he will show his anger. (Isaiah 5:24-25)

It is against this backdrop that Isaiah had his heavenly vision in chapter 6. After seeing the importance of the preceding woes it is all the more obvious that Isaiah feels completely undone after he brings another woe upon himself. It isn't just some light feeling of sorrow as we now understand.

You can read more around these chapters to get a better idea as to what else may be happening, but this is a good start.

As I began with in this post, I do think that we sometimes miss out on details that are important when we may isolate our reading to chapter breaks. It all really boils down to the importance of context when reading our Bible. This is just something I've been thinking about some recently and may have to integrate into my daily reading. I would encourage you to also take some extra time to do the same.

God bless you!