Binding and Loosing

I’m enjoying some thoughts from a Greek Grammar by William Mounce called “Basics of Biblical Greek” (Zondervan 2003). A quote in that work is as follows…

“In some translations of Matthew 18:18, it sounds like Jesus promised His disciples that whatever they bound on earth would be bound in heaven, and whatever they loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven. In other words, they had the power to bind and loose, and Heaven (i.e. God) would simply back up their decrees. But the matter is not quite so simple; the actions described in heaven are future perfect passives-which could be translated “will have already been bound in heaven… will have already been loosed in heaven.” In other words, the heavenly decree confirming the earthly one is based on a prior verdict.

This is the language of the law court. Jewish legal issues were normally decided in Jesus’ day by elders in the synagogue community (later by rabbis). Many Jewish people believed that the authority of Heaven stood behind the earthly judges when they decided cases based on a correct understanding of God’s law. (This process came to be called “binding and loosing.”) Jesus’ contemporaries often envisioned God’s justice in terms of a heavenly court; by obeying God’s law, the earthly court simply ratified the decrees of the heavenly court. In Matthew 18:15-20, Christians who follow the careful procedures of verses 15-17 may be assured that they will act on the authority of God’s court when they decide cases.

Just as we struggle to affirm absolutes in a relativist culture, Christians today sometimes wonder how to exercise discipline lovingly against a sinning member of the church. In this text, Jesus provides an answer: when the person refuses to turn from sin after repeated loving confrontation, the church by disciplining the person simply recognizes the spiritual reality that is already true in God’s sight.

– Craig S. Keener

The Word Became Flesh

I’m enjoying some thoughts from a Greek Grammar by William Mounce called “Basics of Biblical Greek” (Zondervan 2003). A quote in that work is as follows. Sit back and take it in… and worship.

A casual first-century reader of the fourth gospel’s prologue (John 1:1-18) would have little difficulty understanding John’s description of the Logos (Word). As a concept it was simple enough. Logos was the intelligible law of things. The Logos of God was God’s transcendent rationality that gave the universe order and purpose. A Hellenized Jew would quickly reach for a volume of wisdom literature explaining that God’s wisdom, His word (or logos), provided the universe with its form and coherence. As such the Logos of God was foreign to human ways, above us and distant from us, guiding us from afar.

John 1:14, on the other hand, would make any such reader pause in stunned silence. “And the Word became flesh (sarx) and dwelt among us.” Sarx is the earthly sphere, the arena of human decisions and emotions, human history, and human sinfulness (cf. John 1:13; 3:6; 17:2, etc.). John 1:14 contains the risk, the scandal, and the gospel of the Christian faith: the Logos became sarx. The center of God’s life and thought entered the depths of our world and took up its form, its sarx, its flesh, in order to be known by us and to save us.

This affirmation about logos and sarx is the very heart of our faith. God has not abandoned us. No lowliness, no misery, no sinfulness is beyond God’s comprehension and reach. He came among us, embraced our world of sarx in His incarnation, and loved us. It is easy enough to say that God loves the world (John 3:16). But to say that God loves me, in my frailty and my faithlessness–that He loves sarx–this is another matter. This is the mystery and the power of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

– Gary M. Burge

113. Who is Mary?

A little girl asked me recently, “Is Mary God?”

It sickens me to think that churches today could be giving this impression to little children like this one. Of course, these churches are likely not saying Mary is God. That’s not in their creeds or statements of faith. Yet I know enough to know that actions may speak louder than words, and churches of today treat Mary like a god. This little girl’s question may be evidence for that. From what I have witnessed and heard, Mary is often worshiped, prayed to, and revered in churches of today, even over the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. How tragic! People are placing their faith in a woman who has no greater power or authority than you or me, rather than in the all-powerful, all-wise Creator and Savior of the world! They stand upon ancient tradition rather than the infallible, eternal Word of the living God. It is this Word that tells us who Mary really was. She was Jesus’ mother, who gave birth to the Christ as a virgin. She was godly, but not perfect. She acknowledged her need for a Savior, and that all generations would call her blessed. Blessed by who? We see she was blessed by God to have the great privilege of bringing Jesus into this world. This is the highest honor the Holy Scriptures give to Mary: she is called “favored” and “blessed.”

What words did Mary speak about Jesus? She told some servants at a wedding, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2:5). What did Jesus say about Mary, when she was wanting to speak to Him and the crowds were all around Him? He said, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? …whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:48-50 ESV). The Lord didn’t exult His mother above others; rather he emphasized the importance of our relationship with God over physical relationships, including the relationship to His earthly mother.

Oh world, wake up! You stand upon sinking sand, all you who pray to a Mary who cannot save or give you help. Come to Jesus, and live!

Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 ESV).

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1Timothy 2:5-6 ESV)

41. The New Covenant

A new year is already here, and I am reminded of the New Covenant that God has established based on the death of His beloved Son.

Here are a few thoughts from Mr. Bruce Rodgers that I have enjoyed, taken from his notes on 2 Corinthians 3:7-18.

Contrasting features of the
Old and New Covenants

Old Covenant New Covenant
1) ‘of the letter’; on tables of stone 1) of the Spirit, on fleshy tables of the heart.
2) a ministration of death – the letter killeth 2) a ministration of the Spirit – giving life
3) a ministration of condemnation 3) ministration of righteousness (imputed righteousness)
4)  Transitory – ‘abolished’ 4) Permanent – ‘remains’
5) Face of Moses – a passing glory 5) Face of Jesus Christ – eternal glory of God
6) A veil – upon the face and the heart.
The glory was not transmitted to people
6) A mirror – both face and heart – to receive and reflect glory (3:18; 4:6)
7) Minds blinded or hardened; unchanged… 7) ‘We…are changed into the same image…’

The Old came in glory, yet could only bring death and condemnation;
The New began with a death, which results in justification, life, and eternal glory.

From notes on Hebrews 8:8
…The LORD takes upon Himself the initiative and responsibility for the new covenant.  It is to be dependent only upon Himself for its terms and fulfillment.  Not the repeated, ‘I will…’  As Rom.9-11 unfolds, there is hope for Israel only in the sovereign mercy of God, for they have forfeited every promise of blessing under the terms of the first covenant.  Note that the word ‘new’(kainos) here means new in character, different in principle, than the first covenant.  In other places the word ‘new’(neos) means young, fresh, not old and decaying (ch.12:24; 2 Cor.3:6)

Is the church included in the New Covenant, or does it only have to do with Israel? Mr. Rodgers believes the church is included, and I agree (though some do not); there is general agreement that believers in this age at least enter into the blessings of the New Covenant. For an in-depth discussion on this topic, just send us an email.

May the Lord encourage us to remember His gracious ways with us and may we seek to love and honor Him in the year to come, as we await our Lord’s eminent return.

30. The Deity of Christ

The following varies in style and content from my usual but I thought it well worthwhile to share it with you.

Seven Biblical references that clearly and plainly reveal the deity of Jesus Christ:

# 1- Hebrews 1:10
The fact that Jesus is Jehovah was really made clear to me, like a revelation, one night through the words of Hebrews 1:10. This verse unmistakably says Jesus Christ is the Creator (elsewhere found in the NT such as in Colossians 1 and John 1:3, which in itself confirms His deity), and the word “Lord” here is “Jehovah” in the Old Testament in the verse from which this quote comes. We must go to the Old Testament for the word Jehovah because the New Testament does not have a specific word for this Name which distinguishes the Triune God apart from all others.

# 2- John 1:1
The following statement was made by the well-known Greek scholar Bill Mounce and chair of the English Standard Version translation committee (who also has written books teaching Greek):

In brief, its emphatic position [theos, the word for God, is written first] stresses its essence or quality: “What God was, the Word was” is how one translation brings out this force. Its lack of a definite article [“the” before God] keeps us from identifying the person of the Word (Jesus Christ) with the person of “God” (the Father). That is to say, the word order tells us that Jesus Christ has all the divine attributes that the Father has; lack of the article tells us that Jesus Christ is not the Father. John’s wording here is beautifully compact!”… Jesus Christ is God and has all the attributes of the Trinity. All this is concisely affirmed in “kai theos ein ha logos”.

He goes on to explain it again in another way, demonstrating the significance of the order of the words. John 1:1 reads in order: “and God was the Word”. If it were “kai ha logos ein ha theos” [and the Word was the God] it would mean the Word was God the Father. If it were “kai ha logos ein theos” [and the word was [no article] God], it would mean “and the word was a god”.

(from Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, Second edition, Zondervan, 2003, P27-28. Please excuse my transliteration if it is not proper. He used the Greek characters.)

So we do indeed have another clear statement in Scripture regarding the deity of Christ.

# 3- Philippians 2:6
“who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (ESV)Here we read that Jesus Christ is equal with God.

Satan said,
Isa 14:14 “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”
and for this was condemned to hell forever. If Jesus Christ were not God’s Son and truly God, Philippians 2:6 could not have been written. Philippians goes on to say that God has highly exalted His Son above all others. This could not be apart from the fact that He is God’s eternal Son. The place the New Testament gives to the Son could not be given to anyone other than one who is equally divine with Him. The idea of another taking the preeminence along side God is foreign to the Bible (Col. 1:15-19).

# 4- John 12:41
“These things said Esaias [Isaiah], when he saw His glory, and spake of him.”
This may not be as plain as the other three, but I think it is plain enough. The “His” here is best understood to be the glory of the Lord Jesus. Isaiah 6, from which the quotation in verse 40 comes, refers to Jehovah.

# 5- John 20:28
“And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.” [ha kurios mou kai ha theos mou, “the Lord of me and the God of me”]
The doctrine of the Trinity did not come to be little by little over time. Thomas expressed it right there after His resurrection. The Lord expressed it in John 11:25 when He stated “I Myself am the resurrection and the life…” and Martha acknowledged: “Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” (v27, ESV)

# 6- Revelation 1:8,11-18
Rev 1:8 “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”
This verse without question refers to God.

Rev 1:17-18  And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:  I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
These verses without question refer to Christ.
Who else but God is the first and the last?

# 7- Revelation 5:11-14
Rev 5:11-14  And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;  Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.  And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.
Rev 19:10 affirms God is the only one to be worshipped. The Lamb here is given equal worship to the One sitting upon the throne (God the Father).

Old Testament:
An Old Testament reference linking the Father and Son as God I believe is Isaiah 49:7, and note the other references to “Holy One” in Isaiah. Then compare these to how Christ is revealed in the New Testament.

Isaiah 9:6 ESV “and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty GodEverlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

The Son is revealed in the New Testament, and links to the Old from the New reveal the deity of Christ in the Old Testament, as explained above.

We must take the plain testimony of Scripture even when it does not make sense to us. Jesus Christ took a body and took on humanity, but His body was apart from sin and was made in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom 8:3). He is not said to be of the seed of Adam, but God promises the victory of the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15. The curse came through Adam, not the woman’s seed. Nor was Christ an ordinary man: He was conceived of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20). None other could say, “I am the root and the descendant of David” (Rev. 22:16 ESV): both David’s originator and descendant.

The marvel of eternity is that God showed true love in taking the place of His own creation when we sinned and rebelled against Him, the Creator of all things. Jesus Christ never ceased to be God, though He walked with a body among men. He manifested the glory of God in every action, yet men refused to believe on Him.

Nicodemus was one of the few who came to realize who He really was. He had to understand that Christ was more than just a teacher come from God before He could be born again (John 3). The Samaritan woman had to understand that He was more than a prophet (John 4). In Hebrews we are told that He is more than an angel (Heb. 1:4): He is the Son of God, the exact imprint of God’s nature (1:3, ESV).

Jesus and God are distiguished in various Scriptures. However, we are to understand this as a distinction between the Persons of the Godhead (Father and Son) rather than a denial of the deity of Christ.

Finally, let us consider this truth: to know God the Father is to know the Son, and to know the Son is to know the Father (John 14:7-9; 10:27-30; 17:3).