‘I Am the Lord, I Do Not Change”

"I AM THE LORD, I DO NOT CHANGE"
by Wayne S. Walker

     And: You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.  They will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not fail (Heb. 1:10-12).

     The inspired writer affirms that one characteristic of the physical heavens and earth, in contrast to the eternal nature of God, is that they change. In truth, it has been said that the only thing in this life which really does not change is the fact that all things change.

     A number of years ago, after living in the same home for nearly fifteen years and working with the same congregation during all that time, this writer and his family decided to make a change in which we shall move to a different location where I will be laboring with another church. Such a move involves several changes—selling a house and finding a new one, living and learning to navigate in a new city, locating new doctors and dentists and so forth. And sometimes these changes can be a little intimidating because there are so many unknowns involved. Will we be able to find housing that is both suitable and affordable? Will we like our new surroundings? Will the medical personnel whom we choose be as satisfactory as those to whom we have grown accustomed? Even so, the changes must come, and since we cannot stop them we must learn to cope with them. Anna Letetia Waring wrote:
“In heavenly love abiding,
Nochange my heart shall fear;
And safe is such confiding,
For nothing changes here.”

     Change in our lives, whether by choice or necessity, whether wanted or unwelcomed, often has the tendency to make us stop and think about where we have been, where we are now, and where we are going. Therefore, it is good for us to consider the implications of such changes. Some changes are simply a part of life. After we are born into this world, we begin to grow, and growth necessitates change.

     We progress from infancy to the toddler years, to childhood, to puberty, to adolescence, to young adulthood, to middle age, and finally to the time when “the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Eccl. 12:1). We find jobs and sometimes have to change jobs. We buy homes and sometimes have to change homes, as Abraham did (Gen. 12:1-4). We have children, and they change as they grow. And during this time while changes take place in us and our lives, they also take place in others too. Those whom we have loved in the past grow old and pass on. Friends move away or we move away from them. The passing of time always brings change.

     Some changes are by their very nature good. Peter said, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). Repentance is a change of heart or mind, brought about by godly sorrow for past sin, that results in a change of life. And being converted means being changed from one who is lost in sin and condemned before God to one who is redeemed by the blood of Christ and thus justified in God’s sight. And once we have been converted, we must, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2).  As in the physical realm, so in the spiritual, growth demands change. These are changes that God wants us to make. And, of course, we look forward to that time when “the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52).

     Some changes, however, are of necessity bad. There are those who have “changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image make like corruptible man” and “the truth of God for the lie” (Rom. 1:23-25). Some individuals who were once faithful Christians have changed into those who have forsaken the Lord, often because they love this present world (2 Tim. 3:10). Some churches which once stood firmly for the truth have changed into apostate bodies for one reason or another (e.g., Rev. 3:1-3). These kinds of changes make us sad. Still, we realize that while we can and must preach and teach, warn and work, admonish and encourage, we simply cannot control what others do. They have to be responsible for the changes that they make. Yet through all these changes, whether good or bad, whether desirable or undesirable, there is someone who can help us weather them without wavering. “For I am the Lord, I do not change” (Mal. 3:6).

     “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). Implicit trust in our heavenly Father and the hope that he gives to us through his Son Jesus Christ are forces that will enable us to have stability as we live in a world of change. Henry Frances Lyte was dying of tuberculosis and planning to change his residence from his long-time beloved home in Brixham, England, to the warmer climate of Italy for his health, when he finished the hymn with these familiar words:
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me!

If you will pardon a cinematic reference, in “Lion King” Rafiki told Simba, “Change is good.” That is often true. But it is also hard sometimes. Yet, as Rafiki again said, we can either run from it or learn from it. May we put our lives in God’s hands and choose to take the latter course.

     [—Taken and slightly updated from Truth Magazine; Nov. 3, 2005; Vol. XLIX, NO. 21; pp. 17-18]

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The Second Death

THE SECOND DEATH

(Revelation 21:8)

by Wayne S. Walker

     "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and *****mongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8). There are four times in the book of Revelation that the phrase "the second death" occurs. They are: 2:11; 20:6; 20:14; and 21:8. This last verse gives a list, not complete, of some who will have their part in the second death. This term does not denote, as some affirm, eternal extinction. The definition of death is not annihilation but separation. The first death takes place at the physical separation of the body and soul (James 2:26). The second death will happen at the everlasting separation of God from wicked men in hell. Because of the eternal consequences as well as the practical relevance to today’s society, an in-depth look at the various descriptions found in this passage is profitable and sorely needed.

Fearful

     The first word, fearful, is translated from a term meaning "timid, cowardly." It does not refer to respectful reverence and awe of Ecclesiastes 12:13, nor to the wholesome dread of punishment in Matthew 10:28 and Hebrews 10:31. Jesus defined it in Matthew 8:26 when He asked, "Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?" This kind of fear is caused by a lack of faith. Jesus spoke of another fearful individual in Matthew 25:24-25. The one-talent man failed to do what he ought to have done because, as he put it, "I was afraid." He was subsequently rejected as a wicked, slothful, and unprofitable servant. There are many like him today. Talk to someone about obeying the gospel and he may reply, "I’m just afraid I can’t live it." Bring up a good scriptural work in a business meeting and someone nearly always objects, "I’m afraid it won’t do any good." These people are fearful. David wrote, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear none evil." Why? "For thou art with me" (Psalm 23).

Unbelieving

     The word "unbelieving" is translated from a word that means "faithless." Everyone has faith in someone or something. "But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6). We choose either to believe in God, or to believe in something else–men, naturalism, worldly wisdom, etc. Faith or belief in Jesus Christ as the divine Son of God is absolutely essential to being saved (John 8:24, Acts 16:30-31, Ephesians 2:8-9). How can we obtain such faith? "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). God has caused to be written in the scriptures everything we need to "believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" (John 20:30-31). However, true, saving faith is more than just accepting the existence of God and recognizing the deity of His Son. It demands that we act in obedience to the Lord’s commands. "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6). [Note: this paragraph was somehow not included when the article was originally printed.]

Abominable

     Next, there are those described as abominable. The root of this word meant "to stink or cause a stench." Thus it means "foul, defiled, polluted." It is used spiritually in Titus 1:15-16. "Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate." In this passage Paul identifies those who are so depraved and corrupt that their every thought was evil. They could take even the most harmless and innocent situations and, in their twisted minds, make them into something perverted. It sounds like mankind of Noah’s day, of whom Moses wrote, "Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5). The reason people are abominable in their way of living is that they are abominable in their way of thinking (Proverbs 23:7). Is this not true of many in our society?

Murderers

     Following the abominable are murderers. The basic meaning of this word is "one who commits a homicide." Unlawfully taking the life of another was condemned by the Ten Commandments which stated, "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13). This was interpreted by Jesus to mean, "Thou shalt do no murder" (Matthew 19:18). In both Romans 1 when Paul listed the sins of the Gentiles, and in Galatians 5 where he catalogued the works of the flesh, he mentioned murder. One look at the morning newspaper is enough to convince us that this is a serious problem in our land. But the Bible speaks also of a different kind of murderer. "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him" (1 John 3:15). Abel’s murder occurred because Cain first became wroth. Anyone who is angry with his brother unjustly, who harbors hatred, malice, and envy in his heart against anyone is as guilty as a murderer, for it is this anger which causes the murder and which Jesus forbade in Matthew 5:21-22.

Whoremongers

     After murderers come *****mongers. The Greek word here is the source of our English word "pornography." Translated in the American Standard Version as "fornicators," it means "one who engages in unlawful sexual intercourse for gain or lust." Originally, it referred specifically to male prostitutes, but later came to be used of sexual immorality in general. As such, it includes a multitude of sins. Practically every impure practice would fall into this classification: pre-marital relations which we call fornication (1 Corinthians 7:2); extra-marital relations, called by the world as "having an affair" but referred to in the Bible as adultery (Hebrews 13:4); unscriptural divorce and remarriage (Matthew 19:9); homosexuality (Romans 1:26-27); prostitution (1 Corinthians 6:15); and a whole host of other activities labeled by Paul as "such like" in Galatians 5:21. Another form of immorality which people do not often consider as such is that suggested by the term "pornography." Jesus said in Matthew 5:28, "Whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her," whether she be on the street, on the movie or television screen, or on the pages of a magazine, "hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." Pornography, as well as all the other sins mentioned here, is sexual immorality.

Sorcerers

     Another group listed is sorcerers. This word is the basis for our English word "pharmacy." It originally meant "one devoted to the magical arts who prepares or uses magical remedies, potions, spells, and enchantments." As many of these ancient wizards used drugs to produce their spells, the word also came to mean "one who uses or administers drugs." Thus two kinds of people fall into this classification. First there are those who engage in black magic, occultism, and their related fields. Witchcraft is one example, and there is an amazingly increasing number of so-called witches in our nation. Satanism is another example, as are astrology and fortune telling. Those folks who write the horoscopes in the newspapers are sorcerers, according to the Bible. The second form of sorcery involves taking drugs as an escape from life by inducing a sense of euphoria or ecstasy as the ancient magicians did, and as far too many people do today.

Idolaters

     Idolaters come after sorcerers. This means simply, "one who engages in idolatry, a worshipper of false gods." This was a real problem with first-century Christians because Greek, Roman, and barbaric deities were numerous, and economic pressure was often strong to become involved in their worship. 1 John 5:21 warns, "Little children, keep yourself from idols." Modern mankind is too sophisticated to bow down before a graven image of metal, stone, or wood; yet he has his idols. Paul called the covetous man an idolater in Ephesians 5:5 and Colossians 3:5. Anything that comes between a man and God, that hinders his service to the Lord and keeps him from putting Christ first in his life, is an idol. And money seems to be one of the most prevalent (1 Timothy 6:9-10). Jesus said, "Take heed, and beware of covetousness…" (Luke 12:15). To gain all the money of the world and lose one’s soul is to get the short end of the deal (Matthew 16:26). The words of Cecil F. Alexander should be heeded by all: "Jesus calls us from the worship Of the vain world’s golden store; From each idol that would keep us, saying, ‘Christian, love Me more.’"

Liars

     Finally, all liars shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone. Not just a few liars, or some liars, or most liars, or even only liars outside the body of Christ, but all liars. A liar is "one who speaks falsely or deceitfully; one who tells a falsehood." Such was forbidden by the law of Moses. The Decalogue commanded, "Thou shalt not bear false witness" (Exodus 20:16). "A lying tongue…(and) a false witness that speaketh lies" are two things the Lord hates (Proverbs 6:16-19). Paul echoes the same idea in Colossians 3:9-10 as he discussed the change that should take place in the Christian’s life as a result of his conversion. He wrote, "Lie not to one another;" why? because we "have put off the old man, and have put on the new man." In a parallel passage, Ephesians 4:25, he not only prohibited lying but also gave a positive instruction as the antidote. "Wherefore, putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another." If a man spends all his life telling the truth, he will have neither time, occasion, nor desire to speak falsely. And James went right to the heart of the matter when he said, "But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth" (James 3:14). When a person harbors envy and strife in his heart, he is more prone not to tell the truth. Remove the cause (jealousy, etc.) and you will remove the problem of lying.

Conclusion

     So, we have an identification of some of those who will be tormented in the place of everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. It isn’t a very pretty picture, is it? Certainly it does not represent the kind of people you and I would want to dwell with forever. Along with the other descriptions of hell–e.g., the place of outer darkness where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth–it should make us want to avoid it at all costs. But what are you doing to prepare for heaven? "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16)–saved from his sins, from the guilt of his sins, and after a life of faithful service to God from the consequences of his sins, which is the second death (Romans 6:23). And "he that overcometh shall inherit all things" (Revelation 21:7). Only the faithful, zealous Christian will escape the vengeance of Christ, i.e., everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). It is an awesome thought. Truly, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31).

     (—Taken from Faith and Facts, April, 1981; Vol. 9, No. 2; pp. 41-45)

The Interpretation of Revelation

THE INTERPRETATION OF REVELATION

(Revelation 1:1)

by Wayne S. Walker

     "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants–things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John" (Revelation 1:1). No, I am not trying to write a commentary on the book of Revelation. Others have done that, though good commentaries are not as numerous as they might be. My purpose in this article is to take a look at the general methods of interpreting the Apocalypse. Theologically speaking, there have been five major positions taken on the meaning of the context of this book.

1. Preterist

     The first is that the message of Revelation is completely past. This is called the preterist view. Preterists believe that the book was written only for the people of John’s day and was fulfilled in that time period. That is to say that the signs and symbols referred only to the events of the era in which it was written. The figurative coming of Christ in the destruction of Jerusalem (A. D. 70) is usually sometimes offered as the event in which the book finds its fulfillment. The logical conclusion to this view is that the book has no more than a literary interest and at the most a secondary lesson, if indeed it possesses any value at all, for us. It does not allow for a spiritual application to posterity. It also denies the commonly accepted date for the writing of Revelation which is around A. D. 96.

II. Continuous historical

     A second view is that John wrote the book only for succeeding generations. This position is know as the continuous or historical interpretation. It presents the book as a forecast of the church, postulating an outline in symbolic form of the entire course of history of God’s people on earth from Pentecost when the church began to the second coming. This, if true, would mean that a part of the book refers to the rise of the papacy and development of the Roman Catholic Church, one part to the Dark Ages, another to the Mohammedan invasion, others to the Reformation, the colonization of the New World, and the rise of technology, etc. A certain portion of the book supposedly concerns the very age in which we live. Some brethren have even found the Restoration in it. However, this position affords absolutely no meaning to the Christians to whom it was written, and any interpretation that ignores this point is useless.

     In his Cincinnati [OH] debate with John B. Purcell, an official in the Roman Catholic Church, Alexander Campbell expounded this view of Revelation. he indicated his belief that some of the imagery of this book referred directly to the Roman church. This opinion is probably the most widely accepted of those other than Catholics. Many New Testament Christinas, following Campbell, believe this also. They may reason, and correctly so, that Revelation must contain some comfort to all suffering Christians, such as those persecuted by the Roman church, even as it did to those who were persecuted by the Roman Empire. Therefore, they conclude that the book must have some form of "continuous" application. In this, I think they misunderstand the historical viewpoint. It does not propagage that the message applies "in some sense" to later times, but that it relates specifically to a distinct calendar of events in earth’s history. In view of what we know about the purpose of the book, it is simply not a workable theory.

III. Futurist

     Another interpretation propounds that the Apocalypse deals only with the future. This view is known as the futurist position and is held by dispensationalists and millennialists. These expositors teach that the letter was not for John’s day nor for the nearly two thousand years that have passed since then. Rather, to them it is a prophecy of the so-called "end time" or "last days" surrounding the second coming of Jesus. The explanation will vary with the exegete, but generally, the seven churches of Asia in chapters one through three are made to represent the seven "church ages" of time. Then chapters four through nineteen are placed just before the advent of Christ, if one is a postmillennialist, or just after the "invisible" descent, known as the "rapture" of the church and the "tribulation" for those left on the earth, if one is a premillennialist.

     In 20:1-10 comes the literal millennial reign of Christ on earth, followed by the judgment in verses 11-15, and then the final state in chapters 21 and 22. Most millennialists view the final state as heaven, although materialists like the Watchtower and Armstrong’s organizations look at it as a paradise on a renewed earth. But this whole explanation again overlooks the needs of the first century Christian, and completely disregards John’s statement that these are "things which must shortly come to pass" (1:1). It is a figment of someone’s imagination having no support from the rest of the Bible nor from the book itself.

IV. Allegorical

     Fourthly, there is the position that Revelation is neither past, present, nor future, but allegorical in its nature. Such a position is referred to as the philosophical, spiritualistic, or idealist view. It states that the book has no reference to actual events or persons in any time, but is only the presentation of great principles or forces at work, in which the spiritual forces are victorious. These principles are illustrated in symbolic visions and are supposedly intended to guide and encourage the followers of Christ in all ages, so this view says. It calls for a "totally spiritual" outlook of Revelation, much as Christian Science regards the whole Bible, i.e., written in two languages–one the language of the written words; the other, the language of the eternal Spirit. But as understanding the book in this fashion would be totally subjective, this view,in fact, offers no real objective meaning for anybody.

V. Revelational

     The final view of Revelation, the alternative to all these other positions, is what I choose to call the revelational viewpoint. Simply stated, the book was written for past, present, and future. Homer Hailey called this the historical background interpretation. He wrote that the book was "written for the people of that day, fulfilled in the events of the first two centuries (some extend it longer), but in this background is seen a message for all time." Actually, this is the proper understanding of all God’s revelation. Divine revelation (in the aggregate sense, not just the particular book by that name) must be meaningful to Christians of every age. No one can deny that 1 Corinthians was written specifically to the church at Corinth to deal with actual problems in that congregation. But in God’s wisdom, Paul’s teaching concerning Corinthian troubles is applicable to the Lord’s kingdom today also. The same ist rue of John’s Apocalypse.

Conclusion

     The words John wrote to the early Christians of New Testament days who were persecuted by the Roman Empire were also able to comfort those who were mistreated by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages; they could offer hope to those abused for their faith by local chiefs in Africa during the nineteenth century; and they can be used to provide patience for believers today who are suffering under Communistic rule–even though none of these later situations are particularly described in the book. Reflecting upon the foregoing interpretations, I find myself concluding that the last position is the only one that projects a reasonable basis for understanding the book of Revelation in light of what we already know about God, His nature, the process of inspiration and revelation, and subsequent history. May we study John’s message from Patmos with open minds and a view to gleaning whatever application is available for us today.

Bibliography

Hailey, Homer. "The Book of Revelation" classnotes, Florida College.

Miller, James P. The Saints Victorious, Miller Publications.

Warnock, Weldon. Revelation: Message from Patmos, Cogdill Foundation.

(—taken from Torch Magazine; November, 1976; Vol. X, No. 11; pp. 16-19)

Jesus, Our Example of Obedience

JESUS, OUR EXAMPLE OF OBEDIENCE

(Hebrews 5:8)

by Wayne S. Walker

     The Bible tells us that Jesus left us an example that we should follow in His steps. One area in which Jesus was an example for us was in His obedience. "Though he were a Son, yet he learned obedience by the things which he suffered" (Hebrews 5:8). By breaking this verse down into its basic parts, we can gain a better understanding of Jesus as our example of obedience.

Though He was a Son

     Jesus is the Son of God. While all humans are sons of God by creation and all Christians are sons of God by regeneration, Jesus is the Son of God in a unique sense. This concept is comprehended in the phrase, "the only begotten Son." Thayer says that the word translated "only begotten" means "single of its kind, only." Further, he points out that this phrase does not denote that Christ is the offspring of the Father but that He possesses the essential nature of God and is therefore divine. This is what we are saying when we confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (Acts 8:36).

     To say that one is a son implies a special position. Just ask any father if his son is special to him and see what kind of answer you receive! Jesus illustrated this idea in Matthew 17:5-6. "Of whom do the kings of the earth take tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers." Why? Because the king’s sons occupy a special position and are therefore free. Christ is in an extra-special position.

Yet He learned obedience

     Yet, even though Jesus occupies this special position by reason of His divine Sonship, He claimed no special privileges on that account, but learned obedience. The word translated "obedience" means compliance or submission. The verb form means to listen or hearken. The winds and the waves obeyed the voice of Jesus. Servants are to obey their mastes. Abraham obeyed the command to leave Ur for Canaan. In a similar way, Christ obeyed the Father’s will to carry out the saving purpose of God. The Greek here has "the obedience" to underscore the idea of the well-known complete obedience in experiencing absolute submission to God’s will, implying both the duty and the necessity of obedience.

     One example of His obedience was His baptism. He was baptized to "fulfil all righteousness" (Matthew 3:13-15). Christ was not baptized for the remission of sins, as we are, because He had no sin. Rather, He did so because it was a command of God to be obeyed. Christ has commanded us to be baptized. Thus, we must also obey, for "being made perfect, He became the Author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him" (Hebrews 5:9).

By the things which He suffered

     How did Jesus learn obedience? It was "by the things which he suffered." Jesus suffered for you and me (1 Peter 3:18). As mere mortals we do not fully understand the depth of His suffering–the loss of heaven’s glory in His condescension, being tempted in all points as we are, the loneliness of Gethsemane, and the shame of the cross, among other things. Yet, He willingly obeyed the Father’s will to experience all this so that we might be free from sin with its horrible consequences and have the hope of eternal life. We should ever be thankful for His sacrifice.

     As those who follow in the footsteps of Jesus, it should be no great surprise to us that we also must suffer (1 Peter 4:16). The same world which mocked and crucified the Savior will scarcely look with any greater favor upon His disciples. As we live upon this earth, we shall be called upon to endure persecution, ridicule, hatred, and deprivation for His sake. It has ever been so. Early Christians were thus persecuted, and they rejoiced to be counted worthy to suffer shame for His name (Acts 5:41-42). The time may come when we shall suffer as they did.

     Yet, in the midst of our trials, we must still obey. Tribulation is no excuse to compromise our convictions to gain the approval of an ungodly world. We must learn that being different has its consequences and face up to them. Yet again, Jesus is our example even in this for He "when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously" (1 Peter 2:23). May we react to our sufferings in a similar manner.

Conclusion

     Yes, Jesus is our example of obedience. Because He is the Son of God, by His life we can know what it means to be a son of God. He learned obedience, and, as He obeyed the Father’s will for us, so must we obey His will to become His followers. Even when we must suffer in this life we must continue to obey Him. Jesus once said, "If you love me, keep my commandments." No one could demand our obedience with any more authority or deserve it than the One who Himself perfectly obeyed God’s will and thus became our example of obedience. (—taken and slightly altered from Christianity Magazine; Nov., 1984; Vol 1, No. 11; p. 20).

The Importance of the Death of Christ in the Plan of Salvation

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DEATH OF CHRIST IN THE PLAN OF SALVATION

(Hebrews 2:5-18)

by Wayne S. Walker

     The writer of the book of Hebrews begins his argument that the New Testament system of Christ is superior to the Old Testament law of Moses by pointing out in chapter 1 that because Christ is the divine Son of God He iss so much better than the angels through whom the Old Testament law was given to Moses. However, in chapter 2, he goes on to point out that this One who was so much better than the angels was made lower than the angels. In verses 5 through 8, he quotes from Psalm 8 that man was made a little ower than the angels, then points out that Christ was also made a little lower than the angels. In other words, He became a man, a human being.

     Why? "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone" (verse 9). The reason given here is "for the suffering of death." The inspired writer is setting up the basis for his later argument that the sacrifices of animals in the Old Testament were insufficient to forgive sin, so it would take the sacrifice of something greater. Basically saying that Jesus became a man to die for our sins. Thus this passage emphasizes the importance of the death of Christ in the plan of salvation.

     First, in verse 9, it says that Jesus had to die for everybody, "that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man." Jesus Himself had pointed out that God would give His Son for the whole world, telling Nicodemus, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (Jn. 3:16). Why was this necessary? It was because "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). What makes this fact even worse is that there are severe consequences to sin. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6:23). Yet, even as Paul mentions the gift of God, the Bible teaches that God loves us enough to have had Jesus lay down His life for the sins of everyone. "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us…" (1 Jn. 3:16). This is why it was necessary that He by the grace of God should taste death for everyone.

     Second, in verse 10, the passage says that the aim of making the captain of our salvation perfect through sufferings (referring to His death) was for Him to bring many sons to glory. This may refer to the fact that all human beings are the offspring (sons or children) of God, physically speaking, because He is the Father of our spirits (Acts 17:28, Heb. 12:9). This would mean that God wants to make a way for all His offspring or all human beings to be saved from sin. It might also refer to the fact that those who are saved from sin are born again through the word of God and hence become the spiritual children of God (1 Pet. 1:23, 1 Jn. 3:1-3). However, either way we look at it, we must understand that the death of Jesus Christ was necessary in order for this to happen because it was He who "loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood" (Rev. 1:4-6). Just as one goal of the captain of a ship is to bring the passengers to safety, so Jesus as the captain of our salvation has as His aim to bring many sons to glory

     Third, in verse 14, the passage says that through His death, Christ has destroyed him who had the power of death, that is, the devil After Adam and Eve had sinned, it had been prophesied that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent (Gen. 3.16). This has universally been understood as a prophecy of the Messiah who would come to destroy the devil. Jesus Himself understood that His mission involved conquering Satan. In Matt. 12:22-29, He said that His power over the demons demonstrated that He had first bound "strong man." In Lk. 10:17-18, when the seventy returned having cast out demons, Jesus said that He saw Satan falling as lightning from heaven. This was not something that had taken place before the world began but was going on right then as Christ was involved in conquering Satan. Both Jn. 12:27-31 and 16:7-11 also make reference to the casting out or judgment of the prince or ruler of this world that was soon to come. This is exactly what Jesus did "He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1 Jn. 3:8). The devil’s power over mankind, which brings the fear of death, is through sin, but by His death Jesus makes possible the forgiveness of sin, thus destroying the power of death and releasing those who receive His forgiveness from the fear of death

     Fourth, in verse 17, the passage says that His death has made reconciliation or propitiation for the sins of the peple. The verb translated "make reconciliation" in the King James Version or "make propitiation" in the New King James Version was used among the Greeks to mean to make the gods propitious or to appease them, since their good will was not conceived as their natural attitude but something to be earned. This use of the word is foreign to the Bible. In the Old Testament, the concept was related to the atonement that was made for the sins of the people with the animal sacrifices (cf. Lev. 16:8-22). Of course, these sacrifices pointed forward to the time when Christ would come to make complete atonement for the sins of the world. Thus, in the New Testament, the concept of "propitiation" always refers to the fact that God is propitiated through the provision that He made in the sacrifice of Christ to show mercy and make possible the remission of sins. "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood…" (Rom. 3.24-25). We must conclude, then, that the death of Jesus Christ was what makes it possible for the scriptures to call Him "the propitiation for our sins" (1 Jn. 2:1-2, 4:10). Because He made propitiation for our sins, we can have reconciliation with God

     God created us to be in fellowship with Him, but all of us have sinned and broken that fellowship. Yet, God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–loved us enough that, even though we deserved eternal punishment for our sins, God sent His Son, who was so much better than the angels, to be made lower than the angels that He might die for our sins, bring us to glory, destroy the power of the devil, and make propitiation with the Father. However, while God’s gift of salvation is free in that He does not require us to do anything to make atonement, it is not unconditional. He has revealed certain commands in His word that we must obey to show that we are willing to submit our wills to His in accepting His offer of remission of sins. This is why the Hebrew writer goes on to say about the death of Christ, "Though He was a son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Heb. 5:8-9). Have you obeyed Him?

     [—taken from Expository Files, March, 2007, Vol. 14, No. 3.]

God’s Grace Offers Salvation to Everyone

GOD’S GRACE OFFERS SALVATION TO EVERYONE

(Tit. 2.11)

by Wayne S. Walker

     What is the most important issue to you? For a teenager, it might be, "How can I pass that chemistry text this week?" Or a little beyond that, it might be, "How can I be able to graduate, go to college, and get a good job? For those of us who are older, it might be, "How can I provide for my family, especially if I lose job or maybe have health problems?" For some it might be the moral condition of our society, the 2008 elections, or the war in Iraq. All of these issues are important in their context, but there is an even more fundamental and basic issue that we have to deal with, and that is our relationship with God.

     That is why we have the Bible. Now, certainly, the Bible gives divine advice that will help with all of those other issues in some way or another, but most importantly, it tells us what we must do to be right with God. Bible teaches that we are made upright but, as we shall see, we go astray, so we need to be saved. Yet we cannot atone for our own sins. So, what can be done? "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men" (Titus 2:11). Here Paul tells us that God’s grace offers salvation to everyone.

Grace

     To begin, we need to understand the grace of God. When we use the word "grace" with reference to a human being, we often mean a person who is characterized by charm, politeness, good manners, proper etiquette, and being kind. When we speak of "grace" with reference to God, we usually define it as the unmerited favor of the Lord toward sinful mankind. The source of all such grace is God. "But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory and by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, stablish, strengthen, and settle you (1 Pet. 5:10). The supreme manifestation of His grace is Jesus Christ. The Word, who was with the Father in the beginning and Himself was God, became flesh so that mankind could behold His glory, "full of grace and truth" in that "grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (Jn. 1:1, 14-17). The means by which this grace is made known to us is the "gospel of the grace of God" or "the word of His grace" (Acts 20:24, 32). The necessity of God’s grace is seen in that it’s the very foundation or basis upon which we’re saved (Eph. 2:8-9). The Bible plainly teaches that no good works of our own can atone for sin (Tit. 3:5). So in the sense of an atonement for our sins, we are totally dependent on God’s grace.

Salvation

     Next, we must recognize the fact that God’s grace brings salvation. Why do we need to be saved? Again, the truth is that we need to be saved because of our sins. Even in the Old Testament, it was understood that sin separates one from God (Isa. 59:1-2). All responsible human beings have sinned, and the wages or consequences of sin is death (Rom. 3:23, 6.23). Since we cannot save ourselves by ourselves, what did God by His grace to make salvation possible? He sent Jesus to be our Savior ( Matt. 1:21, Lk. 2:11). "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Lk. 19:10). So, what did Jesus do to provide for our salvation? Paul, in his preaching and writing, emphasizes the death of Christ for our salvation (Rom. 5:8, 1 Cor. 15:1-3). "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief" (1 Tim. 1:15). Therefore, we can safely conclude that if God went to this length to save us from our sin, He must want us to be saved (1 Tim. 2:3-4). God is not some mean ogre, just waiting for us to transgress His law so that He can gleefully cast us into hell. We are His creation, the work of His hands made in His image, and He loves us enough to want us to be saved, so He did everything in His power and consistent with His will to make it possible.

All men

     Finally, we are told that God’s grace brings salvation to all men, or to all mankind. Even though under the Mosaic Covenant the Israelites were God’s chosen people, it was prophesied in the Old Testament that when the Messiah would come, God’s blessings would be offered to all mankind. When the mountain of the Lord’s house would be established, all nations would flow to it (Isa. 2:2). At that time, whoever would call on the name of the Lord would be saved (Joel 2:32). Thus, salvation would be available not just to Israelites to but anyone. These prophesies were fulfilled as Jesus sent His followers into all nations to preach the gospel to every creature (Matt. 28:18-20, Mk. 16:15-16). This shows us that it is God’s will for His message of salvation to be announced to the whole world. In spite of thousands of years of racial and ethnic prejudices, Christians in first century came to understand that no one was to be denied hearing and obeying God’s plan. "…God shows no partiality, but in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him" (Acts 10:34-35). Therefore, today we still recognize that God’s grace can bring salvation to anyone. He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). Everyone is invited; nobody is excluded (Rev. 22:17). This is because God’s grace that brings salvation has appeared to all men.

Conclusion

     Unfortunately, while God wants everyone to be saved, it is a sad truth that not all people are or will be saved. Jesus said that many would travel the road to destruction while few would find the way to eternal life (Matt. 7:13-14). Why is this so? The answer is that God has put conditions upon that salvation. "Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Heb. 5:8-9). The simple fact is that there are just a lot of folks that do not want to obey God’s will which puts them in the narrow way rather than the in broad way. God wants them to be saved–and they can be saved, but they have to turn from sin and keep God’s commandments. "Blessed are theose who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city" (Rev. 22:14). Yes, we can be so thankful for that "marvelous, infinite, matchless grace" of which we so often sing.

     [—Taken from Expository Files; June, 2008; Vol. 15, No. 6]

Paul’s Prescription for Peace

PAUL’S PRESCRIPTION FOR PEACE

(Philippians 4:4-7)

by Wayne S. Walker

     We read in the newspaper about the wars going on all over the globe and we pray for peace in this world. We see on the television news about all the fighting that occurs between the political parties in Washington and we wish for peace in our society. When we experience squabbles and arguments among relatives, we would like for there to be peace in our families. And when there are fusses and feuds in a local congregation, we try to work for peace in the church.

     All these things are good and necessary, but there is something that is more important, and that is having peace with God and consequently in our own hearts. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6-7). In these verses, we have Paul’s prescription for peace.

Anxiety

     First, there is a negative. "Be anxious for nothing." Medical experts tell us that stress produced by anxiety is one of the greatest mental health problems in our nation. People worry about losing their jobs, their investments, and their health. These are all legitimate concerns, but there is a difference between concern that produces the proper preparation and provision on the one hand, and anxiety or worry on the other. It often may be a fine line, but Christians need to stay on the side of not being anxious.

     Jesus had a lot to say about anxiety. "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on….Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matt. 6:25-34). Certainly what Jesus says is not always easy to do, especially in times of crisis, but it is what He commands His disciples to do.The opposite of anxiety or worry is contentment. Paul learned how to be content (Phil. 4:11-13). He also encouraged others to be content (1 Tim. 6:6-8). But how can we learn to be content? We need to remember that God has promised, "…’I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’" (Heb. 13:5-6). Civilla Durfee Martin reminded us that we should "Be not dismayed, whate’er betide, God will take care of you."

Prayer

     Second, there is a positive. "But in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." Notice the contrast in this verse. "Be anxious IN NOTHING, but IN EVERYTHING by prayer and supplication…." Paul is saying that God’s antidote to worry is prayer. "Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer." While there are technical differences between prayer and supplication, the two are obviously related (1 Tim. 2:1).

     But Paul adds the phrase, "With thanksgiving." It has been my experience that too many of our prayers (this seems true of our public prayers so I assume that it is likely true of our private prayers as well) begin with a cursory word of "thanks for all the blessings both physical and spiritual," and then launch in to "give us this; please do that; let us have something else." It is true that one purpose of prayer is to make our requests known, but we need to express more thanks. Remember the ten lepers (Lk. 17:11-19)? "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thess. 5:18). At the same time, we certainly can let our requests be made known to God. "Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved" (Psa. 55:22). And the reason why we cast all our cares on Him is "for He cares for you" (1 Pet. 5:7). Thus, we need to cleanse our minds from all anxiety and put our trust completely in the Lord to take provide for us.

Peace

     Third, then, there is the result. "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." The peace that comes from being in a right relationship with God so that we can be anxious for nothing but cast all our cares on Him is not a peace of this world. Rather, it comes only from God through Christ. Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you…" (Jn. 14:27). This peace surpasses understanding. Like the love of Christ, it "passes knowledge" (Eph. 3:19). This does not mean that we cannot understand it period, that it is something better felt than told. In fact, Paul says that we may "know the love of Christ which passes knowledge."

     Likewise, this peace surpasses mere human understanding and knowledge, and can be known only by those who have the understanding and knowledge of Christ. And this peace will guard or keep our minds. God wants to keep His people safe in His peace. "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You" (Isa. 26:3). Yet, a condition is stated. For God to keep us in perfect peace, our minds must be stayed on Him. The peace of God will keep our hearts only as we keep ourselves in His perfect peace by striving to maintain a right relationship with Him based on His word. Edward H. Bickersteth wrote, "Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin? The blood of Jesus whispers peace within." Indeed, one of the reasons that Jesus came was to make peace (Eph. 2:13-18).

Conclusion

     Are you looking for peace in your soul? When we follow Paul’s prescription, "Be anxious in nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God," then, and only then, we can have the result–"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (—taken from Expository Files; July 2001; Vol. 8, No. 7)