Luke 3:1-2: History is His Story

Read: Luke 3:1-2

Luke starts Chapter 3 in a similar fashion to how he starts several of the previous “chapters” of Jesus’ early life by placing the events during the reign of a particular historical figure (Luke 1:5, Luke 2:1-2). This time though, he lists a number of people.

  • Tiberius Caesar – the emperor in Rome and the stepson of Agustus Caesar. Luke notes that this was during the 15 year of the reign of Tiberius. Tiberius’ reign started in 14 AD, so this places the start of Jesus’ public ministry around 29AD.
  • Herod Antipas – he was the son of Herod the Great, and he himself was not a Jew, but ruled over the Gallilee. He was the Herod that had John the Baptist beheaded (Matthew 14:10) and the Herod that Jesus went to see leading up to his crucifixion who was in Jerusalem at the time of crucifixion. Jesus, being from Galilee, was sent by Pilate to Herod so that Herod could deal with him.
  • Herod Phillip – He was the son of Herod the Great from another woman. Antipas was his half-brother and was more moderate and tempered than his brother. He rule from Caesarea Phillipi, which as a important place in Jesus ministry (Matthew 16:12-18).
  • Lysanias – Little is known about this Lysanias, however another Lysanias is mentioned by Josephus. It is thought that Luke’s Lysanias is a descendant of the one mentioned by Josephus in the same way that the name “Herod” was used by a number of rules. Archaeological evidence supports this view.
  • Pontius Pilate – Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea directly responsible for the emperor. His job was to maintain the peace and collect taxes to support Rome. He played an important role in Jesus’ public trial where he attempted to appease the crowd (John 18:16-19:23).
  • Annas – Annas was the defacto high priest and father-in-law to Ciaphas. He was the priest that Jesus went before in his trial (Johm 18:13-23) and also the priest Peter and John went before in Acts.
  • Caiaphas – Caiaphas was the official high priest appointed by Rome. He prophesied concerning Jesus’ death conspired with others to have Jesus killed (Matthew 26:3-4, John 11:47-53)

The tendency of readers and even many commentaries is to gloss over verses that can historical data or genealogies. But Luke’s goal in writing his gospel is stated clearly in Luke 1:3 where he declares he wanted to write an orderly account of the ministry of Jesus. With this in mind, when readers come across historical figures, it’s good to take some time and read about these figure because in doing so it helps set the stage for the events that are unfolding in the gospel. The life of Jesus is not some myth set in some obscure time, rather it set in real history with real people. JRR Tolkien noted that this what set the story of Jesus apart from other mythologies even though it shared some things in common with other mythological stories. He and C.S. Lewis called the story of Jesus the “true myth”. Understanding the historical setting of Jesus’ life and ministry then helps one understand the sayings and action of Jesus too.

Lord, history is your story. Help me understand it so that I may know you better!

Luke 1:1-4: “Exact Truth”

Read: Luke 1:1-4

Luke when writing his gospel wanted to give an orderly and accurate account about Jesus in the form of a gospel/letter of sort. Luke addresses his gospel to man named “Theophilus” that means in Greek, “lover of God”. Luke also holds Theophilus in high esteem because addresses him as “most excellent” — a title that Paul used to address Festus and Felix when he was on his way to Rome to be tried (Acts 24:3, Acts 26:25). Theophilus could have been a high ranking Roman citizen or something to that extent. Regardless though, Luke’s purpose was to show this man who loved God and was esteemed by Luke just who Jesus was.

Luke tells how he accomplished this task too. First, he “compiled accounts” about the things accomplished among “us”. Because Luke and Acts are probably a two volume set, Luke is including himself in the “us” – that is build a story of things in the present. He dovetails from these present tense accounts to the traditions that they had received “since the beginning”. He’s talking about the testimonies about Jesus’ life by those who walked, talked, and lived with Jesus while he was on earth — the eyewitnesses — many of who were probably still alive when Paul was writing Luke and Acts. Luke states that he was careful in his investigation so that he could accurately reflect the life and ministry of Jesus and the history of the early church.

The veracity of Luke’s account has been corroborated by archaeology. He names people, places, and events that many thought were fictional, but when a few discoveries were made in the 1800’s archaeology started taking Luke more seriously. Sense that time, many more discoveries have been made corroborating Luke’s gospel. From a historical perspective, this vindicates his assertion that he “investigated everything carefully”. The historical corroboration along with the high quality of the source materials used by Luke such as eyewitnesses show that the content of Luke isn’t merely mythological account of a a Jewish rabbi from Galilee, it is an accurate and historical account of the Savior of the World, Jesus.

Christians can trust the content of Luke’s gospel and the reality of their faith like Theophilus, knowing they have the “exact truth” about Jesus written in the pages of the of the Bible. Jesus was no fake, and for this reason, Christians can speak honestly about the gospel and hold to their convictions.

Lord, You have given me the exact truth! Help me to know it well!

2 Timothy 4:1-5: “Fulfill Your Ministry”

Read: 2 Timothy 4:1-5

Paul’s charge to Timothy is basically three words: “Preach the Word”. This charge comes on the heels of Paul’s admonition to Timothy to stay firmly planted in the scriptures and a description of the source and uses of scripture. Paul gives his charge to Timothy in the “presence” of God and Jesus and who will judge the living and dead. The strong command to preach is qualified with several commands:

  • Be ready in season and out of season. For the one preaching the word, game day is every day. One cannot be lax one day and on the next.
  • Reprove, rebuke, and exhort with great patience and instruction. This comes on the heels of Paul telling Timothy about the uses of scripture which are the aforementioned things (2 Timothy 3:14-16). Scripture is useful for training in righteousness.
  • Be sober in all things. Paul is telling Timothy to not let anything cloud his mind.
  • Endure hardship. This is a guaranteed thing for those who wish to live lives of godliness (2 Timothy 3:12).
  • Do the work of an evangelist. An evangelist is one who declares good news, and in New Testament terms, it is one who shares the good news about Jesus. Paul is charging Timothy to do this sort of work.
  • Fulfill his ministry. This is a command in the most general sense, just in case Paul left something out. Paul is telling Timothy to thoroughly accomplish all that he has been instructed to do.

Paul says that there will come a time when people will not endure sound doctrine, surrounding themselves with teachers who tell them what they want to hear. They will turn from truth and believe “myths”. The New Testament describes such things as cleverly devised tales (2 Peter 1:16) and fables (1 Timothy 4:7). These things stand in stark contrast to the words of truth from the scripture that Paul is telling Timothy to proclaim and the testimony of eyewitnesses that have been handed to Timothy and the many others concerning Jesus from the apostles.

This charge to Timothy is a popular passage for ordination services in many churches. The charge is very relevant to those who are starting out in the gospel ministry as it outlines what a pastor is supposed to do concerning his ministry. But the application of this text is not limited to just pastors – all Christians should be ready to do what these very things themselves. Most certainly, Christians today are living in a time when people not want to hear sound doctrine, but rather hear what they want to hear. This requires that Christians know sound doctrine and know how to correct and rebuke those who do not endure sound doctrine with patience and love. This way, one can fulfill one’s own ministry as Paul wanted Timothy to do.

Lord, help me to fulfill my ministry!

2 Timothy 3:10-16: “Equipped for Every Good Work”

Read: 2 Timothy 3:10-16

After a strong warning of the sort of people to avoid, Paul shows Timothy the sort of person he should follow – none other than Paul himself. Paul was up in years by the this time, and had endured many hardships for the sake of the gospel. He endured persecution at Antioch, Lystra, and Iconium (Acts 13, 14). Nevertheless, Paul affirms that in all these places the Lord delivered him from the Persecution. Paul had gone to these places to spread the gospel and start churches, by he was met with fierce opposition. This basic pattern followed him pretty much everywhere he went, so much so that Paul makes a general statement concerning persecution: that those want to live lives of godliness in Jesus will endure persecution. And Paul is thinking that even the bad ones that he had finished describing will go from bad to worse. For Timothy, the worst was yet to come, even in the thick of things as they were for him in Ephesus.

Paul then encourages Timothy basically to stick to his guns. He says that Timothy had been taught the scripture sense his infancy which makes one “wise for salvation” in Jesus Christ. Timothy had a Jewish mother and a Greek father (Acts 16:1). Not much is known concerning Timothy’s father, but in any case, the faith that he had been given came from his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5). The scriptures for them were what the Old Testament is in the Christian Bible, and this is what Timothy had been taught before he ever met Paul. These scriptures were what made one wise for Salvation in Jesus Christ, as the Old Testament spoke about Jesus (Luke 24:27). Paul then affirms the totality of scripture is “God-breathed”. The Greek word “θεοπνευστος” is as combination of the word for God and word for breath, and Paul uses this to describe the nature of scripture. In the manner in which breath comes from a person, so the scriptures come from God. For this reason, scripture is useful for a number of things: teaching, correcting, rebuking, and training in righteousness. Paul says that this is so the “man of God is equipped for every good work”. The good works stand in stark contrast to the evil that Paul had described earlier in the chapter (2 Timothy 3:1-9) and the importance of doing the word is reiterated by James 1:23. A person who merely studies the scripture and does not apply it to his or her life and live accordingly to it is like a person who looks in the mirror then forgets what he looks like.

For Christians, scriptures consist of the 27 books if the New Testament and the 39 books of the Old Testament. This is called the “canon” which means “measure”. What was included in the Bible as scripture was not something that was decided by an ad hoc council as many skeptics like to suggest. Exactly why the books of the New Testament were chosen is unknown, but there was surprising agreement among the early Christians what books were to be included when the New Testament was decided. Some scholars have proposed 4 criterion and on these criterion the council established the New Testament:

  • Apostolic Origin – that is the material was associated with one of the original apostles associated with Jesus.
  • Universal Acceptance – that is the book in question was widely accepted by a broad spectrum of early churches rather than a few.
  • Liturgical Use – the book was useful for worship and all matters, as Paul suggests, for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness
  • Consistent Message – the theology communicated in a book is consistent with other books.

For Christians today, there is also the question of closure to the Bible: is it complete? Any new material under the aforementioned criterion would not have Apostolic Origin if all the apostles have died. For this reason, it is reasonable to think that the New Testament was completed before the passing of the apostle. Any other “new inspiration” then is not possible.

The scriptures through the ages have proved themselves to stand up to scrutiny and have proven themselves to be effective standards by which to live by. Christians can therefore apply what Paul said concerning the scriptures of his day, the Old Testament, to the Christian New Testament and use it for training in righteousness. But Christians should also be about the work of applying scripture to one’s life all the time every day. This way one will not be like the one, as James describes, who forgets what he or she looks like after looking in the mirror. The study and application of scripture is how one avoids sin and lives according to the teachings of Jesus, “equipped for every good work”. Inevitably, the ones who live according to the scriptures will come under fire. Following the commands and using scripture to rebuke and reprove some will make them lash out because the scriptures speak truth into the lives of many. Paul’s pattern of persecution should be expected, so when it does come, one should not be surprised. In all things though, Christians know that there reward is great in heaven with God because of persecution!

Lord, equip me by your word so I can be ready to do good work!

2 Timothy 3:1-9: Folly Exposed

Rread: 2 Timothy 3:1-9

After giving Timothy instruction on how to maintain himself in light of heresies, Paul lists 19 vices that Timothy should avoid. Paul says that such things will come in “the last days” – some undetermined time in the future from when Paul was writing the letter to Timothy.  This list seems to be more general list, alluding to no one person in particular. Rather Paul is rattling off all sorts of things to give Timothy the notion that there will be persons abounding in sin, and that he should avoid them. Paul then describes the sort of people, perhaps alluding to two particular individuals: one who lures “weak willed” women, and the woman herself that is loaded down with sin and driven by evil desires. Such people are seeking the “truth” but do not acknowledge it. If they did they would certainly have to turn from their sin. Paul compares them to Jannes and Jambres who opposed Moses. Jannes and Jambres are the names traditionally associated with the magicians who opposed Moses when Moses went before Pharaoh in Exodus 7. They replicated the power of God by their “secrets”. The word in the Hebrew indicates things done in private, rather than out in the open. In other words, they were performing cheap parlor tricks and Pharaoh was using this in an attempt to discredit Aaron and Moses, even though it was plain to everyone else that they were indeed fakes. Paul is using their “folly” as a warning to Timothy – the ones who are apparently seeking the “truth” do so with as if they were incredulous, but the reality of the matter is they simply refusing to acknowledge the truth because of what it might mean concerning their lifestyles. It will become obvious that this is what they are doing. There were probably people of this sort attempting to lure away people from the church at Ephesus, just as those who taught heresies had messed up the faith of others (2 Timothy 2:18).

Knowing genuine people from fake people is not always easy to do at first. Jesus, however, taught that words and deeds reveal true character. He uses the analogy of a tree and its fruit to explain this: A good tree bears good fruit in the same manner a good heart will produce good words and good deeds. The converse is true too: a bad tree bears bad fruit in the same way evil words and deeds flow from an evil heart (Matthew 7:15-23 , Matthew 12:33-37) Sometimes this is not obvious at first, but time usually will tell. Paul teaches the same sort of thing in Galatians 5:19-26. The fruits of the carnal nature are sins, but the fruit of the Spirit, which comes when one believes in Jesus, is good fruit. Those who are redeemed by Jesus have “crucified the flesh” and walk according to the Spirit. Good fruit in words and deeds is not the means to salvation because one is saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), but they are the evidence of faith (James 2:14-26). Paul and Jesus making the argument that those of depraved minds and hearts will have evil words and deeds and those who are Spirit filled will have good words and deeds.

Christians should make an effort to ensure that they are living authentically according to their salvation so they will not be exposed in folly. Likewise, Christians should be wary of people who are of a depraved nature. This does not mean that everyone who sins is beyond help, as Christians still sin even after they are saved. Paul is talking about those who refuse to acknowledge the truth even when it made plain to them. They refuse to acknowledge it for some reason or another, most probably because it will force them to change their behavior. Given time though, their false incredulity will be exposed and their folly will be obvious. These are the sort of people Paul is encouraging Timothy to avoid and Christians today would do well to heed these words too.

Lord, help my heart to be pure so my words and deeds will be pure too!

2 Timothy 2:14-26: Vessels of Honor

Read: 2 Timothy 2:14-26

After admonishing Timothy to remember what it means to be one of God concerning how one should live his life according to the salvation promised through Jesus, Paul commands Timothy to avoid the emptiness that comes from idle chatter. What is apparently going on is that there was some strife being stirred up by Hymenaeus and Philetus in the church at Ephesus concerning to heretical teaching. Hymenaeus is listed with Alexander as a blasphemer. In 2 Timothy, Hymenaeus and Philetus are described as living in sin although they had believed in Jesus. This is what Paul is encouraging Timothy not to do. Also, they taught that the resurrection during the last days had already happened, which had “shipwrecked” or destroyed the faith of many (1 Timothy 1:19-20). Their reasoning was perhaps because the resurrection had happened that what had been set to accomplish by God was done, so they were no longer required to live righteously, so they lived lawlessly instead. Paul says there teachings are like gangrene. When a wound becomes infected, the infection spreads to other parts of the body. If the part of the body is not removed, it will ultimately kill the one with the wound.

In opposition to this though, Paul encourages Timothy to properly handle the word of truth and avoid godless chatter and ignorant speculations. These sort of things spark debate and quarrels among the church. Also, as mentioned, Paul encourages Timothy to live rightly. He says that the ones who call on the name of the Lord should abstain from wickedness and flee the lusts of youth. He illustrates this with an analogy concerning common vessels and vessels of a special purpose. The vessels of honor are used by the master for good works. Rather than being quarrelsome, Timothy is encouraged to be patient when wronged and correct with gentleness. He is to be filled with faith, love, and peace that come from a pure heart. These things are the antithesis of people looking to lead others astray through idle chatter and ignorant speculations that start fights. The sort of patients Paul is encouraging Timothy to have is so that Timothy can help people escape the snare of the devil – that is the devil’s attempt to sow dissention among believers to keep them from accomplishing the task of making disciples (2 Timothy 2:2).

Advocates of doctrines different from those taught by Jesus and that do not conform to godliness are those that are to be rejected. Paul calls such doctrines conceited and without understanding (1 Timothy 6:4). Some common heresies today are things such as:

  • Prosperity theology that suggests that if one does pious deeds, one will receive material blessings and/or good health as a result. Paul corrected this theology 2000 years ago because it apparently cropped up then too (1 Timothy 6:4-12). Right living is an act of obedience on the part of the Christian in response to Jesus love. He says that those who love him will obey his commandments (John 14:15).
  • Theologies that deny that Jesus was God. The gospel of John makes the deity of Jesus abundantly clears in the opening verse (John 1:1) Jesus also claims oneness with the Father They wanted to stone him because they understood him to be claiming equality by God (John 10:30-33). He also claims to be present at Abrahams birth and to be the great “I AM” of the Old Testament for which they wanted to stone him too (John 8:57-59).
  • Theologies that deny that Jesus bodily rose from the dead, and rather than think of Jesus is the sacrifice for sin, think of him as an example of how to live one’s life. Paul says that without the resurrection, people are still in sin and without hope (1 Corinthians 15:1-19).
  • Theologies that teach there is some other way to God other than by faith in Jesus. Jesus himself said that he is the only way to God (John 14:6, John 3:36) and Peter affirms this (Acts 4:12). Paul also feels a sense of urgency to spread the gospel to the Gentile world because of this (Romans 15:20).
  • Theologies that teach works can save someone. These claims are patently false according to scripture. Ephesians 2:8-9 says it by faith that one is saved, not by works. Works, as mentioned, are an act of obedience in response to Jesus’ love, not the means to salvation.

This list is by no means exhaustive, as these are just a few. Paul gives Timothy a number of little reminders because of the plethora of heresies that even he was dealing with. Christians today are broad spoken to by different media that want them to think a certain way about religions, the person of Jesus, how deeds relate to salvation, among many other things. For this reason, Christians should be as Paul encourages Timothy to be: grounded in the word of truth. This requires one to know what the Bible teaches, which comes through careful study of the Bible, not looking to prove theology from the Bible by selecting verses, but trying to understand the Bible and rightly apply the Bible to one’s life. Only through this can one recognize a heresy when one sees it. At the same time, Christians are not to be jerks for Jesus. Going on witch-hunts to root out heresy is the improper way. Rather Paul encourages patience, love, and gentleness for the purpose of restoration rather than looking to pick a fight. Like Timothy, Christians should be vessels of honor useful for the master’s purpose!

Lord, help me to be a vessel of honor by knowing your truth and living according to it!

2 Timothy 2:8-13: “A Trustworthy Saying”

Read: 2 Timothy 2:8-12

Paul here commands Timothy to remember the basic facts concerning Jesus: He rose from the dead, and was a descendant from David, according to what Paul says is “my” gospel. 1 Corinthians 15:4-9 lays out some more basic facts concerning Jesus: he was crucified, buried, was raised on the third day, an appeared to many of his followers. These facts undergird the message that Timothy preaches. He is not to preach something that is speculation, but something that is grounded in real life events. Paul was convinced of these facts, and thus believed the implications of the facts as much as he did the facts themselves (2 Timothy 2:8-12). The facts compel him to suffer for the sake of the gospel. He had been imprisoned because of what he was preaching, but he knows that the gospel itself has been loosed to the world, and Paul is willing to endure so that all the more may obtain salvation.

This prompts Paul to recall a saying concerning. The saying expresses some facts and implications of these facts. The Greek construction of this saying is symmetrical such that many scholars think this is a hymn or poem that was recited by early Christians. The facts is followed by the implication in an “if this then that” form. The poem speaks of the fact that because Christians “die” with Christ, they will also live with him (implicit is the fact that he rose from the dead), the fact those who endure will be rewarded for faithful services, the fact that those who reject Christ will be rejected by Christ, and that even when Christians are faithless he is faithful. This saying served to remind the Christians of the rewards of faithful service, and the gravity of the task that they were fulfilling: that those that reject Christ face judgment.

When Christians think about hymns and songs in the Bible, thy will almost always think about the Psalms. Believe it or not, the New Testament contains hymns too. Here are some possible hymns: 1 Timothy 6:15-16,  2 Timothy 2:11-13,  Philippians 2:6-11, Revelation 15:3-4, 1 Timothy 3:16, Colossians 1:15-20, Hebrews 1:3-4. Sometimes these are difficult to spot because music in the first century was not the same as modern music. For Greek poetry, rhyme and rhythm were not that important, but rather they were metrical, a pattern of long syllables and short syllables. Hebrew poetry focuses on rhythm and parallelism. It is obvious what texts in the Old Testament are poetic, but for the New Testament these hymns are not obvious. Scholars are still not if all the passages that have been identified as hymn are indeed hymns. Some are more certain. The hymns themselves though would have had to predate the books that contain them in order to be recorded in the books. It is likely that the early Christian church composed hymns to be sung during worship times. This is analogous to man many cultures today that still have no complete Bible translation, but they have songs in their language that communicate the truth of Jesus. These Christian hymns show that much of the theology that is expressed in the New Testament was established before the New Testament was composed, mitigating the charge that the New Testament was fabricated because it was written long after Jesus ascended.

Paul calls the hymn in 2 Timothy a “trustworthy saying”, and indeed it is. Paul encourages the early churches to speak and teach one another in song (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16), and this likewise goes out to Christian today. Paul admonished Timothy with a song to remind him of the work that one does for Christ. Christians today have plethora of songs in many genres of music used to communicate the truth of God, and songs can be a means of encouragements or come as a way of reminder. They can also teach the truth of scriptures. Rather than bicker over what style of music is right for worship, Christians should be encouraging one another with songs of all sorts to help draw people closer to God rather than put stumbling block in their way. No matter what the style may be, the truth communicated through song is what most important!

Lord, let my song praise you, encourage others, and teach your truth!

2 Timothy: “Preach the Word”

Read: 2 Timothy 4:1-4

2 Timothy was written by Paul, and perhaps the last letter that Paul ever wrote before he was executed in Rome. Paul seems to be under great distress while he is in prison abandoned by all save a few people. But in spite of this, Paul encourages Timothy to be faithful under pressure and hardship.

Timothy at the time was pastoring the church at Ephesus. Ephesus was a large metropolis boasting 300,000 – 400,000 people during the First Century. It was the largest city in Asian region in the Roman Empire which occupies modern day Turkey. The city had a temple to Artemis and an open air theater that would seat some 25,000 spectators. The city already had a Jewish synagogue there. Paul preached at this synagogue in Acts 18 where he proved from the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ to the Jews. Paul on another journey through Ephesus came into the city. God was performing miracles through Paul and people were coming Paul for healing because of this. The Ephesians saw Paul as a threat and caused a riot against him, dragging him into the amphitheater. The Ephesians were fiercely loyal to the Greek goddess Artemis and had a cult devoted to her. People would make pilgrimages to the city to worship her there. The craftsman profited from this religious worship. Paul spent a substantial amount of time in Ephesus. He started the church there, spending 2 or 3 years getting the work started. After this time, he entrusted the church to elders that he loved dearly. They came to see him as he was passing by on a journey to Jerusalem. Many feared that Paul would not return if he went to Jerusalem. He charges them to be on guard for their flock (Acts 20:28). Even in spite of opposition, by the end of the Second Century, Christianity had supplanted the worship of Artemis in Ephesus.

The fierce opposition to the Christian movement in Ephesus is displayed in book of Acts. It is apparent that the opposition did not stop because Paul makes similar charges to Timothy while he is pastoring the church at Ephesus. Timothy was one of Paul’s most loyal followers. Timothy is first mentioned in Acts when Paul is making his way back through Asia and visits Lystra (Acts 16:1).  Acts says that Timothy was a disciple, a believer, and the son of a Jewish woman and a Greek father. Timothy had been raised up by Paul to become a leader among the churches in the Greek-speaking world. Timothy was Paul’s emissary to the church at Corinth to help straighten out the messes there (1 Corinthians 4:17, 1 Corinthians 16:10), to the church at Philippi (Philippians 2:19), and the church at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:1-4).

In his tenure at Ephesus, Timothy received two letters from Paul. The second one, as mentioned, was probably the last letter Paul wrote. Paul is encouraging Timothy to remain strong in the faith in spite of the opposition that he was facing. Paul makes an appeal for Timothy to remain true to the doctrine that he received from Paul and also to the scriptures that Timothy himself likely learned as he grew up with his Jewish mother and grandmother. Undoubtedly, the attacks against Timothy and the church itself were mounting from the outside by the worshipers of Artemis and Jews, and also from the inside from people that wanted to be Christian but not abandon their old ways either. The charge to Timothy at the end of the book serves as a sober reminder to all Christians to take charge of the things they know and be faithful to the truth, even under intense pressure from the outside. For more information about the book of Second Timothy, check out introduction to the book at bible.org.

Lord, help me to remain faithful to the truth!

John 21:24-25: Scratching the Surface

Read: John 21:24-25

The purpose of John writing his gospel is found in John 20:29-30 where John states that he wrote the gospel so that its reader might believe in the name of Jesus. Here, in the last two verses John makes two final remarks concerning the veracity of the testimony that he had just written down. First, John says that the disciples testified and wrote these things, and that “we” know that his testimony is true. This seems to be a peculiar statement in some ways in that a John is self-validating. In other words, he’s saying that his statement is true because he said so. But rather than this, John is probably appealing to what others have said concerning Jesus as a witness of Jesus. When John says that they know his testimony to be true, he’s saying if you don’t believe him, just ask others. Second, John says that there were numerous other things that Jesus did that are not recorded. He supposes that there are not enough books in the world to contain all that Jesus did. John in a way then is only a highlights reel of what Jesus did. He’s just scratching the surface, as there are details that are not recorded concerning Jesus life. His hope is that what he has shown is sufficient to convince his readers to believe.

The eyewitnesses to Jesus have all passed away, but they did not leave their spiritual progeny empty handed concerning the works of Jesus. A few of them recorded what they saw themselves (as in parts of Matthew and John), and others reported it so that those collating these source could record it as in other parts of Matthew and the books of Mark and Luke. But the gospels are not the only records. In the Bible, there are the four gospels, Acts, and numerous letters by Paul, John, James, Peter, and the writer of Hebrews that all testify to Jesus and what he did. Outside the Bible are historians that account for Jesus as well. The biblical and extrabiblical accounts are corroborated with political history, social history and archaeology among other sources.

Skeptics today like to illustrate two problems they see with the Bible: the reliability of the documents that exist concerning the Bible and the historical accuracy. The Old Testament as delivered to the world today came by way of the work of the Masoretes. They meticulously copied the texts with a great deal of accuracy and attention to detail. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were found and compared to the Masoretic texts, the Dead Sea scrolls vindicated the reputation of the Masoretes reputation as the scrolls were almost exactly the same as the much later Hebrew texts available before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The New Testament is a different story in that there are over 5000 documents that make up the body of available texts, making it the most well preserved ancient document known to exist. From these available texts, scholars have been able to produce what they believe to be an accurate representation of the original manuscripts through careful study of the texts. The historical reliability of both Old Testament and the New Testament are vindicated in a number of ways. First, the writers themselves do not seem to be reporting what they witnessed about Jesus as something that was fictional, rather they believed what they were reporting was true. They paid attention to details concerning people, places, and events such that the events of Jesus’ unfolded in the context of real history. Second, and in part of the attention to details, the history of the Bible is corroborated by archaeology. And third, as mentioned, the extrabiblical evidence, and social history, and political history vindicate this as well.

The witness of John is a part of the whole of the testimony concerning Jesus. At the end of the book, John wants to make known the way of salvation and way to abundant life that can only be found in Jesus. Christians today have this testimony in hand and can use to understand the way of salvation and also give it to others to use so they too can have eternal life that is only found in Jesus. Jesus is the light of the world, the way, the truth, and the life, the good shepherd, the bread of life, the source of living water, the lamb of God, the savior of the world, and ultimately God himself! Believe in Jesus and be saved!

Lord, your truth is revealed! Help all to know it and believe!

John 20:11-31: Eyewitness News

Read: John 20:11-31

John states that his purpose in writing his gospel was so that some might believe in Jesus. His intent from the beginning of the Gospel was to teach about the truth claims of Jesus and show how that there were a number of witnesses that attest to the veracity of what Jesus said about himself. One of the ultimate proofs of Jesus’ claims was the resurrection, because the entire hope of Christianity hangs on this single event. John notes that the followers of Jesus did not understand that Jesus was rise again from the dead, but after it happened they realized what Jesus was talking about. For this reason, Jesus’ resurrection became a central part of the message that the Christians preached all over the world. Paul says that without the resurrection one’s faith is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:14). But to ensure the Corinthians believers that the resurrection did indeed happen, Paul mentions the post-mortem appearances to the disciples and followers of Jesus who were eyewitnesses of the risen Jesus.

John records Jesus first appearing to Mary, who does not realize who Jesus is. She first sees two angels sitting in the tomb where Jesus had been laid. They ask her why she was weeping, and she turns to meet Jesus face to face, but does not recognize him at first. She later does recognize him and clings to him. Jesus tells her to go tell her to go tell the others that he was going to ascend to the Father. She runs to them and tells them that she has seen the Lord. The next appearance Jesus makes that John records is in a room where they are shut up for fear of the Jews. Jesus appears among them saying “peace” three times. They were probably scared witless because they thought they were seeing a ghost. Jesus cleared their doubts by showing them his wounds from the crucifixion – he was real live flesh and blood. A week later at his second appearance, Thomas would not believe it either, but he saw Jesus wounds and declares that Jesus is his lord and God.

Jesus then says that the ones who believe without seeing are the ones who are blessed. The ones who believe without seeing are all the Christians who have believed since the time Jesus ascended to be with the Father, save the exception of a few such as Paul who saw the Lord after the ascension (Acts 9:4-5). But Christians are not left empty-handed. In fact, Christians have plenty of historical documentation to prove that Jesus did indeed exist, and did indeed rise from the dead. Often times, Christians are asked to prove Jesus without using the Bible. Most want to exclude the Bible because they think it altogether unreliable and historically inaccurate. But if the Bible is such as this, then they should have no reason to fear it. Rather the truth of the matter is that the Bible is historically accurate and the evidence powerful such that one cannot deny it.

Gary Habermas, a leading expert in the historicity of the resurrection devised a “basic facts” approach for apologetic purposes.  By asserting some basic facts that most scholars would concede, one can conclude with a high level of certainty that the best explanation for the facts is that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. Other scholars have expanded and revised this list, but here are a few of the facts:

  • Jesus was crucified and died on a cross.
  • Jesus was buried in a tomb
  • The tomb was found empty
  • The disciples and followers of Jesus experienced what they believed to be the risen Jesus on numerous occasions
  • The disciples were radically transformed by this and boldly proclaimed a risen Jesus
  • Resurrection was central to message

The best explanation for these facts would be that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. Other theories have been proposed to explain away the missing body such as the disciples stole it, Jesus did not really die, the disciples hallucinated the risen Jesus, the disciples found the wrong tomb, among other such theories. The problem with these theories is either they are highly improbable (that is it would take more faith to believe them than Jesus actually rose from the dead) or there is no evidence to support them such that they are hardly more than conspiracy theories.

The eyewitness accounts of the followers are recorded in the Bible, which has been faithfully preserved through the ages and has been shown to be historically reliable. Christians have every good reason to believe that Jesus did indeed raise from the dead and for this reason among others good reason to believe that the truth claims of Jesus are true too. John wrote his gospel so that some might believe, and blessed are those who believe without seeing the Lord. The resurrected Lord though is alive and well. The hope of the gospel is real such that one can take it to the bank.

Lord, I do believe. When I doubt, remind me that I have no good reason to doubt!

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