Ecclesiastes 7:1-6: Legacy

Read: Ecclesiastes 7:1-6

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes is now old, and is perhaps here looking back over his life as to what he has accomplished. He had tried any number of things, but what he had pursued left him empty, wanting more. He was never satisfied in his pursuits. In light of this though, the Preacher looks at other things in his life with particular regard to his legacy. He says that a good name is better than fine perfume and one’s death day is better than one’s day of birth. The Preacher is not being morbid, rather he is being introspective, and realizing how death causes one to look inwardly at one’s own life. Going to the house of mourning and having a sad face conjures up feelings of loss no doubt, but it also gives pause in one’s life. When death comes, it usually interrupts life such that people have a time or mourning for whomever it was that was lost, thinking about that person’s life and how that person impacted the lives of others. In the end, a person’s name is remembered as ad good or bad. The Preacher says that the common destiny of all, namely death, should be taken to heart so that when one does pass away, one’s name will be remembered.

Perhaps the best legacy one can have is a life that is lived in accordance with the ways of God. Proverbs 16:31 says that gray hair is a crown of splendor earned through a righteous life. Everyone knows that gray hair is caused by age, but the writer is saying that the respect do to those who are older is from one’s right living.  Paul in all his turmoil says toward the end of his life that he has earned a crown of righteousness because he has “fought the good fight” and has “finished the race” (2 Timothy 4:6-8). The sort of legacy that Paul left behind was a life committed to the gospel. Paul calls his converts his “letters of commendation” (2 Corinthians 3:1-5). The believers in Corinth were a testament to what he had done. Psalm 71 speaks of one who has feared God from his youth. The Psalmist says that he declared the works of God, and asks God not to forsake him in his old age.  Hebrews 11 enumerates many of those whose names are immortalized in the Bible. They all left a legacy by having faith in God.

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes 11:7-12-7 says that those who are young should remember their creator while they are young. He says that youth and vigor are meaningless, much like Proverbs 31:30 says concerning beauty. These things are fleeting. In a culture that glorifies youthfulness and vigor, these words can fall on deaf ears. Christians need not consume themselves with things that are fleeting, rather they should consume themselves with the things that bring about a good name: fearing God and keeping his commandments. This sort of legacy can be passed from generation to generation such that one will be among those in Hebrew 11 and among those who receive a crown of righteousness!

Lord, help my legacy to be your name!

2 Timothy 2:1-7: Soldiers, Athletes, and Farmers

Read: 2 Timothy 2:1-7

After exhorting Timothy to be unashamed of the gospel, he commands Timothy to “be strong” in the grace of Jesus. The word, “ενδυναμου” in the Greek shares the same root with the word translated “power” in 2 Timothy 1:7. Paul was commanding Timothy to rekindle the gifts – that is set the ablaze – for the purpose of standing up for the gospel. The spirit he has been given is a spirit of power, and Paul is encouraging Timothy to be empowered (the verb is passive) in the grace of Jesus. In other words, Timothy is not to act on his own strength, but in the strength given to him by he who lives inside of him: the Holy Spirit, in much the same way he commands him to guard “in the Holy Spirit” (2 Timothy 1:14).

Paul also commands Timothy to entrust the things that he heard from Paul to other men who will be able to teach it to others. Paul says that faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:10-17). Jesus’ last command in Matthew before ascending was for the disciples to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20), telling them to teach what he taught them. Paul does not want the movement to stop with Timothy; rather he wants it to keep going. Paul was a catalyst that taught what he received to others who are to teach others who will still yet teach more. Nor does Paul want Timothy to shrink back in spite of opposition; rather continue to work according to the plan. Paul describes this with three analogies:

  • The soldier: the soldier does not concern himself with daily life, rather works to please his commanding officer. Paul wants Timothy to not become entangled with things that would detract him from the mission of the gospel.
  • The athlete: the athlete trains and competes according to the rules so that he or she is not disqualified. Paul wants Timothy to live a morally pure life so that he is not disqualified as a minister.
  • The farmer: the farmer gets to reap a portion of the harvest for himself first. Paul wants Timothy work diligently as the farmer so that he will bear fruit.

Paul wants Timothy to consider the implications of each of these analogies and receive from the Lord for understanding accordingly. This is probably in regards not to the analogies, but in the application of what Paul has taught Timothy. Head knowledge about the things of God should result in skillful living according to the things of God, and this is true wisdom. Paul had shown Timothy the plan, now it was up to Timothy to act as a soldier to execute the plan, do it in such a way as to not disqualify himself, and do it with diligence – all by the empowering of God.

Being empowered by the Spirit comes through abiding in Christ. Christ had commanded the disciples to abide in him so they would bear fruit, and apart from him they could do nothing (John 15:4-5). This means that one should be intentional about spending time in prayer and devotion apart from the things of world so that God can speak into one’s life filling his or her mind with his truth and stirring up the Spirit to guide and direct the believer. Believers, through this empowering act should act as the soldier, athlete, and farmer too according to the mission: to teach others who can teach others.

Lord, help me to be empowered by you to execute your mission!

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 21:1-14: Telltale Signs

Read: John 21:1-14

The disciples had been out fishing all night. Apparently, they had returned to Galilee after the Passover and returned to fishing for a time. They had seen the risen Lord on two other occasions before this one according to the Gospel of John. John records the other in appearances in John 20 after the resurrection. Jesus had made his way up to Galilee and had a fire going on the shore. The disciples did not know who it was at first, but recognized it was Jesus after they pulled in 153 large fish after following the strangers instructions. They knew immediately that it was Jesus then, and none of them dare asked, “Who are you?” The disciples recognized Jesus by the telltale sign of a miraculous catch of fish. This catch certainly sparked a memory of many of the other miracles that Jesus had performed before this time.

John up to this point had recorded seven other miracles.

  • Turning water in wine (John 2:1-11)
  • Healing the officials son a distance (John 4:43-53)
  • The healing of the man by the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-9)
  • The feeding of the 5000 (John 6:1-5)
  • Walking on water (John 6:16-25)
  • Healing the man born blind (John 9:1-41)
  • Raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44)

Jesus had also raised from the dead and had already appeared to the disciples. There could be no doubt in the mind of the disciples that this miracle was from Jesus too. The purpose of miracles though was to establish that Jesus was one sent from God. These demonstrations of power were among the works that Jesus says was one of the witnesses to his authenticity (John 3:2, John 5:36, John 9:33, John 10:25-38). Elsewhere, Peter affirms these works as a means to authenticate the message he was preaching(Acts 2:22). The case for Jesus’ authenticity had been made and the disciples were well equipped with these accounts to testify about Jesus.

Miracles, however, are not the way that God primarily reveals himself to people today. Jesus performed miracles to authenticate himself. The disciples did perform miracles too, but they did so in the name of Jesus. But even so, the principal way that the disciples talked about Jesus was by going into all the world testifying about what Jesus had done. Many more believed because of the testimonies than they did from the miracles. When Jesus gave the Great Commission, he told the disciples to “teach” (Matthew 28:19-20). Mark says go and “preach” (Mark 16:15-16). Luke says that this will be “proclaimed” in all nations (Luke 24:47). Acts 1:8 says that they will be Jesus’ witnesses – that is they will testify about him. 2 Timothy 2:2 says that Timothy should teach what he received from Paul to others who will be able to teach it to even more. The proclamation of the gospel is a verbal event, not by acts of power. Paul said in Romans 10:17 that faith comes by hearing. If God wants to demonstrate his power, he can, and sometimes he does. But as a mode of operation, Christians are to be about the business of proclaiming the resurrected Christ to all nations rather than looking for signs and wonders or trying to do such things themselves. Besides, Jesus said the telltale sign of Christians will be their love for one another (John 13:35), not the signs and wonders they perform. In this form, the world will see the love of Christ and hear the witness of Christ!

Lord, help me to represent you well by loving others and proclaim your truth to the world too!

John 18:12-13, 20-24: False Pretenses

Read: John 18:12-13, 20-24

Caiaphas was no stranger to Jesus. Being the high priest, he had received a vision concerning Jesus that Jesus would die for the nation (John 11:49-50). The Pharisees feared Jesus’ growing popularity, so much so that they felt that their respective positions were in jeopardy from the Romans. Caiaphas told them not to worry concerning about this because inevitably Jesus would die for the nation. Caiaphas was right in saying that Jesus would die for the nation, but understood this in the wrong way. They apparently thought it was to preserve the nation – that is to avert the Romans from dismantling it as they did in 70 AD. Jesus was to die for the sins of the nation. Not only Israel though, because Jesus died for the entire world.

Caiaphas asked Jesus about his followers and teachings, and Jesus tells Caiaphas that he should ask the Jews concerning his teachings because he held nothing back. In a Jewish court system, in order for a man to be accused of something, there had to be two or more witnesses to establish the truth (Deuteronomy 17:6). When Jesus asks Caiaphas to bring in witnesses concerning him, He seems to want two things: he asking Caiaphas to uphold the law as the high priest should do and second he is asking Caiaphas to bring a case against him concerning his teachings. But rather than do this, the guard strikes Jesus and rebukes him for speaking to Caiaphas in a manner the guard deemed unworthy. Jesus says if he had spoken wrongly, speak of the wrong. Otherwise, he questions the guard’s remarks. Here on two occasions, Jesus asks for a case against him. But rather than produce a case against, which they send him off to Pilate.

Caiaphas was perhaps afraid of what people might say concerning Jesus. Often times when Jesus spoke, he would cause a divide. If Caiaphas was to bring in witnesses, then it is likely that they too would have been divided against Jesus and Caiaphas would not have a case against Jesus enough to accuse him of any worthy of death, much less anything wrong. The opposition to Jesus apparently was not interested in ascertaining whether or not Jesus was guilty, rather that were more interested in getting him out of the way in a power play and abuse of authority.

What they did not realize was that Jesus was no real threat to them, but rather the one that they needed the most for salvation and forgiveness. People are no different today either, hiding behind false pretenses. Those who have something to lose from accepting Jesus almost always look for a way to put Jesus in a negative light by telling lies about Jesus. They do this so they can appear to be rejecting Jesus on good grounds, but in secret do not want to accept Jesus. In every case though, God knows the intentions of the heart and judges not by what one says outward, but by what one has in his heart (1 Samuel 16:7, 1 Chronicles 28:9, Hebrews 4:13). God is the ultimate judge of such persons and such people will be without excuse. But the Christian cannot hide sin from God either. God knows the thought of those who believe him, so it is certainly better to confess the sin to God and be done with it than harbor it and pretend God cannot see it. God is faithful to forgive and cleanse one of unrighteousness. Jesus died for sinners so that grace would be made available, and everyone can have it if he or she turns to Jesus!

Lord, I don’t want to be pretentious! I confess my sins to you, openly!

John 5:30-47

Read: John 5:30-47

Jesus, after laying his claims for equality with God, Jesus says that if he testifies about himself, then his testimony is not true, but if there is another witness, then the testimony is true.  In the Jewish legal system, truth was not established by a single witness, but my two (or more) witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6, Deuteronomy 19:15). Jesus then gives 5 other witnesses to the veracity of his testimony: the Spirit, the witness of John the Baptist, the witness of works, the witness of the Father, and the witness of Scripture.

The Spirit (John 5:32):  The “another” is uncertain, but given that Jesus testifies about the Father later on, it seems that Jesus is alluding to the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who speaks truth into the lives of believers (John 14:17, John 15:26, John 16:13, Romans 9:1, 1 John 5:6, 1 Corinthians 2:10-16). The Spirit here is testifying about Jesus and Jesus, being one with God and the Spirit, knows that the testimony is true.

John the Baptist (John 5:33-35) John the Baptist gave a testimony about Jesus, calling him the Lamb of God and the one who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:19-36, John 3:22-36, Mark 1:1-13). Jesus calls him a “lamp” – a light bearer as described in John 1:6-8. John made the way for Jesus, pointing people to Christ so that they would not only have Jesus’ testimony, but also the witness of another.

Works (John 5:36): Jesus claims that his works were a sign from God that his testimony is true (John 7:31, John 10:24-38). John the Apostle recorded many of the signs in his gospel to that people might believe in Jesus too (John 20:30-31). The ultimate work of Jesus was his death, burial, and resurrection on which the Christian faith stands or falls (1 Corinthians 15:11-19).

The Father (John 5:37-38):  Matthew 3:17 and Matthew 17:5 speaks of a voice from heaven calling Jesus “My son”. Peter recalls the transfiguration of Jesus in 2 Peter 1:16-21. Perhaps Jesus is talking about the voice from heaven, although they may have audibly heard it, they did understand it because it was not abiding in their hearts. This is the condition described in Isaiah 6:10 where the ears are receiving sound, but is not received. The Father’s words abiding in one’s heart should compel them to believe in the Father, the one who sent Jesus.

The Scriptures (John 5:39-47): Moses wrote about Jesus (Genesis 3:15, Genesis 12:3, Genesis 18:18, Genesis 49:10, Numbers 21:8-9, Numbers 24:17-18, Deuteronomy 18:18-19). The scriptures for the Jews in New Testament times varied depending on the sect, but they all agreed that the writings of Moses were scripture. Jesus reasons that if they believed the scriptures they would believe in him. They do not believe in him, so they do not believe the scriptures. The reason Jesus gives is that they seek glory from one another rather than God – perhaps they were looking to make themselves the prophets the scripture spoke of rather than Jesus. In that matter, they were abusing scripture. In any case, if one does not believe scriptures, they cannot believe Jesus.

Claiming equality with God would require extraordinary witnesses, but Jesus nevertheless had the witnesses he need to prove his case. Christians today, perhaps, have even more of a witness concerning Jesus. Not only do Christians have the five aforementioned witnesses, Christians have the message fully revealed and expounded on by the New Testament writers and the Holy Spirit living within. Christians have a personal testimony to share and they can also point skeptics to the veracity of scriptures that have been verified as accurate and reliable. One does not have to affirm some pie-in-the-sky claim concerning what he or she believes, but have evaluate it based on real history and verifiable facts.

Lord, your testimony is true. Help me to point others to the truth!