June 3, 2018
WHY ARE WE EVEN HERE?
Genesis 1:1-5; 26-31
The eternal question, “why are we here?” is not so much philosophical as it is theological. How one answers that question reveals what one believes about creation, mankind, and God. The mind-numbed atheist who denies God, sees creation and mankind as random results of natural evolution. The misguided “theistic evolutionist” sees God using evolution as His method of creation (thus denying the clear scriptural account). Only the creationist, who puts the Bible first, understands that both creation and mankind serve the purpose of the sovereign God who made them.
Mankind’s preparation (vv. 1-5). Contrary to what we sometimes hear, man was not created for God’s benefit. God was not lonely, in need of fellowship, or love, or anything else mankind had to offer. David recognized this when he said, “When I observe Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You set in place, what is man that You remember him, the son of man that You look after him?” (Ps. 8:3-4). Paul echoed this idea when he declared, “The God who made the world and everything in it—He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things” (Acts 17:24-25). To see God as somehow needing us is to see God through our fallen, prideful eyes. He doesn’t need us…we need Him!
Once we see things in proper perspective, the oft quoted commentary makes pretty good sense: “The world was no doubt made, that it might be the theater of divine glory.” Or in other words, the world was made as a stage upon which God’s salvation would be played out. That in no way cheapens the earth, or grants permission to exploit it. Rather, what a wonderful, beautiful, vital, and supremely good stage God created!
Mankind’s creation (vv. 26-27). These few verses are as rich in their meaning as they are simple in their wording. For the first time in these six days of creation, there appears divine consultation. Who can be the “us” in verse 26 apart from the godhead Himself? Nowhere does God consult with angels…nor does anyone else give Him direction or counsel (see Is. 40:13). The Trinity always operates together, and that precedent is made clear in the first chapters of Genesis. Lots of possibilities exist for what it means to be created in the image of God. Simply put, God made us to resemble Him intellectually (with the ability to think, reason, and choose), morally (with a conscience; the ability to understand right from wrong), and relationally (with the need for fellowship with God and others).
Second, God created humans with deliberate differentiation: “He created them male and female.” The deliberate and specific essence of humanity is emphasized in the language. Three times the word “created” is used in verse 27; twice to unite them under God’s image, and once to separate them into distinct genders. Hence last century’s lie of evolution is addressed, as well as this century’s perversion of gender swapping…all in a single verse!
Mankind’s provision (vv. 28-31). The same God who created man, provided for him as well. God blessed them with certain gifts and charged them with certain responsibilities. They were commanded to fill the earth and to rule over it. The idea of “subdue” here is not to conquer, but to control. God’s supreme creation—mankind—would have authority over every other part of creation. While God provided an ideal environment, He also provided for day-to-day sustenance. All of the plants and fruits were given to Adam and Eve. It really was a paradise. And when all was said and done, God looked it over and declared, “This is very good.”
So why are we here? To fulfill God’s intended purpose, given to us from the beginning.
June 10, 2018
WHY ARE WE IN THIS MESS?
Genesis 3:1-7; 14-19
So, if mankind was created to worship God and enjoy the good and beautiful creation God made for him, then what in the world happened? The answer, of course, is that sin crept in and ruined it all. Genesis 3 has been called the saddest chapter in the Bible. In it, we see the fall of mankind. It began with temptation, it ended in tragedy, but fortunately, it promises triumph.
The temptation (vv. 1-7). The serpent was one of God’s created animals. Here, he is used by the devil as the agent of temptation. The word “cunning” means crafty, shrewd, or clever. The original connection between the serpent and the devil is unclear. But the New Testament book of Revelation mentions them as synonymous with Satan (Rev. 12:9; 20:2). The temptation itself appeals to pride, the very sin that resulted in Satan’s original expulsion from heaven (see Is. 14:12-15). In his subtlety, the devil drove a three-edged wedge between Adam and Eve and their Creator. First, in verse 1, he tempted them to doubt God’s word: “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?” Then, in verse 4, he tempted them to deny God’s word: “No! You will not die.” Finally, in verse 5, he impugned God’s character: “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…” While this was never stated by the Lord, the implication is that God was selfish and didn’t want anyone to be like Him. The three-fold temptation was met with Eve’s four-fold response. In verse 6 she saw, she took, and she ate of the forbidden fruit (see the parallel in 1 John 2:16). Then she sinned doubly by giving it to her husband. Finally, in the ultimate act of pride, they both attempted to “fix” their problem themselves! (v. 7).
The tragedy (vv. 14-19). By “the fall of man,” we mean that man’s exalted position in God’s perfect creation was wrecked by Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God. That sinful nature was then passed to every human being (see Eph 2:3; Rom 3:9-18, 23). The seriousness of sin is reflected in the judgment God pronounced. Simply put, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Death always implies separation: physical death is the separation of the soul from the body; spiritual death is the separation of the spirit from God. Lucifer’s sin required him to be cast out of heaven (Luke 10:18) and Adam’s sin resulted in his being cast out of the garden. Because we too, have a sin nature, we exist in separation from God (see Is. 59:1-2).
The effects of Adam and Eve’s sin had more immediate consequences. God cursed the world, people, animals, plants, and the ground itself. In fact, everything that God created for the benefit and blessing of humanity was now cursed. Like Adam, every snake encountered, every weed pulled, every funeral attended, and every sin committed, reminds us that we remain under God’s curse! In fact, Romans 8:22-23 tells us the whole creation “groans” under the weight of God’s curse, longing for a day of redemption.
The triumph (v. 15). Fortunately for us, God’s plan did not leave us without hope. Genesis 3:15 is sometimes called the proto-evangelium, or “first gospel.” It’s the first real hint that a confrontation between God and sin was already in the works. The serpent would one day wound the seed of the woman (Christ), but that blessed Seed would ultimately crush the head of the serpent. Then in a remarkable act of atonement, God slew innocent animals He had created and used their skins to cover sinful man. This demonstrates a foundational truth of God’s salvation: the penalty for sin is indeed death; BUT: God will allow a substitute! The innocent may die on behalf of the guilty.
June 17, 2018
WHY CAN’T WE FIX IT?
Deuteronomy 5:32-33; Galatians 3:10-12, 19, 24-25
Mankind was created to worship his Creator and to enjoy the wonderful world God placed him in. But through intentional, prideful, open rebellion against God, sin entered the human race; and the consequence is death. We are all descendants of Adam and the Bible says, “In Adam, all die” (1 Cor. 15:22). Ever since the sewing together of fig leaves in the garden, mankind has tried his best to clean up the mess he has made. But Jesus instructed His followers, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). How can a flawed, sinful man ever obtain perfection? And therein lies the problem.
The promise of the law (Deut. 5:32-33). At first glance, it might appear that the New Testament criticizes and condemns the Old Testament law as outdated, old fashioned, unfair, or even cruel. But that’s simply not the case. Jesus made it exceptionally clear in the Sermon on the Mount, “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished” (Matt. 5:17-18). In the focal passage, two principles stand out. The first is man’s responsibility. The phrases “be careful to do,” “not to turn aside,” and “whole instruction” reflect the obligation and dedication needed to obey God’s commandments. Our nature is to turn from God. God’s requirement is that we intentionally follow Him. The second principle is God’s reward. Notice that God’s desire is not to trip us up and punish us, but to bless us! Every time God says, “Thou shalt not,” He is protecting us. And every time God says, “Thou shalt,” He is prospering us.
The penalty of the law (Gal. 3:10-12). So if the law is holy, and just, and good—as Paul claims in Romans 7:12—and a source of God’s protection and blessing, then why does Galatians 3 call it a curse? Here is the key: the law reflects God’s perfect standard for righteousness. Therefore, it is indeed holy and just and good. The problem is not the law; the problem is our inability to keep the law! The law is not cursed, but we are…when we depend upon ourselves to keep it. Paul said, “by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Gal. 2:16). Whether we depend on ourselves to keep God’s law, or we depend upon our good works to make up for our failures, we are committing the same sin; we are trying to save ourselves. In the end, the law cannot save us…it can only condemn us.
The purpose of the law (Gal. 3:19, 24-25). Galatians 3:19 asks the next logical question. If the law cannot save us, then why was the law even given to us in the first place? Paul indicates it was “added”—somewhat like a placeholder—until the Seed of promise (mentioned in Gen. 3:15) came. Moses was the mediator who delivered the law, and transgression was the offense that required the law. The word construction means that the law was given in regard to transgression in general. Speaking of the purpose of the law even today, Presbyterian theologian Albert Barnes (c. 1850) said it well, “It shows people their duty. It reminds them of their guilt. It teaches them how far they have wandered from God. It reveals to them the penalty of disobedience. It shows them that justification by the Law is impossible, and that there must be some other way by which people must be saved.” That other way is, of course, the only way; it’s justification by faith.
June 24, 2018
WHY DID JESUS COME?
The most familiar of the Christmas stories comes from Luke 2. Yet much occurred in the first chapter of Luke’s gospel prior to “those days” in which “there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.” In Luke 1, two births are announced, and two songs of praise and prophecy were sung: Mary’s magnificat (or “magnificent” song) recorded in verses 46-55, and Zechariah’s song, highlighted as our focal passage (vv. 68-79). Here, Zechariah—the father of John the Baptist—provides several insights into why Jesus the Messiah was coming to earth.
To bring salvation (vv. 67-71). Galatians 4:4-5 says, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
What an incredible event this must have been! After waiting in forced silence for John’s birth, his father’s tongue is loosed and his spirit soared! Filled with God’s Holy Spirit, Zechariah praises God the Father for the imminent arrival of God the Son. The salvation God was sending is described in three key terms. First, the Savior would provide redemption (v. 68). The idea of redemption is one of “buying back.” Even God’s chosen people Israel were held captive by sin. It was not Satan who required payment (as some have erroneously taught), but rather God’s perfect justice that required a satisfactory “ransom” to be paid. While Zechariah emphasized redemption of God’s people, all have sinned individually; and all are in need of individual salvation. Second, the Savior would be a horn of salvation. Most see this as an indicator of His power, but it can also refer to the horn of oil used to anoint the king (see 1 Sam. 16:13), a fitting tribute to King David and an appropriate reminder that the Messiah is God’s “anointed one.” Third, verse 71 mentions salvation from our enemies. Long before the apostle Paul would warn against the “powers of darkness” and the “spiritual forces of evil” (Eph. 6:12), God’s people understood the enemies they faced, the oppression they were under, and the burden of following God in a pagan world. They longed for physical freedom as well as spiritual, and Christ was the deliverer they had been praying for.
To fulfill prophecy (vv. 72-77). Paul was emphatic in his letter to Timothy: “This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). But the events of the gospels were both predicted and promised since the Fall of man in Genesis 3. In these verses, Zechariah recounts God’s faithfulness, then names John as the prophet who would prepare the way. God’s faithfulness had been a trying theme. For 400 years (between Malachi and Matthew) God had given no new revelation. But God’s chosen remembered His promise to Abraham and continually recounted the events of God’s miraculous deliverance, protection, and provision going back to Genesis 12. Notice that salvation was not only a merciful deliverance from, but a deliverance to. In this case, the freedom was given “to serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness” (vv. 77-78). And all of this had been promised by the faithful God who always fulfills His promises.
To transform lives (vv. 78-79). Jesus not only said that He came to “give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45), but also “that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10). How fitting that Zechariah’s song of praise does not end looking at the past, but rather at the future, with a powerful picture of Christ the Light driving away the darkness, moving His people out of the shadows, and guiding them into His blessed pathways of peace.