Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Quote of the Day #213 - Charles Spurgeon

A quote from Charles Spurgeon on "mingling" Jesus Christ with everything:
Beyond all question the name, Person, and work of Jesus are the salt and savor of every true Gospel ministry and we cannot have too much of them. Alas, that in so many ministries there is such a lack of this first dainty of the feast, this essence of all soulsatisfying doctrine. We may preach Christ without prescribing how much, only the more we extol Him the better. It would be impossible to sin by excess in preaching Christ Crucified. It was an ancient precept, "With all your offerings
you shall offer salt." Let it stand as an ordinance of the sanctuary now—"With all your sermonizing and discoursing you shall ever mingle the name of Jesus Christ, you shall ever seek to magnify the Alpha and Omega of the plan of redemption."
~Charles Spurgeon (The Fourfold Treasure 991)

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

John's Baptism Of Repentance - Matthew 3:5-6 Bible Commentary

Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. (Matthew 3:5-6)
People from all over were coming to John to be baptized. But why baptism? What was its purpose?

The general consensus of Jesus' day was that in order to convert to Judaism, a Gentile had to be circumcised (males only), offer a sacrifice, and be baptized. The inclusion of baptism makes sense because in the Levitical Law, even a converted Jew was required to wash with water to cover impurity— so how much more should a heathen Gentile do the same upon converting?

It's possible that the people John baptized were recognizing the fact that their ancestry didn't earn them salvation. Just like a Gentile convert, they needed to be baptized. They needed to be converted.

John preached that entrance into the kingdom of heaven isn't based on ancestry. So daring was John, that he preached to the Pharisees, saying, "do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham" (Matthew 3:9).

John the Baptist attracted people from "Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan". I think it's safe to assume that it wasn't John's dress or diet that attracted his followers (Matthew 3:4). Instead, it was his message and his baptism— a baptism that was not from man, but God (Matthew 21:25).

The four-hundred year silence since the last prophet had been broken. The Messiah's way was being prepared, and people from all over Israel were flocking to John. Though some came for reasons other than repentance, like the Pharisees, there were those who came to humble themselves, who came to be baptized by John in the Jordan and confess their sins.

As Christians, John's baptism should be a reminder to us of our need to always be in repentance, to always humble ourselves before the throne of God. Although we aren't part of John's preparatory work for the Messiah, let us always remember that the Messiah is coming again. Christ could come back at any moment, and, oh, let us be found walking on that day in fruitful repentance!

Sources Used:
  Edersheim, Alfred. Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Appendix XII: The Baptism of Proselytes.
  Schurer, Emil. A History of the Jewish People in the Times of Jesus Christ Volume II. Chapter 31: Judaism In The Dispersion.

If you're interested in reading more on this subject, Edersheim's writing is a great place to start. Edersheim also cites plenty of primary sources if you want to explore the subject even farther.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

John the Baptist: Camel's Hair, Locusts, and Honey - Matthew 3:4 Bible Commentary

Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. (Matthew 3:4)
John the Baptist didn't care much for fashion. He was a prophet, and his clothing matched his mission. John's clothing was similar to his predecessor Elijah, who wore "a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist" (2 Kings 1:8, also see Zechariah 13:4).

John was not a king, nor did he pretend to be one. Jesus, later in his ministry, spoke to the crowds about John, saying, "What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet" (Matthew 11:8-9).

The gospels portray John as a rough kind of man. He didn't live in a king's house, but in the wilderness. He didn't eat kingly food; instead he ate locusts and wild honey.

Locusts are not something I eat for dinner, and if you live in the West, I'm guessing you don't either. But in the East, locusts don't have the same stigma attached to them. In fact, locusts are listed as one of the allowable foods in the Levitical Law (and if you're still not so sure about eating locusts, don't worry, grasshoppers are also permitted): ...you may eat: the locust of any kind, the bald locust of any kind, the cricket of any kind, and the grasshopper of any kind (Leviticus 11:22).

John also ate raw honey. The Old Testament makes many references to Israel being a land "flowing with milk and honey." As such, John must have had plenty of fructose and glucose to digest in between his locust feasts. Perhaps sometimes he combined locusts with honey for his main dish. You can imagine the vast (well, sort of...) number of recipes he must have had: honey roasted locusts, honey dipped dried locusts, maybe even a honey-locust flavored drink.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm sure John ate something other than locusts and honey. However, for at least the time of his ministry, he was known for having a diet primarily consisting of locusts and honey.

The words that Jesus spoke later in His ministry were true. John certainly "did not come eating or drinking" (Matthew 11:18). John's diet was simple. He was a voice, calling out in the wilderness, and what he ate and wore matched his mission.

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Thursday, August 09, 2012

Quote of the Day #212 - F. W. Krummacher

A quote from F. W. Krummacher:
It may indeed be the case that men will revile and persecute thee; but if thou faithfully endure, thy reward shall be great. The light shall always rise upon thee after the darkness; and after sorrow, joy shall again visit thy threshold. Nor shall anyone be able to snatch thee out of the Lord’s hands; but after having fought the good fight, thou shalt finally receive the crown of righteousness, shalt not see death, but pass from death unto life, and triumph eternally.
~F. W. Krummacher (The Suffering Saviour, Chapter 1)

This quote was taken from Samuel Jackson's translation of F. W. Krummacher's book The Suffering Saviour: Meditations On The Last Days Of Christ.

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Monday, August 06, 2012

John The Baptist's Preparations: A Fulfillment of Isaiah's Prophecy - Matthew 3:3 Bible Commentary

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’” (Matthew 3:3)
We make preparations for all sorts of things: for birthdays, weddings, holidays, funerals, and more. Whether it's baking a cake or sending out invitations, most big events require preparation.

The biggest event in history, the coming of the Messiah, also required preparation. John the Baptist was the man who did the preparing, just as Isaiah prophesied:
A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:3-5)
Think of the impossibility of John's task. He, a mere man, had to prepare the way for the Son of God— for the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords— for the very One who sustains the universe by the power of His word!

So great was John the Baptist's task that he was filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother's womb! To put it loosely, John was born again before he was born. From the earliest stages of his life, he was led by the Spirit (Luke 1:15). That's not to say that John lived a perfect life. No, he was still fallen, still in need of the Saviour.

John preached a message of repentance. He was convinced that Israel was unclean in God's eyes, and in order to prepare for the Messiah, repentance was needed. Soon enough, repentance came. Perhaps not on the scale that John had imagined, but it came. People from all over the country heard his preaching, everyone from the common citizen to the Pharisee, even soldiers.

Eventually, John finished his preparation. He stepped aside from the spotlight, recognizing that he had to decrease and the Messiah had to increase. How else could the words from Isaiah, written shortly after the prophecy cited by Matthew, be fulfilled?
Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:10-11)

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Thursday, August 02, 2012

Quote of the Day #211 - William Gurnall

A quote from William Gurnall on truth and the fading pleasures of this world:
It is a mystery to the world why men will risk their lives for what it thinks are only opinions. When our Saviour told Pilate that He had come into the world to 'bear witness to the truth,' Pilate asked, 'What is truth?' (John 18:38). It is as if he had said,' Is this any time to be thinking about truth when your life is in such danger? What is truth anyway, that you should venture so much for it?' The saint full of God's grace might better ask in holy scorn, 'What are the riches and honors and the fading pleasures of this cheating world? What is life itself, that any or all of these should oppose truth?'
~William Gurnall (The Christian in Complete Armour Volume 2, Chapter 1, Part 1).

This quote was taken from the book The Christian in Complete Armour Volume 2 - A modernized abridgement of the Puritan Classic by William Gurnall, published by Banner Of Truth.

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