The Psychology of the Virgin Birth

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The virgin birth of Jesus is affirmed in the Scriptures.  Matthew 1:18-23 fulfilled Isaiah 7:14.  Luke writes, “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.  He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.  Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:31-35).  Mary was with child of the Holy Spirit (a miracle).
Mary was Espoused to Joseph
The espousal between Mary and Joseph was a binding covenant/contract.  The contract could only be broken by adultery.  Generally, a year elapsed between initiating the contract and the marriage ceremony.  The couple lived with parents during this time and saw each other under the watchful eye of a chaperone. Jesus was conceived during the time of the betrothal.  The conception was the result of a miracle wrought by God.  No adultery was committed.  If a woman committed adultery, the man was to denounce her before the Jewish council.  The officiating priest would conduct an interrogation.  If the evidence confirmed sin, the woman was to be stoned.  The offended lover would cast the first stone.  Mary knows the law.  Does Mary conceal her pregnancy?  No, she goes to visit Elizabeth.  Elizabeth is married to Zecharaiah, the officiating priest. Mary goes to the fountain head of the law and judgment to announce her pregnancy.  She shows no signs of guilt or shame.
The Law of Illegitimacy (Deuteronomy 23)
An illegitimate child could not become a member of the congregation of Israel.  It took ten generations to purify an illegitimate offspring.  Jesus, if illegitimate, would have violated this law.  But, Jesus never shows any signs of guilt or shame.  The family of Jesus follows the law regarding presenting Him to the LORD (Luke 2:22).  The first male child would be called “holy to the LORD.”  This simply would not have been possible without the greatest violation of the conscience by both Joseph and Mary if Jesus were illegitimate.
Mary’s Song (Luke 1:46-55)
In ten verses, Mary cites 23 separate Old Testament Scriptures (portions therefrom).  She says, “My soul doth magnify the LORD.”  She refers to herself as the “handmaid” of the LORD (Luke 1:38). Does this sound like a woman who had violated the laws of God?
Consider Joseph a Righteous Man
Joseph discovered Mary’s pregnancy and determined to put her away privately.  His actions show that he had no part in her pregnancy.  Joseph continues his relationship with Mary and marries her only after an angel of the LORD spoke with him and informed him as to the means of Mary’s pregnancy.  He is convinced that Mary is pure and does not hesitate to take her as his wife (Matt. 1:18-25).
Mary at the Cross
Jesus was humiliated, mocked, beaten, made to carry His own cross, nailed by His hands and feet to the cross and lifted up between heaven and earth to die.  The sight would have been unbelievably horrifying to anyone standing near by.  Mary was present at the cross.  The chief reason that Jesus was crucified was for blasphemy because “He made Himself the Son of God” (John 10:33 and Matt. 26:65-66).  Mary knew that her son was the Son of God.  If not, she is the most despicable woman in human history. Why?  Mary stood with her mouth shut and allowed her son to be beaten and crucified when she could have saved him by naming His father.  Mary’s silence at the foot of the cross speaks to the truth of Jesus’ identity.  Truly, He was the Son of God!

Father, Son and Spirit

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Father, Son and Spirit–The Trinity and John’s Gospel is written by Andreas J. Kostenberger and Scott R. Swain. The book is part of the series, New Studies in Biblical Theology edited by D. A. Carson and published by InterVarsity Press in 2008. This book is a special study of a special topic. The authors give a thorough analysis and study of the words, God (theos), Father, Son and Spirit in the Gospel of John. They consider each term in the various parts of John’s Gospel: the Prologue, the Book of Signs and the Book of Glory. Then, they draw some theological conclusions based upon their analysis of the passages. I have completed a review of this book and added it to my Book Reviews page on my blog. Why not take a moment to read it?

Who Is Jesus?

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The focus of the Gospel of John is to answer the question, “Who Is Jesus?” The answer to this question gives insight into another question, “Who Is God?” In the opening eighteen verses of this Gospel, John uses several descriptive terms to identify Jesus. They are: Word, Creator, Life and Light, Only begotten Son, and Christ.
Jesus the Word
“In the beginning was the Word…” (John 1:1). John is the only New Testament writer to use the term, Word, to describe Jesus. The Greek word logos is translated by the English term, Word. John is referring to the fact that Jesus is the full and complete revelation of God (deity) to the world. Jesus declares the Father (John 1:18). Every characteristic of deity was possessed by Jesus (John 14:9, Col. 2:9). He is the express image of the Father (Heb. 1:3). To affirm that Jesus is deity is to give insight into the godhead. Clearly, in John 1:1, the Word was with God (distinct from God the Father, but present with Him in the beginning-Gen. 1:1) as part of the godhead. The Word was God (God is from the Greek word theos indicating the nature of His essential being–or deity). The Word is an agent of Creation. Creative power belongs to God alone and Jesus is creator (John 1:3). Therefore, Jesus is God (deity). God (the Triune God) is an eternal, self-existing, all-powerful spiritual being manifested in three distinct persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Each of these persons share together in one divine essence to form one essential being–the Triune God. This understanding of the godhead is further developed in the Gospel of John. It emphatically refutes atheism.
Jesus the Creator
“All things were made by him…” (John 1:3). “All things…” refers to each item individually considered. Each minute part of the creation is included in the creative power manifested by the Word. “Made” means “came into being.” This refutes the concept of the eternality of matter. Every material thing that exists in the universe had a beginning. “By” indicates agency. Jesus was with God the Father at the beginning of all things (Gen. 1:1, Col. 1:16). Jesus possessed and demonstrated full creative powers–a characteristic of deity. If we deny creation, we deny the true identity of Jesus Christ. If we deny Jesus as creator, we must also deny Him as savior of the world!
Jesus the Life and Light
“In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Jesus is the source of all life-physical, spiritual and eternal-because He is the creator of all things. All life comes from Him who is the source of life. Consequently, belief in Jesus requires that we reject the notion of spontaneous generation. Spontaneous generation, the notion that non-living things can produce living organisms has never been proven scientifically. Yet, this concept is an important aspect of organic evolution. Not only is Jesus the life (John 14:6), but, He is the light. The word light refers to truth and moral uprightness (John 14:6). Light is in conflict with darkness (error and moral corruption). But, light dispels the darkness (John 3:21). Men love darkness rather than light because the truth rebukes their sinful deeds. The only hope men have to win over sin and death is to come to the light.
Jesus the Only Begotten Son
Twice in the prologue to John’s Gospel Jesus is referred to as “the only begotten Son” (John 1:14, 18). In John 1:14, the affirmation is made that the Word was made flesh. This refers to the Virgin Birth of Jesus. The conception of Jesus was a miracle. Luke describes it in these words, “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb…Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall these things be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:31-35). Jesus was (eternally existed) but He was made or became flesh (at a certain point in history) (John 1:1, 14). Jesus is the Second Person of the godhead who took human form and was made in the likeness of a servant for the purpose of suffering the death on the cross and securing our eternal redemption (Phil. 2:5-11).
Jesus the Christ
“…but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). The word Christ refers to the Messiah. Jesus is the anointed one. He was anointed with the Holy Spirit at His baptism (Matt. 3:16-17, Acts 10:38). John the baptist was an eyewitness to this event (John 1:32-34). John’s testimony validates Jesus’ claim to be the hope of Israel and the hope of the world. Jesus Christ gives us grace and truth. Grace is the unmerited favor of God and reveals God’s goodness toward us in the unspeakable gift of His Son (John 3:16; II Cor. 9:15). Truth is the very words proceeding forth from God (the Triune God). The words of Jesus (His teaching, especially His commands) will judge us in the last day (John 12:48).
The revelation of Jesus Christ by John is convincing and faith producing. It is only by believing in Jesus Christ that we can have eternal life (John 20:30-31). Authentic faith in Jesus involves trusting Him and obeying Him (John 3:36). Do you know Jesus? Have you obeyed Him?

Jesus and Moses

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In a recent article in the Christian Courier, Wayne Jackson presented material concerning Jesus and Moses (Christian Courier, April, 2014, p. 15). I would like to expand on that material.
Unbelievable Quotes
T. K. Cheyne (1899) wrote that the books of Moses were written almost a thousand years after Moses and therefore, could not have been written by Moses (Encyclopedia Biblica, vol. 2, p. 2055). According to Cheyne, Moses could not have written anything about Jesus.
John Willis (2009) in the Transforming Word, (Abilene Christian University Press) said, “There is no unequivocal specific prediction of the coming of Jesus Christ and/or the church in the Old Testament.” Willis does not believe that there is any Messianic prophecy in the Old Testament.
Both of these statements betray the liberal theology of the men who wrote them.
The Statement of Jesus
In John 5:46-47, Jesus stated, “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words.” Jesus believed that Moses wrote of Him. Jesus believed that Moses’ writings were Scripture (John 5:39). Jesus connected belief in Moses’ words with belief in His own words. Jesus words are also Scripture.
What Moses Wrote About Jesus
Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament (Luke 24:44). Consider the following passages that Moses wrote about Jesus.
First, Gen. 3:15 was written by Moses. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” This is the first Messianic prophecy in Scripture. The prophecy relates to the “seed of woman” who would destroy the works of Satan (Heb. 2:14; I John 3:8). This is the beginning of the seed promise. “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4). God promised Abraham that through his seed all nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 22:18). Paul applies this promise to Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:16). The seed promise was also made to David (II Sam. 7:11-17). In Matthew 1:1, the word of God declares that Jesus was the son of David, the son of Abraham. This connects Jesus with the seed promise. Moses wrote concerning the physical line of descent that would be the means by which Jesus was brought into the world.
Second, in Gen. 49:10, Moses wrote, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” The sceptre denotes rule. Shiloh would be a descendent of Judah and would rule with authority and might. Shiloh would also be a lawgiver. Jesus was a lawgiver (Heb. 1:1-2). The word Shiloh means “rest-giver.” Jesus brought rest and peace (Matt. 11:28; John 16:33). John refers to Jesus as the “lion of the tribe of Judah” (Rev. 5:5). Jesus is the Shiloh mentioned in this text and this text was written by Moses!
Third, Moses wrote the book of Exodus. In Exodus 12:1-14, the details of the Passover are given to us. The Old Testament foreshadows the New Testament (Heb. 10:1). “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.” The Old Testament forshadows or typifies things that were to come. The New Testament contains the antitype or substance (reality). The Passover lamb was a type of which Jesus is the antitype. Paul writes, “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (I Cor. 5:7). Jesus is the lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Moses wrote of our redemption through Jesus Christ by giving us the type of which Jesus is the antitype. This feature of the link between the Old Testament and the New Testament is just as important as prophecy and its fulfillment.
Fourth, the various sacrifices offered under the Old Testament foreshadowed the supreme sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of mankind. In Leviticus 1-7, Moses writes concerning the various sacrifices that comprised the sacriicial system under the law of Moses. One of these sacrifices was the burnt offering which was made in order to obtain atonement. However, the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin (Heb. 10:4). Only the blood of Jesus purges the conscience from dead works (Heb. 9:14-15). Consequently, the atonement for sins committed under the Old Testament was secured by the sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross. Only the blood of Jesus remits/forgives sin. Jesus is a superior sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10:4). Once again, Moses foreshadows the utimate sacrifice for sin.
Fifth, in Numbers 21:4-9, we read that the Israelites were discouraged during their journey from Mount Hor to the land of Edom. They murmured against God. God sent “fiery serpents” (poisonous snakes) among them and many were bitten and died. God instructs Moses to make a fiery serpent and set it upon a pole. When the people looked upon it, they would be healed. In John 3:14-15, Jesus applies this historical event to His own death. “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Mosess lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” Jesus also said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). Jesus referenced His death upon the cross. Through His death, many would be healed spiritually (forgiven of their sins). Through type and antitype, Moses wrote of Jesus.
Finally, consider the prediction that Moses made in Deut. 18:18-20, “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.” In Acts 3:22-23, Peter, an apostle of the Lord, said, “For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.” Peter states that Moses wrote about Jesus! Moses pointed to Jesus as a spokesman for God that all people must obey.
In every book that Moses wrote, i.e. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, he said something about Jesus! Jesus said Moses wrote of Him. Peter said that Moses wrote of Jesus. You simply cannot appeal to a higher authority to prove this fact. In light of the unbelievable statements given above, we must affirm, “let God be true and every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4).

Jesus’ Wife???

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The headlines read, “Ancient papyrus fragment refers to Jesus’ ‘wife.'”  Karen King, a Christian scholar at the Harvard Divinity School, presented a papyrus fragment from the fourth century that contains a phrase in which Jesus refers to “My wife.”  The fragment consists of eight lines of black ink, written in Coptic, which include the phrase, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…'”  Several observations need to be made concerning this “find.”
First, the authenticity of the fragment has not been proved.  Roger Bagnell, director of the Institute for the Study of Ancient World in New York said that it is likely authentic.  The provenance of the fragment is a mystery.  Its owner has asked to remain anonymous.  Only a small circle of experts have concluded it is not likely a forgery.  The final verdict has not been given.  AnneMarie Luijendijk, who co-authored the paper with King said the fragment’s poor condition suggests it was found in a garbage heap.
Second, the fragment does not prove that Jesus was married.  We already know of this controversy through Gnostic writings in the second century.  This was a topic of discussion a few years ago when The Da Vinci Code was published. The Da Vinci Code was written by Dan Brown.  It is a fictional novel.  In it, Brown claims that the Gnostic Gospels (such as the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary) are the earliest Gospels and that they have been suppressed by church councils (Da Vinci Code, p. 231).  The Gnostic Gospels are a group of books discovered in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, Egypt.  Fifty-two texts were recovered, dating from approximately AD 350 (first published in English in 1981).  Neither the Gospel of Philip nor the Gospel of Mary existed during the time the New Testament Gospels were written.
Gnosticism refers to a body of related teachings, both ancient and modern, stressing the acquisition of gnosis (Greek for knowledge), or secret, inner, esoteric knowledge.  The knowledge sought is not strictly intellectual, but mystical.  This gnosis is the knowledge of ultimate reality particulary one’s divine essence and origin (New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics, p. 288).  Gnostics deny that Jesus Christ died on the cross to atone for sin.  They teach that Jesus was resurrected, but not physically.  Gnosticism is a form of mysticism.
Brown appealed to the Gospel of Philip as a source of information about Jesus being married.  The Gospel of Philip states, “And the companion of the (…) Mary Magdalene (…loved) her more than (all) the disciples (and used to) kiss her (often) on her (…)”  The relevant portion of this book has many gaps.  The bracketed portions reflect gaps in the manuscripts.  The use of this text in an attempt to prove that Jesus was married is completely false.
The New Testament books: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John do not mention that Jesus was married or that He fathered any children.  The historical account of Jesus’ life is truth–historical truth!  The false view of Gnosticism cannot overthrow the truth.

Lessons Learned From Jury Duty

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This past week I have had the privilege of serving on jury duty.  I have been away from my desk as a result and have not had the opportunity to keep up with my blog.  I am returning today to that task and would like to share some of the observations that come from my experience.
First, I learned what is reasonable is important to a jurist.  Here is an example of what is reasonable.  We know that some people run red lights.  In our area around Columbus, Ohio, several red-light cameras have been installed at specific intersections in order to record people running red lights and, later, a ticket is sent to their address for the violation.  This has been publicized in many different media forms.  We also know that some traffic accidents are the result of people running red lights.  Why, then, do we not stop at all green lights in order to avoid collisions with those people who run red lights?  It would not be reasonable to do so.  Green means go not stop.  If we stopped at green lights, more accidents would follow.  Also, it would be very disruptive.  Consequently, we deem it would be irresponsible and unreasonable to stop at green lights.  To be reasonable means that “it makes good sense.”
Second, what does the phrase, “beyond reasonable doubt” mean?  No prosecutor could prove his case 100%.  But, he could present sufficient evidence to convince an individual juror “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  Consider this scenario.  A person enters a bank and robs it at gun point.  Later, the following evidence is presented to convict him or her.  There is an clear image of the suspect on a video camera.  A witness places the suspect at the scene at the same time as the crime.  A gun with the suspect’s finger prints on it is presented as material evidence.  But, another witness fails to recall the color of his shirt and mistakes his red shirt for some other color.  Would there be enough evidence to convict the suspect “beyond a reasonable doubt?”
Third, which is more convincing, description or recognition?  If you were asked to describe the president of the United States at the present time you could give a description like this:  he is a male, middle aged, tall, thin, moderately brown skin, with graying hair.  But, how many other men in America would fit that same description?  Yet, if he walked through the door of your house, you would be able to recognize him immediately.  Recognition is stronger than description.
Let’s apply what we have learned.  In order to have faith in Jesus Christ, we must consider the evidence that He is the Messiah and the Son of God.  John writes his Gospel with this purpose in mind (John 20:30-31).
First, could we prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God?  The evidence given in the gospels is sufficient for such proof.  We have: (1) Prophecy and its fulfillment.  For instance, Isaiah prophesied specifically what the Messiah would accomplish in Isa. 61:1-2.  This prophecy was applied by Jesus to himself in Luke 4:16-21.  Then, Jesus accomplished the specific factors that were prophesied.  The prophecy is confirmed by historical reality.  (2) Miracles.  Jesus performed a wide range of miracles including raising the dead (John 11).  The miracles were not denied even by Jesus’ enemies.  They may have attempted to attribute His power to the devil (Matt. 12) but, Jesus was able to refute this attack on His person.  (3) the Scriptures.  Many times the Gospel writers indicate that something that Jesus did or that was happening to Him was the fulfillment of the Scriptures.  The Scriptures have their own authority and their veracity is supported by their correspondence to historical details.  Truth is that which conforms to reality.  (4) Eyewitnesses.  Eyewitnesses, those who recognized Jesus, give testimony that they saw, heard and experienced life with the Lord before and after His death on the cross.  The post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to many people, including His disciples, is strong evidence of His resurrection from the dead. Of special mention in this class is the prophet Moses.  Moses’ credibility as a witness is unimpeachable.   (5) Jesus Himself.  Jesus bears witness to His identity and His mission.  What Jesus says perfectly agrees with what He did.  There are no discrepancies.  His own testimony is believable.  (6)  God.  At least three times during Jesus earthly ministry, a voice out of heaven speaks and declares Him to be the Son of God (Jesus’ baptism, Luke 3:21-22; Jesus’ Transfiguration, Luke 9:34-35; Before Jesus’ Death, John 12:28-32).
Second, unbelief is irrational and unreasonable.  Truth is that which conforms to reality as God defines reality.  To deny reality is to deny truth.  To deny reality is irrational and unreasonable.  Those who deny that Jesus Christ is the Son of God are irrational.  There is sufficient evidence to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World and the Son of God.

Duped, Deceived, Damned

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Yahoo News reported recently that a 53-year-old  North Carolina man, Michael Fuller, tried to buy a vacum cleaner, a microwave oven and other items at a Walmart store with a million-dollar bill.  He insisted that the note was real when he was purchasing $476 worth of items.  Fuller was arrested and charged with attempting to obtain property by false pretense and uttering a forged instrument.  He is in jail on a $17,500 bond.

Note several things about this story.  First, Fuller insisted that his milliion dollar bill was legit.  He was duped.  Second, he attempted to deceive others by using it and insisting it was authentic.  Third, A standard of currency proves him wrong.  The largest bill in circulation is $100.  The government stopped making $10,000 notes in 1969.  An authentic million dollar bill has never been produced by the United States Mint.  Fourth, Fuller was arrested and is now having to face the penalty for his crime.

In II Peter 2:1, the Word of God declares, “But there were false prophets also amng the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.”  In the world of religion we must beware of false prophets.  First, these men are duped themselves.  They are cunning and bold.  They deny the Lord that bought them.  Do you know anyone who denies the deity of Jesus Christ?  Second, these men attempt to deceive others.  They teach damnable heresies.  They teach the opposite of truth.    Third, the standard of truth falsifies what they teach.  There is a standard to which we can compare any doctrine.  The Word of God is truth (John 17:17).  The test of truth is available to anyone willing to read and understand the Bible for themselves.  Fourth, these teachers and those they deceive will be damned.  The language is strong but effective.  To be damned is to be eternally separated from God.

If someone asked you for change for a million dollar bill, what would your reaction be?  What about someone who insists that Jesus is not God’s Son?  If we deny Jesus Christ, one day He will deny us (Matt. 10:33).

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