Matt Postiff's Blog
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Posted Dec 28, 2009 under
Many folks in our church have finished their reading through the New Testament this year for the fourth time this week. Next year, we embark on another journey through the Bible, this time twice through the NT and once through the OT. The reading schedules are available in PDF for the OT and NT. I adapted these reading schedules from bibleplan.org.
Feel free to join us in reading through the Scripture!
Posted Nov 22, 2009 under
Are they figments of people's sinful and creative imagination? Or are is there something more sinister behind them?
There are several Biblical texts that indicate that false gods are
often (if not always) fronts for demons. Leviticus 17:7 mentions
idolatrous sacrifices to the goat-demons. Deuteronomy 32:17 speaks of
the practice of "sacrificing to demons...to gods...new gods." The term
"gods" is thus equated with "demons." Psalm 106:36-37 says the
Israelites served idols and sacrificed their children to demons. This
is probably a reference to sacrificing children to Molech through the
fire (Leviticus 18:21, 20:2-5, 2 Kings 23:10, Jeremiah 32:35). Paul
reflects the OT teaching when he refers, in 1 Corinthians 10:20-21, to
pagan sacrifices idol/demons. 1 Timothy 4:1 has "doctrines of demons" which seems to make the demons a bit more active in their false systems than just a plain-old idol. Finally, Revelation 9:20 teaches that some people did not repent of their demon-worship.
Whether we can say in every case that a false god is a creation of a demon, or whether it is fully a product of a human's sinful imagination, or whether the demon took advantage of the human's departure from the living God to become a "god" to that person, is hard to say. Suffice it to say that it is ultimately dangerous to dabble with false gods because of the demonic influence over them.
Posted Nov 21, 2009 under
So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."
The early chapters of Acts record several persecutions against the church. In ch. 4, the apostles Peter and John were jailed and interrogated by the Sanhedrin. In ch. 5 the apostles were incarcerated again. After a miraculous release, they were brought before the Sanhedrin. This time they were beaten and reprimanded. In all three cases, the Jewish authorities were disturbed and angry that the apostles were preaching and teaching about Jesus (4:2, 5:17, 5:28). A fourth persecution came about on the occasion of Stephen's preaching (Acts 6-7).
After each persecution, the believers still spoke of Jesus (4:29, 5:20-21, 5:42, 8:4). They were not doing so from a childish spirit of rebellion against the authorities, as if to spite them, but they were compelled to speak by God, as our passage in 4:18-20 shows. Instead of considering their witness as an optional Christian activity, they saw it as a matter of right and wrong. It was right to obey God, not the authorities, because God through His Son commanded them to be witnesses (1:8). They could not help but speak of what they had witnessed. It had changed them, it was changing thousands of others (2:41, 4:4, 6:7), and it was poised to change the world.
Certainly we ought to feel the apostles' compulsion. Inside as believers we know we ought to speak about Christ (5:29). But spiritual laziness, lack of preparation, fear of men, peer pressure, or threat of persecution too often sideline us from doing what we know to be right. It would do us all well to consider the apostolic compulsion to speak of Jesus, and to determine whether we are likewise compelled or not. We should be so compelled. After all, the Lord's command to be a witness did not expire with the apostles, but extends to us. MAP
Posted Nov 21, 2009 under
You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.
Stephen's speech to the Sanhedrin contained several references to the Jewish people rejecting God and his messengers. The first is in v. 9 where the patriarchs sold Joseph into Egypt as a slave because they were jealous of him. The next is in v. 25 where Moses was rejected by his brethren from delivering them from the hand of Pharaoh (see also v. 35). Verse 39 tells us that Moses was rejected again when the people wanted to go back to Egypt. The nation also rejected God, attempting to replace Him with a golden calf and other idols (v. 41).
Stephen has summarized that the most revered OT saints and even God himself were rejected by the Jews. Stephen did not list all the other prophets that the Jews also rejected. And now, he says, the Jews have done it again. They rejected Jesus, their Messiah, just like their forefathers rejected God.
The point is not to pick on the Jewish people, for we are all as depraved as they were. But we should see that here was a pattern in Israelite history: the Jews rejected God again and again. Those of Jesus' day did not learn from the ill example of their fathers and repeated the same mistake.
This is a clear warning to us that we ought to give heed to what we learn from God through the Bible. In it are plenty of examples to help us avoid sinning like those of earlier days (Rom. 15:4, 1 Cor. 10:6, 11). We must not resist the Spirit's teaching through the Word. This is a real danger. Verse 42 says that in response to their rejection, God "turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven." He let them go their own way. They rejected God; then God rejected them. MAP
Posted Nov 21, 2009 under
And a voice came to him, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." But Peter said, "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean." And a voice spoke to him again the second time, "What God has cleansed you must not call common."
Acts 10:1-11:18 is a crucial passage in the history of the gospel as it expanded to the Gentiles. Peter's vision of the large sheet with all kinds of animals was central in this. God gave the vision teach him something. It seems obvious from 10:9-16 that Peter would have understood the vision to mean that animals he formerly considered unclean were now clean (God had declared them to be so) and he could eat them. As a Jewish man, he would have been very particular to observe the various food laws and it would have been repulsive to him to eat anything unclean (Lev. 11:1-47). This understanding of the vision certainly agrees with the teaching of Mark 7:19 where Jesus "purified all foods." Also, 1 Tim. 4:3-5 teaches that food is to be received with thanksgiving and prayer instead of being rejected by a legalistic kind of religion.
But in addition, Peter clearly testified that "God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean" (10:28). The question then arises, what is the link between food and men? In the one case, the animals are not to be called common; in the other, men are not to be called common. The connection is brought out in 11:3, where Jewish believers contended with Peter that he had gone to be with Gentiles and eat with them. The uncleanness of the Gentiles related, at least in part, to the uncleanness of their diet. To keep company with Gentiles would be defiling in itself. But to eat with them would be even worse (see Gal. 2:12). By removing the dietary restriction, God makes clear that not only is the food acceptable, but to be with those who eat the food is as well. Thank God: the gospel went to the Gentiles despite the restriction of the Law and traditions that would have prevented it. MAP
Posted Nov 21, 2009 under
And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practice magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.
Ephesus had its share of trouble in the spiritual realm. There were men who had not heard of the gospel of Christ nor of the Holy Spirit (1-7); there were Jews who were hard-hearted (8-9); there were demon-possessed people (8:12); there were self-proclaimed exorcists (13-17); there were those who practiced the black arts (19); and there were many idolaters who worshiped the Greek goddess Diana.
Even though this was the situation, God used Paul and his friends to call many Ephesians to salvation. The initial ministry there lasted about three years (Acts 20:31). During that time, there was good evidence that those who believed were genuinely saved. One instance is elaborated in our text. The first thing mentioned in v. 18 is that those who believed came together and testified about their former lifestyle, undoubtedly magnifying God's grace as they showed what a great change had taken place in their lives.
This radical change did not only exist in the realm of theory. Rather, it led them to publicly destroy things which had influenced them. This was a way to give public testimony to God's transforming work, and to tell everyone that they rejected their former ways. The text mentions books in particular. Many books (even so-called "Christian" ones) are godless and should find no place in the Christian's library. The same principle must be applied to music or any other thing that held us before we were saved. And money is not an issue. If it is evil, no matter how expensive, it must go--and quickly.
In the end, the word of the Lord spread (v. 20). True belief and transformed practice have a way of doing that. MAP
Posted Nov 21, 2009 under
Because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.
The apostle affirms that the gospel not only reveals the righteous standing available from God (1:17), but also the wrath of God (1:18). This wrath is directed toward mankind, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. The truth that is rejected is nothing other than the truth about who God is. Our text then tells us three things about this truth of God.
First, God has shown Himself clearly to mankind. The things that may be known about God are obvious (manifest).
Second, God's invisible attributes have been clearly evident since the very beginning. They are understood by viewing the creation. Two characteristics of God are seen: His omnipotence and deity. Looking at the vast heavens and the minuscule details of creation demonstrate both (see also Ps. 19:1-6).
Not only has God shown Himself clearly to mankind, and has done so since the beginning through the creation, but third, these things make man without excuse. To be sure, not everything that there is to be known about God is revealed in nature. To say it another way, natural revelation does not show all of God's attributes, or God's plan, or God's love, or the gospel. Without the Bible (special revelation), it is impossible to know these things and be saved. But even though creation does not show enough for salvation, it does show enough for condemnation. There is no man who will have a legitimate defense (excuse) for himself in the face of the incredible magnitude of God's self-revelation in creation.
Rejecting the truth of God amounts to denying the obvious. This leads to an inability to see the obvious due to the effect of sin. But believers can thank God for the abundant evidence of his power and deity obvious in all of creation. MAP
Posted Nov 21, 2009 under
For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
This quotation comes from Genesis 15:6 which describes Abraham's reaction when God again confirmed the promises to Abraham which we call the Abrahamic covenant. The apostle Paul appeals to Abraham's "discovery" of this truth (Rom. 4:1) to bolster his conclusion from 3:28 that men are "Justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law." To be justified means "to be accounted righteous" just like Abraham was. In chapter 4, we learn that people are justified apart from three things: works, religious ordinances, and the Mosaic Law.
First, the Bible says that justification cannot be obtained by works (4:1-8). If it were based on works, then Abraham could brag because justification then would be a remuneration for services that he performed (look at me!). But God does not work ths way--salvation is not a reward for works, but is a gift of grace. Grace and works are mutually exclusive (4:4).
Second, the Bible says that justification cannot be obtained by religious rites (4:9-12). Abraham was justified according to Gen. 15:6; but circumcision came in Gen. 17:9. Therefore, Abraham was justified before being circumcised. Salvation does not come by doing religious activities--not circumcision or baptism or confirmation or any other such thing.
Third, the Bible says that justification cannot be obtained by keeping the Mosaic Law, or any other law (4:13-22). Abraham exercised strong faith in the promise of God, as an illustration that all who exercise faith in God receive His grace. It is not those who were given the Law, nor those who strive to keep a law, who obtain righteousness. Rather, it is those who fully believe in God who are justified.
This was not written for historical interest, but to help us understand that we need to believe in God and in His Son Jesus Christ to be saved. Faith is the only way to be justified. Works, rites, and law cannot do it--not now, not ever. MAP
Posted Nov 21, 2009 under
If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!" Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits."
Some in Corinth believed the heresy that there is absolutely no resurrection of any dead people (v. 12). As true believers, we understand that this is utter foolishness. But the "resurrection chapter" gives us a number of implications of this hypothetical doctrine. First, Christ would not be risen (v. 13, 16). Second, gospel preaching would be vain (v. 14). Third, personal faith would be useless (v. 14, 17). Fourth, gospel preachers would be liars (v. 15). Fifth, believers would remain in their sin (v. 17). Sixth, all who had died in Christ would be without hope (v. 18). Sixth, Christians would be a miserable bunch if all they had was hope in this life, and no hope after death (v. 19). Seventh, to be baptized behind those who have died to fill in the "gap" left by their passing would be silly (v. 29). Eighth, it would be a total waste to risk life and limb for the gospel (v. 30, 32a). And finally, ninth, it would be a natural conclusion that we should eat and drink to enjoy life now, for soon comes death and the unknown after it.
This latter conclusion is the philosophy called hedonism. The argument is "if no resurrection, then live for self pleasure." Wrong belief on resurrection leads to this godless philosophy of life. Be assured that if you keep company with such people, you will be negatively affected (v. 33). But as believers, we know that God has and will resurrect the dead. Thus, the implication is reversed: "If there is a resurrection (and there is!), then we cannot live for self pleasure." Formal logic would not allow for such a conclusion (maybe you can still live for self pleasure even though there is a resurrection?), but anyone who knows God will not be bothered by this, because we have been awakened to righteousness and understand that we must not sin (v. 34). See also 2 Cor. 5:14-15. MAP
Posted Nov 21, 2009 under
But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
This devotional is a companion to Romans 8:5-9, "Two Kinds of People." The major point of those verses was to say that there are only two kinds of people: saved and unsaved. We saw there that the saved have certain characteristics.
Let it not be mistaken that these traits are not "worked up" by our own doing, but are produced by the Holy Spirit working in us and with us. The Scriptures are clear that the salvation is "obtained" by faith, not by works. At the time one is saved, there are a number of wonderful things that occur. One is that the believer is indwelt by the Spirit. Several passages teach this truth. Rom. 5:5 "the Holy Spirit who was given to us"; 1 Cor. 2:12 "we have received...the Spirit who is from God"; 6:19-20 "your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God"; 12:13 "by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body...and have all been made to drink into one Spirit"; 2 Cor. 5:5 "God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee"; Gal. 3:2 "Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?"; 4:6 "because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts"; 1 John 3:24 "And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us"; 4:13 "By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit."
And so, the presence of the Spirit is the litmus test as to one's salvation, as it says in verse 9. If any person does not have the Spirit, he does not belong to Christ (Jude 19). But if he has the Spirit, he belongs to Christ. This clearly teaches us that all Christians have the Spirit. There is no special class of believers who have Him, while the rest do not have. No--all believers are indwelt by the Spirit. So the answer to "Who is Spiritual?" is this: the one who has the Spirit! MAP