In the opening section of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul admirably encompasses the purpose of God’s plan for the ages: to bring all things back together under one head, namely Christ (Eph. 1:10). The rebellion against God started in the angelic realm with the fall of Satan and his demons. It infected the human race when Satan incited Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit, and Adam followed suit. In fact, the entire universe is groaning and awaiting redemption (Rom 8:22).
But God is still the sovereign Ruler and King of the universe. And he has chosen for his Son, the Messiah, to be the... Read More
When Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthians—really, at least his fourth letter, but two of them have not come down to us—he was beleaguered and hard-pressed on many fronts. He had been beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, in danger from rivers, robbers, Jews and Gentiles, and many other sources (2 Cor 11:23–36). He had suffered “labor and hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, cold, and lacking clothing” (2 Cor 11:27), not to mention daily concern for the churches he had planted.
Yet was Paul discouraged? No. This is how he described his... Read More
The Corinthians had it all. Many were wealthy in this thriving seaport, and with this affluence came the arrogance that so often accompanies possessions in this world. Jesus warned the rich, saying, “It will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven! Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt 19:23–24). John counseled, “Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. … And the world with its lust is... Read More
In the ancient world, it was customary to open letters with some small talk—a well wish, or a reminder of good times had in the past. Most of Paul’s letters, correspondingly, open with a thanksgiving, or a prayer, for the recipients; but not his letter to the Galatians. This is a measure of the apostle’s exasperation. “I am amazed,” he jumps right into the heart of the matter, “that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ, and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another gospel!” (Gal 1:6–7)
In first-century Galatia, as... Read More
In the course of world history many have devised ways of salvation. Virtually all man-made religions have one thing in common: they are based on human self-effort. Among the major religions, Christianity is unique in that while typically the emphasis is on what a person must do to be saved, Christianity focuses on what one man has done for all humans—Jesus Christ—and what is now available for all on the basis of simple trust in Christ.
Thus Paul’s words ring out in his letter to the Romans: “But now, apart from law, God’s righteousness has been revealed—attested by the Law and the... Read More
If the first generation of the Christian church proves anything, it is this: the power of God is infinitely greater than any human obstacles in its way. A humble Galilean craftsman, who suffered an untimely death and accumulated no earthly possessions, wrote no books, and left behind nothing but a small band of disheartened followers, spawned a movement so powerful that it took the Roman empire by storm.
How was this possible? There is only one satisfying answer: the same Jesus who was crucified on a hill outside of Jerusalem rose again from the dead three days later and was exalted to the... Read More
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned people against false prophets. With simple logic, Jesus pointed out that “every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit … So you’ll recognize them by their fruit” (Matt 7:17, 20). For not everyone who says to Jesus, “Lord, Lord!” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of his Father in heaven (Matt 7:21).
Later on toward the close of his ministry, Jesus challenged his followers with similar words. There earlier had been those who appeared to place their trust in Jesus, but Jesus was not... Read More
Jewish rabbis in Jesus’ day typically avoided women and stayed away from Samaritans. Thus the Samaritan woman who came to the well in Sychar had at least two strikes against her. Add to this her immoral lifestyle, and Jesus had every reason to evade contact with this woman. Even the woman herself was surprised that Jesus was talking to her: “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (John 4:9). And the evangelist added, “For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.” Jesus’ disciples, too, upon their return from grocery shopping in town, “were amazed... Read More
In his wisdom, God gave us, not one, but four inspired accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry. Without contradicting each other, each of the evangelists captured unique aspects of Jesus’ heart and mission. Matthew showed how Jesus fulfilled the scriptural predictions regarding the long-awaited Jewish Messiah. Mark presented Jesus as the powerful, miracle-working Son of God, recognized even by the Gentile world. John extolled Jesus as the pre-existent Word who was made flesh in Jesus and revealed God’s glory through an escalating series of messianic signs.
But what about Luke, Paul’s... Read More
Few of Jesus’ miracles, attested in all four canonical Gospels, is as astounding as his walking on the water (e.g. Mark 6:45–52). Like his turning a large amount of water into wine, this nature miracle defies human explanation. Not that unbelievers have not tried to account for the event by supplying some naturalistic explanation. Just recently, for example, someone suggested that Jesus was simply skipping from rock to rock, hidden just barely beneath the surface of the water. This may get first prize for imaginativeness, but it is so transparent an attempt to explain the unexplainable... Read More
“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matt 28:18). Who is the man who can claim to have been given all authority in heaven and on earth? Has a more amazing statement ever been made, a more startling claim ever been registered? In the climactic moment in Matthew’s entire Gospel, here is Jesus, with the Eleven, in Galilee, ascended onto the mountain, uttering what has become known as “the Great Commission”: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe... Read More