Monday, January 15, 2018

"Hope, Part III" By Romans

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"Hope, Part III" by Romans

Tonight, we re continuing in our Series on the word, “Hope.” This is Part 3, and we will be wading deeper into the pages of the Epistles of the Apostle Paul. He had much to communicate to his original readers (and us) regarding the concept of the word, “hope,” and there is much we can learn from his writings.

Let's begin, tonight, in 1 Corinthians 13:13: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”It may seem unusual to cite a verse in which our topic word, “hope” is aced by another word entirely, namely “charity.”I almost did not use the verse because of that... I say almost because then I consulted Matthew Henry. Here are his thoughts on the subject: “To sum up the excellences of charity, he prefers it not only to gifts, but to other graces, to faith and hope: And now abide faith, hope, and charity; but the greatest of these is charity. True grace is much more excellent than any spiritual gifts whatever. And faith, hope, and love, are the three principal graces, of which charity is the chief, being the end to which the other two are but means.

Continuing: “This is the divine nature, the soul's felicity, or its complacent rest in God, and holy delight in all his saints. And it is everlasting work, when faith and hope shall be no more. Faith fixes on the divine revelation, and assents to that: hope fastens on future felicity, and waits for that: and in heaven faith well be swallowed up in vision, and hope in fruition. There is no room to believe and hope, when we see and enjoy. But love fastens on the divine perfections themselves, and the divine image on the creatures, and our mutual relation both to God and them. These will all shine forth in the most glorious splendours in another world, and there will love be made perfect; there we shall perfectly love God, because he will appear amiable for ever, and our hearts will kindle at the sight, and glow with perpetual devotion.

Continuing, “And there shall we perfectly love one another, when all the saints meet there, when none but saints are there, and saints made perfect. O blessed state! How much surpassing the best below! O amiable and excellent grace of charity! How much does it exceed the most valuable gift, when it outshines every grace, and is the everlasting consummation of them! When faith and hope are at an end, true charity will burn for ever with the brightest flame.”

Barnes' Notes tells us, “And now abideth - “Remains” The word means properly to remain, continue, abide; and is applied to persons remaining in a place, in a state or condition, in contradistinction from removing or changing their place, or passing away. Here it must be understood to be used to denote “permanency,” when the other things of which he had spoken had passed away; and the sense is, that faith, hope, and love would “remain” when the gift of tongues should cease, and the need of prophecy, etc.; that is, these should survive them all...

Continuing: “And the connection certainly requires us to understand him as saying that faith, hope, and love would survive “all” those things of which he had been speaking, and must, therefore, include knowledge as well as miracles and the other endowments of the Holy Spirit. They would survive them all; would be valuable when they should cease; and should, therefore, be mainly sought; and of these the greatest and most important is love...

Continuing: “Most commentators have supposed that Paul is speaking here only of this life, and that he means to say that in this life these three exist; that “faith, hope, and charity exist in this scene “only,” but that in the future world faith and hope will be done away, and therefore the greatest of these is charity” - Bloomfield.”

The Life Application Bible tells us, “In morally corrupt Corinth, love had become a mixed-up term with little meaning. Today people are still confused about love. Love is the greatest of all human qualities, and it is an attribute of God himself. We read in 1 John 4:8, 'But anyone who does not love does not know God—for God is love.' John says, “God is love,” not “Love is God.” Our world, with its shallow and selfish view of love, has turned these words around and contaminated our understanding of love. The world thinks that love is what makes a person feel good and that it is all right to sacrifice moral principles and others’ rights in order to obtain such “love.”

Continuing: “But that isn’t real love; it is the exact opposite—selfishness... And God is not that kind of “love.” Real love is like God, who is holy, just, and perfect. If we truly know God, we will love as he does. Love involves unselfish service to others; to show it gives evidence that you care. Faith is the foundation and content of God’s message; hope is the attitude and focus; love is the action. When faith and hope are in line, you are free to love completely because you understand how God loves.”

Let's move on to our next occurrence of the word, “hope.” We find it in 2 Corinthians 1:7: “And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.”Barnes' Notes elevates the word “hope” far above a mere idle wish, to a level of unwavering confidence. It says regarding, “And our hope of you is steadfast - We have a firm and unshaken hope in regard to you; we have a confident expectation that you will be saved. We believe that you will be enabled so to bear trial as to show that you are sustained by the Christian hope; and so as to advance your own piety, and confirm your prospect of heaven.”

Matthew Henry writes, “In these verses the apostle speaks for the encouragement and edification of the Corinthians; and tells them of his persuasion or stedfast hope that they should receive benefit by the troubles he and his companions in labour and travel had met with, that their faith should not be weakened, but their consolations increased. Note, past experiences are great encouragements to faith and hope, and they lay great obligations to trust in God for time to come. We reproach our experiences if we distrust God in future straits, who hath delivered us in former troubles...

Continuing: “What was desired of the Corinthians upon this account: That they would help together by prayer for them, by social prayer, agreeing and joining together in prayer on their behalf. Note, our trusting in God must not supersede the use of any proper and appointed means; and prayer is one of those means. We should pray for ourselves and for one another. The apostle had himself a great interest in the throne of grace, yet he desires the help of others' prayers. If we thus help one another by our prayers, we may hope for an occasion of giving thanks by many for answer of prayer. And it is our duty not only to help one another with prayer, but in praise and thanksgiving, and thereby to make suitable returns for benefits received.”

Next, we read in 2 Corinthians 10:15: “Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly.”

Barnes' Notes writes, “But having hope ... - So far from this; so far from a desire to enter into the labors of others and quietly enjoying the avails of their industry; and so far even from a desire to sit down ourselves and enjoy the fruit of our own labors, I desire to penetrate other untrodden regions; to encounter new dangers; to go where the gospel has not been planted, and to rear other churches there. I do not, therefore, make these remarks as if I wished even to dispossess the teachers that have entered into my labors. I make them because I wish to be aided by you in extending the gospel further; and I look to your assistance in order that I may have the means of going into the regions where I have not made known the name of the Redeemer.”

The next verse with the word, “hope” in it is an interesting one: We read in Galatians 5:5: “For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.”

Barnes' Notes says “The hope of righteousness - The hope of justification. They had no other hope of justification than by faith in the Redeemer.”

The Life Application Bible provides a cross reference in Romans 8:23-24, a thought we considered in the opening of this Series: “And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?”

The Life Application Bible goes on to comment in its notes, “We will be resurrected with bodies, glorified bodies like the body Christ now has in heaven. We have the “foretaste,” the first installment or down payment of future glory—the Holy Spirit—as a guarantee of our resurrection life. It is natural for children to trust their parents, even though parents sometimes fail to keep their promises. Our heavenly Father, however, never makes promises he won’t keep. Nevertheless his plan may take more time than we expect. Rather than acting like impatient children as we wait for God’s will to unfold, we need to have confidence in God’s perfect timing and wisdom.”

Regarding being “saved by hope,” Adam Clarke's Commentary says, “We are supported and are comfortable in the expectation we have of receiving from the hand of our God all the good we need in the troubles and adversities of this life, and of having our bodies raised from corruption and death at the general resurrection.”

Moving forward, in Ephesians 1:16-18, we read, “Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.”

What it is that he more particularly desire they should grow in the knowledge of. 1. The hope of his calling: Christianity is our calling. God has called us to it, and on that account it is said to be his calling. There is a hope in this calling; for those who deal with God deal upon trust. And it is a desirable thing to know what this hope of our calling is, to have such an acquaintance with the immense privileges of God's people, and the expectations they have from God, and with respect to the heavenly world, as to be quickened thereby to the utmost diligence and patience in the Christian course. We ought to labour after, and pray earnestly for, a clearer insight into, and a fuller acquaintance with, the great objects of a Christian's hopes.

2. The riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. Besides the heavenly inheritance prepared for the saints, there is a present inheritance in the saints; for grace is glory begun, and holiness is happiness in the bud. There is a glory in this inheritance, riches of glory, rendering the Christian more excellent and more truly honourable than all about him: and it is desirable to know this experimentally, to be acquainted with the principles, pleasures, and powers, of the spiritual and divine life. It is a difficult thing to bring a soul to believe in Christ, and to venture its all upon his righteousness, and upon the hope of eternal life. It is nothing less than an almighty power that will work this in us...
The apostle speaks here with a mighty fluency and copiousness of expression, and yet, at the same time, as if he wanted words to express the exceeding greatness of God's almighty power, that power which God exerts towards his people, and by which he raised Christ from the dead, Eph_1:20. That indeed was the great proof of the truth of the gospel to the world: but the transcript of that in ourselves (our sanctification, and rising from the death of sin, in conformity to Christ's resurrection) is the great proof to us. Though this cannot prove the truth of the gospel to another who knows nothing of the matter (there the resurrection of Christ is the proof), yet to be able to speak experimentally, as the Samaritans” when they said...

“We have heard him ourselves, we have felt a mighty change in our hearts,” will make us able to say, with the fullest satisfaction, Now we believe, and are sure, that this is the Christ, the Son of God. Many understand the apostle here as speaking of that exceeding greatness of power which God will exert for raising the bodies of believers to eternal life, even the same mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him, etc. And how desirable a thing must it be to become at length acquainted with that power, by being raised out of the grave thereby unto eternal life!”

As we move forward, this next verse is a powerful verse to me. I have used it in a number of other Bible Studies with other groups, and it has always had a great impact on me and my listeners. We read of our former state before we came to Christ. Paul reminds his original readers in Ephesus, and us today in Ephesians 2:12: “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:”

Rather than leave his thought without a positive resolution, I'd like to add the next verse, showing that God did not leave us to ourselves – without hope – in that supremely pitiable state. The next verse reads, “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”

Matthew Henry writes of this: “In these verses the apostle proceeds in his account of the miserable condition of these Ephesians by nature. Wherefore remember.... As if he had said, “You should remember what you have been, and compare it with what you now are, in order to humble yourselves and to excite your love and thankfulness to God.” Note, converted sinners ought frequently to reflect upon the sinfulness and misery of the state they were in by nature. Gentiles in the flesh, that is, living in the corruption of their natures, and being destitute of circumcision, the outward sign of an interest in the covenant of grace.

The apostle describes the misery of their case in several particulars, “At that time, while you were Gentiles, and in an unconverted state, you were,” 1. “In a Christless condition, without the knowledge of the Messiah, and without any saving interest in him or relation to him.” It is true of all unconverted sinners, all those who are destitute of faith, that they have no saving interest in Christ; and it must be a sad and deplorable thing for a soul to be without Christ. Being without Christ, they were,

2. Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel; they did not belong to Christ's church, and had no communion with it, that being confined to the Israelitish nation. It is no small privilege to be placed in the church of Christ, and to share with the members of it in the advantages peculiar to it.

3. They are strangers from the covenants of promise. The covenant of grace has ever been the same for substance, though, having undergone various additions and improvements in the several ages of the church, it is called covenants; and the covenants of promise, because it is made up of promises, and particularly contains the great promise of the Messiah, and of eternal life through him. Now the Ephesians, in their gentilism, were strangers to this covenant, having never had any information nor overture of it; and all unregenerate sinners are strangers to it, as they have no interest in it. Those who are without Christ, and so have no interest in the Mediator of the covenant, have none in the promises of the covenant.

4. They had no hope, that is, beyond this life - no well-grounded hope in God, no hope of spiritual and eternal blessings. Those who are with out Christ, and strangers from the covenant, can have no good hope; for Christ and the covenant are the ground and foundation of all the Christian's hopes. They were in a state of distance and estrangement from God: Without God in the world; not without some general knowledge of a deity, for they worshipped idols, but living without any due regard to him, any acknowledged dependence on him, and any special interest in him. The words are, atheists in the world; for, though they worshipped many gods, yet they were without the true God.

The apostle proceeds (in Ephesians_2:13) further to illustrate the happy change that was made in their state: But now, in Christ Jesus, you who sometimes were far off, etc. They were far off from Christ, from his church, from the promises, from the Christian hope, and from God himself; and therefore from all good, like the prodigal son in the far country: this had been represented in the preceding verses. Unconverted sinners remove themselves at a distance from God, and God puts them at a distance: He beholds the proud afar off. “But now in Christ Jesus, etc., upon your conversion, by virtue of union with Christ, and interest in him by faith, you are made nigh.”

They were brought home to God, received into the church, taken into the covenant, and possessed of all other privileges consequent upon these. Note, the saints are a people near to God. Salvation is far from the wicked; but God is a help at hand to his people; and this is by the blood of Christ, by the merit of his sufferings and death. Every believing sinner owes his nearness to God, and his interest in his favour, to the death and sacrifice of Christ.

We read in Barnes' Notes, “Having no hope - The apostle does not mean to affirm that they did not cherish any hope, for this is scarcely true of any man; but that they were without any proper ground of hope. It is true of perhaps nearly all people that they cherish some hope of future happiness. But the ground on which they do this is not well understood by themselves, nor do they in general regard it as a matter worth particular inquiry. Some rely on morality; some on forms of religion; some on the doctrine of universal salvation;

all who are impenitent believe that they do not “deserve” eternal death, and expect to be saved by “justice.” Such hopes, however, must be unfounded. No hope of life in a future world can be founded on a proper basis which does not rest on some promise of God, or some assurance that he will save us; and these hopes, therefore, which people take up they know not why, are delusive and vain.

And without God in the world - “atheists;” that is, those who had no knowledge of the true God. This is the last specification of their miserable condition before they were converted; and it is an appropriate crowning of the climax. What an expression! To be without God - without God in his own world, and where he is all around us! To have no evidence of his favor, no assurance of his love, no hope of dwelling with him! The meaning, as applied to the pagan Ephesians, was, that they had no knowledge of the true God. This was true of the pagan, and in an important sense also it is true of all impenitent sinners, and was once true of all who are now Christians...

Continuing: “They had no God. They did not worship him, or love him, or serve him, or seek his favors, or act with reference to him and his glory. Nothing can be a more appropriate and striking description of a sinner now than to say that he is “without God in the world.” He lives, and feels, and acts, as if there were no God. He neither worships him in secret, nor in his family, nor in public. He acts with no reference to his will. He puts no confidence in his promises, and fears not when he threatens; and were it announced to him that there “is no God,” it would produce no change in his plan of life, or in his emotions.

Continuing: “The announcement that the emperor of China, or the king of Siam, or the sultan of Constantinople, was dead, would produce some emotion, and might change some of his commercial arrangements; but the announcement that there is no God would interfere with none of his plans, and demand no change of life. And, if so, what is man in this beautiful world without a God? A traveler to eternity without a God! Standing over the grave without a God! An immortal being without a God! A man - fallen, sunk, ruined, with no God to praise, to love, to confide in; with no altar, no sacrifice, no worship, no hope; with no Father in trial, no counselor in perplexity, no support in death! Such is the state of man by nature. Such are the effects of sin.”

As we move forward, we encounter another occurrence of the word hope in Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians. We read in Ephesians 4:4: “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;”

Matthew Henery writes, “Consider how many unities there are that are the joy and glory of our Christian profession. There should be one heart; for there is one body, and one spirit, Eph_4:4. Two hearts in one body would be monstrous. If there be but one body, all that belong to that body should have one heart. The Catholic church is one mystical body of Christ, and all good Christians make up but one body, incorporated by one charter, that of the gospel, animated by one Spirit, the same Holy Spirit who by his gifts and graces quickens, enlivens, and governs that body. If we belong to Christ, we are all actuated by one and the same Spirit, and therefore should be one. Even as you are called in one hope of your calling...

Continuing: “Hope is here put for its object, the thing hoped for, the heavenly inheritance, to the hope of which we are called. All Christians are called to the same hope of eternal life. There is one Christ that they all hope in, and one heaven that they are all hoping for; and therefore they should be of one heart. One Lord (Eph_4:5), that is, Christ, the head of the church, to whom, by God's appointment, all Christians are immediately subject. One faith, that is, the gospel, containing the doctrine of the Christian faith: or, it is the same grace of faith (faith in Christ) whereby all Christians are saved. One baptism, by which we profess our faith, being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and so the same sacramental covenant, whereby we engage ourselves to the Lord Christ. One God and Father of all...

Continuing: “One God, who owns all the true members of the church for his children; for he is the Father of all such by special relation, as he is the Father of all men by creation: and he is above all, by his essence, and with respect to the glorious perfections of his nature, and as he has dominion over all creatures and especially over his church, and through all, by his providence upholding and governing them: and in you all, in all believers, in whom he dwells as in his holy temple, by his Spirit and special grace. If then there be so many ones, it is a pity but there should be one more - one heart, or one soul.

2. Consider the variety of gifts that Christ has bestowed among Christians: But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Though the members of Christ's church agree in so many things, yet there are some things wherein they differ: but this should breed no difference of affection among them, since they are all derived from the same bountiful author and designed for the same great ends. Unto every one of us Christians is given grace, some gift of grace, in some kind or degree or other, for the mutual help of one another. Unto every one of us ministers is given grace; to some a greater measure of gifts, to others a less measure. The different gifts of Christ's ministers proved a great occasion of contention among the first Christians: one was for Paul, and another for Apollos...

Continuing: “The apostle shows that they had no reason to quarrel about them, but all the reason in the world to agree in the joint use of them, for common edification; because all was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ, in such a measure as seemed best to Christ to bestow upon every one. Observe, All the ministers, and all the members of Christ, owe all the gifts and graces that they are possessed of to him; and this is a good reason why we should love one another, because to every one of us is given grace. All to whom Christ has given grace, and on whom he has bestowed his gifts (though they are of different sizes, different names, and different sentiments, yet), ought to love one another.”

Barnes' Notes adds, “In one hope of your calling - In one hope “resulting from” your being called into his kingdom... The meaning here is, that Christians have the same hope, and they should therefore be one. They are looking forward to the same heaven; they hope for the same happiness beyond the grave. It is not as on earth among the people of the world, where, there is a variety of hopes - where one hopes for pleasure, and another for honor, and another for gain; but there is the prospect of the same inexhaustible joy. This “hope” is suited to promote union...

Continuing: “There is no rivalry - for there is enough for all. “Hope” on earth does not always produce union and harmony. Two men hope to obtain the same office; two students hope to obtain the same honor in college; two rivals hope to obtain the same hand in marriage - and the consequence is jealousy, contention, and strife. The reason is, that but one can obtain the object. Not so with the crown of life - with the rewards of heaven. All may obtain “that” crown; all may share those rewards. How “can” Christians contend in an angry manner with each other, when the hope of dwelling in the same heaven swells their bosoms and animates their hearts?”

And, finally for tonight, regarding this verse the Life Application Bible tells us, “All believers in Christ belong to one body; all are united under one head, Christ himself. Each believer has God-given abilities that can strengthen the whole body. Your special ability may seem small or large, but it is yours to use in God’s service. Ask God to use your unique gifts to contribute to the strength and health of the body of believers.”

There is much yet to explore where the word and concept of “hope” are concerned in the New Testament. We will have to defer our examination, God willing, until next week at this same time.
I hope to see all of you then...

This concludes this Evening's Discussion, “Hope, Part III.”

This Discussion was originally presented “live” on September 13th, 2017.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

"Hope, Part II" By Romans

Last week we began a Series on the occurrence of the word, “hope” in Scripture. We looked at the major and significant occurrences in the Old Testament, and I explained why the word “hope” appeared only once in the Four Gospels: The Messiah had finally come. The centuries-long hope of the Jews had arrived and was on the earth and in their midst. After Jesus' crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, the use of the word “hope” returned making an appearance fifty-two times: eight times in the Books of Acts, thirty-nine times in the Epistles of Paul, Peter and John, and five times in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Let's begin to look at those occurrences, tonight, and see what we can learn from them.

The rest of the New Testament:
What I would like to share with you first occurs in the first sermon Peter delivered after both the Resurrection of Christ, and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. We read beginning in Acts 2:22: “People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus of Nazareth by doing wonderful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. you followed God’s prearranged plan.

With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to the cross and murdered him. However, God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life again, for death could not keep him in its grip. King David said this about him: 'I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is filled with joy, and my mouth shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. For you will not leave my soul among the dead allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. You have shown me the way of life, and you will give me wonderful joy in your presence.’

Peter's declaration to the unsuspecting crowd of worshipers who had come to Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Pentecost heard words that reverberate, or at least should do so, down to this day, because they are words of hope unlike good news that has ever been declared. David wrote, “My heart is filled with joy and my heart shouts his praises. My body rests in hope.” David was speaking prophetically of Jesus who had died, but unlike any person who had died before Him was resting with hope in the tomb. We read in Hebrews 9:27 appointed unto men once to die. That applies to us. When our time comes, our bodies can rest in that same hope of the resurrection that will bring us back from the dead.

As we move forward into New Testament, we read in Acts 16:19, an event where the Apostle Paul cast out a demon who enabled a woman to tell fortunes. We read, “And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers.” Here, again, we encounter the word, “hope” but this time in a very different light. They did not have a hope of a resurrection followed by the gift of Eternal Life. Their hope, like so many in the world today, was in gain. Scripture, however, also speaks of what we should regard as great gain. We read of it in 1 Timothy 6:6: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

The Life Application Bible tells us, “This statement is the key to spiritual growth and personal fulfillment. We should honor God and center our desires on Him, and we should be content with what God is doing in our life.”

Cross Reference: Philippians 4:11-13: “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need. “

The Life Application Bible tells us, “Paul could get along happily because he could see life from God’s point of view. He focused on what he was supposed to do, not what he felt he should have. Paul had his priorities straight, and he was grateful for everything God had given him. Paul had detached himself from the nonessentials so that he could concentrate on the eternal. Often the desire for more or better possessions is really a longing to fill an empty place in a person’s life. To what are you drawn when you feel empty inside? How can you find true contentment? The answer lies in your perspective, your priorities, and your source of power.

And then commenting on verse 13, the Life Application Bible says, “Can we really do everything? The power we receive in union with Christ is sufficient to do his will and to face the challenges that arise from our commitment to doing it. He does not grant us superhuman ability to accomplish anything we can imagine without regard to his interests. As we contend for the faith, we will face troubles, pressures, and trials. As they come, ask Christ to strengthen you.”

The Apostle Paul was arguably one of the most brilliant men who ever lived. When he, on his way to arrest and extradite Jews who had embraced Christianity, and bring them bound in chains back to Jerusalem to be tried and punished for heresy, he was struck down by Jesus on the Road to Damascus. When you read the account of event, what I read is that the Glorified Jesus, Himself, appeared to Paul on that road. The account reads that the light that appeared there was, in Paul's words to King Agrippa, “a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me” (Acts 26:11). Paul was converted by that encounter and he fully embraced the Person and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But the Jewish Community was scandalized by that conversion. During a riot in which they tried to kill Paul in the Temple Area, the Romans rushed in, rescued him and arrested him. When Paul faced his accusers as mandated by Roman law, we read of a facet of Paul's brilliance in Acts 23:6: “But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.”

The Life Application Bible tells us of this: “The Sadducees and Pharisees were two groups of religious leaders but with strikingly different beliefs. The Pharisees believed in a bodily resurrection, but the Sadducees did not. The Sadducees adhered only to Genesis through Deuteronomy, which contain no explicit teaching on resurrection. Paul’s words moved the debate away from himself and toward their festering controversy about the resurrection. The Jewish council was split.”

Today, in our society, few quibble over the idea of the resurrection. It is not a subject that is mentioned very often in any of the sermons I hear in person, or on radio or TV. However, in Paul's day the resurrection was not only a hot topic, it was, in Paul's mind, the heart and soul of Christian belief. We read his words beginning in 1 Corinthians 15:12: “tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. if Christ was not raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your trust in God is useless.”

The Life Application Bible tells us of this, “The resurrection of Christ is the center of the gospel message. Because Christ rose from the dead as he promised, we know that what he said is true—he is God. Because he rose, we have certainty that our sins are forgiven. Because he rose, he lives and represents us to God. Because he rose and defeated death, we know we will also be raised.” That is our hope, as Paul said in so many words beginning in 1 Corinthians 15:17: “And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless, and you are still under condemnation for your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ have perished! And if we have hope in Christ only for this life, we are the most miserable people in the world.”

Paul speaks once again of hope being intertwined with the resurrection in Acts 24:15: “And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.”

Paul speaks of a hope that has been in place for all believers beginning with the founding fathers
beginning in Acts 26:6 where he says, “I am on trial because I am looking forward to the fulfillment of God’s promise made to our ancestors. In fact, that is why the twelve tribes of Israel worship God night and day, and they share the same hope I have. Yet, O king, they say it is wrong for me to have this hope!” The Paul asks at his hearing before King Agrippa and others, a question which, at the same time identifies exactly what that hope was for him then, and is for us, now. He asks in verse 8, “Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?”

The Barnes Bible Commentary says of this, “Acts 26:8
Why should it be thought ... - The force of this question will be better seen by an exclamation point after why, as if to say: “What! is it to be thought a thing incredible?” etc. It intimates surprise that it should be thought incredible, or implies that no reason could be given why such a doctrine should be unworthy of belief.
A thing incredible - A doctrine which cannot be credited or believed. Why should it be regarded as absurd?

With you - This is in the plural number, and it is evident that Paul here addressed, not Agrippa alone, but those who sat with him. There is no evidence that Agrippa doubted that the dead could be raised, but Festus, and those who were with him, probably did, and Paul, in the ardor of his speech, turned and addressed the entire assembly. It is very evident that we have only an outline of this argument, and there is every reason to suppose that Paul would dwell on each part of the subject at greater length than is here recorded.

That God should raise the dead - Why should it be regarded as absurd that God - who has all power, who is the creator of all, who is the author of the human frame should again restore man to life and continue his future existence? The resurrection is no more incredible than the original creation of the body, and it is attended with no greater difficulties. And as the perfections of God will be illustrated by his raising up the dead; as the future state is necessary to the purposes of justice in vindicating the just and punishing the unjust, and as God is a righteous moral governor, it should not be regarded as an absurdity that he will raise up those who have died, and bring them to judgment.”

Let's move on to our next New Testament occurrence of the word, “hope.”
Paul was arrested, imprisoned and released several times. In one of those imprisonments, in the City of Rome, he called for the Jewish leaders of the city to come to where he was under house arrest, and he said in Acts 28:20: “For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”

Barnes Commentary on the Bible says, “Because that for the hope of Israel - On account of the hope which the Jews cherish of the coming of the Messiah; of the resurrection; and of the future state.”
As Christians we know that our Hope the Messiah has come, we have hope in the Resurrection and, as Jesus instructed to pray daily “Thy Kingdom come,” we also have hope in the future state of Israel. That future state, like the Resurrection, is rarely brought up from the pulpits but it was a primary focus of Jesus' followers both before His death and after His Resurrection. Jesus is coming again to rule this earth when He establishes His Throne in Jerusalem and sets up His Kingdom on the earth. It is my hope when I pray daily, “Thy Kingdom come.”

Romans 5:2: “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Barnes' Commentary on the Bible says, “We have access – Jesus said in John_14:6, “I am the way.” It means, “by whom we have the privilege of obtaining the favor of God which we enjoy when we are justified.” The word rendered “access” occurs but in two other places in the New Testament.”

Let's take a look at those: Ephesians 2:18 which says, “Now all of us, both Jews and Gentiles, may come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.” and Ephesians 3:18: “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come fearlessly into God’s presence, assured of his glad welcome.”
Of this the Life Application Bible tells us, “It is an awesome privilege to be able to approach God with freedom and confidence. Most of us would be apprehensive in the presence of a powerful ruler. But thanks to Christ, by faith we can enter directly into God’s presence through prayer. We know we’ll be welcomed with open arms because we are God’s children through our union with Christ. Don’t be afraid of God. Talk with him about everything. He is waiting to hear from you.”

Back to the Barnes Commentary:
By faith - By means of faith.
Into this grace - Into this favor of reconciliation with God.
Wherein we stand - In which we now are in consequence of being justified.
And rejoice - Religion is often represented as producing joy. The sources or steps of this joy are these: (1) We are justified, or regarded by God as righteous. (2) we are admitted into his favor, and abide there. (3) we have the prospect of still higher and richer blessings in the fulness of his glory when we are admitted to heaven.

In hope - In the earnest desire and expectation of obtaining that glory. Hope is a complex emotion made up of a desire for an object; and an expectation of obtaining it. Where either of these is lacking, there is not hope. Where they are mingled in improper proportions, there is not peace. But where the desire of obtaining an object is attended with an expectation of obtaining it, in proportion to that desire, there exists that peaceful, happy state of mind which we denominate hope And the apostle here implies that the Christian has an earnest desire for that glory; and that he has a confident expectation of obtaining it. The result of that he immediately states to be, that we are by it sustained in our afflictions.

The glory of God - The glory that God will bestow on us. The word “glory” usually means splendor, magnificence, honor; and the apostle here refers to that honor and dignity which will be conferred on the redeemed when they are raised up to the full honors of redemption; when they shall triumph in the completion of the work: and be freed from sin, and pain, and tears, and permitted to participate in the full splendors that shall encompass the throne of God in the heavens.

The Life Application Bible tells us of this, “Paul states that, as believers, we now stand in a place of highest privilege. Not only has God declared us not guilty; he has drawn us close to himself. Instead of being enemies, we have become his friends—in fact, his own children.”

Wading deeper into the Book of Romans, we read beginning in Romans 5:3: “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

The Life Application Bible tells us, “For first-century Christians, suffering was the rule rather than the exception. Paul tells us that in the future we will become, but until then we must overcome. This means we will experience difficulties that help us grow. We rejoice in suffering, not because we like pain or deny its tragedy, but because we know God is using life’s difficulties and Satan’s attacks to build our character. The problems that we run into will develop our perseverance—which in turn will strengthen our character, deepen our trust in God, and give us greater confidence about the future. You probably find your patience tested in some way every day. Thank God for those opportunities to grow, and deal with them in His strength.”

Barnes Commentary tells us, “And hope maketh not ashamed - That is, this hope will not disappoint, or deceive. When we hope for an object which we do not obtain, we are conscious of disappointment; perhaps sometimes of a feeling of shame. But the apostle says that the Christian hope is such that it will be fulfilled; it will not disappoint; what we hope for we shall certainly obtain.; The expression used here is probably taken from Psalm 22:4-5 which says, “Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.”

Because the love of God - Love toward God. There is produced an abundant, an overflowing love to God.
Is shed abroad - Is diffused; is poured out; is abundantly produced. This word is properly applied to water, or to any other liquid that is poured out, or diffused. It is used also to denote imparting, or communicating freely or abundantly, and is thus expressive of the influence of the Holy Spirit poured down, or abundantly imparted to people. Here it means that love toward God is copiously or abundantly given to a Christian; his heart is conscious of high and abundant love to God, and by this he is sustained in his afflictions.

By the Holy Ghost - It is produced by the influence of the Holy Spirit. All Christian graces are traced to his influence: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,” etc.
Which is given unto us - Which Spirit is given or imparted to us. The Holy Spirit is thus represented as dwelling in the hearts of believers. In all these places where it occurs it is meant that Christians are under his sanctifying influence; that he produces in their hearts the Christian graces; and fills their minds with peace, and love, and joy.”

I used the next occurrence of “hope” which we find in the Book of Romans last week in an effort to explain why the word “hope” is virtually missing in the Four Gospels. That reason, again, was because these were four accounts of Jesus' being alive and on the earth, daily in their presence. And I quoted Romans 8:24: “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?”

Barnes Commentary has a slightly wider and more insightful take on this: “For we are saved by hope - It cannot be said that hope is the instrument or condition of salvation. Most commentators have understood this as meaning that we have as yet attained salvation only in hope; that we have arrived only to a condition in which we hope for future glory; and that we are in an attitude of waiting for the future state of adoption. But perhaps the word “saved” may mean here simply, we are kept, preserved, sustained in our trials, by hope. Our trials are so great that nothing but the prospect of future deliverance would uphold us; and the prospect is sufficient to enable us to bear them with patience. This is the proper meaning of the word “save”; and it is often thus used in the New Testament.”

The thought continues in verse 25: “But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Barnes Commentary says, “But if we hope ... - The effect here stated is one which exists everywhere. Where there is a strong desire for an object, and a corresponding expectation of obtaining it - which constitutes true hope - then we can wait for it with patience. Where there is a strong desire without a corresponding expectation of obtaining it, there is impatience. As the Christian has a strong desire of future glory, and as he has an expectation of obtaining it just in proportion to that desire, it follows that he may bear trials and persecutions patiently in the hope of his future deliverance. Compared with our future glory, our present sufferings are light, and but for a moment. In the hope of that blessed eternity which is before him, the Christian can endure the severest trial, and bear the intensest pain without a complaint.”

But hope that is seen - Hope is a complex emotion, made up of an earnest desire, and an expectation of obtaining an object. It has reference, therefore, to what is at present unseen. But when the object is seen, and is in our possession, it cannot be said to be an object of hope. The Word hope here means the object of hope, the thing hoped for.”

Moving forward we read in Romans 15:4: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”

Barnes Commentary says, “For whatsoever things ... - This is a “general” observation which struck the mind of the apostle, from the particular case which he had just specified. He had just made use of a striking passage in the Psalms to his purpose. The thought seems suddenly to have occurred to him that “all” the Old Testament was admirably adapted to express Christian duties and doctrine, and he therefore turned aside from his direct argument to express this sentiment. It should be read as a parenthesis.

Were written aforetime - That is, in ancient times; in the Old Testament.
For our learning - For our “teaching” or instruction. Not that this was the “only” purpose of the writings of the Old Testament, to instruct Christians; but that all the Old Testament might be useful “now” in illustrating and enforcing the doctrines and duties of piety toward God and man.

Through patience - This does not mean, as our translation might seem to suppose, patience “of the Scriptures,” but it means that by patiently enduring sufferings, in connection with the consolation which the Scriptures furnish, we might have hope. The “tendency” of patience, the apostle tells us is to produce 'hope.'

And comfort of the Scriptures - By means of the consolation which the writings of the Old Testament furnish. The word rendered “comfort” means also “exhortation” or “admonition.” If this is its meaning here, it refers to the admonitions which the Scriptures suggest, instructions which they impart, and the exhortations to patience in trials. If it means “comfort,” then the reference is to the examples of the saints in affliction; to their recorded expressions of confidence in God in their trials, as of Job, Daniel, David, etc. Which is the precise meaning of the word here, it is not easy to determine.

Might have hope - We may learn here, (1) That afflictions may prove to be a great blessing. (2) that their proper tendency is to produce “hope.” (3) that the way to find support in afflictions is to go to the Bible. By the example of the ancient saints, by the expression of their confidence in God, by their patience, “we” may learn to suffer, and may not only be “instructed,” but may find “comfort” in all our trials;

The Life Application Bible tells us of this: “The knowledge of the Scriptures affects our attitude toward the present and the future. The more we know about what God has done in years past, the greater the confidence we have about what he will do in the days ahead. We need to diligently read our Bibles so we may have confidence that God’s will is best for us.”

In the next occurrence of the word, “hope,” it is included as a title of God, Himself. It is the only place in Scripture where God is given this exact title, and we find it in Romans 15:13: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”

Cross Reference: Eph 1:13: “{Christ} in whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,”

Of this reference to God, as the “God of Hope,” Matthew Henry writes, “Here is another prayer directed to God, as the God of hope; and it is, for spiritual blessings: these are the blest blessings, and to be first and chiefly prayed for. Observe how he addresses himself to God, as the God of hope. It is good in prayer to fasten upon those names, titles, and attributes of God, which are most suitable to the errand we come upon, and will best serve to encourage our faith concerning it. Every word in the prayer should be a plea. Thus should the cause be skilfully ordered, and the mouth filled with arguments. God is the God of hope. He is the foundation on which our hope is built, and he is the builder that doth himself raise it: he is both the object of our hope, and the author of it. That hope is but fancy, and will deceive us, which is not fastened upon God (as the goodness hoped for, and the truth hoped in), and which is not of his working in us. We have both together as in Psa 119:49: Thy word - there is God the object; on which thou hast caused me to hope - there is God the author of our hope. That they might abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost. The joy and peace of believers arise chiefly from their hopes. What is laid out upon them is but little, compared with what is laid up for them; therefore the more hope they have the more joy and peace they have. We do then abound in hope when we hope for great things from God, and are greatly established and confirmed in these hopes. Christians should desire and labour after an abundance of hope, such hope as will not make ashamed. This is through the power of the Holy Ghost. The same almighty power that works grace begets and strengthens this hope. Our own power will never reach it; and therefore where this hope is, and is abounding, the blessed Spirit must have all the glory.”

This concludes this Evening's Discussion, “Hope, Part II.”

This Discussion was originally presented by Romans “live” on September 6th, 2017

Saturday, December 23, 2017

"Hope" By Romans

Tonight, we are going to start on a multiple-installment Series called, “Hope.” This is a deep subject, and the Word of God has much to say about it, and how it applies to us. But I would, first, like to share with you all what Scripture reminds us about our state before we accepted Christ as our Savior. The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 2:12: “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:”

The Life Application Bible tells us of this, “Pious Jews considered all non-Jews (Gentiles) ceremonially unclean. They thought of themselves as pure and clean because of their national heritage and religious ceremonies. Paul pointed out that Jews and Gentiles alike were unclean before God and needed to be cleansed by Christ. In order to realize how great a gift salvation is, we need to remember our former natural, unclean condition. Have you ever felt separate, excluded, hopeless? These verses are for you. No one is alienated from Christ’s love or from the body of believers.”

Of that hopeless state that has been replaced by the which Salvation God provides, Matthew Henry writes, “Christ and his covenant are the foundation of all the Christian's hopes. A sad and terrible description is here; but who is able to remove himself out of it? Would that this were not a true description of many baptized in the name of Christ. Who can, without trembling, reflect upon the misery of a person, separated for ever from the people of God, cut off from the body of Christ, fallen from the covenant of promise, having no hope, no Saviour, and without any God but a God of vengeance, to all eternity? To have no part in Christ! What true Christian can hear this without horror? Salvation is far from the wicked; but God is a help at hand to his people; and this is by the sufferings and death of Christ.”

We who have accepted God's Son, and we who have accepted Jesus' death on the cross for our sins, we have hope. We can look beyond our present circumstances, no matter what they might be, a see a bright future. God's Word tells us not only of God's Plan to save us, it tells us what God thinks of us. We read in Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Having this kind of knowledge available to us, the very thoughts of God Almighty is why we, unlike the world, can have hope for the future because we have an “expected end.” That expectation is our hope.

Of this The Life Application Bible tells us of this, “We’re all encouraged by a leader who stirs us to move ahead, someone who believes we can do the task he has given and who will be with us all the way. God is that kind of leader. He knows the future, and his plans for us are good and full of hope. As long as God, who knows the future, provides our agenda and goes with us as we fulfill his mission, we can have boundless hope. This does not mean that we will be spared pain, suffering, or hardship, but that God will see us through to a glorious conclusion.”

Let's go through Scripture chronologically, or, at least in the printed Book order which is not always chronolgical, and consider where the major occurrences of the word “hope” appear in it. We first encounter it in the Book of Ruth. Naomi was a widow. Her husband Elimelech had died. Her two sons Mahlon and Chilion had married Ruth and Orpah, but they (her sons) had died. Naomi's two daughters-in-law were widows. The Law provided for a widow in the family to marry a brother of the dead husband, but Naomi had no other sons. We read Naomi's advice to Ruth and Orpah beginning in Ruth 1:12: “Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons; Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me.”

One might wonder, “I thought you were going to cite the major occurrences of the word 'hope.' Is Naomi's pessimistic assessment of the situation for her and her daughters-in-law a major or even a relevant occurrence?” And, to that objection I respond, “Yes, it is both major and relevant.” And why do I say that? How does Ruth have anything to do with our hope as Christians? Does Ruth have anything do with God's Plan of Salvation that gives us the hope that we have?

Ruth did not take Naomi's advice to go back to pagan Moab and find a husband. She responded to Naomi in Ruth 1:16: “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:” Ruth stayed with Naomi and returned to Israel with her. She found that, even though Naomi did not have another son she could marry, she did have a “near kinsman” or relative she could marry.
That individual was Boaz. She did marry him and had a son named Obed. Obed grew up and had a son named Jesse. Jesse grew up and became the father of King David. Ruth is named in Matthew's genealogy of Jesus Christ who was often called a “son {or, descendant} of David” sixteen times in Matthew's, Mark's and Luke's Gospel Accounts.

The Life Application Bible writes, “Ruth was a Moabitess, but that didn’t stop her from worshiping the true God, nor did it stop God from accepting her worship and blessing her greatly. The Jews were not the only people God loved. God chose the Jews to be the people through whom the rest of the world would come to know him. This was fulfilled when Jesus Christ was born as a Jew. Through him, the entire world can come to know God. Acts 10:35 says that “in every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right.” God accepts all who worship him; he works through people regardless of their race, sex, or nationality. The book of Ruth is a perfect example of God’s impartiality. Although Ruth belonged to a race often despised by Israel, she was blessed because of her faithfulness. She became a great-grandmother of King David and a direct ancestor of Jesus. No one should feel disqualified to serve God because of race, sex, or national background. And God can use every circumstance to build his kingdom.”

We read of Ruth's part in the genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1:5-6: “And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; And Jesse begat David the king;” Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible adds to what we have already discovered about Ruth, “It is a notion that generally obtains among the Jews (u), that she {Ruth} was the daughter of Eglon, grandson of Balak, king of Moab; and it is often taken notice of by them (w), that the king (Messiah) should descend from her; and also other persons of note, as David, Hezekiah, Josiah, Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, and Daniel; wherefore the mentioning of her in this genealogy, cannot be said by them to be impertinent.”

Matthew Henry also writes of Jesus' genealogy through King David: “Concerning this genealogy of our Saviour, observe the chief intention. It is not a needless genealogy. It is not a vain-glorious one, as those of great men often are. It proves that our Lord Jesus is of the nation and family out of which the Messiah was to arise. The promise of the blessing was made to Abraham and his seed; of the dominion, to David and his seed. It was promised to Abraham that Christ should descend from him, and to David that he should descend from him... and, therefore, unless Jesus is a son of David, and a son of Abraham, he is not the Messiah.” Genealogies were routinely male-dominated; that was a part of Hebrew culture, but Matthew broke precedent by including and identifying Ruth as the great-grandmother of King David. God responded to her faith in Him, and her loyalty to the people of God and her mother-in-law by giving her an honored place in the line that provided us our Hope, Jesus Christ the Messiah.

The next not-so-chronological occurrence of the word “hope” appears in the Book of Ezra. This was much later in the history of Israel. The Northern Kingdom of Israel, with its capital at Samaria, had already been invaded, conquered, and dispersed (not to return); in their place a mixed population of Hebrews that were not exiled, who had intermarried with pagans who were brought in. Nearly two centuries later, the South Kingdom of Judah was invaded, conquered and exiled for 70 years. When the Jews returned to Judah, they were scandalized by the population living in the North in Israel. “Hope” appears in that context in Ezra 10:2: “And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing.” I include this because these people who had taken strange wives were the ancestors of the Samaritans. The bad blood that started even before Ezra's day continued between the Jews and the Samaritans over four centuries later, and is frequently commented on in the pages of the Four Gospels and the Book of Acts.

Jesus saw past this bad blood and animosity that was still going on. In John 4 when Jesus at first encountered a Samaritan woman at the well, but then the entire town came out and accepted Him as the Messiah, Jesus told His disciples right there IN Samaria in John 4:35: “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” Jesus considered a hated people and a hated culture of His day to be a potential field of harvest for His Kingdom. He went out of His way to specifically name them as a original recipients of the preaching of the Gospel. We read of Jesus telling His disciples in His declaration of the Great Commission, “... and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

The Life Application Bible tells us, “Sometimes Christians excuse themselves from witnessing by saying that their family or friends aren’t ready to believe. Jesus, however, makes it clear that around us a continual harvest waits to be reaped. Don’t let Jesus find you making excuses. Look around. You will find people ready to hear God’s Word.” The Great Commission is a Commission of Hope for those (including us) who were not a physical descendant of the line of Abraham. But our status has been dramatically changed. Now we read in Galatians 3:29: “And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

So far we have found just two books of the Old Testament, and two occasions of the word “hope.” But then “hope” suddenly comes alive with fifteen application s and occurrences just in the Book of Job: Many of these application s use the word “hope” but in a negative light. We read, for example, in Job 6:11 a very pessimistic question from Job: “What is my strength, that I should hope? and what is mine end, that I should prolong my life?” And also in Job 7:6: “My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and are spent without hope.” Zophar, one of Job's three friends, tried to turns Job around and see that, in spite of all that had befallen him, all was not lost. He said in Job 11:18: “And thou shalt be secure, because there is hope; yea, thou shalt dig about thee, and thou shalt take thy rest in safety.” Zophar goes on to contrast the hopelessness of the wicked in verse 20: “But the eyes of the wicked shall fail, and they shall not escape, and their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost.”

Matthew Henry writes: “It is our wisdom to comfort ourselves, and others, in distress, with that which will not fail; the promise of God, his love and grace, and a well-grounded hope of eternal life.”

What will not fail? God alone, His Plan of Salvation, and His work in our lives are the only things that will not fail, and in which we can have hope. The Book of Psalms is full of such hope. Let's notice the hope that is conveyed in the hymns that ancient Israel sang in their worshiping of God.

We read in Psalms 16:9: “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.” Of this the Life Application Bible tells us, “David’s heart was glad—he had found the secret to joy. True joy is far deeper than happiness; we can feel joy in spite of our deepest troubles. Happiness is temporary because it is based on external circumstances, but joy is lasting because it is based on God’s presence within us. As we contemplate his daily presence, we will find contentment. As we understand the future he has for us, we will experience joy. Don’t base your life on circumstances, but on God.”

Psalms 31:24: “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.

Psalms 33:18: “Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;”

Psalms 33:22: “Let thy mercy, O LORD, be upon us, according as we hope in thee.”

Psalms 42:5: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” The Life Application Bible tells us, “Depression is one of the most common emotional ailments. One antidote for depression is to meditate on the record of God’s goodness to his people. This will take your mind off the present situation as you focus your thoughts on God’s ability to help you rather than on your inability to help yourself. When you feel depressed, take advantage of this psalm’s antidepressant: Read the Bible’s accounts of God’s goodness, and meditate on them.”

Psalms 71:5: “For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth.” Later in the Psalm, the writer goes from reflections of his hope in God when he was young, to his maintaining that hope now that he has grown old. He adds in Psalms 71:9, 10 and 14: “now, in my old age, don’t set me aside. Don’t abandon me when my strength is failing. my enemies are whispering against me. They are plotting together to kill me. But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more.” The Life Application Bible tells us, “As we face the sunset years, we recognize that God has been our constant help in the past. As physical powers wane, we need God even more, and we realize he is still our constant help. We must never despair, but keep on expecting his help no matter how severe our limitations. Hope in him helps us to keep going, to keep serving him.”

Psalms 78:7: “That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:”

Psalms 119:81: “My soul fainteth for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word.”

Psalms 119:114: “Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word.”

Psalms 119:116: “Uphold me according unto thy word, that I may live: and let me not be ashamed of my hope.”

Psalms 130:5: “I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.”

Psalms 130:7: “Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.”

Psalms 146:5: “Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:”

In the Psalms, intertwined with hope, we also find gladness, strength, rejoicing, courage, rest, mercy, praise, help, trust, patience, obedience, salvation, happiness, and “plentious redemption.” God is pictured as upholding us, being our Hiding Place and Shield, and life, itself. For the believer, to have God is to have hope and all of the accompanying Blessings that God pours out on us. As I quoted in the beginning, because the world is without Christ it is without hope. Even some who claim to be believers in reality set their sights on material acquisition as their god. Job asks of them in Job 27:8: “For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?” Jesus asked in Mark 8:36: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” As believers, our hope is not in material gain, prestige or position, but rather, in God alone.

Of this the Life Application Bible tells us, “Many people spend all their energy seeking pleasure. Jesus said, however, that worldliness, which is centered on possessions, position, or power, is ultimately worthless. Whatever you have on earth is only temporary; it cannot be exchanged for your soul. If you work hard at getting what you want, you might eventually have a “pleasurable” life, but in the end you will find it hollow and empty. Are you willing to make the pursuit of God more important than the selfish pursuits? Follow Jesus, and you will know what it means to live abundantly now and to have eternal life as well.”

Before we leave the Old Testament, I would like to cite and expound on one more occurrence of the word, “hope.”
it is found beginning Ezekiel 37:11: “Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD.”

We will all one day breathe out last. Consider: it is not just the unsaved, but the whole House of Israel which says that without a resurrection, “Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost.” But consider: the idea and the hope of the resurrection is not limited to the presentation of God's Plan of Salvation in the New Testament. It is also right here in the Book of Ezekiel, written 593 years before Jesus was born. A resurrection of the deceased, ancient House of Israel is clearly depicted in Ezekiel 37:5 and 6: “Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.” Where God is, and only where God is, there is hope.

The prophecy in Ezekiel is a literal prophecy of a literal, physical resurrection. I did not expect the Life Application Bible to comment quite as it did. It derived an unexpected spiritual allegory from that prophecy which could be applied to us, today. While I don't necessarily agree that is what God was trying to say, because there is a valid teaching in it, I have included it in tonight's Discussion. It writes, “The dry bones represented the people’s spiritually dead condition. Your church may seem like a heap of dry bones to you, spiritually dead with no hope of vitality. But just as God promised to restore his nation, he can restore any church, no matter how dry or dead it may be. Rather than give up, pray for renewal, for God can restore it to life. The hope and prayer of every church should be that God will put his Spirit into it. In fact, God is at work calling his people back to himself, bringing new life into dead churches.”

In the New Testament, when we encounter the Four Gospels, (no, not this Website, the OTHER Four Gospels) the word “hope” appears only once. And when we do finally see it, it is not applied to any spiritual context. Instead, Jesus uses it in Luke 6:34 to say, “And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.” And that's it! The word “hope” does not appear, again, in the Gospels. I found that intriguing. The word “hope” is virtually nonexistent in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Why do you suppose that the word “hope” is virtually nowhere to be seen in the Four Gospels? Even when it does appear that one time, it does so outside of the spiritual context it had in the Psalms where it appeared so often?

Let's notice the account of the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus. Jesus had been crucified a few days before. They were downcast and completely demoralized as we read beginning in Luke 24:13: “And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel...”

That closing thought provides, what I feel, is the answer to the extreme scarcity of the word “hope” in the Four Gospels. Let's look at it, again: One of the two disciples told Jesus that “we trusted {past tense} that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel...” Trust goes hand-in-hand with hope. Notice, first, in Psalms 71:5: “For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth.” And then, again, in Jeremiah 17:7: “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.”They had hope that the appearance of the Kingdom was imminent because the Messiah had come. They never expected the Messiah to be taken from them as He was, in spite of Jesus' frequent advance declarations of His coming crucifixion. (See Matthew 16:21, Mark 9:31, Luke 24:7). I hasten to add that in each of these declarations, Jesus also spoke of His being raised after He was executed. The disciples seemingly were oblivious to the fact that both events would take place, and now they were absolutely distraught.

Notice again these closing thoughts: “We trusted {or, we hoped} that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel.” They already had in their midst Who they were sure was the long-awaited Messiah. But the prophecies all spoke of a Messiah Who would throw off the yoke of Gentile suppression, for them the Roman Empire, and establish the world-ruling Kingdom of God on earth. The redemption of Israel included the Messiah setting up His Throne in Jerusalem, and from there He would rule the world. Jerusalem would be transformed from just being that capital city of Israel, to the capital city of the Kingdom of God on earth. That was what they had trusted in... what they had hoped would take place but had not taken place yet.

Paul tells us in Romans 8:24: “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?” Hope that is seen in not hope it is reality... it is tangible possession. The word “hope” is missing from Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, because these are four accounts of the life and ministry of the Messiah Jesus Christ finally arriving... He was ON the earth! Again, “Hope that is seen is not hope.” Jesus was seen daily by the writers of the Gospels! John tells us beginning in 1 John 1:1: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” Hope is not expressed in the Four Gospels: Eyewitness experience, seeing, hearing, speaking and eating with and other interpersonal contact with Jesus Christ was being routinely experienced every day. He was not called “our Hope” in the Four Gospels. (One last time: “Hope that is seen is not hope.”)

But after Jesus' crucifixion, His resurrection and His Ascension to Heaven, hope – the need for hope – was rekindled. Notice Paul's words, first, in 1 Timothy 1:1: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;”

Scripture progressed from eyewitnesses seeing and hearing and experiencing the Messiah, and not writing about hope, to the post-Ascension writings of waiting for the Second Coming of the Messiah as the Apostle Paul wrote about beginning in Titus 2:11: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

I will close with Matthew Henry's comments on the above: “At, and in, the glorious appearing of Christ, the blessed hope of Christians will be complete: To bring us to holiness and happiness was the end of Christ's death. Jesus Christ, that great God and our Saviour, who saves not only as God, much less as Man alone; but as God-man, two natures in one person. He loved us, and gave himself for us; and what can we do less than love and give up ourselves to him! Redemption from sin and sanctification of the nature go together, and make a peculiar people unto God, free from guilt and condemnation, and purified by the Holy Spirit.”

This concludes this evening's Discussion, “Hope.” Next week we will branch out further into the Book of Acts and then the Epistles to see other occurrences of the word, “hope,” and what we can learn from them. I look forward to seeing you all then!

This Discussion was originally presented “live” on August 30th, 2017

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Bible Principles for Examining Moral Issues by snowbunny

New Morality, sexual liberation and free love justify premarital sex, extrmarital sex, divorce, homosexuality, and pornography. What about the Bible, family, and Christian morals?
How should we determine what conduct is moral or immoral? What principles show what is morally right or wrong? The Bible is God's absolute standard of authority to reveal His will, yet we must study to understand and apply it. What does God's word say about stewardship, influence, example, and temptation? What priorities should we follow? How should we use the life and character of Jesus as our example? Please consider these Bible guidelines for moral living and conduct.

2 Timothy 3:16,17 -- The Scriptures instruct us in righteousness, providing us to every good work. Yet we must apply the word properly, study diligently, and pray for wisdom (2 Timothy 2:15; James 1:5-7). We must learn to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:14).
As you consider whether a specific act is morally pure or impure, here are some Bible principles to help you reach a proper conclusion. As you read the article, please look up the passages in your Bible so you can answer and apply the questions that are asked.
A. Does the Bible Prohibit This Conduct Either in General or Specific Terms?
The Bible contains many lists of sins to be avoided -- Mark 7:20-23; Romans 1:26-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 4:17-5:21; Col. 3:5-11; 2 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 3:3; James 3:13-4:10; 1 Peter 4:1-4; Revelation 21:8; 22:15. In addition, other passages discuss individual sins. These prohibitions should be studied and obeyed.
Remember that the Bible teaches in both general and specific terms. Sometimes it describes in detail that a specific act is sinful. Other times it presents general principles which may include many specific sins. Study is required to determine whether a specific act fits the definition of something God has forbidden.
(Note: The following passages show examples in which people applied general principles to specific cases: Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 4:7,10; 21:13; James 2:8,9; note "suchlike" in Galatians 5:21.)
Surely we should avoid what God's word directly prohibits, but we must also apply general principles to determine right from wrong.
B. Will This Conduct Be Good Stewardship?
1 Peter 4:10,11 -- What is a steward? What has God given us that we should use and care for?
[Luke 12:42-46; 16:1,2,12; 2 Chron. 28:1; 1 Corinthians 4:1,2]
Matthew 25:14-30 -- What did the Lord give these men to use? What were the consequences of proper or improper use of them?
Consider some specific blessings we should use for God:
1. Ability and effort
This is part of our stewardship (1 Peter 4:10,11).
Titus 2:14 -- For what purpose did the Lord purify us?
Romans 12:11 -- How should we serve the Lord?
Think: For what purposes does God expect us to use our ability and strength?
[1 Corinthians 15:58; 12:12-27; 2 Corinthians 8:5; Ecclesiastes 9:10; Proverbs 6:9,10; Hebrews 6:12; 2 Peter 1:5-8]
2. Time and opportunities
Life is made of time. God gave you your life to serve Him. You must use it for what is most important.
Galatians 6:10 -- What opportunities must we be sure to use?
John 9:4 -- Explain Jesus' illustration about working.
Think: How is using our time similar to budgeting money?
[Ephesians 5:15,16; Matthew 25:14-30; Ecclesiastes 12:13; 1 Kings 20:40; 1 Peter 4:2,3; Romans 13:13,14]
3. Possessions
Psalm 24:1,2; 50:10-12 -- Who really owns all your possessions?
1 Timothy 6:9,10,17-19 -- What are the dangers of loving money? What should we do with our possessions?
[Haggai 2:8; 1 Chronicles 29:11-14; Matthew 6:19-34; Acts 4:32-35; 2 Cor. 8:1-5; 9:6-10; 1 John 2:15-17; Luke 12:13-21; Deut. 10:14]
4. Health
1 Corinthians 6:19,20; Romans 12:1,2 -- To whom do our bodies belong? What should they be used for? [3 John 2; Rom. 6:12ff]
Think: May we destroy or abuse God's gifts to please ourselves? Are we "pure" if we neglect God's work to please ourselves?
C. Will This Conduct Encourage Others to Serve God Better, or Will It Set a Bad Example?
1 Timothy 4:12; Matthew 5:13-16 -- What should we do for others? How should our lives affect others?
Matthew 18:6,7 -- What happens to us if we lead others to sin?
2 Corinthians 6:3 -- What should we seek to avoid? How might we be guilty of this?
Think: Should we do whatever we want as long it is not inherently sinful, or should we sacrifice our liberties to help others be saved (1 Corinthians 9:19-23; 10:24,31-33)?
Consider these questions about the influence of any act: If others see me do this, will they be helped or hindered in their service to God? What about children? Would I advise new converts to practice this? Will this conduct help or hinder efforts to save the lost?
[1 Corinthians 8; Romans 14; 1:32; Titus 2:7,8; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; Ephesians 5:11; 1 Peter 2:11,12; 3:15,16; 1 Cor. 13:5,6; 2 John 9-11]
D. Will This Conduct Place Me in Circumstances that Help or that Hinder My Own Service to God?
Consider the influence an act may have on you yourself.
Matthew 6:13 -- What should we pray for? Should we knowingly enter tempting situations simply to indulge our own desires?
Proverbs 22:3 -- How does a prudent man differ from a fool?
Think: If you know a course of action is likely to lead to sin, does it make good sense to start down that path?
Matthew 26:41 -- What should we do to avoid temptation?
1 Corinthians 15:33; Proverbs 13:20 -- What danger should we watch for? How will wise men act to avoid the danger?
Ask yourself, "Will this act encourage or hinder my service to God? Will it strengthen or dull my interest in spiritual things?"
[Romans 13:14; Proverbs 4:23; 6:27; 24:1,2; 5:8; 1 Corinthians 10:12; 5:6,7; Matthew 18:6-9; James 4:4; Genesis 39:7-12; Hebrews 12:15; Galatians 5:7-9; Ephesians 4:27; 5:11; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18]
E. Will This Conduct Lead Me to Respect or to Disrespect Properly Ordained Authority?
God has ordained that certain people have authority over us on earth. To obey God, we must obey these authorities unless they command us to sin (Acts 5:29). For each passage below, tell whom we must submit to.
Romans 13:1-7 [1 Peter 2:13,14; Titus 3:1; Matt. 22:15-21] --
Ephesians 6:1 [Luke 2:51; Romans 1:30,32; Colossians 3:20] --
Ephesians 5:22-24,33 [Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1-6; Colossians 3:18; Genesis 3:16] --
Ephesians 6:5-8 [Colossians 3:22,23; Titus 2:9,10] --
1 Peter 5:1-5 [Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:17] --
Note: Several verses say to submit to these authorities as we would to the Lord. Consider what this means. Should we look for loopholes, or should we obey the intent of the rules? Should we do secretly what we would be ashamed for the authority to know about?
F. Is This Conduct Consistent with the Standards I Profess to Follow and Expect of Others?
All of us have standards we profess to follow or we apply to others, yet sometimes we justify ourselves in not following these standards. To encourage an honest evaluation, try imagining someone else in the situation, or think of what you profess in other situations.
Matthew 23:3,4 -- What did these people do wrong? Should we expect others to follow rules we do not follow? Should we follow a higher standard around some people than we do around others?
[Romans 2:1,21,22; Matthew 6:1; 7:1-5; Acts 10:34,35]
Think: Would you want your children to grow up participating in an act such as the one you are considering? Would you be ashamed if they knew you did it? Would you participate in this act around church members? Would you be ashamed to have them know?
Hebrews 6:12; 13:7 -- Whom should we imitate?
Think: If you would be disappointed to see elders or preachers participate in an act, then should you do it? [1 Peter 5:2,3; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 3:17; 4:9]
Matthew 15:7,8 -- What error did these people commit?
Think: Would you feel right if you engaged in the activity in question immediately after singing songs and praying prayers of devotion to God? Would you feel pure before God if you stopped in the midst of the act and asked His blessings on it?
Romans 14:20-23 -- Should you participate in an act that violates your conscience? What should you do if you cannot conclusively prove that a certain act is sinful, yet you have doubts about it?
Think: Sometimes you face two courses, one of which is clearly acceptable but the other appears to be doubtful at best. What should you choose (at least for your own conduct)? Yet take care before you condemn others who practice it -- v1-12.
[See also 1 Corinthians 8:4-12; 10:23-33]
Is your life consistent with your own standards, your own conscience, and your expectations of others?
G. Will This Conduct Harmonize with Proper Priorities or Cause Me to Neglect Them?
Matthew 6:19-21,24,33 -- How many spiritual masters can we have? What should be our highest priority in life?
Romans 12:1,2; John 6:27,63 -- How should we act toward God? Toward the world? What should we emphasize in life?
Many acts are wrong because they emphasize physical things above spiritual things. Others may not be inherently sinful, but must not become so important to us that they hinder our service to God. Are you putting God first in your life?
[Matthew 16:24-27; 10:34-39; 1 Corinthians 6:19,20; 15:58; 2 Corinthians 8:5; 5:14,15; 4:16-18; Galatians 2:20; Romans 8:5-8; Luke 12:15-21; 14:25-33; Colossians 3:1,2; 1 Timothy 4:8; 6:6-19]
H. Will I Be Acting in Love for God and Man?
Matthew 22:37-40 -- What are the greatest two commands?
Matthew 7:12; Romans 13:8-10 -- How will I treat others if I love them?
1 John 3:16-18 -- How did Jesus demonstrate love? Explain how love relates to action.
If you did the act in question, would you be sincerely acting for the well-being of others, or would you be pursuing your own interests regardless of the will of God or the needs of others?
[1 John 5:3; John 14:15; Luke 6:27,28,31-33; 10:25-37; 1 Corinthians 13:1-8,13; Philippians 2:1-5]
I. Would I Want to Be Doing This When Jesus Returns? Would I Do It in His Presence?
We sometimes fool ourselves about the nature of an act, but questions like these should help us evaluate things honestly.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-5 -- When is Jesus coming? What lesson should we learn?
James 4:13,14 -- What else is uncertain?
2 Corinthians 5:10 -- How will our destinies be determined?
Think: Would you be ashamed for Jesus to see you doing this act if He came to visit you? Would you want to face Him in judgment knowing you had done it and not repented? [Romans 14:10-12; Revelation 20:12; Galatians 6:7-9]
J. Would Jesus Do This?
Matthew 10:24,25 -- Describe the goal of a disciple.
1 Peter 2:21,22 -- How should our lives compare to Jesus'?
Every act should be examined by asking, "What would Jesus do?" If He were here now, would He practice this activity, use this language, go to this place, wear these clothes, etc.?
[Matthew 16:24; 1 Cor. 11:1; Eph. 5:1,2; Phil. 2:5; Gal. 2:20]
“Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” Eccl 2:11 (ESV)

Morality requires some sense of distinction between right and wrong behavior. We all have a natural sense of right and wrong, but where do our standards for right and wrong come from? Evolution suggests morality is simply biological programming developed as a necessary function to propagate the human species. If morality is reduced to biology, standards are necessarily relative to the individual or the individual’s group. The bible indicates that there are absolute standards for moral behavior applicable universally. The creation account provides a very clear description of how we came into the original knowledge of good and evil. The rest of scripture describes the history of the relationship between a holy and righteous God and humanity made corrupt by its knowledge of good and evil.

From the Evolutionist’s perspective the terms right and wrong, with respect to morality, generally refer to correct or incorrect behavior for the individual in the context of the immediate situation. It is from this point of view that situational ethics are defended. The terms good and evil are strongly disliked by Evolutionists because those terms are understood to imply absolutes derived from something besides material reality. The bible lays out a clear foundation for universal justice with a distinct difference between good and evil. Good is that which conforms to the nature of God and includes behaviors consistent with God’s character. That would be love, forgiveness, mercy, grace, creativity, justice, and full truthful disclosure. Evil is that which rebels God’s nature and includes idolatry, accusation, destructiveness, deception, lying, sadism, and the opposites of all good character. Faith in Evolution requires faith that there is no God therefore it must deny objective truth and moral absolutes. Faith in the biblical Creation account necessarily includes faith in the existence of a Creator and with that comes belief in objective truth and absolute standards for and existence of good and evil.

The objective of the rest of this chapter is to describe the impact of belief in Evolution on society. Decide for yourself which is better: Evolution’s moral relativism or biblical objective morality.

Evolutionary morality is based on good or bad biology rather than good or bad behavior. Abortion and euthanasia become acceptable because weakness is viewed as evil. Those who cannot contribute or who are otherwise a burden have less value and are more easily discarded. Convenience of the fit and desirable trumps life for the weak or unwanted. The bible forbids discarding life casually and goes so far as to require us to do all we can to help those who cannot help themselves.

Evolution draws no moral distinction between human life and animal life. Relativism allows some to be cruel toward animals because life in general has no intrinsic value. The same relativism causes others to view animals as equivalent to humans. Both extremes are wrong when viewed from the Biblical perspective. God endowed both humans and animals with souls, but humans alone were created in God’s image. God made man distinct from animals and gave him the job of stewardship. Biblical dominion does not mean cruelty or neglect. Those who consider animals equal to man lobby for animal rights arguing moral and civil equivalence. Relativism results in two extremes who fight one another.

If evolution is true, then it is ongoing. If it is ongoing, then it stands to reasons some humans are more highly developed than others. In other words, some people are more human than others. This idea is central to racism. It was the context Hitler used to condemn Jews and other undesirables. A branch of science called eugenics deals directly with purposefully driving human evolution. Hitler was obsessed with the idea of a master race. This idea came directly from a fundamental belief in Evolution. Evolutionary belief has likewise fueled the fires of racism in the United States. In Australia, the native Aborigines were thought to be a subhuman missing evolutionary link. They were hunted down and murdered with state sanctioned support. In reality their physical differences are entirely superficial. Likewise, the Pygmies of central Africa are just as human as anyone else, but due to their social and genetic isolation their appearance and culture is recessive. Many supporters of Evolution promote racism because they have bought into the lie that they really are superior. Rather than Evolution making them superior, isolation has led to restricting the gene pool of small groups like the aborigines and pygmies until diversity is lost and they begin to take on certain superficial characteristic differences from “normal” society. No group evolved to become superior. Instead, isolated groups lost genetic diversity until they looked different.

Racism and bigotry are not identical. A bigot may dislike another because of skin color, but a racist believes he is superior because of his skin color. Certainly slavery, along with bigotry and racism, existed before Darwin ever set sail. That said, Evolution lent a degree of legitimacy to it. Evolutionary morality can rationalize putting inferior races to work to serve superior races. Although the bible does not forbid slavery, it makes no room for any such thing as racial superiority. It took the will of determined Christians to abolish slavery of black people in the Americas.

Sexual deviance covers a number of acts including homosexuality, pedophilia, incest, rape, bestiality, and adultery. When the barriers of moral absolutes are removed, whatever form of pleasure a person desires becomes permissible to indulge in. God established standards for sexual behavior. He commanded humanity to go forth and multiply. Most of the forms of deviancy mentioned here run counter to procreation and the rest are destructive to human relationships and personal health.

After the fall, one of the first things Adam and Eve realized was their nakedness. In their shame they sought to cover themselves. When moral relativism replaces right and wrong, the human conscience gets seared away. Shame ceases to hold us back. Today we have a thriving pornography industry, sex on TV, and bikinis serving hot wings at family restaurants. Evolution gives us an excuse to go naked and a reason to take advantage of it. The bible encourages modesty, chastity, and purity. When society gets naked there should be no wonder why so many children get pregnant in middle school and all other forms of sexual deviancy are so widely accepted.

Evolution quietly attracts people away from belief in God. It is a powerful propaganda weapon in the war against marriage. Marriage and traditional family are under attack precisely because they are established by God. God created the institution of marriage in order to construct the best possible environment to raise healthy children. The homosexual movement strives to convince the general population that their behavior is acceptable and they have a right to choose their sexual behavior. Once homosexual rights are established, the next step is to redefine marriage. By opening up marriage to relationships other than one man and one woman, marriage looses its value and ceases to have meaning. The only reason to redefine marriage is to destroy it. Men and women are created with unique and special roles. The confusion of these roles is only to be expected when all standards erode in the chaos of relativism. The collapse of family follows closely.

The bible teaches that God is love. To have God’s love is to seek the benefit others above self. When we eliminate God from our lives, we deny ourselves the joy and benefits of having and sharing God’s love. Godless Evolutionary morality excuses and even encourages selfishness. We prefer to indulge our own interests above those of other family members. Selfishness of a husband or wife replaces love for the spouse. Selfishness of parents replaces love of children. Sin steals parents from their children. When parents submit to no authority except themselves, it is only natural that the children mimic this behavior and rebel against authority. When children feel unloved by their parents it becomes much easier to justify ridding yourself of a child you do not want. Abortion is justified for the sake of personal convenience and we call it a woman’s right to choose.

The bible says parents are to set proper boundaries, teach their children, encourage them, and lead by example. Children are to honor and obey parents. It is natural for teenagers and young adults to assert their independence. It is far more likely to turn into rebellion when the child is taught that objective moral absolutes do not exist. Children need boundaries for safety and security. Without any reason to recognize boundaries youth often become depressed and suicidal. Others become defiant and openly rebellious. Evolution destroys the foundation for the objective boundaries and sound reasoning needed by young minds.

There are consequences when you try to disregard the laws of physics. Likewise there are consequences when you ignore moral laws established by God. Belief in Evolution is deceptive because Evolution cannot be held directly responsible for any of the forms of lawlessness mentioned above. Yet, Evolution teaches atheism. When God becomes a fairytale, so do the standards that God established for our benefit. Refusal to accept God’s laws eliminates neither the law nor the consequences. It only eliminates our ability to see where we went wrong.

How involved should Christians be in issues that relate to civil government? Should they vote in elections, write government representatives, support candidates, and speak out about political issues relating to morality, family, and religious freedom? What about Separation of Church and state?
Surely local churches should not endorse candidates, nor sponsor or finance their campaigns. And individual Christians should not become so involved in politics that they neglect other God-given duties. But should Christians refuse all involvement in any issues that surround modern politics and elections?
Consider some of the practices that government officials currently debate, legalize, or even finance with our taxes: abortion, gambling, divorce, pornography, homosexuality, contraceptives for unmarried teens, and "education" that justifies some or all of these. Should Christians, gospel preachers, and even churches speak out about such issues, or should we remain silent? If we do not speak out, how do we fulfill our God-given duty to preach the truth and rebuke error? See Revelation 3:19; Galatians 6:1,2; James 5:19,20; I Thessalonians 5:14; Ephesians 5:11; 2 Timothy 4:2-4.
Does the Bible contain examples of faithful servants of God speaking out when government officials practiced or encouraged moral or religious evils? The following passages show that we may and should do so: Matthew 14:1-4; 2 Samuel 12:1-15; 1 Kings 13:1-9; Acts 24:25. In our society individual citizens have several ways to tell rulers we agree or disagree with their practices. One way we may speak out is by voting for or against the rulers in elections.
Many current government decisions will have major impact on our families. Men are responsible to provide for their families, including protecting them from harm (1 Timothy 5:8; Ephesians 5:28,29). Parents are responsible to provide a wholesome upbringing for our children (Ephesians 6:4; Proverbs 22:6). If my vote can help protect my family from evil government decisions and can help provide a more wholesome environment in which to raise my children, why should I refuse to vote?
Daniel 4:32 says the Most High rules in the kingdom of men and gives it to whomever He chooses. Some have concluded this means Christians should not attempt to influence who will or will not rule, since we do not know whom God would choose and we might be working against the choice God has made.
But note Esther 7:1-10 � A godly woman used her influence to bring down a wicked ruler. Was she wrong? Should she just have prayed and done nothing, leaving the matter entirely up to God? The main point of the book is that, instead of doing nothing, she had the courage and wisdom to act for the good of her people, even though she did not know what the outcome would be (4:6-17). [This is an Old Testament example, but so is Daniel 4:32.]
The apostle Paul often used his rights as a Roman citizen to work for his own protection from evil and to help further the gospel. See Acts 22:24-29; 23:12-33; 25:10-12; 16:35-40; Esth. 7:1-6. Our government gives citizens the right to voice their views about who should govern us. If Paul used his rights to protect himself and help further the gospel, why should we not use the right to vote given us by our government? Can we not thereby help protect ourselves and our families from harm, while also helping maintain our freedom to preach and practice the truth?
1 Timothy 2:1,2 shows that we should pray for rulers. Some say this means we should just pray and leave it up to God what to do about government issues. Yet God also tells us to pray for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11). Does this mean we should just sit back and let God do it all, or should we try to find a job and let God use us as the means to answer the prayer? Should we avoid looking for a job because we might take a job other than the one God in His providence wanted us to take?
3 John 2 shows that we should pray for good health. Some people mistakenly believe that going to a doctor shows a lack of faith in God's power to answer prayer. Yet Christians know that the doctor may be the very means God uses to answer the prayer! We all realize that there may be situations in which God does not will for us to get better, but that does not prevent us from going to the doctor. If God has not revealed His will in such specific cases, then we must do what we believe to be best, while yet being willing to submit to a different outcome if that is what results.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 Paul prayed three times for God to remove his thorn in the flesh. Later he learned that God did not will to remove it, but did that mean Paul did wrong in praying the prayer? Would Paul have sinned if he had gone to the physician Luke to help remove the thorn before God revealed His will in the matter?
God does not impute sin to men when they act with good intention in matters regarding which God has not revealed His will (Rom. 4:15; 5:13). When God has not revealed His specific will regarding affairs on earth, we must pray to Him, but we should also do what we can to bring about the answer to our prayer. We should act according to what we believe is best, acting in harmony with the general principles God has revealed. If we do, God will not be displeased with us, even if He does choose some other outcome of events, because He did not reveal His will in these matters. Nevertheless, we should pray for His will to prevail, even if it turns out to differ from our own (Matthew 26:36-46). Consider Esther 4:13-16.
When Christians become active in speaking out against evil in government and voting accordingly, some people claim we should keep our religion out of politics. I deny the premise on which that view is based, but my main point here is that such a view is not a proper statement of the issue. Christians are not the ones who have left our sphere of interest. The problem is that politicians have made a full-scale invasion into the realm of religion and morals! In that realm Christians are not only permitted but obligated to act. I believe this includes the right to vote. But whether or not an individual Christian chooses to vote, we must all find some means to speak out for decency and Divine truth.
And regardless of how the government responds to our efforts, we must continue to live faithfully before God, even if we must suffer at the hands of government officials.

The Bible is the complete and absolute standard of right and wrong. However, it does not directly describe every act we should avoid. It also teaches principles we must apply. The principles we have studied here should be applied carefully when determining whether an act is moral or immoral according to God's word.