Should Christians Observe the Sabbath?

(And other questions the apostles already answered)

I’m concerned and perplexed by the resurfacing of questions within the church that were asked and answered many years ago.  Should Gentile Christians observe the Jewish Sabbath?  Is it wrong to gather for public worship on Sunday?  Is it necessary to abstain from pork, shellfish, or other foods the dietary laws of the Old Testament forbids?  Am I permitted to wear clothing that mixes materials such as cotton and wool?  What about the hundreds of other laws and customs kept by the Jews?

The Early Church’s Greatest Challenge

The most challenging issue faced by the early church was how to merge Jewish and Gentile converts into one body.  This was no small matter.  This issue became so serious in the first years of the church that it threatened to derail the church’s progress.

SabbathMany Jewish converts to Christianity insisted that Gentile believers abide by centuries-old Jewish customs and some or all of the Old Testament covenants. Disagreement about these issues escalated to serious conflict and even physical persecution.  The persecution of Christians did not only come from the leaders of Judaism or the Roman Empire.  Some persecution of Gentile Christians came from their own Jewish brothers in Christ.

The greatest detriment to the infant church by this ideological conflict was it distracted the church from its ultimate purpose.  Instead of concentrating on the Great Commission, the church was drawn into a quagmire of internal dissension.  As is so often the case (even today), this internal conflict robbed the church of its focus.

The Showdown at Antioch

Even the apostles were drawn into the divisive conflict. At one point Peter and Paul had a heated, face-to-face argument.  Paul rebuked Peter for his two-facedness at Antioch!  When Peter was in Antioch visiting the Gentile church, he ate with them, enjoying their brotherly fellowship.  But when James and a delegation of Jews from Jerusalem arrived, Peter suddenly changed his behavior.  He got up from the table and sat with the Jews, fearing their condemnation for him eating with Gentiles. Other Jewish Christians who had been fellowshipping with the Gentile believers at Antioch followed Peter’s poor example.  Even Barnabas was drawn into the conflict and followed, in Paul’s words, “Peter’s hypocrisy” (Galatians 2:11-21).

Paul’s stern words to Peter were a reminder that we are justified by the work of Christ, not by our adherence to the Law:

Galatians 2:14-21: When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?…know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified…I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (NIV)

The Jerusalem Counsel

Paul’s rebuke of Peter’s hypocrisy did not resolve the issue.  The challenges of merging Jewish and Gentile converts were widespread.  Jewish Christians in Judea were teaching that all Christian converts needed to be circumcised.  Paul and Barnabas had “no small dissention and disputation with them” (Acts 15:2).  A sect of believers in Jerusalem were likewise teaching that Gentile converts should be circumcised and were commanding the converts to keep the Law of Moses.

This issue had to be settled.  The apostles needed to address these questions that had the potential to derail the progress and unity of the church.  The apostles and elders met with Paul and Barnabas to consider the matter.  Peter rose up to speak:

Acts 15:10: 10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? (KJV)

Paul and Barnabas also addressed the counsel.  After much intense discussion and prayer, James, the Sabbathpastor of the Church of Jerusalem, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, spoke words of wisdom that became the official ruling of the entire apostolic counsel:

Acts 15:19,20: 19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. (KJV)

There was a consensus and a witness in the Sprit that this ruling was the Will of God.  The apostles wrote an official letter that answered the question, “What portions of the Law of Moses should be kept by Gentile converts?”

Acts 15:23-29 – 23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: 24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment… 27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. (KJV)

What is as striking as the requirements mentioned is the absence of others.  They did not mention circumcision.  They did not mention keeping the Sabbath.  There is no mention of adhering to the dietary laws of the Old Testament (other than abstaining from meat that had been offered to idols, from blood, and from things strangled).  There is no mention of observing the feasts or any number of other Jewish customs and oral traditions.

Those demanding the keeping of the Sabbath were trying to put upon Gentile converts demands they themselves could not keep.

Equally as remarkable is the fact that James was the one writing this ruling.  He was the pastor of the mostly Jewish Christian church in Jerusalem.  It is likely that many of the antagonists of this issue were members of James’ church.  As far as his personal life, James chose stay true to his Jewish roots observing all the Old Testament law to the best of his ability.  Yet in this ruling, James feels led of the Spirit to impose only the four items mentioned above upon the Gentile converts.

The Sabbath

The glaring absence of any mention of Gentile converts keeping the Sabbath can only be interpreted one way.  The apostles rightly understood that keeping the Sabbath as instituted in the Old Testament was a covenant with Israel, not with Gentile converts.  They understood what is reiterated over and over in the Old Testament – the Sabbath was for “My people, Israel:”

Exodus 31:16-17: 16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: (KJV)

There is no mention in Acts of the Gentile church gathering together to worship on the Sabbath. Certainly the apostles went to the synagogue on the Sabbath to preach Christ because it was a wise evangelistic strategy.  There is clear evidence, however, of the church gathering on the first day of the week for worship and preaching (Acts 20, 1 Cor. 16).  Throughout the epistles there is never a command for the church to gather together for corporate worship on any particular day of the week.

Jesus is our Sabbath

As a New Testament church, we observe all of the Ten Commandments.  We do “remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.”  We just don’t do it in the same manner that the Jews did in the Old Testament.  In Matthew 11, Jesus said:

Matthew 11:28–30: 28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (KJV)

It is crucial to understand the context of this passage.  Jesus was rebuking the Jewish cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum.  He said if the mighty works that had been done in your cities had been done in the Gentile cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom, they would already have repented.  It was an indictment of their staunch religious tradition and resistance to the message of Christ.

It is in that context that Jesus says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden.”  He is speaking to Jews who have struggled under the heavy burden of the Law.  But He says My yoke is easy.  The yoke of the Law is not.  My burden is easy.  The burden of Moses is not.

SabbathCome unto Me and find rest for your souls. Jesus said, “I will give you rest.”  What’s fascinating about this verse is its reference to the Sabbath.  The word for “rest” in this passage is the Greek equivalent of the Old Testament Hebrew word for “Sabbath.”

Are you tired of laboring under the heavy yoke of trying to measure up to the Law? Jesus said come to Me.  I will give you “Sabbath.”  I will be your Sabbath. He said I will give you rest.

Jesus is our Sabbath. He has instituted a new and better covenant.  We have, by faith, laid down the old yoke and taken up Christ’s yoke.  The rest we enjoy is no longer about resting on a particular day of the week.  In Christ we find an eternal rest for our souls.  There is no longer a need to observe the Sabbath of the Old Testament.  The heavy burden of trying to measure up to the demands of the law and the keeping of the Sabbath has been cast on Him.  We trust in His works now, not our own.

Jesus is our Sabbath!

We remember the Sabbath and keep it holy in a greater sense than observing a list of do’s and don’ts for a day of the week.  We honor the Sabbath by declaring that in Christ the Law is fulfilled and complete.  In Him we cease from trying to find righteousness by observing Sabbaths, feasts, holy days, or dietary laws.  The Law was the shadow.  Praise God, Jesus is the substance!  The Law was a schoolmaster to point us to Christ.  And we have found Him!

From Saturday to Sunday

It is clear from the Acts record that the earliest Jewish Christians gathered to worship on the Sabbath.  The move toward Sunday public worship began with the infusion of Gentile converts. There was little controversy about matters of the Law or the Sabbath until Gentiles were added to the church.  It was the grafting in of Gentile Christians and questions concerning what Jewish laws and customs they should keep which sparked controversy.  As more and more Gentiles were added to the church, the shift toward Sunday public worship gained momentum.

What prompted that move was the desire to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus and the meeting He had with His disciples, which both occurred on the first day of the week, not the Sabbath.  It’s likely that Gentile Christians also gravitated toward Sunday worship to distinguish themselves as a religion distinct from Judaism.  In the first years of the church, all the believers in Christ were Jewish.  At that time they were simply considered another sect of Judaism.  They were not called Christians until Acts 11 in Antioch.  And so a move toward Sunday worship was a way to distinguish themselves as Christian.

By the time the Book of Acts and the epistles were written, Sunday worship was the norm among Pauline churches.  By the time John’s book of Revelation was written, we see the term, “The Lord’s Day,” which is a clear reference to Sunday.  Early church history is clear: By the time the church became predominantly Gentile, Sunday was commonly their day of public worship.  It’s important to note, however, that Paul did not institute Sunday worship because he was clearly opposed to esteeming one day over another.  He required neither Sabbath observance nor Sunday worship.  He even labeled those demanding worship on a particular day or those adhering to dietary laws as being “weak” (Romans 14).

A Sad Irony

Those who call for others to keep the Sabbath are generally not keeping the Sabbath themselves. Unless they are fully keeping every law of the Sabbath, then they are choosing how they will remember the Sabbath.  I’ve heard some say, “We don’t advocate keeping all the Laws of Sabbath, we just think we should gather to worship on Saturday.”  But by taking that position they have personally chosen what to observe and what to disregard.  Such people have no standing to judge others about how they honor the command to “remember the Sabbath day.”  In fact, to observe only the parts of the Sabbath they deem important brings a very serious condemnation:

James 2:10 – 10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (KJV)

Galatians 3:10 – 10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. (KJV)

In reality, they cannot keep the Sabbath as the Old Testament required.  No one ever really could. James’ landmark ruling at the Jerusalem counsel brought this irony to light.  Those demanding the keeping of the Sabbath were trying to put upon Gentile converts demands they themselves could not keep.

Sabbath and Public Worship

Yet another error in the doctrine of those demanding corporate worship by the church on Saturday is their ignorance in distinguishing between Old Testament Jewish worship and Jewish observance of the Sabbath.

It was common for the Jews to gather at the synagogue on various days of the week to worship.  Remembering the Sabbath was more about what they did in the home than what they did at the synagogue.  So even if we were under a command to observe the Sabbath, there would be no error in meeting on Sunday, Tuesday, Friday, or any day of the week to worship as a church.  Paul makes this plain in his letter to the Colossians:

Colossians 2:16–17: 16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. (KJV)

The Last Days

In the Last Days deception and delusion will be rampant.  The spirit of anti-Christ will influence the minds of many.  We think those things that are dark, demonic, or obviously evil as being anti-Christ. But in truth, anything that directs attention away from Christ is anti-Christ.  It’s troublesome that people, well intentioned as they may be, are drudging up 2000-year-old questions that were already settled by the apostles.  An interest in and study of the Jewish foundation of our faith can be beneficial, especially when it magnifies the central figure of the scripture, Jesus Christ!  But any attempt to get peoples’ focus off of Christ by looking backward and by celebrating the things that are to lead us toward Christ may be a subtle trick of the spirit of anti-Christ.

In these last days when our time to fulfill the Great Commission is short, let us not be side-tracked by divisive questions that have already been asked and answered.  Distraction is a tactic of the enemy.  If he can’t get you to backslide, he’ll try to get your focus off of the main thing.  Let us declare, like Andrew, “We have found the Christ!”  We have no need in returning to things ordained to lead us to Him.

~Matthew Ball

Legalism, Standards, Rules and Other Dirty Words

I had a conversation recently with a person who accused our church of being “legalistic.” This person felt our church was steeped in legalism because we have expectations of those who lead in our congregation.  I think the exact statement was, “You’re legalistic because you have rules that those in leadership must follow.”

Legalism

Before I point out what I believe are the errors in this person’s assessment, let me first properly define legalism.  Legalism is the notion that a mere human could attain a holy standing before God through his or her own righteousness, good works, or adhering to a set of laws or commandments.  It stems from the Old Testament idea that a person could achieve rightness in the sight of God by strictly adhering to the Law.

LegalismOf course anyone who knows his or her Bible understands that if following the Law made one righteous, then we would not have needed the New Testament, it’s Cross or it’s Christ!  The whole reason Jesus came was because no man could ever measure up.  Only Christ measured up.  And our only hope of standing justified before a Holy God is to trust in Christ’s righteousness, not ours.  Our own righteousness is not enough – not by a long shot.  When we are born again of water and Spirit, we put on Christ’s righteousness.  We are made holy because of what He did, not because of what we have done.

We are certainly not legalistic:

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness.  I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.  On Christ the solid rock I stand – all other ground is sinking sand.

So why do some fire off accusations of legalism like a shaky-handed gunslinger?  legalismFirst of all, it’s ignorance of the true meaning of legalism.  Some have wrongly branded anyone who teaches holy living as being legalistic.

Standards

I make no apologies for teaching Biblical standards of conduct and lifestyle (which should be embraced by all those who are children of God).  But such teaching is not legalism.  I don’t for a moment think those standards are what make me holy.  If I could be holy by what I do or don’t do, then the cross was for naught.  Only Christ’s Righteousness can make me holy!

I do my best to live a Godly and holy lifestyle as a reflection of my salvation not to earn it. I strive to adhere to Bible standards of conduct, not to be saved, but because I am saved.  I live the way I do because my priority is pleasing God, not this world.  I follow after a holy lifestyle because what God’s Word teaches about Christian living is for my own protection and benefit.  This is not legalism.

I remind myself daily, that I’m saved by grace:

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men…(Titus 2:11)

But I also remind myself of the rest of that passage from Paul to Titus – what grace teaches:

“…Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world…” Titus 2:11-12

legalismIf we equate standards of Christian lifestyle with legalism, we would need to throw out most all the epistles.  The majority of the writings of the apostles to the church deal with how Christians should live their lives once saved.

I wouldn’t dare call Paul a legalist.  How could I?  He, of all men, understood the failure of the Old Testament to make men righteous.  Yet Paul taught standards of Christian lifestyle that ran the gamut from modesty in attire to appropriate conversation to sexual purity.  So anyone who believes those who teach Biblical standards of lifestyle and conduct are legalists simply don’t understand the Scripture or what legalism means.

Self-Righteousness

Unfortunately, the approach of some who teach standards of Christian lifestyle has produced a culture in some circles of “self-righteousness.”  Again, self-righteousness goes against the very essence of the New Testament.  Such ugly attitudes should have no place in the Body of Christ.  Regardless of what I embrace as my Christian lifestyle, I should never look down my nose at others or think that I’m more righteous or holy than they, simply because I do this or don’t do that.  Such an attitude is the antithesis of true Christianity. We have our hands full working out our own salvation and trying to get our own flesh crucified daily on the altar.  We sure don’t have time to worry about everyone else’s journey to spiritual maturity!

Rules

The accusation of being legalistic was leveled because I, “have rules for legalismthose in leadership.”  If having expectations of those who are in leadership is legalistic, then all the apostles where legalists.  They pulled no punches when it came to setting the bar high for those who desired to lead in the local congregation.  Just look at the long list of qualifications of bishops and deacons set forth by Paul.  It’s only common sense that if a person is going to be a spiritual leader, we expect them to be spiritually-minded, Godly people.  How will leaders testify to others of the transforming power of Jesus Christ if there are not signs of such spiritual transformation in their own lives?

I won’t apologize for having clear expectations of those who lead our congregation into the Presence or Word of God.  This is serious business!  There is nothing more sacred and holy than the Spirit of God and the Word of God.  Those who lead the congregation in these areas must be committed to Godly living, purity, spirituality and dedication.

The irony of such unfounded accusations is that those making them have rules in their own congregations for their leaders.  I would imagine even the most liberal church would find it unacceptable if their worship leader came onto the platform on Sunday in a thong or string-bikini!  Would that be ok?  If you say no, then, you too, have rules.  I would hope that even in the most liberal church, a man wouldn’t be permitted to feed the flock of God on Sunday if he was sleeping around with a different woman every night.  If you answer, “No, we wouldn’t allow that in our church!” then you, too, have rules.  And if having any rules makes you a legalist then every church is legalistic.

Everyone draws a line somewhere and that, in itself, isn’t legalism. Usually someone cries “legalism” when there is a difference in where you draw the line. We all have expectations and rules for those in leadership. What we expect of leaders in our congregation may be more conservative than your expectations, but the truth is we all have them. And that doesn’t make us legalistic.

legalism

Judgementalism

What usually follows the “legalism” accusation is a reference to being judgmental. But again, the inconsistencies of those making such claims are obvious. Why is expecting a leader to dress modestly judgmental, but expecting a leader to refrain from adultery not judgmental? The truth is we all have standards. We may just differ in how high we set the bar. But setting a bar in itself, is not being judgmental or legalistic.

Of course it’s imperative that where we set that bar be based upon eternal Biblical principles. What we expect of those in leadership in our local congregation and what we teach in our church about the Christian lifestyle is based on explicit Biblical commands or common-sense applications of Biblical principles. There may be differences of opinion from church to church on how to rightly apply Biblical principles to present day life. But just because I may define modesty in a more conservative way than you, doesn’t make me a legalist any more than your liberal definition of modesty makes you a legalist. If preaching standards is legalism then we’re all legalists, because we all have standards of some varying degree. If having expectations of our leaders makes us judgmental, then we’re all judgmental.  We all have expectations of those involved in spiritual leadership.

If preaching standards equates legalism then we’re all legalists, because we all have standards of some varying degree.

The hypocrisy of those crying “judgmental” is that you condemning me for teaching Bible standards is judgmental! I could justifiably say, “Why are you being so judgmental? Why are judging me because I expect our leaders to live a certain way?” It’s like those promoting a LGBT agenda calling me intolerant because I believe in the Bible’s definition of marriage. Aren’t those crying “Foul” being intolerant? They are being intolerant of my different viewpoint! Some think they can define  “intolerance” as having any other viewpoint than their own.

“Holy living,” “standards,” and “expectations for leaders,” are not bad words! Establishing Bible standards of living for those in leadership and teaching Biblical concepts of holy living is not legalism nor does it mean a church or pastor is judgmental or intolerant. It likely means that pastor or church is doing their best to lead that congregation into a life-style pleasing to God and one that stands as a testimony to a lost world of God’s power to make us new creatures!

~Matthew Ball

Philippians on Friday: The Name of Jesus!

Thanks for joining me today for our Philippians on Friday devotion. We have come in our study to one of the most cherished verses in the entire book of Philippians!

Phil 2:9 – Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a Name which is above every name: KJV

PhilippiansMany years ago, a woman in China went to see a missionary doctor and heard him share the Gospel. She walked miles back to her home, and somewhere along the way, she prayed to be saved. Then she re-traced her steps all the way back to the mission station and asked the doctor,

“Please, tell me His Name. He has saved me, but I cannot remember His Name. Tell me His Name again.”

The story inspired George Bennard to write the words of this classic hymn:

Oh, tell me His Name again,

And sing me that sweet refrain

Of Him who in love,

Came down from above

To die on the Cross of shame.

The story my heart has stirred,

The sweetest I ever heard.

It banishes fear, it brings hope and cheer.

Oh, tell me His Name again.

What a lovely name – Name of Jesus! It is a Name above every name. It is the only Name in which there is salvation:

Acts 4:12 (KJV) – 12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

There is power in the Name of Jesus:

  • power over sickness
  • power over disease
  • power over the devil
  • power over sin
  • power to walk in victory
  • power to fulfill God’s Will

Paul told the Philippians that it was a Name “above every name.” That means if man can give something a name, then the Name of Jesus is higher because “Jesus” is a “Name which is above every name.” We might say it like this:

The Name of Jesus is higher than anything that has been named.

At some point in history some physicians examined a person with some type of tumor or growth. They tested the growth or looked at its cells under a microscope and said, “We’ll call this cancer.”

I’m not sure where and when, but I’m certain at some point in time, a psychologist or psychiatrist observed certain behaviors and said, “We’ll call this depression” or “We’ll call this anxiety.

I’m not sure if it was a thug on the street or a scientist in a lab, but somewhere, someone said, we’ll name this cocaine.  Or perhaps they said, “We’ll call this heroin.” or, “We will call this crystal meth.”

Your mountain or giant may be bigger than you, but it is not bigger than Him!

We could go on and on with every vice, sickness, or infirmity that has ever plagued the human race and determine that someone, somewhere named it!

But Paul told the Philippians that the Name of Jesus is higher than anything that has ever been named. If it has been given a name – the Name of Jesus is superior.

Jesus is greater than depression, anxiety, or anger. He is greater than diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. His Name is higher than crack or heroin. His Name is higher than any demonic spirit that may torment you or try to hinder the plan of God.

Jesus is greater than anything you are facing. Your mountain or giant may be bigger than you, but it is not bigger than Him!

Speak His Name. Call on His Name. Pray in His Name. Plead His Name. Speak to your mountain “in Jesus’ Name” and command it to be cast into the sea. Rebuke the giant that you’re facing “in the Name of Jesus” and it must flee.

Resist the enemy “in the Name of Jesus.” It is a Name that is greater than any other name!

~Matthew Ball

Proof of the Resurrection – Where’s the Body?

I know Easter is over, but I’m still reflecting on Sunday’s theme of the Resurrection and what it means to us as Christians.  The following is a blog from a few years back which I posted on www.faithapostolic.us about infallible proofs of His Resurrection:

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a cornerstone of our Faith.  The apostle Paul said if Christ is not risen from the dead, then our faith is vain and we are still in our sins.

ResurrectionJesus showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs – proofs of His resurrection!  There is not sufficient space in this short blog to discuss the enormous amount of evidence of Christ’s resurrection.  If you’re interested in a thorough discussion of the subject, I recommend Josh McDowell’s book, “The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict.” http://www.josh.org/.  I would, however, like to discuss just one fact that points to the Risen Savior: His enemies never found a body!

The Jewish religious leaders viciously opposed Jesus throughout His ministry.  After His death they reminded Pilate that Jesus had spoken of a resurrection. They asked Pilate to place a guard at the tomb and seal the entrance so His disciples couldn’t come and steal His body then say He had resurrected.  Pilate agreed to their request.

The Jewish leaders knew where the tomb was.  Their watchful temple guard knew exactly where Jesus was laid.  They were prepared to go to any lengths to suppress Christianity.  All they had to do was produce a body!  All they had to do to put an end to the Jesus movement was produce His body.  All they had to do was put Jesus’ corpse on a cart and parade it through the streets of Jerusalem and Christianity would have died with its Christ.

But there was no body.  The tomb was empty. He arose on the third day!

The Romans persecuted the Christians.  They tried to rid them from their society.  All the Romans had to do was show Jesus’ body in a tomb and that would have ended it.  Are you telling me that the Emperors of Rome did not have the means to produce the corpse of Jesus if there was a corpse?  Augustus? Tiberius? Claudius? Nero? The only thing these Caesars had to do to expunge Christianity was produce a body.  Find His resting place.  Find His body.  Display His corpse in the public square with this inscription:

“Here lies Jesus of Nazareth – impostor who claimed to be God – who said He would RISE again.  Here lies His body!”

That would have sealed the fate of Christianity.

But the Jews and Romans – enemies of the Church –  are throughout all history strangely silent!  They never claim a body.  Why is that? There was no body. He got up!  Jesus resurrected on the third day just as He had said.

Some skeptics say, “The disciples stole His body!”  But what of the Roman guard?  What of the watchful Jewish leaders and the temple guard?  History makes it plain – an official Roman guard would number between ten and thirty trained soldiers.  Due to the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ death, the number of the guard assigned to this tomb was undoubtedly larger!

The greatest proof of the Resurrection is that the greatest enemies of Christ could never find His body.

The tomb was sealed with the imperial seal of Rome, which would have been a high crime to deface.  Roman history is clear that the punishment for quitting a post was death!  Fear of punishment produced faultless attention to duty – especially in the night watches.

And what about the stone?  The stone was so enormous that it would require up to twenty men to move it.  How could the disciples have stolen His body?

The greatest proof of the Resurrection is that the greatest enemies of Christ could never find His body.  If Jesus had not risen, the Jews or the Romans would have found His body, paraded it through the streets and sealed the fate of Christianity.  But they never found a body.  The reason is simple.  On the third day Jesus came out of the grave, victorious over death and hell, and is alive forevermore!

-Pastor Ball

Bible Questions Answered

bible questionsAs a pastor and teacher, I get asked a lot of Bible questions.  I do my best to search the scriptures and provide accurate, biblical answers.  It dawned on me that the Bible questions I receive are likely the same or similar questions that others have, so I decided to post some questions I receive and my responses.  I certainly don’t know all the answers, but hopefully the answers I’ve given will be a blessing and a source of information for you in your study of God’s Word.

Question from JF:

I am currently reading through Matthew.  In Matthew 3:13, John the Baptist baptizes Jesus but doesn’t want to because he feels like he is the one that needs to be baptized by Jesus.  However, in Matthew 11:2, it states:  “John the Baptist, who was now in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing.  So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, ‘Are you really the Messiah we’ve been waiting for, or should we keep looking for someone else?'” 

How does John recognize who Jesus is when he baptizes Him, but then sends his disciples to question Him later?  

Then, in Matthew 17:12-13, it indicates that John the Baptist was Elijah who came back to set things in order.  I know I’ve heard people talk about this before.  How do you interpret that?

Thanks!

 

Reply:

Thanks for your questions, JF.  First of all, we see in the story of John the Baptist the effect that discouragement can have upon a person.  John the Baptist, of course, knew Jesus – John and Jesus were cousins.  At some point – whether early in life growing up together (which I think it the case) or at Jesus’ baptism –  John believes that Jesus is the Messiah.  However, after a season in jail, feeling left alone, betrayed, and offended, John begins to doubt that Jesus is the Messiah.

We need to do our best to ward off discouragement through prayer, devotion, worship, and faithfulness to a local church.

We can see how powerfully offense and discouragement can affect a person.  John was wrestling with offense, because Jesus said to John, “Blessed is He who is not offended in Me” (Matthew 11:6). When people get offended, wounded, discouraged, etc., it can breed unbelief, doubt and fear.  It can cause you to doubt your previous convictions and conclusions.  John was discouraged and wrestling with offense and that affected his faith and his vision of Jesus.  We need to be careful that bitterness and offense don’t creep into our lives.  We need to do our best to ward off discouragement through prayer, devotion, worship, and faithfulness to a local church.  We don’t want discouragement and offense to skew our perception of Jesus or make us doubt what we know to be truth!

In response to your second question, I believe the passage you referenced to be figurative.  John was not literally Elijah but had come in the spirit or anointing of Elijah. His ministry, purpose, and approach was so similar to that of Elijah that people remarked that John the Baptist was Elijah. In the Old Testament it was said of Elisha: “The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha.”  Elisha was not literally Elijah – they were two distinct people – but Elisha walked in the spirit and anointing of Elijah.  I believe this is what is meant by John the Baptist being referred to as Elijah.

I hope these answers help.  God bless.

~Pastor Ball

** If you have any Bible questions, feel free to post them in the comment section and I’ll do my best to answer them!