Monthly Archives: October 2021

New Master Time: Escaping Satan’s Squid Game

Is Satan playing the game of life for every soul?*


“Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.

— John 8:34b, 35


The question that Jesus confronts us here is really whose slave will you be?

Or better: Who will be your Master?

When I read this passage, the word “slave” really sticks out to me.

I think about the weight and significance of that word.

Maybe you do too.

What do you know about slavery?

Perhaps over the years you have learned a good deal about the topic as it existed on our own shores here in America…

Maybe you learned a bit about this topic in school, or you saw the movie Roots many years ago… or the movie 12 Years a Slave more recently, and perhaps these acclaimed films made an impression on you.

And I recall watching the 1997 movie Amistad years ago when I was teaching over in Slovakia. I remember being horrified at one point in the film where “with food running low on the ship, the weaker captives are chained together and thrown over the side to drown so that more food will be left for the rest…”[i]

Shocked as I was then at the scene, at this point in my life I would hardly be surprised if it really was based on true events…

And even though it was not like the American form of slavery which was race-based, slavery in ancient Rome, for example, was nevertheless brutal in its own way, enslaving conquered peoples and the poor and the weak with little if any discrimination.  

And did you know it is estimated that up to ⅓ of the Roman population may have been slaves, with many slaves, in fact, being owned by other slaves?

But things get crazier still. In the ancient world cruelty was everywhere. Large-scale massacres or genocides, for example, were not really a moral issue, at least in the sense that any conqueror felt he should defend his behavior rather than celebrate it!

It is not surprise then that harsh forms of slavery were literally everywhere also.

Even in “civilized” Rome the father of the “pater-familias”, exercising his patria postestas, could ultimately control whether his own wife or children died

…and so you can be sure the same held true for his slaves…[ii]

Now… maybe you wonder about all the times the Bible talks about slavery…

Why did the Apostle Paul, and evidently God himself, permit it?

Have you seen how Paul writes his letters, addressing both masters and slaves? And urging the former to treat his slaves well, and for the latter to submit?

Many professing Christians have vigorously defended slavery without any real sensitivity to nuance over the years – and not just European men, by the way[iii]not seeing it as that significant, for example, that the Apostle Paul really does seem to want Philemon to free his slave Onesimus.

They also seem to have not thought it was that important that the early Christians were well-known for buying slaves and freeing them.

So, what should we say if someone asks us the following?:

“Why does Scripture… repeatedly command slaves to obey their masters if… slavery is morally impermissible?”

I’d say this: “Perhaps because Scripture advocates radical but not [politically] revolutionary activities?”

And then I’d say this:

We are taught by Jesus to do unto others what we would want them to do us. We are told by Paul to not make ourselves slaves to men, and even to gain our freedom if we can (see I Cor. 7:21,23). Would you at least agree that most everyone today values political freedom such that they would not want to be slaves of men, and if they were, they’d rather be bought and then freed?”

I think about all of those things and more when I think of the word slavery…

Also, especially, I think about how God certainly never saw slavery as something desirable for his own people Israel, saying in Leviticus 25: 39-42:

“‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and sell themselves to you, do not make them work as slaves. They are to be treated as hired workers or temporary residents among you; they are to work for you until the Year of Jubilee. Then they and their children are to be released, and they will go back to their own clans and to the property of their ancestors. Because the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves” (see also Exodus 21:2).

This, we are told by the Bible historian William Barclay, became “a fundamental article of [the Jew’s] creed of life.”

The Jews knew that they might end up being slaves in their bodies for a short time – but they would not be in their spirits, and would keep fighting against those who would keep them down!

The Jewish historian Josephus, living in Jesus’ time, supports this analysis, and often wrote of his countrymen and their numerous insurrections and rebellions.

He said, for instance: “They have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and they say that God is to be their only ruler and Lord” (Antiquities of the Jews, 18: I.6, in Barclay, Daily Study Bible, John, v. 2, 26).

So the Jews in our Gospel text today might well be asserting that they, fundamentally, have not lost their identity!

They have not become one with the pagans around them; without their God and without hope!

They are the seed of Abraham!

For, as Barclay puts it, “even to suggest to a Jew that he might be regarded as a slave was a deadly insult.” (Barclay, 27)


And today we, like the Jews of Jesus’ day, recoil at being made a slave.


It doesn’t matter to us that the reality of slavery has been with us since the earliest of days! That there are few exceptions to this rule throughout human history…

Being in such a state is not to be countenanced! Never.

I’ll tell you about another kind of slavery though that we are not nearly as concerned about….

I am a relatively frequent email correspondent with an American man who, after being a blue-collar worker for many years, achieved his goal of becoming an accomplished academic librarian, and he recently retired after serving as the director of an academic library in Rome.

We were talking about money and economics a bit recently, and he said something I’ll never forget…

Before I tell you what he told me however, listen to what a man named Dale Martin writes in his book “Slavery as Salvation The Metaphor of Slavery in Pauline Christianity”

“[I] wonder if any slave who was advancing in ancient society would seriously have entertained [the question as to whether a slave was ‘really’ a person or was a piece of property] since access to wealth and power was the name of the game in antiquity, and legal self-sale could quickly bring both to a slave in the form of a huge cash payment (read ‘working capital’) and access to the kind of managerial duties that the new owner would require of such slaves in his household. It was always possible that, if affairs went well, self-sold slaves could buy themselves back from slavery before too long.”]

Maybe when we hear about slaves in Rome being considered non-persons – and the abject lack of rights that came along with this designation – we have a really hard time understanding that in some cases, selling one’s self as a slave to a wealthy and decent master was also a means of social mobility: again, a way to come into cash, wealth, and power, which again, we are told was “the “name of the game in antiquity”…

Now, the promised quote from my friend in modern Rome:

“For the last few weeks a part from an online interview that took place not long after 9/11 has been in my thoughts. I haven’t been able to find it but it was an interview with one of those high-powered stock traders. He worked, I think, in Chicago, or maybe he was in New York City but he was not close to the Twin Towers. He said that he, and the other traders he worked with, watched the Twin Towers go down on TV (or out the window, I cannot remember) and he asked: “What do you think went through my head at that moment?” And he answered, “I was thinking: How is this going to affect the markets? What will be the best ways to take advantage of all of this?” He discovered that all of the other traders were thinking exactly the same thing at the time of that terrible destruction and death.

He was appalled at his own behavior, and said that it was a kind of sickness that had taken over the entire financial sector.”

So do you want to talk about slavery?

Well, what kind of slavery is this? That people’s desires could become so warped, so twisted, horrifies not only Christians, I am sure, but even many an unbeliever the world over.

Things were similar in Luther’s day. The concern for worldly wealth was driving large parts of the Church’s leadership. You probably remember that there was an indulgence preacher – Johann Tetzel – who had come near Luther’s town saying things like “When the coin in the coffer rings/the soul from purgatory springs.”

Here is a good summary of why that is happening:

“The occasion for [Tetzel’s] preaching of indulgences near Wittenberg was Pope Leo X’s commissioning of their sale for Albrecht of Mainz. Albrecht was already bishop of the diocese of Magdeburg, but sought a second see in Mainz. In order to pay the fines levied for his pluralism (occupation of a second bishopric), Albrecht obtained a sizeable loan from the Fugger bankers in Augsburg. Leo X authorized the sale of indulgences to repay the loan to the Fuggers and help subsidize the rebuilding of St. Peter’s basilica in Rome. The pope published a 1515 bull commissioning the sale and Tetzel—prior in Leipzig since 1509—was conscripted to preach it…”[iv]

Two of the reasons that people say they avoid church these days is that the church is full of hypocrites and is always asking for money…

In Luther’s commentary on John chapter 8, our text for today, we also see similar concerns.

Luther says that when the Jews feel insulted by Jesus here and say “We are not slaves; we are free, for we are Abraham’s seed….” they were essentially saying “….Abraham’s seed has the promise of God to be the head, yes, not the tail but the head (Deut. 28:13), which is to soar above the world and not cower on the ground…” (397, LW 23)

In other words, the Jews, he says, were abusing and misusing God’s promises, making them all about temporal things. They were not concerned about having eternal life with God: how to have their sins forgiven, and how to be free from them.

Rather, it was all about the identity they had apart from Jesus’ interference! They were who they were by birth and what they did, and God would bless them with the high status they deserved….

Luther goes on to compare them to the pope and his bishops of his day who, “whenever they do something good… are motivated by a selfish ambition for honor, money, and goods… Their one concern is honor and wealth…might, and pleasures…” (402)

In other words, Luther was saying that in Jesus’ day as in his people were using Christianity to be successful in the world, gaining worldly treasures.

And yet, if the Christian faith is not focused on delivering these things but rather deliverance from sin, death, and the devil – and it is – will those who believe that it is about worldly success and pleasures want to hold on to it – particularly when suffering and/or persecution comes at them fast and furiously?

Or will the Christian faith be left behind, where not even any of the desirable “external trappings” of the church are wanted, but other external things become all we care about?

While all of life’s riches and pleasures are not necessarily sinful in themselves, we nevertheless sinfully misuse them and can be led even deeper into sin, complacency, and a fatal lack of poverty of spirit….

And for this, judgement comes…

Looking at Revelation 18:13, a few chapters after learning about how by gaining the “Mark of the Beast” men and women will be able to buy and sell… to participate in the economic activity of the world… the Apostle John combines our dual issues of slavery and wealth here, saying the following about the “one great hour” where all Babylon’s riches will “come to nothing”:

“The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over [fallen Babylon] because no one buys their cargoes anymore— cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and human beings sold as slaves….”

Or, as the King James Version puts it more accurately to the Greek: “…and slaves, and souls of men….”

In the worst conditions, this meant being “sold at auction as human livestock for domestic service, prostitution, and gladiatorial amusements…” (Orthodox Study Bible, 624).

Talk about illicit economic activity you don’t want to support…. Did you know that often the same kind of thing happens today as well?

In poor countries, many parents are desperate enough to sell their children, and these children often end up in brothels, serving as prostitutes or sex slaves…

Perhaps closer to home, many of our smart phones we use and the chocolate we eat, for example, are produced in no small part through the use of slave labor.

As my friend from Rome put it “If people claim to be against slavery, why do they focus on what happened a couple of hundred years ago and not what is happening right under their noses?”

Even if we don’t really see ourselves as complicit in such a system – not seeing many possible alternatives before us (we all need smart phones don’t we?) – can we at least admit it would be good thing if there was a better way?

One wonders: just like the women who sees her baby via the ultrasound and begins to think she should keep it, might we, upon seeing and knowing one of these workers, think twice about our own more distant involvement with them?


In any case, we have spoken here about two pictures… two kinds of slavery.

One is the common picture of slavery: the one which has often been imposed on others throughout world history but sometimes has also been entered into “voluntarily”… yet also out of a sense of economic necessity… like in the contemporary Netflix special Squid Game

The other is this new picture we have now introduced, where men and women enslaved to their own passions for money, wealth, status… their own personal comfort and even luxury, are willing to make Mammon their God and to make men and women their slaves, formally or informally, in the process….

Maybe even to create even new “black” and “white” categories, “in” and “out” groups, in order to aid them in their goals….

The world will treat you like a mere number, dispose of you, or at the very least make it clear to you where you stand vis a vis their social circles…

Perhaps in the coming world of social credit systems and passport systems, as you arrive at this or that destination, for example, Big Data will let you know that “Your recent Amazon purchases, Facebook score, church attendance, and location history make you 23.5% welcome here…” and you won’t make the cut-off. 

You will be left behind to fend for yourself…

Perhaps your family, if you are blessed, and a few friends, if you are blessed, will fight for you.

Even many clear-eyed unbelievers – at least those who perhaps know world history better than your average bear and doggedly don’t forget it even if surrounded by pressure to do so – can see this…

Everything we have talked about so far tells us a lot about human nature and how fallen we are….

The real slavery, however is far worse than even this….The thing is, we have just touched the surface: there is an even worse kind of slavery that Jesus is getting at here…


You might wonder about this – how does “coveting,” that is, the desire to take what does not belong to you – rate when compared with things like murder, adultery, stealing, and slandering, for example?

Why is it in the 10 commandments?

In fact, based on the way that the Lutherans and Roman Catholics number the 10 “words” that appear unnumbered in Exodus 20, there are not just one but two commandments against coveting: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house,” that is, his property, and “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass (that is, your neighbor’s relationships, with other people and animals!), nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.” 

What is really interesting about coveting is that it has to do with the second half of the 10 commandments, the second table of the commandments that deal with how we are to treat our neighbor. And yet, the other commandments here are external actions. How does coveting really hurt my neighbor? What is the harm?

Well, here we remember what Jesus says about murder and adultery. Even hating your neighbor, or even lusting for one who is not your wife, is a violation of God’s law. The heart matters as well. Not just external actions but what is stirring inside internally as well…

And this does make some sense even to non-Christians, right — even if Jesus might seem like He is being overly harsh… After all, certainly, before I steal my neighbor’s property I have coveted it… before I commit adultery I have coveted the woman who is not my wife…. 

But the rubber really hits the road when we hear what the Apostle Paul has to say about the matter in Col. 3:5: “Covetousness is idolatry….”

What this means is that the last commandments of the 10 commandments and the first ones as well both have to do with idolatry, one from the aspect of our relationship with God — the first commandment — and one from the aspect of our relationship with our neighbor — the last two commandments.

In other words, the 10 commandments come full circle! There is quite the symmetry here! It is like the 10 commandments — which yes, largely deal with external actions — are bookended by the ones that deal with the internal realities…

But how is coveting idolatry? The Christian commentator Gene Veith, whose own pastor taught him about this topic in a sermon, says

“To sinfully desire what your neighbor has is to be discontented with what God has given you. It is thus a failure to ‘fear, love and trust in God above all things,’ in the words of the Catechism, which is also what it means to violate the first commandment! Both have to do with the lack of faith.”

In other words, coveting is simply unbelief.

This diagnoses the sinful condition of man like nothing else!

If we simply kept the first commandment and had no other gods but the God of the Bible, everything else would take care of itself. As Luther’s Large Catechism puts it: “where the heart is rightly disposed towards God, and this first commandment is observed, all the others follow….”[v]

And yet, this is the condition of sin… sinful man cannot keep these commandments…

Mankind is truly in bondage here, and we cannot free ourselves.

Here, our own strength, our own powers, our own choices, our own decision, our own reason…. are of no avail!


As Romans 3 puts it: the law condemns each and every man and woman on earth, and shuts us all up before God.

Be silent before the only One who is Good!

So, what are all people, what are all those who were born of a woman, born into sin… the whole world over… to do?

As Paul puts it, speaking even for Christians who will always continue to struggle… who will save us from this body of death?!

Who will protect us from one another and even our own selves?

Who will save us not only from corrupt economic and political powers who trade in our souls, but from the Deeper and more profound enemy of the devil – who is the Prince of this World – and  our own sin, and the “fruit” of death that it brings?

This is why we are Lutherans this Reformation Day, because we ask this question the Apostle Paul asked, even as every one claiming the name Christian should ask this question, and recite his answer:

Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death…

Through Christ’s death on the cross and glorious resurrection God forgives us both our external and internal sins.

We are therefore no longer slaves to our passions, but His children who inherit His Spirit…

….and therefore in our renewed minds we gladly see the wisdom of, and uphold, His law — even being willing to say we are slaves to it! — as He gives us the pardon and power that we need!

“[A] slave has no permanent place in the family,” and I think that we can all get a sense of just how true this is…

“…but a son belongs to it forever….”

The Lifelong Loyalty and Hope that we are all looking for, the freedom from all earthly slavery, can only be found in the Lord Jesus Christ!

We often forget this, don’t we?

“Father forgive [us], for we know not what [we] do…”

I’ll leave the final word today with Luther, from a sermon he gave on this same text:

“The Jews want to do the same thing [as the Pope and his bishops are doing] here. They say [to Christ]: “You carpenter’s apprentice, You beggar, You poor simpleton! You want to make us free? You claim that your words eclipse all our good works and our laws, making them to no effect. Therefore kill Him, kill Him! Burn Him, and crucify Him!” So it goes.

[It is a sublime sermon that we are saved only by faith in Christ]. The Holy Spirit presents and submits it to the children and to the simple-minded. Old fools like me learn this with great difficulty. Little children learn it best. Others learn this wisdom too well, assuming that when they have heard it once, they know it all. I, however, feel that I cannot understand it. St. Paul has the same complaint, saying that he would like to believe and accept this as the Word of God, but that in his flesh there is someone who wars against it and will not accept it (Rom. 7:18-19). Therefore, the central fact of this freedom [we have in Christ] must be proclaimed daily. Then the other freedom will surely follow. But if you want to begin with, and treat of, physical freedom, you will become so muddled and confused that you will lose both freedoms. You must bear this in mind. “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” Both hell and death are his masters. He cannot escape them. How, then, can I become free? Men answer: “[I do good works!] I will erect a chapel, endow an eternal Mass, go on pilgrimages, fast, become a monk, etc.” But Christ says: “…No, let Him who is called the Son of God deliver you from sin; then you will be free. If you give yourself to Him and let Him set you free, all is well. Otherwise everything will be vain and futile, no matter what else you do.” 


* The question asked in this video, which contains some rather compelling content:


[ii] Historically what human nature and history teaches us about social hierarchies and oppression is not encouraging or pretty…:

The thing that stands out to me the most in that video is the lack of respect for the offspring of slaves in the ancient world (around 6 minutes and up), as the children of slave women took on the legal status of their mothers (see here too; and more excruciatingly painful detail can also be found in this old book:

The Christian theologian and historian John G. Nordling fills us in a bit on what things were like in the Ancient Rome in the days of Jesus and His Apostles. His 2004 commentary on Philemon in the Concordia Commentary series is also very shocking in this regard. In it, he writes about what we can really know about slavery in the Greco-Roman world, and it is not pretty (that 10 minute video shows just a bit of this). You can tell he did a lot of research on his topic (see 39-139 in the commentary). You can also listen to his 2009 Issues ETC interview where it is clear both he and Wilken get a bit uncomfortable talking about the topic (note that at the end, he almost seems like he might nevertheless wholly endorse the northern abolitionists and all their efforts, which I found very interesting given the information covered in the commentary).

Nordling See, esp. 52-56, 67 (fn 152)

Some clips:

Page 52:

“…none of the slaves [of the ancient world]… had any ‘personhood’ whatsoever…

However, we may wonder whether the subordinates were ever much bothered by such modern scruples. We would be quite mistaken, for example, if we were to think that Roman fathers routinely put their children to death just because they had the power to do so!”

It is true that for some at least, slavery was a means of “upward mobility” (in various ways) in the ancient world. Bradly, author of Slavery and Society in Rome even states that “no occupation in Roman society was closed to slaves,” except something like military service (quoted in Nordling, 130). Nevertheless, legally these were non-persons. On page 63 of Nordling’s commentary we read:

 “…Gal 2:26. Already at this point in his argument, Paul anticipated Gal 4:1-7, wherein he would elaborate on how a son in Greco-Roman society under patria potestas was as much a [legal] ‘non-person’ in the sight of the law as were slaves and other disenfranchised members of the household.”

“Those subject to [patria potestas, ‘the father’s authority’] could have no property of their own, and their lives were almost wholly controlled by their pater-familias” (Crook, Law and Life of Rome, 107, quoted in Nordling, 63, fn 135.

Yes, we know that slavery in Rome was not race-based (at least explicitly so…) and that again, it also seems to have had – at least for some – real opportunities for upward mobility and even freedom for those who sold themselves into slavery.

Still it is difficult for many of us to fathom a world like this, where one human being can in fact essentially be the absolute property of another. Not only this, but if the master gave one of his slaves a wife, then their children, also, became the master’s property.



[v] Content for this part of the sermon largely lifted from this excellent blog post by Gene Veith:

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Posted by on October 31, 2021 in Uncategorized


Mammon vs. Earth as it is in Heaven


“[You will] receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.” – Mark 10:30


Just like the story about the rich young ruler, which occurs right before this week’s Gospel reading, Jesus challenges us greatly here.

First and foremost, let us recognize this:

Even as God knew the rich young ruler loved his riches more than God – and reveals this to us for our sakes[i] — those who are rich can indeed enter the Kingdom of God.

With our Lord Jesus Christ, the camel can pass through the eye of the needle.

Flesh and blood – and worldly wealth – cannot inherit the kingdom of God, but the Holy Spirit can give birth to the truly spiritual… that which will live and reign forever.

For what is impossible with man, is possible with God.

In fact, it is by the amazing grace of God that not only are the rich saved but any of us!

And also, it is by the grace of God than any man possesses any wealth whatsoever!

For example, it is ultimately by the grace of God, the unearned goodness of God, that a man is able to, as the author of Proverbs says, be the kind of good person that leaves an inheritance not only for his children, but his children’s children, while we hear that the “sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous…” (Proverbs 13:22).

And, to emphasize this, we also saw in the Ecclesiastes reading this morning that Solomon likewise laments over the “grievous evil”[!] of children not inheriting their parent’s wealth…[ii]

So, the rich can enter heaven… And property, wealth for one and one’s children’s children…

…is good!

With some of that potential confusion out of the way, what else to say?

Well there is indeed more to say, for nothing on earth is more precarious to us than earthly riches!

You might recall the story in Luke chapter 12, where a man in the crowd says to Jesus:

“Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

But Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed Me judge or executor between you?”

And He said to [the crowd],

“Watch out! Guard yourselves against every form of greed, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”


But what does Jesus know?

He hadn’t directly experienced the 20th century “science” of economics after all… [sarcastically]

And the Jews of Jesus’ day also might have been inclined to question this teacher…

After all, they believed that wealth and riches also were a clear sign of blessing from God and favor with Him.  

The focus for them, however, was not really on the grace of God, on how God pours out His gifts among all men in this or that quantity… and how He gives to us the blessings that we have apart from any merit or goodness or power on our part…

Instead, for the Jews, these things showed not only God’s acknowledgement of their eternal salvation, but His acknowledgement of one’s relatively higher goodness, status, and importance on earth…

And, truth be told, how wrong is this really? This is, after all, a pretty common view among people the world over! (and do note Deut. 28:1-14; Job 1:10; 42:10; Ps. 128:1-2; Isa. 3:10, Sir. 11:17; Pro. 10:22).

And we notice this. Because, all of us, after all, want to succeed in the world!

Even if there are bad ways to try this, we have already heard that it is a good thing, for example, to be able to leave your children’s children an inheritance…

And here, generally speaking, we all know something: general morality, character, virtue, and worldly wisdom can help a person to succeed in the world…

Those who don’t seek these things at least pretend they do… to at least some people… for a reason…

Again, don’t relatively wise persons know that when it comes to the human animal, it is not just raw power or brains or wiles but character, part of that being legitimate self-concern, which can create success, thriving, flourishing? [iii]

That said… when we think of these things…. how quickly our minds go to something else!

That money, money, money[!] again!

I mean, money – some kind of liquid currency – sure could help this process, right? [iv]

Well, you have probably heard many a story of the anxieties of those who are rich…

About the miseries of those who have wealth….

About the worries and challenges they face…

Ecclesiastes does indeed raise some good points!

It seems that even if there is a man blessed such that he has both much in the world and is also constantly filled with earthly joy, the temptations that mammon causes – and the spiritual implications of this – are indeed dire.

As the 16th century church reformer Martin Luther put it, “when you have money, you will easily despise the god whom you also have…”

Money hides God from a man… (What Luther Says, 975)

So is it wrong to seek knowledge of these things?

To be aware of the way the world uses money, its relative importance in the world, and to use it?

Not at all.

For a good steward will indeed eagerly learn here.

Proverbs 30 sums up things nicely, speaking of a “sweet spot,” so to speak:

“Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:8,9)


Good advice.

The world, however, is loath to embrace this advice… this moderation… (perhaps many of us Americans feel that “moderation is a foolish French thing!”).

And so it rushes headlong into the pursuit of greater wealth and riches!

As one put it “Riches grip the heart like few other things…”[v]

The truth is that more often than not, riches produce a real kind of slavery…

And this is not the way things are meant to be.

What should happen is that all of us should be given to hospitality, to generosity, to eagerness to share the love of God with one and all

After all, isn’t that what the Last Day, at the Last Judgment, is supposed to be all about?

What kind of picture do we see before the Judgement seat of God when Christ returns on earth?

Well, regarding the final judgment, Christians will judge the world as Jesus says and Paul echoes.

That said, prior to the final judgment, Christians of course were to judge as God judges: eager to show mercy to all – showing both pity in the form of physical assistance and the forgiveness of God Himself through Christ…

First to the believer and then to many a blessed unbeliever…[vi]

And then we also see in the final judgment how God recognizes this generosity before the eyes of the whole world as all are judged…

And we see that God’s people, like He Himself, are profligate with pity, mercy, and grace….

But like the Proverb about neither having too much nor too little… so that God’s law is broken in neither one way nor the other… this kind of thing often seems far from even us Christians…

…this picture… this image… is not one of the foremost things in our minds….

For our minds are, to a large part, not captive to the Word of God but to great many other things.

And of course money… wealth… is one of those main things….

Even though modern economists will teach that we should not think that there is only so much bounty to go around…

…that we should not think that the pie is limited… that the pie of valuable resources cannot in fact grow…[vii]

…maybe even that it is not so much a lamentable thing that we must teach our children “buyer beware…”

…we nevertheless know that the vivid picture Luther provides us with is one we can all identify with and understand, and in fact condemn….

“For the strongest hog at the trough pushes the others away, as though it wanted to devour everything alone. Just so things go on in the world of today. Everybody goes his way in security and not only gives nothing but takes whatever he can possibly get.” (What Luther Says, 3063)

The third century church father Cyprian put it this way:

“They think that they possess, but they are possessed instead. They are the bond-slaves of their money, not the lords of their money. They are slaves of their profit.” (Dictionary… Early Christian Beliefs…, 543)[viii]

Some of our high-flying elites today even believe that their treasures and riches can fend off death itself!

It was only a few years ago that the artificial intelligence scientist Ray Kurzweil was featured in a Time magazine story whose cover proclaimed his Gospel: “2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal.”

You see? Man’s wealth, including the psychological capital, the social capital, the cultural capital, and the scientific capital which he can accrue, will conquer death.

Masters of the Universe! 

Why not? After all, when Martin Luther, 500 years ago, wrote that “money is a shameful, odious, impotent god who cannot even help one against an ulcer…” he was clearly wrong, at least in some circumstances, wasn’t he?

Clearly, Dr. Luther did not understand how the modern scientific and technological mindset and the free market could bring such blessings, and even lift all the boats in a rising tide!

Perhaps indeed, in some ways, it can. And hence, it has been easy for us to trust in such things!

And so Solomon’s wise warning in Proverbs – where he also teaches us to ask the Lord to give us only what we need – becomes even more important and relevant for the time in which we live…


Again, riches are a most, most precarious thing…

The popular 20th century Lutheran theologian and Bible commentator R.C.H. Lenski put it this way:

“It is only too true that trust in riches is hard to destroy, hard to change into its opposite, trust in God’s saving grace.”

So again, riches are not salvation or synonymous with the same, but one of the greatest barriers of salvation…

As Jesus put it succinctly,

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matt 6:24)

With a focus on gaining the material things of life for ourselves, with a fear, love, and trust in things that are not our God…. we think don’t think of eternity and become ineffective vessels for our God.

If we are not growing spiritually, we are diminishing…

There is no neutral ground.

And if we are ourselves not among those who are completely spiritually dead, the old Adam who remains in all Christians nevertheless keeps fighting back, determined to make us spiritually poor under the guise of being “rich”….

If we say a man is rich, should that be put in scare quotes if he is rich with the world’s wealth – or God’s wealth, rich in the things of God?

If we must choose, surely the former! “Rich”, in quotes, when describing the world’s wealth… Mammon.

So fight on beloved brethren!

Guilty though each and every one of us might be of the sin of covetousness and greed, Christ has died for us, Christ forgives us even now through His blood on the cross, and gives us new life, a life that is truly life!

So say again with the Psalmist as we did earlier:

“I rejoice in following your statutes
    as one rejoices in great riches[!]”

And do not serve your riches, but put your riches and yourselves in service of Christ and the Gospel (Wicke, 145)!

Otherwise, heed the warning from the ancient Christian text, the Shepherd of Hermas:

“Those who are rich in this world cannot be useful to the Lord unless their riches are cut down…” (Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, 541)


When it comes to money, brothers and sisters, be flexible and fluid.

Our world today, however, wants to be flexible and fluid in a different way, doesn’t it?

This goes well beyond a colleague at work assuring us they are flexible…  

Now everything in our world screams for us to get Woke!

“Diversity,” in all things but thought it seems, is the name of the game.

And so let all the walls and borders come down!

Let all the distinctions disappear!

In our nation, “E Pluribus Unum,” out of the many one, takes on new meaning as the ocean is embraced.

“We need to be fluid,” we are told!

Embrace fluidity!:

Government and business merging!

Gender fluidity,

sexual fluidity,

national fluidity,

and religious fluidity…

Not to mention the fluidity of this or that definition which we’ll change on you without making sure you are notified…

On the contrary, the Lord wants some honesty here… and stability with all those things!

The Lord wants us to embrace His created order!

In the ancient world, the sea was feared because sailors knew it was chaotic and frightening. There was no stability there… little sense of any permanence. Men and women knew this in their bones. This is why a great Gospel hymn like “Rock of Ages, Cleft for me…” became so popular only around 150 years ago….

So, what in the world is the appeal of this Brave New World?

Well, perhaps something is even more frightening than the sea….

The fear of rejection, perhaps?

And so here, I submit, in spite of the horrifyingly wrong beliefs, we see the desire for acceptance… for salvation… and the passion to earn it.


But this must fail. For all people must flee the temptation that salvation can be earned by us.

There is no fortune… or family for that matter…. that we can leave to earn God’s salvation.

On the contrary, if anyone could ever “earn salvation” that person must be the Lord Jesus Christ!

He is the One who had no place to lay His head (Luke 9:58) and who left His family (3:21, 31-34; Jn. 7:3-5) – including suffering “the ultimate loss of relationship as He was forsaken by His Father while on the cross” for our sin (Mk 15:34)” (Paavola, 187)!

“Flesh gives birth to flesh…” (John 3) flesh inherits flesh…

Only the Truly Spiritual One can bring life (I Cor. 15:45)….

On earth bonds of blood might be strong bonds of belonging, but the bonds of belonging created in Christ’s people will last into eternity…

Nevertheless bonds of blood are important for us all, they are a foundation of sorts….

And this makes sense, for insofar as it concerns us on earth, the Apostle Paul tells us that “[t]he spiritual [does] not [come] first, but the natural [first], and then the spiritual (I Cor. 15:46).

Jesus says one of the benefits or rewards of being a Christian is gaining a new family, a family that is superior to, but not wholly unlike the natural family we have known…

Again, He means for this realization, this connection, to be normal for us, natural for us – that is, to understand that the fellowship of family is our greatest natural need on earth – and also that we understand the things that naturally make this the case:

-the sexual relations meant to occur within marriage,

-the children that are born within…

-the mothers and fathers produced as that happens…

-the identities of male and female recognized in the process…

All these things which are being continually undermined now!



People need this family. People need this identity. People need this belonging. People need this specific kind of group. Real Family.

It is has always been this way, but now the lack that many know is glaring, and as the Christian sociologist Mary Eberstadt says, there are “primal screams”…

Screams of pain because of the loss. People need family, are desperate for belonging, and Jesus Christ can give it to them, on earth as in heaven.

With the basic understandings of God’s created order being fought against… taught against… will it be easier or harder for the world to understand the Gospel now?

I am concerned that with the natural not coming first in the minds of many – but a false gnostic spirituality instead that eschews the natural – the latter is the likely answer….

Nevertheless, we can offer and give hope to these hurting men and women through the church, providing the riches that they really need, the gifts of Jesus Christ, both on earth and in Heaven….

As Mark Strauss puts it, giving us some insight into Jesus’ words about the new family we know in Him, “any Christian who has experienced the fellowship and hospitality of fellow believers in some remote corner of the world” can begin to understand what Jesus is saying here about the relatives and blessings we gain in following Him (445).

And so let us pray that the lost souls of today will be among the last who will be first!


Yes, we should note… Jesus does indeed end by saying:

“The first will be last and the last will be first.”

Remember, Judas wanted His money.

Remember, the Pharisees wanted the praise of men….

Remember, Caiaphas wanted his position…

Remember also the Apostle’s piercing words “…the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs….”[ix]

Be different brothers and sisters!

And be on guard about trying to earn salvation by your deeds, accomplishments, or material gains – in this life and the next!

And especially do not throw in your lot with the World Spirit with its demonic and chaotic ways, but steward your blessings to go against the flow, and enable the throwing out of the life preservers….

Yes, it is true that Jesus confronted the rich young ruler with the demand to leave everything and give it to the poor to reveal to him that no, he had not kept God’s 10 commandments perfectly…

Yes, it is true that we are not all given that command to give up everything Jesus demanded of this man.

At the same time, in Luke 6, His Sermon on the Plain Jesus does encourage all persons more generally:

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys….”

Again, when it comes to both our wealth and the grace of God, He desires fluidity.

Understand your “liquid assets’ in just this way!

Oh, that our generosity and giving would flow like a river from us!

That we would hold to nothing so tightly, but that all the goodness that we have and have known would flow from us to the resounding benefit of our brothers and sisters, and all people on earth!

This is the way that things were meant to be from the beginning!

Where the voice of our Master – and He alone! – instills in us the confidence to leave everything!

And where the goodness and love of God, freely given to us as He freely gives us all things, was something that we would all know and be sure of….

To be firm in.

Again, that we would… secure in His care… secure in His good order… thankfully and gladly let that love and care flow through us to all those around us….

The surety of God’s love among us begetting the surety of God’s love to ever greater degrees… both in its scope and in the depths to which it is experienced.

Such a love freely gives…

And such a love freely receives from God’s bountiful and continual goodness, a goodness which is always pleased above all to provide for and delight in its own…

And so we see in our text for today that Jesus tells us that we really do gain more than we lose here.

We see that along with the promise of the wonderful blessing of Christian family fellowship in this world and the next, Jesus also, strangely, talks about how by giving up and following Him we will also gain something else in return: persecution.

This seems very hard and even crazy to us, but it does us well to remember here our Lord’s solid promises:

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Why might persecutions be a blessing?[x]

Again, the commentator Lenski helps us here: “[P]ersecutions are [in fact] the butter on the bread, for by them we are more strongly assured that we are God’s children than by the other blessings that he sends us.” (448)

A study Bible I looked at also talks about how “paradoxically, fellowship with other believers develops most deeply in persecution…” (NIV Study Bible)

So, there is an intensification of our life in Christ…

More knowledge of our sin.

More knowledge of God’s grace.

More knowledge of His purposes in this world and the blessings to come…

Pray then, that you might be more fully rooted in, found in, at one with, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ….

That His Holy Spirit would so possess us…

…that we would be prepared for these trials and the further refinement that awaits us in them…

And finally, the life to come that has been prepared for us….


Christ has died!

Christ has risen!

Christ will come again!

So be willing to be poor, humble, simple, despised.

And let God’s Holy Spirit, and not worldly wealth, possess you.


Images: Mammon and His Slave, a c. 1896 engraving by Sascha Schneider ;

[i] We remember our Hebrews reading for today: “12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” See also Romans 3:20-21.

[ii] I have seen a grievous evil under the sun:

wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners,
      or wealth lost through some misfortune,
so that when they have children
    there is nothing left for them to inherit.
   Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb,
    and as everyone comes, so they depart.
They take nothing from their toil
    that they can carry in their hands. (Ecclesiastes 5:13-15)

[iii] Said to an online friend who finds much to commend in Ayn Rand and says she is often very misunderstood: “I’m saying every relatively wise person knows that when it comes to the human animal it is not just raw power or brains or wiles but character — “the virtue of selfishness”? — which can create success, thriving, flourishing…. “

[iv] [Even though we know character is often key to worldly success] even in fallen man’s most noble moments we are tempted to go to money here… We feel that having a decent amount of money (or some other highly valued and liquid material good like gold or whatever) can certainly serve to enhance, exacerbate, turbo-charge this process…

Frankly, I think this is so pervasive, I’m often not even sure why such thoughts are necessarily bad! (can’t God use our money for good and noble reasons, after all? even as the Apostle Paul speaks of being content with food and covering, don’t we all also need some forms of liquid assets to basically live in the world?)

More thoughts, mostly excised from the final sermon (the bracketed ones…), but which I spent a lot of time on:

Now it is true that no one is debating that general morality, character, virtue, and worldly wisdom can’t help a person to succeed in the world as well… not even most atheists will say that this kind of general morality and worldly wisdom can’t really help a person succeed in the world….[iv]

That said… when we think of success…. how quickly our minds go to something else!

That money, money, money[!] again!

I mean, money – some kind of liquid currency – sure can help, right?

[After all, if you come into money – and you are not like the idiot who wins the lottery and blows his winnings on whatever he feels like – you can also start to produce what we call “wealth” as well!

You can purchase possessions and you can gain other perks and powers (like education, investments, connections, increased social mobility…)….

If you have these things, your status will increase (perhaps particularly with this or that group you are interested in being with…)

And if you have status, you have a sense of where you stand in the pecking order, and the influence that affords you…

And… if you know where you stand in the pecking order and can effectively wield that position for influence…. Then you will have the appreciation and admiration and even attraction of others in your immediate circles… and maybe beyond (and you’ll even catch the eye of that really special someone!)

And… if you have the admiration and attraction of those certain others – who might even become our close partners in our success! – all of life’s common pleasures and comforts sought by men and women of every age, and not just the short term ones but the long-term ones as well….  are within your grasp….

You can retire, disengage from society, and relax!

Or you can choose to further engage society and seek to exercise some control over its direction!

Earthly comfort! Earthly rest! Or, for the more ambitious, some real earthly glory and honor!

Don’t call all of this the vice of covetousness or greed… call it good and right and proper ambition!

What harm is there in all this? Yes, we’ve heard about what people say they regret on their death beds. Certainly we want real love and friendship in our lives too – and not just some earthly “trophies” – but why not also all of this as well?…]

[v] Quote from the [Eastern] Orthodox Study Bible.

[vi] Bracketed excerpts excised from sermon: “[For when comes the separating of the sheep and the goats, we will see Christ and His Church showing mercy to those who have been merciful! In other words, to those who have shown themselves to be His children (after all, sons of God act like sons of God and it is right that they should be found with their father and brother).

This means those who have forgiven much – echoing the forgiveness, or reconciliation of God Himself – will be forgiven.

This means that those who opened up the Kingdom of Heaven to others will have the Kingdom of Heaven opened up to them.

Like Christ, they eagerly gave the promise of paradise to those enemies of God dying to the left of them (and to the right, if they would only have it) who had nothing to give, and could pay nothing back.]

God’s people, like God Himself, are profligate with pity, mercy, and grace….”

[vii] Aren’t we now in danger of having a war with China over Taiwan and their valuable microchip industry? Microchips are a resource created and made valuable by man.

[viii] Another man from around that same time talked about the Christians of his day, and put matters in this way:

“But that many of us are called poor, this is not our disgrace, but our glory; for as our mind is relaxed by luxury, so it is strengthened by frugality.  And yet who can be poor if he does not want, if he does not crave for the possessions of others, if he is rich towards God?  He rather is poor, who, although he has much, desires more.” (DECB, 440)

The second century church father Clement of Alexandria said this: “Delicacies spent on pleasures become a dangerous shipwreck to men….”  (Dictionary… Early Christian Beliefs…., 541)

[ix] More context:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs….”

Just a short while later on, Paul commands his young charge Timothy this way:

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life…”

Regarding “[a] firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life…”

This does not mean that Christ is not our sure foundation but that our deeds are. When a perhaps self-congratulatory Peter says “but we have left everything to follow you…” maybe he was a bit confused….

He was not recalling they did not choose Jesus but that He had chosen them, that they might receive the grace of eternal salvation and even Apostleship. It was such grace and the resultant thankfulness that had prompted their willingness to leave their own livelihoods (though we note Peter kept his house! : ) )…

This, I believe is why Jesus does not firmly rebuke Peter here as well. Peter has heard Jesus say that a man cannot give anything in exchange for his own soul (Mark 8:37). Peter and the other disciples have real faith in Jesus, but it is weak….

They are simply being inconsistent and need to continually be taught… by the One who is able to empathize with our weaknesses… [See the end of our Hebrews reading: “14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[f] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need….”]

[x] See also I Peter 4:13-14.

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Posted by on October 18, 2021 in Uncategorized


Can a non-Christian Flawlessly Exhibit a Highly Developed Understanding of Christian Theology?

No, I am not talking about Jordan Peterson. He’s a piker compared with a former student.


Yes. This has always been the case.

Proof from a student who says “I am now, as before, not a member of any particular religion, and do not identify informally with any set of religious beliefs either” (shared with the student’s blessing).

More specifically, while this student has always been curious and interested in religion, and had done a good deal of reading on his/her own over the years, he/she did not grow up attending religious services of any kind. To this date the student has never had a personal experience as a member of a congregation (his/her parents grew up going to Lutheran and Catholic churches, but did not continue on as adults).

If you are an unbeliever, please take note of this fantastic example.

Be a more “noble pagan”! Thanks!


Since the life of Jesus Christ over 2000 years ago, the concept of Christianity has developed in many ways. All expressions of Christianity, however, stem from the same source: the words of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. At their roots, Christians share the belief that Jesus, the Son of God, lived on earth, suffered and died for the sins of mankind, and was resurrected and ascended to heaven, therefore saving humans. Looking at the character of God, the character of humanity, the figure of Jesus, the message of the Bible and the basic beliefs of the Church, this paper will summarize the Christianity outlined in the Bible.

            God, in creating the universe, does so through speaking (Genesis 1, NIV), showing omnipotence. After each stage of creation, God sees that what has been made is good, until completing the sixth day of creation, whereupon “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31, NIV). This assessment of creation sounds like an understatement, but considering the source, it is approval of the highest order. Looking at a description of God by Moses in Deuteronomy 32:4 clarifies: “He is the rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.” The universe was created perfectly, and though imperfection has subsequently entered into it, this was not part of God’s creation.

            Additional statements about the nature of God, coming directly to Moses from God, are seen in Exodus. On Mount Sinai, God tells Moses: “The lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished;” (Exodus 34: 6-7, NIV).

            In the New Testament, there is more revealed about God’s character. The opening lines of the Gospel of John are: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1, NIV). Later, in John 1:14, it states “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”. These statements hearken back to the opening of Genesis, using the phrase “in the beginning,” as well as establishing the multiple persons of God: the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Word become flesh, or Jesus.

            Some examples from the Epistles provide more information about God. In 1 John 4:7-21, there is discussion of the importance of love in Christianity. In fact, the concept of love and that of God are inseparable: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8, NIV). John is clear in the direction and source of this love as well, saying “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19, NIV). Paul makes a statement about God’s inerrancy in the introduction to his letter to Titus, saying that the promise of salvation and eternal life was given by God, “who does not lie” (Titus 1:2, NIV).

            The story of humanity in the Bible starts within the first chapter, when “God created mankind in his own image,” (Genesis 1:27, NIV) as the final piece of the creative act on the sixth day. As soon as the story of humanity’s creation is detailed, their descent into sin occurs, and in the following books of the Bible, the sinfulness of people is a constant theme, parallel to God’s infinite capacity to forgive.

            As seen in the story of Creation, mankind was initially good, in the way of everything created by God. Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden to “work it and take care of it,” (Genesis 2:15, NIV) with Eve as a suitable helper for him (Genesis 2: 21-23, NIV). Though created good, in eating the fruit from the tree they were commanded to leave untasted, they are corrupted, and through this sin, all of humankind is corrupted by sin. Adam and Eve, through disobedience, suffer the spiritual consequence of separation from God, as well as the material consequences of mortality, pain, and the uncertainty of a life of toil.

            Looking at David’s story shows an example of the extremes of human capacities. David is capable of both tremendous faith as well as tremendous sin. As a young man, in response to a threatening force of Philistines, David puts himself forward as a volunteer, drawing the comparison of his actions as a shepherd protecting his flock (1 Samuel 17: 34-37, NIV). In confronting Goliath, David declares God his resource: “You have come at me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (1 Samuel 17: 45, NIV). Conversely, David shows great failings, both in his adultery and murder in relation to Bathsheba, and his sin of inaction when apprised of the actions of his son Amnon toward his sister Tamar (2 Samuel 11, 13, NIV). In reckoning with his actions, David shows knowledge of his own sin, “Surely I was sinful at birth,” and the disaster of being separated from God “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore me to the joy of your salvation” (Psalm 51, NIV).

            The general direction of humanity’s sinfulness is chaotic, since turning away from God is turning away from leadership. Isaiah remarks on this directionless situation, saying in Isaiah 53: 6 “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way”. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul describes the state of humans as well, saying “you were dead in your transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1, NIV).

            In Matthew 9:9-13, Jesus calls Matthew, a tax collector, a job considered traitorous by the Jewish people under Roman rule (Keener & Walton, 2016, p.1628), to be one of His disciples. This is the cause of speculation among the Pharisees, to which Jesus replies “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13, NIV). These words reflect the status of humanity—all are sinners, and Jesus has come to save them, though not all realize their sinful state.

            The life of Jesus is described in the four Gospel accounts, each distinct from each other, but painting a consistent portrait of Jesus Christ. One of the crucial points about Jesus’ life is His Holy status, as the angel Gabriel describes to Mary “So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35, NIV). Another important part of the Gospel telling of Jesus’ life is showing how Jesus fulfills the previous prophecy about the Messiah. This is demonstrated in Herod’s order to kill all infant boys in and around Bethlehem, described in the Gospel of Matthew as fulfilling earlier prophecy by Jeremiah (Matthew 2:17-18, NIV). Another example comes from Isaiah 53:12 (NIV), which predicts the Messiah will be “numbered with the transgressors.”This is reflected in Mark 15:27 (NIV), which describes Jesus crucified between two rebels.

            Central to the story of Christianity is the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. These events are described in all of the Gospels, with each account capturing perspectives from different witnesses. The suffering Jesus undergoes seems unendurable, and encompasses betrayal by a loved one (Matthew 26:14-16), unfair treatment by civil authorities and public humiliation (Matthew 27: 11-31), abandonment by His friends (Matthew 26:56), and facing death alone (Matthew 27:50), in addition to the physical torment involved. Miraculously, after being buried and sealed in a tomb, Jesus is resurrected on the third day after His death, and appears to His disciples, demonstrating His reality to them and putting everything succinctly for them: “This is what was written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations” (Luke 24: 46-47) instructions for what they, and subsequent Christians should do.

            Speaking about His own purpose, Jesus refers to His place in the world as predicted by the Old Testament prophets. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Here, Jesus is sharing that His presence has been accounted for already, and necessary for salvation. Discussing His role as Savior for mankind, Jesus describes his presence on Earth, saying “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, NIV). Using bread to describe how He will give life to his followers, Jesus says “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 4:51, NIV). Hearkening back to Isaiah comparing people to sheep wandering without a shepherd, Jesus shows himself to be the guide for humanity, saying “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (John 12:46, NIV).

            When the whole Bible is considered, it seems to behave similar to a beam of light passing through a prism. The events and words of the Old Testament point toward Jesus, through which the possibility of God’s salvation expands into the full spectrum. The Bible, as God’s words, is a guide showing Christians how to understand God, their relationship to God, and what salvation means. Jesus speaks to the importance of God’s word to humanity, when confronted by the devil in the wilderness “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4, NIV). Providing further guidance for how Christians should regard the Bible, Paul likens it to “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17, NIV).

            For Christians, the Bible is the foundation for everything. As the words of God, who’s works are perfect and who cannot lie, it is the source that may be relied upon, as opposed to works of human origin, since humans are mired in sin and susceptible to error. As such, the Bible must be the source for information on the nature of faith, forgiveness and salvation, and living as a Christian.

            According to the words put forth in the Bible, belief in God through Jesus is the way to salvation, summarized in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” When His disciples express confusion, Jesus clarifies for them, saying “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:6-7, NIV). While following Jesus is the way to God and salvation, it is not a matter of a person deciding to follow Jesus. In John 6:44, Jesus explains: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” Faith, then, is extended to Christians from God, and not the other way around.

            Similarly, forgiveness is offered on God’s terms to people, though they remain undeserving. As seen in Isaiah 43:25, God’s position is clear: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Again, this point is made by Paul, who writes “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so the no one can boast” (Ephesians, 2:8-9, NIV). As with faith, the pathway is clear, extended from God on God’s terms.

            Becoming a follower of Christ is a transformative experience for a Christian, as Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” Such a transformation affects the way in which a Christian should regard and interact with the world, and will inform all their decisions. Writing to the Galatians, Paul asks “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10, NIV).

            Though the Bible represents a vast array of stories, individuals and experiences, to Christians it represents a unified account of the words God has chosen to impart to humanity. While it is divided into diverse books, including many styles of literature and methods of narrative, the Bible contains a cohesive message to the Christian reader: the omnipotent and omnipresent nature of God, God’s existence in the Trinity, and the pathway to salvation and eternal life through following Jesus Christ.

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Posted by on October 12, 2021 in Uncategorized