Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15

About Me

I am a young man who is following God's call into pastoral ministry. I have been so blessed with the privileges which the Lord has granted me. I am blessed to serve the Mt. Joy congregation in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I am constantly humbled and amazed at what the Lord is doing in my life.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Puzzle and Picture of Scripture

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel. ~Genesis 3:15

Have you ever been studying the Bible and felt that it was one big puzzle? You read a passage and then become frustrated and scratch your head just to what it means. You drudge through the seemingly never ending hard to pronounce list of names in those numerous genealogies. Or muster the exhaustive and extensive details of how the tabernacle or Temple should be built and wonder just what is the point. You know that All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16) but you struggle with how that passage fits with the others or what it has been intended to teach you. You wind up with all of these puzzle pieces without any idea how they all fit together. When you put together any puzzle, you need to look at the picture on the top of the box to understand each piece’s meaning and how they fit together in light of the painting. The same can be said of Scripture. To understand each individual puzzle piece that we encounter, we need to first recognize the overarching picture of the Bible. Due to neglecting that overarching picture, far too many people today actually miss the Bible's point. Many treat the Old Testament historical accounts as if they were Aesop's fables. Always looking for the "moral" of the story. For a specific lesson to be learned. The way to correct such a faulty view is to recognize the picture all of it paints. We find that picture in one verse, Genesis 3:15.

In the midst of announcing specific judgments, God provides hope in a precious promise. Adam and Eve have just committed cosmic treason by disobeying God’s clear command not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The serpent had talked Eve into the treacherous act and her husband, Adam, followed suit. Now God delivers punishment to each of the participants in the great sin. While cursing the serpent, God states that there will be enmity between his seed and the seed of the woman. Basically, that the descendants of the serpent and the descendants of the woman will not get along but constantly be at odds with one another. In fact, one of these seeds or descendants of the woman will bruise the serpent on the head. The idea is that of a crushing defeat; a knock out in a boxing match. The serpent will bruise the seed on the heel but will not be successful in defeating him. A bruised heel can be recovered from but a bruised head cannot. Thus, God promises One, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will be born of a woman who will completely defeat the serpent, who is Satan himself (Revelation 12:9). The Deliverer who would defeat the deceiver.

This one verse serves as the picture of the entire Bible. It would be what you would see on the top of the box of the puzzle. The One who serves as the Savior of His people by defeating Satan and the powers of sin and death that he holds. All of Scripture basically serves as the unfolding of this promise. It can be described as the thesis or purpose statement for the entire Bible. Throughout Scripture, we find the battle raging between the descendants of the woman and those of the serpent; between the children of God and the children of Satan. Over and over again, we see the serpent attempt to destroy this promised Seed. His descendant, Cain, who John tells us was of the evil one (1 John 3:12), kills Abel to ensure that he could not be this Seed who would defeat him nor could he bring about this Seed that God spoke of (Genesis 4:8). He seeks to corrupt the godly line of Seth (the sons of God) through convincing them to intermarriage with his descendants of Cain (the daughters of man) (Genesis 6:1-12). Twice he attempts to have Sarah raped in order to hinder the coming of this Seed (Genesis 26:1-18) and once with Rebekah (Genesis 26:1-18). He influences Esau to vow to kill his brother Jacob, who is a child of the promise who would ultimately bring about this Seed (Genesis 27:41). He has all the male children murdered in Egypt (Exodus 1:15-22). Saul tries to murder David, another child of God who will be an ancestor of this Seed (1 Samuel 18:10-11). Queen Athaliah plans to destroy the royal seed which would put an end to the coming Seed (2 Chronicles 22:10). Haman worked to slaughter the Jews from which the Seed would come (Esther 3-9). There are several attempts from the Israelites themselves to murder their own children for pagan sacrificial purposes (Leviticus 18:21; 2 Kings 16:3; 2 Chronicles 28:3; Psalm 106:37-38; Ezekiel 16:20). But God triumphed in having this Seed still arrive at His appointed time in spite of all of the wiles of the serpent and his children. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5). Even after the Seed's birth, Herod orders the slaughter of all the male Jews 2 years old and younger (Matthew 2:16-18). And when he finally bruises the heel of the Seed through entering Judas' heart for him to hand Jesus over to the authorities (John 13:2), the one identified as a devil (John 6:70), he faces his defeat with the Seed bruising him on the head through conquering him, sin, and death.

The Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) and the historical books reveal God’s working to bring this seed through the chosen lineage as well as providing previews of the salvation that the seed will accomplish through dying in the place of those who will trust in Him. The tedious genealogies trace the Seed’s coming and the numerous animal sacrifices indicated that someone would die in the place of the people for their sins. The heroic deeds of the men and women of faith point to the Ultimate Hero to come. (After all, these "men and women" were flawed sinners so such deeds must be recognized as a result of God's grace and not of themselves.) The Law points to the need of the Seed since it reveals that none of us are perfect and thus cannot save ourselves since we all fall short of it. The judges served as types of the Seed who will serve as the Ultimate Deliverer. (In fact, these judges are often referred to as saviors.) The fact that every judge went from bad to worst (just compare Othniel who served as a pretty decent judge to Samson who broke every single vow that he made) shows that none of these judges could be their Ultimate Savior. The prophets provide further information regarding the Seed’s birth and work, indicating that He will be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) and be God Himself (Isaiah 9:6). The entire purpose of the priesthood, the kingship, and the office of prophet was to point to the One who would be the great High Priest of His people (Hebrews 4:14), the ultimate King to sit on David's throne and rule over God's everlasting kingdom, and the ultimate Prophet to proclaim God's words (Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22-23; 7:37).

In a sense, we should think of the Old Testament as being on a long journey. Just as you know the destination where you are going and eagerly anticipate your arrival, the authors know that the destination is this coming Deliverer and eagerly anticipate His arrival. As the kids kept asking the questions, "Are we there yet?" and "How much longer?," the Israelites found themselves with similar questions regarding this promised Seed to come. "Is He here yet?" "How much longer until He arrives?" Throughout your trip, you will encounter several signs that direct you regarding different things about the destination itself. It also is filled with signs of what the Messiah will be like and how He will arrive. All of it points to Him and His work of deliverance.

The Gospels and New Testament letters reveals this Seed to have arrived and be named Jesus (Matthew 1:1-16, 21; Galatians 4:4-5). It is the very reason that Matthew begins his gospel with Jesus' genealogy (Matthew 1:1-17) and why Luke includes it as well (Luke 3:23-38). They show how the Seed defeated the serpent through His death on the cross and bodily resurrection. They also indicate the change that the Seed brings when one truly has embraced Him and trusted in Him and His work for their salvation. The book of Revelation reveals the final victory the Seed has over that serpent. As Alistair Begg has so succinctly put it, "In the Old Testament Jesus is predicted, in the Gospels Jesus is revealed, in the Acts of the apostles Jesus is preached, in the Epistles, or letters Jesus is explained, and in the Book of Revelation Jesus is expected."

So the next time that you are perplexed trying to make sense of a certain passage of Scripture that you are studying, consider how it contributes to the greater picture of God’s salvation through Christ and His death on the cross. This war between the children of God and the children of the devil, the bruising of the Seed's heel and the bruising of the serpent's head. The intended meaning may then become clear. You may see how the puzzle indeed fits after looking at the top of the box.

"Read the Bible with Christ continually in view. The grand primary object of all Scripture, is to testify of Jesus! Old Testament ceremonies are shadows of Christ. Old Testament judges are types of Christ. Old Testament prophecies are full of Christ’s sufferings, and of Christ’s glory yet to come. The first coming and the second; the Lord’s humiliation and His glorious kingdom; His cross and the crown shine forth everywhere in the Bible. Keep fast hold on this clue, if you would read the Bible aright!" ~ J.C. Ryle
Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The President, So-Called Same-Sex Marriage, and the Bible

Last night Barack Obama made history as the first sitting president to publicly proclaim support for so-called same-sex marriage. This itself comes as no shock or surprise. The President has been hinting at making such announcements since running for office four years ago. Everyone knew that it was just a matter of time before he came out and made his statement yesterday. What is surprising though is the reasoning he gave for the "evolution" of his position. He states that "[Michelle and I] we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids and that’s what motivates me as president and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I’ll be as a as a dad and a husband and, hopefully, the better I’ll be as president." Alongside experience (he also referred to homosexuals who work for him and how they conducted themselves in relationships with other homosexuals as well as some same-sex couple "parents" of friends of his children), he uses the Bible, particularly the teachings of Jesus, to justify the practice of so-called same-sex marriage.

The President claims that this apparently "new" position stems from Jesus' teaching in the "Sermon on the Mount" concerning what has been labeled the "Golden Rule." In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12). This certainly is a principle given by the Lord that one should live by. However, Jesus never intended it to serve as a rationale for something that would go against His Father's grand and perfect design. In using this verse to support so-called same-sex marriage, the President ignores Jesus' explicit teaching on marriage itself. When dealing with a question concerning divorce, Jesus affirms God's intention of marriage by quoting the definition that God Himself gave in Genesis 2:24. And He answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?" (Matthew 19:4-5). There can be no denying here that God distinctly created the two genders (male and female) to compliment one another and that marriage is instituted as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman. See here for my response to Newsweek a few years ago concerning the Bible's clear and consistent definition of marriage.

The President did to Jesus what is far too often done to him by the news media and his critics. He took one statement of Jesus and ignored other things that He taught. This is the equivalent of how one will take part of what the President said in a speech and criticize it without paying attention to what he said in the rest of the speech or what he has said in other speeches. In a sense, he did to Jesus what others have done to him.

The way that Mr. Obama used that principle taught by Jesus could be used similarly to justify other redactions of God's institution of marriage. One could say the same regarding polygamy. Why not grant those who desire to marry two or more women at one time the ability to do so legally if they love both or all of them since we would want others to allow us to marry who we desire? What about pedophilia and grown men marrying very young girls? Many pedophiles claim that they are born with such desires and that such attraction feels "natural" to them. Once one redefines marriage to suit one group what is to stop it from being redefined for another group?

Marriage is no trifling matter. The Creator established it and we as His creatures have no right to change it to suit our carnal desires. Furthermore, marriage serves as a visible picture to us of Christ's relationship with His Church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Any tinkering with the roles of manhood and womanhood within marriage or with what constitutes a marriage itself affects that picture.

The issue here is not so much that the President officially announced his support for so-called same-sex marriage but that he misquotes Jesus to back his position. That is what is frankly inexcusable.

In Christ,
Lee Smith
Soli Deo Gloria!