Peace on Earth

Hondius Annunciation
The Annunciation to the Shepherds, Abraham Hondius (1663)

The gospel according to Luke records that on the night of Jesus’ birth an angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds keeping watch over their flocks in a field outside the Judean village of Bethlehem. The angel announced “good news of great joy” which included the benediction: “Peace on earth” (Luke 2:10, 14).

Peace had come to earth in a person. The “Prince of Peace,” prophesied centuries earlier by the prophet Isaiah had come (Isaiah 9:6). In a mystery never to be fully fathomed, the “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father” was born a child with flesh and blood to dwell on earth for a season (Isaiah 7:14, 9:6; John 1:14). And as the Bible repeatedly demonstrates, whenever the living God comes to dwell among his people, he always brings peace.

But what is peace? The word is not difficult to define. Peace is the calm that prevails in the absence of war. It is the serenity that marks freedom from hostilities, strife or dissension. Peace is a paucity of agitation, upheaval or chaos. Although used in an array of contexts, the definition is fairly straightforward. Read more about Peace on Earth

Sermons by the Greatest "Christmas Prophet"

Barbieri (17th century). The prophet Isaiah reading from a scroll.

The prophet Isaiah was surely the greatest “Christmas Prophet” of the Old Testament. Let us briefly consider two of his most famous Christmas sermons.

Isaiah Chapter 7

One of the great marvels surrounding Jesus’ birth was the fact of His virgin conception.

But how could a virgin be with child and bear a son? Luke explains: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you [Mary], and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35, NKJV). Was this impossible? No, “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

Not only was it not impossible, it was predicted 700 years before by Isaiah. He received the message that Christ, the Messiah, would be one Person with two natures—divine and human. Read more about Sermons by the Greatest "Christmas Prophet"

What a Discouraged Pastor Should Do (Part 1)

Pastors experience discouragement. It goes with the territory. Paul wrote his protégé, Timothy, to encourage him at a time when he was down. Paul’s letter is what we call 2 Timothy.

How do we know Timothy was discouraged? Here are some clues. Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:4 that he was aware of Timothy’s tears. He addressed in 2 Timothy 1:7 the fear Timothy was experiencing. In 1:8ff, Paul challenged Timothy to not let suffering for Christ get him down. In 1:13 he tells Timothy to “hold fast,” in 2:1 to “be strong,” in 2:3 to “endure hardship,” in 3:14 to “continue,” and in 4:5 to “fulfill your ministry.” I infer from all this that Timothy was hurting and discouraged. Timothy seems to be a reluctant leader, one who is somewhat timid, subjective, and sensitive to opposition. Paul wanted to encourage him.

I need this kind of encouragement at times, and I’m sure other pastors do too. I read through 2 Timothy several times recently and made a list of “things to do” for a discouraged pastor. I’ll share several of them today and more in future posts. Read more about What a Discouraged Pastor Should Do (Part 1)

The Gospel Applied: "Intruder Alert!" (Part 3)

(Read the series so far.)

The key principle in Romans 10 is that no one intrudes into a relationship with God. By His grace, there is a door, but that is the only way in. That door is Jesus Christ.

Look closely at what Jesus said in John 14. He told the men He was leaving, and He was about to be preparing their place in Heaven. Thomas wanted the location and directions. Jesus gave them—I am the way there, and there is no other.

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (NASB, John 14:1-6)

Read more about The Gospel Applied: "Intruder Alert!" (Part 3)

Should We Celebrate Advent?

© 2015 Dispensational Publishing House, Inc. Used by permission.

“We’ve never done that here before.”

That brief statement was intended to provide a comprehensive resolution to my introduction of an Advent candle into the services of the church I pastored several years ago. I had asked each of the deacons to begin one of the morning services during the four Sundays of Advent by lighting an Advent candle and sharing a two-minute testimony regarding the importance of the season.

I thought that the mounting popularity of Advent calendars, candles and wreaths within evangelical (i.e., non-liturgical) churches would allow our small fellowship to enjoy this simple ceremony—possibly forging a meaningful new tradition. At least it would be better than two more minutes of announcements, I surmised. Read more about Should We Celebrate Advent?

Divine Efficacy of Prayer

(About this series)

CHAPTER VI - DIVINE EFFICACY OF PRAYER

BY ARTHUR T. PIERSON

All the greatest needs, both of the Church and of the world, may be included in one: the need of a higher standard of godliness; and the all-embracing secret of a truly godly life is close and constant contact with the unseen God; that contact is learned and practised, as nowhere else, in the secret place of supplication and intercession.

Our Lord’s first lesson in the school of prayer was, and still is: “ENTER INTO THY CLOSET” (Matt. 6:6). The “closet” is the closed place, where we are shut in along with God, where the human spirit waits upon an unseen Presence, learns to recognize Him who is a Spirit, and cultivates His acquaintance, fellowship, and friendship. Read more about Divine Efficacy of Prayer

10 New Testament Evidences for the Divinity of Jesus Christ

Nativity (Adoration of the Shepherds), Antonio da Correggio

#1: The Word

John 1:1—“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus was in the beginning (He had no beginning), He was with God, and He was God. The grammatical structure of the passage supports the idea that Jesus was the Word, and that He was God, but that He was not the Father or the Spirit, as both persons are distinguished clearly from Jesus (e.g., Jn 15:9, 26). While the concept of the triune God, or the trinity is prevalent in the New Testament, it is not simply a New Testament concept, as it is found in Old Testament as well (e.g., Isaiah 48:12, 16).

#2: The Image of the Invisible God

Colossians 1:15-17—“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” That He is the firstborn of all creation means that He is sovereign over creation, not that He is the first created thing Notice the parallel reference to Jesus as the firstborn from the dead in 1:18. Clearly this shows His sovereignty over death, as the one conquering death. The passage is not indicating that He was the first to die. Read more about 10 New Testament Evidences for the Divinity of Jesus Christ

Review: A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament

Image of A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament
by Philip Comfort
Kregel Academic 2015
Hardcover 448

Philip Wesley Comfort is well known to students of the text of the New Testament. He has produced some informative works on the subject such as Early Manuscripts and Modern Translations of the New Testament, and Encountering the Manuscripts. Both productions, as well as the one under review, are marked with a clarity of style which makes them accessible to interested readers. He has produced, with David P. Barrett, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, of which the present book is the companion. Along with these efforts Comfort has edited several helpful books, of which the The Origin of the Bible is perhaps the most noteworthy.

This commentary is divided into three main parts. After an introduction and a listing of the earliest Greek mss. lying behind each verse in the NT, what I will call Part One deals with a brief survey of the manuscript tradition. Unsurprisingly, the author favors the Alexandrian tradition as found in the papyri; with special exemplar status given to P75 through Codex B (Vaticanus) (24-26). Read more about Review: A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament