Man Shall Not Live by Bread Alone

I believe that it is appropriate for those of us who claim to be Christians to ask ourselves; if I am a follower of Christ, do I believe what Jesus believes?  What did He say that would give us clues to what He believes?

When Satan tempted Christ, he (Satan) said;  If (since) you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.  Jesus answered; It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:3&4). The Lord was quoting the Old Testament Scripture. Well over thirty-five hundred times the Old Testament claims to be the Word of God.  

The Old Testament is inextricably woven into what Christ taught.  From Matthew chapter five alone, there are at least forty-three Old Testament passages referenced in His teaching.

One should always consider what Christ has to say about  Scripture.  Many Old Testament accounts that are often pronounced symbolic are actually referred to by the Lord as historical accounts.  Creation, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the Flood with Noah and the Ark, and the account of Jonah being swallowed by a great fish are accounts that are often spiritualized and treated as symbolic, but these are accounts that the Lord Jesus acknowledged as historical events.  It is a curious thing that the words of our Saviour can be so readily overlooked or dismissed, considering that He is God and that God cannot lie.

What did Jesus say about Himself?  Jesus told the Pharisees; Before Abraham was, I am.  The Pharisees understood Jesus’ claim to be God and  because they did not believe Him, they accused Him of blasphemy and took up stones to stone Him.  

Jesus speaking: And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.  And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.  Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.  And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. John 5:37-40

Do you believe what Messiah Jesus believes?

let the word of Christ dwell (take up it’s life) in you richly…

The Washing of Water by the Word

In a previous article entitled The Law we learned that The Law is God’s measuring stick for righteousness and that no one measures up.  We also learned that The Law is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.  It is through Jesus Christ alone that we receive the righteousness that God requires.

In a subsequent article  entitled Legalism in the Church, we learned that attempting to achieve salvation by way of circumcision (or any other righteous deed) renders the righteousness of Christ of no effect.  Water baptism has been referred to as the circumcision of the NT.  We found that the apostles Peter & Paul, both refuted circumcision (a righteous deed) as a means to grace, and that both reaffirmed that the righteousness that God accepts, is by grace through faith in Christ alone.

How does that work?

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:5-7

What does the word washing refer to?

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He (Christ) might sanctify and cleanse it (the church) with the washing of water by the word, (Ephesians 5:25&26).

Jesus speaking to Nicodemus; Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. (John 3:7)  The apostle Peter explains how we are born again: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.         I Peter 1:23

For by grace (God’s enabling) are ye saved through faith. (Ephesians 2:8&9)  Faith is a firm persuasion or conviction brought about by hearing and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)

Definitions are from W.E. Vines Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Copyright 1984, 1996, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, TN.

Legalism in the Church

Legalism – strict literal adherence to law or a set of rules for salvation.

But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, that it was needful to circumcise them (the Gentiles), and to command them to keep the law of Moses. And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.

And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. Acts 15:5-11

Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. Galatians 5:1-6

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10

Grace is God’s enabling. Faith is a firm persuasion or conviction brought about by hearing Scripture.

…let the word of Christ dwell (take up its life) in you richly…

Word definitions are from W.E. Vines Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Copyright 1984, 1996, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, TN.

Imagine Heaven – Book Review

I recently completed reading the book Imagine Heaven by John Burke.  It contains personal accounts of NDE’s (Near Death Experiences).  These accounts appeal to our desire to know more about the hereafter.  The thing that bothers me most about this book, however, is its appeal.

There are encounters with loved ones, angels and Jesus; the experience of travel at the speed of light; communication by thought; indescribable visual and hearing experiences; and warm wonders throughout.

How do we deal with things like this that are so wonderful in the telling but may not be true to Scripture?  The Bible is the Christian’s only rule for faith and practice.  As People of the Book, we must continue to abide in the principle that experience never trumps Scripture.  Why is that?  It is because the Bible is God’s Word and God cannot lie.  Should one’s experience carry more weight than His Word?

Although the book itself is full of Scripture with which the author endeavors to draw parallels with the NDE’s, I find key elements missing from these experiences.  Scriptural accounts of heaven always contain worship and reverential fear manifested by witnesses falling on their faces and hearing things unlawful to be uttered.  These are things that are not present in the NDE accounts.

The author himself expresses doubt on page 144, where he states: ….it’s amazing how NDErs seem to be experiencing the same wonderful God, or an amazingly good counterfeit.  

He goes on to say on page 148: Even though NDErs may call God by other names, the God they’re describing matches the God of the Bible.

  This is a disturbing and dangerous statement.  This statement appears to be saying that other religions worship the same God as the God of the Bible.  They just call Him by a different name.  This cannot be true.

The God of the Bible is unique and distinctive from all others.  His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, is the only way to God the Father.  All other religions have a system of works salvation that does not recognize Messiah Jesus as our only hope of salvation.  

One NDEr experienced speaking to God (page 225) and he said to God; If you will give me the chance, I’ll go back and I will tell others that this is real.  This experience is diametrically opposed to the account in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 16: Then he (the rich man) said, I pray thee therefore, father (Abraham), that thou wouldest send him (Lazarus) to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.  Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets (Scripture); let them hear them.  And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.  But he (Abraham) said to him (the rich man in hell), If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the deadLuke 16:27-31

According to Luke’s account, there are no messages from the grave.  Over and over the Bible tells us that the just shall live by faith.  Faith is the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

Faith does not come from experience.  Faith comes from the Word of God.  So then, faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17

Experience does not produce faith, so experience should never be used to trump the Bible.  If you see something that appears to be true and it contradicts the Bible, then you should have your eyes checked.  I do not intend to be rude, but the point is, the Bible is more dependable than your senses.  It has to be, because the Bible is God breathed as to source, and God cannot lie.

Peter illustrates God’s Word versus experience for us in his account of the Mount of Transfiguration:

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty (what an experience!).

For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount (what an experience!).

We have also a more sure word of prophecy (the Bible); whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: II Peter 1:16-19

Although the Mount of Transfiguration was a tremendous experience, the apostle Peter warns us to take heed to a more sure word of prophecy, which is Scripture!

There are several other things mentioned in the NDE accounts that are not mentioned in Scripture.  The Book of My Life is described as being four feet thick (page 255), communication by thought (page 255), breathing under water in the River of Life (page 306 ), etc.  Although the canon of Scripture is closed (Revelation 22:18&19/Proverbs 30:6), these items in the NDE accounts are new information previously undisclosed to the apostles and prophets.

Someone may say this is no big deal, these are just tidbits of information that do not affect anything.  That is exactly the point.  If these tidbits do not affect the Scripture we already have, then what purpose do they serve?  If these things contradict Scripture then they should be rejected.  If they do not contradict Scripture, then what purpose do they serve, other than to say experience is carries more weight than Scripture?

Imagining heaven is really not possible.  Concerning God’s thoughts an OT prophet revealed this: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8&9

…let the word of Christ dwell (take up its life) in you richly…

Quotes are taken from Imagine Heaven by John Burke, copyright 2015 & Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, MI.