Mad Max: A Modern Retelling of the Bible Exodus

Fall, Exodus, Sojourn, and Redemption in a Post-apocolyptic Wasteland

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***SPOILER ALERT –  This is a film analysis examining the spiritual implications of events in the movie and will give away the conclusion.***

The fourth motion picture release in a franchise known for tapping into the savior motif, director George Miller says Max’s prior “international acceptance had drawn aside the veil of reality and revealed a collective unconscious.” [1]  Channeling this universal unconscious acknowledgement that existential brokenness demands a redeemer, Mad Max: Fury Road is a post-apocalyptic (post-lapsarian) narrative packed with theological themes that pits savior figures in a good versus evil battle to free captives and redeem the suffering through a race across the desert to a land of hope.  Reading the last page first, the writers’ motives are easily discerned.

“Where must we go . . . we who wander this wasteland in search of our better selves?” – The First History Man

Drawing clear ties to broken humanity’s mere existence (as opposed to flourishing) in this fallen world, living under the shadow of the sin of history’s first man, Adam, the closing quote appears to be an esoteric conception of writer/director George Miller that likely points to the work of Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man and its treatment of the democratic peace theory first popularized by Immanuel Kant.  Clearly evident, beyond Fury Road’s ten time Academy Award nominated production, lies a script bold in political commentary.  While expressing a measured restraint, the dialogue remains robust in the incorporation of concepts that find their roots in the Bible and Western Christian literature.  The Road unfolds in four distinct phases, fall, exodus, sojourn, and redemption, which mirror the biblical metanarrative.

The Fall

As the movie opens the main character recounts the events which brought about the present condition. “My world is fire and blood. . . . As the world fell, each of us in our own way was broken.”  Random voices relay that, “Mankind has gone rogue, terrorizing itself . . . the earth is sour . . . our bones are poisoned . . . we have become half-life.”  The setting and character development communicate that the world of Mad Max exists in the shadow of a great fall.  A post-apocalyptic war for guzzoline, aqua cola, produce, mother’s milk, and bullets rages.  The surviving human population is spiritually and intellectually barren.  Max is one of the few free residents in this wasteland where precious resources are monopolized by the tyrant, Immortan Joe.  Max was once a cop, an upholder of justice, and a person with a righteous cause.  Now Max cannot discern whether he is less crazy than anyone else.  He is haunted by visions of innocents who cry out to him for salvation.  The freedom Max possesses is rare, and a sign of the elevated stature granted him by his physical and intellectual gifts.  Like Moses, who said, “I am slow of speech and tongue . . . please send someone else” (Exod. 4:10, 13), Max is a reluctant hero of few words.  He repeatedly attempts to flee the call to save others, distancing himself from society for the sake of self-preservation.  The villain emperor, Immortan Joe, is introduced when Max is taken captive by a cohort and brought to the citadel.  In the citadel the Immortan governs a caste system that drives the oppressed population’s dependence on their overlord.  Like many historical tyrants the Immortan has used the depressed social dynamic to exalt himself as deity.  Max, in a nod to the Jewish hero type he represents, is enslaved in a dungeon and receives a systematic tattooing like the holocaust victims at Auschwitz.  Max is labeled a type O-negative “blood bag,” and likened to something subhuman as he is chained and fitted with an iron muzzle.

Those privileged to be crusading warrior pawns worship in the “cult of the V8,” an automobile worshipping religion of “chrome” seekers.  This false religion drives them to “karmakrazee” sacrifice for the conquest of their Immortan.  As the war boys martyr themselves on Fury Road, they cry out, “Witness me!”  This statement finds its etymology in the Koine Greek (the language of the New Testament) word “martyr” which means witness.  The war boys cry out for recognition of their witness to “the one who grabbed the sun.”  They believe, as one war boy exclaims, “I live; I die; I live again!”  This beckons images of wicked religious extremists who see war, murder, and death as crucial expressions of spirituality.  These young warriors believe they “will be lifted up” by the hand of the Immortan as they are “awaited in Valhalla” for dying “historic on Fury Road.”  The Immortan, calling himself the “redeemer” and claiming that “by his hand the people will rise from the ashes of this world,” promises his “half-life war-boys” a future glory where they “ride with [him] eternal.”  This bears striking resemblance to the manipulating practices of historic evil dictators, as well as Satan, the deceiver and author of evil himself.  False religion serves as the tool by which young boys who seek glory become an “old man’s battle fodder.”

Furiosa, the Immortan’s imperator, comes from “the clan of many mothers.” Like Max, Furiosa is also a person of elevated status.  She is an imperator who (also like Moses) abandons her privilege to free the captives.  Furiosa, also resembling Eve, wears the results of the fall physically with a  missing arm as a memento of the brokenness, imperfection, and fragility resulting from her having been stolen from the “green land.”  Where Max is physically superior and self-centered, Furiosa is virtuous but physically impaired.  The two collaborate to represent the Exodus savior type while each of the characters and scenes bears the marks of the fallen existence.

The Exodus

The Immortan first becomes aware that an Exodus is under way when Furiosa’s tanker truck veers off route and makes a break across the desert.  The rig secretly houses the Immortan’s harem who refuse to bear future warlords, and are forsaking their former lives and risking all in search of “hope.”  Furiosa on the other hand is in pursuit of “redemption.”  The wives of Immortan Joe, the most exalted of all the women under his reign, are treated as mere chattel in a world of men’s wars.  Furiosa represents not merely the savior of this random band of people, but the savior of femininity.  Furiosa is a savior who values the “mother of all the living,” knows the equality of women in the created order, and seeks to bring about new life through love, hope, and redemption.

Infuriated by the exodus, Immortan Joe rallies the troops in full pursuit of the runaway tanker.  Like the Pharaoh of Egypt he leads his war boys in a furious chase, racing their hot rods across the desert like post-apocalyptic battle chariots.  Strapped to the grill of the war boys’ hot-rod, Max, the type O negative “blood bag,” is intravenously imparting blood to the “half-life.”  A “universal donor,” Max has blood capable of providing life for all.

In a scene resembling the parting of the Red Sea, Furiosa and the fleeing unit pass through a wavelike desert sandstorm that topples the V8 war chariots allowing Furiosa and the “breeders” to escape.  The muzzled blood bag arrives on the other side of the storm still chained to the war boy Nux.  Max and Nux are introduced to the female group for the first time as they find them cleansing themselves with water in an unwitting baptism.  The women, clothed in white and clean of the desert sand and grease, contrast their fallen surroundings as an image of purity, innocence, and freedom.  Max requests the water, and splashing it on Nux and himself, the group becomes consecrated together in this unwitting baptism.  Furiosa provides Max with a file he uses to free himself from his muzzle.  Having been set free from bondage, Max is increasingly compelled to help the group escape their pursuer and find their promised land.

As “The People Eater” approaches, the wives comment that he is “coming to count the cost.”  An accountant, he keeps a ledger and is seeking compensation for the debts accrued by the rebels.  It is the wives, however, who will soon come to learn it is they who will be counting the cost of renouncing their former existence.  Having put their hand to the plow, there will be no turning back.  The cost for the heart-hardened Immortan will also be high.  When Immortan Joe and his cohorts catch up to the rig and threaten to put an end to the wives’ exodus, the violence throws one of the pregnant wives from the rig and beneath the wheels of Immortan Joe’s vehicle.  In a moment drawing parallels to Pharaoh, the heart-hardened emperor suffers the loss of a son by the consequence of his own stubborn pride.

Sojourn

Like the biblical Exodus, the Fury Road journey transitions from the fleeing of captivity to a prolonged Sojourn towards a new land of hope and flourishing.  The Sojourn quickly becomes a desert wandering wrought with struggle, doubt, and murmuring.  One of the wives, disenfranchised with the new existence far from home, desires to return to the comforts of her former captivity.  She says, “The stupid green place.  We don’t even know where to find it.”   Another wife similarly wishes to return to her former captivity saying, “We were protected.  He gave us the high life.  What’s wrong with that?”  This wife is told, “Wring your hands!”  This is perhaps a reference to Isaiah 8:9 (MSG) which says, “Listen all of you, far and near.  Prepare for the worst and wring your hands.  Yes, prepare for the worst and wring your hands!  Plan and plot all you want – nothing will come of it.  All your talk is mere talk, empty words, because when all is said and done, the last word is Immanuel – God-With-Us.”  This suggests that this wife should not turn back in the face of trial.  Difficult as the pursuit of promised hope may be, recommitment to faithfully following the savior to the promised green land is the better way.  Again playing into the role of the Moses figure, Furiosa instructs the grumbling followers, “Out here everything hurts,” but if “you want to get through this then do what I say.”  Furiosa’s call to “follow me” will bring the company salvation through obedient faith in the savior figure’s commands.

The plot twists when the group meets the “tribe of many mothers.”  These former inhabitants of the green land have been relegated to an existence as desert nomads.  The mothers inform the seekers that the green land has been laid waste, and is now an uninhabitable land of desolation.  In this time of “already but not yet,” the group finds themselves free, the recipients of new life, but wandering from a home.

Redemption and Life through Sacrifice

The travelling band soon comes to find that the land of their future promise is actually the land from which they fled.  The former locus of their suffering will become their land of hope fulfilled.  Found hiding on the rig is the war boy, Nux, who after failing in his aspirations for “shine” through “karmakrazee” mission, has experienced a real disenfranchisement with his former calling.  Nux says he should be “McFeasting with the Immorta,” which sounds more like a drive-thru value meal than a holy communion.  This McFeasting reflects the cheapness of the empty promises of false religion.  One of the wives, in a moment of rare compassion in a brutalized wasteland, replies to Nux’s disappointment over his failure to enter the gates of Valhalla, saying, “I’d say it was your manifest destiny not to.”  It is the compassion and mercy of this wife that brings the softening of Nux’s heart.  What is seen is that this warrior is not beyond the reach of conversion, but merely a lost soul who has never experienced real love.  The wife, in an act counterintuitive to Fury Road, does not return evil with evil, but instead overcomes evil with love.


In an overtly philosophical moment, while taking inventory of the weaponry, the women discuss the guns in an oddly sexual way.  In contrast to the love and life associated with righteous sex, they refer to the guns in a phallic sense in which they shoot “antiseed.”  Juxtaposed to the organ that shoots a seed of life, the gun is an organ that shoots seeds of death.  “Plant one and watch the thing die,” one wife says.  Later, while residing amongst the clan of mothers, this theme is revisited and the message is clarified.  One of the mothers shows her collection of plant seeds from the green land.  The mother explains that she plants the seeds when she finds soil that might be capable of supporting life.  When people become seed planters, there becomes no need to kill because the harvest becomes abundant.  Where the wives had an earlier discussion about bullets being seeds of death, here a message is communicated that scattering seeds of life brings healing and chokes out evil.  Christ likewise taught that the sword brings death, but the gospel of the Kingdom is the seed of life.  In the gospel of Matthew, the sower scatters seed such that a harvest of life would be abundant.  This harvest is plentiful but the laborers are unfortunately few.  With these two scenes director George Miller clearly argues that violence is not the way to flourishing, but that he who lives by the sword dies by the sword.  Prosperity is instead found in planting seeds of life.  When a person seeks the prosperity of those around her, amidst their prosperity she too shall prosper.

The road back to the citadel is fraught with strife, but even as the crew begins to suffer losses at the hands of the enemy their joy grows.  The more each gives to the group mission of redemption, the more they truly begin to live.  As they lose their lives they begin to find life.  Progressively each loses the identifying marks of the past (the muzzle, engine grease, pasty grey skin tone), and each begins to show more outward signs of their inner glow.  Their hardened expressions become warm smiles and their skin tones warm.  By the end of the movie even the pasty grey war boy is beginning to look like a full-life.

In a high-throttled fury road battle chase back to the citadel, many of the crew lose their lives.  Most notably, Nux stays behind to drive the rig as the others climb aboard the lead car.  In the climax scene, Nux lovingly sacrifices his own life for the life of his friends, flipping the rig to effectively jam the pass and disallow the pursuing enemy to give chase.  As he does this, the war boy locks eyes with the red-headed wife whose compassion overcame his evil, and he mouths the words, “Witness me.”  In this moment, the fruit of his conversion blooms.  His desire to die furiously for the false and murderous cause of Immortan Joe, is now transformed into a perfect peace in selfless sacrifice for the life of his friends.  Having been severely wounded, Furiosa simultaneously lies lifeless, losing massive amounts of blood.  In an impromptu blood transfusion, Max literally saves her by his blood.  The sacrifice of Nux, and the universal blood bag’s transfusion, crudely combine to reflect the work of Jesus Christ.  Jesus gave His life on the cross, and poured out His blood for many to provide salvation from enslavement to sin and eternal life in Him.

Arriving back at the citadel, in a moment reminiscent of Colossians 2:14, Max declares victory over evil and death, parading the dead body of Immortan Joe on the hood of his own truck.  The rulers and authorities are disarmed and put to shame.  The triumphant heroes are hoisted on a lift, ascended to the throne above, and the water stores are cut loose giving life back to the people.  His work complete, Max returns to the place from whence he came.

At the conclusion of Mad Max, the captor, oppressor, and ambassador of death is defeated.  The water of life rains down from above.  The poor and oppressed are blessed, and the captives are set free.  The ruling class is destroyed and put to shame.  A new existence is established in which the dividing walls of the social caste system are pulverized.  The resources are abundant and freely distributed, and humanity is restored to fullness of life by the affirmation of equal dignity for all.

Conclusion

Present in the midst of this high-throttle, heavy metal, shoot ‘em up is an unassuming post-fall redemption narrative laden with theological themes that portray collaborating savior types leading a chosen group in a good versus evil sojourn to redeem humanity by freeing the oppressed and bringing about a new world of flourishing.  Some of these connections may seem less than obvious. The film’s director, however, affirms that his writing samples liberally from ancient “mythologies” and religious themes, and this suffices to say that these themes are worthy of investigation.  While eschewing the inclusion of a director’s commentary, and having yet to be completely forthcoming with details about the film’s intended message, George Miller instructs, “The audience tell[s] you what your film is.” [2]  The themes of false worship, idolatry, salvation, desert wandering, promised-land, salvation by blood, and pouring forth life-giving waters are uniformly prominent in the Bible.  Given the director’s freedom to interpret the film’s meaning, I contend that Mad Max: Fury Road is a story of fall, exodus, sojourn, and redemption in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

[1]James Douglas, “For Mad Max’s George Miller, All Roads Lead to Myth and Music.” The Dissolve. May 15, 2015. Accessed April 1, 2016. https://thedissolve.com/features/exposition/1026-for-mad-maxs-george-miller-all-roads-lead-to-myth-/.

[2]“‘Mad Max’ Director George Miller: The Audience Tells You ‘What Your Film Is'” NPR. February 8, 2016. Accessed April 01, 2016. http://www.npr.org/2016/02/08/465989808/mad-max-director-george-miller-the-audience-tells-you-what-your-film-is.

**I would like to add that this post is not an endorsement of the graphic content or unrighteous themes of the movie, Mad Max:  Fury Road, nor is it an endorsement of the movie as a theological guide. Rather, this post is an attempt to shine the light of Biblical Truth amongst movie fans that might otherwise not hear the gospel and choose to remain in darkness, continuing to view this movie as a mere blood-fueled demolition derby across the desert.***

If you enjoyed this film analysis, you may also enjoy my other film analyses (and the ongoing dialogue) of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, or Richard Linklater’s Bernie starring Jack Black.

Chad W. Hussey is an average Jesus loving iconoclastic non-conformist neighborhood hope dealer – a husband, father, urban missionary, community group leader, Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Community Life Intern at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY.

Chad W. Hussey

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How has the Church Historically Viewed Alcohol?

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Just as the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim 6:10)[1], the tongue is a world of evil capable of enflaming a forest (Jas 3:6), and over-eating is a sin that calls for a slashing of one’s throat (Pros 23:2); alcohol consumption can also be grievous sin.  Held in the context of the canon, however, none of the aforementioned infers that Christians are to abstain from earning money, speaking, eating, or even drinking alcohol.  In some circles in the modern American church the concern over alcohol consumption has been elevated to a level of dogma, going so far as to become a denominational distinctive by which certain groups are identified.  This article will make an investigation of the following questions:  What does the Bible say about drinking alcohol? What is the church’s historical view toward alcohol?  How did we get to this point?  And, How should we move forward?  By thoroughly laying out the views of prominent historical Christian leaders, this article will seek to offer a thoughtful assessment of the historical theological positions the church has demonstrated towards the consumption of alcohol.  To support this endeavor, this article will examine the views of the biblical authors, the early church fathers, the medieval Catholic Church, the Reformers, early American Christians, nineteenth and twentieth century Protestants, and the views present among church leaders today.

Views of the Biblical Authors

In making a thorough perusal of the biblical authors’ mentions of alcohol it is clear there is neither an unbridled exhortation to indulge, nor is there an express condemnation of the simple act of drinking alcohol as sin.  The biblical authors offer a balanced view towards alcohol calling it both a “gift,” and a “mocker.”  On one hand, King David, a man after God’s own heart, extols praise for God’s providence in causing “the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man” (Psalms 104:14).  Conversely David’s son, Solomon, a man of incredible wisdom, writes, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Prov 20:1).  In the New Testament, the Apostle John tells readers of Jesus’ first miracle, an event coming at a wedding reception in Cana, in which the party had run dry and left the hosts in need of wine.  John makes clear that the guests of the wedding party had already been consuming wine when he clarifies that when the wine was gone Jesus’ mother expressed concern for the dignity of the hosts (John 2:3).  Jesus’ response to the hosts’ need was as follows:

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.”  And they filled them up to the brim.  And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.”  So they took it.  When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, the poor wine.  But you have kept the good wine until now (John 2:6-10).

John here demonstrated that Jesus, without sinning and without being a stumbling in encouraging the sin of others, offered the providence of between 120 and 180 gallons of wine for the purposes of preserving the dignity of the wedding hosts and extending the duration of the celebration.  Responding to the Pharisees specific concerns regarding His interaction with alcohol Jesus said the following, “John the Baptist has come [. . .] drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’  The Son of Man has come [. . .] drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him!  A [. . .] drunkard, a friend of [. . .] sinners!’  Yet wisdom is justified by all her children” (Luke 7:33-35).  Later, the Apostle Paul exhorts the early church, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery (Ephesians 5:18),” but later exhorts his ailing young cohort, the church leader Timothy, “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (1 Tim 5:23).  In addressing the views of the early church toward wine, I. W. Raymond offers the following insightful summation:

[The] favorable view [of wine in the Bible] is balanced by an unfavorable estimate.  The reason for the presence of these two conflicting opinions on the nature of wine [is that the] consequences of wine drinking follow its use and not its nature.  Happy results ensue when it is drunk in its proper measure and evil results when it is drunk to excess.  The nature of wine is indifferent. [2]

The nature of the biblical authors’ amoral view towards alcohol itself, consideration of alcohol as both a blessing and a potential danger, and their explicit condemnation of drunkenness have left room for much debate in later generations as to the wisdom of alcohol’s consumption.

Views of the Early Church Fathers

In the early years of the church, during the time of the Apostolic Fathers, there is little information offered regarding views toward the proper treatment of alcohol in the Christian life.  In the oldest surviving written Christian catechism, The Didache, there is a brief mention that anyone partaking in wine should offer the first fruits to the prophets among them (Didache 13:6).

In his writing, The Instructor, in a chapter titled “On Drinking,” the church father Clement of Alexandria stated that “the soul is wisest and best when dry.”  Clement goes on to state that taking a little wine for enjoyment after the day’s work is complete is considered acceptable so long as a person is not tempted by drunkenness.  Clement exhorts Christians, to “be not eager to burst by draining [drink] down with gaping throat,” but drink with proper “decorum, by taking the beverage in small portions, in an orderly way.”  Still Clement insists caution, “for wine has overcome many.” [3] While the church historian Eusebius indicates that the popular early church father Origen did not personally imbibe, there are no specific writings to indicate he forbade drinking among the laity. [4]

By the late fourth century AD there begins to arise a more clear recording of the direction given by church fathers’ views toward engagement with wine and the folly of drunkenness.  Augustine, who had been reformed from a life wrought with indulgences, championed the cardinal virtue of temperance.  Within this movement of virtue, drunkenness was viewed as a form of gluttony, and self-denial and temperance was instructed.  Augustine clarifies his overall view toward the drinking of alcohol when he states, “The drunkard is not always drunk, and a man may be drunk one occasion without being a drunkard.  However, in the case of a righteous man, we require to account for even one instance of drunkenness.” [5]  It stands to reason that Augustine’s concern was primarily with over indulgence, but said over indulgence must never transpire.  At the same time, John Chrysostom was teaching that those who would say wine should be prohibited were immature Christians bordering on heresy.  John Chrysostom pleaded with believers that they not be drunk for, “wine is the work of God, but drunkenness is the work of the devil.”  Chrysostom argued, “Wine makes not drunkenness; but intemperance produces it.  Do not accuse that which is the workmanship of God, but accuse the madness of a fellow mortal.” [6]

Views of the Medieval Church

The middle ages witnessed a great transition in the history of alcohol production and consumption from wine to beer.  This change was heavily influenced by the church.  As early as the eighth and ninth century A. D. the lack of potable water and generally unsanitary conditions in the post Roman world led homes to produce ale for common consumption.  Unlike wine, which could only be produced when grapes were in season, ale was brewed year round and proved a suitable remedy for the needs of the time.  Monasteries in this time discovered they could perform a public service by mastering the brewing of beer, and using the proceeds to fund church works and charity.  As monks developed the palate for beer, the drink became common place amongst clergy, and monks began receiving a daily allotment of beer for the use of nourishment during times of fasting. [7]

In the thirteenth century AD the Dominican friar Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologica, expresses his beliefs toward Christians’ engagement with alcohol:

A man may have wisdom in two ways.  First, in a general way, according as it is sufficient for salvation: and in this way is required, in order to have wisdom, not that man abstain altogether from wine, but that he abstain from its immoderate use.  Secondly, a man may have wisdom in some degree of perfection:  and in this way, in order to receive wisdom perfectly, it is requisite for certain persons that they abstain altogether from wine, and this depends on circumstances of certain persons and places. [8]

Thomas Aquinas was not the only medieval theologian to speak in regards to alcohol, however, and not all orders of monks saw fit to follow in the practice of producing ale.  Giovanni Ptolomei founded a movement of aggressively ascetic monks called the Olivetans.  The Olivetans were bent on monastic reform and engaged in extreme ascetic practices such as severe public corporal mortification.  The Olivetans rejected any concessions of wine, uprooted their vineyards, and destroyed their wine presses.  The radical practices of the Olivetans were however short-lived, and the group soon softened its stance toward total abstinence from alcohol, and drew closer to the general view of the day. [9]

Views of the Protestant Reformers

The Protestant Reformers, beginning with Martin Luther, were universally tolerant of the drinking of alcohol.  Erasmus of Rotterdam, who was external to the Protestant Reformation, attested to the general truth of the Protestant churches’ affinity for alcohol when, being rebuked for drinking on a day of Catholic fasting – on which Catholics would temporarily abstain – Erasmus said, “My heart is Catholic, but my stomach is Protestant.” [10]  The traditional view of alcohol among the Protestant Reformers was fairly favorable.  Martin Luther said he, “drank freely to spite the devil.” [11]  The great Reformed theologian John Calvin, shared Martin Luther’s sentiments.  Calvin wrote in his famous Institutes of the Christian Religion that, “It is permissible to use wine not only for necessity, but to make us merry,” and that, “in making merry,” those who enjoy wine “feel a livelier gratitude to God.” [12]  Calvin further taught that, “By wine the hearts of men are gladdened, their strength recruited, and the whole man strengthened, so by the blood of our Lord the same benefits are received by our souls.” [13]  Uniquely, Luther was so insistent that real wine be used in the Lord’s Supper that he wrote, “If a person cannot tolerate wine, omit [the sacrament] altogether in order that no innovation may be made or introduced.” [14]

The favorable view of alcohol among reformation theologians was not exclusive to Calvin and Luther, but was also shared by reformation heavy-weights John Knox and Ulrich Zwingli.  Knox spoke of drinking wine as a daily occurrence, akin to eating bread, and beholding the sun. [15]  Zwingli so strongly favored his wine that he used the aversion to “good wine” as a parabolic depiction of ones inability to enjoy the Bible. [16]

Views of the Earliest American Christians

When the earliest Christians made their way to the shores of North America, they recorded that they themselves had not made their travels empty handed.  The Puritan Reverend Francis Higginson recorded that upon making the voyage across the Atlantic in 1629, for the purposes of acclimatizing himself as comfortably as possible to his new surroundings, he imported cargo of five tuns (1200 gallons) of beer and 20 gallons of brandy. [17] For all their rigidity and proper reverence, the Puritans were similarly quite comfortable in enjoying alcohol.  Puritan Minister Cotton Mather, speaking to the operator of an ale house, wrote, “It is an honest and a lawful … employment that you have undertaken:  you may glorify God in your employment, if you will, and benefit the town considerably.” [18]  While the Puritans are famed for their strict piety, abstinence from alcohol did not prevail among their practices.

Views of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century American Church

“In the mid-19th [sic] century, some Protestant Christians moved from [the] historic position of allowing moderate use of alcohol (sometimes called moderationism) to either deciding that not imbibing was wisest in the present circumstances (abstentionism) or prohibiting all ordinary consumption of alcohol because it was believed to be a sin (prohibitionism).” [19]  Quite interestingly, the turn from a favorable view of alcohol began among the Methodist movement, and there was not complete agreement even among the founding members of Methodism: the Wesley brothers.  Famed hymn writer Charles Wesley was known to drink ale. [20]  His legendary brother, the evangelist John Wesley, however, preached strongly against even the slightest temptation to partake in any alcohol.  John Wesley said, “You see the wine when it sparkles in the cup, and are going to drink of it.  I tell you there is poison in it!  And, therefore, I beg you to throw it away.”  Wesley went on to command that his followers should “taste no spirituous liquor . . . unless prescribed by a physician.” [21]  In 1780, at a Methodist Conference in Baltimore, the Methodists denominationally vowed to oppose the production of liquor, thus setting into motion the beginnings of an American temperance movement.  As a general sense of prohibitionism arose, nearly every Protestant leader in the United States came to a position that the wisest choice under modern circumstances was for the Christian to willingly practice total abstinence from alcohol.  As the abstinence movement grew, alcohol of any kind began to become demonized, and thus it became seen as improper to administer wine even in the Lord’s Supper.  In 1869, ordained Methodist minister Thomas Bramwell Welch, developed a process for pasteurizing grape juice, preventing the fermentation of the juice, and thus, Welch’s Grape Juice was born.  Welch’s Grape Juice became for many, the appropriate symbol of the blood of Christ.

So impactful was the temperance movement that the Women’s Christian Temperance Union was formed, and by 1919 succeeded in bringing about the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which formally prohibited alcohol in America.  While the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed only fourteen years later, the Protestant-American view of abstention from alcohol remained.

Views of Evangelical Church Leaders Today

The views toward alcohol among the church today are a matter of heated debate and division.  Among Evangelicals there exists three main views toward alcohol:  prohibitionism, abstentionism, and moderationism.  The moderationist view argues that it is within the Christian’s biblical freedom to enjoy alcohol responsibly as a good gift of God.  Moderation holds that while drunkenness is unquestionably sin, moderate drinking is not.  Moderationists believe self-control and not abstinence is the biblical mandate.  Among evangelicals, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Reformed churches, and members of the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement are adherents to moderationism.  Evangelical leaders holding the moderationist position are notably:  Reformation Bible College President, Dr. R. C. Sproul; famed theologian J. I. Packer; and Acts 29 President Matt Chandler.

Both prohibitionists and abstentionists are teetotalers.  A teetotaler is one who does not partake in the consumption of alcohol under any circumstances.  The main distinction that can be drawn between the prohibitionist and the abstentionist is that the prohibitionist does not imbibe by constraint of law.  Either by their interpretation of God’s views toward alcohol, obligation of conscience, or legal obligation, the prohibitionist feels bound by law to avoid drinking.  The abstentionist, on the other hand, believes he is within his biblical right, and allowed by Christian freedom, but in wisdom he willfully chooses to abstain.  Abstentionism is the common practice among Southern Baptists, Methodists, and Pentecostals.  Evangelical leaders adhering to abstention are: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President, Dr. Albert Mohler; Masters Seminary President, John MacArthur; and famed pastor John Piper.

Concluding Remarks

Due to the ramifications of prohibition in the early twentieth century, it is not popular in the present era to openly profess prohibitionism.  The line between prohibitionism and abstentionism, however, is more easily applied in theory than in practice, and can be blurred.  When each person is allowed the freedom to determine for himself what the Spirit and Scripture has bound upon his conscience, the prohibitionist and abstentionist views remain clearly distinct.  It is frequently the case, however, that a person who is a teetotaler by way of personal abstention further intends to impose his choice on other brothers and sisters.  C. S. Lewis was outspoken in saying that, “One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up.  That is not the Christian way.” [22]  When this person is in a position of authority and seeks to impose a position of willful abstention upon his congregation, those congregants – whose consciences are not equally bound by the Spirit to the choice of abstention – are then held under the mandate of their shepherd.  The abstentionist leader’s will becomes an external legal mandate that forces his congregants into a prohibitionist response rather than allowing for the same personal choice that the abstentionist afforded himself.  Alternately, a person who intends to exercise his Christian freedom by engaging moderately in alcohol can also become an offense, or a stumbling to his brother or sister who is not afforded the same sense of Christian liberty.  Held in tension between these two positions is the area to which the Apostle Paul has called the church in Romans 14.  The one who abstains must not judge the one who partakes, and the one who partakes must not despise the one who abstains.  Instead the two must endeavor to love one another, and find grounds for unity.  “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. [. . .] So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Rom 14:17, 19).

[1]Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version Bible, copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

[2]I. W. Raymond, The Teaching of the Early Church on the Use of Wine and Strong Drink (New York:  Columbia University Press, 1927), 25.

[3]Saint Clement (of Alexandria), The Writing of Clement of Alexandria: Exhortation to the Heathen (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1884), 208.

[4]Eusebius Pamphilius, Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History:  Complete and Unabridged (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 1998), 121.

[5]Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, series 2, vol. 4 (Peabody, MA:  Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 495.

[6]John Chrysostom, First Homily on the Statutes (Accessed November 19, 2014 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/190101.htm), 11.

[7]Jim West, Drinking with Calvin and Luther!  A History of Alcohol in the Church (Lincoln, CA: Oakdown, 2003), 22.

[8]Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (Raleigh, NC:  Hayes Barton Press, 1952.), 3269.

[9]J. C. Almond, “Olivetans,” The Catholic Encyclopedia (Accessed November 19, 2014 from New Advent:  http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11244c.htm).

[10]Raymond, The Teaching of the Early Church, 86.

[11]West, Drinking with Calvin and Luther!, 33.

[12]Ibid., 53.

[13]Ibid., 56.

[14]Ibid., 36.

[15]Ibid., 61.

[16]Ibid., 65.

[17]Ibid., 80.

[18]Ibid., 95.

[19]Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., God Gave Wine:  What the Bible Says About Alcohol (Lincoln, CA: Oakdown, 2001), 3.

[20] West, Drinking with Calvin and Luther!, 102.

[21] John Wesley, “Sermon 140.”

[22] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York:  HarperCollins Publishers, 1952), 78.

Chad W. Hussey is an average Jesus loving iconoclastic non-conformist neighborhood hope dealer – a husband, father, urban missionary, community group leader, Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Community Life Intern at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY.

Chad W. Hussey

Christians as God’s People in Continuing Exile

Part 2 of a series on the Application of Jeremiah’s ‘Letter to the Exiles’ to Christian Living and Approaching Culture Today. Part 1 Here.
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The Arch of Titus commemorating the sacking of the Second Temple.

The Theology of Continuing Exile
“In the exile the Hebrews become a stateless minority in the context of a massive empire, first under the Persians, then under the Hellenistic rule after Alexander, and finally under the Romans into the Common Era with Christianity.” N. T. Wright, most notably among others, has argued that the first century Jews saw their existence under the rule of the Roman Empire as a continuation of the ongoing exile. Israelites in this time believed they were still living under divine punishment as they awaited the fulfillment of the promises of Isaiah 40-66. “In the common second-temple perception of its own period of history, most Jews of this period, it seems, would have answered the question ‘where are we?’ in language which, reduced to its simplest form, meant: we are still in exile. They believed that, in all the senses which mattered, Israel’s exile was still in progress.” Daniel L. Smith-Christopher stakes a similar claim saying, “In later biblical thought, consciousness of being a ‘certain people scattered and separated among the peoples is also evident in metaphors for Israel as the ‘righteous remnant’     [. . .] that suggest a minority consciousness.” “Part of the myth of Persian benevolence is the idea of an end to the exile in 539. But all that ended was Neo-Babylonian hegemony, to be replaced by that of the Persians. Ezra would point out, in his public prayer, that the Jewish people were ‘slaves in our own land’ under the Persians (Neh 9:36).” Smith-Christopher continues, “Post-exilic Hebrew writings like Daniel, would go so far as to reinterpret Jeremiah’s predicted ’70 years’ into 490 years—effectively implying that the people were still in exile in the Persian and Hellenistic periods.” What is clear is that even after the return of the Jews from Babylon, Israel remained captive to foreigners and never regained status as an independent nation-state. While Israelites returned to Jerusalem, they remained exiles under the slavery of oppressive foreign empires.

N. T. Wright suggests that worse than foreign oppression, “Israel’s god had not returned to Zion. [. . .] Israel clung to the promises that one day the Shekinah, the glorious presence of her god, would return at last.” For four-hundred years, between the time of the building of the second temple, and the coming of John the Baptist, the Israelites did not hear an inspired word from the Lord. What is indicated is that “the exile is not yet really over. This perception of Israel’s present condition was shared by writers across the board in second-temple Judaism. The exile, then, was not concluded at the Jews return to Jerusalem, nor was it completed in the work of Ezra and Nehemiah. Rather than seeing the restoration of a national past, the enslaved Jewish people were forced to form a new sociological existence with no political stronghold, instead becoming a purely religious community with an ethno-centric identity. During the 400 years of silence, the estrangement from Yahweh was felt by the Jews, and recorded when the author of 2 Maccabees wrote, “Gather together our scattered people. [. . .] Plant your people in your holy place, as Moses promised” (2 Maccabees 1:27-29).

When Jesus came announcing the forgiveness of sin and the coming of the kingdom of God, it is evident that the Jews identified Him as their political savior from exile. But rather than restore national Israel, Christ came to begin the rescue of the exiles from their estrangement from God. Christ releases the shackles of sin, beginning God’s people’s—the “elect exiles in the dispersion” (1 Pet 1:1) —sojourn to the “city with foundations whose architect and builder is God” (Heb 11:10). In this context, the exile of the Israelites to Babylon receives its proper recognition as the first pivot point in God’s redefinition of the geopolitical identity of His people. This shift finds its fulfillment in the great commission when Christ commands His followers to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28: 19). There is now no difference between Jew and gentile (Gal 3:28).

The Great Commission

New Creation is the true Promised Land
“We have a natural affection for our native country; it strangely draws our minds; [. . .] and therefore if providence remove us to some other country, we must resolve to live easy there, to bring our mind to our condition, when our condition is not in everything to our mind. If the earth be the Lord’s, then, wherever a child of God goes, he does not go off his Father’s ground.” As N. T. Wright explains, it is not as if Israelites were a national people and Christians are a non-territorial people. The strip of land in the Middle East is not God’s true Promised Land. Israel was a sign post marking God’s claim on the whole world. The children of Abraham, the seed who would inherit the land, are the people who are found in the Messiah (Gal 3:29). Creation will have its own Exodus, and in Christ, the people of God will inherit the true Promised Land—renewed creation itself. The Spirit is the down payment on that inheritance. “In the midst of the nations, Israel will be a sign that it is possible to be a nation whose key characteristic is trust in the world’s invisible Maker—to use the biblical word, a culture defined by faith.” In Romans 2:17-24 the Apostle Paul says that Israel was given for the salvation of the world, but under the Law, Israel completely failed in performing its salvific role—to be the light of the nations (Isa 49:6). Paul, referencing Isaiah 52, says, “The name of God is blasphemed among the gentiles because of [Israel].” “So God’s response to the ultimate cultural problem—a world full of mutually antagonistic nations entrenched in the self-provision and self-justification seen in Babel—is a fully cultural solution.” In Babylon, God takes Israel out from under the wicker basket and says, “Now let your light shine before men.”

As the people of God, the elitist Israelites never fully grasped their identity in this calling. Between the exile and the time of Christ the Israelites are constantly faced with the question: If God has created the world for Israel, why does Israel continue to suffer? The answer is that the world is not merely given for Israel, but that Israel was also given for the world. “In terms of the first level of covenant purpose, the call of Israel has as its fundamental objective in the rescue and restoration of the entire creation.” The exile became the first step toward Israel receiving a more realistic view of herself. Israel is not “true humanity,” ordered to establish dominion over the subhuman nations. God’s people are given a priestly calling for salvation of the nations. The exile paves the way toward Yahweh’s people’s understanding of God’s plan for the world.

Because Israel was unfaithful to her commission, keeping God’s message of salvation to themselves, God resolved to send His Son, to be born an Israelite, and faithfully fulfill the Israel vocation. In this lineage, Christians are the continuation of Spiritual Israel, qualified in Christ to carry forward the New Covenant message of salvation to the world. Christ’s work has been passed to the continuation of Israel (Spiritual Israel, the church), by Christ’s sending the Spirit of God to dwell within believers.

God’s covenant purpose, according to Wright, has first to do with “the divine intention to remake and restore whole world through Israel,” and “second, with his intention to remake and restore Israel herself.” The greatest prophecies for the return from exile strongly affirm God’s commitment to restore Israel. In Ezekiel 36, Yahweh says, “I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness. [. . .] Then you shall live in the land I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” Israel understands then that sin has caused her exile, and the exile cannot be finished until her sin is forgiven. To this end, Christ entered the world. To the surprise of the Jewish people, Jesus did not free the Israelite captives from empirical oppression, but instead frees the faithful from the captivity of sin. Jesus did not end the physical exile of the Jews, but inaugurated a New Exodus. Leading followers through the waters of baptism, the Greater Moses now marches the enslaved out of captivity and into new life, inaugurating the new journey toward the new and restored kingdom of promise. The kingdom/exilic existence of spiritual Israel hinges at Jeremiah 29. The Babylonian exile results in the replacement of God’s national people with God’s faithful exiles. The Lord’s people will not again be a gathered kingdom people until the consummation of the kingdom of heaven.

Part 3: A More Christian Approach to Post-Christian Culture

 

* References are cited in the print format available for download above.

Chad W. Hussey is an average Jesus loving iconoclastic non-conformist neighborhood hope dealer – a husband, father, urban missionary, community group leader, Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Community Life Intern at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY.

Chad W. Hussey

Christianity is Not a Western Religion

Matthew 28:19  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In conversations with non-believers I have repeatedly heard the argument that Christianity is a “Western” religion that ignores the history and culture of the rest of the world. This argument is odd to me as all reports indicate that, while portions of Europe and North America are in a post-Christian decline, Christianity in other parts of the world is growing at rates not seen since Early Christianity (AD. 30 – 325). For that reason I have gathered a few statistics here to encourage my brothers and sisters as we live on mission for Jesus:

There are more Christians in Africa today than there are PEOPLE in the USA.
The number of African Christians increased by 3500% in the 20th century and is projected to double by 2050
Today there are more churches in China than churches in the USA
71 Million people in India claim Christianity, making it the 8th largest Christian nation in the world
Protestant Christians in Vietnam have grown by approximately 600% over the last decade
By the year 2040 China will have the highest Christian population of any country in the world
By the year 2050, only one-fifth of the world’s Christians will be non-Hispanic whites.

Despite the rhetoric of the growing American anti-faith movement, Christians will not need to compromise their beliefs to remain in touch with the future world. It is actually new European and American post-Christian philosophy that will be minority thinking on the global level. Further, those who claim that Christianity ignores the history of other cultures also assume that Christians in these other cultures ignore their own history…or ignore factors that should keep them from reconciling Christianity to their history. It should also be noted that Christians in several of the cultures above are worshiping Christ despite great social pressure and persecution.  Finally, what is most apparent is that Christianity is not merely a Western religion, but a global Church of faithful believers consecrated to Christ from all four corners of the world.

*Stats and info from CBN.com, Wikipedia, persecution.org, and Evangelist Dwight Smith, and Operation World/GMI.org

Top 5 Most Misquoted, Misused, and Misunderstood Bible Verses

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You probably hear these adages all the time! But are you hearing them as they were intended? The Bible is not merely a collection of quotes, or one-liners, but is the telling of history. The Bible is a comprehensive story, from the beginning of the world to the end – not ending 2000 years ago or in the present, but at the end of the world at the return of Christ. The end is not unknown, but is already written. The Bible is a perfectly cohesive collection of 66 books by ~40 authors, and is divinely uniform. Despite the uniformity of the Bible, verses are all too often misinterpreted or quoted out of context. If I was to write, “You should never read a Bible verse,” and you were to quote that phrase by itself, you would severely misrepresent my intent if the next thing I said was, “You should always read an entire thought or even an entire chapter to properly understand a verse’s context.”

Unfortunately in our quote crazy, sound bite loving, tweet happy world, information now comes one line at a time. The reality is that chapter and verse markings were actually not added to the Bible until over 1500 years after its writing. The Bible was never intended to be read one verse at a time. Below are what seem to be the Top 5 most frequently misused “Bible verses,” that misquoted or taken apart from the context of the rest of the Bible, become tragically misunderstood.

5.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.  Exodus 14:14

This verse comes out of the Exodus narrative in which the Israelites, who are fleeing their Egyptian oppressors, become trapped between the impending doom of Pharaoh’s approaching soldiers and the Red Sea. In their fear the Israelites began to cry out to Moses that they would have been better off had they never left Egypt. In the NIV translation, Moses responds by telling them not to fear, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” This version of the verse has been lifted and placed onto a plethora of Christian items…home decor, T-shirts, bookmarks, bumper stickers, etc. Many Christians have latched onto this verse as encouragement that as they face trials in their lives they need only to wait in their current situation and the LORD will deliver them. Oddly enough, other Bible translations like the New King James and the ESV translate the verse as “The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace,” and, “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent,” respectively. These translations indicate the verse has nothing to do with holding your ground. The Hebrew word translated here does not have an English equivalent, but means all of the things stated in those 3 translations…to be still, peaceful, and silent. Basically, Moses was not telling the paranoid Israelites to stand firm, he was telling them to remain calm. This all becomes further troubling when you read the next verse (which is never included on the Christian merchandise).

Exodus 14:15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.

Move on?! In 14:14 Moses tells the Israelites they need only be still, and in 14:15 the LORD says to Moses, “move on.” And people have gone and quoted what Moses said here. Why is that? Moses says be still. God says get moving. And people have decided to take their reassurance in the words of Moses? Really?  Clearly we know in the Exodus story that the Jews did not stand their ground on the shore of the Red Sea…they got moving.

When we read verses 14 and 15 together it becomes far more clear that what we are being told here is that our reaction to mounting trials should be two fold. First, we are to remain calm and remain steadfast in our hearts.  Know the LORD will fight for us.  But that’s only half of the message. Don’t stop there. Second, we must move in faith. Don’t stand still! God says, Get moving!!!

Still your heart. Quiet your emotions. Trust in God. Then get moving in faith. GO!

4. This too shall pass. Ecclesiastes 3:??

This is a great proverb! But…to the surprise of many…it’s not in the Bible. Historical records often attach this phrase to a fable of a powerful king who asks assembled wise men to create a ring that will give him happiness when he is sad, and keep him from taking for granted the times when he is happy. After deliberation the sages present him a simple ring bearing the words “This too shall pass.”

The great king is humbled by the simple phrase. Jewish folklore casts King Solomon as the humbled king of the fable. Still, the fact remains, this phrase does not appear in the Bible. The portion of the Bible that most closely resembles this oft quoted piece of wisdom is chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes (authored by Solomon), which says: For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die… a time to weep, and a time to laugh…

3. Money is the root of all evil. 1 Timothy 6:10

This is a misquoting of the verse: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” In the Bible “sin” is identified as the root of all evil. Sin is any action that transgresses the mark set by God’s Holy Law. Sin is the byproduct of want. Want is bred by either fear or lack of trust in God. Lust, desire, greed, and temptation (all forms of want) stem from a lack of trust in God’s promises and a fear that God’s provision will not provide His promised perfect fullness for our lives. In the Garden of Eden we see sin first enter the world when Adam and Eve fail to trust that God has given them a perfect existence, and wanting the knowledge of God, eat the forbidden fruit. Money in and of itself is an amoral object. In the Bible Christ calls His followers to properly steward money and other resources for the furthering of the Kingdom of God. In this case, money can be used righteously. Nowhere does the Bible say it is money that is the root of evil.

It is the love of money, a sign of want and greed, that is a root of all kinds (but not all) evil.

2. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phillipians 4:13

The famous coffee cup verse that sends us boldly and confidently forward into our day! This verse, while extremely powerful in proper context, is typically grossly distorted from the original intent in the writing of the Apostle Paul. At the time of the writing of this letter the Apostle Paul had finally reached his desired destination of Rome, but only after being taken prisoner, shipwrecked, and placed on house arrest chained to a Roman soldier. Further he was facing potential execution, and was mentally preparing himself for the not too distant reality that He would be leaving this world. Paul is not saying here that through the strengthening of Jesus Christ we can overcome all obstacles or succeed in all things. What Paul is saying is that through the strengthening of Christ we can press forward and endure through all hardships…even death. This verse does not infer that by having faith in Christ we will achieve or prosper in all we aspire to, but rather in Christ we find the sufficient comfort and support to carry on through all adversity. The preceding verse, Phillipians 4:12 provides proper context to verse 13.

Phillipians 4:12-13 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

1. Judge not, lest ye be judged. Matthew 7:1

The mother of all Biblical misrepresentations. Let us “twist not a scripture lest we be like the devil” (Paul Washer). The most frequently misused verse in the Bible is without question, Matthew 7:1. Often misstated as “Judge not.” or “Jesus said don’t judge.” The most humorous aspect of the misuse of this verse is that it invariable occurs in such a way that the person misusing the verse, in referencing it, actually declares a judgment on the person they feel is being judgmental. Hypocrisy much? Someone will say, “You’re being judgmental. Jesus said don’t judge.” And in their pronouncing a person as judgmental, they too have judged. Additionally, If you’re perceptive enough you will notice as well that Jesus Himself is passing judgment here on those who improperly judge. Clearly this interpretation of this verse doesn’t make sense.

The verse actually reads “Judge not that ye be not judged.” This verse is often swung as a gavel to bring about an immediate cessation of discussion of another person’s behavior. The incorrect understanding of the verse is that we are completely forbidden to call to attention any areas in others’ behaviors that demand correction. This is a clear misinterpretation of Christ’s teaching. The words of Christ:

John 7:24 “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”

Matthew 7:16 “You will recognize them by their fruits…”

Luke 17:3 “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.”

Matthew 18:15-17 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Clearly here, Christ says we are to judge righteously, recognize and discern good from evil by peoples’ actions, and rebuke our brothers and sisters when they sin. To rebuke a brother we must first identify that they have sinned. To identify a person’s sin, we must obviously first judge their behavior. Without the authority to judge others’ behaviors there is no permissible authority by which we could uphold governing laws, discipline children, select leaders, choose teachers and childcare providers, or discern which Bible teachers are profitable to listen to. Our selections of spouses, friends, and business partners are all based on judgments of character and ethics. Christ said, “You will know them by their fruits,” meaning we are to discern between a person who bears fruit, and a person who does not.

Leviticus 19:15 You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.

To see what Jesus is actually saying when He says, “Judge not that ye be not judged,” it is helpful to read the subsequent verses:

Matthew 7:2-5 “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the log in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

We see now that Matthew 7:1 is not a warning against the judging of any action or behavior. It is a warning against self-deception, self righteousness, and hypocrisy.  If you are going to correct someone then you must expect to be held to the same standard.  If you judge with harshness, you can expect to be judged harshly.  If you judge with gentleness and good intent, your brothers and sisters are more likely to return the kindness.  Note that a speck of sawdust and a log are both of the same essence…wood. Jesus here is referring to the hypocrisy of casting judgment on another for a sin of the same essence as a sin of which you yourself are guilty. Jesus declares here that You must first overcome this sin in your own life before you will be any help to your brother. Notice in verse 5 that Christ does not prohibit us from pointing out our brother’s sin, or from assisting him in removing it.  Jesus does not command we say nothing about the speck in our brother’s eye. Jesus commands us to first address this particular issue in our own life, and then assist our brother in love.

1 Thessalonians 5:14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.

Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.

**For a look at another incredibly intriguing, and perhaps unrealized, modern misquotation of the Bible, see my article on Pulp Fiction and Ezekiel 25:17

Chad W. Hussey is an average Jesus loving iconoclastic non-conformist neighborhood hope dealer – a husband, father, urban missionary, community group leader, Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Community Life Intern at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY.

Chad W. Hussey

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The Truth about Pulp Fiction and Ezekiel 25:17

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Of the 50+ postings I’ve made on TruthByGrace.org, the runaway most-read post remains the “Top 5 Most Misquoted, Misused, and Misunderstood Bible Verses.”
Given the preoccupation with misused Bible verses, I want share what I find to be, by far, one of the most intriguing, and perhaps unrealized, modern misquotations of the Bible. In a 2004 poll, Samuel L. Jackson’s misquotation of Ezekiel 25:17, in Pulp Fiction, was voted the fourth best movie speech of all time.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the scene. Jackson says,

“Do you read the Bible, Brett? Well there’s this passage I’ve got memorized – sort of fits this occasion. Ezekiel 25:17.”

Then Jackson goes on to deliver what appears to be a tremendously dramatic Bible exhortation:

“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”

*The following video contains violent content not suitable for all viewers.

The thing is, the quotation above is not at all a proper rendering of Ezekiel 25:17. The actual verse reads as follows:

Ezekiel 25:17 And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.

Sure Jackson’s quote finishes along the same lines as the Bible verse, but the preceding lines in Pulp Fiction’s rendition appear nowhere in the Bible, and certainly not in Ezekiel chapter 25. Additionally, there are a couple of theological inconsistencies present in the Pulp Fiction monologue. Admittedly, Quentin Tarantino, the writer and director of Pulp Fiction, dreamed up this quotation as a re-imagining of several Biblical themes, and reworked them as a monologue that he believed best expressed the drama intended for the movie scene.

Pretty much all of the themes Jackson’s passage incorporates are found in different places in the Bible, but they are all re-workings, not true to the original text. The portion of the monologue about the tyranny of evil men is inspired by Ezekiel 34. The portion about the valley of darkness refers to King David’s words in Psalm 23, and the portion about being one’s brother’s keeper refers to the first human death, occurring in Genesis 4, in which Cain, after murdering his brother, asks the LORD, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

It should be noted that this post is neither an endorsement of Tarantino’s re-rendering the Bible, nor of the movie Pulp Fiction as a theological guide. I would hope that much would be obvious. But, what I do find most interesting, and want to point out, is that often over-looked in this incredibly popular film is the salvation story of Samuel L. Jackson’s character Jules Winnfield. Toward the end of the movie the savage bounty hunter experiences what clearly seems to resemble the effectual calling of the LORD.

Winnfield, who seemed to have always had a passing fascination with the way the words of the Bible sounded (rather than what they actually meant), comes to confess that in the context of (his rendition of) Ezekiel 25:17, he has always been “the tyranny of evil men.” But by divine revelation (or as he called it, “a moment of clarity”) he has come to the realization that he must denounce his wicked ways and strive to ”be the shepherd.” Jules Winnfield has experienced what Ezekiel 36:26-27 tell us is a regeneration of the heart.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

*The following video contains language not suitable for all viewers.

As the end of the movie nears, this enlightened Jules Winnfield, rather than kill a man that he previously would have, says this about (his rendering of) Ezekiel 25:17:

“Now… I been sayin’ that *** for years. And if you ever heard it, that meant your ***. You’d be dead right now. I never gave much thought to what it meant. I just thought it was a cold-blooded thing to say to a ***** before I popped a cap in his ***. But I saw some **** this mornin’ made me think twice. […] See, now I’m thinking it could mean you’re the righteous man and I’m the shepherd and it’s the world that’s evil and selfish. And I’d like that. But that **** ain’t the truth. The truth is you’re the weak. And I’m the tyranny of evil men. But I’m tryin’, Ringo. I’m tryin’ real hard to be the shepherd.”

And for that reason, rather than kill Ringo, Jules shares this brief testimony and gives Ringo his wallet (which Ringo was trying to steal). In doing so he begins the process of repentance, turning from his prior way of life.

Lost in the melee of the artistic brilliance and grunge that Pulp Fiction truly is, lies a beautiful, realistic, and moving depiction of God’s sovereign grace in the redemption of lost men. See, God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Nothing we have done on our own qualifies us more than another for the saving grace of God. It is of no advantage to a person who feels they have lived more righteously than another if they are without faith in Christ. The Bible is explicit in telling us that separate from being reborn in Christ there is no one who does good, not even one (Romans 3:12). But the good news is that God wishes to show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us through Jesus Christ, and by grace God saves the wicked through their faith. This faith is not anyone’s own doing; but it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:7-8.) This is the gift Jules Winnfield, in Pulp Fiction, is experiencing. You see, in sending Christ to die on the cross, God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God. This is how wicked people, incapable of consistently doing the right thing, incapable of controlling our thoughts, incapable of controlling our mouths, and incapable of always acting rightly (guys like Jules Winnfield…guys like myself, and each and everyone of us)…this is how Christ brings us to reconciliation with God the Father. Jules Winnfield had his “come to Jesus moment.” By his faith he was made new. Maybe you’ve never picked up on that part of this movie before…maybe you have. But by your faith in the Lord, you can be forgiven. God will put in you a new heart, and give you a fresh start to live in right standing with Him. You need only repent and believe in Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

**I would like to add that this post is not an endorsement of the graphic content or unrighteous themes of the movie, Pulp Fiction, nor is it an endorsement of the movie as a theological guide. Rather, this post is an attempt to shine the light of Biblical Truth amongst movie fans that might otherwise not hear the gospel and choose to remain in darkness, continuing to view this movie quote as nothing more than (as Jackson’s character would say), “a cold-blooded thing to say to a ***** before I pop a cap in his ***.”

***Download Full PDF Version (The PDF version is a more thorough, technical, reworking and elaboration on the contents of the original post further incorporating feedback and input from the comments section below.  I chose to include this PDF as a separate document rather than editing the original post for fear of tampering with the effectiveness of the original post or damaging the integrity of the ongoing dialogue in the comments section.  If you enjoy this post I do hope you will appreciate the PDF as it has additional content.) ***

If you enjoyed this film analysis, you may also enjoy my other film analyses of George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road or Richard Linklater’s Bernie starring Jack Black.

Chad W. Hussey is an average Jesus loving iconoclastic non-conformist neighborhood hope dealer – a husband, father, urban missionary, community group leader, Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Community Life Intern at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY.

Chad W. Hussey

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The Most Common False Beliefs of Professing Christians

Is Your Christian Faith Biblical?

Many people’s faith has a number of extra-biblical influences they are unaware of.

Many Christians, who are not well versed in the Bible, combine elements of the Bible, church tradition, culture, other religions, and personal beliefs to create belief systems that don’t actually align with the teachings of the Lord they profess to follow. There is a recent trend in Christianity, a somewhat knee-jerk reaction to our post-modern culture’s proclivity to relativism and tolerance, that has led many Christians (and even Christian leaders) to shy away from clear teaching of the Bible. In some cases there are Christians who have questioned teachings of the Bible or even attempted to reconstruct long held Christian doctrines to fit within the confines of our country’s new cultural beliefs. For this reason I have constructed a quick test to help determine if our individual beliefs, and the beliefs of our churches, are truly in line with the Bible. Answer the yes or no questions, and then check them against the answers below.

1. Do you believe man evolved from something other than humans…a bacteria or another species of animal (IE. apes)?

2. Do you believe any of the following: that God and creation are one, that creation is a manifest part of God, that the universe is contained within God, or that God exists within creation?

3. Do you believe that all people are united to one another other and to the universe in mind, spirit, and body?

4. Do you believe the human mind has the potential to alter or override physical reality?

5. Do you believe people have the ability (independent of the work of God through the Holy Spirit) to heal illness by belief, with the mind, by touch, or by spoken word?

6. Do you believe that it is possible to believe desired outcomes into existence (IE. thinking positive thoughts will bring positive outcomes into existence)?

7. Do you believe that God accepts people into heaven based on the merits of the life they live, if they live a life of good, of love, or of good works?

8. Do you believe that the God of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Bhuddism, etc. all share the same God, and the different religions are merely God’s way of reaching different people?

9. Do you believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and do you place yourself, your beliefs, and your actions under the authority of the Bible?

10. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, God Himself come to earth in human flesh, and is an equal part of the Holy Trinity?

11. Do you believe Christ physically (in the body) rose from the grave and ascended into heaven?

12. Do you believe the atoning work of the blood of Christ is mandatory for the salvation of a sinner from the wrath of God (including eternal separation from God in hell), and that faith in Christ is the only way that a person can be reconciled and placed in right standing with God?

13. Do you believe the Holy Spirit of God is exclusively granted to believers in Jesus Christ as Lord?

14. Do you believe Christ’s Church is consecrated and set apart from the world?

15. Do you believe that faith is the free, unmerited gift of God, granted to His chosen by His grace, and that while we pursue righteousness, faith is not developed by works, logical reasoning, or the convincing of man?

16. Do you believe that Christ will physically return to earth at the Day of the Lord to gather His elect, and to tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty against non-believers?

Answers:

1. If you answered yes to #1, you are a believer in the scientific theory of macro-evolution. This theory is so far unproven, and in conflict with Genesis 2:7 which says, “then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” You can learn more about science’s inability to prove macro-evolution here:

2. If you answered yes to #2, you hold some variation of the heretical views of pantheism or panentheism. These beliefs contradict Genesis 1:1 which says, “God created the heavens and the earth,” and Hebrews 11:3, which teaches, God created everything from nothing (ex nihilo). Matthew 5:48 says God is perfect and Malachi 3:6 says He does not change. The idea that God would have a portion of Himself that is corrupted by sin, wicked, and destined for destruction (Revelation 20:15) is in contradiction to the very character of God which is eternal, perfect, and holy (Deuteronomy 33:27, Isaiah 6:3).

Pantheistic belief that God is in creation.

3-6. If you answered yes to any of questions 3-6, you hold beliefs from the non-Christian religion, New Age.

New Age belief that we are all one with the universe.

3. The Bible says in Psalm 4:3 that we are not all one in body and spirit, but that “the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself,” In John 15:17 Christ says we are not of this world, just as He is not of the world. In Romans 12:2 we are instructed to not conform to the world.

4&5. Christ taught in Matthew 17:20 that with enough faith Christians will be able to move mountains. The faith He speaks of however, is not a faith in ourselves and our own abilities, but faith that God will move mountains for us. Christ Himself said that the power by which He performed His miracles was not his own, but the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:18). In Christianity we are not to depend on our own abilities, but to pray to God for the aid of His Holy Spirit.

New Age belief that physical objects can be controlled with the mind.

6. If you answered yes to #6, you believe in the New Age belief in the power of positive thinking. Some feel good preachers teach that by speaking power over our circumstances we can will change into existence. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 however says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Clearly we all know that our lives will not always be perfect, and there will be times when we will all endure suffering. So often we want God to change our circumstances and we pray that He would, but we are reluctant to accept the truth that God has placed us in our circumstances to bring about change in us. This is not meant to discount the importance of prayer, as it is paramount, but rather to bring about awareness that as followers of Christ we are not called to attempt to influence God’s will, but rather, to make it the desire of our heart to live in submission to it. Our confidence lies in the greatness of our God. We can always be confident that He will provide us exactly what we need. What we need may not be exactly what we want. In Luke 22:42 Christ demonstrates that even He lived in submission to the Father’s will when he said, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” We are to trust God’s plans for our lives and seek to align our hearts with them.

7. If you answered yes to #7 you are holding to a false doctrine of works based righteousness. This belief that a person can earn their way into heaven by their good deeds is the same belief that Christ condemned the Pharisees for. The Good News of the gospel is that we are save by our faith in Christ. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

8. If you answered yes to #8, you hold the heresy of Universalism. This is the belief that all roads lead to God. This contradicts the words of Christ when in John 14:6 He says, “I am THE WAY, and THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Christ, here, says He is the absolute Truth, and the only way to salvation. If this sounds exclusive it is because it is. Jesus was crucified by the religious leaders of the day because He was outspoken in stating that He is God, and that He is the only way. Some people say that Christ never claimed to be God, but in John 14:8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father; that will be enough for us.” 9 Jesus replied, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been with you all this time? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus is God. Anyone who does not know Jesus, does not know God.

Universalist belief that all beliefs have the same end.

9-16. If you answered yes to #9-16, you hold to sound Christian doctrines as expressed in the Holy Bible. These doctrines can be seen most clearly in the following places in the Bible: (9) 1 Timothy 3:16 (10) John 1:14 (11) Luke 24:39 (12) 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 (13) Acts 2:38 (14) 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (15) Ephesians 2:8-9, 2 Timothy 1:8-11 (16) Matthew 24:29-31, Revelation 19:20

I hope this test was helpful, and my prayer is that all of us will always continue to prayerfully and thoughtfully seek Truth and seek to grow in knowledge and relationship with our LORD. Some people fear learning more about God because they are comfortable with God in the terms by which they imagine Him, and are afraid they would uncover something that they would not like. This is understandable, but a wise man once posed the following question to me, “If you knew God better, would you love Him more, or would you love Him less?” I have found it very encouraging to ponder that question. Someday we will come face to face with God, and on that day we will see Him perfectly. Let us hope that on that day, when we know Him rightly, we will love Him more.

Chad W. Hussey is an average Jesus loving iconoclastic non-conformist neighborhood hope dealer – a husband, father, urban missionary, community group leader, Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Community Life Intern at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY.

Chad W. Hussey

Chasing After Wind

A synopsys of The Book of Ecclessiastes:

(1:2) Vanity of vanities…All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? (7:29) …God made man upright, but (men) have sought out many schemes.  (2:11) …I considered all that my hands had done…and behold, all was meaningless and a striving after wind…(2:26) …to the sinner (God) has given the business of gathering and collecting…This also is meaningless and a striving after wind. (1:13) search(ing) out by wisdom all that is done under heaven…is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is meaningless and a striving after wind.  (12:13) The end of the matter…Fear God and keep his commandments…this is the whole duty of man. (2:26) For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy…

The Unrelenting Love of God – The Hosea Story

If you’ve ever questioned the depth of God’s love or the measure of His patience, you truly need to watch this video. This short film, produced by the teaching team at Irving Bible Church (led by E. Andrew McQuitty and including Dallas Seminary professor Barry Jones) is a deeply emotional, beautifully directed, contemporary portrait of the book of Hosea. Hosea tells the story of a prophet’s deep love and unfailing commitment to his unfaithful wife. This is the allegorical depiction of the unfailing covenant love of God for His people.

CLICK “PLAY ALL”

Here is a brief selection of verses from Hosea chapters 1-3 which tell the story of Hosea’s unfailing commitment to his wife.

1:2 When the Lord first began speaking to Israel through Hosea, he said to him, “Go and marry a prostitute, so that some of her children will be conceived in prostitution. This will illustrate how (God’s people have) acted (adulterously) by turning against the Lord (making other pursuits their priority, idolizing temporal earthly gain, and) worshipping other gods.”

2:2 (Hosea tells his children) “Plead with your mother, plead…that she put away her whoring…and her adultery…3 (otherwise I will) strip her naked and make her as in the day she was born (publicly exposed and helpless)…5…she…has acted shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, (and sell myself to them to attain all I need)’ 7 She shall pursue her lovers…but shall not find (happiness, nor her needs met by) them. Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.’ 13 And I will punish her for…she…adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me…”

14 “(Then), behold, (I will forgive her) I will allure her, (I will show her mercy) and speak tenderly to her (and win her back). 15 And there I will give her…a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth…16 “And…will call me ‘My Husband,’…18 And I will make…a covenant (promise) on that day…and I will…(enable her) to lie down (unafraid in peace and) in safety 19 …(with me) forever…in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will be faithful to (her) and…(she will be) mine…

3:1 And the Lord said to (Hosea), “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, (this is how) the Lord loves (His) children…

Hopefully this helps you understand the depth of the love and commitment that God has for His children, and how our sinful behavior and our rejection of God truly appears from a third person perspective. I find it difficult to watch this video without feeling a strong need to repent and run to God. Despite our continuing to ignore Him, and our refusal to obey Him, He continues to pursue us to the ends of the Earth. He has not given up on you and is waiting with open arms for your return to Him. Ask for His forgiveness…He will forgive you. God is love.

hosea

Who Needs the Old Testament?

The short answer…YOU.  Probably more than you realize.

Just like man cannot live on bread alone, Christians seeking to know the LORD cannot live on the New Testament alone.  “Man does not live on bread alone, but by EVERY WORD that comes from the mouth of God.”   And how convenient is it then that, to my point, Jesus, here in Matthew 4:4, actually quotes the Old Testament scripture Deuteronomy 8:3.  Living under New Covenant Grace, the promise of salvation through faith in Christ, something that is often overlooked by Christians is that Christ’s Church does not stand without the building blocks of the Old Testament.  Together, we believers are His house, built on the foundation interlocking the apostles (New Testament), and the prophets (Old Testament). And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. (Ephesians 2:20)

Not convinced yet?  The New Testament contains 352 direct quotations, 613 allusions, and 4,105 passages reminiscent of Old Testament scripture.  More than 10% of the New Testament is made up of Old Testament Scripture. (bible-researcher.com)  This is all the more impressive when one considers that copies of the Old Testament were scarce at this time, and the majority of the New Testament teachings, those predominantly quoting the Old Testament, come from a walking rabbi, a man writing letters from prison, and a man exiled to live alone in an island cave.  Of course we know all Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16) so it should make sense that it is cohesive.

For what it’s worth, I will add there are 0 New Testament references to the Inter-testament Apocrypha which claims itself not to be the inspired Word of God, but remains in the Catholic Bible.

So why can’t we just stick to the New Testament if it already contains the important parts of the Old Testament?  Let’s be straight…the New Testament references the Old Testament, it does not tell the story, nor capture the message of the Old Testament on its own.  I’d go so far as to say that the New Testament references the Old Testament so frequently that it is not possible to fully interpret or capture the real depth of what is being said in the New Testament without knowing the citations being referenced.  Not knowing the context surrounding these quotations removes a great deal of the vitality from the points being made in the New Testament scripture.  Further, by not reading the Old Testament we cannot truly grasp the bigger picture at work in the Bible…the upper story…God’s plan for man playing out from Genesis to Revelation.  When we understand the relationship rightly between the Old and New Testaments we see that God is unchanging. He is a God of love, working a master-plan through a contiguous series of covenants each building on the previous…executing a flawless and cohesive blueprint to develop a remnant of glorified people with which to share eternity….all for His pleasure and His glory.

The general principles at the heart of each of the covenants apply to all God’s elect, those living both before and after Christ, and Christ is the focal point of the plan that is God’s redemption story.  The ancient Israelites, and all Old Testament scripture, point forward in time alluding directly to Jesus Christ.  Examples:  Moses is symbolically tied to Jesus in such a wealth of ways it requires another post (see Moses points to Jesus post below).  The Passover lamb is an allusion to Jesus as both were sacrificed during Passover (Easter) for atonement for sin. The Israelites applied the blood of the Passover lamb to the door frames of their homes, and in so doing received protection against the angel of death. 40 years later, Rahab the prostitute, a gentile from Jericho who expressed faith in the God of Israel and aided the Jews in the planning of their conquest of her city, was symbolically given a scarlet cord to hang from the window frame of her home so that her family would be passed over as the Jews slayed every man, woman, and child of Jericho.  This was symbolic of the lambs blood at Passover, and both Rahab’s chord and the blood of the pass over lamb allude to the blood of the sacrificed Christ that God uses to paint the door frames of each believer’s heart to protect us from eternal death.

Another wonderful allegory of the Old Testament is the story of David and Goliath.  In this story we are not, as many wrongly fantasize, David standing up to our fears and oppressors defeating Goliath…No, in this story, David is not you or I, but he is Jesus, the meek and humble shepherd.  Goliath is Satan.  And you and I?  We are the nation of Israel, scared, frightened, facing imminent death at the hands of our enemy.  No match for Goliath, no match for the devil, but then, saved by our unassuming King.  The Old Testament is full of these allegorical allusions.  Just read the story of Abraham, who at the LORD’s instruction, goes to sacrifice his son, believing the LORD has the power to raise his son from death. (Hebrews 11:19) Upon his acting in faith, an angel stops Abraham, at which point Abraham does, in a way, receive his son back from death.   The many parallel events and prophecies of the Old Testament specifically demonstrate the hand of God at work in every event, and indicate there is a savior coming.

So, I’ve established the Old Testament’s tie to Christ.  Now also see that conversely, New Covenant Age Christians point back to the old covenants.  The LORD, the God of Abraham, has brought us into the Abrahamic Covenant, into His spiritual family.  We are now the spiritual children of Abraham.  The people God promised would be as many as sands of the sea who would worship Him.  Despite the old covenants being made specifically with the Israelites, the Gentiles have been grafted into the church of God’s elect…the spiritual nation of Israel, which contains both the pre-Christ Jews and the Christians after Christ (Romans 11).

In the Old Testament, Moses was given the Mosaic Covenant…The Law.  He was also given very specific instruction for building a Tabernacle where sacrifices would be made and where God would reside amongst His people.  Hebrews 8:5 tells us specifically that the instructions for the Tabernacle and the furniture within it are a shadow of the things of heaven.  Also, in the same way the LORD gave Moses The Law and appointed High Priests to offer gifts and sacrifices to atone for the peoples’ sin.  This too was a shadow of the heavenly law, and the way sin is handled by God.  In the New Testament, when Jesus came, His ministry professed the true Heavenly Law, and Jesus became God’s heavenly sacrifice on the altar.  In sacrificing His son, God created a New Covenant, the New Testament, in which He now impresses the knowledge of Himself and His laws onto the hearts and minds of His chosen people (by way of the Holy Spirit).  In Romans chapters 9 and 10 the Apostle Paul tells us that just as God elected his chosen people in the Old Testament, in order that His purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls, God calls his elect to follow Christ.   And by the sacrifice of Christ, His heavenly lamb, all sins past, present, and future are forgiven.   By impressing His laws on our hearts and minds, the regenerated Christian’s heart bears the fruits of The Spirit.  And while we are still sinful and repentant people, undergoing a progressive process of sanctification, the intent of our hearts is always to keep Christ’s Commands, and Christ’s Commands adhere to, and further go beyond, the principle intent of the Mosaic Law and the 10 Commandments given to the Israelites.

Hopefully this has helped you see that both the Old and New Testaments depend heavily on each other to make one complete faith…a work of many parts that all point directly to Christ.  When we follow the common thread woven through the Old and New Testament we see God’s word sewn together in one cohesive plan, unfolding exactly as it was developed from the creation of the world.  God has always chosen and granted salvation to His elect, and has always punished the wicked.  The names of God’s chosen were always written in the book of life, and the lamb was slain from the creation of the world (Revelation 13:8) because God knew the end from the beginning.  We see God is every bit the omnipotent, all sovereign, powerful and eternal God that His Word says he is.  It becomes undeniably clear He knew each event from the start.  He devised a perfect and complete plan, and then breathed the entire plan through the pens of many hands.  Thus He has given us a masterfully developed book by which anyone who  inquires with all their heart will receive the answers they seek (Jeremiah 29:13).  So don’t neglect the Old Testament…we can never fully know where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve come from.

By:  Chad W. Hussey By:  Chad W. Hussey

Moses Points to Jesus

Moses was the most important person in the Jewish faith until the arrival of Christ.  Below I will lay out a good portion of the similarities of Moses and Christ, and why the parallels are important to see.

Moses points to Jesus
Hebrews 3:5 “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,”[a] bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. 6 But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

Moses frees the Israelites.

Moses born an Israelite = Jesus born an Israelite
Moses spends his childhood in Egypt = Jesus spends His childhood in Egypt
Moses fled from the king who wanted to kill him as a baby = Jesus fled King Herod to Egypt as a baby
Moses born under foreign dominion by Egypt = Jesus born under foreign dominion by Rome
Moses was adopted = Jesus was adopted
Moses stepped down from royalty to be an Israelite = Jesus was lowered from heaven to an Israelite

Moses spends 40 days on Mount Sinai preparing to deliver The Law = Jesus Spends 40 days in the desert preparing to deliver the Heavenly Law

Moses spends 40 years in the desert = Jesus spends 40 days in the desert
Moses was a shepherd = John ch 10 Jesus calls himself the great shepherd
Moses called to free Israelites from Bondage = Jesus frees us from bondage of sin
Moses performs Miracles = Jesus Performs Miracles
Moses first miracle shows dominion over the snake (his staff) = Jesus first miracle he shows dominion over the devil (snake), not succumbing to temptation
Moses heals his leprous hand = Jesus heals leprosy
Moses’ plagues = Jesus plagues of Revelation
water to blood = Revelation 16:3, frogs=Rev 16:13, boils= Rev 16:2, hail=Rev 16:21, locusts= Rev 9:1, darkness = Rev 16:10, angel of death = Rev 6:7
Jesus chose the passover meal for the Last Supper
Passover blood of lamb saves Israelites = Blood of the lamb christ saves God’s believers
Blood on the door frame seals protection = Christ blood is painted on the door frame of believers hearts for our protection
Red Sea parts and people access God’s holy land = Temple curtain torn and people given access to the Holy of Holy’s
People get to the other side of the red sea and sing the song of Moses = Revelation 15:2 a sea of fire by which all the people of God stand by victorious and sing the song of Moses
Moses gives the people clean water = Jesus is the living water
Moses gives them Manna, bread from heaven = Jesus is the bread from Heaven, the true Manna
Moses goes to the mountain to the get the law = Jesus gives a new law in the sermon on the Mount
People try to stone Moses in Exodus 17 = People try to stone Jesus in John 8
Moses picks 12 men to go search the Holy land = Jesus picks 12 Apostles
Moses picks 70 leaders = Jesus sends out the 70
Israelites can’t go to the promise land until Moses dies = Christians couldn’t go to our promised land without the death of Christ
Moses left Joshua to lead the people = Jesus left the Holy Spirit to lead His people
Moses people were sealed = Jesus’ people will be sealed…Exodus 13:16  And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.” = Revelation 7:3  “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”

Jesus frees sinners.

Now that we have established a parallel of the two men  We can parallel the Exodus stories.  As the bible is one big story of little stories that repeat over and over, The Exodus story is the prime example of what the new Exodus (the end times/Revelation) will look like.  Jesus is our Moses who will bring plagues upon the world (in Revelation 16), free us from the bondage of sin, lead us wandering in the desert of life so that we can learn the necessary sanctifying lessons of glorification, and take us through the great sea that looks like sure doom (tribulation) and into our Promised Land in eternity.

You see…Moses was the Jews deliver, and Jesus is ours.

 

Chad W. Hussey is an average Jesus loving iconoclastic non-conformist neighborhood hope dealer – a husband, father, urban missionary, community group leader, Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Community Life Intern at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY.

Chad W. Hussey

Jesus Said Love, but God Hates…Contradiction?

I was recently asked the following…”I would like to know your thoughts on something. Jesus and God are of the same nature, but Jesus said love everyone, but the Bible says God hates. Jesus says love your enemy. God says Jacob I loved but Esau I hated.  Is this a contradiction? This is not a trick question. I have always thought because of Jesus quote I was not to hate.”

Fantastic Question!

A few things….I will try to present these thoughts in such a way that will make a coherent, cohesive explanation.  First I think we need to be mindful of how we interpret the word hate.  It is always wise to find the word in question as it is used in other places in scripture to study the context and get a clearer definition.  Jesus actually uses the word hate here…

Luke 14:26 (NIV) 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.

I think we can pretty clearly deduce here that if we are to love our neighbors, that we are also to love our blood relatives.  But we must “deny” (hate) them, and ourselves, the type of love we share with Christ.  Hence, the juxtaposition…Jacob I loved and Esau I hated (this hate “denied” Esau the love that God shares with His saved children).

This love God and believers share is “covenant love,” and this is the love that saves.
And of course, whether we believe in free will or in faith by grace, we can all agree that God will “deny” those lacking faith in Christ, His covenant love.

So we see there are different types of love and hate…clearly in our following Christ he doesn’t want us to hate our parents, wife, or children in a damning way (as God hated Esau)…or to begrudge them, as we might define hate. We also can not save our neighbors by offering them “covenant love.”  That kind of love is something only God can offer, and hopefully we all agree it is not the preacher who saves the man, but God.  A good preacher knows he is merely the tool that God uses to gather souls to Him, and no man can save themselves or another man by their own works (Ephesians 2:8).  Further, when we see “God hates the wicked.”  It may not necessarily mean hate in the sense that you and I imagine it in common vernacular (angry, raging, begrudging, or murderous), but rather hate is the antonym to covenant love.  It is the absence of covenant love, the hate we see here damns the lost.

Of course, I could have just said, to love or to hate…to save, or to condemn is all God’s sovereign choice, and the created is not to question the decisions of the creator (Romans 9:21), but we also need to understand that Jesus never said not to hate.  As we see above…he did tell us to hate…we just have to understand His meaning.

I hope that’s helpful.

By:  Chad W. Hussey By:  Chad W. Hussey

Pursuing Knowledge…and Wisdom from Fear

Jesus said love. He also said, “Do you love me? Then feed my sheep. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

I was recently in a Bible study where the pursuit of knowledge (in God’s Word) was called into question as if it was an unjust, or misguided pursuit. It was painted in some way negative or less than paramount.
The basis, being that Jesus commanded us to love, and our loving others, by our actions, should take precedent over the pursuit of His Word, or the teaching of the actual meaning of His Word.

While Love is of the highest importance, before we can actually share Christian Love, we must understand what Christian Love is. We must also recognize that the transformation of the heart comes not by our own efforts but by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. A work that occurs in us by our engagement in scripture. The Holy Spirit blesses each of us in different ways and at this time I feel it appropriate to defend what the Apostle Paul calls the Holy Spirit’s Gift of Knowledge (1 Corinthians 12).

Below are some…not all…examples of why we should fear the Lord, and why it should drive our unquenchable thirst for knowledge of the Word. Some, believe the word “fear” in the Bible is meant to be interpreted as respect. Let me preface, that I will agree with you if your respect is so emotionally stirring that it causes trembling (Phillipians 2:12, 1 Corinthians 7:15), and you are cognizant of the words of Christ, “Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell.” (Luke 12:5) Personally, for me, that evokes fear in the literal sense.

So, why should we be obsessed with correct understanding of the Word, and why should we uphold the Word’s proper interpretation relentlessly.

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Job 28:28 And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”

Luke 12:4 Christ said: I tell you my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more, but I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who after your body has been killed, has the authority to throw you into hell.

Leviticus 19:17 “‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.

Proverbs 28:23 Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor rather than one who has a flattering tongue.

Luke 12:8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.

Leviticus 5:1 “‘If anyone sins because they do not speak up when they hear a public charge to testify regarding something they have seen or learned about, they will be held responsible.

Proverbs 15:14 The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.

Proverbs 30:5 “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.6 Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

1 Corinthians 12:4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Matthew 4:4 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[a]”

In the beginning was The Word and the word was God. The word of God is our life blood. It is how the Lord communicates to us. If knowledge of the Word is not my gift of the spirit, then it is unquestionably my passion. It burns inside me beyond my control. I would never deny this precious gift, for any man for any reason, nor would i ever attempt to control it lest I deny the work God has laid before me to walk in. The Bible is the Word of God. Every word of it.  It is not to be added to, or we will be proven liars. It is not to be tampered with or distorted. This is why we must know it and understand it rightly, and lean not on our own understanding…for there is no knowledge or wisdom that comes from man. Wisdom and knowledge begin with God. We do not love, but hate anyone we don’t share The Word with. This is why we must preach, why we must teach, and why we must correct incorrect doctrine. The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray. The bible says that no action of our own and no convincing of man’s own will lead anyone to Christ, but we are to preach the Truth and it will be received by those hearts the Lord has prepared for its receiving, by his grace, by his sovereign will. Salvation is by no works of man so no man may boast. All glory in the saving of souls is God’s. We are just the vessels He is filling to be used as the vehicle for the delivery of His word by His will. If we love people it can not be by tolerance, by which we actually betray them, but by presentation of the one who IS love to them, Christ. To do this, we must rightly know Him, and listen to Him…He is the Word. Further, we have learned about Him, and it is a sin not to testify to what we know. There are many charges the world makes against Him…some charge Him a blasphemer, atheists charge Him a liar. It is not a good enough excuse to be scared. It is not a good enough excuse to be politically correct, or lovingly accepting of everyone. If you love someone with Christian love, you will present the gospel to them in hopes they will receive it and be saved from eternity in hell…you would not support them in their march toward damnation. Christ said man is not the one to be feared, but God…just go, just preach. And when you do, do so correctly. Timothy, Titus, James, and Peter all teach that any teaching that is not sound in doctrine would be better left not done at all. To teach properly we must know the Word. Incorrect doctrine confuses faith. Jesus commands we teach His Word…and those who teach will be judged more strictly. By fear of the Lord we should find the pursuit of knowledge of God’s Word to not only be just, but paramount to our walk in faith and to the application of our love as Christians.

By:  Chad W. Hussey By:  Chad W. Hussey

Prosperity Gospel Fiction and God’s True Deliverance

Unfortunately for prosperity gospel fans I have some bad news.  God does not always free the oppressed on earth.  God does not always remove every obstacle from our path, and his promise to believers certailinly isn’t earthly wealth.  Demanding God remove all obstacles or deliver us from all earthly oppression as a requirement of our faith is egregious Idolatry of the things of the world and of our earthly existence.

Christ’s offered deliverance in the Bible is eternal life.  This is central to the understanding of God’s plan for the deliverance and the glorification of our souls.  If it was God’s intention to free oppressed peoples on earth, he would not have let the greatest prophet of the Old Testament, Isaiah, be sawn in half.  He would not have left John, the Baptist, the most righteous man ever to live (prior to Christ), in prison to be beheaded.  He would not have had the holiest men left on earth after Christ, (the Apostles) put to violent deaths….executed by crucifixion and beheaded defending their beliefs to the very end.  The apostles confidence in what they had witnessed was so strong, and their belief in the resurrection so powerful, that they confidently walked into death in an expression of utmost conviction to Christ, all for the glory of God.  If His plan were an earthly prosperity, God would not have let nearly every great Protestant Reform leader and nearly every translator who attempted to make the Bible accessible to the common man, be burnt at the stake or slain at the hands of the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches.  He wouldn’t have let hundreds of thousands of Protestants be murdered by their oppressive theocratic rulers in the 16th and 17th centuries – all for trying to remove government rule from the Church.  These are God’s people…the ones most closely aligned with His plan.  Not set free from bondage, put to death.  Man’s purpose is to glorify God, and the conviction of these men – to the death, is the supreme demonstration of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  These men all recognized God’s plan is not the deliverance of His people in the earthly realm, but rather, His call is for us to put to death the earthly desires within our hearts and seek Him.  His grace is sufficient.  Deliverance comes through death to self and life in the eternal salvation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  If you’re looking for the temporal, earthly things God can provide you, your eyes are on the wrong prize.  Set your anchor beyond the clouds (Hebrews 6:19) and you will be provided a peace that transcends all understanding (Phillipians 4:7).

By:  Chad W. Hussey By:  Chad W. Hussey

Protestant Confession of Sins

Yes, we are Protestant Christians, and no we do not confess our sins to a priest. The reason we don’t confess our sins to a priest is that Christ was crucified and the curtain in the Temple was torn and we were granted direct access to God. In repentance, we must confess our sins to the Lord. However, we no longer require a human mediator to stand between us and God. The fact remains, public Confession is biblical, and Protestant Christians should do it. We see in Leviticus Chapter 1 that the Jews were to place their hand on the head of their sacrifice and publicly confess their sins before the High Priest.

In the New Testament there is no instruction to confess our sins to a Priest, but James 5:16 tells us the following…

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

We should already know we are all broken sinners, and rather than hiding our sin, and rather than persecuting each other for our sins, we should be open and honest with each other. Then we may not appear as hypocrites or as if we are standing next to the cross looking down at others…rather we should be on our knees at the foot of the cross telling our sinful brothers and sisters there is room for all of us. There are examples in Acts of people publicly confessing sin as well…Acts 19:18 is one.

Also many of those who were now believers came,confessing and divulging their practices.

By:  Chad W. Hussey By:  Chad W. Hussey