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Wordwise Insight, Issue #007 -- the curse on creation, what about video games, and more
July 14, 2005
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WORDWISE INSIGHT is the free, informative monthly newsletter of Wordwise-Bible-Studies.com

IN THIS ISSUE...

BIBLE INSIGHTS. Message outlines you are welcome to use on: the nature of conversion, and how to respond to God's Word.

READER Q & A. On an old hymn, on using drums in worship, on Jephthah's "sacrifice," and on whether Christ is still Man.

IDEAS FOR YOUR CHURCH. An article providing dozens of tips on how to design an effective worship service.

NEWS & REVIEWS. An old treasure that still has value.


Oops! Our apologies. Many of you were accidentally sent another copy of the June newsletter a week ago. Sorry about that. (We are technically challenged here!) Below is the new, July issue. Hope you enjoy it!


BIBLE INSIGHTS

"TURNED" FROM WHAT...TO WHAT?
Acts 26:18 suggests six powerful contrasts between the unsaved and the saved individual which help define the effects of conversion (to "turn"). Sometimes the contrasts are stated explicitly; other times, one side or the other is implied [noted in squared brackets]. They are as follows.

1) From spiritual darkness to the light (with eyes now opened)

2) From the power of Satan to a personal relationship with God

3) [Guilty and condemned] to sins forgiven

4) [No ultimate future but death and hell] to an eternal inheritance from God (cf. I Pet. 1:3-4)

5) [Separated from God] to separated unto God (sanctified)

6) [No faith in Christ] to faith in Christ

RESPONDING TO GOD'S WORD
Nehemiah Chapter 8 gives us a commendable example of how a congregation ought to respond to the Word of God. Underlying any true "revival," whether individual or more widespread, is the preaching and study of the Scriptures.

1) They showed an eager desire to hear the Word of God (vs. 1).

2) They realized it was for all--men, women and children, any who could profit from the hearing (vs. 2; cf. 10:28).

3) They demonstrated discipline and strong commitment (the meeting went on for hours, vs. 3).

4) They had prepared the environment for the best possible hearing of the Word (vs. 4).

5) They showed respect for God's Word and for God's servant (vs. 5).

6) They had a worshipful and submissive attitude before God (vs. 6).

7) They had the Word carefully interpreted for them and applied to their needs (vs. 7), and the meaning of words explained (vs. 8).

8) The Spirit of God brought conviction when the Word was proclaimed (vs. 9; cf. 9:1-3).

NOTE: Nehemiah and the others were not forbidding the people to mourn for their sins (vs. 9- 10). They simply asked them to keep in mind the purpose of the day. From the date given (vs. 2) it was a celebration of the Feast of Trumpets, typifying the regathering of Israel from among the Gentile nations (cf. Lev. 23:24-25). This was an occasion for joy.

9) They came back for more, and in order to dig deeper (vs. 13, 18).

10) They applied the Word and took appropriate action (vs. 14-17; cf. 10:28-29).


READER Q & A...

Question: Roger asks, "I lead the singing at our church in Troy, Kansas, and I'm having a problem finding the story behind the hymn: Anywhere With Jesus. Do you have it?"

Answer: Well, I can give you a bit of information about it. "Anywhere with Jesus" was first published in 1887. As printed in most hymn books today, it is actually the work of two people, having been revised about 30 years after the original was produced.

Jesse (Brown) Pounds (1861-1921) suffered from poor health as a child, and was educated at home. When she was 15, she began submitting articles and poems to Cleveland newspapers, and various religious publications. A few years later, an editor told her some of her verses would work well as hymns. That got her started, and she eventually went on to write over 400 gospel songs, as well as some cantatas and operettas. In 1896 she married a pastor named John Pounds.

Mrs. Pounds is responsible for the first two verses of the hymn as it is often printed now (likely including the refrain). They are: "Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go, / Anywhere He leads me in this world below; / Anywhere without Him dearest joys would fade; / Anywhere with Jesus I am not afraid. / Anywhere with Jesus I am not alone; / Other friends may fail me, He is still my own; / Though His hand may lead me over dreary ways, / Anywhere with Jesus is a house of praise."

Then, around 1915, Helen (Cadbury) Alexander (1877-1969) added some verses of her own. Helen Cadbury, the daughter of a prominent British businessman (and heir to the Cadbury chocolate fortune), married Charles Alexander, the song leader for R. A Torrey in his evangelistic meetings. She traveled with the team and helped in the work, until her husband's death in 1920. The verses added by Mrs. Alexander are:

"Anywhere with Jesus, over land and sea, / Telling souls in darkness of salvation free; / Ready as He summons me to go or stay, / Anywhere with Jesus when He points the way. / Anywhere with Jesus I can go to sleep, / When the dark'ning shadows round about me creep, / Knowing I shall waken nevermore to roam; / Anywhere with Jesus will be home, sweet home."

The hymn became a favourite of the Christian Endeavour movement. A group of young people associated with them was in the practice of going to Sing Sing Penitentiary on Sunday afternoons, to lead a service for the prisoners. The hymn became a favourite there. Among the inmates were two men sentenced to death for a murder committed during the burglary of a house. During these weekly meetings, they heard the gospel and put their faith in Christ as Saviour. On their last day on earth, when the two were led to the place of execution, they confessed their sins, saying they deserved the punishment they were facing. But they each added they believed God had forgiven them, and through His grace they could go "anywhere with Jesus."

Question: Carol asks, "What do you think of using drums in the worship services of the church?"

Answer: A controversial issue to be sure! Some would like to relegate it to a simple matter of personal taste, but there may be other factors to be considered. For a look at the subject, see the Wordwise article Drums in Worship.

Question: Judges 11:30-31 records that "Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, If you will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.'" So, what did Jephthah intend by his vow? And more importantly, how was the vow fulfilled?

Answer: Judges goes on to tell how the Lord gave Jephthah power over the Ammonites (vs. 32- 33). Then, he came home to keep his promise. Quite likely animals were kept in the house at night, or in the enclosed courtyard of the house--a frequent practice in ancient times. Jephthah expected he would see a goat or some other animal on his return. He must have had good reason to believe his daughter was elsewhere at this time. But he was wrong. When his daughter (his only child) came out to meet him, joyfully celebrating his victory, Jephthah was horrified. But he felt he could not go back on his vow (vs. 34-35). He believed there was no alternative to sacrificing his daughter!

So, what happened next? Did he offer up his own daughter as a burnt offering? Debate over this has continued since earliest times. Some say Jephthah merely committed his daughter to perpetual virginity, and perhaps to lifelong service at the tabernacle (cf. Lk. 2:37). However, this seems weak in view of his reaction (vs. 35-40), and in view of the annual four days of mourning by the women of Israel for his daughter! Martin Luther's opinion was, "The text is too clear to admit of this interpretation." (Cf. similar wording in Gen. 22:2.) Here are some points to keep in mind:

The Law did forbid human sacrifice (Lev. 18:21; 20:2-5). And Jephthah seems to have had some knowledge of the Pentateuch (Jud. 11:12-28). However, these were certainly not days characterized by consistent Law-keeping (Jud. 17:6; 21:25). This also weakens the argument that no priest would officiate at a human sacrifice. There was an option in the Law of the monetary redemption of people dedicated to God by a vow. But Jephthah may not have known that, or may have realized it did not apply in this case. (Nor is there any law or precedent commuting an execution to temple service.) The father grieved that he must do as he said (vs. 35)--which was clearly to offer a "a burnt offering" (vs. 31).

Some suggest God would not have given the victory on the basis of such a vow. But there was nothing wrong with the vow per se, at least in terms of Jephthah's intention. Others object that Israel would not have annually commemorated such a sin (vs. 40). But the custom was to remember the fate of Jephthah's daughter, not the act itself. And this annual remembrance is rather an extreme measure for one who had simply gone to serve the Lord at the tabernacle. The focus on the girl's virginity (vs. 37, 38, 39) is not conclusive either. Her early death would mean she died childless, and Jephthah's family line would come to an end. That was a further tragedy.

Jephthah had a measure of faith in God (Heb. 11:32), and the Spirit of God worked through him (Jud. 11:29). But the same can be said for carnal Samson. These men lived in a crude and violent time, when the nation was in spiritual decline, and they often reflected that. Child sacrifice is wicked and repugnant. But it was practiced by the surrounding nations, and happened many times in Israel (II Kgs. 3:27; 16:3; 17:17; II Chron. 33:6; Jer. 7:31; 19:5; 32:35). Jephthah, the son of a harlot (vs. 1), lived as a renegade, with a band of "worthless men" (vs. 3, literally, sons of Belial, meaning Satan). He lived in a semi-pagan environment, in a time of lawlessness in Israel. This cruel adherence to a pledge suits the kind of "honour code" we might expect from bold and violent men.

Question: Glenn asks, "In John 3:13 it says, No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.' After the resurrection, was Christ still Man? And is He a Man today, in heaven, interceding for us at the Father's right hand?"

Answer: You quote an interesting verse. Let's deal with that first, and then with your questions. There are a few ancient (Alexandrian) manuscripts that omit the last few words. This has led some Bible versions (such as the NIV) to relegate the phrase "who is in heaven," to a footnote. But it does have good manuscript support, and is likely authentic. If so, it can be understood in one of two ways.

1) Possibly as a statement by Jesus indicating His omnipresence as God the Son. As deity, He is eternally everywhere at once. Though He sat conversing with Nicodemus (vs. 1), He was also present in heaven. That could be the sense of it. But there is a simpler explanation.

2) Red letter editions of the Bible commonly print the words of Christ in red. But though such editions may continue the teaching of Jesus in John Chapter 3 down to vs. 21, there is no real evidence that it did not stop with vs. 12. (John did not use quotation marks!) If the Lord's comments end earlier, the remainder would be an inspired commentary, given to us by the Apostle John. If that is the case (or even if vs. 13 alone is an interjection by the apostle), then John is simply informing us that, at the time he wrote his Gospel, Jesus had already ascended back into heaven.

Now, as to your specific questions, yes, Christ is still Man today--fully God and fully Man. As such He is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Heb. 1:3), on the Father's own throne (Rev. 3:21). In Paul's exhortation in First Timothy 6:13-16 he says of Christ that "[He] alone has immortality" (vs. 16). Mortality and immortality are strictly matters of the human body, not of spirit beings. Paul is saying that, so far, only Christ has immortality--i.e. a never-dying body. All others who were resuscitated (such as Lazarus) died again. But Christ "having been raised from the dead, dies no more" (Rom. 6:9). In that He "has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep [in death]" (I Cor. 15:20).

Paul readily speaks of the Lord Jesus as Man--without any indication he sees this humanity as something past and done. "The grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many" (Rom. 5:15). "Since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead" (I Cor. 15:21). Peter likewise speaks of Christ as "a Man" (Acts 2:22).

As to His present ministry, Paul does not say the Mediator between God and man is a spirit, but rather "the Man Christ Jesus" (I Tim. 2:5). Christ's resurrection body is a glorified body, as ours will one day be (Phil. 3:20-21; I Jn. 3:2), but it is no less a real human body. And it is in His glorified humanity that He will return for all to see. At His ascension, the angels said to the watching disciples, "This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11; cf. Matt. 24:30).

There is a mind-boggling dimension to the resurrection of Christ and His present human body. It is that this has been part of God's plan from eternity. The late theologian, Lewis Sperry Chafer comments as follows: "The humanity of Christ--His body, soul, and spirit--instantly became that which had been anticipated throughout all eternity, namely, perfect humanity glorified and exalted to the point that it was not only meet [fit] for heaven, but meet as well to be an integral part of the glorified theanthropic [God-Man] Person" (Systematic Theology, Vol. 5, pp. 244-245). That is, Christ's glorified humanity is fully harmonious with the revelation of His glorious perfection as the Son of God, as we shall know Him forever in the heavenly kingdom.

NEXT MONTH: A correspondent asks if there is any difference between regular faith and the gift of faith. The answer will help you to understand the true meaning of faith in God.


IDEAS FOR YOUR CHURCH

1) Planning a worship service each week involves thought and effort if it is to be effective. The go-with-the-flow approach may work for awhile, or on occasion, but it tends to dwell on feelings and be spiritually shallow. Further, it often produces an unfocused, shotgun approach, with elements of the service going in various directions. A new article called "Planning a Service" has been added to the Word-wise website. It provides dozens of tips for designing an effective Order of Service. It talks about the use of hymns, Scripture readings, special numbers, what to do with the announcements, how to close the service, and more. Though you may not agree with the approach in every case, you are bound to find some practical help in this article. Check out Planning a Service.

2) On the Website!--Interim Pastoral Ministry
Has the pastor of your church recently resigned? As well as beginning the search for a new undershepherd, have you considered the possibility of calling an interim man to minister for a shorter period of time? On the Wordwise website is an article called Interim Pastorates. Check out this practical material.

3) Also see, on the website, an article called 12 Keys to Good Music, giving you 12 biblical principles to evaluate the music in your life.

4) Is your church thinking of purchasing A NEW HYMN BOOK? Check out Choosing a Hymnal for Your Church on the website, for nearly three dozen excellent tips and ideas to help you make your choice.

5) Check out a Wordwise Bible study series to help seekers, or new Christians! A wonderful "review" for long-time believers as well! The free 10-part series is now available at Exploring Christianity.


VIEWS & REVIEWS

This month, we are recommending an older book (written in 1918) that is still in print because it continues to have relevance. "Spirituality," is much talked about in our day. But to many the word seems to refer to the emotional, intuitive part of our being. That usage is far from what the Bible means. Many years ago, theologian Lewis Sperry Chafer produced what has been called "a classic study of the doctrine of spirituality." He deals with various ministries of the Holy Spirit, and the three basic conditions to be met if one is to be truly spiritual. If you are looking for a sound, well documented, easily understood work on the subject, this inexpensive little book may suit your need. Get a copy of He That Is Spiritual.


If you have a question or an idea to share, please go to the Wordwise website and use the question form.

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