Monday, March 08, 2010

John 1:1-5

Take a moment now to pray and ask God to give you wisdom and insight.

John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:2: He was in the beginning with God.
John 1:3: All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
John 1:4: In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
John 1:5: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Verse 1 appears to present a paradox. How can something (the Word) be with something else (God) and be that something else (God) at the same time? I don’t know how to explain it; to be honest I don’t fully understand it. But the Bible makes it clear that it is true, so I am forced to accept it. There are other things in life that I’m forced to accept even though I don’t fully understand them. I don’t know whether you have studied the particle-wave duality of light yet, but once you do you’ll understand how it represents two apparently contrary statements being true at the same time.

Verse 2 identifies the Word as Jesus. This verse makes it clear that Jesus is not a created being; He is eternal just as God the Father is eternal.

Verse 3 reenforces the creation account. All things were made through Jesus. The second half of verse 3 may appear to be only repeating the beginning of the verse, but this is not the case. By saying that without Jesus nothing would have been made, John is stating that only Jesus is able to create the world. There are no equals with Jesus. Jesus is not one of many; He is the only Son of God.

The “life” in verse 4 means at least two things. First, it represents the eternal life which only Jesus can give. Second, it represents the full and abundant life which only Jesus can provide. We cannot find true satisfaction and fulfillment in anyone or anything other than Jesus. He alone is our hope. It’s very easy to look to things besides Jesus for fulfillment in life. Here are several things that people at college look to for fulfillment:

  • Grades. Many people look to their academic abilities for fulfillment. But grades can never satisfy for two reasons: First, you will fail at some tasks. Even if you maintain a 4.0 throughout college there will be someone else with a 4.0 who has done more or has a harder major or is just plain down smarter than you are. Second, even if you are a prodigy and are the smartest person in all of academia, what good does it do you? You’ll die just like everyone else. The worst thing that can happen at the end of your life is not that you fail to get what you wanted; it’s to get what you wanted and to realize it wasn’t what you really wanted the whole time.
  • Social standing. Many people look to their circle of friends for fulfillment. They find there identity is who respects and likes them. This can never fully satisfy. Even if you have the greatest friends in the world, what good will it do you? They (and you) are all going to die just like everyone else. This cannot provide lasting fulfillment.
  • Spouse. This is very common for both men and women. It’s very easy to start to find your identity in who you are married to. Don’t get me wrong, part of your identity is who you’re married to, but it shouldn’t be your defining identity. Don’t look for a guy or girl for complete satisfaction. To you guys out there, there’s not a girl in the world who can help you overcome your insecurities.
I don’t have time right now to finish and talk about verse 5. I look forward to continuing this discussion later. For now here is something to think about:

Where do you find your identity? What is the defining characteristic of your life? Describe yourself in 3 words. What are they?

Friday, March 05, 2010

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Hello, world!
It's been a while, but I'm back. Sorry for the very long delay. Over the course of the delay I came to the realization that there is virtually no way that I'm capable of maintaining this blog everyday. So I've decided to attempt to post once a week rather than once a day. Accordingly, I've decided to change the topic to one that is more suitable to a once-a-week format. The new topic will be "apologetics." I will be borrowing extensively from the AWANA elective: FAITH ON TRIAL as well as the lectures presented by Mr. R. I have received permission from Mr. R. to use his lectures, however I have not been given permission to use his name on the Internet. Thus, he will remain known only as Mr. R.

So without further ado, lesson 1:
Lesson 1: An introduction to apologetics.
This lesson is divided into 3 parts:
1. What apologetics is
2. Why a Christian should care about apologetics
3. How apologetics ought to be used

1. What apologetics is.
Wikipedia describes apologetics as: "[T]he field of study concerned with the systematic defense of a position." Christian apologetics is the study of the defense of the Christian faith utilizing logic, reasoning, and external evidence.

Word root:
Our English word "apologetics" originates from the Greek, 2-word term: APO-LOGOS.
The first word: "APO" means "against"
The second word: "LOGOS" means "word"
So the APO-LOGOS literally means "against-word" or a word against something formerly said.
Another form/tense (this is a foreign language) of the word is: apologia

In Roman courts of law the prosecution would present a "kategoria" as an accusation against the defendant. The defendant would then respond with his "apologia" as a defence. Apparently, the men who wrote The Bible were referring to a defensive action; apologetics is to be used to defend Christianity against the assaults of others. (Yes, I know that "a good defence is a strong offense," but that's beside the point.)

2. Why a Christian should care about apologetics.

The primary reason a Christian should be concerned about and study apologetics lies in 1 Peter 3:15
"but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;" (NASB)
The word "defence" in this verse is the Greek word "apologia." So, apparently Peter wanted the Christians he was writing to (and us) to be ready to give an "apologia" to those who challenge God's Word.

It is comforting to know that the early apostles practiced what they preached. Here are 2 examples that illustrate how Christians are to present their "apologia":
Paul presents his case and argues persuasively in Acts chapter 26. The word "apologia" is used in verse 2 when Paul states: "I make my defense."
Paul uses a cognate term when he mentions his "defence... of the Gospel" in Philippians 1:7

Clearly apologetics is pertinent to the Christian due to the fact that we are ordered to study it and to its usefulness.

3. How apologetics ought to be used
There are are several points a Christian must remember when utilizing apologetics in an evangelical setting.
-Do so in gentleness and reverence.
1 Peter commands us to do so with gentleness and reverence. Be gentle about presenting your case
-Don't be argumentative
Similar to the last point. It is very easy to transform a witnessing opportunity into a full scale argument. Don't! The person you are talking to will most likely go defensive and become very difficult to persuade.
-Keep the focus on the person you're talking to
In some formal settings this is impossible. However, in one-on-one conversations keep the focus on that person's relationship to Jesus, not on how you can prove something from the Bible is true. Apologetics is very useful for assisting a person overcome genuine doubts; it is usually very unproductive at persuading people who have already made up their minds and have no intention of changing their opinions.
-Don't be afraid to say "I don't know"
Just make sure that every time you admit that you don't know you follow up by saying, "But we can find out." Every argument a person can make against the Bible has already been made and disproven; the hard part is getting the answer to the person.
-Remember that only the Holy Spirit can lead a person to salvation!
This is extremely important! Even the best argument in the world won't convince anyone unless the Holy Spirit moves that person's heart. Don't be afraid to pause and pray with the person.

This concludes our first lesson on apologetics.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Sorry about the delay. I was delayed for longer than I planned to be. I intend to update soon.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Due to some circumstances beyond my control I won't be able to post on this blog for a week or two. Please don't consider this blog dead.
Feel free to leave me a comment or something!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

For the next step in our study of Timothy we'll be looking at 1 Timothy 1:3. I'm doing this section one verse at a time because these verses have so much inside them that doing more than one a post would be cumbersome. Enough about me though, let's look at the verse:
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer (NIV)

Start with the first phrase, "As I urged you when I went into Macedonia". Macedonia was a Roman province established in 146 B.C. Its economy focused on agriculture and livestock although some metals and other products such as timber and hemp were also exported. Important cities such as Thessalonica and Berea were situated inside of Macedonia. There's not much we can tell from this phrase other than that Paul wanted to visit Macedonia.

Moving on, we come to the clause "stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer". The main part of this verse it the section dealing with false doctrine. The greed word for "false" in this verse means "other". Paul was making simple for Timothy and for us; instead of leaving it up to us to determine whether a doctrine was true or not he gave us a simple test. If the doctrine in question didn't agree with what Paul had already taught, if it fit in the "other" category, then it was not to be taught at all. This also illustrates Paul's authority in teaching. Anything that opposed what he taught (given by God) was false.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

I'm hoping to spend the next couple of weeks taking a look at 1 Timothy. We'll start with 1 Timothy 1:1-2

1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,

2To Timothy my true son in the faith:
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (NIV)

Let's examine the first verse. It is a phrase (not a sentence) introducing Paul. In it he refers to himself as apostle of Christ Jesus. Calling himself an apostle is an interesting choice of words. Let's look at how Paul typically introduces himself:
  • 1 Corinthians, "called to be an apostle"
  • 2 Corinthians, "an apostle of Christ Jesus"
  • Galatians, "an apostle"
  • Ephesians, "an apostle"
  • Philippians, "servants of Christ Jesus" (Paul and others)
  • Colossians, "an apostle of Christ Jesus"
  • 1 Thessalonians, none
  • 2 Thessalonians, none
  • 1 Timothy, "an apostle of Christ Jesus"
  • 2 Timothy, "an apostle of Christ Jesus"
  • Titus, "a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ"
  • Philemon, "a prisoner of Christ Jesus"
Paul refers to himself as a prisoner of Christ 2/3 times. Clearly apostleship was important to Paul. And why wouldn't it be? He had seen Jesus on the road to Damascus. However, it is possible that Paul was referring to his apostleship in order to emphasize his authority. In other letters such as 1 Corinthians and Galatians* Paul had used his apostleship to reinforce his teaching.

Let's move onto the next verse:
To Timothy my true son in the faith:
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (NIV)
In this verse Paul states who the letter's intended recipient is and mentions a brief prayer for him. Paul and Timothy apparently had a father-son relationship between them. In 2 Timothy Paul again greets Timothy as his son. Paul didn't limit this sort of relationship to Timothy alone; he greets Titus as a son also**.
While playing the "father" role obviously made Paul the more respected of the two, Paul apparently didn't consider Timothy inferior. In 2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul refers to Timothy as his "brother". Paul understood the importance of unity in the Church.

The next section of the verse lists three things Paul wants Timothy to receive. Each item has special significance because Paul starts out the letter not by congratulating Timothy or asking how he was doing but by showing him what he needed from God.
  • Grace
    • Paul wanted Timothy to receive grace. Grace was important because Paul understood just how insufficient we sinful humans are. The very first thing Paul wanted Timothy to understand that he needed was grace. Grace is necessary even in the most "established" Christian.
  • Mercy
    • The prayer that Timothy needed mercy indicates that Timothy had sinned. People who don't sin doesn't need mercy. However, Paul does not mention any particular sin in 1 Timothy. One can surmise that Paul was not referring to any particular sin but was referring to typical sins that all humans make. Paul understood that everyone sins and prayed that Timothy would receive mercy.
  • Peace
    • The ancient church had it rough. The constant threat of persecution and the natural confusion of rapid expansion probably made a pastor's life stressful. Paul simply prayed that Timothy would receive peace.
What we can learn from this:
  1. Even the most "established" and "strongest" Christian needs daily grace.
  2. Everyone sins. Everyone needs mercy.
  3. Don't be afraid to pray for peace.
*1 Corinthians 9 and the beginning of Galatians
**Titus 1:4