Jesus is a Saviour, not a social worker


In the Matrix movies the inscription over the Oracle’s door is, “Temet Nosce”, which is Latin for “KNOW YOURSELF”.  This is a fundamental truth just as important as knowing God.  Have you thought about this basic question: What is a human being? Who are you?

The Atheist would say you are a complexity of molecules put together by time and chance, no more significant that a worm.

The Marxist Communist would say you are part of the inevitable march of history towards a classless society, where our innate goodness will overcome evil

The New Age Buddhist would say you are part of God, one with God and you just need to get in touch with your inner happy spirit.

The Secular Humanist would say you are a highly intelligent animal with the potential in yourselves to overcome all our problems through science, education and technology.

The post-modern Generation X would say, “who knows; no-one knows; let’s party till we forget the question.”

What does the Bible say? 

The Bible says that human beings are privileged creatures, created in the image of God, but are now fallen and corrupted in every area of their lives.

For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under (the power of) sin.  (Romans 3:9)

The Apostle Paul does not say in this verse that our big problem is that we commit sins and so bad things; he does not even say that the problem is that we are sinners; he says we are as human beings under the power of sin.

Know yourself

We are in bondage to sin; we are under the dominion of sin; sin is the evil dictator we cannot escape from; sin rules over us and condemns us.  If we are under sin’s bondage, what do we need in order to be freed?

We don’t primarily need a teacher – although Jesus taught and education is a good thing.

We don’t primarily need a healer – although Jesus healed many people.

We don’t primarily need more money – although Jesus was concerned for the poor.

We don’t primarily need a Christian government – although Jesus was concerned for good leadership.

We don’t primarily need a set of guidelines – although Jesus was concerned for holy living.

We don’t primarily need a social worker, although Jesus was concerned about social justice.

What we primarily need is a Saviour, a Rescuer.  And that’s what Jesus is and why Jesus came into our world.  Jesus died to bear the wrath of God on sin so that those who trust in him don’t have to.  Jesus died to free us from the consequences and power of sin.  That is the gospel.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Jesus in Luke 19:10)

What really matters

We as human beings can excel in halls of academia, thrill thousands with our beautiful songs, accumulate accolades, win gold medals, paint beautiful artworks or be the best performing CEO in the country, but if we remain in bondage to sin, we are destined for wrath (Romans 2:5) and eternal separation from God.

Of course, as followers of Jesus we must be very concerned about education, public health, improved living conditions, equal opportunities and social justice (like, famously, William Wilberforce) – especially in a country like ours with such a big divide between the have’s and have-not’s; because we are to love our neighbour as our self and are called to be salt and light in the world.  May God give us all a greater love for our fellow citizens created in the image of God.  But we realize that this must flow as a necessary result of believing the gospel and is not the gospel itself.  Jesus died to save us from God’s wrath, not to  give us a better life in this world.  Most of the disciples, like Jesus, were poor martyrs.

Know yourself.

Written by Andre Visagie. Originally posted here.

The most misquoted verse in the Bible

judging others Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1) is probably the most misquoted verse in the Bible.  This verse is being quoted many times by those who are for same-sex partnerships.  The typical comment on Facebook is: “Who are you to judge?  After all didn’t Jesus say, Judge not lest ye be judged.”  The assumption is that Jesus says we should never condemn another’s lifestyle as we are in no position to judge or evaluate.

Is that what Jesus meant?  Absolutely not.  Jesus was speaking against hypocrisy.  Jesus said in the rest of the passage:

For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:2-5)

Jesus said that by passing judgement on others or condemning others, his listeners just showed that they knew what was right and wrong behaviour.  Therefore they would be held accountable to that same high standard and we really condemning themselves.   Jesus said, “So you know what’s right and wrong, I will hold you to that very same standard.”

The Apostle Paul said the very same thing in Romans 2:

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.  We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.  Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? (Romans 2:1-3)

Some of the Romans, who condemned others, were practising (v1) “ the very same things”.

Human Nature

Are these verses not so true to human nature? We tend to be critical of everyone except ourselves.  We are often in a state of self-righteous indignation over the disgraceful behaviour of others – especially in our Facebook updates.   We gain satisfaction from condemning in others the very faults we excuse in ourselves.  Sigmund Freud called this “projection”, but the Bible calls it hypocrisy.  Jesus and the Apostle Paul argues that in becoming moral experts and condemning others, we only show that we know what’s right and wrong, and thus condemn ourselves more; as we “practise the very same things”.

You who condemn Jacob Zuma for the Nkandla money scandal: are you always meticulously honest in all your financial dealings?   You who carry on about corruption in government: Have you ever taken something not yours; misused work time; or influenced others in some way to your benefit or your children’s benefit?  You who condemn homosexual activity: Are you always 100% faithful to your wife – sexually, emotionally, and socially?  Do you never lust after other women?  Do you never view porn on the internet?


But please don’t misunderstand what Jesus said.  Jesus is not saying we can’t make an honest assessment of people based on their behaviour and lifestyle, as Jesus said in the very next verse:

 Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. (Matthew 7:6)

One has to make an assessment of another to know if that person is a “dog” or a “pig”.  Later on in the same passage Jesus says:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  (Mathew 7:15-17)

Recognise them by their fruit

Jesus said we can look at people’s fruit or lifestyle or behaviour or priorities or speech and make an informed assessment as to their spiritual condition.   Jesus said we can recognise or distinguish people based on their fruit.  Indeed, it’s a vital activity to identify, for example, “false prophets.”  Jesus and the Apostle Paul were not saying that we can’t make an evaluation of people based on lifestyle, but rather that we must not be hypocrites.  We must not condemn others for the very same things we do, as we only incur more judgment for ourselves.

So yes, Jesus says we can judge people according to their fruit.


Written by Andre Visagie, originally posted here.

Redefining Marriage

In June this year the United States Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for individual states to ban same-sex marriage. The court ruled that the denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and the denial of recognition of same-sex marriages, violates due process and the equal protection clauses of the fourteenth amendment. This was met with celebrations not only in America but around the world as a victory for freedom and equality. Although same sex marriage has been recognised in South Africa since 2006, the recent U.S decision has put the so called ‘marriage debate’ back on the agenda. However it also put many Christians on the back foot as conversations began again in earnest about why we were not joining in the celebrations. What follows is not so much a Christian defence of heterosexual marriage, but some reflections on the shift in culture surrounding the re-definition of marriage itself.

The movement for ‘marriage equality’ began the conversation by doing two very clever things. Firstly, it framed the debate in terms of equality. This immediately put the issue in the same category as civil rights, or in our context, the fight to end apartheid. Who would dare argue against such equality? The answer is, only bigots. By framing the debate in this way, they instantly demonized anyone who wasn’t on their side and ended any chance for an intelligent and thoughtful discussion.

The irony of course is that this simply breeds a new kind of prejudice. The definition of a bigot is someone who has strong and unreasonable beliefs who will not listen to or accept the opinion of anyone who disagrees with them. Without considering the arguments against so called ‘marriage equality’ the yes camp forms negative opinions about those who disagree simply because they disagree. And that in itself is prejudice.

Writing for the Sunday Independent, Brendan O Neill had this observation about those who voted to recognise same sex marriage in the recent Irish referendum. ‘The most striking thing about the yes camp has been it’s intolerance, it’s hostility to dissent, it’s demonization of its opponents, the casualness with which it wrote off swathes of Ireland as bigots and cretins, unfit for public life. This is the disturbing irony of the yes camp; it presents itself as the historic antidote to the backwardness of old Catholic Ireland, yet it rehabilitates, in updated lingo, the intolerance of old Ireland.’

As a result, Christians are under suspicion and accused of discrimination and even hate speech when they speak up in defence of marriage as defined by God in Genesis Ch 1-2 and later reaffirmed by Jesus in Matthew Ch 19. And yet it would be worth reminding those who take offense that disagreement is not the same as discrimination, and that love is not merely acceptence in order to keep the peace. Love is seeking what is best for others. And so as cultures and laws increasingly  ‘suppress the truth by their wickedness’ (Rom 1:18) Christians must continue to love their neighbours, both gay and straight, by offering the better way that is found in God’s word.

The second crafty thing the movement for marriage quality did was to assume the conclusion in the premise of the question. By calling gay marriage ‘marriage’ the conclusion had already been reached before the issue was even discussed. In doing this they managed to avoid the actual issue which was, ‘Should we redefine what marriage is?’ That was the fundamental question on the table which never got a proper hearing. The debate is not whether we should acknowledge the love that same sex couples have for each other, but that whether or not that love should be affirmed as marriage.

Marriage is an institution, a mechanism of social order that is designed to achieve a specific purpose. That purpose is to give legal space for one man and one women to have an exclusive sexual union that allows for the generation and raising of children which are recognised as their own. A theological purpose can also be added to this (for those who think theology matters), that marriage is a reflection of the union between Jesus Christ and his people, the church. The institution of marriage is therefore bigger than the concerns or motives of those who enter into it.

What this all means is that redefining marriage to include two people of the same sex actually destroys the concept of marriage altogether. It is an impossibility to talk of same sex marriage, just as it is impossible to talk about a man falling pregnant. Therefore redefining marriage cannot help homosexual couples achieve the ‘equality’ that they are hoping for, because it is no longer marriage they are entering into. Abraham Lincoln was credited with having asked the question, ‘If we should call the dog’s tail a leg, how many legs would it have? To those who answered, ‘five’ he pointed out that the true answer was four; calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one. The same is true of renaming same sex partnerships ‘marriage’. 

Christians must always love their neighbours, gay or straight. Christians must recognise that everyone is made in the image of God and are therefore to be treated with dignity and respect. Christians do not get to choose who they will share the word of life with, it was because God so loved the whole world that he sent his son to die on the cross. But Christians must also speak the truth in love, even when it is unpopular.   

Written by Scott Tubman

The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position or standpoint of the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa.

The Old Testament and Snow White (Why we need the New Testament)

Snow white To cheer you up (he said tongue-in-cheek), I thought I would tell you the original ending of the Snow White fairy tale.  As you know, the new Queen, who is the wicked stepmother, is jealous of snow white’s beauty and orders a huntsman to take Snow White into the deepest woods to be killed. As proof that Snow White is dead, the Queen demands that he return with her lungs and liver. The huntsman takes Snow White into the forest. After raising his knife, he finds himself unable to kill her and leaves her behind alive, convinced that the girl would be eaten by some wild animal. He instead brings the Queen the lungs and liver of a young boar, which is prepared by the cook and eaten by the Queen.  Snow White survives, is taken care of by dwarfs and ends up engaged to a prince.  The newly engaged couple invite every queen and king to come to the wedding party, including Snow White’s stepmother.  At the wedding, to her horror, the stepmother is forced to put on red-hot iron-shoes and dance until she drops to the floor, dead. That’s not quite the ending that Walt Disney gave us.*

This past Sunday our church came to the end of our series in the book of Joshua and the question we asked was: how does the story end?  Is it a happily-ever-after ending with God’s people living in God’s land under God’s rule or not?


After Joshua and the Elders of Israel die, the book of Judges tells us that Israel turned to follow false gods and did not serve the LORD.  In later years God was true to his warning and took them out of the Promised Land because of their ongoing rebellion and sin; the story did not end well.  Why not?


The answer has not changed since the Garden of Eden.  The story has a bad ending because of sin; we are naturally biased against God; our hearts are inclined away from God and not towards God.


What’s the solution?  We need new hearts.

The Book of Common Prayer has an insightful response as part of the Morning Prayer service that speaks to this exact dilemma:

Minister: O Lord, save your people

Congregation: And bless your inheritance

Minister: Give peace in our time, O Lord.

Congregation: Because there is none other that fights for us, but only you, O God.

Minister: O God, make clean our hearts within us.

With the coming of Jesus God promises his people “new hearts” that are inclined towards God.

Titanic letdown

The entire Old Testament story is actually a great tragedy without the New Testament.  The Old Testament is like the voyage of the Titanic; it ends badly.  The Old Testament is really designed to bring us to despair and to ask ourselves: How can God dwell with us? How can sinful and strayinghearts be dealt with?  How can we ever be faithful?

New heart

Many years after the book of Joshua, another Joshua was born.  In Greek his name is pronounced Jesusand he comes in the fulfilment of many Old Testament prophecies.  Jesus, as the New Testament tells us, did all the things we could not do.  His heart was always inclined towards God and always obeyed God’s Word.  When Jesus died, he died as the just penalty for our sin, not his; he died for our straying hearts, not his.

Jesus was the true Israelite.  Jesus represented all that Israel should have been.  In Jesus, through faith in God’s Promise, we receive God’s righteousness.  God gives us Jesus’ righteousness so that when God looks at us he sees Jesus’ sinlessness.  Not only that, God gives us new hearts and new affections that want to serve him, honour him and obey him. Now, we as God’s people, look forward to our Promised Land – the new heavens and the new earth.  The Bible tells us that the real story ends well for Christians.  We will indeed live happily-ever-after, because of Jesus.

* Thanks to Lee Marshall and his talks on the book of Joshua at the 2007 Mid-Year Conference for alerting me to this good illustration.

Written by Andre Visagie, orignially posted here.

Knowing God's Will

Christians are forever wanting to know what God’s specific will is for their lives.  Should I take the new job?  Should I marry this person?  Which church should I attend?  To which school should I send my children?  The list goes on.

It’s interesting what Paul says about God’s will in Romans 1:9-10:

“I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.”

Notice that not even the great Apostle Paul, author of the letter to the Romans, knows what God’s specific will is for his life and travel plans.   As John Stott says, “Paul’s attitude is that of humility; he does not presume to impose his will on God, nor to know what God’s will is.”

Instead, the Apostle obeys God’s Word as best he can, makes the wisest decisions he can based on the priority of the gospel (cf. v8-17), and trusts that God’s good will, will come to pass.

He says, “If I come to you, it will be God’s will” and “If I don’t come to you, that will also be God’s will.”

Do you want to know what God’s specific will is for a particular situation?  Obey the Bible as best you can, keep the gospel of Jesus in the forefront of your mind, make a wise decision, and leave the outcome to God.


Written by A. Visagie, orignially posted here.

Perspective - Of first Importance

For what I received, I passed on to you as of first importance…”1 Corinthians 15:3

As Christians we don’t often think about the gospel as a ‘tradition’ – indeed that word may make us feel quite uncomfortable when it comes to talking about Christianity. We are accustomed to using the word ‘tradition’ with reference to man-made religion and to speak about the gospel in terms of ‘relationship’ rather than religion or tradition. And at one level of course this discomfort about the word tradition is quite understandable. For did not Jesus Himself rebuke the religious elite of His day because they held onto their religious traditions and so doing set aside the Word of God (see Mark 7:6-8)?

What Jesus had in mind was of course religious rules that were man-made and which had become more important than what God had said. Properly understood however there is a sense in which the gospel itself not only can but must be thought about as a tradition. And it is this that Paul has in mind when he described the gospel as something which he had received and which he had in turn passed on to them. If we think about it carefully we realise that this language (receiving and passing on) is language describing tradition, gospel tradition - a tradition which Paul considered to be of the first importance not only for the Christians in Corinth but for all Christians everywhere.

First and foremost, Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand that the gospel was thus not something which he had made up. Rather it was something which he received. Paul was a gospel preacher, but he was certainly not a gospel inventor. This is the point that Paul is driving home when he uses the phrase “according to the Scriptures” in verses 3-4 of 1 Corinthians 15. The gospel that he preached and which the Corinthians believed was a gospel that began with God and His Old Testament promises, promises which would be fulfilled in the Christ who would die for our sins and rise again on the third day. In other words, the gospel has its own content, a content which is determined by God, not by us. And this means of course that no-one, not even the apostle Paul, has the right to change the content of the gospel. And this is a matter of great importance for us to remember in an age in which the content of the gospel is so unpopular.

Second, Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand that the gospel had to be received as it is, not as they would like it to be. The gospel which they received from Paul (verse 1) was the gospel that Paul had received (verse 3). Paul had preached it to them just as it had come to him and they were to receive it in full just as he had preached it to them. And so it is for us. We may not pick and choose which bits of the gospel we will receive or which we will reject. People may not like to think about themselves as sinners or to talk about sin, but the gospel tells us that we are and that Christ died for our sins. People may be sceptical about the idea of the resurrection of Jesus but the gospel declares that He rose again on the third day. Indeed for Paul, this is a matter of first importance, for he tells the Corinthians that it is this gospel alone which has the power to save and that it is this gospel to which they must hold firm (verse 2). According to Paul, to believe a gospel which is different from the traditional gospel, the gospel that was received and passed on is to believe in vain (verse 2)!

Third, and this is something of the very greatest importance for us to understand, the way in which this gospel about the death and resurrection of Jesus is powerful to save in every generation is by it being received and preached so that it might be received and preached. The gospel we have today is the same “according to the scriptures” gospel that Paul received. It is this gospel and no other which still saves people today. It is this gospel which has saved us if we have indeed received it, believed it and taken our stand upon it. But this gospel which we have received must in turn be preached by us so that it may be received by others. When Christ died for sins and rose again, he did it not just for one generation of sinners but for all, Paul, the Corinthians, for us and for the generations that are yet to come. Every new generation is the guardian of this same gospel which we have received. And the best way to guard the gospel in our own day it is to proclaim it so that others might hear and believe and proclaim.

Written by Mervyn Eloff. Originally posted here.


When the Spirit comes…

15789_Holy_Spirit.When the Spirit comes He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgement…” John 16:8

The words quoted above were spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ to His disciples on the eve of His arrest, trial and execution by the Roman authorities. They are words which in their context in John’s gospel looked forward to an event which lay in the future, the giving of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. They are important words and surprising words for they speak about the work of the Holy Spirit, not within the Church, but within the world at large. They are words which were intended for the disciples, words designed to assuage their grief at the news that Jesus was about to die, words intended to build their faith and strengthen their resolve to keep standing for Christ in a hostile world and to keep witnessing for Christ to a lost world.

Notice firstly that Jesus spoke these words as part of His promise to send the Holy Spirit to the disciples and thus to His church. Having told them that it is for their benefit that He returns to His Father, Jesus assures His disciples that His departure is for their good (John 16:7). He then goes on to explain this remarkable statement by teaching them that the Holy Spirit can only come to them, if He goes away. And the reason for this is quite clear, for in John 14-16 it is both Jesus and the Father who send the Holy Spirit. Thus in John 14:16 the Father sends the Spirit at the request of the Son so that the Spirit is sent ‘in the name of Jesus’ (14:26). And in John 15:26 and 16:7 it is Jesus who sends the Spirit ‘from the Father…to His disciples’. Thus it follows that the Spirit can only be sent by the Father and by Jesus once Jesus has returned to the Father to make His request and to take up the position of authority on the basis of which He can send the Spirit.

Notice secondly that when the Spirit comes to the disciples and the church He (the Spirit) will convict the world (16:8)! This as we noted above is an extraordinary statement and one that requires some careful thought on our part. How can the Spirit given by Jesus to his disciples convict the world? The answer must surely lie in the fact that in John 14-16 the Holy Spirit is pre-eminently called ‘the Spirit of Truth’ (14:17; 15:26; 16:13). Thus the coming of the Spirit to the disciples will not only guide them into the truth (16:13) and enable them the record the truth (i.e. the teaching of Jesus – 14:26). He will also enable and empower them to declare the truth to the world. And it is through this declaration of gospel truth that the Spirit will convict and convince the world (16:8).

Notice thirdly of what the Spirit will convict the world through the proclamation of the truth. Jesus says that the Spirit will ‘convict the world of guilt’ (vs8). Although this clause could be interpreted as ‘expose the shame of the world’ or ‘expose the legal guilt of the world’ it most likely refers to that inner conviction which leads to a sense of being in the wrong and thus of the need for repentance. In particular there are three areas in which the world is in the wrong and of which the Spirit will convict people by the proclamation of the gospel.

First, the world is guilty of the sin of unbelief with respect to Jesus and thus in the wrong in its rejection of Jesus. Second, the world is guilty in that its own view of what is right (righteousness) is completely different from that of God’s righteousness. People naturally believe that they are in the right and their own sense of righteousness leads them to see Jesus as just another man whose particular saving work they do not need. But Jesus’ resurrection and ascension (His return to the Father – vs 10) show that it is He who is righteous not the world. Finally the world is guilty because its judgement of Jesus is false. The world passes judgement on Jesus and fails to see that in His death Jesus is in fact judging the world. The world is blinded by the evil one and thus is blind to the fact that in the death of Jesus the evil one is condemned. The world is thus in grave danger of sharing the fate of evil one whose views of Jesus it shares.

Given the sin, the self righteousness and the false judgement of the world with regard to Jesus, what hope is there that people within the world can indeed be brought to faith in Christ? The answer is that the only hope for the world lies in the powerful work of God’s Holy Spirit through the truth of the gospel. And in this regard, what a great promise Jesus has given to His people. For He has promised that as we, for all our own weakness, seek to speak gospel truth about Him, the Holy Spirit which He and the Father have sent will convict the world of its guilt and lead it to repentance and faith.


Written by Mervyn Eloff

The Good to many

“For I am not seeking my own good but the good of the many…” 1 Corinthians 10:33

Taken out of context, this important statement by the Apostle Paul is hard to understand for it raises a number of questions that cannot be answered on the basis of the statement taken by itself. For example, is this statement simply a description of Paul’s own pattern of life or is it a prescription that every believer in Jesus must follow? What precisely does Paul mean by ‘the good’? Why should ‘the good of the many’ outweigh the good of the individual? Does such a statement not fly in the face of individual rights? And if so, should such a point of view be supported? Where does God fit into the equation since it is surely impossible to talk about ‘the good’ in terms which do not refer to what God calls ‘good’? Placed in their context in 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1 however, Paul’s words are quite simple to understand and are of the utmost importance for each believer and for every local church.

First, we note that Paul qualifies the ‘good of the many’ with the words ‘that they may be saved’. The ‘good of the many’ for which Paul is working hard is the salvation of the many through faith in Jesus Christ. Since Paul himself is however already a saved person, his own ‘good’ cannot refer to his own salvation, but must refer to something else. This potential confusion surrounding different uses of the word ‘good’ in the English translation is resolved by noting that the word that Paul uses here literally means ‘benefit’ or ‘advantage’. Paul is thus saying that in all things he does not act for his own benefit or advantage but for the advantage of the many, namely their salvation through Christ.

Second, we note that the ‘many’ in this paragraph refers to a wide variety of people whom Paul identifies as “Jews, Greeks, and the church of God” (vs 32). Thus in all his actions, Paul is thinking hard about the salvation of very different people groups and more particularly about what it would take for these various groups to hear and accept the gospel message. Paul’s primary concern as he tells us in verse 32 is that he does not want to cause anyone to stumble because of his conduct. The word ‘stumble’ that Paul uses here refers to someone being caused to turn away from the gospel or to not believe the gospel because a deadly obstacle has been put in their path. For those opposed to the truth, the truth itself can be an obstacle, but Paul is not talking about that here. He is referring to behaviour with regard to disputable matters such as food and drink which, while not a matter of right or wrong in themselves, could for a variety of reasons cause people either to reject the gospel or to turn back from following Jesus. In such matters Paul was always quick to give up his freedom and his rights for the gospel good of others. Notice that Paul includes the ‘church of God’ in the list. He does this because he is concerned not just that people begin as Christians but that they finish well.

Third, we note Paul’s overarching concern for the ‘glory of God’. The paragraph begins with Paul reminding the Corinthians (and us) that all things, even the so-called ordinary things of life, can and should be done for God’s glory. This is a wonderful truth, one that reminds us that all of life is worship to God. This was one of the great truths rediscovered at the time of the Protestant Reformation and is one of the reasons why we can describe ‘ordinary work’ as a calling. But this reference to the glory of God is very important in the context of Paul’s statement that he wants to ‘please everybody in every way’ (vs 33). It limits what we understand by the verb ‘please’ and tells us that Paul was not a person pleaser in the wrong sense of those words – simply saying or doing what made people happy in an attempt to be liked by them or to have an influence on them. And it reminds us that though Paul was keen to compromise on non-essentials, he would never do or say anything that was contrary to what the Lord had said or that would bring dishonour to the Lord’s name. Paul’s pleasing of people had to do with his willingness to compromise on his own personal freedoms for the sake of the gospel, not on the gospel itself.

In conclusion then, we should note four key lessons from this brief but important paragraph of 1 Corinthians: First we learn that the Glory of God is paramount and that we are to live for God’s glory in everything we do. Second we learn that the salvation of people is of great importance to God and that we are to do everything in our power to act for the ‘good of the many’. Third we learn that our personal freedoms and rights are not nearly as important as we think they are. Indeed on a scale of importance the salvation of others is far more important than us having things our own way in life or at church. Like Paul we should be eager to give up our rights and preferences for others. Fourth, we learn that this gospel way of life is not an optional extra but a fundamental calling. Like Paul we are to live for ‘the good of others’ because this is precisely what the Lord Jesus Himself did, setting us an example to follow for the glory of God and the salvation of the world.

Written by Mervyn Eloff. Originally posted here.

Are you trying to domesticate God?

22301_Victory_in_Tough_Seasons_BG copy

Ever wonder if you are domesticating God? Andre answers below to shed some light on the topic.

Dog breeding has become a science. Once ferocious wild dogs and wolves have, over the centuries, been bred into domesticated, loveable pets that sit on your lap and sleep on your pillow.   We have even bred dogs for specific purposes.  The greyhound was bred for speed.  The sheepdog was bred to herd sheep.  The dachshund or badger dog was bred in Germany to fetch small animals from their burrows.  Like the pit bull, bulldogs were originally bred to help butchers control livestock.  The Yorkshire terrier was bred just to look cute (I think).  We have taken wild animals and domesticated them to serve our own purposes.

Domesticating God

We try and do the same thing with God.  Either some say that God does not really exist; but the human mind wants something depend or give it meaning, so we have invented the notion of “god” to feel better about ourselves.  Or others will say that certainly God does exist but then worship a “god” made in their own image.  Normally this “god” is very politically correct, has no concept of sin and everyone gets to go to heaven except Hitler.

This god loves every one of all religions because he is in all religions; and how dare you say any different?

So we have domesticated God to suit our own opinions.

Taming God

Even Christians, who worship the God of the Bible, are tempted to do the same.  We might not like the idea of judgment and hell so much, so we’ll skip over those passages and only talk about love, flowers and inner healing.  Or we tend to think that God exists to make my life better and more comfortable.  In other words, God exists really to serve me.  So I’ll serve God as long as he serves me and fits in with my plans for my career, my children, my marriage and my money.  If God stops serving me, maybe I’ll stop serving him – so he better watch out.

Praying to God

If you think we don’t do this, simply examine your prayer life.  What do you pray for?  Normally we pray about a good job, safety on the road and about having a happy day.  It’s not wrong to pray for these things – Jesus said we can pray about anything – but our prayers must end with: “your will be done, not mine”.

Controlling God

Does God exist to serve me or do I exist to serve God?   We try to domesticate, tame and control God in all kinds of ways.  Yet the God of the Bible won’t and can’t be domesticated, tamed or controlled.  Whatever you may think or not think about God does not change who he truly is.  God has revealed himself through his Word and the question is not, “Is God on your side?” but, “Are you on God’s side?”

Joshua’s lesson

Joshua learnt this lesson in chapter 5 of the book that bears his name.   The Israelites had arrived in the Promised Land, but there’s a massive problem – other nations are living in the land.  The Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Amorites etc.  How are they going to conquer the land?

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. (5:13)

Joshua looks up and sees a warrior in an aggressive stance.  We know his is a warrior because he has a sword.  We know he is in an aggressive stance because the sword is drawn.  I’m not sure who Joshua thinks the warrior is at this stage, but the warrior is no doubt powerful, ominous and not to be trifled with.  Joshua asks a very common-sense question.

“Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” (5:13)

Joshua is a warrior himself; want to know who’s side this other warrior is on.  He asks, “Are you on our side or one the people of Jericho’s side?”  The warrior’s reply is terribly frightening:

“No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” (5:14)

The warrior says, “I’m neither on your side, nor anyone else’s, but I am the captain of the army of God.” Often God is described in the Old Testament as the Lord of “hosts” or “armies”.   The “hosts” are the thousands upon thousands of angels in heaven at God’s service. They are the heavenly army.   Here is a great warrior and he tells Joshua that he’s neither for Israel or for their enemies.  He is the commander of the army of the Lord and he has come.   Joshua is not to be too concerned with the problem of conquering the nations living in the land.  Why not?  Commander of God’s army has arrived.

Taking sides

The question is not so much, “Is God on your side?” because God is on no-one’s side; he’s on his own side. The question is, “Are you on God’s side?”  Often we make our own plans, own decisions and own arrangements and then we ask God to “bless” them.  More fundamentally, we should first make sure our life and plans align with God’s plan as revealed in the Bible.

Trusting God

Jericho (Joshua ch. 6) was devoted to total destruction because of it’s sin and rebellion again God (cf. Genesis 15:13-16).  God will not be domesticated.  He is the Holy God and will judge all sin and rebellion against him.  The good news of the Bible is that Jesus died for sin so that God’s judgment may pass over all who trust in him.  When we try to domesticate God in any way, we do it to our own detriment.


This was originally posted here.

How did we get the Bible?

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 8.32.53 AMAndre answers the question of how we got the Bible.

bibleWilliam Tyndale grew up in England in the 1500’s. Back then ordinary people did not own Bibles; they had to go to church to hear what the Bible had to say.   The church, at the time, believed that only the Pope and priests were educated enough to understand and interpret the Bible.   But there was a problem, the only version of the Bible tolerated in England was Jerome’s Latin translation which dated back to the 4th century and most of the priests could not understand Latin.

William Tyndale felt that God was calling him to translate the Bible into English so that all people, ordinary people, could read it for themselves.  God had given William a gift for languages and graduating from Oxford University he had mastered seven languages including Hebrew and Greek, the original languages of the Bible.  However, translating the Bible was against the law.

William famously said,

“I defy the Pope and all his laws. If God spare my life, after many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scripture, than he does.”

William fled to Germany and continued translating the scriptures and smuggled the Bibles into England.  Families put their money together to buy a Bible and read the Word of God for the first time in their own language.  The religious leaders and the king were livid and tried to destroy as many copies as they could.  A spy betrayed William and he was jailed, charged with heresy and sentenced to death by burning.

The last thing we know about William Tyndale is that he was led through a crowd into the public square. A noose was placed around his neck and his last words were, “God please open the King of England’s eyes.” He was then hanged and his body was set alight.  Within one year of William’s death, the King of England gave approval for an English Bible to be published – King Henry eighth’s “Great Bible” – and Tyndale’s version was used as a guide for the new translation.

The Bible is the great authority for Christians.  In reality what the Bible says to Christians, it also says to the entire world, for God is God of the entire world.  In the Bible we learn about the human condition, our need for salvation, God’s plan through Christ, the everlasting joy that awaits those who trust in Jesus, and more.  “How did we get the Bible?” We’ll look at four key areas: inspiration, canonization, transmission and translations.

Misconceptions about the Bible

  1. Some people think the Bible was written at one time, like someone writing a bestselling novel. No, the 66 books of the Bible were written over 1400 years by over 40 authors in 3 languages, yet with one unifying, consistent message culminating in Christ.
  2. Another misconception about the Bible is that it was written by a select few to gain power and influence. However, the opposite it true. More often than not, those men God used to author his word were frowned upon, ostracized, persecuted and killed.
  3. Another misconception is that there are many different Bibles so we cannot be sure the one we read is the right one.

1. Inspiration

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

In this verse, the term “all Scripture” refers to the Old Testament as the New Testament was in the process of being written.  “Breathed out by God” translates a Greek word (theopneustos) that does not occur in any other Greek text prior to this letter.  The term stresses the divine origin of Scripture.  Paul does not so much point to the human authors of Scripture as inspired people but says that the writings themselves are the words spoken (“breathed out”) by God.  The divine origin of Scripture is the reason for its power to convert unbelievers and grow believers in the faith.

 “…No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21)

These verses again explain the origin of the Old Testament Scripture, namely that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation or understanding, but rather, that “all prophecy of Scripture” came about from the Holy Spirit’s leading – men spoke from God carried along by Holy Spirit.

Kevin DeYoung wrote in his book, “Taking God at his Word”:

We do not follow myths. We are not interested in stories with nice morals to them. Nothing in all of the Bible was produced solely by the human will. God used men to write the words, but these men did their work carried along by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is an utterly reliable book, an unerring book, a holy book, a divine book.

Inspiration means that human writers were inspired by God to record accurately what God wanted them to write.  It does not mean that God took control of people in the sense of some occultic practice like automatic writing.  It means that their writings were divinely inspired and recorded.   The Bible was written by real people, living in real places, recording real events, and also communicating what God wanted to communicate.

What about the New Testament, is it also inspired?

15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:15-16)

Here the Apostle Peter refers to the Apostle Paul’s writings as Scripture.  The Bible, Old and New Testament, is not the thoughts of humans about God, but the written word of God to us.

How did the church put the Bible together?

2. Canonization

The process of canonization has to do with what writings were deemed inspired and thus included in the biblical canon.   The word canon is a reference to a measuring reed or standard by which something is measured.   When referring to the Bible, a canon has to do with genuinely inspired writings by which all else can be judged.

Old Testament canon

The Old Testament written in Hebrew and consists of 39 individual books.  By time of Jesus the Old Testament canon was recognised as divinely inspired and Jesus affirmed this truth.  For example, inMatthew 19:4-5 Jesus said that the Old Testament is God’s words.

He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, (Jesus was now going to tell them what God said and then quotes Genesis 2.24)  ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?

The implication could not be any plainer: for Jesus, what the Old Testament said, God says.  Jesus believed in the inspiration of the Old Testament and therefore so should we.   Jesus affirmed the human authorship of the Old Testament Scriptures while at the same time pointed to it’s divine authorship.

New Testament canon

Following the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, the apostles and their associates wrote documents that came to be confirmed as inspired Scripture.  The New Testament was written in Greek and consists of 27 individual books.  Several criteria were necessary in order for a writing to be included.  First, the document in question had to conform to the “rule of faith” i.e. it was consistent with what God had already revealed.  Second, the document required some sort of apostolicity – written by an apostle commissioned by Christ or a close associate.   Third, the document had widespread acceptance in the church.  The New Testament came to be recognized very soon.  Yet, we must remember, the church did not choose the books of the New Testament.  The church recognizedand affirmed the writings that were inspired by God.  F.F. Bruce writes:

“The early Christians were not exceptionally intelligent people, but they did have the capacity to recognise divine authority when they saw it…When at last a Church Council – the synod of Hippo in A.D. 393 – listed the 27 books of the New Testament, it did not confer upon them any authority which they did not already possess, but simply recorded their previously established authority.”

3. Transmission

“Transmission” has to do with how the contents of the Bible were transmitted through history – how copies of the original writings came down to us.  If the record of transmission is poor, then the Bible we have is highly suspect.  But if the record of transmission is rich, then we have great cause for trusting the Bible.  Providentially, the transmission of the Biblical documents through history is astounding.   In the case of the New Testament we have thousands of manuscript copies, as well as thousands more fragments or portions of the New Testament.  The Old Testament is much the same.


Getting our present day Bible was a painstaking process of copying.  Long before the printing press of the 15th century, copies of Scripture had to be preserved by meticulously copying one letter at a time. The Bible we hold in our hands or on our Samsung tablets is only because people faithfully over several centuries copied the text to replace worn out copies.   These copies were not perfect, but the fact we have so many manuscripts allows us to reproduce the text with an excellent level of certainty.  Good Bible translations let you know where there are differences by having a note in the margin that says “alternate reading” with the variant noted.   In no case do these minor differences impact the overall teaching of the Bible.

4. Translations

Some people say, “Look at how many versions of the Bible are available today. How do we know which is the right one?”

Because the Bible the Bible was written in Hebrew, Greek and a little Aramaic, it needs to be translated for various people groups to read it.   Some translations are very literal and are good for studying, and are known as “word for word” translations.  Other translation or versions translate ideas more that individual words, they are “thought for thought” translations – they are good for reading out loud.  In all these different versions or translations of the Bible the message of the Bible stays the same.

As we study language and the history of words more, the Bible’s one meaning, rather than being lost in translation, is becoming even clearer.


Because the Bible is God’s word, some implication necessarily follow:

The Bible is true; not myth or legend.

The Bible is reliable; you can base your life and future on it.

The Bible is inerrant; it cannot contradict itself or contain untruths because God cannot contradict himself or lie.

The Bible is authoritative; because it is God’s breathed out word it must be our highest authority; not the latest best-selling novel or psychological insight.

The Bible is clear.  God has chosen to reveal himself and because God is good he reveals himself in a way we can understand.  Therefore the Bible is clear and understandable.  Of course, some sections of the Bible are harder to understand than others (cf. 2 Peter 3:15-16!) – but the overall message of the Bible is very plain and clear.


William Tyndale died so we can have the Bible in English.  Present day there are over 500 languages with the full Bible and nearly 1300 languages with the New Testament. Over 4000 languages have no Bible in their language at all.


This was originally posted here.