Thursday, December 20, 2018
Did you know your name is not found in the New Testament? Has the thought ever crossed your mind that the writers were addressing people in their day and time rather than in yours and mine? Were real first century people being written to, or does the New Testament contain twenty-first century names? Are people in the cities of Dallas, San Francisco, Atlanta, or New York City being addressed? When a New Testament writer spoke of Jesus returning, did he think Jesus would return in his lifetime, ours, or some future generation a few thousand years from now?
When some twenty-first century students read their Bible, they believe the author of that specific book is personally addressing them. They read their culture, traditions, habits, understandings, comfort zone, and practices into his first century penmanship. Perhaps they assume they have the authority to ignore what is said then change it to what they believe? If Paul tells women to “adorn” or “dress modestly,” the twenty-first century reader overlooks Paul’s specific words describing immodesty (“not with braided hair or gold or pearl or expensive clothes”), and substitutes what his present cultural view is. He universalizes his concept of immodesty and teaches it as though his definition is more inspired than Paul’s. Then he charges another with falsehood whose definition is different from his!
If a first century practice is contrary to one’s cultural and belief system, the reader believes he is given a God authorized liberty to upgrade and make any substitutes necessary to bring the writer’s culture in line with his culture and comfort zone. He experiences no guilt in this exercise of substitution, subtraction and addition to the original biblical text. His manipulation miraculously exonerates the Biblical writer for not having the foresight to write it as the modern believer understands and practices. In the first century, slavery was regulated but not condemned. To soften this first century “mistake,” the reader visualizes the word “servant” or “slave” as an “employee” and “employer.”
If the reader is a pacifist, he assumes the Roman officer Cornelius resigned his commission and sold his sword. If an individual believes the communion must be marked with solemnity and silent respect, he disregards the discussions, disagreements, and arguments engaged in by the apostles. He also overlooks Jesus girding himself with a towel and basin of water to wash feet. Such actions are not new. Jesus’ revelation of his coming death was met with denials and disbelief from his closest associates. His revelation and illustration of who among them would betray him is ignored and separated from the eating and drinking performed during that occasion.
There is a tendency to glorify and elevate God’s approved individuals to a higher possession of respect and accomplishment than any mortal was capable of attaining. For example, David is remembered as the boy who killed the irreverent giant, who soothed the king’s schizophrenia with his magical harp, who was a man after God’s own heart, and made only one outstanding mistake in his entire life. Yet, Uriah is not the only person that lost his life due to David’s command. David not only had wives, but extra women called concubines. His coverups were better than President Nixon’s, and his hands so bloody that he was not allowed to build God’s holy temple. He numbered Israel and Israel paid the ultimate price.
Some read their Bible with twenty-first century reading glasses. John records Jesus telling the church in Philadelphia, “Behold, I come quickly” (Revelation 3:11). That city no longer exists in western Turkey. Did Jesus come as he promised the Philadelphians or was he guilty of making a promise which he could not keep? Three other times Jesus made that same statement (Revelation 22:7, 12, 20). It is related to the expression “at hand” concerning Jesus coming and setting up his kingdom (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 10:7; Luke 21:30-31; Romans 13:12; Philippians 4:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 1 Peter 4:7; Revelation 1:3; 22:10). If the reader looks up the words “at hand” he will see how inspiration used them in other events. Man has read those passages since the circulation of the New Testament manuscripts and applied them to his specific generation. In doing so, he negates the actual audience John and others were writing to. Did Jesus fulfill that statement to those they were written to, or did he, Paul, and others look over the heads of their present audience, and focus on a time in our day, or in tomorrow land? If those words apply to some future generation, then we and past generations have been guilty of participating in doctrinal error by thinking we were inspiration’s audience!
“I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:28).
“And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power” (Mark 9:1).
“I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:27).
- Who was Jesus’ audience when he spoke those words?
- Were the apostles the audience Jesus was speaking to, or an unknown and unnamed future generation some 2,200+ years later?
- Did Jesus make this statement, whose fulfillment was based upon the whims of Jesus audience during his ministry, and those whims would postpone that promise for 2,000+ years?
- Where in this statement did Jesus or the Holy Spirit express an idea of a 2,000+ year postponement?
- Were those mentioned as “standing here” not actually in Jesus’ audience when he spoke those words, but reserved for that future audience what would not die but see the actual kingdom come?
- Was the coming of the Holy Spirit in power on Pentecost in Acts 2 not the power Jesus was referring to on this occasion?
- How should the Holy Spirit have worded Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1, and Luke 9:27 for all future generations to understand that Jesus’ audience was the apostles and they were the ones who would see that fulfillment before dying?