Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Abraham is the "father of many nations," the "father of circumcision," and is described as the "father of all those who believe" (Romans 4:12, 16-17) by Paul. All of God's children, whether under the New Law or the Old Law, look to Abraham as one example of what it takes to be faithful. Even people in our day and time look to Abraham. Despite the overwhelming number of people that look to Abraham as an example, all of those who look to him do not agree as to why they look to him. There are many that look to Abraham as an example of great faith. No one would dispute this fact but many take the example to the next level and use him to promote faith alone. Others look to Abraham as an example of salvation by works. These two groups are constantly at odds with one another. Is one right and the other wrong? Maybe both are right or both are wrong.

In Romans 4, Paul uses Abraham as an example of faith. "What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness" (Romans 4:1-5). Paul clearly states that Abraham "believed and it was accounted to him for righteousness." This is a quote from Genesis 15:6. In the book of James, the writer uses this same reference differently. "But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:20-26). These two writers seem to be contradicting one another! How can they be quoting the same verse and use it in two different ways?

Like all things in life, to understand the meaning of what is written we must consider the context. In Romans 4, Paul is trying to convince the Jews that they need the gospel. He has spent two whole chapters, chapters two and three, bringing up evidence of their need for Jesus, and in the fourth chapter he is continuing to prove their need. The Jew would, and still does, hold Abraham in very high regard. He uses his example to show them that he was saved before circumcision and the law. These two things were the hardest parts for the Jew to let go of to become a Christian. In Genesis 15, Abraham was reckoned righteous before he was circumcised. He had not yet become the father of the circumcised, so something else had to have save him: God's grace and his faith. Abraham did nothing to earn his righteousness. God gave it to him based on his faith. How did Abraham prove to God that he had such great faith?

This is where James comes in. In the context of James 2, James is rebuking all of the hypocrites that claimed to have faith but did not work. He shows their hypocrisy with how they treated the poor and is further showing their lack of faith by turning to the "father of all those who believe." As the Hebrew writer shows in Hebrews 11, Christians held Abraham in high esteem also and would have looked to him as an example. James points out that it wasn't until Abraham was willing to work that God made him righteous. Without works, it is impossible to prove faith's existence. Abraham's faith in God and His power is what caused him to offer Isaac. Without faith, he would have refused to kill the son of promise, and without offering Isaac, he would have proven his lack of faith.

These two authors are not contradicting one another. In fact, they are proving the same point. Paul proves that without God's grace and our faith we cannot be saved. James proves that it is impossible to have faith in God without showing it in your works. Paul's use of the word "works" is not be read as "obedience." The works referred to in Romans is the works of the Old Law. He takes the first eleven chapters of his letter to the Romans to prove to them that the Old Law and all of its works, such as circumcision, must be set aside. James is not trying to prove that works alone saves but that faith and works together are what pleases God. Just like our body and our spirit. When the two are together life can exist, but without one or the other only death can exist.

Jeremy Ferguson

Friday, December 26, 2008

"Partakers of the divine nature"

In 2 Peter 1:3-4, Peter outlines the fact that God has given to us "exceeding great and precious promises." Through these promises, we have the ability to be "partakers of the divine nature." This in essence means that we become like God as a result of obedience to Christ and development in the graces or virtues of being a Christian (vss. 5-11).

In practice, this means that we will make decisions like Christ would make, for His nature has become "second nature" to us. This reminds me of a popular slogan back in the 90s: WWJD, or What Would Jesus Do? Although variations of this phrase have been used for centuries, WWJD was developed from Charles Sheldon's 1986 book, In His Steps which was subtitled "What Would Jesus Do?"

Although I personally have never been big on wearing clothing or jewelry with religious themes, the idea promoted by the aforementioned question is sound. Because Christians are partakers of the divine nature, we do not engage in sinful activities; we have become dead to them (Romans 6:7). We live a pure, righteous life so that everyone might be able to see us and know that we are living for Jesus (Matthew 5:16).

Kyle Campbell

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"I myself also am a man"

In the account of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10, when Peter came to the house, Cornelius "met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshiped him" (vs. 25). Acts 10:26 says, "But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man."

This account is very interesting because one wonders if the Pope tells this to people who bow down before him? Jesus said, "But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ" (Matthew 23:8-10). So the Lord says that we are not to bow down to one another, nor are we to wear names like "Father" or "Reverend."

Jesus went on to say, "But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant." Many groups want to exalt one person over the other, but the Bible clearly teaches that this is wrong. At some point, members of these groups must ask themselves if they will follow men or if they will follow God.

Kyle Campbell

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christianity is my hobby

A friend of mine was recently telling me about an instance where he was playing basketball with one of his buddies. They were talking about their weekend plans, when his friend brought up someone he knew, capping the description off with: "You would probably like him. He's a religious guy, kinda like you." As innocent as this conversation sounds, it reveals a critical aspect of the world's view towards those who serve Christ. To them, obeying Christ is a hobby, something we do for fun, just like someone would spend their Saturdays playing golf or their Friday nights playing World of Warcraft. After all, why would anyone spend their time following God if they didn't enjoy it?

While I'll be the first one to tell you a life in service to Christ is the most enjoyable one that exists, it's more than that. Jesus told us in passages such as Luke 21:12, John 15:20, and Matthew 23:34 that our life would be a hard one, oftentimes riddled by persecution. Yet despite these words, Christ's followers garnered massive numbers, and is still going strong today. It's not that thousands of people somehow picked up a hobby, but that they valued the gospel so much that they allowed it to permeate every aspect of their life, despite the slightly unenjoyable parts, such as death.

"If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). As Jesus spoke these words, He did not endorse a favorite pastime of His, but a call to complete commitment to the only true path in life that is worth following. Sadly, this idea of "convenient Christianity" has corrupted the minds of Christians everywhere, convincing them that if they don't have the time today to read their Bible, serve their brother or sister, or pray, it's okay; God wouldn't want to inconvenience them. While I doubt many would deny their faith, few recognize its true value as surpassing all other things in life. God called us to a life, not a hobby.

Brady Cook

Friday, December 5, 2008

There is a war going on for your mind

I'm sure at some time or another a lot of people have heard of the song by Flobots that shares the same name as this entry. There is a lot of truth in the name of this song and even though I probably wouldn't agree with everything they stand for, they bring up a good point that the scriptures speak about again and again. Second Corinthians 10:3-5 reads, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."

This is the real battle going on in the world. It isn't the war in Iraq, or anywhere else in the world. The battle is in the influences we put upon our mind and the self-control we must have as Christians. Today's war is spiritual and it seems that many Christians will find themselves outclassed if they do not prepare. The battle today is between holy thoughts like those of God and fleshly thoughts of the world that come from Satan. There is a war going on for your mind. What have you done to prepare? Have you conceded to the Devil? Or are you fighting him by surrounding yourself with Christians and reading your Bible daily? There is a war going on for your mind whether you like it or not. What are you doing to prepare? This war has eternal consequences!

Shane Millard

Monday, December 1, 2008

Archaeology: Beth Shean

Archaeology shows that the Canaanites, and possibly the Philistines, occupied Beth Shean from the time of the Judges until Saul. Beth Shean was a city within the tribal allotment of Manasseh (Joshua 17:11). However, the Israelites did not conquer Beth Shean (Judges 1:27), and the Philistines eventually took it.

Later, King Saul and his armies fought the Philistines on Mt. Gilboa. King Saul and his sons (all but one) died in the battle. The Philistines hung the bodies of King Saul and his sons from the walls of Beth Shean (1 Samuel 31:10). Some believe that the Philistines occupied the city at or before the time of Saul.

Kyle Campbell