From Beginning to End

Malachi 1-4

            In the English Bible we’ve come to the last book of the Old Testament, but not for the Hebrew Bible. It’s the end of the Prophets and now the Writings start. In my Hebrew/English Bible the next page starts the Psalms then Proverbs…. The book of Malachi is filled with warnings and exhortations and many familiar and excellent verses for such a small book. He’s a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah.

            “The LORD is magnified beyond the border of Israel.” (1:5) Amen!  That’s for sure these days from those days.  Look how far from the borders of Israel He’s magnified. “If then I am the Father, where is my honor? And if I am Lord, where is my reverence?” (1:6) “For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, my name shall be great among the Gentiles.” (1:11) “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?” (2:10) Amen.

            “The LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce. For it covers one’s garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts.” (2:16) “Behold I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.” (3:1) “For I am the LORD, I do not change.” (3:6) Those are very simple and yet clear verses.

            “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed you? In tithe and offerings.” (3:8) This is a good question to ask children. I’ve asked some of our older kids before, and now I’m going to ask our younger children and see what response I get. 

            “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble, and the day which is coming shall burn them up,” says the LORD of hosts.” (4:1) This is certainly true, and, in some ways, THIS is the ultimate climate change and global warming some are talking about now that will one day take place.  God will purify and purge, and it won’t be by a flood the next time like he promised.

            The last two verses of Malachi 4:5,6 are quoted in Luke 1:17, when the angel told Zacharias about his son, “He will also go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children.” So even though it’s not the end of the Hebrew Bible it still fits going into the English New Testament.  So does the end 2 Chronicles in Hebrew that goes into the New Testament, when Cyrus king of Persia was stirred by the LORD which says, “May the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up!” (36:23) That also goes nicely with Matthew 1:23, which says, “the virgin will bear a son and call his name Immanuel, God is with us.” Same idea, God is with us and helping us (not God the flesh). “The LORD is magnified beyond the border of Israel.” (1:5) Amen! 

Stephanie Schlegel

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here – Malachi 1-4

Tomorrow we begin the NEW Testament, with Luke 1 and John 1:1-14. If you haven’t already, now would be a great time to commit to reading the New Testament before the New Year begins. Finish off 2020 strong in God’s Word. Below is the Bible reading plan we will be following with our daily devotions. Let’s seek God together!

Feasting on His Word

Nehemiah 8-10

Now that the wall of Jerusalem was completed the people gathered together at the Water Gate to have Ezra read from the Book of the Law of Moses on the first day of the seventh month (which was actually last weekend on the Jewish calendar and the Feast of Trumpets. It’s not really the Jewish New Year, that was adapted from a later time in exile. The first month of the Jewish year is Passover). It states NINE times that “all the people” are included in the events happening in chapter 8.  The priests even helped the people to understand the readings, (8:8) and the people responded with WEEPING (8:9). Nehemiah encouraged them to go and “eat fat and drink sweet” for this day is holy to the Lord. They weren’t to be sad, for “the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (8:10) They knew the words were declared to them.

 The second day they gathered again to hear the Law and learned that in the seventh month they were to dwell in booths for a week.  They were to go to the mountains and gather olive branches, myrtle, palm, and leafy branches to make a booth.  The other day on my fast walk in the neighborhood I plucked various leafy bushes to add to the pop-up booth card I’m making to send to our grandson next week. 😊   I’m going to also include some fruit snacks he can enjoy by his “booth” as a celebration of the end of the harvest season. In Israel today, where we lived for many years, they still make and “dwell” in booths during this weeklong holiday.  They’re on rooftops, balconies, and yards.  They’re decorated with paper chains, lights, and pictures. Our kids liked to sleep in them some nights with their friends.  The people in Nehemiah’s time hadn’t celebrated the Feast of Booths/Tabernacles since the time of Joshua, so it was a time of “great gladness” (8:17), and still is to this day. Although, this year might be different as they’re on a full lockdown in Israel during these holiday times because of Covid.   

            They continued to read the Book of the Law for a ¼ of the day and for another ¼ of the day they confessed their sins and worshipped the LORD their God. (9:3) Some of the Levites stood up and recalled God’s work through Moses, Egypt, Wilderness, and how He brought them into a good land.  However, they “cast His Law behind their backs and killed prophets sent to them.” (9:26) So God “gave them saviors” when they cried out for help and many times delivered them. (9:27) “For many years You had patience with them and testified against them by Your Spirit in Your prophets, yet they would not listen.” (9:30)

Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and awesome God, who keeps covenants and mercy… (9:32) You are just in all that has befallen us.” (9:33) How patient God was and is with His peopleIt says not the kings, princes, priests, or fathers have kept God’s Law.( 9:34)  How important it was for all the people to gather together and recall God’s work over time and their own lack of commitment, and thus to refocus their love and service for the LORD their God for the future.  Now that the wall of Jerusalem had been rebuilt, they needed God’s protection over them. Instead of blaming God for failures, it’s good they acknowledged they were wrong and refocus on Him as they move forward.  We too, can learn from their example in our lives today.

Stephanie Schlegel

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Nehemiah 8-10

Tomorrow we will finish the book of Nehemiah and read Psalm 126 as we continue seeing God’s faithfulness in our

Reader Beware!

The Letter of Jude

Jude 24 b

“Judgment is Coming, Especially for False Teachers”

“He who saved a people of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe” (1:5).

The Letter of Jude is very similar to 2 Peter. The letter is a warning to believers that false teachers who have perverted the grace of our God into a license for sin will undergo a devastating, destructive judgment.

 

Turning the Grace of God into a License to Sin

Jude states that the faith had been delivered once for all to the saints (1:3). The believers were “once for all fully informed (1:5). This new teaching was a perversion. The new teaching was brought by false teachers who “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (1:4). Some people perverted the grace of God and the work of Jesus on the cross into a license to sin. Their attitude was something like: “Our sins our forgiven, so let’s do whatever we want”.

The New Testament strongly condemns such an attitude (Romans 6:1-15, 1 John 3:4-10). Rather than promote sin, the grace of God through the work of Jesus on the cross condemns and defeats sin.

 

Examples of Judgment

Jude reminds his listeners that there is a devasting, destructive judgment in store for these false teachers, but also by implication for those who follow them. Jude gives several examples from the Old Testament to illustrate that judgment will eventually come.

  • God brought Israel out of Egypt, but afterwards destroyed those (in the desert) who did not believe (1:5).
  • Angels who “did not keep their proper position” have been kept in chains “until the judgement of the great day” (1:6).
  • Sodom and Gomorrah acted immorally but were destroyed by an eternal (of an age) fire.
  • Jude also mentions the “way of Cain”, “Balaam’s error” and those who perished in Korah’s rebellion.

All these serve as evidences and examples that God will judge wickedness. It is a great error to turn the grace of God and the work of Jesus into a license to sin.

 

Admonition to Stay Faithful, 1:17-23

Jude knows that a warning is needed, but hopes that his listeners can maintain their “holy faith”. He says believers should not be surprised that false teachers have arisen. The Lord Jesus and the apostles said this would happen (1:17).  In the Old Testament, one reason that God allowed false prophets among the people was to test the people, to see if they loved God with heart and soul, or not (Deuteronomy 13:3).  Likewise, one reason false teachers are around today is for our testing (2 Peter 2:1-3, 1 John 4:1).

“But you beloved…keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal (of the age) life” (1:20-21).

 

Bill & Stephanie Schlegel

 

(Editor’s Note: Yesterday, we provided some links to Bill’s website, Satellite Bible Atlas and trip to Israel.  Today you might enjoy this interview with Bill from our friends at Restitutio.  https://restitutio.org/2019/08/01/interview-53-why-knowing-the-land-of-israel-matters-bill-schlegel/.)

Who are Your Children?

3rd Epistle of John

3 John 4

The letter was written by “the elder”, the same author as 2 John. It is a personal letter to Gaius, who must have been a leader in a congregation. It is not possible to know if this Gaius was the same “Gaius” mentioned in other places in the New Testament (Act. 19:29, 20:4, Rom. 16:23, 1 Cor. 1:14).

 

No greater joy, 1:4

 

The author states: “No greater joy can I have than this, than to hear that my children follow the truth”. While it is a great joy for biological parents to know that their children follow the truth concerning God the Father and Jesus the Messiah (John 17:3), here the author is using the world “children” metaphorically to mean those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah (1 John 2:1, 5:1). The author most likely had a personal influence in these “children” coming to and then growing in their faith.  Like a parent who cares for their child, the author expressed his desire to be present with them (3 John 1:10, 13, cf. 2 John 1:12).

 

Support such men, practice hospitality, 1:5-8

 

The main purpose for the writing of the letter was to encourage Gaius and the congregation to support traveling Christian teachers. The author knew that these teachers of true doctrine were doing “God’s service”, and as much as Gaius and others could support these men, they would be “fellow workers in truth”. Practicing hospitality is a theme emphasized by other writers of Scripture:

 

Paul: “Share what you have with God’s people, and practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13).

 

Author of Hebrews: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).

 

Peter: “Welcome one another into your homes without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9).

 

As believers in the One True God and His Messiah, Jesus, we should be ready to open our homes to others of like-minded faith, especially to those who are ministering “for His sake”.

 

Diotrephes upbraided, 1:9-10

 

A certain man named Diotrephes was called out because he refused to practice hospitality to the traveling truth teachers. Diotrephes not only refused to give hospitality, but “stops those who would welcome them and puts them out of the church”. Diotrephes must have been a proud, selfish man.

 

Bill & Stephanie Schlegel

 

(Editor’s Note: I am so glad I met Bill and Stephanie Schlegel at FUEL this past summer and had the opportunity to share a meal with them, during which time they agreed to write for this week.  I greatly value their love for and dedication to God’s truth.  The Schlegels lived in Israel for 34 years.  He is the author of the Satellite Bible Atlas: https://www.bibleplaces.com/satellite-bible-atlas-schlegel/ . This spring he will be leading an incredible trip to Israel: https://maranathatours.com/wp-content/uploads/brochure-website.pdf

For more great writing, podcasts, videos and testimonies about the truth in God’s scriptures, we welcome you to check out the website that Bill edits – One God Report: http://www.onegodreport.com/

In the Flesh

2nd Epistle of John

2 John 7

The elect lady and her children, 2 John 1

This short epistle is written to “the elect lady and her children”. Most commentators believe “the elect lady” refers metaphorically to a congregation or church as whole, and “her children” are individual members within the church. Being a “child of God” was a consistent theme of 1 John (see 1 John). The children of God make up a family of those who believe the human Jesus is the Christ, and they are to love one another as brothers and sisters (1 John 5:1). In the last verse of 1 John 2 the author sends “the elect lady” greetings from “the children of your elect sister, i.e., from the believers of another congregation with children (see more comments about the “elect lady” in the REV Bible commentary).

The coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh, 2 John 7

The verse that particularly jumps out at us in this epistle is verse 7:

“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.”

We believe that “the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh” means that the Messiah has come, and that he is the real human being, Jesus.

When John was writing there was already a teaching, today called Docetism, which claimed that Jesus wasn’t a real human being but only “seemed” or “appeared” to be a human. “Docetic” is from a Greek word meaning “an apparition, a phantom” and therefore Jesus only “seemed” to be human. According to this theory Jesus couldn’t be “flesh”, a real human, since the world and flesh are corrupt the “spiritual Christ” couldn’t be directly involved in it.

Traditional Christianity is not entirely docetic but tends toward Docetism since it claims that Jesus only “took on flesh”. If Jesus only “took on flesh” then he is not a real human being, not a real human person. Unfortunately, traditional Christian belief by definition denies that Jesus the Messiah is a real human person. Because, if Jesus is an eternally pre-existent God-person, he can’t be a real human-person, because then he would be two persons (a god-person and a human-person). So traditional Christianity beginning in the centuries after Jesus was on earth began to say that Jesus was a god-person who only “took on flesh”. But a pre-existent god-person who only “took on flesh” is not really a human person. He only “seemed” to be a human person.

John tells us differently. He emphasizes that Jesus is a real human person.

“Jesus” is the name of the child born in Bethlehem, not the name of a pre-existent deity. This Jesus is the Messiah (Christ) who has “come in the flesh”. “Christ, Messiah” is never a title for God himself in the Scriptures. It is a title for the “Anointed” one chosen by God.

Jesus didn’t just seem to have flesh (Docetism), and didn’t just seem to be a human person (Traditional Christianity).

Jesus the Messiah has real human flesh (now raised from the dead, glorified, immortal).

Jesus the Messiah is a real human person, not a god-person just dressed up in human flesh.

See our comments on 1 John 2:22 and 1 John 4:2 earlier this week for more description of what John did NOT say when he said that “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.”

“Don’t receive him into the house”, 2 John 10

2 John 10 is a verse that can easily be taken out of context and abused. “If any one comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into the house or give him any greeting.” A person can make up any false doctrine, and then say if someone doesn’t agree with it, “don’t receive him into the house”.  This is what Traditional Christianity has done. Traditional Christianity, denying that Jesus is a real human person, made up a false doctrine in the centuries after Jesus, claiming: “Jesus is pre-existent eternal God who took on flesh”. Then once that false doctrine was established, Traditional Christianity said: “Don’t let anyone who doesn’t agree with this doctrine into the house”. See our comments to 1 John 2:19 (this past Sunday) about many anti-christs who have come into the world.

God, and God’s Son, 2 John 3

The beautiful greeting that the author sends God’s children is also a fitting departure blessing.

“Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.”  There is only One God, the Father. Jesus the Messiah (Christ) is God’s Son, and we as God’s children are Jesus’ brothers and sisters.

 

Bill & Stephanie Schlegel

The Son of God

1 John 5

1 John 5 5

This chapter was especially significant for our family about a year and a half ago when I (Bill) was coming to understand that God is One and that Jesus is His human Messiah. My wife points out the irony in the fact that while Trinitarians often go to the Gospel of John and the Epistle of 1 John for presumed evidences of the deity of Jesus, it was these two books that showed us that God is One person, and Jesus is God’s designated human Messiah.

1 John 5:1 “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whomever has been born of him.”

How tragic that people who believe that Jesus is God condemn those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah. They say that unless you believe that Jesus is God, you are “denying Christ”. What a strange twist of Scripture. The Scripture says that “anyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) is born of God…”

This Scripture does NOT say you are born of God if you believe that Jesus is:

  • A God-Man
  • co-eternal (“pre-existing”) and co-equal to the God the Father
  • of the same substance as the Father.
  • One person of a trinity in a godhead

These are all human inventions.  We should not turn to human inventions (5:21) while abandoning God our Father’s revelation of Himself and His testimony that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah). We don’t want to call God a liar (5:10) by twisting or distorting what God said, or by claiming God said something He didn’t.

“Jesus” is the name of the human person, born in Bethlehem. It is not the name of a pre-existent person of an eternal godhead. This human Jesus is the Christ (Messiah). This same human Jesus is the “Son of God” (5:2) a title which is parallel to and in many ways synonymous with “Messiah/Christ” (2 Sam. 7:14, Psa. 2:1-7). “Son of God” does not mean “God the Son”. There is no “God the Son” in the Bible.

The person who believes that Jesus is the Messiah is a child of God. If you love God, you will love that person, God’s child. If do not love that person, or reject that person, or call that person a heretic, the implication is that you do not love God the Father. Because whoever loves God the Father loves God’s child (5:1).

To love God’s child (the person who believes that Jesus is the Messiah) is a commandment from God (5:2-3; 3:23).

1 John 5:20 is a verse that Trinitarians claim shows “the deity of Christ”. Such a claim shows the weakness of evidence for the “deity of Christ” in the Scriptures. Their claims depend on dubious interpretations of a handful of Scriptures. For instance, from the whole Book of Romans, Paul’s treatise on matters of great theological importance, Paul supposedly told us that Jesus is God in one verse (Romans 9:5)!

I don’t think so.

There is a better way to understand Romans 9:5, just like there is a better way to understand 1 John 5:20. Below is a translation (RSV) that gets it right. I have capitalized “Him” for clarity whenever the pronoun refers to Almighty God:

“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, to know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.”

In short, “This is the true God” does not refer to Jesus Christ, but to the One who is called two times “Him who is true” (cf. John 17:3), who is the Father of Jesus. Jesus the Messiah is His son.

Bill & Stephanie Schlegel

The Love Chapter

1 John 4

i John 4 11

This chapter starts out with an admonition to “test the spirits to see whether they are of God.” Not every teaching or spirit is true. There is a very important test which can be used to know if a spirit is from God, or not. “By this you know the spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God” (4:2).  The test does NOT say:

  • that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh and yet is fully God
  • that God has come in the flesh as Jesus Christ, taking on a human nature
  • that Jesus Christ came from some pre-existent state into the flesh.

We must be very careful to read the text for what it says and not read into it what it doesn’t say! The phrase “come in the flesh” means that Jesus the Christ (Messiah) is a real human being, not just dressed up like one.

1 John 4 is actually the “love chapter” in the Bible as love is mentioned 26 times, almost three times as many times as in 1 Corinthians 13 (9 times). A friend once read this chapter as a devotional thought on Valentine’s Day, and it stuck with me as the “love chapter.” So much so that when I read it last February 14th, I thought that maybe the children’s song could also go “Yes, God loves me, yes, God loves me… the Bible tells me so.”  Ultimately, it’s God’s love that ignites our love for others through His Son, Jesus the Messiah. A key verse that summarizes this chapter of love showing how love is of God is verse 9.  “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

God took the initiative, motivated by love, to remedy our sin problem.

Knowing that “God is love” (4:8,16) should motivate us to love others. But the author is not calling for a hippie kind of “All you need is love, love”. He is admonishing us to a love of other “brothers” who believe that Jesus, the human Jesus, is the Messiah/Christ (5:1). This admonition to love is a call for unity among like-minded believers, because they are family as the children of God. The way we love other like-minded believers whom we can see demonstrates how much we love God, whom we can’t see. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also (4:21).

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. (4:7)

 

Bill & Stephanie Schlegel

His Commandment

1 John 3

IMG_0009

The World’s Relation to God’s Children

This chapter mentions two ways in which the non-believing world reacts to the children of God:
1. The world does not know us (that we are God’s children) just as it did not know Jesus, that Jesus is God’s Son (3:1).
2. The world hates us (3:13). The world is like Cain, who hated and even murdered his brother.
Especially in 3:11-18, the author instructs us not to be like the world and hate our brothers, our fellow believers in Messiah Jesus.
Knowing what Love is, I John 3:16, the parallel to John 3:16

“By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
This verse encouraged me (Stephanie), so much during the hardest time of my life, which was just after my husband came to the understanding of the one true God and His Messiah Jesus – and the mistreatment that followed in result of his faith. The verse really helped me to focus on what real love is – to think how Jesus humbled himself to death on a cross. He was mistreated and ill spoken of; they even took his clothes away from him. That is how I know what love is, and I could take courage because of what Jesus went through and lay down my life for the brethren, disregarding the shame.

Jesus didn’t come to give a license to sin, but to remove sin, 2:4-10
At first glance the author may seem to contradict himself. In 1:8-9 he says we sin, but in 3:6 he says “no one who abides in him (Jesus) sins”. I think what the author is saying is that believing in Jesus does not give people a license to sin. Believers may sin (and there is a way to forgiveness, 1:8-9) but a life characterized by continual sin is not one in step with abiding in Jesus. Jesus didn’t come to give a license to sin. On the contrary, the writer gives two reasons why Jesus “appeared”:
1. To take away sin.
2. To destroy the works of the devil
Jesus and a believers life in Jesus does not give license to sin, but rather removes and destroys sin.
Theme Verse
1 John 3:23 could perhaps be considered a good theme for the entire epistle:
“And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”

Bill and Stephanie Schlegel