Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Grace is Like...

My two dwarf spruces
 
I love my two dwarf spruces. They’re called dwarf but they will still grow about ten feet tall. I enjoy stooping over with my face slightly above the top of the tree and taking a deep breath to inhale the fragrance of Christmas. Christmas was always extra special when my father brought home a live Christmas tree. After all if Christmas was a celebration of a real Savior, it just made sense to have a real tree. I took the one on the left home about five years ago and planted him in this spot. He has grown taller and fuller. I purchased his little brother about a year later and put him in a pot by my front door. He was doing fine for the first year. Then I noticed some of his little green needles started turning brown. At the advice of a friend, I added a little organic fertilizer to the soil and kept a close eye on him.  

The winter came and left and spring had arrived. I purchased a bigger pot for my little tree and relocated him to his new home. Several weeks went by and the little guy’s brown needles became a gaping wound. I knew if I didn’t act quickly he might not make it through the summer. I took him out to where his big brother was planted, and after I dug a hole large enough for his roots to spread out, I put him in it and filled the hole with topsoil.  

I talked to him every day. I told him he was going to get bigger and stronger like his brother and that I couldn’t wait for the day when he was big enough for me to dress him up for Christmas. I could swear I saw the sadness in his little face disappear and as it faded away he smiled and his sagging brown branches seem to reach out towards me.

In the days that followed my “boy’s” health improved. I noticed new life springing up as light green needles started appearing throughout his withered little frame. I told him how proud I was to have him and that I was delighted that his health was improving. I knew it wouldn’t be long before his wounds were completely healed. Soon new branches would replace his dead limbs. I told him how sorry I was for putting him in a pot. I knew that it was only in freedom that he could truly be who he was created to be. That pot wasn’t a healthy home for him; in fact it had been a place of captivity. But I could tell my little spruce loved his new home. His big brother was right alongside him and the sun beamed upon him from sunrise to sunset. I made sure that he had an ample supply of water. He is so happy now that he is living in freedom. He is getting stronger and healthier with each day. Not only does my little spruce look and smell like Christmas, he also sings the “Hallelujah Chorus.” I just might have the only singing Christmas tree in the whole wide world! 

 
My little spruce back to health and living in freedom
God made his creation to work in harmony. The sun, soil and rain provide the environment for my two dwarf spruces to live in freedom. It all works by God’s grace. I got in the way of God’s grace by bringing my little tree into captivity, an environment that got him sick and would have killed him. But my little spruce taught me a lesson in freedom.  

Grace is like: Christmas & a live Christmas tree; Romeo & Juliet; Jack and Jill; David & Goliath;  Bonnie & Clyde; Batman & Robin; Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers; John, Paul, George and Ringo; Sonny & Cher; Simon & Garfunkel; Laurel & Hardy; Moe, Larry & Curly; Abbott & Costello; Spanky & Alfalfa; Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis; Cheech & Chong; Lucy & Charlie Brown; Dumb & Dumber; hamburgers & french fries; steak & mash potatoes; spaghetti & meatballs; fish & chips; peanut butter & jelly; salt & pepper; 

heaven & earth; Adam & Eve; God and man…

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Who Wrote the book of Hebrews?

I recently started studying the book of Hebrews again. I conduct a weekly Bible study at a local nursing home and I just enjoy sharing what I’ve studied and learned. I often tell the residents there, that every time I study, God reveals more-He gives me more understanding. Some of the things that I’ve learned many years ago, I no longer believe-either because someone showed me the error in my thinking or God revealed it to me directly.  

One of the first things you will notice about the book of Hebrews, is that the author doesn’t identify himself. So I decided that I was going to try to figure out who it was.  

 

The writer of Hebrews says that the gospel message was confirmed to us by those who heard him.  

How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him (Heb. 2:3). 

But the Apostle (apostolos: messenger or one sent) Paul said that he received the gospel directly from the Lord by revelation, not by others. Paul was one of those who delivered (paredōka) or passed on the gospel to others. 

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, (1 Cor. 11:23)

Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— (Gal. 1:1)

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. (Gal. 1:11-12) 

Paul was called to preach among the Gentiles, but in his writings he didn’t distinguish between Jew or Gentile, rather he wrote to the saints. Again he didn’t consult or receive it from another person but by revelation, as we just read. 

...to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus (Gal.1:16-17). 

To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:7 KJV). 

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28). 

 

Today I’ll make the case for Silas as the author of the book, although in the book itself, the author does not identify himself.  

1) Silas was a respected leader among the believers in the Jerusalem church. 

Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers (Acts 15:22). 

2) Silas was a prophet sent to Antioch to encourage new believers. 

Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers (Acts 15:32).

3) The book of Hebrews is written to the nation of Israel (notice God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets-God spoke only to Israel through the prophets). The book may have been written in Hebrew. Silas was a leader in Jerusalem and would have been able to communicate effectively in the Hebrew language.  

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, (Heb. 1:1) 

4) NAS Exhaustive Concordance says the name Silas is of Aramaic origin. Silas probably spoke that language as well. So if Hebrews was originally written in Aramaic, there’s a good chance that Silas would have been able to communicate in that language.  

5) He was Paul’s traveling companion and helped share the gospel. He was flogged and put in prison with Paul. 

The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:22-25). 

Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women (Acts 17:4). 

Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible (Acts 17:15). 

When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 18:5). 

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes” (2 Cor. 1:19). 

4) Silas may have helped write First and Second Thessalonians and First Peter. 

Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you (1 Thes. 1:1).

Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: (2 Thes. 1:1) 

With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it (1 Peter 5:12). 

5) Silas was a Roman citizen and Hebrews was written from Italy. 

The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed (Acts 16:38). 

Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings (Heb. 13:24).  

6) Paul and Silas and or Paul, Silas and Timothy were referenced by Paul often in the New Testament, as we have just read. Here the author mentions Timothy as brother and this statement would most likely appear to have been made by Paul or Silas, based on the amount of time they spent traveling together. Since it appears that Paul is excluded from writing Hebrews based on the opening statements I made earlier in this blog, that leaves only Silas to have written the book. 

I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you (Heb. 13:23). 

 

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