Jesus Loves the Little Children

By | July 11, 2024

Jesus loved little children. The gospel writers tell us about his love in their recounting Jesus’ life. When people brought their children to him to have Jesus lay his hands on them and pray, the disciples rebuked them (cf. Matthew 19:13).  The text does not say exactly why they rebuked these parents, but we do know that shortly before they were busy discussing bigger, more important (to them) issues, such as, “’Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’” (Matthew 18:1).

To answer their question, Jesus had placed a little child in the middle of them and told them,

“Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4)

The disciples were figuring out who would be the greatest in heaven, while Jesus was teaching them that humility like a child was necessary to even enter heaven.  Jesus then informed the disciples that “’Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me’” (Matthew 18:5). He later warned them,

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10).

All this to say, that when Jesus and the disciples moved on to where parents were bringing their children to be blessed, the disciples should have known better than to rebuke them. Jesus instead welcomed the children:

“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)

Jesus was not looking for kingdom warriors to make the kingdom look good. He was not searching for the rich and powerful to surround himself with wealth and strength (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:26-30). He loved children, and he wanted others to receive his kingdom like a child does (cf. Mark 10:15) and to serve the least as unto Him (cf. Matthew 25:40).

Children do not have much to offer. They are humble, innocent, and trusting. To love a child is to give without much tangible “return” (in terms of a give and take culture).

But to love and serve the lowliest is what Jesus did.

My sweet nephew Evan was born 13 years ago with missing brain tissue and has had a myriad of related issues in his short life. Not only was Evan a child, but he was a child who has been completely helpless to care for himself. His parents—Steve and Jess—along with their whole family have fed and clothed him. They have nursed him in illness. They have loved the “least of these,” the humblest of the humble, and thus have done it to Jesus himself.

And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40).

Evan’s health rapidly declined over the past couple of weeks. On July ­­­2 he was carried into the presence of his Savior. He was not hindered, for the kingdom of heaven is made up of such little children. Jesus welcomed him home with open arms.

May we, like Jesus, welcome and serve the least of these, as Jess and Steve have done so well. May we also come to Jesus like little children, in humility and trust, remembering Jesus’ words:

“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Mark 10:15)

{Evan’s funeral was a wonderful celebration of his life and beautifully reflected the glory of God. It was recorded and can be viewed here.}

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Salvation of Infants and the Mentally Disabled

By | July 3, 2024

Good people disagree over what happens to infants and the mentally disabled when they pass away before their “the age of accountability,” the age when a child can realize the difference between right and wrong. Some emphasize the justice of God as to how to deal with the sin of the deceased, and others emphasize the goodness of God, knowing that He will do what is best and in keeping with His character.

Like others, I personally believe that God brings infants and the mentally disabled immediately into presence after death. I briefly explain my understanding of Scripture on this matter in what follows.

For a definition, infants and the mentally disabled (invalids) are those whose mental and moral capacity does not allow for the recognition of and thus response to God from either general or special revelation.

Salvation begins with the unconditional election of God to lovingly appoint some for salvation (Eph 1:4–5). In providing the means of salvation, He sent us His Son, “the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:5).

Based on His gracious choice and His provision for salvation in the life and death of Christ, God is free to unilaterally give new birth to infants and invalids (John 3:3) and thereby remove the condemnation attached to their Adamic guilt (Rom 5:12; cf. Ps 51:5), apart from faith and prior to death.

Though John the Baptist was uniquely and prophetically “filled with the Spirit, even in the womb” (Luke 1:15), this experience of the Spirit also moved him to joy to be in the presence of his unborn Savior (Luke 1:41, 44), an example of what I believe can take place for infants and the mentally disabled as I have described above.

This conclusion also rests upon other principles found in Scripture as well.

Infants and invalids have an inability for moral choice—they have not reached a point in which they consciously choose between right and wrong (Deut 1:39; Isa 7:14–16; Rom 9:11).

Infants and invalids enjoy a relative innocence—unable to choose wrong, though all mankind sinned in Adam (Rom 5:12), infants and invalids are not as sinful as others who consciously choose to do evil (1 Cor 14:20).

So, considering those two points, we can also say that infants and invalids enjoy an absence of accountable works—they have done nothing intentionally evil to store up wrath for themselves when God judges men for their works in time to come (Rom 2:5–6; Rev 20:12).

Finally, we take into account David’s comfort after his son’s death (2 Sam 12:22–23), an example of the comfort that bereaved parents can have today. David stopped grieving at his son’s death, stating, “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Sam 12:23). If David’s death meant that he would “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Ps 23:6), then to “go to him” would mean to join him in Paradise after death.

My briefly stated thoughts above only scratch the surface of what others have addressed in full in books. However, as what I hope is an encouragement to others, this is a summary view of what many believe about the salvation of infants and the mentally disabled.

Photo by Irfan Hasic on Unsplash

Death Did Us Part: Dead to the Law to Serve in the Newness of the Spirit (Romans 7:1–6)

By | June 12, 2024

Romans 5:12–21 teaches an amazing reality—as Christians, we are no longer under sin and death but under grace and have eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:1–14 then explains that, since we are united to Christ who died to sin and now lives to God, so also we should no longer sin but live unto God as well.

These concepts don’t always stick with us the first time we hear them. So, Paul gives two pictures to help us understand. First, Romans 6:15–23 uses the analogy of slavery. Whereas we were once slaves to sin, now we are slaves of God. Second, Romans 7:1–6 uses the picture of a woman who is widowed and remarried to picture our death to our old way of life in order to belong to Christ and serve in the newness of the Spirit. What follows is a closer look Romans 7:1–6.

Like Romans 6:1, 6:15, and 7:7, Paul begins a section with a question in Romans 7:1. He appeals to what his readers “know”—the principle “that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives.” Paul’s question recalls his statement in Romans 6:15 (“we are not under law”) in order to explain it further. In short, his explanation is this—we are not under the law because we died to the law and now belong to Jesus Christ.

Paul gives his illustration in Romans 7:2–3. The important points of analogy are that a woman whose husband dies “is released from the law of marriage” and “is free from the law.” Released and free, she does not sin “if she marries another man.”

So, Romans 7:4–6 uses this picture to explain our relationship to the law. In Romans 7:4, we see that (1) we died to the law through the body of Christ; (2) we died to the law in order to belong to Christ; and (3) we died to the law in order to bear fruit for God (cf. Romans 6:22).

Paul elaborates on Romans 7:4 in Romans 7:5–6. In our old way of life, we lived in the flesh, captive to the law that aroused our sinful passions. As a result, these passions were at work in us to produce fruit worthy of eternal death. However, thanks to being released from the law in Christ, we serve in the newness of the Spirit (cf. Romans 6:4). Implied here is that this type of service bears fruit in us that leads to eternal life (cf. Romans 6:22).

Interestingly, if Paul were one-to-one with the details of his picture, the law would die so that we could then belong to Christ. However, the break from the picture is that we died to the law through the body of Christ who died for us in order for us to belong to Him.

Image by ScienceGiant from Pixabay

Saved to Serve as Slaves of God: An Overview of Romans 6:15–23

By | June 7, 2024

If we are no longer under the law, does that mean that we can live any way we want, sinning as we please? Paul asks this question in Romans 6:15, only to give an emphatic answer—“By no means!” Then, in Romans 6:16 he asks another question to explain his answer further. The basic thought is this—if you obey sin, you will receive eternal death, and if you obey as a Christian, you will fully live out the righteousness that has been declared yours right now.

Not leaving his readers to wonder about themselves and their eternal destiny, Paul gives “thanks to God” that they were the latter—whereas they were once enslaved to sin, now they were slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:17–18). Paul uses this language (“once you were, but now you are”) to help them think correctly about themselves. This change came about through the truth (“the standard of teaching to which you were committed”), their favorable disposition toward this truth (“from the heart”), and their willingness to believe and obey it (“obedient… slaves”).

Paul then clarified why he used “human terms,” this analogy of slavery—“because of your natural limitations” (Romans 6:19). This analogy of slavery is not perfect, but it is inspired by the Spirit and helps us understand our relationship to sin and righteousness. Having shifted from slavery to sin to slavery to righteousness, we no longer are “slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness,” but “now” we must obey Paul’s command: “present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification” (Romans 6:18–19).

The reason to obey this command is clear. Previously, as “slaves of sin,” we “were free in regard to righteousness” (Romans 6:20). Grace did not reign in our lives, and apart from Christ, there was no God-given ability to overcome sin. As a result, the “fruit” of such living results in being “now ashamed,” realizing that, had we remained in sin, “the end of those things” would have been eternal “death” (Romans 6:21). Thankfully, however, we are “set free from sin and have become slaves of God” (Romans 6:22a). The result of this slavery is increasing “sanctification” in this life “and its end, eternal life” (Romans 6:22b). As Paul did in Romans 6:17–18, Paul uses another “once you were, but now you are” description of his readers in Romans 6:20–22 to justify his command in Romans 6:19. As slaves of God, they were to present themselves accordingly. Paul summarizes in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

There is no middle ground. There are no Christians who are both under grace and slaves of sin. When we move from sin to Christ, we become slaves of obedience, righteousness, and God. Such a life leads to greater sanctification over time and its end, eternal life.

Photo by John Salvino on Unsplash

A Theology of Woman from Genesis 2-3: Design, Desire, and Deliverance

By | June 6, 2024
This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series A Theology of Woman

This blog series is adapted from Sunday School lessons I wrote several years ago for women and teen girls. The goal was to form a “theology of woman” by looking chronologically at all of the major portions of Scripture regarding women and womanhood. What does the Bible say are the roles, duties, challenges, and opportunities that we have as women?

Whenever our family watches a movie, my husband or I often pause the movie to discuss ungodly behavior that is being normalized or at least unaddressed in the movie’s storyline. Just the other day, my husband paused a movie to explain that the way the mom and dad interacted with each other was not right—the wife treated her husband as if he were stupid and incapable of proper parenting. Our youngest quickly piped up that she had noticed this with another fictional couple as well.

I remember my mom warning my sisters and me of the same problem when we read the Berenstain Bears books as kids. The children’s books tell stories of a nice little bear family of four who live in a tree. The stories are described as follows: “There’s no better way to learn life skills and good character traits than from the much loved Berenstain Bears. These collections reinforce positive values.”

While teaching Sister not to bite her nails and restricting too much TV are some of her strong points, Mama Bear is not the greatest example when it comes to biblical submission. Mama Bear is full of criticism, lectures, and commands for her husband, Papa Bear.

Unfortunately, many wives are too often like Mama Bear, choosing to be criticizers and commanders, rather than helpers and followers. This post will look into the origin of male leadership and female submission as well as the effects of the fall on a woman’s desire to submit, along with the hope that we have in Christ. We will learn that God’s divine design for a wife is submission.

God’s Flawless Design

God designed men to lead and women to submit to that leadership. It is important to note that male leadership was established before the fall.  Many argue that male leadership over women resulted from the consequences of the fall (cf. Genesis 3:16). They argue that the purpose of Christianity is to reverse the effects of the fall by returning to equality of the sexes. That is, Christianity should eventually negate the need for submission in any form (using a misunderstanding of Galatians 3:28 to make this argument).

However, the Bible is clear that the wife is to submit to her husband, her leader. Adam and Eve exemplify this teaching in a perfect world. While Adam’s leadership over Eve is not explicitly stated in Genesis, it is implied in several ways.

The Order of Creation

“The Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” (Genesis 2:7)

“So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.” (Genesis 2:21-22)        

Man was created before the woman. This creation order is important to note because the apostle Paul cites it as significant to a woman’s submission in 1 Timothy 2:13: “For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve” (cf. 1 Timothy 2:11-12). Elsewhere, Paul reminds his readers that “man was not made from woman, but woman from man.” (1 Corinthians 11:8). Paul considered the order of creation to be important in his own case for male leadership (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:7-10; we will look at this passage in the future).

The narrative of the creation order describes what Paul later teaches – that man is the head (i.e., leader) of the woman (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:3). The creation order reflects this leadership.

The Naming of Woman

 The naming of an object or individual in the Old Testament is widely recognized to be a sign of authority. Adam named the animals, signifying his dominion over them. Adam’s naming of the woman as well implies his leadership role.

“Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.’” (Genesis 2:23)

This naming of the woman does not equate the woman with the other animals that Adam named. If anything, as Adam named the animals, he saw that he did not have an equal match, someone that was like him in nearly every way—that is, not until at last he saw his own flesh and blood. In fact, this woman—unlike any animal that Adam named—was one whom he would hold fast to and become unified with, stronger than any other human relationship, including even their parents.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

The Role of Helper 

As we have seen previously, God created the woman to help the man. Paul also used this fact to argue for male leadership (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:9). Woman was created for the man. The woman’s role as helper implies male leadership.

The pattern for male leadership and female submission existed before the fall.  From the beginning of creation, God designed men to be leaders and women to help them.

If we as women are designed to submit, why is it that submission is such a struggle?  Why must we fight daily to submit as we were created to do? The answer is found in the story of the fall. 

Women’s Fallen Desire 

Before the woman was ever created, God had placed Adam in the garden of Eden, giving him the responsibility to work it and keep it. God had also given Adam a single rule to obey, along with a dire warning if he broke this rule:

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” (Genesis 2:16-17)

Genesis 2 continues with the story of woman’s creation, of their one-flesh union, and of their innocence, even to the point of being naked together without any shame.

Genesis 3 starkly contrasts this beauty and innocence by describing a crafty serpent. This serpent set out to trap the woman with a threefold method of deception: 

  1. He cast doubt on God’s command (Genesis 3:1).
  2. He denied the consequences of disobedience (Genesis 3:4).
  3. He claimed that sin would be profitable (Genesis 3:5).

Eve was vulnerable. She interacted with the serpent, and she fell for his subtle lies. She—who was already made in the image of God—disobeyed Him, thinking she could be even more like God. After taking the forbidden fruit, she gave some to Adam who was with her, and he, too, ate.

In Genesis 3:13, Eve herself admits to God that she was deceived by Satan. Paul verifies this deception in 1 Timothy 2:14 when he explains that it was not Adam who was deceived, but Eve.

In refusing to submit to God’s command, Eve also took sinful leadership and led Adam to sin as well. Adam listened to his wife’s voice instead of God’s (cf. Genesis 3:17). And suddenly life was thrown upside down. All the things that were intended to be good became tainted by sin and its consequences. Procreation resulted in pain. The harmony and unity of marriage became a struggle with the woman attempting to rule over her husband, and he in turn being tempted to domineer over his wife.

And this is how “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

God’s Faithful Deliverance

What then is a woman to do? She is created to submit, yet every aspect of her being longs to rule over her husband. The answer lies in a promise of deliverance within God’s curse on the serpent.

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

Despite the gloom and harshness of the curse in Genesis 3, there is yet hope for mankind. In God’s curse on the serpent, He promised ultimate victory over sin through the woman’s seed—Jesus.

God’s Future Deliverance

God will triumph over Satan in the future.  Though Satan bruised Jesus at the cross, Jesus crushed Satan at the cross (cf. Hebrews 2:14; Colossians 2:14–15). And God will crush Satan forever in the future (cf. Romans 16:20).  One day, we will be like Christ perfectly, and we will no longer sin (cf. 1 John 3:2). The struggle to submit will be over.

God’s Present Deliverance

Not only is there hope for change in the future, but there is also hope for change in the present. Eve had become a “friend” of Satan by placing her trust in Satan’s promises rather than God’s when she took the fruit. Genesis 3:15 makes it clear that, after the fall, Satan became Eve’s enemy. Her heart was changed. She became a lover of God with a changed heart.

As Christians, we are “new creatures” (2 Corinthians 5:17). As we view God in all his glory, we “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18). As we are transformed back into the image that we were intended to look like in the first place, we more and more love what God loves and desire what he desires. God can shape our fallen desires into his divine mold of Christ-like submission.

God’s divine design for women has always been submission to her husband. Our sinful tendencies often hinder us from perfectly aligning with God’s design. However, the transforming work of Christ in our hearts allows us to overcome our sinful tendencies and submit to the men in our lives out of love for God.

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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

 

Union with Christ Breaks the Power of Sin

By | May 23, 2024

Romans 5:12–21 describes an amazing reality for believers. We were once sinners in Adam, under the reign of sin and death. Now, however, we have received the grace of God and free gift of righteousness through Jesus Christ. We have been declared righteous by God, and grace reigns over us, leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6 then brings out the practical implications of this change. If Rom 5:12–21 is the case—we have been transferred from the realm of sin and death into the realm of grace and life—then we are not to continue in sin or live in it (Rom 6:1–2). We have died, been buried, and raised with Christ. So, we should “walk in newness of life” instead (Rom 6:4; cf. 6:3–5).

Further grounding his point that we should not continue in sin, Paul states, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Rom 6:6). This verse warrants our close attention and yields three powerful truths that encourage us to overcome sin.

Our Old Self Was Crucified with Him

Our “old self” (literally, “old man”) is who we were in Adam, dominated by sin. The “old self” is unsaved and characterized by sin (Col 3:5–9a; Eph 4:17–22; cf. 4:25–32). By faith in Christ, this “old self was crucified with Him” (Rom 6:5). We “were also raised with Him” (Col 2:12) and “have put on the new self” (Col 3:10), which was “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24) and “being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col 3:10).

The Body of Sin Was Brought to Nothing

The purpose for this crucifixion with Christ was “that the body of sin might be brought to nothing.” “The body” overlaps with “your mortal body,” “your members,” and even “yourselves” in Rom 6:12–13. The whole person is in view. However, Paul mentions “the body” to focus on how we sin. “The body of sin” is “an expression which may refer… more generally, to bodily existence as the sphere in which sin’s dominion is expressed.”1 Indwelling sin previously drove us to obey the passions of our bodies (Rom 6:12b; cf. 3:13–18). Now that our old self has been crucified with Christ, “the body of sin” is “brought to nothing,” rendered powerless for sin to dominate it again. Now we can use our bodies for good (Rom 6:13b; 12:1–2).

We Are No Longer Enslaved to Sin

Crucifixion with Christ was render the body of sin powerless over us. The purpose of removing the rule of sin and its influence was so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. A new ruling power has taken over—grace through the Lord Jesus Christ. As a result, we are empowered and commanded to pursue righteous living instead of sin (Col 3:9–10; cf. 3:5–9a, 12–17; see also Eph 4:21–32).

With these truths in hand, we are reminded that we should, can, and will persevere through Christ who conquers sin in us. May God help us to look more like His Son day by day as He renews us to be more like Him.

Photo by Cdoncel on Unsplash

  1. Sinclair Ferguson, “The Reformed View,” in Christian Spirituality (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p. 59. []

Cleaning a Mess and Adding Some Shine: A Brief Look at Romans 5:12–21

By | May 8, 2024

“In a passage that rivals [Romans] 3:21–26 for theological importance, Paul paints with broad brush strokes a ‘bird’s-eye’ picture of the history of redemption. His canvas is human history, and the scope is universal.”1

“Adam’s sin has wrought great devastation in the world, and we all know that cleaning up a mess is harder than making one. The depth of Christ’s grace is revealed by the undoing of Adam’s sin, for grace would not shine as brilliantly if it did not involve the conquering and subduing of previously existing sin.”2

I love quotations like these two by Moo and Schreiner, both commenting on Romans 5:12–21. The first helps us understand that Romans 5:12–21 gives us a bird’s-eye view of the Bible, and the second zooms in on how Christ graciously cleans up sin and death in order to bring about our salvation. We could get wrapped up in debates about whether this passage teaches seminal or federal/representative headship (I understand it to teach the latter) or take our time to guard this passage from the heresy of universalism. However, as seen in the quotations above, this passage demands our attention and understanding due to its the redemptive-historical scope and the brilliance of grace therein. As Christians, we should understand Romans 5:12–21 as best we can, and, having understood it, we should love our God all the more. In context, this passage strengthens our hope of eternal life.

Romans 5:1–11 speaks of the blessings of justification, and especially the blessing of our hope of eternal life (cf. Romans 5:2, 4–5, 9–10). Romans 5:12–21 grounds our hope further by explaining how “Adam… was a type of the one who was to come” (Romans 5:14). Briefly stated, eternal life is certain because God undoes humanity’s sin and death in Adam for those who receive His saving grace and the righteousness of Christ.

Explaining how Adam was a type of Christ, Paul compares and contrasts the two (Romans 5:12, 15–19). He also clarifies these matters in terms of before and after the Law (Romans 5:13–14, 20–21). The words just as, as, so, like, if, much more, all the more, as, and also tie these comparisons and contrasts together. The following describes these comparisons, contrasts, and clarifications, verse by verse.

Romans 5:12

Paul begins a comparison and contrast by speaking of Adam but does not complete this comparison until 5:18–19. Sin came into the world through one man who representatively sinned for all. As a result, death came to him and all mankind.

Romans 5:13–14

Paul clarifies that sin existed and death reigned from Adam to Moses, though the Law had not yet come to define sin for what it was.

Romans 5:15

Paul contrasts the free gift of Christ’s life with the trespass of Adam. Adam’s trespass brought death, but the life and death of Christ undid Adam’s sin and death and even abounded to give us righteousness and life.

Romans 5:16–17

In 5:16, Paul contrasts the results of the free gift of Christ’s righteous life and Adam’s sin. Adam’s sin brought condemnation, but Christ’s life (for those who receive it) brought justification. In 5:17, Paul elaborates this contrast. Death reigned because of Adam’s sin, but those who receive God’s grace and Christ’s righteousness reign in life.

Romans 5:18–19

Contrasts and clarification in hand, Paul now completes the comparison that he began in 5:12. In 5:18, Paul compares Adam to Christ. Both men did one thing that affected all men, though their acts and results were opposite. Adam’s trespass led to condemnation for all, and Christ’s act of righteousness (His life and death) leads to justification and life for all (i.e, all who believe; cf. 5:17). In 5:19, Paul elaborates 5:18 to shift from results to people—Adam’s disobedience made people sinners, but Christ’s obedience makes people righteous (again, by faith).

Romans 5:20–21

In 5:20–21, Paul clarifies the purpose of the Law and its relationship to grace. In 5:20, the Law’s purpose was not to save but to define sin for what it is. Yet, in spite of sin’s exposure, grace abounded all the more. In 5:21, Paul summarizes and closes off the whole passage by giving the purpose for why grace so abounded—so that, having undone sin and death, grace might reign both now and forever through the righteousness of Christ, leading to eternal life through Him.

In summary, we sinned in Adam, and thus sin and death reign over us. Before the Law, men ignorantly but obviously sinned because death reigned during that time. After the Law, sin became worse because now it was transgression—violating God’s written, righteous Word. And even if ignorant of the written Word, man was at least violating the law of God written in his heart (cf. Romans 2:14–15). However, as we receive the saving grace of God and believe that Christ in His life and death fulfilled the demands and the penalty of the Law for us, His righteousness becomes ours, and grace reigns in our life instead, giving us assurance that we have eternal life through Him!

Photo by Oleksii Hlembotskyi on Unsplash

  1. Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (New International Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapid: Eerdmans, 1996), 314. []
  2. Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 285. []

An Overview of Daniel 11:2–12:3

By | May 3, 2024

Daniel 11:2–12:3 is a prophecy about Israel to Daniel from an angel, probably Gabriel (cf. Daniel 8:16; 9:21; 10:10–11). Much has been fulfilled (Daniel 11:2–35); some is yet to come (Daniel 11:36–12:3).

Daniel 11:2–35 covers almost 400 years (539–167 BC). Daniel 11:2 foretold three Persian kings and a fourth whose rules spanned 530 to 465 BC. The fourth was Xerxes (Ahasuerus in Esther) who would provoke Greece around 480 BC and receive a forceful response even 150 years later. Prophesied in Daniel 11:3–4, this force was through Alexander the Great who quickly conquered but died (336–323 BC), resulting in his kingdom dividing four ways—north, south, east, and west.

Daniel 11:5–35 then anticipated 160 years of war between the southern Ptolemy dynasty in Egypt and the northern Seleucid dynasty in Syria (323–163 BC). Daniel 11:5–9 runs through the first 50 of these years (323–227 BC), detailing warfare and intrigue between the north and the south. Daniel 11:10–20 covers the next 50 years in (227–176 BC) in which one northern king is primarily in view, Antiochus III (ruled 223–187 BC). This rule receives more attention in order to set the stage for the next king, Antiochus IV.

In Daniel 11:21–35, Gabriel foretells the rule of a contemptible northern king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes (ruled 176–163 BC), a madman whose military failures resulted in irrational rage against Israel. Daniel 11:29–35 closes this section with the sad story of how Antiochus IV would profane Israel’s temple, end her worship, set up something abominable instead (a statue of Zeus and using pigs for sacrifices on the altar), and persecute many to death. Antiochus IV is not only an evil king involved in Israel’s history, but he also previews the worst of kings to come—the Antichrist in Daniel 11:36–12:3.

So, in Daniel 11:36–12:3, Gabriel jumps from Antiochus IV to the Antichrist “at the time of the end” (Daniel 11:40), a “king” with no country specified and one who “shall do as he wills” (Daniel 11:36). He rejects all gods and God above to exalt himself and military might (Daniel 11:36–39; cf. 2 Thess 2:3–4). As he rises to power, the kings of the south and north attack, prompting his own invasion of multiple countries in return, overwhelming them with his soldiers, and easily passing through (Daniel 11:40). With his headquarters between Jerusalem and the sea, his campaign extends to Palestine (“the glorious land”) and the south, east, and north before his ignominious end (Daniel 11:41–45).

Before his end, however, the Antichrist provokes an unprecedented time of trouble, requiring the archangel Michael to come to Israel’s aid (Daniel 12:1; cf. 9:27; Revelation 12:7–17). Israel’s trouble ends with rescue for the believing remnant and resurrection for the believing dead (Daniel 12:2–3). Israel’s foes will awake to judgment in time to come (cf. Revelation 20:11–15).

Photo of Bust of Antiochus IV at Altes Museum (Berlin) by Yair Haklai

A Theology of Woman from Genesis 1-2: Reflecting God’s Image, Bringing Companionship, and Helping Her Husband

By | May 2, 2024
This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series A Theology of Woman

This blog series is adapted from Sunday School lessons I wrote several years ago for women and teen girls. The goal was to form a “theology of woman” by looking chronologically at all of the major portions of Scripture regarding women and womanhood. What does the Bible say are the roles, duties, challenges, and opportunities that we have as women?

Many men and women have argued about the equality of and distinctions between genders. Some have oppressed women with the idea that man is superior to woman in every way. On the other extreme are feminists who claim that there are virtually no distinctions between male and female.

12 years ago, when I first wrote these lessons, I read an article in a parenting magazine that reported a mother who wanted her children to have more genderless thinking. She refused to push her children towards gender-specific toys. In a more extreme case, I read about a couple in Canada who were trying to raise a genderless baby. Today, these stories are commonplace and hardly even notable in the world’s eyes—unless of course you are refusing to be “pronoun hospitable.”

The above stories, in reality, illustrate rebellion against God’s created order and the gender-specific roles that He has ordained. The Bible clearly claims that men and women are equal yet distinct at the same time. Men and women share equal worth but maintain distinct roles.

God created men and women with similar obligations.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. (Genesis 1:26-29, ESV)

Men and women alike are to imitate God.

Men and women were created equally in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 states that God made mankind in His image; verse 28 follows it up by specifying that both man and woman were made in God’s image. Man and woman were made from the mold of their Maker. They were created to resemble their Creator, unlike any other created being.  Thus, they also share in the same goal—to be like their Creator.

The word image comes from the Hebrew tselem, which means basically “to carve” or “to cut.” The word likeness comes from the Hebrew demuth, which means “to be like.” Both men and women are to reflect our Sculptor, who sculpted us in his likeness.

Men and women alike are to procreate.

In Genesis 1:28, God commands man and woman to be fruitful and multiply. Men and women are responsible to fill the earth with children, who are also made in the image of God. In this “creation” of more image-bearers, we reflect our Creator as well.

Women are especially associated with this command, since they actually physically bear children. Genesis 3:20 states that “the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living” (emphasis added).

Men and women alike are to dominate.

The word subdue in Genesis 1:28 is the Hebrew kabash, which means “to bring something into bondage, to make it serve you by force, to dominate it.” The word rule comes from the the Hebrew rada, meaning “to govern something, to reign or hold sway over it.”

Mankind is to be diligent in the responsibilities God has given us: domination over creation. We are to be good stewards of the resources and responsibilities God has given us. God gives this command to “them,” both man and woman. As God called all of creation into existence, we who are made in God’s image are to rule over that creation.

God created men and women with certain distinctions.

Just as surely as there are similarities between man and woman, God clearly shows us that there are also distinctions.  These distinctions are God-ordained and intended for our good.

Men and women were created physically distinct.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27, ESV)

Quite simply and clearly, God states that he created them as male and female. God ordained that there be physical differences between a male and a female. In a world that too often refuses to recognize gender differences, it is absolutely necessary to recognize that God not only recognizes the differences, but he also created the differences.

The first man and woman were created in a distinct order and method.

Man was created first out of the ground (Gen 2:7). The woman was created after and from the man.

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:21-23, ESV)

 The woman was created to be man’s companion and helper.      

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. (Genesis 2:18-20, ESV)

The woman was created for the purpose of helping man and bringing him companionship. Although women do not have a monopoly in the helping arena, this is a specific role that the woman herself has been called to by God. The woman helps the man. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines help as “to give assistance or support to (someone) to provide (someone) with something that is useful or necessary in achieving an end.”

What were the responsibilities that the woman was created to help her fellow image-bearer accomplish? She was to help him fulfill his/their God-ordained tasks. Be fruitful. Multiply. Fill the earth. Subdue it. Have dominion over creation (cf. Genesis 1:28).

Helping and companionship are a good thing.

After God created Adam and the rest of creation, he saw that “it was good” (Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31).  God, however, saw something that was not good. It was not good that man was alone. As Adam named all the animals that were brought to them, he noticed that the animals were paired up. He also finally realized that there was not a “helper fit for him.” So, God decided to make one.

Helping is within a framework of equality.

The woman was created to be a helper fit for him. Unlike all the animals, the woman was the only one suitable for Adam. She was his equal in essence (i.e., created in God’s image) but not in function/role.

When God brought the woman to the man, the man literally broke out in poetry: At last! Someone like me!

This at last is bone of my bones

and flesh of my flesh;

she shall be called Woman,

because she was taken out of Man (Genesis 2:23).

Helping is a task that God does as well.

In case anyone feels that being a helper is a miniscule, subservient task, she should be encouraged that God is called a help multiple times in Scripture (cf. Exodus 18:4; Deuteronomy 33:26, 29; Psalm 33:20; 70:5; 115: 9-11; 146:5; Hosea 13:9).

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2, ESV)

It should encourage our hearts to see the God of the universe helping us. We imitate God when we help others, specifically our husbands in the context of marriage.

In the history of the world and for many in the present, it has not been and is not easy to be a woman. As we will see in Genesis 3, this dysfunction between the genders is a by-product of sin. Women have often responded either by thinking of themselves as inferior to men or by clawing their way to the top to prove themselves superior.

But from woman’s very creation, she was made—along with man—in God’s image for the purpose of reflecting him. This is a glorious and humbling responsibility! This reflection includes the companionship and help we women give to our husbands, and this too is part of God’s divine plan for women. We help the men in our lives accomplish whatever God has called them to do, as God also helps us accomplish what he has called us to do.

Who Does Daniel See and Hear in Daniel 10:5–9?

By | April 25, 2024

Daniel received his final vision in Daniel 10–12. As with previous visions (cf. Daniel 7:16; 8:16–17; 9:21–23), Daniel saw angels and heard them speak (e.g., Daniel 12:5). In this vision, however, there is debate among Bible-believing theologians over the identity of the messenger who told Daniel of things to come (cf. Daniel 11:2–12:3).

Some identify Daniel’s messenger as an angel. Being awesome in appearance, the angel’s arrival caused Daniel to faint (cf. Daniel 8:18; Matt 28:3–4). Being under divine authority, the angel submitted to being “sent” (Daniel 10:11).Being powerful but not omnipotent, the angel claimed to have come after fighting a demon—“the prince of kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days” (Daniel 10:13; cf. 10:20). Even then, the messenger was there speaking to Daniel only because the angel “Michael, one the chief princes, came to help” him fight the demon (Daniel 10:13). As the angel Gabriel had previously come to Daniel (Daniel 8:16; 9:21), perhaps this angel was also Gabriel, maybe a chief angel alongside the archangel Michael (Daniel 10:21b), who was allowed an appearance similar to Jesus in a vision seen by John (Daniel 10:5–6, 10; Revelation 1:12–17).

Others identify this messenger as the Son of God.The similarities in appearance and actions between Daniel 10:5–9 and Revelation 1:12–17 (as well as Ezekiel 1:26–28 and Acts 9:4a, 7; 22:9) could identify this messenger as the Son of God. He was sent by the Father (Daniel 10:13), sovereignly withheld His omnipotent power as He fought a weaker being (Daniel 10:13, 20; cf. Gen 32:22–32), and enlisted Michael’s help just as He employs angels for other tasks (Jude 9).

Others identify two different figures, the first being the Son of God in Daniel 10:5–9 and then an angel as the messenger in Daniel 10:10 and following. I personally believe this option is best by combining the reasons listed above. There are undeniable parallels between Daniel 10:5–9 and other passages that clearly identify the Son of God (Ezekiel 1:26–28; Acts 9:4a, 7; 22:9; Revelation 1:12–17). In the progress of revelation, perhaps the New Testament passages provide a commentary to identify whom Daniel saw. Once Daniel faints, the Son of God apparently leaves after Daniel 10:9 so as not to overwhelm Daniel again. Then, in Daniel 10:10, an angel sent by God (most likely Gabriel; cf. Daniel 8:16–18; 9:21–23) arrives after receiving Michael’s help to fight a demon (Daniel 10:11, 13, 20). He extends his hand to strengthen Daniel who then hears a prophecy of things to come (cf. Daniel 11:2–12:3).

Image from p. 961 of The Art Bible: Comprising the Old and New Testaments (London: George Newnes, Ltd., 1896).