22 February 2016

The Book of Enoch's Influence on the New Testament (Pt 5)

In the last part we looked at what Jude had to say about the judgment of the angels in chains and now I turn the attention to 2 Peter 2:4-11

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked...; then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. (2 Peter 2:4-11 ESV)

As we found in Jude, we have angels who sinned and were cast in chains awaiting judgment, followed by a mention of Noah, which reveals to us that the timing of this sinning of the angels was prior to the flood, and this is then followed by again mentioning a connection with Sodom’s destruction, and he also connects that to the lust of defiling passion and despising of authority in his own time.

While this section is usually understood by scholars as borrowing from the Jude passage, note that Peter adds a bit more to it than Jude, and that extra information he mentioned adds even more to the obvious connection between this verse and the Book of Enoch as his source.

21 February 2016

The Book of Enoch's Influence on the New Testament (Pt 4)

Now, let us return our attention to the passage in Jude that we mentioned earlier. This is one of the few stronger passages that show an even clearer dependence on the Enochian texts.

It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him." (Jude 14-15 ESV)

This is a direct quoting of 1 Enoch 1:9, but one thing worth noting is that Jude states here that what Enoch is doing in this verse is prophesying. Referring to a verse from Enoch as being a prophecy sure feels like he is adding much more weight to it than if he was just quoting it as a secular type source like we see occasionally in Scripture. The other thing that is notable in studying both books further, is that Jude does not simply quote a verse and move on, but in fact continues to follow the content patterns of 1 Enoch along with allusions and echoes of its phrases and language throughout his letter.

Both books share the primary apocalyptic theme of the punishment of the ungodly. And they both do so by pointing to an evil in their day and stating it is a fulfillment of a past prophetic proclamation. Not only do both books appeal to ancient judgment examples as a connection to the promised judgment coming to the present ungodly company, but they both look back to the same ancient corruption of the angelic watchers who corrupted humanity.

20 February 2016

The Book of Enoch's Influence on the New Testament (Pt 3)

We left off last time in starting to look at the "Son of Man" discussion, so let us now pick up by looking at another example of the Son of Man theme that is beyond what we are told in Daniel. It can be found in 1 Enoch 48:

And at that hour that Son of Man was named in the presence of the Lord of spirits….Even before the sun and the signs were created, before stars of heaven were made, His name was named before the Lord of spirits. He shall be a staff to the righteous and they shall steady themselves and not fall. And he shall be a light of the Gentiles, and the hope of those who are troubled of heart. (1 Enoch 48: 2-4)

Could it be that Paul was drawing from this Enochian storyline when in Romans he speaks of such things as:

So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. (Romans 11:11 ESV)

And then he goes on to discuss Gentiles coming to faith along side of the remnant - i.e. the righteous who steady themselves in Christ so as not to fall? Hopefully you are starting to see that there is an uncanny amount of similarities presented in the Book of Enoch.

19 February 2016

The Book of Enoch's Influence on the New Testament (Pt 2)

We ended in the last part with a little diversion on determinism in Hebrew thought, so now back to the path at hand. What benefit does the Book of Enoch provide for us when it comes to our canon of Scripture? Well, the most obviously answer comes from one of its primary uses by people today, and that is its relationship to the ongoing debate into the true meaning of Genesis 6 and the sons of God taking daughters of man as wives.

The Book of Enoch obviously sees the sons of God as indeed angelic entities procreating with human women and creating a hybrid race of giants. This is the common view on Genesis 6 that the ancient Hebrews and early church held, and the Book of Enoch is a key source for further promoting this understanding.

When it comes to this book in general, some quote it as if it were Scripture, while others condemn it as total myth and heresy. But if we find that it has been influential on some biblical writers and has influenced them in the writing of our canon of Scripture, then it would demand further consideration, would it not?

18 February 2016

The Book of Enoch's Influence on the New Testament (Pt 1)

I would like to step outside of the Bible in order to step back into the Bible - well sort of something like that. I’d like to start by stating these basic principles that I believe most everyone would agree with. The Bible was written by an ancient people of a different time, culture and mentality than us. We know and understand that there are many things we struggle to understand in the scriptures because of this fact. And because of this, we take to the study of ancient writings, people and times. But, as we know, not everyone does this sadly.

The battle continues over the opinions on the creation account and the book of Genesis. Studies in the writings from the surrounding nations at the time period of the writing of Genesis give scholars insight into the types of writing styles and language use for the period. Through this, alternative meanings can be discovered for words we thought we understood already.

The same principle is applied to our study of Scripture elsewhere - we have to understand the culture and it’s use of phrases, idioms and terminology, in order to best understand what was written in Scripture at the time.

I wish to take a look at one piece of influential literature, an ancient writing that you have probably at least heard of its name - the Book of Enoch. I hope to show you how this writing, which was lost or ignored by the church for nearly two thousand years, was actually a key influential writing that had a big impact upon our New Testament Scriptures.

Now, when it comes to the discussion of extra-biblical literature like this, people tend to have different reactions. Mention something like the Apocrypha to a Protestant - their instinct is to raise their fists in preparation for a fight. When you bring up Jewish writings that come from the biblical period, people either simply ignore or dismiss them as useless, or simply deny they contain any truth at all, and think instead that they contain error and myth.

We may hold to inspiration of Scripture, and we believe all of Scripture is true, but such a view does not require that we view everything outside the Scripture as necessarily false. Some people do exactly that, particularly when it comes to other scripture-like material from days of old. “If it was true, why did the early church not include it in the canon?” some may ask.

08 February 2016

Gospel Conversation: Living the Gospel (Pt 3)

We ended part two after a section on honoring God, so now we look at the idea of living:

In Respect to Worldly Men

On top of being a manner of living that honors Yahweh, it is also a way to convince unbelievers around you. While the audience relevance scenario is different, the exhortation from Peter is applicable as to how this works:

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Pet. 2:12 ESV)

Yes, they had there day of visitation that was approaching, but the underlying principle is still solid – that honorable conduct and good deeds glorify Yahweh to those around us. So it is actually a two-fold response – it glorifies God and convicts the unbelievers around us.

Another aspect of it - as relating to those around us - is found a few verses later, where Peter says this action will actually silence ignorance:

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:15 ESV)

Peter also gives us a hint of what we spoke of from Paul earlier in our opening text. Living as people who are free hearkens back to the living as citizen idea. Plus he reinforces Paul’s teaching to honor others and love the members of the body of Christ. Then later in 3:16 Peter speaks of our good behavior putting to shame those who slander and revile.

In Respect to the Saints

On top of glorifying Yahweh, and affecting those unbelievers around us – we now look at how it affects our fellow saints. When fellow believers see us living a gospel honoring lifestyle, it will warm their hearts. They see the glory it brings to the Father, and that brings them joy.

They will not only feel joy, but will bless God the more for it. And likewise, to see this spirit of love working through others, it should fill us with the same joy, seeing the good things being done in our Father’s name.

It is also a means of adding additional encouragement to others. They see another brother or sister practicing a righteous gospel centered life, and it gives them great joy and encouragement to continue doing the same.

On the other hand, seeing someone making the gospel profession yet walking contrary to that, is disheartening, and brings shame to them and the whole body in general.

Also, new converts will be emboldened in their walk by seeing the gospel living of those around them, and they will be given the encouragement to follow the example and seek to imitate that righteousness too.

So our gospel lifestyles – or lack thereof - can greatly affect those around us, making it of great importance that we watch over ourselves in these areas. Let us hold fast to truth and not be proven to be liars as we are warned in 1 John:

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  (1 John 1:6 ESV)

Instead, we should always seek to stand firm in that manner of living that is worthy of the gospel:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  (1 John 1:7 ESV)

It is the hard words found later on in this same letter that help to separate the sheep from the goats as it were:

No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.  Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:6,8 ESV)

Now, we could go into all kinds of detail here about what it means to keep on sinning, etc. but instead of going down that path, let’s keep it more surface level and simply say that someone who has no desire to  - or ignores all efforts to  - live a disciplined, gospel honoring life may need to take a real hard look at their spiritual life and profession in general.

It someone would rather contradict their profession of salvation by a habitual, public, and unapologetic manner is showing forth no evidence of being born of God. Whereas this same section tells us:

Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:7,9-10 ESV)

So, this kind of makes the gospel lifestyle less than optional. It seems fairly clear that if someone does not practice righteousness or does not love their brother, they are not of God. Those are pretty strong words, and they should hopefully wake us up to the seriousness of the situation. Of course, this is not saying that righteous living causes us to be of God, but it is saying that those truly of God will have a heart towards this gospel manner of living.

Those who don’t tend to take care of themselves anyway. Like a comet, they may blaze for a short period, but after a while of no righteous living or striving for growth, they tend to fade away and disappear.

When you think about it, what is the purpose of being born of God if you are just going to stick it in your pocket and make it of no use to your life or anyone else’s around you? Does Scripture give us any indication of a lifestyle that he calls us to where we just accept His gift and hide it away only for ourselves?

Going back to our original verse in Philippians:

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel…  (Phil. 1:27 ESV)

As we said earlier, he is saying “above all else” we are to strive to live in a manner of life worth of the gospel – it means our prayer should be that we live and act differently than before. We should be “set apart” and noticeably so by those around us.

Yes we’re human – yes we’re seeds of Adam – yes we stumble – yes we sin – yes we fall. But are we to use our human nature as an excuse to continue in sin with never much desire to be rid of it and work hard at striving for holiness?

We are to strive and work within ourselves to daily seek to overcome the secret sins that are keeping us from being the men and women God wishes us to be. We are to stay in his Word frequently to better learn and understand the nature and ways of Yahweh, in order that we may focus our lifestyle to be more pleasing to Him.

This is not works based righteousness, this is works based love. If Yahweh has loved us and brought us into his family and renewed us with truth, we should be more than willing to love and honor Him with a lifestyle according to his mandate.

Living in a manner worthy of the gospel means earnestly desiring the ability to pray in good conscience something like this updated prayer borrowed again from Jeremiah Burroughs:

Father, you know, according to what light you have given me in the gospel, that it has been my care to look to my manner of living.

Oh, that I might live to your honor and be a witness to your truth; that I might hold forth your image and further your designs, and make up the dishonor that you have from others in the world. That I might convince wicked men and stop the mouths of those who are contrary!

Oh, that I might be a means to convert those with whom I live, or otherwise to judge them. 

Oh, that I might rejoice the hearts of the saints, that they may lift up their heads with boldness because of me, and that they may be established and edified.

Many in today’s pews could not repeat this prayer in sincerity. But the question is, do we desire to be able to do so? Are we struggling daily to make our manner of living more like this?

Many do not have such a concern or desire, but are just fine going to church, going through the motions, and putting on a good front while there – only to go live like the devil the rest of the week.

Do we attend church services or listen to sermons with the intent of learning new things about Yahweh and to strengthen ourselves with new ways that we can live more unto Him? Or do we go to church because that is what is expected of us?

What is it we are seeking most to do in this life – be pleasing and appeasing to men, or seek to be honoring to our Father who has given us life and truth? I once sat under a pastor who said plainly from the pulpit, “In this life, we can never be sinless – so why try?” That is a sad and lazy excuse that allows us to just wallow in our sin.

The church is sadly filled with men and women just like this – whose daily lives are a great dishonor to the Lord they profess to love and follow. Nothing darkens the glory of the Father as much as a professor of the gospel who lives so loosely with little concern for correction.

May our hearts not be set in such a direction, and may God’s Words always chime in our ears:

If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: (1 John 1:6 ESV)

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph. 4:29, 31-32 ESV)

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:11-12 ESV)

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20 ESV)

07 February 2016

Gospel Conversation: Living the Gospel (Pt 2)

We ended in part one mentioning how the gospel message is a message of peace, love and reconciliation. Our manner of living should reflect that too. We must live in a manner that manifests the power of the gospel beyond just the words we say – it must be evident in our very actions.

We see this idea even in the very words of Christ, who told his audience:

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 5:16 ESV)

Our manner of living, our words, and our works should portray the beauty, excellence, and glory that the gospel offers to mankind. Has God the Father brought the light of the gospel into your life? Does evidence of it shine forth in your heart? Has he revealed to you those glorious mysteries of salvation in Him? If so, then let the light of that break forth and shine in your lifestyle so that others can see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

06 February 2016

Gospel Conversation: Living the Gospel (Pt 1)

I would like to take a look at some verses from Paul where he is exhorting the Philippians in his absence. Our text comes from Philippians 1, and of course looking at the context here, we find Paul writing to those at the church in Philippi with great joy. Let’s do a real quick synopsis to get the context of Paul’s words.

In verse 5 he states they have been partners in the gospel with him since day one, and in verse 6 he reminds them that he who began the good work in them would complete it in the day of Christ. In verse 7 he states that they were partakers with him in grace in both imprisonments and defense of the gospel.

In verse 8 he openly yearns for them in the affection of Christ. In 9-11 he prays that they abound more and more with knowledge and discernment, so as to be ready for the approaching day of Christ.

In 12 through 14 he speaks of all of his trials and imprisonments as being a great benefit to the spreading of the gospel message. In 15 through 19 he speaks of those who preach the gospel, some with good motives, others with bad ones, but explains how he is happy either way since in both cases Christ is preached.