• New Testament,  Old Testament,  Theology

    Where did Baptism Come from?

    When we read through the Bible from the Old to New Testament, a few things jump out when we get to the New Testament. One major surprise is the prevalence of baptism. Where did baptism come from? There doesn’t seem to be any indication of baptism in the Old Testament. However, the New Testament puts a significant priority and importance on baptism. What is the background to the baptism process? It seems unlikely that John the Baptist invented baptism. There is no indication that the Pharisees or Sadducees asked John what he was doing. Instead, the New Testament paints the picture that people were familiar with baptism. Scholars have attempted to explain why people were already familiar with the process. There are typically four possible options that scholars put forward as the historical background for New Testament baptism. Mystery Religion Adaptation Qumran Lustration Proselyte Baptism Jewish Purification and Washing Rituals…

  • Christian Living,  New Testament,  Old Testament

    What does the Bible Say about Dreams?

    What does the Bible say about dreams? Although at one point I was surprised whenever someone would ask this question, this has long since ceased. Christians regularly want to know what the Bible says about dreams. One of the reasons for this is because human beings are naturally curious about dreams. Dreams intrigue us. This is evidenced in part by the fact professional dream interpreters have their own business. Additionally, almost everyone has read of Sigmund Freud and his propensity for analyzing dreams and what they signified about an individual. For Christians, not only do dreams interest us, but the Bible also interests us. Hence, when we read about God speaking to people through dreams, it is a natural question which comes up—should we expect to hear from God in dreams? Dreams in the Old Testament The first mention of dreaming in the Old Testament comes in Genesis 20:3, where…

  • New Testament,  Old Testament,  Theology

    Infant Baptism and the Connection to the Abrahamic Covenant

    As we have noted before, for the Reformed paedobaptist, the covenant of grace is the foundational argument for paedobaptism. Within the covenantal system, the specific covenants mentioned in Scripture are just various manifestations of that singular covenant. Specifically, however, for the Reformed paedobaptists, the New Testament discussion of the “old covenant” is the Abrahamic covenantal manifestation of the covenant of grace. In contrast, the Bible’s mention of a new covenant is not not “new” in the sense of something that has not been seen before, but rather, a renewed version of that Abrahamic covenant which already existed. Note, for example, renown Berkhof’s explanation. “The covenant made with Abraham was primarily a spiritual covenant, though it also had a national aspect, and of this spiritual covenant circumcision was a sign and seal….  This covenant is still in force and is essentially identical with the “new covenant” of the present dispensation. The…

  • New Testament

    Jesus Barabbas or Jesus the Messiah?

    One detail of the Easter story that is sometimes missing is the contrast and comparison of the two men named Jesus. Yes, you read that right! At the end of Jesus’s trial, Pilate selects two men named Jesus as candidates for selection by the Jewish crowd. Jesus the Messiah and Jesus Barabbas are put forward side by side. The dilemma is obvious. To which Jesus will the nation of Israel affirm their loyalty? Jesus Barabbas in Matthew 27:16-17 Many people are not familiar with the idea that Barabbas is most likely a surname, while his given name was Jesus. A brief survey of the English translations shows why many people have not heard of Barabbas as Jesus Barabbas. ESV “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” NASB “Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called…

  • Church,  New Testament,  Old Testament,  Theology

    Covenant Theology and Infant Baptism

    Reformed paedobaptists are not shy to assert that their defense of infant baptism relies on covenant theology. In fact, although many Baptists take issue with infant baptism not being mentioned anywhere in Scripture, this is really a simplistic understanding of the Reformed position. In reality, for the Reformed paedobaptist, the entirety of the debate centers around the unified covenant of grace. Note the words of paedobaptist Cornelis Venema: This debate can be reduced to one principal question: Does the covenant of grace in its New Testament administration embrace the children of believing parents just as it did in the Old Testament administration? However complex and diverse the arguments, pro and con, on the subject of infant baptism may be, this remains the overriding issue. Precisely because the debate between paedobaptists and Baptists centers on the doctrine of the covenant of grace, particularly the similarity and dissimilarity of the covenant in…

  • New Testament,  Old Testament

    The Feast of Booths and the Kingdom of God

    The Feast of Booths is not something we often take the time to study because it involves a lot of time in the Old Testament. However, the New Testament assumes you know about it! In fact, knowing about the Feast of Booths helps us understand the Transfiguration in Matthew 17. What is the Feast of Booths? The Feast of Booths (Sukkot in Hebrew) was important for those in the OT and the NT. It was one of three times a year when all of the males in Israel were mandated to come to Jerusalem before God (Deut 16:16). The Feast of Booths was an 8-day celebration (beginning Tishri 15 on the Jewish Calendar), which happens to be in September/October in our calendar. During this feast, the people would live in temporary shelters (booths) and give offerings to the Lord (Lev 23:36). According to Lev 23:42, this was for native Jews only. The…

  • Church,  New Testament

    Dealing with the Divisive Person in Titus 3:10

    In Titus 3:10, the Apostle instructs Titus to “Reject a divisive person after a first and second warning” (CSB). However, in the KJV the divisive person is called a “heretic.” Clearly, the connotation is different. A divisive person is one who is given to strife, quarrelsome, and contentious, and thus is the target of this disciplinary action. Alternatively, according to the KJV, the man’s heretical beliefs are the issue, presumably as this heretic tries to persuade others to his views. Two questions arise when discussing the identity of the divisive man/the heretic: (1) Does the word mean divisive or heretic? (2) Is this process of church discipline different than what Jesus laid out in Matthew 18? What Does the Word Divisive or Heretic mean? The word for “divisive” (CSB) comes from the Greek word heretikos (αἱρετικὸς), from which we get “heretic” in English. To some, this settles the matter. But before we say this, we need to recognize that…

  • Christian Living,  New Testament

    Understanding the Gospel as Story

    It is very popular in today’s evangelical culture to advocate living a “gospel-centered” life. Further, Christians are quick to remind others to “preach the gospel to yourself every day.” I think I understand what Christians mean by this, but I have seen a few problems that come from this kind of catchphrase Christianity. My goal is not to dissuade people from using these phrases, but to try to use biblical definitions to help others understand what living a gospel-centered life means. What is the Gospel? Most people are familiar with the fact that “gospel” is usually used to translate a Greek word, euangelion, which means, “good news.” More specifically, however, I think it is fair to say that most people use the term “gospel” to refer to the following logical sequence. All human beings are sinners; and as sinners we are bound for eternal damnation. Jesus came to earth, lived…

  • Christian Living,  New Testament,  Theology

    Is God in Control of My Sickness?

    Nobody enjoys sickness or infirmity. Whether it is a significant disease or a minor sickness, infirmities often are a source of consternation and complaint. Regardless of whether it is our own sickness, or the sickness of a loved one, Christians are constantly driven to questions about God’s relationship to sickness and suffering. Does God have control over sickness? Sickness and God’s Glory One of my favorite passages which addresses the issue of sickness or infirmity and God’s control is John 9. As Jesus and His disciples traveled in Jerusalem, they pass by a man who was blind from birth. The disciples ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). The assumption behind the disciples’ question is that sin and sickness are connected. The disciples supposed that it was either the blind man’s sin, or his parents’ sin that brought about the…

  • Ethics,  New Testament,  Old Testament

    Homosexuality was Added to the Bible in 1946

    It is becoming more and more popular to argue that the Bible speaking against homosexuality is a recent innovation that was added to the Bible to make Scripture anti-gay. One very common iteration of the argument is that the word “homosexual” was not in any Bible prior to 1946. The implication of such argumentation is that the Bible does not speak against homosexuality, and that the church should therefore accept a gay lifestyle as being compatible with biblical teaching. Those who put forward such argumentation typically point to Luther’s German translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9, which uses the word Knabenschänder, or “boy molester” rather than the typical idea of homosexual found in modern translations. Additionally, proponents point to the KJV translation, done in 1611, which translated 1 Corinthians 6:9 as, “nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind.” It was not until 1946 with the translation of the RSV that…