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Archive for the ‘devotional for the apologist’ Category

apologist john whitcomb

By DR. JOHN C. WHITCOMB
President, Whitcomb Ministries, Inc.

 

The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead with a glorified body is a foundational truth of the New Testament. In fact, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Cor. 15:17-19).

 

But how can we be absolutely sure that He rose from the dead three days after He died on the cross for our sins? Even one of the 12 apostles denied His resurrection: “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Eight days later, Thomas saw Him in the upper room, and exclaimed: “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28).

 

But how can we say what doubting Thomas finally confessed if we have not seen Christ as Thomas did? Our Lord gave the answer to him and to all men everywhere: “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (v. 29).

 

This is an amazing statement! How can we believe in something so stupendous about someone who we have not seen? The answer may come as a surprise even to many Christians. It is the same dynamic by which we can know how the world was created by God a few thousand years ago – not billions of years ago by chance through evolution. “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen [i.e., sun, moon, stars, plants, animals and people] were not made of things which are visible” (Heb. 11:3).

 

Many people who believe in supernatural creation by an Intelligent Designer would question this. They are convinced that the theory of evolution has been disproven by the Second Law of Thermodynamics – which teaches that everything in the universe is deteriorating in quality – and by the obvious irreducible complexity of all living things. Therefore, they say, we do not need to accept creation “by faith.” (See John C. Whitcomb, Jesus Christ: Our Intelligent Designer [Waxhaw, NC: Kainos Books, 2012].)

 

But this involves a profound misunderstanding of what the Bible teaches. We are not told to take by faith what anyone says – but only what God has said. That is why “faith [in what He has said] is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb.11:1).

 

How do we know for sure that God is speaking to us? The first chapter of the Bible provides the answer: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’” (Gen. 1:26). Human beings are infinitely different from animals. We have a mind, a soul/spirit and a conscience. We have a unique capacity among all living beings on this Earth to hear God speak to us. “Gentiles… show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them” (Rom. 2:14, 15). When God spoke to our first parents, they did not say, “Who are you?” (See Rom. 1:18-23.)

 

One of the special ministries of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the triune Godhead, is to illumine our minds concerning divine realities. The Lord Jesus said of Him, “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15:26). Furthermore, “He will convict the world… of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more” (16:8, 10). And, “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (16:13).

 

That is how some Greek politicians in Athens, hearing the preaching of Paul, were able to believe in the resurrection of Christ, likely without ever having been to the land of Israel – more than 500 miles away. “When they heard of the resurrection of the dead… some men joined him and believed” (Acts 17:32, 34).

 

Friend, do you believe that “Christ died for our sins… and that He rose again” (1 Cor. 15:3, 4)? Through the inspired words of the Bible, we are told that He was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom.1:4).

 

Do not wait until you see Him – like doubting Thomas. Believe in Him now – because your God, who created you, has told you to!

 

May every Christian in the world today trust the Holy Spirit to make us effective light reflectors for the resurrected and glorified Christ until He comes again.

 

Copyright © 2014 by Whitcomb Ministries, Inc.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

 

Dr. John C. Whitcomb is heard weekly as the Bible teacher on Encounter God’s Truth, a radio and Internet broadcast outreach of Whitcomb Ministries, Inc. He has been a professor of Old Testament and theology for more than 60 years and is widely recognized as a leading Biblical scholar. The book he coauthored with the late Dr. Henry Morris in 1961, The Genesis Flood, has been credited as one of the major catalysts for the modern Biblical creationism movement. Dr. Whitcomb’s broadcasts, sermons, lectures and writings are available at SermonAudio.com/Whitcomb. To receive the very latest on his ministry, like Facebook.com/WhitcombMinistries or myWorldview.com/WhitcombMinistries.

 

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PART I

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We will look today at Luke 1:5-7:

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

I enjoy Luke 1:5-7 and in a way it stands out from the rest of Luke chapter 1.  The lack of the miraculous in this passage makes it easier to relate to for today than what follows in the rest of the chapter and beyond.  For the careful reader, one would note that this passage affirms the reality of suffering in this world.  No doubt since suffering is a reality in this life various forms of the problem of evil have been brought up even among Christians.  And yet this passage reveal two individuals who are faithful to God even as things don’t go their way–and the presence of evil that surrounds them.

Note the following:

1.) Zechariah and Elizabeth lived in a time where the wicked reign (v.5a)

2.) Zechariah and Elizabeth own life was far from being ideal (v. 7a)

3.) Zechariah and Elizabeth lived and know the experience of being elderly (v. 7b)

1.) Zechariah and Elizabeth lived in a time where the wicked reign (v.5a)

PASSAGE:In the days of Herod, king of Judea,”

Who was King Herod?

He was a very cruel man .  Extraordinary brutal.  Even within his own family, he executed several of his own sons whom he suspected of plotting against him, along with his favorite wife, the Hasmonean Mariamne (or Miriam).  The Roman emperor Augustus said of him: “It is better to be Herod’s pig than his son.”  AND HERE WAS THIS EVIL MAN RULING–EVEN OVER THOSE WHO WERE GODLY.

How long did he reign wickedly for?

The “days of Herod” would have spanned from 37 B.C. to 4 B.C. (Fitzmyer, 322).

2.) Zechariah and Elizabeth own life was far from being ideal (v. 7a)

PASSAGE: But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren,” 

But they had no child

Culture had a higher premium of having kids back then than today.  Biblically children was a blessing from the Lord and yet they did not have any.

“…because Elizabeth was barren,

Reason why they were childless is given here.  Being “barren” must be understood in their Old Testament background of what it means, in which it can be seen as the worst thing to happen to a married woman.   One can think of Genesis 30:1 of Rachel two choices to Jacob of having children or she will die and 1 Samuel 1:6 of Hannah being maligned (Hendriksen, 67).

One can imagine people using Psalm 113:9 to judge someone who is barren (Hendriksen, 67).  Yet is there legitimate grounds to say this?

In the Greek, “Elizabeth” has an article before it and thus “the Elizabeth “This verse echoes other godly women in the Bible who were barren such as Sarah (16:1), Rebecca (Genesis 25:21), Rachel (Genesis 30:1), Samson’s mother (Judges 13:2), Hannah (1 Samuel 1-2).  The significance of the article is that it points to the fact that this is the same Elizabeth previously mentioned in verse 6 as being Godly who is also the same one here that is sterile.  The significance here is that sometimes even godly people have things happen to them that we might say, “Is it fair?”

3.) Zechariah and Elizabeth lived and know the experience of being elderly (v. 7b)

Passage: and they were both advanced in[j]years” 

Old age is a cruel affliction to humanity.  Think of frail human bodies.  Frail human spirits.  Nursing homes.  Think of cruel, mean, sad looking faces of those who are pass their primes.  Think of accomplished men and women, whose days and glory have been long past and significance have been forgotten or no longer appreciated–who are viewed by others and their own adult childrens as, well children–or worst, they have deterioted to being ACTUALLY acting and talking like children.  In more words that the existentialists and Nhilists can poetically describe, old age can be a cruel lot to afflict those who haven’t been taken away yet.

And yet surprisingly, this couple, with much afflictions and suffering were described by Luke as being godly (v.5b-6)

there was a priest named [g]Zacharias, of the division of[h]Abijah; and he had a wife [i]from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.

What gives?

Why didn’t Zecharias gave up, submit his ex-Christian testimony and sell books with titles like “Diaries of an Ex-Minister”?  I’m embellishing here-but you should get the point: this couple was old, faithful to God and yet suffering was very real to them.  What was it that gave them the hope within them to go on?  What reason could they give?

What is the reason for their hope?

1.)  Their hope is based upon the fact that God does focus upon the Godly

One must not miss the point that Luke 1:5-7 is about the godly.  The implication of this is huge: There is a big contrast between the terrible king and this pious priest, and I think it shows that God’s view of history is not just only upon famous people who are recognized by the world as movers and shakers but instead upon those who are faithful to Him.  For those of us who are His people, He cares and watches out for us.  King Herod is only mentioned incidentally here.  Their relationship with God along with God’s focus upon them must have been a sweet and powerful comfort, in which despite years of ongoing violence around them and affecting them as well, Zecharias and Elizabeth still followed God; and followed God through their old age and having no children.

2.) Their hope is based upon the fact that God Kept His Word

They lived with the motivation that God kept His promises.

It seems this old couple focused on God’s promises in their lives by the significance of their names

Zecharias means “God Remembers”

Elizabeth means “God is an Oath” that is, with the idea of God being absolutely reliable (Hendriksen, 65).

God’s promise can be seen in history and providence: “Zacharias, of the division of[h]Abijah;

It is some kind of division of priests in which there were 24 division with each serving at the temple for a one week duration twice a year (Hendriksen, 65).

Translated as “Abijah,” it refers to the eighth division out of the 24 division of priests serving the temple.

The fact that there were still priests in Israel was because of the faithfulness of God to His promises to bring back Israel from the Babylonian captivity.

The Christian apologist must not downplay or forget the importance of God’s Word being fulfiled in the role of encouraging believers for the hope that they have within them whether it’s the study of Messianic prophecies, other historical prophecies being fulfilled and the study of the doctrine of God’s providence and role in History.  Of course, the framework for the study of historical apologetics must be thoroughly biblical.

CONCLUSION

Most Christian apologist can recite 1 Peter 3:15, the apologist’s “Constitution:”

 but [c]sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being readyto make a [d]defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and [e]reverence;

But the apologist must not forget contextually the verse before it,

But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you [a]are blessed. And do not fear their[b]intimidation, and do not be troubled

1 Peter 3:15 is situated in the context of believers suffering and persecuted.  How appropriate would it be that Zecharias and Elizabeth be a model for the Christian apologist to own up to the hope that we have, live it out and bear witness God’s testimony and power in the midst of evil around them, suffering, and things not going our way.

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There’s always more truths and application from a passage of Scripture than what time allows to be actually preached on Sunday.  Sometimes there’s more “minor” point from the text that are good devotional observation for my own life as I think about apologetics and evangelism, that won’t fit into the main point of my sermon.  As we approach the Christmas season, I wanted to share some of these observation from Luke chapter 1-2 which is often called the Infancy Narrative, that has implications for the Christian who is conscious about evangelism, apologetics and worldview.  This series will be tagged under the category “Devotional for the apologist.”

We will look today at Luke 1:1-4, which is the prologue not just for the infancy narrative but for the entire gospel of Luke:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us,just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

(NASB)

Here Luke desire to pursue careful and accurate historical investigations.  It’s evident with his choice in use of certain Greek terms.

Words used showing Luke’s care for truth and historical investigation and it’s accurate presentation of it:

  • account” (v.1)– Where we get our modern English word “Digest.”  Often used in classical and Hellenistic Greek to refer to historical writing (Fitzmyer, 292).
  • accomplished” (v.1) –Literally is “to bring to full,” that is to fulfill or accomplish in full.  Is there an allusion to Biblical prophecies being “fulfilled” here as well?
  • eyewitnesses” (v.2)– The Greek being αυτοπται, the root word is where we get the English word “Autotopsy.”  There is an emphasis of this word, with it being nuance since it appears before the verb though it’s the object.
  • those who from the beginning“–Luke’s emphasis from the beginning can be seen in that the first two chapters of Luke has 132 verses concerning the beginning that is new information not covered as detailed in other Gospels (Hendriksen, 17).
  • having investigated” (v.3)–Has the meaning of investigating and following up as used by Josephus (Fitzmyer, 297).  The use of the perfect tense for this participle indicates that the action of Luke’s investigation was all done and completed prior to him every writing.  That is, he did his homework before writing!
  • everything” (v.3)–Shows completeness of what Luke into.
  • carefully” (v.3)– Adverb that suggests the quality of Luke’s investigation.
  • consecutive order” (v.3)–A word that describes what happens next is what is being said next (Hendriksen, 56).  Luke wants to write history here.

What do these notes means for the Christian apologist?  I realize that Luke was divinely inspired when he wrote his gospel but nevertheless, in light of the fact that Scripture has a human aspect to it, I see some implications for the one who wishes to develop and live out a Christian worldview:

1.) First off, Christians can go to the Gospel of Luke (and the rest of Scripture) “so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught” (v.4).  Test all things you heard about Jesus to the Word of God.  A Christian must not forsake the authority of the Word of God just because he’s doing apologetics.

2.) Secondly, if Luke, being guided by God, is interested and concern with history, so should we as Christians.  History is not just another boring subject, something trivial, useless or something we pretend to be interested in it so that our boring senseless teacher will give us an A in school.  There is a place for Church history, historical theology, historical apologetics and studying the historical background that is the milieu in which Scripture was written through disciplines such as archaeology, Ancient Near East studies, etc.

3.) Thirdly, Christians ought to acknowledge and synthesize other data correctly.  Note that Luke acknowledges others have written on Christ in verse 1.  There is an absence here of him saying that these accounts were wrong.  This sort of confirm that there is such thing as “Perspectivalism” or Symphonic theology as expressed in John Frame’s and Vern Poythress’ work, provided they are not truly contradictory or against Scripture.  We can emulate Luke’s acknowledgement of other sources before he writes by also starting with what God’s Word has to say about any given subject and it’s implication first whenever we study any particular issues in-depth.

4.) Fourthly, the Christian ought to study things with care and sharpness if we want to emulate Luke.  Can you say with a clear conscience, that your studies have reasonably “investigated everything carefully“?  This glorifies God when we do this, knowing that He’s a God of truth.

5.) Fifthly, the Christian ought to present the things he studied with equal care and sharpness (like the way he ought to study) if we want to emulate Luke.

6.) Last but not least, Christians engaged in historical apologetics, who are students of history or pursuing studies and teaching in general are doing it to serve other believers and nonbelievers, just as Luke also can give a purpose clause for why he was doing what he was doing in verse 4.  So choose your specialization carefully.  Think of how you can bless and be a benefit to others with what you learned, rather than just to puff up one’s ego.

Are there also other implications you can see from Luke 1:1-4?

PART II

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