We live in a culture that resists the authoritative declaration of absolute standards. In our world, everything is relative – everything revolves around your individual perception rather than some objective standard outside of yourself. And yet the paradox is that we like to label certain things morally good and others morally evil. What is the basis for those types of evaluations apart from God being the standard for good and evil? Otherwise one culture could establish a norm that murdering is good instead of evil.
God has a lot to say about people who have lost their moral compass; whose conscience and discernment have been so perverted by sin that they call good “evil”, and evil “good.” They have exchanged the truth of God for a lie and end up worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator.
As we enter into our study of Genesis – the Book of Beginnings – we see God laying the foundation for what He declares to be objectively good and objectively evil. These are the absolute standards that God has never changed and that apply down through the centuries, regardless of the confusion in men’s minds and hearts.
God is able to do this because by nature, He declares that in His very essence He is Good. Remember what Jesus explained to the rich young ruler: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19) That is why the commandments that He issues are good and right and consistent with a path of goodness and righteousness because they are consistent with the character of God.
As we read through the first chapter of Genesis, what has to strike you is the repetitive phrase: “God was that it [what He had created] was good.” In fact when it comes to summing up the entire six days of creation, He feels compelled to ramp up His evaluation and declare “it was very good.” (vs. 31)
EVERY ASPECT OF GOD’S CREATION WAS JUDGED TO BE GOOD BY GOD HIMSELF
I. SIGNIFICANCE OF BOOK OF GENESIS
Why Study the Book of Genesis? Significant in 5 key ways
1) Significant from its Title – Book of Beginnings (transliteration from the Greek translation of the Septuagint); books named by the first word in the book; Book of Origins – looked at this idea last week; need to understand both our origins and our destiny – Jesus identified Himself by the title: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end”
First book of the Bible and first book of the Pentateuch – 5 books of the Pentateuch are really viewed as 1 book with 1 author – that will be important when we come to discuss authorship
But many evangelical scholars today would question whether Genesis is scientifically accurate when it comes to explaining the origin of life on earth. Maybe it is just a mythological adaptation that has theological application but was never intended to be interpreted literally.
Albert Mohler begs to disagree:
Theological disaster ensues when the book of nature (general revelation) is used to trump God’s special revelation, when science is placed over Scripture as authoritative and compelling. And that is the very heart of this discussion. While some would argue that the Scriptures are not in danger, the current conversation on this subject is leading down a path that will do irrevocable harm to our evangelical affirmation of the accuracy and authority of God’s Word.
So our understanding of the inerrancy of Scripture is at stake in how we interpret the book of Genesis.
Certainly it is a controversial book – Derek Kidner:
There can scarcely be another part of Scripture over which so many battles, theological, scientific, historical and literary, have been fought, or so many strong opinions cherished
Introduction to study of book of Genesis – Book of Beginnings – Book of Origins
Overall introduction and discussion of structure next week
Gen. 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
Tremendous statement of global truth – foundational to so much of our understanding of man’s relationship to God; yet a truth that is almost universally rejected today by the unsaved in our culture who have come to accept the brainwashing of the theory of evolution – in fact a multitude of Christians probably struggle with this concept of divine creation as well.
Can’t really deal with ultimate origins without also dealing with ultimate destiny;
We always like to pick a key verse to focus on as our verse for the year for Solid Rock Community Church – that is what takes us to Rev. 21:6 today and its overall context which is verses 1-8
UNDERSTANDING ULTIMATE DESTINY SHOULD CREATE A THIRST FOR THE FREE GIFT OF ETERNAL LIFE THAT ONLY JESUS CHRIST CAN GIVE
TAKING GOD’S GIFT OF THE PROMISED LAND –
SPIRITUAL VICTORY IN THE BOOK OF JOSHUA
“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”
— (Joshua 3:5)
CLAIMING GOD’S PROMISES FOR SPIRITUAL VICTORY REQUIRES ENGAGING AND ELIMINATING THE ENEMY BY STRENGTH AND COURAGE FORTIFIED BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH
I. (1:1 – 5:15) ENGAGING THE ENEMY — ENTERING THE PROMISED LAND
II. (6:1 – 12:24) ELIMINATING THE ENEMY – TAKING POSSESSION OF THE PROMISED LAND
III. (13:1 – 22:34) EARMARKING THE PROMISED LAND FOR ITS DIVINELY INTENDED PURPOSE – DISTRIBUTING IT AMONG THE VAROUS TRIBES
IV. (23:1 – 24:33) EXHORTING THE NATION OF ISREAL ONE FINAL TIME TO CONTINUED COVENANT OBEDIENCE
(24:29-33) Epilogue – Association of Joshua’s Burial with those of Joseph and Eleazar –
All in the Promised Land as a Testimony to the Faithfulness of God
Click here for full detailed outline of the Book of Joshua with commentary notes.
Doesn’t it bug you when people use XMAS as shorthand for Christmas? It just seems like a symbol for the trend in our materialistic culture – the trend of removing Christ from Christmas. There are news accounts continually of some particular school district or college or community organization banning some expression of the historical account of Christmas. Doesn’t that anger you? That is why Karen and I so much appreciated the Christmas concert we attended a week ago by the Army Field Band. Their entire performance was focused around Christmas carols that exalted the Lord Jesus.
I liked what Dr. John MacArthur had to say in his short book on Christmas – The Miracle of Christmas. He describes two modern approaches to Christmas in our culture that threaten to dilute or even remove the true significance of Christmas.
The first he defines as an effort to mythologize Christmas. He defines that as the way the world has reduced it to little more than an elaborate fable. We have introduced so many embellished details that we can’t distinguish between reality and fiction — like the 3 wise men showing up at the moment of Christ’s birth – the biblical record doesn’t pin the number at 3 and they seemed to show up sometime after His birth. So we treat Christmas as no more than a cute story we tell our little children in the same vein that we read about the 12 Days of Christmas.
But the second approach is more devastating – that is the tendency to secularize Christmas – both mingling secular figures like Santa Claus, snowmen, reindeer and increasingly emphasizing the crass consumerism of our selfish culture. We need to constantly fight to maintain the true significance of Christmas. It is not about what presents we receive … or even what presents we give to others … It is about God’s great gift of His precious Son to us.
LET’S NOT LOSE SIGHT OF WHY CHRIST CAME INTO THIS WORLD AND HOW WE SHOULD RESPOND
This is truly an amazing historical account. How in the world did Barabbas become more popular and more desirable in the eyes of the Jewish people than Jesus of Nazareth? When given the choice, how could they possibly request of Pilate that he release back into their community Barabbas, a noted rebel and thief and murderer and insurrectionist instead of Jesus, the Son of Man who had traveled through their cities doing good, teaching the wise counsel of God, healing the sick, raising the dead, showing love and compassion to all?
Perhaps there is no clearer picture anywhere else in Scripture of what is involved in the substitutionary atoning death of Jesus than in this picture of sinless Jesus taking the place of wicked Barabbas who deserved to die on that cross between the two thieves. One has to wonder whether Barabbas came to the point of saving repentance and faith as he considered the injustice heaped upon Jesus that was rightly deserved to be poured out against himself. Here was one who chose not to defend Himself from trumped up charges that could have been easily refuted; here was one who opened not his mouth but allowed himself to be led as a sheep to the slaughter; here was one who could have called 10,000 angels to destroy the world and set him free … but chose to die there for you and for me.
Perhaps there is no clearer picture anywhere else in Scripture of what is involved in calling good evil and evil good; in choosing so unwisely; in demonstrating such utter depravity as to pick the release of Barabbas over the release of the sinless Lamb of God. This was depravity magnified. This was foolishness multiplied.
Perhaps there is no clearer picture anywhere else in Scripture of the tragic consequences of pursuing a path of expediency and compromise as exemplified by Pilate rather than that of conviction and conscience. Here was a powerful political leader who clearly understood the right course of action and yet cowered before the pressure of the Jewish religious leaders and the rabid crowd who were crying out for the crucifixion of an innocent man.
Perhaps there is no clearer example anywhere else in Scripture of the sovereignty of God who took the actions of wicked men and through His predetermined plan and foreknowledge, brought the ultimate good out of the ultimate evil.
Shocked by Silence — Trial Before Pilate
Last night Karen and I enjoyed a Christmas performance by the United States Army Field Band at the ornate Hippodrome Theater in downtown Baltimore. It was a surprising Christian and gospel oriented presentation – one of the highlights being portions from Handel’s Messiah with the ringing lyrics of “King of Kings and Lord of Lord … and He must reign forever and ever … Hallelujah, Hallelujah!” This was good preparation for our text for this morning – because you cannot fully appreciate the injustice suffered by the Lord in His trials before the religious authorities (which we covered 2 weeks ago) and here today His trial before the governmental officials – Pilate and in the other synoptic accounts, Herod until you contrast that treatment with the praise and worship He deserves as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Parunak: The structure of 14:53-15:20 compares the trial before the Sanhedrin and that before Pilate. The one rejects Christ through deliberate malice, the other through lack of political courage.
a) In each, the Lord is confronted with two questions, one indirect (via accusers), the other direct (by the judge). In both. he declines to reply to the accusers, but does reply to the judge, and the testimony he bears in both cases is the same: he is the one to whom all dominion belongs.
b) In each, after the conclusion of the trial, the Lord is cruelly abused by the judge’s underlings.
c) In each, the condemnation by the authorities is echoed by the Lord’s denial by the common people, each time marked by three questions.
How do you respond when you are wrongly accused? We all have the identical natural response. We become extremely defensive; we seek to justify ourselves; we might lash back and attack our attackers; we marshal all the evidence that could possibly support our claims. But Jesus responded differently. He endured more intense injustice than we could ever imagine. But He never lost His poise. And He never lost His compassion.
JESUS SUFFERED UNJUST TREATMENT BY BOTH HIS HARSHEST ENEMIES AND HIS CLOSEST DISCIPLES WHILE MAINTAINING HIS COMPOSURE AND COMPASSION
Our story this morning is a very simple narrative. It is a story that we can easily jump over without stopping to grasp its significance. It is a story where preachers at a loss for how to drive home the impact can fall into the trap of vain speculation:
- Imagine you were in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus; how would you have felt?
Who cares? It is not always all about you.
- What does it feel like to be abandoned by your close friends?
Who cares? Not why God preserved this account for us.
- Look at all of the references to clubs and swords; what does this passage teach us about gun control today? – What?? Now we are bordering on the ridiculous
Missing the point entirely!
Structure of passage shows us the emphasis – same verb used twice – vv. 50, 52 “fled” – even though translated differently in the English
Everybody abandons Jesus; Jesus ends up standing alone to face the suffering that lies ahead for him.
Abandonment: To withdraw one’s support or help from, especially in spite of duty, allegiance, or responsibility; desert: abandon a friend in trouble
Highlights the nature of the sacrifice for sin made by our Passover Lamb:
- He is the only sinless substitute that could propitiate the wrath of the Father
- He laid down His life voluntarily; not as some victim of circumstances
- He laid down His life in complete obedience to the will of His Heavenly Father
- He shed His blood to atone for our sins and provide us with undeserved forgiveness
Contrasting responses to this account of betrayal and unjust arrest:
- On the part of Jesus
- On the part of His closest disciples
- On the part of some unidentified follower
The events culminating God’s eternally decreed Plan for Redemption are now rapidly unfolding.
ONLY THE SUFFERING SERVANT EMBRACES GOD’S PLAN FOR REDEMPTION
Our passage for this morning gives us profound insight into the humanity of the God-Man, our Lord Jesus Christ. We see the depths of His emotions as He grapples with the imminent reality of the Cross; of the sinless, spotless Passover Lamb being made sin for us and bearing our sin on the cross to accomplish our redemption. Holiness that hates sin is now going to be made sin and suffer the punishment of God for undeserving sinners. The hour foreordained by the Father is now at hand. He is preparing Himself to fully drink the cup of His Father’s wrath, to be baptized with the baptism of suffering and death on our behalf. His ministry on earth has concluded. He has reached the culmination of His ultimate purpose in leaving His Father’s heavenly home and taking on humanity in the Incarnation and coming to earth on a mission – to give His life as a ransom for many.
In His darkest hour of preparation for what lies ahead, He turns to His Heavenly Father in heartfelt prayer in the isolation of the Garden of Gethsemane. He only asks that His band of disciples (minus the traitor Judas who has departed to betray Him) offer Him companionship and support in this time of preparation. He charges them to watch and to wait as He goes off to pray alone to His Heavenly Father. These disciples who have made such presumptuous claims of their unwavering loyalty and support; these disciples who have pledged to follow Him even to death, prove to be an utter disappointment as Jesus must grapple alone with His Father over embracing God’s will for what lies ahead.