Genesis 7:2-3, Acts 10:13-15

Clean and Unclean

In Genesis chapter 7, God gives Noah instructions regarding what animals to take with him on the Ark. Verses 2, and 3 say, Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth.” He is to take seven pairs of clean animals and only one pair of each of the unclean animals. I think the idea of cleanliness in this text refers to those acceptable to God for sacrifice. The distinction between clean and unclean animals had to do with what was acceptable as a sacrifice to God and what was acceptable to eat as well. The specific dietary restrictions are laid out more specifically in the book of Leviticus. Even though God didn’t give animals as food for man until after the flood, it’s assumed that the readers already understand the difference between the two. According to one blogger, “Clean animals: land animals that chew the cud and have a divided hoof, such as cattle, deer, goats, and sheep; seafood with both fins and scales, such as bluegill, grouper, and cod; certain birds, including chickens, doves, and ducks; and even some insects, such as grasshoppers and locusts.” He continued then with the second list, “Unclean animals: land animals that either do not chew the cud or do not have a split hoof, such as pigs, dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, and rats; seafood lacking either fins or scales, such as shellfish, lobster, oysters, and catfish; some birds, such as owls, hawks, and vultures; and other animals, such as reptiles and amphibians.”

God resolved not to destroy all life on the earth but to preserve a remnant of both man and animals (as well as birds). Roop observes, “These redundant instructions preparing for the Flood serve to emphasize God’s resolve that not all life shall perish in the Flood. That same resolve becomes a hallmark of God’s relationship to the post-Flood world. Insofar as the key question of the Flood narrative is ‘can life survive God’s coming in judgment?’ the answer is clearly ‘Yes.’ God will see to it.”[1] We see in some of Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels, as well as John’s vision in the book of Revelation, that there will be another Judgment upon mankind on the earth. Will he be totally wiped out? No, there will be a remnant, and God will see to it.

The big difference between the diet of the Jews and the diets of those who occupied the land that they were preparing to enter was these very animals. Jews would not eat unclean animals. The Canaanites ate them all. The Jews would not have anything to do with people who ate those things. But the Holy Spirit, working on Peter, did away with that restriction. In Acts 10, Peter had a vision or dream about a big platter (sheet?) coming down out of heaven, and according to Acts 10:23-15, “In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’  But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.’ And the voice came to him again a second time, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’”  Because Noah brought with him a pair, male and female, of unclean animals with him on the Ark as God directed, is the reason we can have shrimp today. I’m glad!

[1] Roop, Eugene F. 1987. Genesis. Believers Church Bible Commentary. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press.

Revelation 1:1, Various

John’s Angel

During John’s Revelation, we are introduced to an angel. The final sentence of verse 1 of Chapter one says, “He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John.” It’s interesting because an angel is also said to have been the mediator of the books of Moses. In Acts 7:38, we read that when Steven speaks about Moses, he says, “This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us.” Then in verse 53 of the same chapter of Acts, Steven accuses the Jewish leaders of the murder of Jesus even though Moses prophesied about the coming of a prophet who would be greater than himself. He includes the comment that the Jews who received the law through Moses “received the law as delivered by angels” and yet did not keep it. Then the writer of Hebrews also speaks of “the word spoken by angels” regarding the coming of the Son of God. The angel who speaks to John and gives him this fantastic Revelation is never identified. The Old Testament angels are not identified either. The only thing we know of John’s angel is that he was one of the seven angels to pour out the bowls of God’s wrath on the earth, which is recorded in the later chapters of John’s Revelations. We never learn which one of the seven this angel is. This angel remains a mystery for us, and we don’t hear much about him until the last chapter. In Revelation 22:6, John says, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”

The big question regarding this issue is “mediation.” Some will argue that God gave the Law directly to Moses without a mediator. Several places in the Old Testament either say that or imply it. In Deuteronomy 33, they argue that God came “accompanied” by his saints to bring the Law to Moses. Yet the Hebrew phrase “Holy Ones” might mean angels as well as saints. It’s interesting also to notice that the Septuagint, the Greek Translation of the Old Testament, actually used the word “angels” in the text of Deuteronomy 33. Putting all the passages regarding mediation together in the Bible, there appear to be several levels of mediation. First, the angels mediated between God and Moses. Then Moses mediated between the angels and the Israelites. Although there seems to be clear evidence of God’s mediation through angels at times, we must not forget that salvation is not one of the things they can mediate. Paul tells Timothy, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” We don’t need to believe in angels to be saved. We need to believe only in Jesus, who has mediated God’s love and offered salvation to us all through his death and resurrection. Yet, we cannot miss the fact that God might mediate the truth of Christ’s actions on our behalf through mediators. He even uses preachers and other Christians today to bring us the truth of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, angels may still be at work somehow today.

I like how Michaels finishes his commentary on this passage. He writes, “Angels are not a familiar part of our world today, even among devout Christians. When I was in college, a friend from high school then studying for the Russian Orthodox priesthood asked me if I believed in angels. Being a new Christian, I said I did, not because I had given the matter much thought but because I felt this was the proper answer. My friend was surprised at my reply, telling me that he had never before met a Protestant who believed in angels. The fact is, however, that we cannot make much sense of the book of Revelation without believing in angels, or if we cannot quite bring ourselves to believe, we must at least make a conscious effort to suspend our disbelief in order to participate fully in the story.”[1]

[1] Michaels, J. Ramsey. 1997. Revelation. Vol. 20. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Jude 1:2, Hebrews 4;16, Romans 15:13

Mercy, Peace, and Love!

Whereas most of the epistles seem to have the greeting of grace, and peace, and sometimes Paul or Peter adds mercy to make it a threefold greeting, Jude changes the greeting in his letter to include love instead of grace.  Jude 1:2 says, “May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. Ed Pentecost observed, “The divine provisions of mercy, peace, and love included in Jude’s greeting are needed by Christians living in the licentious atmosphere of apostate teaching. God’s mercy can sustain them in times of difficulty.” Ed then uses Hebrews 4:16 as his reference. According to this passage, we can see that God’s grace is intimately associated with God’s mercy. It says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” When Jude uses mercy, he automatically implies grace. Then Ed continues his comments on verse 2 of Jude and says, “His peace can give a subtle calmness when evil abounds.” He then refers to Romans 15:13 which says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Now we’ve added “hope” to our equation. It seems that all the good things of life are commended to Christians by the writers of these letters. Finally, Ed reaches the third greeting of “love” and says, “His love can protect and assure believers in the face of peril.”[1] Even when things look bad in life we can feel that God’s love for us will carry us through any trial. So, it’s mercy, peace, love, faith, hope, joy, and the certainty of God’s grace that carry us all through the valley of the shadow of death and will present us blameless before the throne at the time of judgment. Just believing in the truth of these things can comfort the grieving heart.

In the early years of the church, there were many false teachers. They would argue against mercy, peace, and love in favor of judgment, unrest, and retaliation. Judgment in place of mercy. Unrest and stress in the place of peace. The law of lex-talionis in place of love. You get what you deserve in life. This is the call of the legalists in Jude’s day and our day as well. They want us to see ourselves as the Pharisees saw themselves. They paid the tithe of all their income. They observed every feast day and sabbath celebration. They fasted a couple of times a week and therefore their good work should foster a sense of pride and self-satisfaction. God would therefore owe them something. But as for me, it doesn’t matter how many religious things I do, I can’t escape the reality of my sinful nature. I don’t deserve anything from God. I’ve been watching the ads on TV that call for those on social security to call a particular 800 number to make sure they are getting all they deserve. Honestly, I don’t want what I deserve. Almost everything in my life is the result of mercy, grace, and love. I don’t want to pursue what I deserve.

Those that promote such ideas know nothing of God’s grace, mercy, and peace, not to mention God’s love. Their entire focus is on what we must do. Be good! Don’t think bad thoughts! Give to the poor! Go to church! Talk about God! The true focus that will bring mercy, peace, and love is Jesus. He calls us to come to Him and this life of stress and living up to the expectation of others trying harder and doing more will melt away in God’s peace. “Come to me” Jesus calls, “and I will give you rest.” Pentecost continues with some final comments on this verse, “The nature of the salutation reflects the writer’s attitude. Jude’s choice of words introduces his deep-seated compassion and heartfelt concern for his readers. He longed for them to know in the fullest measure God’s “mercy, peace, and love.” Jude overflowed with love for the believers while warning them about those who were making their way into the church to destroy it, those who knew nothing of God’s mercy, peace, or love.”

[1] Pentecost, Edward C. 1985. “Jude.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, edited by J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, 2:919. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

3 John 1:3-4, John 14:6

What is Truth?

 It’s all about “truth.” John is writing to those who have it, those who are walking in it, and his joy in hearing about it all. 3 John 1:3-4 says, “For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” John is really interested in the concept of “truth.” On his “Grace to You” website, John MacArthur talks about truth. He says, “Ask anyone today, ‘What is truth?’ and you’re sure to start an interesting conversation. Try it on a university campus and you’re likely to receive laughter, scorn, and derision. The concept of truth has clearly fallen on hard times, and the consequences of rejecting it are ravaging human society. So let’s go back to the starting point and answer the question: What is truth? One of the most profound and eternally significant questions in the Bible was posed by an unbeliever. Pilate—the man who handed Jesus over to be crucified—turned to Jesus in His final hour, and asked, ‘What is truth?’ It was a rhetorical question, a cynical response to what Jesus had just revealed: ‘I have come into the world, to testify to the truth.’ Two thousand years later, the whole world breathes Pilate’s cynicism. Some say truth is a power play, a metanarrative constructed by the elite for the purpose of controlling the ignorant masses. To some, truth is subjective, the individual world of preference and opinion. Others believe truth is a collective judgment, the product of cultural consensus, and still, others flatly deny the concept of truth altogether.”[1]

Well, what is truth? Truth is not pragmatism. Whatever works is true. It’s not whatever is understandable. People can manufacture lies that people can understand. It’s not what makes people feel good. In fact, sometimes the truth does just the opposite. It’s not what the majority of people say is right. History is full of examples where the majority was wrong. “The Greek word for ‘truth’ is aletheia, which literally means to ‘un-hide’ or ‘hiding nothing.’ It conveys the thought that truth is always there, always open and available for all to see, with nothing being hidden or obscured. The Hebrew word for ‘truth’ is emeth, which means ‘firmness,’ ‘constancy’ and ‘duration.’ Such a definition implies an everlasting substance and something that can be relied upon.”[2] To me, and many other simple-minded people, truth is something that is in accord with reality.

Just before He stood before Pilate to be judged, Jesus told His disciples, “I am the truth.” What an incredible statement. Can a person be “the truth?” He could if He was indeed whom He claimed to be. He was to whom all judgment had been entrusted. While looking out over the Grand Canyon a man said, “I don’t like this ditch at all.” The guide answered, “the Grand Canyon is not on trial. You are.” Pilate and the Jewish religious leaders who brought dozens of lies and false charges against Jesus thought they were judging Him. In reality, Jesus was judging them. “Pilate evidently never came to a knowledge of the truth. Eusebius, the historian and Bishop of Caesarea, records the fact that Pilate ultimately committed suicide sometime during the reign of the emperor Caligula—a sad ending and a reminder for everyone that ignoring the truth always leads to undesired consequences.”



2 John 1:2-3, 1 John 4:7-98

Grace, Mercy, Peace, Love and Truth

There has been much discussion on whether John is writing to a particular person or to a local church in his 2nd epistle. He begins by talking about his love for them and then adds that he is not alone in his love for them. “This love is shared by ‘all who know the truth’ (πάντες οἱ ἐγνωκότες τὴν ἀλήθειαν); and such an assertion is a further indication that the elder is here addressing a church, and not an individual.”[1] The truth John is writing about is one that abides in both John and his readers and will remain with “us” he says forever. 2 John 1:2-3 says that his love for them is “Because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever:  Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.”

Grace, mercy, and peace all come from God and Jesus. We experience them from God in “truth and in love.” These two concepts: truth and love are essential in any truly loving relationship. Tim Keller wrote, “Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it.”[2] The mood in our secular world reverses the truth in a way to demean the value of truth. In 1 John 4:7-8, we read, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Yes, God is love, but love is not God. The tendency today is to love everyone at all times with no concern for the truth. We need both to build and affirm healthy relationships.

This is not easy to do in our society. It’s easy for us to be truthful and loving with those close to us and those who agree with us. It’s more difficult to hold on to love amid strong controversy. I’m always leaning toward one and away from the other. It’s extremely difficult to keep them in balance. This is especially true in our sexually permissive culture. A Focus on the family article added, “People of faith too often default to one of the polar extremes: downplaying unpopular teachings of Scripture to avoid offence (love without truth) or else doubling down on their convictions with little regard for the feelings of others (truth without love).” Grace and peace are two commendations that most of the writers of the New Testament epistles send to their readers. In Paul’s letters, he adds a third one when he writes to Timothy. That is “mercy.” John includes that third blessing of mercy also in his 2nd epistle. God’s grace comes to us when we confess the truth of our sinfulness. Sin is living a life contrary to God’s revealed truth. We can only receive Grace from God when we acknowledge sin. Mercy comes from God once we acknowledge our sins and accept our need for God’s grace. He forgives us and doesn’t give us what we deserve. That’s mercy. Peace then will follow. When we acknowledge sin and turn to Christ we get Grace. When we confess, we get mercy in that God does not give us what we deserve. Peace with God follows.

[1] Smalley, Stephen S. 1984. 1, 2, 3 John. Vol. 51. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated.


1 John 1:1-2, 5:12-13

The Word of Eternal Life

 John gives us the essence of Christianity in his preface. He writes, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us.” John has made it clear in the opening words of his gospel that Jesus is the “word.” The “word” was with God and was God and became flesh to dwell with us. But, this preface adds another concept to “The word.” That is “life.” He refers to Jesus as “the Word of life.” The person of Jesus is what is being proclaimed. John and the other apostles saw him with their eyes. They touched him with their hands. They heard him teach. They watched him raise Lazarus from the dead. The focus on eternal life in the preface helps us understand that Jesus was not a created being, but an eternal being. He was “with” the father from the beginning. Before there was anything at all, Jesus was. He was with the Father and one with the Father. Jesus was and is “eternal.”

Many commentators go into deep philosophical discussions on “Logos.” They explain how it’s reason itself. How it’s the communication of an important message. The Greeks used the word in many ways and John intends us to understand all of them. I’m not that deep of a thinker. To me, the “word” as well as the “word of life” is another way of identifying Jesus. Many passages in the Bible make this truth apparent to us, but it seems to me, what John is proclaiming to us isn’t just the person of Christ, but the “eternal life” of the person of Christ which is yours and mine through faith in the only eternal word of God – Jesus! John is proclaiming to us how we too partake in this “eternal” life. At the end of his epistle, John will explain why he wrote it. It’s all about Jesus and believing in Him. In 1 John 5:`12-13, he says, “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.”

I like to ask two questions. The first one is if you die today do you know for certain that you will go to be with God in heaven for all eternity? The normal answer is “I sure hope so.” Then I like to ask, “if God were to meet you at the pearly gates and ask why should I let you in?” What would you say? The normal answer is that I’m a Christian. I’m a Catholic, or I’m a pretty good person, or I’ve done my best. But if you are basing your admittance into heaven on your good works or lack of bad works, you can never “know” as John tells us, that we are going to heaven. Many religious leaders want to keep us from “knowing” our fate so that they can manipulate us or manage us in such a way as to keep us dependent on them. God is not like that. He is not holding out a carrot trying to make us try harder. No, he accomplished all that needs to be accomplished on our behalf. There is nothing we can do to earn or deserve a place in heaven. We’ve all sinned and fallen short of that standard. Our “eternal” lives are not based on what we do. It’s based on what He has done for us. The only way we can ever really “know” that we have eternal life is to trust in the message John proclaims to us. John tells us that he wrote this letter to believers so that they would “know” what lies in store for them after death. It might sound arrogant to say “I know I’m going to heaven.” It would be the most arrogant thing in the world if entry into heaven is based on how good I am and what good works or good deeds I’ve done. It’s not arrogant if it’s dependent on what someone else, Jesus, did for me. Whoever has the Son, has eternal life.





1 Peter 1:2

Knowing God and Jesus

As part of Peter’s greeting in his second epistle, he includes what could be seen as a prayer for us. Imagine for a moment that the great Apostle Peter is expressing not only his own attitude toward us but also God’s attitude toward us. In the second verse of his epistle, he says, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”

Knowledge is an important subject to Peter in his two epistles to suffering believers. This short book with only three chapters begins with the idea of knowledge and ends with the same idea. The last verse of the book says, “You, therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” This Greek word for knowledge is “gnosis.” But when Peter uses it, he prefixes it with a preposition to intensify or change its meaning somewhat. “Epignosis” is not just intellectual knowledge but relational as well. Biblical writers used this term to explain more intimate connections. It’s even used at times for sexual intimacy, Adam “knew” his wife Eve, and she conceived a son.

Peter talked about God’s foreknowledge in his first epistle. He presented that in a way that his suffering readers would find encouragement. God cared about all their struggles and pains. He knows about them all and had promised to work all things together for our good. Trusting in God’s omniscience and promises of deliverance brings comfort to believers. False teachers in that day, like today, present it all as being up for chance. Nothing is certain and no one knows what’s going to happen in the future. As I write this, I just left the deathbed of an old friend. We were stationed together for 2 years back in the late 1960s and stayed in touch on and off over the years. I don’t know if he heard me or not, but I assured him that as a believer in Jesus he has promises of God for eternal life and he could rest in that truth. In the gospel comes “grace and peace.” Peter requested that both grace and peace be “multiplied” to his readers. I wish that for my friend. I wanted him to know that God knows. God knowing and understanding make truth more than just propositional. It becomes personal. That is the way Peter intended it. Black wrote, “Here, as elsewhere in Scripture, knowledge is not simply an intellectual matter but also a relational one. The false teachers did not truly ‘know’ God. Peter’s prayer, then, is that his readers will have the abundant grace and peace that comes from knowing God and knowing the truth about God and about Jesus our Lord.”[1]

[1] Black, Allen, and Mark C. Black. 1998. 1 & 2 Peter. The College Press NIV Commentary. Joplin, MO: College Press Pub.

1 Peter 1:1-2

The Encouragement of God’s Omniscience

Verse two of the first chapter of Peter’s first epistle introduces us to some pretty heavy theological topics. First, the foreknowledge of God is mentioned regarding election. Second, is the idea of the sanctification of the Spirit for the obedience to Jesus and the sprinkling with his blood. The passage says, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” There are so many philosophical complexities related to God’s foreknowledge and election, that I’ve given up trying to understand them all. I did a google search on “God’s foreknowledge” and had 754,000 hits! I tried to read a couple of them but then went back to Peter’s letter and determined to allow God’s omniscience to remain a mystery with me. However, I do come away with the impression that Peter is telling his suffering readers that God knows all about it from beginning to end and he knows it will all turn out for our best. I don’t know much, but I trust in the God who knows all.

The scattered believers that Peter is addressing are called the elect “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” When a loved one is sick and we take them to the doctor we might ask what’s the “prognosis”. That is we want to know what will come of this particular sickness in the future. The doctor’s answer is always based on his medical knowledge but doesn’t involve a supernatural insight into the future. In the Bible, the Greek word for foreknowledge is “prognosis.” It expressed the idea of knowing reality before it becomes reality. One writer says, “In Christian theology, foreknowledge refers to the all-knowing, omniscient nature of God whereby He knows reality before it is real, all things and events before they happen, and all people before they exist.” But, as the writer continues, “The foreknowledge of God is far more than His ability to see the future; His foreknowledge is a true knowing of what will come to pass, based on His free choice. He decrees what will come to pass. In other words, foreknowledge is not just intellectual; it is personal and relational.”[1]

Several commentators see the foreknowledge issue being one way Peter wants to encourage all believers amid their trials. Sam Storms concludes, “It’s simply amazing that at the beginning of Peter’s letter to the hurting, persecuted, oppressed people facing a myriad of trials he focuses on election! Why? Because God’s eternal purpose for us and in us and through us is the only thing ultimately that will sustain us in hard times. Knowing who we are as God’s elect and whose we are is a truth that the Spirit will repeatedly bring to mind to encourage us in times of affliction and to strengthen our wills when tempted and to sustain hope when everything appears to be falling apart.”[2] David Helm gives us an encouraging summary as well. He writes, “In the strongest way possible, Peter has told us: The Lord God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, is behind all of this. The hidden counsel of the Eternal Trinity has planned for us to be known as his ‘elect exiles.’ And he has done all of this through the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus. So take heart. Be encouraged. Christians are those who are chosen by God and called to live in this world. There is something in this letter for every Christian. This is a fine mail day. As you read on, Peter’s desire is that you would experience God’s grace and know his peace. In fact, verse 2 says that he wants them to be yours in abundance (May grace and peace be multiplied to you).”[3]



[3] Helm, David R. 2008. 1 & 2 Peter and Jude: Sharing Christ’s Sufferings. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

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