Course Spotlight: How Do We Abide in Christ?

In some of our online courses, we have a “Student Thoughts” section where we ask a question to see what the students think. In Unit 4 of the Life Ministry and Teachings of Jesus Christ course, we asked the questions:

How do we abide in Christ? (John 15:4) How do we allow God’s word to abide in us? (John 15:7) What does that look like in a practical sense?

Read some of the responses:

For us to abide in Christ, we must be full of His words, they must be part of our thoughts, actions and motives. [We must] Be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit, for this is from Christ and lights our way, giving us understanding and repentance when we err. Stay close to the truth and be courageous!”

— VC

“It is the Holy Spirit that helps us abide in Christ. As we have seen in the lesson, the Holy Spirit connects our minds to God. It imparts both understanding and strength hence keeping Gods truth flowing in hearts. For a tree to bear fruits, adequate water has to flow through, bringing in the right minerals. A good fruit is not formed by itself. We need Gods Holy Spirit so as to bring forth good fruits.”

— LK

The A.S.K. formula from Matthew 7:7 is helpful. ‘Ask’ – start by having a prayerful attitude. Don’t approach life with an attitude of: ‘Here’s how I think about it.’ Go to the Father, humbly in prayer, asking to guide your approach to anything you face. ‘Seek’ – search God’s word for the answer. Know that God has revealed the truth to us through the pages of the Bible. The basic principles concerning all the fundamental things we face in life is contained in there somewhere … find it! ‘Knock’ – go forward in faith with what you have been guided to do through prayer and Bible study.”

— TW

Digging Deeper: Daily Benefits

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education

Estimated Reading time: 6 min.

Did you know that God showers us with blessings daily?

The year 2020 has been a year unlike any other in the memory of many people and one that most wish to leave behind rapidly. As a new civil year begins, their hopes are for a better year to come. The world has focused on the coronavirus, economic downturn, natural disasters, ethnic conflict, wars, terrorism, political chaos, and many other horrors. Because of this many have been absorbed with life’s travails. For a change of pace, we will learn in this Digging Deeper that, despite all this, God supplies His people daily blessings. An old hymn admonishes us to “name them [blessings] one by one.” Let us remind ourselves of God’s many daily blessings that will help us concentrate on a broad perspective of the Christian life itself.

Our focus verse is: “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah” (Psalm 68:19 KJV). This verse challenges us to stop and take a big picture view of life to discover the many ways God is good to us because of His grace – whether it be “common grace” for all humankind (Matthew 5:45) or “particular grace” for His called ones (John 1:16). Yes, we certainly have many more challenges than we did a year ago. Nonetheless, it will benefit us to stop and consider this verse in light of the present alarming and dangerous experience.

Blessings or burdens?

There is a textual matter about this verse to consider first. Henry Morris in his article “Loaded with Blessing” for December 31, 2020 in the Days of Praise daily newsletter explains: “In our text verse, the words ‘with benefits’ have been supplied by the translators. Some might, therefore, conclude that the verse could mean that God is daily loading us with burdens instead of benefits. The context, however, assures us that the emphasis is really on His blessings. For that matter, even a burden can become a blessing if we take it as a gift from God for our spiritual benefit.” In many ways, God bears our burdens – many times without our even realizing it. Let us now consider our focus verse incrementally.

The annotation for our verse in Joseph S. Exell’s The Biblical Illustrator provides material for careful consideration:

“II. What God does for us: He ‘daily loadeth us with benefits.’

1. The nature of God’s gift. ‘Benefits,’ not deserts.

2. Their number. ‘Loadeth.’

3. The frequency of their communication. ‘Daily.’ And these benefits flow to us freely, unsolicited, unimplored, unsought. Seasonably, exactly as we need them. Critics state that it should be read ‘who bears our burdens, or supports us, every day.’ In the wilderness God bare Israel as a man doth bear his son (Deuteronomy 1:31). Or as an eagle bears her young on her wings (Deuteronomy 32:11). The promise is (Isaiah 46:4). We have our cares, and burdens, and anxieties, but God invites us to cast them upon Him (Psalm 55:22) (e-Sword 12.2).”

Don’t Forget His Daily Gifts

We may confidently roll our troubles into His strong arms. We need not bear them alone. Concurrently, our challenge is to not forget His daily benefits: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2 KJV). We live busy lives, thinking often of our current and coming experiences. Our danger is forgetting the many benefits He has already afforded us and those He is providing presently. For one thing, we should daily praise Him for His salvation. Notice this compelling verse: “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23 KJV).

Our focus verse instructs us to bless the LORD for these benefits. How do we bless God? We usually think of His blessing us. Exell’s The Biblical Illustrator again provides food for thought on how to accomplish this:

“III. What we should do in return. ‘Blessed be the Lord.’ To bless signifies to extol, exalt, or speak well of a person; and to bless the Lord is to speak good of His name.

1. We should bless the Lord sincerely. Hypocrisy is hateful to God.

2. We should bless the Lord affectionately. Our gratitude should be the effusion of love.

3. We should bless the Lord constantly. ‘I will bless the Lord at all times.’

4. We should bless the Lord practically. To say, ‘We praise Thee, O God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord,’ while we practically violate His laws, must be abominable in His sight. Let us ‘praise Him not only with our lips but by our lives,’ etc. (e-Sword 12.2).”

How could we ever repay the Almighty for these benefits? Notice: “What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me” (Psalm 116:12 KJV)? We can never fully recompense our Father sufficiently for all He does for us. Without a doubt, He intervenes to spare us from accidents and other calamities without our realizing it. We may have suffered defeats, losses, disappointments, and injuries of all sorts this past year. Yet, if we were to count His benefits they would still outnumber these difficulties.

Remembering His Purpose

As we continue to face the global problems brought on by the coronavirus, here is a verse that directs us to never forget to thank the Great God for his daily benefits: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 KJV). Even burdens we are enduring now have a purpose in God’s grand scheme of salvation. God’s people are especially assured of His continuing grace in this well-known verse: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 KJV). God allows even these serious problems to strengthen our faith in His overall superintendence of our salvation. Henry Morris provides a fitting conclusion to help us keep our perspective: “Each day we have the indwelling presence of His Spirit, the illuminating guidance of His Word, the daily provision of all real needs, and the assurance of His love. He has surely loaded us with benefits!” (Days of Praise, December 31, 2020).

Ken Frank

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Course Spotlight: Seven Keys to Effective Prayer

Prayer is a vital part of maintaining our personal relationship with God. What are some steps we can take to make sure that we are praying effectively?

Course Spotlight From Tools for Christian Growth: Prayer

Digging Deeper: Abraham the Teacher

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education

Estimated Reading time: 7 min. 46 sec.

Did you know that the first mention of teaching children God’s ways is in the same chapter of Genesis in which God’s angels came down to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah?

The cities of the plain (Genesis 19:29) had become so wicked that God was left with no choice but to execute judgment upon them. However, tucked in the middle of this story is likely the first direct reference to what we today call education – the instruction of students. This Digging Deeper dives into this topic to discover the surprising account behind God’s commendation of his prophet, Abraham (Genesis 20:7).

Our focus verse for this study is: “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (Genesis 18:19 KJV). This verse occurs in the context of God’s decision to reveal to Abraham His intent to destroy these wicked cities (Genesis 18:17-21). The reason God decided to inform Abraham of His mission was that He knew Abraham would direct his children and household servants in God’s ways and not the ways of the world that lead to such evil. Much of the way cities and cultures develop depends on what their citizens are taught as children.

Teaching the two great commandments

Notice that the content of Abraham’s instruction for his family and servants is equivalent to the two great commandments, to love God supremely and one’s neighbors as oneself, that Jesus expounded in the Book of Matthew: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40 KJV).

Genesis 18:19 describes these two great commandments as “the way of the LORD” and “to do justice and judgment.” John Gill in his Exposition of the Bible defines justice and judgment: ” … to attend to all the laws, statutes, and judgments of God; to do that which is just and right between man and man; not as a justifying righteousness, by which Abraham himself was not justified before God; but to show their regard to the will of God, in gratitude for favours received from him, and to glorify him, as well as for the good of their fellow creatures” (e-Sword 12.2). Paul explains the value of a believer’s example: “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men” (Titus 3:8 KJV).

Joseph Benson’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments explains God’s decision to reveal His plan to Abraham: “This is a bright part of Abraham’s character. He not only prayed with his family, but he taught them, as a man of knowledge; nay, he commanded them, as a man in authority, and was prophet and king, as well as priest, in his own house. And he not only took care of his children, but of his household: his servants were catechised [instructed] servants. Masters of families should instruct, and inspect the manners of all under their roof” (e-Sword 12.2). Abraham and his family were exceptions to the people living in this region. They needed to know why God would execute such violent retribution on the cities of the plain. This household was spared because they served the one true God.

Their survival was a means of evangelism in the righteous ways of the LORD, as described by the Cambridge Bible for Colleges and Schools: “The purpose for which God has known and sought out Abraham is here epitomized; (1) that, through the obedience of him and his folk, a true righteousness, according to ‘the way of the Lord,’ may be propagated; (2) that the Divine fulfilment of the promise may be carried out unhindered. Family life is the sphere of chosen service” (e-Sword 12.2). As a household, they were an example of God’s grace who set a sterling example of serving the one true God during an evil era.

The responsibility of parents

Henry Morris in his Defender’s Study Bible comments on Genesis 18:19: “This is the first specific reference in the Bible to the teaching of children, indicating that such instruction is the primary responsibility of the father and should take the form of commandments, centering first on the ways of the Lord, then on justice and judgment to fellow-men” (e-Sword 12.2). Home spiritual education begins with the father as head of the household as supported by his wife. In homes where the father is an unbeliever, the mother should provide this necessary instruction as discreetly as possible in such a difficult circumstance. We will see below an example of just such a mother and grandmother who did.

A supporting statement to Henry Morris’ comment comes from his “Days of Praise” article for December 29, 2020, entitled  True Education: “This is a very important verse comprising the first direct reference in the Bible to what we today would call education, and it is given in connection with God’s approving testimony concerning Abraham. Note that nothing is said concerning degrees or diplomas, the sciences or humanities, school buildings or textbooks.” It makes the case that God’s highest priority of fathers (and supporting mothers) is teaching children love for God and neighbor. This article continues: “Such instruction is the responsibility of the home—not of the government or some educational association. It is to be given in the context of God’s promises and plans (thus in the context of divine revelation) and is to be framed in terms of ‘commands.'”

Examples of Education

The Bible contains many references to teaching, instruction, and learning. One of the major themes of the Book of Proverbs is training those referred to as the simple (i.e., the inexperienced, immature, innocent, guileless, and harmless young people who have not yet developed biblical wisdom) (Proverbs 1:4 KJV). A companion New Testament command to fathers is: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 KJV). Of his protege, Timothy, Paul writes: “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15 KJV). Timothy’s father was a Greek (Acts 16:1 KJV) and apparently an unbeliever. Nonetheless, Timothy had been instructed in God’s truth by his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5 KJV). Paul continued to develop Timothy’s spiritual education by writing two epistles (1 and 2 Timothy) to him with instructions on how to organize and pastor first-century Churches of God.

During the time of Moses after the Exodus, God incorporated a command to parents to accept this responsibility seriously: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 KJV). Abraham and Timothy’s mother and grandmother understood and fulfilled this responsibility.

Teaching the next generation

Abraham knew his obligation to God about 600 years before the law was codified in the time of Moses. God’s expectation of parents has remained the same throughout human history. The lesson for us today is to examine our response to this duty if we are parents or even grandparents (Deuteronomy 4:9-10 KJV). This is one way God’s truth is propagated from generation to generation. Geness 18:19 is one of the first statements of the law of parental authority. Joshua, Moses’ protege, asserted his family’s loyalty to God this way: “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15 KJV).

Ken Frank

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Recommended Reads: Can We Trust the New Testament?

During the second semester, the Living Education students are taking a deep dive into the New Testament in their “Survey of the New Testament” class, which is taught by Mr. Ken Frank. They are looking at “authors, backgrounds, themes, and contents of each book”, as well as “important concepts contained in each book that relate to understanding history and the development of human knowledge” and “identifying and discussing the key points of the books that are subject to criticism.” This book is worth the read because before one is able to take what God has to say to heart, one must first prove that the New Testament is the word of God and can be trusted.

Course Spotlight: Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee was a vital location during Jesus Christ’s 3½ year ministry. Discover the landmarks around the Sea of Galilee, and learn about the important events that took place there!

Course Spotlight From The Life, Teachings, and Ministry of Jesus Christ: (Unit 3) The Judean Ministry

Course Spotlight: Did Christ Preach to the Dead?

Some believe that Ephesians 4:9, combined with 1 Peter 3:18-20 and 1 Peter 4:6 prove that Christ preached to the dead, but does it really prove the “immortality of the soul”?

Course Spotlight From The General Epistles: (Part 1) The Letters of James and Peter

Course Spotlight: Passover Interview with Mr. Gerald Weston

It’s always good to be prepared. With 101 days until Passover, now is a great time to go over the important meaning of this Holy Day, and to continue to thoroughly examine ourselves.

Check out the interview with LCG’s presiding evangelist Mr. Gerald Weston on the Passover below!

Course Spotlight From God’s Feast Days: Passover

Digging Deeper: A Hanukkah Confrontation

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education

Estimated Reading time: 8 min. 19 sec.

Did you know that Jesus was almost stoned (literally) on a Jewish holiday?

The Gospel of John makes the only reference to an added Jewish holiday from the second century BC. This was not one of God’s original festivals and Holy Days but an eight-day special national observance, somewhat comparable to many countries’ national holidays. In 2020, the Jewish people will observe Hanukkah between December 11-18. This Digging Deeper explores the significant backstory to this holiday and Jesus’ presence during its AD 30 observance in Jerusalem.

This article’s focus verses are: John 10:22-23 KJV  “And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.  (23)  And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.” Two or three months have transpired since Jesus observed the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem in AD 30 (John 7). What happened on the Feast of the Dedication contributed to His crucifixion a few months later in the spring of AD 31. The rest of John 10 seems to have occurred during this national feast.

History of Hanukkah

To understand what happened in John 10, we need to explore some history of this observance. In the Intertestamental Period (the roughly 400 years between the Books of Malachi and Matthew), Jewish authors composed several books, known as the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, that were not considered inspired by God and thus were not included in the Old Testament canon. Two of these books were 1 and 2 Maccabees. These books do, however, provide historical background for this holiday.

Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible summarizes from the Books of Maccabees the carnage in Jerusalem as the result of an invasion by a Seleucid king during the Greek period :

The temple and city were taken by Antiochus Epiphanes in the year 167 b.c. He killed 40,000 inhabitants, and sold 40,000 more as slaves. In addition to this, he sacrificed a sow on the altar of burnt-offerings, and a broth being made of this, he sprinkled it all over the temple. The city and temple were recovered three years afterward by Judas Maccabaeus, and the temple was purified with great pomp and solemnity.

(e-Sword 12.2)

Antiochus Epiphanes also erected an image of Zeus in the Temple. After the Jews conquered and cleansed the Temple, the altar was rededicated to the God of Israel with a special observance of 8 days.

Hanukkah Traditions

Today, this Feast of the Dedication is commonly called Hanukkah, but that is only one of several names:

  1. Feast of the dedication (Heb Hanukkah) – Hebrew name
  2. Feast of the renewing or the renovation – Greek name
  3. Feast of lights (lamps) – Josephus
  4. Feast of the Maccabees – Jewish name
  5. Feast of Illumination – Talmudic name

The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary informs us how Hanukkah was originally observed: “This feast began on the 25th Chisleu (December) and lasted eight days but did not require attendance at Jerusalem. Assembled in the Temple or in the synagogues or the places where they resided, the Jews sang ‘Hallel,’ carrying palm and other branches; and there was a grand illumination of the Temple and private houses” (Kindle App). 

One may wonder what was the reason for celebrating it for 8 days. The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary continues:

The origin of the illumination of the Temple is unknown, although tradition says that when the sacred ‘lampstands’ of the restored Temple were to be lighted only one flagon of oil, sealed with the signet of the high priest, was found to feed the lamps. This was pure oil, but only sufficient for one day—when by a miracle the oil increased, and the flagon remained filled for eight days, in memory of which the Temple and private houses were ordered to be illuminated for the same period. No public mourning or fast was allowed on account of calamity or bereavement.

(Kindle App)

National Observances

Several centuries earlier, another added national observance, called Purim, originated from a successful rebuff of a Persian attempt at genocide of the Jews, as chronicled in Esther 9. Some Jews believed that Numbers 10:10 authorized them to observe these national days besides those mandated by God when it refers to “any day of national thanksgiving.” The cleansing of the Temple in 164 BC was an occasion of special thanksgiving and celebration. However, it was one of other altar dedications in the Holy Scripture:

  1. That of Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 8:2; 2 Chronicles 5:3);
  2. the dedication of the Temple in the days of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29:3-19); and
  3. the dedication of the Temple after the Captivity (Ezra 6:16).

In John 7, Jesus observed the Feast of Tabernacles during which the Temple ceremony included special water and light processions. A few months later, He was again in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Dedication, also called the Feast of Lights. Our readers may have already noticed that both of these feasts included special light ceremonies. The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary explains: “The similarity between this festival and the ‘feast of Booths’ [Tabernacles] would seem to indicate some intended connection between the two. Without doubt, our Lord attended this festival at Jerusalem (John 10:22). It is still observed by the Jews” (Kindle App). John chapters 8-10 occurred between these two festivals. Notice this significant assertion from Jesus: “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5 KJV). He may have deliberately referenced these special light ceremonies as typical of His mission.

Jesus may have alluded to Hanukkah in other ways in John 10. Notice John 10:36: “Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?” The word sanctified means “set apart, consecrated or dedicated to God.” He was dedicated to God, just as was the Temple altar in the days of the Maccabees. Additionally, notice: John 10:30-31 KJV ” I and my Father are one.  (31)  Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.” Clearly, the Jewish rulers understood Jesus had asserted His divinity so they accused Him of blasphemy (John 10:33). This was not the first time they tried to stone Him between Tabernacles and Dedication: “Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (John 8:59 KJV). Stoning to death was the Jewish form of capital punishment. However, in the first century, the Jews had to gain approval from Roman authorities before executing anyone. It may also be significant that the Temple altar that had been defiled but later cleansed by the Maccabeans was composed of stones.

There may be yet another reference to Hanukkah in this account in John. We have already seen that Jesus claimed divinity. The one who defiled the Temple altar was the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes who ruled from 175-164 BC. A Commentary on the Bible by Arthur S. Peake describes him as: ” … an arbitrary and eccentric king, half magnificent and half buffoon. His very name (the god manifest) speaks of Greek religion debased by Eastern king-worship, and there was a further departure from the old Greek ways of thinking when he used persecution to ‘reform this most repulsive people,’ as Tacitus calls the Jews” (Bible Analyzer If Jesus was making a connection to Antiochus Epiphanes’ claim, He drew a sharp contrast since this king was merely a man.

Not the appointed time

John 10:22 does not directly inform us that Jesus observed this national holiday, though this is implied. Nonetheless, Christians have drawn from this verse an example of His approval of observing national holidays. What is certain is that Jesus took advantage of the occasion to advance His kingdom message by referring to His divine identity and association with the Father. He had already begun to predict his coming death as a sacrifice for sins. Things He said and did on that Hanukkah contributed to the vitriol of the Jewish rulers that would culminate in His death the following spring. However, He would not remain dead. Speaking of His coming resurrection, He referenced the Temple when He  ” … said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19 KJV). He spoke of the temple of His body that would be resurrected after three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40). However, the Jews would later accuse Him of threatening the Temple (Mark 14:58).

The Jewish rulers were no match for Jesus during this Hanukkah confrontation. He informed them they were not of His sheep (John 10:26-29) and He escaped from their attempt to kill him by fleeing to Perea to continue His ministry before His coming sacrificial death on Passover, AD 31 (John 10:38-42). Hanukkah was not the assigned time for His death – Passover was, as stated in 1 Corinthians 5:7 KJV: ” … For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.”

Ken Frank

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.