Who is Muhammad’s Gabriel?

    

 This essay will examine three questions. First: Who is Gabriel? The answer prompts a second question: Who is Allah? The answers to these provoke a third question: Who is Muhammad? All that is Islam hangs on the answers to these three questions.

GABRIEL OF THE BIBLE

The name Gabriel is found in four places in the Bible: Daniel 8:16 and 9:21, and Luke 1:19 and 1:26. The name Gabriel means, “God is mighty.”

First, the two passages from the Old Testament book of Daniel:

When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” (Daniel 8:15-16)

While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. (Daniel 9:20-21)

Gabriel is thus introduced in the Book of Daniel, and we see more of him in the New Testament.

Second, the two passages from the New Testament Gospel of Luke

 While the priest Zechariah was on duty at the Temple in Jerusalem, an angel of the Lord appeared to him. The angel announced to Zechariah that the prayers of him and his wife Elizabeth had been answered, to the effect that Elizabeth would bear a son and his name would be John. We pick up the story in Luke chapter 1:

And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel who stands in the presence of God and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.” (Luke 1:18-19)

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. (Luke 1:26-27)

Now we look at the words of Gabriel to Mary in verse 28: “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” Mary, greatly troubled at the greeting, tried to understand what the angel meant. Gabriel continued:

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30-33)

Is the angel in Matthew also Gabriel?

 Joseph, about to marry Mary with whom he was engaged, was troubled when he learned she was pregnant. Thinking to divorce her quietly, he had a visit from an angel while in a dream. The angel (no name given) said to him:

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”

Is the angel who spoke to Joseph the same one who spoke to Zechariah and Mary? We cannot be completely sure, but it seems as though it must be the case. However, the argument I am about to make does not depend on the answer to that question, as both angels in Luke and in Matthew are clearly angels of the Lord.

What have we learned so far?

The angelic appearances have to do with the birth of Jesus, the one who would save His people from sin. The birth was miraculous, accomplished by the Holy Spirit, and this is all the explanation for the pregnancy we have. The point is clear: no human being had sex with Mary. Neither God the Father nor God the Holy Spirit had sex with Mary. The birth was miraculous, and this fits perfectly with the word God revealed to Isaiah six hundred years earlier:

There the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

The passage is referred to as “The Sign of Immanuel,” meaning that the virgin’s child is God come to be with us in a miraculous, non-human manner—thus a sign. God actually became flesh, which the Creator of the universe could do. And He did.

The child born to Mary was not called Immanuel but Jesus. Immanuel, in traditional Jewish understanding, is what He, Immanuel, is, which is God become man. The name Jesus refers to what He would do. “Jesus” is a word derived from the Hebrew name for Joshua. It means, “God saves.” Joshua was the one who brought the Chosen People across the Jordan River into the Promised Land of Canaan. Moses would not be allowed to do this, and the concept is that the Law of Moses cannot in itself bring salvation. No, salvation is a gift of God and is not by works of the Law. In His dying for sin, Jesus became the Savior, and this is proven by His resurrection. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us.

One last word from Gabriel, the angel of the Lord

Gabriel said to Mary in reference to the child she would bear: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32). This virgin birth, not the result of sexual intercourse, would be miraculous. The child would be of the same nature as the Father.

Then Gabriel said, “he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33). The meaning is obvious—the child will be the reigning King forever, just as Isaiah had announced: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Without question, the Prophet Isaiah states that the child born is God Himself.

This takes us into the mystery of the Trinity. We will never fully comprehend how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one and complete God all at once. Christian historians and theologians simply note what the evidence reveals.

The point is plain enough—the child born is God in the flesh. He is Jesus born of the virgin in Bethlehem, the one who would die in our place, taking our sin upon Himself, then on the third day be raised from the dead. He is alive now in heaven, one day to return to receive His own.

Nearly six hundred years later, however, there appeared another “Gabriel.”

GABRIEL OF ISLAM

 The majority of Muslims today hold that the Qur’an is eternal (eternal as Allah is eternal), was brought down to earth by an angel, and was then recited by the angel Gabriel to Muhammad. Allah spoke each and every verse to the angel who then recited them, piecemeal, over the course of about twenty-two years, to Muhammad. Muhammad, unable to write, memorized the recitations and spoke them to others, who then wrote them down. (Qur’an means recitation, or that which is recited.)

The angel that appeared to Muhammad at a cave on the slopes of Mount Hira near Mecca, about AD 610, also had the name Gabriel. It was the custom of many Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, and Gnostics to retire to secluded places in hopes of receiving spiritual dreams and visions and thereby experience a direct connection with deity. Muhammad was one of these.

Ascetics would fast, meditate, and stay awake for days in order to empty the mind and receive dreams and visions. Muhammad, after a time, achieved trance-like states during which the angel Gabriel, as the angel announced himself to Muhammad, spoke to him. We find a hint of this in the hadith of Abu Dawud, Book 12, No. 2247a, which reads, “When the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) came to himself (after the revelation ended)…”

Muhammad reported his visits by Gabriel to his wife Khadija, who supported the idea that it was indeed an angel speaking to her husband. Muhammad, however, was not sure of the nature of the vision he had, but eventually adopted his wife’s opinion.

At the very beginning of Muhammad’s encounter with Gabriel, he wondered if he was actually in contact with a jinn (demon) rather than an angel. This is stunningly apparent based on a hadith reported by Aisha (the mother of the faithful believers and favorite wife of Muhammad) as found in the most trusted of all hadiths, Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 1, No. 3:

The commencement of the Divine Inspiration to Allah’s Apostle was in the form of good dreams, which came true like bright day light, and then the love of seclusion was bestowed upon him. He used to go in seclusion in the cave of Hira where he used to worship (Allah alone) continuously for many days before his desire to see his family. He used to take with him the journey food for the stay and then come back to (his wife) Khadija to take his food like-wise again till suddenly the Truth descended upon him while he was in the cave of Hira. The angel came to him and asked him to read. The Prophet replied, “I do not know how to read.”

The Prophet added, “The angel caught me (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read and I replied, ‘I do not know how to read.’ Thereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read but again I replied, ‘I do not know how to read (or what shall I read)?’ Thereupon he caught me for a third time and pressed me, and then released me and said, ‘Read in the name of your Lord, who has created (all that exists) has created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous.

Muhammad was so harshly treated by what he thought was the angel Gabriel that he doubted it was an angel from Allah at all. He became depressed and considered throwing himself off the mountain of Hira. It was only through the intervention and convincing of Khadija, his first wife, that Muhammad was prevented from doing so.

There is an interesting account referred to as “The Lap.” The story is that Muhammad continued to believe the being that appeared to him was a jinn, a demon. Khadija, in the midst of Muhammad’s fears and doubts, asked him to sit on her lap, first one side then the other. When he did she asked him if he saw the angel. He responded, yes. Then she asked him to sit on her lap and once again asked if he saw the angel. Again, yes. Then she disrobed and asked Muhammad to sit on her lap again. She asked if he saw the angel and Muhammad said, no. With that Khadija convinced Muhammad it was indeed the angel Gabriel by saying that only a good angel would not look upon a woman’s nakedness.

The above account is a paraphrase from the Sira the official biography of Muhammad. Below now is the account, called “The Lap” as reported by Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad’s biographer:

Ibn Ishaq recorded that when the spirit came to Muhammad another time, Khadija tested him:

Ishma’il b. Abu Hakim, a freedman of the family of al-Zubayr, told me on Khadija’s authority that she said to the apostle of Allah, ‘O son of my uncle, are you able to tell me about your visitant, when he comes to you?’ He replied that he could, and she asked him to tell her when he came.

So when Gabriel came to him, as he was wont, the apostle said to Khadija, ‘This is Gabriel who has just come to me.’ ‘Get up, O son of my uncle,’ she said, ‘and sit by my left thigh.’

The apostle did so, and she said, ‘Can you see him?’ ‘Yes,’ he said. She said, ‘Then turn around and sit on my right thigh.’ He did so, and she said, ‘Can you see him?’ When he said that he could she asked him to move and sit in her lap.

When he had done this she again asked if he could see him, and he said yes, she disclosed her form and cast aside her veil while the apostle was sitting in her lap. Then she said, ‘Can you see him?’ And he replied, ‘No.’ She said, ‘O son of my uncle, rejoice and be of good heart, by Allah he is an angel and not a satan.

(Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, tr. Guillaume, 1967, p. 107)[1]

Gabriel in the Qur’an and hadith

Gabriel appears in only three verses in the Qur’an: Sura 2:97-98 and Sura 66:4.

Say, (O Muhammad, to mankind)[2]: Who is an enemy to Gabriel! For he it is who hath revealed (this Scripture) to thy heart by Allah’s leave, confirming that which was (revealed) before it and a guidance and glad tidings to believers. Sura 2:97

Who is an enemy to Allah, and His angels and His messengers, and Gabriel and Michael! Then, lo! Allah (Himself) is an enemy to the disbelievers. Sura 2:98

If ye twain turn unto Allah repentant, (ye have cause to do so) for your hearts desired (the ban); and if ye aid one another against him (Muhammad) the lo! Allah, even He, is his protecting Friend, and Gabriel and the righteous among the believers; and furthermore the angels are his helpers. Sura 66:4

THE GABRIELS: SAME OR DIFFERENT?

Of incredibly significant importance is the question: Is the Gabriel of the Bible and the Gabriel of Islam one and the same?

The reader, of course, will be aware that I am going to make the case that the two are different, in fact, very different. However, it is easy to be fooled. The apostle Paul warned the Church at Corinth that demons could disguise themselves as angels.

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

(2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

Let me be clear at once: both are angels. One is an angel of the Lord; the other is a fallen angel, a demon. My contention is that a fallen angel—a jinn or demon—appeared to Muhammad on Mount Hira. Muhammad was right in his first assessment.

The Ultimate Offense

To state that Islam’s Gabriel is a jinn is to state the ultimate offense for Muslims, since it utterly negates the big three: Allah, the Qur’an, and Muhammad. Allah because it is Allah who is relaying to Gabriel what is in the Qur’an. Then Gabriel is no angel but a demon. And Muhammad is merely passing along what a demon is reciting to him. Islam is then based upon absolute error and nothing more.

Such accusations, let alone suggestions, can earn one the death penalty in Muslim-majority societies. Religions or governments that forcefully, even ruthlessly, stifle dissent show their weakness. This is true of Islam, even in countries where the Muslim population is small. If a Muslim abandons Islam, which is called apostasy, he or she may be punished by death, though this is not clearly spelled out in the Qur’an.

The Christian’s obligation

 With the understanding of this enormous deception, what must a Christian do? Must we remain silent and not voice even the possibility that the whole of Islam is based on demonic deception? To refrain from speaking out is immoral and unethical.

Writers of Scripture were known for denouncing false religion and the behaviors they spawn. Many paid the ultimate price for standing with the truth. Many are dying today in Muslim dominated nations for speaking their hearts and minds.

In the face of terror and in light of the great commission given Christians by Jesus Himself (see Matthew 28:19-20, among others), it is necessary to stand up to the murderous lying of the chief demon, Satan. Jesus, while countering the attacks of religious opponents, was clear. Jesus said:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)

It is not disrespectful to challenge error, especially when the difference is between heaven and hell, both of which are eternal.

ANOTHER ISLAMIC TEACHING ABOUT GABRIEL

 Some spokesmen for Islam identify Gabriel as the Holy Spirit in both the Bible and the Qur’an. From where in Islam’s authoritative texts do they get this? In Sura 2:87 and Sura 2:253, and without the word Gabriel appearing, we find, “We supported him with the Holy Spirit.” Islamic interpreters say this “We” is the angel Gabriel. But the plain text of the Qur’an does not state this.

Not only does the Qur’an not identify Gabriel with the Holy Spirit, neither does the hadith. Instead we find just the opposite, as illustrated by Sahih Muslim, in book 30: “Gabriel, the Apostle of Allah is among us, and the Holy Spirit who has no match.” Gabriel is not the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit in the Bible

             The Hebrew Bible

 Both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament show the nature and identity of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is deity, often referred to as the Spirit of God, in that the Holy Spirit is holy, and only God is holy. The Holy Spirit is omnipresent, is referred to as a “He” and thus is personal, and is omnipotent, meaning all powerful. And the Holy Spirit can only be God as are the Father and the Son.

The second verse of Genesis speaks of the Holy Spirit being involved at the moment of the creation of the universe. “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”

2 Samuel 23:2-3 identifies the God of Israel with the Spirit of the LORD.[3]

The Spirit of the LORD speaks by me; his word is on my tongue. The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me: When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God;…

Isaiah 40:13 reads, “Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD or what man shows him his counsel?” We notice “LORD” in the phrase “Spirit of the LORD” clearly identifying the Holy Spirit with God.

The New Testament

 There is much more, however, but now we turn to the New Testament, first to the third chapter of the Gospel of John.

A leader of the Jewish people named Nicodemus approached Jesus at night, presumably to speak with Him in private. He says he knows Jesus is from God because of the miracles Jesus performs. Jesus however redirects the conversation by saying, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Of course, the elder statesman does not understand how a person can be reborn. Jesus replies, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” To be born of the flesh is one thing, but to be born of the Spirit is quite another. And we must be clear: Jesus is not talking about any angel much less one named Gabriel. Only God brings life, both physical and spiritual.

The Holy Spirit works the new birth or conversion. This is clear in the passage in John 3, and we find the same in Acts 8:14–20. Also in Acts 3:1–4, the Holy Spirit is directly referred to as God. The writer of Hebrews also declares that the Holy Spirit is eternal when in reference to the power of the shed blood of Jesus: “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to sere the living God” (Hebrews 9:14).

Looking back to the birth passages in Luke’s Gospel, we find an answer to Mary’s question to the angel Gabriel as to how she will have a baby when Gabriel says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you” (Luke 1:35). It is obvious that the angel Gabriel separates himself from the Holy Spirit. Certainly, the Holy Spirit and Gabriel are not the same at all.

It is clear that neither the Qur’an nor the Bible anywhere identify Gabriel with the Holy Spirit.

Angel or Holy Spirit?

The goal of Islamic scholars who claim that Gabriel is the Holy Spirit is intended to contaminate the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Which is it then? Is Gabriel an angel or the Holy Spirit, or maybe both at once, at least from an Islamic point of view? Our arguments above show that Gabriel is actually a jinn or demon, thus further clouding an already murky subject.

WHO IS ALLAH?

The Name “Allah”

 “Allah” was the name used by Christians and Jews in the Arabian Peninsula for centuries before the Islamic era. Indeed, the word Allah was used by Jews in the Arabian Peninsula for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob before the Christian era.

To put it another way: Neither Muhammad, Abu Bakr, Umar, nor Uthman invented the word Allah. They would have known the word Allah from childhood.

It is not the word that counts; it is the content or meaning of the word.

To the Jew of that period, Allah would be the creator, the lawgiver, and the one who led the family of the patriarchs out of Egypt and gave them the Promised Land, the land of Canaan.

To the Christian of that period, Allah would be the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ in addition to all that the Jewish people believed about God.

It would be only natural for Muhammad to also use the term Allah in reference to the creator God. Clearly, however, Muhammad gave new definition to who or what Allah is.

Islam’s Allah

 Islam claims that Allah spoke to Gabriel, who then spoke to Muhammad, who then recited the revelations that originated with Allah by way of Gabriel to other people, who at some point committed them to writing.

The narrative of the collecting of the Qur’an is fascinating. There were so many variations going about that Uthman, the third caliph after Muhammad, ordered all the renditions be gathered together in order to make a uniform document. All the other manuscripts were then burned. But the picture of Allah in the Qur’an is interesting.

Allah is distant, speaks through an angel, loves those who love him, and hates those who do not believe in him. Allah is called the greatest of deceivers and might lead astray even the best of Muslims. Though Allah repeatedly refers to himself as the most beneficent, the most merciful, the most forgiving, and so on, evidence of this is lacking or scant other than what he says of himself.

It is not unfair nor a misrepresentation to say that the God of the Qur’an is far different from the God spoken of in the Bible, both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

Transcendence versus Immanence

One of the major differences between the Bible’s God and Islam’s Allah is whether he is present with his creation. From what we find in the Qur’an and hadith about Allah is that he is transcendent and not immanent.

In contrast, the God of the Hebrew Bible, is transcendent but is also immanent, in that He interacts personally with His people. He walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, otherwise known as Paradise. He did so until the Fall, the moment that his single law was broken, about which we read in Genesis chapter three. The terrible consequences of that event was that God’s human creation was sent east of Eden. But he never left them entirely alone; he did not abandon them completely.

God once again spoke with a human being out of a burning bush in the Arabian Desert, when God appeared to Moses and told him his name, Yahweh (YHWH, known as the Tetragrammaton). God commanded and directed Moses to supervise erection of a Tabernacle, which contained a special place within it, the Holy of Holies, where would God dwell.

This was a foreshadowing of what would come later. The prophets pointed to a time when God would arrive in person. This is what the word Immanuel means—God present. We can see this in the word itself, even if we are not Hebrew literate. The last two letters of Immanuel, “el” is the English transliteration of the Hebrew word for God, El. Then “imman” and we get our word immanent from it; immanent means present. Simply put, God with us.

This is who Jesus is.

Is Allah a fiction?

Again, my premise is that Gabriel is indeed an angel, but a fallen angel. Muhammad was correct when he thought the being that presented itself at the cave on Mt. Hira was a jinn, which is an Arabic word meaning demon. It was only his wife Khadija who convinced him otherwise.

The point then is: If Gabriel is a demon, and Gabriel is reciting to Muhammad what is supposedly spoken by Allah, then just who or what is Allah?

It is clear from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament that Satan and his demons are surely angels but fallen angels who became the enemies of God. And Satan is a god, too.

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

(2 Corinthians 4:4)

“The god of this world” Paul says, and some chapters later in the same letter he writes of those who “veil” the gospel:

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

(2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

(Note: An apostle is a messenger, one sent with a message.)

Is Allah a fiction? No, there is an Allah but it is Satan in disguise who directed an underling demon to approach Muhammad while Muhammad was in a trance state and therefore open to demonic invasion.

Have I committed blasphemy and of the worst sort against the Islamic trinity? Yes, indeed I have but not out of meanness or an attempt to deceive.

To say that Allah is a demon (Shayton or Satan), that Gabriel is also a demon (jinn), and therefore that Muhammad was very cleverly deceived is the only possible conclusion given the evidence and arguments above. And this is what most Christians do believe, but it is a fearful endeavor to put these ideas out into the public purview, given what we have seen of Islam in these past few decades.

WHO IS MUHAMMAD?

Is Muhammad a true prophet of God?

Was he duped into thinking he was hearing words from Allah?

Did he make the whole thing up?

Was it all a dream?

Was it a scheme to acquire power and prestige?

Is Muhammad a prophet to be trusted?

Is he to be obeyed? Is he to be believed?

Is he a false prophet?

We cannot be afraid to ask these questions. Too much hinges on the answers, for Muslims especially. I am well aware that Muslim people are sincere seekers after God. Even the most radical among them are only following through on what has been communicated to them from the cradle. Muslim people, in my experience, are more “religious” than most Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and so on.

Few desire to be with God in Paradise as much as Muslims. And many will do anything to assure themselves of being there. After all, no Muslim can be sure they will be in paradise after death since Allah is a great deceiver and will lead astray any he chooses. Unlike the Christian who will experience assurance of salvation, the Muslim can only hope and work hard to earn Allah’s favor.

Some commentators doubt Muhammad even existed. I am not one of these. As to whether there were those who embellished the story, especially in the latter part of the seventh and into the eighteenth century, is a possibility. We are aware Gnostics in the second and third centuries did that with Jesus, made Him into a super hero and magician.

It is well established that Muhammad was not certain in his own mind as to the nature of the entity he encountered on Mt. Hira. At first he thought the ‘angel’ was a jinn, a demon; his wife Khadija convinced him it was an angel of God.

What is the truth?

That which was revealed to Muhammad differs utterly from what we see of God in the Bible. Which account is the true one?

Islam, of course, says that the revelation to Muhammad supersedes or replaces what is found in the Bible. And in a number of significant ways. For instance, Jesus is not God come to be with us and die on a cross for our sin. Jesus is a prophet but not of the rank of Muhammad. Jesus plays a role in the last days, but dies and ends up being buried next to Muhammad. It is rather complex, but the Jesus of the Qur’an (Isa) is not close to the Jesus of Christian Scripture.

Then, God in the Qur’an is separated from humans and speaks through an angel. In the Bible, God becomes flesh and dwells among us. Also, being in Paradise/heaven in the Qur’an depends upon believing that Allah alone is God and that Muhammad is his messenger. But that is only the beginning. Mostly heaven is earned by doing good deeds, working for salvation. In the Bible forgiveness, salvation, and being assured of heaven depends upon God’s gift alone.

MY CLOSING STATEMENT

 Who is Allah? Allah is either a chief demon, perhaps Satan himself, or a fantasy figure invented by Muhammad. At minimum, Allah is not God.

Who is Gabriel? Gabriel is either a jinn, meaning a demon, or again is a fantasy figure invented by Muhammad. Gabriel is not an angel of the Lord God.

Who is Muhammad? He is a seventh century man living in Arabia who was either deceived by a demonic entity or who developed a fictional account of receiving communications from God. Muhammad is not a prophet of God; he is a false prophet.

 Another contradiction within Islam:

 There is a cascading danger for Islam in its claim that Gabriel is the Holy Spirit. Islam is supposed to be monotheistic, meaning that Allah has no partners. If Gabriel is the Holy Spirit, then Gabriel is deity as well—Allah has a partner. Add to that the doctrine held by the traditionalists in Islam who believe that the Qur’an is eternal in heaven. Another partner? Consider also the reverence shown to Muhammad. Is it so complete that he is actually lifted to the status of deity as well? One more partner for Allah?

Muhammad is not God and never claimed to be, despite how Muslims tend to view him, and neither is Gabriel. If Gabriel is the Holy Spirit, and the Quran is eternal alongside Allah, and if every Muslim must model his own life after the “perfect man” Muhammad, it is not a stretch to say that Islam has a fourfold divinity: Allah, Gabriel, the Qur’an, and Muhammad.

The list of inner contradictions emanating from Islam is long, and this essay only introduces some of them. For further details, please consult Islamic Studies: Equipping the Christian Witness to Muslims, published by Earthen Vessel Publishing at evpbooks.com.

[1] The Sira has for centuries been linked with the Qur’an and hadith as authoritative on the life of Muhammad. In more recent years the Sira has been largely neglected, as the accounts of what Muhammad said and did are rather fantastic, problematic, and embarrassing.

[2] Words in parentheses-( )-indicate explanatory notes made by editors of the Qur’an. Without them so very many passages of the Qur’an would be unintelligible.

[3] LORD, all capital letters shows that the Hebrew text has Yahweh, that name of God as revealed to Moses in the burning bush incident. See Exodus 3:14.

Don’t Blame Jesus for the Weird Things Christians Do

Don’t Blame Jesus for the Weird Things Christians Do

 Maybe it was that I never thought through things, but I watched high school friends who identified as Christian hoping to find fault. And I found fault. Therefore I concluded Christians were fakes and flakes.

While in the military I became a Christian myself, quite unexpectedly as I think about it now. An accident of sorts maybe, but I wound up attending a Baptist church in Fairfield, California and heard the pastor tell the incredible story of Jesus. Still a puzzle to me, in a twinkling of an eye I was converted, and almost against my will.

Guys I worked with as a medic with 2nd Casualty Staging Flight at Travis AFB found out about my becoming a Christian and watched me closely, hoping to spot a flaw. Of course, they had no trouble finding out what a hypocrite I was. Guess they thought I would be perfect just like I thought my high school friends had to be perfect. I mean, they did say they were Christians.

What was my problem?

What’s a Christian?

A Christian is a sinner who has been born anew by the Holy Spirit of God. He or she is still a sinner, but a forgiven sinner.

This Christian starts out a newborn, messy diapers, crying, sleeping, just out the chute. Then a rug rat, a toddler, little kid, pre-teen, teen, young adult, adult, mature adult, elder adult—each of us go through all the stages.

In my seventies now, I wonder if I have reached maturity yet. I don’t think so. To be honest I have been rather retarded in my growth. Not the fault of the Parent, but mine all together. I think I have been more rebellious than most, or maybe my hormones stronger than others, something, but my progress as a pilgrim has been really slow. This, however, does not mean I am not a Christian.

I have noticed that one mark of growing up into the fullness of Christ has been my desire not to sin. When I catch myself acting the “old man” I cringe and ask for forgiveness.

It is true, I have found, that it can be painful to grow up spiritually. If I had become aware of all my imperfections back then, I mean all at once, I would have been overwhelmed. Perhaps this is comparable to expecting a toddler to play college level baseball. Not going to happen.

Almost as payback, I have had non-Christians chastise me for my ‘little’ imperfections. Worse, I have had Christians do the same; after all I am a pastor of a church, and an author of Christian books. (I will sometimes say that a church can be like a minefield. One can be blown up.)

Judging others

How we love to blame and judge! It is the national pastime. Anything bad that happens, we want to know who to blame.

How do I know this is so? I find it in myself for one thing, and I am about that business constantly. And when I find cause, I stigmatize and sometimes heavily.

A little phrase I use with the high school kids I coach in baseball is, “I am here to criticize heavily.” Of course, after the first week of the season they know I do not mean it, and we all laugh when I say it. After decades of coaching I have learned that criticism, demeaning language, and putting down others, does not produce good results either with the players or members of the congregation.

I ignorantly judged my high school friends. I looked down on Vern and Don, surgery techs at Travis AFB, after I was told they were Christians, without even thinking about what I was doing. After I became a Christian, Vern and Don became fast friends and we loved to eat together at mid-night chow at the hospital as our duty hours were from 5pm to 8am.

What is weird?

Judging the weirdness, or what we consider to be weirdness, of Christians is a defensive mechanism. I was unconscious of what I was doing, and I think it was because I was beginning to feel convicted of my sin. I had to find a way to assure myself that they were wrong, probably crazy, but that I was sound of heart, soul, and mind.

When I talk with others who are not Christians and who know that I am, I will often find the same attitude toward me that I had back in my high school days. At least, when I see it I know not to react or take it personally. It is a case of “there but for the grace of God go I.”

Proof we are not perfect

John the apostle, the longest lived of those who were directly called by Jesus, wrote to a Christian audience:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

This passage is 1 John 1:8-10. Quite clear: being a Christian does not mean we do not sin. Perhaps John saw there was a danger Christians might think they had to be perfect, and if so, such thinking would not be healthy. John uses sharp language to make sure we know we are not perfect.

The Christian then confess sin and the promise is that forgiveness follows.

Here we encounter one of the Bible’s paradoxes, which refer to two truths that run parallel with each other, like railroad tracts, but never intersect. Though all our sin is forgiven since all of it, past, present, and future, has been placed on Jesus as He died on the cross. He shed His blood for us, and His blood washes away our sin. Yet, we are to continue to confess our daily sin, the sin that has already been cleansed from us, in order that we do not have it on our conscience. This is one of the most profound of all the paradoxes in Scripture. (Why, after all, would we imagine that God and His ways are easily grasped by the sinner.)

Then John goes on:

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

This passage is 1 John 2:1, the verse immediately following the earlier verses.

John does not want his readers, those under his pastoral care, to sin, but if they do, and the Greek clause, a third class conditional structure, indicates they will in fact sin, their confession of sin will be heard and they will be forgiven. (This is one of the many reasons biblical Christianity is healthy.)

So then, when sin is discovered, Christians need not hide their sin nor be in fear. We have Jesus who is our righteousness.

Jars of clay

The Apostle Paul spoke of our having the “Light of the Gospel” in us. Yet this “treasure” is in jars of clay. This wonderful truth is found in 2 Corinthians 4:7:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

Clay, vessels of all sorts are made out of clay. The containers hold something and in this case it is the Holy Spirit. We speak of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)

Sinless perfection is not to be found on the planet. Not only do we deal with our own temptations but also there is an enemy who attempts to undo us like he did Adam and Eve in the garden. And what may be the result: Christians doing weird things. And I have to be the first to raise my hand.

Again, what did John say, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” This is how it is with us. Yes, we are straining to grow up into the fullness of Christ, but it is not yet. I will still do weird and strange things.

Who’s to blame?

 I am to blame. Blame me, not Jesus.

The danger in blaming me is that you will also reject not only my Christianity but my Jesus as well. And this is the real reason for this essay since the price you will pay is beyond imagination. If you had any inkling of this reality, you would be horrified.

“What a conclusion!” must be running through your mind right now. It would be wrong of me, a sin if you will, if I did not present full disclosure.

I have met the guy pictured above, and I think he, though weird like I am, is a terrific brother in Christ.

In the Wake of the Child Abuse Scandals in the Catholic Church

In the Wake of the Child Abuse Scandals in the Catholic Church

The recent scandals committed by clergy in the Roman Catholic Church with the thousands of victims, and these victims young boys and girls, is the focus of this essay.

I am not a Catholic Christian, but I am a Christian, and all of us who openly identify with Jesus Christ are tarnished by the events that go deep into the Vatican itself. And this is not something new, either.

What follows is a reporting of a conversation I had this morning with members of the local clergy.

First, someone said the exposure of the abuse has nothing to do with homosexuality but everything to do with pedophilia. And to suggest it has to do with homosexual behavior is homophobic. I take issue with this.

I have been around too long to cringe at this slanderous statement. As a pastor for fifty plus years, I have seen plenty. Yes, not all the molestations are of a homosexual nature, but most are. The altar boys are just right there.

Second, I mentioned that there is a pro-gay contingent at the heart of the issue, which is rooted, and deeply, in the Vatican itself. And the issue is not about celibacy either, meaning clergy has to find some sort of sexual outlet since marriage is not permitted them.[1]

Third, there is nothing new about clergy engaging sexually with youth under their care and guidance. It has been going on for centuries.

Everything changes when the molester holds the power of salvation over the victim’s head. In the Roman Catholic Church, salvation is only attainable through the Church itself, with the rites of baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, and the other “sacraments.”

Sacraments are rites and rituals that confer salvation, and the Church’s clergy give out the sacraments. So what we are seeing now is none other than the abuse of power.

Fourth, power is always the corrupting element. For so long the molesters could get away with what they did because of the power they held over others, plus the ability to cover up the crimes in case there would be complaints.

We happen to live in a day when whistle blowers are honored and protected, and thus it should be. So a crisis is brewing in the sacred halls of clerical power.

Correspondingly, we live in an age when homosexual behavior is almost sacrosanct, and by this I mean, one dare not even suggest there is anything wrong with homosexual behavior. Even those who say they stand with the “Word of God” equivocate. But there are still those of us who will say, “No! homosexual behavior is wrong, it is sinful.”

Fifth, as a sinner myself it is no simple thing to point the finger at others. Quickly the story of the woman taken in adultery comes to mind. Jesus said to the woman’s accusers, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone at her” (John 8:7). Then the Apostle Paul referred to himself, and in the present tense, as the chief or foremost of sinners. (see 1 Timothy 1:15)

Sixth, a way out of this morass may be the recognition that no human being, no church, no group, gives the gift of eternal life. Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. (see John 14:6)

This great truth frees people from being fearful of exposing clergy abuse. This alone must be the message of those who call themselves Christians.

Seventh, it is not homophobic, or hate speech, to call homosexual behavior sin. Yes, in a culture that is bent on appeasing and promoting homosexuality, there is a cost to pay. Indeed, many         will be cowed by the fear of being labeled homophobic. However, we who follow Jesus must be braver than this. We must make a decision. Will we strive to avoid criticism from those who want to fit into the massive trend to okay sinful behavior? Or will we desire to honor the One who created us male and female and gave us the gift of marriage?

A final personal word: This is not a political statement. No one knows how I vote and I advocate for no one. But because I do not want this essay to be rejected out of hand by someone saying, “Well, what do you expect from a Trumpite!” I tell you right now I did not vote for President Trump. I advocate for Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Kent Philpott

September 2018

[1] There is nothing in the Bible stating that preachers, pastors, and other church leaders are not to marry. The history of celibacy is long and complex, but for it being a biblical mandate is absolutely false.

# 14 The Parable of the Talents Matthew 25:14-30

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 14

The Parable of the Talents

Matthew 25:14-30

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. This parable is remarkably similar to the Parable of the Ten

Minas of Luke 19:11-27.

  1. A talent, some commentators say is worth 20 years of labor.
  2. A very wealthy man before leaving on a long journey gives 5 talents to one servant, two to another, and one to still another.
  3. The servants with five and two talents put the money to work and each doubled their money as a result.
  4. The third, however, thinking the boss was an exacting and difficult person, hid his one talent in the ground.
  5. An accounting is given when the master comes back. He finds the one with five talents now has ten to give him. The master says he is “a good and faithful” servant. Likewise with the servant who had two talents, now has four, is also “a good and faithful” servant. And to both of these he says, “I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”
  6. The servant who hid the talent in the ground did not hear the master’s words of praise and reward.
  7. The Master scolds the “wicked and slothful” servant and tells him he should have at least gotten interest from the money with bankers.
  8. This servant now has his talent taken from him. And this procedure, the faithful servant is given more while, the unfaithful servant suffers loss and loss to the extreme.
  9. The unfaithful servant is now cast into the outer darkness, a place of pain and torment.
  10. The point of the parable: the faithful servant goes about his or her work using what the Master has given each one.

 

THE PARABLES OF JESUS # 13 The Parable of the Ten Virgins Matthew 25:1-13

THE PARABLES OF JESUS # 13

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

Matthew 25:1-13

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. The background to the parable is the wedding customs of the Jewish people in that era. The bridesmaids (known as virgins) would gather with the bride for the arrival of the bridegroom.
  8. The timing of the arrival was usually at night but the bridesmaids would not know exactly when. There is some indication that the wedding processional would be in the wee hours.
  9. Since the event would take place at night, it was necessary for the virgins to have their torches ready along with a supply of oil. A miscalculation might mean the virgins without enough oil for their lamps would be left out.
  10. Sure enough, five of the bridesmaids were caught without enough oil for their lamps as the bridegroom tarried. They would be then left out then, a truly sad event.
  11. It would seem that those with a supply of oil might share with those who needed more. But no, the “wise” virgins realized there would not be enough oil for all so they advised the other five to purchase some from oil dealers.
  12. As the “foolish” bridesmaids were off to buy more oil, the bridegroom and his companions arrived to usher the virgins off to the wedding.
  13. Not willing to give up, the five with a fresh supply of oil, nevertheless showed up at the wedding party.
  14. Shockingly, the “master” or bridegroom in this scenario, refused and even said, “I do not know you.”
  15. The single point of the parable is that Jesus’ followers are to be ready for His second coming. which was largely the subject of the previous chapter, Matthew 24.
  16. In Revelation 19:6-10 is the story of the marriage supper of the Lamb. The theme of a bride, the church, bridesmaids, individual members of the Church, and the bridegroom, Jesus Himself, paint both a beautiful and joyous picture, but a tragic one as well.

 

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 12 Parable of the Two Sons and the Wedding Feast Matthew 21:28-31 & Matthew 22:1-14

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 12

Parable of the Two Sons and the Wedding Feast

Matthew 21:28-31 & Matthew 22:1-14

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. The audience for the Two Sons parable are the religious leaders who rejected John the Baptist, who did not cater to their ideals. However, the worst of the worst, the tax collectors and prostitutes, did.
  8. So the parable of the Two Sons: one said he would not go to the work but did, the other said he would but did not. The ‘losers’ embraced John’s testimony about Jesus while the chief priests and elders did not. Jesus is not scolding as much as reaching out to these leaders.
  9. Then a king gave a wedding feast for his son. Is Jesus making a comparison with a king of that era and His being a Son of the King?
  10. The king sends his servants out to invite people to the feast but none of these would come. So the king sent others out who let it be known how wonderful the feast would be.Yet again, no one came to the feast. They even treated these servants badly, killing some of them. But the king did not give up.
  11. Now the king gives fresh orders to his servants. He has them go out broadly, not to the usual places, but to the roads and invited everyone, both good and bad. Soon the wedding hall was filled.
  12. The king came into the wedding hall to see the guests. Doing so he found one of these who did not have on a wedding garment. It was common for the host of the wedding, in this case the king, to supply wedding garments for the guests as these would be costly and few if any would have such.
  13. The king now asks the improperly dressed person how he got into the wedding feast in the first place. This person was “speechless.”
  14. The king’s servants were then ordered to cast the person out, and into the “outer darkness” where here would be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This two phrases meant the casting into hell and away from the presence of God to people of that era.
  15. Jesus concludes the parable with, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Though the religious leaders were called, not all of them, few of them, were chosen, thus reflecting on their rejection of John.

 

What I have learned about being a bold proclaimer of the Gospel

What I have learned about being a bold proclaimer of the Gospel

There are two lessons I have recently learned the hard way, about how to talk with people who differ with me about spiritual and political worldviews.

I suspect many are like me; as soon as we hear people say something contrary to what we hold to be true, we react and make countering statements. Here are a few examples of statements that irritate me:

“I am finding yoga to be so very relaxing and mind expanding.”

“My chiropractor is doing wonders with me by helping me focus.”

“I died and came back as a very good vegetable.”

“What great relief both physically and spiritually I am getting from acupuncture.”

“My church is so affirming; all who are spiritual are on the same and right path.”

“If only we could overcome the pollution that is causing us so much grief and disease.”

“We owe it to the planet and the universe in general to resist as best we can.”

“Now that we know all paths lead to spiritual maturity, we should be in solidarity with each other around the globe.”

“We must accept and appreciate the many divergent life-styles being celebrated today.”

“I accept the divine in you and in all the life forms on the planet.”

“The universe is our grand teacher, and its stars and planets guide us into all truth.”

The above is but a smattering of what I hear living in Marin County, one of the most liberal spots in the entire country. And it is here that I am to present Jesus Christ and Him crucified—a formidable if not almost impossible task. Yet this is what I and other followers of Jesus are called to do.

Our example

A survey of the Book of Acts is helpful here. We find that the objective of the Christian witnesses, whether Peter, John, Stephen, Philip, Barnabas, Silas, Apollo, or Paul, was always to find a way to present the person and work of Jesus Christ. Contrary opinions were generally ignored, especially in person-to-person evangelism. Changing from secular and pagan views came later when those evangelized were now believers and gathered together.

Paul did challenge worldviews when he addressed the Athenians in a public speaking venue, which was appropriate. However, the early Christians simply went directly to the story of the cross and resurrection of their Lord. They gave out the Gospel and depended upon the Holy Spirit to convict of sin and reveal Jesus as Savior and Lord.

We can do the same.

Being patient

Last week I spent at least an hour in my office with another Marin county “liberal” in every sense of the word, while this person recounted how life had become extremely painful to the point she felt it would be no loss to simply die. Without bringing up even one element of what we Christians call apologetics, I explained who Jesus is and what Jesus did—the Gospel. With full attention and some tears, this person began to experience a personal revolution.

No conversion occurred, but we are in prayer, and when the new birth comes, then some of her current cherished beliefs that are complete error will slowly disappear, and without much being said.

Two days ago, my wife and I spent an hour or more with a youngish woman who has imbibed the general spiritual and political tone popular in the San Francisco Bay Area. A number of times I wanted to jump in and set her straight. Sure enough, one time I did say something too strong, and she instantly stiffened and recoiled. We could have lost her to further conversation, but I quickly retreated from my need to correct her and returned to patient listening. After a while, she ran out of steam, so there was a slight opening to present something about Jesus.

A lost opportunity

Recently, several of us were sitting together after our church service, and someone we hardly knew joined us. We were talking about politics, and I failed to divert or redirect the conversation into something less problematic. Soon we were correcting this person’s political point of view, and we lost the opportunity to bring the message of grace and forgiveness to a very needy person.

After it dawned on me that we had squandered an opportunity to present Jesus to a spiritually desperate person, I had to ask myself the questions, “What difference did it make that this person held to a liberal agenda?” “Why did we think it necessary to proclaim what we are convinced to be politically correct views?” What we did only served to create an environment where the Gospel was not even mentioned. Pondering about that event gave me the impetus to write this essay.

Informed and not ignorant

Since 1965, when I first moved to Marin County, California, to study at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, I have subscribed to Christianity Today, Time, The San Francisco Chronicle, and the Marin Independent Journal. In addition, I watch a number of news programs—NBC, PBS, and a number of other news sources—left, right, and in the middle. The result is I can usually keep up with the best of them. This is only to say that I keep informed and am aware, to some degree, of the world in which I live.

see and understand how easy it is to get off message. I have been the recipient of harangues by those who feel obligated to straighten out someone with opposing views. Yes, it works both ways.

As ambassadors for Christ, we do not want to get lost in the vain philosophies buzzing about like a dangerous swarm of bees. When I was converted I believed all sorts of ridiculous things, both political and spiritual. By God’s grace I did not run into anyone who confronted me about my wrong ideas. They may have thought it, but they knew it was of no advantage to argue about minutiae.

My point is that it is not necessary to correct someone’s political and/or religious views. Our eyes are fixed on Jesus and His kingdom.

 

Let us go to the work

 The early Christians made no attempt to preach a politically oriented message, and contemporary issues were of little concern to them. They had been charged with going into the entire world and preaching Jesus. They trusted in the inner working of the Holy Spirit to bring about change. Politics meant little or nothing to them.

Today it is assumed that evangelicals are all from the same political demographic. How awful and unbiblical! Yet, the impression is now entrenched.

Not arguing with someone about their views is not the same as accepting their views. Clearly, as biblical, evangelical Christians, we do not accept the errant spiritualties extant in our world today— everything from worshipping the universe to shamanism, the occult, psychic spiritual concepts, naturalism, animism, monism, and much more. People will believe in something, and it does not matter much what that is.

But, is political thinking in the same vein? There are Christians who embrace liberal political philosophies. Should this not be allowed? I am politically conservative, but I do not let others know how I vote, and I will not endorse any political candidate, whether national or local. I want to be known as belonging to the Jesus party.

I cannot argue someone into the kingdom of God. The powerful working of the Holy Spirit can turn a hardened atheist into a newborn babe in Christ in the twinkling of an eye, and can utterly change the life of an extreme, immoral, sex-crazed deviant in a heartbeat.

An appeal

As I come to the end of this essay I am reminded of the wonderful words of the Apostle Paul as found in his first letter to the church at Corinth. Please spend some time reflecting on 1 Corinthians 2:1-5:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

Kent Philpott

August 2018

 

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 11 Matthew 20:1-16 Laborers in the Vineyard

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 11

Matthew 20:1-16

Laborers in the Vineyard

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. “The kingdom of heaven is like,” is Jesus’ way of introducing a comparison, a parable, and “heaven” is plural, or heavens.
  8. This construction, “heavens” may mean that heaven, God’s presence, is unlike anything we could ever imagine. Can we as created humans ever be capable of comprehending the glory of God? Likely not, thus comparisons can only be used.
  9. The denarius, the top wage for a full day’s work, is given to only those sent out at 6am. The work day was divided into four parts: 6-9am, 9am to 12noon, noon to 3pm, then 3pm to 6pm. The first workers would be working in the vineyard 12 hours and thus would bear the heat as well as the full burden of the day.
  10. The master proceeds to send others out during the day, late arrivers and for whatever reason, until finally some arrive at 5pm yet are sent off. Notice no wage is agreed upon for the later workers.
  11. At the end of the day, all the workers received a full day’s wage, a denarius. Those who had worked the whole day grumbled.
  12. The master points out that he had done them no wrong; they received what was agreed upon. And we notice, the master called them “friend.”
  13. One of the lessons seems to be that the master is fair and has a right to do whatever he wills. The master’s plea is: do not be angry at me over this, but allow me to be generous. And again we hear, the last will be first, and the first last.
  14. To whom does Jesus direct the parable? Those who begrudge “grace” may be the scribes and Pharisees, but such attitudes could easily develop in the Vineyard. Jesus wants, I believe, to prevent this.
  15. As to the vineyard, is this Jesus’ references the ekklesia?

 

GOSPEL MEDITATION #10 Unforgiving Servant & Persistent Widow Matthew 18:21-35 & Luke 18:1-8

GOSPEL MEDITATION #10

Unforgiving Servant & Persistent Widow

Matthew 18:21-35 & Luke 18:1-8

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. Preceding the parable of the “Unforgiving Servant” is an account of Jesus speaking of forgiving a “brother” who sins against us. Peter then asks Jesus how many times must a brother be forgiven. He asks, seven times, but Jesus replies, seventy times seven. 490 times then, now, the meaning is an unlimited number of times.
  8. Jesus tells a parable of a servant who was forgiven an extremely great amount of debt, but who then refuses to forgive a much smaller debt owed to him by a fellow servant.
  9. The servants master hears of this hardness of heart, and the unforgiving servant loses all he has and is sent to jail.
  10. The point may be that those who are forgiven will be forgiving of others; thus the believer, forgiven a huge debt, will be forgiving of others. This is how it should for Jesus’ disciples.
  11. The second parable, that of the Persistent Widow, has to do with praying.
  12. A widow, having no other advocate, continues to plead with a judge for justice. At first she is disregarded, but she does not give up. Finally, the “unrighteous judge” decides for the widow, and why? Because, because the widow continues to bring her case before the judge.
  13. Jesus then asks, “Will not Got give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?”
  14. Christians, continue to pray, thus displaying their faith in a righteous God who hears their prayers.

 

The Parables of Jesus # 9 Parables of the Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son—Luke 15:1-32

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. These three parables, back to back in Luke’s Gospel, have a similar theme: something lost is found.
  8. The audience, beside the Twelve, are the scribes and Pharisees, who were not seeking the lost but rather were condemning them as sinners. Jesus continues to reach out to these religious self-righteous ones.
  9. One lost sheep is worth the shepherd’s great effort to rescue it. The woman, living in poverty, exerts every effort to find one lost coin, which represents a day’s wages.
  10. The emphasis is on what is lost and the work required to recover that which is lost.
  11. Two sons, the younger of which asks his father for what would be his when the father was dead. Not having to do so, the father grants the request. The son leaves, goes into a Gentile area, lives recklessly (in the Greek ‘prodigally,’ wastes all resources, and is forced, to live, to feed pigs, which to a Jewish man would be very shameful.
  12. The lost son comes to himself, recalling his father’s generosity, and wants to return. He is willing to be as a hired hand and not as a son as he is fully aware of his bad behavior.
  13. The father has been keeping watch for him, sees him from afar, and rushes to welcome him. Then the father calls for a great celebration, the noise of which comes to the ears of the elder brother who yet is angered by the celebration.
  14. The father assures the elder son of his continued love for him and calls him to rejoice in the return of his brother.