It’s Black Friday, Or Is It?

It’s Black Friday, Or Is It?

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

We commonly refer to today as “Black Friday.” Though retailers have begun holding sales before the actual day, “Black Friday” retains its significance as the day when most businesses will finally make a profit for the year, moving from being “in the red” (a deficit) to “in the black” (a profit). It never fails to astound me that a nation can go from offering thanks to God for their gifts to enjoying a scuffle over a discounted television in a day. People’s whimsy, however, is hardly unprecedented. Wasn’t Jesus hailed as the Messiah the same week the mob demanded His crucifixion? Humans, admittedly, are inconsistent creatures. 

Some people use the term “Black Friday” to refer to what is also known as “Good Friday,” or the day Jesus bore the world’s sins on the cross. This moniker is because, for a total of three hours, the world was in total darkness. An issue with trying to discern such specifics retroactively is that tradition can often take precedence over Scripture. To pinpoint the year of Jesus’ death in Jerusalem, some have even resorted to using computers and date-calculating software.  

So that I do not fall into the same trap, let me quickly raise a couple of issues that may make a nice and tidy timeline for the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord problematic. In the first place, let me state one undeniable truth. Early on a Sunday morning, the women found the tomb empty (John 20.1). From this one point, we apply Jesus’ words to the evil and (spiritually) adulterous generation seeking a sign: “for just as Jonah was in the stomach of the sea monster for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights” (Matthew 12.40 NASB). So, Jesus would be in the grave for three days and three nights. 

A Friday crucifixion would not permit three full days and nights. According to religious scholars, a fraction of a day counts as an entire day. How do we know this, though? It turns into a speculative game. As a result, some argue that the Romans crucified Jesus on Wednesday. This alternative is also a possibility. But first, consider another hint. Because they were preparing for a high Sabbath, they had to bury Jesus quickly (John 19.31). That suggests another vote for Friday. Is that correct? What was the last meal Jesus wished to share with His disciples before His crucifixion? It was Passover (Matthew 26.18). Matthew 26.17 states that Jesus sent His disciples ahead to secure a room to eat the Passover meal on the first day of Unleavened Bread. 

A careful reading of the text reveals that everything from the institution of the Lord’s Supper to the death of Jesus occurred on Passover since it occurred between the span of one sunset to the next (e.g., Leviticus 23.32). This coincidence is apropos, given that Jesus was the Lamb of God (John 1.29). Moreover, according to Leviticus 23.5-6, Passover was immediately followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread. But note Leviticus 23.7. The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread was a holy convocation on which keepers of Moses’ Law were not supposed to work. In other words, it was a special Sabbath. Aha! 

So, the high Sabbath that led to the quick burial of Jesus was not a typical Saturday Sabbath. This truth creates an intriguing scenario, and the Gospels do provide hints. A regular Sabbath may have fallen after a special Sabbath. Take note of what the Gospels say about women. They went to see where Joseph and Nicodemus buried Jesus before returning home to prepare spices and perfumes to anoint Him (Luke 23.55-56). These women, according to Luke, kept the Sabbath. But then Mark says something that skeptics say contradicts Luke. After observing the Sabbath, the women purchase spices for Jesus’ anointing (Mark 16.1). But instead of contradiction, it more likely indicates a two-Sabbath week. Whatever the reason, the women could not attend to Jesus’ body as they had hoped until Sunday morning. This day was when they discovered the empty tomb. 

Our conclusion may not please those insisting on specifics, but I believe it allows our Lord’s words to be proven. He spent three days and three nights in the tomb, as He said because that was the sign. It was not an hour or two here and there, coupled with two full days. So, those of you better with math and willing to consult astronomical computer programs can give me a date based on those variables, but until then, we hear the words of Jesus to Thomas Didymus: 

“Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed (John 20.29 NASB). 

The Fruits Of Restoration

The Fruits Of Restoration

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

There is nothing like the satisfaction of completing a task that was especially hard-fought and challenging. But, there was Judah in Ezra’s day in Ezra six after Haggai and Zechariah’s message propels them to the finish line concerning the temple (14). After earlier opposition from their neighbors, Judah is assisted by the most powerful nation on earth “with all diligence” (13). It was not nearly as glorious as the original temple (3:12; Hag. 2:3), but it was rebuilt and available for Judah to use to worship God as before the captivity.

Consider some of the fruits of their obedient, faithful efforts from Ezra 6:13-22. These are the some of the fruits of restoration.

Joy (16,22).

In a world where everybody just wants to be happy, few know genuine joy. The happiness for the people here is so intense and deep-seated because God is the source and reason for it. They celebrated the dedication (16) and Ezra says “the Lord had caused them to rejoice” (22). There is a unique, genuine joy available to those who are seeking to build their lives and religion according to the Lord’s pattern (Rom. 15:13). 

Faithful Worship (17-20).

Following the revealed instructions from God through His leaders, the people were now enabled to dedicate the temple (17), appoint the priests (18), and observe the Passover (19-20). They have returned to the proper place, people, and practice of worship. That is the epitome of restoration. When we submit to the instructions of the New Testament regarding who leads (1 Tim. 2:8,11-12), where we participate (Heb. 10:24-25), and how we worship (cf. Col. 3:16-17), faithful worship, when done in proper spirit, follows (John 4:24). 

Purity (20-21).

The ones who could participate in the Passover were those who had purified themselves. That started with the leadership (19) and extended to the rest of the participants (19-20). It mandated separating from “the impurity of the nations of the land” (20). They could come before God with pure and holy hands (cf. 1 Tim. 2:8). Think about what Peter tells believers: “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Pet. 1:22-23). 

Divine Aid (22).

Do your best and try your hardest, but you will fall terribly short without this factor. God’s providence paved the road and opened the door to restoration. The Lord “…had turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them to encourage them in the work of the house of God.” “The Lord had caused them to rejoice.” One of the fruits of seeking to restore God’s will and ways in our public and private lives today is this assurance. Jesus promises, “I am with you always” (Mat. 28:20). “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you so that we can confidently say, The Lord is my helper…” (Heb. 13:5-6). 

Be body builders, building the Lord’s church the Lord’s way. Let’s go all the way back to the Bible. The end result is a multitude of blessings (Eph. 1:3) like those mentioned in Ezra 6:13-22. 

A Message To Mankind

A Message To Mankind

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

carl-pic

Carl Pollard

 
Someone once said, “There are two reasons I know the devil exists. Number one, the Bible tells me so. Number two, I’ve done business with him.” There is no denying that the world is filled with sin. Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The penalty for sin is condemnation. The wages of sin is death. Every time we sin, death is the payment.
 
Under the old law, people would watch as an innocent animal was slaughtered on their behalf. They would watch as these animals bled to death knowing that it was THEIR sin that caused it. In the New Testament we learn that our sins brought about the the death of Jesus. A pure and holy sacrifice, sent once and for all mankind (Romans 5:8).
 
But the death of God’s Son brings hope to mankind. This sacrifice means that our sins are not unforgivable. We can come before the throne of God and have them taken away. The Bible tells us of God’s love for us, and how badly He wants us to live with Him for all eternity. John 3:16 says, “for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
 
This message is a life-changer. But it will only change our life if we listen and obey it. Each and every person can be saved because God “shows no partiality…” (Acts 10:34). Salvation can be found, but only if we are willing to change and live according to God’s will.
 
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent…” (Acts‬ ‭17:30‬).
THE PASSOVER LAMB

THE PASSOVER LAMB

Neal Pollard

  • Every home needed it (Exodus 12:3-4)
  • It was to be a male (Exodus 12:5)
  • It was to be unblemished (Exodus 12:5)
  • It was to be killed (Exodus 12:6)
  • Its blood was to be applied (Exodus 12:7)
  • Its blood was the difference in life and death (Exodus 12:13,23)
  • Its sacrifice was to be commemorated (Exodus 12:14-22,24-27)
  • Its sacrifice drew reverence and worship from the obedient (Exodus 12:27)

Interestingly, Paul says, “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus, as a faithful Jew, had observed the passover throughout His public ministry (John 2:13; 6:4; 11:55), but He knew that the one recorded in Matthew 26 would be different. He told His disciples, “You know that after two days, the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion” (2). On that Passover, He would be sacrificed for us. Jesus of Nazareth, an unblemished (1 Peter 1:18) male (Mark 8:31; 9:31), was killed (Acts 2:23). His blood is applied (Romans 3:25; 5:9; Ephesians 2:13; Hebrews 9:22; 10:19; 12:24; 13:20; Revelation 1:5; 5:9) to the obedient (Hebrews 5:8-9) and is the difference in spiritual life and death (John 6:53-54). As we do every Sunday, this Sunday, which the world recognizes as Easter, we will commemorate the sacrifice of Jesus as part of our weekly worship (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29). 

Jesus was arrested on Thursday, crucified on Friday, lay buried all day Saturday, and arose on Sunday. Today, New Testament Christians commemorate this sacrifice every Sunday. The unleavened bread represents His body, and the fruit of the vine represents His blood. The God of perfect foreknowledge made these “emblems” part of the Passover feast which Israel celebrated the night they left Egypt, and it predated the first covenant (Exodus 20). The physical passover lamb sacrificed by Israel had significance to them in their generation and it was to be handed down to their descendants. But, God was drawing a picture that night that would be completed the moment His Son said “It is finished,” bowed His head, and gave up His spirit (John 19:30).  We celebrate and rejoice because He died, was buried, and rose again! May we never let this sacrifice lose its significance to our past, present, and future. 

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Is It Scriptural To Use Alcoholic Wine In The Lord’s Supper?

Is It Scriptural To Use Alcoholic Wine In The Lord’s Supper?

Neal Pollard

This is a question that occasionally comes up and is an important matter to consider since for some this is a test of a teacher’s soundness and a matter of fellowship.  As the church is global in nature, it is a matter to consider beyond the borders of our nation.  Various biblical arguments are made to defend and condemn its usage.

No doubt, the practice of “social drinking”—which is a different discussion altogether—has created such sensitivity to this matter of what kind of fruit of the vine is permissible for communion.  Achieving a biblical answer is vital, though, especially if the matter is framed as something that might be “scriptural” or, by implication, “unscriptural.”  If Guy N. Woods is right on this very matter, “To urge the use of one, to the exclusion of the other, on alleged scriptural grounds, is to make a law where God made none. It is a grave sin so to do (1 Tim. 4:3)” (Questions And Answers: Open Forum, 1976, p. 361).  Were his statement to be found true, those who malign the character of those whose position differs from their own should refrain and retract.  This is not a matter of what is preferred or deemed most expedient, but is a matter of what Scripture permits.

Arguments Against Its Use:

  • The Passover Meal.  Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper during the Passover before His death (Mat. 26:26-29).  Drawing from the idea that during the Passover no leaven was to be in one’s house for seven days (Exo. 12:19), it is assumed that wine would be prohibited.  Even if such were to be proven true (and it cannot be), we should remember that what proves too much proves nothing at all.  During the Passover, they also ate roasted meat (Exo. 12:8) and bitter herbs (Exo. 12:9).  In addition, the “leaven” forbidden in the Passover was dough used in baking bread (Koehler, et al; The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament, 1999, n.pag.) and the prohibition is specifically “eating” that which contained leaven (cf. Exo. 12:15; Deu. 16:4). Wayne Jackson shows that “wine was ordinarily used at the Passover and is called ‘fruit of the vine’ in Berakoth 6:1” (https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/224-was-the-fruit-of-the-vine-fermented, citing Jack Lewis and John Lightfoot).  The Passover Meal cannot be used as grounds for prohibiting the use of wine in the Lord’s Supper.
  • 1 Timothy 5:23.  It is argued that since Paul had to tell Timothy to drink wine for  medicinal purposes, Timothy could not have, as a Christian who faithfully worshipped, consumed fermented fruit of the vine in partaking of the Lord’s Supper.  This assumes what the text of Scripture nowhere supports.  That Paul is condoning the medicinal use of alcohol, given the medical conditions of the day, is clear.  But, this text is neither in the context of the Lord’s Supper nor a judgment in any way on what should be used in it.  One flirts dangerously close to “twisting” the Scriptures who applies this passage to the communion (cf. 2 Pet. 3:16).
  • Causing A Brother To Stumble.  This is a legitimate concern and should factor into our judgment regarding the Lord’s Supper.  The church has recovering alcoholics and others who struggle with a sin problem regarding alcohol.  A newer convert or one whose conscience is sensitive in this matter should be respected.  Romans 14 is devoted to discussing such a matter as this. However, having scruples about a matter does not give one the authority to make his or her scruples law.  Choosing to impose fermented wine just because one can, ignoring the impact this has on a brother’s conscience, falls into the category of causing a brother’s stumbling.  However, difficulty in obtaining grape juice in many parts of the world at times makes necessary using alcoholic fruit of the vine.  In this case, the Lord’s command takes precedence over a brother’s conscience.  The church is commanded to observe the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:23-29), with the approved example of Acts 20:7 teaching us that such is to be done every first day of the week.

This article is not intended as advocacy to implement the use of alcoholic fruit of the vine in our communion services here in the states or developed nations where there is ready access to non-alcoholic fruit of the vine.  The bigger question is permissibility in situations where such is unavoidable or even where the autonomous judgment of the local church allows its usage. By extension, is it right to label a congregation liberal or sinful who chooses to use it in the Lord’s Supper?  At its heart, this is not a matter of what we might think is wiser, more expedient, or more comfortable.  The question is whether a congregation has the biblical right to do so.  In many of the world’s more remote and rural areas, the ability to get non-alcoholic fruit of the vine is a real problem.  For them, this is a real, practical concern.  Short of compelling information which I have, as yet, not seen, it seems clear that it is scriptural to use alcoholic wine in the Lord’s Supper.

Love The Lamb

Love The Lamb

NOTE: One of our brand new Christians (Jeff Wiant) has an extensive music background.  He has written a song, “Live Like Jesus,” that we will be learning at Bear Valley very soon (Kathy Petrillo is doing the musical note composition for his melody now).  I’m very excited for you to learn it! While the following will probably be adjusted by Jeff with his considerable knowledge of meter and music, here is the poem that will at some point become a hymn.

Neal Pollard

When Moses and the Israelites were crying and enslaved

God shared His plan to free them and help them to be saved

The plan spelled the difference, and none of them were lost

But the way of their deliverance must come at a great cost.

The price was a little animal, flawless and innocent and young

He lived with them for four days before his blood was hung

Across the door. And through that step the obedient were spared

The lamb that saved their lives showed them that God cared.

They loved the lamb, The gift of the Great I Am,

They killed the lamb, And their faith passed the exam

No other way would have saved them on that night

The cherished sacrificial lamb led them to the light.

Each year the lambs were slaughtered to take care of their sin

Thousands upon thousands, a river of blood again and again

But God had a better solution, though more costly than them all

His Son, a Lamb without defect, who would save us from our fall

He came and lived among us before His blood was shed

The people, filled with anger, hung Him until He was dead

And by the gift of His perfect life, God gave us a door of hope

If we will follow His great plan, we have the way to cope.

Do you love the lamb, The gift of the Great I Am,

Do you see His love, the love of that Precious Lamb,

No other way can save us from sin’s dark night,

Obey the lamb to walk in the Son’s pure light.

How Often To Take “The Feast Of Love”?

How Often To Take “The Feast Of Love”?

Neal Pollard

I recently read a fascinating article by John H. Armstrong in the September, 2014, issue of “Christianity Today.” Armstrong starts out reminiscing on early childhood worship experiences in the denomination he attended. He writes that his church celebrated the Lord’s Supper “four times a year. I remember asking why we celebrated it so infrequently. The answer I got never satisfied, and it still doesn’t: ‘If we do this very often, it will lose its meaning'” (51). He goes on to say, “As I grew older, I discovered some churches took the meal weekly. I was then even more dissatisfied with the answer I had received” (ibid.).  He goes on to write a mostly historical examination of the Lord’s Supper, looking at the debates and developments of church history.  At the end, he summarizes by saying, “…[younger Christians] desire to receive the meal more often. And some of them—as I did when I was younger—have started attending congregations that take Communion ever week” (53).  The reasons given are that each observance gives us the opportunity to focus on Jesus’ crucifixion, expresses the unity of the body, and reflects our personal identity in Christ (ibid.). In other words, it offers commemoration, examination, and expectation.  We need that on an ongoing basis, and the Lord knew we would.  That is why He pointed ahead to a certain frequency when He established it, saying He would do it again when He established His Kingdom (Mark 14:25).  Paul says it was to be done with a certain frequency (1 Cor. 11:25—”as often as”).  Thankfully, Luke shows us how frequently it was taken (Acts 20:7—”on the first day of the week”).  It is good to understand that the Bible establishes the frequency of our observation of the Lord’s Supper, but it is also important to know why we take it each week.  We look up, look back, look within, look around, and look ahead.  Our all-wise God knew we would need this every time we assembled with our spiritual family.  Though so many have lost sight of its frequency, may we never lose sight of its significance!