When the Wolf and the Lamb Eat Together

When the Wolf and the Lamb Eat Together

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

Isaiah 65.17-25 is interesting. Some have mistakenly concluded that it is a prophecy of Christ’s “millennial kingdom” because it resembles passages in John’s revelation. However, we might agree that it refers to the millennium only if others use that term to describe the entire period between Jesus Christ’s two advents. 

Contextually, this prophecy appears alongside others concerning the church or the kingdom. Paul summarizes the blessings God promised Isaiah in this passage: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1.3 NASB1995). 

And we’ve been in these final days since Pentecost (Acts 2.16-21). As a result, we should not be surprised by its longevity (i.e., more than two millennia and counting) because God metaphorically predicted that its cohorts would live a long time (Isaiah 65.20). Furthermore, this extension is advantageous because it provides opportunities for those who need to repent (cf. 2 Peter 3.9). 

But what does Isaiah 65:25 mean by the wolf eating with the lamb? Because wolves and lambs are predators and prey, people assume it must refer to the millennial kingdom. Otherwise, the wolves would be the ones devouring the lambs. So, we can’t discuss anything current. Nonetheless, they fail to remember that there once existed a time when wolves and lambs ate together. They did so on the ark that God instructed Noah to build. The ark served as God’s refuge during His wrath. 

Today, the church serves as that refuge. Even when wolves are nearby, lambs will still be able to eat within that place of safety. Some people believe God’s providence protects His children, so they have no fear despite living in a wolf-infested world. Others argue that because God changes the obedient’s nature through the Gospel, the wolves and lambs can eat together within the church because their personalities have changed. They are brand-new creatures (2 Corinthians 5.17). All of these interpretations are correct, but there is an intriguing corollary. 

Who was the primary apostle to the Gentiles? Peter’s sermon converted the first Gentiles (Acts 10.34ff), but the Lord chose to send Paul to the Gentiles (Acts 26.17). Jesus tore down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2.13-15), allowing those like Paul to welcome the Gentiles into Zion (cf. Isaiah 62.1-3). However, what do we know about Paul’s history? Paul belonged to the Benjamite tribe. 

God allowed Israel to prophesy his sons’ futures as he lay dying (Genesis 49.1-27). According to Jacob, “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; In the morning he devours the prey, And in the evening he divides the spoil” (Genesis 49.27 NASB1995). Paul was thus a ravenous wolf whose conversion caused him to eat with the lambs (Acts 20.7). No longer a church persecutor content to put Christians to death for their crime of faith in Jesus, Paul became Christ’s ambassador to increase the flock of Christ. 

A true example of the wolf eating with the lamb is found only in God’s kingdom, the church. 

What Motivates Us To Share Christ

What Motivates Us To Share Christ

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

If we will ever share Christ with anyone, it will be the product of some motivator. It may be romantic love, if we are trying to win a potential mate. It could be a sense of Christian duty. It might be a profound sense of love and gratitude for our own salvation. Bible writers are often trying to guide us to appreciate the value of being motivated to share the good news. That is what Paul does in 2 Corinthians 5. Paul, who has been defending the work he and his fellow-laborers have been doing as servants of Christ, moves to the broader consideration of what should move us to share Him with others. Motivation is key to involvement. Often, when I see the importance of my personal involvement in spreading Christ to others, it will touch my heart and open my lips.  What motives should move us?

THE TERROR OF THE LORD (11)

This actually connects back to verse 10. There’s a great day coming, and all of us will be judged. If one is unprepared for that day, he or she should rightfully feel terrified. Knowing the terror facing those not ready to face Jesus, we persuade men. 

PERSONAL INTEGRITY (12-13)

Paul saw his involvement in reaching souls as a matter of personal integrity and honor. These spiritual servants shared Christ for God and for them (13). Soul-winning is our responsibility, and we should realize our character is at stake. 

THE LOVE OF CHRIST (14-16)

One of the most important and transforming truths is that Christ loves everyone. In fact, Paul says “the love of Christ controls us” (14). He proved that love by dying for all so that all could be reconciled (see 17-19). All are dead outside of Christ, but He can make men spiritually alive. That love for us and them should move us. 

THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF RECONCILIATION (17-19)

Anyone in Christ is a new creation (17). He reconciled us to Himself, and then gave us the ministry of reconciliation (18). He entrusted us with the message of reconciliation (19). We are offering people the ability to restore their relationship with God. Think of the peace, relief, and joy we can bring into people’s lives by offering them the hope of Christ!

OUR RESPONSIBILITY AS AMBASSADORS OF CHRIST (20)

God has given us the job of representing Him to men. He makes His appeal through us. We implore others on behalf of Christ to be reconciled. That doesn’t make us important, but it does mean our job could not be more important!

THE FACT THAT WE ARE MADE RIGHTEOUS IN HIM (21)

Christ is our substitute sacrifice, as He is for the people we need to reach. He makes us righteous through Himself. Knowing that God looks at a saved soul and sees purity and righteousness is powerful! That’s what He sees when He looks at us, covered in Christ. It’s what He sees when He looks at everyone covered in Christ. I want for others what I myself have been given!

This isn’t the totality of our motivation, but if this was an exhaustive list it would be enough! Suffice it to say that I don’t lack reasons for sharing my faith. The reasons are diverse, but each is significant by itself. Let’s pray for wisdom, courage, and tenderness of heart to be God’s voice and hands in reconciling the world to Him. 

Christ’s Focus On Getting Rid Of Sin

Christ’s Focus On Getting Rid Of Sin

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

 

 

 

Gary Pollard

This week we will do a brief study of I Peter 3.17-22. 

In verse 17, the emphasis in the original text is “doing good.” If it is God’s desire (this is emphasized) that we suffer, it is better (stronger, more prominent, more advantageous) that we suffer for doing good works than evil works. How much more powerful a message do we send when we come under fire for doing something that benefits others? If we suffer for doing something bad, we’re just another criminal. But to suffer in the act of doing something good – in context – is a far more powerful evangelistic tool. 

In the following verses, Peter gives a powerful example of Christ’s focus on getting rid of sin. He put everything into saving mankind – including giving His own life – so that we could all have the opportunity to come to God. Even before the destruction of the world through the flood He made sure everything had the opportunity to hear about their spiritual state. Whether this was done through Noah and his sons or whether He had a more direct hand in this is immaterial. The point of the text is that the message got out to those who are “now in prison.” His goal was to bring others to God, even when it caused Him suffering. 

Only those who did listen and obey – eight people – were rescued from evil by the waters of the flood. Notice that the Spirit does not record Noah’s ark as being what saved them! They were saved in the important sense by the destruction of evil. Our focus is not earthly. 

Just as water saved Noah and his family from evil, water saves us from spiritual death. Being immersed in water is how we make a formal appeal to God for a clear conscience! Some translations render this, “A promise to God from a good conscience,” as if baptism is some kind of outward sign of an inward faith. This is not reflected in Greek; it is a conscience cleared by an appeal to God, because of the resurrection of Jesus. He has all power, so He can clear our record when we submit to Him. 

Having all of this as a background, we have some motivation to keep our actions pure, suffer for doing good things, and understand that God’s power is what saves us. Peter gives many other phenomenal motivators for living a pure life, which we will look at in detail in the coming weeks. 

BLACK FRIDAY

BLACK FRIDAY

Neal Pollard

It was September 24, 1869. The Civll War was barely an excruciating national memory and the nation was rebuilding. That specific day was a Friday, the day a cruel scheme by two Wall Street investors was discovered and led to an implosion of the Stock Market. It was referred to as “Black Friday.” The tie of this term to the Christmas shopping season is also surprising. In the 1950s, the Philadelphia police department used the phrase to describe the mayhem brought by the combination of suburban shoppers, tourists, attendees of the Army-Navy football game, and increased shoplifting in stores. They would have to work extra-long shifts this day after Thanksgiving. It was a derogatory term until relatively recently, when retailers in the late 1980s co-opted the expression to depict the day as the day retailers were trying to take their businesses from the “red” to the “black.” This meant bargains for shoppers, the best day to get out and shop and spend. While the advent of online shopping and retail promotions have created new and additional days of holiday shopping deals, “Black Friday” still symbolizes the happy time of “the most wonderful time of the year” (information from Sarah Pruitt, History Channel). 

For the Christian, black Friday was the day darkness fell over the whole land of Palestine around 30 A.D. (Mat. 27:45). It had to take place to save humanity who were sitting in the darkness of sin (Mat. 4:16) facing the grim prospect of eternal, outer darkness (Mat. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30). It was a horrible day. It was a day of seeming loss, with Jesus’ followers sensing total defeat. Jesus was undergoing six hours of horrific torture before succumbing to death. Satan seemed victorious. But God, according to His eternal, humbling, and essential plan, took that day of darkness and defeat and used it to bring the only profit that ultimately matters. It was actually a day of triumph (Col. 2:15). It became a day of victory for us (1 John 5:4). What turned that day from sorrow to joy was the Sunday that followed that Friday. That Friday death was God’s gift to the whole world, and it profits anyone who responds to it by obedient faith (Rom. 6). 

This Sunday (and every Sunday), we get to celebrate this gift and what it means to us when we take the Lord’s Supper. We think back on those dark events, thank God for what they mean to us now, and look ahead with hope and assurance to what it means for our eternal destiny. It was a day of defeat, but God transformed it into the day of victory! 

cozumel100

He Understands Me

He Understands Me

Neal Pollard

Marge Singleton and Merle Kilgore cowrote a song that was a hit for Teresa Brewer at the end of the “doo wop” era, entitled “He Understands Me.”  The heart of the lyrics, which are repeated, is: “He understands me the way you never did. He loves me the way you never did. 

He takes the time to notice I’m around. He builds me up, he never lets me down.” This is obviously a song about young love and a young woman who has found somebody much better than her “ex.” This is the age old complaint of many a man and woman, of feeling taken for granted. 

But in the most important relationship you can have, you have Someone who understands you better than you understand you. He wants a relationship with you and He went further to prove it than anyone else ever will or could. He left a place of safety to suffer. He left a position of supremacy to be a servant. He left the peer-ship of sovereignty for submission. He limited Himself to humanity without surrendering His deity to save the most important of every person, including you.  Because He successfully navigated the perils of this life, He can offer you eternal life.

Meanwhile, there are daily benefits for you because “the Word became flesh” (John 1:1-2,14). 

Intercession. Paul says, “Who is the one who condemns (cf. lays a charge against God’s elect, 33)? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:34). The Hebrews’ writer adds, “He always lives to make intercession for [those who draw near to God through Him]” (Heb. 7:25). He earnestly appeals to God with urgency and intensity for you. Try to picture that. He’s addressing God for you!

Intervention. Hebrews 2, which warns against the possibility of drifting away from Jesus, gives a multitude of reasons why you would never want to do that. One reason was He became one of us to die for us (9). His appearance here helped Him understand by experience your struggles (10). He claims you as spiritual family (11-13). He went to war with the devil for you and won (14-15). He gives you help (16). He paved the way for God’s favor toward you (17). The writer says He had to become one of us to be a “merciful and faithful high priest…,” and being tempted “He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (17-18). When you appeal to Him for help, He will!

Invitation. Knowing that Jesus has been through what you’ve been through, by itself, is comforting. Hebrews 4:15 says your high priest sympathizes with your weaknesses, having been tempted in all things like you are except that He never sinned. Those facts lead to a consequence, signaled by the “therefore” of verse 16. Because Jesus successfully took your place, you get to go someplace you otherwise never could! You can go directly to the Father’s throne of grace. You can do so confidently (boldly!). When you do, you will not only find “help” (same word as “aid” in 2:18) but you also grab hold of mercy and grace. You can step inside the greatest power source in the universe for help, pity, and favor, and you are invited to do so!

Do you know why you have intercession, intervention, and invitation? Because He understands you! He’s been through what you’ve been through. He knows. He gets it. But, combined with that, “He is able” (Heb. 7:25)! Are you taking advantage of these benefits? Why would any of us neglect to do so?

weeping

What The Blood Of Christ Meant

What The Blood Of Christ Meant

Neal Pollard

  • To Christ, an expression of love (John 15:13)
  • To God, an appeasement of His wrath (Rom. 5:9).
  • To the Devil, the scribes, and Pharisees, a sign of their supposed victory (Heb. 2:14; John 19:6ff).
  • To the mob, apparent weakness (Mat. 27:42).
  • To the disciples, seeming defeat (John 21:3).
  • To those who lived rebelliously, nothing (1 Cor. 1:17).
  • To those who died in disobedience, an essential but missing element (cf. John 6:53).
  • To those who lived obediently, atonement (Eph. 1:7).
  • To those who died having walked in the light, everything (1 Jn. 1:7).

Untold millions are unaware of the value of the blood of Jesus. You and I must decide what the blood of Jesus means to us. Interestingly, in four different ways, the Bible tells us that what the blood does for us we obtain the benefit of through baptism.
—The blood of Christ sanctifies (Heb. 13:12). We are sanctified by baptism (Eph. 5:25-27).
—The blood of Christ washes away sins (Rev. 1:5-6). Sins are washed away at baptism (Acts 22:16).
—The blood of Christ remits sins (Mat. 26:28). Sins are remitted through baptism (Acts 2:38).
—Jesus shed His blood in His death (John 19:34). We contact the dead of Jesus at baptism (Romans 6:3-4).
The Bible makes clear not just what the blood of Christ means to our souls, but also how we get the benefit of that blood. May we do what God says do to receive the benefits of Jesus’ blood and continue to walk in the light of Christ in order to have that blood continually cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:7).