Jesus’ Resurrection

The Vine

It seemed that everything had gone wrong. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, everything changed forever. Jesus of Nazareth, whom many believed was the Christ of God, was crucified. Then, when the disciples were in despair, attempting to figure out what went wrong, they hear that Jesus of Nazareth was alive again, resurrected from the dead (cf. Luke 24:19-24). The tomb was empty. Nothing would ever be the same again.

The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is the centerpiece of the Christian religion. While Jesus’ birth, life, and death are significant in and of themselves, without Jesus’ resurrection, they are all ultimately meaningless, and we would still be lost in our sins (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:14-19). The Christ crucified and resurrected was the theme of the message of the Apostles, and the resurrection was the basis of the future hope of transformation (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:20-58).

We read about Jesus’ resurrection in Matthew 28:1-20, Mark 16:1-20, Luke 24:1-53, John 20:1-21:23, and 1 Corinthians 15:1-58. After Jesus died, His soul went to Paradise (cf. Luke 23:43), and His body was sealed in Joseph of Arimathea’s rock-cut tomb after it was wrapped in linen and covered with seventy-five pounds of spices and aloes. On the third day, the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and some of the women came to finish the anointing of the body of Jesus, and found the large rock in front of the tomb rolled away. Two angels were there, informed the women of what has taken place, and told them to go and make it known to the disciples. Peter and John ran to the tomb, saw it empty with the linen cloths carefully folded to the side. They believed; they just did not know what happened! Mary, meanwhile, spoke to someone whom she believes is the gardener, wanting to know where the body of Jesus was taken. He responded to her; He was no gardener, but Jesus Himself, resurrected from the dead!

The idea of resurrection in the New Testament is not merely life after death; instead, it involves “life after life after death.” Mary and the disciples found the tomb empty and Jesus in a bodily form (cf. Luke 24:39). Nevertheless, Jesus’ body is not the same as it was before since He can now transcend space and time restraints; it has been transformed somehow. The resurrection therefore involves the re-animation or re-creation of the physical body, the return of the soul to it, and the transformation of that body into something “trans-physical” or something of the sort.

Jesus will later appear to Simon Peter, two disciples walking to Emmaus, ten of the disciples, all eleven disciples, James His brother, and 500 brethren at one time over the period of forty days after His death. He instructed them regarding Himself and the mission for the Kingdom that they would soon begin. After that forty day period, Jesus ascended to the Father in Heaven (Acts 1:1-11). At that point Jesus, as the “one like a Son of Man,” received an everlasting dominion from the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:13-14); Stephen, in a vision, saw the “Son of Man” standing at the right hand of God when he saw Jesus while being stoned (Acts 7:55-56); Saul of Tarsus saw the Lord on the road to Damascus, and based on it considered himself an eyewitness of the resurrection (Acts 9:3-6, 1 Corinthians 9:1, 15:4-9). In the 60s CE, long after Jesus’ ascension, Paul spoke of Jesus as still presently human (Greek anthropos, 1 Timothy 2:5). The Lord Jesus therefore remains fully God and fully man, having died never to die again (Romans 6:8-11): He remains in the resurrection body, and thus remains the Son of Man and Son of God, and will return thus one day (Matthew 25:31, Acts 1:11).

The Bible’s claims regarding the resurrection of Jesus are startling, and yet they represent the foundation of the belief that Jesus really is Lord and Christ (cf. Acts 2:36). Since Christianity stands or falls on the legitimacy of the resurrection, many throughout time have attempted to discredit it by positing alternative explanations. Those explanations, however, never account for all of the evidence. Both the “swoon theory” and the “wrong tomb theory” require more faith to believe than the Bible’s claims. The “hallucination theory” cannot explain why people would claim to see Jesus only during a forty day period. The “stolen body theory” is inconsistent with the transformation of the disciples and the testimony of their lives. The “spiritual theory” cannot make sense of the claim of the empty tomb. In the end, the only story that makes sense of the empty tomb, the eyewitness accounts, and the transformation of the disciples is that Jesus of Nazareth was really raised from the dead by the power of God!

Jesus’ resurrection changes everything. By virtue of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Apostles proclaim that God made Him Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). Jesus conquers death through the resurrection, giving us hope that we also can conquer death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). With sin and death defeated through Jesus, we have no reason to fear anyone or anything! Jesus’ resurrection proves beyond doubt that there will be a day of reckoning for all mankind (Acts 17:30-31). The resurrection shows that Jesus is the first fruit: as He was raised from the dead, so we now can look forward to the day when we also will rise from the dead (Romans 8:18-25, 1 Corinthians 15:20-58). In the resurrection, a new creation is able to burst forth into the old: even though we may still suffer on account of sin and death, we can spiritually die and be raised again through baptism and be new creatures in Jesus’ spiritual Kingdom (Romans 6:3-7, 2 Corinthians 5:17). Ultimately we cherish the hope of our own resurrection based on Jesus’ resurrection: on that day we will be like Him, and will abide with Him forever (1 Corinthians 15:20-58, 1 John 3:2).

Jesus, in His resurrection, demonstrates that death is not the end. Hope is able to spring anew. Jesus is Risen! Let us praise God, and obtain the victory through Jesus Christ!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Q&A: Resurrection in Ancient Near Eastern Myths

Q: I have heard some people claim that the story of Jesus’ resurrection is based on ancient Near Eastern myths about resurrection. Is there any truth to these claims?

A: Resurrection, or at least rejuvenation, is a major theme in ancient cultures. There is a reason why the remembrance of Jesus’ resurrection in spring became associated with “Easter”: Bede claimed the term derived from a Saxon goddess Eostre, likely a goddess of dawn and thus rebirth (Bede, The Reckoning of Time).

The vernal equinox was often associated with rebirth and rejuvenation since the increased sunlight would lead to increased warmth and the sprouting of plants; other areas would have similar festivals and observances when plants would sprout after the appropriate rainy or flood season. Agricultural life depended on plants “dying” and “rising again.”

And so it is that many cultures had some myth or story of death and rebirth. The famous Egyptian version is the myth of Osiris: Osiris, an Egyptian king, is married to Isis. His jealous brother Set conspires against him and kills him. By some machination Isis brings Osiris back to life just long enough to procreate with him. Isis begets a son, Horus, who bests Set and takes his rightful place on the throne. All these characters were god-men and became part of the Egyptian pantheon; the story has many variations but is generally as set above.

It is worth emphasizing that Osiris is not fully resurrected: he is brought back to life just long enough to reproduce. He then becomes god of the underworld. The Egyptians saw the contest among Osiris, Set, and Horus as playing out continually in the land: Osiris was the Pharaoh in death, and the living Pharaoh was Horus, always seeking to preserve order and stability against Set and the forces of anarchy and chaos. The Egyptian story thus seeks to explain things as they are; death is not defeated, but part of life.

Osiris-tomb-of-Nefertari

The Mesopotamian version is the story of Inanna/Ishtar and Dumuzi/Tammuz, the observance of which in Israel is condemned by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 8:13-15). Ishtar was the goddess of fertility/love, and Tammuz the god of food and vegetation. In the various stories told about them, the same motif appears: to explain the presence of crops and fertility part of the year but not all year, there is a story of someone escaping from the underworld but having to pay the price, and that price is that another spends time in the underworld. Thus Tammuz “dies” every year, and is mourned, but is expected to come back.

This same theme is present in the annual contest between Baal (storm god) and Mot (death) in Canaanite mythology; the same is true with Demeter and Persephone among the Greeks. All of these stories seek to explain either the annual agricultural cycle or the life cycle of humanity in general.

Jesus’ resurrection is an altogether different feature, and has been thus noted from the beginning. Jesus dies and is raised from the dead, but never to die again (Romans 6:1-11). The Apostles did not preach the continuation of the life-cycle as it had always existed; they proclaimed that Jesus overcame sin and death in His death and resurrection, and in so doing pave the way to overcome that cycle (1 Corinthians 15:20-58). They pointed to Jesus as one still living, fully God, fully human, reigning as Lord over all, the one like a son of man given an eternal dominion (Daniel 7:13-14, Acts 7:55-56, 1 Timothy 2:5, Revelation 1:12-20).

Jesus’ resurrection is the guarantee of an afterlife, of the coming judgment, of a hope that the creation, currently enslaved to the bondage of decay and corruption, would one day be set free as in the beginning (Acts 17:30-31, Romans 8:18-25). What was claimed of Jesus is categorically different from all the rejuvenation legends and myths that came before or which have come since, for all others died again and perpetuated the life cycle. Jesus, and only Jesus, is claimed to have overcome the life cycle, being raised bodily, transformed, and never to die again, and who extends that same hope to all who will follow Him (1 Corinthians 15:20-58). May we put our trust in Jesus and our hope in the resurrection!

Do you have questions about the Bible or Christianity? We’d love to discuss them!

Do you have anything to add or discuss regarding the question or answer? Please let us know in the comments below.

Thanks!

The Resurrection

The Vine

From death comes life.

This statement is paradoxical yet proves true in our lives. As one day, month, or year ends, another begins. A fire consumes a forest, and new growth is given an opportunity to rise. One creature is killed and eaten so that another creature might live. And so it is with Christianity and its teachings regarding the resurrection.

“Resurrection” involves the idea of coming back to life after death. In the Old Testament, the prophets Elijah and Elisha bring dead people back to life through the power of God (1 Kings 17:17-24, 2 Kings 4:18-37, Hebrews 11:35). In the New Testament, Jesus raised the son of the widow of Nain, Jairus’ daughter, and Lazarus from the dead as well (Luke 7:10-17, 8:40-42, 49-56, John 11:1-45). In all of these circumstances, a person was physically dead and then brought back to physical life.

Yet every “new” day, month, or year will also pass away. “New” plant growth goes old and dies as well. Creatures who eat other creatures might be eaten in turn but will certainly meet their end in some way or another. All of the people above who were resurrected died again as well.

Yet God, in the New Testament, makes a promise regarding a better resurrection, one that does not end in yet another death. This resurrection is considered most properly as “life after life after death,” and Jesus is considered its “firstfruits,” the first of an intended many (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:20). We can gain understanding about this resurrection by considering the descriptions of Jesus’ resurrection in Matthew 28:1-17, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-53, and John 20:1-21:25.

Jesus died physically on the cross but remained alive spiritually in Paradise until the third day (Luke 23:43-46). As the Gospel accounts demonstrate, God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day: the tomb was empty, for Jesus’ soul/spirit were united again with His physical body. Over a forty day period Jesus frequently appeared to His followers, establishing that He was no phantasm but flesh and blood, although changed, since He apparently transcended the space-time continuum. He then ascended to heaven with the promise of returning as He departed (Acts 1:11).

Paul established Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection as the fundamental core of the Gospel in which we stand (1 Corinthians 15:1-11). Those who deny the resurrection from the dead ultimately deny Jesus and Christianity, for if the dead are not raised, Jesus was not raised, and if Jesus was not raised, then our faith is futile, we are lost in our sins, and of all people most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).

And yet Paul assures Christians in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 that Jesus is risen from the dead, and we can have confidence that in Jesus those who belong to Christ will rise when He comes. According to the New Testament, Jesus will return one day (e.g. Matthew 25:1-46). When He returns, all of the dead in the grave will hear His voice and come out (John 5:28-29). This resurrection, by necessity, involves the re-animation and/or re-constitution of the physical body: that which was from dust and had returned to dust will begin to come to life again from the dust (cf. Genesis 3:19). Since the “psychical,” or natural body, the one empowered by the breath (Gk. psuche) of life, is perishable, corruptible, and mortal, it will then be transformed to be the “pneumatical” or spiritual body, the one empowered by the soul (Gk. pneuma), and thus imperishable, incorruptible, and immortal (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:35-54). In this way the dead will rise first and those who remained alive will then be transformed (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), and such is the redemption of the body earnestly desired in Romans 8:18-25. From this point on the righteous will be forever in the presence of the Lord, having gained the final victory over sin and death through Him (1 Corinthians 15:55-58, 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18).

From Jesus’ death comes life: spiritual life through faith in Him and the salvation which comes through His blood, and the promise of eternal life in the resurrection with Him (cf. Romans 5:6-11, 6:3-7). The resurrection changes everything: there is more to life than this existence, death and evil can be overcome, and we can maintain hope in the ultimate realization of God’s intentions for His creation. Through the resurrection life gains its meaning as preparation for eternity. Let us praise God for the hope of resurrection in Christ Jesus and place our trust in Him forever!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Love

The Vine

“Love is all you need.” So spoke some of the “prophets” of our day, and they were right. We could be very wealthy, but if we were not loved by anyone, we would feel hollow and empty. But if we love and are loved, even if we have very few earthly possessions to our name, we can be happy and content. In fact, long ago, a man named Paul said something quite similar:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV).

Paul understood how love was more important than anything else. No amount of wisdom, understanding, or power would have any value if he did not have love.

We can understand life in terms of the pursuit of love and being loved. From the womb we want to be loved by our parents. We grow up and look for that special someone who will love us unconditionally as we love them. We want to be surrounded by people who care about us and for whom we care deeply as well.

But if love is so fundamental and basic to our existence, why do we struggle to love and be loved like we should? Why is there so little love around? Part of our problem is how we understand what love is. In the Bible, Paul provides an excellent definition of what love really involves:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a ESV).

As we know from experience, receiving true love is a beautiful and wonderful thing. We like it when people are patient with us and kind toward us. Yet we often find it difficult to express to others those same benefits, especially when we do not like them very much.

Such is why true love is not an emotion or a feeling. Love is a decision impacting the way we think, feel, and act. Feelings come and go; love endures all things. Emotions can sway back and forth, up and down, hot and cold; love is not irritable or resentful. Love springs forth from the active decision to love.

But if we are to love, we cannot insist on our own way or desire. True love involves seeking the best interest of the one we love even if it costs us greatly. Love, therefore, must be sacrificial: we must suffer loss for the one whom we love. It might be our time, energy, devotion, care, resources, or a number of other things. Love can never truly be about us; it must be about the ones we love.

And yet even if love is about the best interest of the one loved, such love cannot compel or coerce. We might think we know the best interest of the ones we love, but they may not see it that way. Love is not rude or arrogant; we cannot truly love while forcing people to act as we think they should. This does not mean that love comes without any standards; love rejoices with the truth, and cannot rejoice at wrongdoing. Love cannot compel or coerce, but love cannot enable bad thoughts, attitudes, or behaviors, either.

To love is to hope and trust: we seek the best interest of others, and in so doing hope that others will seek our best interest as well. True, self-sacrificial love is difficult enough to provide to others when we exist within a loving and caring environment; it is far more difficult when we do not feel loved in return. Nevertheless, love cannot force, since it does not insist on its own way. We must have confidence in love as the best way forward even though we will assuredly experience rejection and pain because we have dared to love. We must cherish our confidence that it is better to love others with the hope of being loved, risking the rejection or pain that comes along with it, than it is to be unloving and to miss out on the greatest blessings of life we find in love.

We humans easily slip into selfishness, inertia, and fear. We think it easier to just take care of ourselves. Despite good intentions toward others, we do not actually put the effort into seeking their best interest. We are afraid of investing our energies and resources into other people because we are not guaranteed good will and similar benefits in return.

But is such a life really worth living? What would our lives be like if no one had ever loved us? What if no one invested their energies or resources into us? We would not be here; we would have starved as infants!

But why is love so important? We are made to love and for love because the God who made us is love (1 John 4:8). God created all things and cares for all things because He loves them (1 John 4:7). No one has ever deserved or earned God’s love; God freely loves us despite our rebellion against Him and His purposes (Romans 5:6-11, 8:7-8). As God, He has control over all things, and can do as He wishes; He has no need for mankind, and yet He loves us and cares for us, seeking our best interest, willing to give of His Son for our sins (Romans 5:6-11, 8:31-32)! God has made it clear in Scripture what is our best interest–to follow the way of truth versus the ways of unrighteousness– and we will all be held accountable for our thoughts, words, and deeds one day (cf. Acts 17:30-31, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Yet God has never forced anyone to serve Him or seek after His purposes.

What shall we do? Will we put our trust in God and the power of His love, or will we shrink back in our fears? Are we bold enough to hope in the redeeming power of love to heal our own brokenness and the brokenness of others? God has loved us, having made us in love and to love. We do well to love God and love others in return, even if they do not love us, trusting that the way of love is always better than the way of indifference, selfishness, and fear. Join us at The Word Bible Study as we seek to learn more about God’s love and how we can best love one another, and let us work together to praise God for His love!

The Vine

The Vine is designed to strengthen and build you up spiritually, giving you something to think about and apply to your life and your relationship with God and others. It is a publication of the Venice church of Christ, published monthly while school is in session.

Hope

The Vine

For in hope were we saved: but hope that is seen is not hope: for who hopeth for that which he seeth? But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it (Romans 8:24-25).

We all know how life can get ugly. People hurt each other. People even hurt themselves. People get sick. Natural disasters happen. As much as we try to forget it, we all know we and everyone we love will die.

What would we do if we focused on all the negativity in life? How motivated would we be to do much of anything? Since life is filled with these nasty and cruel realities, why do we bother trudging through it?

Focusing on the horrors, evil, and tragedies of life is depressing. But hope makes life worth living.

If we stop and think about it for a moment, we can see how hope is the great motivator of our existence. We grow up in hope of a good, successful life. We go to school in hope of getting and maintaining a good job. We try to find that special someone, hoping to obtain a life-long partner and companion. We have children in hope of providing for them, doing what we can so that they can enjoy a better life than we do. When we are in the midst of trial or suffering, we hope for the day when we will overcome and feel good again. In bad times, we hope for good times; in good times, we hope it continues.

Hope is a powerful source of encouragement. It is easy to try to “sell” people on hope and get them to believe that some person, product, or idea will provide a better quality of life. But can those people, products, or ideas really satisfy as advertised? Politicians promise hope and do not provide much in return. Youthful hopes for a good life and a good world are often quickly dashed by the cold hand of reality with its suffering and pain. Ultimately, and sadly, all hope in this world is extinguished on the day of death. The world continues in its futility and decay.

If our hope is entirely based in this world, our hope will be frustrated. If there is nothing to life beyond this earthly existence, we are in for great disappointment. Our lives will never satisfy our hopes for them. No matter how good we have it, we will suffer the effects of pain, misery, sin, and death, and we will stare into the darkness. What can sustain us on that day? If we hope in this life alone, we will be struck by the meaninglessness of it all, and risk permanent disenchantment with life. As a wise man put it long ago, all is absurd; in this world, life is like a mist that vanishes quickly.

But what if there is more to living than this existence? What if we receive a glimpse into another world in which there is no pain and suffering, and we can live the way we were always intended to live? What if there is another life beyond what we experience now?

This is the hope Jesus extends to mankind. Jesus of Nazareth lived as a man on the earth around two thousand years ago, taught and did a lot of good things, but was executed as a common criminal on a Roman cross unjustly (cf. Acts 10:38-39). A lot of people placed their hope in Him; when He died, their hopes seemed frustrated (Luke 24:19-21). If this were the end of the story, there would be no need to tell it: the world is filled with stories of hopes dashed and expectations crushed by the cruel hand of death.

But Jesus’ story does not end there, for on the third day after His death, He did what no man had ever done or has done since: He was raised from the dead with power, never to die again (1 Corinthians 15:4-11). He is still alive and ruling from Heaven (Matthew 28:18).

Jesus’ resurrection changes everything! If Jesus could die physically and then be raised from the dead, this means there is a life to come after this life. If Jesus was raised from the dead, we also can look forward to a day when we will rise from the dead (Romans 8:22-23). This is the hope Jesus provides for the world: a day is coming when we will no longer be subject to death and decay. A day is coming when we will be able to be victorious over pain, suffering, misery, and death through Jesus (Romans 8:18-25, 1 Corinthians 15:12-58)!

This hope does not mean we give up on this life; far from it! Jesus’ first followers showed how His resurrection is the guarantee of a day of Judgment: we will all stand before Jesus and have to give an account for our lives on earth (Acts 17:30-31, Romans 2:5-11). Jesus does not expect us to wait for the new life to follow His ways; He expects all of us to believe in Him and follow His ways now, becoming like Him now, living as new creatures now: in short, we must build a relationship with God through Jesus now to experience it fully in the next life (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21).

Hoping in this world only will never satisfy; we will always be let down, frustrated, and in despair. Yet, through Jesus’ resurrection, we can nurture the hope of a world without pain, without misery, without suffering, with joy and glory beyond understanding. We can live the way we were always meant to live. You probably already know how it feels when hope is crushed; if you haven’t yet, that day will come soon. But here is a hope which can sustain us through the pain, misery, frustration, and futility of this life, since it extends out the promise of the life to come. Let us share in this hope together until we arrive at the day when we will no longer need to hope, in the presence of God forever in the resurrection of life!

The Vine

The Vine is designed to strengthen and build you up spiritually, giving you something to think about and apply to your life and your relationship with God and others. It is a publication of the Venice church of Christ, published monthly while school is in session.

Fanatics

The Vine

I’m sure you have seen them around. They come onto campus and yell at people about their sins.

They are the “fanatics.”

They do not know you or many other people on campus. They might think they are doing something good, but they are really pushing people away. They stir up controversy and then walk away.

Maybe you’re not very religious, and you see such people, and therefore do not want anything to do with religion. That is an understandable reaction.

Maybe you are religious, and their conduct makes you feel ashamed. That is also an understandable reaction.

It does not have to be this way.

When Jesus of Nazareth walked on the earth, He went about doing good for people (cf. Acts 10:38). Many of the common people listened to Him gladly (Luke 5:1).

But it is not as if Jesus had a watered-down message. The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 is exacting in its demands. Jesus strongly exhorts against sin and encourages people to live righteously. He encouraged people to stop being angry with each other, stop lusting after others, and instead to love each other–even one’s enemies!–and to forgive other people when they sin against us.

So why would the people listen to Jesus if His message was so strong?

The people listened to Him because they could tell that He cared. He healed all kinds of people (Matthew 4:23-25). He ate dinner with people known for their sinful behavior, including tax-collectors, who were universally hated (Matthew 9:10).

And Jesus was also known for His condemnation of the religious authorities of the day. They liked to be seen as righteous and treated with reverence by the people, but they did not really care for the people (cf. Matthew 23:1-36). They looked down at everyone else as “sinners” and thought they were morally superior to them (cf. John 9:1-41). Jesus pointed out their hypocrisy and declared that they were no better than anyone else.

We can learn a lot from Jesus’ conversation with the religious authorities and a woman caught in adultery in John 7:53-8:11. According to the Law of Moses, she was supposed to be executed for her sin (Deuteronomy 22:22). Jesus does not deny this, but instead says, “he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). No one does; everyone leaves except Jesus and the woman. He tells her that He does not condemn her either; she should go, and sin no more (John 8:11).

Jesus did not come to condemn people; instead, He came to rescue people from sin and death (Romans 8:1-3, 31-38). Yes, the day is coming when He will return in judgment, and people will receive the proper result for what they have done in life (Romans 2:5-11, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10). But that day has not yet come. Right now Jesus wants all people to be reconciled back to Him so they can enjoy the blessings of eternal life (Romans 5:6-11, 1 Timothy 2:4).

Many of these “fanatics” will point out that Jesus did have strong words for people, as did the prophets in the Old Testament. Yet Jesus’ strong words were for the people most like the “fanatics” of His own day: those religious authorities who thought they were morally superior to others! The message of the prophets was primarily directed to God’s people to warn them about the consequences of their lack of true faith toward God.

The “fanatics” have a lot to learn from Jesus. He spoke strongly and perhaps harshly to people like them since they were convinced of their own righteousness when they should have remained humble because of their sinfulness. He continued to stand firm for what is right but displayed mercy and compassion on the people despite their sin. People listened to Jesus because they could tell that He lived the message He preached and He cared for them.

We, the members of the Venice church of Christ, seek to follow Jesus. We do not pretend to be better than anyone else. We want everyone to come to know who Jesus is and to follow Him as well. We are here to take His message out to you and to your friends in a loving and respectful way. We want you to know that those “fanatics” whom you have seen and heard are not reflecting the spirit and attitude of Jesus.

Instead, let’s sit down, open up the Bible, and learn more about Jesus and His way. Please begin by reading John 7:53-8:11 and John 9:1-41. In each story, who provides a message of healing and compassion? Who provides a message of condemnation? Who is blind? Who sees? Why do the Pharisees go wrong? How can we be more like Jesus and less like the Pharisees?

We’d like to talk more with you about God and Jesus and how we may be of service in your life. Please call us at 310.351.1199 or contact us here. Thanks again for your interest, and have a great day!

Church

The Vine

For a lot of people, “church” evokes unpleasant experiences. We have all seen many examples of churches and their leaders not acting like they should. Maybe you grew up in a church and found it to be boring and/or irrelevant to the things you were going through in life. Perhaps you visited a church service that featured some great performances but you walked away feeling just as empty as you did before.

In a lot of places, “church” focuses on a building, the Sunday services, and maybe a Bible study or two, and that is about it. It’s like a social club: people come together, wearing nice clothes, acting like they have everything together, no matter how broken things really are on the inside. They sit for the standard rituals, exchange platitudes, and then continue on with life as normal. It all seems so fake and contrived! Little wonder, then, that so many people are no longer identifying themselves as part of a church. People still like Jesus; far fewer like the church!

Why would anyone want to be a part of such a group? Is such a group what Jesus had in mind as the church that He said He would build (Matthew 16:18)? What is the point?

It is sad that the condition of many churches has come to this, for it was never God’s intention for churches to act like social clubs. Instead, God intended for the church to be one of the greatest blessings in our lives!

In the New Testament, the “church” never refers to a building or a denominational organization. The “church” always involves the people who believe in Jesus and seek to serve Him (cf. Acts 2:42-47, Ephesians 4:11-16, 5:22-33). While all obedient believers are considered the one church (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, Revelation 21), the believers in a local area would meet together and represent the church in that area (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:2, 1 Thessalonians 1:1). Whenever possible, those local churches would be guided by qualified men who served as elders (Philippians 1:1, 1 Peter 5:1-4), yet in all things, Jesus was considered the real authority in the churches (Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 5:22-33). In the New Testament, there was the “universal” church, and local congregations of God’s people; there were no organizational structures in between!

God declares in Scripture what the church is supposed to be all about through three images: the church as a Temple (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 1 Peter 2:4-5), the church as a body (Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12:12-28), and the church as a family (1 Timothy 3:15).

The image of the church as a Temple shows us that God is interested in people becoming more holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). The Temple is the location where the presence of God dwells; it is not in a building anymore, but within and among Christians. Christians, individually and together, are to reflect God’s thoughts, feelings, and actions, both in doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong, based in what God has revealed to us through Christ and His Apostles (cf. Galatians 5:17-24, Ephesians 2:20-22).

The image of the church as a body shows us how God expects the church to function. As a human body has many different parts that work independently and together, so the church is made up of people who work independently and together. As a human body is governed by the dictates of the mind, so the church is governed by what Christ its Head has said. As a body is made up of different parts, some public, some private, having different functions, yet all important and necessary for proper functioning, so the church is made up of different people who serve the Lord, some in more public ways, others in more private ways, and they all are important and valuable in God’s sight. And just as body parts compensate for one another in times of weakness, so Christians are to strengthen each other in moments of weakness (cf. Galatians 6:1-2).

The image of the church as a family underscores the strong relationship that should exist among God’s people. God is understood to be our Father (cf. Romans 8:15), and Jesus as our older Brother (Hebrews 2:11, 17). We are to appreciate and value our fellow Christians as brothers and sisters in Christ (cf. 1 Timothy 5:1-2, 1 John 3:14). As people are supposed to find warmth, acceptance, and love within a properly functioning family, so the church should be the place where all who seek to serve the Lord find warmth, acceptance, and love (cf. Ephesians 4:11-16, 1 John 1:7).

All of these images point to what God expects the church to be, powerfully displayed in Ephesians 4:11-16: a group of people who share in relationships with God and one another, loving and strengthening one another according to the message of God in Christ, learning how to serve God and all men through Christ, and all so that the church can grow in the glory of God. A lot of that work is done when Christians come together on Sundays to strengthen one another through praying together, singing together, giving together, taking the Lord’s Supper together, and learning more about God’s message together through preaching and teaching (cf. Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, 11:23-26, 14:16-17, 26, 16:1-4). Yet just as Christianity is much more than what is done on Sunday morning, so also the church is more than just its assemblies: we show hospitality to one another, finding ways to get to know one another so that we can bear one another’s burdens, give to each other as needed, and strive to be a constant source of strength in each other’s lives (Romans 12:10-13, Galatians 6:2, 1 Peter 4:9).

We, the members of the Venice church of Christ, believe that the church as God wants it to function has an important part to play in the role in the lives of every believer. We are not perfect people and we do not claim to have everything figured out, yet we still seek to reflect God’s intentions for His church, to be the Temple, body, and family that honors God by strengthening one another. We welcome you to learn more about our family and hope that you will consider joining us so that we can strengthen you and build you up in your faith! If you would like to talk more about the church and how to become a part of it, please call us at 310.351.1199 or contact us here; we also invite you to visit with us at our assemblies and Bible studies. Thanks for reading this material, and we hope to hear from you soon!

The Vine

The Vine is designed to strengthen and build you up spiritually, giving you something to think about and apply to your life and your relationship with God and others. It is a publication of the Venice church of Christ, published monthly while school is in session.

Why Are We Here?

The Vine

Why Are We Here?

I know–it’s a hard question, and it requires a lot of thought. We’re busy with school, with work, and with life in general, and it’s hard to find time to think about a question like this.

But let’s think about it for a moment. Why are we in school? Why do we work? Where do we see ourselves heading in life? Why do we bother with any of this at all?

Then again, why do we ask these questions? Why do we think we should have purpose or direction in life? Some people think life really has no purpose: we live, we take up space, we give birth to more people, we die, and that’s all there is to it. After all, if we are really just advanced animals and all there is to life is what we can hear, see, smell, taste, and touch, what purpose would life have beyond taking care of the necessities of life and reproduction?

Does that answer satisfy you? I hope not! What a depressing and sad world it would be if life really had no purpose! Deep down, most of us believe (and hope) that we are here for a reason.

If there is a reason for living and if our lives are to have some purpose, who came up with that reason and purpose? How can we discover that reason and purpose?

The fact that we can even think of these questions shows that there is something different about humanity. We do not see lizards or mosquitoes asking these questions or wondering why they are here. Humans have the ability to reason, and that is what makes us different. This means that we know that we exist, that there was a time before we physically existed, and that we are going to die. We are able to understand cause and effect and think in other advanced ways. Why do we have this ability, unlike other animals, and who set all of this up this way?

The Bible can provide some direction for us. The Bible claims to be the message from the God who created the heavens and the earth to humans. This message describes how God made humans in His own image–a spiritual being with a soul and the opportunity to live a full and meaningful life. The way God works can be seen in His creation which we enjoy, and God made all men from one man and so designed them that they might seek to learn more about Him.

Have you ever wondered if there was more to life than what we can see and feel? Have you ever had an experience you could not explain, but one that pointed to some kind of reality beyond our own? These types of things happen because there is more to this life than the physical realm and there is a spiritual realm beyond our perception.

The Bible talks about God and how He created mankind so that they could seek Him, but this still does not tell us why we’re here and where we’re going in life.

The Bible shows us that God created man as He did in order to interact with him–basically, God wanted a relationship with people! The Bible says that God is love. The Bible also shows us that God is Three Persons as One in relationship– the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in perfect relationship, and in the same way God wants to have a perfect, loving relationship with us! After He created people, He constantly spoke with them, hoping that they would listen to Him and do what He said so that they could enjoy that loving relationship.

But God does not force anyone to follow Him– people can choose to follow God or to go in a different path. Sadly, because people have gone in that different path, God’s great creation has been damaged by rebellion and sin. God did not intend for us to be sick, to suffer, or to die. All of those things happen because we have many times chosen to do what God does not want us to do. When we don’t do what God wants us to do, or we do what God doesn’t want us to do, those sins separate us from God. It keeps us from having that relationship God wants to have with us. As long as we remain out of that relationship with God, we are dead spiritually and risk being separated from God, the Source of life, forever! And the worst thing about it is that we cannot do anything about it by ourselves, since all the times we are doing what God wants us to do cannot undo the bad things we have done!

We are in a sad state! We are alone, without God, and without hope in the world! It’s little wonder that we are often so sad, lonely, and depressed!

But remember how God is love? Even though we have done bad things, God still wants to have a relationship with us. But all the evil in the world–sin, suffering, and death–had to be dealt with first. God did that by sending the Son into the world. He experienced suffering and death for sin even though He did nothing wrong, and in so doing He defeated sin and death. On the third day after He died God raised Him from the dead, and He lives to this very day. He returned to Heaven– that spiritual dimension beyond what we can see– and from there rules heaven and earth.

The Son–Jesus–did what we could not do when He died for our sins. We now can have that relationship with God by placing our trust in Jesus, declaring that He is Lord, by changing our thoughts and ways–trying to do what God says to do–and by being immersed in water for the forgiveness of our sins in the name of Jesus Christ. Then we can begin to become the people God wants us to be–like Jesus His Son, doing good for people, doing what God wants us to do.

When we have that relationship with God, we will never have to feel alone again. God will be with us even when things do not seem to be going well for us in life. We can trust that our lives have purpose and meaning, because we know who we are and we have hope regarding where we are going.

Where are we going? God has promised in the Bible that a day of judgment is coming. If we have a restored relationship with God, we will share in the same resurrection that Jesus experienced and we will live with God forever, experiencing peace and joy beyond imagination. But if we do not have a restored relationship with God, we will be cut off from Him forever and will suffer greatly!

The members of the Venice church of Christ hope that you want to have a relationship with God your Creator. We hope that you want to learn how to do what God wants you to do, because that’s what we want to do. We want you to enjoy that relationship with God but also to have a relationship with us as we all try to do what God wants us to do. If you would like to talk more about God and His purpose for you, please call us at 310.351.1199 or contact us here; we also invite you to visit with us at our assemblies and Bible studies. Thanks for reading this material, and we hope to hear from you soon!

The Vine

The Vine is designed to strengthen and build you up spiritually, giving you something to think about and apply to your life and your relationship with God and others. It is a publication of the Venice church of Christ, published monthly while school is in session.