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Passage: Matthew 1-4

On Monday, October 10, 2016, Yujin wrote,

Friends of this Bible Study, I have not shared much here because God has me sharing through a number of other avenues; however, I want to remind you to REGISTER TO VOTE (link). If you have not done so, tomorrow (October 11) is your last opportunity. Having a demoracy, where we the people can influence the leadership and policies of our governing bodies, gives us a unique privilege and responsibility before God to exercise our right . Even apart from the important economic and security issues that require a wise and strong leader, there are clear matters of life (e.g. the life of the unborn child), faith (e.g. religious liberties), and marriage (e.g. biblically defined as between man and a woman) at stake. Our unique system of government allows a president to appoint life-time interpreters of the Supreme Law of the land. So many of our nation's evils have been etched into our culture by the wrong-headed decisions of Supreme Court justices. Consequently, it behooves Christians to vote for their president with discernment, because they are also voting for life-time appointments that will shape the moral character of our country over the next half-century or longer. That is why I am voting for Donald Trump in this election. I hope you will too. 

Passage: Matthew 1-4

On Saturday, October 10, 2015, Yujin wrote,

As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matthew 3:11-12).

John distinguishes his baptism from the baptism by Christ. John's baptism is with water and for repentance, a human act of turning from sin to God. The One coming after John, namely Jesus Christ, would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Notice Jesus' baptism is two-fold. The baptism wih the Spirit will accomplish one thing and the baptism with fire would accomplish another. The result of the baptism with the Spirit is captured in the words, "and He will gather His wheat into the barn." The result of the baptism with fire is captured in he words, "but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

This separation of wheat from chaff is similar to Jesus' parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew13:24-30) and parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46). All of these teachings have to do with the separation of believers to eternal life and unbelievers to eternal judgment. 

Friends, I discuss this passage because it has been misunderstood and misinterpreted. Some are so bent on relating fire to the Holy Spirit, likely because of the "tongues of fire" in Acts 2, that they want to see any place where the Spirit and fire are mentioned as referring to the same event. Yet, Acts 2 is the only place I can recall where there is even the remotest connection between the Holy Spirit and fire in the New Testament. Most often, fire refers to judgment, not blessing (e.g. Mark 9:43; Luke 16:24; Matthw 25:41; 2 Peter 3:7). The Holy Spirit is related more to water than fire (cf. John 7:38-39; 3:5; Titus 3:5).

In the passage above, John the Baptist makes a clear distinction between the baptism with the Spirit and the baptism with fire, even using the adversative "but" to distinguish between the results of one over the other.

Why is this important? First, it demonstrates that Christ not only brings salvation to those who believe in Him, but He also portends judgment for those who reject Him. Second, since fire is rarely if ever associated with the Holy Spirit, it would be better for us not to make many songs involving "God's fire coming down," unless we are referring to the fire of His judgment.

There is a popular song by Hillsong called "Consuming Fire" (link) where this expression is used as a synonym for the Holy Spirit, for God's glory, and even for "passion" for God. Yet, the passages, where this expression is found in the Bible, namely Deuteronomy 4:24 and Hebrew 12:9, do not refer to any of these things but rather the wrath of God's judgment, particularly toward those who worship idols. While we may allow for some artistic license by musicians, who are not theologians, is it not better for us to promote those songs that more accurately reflect biblical teaching?

Passage: Matthew 1-4

On Saturday, October 11, 2014, Stephen wrote,

I came across the article that attempts to reconcile the differenc in genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke.

I knew that Luke followed Mary's blood line instead of Joseph's but his reasoning wasn't clears enough for me.  The article somewhat helped me to understand it.  

Passage: Matthew 1-4

On Friday, October 11, 2013, Yujin wrote,

Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba - even Mary - are included in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew's Gospel. Why did Matthew include women, contrary to Jewish practice, and why these particular women?

One common denominator between these women is that they each possessed notoriety. Tamar, because she gave children to her father-in-law Judah by posing as a prostitute after he refused to grant her his promised son when he came of age. Rahab, because she lived as a prostitute in the land of Canaan before being saved from destruction by helping the spies of Israel. Ruth, because she was a Moabite widow that came into the family of Judah through the kindness of her kinsman-redeemer Boaz. Bathsheba, because she became King David's wife after he committed adultery with her and murdered her husband, Uriah the Hittite. And Mary, because she was found to be with child during her betrothal to Joseph before they had consummated their marriage. 

Every good Jew would be very familiar with the lineage of the Messiah, even up to David:

Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David's descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived? (John 7:42).

This is also why Matthew begins his genealogy by mentioning both Abraham and David first (cf. Matthew 1:1). He was affirming the expectations of the Jews, that the Messiah would both be a true Jew and a true descendant of King David.

Matthew seems to be concerned with defending Jesus' credentials as the Messiah. Now, while we would have no problems with the virgin birth - after all, it was prophesied in Isaiah 7:14, some may have had concerns because of the notorious nature of Jesus' birth; that is, Mary was found to be with child during her betrothal to Joseph.

By naming the four most notorious women in the lineage of the Messiah, Matthew could be showing his Jewish readership that it was not such an unusual thing for the Messiah to be born into such notoriety. If God could bring forth the Messiah through the accepted Abrahamic and Davidic lineage that includes the likes of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba, He could certainly bring forth the Messiah through Mary.

Friends, God often works in mysterious and unexpected ways. This is demonstrated in the lineage of Jesus, even as He worked out His sovereign will through five notorious women to bring forth the Messiah in keeping with His covenant promises to Abraham (cf. Genesis 12) and David (cf. 2 Samuel 7). As God worked in such ways in the advent of His Son, He can also work this way in us. 

Therefore, let us not be anxious about anything, even when we encounter situations in life, where we do not understand how God is working out His perfect plan in us. It is sufficient that we understand that God is for us (cf. Romans 8:31) and that He always achieves His will (cf. Ephesians 1:11). As someone has said, "If we can't trace God's hand, trust His heart." Paul puts it this way:

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).


Passage: Matthew 1-4

On Saturday, October 13, 2012, Fernando wrote,
Matthew 2
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

I have often heard this preached to say with conversion the holy spirit and zeal/passion (Fire) is present.

I don't feel a pull towards that here. Rather we just read in the last prophets their use of fire:

Malachi 3
2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.

Zachariah 13
9 And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested.

God also has used as a consuming devouring image but I don't think this lends its self for that application. Instead there is a sanctification and purifying process with the spirit; a testing to bring about eternal real value.

Matthew 2: 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

This next verse does speak of a consuming fire, separate from the image made combining the spirit and fire. Now its a farmer collecting everything, and using the fire to get rid of the waste. This fire is not used on the good stuff (which would burn) but the trash.
Matt 4
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”.

This was of interest to me. This was not a name it and claim it, but something more sinister by the devil.
'God will protect you' - A promise like this could lead some to run through traffic as if God will stop cars. But Jesus said not to be like this. Be wise, and careful, don't test God. We should be wise. Trusting God.
Living a supernatural life, isn't about expecting the supernatural, but knowing its possible, like Daniel's brothers and the furnace "the lord can save us, but even if he doesn't..."

Foolishness because God 'will be there' was not exampled to us.

Passage: Matthew 1-4

On Thursday, October 11, 2012 (Last Updated on 10/11/2013), Yujin wrote,

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly (Matthew 1:18-19).

Here is an interesting passage that may help us to understand a much-confused teaching. Notice that Mary was pregnant when she was only "pledged to be married" to Joseph. In Jewish custom, there is a one-year betrothal period, where the couple is considered married by contract-only and have not yet come together (See Jewish Enclyopedia article on this). Mary was found to be pregnant during this period, so committing sexual sin subject to punishment by public disgrace. Even though Joseph was a Law-abiding Jew, he did not want to put Mary through this shameful ordeal, but he also knew that he could not marry her when she had a child that was not his. While Joseph was permitted to divorce Mary according to the Law, he chooses not to in view of the revelation from God in the following verses (Matthew 1:20-21).

Now, why do I go into such great detail about this unique case? It helps us to understand the nature of the so-called "exception clause" in Jesus' strong prohibition against divorce in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. Now, it should be noted that there is no such exception clause in the parallels found in Mark 10:11,12 and Luke 16:18. Jesus left no room or exceptions allowing for divorce for a married couple. The exception found in Matthew, which is unanimously understood to be written for a Jewish audience, is specific to something that exists only in Jewish custom, namely, the betrothal period, which is exemplified in the birth of Christ. But Joseph chooses not to exercise this freedom. This is why when referring to this exception Matthew does not speak of "adultery" (moicheia) but uses the word for "fornication" (porneia) to describe immorality found in one party in this period before the marriage is consummated. 

I have found one of the best books that deal with this issue was written by Geoffrey Bromiley in 1980 called God and Marriage (Find it reprinted here at John Piper has a shorter summary of the arguments that show why this view of marriage and divorce is a right view. I find his analysis both accurate and compelling (See Piper "On Divorce & Remarriage in the Event of Adultery"; He has a more detailed discussion on his two position papers here and here). 

This is a sensitive issue, and the view presented by me on this site is likely a minority view. We live in a time when over fifty percent of marriages, even between Christians, end in divorce. Yet, marriage is the preeminent representation given in Scripture of Christ's relationship to His Church. Certainly, our track record would give ample justification for Jesus to divorce us many times; however, He does not. He remains faithful even when we are unfaithful. I believe we need to be this way toward one another. Even when there is the language of God divorcing His people in the Old Testament, He never does it. He always takes them back. Rather than divorce and remarriage, how much more wonderful would it be if Christians would instead pursue humility, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Isnt' this the heart of the Gospel? 

Passage: Matthew 1-4

On Sunday, January 8, 2012 (Last Updated on 10/11/2013), Bill wrote,
There is so much to write about in the first four chapters of Matthew - the fulfillment of prophecy (of Israel's savior) detailed over and over again throughout the Old Testament, the birth of the new 'Covenant of grace' through Christ, Josephs and Marys amazing faith, the calling of the first disciples....
I found something new (for me) in Matthew that i thought i would share:
Matt 2:3-5  "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magifrom the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:  “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel."
We read that King Herod called the priests and teachers of the law, Sadducees and Pharisees, and asked where is the "Christ" was to be born?  And they respond with a verse from the book of Micah that the ruler would come from Bethlehem.  I have read this passage many times, but it didn't sink in until tonight that the 'teachers' openly admit to their text (scripture) pointing to a savior.  Further, they seem to acknowledge Gods deliverance of a savior being born in Bethlehem!  This is fascinating as the remainder of the book Matthew they deny Christ, and that God has sent a savior (and as we know Crucify him for claiming to be).

This reminds me of much of the Old Testament stories where in one verse God performs an amazing miracle, but in the next the Israelites have lost their faith.  It seems that God's presence is not sufficient for peoples faith, but maybe more their heart or character.  Over the last few years as my faith grew i noticed with some sadness peoples hardened heart against faith.  What i noticed is their stance is not

so much based on evidence one way or another but based on their character or background.  Certain people want to believe and others seem to not want to believe...While I am not convinced of predestination, it seems that certainly people are predisposed. 

You may have heard that our theology (i.e.. Christianity) is not 'see and you believe' but believe and you will see.  I can certainly attest that has been my experience - God becomes more visible as our faith grows.  When people ask where is God? - i look around and see God at work everywhere....
As my faith grows so does my burden for sharing the Gospel.
Yujin's add-on to thoughts...
Just an add-on to your comments. It is kind of amazing that while the teachers of the law recognized that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem, they would later reject Jesus. But we also discover that they mistakenly believed that Jesus was from Galilee rather than from Bethlehem:
Nicodemus (he who came to Him before, being one of them) said to them, “Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?” They [i.e. chief priests and Pharisees] answered him, “You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee” (John 7:50-52).
They didn't even bother to check out Jesus' lineage. If they had, they would have found out that while His ministry began in Galilee, He was actually born in Bethlehem and was of the line of King David, both essential Scriptural qualifications for the Messiah. This is not to say that they would have then believed, but at least they would not have disbelieved based on wrong information.
We find out that not only the religious leaders but many of the people also carried this misconception:
Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, “This certainly is the Prophet.” Others were saying, “This is the Christ.” Still others were saying, Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” (John 7:40-42).
Isn't it fascinating that one of the major reasons for unbelief may have been inaccurate information? It is a good reason for everyone to search things out. As we learn from Proverbs 2:4-5,
If you seek her [i.e. wisdom, understanding, discernment] as silver 
And search for her as for hidden treasures; 
Then you will discern the fear of the LORD 
And discover the knowledge of God.
What is even more fascinating is that Jesus does not seem to try really hard to set the record straight. It is almost as if He were saying, "If you want to know me and where I'm from, search it out!"
On the matter of seeing and believing, we cannot completely disavow all occasions where believing comes after seeing, because there are many occasions when people believed because they saw Jesus' miracles (e.g. John 7:31). Even one of the Twelve, Thomas, believed after he saw the risen Christ (John 20:24-29). Again, Jesus even told the disciples to believe on the basis of His miracles (John 14:11).
That said, the real problem with faith that is based only on sight is that such faith is ephemeral. It does not last. The very nature of faith requires convictions regarding unseen things (Hebrew 11:1), so you can imagine a faith that is based on seeing things is not much faith at all. That is why Jesus said that people that believed in Him without actually seeing, as Thomas insisted, was more blessed. 
Now, this does not mean that faith is blind, or what people often mean by this, that people who believe are dumb. Christian faith is based on facts, even on true knowledge. We are not saved because we simply believe but because we believe in something, namely in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. As we learn from Romans 10:17, "Faith (i.e. saving faith) comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God." So you may say that in a sense Christian faith is more about "hearing" than "seeing." (Please read my entry on on Romans 10:17, where I dispel a very common misconception about this verse). Biblical faith, saving faith, requires a true knowledge of God's way of righteousness (Romans 10:1-4). 
Now, there is a place for seeing miracles. Miracles were never given to produce faith. They were given to confirm faith in Jesus. That is why in a number of places we are told that signs, wonders, and spiritual gifts were given to authenticate the apostolic witness to the Gospel (Hebrews 2:3-4; 1 Corinthians 1:5-6; 2 Corinthians 12:12). This is also the reason why Jesus "could not" do many miracles in His own home town. It was not for lack of ability but rather it went counter to His purposes, for there was no faith for His miracles to confirm. Just like the religious leaders would say, His hometown people were questioning the very origin of the signs Jesus was doing (Mark 6:2-3).
This is also why throughout biblical history signs and wonders really only occurred in certain periods of time (e.g. time of the Exodus, during the ministry of Elijah and Elisha, and in the time of the apostles). After these times, you will notice a conspicuous absence or sparcity of miracles. The impression is that God does not always do signs and wonders all of the time. They are given to confirm some special purpose of God. Once their purpose is accomplished, they cease. 

Passage: Matthew 1-4

On Wednesday, October 12, 2011, Unmi wrote,
As I begin to read these 1st few chapters of Matthew, I see the sovereign hand of God at work. 
From the genealogy, the miraculous birth in Bethlehem, the visit from the Magi, the escape to Egypt, the return toNazareth, each event was a fulfillment of prophecy.  The circumstances that lead to each event was ordained and orchestrated by God himself.
When we so clearly see the sovereignty of God is these chapters, why is it hard for us to acknowledge the sovereign work of the LORD in our own lives? Why do we still cling to the idea that we have control over our own lives? Did we choose our parents? Did we choose the city of our birth? Did we choose our physical characteristics? Did we choose the abilities and talents that each of us possess? God has ordained each of our lives here and now for a specific purpose.  What is that purpose?
That purpose is answered in the temptation of Christ. Christ was not here just to survive, then bread would have been enough.  Christ was not here just to gain power or material possession, then the offer from Satan would have been acceptable.  His purpose was to "worship the Lord your God, and serve him only."  It was because Jesus clearly knew His purpose that He was able to resist Satan. 
Are we here just to survive? Are we here just for material gain? Are we here to build a name for ourselves for future generations to remember? If this is what we are living for, then taking short cuts, stepping on a few people, cheating others are necessary in order to achieve these ends. 

 But what if God has ordained our lives for a greater purpose? What if that purpose is achieved through faithfulness in a difficult marriage, what if that purpose is through self control in the face of an addiction, what if that purpose is steadfastness in a difficult, laborious ministry, what if that purpose is through holiness is the face of material gain, what if that purpose is through perseverance in the face of persecution, what if that purpose is through death such as Jesus...will we still worship the Lord and serve Him only?

Passage: Matthew 1-4

On Tuesday, October 11, 2011 (Last Updated on 10/11/2013), Yujin wrote,

Friends, are you needing a reason to get back into the Word? Why not start a afresh today as we enter the New Testament? Compared to the Old Testament, you will find the New Testament a faster and easier read. And unlike most of the Old Testament, most of what we find in the New Testament are directly applicable to our lives. And while we were given only a dim view of our Savior in the OT, we can see Him clearly in the NT.

I recommend you read my Introduction to the Gospels and Matthew under the Resources tab. It will give you perspective with respect to the uniqueness of each of the four Gospels.

In today's reading we are given a special fly-on-the-wall view of how Jesus handled temptation from Satan. Don't we often wonder how our heroes would handle themselves in those thorny situations where we find ourselves? Well, we are given such a scenario. Jesus finds himself tired and hungry after forty days without food in the desert. At the point when Jesus is the weakest, Satan comes to tempt him. And he tempts him in the areas that Jesus would be most prone to fail in the moment.

How Jesus responds is instructive for us. Notice that Jesus responds to every temptation with Scripture. When the devil tempts him to turn the stone into bread to satisfy his hunger, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3, where it is taught that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. It was a very appropriate verse because in that context Moses was teaching the Israelites how God made them hunger in the desert to see if they would still remain faithful to Him in spite of their suffering.

Then the devil tempts him with Scripture, citing a Messianic passage of how God would send His angel to preserve the life of His Son. The devil knows that Jesus is the Son of God and that the way designed by God to glory is through suffering. So the devil tempts Jesus to take a short cut by throwing Himself off the Temple in full view of the multitudes in Jerusalem so that they will see God's miraculous deliverance and believe. But again, Jesus responds with Scripture, Deuteronomy 6:16, where it is taught that one should not test the LORD. Again, it was a very appropriate verse because the context refers to Exodus 17, where Israel complained about not having enough water and tried to test God by saying, "Is the LORD among us." The devil tried to tempt Jesus to test God by forcing God to prove Jesus was the Son of God contrary to God's way and timing.

Finally, the devil offers the kingdoms of the world and glory for the simple act of Jesus falling down and worshipping him. As foolish as this sounds to us, we must understand this in the context of the cross. It was because Jesus suffered that He was then exalted. The devil was offering Him a real but unprecedented shortcut, where Jesus could avoid the shameful, excruciating suffering and death on the cross. But again, Jesus responds with Scripture. And once again He turns to Deuteronomy, even the same chapter, Deuteronomy 6:13, where Moses warns Israel not to allow prosperity in the Promised Land to overshadow their devotion to Him. Again, it is a very appropriate verse to counter the devil's temptation.

So dear friends, we see what our spiritual Hero of heroes did when He was tempted. He responded to every temptation with Scripture. More than this, He cited just the right Scripture for each temptation. More than this, He did not cite generally but quoted specifically. This tells me Jesus trusted the Bible to help Him against temptation. More than this, He studied and meditated on the Bible so that he would correctly interpret and apply it against the deceptive temptations of Satan. More than this, He memorized the Bible so that He could quote the exact words of God to confront the attacks of Satan. And we are told that after this exchange, Satan left Jesus.

Do we need any more reason than this to daily read, study, and memorize the Bible? In Psalm 119:9,11 we read,

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word...
Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.

This website ( is designed to help you do this very thing. When you log into it, there is a place for you to keep track of your daily reading, a place for you to create and track your memorization of Scripture, and a place for you to ask questions and read commentaries to help you better understand the Bible. This is a free resource for you, so I would encourage you to take full advantage of it. Drink often and deeply from this wellspring of truth, because the Bible has the words of life. The literal culmination of this will be when God quenches our thirst in His eternal kingdom: "To the thirsty I will give water without charge from the spring of the water of life" (Revelation 21:6).