Real love

Explore the Bible
July 5, 2014

Howard Kisor

1 John 4:7-21

For many of us, the use of the word “propitiation” in relationship to God’s love seems to be contradictory. According to the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, “propitiation” means “the turning away of anger by the offering of a gift.” Pagan religions often used this word to describe their practice of human sacrifice to their gods.  

When missionaries began to go to the South Sea Islands in the 1800s, they found this practice in use. Often a beloved child was given as an offering to the angry volcano gods to appease the destructive force of the volcano. The sacrifice had to be something or someone of value or the anger would not be appeased.

We see this demonstrated by the story of Abraham and Isaac (Gen. 22:1-19).  Abraham is instructed to take Isaac, his only son, and sacrifice him on an altar to demonstrate his love for God. Little did Abraham know that this was a foreshadowing of what God was going to do for all mankind’s sin through His only Son’s sacrifice on the cross.

God’s love for mankind is demonstrated by the fact that He offered His own Son to be and atonement, or propitiation, for our sins. God’s anger has always been toward sin. His holiness cannot look upon or tolerate sin; therefore, the only way to appease this anger was through an offering of love.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, NKJV).

Similarly, 1 John 4:9 says, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.”

When we consider how the word “propitiation” was used in biblical times, we can see how God’s love is not contradictory. True love is then exercised in our lives by the acceptance of God’s sacrifice for our sins and demonstrated by exhibiting that same love toward others.

As 1 John 4:11 says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”


Work through conflict 

Bible Studies for Life
July 5, 2014

Laura Macfarlan
Siloam Springs

Joshua 22:11-34

Our family roots are in Missouri. More than 30 years ago my husband and I came to Arkansas with our two young children. Before long, our babies began to sound different; they developed the sweet brogue that is unique to Arkansas.

When we go home to Missouri, there is much good-natured teasing about our vocal patterns. Our way of doing it separates us from our extended family. Yet, we have roots that cause us to remember who we are and from whence we have come.

This is the situation in Israel in Joshua 22. The tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh were geographically removed from the larger body of Israel. The distance made a difference. In order to maintain their roots, these families built an altar. Just as you and I might have a photo of our family’s “home place” they made a “snapshot” of the altar on the west side of the Jordan to remind themselves of the bond with the greater body of Israel.

As often happens, there was a family misunderstanding. It was so serious that Joshua 22:12 tells us there was to be war! The leaders of the families from the greater group came to seek resolution before the bloodshed began. (Here is a clue: Finding the truth often prevents disaster.)

Joshua 22:26-27 explains the motives. This is not a place of competition against the Almighty, but a reminder of who He is. The altar was built out of fear of future exclusion from the promises and protection of God.
How often do we allow fear to separate us from others in the family of Christ? They are different; they sing different songs; they do not use the same Communion wafers as we do. We fear someone because he or she raises his or her hands in worship. We give way to the misreading of motives without investigating.

Jesus came to heal and unite His family. We are enlightened by reading His Truth in Scripture. Let us lay aside all barriers to serve Christ.


Is this of God?

Explore the Bible
June 18, 2014

Zachary Tunnell

1 John 4:1-6

Truth. The attempt to state what it is in today’s culture is an invitation for someone to pick an intellectual fight with us. In a society that views truth as being relative to every individual’s circumstances, a statement of absolute truth is viewed as ludicrous and offensive.

Having already spent a significant amount of time discussing Truth, John deepens his statements on the matter with this clarifying sentence: “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:2).

John is not, however, simply making a profound statement, for following it he states the reality that there are those who claim that Jesus has not come in the flesh. Those who deny the Truth of Scripture are therefore to be recognized for who they truly are: Those who follow the “spirit of the antichrist” (1 John 4:3).

When is the last time that you considered the importance of the incarnation of Jesus Christ? That God became human, taking on flesh, is one of the essential doctrines of Christianity. This truth is what separates believers from those who are not, yet many of us seldom consider it.

John states that the message of Truth, which comes from God, is in direct opposition to the message which comes from the antichrist. Those who are of God listen to the Truth, while those who are of the world listen to the world. Consider the following lessons resulting from John’s statements.

First, as believers, we should not be surprised when the world scoffs at our repetition of the truth that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh! We must strive to remember and repeat the Truth to others, without being surprised when the world rejects our message.

Secondly, as believers we must not blindly accept just any message as being Truth. If the message, no matter how good it may sound, rejects or comes from one who rejects the incarnation, that message is false.
Truth: Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Will you tell others in love?


Move beyond failure 

Bible Studies for Life
June 28, 2014

Laura Macfarlan
Siloam Springs

Joshua 7:11-8:1

Achan’s sin and its consequences  are sobering, chilling and even frightening for those of us living under grace. We are more comfortable focusing on God’s mercy and forgiveness than contemplating His justice and retribution. But our great God is all that and more. His love cannot be separated from His justice. Like two sides of the same coin, God’s mercy and His compassion are inseparable.

God established a Covenant with His people, and Achan knowingly violated it when he allowed his greed to trump his reverence for God. When he stole the forbidden things, God pronounced the whole community guilty (Josh. 7:11).

Does it sound unfair that one man’s guilt taints the entire community? Before dismissing this as an Old Testament concept with no application today, consider Romans 12:4-5, which says, “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

We belong to one another. Each member affects the others. Living in community as part of the Body of Christ brings consequences to all of us when one sins. Only when sin is identified and dealt with is it possible to move beyond the failure and claim victory.

Is your family, church or ministry compromised because of one member’s sin? How might God want you to initiate steps toward repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation?

Paul cautions, “If someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore the person gently” (Gal. 6:1).

The adverb “gently” says much. An attitude of anger, self-righteousness or pride suggests more prayer is needed before stepping in.

When we sweep sin under the rug, we might trip over it as we attempt to step out toward victory. Why not deal with the sin now and experience the freedom to move beyond the failure to victory?

Joshua 7 shares how God dealt with Achan’s sin, which allowed Israel to move forward (Josh. 7:11-8:1).


Dangers to avoid

Explore the Bible
June 21, 2014

Zachary Tunnell

1 John 2:15-27

Life if filled with dangers like car accidents and falling out of trees, but seldom does one seem to consider the consequences of pride. One of the greatest consequences of pride is failing to learn and apply the Truth.

The Apostle John was concerned for those to whom he wrote his first Epistle, and for good reason. There were some teachers who had infiltrated the ranks of the Church and were misleading the people of God. To help his beloved know what dangers to avoid, John gave one simple exhortation in 1 John 2:15-27: “Abide in Him.”
The echoes of abiding in God ring strong from John 15. Consider, however, John’s specific challenge in 1 John. It was not just to abide in God, but specifically to abide in God’s Truth. How does one abide in the Truth of God? Consider three aspects of John’s challenge.

First, John was not saying to not submit to teachers. To view the words “you have no need that anyone should teach you” (1 John 2:27) as an excuse to never sit under the preaching and teaching of a local church pastor is evidence of sinful pride. God has given pastors and teachers to the Church for the benefit of the Church (Eph. 4:11), so let us accept God’s gifts!

Secondly, John’s challenge was not an excuse to neglect studying God’s Word. God’s anointing actively teaches those who receive it, showing the reality that a believer must continue to be taught God’s Truth (1 John 2:27).

Third, the Truth that was taught needed to be applied. The Truth is applied whenever someone continues with the true confession that Jesus is the Christ, the atoning Sacrifice for our sins (1 John 2:2, 28).

People are always looking for what is “new,” looking to accept and apply what should be discarded. Will you show wisdom as a follower of Jesus Christ by rejecting pride and receiving and applying the Truth, which you have already confessed?

Avoid the danger of pride by abiding in the Truth of God.