On Memorial Day, American citizens honor those who died while serving in our nation’s armed forces. For some, it is a day of celebration of patriotism and an occasion for gathering with friends and family. They may celebrate freedoms that remain because men and women died while protecting them. For others, Memorial Day is a day of reflection about the meaning of sacrifice and ser…vice. Jesus noted, foreshadowing his own sacrificial death by crucifixion, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Good Soldiers, whether in the nation’s service, or in that of the Lord, devote themselves to seeking the safety and welfare of others. We who survive the fray appreciate the sacrifice made by those who did not. Their deaths remind us of the commitment required to protect important principles. Memorial Day is also a day for lament. We mourn our loss: Fathers, sisters, uncles, daughters who no longer brighten our day with their humor or listen to us when no one else will. We ponder how history would have differed had they lived. Would Joseph Kennedy, Jr. have been elected President rather than his brother John if Joseph had not died during World War II? What would my life or my cousin’s life have been like if my uncle had not been killed in Vietnam? We weep for the lost opportunities, the shattered dreams, and the never-realized loves. We lament also the horror caused by the hatred, selfishness, and greed that often spark human conflicts that escalate into war. So, as Christians, even while some of us serve with awareness that we too may die in the service of our country, we must remember that we are called to be ministers of reconciliation who seek peace (2 Corinthians 5:18). We must remember that while we enjoy the aroma and flavors of a Memorial Day barbecue, others still grieve the laugh and the voice they will never hear again. Comfort those who mourn. Remember those who have perished. Resolve to live well for God and in service of others.
The context of this post is a recent set of emails between myself and a friend who left the Lord some time back. He is, at the moment, reading Acts and reflecting on what is said in comparison with other matters in the New Testament. While he may have lost what he gained with his study of the New Testament, he is not uninformed and, consequently, not one to be lightly dismissed. I am glad for our connection one with another and, while I am convinced he is dead wrong, I am also glad he is calling on me to defend the faith. That measures me; I get the chance to see where I am at!
Here is his first email to me that started this conversation. “My New Years Resolution this year was to make a detailed study of Acts. Along those lines, I have a sincere question for you: How do you reconcile Acts 1:18 with Matthew 27:3-8? I don’t recollect ever analyzing these two contexts to the extent that I am now, and do not see how the two accounts can be reconciled. When you have time, please share your thoughts on this matter. “
I did, and he thought what I wrote was a stretch. So here we are. I wrote this based on that brief conversation.
ANALYSIS OF MATTHEW 27:3-8 and ACTS 1:18
- The money given Judas for his betrayal was returned (30 pieces of silver).
- The money Judas threw down was not received by the religious leaders.
- With that money, still belonging to Judas (as far as the “recipients” of the returned money was concerned) they purchased the potter’s field, also known as Field of Blood.
- Judas hanged himself.
- Judas purchased a field named Akel Dama (Field of Blood) with his wages in iniquity.
- Without mentioning how he died, he fell headlong, his torso exploded.
Dave thinks there is no apparent harmony. The text says that Judas purchased the field, but he could not do so because he was dead, as one reads in Matthew. In addition to this, if one did not have Matthew’s account, how could a common reader think anything but that Judas purchased the field as it is recorded in Acts? Thus, we have in Matthew, someone purchasing the field other than Judas, but in Acts, it was Judas who purchased the field.
Irreconcilable? Dave said: “Therefore, I do not see how these accounts can be reconciled without stretching one to accommodate the other.”
When analyzing pieces of information, it is crucial to honest handling to take all the data, spread it out (so to speak), and put the pieces back together. This is the nature of reconciliation. This method is utilized in all areas of life, even by atheists, agnostics, and skeptics (AAS). It seems, however, that AAS wants to do this in all areas, but one. That one, of course, is when one deals with matters pertaining to God. Such a desire exists on the part of AAS to show incompatibility; there is no amount of evidence, or no proper handling of the material allowed wherein one can reasonably reconcile the accounts. This is nothing but prejudicial handling and rejection for the sole reason to promote the ideology of AAS.
Judas betrays Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. With guilt, Judas returns the money to those who gave it to him. This money was not received because it was blood money. In the meantime, Judas went out and hung himself. The period of time that Judas was hanging suspended is not recorded. The money returned was not kept, thus it still belonged to Judas. With that money, a parcel of ground was purchased. This purchase was, therefore, made in the name of Judas (because it was still belonging to him, and the religious leaders had no knowledge, presumably, of Judas’ actions or whereabouts when he left). Matthew and Acts records what Judas did to himself (suicide – Matthew) and what ultimately happened to the body (decomposition – Acts).
According to ancient tradition, Judas hanged himself above the Valley of Hinnom on the edge of a cliff. Eventually the rope snapped (or was cut or untied), thus causing Judas to fall headfirst into the field below, as Luke described. Matthew does not deny that Judas fell and had his entrails gush out, and Luke does not deny that Judas hanged himself. In short, Matthew records the method in which Judas attempted his death. Luke records the end result (The Anvil Rings, p. 202, emphasis in original).
Where is the incompatibility, or irreconcilable nature of this?
After reading through and comparing the Old Testament to the New Testament many people in the religious world believe that Jesus came to make God feel differently about humanity. Such is not the case! As God in the flesh Jesus came to make humanity feel differently about God.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
In Matthew 6:12, when the disciples had asked Jesus how to pray, among other things, He told them, “And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” This clearly teaches us that, in order to be forgiven, we must first be ready to forgive. If we are not willing to forgive others when they have offended us, then God will not forgive us when we have offended Him…and we do that all too frequently.
But I would like for us to look at two verses also found in Matthew:
- Matthew 5:23-24 If therefore thou art offering thy gift at the altar and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
- Matthew 18:15 And if thy brother sin against thee, go, show him hid fault between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou hast gained a brother.
The Bible clearly indicates in these two verses that the reconciliation of any trespass is on my shoulders. It is up to me to make the first move. Neither of these two obligations is easy; and, neither is dependent upon the other person. Read those two verses again. (Obviously, repentance is the first step for forgiveness, for we cannot be forgiven for something of which we have not repented; but that is another article.) God does not say that I can sit back at ease and wait for my brother or sister to come to me and ask for forgiveness. If I feel that a brother or sister has sinned against me, then I also, by definition, feel that that person is living in sin. Therefore, I have an obligation to that person to go to them privately and, in love, tell them what has offended me and give them a chance to repent and “make it right.” If I fail to take the first step, I have failed to follow God’s commandment.
On the flip side, if I am aware that I have offended another, whether or not I meant to offend, it is my obligation to go to that person and apologize for my words or actions.
Again, God has charged me that I must take the first step.
I cannot answer for you, but I do know that I daily need the forgiveness of my Lord. There are things that I do or neglect to do, thing that I say or neglect to say…some of which I may be aware and some of which I am not aware. If I realize that I need that forgiveness, then I must realize that others need it, also. So, here is the deal: Take time right now to think about your life. Have you offended anyone? For the sake of your own soul, no matter how hard it might be, go to that person and ask them to forgive you. Has anyone offended you, and that is eating at your peace? Then go to that person, no matter how hard it might be, and, in love, tell them what has offended you, doing so in love rather than condemnation, and give them the chance to ask your forgiveness. In either case, you have made peace with God.
Fredericksburg Church of Christ, TX
It’s Memorial Day and I’m home. Last year, I was in Afghanistan. Already, I had prayed over the bodies of Soldiers assassinated in their offices and worked alongside medical teams from two other nations in trying to identify remains after a helicopter crash. Soldiers had committed suicide, leaving stunned comrades and grieving families behind. I’m home and I’m glad to be alive. I rejoice that finally I can eat steak again. Elsewhere, families still grieve and comrades still grapple with the absences of those with whom they worked. I pray for those families and friends who grieve that God will comfort them. Sometime today I will call a cousin whose father died in Vietnam. I pray for peace. Most of all, I pray that all will be reconciled to God through Christ. I’m home. I don’t see my grown children as much as I would like, but we’re all alive. My wife is here with me. It’s Memorial Day and I’m home.
God’s love for mankind is unconditional. Many have a hard time believing and understanding this because of the truthful concepts such as universal justice, judgment and hell.
For some religions, a God who loves all, both friend and foe, is about as foreign and even abrasive as chewing on sand! Their religion won’t allow them to love others the way God loves the world because of how they perceive the enemies of God and how they perceive the love of God. Their religion won’t allow them to love others the way God loves the world because of how they perceive themselves – and in that, this said self-perception, there is a great danger even to God’s people…think Pharisees for a moment.
One can be an enemy of God but still be loved by God. How is this possible one may ask? I ask how is not possible? Besides the expressly stated examples of Matthew 5:44-45 and Romans 11:28, if God does not love his enemy then how could his enemy ever become his friend? For if there is no love at all on God’s behalf for his enemy, they would forever remain his enemy with no hope of peace, atonement or reconciliation.
Every Christian who has ever lived was at one time or another an enemy of God (Romans 5:8-10). This may offend some sensibilities, but to say otherwise is an offence to the cross. And the cross proves God’s love for his enemies. This as well may offend some sensibilities, but to say otherwise is an offence to the cross. For in the cross, God was reconciling the world, his very own enemies, to himself (Colossians 1:20-21, Ephesians 2:16-17). This in fact is the very reason why the cross was such an offensive stumbling block to some – because the love of God doesn’t exist to satisfy our standards, and thank God it doesn’t (1 Corinthians 1:23, 1 Peter 2:5-10). God’s love satisfies his own standard, for any other standard would fall far short of reconciling any of his enemies.
Understanding the difference between unconditional love and unconditional salvation is essential. Two things can look similar, but what they’re made of and what they cost can be something far different. One covered the price of sin that we could not pay through the atoning blood of Jesus (Romans 6:23) while the other will cost us our most valuable possession (Matthew 16:26).
Does God love the sinner? Does God want the best for those who want the worst? Does God love his enemies in ways that are unconditional? Through Christianity the answer to these questions is closed with a biblical, scriptural and joyful “yes!” But whether or not we love God is a more open-ended question that we must answer for our self.
“This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. While we were still weak, at the right moment, Christ died for ungodly people. It isn’t often that someone will die for a righteous person, though maybe someone might dare to die for a good person. But God shows his love for us, because while we were still sinners Christ died for us. So, now that we have been made righteous by his blood, we can be even more certain that we will be saved from God’s wrath through him. If we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son while we were still enemies, now that we have been reconciled, how much more certain is it that we will be saved by his life?” (Romans 5:5-10 – CEB)
Vs. 1-3 express Israel’s relief from being exiled from their land;
Vs. 4-7 express Israel’s concern that God wouldn’t forget their sins;
Vs. 8-9 express Israel’s lesson they learned from 70 years away;
Vs. 10-13 express Israel’s acknowledgement of God’s good character.
This Psalm obviously fits into the restoration of the Israelites (including Jews!) to their Promised Land, which indicated that God’s punishment for their sins, by removing them from that land, had suddenly ended. All prophecies about Israelites (including Jews!) being restored to their Promised Land have been fulfilled as recorded in the Books of Ezra-Nehemiah (2 Chronicles 36:1-23; Ezra 1:1-11; 3:1-13; 4:4-5).
Verses 1-3: The past tense of these verbs describe a feeling of relief that God has finished His past punishment for Israel/Judah’s sins: (verse 1) “have been favorable,” “have brought back,” (verse 2) “have forgiven the iniquity,” “have covered,” (verse 3) “have taken away,” “have turned from.” To show this is not just the Southern Kingdom returning, the terms used for this restoration include:
“Your land,” “the captivity of Jacob,” “Your people,” “all their sin,” “all Your wrath,” and the “fierceness of Your anger.” Every tribe whom God had removed from that land were represented in those who returned to that land! The Northern Kingdom (Israel) had been removed by an Assyrian king (2 Kings 17:3-6), and the Southern Kingdom (Judah) had been removed by a Babylonian king (2 Chronicles 36:11-23). All that God had brought upon them, now God had removed (Psalm 85:1-3).
Verses 4-7: When God forgave their sin and restored their land, the sinners needed to be restored in realizing that forgiveness, also (verse 4). Their insecurity is expressed in their questioning His plan for them (verses 5-7).
Verses 8-9: The people’s resolve is to “hear what God the LORD will speak” and “not turn back to folly” (verse 8). The people’s realization is that God will “speak peace,” make “His salvation near,” and let glory (God’s presence, Exodus 24:16-17; 40:34-35) “dwell in our land” (verses 8-9). While rebuilding the temple was progressing, God said there would come another temple whose “glory shall be greater than the former” and “in this place I will give peace,’ says the LORD of hosts’” (Haggai 2:1-9). The church of Christ is led by the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6; Ephesians 2:14-18), so Christians “Pursue peace with all people” (Hebrews 12:14; Mark 9:50; Romans 14:18-19).
Verses 10-13: When a sinner is forgiven, then “mercy and truth have met together” and “righteousness and peace have kissed” (verse 10). “Mercy” is God’s plan for sinners (Matthew 5:7; 9:13) and “truth” is God’s expression of that plan (John 1:14; 8:32, 40; 17:17). “Righteousness” is what God expects people to do (Romans 3:21-26), “peace” is the result of people’s obedience to God’s expectations (Acts 10:38-43; 2:38). Psalm 85:11 pictures the contentment when such reconciliation occurs; verse 12 shows what the obedient may expect from God; verse 13 tell the obedient to look for the way they should follow. Jesus Christ is “the way” (John 14:6; Matthew 7:13-14; Acts 19:9), so “he who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6).
All Scriptures and comments are based upon the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
I suppose every storm cloud has a silver lining. Even the dismal economy is having, at least one positive fallout. Some married couples who would otherwise divorce are putting forth the effort to repair and mend their broken marriage. Clinical psychologist Susan Heitler says, “It is radically cheaper emotionally, as well as financially, to fix the marriage than to declare it dead.” For too long marriages have ended in divorce without serious effort or thought given to reconciliation. The couples suffer hurt and trauma, but when there are children, the consequences are multiplied. To those who have been through divorce, God offers help and healing. But for those who are married God says, marriage is a lifelong covenant! Work to make it work. This is Just-A-Minute with Ed Boggess
They can put a man on the moon, but they can’t make plastic wrap for a man that comes off the roll without wadding up in a dozen places.
It has always been amazing how my wife can pull and snap a large piece of plastic wrap from the roll and it just seems to float effortlessly in one piece. Whenever I do it, it snaps into a little ball that takes hours to unfurl.
Some people’s lives are like that, too. It sometimes seems as though life gets so twisted nothing could ever straighten it. So many consequences of sin tangle life into knots that appear to be hopeless. There is a way to restoration.
How can this be? Wayne Jackson wrote, “How refreshingly sweet it is to have confidence in the fact that the Good Shepherd (cf. John 10:11, 14) can assuage these woes and provide us with peace once more. A beautiful song has these lyrics: ‘Bring Christ your broken life, so marred by sin; He will create anew, make whole again.’”
When the word of God is applied to someone’s life, it has the power to transform it. Obedience to the gospel brings forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God (1 Peter 1:18, 19). With this reconciliation comes an opportunity to straighten out all those twists and turns by applying God’s law to your mind.
God has the power to unsnarl a life complicated by sin. Obey him today.
My new article, Preparing to Teach Salvation, is based on something that has been percolating in my mind for years. I don’t think that people are going deep enough in their studies of salvation. Many in the brotherhood seem to focus too much on baptism.
Of course, baptism for the remission of sins is essential. However, starting with baptism, is missing most of the story. I had an article years ago entitled, Is Baptism Always the Right Argument? In that article I wrote:
If the student perceives baptism as a violation of grace and constitutes salvation by works then we need to back up and address their misunderstanding. The debates that have occurred through the years on baptism have been useful but thousands have left unimpressed. If we can help them see the truth on grace and works then we can possibly reach more souls for Christ.
In my article today, I am returning to this theme. We need more study and discussion on justification, reconciliation and sanctification in the brotherhood. They frame baptism, rather than replace it.
Your thoughts on these articles will be much appreciated. I hoped they would provoke a discussion.
God’s mission for my life is to be a minister of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). He has graciously entrusted me with the message of reconciliation (vs. 19). Therefore, I am called to share the testimony of reconciliation, that by the grace of God, those who hear might be reconciled to him through the redemptive work of Christ (vss. 20-21)