Posts Tagged ‘New Testament’

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The Unanswered Cry: Lord, Lord! But didn’t we…

August 3, 2012

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21 “ Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many [n]miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

“To be active in religious affairs is no substitute for obeying God.”

Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has been reorienting His disciples to a new reality, that the Kingdom of Heaven was upon them, and that they were to seek it above all else. These truths stood in marked contrast to the attitudes of the world which sought to receive temporary solutions to permanent problems. The world still seeks the quick fix. A law to follow, a checklist to finish, magic words to say; would that they could only live the way the wish and cry out Lord Lord when it suits them. But Jesus is testifying to a greater truth, that beyond the broad road of conflict their lies the difficult path of compassion; above the low road of worldly satisfaction there is the higher rocky trail of salvation. Fundamentally this text testifies to the fact that one must do more that simply declare Jesus as Lord to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. (“For even the demons believe and shutter” James 2:19) It is not enough to proclaim Him Lord if you are not willing to let your life reflect the reality of that proclamation.

The Blessed, Happy life that Jesus calls us to, in the Sermon, is one that is constricted compared to the loose ways of the world. We achieve blessing by being poor in spirit among those rich in arrogance; by mourning among the indifferent; by being meek amidst the mighty; by finding God more appetizing than the world; by being merciful to the undeserving; having a clean heart in a filthy world; by being a people of peace on a planet of warriors, and finally by being a people persecuted among the privileged. None of those things are easy, each confession of blessing is a testimony to a rough and difficult life amidst a world of ease. But Jesus looks out across the crowd of His disciples and “those simply seeking him for signs and wonders” and He declares that it is not enough that the recognize Him; they must follow Him.

During His ministry Jesus encountered people who were willing to do much to gain His blessing; they would testify to His greatness, they would call Him teacher, but when it came time for them to lay down what they had, they clinched their fists around their possessions instead of grasping His hand. (“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matt 16:25) They were willing to do anything except truly giving themselves over into the hands of One who made them.

Consider Judas, among the crowd that day, who went out with the disciples to perform miracles and proclaim the Kingdom come, and yet he soon displayed his true loyalties turning his eyes on perishing silver and betraying his savior. Consider the rich young ruler, who approached Jesus as a Rabbi, but upon hearing the cost of the cross fled in despair, unwilling to part with what he valued greater than Christ. It is not enough to approach Christ, it is not enough to simply confess, we must “believe in our heart that Jesus is Lord and we will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)

What Jesus is saying here is that we are to live in the light of the future reality that there is a Day coming when all will be revealed; a Day when we will stand before our Lord and the book of our life will be opened, and the truth will come out. This fact should give us pause. Each and every one of us must work out our salvation with fear and trembling, awaiting the Day of God’s judgement. To prepare for that Day, we are to ask, seek and knock; we are to believe that Jesus’ words are true. We are to live our lives bearing witness to the reality of that the truth we have heard has not only impacted our minds but changed our hearts. We must rely on God, rely on God, rely on God; we cannot trust in our own confessions, we can not trust in our own works. For if our hearts are not right with God, even if we prophesy in His name, do wonders in his name, cast out evil in His name, it will not matter. So ask yourself, when that Day comes will I push aside my sin and try and win God over with all I have done “in His name?” Or, will I lay myself bare before Him, and come to Him empty handed, poor in spirit, meekly seeking entrance to the Kingdom having displayed a life lived on the narrow road declaring “All I have is Christ”?

So to sum up, what are some take aways from this passage and from what we’ve discussed above? God prizes obedience over sacrifice, He always has, and He always will. He calls us to live according to all He has taught, and He calls us to repent and live a new life according to His will. So if you are living within un-repentant sin in your life and you are justifying it by saying, ‘its ok, surely God will accept me, I mean I go to church every Sunday, I teach Sunday school, I go on mission trips, Ive even led people to the Lord, surely all that will out-weigh my sin.’ IF that is your inner monologue, then you should question your citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven; for that is the same works-righteousness that fails every time. That is the wide road taken by Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, some Catholics, some protestants, and the vast majority of Americans who believe that ‘if I live a good life, then I’ll get into heaven.’ The ONLY way to enter the kingdom is through the narrow gate of Christ. The only work that we can present before God in order to enter His kingdom is the work of His Son on the cross, and our unqualified obedience to all that God has called us to in light of that wondrous work.

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Pearls before Swine: Using Discernment when Declaring the Word

July 22, 2012

 

One of the most enigmatic verses in the Sermon on the Mount has to be Matthew 7:6

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
(Matthew 7:6 ESV)

So what are we dealing with here? What does this verse mean?

Verses 1-5 are dealing with judgement and the extent to which followers of Christ should judge one another. These verses do no preclude all forms of judgement or discernment, rather they provide a timely and helpful admonition for those seeking to judge to deal and grapple with their own sin before they proceed to tackle the sin in other peoples lives. While Jesus is admonishing His disciples and by extension us to guard agains hasty and hypocritical judgments, He is by no means saying that we are not to exercise discernment in dealing with others. Verses 1-5 paint a picture of someone going to a brother and addressing sin in that brother’s life. There is some anticipation in these verses that the one confronted with his sin, if confronted in a un-hypocritical way, might have the speck in his eye removed. To put it another way, there is some anticipation that the brother confronted with his sin is agreeable to receiving correction. We learn from Jesus’ instruction from Matthew 18, that acknowledged sin in a brothers/sisters life is to be confronted openly and consistently with the aim of seeing the wayward brother turn and repent of sin and be restored to fellowship with his believing family. If that wayward “believer” refuses to repent, he is from then on to be treated as someone outside the family of God. But what of those around us who are not our brothers and sisters in Christ who are openly hostile to the gospel of God’s grace?

If the teaching in verses 1-5 serve as an example of how we are to avoid displaying hypocrisy in judgment. The parable in Matthew 7:6 serves as a example of how and to what extent Jesus’ disciples, and by extension us, are to avoid displaying futility in proclamation. “This passage gives us a balance for the teaching against judging. Discrimination is to be applied according to the attitude and receptivity of our hearers.”[1] In the Sermon, Jesus is equipping His disciples with the wisdom necessary to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven. He lays out the method by which one becomes blessed in the Kingdom 5:1-11; He describes how one lives and interprets the law in the Kingdom 5:12-6:34; And now He lays out the consequences of Kingdom living, the personal consequences and the eternal consequences 7:1-27. Here He tells his disciples that the precious truth of God’s word (what is Holy and the pearls) will not be received by all, and therefore should be proclaimed with discretion. This attitude is confirmed throughout this gospel (Matthew 10 for instance) and throughout the Bible. Proverbially it is consistent with proverbs like Prov. 9:8 and 29:1, and this attitude is exemplified by Paul’s reaction to the rejection of the Gospel by the Jews of Corinth… (Acts 18:1-6, see also Acts 13:44-51, 28:17-28; Ro 16:17-18). And also (Titus 3:10-11).

Jesus is clear, those who despise the word of God will perish and are not worthy to receive it, but to any who ask “it will be given to you; seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives and the one who seeks finds…” (Matt 7:7-8) In this Kingdom we are to live as salt and light, to live in such a way that others are prompted to question the hope we have displayed, and we must be prepared to give an answer. (1 Peter 3:15) God will always answer one who asks, seeks and knocks. However, concerning those who lack spiritual understanding (1Cor 2:14) the Word is but folly to be trampled; and we are encouraged to withhold, with discernment, the glory of God’s truth from those who would treat it with disdain.

So based on this verse can we simply write some people off and abandon them in their sin?

 

Well yes and no. “Jesus’ teaching demonstrated that the disciples were not to presume that any person would reject the gospel. They were to offer it to anyone. However, when the gospel was rejected, the disciples were to refocus their evangelistic efforts on others.”[1] Jesus displays this throughout the gospels. When individuals like the rich young ruler come to Him and ask Him about the gospel, He answers. When the young man rejects the gospel and leaves, Jesus does not chase him down and continue to offer the gospel, he lets him go. Likewise when Jesus is before Herod, He does not answer him when questioned about His ministry. Jesus spoke in parables so that those with ears would hear and those without hearing would remain in darkness. We must never “write people off” if writing people off means that we cease to love and pray for them. We are to continually love others and to pray with persistence that it be God’s will that the unrepentant repent and that the hard hearts be softened. For we all at some point stood against our king in hostility to His message, but His grace overcame our sinful will and changed our heart.

We constantly pray that His will be done in the lives of all we come across. But when we encounter those who refuse to listen to the gospel, and repudiate it and profane it treating the Gospel of glory like dirt; we must not continue on at that moment offering them what they do not want. We withhold what is holy and wait for a time when their hearts are softer and their ears are more open. John Hannah, a Scholar from DTS once said that we live out the great commission by loving our neighbor and waiting for the hand of God to strike their life; we love, we wait, and when God sees fit to soften their heart we are their with the message of His glorious Hope.

 

 

 


[1] Quarles, 295.

[1] Dockery and Garland, Seeking the Kingdom. 106.

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Judging Others: Hey You’ve Got Something in Your Eye…

July 21, 2012

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
(Matthew 7:3-5 ESV)

 

Fundamentally the log in our own eye should be replaced with the cross. We take that beam of sin, and relate it to the beams of the cross. When the cross is before us, and in our eyes all sin is given its proper perspective. When I say see the cross I mean come to Jesus, for the only way the plank is removed is if He removes it because of His great mercy and through His grace. At the foot of the cross of Christ, the single beam in our eye is replaced by two intersecting at God’s judgment and forgiveness.

 

John MacArthur has a helpful word on how we experience this forgiveness and mercy, and how the beam is removed:

 

“How do you remove the plank? How do you do that? I believe it’s a matter of confession of sin. Don’t you? I think first you have to look and see that it’s there. Verse 3, “consider not the plank in your own eye?” And the word “consider” there means to perceive in a meditative, prolonged way. It is used, for example, in Luke 12:27. “Consider the lilies.” In James 1:23, “as we behold our face in a glass.” It is a constant look, a look of understanding, a look of comprehension. And so he’s saying, “Take a good look. Don’t you see you’ve got a spiritual problem yourself? Don’t you see you’ve got an ungodly self-righteousness that makes you judgmental and critical of other people? Consider that.” Having considered it, you go to verse 5. “Cast it out.” And how do you do that? By confessing it to the Lord. I Corinthians 11:21, “If we judge ourselves, we won’t be judged.” Right? God’s not going to have to chasten the sin of self-righteousness if we deal with it. And so I bring my life fully to the judgment of God, and I ask Him to cleanse, to purify, to remove it.”

 

“And once I’ve done that, I can move on to verse 5, and “then shalt thou see clearly to cast the moat out of thy brother’s eye.” Listen, we’ve got to get the thing out of our brother’s eye, don’t we? We can’t let him go on in sin. That’s to hate him, Leviticus 19:17 says. We’ve got to get it out. But we’ve got to deal with, first, ourselves. Listen to how David put it. Psalm 51. “Create in me, oh, Lord, a,” what? “Clean heart.” Did you hear that? “Create in me, oh, Lord, a clean heart.” Now listen. “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways and sinners shall be converted to thee.” But there’s no way to teach a transgressor the right way, and there’s no way to convert a sinner to God, until I have in my own life a clean heart.”[1]

 

So confession removes the plank, and compassion is the result once the plank is removed. We confess our sins at the cross of Christ, His compassion overwhelms our sin, heals our sight, and we in-turn act in compassion towards others; sparing judgement and proclaiming grace.


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The People’s Court: Judging Others vs. Matthew 7…

July 20, 2012

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
(Matthew 7:1-5 ESV)

No one can read the Sermon on the Mount without being prompted to question.  When we come to Matthew chapter 7, the questions inevitably abound; is Jesus saying we can never judge?  Can we ever judge others?

Yes, there are times in which it is permissible, even mandated that we judge or pass judgment on others. One can think of the process of Church discipline in Matthew 18, or the commendation that if a brother sins we are to rebuke him, and if he then repents we are to forgive. (Luke 17:3)  Also later in this chapter, Jesus’ clearly instructs the listener to discern (judge) false prophets and false disciples by their behavior. (7:15-23)   But this passage is not talking about mere judging righteously (Proverbs 31:9); this passage is dealing with hypocrisy and hypocritical judgment.  Jesus first addressed this theme earlier in the sermon, in Matthew 6:2, 5 and 16.  The grammatical construction of the negation “do not Judge” uses the negative “me” which “calls the hearers to cease an action already in progress.”[1]  This allows us to assume that Jesus was addressing a behavior already present within His disciples, “Jesus had observed a judgmental attitude among His disciples and He now urged [them] to abandon that outlook.”[2]

The notion here in this passage is to admonish against the judgmental self-righteousness that fails to reflect the experienced mercy of God.  We judge not, lest we be judged much like we show mercy, so that mercy will be shown to us.(Matthew 5:7)  Jesus is addressing the prevalent mindset of one who would pass judgement on others all the while oblivious to his own sin, perhaps the same sin he is condemning.  There is a consistent scriptural teaching regarding this tragic abuse and denial of mercy: i.e. Romans 2:3 “do you suppose, O man- you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself- that you will escape the judgement of God?”  Christians who have truly experienced God’s forgiveness and mercy are loath to focus on the transgressions of others, as they are rightly so overwhelmed by the weight of their own sin overcome at the cross.  “The story is intended to restrict hypocritical correction of others rather than to restrict all helpful correction.  Jesus calls for His followers to avoid prejudice, prejudgement, and stereotyping.”[3]

Another major question that arises out of this passage is what is the difference between confronting a brother in sin and wrongly judging others?

There are two important aspects of this teaching that we must emphasize:

First. It is important to remember, that in order to observe we need to be able to see in the first place.  This is integral to Jesus’ teaching in this passage, that we deal with our own spiritual blindness before we move on to addressing the need of others.  If you have a log or beam in your own eye you are blind, you can not see your own troubles let alone address the needs of others.  You would not want a blind optometrist performing eye surgery on you; likewise one blinded by their own sin is incapable and ill-suited to address sin in the life of others.  But praise be to God that we serve a Lord who gives sight to the blind and removes our afflictions.  Wh must first address our own sin with God before we move on to others.

Second.  In this passage, Jesus is addressing the hypocritical practice of judging others out of turn.  The observation in view in regards to observing a brother’s sin is completely different.  In this case, one who is well and sighted (having dealt with their own sin first) is tasked with shepherding the flock of God, or keeping another accountable.  When one claims to know Christ, but acts wholly inconsistent with that knowledge those with in the body are tasked with the responsibility of addressing that sin.  They observe and address the sin both for the brother’s soul and for the reputation of the body of believers as a whole.  The intent is not merely to point out flaws or to call someone out, judging them irrationally; the purpose of this observation and confrontation is to lead the brother to repentance and restoration.  If the brother repents, then he/she is to be forgiven and accepted with no malice back into the fold. (Mt 18, Gal 6:1, Col 3:12-15)

 

 


[1] Wallace, Greek Grammar: Beyond the basics, 724.

[2] Quarles, Charles. Sermon on the Mount, 284.

[3] Dockery and Garland, Seeking the Kingdom, 104.

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The King Opposed Again…

June 1, 2012

Part 5: The King Opposed… Again

When we reach the gospels we are no longer dealing with a mere type of the messiah, we are dealing with the messiah realized in Jesus the Christ.  Jesus’ appearance on the scene of history results in an abundance of opposition from a number of sources.  He is opposed by Satan, self-exalting Pharisees, deceitful disciples, and murderous demoniacs.  It is hard to explain the rise in evil opposition except to say that the coming of the kingdom of God was the in-breaking of a great light into a dark world.  This powerful light cast many shadows and when the true light of Christ came into the world shadows appeared and were vanquished.  The darkness did not overcome the light, rather the light overcame the darkness.[1]  The darkness deepens and the opposition reaches a head with Christ’s betrayal at the hands of Judas Iscariot.  As we examine this narrative, it will be helpful to set the scene.

The King (Jesus) has entered the city of Jerusalem in triumph. (Luke 19:28)  He is hosting a Passover feast.  At the feast he subtly identifies the one who will betray him. (John 13:21)  Judas has been deceitfully looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus into the hands of the chief priests. (Matthew 26:16)  Judas obtains leave from Jesus to depart, at which point, he is entered into by Satan. (John 13:27)  The King departs Jerusalem, crosses the Kidron valley, and goes up to the Mount of Olives to pray and weep. (John 18:1; Luke 22:39-46)  Judas arms himself with a cohort of Roman soldiers and officers from the Pharisees and pursues Jesus to the Mount of Olives. (John 18:3)  Here the King does not flee, for His hour has come. (John 12:23)  Jesus is taken, tried and killed.  Judas flees the city, hangs himself in a tree, his body is pierced, his entrails pour out, and he is buried without glory in an anonymous field.[2]  Then the King (Jesus) returns to the city,  having been made alive by the power of God, and His people gathered near to Him. (John 20:19-29)

One can hardly recount this narrative without being struck by the picture presented in light of scripture.  The similarities should be apparent.  King Jesus, from the line of David, reigns in this narrative confronted with the opposition of one close to Him.  One who is proud, seeking to exalt himself, deceiving others, with murder his goal.  Judas share the source of evil, the means of evil and the end of evil in opposition to God’s anointed.  One can observe in this narrative a multi-layering of nuance.  Is Jesus being opposed by Judas as David was opposed by Absalom? Yes.  Is Jesus being opposed by Satan as Satan opposed Yahweh in Isaiah? Yes.  The glorious difference between the texts is the immediacy of Jesus’ reversal of the opposition, rendering it mute by his timely resurrection.  Now that these three texts have been laid out, we shall compare them and attempt to gain insight and hope in observing the futility of those who oppose God.


[1]  “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

[2] Matt 27:5; Acts 1:18, Matt 27:8-10; Acts 1:19.

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Evil Opposition in Scripture: A Series…

May 25, 2012

Part 1. Introduction…

From the moment of the Fall there has been a tension present in history.  Adam and Eve felt it and hid themselves in response to it.  God described it in the curse of the serpent and the promise of the Seed.  Cain displayed it with the murder of his brother.  From Cain on, there were a long line of those who embodied it and fell victim to its effects.  The “tension” in question is presence of evil opposition to God’s anointed.  The tension of messianic opposition is rooted in Genesis 3, and branches out through scripture.  Present along with the proto-euangelion in Genesis 3 is also a proto-opposition that bears witness to the type and fate of those who will seek to oppose the seed of the woman.

Where the allusion to the messiah is present, so too is the specter of His opposition.  The presence of these two forces together creates a palpable tension that pulses through the narrative of the Bible.  Each side is marked by characteristics that point forward to their ultimate fulfillment.  Messianic characteristics found in individuals within the text point us to Christ as judge, lawgiver, king, and Immanuel.  Likewise the characteristics of the opposition point us to their ultimate fulfillment in Satan as adversary, deceiver, self-exalting murderer, and defeated one.

This evil opposition and its characteristics can be seen in individuals throughout the text as they seek to oppose the will of God, often as they oppose His chosen people Israel.  As the types for Christ become more pronounced and specific within the text so does the type for Satan.  Our purpose here is to examine this character of evil opposition, its source, its mean and its in end the text.  We shall attempt to prove that there is a link between three passages of scripture that inform our understanding of the presence of evil opposition to anointed of God.

First we will examine the story of Absalom and his rebellion against his King in II Samuel.

Second we shall center on the figure represented in Israel’s taunt of Isaiah 14, “the son of the dawn” and I will argue that Isaiah has Absalom in view in this passage.

Third we will see how both of these Old Testament texts point forward to Judas’ opposition to the Messiah King in the gospels.

Finally we shall draw these texts together and try to make sense of their common characteristics.  By looking at these texts we desire to increase our understanding of both the opposition; Satan, and the One being opposed; Christ.  To that end, as we peer into the darkness may the marvelous light of God may be more pronounced; that we might gain hope by seeing the futility of those who oppose God.

In the Next Post, Part 2, we will discuss the characteristics of evil in Scripture.

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The Dangers of Doubt…

April 10, 2012

“Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.’ And Peter answered Him and said, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ So He said, ‘Come.’ And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.'”

-Matthew 14:22-31

Is doubt a sin?

Yes. Doubt is an expression of our weak belief and a manifestation of our lack of faith. David Wilkerson states, “of all the sins we can commit, doubt is the one most hated by God.” Doubt is not natural, it is a function of our fallen sinful state. We were created to trust God, rely on Him for everything, and cast our hope on Him. Doubt springs from pride and forgetfulness, it grows in isolation from God, and it ultimately will drive us to seek what we need from someone/thing other than God. Throughout the whole of Scripture God is constantly acting, displaying His command of events and history giving us examples of His care for us and reasons for us to trust Him. He displays Himself as sufficient to deliver the Israelites out of slavery, provide for them in the desert, and deliver them into the promised land. And at every turn and every opportunity the Israelites express doubt and fear and turn to idols for consolation. To be known as a prophet in the Old Testament was to be one who had faith in God and did not doubt. Prophets would call to Israelites mired in doubt and fear to return to God, and put their hope and trust in Him. God is utmost concerned that His Glory be displayed in the universe. We do not display His glory when we doubt.

That is the message behind Matthews passage in Chapter 14. The account of Jesus walking on the water is sandwiched between tremendous acts of faith and provision. Crowds are pursuing Jesus seeking healing from illnesses. When they hear that he is near, they all surround him by the thousands and he heals them, feeds them and send them on their way. These hordes of sick and wounded people had faith, they overcame their doubts and turned their eye and their hope upon Jesus and he saved them. Thousands believe, but Peter doubts. It is by the grace of almighty God through His Son Jesus Christ that He has mercy on Peter and has mercy on us. He comes to us amidst our doubt with one message, “it is I, be of good cheer, FEAR NOT.” (Fear Not! For behold I bring you good news of Great Joy that is for everyman Luke 2:9, “Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me.” John 14:1) our doubt is overcome with one prayer, cried out in faith, “Lord, save me!” At which point, he is faithful to “stretch out His hand and catch us” and rescue us from drowning.

Why did Peter doubt?

Peter doubted because Peter was a sinner and was fearful. He did not understand yet who Jesus was and why it mattered. This is clear in the next major passage of the text and throughout the gospel of Matthew. Peter is constantly acting with a sort of schizophrenia. In this chapter, he calls out to Jesus as Lord, but sinks into the water because of doubt. In Chapter 16 he will confess Jesus as the son of God, but then will oppose Jesus’ prophesy about the cross. After saying that he would never deny Him, Peter denies Christ three times in Chapter 26. It is clear throughout that Peter had an idea of who Jesus was, but he never fully understood. Peter wanted to put Jesus into a mold. He ha a conception of who Jesus was and who He was supposed to be, his Jesus was the messiah who would lead the people of Israel in rebellion against the Romans; not the man who was to be crucified between two criminals. His Jesus was the king to be served, not the Servant who would wash the feet of His disciples. One would argue that it was not until after the resurrection that Peter, endowed with the Spirit of God, fully understood who Jesus was and why it mattered. As he preached at Pentecost the doubt and trembling is gone and is replaced with certainty and power. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know FOR CERTAIN that God has raised him from the dead– this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36) He doubted because he was a doubter; but the resurrection of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit transformed his doubt into unwavering belief. So it is for us, as it was for him. Faith without doubt is able to move mountains; Faith with doubt will barley keep us afloat.

What causes us to doubt?

Doubt is rooted in our failure to accurately understand who God is. God properly apprehended removes doubt. There are really two kinds of doubt; Emotional doubt and intellectual doubt.

Emotional doubt is and can be experienced by believers and followers of Jesus. This is the doubt we see on display in Matthew 14. Peter’s doubt arose out of fear, “he saw the wind was boisterous and he was afraid.” God created us with emotions, and the ability to feel fear. Fear was a reflex meant for God alone. The beginning of Biblical wisdom is the fear of God. Jesus’ message in the gospels is that we are to believe in God and fear not; and if we are to fear then we should fear only God, “the one who has the power to cast both body and soul into hell.” When we fear God, we reflect an absence of doubt and a fullness of faith in Him. When we are motivated by fear for anything other than God, we allow doubt to take over. When this happens our only response should be one of repentance, and reorientation toward God, fixing our eyes on Him, from whence cometh our help.

Intellectual doubt is less common, and more dangerous than emotional doubt. Intellectual doubt is being faced with the command of God and failing to follow Him because of your own reasoned disbelief. It is not reaction out of fear, but rather the fruit of a proud heart. This doubt is the rich young ruler who approaches Jesus seeking everlasting life. He begins to reason with Christ as to the costs of discipleship, ultimately when faced with the choice of following Jesus or keeping his stuff, he doubted the truthfulness of Jesus’ command and left in despair. Intellectual doubt is Romans 1:21, “for though they knew God they failed to honor Him as God.” Intellectual doubters see God, are faced with Him, and reason that what they see cannot be true or affect their lives. When this happens absent repentance, the consequences are dire and permanent. The only hope for this doubter is a grace given radical understanding of who they are in relation to God. This removes pride and eliminates doubt in who God is and what He has said.

When is doubt deadly?

Doubt is deadly when it is uncontested and given in to. Doubt is no residence for the Christian, a Christian may visit from time to time, but he/she cannot stay. Jesus commands us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind. There is no room for doubt in our pursuit of God. But doubt does happen. When doubt creeps in and begins to crowd out our view of God we begin to sink. Doubt leads to death when people choose to place their faith in any alternative other than God. Christ is our hope, He is calling out to us and when we have faith we can walk through the greatest storm; and even if we doubt, we must repent and cry out to the Lord, and He will be faithful to take hold of our hand and save us.