by Al Maxey
Issue #716 -------
March 20, 2017
It ain't those parts of the Bible that
I can't understand that bother me,
it is the parts that I do understand.
Mark Twain (1835-1910)
"In no other book of the Bible can one find such varieties of religious experience as The Psalms. ... Further, a timelessness makes this book equally applicable to every age of history. ... The Psalms form an important background for Jesus' ministry. He learned them in His Jewish home at His devotions. At His baptism, His mission was stated in the words of a Psalm. On the cross, a Psalm came to His mind in His last moments there. The Psalms are quoted more frequently in the New Testament than any other book of the Old Testament. ... No other book of hymns has been used so long by so many people" [The Open Bible, p. 502]. Many of these poetic contributions to The Psalter are devotional in nature (psalms of praise, adoration, thanksgiving; psalms of penitence and petition; even psalms of lamentation and imprecation). A good number of them are didactic in nature. Nine are classed as wisdom psalms; several are a recounting of historical events in poetic form. There are also processional psalms, which were used as the people went up to Jerusalem and into the temple for worship. Quite a few of these hymns are Messianic, and about 11 of them are classed as royal psalms. These last two categories will occupy our focus in this present study, for Psalm 2 is considered by almost all biblical scholars to be both royal and Messianic.
Psalm 2 is also known as an "orphaned psalm," for it has no descriptive title of any kind. No indication is given of authorship either, which would normally classify this psalm as one of the many "anonymous" psalms. That classification is nullified, however, by the fact that Acts 4:25-26, in which we find a quote from this psalm, is said to have come from David. "The Jews have always regarded it as Davidic, and the early Christians were of the same opinion. Modern critics, for the most part, agree" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 8, p. 10]. That it is Messianic in nature is affirmed in Acts 13:32-33, "And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm." This is also affirmed by two additional quotes from Psalm 2 in the book of Hebrews (1:5; 5:5), and by an allusion to it by Paul in Romans 1:4. Indeed, "in the New Testament this Psalm is cited more frequently than any other" [Drs. Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 5, p. 90]. "The second psalm is one of the psalms most quoted in the NT. It was favored by the apostles as Scriptural confirmation of Jesus' Messianic office and His expected glorious return with power and authority" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 65].
There is little doubt, therefore, in the minds of most biblical scholars that Psalm 2 is a "Royal Psalm," with the reign of David being the backdrop, and a "Messianic Psalm," with Jesus being the perfect fulfillment of the promises specified therein. The primary point of contention and debate with respect to this ancient hymn, however, lies in the declaration found in verse 7 - "I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, 'Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten thee'" [King James Version]. If this psalm is referring on one level (historically) to the reign of David, this would seem to be speaking of the day of his coronation as king over the people of Israel. The phrase "this day," therefore, would be a reference to that day on which David took the throne. It was not uncommon in Jewish thought for the king to view God as "Father," and also for the Lord God to view the king as His "son," one "begotten" by Him (Psalm 89:26-27; 2 Samuel 7:14). Thus, historically, few scholars take exception to the view that the language of this passage easily applies to David as he ascended to the throne. It is when we look beyond the historical context, and contemplate the spiritual significance of this psalm, which is attested by NT writings to be Messianic, that some of the wording becomes rather problematic. The specific phrase in question is: "this day have I begotten thee." This suggests to some, such as the Gnostics, that Jesus, God's Son, was a created being, rather than an eternal being; a being formed in "space/time," rather than He who dwells outside the confines of both. It isn't hard to see how the wording of this text in the KJV can potentially be pressed for such a teaching. Therefore, it behooves us to take a closer look at it.
First, it is very important to take a look at the word "begotten," which is used in some versions in connection with Jesus. This is especially troubling when that word is joined with another to become the phrase "only begotten" (e.g., John 3:16). Considerable confusion has resulted from this wording, and I would strongly urge the reader to pause at this point and examine Reflections #26 ("A Study of Monogenes: The 'Only Begotten' Fallacy"). If you have done that, the following exegesis of the passage in Psalm 2:7 may make a bit more sense to you. Although a number of versions use the word "begotten" in Psalm 2:7, a good many others have tried to move away from that term. "I have become your father" (or "I have become Your Father") is the chosen wording of several (including the NIV, CEV, CEB, and HCSB). The Message reads, "today is your birthday." In my view, the most accurate rendering is: "I today have brought thee forth" [Young's Literal Translation]. This recognizes the sovereignty of God the Father, and of His eternal purpose, without necessarily diminishing the divine nature of the Son and the latter's role in implementing that purpose. The idea of submission is conveyed without equally conveying the notion that the Son was not present at the beginning, but rather created later on some specific day. There can be a significant distinction between "begotten" and "brought forth," and the word employed in the biblical text can very easily convey either one.
Jesus was both the "Son of man" and the "Son of God" (both phrases found in Scripture), but He also existed prior to the creation (indeed, He took part in that creation). "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being" (John 1:1-3). After all, did not God say, "Let US make man in OUR image, according to OUR likeness" (Genesis 1:26)? The apostle Paul declared, "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities -- all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:16-17). To suggest, or to even hint at, a theology that reduces the Son to a created being, one who had His origin on "this day" in the realm of space/time, is contrary to the evidence of Scripture. Yet, "this day I have begotten thee" most assuredly could lend itself (and most certainly has lent itself, at least in the minds of some groups) to such a theological perspective.
On the other hand, there are indeed space/time "markers" at which points significant events took place in God's dealings with His creation. At a specific point in time (and human history) "the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him, and cried out, saying, 'This was He of whom I said, "He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me"'" (John 1:14-15, NASB). Here again we see that phrase "only begotten," which would be far better translated "unique, one of a kind; uniquely brought forth." The point John makes, though, is that the incarnation occurred at a point in time, yet that eternal Word which became flesh had always been, existing long before John himself. The Word was never created. Yet, at the right time, that Word took the form of a man, brought forth by God through a woman. Thus, in that sense, and at that precise point in space/time, one could perhaps grasp the concept conveyed by the phrase: "this day" the Father uniquely "brought forth" the Son, and He declared Him to be such in a powerful manner. In David's case, it was a day of coronation; in the case of the Word becoming flesh, it was a day of incarnation. The latter, however, in no way suggests a creation.
In the New Testament writings there are several "this day" markers in the space/time continuum that would fit with the Messianic message of Psalm 2:7. John Wesley (1703-1791) referred to these as "the manifestations of Christ's eternal Sonship in time, which was done both in His birth and life" [Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. In fact, Dr. Albert Barnes (1798-1870) I believe correctly observed, "The passage cannot be understood as referring to Christ without admitting His existence previous to the incarnation" [Barnes' Notes on the Bible, e-Sword]. From the very foundation of the world and before, it had been ordained and decreed in the mind and purpose of God that the redemption of His creation (and particularly mankind) would involve an incarnation, an atoning sacrifice, a resurrection, ascension and ultimate consummation. "This day" could well refer to the totality of these events, as seen outside of space/time from the perspective of the throne, or to any one of them individually. When the angel appeared to Mary, she was informed that she would bear a child, and "the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35), just as Psalm 2:7 declared. Thus, some see "this day" as a reference to the birth of Jesus: the day the Son of God was "brought forth" into the world of men. Hebrews 1:5-6 also seems to link this event with the "bringing" of the Son of God "into the world." In Luke 2:11 we find an angel of the Lord announcing to the shepherds in the field, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (KJV). Others believe "this day" may be a reference to the baptism of Jesus by John, at which time Jesus then entered into His public ministry, for on that day, immediately after the baptism, the Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove, and a voice from heaven said, "This is My Son!" (Matthew 3:16-17). John the Baptist would later attest with respect to the events of that day, "I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God" (John 1:34). On the other hand, Hebrews 5:4f seems to link the Psalm 2:7 text with the High Priestly duties of the Son of God in offering up Himself as that atoning sacrifice.
The most likely meaning of "this day," however, and this is affirmed by several passages of Scripture, is the day of our Lord's resurrection from the dead, which indeed is, aside from the redemptive nature of His death, the central focus of the Good News. After all, the early Christians went about "preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection" (Acts 17:18). This was the message: He is risen! In Pisidian Antioch, the apostle Paul declared the following in a message delivered to those assembled in the synagogue there: "We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers He has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: 'You are My Son; today I have become your Father.' The fact that God raised Him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words: 'I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David'" (Acts 13:32-34). Paul clearly was convinced that "this day" was a reference to the raising up of Jesus from the dead. He also wrote that Jesus "was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:4). It seems to me this settles the matter as to the ultimate significance of "this day" in the eternal purpose of God as it relates to the promise of life to mankind.
Matthew Henry (1662-1714) stated it well, when he wrote, "The kingdom of the Messiah is founded upon a decree, an eternal decree, of God the Father. It was not a sudden resolve, it was not the trial of an experiment, but the result of the counsels of the divine wisdom and the determinations of the divine will, before all worlds" [Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. From the very beginning, our God decreed that He would step into space/time and effect our redemption, and that this would be accomplished powerfully by His Son. Thus, "the theological significance of Psalm 2 lies in the hope that it entails" for those estranged from the Father by their fallenness [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 65]. This is declared powerfully in the last line of that Psalm: "Kiss the Son ... Blessed are all who take refuge in Him!" (vs. 12, NIV ... the NKJV reads, "Kiss the Son ... Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him"). Our hope is in the grace of the Father who purposed to bring forth His Son as our Redeemer, so that all who believe should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Life is in the Son of God, and if we have the Son, we have LIFE (1 John 5:11-12). I leave you with the challenge of Matthew Henry: "If God hath said unto Him, 'Thou art My Son,' it becomes each of us to say to Him, 'Thou art my Lord, my Sovereign!'"
From a Reader in Tennessee:
Thank you so much for sending me all your Reflections on what happens to us when we die. They were right on subject and very, very well-written. They have helped me begin to come to grips with my wife's death. I am still having a hard time with that: we were together for over 63 years. I still reach over at night to pat her, and she is not there. Again, your studies have really helped! I made copies of each of them for my three daughters. I have read them all about three times (you will find that as you get older you have to read things many times to "get" them!). I do not remember now who it was who first introduced me to your writings, but I am surely glad that they did!! Your work is a true God-send! Where were you when I was younger?! Yes, you would have had a hard time here back then because of your teaching, but not now. You have seen the church change, and much of it has been because of you!! Thank you for all you have done! Al, it makes me sick to see people try to destroy you just because you do not teach what they think you should. I am so thankful you have the courage to teach Truth over tradition. I wish these people would open their hearts and minds to your teaching and come out of the Dark Ages. I have been there in the past, and know! But you, and people like you, have shown me the Truth. For that I say, "Thank You!!"
From a New Reader in Alabama:
Al, I just noticed, from something I saw on your Facebook page tonight, that you have a Web Site. I intend to check it out and see what you have to offer! I used to spend some time with Yater Tant (I noticed on your Facebook page that Yater's grandson sent you a signed copy of Yater's book "J.D. Tant: Texas Preacher"), mostly from about 1984 up until near his death. I had been immersed into Jesus during one of Yater Tant's meetings near Parrish, Alabama (where my grandfather worked with the brethren in a small congregation there). I'm looking forward to learning more of you and your work.
From an Elder in Texas:
Happy anniversary of your birth (March 2). I celebrate with you today! I really enjoy your ministry and your many Reflections articles, as well as several of your recorded sermons on CD and your published books!
From John W. Smith in Arizona:
(see the Readers' section of Issue #714)
Brother Al, I have recently become familiar with your work through a friend here. I had heard of you over the years, but had never met you -- which I now deeply regret. I want to thank you personally for advertising the Angel Fire Bible Symposium that I direct each year there in New Mexico. I hope to include you as a speaker in the future. I also want to order your first book "Down, But Not Out: A Study of Divorce and Remarriage in Light of God's Healing Grace." I have written a book on this topic that I am not entirely satisfied with, and I am always interested in gaining insight from another point of view. Now that I have your mailing address, I am going to send you a copy of my latest book: "Catching Fire with the Holy Spirit." If you have time to read it, I hope that you will write a review (whether you like the book or not!!). May God's grace be sufficient to all of our needs! All to His glory, John W. Smith
I have indeed received a signed copy of this book from John, a leader in the church who has over 50 years experience as a preacher, teacher, and lectureship speaker, and who has also sold more than 1.4 million copies of his books. I look forward to reading this new work as soon as I get a chance, and will certainly do a review of it afterward. If you are not familiar with John and his work, I would encourage you to seek out his materials and take advantage of his various ministries. You will be blessed. -- Al Maxey
From a Reader in Texas:
I'm going to go back and look for your PayPal information because the preacher here and I have discussed starting a small (probably around 10 people) Wednesday night class consisting of a reading and discussion of your latest book titled "From Ruin to Resurrection." This came about because of a lady here who asked if we knew of anyone with Edward Fudge's new edition of "The Fire That Consumes" (in which he mentions you) who might let her borrow it. We told her she was likely going to be frustrated by the enormous amount of information in that work, and suggested your new book (with your Foreword written by Edward Fudge) as a more readable book for her on this topic. We then decided that a small group class "reading and discussion" of your book might be in order. I loaned out my copy of your book, but never got it back. So, I would like to buy another, as we are going to do a promo for the upcoming class and wanted to show people a copy of the book. You will likely be getting a number of orders from those wanting to be in the class.
Special Note to Readers -- I do indeed have a PayPal account (which is how I receive the royalties for my books from my publisher, from amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, etc.). Thus, any of my materials (books, CDs, etc.) may be ordered via this method, as more and more people are beginning to do as they discover that I have this capability. All one has to do is go to the PayPal web site and follow the directions given there for sending the funds (via their credit/debit card) to my PayPal account (which is: email@example.com - which also happens to be my second email address). You should probably also contact me via email and let me know what items you have paid for and the address to which you wish them to be sent (although there is space on the PayPal site for this information as well). This is a very simple process. PayPal contacts me as soon as the funds go into my account (which I then transfer to my bank), and I send out the order the same day. -- Al Maxey
From a Reader in Kentucky:
Thank you for all you do in advancing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Having recently discovered your web site, I am a huge fan of your Reflections. I am enclosing a large check made out to you, and would like to order ALL of your materials (books, sermon CDs, Bible class CDs, Reflections CD, etc.). The extra money please keep to help support your writing ministry. Thank you so much, brother! I can't wait to dig into God's Word with the help of your materials. You will never know how much your teaching has helped me in my search for the Truth!
From a Minister in West Virginia:
I enjoy reading your Reflections. As I meditate on my own place in God's kingdom, I was wondering if you have ever wrestled with the idea of leaving the Churches of Christ. If so, what factors aided your decision?
I hear a song on the radio in my car now and then that has this line in it: "Should I stay or should I go?" I would imagine most people, regardless of their line of work, or where they live, or even the nature of their personal relationships, have had such potentially life-altering thoughts or temptations at times. Such are certainly not uncommon among church leaders either (although most take pains to hide such thoughts from others!). Yes, I have indeed wrestled with this, although less so now than in the early years of my ministry. Years ago, when I reached that crossroads, I did some serious reflecting that led to my determination in the matter (one from which I have not departed). I made the determination to stay within my particular faith-heritage (that wing of the Stone-Campbell Movement denominated "Church of Christ") and seek to be a force for reform. In one of my very early issues of Reflections (Issue #20: dated March 1, 2003; titled: "'Why Do You Stay?' - Rationale for Continued Association") I seek to explain my reasoning for remaining in this group, although my work over the years has certainly extended far beyond the parameters of this one denomination. One will find additional comments on this determination throughout my writings over the years. -- Al Maxey
From a Minister in New Zealand:
Thank you, Al, for your comments in your email to me regarding Syncretism. I am continually amazed at how one false understanding leads to another like building blocks. Unfortunately, if the foundation is not right, the framework is not going to stand up correctly. I have recently encountered the following concept regarding baptism in water: that it is the point where we "contact the blood" of Jesus, and also that it is the point where we "die to sin." Do these people actually believe God does it all for us at baptism?! Also, I have been studying John 1:19-34, which deals with the baptisms of John and Jesus. I believe you may have done something on this passage?
Sadly, that is precisely what such people believe; and, tragically, that is exactly what they keep teaching people. It is a deadly falsehood that has blinded many to the beauty of God's true gift of grace. I have dealt with this in some depth in many of my Reflections articles on baptism (which may be found on my Topical Index page under the heading "Baptism") and in my book "Immersed By One Spirit: Rethinking the Purpose and Place of Baptism in NT Theology and Practice." But, with regard to the question by this brother in New Zealand, I would specifically urge a reading of "Contacting the Blood of Christ" (Reflections #608) in which I expose the fallacies and absurdities of this misguided dogma that teaches this "contact" (and thus salvation) occurs only at the precise point of immersion in water, and that if one should deny this dogma one thereby forfeits salvation. Such teaching must be exposed and opposed by those called to share the purity of God's Good News. As for John 1:19f, my analysis of that passage may be found in Reflections #626 ("Why Then Do You Baptize? Reflecting on a Challenge Posed to John the Baptist by the Pharisees"). -- Al Maxey
From a Reader in Minnesota:
The testimony by Paula Harrington in Reflections #715 ("A Moving Guest Reflections") was very moving and powerful. What better testimony than from one who actually lived through it and came out stronger, giving God the honor and glory! One only has to look at the life story of Saul (Paul) to perceive the value and power in such personal testimonies. Thanks, Al, for sharing Paula's testimony. Keep up the great work, and blessings upon you and your family.
From a Reader in California:
Thank you, Al, for printing Paula's testimony. What a powerful story! I have read many of her articles, but I had never heard her personal story. It brought tears to my eyes on this Monday morning!
From a Reader in Texas:
Such an awesome story by Paula of not only sadness and pain, but of the true LOVE that our Father has for His children, and the LOVE He wants us to have for those around us! This woman has very clearly let God lead her life, and I thank her for sharing her story, and I praise God for her!
From a Reader in Louisiana:
I have had the joy of meeting Paula Harrington! She is a delightful, beautiful woman of God. Her ministry continues to spread, and I am delighted!
From a Reader in Georgia:
Our assemblies would be blessed in tremendous ways if these types of personal testimonies were used more often as the "sermon." They truly "preach" great truths about our Father! I pray that this young lady will find that our Father has prepared a road ahead that will change the world, and that this is most effectively done by someone who has experienced the pain and the love that she has! It is no blessing to be hurt, but it is a blessing when lemons can be turned into lemonade! To Paula Harrington I say, "Well done and God's speed!" Thanks for sharing this testimony, Al.
From a Minister in Ohio:
Good Morning Bro. Maxey, I enjoyed reading Sis. Harrington's life story and testimony in your Reflections yesterday. I am thankful for our loving God who walks with us and sustains us by putting His people in our life right when we need them. Where would we be without our great God who loves and protects us?! I enjoy reading your Reflections when they come out. They often challenge me, and I need that. I did notice, however, the comments from the author/publisher in Nevada in the readers' response section of that issue of Reflections regarding this year's Florida College Lectures. My wife and I were there (as our daughter is a student there). I was very disappointed to read his take on what was presented at this event. In light of the present culture in which we live, we found the lecture topics to be both timely and encouraging. I didn't hear any "legalism" or "reinforcement of the old party line." I understand there are many issues that divide brethren in the Churches of Christ, but I would certainly like to think that matters of the home and family would be an area upon which we all could unite and stand together.
From a Reader in Texas:
Al, I read the letter from the misled brother in Ohio (readers' responses in Reflections #715) who took you to task for having a preacher/pulpit swap with Grace Baptist Church last year. Too many of "our" congregations are full of legalistic "Church of Christers" like him who think there are no other Christians on the face of the earth except those who meet in "our" buildings! He said he would pray for us; well, we will also pray for him! I went to a particular Church of Christ here in -------- (after moving here from NM), and the very first thing the preacher did, as he began his sermon, was to hold the Bible high and say, "This is the Word of God, and where it is silent we will not speak!" He then went on to tell us that singing with instruments was a SIN. Hmmm!! I knew right then that I was in the wrong place! I love you, Al, and the many, many years you taught me when we were there! Hang in there and keep on keeping on!
From a Reader in Tennessee:
How did you learn to think like you do?! Was it your parents? Was it your wife? Or, was it just you? Did your thinking scare your wife? I scared mine, but she eventually came around. My father wrote me out of his will, however, when he found out where I was in my thinking! Brother, you have real courage, and you should feel good about yourself, but work to stay humble! I'm not saying you are not, but I would think with all the followers you have, this might be hard! Please take care of yourself and your health; people like me can't afford to do without your mind and abilities. I wish I could meet you in person, but my health won't allow me to travel anymore. So, take care of yourself. You will be in my prayers!
From a Reader in New Mexico:
When I lived in the Sandia Mountains, we had a preacher whose style I liked: he would start at the first of a NT book and discuss it from start to finish in several sermons, explaining hard passages by using other Scriptures. BUT, he taught that women should wear hats to church to show that they were in subjection to men, and he didn't allow us to speak in class. If a woman had a question, she wrote it down and gave it to a man, who was then allowed to read it aloud. This preacher made all the decisions (we had no elders, and he didn't want any). Several of us left "his" church and moved to --------, NM. Great bunch of people there, but, like any congregation, it was made up of humans. On Sunday nights they allowed any man who wanted to to lead singing, no matter how poor a job he did. Some even bragged about not knowing anything about music, and that they had no desire to learn. One guy would try to start a song he didn't know very well, so another guy with a bass voice would chime in to help him (in a lower key, of course). So everybody would be singing in two different keys and off tune. Pitiful! I just kept my mouth shut and sang the words silently to God. What I liked best about that group was their breakfast that had just slowly taken shape between class and worship on Sunday. We had more good fellowship there than at any other time, and it was a great way to get acquainted with visitors. I thought it would be the perfect time to take the Lord's Supper, but was pretty sure I would get kicked out if I mentioned such an "absurdity" (lol). I'm not nearly as brave as you!! I did jokingly (kinda - lol) offer to bring my keyboard to help everyone sing on key, though!! Al, I really love your Reflections, for which I am eternally grateful!! Thank you, thank you ... and Thank God!
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