Type of Christ

Q. Which OT characters do you consider to be humanly speaking perfect, who exhibit the character or qualities of Christ? I thought of Joseph but he has a cup which he uses for divination.

A. What you are asking is for the “types” of Christ, which could be persons or objects. The word “type” is generally used to denote a resemblance between something present (OT times) and something future (NT times), which is called the “antitype” (Christ).
Several people walked with God and were called “pleasing to God” or “blameless” in the Bible:
Gen 5:22, 24 Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. … Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. Heb 11:5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.
• Gen 6:8-9 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.
• Job 1:8 The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” 2:3 The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.”

But if you want longer narratives where you can study their biography for yourself, instead of only a few verses for Enoch, or recording Noah’s flaw in getting drunk and uncovering himself, consider Daniel. Some books on types (e.g. Torrey’s New Topical Textbook has a section on Types of Christ with 45 entries) do not list Daniel among them. However, when you read Daniel in detail, you will discover that the Bible did not record any sin in his life, and his courage, dependence on God, wisdom certainly reminds us of Christ’s qualities.

As to Joseph’s cup:
Gen 44:5 Is not this the one from which my lord drinks and which he indeed uses for divination? You have done wrong in doing this.
• Gen 44:15 Joseph said to them, “What is this deed that you have done? Do you not know that such a man as I can indeed practice divination?

V 5 is what Joseph taught his steward to say to his brothers when he overtake them. V 15 is what Joseph himself said to his brothers to test them. It could be that he used the cup for divination, or it could be that he said them only to trick them into thinking that he can discern what they were hiding. Joseph had this cup because his wife was Asenath the daughter of Potiphera priest of On (Gen 41:45, 50; 46:20), and he was just saying this as an excuse. In any event, this is circumstantial and not concrete evidence to prove that he practiced divination. I believe his position is stated in:

Gen 40:8 Then they said to him, “We have had a dream and there is no one to interpret it.” Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell it to me, please.”
• Gen 41:16 Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”
• Gen 41:25 Now Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has told to Pharaoh what He is about to do.
• Gen 41:28 It is as I have spoken to Pharaoh: God has shown to Pharaoh what He is about to do.

Repeatedly Joseph attributed the interpretations to God, not to his divination. So I would not hold the possession of the cup against him.

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Shrewd Manager Part 1 of 2

Q. How can Jesus use the unrighteous steward in Lk 16 as a model for us to follow? He squandered his master’s resources and reduced the repayment required from debtors. How can he be an example?

A. That’s a good question. Some commentators argue that a parable has one main point and we need not dwell on the peripherals of the story. They suggest that Jesus was teaching His disciples to make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness. He was not commending the steward for his dishonesty, but for his shrewdness. The rest of the story does not matter.

I disagree, based on Jesus’ explanation of the parable of the Sower, His basic parable (Mk 4:13). Each element there – the sower, the seeds, the soils, the birds – means something. I am not suggesting that you spiritualize things to force meaning into each and every little detail in all parables, but usually we misinterpret the parables because we do not do enough homework to understand the culture and customs of those times.

Let’s work through the issues. First, the rich man or master. If he represent God, how can he praise his manager? This puzzled many Christians. My opinion is that the master here plays the same role as the unrighteous judge in Lk 18:1-8, as a contrast rather than a comparison to God. There, if the unrighteous judge is willing to give the widow legal protection because of her continual petition, how much more is God willing to answer the prayers of those who kept coming to Him. Here, if the master praises the manager because he acted shrewdly, how much more will God commend the sons of light if we are more shrewd in using wealth to accomplish eternal purposes.

Second, the matter of interest. Israelites were not allowed to charge interest when they lend to fellow Jews, only to foreigners:
Ex 22:25 If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest.
• Deut 23:19-20 You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest. You may charge interest to a foreigner, but to your countrymen you shall not charge interest, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land which you are about to enter to possess.

However, to circumvent this restriction cunning creditors devised two schemes:

(To be continued)

Legal Matters 2

1 Corinthians 6 1-11 a

Q. You said it was ok to take the dishonest contractor to court, but what about 1 Co 6? Didn’t Paul discourage lawsuits there?

A. First, let’s see what 1 Co 6:1-8 say:
1 Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints?
2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts?
3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?
4 So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church?
5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren,
6 but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?
7 Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?
8 On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren.

I did not quote 1 Co 6 because I did not think it applied to the inquirer’s case. Observe the following:
Who: neighbor (v 1), saints (v 1, 2), brethren (v 5, 8), brother (v 6 twice). Paul was talking about believers as plaintiff and defendant.
What: go to law (v 1, 6), lawsuits with one another (v 7), constitute law courts (v 2). This refers to Christians suing each other before unbeliever judges. It also refers to the lack of wise Christians competent to constitute law courts (v 2) and sit as judge to decide cases (v 5).
How: Avoid lawsuits and rather be wronged or defrauded (v 7).
Why: The testimony of the church is at stake, because we have been justified, sanctified and washed in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God.

The inquirer’s case involved an unbeliever contractor defrauding a believer customer. This is a straight-forward tort case, in which a wrongful act by the contractor (substitution of inferior materials) caused harm to the customer (costly repairs and replacement), and led to civil legal liability. It has nothing to do with lawsuits between Christians, nor the unavailability of mature Christians judging such grievances. The issue does not involve the reputation of the church. That’s why I did not refer to this in the discussion. Simply because the passage is about lawsuits does not mean that it applies to the current situation. We must exercise caution in applying only relevant principles to the case in hand.

Are you Smarter than a First Grader? (3)

1st grader 2

Q. AB – CD = EF; EF + GH = PPP. A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, and P are unique digits different from each other. What’s A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, and P?

A. For sure you can’t solve 9 unknowns with only 2 equations with algebra alone. But you can use logic and trial and error. One method is as follows:

1. First, the sum of any two 2-digit numbers can never be greater than or equal to 200. Hence P must be less than 2. It cannot be 0 because otherwise E, F, G, and H must all be 0, which is not allowed by the problem definition. Therefore P must be 1.
2. Secondly, since EF + GH = 111, therefore F + H must = 11, carrying 1 to E + G and E + G must = 10, thus making it 11.
3. E + G =10 possibilities include 8+2, 7+3, 6+4, 4+6, 3+7, 2+8. It cannot be 9+1 or 1+9, as 1 = P already. Nor can it be 5+5, as each alphabet can be used only once.
4. F + H = 11 possibilities include 9+2, 8+3, 7+4, 6+5, 5+6, 4+7, 3+8, 2+9.
5. Since each digit appears only once, each EG combination would preclude those FH combinations in which the EG digits are already used e.g. for E+G as 8+2 precludes the four F+H combinations of 9+2, 8+3, 3+8 and 2+9.
6. As there are six EG and eight FH combinations, four of which are precluded by each set of EG digits, there is a total of 6 X (8-4) = 24 possibilities, which are listed as follows:
a. 87 + 24 = 111, 86 + 25 = 111, 85 + 26 = 111, 84 + 27 = 111;
b. 79 + 32 = 111, 76 + 35 = 111, 75 + 36 = 111, 72 + 39 = 111;
c. 69 + 42 = 111, 68 + 43 = 111, 63 + 48 = 111, 62 + 49 = 111;
d. 49 + 62 = 111, 48 + 63 = 111, 43 + 68 = 111, 42 + 69 = 111;
e. 39 + 72 = 111, 36 + 75 = 111, 35 + 76 = 111, 32 + 79 = 111;
f. 27 + 84 = 111, 26 + 85 = 111, 25 + 86 = 111, 24 + 87 = 111.
7. Thirdly AB – CD = EF. Since A to H and P are all digits between 0 to 9, A must be > C and A > E as negative numbers are not allowed.
8. For each of the EF + GH = 111 listed in 6a to 6f, only the digits not already used by E, F, G, and H can be assigned to A, B, C and D to fit AB – CD = EF. For example, in 6a for 87 + 24 = 111, only 9, 6, 5, 3 and 0 remain to be used. In this particular case, only 93 – 06 would satisfy AB – CD = 87.
9. One can go through all the 24 possibilities in 6a to 6f, and by trial and error find out all the solutions that would fit each equation. Note that not all possibilities have a valid solution. For example, for 6f, while there is a solution for 27 + 84 = 111 (90 – 63 = 27), no combination of 9, 6, 5, 3 and 0 would satisfy AB – CD = 24 such that 24 + 87 = 111. Thus there are multiple solutions for AB + CD = EF, EF + GH = PPP. Perhaps you can write an algorithm to test all combinations.

Now, given the problem’s complexity, do you expect the average first grader to solve it? Or has the zealous examiner gone way overboard? Even though most people are not into mathematics and few would read this post, I wrote it not only because I enjoy mental challenges, but because there are similarities between this and bible study. As I said before, sometimes you need good detective skills to interpret the Bible properly.

First there is observation, noting all the details and the relationship between them. Some people just notice the prima facie evidence and jump right to conclusion. That would not do. Then there is interpretation. Some interpretations are possible until precluded by other observations not yet taken into account. You need to consider all biblical evidence and accept only the solution(s) that harmonize everything, because God does not make mistakes. Finally, sometimes you just have to accept the fact that there are no solutions this side of heaven, because God had chosen not to reveal everything to us. The mysteries belong to God. So come to the Bible with a keen but humble mind, ready to apply everything you learn and you will have a marvelous time learning from the Word.

Lone Ranger Christian?

lone ranger 3

Q. My friend told me he does not read reference books in Bible study, saying there are so many different interpretations and opinions that it’s confusing. All he needs is “me and my Bible”. He said, “If you believe everything the books say, you might as well do without books (盡信書不如無書).” He also does not trust leaders in his church, nor well-known pastors. How can I steer him back?

A. While there are many opinions, there are sound rules of hermeneutics by which you can evaluate whether a particular interpretation is valid or not. It is not free for all and everything and anything goes. Your friend has a very high view of himself and a very low view of learning from others. But the fact of the matter is that most things we know we learned from others, our parents, elementary and high school teachers, bosses, books, media etc., even though your friend does not acknowledge them. We always stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us, and passed on the lessons they learned through their words and writings.

The Christian life is never meant to be lived in isolation, but in community. To say that one does not need the wisdom of the church in history, the exhortation of fellow believers, the edification of leaders is to be very arrogant and naive about one’s dependence on the body of Christ.

1 Co 12:21-26 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
• Eph 4:11-16 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
• Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

one another 4

There are dozens of “one another” verses in the epistles about how we should relate to each other. For you friend to say “just me and my Bible” sounds pious, but in fact goes against what the Bible taught. There is no place for playing “lone ranger”.