Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 11:11-15 ESV)
One of the things that Jesus taught was having ears to hear, a euphemism meaning to hear to the point of truly understanding and following through on what was said. In the above verses Jesus talks about John the Baptist, and compares him to Elijah, one of the most powerful prophets in the Old Testament. Jesus was especially critical in this section because of the People’s response to John’s message:
“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. (Matthew 11:16-20 ESV)
Here we see that Jesus is talking about how so many people do not really listen. Remember a lot of these people Jesus talks about as not listening were religious people, people who thought they were righteous and following God because they were continuing in the tradition of their church (synagogue). When John the Baptist spoke many of these people, religious or not, said that he had a devil because he did things like fasting and living in the desert. And when Jesus spoke, because he “wined and dined” with people, many people said that he was a glutton and a drunkard. This is an interesting way of saying that people, even people who look like good, churchgoing folks, will find a reason not to listen to you, and pick fault with whatever your manner of life is.
But the point of this lesson is to not be one of those people that doesn’t hear the wisdom of God when it is spoken. The end result of that mistake are some pretty bad things:
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” (Matthew 11:21-24 ESV)
This is as serious a condemnation as Jesus makes. He says that the people of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum are going to be more severely judged than those of Sodom. And we know what happened to the people of Sodom, it is as famous a tragedy worldwide as anything in the literature or history.
Another place that Jesus preaches the “he who has ears to hear” principle is in regard to the parable of the sower. Here we have good teaching taught to many people, and again there are many people who do not bring forth the fruit of the teaching. Some people don’t hear it all because there isn’t much in them to begin with. Other people hear initially, but because of all the rocks and thorns and thistles in their life they lose what they hear. Then there are those that are fertile ground, and are able to hold onto what grows, and those are the long-term winners.
Part of the problem that goes on here is the idea of mindsets. The principle of “mindsets” is actually a good thing. A mindset is a group of principles, axioms, and ideas that become firmly established in a person or group of people.
Mindsets can be good or bad. Some cultures have (had) the mindset that human sacrifice is necessary in order to have good fortune of this life. In olden times many a baby was sacrificed in order that there might be a fertile crop, or a good growing season. In modern times, some say that abortion is just a continuation of this ideal where women sacrifice the inconvenience of having to raise a baby in order to have a better life. Whether abortion is acceptable or not illustrates the point of different mindsets.
Modern mindsets can include the ideas that it is important to have a strong central government that regulates crime, and safeguards a marketplace that enables prosperity.
In other words, mindsets, in of themselves, are neutral. So, if they are neutral, what needs to take place if the mindset of the group of people is to be truly healthy?
There needs to be a willingness to ferret out the best ideals, while at the same time, a strong commitment is made to maintaining those ideals. You need both. If all you’re doing is constantly seeking out the best new idea then you can literally just go from one camp to the next without ever being in one place long enough for things to take root. On the other hand if all you do is stubbornly adhere to what you or the group you belong to says is the way to go, then you may just be stuck in a stubborn mindset that is really not the best, or even a long-term disaster.
Paul wrote about sticking to a mindset when he wrote about being steadfast and unmovable:
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58 ASV)
if so be that ye continue in the faith, grounded and stedfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel which ye heard, which was preached in all creation under heaven; whereof I Paul was made a minister. (Colossians 1:23 ASV)
It’s important that we get the right mindset and stick to it. But it’s got a be the right mindset which is referred to here as “the hope of the gospel”.
I ran across the negative side of mindsets in a crossword puzzle where the clue related to the concept of idée fixe. Idée fixe is really a psychological term with negative implications. Someone who has an idée fixe is really obsessed with us some ideas that are harmful to them. Idée fixe is the extreme negative mindset. It goes to show you that as useful as mindsets are in adhering to good ideas they can be a runaway trains when it comes to negative ones.
What I would like to propose to you is that what a lot of people think are the basic tenets of the Christian faith are really negative mindsets. If that were not true there would be so many arguments as shown on this website over so many issues where people have abandoned fellowship with each other, and even killed each other over doctrines of faith.
Sure, it’s easy to see that somebody in a cult like the Jim Jones fiasco has an idée fixe. Or even those that advocate that it was (is) okay for Christians to kill Christians over issues like infant baptism or the Trinity. But don’t the incredible disagreements over so many doctrines like biblical inerrancy, the right form of church government, end times theology, whether the gifts have ceased, the role of women as leaders, and even less powerful, but still controversial issues such as whether or not it’s acceptable to drink alcohol, whether tithing is still required or not, whether Genesis 1 was a literal 168 hour period or not, or that the KJV is the perfect, literal word of God are just some of the illustrations that show that there have got to be a lot of faulty mindsets in churches everywhere.
All of these matters point to the fact that modern-day Christianity is not original Christianity.
The law, the prophets, the Psalms, the teachings of Jesus, these are the elements of Christianity that we really have in common. They are the foundation of original Christianity.
And in that regard, as our Savior Jesus taught, “he who has ears to hear, let him hear”.
© copyright 2012 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.
And he said unto them, These are my words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me. (Luke 24:44 ASV)
Jesus referred to the word of God as The Law and the Prophets, including the Psalms. There was an old Testament Bible in existence at the time of Jesus called the Septuagint. Modern construction of the Old Testament includes the Law and the Prophets, but also what are known as the poetic books, like Job, Proverbs, and Esther, as well as historical records, such as Kings and Chronicles. All of these books were in the Septuagint. Just as Jesus never mentioned the Septuagint as the Word of God, he never mentioned the poetic and historical books as the Word of God.
In churches and ministries that I have attended, in order to harmonize this verse with modern teaching Churches teach that Jesus was referring to the whole Bible when he spoke this verse. The prevailing teaching given was that Psalms was a generic term that means the rest of the writings. Further explanation included the term Bible hadn’t been put into use yet, and putting it all together you can conclude that when Jesus referred to the law, the prophets, and the psalms he was referring to the same Bible that you and I use today.
That explanation doesn’t make any sense on several fronts. Yes, there was an old Testament called the Septuagint, a version of a collection of Jewish scrolls that had been translated into Greek. But Jesus never referred to those books as the Word of God. That may have been Jewish practice at the time, but that was not his practice. Second, while he did quote from what we would call the Old Testament, he only referred to books that would be called the law, the prophets, and psalms. If you do a search for Jesus’ references to the Old Testament you will find that Jesus made numerous references to the Law and the Prophets, including the Psalms, written by David, who was a prophet.[i]
I don’t know about you, but my example is Jesus Christ. And if traditional Christianity varies from what Jesus did, I am not going to just automatically follow tradition. Jesus was very specific when he referenced the Word of God. He only referenced the law, the prophets, and the psalms. Therefore Jesus’ canon of scripture only included the law, the prophets, and the psalms. When we look a little later in time we see that the first believers after Christ followed this practice also. The development of the canon of scripture that we have now took hundreds of years after this to develop.
That is not say that the other books are not valuable, they are. Joshua wrote down the account of his leadership (Josh 24:26) and the account is inspirational. The same for some of the other books. But who knows who wrote Esther, Ruth, Job, and a number of other books?
What that means is that the word of God is not the KJV or any modern Bible, or even the officially canonized list of the Books of the Bible. (Do you disagree? Then why is the listing of the Old Testament books in the Canon different from what we have today. From the creation of the canon in 397[ii] alone we see that the Christians of 397 a.d. declared Tobias and Maccabbees canonized. How can it be if the Old Testament we have today is the word of God that it is different from the Old Testament canonized ages ago?)
Jesus never referred to the whole Old Testament as Scripture. Jesus set the standard for What the Word of God is, the Law and the Prophets, and the Psalms. That was his canon of scripture.
[i] There is a listing of Jesus’ references to the Old Testament at JewsForJesus.org, this page located at http://jewsforjesus.org/publications/newsletter/2008_09/05.
[ii] Here is the text of canon of Scripture:
Canon 24. Besides the canonical Scriptures, nothing shall be read in church under the name of divine Scriptures. Moreover, the canonical Scriptures are these: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, the four books of the Kings, the two books of Chronicles, Job, the Psalms of David, five books of Solomon, the book of the Twelve [minor] Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Tobias, Judith, Esther, the two books of Ezra, and the two books of the Maccabees. The books of the New Testament: the Gospels, four books; the Acts of the Apostles, one book; the epistles of the apostle Paul, thirteen; of the same to the Hebrews, one epistle; of Peter, two; of John the apostle, three; of James, one; of Jude, one; the Revelation of John. Concerning the confirmation of this canon, the Church across the sea shall be consulted. On the anniversaries of martyrs, their acts shall also be read.
© copyright 2012 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.
One of the first stories in the gospels is the record of Jesus being tempted by the Devil. His famous response sets the example of how we are to live.
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4 ASV)
He emphasizes here that we are to live by the word of God! Jesus fasted for 40 days to illustrate that it was more important to live by the Word of God than anything else. Jesus showed that to live by the Word of God simply means to act in every situation as God would have us instead of doing what we would like to do when what we would like to do is different from what God would have us do.
Luke records that teaching the Word of God was what Jesus did and the people “pressed” him to teach it:
And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, (Luke 5:1 KJV)
Jesus taught about the Word of God in the parable of the sower and the seed where the sower sowed seed in various places and got various results. He emphacized the point when he declared:
Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. (Luke 8:11 ASV)
This parable is about the growth of the Word of God. Jesus goes to great lengths to explain this in the verses following the parable:
And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to the rest in parables; that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. And those by the way side are they that have heard; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word from their heart, that they may not believe and be saved. And those on the rock are they who, when they have heard, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among the thorns, these are they that have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. And that in the good ground, these are such as in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, hold it fast, and bring forth fruit with patience. And no man, when he hath lighted a lamp, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but putteth it on a stand, that they that enter in may see the light. For nothing is hid, that shall not be made manifest; nor anything secret, that shall not be known and come to light. Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he thinketh he hath. And there came to him his mother and brethren, and they could not come at him for the crowd. And it was told him, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee. But he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these that hear the word of God, and do it. (Luke 8:10-21 ASV)
Here we see various responses to the Word of God in people’s lives, the ultimate being to hold fast to the Word and bring forth fruit with patience.
Luke 11:28 again emphasizes Jesus’ promotion of the Word of God.
But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it. (Luke 11:28 ASV)
In Matthew 15:5-6 we see more verses that emphasize Jesus stand on the importance of the Word of God in Peoples lives:
But ye say, whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, That wherewith thou mightest have been profited by me is given to God; he shall not honor his father. And ye have made void the word of God because of your tradition. (Matthew 15:5-6 ASV)
This is certain, that Jesus lived by the Word of God and taught others to do likewise.
© copyright 2012 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.