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Was St. Nick a Real Figure in Church History?

Core Christianity / Adriel Sanchez and Bill Maier
The Truth Network Radio
December 24, 2020 1:00 am

Was St. Nick a Real Figure in Church History?

Core Christianity / Adriel Sanchez and Bill Maier

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December 24, 2020 1:00 am

Episode 604 | Adriel Sanchez and Bill Maier answer caller questions.


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1. My wife and I were at a baptismal service recently where the pastor said that when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist all of the sins of the world were placed on him at that time and he then carried them with him until he went to the cross. We believe this is incorrect and that the sins of his people were placed on him at the cross and not at his baptism. What do you think?

2.  I have a 5 year old grandson who is very smart. I started reading Bible stories to him but when he sees Adam he asks, “is this God?” or Noah, he asks, “is this God?” Any male he associates with God. How can I explain an abstract concept as He cannot touch or see I am stumped can you help me?

3. I have heard for the first time folks say that St. Nicholas was a real historical figure who fought against heretics in the ancient Christian church. Does this give us reason to celebrate the Santa Clause folklore during Christmas? I am not sure how the myth and this figure are related in the first place.

4. I want to ask about the Spirit’s voice as it relates not quite to prophesy, but when people “hear the voice of the Lord” when they pray, read the bible, or when they are at church, etc. Oftentimes this will happen and folks will feel inspired to say something to someone to encourage them and they will interpret that as the voice of the Spirit, prodding them to do so. This does not quite fit with “prophesy,” and people who claim to feel this voice of the Lord wouldn’t claim this to be prophesy, and I am not aware of anything in scripture that contradicts this notion. Am I just too stubborn with my cessationist opinions?

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Some Christians love Santa Claus. Others have reservations. But was St. Nick a real figure in church history?

That's just one of the questions we'll be answering on today's edition of CORE Christianity. Well, he's 12 years old, and he's headed to Georgia Tech. We've told you before about Caleb Anderson. He's a brilliant 12-year-old who's been attending high school and taking classes at a Georgia technical college. And now Caleb has been accepted at Georgia Tech. He'll be starting as a freshman next fall. He plans to study aerospace engineering and wants to be an astronaut. And Caleb just received some more great news.

TV host Steve Harvey has offered to cover the cost of his tuition. By the way, here's Caleb's advice for other kids. If you want to succeed, you have to do two things. Number one, you have to learn to fail.

And the second part is, you always try. Wow, that's so cool. It's pretty amazing how you just have some people who, for whatever reason, natural talent, but really also the gifts that God gives to us. People who really shine and do really well in academics. I think that's just amazing. I think a lot of it has to do with his parents, too, have kind of been encouraging this all along.

And they are very bright people themselves. Well, congratulations, Caleb. We pray that you do really well in your freshman year. Well, here's our first question of the day, Adriel. It comes from Greg in Christman, Illinois. My wife and I were at a baptismal service for a young lady, and the pastor stated that when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, when he went into the water, all the sins of the world were placed on him at that time, and he carried him with him until he went to the cross. My wife and I believe that is incorrect teaching.

We have searched the Gospels, and we believe that is incorrect, that the sins of the world were not put on Jesus until he was on the cross. I'd like to know your comments on this. Thank you. Goodbye.

Hey, Greg. Thanks for giving us a call and for being Berean, for searching the Scriptures. I think it's important for people in the church to understand that they have an obligation as well to dig into the Scriptures so that when they hear something from the pulpit or at a baptismal service that doesn't ring true, that contradicts other passages of Scripture, they're able to discern for themselves. Is this in line with God's word?

I want to commend you. I've actually never heard that interpretation of Jesus' baptism, this idea that when Jesus was baptized, that's when the sins of the world were placed on him. Actually, I think if you go to a place like Isaiah 53, the prophecy of the suffering servant, the prophecy of our Lord Jesus Christ and his passion, passages like that make it very clear that Christ bore our sins when he was crucified. So Isaiah 53, the very beginning says, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities. Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by his wounds we are healed. You see, it's very clear, and this pastor was correct in saying that the sins of the world were placed onto Jesus.

The question is, at what point did that happen? And here, those sins being placed on Jesus is associated with the passion of Christ. And actually, I think that's precisely what the apostles teach as well in 1 Peter 2, verses 24 and 25. He's actually echoing that passage in Isaiah 53. He says, He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree. That is, on the cross. And so, brother, the scriptures are very clear that Jesus bore our sins on the tree of the cross. And what a wonderful way to begin our program for today, meditating upon the fact that Jesus has carried our sins, that through his sacrificial death we are forgiven.

So thank you for that question, and hopefully that clears things up for you a little bit. This is Core Christianity with Pastor Adriel Sanchez. Here's an email question that came in from Delsey. She says, I have a five-year-old grandson who's very smart. I started reading illustrated Bible stories to him, but when he sees Adam, he asks, Is this God? Any male he sees, he associates with God. I'm stumped as to how I can explain an abstract concept like God to him.

Yeah. Well, God is a spirit, and of course we can't see God right now. I mean, that's absolutely clear. Though we do not see him, we love him, Peter said in 1 Peter 1, verse 8. There was a time where God walked the earth, I'm thinking in particular of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus. And when people saw Jesus, they saw God, God incarnate. But Jesus ascended into heaven and is at the right hand of the Father, and so we don't see God now. What we do is we hear the word of God proclaimed, and in that way, Jesus is set before us. In fact, this is what the apostle Paul told the Galatians very clearly. He talked about how he placarded, the word that he used in Galatians there is the same word for billboard. He's saying, I billboarded Jesus to you.

How? Well, he's not saying I painted a big picture of Jesus for you, he's saying I preached Jesus and him crucified in such a vivid way that you saw him as it were with the eyes of your heart. And I think that's what we're called to do. We're called to teach the scriptures. And so I love, Delcey, that you're reading the Bible to your grandchildren and that you're trying to help them understand and know who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for them. I think sometimes, you know, with pictures, things can get kind of confusing. Some years ago, we were at the church that our congregation rents.

We meet in a building that we rent. It's a Lutheran church building, and there's this big stained glass image of Jesus in the building. And I remember after church one Sunday, it was just me and my oldest son there in the sanctuary, and my son sort of walked toward the big image and he said, I love you, God. And he was being very sincere, but he was also like kids can be confused, because that picture wasn't a picture of God. You start to realize why God gave his people the second commandment, where he talked about not making any images of God. God doesn't like to be misrepresented.

He's a spirit. And really, we can't, in any picture that we draw, encapsulate all that God is. And so we have to be careful with that, and I think with your grandson, what you can do is just stress the fact that, well, we can't see God, and God is so great.

He's so awesome that there's no picture that can fully communicate to us his greatness, his beauty, his wonder, but we do have the words of Scripture. And so give your grandchildren that. Give them the words of Scripture. I think, Delcy, of Paul's encouragement to Timothy, actually, on a couple of occasions, Paul talks to Timothy about his family, his mother, and even his grandmother. And he talked to Timothy about how from his childhood he had known the Scriptures, which were able to make him wise for salvation. Well, how did he know those Scriptures?

Through his family, through his mother and grandmother. And so you play a very important role, Delcy, in the building up of the next generation and imparting the word of God to them so that the faith might continue to grow. And so, again, I commend you and just want to encourage you to keep doing that, to keep reading the Scriptures to your grandchildren and pointing them to Jesus. This is Core Christianity with Pastor Adriel Sanchez, and our goal is to help you understand the core truths of the Christian faith, and we want to help as many people as possible gain a clearer understanding of the gospel. And we do that through this radio show, the questions we answer, the articles on our website, the different resources we produce. But, you know, we can't do it without your help.

That's right, Bill. We're a listener-supported program, and if you've benefited and been encouraged by the answers to the questions about the Christian faith that you hear on Core Christianity, we would like to ask you to please consider sending a gift now to help us continue. As a thank you for your gift of $20 or more, we'll send you our new resource, How to Read the Bible.

This is a resource that shows you how to answer some of the most important questions you hear us answer on the show. Most importantly, this resource will help you answer questions about the Bible and how its grand message points to Jesus. The How to Read the Bible resource introduces you to the history of the Bible, key concepts that help tie the Old Testament and the New Testament together, and key ideas from the main sections of the Bible, and much more. It's a 10-week study that can be used in personal devotions, Sunday school classes, or your Bible study group.

Each weekly lesson includes selected passages from the Bible, reflection questions, and explanations of the key themes every Christian should know about the Bible as a whole. To make a donation and receive this new study, just head over to forward slash bible. That's forward slash bible. Or you can call us at 833-The-Core. That's 1-833-843-2673.

And on behalf of the entire team at CORE Radio, thank you so much for your support. Adriel, here's a Facebook post that came in from Cynthia. She says, hi Pastor Adriel, I recently heard folks say that Saint Nicholas was a real historical figure who fought against heretics in the ancient Christian church. Does this give us reason to celebrate the Santa Claus folklore during Christmas? I'm not sure how the myth and Saint Nicholas are related in the first place. Ah, well I think we should give a warning here, Bill.

For those of you who are listening with your kids nearby, if you don't want us to reveal any secrets, you might want to turn the radio off. But I think doing the whole Santa Claus thing this time of year is a matter of personal conscience. I've talked to Christians who refuse to do it because they say, I feel like I'm lying to my children if I tell them that their presence came from Santa Claus.

And then I've talked to others who say, it's not that big of a deal, you know, we kind of have fun with it, sort of like the tooth fairy, that kind of a thing. But Cynthia, you are right, Saint Nicholas was a real person known, get this, for his acts of charity toward the poor, who also is said to have stood up for Christian orthodoxy. That is to say, he was a man who defended the teaching of the Bible. And maybe that's the story that we need to be telling right now, because that's the true story of who Saint Nick was. The myth was sort of birthed out of the stories of Saint Nicholas, you know, gifts of charity to children in need, as far as I can tell.

The red suit and the white beard, that's probably a later addition to the story, and one that I think is less interesting than the real story. Here's the real story behind Saint Nick. One, first, he suffered for his faith under the persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian in the fourth century. He was a guy who walked the walk.

He was willing to cling to his beliefs, despite opposition. Two, and I think this is so cool, he was in attendance at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. This was a council of Christian pastors, think of a big church conference maybe, who were basically responding to an early heresy that taught that there was a time when Jesus didn't exist. There was a group there within the church that was saying Jesus was a created being, and so these pastors came together and they said, yeah, no, that's not what the Bible teaches, and they drafted a statement against that heresy, which was known as Arianism. And so get this, here's a guy who loved the Scriptures, suffered for his faith, and lived it out with acts of charity on behalf of those who are in need.

You know what? That's, I think, what we need more of today. We need people who are going to stand up for the truth, cling to the Word of God, to the teaching of the Scripture, to Christian orthodoxy, to the right doctrine given to us in the Bible, and who don't just talk the talk, but they walk the walk. They're willing even to suffer for their faith in Jesus Christ, and they exhibit it through acts of love, acts of charity for those who are in need. And what a great thing for us to be reminded of this Christmas season as we meditate upon the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I mean, that's doctrine, that's theology, that God the Son would assume humanity, our flesh and blood, so that He might perfectly represent us, so that He might restore humanity, as it were, by uniting it to God in the incarnation, so that He might live the perfect life on our behalf, and then offer up His body to atone for all of our sins. I mean, it really is quite a story, and it's a true story. That's the true story of Christmas. And Christians, like St. Nicholas, defended that message, and were willing to suffer for it, and loved others as they shared it. And so I think maybe, Cynthia, more and more what we need to do for ourselves, for our families, really talk to our kids about that story, about who St. Nicholas really was, and about how we, through the gospel, ought to be generous givers, because of how God has blessed us and given to us.

It really is such a beautiful thing. And so I hope that that gives a little bit of clarity on who St. Nick really was, and blesses you this Christmas season. I don't know if this is true about St. Nicholas, but there is a legend that when he was probably a teenager, he heard about this poor family in his area where the daughters didn't have enough money to pay their dowry for marriage. So during the night, he put gold coins inside their home, and they never did find out who did it, but it was St. Nicholas. Again, I don't know if that's true, but that's one of those legends about him that shows his generosity.

That's right. Yeah, I've heard that same story, Bill, and I don't know 100% if it's true, but it does highlight the fact that whoever he was, I mean, he was known for these acts of charity, caring for those who were in need for the poor, and what a great example for all of us. This is Core Christianity with Pastor Adriel Sanchez, and here's a voicemail that came in through our website at This is from David in the United Kingdom.

Hi there. Thank you so much for all the work you do, especially for this podcast. It's a great blessing for me and for a lot of people I know, so thank you. I want to ask about the Spirit's voice, especially as it relates to not quite prophecy. You know, people hearing the voice of God when they pray, or when they read the Bible, or when they're meditating, or when they are in church and they get a very strong sense of something they want to say to someone, they'll interpret that as the voice of the Spirit. I don't know anything in Scripture that contradicts this, so am I just too stickly and strong in my cessationist opinions?

Thank you for any help that you can give on this matter. David, thanks for reaching out to us all the way from the UK. I'm so grateful to hear that you've been blessed by the program and that others are being blessed as well. What a joy it is for us to be able to talk about God's Word. I like the careful distinctions that you're trying to make here. What's the difference between somebody who says, I have a word from the Lord, I'm prophesying, and somebody who says, I just really have this strong sense of maybe God leading me in this particular direction. Or what about when we're reading the Scriptures and all of a sudden it's as if they're opened up to us, as if God is speaking directly to me through the preaching of the Word, or through my own Bible study as I'm reading the Scriptures.

We have to have a category for what we refer to as illumination. In other words, God opening up the Scriptures to us by the Holy Spirit. Whenever I preach a sermon, prior to preaching, I give a prayer of illumination. I ask God by the Spirit to open our hearts to the Word, because the reality is we can hear God's Word, the Bible, go in one ear and out the other. What we need is the Spirit to work with the Word and in our hearts to seal the Word to our hearts so that we might truly grasp and understand it. I don't deny that there are times when God might providentially lay something on your heart. And of course, like you, I wouldn't call that prophecy, but providential guiding, perhaps. I mean, there are different ways we can talk about this. I remember a really difficult time in my life that I didn't talk to anyone about, and having a woman in my church, an older woman, a mother in the faith we might say, walk up to me and tell me that she didn't know why, but that the Lord had placed me on her heart and that she was praying for me.

And I can't tell you how much that meant to me in the moment, more than she knew, certainly. I wouldn't go as far as to use the language that God spoke to her. I think that that can confuse things, and it's also quite a bold claim, when people say, Oh, God spoke to me, or God told me this. Sadly, I think any time some Christians feel an emotional prodding, they assume that God must be leading them to do or say this or that, and I think that that's also dangerous. I've seen that in the church, where people assume anytime they have this strong feeling or inclination that that's the Lord guiding them, and then they'll go as far as to say, Well, God is telling me to do this or that, and I think that's really dangerous. And so we have to distinguish between how God ordinarily works among us, through the word illuminating scripture to us, through faithful Bible teaching and preaching, and we have to distinguish that from the extraordinary happenings that are rare, but I think also real. Yeah, there are times where God might lay something on an individual's heart, or put someone on someone's heart, and just have a strong sense to pray for that person, or to encourage them with a particular passage of scripture, and I think there's nothing wrong with that, but of course, again, we wouldn't say that that's prophecy or some miraculous gift per se, it's just the providential guidance of God, which sometimes He blesses us with as His people. And so, may the Lord bless you, brother, and thank you for listening.

Hey David, thank you so much for listening there in the UK and for checking out our podcast. By the way, if you subscribe to that and give it a five-star review, that will help reach more people with the truth of God's word through the CoreChristianity podcast. Adriel, here's an email question that came in from Mercy, and she says, Pastor Adriel, is it necessary to understand God, or is faith in Jesus enough? Oh, that's a very interesting question. I mean, in one sense, Mercy, we can never fully understand God. We can't comprehend God as He is in His essence, because He's totally other.

He's different than we are. God isn't just a greater creature, He's the Creator. He's in His own category, and so we'll never comprehend or understand God as He is in His essence. And yet God has revealed Himself to us, Mercy, through His works, through His acts in redemptive history. And that's what we have in the pages of the Bible, is we have God's redemptive revelation of Himself, as He spoke to man and revealed His goodness, His promises, ultimately His gospel to us, and fundamentally, in the person of His Son, Jesus. I mean, Jesus, when Jesus came, Mercy said that He was revealing the Father to us. And so if you want to understand God, as it were, you look to Jesus. Jesus is the one who reveals to us the Father by the grace of the Holy Spirit. And so what we know of God, we know through what God has accomplished for us, what God has revealed to us. And that revelation reaches its height in Jesus, the one who we meditate on, the one who we look to, the one who, as I quoted that passage earlier in this program from 1 Peter, the one who, even though we don't see Him, we love Him, and we know Him, and we can have a personal relationship with Him. And so I would say, yeah, in that sense, it's very necessary to understand God, that is, how God has revealed Himself to us, and that happens through faith in Jesus Christ. And faith in Jesus is sufficient to save us, not because it's really strong, but because it holds fast to Jesus, the Savior. And that's the one that we cling to. We cling to Christ, and He's the one who saves us. And so, you know, one of the things we want to encourage on this program, Mercy, is that all of us would grow in our understanding of God through His Word.

And that's really important, you know. I think sometimes we think, well, it's just enough to have faith. Why do we have to get into all this talk about theology and Bible study, this, that, and the other? Can't we just love God?

Can't we just love each other? But let me tell you, just speaking from personal experience, the more you understand God's Word, the better you're going to love the Lord. So many of the problems that we have today in the church come from a lack of understanding of who God is and how He's revealed Himself in His Word. We have a low view of God. We don't treat Him as holy as He truly is.

We have a high view of ourselves. We don't recognize that we're as sinful as the Bible says that we are. We don't understand or fully comprehend the depth of God's love for us in Christ. And so what we do is we try to work our way to God, and we always feel let down, burdened by our failure to keep God's law. It's so important for us to know who God is, to know His love for us. And isn't that precisely what Paul prayed for, for the Ephesian Christians? He says in Ephesians chapter 3 verse 14, There's that word, to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Mercy, don't you want that?

I do. It's something each of us should want. It's something each of you should want, to be filled with the fullness of God through what? Through the knowledge of the love of God, revealed in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. That's 833-The-Core. When you contact us, please let us know how you've been encouraged by this podcast. And be sure to join us next time as we explore the truth of God's Word together.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-11 23:27:51 / 2024-01-11 23:37:38 / 10

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