"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS" Our Duty To Those In Need (5:14-15) by Mark Copeland

Our Duty To Those In Need (5:14-15)


1. We have noted earlier in our study of 1st Thessalonians that Paul
   describes Christians as:
   a. "the children of light"
   b. "the children of the day" - 1Th 5:5

2. As such, we have various responsibilities and duties...
   a. To watch and be sober - 1Th 5:6
   b. To put on the breastplate of faith and love, with hope as a helmet
      - 1Th 5:8
   c. To comfort and edify one another - 1Th 5:11

3. In our previous study we noted "Our Duty To Those Who Serve"...
   a. To recognize them - 1Th 5:12
   b. To esteem them highly in love - 1Th 5:13

[Our responsibilities as "children of light" and "children of the day"
continue as we now notice "Our Duty To Those In Need" (1Th 5:14-15).
Both in the church and out, there are those in need of help from
Christians.  Some may not even be aware of their need, yet our duty
remains.  For example, we have the duty to...]


      1. The Greek word (ataktos) means "disorderly, out of ranks"
         a. Used often of soldiers who fall out of line
         b. Deviating from the prescribed order of rule
      2. The unruly Christian is one who does not abide by the teachings
         of the apostles
         a. From the beginning, faithful Christians "continued
            steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine" - Ac 2:42
         b. Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to do the same 
             - 1 Th 4:1,2; 2Th 2:15

      1. Warning brethren is a crucial component of preaching Christ
         - cf. Col 1:28
         a. Paul warned the brethren at Ephesus - Ac 20:31
         b. He encouraged Timothy to do the same - 2Ti 4:1-2
      2. Unruly brethren who do not heed the warning are to be marked
         and fellowship withdrawn - e.g., 2Th 3:6-15
         a. In an effort to save the unruly
         b. Also an effort to keep the church pure - cf. 1Co 5:1-13

[For those who are unruly, their need is to be warned.  We should never
fault those brethren who fulfill their duty to "warn the unruly", but be
thankful they have the concern and the courage to do so!  Next we learn
of the duty to...]


      1. The Greek word (oligopsuchos) literally means "small-souled,
         a. Translated "feebleminded" (KJV), "timid" (NIV)
         b. It describes those who lose heart, prone to dropping out, be
      2. Various conditions might lead some to lose heart; for example:
         a. Persecutions, tribulation - Ep 3:13
         b. Lack of immediate results - Ga 6:9

      1. Such brethren are to be encouraged, consoled
         a. Paul had done this while at Thessalonica - 1Th 2:11-12
         b. He did it earlier in this epistle - 1Th 4:13-18
      2. Thus we see need to make a distinction
         a. Some brethren (the unruly) need to be warned, admonished
         b. While others (the fainthearted) may need a more tender
            touch, to be encouraged

[Another duty similar to comforting the fainthearted is to...]


      1. The weak could be those in need - cf. Ac 20:35
      2. But more likely it refers to those whose faith is weak
         a. Who are likely to violate their weak consciences - e.g., 1Co 8:7-13
         b. Who are tempted to sin

      1. We uphold the weak by receiving them - cf. Ro 14:1-3
         a. Not to argue over things in which they have doubts
         b. Nor to despise them because of their weak faith
      2. We uphold the weak by bearing with their scruples - cf. Ro 15:
         a. Making an effort not to put stumbling blocks in their way
            - Ro 14:13
         b. Determining not to destroy our brother through the use of
            our liberties - Ro 14:14-23; Ga 5:13

[Brethren who are weak in faith need time to grow, for their consciences
to become strong.  Our duty is for "each of us to please his neighbor
for his good, leading to edification" (Ro 15:2).  Finally, we notice
several sundry duties...]


      1. Certainly we are to be patient with the fainthearted and the
      2. We are also to be patient with those we teach
         a. Even when it is time to rebuke (warn the unruly) - cf. 2 Ti 4:2
         b. Even when we are dealing with those who oppose us - cf. 2 Ti 2:24-26

      1. A principle taught by our Lord - Mt 5:44-45
      2. Expounded upon by Paul in his epistle to the Romans - Ro 12:
      3. Repeated by Peter in his epistle - 1Pe 3:9

      1. For yourselves (i.e., Christians)
         a. Such as things that make for peace and edify one another
            - Ro 14:19
         b. Such as righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience,
            gentleness - 1Ti 6:11
         c. Such as holiness - He 12:14
      2. For all (including non-Christians)
         a. Such as things honorable, and honor itself - Ro 12:17; 1 Pe 2:17
         b. Such as things that are good - Ga 6:10
         c. Such as civil obedience, kind words, gentleness and meekness
            - Tit 3:1-2
         d. Such as prayers in their behalf, and a knowledge of the
            truth leading to their salvation - 1Ti 2:1-4


1. Such is "Our Duty To Those In Need"...
   a. To warn the unruly
   b. To comfort the fainthearted
   c. To uphold the weak
   d. To be patient with all
   e. To render no evil for evil with anyone
   f. To pursue what is good for us and for all

2. In a world filled with much evil and moral depravity, those who do
   such things are truly...
   a. "children of light"
   b. "children of the day"

Is this true of us?  If not, then we need to heed another exhortation
from Paul:

   For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.
   Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in
   all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is
   acceptable to the Lord.

   And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,
   but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of
   those things which are done by them in secret. But all things
   that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever
   makes manifest is light.

   Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead,
   And Christ will give you light."
                                                     - Ep 5:8-14

Brethren, are we sleeping?

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Did Paul Endorse Slavery? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Did Paul Endorse Slavery?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Thousands of years prior to the establishment of the Lord’s Church, and long before Paul addressed the conduct of Christian slaves in the first century, various forms of slavery were commonplace. In fact, virtually every ancient civilization used slaves.1 Slavery was prevalent enough in Babylon in the 18th century B.C. to be mentioned numerous times in the Code of Hammurabi.2 The Egyptians enslaved hundreds of thousands of Israelites in the 16thcentury B.C. (Exodus 1; cf. Numbers 1:46). Historians estimate that, by the time Paul wrote his New Testament epistles in the first century A.D., five to eight million slaves resided within the Roman Empire,3 including 15-25% of the total population of Italy.4


The English term “slave” is translated from the Greek word doulos. Some translations use the term “servant” (or “bondservant”), but doulos is best translated “slave” (especially since “in normal usage at the present time the two words [“slave” and “servant”—EL] are carefully distinguished”).5
So what is meant by “slave” or “slavery”? Americans often envision ancient slavery as the kind of oppressive bondage that was popular among many slave owners in North America in the 18th and 19th centuries, when millions of Africans were stolen from their homelands and shipped across the Atlantic. Certainly, some first-century slavery was similar, but often it was quite different. For example, slavery in New Testament times was not based on race. Many foreign soldiers and their families became slaves after being captured during times of war.6 What’s more, “[s]ome became slaves because they could not pay back the money they had borrowed. The government would also take people into slavery if they could not pay their taxes. There were also many cases of poor people selling their children as slaves to richer neighbours.”7
Consider the fact that the ancients would likely interpret certain modern American practices as forms of “slavery.” For example, hundreds of thousands of Americans who work, labor nearly one-third of every year for the government. That is, Americans are forced by the government with the threat of fines and imprisonmentto pay over 100 days wages to local, state, and federal governments every year in the form of taxes. Many Americans hand over more money to the government each year than they spend on food, clothing, and shelter combined.8 According to irs.gov, U.S. citizens who fail to pay government-mandated taxes can be prosecuted and imprisoned for up to five years. And what about the military draft—“the practice of ordering people by law to serve in the armed forces”?9 To this day, all 18-25-year-old males in the U.S. are required to register with the Selective Service System in case of “a crisis requiring a draft”10—a draft in which thousands or millions of men would be forced to go to war, and possibly die for their country, whether they wanted to or not.
Please understand, I am not suggesting that we should defraud the government, or that we should refuse to submit to its authority if the draft is reinstated. I am simply suggesting that “slavery” was broadly defined in the first century. When people ask questions such as “Did Paul endorse slavery?” we must understand that there were various kinds of slavery in the first century, including some forms that resemble certain practices today which may be generally accepted and morally justified.


Did Paul “endorse” slavery? The word “endorse” means “to publicly or officially say that you support or approve of (someone or something).”11 To endorse is to advocate or champion an idea, a thing, or a person. Did Paul “endorse” slavery? Did he champion it or publicly promote it as one advocates a particular product or political candidate? No, at least not the kind of slavery most people think of when they hear the term.
In truth, Paul specifically condemned “kidnappers” (andrapodistais) or “menstealers” (KJV) as lawless and insubordinate individuals who practice that which is “contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:10). Danker, et al. defines this kidnapper as a “slave-dealer.”12 Far from endorsing such activity, Paul groups these men-stealing, slave traders with murderers, liars, and other ungodly sinners (1 Timothy 1:9-10).
Yet, five chapters later Paul wrote: “Let as many bondservants [doulos, slaves] as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed. And those who have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved. Teach and exhort these things” (1 Timothy 6:1-2). What did Paul instruct Timothy to teach the various Christian slaves in the first century? To respect, honor, and even serve their masters (i.e., to set a good example of Christianity before them).


Paul’s instruction for slaves to honor their masters is perfectly consistent with the rest of God’s Word regarding all Christians submitting to those in positions of authority. To the Christians living in the heart of the Roman Empire, Paul taught: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities…. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:1,7; cf. Matthew 22:21).13 Similarly, Peter wrote: “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors…. For this is the will of God…. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:13-17). Was the Roman Empire corrupt in many ways? Certainly. Was a Christian’s submission to Rome a blanket endorsement of the Empire? Not at all. But Christians were (and are) to be humbly compliant.
God expects all Christians to have a spirit of submission. Children are to submit to their parents (Ephesians 6:1-3). Young people are to be submissive to older people (1 Peter 5:5). Wives are to submit to their husbands (1 Peter 3:1-2). Members of local churches are to submit to their overseeing elders who rule over them (Hebrews 13:17; Acts 20:28). Local shepherds are to submit fully to the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-4). In short, all Christians, including those in leadership positions, are to “be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5). And, yes, God expects His people to humbly “submit…to every authority instituted among men,” whether to kings or to slave masters (1 Peter 2:13,18, NIV).


God did not create the practice of slavery. Furthermore, Paul’s inspired instructions regarding a slave’s submission to his master were not given because God favors a master over his slave (Galatians 3:28), or because He simply wants some people to have harder lives than others. The specific purpose that Paul gave for Christian slaves submitting to their pagan masters was “so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed” (1 Timothy 6:1).
Imagine if Christian slave after slave in the first century became less submissive to their masters as they learned more about the equality of all mankind (Genesis 1:26-27). Consider how the reputation of Christianity would have been greatly tarnished in the eyes of the unbelieving world if Paul explicitly taught that all slaves should be set free. As William Barclay noted: “For the Church to have encouraged slaves to revolt and rebel and rise against their masters would have been fatal. It would simply have caused civil war, mass murder, and the complete discredit of the Church.”14
God, in His infinite wisdom, commands all men to do their best to make the most for the cause of Christ in whatever situation they find themselves. “Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called. Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it. For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave” (1 Corinthians 7:21-23). Whether a person becomes a Christian while in slavery or in a terrible marriage, God wants His people to change from the inside out and have a positive spiritual impact on others. Be obedient to parents, husbands, governing officials, and yes, even slave owners. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Rather than giving people reasons to curse Christ and His doctrine, be obedient to all those in positions of authority “for the Lord’s sake” (1 Peter 2:13). Be honorable at all times so that you may “put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” and “by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:15,12; cf. 3:1-2). In short, “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 2:6).


Over time, with the spread of Christianity (cf. Acts 19:10,26; 21:20) and with increasing numbers of slave masters becoming Christians, the physical lives of many slaves would have improved dramatically. As slave owners with honest and good hearts learned (1) to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and (2) to love their neighbors (including their slaves) as themselves (Matthew 22:36-40), they would give up “threatening” (Ephesians 6:9). As Christian slave owners contemplated treating others how they want to be treated (Matthew 7:12), they would give their slaves “what is just and fair,” knowing that they, too, had a Master in heaven (Colossians 4:1). As slave owners submitted to Christ, they would be transformed by the Gospel, learning to be “kindly affectionate” to everyone (Romans 12:2,10), including all those who served them. In short, far from endorsing sinful slavery, Paul’s teachings, taken to their logical conclusion, would eventually lead truth-seeking masters and government officials to help bring an end to any kind of cruel, sinful captivity.15


1 “History of Slavery” (no date), History World, www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=ac41.
2 “Code of Hammurabi, King of Babylon” (no date), https://archive.org/stream/cu31924060109703/cu31924060109703_djvu.txt.
3 Walter Scheidel (2007), “The Roman Slave Supply,” p. 6, https://www.princeton.edu/~pswpc/pdfs/scheidel/050704.pdf.
4 Scheidel, pp. 3-6.
5 Frederick William Danker, William Arndt, and F.W. Gingrich (2000), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago: University of Chicago), p. 260.
6 John Simkin (2014), “Slavery in the Roman Empire,” Spartacus Educational, http://spartacus-educational.com/ROMslaves.htm.
7 Simkin.
8 Scott Greenberg (no date), Tax Foundation, https://taxfoundation.org/tax-freedom-day-2016-april-24/.
9 “Conscription,” Merriam-Webster.com, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conscription, emp. added.
10 “Who Must Register” (2008), Selective Service System, https://web.archive.org/web/20090507213840/http://www.sss.gov/FSwho.htm.
11 “Endorse,” Merriam-Webster.com, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/endorse.
12 Danker, et al., p. 76.
13 All bold text in Scripture quotations has been added for emphasis.
14 William Barclay (1956), The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (Philadelphia: Westminster), p. 141.
15 For a more extensive response to questions regarding slavery, and especially slavery in the Old Testament, see Kyle Butt (2005), “Defending the Bible’s Position on Slavery,” Reason & Revelation, 25[6]:41-47, June, https://www.apologeticspress.org/pub_rar/25_6/0506.pdf.

Did Moses Write Deuteronomy 34? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Did Moses Write Deuteronomy 34?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

The Holy Spirit is silent regarding whom He used to pen certain books of the Bible. Job and 1 and 2 Kings fall into this “unknown writer” category. Other books of the Bible, however, clearly identify the individual through whom the Holy Spirit chose to communicate His message. We know that the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians (1:1-2), while Peter wrote two of the New Testament epistles, which we call 1 and 2 Peter.
Repeatedly in Scripture, the Holy Spirit indicated that Genesis through Deuteronomy was penned by the inspired writer Moses. Exodus 24:4 indicates that “Moses wrote all the words of Jehovah.” Deuteronomy 31:9 reveals that “Moses wrote this law and delivered it unto the priests…” (cf. Exodus 34:27; Numbers 33:2; etc.). Furthermore, Bible writers throughout the Old Testament credited Moses with writing the Pentateuch (also known as the Torah or “the Law”). A plain statement of this commonly held conviction is expressed in Joshua 8:32: “There in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua copied on stones the law of Moses, which he [Moses] had written” (NIV).1 Notice also that 2 Chronicles 34:14 states: “Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the law of Jehovah given by Moses” (cf. Ezra 3:2; 6:18; Nehemiah 13:1; Malachi 4:4). As Josh McDowell noted in his book, More Evidence that Demands a Verdict, these verses “refer to an actual written ‘law of Moses,’ not simply an oral tradition.”2[NOTE: In the Hebrew Bible, Genesis through Deuteronomy was considered one unit, and thus frequently was called “the Law” or “the Book” (2 Chronicles 25:4; cf. Mark 12:26). They were not intended to be five separate volumes in a common category, but rather, are five divisions of the same book. Hence, the singular biblical references to “the Law” or “the Book.”]
The New Testament also shows no hesitation in affirming that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. John wrote: “The law was given through Moses” (John 1:17). With this Paul concurred, saying, “For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, ‘The man who does those things shall live by them’” (Romans 10:5, NKJV). Jesus Himself claimed “the Law” came from Moses. In Mark 7:10 Jesus quoted from both Exodus 20 and 21, attributing the words to Moses. Mark also recorded a conversation Jesus had with the Pharisees regarding what “Moses permitted” and “wrote” in Deuteronomy chapter 24 (Mark 10:3-5; cf. Matthew 19:8). But, perhaps the most convincing passage of all is found in John 5:46-47 where Jesus said: “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:46-47).
Even for those who are completely convinced by the evidence that Moses was the inspired writer of “the Law,” some respectfully question whether he actually penned the end of Deuteronomy, which records the death and burial of Moses, as well as “the changing of the guard,” from Moses to Joshua. How could Moses have recorded these things if he had already died?
First of all, is it possible that the same God Who gave Moses supernatural revelation about what happened at the beginning of the Creation of the Universe (which no human being witnessed) also supernaturally revealed to Moses what would happen at (and after) his death? To ask is to answer. Furthermore, God revealed a number of things to Moses about the future that he penned in the Pentateuch—from Israel’s future earthly kings (Genesis 36:31; Deuteronomy 17:14-15) to the coming of Jesus, the King of kings (Genesis 3:15; 12:1-3; 22:18; 49:10; Numbers 24:17; Deuteronomy 18:15-18). If Moses could write accurately through inspiration about events that would happen hundreds of years after his death, could he not also write about his impending death? Certainly he could.
It also may be, however, that a Bible believer could reasonably and respectfully make the case that, though Moses wrote the Pentateuch, the last few sentences in Deuteronomy could have been written by another inspired writer (possibly Joshua). Even J.W. McGarvey, who penned an entire volume defending the Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy in 1902, believed that “the account of the death of Moses, and some comments on his career…undoubtedly came from the pen of some later writer or writers.”3
Consider a possible modern-day parallel: What if a mother wrote a 200-page book titled “10 Things to Remember when Educating Kids at Home,” but as she was finishing the final few sentences (after having already concluded her 10 main points) she suffered a stroke and died? Could her husband and children publish the book and call her the author even though they actually completed the final 10 sentences of the book? Surely few, if any, would think that such actions on the part of the family would be unfair or dishonest. However, if the mother was called the author but had not written any of the book, such attribution could legitimately be considered deceitful. Or, if she was called the author, but most of the material was written hundreds of years later, that, too, would be a false claim.
In short, the account of Moses’ death serves as no stumbling block to the Christian. Perhaps Moses recorded it by divine revelation prior to his death. Or, perhaps God used Joshua or someone else of His choosing to pen it by inspiration. Either way, one can still be confident that “the Book of the law of the Lord” was “given by Moses” (2 Chronicles 34:14).


1 All bold text in Scripture quotations has been added for emphasis.
2 McDowell, Josh (1975), More Evidence that Demands a Verdict (San Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ), pp. 93-94.
3 McGarvey, J.W. (1902), The Authorship of the Book of Deuteronomy (Cincinnati, OH: Standard Publishing), p. 199.

Did Jesus Have Fleshly Half-Brothers? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Did Jesus Have Fleshly Half-Brothers?

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

The usual word in the Greek language for “brother” is adelphos. It possesses the same latitude of application that the English word possesses. Hence, it can refer to a person who shares the same religion (a spiritual brother). It can refer to a person who shares the same citizenship—a fellow countryman. It can refer to an intimate friend or neighbor. All of these uses are self-evident, and do not encroach upon the literal use of the term.
By far the most prominent use of the term is the literal sense—a blood brother or half-brother, the physical son of one’s mother or father. With reference to the physical brothers of Jesus (i.e., the sons of Joseph and Mary conceived after the birth of Christ), the literal sense is clearly in view in the following passages: Matthew 12:46-48 (the parallel in Mark 3:31-32); Matthew 13:55-56 (the parallel in Mark 6:3; in both passages, “sister” also is used in the literal sense); John 2:12; John 7:3,5,10; Acts 1:14; and Galatians 1:19. Even a casual reading of these verses demonstrates that Jesus had literal, physical brothers. The only reason the face-value import of these verses would be questioned is to lend credence to the post facto Catholic Church doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary.
At least two assertions have been advanced by those who wish to discount the existence of Jesus’ brothers, and thereby defend the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity. One attempt seeks to broaden the meaning of the Greek word for “brother” to mean “cousin.” According to this view, the “brothers” of Jesus were actually His cousins—the children of Mary’s sister. The assertion that “brother” has this enlarged meaning is made largely on the basis of the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint). The Septuagint translators sometimes used the Greek word for brother (adelphos) in Old Testament passages in which a near relative or kinsman, who was not technically a physical brother, was under consideration. This claim is true. The Hebrew term for brother (‘ach) occasionally was used to refer to a more remote descendant from a common father who was not technically a brother (Gesenius, 1979, p. 27; Harris, et al., 1980, 1:31; Botterweck, 1974, 1:190). For example, Laban, Jacob’s uncle, was referred to as Jacob’s “brother” (Genesis 29:12,15). Likewise, Abram’s nephew Lot was said to be Abram’s “brother” (Genesis 14:14,16).
However, it must be noted that the decision of the Septuagint translators to adjust to the nuances of the Hebrew term does not prove that the Greek term adelphoshad the meaning of “cousin” in the passages referring to Jesus’ kinsmen. After listing a few Old Testament verses where a broader meaning than strictly “brother” is in view, Bauer noted that such passages “do not establish the meaning ‘cousin’ for adelphos; they only show that in rendering the Hebrew ‘achadelphos is used loosely in isolated cases to designate masculine relatives of various degrees” (Arndt and Gingrich, 1957, p. 15, emp. added). In other words, no linguistic justification exists to support the notion that adelphoi could refer to the “cousins” of Jesus. The Septuagint translators employed adelphos for ‘ach in those passages where additional contextual evidence clarified the intended meaning. No such contextual evidence exists in the allusions to Jesus’ brothers in the New Testament, and is therefore an irrelevant comparison.
When we come to the New Testament, where the reference to the brothers of Jesus occurs, Von Soden correctly listed only two possible meanings for adelphos, namely, “either ‘physical brotherhood’ in the strict sense or more generally the ‘spiritual brotherhood’ of Israelites or Christians” (Kittel, 1964, 1:144). A broadened meaning for adelphos (to refer to a cousin) does not exist in the New Testament. As Walther Gunther clarified: “In no case in the New Testament can adelphos be interpreted with certainty in this sense” (Brown, 1975, 1:256). That’s putting it mildly. McClintock and Strong explained: “[W]hen the word is used in any but its proper sense, the context prevents the possibility of confusion…. If, then, the word ‘brethren’…really means ‘cousins’ or ‘kinsmen,’ it will be the only instance of such an application in which no data are given to correct the laxity of meaning” (1968, 895, emp. in orig.). Lewis stated even more decisively: “ ‘Brothers’ (adelphoinever means ‘cousins’ in New Testament Greek” (1976, 1:181, emp. added). Indeed, the Greek language had a separate and distinct word for “cousins”—anepsioi (e.g., Colossians 4:10). When a nephew was meant, the relationship was clearly specified (e.g., Acts 23:16). To summarize: “There is therefore no adequate warrant in the language alone to take ‘brethren’ as meaning ‘relatives,’ and therefore the a priori presumption is in favor of a literal acceptation of the term” (McClintock and Strong, 1:895).
Further, when referring to Jesus’ brothers, the expression “his brothers” occurs nine times in the Gospel accounts and once in Acts. In every instance (except in John 7:3,5,10), the brothers are mentioned in immediate connection with His mother, Mary. No linguistic indication whatsoever is present in the text for inferring that “His brothers” is to be understood in any less literal sense than “His mother” (see Alford, 1980, pp. 152-154). Likewise, the contemporaneous Jews would have construed the terms “brothers” and “sisters” in their ordinary sense—like our English words—unless some extenuating circumstance indicated otherwise. No such circumstantial indication is present.
Additionally, if the phrase “brothers and sisters” means “cousins” in Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3, then these “cousins” were the nephews and nieces of Mary. But why would the townspeople of Nazareth connect nephews and nieces of Mary with Joseph? Why would the townspeople mention nephews and nieces at all while omitting other extended family relatives? The setting assumes that the townspeople were alluding to the immediate family of Jesus. Barnes noted that to recognize these brothers and sisters as the sons and daughters of Joseph and Mary is the “fair interpretation,” and added, “the people in the neighbourhood [sic] thought so, and spoke of them as such” (1977, 1:150). As Matthews commented, “Joseph, Mary, and their children were recognized as a typical family of Nazareth, and when Jesus began his unusual career, they merely asked if He was not a member of this family mentioning their names. If these children were nephews and nieces of Mary, why are they always associated with her and not with their mother?” (1952, pp. 112-113, emp. added).
A second assertion maintains that the brothers and sisters of Jesus were the children of Joseph by a previous marriage. Of course, this alleged prior marriage is without any biblical support whatsoever. The New Testament is completely silent on the matter. To postulate its occurrence, at best, is to introduce a question regarding Joseph’s own marital eligibility in his relationship with Mary.
In addition to the verses that allude to the brothers and sisters of Jesus, a corroborative verse is seen in Matthew 1:25. When Joseph awoke from a dream, wherein an angel of the Lord explained the circumstances of his wife’s pregnant condition, Matthew wrote that Joseph “knew her not until she had borne a son.” Use of the word “knew,” a common euphemism for sexual intercourse, means that Joseph and Mary abstained from sexual relations prior to the birth of Jesus. While it is true that the Greek construction heos hou (until) does not necessarily imply that they engaged in sexual relations after the birth of Jesus, the rest of the New Testament bears out the fact that where this phrase followed by a negative occurs, it “alwaysimplies that the negated action did take place later” (Lewis, 1976, 1:42, emp. added). Bruce observed: “Subsequent intercourse was the natural, if not the necessary, course of things. If the evangelist had felt as the Catholics do, he would have taken pains to prevent misunderstanding” (Nicoll, n.d., 1:69). Alford agreed: “On the whole it seems to me, that no one would ever have thought of interpreting the verse any otherwise than in its prima facie meaning, except to force it into accordance with a preconceived notion of the perpetual virginity of Mary” (1980, 1:9).
The insistence that Mary remained a virgin her entire life is undoubtedly rooted in the unscriptural conception that celibacy is spiritually superior to marriage and child bearing. In both the Old and New Testaments, the Bible speaks of marriage as an honorable institution that was intended by God to be the norm for humanity from the very beginning of the Creation (Genesis 2:24; Proverbs 5:18-19; Matthew 19:4-6; 1 Corinthians 7:2; Hebrews 13:4). Mary’s marriage to Joseph, and their subsequent production of offspring after the birth of Jesus, had the approval and blessing of heaven. To engage in hermeneutical gymnastics in an effort to protect a doctrine conceived from a misassessment of the sacred and divine nature of marriage and family is the epitome of misplaced religious ardor.
M’Clintock and Strong well summarized the evidence which supports the conclusion that Jesus had literal, uterine brothers: “[S]uch a supposition is more in agreement with the spirit and letter of the context than any other, and as the force of the allusion to the brothers and sisters of Jesus would be much weakened if more distant relatives are to be understood” (1968, 1:895). It is reassuring to know that Jesus experienced familial and fraternal ties. He had four brothers and at least two sisters (Matthew 13:55-56; Mark 6:3). He experienced what it was like to have His own brothers reject God’s truth (Matthew 12:46-50; John 7:5). Fortunately, those brothers, especially James, later embraced the truth and became active members of the church of Christ (Acts 1:14; 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; 1 Corinthians 9:5). “We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same” (Hebrews 2:14).


Alford, Henry (1980 reprint), Alford’s Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Arndt, William F. and F. Wilbur Gingrich (1957), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
Barnes, Albert (1977 reprint), Notes on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Botterweck, G. Johannes and Helmer Ringgren (1974), Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Brown, Colin, ed. (1975), The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Gesenius, William (1979 reprint), Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Harris, R. Laird, Gleason Archer Jr., and Bruce Waltke, eds. (1980), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Kittel, Gerhard, ed. (1964), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Lewis, Jack P. (1976), The Gospel According to Matthew (Austin, TX: Sweet Publishing Co.).
Matthews, Paul (1952), Basic Errors of Catholicism (Rosemead, CA: Old Paths Book Club).
McClintock, John and James Strong (1968 reprint), Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Nicoll, W. Robertson (n.d.), The Expositor’s Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Did Jesus Command Infant Baptism? by Caleb Colley, Ph.D.


Did Jesus Command Infant Baptism?
by Caleb Colley, Ph.D.

Some suggest that because Jesus welcomed children (Luke 18:15 indicates they were infants), and said of them, “of such is the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17), infants should be baptized just as adults are baptized.
Christ told the disciples not to shun children, because children possess a deep humility that followers of Christ should develop (see Deaver, 1985, p. 9). Adults must receive the Gospel with the same humility and trust that characterize little children (Mark 10:15; see Hendriksen, 1975, p. 383), and there are important things we should learn from the young (see 1 Timothy 4:12). In this instance, Jesus certainly expressed appreciation and affection for infants. But what about baptism?
Jesus did not command His disciples to baptize the children—whoever brought the children did not bring them for the purpose of having them baptized (Matthew 19:13). Furthermore, while we have record of Christ’s disciples baptizing adults (John 3:22; 4:1-2; see Lyons, 2003), we have no record of them baptizing children. In fact, the disciples shunned the children at first, possibly because the disciples thought that the children “interfered” with one of the main objectives of Christ’s ministry: to baptize penitent adults. If those who brought the children did not intend for the children to be baptized, why did they bring them?
First, it is possible that those who brought the children sought a medical benefit for their children, though the text does not so imply. Many people brought their children to Jesus to have them healed of diseases. Some parents incorporate Christianity into the rearing of their children only when their children are afflicted with terrible illness (of course, parents should at all times encourage their children to learn about Christ and to live according to His precepts [see Proverbs 22:6; Henry, 1706, 1:271]).
Second, it is possible that those who brought the children perceived some religious, spiritual, or supernatural benefit available only in the presence of Jesus. However, people who benefited from Christ’s personal presence did so by hearing and applying His message, or by being healed of diseases. By taking the children into His arms, Jesus did not promote or endorse the idea that anything “mystical” happened to people who simply entered His presence.
Before baptism, one must know God (2 Thessalonians 1:8; see Coffman, 1975, p. 186). If one is baptized as an infant, he is baptized without believing that Christ is the Son of God, without repentance, and without confession. There is no New Testament record of the administration of baptism without belief, repentance, and confession (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 17:30; Romans 10:10; see Coffman, 1984, p. 296). Baptism is for forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). Infants have no sins, so they do not need to have sins remitted. Also, each account of baptism in the New Testament shows that people who were baptized had the option of refusing baptism, but infants do not have that capability.
On December 18, 1964, the New York Times reported that some Anglican Church officials were renouncing infant baptism because, according to Richard A. Vick, preacher for the St. Paul’s Westcliff-on-Sea church, performing infant baptism is “denying adults the privilege of believer’s baptism. We are denying something essential to salvation. [Infant baptism] isn’t agreeable to the word of God” (“More of Clergy...,” 1964).
Young children should be “brought to Christ” today, i.e., reared in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), though they cannot be scripturally baptized. The responsibility of bringing children to Christ rests on the shoulders of mature Christians.


Coffman, James Burton (1975), Commentary on Mark (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).
Coffman, James Burton (1984), Commentary on Matthew (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).
Deaver, Roy C. (1985), “Questions/Bible Answers,” Firm Foundation, 102[19]:9, August.
Hendriksen, William (1975), Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Henry, Matthew (1706), Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (McLean, VA: MacDonald).
Lyons, Eric (2003), “The Bible’s Teaching on Baptism: Contradictory or Complimentary?,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/617.
“More of Clergy Balk at Infant Baptism in Anglican Church” (1964), The New York Times, page 16, December 18.

Establishing Biblical Authority by Trevor Bowen


Establishing Biblical Authority


"What is meant by Bible authority?"  Bible authority refers to the process of determining which things are right and wrong, as justified or authorized by the Bible.  In this series of studies, we try to form the proper way of studying, interpreting, and establishing authority from the Bible.  This of course assumes that one believes that the Bible is the Word of God.  If you are not convinced of this, then you may want to examine both the external evidences and the internal claims of the Bible to be God's Word. 
The topic of Biblical authority is the one of the most fundamental issues to properly understanding God's Word.  It is necessary for accurately dividing, or discerning, good from evil and authorized instructions from rebellion. It is only by establishing God's authorization that any action can be justified (Colossians 3:17). It is often said that the Bible is its own best commentary. With this in mind let us look through the pages of the Bible to determine how we can use and interpret it to establish right from wrong.

Outline of Study

We will divide our study up into five sections.  Each of these will be directed to questions that are related to this broad topic.  We hope that these articles will helpful in your search for  answers.  The topics of study are:
  1. The Bible Claim as the Only Authority - If you have not already examined the internal claims of the Bible, you may want to study the claims that the Bible makes for itself.  It says that it is God's message, penned by His apostles and prophets.  It speaks of itself as a unified, completed, preserved revelation from God.  Any additions, latter revelations are strictly warned against by the Bible.  If they do exist in truth, then the Bible is false.
  2. "Do All Things According to the Pattern" - A sense of apathy has invaded the hearts of many men, maybe even our own.  We all may feel at times, that God may not care how closely we are following His Will.  This lack of respect and fear of God's will, word, and wrath has caused many to disregard God's way.  This has greatly effected many people's final decision on topics such as God's plan of salvation, His organization and work that He gave the church, as well as other Bible doctrines.  In this article we will investigate the Scripture on just how strictly God expects us to keep the pattern, which He gave us for our life and His church.
  3. The Old and New Testaments - Understanding the difference between the Old and New Testaments is one of the most important foundations that must be laid to properly understand God's Word.  Failing to realize the Bible's teaching on this matter can lead to countless erroneous conclusions, possibly costing one's own soul.  This study examines the difference between the Old and New Testament and how this difference affects our endeavor to establish Biblical authority for all things.
  4. "Do All in the Name of the Lord"  - Once we have been motivated to seek God's pattern and follow it closely, then we must search out how God expects us to determine His will from the Bible.  Initially equipped with our common sense, we examine Biblical examples of Jesus and His apostles using Scripture.  From their examples, we try to determine ways of establishing God's pattern.  This article describes the actual process of establishing Biblical authority.
  5. Differentiating between General and Specific Authority  - Failure to understand the difference between general and specific authority can also lead to mass confusion and complete abandonment of this endeavor.  Understanding this difference is key to successfully determining authority for all things.  It is the final piece to this part of our search.  Once it is completed, we will be properly equipped to pouring over the pages of God's will and solving many complex questions that would have otherwise remained unanswered.


We hope that you have enjoyed examining the many scriptures that were found in each of these articles about properly interpreting the Bible.  And, we hope that they will be beneficial to you and your search for truth.  If you are not comfortable with some of the conclusions that are found here, or on any other portion of this website, please question anyone in our contact directory.  However, if you agree with most of what's found here, then we would encourage you to continue your search by using your tools of study to establish God's pattern on how we can be saved.
Trevor Bowen