From Mark Copeland... "GROWING IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF JESUS CHRIST" Increasing In Knowledge


                        Increasing In Knowledge


1. We've seen that growing in the knowledge of Jesus is a process...
   a. That begins with the foundation of faith (trust, conviction)
   b. To which we add the element of virtue (striving for excellence)

2. To faith and virtue we are told to add knowledge (2Pe 1:5), which makes sense...
   a. What good is it to have conviction (faith) and the desire to excel (virtue)?
   b. Unless we know where to focus our faith and channel our virtue?

[Therefore knowledge is an essential element in growing in the knowledge
of Jesus Christ.  While that may sound redundant, there is a subtle
difference in two words translated knowledge in our text.  So let's first review...]


      1. As noted in a previous study, Peter uses the word "epignosis"
         in the phrase "the knowledge of Jesus Christ" - cf. 2Pe 1:2, 3,8
      2. The word epignosis {ep-ig'-no-sis} means "to become thoroughly
         acquainted with, to know thoroughly, to know accurately, know well" (Thayer)
      -- Such knowledge comes only as we demonstrate all eight of the
         "Christ-like graces" in our lives

      1. Peter uses the word "gnosis" when he tells us to add knowledge to virtue - 2Pe 1:5
      2. The word gnosis {gno'-sis} means "a seeking to know, an inquiry, investigation" (Vine)
      3. This word conveys the normal idea of knowledge:  "awareness
         through study and experience" (Wycliffe)
      -- This knowledge pertains to understanding the will of God and
         the way of salvation through Jesus Christ - cf. Lk 1:77; Php 3:8

[So we are add to our faith and virtue that knowledge (gnosis) or
information necessary to truly know (epignosis) Jesus Christ.  The
importance of knowledge is seen further as we consider...]


      1. He expected it of Israel - cf. Deut 6:6-9
      2. He foretold that it would be a characteristic of the New Covenant - cf. Jer 31:31-34
      -- To be pleasing to the Lord, we must have a knowledge of His will - Col 1:9-10  

      1. Israel was destroyed because of their lack of knowledge - Hos 4:1,6; 6:4-6
      2. Jesus will come in judgment against those who do not know God 
         - 2Th 1:8-9
      -- Without knowledge, all the sincerity and zeal in the world is in vain! - Ro 10:1-3

[Since a knowledge of God and His will is so important, how does "add" knowledge...?]


      1. Jesus is the ultimate source of true knowledge - cf. Col 2:1-3
         a. Which makes the New Testament essential
         b. For it contains the only reliable source of information
            concerning His teachings while on earth and later through His apostles
      2. The OT is also the source of knowledge - cf. 2Ti 3:14-17
         a. Not only for information about Christ and His salvation
         b. But also for that which makes the man of God complete
      -- The knowledge which we are to add to our faith and virtue is
         found only in the pages of God's Word!

      1. In our desire to obtain knowledge, certain attitudes are necessary:
         a. A heart that longs and searches for knowledge - Pr 2:3-6; cf. 1Pe 2:2
         b. A mind that values knowledge more highly than gold - Pr 8: 10-11
         c. A love for instruction - Pr 12:1
      2. A person with these attitudes will:
         a. Make daily Bible reading a priority in their life!
         b. Utilize every opportunity to study the Word of God alone, and with others!
         c. Not take such opportunities for granted
      -- Do we demonstrate that acquiring knowledge of God's Word is a priority?

[If one is diligent in their study of God's Word, their progress will be
evident (cf. 1Ti 4:15-16).  Of course, the reverse is just as true (sadly).  
Finally, perhaps a caution or two about...]


      1. Knowledge has the potential to produce arrogance - cf. 1Co 8:1-2
         a. It can "puff up" rather than "build up" (edify)
         b. "A little learning is a dangerous thing." - Pope
      2. For this reason we must temper knowledge with love and meekness
         a. Love edifies, and does not puff itself up - cf. 1Co 8:1;13:4
         b. What knowledge or wisdom we believe we have, should manifest
            itself in a spirit of meekness - cf. Jm 3:13,17
      -- There is no virtue in knowledge if it leads to arrogance!

      1. Knowledge can be destructive when misused - cf. 1Co 8:4-11
         a. When we despise the lack of knowledge in others
         b. When we run roughshod over the weak conscience of others
      2. Such abuse of knowledge produces sin in our lives - cf. 1Co 8:12-13
         a. We can actually sin against Christ!
         b. Therefore love must properly restrain our use of knowledge 
            - e.g., Ro 14:14-21
      -- Like a sharp knife, knowledge can be dangerous used improperly!


1. With the proper application of knowledge, however...
   a. We can build up our faith, as faith comes from God's Word
   b. We provide direction in which to channel our striving for excellence

2. Are we growing in knowledge...?
   a. If not, we are setting ourselves up for destruction 
       ("My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge...")
   b. If we are, then we are on the right track ("...you will never stumble")

To our faith and virtue, therefore, let us be sure to add knowledge,
that we might truly grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

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From Mark Copeland... "GROWING IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF JESUS CHRIST" Striving For Excellence


                        Striving For Excellence


1. Growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ requires developing a Christ-like character...
   a. Involving eight graces in conjunction with each other - 2Pe 1:5-8
   b. Involving all diligence to abound in these eight graces - 2Pe 1:5,8

2. We saw that this "spiritual construction project" begins with "faith"...
   a. For without faith it is impossible to please God - He 11:6
   b. For faith is the catalyst making it possible to grow - cf. Mk 9:23b

3. But developing a Christ-like character does not occur by "faith only"...
   a. To "faith" we must add "virtue"
   b. The word "add" (epichoregeo) indicating that these two must work together

[So upon the foundation of faith, to grow in the knowledge of Jesus
requires that we add the quality of "virtue"...]


      1. Paul uses it once:  "...if there is any virtue" - Php 4:8
      2. Peter uses it four times:
         a. "...proclaim the praises (virtue) of Him" - 1Pe 2:9
         b. "...who called us by glory and virtue" - 2Pe 1:3
         c. Twice in our text - 2Pe 1:5
      3. It has been variously translated in our text as:
         a. "goodness" (NIV)
         b. "moral excellence" (NASB)
      4. It has been variously explained as
         a. "excellence" (Wycliffe)
         b. "manly excellence" (JFB)
         c. "courage, fortitude, vigor, energy" (Clarke, Barnes)

      1. A. T. Robertson says that it is an "old word for any preeminence (moral, intellectual, military)
      2. The Greeks used the word:
         a. To describe "any mental excellence or moral quality or physical power" (Robertson)
         b. To represent a concept of "excellence" in all phases of
            life, to which they strove to attain (mental, moral, physical)

      1. It has the connotation of excellence, striving for moral perfection
      2. The connection of virtue with faith:
         a. We begin with faith (confidence and trust in God and Christ)
         b. We must add the quality of virtue (the desire to excel and be strong in our faith)

[Virtue is the quality of striving for excellence in our faith-based
relationship with God and Jesus Christ.  That such a quality is
necessary to grow in the knowledge of Jesus should be evident...]


      1. Without virtue, faith soon dies
         a. Faith without works is a dead faith - cf. Jm 2:26
         b. When faith is joined by virtue (a desire for excellence in our service to God)...
            1) Our faith will be a dynamic faith
            2) For works will certainly follow one who is "striving for excellence"
      2. Without virtue, we cannot grow
         a. Growing in the knowledge of Jesus requires:
            1) "giving all diligence" - 2Pe 1:5,10
            2) That we "abound" in these graces - 2Pe 1:8
         b. When faith is joined by virtue (striving for excellence)...
            1) Diligent effort will be made
            2) Abounding in these graces will be the goal of our faith

      1. Christ taught His disciples to strive for excellence - Mt 5:48
         a. He died to make it possible - He 10:12-14
         b. He established offices (functions) in His church to ensure it - Ep 4:11-13
      2. Paul considered excellence in disciples the objective of his ministry - cf. Col 1:28-29
         a. He therefore encouraged the Corinthians to this end - 2 Co 7:1
         b. He told Timothy that this was the design of Scripture - 2 Ti 3:16-17

[How can we hope to grow as disciples, to truly come to know our Savior
and Lord, unless we add to our faith the quality of virtue?  Without a
strong desire for excellence, especially in our relationship with
Christ, our faith will be weak and possibly die altogether!  So let's


      1. The purpose or design of the Word is to make us perfect - 2 Ti 3:16-17
      2. Give ourselves to reading and meditating upon it, and ...
         a. We shall be like a strong fruitful tree - Ps 1:1-3   
         b. We shall grow in wisdom and understanding - Ps 119:97-99
      3. We are therefore encouraged to meditate upon that which
         contains virtue (as surely the Word does!) - Php 4:8

      1. We are also encouraged to emulate Paul - Php 4:9
      2. He described and displayed his own striving for excellence - Ph 3:12-14
         a. Never consider yourself as having reached it - Php 3:12a
            1) Don't remain satisfied with the spiritual condition you are in
            2) Admit that you always have room to grow
         b. Forget what lies behind - Php 3:13a
            1) Don't rest on your "laurels" (past accomplishments)
            2) Don't allow past "mistakes" to prevent future progress
         c. Reach forward to what lies ahead - Php 3:13b
            1) Look ahead with optimism
            2) Keep your eye on the prize that awaits - cf. 2Ti 4:8,18
         d. Press on - Php 3:12b,14
            1) Never give up
            2) Be like the runner in an endurance race - cf. He 12:1-2

[Develop this "mindset" (cf. Php 3:15), and we will have developed the
"arete" (virtue) our faith needs to grow in the knowledge of Jesus
Christ!  Finally, a thought or two about...]


      1. Does our daily walk with God suggest we are striving for excellence?
      2. Are we seeking to excel in our relationship with God?
         a. By reading His Word daily (listening to Him)?
         b. By praying without ceasing (talking to Him)?
      3. Are we seeking to excel in our service to God?
         a. Determining and developing our talents?
         b. Using those abilities in service to God and others?
      -- If we have added virtue to our personal walk of faith, our
         progress will be evident to others - 1Ti 4:13-16

      1. Does our involvement in the services of the church suggest we are striving for excellence?
      2. Do we utilize opportunities to increase our faith?
         a. By attending the Bible studies offered by the church?
         b. By preparing for them, and being an active contributor to the studies?
      3. Do we exercise opportunities to encourage others?
         a. By attending the assemblies of the church?
         b. By participating in the services, exhorting others before and after?
      -- If we have added virtue to our public walk of faith, we will be
         an example worthy of others to emulate - Php 3:17


1. The Christian who adds virtue to their faith does not remain static...
   a. He or she will not be content with their current level of faith and service
   b. Like Paul, they will desire to press on
   -- For they are striving for excellence!

2. When a Christian adds virtue to their faith...
   a. They are more likely to add other qualities to their faith
   b. Such as knowledge, self-control, etc.
   -- For they are striving for excellence!

To grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, then, let us seek to
add to our faith the quality of virtue!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

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Lessons From the Raptors by Rhonda Thompson


Lessons From the Raptors

by Rhonda Thompson
Hawks and eagles are two of the many different raptors or “birds of prey,” which means that they hunt other animals for food. Birds of prey are part of God’s great design in nature. Wise King Solomon wrote that “the way of an eagle in the sky” was “too wonderful for me, … which I do not understand”(Proverbs 30:19)
Hawks and eagles fly mainly by soaring, which means they glide upward on rising air currents. Their flight looks easy, as if it takes little or no effort. Their Flight looks easy, as if it takes little or no effort. But God gave them very strong muscles, and their wings and tails are specially designed by God so they can fly high in the sky. And often they are used in God’s Word to teach special lessons.
In Exodus 19:4, God spoke about delivering His people, the Israelites, from slavery in Egypt, saying that He saved them as if an eagle had picked them up and carried them to safety. Moses said in Deuteronomy 32:11, that God protected His people like an eagle mother spreads her wings over her babies to protect them.
Hawks and eagles have very sharp teeth and claws and can swoop down on their prey at high speed. God promised that if His people refused to obey Him, He would punish them by sending a powerful nation to come and carry them far away, like an eagle carrying away another animal in its sharp claws (Deuteronomy 28:49-50). He told the Israelites, through the prophet Jeremiah, that when punishment came there would be no place to hide-even if they tried to hide high in the mountains where eagles build their nests (Jeremiah 49:16).
Through His prophet Isaiah, God told His people that He could rescue them from trouble if they would only trust in Him. God reminded them that He was their Creator and was in control of His world. When they became discouraged or tired, He would give them the strength they needed-as if they could grow eagles’ wings to soar away from danger and difficult times (Isaiah 40:31).
We can learn a lot about eagles and hawks from watching them. They are special creatures designed by God. We also can learn how God wants us to live by reading about them in His Word.

Jesus Raised Lazarus from the Dead by Rhonda Thompson


Jesus Raised Lazarus from the Dead

by Rhonda Thompson
Since Jesus traveled from place to place preaching and helping people, He often depended on kindness from people for food and shelter. One place he often stopped was in the small village of Bethany, at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Luke tells us that “Martha welcomed him into her home” (10:38-39).
Lazarus became very sick and his sisters sent for Jesus. But Jesus did not go to Bethany right away. He loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus very much, but He waited two more days before going to Bethany. He told His disciples that Lazarus was “asleep,” but they did not understand. So He told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.” By the time Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead four days. There were still many people at Mary and Martha’s home trying to comfort them because their brother had died, When Jesus arrived, the sisters told Jesus that if He had been there, their brother would not have died. They believed so much in Jesus. Martha said, “Whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Their friends wept; only Jesus could help.
Jesus was very sad when He saw how upset the sisters and all their friends were. When He was taken to the grave, He cried because He shared the sorrow and understood the pain of those whom he loved? Lazarus had been buried in a tomb with a great stone rolled in front of the opening. Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” But Martha didn’t think that was a good idea. When the stone was rolled away, Jesus prayed to His Heavenly Father. He wanted this miracle to prove to the crowd, and to Mary and Martha, who He was (the Son of God). And just as important, Jesus wanted this miracle, the seventh recorded in the book of John, to glorify God. Jesus called to Lazarus and told him to come out of the tomb. Lazarus immediately walked out of the tomb, still wrapped in his burial cloths. Jesus said to take the strips of cloth off and “set him free.” Because of this miracle, many more people believed that Jesus was God’s Son, and many people glorified God by praising him.
We know that God does not raise people from the dead today, but we can read about this and other great miracles in His Word. As John said, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:30-31). By reading about miracles in the Bible, we can continue to learn about Jesus and glorify God.

God's Perfect Predators by Kyle Butt, M.A.


God's Perfect Predators

Sharks don’t need a fork or a spoon to clean their plate. God has given them everything they need to be great predators (an animal that hunts and eats other animals). Sharks can do many extraordinary things that enable them to be great hunters. In fact, their vision is so keen that in dim light they can see 10 times better than people. They can smell their food more than a mile away (that’s more than seventeen football fields)! Imagine smelling a hotdog 17 football fields away. Besides that, they have pores in their snouts filled with a special jelly that can detect electrical signals. Sharks use these pores to detect signals caused by the nervous systems of their prey. If you took two AA batteries out of your TV remote control and dropped them a mile apart in the ocean, a shark could sense their electrical signals.
Besides having keen senses, sharks can move quickly. The mako shark can swim at 40 miles an hour (most cities won’t even let cars travel that fast on their streets). In addition to traveling quickly, sharks are very flexible, which allows them to catch food by thrashing their bodies in many different directions. A shark never should chase his tail, because he probably would catch it!
God has given sharks many other special features that allow them to stay on top of the food chain. Sharks are one of the few creatures that can replace all of their teeth. If a shark bites into something too hard and it causes his teeth to chip, break, or fall out, it doesn’t matter much because a new tooth will replace it in a few days. If humans could do the same, most dentists would be out of work.
Some sharks are equipped with even more amazing features. The tiger shark can spit its stomach out of its mouth to get rid of rocks, bottles, boat propellers or anything else that can’t be digested. The shark then swallows its stomach again and is ready for its next meal.
Sharks are designed to be such good eaters that sometimes they get carried away. Inside the bellies of some sharks, people have found shoes, dogs, a driver’s license, a cow’s hoof, deer antlers, medieval armor and a chicken coop. If you live near the ocean and have lost a shoe in the past few weeks, maybe you should ask the nearest shark if he has seen it.
Some people suggest that evolution produced this great ocean predator. But evolution never could create an animal this amazing. Only God could do that—and He did! "So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind..." (Gen. 1:21).

The Watchman and the Wall by Kyle Butt, M.A.


The Watchman and the Wall

Have you ever seen a huge skyscraper or looked at a statue that made you seem as small as an ant? Humans have built some very big things in their history, but the biggest thing humans ever built was not a building or a statue, but a wall.
The Great Wall of China is the largest man-made structure in the world. It stretches over 3000 miles and reaches heights of 30 feet. The top is wide enough to drive huge trucks on. If you took all the bricks from the Great Wall of China, you could build a 5-foot-high, 3-foot-wide wall that would circle the entire Earth.
What in the world would someone do with a wall that big? In the early years of Chinese history, destructive raiders riding huge horses would come down from the north and plunder the villages of China. The wall was built to stop these raiders. On top of the wall, many tall towers were built where watchmen would sit to watch for these raiders. When the watchmen spotted a band of raiders, they would light great piles of wood, hay, and wolf dung that produced huge pillars of black smoke. The plan worked very well, and few enemies could get past the wall when it was well attended.
The Bible tells us a story of a watchman much like the ones that used to man the towers of the Great Wall. The watchman in the Bible, however, blows a trumpet to warn of enemy attack instead of lighting a fire. In Ezekiel 33:1-10, God told the prophet some rules about watchmen. If a watchman sees the enemy and blows his trumpet to warn the people in the city, he has done his job well. However, if he sees the enemy and does not warn the people by blowing his trumpet, then the Lord will hold him responsible for all the bad things that happen to the city.
Ezekiel was a preacher of the Word of God. God told him that he was just like a watchman. If Ezekiel told the people God’s will, then he would be a watchman who did his job well. If Ezekiel did not tell the people God’s will, then God would hold him responsible for the bad things people did. We are watchmen too, because we know God’s Word. Are we blowing our trumpets to warn the world?

The Deep Places by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

The Deep Places

by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


In Genesis, when Moses told about how God created the Earth, he wrote that "darkness was on the face of the deep" (1:2). The Hebrew word Moses used for "deep" often is used to refer to an abyss within the oceans, or the extreme depths of the seas. The psalmist said that in God’s hand "are the deep places of the earth…the sea is His, for He made it" (95:3-5). The psalmist also wrote that "whatever the Lord pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places" (135:6).
Humans always have been intrigued with such mysterious "deep places"—which is not surprising, considering that oceans cover around 72 percent of the Earth (336 million cubic miles of water that reaches an average depth of over 2 miles!). In 1873, the British ship,H.M.S. Challenger, discovered what now is known as the Mid-Oceanic Ridge—over 37,000 miles of underwater mountains! In 1951, the H.M.S. Challenger II discovered the deepest place on the planet—a spot named in its honor as the Challenger Deep.
Today, we have sophisticated means of researching the oceans. In the early 1930s, Otis Barton and William Beebe invented the bathysphere (bathys is Greek for "deep"), which was a tethered, hollow steel ball that took scientists 3,028 feet below the surface. In 1948, Auguste Piccard invented submersible vessels known as bathyscaphes, the most famous being the Trieste(which, in 1960, investigated the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench near Guam and dove to a depth of 35,800 feet—a world record that still stands). In 1964, Allyn Vine of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution developed a "deep submergence vehicle" (DSV) known as Alvin, which can dive to 14,764 feet. "Remotely operated vehicles" (ROVs), can go even deeper—but without people. The Japanese constructed an ROVknown as the Shinkai 6500 that can go deeper than any other craft in the world.
When we go into the "deep places," what do we find? In 1977, scientists working near the Galapagos Islands found thermal vents teeming with bacteria surrounded by peculiar, 8-inch-long tube-shaped worms and clams the size of dinner plates. We have discovered fish that can live at depths of 27,460 feet, organisms that light up like Times Square, bacteria that can live on hydrogen sulfide (a substance that is deadly for most life), and, of course, the fascinating 64-foot-long giant squid.
Who do we have to thank for all of these weird and wonderful creatures and sights that live in "the deep places"? The psalmist answered that question long ago when he wrote of God: "The sea is His, for He made it" (95:5). How grateful we should be to our great God for the oceans and their inhabitants.

Precious Metals and Gems in the Bible by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.


Precious Metals and Gems in the Bible

by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.
What we have treasured through the ages has not changed much. We can go all the way back to the second chapter of Genesis and read about the gold of Havilah (Genesis 2:11-12). The Bible tells us that Abram was rich in gold and silver, and Solomon's treasures were legendary (Genesis 13:2; 2 Chronicles 1:15).
The ark of the covenant and other items for the tabernacle were lavished with gold, as was the temple in Solomon's time (Exodus 25-26; 1
Kings 6:19-22).
A handy list of valuable gems from Old Testament times can be seen in the description of Aaron's breastplate. This was a special item of clothing worn by the high priest of Israel. Attached to fine cloth, and mounted on gold, were twelve precious and semi-precious stones. Each stone represented a tribe of Israel. Here is the arrangement listed in Exodus 39:10-13:
sardius, topaz, emerald turquoise, sapphire, diamond jacinth, agate, amethyst/beryl, onyx, jasper.
(Some Bible versions give slightly different names because it is very hard to translate the original He­ brew words.)
At the other end of the Bible we find the apostle John using all sorts of precious stones and metals to de­ scribe his vision of heaven (Revelation 21:10-21). This New Jerusalem had walls of jasper, and the city it­ self was made of pure gold. The walls had twelve foundations, each decorated with a precious stone, and it had twelve gates, each made from pearl. Here are the gemstones that John saw on the foundations:
jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, and amethyst
It is no coincidence that these are similar to the gemstones on Aaron's breastplate. But in John's vision of heaven, the foundations represented the twelve apostles, while the gates represented the twelve tribes of Israel. The Holy Spirit wanted people to see a connection between the New Jerusalem and the Old Jerusalem. In the old city, the high priest served the twelve tribes of lsrael, but in this new city, there will be a place for all the faithful children of God. Isn't it wonderful that we have a beautiful home waiting for us in heaven if we love God and keep His commandments?

Fire, Fire, Fire by Kyle Butt, M.A.


Fire, Fire, Fire

Fire comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes we see it as a huge forest fire, destroying everything in its path. Sometimes we see it on a tiny match, lighting a charcoal grill. But one thing is certain: whether it comes in small sizes or large ones, it is both useful and potentially dangerous.
What is this useful-but-dangerous thing known as fire? Fire has been on the Earth for a very long time. Every civilization has tried to understand and explain what makes fire do the things it does. What we have learned so far is that fire is a chemical reaction between three things—heat, fuel, and different types of gases such as hydrogen or oxygen. When these three components are present in the correct amounts, combustion occurs. (Combustion is just a fancy word for burning.) Generally, when things combust they form a flame like you see on the tip of a match. Sometimes, however, no flame appears. Hot coals glowing under a grill are a good example of combustion with no flame.
Fire (combustion) is one of the most essential chemical reactions in the entire Universe. Just look at Earth’s food chain. The Sun is a huge ball of fire. Plants get their energy directly from the Sun, and animals get their energy from the plants or other animals that eat the plants. Then humans eat the plants and animals. Without the fire of the Sun, plants could not grow and humans eventually would die of starvation. That makes combustion very important to our world.
The combustion of the Sun is very important, but fire on the Earth is vital as well. Did you know that 85 percent of the world’s energy comes from combustion? It is used to make car parts, heat homes, cook food, and produce thousands of other goods and services. It is an invaluable tool for industries and homes.
However, fire does not always help mankind. Occasionally it destroys lives and property. Every year, fires kill hundreds of people and destroy millions of dollars worth of property.
In James 3:6, the Bible says that "the tongue is a fire." It can be used to build people up, or it can be used to destroy them—just like real fire.
Fire fascinates young and old alike. It is extremely useful, powerful, and dangerous. God has given it to mankind to control and use. But if we are not careful, fire (and our tongues) can get out of control and destroy what is most precious to us.

What Happens to Faith When We Doubt? by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.


What Happens to Faith When We Doubt?

by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.
When Peter walked on the water toward Jesus, we can imagine that he launched out with great gusto (Matthew 14:28-33). And yet, as he glanced away from his Lord to look at the treacherous winds and waves he knew so well, it seems he lost certainty in the divine power that had borne him across the water thus far. When he returned to the boat, the Master admonished him with these words: “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (14:31).
Throughout the New Testament, “doubt” is couched in negative terms. It is something we are to avoid in prayer, for example (1 Timothy 2:8). Jesus told His disciples that they could move mountains if only they would believe, and not doubt (Matthew 21:21-22; Mark 11:23-24). Paul advised the Roman Christians that they stood condemned if they doubted the propriety of eating food sacrificed to idols (14:23). The classic example, of course, is that of the apostle Thomas—doubting Thomas. “Be not faithless,” the risen Christ urged as He presented His wounds to the incredulous disciple, “but believing” (John 20:27).
Doubt, then, is in some way an impediment to belief or faith. However, it is not the opposite of belief; it is not a denial of faith. This would be disbelief, that is, believing a claim to be false. Rather, doubt is a matter of unbelief—an occasional inability to admit a particular claim. It is a human failing that, on occasion, we simply cannot decide whether something is true. The different words translated as “doubt” in the New Testament carry with them the sense of being unstable, wavering, being in two minds, or contending with oneself. In relation to faith, doubt is a “lack of certainty concerning the teachings of Christianity or one’s personal relationship to them” (Habermas, 1990, p. 10).
Doubt, left unresolved, can become a serious problem. God holds us responsible for addressing the cause of our doubt, and for seeking the remedy so that doubt does not prevent us from doing what faith demands. If we do not know whether God answers prayers, then how can we honestly go to God in prayer? If we eat meat sacrificed to idols (or the modern equivalent), and yet we are not sure that this is something we should do, then how can we have a good conscience before God?
These are the negative consequences of unresolved doubts, but doubt may also be resolved in favor of greater faith, or even faith itself. After all, converts will not be made of people who never doubt their rejection of Christ’s saving blood.
Let us look in more detail at the case of Thomas. Apparently, like most of the disciples, Thomas had missed or refused to accept Christ’s own warnings about His death. And in those somber days after Calvary, they certainly did not expect to see Him alive again. The disciples on the road to Emmaus, for example, had hoped that Jesus of Nazareth would be the One to restore the nation of Israel (Luke 24:21). Even after these two encountered the resurrected Christ and reported their experiences to the other disciples (among whom Christ then appeared and spoke), His followers could hardly believe this wonderful turn of events (24:41). Their doubt soon evaporated in joy, not merely because their beloved Lord had risen from the dead, but because through His resurrection came the hope of salvation for all the nations of the world.
Thomas, however, missed out on this momentous event (John 20:24). The others had seen and heard the resurrected Christ; He had even shown His wounds to them. Thomas responded by demanding no less, but such a demand was an expression of weakness. Yes, the renewed faith of the other disciples was based on direct, physical evidence, but why could Thomas not trust the testimony of his closest friends? Christ’s response was to appear again for Thomas’ sake, and for the sake of all in his position. Thomas had the opportunity to touch the wounds, but he withdrew his demands and made the supreme confession: “My Lord and my God” (20:28).
The story does not end there. Christ went on to teach this vital lesson: “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (20:29). If Christianity was to succeed, people would have to put their faith, not in a continuing manifestation of miracles such as the appearance of a resurrected body, but in a well-reasoned belief that Christ was raised from the dead. The testimony of the witnesses as recorded in Scripture would have to be a critical part of that belief. Immediately following the incident with Thomas, John wrote: “These things have been written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (20:31; see also Romans 10:17; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8).
What would have happened to Thomas, and perhaps to the future church, if he had continued to doubt? Jesus dealt with this doubt, and He dealt with Thomas’ particular brand of doubt, for all time.
Doubt is a human weakness, but it is a serious matter when it affects one’s faith. That Thomas and the other disciples could doubt serves as a warning to us. From our vantage point, they had every reason to be faithful, and yet still they struggled with unbelief. Christians must be able to recognize doubt in themselves so that they can, unreservedly, make the same good confession as the apostle Thomas.


Habermas, Gary R. (1990), Dealing With Doubt (Chicago, IL: Moody).

Prophecies--True and False by Wayne Jackson, M.A.


Prophecies--True and False

by Wayne Jackson, M.A.
There is some controversy among Bible scholars relative to the etymology of the term “prophet,” as that word is employed in the Scriptures. Perhaps the best way to determine the meaning of this expression is to observe the contextual usage that is reflected in the biblical record. A good example is found in the case of Aaron, the brother of Moses. Aaron was appointed by God to be a “prophet” for Moses (Exodus 7:1). Elsewhere, Aaron’s role is described as that of a “spokesman” (Exodus 4:16). A prophet is thus one who speaks for another.
One aspect of prophecy is that of “prediction,” i.e., the ability to speak precisely beforehand of events that later are to be realized factually. Predictive prophecy, therefore, has great evidential value in establishing the divine authenticity of the biblical documents (see Jackson, 1988). Consider the following factors.
First, only God knows the future. He is able to “call the things that are not, as though they were” (Romans 4:17). He declares “the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done” (Isaiah 46:10; cf. Acts 15:18). In fact, the prophets of biblical history challenged their pagan contemporaries to demonstrate their predictive prowess so as to establish their spiritual credibility. Isaiah charged the heathen seers of his day: “Declare the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods” (41:23).
Second, if one can demonstrate the ability to declare future things that find exact fulfillment, it would follow logically that such a person, in possession of this gift, would be speaking on behalf of God. His message, therefore, would be valid. On the other hand, if one attempts to foretell the future, and his prophecy fails, the error provides clear evidence that the “prophet” is false. “[W]hen a prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah, if the thing follows not, nor comes to pass, that is the thing which Jehovah has not spoken: the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you shall not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:22).


As suggested above, prophecy affords a powerful base of evidence that corroborates the Scriptures’ claim of divine origin. Scholars suggest that there are about 1,000 prophecies altogether in the Bible—some 800 in the Old Testament, and about 200 in the New Testament. Consider the following broad categories of prophetic data.
  1. National Prophecies. There are prophecies that detail, centuries in advance, the fortunes and fates of nations. When the Babylonian empire was at its zenith, with utterly no military/political weakness apparent, Daniel foretold its demise, along with the subsequent rise of the Medo-Persians, Greeks, and Romans (see Daniel 2, 7). No one could have dreamed that these international events would occur. And yet they did, as every student of history knows. The prophecies are so astounding that radical critics have felt compelled to re-date the book of Daniel (placing it in the second century B.C.), so as to suggest “history” instead of “prophecy.”
  2. Personal Prophecies. Some Old Testament prophecies deal specifically with individual persons. The role of Josiah (cf. 1 Kings 13, 2 Kings 23) was prophesied three centuries before the king’s birth. The mission of Cyrus, King of Persia (to deliver Judah from Babylonian Captivity), also was described 150 years before the illustrious ruler came to the throne (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1-7).
  3. Messianic Prophecies. The Old Testament contains more than 300 prophecies that focus upon the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth (Collett, n.d., p. 84). He was to be the woman’s seed (Genesis 3:15), from the lineage of Abraham (Genesis 22:17-18), born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), to the virgin (Isaiah 7:14), etc. Mathematician Peter Stoner estimated that the odds of one person accidentally fulfilling just eight of the many Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah is on the order of 1 in 1017—a figure far beyond circumstantial possibility (1963, p. 107).
Prophecy, therefore, is a powerful packet of evidence that supports the case for Bible inspiration. However, it must be noted carefully that the gift of prophecy—clearly operative during those bygone ages when the biblical documents were being prepared—was terminated near the end of the first century A.D. The inspired Paul made it quite clear that supernatural “gifts,” including that of prophecy, were to cease “when that which is perfect is come” (see 1 Corinthians 13:8-10). The term “perfect” translates the Greek expression to teleion—literally, “the complete thing.” It stands in contrast to “the in-part things,” i.e., the prophetic gifts (as vehicles of revelation), mentioned within the context. W.E. Vine noted: “With the completion of Apostolic testimony and the completion of the Scriptures of truth (‘the faith once for all delivered to the saints,’ Jude 3, R.V.), ‘that which is perfect’ had come, and the temporary gifts were done away” (1951, p. 184).


Since predictive prophecy is such a compelling line of argumentation, it comes as no great surprise that unscrupulous religionists, both ancient and modern, have sought to capitalize upon this phenomenon. In the history of Israel, both Zedekiah (1 Kings 22) and Hananiah (Jeremiah 28) were false prophets. Jesus Christ personally warned: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15).
In the balance of this discussion, I will call attention to some of the people, in relatively modern times who have attracted attention to themselves by their claim of being able to predict the future either by exercising the gift of prophecy, or by purporting to have special insight into the Bible so as to foretell such matters as “the end of time,” etc. The glaring relief between these pretenders, and the great prophets of the Bible, will be shocking.


“Nostradamus” was the pseudonym of Michel de Notredame, a French physician/astrologer of the sixteenth century A.D. In 1555, he published a book of rhymed prophecies, which secured for him a considerable reputation in an age of gross superstition. Though his utterances were woefully obscure, and the interpretations hotly debated by his most devoted followers, some have alleged that his prophetic declarations were as impressive as those of the biblical prophets. Dan Barker, a Pentecostal-turned-atheist, states that if Ezekiel was a prophet, so was Nostradamus (1992, p. 192).
The claim is ludicrous. But see for yourself. Here is one of the prophecies of Nostradamus:
To maintain the great troubled cloak
The reds march to clear it.
A family almost ruined by death,
The red reds strike down the red one.
To what does this cryptic riddle allude? Barker suggests that it foretells “the fate of the Kennedys” (1992, p. 185). With such a fertile imagination, it hardly is a mystery that Barker defected to unbelief.
The most famous oracle of Nostradamus—supposedly the best evidence for his “gift”—reads as follows:
The young lion will overcome the old one,
On the field of war in single combat:
He will burst his eyes in a cage of gold,
Two fleets one, then to die, a cruel death.
Allegedly, this passage has reference to the death of France’s king, Henry II, who was wounded in a jousting contest in 1557, and died ten days later. But here are the actual facts of history: (a) Only six years separated the ages of Henry and his opponent in the tournament; it hardly was a contest between the young and the old (Henry was only forty). (b) The accident occurred during a friendly sporting event, not on a battlefield. (c) There is no evidence that Henry was wearing a gilded visor (cage) of gold. Moreover, the king’s eyes were not damaged; a splinter from the lance pierced his skull and entered the brain. (d) The reference to “two fleets” is meaningless. (e) In addition to these significant factors, only two years before this tragic accident, Nostradamus wrote a letter to King Henry in which he described the monarch as “most invincible” (Randi, 1990, p. 173). He hardly was invincible!

Edgar Cayce

Edgar Cayce (1877-1945) has been applauded as one of the most impressive prophets of modern times. At the age of six or seven he was seeing “visions.” Cayce claimed that by sleeping with his head on his school books, he could absorb knowledge, which enabled him to advance rapidly in his education. He claimed psychic healing powers (three almonds a day is a cure for cancer!), taught the doctrine of reincarnation, and advocated a number of bizarre theological doctrines (e.g., Jesus and Adam were the same person), and said that he (Cayce) wrote the Gospel of Luke in a previous life. As a prophet, Cayce was a catastrophic failure. For instance, he prophesied that during the early portion of a forty-year span (1958-98) a tilting of the Earth’s axis would produce drastic physical alterations of our planet. “The earth will be broken up in the western portion of America. The greater portion of Japan must go into the sea,” etc. (Stern, 1967, p. 37). Cayce’s apologists claim that he predicted World War II. And yet, Jess Stern, who did more to popularize Cayce than any other writer, wrote: “Edgar Cayce was as stunned as anybody else when the bombs dropped on Pearl Harbor” (1967, p. 16).

Jeane Dixon

Jeane Dixon, a Roman Catholic matron who claims to be inspired with the gift of prophecy, says that she began peering into the future when she was about five years of age. She has thousands of followers throughout the country who believe her claims. But what do the following Dixon prophecies have in common? Russia would be the first nation to land a man on the Moon. World War III was to break out in October 1958. Walter Reuther would be a Democratic candidate for President in 1964. There would be no significant legislation passed by Congress in 1965 (the year of the Medicare and Civil Rights Bills). The common thread in all these prophecies is that they all proved false! These are but a fraction of the failed oracles that Dixon viewed in her $8,000 crystal ball (Davidson, 1965, p. 139). On one occasion she predicted that John F. Kennedy would be elected President in 1960. She apparently forgot about that prophecy though, because in 1960 she declared that Nixon would be the election victor. Moreover, Ms. Dixon once prophesied that Nixon had “excellent vibrations for the good of America” and would “serve [his] country well” (Time, 1965, p. 59). How curious that her crystal ball never previewed the disgrace that would befall the 37th President (the only one ever to resign). But “the most significant and soul-stirring” vision she ever received asserts that: “A child, born somewhere in the Middle East shortly after 7 a.m (EST) on February 5, 1962, will revolutionize the world. Before the end of 1999 he will bring together all mankind in one all-embracing faith. This will be the foundation of a new Christianity, with every sect and creed united through this man who will walk among the people to spread the wisdom of the Almighty Power” (Montgomery, 1965, p. 171). This new “Messiah” better get busy, for the century is almost gone!

Joseph Smith

The Mormon Church was founded by Joseph Smith Jr., who claimed to be a prophet of God. Mormons are thus required to “give heed unto all his words and commandments” (Doctrine & Covenants, 21:4-5). It is, of course, a matter of historical record that many of Smith’s prophecies proved false. For example, the “seer” prophesied that the American Civil War of the mid-1800s would become so intense that “war shall be poured out upon all nations” (D&C, 87:1-3), resulting ultimately in the “full end of all nations” (87:6). In 1835 he declared that the “coming of the Lord” would “wind up the scene” within fifty-six years (Roberts, 1950, 2:182). Smith foretold that the Mormon temple would be erected in Independence, Missouri (D&C, 57:1-3). None of these prophecies was fulfilled, and they have been a source of humiliation to Mormon leaders.
Occasionally, a Mormon writer will attempt to justify Smith’s prophetic blunders. One such effort is reflected in a book titled, A Ready Reply, by Michael T. Griffith. Griffith contends that after “studying prophecy for several years” he “deduced” that there are certain rules that must be considered in evaluating this topic. One of these rules is: “A prophet can be mistaken about certain details of a prophecy but correct with regard to its central message” (1994, p. 23). Mr. Griffith’s “deducer” is in need of repair. There is a logical axiom which affirms that the total of a thing is equal to the sum of its parts. In other words, if the details of a prophecy are incorrect, the prophecy per se cannot be correct.

William Miller and Ellen G. White

William Miller (1782-1849) was the driving force behind the movement that eventually became the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Miller was a Baptist minister initially. He developed an interest in prophecy and, after a two-year study, claimed that he had determined the precise time of the Lord’s return to Earth. It would occur on March 21, 1843. When this date came, and Miller’s prophecy was not fulfilled, he revised his calculations, and reset the date at October 22, 1844. When that prediction likewise proved false, thousands abandoned the Millerite movement.
Later, however, Ellen G. White would breathe new life into the disillusioned remnant. She, too, would accept the designation “prophetess.” “Almost every aspect of belief and activity of the Seventh-day Adventists was encouraged or inspired by a vision or word from Mrs. White” (Hoekema, 1963, p. 97). Adventists claim that between 1844 and 1915, Ellen White had more than 2,000 visions. An Adventist writer says that: “Some [of these] are in the process of being fulfilled, while others still await fulfillment” (Damsteegt, 1988, p. 225).

Hal Lindsey

In the early 1970s, Hal Lindsey’s book, The Late Great Planet Earth, became a runaway best seller in religious circles. Like many others, Lindsey also tried his hand as a prognosticator—especially with reference to the return of Christ. He suggested that the “generation” witnessing the rebirth of Israel as an independent nation (which occurred May 14, 1948) would be that generation alive at the Second Coming of Christ. Hear him comment on Matthew 24:34: “What generation? Obviously, in context, the generation that would see the signs—chief among them the rebirth of Israel. A generation in the Bible is something like forty years. If this is a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948, all these things could take place” (1970, p. 43). What was “obvious” in 1970, was not so obvious later. In an article published inEternity magazine, January 1977, Lindsey waffled, and stretched his forty-year span to perhaps a century!

Harold Camping

Harold Camping has a nationally syndicated television program out of Oakland, California. His greatest claim to fame is a book that he produced in 1992. It was titled 1994? Perhaps the most telling portion of the title is that question mark. The massive volume of more than 550 pages concludes in this unimpressive fashion: “The results of this study indicate that the month of September of the year 1994 is to be the time for the end of history” (1992, p. 531). September of 1994 should have been the end of Mr. Camping’s career as a teacher, but it wasn’t because in their own blindness, people continue to follow the blind.


There is not a more significant truth to be emphasized at this concluding point than this: the Bible is God’sfinal prophetic word to humanity. Do not listen to those who claim special predictive abilities, or to those who twist the Scriptures in an effort to fulfill a personal prophetic agenda.


Barker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith in Faith (Madison, WI: Freedom from Religion Foundation).
Camping, Harold (1992), 1994? (New York: Vantage).
Collett, Sidney (n.d.), All About the Bible (London: Revell).
Damsteegt, P.G., editor (1988), Seventh-Day Adventists Believe... (Washington, D.C.: Ministerial Association General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists).
Davidson, Bill (1965), “Jeane Dixon Predicts the Future,” Ladies Home Journal, 82:74.
Doctrine & Covenants (1952), (Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
Griffith, Michael (1994), A Ready Reply (Bountiful, UT: Horizon).
Hoekema, Anthony A. (1963), The Four Major Cults (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Jackson, Wayne (1988), “Principles of Bible Prophecy,” Reason & Revelation, 8:27-30, July.
Lindsey, Hal (1970), The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Montgomery, Ruth (1965), A Gift of Prophecy—The Phenomenal Jeane Dixon (New York: William Morrow).
Randi, James (1990), The Mask of Nostradamus (New York: Charles Scribners Sons).
Roberts, B.H. (1950), History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret).
Stern, Jess (1967), Edgar Cayce—The Sleeping Prophet (New York: Bantam).
Stoner, Peter W., and R.C. Newman (1963), Science Speaks (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Time (1965), “Seer in Washington,” 86:59-60, August 13.
Vine, W.E. (1951), I Corinthians—Local Church Problems (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
[See related articles on Charles Taze Russell and Fred W. Franz]