From Mark Copeland... "A HARMONY OF THE LIFE OF PAUL" Paul's Life Prior To Conversion

                    "A HARMONY OF THE LIFE OF PAUL"

                    Paul's Life Prior To Conversion


1. One cannot deny the powerful impact the apostle Paul had on the growth and development of the early church...
   a. His conversion provided powerful testimony to the resurrection of Christ
   b. His missionary journeys led to the establishment of churches throughout the Mediterranean world
   -- As "the apostle to the Gentiles", he helped widen the door to the church first opened by the apostle Peter

2. He left a large imprint on the scriptures of the early church...
   a. Authoring thirteen (fourteen, counting Hebrews) books of the New Testament
   b. In the only available history of the early church,Luke devotes the majority of his book to the life and journeys of Paul
   -- Evidently the Holy Spirit saw fit to emphasize the life and teachings of Paul as an example and source for learning ab        out true discipleship to Jesus Christ

3. In this study, we shall harmonize Paul's writings with Luke's record of his life and travels... 
   a. Examining Paul's life in chronological order
   b. Collating various scriptural references relating to each period of Paul's life
   c. Noting at which points in his life Paul wrote his different epistles
   d. Briefly outlining and noticing the theme or highlights of each epistle in its historical setting
   e. Putting together a possible itinerary and events leading up to his final years and martyrdom

4. The objective of this study will be to...
   a. Gain a better understanding of the growth and nature of the early church
   b. Note the influence of Paul's life and journeys on his epistles
   c. Acquire insight into Paul as a servant of the Lord, that his life and work might inspire our own service to Jesus Christ

[In this lesson, we begin by noting "Paul's Life Prior To His Conversion",
 when he was better known as "Saul of Tarsus"...]


      1. Born in Tarsus of Cilicia - Ac 21:39; 22:3; 23:34
         a. Cilicia was a Roman province in SE Asia Minor (modern Turkey)
         b. Tarsus was the capital ("no mean city"), known for its
            school of literature and philosophy (said to exceed even those of Athens and Alexandria)
      2. Born of Jewish ancestry
         a. A Hebrew, or Israelite, of the seed of Abraham - 2Co 11:22
         b. Of the tribe of Benjamin - Ro 11:1
         c. A Hebrew of the Hebrews (both parents Hebrews?) - Php 3:3-4
      3. Born a Roman citizen - Ac 22:25-29
         a. Some think because Tarsus was a free city, but such a
            designation did not automatically impart citizenship
         b. Evidently one of Paul's ancestors either purchased or was rewarded citizenship
      -- We do not know the date of his birth, some place it around the time of Jesus' birth

      1. Taught in Jerusalem by Gamaliel, a Pharisee and respected
         teacher of the Law - Ac 22:3; cf. 5:34-40
      2. A son of a Pharisee, he became a strict Pharisee - Ac 23:6; 26:4-5; Php 3:5
      3. He excelled above his contemporaries in Judaism - Ga 1:13-14
      4. Was also trained as tent-maker - Ac 18:1-3

      1. He was zealous in persecuting the church, concerning the Law blameless - Php 3:6
      2. He served God with a pure conscience - 2Ti 1:3; Ac 23:1
      3. Thus he was ignorant of his blasphemy and persecution - 1 Ti 1:12-13

[His early life and training certainly put Saul of Tarsus on the "fast
track" when it came to his religious faith.  It was zeal in defending his faith that led to his brief but fervent career as...]


      1. Saul was present at the death of the first Christian martyr 
         - Ac 7:57-58
      2. He consented to the death of Stephen - Ac 8:1; 22:20

      1. Entering homes, dragging men and women to prison - Ac 8:3; 22:4
      2. Entering synagogues, imprisoning and beating those who believed in Jesus - Ac 22:19
      3. He believed it necessary to do things contrary to the name of Jesus - Ac 26:9-11
         a. Imprisoning believers by the authority of the chief priests
         b. Casting his vote against them as they were put to death
         c. Compelling them to blaspheme
         d. Pursuing them to foreign cities (such as Damascus) - cf.  Ac 9:1-2

      1. Admits he persecuted the church "beyond measure" in an attempt to destroy it - Ga 1:13
      2. It was due to his great zeal - Php 3:6
      3. Though ignorant, he was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent man - 1Ti 1:13
      4. For such reasons, he considered himself the least of the apostles, not worthy to be called an apostle - 1Co 15:9


1. From being the worst foe of the church, he was about to become one of its best friends...
   a. Saul the persecutor would soon become Paul the preacher - Ga 1:22-24
   b. Paul attributed it to the grace and mercy of God - 1Co 15:9-10; 1Ti 1:12-14

2. Every aspect of Paul's life prior to his conversion prepared him for the task the Lord would give him...
   a. His Jewish heritage and Roman citizenship suited him for preaching to both Jews and Gentiles
   b. His training by Gamaliel would serve him well in his writings on the Law
   c. His skill as a tent-maker would assist him in his travels

And of course, his conversion would serve as a wonderful example of
God's mercy:

   "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that
   Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am
   chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me
   first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern 
   to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life."
                                                   (1Ti 1:15-16)

In our next study we shall focus our attention on the conversion of
Paul.  In the meantime, have you obtained the mercy offered in Jesus Christ (cf. Tit 3:4-7)?

No matter how you have lived in the past, you can be justified by His grace! - Ac 22:16

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

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From Mark Copeland... "GROWING IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF JESUS CHRIST" With Active Good Will Towards All


                   With Active Good Will Towards All
1. As noted throughout this series, growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ involves the development of a Christ-like character... a. A development that requires diligence b. A character that includes eight graces working together in spiritual harmony 2. This Christ-like character is developed through... a. Building On Faith (faith) b. Striving For Excellence (virtue) c. Increasing In Knowledge (knowledge) d. Controlling The Self (self-control) e. Bearing Up Under Trials (perseverance) f. Seeking To Please God (godliness) g. Loving The Brethren (brotherly kindness) 3. But this "spiritual construction project" is not complete without the addition of love... a. Which serves as the epitome of Peter's list of graces b. Which must be something special, for it is often exalted above other graces 1) Exalted above faith and hope - 1Co 13:13 2) Given first place in what constitutes the fruit of the Spirit - Ga 5:22 3) To be adorned "above all" the graces mentioned by Paul - Co 3:14 [What is "love", and how is it any different than "brotherly kindness"...?] I. THE DEFINITION OF LOVE A. THE GREEK WORD IS AGAPE... 1. One of four Greek words translated love a. philia - the love of close friends or brothers b. storge - the love of family c. eros - carnal or sexual love d. agape - love which seeks the highest good of others 1) Not just friends, family, or brethren, but even enemies - cf. Mt 5:44 2) Thus it is a higher form of love than "brotherly kindness" (love of brothers) 2. It can be said that agape love: a. Does not depend upon the one being loved as having earned such love b. Is not an exclusive love (brothers only), but an all-embracing benevolence c. Is not an uncontrolled reaction of the heart, but a concentrated exercise of will d. Is a caring love, one which becomes involved in the needs of others -- Perhaps the simplest definition is the one often given: "active good will" B. BEST EXEMPLIFIED BY THE FATHER AND THE SON... 1. God the Father demonstrated agape love a. His love for sinners is completely undeserved by them - Ro 5:8 b. Naturally, His love is called a "great" love - Ep 2:4-7 2. God the Son demonstrated agape love a. By laying down His life for us - 1Jn 3:16 b. There is no "greater" love - Jn 15:13 -- Truly the Father and the Son have exemplified "active good will" towards all! [Since the Father and the Son have shown "active good will" towards all, we should not be surprised that it is required of those who would be Jesus' disciples...] II. THE DEMAND OF LOVE A. NECESSARY TO BE SONS OF GOD... 1. Jesus commanded His disciples to love their enemies - Mt 5: 43-44 2. In showing "active good will" to our enemies... a. We will be like our Father in heaven - Mt 5:45 b. We will be different than those who love only their friends - Mt 5:46-47 c. We will be perfect (complete) in the area of love and mercy, even as our Father in heaven is perfect (merciful) - Mt 5: 58; cf. Lk 6:35-36 -- Jesus expects us to follow God's example of "active good will" towards all! B. NECESSARY COMPONENT TO THE CHRISTIAN LIFE... 1. The atmosphere of the Christian life ("walk in love") - Ep 5:2 2. The garment of the Christian ("put on love") - Col 3:14 3. The motive of Christian service ("done with love") - 1Co 16:14 4. The glue of Christian unity ("knit together in love") - Col 2:2 5. The controller of Christian liberty ("through love serve one another") - Ga 5:13 -- Every facet of our lives is to be governed by "active good will" towards all! [As important love is to the Christian life, we can appreciate why Paul says "the greatest of these is love" (1Co 13:13) and "above all these things put on love" (Col 3:14). So how do we go about putting on love, or adding it to brotherly kindness...?] III. THE DEVELOPMENT OF LOVE A. LET THE FATHER TEACH YOU... 1. The Thessalonians had been taught by God - cf. 1Th 4:9-10 2. How does the Father teach us to love? a. By virtue of His character 1) God is love - 1Jn 4:8 2) His grace, mercy, longsuffering and abundant goodness are indicative of His love - cf. Exo 34:5-8 b. By virtue of His example 1) He sent His only begotten Son - 1Jn 4:9; Ro 5:8 2) He sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins - 1Jn 4:10 -- As the Father "so loved us", let us learn to love others! - 1Jn 4:11 B. LET THE SON TEACH YOU... 1. "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us" - 1Jn 3:16 2. "Walk in love, as Christ also loved us..." - Ep 5:2 3. "Love one another, as I have loved you" - Jn 13:34 -- Contemplate how Jesus died for you, and you will learn the meaning of love! C. LET THE APOSTLES TEACH YOU... 1. Paul described what love is - 1Co 13:4-8a 2. Paul prayed for His brethren regarding love a. For the Thessalonians - 1Th 3:12 b. For the Ephesians - Ep 3:17-19 c. For the Philippians - Php 1:9 -- Through diligent study of the Word, and fervent prayer, our love will abound still more and more! [And finally, some concluding thoughts regarding...] IV. THE DEMONSTRATION OF LOVE A. DEMONSTRATING OUR LOVE TOWARD GOD... 1. Some may think we ought to show our love by: a. Shouting if from the rooftop b. Declaring it on bumper sticker ("Honk if you love Jesus!") c. Doing whatever they think pleases God 2. Proper demonstration of love toward God means: a. Keeping His commandments - cf. Jn 14:15,21; 1Jn 5:3 b. Loving the brethren - 1Jn 4:20-21; 5:1 -- Do we really love God? Then keep His commandments! B. DEMONSTRATING OUR LOVE TOWARD MAN... 1. Begins with keeping the commandments of God ourselves - 1Jn 5:2 2. Not limited to friends and loved ones - Mt 5:43-48 3. Helping to meet their needs - 1Jn 3:16-18 -- Do we really love our fellow man? Then love in deed and in truth! CONCLUSION 1. As we come to the end of our study, what have we learned about "Growing In The Knowledge Of Jesus Christ"...? a. It requires effort ("giving all diligence") - 2Pe 1:5,10 b. It requires an ever-increasing growth in Christ-like qualities - 2Pe 1:8 1) Building on faith (faith) 2) Striving for excellence (virtue) 3) Increasing in knowledge (knowledge) 4) Controlling the self (self-control) 5) Bearing up under trials (perseverance) 6) Seeking to please God (godliness) 7) Loving the brethren (brotherly kindness) 8) With active good will towards all (love) 2. Is the effort worth it? Indeed it is, for as we grow in this knowledge... a. The grace and peace of God is multiplied - 2Pe 1:2 b. All things pertaining to life and godliness are provided - 2 Pe 1:3 c. We can avoid spiritual myopia and spiritual amnesia - 2Pe 1:9 d. We will never stumble so as to fall - 2Pe 1:10 e. We will have an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom - 2Pe 1:11 Therefore I pray that in some way our study has encouraged us to be diligent in supplying these eight graces of Christ-like character in an ever-increasing measure to our lives, mindful of Peter's final admonition: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen." - 2Pe 3:18

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

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Did Moses Make a Scientific Mistake? by Wayne Jackson, M.A.


Did Moses Make a Scientific Mistake?
by Wayne Jackson, M.A.


The Bible speaks of two animals, the coney and the hare, as “chewing the cud.” Isn't the Bible mistaken on this point? These animals do not actually chew the cud, do they?


An infidel once wrote: “Something that has long perplexed me is the way that inerrancy proponents can so easily find ‘scientific foreknowledge’ in obscurely worded Bible passages but seem completely unable to see scientific error in statements that were rather plainly written.” This skeptic then cited Leviticus 11:5-6, where the coney and the hare are said to chew the cud, and boasted that since these animals do not have compartmentalized stomachs like those in ruminants (e.g., the cow), Moses clearly made a mistake. What shall we say to this charge?
First, no scientific mistake can be attributed to the Bible unless all of the facts are fully known. In such an alleged case, the biblical assertion must be unambiguous. The scientific information must be factual. And an indisputable conflict must prevent any harmonization of the two. Do these criteria obtain in this matter? They do not.
Second, we must note that the words “coney” (Hebrew shaphan) and “hare” (arnebeth) are rare and difficult words in the Old Testament. The former is found but four times, and the latter only twice. The etymology of the terms is obscure. In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament),shaphan is rendered by dasupoda, meaning “rough foot,” and arnebeth becomes choirogrullion, literally, “swine-pig.” Hence, identification becomes a factor. It is commonly believed, however, that the arnebeth is some species of hare, and that shaphan denotes the Syrian hyrax.
But, so it is claimed, neither of these chews the cud. A number of scholars have noted that both of these animals, even when at rest, masticate, much like the cow or sheep, and that Moses thus employed phenomenal language (i.e., describing something as it appears), for the purpose of ready identification, inasmuch as these creatures were ceremonially unclean and thus prohibited for use as food (Archer, 1982, p. 126).
That is not an impossible solution. Bats, for example, are listed along with birds in Leviticus 11, not because both are mammals, but simply because both fly. The Scriptures do not necessarily follow the arbitrary classification systems of man. When Christ said that the mustard seed is “less than all seeds,” (Matthew 13:33), He was speaking from the vantage point of the Palestinian citizen—not that of a modern botanist. We today employ phenomenal jargon when we speak of the Sun “rising and setting.” Technically, it is not correct to refer to a woman’s amniotic fluid as “water,” and yet doctors employ this language frequently. Why do we not allow the biblical writers as much literary license as we ourselves employ? The bias of agnosticism is utterly incredible.
There is, however, another factor that must be taken into consideration. Rumination does not necessarily involve a compartmentalized stomach system. One definition of “ruminate” is simply “to chew again that which has been swallowed” (Webster’s Dictionary). And oddly enough, that is precisely what the hare does. Though the hare does not have a multi-chambered stomach—which is characteristic of most ruminants—it does chew its food a second time. It has been learned rather recently that hares pass two types of fecal material.
In addition to normal waste, they pass a second type of pellet known as a caecotroph. The very instant the caecotroph is passed, it is grabbed and chewed again.... As soon as the caecotroph is chewed thoroughly and swallowed, it aggregates in the cardiac region of the stomach where it undergoes a second digestion (Morton, 1978, pp. 179-181).
This complicated process provides the rabbit with 100% more riboflavin, 80% more niacin, 160% more pantothenic acid, and a little in excess of 40% more vitamin B12 (Harrison, 1980, p. 121). In a comparative study of cows and rabbits, Jules Carles concluded that rumination should not be defined from an anatomical point of view (e.g., the presence of a four-part stomach); rather, it should be viewed from the standpoint of a mechanism for breeding bacteria to improve food. Cows and rabbits are similar in that both possess a fermentation chamber with microorganisms that digest otherwise indigestible plant material, converting it into nutrients. Some of the microorganisms in these two animals are the same, or very similar. Carles has stated that on this basis “it is difficult to deny that rabbits are ruminants” (as quoted in Brand, 1977, p. 104). Dr. Bernard Grzimek, Director of the Frankfurt Zoological Gardens in Germany, likewise has classified the hare as a ruminant (1975, pp. 421-422).
On the other hand, the hyrax also is considered by some to be a ruminant, based upon the fact that it has a multiple digestive process.
The hyrax has a very long protrusion, a caecum, and two additional caeca near the colon. At least one of these protrusions participates in decomposition of cellulose. It contributes certain enzymes necessary for breakdown of the cellulose (Morton, 1978, p. 184).
Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia (1975) considers the hyrax as a ruminant. Professor Joseph Fischel of the University of California has suggested that the biblical allusion to the coney as a cud-chewer probably was due “to the structure of its digestive system, the protuberances in its large stomach together with its appendix and maw possibly being regarded as analogous to a ruminant’s four stomachs” (1971, p. 1144). In his significant study of the intestinal microflora in herbivores, scientist Richard McBee observed that the hyrax has a fermentation chamber for the digestion of grass by microorganisms (as quoted in Brand, 1977, p. 103).
Finally, the precise meaning of gerah, rendered “chewing the cud” in most versions, is uncertain. Many orthodox Jews consider it simply to mean a second mastication, or the semblance of chewing. Samuel Clark stated that the meaning of gerah “became expanded, and the rodents and pachyderms, which have a habit of grinding with their jaws, were familiarly spoken of as ruminating animals” (1981, 1:546).
In view of the foregoing facts, it is extremely presumptuous to suggest that the Mosaic account contains an error relative to these creatures. A sensible interpretive procedure and/or an acquaintance with accurate information would have eliminated such a rash and unwarranted conclusion.


Archer, Gleason (1982), Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Brand, Leonard R. (1977), “Do Rabbits Chew the Cud?,” Origins, 4(2):102-104.
Clark, Samuel (1981), “Leviticus,” The Bible Commentary, ed. F.C. Cook (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Fischel, Joseph W. (1971), “Hyrax,” Encyclopedia Judaica (New York: Macmillan).
Grzimek, Bernard, ed. (1975), Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold).
Harrison, R.K. (1980), Leviticus (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press).
Morton, Jean Sloat (1978), Science in the Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody).

The Origin of Peoples by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.


The Origin of Peoples

by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.
As we look among the peoples of the world—from the Inuit to the !Kung, from the Norwegian to the Greek, and from the Indian to the Tutsi—we see a mind-boggling array of skin color, hair type, stature, and facial features. On top of all that physical diversity, we must add differences in culture and language. With technological advances, humans have lived (if only for a short time) at the South Pole, on the peaks of the Himalayas, and beyond Earth itself. Even before the advent of modern science, we have occupied the remotest islands, the driest deserts, and the coldest steppes. It is difficult to imagine any other creature that has been so successful at colonizing so many different parts of this planet (we’ll give the cockroach its due!).
For all these differences, we constitute a single, biological species. Men and women with roots in different continents meet, marry, and have healthy families. This unity frustrates any attempt to parcel the world’s populations into distinct subspecies or races. We perceive great diversity because our brain is so cleverly designed to detect patterns and distinguish among individuals of our own kind. Such heightened perception of the human form is something we cannot ignore, and shapes a host of psychological responses such as physical attraction and group identity. Still, at the biological level, this variation reflects minute differences in our genetic code. We see a few of these in our physical appearance, but find many more only at the cellular or molecular level. One person may have resistance to a particular disease, while another is able to digest milk as an adult. Whether on the inside or outside, the combination of many subtle differences makes you and me stand out as individuals within a group, and our similarities identify us with humanity as a whole.
How did these differences arise? Like Rudyard Kipling’s Just So stories, we could spin all sorts of tales to explain why different peoples are the way they are. We could tell a story about how the Scandinavians became tall, and another story about how they became light-skinned. The goal for this traditional Darwinian approach is to answer the following question: How does a particular trait enhance survival value, or enable the production of more offspring? One anthropology textbook emphasizes the “pervasiveness of adaptation in the microevolution (small-scale differentiation) of man” (Keesing and Keesing, 1971, p. 51). As we will see, this turns out to be more of a hope than a claim based on evidence.
There is the assumption, also, that we need a lot of time to explain human variation because evolution works at a steady, snail’s pace. Charles Darwin took this as a matter of principle, but not all evolutionists agree. A few dissenters, citing examples from the fossil record, believe that species arise during brief moments of intense change, rather than by slow accumulation of new features (e.g., Eldredge, 1985, pp. 21-22). So, too, within human populations, distinct groups might arise during significant natural or cultural events. In addition, more evolutionists are expressing concern about the “molecular clock.” This was supposed to represent the rate at which genetic differences have accumulated in two related species. However, the calculation depends on knowing the date of the presumed common ancestor. Not everyone may agree on this date, or even on whether the two species are closely related. In any case, evolutionists assume that humans have diverged from each other at about the same rate we diverged from chimpanzees—our supposed closest relative. However, a closer look at families of known lineage has revealed mutation rates that are almost twenty times higher than previous estimates (Gibbons, 1998). The upshot is this: we cannot trust the Darwinists’ intuitions on the time it would take to produce the differences we see in human populations. The rate may be neither slow, nor steady.
For the moment, I would like to set aside the question of time (but see my sidebar article), and focus on the biological bases for some of the differences that have arisen among our kind.


The difference we tend to notice most is coloration, which depends almost entirely on the relative abundance of melanin. This is a pigment of the hair, skin, and irises. It seems to play a role in protecting the skin from harmful ultraviolet rays. Exposure to the Sun increases melanin, causing that tanning effect so prized by light-skinned Westerners. At first glance, it looks as if the inhabitants of equatorial regions, where sunlight bears down with the greatest intensity, would have the most melanin. After all, sub-Saharan Africans, and Australian Aborigines, have more melanin than northern Europeans.
Around 1913, Charles Davenport suggested that humans carried two genes for color, and that each gene consisted of “black” or “white” alleles (one allele from the mother, and one from the father, for each gene). Hence, our coloration depends on the number of black and white alleles we received from our parents. Davenport noted correctly that children inherit these genes independently of other characteristics, such as straight versus curly hair. This explains why albino Papuans look different from albino Scots.
As usual, the advance of science has revealed a far more complicated story. Geneticists now believe that almost half a dozen genes have a significant effect on pigmentation (Wills, 1994, pp. 78-79). These genes reside in the nucleus of every cell in our body, along with copies of all the other genes we inherited from our parents. However, color genes express themselves in only one place—the melanocytes. These are specialized skin cells that have a monopoly on melanin production. Each melanocyte is an incredibly complex chemical factory, transforming raw materials into granules of melanin, which it delivers to neighboring cells.
Also, there is more to the making of skin color than turning genes on or off to make black, white, and a couple of shades in between. We all possess the essential ingredients for making melanin; all of us couldbe black or brown (the only exceptions are albinos, whose bodies make no melanin at all). Actual coloration varies according to the pigment package delivered by the melanocytes. The end product depends not only on slight genetic differences, but also on environmental stimuli (such as exposure to strong ultraviolet radiation).
The story does not end there. Skin also includes keratin—a fibrous protein that contributes to the toughness of the skin, and which grows to form nails and hair. Because this substance has a relatively high concentration of sulfur, it adds a yellow hue to our palette of skin colors. Asians (especially from the Far East) happen to have an extra thick layer of keratin which, when combined with melanin, contributes to the yellow-brown color of their skin.
The science of genetics helps us understand how small changes can account for the rainbow of human coloration. Truly, when we consider the magnitude of these differences at the genetic level, our obsession with skin color seems blown out of proportion.


We know that there are variations in features such as skin color. Why, or how, did these variations arise? As noted earlier, a knee-jerk response is to invoke natural selection, but there are a few good Darwinian tales.
For instance, around 40% of the people in equatorial Africa carry an abnormal hemoglobin gene that deforms red blood cells into a crescent or sickle shape. Anyone who carries this trait, plus a normal copy of the gene, may appear to have the best of both worlds. For a start, the normal gene is dominant, and so counteracts the recessive mutated gene. Then, if malarial parasites invade the red blood cells, there is a tendency for the cells to deform and die, along with their unwanted guests. Unfortunately, people who have two copies of the abnormal gene develop sickle-cell anemia, and will die an early death unless they have access to good medical treatment. Finally, anyone not “lucky” enough to inherit the abnormal gene has no anemia, but no immunity from malaria either.
Of course, the picture is not all rosy for the people who carry just one copy of the sickle-cell gene. If they marry another carrier, some of the children could inherit two bad copies, and suffer from sickle-cell disease (see diagram below). With this in mind, it is callous to speak of the sickle-cell trait as a “good” or “beneficial” mutation. Nonetheless, the trait persists because the threat of death from malaria appears to outweigh the threat of death from sickle-cell anemia. In this instance, nature may have preserved a particular trait because it confers a survival advantage.
Sickle-cell genetics
Sickle-cell genetics: In this example, two parents each have a normal (Hb A) and an abnormal (Hb S) hemoglobin allele. There is a 1 in 4 chance that a child will have normal hemoglobin (Hb A/Hb A), a 1 in 2 chance that a child will be a carrier for the sickle-cell trait (Hb A/Hb S), and a 1 in 4 chance that a child will have sickle-cell anemia (Hb S/Hb S).
For most variations that give human populations their distinctive characteristics, it is difficult to know what forces of selection have been at work. For instance, scientists used to think that the Pygmy people of southern Africa were short because food was scarce. Further studies show normal levels of growth hormone, but reveal a genetic defect that prevents their bodies from using the hormone to its fullest extent (Fackelmann, 1989). But the question is this: Did nature select this mutation because it offered survival advantages, or did this characteristic arise as a result of random variation?
The answer is not so obvious, because we know so many exceptions to the rules of natural selection. Take the Japanese, for instance. Their teenagers are considerably taller than their grandparents ever were. The difference is a matter of improving diet, not genetics. For hundreds of years, the people of Japan have survived without nature’s selecting mutations for smaller stature. So how do we know that a scarce food supply was responsible for the survival of growth-limiting changes in the Pygmy?
The list of just-so stories is endless. Why are the Inuit relatively short and bulky? Because this helps them retain heat. Why are some groups in Africa relatively tall and slender? Because this helps them lose heat. In each case, we could list a dozen exceptions. What about those tall peoples who have survived quite well in cold areas, like the Dutch? And what about those short peoples who have done just fine in hot areas, like the Pygmies?
If Africans have less hair to keep them cooler, as some have suggested (Folger, 1993), then how have Asians done so well in cold climates with relatively little body hair? Asians also have an epicanthic fold—an extra layer of skin on the upper eyelid. We could spin a story about their eyes adapting to the winds of the Mongolian steppes, or the bright glare of snow. Even so, is this enough? Are variations in the structure of the eyelid a matter of life and death? Were individuals who had this epicanthic fold much more likely to survive than those who lacked it?
Similar questions confront the origins of skin color. Precisely how has natural selection worked to preserve dark and light skin coloring? The traditional explanation makes what seems to be a sensible link between the strong sunlight of the tropics, and the protective powers of melanin. Natural selection, so the argument goes, has favored the survival of dark-skinned people in equatorial areas. If light-skinned people lived in the tropics, they would suffer from higher rates of skin cancer. Then what prevented Africans from migrating to higher latitudes? The answer, we are told, lies in vitamin D. To make this important substance, humans need exposure to ultraviolet light. If people in higher latitudes were too dark, their skin would not be able to make enough vitamin D. A shortage of vitamin D results in rickets, which has a severe effect on bone development. So everything works out perfectly: light people get a little melanin to avoid rickets; and dark people get a lot of melanin to avoid skin cancer. Whatever the explanation, many researchers remain convinced that some sort of evolutionary process must be responsible for lighter and darker strains of humans (see Wills, 1994, p. 80).
The story seems less plausible, however, when we try to imagine how selection might have worked. For instance, skin cancer is deadly; it is something that afflicts lighter-skinned people who spend much time in strong sunlight. People of European ancestry living in the sunny climes of Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii suffer the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. As we look back in history, however, the danger of dying from basal cell carcinomas and melanomas hardly would compare to the vagaries of childhood diseases, plagues, strife, starvation, and natural hazards. It is hard to imagine that in a mixed population of light-and dark-skinned people living near the tropics, evolution selected the traits for dark skin because cancer gradually eliminated their lighter-skinned neighbors.
Unlike the skin cancer scenario, the ability to produce sufficient vitamin D is a definite survival advantage. However, exposure to the Sun is not an absolute requirement. Oils from cod, halibut, sardines, salmon, and mackerel provide a rich source of vitamin D (Sackheim and Lehman, 1994, p. 516). Not surprisingly, such fish figure prominently in the diets of Scandinavians and the Inuit. With the right foods, they are able to overcome a disadvantage of living in areas where the Sun is weaker, and in which the cold climate dictates many layers of protective clothing.
Still, this does not explain why Africans remained in tropical zones. They could have moved northward, and endured doses of cod liver oil as much as any European child. Today, thanks to vitamin supplements, people of African descent survive in England and Canada without a high incidence of rickets. When we look to the original population of the Americas, the story blurs altogether. People of brownish complexion live across every climatic zone, from Alaska in the north to Tierra del Fuego in the south. Apparently, no mechanism has been at work to sort skin color by latitude.
There are many other problems with the climatic theory of skin color (Diamond, 1992, pp. 114-117), and still, we have barely touched the rich storehouse of human variety. Perhaps apparently neutral characteristics will turn out to have some survival advantage (Patterson, 1978, p. 70). For example, researchers have found a correlation between ABO blood groups and resistance (or susceptibility) to different diseases. Further, blood groups seem to have a strong geographic distribution. We may discover that a particular blood type became concentrated in a region where it offered a slightly better chance of survival. On this point, however, all we have so far is another Kiplingesque story. No doubt, natural selection has had some impact on human history, but it seems largely inadequate to explain a good portion of the variations that exist between different human populations.


If natural selection has played a minor role in human history, then how do we explain the range of observed features? One possible mechanism is a phenomenon known as the “founder effect.” We see this most often in small, isolated communities that have an unusually high incidence of rare, inherited disorders (Diamond, 1988, p. 12). After some genealogical detective work, medical researchers are able to trace their patients’ ancestries to a single couple or a small group of close relatives—the founders. This seems to be the case with French Canadians, particularly those of eastern Quebec, whose ancestors emigrated from the Perche region of France in the 17th century. Small pioneering groups, together with early marriages, large families, and isolation, have created a pronounced founder effect. One study found that only 15% of the settlers contributed 90% of the genetic characteristics in people suffering from one or more of five genetic disorders (Heyer and Tremblay, 1995).
Pioneers in Chicoutimi (c. 1886), which is now the modern administrative center of Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean. This part of Quebec was settled by a few, closely related families. Today, 9 or 10 rare genetic diseases are relatively common among the people of the region.
It is only natural that much of our information on founder effects should come from the study of debilitating, and often fatal, diseases. If medical researchers can pin the problem to a faulty gene, then this may suggest a treatment or cure. Also, genetic testing can tell prospective parents whether they will pass these mutations on to their children. If the effects of the disease will come later in life, people may want to start certain medical treatments, or make changes in diets, that will ease or delay the worst symptoms.
However, the record books include a few cases not related directly to diseases. In a now classic study, H. Bentley Glass (1953) found that the Dunkers—a community of German Baptist Brethren in Pennsylvania’s Franklin County—are, in most respects, very similar to other people of European descent. Their religious customs require them to dress a certain way, and marry within the community, but otherwise their physical appearance is not unusual. Although there have been some outside marriages, most of the surviving members are descended from fifty families that emigrated from Germany in the early 1700s. Glass found that the frequencies of blood types and other genetic traits among the Dunkers differ from the frequencies of these features among U.S. and German populations. It seems unlikely that any selective forces were in operation to favor the survival of Dunkers with blood group A, for instance. Therefore, Glass concluded, the founding population of Dunkers included, purely by chance, an unusually high proportion of people with blood group A.
The founder effect itself is part of a broader concept known as genetic drift, which occurs anytime the frequency of a genetic trait changes within a population. If, in the case of the founder effect, the emigrating group carries a set of unique or rare traits, then those traits will be that much harder to find among the people who stay behind. In other words, there will be a drift away from those characteristics.
In some cases, a highly prolific individual or family may skew the genes of a relatively diverse population, and this may occur in combination with some other form of genetic drift, such as the founder effect. For example, groups of Ashkenazic Jews moved eastward out of Germany in the 17th century, and were isolated culturally from the surrounding population. Several rare inherited disorders, such as Tay-Sachs disease, afflict this group at high rates. Evolutionists have thought this to be a sign of natural selection at work. Perhaps the population hung on to these genes because they offered some survival advantage, such as resistance to tuberculosis and other maladies of the crowded ghettos in which they lived (Diamond, 1991). However, Neil Risch believes otherwise, at least in the case of idiopathic torsion dystonia, which occurs at a rate of one in three thousand among the Ashkenazim today (Glausiusz, 1995). First, migration patterns favor genetic drift via the founder effect in these people. And second, historical records show that wealthier couples had more children. If a mutation arose in one of these families, as Risch infers from the genetic data, then it could become more frequent in later generations. This is a matter of misfortune, not adaptation.
Of all the forms of genetic drift, population bottlenecks are the most dramatic. Typically, these occur when wars, natural disasters, epidemics, and other catastrophes wipe out all but a small remnant of the original population. For instance, a flood could drown an entire tribe, except for a fortunate few in a remote village. These survivors would bequeath their genetic characteristics to subsequent generations. If there were a high degree of relatedness among the survivors, then their descendents may appear quite distinct from neighboring peoples. Of course, the Bible shows the Flood of Noah to be the greatest bottleneck of all time. According to the Genesis account, all of us must trace our ancestry to Noah’s three sons and their wives.
Finally, another piece of the puzzle may be mate selection. We are quick to point out the ways in which we differ from our spouse, and we see a positive side to that. “Opposites attract,” so the saying goes, but the Beach Boys knew better. “I seen all kinds of girls,” the Californian band harmonized, but “I wish they all could be California girls.” Underneath the superficial differences lie the grand similarities. Not always, but more often than not, we marry someone who grew up nearby, speaks the same language, and belongs to the same cultural, religious, social, and political group (Diamond, 1992, pp. 99-109). The result is a barrier, obvious or otherwise, that may exist between two neighboring peoples, or even between groups who live cheek-by-jowl.


Evolutionists may argue that an explanation for human diversity simply is unavailable to anyone who adopts a literal interpretation of the Bible. They may reason that creationists have no access to any mechanism that would cause change, because this means accepting evolution. This is a common misunderstanding. Creationists object, not to microevolution, but to macroevolution. One works by natural selection acting on mutations to create limited variation; the other assumes unlimited variation. One seems to work; the other is highly problematic. For our present purposes, we need account only for variation on a small scale, and within a single species at that. There is no reason to eliminate adaptation out of hand, especially as it seems to work in cases like sickle-cell anemia.
Further, many evolutionists imagine an entirely Darwinian plot. This may seem to threaten the biblical view on the grounds of time, assuming that adaptation implies a slow, gradual process. Not everyone agrees on this tempo of change and, certainly, genetic studies are revealing ample non-Darwinian strategies.
The key biblical event must be the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). Up to this point, as far as we can tell, three lines of descent were living in close proximity, and then a miracle occurred. God gave them different languages so they could not work together on the Tower (11:7). They could have dug their heels into the rich soil of the Fertile Crescent, and trained a few good translators, but God “scattered them abroad” (11:8).
We cannot be sure on what basis the partitioning occurred. In the Table of Nations (Genesis 10), each line of descent appears by family and language, according to their lands and nations (10:5,20,31). It seems most likely, therefore, that the division occurred by the principal family units present at the time of the confusion and dispersion. This corresponds to the time of Peleg, in whose days “the earth was divided” (10:25). It is at this point that the mechanisms described earlier must come into full force. If the human population scattered over the face of the Earth, then there was a sudden outpouring of founding groups. Each extended family, isolated from others by language, would carry its own set of genes into the world. From these groups, and within these groups, developed the peoples of the world.


Diamond, Jared (1988), “Founding Fathers and Mothers,” Natural History, 97[6]:10-15, June.
Diamond, Jared (1991), “Curse and Blessing of the Ghetto,” Discover, 12[3]:60-61, March.
Diamond, Jared (1992), The Third Chimpanzee (New York: HarperCollins).
Eldredge, Niles (1985), Time Frames: The Evolution of Punctuated Equilibria (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).
Fackelmann, K.A. (1989), “Pygmy Paradox Prompts a Short Answer,” Science News, 136[2]:22, July 8.
Folger, Tim (1993), “The Naked and the Bipedal,” Discover, 14[1]:34-35, November.
Gibbons, Ann (1998), “Calibrating the Mitochondrial Clock,” Science, 279:28-29, January 2.
Glass, H. Bentley (1953), “The Genetics of the Dunkers,” Scientific American, August. Reprinted in Human Variation and Origins (San Francisco, CA: W.H. Freeman), pp. 200-204.
Glausiusz, Josie (1995), “Unfortunate Drift,” Discover, 16[6]:34-35, June.
Heyer, E. and M. Tremblay (1995), “Variability of the Genetic Contribution of Quebec Population Founders Associated to Some Deleterious Genes,” American Journal of Human Genetics, 56[4]:970-978.
Keesing, Roger M. and Felix M. Keesing (1971), New Perspectives in Cultural Anthropology (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston).
Patterson, Colin (1978), Evolution (London: British Museum/Cornell University Press).
Sackheim, George I. and Dennis D. Lehman (1994), Chemistry for the Health Sciences (New York: Macmillan).
Wills, Christopher (1994), “The Skin We’re In,” Discover, 15[11]:76-81, November.

In Defense of...God's Plan of Salvation by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


In Defense of...God's Plan of Salvation
by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.
“And Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7).
Of all the living beings that dwell on planet Earth, one solitary creature was made “in the image of God.” On day six of His creative activity, God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.... And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26,27).
Mankind was not created in the physical image of God, of course, because God, as a Spirit Being, has no physical image (John 4:24; Luke 24:39; Matthew 16:17). Rather, mankind was fashioned in the spiritual, rational, emotional, and volitional image of God (Ephesians 4:24; John 5:39-40; 7:17; Joshua 24:15; Isaiah 7:15). Humans were superior to all other creatures. No other living being was given the faculties, the capacities, the capabilities, the potential, or the dignity that God instilled in each man and woman. Indeed, humankind is the peak, the pinnacle, and the apex, of God’s creation.
In its lofty position as the zenith of God’s creative genius, mankind was endowed with certain responsibilities. Men and women were to be the stewards of the entire Earth (Genesis 1:28). They were to glorify God in their daily existence (Isaiah 43:7). And, they were to consider it their “whole duty” to serve the Creator faithfully throughout their brief sojourn on the Earth (Ecclesiastes 12:13).


Unfortunately, the first man and woman used their volitional powers—and the free moral agency based on those powers—to rebel against their Maker. Finite man made some horribly evil choices, and so entered the spiritual state biblically designated as “sin.” The Old Testament not only presents in vivid fashion the entrance of sin into the world through Adam and Eve (Genesis 3), but also alludes to the ubiquity of sin within the human race when it says: “there is no man that sinneth not” (1 Kings 8:46). Throughout its thirty-nine books, the Old Covenant discusses time and again sin’s presence amidst humanity, and its destructive consequences. The great prophet Isaiah reminded God’s people: “Behold, Jehovah’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, so that he will not hear” (59:1-2).
The New Testament is no less clear in its assessment. The apostle John wrote: “Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Thus, sin is defined as the act of transgressing God’s law. In fact, Paul observed that “where there is no law, neither is there transgression” (Romans 4:15). Had there been no law, there would have been no sin. But God had instituted divine law. And mankind freely chose to transgress that law. Paul reaffirmed the Old Testament concept of the universality of sin (1 Kings 8:46) when he stated that “all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
As a result, mankind’s predicament became serious indeed. Ezekiel lamented: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (18:20a). Once again, the New Testament writers reaffirmed such a concept. Paul wrote: “Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned” (Romans 5:12). He then added that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Years later, James would write: “But each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then the lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin: and the sin, when it is full-grown, bringeth forth death” (1:14-15).
As a result of mankind’s sin, God placed the curse of death on the human race. While all men and women must die physically as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin, each person dies spiritually for his or her own sins. Each person is responsible for himself, spiritually speaking. The theological position which states that we inherit the guilt of Adam’s sin is false. We do not inherit the guilt; we inherit the consequences. And there is a great difference between the two. Consider, as an illustration of this point, the family in which a drunken father arrives home late one evening, and in an alcoholic stupor severely beats his wife and children. His spouse and offspring suffer the consequences of his drunkenness, to be sure. But it would be absurd to suggest that they are guilty of it! The same concept applies in the spiritual realm. People diephysically because of Adam’s sin, but they die spiritually because of their own personal transgression of God’s law. In Ezekiel 18:20, quoted earlier, the prophet went on to say: “the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”


The reality of sin is all around us, is it not? Consider the ways in which mankind has been affected by sin.
Physically—Disease and death were introduced into this world as a direct consequence of man’s sin (Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:12).
Geophysically—Many features of the Earth’s surface that allow for such tragedies as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, violent thunderstorms, etc. can be traced directly to the Great Flood of Noah’s day (which came as the result of man’s sin, Genesis 6:5ff.).
Culturally—The numerous communication problems that man experiences, due to the multiplicity of human languages, are traceable to ambitious rebellion on the part of our ancestors (Genesis 11:1-9).
Psychologically—Man generally is without the peace of mind for which his heart longs (look at the number of psychiatrists in the Yellow Pages of any telephone book!). Isaiah opined: “They have made them crooked paths; whosoever goeth therein doth not know peace” (59:8; cf. 57:21).
Spiritually—By sinning, man created a chasm between himself and God (Isaiah 59:2). Unless remedied, this condition will result in man’s being unable to escape the “judgment of hell” (Matthew 23:33), and in his being separated from God throughout all eternity (Revelation 21:8; 22:18-19).
The key phrase in the discussion above is that man’s sin will result in an eternal separation from Godunless remedied. The question then becomes: Has God provided such a remedy? Thankfully, the answer is: Yes, He has.


Regardless of how desperate, or how pitiful, man’s condition has become, one thing is for certain: God had no obligation to provide a means of salvation for the ungrateful creature who so haughtily turned away from Him, His law, and His beneficence. The Scriptures make this apparent when they discuss the fact that angels sinned (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6), and yet “not to angels doth he give help, but he giveth help to the seed of Abraham” (Hebrews 2:16). The rebellious creatures that once inhabited the heavenly portals were not provided a redemptive plan. But man was! Little wonder the psalmist inquired: “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4, emp. added).
Why would God go to such great lengths for mankind, when His mercy was not even extended to the angels that once surrounded His throne? Whatever answers may be proffered, there can be little doubt that the Creator’s efforts on behalf of sinful man are the direct result of pure love. As a loving God (1 John 4:8), He acted out of a genuine concern, not for His own desires, but instead for those of His creation. And let us be forthright in acknowledging that Jehovah’s love for mankind was completely undeserved. The Scriptures make it clear that God decided to offer salvation—our “way home”—even though we were ungodly, sinners, and enemies (note the specific use of those terms in Romans 5:6-10). The apostle John rejoiced in the fact that: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us” (1 John 4:10).
God’s love is universal, and thus not discriminatory in any fashion (John 3:16). He would have all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4)—if they would be (John 5:40)—for He is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). And, Deity’s love is unquenchable. Read Romans 8:35-39 and be thrilled! Only man’s wanton rejection of God’s love can put him beyond the practical appropriation of heaven’s offer of mercy and grace.

God’s Plan In Preparation

Did God understand that man would rebel, and stand in eventual need of salvation from the perilous state of his own sinful condition? The Scriptures make it clear that He did. Inspiration speaks of a divine plan set in place even “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20). After the initial fall of man, humankind dredged itself deeper and deeper into wickedness. When approximately a century of preaching by the righteous Noah failed to bring mankind back to God, Jehovah sent a worldwide flood to purge the Earth (Genesis 6-8). From the faithful Noah, several generations later, the renowned Abraham was descended, and, through him, eventually the Hebrew nation would be established. From that nation, the Messiah—God-incarnate—would come.
Some four centuries following Abraham, the Lord, through His servant Moses, gave to the Hebrews the written revelation that came to be known as the Law of Moses. Basically, this law-system had three purposes. First, its intent was to define sin and sharpen Israel’s awareness of it. To use Paul’s expression in the New Testament, the Law made “sin exceeding sinful” (Romans 7:7,13). Second, the law was designed to show man that he could not, by his own merit or efforts, save himself. For example, the Law demanded perfect obedience, and since no mere man could keep it perfectly, all stood condemned (Galatians 3:10-11). Thus, the Law underscored the need for a Savior—Someone Who could do for us what we were unable to do for ourselves. Third, in harmony with that need, the Old Testament pointed the way toward the coming of the Messiah. He was to be Immanuel—“God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
Mankind was prepared for the coming of the Messiah in several ways. Theophanies were temporary appearances of God in various forms (see Genesis 16:7ff.; 18:1ff.; 22:11ff., etc.). A careful examination of the facts leads to the conclusion that many of these manifestations were of the preincarnate Christ. In addition, the Old Testament contains types (pictorial previews) of the coming Messiah. For example, every bloody sacrifice was a symbol of the “Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Finally, there are more than 300 prophecies containing countless minute details that speak of the coming Prince of Peace. These prophecies name the city in which He was to be born, the purpose of His earthly sojourn, and even the exact manner of His death. The simple fact is, Jehovah left no stone unturned in preparing the world for the coming of the One Who was to save mankind.

God’s Plan In Action

One of God’s attributes, as expressed within Scripture, is that He is an absolutely holy Being (see Revelation 4:8; Isaiah 6:3). As such, He simply cannot ignore the fact of sin. The prophet Habakkuk wrote: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong” (1:13). Yet another of God’s attributes is that He is absolutely just. Righteousness and justice are the very foundation of His throne (Psalm 89:14). The irresistible truth arising from the fact that God is both holy and just is that sin must be punished!
If God were a cold, vengeful Creator (as some infidels wrongly assert), He simply could have banished mankind from His divine presence forever, and that would have been the end of the matter. But the truth is, He is not that kind of God! Our Creator is loving (1 John 4:8), and “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4). Thus, the problem became: How could a loving, merciful God pardon rebellious humanity?
Paul addressed this very matter in Romans 3. How could God be just, and yet a justifier of sinful man? The answer: He would find someone to stand in for us— someone to receive His retribution, and to bear our punishment. That “someone” would be Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He would become a substitutionary sacrifice, and personally would pay the price for human salvation. In one of the most moving tributes ever written to the Son of God, Isaiah summarized the situation like this:
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all (53:5-6).
Jehovah’s intent was to extend grace and mercy freely—through the redemptive life and death of His Son (Romans 3:24ff.). As a member of the Godhead, Christ took upon Himself the form of a man. He came to Earth as a human being (John 1:1-4,14; Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Timothy 3:16), and thus shared our full nature and life-experiences. He even was tempted in all points, just we are, yet He never yielded to that temptation (Hebrews 4:15).
But what has this to do with us? Since Christ was tried (Isaiah 28:16), and yet found perfect (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22), He alone could satisfy heaven’s requirement for justice. He alone could serve as the “propitiation” (atoning sacrifice) for our sins. Just as the lamb without blemish that was used in Old Testament sacrifices could be the (temporary) propitiation for the Israelites’ sins, so the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29) could be the (permanent) propitiation for mankind’s sins. In the gift of Christ, Heaven’s mercy was extended; in the death of the Lamb of God, divine justice was satisfied; and, in the resurrection of Christ, God’s plan was documented and sealed historically forever!


As wonderful as God’s gift of salvation is, there is one thing it is not. It is not unconditional. Mankind has a part to play in this process. While the gift of salvation itself is free (in the sense that the price levied already has been paid by Christ), God will not force salvation on anyone. Rather, man must—by the exercise of his personal volition and free moral agency—do something to accept the pardon that heaven offers. What is that “something”?
In His manifold dealings with mankind, Jehovah has stressed repeatedly the principle that man, if he would be justified, must live “by faith” (see Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38). Salvation has been available across the centuries, conditioned upon God’s foreknowledge of the atoning death of Christ upon the Cross at Calvary (see Galatians 4:4-5; Hebrews 9:15-17; 10:1ff.). Yet “living by faith” never denoted a mere “mental ascent” of certain facts. Instead, “living by faith” denoted active obedience.
Faith consists of three elements: (1) an acknowledgment of historical facts; (2) a willingness to trust the Lord; and (3) a wholehearted submission (obedience) to the divine will. Further, it should be remembered that faith has not always—for all men, in all circumstances—required the same things. It always has required obedience, but obedience itself has not always demanded the same response.
For example, in God’s earliest dealings with men, obedient faith required that those men offer animal sacrifices at the family altar (Genesis 4:4). Later, God dealt with the nation of Israel, giving them the Law at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20). Under that Law, animal sacrifices continued, along with the observance of certain feast days and festivals. Acceptable faith, under whatever law that was then in force, demanded obedience to the will of God.
The Scriptures are clear that the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5; 16:26) is based on the Word of God (Romans 10:13), and that both the faith and the obedience are demonstrated by action. Hebrews 11, in fact, devotes itself to an examination of that very concept. “By faith” Abel offered. “By faith” Noahprepared. “By faith” Abraham obeyed. “By faith,” Moses refused. And so on. Even the casual reader cannot help but be impressed with the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11:32-40, and the action they took because of their faith. Writing by inspiration, James observed that faith, divorced from obedience, is dead (James 2:26). What, then, is involved in this “obedience of faith” in regard to salvation? What must a person do to be saved?
Several critically important questions need to be asked here. First, where is salvation found? Paul told Timothy: “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10, emp. added).
Second, where are all spiritual blessings found? Spiritual blessings are found only “in Christ.” Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (emp. added).
Third, and most important, how, then, does one get “into Christ”? In other words, how does the alien sinner rid himself of his soul-damning sin? What “obedience of faith” is required to appropriate the free gift of salvation that places him “in Christ”?


The only way to find the “road home” to heaven is to follow God’s directions exactly. There are numerous things God has commanded that a person do in order to enjoin the “obedience of faith” and thereby receive the free gift of salvation. According to God’s Word, in order to be saved a person must do the following.
First, the sinner must hear God’s Word (Romans 10:17). Obviously, one cannot follow God’s commands if he has not heard them, so God commanded that people hear what He has said regarding salvation.
Second, one who is lost cannot be saved if he does not believe what he hears. So, God commanded that belief ensue (John 3:16; Acts 16:31).
Third, one who is lost cannot obtain salvation if he is unwilling to repent of his sins and seek forgiveness (Luke 13:3). Without repentance he will continue in sin; thus, God commanded repentance.
Fourth, since Christ is the basis of our salvation, God commanded the penitent sinner to confess Him before men as the Son of God (Romans 10:9-10).
However, this is not all that God commanded. Hearing, believing, repentance, and confession will not rid one of his sin. The overriding question is: How does one get rid of sin? Numerous times within the pages of the New Testament, that question is asked and answered. The Jews who had murdered Christ, and to whom Peter spoke on the Day of Pentecost when he ushered in the Christian age, asked that question. Peter’s sermon had convicted them. They were convinced that they were sinners, and desperately in need of salvation at the hand of an almighty God. Their question then became: “...brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Peter’s response could not have been any clearer. He told them: “repent ye, and be baptizedevery one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Saul, who later would become Paul, the famous apostle to the Gentiles, needed an answer to that same question. While on a trip to Damascus for the explicit purpose of persecuting Christians, Saul was blinded (see Acts 22). Realizing his plight, he asked: “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10). When God’s servant, Ananias, appeared to Saul in the city, he answered Saul’s question by commanding: “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins” (Acts 22:16).
What, then, is the correct biblical answer regarding how one rids himself of soul-damning sin? The biblical solution is that the person who has heard the gospel, who has believed its message, who has repented of past sins, and who has confessed Christ as Lord must then—in order to receive remission (forgiveness) of sins—be baptized. [The English word “baptize” is a transliteration of the Greek word baptizo, meaning to immerse, dip, plunge beneath, or submerge (Thayer, 1958, p. 94).]
Further, it is baptism that puts a person “in Christ.” Paul told the first-century Christians in Rome:
Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).
Paul told the Galatians: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ” (3:27, emp. added). Little wonder, then, that Peter spoke of baptism as that which saves (1 Peter 3:21).
Numerous New Testament writers made the point that it is only when we come into contact with Christ’s blood that our sins can be washed away (Ephesians 1:7-8; Revelation 5:9; Romans 5:8-9; Hebrews 9:12-14). The question arises: When did Jesus shed His blood? The answer, of course, is that He shed His blood on the Cross at His death (John 19:31-34). Where, and how, does one come into contact with Christ’s blood to obtain the forgiveness of sin that such contact ensures? Paul answered that question when he wrote to the Christians in Rome. It is only in baptism that contact with the blood, and the death, of Christ is made (Romans 6:3-11). Further, the ultimate hope of our resurrection (to live with Him in heaven) is linked to baptism. Paul wrote of “having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12). If we are not baptized, we remain in our sins. If we are not baptized, we have no hope of the resurrection that leads to heaven.
Baptism, of course, is no less, or more, important than any other of God’s commands regarding what to do to be saved (see Jackson, 1997). But it is necessary. And one cannot be saved without it. Is baptism a command of God? Yes, it is (Acts 10:48). Is baptism where the remission of sins occurs? Yes, it is (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21).
Some, who no doubt mean well, teach that a person is saved by “faith only.” In other words, people are taught simply to “pray and ask Jesus to come into their hearts,” so that they might be saved from their sins. This teaching, though widespread, is completely at odds with the Bible’s specific instructions regarding what one must do to be saved.
First, the Scriptures teach clearly that God does not hear (i.e., hear to respond with forgiveness) the prayer of an alien sinner (Psalm 34:15-16; Proverbs 15:29; Proverbs 28:9). Thus, the sinner can pray as long and as hard as he wants, but God has stated plainly how a person is to be saved. This makes perfect sense, since in John 14:6 Christ taught: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one cometh to the Father but by me.” The alien sinner cannot approach God on his own, and, as an alien sinner, has no advocate to do so on his behalf. That is one of the spiritual blessings reserved for Christians (Ephesians 1:3). Thus, it is fruitless for an alien sinner to pray to God to “send Jesus into his heart.” God does not hear (i.e., hear to respond to) such a request.
Second, the Scriptures plainly teach that man cannot be saved by faith alone. James, in his epistle, remarked that indeed, a man may be justified (i.e., saved), but “not only by faith” (James 2:24). This, too, makes perfect sense. As James had observed just a few verses earlier: “Thou believest that God is one; thou doest well; the demons also believe, and shudder” (James 2:19). It is not enough merely to believe. Even the demons in hell believe, but they hardly are saved (see 2 Peter 2:4). It is obvious, therefore, that mere faith alone is insufficient to save.
Also, where, exactly, in the Scriptures does it teach that, in order to be saved, one is to “pray to ask Jesus to come into his heart”? Through the years, I have asked many within various religious groups this question, but have yet to find anyone who could provide a single biblical reference to substantiate such a claim. Salvation is not conditioned on prayer; it is conditioned on the “obedience of faith.” Saul, as Christ’s enemy-turned-penitent, prayed earnestly. But the fact remains that his sins were removed (“washed away”) only when he obeyed God’s command, as verbalized by Ananias, to be baptized. Prayer could not wash away Saul’s sins; the Lord’s blood could—at the point of baptism (Hebrews 9:22; Ephesians 5:26).


The biblical message—from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22—is that mankind is in a woefully sinful condition, and desperately in need of help in order to find his way “back home.” A corollary to that message is that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11), and genuinely desires that all should be saved (John 3:16). But in order to be saved, one must do exactly what God commanded, inexactly the way God commanded it. When a person hears, believes, repents, confesses, and is baptized for the forgiveness of his sins, that person becomes a Christian—nothing more, and nothing less. God Himself then adds that Christian to His Son’s one true body—the church. The child of God who remains faithful unto death (Revelation 2:10) is promised a crown of life and eternity in heaven as a result of his faith, his obedience, God’s mercy, and God’s grace (John 14:15; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 1:5). What a joyous thought—to live the “abundant life” (John 10:10b) with a “peace that passeth understanding” (Philippians 4:7) here and now, and then to be rewarded with a home in heaven in the hereafter (John 14:2-3). What a joyous thought indeed!


Jackson, Wayne (1997), “The Role of ‘Works’ in the Plan of Salvation,” Christian Courier, 32:47, April.
Thayer, J.H. (1958 reprint), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark).
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I would like to thank my friend and colleague, Wayne Jackson, for permission to employ in this article material on God’s plan of salvation from the Study Course in Christian Evidences that he and I co-authored (Apologetics Press, 1992).