From Mark Copeland... "MINISTERING SPIRITS" Angels In The Old Testament

                         "MINISTERING SPIRITS"

                      Angels In The Old Testament


1. We have seen that angels are "ministering spirits sent forth to
   minister for those who will inherit salvation" - He 1:13-14

2. Their ministry as "messengers" of God is evident in the Old
   a. During the Patriarchal age, from the creation to giving of the Law
      at Mount Sinai
   b. During the Mosaic age, from Mount Sinai to the time of Christ

[An understanding and appreciation of the ministry of angels may be
gleaned by a survey of their appearances as revealed in the Old


      1. 'Sons of God' (angels?) shouted for joy at the Creation 
          - Job 38:7
      2. 'Cherubim' (angels?) were placed at the east of the Garden of
         Eden to guard the way to the tree of life - Gen 3:24
      3. 'Sons of God' (angels?) cohabitate with 'daughters of men'
         - Gen 6:1-4; cf. 2Pe 2:4; Jude 6

      1. The Angel of the Lord appeared to Hagar in the wilderness 
         - Gen 16:7-14; cf. 21:17
      2. Two angels together with the Lord appeared to Abraham 
         - Gen 18:1-2
      3. The same two angels appeared to Lot before destroying Sodom
         - Gen 19:1-22
      4. The Angel of the Lord prevented Abraham from sacrificing Isaac
         - Gen 22:11-18
      5. Abraham was confident that an angel would guide his servant in
         finding a wife for Isaac - Gen 24:7,40

      1. In his dream at Bethel, Jacob saw angels ascending and
         descending on a ladder up to heaven - Gen 28:12
      2. The angel of God spoke to him in a dream, telling him to return
         to Canaan - Gen 31:11-13
      3. Angels of God met him on his return at Mahanaim - Gen 32:1-2
      4. He wrestled with a "Man", who is later called as "the Angel"
         - Gen 32:24-30; Hos 12:4
      5. Toward the end of his life, he refers to "the Angel who has
         redeemed me from all evil" - Gen 48:15

      1. The Angel of the Lord appeared to him at the burning bush 
         - Exo 3:1-2; cf. Ac 7:30,35
      2. The Angel of God led the Israelites out of Egypt - Exo 14:19

[When the nation of Israel came to Mount Sinai, the Law was given,
ushering in a new dispensation.  It too was a time in which angels
ministered to the people of God...]


      1. God's angel led Israel through the wilderness - Exo 23:20-23;
         cf. 32:34; 33:2; Num 20:16
      2. The Angel of the Lord appeared to Balaam's donkey, and then to
         him - Num 22:22-35
      3. Some believe "the Commander of the Lord's Army" was the Angel
         of the Lord - cf. Josh 5:13-15
      4. The Angel of the Lord rebukes Israel at Bochim - Judg 2:1-6

      1. Through Deborah the Angel of the Lord tells Israel to curse
         Meroz - Judg 5:23
      2. The Angel of the Lord appears to Gideon - Judg 6:11-24
      3. The Angel of the Lord appears to the parents of Samson 
         - Jud 13:1-23

      1. The Angel of the Lord was sent to destroy the people of Israel
         after David's census - 2Sa 24:15-17; 1Ch 21:14-18,26-30
      2. The Angel of the Lord fed Elijah - 1Ki 19:5-7
      3. The Angel of the Lord sent Elijah with messages to the king of
         Samaria - 2Ki 1:3,15
      4. The Angel of the Lord slew 185,000 men of the army of Assyria
         - 2Ki 19:35; 2Ch 32:20-22; Isa 37:36; cf. Isa 63:9
      5. Isaiah sees 'seraphim' praising the Lord on His throne 
         - Isa 6:1-7

      1. Ezekiel sees 'cherubim' (angels?) in several visions 
         - Ezek 1:1-28; cf. 10:1-20
      2. Nebuchadnezzar praised God for sending His Angel to deliver
         Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego - Dan 3:28; cf. 3:24-25
      3. They appeared (as 'watchers') in Nebuchadnezzar's dream 
         - Dan 4:13,17,23
      4. God sent His angel to shut up the lions' mouths when Daniel was
         in the den - Dan 6:22
      5. Gabriel interpreted several visions for Daniel 
         - Dan 8:15-17;9:21-23
      6. A "certain man" appeared to Daniel and revealed what certain
         "princes" (like Michael, the archangel) were doing - Dan 10:
         4-13,21; 12:1

      1. The Angel of the Lord appeared in Zechariah's eight visions
         a. The vision of the horses - Zech 1:7-17
         b. The vision of the horns - Zech 1:18-21
         c. The vision of the measuring line - Zech 2:1-5
         d. The vision of Joshua, the high priest - Zech 3:1-10
         e. The vision of the lamp stand and olive trees - Zech 4:1-14
         f. The vision of the flying scroll - Zech 5:1-4
         g. The vision of the woman in a basket - Zech 5:5-11
         h. The vision of the four chariots - Zech 6:1-8
      2. These visions along with the message of Zechariah were used to
         encourage the completion of the temple following their return
         from Babylon - cf. Ezr 5:1; 6:14

      1. "For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You
         have crowned him with glory and honor." - Ps 8:5
      2. "The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him,
         And delivers them." - Ps 34:7
      3. "Let them be like chaff before the wind, And let the angel of
         the LORD chase them." - Ps 35:5
      4. "Let their way be dark and slippery, And let the angel of the
         LORD pursue them." - Ps 35:6
      5. "Men ate angels' food; He sent them food to the full." 
         - Psa 78:25
      6. "He cast on them the fierceness of His anger, wrath,
         indignation, and trouble, By sending angels of destruction
         among them." - Ps 78:49
      7. "For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in
         all your ways." - Ps 91:11
      8. "Bless the LORD, you His angels, Who excel in strength, who do
         His word, Heeding the voice of His word." - Ps 103:20
      9. "Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire."
         -  Ps 104:4
     10. "Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts!" 
         - Psa 148:2


1. Angels played important roles in the Old Testament...
   a. Including the giving of the Law - cf. Ac 7:38,53; Ga 3:19; He 2:2
   b. Who wondered at the scheme of redemption slowly being revealed
      - cf. 1Pe 1:9-12

2. They were truly ministering spirits...
   a. Serving the faithful saints throughout the Old Testament
   b. Serving the will of God as He prepared for the coming of His Son

Their service continued with the coming of Christ, which we shall
consider in a future study...

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2015

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Two Bethlehems? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Two Bethlehems?

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

One powerful proof of the supernatural origin of the Bible is the presence of predictive prophecy within its pages. Old Testament prophets predicted minute details of events that were fulfilled in the New Testament. The uninformed observer may take this claim with “a grain of salt,” thinking that anyone can write a book that makes predictions, and then report the fulfillment of those predictions in the same book. In other words, one might simply assume that the entire Bible was written by only one (or a few) writers who simply selected contemporaneous events at the time they were writing, and then couched their subject matter in an anticipatory format, creating the impression that they were predicting events yet future to their own day.
This methodology certainly has been followed by other books that claim to be from God. The Book of Mormon is characterized mostly by its reporting of the past. It purports to be the result of a single individual—Joseph Smith—who allegedly received gold plates from an angel, which then were translated with divine assistance (see Miller, 2003). Likewise, the Quran claims to be the result of revelations presented to a single individual—Muhammad—by the angel Gabriel. It, too, gives the appearance of being the result of a single person responding to his surroundings without the ability to predict the future.
In contrast, the canon of the Old Testament Scriptures, completed prior to the formation of the New Testament, stands as an indisputable fact of history. Although the higher textual critics have attempted to reassign late dates to many of the Old Testament books, even they have not dated them beyond the second century B.C., with canonization complete by 100 B.C. (see Archer, 1974, pp. 77-79). One reason for this concession is the fixed historical fact that the Hebrew text of the Old Testament was translated into Greek by seventy-two scholars in Alexandria in approximately 250 B.C.The existence of this translation, known as the Septuagint, is corroborated by several independent historical witnesses (see Harrison, 1969, pp. 228ff.; Koester, 1982, 1:252ff.; Tenney, 1976, 5:342-343). The existence of the Septuagint verifies that the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament were intact over 300 years before the first books of the New Testament were penned. Likewise, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has further demonstrated a pre-Christian presence of the Old Testament books (see Finegan, 1959, 2:271ff.; Thompson, 1962, p. 264; Free and Vos, 1992, pp. 175ff.; Pfeiffer, 1969, pp. 25ff.; Archer, 1974, pp. 38ff., 505-509).
One category of Old Testament predictive prophecy is Messianic prophecy, i.e., prophecy that pertains to the coming of the Messiah—Jesus Christ. Some 332 (Free and Vos, 1992, p. 241) minute, intricate predictions are scattered throughout the Old Testament that pinpoint details of events and circumstances that transpired while Jesus lived on Earth. Included among these moments in the life of Christ are: His descent from Abraham (Genesis 22:18; Luke 3:34), through the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10; Hebrews 7:14), through the family of David (2 Samuel 7:12; Luke 1:32), through the virgin Mary (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22), during the Roman empire (Daniel 2:44; 9:26; Luke 2:1), while Judah still had a king (Genesis 49:10; Matthew 2:22), His escape to Egypt (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:14-15), His Galilean ministry (Isaiah 9:1-2; Matthew 4:12-16), His priesthood comparable to Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6; 6:20; 7:15-17), His rejection by the Jews (Isaiah 53:3; Psalm 2:2; Luke 15:25; 23:18; John 1:11; 5:43), His triumphal entry (Zechariah 9:9; Isaiah 62:11; Matthew 21:1-11; John 12:12-15), His betrayal by a friend (Psalm 41:9; John 13:18), for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12; Matthew 26:15), which would be returned for a potter’s field (Zechariah 11:13; Matthew 27:3-10), with His accuser replaced (Psalm 109:7-8; Acts 1:16-20), being spit upon and beaten (Isaiah 50:6; Matthew 27:30), His silence when accused (Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 26:62-63), by false witnesses (Psalm 27:12; 35:11; Matthew 26:60-61), mocked and insulted (Psalm 22:6-8; Matthew 27:39-40), given gall and vinegar (Psalm 69:21; John 19:29), His death with sinners (Isaiah 53:12; Matthew 27:38), with His hands and feet pierced (Psalm 22:16; Luke 24:39), but no bone broken (Psalm 34:20; John 19:33), while lots were cast for his clothing (Psalm 22:18; Mark 15:24), buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57-60), but in death his body would not decay (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:22ff.), and His ascension (Psalm 68:18; Daniel 7:13-14; Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:9).
One particularly striking prophecy was uttered by the prophet Micah, who lived and prophesied in the eighth century B.C. (Lewis, 1966, p. 32). He articulated a very specific reference to the place of Christ’s birth: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (5:2). This prophecy is remarkable on at least two counts. First, the fact that anyone could predict the precise city where a “ruler” would be born centuries later is unsurpassed in ordinary human experience. A charlatan would be “leaving himself wide open” to being discredited. Psychics, palm readers, spiritualists, and faith healers of today are very careful to maintain ambiguity and to keep their words sufficiently vague as to allow for adjustment, evasion, and multiple explanations.Pinpointing a specific city is specificity that is incomparable in its own right.
Second, Micah “stuck his neck out” even farther when he identified the city as “Bethlehem Ephrathah.” Few people probably realize that Palestine contained two towns named Bethlehem. Similarly, in the United States, we have Paris, Texas, and Paris, Tennessee. There’s a Jackson, Mississippi, and a Jackson, Tennessee, as well as a Lexington, Tennessee, and a Lexington, Kentucky. The Bethlehem with which most people are familiar is Bethlehem of Judah, located five miles south of Jerusalem. This town, or its inhabitants, is mentioned frequently in the Old Testament (e.g., Genesis 35:19; 48:7; Judges 17:7-9; 19:1ff.; Ruth 1:19), and was the birthplace of King David (1 Samuel 16:4; 17:12,15; 2 Samuel 23:14,16). After the Babylonian exile, Bethlehemites reinhabited the town (Ezra 2:21; Nehemiah 7:26). This same Bethlehem served as the birthplace of the Messiah (Matthew 2:1,5; Luke 2:4,15). In fact, King Herod’s familiarity with biblical prophecy caused him to concentrate his massacre of innocent babies on the infant population of this particular Bethlehem.
The other Bethlehem was Bethlehem of Zebulun in northern Palestine. Though mentioned less frequently in the Old Testament (Joshua 19:15; Judges 12:8,10), archaeological excavations indicate that it was a place of some importance in earlier days (Masterman, 1956, 1:449-450).
How did Micah know that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem—let alone Bethlehem Ephrathah? The only rational explanation is that Micah was inspired in his writing—supernaturally guided to predict the precise location where the Messiah would be born. The Bible stands alone—in a class by itself—apart from all other books on the planet that claim to be of divine origin. It is, in fact, the Word of God. As such, it reserves the right to require conformity to its precepts by all accountable human beings.


Archer, Gleason L. Jr. (1974), A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago, IL: Moody), revised edition.
Finegan, Jack (1959), Light from the Ancient Past (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press), second edition.
Free, Joseph P. and Howard F. Vos (1992), Archaeology and Bible History (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan), revised edition.
Harrison, R.K. (1969), Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Koester, Helmut (1982), History, Culture, and Religion of the Hellenistic Age (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress).
Lewis, Jack (1966), The Minor Prophets (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Masterman, E.W.G. (1956), “Bethlehem,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 1974 reprint.
Miller, Dave (2003), “Is the Book of Mormon from God?” [On-line], URL:http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2243.
Pfeiffer, Charles (1969), The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Tenney, Merrill, ed. (1976), The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Thompson, J.A. (1962), The Bible and Archaeology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

The Euthyphro Dilemma by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

The Euthyphro Dilemma

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.



 What do atheists mean when they speak of the “Euthyphro Dilemma” as a means to discredit theism?


The so-called Euthyphro Dilemma has its genesis in Plato’s dialogue Euthyphro in which Socrates and Euthyphro discuss the nature of piety: “Is the pious  loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” (2008). Over time, philosophers have sharpened the salient point of the dilemma by presenting it in a modified form. The world-renowned late atheist philosopher Antony G.N. Flew worded the argument this way: “Are the things which are good good because God approves of those things, or is it the case that God approves of those things which are good because they are good?” (Warren and Flew, 1977, p. 26). By this thorny contention, the atheist hopes to dismiss the notion of God by placing the theist in an untenable dilemma.
On the one hand, if an action is right simply because God approves it, then morality would be the product of the arbitrary will of God, which He could just as easily alter. Instead of saying that lying and murder are wrong, He could just as well have said they are right—and that divine intention would make them so. On the other hand, if God approves of an action because it is inherently good, then an objective standard exists outside of God that He merely acknowledges. Such a law would therefore be above and higher than God. By the Euthyphro Dilemma, atheists think they have demonstrated that good is either above or beneath God and thereby proof that God is not God (see Figure 1).
Figure 1:
The Euthyphro Dilemma
Figure 2: Reality
But this dilemma is impotent in that it fails to take into account the nature, being, and character of the perfect God of the Bible who is eternal and infinite in all of His attributes. Goodness, like all God’s other attributes, flows from His very being as the Ultimate Good (see Figure 2). Good is neither above nor below God (cf. Mark 10:18; 1 John 4:8; Psalm 33:5). God’s attributes and God’s will are inseparable. The alternatives posed by the atheist do not pose a proper dilemma.


Plato (2008), Euthyphro, trans. Benjamin Jowett, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1642/1642-h/1642-h.htm.
Warren, Thomas and Antony G.N. Flew (1977), The Warren-Flew Debate on the Existence of God(Ramer, TN: National Christian Press), info@nationalchristianpress.net.

Finches, Fossils, and Falsehoods by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Finches, Fossils, and Falsehoods

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

In the May 6, 2002 edition of Newsweek, Fred Guterl wrote a brief article titled “Evolution: Birds Do It” (139[18]:11). The gist of the article centered on a couple named Peter and Rosemary Grant, “a married team of biologists from Princeton, [who] have worked for three decades to fill in Darwin’s blanks.”
The major problem with Mr. Guterl’s article hinges on the fact that he is not aware of the true “blanks” that need to be filled in with regard to Darwin’s theory. In the opening paragraph of the article he wrote: “Charles Darwin described how the daily struggle for food and sex ultimately determines the future of a species, be it dinosaur, bird or human. He had plenty of fossil evidence to back him up, but he never actually observed natural selection taking place.”
In sharp contrast to this statement, the tenth chapter of The Origin of Species is titled “On the Imperfection of the Geological Record.” In it, Darwin argued that, due to the process of natural selection, “the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed, [must] be truly enormous.” However, he went on to admit: “Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and serious objection which can be argued against this theory. The explanation lies, I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record” (1956, pp. 292-293).
Darwin most certainly did not have “plenty of fossil evidence to back him up.” He hoped that future geological research would fill in those blanks, due to the fact that fossil evidence was the major lacking evidence needed to verify his theory. Unfortunately for Darwin and his theory, that evidence has been much less forthcoming than he had hoped. In fact, if Mr. Guterl had checked his own publication’s archives before he printed his misleading article, he would have discovered that in the November 3, 1980 issue of Newsweek, Jerry Adler went on record as stating: “Evidence from fossils now points overwhelmingly away from the classical Darwinism which most Americans learned in high school: that new species evolve out of existing ones by the gradual accumulation of small changes, each of which helps the organism survive and compete in the environment” (96[18]:95). Nothing in that regard has changed in the more than two decades since Mr. Adler made that statement.
Mr. Guterl made two common mistakes in his article. First, he attributed evidence to Darwin’s theory that it does not (and never will) have. Second, he discussed thirty years of experience by two intelligent scientists who documented minor changes among the various beak sizes and body weights of finches. He then used those minor changes to imply general (amoeba-to-man) evolution, but failed to recognize the fact that those minor changes have built-in limits. The finches never changed into anything other than finches. You could put scientists on the Galapagos Islands for the next million years (if the Earth were to stay around for that long) and they never would see a finch change into another type of animal. Evolution is a theory that lacks scientific evidence. Darwin looked to the fossils, and Guterl looked to the finches, but it is time that we all start looking past the falsehoods.


Adler, Jerry (1980), “Is Man a Subtle Accident?,” Newsweek, 96[18]:95, November 3.
Darwin, Charles (1956 reprint), The Origin of Species (London: J.M. Dent & Sons).
Guterl, Fred (2002), “Evolution: Birds Do It,” Newsweek, 139[18]:11, May 6.

Pope Francis Claims God Will Save Atheists by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Pope Francis Claims God Will Save Atheists

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

On Wednesday, May 22, 2013 Pope Francis conducted Mass in Rome. During that service, he made one of the most memorable and astonishing statements ever spoken by anyone who calls himself a Christian. The theme of his sermon was that all humans should do good deeds for others. In the course of the talk he stated:
The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! “Father, the atheists?” Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. “But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!” But do good: we will meet one another there (“Pope at Mass...,” 2013, emp. added).
The Pope’s statement highlights two very important issues. First, it shows how far the Pope and the Catholic Church have fallen from the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus explained to the first-century Jews: “If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). His point could not have been more clear: acceptance of the fact that Jesus is the Son of God is required for salvation. That is why Jesus told His apostles: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Furthermore, the inspired apostle Paul explained that Jesus Christ is coming “from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, emp. added). John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, boldly stated: “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” Make no mistake, neither Jesus nor His inspired apostles ever once hinted at the possibility that people who do not believe in God will be saved. They will not. Revelation 21:8 explains: “But the cowardly,unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral…shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (emp. added).
The second issue evident in Francis’ statement is the fact that pressure from the unbelieving community is mounting. As the number of unbelievers gradually increases, so does the temptation to appease them and attempt to bend the truth to ingratiate one’s self or organization with unbelievers. As Christians—followers of Jesus Christ—we must resist this tempation at all cost. Yes, praise God, Jesus’ blood is powerful enough to redeem unbelievers, if and only if, those unbelievers turn to Him with humble hearts, confess that He is God’s son, and obey the Gospel (Lyons and Butt, n.d.). Barring that response, unbelievers can look forward to nothing in the afterlife except a “certain fearful expectation of judgment” (Hebrews 10:27).


Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (No Date), Receiving the Gift of Salvation, Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/Receiving%20the%20Gift%20of%20Salvation.pdf.
“Pope at Mass: Culture of Encounter Is the Foundation of Peace” (2013), Vatican Radio, http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/05/22/pope_at_mass:_culture_of_encounter_is_the_foundation_of_peace/en1-694445.

One Little Word by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


One Little Word

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Some verses in the Bible seem to stand in such glaring contradiction to other Bible passages that reconciliation appears virtually impossible. But, after looking into the problem with only a small amount of diligence, the solution generally becomes apparent, and the supposed contradiction vanishes like a plate full of chocolate chip cookies in the midst of a group of hungry teenage boys. Such is the case with Hebrews 11:17: “By faith Abraham, being tried, offered up Isaac: yea, he that had gladly received the promises was offering up his only begotten son.” When this verse is compared to Abraham’s history as recorded in the book of Genesis, we immediately notice that Isaac was not the “only begotten son” of Abraham. In fact, we read that Abraham fathered Ishmael by Hagar (Genesis 16:16) more than a decade before the birth of Isaac. And following the death of Sarah, Abraham took Keturah as a wife, by which he begat at least six more sons (Genesis 25:1-2).

How is this seeming contradiction to be resolved? First, let us remember the general context of Hebrews 11:17. This verse comes near the end of a book whose writer has shown an intimate knowledge of the Old Testament. Even in the very chapter under discussion, we read a rather complete list of Old Testament heroes such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, et al. Furthermore, much more obscure characters like Barak and Jephthah make their way into the discussion. Add to this the numerous allusions to Melchizedek and the priesthood in earlier chapters, and one soon realizes that the writer of Hebrews was a true Old Testament scholar. To assume that he thought, or accidentally wrote, that Abraham had only one son would be to attribute to the writer a grievous, careless mistake of colossal proportions.
In truth, the problem has nothing to do with the writer of the book of Hebrews, but everything to do with the translators of the Greek into English. In the Greek text of Hebrews 11:17, the word translated as “only begotten son” is monogenes. While this word could possibly be used to refer to an only child, that certainly was not its sole use. Josephus used the word monogenes to refer to Izates, who had an older brother and several younger brothers (Antiquities, 20.2.1). The well-respected Greek-English Lexicon by Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker explains that the word can be used to denote something that is “unique (in kind), of something that is the only example of its category” (1979, p.527). This meaning fits perfectly the passage in Hebrews 11, where the writer was explaining that Abraham offered up his “only promised son.” Abraham had no other children that fit in the category of being promised by God. Isaac was the only “example of a category”—that category being a son who was promised to Abraham and Sarah. Although Abraham had many other children by other women, he had no other child “of promise.” Isaac was his unique son, the only one of promise: the “monogenes.”
Sometimes, clearing up a supposed contradiction in the Bible is as easy as looking up the possible meanings of a single word from the original language. Before we allow our faith to be shaken by superficial claims of contradiction, let’s resolve to give the Bible the benefit of the doubt that even an ancient secular document would deserve. It borders on comical to imagine that the Hebrews writer, with his commanding knowledge of the Old Testament, accidentally “slipped” when referring to Isaac as Abraham’s onlyson. Once again, we find that no contradiction exists; the honest Bible student has his or her question answered, the Bible skeptic has his or her allegation refuted, and the Bible remains the inspired Word of God.
Arndt, William, F.W. Gingrich, and Frederick Danker (1979), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
Josephus, Flavius (1987 edition), “Antiquities of the Jews,” The Works of Josephus, transl. William Whiston (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).

From Jim McGuiggan... BAPTISM AGAIN


There are those believers who think that talking about baptism is a waste of good time and energy. There are others who think it isn’t a complete waste of time and energy but it’s so far down the list of “things to do and things to discuss” that they immediately lose interest when the subject is raised. “Faith and living in the image of Jesus Christ is what really matters,” they insist.
Now and then you hear someone say that sort of thing as if the NT didn’t know that. The centrality of faith in God through Jesus is seen everywhere in the NT and Paul will insist in 1 Corinthians 7:19 that what really matters, in light of Jesus, is “keeping the commandments of God.”
So the NT writers don’t need instruction from us on what really matters and with that in mind let me say that those who read the NT and don’t see that baptism is everywhere related to faith in Jesus Christ and making him the Lord of our lives have been and are being deprived of crucially important truth. Click here[Let me say too that there are those who speak about baptism as if it were the only truth in the Bible we should bother about. More ignorance.]
A question often raised by those who take notice of baptism is: “What makes for a ‘valid’ baptism?” Infant Baptism is an interesting subject and should be pursued but it isn’t something you find documented in the NT as even those who practice it will tell you. In the NT, baptism is administered only to persons with personal faith in Jesus.
There are those who fully confess that that is what the NT presents to us but they still feel they can move beyond that to baptizing infants. For a number of reasons that includes the doctrine that infants are born alienated from God through Adam’s sin, they feel compelled to have the infants baptized and joined to Jesus for salvation. [Luther in his plain-speaking way insisted that a baby is not baptized to become a prince but to become a Christian.]
Those who hold that personal faith is required in the one to be baptized hold that “infant baptism” is not NT baptism and therefore invalid. As an ordinance it doesn’t “work” precisely because it isn’t NT baptism and only NT baptism “works” in a NT way. Whatever NT baptism “does” it is only NT baptism that “does” it
NT baptism is what it is! It isn’t for each person to decide what it should be or mean or do, but for all who take the NT as their teacher and guide to learn, to do and teach (as is said of Ezra).
If, for example, someone took the view that whether they are baptized or not is entirely up to them because that’s the nature of NT baptism—if they took that view they certainly didn’t get it from the NT and what is not got from the NT should be forthrightly rejected or regarded with strong suspicion depending on the nature of the case.
But what if these people in their ignorance submitted to a baptism that they fully believed they could take or leave would that invalidate their baptism? Perhaps not! For God has a way of tolerating good-hearted ignorance (not all ignorance is the same—click here).
But does their ignorance alter the nature of NT truth?
Should we keep from them the truth of the NT on this matter?
Should we ourselves adopt their ignorance as if it were our own?
If someone came to us to be baptized but insisted with passion that they wanted nothing to do with a baptism that was “into” Jesus and “unto” salvation, claiming that such a baptism was foreign to what they had in mind—should we baptize them, professing it was NT baptism?
Whatever we should do, surely we shouldn’t embrace such ignorance as NT truth and practice it as loyalty to NT truth.
The issue isn’t easily settled and in the end we should speak the truth as we find it in Scripture and permit God to render the final decision on our ignorance. This doesn’t give us the right to withhold truth or knowingly ignore it much less practice it.
It’s eye-opening to see how we can miss the obvious. Two fine men who both believed that NT baptism was “unto” or “for” the forgiveness of sins and found that truth in the same text (Acts 2:38) differed on how much a person needed to know if baptism was to be valid. One argued that the phrase “for the forgiveness of sins” was part of the command and that without knowing that, a person wasn’t obeying the command to be baptized in Jesus’ name. In his anxiety to establish that baptism was for the forgiveness of sins he made this convoluted argument rather than taking the text at face value.
The other gentleman believed that the person being baptized didn’t have to know it was “for” or “unto” the forgiveness of sins so long as the person had faith in Jesus and thought he/she was “obeying God”. He believed that NT baptism was “for” or “unto” the forgiveness of sins; he simply insisted that the person didn’t have to know it.
Both men were working with the same text and if we allow the text itself to tell us what was happening on that occasion it seems to me that it greatly eases our difficulties.
Did the something like 3,000 believers seek forgiveness?
Did they know they were seeking forgiveness?
Did they know that to gain forgiveness they were to be baptized?
Did the apostle mean for them to know that?
Did they know that in baptism they were taking on them the name of
Jesus as Lord?
Did the apostle mean for them to know that?
This is the record the Holy Spirit gives us of NT baptism on this occasion and I know of no NT case of baptism that differs from it in essentials.
Had we asked any one of the three thousand (no exceptions!) why they were being baptized they would have told us they were taking on them the name of Jesus the Lord so that they might receive forgiveness of sins and God’s promise of the Holy Spirit.
Had we been one of the three thousand we would have known we were becoming Christ’s and in him finding forgiveness and blessing.
To go to texts like that and ask, “Yes, but what did they have to know?” is to miss the point. What they did know and what were they meant to know is what the NT brings to and lays on us. We find this to be true in all the cases of NT baptism.
I would have thought that that places us under obligation to teach and practice what the Spirit has shown to us and called us to.
“Yes, but what of those who are ignorant of this?” This is a legitimate question but we’re not to allow it to offset the truth the NT lays on us.
God will deal with issues of ignorance and weakness and religious shaping and we should be happy that he will but we are not to presume to make decisions for him; decisions which lead us to withhold truth in teaching and practice because of difficult questions generated by those truths. To knowingly leave people in their ignorance is not the proper response and it certainly isn’t the cure for it.
There is more to NT baptism than how it relates to individuals. It has a profound message to the entire human family.
Finally: Imagine meeting a smiling person leaving that multitude. We ask him why he's smiling and he says he just found the truth about Jesus and committed himself to Him for forgiveness and the Holy Spirit. He hasn't been baptized and we ask him why not and he says, "Oh, that, well that's optional. It's important in its way but I can take it or leave it." We ask him if he and the three thousand learned that from Peter and he says, "No, but just the same it's only baptism; it's faith that really matters." Hmmm.

From Roy Davison... God has revealed the mystery of His will to His saints!


God has revealed the mystery of His will to His saints!
The Bible unveils a great mystery. Paul proclaimed “the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints” (Colossians 1:25, 26).
The mystery, revealed in the Bible, is described in various ways: the mystery of God (Colossians 2:2; Revelation 10:7), the mystery of His will (Ephesians 1:9), the mystery of Christ (Ephesians 3:4; Colossians 4:3), the mystery of the kingdom of God (Mark 4:11), the mystery of the gospel (Ephesians 6:19), the mystery of the faith (1 Timothy 3:9), and the mystery of godliness (1 Timothy 3:16).
In the Bible, a mystery is a hidden truth that can be known only by revelation.

God has revealed mysteries to man.
Daniel declared: “He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things” (Daniel 2:21, 22).
God has revealed His mysteries to enable man to do His will: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

These mysteries are not understood by all.
“In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, ‘I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight’” (Luke 10:21).
“And the disciples came and said to Him, ‘Why do You speak to them in parables?’ He answered and said to them, ‘Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand’” (Matthew 13:10-13).

Why do some fail to understand?
Although man’s ears cannot be closed physically, they can be switched off. Zechariah said of God’s rebellious people: “They refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets” (Zechariah 7:11, 12).
God instructed His people for their good, “Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward” (Jeremiah 7:24). God’s word is keyed to those who “incline their ear,” to those who are eager to learn.

How do people avoid hearing?
By not listening! People tune out what they do not want to hear. They prefer to watch dramatic presentations that require little effort or thought.
To really learn something however, especially if it is a little complicated, active listening is required. Like in school, one must listen to learn.
A preacher notices certain people who are listening to every word to learn more about the will of God. He notices others who sit with a blank expression, apparently thinking about something else, or nothing at all. Some allow themselves to be easily distracted by little disturbances rather than focusing on the message. Some even go to the rest room ... to see who just sent them a text message on their cell phone!
A preacher spends many hours in study and preparation to present a message from the word of God. But he is not an entertainer: he cannot mesmerize your mind like television.
While God’s word is being preached, the hearer also has a task to perform. He must listen attentively.
This lesson about the mystery of God will require concentration. We will be reading some beautiful, yet complicated passages of Scripture. Listen carefully so you can understand what God is telling us in His word.

Who can understand the mysteries of God?
About the coming reign of righteousness it was foretold: “The eyes of those who see will not be dim, and the ears of those who hear will listen” (Isaiah 32:3).
Only those who want to do the will of God understand the mysteries of the kingdom. Jesus said: “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:17).
Paul explains that the mysteries of God are comprehended only by people who value spiritual realities: “However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:6-8).
Paul had not based his message on human wisdom, so their faith would be in God, not man (verses 4 and 5). To the mature Paul speaks “the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hiddenwisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory.” Even before creation, God had a marvelous plan for man. This plan could not be known by human wisdom.
Paul continues: “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him’” (1 Corinthians 2:9). The blessings God has prepared are so vast that they not only cannot be known by human wisdom, they cannot even be imagined!

But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10, 11). The mystery of the wisdom of God and the unimaginable blessings He has in store for those who love Him, have been revealed through the Spirit!
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12). The mystery of the grace of God has been revealed by the Spirit.
Paul continues: “These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:13). Some claim that the ideas in the Bible are inspired, but not the words. Paul emphasizes, however, that he communicated the revealed mystery in words taught by the Spirit.
He concludes: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Thus, spiritual discernment is required to understand “the things of the Spirit,” the mystery of the wisdom and will of God.

The mystery was revealed to the apostles in the first century.
Paul’s understanding of the mystery came by revelation. He explained: “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles - if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)” (Ephesians 3:1-4).
Paul gained knowledge of the mystery of Christ by revelation. Others can obtain this knowledge by reading what Paul has written.
“Which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power” (Ephesians 3:5-7).
The mystery of salvation by Christ, made known to the apostles and prophets in the first century, included the truth that believing Jews and believing Gentiles would be united in the same body, the church of Christ.
Paul’s special mission was to preach the gospel to the Gentiles: “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).
But he also addressed everyone, “And to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God” (Ephesians 3:9).
The fellowship of the mystery is the fellowship of the saved of every nation in the church of Christ, as determined by God before creation.
“To the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:10-12).
Never underestimate the importance of the church of Christ. The mystery of the manifold wisdom of God is made known by the church, not only to man on earth, but also to the principalities and powers in heaven!
This purpose is accomplished in Christ who is the source of salvation for mankind.
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth” (Ephesians 1:7-10).
For the sake of the church, Paul was willing to suffer so the mystery - the word of God - might be preached: “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints” (Colossians 1:24-26).
It was God’s will that the saints might know the glory awaiting those in whom Christ dwells: “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:27, 28).
Paul had a burning desire to help people understand the mystery of God so they might enjoy the blessings God gives to those who are in Christ.
“To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 1:29 - 2:3).

Through the Scriptures this mystery is made known to all nations.
After the mystery of salvation was revealed to the apostles, God commanded that the gospel be made known to all nations through inspired Scriptures: “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith - to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever” (Romans 16:25-27).

Preachers are stewards of the mysteries of God.
They must faithfully proclaim the gospel. Referring to Peter, Apollos and himself, Paul wrote: “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:1, 2).
We are to pray that preachers will boldly proclaim the mystery of the gospel: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints - and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:18-20). “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:2-4).
The Bible is a book of mysteries revealed. What have we learned?
- God has revealed the mystery of His will to His saints.
- Only those who want to do the will of God comprehend the mysteries of the kingdom.
- Only those with spiritual discernment understand the mystery of God’s wisdom revealed by the Spirit.
- The mystery of salvation through Jesus Christ was revealed to the apostles and prophets in the first century.
- It was God’s good pleasure to make these mysteries known. He wants us to know the mystery of God.
- God commanded that the revelation of this mystery be made known to all nations through inspired Scriptures.
- Preachers must faithfully proclaim the mysteries of God.
- We are to pray that they will boldly do so.
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).
What a tremendous blessing that God has revealed to us the mystery of salvation! Through the Scriptures this mystery has been made known to all nations for a purpose, “for obedience to the faith” (Romans 16:26).
Thus Jesus commands: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15, 16). “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20).
What is the mystery revealed? The good news that sinful man can be saved by the grace of God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Accept God’s mystery of salvation by believing in Christ and confessing His name (Romans 10:10), by repenting and being baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). Do not delay. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Amen.
Roy Davison
The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive