"THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS" Chapter Nine OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To appreciate why and how God could choose to reject the nation of Israel (except for a remnant) and accept people from among the Gentiles SUMMARY With the conclusion of chapter eight Paul has completed his description of how God's righteousness was manifested in Christ, and the results of such justification. However, some of Paul's readers may have received the impression that God's plan of saving man in Christ apart from the Law (3:21-22) implies that God has rejected His people of Israel and the promises made to them. In chapters nine through eleven, Paul explains that God has not rejected His people. Paul first expresses his own concern for his fellow Israelites (1-2). If it would do any good, Paul would gladly be condemned in order to save his brethren who had been the recipients of so many blessings (3-5). But Paul quickly states that God's promises had not failed. He reminds them that true Israel is not simply the physical descendants of Israel, any more than the promises to Abraham were to be carried out through all of Abraham's descendants just because they are his physical descendants. Rather, it depends upon what God has chosen according to His Divine purpose. This is illustrated by contrasting what the Scriptures reveal about Isaac and Ishmael, and then about Jacob and Esau (6-13). That God has made such distinction is illustrated further with the example of Pharaoh, where God chose to show mercy to some while He hardened others [who had already persistently rejected God's mercy, MAC] (14-18). That God has the right to make such choices is His as the potter over the clay (19-21). So God chose to endure "vessels of wrath" with much longsuffering, that He might make known His glorious riches to "vessels of mercy" [a point expanded upon further in chapter eleven, MAC] (22-23). And who are these "vessels of mercy"? They consist of Gentiles, and a remnant of Israel, as foretold by Hosea and Isaiah (24-29). Paul's conclusion? That God's words of promise were not just to the fleshly descendants of Abraham (as the Jews would have it), but to the faithful remnant of Israel and to the Gentiles who accepted the righteousness which is by faith. The only reason any of the Israelites were rejected by God was because of their rejection of the Messiah, even as Isaiah foretold (30-33). OUTLINE I. PAUL'S CONCERN FOR HIS BRETHREN OF ISRAEL (1-5) A. HIS GREAT CONCERN (1-3) 1. His conscience and the Holy Spirit bear witness to his great sorrow and grief (1-2) 2. He would even be willing to be cut off from Christ for their sakes (3) B. FOR ISRAEL, RECIPIENTS OF MANY BLESSINGS (4-5) 1. Including the covenants, the Law, the promises (4) 2. Of whom are the patriarchs, and of course, Christ Himself (5) II. THE TRUE CHILDREN OF GOD (6-29) A. ARE CHILDREN OF PROMISE, NOT CHILDREN OF FLESH (6-13) 1. They are not all Israel who have descended from Israel (6) 2. As illustrated with Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau (7-13) 3. According to God's purpose, whose choice was not based upon works (11) B. ARE THE OBJECTS OF GOD'S MERCY (14-23) 1. Possible only through His Mercy (14-16) 2. Just as Pharaoh was the object of His Wrath (17-18) 3. God's right to choose the objects of His mercy and His wrath (19-23) C. ARE OF BOTH THE JEWS AND THE GENTILES (24-29) 1. Not of Jews only, as foretold by Hosea (24-26) 2. But only a remnant of Israel, as foretold by Isaiah (27-29) III. THE BASIS OF GOD'S CHOICE: FAITH vs. NO FAITH (30-33) A. FOR THE GENTILES (30) 1. Though they had not actively been looking for it (30a) 2. Yet many have attained righteousness through faith (30b) B. FOR ISRAEL (31-33) 1. Though diligent for the Law, did not have the attitude of faith (31-32a) 2. And therefore stumbled over Christ, as foretold by Isaiah (32b-33) WORDS TO PONDER harden - to make callous, to make strong; can be accomplished in two ways: 1) INDIRECTLY, by providing occasion to repent or resist (eg: as when judgment is delayed, Ro 2:4-5), and 2) DIRECTLY, by strengthening those who rebel so as to contrast power, mercy, or judgment (for example, a) Pharaoh, to show God's power, Ex 9:12-16; b) Israel, to show God's mercy, Ro 11:7-11,31; c) those who disbelieve, to show God's judgment, 2Th 2:9-12 remnant - a small portion of the whole; Isaiah foretold only a remnant of Israel would be saved (Ro 9:27-29) the Stumbling Stone - a reference to Jesus (cf. 1Pe 2:6-8) REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) List the main points of this chapter - Paul's Concern For His Brethren Of Israel (1-5) - The True Children Of God (6-29) - The Basis Of God's Choice: Faith vs. No Faith (30-33) 2) How much love did Paul have for the nation of Israel? (2-3) - Enough to be lost if it would do any good 3) Who are the true children of God? (8) - Children of promise, not children of flesh 4) What does God have the right to do? (18) - To show mercy on who He wills, and to harden who He wills 5) What O.T. prophet foretold that Gentiles would be a part of the people of God? (25-26) - Hosea 6) What did Isaiah say would happen to the nation of Israel (27) - Only a remnant would be saved 7) Why are Gentiles among the saved? (30) - Because of faith 8) Why are some Israelites going to be lost? (31-33) - They trusted more in the keeping of the Law, and did not believe in Christ
"THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS" Chapter Eight OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To appreciate the place the Holy Spirit has in the lives of Christians 2) To notice the power to overcome sin which is available in Christ 3) To realize the extent of God's love toward us SUMMARY In chapter seven, Paul described the dilemma of a man who becomes a prisoner of the law of sin which is in the members of his body. In the last few verses, Paul made reference to the hope of liberation made possible by God through Jesus Christ. In this chapter, Paul amplifies on the freedom from sin found in Christ. First, for those in Christ who are walking according to the Spirit, there is no condemnation for sin, for the death of Christ for sin has set us free from the law of sin and death by fulfilling the requirement of the law (1-4). Second, by setting our minds on the things of the Spirit and not the flesh, we are able to enjoy life and peace, pleasing God (5-8). And third, we now enjoy the indwelling of the Spirit of God, by whom we can put to death the deeds of the body and enjoy both present and future blessings as the children of God (9-17). The blessings of being God's children are enlarged upon in the rest of the chapter. Our present sufferings mean nothing in view of our ultimate redemption and revealing for which we eagerly and patiently wait (18-25). We have the privilege of the Holy Spirit and Jesus interceding for us when we pray, which assures that all things will work together for good for those called according to God's purpose (26-30). Finally, as God's elect we have the assurance that nothing can tear us away from God's love and that in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (31-39). OUTLINE I. IN CHRIST THERE IS FREEDOM FROM SIN (1-17) A. FREEDOM FROM THE CONDEMNATION OF SIN (1-4) 1. Available to those in Christ, made possible by the law of the Spirit of life (1-2) 2. An accomplishment not attained by the Law, but by the death of Christ (3-4) B. FREEDOM FROM THE POWER OF SIN (5-17) 1. To those who set their minds on the things of the Spirit, not the flesh, pleasing God (5-8) 2. To those who have the indwelling Holy Spirit (9-11) 3. To those who by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body (12-13) 4. To those thus led, who are the children of God and joint heirs with Christ (14-17) II. BLESSINGS OF BEING CHILDREN OF GOD (18-39) A. THE GLORY TO BE REVEALED IN US (18-25) 1. Present sufferings don't even compare (18) 2. The whole creation eagerly awaits for the revealing and glorious liberty of the children of God (19-22) 3. We also eagerly wait with perseverance for this hope (23-25) B. THE HELP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (26-27) 1. Helps in our weakness as we pray (26a) 2. By interceding for us as we pray (26b-27) C. ALL THINGS WORKING TOGETHER FOR GOOD (28-30) 1. For those who love God, called according to His purpose (28) 2. For such, whom God foreknew, He will carry out His ultimate purpose (29-30) D. GOD'S LOVE TOWARD HIS ELECT (31-39) 1. God, who spared not His own Son, is on our side (31-33) 2. Christ, who died for us, now intercedes for us at God's right hand (34) 3. Through such love we are more than conquerors over all things (35-39) WORDS TO PONDER law of the Spirit of life - 1) possibly an expression referring to the Gospel; or, 2) the law (principle) involving the life-giving Spirit who aids those in Christ to become free of the "law of sin and death" in their members (cf. 7:23 with 8:11-13) the Spirit, Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, Spirit of Him - various references to the Holy Spirit the creation - various explanations are often given: 1) all of mankind; 2) only the saved; 3) the whole physical creation placed under the curse (Ge 3:17; 8:21; Re 22:3), using the kind of language found in Ps 98:7-9; 148:1-14. predestined - predetermined; note carefully in v. 29 that it is based upon "foreknowledge" (cf. 1Pe 1:2), and that which is predetermined is WHAT those in Christ are to become, not WHO are to be in Christ elect - chosen; according to 1Pe 1:2, this election is based upon God's foreknowledge, not some arbitrary choice intercedes - to make a petition on behalf of another; used of the Holy Spirit in v. 26-27 (interceding as a "translator"?), and of Christ in v. 34 (interceding as "defense counsel"?) REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) List the main points of this chapter - In Christ There Is Freedom From Sin (1-17) - Blessings Of Being Children Of God (18-39) 2) What is the main difference between the "law of Moses" and the "law of the Spirit of life"? (2-4) - The Law of Moses could not set one free from the "law of sin and death" 3) What is the result of setting your mind on the things of the flesh? On the things of the Spirit? (6) - Death; life and peace 4) Do the Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian? (9-11) - Yes 5) How can we assure that we will continue to live spiritually? (13) - By putting to death the deeds of the body with the help of the Spirit 6) List briefly the blessings of being the children of God (14-39) - One day we will be glorified together with Christ - We have the help of the Holy Spirit - All things ultimately work for our good - Nothing can separate us from God's love
The Quran and Corrupt Christianity
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Both Muhammad and the Quran show a failure to grasp the difference between New Testament Christianity and the corrupted Christianity practiced by those who professed to be Christians in the Arabian peninsula of the sixth and seventh centuries. The fact that the Quran reflects this failure shows that its author(s) did not have divine guidance, even as it failed to detect the Jewish misrepresentations of the Old Testament as projected by the rabbinic folklore of the day. The form of Christianity reflected prominently in the Quran is Catholicism (e.g., Surah 57:27—monasticism; Surah 17:56—saint worship). Anyone familiar with the first five centuries of church history is well aware of the extent to which the Christian religion had become perverted and distorted. These perversions did not escape the attention of the author of the Quran. However, even when an appropriate criticism is leveled against a doctrine with which Muhammad disagreed, the criticism often will contain an implicit approval of another element that is contrary to New Testament teaching.
For example, the Quran refers to Jesus as “son of Mary” 22 times. Most of these allusions are uttered by Allah Himself (Surah 2:87,253; 3:45; 4:171; 5:17,46,75,78,110,114,116; 9:31; 19:34; 23:50; 33:7; 43:57; 57:27; 61:6,14). Yet this phrase occurs in the New Testament only one time—and only then as used by certain unnamed townspeople whose use of the term shows they knew of Him only in terms of His earthly relationships, i.e., the son of Mary, and as a carpenter who had brothers and sisters (Mark 6:3). The Quran places an undue and unbiblical emphasis on Mary, thereby reflecting the Catholic notion that characterized his day (cf. Surah 5:116). The overwhelming emphasis in the New Testament is on Jesus being the “Son of God” (Mark 1:1; Luke 1:35; John 1:34; 3:18; 5:25; 10:36; 11:4; Acts 9:20; Romans 1:4; 2 Corinthians 1:19; Hebrews 4:14; 7:3; 10:29; 1 John 3:8; 4:15; 5:10,13,20; et al.)—an acknowledgment made even by Satan and the demons (Luke 4:3,9,41; 8:28). [NOTE: The notion of Mary as intercessor on behalf of those still on Earth (Abbott, 1966, pp. 96,630) is reflected in the comparable role assigned to Muhammad by Muslims (Geisler and Saleeb, 1993, pp. 85-86)].
The author of the Quran unquestionably had heard the squabbles between Christians and Jews (Surah 2:113). Mistakenly assuming they were supposed to follow the same book, the Quran demonstrates a lack of understanding regarding the distinction between the Old Testament and the New Testament, as well as the relationship sustained between Judaism and Christianity. This surface misconception undoubtedly contributed to the uninformed conclusion that the Bible is corrupt, and is unable to transmit God’s will accurately.
The Quran possesses many characteristics that demonstrate its uninspired (i.e., human) origin. One such trait is its failure to distinguish between the Christianity taught in the New Testament and the distorted form of Christianity to which the author of the Quran was exposed. It unwittingly endorses the corrupt features that characterize the Byzantine Christianity that manifested itself in Arabia in the sixth and seventh centuries after Christ.
Abbott, Walter, ed. (1966), The Documents of Vatican II (New York: America Press).
Geisler, Norman L. and Abdul Saleeb (1993), Answering Islam (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
David Has Been Found
|by||Garry K. Brantley, M.A., M.Div.|
Last summer, archaeologists excavating at Tel Dan (biblical Dan) found a fragment of a stela (inscribed stone) in the remains of a city wall that scholars acclaim as “one of the most important discoveries in the annals of Biblical archaeology” (Wood, 1993, 6:121). The stone fragment seems to have been from a victory stela erected at Dan by a conquering Aramean (Syrian) army. When the Israelites eventually reclaimed the city, they destroyed the stela and used its fragments in various structures (Shanks, 1994, 20:39). Professor Avraham Biran, the archaeologist heading the excavation, has dated the stela to the first half of the ninth century B.C. (Shanks, 1994, 20:38).
Though only thirteen partial lines remain of this once-impressive monument, they contain an unparalleled literary jewel. Lines 8 and 9 explicitly mention the “king of Israel” and the “House of David,” which the conquering army defeated [The drawing on the left depicts the lower portion of the basalt stela from Tel Dan. The engraved inscription is written in paleo-Hebrew. The two highlighted areas are translated “king of Isreal” and “House of David,” respectively.] These statements are important for several reasons. First, this is the only extant, extrabiblical document that unquestionably mentions the name David (perhaps it also appears in the Mesha stela, better known as the Moabite stone; see Lemaire, 1994). Even more remarkable is the fact that his name appears in the familiar phrase “House of David.” Given the date of the stela, this serves to confirm the biblical usage of this designation (cf. 1 Kings 12:19, 14:8, Isaiah 7:2, et al.).
Second, though critical scholars have tended to minimize the importance of Israel and Judah during this historical period, the inscription supports the significance that the Bible attaches to these two kingdoms. Third, the tentative date of this discovery corresponds historically with 1 Kings 15:9-20 in which Ben-Hadad, King of Syria (Aram), attacked several Israelite cities including Dan. Some scholars argue that the stela is an exact parallel to this sacred account.
However, there seem to be some differences between the details of 1 Kings 15:9-20 and the ancient stela fragment. Most conspicuously, the stela suggests (if accurately translated) that the Syrian army destroyed both Israel and Judah, but the biblical text indicates that Syria and Judah were allies against Israel. These discrepancies do not necessarily mean that either account is inaccurate. It may be that the stela refers to another battle not mentioned in the Bible, and it is very likely that there were several skirmishes involving Syria. But the stela does demonstrate that Syria (Aram) had military conflicts with Israel, lending corroborative testimony to the historical reliability of the biblical text.
No doubt, analysis of and debate over the stela will continue for some time. We can be certain, however, that the name “David” has been found in a ninth-century B.C. text other than the Bible. That incontrovertible fact is yet another ancient witness to biblical credibility.
Lemaire, Andre (1994), “ ‘House of David’ Restored in Moabite Inscription,” Biblical Archaeology Review, 20:30-37, May/June.
Shanks, Hershel (1994a), “ ‘David’ Found at Dan,” Biblical Archaeology Review, 20:26-39, March/April.
Shanks, Hershel (1994b), “New Inscription May Illuminate Biblical Events,” Biblical Archaeology Review, 20:38, March/April.
Wood, Bryant (1993), “New Inscription Mentions House of David,” Bible and Spade, 6:119-121, Autumn.
|by||Caleb Colley, Ph.D.|
Bats often fly speedily through stalactite-filled caves and seemingly impenetrable wooded areas. For bats, one wrong move or turn can mean serious injury or death. Contrary to popular opinion, most bats possess at least decent vision. However, bats’hearing is so sensitive that, for navigational purposes, bats use their ears more than their eyes. Bats are capable of emitting a sound that humans cannot hear. Some species use this very high-pitched, shrill tone when flying to determine what is in front of them (see “Echolocation,” n.d.). The sound bounces off objects in a bat’s path, and the bat hears the echo. Amazingly, the bat is able to determine precisely the direction he should fly in order to avoid smashing into the looming object. This process is referred to as “echolocation.” Bats also use echolocation to find food, especially flying insects.
Bats make this sound from a few, to two hundred, times per second. Do not confuse this sound with the squeaky noise you hear when you stand next to the bat exhibit at your local zoo. That noise is made by bats when they are frustrated, excited, or mating. Bats use different sounds, along with their large ears, to perform echolocation. Scientists use bat detectors to transpose the sounds to a lower frequency—one that humans can hear (see “California Underground...,” 1999). Not all bats, however, use echolocation; approximately 200 species of fruit bats in Africa, Asia, and Australia have larger eyes and are able to use their sharp vision to quickly negotiate obstacles.
Other animals, including dolphins and orca and beluga whales, use echolocation under water, like sonar signals (see “Echolocation”). The process of echolocation also has been observed in terrestrial mammals such as rodents, insectivores, Megachiroptera, and in nocturnal cave-dwelling oil birds and cave swiftlets (see Uy, 1994, p. 1; Blackshear, n.d., p. 1.). In addition, scientific research over the past fifty years has revealed that the auditory system is a major tool employed by blind humans as a means of perception.
Did the complex auditory and navigation systems of bats evolve, as many would have us believe?
Blackshear, Jim (no date), “A Research Proposal: Echolocation—How Can We Best Teach It?,” Stephen F. Austin State University, [On-line], URL: http://hubel.sfasu.edu/courseinfo/SL02/jb2echolocation.htm.
“California Underground: Bat Echolocation Station” (1999), Oakland Museum of California, [On-line], URL: http://www.museumca.org/caves/onli_echo.html.
“Echolocation” (no date), National Parks Conservation Association, [On-line], URL: http://www.eparks.org/wildlife_protection/wildlife_facts/bats/echolocation.asp.
Uy, Christine (1994), “ ‘Seeing’ Sounds: Echolocation by Blind Humans,” ed. Bridget Wagner, Tony Chen, Harvard Undergraduate Society for Neuroscience, [On-line], URL: http://hcs.harvard.edu/husn/BRAIN/vol1/echo.html.
Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit—The "Unpardonable Sin"
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Through the years, numerous writers have taken on the task of explaining the comment spoken by Jesus concerning the “unpardonable sin”—blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. From these writings have come countless false doctrines, insinuations, and suggested explanations. It is the purpose of this article to explain what “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” is not, what it actually is, and to offer comment concerning whether it still can be committed today.
Three of the four gospel accounts contain a reference to the statement made by Jesus concerning blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. These three passages read as follows.
Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come (Matthew 12:31-32).Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation—because they said, “He has an unclean spirit” (Mark 3:28-30).And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven (Luke 12:10).
Each of these references to the statement made by Jesus verifies that Jesus did clearly state that there is a specific sin that “will not be forgiven.” The American Standard Version describes the sin as an “eternal sin” (Mark 3:29). Jesus defined that sin as “the blasphemy against the Spirit.” What, then, is blasphemy against the Spirit?
In order to explain this sin fully, a look at the general context of the statement is critical. Matthew’s account offers the most detail concerning the setting in which Jesus’ statement was made. In Matthew 12:22, the text indicates that a certain man who was demon-possessed was brought to Jesus to be healed. As was His common practice, Jesus cast out the unclean spirit, and healed the man of his blindness and inability to speak. After seeing this display of power, the multitudes that followed Jesus asked, “Could this be the Son of David?” (12:23). Upon hearing this remark, the Pharisees, wanting to discredit the source from which Jesus received His power, declared that Jesus was casting out demons by “Beelzebub, the ruler of demons.” Jesus proceeded to explain that a kingdom divided against itself could not stand, and if He were casting out demons by the power of demons, then He would be defeating Himself. It was after this accusation by the Pharisees, and Jesus’ defense of His actions, that Christ commented concerning the blasphemy against the Spirit. In fact, the text of Mark clearly states that Jesus made the comment about the blasphemy against the Spirit “because they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’ ”
Another critical piece of information needed to clarify Jesus’ statement is the definition of blasphemy. Wayne Jackson wrote: “Blasphemy is an anglicized form of the Greek termblasphemia, which scholars believe probably derives from two roots, blapto, to injure, and pheme, to speak. The word would thus suggest injurious speech” (2000). Bernard Franklin, in his article concerning blasphemy against the Spirit, suggested:
The word “blasphemy” in its various forms (as verb, noun, adjective, etc.) appears some fifty-nine times in the New Testament. It has a variety of renderings, such as, “blasphemy,” “reviled,” “railed,” “evil spoken of,” “to speak evil of,” etc. Examples of these various renderings are: “They that passed by reviled him” (Matthew 27:39). “He that shall blaspheme” (Mark 3:29). “They that passed by railed on him” (Mark 15:29). “The way of truth shall be evil spoken of ” (2 Peter 2:2). “These speak evil of those things” (Jude 10). It is evident from these that blasphemy is a sin of the mouth, a “tongue-sin.” All New Testament writers except the author of Hebrews use the word (1936, pp. 224-225).
Furthermore, Jesus defined the term when, after referring to blasphemy, He used the phrase “speaks a word against” in Matthew 12:32.
WHAT THE UNPARDONABLE SIN IS NOT
With the working definition of blasphemy meaning, “to speak against,” or “speak evil of,” it is easy to rule out several sins that would not qualify as the unpardonable sin. Occasionally, murder is suggested as the “unpardonable sin.” Such cannot be the case, however. First, since blasphemy is a “tongue sin,” murder would not fall into this category. Second, several biblical passages show the sin of murder can be forgiven. When King David committed adultery and had Uriah the Hittite murdered, the prophet Nathan came to him, informing him that God had seen that David “killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword” (2 Samuel 12:9). When David confessed to Nathan and repented, the prophet told David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die” (12:13). And, although David was punished for his iniquity, it was forgiven. The Bible plainly demonstrates that murder is not the unpardonable sin.
Adultery surfaces as another sin put forward as unpardonable. Yet the same reasoning used to discount murder as the unpardonable sin can be used to disqualify adultery. First, it does not fit the category of blasphemy. Second, David was forgiven of adultery, just as surely as he was forgiven of murder. The apostle Paul gave a list of no less than ten sins (including adultery) of which the Corinthian brethren had been forgiven (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Adultery cannot be the unpardonable sin.
Another sin set forth as the unpardonable sin is blasphemy of any kind, not specifically against the Holy Spirit. We know, however, that blasphemy in general cannot be unforgivable for two reasons. First, in the context of the unpardonable sin, Jesus clearly stated that “whatever blasphemies” men may utter (besides against the Holy Spirit) could be forgiven. Second, Paul confessed that before his conversion, he had formerly been “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief ” (1 Timothy 1:13). These two biblical passages rule out the possibility of general blasphemy as the unpardonable sin.
We begin to see, then, that we cannot arbitrarily decide which sins we think are heinous, and then simply attribute to them the property of being unpardonable, especially considering the fact that even those who were guilty of crucifying the Son of God had the opportunity to be forgiven (Acts 2:36-38). Therefore, since the unpardonable sin falls into a category of its own, and cannot be murder, adultery, general blasphemy, etc., some scholars have set forth the idea that the unpardonable sin is not a single sin at all, but is instead the stubborn condition of a person who persists in unbelief. This understanding, however, fails to take into account the immediate context of the “unpardonable sin.” Gus Nichols, commenting on this idea of “persistent unbelief,” stated: “It is true, great multitudes are going into eternity in rebellion against God to be finally and eternally lost; but it is for rejecting and neglecting pardon graciously extended in the gospel while they live, not because they have committed the unpardonable sin” (1967, p. 236). Wendell Winkler, under a section titled, “What the Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit is Not,” wrote that it is not
postponement of obedience until death. The text implies that those who commit the eternal sin continue to live while having lost all opportunity of salvation; whereas those who postpone obedience to Christ (except those who commit the eternal sin) could have obeyed at any time previous to their death (1980, p. 20).
IN THIS AGE OR IN THE AGE TO COME
Jesus said that blasphemy against the Spirit would not be forgiven “in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:32). Certain religious organizations have seized upon this statement to suggest that Jesus has in mind a situation in which certain sins will be remitted after death—but not this sin. This idea of a purgatory-like state, where the souls of the dead are given a “second chance” to do penance for the sins they committed in their earthly life, finds no justification in this statement made by Christ (nor in any other biblical passage, for that matter). R.C.H. Lenski stated that Jesus’ use of the phrase under discussion meant simply “absolutely never” (1961, p. 484). Hendriksen concurred with Lenski when he wrote:
In passing, it should be pointed out that these words by no stretch of the imagination imply that for certain sins there will be forgiveness in the life hereafter. They do not in any sense whatever support the doctrine of purgatory. The expression simply means that the indicated sin will never be forgiven (1973, p. 528).
As the writer of Hebrews succinctly wrote, “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
It also has been suggested by several writers that the “age to come” discussed by Jesus refers to the Christian Age. According to this idea, Jesus made the statement in the Jewish Age, when the Law of Moses was in effect, and the “age to come” denoted the Christian Age immediately following, when the Law of Christ would prevail. Putting this meaning to the phrase often leads the advocates of this theory to conclude that the unpardonable sin could be committed in the Christian Age, after the resurrection of Christ. As Winkler surmised, “Thus, since our Lord was speaking while the Jewish age was in existence, he was affirming that the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost would not be forgiven in (a) the Jewish age, nor in (b) the Christian age, the age that followed” (1980, p. 21). Nichols, after affirming the same proposition, concluded:
It follows that this sin, therefore, could be committed during the personal ministry of Christ, and was then committed, as we have seen, and could also be committed under the gospel age or dispensation. They could have attributed the works of the Spirit to Satan after Pentecost, the same as before (1967, p. 234).
Two primary pieces of evidence, however, militate against the idea that Jesus’ reference to the “age to come” meant the Christian Age. First, in Mark 10:30, the gospel writer has Jesus on record using the same phrase (“in the age to come”) to refer to the time when the followers of Christ would inherit “eternal life” (see Luke 18:30 for the parallel passage). This is a clear reference to life after death, since Paul said “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50). Second, Mark’s account of the unpardonable sin describes the sin as an “eternal sin.” The translators of the New King James Version recorded that the person who commits the sin “never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation” (Mark 3:29). Mark’s account, with its emphasis on eternity, shows that the phrase simply is meant to underscore the fact that this sin will “absolutely never” be forgiven (Lenski, p. 484). It is incorrect, then, to use the phrase “in the age to come” to refer to purgatory. It also is tenuous to use the phrase to refer to the Christian Age. The best explanation, to quote Hendrickson again, is that “the expression simply means that the indicated sin will never be forgiven” (p. 528).
WHAT THE UNPARDONABLE SIN IS
As was noted earlier, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the only sin in the Bible that is given the status of unpardonable or eternal. In fact, Jesus prefaced His discussion of this sin by stating that, “every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men,” except for blasphemy against the Spirit. Using the working definition of blasphemy as “speaking evil of,” it becomes clear that the sin described by Jesus was a “tongue sin” that the Pharisees had committed, or at least were dangerously close to committing.
What had the Pharisees done that would have put them in jeopardy of committing the unpardonable sin? According to His own testimony, during Jesus’ time on this Earth He cast out demons by the “Spirit of God” (Matthew 12:28). When the Pharisees saw that Jesus had performed a verifiable miracle, they could not argue with the fact that Christ possessed certain powers that others (including themselves) did not have. Therefore, in order to cast suspicion on the ministry of Jesus, they claimed that He was casting out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of demons. The name Beelzebub is simply another name for Satan (Franklin, 1936, p. 227), as can be seen from Jesus’ reference to Satan in Matthew 12:26. Even when faced by the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit through Jesus, the Pharisees were, in essence, attributing Jesus’ power to Satan, and claiming that Jesus was “Satan incarnate instead of God incarnate. It is this, and nothing else, that our Lord calls the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (or Spirit—KB)” (Franklin, p. 227). Maxie Boren wrote: “The context of Matthew 12:22ff. shows clearly that this was indeed the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit—attributing the miracle done by Jesus to the power of the devil. Jesus said it was done ‘by the Spirit of God’ (verse 28) but they (the Pharisees—KB) said it was done by Beelzebub” (n.d., p. 1). It is clear that blasphemy against the Spirit was a definite, singular sin, which could be committed by the Pharisees during the life of Jesus.
IS THE “UNPARDONABLE SIN” THE
SAME AS THE “SIN UNTO DEATH”?
John, in his first epistle, mentioned the fact that “there is sin leading to death” and “there is sin not leading to death” (1 John 5:16-17). His statement in these verses has been connected by more than a few people to Jesus’ remark about the “eternal sin.” It is evident, however, that this connection is based more on opinion than on textual Bible study.
First, there is no biblical evidence that connects the passage in 1 John with the Pharisees’ accusation. Furthermore, the entire context of 1 John gives the Christian readers hope of forgiveness for all sins that they might have committed. John wrote: “All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death” (1 John 5:17). Several chapters earlier, he wrote: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9, emp. added). In the scope of John’s epistle, any unrighteousness committed by his readers could be forgiven if the transgressor took the proper steps of repentance and confession. Apparently, the “sin unto death” in 1 John is not a specific sin for which it is impossible to receive forgiveness, but rather, is any sin for which a person will not take the proper steps demanded by God to receive the forgiveness available. On the other hand, blasphemy against the Spirit was a specific, eternal sin that never would be forgiven.
CAN THE UNPARDONABLE SIN BE COMMITTED TODAY?
The next question usually asked concerning this sin is whether or not it is still possible to commit it today. Opinions on this question certainly vary, and scholars seem to be divided in their positions. The evidence, however, seems to point toward the idea that this sin cannot be committed today.
First, the circumstances under which the sin is described cannot prevail today, due to the fact that the age of miracles has ceased (see Miller, 2003). No one today will have the opportunity to witness Jesus performing miracles in person (2 Corinthians 5:16).
Second, there is no other mention of the sin in any biblical passage written after the resurrection of Christ. None of the inspired New Testament writers refers to the sin in any epistle or in the book of Acts, and none offers warnings to new converts about avoiding the sin post-Pentecost. Franklin observed:
If it were possible for it to be committed, would there not have been some warning against it? Were there any danger regarding it, would the Apostle Paul, who wrote half the books of the New Testament, have failed to warn against its commission? Paul does not even mention the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The sin in question was actually committed in the days of our Lord’s ministry on earth, but it does not necessarily follow that it could be committed in His absence (p. 233).
In discussing this matter, Gus Nichols wrote: “It seems that all sins committed today are pardonable, and that all can be saved, if they will” (1967, p. 239). V.E. Howard, commented along the same lines when he stated that “there is no unpardonable sin today” (1975, p. 156).
In conclusion, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the only unpardonable sin mentioned in the Bible, and it is mentioned in the context of the Pharisees accusing Jesus of being possessed by the Devil. The context indicates that it was a specific sin, and not a series of forgivable sins, or an attitude of persistent unbelief. After the resurrection, no inspired writer mentions the sin, and no warnings against it were recorded. There is no concrete evidence that it can be committed today. The fact that it is not mentioned after the resurrection, lends itself to the idea that it cannot still be committed. In fact, the indication from passages such as 1 John 1:7,9 is that “all unrighteousness” that a person could commit today can be forgiven by the blood of Jesus. As Howard said when concluding his remarks about the eternal sin: “In the same scripture our Lord gave full assurance that every sin and blasphemy against the ‘Son of man’ shall be forgiven him. Today the gospel of Christ is to be preached to every man on earth and any man on earth may be saved by obeying the gospel (Mark 16:15-16)” [p. 157].
Boren, Maxie B. (no date), “The Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit,” Class Handout, Brown Trail church of Christ, Bedford, Texas, Lesson 4.
Franklin, Barnard (1936), “The Blasphemy Against the Holy Ghost: An Inquiry into the Scriptural Teaching Regarding the Unpardonable Sin,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 93:220-233, April.
Hendriksen, William (1973), The Gospel According to Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Howard, V.E. (1975), The Holy Spirit (West Monroe, LA: Central Publishers).
Jackson, Wayne (2000), Blasphemy—What Is This Great Sin?, [On-line], URL: http://www.christiancourier.com/archives/blasphemy.htm.
Lenski, R.C.H. (1961 reprint), The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Miller, Dave (2003), “Modern-day Miracles, Tongue-speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation,” Reason and Revelation, 23(3):17-23, March.
Nichols, Gus (1967), Lectures on the Holy Spirit (Plainview, TX: Nichols Brothers).
Winkler, Wendell, ed. (1980), What Do You Know About the Holy Spirit? (Fort Worth, TX: Winkler Publications).
Jesus' Resurrection and the Life of a Christian
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Is the fact that Jesus rose from the grave about 2,000 years ago really all that important to a Christian’s faith? What if Jesus had never risen from the tomb in which He was buried? What if He were in the grave today? Could we still be Christians if Jesus had never arisen?
Consider what the apostle Paul told the Christians at Corinth about the resurrection of Christ. In a passage where he was writing about the reality of the resurrection of the dead at the end of time, he also mentioned Christ’s resurrection, saying, “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Corinthians 15:14). Then, three verses later, he made a similar statement, saying, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (15:17). In other words, without Jesus’ resurrection, no one would have any hope of going to heaven. The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of our faith (cf. Romans 1:4).
The early church multiplied quickly in just a few short years. They grew by “leaps and bounds.” People were obeying the Gospel by the thousands, and one central message laid at the heart of their decision—the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Had Jesus never been raised from the grave, the Gospel never could have been preached. The Gospel is not about a “lifeless lord,” but a “risen Redeemer.”
Jesus resurrection’ gives meaning to a Christian’s faith.
- Every Sunday when Christians partake of the Lord’s Supper, we remember the Lord’s death “until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). If Jesus were not risen, however, we would have no hope of His coming again, and Paul’s statement here regarding the Lord’s Supper would be meaningless.
- Every time Christians pray “in Jesus name,” we are relying on a risen Savior—Jesus—to mediate on our behalf (1 Timothy 2:5; cf. John 14:6; 1 John 2:1). But, if Jesus were not risen, our prayers would not be heard, and our petitions to have our sins forgiven could not be granted.
- The only reason that preaching and baptizing (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16) are of any importance at all is because Jesus is not dead, but alive. When a person is baptized “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), he is raised from a world of sin, “just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father” (Romans 6:4).
Christians always need to keep in mind how important Jesus’ resurrection is to our faith. We must not let the fact that Jesus’ resurrection occurred nearly 2,000 years ago lessen the importance of His victory over death.
A Crater of Consensus, or False Assurance?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
According to a litany of recent news reports, “the mystery has been solved.” The riddle has been unraveled. A “dream team” of scientists now knows the answer. After much debate over the last several decades, the matter of the great dinosaur demise reportedly has been confirmed, reaffirmed, and settled. At least, that is what the main stream, pro-atheistic, evolutionary media has reported.
On what did a group of evolutionary scientists come to an agreement? The volcano theory? The hay fever theory? The poisonous plant theory? None of these. Forty-one researchers from across the globe believe that everyone can now rest assured that, as many evolutionists had previously thought, dinosaurs became extinct as a result of an asteroid that hit Mexico 65 million years ago (Watson, 2010). According to Kirk Johnson of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, “We assessed the whole picture.... The answer is quite simple.... The Chicxulub crater really is the culprit” (as quoted in Watson). Due to the impact of this seven-mile-wide asteroid and its subsequent effects, including earthquakes, tsunamis, and darkness (as a result of dust and debris), all of the dinosaurs died out.
As with the General Theory of Evolution, these scientists would like us to think that the debate is over. But the debate is far from over, as even some evolutionary scientists are unconvinced by the asteroid theory. For example, Princeton University professor Gerta Keller still believes that the crater at Chicxulub was formed long before dinosaurs became extinct. What’s more, as many creationists have been asking ever since this theory was first proposed (see Lyons and Butt, 2008, p. 210), evolutionist Norman MacLeod of the Museum of Natural History in London, “wonders why, if the asteroid strike was such a doomsday event, some classes of species survived and even thrived” (Watson, 2010).
The truth is, no one knows for sure why the last of the dinosaurs died out. The Noahic Flood certainly would have destroyed countless thousands (or millions) of dinosaurs around the world. Those that survived the Flood (on Noah’s ark) eventually became extinct for unknown reasons. Creationists have proposed logical reasons why they mayhave died out (see Lyons and Butt, pp. 220-223), but no one can be absolutely certain.
There is one thing that we can know for sure: dinosaur extinction in no way disproves Creation.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2008), The Dinosaur Delusion (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Watson, Traci (2010), “‘Dream Team’ Agrees Huge Asteroid Killed Dinosaurs,” March 4, [On-line], URL: http://www.aolnews.com/science/article/scientists-reaffirm-asteroid-theory-in-dinosaur-deaths/19383600?icid=main|aim|dl1|link3|http%3A%2F%2Fwww.aolnews.com%2Fscience%2Farticle%2Fscientists-reaffirm-asteroid-theory-in-dinosaur-deaths%2F19383600.
America the Beautiful?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Have you ever walked the white, sandy beaches of Florida or hiked the hills of Tennessee? Have you stood at the base of a giant California Redwood or sat atop the Rocky Mountains overlooking the Great Plains? “From sea to shining sea,” the United States of America is a beautiful country. As Katharine Bates wrote in the latter part of the 19th century, “God shed his grace” on this country of “spacious skies…amber waves of grain…purple mountain majesties” and “fruited plains.” Few countries can claim so many diverse, splendid sights as America. Physically speaking, America is “the beautiful”! (How anyone can live in this blessed country and maintain “there is no God,” is mindboggling).
Spiritually speaking, however, America has lost its moral compass. In reality, it is a filthy, ungodly nation. Instead of printing and disseminating Bibles (as did our Founding Fathers), which inform children that they are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), we print millions of taxpayer-funded textbooks that tell young people they came from slime. Instead of abhorring and detesting the sin of homosexuality (as did our first Commander in Chief [“George…,” 1778] and as does God [Genesis 19; Romans 1:24-32]), our current President embraces the perversion of homosexuality. Instead of hating the shedding of innocent blood (Proverbs 6:17), many millions of Americans elect representatives who support the murder of innocent, unborn children.
Oh, but do not think that evolution, homosexuality, and abortion are the only spiritual diseases infecting this country. Rather than acknowledge fornication, adultery, and impurity as sin (Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10), most Americans, including many so-called Christians, embrace these actions as normal, fun, and innocent. Evil entertainment is more prolific and easily accessible than ever in our country’s history. The number one downloaded song on iTunes only a few weeks ago was Brittany Spears’ latest hit titled simply “3.” What is “3”? Only a song about “gettin’ down with 3P” (i.e., three people having sexual relations together at the same time). This former number one song glamorizes sin from beginning to end. Twice in the song Spears specifically mocks that which the Bible says separates man from God (Isaiah 59:1-2), saying, “Livin’ in sin is the new thing (yeah).” How many people in this “Christian nation” are walking around singing this song? How many “Christians” currently have this song on their iPod? [NOTE: I spoke with a small group of Christian teens recently, one of whom admitted to having already downloaded this song on her cell phone.]
How is it that a television series largely about single women’s sexual escapades (Sex and the City) gets nominated for 50 Emmy Awards (winning seven times) during its six seasons on television? Why are songs, television shows, and movies (e.g., The 40-Year-Old Virgin) that mock purity and celebrate sin so popular? Why is the fruit of the Spirit (faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, etc.) continually ridiculed, while the works of the flesh (sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, etc.) are constantly paraded as acceptable lifestyles of “good people”? Because most Americans, even many “Christian” Americans, have forgotten God and grown accustomed to calling “evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). Righteousness is ridiculed regularly, while sin is celebrated incessantly.
America most certainly was founded by men who professed faith in God, read the Scriptures regularly, and made many proclamations and policies that closely mirrored biblical teachings (see Miller, 2008). America was not founded by Muslims, Hindus, or Buddhists. Our Founding Fathers claimed to be Christians, and believed that the God of the Bible was instrumental in the establishment of this nation. At one time in our country’s history, atheism, homosexuality, adultery, lewdness, etc. were considered repulsive and rarely celebrated publicly. Today, however, America is far from being a “Christian nation.” We live in a physically beautiful, God-given country which, sadly, is filled with ungrateful, ungodly non-believers and hypocritical “Christians.”
May God help the faithful children of God (1) to keep “unspotted from the world” (James 1:27), while (2) reflecting the light of Jesus Christ to a sin-stained country in need of a great spiritual awakening.
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).
Miller, Dave (2008), The Silencing of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
“George Washington, March 14, 1778, General Orders” (1778), The George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799, from ed. John C. Fitzpatrick, The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, [On-line], URL:http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mgw:@field(DOCID+@lit (gw110081)).
Who Incited David to Number Israel?by Eric Lyons, M.Min.
Census-taking under the Law of Moses was not inherently evil. In fact, God actually commanded Moses to number the Israelite soldiers on two different occasions—once in the second year after deliverance from Egyptian bondage, and again about forty years later near the end of Israel’s wanderings in the desert (Numbers 1:1-3,19; 26:2-4). Even though the book of Numbers describes many of their experiences while wandering through a barren land, the book takes its name (first assigned by the translators of the Septuagint) from these two numberings of the Israelites. Indeed, the taking of a census was a legitimate practice under the old law (cf. Exodus 30:11-16). Sometimes, however, one’s motives can turn lawful actions into sinful deeds (cf. Matthew 6:1-18). Such was the case with King David when he decided to number the Israelites in the latter part of his reign. God had not commanded a census be taken, nor did David instigate it for some noble cause. Instead, the Bible implies that David’s intentions (and thus his actions) were dishonorable, foolish, and sinful (cf. 2 Samuel 24:3,10ff.).
For many Bible readers, the parallel accounts that describe David’s numbering of Israel (found in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21) pose a serious problem. “Why does 2 Samuel 24:1 state that God ‘moved’ David against Israel, while 1 Chronicles 21:1 says that it was Satan who ‘stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel’ ”? Can both passages be right, or is this a contradiction?
The Hebrew verb wayyaset, translated “moved” (NKJV) or “incited (NASV), is identical in both passages. God and Satan’s actions are described using the same word. The difference lies with the sense in which the word is used: Satan incited (or tempted—cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:5) David more directly, while God is spoken of as having incited David because He allowed such temptation to take place. The Hebrews often used active verbs to express “not the doing of the thing, but the permission of the thing which the agent is said to do” (Bullinger, 2898, p. 823, emp. in orig.). Throughout the Bible, God’s allowance of something to take place often is described by the sacred writers as having been done by the Lord.
The book of Exodus records how “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (Exodus 7:3,13; 9:12; 10:1; et al.), but it was not that God directly forced Pharaoh to reject His will. Rather, God hardened his heart in the sense that God provided the circumstances and the occasion for Pharaoh to reject His will. God sent Moses to place His demands before Pharaoh, even accompanying His Word with miracles—to confirm the divine origin of the message (cf. Mark 16:20). Pharaoh made up his own mind to resist God’s demands. God merely provided the occasion for Pharaoh to demonstrate his unyielding attitude. If God had not sent Moses, Pharaoh would not have been faced with the dilemma of whether to release the Israelites. So God was certainly the initiator of the circumstances that led to Pharaoh’s sin, but He was not the author (or direct cause) of Pharaoh’s defiance (see Butt and Miller, 2003).
Another instance where this idiomatic language can be found is in the book of Job. In fact, the situation regarding God and Satan inciting David to number Israel probably more closely parallels the first two chapters of Job than any other passage of Scripture. Satan went into the presence of God on two different occasions in Job 1-2. The first time, he charged that the righteous man Job only served God because of the blessings God showered upon him (1:9-11). God thus permitted Satan to afflict Job with suffering, telling Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person” (1:12). After Satan used both humans and natural agency to destroy Job’s wealth and all of his children (1:13-19), Satan returned to the Lord’s presence. Notice the exchange of words between God and Satan (in view of the Hebrew idiomatic thought: what God permits, He is said to do).
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.” So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your handnow, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head (Job 2:3-7, emp. added).
Even though God knew that Satan was the direct cause for Job’s suffering (recorded in chapter one), He told Satan: “You incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause” (2:3, emp. added). As a result of Job’s abstaining from sin during this time of suffering, Satan then proposed a new challenge to God, saying, “But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face” (vs. 4). In essence, God said, “Okay. I will,” but He did not do it directly. He merely allowed Satan to do it: “Behold, he [Job] is in your hand, but spare his life” (vs. 6). So Satan “struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (vs. 7). The dialog between God and Satan in Job chapter 2 leaves no doubt that what God permitsto take place often is described by sacred writers as having been done by God. The inspired author of Job even reiterated this point forty chapters later, when he wrote: “Then all his [Job’s] brothers, all his sisters, and all those who had been his acquaintances before, came to him and ate food with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversity that the Lord had brought upon him” (42:11, emp. added).
In his commentary on 2 Samuel, Burton Coffman made mention that the same principle still is operative in the Christian dispensation.
Paul pointed out that people who do not love the truth but have pleasure in unrighteousness are actually incited by God to believe a falsehood that they might be condemned (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). “Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned, etc.” (1992, p. 329).
Those discussed in 2 Thessalonians 2 made a decision to reject the truth of God’s Word (cf. vs. 10), and believe a lie. God sends a delusion, in the sense that He controls the world’s drama.
The problem of how a loving God (1 John 4:8) can send a “strong delusion” (2 Thessalonians 2:11), harden someone’s heart (Exodus 9:12), or incite someone to sin (as in the case of David numbering Israel—2 Samuel 24:1), can be compared to God’s work in nature. In one sense, a person could speak of God killing someone who jumps from a 100-story building to his death, because it was God Who set in motion the law of gravity (but He did not force the person over the edge). Some inspired writers wrote from this viewpoint, which was customary in their culture.
Truly, similar to how Pharaoh hardened his heart because God gave him occasion to do such, and similar to how Job suffered because God allowed Satan to strike Job with calamity, God allowed Satan to incite David to sin (1 Chronicles 21:1). Israel suffered as a direct result of Satan’s workings in the life of King David, which God allowed. Thus, both God and Satan legitimately could be said to have incited the king—but in different ways (and for different reasons).
Bullinger, E.W. (1898), Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1968 reprint).
Butt, Kyle and Dave Miller (2003), “Who Hardened Pharaoh’s Heart?” [On-line], URL:http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2259
Coffman, Burton (1992), Commentary on Second Samuel (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).