"THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS" Examine Yourselves (13:5) INTRODUCTION 1. As Jeremiah lamented over the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, he called for the people to examine themselves and turn back to the Lord - Lam 3:40-41 2. In teaching on the proper observance of the Lord's Supper, Paul wrote that it was to be a time for self-examination - 1Co 11:27-31 3. Paul later challenged the Corinthians to "examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves." - 2Co 13:5 a. In doing so, he employs the present tense for the verbs "examine" and "prove" b. Indicating that such examination was to be an on-going activity! 4. This should naturally raise some important questions... a. Why should we examine ourselves? b. By what standard should we examine ourselves c. What sort of questions should we be asking ourselves? [In this lesson, I would like for us to focus our attention on this call to "Examine Yourselves". As we do so, let's answer the questions already raised, beginning with...] I. WHY SHOULD WE EXAMINE OURSELVES? A. TO DETERMINE WHETHER WE ARE IN THE FAITH... 1. Paul said, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith." a. The expression "in the faith" refers to being a faithful Christian b. Thus we are to examine whether or not we are remaining faithful to the Lord! 2. We need to remember that the danger of drifting is ever present a. It is possible to drift away if we neglect our salvation - cf. He 2:1-4 b. It is possible to develop an evil heart of unbelief - cf. He 3:12-14 3. What our text implies, however, is that it is possible to KNOW of one's standing before God a. In fact, the Bible was written for this purpose, that we might know b. One book in particular has this purpose in mind - 1Jn 5: 13; 2:3; 3:14,24 B. TO DETERMINE IF JESUS CHRIST IS IN US... 1. Paul challenged the Corinthians to consider whether Jesus Christ was in them 2. That Christ indwells the Christian is a wonderful thought a. It was promised by Jesus Himself - Jn 14:21-23 b. It begins when we put Christ on in baptism - Ga 3:26-27 3. We may wonder at times "how" He indwells, but the key here is... a. To know that He does! b. To realize there are ways we can KNOW whether He does! -- Which is why we need to periodically examine ourselves! C. TO DETERMINE IF WE ARE DISQUALIFIED... 1. It is a given that Christ is in Christians, unless they have become "disqualified" 2. What does "disqualified" mean? a. Here is how some other translations read... 1) "ye be reprobates" (KJV, ASV) 2) "you fail the test" (NASV, NIV) b. Literally, "not standing the test", and in the context it refers to the test of... 1) Being in the faith 2) Having Christ in you 3. This verse is simply another among many that reveal that a Christian can indeed fall away from grace! a. Paul warned of falling from grace - cf. Ga 5:4 b. Peter likewise warned of falling from one's own steadfastness - cf. 2Pe 3:17 c. Jesus described what would happen to those branches who did not bear fruit - Jn 15:1-2,6 -- Again, through self-examination one can KNOW what their true condition is! D. TO DETERMINE IF WE REALLY KNOW OURSELVES... 1. As Paul calls for self-examination, he asks "Do you not know yourselves...?" a. We can easily fall into the trap of self-deception - e.g., Jm 1:22-25 b. The religion of such a person is "useless" - Jm 1:26 2. Only through periodic self-examination can we avoid deceiving ourselves! [So the need is ever present to "examine yourselves", to "prove yourselves". That leads to the next question...] II. BY WHAT STANDARD SHOULD WE EXAMINE OURSELVES? A. NOT BY THE ESTIMATE OF SELF... 1. We cannot trust solely upon what we may think of ourselves a. We are approved only if the Lord commends us - 2Co 10:18 b. Therefore even though we might "think" we are right, we are not the final arbitrator - cf. 1Co 4:4 2. We can be wrong in our basic assumptions, which can lead to wrong conclusions about ourselves a. Paul had thought persecuting Christians was pleasing to God - Ac 26:9-11 b. There will be many people at the Judgment who thought they were pleasing God during their lifetime - Mt 7:21-23 -- We must therefore look for a standard outside of ourselves by which to examine ourselves! B. NOT BY THE ESTIMATE OF MEN... 1. We cannot compare ourselves with others, or trust their approval a. To compare ourselves with others is unwise - 2Co 10:12 b. The approval of others is a small thing - 1Co 4:3 2. People are often wrong in their thoughts and evaluations a. The majority will find themselves lost on the day of judgment - Mt 7:13-14 b. Even many religious will be surprised - Mt 7:21-23 -- We must still look for yet another standard by which to examine ourselves C. WE MUST TRY OURSELVES BY THE STANDARD OF GOD'S WORD... 1. Again, it is the commendation of the Lord that makes one approved - 2Co 10:18 2. It is the Lord who is the ultimate Judge - 1Co 4:4; 2Co 5:10 3. As the Lord Himself has said, we will be judged by His words - Jn 12:48 [The only appropriate standard to use when we examine ourselves is the Word of God. We cannot trust our feelings, or what others might say. Finally, let me share some...] III. QUESTIONS TO HELP US EXAMINE OURSELVES A. IS CHRIST IN ME...? 1. Have I put Him on in baptism? - Ga 3:27 2. Am I keeping His commandments? - Jn 14:21 B. ARE THE "MARKS" OF DISCIPLESHIP PRESENT IN MY LIFE...? 1. Am I abiding in His word? - Jn 8:31 2. Do I love my brethren like Christ loved me? - Jn 13:34-35; 1Jn 3:14-19 3. Am I bearing fruit? - Jn 15:8 a. Such as the fruit of the Spirit - Ga 5:22-23 b. Such as the fruit of our lips in praising God - He 13:15 c. Such as the fruit of good works - cf. Tit 2:14; 3:8,14 C. DO I HAVE THE ATTITUDE OF THOSE WHO WERE TRUE DISCIPLES...? 1. Under inspiration, Paul wrote 2Co 13:6; what was his frame of mind? 2. We can glean the mind of a true disciple from Php 3:7-14 a. We read of his goal in life (7-11) b. We read of his attitudes in attaining that goal (12-14) 3. We will ALL have this "frame of mind" if we are "in the faith" and "Christ is in us" - cf. Php 3:15-17 CONCLUSION 1. Other questions might be appropriate to ask when examining ourselves, but I hope this illustrates how we need to use the Word of God to "prove" ourselves 2. Consider the sad plight of those who are "reprobate", "disqualified", who "fail the test"... a. Paul describes some of them in Php 3:18-19 b. Because they set their mind on earthly things, their end is destruction! -- How much better to be like those described in Php 3:20-21! To ensure that you will not be "disqualified", then frequently "Examine Yourselves" in the light of God's Word!
Babylon the Great Has Fallen
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Babylon was one of the richest cities in the world during the years 740 B.C. to 680 B.C. During these “glory days,” the city prospered like it had the Midas touch; everything it touched seemed to turn to gold. It was located between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers—a strip of land so agriculturally productive that today it is known as the “fertile crescent.”
But its agriculture and well-watered plains were not the reason it was famous. Babylon gained its reputation because of its high, massive walls and its strong defensive battlements. In fact, ancient writers described walls that were 14 miles long on all four sides of the city and that reached heights of over 300 feet—taller than most building today. Not only were the walls long and high, but in some places they also were 75-feet thick. But the wall was not the only form of defense. The Euphrates River surrounded the city, making a perfect moat that ranged anywhere from 65 to 250 feet across. This wall/moat combination appeared to make the city unconquerable.
Yet in spite of the strong military and defensive strength of the city, God’s prophets foretold its destruction. In Jeremiah 50:9, the prophet declared that God would “raise and cause to come up against Babylon an assembly of great nations from the north country.” This prediction probably seemed unfounded at the time it was made, because none of the countries in the north came close to having enough strength to defeat Babylon. But years after the prophecy, Cyrus, king of the Medo-Persian Empire, mounted a huge force of many different nations and marched southward against Babylon.
The details of the fulfillment are amazing. Jeremiah recorded that God had declared: “I will dry up her sea and make her springs dry” (51:36). Again the prophet foretold: “A drought is against her waters, and they will be dried up. For it is a land of carved images” (50:38). Also, the prophet promised that the Lord had spoken: “I will prepare their feasts; I will make them drunk, that they may rejoice, and sleep a perpetual sleep and not awake” (51:39).
Now listen to the story as history unfolds. The Euphrates River ran underneath the great walls of Babylon. After a siege of two full years, Cyrus was able to divert the river to make it flow into a huge marsh on the western side of the city. By doing this, he “dried up the rivers” of Babylon and provided an easy way for his soldiers to enter under the city walls where the water used to flow. But the Babylonians inside the city had no idea what was taking place. They could have defended the city, but instead they were feasting and getting drunk. Cyrus ordered his men to act like drunken revilers, and by the time the Babylonians knew what had hit them, the city was filled with enemy troops and who ultimately conquered it.
Even though the above circumstances would be enough to prove the accuracy of the prophecy of Jeremiah (and thus the Bible), the prophet’s predictions do not stop there. Chapters 50-51 of Jeremiah’s book are filled with more futuristic condemnations of Babylon, all of which were fulfilled in the smallest detail. Truly, the words spoken by the prophet did come to pass.
Time after time, the Bible has been “dead on” when it has predicted the future. Secular records document the facts about Babylon. So what does this prove? It proves one simple thing—that God Himself inspired the words written between the covers of the Bible. And because that is the case, every human being should welcome the Bible “not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
Does God’s Existence Rest Upon Human Consensus?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Three minutes and 45 seconds into Dan Barker’s opening statement in our Darwin Day debate on February 12, 2009, he presented an argument that he has often used in other debates and writings. In his list of “probability” arguments, he included as his fifth argument against God’s existence the following comments: “There is no agreement among believers as to the nature or the moral principles of this God that they are arguing for. They all differ with each other” (Butt and Barker, 2009). According to Dan, since those professing Christianity come down on either side of moral issues such as abortion, divorce, and the death penalty, then the God Who wrote the Bible “in all probability” does not exist, and the Bible must not be a sufficient guide for human morality.
Is Dan correct in his assessment that disagreement among professed believers nullifies the existence of God? Certainly not! Barker is incorrect for a number of reasons, the majority of which are quite clear after the briefest consideration of the argument. First, we could simply say that Dan’s argument, used against his own brand of atheism, refutes itself, since he admits that atheists do not agree on moral issues. In his book godless, Barker stated: “Most atheists think that values, though not objective things in themselves, can be objectively justified by reference to the real world.... Although most atheists accept the importance of morality, this is not conceding that morality exists in the universe” (2008, p. 213-214, emp. added). Notice that Barker qualifies his statement with the word “most,” implying that some atheists do not see morality as he does. In his discussion of human free will, Barker wrote: “By the way, this contributes to my compatibilist position on human free will. (Not that all atheists agree with me.) I am an determinist, which means that I don’t think complete libertarian free will exists.... I admit that my definition of free will is subject to debate” (2008, p. 128, emp. added). If Barker’s statement about disagreement of professed believers is true, we could, with equal force, use it on atheism and say that since there is no agreement among atheists on moral issues, then atheism “in all probability” is false.
Of course, Barker does not want to extend his “truth” criterion to atheism. And his statement is inherently flawed in the first place. If two or more people disagreed on whether the holocaust happened, but they all professed to be honest historians, would their disagreement prove that there never was a holocaust? If two people, who both claim to be honest geographers, disagree on the fact that the continent of North America exists, would that negate its reality? Or if two or more people adamantly disagreed on the idea that Dan Barker exists, would his existence be jeopardized based on their disagreement? No, on every count. Agreement among people cannot be used as evidence of the truth or falsity of any proposition.
Barker’s atheistic colleague, Sam Harris, has eloquently written on this truth. He disagrees with many atheists about ethical questions. In spite of his atheism, he contends that objective right and wrong do exist (an impossible proposition for a true atheist to maintain, by the way). He wrote:
The fact that people of different times and cultures disagree about ethical questions should not trouble us. It suggests nothing at all about the status of moral truth. Imagine what it would be like to consult the finest thinkers of antiquity on questions of basic science: “What,” we might ask, “is fire? And how do living systems reproduce themselves? And what are the various lights we see in the night sky?” We would surely encounter a bewildering lack of consensus on these matters. Even though there was no shortage of brilliant minds in the ancient world, they simply lacked the physical and conceptual tools to answer questions of this sort. Their lack of consensus signified their ignorance of certain physical truths, not that no such truths exist (2004, p. 171, emp. added).
The irony of this quote from Harris is that it manifests the atheistic community’s lack of consensus on ethical issues, which should disprove atheism according to Barker’s line of reasoning. Furthermore, it hammers home the self-evident truth that consensus among professed followers of any concept or entity has no bearing on its existence or its claim to truth. Harris further remarked: “It is quite conceivable that everyone might agree and yet be wrong about the way the world is. It is also conceivable that a single person might be right in the face of unanimous opposition” (2004, pp. 181-182, emp. added).
While it is true that the lack of consensus on moral issues by those who profess Christianity does nothing to discount the existence of God, it is appropriate to ask why such disparity exists. Again, it is ironic that Dan Barker has answered his own question in this regard. In his speech, “How to be Moral Without Religion,” given at the University of Minnesota on October 19, 2006, Barker stated: “A tendency that we all have, we look through our documents to try to find what supports our already prejudice views about what we think morality should be like.” In one succinct sentence, Barker explained why there is a lack of consensus among professed believers on moral issues. It is not because God does not exist. It is not because the Bible is hopelessly confusing and cannot be understood. It is not because there is no objective moral truth. It is simply because humans bring their already prejudiced views to the text of the Bible and try to force it to say what they “think” it should say.
Barker, Dan (2006), “How to be Moral Without Religion,” [On-line], URL:http://www.ffrf.org/about/bybarker/CASH1.mp3.
Barker, Dan (2008), godless (Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press).
Butt, Kyle and Dan Barker (2009), Butt/Barker Debate: Does the God of the Bible Exist?(Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Harris, Sam (2004), The End of Faith (New York: W.W. Norton).
There Will Be No Signs!
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
It is not uncommon to hear people discussing the end of time and delineating the “signs” that, they say, are proof that Christ’s return is imminent. These signs include “wars and rumors of wars,” “earthquakes,” and various political/military events that one observes on the evening news. These loud proponents of gloom claim to be representing the Bible in their calculations and forecasts. Of course, to date, every attempt to pinpoint the date of Christ’s return has failed.
The fact is that earthquakes could not have been intended by God to be a sign of the end of the world. Since 1900 alone, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that several million earthquakes occur in the world each year. Many go undetected because they hit remote areas or have very small magnitudes. The National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) now locates about 50 earthquakes each day, or about 20,000 a year (NEIC Web Team, 2003). Since earthquakes have been fairly constant for the last 2,000 years, and occur on a daily basis, they would be completely useless in attempting to recognize the end of the world. However, if Jesus intended them to be immediate signs, contemporaneous with the first century, they would have served a useful purpose.
Consider for a moment what the Bible actually teaches on this matter. In Matthew 24, Jesus pinpointed numerous signs by which His disciples and Jewish Christians could recognize the occasion of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The signs that Jesus mentioned included “wars and rumors of wars” (vs. 6), “famines and earthquakes” (vs. 7), the Gospel preached to the whole world (vs. 14), and the approach of the Roman armies (vs. 15; cf. Luke 21:20). These events functioned as signals by which the faithful could identify the “end” (vss. 6,14) of the Jewish commonwealth. Jesus provided descriptive detail in response to the disciples’ question concerning the destruction of the temple (vss. 2-3). Just as tender branches and fresh leaves signal the approach of summer (vs. 32), so the multiple signs that Jesus pinpointed would signalthe coming of Christ in judgment on the Jewish nation (vs. 33) in A.D. 70.
Then, beginning in verse 36, Jesus turned His attention to the question of the end of time and His Second Coming. Notice the difference! Jesus went out of His way to stress the total absence of signs signaling the end of the world and the Second Coming. He declared that His final coming would be comparable to the Deluge of Noah’s day (vs. 37), in that it will be totally unexpected. Right up to the very day that Noah and his family entered the ark, life was going on as usual. No signs! Jesus said farmers will be in the field as usual (vs. 40); women will be involved in their activities as usual (vs. 41). Jesus even likened the unexpected nature of His final coming to the exploits of a thief (vs. 43). Both Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:2) and Peter (2 Peter 3:10) repeat this analogy. As the coming of a thief in the night is preceded by absolutely no signs, so the final coming of Jesus will be preceded by absolutely no signals.
Contrary to the prevailing notions of today concerning “the signs of the times,” the Bible asserts that there will be a total absence of signs to prepare the world for the end of time. The only hope of the entire world is to render obedience to the written revelation of the Bible (Matthew 24:46). Noah preached, apparently for many years, in hopes of alerting the world’s population to the coming judgment upon them. They refused to listen. Likewise, the only “tip off ” available today is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that instructs every accountable individual what to do to be right with God. When one brings one’s life into compliance with those directives, “signs” by which to anticipate the return of Christ are completely superfluous.
NEIC Web Team (2003), “Earthquake Facts and Statistics,” [On-line], URL: http://neic.usgs.gov/neis/eqlists/eqstats.html.
Take Your Pick
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Nearly all credible historians will concede that a man by the name of Jesus lived and died in the land of Palestine about 2,000 years ago. Even most atheists accept the historicity of Jesus the Nazarene. There simply is overwhelming evidence that points to a man named Jesus who lived and died in the first century. In fact, just by acknowledging the “first century,” one is describing a time based upon the birth of Jesus. Our whole dating method is based upon this man called Christ [“B.C.” meaning “before Christ,” and “A.D.” (standing for Anno Domini) meaning “in the year of the Lord”]. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and infidels (for the most part) all accept that Jesus was an actual human being.
However, even though most people who know some world history admit that Jesus was a real person, relatively few believe He was God in the flesh (as the Bible repeatedly emphasizes). They might say He was a good man, or that He was a noted philosopher or great moral teacher, but the fact is, the majority of the people in the world do not believe He was (as Peter claimed nearly 2,000 years ago) “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
Have you ever thought about what people actually are saying who deny the deity of Christ, yet believe He was a good man? They are saying that Jesus was not Who He claimed to be—the Son of God. They are advocating that even though Jesus accepted such claims of deity from men (cf. John 1:29,41,49; 20:28) and claimed deity Himself time and again (Mark 14:62; John 9:36-38; 10:30; et al.), what he said was not true. Yet they still hold to the assumption that Christ was a “good man.”
Realistically, there are only three explanations that one can give as to who Christ was: (1) He was the greatest liar, con man, and phony the world has ever known; (2) He was a lunatic who simply labored under the delusion that he was God; or (3) He was who He claimed to be—God. Logically speaking, no other choices exist. The view that Christ was a raving madman has rarely been entertained by anyone who is aware of Christ’s life and teachings. No lunatic could answer questions with such profound wisdom and authority (cf. Matthew 7:28-29). What madman would teach that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us? The insane do not teach that we should “turn the other cheek,” and then set an example of exactly how to do that—even unto death. Lunacy does not produce such genius. For that reason, relatively few ever have been so foolish as to call Christ a lunatic.
Furthermore, not even the most celebrated infidels have been willing to characterize Christ as a con man or charlatan. Renowned infidel Henri Rousseau once wrote: “Yes, if the life and death of Socrates were those of a sage, the life and death of Jesus were those of a God” (Emile, 1.4). French humanist and staunch enemy of Christianity, Joseph Renan, called Jesus a “sublime person” and declared that in Him “is condensed all that is good and lofty in our nature” (Life of Jesus, chapters 1,28). The fact is, very few people throughout history ever have claimed that Christ was a liar or a lunatic.
But, if Jesus was not a liar or a lunatic, then logically He must have been who He claimed to be—the Son of God. One cannot profess sensibly that Christ was a good man, yet not the Son of God. Either He was both—or He was neither. Either Christ was a lunatic, or a liar, or the Lord. Take your pick, but choose wisely, for your eternal destiny is at stake.
Alien Life, Evolution, and Telescopes
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Astronomers from more than 30 research institutions in 15 countries are working together to select a site for a giant telescope that they hope will read TV or radio signals from alien civilizations. Slated to cost $1 billion, the Square Kilometer Array, or SKA, would be the world’s most powerful radio telescope. Speaking at a conference of the International Society for Optical Engineering in Orlando, Florida, project astronomers said they hope to find “immediate and direct evidence of life elsewhere in the Universe” (“Sites Under...,” 2006).
The scientists admit, however, that they face several “ifs.” First, they may be unable to “eavesdrop on the latest episode of little green men’s reality shows” since the instrument might not be able to actually decode the transmissions. Second, any programs received would be several years old, because of the delay in light transmission to Earth. Third, astronomers are unsure how to recognize such signals. Last, but certainly not least, astronomers concede that there may well be no signals for the simple reason that there may be no little green men (“Sites Under...”). Indeed, the irrational preoccupation with “extraterrestrial life” fails to take into account the perfectly plausible alternative explanations for the spaciousness of the Universe (see Miller, 2003).
Nevertheless, astronomers insist there are other worthwhile uses of the telescope: “The instrument would also serve to study the evolution of the universe from shortly after the fog of the Big Bang explosion, believed to have originated the universe, lifted” (“Sites Under...”). Never mind the fact that the Big Bang theory itself has been blown to bits, its credibility completely debunked (cf. Thompson, et al., 2003).
Think of it. One billion dollars—to be wasted. Imagine what that money could do if directed to more noble and worthy purposes. When we reject belief in the Creator of the Universe, confusion, futility, and superfluous pursuits are inevitable (Psalm 14).
Miller, Dave (2003), “The Universe—A ‘Waste of Space’”? [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2261.
“Sites Under Review for Telescope that Could Detect Alien TV” (2006), World Science, July 10, [On-line], URL: http://www.world-science.net/exclusives/060711_ska.htm.
Thompson, Bert, Brad Harrub, and Branyon May (2003), “The Big Bang Theory—A Scientific Critique,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2635.
Blinded by the Bible
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
In August 1984, a Christian was invited to appear on the nationwide Phil Donahue television show for the purpose of clarifying why a church in Oklahoma had implemented disciplinary procedures against a wayward member. The Christian presented the Bible directives pertaining to the point by quoting scripture after scripture substantiating that, in fact, the church had conscientiously followed biblical protocol. His persistent appeal to the Bible seemed to antagonize and irritate many members of the studio audience. Their sentiments were summarized in the words of one woman who stood and, as Mr. Donahue held the microphone for her, stated with apparent frustration and exasperation: “From being here today I just feel that you people are blinded by the Bible. They don’t see anything else but the Bible” (Donahue Transcript, 1984, p. 20).
Unwittingly, this individual paid a tremendous tribute to Christians. It was apparent to the audience that genuine Christians are so obsessed with God’s Word, and so preoccupied with ascertaining biblical authority for every action, that they simply cannot see anything else. They are blinded—not by erroneous human reasoning, legal/judicial consequences, or current societal consensus—but by the Bible.
There was a time when it could be said fairly accurately that American civilization was similarly blinded. Unfortunately, during the last fifty years, society seems to have largely regained its sight. The biblical values and moral principles upon which this country was founded, and which have provided the social framework out of which the majority of Americans have operated, are being systematically jettisoned and replaced by pluralism. A variety of philosophies, religions, and values are being gradually incorporated into an American civilization that was never envisioned by the Founders. The biblical approach, in which God’s words are set forth as preeminent, has largely been abandoned. Public education is now thoroughly dominated by modern psychology, humanistic sociology, and evolutionary values. The average American understood right from wrong, and recognized an absolute standard of morality. Now, however, the “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” attitude of “political correctness” permeates the population. The alienation of the average citizen from the God of the Bible is profound.
With people no longer “blinded by the Bible,” this state of affairs has resulted in the very social scenario described by Jesus when, referring to His earthly contemporaries, He said:
seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.… For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their heart and turn, so that I should heal them (Matthew 13:13,15).
If only civilization would return to a healthy preoccupation with the Word of God—sustained intimacy with Scripture. If only society would once again become blinded by the Bible.
Donahue Transcript #09284 (1984), (Cincinnati, OH: Multimedia Entertainment).
Do Children Inherit the Sin of Their Parents?by Kyle Butt, M.Div.
Understanding the nature of God’s interaction with man is no small task. The sincere Bible student often comes across things in the biblical text that are puzzling. Others, who are perhaps somewhat less sincere, twist these initially puzzling passages “to their own destruction” (as described in 2 Peter 3:16). One such idea that has been abused is the alleged contradiction between how Jehovah dealt (and still deals) with the children of sinful people. Steve Wells, author of the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, insists that there is a discrepancy in the Bible regarding this subject. He lists Exodus 20:5, which states: “For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.” Wells then presents Ezekiel 18:20 as a contradictory verse: “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself ” (Wells, 2003).
Is there a legitimate contradiction between these verses? Or, to pose the question differently, “Is there any possible way that both these statements can be true?” The fact of the matter is that both statements can be true, without a contradiction occurring. What Mr. Wells and others who twist these verses into an alleged contradiction do not recognize is that there is a difference between bearing the guilt of a parent, and suffering negative physical and emotional consequences due to that parent’s bad decisions.
It often is the case that the children of wicked people suffer terribly. Sometimes these children suffer because the parent physically or emotionally abuses them (in direct violation of Scripture; cf. Matthew 7:12; Colossians 3:21). At other times, the child suffers as a result of the parent’s irresponsible behavior. For instance, suppose a man addicted to gambling wastes his salary on gambling, instead of using it to feed his family. As a result, his children suffer hunger, shame, and poverty.
Yet, even though the children of sinful people often suffer physical consequences, they do not inherit the sin of those parents. The book of Jeremiah provides an interesting commentary on this subject. In Jeremiah 16:1-6, God told Jeremiah that the prophet should not take a wife and/or have children in the land of Israel. God explained His reasoning to Jeremiah as follows: “For thus says the Lord concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place.... ‘They shall die gruesome deaths; they shall not be lamented, nor shall they be buried, but they shall be as refuse on the face of the earth’ ” (16:3-4). Why was this going to happen? Wells is quick to refer to this chapter, especially verses 10 and 11 where the children of Israel pose the question, “Why has the Lord pronounced all this great disaster against us” (vs. 10)? Wells then records Jeremiah’s answer: “ ‘Because your fathers have forsaken Me,’ says the Lord” (vs. 11). Wells, however, does not cite the very next verse (12), which states: “And you have done worse than your fathers....”
These Israelites were suffering due to the sins of their fathers—and due to their own sins. Their children were going to die gruesome deaths. The skeptic is quick to seize upon this fact, and demand that any time innocent children die, it is a travesty against justice that a loving God never would permit (a fallacious idea that I have refuted elsewhere; see Butt, 2004).
Do children sometimes die horrible deaths due to their parents’ wrong decisions? Absolutely. The Israelites had adopted the practice of sacrificing their own children to a false god named Baal (Jeremiah 19:5). The iniquity of the parents, then, can be visited upon the children in the form of physical suffering. But do those children bear the guilt of that sin? Absolutely not! Ezekiel wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20, emp. added).
Notice the words soul and guilt. Does the Bible ever insinuate, for example, that a child is guilty of idolatry because his parents were idolatrous? No (read Matthew 18:3-5; Luke 18:16-17). Bearing the guilt of sin is altogether different than bearing the physical consequences of the actions of others. As is often the case, the skeptic has confused the two, and has alleged a biblical contradiction where, in fact, none exists. This is yet another example in which the allegation against the Bible fails, but “the Word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Peter 1:25).
Butt, Kyle (2004), “The Skeptic’s Faulty Assumption,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2230.
Wells, Steve (2001), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible [On-line], URL: http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/1cor/index.html.
Will There Be Personal Recognition in Heaven?
Does individual personality survive the death of the body? Does recognition of friends and loved ones exist beyond this present life?
The question is of more than passing emotional interest; it involves the very essence of the human spirit. The biblical evidence firmly supports the position of personal identity after death.
Contrary to the misguided theories of philosophical and religious materialists (i. e., those who contend that man is wholly mortal), the human being is more than simply “body.” There is an element of mankind that is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), and yet, clearly, God is not a physical Being (John 4:24; Luke 24:39; Matthew 16:17).
Logic demands, therefore, that there is something within man that transcends the fleshly level. Daniel once declared that his “spirit” was grieved in the midst of his body (7:15). Grief is an emotion of mind, not flesh. Paul affirmed that the “spirit of man, which is in him,” possesses knowledge (1 Corinthians 2:11).
Without question, there is a conscious entity within man known as the spirit (cf. John 13:21; Luke 1:47; 1 Corinthians 16:18; Ephesians 3:16; etc.). Here is a very important point. There is absolutely no evidence that the spirit of a human being is altered by death. At the death of the body, the spirit simply passes from one mode of existence into another.
That spirit, however, is just as conscious, just as capable of recognition, as before the transition. If anything, the awareness of the spirit after death will be enhanced due to its release from the limitations of the flesh. There is certainly nothing in the Bible to suggest that God’s rational creatures would be unable to recognize one another after the demise of the body. The evidence is quite to the contrary.
The question is most appropriate: “Is there recognition in heaven?” Let us consider the evidence.
Affirmative Evidence for Personal Recognition After Death
Let us reflect upon several lines of evidence — from both Testaments — regarding this important issue.
Abraham Gathered to His People
Concerning the father of the Hebrew nation, Moses wrote: “And Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years, and was gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:8).
This cannot refer to the interment of the patriarch’s body, for he was buried near Mamre in Canaan. Yet his ancestors had been entombed hundreds of miles away in distant lands.
The expressions “gathered to his people,” “going to the fathers” (Genesis 15:15), and “gathered to his fathers” (Judges 2:10), are constantly distinguished from being buried. They denote reunion with faithful loved ones in Sheol, the state of departed spirits (cf. Keil & Delitzsch, 1980, I.263).
Jacob’s Mourning of Joseph
When Jacob was deceived by his sons into believing that his beloved Joseph had been devoured by wild beasts, he lamented — “I will go down to Sheol to my son mourning” (Genesis 37:35).
He certainly was not anticipating joining Joseph in some common grave, for Joseph had no grave (from the grieving Jacob’s viewpoint). He expected to be reunited with his son in Sheol, hence, recognition is implied.
Similarly, centuries later, when David lost his infant son, he cried: “Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23). R. Payne Smith comments: “the words indicate a belief in the continued existence of the child, and even that David would recognize and know him in the future world” (1962, 4.290).
Isaiah’s Parable of the King of Babylon
The prophet Isaiah gave a parable concerning the king of Babylon. The ruler is pictured as descending into Sheol where he is tauntingly greeted by former associates of the earth in the following fashion: “How you are fallen from heaven, O day-star, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you that laid low the nations”(14:12).
“This passage demonstrates the fact of the conscious state of the souls of the dead in Hades, their power to exchange thoughts, and their vivid recollection of their past circumstances” (Vine, 1971, 55).
Jesus Prophecy of the Heavenly Gathering
In prophesying the Gentile response to the gospel, Jesus declared: “many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11).
Here is an intriguing question: will the recipients of this great promise realize its fulfillment, i.e., will they actually have association with those patriarchs in heaven? And will they know those Old Testament worthies as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
Surely, for a promise that is incapable of being recognized as such is no promise at all! If we shall know Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, does it not inevitably follow that those venerable men (grandfather, father, and son) also will know each other? The question hardly requires a response.
There is a form of argument, used frequently in the New Testament, known as a fortiori reasoning. It suggests that where there are two similar propositions to be proved, one more difficult than the other, if the harder is demonstrated first, the easier is assumed to be established.
For instance, if God cares for the birds (lesser creatures), surely he will care for his people (the greater) (Matthew 6:26). If our Father has already given his Son, will he not supply us with other gifts as well (Romans 8:32)?
With this principle in mind, recall the transfiguration scene (Matthew 17:1ff). Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and with them ascended a high mountain, where he was transfigured (changed in form) before them. In connection with this glorious event, there appeared Moses and Elijah, who talked with the Lord.
In spite of the fact that these Old Testament saints had been dead for centuries, the apostles clearly recognized them, for Peter proposed the building of three tabernacles—one for Christ, one for Moses, and one for Elijah (17:4).
The point is this: if this context teaches that those whom we have not personally known on earth can be recognized after death, then surely it must imply that those whom we have known in time will be familiar to us in the future state.
The Great Judgement Scene
In Matthew 25:31ff, Christ spoke of the great day of judgment. He describes a conversation that might occur at that time. To the righteous he says: “Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me, I was in prison, and you came unto me.”
Those disciples are then represented as reflecting back upon their earthly sojourn, but they cannot remember personally ministering to the Savior. He then informs them that in caring for his brethren, they were serving him.
A careful consideration of the Lord’s illustration plainly implies that after death there is memory of both earthly events and persons (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10).
The Unrighteous Steward
In one of his famous parables, Jesus told of a certain “unrighteous steward” who was dismissed from his position. In anticipation of his pending unemployment, the steward reduced the debts of certain men who owed his Lord. Though the business ethics of this servant were reprehensible, nevertheless, the man’s master recognized a certain shrewdness in his action, in that he had used his present resources to make preparation for the future.
The application that Christ makes of the matter is this: “Make to yourselves friends by means the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when it shall fail, they may receive you into the eternal tabernacles” (Luke 16:9).
The principle being taught is this: use your financial means to do good now [i.e., work for the saving of souls], so that when it [your money] fails [by reason of your death, or the end of time] they [your converts] will welcome you into the eternal abiding place.
This certainly indicates future recognition of present associates. As one scholar has noted:
“It is well to mark the hint we have here that we shall meet and know in heaven the friends whom we have known on earth. If those whom we have benefited on earth shall meet and welcome us in heaven, surely also will beloved friends and relatives do the same” (How, 1881, in loco).
The Rich Man and Lazarus
In the narrative concerning the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), a very important truth is emphasized. Death does not abolish earth’s memories.
First, the rich man saw and recognized Lazarus (16:23). There is personal cognizance after death!
Second, he was challenged to remember his own past.
Finally, he recalled his unprepared brothers back on earth.
R. C. Foster has observed:
“Remember indicates the survival of personality, for it required the retention of memory. If we could not remember or recognize ourselves, there would no longer be personality. Heaven and hell would no longer have significance” (1971, 959).
Our Hope, Our Joy, Our Crown
The Scriptures confidently affirm that one of the great joys of heaven will be in seeing the fruits of our earthly labors in the Lord, i.e., being with those whom we have led to Christ.
For example, reflect upon Paul’s exclamation to the brethren of Thessalonica. “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of glorying? Are not even you, before our Lord Jesus at his coming? For you are our glory and our joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).
Surely there is future recognition here. James Macknight commented:
“The manner in which the apostle speaks of the Thessalonians in this passage, shows that he expected to know his converts at the day of judgment. If so, we may hope to know our relations and friends then” (1954, 408).
The Case of Onesimus
Onesimus was a slave who had fled from his master, Philemon, who lived in Colossae. The fugitive found his way to Rome where he came in contact with Paul. The apostle led him to the Lord and presently dispatched him back to his master, bearing the epistle called “Philemon.”
Paul commends both master and servant, but he seeks to persuade Philemon to receive Onesimus as a “brother in the Lord.” The apostle raises the possibility that “providence” was involved in this situation. “Perhaps” this slave had “been separated” (the passive voice is significant) from his master temporarily so that he might “have him forever” (v. 15).
This statement clearly implies future recognition and association. It is a thrilling affirmation! Lightfoot described it as an “eternal interchange of friendship” (1892, 340).
Some, however, feel that there are objections to the possibility of recognition after death. We will consider a few of these.
No Flesh and Blood in Heaven?
It is occasionally suggested that we recognize one another only on the basis of physical features, and since we will not be flesh and blood in the future state (1 Corinthians 15:50), there could be no future recognition.
This argument is flawed in several particulars. First, it contradicts numerous other passages, such as those presented above.
Second, it would suggest that we would not even be able to know God in the future since he is spirit (John 4:24), and not physical (Luke 24:39)—a conclusion hardly warranted.
Third, it is not true that we only recognize others because of physical traits. A loved one may suffer a horrible tragedy and have their physical features completely reconstructed by means of plastic surgery. He or she may appear totally different, yet we have no difficulty in knowing the person!
No Friends in Heaven?
It is argued that the psalmist asked: “Whom have I in heaven but you [God]?” (Psalm 73:25), thus suggesting no other of his acquaintances was there.
That is a woefully weak objection. The next clause affirms: “And there is none upon earth that I desire but you.”
The writer is declaring his total dependence upon Jehovah; he is not discussing recognition.
How Can I Be Happy in Heaven, If My Loved Ones Are Not Present?
The most common concern regarding recognition after death is this. If one is able to personally know his loved ones in heaven, will he not also be aware of those not there? How could one be truly happy under such circumstances?
We may not be able to fathom everything about this matter from an emotional standpoint. However, we can logically demonstrate that the problem will be resolved.
Surely no one would dare to argue that the affection of our earthly relationships can even begin to rival the benevolent love of our Creator for humanity. Need we be reminded of Romans 5:7-8? Our love pales in contrast to divine affection.
Yet, unquestionably, God is happy! Paul speaks of the “happy” God (1 Timothy 1:11; 6:15).
If the Lord can thus be happy, even though knowing of the many that are eternally lost, we may be confident that our heartaches will be fully remedied. God will wipe away every tear (cf. Revelation 7:17; 21:4).
Moreover, no one will be in hell who does not deserve to be there. When we have passed from this life we will have a much sharper view of sin and the hideous nature of rebelling against God. Those of our loved ones who find themselves lost will not appear to us in the same sympathetic light as we saw them through the limitations of fleshly examination.
Yes, we may have perfect confidence that there will be many joyful reunions after we have passed through death’s dark valley. May we thus press toward the goal in anticipation of the glories that ultimately be revealed!
Copyright © 2013 Christian Courier. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Published in The Old Paths Archive
Bible Reading October 2
(World English Bible)
Psa 125:1 Those who trust in Yahweh are as Mount Zion, which can't be moved, but remains forever.
Psa 125:2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so Yahweh surrounds his people from this time forth and forevermore.
Psa 125:3 For the scepter of wickedness won't remain over the allotment of the righteous; so that the righteous won't use their hands to do evil.
Psa 125:4 Do good, Yahweh, to those who are good, to those who are upright in their hearts.
Psa 125:5 But as for those who turn aside to their crooked ways, Yahweh will lead them away with the workers of iniquity. Peace be on Israel.
Psa 126:1 When Yahweh brought back those who returned to Zion, we were like those who dream.
Psa 126:2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, "Yahweh has done great things for them."
Psa 126:3 Yahweh has done great things for us, and we are glad.
Psa 126:4 Restore our fortunes again, Yahweh, like the streams in the Negev.
Psa 126:5 Those who sow in tears will reap in joy.
Psa 126:6 He who goes out weeping, carrying seed for sowing, will certainly come again with joy, carrying his sheaves.
Psa 127:1 Unless Yahweh builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Unless Yahweh watches over the city, the watchman guards it in vain.
Psa 127:2 It is vain for you to rise up early, to stay up late, eating the bread of toil; for he gives sleep to his loved ones.
Psa 127:3 Behold, children are a heritage of Yahweh. The fruit of the womb is his reward.
Psa 127:4 As arrows in the hand of a mighty man, so are the children of youth.
Psa 127:5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them. They won't be disappointed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.
2 Corinthians 12
2Co 12:1 It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. For I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
2Co 12:2 I know a man in Christ, fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I don't know, or whether out of the body, I don't know; God knows), such a one caught up into the third heaven.
2Co 12:3 I know such a man (whether in the body, or outside of the body, I don't know; God knows),
2Co 12:4 how he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
2Co 12:5 On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in my weaknesses.
2Co 12:6 For if I would desire to boast, I will not be foolish; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, so that no man may think more of me than that which he sees in me, or hears from me.
2Co 12:7 By reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations, that I should not be exalted excessively, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, that I should not be exalted excessively.
2Co 12:8 Concerning this thing, I begged the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
2Co 12:9 He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me.
2Co 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then am I strong.
2Co 12:11 I have become foolish in boasting. You compelled me, for I ought to have been commended by you, for in nothing was I inferior to the very best apostles, though I am nothing.
2Co 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were worked among you in all patience, in signs and wonders and mighty works.
2Co 12:13 For what is there in which you were made inferior to the rest of the assemblies, unless it is that I myself was not a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong.
2Co 12:14 Behold, this is the third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I seek not your possessions, but you. For the children ought not to save up for the parents, but the parents for the children.
2Co 12:15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more abundantly, am I loved the less?
2Co 12:16 But be it so, I did not myself burden you. But, being crafty, I caught you with deception.
2Co 12:17 Did I take advantage of you by anyone of them whom I have sent to you?
2Co 12:18 I exhorted Titus, and I sent the brother with him. Did Titus take any advantage of you? Didn't we walk in the same spirit? Didn't we walk in the same steps?
2Co 12:19 Again, do you think that we are excusing ourselves to you? In the sight of God we speak in Christ. But all things, beloved, are for your edifying.
2Co 12:20 For I am afraid that by any means, when I come, I might find you not the way I want to, and that I might be found by you as you don't desire; that by any means there would be strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, whisperings, proud thoughts, riots;
2Co 12:21 that again when I come my God would humble me before you, and I would mourn for many of those who have sinned before now, and not repented of the uncleanness and sexual immorality and lustfulness which they committed.