From Mark Copeland... "THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS" Chapter Three

                          "THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS"

                             Chapter Three


1) To perceive how we are clearly justified by faith in Christ, and not
   by the works of the Law

2) To understand why the Law was given, what purpose it served, and how
   long it was to last

3) To appreciate the purpose of baptism as it relates to becoming sons
   of God


With a defense of his apostleship behind him, Paul spends the next two
chapters defending the gospel he received by revelation.  It is a 
gospel which proclaims justification by faith in Christ, not by keeping
the works of the Law.  As support, Paul begins by providing a personal 
argument, asking the Galatians to recall how they themselves had 
received the Spirit, and from Whom.  That it came not by the works of 
the Law but through the hearing of faith should be obvious to them.  If
they were so begun in the Spirit, why seek to be made perfect by the 
flesh (1-5)?

For his next argument, Paul appeals to the Scriptures.  First, Genesis
15:6 reveals that Abraham's faith was accounted to him as 
righteousness, and Genesis 12:3 foretold that in Abraham all the 
nations would be blessed.  Therefore, those who are of faith are sons 
of Abraham and blessed along with him (6-9).  As for the Law itself, 
the Scriptures reveal that those who are of the works of the Law are 
under a curse, while proclaiming that the just shall live by faith (Deu
27:26; Hab 2:4).  Christ, however, has redeemed us from the curse of 
the Law and made it possible for the blessing of Abraham to come upon 
the Gentiles, especially that the promise of the Spirit might be 
received through faith (10-14).

Continuing in his argument from the Scriptures, Paul reminds them that 
the covenantal nature of the promise made to Abraham means it cannot be
broken.  Therefore, the promise (along with its inheritance) to Abraham
and His "Seed" (Christ) remained firm, even when the Law came along 430
years later (15-18).  What was the purpose of the Law then?  Paul 
answers that it was added because of transgressions until the Seed 
(Christ) should come.  It was not against the promises of God, but 
because it could not provide life itself, it served the purpose of 
confining all under sin until the promise by faith in Jesus could be 
given to those who believe (19-22).  Thus the law served to keep them 
under guard, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.  To 
put it another way, it was like a tutor leading them to Christ where 
they could be justified by faith.  Once faith had arrived, the tutor 
was no longer over them (23-25).

Paul then proceeds with a practical argument to prove we are justified
by faith in Christ, which will be continued on into the fourth chapter.
Through faith they have become sons of God in Christ, for in being
baptized into Christ they had put on Christ (26-27).  Being in Christ, 
they are now one in Him, with all racial, social, and sexual 
distinctions removed as it pertains to salvation.  Being in Christ also
makes them Abraham's seed and thereby heirs according to promise God 
made to him (28-29).



      1. Paul's concern that they have been misled (1)
      2. Did they received the Spirit by the hearing of faith, or by 
         the works of the Law? (2)
      3. Having begun the Christian life in the Spirit, did they expect
         to be made perfect by the flesh? (3)
      4. Would this not make their previous suffering in vain? (4)

      1. Consider the One who supplies the Spirit and works miracles
         among them (5a)
      2. Does He do it by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of
         faith? (5b)


      1. Abraham's faith was accounted to him for righteousness (6)
      2. Those who are of faith are sons of Abraham (7)
      3. As foretold by Scripture, God would justify the nations by
         faith (8)
      4. Thus, those of faith are blessed along with believing Abraham

   B. THE CURSE OF THE LAW (10-14)
      1. Those who live by the works of the Law are under a curse (10)
      2. The Old Testament proclaimed that one would be justified by
         faith, and not by the Law, which itself was based upon works
      3. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, by His death
         on the cross (13)
      4. Making it possible for Gentiles to receive the blessing of
         Abraham in Christ, in particular the promise of the Spirit
         which is received through faith (14)

      1. The Law, given 430 years after the promises to Abraham, did
         not nullify the covenant and its promises that God made with
         Abraham and His "Seed" (15-17)
         a. Just as a man's covenant is not to be broken or added to it
         b. God made promises to Abraham and His "Seed", that is, 
            Christ (16)
         c. The Law cannot annul the covenant God confirmed with 
            Abraham, so as to make the promise of no effect (17)
      2. If the inheritance was based the Law, then it is no longer
         based upon a promise; but it is obvious that God gave the 
         inheritance by promise, not by the Law (18)

      1. It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should
         come (19-20)
      2. The Law was not against the promises of God, but served to
         confine all under sin until the promise by faith in Jesus 
         could be given to those who believe (21-23)
      3. The Law served as a tutor, leading people to Christ, where 
         they could be justified by faith and eliminating the need for
         a tutor (24-25)


      1. It was through faith in Jesus they became sons of God (26)
      2. For by being baptized into Christ (an act of faith), they had
         put on Christ (27)

      1. In Christ, there is no distinction, they are all one (28)
      2. In Christ, they rightfully become Abraham's seed, and thus
         heirs according to the promise (29)


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - Justification by faith:  The personal argument (1-5)
   - Justification by faith:  The scriptural argument (6-25)
   - Justification by faith:  The practical argument (26-29)

2) What was Paul afraid had happened to the Galatians? (1)
   - Someone had "bewitched" them, so that they should not obey the

3) To demonstrate that they were justified by faith in Christ and not
   by the works of the Law, what did Paul ask them? (2)
   - How did they receive the Spirit?  By the works of the Law, or by
     the hearing of faith?

4) What did Paul consider foolish on their part? (3)
   - Having begun in the Spirit, trying to be made perfect by the flesh
     (i.e., the Law)

5) To further show that they were justified by faith, what did Paul ask
   them? (5)
   - How did the One who supplied the Spirit, and worked miracles among
     them, do it?  By the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith?

6) What was accounted to Abraham for righteousness? (6)
   - That he believed God

7) Who are the true sons of Abraham? (7)
   - Those who are of faith

8) What did the Scripture foresee that God would do? (8)
   - Justify the nations by faith

9) What is the condition of those who are of the works of the Law? (10)
   - They are under the curse

10) What did the Old Testament say that makes it evident no one is
    justified by the Law? (11)
   - "The just shall live by faith"

11) What did Christ do by becoming a curse for us? (13)
   - He has redeemed us from the curse of the Law

12) What else did Christ make possible by becoming a curse? (14)
   - That the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in
     Christ Jesus
   - That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith

13) To whom were the promises made?  Who is the "Seed"? (16)
   - Abraham and his "Seed"
   - Christ

14) How long after the promise or covenant that God made with Abraham
    did the Law come in?  Did the Law annul the promise? (17)
   - 430 years
   - No

15) What purpose did the Law serve?  How long was it to last? (19)
   - It was added because of transgressions
   - Till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made

16) What function therefore did the Law serve?  Are we still under the
    Law? (24-25)
   - As a tutor, to bring them to Christ so that they could be
     justified by faith
   - No

17) How does one become a son of God? (26-27)
   - Through faith in Christ Jesus
   - By putting Christ on in baptism

18) What happens to the racial, social, and sexual differences in 
    Christ as they relate to salvation? (28)
   - They are no more, for we are one in Christ

19) If we are Christ's, who are we? (29)
   - Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2015

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From Mark Copeland... "THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS" Chapter Two

                     "THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS"

                              Chapter Two


1) To understand why Paul would refuse to circumcise Titus (but then 
   had Timothy circumcised later, as recorded in Acts 16:1-3)

2) To appreciate why it was necessary for Paul to rebuke Peter to his 

3) To understand why if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ's 
   death was in vain


As Paul continues defending his apostleship, he describes a meeting in
Jerusalem fourteen years after the one with Peter related in chapter 
one.  It was prompted by a revelation, and Barnabas and Titus went with
him to meet "those who were of reputation".  The meeting was private, 
but some false brethren were secretly brought in who sought to demand 
that Titus, a Gentile, be circumcised.  Paul refused, viewing it as an 
effort to bring them back into bondage from which Christ set them free 

The result of the meeting was that "those who seemed to be something" 
added nothing to Paul.  In fact, once they saw that the gospel of the 
uncircumcised had been given to him just as the gospel of the 
circumcised had been given to Peter, and once James, Cephas, and John  
perceived the grace that had been given to Paul, he was extended the 
right hand of fellowship.  They only asked that Paul be mindful of the
poor, something he was very eager to do (6-10).

The rest of the chapter describes a confrontation in Antioch between 
Peter and Paul.  Peter, who was visiting, at first was willing to eat 
with the Gentiles; but when some came from James, out of fear he 
withdrew himself.  Through his influence the rest of the Jews, even 
Barnabas, were carried away into hypocrisy.  This prompted Paul to 
withstand Peter "to his face", and to rebuke him in the presence of 
all.  In the course of his rebuke, Paul stressed that we are justified
by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law, otherwise Christ 
died in vain (11-24).



      1. Occurring fourteen years later, accompanied by Barnabas and
         Titus (1)
      2. Spurred to go by revelation, he communicated the gospel he had
         preached (2)
      3. Refused to allow Titus to be circumcised, as some brethren 
         desired who were secretly brought in to the meeting (3-5)

      1. Those who seemed to be something (reputation really made no
         difference) did not add anything to Paul (6)
      2. When those of reputation saw...
         a. That the gospel of the uncircumcised had been committed to
            Paul just as the gospel of the circumcised was to Peter
         b. That James, Cephas, and John perceived the grace given to
         ...they extended the right hand of fellowship to Paul and 
            Barnabas (9)
      3. They asked only that the poor be remembered, something Paul
         was very eager to do (10)


      1. Paul had to withstand Peter to the face, because he would not
         eat with Gentiles when those from James came to Antioch 
      2. Peter's example of hypocrisy influenced other Jews, even 
         Barnabas (13)

   B. PAUL'S REBUKE (14-21)
      1. Peter's hypocrisy (14)
         a. He himself, though Jewish, lived as a Gentile
         b. Yet he was compelling Gentiles to live as Jews
      2. A summary of Paul's rebuke (15-21)
         a. Jewish Christians realize that they are justified by faith
            in Christ, not by the works of the law by which no flesh 
            can be justified (15-16)
         b. If I seek to be justified by Christ through a means which
            cannot justify, isn't that making Christ a minister of sin?
         c. If I rebuild that which cannot justify and has been 
            destroyed (i.e., the law), won't I become a transgressor
            again? (18)
         d. Through the law, I have died to the law, having been 
            crucified with Christ; Christ now lives in me and the life
            I now live to God is a life of faith in the Son of God
         e. If righteousness comes through the law, Christ died in 
            vain, and the grace of God has been set aside (21)


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - The meeting at Jerusalem (1-10)
   - The confrontation at Antioch (11-21)

2) How long was it before Paul returned to Jerusalem?  Who went with 
   him? (1)
   - Fourteen years
   - Barnabas and Titus

3) What prompted him to go?  What did he do there? (2)
   - A revelation
   - Communicated to those of reputation the gospel he had preached 
     among the Gentiles

4) What did some who were secretly brought in to this meeting try to 
   get Paul to do? Did Paul submit to their command? (3-5)
   - To have Titus circumcised
   - No

5) How do you reconcile Paul's refusal to circumcise Titus with the 
   fact that Paul later had Timothy circumcised? (cf. Ac 16:1-3)
   - Circumcision of a Jewish Christian as a matter of expediency was
     permissible; but circumcision imposed upon a Gentile as an element
     necessary for salvation was not!

6) When did those who "seemed to be something" add to Paul? (6)
   - Nothing

7) What two things prompted them to extend the right hand of fellowship
   to Paul and Barnabas? (7-9)
   - When they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcised had been 
     committed to Paul, just as the gospel to the circumcised had been
     committed to Peter
   - When James, Cephas, and John perceived the grace that had been 
     given to Paul

8) What was the only thing they asked of Paul? (10)
   - To remember the poor

9) When Peter came to Antioch, why did Paul find it necessary to 
   withstand him to his face? (11-12)
   - Because he was willing to eat with Gentiles at first, but when 
     certain men from James came, he withdrew himself out of fear

10) Who else was carried away by Peter's hypocrisy? (13)
   - The rest of the Jews, including Barnabas

11) Briefly describe Paul's main argument as found in verse 16.
   - One is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in

12) How did Paul live his life, once he had died to the law? (19-20)
   - Having been crucified with Christ, he lives by faith in the Son of
     God who loved Him and gave Himself for him

13) If righteousness can come through the law, what does that say about
    the death of Christ? (21)
   - It was in vain

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2015

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From Mark Copeland... "THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS" Chapter One

                     "THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS"

                              Chapter One


1) To understand the divine origin of Paul's apostleship

2) To appreciate the danger of twisting the gospel of Christ


Paul begins his letter to the churches of Galatia immediately
addressing a key issue of the epistle:  that he is an apostle "not from
men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ..." (1).  Joined by
unnamed brethren, he sends grace and peace from God and Christ, making
reference to the deliverance made possible by Jesus' death for our sins
in keeping with God's will (2-4).  This in turns leads to a short
doxology (5).

Without any thanksgiving or prayer for his recipients as found in other
epistles, Paul expresses his amazement that they are so soon turning to
a different gospel being offered by those who wish to pervert the 
gospel of Christ (6-7).  This is followed by a condemnation repeated 
for emphasis of anyone, even an apostle or angel, who would preach a 
different gospel than they had already received (8-9).  Strong words, 
yes, but as a servant of Christ Paul is seeking to please God, not man 

The gospel preached by Paul was being twisted by those who challenged
his authority as an apostle.  Therefore Paul proceeds to defend both 
the gospel and his apostleship by stressing that his gospel was by 
revelation, and not from man (11-12).  As evidence, Paul relates his 
conduct prior to his conversion, and how by the grace of God he was 
called to preach the gospel to the Gentiles (13-14).  That his gospel 
was not from man is supported by the scarcity of opportunities he had 
to be around Peter or the other apostles (15-20).  In the early years 
after his conversion, most of his time was spent in Syria and Cilicia, 
with the churches of Judea knowing Paul only by what they heard.  And
what they heard led them to glorify God (21-24)!



   A. SALUTATION (1-5)
      1. From Paul, an apostle, and those with him, to the churches of
         Galatia (1-2)
      2. With a desire for them to have grace and peace from God and
         Jesus (3)
      3. With mention of Christ's sacrifice for our sins, designed to
         deliver us from this evil age, in keeping with God's will, to
         Whom be glory forever (4-5)

      1. He is amazed that they are turning from the One who called
         them in the grace of Christ, to a different and perverted 
         gospel (6-7)
      2. A repeated condemnation against anyone (man, apostle, or 
         angel) who would preach a different gospel than what they had
         already received (8-9)
      3. Strong words, yes, but coming from one who seeks to serve 
         Christ, not man (10)


      1. His gospel was not according to man, or from man, but directly
         from Jesus Christ (11-12)
      2. A review of his conduct in Judaism prior to conversion (13-14)
      3. Upon his conversion, an act of Divine revelation itself, he 
         did not confer with man, especially the apostles in Jerusalem
      4. But went to Arabia, and then returned to Damascus (17b)

      1. After three years he went to Jerusalem to see Peter, and only
         then for fifteen days (18)
         a. He saw none of the other apostles, except James, the Lord's
            brother (19)
         b. With a solemn declaration he affirms these things to be 
            true (20)
      2. Then he went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia (21)
         a. Remaining unknown by face to the churches of Judea (22)
         b. They heard only of his preaching brought about by his 
            conversion, and they glorified God in him (23-24)


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - Introduction (1-10)
   - Paul's defense of his apostleship (11-24)

2) In identifying himself as an apostle, what point does Paul stress? 
   - It was not from men nor through man
   - But through Jesus Christ and God the Father

3) To whom is this epistle written? (2)
   - To the churches of Galatia

4) Why did Jesus give Himself for our sins? (4)
   - That He might deliver us from this present evil age

5) Why did Paul marvel? (6)
   - That the Galatians were turning away so soon from God to a 
     different gospel

6) What were those who were troubling them actually doing? (7)
   - Seeking to pervert the gospel of Christ

7) What does Paul say of those who would preach a different gospel?
   - Let them be accursed

8) Who was Paul seeking to please?  Why? (10)
   - God, not man
   - Otherwise he would not be a servant of Christ

9) What does Paul stress about the gospel he preached? (11-12)
   - It is not according to man (neither received from man, nor was
     taught it)
   - It came through the revelation of Jesus Christ

10) What did Paul remind them concerning his former conduct in Judaism?
   - How he persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it
   - How he advanced in Judaism beyond many of his contemporaries

11) Why did God call Paul and reveal His Son in him? (15-16)
   - To preach Christ among the Gentiles

12) Where did Paul NOT go after his conversion? (17)
   - To Jerusalem and the apostles who were there

13) How long was it before Paul saw any of the apostles in Jerusalem?
    Which ones did he see? (18-19)
   - Three years
   - Peter, and James, the Lord's brother

14) Where did he go then? (21)
   - The regions of Syria and Cilicia

15) What three things are said about Paul's connection with the 
    churches of Judea? (22-24)
   - He was unknown by face to them
   - They were only hearing about his preaching
   - They glorified God because of Paul

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2015

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From Mark Copeland... "THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS" Introduction

                     "THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS"


AUTHOR:  The apostle Paul (1:1; 5:2).  This was the unanimous view of
the early church, and even those modern critics who challenge the 
authorship of many of the New Testament books concede that Galatians is
truly Pauline.

BACKGROUND OF THE EPISTLE:  During his first missionary journey
(46-48 A.D.), Paul together with Barnabas had the opportunity to 
establish several churches in the Roman province of Galatia (Ac 13:14-
14:23).  On his second trip (49-52 A.D.), Paul and Silas visited them
again (Ac 16:1-5).

It wasn't long, however, before some Jewish Christians came in and
began teaching that Gentile Christians needed to be circumcised and
keep the Law of Moses (similar to what happened at Antioch of Syria,
cf. Ac 15:1).  In an effort to persuade the Galatians, it appears the
tactic was to discredit Paul as an apostle, challenge his concept of 
the gospel of Christ, and charge his doctrine with leading to loose

TIME AND PLACE OF WRITING:  Dating Galatians is affected by one's 
view of whether the churches of Galatia were located in the north 
central part of Asia Minor (ethnic Galatia), or in the south central 
part (the Roman province of Galatia).  The "North Galatia Theory" 
maintains that the churches were in the north, and that Paul had not 
been there until the beginning of his third missionary journey (54-55 
A.D.; cf. Ac 18:23).  This would require that Paul wrote his epistle 
sometime toward the end of that journey, or afterward (i.e., around 
57-58 A.D. or later).

I subscribe to the "South Galatia Theory", which identifies the 
churches of Galatia as those established on Paul's first journey (cf. 
Ac 13:14-14:23).  I also believe that the meeting described in Ga 2:
1-10 took place during the "Jerusalem Conference" related in Ac 15:
1-29.  This view opens several possibilities for the place and time of

      1) Corinth, in the period of Ac 18:1-17

      2) Antioch, in the period of Ac 18:22

      3) Ephesus, in the period covered by Ac 19:1-41

      4) Macedonia or Achaia in the period of Ac 20:1-3

With such uncertainty one cannot be dogmatic, but in view of Paul's 
lengthy stay in Ephesus, that would seem a likely possibility, and the
date would be approximately A.D. 55.

PURPOSE OF THE EPISTLE:  The churches in Galatia were being influenced
by those who would "pervert the gospel of Christ" (1:6-7; cf. 3:1).  
Known as "Judaizing teachers", these individuals taught that Gentile 
Christians needed to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses (cf. Ac 
15:1).  Paul recognized that this doctrine would jeopardize the 
salvation of those souls who accepted it (cf. 5:4).  Because the 
enemies of the true gospel were trying to support their case by 
undermining Paul's authority as an apostle of Christ, it was necessary
to verify that he was truly an apostle "not from men nor through man,
but through Jesus Christ and God the Father" (1:1).  Therefore, Paul

                       TO VERIFY HIS APOSTLESHIP

Because of his outstanding defense of the gospel of Christ in which we
have freedom from sin and the Law, this epistle has frequently been
called "The Magna Carta Of Christian Liberty."

KEY VERSE:  Galatians 5:1

   "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made
   us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage."


   1. Salutation (1-5)
   2. Reason for the letter (6-10)


      1. Thesis:  His gospel received directly from God (1:11-12)
      2. His pre-Christian years, and conversion (1:13-17)

      1. His first visit with Peter, and early years as a Christian 
      2. The council at Jerusalem (2:1-5)
      3. His sanction by James, Cephas, and John (2:6-10)
      4. His rebuke of Peter at Antioch (2:11-21)
         a. Peter's hypocrisy (2:11-13)
         b. His speech to Peter, how we are justified by faith in 
            Christ (2:14-21)


      1. How they received the Spirit (3:1-4)
      2. From whom they received the Spirit (3:5)

      1. The example of Abraham (3:6-9)
      2. The curse of the Law (3:10-14)
      3. The priority of the Promise over the Law (3:15-18)
      4. The purpose of the Law (3:19-25)

      1. In Christ they are one, as children of God, Abraham's seed,
         and heirs of the promise (3:26-29)
      2. Redeemed from the law, and adopted as sons, they are no longer
         slaves, but heirs (4:1-7)

      1. His fears over their returning to bondage (4:8-11)
      2. Their past and present relationships to him (4:12-20)

      1. An allegory for those who desire to be under the Law 
      2. Symbolic of the two covenants; one from Mount Sinai which 
         gives birth to bondage, and the other from the Jerusalem above
         which makes free (24b-31)


      1. Do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage (5:1)
      2. Circumcision means nothing; requiring it results in falling 
         from grace (5:2-4)
      3. We should wait for the hope of righteousness with faith 
         working through love (5:5-6)

      1. Beware of those who would bind the Law (5:7-12)
      2. Use your liberty as an opportunity to serve one another with
         love, and you will fulfill the Law (5:13-14)
      3. But beware that you do not use it as an opportunity for the
         flesh in which you consume one another (5:13b,15)

      1. Liberty is not an excuse for license (5:16-18)
      2. The works of the flesh contrasted with the fruits of the 
         Spirit (5:19-23)
      3. Those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh and are 
         walking in the Spirit (5:24-26)

      1. For helping those with burdens (6:1-5)
      2. For doing good to all, thus sowing to the Spirit (6:6-10)

CONCLUSION (6:11-18)
   1. A final rebuke to those who would bind circumcision (6:11-13)
   2. Paul's confidence in the cross of Christ (6:14-17)
   3. Benediction (6:18)


1) According to the "South Galatia Theory", on which journey did Paul
   establish the churches in Galatia?
   - His first journey

2) Where does one read about the establishment of these churches?
   - Ac 13:14-14:23

3) What are some of the cities in which these churches were located?
   - Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia

4) Among the many possibilities for the place of writing and time of 
   this epistle, which one seems likely because of Paul's extended stay
   at that place?
   - Ephesus, on his third missionary journey, A.D. 55

5) What two things were being required of the Gentile Christians that
   jeopardized their salvation? (cf. Ac 15:1; Ga 5:2-4)
   - Circumcision
   - Observance of the Law of Moses

6) What three tactics appear to have been used by "Judaizing teachers"?
   - Discredit Paul as an apostle
   - Challenge his concept of the gospel of Christ
   - Charge his doctrine with leading to loose living

7) What is Paul's purpose in writing this epistle?
   - To verify his apostleship and the gospel of justification by faith
     in Christ

8) What has The Epistle To The Galatians been frequently called?
   - The Magna Carta Of Christian Liberty

9) Which verse in the book stands out as the "key" verse?
   - Ga 5:1

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2015

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Violence and the Quran by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Violence and the Quran

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

One would expect an uninspired book to contradict itself or speak ambiguously on various subjects, at times appearing both to endorse and condemn a practice. So it is with physical violence in the Quran. Yet, despite the occasional puzzling remark that may seem to imply the reverse, the Quran is replete with explicit and implicit sanction and promotion of armed conflict, violence, and bloodshed by Muslims. For example, within months of the Hijrah, Muhammad claimed to receive a revelation that clarified the issue:
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks until, when ye have routed them, then making fast of bonds; and afterward either grace or ransom till the war lay down its burdens. That (is the ordinance). And if Allah willed He could have punished them (without you) but (thus it is ordained) that He may try some of you by means of others. And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain (Surah 47:4, emp. added).
Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors. And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers. But if they desist, then lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrongdoers. The forbidden month for the forbidden month, and forbidden things inretaliation. And one who attacketh you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you. Observe your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is with those who ward off (evil) (Surah2:190-194, emp. added).
Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not. They question thee (O Muhammad) with regard to warfare in the sacred month. Say: Warfare therein is a great (transgression), but to turn (men) from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the Inviolable Place of Worship, and to expel his people thence, is a greater with Allah; for persecution is worse than killing. And they will not cease from fighting against you till they have made you renegades from your religion, if they can (Surah 2:216-217, emp. added).
Muhammad was informed that warfare was prescribed for him! Though he may have hated warfare, it was actually good for him, and what he loved, i.e., non-warfare, was actually bad for him! And though under normal circumstances, fighting is not appropriate during sacred months, killing was warranted against those who sought to prevent Muslims from practicing their religion. Killing is better than being persecuted! A similar injunction states: “Sanction is given unto those who fightbecause they have been wronged; and Allah is indeed Able to give them victory” (Surah 22:39, emp. added). In fact, “Allah loveth those who battle for His cause in ranks, as if they were a solid structure” (Surah 61:4, emp. added).
In a surah titled “Repentance” that issues stern measures to be taken against idolaters, the requirement to engage in carnal warfare is apparent:
Freedom from obligation (is proclaimed) from Allah and His messenger toward those of the idolaters with whom ye made a treaty: Travel freely in the land four months, and know that ye cannot escape Allah and that Allah will confound the disbelievers (in His guidance). And a proclamation from Allah and His messenger to all men on the day of the Greater Pilgrimage that Allah is free from obligation to the idolaters, and (so is) His messenger. So, if ye repent, it will be better for you; but if ye are averse, then know that ye cannot escape Allah. Give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom to those who disbelieve. Excepting those of the idolaters with whom ye (Muslims) have a treaty, and who have since abated nothing of your right nor have supported anyone against you. (As for these), fulfill their treaty to them till their term. Lo! Allah loveth those who keep their duty (unto Him). Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (Surah 9:1-5, emp. added).
The ancient Muslim histories elaborate on the occasion of these admonitions: “[T]he idolaters were given four months’ respite to come and go as they pleased in safety, but after that God and His Messenger would be free from any obligation towards them. War was declared upon them, and they were to be slain or taken captive wherever they were found” (Lings, 1983, p. 323).
Later in the same surah, “Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the religion of truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low” (Surah 9:29, emp. added). “Those who have been given the Scripture” is a reference to Jews and Christians. The surah advocates coercion against Jews and Christians in order to physically force them to pay the jizyah—a special religious tax imposed on religious minorities (see Nasr, 2002, p. 166). Muslim translator Mohammed Pickthall explains the historical setting of this quranic utterance: “It signified the end of idolatry in Arabia. The Christian Byzantine Empire had begun to move against the growing Muslim power, and this Surah contains mention of a greater war to come, and instructions with regard to it” (p. 145). Indeed, the final verse of Surah 2 calls upon Allah to give Muslims “victory over the disbelieving folk” (vs. 286), rendered by Rodwell: “give us victory therefore over the infidel nations.” That this stance by the Quran was to be expected is evident from the formulation of the Second Pledge of Aqabah, in which the men pledged their loyalty and their commitment to protecting Muhammad from all opponents. This pledge included duties of war, and was taken only by the males. Consequently, the First Aqabah pact, which contained no mention of war, became known as the “pledge of the women” (Lings, p. 112).
Additional allusions to warfare in the Quran are seen in the surah, “The Spoils,” dated in the second year of the Hijrah (A.D. 623), within a month after the Battle of Badr:
And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah.... If thou comest on them in the war, deal with them so as to strike fear in those who are behind them.... And let not those who disbelieve suppose that they can outstrip (Allah’s purpose). Lo! they cannot escape. Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horsestethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others beside them whom ye know not.... O Prophet! Exhort the believers to fight. If there be of you twenty stedfast they shall overcome two hundred, and if there be of you a hundred stedfast they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they (the disbelievers) are a folk without intelligence.... It is not for any Prophet to have captives until he hath made slaughter in the land. Ye desire the lure of this world and Allah desireth (for you) the Hereafter, and Allah is Mighty, Wise. Had it not been for an ordinance of Allah which had gone before, an awful doom had come upon you on account of what ye took. Now enjoy what ye have won, as lawful and good, and keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (Surah 8:39,57,59-60,65,67-69, emp. added; cf. 33:26).
Muslim scholar Pickthall readily concedes the context of these verses:
vv. 67-69 were revealed when the Prophet had decided to spare the lives of the prisoners taken at Badr and hold them to ransom, against the wish of Omar, who would have executed them for their past crimes. The Prophet took the verses as a reproof, and they are generally understood to mean that no quarter ought to have been given in that first battle (p. 144, emp. added).
So the Quran indicates that at the Battle of Badr, no captives should have been taken. The enemy should have been completely slaughtered, with no quarter given. This very fate awaited the Jewish Bani Qurayzah, when some 700 men were beheaded by the Muslims with Muhammad’s approval (Lings, p. 232). Likewise, members of a clan of the Bani Nadir were executed in Khaybar for concealing their treasure rather than forfeiting it to the Muslims (Lings, p. 267).
Another surah describes how allowances respecting the daily prayers were to be made for Muhammad’s Muslim warriors when engaged in military action:
And when ye go forth in the land, it is no sin for you to curtail (your) worship if ye fear that those who disbelieve may attack you. In truth the disbelievers are an open enemy to you. And when thou (O Muhammad) art among them and arrangest (their) worship for them, let only a party of them stand with thee (to worship) and let them take their arms. Then when they have performed their prostrations let them fall to the rear and let another party come that hath not worshipped and let them worship with thee, and let them take their precaution and their arms. Those who disbelieve long for you to neglect your arms and your baggage that they may attack you once for all. It is no sin for you to lay aside your arms, if rain impedeth you or ye are sick. But take your precaution. Lo! Allah prepareth for the disbelievers shameful punishment. When ye have performed the act of worship, remember Allah, standing, sitting and reclining. And when ye are in safety, observe proper worship. Worship at fixed hours hath been enjoined on the believers. Relent not in pursuit of the enemy (Surah 4:101-104, emp. added; cf. 73:20).
These verses show that the Quran implicitly endorses armed conflict and war to advance Islam.
Muslim historical sources themselves report the background details of those armed conflicts that have characterized Islam from its inception—including Muhammad’s own warring tendencies involving personal participation in and endorsement of military campaigns (cf. Lings, pp. 86,111). Muslim scholar Pickthall’s own summary of Muhammad’s war record is an eye-opener: “The number of the campaigns which he led in person during the last ten years of his life is twenty-seven, in nine of which there was hard fighting. The number of the expeditions which he planned and sent out under other leaders is thirty-eight” (n.d., p. xxvi).
What a contrast with Jesus—Who never once took up the sword or encouraged anyone else to do so! The one time that one of His close followers took it upon himself to do so, the disciple was soundly reprimanded and ordered to put the sword away, with the added warning: “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). Indeed, when Pilate quizzed Jesus regarding His intentions, He responded: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36)—the very opposite of the Aqabah pact. And whereas the Quran boldly declares, “And one who attacks you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you” (Surah 2:194; cf. 22:60), Jesus counters, “But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” and “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:39,44). The New Testament record presents a far higher, more noble and godly ethic on the matter of violence and armed conflict. In fact, the following verses demonstrate how irrevocably deep the chasm is between the Quran and the New Testament on this point:
[L]ove your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? (Matthew 5:44-46).
But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful (Luke 6:27-36).
What an amazing contrast! The New Testament says to love, bless, do good to, and pray for those who persecute you. The Quran says that “persecution is worse than killing” (Surah 2:217)—i.e., it is better to kill your persecutors than to endure their persecutions!
The standard Muslim attempt to justify the Quran’s endorsement of violence is that such violence was undertaken in self-defense (e.g., Surah 42:41). Consider the following Muslim explanation:
At the time when this surah (Surah 2—DM) was revealed at Al-Madinah, the Prophet’s own tribe, the pagan Qureysh at Mecca, were preparing to attack the Muslims in their place of refuge. Cruel persecution was the lot of Muslims who had stayed in Meccan territory or who journeyed thither, and Muslims were being prevented from performing the pilgrimage. The possible necessity of fighting had been foreseen in the terms of the oath, taken at Al-Aqabah by the Muslims of Yathrib before the Flight, to defend the Prophet as they would their own wives and children, and the first commandment to fight was revealed to the Prophet before his flight from Mecca; but there was no actual fighting by the Muslims until the battle of Badr. Many of them were reluctant, having before been subject to a rule of strict non-violence. It was with difficulty that they could accept the idea of fighting even inself-defence [sic].... (Pickthall, p. 33, emp. added).
Apart from the fact that the claim that Muhammad’s advocacy of fighting was justifiable on the ground of self-defense is contrary to the historical facts (since the wars waged by Muhammad and the territorial expansion of Islam achieved by his subsequent followers cannot all be dismissed as defensive), this explanation fails to come to grips with the propriety of shedding of blood and inflicting violence—regardless of the reason. Muslim scholar Seyyed Nasr seems unconscious of the inherent self-contradiction apparent in his own remark:
The spread of Islam occurred in waves. In less than a century after the establishment of the first Islamic society in Medina by the Prophet, Arab armies had conquered a land stretching from the Indus River to France and brought with them Islam, which, contrary to popular Western conceptions, was not, however, forced on the people by the sword(2003, p. 17, emp. added).
In other words, Muslim armies physically conquered—by military force and bloodshed—various nations, forcing the population to submit to Muslim rule, but did not require them to become Muslims! One suspects that, at the time, the distinction escaped the citizens of those conquered countries, even as it surely does the reader.
The Quran appears to have been somewhat influenced by the Law of Moses in this regard. For example, the Quran states: “If ye punish, then punish with the like of that wherewith ye were afflicted” (Surah 16:126). Similarly, “O ye who believe! Retaliation is prescribed for you in the matter of the murdered; the freeman for the freeman, and the slave for the slave, and the female for the female.... And there is life for you in retaliation, O men of understanding, that ye may ward off (evil)” (Surah2:178-179). One is reminded of the lex talionis [literally “law as (or of) retaliation”] of the Law of Moses. However, whereas the Quran appears to enjoin retaliation, the lex talionis were not intended to promote retaliation. Enjoining retaliation would be in direct conflict with the nature of God. God is never vindictive. The New Testament law does not differ with the Old Testament in the areas of proper values, ethics, mercy, and justice. The “eye for an eye” injunctions of the Old Testament were designed to be prohibitive in their thrust, i.e., they humanely limited and restricted legal punishment to a degree in keeping with the crime. That is, they prevented dispensers of justice from punishing too harshly or too much. They were intended to inculcate into Israelite society the principle of confining retribution to appropriate parameters.
The fact that the author of the Quran failed to grasp this feature of God’s laws is evident in various quranic injunctions: “As for the thief, both male and female, cut off their hands. It is the reward of their own deeds, an exemplary punishment from Allah. Allah is Mighty, Wise” (Surah 5:38, emp. added).
The adulterer and the adulteress, scourge ye each one of them (with) a hundred stripes. And let not pity for the twain withhold you from obedience to Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of believers witness their punishment.... And those who accuse honourable women but bring not four witnesses, scourge them (with) eighty stripes and never (afterward) accept their testimony—They indeed are evildoers (Surah24:2,4, emp. added).
These latter verses conflict with Mosaic injunction on two significant points. First, on the one hand, itdoubles the more reasonable and appropriate forty stripes (Deuteronomy 25:3)—a number that the Jews were so concerned not to exceed that they counted thirty-nine and stopped to allow for accidental miscount (2 Corinthians 11:24). On the other hand, this eighty increases to one hundred for adultery. Second, the requirement of four witnesses is an unreasonable number. The two or three witnesses of the Bible (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19) strikes a logical medium between the precariousness of only a single witness on the one hand, and the excessive and unlikely availability of the four witnesses required by the Quran.
It is true that the God of the Bible enjoined violent, armed conflict for the Israelites in the Old Testament. He did so in order to eliminate the morally corrupt Canaanite civilizations that inhabited Palestine prior to the Israelite occupation of the land (Deuteronomy 9:4; 18:9-12; Leviticus 18:24-25,27-28). There simply was no viable solution to their condition except extermination. Their moral depravity was “full” (Genesis 15:16). They had slumped to such an immoral, depraved state, with no hope of recovery, that their existence on this Earth had to be ended—just like in Noah’s day when God waited while Noah preached for years but was unable to turn the world’s population from its wickedness (Genesis 6:3,5-7; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:5-9).
Additionally, since the nation of Israel was also a civil entity in its own right, the government was also charged with implementing civil retribution upon lawbreakers. However, with the arrival of New Testament Christianity—an international religion intended for all persons without regard to ethnicity or nationality—God has assigned to civil government (not the church or the individual) the responsibility of regulating secular behavior. God’s people who live posterior to the cross of Christ (i.e., Christians) are not charged by God with the responsibility of inflicting physical punishment on the evildoer. Rather, civil government is charged with the responsibility of maintaining order and punishing lawbreakers (Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13-14). Observe Paul’s explanation of this dichotomy:
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor (Romans 13:1-7,NKJV, emp. added).
One translation (NIV) renders the boldface type in the above quote “an agent of wrath to bring punishment.” But this assignment of judicial and penal retribution to the government is a contrast in Paul’s discussion with what he wrote in the three verses prior to this quotation:
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:19-21, NKJV, emp. added).
Notice that the very responsibility that is enjoined on the government, i.e., “an avenger to execute wrath” by use of the sword in 13:4, is strictly forbidden to the individual Christian in 12:19, i.e., “donot avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath.” To “give place to wrath” means to allow God’s wrath to show itself in His own appointed way that, according to the next few verses, is by means of the civil government.
True Christianity (i.e., that which is based strictly on the New Testament) dictates peace and non-retaliatory promotion of itself. The “absolute imperative” (Rahman, 1979, p. 22) of Islam is thesubmission/conversion of the whole world. In stark contrast, the absolute imperative of New Testament Christianity is the evangelism of the whole world, i.e., the dissemination of the message of salvation—whether people embrace it or not (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47). Absolutely no coercion is admissible from the Christian (i.e., New Testament) viewpoint. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and all other violent activities undertaken in the name of Christ and Christianity have been in complete conflict with the teaching of the New Testament. The perpetrators acted without the authority and sanction of Christ.
Islam seeks to bring the entire world into submission to Allah and the Quran—even using jihad, coercion, and force; Christianity seeks to go into all the world and to announce the “good news” that God loves every individual, that Jesus Christ died for the sins of everyone, and that He offers salvation, forgiveness, and reconciliation. But, each person has free choice to accept or reject without any retaliation by Christians against those who choose to reject. Jesus taught His disciples, when faced with opposition and resistance, simply to walk away: “And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet” (Matthew 10:14). In fact, on one occasion when a Samaritan village was particularly nonreceptive, some of Jesus’ disciples wished to command fire to come down from heaven to consume them! But Jesus rebuked them and said, “ ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.’ And they went to another village” (Luke 9:55). Muhammad and the Quran stand in diametrical opposition to Jesus and the New Testament.
If the majority of Muslims were violent, that would not prove that Islam is a religion of violence. The vast majority of those who claim to be “Christian” are practicing a corrupted form of the Christian faith. So the validity of any religion is determined ultimately not by the imperfect, inaccurate practice of the religion by even a majority of its adherents, but by the official authority or standard upon which it is based, i.e., its Scriptures. The present discussion in the world regarding whether or not jihad includes physical force in the advancement of Islam is ultimately irrelevant (cf. Nasr, 2002, pp. 256-266). The Quran unquestionably endorses violence, war, and armed conflict. No wonder a substantial number of Muslims manifest a maniacal, reckless abandon in their willingness to die by sacrificing their lives in order to kill as many “infidels” (especially Israelis and Americans) as possible. They have read the following:
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks.... Andthose who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain. He will guide them and improve their state, and bring them in unto the Garden [Paradise—DM] which He hath made known to them (Surah 47:4-6, emp. added).
O ye who believe! Be not as those who disbelieved and said of their brethren who went abroad in the land or were fighting in the field: If they had been (here) with us they would not have died or been killed.... And what though ye be slain in Allah’s way or die therein? Surely pardon from Allah and mercy are better than all that they amass. What though ye be slain or die, when unto Allah ye are gathered?.... So those who...fought and were slain, verily I shall remit their evil deeds from them and verily I shall bring them into Gardens underneath which rivers flow—a reward from Allah (Surah 3:156-158,195, emp. added).
Even if the vast majority of Muslims in the world reject violence and refrain from terrorist activity (which would appear to be the case), it is still a fact that the Quran (as well as the example of Muhammad himself) endorses the advancement of Islam through physical force. While Muslim apologist Seyyed Hossein Nasr insists that “the traditional norms based on peace and openness to others” characterize true Islam and the majority of Muslims, in contradistinction, he freely admits that at times Islam “has been forced to take recourse to physical action in the form of defense” (Nasr, 2002, pp. 112,110). This concession cannot be successfully denied in view of the Quran’s own declarations. Hence, the Muslim is forced to maintain the self-contradictory position that, yes, there have been times that Islam has been properly violent and, yes, the Quran does endorse violence, but, no, most Muslims are not violent, and then only in self-defense. As reprehensible and cowardly as Islamic terrorists have shown themselves to be in recent years, an honest reading of the Quran leads one to believe that they, at least, are more consistent with, and true to, their own Scriptures—as revolting an idea as that may be.


Lings, Martin (1983), Muhammad (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International).
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (2002), The Heart of Islam (New York: HarperCollins).
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (2003), Islam (New York: HarperCollins).
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (no date), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
Rahman, Fazlur (1979), Islam (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press), second edition.
Rodwell, J.M., trans. (1950 reprint), The Koran (London: J.M. Dent and Sons).

Do Christians Sin? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Do Christians Sin?

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

A quick reading through the small epistle of 1 John reveals a number of verses that seem to disagree with each other. For instance, in 1 John 1:8,10 the author assures his readers that all people have sinned. In 2:1, John seems to indicate that even Christians will sin and therefore need Jesus Christ to be their advocate. Yet, 3:6 has John on record as saying: “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.” In verse 8 of chapter 3, John wrote: “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning.” And verse 9 states: “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” Steve Wells, in his work, The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, wrote concerning these verses in chapter 3: “Earlier in this letter (1:8,10) John assured us that everyone sins. Yet in these verses he claims that Christians don’t sin” (Wells, 2003).
Are these verses examples of contradictions within the Bible? If they are not, what do they mean? Do Christians sin, or don’t they?
The answers to these questions actually are much simpler than it may, at first, appear. When we compare other translations of 3:6,8,9, we see that the actual Greek wording of the verses makes a major difference in the understanding of the passages. R.C.H. Lenski translated 3:6 as follows: “Everyone remaining in him does not go on sinning; everyone continuing to sin has not seen him, nor has he known him” (1966, pp. 457-458, emp. added). Lenski translated verse 9: “Everyone that has been born from God does not go on doing sinning because his seed remains in him; and he is not able to go on sinning because he has been born of God” (p. 462, emp. added). The New International Version translates 3:6: “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one whocontinues to sin has either seen him or known him” (emp. added).
Lenski explained that 1 John 3:6,9 uses a Greek construction called the present durative, which should be translated “does not go on sinning” (pp. 458,462). John, then, is saying no more in these verses than what Paul was saying in Romans 6:1-2, when he stated: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any long in it?” Numerous other verses teach that Christians will commit sins, even after they have been washed in the blood of Christ (cf. Romans 7:14-25; Philippians 3:12-13). However, John is saying that any person who rebelliously continues to sin, making it his or her usual, habitual way of life, is not following God. In 1 John 3:9, the Greek present infinitive means to habitually sin without compunction. In more practical terms (to offer an example), it is one thing for a Christian to slip up and commit an act of sexual immorality for which he or she is penitent. It is altogether another thing for a person to live as a prostitute and claim to be “having fellowship with the Father” (1 John 1:6).
Therefore, it is easily shown that no discrepancies exist between the verses under discussion in 1 John. Furthermore, it is refreshing to know that when a Christian does sin, “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”


Wells, Steve (2003), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible [On-line], URL: http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/1cor/index.html.
Lenski, R.C.H. (1966), The Interpretation of the I and II Epistles of Peter, the Three Epistles of John, and the Epistle of Jude (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).

Can Quantum Mechanics Produce a Universe from Nothing? by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.


Can Quantum Mechanics Produce a Universe from Nothing?

by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.

According to the First Law of Thermodynamics, nothing in the Universe (i.e., matter or energy) can pop into existence from nothing (see Miller, 2013). All of the scientific evidence points to that conclusion. So, the Universe could not have popped into existence before the alleged “big bang” (an event which we do not endorse). Therefore, God must have created the Universe.
One of the popular rebuttals by the atheistic community is that quantum mechanics could have created the Universe. In 1905, Albert Einstein proposed the idea of mass-energy equivalence, resulting in the famous equation, E = mc2 (1905). We now know that matter can be converted to energy, and vice versa. However, energy and mass are conserved, in keeping with the First Law. In the words of the famous evolutionary astronomer, Robert Jastrow, “[T]he principle of the conservation of matter and energy…states that matter and energy can be neither created nor destroyed. Matter can be converted into energy, and vice versa, but the total amount of all matter and energy in the Universe must remain unchanged forever” (1977, p. 32). The idea of matter-energy conversion led one physicist to postulate, in essence, that the cosmic egg that exploded billions of years ago in the alleged “big bang”—commencing the “creation” of the Universe—could have come into existence as an energy-to-matter conversion.
In 1973, physicist Edward Tryon of the Hunter College of the City University of New York published a paper in the British science journal Nature titled, “Is the Universe a Vacuum Fluctuation?” He proposed the idea that the Universe could be a large scale vacuum energy fluctuation. He said, “In answer to the question of why it happened, I offer the modest proposal that our universe is simply one of those things which happen from time to time” (246:397, emp. added). Does it really? Cosmologist and theoretical physicist Alexander Vilenkin, Director of the Institute of Cosmology at Tufts University, said:
Now, what Tryon was suggesting was that our entire universe, with its vast amount of matter, was a huge quantum fluctuation, which somehow failed to disappear for more than 10 billion years. Everybody thought that was a very funny joke. But Tryon was not joking. He was devastated by the reaction of his colleagues… (2006, p. 184).
Though he was originally scoffed at, Tryon’s theory has gained traction among many prominent evolutionary scientists. After all, if true, according to Vilenkin, “such a creation event would not require a cause” for the Universe (pp. 184-185).


The fact is, the idea that such an event could happen is pure speculation and conjecture. No such phenomenon—the conversion from energy to matter of an entire Universe—has ever been remotely observed. It is a desperate attempt to hold to naturalistic presuppositions, in spite of the evidence, when a supernatural option that is in keeping with the evidence is staring us in the face. Evolutionary physicist Victor Stenger said,
[T]he universe is probably the result of a random quantum fluctuation in a spaceless, timeless void.... So what had to happen to start the universe was the formation of an empty bubble of highly curved space-time. How did this bubble form? What caused it? Not everything requires a cause. It could have just happened spontaneously as one of the many linear combinations of universes that has the quantum numbers of the void.... Much is still in the speculative stage, and I must admit that there are yetno empirical or observational tests that can be used to test the idea of an accidental origin (1987, 7[3]:26-30, italics in orig., emp. added.).
No evidence. No scientific observation. Just speculation.
Writing in the Skeptical Inquirer in 1994, Ralph Estling voiced strong disapproval of the idea that the Universe could create itself out of nothing. He wrote:
I do not think that what these cosmologists, these quantum theorists, these universe-makers, are doing is science. I can’t help feeling that universes are notoriously disinclined to spring into being, ready-made, out of nothing, even if Edward Tryon (ah, a name at last!) has written that “our universe is simply one of those things which happen from time to time....” Perhaps, although we have the word of many famous scientists for it, our universe is not simply one of those things that happen from time to time(18[4]:430, parenthetical item in orig., emp. added).
Estling’s comments initiated a wave of controversy and letters to the Skeptical Inquirer, eliciting a response by Estling to his critics. Among other observations, he said, “All things begin with speculation, science not excluded. But if no empirical evidence is eventually forthcoming, or can be forthcoming, all speculation is barren.... There is no evidence, so far, that the entire universe, observable and unobservable, emerged from a state of absolute Nothingness” (1995, 19[1]:69-70, emp. added). Therefore, by naturalists’ own definition of science, such an idea is unscientific. There is no evidence that could prove such a thing. The creationist platform is in keeping with observational science and has positive evidence of a divine Being (e.g., the presence of intelligent design in nature, the existence of objective morality, the existence of a Universe which demands a cause, and the existence of a Book that contains supernatural characteristics). However, unlike the creationist platform, those who believe in Tryon’s theory are holding to a blind faith.


Second, even if such a thing were possible—that energy could be converted to matter in the way that Tryon has suggested—one must ask, “Where did the energy come from?” Alan Guth, professor of physics at M.I.T., wrote in response to Tryon: “In this context, a proposal that the universe was created from empty space is no more fundamental than a proposal that the universe was spawned by a piece of rubber. It might be true, but one would still want to ask where the piece of rubber came from” (1997, p. 273, emp. added).
Energy could not have popped into existence without violating the First Law of Thermodynamics. So in reality, when scientists argue that quantum mechanics creates something from nothing, they do not really mean “nothing.” The problem of how everything got here is still present. The matter generated in quantum theory is from a vacuum that is not void. Philip Yam of Scientific American wrote, “Energy in the vacuum, though, is very much real. According to modern physics, a vacuum isn’t a pocket of nothingness. It churns with unseen activity even at absolute zero, the temperature defined as the point at which all molecular motion ceases” (1997, p. 82, emp. added). Prominent humanist mathematician and science writer, Martin Gardner, wrote: “It is fashionable now to conjecture that the big bang was caused by a random quantum fluctuation in a vacuum devoid of space and time. But of course such a vacuum is a far cry from nothing” (2000, p. 303, emp. added). Amanda Gefter, writing in New Scientist, said, “Quantum mechanics tells us that the vacuum of space is not empty; instead, it crackles with energy” (2010, p. 29, emp. added). Physicist Richard Morris wrote:
In modern physics, there is no such thing as “nothing.” Even in a perfect vacuum, pairs of virtual particles are constantly being created [i.e., by briefly “borrowing” energy already in existence—JM] and destroyed. The existence of these particles is no mathematical fiction. Though they cannot be directly observed, the effects they create are quite real. The assumption that they exist leads to predictions that have been confirmed by experiment to a high degree of accuracy (Morris, 1990, p. 25, emp. added).
Astrophysicist Rocky Kolb, chairman of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago, wrote: “[A] region of seemingly empty space is not really empty, but is a seething froth in which every sort of fundamental particle pops in and out of empty space before annihilating with its antiparticle and disappearing” (1998, 26[2]:43, emp. added). Estling continued his extensive observations in response to his critics (mentioned above), saying:
Quantum cosmologists insist both on this absolute Nothingness and on endowing it with various qualities and characteristics: this particular Nothingness possesses virtual quanta seething in a false vacuum. Quanta, virtual or actual, false or true, are not Nothing, they are definitely Something, although we may argue over what exactly. For one thing, quanta are entities having energy, a vacuum has energy and moreover, extension, i.e., it is something into which other things, such as universes, can be put, i.e., we cannot have our absolute Nothingness and eat it too. If we have quanta and a vacuum as given, we in fact have a pre-existent state of existence that either pre-existed timelessly or brought itself into existence from absolute Nothingness (no quanta, no vacuum, no pre-existing initial conditions) at some precise moment in time; it creates this time, along with the space, matter, and energy, which we call the universe.... I’ve had correspondence with Paul Davies [eminent atheistic theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and astrobiologist of Arizona State University, who advocates the supposition that the Universe created itself from nothing—JM] on cosmological theory, in the course of which, I asked him what he meant by “Nothing.” He wrote back that he had asked Alexander Vilenkin what he meant by it and that Vilenkin had replied, “By Nothing I mean Nothing,” which seemed pretty straightforward at the time, but these quantum cosmologists go on from there to tell us what their particular breed of Nothing consists of. I pointed this out to Davies, who replied that these things are very complicated. I’m willing to admit the truth of that statement, but I think it does not solve the problem (1995, 19[1]:69-70, emp. added).
No wonder Jonathan Sarfati said:
Some physicists assert that quantum mechanics…can produce something from nothing…. But this is a gross misapplication of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics never produces something out of nothing…. Theories that the Universe is a quantum fluctuation must presuppose that there was something to fluctuate—their “quantum vacuum” is a lot of matter-antimatter potential—not “nothing” (1998, 12[1]:21, emp. added).
Vilenkin, while explaining the problems inherent in Tryon’s work, said:
A more fundamental problem is that Tryon’s scenario does not really explain the origin of the universe. A quantum fluctuation of the vacuum assumes that there was a vacuum of some pre-existing space. And we now know that “vacuum” is very different from “nothing.” Vacuum, or empty space, has energy and tension, it can bend and warp, so it is unquestionably something (2006, p. 185, ital. in orig., emp. added).
He went on to propose that quantum tunneling could be the answer to the creation of the Universe out of nothing. However, quantum tunneling starts with something and ends with something as well. Particles that can jump or tunnel through barriers still must initially exist to do so. Bottom line: according to renowned atheist, theoretical physicist, and cosmologist of Cambridge University, Stephen Hawking, in order to create a Universe, “you need just three ingredients”: matter, energy, and space (“Curiosity…,” 2011). These three ingredients must exist in order to create a Universe, according to Hawking. So, the problem remains. Where did the ingredients for the Universe soup come from? There must be an ultimate Cause of the Universe.


Third, even if one were to irrationally accept the premise that quantum theory allows for the possibility that Universes could pop into existence, in the words of astrophysicist Marcus Chown:
If the universe owes its origins to quantum theory, then quantum theory must have existed before the universe. So the next question is surely: where did the laws of quantum theory come from? “We do not know,” admits Vilenkin. “I consider that an entirely different question.” When it comes to the beginning of the universe, in many ways we’re still at the beginning (2012, p. 35, emp. added).
Martin Gardner said,
Imagine that physicists finally discover all the basic waves and their particles, and all the basic laws, and unite everything in one equation. We can then ask, “Why that equation?” It is fashionable now to conjecture that the big bang was caused by a random quantum fluctuation in a vacuum devoid of space and time. But of course such a vacuum is a far cry from nothing. There had to be quantum laws to fluctuate. And why are there quantum laws?... There is no escape from the superultimate questions: Why is there something rather than nothing, and why is the something structured the way it is?(2000, p. 303, emp. added).
In “Curiosity: Did God Create the Universe?” Stephen Hawking boldly claimed that everything in the Universe can be accounted for through atheistic evolution without the need of God. This is untrue, as we have discussed elsewhere (e.g., Miller, 2011), but it seems that Hawking does not even believe that assertion himself. He asked the question, “Did God create the quantum laws that allowed the Big Bang to occur? In a nutshell, did we need a god to set it all up so that the Big Bang could bang?” (“Curiosity…,” emp. added). He then proceeded to offer no answer to the question. In his critique of Hawking, Paul Davies highlighted this very fact, saying, “You need to know where those laws come from. That’s where the mystery lies—the laws” (“The Creation Question…,” 2011). Quantum mechanics, with its governing laws, simply do not leave room for the spontaneous generation of Universes.


But what if quantum theory could allow for spontaneous generation at the quantum level? What if the First Law of Thermodynamics does not apply at the unobservable molecular world of quantum mechanics but only to the macroscopic world that we can actually see? Even if that were the case (and there is no conclusive evidence to support the contention that there are any exceptionswhatsoever to the First Law of Thermodynamics—see Miller, 2010a), according to the Big Bang model, the quantum level cosmic egg eventually became macroscopic through expansion or inflation. Such an event would have been the equivalent of a breach of the First Law, even under such a speculative definition.
But isn’t it true that “one usually assumes that the current laws of physics did not apply” at the beginning (Linde, 1994)? Assumptions must be reasonable. What evidence could be used to back such a grandiose assumption? And again, who would have written the laws at the moment they became viable? And further, if the laws of physics broke down at the beginning, one cannot use quantum law to bring about matter, which is precisely what the quantum fluctuation theory attempts to do. [NOTE: See Miller, 2010b for more on this contention.]


Can quantum mechanics create Universes from nothing? No. Quantum particle generation requires pre-existing energy—a far cry from nothing. Could quantum mechanics spontaneously create Universes from pre-existing (i.e., created by God) energy? There is no scientific evidence to support such a proposition. So it is speculation and conjecture—wishful thinking on par with postulating that aliens brought life to Earth (which some irrationally believe). Tiny quantum particles fluctuating—bouncing around—is one thing. The creation of the entire Universe through a quantum fluctuation? That’s another.
One who wishes to avoid acknowledging the existence of God should be expected to do almost anything to deny it. Reason will be thrown aside, and acceptance of far-fetched theories—theories that are so speculative that they belong in the fiction section of the library along with the The Wizard of Oz—will be latched onto as fact. The Bible gives the rationale for this irrational behavior by explaining that such a person has “itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3). Such a person will “heap up…teachers” who will tell him what he wants to hear, who sound smart, and therefore, will make him feel good about the blatantly irrational position that he holds (vs. 3). He will turn his “ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (vs. 4). Thus, “professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22). The quantum fluctuation idea is simply another example of this same mentality, and the admonition to Christians is the same as it was in the first century: “But you be watchful in all things” (vs. 5). “Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Timothy 6:20).


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