The Principle Of Qualification by Allan Turner


The Principle Of Qualification
by Allan Turner

The ancients wisely declared, “Scriptura scripturam interpretatur,” or “Scripture interprets Scripture.” If the Bible is God’s word, then it must be consistent with itself. Actually, one divine Author—the Holy Spirit—inspired the entire Bible; therefore, it is absolutely impossible that it could contradict itself. An essential rule of Bible study—I’ll call it thesynthesis principle—puts Scripture together with Scripture to arrive at clear, consistent meaning. In II Peter 1:19-21, Peter wrote: “We also have the prophetic word made more sure, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.“ In other words, there is never any place in Bible study for, “To me, this passage means...” On the contrary, the Bible cannot have one meaning for you and another meaning for me. Whatever Scripture is saying, it is saying the same thing to both of us. Consequently, the best way to interpret Scripture is to let it interpret itself.
Thinking Of The Bible As A Symphony Orchestra
If the Bible is thought of as a symphony orchestra, and the Holy Spirit as its Toscanini, then just as the orchestra plays the notes the great conductor desires, so the Bible, with its great assortment of instruments, produces the message the Holy Spirit wants—remember, “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation.” When synthesized, or put together, we have the entire symphony or word of God, as the case may be. Just as each instrumentalist’s part becomes fully clear when played in relation to all the other parts, so any one passage of the Bible becomes clear only when compared to all other passages. This means that if we hold an interpretation of one passage that contradicts another passage, at least one of these passages is being interpreted incorrectly. The Holy Spirit does not—indeed cannot—disagree with Himself. For example, one passage cannot be saying we are saved by faith alone (cf. Romans 3:28) if there is another clear passage that says we are not saved by faith only (cf. James 2:24). Therefore, passages where the obvious meanings are clear help us to understand passages that are sometimes less clear. The wise Bible student is careful not to build a doctrine on a single obscure or unclear passage of Scripture. Some otherwise intelligent men have done this to their own detriment.
A Definition
Comparing Scripture with Scripture helps us to understand that one passage can actually amplify, clarify, modify, or qualify another passage. In this study, we will focus on thequalification of Scripture. By qualify, I mean one passage can limit or restrict another. Although a qualification may appear at first to be a contradiction or denial of a Scripture, it is not. A qualification merely sets the particular passage in perspective by applying additional information about the topic under discussion. As we shall see, a qualification may occur in the immediate, general, or remote context.
The Immediate Context
Sometimes a qualification is found in the very passage itself. In Matthew 19:9, the “except for sexual immorality” phrase qualifies “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife...and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” Without this exception clause or qualification, divorcing one's mate and marrying another would always be wrong. Another example is found in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10, where Paul writes: “(9) I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. (10) Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.” Verse 10 immediately qualifies what Paul wrote in verse 9. Yet another example is found in 1 Corinthians 10:23-33, where Paul mentions not doing some things “for conscience’ sake” (verses 25,27,28). It's not until we get to verse 29 that we hear him say: “‘Conscience,’ I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience?” Without this immediate qualification, we would not know that this passage was actually refering to another man’s conscience rather than our own.
Actually, immediate, clear-cut qualifications of Scripture are very rare. Imagine what the Bible would read like if, after every bit of instruction in the Bible, God would have explained what the passage did not mean. Such a list of seemingly endless qualifications would surely cause us to lose the crucial point under discussion. Even so, the principle of qualification is an extremely important concept to understand when trying to discover the correct meaning of any Bible passage.
Finally, the interpretation of a verse in its immediate context is actually the foundation of Bible interpretation and serves as a precedent for how the process should be employed in the larger context of Scripture. Therefore, understanding how the principle of qualification is to be employed, we are ready to examine some passages that are qualified by the general context.
The General Context
An example of a qualification in the general context is Solomon’s frequently misinterpreted statement, “The dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5). Solomon is not denying continuing existence or consciousness after one experiences physical death, as many think. This would be a clear contradiction of the necessary inference of Exodus 3:6, where God stated, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” The necessary inference, according to Jesus (cf. Mark 12:18-27), is that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, although physically dead, remain in a state of conscious existence. The Sadducees, of course, did not believe that a human being survived physical death (cf. Acts 23:8). Because they failed to make the necessary conclusion of Exodus 3:6, Jesus said they were “greatly mistaken” (Mark 12:27). One might suspect that the Sadducees may have even cited Ecclesiastes 9:5 as their proof-text. Yet, when we consider the story—notice, I did not say parable—Jesus told of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), then we realize that Solomon’s statement could not be referring to one’s lack of consciousness beyond the grave.
Of course, there is the possibility that Solomon could have been mistaken about what he wrote, and that the Holy Spirit permitted his misunderstanding to be recorded in Scripture. This happens occasionally in Scripture. However, when one considers the surrounding context of Solomon’s statement, this possibility is immediately eliminated. In the general context, Solomon is referring to life “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:3,6,9). In fact, much of what Solomon says in this book should be viewed within the “under the sun” context. There are twenty-seven occurrences of the phrase “under the sun” in the book, beginning in Ecclesiastes 1:3 and ending in Ecclesiastes 10:5. Thus, Solomon's “the dead know nothing” statement is restricted or limited to an ongoing knowledge of the earthly affairs experienced by those who are still physically alive and does not extend to those who are alive in the spirit.
Another example of a general context qualification is found in 1 Corinthians 10:23, where the apostle Paul writes, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.” Some have taken this passage to mean that those in Christ are no longer subject to law, but this view is clearly wrong. Although it is true that a Christian is not dependent upon a system of perfect law-keeping for justification, he is, nevertheless, under law to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2). Paul, who is speaking by inspiration, is not saying everything (viz., fornication, adultery, lying, theft, etc., which are clearly condemned in other passages) is lawful, which would make the Scriptures contradictory. Instead, the general context indicates that what he’s saying is that within the category of things that are lawful, there are some things that are not helpful or expedient. The context informs us that whatever the Christian does must glorify God (verse 31) and that even our liberty (viz., the “all things” that “are lawful”) may be limited by another person’s conscience (verses 27-29). In other words, even when something is lawful for me, I should usually refrain from doing it if it will give “offense either to the Jews or the Greeks or to the church of God” (verse 32). I say “usually,” because even this doctrine is qualified. Paul is not writing in this passage of things that are required. In other words, if my devotion to Jesus Christ offends a Jew or Muslim, (e.g., invoking His name in prayer), then so be it—I must “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). On the other hand, I will not offend my Muslim or Jewish dinner guest by serving him pork, which, as a Christian, I am at liberty to eat. And, in the case under consideration in the passage, I need not be overly scrupulous about eating meat, whether selecting it in the market place or eating it when it is set before me at an unbeliever's table. But, if I am informed that the meat has been sacrificed to an idol, which, in and of itself, does not affect the edibility of the meat, nevertheless, I will refrain from eating it, not to appease my own conscience, but so as not to embolden the conscience of another.
Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 10:23-33, along with 1 Corinthians 8:8-9, effectively qualify the commandment given elsewhere to “abstain from things offered to idols” (Acts 15:29). Actually, this last example is an illustration of qualifications that take place in the remote context. It is to this subject that we now turn our attention.
The Remote Context
In Matthew 19:26, Jesus says: “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” When we contemplate God’s omnipotence, this is exactly the idea we have in mind. In fact, if one were to a sk a class of Christians to define God’s omnipotence, they would probably answer that omnipotence means God can do anything and everything. Even so, this is not what the Scriptures teach!
In Hebrews 6:18, the Bible says “it is impossible for God to lie.” This is not, as some suppose, a denial of the truth taught in Matthew 19:26; it is, instead, a qualification. God, who is holy, “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2). Consequently, we understand that what Jesus meant in Matthew 19:26 is “with God all things [consistent with His nature] are possible.” So, the phrase “all things” does not always mean all things. The “all things” in one passage may very well be qualified by something said in another passage.
We are now ready to wrestle with Jacob’s statement in Genesis 32:30, which says, “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” If what God told Moses in Exodus 33:20 is true, namely, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live,” then Jacob’s statement in Genesis 32:30 is certainly problematic. Unfamiliar with the principle of qualification, some view Jacob’s statement as a clear-cut contradiction of Genesis 32:20 and other passages (cf. John 1:18; 1 Timothy 6:16; and 1 John 4:12), ultimately reflecting on the integrity of the entire Bible. But if the Bible is what it claims to be, then it simply cannot be contradicting itself. How, then, can we resolve this apparent dilemma?
First of all, God “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2). So we can be sure that Jacob did not see the face of God in the same sense God uses this expression in Exodus 33:20. When one looks at the context of God’s statement to Moses, it seems clear He uses “My face” to mean His pure Spirit essence, “dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16). Consequently, Jacob cannot be understood to be saying he actually saw the pure and glorious Spirit essence of Almighty God. If so, then Jacob was mistaken and his misperception was accurately recorded here like other false ideas and downright untruths that are cited elsewhere in Scripture. For example, Satan’s original lie is recorded in Genesis 3:4, as are the false theological ideas expressed by Job’s friends.
Second, when we consider what was said about this incident in Hosea 12:4, then it is clear that Jacob wrestled with a not so ordinary angel. In fact, when we examine verses 4 and 5, it appears Jacob wrestled with the Angel of Yahweh (Exodus 3:2; Judges 2:1), elsewhere called the Angel of God (Exodus 14:19), or the Angel of His Presence (Isaiah 63:9), who some believe to be pre-incarnate appearances of the Lord Himself. Others who encountered this unique Angel had very similar reactions (cf. Judges 6:22 and 13:22). On these occasions God evidently took upon Himself human form for the express purpose of manifesting Himself to those involved. In theological parlance, these manifestations are calledtheophanies, which means “appearances of God.” Because those who saw God in these theophanies did not see God in His true Spirit essence, they did not die as they had expected.
Finally, this interpretation is compatible with all the accepted rules of Bible interpretation; it is consistent with the totality of Scripture; and it completely harmonizes what would otherwise be absolutely contradictory passages.
Jesus' Unqualified Endorsement Of The Principle
In his temptation of Jesus, Satan “twisted” (2 Peter 3:16) the Scriptures by neglecting the principle of qualification. In Matthew 4:5-7, the Bible says:
Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’”
Satan’s citation of Psalm 91:11-12 was accurate but misapplied in that the providential care promised in this passage did not include the deliberate testing of God’s faithfulness. Jesus makes this clear in His citation of Deuteronomy 6:16, which says, “You shall not tempt the LORD your God.” This means that Jesus gave His unqualified endorsement to the principle of qualification when He made it clear that the protection offered in Psalm 91:11-12 is qualified by the Scriptures’ teaching on man’s obligation not to tempt God. In other words, being a child of God is not a license to act recklessly. If you can’t swim, don’t jump into water over your head to discover if God will save you.
In Conclusion
In their misapplication of Mark 16:18, the religiously deluded snake handlers of Eastern Kentucky neglect, as did Satan, the very important principle of qualification. Although not as radical as the snake handlers, many other religious folk make the same mistake. As conscientious students of God’s precious Word, let us be careful not to commit the same error. As we have seen, a proper understanding of this most important principle is absolutely indispensable to the correct interpretation of Scripture.

"THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS" Chapter Sixteen by Mark Copeland

                      "THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS"

                            Chapter Sixteen


1) To be impressed with such Christians as Phoebe, Priscilla, and

2) To understand the warning against those who cause division


In this last chapter, Paul closes with miscellaneous instructions, 
greetings, warnings, and a doxology.  Of particular note are his
comments concerning Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea (1-2).
Also, his greetings to Priscilla and Aquila remind us of how
instrumental this couple was in the spread of the gospel (3-5a).  The
remaining greetings from Paul remind us that there were many others who
contributed to the growth of the church in the first century (5b-16).

A final warning is given against those who would cause divisions and 
occasions of stumbling contrary to what Paul had taught in this epistle 
(17-18).  For above all else, Paul wanted to ensure their continued 
obedience in the gospel (19-20).

Paul's companions at Corinth add their greetings (21-24), and Paul 
closes this wonderful epistle with an expression of praise to God for 
the revelation of the gospel which was leading to the obedience of 
faith among all nations (25-27).



      1. A servant of the church in Cenchrea (1)
      2. To receive her in a worthy manner, helping her along (2)

      1. To Priscilla and Aquila (3-5a)
      2. To various others (5b-16)

   C. A FINAL WARNING (17-20)
      1. Against those who selfishly cause divisions and offenses
      2. To continue in obedience, for God will give them victory

      1. From Timothy and others (21)
      2. From Tertius, Paul's "amanuensis" [personal scribe] (22)
      3. From brethren at Corinth (23-24)


      1. According to the gospel and preaching of Jesus Christ (25a)
      2. According to the mystery once secret, but now revealed and 
         made known to all nations (25b-26)
         a. Made known by the prophetic Scriptures (26a)
         b. Made known for obedience to the faith (26b)



1) List the main points of this chapter
   - Concluding Instructions And Farewells (1-24)
   - Paul's Doxology (25-27)

2) How does Paul describe Phoebe? (1-2)
   - A servant of the church; a helper of Paul and of many

3) How does Paul describe Priscilla and Aquila? (3-4)
   - Fellow workers; who risked their necks for Paul's life

4) How does Paul describe those who cause division and offenses? (18)
   - They serve not the Lord, but their own belly

5) Is the "mystery" referred to in verse 25 still hidden? (25-26)
   - No, it has been revealed and made known through preaching and the
     Scriptures to all nations

6) What is the objective of the gospel according to verse 26?
   - Obedience to the faith

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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"THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS" Chapter Fifteen by Mark Copeland

                      "THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS"

                            Chapter Fifteen


1) To see further the importance of being considerate of weak brethren

2) To be impressed with the example of the churches in Macedonia and
   Achaia in their liberality toward the church in Jerusalem


Paul continues his discussion on how those who are strong are to 
receive and bear with the infirmities of the weak.  Encouraging the 
strong to be concerned with uplifting the weak, he reminds them of 
Christ and His unselfishness (1-3).  Reminding them of the value of the 
Old Testament Scriptures, he pleads for patience so that with one mind 
and one mouth they may glorify God (4-6).  Finally, he calls for them 
to receive one another to the glory of God, just as Christ served both 
Jews and Gentiles in fulfilling the prophets of old (7-12).  Paul then 
offers a prayer that God might fill them with joy and peace in 
believing, so that they may abound in hope with the help of the Holy 
Spirit (13).

At this point, Paul begins to draw this epistle to a close by making 
remarks concerning his apostleship and plans to see them.  Recognizing 
their own abilities in the faith, he still felt it appropriate to write 
to them as he did (14-16).  Speaking of his design not to preach where 
Christ had already been received (17-21), Paul tells of his plan to 
come to Rome on his way to Spain (22-24).  But first, he is going to 
the poor saints in Jerusalem with a contribution from the saints in 
Macedonia and Achaia (25-29).  Realizing the danger such a trip 
entails, he asks to be remembered in their prayers (30-33).



      1. Try to please your brethren, as Christ did (1-3)
      2. With the help of God and Scripture, be patient, so you may
         with one mind and mouth glorify God (4-6)

      1. As Christ received us, to the glory of God (7)
      2. As Christ served Jews and Gentiles, in fulfillment of prophecy

      1. That God might fill them with all joy and peace in believing
      2. That they might abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit


      1. He is well aware of their own abilities (14)
      2. Simply reminding them, as is appropriate from one who is a
         "minister to the Gentiles" (15-16)
      3. Though he normally aims to preach where Christ has not been
         named (17-21)

   B. HIS TRAVEL PLANS (22-29)
      1. To go to Spain via Rome (22-24)
      2. But first,  to Jerusalem with a contribution from those in
         Macedonia and Achaia (25-29)

      1. His request for their prayers for his safe journeys (30-32)
      2. His prayer that God be with them (33)


edification - to build up; "used only figuratively in the NT..the
              promotion of spiritual growth" (VINE)


1) List the main points of this chapter
   - Concluding Admonitions To Strong Brethren (1-13)
   - Paul's Plans To See Them (14-33)

2) Whose example are we to follow in bearing the weakness of others?
   - Christ's

3) What value is the Old Testament to Christians? (4)
   - To learn, to find patience and comfort, to increase hope

4) Why is it important that we be of one mind? (5-6)
   - So we may in unity of mind and mouth glorify God

5) To what degree are we to receive one another? (7)
   - As Christ received us; to the glory of God

6) In his preaching, what did Paul try to avoid? (20)
   - Preaching where Christ had already been preached

7) Where did Paul hope to go after passing through Rome? (24)
   - Spain

8) Where was he headed for at the time he wrote this epistle? Why? (25)
   - Jerusalem; to minister the contribution from Macedonia and Achaia
     for the poor saints in Jerusalem

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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"THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS" Chapter Fourteen by Mark Copeland

                      "THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS"

                            Chapter Fourteen


1) To learn how strong and weak brethren should deal with one another

2) To see the importance of being true to our conscience


In this chapter Paul discusses the relationship strong and weak
brethren are to have towards each other.  He admonishes the strong to 
be careful in their dealings with those whose faith and knowledge is 
weak, and for the weak not to judge those who are doing what God allows 
(1-4).  In such matters, each brother should be true to their 
conscience and do what they do as service rendered to the Lord (5-9).  
There is no place for condemning or despising one another in these 
matters, for Jesus will be the judge (10-12).  Of primary concern is 
not to put stumbling blocks in a brother's way (13).

The importance of being true to one's own conscience, and not 
encouraging the weak brother to violate his own, is the emphasis of the 
last half of the chapter.  Things harmless within themselves can 
destroy those whose consciences do not permit them, so those who 
understand the true nature of the kingdom of God will be willing to 
forego personal liberties to maintain peace and build up their weaker 
brethren (14-23).



      1. The strong are to receive and not despise the weak (1-3a)
      2. The weak are not to judge those God approves (3b-4)

      1. Be fully convinced in your own mind (5)
      2. Do what you do as to the Lord (6-9)

      1. Christ is to be our judge (10-13a)
      2. Our concern should be not to put stumbling blocks in a
         brother's way (13b)


      1. Food is harmless in itself, but we can misuse it to the
         destruction of those who are weak (14-16)
      2. The kingdom of God is more important than food and drink

      1. Build up your brother, don't destroy him over food (19-20)
      2. Be willing to forego your liberties for the sake of your 
         brother (21)
      3. Appreciate the importance of a clear conscience in your weak
         brother (22-23)


judge - setting oneself up as accuser, judge, and sentencer; it does 
        not mean we cannot make decisions about the right or wrong of
        another's action (cf. Mt 7:1-6,15-20; Jn 7:24; 1Co 5:9-13)

stumbling block - that which causes another to fall; it does not have
                  to be something wrong within itself

offended - made to stumble; the word does not mean the way we commonly
           use it today, that is, to have one's feelings hurt or


1) List the main points of this chapter
   - Admonitions To Strong And Weak Brethren (1-13)
   - Further Admonitions To Strong Brethren (14-23)

2) How are strong and weak brethren to treat each other? (3)
   - The strong are not to despise the weak
   - The weak are not to judge the strong

3) What is important according to verse 5?
   - "Let each be fully convinced in his own mind"

4) In all matters, whom is it we should try to please? (6-8)
   - The Lord

5) Who will be the Judge in such matters? (10-12)
   - The Lord

6) What is important according to verse 13?
   - Not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's 

7) What elements are crucial to the kingdom of God? (17)
   - Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit

8) How far should one be willing to go to avoid causing a brother to
   stumble? (21)
   - As far as giving up personal liberties in Christ

9) If we violate our conscience, what are we guilty of? (23)
   - Sin

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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"THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS" Chapter Thirteen by Mark Copeland

                      "THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS"

                           Chapter Thirteen


1) To understand our relationship to the government

2) To appreciate the importance of love and moral purity


Continuing to instruct concerning the "transformed life,"  Paul now
discusses the Christian's responsibilities to governmental authorities.
Understanding that all governments are in power due to the providence
of God, and that they serve as ministers of God to avenge the evil 
doer, Christians are admonished to submit to "the powers that be" 
(1-5).  This submission involves payment of taxes and having respect 
for those in authority (6-7).

Paul's next exhortation deals with the importance of love and moral 
purity.  Christians are to be indebted to no one, save to love one 
another.  When love is properly demonstrated, even the requirements of 
the Law are adequately met (8-10).  This admonition to love, however, 
is carefully balanced with the reminder that time is short and it is 
imperative that Christians maintain moral purity.  This is done by 
Christians putting on the Lord Jesus and not making provision for the 
fulfilling of the lusts of the flesh (11-14).



      1. For governing authorities are appointed by God (1-2)
      2. For governing authorities are God's ministers to avenge evil
      3. To avoid wrath and maintain good conscience (5)

      1. Taxes, customs (6-7a)
      2. Fear (respect), honor (7b)


   A. THE VALUE OF LOVE (8-10)
      1. Owe no one anything but love (8a)
      2. For love does no harm, and fulfills the Law (8b-10)

      1. The time is short, we need to cast off the works of darkness 
         and put on the armor of light (11-12)
      2. Walk properly by putting on the Lord Jesus and making no
         provision to fulfill fleshly lusts (13-14)


the governing authorities - the political powers which govern society

he does not bear the sword in vain - an implied reference to the
                                     approved use of capital punishment

put on the Lord Jesus Christ - a process begun in baptism (Ga 3:27),
                               continued as we develop Christ-like
                               qualities (Col 3:9-17)

make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts - avoid 
        situations where unlawful fleshly desires might be aroused and
        acted upon


1) List the main points of this chapter
   - Responsibilities To The Government (1-7)
   - Exhortations To Love And Moral Purity (8-14)

2) What one word summarizes the Christian's responsibility to the
   government? (1)
   - submit

3) From where do governments get their authority? (1)
   - God

4) What happens if we resist governing authorities? (2)
   - We resist God and bring judgment upon ourselves

5) What is a major responsibility of government? (4)
   - To avenge the evil doer

6) What should serve as motivation for Christians' submission to the
   government? (5)
   - Wrath, and conscience

7) What else is required of Christians in regards to government? (7)
   - Payment of taxes, and respect for those in authority

8) What one thing should we owe to others? (8)
   - Love

9) What are we to put on? (12,14)
   - The "armor of light", the Lord Jesus Christ

10) What are we not to provide opportunities for? (14)
    - The fulfillment of fleshly lusts

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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"THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS" Chapter Twelve by Mark Copeland

                      "THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS"

                             Chapter Twelve


1) To see the difference between conformation and transformation,
   understanding the process involved in being transformed

2) To appreciate the diversity of service in the Body of Christ


Having concluded his discourses concerning the gospel (chs. 1-8) and
God's dealings with the nation of Israel (chs. 9-11), Paul now exhorts
his readers to full service in the kingdom of God.

He begins with a plea to present their bodies as living sacrifices and 
to be transformed by the renewing of their minds, so that they can 
demonstrate in themselves that the will of God is good, acceptable, and 
perfect (1-2).  He then encourages them to fulfill their proper place 
in the Body of Christ with proper humility and zeal (3-8).

Finally, there are a list of commands which are to govern the 
Christian's life and attitude towards love, good and evil, brethren in 
the Lord, service to God, and response to persecution (9-21).



      1. In view of the mercies of God (1a)
      2. Which is your reasonable (spiritual, NAS) service (1b)

      1. By the renewing of your mind (2a)
      2. To prove the good, acceptable, and perfect will God (2b)


      1. In all seriousness (3a)
      2. For what we are comes from God (3b)

      1. Members do not have the same function (4)
      2. But we are one, members of one another (5)



   A. AS CHRISTIANS (9-16)
      1. Concerning love, good and evil (9)
      2. Loving and honoring brethren (10)
      3. Fervent in our service (11)
      4. Rejoicing, patient, prayerful (12)
      5. Caring for saints (13)
      6. Blessing our enemies (14)
      7. Sharing joys and sorrows (15)
      8. Humble in our relations together (16)

      1. Do not repay with evil, be mindful of what is good (17)
      2. If possible, be at peace (18)
      3. Give place to the wrath of God (19)
      4. Overcome evil by responding with good (20-21)


the mercies of God - the many blessings alluded to in the first eleven

a living sacrifice - an offering that is living, not dead

conform - "to fashion or shape one thing like another... this verb has
          more special reference to that which is transitory,
          changeable, unstable" (VINE) - this word is different than 
          that found in Romans 8:29

transform - "to change into another form; [as used in Ro 12:2] to 
            undergo a complete change, which under the power of God, 
            will find expression in character and conduct" (VINE)

overcome evil with good - the goal of the Christian's response to evil


1) List the main points of this chapter
   - An Appeal To Consecration (1-2)
   - Serve God As Members Of One Body (3-8)
   - Miscellaneous Exhortations (9-21)

2) Upon what does Paul make his plea? (1)
   - The mercies of God; their reasonable service

3) How is a Christian to present himself before God? (1)
   - As a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God

4) How is one transformed? (2)
   - By the renewing of their minds

5) What is the purpose of such transformation? (2)
   - To prove (demonstrate) what is the good, acceptable, and perfect
     will of God

6) What illustration shows our dependence upon each other in the 
   church? (4-5)
   - Members of a body

7) How are Christians to respond to evil? (19-21)
   - In a positive way, with good

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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The Quran and the Flood by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


The Quran and the Flood

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

The Quran’s depictions of the great Flood of Noah’s day contain oddities that cause one who is familiar with the Bible to question the Quran’s reliability. For example, in Surah11:36-40 the Quran describes Noah’s conflict with his contemporaries and, in the process, makes a puzzling remark pertaining to the condition of the Flood waters:
And it was inspired in Noah, (saying): No one of thy folk will believe save him who hath believed already. Be not distressed because of what they do. Build the ship under Our Eyes and by Our inspiration, and speak not unto Me on behalf of those who do wrong. Lo! they will be drowned. And he was building the ship, and every time that chieftains of his people passed him, they made mock of him. He said: Though ye make mock of us, yet we mock at you even as ye mock; And ye shall know to whom a punishment that will confound him cometh, and upon whom a lasting doom will fall. (Thus it was) till, when Our commandment came to pass and the oven gushed forth water (Surah 11:36-40, emp. added).
This peculiar allusion to the waters of the Flood coming from an oven is repeated in Surah 23:
And We verily sent Noah unto his folk, and he said: O my people! Serve Allah. Ye have no other god save Him. Will ye not ward off (evil)? But the chieftains of his folk, who disbelieved, said: This is only a mortal like you who would make himself superior to you. Had Allah willed, He surely could have sent down angels. We heard not of this in the case of our fathers of old. He is only a man in whom is a madness, so watch him for a while. He said: My Lord! Help me because they deny me. Then We inspired in him, saying: Make the ship under Our eyes and Our inspiration. Then, when Our command cometh and the oven gusheth water, introduce therein of every (kind) two spouses, and thy household save him thereof against whom the Word hath already gone forth. And plead not with Me on behalf of those who have done wrong. Lo! they will be drowned. And when thou art on board the ship, thou and who so is with thee, then say: Praise be to Allah Who hath saved us from the wrongdoing folk! (Surah 23:23-28, emp. added).
The above renderings of the Quran are taken from the celebrated translation by Muslim scholar Muhammad Pickthall. In contrast to Pickthall’s rendering, Abdullah Yusuf Ali translated the phrase “the oven gusheth water” with the words “the fountains of the earth gushed forth.” Observe that these two renderings are significantly different translations of the Arabic. Ali offers the following explanation for his rendering: “Far al tannur. Two interpretations have been given: (1) the fountains or the springs on the surface of the earth bubbled over or gushed forth; or (2) the oven (of Allah’s Wrath) boiled over. The former has the weight of the best authority behind it and I prefer it” (2001, p. 520). But this “explanation” offers no rationale for accepting his preference, and it fails to provide linguistic proof to justify the preference.
In stark contrast, consider the discussion posed by Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi, Sunni Pakistani Muslim scholar, revivalist leader, political philosopher, and prominent 20th century Islamist thinker. His ancestry on his paternal side was traced back to Muhammad. In 1974, the title of Imam-ul-Muslimeen was bestowed upon him in the annual meeting of Raabta-e-Aalam-e-Islami in Saudi Arabia (“Sayyid Abul…,” 2009). From 1942-1972, Maududi produced the Tafhim-ul-Quran (تفہيم القرآن‎)—a six-volume translation and explanation of the Quran. Here is a Muslim scholar, well-qualified to provide assistance in making sense of the text of the Quran. In his insightful discussion of Surah 11:40, Maududi explained:
Commentators on the Qur’an have offered different explanations of this incident. In our view, the place from which the Flood began was a particular oven. It is from beneath it that a spring of water burst forth. This was followed by both a heavy downpour and by a very large number of springs which gushed forth. Surah al-Qamarprovides relevant information in some detail: So We opened the gates of the heaven, with water intermittently pouring forth, and We caused the earth to be cleaved and the springs to flow out everywhere. Then the water (from both the sources—the heaven and the earth) converged to bring about that which had been decreed (al-Qamar, 54: 11-12).
In the present verse, the word tannur has been preceded by the article al: According to Arabic grammar, this indicates that the reference is to a particular tannur (oven).Thus, it is evident that God had determined that the Flood should commence from a particular oven. As soon as the appointed moment came, and as soon as God so ordained, water burst forth from that oven. Subsequently, it became known as the Flood-Oven. The fact that God had earmarked a certain oven to serve as the starting-point of the Flood is borne out by al-Mu’minun 23:27 (n.d., endnote 42, emp. added).
In his commentary on the parallel passage in Surah 23:27, Maududi further explained:
In view of the context, we see no reason why one should take a farfetched figurative meaning of a clear word of the Qur’an. It appears that a particular oven (tannur) had been ear-marked for the deluge to start from, which was to all appearances an unexpected origin of the doom of the wretched people (n.d., endnote 29, emp. added).
Of course, the Bible makes no reference to any oven or the temperature of the Flood waters. However, Jewish legends codified in the Talmud do. Jewish rabbinical sources (Midrash Tanchuma 5; Rosh Hashanah 12a; Sanhedrin 108b; Zebahim 113b; Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 10,29b; et al.) provide the basis for the Quran’s allusion:
The crowd of sinners tried to take the entrance to the ark by storm, but the wild beasts keeping watch around the ark set upon them, and many were slain, while the rest escaped, only to meet death in the waters of the flood. The water alone could not have made an end of them, for they were giants in stature and strength. When Noah threatened them with the scourge of God, they would make reply: “If the waters of the flood come from above, they will never reach up to our necks; and if they come from below, the soles of our feet are large enough to dam up the springs.” But God bade each drop pass through Gehenna before it fell to earth, and the hot rain scalded the skin of the sinners. The punishment that overtook them was befitting their crime. As their sensual desires had made them hot, and inflamed them to immoral excesses, so they were chastised by means of heated water (Ginzberg, 1909, 1:106, emp. added).
Keep in mind that these Jewish legends are just that—legends. The rabbis that formulated them recognized that their renditions were not to be confused with actual Scripture. The brand of Judaism to which the author of the Quran was exposed, like Christianity at the time, was a corrupt one. Literally centuries of legend, myth, and fanciful folklore had accumulated among the Jews, reported in the Talmud, the Midrash, and the Targumim. These three Jewish sources were replete with rabbinical commentary and speculation—admitted to be uninspired. These tales and fables would have existed in Arabia in oral form as they were told and retold at Bedouin campfires, among the traveling trade caravans that crisscrossed the desert, and in the towns, villages, and centers of social interaction from Yemen in the southern Arabian Peninsula, to Abyssinia to the west, and Palestine, Syria, and Persia to the north. The allegedly hot waters of the Flood are one example among many of the Quran’s reliance on uninspired Jewish sources. Indeed, the Quran is literally riddled with such allusions. The evidence that the Quran contains a considerable amount of borrowed material from uninspired Talmudic sources, rabbinical oral traditions, and Jewish legends—stories that abound in puerile, apocryphal, absurd, outlandish pablum—is self-evident and unmistakable. [For more discussion on this point, see Miller, 2005, pp. 73ff.]


Ali, Abdullah Yusuf (2001), The Meaning of the Holy Quran (Beltsville, MD: Amana Productions), tenth edition.
Ginzberg, Louis (1909), The Legends of the Jews (Charleston, SC: Forgotten Books, 2008 reprint).
Maududi, Sayyid Abul Ala (no date), Tafhim al-Qur’an (The Meaning of the Qur’an), englishtafsir.com.
Miller, Dave (2005), The Quran Unveiled (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (no date), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
“Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi” (2009), English Islam Times, May 16, http://www.islamtimes.org/vdca.onyk49nomgt14.html.

The Quran and the Muslim Bomb Blast In Pakistan by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


The Quran and the Muslim Bomb Blast In Pakistan

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

At least 72 people were killed and hundreds more were injured when a Muslim suicide bomber detonated the explosives he was wearing in a park where Christians were celebrating Easter by picnicking in a park.1 According to the spokesman representing the terrorist group that claimed responsibility, Ehsanullah Ehsan, “It was our people who attacked the Christians in Lahore, celebrating Easter. It’s our message to the government that we will carry out such attacks again until sharia is imposed in the country.”2
Perhaps at some point, the politically correct crowd reconsider their flawed notion that “Islam is a religion of peace, and such behavior does not represent true Islam.” This naïve, inaccurate depiction is inexcusable and unbelievably bizarre in view of the 1,400-year-long history of Islam throughout the world. It is fashionable to refer to the terrorists as “extremists” and “radicalized”—implying that they do not represent true Islam and the Quran. They are characterized as being guilty of embracing a “literalist” interpretation of the Quran. But this allegation fails to face the fact that the Quranic texts that advocate violence and killing to advance Islam are clearly literal and have been so taken by the vast majority of Islamic scholars for the last 1,400 years.3 Setting aside the Hadith which forthrightly promote violence, the Quran itself is riddled with admonitions for Muslims to commit precisely the violent actions and bloodshed being committed by the Islamic terrorists.
Read Surah 47:4 from the celebrated translation by Muslim scholar Mohammed Pickthall:
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).4
No one should be perplexed or surprised by the incessant practice of beheadings by ISIS and all terrorists, who are in a perpetual war with Christendom. The admonition to behead others comes straight from the Quran (cf. Surah 8:12). Abdullah Yusuf Ali makes the following comment on this passage in his widely reputable Muslim translation:
When once the fight (Jihad) is entered upon, carry it out with the utmost vigour, and strike home your blows at the most vital points (smite at their necks), both literally and figuratively. You cannot wage war with kid gloves (italics and parenthetical items in orig.).5
Many other verses in the Quran forthrightly endorse armed conflict and war to advance Islam (e.g., Surah 2:190ff.; 8:39ff.; 9:1-5,29; 22:39; 61:4; 4:101-104). 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.6 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.”7
Islam stands in stark contrast to the religion of 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 Islamic teaching and practice. 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). Indeed, New Testament Christianity enjoins love for enemies (Matthew 5:44-46; Luke 6:27-36), returning good for evil, and overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:14,17-21).
So why does the politically correct crowd seem intent on ignoring 1,400 years of historical reality and unmistakable declarations within the Quran itself? It would appear that such blatant disregard is rooted in a single reason: an irrational regard for pluralism and bitter disdain for Christianity’s moral principles.


1 Annie Gowen, Shaiq Hussain, and Erin Cunningham (2016), “Death Toll in Pakistan Bombing Climbs Past 70,” The Washington Post, March 28,https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/death-toll-in-pakistan-easter-suicide-attack-rises-to-72-authorities-vow-to-hunt-down-perpetrators/2016/03/28/037a2e18-f46a-11e5-958d-d038dac6e718_story.html.
2 Ibid.
3 Nabeel Qureshi (2016), “The Quran’s Deadly Role in Inspiring Belgian Slaughter: Column,” USA Today, March 22, http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/03/22/radicalization-isil-islam-sacred-texts-literal-interpretation-column/81808560/.
4 Mohammed Pickthall (no date), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
5 Abdullah Yusuf Ali (1934), The Meaning of the Holy Quran (Beltsville, MD: Amana Publications), 2002 reprint, p. 1315.
6 cf. Martin Lings (1983), Muhammad (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International), pp. 86,111.
7 p. xxvi.
Suggested Resources

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Who could forget God’s promises to the “father of the faithful?” Not only would God bless all nations through Abraham and give his descendants the land upon which Abraham’s feet had trod, but God also would cause Abraham’s descendants to multiply so that they would be as countless as the stars of the sky. In Genesis 15:5, we read God’s promise to His friend Abraham: “Then He [God] brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ ” The prophet Jeremiah referred to a similar promise that God issued to David, in which He explained that the stars “cannot be numbered” (33:22). Indeed, that the stars are numberless comes as no surprise to those of us who have seen pictures taken from the Moon, or peered into other galaxies through million-dollar telescopes.
Yet, the idea that the stars could conceivably be counted remained firmly planted in the minds of some all the way up until the early 1900s. In chapter 12 of his exciting book, Why the Bible is Number One, Kenny Barfield catalogs a host of ancient, and not-so-ancient, personalities who attempted to count the stars. One such Greek astronomer, Hipparchus, almost two centuries before Christ, went on record in multiple ancient sources with figures anywhere from 800 to 1,080 for the total number of stars. Barfield sites other ancient writers such as Chang Hing, who put the number around 2,500 “not including those which the sailors observe.” The idea that the there existed a fairly small number of stars conceivably countable by humans was quite a prevalent notion.
It is humorous today to compare the actual estimated number of stars to those figures garnered from the ancients. With our modern knowledge we have estimated that there are over 25 sextillion stars (25 with 21 zeros after it)! Indeed, the Bible was correct when it commented that the stars “cannot be numbered.” And, even though the promises to Abraham and David were not uttered with scientific information as their primary concern, it is true that whenever the Bible speaks on such matters, it always is scientifically accurate. What else would we expect from the “Father of lights?”


Barfield, Kenny (1997), Why the Bible is Number 1 (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock).

Why Did God Create People—Knowing That Many Would Go to Hell? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Why Did God Create People—Knowing That Many Would Go to Hell?

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

[Author’s Note: The latter half of this question, which concerns hell, is a sentiment that is often used by skeptics to cast doubt on the veracity of the Bible and the God depicted in its pages. We will deal with this question in two distinct sections. First, we will see what the Bible has to say about why God created humans in general. Then we will proceed to show that the concept of hell, and God’s foreknowledge about who will choose to go there, does not rationally or morally militate against the God of the Bible.]
If there is an all-knowing, all-powerful God (and there is, seeExistence of God), then we would expect His motivations for action to be, in many cases, unknown to us. Since there would be so many things that He would know and we would not, it would be virtually impossible for us to understand His reasons for certain actions unless He condescended to explain them. As Isaiah the prophet wrote: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9). In one sense we could liken God’s relationship to humans to the knowledge that a five-year-old child would have of some of the actions of her parents. Suppose a child sees a parent pull out a small, rectangular checkbook, write something on a check, pull the check out and put it in an envelope, place a stamp on it, and put it in the mail. The child might ask, “Mommy, why did you do that?” The mother might respond, “So that we can keep driving our car without the bank taking it from us.” How could the child possibly connect a piece of paper to driving a car? Without knowing the details of how a check represents money, how the car was purchased from a dealership, how the bank loaned the parents money, etc., then the child could not grasp the significance of the check.
In a similar way, there are things that God has done that we humans can never fully understand for the simple reason that God has not told us why He has done them. Or, perhaps He has told us, but His answer does not give all the details that our human curiosity might wish. Moses well understood this idea when he wrote: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which have been revealed belong to us and our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). Some things God tells us; some things He does not.
When we approach the question of why God created humans, we find ourselves dealing with a question for which God has not provided an extensive answer. The simple answer given in the Bible is that God created humans, as well as the rest of creation, by His will and for His glory. 


Revelation 4:11 declares: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (emp. added). The “take home” message from this verse is that God freely chose to create and was not constrained by any outside force or by a need to fill any type of deficiency. Psalm 115:3 says: “But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.” The simple, but none too informative, answer to our question is that God wanted to create humans, so He did.
We must stress, at this point, that His desire to create humans was not because He needed them for some reason. There have been those, especially in ancient religions, who have suggested that God was lonely or in some way deficient and needed humans as companions or helpers. This suggestion has no merit. In Acts 17:24-25, the apostle Paul plainly declared: “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things” (emp. added).
The fact that God does not need humans to “help” Him is also reflected in Psalm 50:10-12, a statement that quotes God’s own words: “For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine and all its fullness.” This passage is certainly not suggesting that God would actually get hungry. On the contrary, it is implying that God would never need anything from His Creation.
Neither was God “forced” to create humans because He was lonely. Being the all-sufficient Being, there is nothing in God that needs more of anything. God’s eternal communion with Himself (in the persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) has always provided all the fellowship God needs to be complete. We can clearly see this communion of the three persons of the Godhead in Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.’” Jesus echoed this sentiment of God’s eternal communion when He prayed to the Father: “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5, emp. added). God’s free will act of creating humans had nothing to do with a need to assuage any loneliness. As Stanley Grenz correctly concluded: “Thus, God’s creation of the universe is a free act, a non-necessary act. God is not driven to create, not forced by some sense of compulsion to bring the universe into existence” (1994, p. 99).
Just because God did not (and does not) need humanity for anything, does not imply that humans are unimportant to God. Once He freely chose to create humans, He endowed them with importance by forming them in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27). As theologian Wayne Grudem rightly commented:
Someone might wonder, if God does not need us for anything, then are we important at all? Is there any significance to our existence or to the existence of the rest of creation? In response it must be said that we are in fact very meaningful because God has created us and determined that we would be meaningful to him. That is the final definition of genuine significance (Grudem, 1994, p. 162, italics in original).
God chose to create us by His free will. When He did, He endowed us with meaning and importance by creating us in His image.


The Bible also says that God created humans “for His glory.” The God of the Bible declared: “Everyone who is called by My name, Whom I have created for My glory, I have formed him, yes, I have made him” (Isaiah 43:7, emp. added). It is at this point that we must confess that the phrase “for His glory” opens the door to a great deal of speculation. What does the Bible mean when it says that humans (and all creation) were brought into existence for God’s glory? Does it mean that His creation will praise Him and give Him glory? Does it mean the mere fact that human existence brings glory to God as a manifestation of His power and ingenuity? Does it mean that our continued worship of God, in spite of the existence of suffering and hardship in this world, vindicates God and glorifies Him in contradiction to Satan’s expectations, as illustrated in the book of Job? Everything that is involved in this idea will never be truly understood by humans. We can only say that humans are here “for His glory.”
Some have suggested that if the God of the Bible made humans simply “for His glory,” then this would imply that God is an egotistical dictator Who simply wanted more “subjects” to grovel at His feet and tell Him how great He is. This suggestion fails to comprehend important aspects of the phrase “for His glory.” Not only are humans designed to bring glory to God, but they are also designed to enjoy God’s glory and find their own completeness in it. As Jack Cottrell stated: “Herein lies the purpose of human existence, i.e., to receive God’s goodness and to give him glory” (2002, p. 109). God created humans to live a blissfully happy life receiving His glory and responding in turn to the gift of His glory. It is a perfect feedback loop of humans receiving God’s glory, responding with obedience and praise, and being complete and fulfilled by their reception of God’s glory as well as by their proper response to it. We can say, then, that God created humans to live blissfully perfect lives receiving and reciprocating His glory. Understanding the situation in this light brings to the surface the folly of accusing God of selfish egotism.


Once we establish the fact that God created humans by His will, to live completely happy lives as they receive and respond to His glory, the skeptic is quick to seize upon the fact that many people are not blissfully happy. In fact, a large number of people are unhappy. Not only that, demands the skeptic, but most people, according to the Bible, are destined to be punished eternally in hell. How is it, the skeptic queries, that a loving God could create humans, knowing that most of them would go to hell? Atheist author David Mills demanded:
If we conclude, then, that God would create Hell to deter human behavior which He disliked—knowing beforehand that the majority of humanity would, as a result, suffer eternal torture—then we would be forced to label this god as evil and sadistic also, because He likewise would have inhumanely tortured individuals in order to accomplish His goals (Mills, 2006, p. 180).
Skeptic Vistonas Wu posted similar thoughts on the Web in an article titled “Debunking the Arguments of Christian Fundamentalists and Evangelists”: “If you were God, and you were omnipotent and could see throughout all time, would you create a world where you knew beforehand that the majority of people would end up in an eternal hell?” (2009). The answer implied by the skeptic is, “No.” But the problem with his reasoning is that humans are not all-knowing and that is why humans are not in such a position. In fact, in light of humanity’s limited knowledge, it easily could be the case that the information we do not have at the present is the very information that would lead an all-knowing Being to create the world as it is. The simple sounding question, “If you were God…,” can never be asked in any legitimate sense, and certainly cannot be used as “evidence” to impugn the character of God. If a person really could be God, then his thought process would be so different from what it is now, there is no way he could say what he would or would not do. It needs to be noted in this context that God has created humans in His image, endowing them with the ability to distinguish truth from error, and those ideas that are rational from those that are not. We are not contending that God’s choice to create people is irrational to humans, but rational to God. We are simply saying that God’s omniscience puts Him in a position to know all the details that would be needed to make a perfectly rational decision.


The skeptic’s accusation that God is evil because He created humans, even though He knew that most would go to hell, crumbles under closer scrutiny. First, the skeptic is quick to include the idea that “most” people are going to hell. This word “most” must be included in the accusation, because if more people go to heaven than go to hell, one could easily argue (using the skeptics’ own humanistic morality) that the present world is arranged for the benefit of the majority. Since humanistic morality claims an action is moral as long as it brings about the most good for the majority of people (Butt, 2010, pp. 33-36), then skeptics cannot, according to their own standard, criticize a God that saves “most” people in heaven and allows a minority of them to choose hell.
So, can we be sure that “most” people are going to hell? No, and here is why. Numerous verses can be cited that seem to indicate that a majority of people choose hell. The most common passage is Matthew 7:13-14, which states: “Enter by the narrow gate for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” According to this passage, many choose the path to destruction, and only few choose the path to life. What is implied in these verses, however, is the idea that those under discussion have the ability and capacity to choose. Those who are not in view in this or other such passages are those who have not yet reached an age or mental capacity to choose—unborn babies, infants, and children. If we can show that children go to heaven (and we can, see Butt, 2003), and we can show that there is at least a possibility that more children have died in a saved condition than adults who have died lost, then we can do away with the idea that “most” people are going to hell. When we consider that worldwide, there are an estimated 42 million abortions each year (Johnston, 2010), and when we understand that children often are the first to die in periods of famine and disease, we are forced to conclude that it is at least possible, and most likely probable, that more humans have died in a saved state than those who will be eternally lost. [NOTE: At this point in the discussion, the skeptic will often change the subject and demand that God cannot be loving and allow all those children to die. This accusation is false and has been definitively refuted, see Butt, 2009]. The skeptic, then, cannot know if “most” people are going to hell, and thus, according to humanistic morality based on the majority, cannot accuse God of evil. In truth, however, the concept of “most” people has very little to do with justifying God’s actions. Because God’s morality can still be justified even if most people are lost and only a few saved.


The Bible is clear that God allows all accountable  humans to choose their own final destination. Throughout the Scriptures, we see God placing before humans the ability to determine their own destiny. Moses wrote: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19). Jesus’ statement in Matthew 7:13-14 about the narrow and wide paths included the idea that His listeners had the ability “to enter” whichever path they chose. Joshua underscored this idea of choice when he declared to the Israelites, “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). The skeptical community likes to parade before the masses a picture of a tyrant God Who arbitrarily casts people to eternal destruction based on nothing more than whim and caprice. That is not true. Any person who goes to hell will have consciously made the decision to be there. As atheist Dan Barker so clearly stated: “Speaking for myself, if the biblical heaven and hell exist, I would choose hell” (2008, p. 170)C.S. Lewis insightfully noted: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it” (1946, p. 72, ital. in orig.). Timothy Keller added: “All God does in the end with people is give them what they most want, including freedom from himself. What could be more fair than that?” (2008, p. 79).
God allows people to choose their final destiny, and He wants all men to choose to be saved. First Timothy 2:4 says that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Second Peter 3:8 says that the Lord is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Not only does He not want people to choose hell, He sent His Son as a sacrifice for sin to dissuade people from choosing hell and to persuade them to choose heaven. In fact, the book of Hebrews explains that those who choose the path to destruction will trample the Son of God under their feet on their way (Hebrews 10:29). The concept of hell does not militate against God’s love or justice (Butt, 2010, pp. 17-24). [NOTE: I understand that the skeptic does not accept these verses as inspired and does not accept the story of Jesus’ sacrificial atonement. If the skeptic accuses the Bible of portraying God as immoral, however, he must allow the Bible to answer for itself. I am simply saying the Bible presents a cogent, logical argument that shows the skeptics’ accusation of God as being immoral to be wrong. If God really allows people to choose, and if He sent His Son to demonstrate His love and persuade people to choose right, then He cannot be accused of immorality.]


Another key concept to understandingGod’s dealings with humanity is His lack of partiality. The apostle Peter correctly stated: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35). This verse testifies to the fact that the Bible presents God as a perfectly impartial, fair Being Who gives every person an equal opportunity to respond to the truth. We must understand, however, that we are not saying that all people have the exact same number of opportunities to hear the Gospel, or are born into identical socio-economic situations, etc. What we are saying is that God fairly judges each person based on the opportunities he or she has been given. As Jesus said: “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48).  In all the examples in the Bible in which people responded properly to the truth, God provided those people with enough information to be saved (cf. Acts 8:26-38; Acts 10). God, therefore, takes into account every aspect of a person’s inherent make-up and external environment and impartially judges that person’s behavior based on what he or she should do given all the circumstances.


Once the skeptic realizes that he cannot rationally conclude that God is unfair for allowing all people to choose their own destiny, he must insist that the mere fact God knew some people would choose hell should have kept God from creating those people. An adequate response to such a statement is simply, “Who says?” Is there anything about the skeptic’s charge that shows some type of inherent moral rightness? There is nothing. And while, “Who says?” is an adequate response, it is not the only one at the disposal of the biblical theist. While it is true that God could have only created those humans that He knew would choose heaven, would the skeptic call that “fair”? Would it be fair for God not to create a person, and thereby deprive that person of the same opportunities and chances as other people, simply because God knew that person would choose hell? Such a course of action would actually be truly “unfair” and would land God in the real moral dilemma of showing partiality. On the contrary, the only way for God to be truly fair to all His human creatures would be to allow each of them the same opportunity to choose their own final destination.
The skeptic might then contend that it would have been better for God not to have created humans at all. But the answer to such a statement once again is, “Who says?” Who is the skeptic to say that a world with no humans is one that is better than a world in which humans are all given an equal chance to respond to God’s love, with many millions actually responding obediently and receiving eternal life? On what grounds does the skeptic demand that his perceived world is better than the one that we have? He can appeal to no greater authority than his own personal opinion. In essence, the skeptic is saying nothing more than, “I think it would have been better if humans were not created if some would choose hell.” The response to such an opinion is simply that God, Who knows everything and is completely impartial and perfectly moral and loving, understands at least one thing about the Universe that the skeptic does not know (or refuses to acknowledge) that calls for the situation to be as it is.


There is no possible way for our finite human minds to understand all the reasons behind why God created humans. There is enough information about God and humans for us to reason properly that God is not immoral for having created humans. We can know that humans were created by an act of God’s free will to receive and respond to His glory. The skeptic’s vacuous charge that God is immoral for creating humans, knowing that some would choose hell, cannot be sustained. God has given every responsible person an equal opportunity to choose heaven. There is no ground upon which the skeptic can maintain that a world without humans would be a better world than one in which some humans choose eternal life and others choose eternal destruction. In fact, God’s attributes of omniscience, impartiality, and love provide the basis to conclude that only He would be in a position to determine which world would be the very best. When understood properly, the Bible presents a completely consistent picture of God’s moral perfection in regard to His choice to create humans.


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Butt, Kyle (2003), “Do Babies Go to Hell When They Die?”http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=1201.
Butt, Kyle (2009), “Is God Immoral for Killing Babies?”http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=260.
Butt, Kyle (2010), A Christian’s Guide to Refuting Modern Atheism (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Cottrell, Jack (2002), The Faith Once for All (Joplin, MO: College Press).
Grenz, Stanley (1994), Theology for the Community of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Grudem, Wayne (1994), Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Johnston, W. Robert (2010), “Summary of Registered Abortions Worldwide, Through April 10, 2010,” http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/wrjp3310.html.
Keller, Timothy (2008), The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Dutton).
Lewis, C.S. (1946), The Great Divorce (New York: Touchstone).
Mills, David (2006), Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism(Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press).
Wu, Vistonas (2009), “Debunking the Arguments of Christian Fundamentalists and Evangelists,” http://www.debunkingskeptics.com/Debunking_Christians/Contents.htm.