"THE FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN" Chapter Three by Mark Copeland

                     "THE FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN"

                             Chapter Three

John describes God’s wonderful love for us, how hope as His children
should motivate us to pure lives.  Righteous living should be expected
when we know what sin is, that Christ came to destroy it, and that one
truly born of God will not persist in sin (1-9).  True righteousness
includes loving one another, even as Christ loved us, which in turn
gives us confidence and assurance that we are abiding in Him and are of
the truth (10-24).


   *  God’s love for us, and our love for one another

   *  The definition of sin, and the meaning of "does not sin" (6,9)

   *  The outworking of love, and the assurance it gives of our


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - Living as children of God - 1Jn 3:1-9
   - Loving one another - 1Jn 3:10-24

2) What should motivate us to live pure lives? (2-3)
   -  The hope that when God (Jesus?) is revealed, we shall be like Him

3) How is sin defined by John? (4)
   - As lawlessness ("transgression of the law", cf. KJV)

4) What is true of one who abides in Jesus?  Who has been born of God?
   - Does not "sin" ("keep on sinning", cf. ESV, NLT)
   - Does not "sin" ("make a practice of sinning", ibid.)
   - Cannot "sin" ("keep on sinning", ibid.)

5) What distinguishes children of God from children of the devil? (10)
   - The former practices righteousness and loves the brethren

6) What serves as evidence that we have passed from death to life? (14)
   - That we love the brethren

7) How do we know what true love is? How then should we love? (16-18)
   - By the example Jesus set; sacrificially, in deed and truth

8) What gives us assurance and confidence that we are of the truth?
   - Loving one another and keeping His commandments, especially having
     faith in Jesus

9) How can we know that He abides in us and we in Him? (24)
   - When we keep His commandments, and by His Spirit whom He has given
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

"THE FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN" Chapter Two by Mark Copeland

                      "THE FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN"

                              Chapter Two

We have an Advocate who is also the propitiation for our sins and to
truly know Him we must keep His commandments (1-6), especially to love
one another (7-11).  Describing his original readers’ spiritual state
(12-14),  John cautions against loving the world and being deceived by
antichrists (15-23), by letting truth abide in them and they in Christ


   *  The true test of knowing Jesus as our Advocate and our propitiation

   *  Things in the world we cannot not love

   *  The identity of antichrists in the writings of John


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - Our Advocate and how we know Him - 1Jn 2:1-6
   - A new commandment - 1Jn 2:7-11
   - Their spiritual state - 1Jn 2:12-14
   - Love not the world, beware of antichrists - 1Jn 2:15-23
   - Let truth abide in you, and you in Christ - 1Jn 2:24-29

2) How can Jesus be of aid to us when we have sinned? (1-2)
   - He is our Advocate with the Father, and the propitiation for our

3) What are two proofs that we know Jesus and that we abide in Him?
   - Keeping His commandments and walking as He walked

4) What commandment is both "old" and "new"? (7-11)
   - To love one’s brother (cf. Jn 13:34-35)

5) List three groups of people and how John describes their spiritual
   state. (12-14)
   - Little children:  forgiven of sins,  and having known the Father
   - Fathers:  Having known Him (Jesus) who is from the beginning
   - Young men:  Strong, the word of God abides in them, have overcome
     the wicked one

6) What three things in the world should we not love? (15-17)
   - The lust of the flesh (immorality)
   - The lust of the eyes (materialism)
   - The pride of life (self-importance)

7) What does John reveal about antichrist? (18-23)
   - There will be many:  whoever denies 1) Jesus is the Christ, 2) the
     Father and the Son

8) How can we be sure that we will abide in the Son and in the Father?
   - By abiding in the truth spoken from the beginning and practicing

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

How Can a Person Know Which God Exists? by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.


How Can a Person Know Which God Exists?

by  Jeff Miller, Ph.D.

Poseidon: Greek god of the sea
Several decades ago, the United States was overwhelmingly Christian in its religious persuasion. When naturalism and Darwinian evolution picked up speed in the U.S. and challenged the biblical story of man’s origins—the perspective most held by Americans—apologists sprang up in response, dealing a death blow to the naturalistic religion in the minds of many. Once evolutionary theory had been dealt with, both biblically and scientifically, it was natural for many Americans to recognize that they had always been right—Christianity is the true religion.
Sadly, under the banner of “tolerance,” the “politically correct” police have made significant inroads in compelling the American public, not only to tolerate, but to endorse and encourage pluralism and the proliferation of false religion in America. What was once an understood conclusion—that if evolution is wrong, then biblical Creation must be true—is now heavily challenged in America.
Nisroch: Assyrian god of agriculture
It has become a popular tactic among atheistic scoffers to mock Bible believers by sarcastically arguing that there’s just as much evidence for the Flying Spaghetti Monster as there is for any god. Therefore, if intelligent design doctrine deserves time in the classroom, so does the doctrine of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster—the Pastafarians (cf. Langton, 2005; Butt, 2010, p. 12). At the University of South Carolina, a student organization made up of Pastafarians was responsible for sponsoring the debate held between A.P.’s Kyle Butt and popular atheist, Dan Barker (Butt, 2010).
One such scoffer approached me awhile back after one of the sessions of my evolution seminar—a biology professor from the local university in the city where I was speaking. His quibble was a fair one: “Even if you’re right that naturalistic evolution/atheism is false, you still haven’t proven which God exists. You haven’t proven it’s the God of the Bible. Why couldn’t it be Allah? Or [sarcastically] the Flying Spaghetti Monster?”
It is true that many times when apologists discredit naturalism and show that the evidence points to supernaturalism, they do not necessarily always take the next step and answer how we arrive specifically at the God of the Bible as the one true God. Perhaps the main reason, again, is because the answer was once so obvious that the additional step did not need to be taken. People already had faith in the Bible, and they only needed someone to answer an attack on its integrity. Upon answering it, they went back to their faith in Christianity comfortably. But as naturalism and pluralism have eroded the next generation, and Bible teaching—the impetus for developing faith (Romans 10:17)—has declined, Christianity is no longer a given.
Jupiter: Roman god of light and sky, and protector of the state and its laws
Many in Christendom would respond to the professor’s questions by saying, “You just have to have faith. You just have to take a leap and accept the God of the Bible. You don’t have to have tangible evidence.” That reaction, of course, is exactly how scoffers want you to answer. Their response: “Aha! You don’t have proof that God exists. So why should I believe in Him? I might as well pick one that suits me better or make up my own god to serve.”
The Bible simply does not teach that one should accept God without evidence. We should test or prove all things, and only believe those things that can be sustained with evidence (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We should not accept what someone tells us “on faith,” because many teach lies; they should be tested to see if their claims can be backed with evidence (1 John 4:1). The truth should be searched for (Acts 17:11). It can be known (John 8:32). God would not expect us to believe that He is the one true God without evidence for that claim.
While there are different ways to answer the question posed by the professor, the most direct and simple answer is that the Bible contains characteristics which humans could not have produced. If it can be proven that a God exists and that the Bible is from God, then logically, the God of the Bible is the true God. It is truly a sad commentary on Christendom at large that the professor, as well as the many individuals that are posing such questions today, have not heard the simple answer about the nature of God’s divine Word.
After taking a moment to recover from the fact that he clearly had never experienced anyone responding rationally to his criticisms, the professor said, “Really? [pause] I’d like to see that evidence.” I pointed him to our book that summarizes the mounds of evidence that testify to the inspiration of the Bible (cf. Butt, 2007), and although he said he did not want to support our organization with a purchase, he allowed an elder at the church that hosted the event to give it to him as a gift.
Ganesh: Hindu god of wisdom, knowledge, and new beginnings
If you have not studied the divine qualities of the Bible, or are not prepared to carry on a discussion with others about the inspiration of the Bible, might I recommend to you that you secure a copy of Behold! The Word of God through our Web store immediately. Consider also getting the free pdf version in the “PDF-Books” section of our Web site, browsing the “Inspiration of the Bible” category on our Web site, or at the very least, order a back issue of our Reason & Revelation article titled “3 Good Reasons to Believe the Bible is from God” (Butt and Lyons, 2015). Consider also those friends, loved ones, and even enemies that might benefit from a copy. The professor’s question is one of the most pivotal questions one can ask today, and the Lord’s army must be armed with the truth to be able to aid those seeking it.


Butt, Kyle (2007), Behold! The Word of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Butt, Kyle (2010), A Christian’s Guide to Refuting Modern Atheism (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Butt, Kyle and Eric Lyons (2015), “3 Good Reasons to Believe the Bible is from God,” Reason & Revelation, 35[1]:2-11.
Langton, James (2005), “In the Beginning There Was the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” The Telegraph, September 11, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/1498162/In-the-beginning-there-was-the-Flying-Spaghetti-Monster.html.

Bible Inspiration: The Crucifixion Clothes by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Bible Inspiration: The Crucifixion Clothes

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

The Old Testament book of Psalms constituted the hymnal of the Jewish nation, containing a collection of 150 songs, laments, and praises by various authors. Since the Old Testament canon was very likely completed no later than 400 B.C. (Leupold, 1969, p. 8; cf. Archer, 1974, p. 440), and since the Septuagint is known to have been produced circa 250 B.C., the pronouncements in the Psalms predated the arrival of Jesus on the planet by centuries. Yet, within the sacred pages of the Psalms, scores of very detailed allusions pinpoint specific incidents that occurred in the life of Christ on Earth. These allusions constitute proof positive of the inspiration of the Bible.
For example, composed by David in the 10th century B.C. (Barnes, 1847, pp. 193ff.), Psalm 22 is unquestionably a messianic psalm—literally packed with minute details that forecast the death of the Messiah. In verse 18, the psalmist quotes Him as making the simple statement: “They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” All four of the inspired New Testament evangelists of the first century A.D. allude to these incidental details that they report in connection with Jesus hanging on the cross (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:23-24).
While commentators typically report that Roman law awarded the victim’s clothes as spoils for the Roman executioners (e.g., Erdman, 1922, p.161; McGarvey, n.d., p. 725), others question the historicity of such a claim (e.g., Edersheim, 1915, 2:591-592). In any case, the soldiers that attended the cross consisted of a quaternion—four soldiers (Davis, 1870, 3:2651). Matthew and Luke state very simply that these soldiers divided His clothes and cast lots for them, with Luke adding “to determine what every man should take.” These “garments” (merei) likely included a head-dress, sandals, girdle, and outer garment (Robertson, 1916, p. 147). Apparently, according to John 19:23, the soldiers were able to decide ownership of these four clothing articles without gambling. If they were able to agree on consignment of the four articles—one clothes item for each soldier—why did they also cast lots? It is John who provides the added clarification:
Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: “They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” Therefore the soldiers did these things (John 19:23-24).
The tunic was indivisible and unique from the other clothes, and very likely more valuable. It stood alone as seamless and would need to be awarded to a single soldier only, rather than being ripped into four pieces. Hence, they agreed to gamble in order to decide ownership of the tunic.
Observe carefully that these four unnamed Roman military men, who just happened to be assigned crucifixion duty that day, and just happened to have charge of the condemned Jesus of Nazareth (who happened that day to wear a seamless tunic), were operating solely out of their own impulses. They were not Jews. They undoubtedly had no familiarity whatsoever with Jewish Scripture. They were not controlled by any external source. No unseen or mysterious force took charge of their minds, no disciple whispered in their ears to cause them to robotically or artificially fulfill a prophecy. Yet, with uncanny precision, words written by King David a millennium earlier came to stunning fruition—words that on the surface might seem to contradict each other: the clothes were to be divided into separate parts, yet lots would be cast over the clothes. Roman soldiers unwittingly fulfilled the predictions of ancient Scripture in what to them were no more than mere casual, insignificant actions associated with the execution of their military duty, in tandem with their covetous desire to profit from their victim by acquiring His material goods.
But that’s not all. The layers of complexity and sophistication of the doctrine of inspiration, like the layers of an onion, can be peeled back to reveal additional marvels. John informs us that the item of clothing, which necessitated the Roman soldiers need to resort to gambling to decide ownership, was “without seam, woven from the top in one piece.” Why mention this piece of minutia? What significance could possibly be associated with such a seemingly trivial detail? To gain insight into a possible explanation, one must dig deeper into Bible teaching. Since the Bible was authored by Deity, it naturally possesses a depth uncharacteristic of human writers. It reflects indication that its Author was unhampered by the passing of time or the inability to foresee or orchestrate future events. Such qualities are commensurate with the nature of divinity.
In 1500 B.C., God imparted the Law of Moses to the Israelites as the covenant requirements that would guide the nation of Israel through its national existence. This law included provision for the High Priest, the first being Aaron, the brother of Moses, commissioned by God Himself (Exodus 28). On the Day of Atonement (yom kippur), he alone entered the Holy of Holies within the Tabernacle/Temple to make atonement for himself and all the people (Leviticus 16). Bible typology—another bona fide proof of Bible inspiration—portrays Jesus as our High Priest (Hebrews 3:1; 4:14; 9:11; et al.). Very uniquely and critically, Jesus performs for Christians parallel functions to the High Priest that absolutely must be performed if we are to be permitted to be saved to live eternally with Deity in heaven.
Among the articles of clothing stipulated by God for the High Priest was the skillfully woven “tunic of fine linen thread” (Exodus 28:39). According to Josephus, this clothing item was seamless:
Now this vesture was not composed of two pieces, nor was it sewed together upon the shoulders and the sides, but it was one long vestment so woven as to have an aperture for the neck; not an oblique one, but parted all along the breast and the back (3.7.4:203).
Coincidental? Perhaps. Nevertheless, John went out of his way to flag the point. And the Roman soldiers gambled for the seamless tunic of the Messiah—a tunic that subtly signaled His redemptive role as the one to make atonement for the world in the very act of dying on the cross. The handling of the clothes of Jesus Christ on the occasion of His crucifixion demonstrates the inspiration of the Bible and the divine origin of the Christian religion.


Archer, Gleason (1974), A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago, IL: Moody Press).
Barnes, Albert (1847), Notes on the Old Testament: Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2005 reprint).
Davis, William (1870), Dictionary of the Bible, ed. H.B. Hackett (New York: Hurd & Houghton).
Edersheim, Alfred (1915), The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (New York: Longmans, Green, & Co.).
Erdman, Charles (1922), The Gospel of John (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press).
Josephus, Flavius (1974 reprint), The Works of Flavius Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews, trans. by William Whiston (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Leupold, H.C. (1969 reprint), Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
McGarvey, J.W. (no date), The Fourfold Gospel (Cincinnati, OH: Standard).
Robertson, A.T. (1916), The Divinity of Christ (New York: Fleming H. Revel).

Another Pointless Attempt to Defeat Biogenesis by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.


Another Pointless Attempt to Defeat Biogenesis

by  Jeff Miller, Ph.D.

“British scientists recreate the molecules that gave birth to life itself”—the title of a recent article posted by the UK based, Mail Online (Enoch, 2012). Such a bold, presumptuous title certainly grabs your attention, considering that it leaves the impression that abiogenesis has finally been proved—that non-living “molecules” can give rise to life, contrary to the mounds of scientific evidence that prove that life comes only from life (see Miller, 2012). Unfortunately for the atheistic evolutionist, the article admits more bad news for the beloved theory than good.
The article begins with the statement, “Scientists [i.e., evolutionary scientists—JM] are one step closer to understanding the origin of life...” (Enoch). To the atheist, this would sound exciting, until he realizes that the author is tacitly admitting that after decades of work trying to establish that life could somehow evolve from non-life—which must have occurred in order for Darwinian evolution even to begin—scientists still do not understand the origin of life. Robert Hazen, a research scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Geophysical Laboratory, admitted in his lecture series, Origins of Life, that scientists “don’t know how life began,” but rather, have to “make an assumption that life emerged from basic raw materials through a sequence of events that was completely consistent with the natural laws of chemistry and physics” (Hazen, 2005). Paul Davies, theoretical physicist, cosmologist, astrobiologist, and professor at Arizona State University said, “One of the great outstanding scientific mysteries is the origin of life. How did it happen?... The truth is, nobody has a clue” (2006, 192[2578]:35). Eminent British evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, also admitted that no one knows how life began (Stein and Miller, 2008).
The problem with this idea, from a scientific standpoint, is that science has, in fact, spoken about the origin of life. Science has proven time and again that, in nature, life comes only from life (Miller, 2012). Life does not come from non-living things in nature. So, according to science, the answer to the origin of life question must be found outside of nature—from a supernatural source. Don’t expect the atheistic evolutionist to accept that logical implication from the scientific evidence, and don’t expect Enoch’s article to make that admission either.
What are the facts that can be gained from the research discussed in the article? The tests conducted by organic chemists at the University of York and the University of Nottingham reveal that “using simple left-handed amino acids to catalyse the formation of sugars resulted in the production of the predominantly right-handed form of sugars” (Enoch). This is amazing and significant research. The problem, as usual, is not the evidence of science, but the interpretation of the evidence by evolutionists. The researchers assert that their find might explain how carbohydrates could have originally evolved on Earth and why the right-handed form dominates in nature. According to Paul Clark, who led the team of scientists who conducted this research, “One of the interesting questions is where carbohydrates come from because they are the building blocks of DNA and RNA. What we have achieved is thefirst step on that pathway to show how simple sugars—threose and erythrose—originated” (Enoch, emp. added).
Notice that they “jump from A to Z” in their conclusion that their findings have proven to be the “first step” in showing how “simple sugars…originated.” How can one make such an assertion? That’s like seeing a car for the first time, noticing that it is green, and proceeding to assume that the first step has been taken in proving that all vehicles are green cars. The researchers go beyond the evidence when they apply their excellent research to a hypothetical world that allegedly might have existed eons ago, that might have had just the right conditions and available materials to produce the results they gathered from their experiments—conditions and materials which have only been present in their laboratory, not in nature—which may or may not have been the means by which, in the evolutionist’s eyes, life could have somehow spontaneously arrived in the first place.
As is usually the case when such research is publicized, the authors want to grab your attention by boldly implying something that has not actually occurred. One has to read the article cautiously to catch the myriad disclaimers laced throughout the article, which subtly highlight the fact that the implications of the research are characterized by mere assertions and conjecture—not proof. A quick perusal through the short, 357 word article, watching for disclaimers, reveals the following phrases concerning the interpretation of the research: “could have occurred”; “could explain”; “many people think”; “we are trying to understand”; “most scientists believe”; “hypothetical conditions”; “that may have been present on early Earth.” The truth: naturalistic scientists don’t have a clue how life originated. They can only guess and speculate because (1) they were not around when life was originally initiated, and (2) because nature reveals that life cannot come from non-life.
With that in mind, notice the significant admission by Paul Clarke. “For life to have evolved, you have to have a moment when non-living things become living—everything up to that point is chemistry. We are trying to understand the chemical origins of life” (Enoch, emp. added). So, Clark admits that his team’s research does not even involve trying to answer the ultimate question of how life could come from non-life. His team was merely interested in trying to figure out how the non-living building blocks of life could come about—not how they could make the jump to life. That question is still untouched by Clark’s team, and the scientific world at large.
In essence, these scientists are merely trying to figure out how the blocks of life could have come about from pre-existing materials that they hope were in existence eons ago—not how those building blocks could have accidentally arranged themselves into a building that came to life and started walking around giving birth to other fully functional buildings. In truth, the question of “how life could come from non-life” has already been addressed by the work of Redi, Spallanzani, and Pasteur, and their scientific research indicates that abiogenesis cannot happen (see Miller, 2012). So why are Clark and his team wasting their time trying to prove how the building blocks leading up to a disproven theory could form? According to the article,
The research has echoes of the landmark Miller-Urey study in 1952, which simulated hypothetical conditions that may have been present on early Earth. It showed how the building blocks of life can form from simple chemical reactions—for example, electrical activity like that associated with lightning can prompt the formation of amino acids.
The problem with this statement is that the authors appear to have not gotten the memo that the Miller-Urey experiments are now considered to be almost totally irrelevant to the abiogenesis question today (see Miller, 2012 for a discussion of these experiments and how they are viewed today). The fact that the authors point to those experiments indicates that either they are behind the times among the evolutionary community or are so desperate to validate the possibility of abiogenesis that they ignore recent research which refutes their hopes.
Sadly, in this day and age, many scientists are only interested in studying nature to determine how things happen through various evolutionary theories, rather than simply finding how things happen. Their initial assumptions corrupt their interpretations of the evidence. Why would scientists not simply follow the evidence—wherever it might lead? Could it be that “they have itching ears” that prohibit them from enduring “sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3)? Could it be that they refuse to “receive the love of the truth,” but instead, choose to “believe the lie” because they take “pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12)? Regardless, the evidence is clear. In nature, life comes only from life. So, according to the scientific evidence, the only way life could have been initiated in the beginning was through a supernatural act by a Being outside of the natural realm. That is where the scientific evidence leads the logical mind.


Davies, Paul (2006), New Scientist, 192[2578]:35, November 18.
Enoch, Nick (2012), “British Scientists Recreate the Molecules that Gave Birth to Life Itself,” Mail Online, January 27, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2092494/Life-sweet-New-clue-chemical-origins-sugar-molecules-DNA-recreated-scientists.html.
Hazen, Robert (2005), Origins of Life (Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company).
Miller, Jeff (2012), “The Law of Biogenesis,” Reason & Revelation, 32[1]:2-11, January (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1018&article=1722.
Stein, Ben and Kevin Miller (2008), Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (Premise Media).

Apologetics and the Growth of the Early Church by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Apologetics and the Growth of the Early Church

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

To say that the first-century church was a growing church would be a major understatement. The early church did not merely grow; she exploded onto the scene and continued multiplying in number for many years. About 3,000 souls obeyed the Gospel the very day the church was born in Jerusalem almost 2,000 years ago (Acts 2:41). To that number, “the Lord added…daily those who were being saved” (2:47). Despite attempts to stifle the preaching of Jesus and the growth of His church, “many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men1 came to be about five thousand” (Acts 4:4). “Believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (5:14). In Jerusalem, “the disciples multiplied greatly;” even “a great many” of the Jewish priests were “obedient to the faith” (6:7). In Samaria, “the multitudes with one accorded heeded the things spoken by Philip” (8:6); “both men and women were baptized” (8:12). Indeed, “the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria…continued to increase” (9:31, NASB).
After Paul’s conversion to Christ, He took the Gospel to Cilicia where the young “churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily” (16:5). Later, “all who dwelt in Asia [Minor] heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (19:10). Even Paul’s enemies testified to how “throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people” from idolatry (19:26). Paul and his companions also carried the Gospel to Europe, where “a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women” joined them (17:4). And what did Paul learn upon his return to Jerusalem following his third missionary journey? That “many myriads of Jews” had come to believe in Jesus (21:20). That is, within less than 30 years, the Lord’s church had increased to become many tens of thousands of Christians strong.2

Causes of Growth in the Early Church

The early church increased in number so dramatically in a relatively short period of time for a variety of reasons. First, the church of Christ was not established at “just anytime” in history. “Before time began” God purposed to offer salvation to the world through Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 1:9). God planned for Jesus to come to Earth and for His church to be established at a special and specific point in time in human history, which God chose and foretold. So, “when the fullness of time had come” (Galatians 4:4), that is, “the time which God in His infinite wisdom counted best,”3 Jesus came to Earth and subsequently established His promised, prophesied, and prepared-for church.4 Thus, a rapidly growing early church should come as no surprise.
Still, human beings have free will. Simply because God foreknew that the early Christians would multiply in number throughout the world does not mean He overrode their ability to reject the Gospel or to reach out to others with it (even if they did initially obey it). The early church grew so rapidly because the apostles, evangelists, and early Christians were courageous in their constant teaching and preaching of the Word of God. The Christians increased in number because they put a priority on souls and eternal salvation rather than upon materialism and temporary, earthly matters. Despite negative peer pressure, poverty, and persecution, the early church grew because so many disciples were committed (individually and collectively) to telling the world that the Savior, the promised Messiah, had died and risen from the dead, and “commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). They were a praying and preaching people who would not be stopped.5 In fact, for so many early Christians, death was the only thing that would keep them from spreading the Good News of Jesus.6 Ironically, it was the death of Stephen and the great persecution that arose against the church in Jerusalem which actually assisted in the spread of the Gospel in Judea, Samaria, Phoenicia, Cyprus, and many other places around the world (Acts 8:1-4; 11:19-20).

A Major (Yet Often-Overlooked) Contributing Factor to the Early Church’s Growth

Indeed, the kingdom of Christ grew so rapidly in the first century for a number of noteworthy reasons (which, incidentally, Christians in every generation desperately need to emulate in their work for the Lord). Yet, one reason for the rapidly expanding early church often gets ignored in today’s shallow, better-felt-than-told religious environment: the first-century Christians’ commitment to apologetics.

What Is Apologetics?

Sometime ago a Christian lady e-mailed our offices at Apologetics Press, saying, “I am leery of your name...apologetics…. I am a servant of the Living God and have no need to apologize for anything. But I am seeking an answer and saw your site. So please if you may, answer me this....” In truth, we were happy to respond to Jennifer and let her know that apologetics is, in fact, all about giving answers (and not “apologizing,” as so many think of it in 21st-century America). The English word apologetics is derived from the Greek apologia, meaning, “defense.”7 God does not want Christians to “apologize” (be sorry for) their allegiance to the Lord. Rather, as Peter declared, “[S]anctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense (apologian) to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). The word apologetics can apply to almost any subject matter, but most often it is discussed in the context of Christian apologetics. God expects Christians to give an outward defense of their inward hope. He wants His people, not to take up swords in an attempt to spread Christianity with carnal warfare, but to charge ahead with “knowledge” and “the word of truth” (2 Corinthians 6:6-7). Disciples of Christ look to “destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, RSV). God desires for Christians to base their actions upon Truth that is honestly and logically defended rather than false doctrine, which is dishonestly or naively accepted and emotionally driven.
Admittedly, the early Christians were full of emotions. They joyfully recognized that the long-awaited, much-anticipated Messiah had just recently come into the world and established His spiritual kingdom.8 They penitently acknowledged their sins (Acts 2:37; 8:24). They lovingly sacrificed their material possessions in order to help the poor among them (4:32-37). They were concerned for the safety of their brethren who preached openly in the face of their enemies (21:12). They rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to suffer shame” for the name of Jesus (4:41) and courageously continued “preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence” (28:31). But in the end, whatever feelings they had, whatever emotions they felt—these sensations were not the driving force behind their allegiance to Jesus Christ. The early church grew in faith and number, not because they had a better-felt-than-told kind of religion, but because they sincerely believed Truth (cf. John 8:21-36), which they were joyfully committed to spreading and defending.

Luke’s Opening of Acts

Luke, the physician and inspired writer of Acts, sets the “defense” tone from the very beginning of his brief history of the first 30 years of the Lord’s church. In the first sentence, He reminds his readers of his previous account (the Gospel of Luke), where he recorded those things that Jesus did and taught. In the very next sentence, he concisely, yet reasonably, addressed one critical piece of evidence that would be repeated throughout Acts9 and that lies at the heart of the Good News: Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. How did Luke briefly convey the resurrection of Christ? Was it merely an unverifiable “hope” that he communicated? Did he make an emotionally based appeal using flowery words? Not at all. From the very outset, Luke set an apologetic tone for the book of Acts.
Luke indicated that to the apostles Jesus “presented Himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (1:3, ESV). Notice that Luke affirms that Jesus “presented” (parestasen) Himself alive. Jesus’ dead body was not stolen and buried elsewhere. He did not just escape the tomb to leave everyone in doubt about a possible resurrection. He “presented” or “showed” (NIV) Himself. Luke used this term 13 times in Acts, including in Acts 9:41 where, after God raised Dorcas from the dead, Luke noted that Peter “called the saints and widows” and “presented her alive” to them. He proved to them that she was no longer dead. Likewise, the once-lifeless body of the Lord rose from the dead, and then, over the next 40 days, Jesus repeatedly presented Himself alive to the apostles—offering “many proofs.”
Jesus did not offer vague, subliminal messages to His apostles in order to convince them of His resurrection. He did not offer mere whispers in the wind. Luke reminds his readers that Jesus offered “many proofs” (pollois tekmanriois). According to Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich, tekmanriois is “that which causes something to be known in a convincing and decisive manner.”10 No wonder several reputable translations include the word “infallible” or “convincing” alongside “proofs” in Acts 1:3.11 Jesus did not just offer a little support of His resurrection; He gave many “surely and plainly known,”12 convincing proofs that He had risen from the dead.
So, to what exactly is Luke referring? No doubt to some of the very proofs that he discussed in his “former account” (and that the other gospel writers gave in their treatises). During the 40 days that Jesus was on Earth after His resurrection and prior to His ascension, He appeared to several individuals at different times, including on one occasion to more than 500 disciples (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). When He appeared to the apostles, He showed them His pierced hands and feet and challenged them to “handle” Him in order to “see” that He was not a mere spirit, “for a spirit does not have flesh and bones” as Jesus had (Luke 24:39). As further physical proof of His “flesh and bones” bodily resurrection, Jesus actually ate with the apostles (Luke 24:41-43). (If you want to prove to someone that you are a real, physical being, eating actual food in their presence would certainly be appropriate confirmation.) Lastly, the Master Teacher taught them the Scriptures (Luke 24:44-49). Indeed, as Luke testified, Jesus gave an apologia—He “presented Himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3, emp. added).

Peter’s Defense on Pentecost

On the first Pentecost after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, Peter stood before thousands of Jews and reasoned with them about becoming followers of the recently crucified descendant of David. Consider that his sermon was not an emotionally based appeal for his hearers to “repent…and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). No, in contrast to incoherent, drunken babblers (2:15), Peter testified that what the assembly was hearing and witnessing—the apostles miraculously speaking in languages which they had never studied (2:6,8,11)—was a fulfillment of Joel’s 800-year-old prophecy. Furthermore, Peter reminded his hearers that God “attested” (apodedeigmenon) to the miracles that Jesus worked while He was alive and in their midst. That is, God “demonstrated”13 proof of the divine origin, message, and mission of Christ in such a way that people could actually see the evidence and make an informed, rational decision about Him.
The assembly on Pentecost knew that Jesus had been “put to death” only days earlier (2:23), but unlike the tomb of King David, Jesus’ tomb was empty only three days later. Unlike the body of David, which saw corruption, the dead body of Christ had been raised and would never see corruption. Notice that Peter directed the assembly to evaluate the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, including the implied empty tomb (2:24,29-32), the fulfillment of Psalm 16:8-11 (2:25-31), and the witnesses who stood before them testifying that they had actually seen the risen Savior (2:32).
The some 3,000 individuals who obeyed the Gospel on Pentecost were not swayed by flowery words, phony miracles, or mere emotional appeals. They were “cut to the heart” by reason-and-revelation-based preaching. They reacted to a sermon filled with sensible argumentation and properly applied Scriptures. They responded to the apologia of Christ—to Christian apologetics.

Apologetics and the Preaching of Paul

How did the second greatest missionary the world has ever known (the first being Jesus, of course; Luke 19:10) go about publicly and privately proclaiming the Word of God? What did he say to people? How did he lay out the Gospel before his hearers? Was he like so many modern-day preachers and televangelists who appear infatuated with entertaining audiences with emotionally based productions? Did he ramble on about needing a mere “self-help,” feel-good religion to get through the trials of life and onward to heaven? What did God do through Paul that resulted in so many people in the first century hearing the Gospel and becoming dedicated servants in the Kingdom of God?
Christians do not have to wonder or speculate what Paul did. The inspired book of Acts details more about Paul’s work and teachings than anyone else’s in the early church. Just read Acts and you will find that from the time Paul became a Christian until the close of the book (28:30-31), he preached rational, well-argued, truth-based, thought-provoking sermons, “proving (sumbibazon) that…Jesus is the Christ” (9:22). The Greek word sumbibazon means “to present a logical conclusion;” to “demonstrate.”14 Paul gave evidence that lead honest-hearted people to the logical conclusion that, indeed, Jesus is the promised, prophesied Messiah: the Savior of mankind.
Though space will not allow for an exhaustive review of all of Paul’s work as an evangelist, consider some of what Luke recorded about Paul’s preaching on just his second and third missionary journeys. Pay close attention to the words that Paul himself used in his preaching and that Luke, one of Paul’s traveling companions (16:10-16), recorded in describing Paul’s work.


After planting the church in Philippi and being asked to depart the city by the unjust and cowardly magistrates (16:11-40), Paul travelled to Thessalonica and entered a Jewish synagogue (which was his custom—17:2).15 There he “reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ’” (17:3-4).
In contrast to his jealous, unbelieving enemies, who used intimidation tactics and mob-like violence to bring about a chaotic scene within the city (17:5-9), the life-changing Gospel of Christ that Paul preached was built upon facts that he explained and demonstrated using the Old Testament Scriptures and the historical life of Christ. To “explain” (dianoigo) is to “open” or to “interpret.”16 Just as Jesus “opened the Scriptures” to the uninformed disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:32), God used Paul “to open the sense of the Scriptures” to the Thessalonians.17 He demonstrated (paratithami) to them by “pointing out” what they were missing.18 Paul was pointing out or “bringing forward in proof passages of Scripture” and making “plain to the understanding the meaning.”19 As Wayne Jackson so capably observed:
The apostle’s method of argument, impeccably logical, was to: 1) Appeal to the authoritative Old Testament scriptures; 2) Direct attention to the prophecies concerning “the Christ;” 3) Introduce the fact of history relative to Jesus of Nazareth (e.g., His suffering, death, and resurrection); 4) Press the conclusion that Jesus fulfills the declarations regarding the promised Messiah.
This must be the foundation of all gospel preaching. Christianity is grounded in solid, provable history. There are facts to be believed or else man cannot be a Christian. No teacher who neglects this method of instruction can be effective in producing genuine converts.20
Those who were persuaded to become followers of Christ 2,000 years ago in Thessalonica responded to Truth and to the fair and reasonable interpretation of it.


The Bereans were open-hearted, honest investigators. Rather than immediately shut their ears at the teaching of Paul because of some bias, or rather than naively believing everything they heard without serious investigation, the Bereans “were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (17:11). The Bereans had a more noble disposition than the many envious, strife-causing Thessalonian Jews. The Bereans listened enthusiastically (prothumias)21 to the teachings of Paul and Silas and searched or examined (anakrino) the Old Testament Scriptures daily. The Greek word anakrino means to “engage in careful study of a question;” to “question, examine.”22 It is to “sift up and down;” “to make careful and exact research as in a legal process.”23 In fact, Luke used this word elsewhere in the context of “a judicial inquiry or investigation.”24 Indeed, similar to how Pilate “examined” (anakrino) Jesus and found no fault with Him concerning the things of which He was being accused (Luke 23:14), the Bereans examined the Scriptures daily to see whether the things that Paul preached were true.
And how did the Bereans respond to the Word of God? “Many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men” (17:12). “Many” people who made a continual, careful examination of the Scriptures came to the conclusion that what Paul preached was true. Consider this important implication: if the Bereans were honest-hearted individuals who seriously investigated the teachings of Paul, and yet came to the reasoned conclusion that Paul’s word was factual, then Paul’s preaching was of such high caliber that it could withstand a daily, judicial-type inquiry. Yes, the early church grew out of the New Testament apostles’ and prophets’ commitment to “testable teaching” and “provable preaching.” Indeed, Christian apologetics played a critical role in the spiritual and numerical growth of the early church in Berea.


Paul journeyed from Berea down to Athens, where he found a city “full of idols” (17:16). Notice that he became emotionally agitated (“provoked;” paroxuneto) by the thoroughly idolatrous and spiritually ignorant city. “His spirit was aroused within him (by anger, grief, or a desire to convert them)”25—or perhaps all three.  He was not provoked in a sinful manner (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:5), but with righteous exasperation he was moved to preach to a thoroughly pagan people. Interestingly, Paul’s emotional, inward stirring did not lead to an irrational, substanceless, emotional rant. On the contrary, upon given the opportunity to speak in the midst of the Council of the Areopogus,26 Paul delivered a masterful apologia before those who questioned his beliefs and teachings.
Paul did not begin with the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, which was his normal approach when reasoning with the Jews.27 Paul never even directly quoted from the Scriptures. Why? Because Paul knew that his audience on this occasion consisted of pagan Gentile philosophers who knew little-to-nothing about the Old Testament and certainly did not view it as divinely inspired and authoritative. So, Paul began with something the Greeks recognized—an altar with the inscription “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD” (17:23).
Paul enlightened the Athenians about this Deity (the true God) Whom they publicly acknowledged not knowing (17:18,23). He spoke powerful truths about the foolishness of idolatry, but seemingly as inoffensively as possible. Rather than attack the Athenians as ignorant idolaters, He reasoned with them about the existence of “God, who made the world and everything in it,” Who is “Lord of heaven and earth,” and “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” (17:24-25). The God Paul served and preached is the omnipotent Creator of the Universe and, marvelously, all human beings are His offspring.28 The clear conclusion that Paul wanted his hearers to understand is that the true Divine Nature could not possibly be represented by anything made of gold, silver, or stone. “God certainly must be conceived as being infinitely greater than man whom he has made; hence he cannot be like…anything that is far beneath man, namely metal and stone although it be worked up ever so artistically by man’s art and thought.”29
Although some mocked Paul when he later testified to the resurrection of Jesus (17:32), others were convinced by his sound reasoning “and believed,” including Dionysius the Areopagite, “one of the twelve judges of the Athenian Court,”30 the Council of the Areopagus (17:34). Indeed, Paul’s public apologia on the supremacy of the true God of the Universe (over manmade idols) had a positive impact on those who were sincerely interested in truth.


Whereas on Paul’s second missionary journey he only briefly visited the city of Ephesus (Acts 18:19-21), on his next mission trip he remained there for the next three years.31 He began his work by teaching a dozen disciples of John the Baptizer “the way of God more accurately” (cf. 18:26), which logically led to these honest-hearted souls being “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (19:1-7). Paul then spent the next three months in the synagogue “reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God” (19:8). To “reason” (dialegomai) like Paul frequently did is “to engage in speech interchange;” to “converse, discuss, argue;”32 “to say thoroughly;”33 used especially “of instructional discourse.”34 Paul was an instructor of Truth that he could (and did) defend. He rightly divided the Old Testament Scriptures and accurately applied the relevant prophecies to Jesus and His kingdom. However, eventually “some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude” (19:9). Thus, Paul chose to take the disciples with him to the school of Tyrannus,35 where he spent the next two years “reasoning (dialegomai) daily” with them, “so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (19:9-10).
Although Paul decimated the illogicality of idolatry in Athens on his second missionary journey (Acts 17), perhaps nowhere in the book of Acts is the contrast between true, Christian apologetics and the irrationality of idolatry made clearer than in Ephesus (Acts 19). Paul had spent months in the local synagogue and years in the school of Tyrannus “reasoning” about Christianity. Furthermore, God worked amazing miracles through Paul as further proof that the apostle’s message was of divine origin and not merely a tall tale repeated in attempts to become rich and famous (19:11; cf. Hebrews 2:3-4). Paul “coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel” (20:20:33). His message was true; his defense was logical; and his intentions were honorable. The Ephesian idolaters, however, were the exact opposite. In fact, they did not even attempt to hide their religion-for-earthly-gain mindset. “Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: ‘Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade,’” and, if Paul is not silenced, “this trade of ours” is “in danger of falling into disrepute” and “the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed” (19:24-25,27). Whereas Paul reasoned that “they are not gods which are made with hands” (19:26), the pagan Ephesians were more concerned about money and tradition than truth and reason (19:25). They proceeded to be driven by angry emotions as “the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord…. [M]ost of them did not even know why they had come together,” yet for two hours “all with one voice cried out...‘Great is Diana of the Ephesians!’” (19:29,32,34). Imagine that—repeatedly shouting the same exact expression (“Megala a Artemis Ephesion”) for 120 minutes. As Lenski noted, such is “typical mob psychology. There was no leader, no sense, no object and purpose, no consideration even of the foolishness of its own demonstration.”36 Can you imagine repeating the same phrase hundreds of times for 120 minutes? Even the unbelieving city clerk of Ephesus could see that there was no legitimate “reason which we may give to account for this disorderly gathering” (19:40).
Again, do not miss the stark contrast between the true Gospel of Jesus Christ that Paul defended and the repetitive, emotionally charged nonsense that Demetrius and the pagan Gentiles preached. Paul “persuaded and turned away” (from idolatry to the true and living God) “many people” in Ephesus and “throughout almost all Asia” (19:26). He did it without force or the threat of force. He did it without reverting to dishonest, better-felt-than-told, foolish tactics (which were not only characteristic of the Ephesians, but also of many modern-day, phony faith-healers, covetous prosperity preachers, and the like). Paul sought to persuade open-minded, honest-hearted people to follow the Lord Jesus Christ with crystal-clear arguments that could withstand scrutiny, with Scripture that was rightly divided, and with genuine love for the Lord and lost souls.


The Acts of the Apostles could be titled Acts of the Apologists, for what the apostles and early disciples did throughout the book of Acts was repeatedly give rational defenses of the Christian faith. Though critics of Christianity often suggest that the Bible advocates a blind faith, the Bible writers themselves expressly noted that they “did not follow cunningly devised fables…but were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). The apostles bore witness of things that they had actually “looked upon” and “handled” (1 John 1:1-2). They followed the example of the Lord, Who was (and is) the Master logician.37 They continually offered evidence for the case of Christianity as they spoke “words of truth and reason” (Acts 26:25).
And what was the result? What effect did such unadulterated, courageous gospel teaching, preaching, and defending have on the world? Within 30 years of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ the Gospel had been “proclaimed in all creation under heaven” (Colossians 1:23) and many tens of thousands of souls turned to the Lord (Acts 21:20). May God help His church in the 21st century to have the same passion for lost souls and commitment to rationally defending the Way of Jesus Christ that the early church admirably exemplified.


1 Though the Greek aner may sometimes refer to both men and women (cf. Luke 11:31), “this word here appears to be used of men only” (R.J. Knowling [2002], The Expositor’s Greek New Testament, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson], 2:123-124). Cf. Matthew 14:21; Mark 6:44. Thus, only a few weeks after the Lord’s church had been established, it seems that she consisted of 5,000 men, plus all of the female Christians.
2 The word “myriad” is transliterated from the Greek muriades, which may mean strictly “ten thousand” or an indefinite “very large number” (Frederick Danker, et al. [2000], Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament [Chicago, IL: University of Chicago], p. 661). Considering that Luke had just used this word two chapters earlier to communicate “ten thousand” (19:19; where five muriadesis understood to mean 50,000), it seems appropriate to conclude that “many tens of thousands of Jews” had become Christians by the time Paul returned to Jerusalem.
3 Adam Clarke (1996), Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
4 Genesis 12:1-4; Isaiah 2:2-3; Micah 4:1-2; Daniel 2:1-44; Matthew 3:1-3; Matthew 10:7; Mark 9:1; Matthew 16:18.
5 Acts 4:18-31; 5:25-32,40-42.
6 Consider the dedication of Peter and John (Acts 4-5), of Paul (14:19-22), and the many Christians who “went everywhere preaching the word,” even as their lives were in great danger (8:1-4).
7 Frederick Danker, et al. (2000), Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago), p. 117.
8 Cf. John 4:25-42; Acts 2:30-47; 8:12.
9 Acts 2:24-36; 3:15; 4:10,33; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30-37; 17:3,31.
10 Danker, et al., p. 994, emp. added.
11 KJV; NKJV; NASB; etc.
12 J.H. Thayer (1962), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan), p. 617.
13 Knowling, 2:82.
14 Danker, et al., p. 957, emp. added.
15 Cf. Acts 9:20; 13:5,14; 17:10; 18:4; etc.
16 Danker, et al., p. 234.
17Dianoigoo” (2003), Thayer’s Abridged (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
18 Danker, et al., p. 772.
19 Knowling, 2:358.
20 Wayne Jackson (2005), The Acts of the Apostles: From Jerusalem to Rome (Stockton, CA: Christian Courier Publications), p. 202, emp. added.
21 With “eagerness, rushing forward.” In Berea, they “joyfully welcomed” Paul and Silas (A.T. Robertson [1997], Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [Electronic Database: Biblesoft]). Christians today should have the same Berean-type eagerness to study and learn the foundational truths of Christianity. Until such serious individual investigation takes place, one’s faith will be weak, and his defense of Christianity even weaker.
22 Danker, et al., p. 66.
23 Robertson.
24 Knowling, 2:362.
25 Danker, et al., p. 780.
26 Areopagus means “the hill of Ares,” the Greek god of war (which corresponds to the Roman “Mars”). According to F.F. Bruce, “The Council of the Areopagus,” was “so called because the hill of Ares was its original meeting place. In NT times, except for investigating cases of homicide, it met in the ‘Royal Porch’ in the Athenian market-place (agora), and it was probably here that Paul was brought before the Areogagus (Acts 17:19) and not, as AV puts it, ‘in the midst of Mars’ hill’ (v. 22). It was the most venerable institution in Athens, going back to legendary times, and, in spite of the curtailment of much of its ancient powers, it retained great prestige, and had special jurisdiction in matters of morals and religion. It was therefore natural that ‘a preacher of foreign divinities’ (Acts 17:18) should be subjected to its adjudication” (“Areogagus” [1996], New Bible Dictionary, ed. J.D. Douglas [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, third edition], p. 79).
27 Acts 13:17-41; 17:2-4,11.
28 Paul even quoted from the Athenians’ own poets to prove his point (Acts 17:28).
29 R.C.H. Lenski (2001 reprint), The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson), p. 734.
30 Lenski, p. 740.
31 Acts 19:8,10; 20:31.
32 Danker, et al., p. 232.
33Dialegomai: 1256” (1999), Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
34 Danker, et al., p. 232.
35 Tyrannus “is usually supposed to have been the lecturer who taught” in “the lecture hall of Tyrannus,” but it is possible that he was merely the owner of the building (F.F. Bruce [1988], The Book of the Acts [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans], p. 366).
36 Lenski, p. 812.
37 For more information on the logic and sound argumentation Jesus used throughout His ministry, see Dr. Dave Miller’s excellent two-part Reason & Revelation article titled “Is Christianity Logical?” (2011, 31[6-7]:50-52,56-59,62-64,68-71, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=3869&topic=92).

Did Paul Write About Jesus as a Historical Person? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Did Paul Write About Jesus as a Historical Person?

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

In his book, The Pagan Christ, Tom Harpur claims that the story of Jesus was mythical. To bolster his assertion that there never was a real human named Jesus as depicted in the gospel accounts, Harpur alleges that the apostle Paul, whose writings were penned before the gospel accounts, never mentioned Jesus as a historical figure. Harpur wrote: “The earliest writings in the New Testament, which make up more than one-quarter of its total content, are the letters of the Apostle Paul. What is absolutely striking about them is their virtual silence on the whole subject of a historical Jesus of Nazareth” (2004, p. 166). Harpur believes this claim to be of such force that “[t]here is no question that this is the datum that ultimately stares down the proponents of historicity.... Paul never once mentions the man Jesus, in the full historical sense” (pp. 166-167).
Harpur, anticipating the fact that many who read Paul’s writings see that the apostle mentioned Jesus, wrote:
Of course, a critic will argue that Paul does occasionally speak of Jesus by name. This is quite true. But today, most Bible theologians agree that even when he does so, he is not talking about a man of flesh and blood, a historical person, any more than the Egyptians were when they spoke of Iusa millennia earlier.... Yes, Paul does talk about “this Jesus whom we have seen,” and at times he gives the impression he has an interest in an actual person, but closer examination shows that he really is speaking always of mystical visions of an exalted, spiritual being whom he calls Christ (pp. 167-168).
Is it true that Paul only mentioned Jesus “occasionally” and never referred to Him as a flesh and blood human being? Certainly not. In fact, it is amazing that Harpur could make such an outlandish, unscriptural claim and still have his book published by anyone familiar in the least with Paul’s writings.
The fact of the matter is Paul often spoke of Jesus in terms that cannot be understood correctly in any way other than as a historical, flesh-and-blood human being. Paul used the name “Jesus” 218 times in his writings (Strong, 2001, p. 453), not counting other names for Jesus like Christ or Lord. For Harpur to say Paul “occasionally” mentioned Jesus is outright dishonesty. Paul used the name Jesus five times in the first eight verses of Romans, seven times in the single-chapter book of Philemon, and 22 times in the brief, four-chapter book of Philippians. An honest account of Paul’s writings shows that they are replete with Jesus’ name, containing it an average of two and a half times per chapter.
Not only did Paul repeatedly mention Jesus, but he specifically stressed that Jesus had come in the flesh as a real human being. For instance, in 1 Timothy 2:5, Paul wrote: “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” To elucidate what he meant by the word “man,” Paul wrote in Philippians 2:5:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (emp. added).
Any attempt to turn Paul’s phrase “in the likeness of men” into some sort of spiritual, mystical appearance is doomed to failure. Furthermore, Paul more specifically mentioned that “the likeness of men” that he discussed in Philippians meant human flesh. Paul wrote to the Romans about “Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Romans 1:3, emp. added). The apostle further mentioned in 1 Timothy 6:13 that Jesus “witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate” (emp. added).
Harpur’s major contention is that Paul did not mention details about Jesus’ life such as His birthplace in Bethlehem, His mother’s name, or His specific miracles. Yet, if the guiding hand of God produced the New Testament documents, it makes perfect sense that such information would not be repeated in Paul’s writings, since it was so thoroughly documented in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In truth, the fact that Paul repeatedly alludes to Jesus in the flesh, but does not reiterate the various details of the gospel accounts, shows that Paul coincides with the Gospel writers, but was independent of them as well. Why would God need to record for the fifth time the various miracles and facts about Jesus’ life in the writings of Paul? Paul consistently dealt with many of the events in Jesus’ life such as His death, burial, resurrection, trial before Pilate, birth according to the seed of David, and the overarching fact that He took on the form of a human. Harpur’s complaint that Paul did not mention enough of the details that are recorded in the gospel accounts is a criterion that he and his fellow skeptics have arbitrarily chosen and that proves nothing.
Harpur’s false assertion that “Paul was a mystic, and he knew only the mystical Christos, Christ not ‘after the flesh’ but after the spirit” (p. 172) lacks scholarly integrity and biblical foundation. The obvious truth is that Paul saturated his writings with the name of Jesus and repeatedly stressed that Jesus had come in the flesh as a historical human being. The details he left out of his writings accord perfectly with what one would expect from divine inspiration, and show that, while he acknowledged the historical Jesus, his writings serve as testimony independent of the gospel accounts.


Harpur, Tom (2004), The Pagan Christ (New York: Walker).
Strong, James (2001 reprint), The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Nelson).

“Documented” Transitional Forms? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


“Documented” Transitional Forms?

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

The cover of the March 1-7, 2008 issue of New Scientist pictures an illustrator’s attempt at drawing a half fish, half reptilian creature. Above the illustration is the title: “Amazing Missing Links: Creatures that Reveal the Real Power of Evolution.” Allegedly, evolutionists “have abundant evidence for how all the major groups of animals are related, much of it in the form of excellent transitional fossils” (Prothero, 2008, 197[2645]:35). After his introductory comments, the author, Donald Prothero, listed several alleged transitional fossils, which supposedly “are conclusive proof that evolution has occurred, and is still occurring” (p. 41). Included in this list were a variety of animals—from velvet worms to dinosaurs, and giraffes to manatees. Readers, however, have to go no further than Prothero’s introduction to see the inaccuracy of his assertions.
Prothero introduced his list of transitional forms, that supposedly prove evolution, with two examples that science dealt a crushing blow to long ago. Prothero wrote: “Darwin’s 1859 prediction that transitional forms would be found was quickly confirmed. In 1861 the first specimen of Archaeopteryx—a classic transitional form between dinosaurs and birds—was discovered, and in the 1870s the iconic sequence of fossil horses was documented” (p. 35, emp. added). Of the alleged “numerous fossils and fossil sequences showing evolutionary change,” Prothero chose to begin his article with Archaeopteryx and the “sequence of horse fossils,” both of which are supposedly “documented” proof of evolution. In truth, Archaeopteryx and the horse family tree do not even come close to confirming evolution.
Regarding horse evolution, the fossil record simply does not bear out what New Scientist writer Prothero claimed. In fact, due to the severe lack of fossil evidence linking the various horse “family members” together, even prominent evolutionists have abandoned the “horse evolution” argument. Prothero claimed that as far back as “the 1870s the iconic sequence of fossil horses was documented” (p. 35). Since that time, however, evolutionists such as Dr. George Gaylord Simpson have admitted, “The uniform, continuous transformation of Hyracotherium into Equus, so dear to the hearts of generations of textbook writers, never happened in nature” (Simpson, 1953, p. 125, emp. added). In a 2000 article that appeared in the journal Natural History, Dr. Stephen Jay Gould criticized science textbooks’ use of misinformation surrounding the evolution of horses. He wrote:
Once ensconced in textbooks, misinformation becomes cocooned and effectively permanent, because, as stated above, textbooks copy from previous texts. (I have written two essays on this lamentable practice: one on the amusingly perennial description of the eohippus, or “dawn horse,” as the size of a fox terrier, even though most authors, including yours truly, have no idea of the dimensions or appearance of this breed...) [2000, 109[2]:45, emp. added].
In light of such statements by renowned evolutionists, one wonders how Prothero can be so confident that the evolution of horses was documented by fossils as far back as the 1870s. Is Prothero’s article just another example of how “misinformation becomes cocooned and effectively permanent” in many evolutionary writings?
And what about Archaeopteryx? Is it a “confirmed” transitional form, as Prothero asserted? Simply because Archaeopteryx has teeth in its beak and claws on its wings, does not prove that it was the transitional form between reptiles and birds. Consider that some modern birds have claws on their wings, and yet no one thinks of them as being missing links. The African bird known as touraco has claws on its wings, as does the hoatzin of South America when it is young. Both of these birds use their fully functional claws to grasp branches and climb trees. If you have ever seen an ostrich close up, you might have noticed that it, too, has claws on each wing and can use them if attacked. Obviously, simply because a bird in the fossil record is discovered with claws on its wings does not mean that it is a transitional fossil.
In 1993, Science News reported that an odd fossil bird had been unearthed in Mongolia. It supposedly is millions of years younger than Archaeopteryx and, interestingly, had teeth in its beak (Monasterky, 1993, 143:245). As with the claws on the wings of Archaeopteryx, evolutionists cannot prove that the presence of teeth make the animal something more than a bird. What’s more, consider that while most reptiles have teeth, turtles do not. And, some fish and amphibians have teeth, while other fish and amphibians have no teeth. How can evolutionists be so sure that Archaeopteryx’s teeth make it a dinosaur-bird link? Such an assertion is based on unprovable assumptions.
Archaeopteryx also had fully formed feathers, just like living birds. Fossils of Archaeopteryx leave no hint of the animal being a half-scaly/half-feathered creature. It was not in some kind of in-between stage. Furthermore, “[e]xperts don’t know what Archaeopteryx’s closest [alleged—EL] dinosaur ancestor looked like—fossils haven’t yet been found” (“Fossil Evidence,” 2007), i.e., evolutionists have been entirely unsuccessful in finding any actual transitional forms between dinosaurs and birds.
Finally, what makes the suggestion that Archaeopteryx was the missing link between reptiles and birds even more unbelievable is that “[a]nother bird fossil found in the desert of west Texas in 1983, Protoavis, is dated even earlier, 75 million years before Archaeopteryx” (DeYoung, 2000, p. 37, emp. added). Although some paleontologists have questions about the fossil remains of Protoavis (birds, after all, were not supposed to be around with the “earliest dinosaurs”), Dr. Chatterjee of Texas Tech University “has pointed out, the skull of Protoavis has 23 features that are fundamentally bird-like, as are the forelimbs, the shoulders, and the hip girdle” (Harrub and Thompson, 2001). In 1991, Science magazine ran a story titled, “Early Bird Threatens Archaeopteryx’s Perch,” wherein Alan Anderson wrote: “His [Chaterjee’s—EL] reconstruction also shows a flexible neck, large brain, binocular vision, and, crucially, portals running from the rear of the skull to the eye socket—a feature seen in modern birds but not dinosaurs” (253:35).
The fact is, the fossil record does not, in any way, demonstrate that dinosaurs evolved into birds or that horses evolved from little dog-like creatures. Ironically, although Prothero, writing for New Scientist, wrote that a “favourite lie” of creationists is ‘there are no transitional fossils’” (2008, 197[2645]:35), evolutionist Mark Ridley wrote an article for the same journal 27 years earlier and confessed that “no real evolutionist, whether gradualist or punctuationist, uses the fossil record as evidence in favor of the theory of evolution as opposed to special creation...” (1981, 90:832, emp. added).


Anderson, Alan (1991), “Early Bird Threatens Archaeopteryx’s Perch,” Science, 253:35, July 5.
DeYoung, Don (2000), Dinosaurs and Creation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
“Fossil Evidence” (2007), NOVA, [On-line], URL: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/id/transitional.html.
Gould, Stephen Jay (2000), “Abscheulich! (Atrocious),” Natural History, 109[2]:42-50, March.
Harrub, Brad and Bert Thompson (2001), “Archaeopteryx, Archaeoraptor, and the ‘Dinosaurs-to-Birds’ Theory [Part 1],” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/473.
Monastersky, Richard (1993), “A Clawed Wonder Unearthed in Mongolia,” Science News, 143:245, April 17.
Prothero, Donald (2008), “What Missing Link?” New Scientist, 197[2645]:35-41, March 1-7.
Ridley, Mark (1981), “Who Doubts Evolution?” New Scientist, June 25, 90:832.
Simpson, George Gaylord (1953), Life of the Past (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press).

Abortion and Exodus 21 by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Abortion and Exodus 21

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

As traditional values (i.e., biblical values) continue to be systematically extracted from American culture, moral and spiritual confusion have been the inevitable result. While the Bible does not speak directly to the practice of abortion, it does provide enough relevant material to enable us to know God’s will on the matter. One insightful passage from the Old Testament is Exodus 21:22-25, which describes what action is to be taken in a case of accidental, or at least coincidental, injury to a pregnant woman:
If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no lasting harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if any lasting harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe (NKJV).
Several features of this passage require clarification. First, the NKJV and NIV rendering of the underlying Hebrew as “she gives birth prematurely,” and the KJV and ASV rendering “so that her fruit depart (from her)” are accurate reflections of the original. “Fruit” in the KJV is the noun form of a verb that means “to bring forth (children)” (Schreiner, 1990, 6:76; Harris, et al., 1980, 1:378-379). Thus the noun form (yeled), used 89 times in the Old Testament, refers to that which is brought forth, i.e., children, and is generally so translated (Gesenius, 1847, p. 349; Wigram, 1890, 530-531; cf. VanGemeren, 1997, 2:457). For example, it is used to refer to Ishmael (Genesis 21:8), Moses (Exodus 2:3), Obed, the child of Boaz and Ruth (Ruth 4:16), and even to the Christ child (Isaiah 9:6). It is used in the same context earlier in the chapter to refer to the children born to a Hebrew servant whose wife was provided by his master (Exodus 21:4). There is nothing in the word itself that indicates the physical condition of the child/children, whether dead or alive (cf. 2 Samuel 12:14-23).
Second, the term translated “prematurely” or “depart” (yatsa) is a Hebrew verb that has the broad meaning of “to go out, to go forth” (Gesenius, p. 359). It is used in the Old Testament to refer to everything from soldiers going forth to war (1 Samuel 8:20), or the sun going forth in its rising (Genesis 19:23), to a flower blossoming (Job 14:2) or the birth of a child (Job 1:21). The Hebrew is as generic as the English words “to go out or forth.” As with yeled, there is nothing in the word itself that would imply the physical status of the child—whether unharmed, injured, or dead (cf. Numbers 12:12; Deuteronomy 28:57). For example, referring to the births of Esau and Jacob, the text reads: “And the first came out red…Afterward his brother came out” (Genesis 25:25-26, emp. added). Only by contextual details may one determine the condition of the child.
Consequently, in Exodus 21:22, those translations that render the Hebrew as “miscarriage” (e.g., NASB, RSV, NEB) have taken a linguistically unwarranted and indefensible liberty with the text. Hebrew lexicographers Brown, Driver, and Briggs were accurate in their handling of the underlying Hebrew when they listed Exodus 21:22 as an instance of “untimely birth” (1906, p. 423).
In contrast, the Hebrew had other words more suited to pinpointing a miscarriage or stillbirth. For example, suffering Job moaned: “Or why was I not hidden like a stillborn child, like infants who never saw light?” (Job 3:16, emp. added). The psalmist pronounces imprecation against unrighteous judges: “Let them be like a snail which melts away as it goes, like a stillborn child of a woman, that they may not see the sun” (Psalm 58:8, emp. added). The word used in these verses (nephel), occurring only three times in the Old Testament (cf. Ecclesiastes 6:3-5), is defined by Gesenius as “a premature birth, which falls from the womb, an abortion” (p. 558; cf. Brown, et al., p. 658). In all three contexts, a miscarriage or stillbirth is clearly under consideration.
Still another Hebrew term would have been more suitable to identify deceased offspring. When Jacob protested his father-in-law’s unkindness, he exclaimed, “These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried their young” (Genesis 31:38, emp. added; cf. Job 21:10). Hosea called upon God to punish the nation: “Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts!” (Hosea 9:14, emp. added). In fact, just two chapters after the text in question, God announced to the Israelites details regarding the conquest of the Canaan and the blessings that they would enjoy: “No one shall suffer miscarriage or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days” (Exodus 23:26, emp. added). The underlying Hebrew verb in these verses (shachol) means “to cause abortion (in women, flocks, etc.)” or “to make abortion, i.e., to suffer it” (Gesenius, p. 822; cf. Brown, et al., p. 1013). Despite these more precise terms to pinpoint miscarriage or stillbirth, Moses did not use them in Exodus 21:22.
Third, consider the next phrase in the verse in question: “yet no lasting harm follows” (NKJV), “but there is no serious injury” (NIV), “and yet no harm follow” (ASV). These English renderings capture the Hebrew accurately. Absolutely no grammatical indication exists in the text by which one could assume the recipient of the injury to be either the mother or the child to the exclusion of the other. As Fishbane observed: “it is syntactically and grammatically unclear whether the object of the ‘calamity’ is the foetus or the pregnant mother” (1985, p. 93). In order to allow Scripture to stand on its own and speak for itself, one must conclude that to understand “injury” to refer exclusively to the mother is to narrow the meaning without textual justification.
Hence, one is forced to conclude that the absence of specificity was deliberate on the part of the inspired writer and that he intended for the reader to conclude that the prescription applied to both mother and child. The wording is, therefore, the most appropriate and economical if the writer intended to convey all possible scenarios without having to go into tedious elaboration—which would have included at least the following eight combinations: (1) non-lethal injury to the child but no injury to the mother; (2) non-lethal injury to the mother but no injury to the child; (3) non-lethal injury to both; (4) death to the child but no injury to the mother; (5) death to the child with non-lethal injury to the mother; (6) death to the mother with no injury to the child; (7) death to the mother with non-lethal injury to the child; and (8) death to both mother and child. Old Testament scholar Gleason Archer Jr. summarized the point of the passage:
What is required is that if there should be an injury either to the mother or to her children, the injury shall be avenged by a like injury to the assailant. If it involves the life (ne-pes’) of the premature baby, then the assailant shall pay for it with his life. There is no second-class status attached to the fetus under this rule (1982, p. 248, emp. added).
Numerous commentators agree with this assessment of the text. Responding to the poor translation of the Hebrew in the Septuagint, and the corresponding misconception of the Alexandrian Jew, Philo, Keil and Delitzsch correctly countered: “But the arbitrary character of this explanation is apparent at once; for yeled only denotes a child, as a fully developed human being, and not the fruit of the womb before it has assumed a human form” (1976, pp. 134-135). They also insisted that the structure of the Hebrew phraseology “apparently renders it impracticable to refer the words to injury done to the woman alone” (p. 135). Walter Kaiser noted: “For the accidental assault, the offender must still pay some compensation, even though both mother and child survived…. Should the pregnant woman or her child die, the principle of talio is invoked, demanding ‘life for life’ ” (1990, 2:434, emp. added). In view of this understanding of the text, under Mosaic Law “the unborn child would be considered viable in utero and entitled to legal protection and benefits” (Fishbane, p. 93).
In his Treatise on the Soul (ch. 37), Tertullian (who died c. A.D. 220) alluded to this passage in Exodus 21: “The embryo therefore becomes a human being in the womb from the moment that its form is completed [i.e., at conception—DM]. The law of Moses, indeed, punishes with due penalties the man who shall cause abortion, inasmuch as there exists already the rudiment of a human being, which has imputed to it even now the condition of life and death” (1973, 3:217-218).
So Exodus 21 envisioned a situation in which two brawling men accidentally injure a pregnant bystander. The injury causes the woman to go into early labor, resulting in a premature birth of her child. If neither the woman nor the child is harmed, then the Law of Moses levied a fine against the one who caused the premature birth. But if injury or even death resulted from the brawl, then the law imposed a parallel punishment: if the premature baby died, the one who caused the premature birth was to be executed—life for life. To cause a pre-born infant’s death was homicide under the Old Testament—homicide punishable by death.
Notice that this Mosaic regulation had to do with injury inflicted indirectly and accidentally: “The phrasing of the case suggests that we are dealing with an instance of unintentional battery involving culpability” (Fishbane, 1985, p. 92). Abortion, on the other hand, is a deliberate, purposeful, intentional termination of a child’s life. If God dealt severely with the accidental death of a pre-born infant, how do you suppose He feels about the deliberate murder of the unborn by an abortion doctor in collusion with the mother? The Bible states explicitly how He feels: “[D]o not kill the innocent and righteous. For I will not justify the wicked” (Exodus 23:7). As a matter of fact, one of the things that God hates is “hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:17; cf. 2 Kings 8:12; 15:16; Hosea 13:16; Amos 1:13). Abortion is a serious matter with God. We absolutely must base our views on God’s will—not the will of men. The very heart and soul of this great nation is being ripped out by unethical actions like abortion. We must return to the Bible as our standard of behavior—before it is everlastingly too late.


Archer, Gleason L. Jr. (1982), An Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Brown, Francis, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs (1906), The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2000 reprint).
Fishbane, Michael (1985), Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel (New York: Oxford University Press).
Gesenius, William (1847), Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979 reprint).
Harris, R. Laird, Gleason Archer Jr., and Bruce Waltke, eds. (1980), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Kaiser, Walter (1990), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Exodus, ed. Frank Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch (1976 reprint), Commentary on the Old Testament: The Pentateuch (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Schreiner, J. (1990), “yalad,” Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, ed. G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Tertullian (1973 reprint), The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
VanGemeren, Willem, ed. (1997), New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Wigram, George W. (1890), The Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1980 reprint).