"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" He Taught As One Having Authority (7:28-29) INTRODUCTION 1. During His earthly ministry, Jesus astonished the people with His teaching... a. He astonished them in the synagogues - Mk 1:21-22; 6:2 b. They were astonished by His sermon on the mount - Mt 7:28-29 2. What impressed the people was that "He taught as one having authority" a. Unlike the scribes, who simply interpreted the Law b. Jesus spoke as One had the right to make the law! 1) E.g., "But I say to you...But I tell you..." - Mt 5:22,28,32, 34,39,44 2) E.g., "Take heed...You shall not be...Do not..." - Mt 6:1,2,5, 8,19,25 3. The question might be raised, "Did Jesus have the authority to speak this way?" a. He may have taught with authority, but was it His to do so? b. Should we, who read that which He taught, give heed to obey what He said? 4. At a time when many do not heed the words of Jesus... a. Not only those in the world b. But, sadly, even many who profess Him to be Lord ...the authority of Jesus needs to be recognized and followed by all, but especially by those who claim to be His disciples [In this study, we shall review the authority that Jesus has, beginning with...] I. THE INHERENT RIGHT OF JESUS' AUTHORITY A. BY VIRTUE OF BEING THE CREATOR... 1. All things were made through Him - Jn 1:1-3; He 1:2 2. All things were made by Him and for Him - Col 1:16 -- As Creator, Jesus has the authority to expect and demand whatever He desires of His creation B. BY VIRTUE OF BEING THE HEIR... 1. As prophesied, Jesus would be given all things - Ps 2:8 2. As the Son, Jesus has been appointed heir of all things - He 1:2 -- As the Heir, Jesus has authority over that which has been given Him C. BY VIRTUE OF BEING THE REDEEMER... 1. Jesus has redeemed us from our sins - 1Pe 1:18-19 2. This He has done with His own blood - Ep 1:7; Ac 20:28 -- As our Redeemer, He certainly has authority over those who have been purchased by His blood! [As Creator, Heir, and Redeemer, Jesus has both the inherent right and the earned right to speak with authority. Dare we living today not recognize such authority? Consider others who gave voice to...] II. THE RECOGNITION OF JESUS' AUTHORITY A. HE WAS WORSHIPPED BY ANGELS... 1. When He came into the world - He 1:6 2. As He sat on the throne of God - Re 5:11-12 -- Angels deemed Him worthy to receive power (authority) B. HE WAS RECOGNIZED BY DEMONS... 1. They acknowledged He had the authority to destroy them - Mk 1: 23-24 2. They obeyed His rebuke - Mk 1:25-26 -- Demons, even when possessing power of their own, could not resist His authority C. HE WAS PRAISED BY THE REDEEMED... 1. Those before the throne and the Lamb ascribed salvation to God and the Lamb - Re 7:9-10 2. Even as John praised Him for having authority over the kings of the earth - Re 1:5 -- If we are among the redeemed, should we not also recognize His authority? [Finally, let's note...] III. THE EXTENT OF JESUS' AUTHORITY A. HE HAS ALL AUTHORITY IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH... 1. As announced by Him prior to His ascension - Mt 28:18 2. As received when He ascended to sit at God's right hand - Ep 1:20-22; 1Pe 3:22 3. Including ruling over the kings of the earth as King of kings and Lord of lords - Re 1:5; 1Ti 6:14-15 B. HE IS HEAD OVER THE CHURCH... 1. He is the head of the body, the church - Col 1:18 2. Even as He is the savior of the body - Ep 5:23 3. As the Head, He has delegated His authority to His apostles a. Promising His Spirit to guide them into all the truth- Jn16:12-13 b. Commanding them to teach others to observe all that He commanded - Mt 28:20 c. Proclaiming that whoever receives them, receives Him - Jn13:20 CONCLUSION 1. As revealed in the New Testament, Jesus clearly has all authority... a. Which must be confessed in order to be saved - Ro 10:9; Php 2:9-11 b. Which will be confessed at the Judgment - Ro 14:10-12 2. The key issue, then, is what we do in light of this authority... a. Will we listen to Jesus and heed Him who speaks with such authority? b. Will we as His church allow His apostles to lead and guide us through the authority delegated to them? Those willing to accept Jesus as Lord, will do what He says (cf. Lk 6: 46); as prophesied by David, they will freely volunteer in the day of His power (Ps 110:1-3). May we all honor and accept the authority of Jesus Christ!
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Building To Withstand The Storms (7:24-27) INTRODUCTION 1. 1998 was quite a year for natural disasters in the state of Florida... a. There were killer tornadoes, devastating fires, destructive hurricanes b. Impacting the lives of many people 2. Such disasters proved to reveal much about contractors... a. We learned that some builders were unscrupulous b. Failing to build according to code, many homes and buildings were destroyed 3. Jesus made a parallel between storms and buildings at the end of His sermon - Mt 7:24-27 a. As He sought to encourage people to act upon His sayings b. Contrasting the difference between those who were doers and not just listeners 4. In this lesson, I wish to address the following questions... a. What do the "houses" of the wise and foolish builders represent? b. What "storms" is Jesus talking about? c. How can we "build" so as to be able to withstand the storms? [Let's begin by identifying the "houses"; I suggest that...] I. THE HOUSES REPRESENT OUR LIVES A. EACH OF US IS BUILDING A "LIFE"... 1. A life that will eventually face the vicissitudes of life 2. A life that will respond to the many ups and downs that come our way B. WE ARE BUILDING THESE "LIVES" UPON A FOUNDATION... 1. The foundation is whatever teaching, doctrine, or philosophy to which we subscribe 2. It may be a philosophy or doctrine adopted from others, or developed ourselves [We cannot escape the fact that we are "builders." The question is whether we will be wise or foolish builders. The tests that will determine are called "storms"...] II. THE STORMS ARE THINGS WHICH THREATEN OUR WELL-BEING A. THIS MAY INVOLVE LITERAL STORMS... 1. Such as tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, etc. 2. Which may take away all we own, perhaps even our loved ones 3. How we respond to such tragedies will reveal the quality of our "building" a. Will we be emotionally devastated? b. Will we be able to stand strong, willing to continue on without despair? B. IT MAY ALSO INVOLVE FIGURATIVE STORMS... 1. Such as illness, loss of loved ones, financial setbacks 2. Which may take away our health, family, possessions 3. Again, how we respond to such tragedies will reveal the quality of our "building" a. Will we be emotionally devastated? b. Will we be able to stand strong, willing to continue on without despair? C. THEN THERE IS THE FINAL "STORM" OF LIFE... 1. That of death and the final day of Judgment - cf. He 9:27; Ro 2:4-6 2. Which will be the truest test of our "building" (i.e., character) - cf. 2Co 5:10-11 3. The Lord will describe the kind of "builder" (or servant) we have been a. E.g., "Well done, good and faithful servant..." - Mt 25:21 b. E.g., "You wicked and lazy servant..." - Mt 25:26 [The longer we live, the more "storms" we are likely to face; and there is the final "storm" that none can escape! How can we be sure to build our lives so as to withstand the storms?] III. OBEYING JESUS IS THE KEY TO WITHSTANDING THE STORMS A. BEING A "HEARER" ONLY IS NOT SUFFICIENT... 1. Such is foolishness, building on a shaky foundation that will not stand the test of storms - Mt 7:26-27 2. As James wrote, one is deceiving only themselves - Jm 1:22-24 3. Like the unscrupulous contractor, the storm will reveal the true quality of one's character 4. As Moses said, "...your sin will find you out."- Num 32:23 B. WE MUST "DO" WHAT JESUS SAYS... 1. Those who "do" what Jesus said will be those to withstand the storms - Mt 7:24-25 2. Because their lives (houses) are built upon the "rock" (a solid foundation) 3. As James went on to write, it is the doer who is blessed in what he does - Jm 1:25 C. HOW THE SAYINGS OF JESUS HELP US WITHSTAND THE STORMS... 1. His saying regarding where to lay up treasure - Mt 6:19-21 a. In which we are told to lay up treasure in heaven, not on earth b. If we heed His words, our hearts will not be distraught if earthly treasures are stolen or lost 2. His saying regarding what to seek first - Mt 6:33 a. Calling upon all to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness b. By heeding His words, we need not have anxiety for the future 3. Indeed, His sayings provide the basis for a solid foundation in which to build a life... a. That will avoid being misled by false prophets - Mt 7:15-20 b. That will stay on the straight and narrow way that leads to life - Mt 7:13-14 c. That will fulfill the Law and the Prophets - Mt 7:12 d. That will receive what good gifts God desires to give His children - Mt 7:7-11 e. That will not be judged by some inconsistent standard - Mt 7:1-6 f. Where the necessities of life are provided for - Mt 6:30-34 g. Free from materialism and anxiety - Mt 6:22-29 h. With treasure that cannot rust or be stolen - Mt 6:19-21 i. With acts of righteousness that are well-pleasing to God - Mt 6:1-18 j. With righteousness that surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees - Mt 5:20-48 CONCLUSION 1. Yes, this is a life that can truly withstand the storms! a. Whether it be the literal or figurative storms of every day life b. Or the storm of the Day of Wrath and Judgment that is yet to come 2. What kind of foundation are you building your house (life) upon? a. Heed what Jesus is saying, and your life will be solid b. Be listeners only, and your life will be as shaky as sand! Just as Jesus is the Rock-solid foundation of the church (1Co 3:11; Ep 2:20; 1Pe 2:4-6), so let Him be the Rock-solid foundation of your life!
If It's Just a Good Book, Then It's Not God's Book
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Some time ago, I read an article by a college professor who stated that “the best thing that could happen to the New Testament has happened to it.... Within the University, at least, the Bible has become simply another ‘great book.’” Many in the world today consider the Bible to be a “good book” containing moral teachings written by noble men, yet reject the idea that the Bible was “given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). Many college professors today teach that the Bible simply is a “good book” that is no more inspired than Homer’s Odyssey or Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. It is the mere result of natural genius characteristic of men of unusual ability.
Common sense, however, compels the honest person to reject such illogical notions. If the Bible is a “great book,” but not inspired of God, it makes either liars or lunatics of the biblical writers, who claimed the Holy Spirit as the ultimate source of their writings. The honest person surely will admit that the Bible—a book that has been studied and examined more than any other book in human history—definitely is not a product of insane men. Its unity, fulfilled prophecy, historical accuracy, and scientific foreknowledge testify to an intelligent source. Thus, the Bible was written either by the honest or the dishonest. Logically, no other choices exist.
Moses either lied or was truthful when he recorded: “And God spoke all these words, saying: ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me’” (Exodus 20:1-3, emp. added). Moses claimed such inspiration literally hundreds of times. Was he a liar, or did he tell the truth? In the New Testament, Peter wrote that “prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21, emp. added). Did Peter tell the truth, or was he lying? This same question can be asked of all the writers of the Bible who claimed inspiration. To say that the Bible is simply a “great book” written by “good men” makes liars of the biblical writers who repeatedly claimed that God was the ultimate source of their documents (cf. 2 Samuel 23:2; Acts 1:16).
The Bible is either a product of God or a product of liars. There are no other options. If these men were liars, then they “insanely” pronounced their own destruction, for they claimed that lying was wrong and that all impenitent liars would burn in hell (cf. Exodus 20:16; Colossians 3:9; Revelation 21:8). If these men were liars, it leaves as inexplicable the mystery of why modern man, with all his accumulated learning, has not been able to produce a comparable book to make the Bible obsolete. Finally, if these men were compulsive liars who filled an alleged historical work with thousands of lies, pray tell, why do so many unbelievers still call it a “great book”? Non-Christians who profess an admiration for the Bible should consider the foolishness of their position.
God Cannot Lie
|by||Caleb Colley, Ph.D.|
Can God be limited? Many Bible passages proclaim that God is all-powerful, all-seeing, and all-knowing. While God is unlimited by time, space, or force, His very character has determined that He will never do some things, because to do them would be inconsistent with His principles—viz., God’s nature prevents Him from such things. For example, God cannot lie. Observe what the Bible has to say about God’s honesty and, therefore, His reliability.
Numbers 23:19: “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”God is the only being Who is incapable of lying. Everything that God said would happen before now, has happened—just as He said it would. Since God knows all things past, present, and future (and since He is completely honest), it is impossible for Him to speak untruths (see Colley, 2004). One striking characteristic of the Bible is that it contains a large collection of statements attributed to God. Some of these statements are predictions of future occurrences, some are warnings, some are instructions, some are revelations concerning the Divine character, and some are statements of simple fact. One common thread runs through all of God’s recorded statements: they are all true. God has never “gone back” on a promise. God has never lied—He has never even made an “honest mistake.” God, in revealing His message to humans, has not held back truths that we need (2 Peter 1:3). Likewise, Jesus was completely honest, even when telling a hard truth meant putting Himself in danger (Matthew 23:28-33; 1 John 3:5).
1 Samuel 15:29: “And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.”
Psalm 92:15: “To declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
Malachi 3:6: “For I am the Lord, I do not change.”
Romans 3:4: “Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar.”
Titus 1:2: “[I]n hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.”
Hebrews 6:18: “[I]t is impossible for God to lie.”
James 1:17-18: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”
God is not tempted to lie. No one can catch Him in a compromising position, or give Him an opportunity to make Himself appear more impressive by making up false accomplishments or attributes. He is perfect in every way, so even if His character did permit Him to lie, the potential for personal gain, which serves as many people’s motivation to lie, would not affect Him.
Paul, who stated so boldly in his letter to Titus that God cannot lie, wrote to Titus while he worked among the Cretans, who were known for their dishonesty. Furthermore, Cretans were accustomed to a pantheon, which included various gods, all with different personalities, so when Paul emphasized that God does not lie, he not only was giving Titus a practical teaching tool, but also was showing that Christianity is distinct from the polytheism that surrounded the church of Christ at Crete (see “God Cannot Lie,” 1996; “Why Crete?,” n.d.). People are more likely to serve a God upon Whom they can unquestionably depend. In fact, take away God’s trustworthiness, and He is no longer God. Philosopher René Descartes, in his fourth meditation, wrote:
To begin with, I recognize that it is impossible that God should ever deceive me. For in every case of trickery or deception some imperfection is to be found; and although the ability to deceive appears to be an indication of cleverness or power, the will to deceive is undoubtedly evidence of malice or weakness, and so cannot apply to God (1984, p. 37).Humans often lie. God made humans in His image and likeness, but, unlike God, humans commit sin (see Lyons and Thompson, 2002a,b). On occasion, we say things that are false, not because we intend to lie, but because we lack accurate information. Sometimes, while we know the truth, we choose to relay false information to others. Often, we are not comfortable with frankly telling people what they need to know. The words of humans are frequently so undependable that we sometimes use lie detectors in attempts to determine who is telling the truth, and who is not. Apparently, some humans are so “good” at lying, that even the polygraph test has now been proven ineffective in detecting lies (Vergano, 2004).
The devil is the father of lies. Jesus said: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). The dishonesty of Satan is one of the features that makes him the complete opposite of God; God speaks the truth exclusively, while Satan speaks only lies. The angels who, at one time, chose to follow Satan, are partakers in his deceit (see Thompson, 1999). Satan does not tell lies because he wants humans to avoid the pain that truth often brings. Rather, he lies because he hopes that humans will believe falsehoods and, eventually, be damned because they reject the truth of God (1 Peter 5:8). The fact that the devil keeps “no truth in him” is one of the reasons why heaven and hell are so far separated (Matthew 25:41; Luke 16:26). God cannot associate with the impurity that dishonesty brings.
CONCLUSIONHow should we respond to the truthfulness of God? We should be grateful because we serve a God Who will not go back on His word. God’s honesty means that He will fulfill His promise of eternal life for those who serve Him. Imagine a scenario in which you approach His throne on Judgment Day, having fulfilled the requirements for appropriating the redeeming blood of Christ to your soul, only to find that God has changed the rules! You no longer would be able to enter heaven, because God had not been honest with you. We should be grateful because God is not required to be forthright with us, anymore than He is required to love us enough to offer His Son as a sacrifice for sin. Nonetheless, He is all-merciful, all-caring, and fortunately, completely honest. We are assured that every word of God is a “sure word” (2 Peter 1:19), because we know God has a detailed history of making His word good.
As we strive to be godly, we must be honest with ourselves, and with others (Luke 8:15; Romans 12:17). If we practice deceit, no one will believe we are truly followers of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 8:21, we read: “Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (KJV). Following this precept will earn us “high esteem” in the eyes of God and men (Proverbs 3:4).
REFERENCESColley, Caleb (2004), “The Omniscience of God,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2562.
Descartes, René (1984), The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, trans. John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, and Dugald Murdoch (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press).
“God Cannot Lie” (1996), [On-line], URL: http://www.ivmdl.org/wil.cfm?study=117.
Lyons, Eric, and Bert Thompson (2002a), “In the ‘Image and Likeness of God’ [Part I],” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/123.
Lyons, Eric, and Bert Thompson (2002b), “In the ‘Image and Likeness of God’ [Part II],” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/125.
Thompson, Bert (1999), Satan: His Origin and Mission (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Vergano, Dan (2004), “Telling the Truth About Lie Detectors, [On-line], URL: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2002-09-09-lie_x.htm.
“Why Crete?” (no date), World Health Organization, [On-line], URL: http://www.nsph.gr/who-harvard/whyCrete.html.
Does Hell Mean God Stops Loving?
|by||Earl Edwards, D.Miss.|
The scholar Stephen H. Travis wrote that he considered an endless hell to be “vindictive” and “incompatible with the love of God in Christ” (1980, p. 135). Another author, John M. Wenham, has written, “I cannot see that endless punishment is either loving or just…. It is a doctrine which I do not know how to preach without negating the loveliness and glory of God” (1992, pp. 185-187). F. LaGard Smith has pressed the issue of “why” a “loving God” would “subject any of his creatures to endless torment, fully aware that we are…weak” (2003, p. 191). [Others who have taken similar positions include Edward Fudge (1982), Homer Hailey (2003; posthumously published), Jimmy Allen (2004), and John Clayton (1990), p. 20.]
THE LOVE OF GOD AND ENDLESS PUNISHMENTIt should be noted that each of these authors pits the love of God against the concept of endless punishment. Travis emphasizes in a special way that he is speaking of the “love of God in Christ” (emp. added). The others quoted would likely agree, since nearly all who study Jehovah God would concur that the fullest measure of His love was expressed in sending Christ to redeem men. In short, the objection is encapsulated in the concept that the God Who loved man enough to give Jesus to save him cannot be the same God who would consign disobedient men to eternal torment. This latter “god” must, therefore, be one that men have made up in their minds as a result of misunderstanding the passages that describe hell.
THE LOVING JESUS ON ETERNAL PUNISHMENTIndeed, it is true that God “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). And it was not just the Father Who loved us; the Son loved us and made His own decision to “give Himself up for us” because He walked “in love” also (Ephesians 5:2; cf. John 10:18). And it is also true that His greatest emphasis as He preached on Earth was on God’s love: “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). However, in the same discourse two verses later, Jesus speaks plainly about judgment: “This is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds are evil” (John 3:19). The “judgment” to which He refers undoubtedly includes hell. In fact, David Pharr was very much on target when he wrote,
What will seem paradoxical to many people, however, is that this same Jesus [who was so loving] had much to say about eternal punishment. The most loving man that ever lived said more about hell than anyone else in the Bible. Indeed, the One who is himself divine love gives the most terrifying of all references as to the horrors of perdition (2005, p. 5).Notice the dilemma of the authors quoted at the beginning of this article. They would contend God’s great love and eternal punishment cannot consistently dwell together. In fact, notice that Wenham said eternal punishment is “a doctrine which I do not know how to preach without negating the loveliness and glory of God” (p. 135). But his problem is that the same Jesus that He construes to be only about love also frequently preached on eternal punishment. Jesus knew how to “preach” “endless punishment” and that “without negating the loveliness and glory of God.” Maybe Wenham just needs to look at and listen to Jesus more carefully!
In fact, listen to some of what the loving Jesus said about hell (Gehenna):
- In Matthew 5:22, Jesus warns us to refrain from using abusive language against our brothers lest we “go into a fiery hell [Gehenna].”
- In Matthew 5:28-30, Jesus says that unless one resists the temptations of his flesh (eye, hand, etc.) his “whole body” will “go into hell [Gehenna].”
- In Matthew 10:28, He says rather than fearing the one who can only kill your body you should fear “Him [God] Who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna].”
- In Matthew 18:9, He again says one must control and resist the temptations of the flesh lest he “be cast into the fiery hell [Gehenna].”
- In Matthew 23:15, He warns the scribes and the Pharisees that they are making each of their converts “twice as much a son of hell [Gehenna]” as themselves.
- In Matthew 23:33, He asks those same scribes and Pharisees, “How shall you escape the sentence of hell [Gehenna]?”
- Mark 9:43 is a parallel to the Matthew 18 statement where Mark tells us Jesus said that one must resist the temptations of the flesh lest he “go into hell [Gehenna], into the unquenchable fire.”
- In Mark 9:45 and 47 (the parallel to Jesus’ Matthew 18:9 statement), Jesus warns that one must control his fleshly desires lest he be “cast into hell [Gehenna].”
- Luke 12:5 is a similar statement to the one in Matthew 10:28 in which Jesus says one should not fear the one who can kill only the body, rather the “One” who “has the authority to cast into hell [Gehenna].”
BUT, DOES JESUS SPEAK OF ENDLESS PUNISHMENT?From Jesus’ descriptions of hell (Gehenna), it is clear it will not be a very desirable place. But, those scholars quoted at the beginning of this lesson would say their objection is not to hell (Gehenna) as such, it is to hell as a place of unending, everlasting torment. That is the aspect they say absolutely cannot be reconciled with the love of God.
As noted above, Christ says the disobedient will “go away into eternal punishment (kólasin aiōnion); but the righteous into eternal life (zōēn aiōnion)” (Matthew 25:46). Respected Greek scholar A.T. Robertson notes that some scholars would try to limit the duration of the punishment described in this passage. But note his very insightful response:
The word kolasin comes from kolazō, to mutilate or prune. Hence those who cling to the larger hope use this phrase to mean age-long pruning that ultimately leads to salvation of the goats, as disciplinary rather than penal. There is such a distinction as Aristotle pointed out between mōria [vengeance] and kolasis [punishment]. But the same adjective, aiōnios [eternal], is used with kolasin [punishment] and zōēn [life]. If by etymology we limit the scope of kolasin [punishment], we may likewise have only age-long zōēn [life]. There is not the slightest indication in the words of Jesus here that the punishment is not coeval with the life (1930, 1:201-02).The truth is, Jesus taught that punishment will be endless. [NOTE: For an extensive discussion on biblical terms related to the eternality of hell, see Lyons and Butt, 2005.]
D.A. Carson is correct when he points out that it is foolish to say that eternal punishment and the person and teaching of the loving Jesus cannot be reconciled. In fact, he asks, “Should it not be pointed out that it is the Lord Jesus, of all persons in the Bible, Who consistently and repeatedly uses the most graphic images of hell?” (1996, p. 530, emp. added). Another well-known Protestant scholar, Leon Morris, helpfully concludes, “Why does anyone believe in hell in these enlightened days? Because Jesus plainly taught its existence…. He spoke plainly about hell as well as about heaven, about damnation as well as salvation” (1991, p. 34).
THE REAL PROBLEM IS HUMAN PRESUMPTIONBut what is the real problem that causes some to reject endless punishment? It appears to be the same problem that Job had in the long ago. He mistakenly believed that all suffering was due to disobedience and he at first maintained that he had not sinned (at least not in a high-handed way). Therefore, he was tempted to conclude that the God of heaven was unjust and unkind. He, without fully realizing what he was doing, pretended to judge God’s actions. When God finally spoke with him, He asked Job a whole series of questions and Job could not answer even one of them. As Michael Brooks rightly says, though God’s answer “occupies four of our chapters, the argument is essentially finished after four verses” (1992, p. 147). God says Job was speaking “words without knowledge” (Job 38:2) and asks him where he [Job] was when He “laid the foundation of the earth” (38:4). God asked Job many other questions for which Job had no answer. Job finally accepts that he had “declared that which he did not understand” (42:3), and then he says “I repent in dust and ashes” (42:6). He says this because he finally understood that God’s things “were too wonderful” for him to comprehend (42:3). He had been presumptuous (too proud and self-confident). How, indeed, can a finite being who can’t even see a millionth part of God’s Universe tell the great God who created it all how to define justice like Job tried to do? And, likewise, how can a miserable human who is guilty of sin—spiritual crimes—tell the God Who made him how long punishment can continue without becoming unloving? God forbid that we should be so presumptuous! Let us instead say to God with Job, “I will ask You, and You instruct me” (Job 42:4).
WE MUST LET GOD DEFINE HIMSELFIndeed, as I let God “instruct me,” I will make up my mind as to His nature and His characteristics according to what He says in His revelation, not according to what I might think. I will not make up my own definition of what justice is or what love should do.
Now, following that path of His revelation of Himself, I learn that God is not just love, He is also a God of wrath. Indeed, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36, emp. added). As Paul puts it, we should keep in mind “both the kindness [love–EE] and severity [wrath–EE] of God” (Romans 11:22). It is as the scholar J. Gresham Machen says,
The New Testament clearly speaks of the wrath of God and the wrath of Jesus Himself; and all the teachings of Jesus pre-suppose a divine indignation against sin. With what possible right, then, can those who reject this vital element in Jesus’ teaching and example regard themselves as true disciples of His? The truth is that the modern rejection of the doctrine of God’s wrath proceeds from a light view of sinwhich is totally at variance with the teaching of the whole New Testament and of Jesus Himself (1923, p. 12, emp. added).God and Christ are not as uninspired men think they are. They are as they tell us they are through those inspired menwho were guided into “all truth” (John 16:13).
CONCLUSIONThe truth is that the “love of God” which, according to some theologians, is inconsistent with “endless punishment,” is not the same “love of God” which is presented in Scripture. As Carson says,
[T]his widely disseminated belief in the love of God is set with increasing frequency in some matrix other than biblical theology.... I do not think what the Bible says about the love of God can long survive at the forefront of our thinking if it is abstracted from the sovereignty of God, the wrath of God, the providence of God, or the personhood of God—to mention only a few non-negotiable elements of basic Christianity. The result, of course, is that the love of God in our culture has been purged of anything the culture finds uncomfortable. The love of God has been sanitized, democratized, and above all, sentimentalized (2000, p. 9; emp. added).May God help us to accept our Maker as He is presented in the inspired Word, rather than making up our own version of Him. Our very soul depends on it.
*First presented and published as a part of the Freed-Hardeman University lectureship, February 2007.
REFERENCESAllen, Jimmy (2004), Fire in My Bones (Searcy, AR: Allen).
Brooks, Michael (1992), In Search of Perfection: Studies from Job (Searcy, AR: Resource).
Carson, D. A. (1996), The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Carson, D.A. (2000), The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway).
Clayton, John (1990), Does God Exist? September-October.
Fudge, Edward (1982), The Fire That Consumes (Houston, TX: Providential Press).
Hailey, Homer (2003), God’s Judgments and Punishments (Las Vegas: Nevada Pub).
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2005), “The Eternality of Hell—Parts 1 & 2,” Reason & Revelation, 25:1-16, January-February, http://apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=561.
Machen, J. Gresham (1923), Christianity and Liberalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).
Morris, Leon (1991), “The Dreadful Harvest,” Christianity Today, 35:34, May 27.
Pharr, David R. (2005), “The Teaching of Jesus,” The Spiritual Sword, 36:5-9, January.
Robertson, A. T. (1930), Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman).
Smith, F. LaGard (2003), After Life: A Glimpse of Eternity Beyond Death’s Door (Nashville: Cotswold).
Travis, Stephen (1980), Christian Hope and the Future (Issues in Contemporary Theology) (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity).
Wenham, John W. (1992), “The Case for Conditional Immortality,” Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell, ed. Nigel M. De S. Cameron (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Did Jesus Go to Hell? Did He Preach to Spirits in Prison?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
A significant misconception that has prevailed through the centuries within Christendom has been the idea that Jesus went to hell after His crucifixion, prior to His resurrection. The creedal statements of historic Christianity are largely responsible for generating this notion. For example, the Apostles’ Creed affirmed belief in Jesus on the following terms: “Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and buried; He descended into hell, the third day He rose again from the dead” (emp. added). The Athanasian Creed states: “He suffered death for our salvation. He descended into hell and rose again from the dead” (emp. added). “Church Fathers” and Reformers toyed with this viewpoint. John Calvin, in his voluminous Institutes of the Christian Religion, treated the subject at length (1599, II.16.8-12). Calvin cited earlier theologians who agreed with him, including Hilary in his On the Trinity (IV.xlii; III.xv). The renowned medieval Catholic theologian, Thomas Aquinas, held a similar view (Summa Theol. III. 52. 5). The apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, which dates from the fifth century A.D., claims that Jesus descended into hell and retrieved all the Old Testament saints, including Adam, David, Habakkuk, and Isaiah (see James, 1924, pp. 125ff.).
Further impetus for confusion was generated by the English translations of the 16th and 17th centuries, due to translator confusion regarding the technical distinctions that exist between the pertinent Greek terms. Specifically, the Greek term hades generally was equated with gehenna. Hades refers to the intermediate state of the dead (disembodied spirits) who are awaiting the Judgment. Gehenna, on the other hand, refers to the location of the final state of the wicked after the Judgment. This confusion culminated in the King James Version’s rendering of hades as “hell” in all ten of its occurrences in the New Testament (Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27,31; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13,14). Rendering hades as “hell” in Acts 2:27,31 leaves the reader with the impression that when Jesus exited His physical body on the cross, He went to hell. The first English translation to maintain the distinction between hades and gehenna was the English Revised Version and its subsequent American counterpart, the American Standard Version of 1901 (Lewis, 1981, p. 64).
In 1 Peter 3:18-20, a most curious reference appears on the surface to be an affirmation that Jesus descended into the spirit realm and preached to deceased people. However, a close consideration of the grammar will clarify the passage. First, the preaching referred to was not done by Jesus in His own person. The text says Jesus did the preaching through the Holy Spirit: “…the Spirit, by whom…” (v. 18-19). [“My Spirit” (Genesis 6:3) = the Spirit of God = the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9; Ephesians 2:17).] Other passages confirm that Jesus was said to do things that He actually did through the instrumentality of others (John 4:1-2; Ephesians 2:17). Nathan charged King David: “You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword” (2 Samuel 12:9), when, in fact, David had ordered it done by another. Elijah accused Ahab of killing Naboth, using the words, “Have you murdered and also taken possession?” (1 Kings 21:19), even though his wife, Jezebel, arranged for two other men to accomplish the evil action. Paul said Jesus preached peace to the Gentiles (Ephesians 2:17), when, in fact, Jesus did so through others, since He, Himself, already had returned to heaven when the first Gentiles heard the Gospel (Acts 15:7). So the Bible frequently refers to someone doing something that he, in fact, did through the agency of another person.
In fact, within the book of 1 Peter itself, Peter already had made reference to the fact that the Spirit “testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Peter 1:11). But it was the prophets who did the actual speaking (vs. 10). Then, again in chapter 4, Peter stated that “the gospel was preached also to those who are dead” (1 Peter 4:6). Here were individuals who had the Gospel preached to them while they were alive (“in the flesh”), and who responded favorably by becoming Christians. But then they were “judged according to men in the flesh,” i.e., they were treated harshly and condemned to martyrdom by their contemporaries. At the time Peter was writing, they were “dead,” i.e., deceased and departed from the Earth. But Peter said they “live according to God in the spirit,” i.e., they were alive and well in spirit form in the hadean realm in God’s good graces.
Second, when did Jesus do this preaching through the Holy Spirit? Notice in verse 20, the words “formerly” (NKJV) and “when”—“when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah.” So the preaching was done in the days of Noah by Jesus through the Holy Spirit Who, in turn, inspired Noah’s preaching (2 Peter 2:5).
Third, why are these people to whom Noah preached said to be “spirits in prison”? Because at the time Peter was writing the words, that is where those people were situated. Those who were drowned in the Flood of Noah’s day descended into the hadean realm, where they continued to reside in Peter’s day. This realm is the same location where the rich man was placed (Luke 16:23), as were the sinning angels (“Tartarus”—2 Peter 2:4). However, Jesus did not go to “prison” or “Tartarus.” He said He went to “Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
Fourth, why would Jesus go to hades and preach only to Noah’s contemporaries? Why would He exclude those who died prior to the Flood? What about those who have died since? Since God is no “respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11), Jesus would not have singled out Noah’s generation to be the recipients of preaching in the spirit realm.
Fifth, what would have been the content of such preaching? Jesus could not have preached the whole Gospel in its entirety. That Gospel includes the resurrection of Jesus (Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:4). However, at the time the alleged preaching was supposed to have occurred, Jesus had not yet been raised!
The notion of people being given a second opportunity to hear the Gospel in the afterlife is an extremely dangerous doctrine that is counterproductive to the cause of Christ. Why? It potentially could make people think they can postpone their obedience to the Gospel in this life. Yet the Bible consistently teaches that no one will be permitted a second chance. This earthly life has been provided by God for all human beings to determine where they wish to spend eternity. That decision is made by each individual based upon personal conduct. Once a person dies, his eternal destiny has been cinched. He is “reserved for judgment” (2 Peter 2:4; cf. vss. 9,17). His condition will not and cannot be altered—even by God Himself (Luke 16:25-26; Hebrews 9:27).
REFERENCESCalvin, John (1599), Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (London: Arnold Hatfield).
James, M.R., trans. (1924), The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press).
Lewis, Jack (1981), The English Bible From KJV to NIV (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Female Leadership and the Church
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Amid the polarization that plagues American civilization in general, and Christendom in particular, one chasm continues to widen between those who, on the one hand, wish to conform to Bible protocol, and those who, on the other, wish to modernize, update, adjust, and adapt Scripture to a changing society. The cry of those who are pressing the feminist agenda is that the church in the past has restricted women in roles of leadership and worship simply because of culture and flawed hermeneutical principles. They say that the church as we know it is the product of a male-dominated society and that consequently it has misconstrued the contextual meaning of the relevant biblical passages.
As attitudes soften and biblical conviction weakens, Scripture is being reinterpreted to allow for expanded roles for women in worship. If one who studies the biblical text concludes that women are not to be restricted in worship, he is hailed as one who engages in “fresh, scholarly exegesis.” But the one who studies the text and concludes that God intended for women to be subordinate to male leadership in worship is viewed as being guilty of prejudice and of being unduly influenced by “church tradition” or “cultural baggage.” How is it that the former’s religious practice and interpretation of Scripture is somehow curiously exempt from imbibing the spirit of an age in which feminist ideology has permeated virtually every segment of our society?
RELEVANT BIBLE PASSAGES
1 Corinthians 11,14Chapters eleven and fourteen of First Corinthians constitute a context dealing with disorders in the worship assembly. The entire pericope of 11:2-14:40 concerns the worship assembly, i.e., “when you come together” (cf. 11:17,18,20,33; 14:23-26). Paul articulated the transcultural principle for all people throughout history in 11:3—“But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” “Head” clearly refers not to “source” but to “authority” (see Grudem, 1985, pp. 38-59). Therefore, God intends for women to be subordinate to men in worship. Corinthian women were obviously removing their veils and stepping forward in the assembly to lead with their Spirit-imparted, miraculous capabilities, i.e., prophecy (12:10; 14:31) and prayer (14:14-15). Such activity was a direct violation of the subordination principle, articulated by Paul in chapter fourteen. In chapter eleven, he focused on the propriety of females removing the cultural symbol of submission.
The women were removing their veils because they understood that to stand and exercise a spiritual gift in the assembly was an authoritative act of leadership. To wear a symbol of submission to authority (the veil) while simultaneously conducting oneself in an authoritative fashion (to lead in worship) was self-contradictory. Paul’s insistence that women keep their veils on during the worship assembly amounted to an implicit directive to refrain from leading in the assembly—a directive stated explicitly in 14:34. The allusions to Creation law (11:7-9; cf. 14:34) underscore the fact that Paul saw the restrictions on women as rooted in the created order—not in culture. Also, Paul made clear that such restrictions applied equally to all churches of Christ (11:16).
In chapter fourteen, Paul addressed further the confusion over spiritual gifts, and returned specifically to the participation of women in the exercise of those gifts in the assembly. He again emphasized the universal practice of churches of Christ: “as in all churches of the saints” (14:33). [NOTE: Grammatically, the phrase “as in all churches of the saints” links with “let your women keep silence”; cf. the ASV, RSV, NIV, NEB, NAB, etc.] The women who possessed miraculous gifts were not to exercise them in the mixed worship assembly of the church. To do so was disgraceful—“a shame” (14:35). To insist upon doing so was equivalent to: (1) presuming to be the authors of God’s Word; and (2) assuming that God’s standards do not apply to everyone (14:36).
Granted, 1 Corinthians chapters eleven and fourteen address a unique situation. After all, spiritual gifts no longer are available to the church (1 Corinthians 13:8-11; see Miller, 2003), and veils, in Western society, no longer represent a cultural symbol of female submission. Nevertheless, both passages demonstrate the clear application of the transcultural principle (female subordination in worship) to a specific cultural circumstance. The underlying submission principle remains intact as an inbuilt constituent element of the created order.
1 Timothy 2: The Central Scripture
I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control (1 Timothy 2:8-15).The premier passage in the New Testament that treats the role of women in worship is 1 Timothy 2:8-15. The remote context of the book is: proper behavior in the life of the church (1 Timothy 3:15). The immediate context of chapter two is worship, specifically prayer (1 Timothy 2:1,8). The context does not limit the worship to the church assembly, but includes the general life of the church.
Paul affirmed that adult males (andras) are to lead prayers anywhere people meet for worship. “Lifting up holy hands” is a figure of speech—a metonymy—in which a posture of prayer is put in place of prayer itself. Their prayers are to usher forth out of holy lives. On the other hand, women are admonished to focus upon appropriate apparel and a submissive attitude. Notice the contrast set up in the passage: Men need to be holy, spiritual leaders in worship while women need to be modest and unassuming. “Silence” and “subjection” in this passage relate specifically to the exercise of spiritual authority over adult males in the church. “Usurp” (KJV) is not in the original text. Authentein should be translated “to have authority.” Thus Paul instructed women not to teach nor in any other way to have authority over men in worship.
Why would an inspired apostle place such limitations on Christian women? Was his concern prompted by the culture of that day? Was Paul merely accommodating an unenlightened, hostile environment—stalling for time and keeping prejudice to a minimum—until he could teach them the Gospel? Absolutely not! The Holy Spirit gave the reason for the limitations—a reason that transcends all culture and all locales. Paul stated that women are not to exercise spiritual authority over men because Adam was created before Eve. Here, we are given the heart and core of God’s will concerning how men and women are to function and interrelate.
Paul was saying that God’s original design for the human race entailed the creation of the male first as an indication of his responsibility to be the spiritual leader of the home. He was created to function as the head or leader in the home and in the church. That is his functional purpose. Woman, on the other hand, was specifically designed and created for the purpose of being a subordinate (though certainly not inferior) assistant. God could have created the woman first—but He did not. He could have created both male and female simultaneously—but He did not. His action was intended to convey His will with regard to gender as it relates to the interrelationship of man and woman.
This feature of Creation explains why God gave spiritual teaching to Adam before Eve was created, implying that Adam had the created responsibility to teach his wife (Genesis 2:15-17). It explains why the female is twice stated to have been created as a “help meet for him,” i.e., a helper suitable for the man (Genesis 2:18,20, emp. added). This explains why the Genesis text clearly indicates that, in a unique sense, the woman was created for the man—not vice versa. It explains why God brought the woman “to the man” (Genesis 2:22), again, as if she was made “for him”—not vice versa. Adam confirmed this understanding by stating, “the woman whom You gave to be with me” (Genesis 3:12, emp. added). It explains why Paul argued on the basis of this very distinction: “Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man” (1 Corinthians 11:9, emp. added). It further clarifies the implied authority of the man over the women in his act of naming the woman (Genesis 2:23; 3:20). The Jews understood this divinely designed order, evinced through the practice of primogeniture—the prominence of the firstborn male. God’s creation of the man first was specifically intended to communicate the authority/submission order of the human race (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:8).
Observe that Paul next elaborated upon this principle in 1 Timothy 2:14 by noting an example of what can happen when men and women tamper with God’s original intentions. When Eve took the spiritual initiative above her husband, and Adam failed to take the lead and exercise spiritual authority over his wife, Satan was able to wreak havoc on the home and cause the introduction of sin into the world (Genesis 3). When Paul said the woman was deceived, he was not suggesting that women are more gullible than men. Rather, when men or women fail to confine themselves to their created function, but instead tamper with, and act in violation of, divinely intended roles, spiritual vulnerability to sin naturally follows.
God’s appraisal of the matter was seen when He confronted the pair. He spoke first to the head of the home—the man (Genesis 3:9). His subsequent declaration to Eve reaffirmed the fact that she was not to yield to the inclination to take the lead in spiritual matters. Rather, she was to submit to the rule of her husband (Genesis 3:16; cf. 4:4). When God said to Adam, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife...” (Genesis 3:17), He was calling attention to the fact that Adam had failed to exercise spiritual leadership and thereby circumvented the divine arrangement of male/female relations.
Paul concluded his instructions by noting how women may be preserved from falling into the same trap of assuming unauthorized authority: “She will be saved in childbearing” (1 Timothy 2:15). “Childbearing” is the figure of speech known as synecdoche, in which a part stands for the whole. Thus, Paul was referring to the whole of female responsibility. Women may avoid taking to themselves illicit functions by concentrating on the functions assigned to them by God—tasks undertaken with faith, love, and holiness in sobriety (i.e., self-control).
Some argue that this text applies to husbands and wives, rather than to men and women in general. However, the context of 1 Timothy is not the home, but the church (1 Timothy 3:15). Likewise, the use of the plural with the absence of the article in 2:9 and 2:11, suggests women in general. Nothing in the context would cause one to conclude that Paul was referring only to husbands and wives. Besides, would Paul restrict wives from leadership roles in the church but then permit single women to lead?
The term is used in the New Testament in two senses. First, it is used as a technical term for a formal office in the church to which one may be appointed by meeting certain qualifications. Second, it is used as a non-technical term for the informal activity of serving or attending to. Additional words in the New Testament that have both a technical and non-technical meaning include “apostle,” “elder,” and “shepherd.” To be rational in one’s analysis of a matter, one must draw only those conclusions that are warranted by the evidence. In the matter of deaconesses, one should only conclude that a deaconess is being referred to when the context plainly shows the office itself is under consideration.
In Romans 13:4, the civil government is said to be God’s deacon. In Romans 15:8, Christ is said to be a deacon of the Jews. In 2 Corinthians 3:6 and 6:4, Paul is said to be a deacon of the New Covenant and a deacon of God. Apollos is listed with Paul as a deacon in 1 Corinthians 3:5. Obviously, these are all non-technical uses of the term referring to the service or assistance being rendered.
Nothing in the context of Romans 16:1 warrants the conclusion that Paul was describing Phoebe as an official appointee—a deaconess. Paul’s phrase, “our sister,” designates her church membership, and “servant” specifies the special efforts she extended to the church in Cenchrea where she was an active, caring member. Being a “servant of the church” no more implies a formal appointee than does the expression in Colossians 1:25 where Paul is said to be the church’s servant.
Some have insisted that the term in Romans 16:2, translated “help,” implies a technical usage. It is true that prostatis can mean a helper in the sense of presiding with authority. But this word carries the same inbuilt obscurity that diakonos does, in that it has a formal and informal sense. But since the verse explicitly states that Phoebe was a “helper” to Paul, the non-technical usage must be in view. She would not have exercised authority over Paul. Even his fellow apostles did not do that, since he exercised high authority direct from the Lord (1 Corinthians 14:37-38; Galatians 1:6-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:14). Only Christ wielded authority over Paul.
Romans 16:2 actually employs a play on words. Paul told the Corinthians to “help” (paristemi) Phoebe since she has been a “help” (prostatis) to many, including Paul himself. While the masculine noun prostates can mean “leader,” the actual feminine noun prostatis means “protectress, patroness, helper” (Arndt and Gingrich, 1957, p. 718). Paul was saying, “Help Phoebe as she has helped others and me.” She had been a concerned, generous, hospitable, dedicated contributor to the Lord’s work. Paul was paying her a tremendous tribute and expressing publicly the honor due her. But he was not acknowledging her as an office holder in the church.
The second passage to which some have appealed in order to find sanction for deaconesses in the church is 1 Timothy 3:11. In the midst of a listing of the qualifications of deacons, Paul referred to women. What women? Was Paul referring to the wives of the church officers, or was he referring to female appointees, i.e., deaconesses? Once again, the underlying Greek term is of no help in answering this question since gunaikas (from gune) also has both a technical and non-technical sense. It can mean a “wife” or simply a “female” or “woman.” It is used both ways in 1 Timothy—as “female” (2:9-12,14) and as “wife” (3:2,12; 5:9).
Five contextual observations, however, provide assistance in ascertaining the meaning of the passage. First, a woman cannot be “the husband of one wife” (3:12). Second, in speaking of male deacons from 3:8-13, it would be unusual for Paul to switch, in the middle of the discussion, to female deacons for a single verse without some clarification. Third, referring to the wives of church officers would be appropriate since family conduct is a qualifying concern (3:2,4-5,12). Fourth, “likewise” (3:11) could mean simply that wives are to have similar virtues as the deacons without implying they share the same office (cf. 1 Timothy 5:25; Titus 2:3). Fifth, lack of the possessive genitive with gunaikas (“of deacons”) or “their” does not rule out wives of deacons, since neither is used in other cases where men/women are being described as wives/husbands (Colossians 3:18-19; Ephesians 5:22-25; 1 Corinthians 7:2-4,11,14,33; Matthew 18:25; Mark 10:2).
Insufficient textual evidence exists to warrant the conclusion that the office of deaconess is referred to in the New Testament. Outside the New Testament, Pliny, Governor of Bythynia, wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan about A.D. 110 referring in Latin to two ministrae. This term has the same ambiguity within it that diakonos has. He could have been referring to official appointees, or he just as easily could have been referring simply to servants. In any case, a passing reference by an uninformed non-Christian is hardly trustworthy evidence. Christian historical sources from this same period do not refer to the existence of female appointees even though they do discuss church organization (Lewis, 1988, p. 108).
Not until the late third century in the Syrian Didascalia do we find a reference to deaconesses. Their work consisted of assisting at the baptism of women, going into homes of heathens where believing women lived, and visiting the sick (ministering to them and bathing them). A full-blown church order of deaconesses does not appear until the fourth/fifth centuries. Again, their responsibilities consisted of keeping the doors, aiding in female baptisms, and doing other work with women (Lewis, pp. 108-109). Those within the church today who are pressing for deaconesses and expanded roles for women, hardly would be content with such tasks.
Even if women were deacons in the New Testament church, they would not have functioned in any sort of leadership or authority position over men. They were not to be appointed as elders. If Acts 6:1-5 refers to the appointment of deacons (the verb form is used) in the Jerusalem church (Woods, 1986, p. 199), they were all males, and their specific task entailed distribution of physical assistance to widows.
The evidence is simply lacking. The existence of a female deaconate within the New Testament cannot be demonstrated. Those who insist upon establishing such an office, do so without the authority of the Scriptures behind them.
A final word needs to be said concerning the fact that both men and women must remember that Bible teaching on difference in role in no way implies a difference in worth, value, or ability. Galatians 3:28 (“neither male nor female”), 1 Timothy 2:15 (“she shall be saved”), and 1 Peter 3:7 (“heirs together of the grace of life”) all show that males and females are equals as far as their person and salvation status is concerned. Women often are superior to men in talent, intellect, and ability. Women are not inferior to men, anymore than Christ is inferior to God, citizens are inferior to the President, or church members are inferior to elders. The role of women in the church is not a matter of control, power, or oppression. It is a matter of submission on the part of all human beings to the will of God. It is a matter of willingness on the part of God’s creatures, male and female, to subordinate themselves to the divine arrangement regarding the sexes. The biblical differentiation is purely a matter of function, assigned tasks, and sphere of responsibility. The question for us is: “How willing are we to fit ourselves into God’s arrangement?”
If the Bible authorized it, no man should have any personal aversion to women having complete access to leadership roles in the church. Indeed, many talented, godly women possess abilities and talents that would enable them to surpass many of the male worship leaders functioning in the church today. However, the Bible stands as an unalterable, eternal declaration of God’s will on the matter. By those words, we will be judged (John 12:48). May we all bow humbly and submissively before the God of heaven.
Grudem, Wayne (1985), “Does kephale (‘head’) Mean ‘Source’ or ‘Authority over’ in Greek Literature? A Survey of 2,336 Examples,” Trinity Journal, 6 NS, 38-59.
Lewis, Jack (1988), Exegesis of Difficult Passages (Searcy, AR: Resource Publications).
Miller, Dave (2003), “Modern-Day Miracles, Tongue-Speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2569.
Osburn, Carroll, ed. (1993), Essays On Women in Earliest Christianity (Joplin, MO: College Press).
Osburn, Carroll (1994), Women in the Church (Abilene, TX: Restoration Perspectives).
Woods, Guy N. (1986), Questions and Answers: Volume Two (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).
"Calling on the Name of the Lord"by Eric Lyons, M.Min.
Considering how many people within “Christendom” teach that an individual can be saved merely by professing a belief in Christ, it is not surprising that skeptics claim that the Bible contradicts itself in this regard. Although Peter and Paul declared, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13; cf. Joel 2:32), skeptics quickly remind their readers that Jesus once stated: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21; cf. Luke 6:46). Allegedly, Matthew 7:21 clashes with such passages as Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13 (see Morgan, 2003; Wells, 2001). Since many professed Christians seem to equate “calling on the name of the Lord” with the idea of saying to Jesus, “Lord, save me,” Bible critics feel even more justified in their pronouncement of “conflicting testimonies.” How can certain professed followers of Christ claim that they were saved by simply “calling out to Christ,” when Christ Himself proclaimed that a mere calling upon Him would not save a person?
The key to correctly understanding the phrase “calling on the name of the Lord” is to recognize that more is involved in this action than a mere verbal petition directed toward God. The “call” mentioned in Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13, and Acts 22:16 (where Paul was “calling on the name of the Lord”), is not equated with the “call” (“Lord, Lord”) Jesus spoke of in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:21).
First, it is appropriate to mention that even in modern times, to “call on” someone frequently means more than simply making a request for something. When a doctor goes to the hospital to “call on” some of his patients, he does not merely walk into the room and say, “I just wanted to come by and say, ‘Hello.’ I wish you the best. Now pay me.” On the contrary, he involves himself in a service. He examines the patient, listens to the patient’s concerns, gives further instructions regarding the patient’s hopeful recovery, and then oftentimes prescribes medication. All of these elements may be involved in a doctor “calling upon” a patient. In the mid-twentieth century, it was common for young men to “call on” young ladies. Again, this expression meant something different than just “making a request” (Brown, 1976, p. 5).
Second, when an individual takes the time to study how the expression “calling on God” is used throughout Scripture, the only reasonable conclusion to draw is that, just as similar phrases sometimes have a deeper meaning in modern America, the expression “calling on God” often had a deeper meaning in Bible times. Take, for instance, Paul’s statement recorded in Acts 25:11: “I appeal unto Caesar.” The word “appeal” (epikaloumai) is the same word translated “call” (or “calling”) in Acts 2:21, 22:16, and Romans 10:13. But, Paul was not simply saying, “I’m calling on Caesar to save me.” As James Bales noted:
Paul, in appealing to Caesar, was claiming the right of a Roman citizen to have his case judged by Caesar. He was asking that his case be transferred to Caesar’s court and that Caesar hear and pass judgment on his case. In so doing, he indicated that he was resting his case on Caesar’s judgment. In order for this to be done Paul had to submit to whatever was necessary in order for his case to be brought before Caesar. He had to submit to the Roman soldiers who conveyed him to Rome. He had to submit to whatever formalities or procedure Caesar demanded of those who came before him. All of this was involved in his appeal to Caesar (1960, pp. 81-82, emp. added).Paul’s “calling” to Caesar involved his submission to him. “That, in a nutshell,” wrote T. Pierce Brown, “is what ‘calling on the Lord’ involves”—obedience (1976, p. 5). It is not a mere verbal recognition of God, or a verbal petition to Him. Those whom Paul (before his conversion to Christ) sought to bind in Damascus—Christians who were described as people “who call on Your [Jehovah’s] name”—were not people who only prayed to God, but those who were serving the Lord, and who, by their obedience, were submitting themselves to His authority (cf. Matthew 28:18). Interestingly, Zephaniah 3:9 links one’s “calling” with his “service”: “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord” (emp. added). When a person submits to the will of God, he accurately can be described as “calling on the Lord.” Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13 (among other passages) do not contradict Matthew 7:21, because to “call on the Lord” entails more than just pleading for salvation; it involves submitting to God’s will. According to Colossians 3:17, every single act a Christian performs (in word or deed) should be carried out by Christ’s authority. For a non-Christian receiving salvation, this is no different. In order to obtain salvation, a person must submit to the Lord’s authority. This is what the passages in Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13 are teaching; it is up to us to go elsewhere in the New Testament to learn how to call upon the name of the Lord.
After Peter quoted the prophecy of Joel and told those in Jerusalem on Pentecost that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21), he told them how to go about “calling on the name of the Lord.” The people in the audience in Acts 2 did not understand Peter’s quotation of Joel to mean that an alien sinner must pray to God for salvation. [Their question in Acts 2:37 (“Men and brethren, what shall we do?”) indicates such.] Furthermore, when Peter responded to their question and told them what to do to be saved, he did not say, “I’ve already told you what to do. You can be saved by petitioning God for salvation through prayer. Just call on His name.” On the contrary, Peter had to explain to them what it meant to “call on the name of the Lord.” Instead of repeating this statement when the crowd sought further guidance from the apostles, Peter commanded them, saying, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (2:38). Notice the parallel between Acts 2:21 and 2:38:
|Acts 2:21||Whoever||Calls||On the name of the Lord||Shall be saved|
|Acts 2:38||Everyone of you||Repent and be baptized||In the name of Jesus Christ||For the remission of sins|
But what about Romans 10:13? What is the “call” mentioned in this verse? Notice Romans 10:11-15:
For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” (emp. added).Although this passage does not define precisely what is meant by one “calling on the name of the Lord,” it does indicate that an alien sinner cannot “call” until after he has heard the Word of God and believed it. Such was meant by Paul’s rhetorical questions: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” Paul’s statements in this passage are consistent with Peter’s proclamations in Acts 2. It was only after the crowd on Pentecost believed in the resurrected Christ Whom Peter preached (as is evident by their being “cut to the heart” and their subsequent question, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”) that Peter told them how to call on the name of the Lord and be saved (2:38).
Perhaps the clearest description of what it means for an alien sinner to “call on the name of the Lord” is found in Acts 22. As the apostle Paul addressed the mob in Jerusalem, he spoke of his encounter with the Lord, Whom he asked, “What shall I do?” (22:10; cf. 9:6). The answer Jesus gave Him at that time was not “call on the name of the Lord.” Instead, Jesus instructed him to “arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do” (22:10). Paul (or Saul—Acts 13:9) demonstrated his belief in Jesus as he went into the city and waited for further instructions. In Acts 9, we learn that during the next three days, while waiting to meet with Ananias, Paul fasted and prayed (vss. 9,11). Although some today might consider what Paul was doing at this point as “calling on the name of the Lord,” Ananias, God’s chosen messenger to Paul, did not think so. He did not tell Paul, “I see you have already called on God. Your sins are forgiven.” After three days of fasting and praying, Paul still was lost in his sins. Even though he obviously believed at this point, and had prayed to God, he had yet to “call on the name of the Lord” for salvation. When Ananias finally came to Paul, he told him: “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (22:16). Ananias knew that Paul had not yet “called on the name of the Lord,” just as Peter knew that those on Pentecost had not done so before his command to “repent and be baptized.” Thus, Ananias instructed Paul to “be baptized, and wash away your sins.” The participle phrase, “calling on the name of the Lord,” describes what Paul was doing when he was baptized for the remission of his sins. Every non-Christian who desires to “call on the name of the Lord” to be saved, does so, not simply by saying, “Lord, Lord” (cf. Matthew 7:21), or just by wording a prayer to God (e.g., Paul—Acts 9; 22; cf. Romans 10:13-14), but by obeying God’s instructions to “repent and be baptized…in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38).
This is not to say that repentance and baptism have always been (or are always today) synonymous with “calling on the name of the Lord.” Abraham was not baptized when he “called upon the name of the Lord” (Genesis 12:8; cf. 4:26), because baptism was not demanded of God before New Testament times. And, as I mentioned earlier, when the New Testament describes people who are already Christians as “calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 9:14,21; 1 Corinthians 1:2), it certainly does not mean that Christians continually were being baptized for the remission of their sins after having been baptized to become a Christian (cf. 1 John 1:5-10). Depending on when and where the phrase is used, “calling on the name of the Lord” includes: (1) obedience to the gospel plan of salvation; (2) worshiping God; and (3) faithful service to the Lord (Bates, 1979, p. 5). However, it never is used in the sense that all the alien sinner must do in order to be saved is to cry out and say, “Lord, Lord, save me.”
Thus, the skeptic’s allegation that Matthew 7:21 contradicts Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13 is unsubstantiated. And, the professed Christian who teaches that all one must do to be saved is just say the sinner’s prayer, is in error.
REFERENCESBales, James (1960), The Hub of the Bible—Or—Acts Two Analyzed (Shreveport, LA: Lambert Book House).
Bates, Bobby (1979), “Whosoever Shall Call Upon the Name of the Lord Shall be Saved,” Firm Foundation, 96:5, March 20.
Brown, T. Pierce (1976), “Calling on His Name,” Firm Foundation, 93:5, July 20.
Morgan, Donald (2003), “Biblical Inconsistencies,” [On-line], URL: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/inconsistencies.shtml.
Wells, Steve (2001), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, [On-line], URL: http://www.Skepticsannotatedbible.com.