"THE GOSPEL OF MARK" The Cost And Reward Of Discipleship (10:28-31) by Mark Copeland

                          "THE GOSPEL OF MARK"

             The Cost And Reward Of Discipleship (10:28-31)


1. Jesus had just completed His encounter with the rich young ruler...
   a. Who sadly left when he chose his possessions over following Christ
      - Mk 10:17-22
   b. When Jesus then warned His disciples about the difficulty of
      riches - Mk 10:23-27

2. At which Peter began to say, "See, we have left all and followed
   You..." - Mk 10:28
   a. Matthew adds in his gospel "Therefore what shall we have?" - Mt19:27
   b. Matthew also mentions the promise of the apostles sitting on
      thrones of judgment in the regeneration - Mt 19:28

[For everyone else who follows Jesus as His disciples, there is the
promise of both cost and reward.  With Mark's account (Mk 10:28-31)
before us, let's first examine...]


      1. Jesus spoke of leaving family - Mk 10:29
      2. He mentioned wife; not found in some mss of Mark, but is in Lk18:29
      3. Not to suggest such is always necessary - cf. 1Co 9:5
      4. But sometimes even one's family turns against a disciple 
         - Mt 10:21,34-36
      5. Thus Jesus and His gospel must come before family - Mt 10:37;
         Lk 14:26
      -- Sometimes the greatest cost of discipleship is imposed by our
         own families

      1. Jesus spoke of leaving house and lands - Mk 10:29
      2. Not to suggest that it is always necessary 
         - cf. 1Co 16:19; Ro 16:5; Col 4:15; Phm 1:2
      3. But disciples often sold lands, opened their homes to others
         - Ac 4:36-37; Phm 1:22
      4. Paul certainly gave up much to serve Christ - Php 3:7-8
      5. Thus Jesus and His kingdom must come before possessions 
          - Lk 14:33; Mt 6:33
      -- We must be willing to forsake all that is necessary to be a
         disciple of Jesus

[The cost of discipleship can certainly be great.  For some, it is more
than others.  But for all who are willing to bear the cost of being His
disciple, Jesus promises...]


      1. Jesus spoke of hundredfold blessings "in this time" - Mk 10:30
      2. Of brothers, sisters, mother, children
         a. He likely refers to fellow disciples as family 
            - cf. Mk 3:31-35
         b. Jesus does not mention "fathers"; could it be because God is
            our Father? - Mt 23:9
         c. The fulfillment of this can be seen in the church, the
            family of God - 1Ti 3:15; 5:1-2
         d. Our spiritual family (the church) is the only one that will
            survive death
      3. Of houses and lands
         a. Perhaps through fellow ties with other disciples - Ac 4:32
         b. Who opened their hearts and homes to one another (Mi casa es
            su casa)
         c. Like Aquila and Priscilla - Ac 18:1-3; 1Co 16:19; Ro 16:5
      -- Even now, through His church, there are great rewards for
         following Christ

      1. Jesus spoke of eternal life "in the age to come" - Mk 10:30
      2. As Paul described, the gift of God to be received at "the end"
         - Ro 6:22-23; cf. Mt 25:46
      3. This eternal life includes the "people of God" - cf. Re 21:3
      4. This eternal life includes spiritual houses and lands
         a. The Father's house, in which there are many rooms - Jn 14:1-3
         a. A new heaven and a new earth - 2Pe 3:13; Re 21:1
         b. The holy city, New Jerusalem - Re 21:2,23-27
      -- What glorious rewards await those who follow Jesus to eternal


1. In Mark's account, Jesus also mentioned persecutions...
   a. Together with the rewards of following Jesus - Mk 10:30
   b. Leading some to view them as a reward rather than a cost of
   c. Those who suffer persecution are certainly blessed - Mt 5:10-12;
      Re 20:4-6

2. Jesus concludes:  "But many who are first will be last, and the last
   first"... - Mk 10:31
   a. Which is followed in Matthew's gospel with the parable of laborers
      in the vineyard - Mt 20:1-15
   b. And is repeated again after the parable - Mt 20:16
   c. Thus a cautionary warning not to serve the Lord with a mercenary

Whatever the cost of discipleship, whether our service proves to be long
and hard or short and easy, the reward of discipleship more than makes
up for it.  As Paul (who suffered greatly for Christ) wrote:

   "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working
   for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we
   do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which
   are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the
   things which are not seen are eternal." - 2Co 4:17-18

May the words of Jesus in our text always remind us of the things that
are eternal, some to be enjoyed even in this age, others to be realized
in the age to come...

"THE GOSPEL OF MARK" The Problem With Riches (10:17-27) by Mark Copeland

                          "THE GOSPEL OF MARK"

                   The Problem With Riches (10:17-27)


1. In our text, we read of a rich man who was so right, yet wrong...
   a. He came to the right person - Mk 10:17
      1) He came to Jesus
      2) Who could tell Him the way to eternal life
   b. He asked the right questions - Mk 10:17
      1) "What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?"
      2) "What do I still lack?" - cf. Mt 19:20
   c. He certainly received the right answers - Mk 10:19-21
      1) "...if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments"
         (suitable for one living under the OT covenant) 
         - cf. Mt 19:17-19
      2) "If you want to be perfect, go, sell...give to the poor...and
         come, follow Me" (fitting for one who would become a disciple
         and follow Jesus during His ministry) - cf. Mt 19:21
   d. But in the end, he made the wrong decision - Mk 10:22
      1) He went away sorrowful
      2) For he had great possessions

2. As the rich man went away sadly, Jesus told His disciples about the
   difficulty of riches...
   a. It is hard for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of
      God - Mk 10:23-24
   b. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle - Mk10:25

3. What is it about being rich that makes salvation so difficult...?
   a. Are we aware of the dangers of riches?
   b. Do we have the proper attitudes toward wealth, whether rich or

[Let's first consider...]


      1. Riches do not satisfy, and we foolishly think that simply more
         riches will bring satisfaction - cf. Ec 1:8; 5:10
      2. With riches comes the preoccupation with them:  how to use,
         maintain, store, etc.
      -- Like a black hole, the accumulation of riches can absorb what
         time and energy we have so that we have little for anything
         else (such as family, church, the Lord)

      1. Jesus warned about the deceitfulness of riches - Mk 4:19
      2. Riches promise much, but really offer little in return
         a. They can easily disappear, rust, or be stolen 
             - Pr 23:5; Mt 6:19
         b. They cannot buy one's salvation - Ps 49:6-9,16-20
         c. Neither can they protect one from God's wrath - Zep 1:18
      -- Riches can deceive one into thinking they are in need of
         nothing; the parable of the rich fool illustrates the folly of
         such thinking - Lk 12:16-21

      1. Wealth tends to promote a sense of arrogance and pride - cf.
         Deu 8:11-17
      2. It was such pride that was the downfall of Sodom and Israel
         - Eze 16:49-50; Hos 13:4-6
      -- Blinded by such pride, one will not seek God - Ps 10:4

      1. The wealthy, while in a position to help others, often close
         their hearts to the cry of the poor
      2. This was one of Israel's sins - Am 2:6; 5:11-12; 8:4-6
      -- Abusing the poor to make money, failing to respond to their
         cries for justice, interested more in money than the welfare of
         the poor, such are the problems that often afflict the rich

[Certainly not all who are rich are guilty of such things.  Some of the
most godly people in the Bible were rich (Job, Abraham, Joseph, David,
Solomon, Barnabas, Philemon, Lydia).  But these are reasons why it is so
hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  If they let mammon
become their god, they will not be willing to serve the true God! (cf.
Mt 6:24)  From what we have seen about the danger of wealth, let's now
draw some...]


      1. Why be so anxious to be rich, when riches might prove to be a
         curse for us?
      2. Besides, covetousness is viewed by God as a form of idolatry
         - Ep 5:5; Col 3:5
      3. It not a sin to be rich, but the desire to be rich is wrong
         a. Those who desire to be rich will fall into temptation, and
            not go unpunished - 1Ti 6:9; Pr 28:20
         b. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil - 1Ti 6:10
            1) For which some have strayed from the faith
            2) And suffered many sorrows
      -- Beware of covetousness! - Lk 12:15

      1. Contentment along with godliness is true wealth - 1Ti 6:6-7
         a. "He is richest who is content with the least." - Socrates
         b. "Contentment comes not so much from great wealth as from few
            wants" - Croft M. Pentz (The Complete Book of Zingers)
      2. Contentment is a virtue that is learned - e.g., Php 4:11-12
         a. By having a proper perspective on life - 1Ti 6:7
            1) "You can't take it with you"
            2) Ever see a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer?
         b. By understanding what is truly essential in life - 1Ti 6:8
            1) Food and clothing...anything more is a luxury
            2) Realizing this, we will appreciate how blessed we are!
      -- Learn to be content! - He 13:5

      1. Jesus loved the rich young ruler - Mk 10:21
         a. We should certainly love those who are rich
         b. We should not be envious, nor despise them
      2. If the rich are overcome by their riches, we should remember...
         a. That the desire to be rich affects both the rich and those
            who want to be rich
         b. That the rich face many temptations that the poor do not
      -- The rich are in need of salvation as much as the poorest
         beggar! - Ro 3:23; 6:23

      1. Though it is hard for a rich person to be saved, it is not
         impossible - Mk 10:23-27
         a. No one can save themselves, whether rich or poor
         b. But God can save the rich by His own power, through the
            gospel - Ro 1:16-17
      2. There were many rich people who became Jesus' disciples
         a. Those that supported Him during His earthly ministry - Lk 8:1-3
         b. Others such as Zacchaeus, Matthew, Barnabas, Lydia, Aquila
            and Priscilla, Gaius, Philemon
         c. Such people used their riches in service to God and others
            - cf. 1Ti 6:17-19
      3. Therefore...
         a. The rich should have the gospel preached to them
         b. We should pray for the rich
         c. We should rejoice greatly that there are rich men and women
            in the kingdom of God
      -- With God, nothing is impossible! - Mk 10:27


1. The issue of wealth is often one of contention...
   a. The poor are often envious of the rich
   b. The rich often despise the poor

2. But riches and poverty both have their difficulties...
   a. Wealth can one make one arrogant, less receptive to the gospel and
      the kingdom
   b. Poverty can make one bitter, filled with envy of others

3. Whether rich or poor, all should be aware...
   a. Of our need for salvation that comes only by the grace of God
   b. That we can share together in the riches of salvation

Have you become an heir to the "unsearchable riches of Christ"...? - Ep
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

Simcha Jacobovici and the Quest to Find Who Wrote the Bible by Dewayne Bryant, M.A.


Simcha Jacobovici and the Quest to Find Who Wrote the Bible

by  Dewayne Bryant, M.A.

The media is often critical of the Bible. This is nothing new to Christians, who can see mischaracterizations of the Bible virtually everyday. Documentaries and television programs describe the Bible in terms that most Christians find strange. Interviews often feature leftist scholars who seem to specialize in casting doubt on God’s Word. There are a few refreshing voices in the media that take a rather high view of the Bible, however.
Simcha Jacobovici is a Jewish Canadian filmmaker who hosts the television program the “Naked Archaeologist.” His goal is to “demystify” archaeology, thus making it “naked” for all to see. Naked archaeology is like the naked truth—stripped of preconceptions and exposed for all to see. To most of us living in the United States, he is familiar for his documentaries The Exodus Decoded and The Lost Tomb of Jesus. Both programs offered a new take on the biblical texts that differed from traditional, straightforward interpretations. Yet Jacobovici is also an Orthodox Jew and holds the Bible in the highest esteem. This makes him something of an enigma for many viewers.
The subject of one of Jacobovici’s television programs is to find proof underlying the events recorded in the biblical text. The Biblical Archaeology Review Web site has a free episode of “The Naked Archaeologist” entitled, “Who Wrote the Bible?” (http://www.bib-arch.org/multimedia/who-wrote-bible-free-video.asp). During the program, Jacobovici interviews Baruch Halpern, a professor of Jewish Studies at Pennsylvania State University. Halpern is a historian and archaeologist, and has led the archaeological dig at Tel Megiddo (biblical Megiddo). He is highly regarded by most biblical scholars, but he seems to meet his match in Jacobovici.  Near the beginning of the episode, the two discuss the authorship of the Pentateuch:
Jacobovici: “I wonder, who wrote the Bible?”
Halpern: “A bunch of different people.”
Jacobovici: “I read the five books of Moses, the Torah, and I never get the feeling that Joe wrote book number one, and Sam wrote book number two. I don’t get that impression.”
Halpern: “That’s because you’re coming at it from the perspective of the tradition rather than from a fresh, unbiased view.”
For thousands of years, Christians and Jews have read the first five books of the Bible as the singular work of Moses. Modern readers are no different. Scripture claims in numerous places that Moses wrote the Pentateuch (Exodus 34:27; Matthew 19:8; Romans 10:5; et al.). Given features such as opposition to Egyptian mythology and the presence of Egyptian loanwords and names, there is nothing to indicate that Moses could not have written the Pentateuch. Halpern claims that it is only because of tradition that Jews and Christians view the Pentateuch as the work of Moses. The problem with Halpern’s statement is that his view is anything but unbiased. He also approaches the Bible from the perspective of tradition! In his case, it is from a particular academic viewpoint: the documentary hypothesis.
The documentary hypothesis states that the Pentateuch is composed of four major documents: J (the Yahwist), E (the Elohist), D (the Deuteronomist), and P (the Priestly writer). Allegedly, these were edited together over hundreds of years by redactors, eventually producing what we call the Pentateuch. Proponents of this view claim Moses never wrote a single word, with most of the work being pious fiction authored by anonymous scribes.
One of the characteristics of modern scholarship is the absolute refusal to reappraise the documentary hypothesis. It is passed dogmatically from professor to student in university Bible and religious studies departments. The theory is as inviolable and as sacrosanct in biblical studies as Darwinian evolution is in scientific studies. That demonstrates the key difficulty with the theory: proponents of the view are not open to considering new evidence that may overturn part, or all, of the theory. They, too, are firmly rooted in their own tradition.
It may be difficult for some viewers to conceal a smile when Jacobovici says, “Nowhere do I get the feeling that there are different authors.” That is precisely what Christians also believe. Halpern’s response is interesting. He fires back with a single shot aimed to prove the multiple authorship of the books of Moses: the presence of “doublets” in the Bible. He defines these as “pairs of identical or nearly identical stories with slight variation.” Examples would be the “two” creation stories of Genesis 1-2 or the stories in which Abraham and Isaac lie to the Egyptian pharaoh about their wives.
Doublets occur frequently in the biblical text, not only in the Pentateuch, but elsewhere. The assumption is that these stories bear strong resemblance to one another because they are duplications. In truth, the biblical writers, like other authors in the ancient Near East, used repetition for effect. Readers should also recognize that scholars have no tangible evidence that these stories are duplications. The only place they occur is in Scripture, and the assumption is that ancient scribes duplicated the stories. There is no evidence that they ever did, and it is grossly unfair to judge ancient writers by modern standards. Many modern scholars no longer consider this as evidence for the documentary hypothesis.
Jacobovici later forces Halpern to admit that there is no tangible evidence for the documentary hypothesis:
Jacobovici: “The point is that unless you have a reason to go to the fantastical, why shouldn’t you just accept the simple, which is, you know, it’s not two traditions, or three or four, it’s one tradition?”
Halpern: “There’s nothing fantastic about the idea that tradition grows over time and that various parties contribute to a tradition. In fact, that’s what we see in every other religious tradition that we have.”
Jacobovici: “You have to agree that not a single archaeological shred has ever been found of the existence of the documentary hypothesis.”
Halpern: “That’s absolutely correct.”
Jacobovici could have gone farther. Not only have critical scholars failed to produce so much as a single shred of physical evidence for the putative documents of J, E, D, and P, they have yet to produce any document from the ancient world that was edited in like manner. Not one example exists of the kind of editorial activity critics propose went into the production of the books of Moses. Religious texts in the ancient Near East were not whimsically altered by scribes. The scribe’s duty was to copy canonical compositions, such as religious texts, with complete fidelity. Concerning the absence of evidence, Kenneth Kitchen states:
[T]he basic fact is that there is no objective, independent evidence for any of these four compositions (or for any variant of them) anywhere outside the pages of our existing Hebrew Bible…. The standards of proof among biblical scholars fall massively and woefully short of the high standards that professional Orientalists and archaeologists are long accustomed to, and have a right to demand (Kitchen, 2003, p. 492, emp. added).
When questioned about whether Moses wrote any of the Bible, Halpern responds, “Not a thing.” He follows with the shocking statement: “I forgot to tell you these people were illiterate until basically the 8th century B.C.” Jacobovici’s response? “I think I’ve got him on that one.” He travels to the Sinai desert to see an alphabetic inscription dating at least as early as the time of Moses. While the inscription is not conclusive, there is other evidence Jacobovici could have considered. Three important Hebrew inscriptions dating to the tenth century B.C. contradict Halpern’s outlandish statement. The Tel Zayit Inscription is an abecedary—a list of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet. The Gezer Calendar is a small tablet outlining the agricultural seasons. The oldest inscription found to date is a potsherd from Khirbet Qeiyafa, whose text has distinct parallels to several biblical passages (see Bryant, 2010). If the Hebrews were illiterate until the 8th century, who created these Hebrew inscriptions in the 10th century?
It is entertaining to see a filmmaker and amateur archaeologist outduel an ancient historian widely recognized as an authority in his field. The episode demonstrates a vital point that every Christian should note: just because a person is a recognized scholar does not mean he or she is inevitably correct in their criticisms of the Bible. The history of biblical scholarship is full of antiquated theories that were once held as absolute fact, but are now totally abandoned. Given the evidence that archaeologists and biblical scholars now have, the documentary hypothesis is surely destined to join them. Moses may not have signed his work, but theories offered by critics thus far have failed to pass the test of plausibility when all of the evidence is considered. [NOTE: Over a century ago, J.W. McGarvey wrote a masterful and decisive refutation of the documentary hypothesis, titled The Authorship of the Book of Deuteronomy With its Bearings on the Higher Criticism of the Pentateuch.]


Bryant, Dewayne (2010), “The Khirbet Qeiyafa Inscription,”  http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=124&article=3492.
Kitchen, Kenneth (2003), On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

More In-Your-Face Atheism by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


More In-Your-Face Atheism

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

America’s Founding Fathers believed in God, with the overwhelming majority of them claiming affiliation with Christianity (see Miller, 2008). Our forefathers prayed to God in private and in public, exalted the Almighty in their assemblies, and acknowledged Him as sovereign in their speeches and writings. On our coinage is “in God we trust,” in our pledge is “one nation under God,” and in the fourth verse of our national anthem is “our motto: ‘In God is our trust’.” Our nation’s capital is replete with references to the God of the Bible. “God” is inscribed on the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the U.S. Capitol, and the Library of Congress.
Sadly, though “God” is etched in stone in our capital’s most historic landmarks, this winter, Washington, D.C.’s bus riders are encouraged to forget God. The American Humanist Association has spent $40,000 to place “holiday ads” on D.C.’s buses. Their slogan: “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake” (“Why Believe...?” 2008; “Humanists Launch...,” 2008). According to the American Humanists’ Web site, this message will be “blazoned on the sides, taillights, and interiors of over 200 Washington D.C. Metro buses” (“Humanists Launch...,” emp. added).
Such in-your-face atheism is nothing new to America, and certainly not to the United Kingdom. Throughout 2008, the American Humanist Association advertised across the nation on highway billboards: “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone” (“Humanists Launch...”). In the United Kingdom, the British Humanist Association began a bus campaign in London only a few weeks prior to the one in America’s capital. Their message: “There’s Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life” (“Atheists Plan...,” 2008). Supporters of the U.K. campaign included the world’s most well-known atheist, Richard Dawkins, who gave $9,000. [NOTE: Reportedly, the word “probably” was inserted in the ad only “to ensure the posters didn’t breach transit advertising regulations, which stipulate ads should not offend religious people” (“Atheists Plan...”).]
Make no mistake: today’s militant atheism in America is in-your-face as much as ever. America and many other countries around the world (especially those in Western Europe) are facing the most brazen atheism in their history. Journalists call it “the new atheism” (“Why Believe...?”). Our prayer is that individual Christians and churches throughout the world take heed to the apostle Paul’s admonition to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). We must strive to “speak the words of truth and reason” (Acts 26:25), and “be ready to give a defense to everyone” (1 Peter 3:15). Indeed, “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
Recognize that there is a battle over the most fundamental pillar of Christianity (the existence of God). Equip yourself and your family members with the tools needed to build a strong faith—one based on reason and revelation. Let us know if we can assist you in any way.


“Atheists Plan Anti-God Ad Campaign on Buses” (2008), Associated Press, October 23, [On-line], URL: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,443705,00.html.
“Humanists Launch Godless Holiday Campaign” (2008), American Humanist Association, [On-line], URL: http://www.whybelieveingod.org/pressrelease.html.
Miller, Dave (2008), The Silencing of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
“‘Why Believe in a God?’ Ad Campaign Launches on D.C. Buses” (2008), Associated Press, November 12, [On-line], URL: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,450445,00.html.

If Cornelius Had the Holy Spirit, Doesn’t That Mean He Was Saved? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


If Cornelius Had the Holy Spirit, Doesn’t That Mean He Was Saved?

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Acts 10 contains the exciting story of Peter preaching the first Gospel sermon to the Gentiles. Until this time, many of the Jewish converts believed that the Gospel was for the Jews, and they thought that those who obeyed the Gospel were also supposed to keep the Law of Moses. That was not God’s plan, however, and through several miraculous visions and angelic appearances, God orchestrated events so that Cornelius, a devout Gentile, and all the members of his household, were able to hear Peter preach the good news about Jesus Christ.
God knew, however, that many of those in the Jewish nation would have difficulty accepting the truth that the Gentiles were just as eligible to obey the Gospel as the Jews. Thus, the Bible tells us that while Peter was preaching to Cornelius and his family, “the Holy Spirit fell upon those who heard the word” (Acts 10:44). The result of this was that the Gentiles could speak in tongues just as the apostles did on the Day of Pentecost. When Peter saw what had happened, he said: “Can anyone forbid water that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” He then “commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48).
This episode in the book of Acts has been used by some to teach that Cornelius and his family were saved before they were baptized. Their reasoning is this: If the Gentiles had been given the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, then they must have already been saved, because only those who are saved can be “filled with the Spirit.” Sometimes, those who use this argument will go to Ephesians 1:14 and contend that the Bible says that the Holy Spirit is “the guarantee of our inheritance,” and if anyone has “the Spirit,” that proves he or she is saved. Is this line of argument correct? Is it true that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit prove that a person is saved? When we explore the entirety of the Bible, we see that this reasoning cannot be sustained.

Those Who Had Miraculous Gifts, But Were Not Saved

Throughout the Bible, we see that the miraculous powers bestowed by the Holy Spirit were not used to prove an individual’s salvation. On several occasions, we see people that were not saved being given such powers. For instance, in the book of 1 Samuel, we learn about the first king of Israel—King Saul. When he was chosen, Saul was the ideal candidate to be king. And yet because of a series of poor decisions that resulted in disobedience to God’s commands, he was rejected by God. In 1 Samual 16:14, the text explains that “the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul.” Due to Saul’s hardened, disobedient heart, he began to chase David in an attempt to kill him. Saul’s debased mind even led him to bring about the death of an entire city of the Lord’s priests. On one occasion, as he was chasing David, he heard that David was with Samuel in the city of Ramah. Saul sent messengers to capture David, but when they arrived, “the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they prophesied. And when Saul was told, he sent other messengers, and they prophesied likewise. Then Saul sent messengers a third time, and they prophesied also” (1 Samuel 19:20-21). Notice that the fact that the Holy Spirit came upon the messengers was not an indication of their being saved, but instead was a miraculous intervention on God’s behalf to save David. Finally, Saul himself went to Ramah in an attempt to capture and kill David. When he got there, “the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on and prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah” (1 Samuel 19:22-24). The miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were a sign from God, but not one meant to indicate Saul’s salvation. Instead, it was a sign to show that God was with Samuel and was protecting David.
In the New Testament, we see another instance of a person who was not saved being given miraculous power by the Holy Spirit. In John 11:45-57, the Pharisees and chief priests had gathered together to form a plan to eliminate Jesus. Some of their party were distraught because so many people were following Jesus. They opined: “If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.” Caiaphas, who was the High Priest that year, calmed the group and said: “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish” (John 11:50). Where did Caiaphas get such keen insight? The text explains: “Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation.” If he “prophesied” that Jesus would die, where did he get such accurate information? Only the Holy Spirit could have supplied him with such an accurate prophetic utterance.

The Gifts of the Spirit or the Fruit of the Spirit

Furthermore, the Bible clearly explains that miraculous gifts say nothing about whether a person is saved or lost. In the book of 1 Corinthians, the church in Corinth was having problems with some of their members. Some were bragging about the miraculous powers they had been given. Others were wishing they had different powers. Some in the church were using their miraculous powers in the assembly to draw attention to themselves. In chapters 12-14, Paul gave instructions that would help Christians use the miraculous powers of the Holy Spirit in the best way. Chapter 13 is one of the most famous chapters in all the Bible. It is often called the love chapter. In this chapter, Paul explains that miraculous powers given by the Holy Spirit do not prove salvation. In fact, if those powers are being used by a person who does not have love in his or her heart, then that person is lost. Paul said: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-2). Notice that Paul’s statement shows that an amazing display of the miraculous powers of the Holy Spirit would indicate nothing about a person’s salvation, since such a display could be done without love.
Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 13 also helps us to understand something else about the Holy Spirit. There is a difference between the miraculous powers bestowed on people by the Holy Spirit, and the fact that the Holy Spirit dwells in saved Christians. Ephesians 1:14 says that if the Holy Spirit dwells in a person, that fact verifies that he or she is saved. We read a similar statement in 1 John 3:24: “And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” In 1 Corinthians we read, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (6:19). Notice, however, that in Galatians 5:22 we read that the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Thus we can see that Paul stated that a person could have the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit without having love. But from Galatians 5:22 we understand that the true fruit of the Spirit, that indicates that the Spirit lives in a person and that shows that person is saved, begins with love. Therefore, it was possible for a person to have the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit and be able to speak in tongues, and yet not have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside him in the sense that the person was saved (see Miller, 2003).


Throughtout the Bible, we can see that God used the miraculous powers of the Holy Spirit to accomplish many things. This miraculous power was not an indication of the spiritual status of the one being empowered by the Holy Spirit. In fact, it was sometimes the case that those who were empowered with such abilities were wicked enemies of God. Thus, we can see that the story of Cornelius and the fact that the Gentiles received the miraculous powers of the Holy Spirit does not show that the Gentiles were saved before they repented or were baptized. On the contrary, the apostle Peter understood God’s message perfectly. The miraculous powers were bestowed upon the Gentiles to show that God accepted them as candidates for salvation just as He accepted the Jews. Peter, in accordance with the Gospel message he had preached in Acts 2, instructed the Gentiles to be baptized in water just as he instructed those on the Day of Pentecost to be baptized. The reason in Acts 10 for baptism was the same as that in Acts 2:38—“for the remission of sins.”


Miller, Dave (2003), “Modern-Day Miracles, Tongue-Speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=264.

Divine Design and the Pine Tree by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Divine Design and the Pine Tree

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

The naturalistic explanation given by evolutionists for the existence of the created order cannot meet the dictates of logic that characterize the unencumbered, unprejudiced human mind. The more one investigates the intricacies and complexities of the natural realm, the more self-evident it is that a grand and great Designer is responsible for the existence of the Universe. In fact, the evidence is overwhelming and decisive.
Take, for example, the pine tree. Some 120 species and subspecies of the pine tree exist worldwide (“What Are...?,” n.d.). The Ponderosa pine tree (pinus ponderosa) is one of America’s abundant tree species, covering approximately 27 million acres of land (“Ponderosa Pine,” 1995). A young Ponderosa pine has brownish-black bark that changes to a distinctive orange-brown color as the tree grows older. The bark is segmented into large plate-like structures whose appearance has been likened to a jigsaw puzzle. This unusual design has a purpose. If the tree catches fire, these plates pop off as the bark burns. The tree, in effect, sheds its burning bark! This design, along with the great thickness of the bark, allows the tree to be very resistant to low intensity fires (“Ponderosa Pine,” n.d.). Since design demands a designer, who is responsible for this intricate design?
Ponderosa bark
Ponderosa bark
Courtesy sxc.hu and Jesse Adams
Another species of pine tree is the Lodgepole Pine (pinus contorta), so named since Native Americans used Lodgepole pine for the “lodge poles” in their tepees. This amazing pine tree grows cones that are slightly smaller than a golf ball, are tan when fresh, but turn gray with age. These serotinous cones remain closed until the heat of a forest fire causes them to open. After the fire, the cones open and reseed the forest. The species thus regenerates itself—even though the forest fire kills the tree itself (“Lodgepole Pine,” n.d.). Since such design demands a designer, who is responsible for this ingenious design?
Yet another species of pine tree is the Whitebark Pine (pinus albicaulis). This tree possesses a symbiotic relationship with a bird species known as the Clark’s Nutcracker. The tree is dependent on this bird for reproduction, while the seed of the tree is a major source of food for the bird. This mutualistic relationship is further seen in the fact that Whitebark pinecones do not open and cast seed when they are ripe. The cones remain closed until the Nutcracker comes along, pries the cone open with its bill, and stores the seed within a pouch beneath its tongue. The bird then caches the seed to be used later as a food supply. Some of these seed caches are forgotten, or are not needed, thus enabling the tree to reproduce (“Whitebark Pine,” n.d.). Such amazing design—with no Mind behind it? Illogical!
Ponderosa bark
Ponderosa pine tree
Courtesy bigstockphotos.com and Angela McElroy
The interdependent, interconnected, interpenetrating features of God’s Creation are beyond the capability of man to trace out—let alone to “manage” or “assist.” Neither a pine tree nor a pinecone is sentient. They have no thinking capacity or consciousness. They possess no personhood, soul, or spirit. Pine trees did not get together and discuss the threat of forest fires to their future survival, and then decide to produce pinecones that would remain closed during a fire only to open afterwards. The standard explanations by evolutionists for such wonders of creation are incoherent and nonsensical. Elihu reminded Job: “Behold, God is exalted in His power; Who is a teacher like Him? Who has appointed Him His way, and who has said, ‘You have done wrong’? Remember that you should exalt His work, of which men have sung. All men have seen it; man beholds from afar” (Job 36:22-25—NASB).
Indeed, the realm of nature literally shouts forth the reality of the all-powerful Maker Who alone accounts for the intelligent design of the created order. As the psalmist so eloquently affirmed: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.... There is no speech, nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4). Indeed, “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made” (Romans 1:20). Only a foolish person would conclude there is no God (Psalm 14:1).


“Lodgepole Pine” (no date), USDA Forest Service, [On-line], URL: http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/helena/resources/trees/LodgepolePine.shtml.
“Ponderosa Pine” (no date), USDA Forest Service, [On-line], URL: http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/helena/resources/trees/PonderosaPine.shtml.
“Ponderosa Pine” (1995), Western Wood Products Association, [On-line], URL: http://www.wwpa.org/ppine.htm.
“What Are Pine Trees?” (no date), The Lovett Pinetum Charitable Foundation, [On-line], URL: http://www.lovett-pinetum.org/1whatare.htm.
“Whitebark Pine” (no date), USDA Forest Service, [On-line], URL: http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/helena/resources/trees/WhitebarkPine.shtml.

Male and Female Roles: Gender in the Bible by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Male and Female Roles: Gender in the Bible

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

In little more than half a century, American culture has experienced a massive restructuring of values and reorientation of moral and spiritual standards. One facet of this multifaceted effacement and erosion of biblical values has been dramatically altered gender roles. The feminist agenda has penetrated the American social landscape. Indeed, the onset of the feminist movement in the turbulent 1960s sparked a significant adjustment of societal norms resulting in the transformation of virtually every sphere of American culture—from the home and the church to the business world and beyond. Women now routinely serve in historically male capacities, including the military, politics, sports, and a host of community services including fire, police, ambulance, etc.
Make no mistake, a number of changes with regard to gender have emerged that may be deemed beneficial and positive. Nevertheless, the overall impact on American civilization has been negative, and the erosion of femininity has ushered in a host of evils that are hastening America’s moral implosion (e.g., abortion and homosexuality). Concomitant with the effort to eradicate gender differentiation has been the degradation of masculinity and the restructuring of the family unit (the fundamental building block of humanity—Genesis 1:27; 2:24). As womanhood has been devalued and her function altered, the rest of society has suffered dramatically. After all, women inevitably exert a profound influence on culture and society—for good or ill. Virtuous femininity is the glue that holds human civilization together. In the words of American poet William Ross Wallace’s immortal poem, “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Rules the World” (1865). Sadly for America, feminism has overturned the rocker, thrown the baby out with the bathwater, punched Dad in the face, and stomped away from the house in a huff.

the bible still has the correct perspective

Amid this polarization that plagues American civilization in general, and Christendom in particular, one chasm continues to widen between those who wish to conform to Bible protocol and those who wish to modernize, update, 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 we are the product of a male-dominated society and have consequently misconstrued the contextual meaning of the relevant biblical passages.
The underlying catalyst for this social turmoil, and resulting gender confusion, has been the rejection of the Bible as the authentic Word of the divine Being Who created the Universe and humans. Even among those who continue to profess their allegiance to Christianity, large numbers have capitulated to political correctness and abandoned the traditional, i.e., biblical, depiction of gender roles as defined by the Creator. In their quest to maintain relevance among the shifting sands of secular culture, they have imbibed the spirit of the age, been infected by humanistic philosophy, and consequently have compromised the clear teaching of Scripture on the role of women (cf. “Gender Inclusive…,” 2013; “Believe It…,” 2006; Pauls, 2013; “The Role of…,” 2006; Stirman, 2010).
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 engaging 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 guilty of prejudice and 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 American society?
Nevertheless, Bible teaching on this subject is not that difficult to ascertain. Recent attempts to redefine gender roles fall flat, not only before a sensible assessment of relevant Bible passages on the subject, but in the face of the 2,000 year history of Christianity which has, for the most part, demonstrated a generally accurate grasp of the basic parameters of God’s will on this matter. Such has certainly been true in America where the Founders and 18th century men and women embraced the Christian worldview, and believed that “family integrity was indispensable for the public safety and happiness” (West, 1997, p. 85).

Relevant Bible Passages

A detailed study of the relevant biblical texts in one article is impossible. However, God’s Word is essentially simple on any significant subject in the Bible [NOTE: For useful discussions see Hicks and Morton, 1978; Piper and Grudem, 1991; Cottrell, 1992; Highers, 1991; Laws, 1994; Warren, 1975; Miller, 1994; Miller, 1996.] In fact, it is the more recently emerging “scholars” with their intellectual complexities and imported seminary bias that have contributed to the confusion over this subject (e.g., Osburn, 1993). Carroll Osburn summarized his discussion of 1 Timothy 2 in the words—“Put simply, any female who has sufficient and accurate information may teach that information in a gentle spirit to whomever in whatever situation they may be” (1994, p. 115). Is such a cavalier attitude to be allowed to so easily dismiss the historical and biblical distinction between the sexes? The reader is invited to give consideration to the following brief summary of New Testament teaching on the subject of the role of women in leadership in worship and the church.

1 Corinthians

Chapters 11 and 14 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. [NOTE: The equality of male and female in Galatians 3:28 pertains to salvation status, not role.] 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 14. In chapter 11, 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. They recognized that 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 ordernot culture. Also, Paul made clear that such restrictions applied equally to all churches of Christ (11:16).
Later in the same context (in chapter 14), Paul addresses further the confusion over spiritual gifts and returns specifically to the participation of women in the exercise of those gifts in the assembly. He again emphasizes the universal practice of churches of Christ: “as in all churches of the saints” (14:33). [NOTE: Grammatically, “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 11 and 14 address a unique situation. After all, spiritual gifts are no longer available to the church (1 Corinthians 13:8-11; see Miller, 2003a), and veils, in Western society, are no longer a cultural symbol of female submission (see Miller, 2003b; cf. Moore, 1998). 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.
In this passage, Paul affirms that adult males (andras) are to lead prayers anywhere people meet for worship. “Lifting up holy hands” is a figure of speech, metonymy, in which a posture of prayer is put in place of prayer itself. Their prayers are to usher forth from holy lives. On the other hand, women are admonished to focus on appropriate apparel and a submissive attitude. Notice the contrast framed 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 (or exercise) authority” (NKJV, ESV, NIV, RSV, NASB). Thus Paul instructed women not to teach nor in any other way to have authority over men in worship.
Why? 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 gives the reason for the limitations, and that reason transcends all culture and all locales. Paul states 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. But what does the chronological priority of Adam have to do with the interrelationship of male and female?

Grounded in Creation—Not Culture

Paul is 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 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 to be “an 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 in the Corinthian letter 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, evidenced by the practice of primogeniture—the firstborn male. God’s creation of the man first was specifically intended to communicate the authority/submission arrangement of the human race (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:8).
Observe that Paul next elaborates on 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, thereby circumventing the divine arrangement of male-female relations.
Paul concludes 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, 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?


Those who advocate expanded roles for women in the church appeal to the alleged existence of deaconesses in the New Testament. Only two passages even hint of such an office: Romans 16:1-2 and 1 Timothy 3:11. In Romans 16:1, the term translated “servant” in the KJV is the Greek word diakonos, an indeclinable term meaning “one who serves or ministers.” It is of common gender (i.e., may refer to men or women) and occurs in the following verses: Matthew 20:26; 22:13; 23:11; Mark 9:35; 10:43; John 2:5,9; 12:26; Romans 13:4; 15:8; 1 Corinthians 3:5; 16:1; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 6:4; 11:15,23; Galatians 2:17; Ephesians 3:7; 6:21; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:7,23,25; 4:7; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Timothy 3:8,12; 4:6.
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 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. “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 that some have appealed to 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: “female” in 2:9-12,14 and “wife” in 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 a discussion of male deacons from 3:8-13, it would be unusual to switch in the middle to female deacons for one 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 simply mean 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 (female ministers). 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 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 would hardly 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.

unequal or inferior?

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 are often 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 (Ephesians 5:21). 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 am I to fit myself into God’s arrangement?”


The role of gender, like most of the values of Western civilization, is in the throes of confusion and redefinition. Those who resist unbiblical redefinitions are considered tradition-bound, narrow-minded, chauvinistic misogynists, as if they cannot hold honest, unbiased, studied convictions on such matters; as if the Bible has been misunderstood all these years. 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.
Those who reject the divine inspiration of the Bible will remain unaffected by and disinterested in the teaching of the Bible regarding gender. 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). For those who respect the Bible as the Word of God, Bible teaching is fatal to the notion of female leadership in the church and home. May we all bow humbly and submissively before the God of Heaven.


Arndt, William F. and F. Wilbur Gingrich (1957), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press).
“Believe It Or Not” (2006), Christianity: Then and Now, ed. John Waddey, 5[11], July, http://www.christianity-then-and-now.com/PDF/CTN%20July%2006.pdf.
Cottrell, Jack (1992), Feminism and the Bible (Joplin, MO: College Press).
“Gender Inclusive and Egalitarian Churches in the Church of Christ Heritage” (2013), http://www.wherethespiritleads.org/gender_inclusive_churches.htm.
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.
Hicks, John, and Bruce Morton (1978), Woman’s Role in the Church (Shreveport, LA: Lambert Book House).
Highers, Alan, ed., (1991), “Role of Women in the Church,” The Spiritual Sword, 22[2], January.
Laws, Jim, ed. (1994), Women To The Glory of God (Memphis, TN: Getwell Church of Christ).
Lewis, Jack (1988), Exegesis of Difficult Passages (Searcy, AR: Resource Publications).
Miller, Dave (1994), “An Exegesis of 1 Tim. 2:11-15 (Part 1) & (Part 2),” The Restorer, 14[3]:12-16 & 14[4]:9-14, March & April.
Miller, Dave (1996), “Feminist Attitudes Toward the Bible,” The Spiritual Sword, 27[2]:3-6, January.
Miller, Dave (2003a), “Modern-Day Miracles, Tongue-Speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/rr/rr2003/r&r0303b.htm.
Miller, Dave (2003b), “Veils, Footwashing, and the Holy Kiss,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1275&topic=379.
Moore, Kevin (1998), We Have No Such Custom (Wanganui, NZ: Kevin Moore).
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).
Pauls, Dale (2013), “Good news!: Naomi Walters Named Minister in Residence at Stamford Church of Christ,” Reflections on Announcement, July 7, http://gal328.org/category/good-news/.
Piper, John and Wayne Grudem, eds. (1991), Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books).
“The Role of Women in the Church” (2006), Cole Mill Road Church of Christ, http://www.colemillroad.org/.
Stirman, Sarah (2010), “Women in the Church: Moving Toward Equality,” Abilene Report-News, February 25, http://www.reporternews.com/news/2010/feb/25/women-in-the-church-moving-toward-equality/
Wallace, William Ross (1865), “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle Is The Hand That Rules The World,” Poets’ Corner, http://www.theotherpages.org/poems/wallace1.html.
Warren, Thomas, ed. (1975), “Woman—In the View of God,” The Spiritual Sword, 6[4], July.
West, Thomas (1997), Vindicating the Founders (New York: Rowman & Littlefield).
Woods, Guy N. (1986), Questions and Answers: Volume Two (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).

The Holy Place, or the Most Holy Place? by Wayne Jackson, M.A.


The Holy Place, or the Most Holy Place?

by Wayne Jackson, M.A.

In Exodus 40:26, the Bible states that the “golden altar” was in the holy place of the tabernacle, in front of the veil. On the other hand, the book of Hebrews (9:3-4) indicates that the altar of incense was in the most holy place. How can these passages be harmonized?
In responding to this question, some background information is in order. When the children of Israel came into the desolate region of Sinai following their exodus from Egypt, Jehovah ordained a regulated system of worship that was designed to accommodate their sojourn in that wilderness. A part of that order was the tabernacle—a movable, tent-like structure that was to serve as the house of the Lord under those temporary conditions. In the construction of the tabernacle, Moses was “warned of God” that he make all things “according to the pattern” that was shown to him at Mt. Sinai (Hebrews 8:5).
The tabernacle was divided into two rooms, the holy place and the most holy place (or holy of holies). Within the former, according to the account in Exodus 40, three items of furniture were located. On the northern side was the table of showbread, while the golden lampstand was on the south. Finally, to the west, just “before the veil” that separated the holy place from the holy of holies, was the golden altar of incense (Exodus 30:6; 40:26).
Here, then, as indicated above, is the problem. In the book of Hebrews, the writer, in describing the same circumstance, stated that “behind the second veil” there was a compartment “called the holy of holies; having a golden altar of incense...” (Hebrews 9:3-4).
Some critics have not hesitated to declare that the author of Hebrews made a mistake. James Moffatt observed that “the irregularity of placing it [the golden altar—WJ] on the wrong side of the curtain is simply another of his inaccuracies” (1957, p. 115). Such a declaration, however, not only is inconsistent with a respectable view of biblical inspiration, but also is wholly unnecessary.
As I have emphasized in previous discussions (Jackson, 1986, 2:51ff.), no legitimate contradiction can be charged against statements that superficially appear to conflict unless every conceivable possibility of reconciliation has been exhausted. One must approach the controversial text(s) and ask: Is there any feasible way to harmonize these passages? If there is, no allegation of a real discrepancy can be made. Now, what are the facts of this case? Several solutions to the difficulty have been proposed. Some of these, however, are less than totally convincing. Let us reflect upon a few of them.
(1) Some have argued that the golden altar of incense was not in the holy place, as evinced by the fact that in Exodus 26:35 only the table of showbread and the lampstand are mentioned as items of furniture in that room. The conclusion thus is drawn that the altar of incense must have been in the holy of holies. This logic is not persuasive. First, neither is the altar of incense mentioned in Exodus 26:33-34 as being found in the most holy place. Hence, silence cannot be the deciding factor. Second, the golden altar clearly is located in the holy place in other passages (Exodus 30:6; 40:26). Besides that, if the golden altar was in the holy of holies, how could the priests burn incense thereupon each day (cf. Luke 1:9), since the most holy place could be entered only yearly—on the day of atonement—and then by the high priest alone (Hebrews 9:7)?
(2) The Greek text of Hebrews 9:4 speaks of a golden thumiaterion for the burning of incense. The original word denotes either a place, or a vessel, used in burning incense. Thus, thumiaterion is rendered “censer” (KJV) or “altar” (ASV). Some argue, therefore, that the inspired writer of this passage did not allude to the altar of incense, but rather to a censer that was kept within the holy of holies, but which was employed annually to convey coals from the altar into the most holy place according to the instructions of Leviticus 16:12-13. This represents the view of scholars like Albert Barnes, James MacKnight, and S.T. Bloomfield. An objection to this theory would be that if the writer refers only to a censer, then there is no mention at all of the golden altar. True, but then there is no reference to the laver or brazen altar that stood just before the tabernacle, and that likewise were an integral part of the priestly service. It is possible that only the censer was mentioned “because it was the principal part of the furniture which the high priest used on the day of expiation” (Bengal, 1877, 3:418). Still, it seems odd that the lesser object, the censer, would be mentioned, while the greater, the golden altar, was ignored completely.
On the other hand, there is no mention at all in the Old Testament of a “golden” censer. Moreover, when the high priest entered the holy of holies on the day of atonement, he took the censer with him, thus implying that it was not already within the most holy place. A defense of this view appears to require considerable speculation.
(3) The most popular opinion among conservative scholars argues that Hebrews 9:4 refers not to a censer, but to the golden altar of incense. It is carefully pointed out, though, that this passage does not actually say that the altar was within the most holy place. The text literally reads: “...behind the second veil was a room which is called the holy of holies, having [echousa, present participle] a golden altar of incense” (Hebrews 9:3-4). The verb echo can be employed in the sense of “belonging to,” i.e., in close “association with” something (cf. Hebrews 6:9). Marcus Dods observed that “the change from en he [within] of ver. 2 to echousa [having] is significant, and indicates that it was not precisely its local relations he had in view, but rather its ritual associations” (1956, 4:328). Theodor Zahn stated that the Hebrew writer was describing an “ideal relation” of the altar to the most holy place (1973, 2:364). John Ebrard contended that one is not required to interpret echousa “in a local sense” in this verse. As an example, he cited verse one of this very chapter: “Now even the first covenant had [echein] ordinances...” (1859, 6:492).
That there was a very strong connection between the altar of incense and the most holy place is evinced by several suggestions in the Old Testament. Note the following. (1) There was a ritualistic association between the ark of the covenant and the altar of incense in that the high priest sprinkled blood upon both of them on the annual day of atonement (Exodus 30:10). (2) Also, on the day of atonement, the high priest carried live coals from the golden altar, along with incense, into the holy of holies (Leviticus 16:10). Thus, on that day, once a year, the firepan, in which the coals were transported, became an extension of the altar. In that sense, it might be said that the altar “belonged to” the most holy place. (3) In a religious sense, the altar of incense actually was said to stand “before the Lord” (Leviticus 16:12) and “before the ark of the testimony” (Exodus 40:5). In fact, the author of First Kings states that the altar of gold “belonged to” the oracle, i.e., the inner sanctuary (see 1 Kings 6:22). Of this passage, R.D. Patterson noted that even though the altar was materially in the holy place, “functionally and symbolically it was associated with the Most Holy Place” (1988, 4:67). Another scholar observed that while the altar was locally situated in the holy place, “in its nature and idea” it pertained to the most holy place (Kay, 1981, 10:69). Professor William Milligan argued, on the basis of inference, that on the day of atonement the veil between the holy and most holy places was opened so that the altar of incense and the ark of the covenant stood in close proximity, and that it was from this vantage point that the author of Hebrews wrote (n.d., 3:230).
Thus, a strong case can be made for the fact that the writer of Hebrews (9:3-4) was not stressing the location of the altar of incense; rather, he was emphasizing its theological connection with the most holy place of the tabernacle.
In view of this, let us remind ourselves of the Law of Contradiction. This logical maxim affirms that a thing cannot both be, and not be, if one is speaking of the same thing, employing the same time reference, and using his terms in an identical sense. In the case before us, one should not charge that there is a contradiction between Exodus 30:6 and Hebrews 9:3-4, for the distinct possibility exists that: (a) two different objects are in view, i.e., the golden altar and a censer; or (b) what is more likely, two different senses are employed, i.e., the altar was described in a spatial sense in the Exodus passage, and a theological sense in the Hebrews context. It is thus wholly unwarranted to suggest that a biblical contradiction must exist with reference to the location of the golden altar of incense.
Bengal, J. A. (1877), Gnomon of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark).
Dods, Marcus (1956), “Hebrews,” The Expositor’s Greek Testament, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Ebrard, John Henry Augustus (1859), “Hebrews,” Biblical Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Hermann Olshausen, Ed. (New York: Sheldon & Company).
Jackson, Wayne (1986), Essays in Apologetics (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press, Inc.).
Kay, William (1981 reprint), “Hebrews,” The Bible Commentary, ed. F.C. Cook (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Milligan, William (no date), The Bible Educator, ed. E.H. Plumptre (London: Cassell, Petter and Galpin).
Moffatt, James (1957), The Epistle to the Hebrews (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark).
Patterson, R. D. (1988), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. F.E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Zahn, Theodor (1973 reprint), Introduction to the New Testament (Minneapolis, MN: Klock and Klock).