"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS" Are You Still Carnal? (3:1-4) by Mark Copeland


                     Are You Still Carnal? (3:1-4)


1. As Paul sought to teach the Christians at Corinth, it was not easy...
   a. While with them , he could not speak to them as spiritual people
      - 1Co 3:1-2
   b. When he wrote to them, they were still carnal - 1Co 3:3-4
   -- Despite the passing of time, they were still "babes in Christ"

2. The example of the Corinthians should challenge our thinking...
   a. You may have been a Christian for some time now
   b. But that does not necessarily mean you have become mature
   -- Despite the passing of time, "Are You Still Carnal?"

[Hopefully not.  But to be sure, let's make clear what it means to be


      1. Comes from the Greek word sarkikos (fleshly, carnal)
      2. "having the nature of flesh, i.e. under the control of the
         animal appetites" - Thayer

      1. The natural man (psuchikos) "refers to one who is unrenewed,
         and who is wholly under the influence of his sensual or animal
         nature, and is no where applied to Christians" 
         - Barnes, cf. 1Co 2:14
      2. The carnal man (sarkikos) "is applied here to Christians - but
         to those who have much of the remains of corruption, and who
         are imperfectly acquainted with the nature of religion; babes
         in Christ" - ibid., cf. 1Co 3:1-4
      3. The spiritual man (pneumatikos) - is one led by the Spirit (via
         the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God), capable of
         understanding spiritual truths and producing the fruit of the
         Spirit in one's life; i.e., a mature Christian 
         - cf. 1Co 2:15;Ga 5:22-23; 6:1

[As Christians we are no longer "natural", but we may still be "carnal"
and not yet "spiritual".  To answer the question "Are You Still
Carnal?", it helps to see...]


      1. Their inability to receive solid food - 1Co 3:1-2
         a. Paul had to feed them with the milk of the Word
         b. They were like the Hebrew Christians in this regard 
            - cf. He 5:11-14
      2. Their envy, strife, and divisions - 1Co 3:3-4
         a. Their religious division addressed earlier - cf. 1Co 1:10-
         b. What does this say of the spiritual condition when religious
            division exists today?

      1. Sins of immorality:  adultery, fornication, uncleanness,
         lewdness - cf. Ga 5:19
      2. Sins of false religion:  idolatry, sorcery - cf. Ga 5:20a
      3. Sins contrary to love:  hatred, contentions, jealousies,
         outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,
         envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries - cf. Ga 5:20b-21

[We may not be guilty of immorality, but if we are unable to receive the
solid food of God's Word, or if we are given to envy and strife, then we
are still carnal!  If such be case, what can one do...?]


      1. Lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness - Jm 1:21a
      2. Receive with meekness the implanted word - Jm 1:21b
      3. Be doers of the word, and not hearers only - Jm 1:22

      1. Lay aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil
         speaking - 1Pe 2:1
      2. Desire the pure milk of the Word, as newborn babes - 1Pe 2:2

      1. Seek those things which are above - Col 3:1-2
      2. Put off the old man by crucifying your members on the earth
         - Col 3:5-9
      3. Put on the new man by adorning yourself with Christ-like graces
         - Col 3:10-14
      4. Let peace and gratitude reign in your heart - Col 3:15
      5. Let the Word of Christ dwell richly in you through song 
         - Co 3:16
      6. Do all in the name of the Lord - Col 3:17
      7. Walk in the Spirit, and be led by the Spirit - Ga 5:16-26


1. Those who walk in the Spirit...
   a. Will not be conceited, provoking others, envious of others - cf.
      Ga 5:25-26
   b. They will not be carnal! - cf. 1Co 3:3

2. Those who produce the fruit of the Spirit...
   a. Will display a spirit of gentleness in their interaction with others
   b. They will be truly spiritual! - cf. Ga 6:1

If the apostle Paul were to write to us today, would he say we are still
carnal?  May the example of the Corinthians motivate us to become more
spiritual and mature in our service to the Lord...!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Bart Ehrman's Forged: Next Verse Same as the First by Dewayne Bryant, M.A.


Bart Ehrman's Forged: Next Verse Same as the First

by Dewayne Bryant, M.A.

The past decade has seen anti-Christian books scale the peak of bestseller lists ranging everywhere from the New York Times to Amazon.com. It includes everything from the work of new atheists like Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens to new age gurus like Eckhart Tolle. Even in a culture where Christianity has been the dominant faith of millions for over two centuries, it would appear that there is a ready market for works aggressively promoting alternatives to Christianity. 
One of the most curious success stories is that of Bart Ehrman. A professor at the highly respected University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ehrman took many people by surprise when his book, Misquoting Jesus, rocketed to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. No one could have ever predicted that a book about textual criticism would have been so popular. After writing several bestselling books, appearing on talk shows, and receiving invitations to speak all across the United States, he could nearly be called an academic celebrity.
Ehrman’s style is popular-level and easy to read. It is also highly critical of the Bible. Those who have followed Ehrman’s career will note that he has grown increasingly strident in his criticism over time. In Misquoting Jesus he argues that the New Testament’s authors were guilty of inserting errors, often by mistake. In Jesus, Interrupted he muses that Christian scholars and ministers are somewhat dishonest about the “problem texts” of the Bible. Now he says that the New Testament authors were not just mistaken—they were liars. 
In Forged: Writing in the Name of God, Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are, Ehrman contends that a number of New Testament books were forgeries created by others who had no connection to Jesus. His goal is to expose the alleged deception practiced by the early church, or at least those who wrote these supposedly fraudulent texts. Some of Ehrman’s assertions include: (1) Peter was illiterate and could not have written 1 and 2 Peter, (2) six of Paul’s epistles are forgeries, and (3) 1 Timothy is a forgery that has been used to oppress women. Throughout the book he claims repeatedly that he holds the same view to which the majority of scholars subscribe, although he rarely cites any authors who agree with him.


In Forged, Ehrman discusses the subject of pseudepigraphy—the writing of books under false names—in the first few centuries of the early church. Although he has addressed the issue in previous books, this is his most extended discussion of the topic. According to Ehrman, there were two different types of pseudepigraphical books included in the New Testament. First, some books were supposedly published anonymously but later had authors’ names attached, such as the Gospels (although this could not have been possible, since the early church was virtually unanimous on their authorship. If they had been published anonymously, there would be no end to the debate). Second, some were forged in the names of other authors, usually biblical figures of considerable significance. This practice abounded in the early centuries of the church. Examples include the Gospel of Peter and the Gospel of Thomas, as well as numerous other gospels, apocalypses, and epistles. The second category is where Ehrman places six of Paul’s epistles.
Determining the authorship of any particular work is an oft-debated topic among scholars, given the fact that an author’s language may be influenced by a number of factors. While some scholars were incredibly skeptical of the Pauline authorship of several of the apostles’ letters a half century ago, scholarship has undergone some level of self-correction. Concerning Ehrman’s assertions that the majority of scholars deny the Pauline authorship of nearly half of Paul’s epistles, professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary and St. Andrews University, Ben Witherington III states:
In fact the majority of English speaking commentators and specialists on documents such as 2 Thessalonians, Colossians and Ephesians think these documents also should be attributed to Paul, whatever scribes he may have used to produce them. I ought to know. I have researched and written commentaries on all these books. How many commentaries on books of the New Testament has Bart researched and written? None. Not one. And he should not be taken as a reliable guide on what the majority of commenting scholars think about these matters (2011).
In the case of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, as Witherington notes, scholars are becoming less dogmatic about the non-Pauline authorship of these letters. Donald Guthrie surveyed the Pauline authorship of these letters—as well as the difficulties in denying it—and concluded: “There has yet to be a satisfactory explanation of the composition of the Pastorals from the point of view of pseudonymous authorship” (Guthrie 1990, p. 62). Little has changed since Guthrie wrote those words. Ehrman does nothing to add to the discussion, doing little more than restating the same kinds of arguments that Guthrie and others since have found to be both tired and unsatisfactory.


One of Ehrman’s constant problems is his refusal to admit that opposing opinions could be true. Rather than engaging in the kind of diplomatic language that is common among scholars, he dogmatically asserts his view as correct. There is virtually no interaction with opposing views. On the rare occasion when he might mention another viewpoint, it is dismissed quickly. He illustrates this approach in Jesus, Interrupted when he says that some of his conservative “students refuse to listen—it is almost as if they cover their ears and hum loudly so they don’t have to hear anything that might cause them to doubt their cherished beliefs about the Bible” (2009, p. 14). It does not appear to occur to him that his students may be intelligent in their own right and have investigated the issue for themselves. Apparently, conservative believers aren’t the only ones who allegedly engage in this practice. Those who write books critical of the Bible appear to be equally guilty.
Witherington has long been critical of Ehrman’s refusal to interact with scholars with whom he disagrees. This is especially true in the case of scholarly treatments of who scribes were and how they went about practicing their craft. Forged includes a discussion of the production of ancient documents, but Witherington notes that Ehrman seems to have given little thought to the role and duties of scribes in the ancient world. In other words, he is concerned with texts, but not with how they were produced or by whom. He explains:
I need to say from the outset and on first glance that there appears to be a rather large lacunae in the argument of this book, namely the failure to do this study after having studied in depth ancient scribal practices and the roles of scribes in producing ancient documents in ancient Israel.  For example, I see no interaction whatsoever in this book with the landmark study of Karel Van der Toorn, Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible, in which it is demonstrated at length that scribes played a huge role in collecting, editing, and producing ancient documents, and that it was indeed a regular practice to name a scroll after either the originator of the tradition, or the first or a major contributor to the tradition (2011, italics and underline in orig.).
As in nearly all of his other popular-level books, Ehrman explains some of the things he considers to be contradictions. But the manner in which Ehrman describes these difficulties leaves the reader with the impression that in the last 2,000 years of biblical studies no one has ever thought through the difficult texts of the New Testament. To be sure, some of these problems are challenging (though none is without an adequate answer), but Ehrman leaves the impression that the only people who believe these supposed contradictions can be solved are those with a pre-commitment to biblical inerrancy. It is yet another example of Ehrman’s failure to interact with other viewpoints. Critics can accept the supposed reality of contradictions all too quickly, and Ehrman proves himself no exception. In an interview on the “Kirkus Reviews” Web site, Ehrman says:
The only people who take offense so far as I can tell are those for whom this kind of historical scholarship is blasphemy. My response to such people is that they need to look not only at the results of scholarship [as I lay them out in my books] but also at the evidence that makes these results convincing to scholars of all sorts of persuasions, Christian and non-Christian alike. The evidence that supports my claims in Forged is extremely compelling to most people who examine it (Pike, 2011, emp. in orig.).
As always, Ehrman presents his findings as the “result of scholarship,” implying that real scholarship—whoever or whatever that might be—agrees with him. In reality, numerous scholars disagree with him—not to mention the fact that the majority of his conclusions are simply false, regardless of the opinions of scholars. He consistently claims that his view is that of the majority, although he provides no defense of this assertion, nor does he point to other scholars who share his views. Instead, he engages in the curious habit of referring back to his own work rather than that of the mass of unnamed experts who allegedly agree with him.
In an article on the Huffington Post’s Web site, Ehrman insists:
Apart from the most rabid fundamentalists among us, nearly everyone admits that the Bible might contain errors—a faulty creation story here, a historical mistake there, a contradiction or two in some other place. But is it possible that the problem is worse than that—that the Bible actually contains lies?
Most people wouldn’t put it that way, since the Bible is, after all, sacred Scripture for millions on our planet. But good Christian scholars of the Bible, including the top Protestant and Catholic scholars of America, will tell you that the Bible is full of lies, even if they refuse to use the term. And here is the truth: Many of the books of the New Testament were written by people who lied about their identity, claiming to be a famous apostle—Peter, Paul or James—knowing full well they were someone else. In modern parlance, that is a lie, and a book written by someone who lies about his identity is a forgery (2011b).
Why is this alleged consensus of scholarship not forthcoming about the “truth” of these lies, mistakes, and contradictions? According to Ehrman, many scholars are ministers and professors who have to serve the needs of their clientele (see Ehrman, 2009, pp. 13-14). Ministers don’t want to be honest because either it conflicts with their personal faith, or they fear being fired by their elderships. Professors really do know the truth, Ehrman claims, but they cannot be honest about it, because they largely teach in colleges, seminaries, and divinity schools. They cannot denigrate the very texts they are teaching to Christian students without suffering repercussions from their constituency. Simply put, Ehrman implies Christian scholars are dishonest, if not duplicitous, and have engineered a conspiracy to keep the populace from learning the “truth.” Conspiracy theories like this have no place in any serious discussion of these issues.


On-line reviews of Ehrman’s work seem to fall into one of two main categories: (1) New Testament scholars who have critiqued Ehrman’s work and point out his tendency to sensationalize the issues, make unsubstantiated assertions, and downplay or ignore evidence that does not agree with his position, and (2) skeptics with an obvious lack of biblical knowledge who lament that the “fundamentalists” are too mired in their faith positions to take Ehrman seriously. That the latter group demonstrates little discernable awareness of the former is somewhat ironic.
In an interview on Salon.com, Gary Kamiya begins with the words, “Bart Ehrman’s career is testament to the fact that no one can slice and dice a belief system more surgically than someone who grew up inside it” (2009). Even so, those on the outside with little knowledge of the subject often make critical errors in their assessment of the situation. Like many other reviewers, Mr. Kamiya seems to be unfamiliar with the literature produced by scholars that answers Ehrman’s claims, points out his errors, and calls attention to the deficiencies in his work.
Though he is respected in academia for his work in textual criticism, Ehrman consistently proves he is no theologian. He continues to trot out some very strange arguments, such as the idea that the New Testament teaches women can only be saved by having children (2011a, pp. 94,100,103; see also 2006, p. 237). There is no question that 1 Timothy 2:15 is a difficult verse (Miller, 2005), but to think that Paul is actually saying that women can only be saved by bearing children borders on, if not crosses over into, the ridiculous. For Paul, salvation is not works-based (Ephesians 2:9). Surely Ehrman knows better than this, since he repeatedly touts his training at conservative denominational schools like Moody Bible College and Wheaton College. If he was as serious a student as he claims in his books, then he should know that this interpretation is both unbiblical and unsustainable.
Ehrman gives the impression that he is like other critics of the Bible who are interested in criticism rather than truth. While he claims to be a “happy agnostic” and repeatedly affirms that he is not a Christian, it seems that he has retained all the passion and zeal of an evangelist, if not an apologist. Indeed, a few have gone even farther and called him a “reverse fundamentalist.” This is not too far off the mark, as his tone over the course of the last couple of decades seems to have gotten much more combative. His earlier books had a softer approach, discussing the issue of unintentional “mistakes” and “errors” in the Bible. Forgedstraightforwardly and repeatedly labels the biblical authors as liars. One wonders if he has not taken a few steps down the same path as the new atheists, whose book sales are roughly proportionate to the amount of vitriol they contain. For example, as of July 2007, Richard Dawkins’ caustic The God Delusion vastly outperformed Daniel Dennett’s softer Breaking the Spell, selling 500,000 copies to Dennett’s paltry 64,000 at a rate of 9:1. If this is any indicator, then Ehrman’s new book should do well. This also brings up questions concerning Ehrman’s motivation for increasing public awareness about the “truth” of the Bible. In earlier works like Misquoting Jesus and Jesus, Interrupted he presents himself as a simple informer seeking greater levels of biblical awareness for the general public. Now he seems to be a crusader, or worse, a profiteer.
Ehrman is a highly entertaining storyteller. He has a vast knowledge of extrabiblical works full of fanciful miracle stories. He clearly believes that the Bible is not too different than these outrageous books, but his skill in pointing out their absurdities makes his own position more difficult to maintain. It is apparent that extrabiblical books were not inspired. Recounting their preposterous fictions only highlights their differences from the New Testament. The biblical authors did not include material featuring talking crosses, levitating virgins, bizarre miracles, and divine mischief. They concerned themselves with reporting historical facts. The uninspired authors seemed much more interested in telling weird stories.
Ehrman promises much but delivers little. Like his other published works, Forged makes grand claims supported with surprisingly little evidence, shows almost no interaction with other viewpoints, and, perhaps most importantly, continues to trot out the same tired arguments even though they have been answered by New Testament scholars in sources ranging from published books and articles to blogs and Web sites on the Internet. One of the strong points of Ehrman’s work is that he is a fine storyteller. For a respected academic, it is too bad that he has sullied his own reputation by offering materials that look less like the truth and more like tall tales.


Ehrman, Bart D. (2006), Peter, Paul, and Mary: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend(Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Ehrman, Bart D. (2009), Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them) (New York: HarperOne).
Ehrman, Bart D. (2011a), Forged: Writing in the Name of God—Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are (New York: HarperOne).
Ehrman, Bart D. (2011b), “Who Wrote the Bible and Why it Matters,” March 25,  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bart-d-ehrman/the-bible-telling-lies-to_b_840301.html.
Guthrie, Donald (1990), The Pastoral Epistles (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press).
Kamiya, Gary (2009), “Jesus is Just Alright With Him,” April 3, http://www.salon.com/news/environment/atoms_eden/2009/04/03/jesus_interrupted.
Miller, Dave (2005), “Female Leadership and the Church,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/article/1407.
Pike, William E. (2011), “‘Forged’: Bart Ehrman on the Bible’s True Authors,” March 23, http://www.kirkusreviews.com/blog/question-and-answer/forged-bart-ehrman-bibles-true-authors/.
Witherington, Ben (2011), “Forged—Bart Ehrman’s New Salvo—The Introduction,” March 30, http://www.patheos.com/community/bibleandculture/2011/03/30/forged-bart-ehrmans-new-salvo-the-introduction/.

Are We “100% Sure” Goldilocks Planet has Life? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Are We “100% Sure” Goldilocks Planet has Life?

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Associated Press science writer Seth Borenstein recently reported on a new planet that seems to be in what scientists call the “Goldilocks zone.” What is the “Goldilocks zone?” Very few places in our Universe maintain conditions that are suitable for life. One of those conditions is that liquid water must be present. The “Goldilocks zone” is a specific distance from any star that is “not too hot, not too cold. Juuuust right,”—a situation that allows water to remain in its liquid form (Borenstein, 2010). According to atheistic, evolutionary ideas about the origin of the Universe, in theory, there should be hundreds, thousands, or even millions of planets in our Universe that maintain conducive conditions for life to “begin.” In fact, we are incessantly informed by the media and the scientific community that it is just a matter of time before we discover other planets where life has evolved from non-living chemicals. One would think, according to the propaganda about life arising in other places, that a little liquid water and a few amino acids thrown together will inevitably produce life.

Thus, we have a report of the first Earth-like planet that could possibly “support life.” The planet, labeled Gliese 581g, is the sixth planet from a dwarf star named Gliese 581. Borenstein described the planet in the following way:
It is about three times the mass of Earth, slightly larger in width and much closer to its star—14 million miles away versus 93 million. It’s so close to its version of the sun that it orbits every 37 days. And it doesn’t rotate much, so one side is almost always bright, the other dark. Temperatures can be as hot as 160 degrees or as frigid as 25 degrees below zero, but in between—in the land of constant sunrise—it would be “shirt-sleeve weather,” said co-discoverer Steven Vogt (Borenstein, 2010).
Gliese 581g is of interest, then, because there is a chance that it could have liquid water on its surface. Of course, as Borenstein noted: “It’s unknown whether water actually exists on the planet.” What, then, is so important about liquid water, as opposed to any other constraints that are necessary for life to survive? Vogt said that “chances for life on this planet are 100 percent” since “there always seems to be life on Earth where there is water.” Wow! Look at that reasoning. This new planet might have some water, so we are 100% sure there is life on the planet. We are not even 100% sure it has water. How in the world could we be sure it has life?

The false idea that finding liquid water is the equivalent of finding biological life is easy to debunk. Take some water, kill all the microscopic organisms in it so that no life exists. Add any amino acids or “building blocks” of life that you want, then shock the mixture, blow it up, heat it, cool it, or whatever else you want to do, and see if you get life. News flash—you don’t get life! Louis Pasteur proved that almost 150 years ago (Butt, 2002). Yet Vogt boldly stated: “It’s pretty hard to stop life once you give it the right conditions” (as quoted in Borenstein). And what, pray tell, are the right conditions? Vogt can’t tell you, and neither can any other human alive. Water is certainly not “the right conditions” for life, because we can supply water to any mixture of non-living chemicals all day long for the next 20 billion years and not get life.

What, in reality, are the “right conditions” for life to begin? There is really only one: an intelligent Creator must superintend the process. “In the beginning was water,” will not produce life. But “in the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth,” will supply the necessary condition for life on Earth or any other planet—God. Beware of the false assumptions that fill the media and “scientific” discussions of other planets and life in outer space.


Borentstein, Seth (2010), “Could ‘Goldilocks’ Planet Be Just Right for Life?”, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100929/ap_on_sc/us_sci_new_earths.

Butt, Kyle (2002), “Biogenesis—The Long Arm of the Law,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1769.

The "Paying-a-debt Theory" by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


The "Paying-a-debt Theory"

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

It never ceases to amaze me that, even though our society “talks religion” on a regular basis, the one place we, as a society, neglect to go for real answers is the only place that has the answers—the Bible. On the cover of the April 12, 2004 edition of Time magazine, an artist’s depiction of Jesus grabs the readers attention and directs the reader to the question written in a large font across the right side of the cover: “Why Did Jesus Have to Die?” The lengthy six-page spread discussing the question is filled with quotes from theologians, ministers, and preachers, with an occasional Bible verse gratuitously inserted to give the article a hint of “religious authenticity.”
The six different authors of the article focused on two primary “theories” as to why Jesus died on the cross. One theory they attributed to Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1098. This theory they called the “paying-a-debt theory,” in which Christ’s death on the cross paid a debt for sinners that those sinners had no way to pay. This idea they termed “substitutionary atonement.” The idea pitted against the “paying-a-debt theory” was the theory of exemplary atonement. According to the idea of exemplary atonement, Jesus came to show humans an example to follow, and His death was not necessarily accomplished to pay some kind of debt.
“Experts” for both theories were interviewed. John Dominic Crossan, in his discussion of the theory of substitutionary atonement, called this idea “the most unfortunately successful idea in the history of Christian thought.” His reasoning for that was: “If I can persuade you that there’s a punishing God and that you deserve to be punished but I have some sort of way out for you, then that’s a very attractive theology” (as quoted in Chu, et al., 2004, 163[15]:60). Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention Southern Seminary, spoke against the idea that Jesus’ sacrifice was purely for example, with no payment of debt attached.
The most disturbing aspect of the article was the fact that the Bible—the only resource that could actually answer the question at hand—was given scant attention. In the six pages of writing, one short verse from Isaiah was quoted, one verse from the Psalms, a brief six-line discussion about Paul’s letter to the Romans, a single paragraph quoting a verse from Hebrews, one from Mark, one verse from 1 Peter, and one verse from Colossians. The verses quoted from Hebrews (9:12) and Mark (10:45) explained that Christ was ransomed for many, and that with His own blood He attained their eternal redemption.
Not only were the Bible verses in the article few and far between, they were put on par with the quotes from the “experts” and given little, if any, authoritative value. They were presented, not as the Word of God, but simply as another voice to be heard in the discussion. Furthermore, Anselm was credited with “developing” the “theory” of atonement—an idea that the biblical writers had “developed” through inspiration almost a thousand years before Anselm.
The real question of the article should have been: “According to the Bible, why did Jesus die on the cross?” A complete catalog of every verse pertaining to this question is not feasible in this brief article. But a few of the more direct statements make it clear that the Bible clearly depicts Jesus’ death on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for sinners who could not pay their own debt. Hebrews 9:22 explains that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission” of sins. Later in the chapter, the Hebrews writer remarked that “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many” (9:28). The prophet Isaiah wrote: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for out peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed…. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When you make His soul an offering for sin” (53:4-6,10).
John wrote that Jesus is “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). The word propitiation means a satisfactory sacrifice or a sacrifice of appeasement. In a discussion with the elders from the church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul exhorted the leaders “to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). The verse in Hebrews referred to in the article sums up the idea of atonement quite well: “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place, once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (9:12).
It is true that several verses in the Bible explain that Jesus’ death was also accomplished to provide an example of how to behave when persecuted (1 Peter 2:21-25). It is not true, however, that this example detracts in anyway from the fact that Jesus was the satisfactory sacrifice Who paid the debt of sins and was offered as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. Anselm did not develop the “theory” of atonement in 1098. The fact of atonement was in God’s mind even before time began (1 Peter 1:18-20), and eventually was accomplished through the death and resurrection of Christ. The article in Time magazine shows a fundamental problem with religion in America. Our society has stopped going to the Bible for definitive answers, and looks to the “experts” to answer questions that can only be answered correctly via the Bible. Until we, as a people, decide to go back to the Word of God for our answers, we will continue to meander aimlessly in philosophical and religious mire. We must adopt the attitude recorded by the psalmist in regard to God’s Word: “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts” (119:97-100).


Chu, Jeff, et al. (2004), “Why Did Jesus Die?”, Time, 163[15]:54-61, April 12.

Did Jesus Go to Hell? Did He Preach to Spirits in Prison? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


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 17thcenturies, due to translator confusion regarding the technical distinctions that exist between the pertinent Greek terms. Specifically, the Greek term hades generally was equated with gehennaHades 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 gehennawas 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).


Calvin, 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).

“Almost,” or Hardly, Human by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


“Almost,” or Hardly, Human

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

In April 2008, National Geographic published an article by Mary Roach titled “Almost Human” (213[4]:124-145). In the article, Roach highlighted the savanna-woodland chimps that she observed while visiting anthropologist Jill Pruetz in eastern Senegal, West Africa. Roach was mesmerized by chimpanzees “dropping from the trees and moving out into the open expanses of the savanna” (p. 132). She wrote: “It is as though we are watching time-lapse footage of human evolution, the dawn of man unfolding in our binoculars” (p. 132). The chimps of eastern Senegal soak in water holes, use teeth-sharpened sticks to spear hand-sized bush babies, laugh, kiss, pick their scabs, and do many other things that allegedly reveal “how similar they are to us” (p. 144). Supposedly, the chimps are “almost human” (p. 125).
Unfortunately, evolutionists so often overlook the chasm that separates man and chimp. Although evolutionists are fond of focusing on the similarities between humans and chimpanzees in order to bolster the case for human evolution (similarities that might also be found among other animals as well), the fact remains that man can do many things that animals never have been (and never will be) able to do.
Consider man’s ability to speak. The Bible tells us that Adam was created with this ability “in the beginning.” The very day he was created, he named all of the animals before him (Genesis 2:19), and later he used language to offer excuses as to why he disobeyed God. Humans carry on conversations all the time. But when is the last time you heard chimps converse with one another using words? The gift of speech, a fundamental part of man’s nature, likens him to God and separates him from the rest of creation (cf. Genesis 1:26-28).
Unlike animals, man has the creative ability to design and make spaceships that travel 240,000 miles to the Moon, to make artificial hearts for the sick, and to construct computers that can process billions of pieces of information per second. Animals, on the other hand, cannot do such things because they lack the creative ability that God gave only to man. Beavers may build huts, spiders may weave webs, and chimps may soak in water holes, but they are guided by instinct. Thousands of attempts have been made to teach animals to express themselves in art, music, and writing, but none has produced the hoped-for success.
Also, unlike animals, man always has sought to worship a higher being. Even when he departs from the true God, man still worships something, whether it is a tree, a rock, or even himself. No race or tribe of men anywhere in the world lacks the desire and ability to worship. Chimps, however, never stop to sing a hymn of praise or offer a prayer of thanks to their Creator.
Until National Geographic witnesses chimps bridging these kinds of gaps that separate man and chimp, we suggest they adopt different titles for their human evolution articles. Chimps are nowhere close to being “Almost Human.”


Roach, Mary (2008), “Almost Human,” National Geographic, 213[4]:124-145, April.

Abortion and the Bible by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Abortion and the Bible

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Every year in the United States of America, more than one million children are butchered by abortion doctors. Since 1973, when the Supreme Court legalized abortion-on-demand, some forty-three million babies have been slaughtered in America (see “Consequences,” 2003). Every year, an estimated forty-six million abortions occur worldwide (Alan Guttmacher Institute, 2002). In three decades, an entire generation of children has been forever eliminated. In fact, more than 20% of all babies conceived in this country are killed before they ever see the light of day (Finer and Henshaw, 2003, p. 6)—and the slaughter continues....
Some encouraging signs have surfaced recently. In March 2003, the United States Senate, by a 64-33 vote, approved a ban on the particularly barbaric abortion procedure known as “partial-birth” abortion (Kiely, 2003). In their efforts to sort out the moral and ethical issues involved in human cloning, the President’s Council on Bioethics concluded, among other things, that “the case for treating the early-stage embryo as simply the moral equivalent of all other human cells…is simply mistaken” (Kass, 2002, p. liv). But even these laudable attempts to turn back the tide of moral degradation that has swept over the nation are too little, too late.
A significant number of Americans consider abortion to be an acceptable option. What would one expect? They’ve been browbeaten with the “politically correct” agenda of the social liberals for decades. The highest court in the land has weighed in on the matter, making abortion legitimate by means of the power of “the law.” The medical profession has followed suit, lending its prestige and sanction to the practice of abortion—in direct violation of the Hippocratic Oath. But have the majority of Americans heard the biblical viewpoint? Do they even care how God feels about abortion? Are they interested in investigating His view of the matter? After all, the Bible does, in fact, speak decisively about abortion.
American civilization has undergone a sweeping cultural revolution for over forty years. The American moral framework is being restructured, and this country’s religious roots and spiritual perspective are being altered. The founding fathers and the American population of the first 150 years of our national existence would not have tolerated many of the beliefs and practices that have become commonplace in society. This list of practices would include gambling (i.e., the lottery, horse-racing, casinos, etc.), divorce, alcohol and public drunkenness, homosexuality, unwed pregnancy, and pornography in movies and magazines. These behaviors simply would not have been tolerated by the bulk of American society from the beginning up to World War II. But the moral and religious foundations of our nation are experiencing catastrophic erosion. The widespread practice of abortion is simply one sign among many of this cultural shift in our country.
But there is still a God in Heaven—the omnipotent, omniscient Creator of the Universe. He has communicated to the human race in the Bible, and He has stated that He one day will call all human beings who have ever lived to account, and He will judge them on the basis of their behavior on Earth. Therefore, every single person is responsible for carefully studying God’s Word, determining how He wants us to behave, and then complying with those directions. It is that simple, and it is that certain.
While the Bible does not speak directly to the practice of abortion, it does provide enough relevant material to enable us to know God’s will on the matter. In Zechariah 12:1, God is said to be not only the Creator of the heavens and the Earth, but also the One Who “forms the spirit of man within him.” So God is the giver of life. That alone makes human life sacred. God is responsible for implanting the human spirit within the human body. We humans have no right to end human life—unless God authorizes us to do so. But taking a human life, biblically, is based on that human’s behavior. Taking the life of an unborn infant certainly is not based upon the moral conduct of that infant. So if God places the human spirit in a human being while that person is in the mother’s womb, to end that life is a deliberate attempt to thwart God’s action of “forming the spirit of man in him.”
But when does the human spirit enter the human body and thereby bring into existence a human being? When does God implant the soul into the body—at birth or prior to birth? The Bible provides abundant evidence to answer that question. For example, the Bible states: “As you do not know what is the way of the spirit, or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, so you do not know the works of God who makes all things” (Ecclesiastes 11:5). In this passage, Solomon equated fetal development with the activity of God. Job described the same process in Job 10:11-12. There he attributed his pre-birth growth to God. David was even more specific.
For You have formed my inward parts; You have covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them (Psalm 139:13-16).
David insisted that his development as a human being—his personhood—was achieved by Godprior to his birth, while he was yet in his mother’s womb. Some have suggested that Ecclesiastes, Job, and Psalms are all books of poetry and, therefore, not to be taken literally. However, poetic language has meaning. Solomon, Job, and David were clearly attributing their pre-birth personhood to the creative activity of God.
Of course, many additional passages that make the same point are not couched in poetic imagery. Jeremiah declared: “Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; and I ordained you a prophet to the nations’ ” (Jeremiah 1:4-5). Compare this statement with Paul’s equivalent claim, in which he said that God set him apart to do his apostolic ministry even while he was in his mother’s womb (Galatians 1:15). Isaiah made the same declaration: “Listen, O coastlands, to me, and take heed, you peoples from afar! The Lord has called me from the womb; from the matrix of my mother He has made mention of my name” (Isaiah 49:1).
These passages do not teach predestination. Jeremiah and Paul could have exercised their free will and rejected God’s will for their lives—in which case God would have found someone else to do the job. But these passages do teach that God treats people as human beings even beforethey are born. These passages show that a pre-born infant is a person—a human being. There is no significant difference between a human baby one minute before birth and that same human baby one minute after birth. And that status as a human being applies to a person throughout his or her pre-natal development from the moment of conception.
Consider further the recorded visit that Mary, the mother of Jesus, made to Elizabeth, the mother of John the baptizer. Both women were pregnant at the time.
Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy” (Luke 1:39-44).
Notice that Elizabeth’s pre-born baby is being represented as a living human being. In fact, the term “baby” used in verses 41 and 44 to refer to the pre-born John is the exact same term that is used in chapter two to refer to Jesus after His birth as He laid in the manger (Luke 2:12,16). So in God’s sight, whether a person is in his or her pre-birth developmental state, or in a post-birth developmental state, that person is still a baby! In Luke 1:36, John the Baptist is referred to as “a son” from the very moment of conception. All three phases of human life are listed in reverse order in Hosea 9:11—birth, pregnancy, and conception.
If abortion is not wrong, Mary would have been within her moral and spiritual rights to abort the baby Jesus—the divine Son of God! Someone may say, “But that’s different, since God had a special plan for that child.” But the Bible teaches that God has special plans for every human being. Every single human life is precious to God—so much so that a single soul is more significant than everything else that is physical in the world (Matthew 16:26). God sacrificed His own Son for every single human being on an individual basis. Each human life is equally valuable to God. The unrealized and incomprehensible potential for achieving great things by millions of human beings has been forever expunged by abortion. The remarkably resourceful potential of even one of those tiny human minds—now extinguished—may well have included a cure for cancer, or some other horrible, debilitating, and deadly disease.
Another insightful passage from the Old Testament is found in Exodus 21:22-25. This passage describes what action is to be taken in a case of accidental injury to a pregnant woman:
If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no lasting harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if any lasting harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe (NKJV).
This passage has been mistranslated in some versions. For example, some versions use the word “miscarriage” instead of translating the Hebrew phrase literally—“so that her children come out.” The text is envisioning a situation in which two brawling men accidentally injure a pregnant bystander. The injury causes the woman to go into early labor, resulting in a premature birth of her child. If neither the woman nor the child is harmed, then the Law of Moses levied a fine against the one who caused the premature birth. But if injury or even death resulted from the brawl, then the law imposed a parallel punishment: if the premature baby died, the one who caused the premature birth was to be executed—life for life. This passage clearly considers the pre-born infant to be a human being, and to cause a pre-born infant’s death was homicide under the Old Testament—homicide punishable by death.
Notice that this regulation under the Law of Moses had to do with injury inflicted accidentally. Abortion is a deliberatepurposeful termination of a child’s life. If God dealt severely with the accidental death of a pre-born infant, how do you suppose He feels about the deliberate murder of the unborn by an abortion doctor? The Bible states explicitly how He feels: “[D]o not kill the innocent and righteous. For I will not justify the wicked” (Exodus 23:7). As a matter of fact, one of the things that God hates is “hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:17).
This matter of abortion is a serious matter with God. We absolutely must base our views on God’s will—not the will of men. The very heart and soul of this great nation is being ripped out by unethical behaviors like abortion. We must return to the Bible as our standard of behavior—before it is too late.
When one contemplates the passages examined above, and compares them with what is happening in society, one surely is amazed and appalled. For example, women have been indicted and convicted of the murder of their own children when those children have been just a few months old. The news media nationwide, and society in general, have been up in arms and outraged at the unconscionable behavior of mothers who have so harmed their young children so as to result in death. Most Americans have been incensed that a mother could have so little regard for the lives of her own children. Yet the same society and the same news media that are outraged at such behavior would have been perfectly content for the same mother to have murdered the same children if she had simply chosen to do so a few minutes or a few months before those children were actually born! Such is the insanity of a civilization that has become estranged from God.
A terrible and tragic inconsistency and incongruity exists in this country. Merely taking possession of an egg containing the pre-born American bald eagle—let alone if one were to destroy that little pre-birth environment and thus destroy the baby eagle that is developing within—results in a stiff fine and even prison time. Yet one can take a human child in its pre-born environment and not only murder that child, but also receive government blessing to do so! Eagle eggs, i.e., pre-born eagles, are of greater value to American civilization than pre-born humans! What has happened to our society? This cannot be harmonized in a consistent, rational fashion. The ethics and moral sensibilities that lie behind this circumstance are absolutely bizarre.
The ethical disharmony and moral confusion that reign in our society have escalated the activity of criminals who commit a variety of heinous crimes—killing large numbers of people, raping women, and doing all sorts of terrible things. Yet, a sizeable portion of society is against capital punishment. Many people feel that these wicked adults, who have engaged in heinous, destructive conduct, should not be executed—a viewpoint that flies directly in the face of what the Bible teaches (Romans 13:1-6; 1 Peter 2:13-14). God wants evildoers in society to be punished—even to the point of capital punishment. Yet, we will not execute guilty, hardened criminals, while we will execute innocent human babies! How can one possibly accept this terrible disparity and the horrible scourge of abortion?
The ultimate solution to every moral issue is genuine New Testament Christianity and the objective standard of the Bible. If all people would organize their lives around the precepts and principles presented in the Bible, civilization would be in good shape. No other suitable alternative exists. There is simply no other way to live life cohesively, with focus, with perspective, with direction, and with the proper sense of the purpose of life.


Alan Guttmacher Institute (2002), “Induced Abortion,” [On-line], URL: http://www.agi-usa.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.pdf.
“Consequences of Roe v. Wade” (2003), National Right to Life, [On-line], URL: http://www.nrlc.org/abortion/facts/pbafacts.html.
Finer, Lawrence B. and Stanley K. Henshaw (2003), “Abortion Incidence and Services in the United States in 2000,” [On-line], URL: http://www.agi-usa.org/pubs/journals/3500603.pdf.
Kass, Leon (2002), Human Cloning and Human Dignity (New York: PublicAffairs).
Kiely, Kathy (2003), “Senate Okays Partial Birth Abortion Ban,” [On-line], URL: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2003-01-15-abortion-usat_x.htm.