"THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS" The Fruit Of The Spirit - II (5:22-23) by Mark Copeland

                     "THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS"

                 The Fruit Of The Spirit - II (5:22-23)

1. In discussing "the fruit of the Spirit", the nine graces are often
   divided into three groups...:
   a. Those graces which turns one's thought toward God...
      1) Love (for love is of God)
      2) Joy (for we rejoice in the Lord)
      3) Peace (for from God comes the peace that surpasses
   b. Those that directs our attention to our fellowman...
      4) Longsuffering
      5) Kindness
      6) Goodness
   c. Those which refer more directly to oneself...
      7) Faithfulness
      8) Gentleness (meekness)
      9) Self-control

2. Our previous study focused on the first triad of graces...
   a. Love - active good will, toward God and man
   b. Joy - gladness, delight, which is inexpressible and full of glory
   c. Peace - harmony, concord, that surpasses understanding

[We now turn our attention to the second triplet of graces:
longsuffering, kindness, and goodness...]


      1. Grk., makrothumia ('patience' in the NASB)
         a. Literally, it means being "long-tempered" (the opposite of
         b. "patience, forbearance, longsuffering, slowness in avenging
            wrongs" - Thayer
      2. "Longsuffering is that quality of self-restraint in the face of
         provocation which does not hastily retaliate or promptly
         punish. It is the opposite of anger and is associated with
         mercy, and is used of God." - Vine
      3. The purpose of God's longsuffering - cf. 2Pe 3:7-9
         a. That we might have salvation! - 2Pe 3:15
         b. That we might be led to repentance! - Ro 2:4
         c. That those who fear Him and keep His commandments might
            delight in His lovingkindness, even though they have sinned
            - cf. Ps 103:8-18
      -- Those "led by the Spirit" will produce the fruit of
         LONGSUFFERING in their lives

      1. Necessary if we desire God to be longsuffering toward us - cf.
         Mt 18:32-35
      2. Necessary to maintain the unity of the Spirit - Ep 4:1-3
      3. Necessary for preachers and teachers of the gospel - 2Ti 2:
         24-26; 3:10; 4:2
      4. Developed through love and prayer - cf. 1Co 13:4-8a; Col 1:9-11
      -- Do we manifest that we "walk by the Spirit" in regards to

[When one possesses the quality of longsuffering, kindness naturally


      1. Grk., chrestotes - this word describes "the sympathetic
         kindliness or sweetness of temper which puts others at their
         ease, and shrinks from giving pain" - Plummer
         a. It therefore describes a quality that makes other people
            feel at ease when with you
         b. They know you will be kind, or gentle
      2. In the Septuagint, it is used of God more than anyone else
         a. Where it is often translated as 'good' - cf. Ps 106:1;
         b. Referring not to God's moral goodness, but rather to His
            kindness, expressed in His mercy
      3. In the New Testament, we read of the kindness of God
         a. In nature, even to ungrateful and evil men 
            - Lk 6:35; cf. Mt 5:45
         b. In the giving of His Son, in whom we have salvation - Tit 3:
         c. Even in the ages to come - Ep 2:7
      -- Those "led by the Spirit" will produce the fruit of KINDNESS in
         their lives

      1. Is part of the Christian "garment" we are to put on - cf. Co
      2. Should characterize our treatment of one another - Ep 4:31-32
      3. Do we act with kindness toward others?
         a. So that others are "at ease" in our presence?
         b. So that others feel they can draw close to us?
      4. Or do we with sharp words, cold shoulders, or arrogant
         condescension discourage others from feeling comfortable around
      -- Do we manifest that we "walk by the Spirit" in regards to

[Putting the spirit of kindness into action is the quality of


      1. Grk., agathosune - active goodness, benevolent - Complete
         WordStudy Dictionary
         a. "It is more than chrestotes, gentleness, kindness, a
            mellowing of character." - ibid.
         b. "It is character energized, expressing itself in agathon,
            benevolence, active good." - ibid.
      2. Barnabas was a good man - Ac 11:24
         a. He was happy to see the progress of others; i.e., he was not
            envious - Ac 11:23
         b. He was an encourager of others - Ac 11:23
         c. He was liberal with his good words, which is how he got his
            name - cf. Ac 4:36
         d. He was generous with his possessions - cf. Ac 4:32-37
      3. Dorcas was a good woman - Ac 9:36
         a. She was "full of good works and charitable deeds"
         b. Even in her death, her goodness was being felt - cf. Ac 9:39
      -- Those "led by the Spirit" will produce the fruit of GOODNESS in
         their lives

      1. Those led by the Spirit of God will produce the quality of
         "goodness" - cf. Ep 5:8-9
      2. We have been created in Christ for this very purpose! - Ep 2:10
      3. We should do good unto all men, especially their brethren 
         - Ga 6:10
      4. The Scriptures furnish us completely for this task - 2Ti 3:
      -- Do we manifest that we "walk by the Spirit" in regards to


1. Again we note the contrast between the Spirit and the flesh...
   a. Those who walk by the Spirit experience longsuffering, kindness,
      and goodness
   b. Those who indulge fleshly lusts experience contentions, envy, and
      selfish ambitions

2. Which would you rather have...?
   a. A life developing longsuffering, kindness, and goodness, with the
      help of the Holy Spirit?
   b. A life devastated by contentions, envy, and selfish ambitions, due
      to your own fleshly lusts?

In the words of Paul (Ga 5:16):  "I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and
you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh."  Are you walking in the
Spirit, allowing Him to produce His fruit in your life...?

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Did the Hebrew Writers Borrow from Ancient Near Eastern Mythology? by Dewayne Bryant, Ph.D.


Did the Hebrew Writers Borrow from Ancient Near Eastern Mythology?
by Dewayne Bryant, Ph.D.

For centuries, the bulk of the people in the West regarded the Bible as the Word of God. They saw it as the inerrant and inspired revelation of God to His creation. Beginning in the mid-1800s, some academicians began rejecting the inspiration of the Bible. This came, in part, after the discovery of ancient mythological texts. Upon examining the textual evidence, skeptics highlighted the Bible’s similarities with other literature and claimed it to be only one sacred book among a larger body of myth. After studying the Bible’s differences from ancient mythology, other scholars viewed these discoveries as confirmations of the Bible’s uniqueness. 
Perhaps the most dominant viewpoint in biblical studies concerning the biblical text is that the Bible contains significant amounts of mythology borrowed from Israel’s neighbors (although we should quickly add that truth is not determined by majority opinion). This presumption has dominated biblical studies for nearly two centuries. But as additional texts have surfaced, more cautious scholars have backed away from this viewpoint. Indeed, myth was once seen as pure fiction, but now scholars are beginning to realize that this may not necessarily be the case. The belief that myth may contain small nuggets of historical truth is gaining popularity, even if we recognize that tales of the gods were nothing more than the work of inventive scribes. So where does this leave the Bible? The question we must ask is this: is the Bible pure myth, or is it something else?
We must first determine what we mean by “myth.” It is a notoriously difficult term to define, and scholars use it with a variety of nuances (see Kreeft and Tacelli, 1994, pp. 212-213). Some define it as any story including the supernatural. Most separate myth from legend, with the former being stories about the gods, and the latter being stories—with varying degrees of historical truth—about human beings. In modern parlance, some use it to refer to fiction, especially the body of stories about a particular character (e.g., the mythology of Superman or Captain America). But if we look at the term as it bears on the sacred texts of the religions in the ancient Near East, it has a clearly defined usage.
In his book The Bible Among the Myths, Old Testament scholar John Oswalt notes the radical differences between mythological texts and the Hebrew Bible (2009). The Bible and ancient myth came from two fundamentally different worldviews. Although he identifies nearly a dozen different points, we will examine four in particular.


In the Bible, God’s moral character is    identified with holiness and righteousness. To be more accurate, it is His character that defines holiness. His attributes set the standards for behavior. They are ethically and morally pure and upright. Furthermore, since He is perfect and cannot fundamentally change (Malachi 3:6), He can become neither any better nor any worse. His goodness is celebrated throughout the Bible (Psalm 16:2; 31:19; 107:1). He cannot be tempted or tempt another (James 1:17), or look upon evil with any measure of approval (Habakkuk 1:13). Individuals mirror God’s holiness, in part through ethical living (Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:16).
The gods of the ancient Near East often commit evil acts and frequently give themselves over to debauchery. In Egyptian myth, the chaotic god Seth murders his brother Osiris and dismembers the body. In an Egyptian myth titled “The Contendings of Horus and Seth,” Seth attempts to rape his nephew Horus during a contest over who will take Osiris’ place (Lichtheim, 2006, 2:219). Rape is a common theme in the Greek myths, where women and even goddesses are violated with a frequency that would shock many modern readers. In the Atrahasis Epic, the gods are outraged because humanity is keeping them awake at night. They attempt to silence humanity through various means, including disease and famine, and finally send a flood to destroy humanity for the sake of a good night’s sleep (see Foster, 1997). The gods are not above getting drunk, either. In one Ugaritic text, called “The Myth of El’s Banquet,” the Canaanite god El (or Ilu) becomes inebriated, and on his way home meets an unidentified animal which causes him to soil himself and fall down into his own excrement (see Pardee, 1997). Such inglorious stories are nowhere to be found in the Bible about God. The God of the Bible can in no way be compared to deities of human invention.


The biblical account of mankind’s creation is the most complete and noble of any in ancient Near Eastern literature. Other accounts of man’s creation must be pieced together from various fragments (as in Egypt), or else depict man as little more than an afterthought (as in Mesopotamia). Regardless of the specific tradition, the requirements are clear: man is created to serve the gods, to perform services for them, and, should they fail, incur divine wrath. As Walton observes:
while Israelites viewed man as created to rule, Mesopotamians viewed him as created to serve…. The fact that the Israelites viewed man as the centerpiece of creation afforded him a certain dignity, undergirded by the fact that he was created in the image of God. In contrast, Mesopotamians did not see man as created with dignity. Human beings achieved their dignity by the function they served (1989, p. 29).
He adds that humanity was originally created “in a barbarous state,” with humanity being “an unplanned afterthought, created for the sake of convenience” (p. 30).
The biblical account of Creation is vastly different from its Near Eastern counterparts. Man is the apex of creation. He has dignity because of who he is, not what he does. He is created as a kind of governor or viceroy charged with stewarding God’s creation (Genesis 1:28). Furthermore, this creation was prepared with man in mind (cf. Genesis 1:29-30), for his use and enjoyment. Although he is also created to worship his Creator, it is not a wearisome task. The New Testament further reveals that worship is also meant for the benefit of fellow believers (Acts 2:46-47; Ephesians 5:19), in addition to giving honor to God.


What the gods required of humanity in other cultures could not be known with any accuracy. The most a person could do was to infer the will of the gods based on their circumstances. If all was well and life was going smoothly, then it was apparent that the person was indeed doing the gods’ will. Should they suffer misfortune or tragedy, it must have meant that the person had offended the gods. It became their task to determine which god they might have offended through omens and offer the appropriate sacrifices. This was no easy task, and could be viewed as something of a guessing game. In contrast, God clearly outlined what He expected of mankind with precision through His spokesmen. His will is revealed clearly as a matter of public record, made known through readings to the people (Deuteronomy 31:9-13). The people were warned before punishment, rebuked afterwards, and told specifically what needed to be done to please God.


The biblical authors had a worldview by which history was viewed as linear. The past, present, and future all had great importance. Specifically, the past served as a reminder, which God makes clear is important enough to signify with memorials, such as piles of stones (e.g., Joshua 4:19-24), or the institution of the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-26; Luke 22:7-39). The future is also important in the biblical worldview, as we see in the prophet Joel’s concern about the coming Day of the Lord (Joel 2:1-11), or Christ’s teaching about His impending return (Matthew 24:30; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). The biblical writers considered all phases of time to be important.
There was virtually no understanding of history in the modern sense among the cultures of the ancient Near East. The Near Eastern view of history was cyclical and assigned little importance to the past or to the future. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus (circa 484-425 B.C.) is called the “father of history” for good reason—prior to his time there was little or no recording or analysis of the past for its own sake. Historiography, as we know it, did not exist (an exception may be seen in the Babylonian chronicles, which record the history of Babylon from the eighth century through the third century B.C.). The past had very little importance outside its use as propaganda by monarchs interested in glorifying themselves (see Oswalt, 2009, pp. 111-137).


Mythology is much more than exciting stories filled with fantastic monsters, magic, and imaginative details. It is a way of thinking—a worldview. Careful comparison of the biblical text with myth makes it clear that the Bible and ancient Near Eastern mythology are not merely different from one another—they are radically so. Even a cursory reading is enough to give most people a feeling that the Bible and myth are quite different, even if they immediately may not be able to put their finger on why. Thanks to the discovery and study of ancient texts, the differences are easy to detect. The Bible, unlike Near Eastern mythology, has an air of dispassionate objectivity that puts it in a category by itself. The Bible and ancient mythology are so different from one another that any allegations of wholesale borrowing on the part of the biblical authors must be rejected by those who handle the ancient evidence with care.


Foster, Benjamin R., trans. (1997), “Atra-Hasis” in The Context of ScriptureVol. 1: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World, ed. William W. Hallo and K. Lawson Younger (Leiden: Brill).
Kreeft, Peter and Ronald Tacelli (1994), The Handbook of Catholic Apologetics: Reasoned Answers to Questions of Faith (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press).
Lichtheim, Miriam (2006), Ancient Egyptian Literature, Volume 2: The New Kingdom (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press).
Oswalt, John N. (2009), The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature?(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Pardee, Dennis, trans. (1997), “Ilu on a Toot” in The Context of Scripture, Vol. 1: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World, ed. William W. Hallo and K. Lawson Younger (Leiden: Brill).
Walton, John H. (1989), Ancient Israelite Literature in its Cultural Context (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).

God is No Respecter of Persons by Caleb Colley, Ph.D.


God is No Respecter of Persons

by Caleb Colley, Ph.D.

When the first Gentile was converted to Christianity, the apostle Peter perceived that “God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35). Before the church was established and Gentiles began to be converted to Christ, many Jews supposed that God favored them over all other ethnic groups; some had the false notion that merely being Jewish was a sure sign that one was saved (Matthew 3:9; Luke 3:8; 7:30).
When the religious barrier between Jews and Gentiles was broken down, Peter more fully understood one important aspect of God’s character: He does not favor—and never has favored—one person or group of people over others. Whether or not the Israelites always understood it, anyone who obeys God’s commands can be justified in His sight. Consider a sampling of the passages that emphasize God’s fairness toward all humans:
2 Chronicles 19:7: “Now therefore, let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes.”
Job 34:19: “Yet He is not partial to princes, nor does He regard the rich more than the poor; for they are all the work of His hands.”
Romans 2:10-11: “[B]ut glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.”
Galatians 5:6: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision or uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”
1 Peter 1:17: “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.”
Exactly what does it mean that God is impartial? God offers salvation to every man, no matter what external circumstances, such as socioeconomic status or nationality, might apply to him. God does not offer salvation only to the Jew, just because he is a Jew, or only to the Gentile because he is a Gentile. The Greek word translated “respecter of persons” in the King James Version of Acts 10:34 (“God is no respecter of persons”) is prosopolemptes, a word that refers to a judge who looks at a man’s face instead of at the facts of the case, and makes a decision based on whether or not he likes the man (Lenski, 1961, p. 418). Under Roman law, for example, a defendant’s societal status was weighed heavily along with evidence. Any human judge might show undue favor to a plaintiff or a defendant because of private friendship, bribery, rank, power, or political affiliation, but God, the perfect Judge, cannot be tempted by any of the things that might tempt a human judge to show unfair partiality.
God’s impartiality does not keep Him from choosing people and nations of people to accomplish His specific purposes. He was free to use the Israelites as the seed line to bring about the Son of God in human form (the Israelites have never been the only group of people who had access to salvation—see Romans 1:18ff; Jackson, 2004); He was free to use the Babylonians to defeat the disobedient Israelites in battle and to take the spoils from them (2 Kings 25:1-21); He was free to use Peter and Paul to spread the Gospel to lost sinners. God can accomplish everything He needs to do without violating His commitment to allow all the opportunity to be saved.
Furthermore, God blesses people in different ways. God’s impartiality does not mean that everyone will have exactly the same amount of money, exactly the same amount of influence, exactly the same number of children, or exactly the same number of years upon the Earth. (At the very moment that Peter noted God’s impartiality, he was in the presence of a man who possessed more material wealth than Peter did.) Some do have more money than others, some have families who love them more, and some even have more opportunities to hear the Gospel preached. However, everyone can be saved, if he is willing to search for the truth. While some accountable adults may live their entire lives without hearing a single Gospel sermon, they all experience the marvelous works of the hand of God, showing every person that He exists. Paul wrote:
[W]hat may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened (Romans 1:19-21).
God always has expected impartiality from His followers. We should not treat people differently because of their financial status or outward appearance. The Lord said: “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty” (Leviticus 19:15). Deuteronomy 1:17 reads: “You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great.” After describing a scenario in which a rich man was given a favored seat in the assembly, and a poor man was pushed to the side, James wrote: “But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9). In stating that Christians should not show partiality because they believe in Christ, James, by inspiration, suggested that favoritism—treating certain people as if they are of more inherent worth—is inconsistent with faith in Christ, and causes one to violate God’s law of liberty (2:8,12).
We are grateful that God has not arbitrarily chosen some people to be saved and some to be lost. Imagine a basis upon which He might select which people should be saved. Would He choose the wealthy? The well known? The most intelligent? Members of a particular ethnic group or culture? Fortunately, each person can choose for himself whether or not to accept God’s saving grace (Joshua 24:15; Isaiah 7:16; Ezekiel 18:20; Matthew 23:37; Revelation 22:17). Each person is responsible for his or her own actions (Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Because of God’s marvelous love for all humans, He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9; cf. 1 Timothy 2:4).


Jackson, Wayne (2004), “To What Law Were the Ancient Gentiles Accountable?,” [On-line], URL: http://www.christiancourier.com/questions/whatLawAncientGentiles.htm.
Lenski, R.C.H. (1961 reprint), The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).

What is “Sexual Immorality” in Matthew 19:9? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


What is “Sexual Immorality” in Matthew 19:9?

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible repeatedly stresses the fact that God designed the institution of marriage (Genesis 2:22-25). He has, from the beginning of human history, given very specific ideas about what composes a divinely approved marriage (Matthew 19:1-4), consisting of one man and one woman. We learn from the Scriptures, however, that not every man or woman is qualified to enter into certain marital relationships. In the New Testament, we read of three, and only three, categories of people whom God approves to enter into marriage. The first category is those who have never been married (Hebrews 13:4). The second category of people who are eligible to marry is those who have been married but whose spouses have died (Romans 7:1-3). The third category of God-approved marriage candidates is those whose spouses have committed “sexual immorality” (Matthew 19:9). It is to this last category and to the term “sexual immorality” that we will direct our attention.
In Matthew 19:1-10, Jesus was tested by the Pharisees with the following question: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?” Jesus responded by directing their attention to God’s original creation of Adam and Eve. They then queried why Moses allowed certificates of divorce if marriage was supposed to be such a permanent institution. Jesus responded:
Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery (Matthew 19:8-9).
Notice, from this verse, that any person who gets a divorce for any reason other than sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery. But a person who divorces his/her spouse for sexual immorality and marries another person does not commit adultery. Thus, Jesus gives the criterion for those who are in the third category of God-approved marriage candidates. Also notice those who are not eligible to enter into a marriage: anyone who has gotten a divorce for any reason other than sexual immorality. [NOTE: The parallel passage found in Matthew 5:32 quotes Jesus as saying: “But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.”]
With Jesus’ statement in mind, it becomes imperative to learn what the term “sexual immorality” means, since this is the only infraction on behalf of a spouse that would allow for the remarriage of the innocent party (the spouse who does not commit sexual immorality) after a divorce. As you can imagine, in our culture of rampant divorce and remarriage, and secularized Christianity, this word has been given all sorts of meanings in an attempt to allow virtually every divorced person to be considered a God-approved candidate for remarriage. Many of these definitions are nothing more than attempts to alter the Word of God. So then, what does “sexual immorality” mean?
In order to understand what Jesus was saying, we must go back to the original language and identify what the word meant in the first century. The word translated “sexual immorality” in this verse is the Greek word porneia. The respected Greek lexicon of Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker states that the word refers to “prostitution, unchastity, fornication, of every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse.” In their primary definition, they mention that it refers to “the sexual unfaithfulness of a married woman” (1979, p. 693). The NIV Theological Dictionary of New Testament Words has an extensive section on porneia and related words: “This word group describes various extramarital sexual modes of behavior insofar as they deviate from accepted social and religious norms (e.g., homosexuality, promiscuity, pedophilia, and esp. prostitution)” (Verbrugge, 2000, 6:1077). This dictionary further notes: “Rab. Jud. (Rabbinical Judaism—KB) frowned on any kind of prostitution of extramarital sexual intercourse. Incest and all kinds of unnatural sexual intercourse were viewed as porneia (6:1078). In the discussion of the word’s use in the New Testament, the volume states:
It is not clear whether porneia in the so-called ‘exceptive clause’ (Matt 5:32; 19:9) is to be understood simply as extramarital sexual intercourse in the sense of moicheia or as including prostitution. Most interpreters tend to favor the former interpretation…. The porne word group denotes any kind of illegitimate sexual intercourse in Paul’s letters (6:1078, emp. added).
TheTheological Dictionary of New Testament Words says concerning this word group that the “NT is characterized by an unconditional repudiation of all extra-marital and unnatural intercourse” (Hauck and Schultz, 1968, 6:590). In discussing the word as it is used in Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9, this source states: “In both verses porneia refers to extra-marital intercourse on the part of the wife, which in practice is adultery” (6:592). From a survey of the lexical information regarding the word, the almost universally understood meaning of the word porneiais illicit physical sexual intercourse with someone who is not the person’s God-approved spouse (this would include homosexuality and beastiality). In modern terminology, then, the text is simply saying that the only time a person can divorce his or her spouse and marry another is if that spouse has been involved in a sexual affair with someone else. With knowledge of this word’s actual meaning, let us examine how some have attempted to redefine the term. [NOTE: Mark 10:11-12 is evidence of the fact that the Scripture applies both to a man who divorces his wife and to a woman who divorces her husband. The divine regulations apply equally to both genders. See Lenski, 1998, p. 734.]


In our modern culture the term “pornography” has a host of meanings. It includes pictures of scantily clad men and women, videos of people engaged in illicit sexual situations, posters of women or men “baring it all,” etc. The word “pornography”derives from the word porneia. One can see the obvious connection. Due to the fact that “pornography”seems so similar to porneia, many have come to believe that any actions or behavior that modern people would term pornography would also fall under the definition of porneia. Thus, they suggest that if a person were to look at a pornographic movie, he would be guilty of porneia. If a wife were to send a man who is not her husband text messages with photos of herself in her underwear, or with messages that talk about sexual situations, she would be guilty of porneia. If a spouse were to call a phone-sex line and listen to a sexual situation described to him, he would be guilty of porneia. And the list could go on and on.
The problem with this line of reasoning is that it projects a definition of the word porneia onto the first-century Greek term that the word in the first century did not have. Notice that in the definition provided from the lexical resources, there is near universal consensus that the term meant “sexual intercourse.” Due to the way the term “sex” has been overly applied to modern activities such as “phone sex,” or “sexting,” and “sexy,” the modern understanding is that anything that would be “sexually arousing” would be included in the term “sex.” But the term porneia would not have been understood to have such a loose, broad meaning.
It should be noted, of course, that many of the activities that have been described such as “sexting” or phone sex would be sinful and would be included in numerous lists of thoughts and actions that Christians should avoid. The terms for such activities include licentiousness, lusts (1 Peter 4:3), or lewdness (Romans 13:13). These terms have a much broader definition than porneia. Since that is the case, if Jesus had wanted to use one of these terms with a broader definition than “sexual intercourse” He could have, but He chose not to. As Wayne Jackson correctly stated: “Bible translations that render porneia more generically (e.g., ‘sexual immorality’) are misleading. There are various forms of sexual immorality (e.g., exposing one’s body in seductive clothing) that do not fall under the definition of fornication, though clearly they are sinful” (n.d.).
We get a definite understanding of how first-century Jews understood the term in John 8. In that passage Jesus accused the Jews of being the children of the devil, because they were behaving in the same way the devil would behave. They responded to His accusation by saying, “We were not born of fornication, we have one Father—God” (John 8:41). The word translated “fornication” in this verse is porneias. Notice their understanding of the term porneias included the idea that a person could be born of porneias. That would imply that the term must mean more than looking at pornographic pictures or explicit conversations about sex. In this context, it would be narrowly defined as sexual intercourse that has the biological ability to produce offspring. [NOTE: While the Jews had “spiritualized” the term and applied it to their spiritual relationship with God, that does not change the meaning of the word as they understood it. They certainly meant that they were not “illegitimate” spiritual children born as the result of an extra-marital sexual encounter. The fact that the term was figuratively applied to a spiritual relationship does not alter its literal meaning. See the section of this article titled “Sexual Immorality Used to Describe Idolatry.”]
The response to this statement from those who desire to view porneia as having a broader meaning is that “sexual intercourse” is such a difficult concept to define. Obviously, they say, homosexual behavior cannot produce offspring. Bestiality cannot produce offspring. So, according to them, any attempt to put limits on the nature of such “sexual” activity is doomed to failure. Such reasoning has at least two glaring flaws. First, it misses the point that the word porneia had a first-century meaning that was understood in the context as extra-marital sexual intercourse. Second, such reasoning fails to take into account the fact that in order to accept a broader definition for the term porneia, positive evidence must be presented that shows the word was understood in the first century to have the looser meaning. It is not enough to say, “I really feel like the term would include looking at pornography, sexting, or phone sex.” Any person who believes such activities would be included in the definition must present lexical information and first-century usages of the word that show such activities could be a part of the word’s meaning. Without this type of positive proof, we must stick with the definition that can be shown from the Bible and lexical sources to have been in use in the first-century.
Practically speaking, then, suppose a wife were to confide in a preacher that her husband is viewing pornography and masturbating. She asks the preacher if these transgressions would allow her to scripturally divorce her husband and be a candidate to remarry. The preacher then explains that porneia is the only divinely sanctioned cause for divorce and subsequent remarriage. The woman wants to know if porneia would include what she has described. The preacher shows her the lexical information and biblical usage and explains that “sexual intercourse” is the key component of the word. The woman argues that masturbation could be included in the term “sexual intercourse.” The preacher then goes to John 8:41, explains how the word was used there, and asks the woman to do some study and try to find any instance in or around the time of the first century where we know for a fact the word was used for masturbation or viewing pornography. If such a usage is not forthcoming, the only proper course of interpretation is to exclude masturbation and viewing pornography from the definition of porneia.


Once it has been clearly established that porneia is the only exception given for a spouse to scripturally divorce and contract a subsequent marriage, some then turn to Matthew 5:27-28 to broaden the meaning of porneia. Those verses record Jesus saying: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” The reasoning is, if a man lusts for a woman other than his spouse, Jesus says he has committed adultery with her “in his heart.” Since he commits mental/heart adultery, the argument goes, that must mean his wife could divorce him for “adultery” based on his lustful thoughts, and she could contract another scriptural marriage. This argument is flawed on several levels.
First, notice where Jesus said the “adultery” takes place: “in his heart.” In Matthew 5:27-28, however, Jesus makes a distinction between what He is saying in Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9. In neither of the latter two instances does Jesus allow for the adultery to be in any other realm but physical. The word porneia carries no inherent meaning that would cause the reader to interpret it to mean anything other than physical sexual intercourse. Since “in his heart” or other such phrases are not included in Matthew 5:32 or 19:9, correct interpretation rules would require us to define the word porneia in physical terms, not mental or spiritual ones. As Wayne Jackson correctly stated: “A fundamental principle of Bible interpretation is that words must be interpreted literally unless there is compelling reason for assigning them a figurative meaning. The term ‘adultery’ is not employed in a metaphorical sense in Matthew 19:9” (n.d.).
Second, we must recognize that while certain sins may carry the same spiritual weight, they do not have the same physical consequences. In Matthew 5:21, Jesus explained that the Old Testament prohibited murder. He elaborated on this concept when He insisted that any person who hates his brother enough to say, “You fool,” will “be in danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:22). The inspired writer John said: “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). From these passages it is clear that the sins of hatred and murder carry the same spiritual weight, but they do not carry the same physical consequences. In the Old Testament, murder was a capital offense punishable by death, but hatred was not. Again, physical adultery was a crime punishable in the Old Testament by stoning, but lust was not. In Matthew 19:9, the sin of porneia may carry the same spiritual weight as lust “in the heart,” but the verses never hint at the idea that the terms carry the same physical consequences. The physical consequences of a spouse committing porneia are that the innocent spouse can divorce that person and contract a new scriptural marriage, while the guilty party must remain unmarried for the rest of his or her life. The same physical consequences are not enumerated for “adultery in the heart” in Matthew 5:28.


In a similar way, some have contended that because God used the terms “adultery,” or “sexual immorality,” or equivalent ideas to describe the Israelites’ apostasy into idolatry (Hosea 4:11-13), then the terms can have a broader meaning. They argue that if God’s people can commit “adultery” against Him by worshipping idols, then the word “adultery” must have a meaning broad enough to include activities other than actual, physical intercourse.
Again, this type of argument fails for at least two primary reasons. First, it is clear from the context of Matthew 19:1-9 that the physical relationship between a husband and wife is under discussion. Respected linguists Vine (1985) and Thayer (1962, p. 532) concur that  when not used metaphorically (in reference to idolatry) porneia is used of “illicit sexual intercourse.” There is no discussion in this context of idolatry or spiritualized unfaithfulness. The text could not be clearer in regard to the physical marriage relationship.
Second, the spiritualized, figurative sense of the word makes no sense if the Jews did not understand the physical sense as the primary, literal meaning. For instance, in Hosea 4:12, in regard to Israelite idolatry, the prophet said: “Therefore your daughters commit harlotry and your brides commit adultery.” In a physical sense, what do the terms “adultery” and “harlotry” mean?—illicit sexual intercourse. Without the understanding of the physical meanings, the illustration that God used makes no sense—that in a figurative sense, Israel is married to God, and idolatry is a spiritual act of unfaithfulness. Unless adultery really does mean committing sexual sin against one’s spouse, God’s illustration breaks down.
For instance, consider the statement: “The debater blew his opponent’s argument out of the water.” This figurative use of the phrase only makes sense if we understand the physical picture of literal water and some type of blasting explosion. The figurative use of the word is always dependent on the physical meaning of the term. The physical meanings of the terms are necessarily logically prior to the figurative or spiritualized meanings. Thus, spiritual “adultery” can only be understood if we comprehend the physical use of the term “adultery.” And we have sufficiently established that the physical use of porneia means illicit sexual intercourse.
Finally, and worthy of serious consideration, is this fact: even if it could be shown that porneiamight have a spiritualized, figurative meaning in Matthew 19:1-9 (which it cannot), that fact would only indicate a possible use of the word. The one contending that a person could contract a God approved divorce and subsequent remarriage would have to prove that this spiritualized usage is being applied, not just that it is a possibility.If that usage cannot be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt, then a person would be risking his or her soul on a mere possibility. What kind of ground would a person be standing on in the Day of Judgment contending with God, “But I thought the word possibly could have meant…,” when we have a very clear meaning of “physical sexual intercourse” that we know the word carries.


Marriage is permanent. The only two situations in the New Testament in which a person can get married more than once with God’s approval are when a spouse dies, or when an innocent spouse divorces a spouse for porneia. The term porneia means unlawful, physical sexual intercourse. In an attempt to broaden the category of those who can scripturally remarry, some have attempted to define the term porneia with concepts such as viewing pornography or “phone sex.” While those activities are sinful, they are not porneia as the word was used in the first century. Others have contended that lust results in “adultery in the heart” and would be grounds for a scriptural divorce and remarriage. But they fail to differentiate between sins that have the same spiritual weight but have different physical consequences. Jesus’ sole exception for divorcing a living spouse and marrying another is if that spouse has committed physical sexual intercourse with another biological being.


Arndt, William, F.W. Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker (1979), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press), second revised edition.
Hauck, F. and Siegfried Schultz (1968), porneiaTheological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Jackson, Wayne (No Date), “Is ‘Lust’ the Equivalent of ‘Fornication’”, Christian Courier,http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1371-is-lust-the-equivalent-of-fornication.
Lenski, R.C.H. (1998), The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Thayer, Joseph (1962), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan).
Verbrugge, Verlyn (2000), The NIV Theological Dictionary of New Testament Words(Grand Rapids: Zondervan).
Vine, W.E. (1985), Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Electronic PC Study Bible Version).

"My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?" by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


"My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?"
by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Imagine trying to live in a world where every person decided for himself or herself how long an inch should be. One person’s inch might be as long as a pencil, while another’s might be as short as a penny. Further imagine trying to buy lumber or carpet, or trying to calculate any kind of geometry. In truth, trying to measure things without a standard is impossible.
The same is true of religion and spiritual matters. If everyone made his or her own “measurements” about what is right and wrong, then mass confusion would rule the day—which is exactly why God gave us the Bible. It is the standard by which all of our actions are to be measured. Because the Bible claims to be the only true standard, most people insist upon evidence proving that it is from God. If a person has an open Bible and an honest heart, such evidence is available.


On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, a horrible tragedy shocked the United States when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Amidst the tragedy, a rumor circulated that Nostradamus, a supposed fortuneteller, had predicted the turn of events. Web sites with information on Nostradamus received thousands, even millions of hits. After all was said and done, the rumored prediction had been fabricated and misunderstood; Nostradamus had no more predicted the future than you or I. But it was obvious from the public’s response that anyone who can accurately predict the future is more than just a little special. The prophet Jeremiah wrote: “Who is he who speaks, and it comes to pass, when the Lord has not commanded it?” (Lamentations 3:37). The prophet’s point was clear: nobody accurately foretells the future unless God informs him of it. Therefore, when the Bible accurately predicts the future, we can know that it is from God.


If you were a Jew standing in the crowd watching Jesus hang on the cross, you would have seen and heard many astonishing things. For one, you would have seen the only totally innocent man ever to live being tortured, mocked, and spit upon. In addition, you would have sat in complete darkness for three straight hours. But some of the most amazing things that happened on that day were the things Jesus said while He was on the cross.
As Jesus was nearing His death, He cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?,” which being translated means “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). Many of those around Jesus did not understand what He had said. But any Jew familiar with the Old Testament should have immediately recognized Jesus’ lament as a direct quote from the first line of Psalm 22. King David wrote that psalm about 1,000 years before the death of Jesus. Yet verses 16 through 18 describe in minute detail what was happening at the crucifixion: “They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”
Could you imagine having the twenty-second Psalm in your hand (or mind), and watching the soldiers at Jesus’ feet actually casting lots for His clothing (Matthew 27:35)—exactly as the psalmist predicted? With one of Christ’s last breaths on the cross, He tried to get people to understand that He was the Messiah.
As we today look back upon the situation—almost 2000 years after the fact—we see that Jesus proved the Bible had accurately foretold the future, thereby verifying its inspiration. As Isaiah said: “Declare unto us what shall happen: declare ye the former things, what they are, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or show us things to come” (41:22). The very thing the pagans could not do (41:22-24), God’s Word could (see Isaiah 42:8-9).

Better than God? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Better than God?

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

On February 13, 1989, John Morris and Frank Zindler met together for a one-hour debate over the Flood of Noah. John Morris affirmed that there was a global flood as the Bible records; atheist Frank Zindler denied that such was the case. Dick Wolfsie hosted the debate for the NBCaffiliate channel 13 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The debate was heated, to say the least, and bounced around to various topics including fossilization, DNA similarities between humans and animals, geological formations, and a host of other subjects.
During the debate, Zindler made a very shocking and telling statement regarding God. In their discussion of DNA, John Morris accused Zindler of claiming to have the mind of God, or be as smart as God. In reply, Zindler said: “Well, I'm better than god. If I couldn’t do better than god, John, I wouldn’t be on this show...god can’t do anything” (emp. added). Seconds later, Morris said: “What you’re saying is that if you were god, you’d have done a better job!” And Zindler replied: “Well, I certainly would!” (Zindler, 2004). These statements made by Zindler speak for themselves. Of interest is the fact that the American Atheists, Inc. have proudly posted this debate on their Web site, which would seem to indicate that they endorse Zindler’s comments.
Boiling this down, Zindler and the American Atheists society believe that they could have created a better Universe than the one created by God. Now that is interesting. It truly amazes me that many educated men and women, such as Zindler and others associated with the American Atheists, do not recognize the limitations of the human mind. While humans are extremely intelligent, millions of basic structures in the Universe still elude our most diligent experts. For example, atoms—the intricate workings of the building blocks of matter—are still very much a mystery to our most educated scientists. In addition, scientists have been studying the “simple cell” for decades, and still do not have a grasp on all of its functions. Our most brilliant minds have been working for at least half a century in an attempt to synthesize life, but to no avail. DNA codes information biochemically—a process that we never have been able to master. We humans do not even completely understand our own brains. In summary, we cannot code information chemically, we cannot create life, and we do not fully understand the most basic building blocks of matter or life—yet some among us think they could do a better job with this Universe than God!
This human arrogance is nothing new. The prophet Ezekiel was sent to the prince of Tyre with this message from God: “[Y]our heart is lifted up, and you say, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods, In the midst of the seas,’ yet you are a man, and not a god….” (Ezekiel 28:1). For millennia, we humans have wanted to think that we are the pinnacle of intelligence. But, truth be told, we are not. We are frail creatures created by the omniscient God, designed with the ability to recognize His activity in the Universe, but often too stubborn or too arrogant to allow the evidence to penetrate.
Make no mistake, should the Lord delay His return, Zindler and the American Atheists who have endorsed his material will go to their graves, as will the rest of us, having never unlocked most of the mysteries of this Universe. Others will rise up after them, just as they have after the prince of Tyre, and claim that they can “do better than God.” But God’s work cannot be improved upon. As He told those during the time of Isaiah: “ ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’ ” (Isaiah 55:8-9).


Zindler, Frank (2004), “The Question of Noah’s Flood: A Debate,” [On-line], URL: http://www.atheists.org/bone.pit/morrisdebate.html.

Does the Bible Approve of Homosexuality? by Brad Bromling, D.Min.


Does the Bible Approve of Homosexuality?

by Brad Bromling, D.Min.

It is becoming increasingly common to read and hear arguments made in defense of homosexuality. Usually no appeal is made to Scripture. However, on occasion, books and articles appear that attempt to address the biblical passages that discuss the subject. This article is a brief response to common claims about the Bible and homosexuality.

GENESIS 19:1-11

Some contend that Genesis 19 should not be used to argue against homosexuality since Sodom was destroyed, not for homosexuality, but because of its inhospitality and pride (see Matthew 10:14-15; Ezekiel 16:48-49). The argument is that the men of the city did not necessarily have any sexual perversion in mind, but just wanted to “know” Lot’s guests in the sense of interrogating them in a disrespectful fashion.
While it is true to say that Sodom was not destroyed merely because some of its citizens practiced homosexuality, it is false to say that Sodom was destroyed merely because its inhabitants were inhospitable and proud. The city was destroyed because its citizens were exceedingly sinful (Genesis 13:13). Ezekiel 16, which does mention their pride, also says they “committed abomination before” the Lord. Their actions at Lot’s doorstep reflected that sinfulness (Genesis 19:4-11). When the men of Sodom said they wanted to “know” the messengers of God, they obviously had sexual intentions in mind. This is clear from Lot’s unfortunate offer of his two daughters. Jude 7 reinforces this view as well: “As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”


Although Leviticus 20:13 enjoins the death penalty upon homosexuals, the passage is dismissed as irrelevant to the debate because it is part of a legal/holiness code that no longer is in force. It is no more binding than are the regulations against wearing different materials of cloth and planting different types of seed in the same ground.
It is true that the Mosaic legal/holiness code was nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14). However, to trivialize the code by placing all items in it on the same level is dubious. The Levitical condemnation of homosexual behavior is treated differently than the legislations against mixing cloths and sowing mixed seed. The former was under penalty of death; the latter were not (Leviticus 19:19). A better, though more unpleasant, analogy to the Levitical view of homosexuality is seen in the prohibitions against incest and bestiality, which are mentioned in the same context (Leviticus 20:14-16ff.).


It commonly is argued that Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. As our guide and model for life, we should follow Jesus’ example of silence. He taught, instead, that we should love one another in a non-judgmental way.
In response, it should be noted that Jesus’ silence on the issue is no argument that He approved of homosexuality. He never specifically addressed the issues of pedophilia, bestiality, or any number of other sexual perversions. Does this mean that Jesus approved of whatever He did not condemn by name? Are we to think that as long as people feel love, it doesn’t matter what they do? To ask is to answer. In fact, the Lord Jesus always spoke of sexual relations in heterosexual terms. What Jesus did say carries more weight than our views of what He did not say. Clearly, Jesus’ heterosexual view must be taken as normative (read Matthew 19:4-6 et al.).


Great strides are taken to prove that 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-11 do not condemn homosexuality in general, but rather, abusive homosexual practices and male prostitution in particular.
Although the specific type of homosexual behavior mentioned in these two passages may be male prostitution and abusive homosexual practices, this does not in itself argue in favor of “loving, monogamous, homosexual” relationships. In fact, that concept is foreign to the New Testament. Both of these passages do condemn “fornication.” Fornication is a broad term that includes homosexuality. This is so for two reasons: (1) fornication refers to illicit sexual behavior; and (2) all sexual behavior that violates, is contrary to, or in addition to, the heterosexual behavior implied by a monogamous marriage, is illicit.

ROMANS 1:26-27

Clearly the most problematic passage for all who wish to say the Bible does not condemn homosexuality is Romans 1:26-27:
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
Proponents of homosexuality have tried to remove the force of this passage by suggesting that either Paul was expressing his own uninspired opinion, or he was merely laying the groundwork for his teaching on grace. So he was mainly concerned with idolatry, and not any sin in particular.
Although a biblical writer’s opinion might indeed appear in Scripture (e.g., 1 Corinthians 7:7), the suggestion that Romans 1:26-27 represents Paul’s uninspired opinion and is at variance with the rest of the Scripture, is erroneous. If we cannot trust Paul to express the will of God on this point, where can we trust him? What will be our standard? Unfortunately, our own opinions become the standard all too often.
The fact is, Paul meant exactly what Christians have long thought he meant—that homosexual behavior is symptomatic of sin in the world. This passage is not to be dismissed as too difficult to understand, or as an isolated passage that somehow is outweighed by an impressive array of passages teaching the opposite. Although this passage does not stand alone, from the standpoint of divine inspiration, one reference is enough.


The conclusion is this: every time homosexual behavior is mentioned, it is condemned. The Bible is not homophobic (i.e., obsessively hostile toward homosexuality), but it clearly treats heterosexuality as normative (1 Corinthians 7; Ephesians 5; 1 Peter 3; et al.). These unsuccessful attempts to reinterpret the Bible’s teaching on the subject raise an even more crucial question: What Scripture can be presented that legitimizes homosexuality?