"THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS" There's A Great Day Coming! (1:7-12) by Mark Copeland


  There's A Great Day Coming! (1:7-12)


1. The Thessalonians endured much adversity for the cause of Christ...
   a. From the very beginning they were persecuted for their faith - cf.
      Ac 17:1-9
   b. Initially, it was a matter of grave concern for Paul - cf. 1 Th 3:1-5

2. Yet the Thessalonians persevered, giving Paul...
   a. Great joy and comfort - cf. 1Th 3:6-10
   b. Good reason to boast of their faith and patience - cf. 2Th 1:4

3. To encourage them even more, Paul reminded them that their labor was
   not in vain...
   a. Their suffering would make them worthy of the kingdom of God
      - 2Th 1:5
   b. God would one day repay those who troubled them - 2Th 1:6

4. The "day of recompense" will occur when Jesus returns...
   a. The events of that day would make their suffering for Christ
   b. Indeed, like the hymn we often sing, "There's A Great Day Coming!"

[As we continue our study of 2 Thessalonians, we find Paul describing
this "great day" as...]


      1. The Greek word for "revealed" is apokalupso, "an uncovering,
      2. Right now, Jesus is in heaven
         a. As such He is hidden from the world's view
         b. But one day He will be revealed by appearing - cf. Col 3:1-4;
            Tit 2:13; He 9:28
      3. When that occurs, it will be from heaven
         a. Coming with His mighty angels - 2Th 1:7; cf. Mt 16:27
         b. Coming in flaming fire - 2Th 1:8; cf. 2Pe 3:7,10-12

      1. He will be glorified, i.e., be "honored" - 2Th 1:10,12
         a. Now, many people reject Him, despise Him, use His name in
         b. Then, people will bow and confess His name - cf. Php 2:9-11
      2. Note that He will be glorified "in His saints" - 2Th 1:10,12;
         cf. Jn 17:10
         a. Much of the honor Jesus will receive will be because of His
         b. For what He was able to accomplish through His life, death,
            and present ministry in heaven (i.e., turn sinners into
            saints!) - e.g., Php 1:20; 1Pe 2:9

      1. He will be "marveled at", "wondered at", "held in admiration"
      2. By those who believe - 2Th 1:10
         a. Those who accepted the testimony of the apostles - cf. 1 Th 2:13
         b. Those who trusted in Him with the eyes of faith while He was
            still "hidden"

[What a "great day" it will be for Jesus when He comes to be revealed,
glorified, and admired!  Yet as we continue we note that it will be a
"great day" for another reason, for it will be...]


      1. A time of rest - 2Th 1:7
         a. To those who have been troubled
            1) With persecutions and tribulations - cf. 2Th 1:4
            2) For the sake of the kingdom of God - cf. 2Th 1:5
         b. This rest involves the kingdom of God in her future glory
            1) Referred to by Jesus in His parable of the tares - Mt 13:41-43
            2) Beautifully depicted in the revelation given to John - Re 21:1-7
      2. A time of glory - 2Th 1:12
         a. Not only will Jesus be glorified, but also His disciples
            ("you in Him")!
         b. Because of their persevering faith - cf. 1Pe 1:7
      -- Made possible by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! - 2 Th 1:12b

      1. A time of vengeance - 2Th 1:8
         a. Bringing just recompense - cf. He 10:30-31
         b. On some because they persecuted Christians - 2Th 1:6
         c. On others because they "knew not God" - 2Th 1:8
            1) The most important thing in this life! - cf. Jer 9:23-24
            2) Yet many refuse to know Him - cf. Ro 1:18-21,28
         d. On all who "obey not the gospel" of Christ - 2Th 1:8
            1) Note well, the gospel must be obeyed! - cf. He 5:9; 1 Pe 4:17
            2) That is because the gospel contains commands to obey,
               such as the commands to believe, confess, repent, and be
               baptized - cf. Ro 10:9,10; Ac 2:38
      2. A time of punishment - 2Th 1:6,9
         a. In the form of "tribulation"
            1) A form of righteous repayment
            2) Especially for those who troubled God's people
         b. In the form of "everlasting destruction"
            1) Destruction that lasts forever! - cf. Mt 26:41,46
            2) Destruction from the presence and power of the Lord!
               - cf. Re 14:10,11


1. In view of these words, "There's A Great Day Coming!"...
   a. For some, it will be a terrific day, one to anticipate - cf. 2 Pe 3:12-14
   b. For many, it will be a terrible day, one to fear - cf. Mt 7:13-14,

2. What will this "great day" bring to us?
   a. Rest and glory?
   b. Vengeance and punishment?

3. The answer lies in how we answer two questions...
   a. Do we know God?
   b. Have we obeyed the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ?

If you have not, why not today?  If you have, then may this sobering
passage encourage you to remain faithful, so that Paul's prayer for the
Thessalonians will be fulfilled in your life as well:

   "...that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and 
   fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of
   faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may 
   be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of
   our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."
                                                 - 2Th 1:11-12

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Does the Bible Teach Geocentricity? by Bert Thompson, Ph.D. Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.


Does the Bible Teach Geocentricity?

by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.
Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.


Does the Bible teach that the Sun revolves around the Earth, in contradiction to modern scientific knowledge on this matter?
The medieval Catholic Church maintained that the Bible taught geocentricity (i.e., that the Sun and planets revolve around the Earth) as opposed to what we now know as the Copernican idea of heliocentricity (i.e., that the planets all revolve around the Sun). This situation began when Claudius Ptolemy of Alexandria restated the ancient Ptolemaic geocentric theory in the second century after Christ, and was able to predict the motion of the celestial bodies with far greater accuracy than the existing theory of heliocentricity. Somewhere along the line, scientific dogma became enshrined in theological dogma, and passages in the Bible were found to consecrate Ptolemy’s theory. According to the theologians, man was the focus of God’s creative act, and therefore the Earth must be the center of God’s creation. After all, if we were dwelling on one average planet, rotating around one average star, in one average galaxy in an infinite Universe, how could we be the sole focus of God’s attention, and why should His only Son be sent just to this middling planet, as the Bible suggests?
Needless to say, this revolution of thought provided great fuel for the atheists, skeptics and agnostics. According to Paul Steidl:
The truths of God’s word and the work of Jesus Christ in no way depend on our position.... If anything, our lack of a unique position in the natural universe is only an illustration of the natural man’s lack of a unique position before God (1979, p. 6).
In other words, the presence of our material selves in the material Universe is not as important to God as our immortal souls. On the other hand, it is difficult to doubt that God has placed our planet in just the right place, and set it in motion in just the right way, to benefit the survival of humanity.
Copernicus submitted his ideas in the early sixteenth century, stating that geocentricity was incorrect after all. Some of Copernicus’ ideas could not be defended scientifically, but science generally had little to do with the attacks on this theory. Calvin, for instance, criticized Copernicus by appealing to passages in Joshua and Psalms that supposedly show the fixity of the Earth relative to the Sun. Galileo came along a hundred years later and firmed up the Copernican theories with better mathematics and with more accurate and numerous measurements. Unlike Copernicus, Galileo was persistent, arrogant, and prepared to stand up to the wrath of the Inquisition. Galileo’s assertion that the Bible should be interpreted in light of man’s knowledge of the natural world, and that Scripture should not have authority in scientific controversies, did little to endear him to church leaders. Thus, rather than being the case of “science versus the Bible,” it was “dogmatic scientist versus religious dogmatism.” This, of course, is not all the story; the remainder would be covered in a good history book.
One of the passages used to defend the biblical basis of geocentricity was Joshua 10:12-14, and later references to the same event, in which Joshua prayed, “Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; And thou, Moon, in the valley of Aijalon” (v. 12), that he might defeat the numerous armies assembled against his people. God immediately answered Joshua’s prayer, and in the following verse he wrote: “And the Sun stood still, and the Moon stayed.” Keil and Delitzsch have suggested that either the day appeared long to the warriors of Israel because of the greatness of the task they performed (i.e., defeating the enemy), or that God miraculously caused the day to be lengthened so the Lord’s army could perform its task. The former is consistent with similar language in other parts of the Old Testament, and the latter explanation is totally consistent with God’s infinite power over the Universe (1982, 2:106-112). In any case, as Joshua goes on to say in verse 14, “there was no day like that before it or after it.” Thus, whether miraculous or not, to say that these verses teach that the Earth continues to stand still, and that the Earth is the center of the Universe, is both a gross misinterpretation and a misapplication of the verse. This passage does not teach geocentricity, despite Calvin’s claims to the contrary.
In addition to Joshua 10, Calvin used Psalm 93:1 in defense of geocentricity. The verse simply suggests that the Earth is stable, and cannot be moved, but is it trying to say that the Earth is totally motionless in every sense? As the passage is primarily concerned with God’s majesty and power, it is more likely that the psalmist is saying, “Who but God could move the Earth?” Besides, the Earth is set in an unchanging orbit around the Sun, all the while rotating at a steady speed on a fixed axis.
Psalm 19:6 is a passage that often is cited as another example of Scripture teaching pre-Copernican astronomy. In this verse, the Sun is said to move, rather than the Earth, and therefore is said by some to imply that the Sun revolves around the Earth. There are many other verses in the Bible that talk about the Sun “going down” or “rising up.” This hardly should be surprising, however, since events in the Bible often are written in accommodative or “phenomenal” language—i.e., the language used to express phenomena as man sees them. Even today we teach our children that “the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west,” and astronomers and navigators use the Earth as a fixed point for purposes of simple observation, expressing distances and directions in relation to it. The weatherman on the evening news often will state that the Sun is going to “rise” at a certain time the following morning and “set” at a certain time the following evening. Why does no one accuse him of scientific error? Because we all are perfectly aware of, and understand, the Copernican view of the solar system, and because we likewise understand that our weatherman is using “phenomenal” language.
In addition, scientific foreknowledge could be claimed from Psalm 19:6 if a more literal interpretation was applied in the following way. Astronomers now know that the Sun moves in a gigantic orbit around the center of the Milky Way galaxy; traveling at 600,000 miles an hour it would take the Sun 230 million years to make just one orbit! It also is believed that our galaxy is moving with respect to other galaxies in the Universe. The Sun’s going forth is indeed from one end of the heavens to the other. In any case, there is no way to substantiate the claims that the Bible teaches geocentricity, or that it promotes any other anti-scientific concept.


Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch (1982 reprint), Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Steidl, Paul (1979), The Earth, the Stars, and the Bible (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed).

Does the Bible Teach a Flat Earth? by Justin Rogers, Ph.D.


Does the Bible Teach a Flat Earth?

by Justin Rogers, Ph.D.

[Editor’s Note: AP auxiliary writer Dr. Rogers serves as an Associate Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He holds an M.A. in New Testament from FHU as well as an M.Phil. and Ph.D. in Hebraic, Judaic, and Cognate Studies from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.]
Earlier this year, basketball star Kyrie Irving drew headlines for advocating a flat Earth.1 The sports media lampooned Irving for several days until he finally admitted he was wrong.2 While Irving initially defended the “science” behind his claim, many others defend the flat Earth position because of what they read in the Bible. But what does the Bible really say about the shape of the Earth? For those with a high view of Scripture, the Bible stands as an unquestioned authority. If the Bible teaches the Earth is flat, then we must believe it, regardless of what pseudoscience says. Indeed, a number of theorists insist a spherical Earth is contrary to the teaching of Scripture. Are they correct?


Flat-Earth theorists marshal a number of biblical passages to defend their assertion (e.g., Joshua 10:12-13; 1 Chronicles 16:30; Psalm 93:1; 96:10; 104:5). One notices instantly that almost every passage cited in favor of the flat-Earth position occurs in a poetic context.3 To be responsible readers of the Bible, we must respect the genre of literature we are reading. Poetry is to be read differently than prose; it is more expressive, emotional, and metaphorical. In fact, taking biblical poetry literally would, in some cases, pervert clear scriptural teaching elsewhere, leading to the belief that there are many gods instead of one God (Exodus 15:11; Psalm 86:8), that humans are really gods (Psalm 82:6), that thunder is the voice of God (2 Samuel 22:14), that God slays sea monsters (Psalm 74:12-14), and that God has wings (Psalm 61:4). Obviously, these passages cannot be understood for what they literally say. So, a common-sense understanding of how poetry functions prevents us from making erroneous interpretive deductions. To insist that metaphorical language must be interpreted literally is to contradict the original authorial intent.


In addition to respecting the author’s intent, we must also respect the audience’s understanding. We often hear cosmic complexities expressed in phenomenological language. In other words, the world is explained as it appears on Earth, or in terms we can understand. Even today, we speak of the Sun “rising and setting,” even though virtually every fourth-grade science student knows that, scientifically, this is not the case. Thus, it should not surprise to find the Bible speaking in similar terms (Genesis 28:11; Joshua 10:13; the Hebrew idiom is the Sun “going”). We also describe rain as falling from the sky even though the truth of the water cycle is basic to any elementary ecology. So also Scripture describes rain as though it is contained in a storage compartment above the sky (Genesis 1:7; Psalm 148:4). For God to teach modern scientific astronomy and meteorology to an ancient Hebrew audience would do little good. We know God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), and He always speaks truth (Titus 1:2), but He condescends to express truths in terms humans can understand (e.g., Job 38-41). To hold the Bible’s language to modern scientific standards is a failure to appreciate the original audience of Scripture. The authors were divinely inspired, but the audience was not.


So how do these considerations relate to the shape of the Earth? Despite the preceding qualifications about reading and interpreting Scripture, we cannot locate a single verse in the Bible that teaches the Earth is flat. Neither in prose nor in poetry, neither by means of phenomenological language nor metaphor, do we find Scripture communicating a flat Earth. The flat-Earth theory is an interpretive deduction, usually based on poetic hyperbole. But is a flat Earth even an accurate interpretive deduction? As we will see, it is far from obvious that the Bible teaches the Earth is flat.

Isaiah 40:22: A Flat-Earth?

The golden text for a spherical Earth is Isaiah 40:22: God “sits upon the circle of the earth.” It has been long argued that a ball must be intended, for God could not possibly sit atop something flat. Of course, such a literal reading ignores the poetic context and the obvious anthropomorphism. However, flat-Earth theorists point out (correctly, we may add) that the Hebrew term for “circle” (חוג,chūg) does not necessarily refer to a sphere. Instead, they say, the term refers to a disc, thereby communicating a flat Earth. Indeed, the ancient Greek translation renders the term γῦρος (gūros), or “ring.” Further, the term “on” (על, ‘al)can also be translated “above,” without implying contact with an object (e.g., NASB, ESV). So this passage does not necessarily communicate a spherical Earth, but neither does it imply a flat Earth.
The only direct parallel to the language of Isaiah 40:22 is Job 22:14. Here God poetically “walks on the circle [חוגchūg] of the heavens.” Most modern English translations render the term commonly translated “circle” as “vault” in this context (e.g., ASV, RSV, ESV, NIV). A vault provokes images of the Earth having a rounded top, as though a bowl. In other words, the Earth is conceived (albeit poetically) with a convex lid. Why “circle” appears in English translations of Isaiah 40:22 and “vault” in Job 22:14 is beyond my understanding, although the NKJV is consistent in both.4The term חוג (chūg) is used in both passages, and should probably be translated identically. And a convex “vault” is probably the better option than “circle.”
Ancient Near Eastern thinkers typically conceived of the Earth as having a bowl-shape, with a solid, convex top (Job 37:18) that was covered by water (Job 26:10).5God poetically “engraves a vault” (חק חג, chōq chāg) over the Earth, perhaps indicating the horizon, or perhaps referring to the bell-shaped vault over the top of the sky (Job 26:10; Proverbs 8:27). The point is that God separates the Earth from the store place of water (cf. Genesis 1:7), and thus carves out a channel above the sky to contain it. Again, these passages occur in poetic contexts, and it can be dangerous to impose a literal meaning on figurative language, as we have discussed. Unlike God, Job’s friends did not necessarily have a perfect scientific understanding, and are, in any case, speaking hyperbolically in Hebrew poetry. Their words simply reflect a popular expression of God’s complete sovereignty over nature. Nevertheless, one thing is sure: there is no thought of a flat Earth anywhere. The “circle of the earth” is a metaphor to be sure, but not even metaphorically is it understood as flat.
It should be noted that the Hebrew Bible does not have an equivalent for the term “sphere,” which in modern Hebrew is the loanword ספירה (sefîrāh). The word “ball” (דור, dūr) occurs in English translations in Isaiah 22:18, but it is clear from Isaiah 29:3 (the only other place the noun occurs) that it refers to a “roll” of items that have encircled a central object. A related verb form is found one other time in the Bible to describe stacked and perhaps “bound” wood (Ezekiel 24:5). In other words, the shape of such an object is beyond the scope of the term. So, the authors of the Hebrew Bible simply lacked the vocabulary to describe a perfectly round object. We cannot expect them to say what they did not have the words to communicate.

Joshua 10:12-13: The Sun Stands Still

Flat-earth theorists also cite the interruption of the Sun to “prove” their theory. The passage reports, “The sun stopped [דמם, d-m-m] and the moon stood still [עמד, ‘-m-d] until the nation avenged its enemies.... The sun stood still [עמד‘-m-d] in the middle of the sky and did not hurry to go about an entire day” (Joshua 10:13). Flat-earth theorists, who apparently also defend a geocentric model of the solar system, argue this passage certifies their position. They argue that, according to the standard heliocentric model, the Sun’s standing still would not interrupt the day at all. The Earth, heliocentrists argue, revolves around the Sun. In order for the Bible and the heliocentric model to be true, the Earth would need to pause its rotation on its axis in order for the Sun to appear to stop. But the Bible does not say the Earthstops; it says the Sun stops. Therefore, flat-earth theorists, adopting a geocentric model, argue the Earth must be fixed, and the Sun revolves around it.6
This reasoning violates one of the principles we have discussed: a failure to account for the audience’s understanding. Joshua was not written to Israelites in outer space. From the point of view of those on Earth, the “day” (or “daylight,” the Hebrew יום, yōm meaning both) was extended. Since a day is measured by the Sun, the Sun must have stopped its “going” (בוא, bô’). Indeed, it appeared to them that “the sun stopped in the middle of the sky.” This is a clear use of phenomenological language, and it simply means this day was unusually long. Daylight was halted miraculously so as to allow God’s forces more time to conquer their foes. This is the simplest explanation, and was virtually uncontested until recent times.7 But even if this passage is used to defend a geocentric model of the Universe (wrongly, I believe), Joshua 10:13 still has no bearing on the shape of the Earth. Flat-Earth theorists will need to look elsewhere for evidence.

The “Immovable” Passages

A number of biblical passages assert the immovability of the Earth (e.g., 1 Chronicles 16:30; Psalm 93:1; 96:10; 104:5). These are often proposed as an “obvious” rationale for the Earth being flat. But they do not bear the weight loaded upon them. None of these passages necessarily implies a flat Earth, and even if they might be cited as evidence for geocentricity, note that each of them occurs in a poetic context. If we were to hold Bible-believing flat-Earth theorists to the literal implications of these passages, they would have to insist the Earth neither orbits the Sun nor rotates on its axis. And if the Earth is fixed immovably and permanently, God could never destroy it, for its dissolution would violate its immovability (2 Peter 3:10). But, of course, these poetic passages are not intended to be taken literally.
Since each passage employs similar language and is applied for the same purpose, we shall examine just one as representative. The relevant part of Psalm 96:10 states, “The world is fixed; it cannot be moved.” Two Hebrew words in particular deserve attention. One is the word “fix” or “establish” (כון, kūn). This term does not fundamentally refer to being fixed in position, but rather to being fixed in permanence. Such can be said of David’s kingdom being “established” forever (1 Samuel 20:31; 2 Samuel 7:16; 1 Kings 2:12), or of cities that are “established” (Habakkuk 2:12). These are acts of intended permanence.
In reference to the physical world, the term is not used of the Earth alone, but of the heavenly bodies as well. The Sun, Moon, and stars “are established” by God (Psalm 8:3), as are the “heavens” (Proverbs 3:19). Does this mean the Bible envisions no movement among the heavenly bodies? If one took these passages literally, he or she would be required to say there are no orbits or movements of any astral body anywhere in the Universe. This is, of course, untrue, for even the earliest astronomers could map the stars and motions of the various heavenly bodies, as they serve to mark “seasons, days, and years” (Genesis 1:14). So, if these poetic passages are pressed literally, the Bible teaches that the Earth and all cosmic bodies are static. Is this what the Bible intends to communicate? Of course not. In fact, Scripture elsewhere affirms the movement of heavenly bodies (Jude 13). The Bible simply means to teach that God has programmed His creation to act according to determined, reliable patterns; in that sense, he has “fixed” the world.
The other Hebrew term, מוט (mūt), is translated “be moved.” Because the Earth does not “move,” it must be flat, right? Well, the term does not fundamentally refer to movement of position. It is the opposite of being “fixed” as expressed by the term כון, kūn. Scripture declares the righteous “shall not be moved” (Psalm 10:6; 21:7; Proverbs 10:30), not meaning, of course, that the righteous are paralyzed, but that they can feel secure in their life. To be movable in this sense is to be insecure, uncertain, and unreliable. The term מוט/mūt is often translated “slip” or “sway” (Psalm 66:9; 123:1), and can be used of poorly constructed objects that are destined to fall (Isaiah 40:20; 41:7).
The meaning of this term with regard to the world is understandable. The Earth is “set” in the sense that it is well-designed and well-constructed, and therefore functions without deviation, exactly as the Maker intended. It is secure, dependable, and reliable. The season for sowing and reaping, consistent rain, the course of the astral bodies—these are all evidence that the Earth is “immovable” in the author’s intended sense. Derek Kidner appropriately observes: “The first and last lines of verse 10 [Psalm 96] make it additionally clear that this is a prophecy of perfect government, not a pronouncement on—of all things!—the earth’s rotation.”8 The “fixed Earth” passages, when taken literally, do not make sense with the rest of Scripture. And even if one presses their literal meaning, they still do not teach the Earth is flat. The “fixed Earth” Scriptures are best read as poetic reflections on a world designed for the flourishing of life.


It seems that the typical passages cited in favor of the flat-Earth theory are drawn from a poetic context, and thus readers must be very careful about taking them literally. However, even if we choose to take every biblical passage literally, we still do not find a clear endorsement of flat-Earth theory. It should also be noted that even the supposed “spherical Earth” passages occur in poetic contexts, filled with metaphor and hyperbole. So, the Hebrew Bible has no official “position” on the shape of the Earth, whether round or flat. Descriptions of the shape of the Earth in the Bible must be classified with the Sun having wings (Malachi 4:2) or God having arms (Exodus 6:6; 1 Kings 5:3). These are obviously metaphors, and few rational readers would press them literally. But again, even if we take poetry literally, and ignore all hyperbole and metaphor in Scripture, we still find no clear statement that the Earth is flat.


1 http://www.nba.com/article/ 2017/02/18/commissioner-adam-silver-all-star-press-conference.
3 See Justin Rogers (2016), “How to Read Biblical Poetry,” Gospel Advocate, September, p. 11.
4 The NKJV has “circle” in both verses, and the KJV has “circuit” in the Job verse.
5 See David J.A. Clines (2006), Job 21-37 in Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville, TN: Nelson), p. 559.
6 On geocentricity, see B. Thompson and T. Major (1988), “Does the Bible Teach Geocentricity?” http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.asp x?category=11&article=1151.
7 For a history of discussion, see David M. Howard, Jr. (1998), Joshua in The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman), 5:238-249.
8 Derek Kidner (1975), Psalms 73-150: A Commentary on Books III-V of the Psalms in Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP), p. 349.

Does the Abrahamic Covenant Justify Infant Baptism? by Caleb Colley, Ph.D.


Does the Abrahamic Covenant Justify Infant Baptism?

by Caleb Colley, Ph.D.

Many religious groups practice infant baptism for the salvation of infants, and teach that the practice is scriptural. In fact, “Christian names” came into use as a result of the popularity of infant baptism (Arnold, 1997, p. 40). Others, however, refuse to baptize infants, and teach that infant baptism in unscriptural. Because of contradictory teachings on the issue, it is necessary to examine the arguments traditionally offered by those who defend infant baptism.
Genesis 17:7-8 reads: “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.” Proponents of infant baptism often appeal to the implication of Genesis 17:7 that God intended to include children in religion. It follows, say the supporters of infant baptism, that God wants children to be involved in religion, and baptism should initiate their religious activity. Thus, they contend, infants should be baptized.
Baptism, however, is not under consideration in Genesis 17. The passage is an account of the establishment of the Abrahamic covenant—and baptism was not a part of that covenant. Children were to be included in the religion of the Old Testament (see Deuteronomy 6:7), and were present in the assembly when the covenant was renewed (see Deuteronomy 29:10-13 and Joshua 8:35) and in other religious assemblies (Joel 2:16). But they had no need to submit to baptism, since baptism was not commanded by Mosaic law. The Abrahamic Covenant is contrasted with the New Testament Covenant in Hebrews 8:8-11:
Because finding fault with them, He says, “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be My people” (cf. Jeremiah 31:31ff.).
The Abrahamic Covenant is no longer in effect. [NOTE: The word “everlasting” in Genesis 17:7 does not mean that the covenant would literally last forever, but that it would last for a long time, and that its principles would be foundational for all of God’s relationships with humanity; see Aalders, 1981, p. 308.] It did not include baptism, as the New Testament Covenant does. The Abrahamic Covenant was a fleshly covenant, in that it required all male children to be circumcised (Genesis 17:9-14; see Willis, 1984, pp. 247-48). The New Covenant, however, prescribes purification of the heart—the fulfillment of the spiritual redemption promised to Abraham and David (see Matthew 26:26-29; Luke 22:20)—instead of fleshly purification of circumcision (Acts 15:9; Galatians 5:2; 6:15). The New Testament emphatically teaches that the ordinance of circumcision has been taken away and is no longer commanded by God (Acts 15:1-24; 1 Corinthians 7:19; Galatians 5:6; 6:15; Colossians 3:11), just as many other ordinances of Abrahamic and Mosaic law are no longer in effect (Hebrews 10:1-10; Galatians 3:24-25; see Coffman, 1985, pp. 226-227). Under the Abrahamic and Mosaic law, sins had to be atoned with the blood of bulls and goats, but Christ shed His blood, so now all bloody ordinances are abolished (Hebrews 9:22, 28; see Henry, 1706, 1:112).
Though circumcision did involve children, the similarities between circumcision and baptism are minor, while differences between the two ordinances are significant. J. Burton Coffman noted several such differences:
(1) Circumcision was for males only; Christian baptism is for all Christians. (2) Circumcision was performed on all infants eight days old; Christian baptism, in the scriptural sense, cannot be administered upon any persons whomsoever, except those of accountable age who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, have repented of their sins, and have confessed Christ before men. (3) Circumcision had absolutely no connection whatever with the forgiveness of sins; Christian baptism is for the purpose of receiving the remission of sins. (4) In circumcision, the initiative for the performance of the rite of necessity existed apart from the one circumcised; whereas, in Christian baptism, the Lord said, “Repent and have yourselves baptized” (Acts 2:38), showing that in Christianity, the initiative must derive from the person being baptized. (5) Circumcision had nothing at all to do with Abraham being justified, because that took place before the rite was ever given; however, baptism is a factor in the Christian’s justification, in the sense that he cannot be justified while refusing to submit to it (God had not commanded Abraham to be circumcised prior to his justification; but God has commanded all men of this dispensation to be baptized…) [1985, p. 230, parenthetical comment and emp. in orig.].
Circumcision was a small sign to show that those who followed God lived under a covenant that affected every area of life (see Keil and Delitzsch, 1996, p. 143; Sailhamer, 1990, p. 139), but baptism is more than a sign that Christians will obey God. Even slaves, whether born into the house of Abraham or purchased, were required to be circumcised, whether or not the slave had faith in God (Genesis 17:9-13). But faith is a prerequisite to baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:36-37). Also, circumcision has a hygienic value (which motivates some to administer the procedure in modern times; see Armerding and Lewis, 1988, p. 700), while baptism is purely a religious ordinance with no medically beneficial qualities.
Finally, the words “seed” or “descendants,” as used in Genesis 17:7, do not specifically refer to infants, children, or even adults, but denote the generations that would follow Abraham. God never has shunned children (see Leupold, 1942, p. 518). On the contrary, God was merciful to children in the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18; see A.P. Staff, 2002), and Christ Himself welcomed children in the New Testament (Mark 10:13-16). However, to allege that the Old Testament somehow sets a precedent for infant baptism in the New Testament is to err. Infant baptism is not authorized in Genesis 17:7, nor in any other Old Testament passage mentioning children or descendants.


Aalders, G.Ch. (1981), Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Armerding, C.E. and Thomas Lewis (1988 reprint), “Circumcision,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. G.W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 1:700-702.
Arnold, Eberhard (1997), The Early Christians in Their Own Words (Farmington, PA: Plough) fourth edition.
Coffman, James Burton (1985), Commentary on Genesis (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).
Henry, Matthew (1706), Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (McLean, VA: MacDonald).
Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch (1996 reprint), “Genesis,” Commentary on the Old Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Leupold, H.C. (1942), Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Sailhamer, John H. (1990), “Genesis,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
A.P. Staff (2002), “The Killings of Numbers 31,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/586.
Willis, John T. (1984), “Genesis,” The Living Word Commentary (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).

Does Picking Up Sticks Deserve the Death Penalty? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Does Picking Up Sticks Deserve the Death Penalty?

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

In his book, Losing Faith in Faith, denominational-preacher-turned-atheist, Dan Barker, wrote a chapter titled “Is the Bible a Good Moral Guide?” In that chapter, he argued that the Bible is not an acceptable guide for human behavior. In fact, he claimed that the God of the Bible is “an immoral person.” As proof of God’s “immorality,” Barker referred to a brief incident found in Numbers 15. In that chapter, a man was found gathering sticks on the Sabbath. Those who found the man took him to Moses and Aaron, who put him under guard until they could ascertain from God how this man should be punished. According to Numbers 15:35, the “Lord said to Moses, ‘The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.’ ” Writing about this episode, Barker quipped:
If there were something dangerous about picking up sticks on Saturday or Sunday, then humanity should know it by now. Since we all agree that such an act in itself is harmless, then whoever executes a person for committing such a “crime” is an immoral person. Even if there were something wrong about picking up sticks, it is not so terribly wrong that it deserves capital punishment (1992, p. 329).
Is it true that God was wrong in ordering this man to be stoned?
Barker claims that “we all agree” that picking up sticks on Saturday or Sunday is harmless. However, Barker does not take into account that the man was in direct violation of a specific command issued by God to the Israelites. One of the Ten Commandments specifically stated: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work” (Exodus 20:8-10). We do not all agree that disobedience to a direct command from God is harmless. Implied in Barker’s assessment of God’s punishment in this incident is the idea that Barker (and many skeptics like him) seems to think that he knows disobeying a “petty” command from God could not cause harm. In truth, there is no way that Barker could know what would have happened if this man’s disobedience was not punished as it was.
Often, disobedience to the commands of one who is in a position to know more about a particular situation could result in harm or death for multiplied thousands. For instance, why does the United States military insist on obedience to officers even in the minutest details? After all, “we all agree” that wearing a pair of boots that is not shined properly is a “harmless” activity, and folding a shirt incorrectly is no great crime. Why, then, does the military insist upon obedience even in the most minuscule ordinances? The simple truth is that laxity in obedience to small regulations breeds laxity in obedience to other ordinances. And if that laxity is not punished quickly and decisively, it has the potential to be contagious, and spread throughout the entire group or organization. And while inadvertent missteps in dress might not receive extremely harsh punishment, openly rebellious behavior to those of higher rank certainly would carry a significant punishment.
Let us examine how that might work. Suppose that the Commander in Chief of the U.S. military declared that only black boots are to be worn by the troops. Then suppose that one of the troops rebelliously decides he does not want to wear black boots, and thus dons a pair of bright-red boots. He marches with his fellow troops, and his commanding officers do nothing to punish him. His fellow troops see that his blatant indiscretion goes unpunished, so they decide to rebel and wear red boots. Soon, half the army is wearing red boots, a scenario that does not seem that “harmful.” When they are called to battle, however, the importance of the Commander’s regulations becomes evident. The enemy is dressed exactly like the U.S. military, except the enemy army wears red boots. The only way to distinguish between friend and foe happened to be the boot color, and due to the rebellious disobedience of the one man who was doing something “harmless,” thousands of U.S. troops are killed by friendly fire. A direct command from the Commander in Chief almost always houses an important purpose, about which many of those who are supposed to follow the command know little or nothing. Many times, only the Commander in Chief knows how harmful disobedience to the command can be.
In the same way, God issued a direct command. That command was blatantly disobeyed. How harmful could that one man’s disobedience have been? What if Joshua had seen this man’s disobedience go unpunished, and when God told him to march around Jericho thirteen times, Joshua decided that one time would be enough? Or what if the Israelites saw this man go unpunished, and thus decided that eating uncooked pork was not that big of a deal either? Or suppose that the Israelites had seen this man’s disobedience, decided they would break the other nine commandments, and therefore began to murder and commit adultery. The truth is, God is in a position to know much more about the situation than humans. He knew exactly what would have happened if this man’s disobedience was not punished.
Foreseeing the validity of this reasoning, Dan Barker conceded that punishment might be necessary, but claimed that the death penalty was too harsh. Says who? Suppose this man’s disobedience, if not punished with death, would have resulted in the moral collapse of the entire Israelite nation? Is there anyway Dan Barker could know that such would not be the case. Or suppose that this man’s disobedience to a direct command from God, if not punished by the death penalty, would have caused the Israelites to neglect sanitation laws instituted by God, bringing in a plague that killed thousands. What penalty would be appropriate for a man who was responsible for the death of thousands? In truth, only God could know what would have happened if this man’s disobedience had gone unpunished, and only God could have known what would have happened if that punishment was not the death penalty. When Dan Barker and other skeptics demand that God’s punishment in this (or other) cases is too harsh, they do so without reference to any objective, moral standard. Their sole defense is a wave of the hand and a “we all feel” statement that is designed to draw in their readers emotionally.
The Bible says that God knows “all things” (1 John 3:20). Since that is the case, only God can truly determine what is harmful and what is not harmful, and only God has the prerogative of determining the proper punishment for disobedience. Today, we no longer are under Old Testament laws concerning the Sabbath, but we are under the New Testament laws established by Jesus. In comparing disobedience to the two laws, the writer of Hebrews concluded:
Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace (10:28-29)?
Disobedience to God is a serious offense. It often is the case that those who are the most disobedient to His commandments are the ones who attempt to minimize the importance of obedience.


Barker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith In Faith—From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI: Freedom from Religion Foundation).

Do Silence of Scriptures Prohibit or Permit? by Trevor Bowen


Do Silence of Scriptures Prohibit or Permit?

Note: This article is designed to be a more thorough, detailed, and in-depth presentation of the case for respecting Bible silence, and it also includes a response to common objections received against each proof-text. If you are new to this subject, please consider first reading our more gentle introduction to the topic, An Introduction to Bible Silence.


How should we interpret the silence of God’s Scriptures? The answer first depends on how you define the word, silence. We may unintentionally bias our answer by defining the word with a prejudicial slant. Therefore, let us start by building on a neutral platform. According to Merriam-Webster, silence is defined as:
  1. forbearance from speech or noise
  2. absence of sound or noise
  3. absence of mention
In applying the above definition, silence in Scripture would refer to things, actions, or events that are not addressed by Scripture. On this topic, people usually have in mind the things that are not specifically mentioned. Based on this definition alone, we are sufficiently equipped to immediately answer our primary question: The silence of Scriptures - that is, the absence of mention - neither prohibits or permits in and of itself! Intrinsically, silences means nothing, because it is nothing. It is the absence of information; therefore, there is no significance we can attach to silence - by itself.
The silence of Scripture becomes significant only when it is coupled or observed in conjunction with God’s revealed pattern. The conclusion to be proven by this article is that the specific aspects of the Bible pattern exclude all other alternatives about which the Scriptures are silent. For example, when the Lord told us to “sing, making melody in your hearts”(Ephesians 5:19-20Colossians 3:16-17), He did not have to specifically forbid all alternatives, such as the varied musical instruments. The absence of further approval in conjunction with command “to sing” prohibits the use of instrumental music in worship. It is this duo, this pair - a specific pattern combined with silence - that communicates meaning, drawing the distinctive line between authorized and unauthorized.
Later, we will examine how generic aspects of the Bible pattern include, permit, and authorize a multitude of options or expediencies. But, the primary purpose of this article will be to examine the restrictive power of God’s silence in conjunction with the specifics of His revealed pattern.

Oversimplifications, Misnomers, and Semantics

Regrettably, some in the defense of a respect for God’s silence may have oversimplified the answer to merely equating silence to prohibition. They might demand a specific approving reference before they will accept anything as authorized.“Where is the verse that mentions instrumental music?”, they ask. This is a good and valid question, but alone the absence of reference to instrumental music does not deny its acceptability. All formalization of this oversimplification can create a great opportunity for misunderstanding and hasty dismissal, as evidenced by this opposing comment:
If this so-called “law of silence” were to be followed “religiously,” then our PA systems, Powerpoint usage, song books, and other things which we commonly use in worship would all be outlawed. It really is time to apply some common sense to this “law,” and the way it is applied by so many. ...
Indeed, public address systems, PowerPoint, song books and several other items of public worship are not specifically mentioned in Scripture. Therefore, we may say that the Scriptures are silent on these specific items. However, few Bible students advocate requiring a specific reference in Scripture for God’s approval. The futility of such a requirement is obvious to even the most casual of Bible students, as evidenced by the above comment. It is difficult to know whether the above charge is is aimed deliberately at a straw man or issued in innocence. Regardless, such oversimplifications on both sides must cease, because it is untenable and the source of great diversion and unnecessary confusion!
Bible authority for the above cases are granted by a very broad and generic pattern, such as the command to assemble, the example of preaching, and the command to sing (Hebrews 10:24-25Acts 20:7Ephesians 5:18-19). This genericauthority, which is later explained in more detail, answers many of the allegations of inconsistent or impossible observance of God's silence in Scriptures.
Furthermore, tackling this subject also raises the question, “Is God ever really, truly, and totally silent on any subject?”. This question exposes the label of silence as a misnomer, a poorly named and misleading title. As already mentioned, silence alone does not define authority, so why use it as the primary point of objection? Furthermore, God has not been totally silent on the points of controversy. Whether He has specified His preferred option, or whether He has generically authorized an entire category of options, He has indeed spoken! He has not been silent! Maybe it is for this reason the more seasoned teachers emphasize the powerlessness of silence to permit instead of the power of silence to prohibit.
Some may call this a difference of semantics, a mere variation in wording or conceptualization; however, it seems that often the essential issue is miscommunicated, misunderstood, or both. Too frequently, critical discussions are hurried down a divisive path, because at the outset, terms were not properly defined or the fundamental differences were not clearly exposed for joint analysis. Therefore, let us take diligent care to first define all terms, patiently outline the true underlying points of difference, and chart questions that will lead to unity when answered, before arguing the answers. If you judge that the above wording does not represent the true issue, or if you think it can be improved, please do not hesitate to contact the author. He would love nothing more than to work towards unity upon God’s Word (John 17:20-21Ephesians 4:1-6).

Our Question and Method of Answer

The great question concerning God's silence is, “Are we free to practice whatever is not forbidden in areas where God has already positively specified?” In other words, unless qualified, does a specific instruction inherently eliminate all other possibilities, or must God specifically exclude all other possibilities? Although the practical challenges of any book containing a specific catalog of every prohibition are ridiculous, the reality is that much of Christiandom operates under the principle, “Unless God prohibits either specifically or generically, then He permits categorically.” Is this attitude correct? Does the Bible teach us that God’s silence permits? Or, do the Scriptures teach us to respect the exclusiveness of God's silence and pattern? Whenever we discover a specific element of the New Testament pattern, how should we interpret the conspicuous absence of further approval or condemnation?
As has often been said, but is still yet worth repeating, the Bible is its own best commentary. The completed revelation of God’s Word over more than 2000 years affords us with a tremendous, inspired witness to our forerunners’ successes and failures. Therefore, let us turn to the pages of God's Word to see how others fared, who either respected or presumptively disregarded God's silence in light of His established pattern. Please take note that if we can find just onedemonstration of someone who was corrected, criticized, or condemned for operating under the presumption that silence inherently permits, then we will have answered our question and eliminated the security of operating under that assumption! Is that conclusion not correct? How would you react, if you discover God condemning those who presumed upon His silence in just one instance? How many instances would be required to change your mind? How many instances should be required?
Many of the following passages have been used as proof-texts for a long time by people from varied denominational backgrounds (for example, John L. Girardeau of the Columbia Theological Seminary, 1888). Therefore, please do not be discouraged into thinking that this represents a narrow sect. Furthermore, given the historic proliferation of these arguments, objections also naturally exist and abound. The purpose of this article will be to demonstrate the following most helpful Bible examples toward understanding the boundaries of authority, while also answering some of the more significant objections.
The single most common objection to the above examples is most likely a human, visceral, gut reaction to the notion that God’s Word can be handled so definitively and precisely. Too many find it surprising to learn that God continues to expect us to thoroughly understand and apply His Word (Ephesians 3:3-55:17II Timothy 2:153:16-17II Peter 3:15-18II Corinthians 10:3-5John 12:48). However, as the following examples will sustain, God demands exactly such comprehension, application, and their requisite diligent study from us. May God help us with such an awesome task and have mercy on our frailty. May we kindly, gracious, patiently help each other in pursuit of this task (Colossians 4:6Proverbs 27:17Amos 1:11).
Top   |   Conclusion

David Proposes to Build God a House

In many ways, David was perhaps the greatest king of Israel. God declared David to be “a man after His own heart” (I Samuel 13:14). Moreover, David often acted with the noblest of intentions (I Samuel 24:1-22I Chronicles 11:18-1921:22-25). However, his character was also marred with the vilest of sins (II Samuel 11:1-12:23). Furthermore, despite his generally commendable intentions, he was known at least once to have behaved presumptuously, which ultimately cost the life of another man (I Chronicles 13:1-1415:1-15II Samuel 6:1-8). Therefore, it should not be entirely surprising that we see David acting yet again with good intentions - but not fully contemplated:
Now it came to pass when the king was dwelling in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies all around, that the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains. ” Then Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you.” But it happened that night that the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying, “Go and tell My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Would you build a house for Me to dwell in? For I have not dwelt in a house since the time that I brought the children of Israel up from Egypt, even to this day, but have moved about in a tent and in a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about with all the children of Israel, have I ever spoken a word to anyone from the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?’ ”’” (II Samuel 7:1-7, see also, I Chronicles 17:1-6)
In this passage, the Lord Himself emphasizes a proper respect for His silence: “Wherever ... have I ever spoken a word to anyone ... saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?’”. The Lord had authorized the construction of a tent, the tabernacle (Exodus 25:9-27:21). That was the pattern that God defined and His people had observed under His supervision: “For I have not dwelt in a house since the time that I brought the children of Israel up from Egypt, even to this day, but have moved about in a tent and in a tabernacle.” Alternatives to this pattern were not explicitly forbiddenNo where in Scripture did God prohibit people from constructing a permanent house. Moreover, God did not point to a passage that in any way precluded such a building. Instead, God pointed to the absence of positive authority or approval in conjunction with His existing, approved pattern, the tabernacle! Where was the verse that authorized building such a temple? In light of God's established pattern, the absence of further positive approval was necessarily prohibitive! This is the essence of a healthy respect for God's silence in Scripture as established and articulated by God Himself - “Wherever have I ever spoken a word to anyone?”! What further proof is necessary for the power of God’s silence in the light of His revealed pattern?

Answering Objections

Some may rightly observe that David was commended for wanting to build God a temple:
And he said: “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who spoke with His mouth to my father David, and with His hand has fulfilled it, saying, ‘Since the day that I brought My people Israel out of Egypt, I have chosen no city from any tribe of Israel in which to build a house, that My name might be there; but I chose David to be over My people Israel.’ Now it was in the heart of my father David to build a temple for the name of the LORD God of Israel. But the LORD said to my father David, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a temple for My name, you did well that it was in your heart. Nevertheless you shall not build the temple, but your son who will come from your body, he shall build the temple for My name.’ So the LORD has fulfilled His word which He spoke; and I have filled the position of my father David, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the LORD promised; and I have built a temple for the name of the LORD God of Israel. (I Kings 8:15-20)
Yes, David clearly manifested a good heart in seeking the Lord's glory and not his own (“for the name of the LORD God of Israel”). However, David's plans did not accord with God's plans, because David's son was chosen to build God's temple, not David (II Samuel 7:12-13I Kings 8:19-20)! Although David's heart was once again properly motivated, it was nonetheless in error and worthy of correction, since God clearly corrected David in II Samuel 7:6-7. Please compare this instance to a previous occasion, when David nobly sought to bring the ark of the Lord to him, which is exonerated by his ultimate success in doing so (I Chronicles 15:1-16:43). Regardless of the righteous motivations and goal, the original attempt was condemned, “because we did not consult Him about the proper order (I Chronicles 15:13). Therefore, having noble intentions or genuine motivations does not necessarily justify a course of action. Likewise, people today may possess noble, righteous motivations in worship or service toward God, but if they fail to “consult Him about the proper order, then why would it not be worthy of the same condemnation, especially given this advance warning?
Others may object because David was ultimately blessed by God in this context (II Samuel 7:8-17). True, David was blessed by the Lord here, but does that blessing justify his sin with Bathsheba, his error in transportation of the ark, or any other sin of David? The truth is that the great heroes of faith were not perfect people. They needed forgiveness of sins, just as do we (II Samuel 12:13Romans 4:5-8). Therefore, as we sift through the holy text, we must be careful to “test all things; hold fast what is good; abstain from every form of evil” (I Thessalonians 5:21-22). And, in this text, the Lord's blessing of David is in no way connected to David's desire to build the temple, except circumstantially. In the context, the Lord's basis for blessing David began early with the Lord's election (I took you from the sheepfold, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people, over Israel. And I have been with you wherever you have gone, and have cut off all your enemies from before you ...”II Samuel 7:8-9). Therefore, we must look to earlier passages that might explain the basis for such an election, like I Samuel 13:14. Furthermore, in David's prayer of thankfulness, he emphasizes his own personal unworthiness (II Samuel 7:18-20) in addition to God's name and glory being the underlying basis for David's blessing (II Samuel 7:21-26). No where does David or the Lord connect David's desire to build God a house with God's determination to build David a house, except that it provides the circumstances and occasion for the revelation. Finally, even the promise of that blessing does not change the fact that David was not permitted to build the temple, which is what is in question - the correctness of presumably adding to God's pattern.
The Lord's correction of David in II Samuel 7:6-7 has been recorded for all of us to learn (I Corinthians 10:11Romans 15:4). The Lord gently corrected David, as He does each of us today through this inspired account. Will we heed the correction, like David, or will we proceed with any of our potentially unauthorized plans that we may have added to the Lord’s revealed pattern? Please, let us pause, meditate, and pray as we consider this passage and reflect on our own hearts and decisions. The pure heart is ultimately exonerated in how it receives correction, as did David.
Top   |   Conclusion

Divorce Forbidden from Creation

Please notice the hermeneutic, the rule of interpreting Scripture, as demonstrated by Jesus Himself in the passage below:
The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Thereforewhat God has joined together, let not man separate. They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” (Matthew 19:3-8)
Clearly, Jesus concluded that marriages should not end in divorce, because the Pharisees demanded an explanation for Moses' regulation of it (“Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”). Despite the Lord’s forbearance as delivered by Moses, Jesus demonstrated that divorce was never God's intention by going back to the pattern established at creation (“from the beginning it was not so”). Where was the verse that forbiddivorce? Where was the verse that prohibited a joined man and woman becoming unjoined? Where was the verse that commanded married men and women to stay joined forever? These verses are no where to be found! The verses that Jesus referenced (Genesis 1:272:24) do not even mention divorce, fornication, or adultery!
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)
And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” ... And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:18-24)
Please study the above verses from which Jesus operated and expected the Jews to operate. Where did God say, “What God has joined together, let not man separate”? It is nowhere to be found, except Jesus concluded it! How did He do this? What was His basis? He operated on silence coupled with God’s pattern! These verses stood and continue to stand as a testament to the power of a simple pattern established merely by recording God’s original design, which is an obvious reflection of His will. Whatever God does, man must leave it as it is until God does or speaks differently (Ezekiel 44:1-3). There were no explicit prohibitions in the above verses. There were no explicit exclusions. There were no explicit term limitations. And yet, Jesus expected them to have already understood (“Have you not read?”) that God’s pattern was for one man and one woman to be joined for life, thereby demonstrating and validating a hermeneutic based at least in part on the silence of Scriptures! Again, we have divine commentary, Jesus essentially articulating the recognition of silence's prohibitive power when combined with God's pattern - “What God has joined together, let not man separate!

Answering Objections

Some have claimed that the specific nature of a man joining to his wife inherently prohibits divorce, because divorce is the opposite of joining and mutually exclusive of it. However, such reasoning assumes that God's specific pattern must be observed indefinitely, which is fair and correct, but such thinking exemplifies a respect for God's silence! Where did God say the pattern was to be observed for life? It is nowhere to be found! Therefore, indefinite adherence to the Genesis pattern substantiates the exclusiveness of God's silence, which in this case is the lack of positive authority for divorce in light of God's positive authority for marriage!
Top   |   Conclusion

Promise Made to Abraham’s Seed, Singular

In addition to a “great name”, the Lord promised Abraham to grant him a great nation (who would become the Israelites), a land for that nation (which would be the land of Canaan), and a Seed that would bless all nations (which Seed would be Christ):
“Blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Genesis 22:17-18)
And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” (Genesis 26:4-5)
Using the promise recorded in these verses, the apostle Paul makes a necessary argument based on the singularity of one word, “seed”:
Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to itNow to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. (Galatians 3:15-17)
Apparently, the Galatian Christians had erroneously assumed that the object of the Abrahamic seed promise would be a plurality of Abraham's descendants — presumably the Jews. Paul corrects this error by noting that the word, “seed”, was actually singular - not plural! Jesus was the only descendant, who was intended to fulfill the final Abrahamic promise and bless all nations.
Paul's argument demonstrates the precision and power of Scripture, which the Lord intended us to observe and use. However, it also admonishes us to respect the silence of Scriptures! Based on the above divinely inspired interpretation, what was the correct number of descendants intended to be the object of blessing all nations? Was it not one seed, Jesus Christ? Furthermore, how did these Galatian Christians arrive at the false interpretation of many seeds? Was it not by addingto the intended number and meaning? Where is the prohibition that limited the object of the promise to one? Where were we told that only one seed would bless the nations? Yet, such an addition was clearly incorrect and unintended. The only way one could have properly interpreted those ancient promises and avoided an erroneous conclusion would be to respect God's silence by not adding more seeds to the promise! They should have understood that any additional number was excluded.

Answering Objections

Some scholars have noted that the Hebrew word for “seed”“zera`”, can be rightly translated as singular or a collective plural (R. C. H. Lenski, p. 159, Hendrickson Publishing)! This has caused some difficulty for commentators, because the referenced usage in Genesis 22:18 is almost identical to the usages in Genesis 13:15 and 17:8, where it appears to have reference to all of Abraham's descendants, not just one!
Consequently, some have suggested that Paul was carelessly or allegorically interpreting the Genesis account, retrofitting his needed meaning into the original, where it did not fit. Not only is such a suggestion absurd, it ignores. Paul's clear language: “He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one. Paul states that God said - past tense - that the promise was made to One Seed, not one! Paul was operating off what was previously recorded, not shoe-horned eisegesis or even new revelation. Therefore, the interpretation was true, intended, available, and expected, which continues to demonstrate the danger of adding where God was silent.
(Tangential Explanation: Because this passage has caused some students and commentators great difficulty, please consider the following explanation: Obviously, the promise was not extended to all of Abraham's seed, because the Ishmaelites and the Edomites were excluded from the land and nation promises (Genesis 21:1225:23Romans 9:6-13). Therefore, a limited application - not the whole of Abraham's seed - was under consideration in each of the three promises, and it should have been understood very early. Like two bookends, Abraham and His Seed, Jesus, stand as defining recipients of the third blessing: Abraham stands as an archetype, the protofigure of salvation by faith (Galatians 3:6-929Romans 4:1-14), and Jesus stands as the fulfillment, means and Finisher of salvation by faith, by which He both blessed and was blessed (Galatians 3:13-1419-29Hebrews 5:92:9-16Philippians 2:8-12). Neither of the other patriarchs, Isaac or Israel, received such a place as Abraham. So, Abraham and His Seed encapsulate the true collective, all the spiritual seed, who receive the ultimate end of the third blessing, eternal salvation in Christ Jesus. Therefore, a collective was always implied, but it was defined by two singular individuals in the original accounts. Please see Lenski and possibly Zahn for more explanation and commentary.)
Top   |   Conclusion

House of Prayer and Merchandise

During Jesus' last week, He “cleansed the temple” by casting out the money changers. In doing so, He makes references to two Old Testament passages:
So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves’.” (Mark 11:15-17)
The two quoted Old Testament passages are:
Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations." (Isaiah 56:7)
“Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’? Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” says the LORD. (Jeremiah 7:9-11)
These people may have indeed suffered from a multitude of sins and heart problems, which would be a valuable lesson to consider at another time. However, if we study the above passages diligently, we can find another example of Jesus’ respect for God’s silence in Scripture. The Lord’s revealed plan was that His temple would be a place of prayer for all races and nations, and yet these moneychangers had made it a place of business. Surely, these businessmen suffered from greed, a lack of reverence, and a host of other spiritual maladies; however, they also exhibited a disrespect for God’s silence in Scripture. Where was the verse that prohibited men from buying and selling animals for sacrifice on the temple grounds? They were authorized to buy animals to be used in sacrifice (Deuteronomy 14:23-26), plus Jesus does not condemn their sacrifice of purchased animals in general. However, He expected them to understand that the positive dedication of God’s temple to prayer was sufficient to exclude the merchandising that was occurring on the temple grounds!

Answering Objections:

Some may contend that the buying and selling was detracting from the worship, even replacing it. However, this is supposition. Where is the verse that proves these businessmen were interfering with worship? If the people were being prevented from worship, then why were they purchasing animals for sacrifice, which they would never use? If the sellers did not prevent the people from worshiping, then we must conclude they merely added to the temple’s purpose! Was there not both worship and commerce ongoing, but worship nonetheless?
Others may argue that Jesus was really addressing a selfish, lazy shortcut in worship, because the people were buying animals instead of sacrificing their own. However, the Old Law already authorized purchasing animals associated with temple worship and sacrifice (Deuteronomy 14:23-26). Furthermore, the Scriptures do not support this second objection as being the people’s real problem. The true problem, among other problems, was that they added to the purpose of the Lord’s house beyond the Lord’s original specification, and that is the condemnation that Jesus enforces. Please, let us look at the verse again:
So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves’.” (Mark 11:15-17)
Please notice that Jesus did not condemn their heart, lack of faith, taking a shortcut, etc. All they did was add - not replace - and the addition is what Jesus condemns. Jesus did not allow anyone to carry goods through the temple. Were all of their hearts wicked? Why did He focus on those carrying wares in the temple, instead of those possessing evil hearts? Jesus definitely never missed an opportunity point out heart problems (Matthew 5-7; 23, etc.). Whatever additional problems these businessmen may have had, these additional problems were not the subject or object of Jesus’ condemnation. Only speculation can presume additional heart problems beyond those specified in the passage. Again, what does God’s Word say? How did Jesus use the quoted verses? What logic did He use? What hermeneutic did He exemplify? Did He not condemn their addition to God’s place of worship? If it was sinful to add to the purpose of God’s house of worship then, would it not likewise be sinful for us today? What would the Lord do to our worship, if He physically visited it and found us adding to His revealed pattern for worship, as these Jews had done?
Top   |   Conclusion

Houses to Eat and Drink In

The Corinthian church was distressed with a multitude of spiritual issues. One of which was their perversion of the Lord’s Supper, as seen here:
Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you. ... Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come. (I Corinthians 11:20-2233-34)
After rebuking the Corinthians, Paul reminds them of the pattern for the Lord’s Supper, which he had previously delivered to them:
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes. (I Corinthians 11:23-26)
As you study this pattern, please try to find the prohibition for eating a common meal in addition to the Lord’s Supper. Where did the Lord say not to eat their own supper in addition to the Lord’s Supper? It is not there. The Lord was silent in regard to its specific prohibition or permission, but yet, by inspiration Paul expected the Corinthians to have eaten their own supper elsewhere. How were they supposed to know? Silence! God had specified a pattern, and by adhering closely to it, they would have avoided these perversions. If it was a sin for them to add to the Lord’s Supper, will it not likewise be a sin for us to add to the same supper?

Answering Objections:

First, it has been argued that the early Christians actually shared a common meal as part of their worship based on Acts 2:424620:79 and Jude 12. Therefore, it may be argued that their addition was already authorized, which would invalidate the above usage as a proof-text against additions. Second, others have asserted that their drunken, gluttonous feast was being observed in place of the Lord’s supper, thereby replacing, substituting, and displacing it. Therefore, it has been argued, that their failure to observe the Lord’s Supper was the real issue, not their addition to it. Third and finally, some have emphasized the multitude of problems noted in this passage, including drunkenness, gluttony, selfishness, and divisiveness, which are supposedly more critical than their disrespect for the delivered pattern and the Lord’s silence.
Answering these objections in reverse order, yes, the Corinthians exhibited a multitude of spiritual problems; however, would not all of these problems have been avoided quietly, confronted individually, and solved internally, if the Corinthians had followed the Lord’s original pattern, instead of adding to it? The Lord’s commands are designed to produce godly character within each of us:
Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, ... (I Timothy 1:5-6)
Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, (I Peter 1:22 NAS) ... (compare to “unto” or “for remission of sins”, Acts 2:38)
When we neglect obedience to God’s commands and His pattern, ungodliness grows and proceeds unchecked in our hearts, revealing itself in many ugly forms. Scoffing at the likelihood of obedience producing such a character is to scoff at the commands' Designer and Lawgiver (James 4:11-12). Regardless, whatever part of the Corinthians’ condemnation we judge to be more critical, it does not change the fact that at least some part of their condemnation according to Scripture was a failure to follow the pattern by respecting its silence. Given the abundance of homes, there was no reason forcing them to eat their own supper in the assembly (“What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?”). Furthermore, drunkenness, selfishness, haughtiness, and divisiveness are never approved. They are always condemned regardless of the location. Therefore, moving the meals to their home would not have made drunkenness, selfishness, haughtiness, or divisiveness acceptable! Consequently, Paul’s approved option for eating at home could not have resolved these other problems. His point could only fix the one remaining problem - eating a common meal in addition to the Lord’s Supper!
Yes, the Corinthians’ perversion of the Lord’s Supper was so extreme that no one may have been properly observing the supper, hence Paul’s wording (“when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper”). So, it seems that they may have completely displaced the Lord’s Supper. However, what was the solution that the Holy Spirit offered? Was the answer to ensure that everyone had equal portions? If a lack of sharing was the real problem, why did God not simply tell them to share their food, as they were told and approved elsewhere (II Corinthians 8:13-15Acts 2:44-454:34-35)? Or, was the answer to ensure that the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine received more emphasis than the common meal? Maybe they just needed to spend more time dwelling on Christ and His sacrifice instead of the common meal? No, the answer was removing the meal and going back to the simple pattern of unleavened bread and fruit of the vine, as Paul had already delivered to them. If the problem was only a matter of emphasis, then why would they need to take their own supper elsewhere? If the real problem was only a matter of substitution and not addition, then why could they not just add back what was missing? Why did they have to subtract their own supper?
In answering the last objection, it must be admitted that individual disciples did indeed share common meals - in each other’s houses!
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46-47)
And, Acts 20:7 does say, “the disciples came together to break bread”. However, is this not what already occurs during the simple, congregational observance of unleavened bread and fruit of the vine for the Lord’s Supper according to the Lord’s pattern (Jesus took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke itI Corinthians 11:23)? Only presumption and speculation could embellish upon this specific instance of “breaking of bread”, growing it into a common supper.
Finally, Jude’s reference to an approved “love feast” is very vague and scant of explanation:
Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. (Jude 11-13)
Based on the text’s surrounding figures (Cain, Balaam, Korah, clouds without water, late autumn trees, raging waves, and wandering stars), we must clearly interpret these “love feasts” as also being figurative. Do these feasts refer to a spiritual feast on God’s Word, a spiritual feast of brotherly love, or merely individual acts of hospitality? The text simply does not elaborate. There are a multitude of interpretations that are consistent with the whole of Scripture, which do not require invention. How can one confidently promote what was supposedly such a common practice in the first century based on a single, uncertain, passing phrase? If we cannot be certain of the interpretation, how can we be certain of its authority and application? Given the lack of surety, would not Romans 14:23 apply here (“for whatever is not from faith is sin”)? How can we innocently participate by faith in common suppers as the Lord’s Supper, if we cannot prove they were indeed “love feasts” using the Word of God, which is the basis of faith (Romans 10:17)? If it is not of faith, will it not be sin to us?
Top   |   Conclusion

Strange Fire of Nadab and Abihu

The Old Testament book of Leviticus includes the following example of Nadab and Abihu, who presumed to offer unauthorized fire before the Lord:
Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.’” So Aaron held his peace. (Leviticus 10:1-3)
Again, the divine commentary explains their error as a failure to respect the Lord's silence by proceeding beyond the boundary of God's command. Where was the command that forbid this unauthorized source of fire (“profane fire”)? There was no preceding command that said to only use fire from a specific location. And, yet their presumption was regarded as a major offense to the Lord's holiness, openly disrespecting Him, which required their lives. Can we not learn from their example of presumption? Should we not also avoid adding to the Lord's command? Should we not adhere to the pattern He has delivered to us, lest the same fate befall us eventually? Should we expect the Lord to approve of us, if we worship Him in way “which He had not commanded”?

Answering Objections:

Occasionally, some will observe that there was a very specific command that Nadab and Abihu violated, which warranted their capital punishment:
“Aaron shall burn on it sweet incense every morning; when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on it.;And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations. You shall not offer strange incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering; nor shall you pour a drink offering on it. And Aaron shall make atonement upon its horns once a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonement; once a year he shall make atonement upon it throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD.” ... And the LORD said to Moses: “Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each. You shall make of these an incense, a compound according to the art of the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. And you shall beat some of it very fine, and put some of it before the Testimony in the tabernacle of meeting where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. But as for the incense which you shall make, you shall not make any for yourselves, according to its composition. It shall be to you holy for the LORD. Whoever makes any like it, to smell it, he shall be cut off from his people.” (Exodus 30:7-1034-38)
Previously, the Lord had indeed commanded the priests to compound a very specific recipe of incense to be used on the altar of incense. They were specifically told not to use any “profane” or “strange” (Heb., zuwr, same as Leviticus 10:1) incense on this holy altar. Furthermore, even compounding this holy incense for personal use warranted a person being “cut off from his people”, so it is not surprising that the Lord might have taken the life of one, who dared to test Him publicly by violating this specific command in front of all the congregation of Israelites.
This objection to respecting God's silence logically rests on this very specific prohibition found in Exodus 30:7-1034-38. However, this prohibition is for “profane incense - not “profane fire! Now, it is admittedly conceivable that Moses may have used “fire” as a figure of speech in Leviticus 10:1-3 for “incense”, as found in Exodus 30:7-1034-38. However, Leviticus 10:1 makes it very clear that Moses was not loosely using “fire” to represent “incense” or some combination of both, because he specifically refers to both incense and fire as individual components in their censers offered before the Lord (Leviticus 10:1). Therefore, there is no loose usage of figurative language that would permit application of Exodus 30:7-1034-38 to the events of Leviticus 10:1-3. Consequently, the example of Nadab and Abihu still stands as a lesson today for all who would disrespect the Lord's silence and his holiness!
Others have indicated that the real problem was that Nadab and Abihu were intoxicated. It is true that in the following verses, the Lord does indeed prohibit the priests from being drunk (Leviticus 10:8-11). However, there is no clear connection in verses 8-10 with the preceding verses 1-7 of the same chapter, except the theme of holiness to the Lord. Moreover, this theme of holiness is continued in verse 12, which begins direction for eating grain offerings, which were presented to the Lord by fire. Therefore, using the same reasoning, should we not also assume their eating of grain offerings was the real offense to the Lord?
In truth, we need not look further than the passage’s own context, because our verse clearly shows the Lord's concern. They offered “profane fire, which He had not commanded them”! Furthermore, every time Nadab and Abihu are ever mentioned again in the Scriptures, they are always connected with their death for offering “profane fire” to the Lord:
And these are the names of the sons of Aaron: Nadab, the firstborn, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed priests, whom he consecrated to minister as priests. Nadab and Abihu had died before the LORD when they offered profane fire before the LORD in the Wilderness of Sinai; and they had no children. So Eleazar and Ithamar ministered as priests in the presence of Aaron their father. (Numbers 3:2-4)
To Aaron were born Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. And Nadab and Abihu died when they offered profane fire before the LORD. (Numbers 26:60-61)
Now these are the divisions of the sons of Aaron. The sons of Aaron were Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. And Nadab and Abihu died before their father, and had no children; therefore Eleazar and Ithamar ministered as priests. (I Chronicles 24:1-2)
The only exception is I Chronicles 6:3, which briefly mentions them as sons of Aaron without any reference to their sin or death.
Others have noted that there is indeed a very specific command for the source of the fire to be used for incense offered to the Lord:
Now the LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered profane fire before the LORD, and died; and the LORD said to Moses: “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat. ... Then he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, with his hands full of sweet incense beaten fine, and bring it inside the veil. And he shall put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the Testimony, lest he die. (Leviticus 16:1-13)
The problem with using this verse is that the above command was delivered to Aaron after his sons, Nadab and Abihu, sinned and died!
In reviewing the preceding context of Leviticus 9, it seems that the entire effort of Nadab and Abihu to make an offering at that time was wholly presumptious. In the preceding chapter of Leviticus 9, Moses, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons are directed to prepare for the Lord’s appearing at the then new “tabernacle of meeting” (Leviticus 9:1-6). This preparation involved the offering of several sacrifices for atonement and peace (Leviticus 9:2-21). Seven times in this chapter, the people are specifically commanded by the Lord or the pattern of the Lord's command is emphasized with phrases, like “as the Lord commanded” or “in the proscribed manner” (Leviticus 9:2567101621). As a result, we read next:
Then Aaron lifted his hand toward the people, blessed them, and came down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering, and peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting, and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces. (Leviticus 9:22-24)
It is at this point that Nadab and Abihu grab their censers and offer their “strange fire before the Lord”. The Lord had clearly dictated how the previous sacrifices were to be performed and presented, but He had not yet explained exactly how this incense of atonement was to be burned and offered “before the Lord”. It is only after their death that the Lord details the procedure for its offering and the source of the incense’s fire. Therefore, it seems that their entire effort was presumptive, completely disregarding God's silence, because they engaged in an offering that had not yet even been prescribed, much less regulated. Therefore, it is not surprising that they would trespass, since they had long crossed over the bounds of revelation at that time. Regardless of their larger motivation, the lesson from Scriptures is still plain and clear. Let us therefore avoid offering to God, except that which He has commanded us.
Top   |   Conclusion

Jesus of the Tribe of Judah, Serving as a Priest

The epistle to the Hebrews is a tour de force in Bible hermeneutics, repeatedly providing eye-opening demonstrations of careful, powerful Bible interpretation, because so many of its truths are argued from implications provided by Old Testament Scripture. Therefore, the epistle's logic not only divinely sanctions the use of careful reasoning and necessary inference to fully understand God's Word, but it also provides at least one clear demonstration of the rightful respect for God's silence:
Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. (Hebrews 7:11-14)
Here the writer of Hebrews points to the necessary rejection of the Old Testament’s, Old Law, because Jesus descended through the tribe of Judah - not Levi. Furthermore, only the Levites were authorized to be priests under the Old Law (Numbers 1:50-513:6-1016:1-17:1318:1-7). Since Jesus was a priest (Hebrews 7:15-28and from the tribe of Judah, then He necessarily was a priest according to a new law, not the Law of Moses. This logic demonstrates the usefulness, importance, and power of essential conclusions derived from God's Word, but it also demonstrates the power of God's silence.
The writer never appeals to any prohibition against priests coming from the tribe of Judah. Instead he appeals to God's silence! Where is the verse that authorized a descendent of Judah’s tribe to serve as priest? Where is the verse that contains positive approval of priests coming from some other tribe but Levi? Nowhere! It is no where to be found in all the pages of God's Word! Therefore, given the pattern for Levitical priests (Hebrews 7:5911and Jesus’ tribal heritage (Hebrews 7:13-14and His priestly service (Hebrews 7:1115-17), our writer concludes the priestly order was changed, necessitating a change of the authorizing law! Consequently, we must necessarily conclude that Jesus served as a priest according to some other law than the Law of Moses. But, we must also conclude that disrespecting God’s silence is necessarily a clear violation of God's will; otherwise, the Hebrew writer greatly erred in his inspired logic!

Answering Objections:

The language of Hebrews 7:11-14 is a undeniably clear demonstration that silence cannot inherently permit (“of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood”). However, the diligent Bible student will likely know that Moses did not just positively authorize priests to serve from the tribe of Levi, but he also specifically forbid anyone serving from any other tribe under the penalty of death! In this case, we have more than just God's silence!
but you shall appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the Testimony, over all its furnishings, and over all things that belong to it; they shall carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings; they shall attend to it and camp around the tabernacle. And when the tabernacle is to go forward, the Levites shall take it down; and when the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall set it up. The outsider who comes near shall be put to death.” (Numbers 1:50-51)
Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the priest, that they may serve him. And they shall attend to his needs and the needs of the whole congregation before the tabernacle of meeting, to do the work of the tabernacle. Also they shall attend to all the furnishings of the tabernacle of meeting, and to the needs of the children of Israel, to do the work of the tabernacle. And you shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are given entirely to him from among the children of Israel. So you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall attend to their priesthood; but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death.” (Numbers 3:6-10)
Then the LORD said to Aaron: “You and your sons and your father's house with you shall bear the iniquity related to the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear the iniquity associated with your priesthood. Also bring with you your brethren of the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, that they may be joined with you and serve you while you and your sons are with you before the tabernacle of witness. They shall attend to your needs and all the needs of the tabernacle; but they shall not come near the articles of the sanctuary and the altar, lest they die -- they and you also. ... Behold, I Myself have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel; they are a gift to you, given by the LORD, to do the work of the tabernacle of meeting. Therefore you and your sons with you shall attend to your priesthood for everything at the altar and behind the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood to you as a gift for service, but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death.” (Numbers 18:1-7)
Beyond these very clear and explicit warnings, we also have the demonstrative case of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, who tried to assume the position of priest and were punished by God by death, as recorded by Moses (Numbers 16:1-17:13). So, absolutely, yes, we have very clear, specific, and fearful prohibitions against anyone serving as priests under the Old Law, except those from the tribe of Levi! In fact, there are multiple, poignant, undeniable passages that clearly teach God's specific will. ... And, yet, for all of these, which passage did the Hebrew write select to make his point? Which specific condemnation did he choose to invoke? What was the most powerful way he could express this prohibition?
For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. (Hebrews 7:13-14)
Although specific prohibitions abounded in Scripture and were readily available, the authority that the inspired writer chose to observe was God's silence - the absence of approval! Therefore, should we not also take notice of God's silence and respect its binding power, since that was the missing characteristic that the Hebrew writer emphasized?
Again, someone might object that this is not a case of true silence, because the Lord specifically spoke. He was not silent. He prohibited priests serving from any other tribe than Levi. Consequently, the claim can be made that this case is simply not parallel or useful to cases which do not have specific prohibitions. Since this second objection is essentially a reapproaching or rewording of the original objection, let us reword the same answer: The inspired writer of Hebrews established his case without referencing any of the abundant prohibitions. Therefore, if he could build a binding, necessary, and prohibitive case based on silence - not specific prohibition, then why can we not do the same? Since his conclusion was undeniable, then are we not therefore equipped and required to likewise observe and respect the Lord's silence?
Top   |   Conclusion

Noah’s Ark of Gopher Wood

A classic proof-text for respecting God's silence in revelation is the case of Noah’s construction of the ark:
And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. You shall make a window for the ark, and you shall finish it to a cubit from above; and set the door of the ark in its side. You shall make it with lower, second, and third decks. ...” Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did. Then the LORD said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. (Genesis 6:13-7:1)
Frequently, an argument is made from this proof-text in a series of apparently compelling questions, like so:
Please notice the detail of God's specific pattern as delivered to Noah. He was given specific measurements for the height, width, and breadth of the ship, as well as the number of windows and doors. God also specified even the type of wood to be used in the ark, gopherwood! Whatever type of wood that might be, Noah surely understood it. Can you imagine what would have happened if Noah had used a different type of wood? What if he added other types of wood to the construction to bolster and support what God specified. Would that have been acceptable? Surely not! Furthermore, the Scriptures explicitly state that Noah followed God's pattern exactly, so we know that he did not add to the pattern in any way!.
The fallacy of this reasoning, as presented here, is that it fails to justify its assertion that Noah did not add to the pattern, except to note that Noah “did according to all that God commanded him”. However, the passage does not identify whether Noah added to the pattern or not. Any conclusion based on the manner of Noah’s obedience fails, because the Scriptures do not explain how Noah obeyed. One must assume whether Noah strictly followed God’s pattern or took liberties in adding to the pattern. Therefore, one must assume the answer to the question to be proven to make any use of this proof-text, or one must justify his conclusion by establishing it from other passages, which defeats the usefulness of this passage as a proof-text.
So, if the case of Noah is not useful to prove or establish the power of God’s silence to prohibit, then why even mention it here? One, the text should be properly understood to prevent future misuse. Two, some of those who denounce even the existence of a pattern for the New Testament church admit that Noah was not free to add to God’s pattern or take away from it, primarily because of its specificity. However, when the Lord provides specific instruction in the New Testament, such as to sing, they somehow cannot see a pattern. Consistently adhering to the reasoning that they use to prohibit Noah’s usage of any other type of wood would likewise eliminate our usage of any other instrument beside our voice (Ephesians 5:18-19Colossians 3:16-17). Noah was not forbidden from using any other wood beside gopherwood. He was not threatened with death for using any other wood. And, yet all would agree that Noah had to use gopherwood - no other wood was allowed, because the Lord simply specified gopherwood. He did not have to specifically exclude all other alternatives. Using the same reasoning, one would have to denounce mechanical instruments in worship, since the Lord specified the voice! “Oh, consistency! Thou art a jewel!”
Top   |   Conclusion

An Unconvincing or Telling Illustration?

Frequently, when teaching, listening, researching, or discussing this question, two different illustrations are offered. Each is an appeal to consistency and represents an argument from the lesser to the greater, like so:
Imagine a father stepped into a room of his house including his son and some of his friends. Imagine that the father gives his son some money and the keys to the family car and tells his son to go buy some bread from the grocery store. How would that father react, when his son came home with the requested bread and unrequested candy, cokes, and trinkets? Would he approve his son or chastise him?
Or, imagine that your boss, a state’s governor, or maybe even the President told you to fulfill a specific mission. How would they react if you performed their requested work, but you also used their resources to fulfill your own interests too? Would you excuse yourself to them on the grounds of their failure to specifically prohibit your unauthorized expenses?
Both illustrations appeal to lesser authority figures, whether they be our parents, bosses, governors, or even the President. If we know to respect their authority and their silence, then how much more should we respect the greater authority of our far greater God?! This is a valid form of reasoning and worthwhile line of questioning, which is generally supported by this example in Malachi:
A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ You offer defiled food on My altar. But say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the LORD is contemptible.’ And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably? Says the LORD of hosts. ... “You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” Says the LORD of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the LORD. “But cursed be the deceiver Who has in his flock a male, And takes a vow, But sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished-- For I am a great King,” Says the LORD of hosts, “And My name is to be feared among the nations.” (Malachi 1:6-14)
The appeal of the two above illustrations of human origin are in many ways parallel to the above illustration of divine origin, and in previous days they were compelling as was this illustration. However, there is a significant weakness in these illustrations that must be explained. The conclusion is supposed to be self-evident and beyond all dispute! These illustrations do not prove, rather they are a call to consciousness to a truth that is already known and elsewhere upheld. They are useful to corroborate the point, to show that respect for silence is not unknown to us. Even from our human relations, we should know that silence does not permit. In days gone by, this was a convincing illustration, because people understood, respected, and obeyed authority in general.
Sadly, in this day and age, when independence, self-empowerment, free-thought, creativity, and liberty are universally cherished beyond all restraint, discipline, and authority, these illustrations mean almost nothing. Even the word, authority, must be explained in this context, because it is so poorly understood and disrespected, just as a word! It has moved from the common vernacular to jargon. Children do not think twice about buying the unauthorized additions, because they presume their father would not mind. Employees stretch their bosses' provision, citizens steal from the government, and the President is a sneer. The liberal mind has become the standard in almost all relationships. Although this is telling in and of itself, these illustrations no longer hold the power to generally touch and convince the common consciousness.
Because a few have almost exclusively relied on these illustrations and specialized jargon to make their case, the charge has been made that any respect for silence is the fruit of tired human tradition, unique to a single denomination or movement. In fact, when one turns first to these illustrations instead of Scripture, in the minds of many, it only weakens the apparent case. Consequently, if your case is ultimately built on Scripture, then please lead with Scripture, build with Scripture upon Scripture, and finish with Scripture (II Timothy 3:16-174:1-5)! If you need an illustration, then as a general rule, please use the Bible, which is full of illustrations (Romans 15:4I Corinthians 10:611-12). And, if you want to appeal to what is self-evident, as did the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 15:27Hebrews 7:7), please first know your audience and make sure your conclusion is beyond all dispute with them. Please remember, illustrations do not prove. They only explain or corroborate. These illustrations have a good and rightful place, but they should not be the primary point in any discussion today, because they ultimately lack the power to prove, and because too many people can no longer relate to them.
The truth is that years of disrespecting authority and silence has grown from seed into seed. Parents tolerate disrespectful and disobedient children, because liberality has taken control over all relationships, even those where it most obviously does not belong and cannot function. A generation has arisen that does not understand or respect any authority (Proverbs 30:11-17Revelation 9:1-11). People are willing to presume upon God, because presumption upon every other authority figure is tolerated. Therefore, we must not fail to teach and show that God has revealed the danger of presuming upon Him, restoring a proper fear of God. But, even if every parent to every king should weaken, fail, and lose all demand for respect and authority, never deceive yourself into “willfully forgetting” (II Peter 3:3-7) that our God is a “great King”, Who demands and expects His name to be feared. Even though He is our loving heavenly Father, He still expects “His honor” (Malachi 1:6-14)! We may drift, but He does not (II Timothy 2:13Hebrews 2:1-3)!

Conclusion and Closing Application

Scriptures abound with examples of those approved by “handling accurately the word of truth” and those condemned by devising their own means, operating disrespectfully in the realm of the Lord’s silence. The following table summarizes our references and observations:
Examples of Respecting and Disrespecting the Silence of Scriptures
David Proposes to Build God a HouseII Samuel 7:1-7;
I Chronicles 17:1-6
Tent, TabernacleGod’s House of WorshipTemple of CedarCorrected by God
Divorce Forbidden from CreationMatthew 19:3-8;
Genesis 2:24;
I Corinthians 6:16
1 Man + 1 WomanMarriage1 Man + 1 Woman and later, More WomenCondemned in NT
Promise Made to Abraham’s Seed, SingularGalatians 3:15-17;
Genesis 22:18
Seed, SingularNumber of OffspringSeeds, PluralError
House of Prayer and MerchandiseMark 11:15-17;
Isaiah 56:7;
Jeremiah 7:11
House of PrayerTemple’s PurposeHouse of Prayer
and Merchandise
Houses to Eat and Drink InI Corinthians 11:20-27Bread and Fruit of VineElements of Lord’s SupperCommon SupperCondemnation
Strange Fire of Nadab and AbihuLeviticus 10:1-316:1-13;
Exodus 30:7-1034-38
Fire from the Altar before the LordSource of Fire“Strange Fire”“Commanded Not”Death
Jesus, of the tribe of Judah, Serving as a PriestHebrews 7:11-14Priest from LeviTribe of PriestJudahViolation and Change of Law
Noah’s Ark of Gopher WoodGenesis 6:14-16Gopher WoodArk’s WoodGopher and PineUnknown for Sure, But Condemned by All
New Testament PraiseEphesians 5:19;
Colossians 3:16
SingMusicSing and Play???
In each of these above cases, God spoke, defining a promise, purpose, or command. In each of these cases (except Noah), man took liberty and added permission or authority to the command. In each of these cases man went, or potentially “went beyond what is written” (I Corinthians 4:6). In none of these cases were the additions specifically prohibited, mutually exclusive, or physically incompatible with God’s delivered pattern. Each addition was purely optional, and according to man’s wisdom, each addition was purely complimentary to God’s pattern. And yet, in each case, man was criticized, condemned or even executed for his presumptive addition.
What is the conclusion then, except that which has been derived repeatedly throughout this article? Every command, example, and implication from God contains both specific and and generic elements. Whatever God specifies, He expects us to respect and obey. The above cases repeatedly demonstrate this point. He will not specify everything that we should not do. He is frequently “silent” concerning the alternatives. But, He expects us to simply follow whatever pattern He has revealed. Whenever we add to the Lord’s directive, even if it is compatible with the the Lord’s command such that we can do both, we will not please our God. God is never totally silent. Whatever He specifies not only authorizes the specifics, but it also prohibits the alternatives.
Finally, please consider the question of instrumental music in application to the above examples. Is instrumental music authorized by Scripture? The Lord commands us to sing:
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Ephesians 5:18-20)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:16-17)
Many approve and participate in praise to God with the mechanical instrument based on the premise that it is nowhere prohibited. “Where is the command that says it is wrong to use instrumental music?”, they ask. Based on the above examples, you should be able to answer this question. But, in conclusion, please ask yourself, “In the category of music, how is adding the mechanical instrument to God’s command to sing any different than ...?”
  • Adding a house of cedar to God’s command to use a tabernacle?
  • Adding a new wife after leaving the old wife?
  • Adding more seeds to the promise to bless by one seed?
  • Adding business to the temple’s purpose of prayer?
  • Adding common food to the elements of the Lord’s Supper?
  • Adding other sources of fire for incense beyond the altar of the Lord?
  • Adding other tribes for priests beyond Levi?
  • Adding pine, oak, or any other wood to the command to use gopher wood?
  • Adding mechanical instruments to the command to sing?
Actually, adding the mechanical instrument is not any different than any of the above examples, is it? As you think on this one application, please also consider these common practices for further potential application:
  • Church Fellowship Halls
  • Church Sponsored Recreational and Social Events
  • Spiritual Dance in Worship
  • Church Sponsored Colleges or Schools
  • Church-wide Synods, Conferences, Seminaries, and Other Ruling Governance
  • ???
What is the Bible pattern for the organization, worship, and work of the church? How well do the churches we attend adhere to the pattern? Is their only bound the verse of specific prohibition? Do they operate as though silence permits? Or, do they respect God’s pattern and His silence as revealed in Scripture? “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar. (Proverbs 30:6)
Next in this series, let us consider the differences between generic and specific Bible authority.

Suggested Further Reading

Trevor Bowen