"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY" Suffering Shipwreck Of The Faith (1:18-20) by Mark Copeland


Suffering Shipwreck Of The Faith (1:18-20)


1. The Christian is engaged in warfare...
   a. It is a good warfare - 1Ti 1:18; cf. 1Ti 6:12
   b. It is a spiritual warfare - Ep 6:10-12
   c. It is a battle for 'the' faith - cf. Jude 3
   d. One that requires faith and a good conscience on our part - 1 Ti 1:19

2. It is possible for Christians to do poorly in this 'war'...
   a. By rejecting their faith and conscience - 1Ti 1:19
   b. Suffering shipwreck concerning the faith - 1Ti 1:19
   c. Such was true of two men mentioned by Paul - 1Ti 1:20; cf. 1Co 5:1-13

[Could this be true of us today?  Might we become guilty of "Suffering
Shipwreck Of The Faith"?  Indeed, we can suffer shipwreck, first...]


      1. By Easton's Bible Dictionary
         a. Faith is in general the persuasion of the mind that a
            certain statement is true
         b. Its primary idea is trust
      2. A strong conviction or trust in something; as the NIV
         translates He 11:1...
         a. "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for..."
         b. "...and certain of what we do not see."
      3. It is a strong conviction or trust in Jesus:
         a. Who Jesus is
            1) That is what He claimed
            2) That is truly the Son of the living God - Jn 8:24
         b. What Jesus did
            1) That He died on the cross for our sins
            2) That His death is truly a sufficient propitiation or
               sacrifice for our sins
         c. What Jesus said
            1) That He alone provides the way to eternal life
            2) That He alone is the way to God, the Father - cf. Jn 14:

      1. Comes through the Word of God - Ro 10:17; e.g., Jn 20:30,31
      2. Strengthened through fellowship with other Christians - He 3:
         12-14; e.g., 10:24-25
      3. Confirmed through obedience - cf. Jn 7:17

      1. Weakened by neglecting the Word of God! - cf. Hos 4:6
      2. More likely to turn to unbelief by forsaking fellowship with
         other Christians! - He 3:12-14
      3. Becomes a dead faith in the absence of works! - cf. Jm 2:20-23, 26

[When you neglect the Word of God, forsake fellowship with brethren, and
cease to do the will of God, you reject your faith, and make shipwreck
of the faith.  One also suffers shipwreck of the faith...]


      1. "that process of thought which distinguishes what it considers
         morally good or bad, commending the good, condemning the bad,
         and so prompting to do the former, and to avoid the latter."
         - Vine
      2. Our conscience cannot always be reliable
         a. Paul had served God with a good conscience throughout his
            life - Ac 23:1
         b. Even at a time when he was persecuting Christians! - cf. Ac 26:9-11
         c. Our conscience is like a clock, which works properly only if
            set correctly
      3. Even so, God desires that we have a good conscience - 1Ti 1:5;
         cf. 3:9

      1. A good conscience is made possible through Jesus' blood
         a. Old Testament sacrifices and ordinances were insufficient
            - He 9:9; cf. 10:1-4
         b. The blood of Jesus can cleanse one's conscience - He 9:14;
            cf. 1Pe 3:21
      2. A good conscience is maintained by obedience to God's will
         a. Failure to do what we know is right is sinful - Jm 4:17
         b. Conduct with godly sincerity makes for a good conscience
            - e.g., 2Co 1:12

      1. Much harm can be done to our conscience
         a. We can violate our conscience, which is sinful - Ro 14:22-23
         b. We can defile our conscience, leading to unbelief - e.g., Ti
         c. We can sear our conscience, leading to apostasy - e.g., 1 Ti 4:1-2
      2. Whenever we ignore or violate our conscience, we are in
         dangerous territory!
         a. A guilty conscience soon leads to a hardened conscience
            1) E.g., once our conscience is hardened regarding
            2) ...it is more likely to become hardened against doing
               what is right in other areas
         b. Can we say what the writer of Hebrews did? - He 13:18
            1) "...for we are confident that we have a good conscience,
               in all things desiring to live honorably"
            2) If we make it a habit not to attend all the services of
               the church, can we really say "we have a good conscience,
               in all things desiring to live honorably"?


1. The Faith (the gospel) is designed to develop and nurture one's faith
   and conscience...
   a. The gospel makes known what to believe and provides evidence - Jn 20:21-21
   b. The gospel provides the means to purify our hearts and conscience
      - He 9:14; 1Pe 3:21
   -- If we reject faith and a good conscience, then the Faith suffers
      shipwreck in our lives!

2. Note how Paul felt as he came to the end of life - 2Ti 4:7
   a. That was because he strove to have a good conscience - Ac 24:16
   b. That was because he lived by faith - Ga 2:20

Are you fighting the good fight?  Are you keeping the faith? Or have you
suffered shipwreck by rejecting faith and a good conscience?  If so,
then come back to the Shepherd of our souls...!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Female Leadership and the Church by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Female Leadership and the Church

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Amid the polarization that plagues American civilization in general, and Christendom in particular, one chasm continues to widen between those who, on the one hand, wish to conform to Bible protocol, and those who, on the other, wish to modernize, update, adjust, and adapt Scripture to a changing society. The cry of those who are pressing the feminist agenda is that the church in the past has restricted women in roles of leadership and worship simply because of culture and flawed hermeneutical principles. They say that the church as we know it is the product of a male-dominated society and that consequently it has misconstrued the contextual meaning of the relevant biblical passages.
As attitudes soften and biblical conviction weakens, Scripture is being reinterpreted to allow for expanded roles for women in worship. If one who studies the biblical text concludes that women are not to be restricted in worship, he is hailed as one who engages in “fresh, scholarly exegesis.” But the one who studies the text and concludes that God intended for women to be subordinate to male leadership in worship is viewed as being guilty of prejudice and of being unduly influenced by “church tradition” or “cultural baggage.” How is it that the former’s religious practice and interpretation of Scripture is somehow curiously exempt from imbibing the spirit of an age in which feminist ideology has permeated virtually every segment of our society?


A detailed study of all of the relevant biblical texts in a single article like this is impossible. However, God’s Word is understandable on any significant subject in the Bible. In fact, it is the recently emerging “scholars”—with their intellectual complexities and imported seminary bias—that have contributed to the confusion over this subject (see Osburn, 1993). For example, Carroll Osburn summarized his discussion of 1 Timothy 2 in the words—“Put simply, any female who has sufficient and accurate information may teach that information in a gentle spirit to whomever in whatever situation they may be” (1994, p. 115). The reader is invited to give consideration to the following brief summary of New Testament teaching on the subject of the role of women in leadership in worship and the church.

1 Corinthians 11,14

Chapters eleven and fourteen of First Corinthians constitute a context dealing with disorders in the worship assembly. The entire pericope of 11:2-14:40 concerns the worship assembly, i.e., “when you come together” (cf. 11:17,18,20,33; 14:23-26). Paul articulated the transcultural principle for all people throughout history in 11:3—“But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” “Head” clearly refers not to “source” but to “authority” (see Grudem, 1985, pp. 38-59). Therefore, God intends for women to be subordinate to men in worship. Corinthian women were obviously removing their veils and stepping forward in the assembly to lead with their Spirit-imparted, miraculous capabilities, i.e., prophecy (12:10; 14:31) and prayer (14:14-15). Such activity was a direct violation of the subordination principle, articulated by Paul in chapter fourteen. In chapter eleven, he focused on the propriety of females removing the cultural symbol of submission.
The women were removing their veils because they understood that to stand and exercise a spiritual gift in the assembly was an authoritative act of leadership. To wear a symbol of submission to authority (the veil) while simultaneously conducting oneself in an authoritative fashion (to lead in worship) was self-contradictory. Paul’s insistence that women keep their veils on during the worship assembly amounted to an implicit directive to refrain from leading in the assembly—a directive stated explicitly in 14:34. The allusions to Creation law (11:7-9; cf. 14:34) underscore the fact that Paul saw the restrictions on women as rooted in the created order—not in culture. Also, Paul made clear that such restrictions applied equally to all churches of Christ (11:16).
In chapter fourteen, Paul addressed further the confusion over spiritual gifts, and returned specifically to the participation of women in the exercise of those gifts in the assembly. He again emphasized the universal practice of churches of Christ: “as in all churches of the saints” (14:33). [NOTE: Grammatically, the phrase “as in all churches of the saints” links with “let your women keep silence”; cf. the ASV, RSV, NIV, NEB, NAB, etc.] The women who possessed miraculous gifts were not to exercise them in the mixed worship assembly of the church. To do so was disgraceful—“a shame” (14:35). To insist upon doing so was equivalent to: (1) presuming to be the authors of God’s Word; and (2) assuming that God’s standards do not apply to everyone (14:36).
Granted, 1 Corinthians chapters eleven and fourteen address a unique situation. After all, spiritual gifts no longer are available to the church (1 Corinthians 13:8-11; see Miller, 2003), and veils, in Western society, no longer represent a cultural symbol of female submission. Nevertheless, both passages demonstrate the clear application of the transcultural principle (female subordination in worship) to a specific cultural circumstance. The underlying submission principle remains intact as an inbuilt constituent element of the created order.

1 Timothy 2: The Central Scripture

I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control (1 Timothy 2:8-15).
The premier passage in the New Testament that treats the role of women in worship is 1 Timothy 2:8-15. The remote context of the book is: proper behavior in the life of the church (1 Timothy 3:15). The immediate context of chapter two is worship, specifically prayer (1 Timothy 2:1,8). The context does not limit the worship to the church assembly, but includes the general life of the church.
Paul affirmed that adult males (andras) are to lead prayers anywhere people meet for worship. “Lifting up holy hands” is a figure of speech—a metonymy—in which a posture of prayer is put in place of prayer itself. Their prayers are to usher forth out of holy lives. On the other hand, women are admonished to focus upon appropriate apparel and a submissive attitude. Notice the contrast set up in the passage: Men need to be holy, spiritual leaders in worship while women need to be modest and unassuming. “Silence” and “subjection” in this passage relate specifically to the exercise of spiritual authority over adult males in the church. “Usurp” (KJV) is not in the original text. Authentein should be translated “to have authority.” Thus Paul instructed women not to teach nor in any other way to have authority over men in worship.
Why would an inspired apostle place such limitations on Christian women? Was his concern prompted by the culture of that day? Was Paul merely accommodating an unenlightened, hostile environment—stalling for time and keeping prejudice to a minimum—until he could teach them the Gospel? Absolutely not! The Holy Spirit gave the reason for the limitations—a reason that transcends all culture and all locales. Paul stated that women are not to exercise spiritual authority over men because Adam was created before Eve. Here, we are given the heart and core of God’s will concerning how men and women are to function and interrelate.
Paul was saying that God’s original design for the human race entailed the creation of the male first as an indication of his responsibility to be the spiritual leader of the home. He was created to function as the head or leader in the home and in the church. That is his functional purpose. Woman, on the other hand, was specifically designed and created for the purpose of being a subordinate (though certainly not inferior) assistant. God couldhave created the woman first—but He did not. He could have created both male and female simultaneously—but He did not. His action was intended to convey His will with regard to gender as it relates to the interrelationship of man and woman.
This feature of Creation explains why God gave spiritual teaching to Adam before Eve was created, implying that Adam had the created responsibility to teach his wife (Genesis 2:15-17). It explains why the female is twice stated to have been created as a “help meet for him,” i.e., a helper suitable for the man (Genesis 2:18,20, emp. added). This explains why the Genesis text clearly indicates that, in a unique sense, the woman was created for the man—not vice versa. It explains why God brought the woman “to the man” (Genesis 2:22), again, as if she was made “for him”—not vice versa. Adam confirmed this understanding by stating, “the woman whom You gave to be with me” (Genesis 3:12, emp. added). It explains why Paul argued on the basis of this very distinction: “Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man” (1 Corinthians 11:9, emp. added). It further clarifies the implied authority of the man over the women in his act of naming the woman (Genesis 2:23; 3:20). The Jews understood this divinely designed order, evinced through the practice of primogeniture—the prominence of the firstborn male. God’s creation of the man firstwas specifically intended to communicate the authority/submission order of the human race (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:8).
Observe that Paul next elaborated upon this principle in 1 Timothy 2:14 by noting an example of what can happen when men and women tamper with God’s original intentions. When Eve took the spiritual initiative above her husband, and Adam failed to take the lead and exercise spiritual authority over his wife, Satan was able to wreak havoc on the home and cause the introduction of sin into the world (Genesis 3). When Paul said the woman was deceived, he was not suggesting that women are more gullible than men. Rather, when men or women fail to confine themselves to their created function, but instead tamper with, and act in violation of, divinely intended roles, spiritual vulnerability to sin naturally follows.
God’s appraisal of the matter was seen when He confronted the pair. He spoke first to the head of the home—the man (Genesis 3:9). His subsequent declaration to Eve reaffirmed the fact that she was not to yield to the inclination to take the lead in spiritual matters. Rather, she was to submit to the rule of her husband (Genesis 3:16; cf. 4:4). When God said to Adam, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife...” (Genesis 3:17), He was calling attention to the fact that Adam had failed to exercise spiritual leadership and thereby circumvented the divine arrangement of male/female relations.
Paul concluded his instructions by noting how women may be preserved from falling into the same trap of assuming unauthorized authority: “She will be saved in childbearing” (1 Timothy 2:15). “Childbearing” is the figure of speech known as synecdoche, in which a part stands for the whole. Thus, Paul was referring to the whole of female responsibility. Women may avoid taking to themselves illicit functions by concentrating on the functions assigned to them by God—tasks undertaken with faith, love, and holiness in sobriety (i.e., self-control).
Some argue that this text applies to husbands and wives, rather than to men and women in general. However, the context of 1 Timothy is not the home, but the church (1 Timothy 3:15). Likewise, the use of the plural with the absence of the article in 2:9 and 2:11, suggests women in general. Nothing in the context would cause one to conclude that Paul was referring only to husbands and wives. Besides, would Paul restrict wives from leadership roles in the church but then permit single women to lead?


Those who advocate expanded roles for women in the church appeal to the alleged existence of deaconesses in the New Testament. Only two passages even hint of such an office: Romans 16:1-2 and 1 Timothy 3:11. In Romans 16:1, the term translated “servant” in the KJV is the Greek word diakonos, an indeclinable term meaning “one who serves or ministers.” It is of common gender (i.e., may refer to men or women) and occurs in the following verses: Matthew 20:26; 22:13; 23:11; Mark 9:35; 10:43; John 2:5,9; 12:26; Romans 13:4; 15:8; 1 Corinthians 3:5; 16:1; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 6:4; 11:15,23; Galatians 2:17; Ephesians 3:7; 6:21; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:7,23,25; 4:7; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Timothy 3:8,12; 4:6.
The term is used in the New Testament in two senses. First, it is used as a technical term for a formal office in the church to which one may be appointed by meeting certain qualifications. Second, it is used as a non-technical term for the informal activity of serving or attending to. Additional words in the New Testament that have both a technical and non-technical meaning include “apostle,” “elder,” and “shepherd.” To be rational in one’s analysis of a matter, one must draw only those conclusions that are warranted by the evidence. In the matter of deaconesses, one should only conclude that a deaconess is being referred to when the context plainly shows the office itself is under consideration.
In Romans 13:4, the civil government is said to be God’s deacon. In Romans 15:8, Christ is said to be a deacon of the Jews. In 2 Corinthians 3:6 and 6:4, Paul is said to be a deacon of the New Covenant and a deacon of God. Apollos is listed with Paul as a deacon in 1 Corinthians 3:5. Obviously, these are all non-technical uses of the term referring to the service or assistance being rendered.
Nothing in the context of Romans 16:1 warrants the conclusion that Paul was describing Phoebe as an official appointee—a deaconess. Paul’s phrase, “our sister,” designates her church membership, and “servant” specifies the special efforts she extended to the church in Cenchrea where she was an active, caring member. Being a “servant of the church” no more implies a formal appointee than does the expression in Colossians 1:25 where Paul is said to be the church’s servant.
Some have insisted that the term in Romans 16:2, translated “help,” implies a technical usage. It is true that prostatis can mean a helper in the sense of presiding with authority. But this word carries the same inbuilt obscurity that diakonos does, in that it has a formal and informal sense. But since the verse explicitly states that Phoebe was a “helper” to Paul, the non-technical usage must be in view. She would not have exercised authority over Paul. Even his fellow apostles did not do that, since he exercised high authority direct from the Lord (1 Corinthians 14:37-38; Galatians 1:6-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:14). Only Christ wielded authority over Paul.
Romans 16:2 actually employs a play on words. Paul told the Corinthians to “help” (paristemi) Phoebe since she has been a “help” (prostatis) to many, including Paul himself. While the masculine noun prostates can mean “leader,” the actual feminine noun prostatismeans “protectress, patroness, helper” (Arndt and Gingrich, 1957, p. 718). Paul was saying, “Help Phoebe as she has helped others and me.” She had been a concerned, generous, hospitable, dedicated contributor to the Lord’s work. Paul was paying her a tremendous tribute and expressing publicly the honor due her. But he was not acknowledging her as an office holder in the church.
The second passage to which some have appealed in order to find sanction for deaconesses in the church is 1 Timothy 3:11. In the midst of a listing of the qualifications of deacons, Paul referred to women. What women? Was Paul referring to the wives of the church officers, or was he referring to female appointees, i.e., deaconesses? Once again, the underlying Greek term is of no help in answering this question since gunaikas (from gune) also has both a technical and non-technical sense. It can mean a “wife” or simply a “female” or “woman.” It is used both ways in 1 Timothy—as “female” (2:9-12,14) and as “wife” (3:2,12; 5:9).
Five contextual observations, however, provide assistance in ascertaining the meaning of the passage. First, a woman cannot be “the husband of one wife” (3:12). Second, in speaking of male deacons from 3:8-13, it would be unusual for Paul to switch, in the middle of the discussion, to female deacons for a single verse without some clarification. Third, referring to the wives of church officers would be appropriate since family conduct is a qualifying concern (3:2,4-5,12). Fourth, “likewise” (3:11) could mean simply that wives are to have similar virtues as the deacons without implying they share the same office (cf. 1 Timothy 5:25; Titus 2:3). Fifth, lack of the possessive genitive with gunaikas (“of deacons”) or “their” does not rule out wives of deacons, since neither is used in other cases where men/women are being described as wives/husbands (Colossians 3:18-19; Ephesians 5:22-25; 1 Corinthians 7:2-4,11,14,33; Matthew 18:25; Mark 10:2).
Insufficient textual evidence exists to warrant the conclusion that the office of deaconess is referred to in the New Testament. Outside the New Testament, Pliny, Governor of Bythynia, wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan about A.D. 110 referring in Latin to two ministrae. This term has the same ambiguity within it that diakonos has. He could have been referring to official appointees, or he just as easily could have been referring simply to servants. In any case, a passing reference by an uninformed non-Christian is hardly trustworthy evidence. Christian historical sources from this same period do not refer to the existence of female appointees even though they do discuss church organization (Lewis, 1988, p. 108).
Not until the late third century in the Syrian Didascalia do we find a reference to deaconesses. Their work consisted of assisting at the baptism of women, going into homes of heathens where believing women lived, and visiting the sick (ministering to them and bathing them). A full-blown church order of deaconesses does not appear until the fourth/fifth centuries. Again, their responsibilities consisted of keeping the doors, aiding in female baptisms, and doing other work with women (Lewis, pp. 108-109). Those within the church today who are pressing for deaconesses and expanded roles for women, hardly would be content with such tasks.
Even if women were deacons in the New Testament church, they would not have functioned in any sort of leadership or authority position over men. They were not to be appointed as elders. If Acts 6:1-5 refers to the appointment of deacons (the verb form is used) in the Jerusalem church (Woods, 1986, p. 199), they were all males, and their specific task entailed distribution of physical assistance to widows.
The evidence is simply lacking. The existence of a female deaconate within the New Testament cannot be demonstrated. Those who insist upon establishing such an office, do so without the authority of the Scriptures behind them.
A final word needs to be said concerning the fact that both men and women must remember that Bible teaching on difference in role in no way implies a difference in worth, value, or ability. Galatians 3:28 (“neither male nor female”), 1 Timothy 2:15 (“she shall be saved”), and 1 Peter 3:7 (“heirs together of the grace of life”) all show that males and females are equals as far as their person and salvation status is concerned. Women often are superior to men in talent, intellect, and ability. Women are not inferior to men, anymore than Christ is inferior to God, citizens are inferior to the President, or church members are inferior to elders. The role of women in the church is not a matter of control, power, or oppression. It is a matter of submission on the part of all human beings to the will of God. It is a matter of willingness on the part of God’s creatures, male and female, to subordinate themselves to the divine arrangement regarding the sexes. The biblical differentiation is purely a matter of function, assigned tasks, and sphere of responsibility. The question for us is: “How willing are we to fit ourselves into God’s arrangement?”


A massive restructuring of values and reorientation of moral and spiritual standards has been taking place in American culture for over forty years now. The feminist agenda is one facet of this multifaceted effacement and erosion of biblical values. Virtually every sphere of American culture has been impacted—including the church. Those who resist these human innovations are considered tradition-bound, resistant to change, narrow-minded, chauvinistic, etc.—as if they cannot hold honest, unbiased, studied convictions on such matters.
If the Bible authorized it, no man should have any personal aversion to women having complete access to leadership roles in the church. Indeed, many talented, godly women possess abilities and talents that would enable them to surpass many of the male worship leaders functioning in the church today. However, the Bible stands as an unalterable, eternal declaration of God’s will on the matter. By those words, we will be judged (John 12:48). May we all bow humbly and submissively before the God of heaven.


Arndt, William F. and F. Wilbur Gingrich (1957), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press).
Grudem, Wayne (1985), “Does kephale (‘head’) Mean ‘Source’ or ‘Authority over’ in Greek Literature? A Survey of 2,336 Examples,” Trinity Journal, 6 NS, 38-59.
Lewis, Jack (1988), Exegesis of Difficult Passages (Searcy, AR: Resource Publications).
Miller, Dave (2003), “Modern-Day Miracles, Tongue-Speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2569.
Osburn, Carroll, ed. (1993), Essays On Women in Earliest Christianity (Joplin, MO: College Press).
Osburn, Carroll (1994), Women in the Church (Abilene, TX: Restoration Perspectives).
Woods, Guy N. (1986), Questions and Answers: Volume Two (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).

Feelings Follow Facts by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Feelings Follow Facts

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Humans are emotional creatures. We love and hate. We hope and hurt. We dread and rejoice. We cry when we are sad, as well as when we are happy. We shout when we are angry, and we shout when we are thrilled. I have one son who not only smiles when he is happy, he even smiles (seemingly uncontrollably) when he is in trouble (which I have yet to understand). The roller coaster of emotions that occasionally overcomes us can wear us out one day and energize us the next. Like any human, Christians are emotional people. We are emotional because we are human, but we also are stirred with emotions because we are servants of Jesus Christ.
Christians are called to be spiritual people (Galatians 6:1). We are “partakers of…spiritual things” (Romans 15:27). We are to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). We must “worship the Father in spirit” (John 4:23-24). We are building a “spiritual house…to offer up spiritual sacrifices” (1 Peter 2:5). Such spirituality leads us to feel an array of emotions: reverence for the Creator, compassion for the lost, hatred of evil, anticipation of the Lord’s return, etc. Sadly, however, many who call themselves followers of Christ think of Christianity simply as a “feel-good religion.” The mindset among many is, “Feelings first, knowledge later” (if ever). Like the prophets of Baal, they cry out with great emotion and leap around in hysteria (1 Kings 18:20-40). Like the Pharisees, they pray and do charitable deeds to be seen of men (Matthew 6:1-8). Like Cain, they make unacceptable offerings, rather than sacrifices “by faith” (Genesis 4:4-5; Hebrews 11:4; cf. Romans 10:17). The cornerstone of Christianity for such people is emotion rather than Christ (Ephesians 2:20), feelings rather than facts. They think they can be “spiritual” without knowing the Spirit-revealed Truth (John 16:13).
If Scripture teaches anything, it teaches that a faithful Christian’s feelings follow the digestion of biblical facts. Unlike Israel who had “a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2), our enthusiasm for the Lord is to be rooted in the knowledge of God’s Word. Prior to becoming Christians, our hearts can be properly “pricked” only after we have heard the Gospel (Acts 2:14-37). We can be saved after we have “come to the knowledge of the Truth” (1 Timothy 2:4) and “receive with meekness the implanted word” (James 1:21). We can be cleansed and comforted after “taking heed” according to God’s Word (Psalm 119:9,50-52). We can go on our way rejoicing after receiving the Word (Acts 8:26-39). We can praise God “with uprightness of heart” after learning God’s righteous judgments (Psalm 119:7). We can worship in spirit after learning the truth (John 4:24; 17:17). We can be spiritual after taking hold of “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17) and learning “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16-6:1).
Are we to worship God fervently? Certainly. Are we to be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14)? Definitely. Should the soul-saving message of Jesus Christ stir our souls intensely? Indeed. But, Christianity has never been rooted in raw human emotions. Spirituality is not equivalent to excitement. Faith is not a mere feeling. Christianity is grounded in God’s Word. Our salvation, spirituality, worship, work, and overall faithfulness to God are dependent on knowing God’s will. Remember, “[F]aith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Faithfully Teaching the Faith by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


Faithfully Teaching the Faith

by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

On certain occasions, when matters of a spiritual nature are under discussion, it is not uncommon to hear someone suggest that they adhere to, or someone they know adheres to, a religion that is “better felt than told.” The thrust of such a statement, of course, is that it is not the teaching within the person’s religion that is of ultimate importance, but instead the individual’s personal feelings and emotional commitment.
While this sentiment may represent a correct assessment of the religion of some, it never has been true in regard to the biblical view of faith. This is not to imply, of course, that those who trust and obey God exhibit a faith that is void of emotion, or that somehow they are less committed to their belief system than adherents of other religions. Certainly, faith in the God of the Bible always has involved both personal feelings and emotional commitment (Matthew 22:37). To suggest otherwise would be to rob man of his free moral agency, his innate right to accept or reject heaven’s gracious offer of salvation, and his ability to delight in having made the correct choice.
What sets biblical faith apart from the beliefs of some other religions, however, is that instead of being rooted solely in an appeal to the emotions, it is rooted in an appeal to both the emotions and the intellect. In other words, biblical faith addresses both the heart and the mind; it is not just felt, but learned as well. This always has been the case. From the moment of man’s creation, God sought to teach him how to make correct choices that would keep him in, or return him to, a covenant relationship with his Creator. Thus, as soon as man was placed in the lovely Garden of Eden, God gave the instructions necessary for man’s temporal and spiritual well-being (Genesis 1:28; 2:16-17). From that moment forward, God actively taught man how to build, and maintain, a proper relationship with his heavenly Father. This is evident within the pages of both the Old and New Testaments.
The Old Testament, for example, is filled with numerous instances of God’s providing people with the instructions that would prompt them to serve Him with their hearts as well as with their intellects. During the Patriarchal Age, God spoke directly to the renowned men of old, and conveyed to them the commandments intended to regulate their daily lives, as well as their worship of Him. The apostle Paul, alluding to the Gentiles, spoke of those who had the law “written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness therewith, and their thoughts accusing or else excusing them” (Romans 2:15).
Later, during the Mosaical Age, God’s instructions were given to the Hebrews in written form so that as they grew numerically, they also would possess the ability to grow spiritually. Jewish parents were instructed to teach God’s Word to their children on a continuing basis (see Deuteronomy 4:10; 6:7-9; 11:18-25). Eventually, when national and spiritual reform was needed, God provided numerous kings and prophets to perform this important task (see 2 Kings 23:1-3; 2 Chronicles 7:7-9). It is said of the Old Testament prophet Ezra that he “had set his heart to seek the law of Jehovah, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and ordinances” (Ezra 7:10, emp. added). Nehemiah 8:7-8 records that Ezra “caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place, and they read in the book, in the law of God, distinctly; and they gave the sense, so that they understood the reading” (emp. added).
It is clear from such passages that during Old Testament times God placed a premium on knowing, understanding, obeying, and teaching His commandments. The golden thread that runs from Genesis through Malachi—the urgent message that the Savior was coming—could not be expressed through emotion alone; the intellect had to be involved as well. It was not enough for God’s people merely to “feel” the message; it had to be taught so they could understand it, realize its importance to their ultimate salvation, and preserve it for generations yet unborn, to whom it also would be taught.
Similarly, the New Testament stresses the critical nature of teaching. In the first century A.D., the message no longer was “the Savior is coming”; rather, the message was “the Savior has come.” Once Jesus began His public ministry, teaching His disciples (and others whom He encountered on almost a daily basis) became His primary task. While it is true that today we look upon Him as a miracle-worker, prophet, and preacher, He was foremost a teacher. Throughout Galilee, Samaria and Judea, Jesus taught in synagogues, boats, temples, streets, marketplaces, and gardens. He taught on plains, trails, and mountainsides—wherever people were. And He taught as One possessing authority. After hearing His discourses, the only thing the people who heard Him could say was, “Never man so spake” (John 7:46).
The teaching did not stop when Christ returned to heaven. He had trained others—apostles and disciples—to continue the task He had begun. They were sent to the uttermost parts of the Earth with the mandate to proclaim the “good news” through preaching and teaching (Matthew 28:18-20). This they did daily (Acts 5:42). The result was additional disciples, who then were rooted and grounded in the fundamentals of God’s Word (Acts 2:42) so they could teach others. In a single day, in a single city, over 3,000 people became Christians as a result of such teaching (Acts 2:41).
In fact, so effective was this kind of instruction that Christianity’s bitterest enemies desperately tried to prohibit any further public teaching (Acts 4:18; 5:28), yet to no avail. Christianity’s message, and the unwavering dedication of those into whose hands it had been placed, were too powerful for even its most formidable foes to abate or defeat. Twenty centuries later, the central theme of the Cross still is vibrant and forceful. But will that continue to be the case if those given the sobering task of teaching the Gospel act irresponsibly and alter its content, or use fraudulent means to present it? The simple fact is—Christianity’s success today, just as in the first century, is dependent on the dedication, and honesty, of those to whom the Truth has been entrusted.


God has placed the Gospel plan of salvation into the hands of men and women who have been instructed to teach it so that all who hear it might have the opportunity to obey it, and be saved. The apostle Paul commented on this when he wrote: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7). The thrust of the apostle’s statement in this particular passage was that the responsibility of taking the Gospel to a lost and dying world ultimately has been given to mortal men.
But the power is not in the men; rather, it is in the message! This, no doubt, accounts for the instructions Paul sent to Timothy in his second epistle when he urged the young evangelist to “give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, emp. added). In addressing this point, Wayne Jackson has written:
The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that Christians are to proclaim the gospel of God in a loving and positive way. We are to expose every rational creature to the good news regarding the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. We should assume that each person we encounter is an honest soul until he or she demonstrates that such is not the case. Like the Lord, our mission is to seek those who are lost.... In our defense of the faith, however, we must maintain the highest level of integrity. Our argumentation must be honest and it must be sound. Any person who knowingly employs a fallacious argument in defense of some biblical truth is unworthy of the name of Christ. Truth does not need the support of misapplied scripture and invalid reasoning. It can stand on its own. There are occasions, though, when sincere people, who are honestly attempting to defend a biblical truth, unknowingly employ unsound argumentation in the process. Perhaps many of us have discovered, in retrospect, that we have made these sorts of mistakes. When such is the case, we will resolve to never repeat them—no matter how flashy or impressive the argument appears to be. Virtue demands that we attempt to prove our position correctly (1990, 26[1]:1).
Considering the fact that we, as God’s “earthen vessels,” have been made the instruments through which God offers to a lost and dying world reconciliation through His Son (John 3:16), the apostle’s admonition is well taken. Surely it behooves us to “handle aright” so precious a commodity as the Word of God. The salvation of our own souls, and the souls of those we instruct, depends on the accuracy of the message.

The Unintentional Teaching of Error

Two kinds of erroneous teaching are under discussion in the above assessment. Error can result when a person inadvertently teaches something that is incorrect. The mistake is accidental and unintentional; the teacher means well, and is sincere, but is wrong. The New Testament itself records just such an incident.
In Acts 18, the story is related about Apollos, a Jew who was “fervent in spirit” and who “spake and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus” (Acts 18:25). However, when Apollos traveled to Ephesus, and began speaking “boldly in the synagogue,” Aquila and Priscilla heard him and realized that he still was advocating the baptism of John the Baptist as it looked forward to the coming of Christ (see Acts 18:25-26). That baptism, of course, no longer was valid, having been supplanted by the baptism commemorating Christ’s death and burial. Certainly, Apollos was sincere, but he was wrong. Aquila and Priscilla “took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26).
When his error was pointed out, he corrected it and subsequently continued with his preaching and teaching about Christ—apparently with much success, since, upon his arrival in Achaia, “the brethren encouraged him; and wrote to the disciples to receive him, and when he was come, he helped them much..., for he powerfully confuted the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (Acts 18:27-28). Apollos was a good teacher. Nevertheless, he taught error. When he was shown his mistake, however, he possessed an attitude of humility, and a love for the Truth, that caused him to make the necessary correction. In so doing, he set a wonderful example for all who would be teachers of God’s Word.
Many of us who teach have found ourselves in a situation akin to that of Apollos. In our earnest attempt to spread the Gospel, enlarge the borders of the kingdom, or defend the faith, we inadvertently made a mistake, and taught error. When our mistake was made known to us, we corrected it, learned from it, and determined not to repeat it—consistent with the example set by Apollos. Does the fact that we erred necessarily, then, make us a false teacher? In addressing the question, “Is everyone who makes mistakes a false teacher?,” Steve Gibson has suggested:
No, a person receives a label when a certain behavior becomes characteristic of him. A preacher, for example, is one who preaches; a teacher is one who teaches; a criminal is one who commits crime. But not everyone who has ever delivered a sermon deserves to be called a preacher; not everyone who has ever violated a traffic law deserves to be called a criminal. Regardless of its content, a label should be reserved for those distinguished by the corresponding behavior (1990, 10[11/12]:18).
The discussion here is not intended to center on dedicated teachers who, on occasion, make (and correct) an inadvertent error as they attempt to instruct someone regarding the Gospel. Rather, it has to do with those who teach error purposely.

The Intentional Teaching of Error

Error can also result when a person intentionally teaches something he knows to be wrong. The Old Testament provides an intriguing example of this very thing. In 1 Kings 13, the story is told of an unnamed young prophet whom God sent to deliver a message to king Jeroboam. God commanded the prophet: “Thou shalt eat no bread, nor drink water, neither return by the same way that thou camest” (13:9). Yet an older, lying prophet met the younger prophet and said: “I also am a prophet as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of Jehovah, saying, ‘Bring him back with thee into thy house that he may eat bread and drink water’ ” (13:18). The young prophet accepted at face value the older prophet’s instruction—false though it was—and on his return trip home was slain by a lion in punishment for his disobedience (13:24). The young prophet fell victim to teaching that had been presented to him intentionally by one who knew it was false. The result was the wrath of God and the loss of the young prophet’s life.
Wayne Jackson, in the quotation above, suggested that “we should assume that each person we encounter is an honest soul until he or she demonstrates that such is not the case.” That is good advice, and is in keeping with the apostle Paul’s discussion of the concept of Christian charity that “beareth all things, believeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). As difficult as it is for most of us to believe, however, the sad truth of the matter is that some people simply are not completely honest in their dealings. On occasion, this manifests itself even among those who profess to be Christians, and who claim that their intention is to convert the lost. The justification usually offered for the deliberate misrepresentation of the Truth (even if it is not actually verbalized) is the idea that the end justifies the means. Some apparently feel that employing just the truth of the matter will not impress people sufficiently to make them want to obey God’s Word. Thus, the teaching is altered, and falsehood results.
While it may make the task of reaching the lost easier, and may swell the church roll temporarily, what good ultimately results from the teaching of such falsehood? Can we (legitimately) convert the lost through the intentional teaching of error? Can one be taught wrongly and obey correctly? The intentional teaching of error may comfort where truth offends. The person living in an adulterous marriage can be told that the marriage is acceptable to God. The person who believes that God created the Universe and populated the Earth via the process of organic evolution can be told that such a view is correct. And so on.
In the end, however, three things have occurred. First, as a result of having been taught error, the sinner may not be truly converted. Second, the church has been filled with adulterers, theistic evolutionists, and others who hold to false views. Since “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9), the church will be weakened, and others may be lured into the same error through association with those who believe it to be true. Third, the person who knowingly perpetrated the error has placed his soul, and the souls of those he taught, in jeopardy, because he knowingly taught error.

Error That Condemns, and Error That Does Not

Someone might suggest that it is possible to be taught, and believe, error without endangering one’s soul, since some error condemns while some does not. Such an observation is correct. As Bobby Duncan noted:
There are two kinds of error: (1) error which does not deter one from a course of action in harmony with the will of God, and (2) error which leads to a course of action out of harmony with the will of God....
Some in Paul’s day obviously held erroneous views regarding the eating of certain meats (Rom. 14; I Cor. 8). But these views did not cause them to follow a course of action out of harmony with the will of God, and those who knew the truth were exhorted to receive them (Rom. 14:1).... One’s belief of error will not damn his soul unless his erroneous views lead him into a course of action out of harmony with the will of God....
But there are other errors which, if believed, will directly affect one’s life and religious practice so as to turn him aside from the will of God.... If one’s belief of error caused him to worship according to the doctrines and commandments of men, his worship would be vain (Matt. 15:8-9).... If his belief of error led him to teach a perverted gospel, the curse of God would rest upon him (Gal. 1:6-9)... (1983, 19[20]:2).
Not all error, if believed, will condemn one’s soul. Suppose, in the example of the two prophets (1 Kings 13), that the older prophet convinced the younger that God wanted him to rush home, carrying his staff in his left hand all the way. Would this have been a lie? Yes, but the consequences would not have been the same, for, believing and acting upon this lie, the younger prophet would not have been following a course of action out of harmony with the instructions God had given him.
To suggest, however, that the intentional teaching of error does not always produce negative effects, and thus is acceptable, ignores three important points. First, error is error, regardless of the effects produced. Christians are not called to teach error, but truth (John 14:6). Surely, the question should be asked: What faithful Christian would want to teach, or believe, any error? God always has measured men by their attitude toward the truth. Jesus said: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). But the truth can free us only if we know it, accept it, and act upon it. Error never frees; it only enslaves.
Second, it is a simple fact that not all error is neutral in its effects upon a person’s soul. As Bobby Duncan went on to state: “For one to be in error on some point that does not affect the faithful performance of his duty to God is one thing. But it is another for one to hold to error that would keep him from faithful obedience to God” (19[20]:2). It is possible to believe error, thinking all the while that it is true, only to discover all too late that it was not. The young prophet who lost his life because he believed a lie is a fine case in point.
Third, while it may be correct to assert that not all error condemns, such an assertion does not tell the whole story. What about the danger to the soul of the person responsible for the intentional false teaching? It will not do simply to suggest that the truth was misrepresented purposely so as to save a sinner from the error of his ways. The end does not always justify the means. Situation ethics has no place in the teaching, or life, of a faithful Christian. In both the Old Testament (e.g., Exodus 20:16) and New Testament (e.g., Revelation 21:8), God forbade the willful distortion of truth, and condemned those who engaged in such a practice. While positive benefits initially may seem to result from the intentional teaching of error, such benefits will be temporary at best. Ultimately the truth will win out, and those who have believed and taught error will suffer in one way or another. When those who have been taught error discover that they have believed a lie, they may become disillusioned and abandon their faith. When those who have taught the lie(s) appear before God in judgment, they will stand condemned.
In the end, who has benefited from the intentional teaching of error? The person who believed the error did not benefit, for his faith was not built upon truth, and thus his “conversion” may be called into question. The church did not benefit, but was weakened because although its numbers increased, its spirituality did not. Spiritual benefits cannot result from the intentional teaching of error. The person who taught the error did not benefit. He lied, and in so doing, incurred heaven’s condemnation. Should he fail to repent, he will be delivered to “the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).


In 2 Timothy 3:1-4, Paul presented his protégé with a litany of sins that characterized what he termed “grievous times.” In addition to those who were selfish, boastful, haughty, disobedient, and without self-control, Paul wrote of men “holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof ” (2 Timothy 3:5). Paul’s point was that Timothy would encounter some who, from all outward appearances, were moral, truthful, dedicated Christians. But the outward appearance was deceptive because they had become hypocrites whose lives and teachings did not conform to the Gospel.
In commenting on the sinful nature of the Pharisees, Christ said, “ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but inwardly ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:28). The people described by Paul who exhibited “a form of godliness,” but who had “denied the power thereof,” possessed the same hypocritical, sinful nature as the Pharisees, which is why Paul commanded Timothy, “from these also turn away” (2 Timothy 3:5). Concerning the ill effects of this artificial “form of godliness,” Raymond Hagood has stated:
Is it not easy to see how destructive this “form of godliness” can be? It works evil under the guise of good. It wounds the sensitive consciences of babes in Christ. It corrupts the values, honesty, and integrity of our young people and it presents to the world a dim view of the church (1976, 12[40]:1).
While the end results of erroneous teaching eventually may not be difficult to recognize, the false teacher is not always easy to identify. There are, however, certain criteria that signal a departure from the Truth (see Miller, 1987). First, the person who intentionally teaches error generally is bold to advance his ideas in certain settings, but is strangely silent or evasive in others. When among those sympathetic to his erroneous views, he will not hesitate to advocate them, but when in the presence of those he knows are well versed in the Scriptures, and who therefore could recognize and refute such views, often he will keep them to himself, or even go so far as to deny believing them.
Second, whereas the false teacher once was understood easily, and known for the clarity with which he taught, now he has begun to speak or write in vague terms that employ a “new vocabulary” of his own making. When questioned, he claims that he has been “misrepresented,” “misunderstood,” or “quoted out of context.” He has become a chameleon-like character, able to vacillate back and forth at will between truth and error.
Third, as the real nature of the false teacher becomes increasingly evident, and the documentation of his error irrefutable, he becomes more overt in his teachings. Soon he associates himself with those who, in the past, he would have had no association. Others who are known to teach error suddenly consider him an ally, and actively promote him and his teachings.
Fourth, in time, as more and more faithful Christians rise up to challenge the false teacher, he depicts them as troublemakers who are unreliable barometers of the real spiritual atmosphere. He charges them as being paranoid, narrow-minded, unloving, tradition-bound, stagnant, witch-hunting pseudo-Christians who possess no real love for the Lord or His Word. He urges them to dispense with their Pharisaic legalism, and to cloak themselves with an “irenic” spirit that allows Christians the right to “agree to disagree” about fundamental Bible doctrines, resulting in the misnamed concept of “unity in diversity.”
The damage inflicted by one who teaches error can be almost inestimable. That damage can be minimized, however, if faithful Christians follow the procedures set forth in Scripture for dealing with false teachers (e.g., Romans 16:17; Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 4:14-15; 5:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Timothy 2:25-26; Titus 3:10-11; James 5:19-20; 2 Peter 2:1-2; 1 John 4:1; 2 John 9-11). As Paul commanded Titus, “there are many unruly men, vain talkers and deceivers...whose mouths must be stopped; men who overthrow whole houses, teaching things which they ought not,.... For this cause reprove them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:10-11,13).
When James penned his New Testament epistle, he warned: “Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment” (James 3:1). It is a sobering thought indeed to know that those of us who teach God’s Word one day shall be held accountable for how, and what, we have taught. Our teaching, therefore, should be designed to do at least three things.
First, it should present the sinner with the pure, unadulterated Gospel, in the hope that he will hear it, believe it, and obey it, thereby being saved from his lost state (Luke 13:3; Romans 3:23; 6:23). The ultimate goal of our efforts is not merely to inform, but rather to motivate the hearer to proper action.
Second, the things we teach, publicly or privately, should equip Christians for greater maturity in the faith so that they, too, can become teachers (Hebrews 5:12). The success of Christianity in the world is dependent upon those who advocate it being able to teach it to others.
Third, our teaching should edify the entire church so that should the time come when certain saints “will not endure the sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3-4), there will be those well-grounded in the truth who can combat error and “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3).
Certainly, those of us who teach bear a weighty responsibility (Ezekiel 33:7-9). But if we do our jobs properly, we will receive from the Lord a “crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). Equally important is the fact that if those whom we teach accept and obey God’s Word, they, too, will enjoy a home in heaven, and we will have saved a soul from death (Ezekiel 33:14-16). The responsibility may be weighty, but the reward is commensurate to the task.


Duncan, Bobby (1983), “Error Which Does & Does Not Condemn,” Words of Truth, 19[20]:2, May 20.
Gibson, Steve (1990), “Some Common Questions About False Teachers,” The Restorer, 10[11/12]:17-20, November/December.
Hagood, Raymond A. (1976), “Perilous Times,” Words of Truth, 12[40]:1, September 17.
Jackson, Wayne (1990), “Defending the Faith with a Broken Sword,” Christian Courier, 26[1]:1-2, May.
Miller, David L. (1987), “Anatomy of a False Teacher,” The Restorer, 7[2]:2-3, February.

Faith and Knowledge by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


Faith and Knowledge

by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

“As indicated earlier, there is not enough evidence anywhere to absolutely prove God, but there is adequate evidence to justify the assumption or the faith that God exists” (Thomas, 1965, p. 263, emp. in orig.).
“Now we believe, not because of thy speaking: for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Savior of the world” (John 4:42).
It is evident that the two above statements stand in stark contradistinction to one another. The first statement suggests that people may hold to the assumption that God exists—a position the author identifies as “faith.” The second statement, from the pen of the inspired apostle John, describes some of the people of Samaria who had faith in the Lord’s deity because they knew He was the Savior—based on the evidence He had provided them.
Obviously, both of these sentiments cannot be correct, for they represent mutually exclusive ideas of biblical faith. On the one hand, we are asked to believe that faith is an “assumption” made by a person who simply desires to believe something. On the other hand, the biblical record instructs us on the fact that knowledge is an integral part of faith, and that faith is not merely an “educated guess” or unfounded assumption. Why does this confusion over the topic of biblical faith exist? What is the relationship between faith and knowledge?


Perhaps there is so much confusion surrounding the concept of faith because there are so many definitions from so many widely varied sources. First, faith has been defined by its opponents as “the power of believing what you know isn’t true,” or “an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.” Second, even neutral authorities have added to the conflict, with reputable dictionaries suggesting that faith is a “firm belief in something for which there is no proof,” or “belief without need of certain proof.”
Third, some in the religious community itself have been responsible for, or added to, much of the confusion. Examples abound. In his “Introduction” to The World and Literature of the Old Testament, John T. Willis has written: “The Bible claims to be inspired of God (II Tim. 3:16). There is no way to prove or disprove this claim absolutely, although arguments have been advanced on both sides of the issue. It must be accepted by faith or rejected by unbelief ” (1979, 1:11). J.D. Thomas, in his text, Heaven’s Window, wrote:
In all matters of religious epistemology we come to the question of distinguishing between absolutely provable knowledge and that which is faith-dependent to some degree or other.... In other words, men of strong faith “act like” they have absolute knowledge, even though in this life they can never have more than a strong faith (1974, pp. 131,132).
In his book, Dear Agnos, Arlie J. Hoover stated that “...faith, by standing between knowledge and ignorance, certainty and credulity, in a sense partakes of the essence of both. It has some evidence, which relates it to knowledge, yet it has some uncertainty, because the evidence is indirect” (1976, p. 28). Roy F. Osborne has suggested that “faith of any sort is based on probability.... In a world of fallible beings, imperfect senses, and partial experience, absolute certainty is only a theoretical concept” (1964, p. 132).
If these writers are correct, faith is something based on little substantive proof, or, for that matter, no proof at all. Faith also allows men to “act like” they know something when, in fact, they do not. Further, at best faith is a probability proposition that may, or may not, have anything to do with truth. And, faith is seen as an entity composed of a small amount of knowledge and a big dose of uncertainty. Is it any wonder then that there is so much confusion in today’s world regarding the concept of faith and its relationship to knowledge.
Ultimately, improper concepts of faith damage or destroy the effectiveness of Christianity. There are a number of reasons this is the case. First, unlike many other religions, Christianity always has been based in historical fact. From the historicity of Jesus Himself to the reality of His resurrection, Christianity has entered the marketplace of ideas with factuality as its foundation. To then turn and suggest that Christianity is based on an unproven and unprovable belief system nebulously termed “faith” is to rob Christianity of one of its most important constructs—verifiability rooted in historical fact. That which should be documentable is reduced to mere wishful thinking.
Second, we live in a society in which an examination of the various evidences behind a claim has become practically an everyday occurrence. Whether we are purchasing an automobile or considering an advertiser’s boasts about its products, we routinely investigate a plethora of evidences that can prove, or disprove, what is being said. The Bible teaches that mankind is lost and in desperate need of salvation, which comes only through Jesus Christ. More often than not, the person who accepts and obeys the biblical message undergoes a radical change in both his thinking and his lifestyle. Surely the grand nature of Christianity’s claim is such that it requires both investigation and verification. For someone to suggest that Christianity, or the life-altering changes it ushers in, is based on little more than an unproven assertion (that might or might not be true) hardly could be viewed as a rational approach that would commend itself to intelligent people.
Third, surely people in the world who are not yet Christians, yet whom we hope to see become Christians, are smart enough to see through a ruse that asks them to “act like” they know God exists, to “act like” they know Jesus is His Son, or to “act like” the Bible is His inspired Word when, in fact, they do not know those things at all. Further, if Christians simply “act like” they know, when in reality they do not, why are they not hypocrites? And why is the Christian—who eventually will have to admit that he does not really know these things—any different from the agnostic who readily admits that he cannot know these things?
Fourth, any idea which suggests that faith is based on mere “probability” is at the same time tacitly admitting that there is some probability, however minute, that Christianity might just be false. In addressing this point, Dick Sztanyo has observed:
To admit that Christianity is only probable is to admit the possibility that, in fact, it might be a hoax! Could you in your most irrational moment imagine even the slightest possibility of an apostle preaching the “God of probability” or the “God who may be”? ...I want to insist that there is not a single item in Christianity, upon which our souls’ salvation depends, which is only probably true. In each case, the evidence supplied is sufficient to establish conclusive proof regarding the truth of the Christian faith (1989, pp. 8-9,11, emp. in orig.).


What, then, is biblical faith? How does it relate to “belief ”? And what is its proper relationship to knowledge?

Biblical Faith and Belief

It is not uncommon to hear someone say, in regard to a belief that cannot be proven true, “It’s just a matter of faith.” Or, if someone is being advised about a particular course of action, the recommendation might be, “Just launch out on faith.” How many times has the comment been made that something is just “a leap of faith”? Certainly it is true to say that the word “faith” is used on occasion in each of these ways. And each of these statements may well express a certain belief. However, such a usage is not biblical faith. What is the relationship between biblical faith and belief?
Is faith belief? Yes, faith is a kind of belief. The issue, however, centers on the kind of belief that is biblical faith. Belief refers primarily to a judgment that something is true. But belief may be weak or strong. If I say, “I believe it may rain tomorrow,” that is an example of a weak belief. It is an opinion I hold which, while I hope is true, and thus believe to be true, is nevertheless one that I cannot prove. However, if I say, “I believe the guilty verdict in the criminal’s trial is correct and just,” that is an example of a strong belief because I am able to present factual reasons for my belief, based upon available evidence. In addressing the idea of “weak” versus “strong” beliefs, David Lipe has stated that “...the difference in these two types of belief turns on the causes of the beliefs” (n.d., p. 3, emp. added). In his text, Critique of Religion and Philosophy, Walter Kaufmann listed seven causes of belief, the first of which was that “arguments have been offered in its support” (1958, pp. 132ff.). Thus, strong belief is a rational act based upon adequate evidence. Weak belief is produced by such things as emotion, vested interest, etc. (see Lipe, n.d., p. 4).
Biblical faith is a strong belief based upon adequate evidence. In the New Testament, the noun “faith” (Greek, pistis) is defined as: “primarily firm persuasion, a conviction based upon hearing...used in the New Testament always of faith in God or Christ, or things spiritual” (Vine, 1940, 2:71). The verb “believe” (Greek, pisteuo) is defined as: “...to be persuaded of, and hence, to place confidence in, to trust...reliance upon, not mere credence” (Vine, 1940, 1:116). Thus, biblical faith is a conviction based upon evidence, and is “not mere credence.” The Bible does not recognize any such concept as a “leap of faith,” because biblical faith is always evidence- or knowledge-based. Peter urged Christians to be “ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). This corresponds directly to what Kaufmann would call a cause for belief because “arguments have been offered in its support.”

Biblical Faith and Knowledge

One of the foundational laws of human thought is the Law of Rationality, which demands that we draw only such conclusions as are warranted by adequate evidence. Agnostic philosopher Bertrand Russell stated it this way: “Give to any hypothesis that is worth your while to consider just that degree of confidence which the evidence warrants” (1945, p. 816). Biblical faith adheres to the Law of Rationality, and seeks conclusions that have a confidence warranted by the available evidence. In producing biblical faith, both reason and revelation are employed. Geisler and Feinberg defined these terms as follows:
“Revelation” is a supernatural disclosure by God of truth which could not be discovered by the unaided powers of human reason. “Reason” is the natural ability of the human mind to discover truth (1980, p. 255).
These authors went on to observe that “the basic relation of reason and revelation is that the thinking Christian attempts to render the credible intelligible” (1980, p. 265). Using capacities for proper reasoning, the Christian builds faith based upon numerous avenues of evidence. Sometimes that evidence may be based upon testimony provided by revelation. Paul wrote that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). Guy N. Woods has noted:
Genuine faith derives from facts presented to the mind and from which proper and correct deductions are then drawn (John 20:30,31).... There is no such thing as “blind” faith. Faith itself is possible only when reason recognizes the trustworthiness of the testimony which produces it (1994, 125[11]:2).
Skeptics, of course, have suggested that reliance upon the testimony of another does not necessarily result in personal knowledge. Thomas Paine wrote in The Age of Reason:
No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication, if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and consequently they are not obliged to believe it (1794, pp. 8-9, emp. in orig.).
Paine’s assessment, however, is incorrect, as an examination of both historical and biblical cases will attest. Must testimony by necessity be diluted or destroyed simply because it has been passed from generation to generation? Not at all. We know George Washington lived, even though no one for the past several generations ever set eyes on him. We know of numerous other people and events in the same manner, as a direct result of credible testimony passed faithfully from age to age.
Further, biblical information provides a good test case for the accuracy of information passed from one person to another. In Mark 16, the account is told of Mary Magdalene having seen the Lord after His resurrection. She immediately went and told other disciples who, the text indicates, “disbelieved” (Mark 16:11). Later, Jesus appeared to two men walking in the country. They, too, returned to the disciples and reported that the Lord was alive, but of the disciples it was said that “neither believed they them” (Mark 16:13). Were these disciples justified in rejecting the report of the Lord’s resurrection merely because they had not been eyewitnesses themselves? Was their disbelief somehow evidence of “intellectual integrity” on their part? Were they to be commended for their rejection of two different reports that originated with trustworthy eyewitnesses?
No, the disciples were not justified in their disbelief. Later, when the Lord appeared to them, “he upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them that had seen him after he was risen” (Mark 16:14). Thus, the Lord verified the principle that Thomas Paine attempted to refute. If Mary Magdalene had expressed accurately to the disciples what she had seen, and they in turn expressed accurately what they had been told, would this not constitute valid evidence-based testimony of the sort that would warrant genuine faith in the resurrection? Facts must be reported before they can be believed. In Acts 18, the circumstances are given in which “many of the Corinthians hearing, believed.” What did they hear that caused them to believe? It was the testimony given by Paul. Faith is thus seen as the acceptance of knowledge based upon credible testimony.
Sometimes the evidence for faith may come by sight, as it did in the case of Thomas when Christ said to him after His resurrection, “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed” (John 20:29a). The Samaritans, mentioned earlier, believed on the Lord. The fact of their seeing Him did not preclude their believing on Him (John 4:41). There are times, of course, when faith and sight go together. Men sometimes walk by faith because of sight. Many came in obedience to the Lord during His earthly ministry because of what they heard and saw. During the early years of the church, many believed because of the miracles they saw performed. Much faith was produced by the actual events that were observed by those present.
But what of those who have not seen those events firsthand? Do they have any less of a faith than those who witnessed such events? No, faith is not diminished by lack of sight. Jesus told Thomas, “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29b). Paul observed that “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Thomas had faith after sight. Today we have faith without sight, because of credible testimony from those who were eyewitnesses.
What is the relationship between faith and knowledge? Does faith somehow rule out “knowing”? Can one both “know” and “have faith” at the same time, or is it an either/orproposition? In speaking to this issue, Woods has written:
More recently, a much more sophisticated form of subjectivism has appeared wherein faith and knowledge are compartmentalized, put in sharp contrast, and each made to exclude the other. The allegation is that a proposition which one holds by faith one cannot know by deduction. This conclusion is reached by taking one definition of the word “know,” putting it in opposition to the word “faith,” and thus making them mutually exclusive. To do this is to err with reference to both faith and to knowledge! (1994, 136[2]:31).
In John 6:69, Peter said to the Lord: “And we have believed and know that thou art the Holy One of God.” Writing in 2 Timothy 1:12, Paul said “I know him whom I have believed.” The Samaritans told the woman who brought Christ to them, “Now we believe, not because of thy speaking; for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Savior of the world” (John 4:42).
In his book on the relationship between faith and knowledge, The Concept of Rational Belief,Dick Sztanyo remarked:
Biblical faith is built upon a prior understanding (knowledge) of what is to be believed.... Any conception of faith that severs it from its objective, epistemological base (foundation of knowledge) is at variance with biblical teaching! Biblically speaking, one does not believe that God is (or any other items to be accepted “by faith”): (1) against the evidence; (2) without evidence; and/or (3) beyond the evidence. Rather, one believes on the basis of evidence sufficient to establish the conclusion (1989, p. 3, emp. in orig.).
Faith is directly linked to knowledge. Without knowledge (i.e., evidence), it is impossible to produce faith. Further, knowledge is critical in making faith active. Sztanyo has observed in regard to what he terms “rational” belief:
This evidence enlightens the intellect which then makes a volitional commitment not only possible (since I now know what to believe) but also rational (i.e., I know what to believe)! Thus, faith is a volitional commitment of an informed intellect! Knowledge without commitment is disbelief (John 8:30-46; 12:42,43; James 2:19); commitment without knowledge is irrationality! Neither is a genuine option for a Christian (1989, pp. 18-19, emp. in orig.).
In the Bible, faith and knowledge are never set in contradistinction. At times faith may be contrasted with a means of obtaining knowledge (e.g., sight), but faith never is contrasted with knowledge or, for that matter, reason. In addition, at times faith and knowledge may have the same object. The Scriptures make it clear that the following can be both knownand believed: (a) God (Isaiah 43:10); (b) the truth (1 Timothy 4:3); and (c) Christ’s deity (John 6:69; cf. 4:42). Further, knowledge always precedes faith, and where there is no knowledge there can be no biblical faith.


In Hebrews 11 we find the “Hall of Fame of Faith,” because each person acted out of obedient faith to God’s commands. We are told “by faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain...” (11:7), “by faith Noah...prepared an ark to the saving of his house...” (11:7), and that “by faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go unto a place which he was to receive as an inheritance...” (11:8). What does “by faith” mean in these statements? Were these people acting in the absence of evidence? Did they have no knowledge of what they were doing, or why they were doing it? Were they taking a “leap of faith”?
In each of these instances, the people involved acted because they had knowledge upon which to base their faith. Cain and Abel obviously had been instructed on what would be a “more excellent” sacrifice. Noah had the dimensions of the ark set before him by God. Abraham did not set out on a journey with no destination; he travelled by directions provided by the Almighty. None of these individuals took a “leap of faith” or acted on what they felt was a “strong probability.” Rather, they acted because their knowledge produced biblical faith. Brad Bromling has addressed this very point:
Some have made the mistake of thinking that faith is to be set in opposition to knowledge or evidence, as though the more one knows the less faith he needs.... This is a false concept of faith. Faith is knowledge-based!... When one gains knowledge of the truth, he is then in a position to engage his will and commit himself to the requirements of that knowledge (1988, 8:24).
God’s wish is for “all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). It is His intent that we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Through such knowledge, upon which faith is ultimately built, we know that we are saved (1 John 5:13). The Lord’s promise was: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Because God has made the truth so plain, and so easily available, those who reject it shall stand ultimately “without excuse” (Romans 1:20).


Bromling, Brad (1988), “In Defense of Biblical Confidence,” Reason & Revelation, 8:23-26, June.
Geisler, Norman L. and P.D. Feinberg (1980), Introduction to Philosophy—A Christian Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Hoover, Arlie J. (1976), Dear Agnos: A Defense of Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Lipe, David L. (no date), Faith and Knowledge (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Osborne, Roy F. (1964), Great Preachers of Today—Sermons of Roy F. Osborne (Abilene, TX: Biblical Research Press).
Paine, Thomas (1794), The Age of Reason (New York: Willey Book Co.).
Russell, Bertrand (1945), A History of Western Philosophy (New York: Simon & Schuster).
Sztanyo, Dick (1989), The Concept of Rational Belief (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Thomas, J.D. (1965), Facts and Faith (Abilene, TX: Biblical Research Press).
Thomas, J.D. (1974), Heaven’s Window (Abilene, TX: Biblical Research Press).
Vine, W.E. (1940), An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell).
Willis, John T. (1979), “Introduction,” The World and Literature of the Old Testament(Austin, TX: Sweet).
Woods, Guy N. (1994), “Faith Vs. Knowledge?,” Gospel Advocate, 136[2]:31, February.