"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS" Their Election By God (1:4-5) by Mark Copeland


                     Their Election By God (1:4-5)


1. As Paul contemplated the condition of the church at Thessalonica, he
   had much for which to be thankful - 1Th 1:2-3
   a. They had a faith that worked
   b. They had a love which labored
   c. They had a hope that gave them patience
2. He also took consolation in knowing that they were "chosen"...
   a. He refers to their "election by God" - 1Th 1:4
   b. As evidence, he reminds them of how God had worked through such 
      men as Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy - 1Th 1:5

3. In some way, these Thessalonians had become part of God's chosen 
   a. A special people as described in 1Pe 2:9-10
   b. Just as the nation of Israel had been chosen by God - Deut 10:15

4. Several questions naturally come to mind regarding the Thessalonians
   and their election by God...
   a. When did God make His choice?
   b. Were the Thessalonians chosen individually, or as part of some
      coporate or general choice?
   c. Was their election by God final, i.e., was it impossible for them
      to lose their privilege of being God's chosen people?
   -- And how might the answers to these questions relate to our own 
      election by God?

[Let's first focus our attention on the idea of...]


      1. Comes from ekloge {ek-log-ay'}, meaning "the act of picking
         out, choosing"
      2. Related to the idea of being chosen, which comes from the 
         Greek eklegomai {ek-leg'-om-ahee}, and means "to pick out, 
         choose, to pick or choose out for one's self"

      1. God made His choice "before the foundation of the world" - Ep 1:4
      2. Just as with Christ Himself, who was foreordained "before the
         foundation of the world" - 1Pe 1:20

      1. When God made His "choice" before the world began...
         a. Did He chose certain individuals to become His elect?
         b. Or was His choice more general in nature?
      2. Two popular answers to this question:
         a. The Calvinist believes that this choice was...
            1) Individual (only certain select individuals have been
            2) Dependent solely upon God's gracious and mysterious 
               will, without any foreknowledge of good or evil on the 
               part of those selected
            3) Unconditional and final (there is no possibility of
         b. The Arminian believes that this choice was...
            1) Individual (certain select individuals have been chosen)
            2) Based upon foreknowledge of those souls who would 
               respond to the gospel and persevere in the faith
            3) Unconditional and final, in the sense that God already
               knows those who will persevere to the end
      3. Paul says simply that God "chose us in Him" (i.e., Christ)
         - cf. Ep 1:4
         a. I understand this election by God to have been general, not
            particular; corporate, not individual
         b. To refer to the body of Christ, the church as a whole, 
            which God chose for His divine and gracious purposes He 
            planned to carry out in Christ
         c. Just as Israel (as a nation) had been chosen by God to 
            receive His blessings

      1. How did the Thessalonians become part of God's chosen people?
      2. Paul explains in his second epistle - 2Th 2:13-14
         a. "through sanctification of the Spirit"
            1) Here we see God's part, the sanctifying work of the
            2) This the Spirit did through the truth, or Word of God,
               which He revealed through the apostles - cf. Jn 16:13;
               17:17; Ep 6:17
         b. "and belief of the truth"
            1) Here we see man's part, as the Thessalonians heeded the
               Word of God
            2) Therefore when they heeded the preaching of the gospel, 
               they were saved, and as such became God's elect!
         c. This God accomplished by calling them through the gospel 
            proclaimed by the apostles - 2Th 2:14

[Today, when a person heeds the gospel of Christ, they are "sanctified"
(set apart) by the Holy Spirit as a result of believing the truth.
According to God's choice made before the world began, all who obey
Christ become part of that great body of the saved in Christ, God's
elect!  But is their participation in the blessings of the elect

      1. God's election or choice was general
      2. He chose to save people "in Christ"
      3. That choice is unconditional and final
         a. There is no way anyone can be saved without Christ
         b. As Jesus Himself said, "no one can come to the Father 
            except through Me" - Jn 14:6
         c. As Peter would later say, "there is no other name under 
            heaven given among men by which we must be saved." - Ac 4:12
      1. Whether we as individuals remain in the body or church, (God's
         elect) is conditional
      2. We must be "diligent to make your calling and election sure" 
         - 2Pe 1:10
         a. Just as Israel (as a nation) had been chosen by God to 
            receive His blessings
         b. But individually, the Israelites also had to "make their 
            calling and election sure"   
         c. Remember the many Israelites who became God's elect at
            Mount Sinai, but died later in the wilderness!
      3. Thus we find many warnings in the Scriptures to remain
         a. Or fall just like many did in the wilderness - He 3:12-19
         b. Or come short of our heavenly rest, like they failed to 
            enter the Promised Land - He 4:1-3,9-11
      4. Jesus Himself warned His disciples
         a. Be fruitful, or be cut off! - Jn 15:1-6
         b. Be faithful, to receive the crown of life! - Re 2:10


1. It was the faithful and fruitful lives of the Thessalonians that 
   gave Paul confidence concerning their election...
   a. Their active faith, love and hope - 1Th 1:2-3
   b. Their reception of Paul and the Word - 1Th 1:6-7
2. But whether they remained part of God's elect was not final...
   a. If it was, why even bother to worry about them? - 1Th 3:1,5-6
   b. As long as they remained faithful, Paul was comforted - 1Th 3:7

3. Dear friends and brethren, what about us...?
   a. Are we included among God's elect?
      1) God's choice regarding salvation is still sure and final
      2) Only in Christ Jesus is there salvation!
      3) Through the gospel, God is still calling people
      -- Obey the gospel, and you will be set apart by the Spirit to
         become one of God's chosen!
   b. Are we being diligent to make our calling and election sure?
      1) Are we faithful and fruitful in our service to Christ?
      2) Will we persevere to the end, or fall short of our heavenly 

That we may experience the eternal blessings God has prepared for His
Elect, let us heed the admonition of Scripture:

   Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart
   of unbelief in departing from the living God;

   but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest
   any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
   For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning
   of our confidence steadfast to the end.
                                                      (He 3:12-14)

5 Reasons Racism is Ridiculous by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


5 Reasons Racism is Ridiculous

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Atheism has no rational basis upon which to call anything objectively just or unjust, including racism. If mankind is merely the result of billions of years of mindless evolution and is nothing more than animals (as atheistic evolution contends; Marchant, 2008), then man can logically make evolutionary-based racist remarks that are consistent with the godless General Theory of Evolution. In fact, Charles Darwin’s “Bulldog,” atheist Thomas Huxley, did just that in his 1865 essay, “Emancipation—Black and White.” He alleged, for example, “no rational man, cognizant of the facts, believes that the average Negro is the equal, still less superior, of the white man.” In truth, if there is no God, mankind could just as easily look down upon and mistreat others (whom he deems are less evolved), as he does roaches, rats, and orangutans (Lyons, 2011; Lyons and Butt, 2009). Those who are Christians, however, logically contend that since (1) God exists, and (2) the Bible is the Word of God, racism is morally wrong—and completely ridiculous for the following five reasons.

#1—All Human Beings Are Made in the Image of God

Not only did God specially create Adam and Eve in His image and vastly different than all other living things on Earth (Genesis 1:26-27), since then, every human being has been made according to God’s likeness. While preaching to Gentiles in Athens thousands of years after the Creation, Paul, a Jew, did not contend that man was once the offspring of God; he said, “We are” the offspring of God (Acts 17:28-29). [The Greek word esmen in 17:28 is the first person plural of eimi (to be). This recognition of being God’s offspring served as a basis for his argument, as the next verse indicates: “Being then the offspring of God….”]
James wrote: “But the tongue can no man tame; it is a restless evil, it is full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we the Lord and Father; and therewith curse we men, who are made after the likeness of God: out of the same mouth cometh forth blessing and cursing. My brethren these things ought not so to be” (3:8-9, ASV, emp. added). [The English verb “are made” (ASV) derives from the Greek gegonotas, which is the perfect participle of the verb ginomai. The perfect tense in Greek is used to describe an action brought to completion in the past, but whose effects are felt in the present (Mounce, 1993, p. 219).] The thrust of the expression, “who are made after the likeness of God” (Greek kath’ homoisosin theou gegonotas), is that humans in the past have been made according to the likeness of God, and they are still bearers of that likeness. For this reason, praising the Creator at one moment, while hurling unkind, racist remarks at another time, is terribly inconsistent in a most unChristlike way. All human beings (of every color and ethnicity) are divine image bearers.

#2—God Only Made One Race—The Human Race

Although people come in different colors, shapes, and sizes, and although they often associate more closely with those whom they find more similar in ways to themselves, the fact is, there is only one human race. Racism is ridiculous because we are all related, not by means of naturalistic evolution, but by special Creation. No one person is inherently of more value than another person. We are all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve—the specially created couple whom God made thousands of years ago in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:20). What’s more, we are also sons and daughters of Noah and his wife, through whom the Earth was repopulated after the worldwide Flood of Genesis 6-8.
As the apostle Paul informed the idolatrous Athenians 2,000 years ago, God “made from one blood every nation to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). Adam and Eve had children, who had children, who had children…who had you and me. We are all physically related. We are all of one race—the one human race. We are all (as modern science classifies us) of the same human species—Homo sapiens. We all trace our ancestry back to Noah, and then back to Adam. We may have different skin color, facial features, hair texture, etc., but we are all brothers and sisters! We are family—a part of the same human race.

#3—God Doesn’t Play Favorites…and Neither Should We

Although God is omnipotent, He is actually color-blind. His all-loving, perfectly just nature will not allow Him to love someone more than another based upon the color of a person’s skin or the nation in which one was born. Similar to how God cannot lie (Titus 1:2), God cannot show favoritism.
Moses wrote: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19). Peter said: “God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35, emp. added). According to Paul, God “does not receive a face” (Galatians 2:6, NASB literal footnote rendering); that is, “God does not judge by external appearance” (Galatians 2:6, NIV).
In short, it is impossible to hold “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, (the Lord) of glory, with respect of persons” (James 2:1, ASV). The Christian’s care and concern for his fellow brother by Creation and by Christ is to be color-blind.

#4—Love is Not Racist

Whereas racism is fueled by earthly ignorance and hate, the Christian is filled with the fruit of Heaven’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The child of God is directed by an omniscient, omni-benevolent Father Who expects His children to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). To the Philippians Paul wrote, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (1:9-11, emp. added).
In two of the more challenging sections of Scripture, Paul wrote: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6, ESV). “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another…. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…. Repay no one evil for evil…. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:9-18).
No Christian can be a racist, and any racist who claims to be a Christian is, in truth, a liar. As the apostle John explained, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21).
“[W]hatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor [regardless of his or her color and ethnicity—EL]. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:9-10, NIV).

#5—Jesus is EVERYONE’S Savior

In one of the earliest Messianic prophecies, God promised Abraham that it would be through One of his descendants that “all the nations” and “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 22:18; 12:3, emp. added). It certainly was an honor for Abraham’s family to be chosen as the one through whom the Savior of the world would come, but Jesus did not come only to save the Jews. God did not enact a plan of salvation to save one particular color of people. He did not send Jesus to take away the sins of a particular ethnic group or nation. Jesus is the answer to the whole world’s sin problem; He is “the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17, emp. added).
“God…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4, emp. added). For this reason, “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations” (Luke 24:47, emp. added)—to people of all colors, in all cultures, in whatever countries.
The Gospel “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16, emp. added). And when individuals in the world “obey the Gospel” (2 Thessalonians 1:8; see Lyons and Butt, n.d.) and are added to the Lord’s Church by God Himself (Acts 2:47), we all become one in Christ Jesus. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:29).


I do not claim to be an expert on race relations, but I know that some people genuinely struggle with the sin of racism. Some struggle with being the recipients of racism, which in turn may cause them to be tempted to react in racist ways. Others struggle with cowardly silence as they tolerate the sin of racism in their homes, churches, schools, businesses, and communities. Still others seem so preoccupied with advancing their own racial agenda that they appear to hastily interpret most everything as a racial problem, when most things are not.
Jesus once taught the hypocrites of His day, saying, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). May God help us to see as He sees: “for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). What a better world this would be if everyone realized the foolishness of judging a book by its cover. Racism really is ridiculous.


Huxley, Thomas (1865), “Emancipation—Black and White,” http://aleph0.clarku.edu/huxley/CE3/B&W.html.
Lyons, Eric (2011), “The Moral Argument for the Existence of God,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=4101&topic=95.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (no date), Receiving the Gift of Salvation (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), http://www.apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/Receiving%20the%20Gift%20of%20Salvation.pdf.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2009), “Darwin, Evolution, and Racism,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=2654.
Marchant, Jo (2008), “We Should Act Like the Animals We Are,” New Scientist, 200[2678]:44-45, October 18-24.
Mounce, William D. (1993), Basics of Biblical Greek (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).

13 Objections to Baptism by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


13 Objections to Baptism

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Some churches historically have taught that water immersion is the dividing line between the lost and the saved. This means that a penitent believer remains unforgiven of sin until buried in the waters of baptism (Romans 6:4). Much of the denominational world disagrees with this analysis of Bible teaching, holding instead that one is saved at the point of “belief,” before and without water baptism. Consider some of the points that are advanced in an effort to minimize the essentiality of baptism for salvation.

Objection #1: “Jesus could not have been baptized for the remission of sins because He was sinless; therefore, people today are not baptized in order to be forgiven. They merely imitate Jesus’ example.”

The baptism to which Jesus submitted Himself was John’s baptism (Matthew 3:13; Mark 1:9). John’s baptism was for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3). This truth is particularly evident from the fact that when Jesus presented Himself to John for baptism, John sought to deter Him, noting that, if anything, Jesus needed to baptize John (Matthew 3:14). Jesus did not correct John, as many seek to do today, by falsely arguing that baptism is not for remission of sins. Rather, Jesus, in effect, agreed with John, but made clear that His baptism was an exception to the rule.
Jesus’ baptism was unique and not to be compared to anyone else’s baptism. Jesus’ baptism had the unique purpose of “fulfilling all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). In other words, it was necessary for Jesus to submit to John’s baptism (1) to show His contemporaries that no one is exempt from submitting to God’s will and (2) more specifically, Christ’s baptism was God’s appointed means of pinpointing for the world the precise identity of His Son. It was not until John saw the Spirit of God descending on Jesus and heard the voice (“This is My Son...”) that he knew that “this is the Son of God” (John 1:31-34; Matthew 3:16-17).
Of course, John’s baptism is no longer valid (Acts 18:24-19:5). John’s baptism paralleled New Testament baptism in the sense that both were for the forgiveness of sins. But John’s baptism was transitional in nature, preparing Jews for their Messiah. Baptism after the cross is for all people (Matthew 28:19), in Jesus’ name (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; 19:5), into His death (Romans 6:3), in order to be clothed with Him (Galatians 3:27), and added to His church (Acts 2:47; 1 Corinthians 12:13). We must not use Jesus’ baptism to suggest that salvation occurs prior to baptism.

Objection #2: “The thief on the cross was not baptized, and he was saved.”

When we “handle aright the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), we see that the thief was not subject to the New Testament command of immersion because this command was not given until after the thief’s death.¹ It was not until Christ was resurrected that He said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). It was not until Christ’s death that the Old Testament ceased, signified by the tearing of the Temple curtain (Matthew 27:51). When Jesus died, He took away the Old Testament, “nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14).
The word “testament” means “covenant” or “will.” The last will and testament of Christ is the New Testament, which consists of those teachings that apply to people after the death of Christ. If we expect to receive the benefits of the New Testament (salvation, forgiveness of sin, eternal life), we must submit to the terms of the will for which Christ is mediator (Hebrews 9:15), for “where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator; for a testament is of force after men are dead; otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator lives” (Hebrews 9:16-17).
So prior to the Lord’s death and the sealing of the New Testament, the baptism for the forgiveness of sins that would be in effect after the crucifixion was not a requirement for those who sought to be acceptable to God. Indeed, while Jesus was on Earth in person, He exercised His authority to forgive sin (Matthew 9:6). People now, however, live during the Christian era of religious history. Prior to Christ’s death, there were no Christians (Acts 11:26). For a person to reject water baptism as a prerequisite to salvation on the basis of what the thief did or did not do, is comparable to Abraham seeking salvation by building an ark—because that’s what Noah did to please God. It would be like the rich young ruler (Matthew 19) refusing Christ’s directive to sell all his possessions—because wealthy King David did not have to sell his possessions in order to please God.
The thief on the cross could not have been baptized the way the new covenant stipulates you and I must be baptized. Why? Romans 6:3-4 teaches that if we wish to acquire “newness of life,” we must be baptized into Christ’s death, be buried with Christ in baptism, and then be raised from the dead. There was no way for the thief to comply with this New Testament baptism—Christ had not died! Christ had not been buried! Christ had not been raised! In fact, none of God’s ordained teachings pertaining to salvation in Christ (2 Timothy 2:10), and in His body the Church (Acts 2:47; Ephesians 1:22-23), had been given. The church, which Christ’s shed blood purchased (Acts 20:28), had not been established, and was not set up until weeks later (Acts 2).2
We must not look to the thief as an example of salvation. Instead, we must obey “from the heart that form of doctrine” (Romans 6:17)—the form of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection through baptism (Romans 6:3-4). Only then can we be “made free from sin to become the servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:18).

Objection #3: “The Bible says, ‘Christ stands at the door of your heart,’ and all we have to do to be forgiven of sin and become a Christian is to invite Him into our hearts.”

It is no doubt startling to discover that the Bible simply does not say such a thing. The phraseology is reminiscent of Revelation 3:20—the passage usually invoked to support the idea. But examine what Revelation 3:20 actually teaches. Revelation chapters 2 and 3 consist of seven specific messages directed to seven churches of Christ in Asia Minor in the first century. Thus, at the outset, we must recognize that Revelation 3:20 is addressed to Christians—not non-Christians seeking conversion to Christ.
Second, Revelation 3:20 is found among Christ’s remarks to the church in Laodicea. Jesus made clear that the church had moved into a lost condition. The members were unacceptable to God since they were “lukewarm” (3:16). They had become unsaved since their spiritual condition was “wretched and miserable and poor” (3:17). Thus, in a very real sense, Jesus had abandoned them by removing His presence from their midst. Now He was on the outside looking in. He still wanted to be among them, but the decision was up to them. They had to recognize His absence, hear Him knocking for admission, and open the door—all of which is figurative language indicating their need to repent (3:19). They needed to return to the obedient lifestyle essential to sustaining God’s favor (John 14:21,23).
Observe that Revelation 3:20 in no way supports the idea that non-Christians merely have to “open the door of their heart” and “invite Jesus in” with the assurance that the moment they mentally/verbally do so, Jesus comes into their heart and they are simultaneously saved from all past sin and have become Christians. The context of Revelation 3:20 shows that Jesus was seeking readmission into an apostate church.
Does the Bible teach that Christ comes into a person’s heart? Yes, but not in the way the religious world suggests. For instance, Ephesians 3:17 states that Christ dwells in the heart through faith. Faith can be acquired only by hearing biblical truth (Romans 10:17). When Bible truth is obeyed, the individual is “saved by faith” (Hebrews 5:9; James 2:22; 1 Peter 1:22). Thus Christ enters our lives when we “draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience [i.e, repentance—DM] and our bodies washed with pure water [i.e., baptism—DM]” (Hebrews 10:22).

Objection #4: “A person is saved the moment he accepts Christ as his personal Savior—which precedes and therefore excludes water baptism.”

To suggest that all one has to do to receive the forgiveness of God and become a Christian is to mentally accept Jesus into his heart and make a verbal statement to that effect, is to dispute the declaration of Jesus in Matthew 7:21—“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” To be sure, oral confession of Christ is one of the prerequisites to salvation (Romans 10:10). But Jesus said there is more to becoming a blood-bought follower of His than verbally “calling on his name”3 or “inwardly accepting Him as Savior.” He stated that before we can even consider ourselves as God’s children (Christians), we must show our acceptance of His gift through outward obedience—“He that does the will of My Father.” Notice the significant contrast Jesus made: the difference between mental/verbal determination to accept and follow the Lord, versus verbal confession coupled with action or obedience (cf. James 2:14,17). This is why we must do everything the Lord has indicated must be done prior to salvation. Jesus is telling us that it is possible to make the mistake of claiming we have found the Lord, when we have not done what He plainly told us to do.
Jesus said: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Jesus also stated: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Honestly, have you accepted Christ as your personal savior—in the way He said it must be done? He asks: “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46, emp. added).

Objection #5: “We are clothed with Christ and become His children when we place our faith in Him.”

Read Galatians 3:26-27: “You are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” The words “put on” (NKJV) are a translation of the Greek verb enduo which signifies “to enter into, get into, as into clothes, to put on.” Can we be saved prior to “putting Christ on” or “being clothed” with Christ? Of course not. But when and how does one put on Christ—according to Paul? When one is baptized in water. Those who teach we can be saved before baptism are, in reality, teaching we can be saved while spiritually naked and without Christ! Paul affirms that we “put on” Christ at the point of our baptism—not before.
Paul wrote these words to people who were already saved. They had been made “sons of God by faith.” But how? At what point had they “been clothed with Christ”? When were they made “sons of God by faith”? When were they saved? Paul makes the answer to these questions very plain: they were united with Christ, had put on Christ, and were clothed with Christ—when they were baptized. Ask yourself if you have been clothed with Christ.

Objection #6: “Baptism is like a badge on a uniform that merely gives evidence that the person is already saved.”

The New Testament nowhere expounds the idea that baptism is merely a “badge” or “outward sign of an inward grace.” Yes, baptism can biblically be referred to as a symbolic act; but what does it symbolize? Previous forgiveness? No! Romans 6 indicates that baptism symbolizes the previous death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Thus the benefits of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection (remember, Jesus’ blood, which blots out sin, was shed in the context of His death, burial, and resurrection) are realized and received by the individual when he obediently (in penitent faith) submits to a similar ordeal, i.e., the death of his own “old man” or “body of sin” (Romans 6:6), burial (immersion into a watery tomb), and resurrection (rising from the watery tomb).
Denominational doctrine maintains that forgiveness of sin is received prior to baptism. If so, the “new life” of the saved individual would also begin prior to baptism. Yet Paul said the “new life” occurs after baptism. He reiterated this to the Colossians. The “putting off of the body of the flesh by Christ’s circumcision” (Colossians 2:11) is accomplished in the context of water immersion and being “risen with Him” (Colossians 2:12). Chapter 3 then draws the important observation: “If then you were raised with Christ [an undeniable reference to baptism—DM], seek those things which are above” [an undeniable reference to the new life which follows—not precedes—baptism].

Objection #7: “Baptism is a meritorious work, whereas we are saved by grace, not works.”

“Works” or “steps” of salvation do not imply that one “merits” his salvation upon obedient compliance with those actions. Rather, “steps” or “a process” signifies the biblical concept of preconditions, stipulations of faith, or acts of obedience—what James called “works” (James 2:17). James was not saying that one can earn his justification (James 2:24). Rather, he was describing the active nature of faith, showing that saving faith, faith that is alive—as opposed to dead and therefore utterly useless (2:20)—is the only kind that is acceptable to God, a faith that obeys whatever actions God has indicated must be done. The obedience of both Abraham and Rahab is set forth as illustrative of the kind of faith James says is acceptable. They manifested their trust by actively doing what God wanted done. Such obedient or active trust is the only kind that avails anything. Thus, an obedient response is essential.
The actions themselves are manifestations of this trust that justifies, not the trust itself. But notice that according to James, you cannot have one without the other. Trust, or faith, is dead, until it leads one to obey the specifications God assigned. Here is the essence of salvation that separates those who adhere to biblical teaching from those who have been adversely influenced by the Protestant reformers. The reformers reacted to the unbiblical concept of stacking bad deeds against good deeds in an effort to offset the former by the latter (cf. Islam). Unfortunately, the reactionary reformers went to the equally unacceptable, opposite extreme by asserting that man need “only believe” (Luther) or man can do nothing at all (Calvin). The truth is between these two unbiblical extremes.
From Genesis to Revelation, faith is the trusting, obedient reaction that humans manifest in response to what God offers. This is the kind of “justification by faith” that Paul expounded in Romans. Like red flags at the very beginning (1:5) and at the end (16:26) of his divinely inspired treatise, he defined what he meant by “faith” with the words “obedient faith” (hupakoeinpisteos), i.e., faith that obeys, obedience which springs from faith.4 This fact is precisely why God declared His willingness to fulfill the promises He made to Abraham: “because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws” (Genesis 26:5). Hence, in Romans Paul could speak of the necessity of walking “in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had” (Romans 4:12). Until faith obeys, it is useless and cannot justify.
The Hebrews writer made the same point in Hebrews 11. The faith we see in Old Testament “men of faith” availed only after they obeyed God-given stipulations. God rewards those who “diligently seek Him” in faith (vs. 6). Noah “became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” when he “prepared an ark.” If he had not complied with divine instructions, he would have been branded as “unfaithful.” The thing that made the difference, that constituted the line of demarcation between faith and lack of faith, was obedient action—what James called “works,” and Paul called “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). In this sense, even faith is a “work” (John 6:29). Hebrews 11 repeatedly reinforces this eternal principle: (1) God offers grace (which may at any point in history consist of physical blessings, e.g., healing, salvation from enemies, land or property, etc., or spiritual blessings, e.g., justification, forgiveness, salvation from sin, being made righteous, etc.); (2) man responds in obedient trust (i.e., “faith”) by complying with the stipulated terms; and (3) God bestows the blessing.
It would be wrong to think that man’s obedient response earns or merits the subsequent blessing. Such simply does not logically follow. All blessings God bestows on man are undeserved (Luke 17:10). His rich mercy and loving grace is freely offered and made available—though man never deserves such kindness (Titus 2:11). Still, a non-meritorious response is absolutely necessary if unworthy man is to receive certain blessings.

Objection #8: “Not only is baptism nonessential to salvation, even faith is a gift from God to a person. Man is so depraved that he is incapable of believing.”

Surely, God’s infinite justice would not permit Him to force man to desire God’s blessings. God’s intervention into man’s woeful condition was not in the form of causing man to desire help or miraculously generating faith within man. God intervened by giving His inspired Word, which tells how He gave His Son to make a way for man to escape eternal calamity. Faith is then generated in the individual by God’s words which the person must read and understand (Romans 10:17; Acts 8:30). The individual then demonstrates his faith in obedience.
Did the walls of Jericho fall down “by faith” (Hebrews 11:30)? Absolutely. But the salient question is: “When?” Did the walls fall the moment the Israelites merely “believed” that they would fall? No! Rather, when the people obeyed the divine directives. The walls fell “by faith” after the people met God’s conditions. If the conditions had not been met, the walls would not have fallen down “by faith.” The Israelites could not claim that the walls fell by their own effort, or that they earned the collapse of the walls. The city was given to them by God as an undeserved act of His grace (Joshua 6:2). To receive the free gift of the city, the people had to obey the divinely stipulated prerequisites.
Notice the capsuling nature of Hebrews 11:6. Faith or belief is not given by God. It is something that man does in order to please God. The whole chapter is predicated on the fundamental idea that man is personally responsible for mustering obedient trust. God does not “regenerate man by His call, thus enabling man to respond.” God “calls” individuals through, by means of, His written Word (2 Thessalonians 2:14). In turn, the written Word can generate faith in the individual (Romans 10:17). How unscriptural to suggest that man is so “totally depraved” that he cannot even believe, thus placing God in the position of demanding something from man (John 8:24) of which man is inherently incapable. But the God of the Bible would not be guilty of such injustice.
Some people approach passages like Romans 10:17 in this fashion: (1) God chooses to save an individual; (2) God gives him the free gift of faith; and (3) God uses the Gospel to stir up the faith which He has given the person. Yet neither Romans 10:17, nor any other passage, even hints at such an idea. The text states explicitly that faith comes from hearing Christ’s Word. Notice verse 14, where the true sequence is given: (1) the preacher preaches; (2) the individual hears the preached word; and (3) believes. This sequence is a far cry from suggesting that God miraculously imparts faith to a person, and then the Holy Spirit “stirs up” the faith. Such a notion has God giving man a defective faith which then needs to be stirred up. The text makes clear that God has provided for faith to be generated (i.e., originated) by the preached Word. God does not arbitrarily intervene and impose faith upon the hearts of a select group of individuals.
According to 1 Corinthians 1:21, mankind did not know God, so God transmitted His message through inspired preachers so that those who respond in faith would be saved. Paul wrote in Romans 1:16 that this gospel message is God’s power to save those who believe it. Notice that the Gospel is what Paul preached (vs. 15). Thus the preached message from God generates faith and enables people to be saved.
We see the same in Acts 2:37. What pierced the hearts of the listeners? Obviously, the sermon. Acts 2:37 is a demonstration of Romans 10:17—“faith comes by hearing…the word of God.” God did not change the hearts of the people miraculously; Peter’s words did. If denominational doctrine is correct, when the Jews asked the apostles what they should do, Peter should have said: “There’s nothing you can do. You are so totally depraved, you can’t do anything. God will regenerate you; He will cause you to believe (since faith is His ‘free gift’).” Yet, quite to the contrary, Peter told them that they needed to do some things. And they were things that God could not do for them.
First, they were required to “repent.” Biblical repentance is a change of mind (Matthew 21:29). A “turning” follows repentance (Acts 3:19) and consists of some specified action subsequent to the change of mind. John the Baptizer called this turning activity, which follows repentance and serves as evidence that repentance has occurred, “fruits” (Matthew 3:8). After being convicted (Acts 2:37—i.e., believing the truth of Peter’s contentions), they were told to “repent,” to change their minds about their previous course of life. What else were they to do?
Peter did not tell them to “repent and believe.” Their belief was already abundantly evident in their pricked hearts and their fervent petition for instructions. What was lacking? Peter said (i.e., God said) they still lacked baptism. Remember, the only difference between dead faith and saving faith is outward action—compliance with all actions that God specifies as necessary before He will freely bestow unmerited favor in the form of forgiveness.
Thus baptism marked the point at which God would count them righteous if they first believed and repented. Baptism served as the line of demarcation between the saved and the lost. Jesus’ blood could wash their sins away only at the point of baptism.

Objection #9: “The preposition ‘for’ in the phrase ‘for the remission of sins’ in Acts 2:38 means ‘because of.’ Hence, they were baptized because of sins for which they were forgiven when they believed.”

The English word “for” has, as one of its meanings, “because of.” However, the Greek preposition eis that underlies the English word “for” never has a causal function. It always has its primary, basic, accusative thrust: unto, into, to, toward. We must not go to the text, decide what we think it means, and assign a grammatical meaning that coincides with our preconceived understanding. We must begin with the inspired grammar and seek to understand every text in light of the normal, natural, common meaning of the grammatical and lexical construction. The same grammatical construction of Acts 2:38 is found in Matthew 26:28—“into the remission of sins” (eisaphesin hamartion). Jesus’ blood, the blood of the covenant, was undeniably shed for many “in order to acquire remission of sins.” This is the natural and normal meaning of the Greek preposition—toward, in the direction of. Had the Holy Spirit intended to say that baptism is “because of” or “on account of” past forgiveness, He would have used the Greek preposition that conveys that very idea: dia with the accusative.
Similarly, in Acts 2:38, if repentance is not “because of” remission of sins, neither is baptism. Regardless of person and number considerations, Peter told his hearers to do both things. The act of baptism (connected to the act of repentance by the coordinate conjunction) cannot be extricated from the context of remission of sins by any stretch.

Objection #10: “When the Philippian jailer asked what to do to be saved, he was simply told to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

As further proof that God does not miraculously bestow faith on a person through the Holy Spirit, observe that Paul told the jailer that he (the jailer) had to believe; he did not answer the jailer’s question with: “You don’t have to do anything. God will give you faith.” On the contrary, Paul and Silas told him that he had to manifest faith in Jesus. But was this pagan jailer in a position at that moment to do so? No, he would have to be taught Who, how, and what to believe. No wonder, then, Luke records immediately: “they spoke the word of the Lord to him” (Acts 16:32). If Romans 10:17 can be trusted, the words which Paul and Silas proclaimed generated faith in the jailer. And those same words surely included the necessity of repentance and baptism, because the jailer immediately manifested the fruit of repentance (by washing their stripes), and likewise was immediately baptized (not waiting until morning or the weekend). Observe carefully Luke’s meticulous documentation, that it was only after the jailer believed, repented, and was baptized, that the jailer was in a position to rejoice. Only then did Luke describe the jailer as “having believed in God” (vs. 34), i.e., now standing in a state of perfected belief.5

Objection #11: “Saul was saved before and without baptism while he was on the road to Damascus when Jesus appeared to him.”

The actual sequence of events delineated in Acts shows that Saul was not saved while on the road to Damascus. Jesus identified Himself and then accused Saul of being a persecutor (Acts 9:5). Saul “trembled” and was “astonished” (hardly the description of a saved individual), and pleadingly asked what he should do—a clear indication that he had just been struck with his lost and undone condition.
This question has the exact same force as the Pentecostians’ question (Acts 2:37) and the jailer’s question (Acts 16:30). All three passages are analogous in their characterization of individuals who had acted wrongly (i.e., the Pentecostians had crucified Jesus, Saul was persecuting Christians, and the jailer had kept innocent Christians jailed). Likewise, in each instance, the candidates for conversion are portrayed as unhappy (i.e., the Pentecostians were “cut to the heart,” Saul “trembled” and “was astonished,” and the jailer “came trembling”—i.e., he was frightened). They were scared, miserable individuals, suddenly brought face to face with their horribly unacceptable status before God. Such is hardly an apt description for saved individuals. Where is the joy, peace, and excitement that comes when one’s sins have been washed away?
Saul was not forgiven on the road to Damascus—he still needed to be told what he “must do” (Acts 9:6). He still lacked “hearing the word of the Lord.” The only way for Saul to hear the Gospel was through the agency of a preacher (Romans 10:14; 1 Corinthians 1:21).  Similarly, an angel told Cornelius (Acts 10:4) that his prayers and money had gone up for a memorial before God—yet he was unsaved. He needed to contact an inspired preacher, Peter, “who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved” (Acts 11:14). Likewise, before Saul could learn of God’s plan that he be the great “apostle of the Gentiles,” he first needed to hear the Gospel expounded and told how to respond to what God offered in Christ.
Rather than tell him what he needed to do to be saved, Jesus told him to go into the city, where a preacher (Ananias) would expound to him the necessity of salvation. Notice: Saul waited in Damascus for three days without food and drink, and was still blind. Here’s an individual who was still miserable, unhappy, and unsaved, awaiting instructions on how to change his unfortunate status. Acts 9:18 condenses Saul’s response to the preached Word, while Acts 22 elaborates a little further on the significance of Saul’s response. Ananias said, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
Notice Ananias’ inspired connection between baptism and sins being cleansed. If Saul was saved prior to baptism, it was wrong for Ananias to say that Saul still had sins that needed to be washed away. Ananias did not congratulate Saul because his sins already were washed away, and tell him that he needed to be baptized only as a “badge” or “outward symbol” or “picture” of what had already occurred. He plainly said Saul’s sins yet needed to be washed away. That can be accomplished only by Jesus’ blood in the act of baptism. The water does not cleanse the sin-stained soul—Jesus does. And Ananias clearly stated when (not how or by Whom) that occurs. If Saul’s penitent faith would not lead him to submit to water immersion, he could not have had his sins washed away by Jesus. Instead, he would have remained in opposition to Jesus. Remember, Scripture never portrays baptism as symbolic of previous sin removal. The only symbolism ever attached to the act of baptism is its (1) likeness to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5); (2) its comparison to the removal of sin like circumcision removes skin (Colossians 2:12); and (3) its likeness to Noah’s emergence from a sinful world (1 Peter 3:20-21). God literally (not symbolically) removes sin and justifies the individual by grace, through faith, at the point of baptism.

Objection #12: “If baptism is necessary to salvation, Jesus would have said, ‘but he who does not believe and is not baptized will be condemned’ in Mark 16:16. And besides, the last twelve verses of Mark 16 are not included in the oldest and best Greek manuscripts.”

The omission of “and is not baptized” in Mark 16:16 is completely logical and necessary. The first phrase (“he who believes and is baptized”) describes man’s complete response necessitated by the preaching of the Gospel: Faith must precede baptism, since obviously one would not submit to baptism if he did not first believe. It is non-essential to ascribe condemnation in the second clause to the individual who is not baptized, since the individual being condemned is the one who does not initially believe. The person who refuses to believe “is condemned already” (John 3:18) and certainly would not be interested in the next item of compliance—baptism. He who does not believe would obviously not be baptized—and even if he would, his failure to first believe disqualifies him from being immersed. Only penitent believers are candidates for baptism. An exact grammatical parallel would be: “He who goes to the store and buys coffee for his father will receive $5.00. He who does not go to the store will be spanked.” Obviously, if the child refuses to go to the store, he would not be in a position to buy coffee, and it would be redundant—even grammatically and linguistically inappropriate—to include the failure to purchase the coffee in the pronouncement of an impending spanking.
Are the last verses of Mark 16 uninspired? The textual evidence supporting the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20 is exceptional in light of the vast sources available for establishing the original text. While it is true that Vaticanus and Sinaiticus omit the last 12 verses, it is positively misleading to assume that “the validity of these verses is weak.” In fact, the vast number of witnesses are in favor of the authenticity of verses 9-20. The rejection of Vaticanus is less weighty in light of its comparable exclusion of the Pastoral Epistles, the last part of Hebrews, and Revelation. The rejection of Sinaiticus is similarly unconvincing, since it includes some of the Apocryphal books.6

Objection #13: “Romans 10:9-10 indicates that all one needs to do is believe and confess Jesus.”

The use of eis in Romans 10:10 cannot mean “because of.” Verse nine explicitly says one will be saved “if” he confesses and believes in the heart. Confession and faith are therefore prerequisites to forgiveness. They are God-ordained “responses” to the preached Word (vs. 8) and must occur before salvation is imparted by God. In other words, one’s soul is purified when he obeys the truth (1 Peter 1:22). Jesus provides eternal salvation to those who obey Him (Hebrews 5:9).
But is baptism excluded from salvation since only faith and confession are mentioned in Romans 10:9-10? Notice, four chapters earlier, the order of Romans 6:17-18: (1) slaves to sin; (2) person obeys; (3) made free from sin (righteous). Item (3) cannot occur unless item (2) occurs first. The “whole” of man is to reverence God and keep His commands (Ecclesiastes 12:13). To whom does God give the Holy Spirit? To those whom He arbitrarily chooses, without any consideration of the individual’s necessitated response? No. Acts 5:32 says God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him. God has always conditioned the bestowal of spiritual blessing upon prior obedient response (Jeremiah 7:23; Genesis 26:4-5). Deuteronomy 5:10 says God shows mercy to those who love Him and keep His commands.
In Romans 10, Paul is not stressing the specific aspects of the conversion process. That is not the context. Rather, the context addresses whether one is acceptable to God in the Christian dispensation due to physical heritage (i.e., race/ethnicity), versus whether one is saved when one complies with God’s instruction. Paul was stressing that their nationality could not bring the Jews into God’s favor. Rather, people are saved when they render obedience to the Gospel. He quoted Joel 2:32, where the emphasis is on the word “whosoever” in contrast to “Jews only.” Verse 12 argues that God does not distinguish on the basis of race. The individual’s response to the preached Word is the deciding factor. However, Romans 10 does not reveal all of the details of that obedient response. One must be willing to search out the whole truth on such a subject.
If repentance is essential to salvation, one must concede that such teaching must come from some passage other than Romans 10. Does Romans 10:10 mean that repentance is unnecessary, just because it is unmentioned in the text? No, since repentance is required in chapter 2:4. If not, then why assume baptism to be nonessential simply because it is not mentioned in this particular text? It is enjoined in chapter 6:3-4. To ascertain the significance of baptism in God’s sight, one must go to passages that discuss that subject, rather than dismiss them in deference to verses on faith. If God says, “faith saves” (Romans 5:1), let us accept that truth. If God says, “baptism saves” (1 Peter 3:21), let us accept that truth, too! Jesus Himself said: belief + baptism = salvation (Mark 16:16), not belief = salvation + baptism.
Notice also, Romans 10:10,13 does not say that salvation can be acquired by mere verbal confession (e.g., “I accept Jesus into my heart as my personal Savior”). Why?
(1) Nowhere is the statement, “Accept Jesus as your personal Savior,” found in Scripture.
(2) Jesus forever dashed the idea of salvation by mental acceptance/verbal profession alone in Matthew 7:21 and Luke 6:46, where He showed that oral confession alone is unacceptable. In every age, there have been specified actions of obedience that God has required before He would count individuals as pleasing or acceptable. In fact, if faith is not coupled with the appropriate obedient action (like baptism), then such faith is unable to justify. Such faith is imperfect (James 2:17,20,26) and therefore cannot save!
(3) The phrase “call on the name of the Lord” is an idiomatic way to say: “respond with appropriate obedient actions.” It is the figure of speech known as synecdoche (i.e., the part stands for the whole). To “call” on God’s name is equivalent to saying, “Do what He tells you to do.” Isaiah 55:6 told the Jews of Isaiah’s day to call on God. Verse 7 explains how: (1) forsake wicked ways, (2) forsake wicked thoughts, (3) return to the Lord. To obey these three stipulations constituted “calling on God.”
Likewise, those in Jerusalem who “called on the Lord’s name” (Acts 9:14,21) had done so, not solely by verbal confession, but by repentance and baptism for forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). Similarly, Paul himself became a Christian, that is, he “called on the name of the Lord”—not by verbally confessing Christ—but by being baptized (Acts 22:16). For Paul, “calling on the Lord’s name” was equivalent to (not precedent to) being baptized. God washed his sins away by the blood of Jesus at the point of his baptism.


Though the bulk of Christendom for centuries has veered off into Calvinism and other post-first century theological thought, the meaning and design of baptism is determined by the New Testament. The verses in the New Testament that speak about baptism are definitive. They indicate that water immersion precedes salvation—along with faith, repentance, and confession of Christ’s deity. No objection has ever overturned this divinely intended function.


1 Although the thief may well have submitted to the precursor to NT baptism, i.e., John’s baptism, it also was “for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3).
2 See also Dave Miller (2003), “The Thief on the Cross,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1274&topic=86.
3 Cf. Eric Lyons (2004), “Calling on the Name of the Lord,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/597.
4 Rudolf Bultmann (1968), “πιστεύω,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982 reprint), 6:206; Fredrick William Danker (2000), “ὑπακοη,” A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago), third edition, p. 1028; James Denny (no date), “St. Paul’s Epistles to the Romans” in The Expositor’s Greek Testament, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 2:587; J.B. Lightfoot (1895), Notes on Epistles of St. Paul (London: Macmillan), p. 246; H.P.V. Nunn (1912), A Short Syntax of New Testament Greek (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), p. 42; Geoffrey H. Parke-Taylor (1944), “A Note on ‘είς ὑπακοὴν πίστεως’ in Romans 1.5 and xvi.26,” The Expository Times, 55:305-306; A.T. Robertson (1931), Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press), 4:324; Marvin Vincent (1946), Word Studies in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 3:5; W.E. Vine (1966), An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell), p. 123.
5 W.M. Ramsay (1915), The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (London: Houghton and Stoughton), p. 165.
6 For a more thorough discussion of this matter, see Dave Miller (2005), “Is Mark 16:9-20 Inspired?” Reason & Revelation, 25[12]:89-95, December, http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2780.

“You People Are Crazy!” by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


“You People Are Crazy!”

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

I freely admit that I believe a donkey spoke, an iron ax head floated, and a woman turned into a pillar of salt. As certain as I am of my own existence, I am convinced that water flowed from a rock, that a man’s severed ear was immediately reattached with the touch of a hand, and that dead people have come back to life. I believe that, not only did a burning bush not really burn up, but also that three men survived a fiery furnace without a single singed hair on their heads. I believe that a man spent three days inside of a sea creature and lived to tell about it.1 And yes, I believe a virgin gave birth to a Son, Who will one day “descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
Atheists, agnostics, and skeptics often ridicule Christians who believe in the various miracles recorded in the Bible. We are said to believe in superstition rather than science and in fairy tales rather than real facts. In reality, Christ was not crazy, and Christianity is not kooky. The Bible is absolutely believable. The whole matter of miracles is really quite simple, and yet profound.
Admittedly, if no supernatural God exists, then (1) the miracles of the Bible are make-believe, (2) the Bible itself is merely a work of fiction, and (3) Christians are very naïve. However, if an omniscient, omnipotent, supernatural Being does exist, then He could work any number of supernatural miracles (which are in harmony with His divine will). If there were no Universe, and He chose to create one, He could speak it into existence (Psalm 33:6-9). If He wanted to put on human flesh and dwell among mankind for a time, the all-powerful Creator could choose to interact with His creation “human”-to-human, face-to-face (John 1:1-3,14). If there were no written revelation from Him to mankind, He could certainly make that happen (2 Peter 1:20-21). He could ensure that writers of His choosing penned what He wanted mankind to know. If He wanted mankind to know that He created the world and everything in it, He could tell them through His divinely inspired writers. If He wanted His human creation to know about some of the miracles He worked through the millennia, again, He could communicate such information through His chosen writers.
In short, (1) if God exists, and (2) if the Bible is His Word, then genuine followers of Christ are not crazy at all. Since the evidence actually indicates that God does exist2 and the Bible is His inspired Word,3 then those who have followed this evidence to its logical conclusion4 have reasonably concluded that the miracles of the Bible make perfect sense.5
In reality, the highly irrational position is atheism. Naturalistic atheism contends that matter came from nothing, yet no such thing has ever been observed to happen naturally. Atheism says that biological life came from non-life, yet science has known for many decades that, in nature, life only comes from pre-existing life. Think about: Christians are supposedly crazy for believing that a supernatural God could supernaturally cause water to flow from a rock (Exodus 17:1-7), yet atheistic evolution contends that water evolved on Earth from dust and dirt over millions of years. How is it, exactly, that Christians are the unreasonable ones for believing that the omnipotent God of the Universe once miraculously used a donkey to speak intelligible words to a man (Numbers 22:22-34), when atheistic evolution gets by with peddling the supposed fact that donkeys evolved from fish? If God (Who created Adam’s ear in the beginning) chose to reattach a severed ear of one of Adam’s descendants (Luke 22:50-51), that’s purportedly “preposterous,” but believing that ears just evolved naturally over millions of years (as atheists contend) is supposedly “reasonable.”
In truth, when genuine, biblical Christianity and naturalistic atheism are compared and contrasted, one proves to be perfectly rational. “Come now, and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). “Speak the words of truth and reason” (Acts 26:25). If God exists and the Bible is His Word, Christianity makes perfect sense. Whether you are an atheist, an agnostic, a skeptic, or even a Christian who is struggling with doubt, why not consider the many evidences which reveal that real Christianity is a reasonable religion. We hope and pray that Apologetics Press can help you in your pursuit of Truth.


1 All of these miracles are recorded in the following biblical passages: Numbers 22:22-40; 2 Kings 6:1-7; Genesis 19:15-26; Exodus 17:1-7; Luke 22:50-51; 1 Kings 17:17-24; Acts 9:36-42; Exodus 3:1-4; Daniel 3:19-30; Jonah 1:15-2:10; Matthew 1:18-25.
2 See Eric Lyons and Kyle Butt (2014), “7 Reasons to Believe in God,” Reason & Revelation, 34[10]:110-119, www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1175. See also AP’s book Does God Exist? (www.apologeticspress.org/store/Product.aspx?pid=874), as well as the “Existence of God” section of the AP Web site (http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12).
3 See Kyle Butt and Eric Lyons (2015), “3 Good Reasons to Believe the Bible is from God,” 35[1]:1-12, www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=13&article=5089&topic=102. See also AP’s book on the inspiration of the Bible, titled Behold! The Word of God (www.apologeticspress.org/store/Product.aspx?pid=8), as well as the “Inspiration of the Bible” section of the AP Web site (http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=13).
4 Admittedly, some misguided “Christians” claim to believe in all sorts of things for many foolish reasons. Real, biblical Christianity, however, is built upon solid proofs (Acts 1:1-4; John 5:31-47; 10:37-38), not “cunningly devised fables” (2 Peter 1:16).
5 The Bible makes clear that God has worked all manner of miracles in the past, and has the potential to work them at any moment. But, simply because God is more than capable of performing miracles at any time does not mean that He chooses to work such supernatural acts on or though mankind today. In this dispensation, the reason we do not see people miraculously have one of their severed ears reattached, or blind people given sight supernaturally, or dead people given new physical life, is not because God cannot do these things. Rather, it is because God has chosen to cease working such supernatural miracles during this time. Just as God has every right to work a miracle, He has every right to suspend the working of miracles on Earth for whatever amount of time He chooses. When the prophet Samuel was a boy, supernatural revelation from God was “rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation” (1 Samuel 3:1). Such rare supernatural revelation from God, however, was not due to a lack of ability on God’s part; rather, it was a choice that He had every right to make.
So why would God choose not to work miracles for a certain period of time, even for hundreds or thousands of years? Unlike magicians, who perform amusing tricks for entertainment purposes, God did not perform miracles for the sake of amusement. Biblical miracles were performed to confirm the Word (cf. Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:3-4; cf. Exodus 5-12; John 3:2). What’s more, Paul stated that miracles would cease and be done away when the “perfect” (or completed Word of God) had been revealed (1 Corinthians 13:8-10; James 1:25). Once God revealed all of the information that He wished to make available to people, the need for miracles to confirm the oral Word came to an end. Those things that were incomplete and partial (miraculous gifts) would be replaced by the total and complete (the fully revealed, written Word of God).
For more information on the subject of miracles, see Dave Miller (2003), “Modern-Day Miracles, Tongue Speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation—Extended Version,” Apologetics Press, www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1399.

“The Man Upstairs” by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


“The Man Upstairs”

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Maybe you have been in a conversation when a person used the phrase “the Man upstairs.” In fact, it might be the case that you have used it yourself. Most people understand that this phrase is supposed to refer to God. The famous country singer Garth Brooks performed a song, titled “Unanswered Prayers,” in which he referred to God as “the Man upstairs.” Let’s consider some possible implications that this idea may contain.
There seems to be a human tendency to view God as “the Big Man,” or “the Man upstairs,” and attribute to Him human qualities. Most of the time, when a person uses such phrases, that person attributes to God more power than other men, and places God higher (upstairs) than other men, but still views God as some kind of giant, powerful Man. In fact, the Greek and Roman religions took the “Man upstairs” idea to its logical conclusion and attributed to their gods personalities and character flaws that were seen in mere men. The pagan deities lied, cheated, stole, consorted, and murdered like “little” humans, only their dastardly deeds were perceived to be on a cosmic scale.
In truth, the Bible paints a very different picture of God than is contained in the thought of “the Man upstairs.” The Bible repeatedly insists that God is not a man. In Numbers 23:19, in an inspired oracle, Balak stated: “God is not a man, that He should lie.” The prophet Isaiah wrote: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (55:8-9). The true God of heaven is nothing like the ancient pagan deities with their lies and hypocrisy. The God of heaven “cannot lie” (Titus 1: 2), nor can He even be tempted with evil (James 1:13). In fact, God is perfect in every way, “a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4).
While it is true that the Bible sometimes describes God with human traits (called anthropomorphisms), like having hands or eyes, it is not true that God is just a bigger, higher Man. He is altogether perfect, “Whose judgments are unsearchable and Whose ways are past finding out” (Romans 11:33). Let us always bear in mind as we approach our God in worship and prayer, that we are approaching the Perfect God of Heaven “to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11).
[NOTE: Of course we understand that Jesus was called the Son of Man, and became a Man. Unlike other men, however, Jesus lived a perfect life and never sinned. This brief article is solely intended to encourage us not to view God as having the same character flaws, failings, and limitations as men and to refer to him in an accurate, reverent way.]

The Sovereignty of God by Trevor Bowen


The Sovereignty of God


Fundamental and necessary to Calvin's system of theology is his concept of the sovereignty of God. While all Christians would recognize that God is sovereign, or the supreme authority in all and over all, it is a separate issue to conclude that God has necessarily chosen to make man's choices. Surely God has the power to make all choices for man, but He also has the power to allow man a sphere of sovereignty, or free will to choose within God's plan. The topic of this Bible study is to determine the extent of God's exercised sovereignty and ultimately answer the question as to if we have free will or if we are predestined creatures of fate.

Our Goal

The complexities of this question can quickly overwhelm even the most seasoned Bible student and leave one entangled in never ending circles of logic. Therefore, it is essential that we first clearly choose our goal for this study.
Since the Bible is always consistent with itself, if we find one passage that necessarily and absolutely shows man's free will, then we will have completely proven the free will of man and disproved predestination. However, if we can find one passage that shows the opposite, then the contrary will be true. To safeguard from taking a single passage out of context, we should try to find additional passages to provide confidence in our conclusion. Moreover, to be honest and fair-minded, we should also examine a few of the more prevalent objections based on other passages. Our goal will, therefore, be to find a few passages that either show man's free will or God's predestination of man's fate. We will also examine a few objections to our conclusions.

What is "Predestination" and "Free Will" ?

We have talked about "sovereignty", "predestination", and "free will", but what is meant by these words? Well, "sovereignty" in general refers to the ability and right of any person or body to govern and sustain itself. We usually use the term to refer to a king's or nation's authority and capacity to rule. Similarly, the Bible speaks of God's sovereignty:
"He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords; who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen." I Timothy 6:15-16 New American Standard Version
God is certainly sovereign over all mankind, since He is man's creator and without equal, among angels or men (Isaiah 40:13-14; 45:9-12). In fact, man is unable to resist God's will (Isaiah 43:13). There is no question that God is sovereign, since it is unequivocally stated in Scripture. But, establishing God's sovereignty does not establish how God exercises that power and rule. The extent of God's exercised sovereignty is the cornerstone upon which all of Calvinism stands or falls.
"Predestination" is used in the context of this study to convey the idea that God, by His sovereignty, made all choices for all creatures for all time. Consequently, He has determined man's temptations, decisions, and consequences before man ever had a chance.
One alternative to the idea of predestination is the idea that God has given man the ability to make choices, or to freely exercise his individual will - "free will". The concept of free will is not one in which man overpowered God and exercises his own will outside God's sovereignty, but it is based on the premise that God has given man a sphere of influence and determination within and as part of God's grand scheme. This implies that God has enabled man to make choices within that divinely ordained sphere. We learn in Scripture that God holds man responsible for his choices. Man's choices are freely made, but they are not free from consequence.

Unfulfilled Decrees of God

No scripture in the Bible directly states whether God predestined each man individually or if each man chooses his own fate. Consequently, we will have to research and analyze passages that provide evidence upon which one may make fair and necessary inferences. One Bible theme that provides just such a source of study are the unfulfilled decrees of God.
Part of Calvin's understanding about God's sovereignty was that He controls all things and that His decrees can not be changed. Certainly, God's decrees cannot be changed, unless He makes them conditional. However, there could be no "conditions" in Calvin's system, where God has predetermined all events because the word "conditional" implies multiple possible outcomes, which necessitates choice and free will.
With this in mind, please consider the following Old Testament account, which occurred during King David's escape from King Saul:
"Then David said, "O LORD God of Israel, Your servant has certainly heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah to destroy the city for my sake. Will the men of Keilah deliver me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as Your servant has heard? O LORD God of Israel, I pray, tell Your servant."
"And the LORD said, "He will come down."
"Then David said, "Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul?"
"And the LORD said, "They will deliver you."
"So David and his men, about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah and went wherever they could go. Then it was told Saul that David had escaped from Keilah; so he halted the expedition." I Samuel 23:10-13
In this passage, God made two clear decrees concerning the future: 1) Saul would come down to the city of Keilah, and 2) the men of the town would turn David over to Saul. However, after learning this, David quickly left Keilah. Saul did not come to Keilah, and the men never turned David over to Saul.
Now if predestination be true, how could God have told David something that was not true? One would only be able to conclude that either God lied or He did not have the power to bring about His own decrees. Of course, neither of these conclusions are acceptable. They assault the very character and definition of God. The only rational alternative explanation is that the decree was conditional upon the current course of events, including David's choice. Evidently, God gave power to David to change his own fate. Any other conclusion would be blasphemy.

Examples of Man Choosing

The above account is is not the only example of men choosing and changing their fate. Please consider the following additional examples of man choosing his own fate, sometimes contrary to God's clear judgments.
  • King Hezekiah (II Kings 20:1, 5-6) - The Lord told Hezekiah, King of Judah, that he was to prepare himself because he was about to die. However, after Hezekiah prayed to the Lord for mercy, an additional 15 years was granted to him. Did God lie, or did He mercifully listen to Hezekiah's penitent prayer and change His fate? Either God is not perfect or all things are not predestined and unchangeable.

  • Jonah and the Ninevites (Jonah 3:4-10) - Jonah preached to the people of Nineveh and warned them that God had judged them and would destroy them and their city. This fate was decreed without exception. However, the people repented hoping that God might change His determined course. God did change His course of action and spared the city. Therefore, if all things are predestined, was God lying when He spoke concerning their destruction, or did He respond to their penitence and change His mind concerning their destruction? How could He have "repented" or "turned", if His course was chosen and settled before time began?

  • Joshua (Joshua 24:14-15) - In this case, after reviewing the Israelites' history and their present situation, Joshua directly implores the people to choose to serve God. Was this inspired prophet and leader of the Israelites mocking their inability to choose, or was He encouraging them to make the right choice?

  • The People of Jerusalem (Luke 13:34) - In this example, Jesus mourned over the people of Jerusalem not choosing to come to Him. He speaks of how often He "would" have accepted them if they would just repent, and He also states that the reason He did not was because they "would not" come to Him. It was not that they could not, but they would not. Both in our language and the original Greek, this word (thelo) implies purpose, determination, and will, and it is the same word used earlier in the verse to describes Christ's will that they be saved. This verse seems to clearly indicate that these men had the ability to choose to come to Christ, but they willed not to come. Where is the untruth? In the Bible or in the doctrine of predestination?

Objections: The Example of Pharoah

No examination of a question would be fair without analyzing the objections to a conclusion. So, let us consider a representative question concerning the ancient Egyptian king, Pharoah. We will cover more objections in later articles.
This question is often asked because the Bible clearly speaks of God influencing Pharoah's heart, and it may first appear that God even controlled his heart.
"And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh will not heed you, so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments." Exodus 7:3-4
It seems from this verse that God influenced Pharoah in that He "hardened" Pharoah's heart, making him unresponsive to the signs of God's power. However, there is a difference between God hardening Pharoah's heart and predestining, or forcing Pharoah's will. So, before we jump to a premature conclusion, let us examine the context of this passage.
When did Pharoah's heart become hardened? Chapters 1-14 of Exodus detail the captivity and release of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Eventually, the king, Pharoah, reluctantly released the Israelites after suffering 10 terrible plagues from God, each more severe than the previous one. At the end of each plague, Pharoah would ask the Lord to relent, and verses, similar to the following, would detail what would happen next:
"And Pharaoh sent and called for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, 'I have sinned this time. The LORD is righteous, and my people and I are wicked. Entreat the LORD, that there may be no more mighty thundering and hail, for it is enough. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.'
"So Moses said to him, 'As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands to the LORD; the thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, that you may know that the earth is the LORD's. But as for you and your servants, I know that you will not yet fear the LORD God.'
"So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh and spread out his hands to the LORD; then the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain was not poured on the earth.
"And when Pharaoh saw that the rain, the hail, and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet more; and he hardened his heart, he and his servants. So the heart of Pharaoh was hard; neither would he let the children of Israel go, as the LORD had spoken by Moses. " Exodus 9:27-35
Not only do we see that Pharoah's heart was hardened by the relief from the plagues, but we also see that it was Pharoah who actually hardened his heart. Since Pharoah was a proud, stubborn, and arrogant man, any signs that were shown to Pharoah by God only served to harden his impenitent heart. In this way both God and Pharoah contributed to hardening Pharoah's heart. Ultimately, it was Pharoah who actually hardened his own heart by refusing to repent and obey God. God only forced him to choose.


Just as Pharoah's heart was hardened by God's miraculous signs, the gospel and God's truth also harden peoples hearts who refuse to accept it - even today. Please kind reader, consider these passages and weigh them carefully in your mind. If you were previously convinced that Calvinism is true, then probably you have many questions and other passages you wish to consider. These passages and many more points may better fall into our further studies regarding the other tenets of Calvinism. This is to be expected since Calvinism is such a highly connected and logical set of beliefs.
Would you then continue to study with us as we begin looking at the various beliefs that arise from the implications of predestination and the absolute exercise of the sovereignty of God? If not, please consider these questions carefully and please do not dismiss them hastily without considering the logical implications of these verses. Please do not resume your life by ignoring or not answering the questions raised in this article, or else your heart may be similarly hardened by these truths.

Next: Total Inherited Depravity of Man
Feel free to pose questions and make comments to the author of this article series via e-mail.
Trevor Bowen