"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS" Our Duty To Those Who Serve (5:12-13) by Mark Copeland


  Our Duty To Those Who Serve (5:12-13)


1. As "sons of light and sons of the day" (1Th 5:5), we have a duty to
   comfort and edify one another - cf. 1Th 5:11

2. This duty is true of all us who are members of the body of Christ 
   - e.g., Ep 4:15-16
   a. Each member has a part in which he or she does their share
   b. When all are working, the body grows through the edifying of 
      itself in love

3. Yet the Lord has also blessed His body with those who edify the body
   through their service in certain capacities - cf. Ep 4:11-12
   a. Such as evangelists, pastors, teachers
   b. Whose purpose is for the equipping of the saints for the work of
      ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ

[In the text for our study (1Th 5:12-13), we are told of "Our Duty
Toward Those Who Serve" us by their function in the church of Christ.
Observe that we are commanded...]


      1. This would include those who serve as:
         a. Elders (also known as pastors, bishops), whose duty is to
            watch and feed the local congregation - Ac 14:23; 20:17,28; 
            1Pe 5:1-2; 1Ti 3:1-7; Tit 1:5-9
         b. Deacons, who minister to the needs of the congregation - Ph
            1:1; 1Ti 3:8-13
         c. Evangelists, whose ministry is to the Word of God, 
            proclaiming the good news to both sinner and saint 
            - Ep 4:11; 2Ti 4:5,2; 1Ti 4:16
         d. Teachers, who provide instruction in the doctrine of Christ 
            - Ep 4:11; Ac 13:1-2; 1Co 12:28-29; Tit 2:3-5
            1) Such as those who teach our children
            2) And those who teach the lost in our families and 
      2. There are others who labor among us in other areas...
         a. Those who minister through exhortation, giving, showing 
            mercy (such as in visiting the sick) - Ro 12:6-8
         b. Those who use their talents to do good deeds, as did Dorcas 
            - Ac 9:36-39
         c. Those who keep up the facilities in which we meet to worship
            1) Cleaning the building, preparing the communion
            2) Pruning the yard, maintain the baptistery and other 
               aspects of the building
      -- In every active congregation, there is much labor going on; do 
         we recognize those who often labor quietly for our benefit?
      1. "In the Lord"
         a. This has particular reference to the elders (pastors, 
         b. They are the only ones given authority "over" us in the Lord
            - Ac 20:28; 1Pe 5:1-2; cf. He 13:7,17
      2. "And admonish you"
         a. The duty of elders often require them to admonish and warn 
            - Tit 1:9
         b. That is why they must be qualified to teach - 1Ti 3:2
      -- Any congregation with men qualified to serve as elders should
         certainly be careful to recognize them as such, and respect 
         their God-given duty

[While the context may have special application to our duty toward those
who serve as elders, I believe we are not amiss to apply it toward
those who serve in other capacities as well.  Certainly it is 
appropriate regarding those who serve us in any role...]


      1. To hold them in high regard, to honor them
         a. We are to prefer all brethren in honor - cf. Ro 12:10; Php 2:3
         b. How much more those who expend their time and energy in 
            serving us!
      2. To do so in love
         a. We are to love all brethren - cf. 1Pe 2:17; Jn 13:34-35
         b. How much more those who expend their time and energy in 
            serving us!

      1. Certainly the work of elders is worthy of high esteem
         a. They feed us, they watch over us, they provide examples for 
            us - 1Pe 5:1-3
         b. They must give an account for our souls - He 13:17
      2. So also the work of all who serve their brethren
         a. The work of deacons is worthy of high honor - 1Ti 3:13
         b. Indeed, those who are serve are to be considered great in 
            the kingdom of God! - cf. Mt 20:25-28

[We have a duty to esteem those who serve, to hold them in high regard. 
Not just because of who they are, but what they do!  Do we both
recognize and esteem our brethren for their work?

Finally, note that in "Our Duty To Those Who Serve" we are...]


      1. Peace among brethren, like unity, is a wonderful thing - Ps 133:1
      2. It is a mark of heavenly wisdom, and provides the atmosphere in
         which much righteousness can be sown - Jm 3:17-18
      3. It is certainly something we all should pursue - Ro 14:17-19; 
         He 12:14

      1. Those who serve (especially elders) have a heavy burden - e.g.,
         He 13:17
         a. They watch for our souls
         b. They must give an account for our souls
      2. We can make their load lighter - cf. He 13:17
         a. Make their work a joy, contributing to peace through
            obedience and submission
         b. Avoid adding unnecessary grief, which would not be good for 
            us (what an understatement!)


1. As we wait for the coming for the Lord, we are blessed not to wait
   a. The Lord's church is here to comfort and edify us
   b. There are individuals who labor among us, and are over us in the
      1) Some meet our needs, making it easier for us to grow
      2) Others watch over us, and admonish us as necessary
   -- For such blessings we ought to be thankful!

2. But we can do more than just be thankful...
   a. We can recognize those who labor among us, and are over us
   b. We can esteem them highly in love for their work's sake
   c. We can be at peace among ourselves

Indeed, this is "Our Duty To Those Who Serve".  May God grant us the
strength to give what is due those who give so much of their time,
energy and love to us!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Did Jesus Break the Sabbath? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Did Jesus Break the Sabbath?

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

One common misconception regarding the behavior of Jesus is that, on occasion, in healing the sick and performing other benevolent actions, He broke the Sabbath in order to accommodate the higher law of love. This viewpoint leaves the impression that law is sometimes, if not frequently, antithetical to being loving. It implies that sometimes breaking God’s laws is necessary in order to be loving. This notion, of course, is flawed and contrary to Bible teaching. As Paul explained to the Romans: “he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments…are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8-10). Paul meant that when you obey the law’s directives concerning how to conduct yourself toward your neighbor, you will be engaging in loving behavior. To love, one must enact God’s laws.
The fact is the perfect Son of God obeyed all of God’s laws, never violating even one Divine precept (Hebrews 4:15). Sin is defined as violation of God’s law (1 John 3:4). Since Jesus was sinless, He never broke God’s laws. Hence, He could not have broken the Sabbath. Those who leveled such an accusation against Him were, in fact, mistaken.


Take, for example, the incident in John 5, when Jesus caused a man, who suffered from a 38-year-old ailment, to rise from his bed of confinement and walk. The fact that Jesus’ action took place on the Sabbath drew the criticism of the Jews who promptly informed the man, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed” (vs. 10). Many would suppose that Jesus would not be concerned with careful conformity to the Law. They would assume that He would chide the Jews for their “nit-picky, legalistic” approach to religion, and that He would be quite willing to dismiss the requirements of the Law in order to give priority to human need in the name of compassion. But this viewpoint is fraught with error, not the least of which is its demeaning assessment of law—law which God, Himself, authored. Law, according to God, is given for human well-being (Deuteronomy 6:24; 10:13; Proverbs 29:18). God’s law is “holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12), and serves divinely intended, positive purposes (e.g., Romans 3:20). Indeed, Jesus’ handling of His critics illustrates the high regard He had for law, the necessity of carefully conforming to that law, and the critical importance of applying it accurately.
In John 7, calling attention to the miracle He performed in chapter 5, Jesus offered a logical rebuttal to the allegation that He violated the Sabbath. Here is that argument placed in syllogistic form:
Premise 1: If the Law of Moses requires the circumcision of a male infant on the 8th day after birth—even when the 8th day falls on the Sabbath—then healing a man on the Sabbath is equally legal.
Premise 2: The Law of Moses requires the circumcision of a male infant on the 8th day after birth—even when the 8th day fell on the Sabbath.
Conclusion: Therefore, healing a man on the Sabbath is equally legal.
Jesus then offered a concluding admonition that cinched the validity of His argument: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (vs. 24). Making application of God’s laws based on “appearance” refers to doing so based on how things seem or look to the person making the judgment, i.e., forming an opinion based on inadequate evidence. To the contrary, to “judge with righteous judgment” means to make accurate assessments by drawing only warranted conclusions from the evidence, i.e., thinking and acting rationally. One must be very careful that he is “accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, NASB) and not “handling the word of God deceitfully” (2 Corinthians 4:2).


Another instance in which Jesus was falsely accused of breaking the Sabbath is seen on the occasion when Jesus entered the synagogue and encountered a man who had a deformed hand (Matthew 12:9-13). This circumstance prompted His enemies to ask Him a question in hopes of being able to accuse Him of breaking the Law. They asked: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Of course, they had pre-decided that the answer to the question was “no,” and that, in fact, the Law would naturally forbid such an action.
Unfortunately, the prevailing interpretation of the Law of Moses at the time, at least among the Jewish leaders, was that the Sabbath law enjoined total inactivity—as if everyone was to sit down for 24 hours and do absolutely nothing. This view was a distortion of God’s Law on the matter. The Law gave the right, even the obligation, to engage in several activities (that could rightly be designated “work”) that did not constitute violation of the Sabbath regulation. On this occasion, Jesus pinpointed one such instance: “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?” (vs. 11). Jesus was recalling a directive from the Law of Moses:
You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray, and hide yourself from them; you shall certainly bring them back to your brother. And if your brother is not near you, or if you do not know him, then you shall bring it to your own house, and it shall remain with you until your brother seeks it; then you shall restore it to him. You shall do the same with his donkey, and so shall you do with his garment; with any lost thing of your brother’s, which he has lost and you have found, you shall do likewise; you must not hide yourself. You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fall down along the road, and hide yourself from them; you shall surely help him lift them up again (Deuteronomy 22:1-4; cf. Exodus 23:4-5).
Such passages give insight into the nature of God and provide tremendous assistance in making proper application of God’s laws to everyday circumstances.
Observe that God’s laws never contradict or countermand each other. Unlike manmade laws which often manifest inconsistency and contradiction, God’s laws function in perfect harmony with each other. The Mosaic passage to which Jesus alluded demonstrates that the general principle of the cessation of usual work on the Sabbath did not conflict with any number of specific circumstances in which benevolence and compassion were to be expressed. In an agriculturally based society, a family’s survival depends on its farm animals. If a sheep, ox, or donkey were to break out of its stall, flee the premises, and then fall into a pit from which it would be unable to extricate itself, the animal would most likely die or become seriously ill if left in its predicament for 24 hours. To expend the necessary effort (i.e., “work”) to retrieve the animal from danger was not considered by God to be included in the Sabbath prohibition. Hence, Jesus stated the logical conclusion: “Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep?” (vs. 12). If action could be exerted to see to the well-being of a dumb animal, then obviously, God would approve of action taken to see to the physical care of a human being! Here, once again, is Jesus’ argument placed in syllogistic form:
Premise 1: If the Law of Moses requires a person to manifest care, concern, and physical effort to recover a neighbor’s escaped, endangered farm animal—even when the incident occurs on the Sabbath—then healing a man on the Sabbath is equally legal.
Premise 2: The Law of Moses requires a person to manifest care, concern, and physical effort to recover a neighbor’s escaped, endangered farm animal—even when the incident occurs on the Sabbath.
Conclusion: Therefore, healing a man on the Sabbath is equally legal.
The logic is penetrating and decisive. Indeed, “they could not answer Him regarding these things” (Luke 14:6; see also Luke 6:6-11). Far from suggesting that law is unimportant and may be ignored under the guise of “human need,” or implying that humans can break the “letter of the law” in order to keep the “spirit of the law” (see Miller, 2003), Jesus demonstrated that inherently built into God’s laws are all concerns deemed by Deity to be necessary. The benevolent, loving thing to do will always harmonize with God’s laws, since “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10), i.e., every truly loving action has already been defined by God in His legal admonitions.


A final instance in which Jesus was accused of breaking the Sabbath is seen in the grain field incident (Matthew 12:1-8). Many commentators automatically assume that the charge leveled against Jesus’ disciples by the Pharisees was a scripturally valid charge. However, when the disciples picked and consumed a few heads of grain from a neighbor’s field, they were doing that which was perfectly lawful (Deuteronomy 23:25). Working would have been a violation of the Sabbath law. If they had pulled out a sickle and begun harvesting the grain, they would have been violating the Sabbath law. However, they were picking strictly for the purpose of eating immediately—an action that was in complete harmony with Mosaic legislation (“but that which everyone must eat”—Exodus 12:16). A modern equivalent might be reaching for a box of cereal on the pantry shelf, pouring it in a bowl, retrieving the milk from the refrigerator, pouring it on the cereal, and eating it. The Pharisees’ charge that the disciples were doing something “not lawful” on the Sabbath was simply an erroneous charge (cf. Matthew 15:2).
Jesus commenced to counter their accusation with masterful, penetrating logic, advancing successive rebuttals. Before He presented specific scriptural refutation of their charge, He first employed a rational device designated by logicians as argumentum ad hominem (literally “argument to the man”). He used the “circumstantial” form of this argument, which enabled Him to “point out a contrast between the opponent’s lifestyle and his expressed opinions, thereby suggesting that the opponent and his statements can be dismissed as hypocritical” (Baum, 1975, p. 470, emp. added). This variety of argumentation spotlights the opponent’s inconsistency, and “charges the adversary with being so prejudiced that his alleged reasons are mere rationalizations of conclusions dictated by self-interest” (Copi, 1972, p. 76).
Observe carefully the technical sophistication inherent in Jesus’ strategy. He called attention to the case of David (vss. 3-4). When David was in exile, literally running for his life to escape the jealous, irrational rage of Saul, he and his companions arrived in Nob, tired and hungry (1 Samuel 21). He lied to the priest and conned him into giving to his traveling companions the showbread, or “bread of the Presence” (12 flat cakes arranged in two rows on the table within the Tabernacle [Exodus 25:23-30; Leviticus 24:5-6])—bread that legally was reserved only for the priests (Leviticus 24:8-9; cf. Exodus 29:31-34; Leviticus 8:31; 22:10ff.). David clearly violated the law. Did the Pharisees condemn him? Absolutely not! They revered David. They held him in high regard. In fact, nearly a thousand years after his passing, his tomb was still being tended (Acts 2:29; cf. 1 Kings 2:10; Nehemiah 3:16; Josephus, 1974a, 13.8.4; 16.7.1; Josephus, 1974b, 1.2.5). On the one hand, they condemned the disciples of Jesus, who were innocent, but on the other hand, they upheld and revered David, who was guilty. Their inconsistency betrayed both their insincerity as well as their ineligibility to bring a charge against the disciples.
After exposing their hypocrisy and inconsistency, Jesus next turned to answer the charge pertaining to violating the Sabbath. He called their attention to the priests who worked in the Temple on the Sabbath (12:5; e.g., Numbers 28:9-10). The priests were “blameless”—not guilty—of violating the Sabbath law because their work was authorized to be performed on that day. As previously noted, the Sabbath law did not imply that everyone was to sit down and do nothing. The Law gave the right, even the obligation, to engage in several activities that did not constitute violation of the Sabbath regulation. Again, examples of such authorization included eating, Temple service, circumcision (John 7:22), tending to the basic care of animals (Exodus 23:4-5; Deuteronomy 22:1-4; Matthew 12:11; Luke 13:15), and extending kindness or assistance to the needy (Matthew 12:12; Luke 13:16; 14:1-6; John 5:5-9; 7:23). The divinely authorized Sabbath activity of the priests proved that the accusation of the Pharisees brought against Jesus’ disciples was false. [The term “profane” (vs. 5) is an example of the figure of speech known as metonymy of the adjunct in which “things are spoken of according to appearance, opinions formed respecting them, or the claims made for them” (Dungan, 1888, p. 295, emp. added). By this figure, Leah was said to be the “mother” of Joseph (Genesis 37:10), Joseph was said to be the “father” of Jesus (Luke 2:48; John 6:42), God’s preached message was said to be “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:21), and angels were said to be “men” (e.g., Genesis 18:16; 19:10). Priestly activity on the Sabbath gave the appearance of violation when, in fact, it was not. Coincidentally, Bullinger classified the allusion to “profane” in this verse as an instance of catachresis, or incongruity, stating that “it expresses what was true according to the mistaken notion of the Pharisees as to manual works performed on the Sabbath” (1898, p. 676, emp. added).]
After pointing out the obvious legality of priestly effort expended on the Sabbath, Jesus stated: “But I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple” (12:6). The underlying Greek text actually has “something” instead of “One.” If priests could carry on Tabernacle/Temple service on the Sabbath, surely Jesus’ own disciples were authorized to engage in service in the presence of the Son of God! After all, service directed to the person of Jesus certainly is greater than the pre-Christianity Temple service conducted by Old Testament priests.
For all practical purposes, the discussion was over. Jesus had disproved the claim of the Pharisees. But He did not stop there. He took His methodical confrontation to yet another level. He penetrated beneath the surface argument that the Pharisees had posited and focused on their hearts: “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless” (12:7). In this verse, Jesus quoted from an Old Testament context (Hosea 6:6) in which the prophet of old struck a blow against the mere external, superficial, ritualistic observance of some laws, to the neglect of heartfelt, sincere, humble attention to other laws while treating people properly. The comparison is evident. The Pharisees who confronted Jesus’ disciples were not truly interested in obeying God’s law. They were masquerading under that pretense (cf. Matthew 15:1-9; 23:3). But their problem did not lie in an attitude of desiring careful compliance with God’s law. Rather, their zest for law keeping was hypocritical and unaccompanied by their own obedience and concern for others. They possessed critical hearts and were more concerned with scrutinizing and blasting people than with honest, genuine applications of God’s directives for the good of mankind.
They had neutralized the true intent of divine regulations, making void the Word of God (Matthew 15:6). They had ignored and skipped over the significant laws that enjoined justice, mercy, and faith (Matthew 23:23). Consequently, though their attention to legal detail was laudable, their misapplication of it, as well as their own neglect and rejection of some aspects of it, made them inappropriate and unqualified promulgators of God’s laws. Indeed, they simply did not fathom the teaching of Hosea 6:6 (cf. Micah 6:6-8). “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice” is a Hebraism (cf. Matthew 9:13) [McGarvey, 1875, pp. 82-83]. God was not saying that He did not want sacrifices offered under the Old Testament economy (notice the use of “more” in Hosea 6:6). Rather, He was saying that He did not want sacrifice alone. He wanted mercy with sacrifice. Internal motive and attitude are just as important to God as the external compliance with specifics.
Samuel addressed this same attitude shown by Saul: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). Samuel was not minimizing the essentiality of sacrifice as required by God. Rather, he was convicting Saul of the pretense of using one aspect of God’s requirements, i.e., alleged “sacrifice” of the best animals (1 Samuel 15:15), as a smoke screen for violating God’s instructions, i.e., failing to destroy all the animals (1 Samuel 15:3). If the Pharisees had understood these things, they would not have accused the disciples of breaking the law when the disciples, in fact, had not done so. They “would not have condemned the guiltless” (Matthew 12:7, emp. added).
While the disciples were guilty of violating an injunction that the Pharisees had concocted (supposing the injunction to be a genuine implication of the Sabbath regulation), the disciples were not guilty of a violation of Sabbath law. The Pharisees’ propensity for enjoining their uninspired and erroneous interpretations of Sabbath law upon others was the direct result of cold, unmerciful hearts that found a kind of sadistic glee in binding burdens upon people for burdens’ sake rather than in encouraging people to obey God genuinely.
Jesus placed closure on His exchange with the Pharisees on this occasion by asserting the accuracy of His handling of this entire affair: “For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (vs. 8). In other words, Jesus affirmed His deity and, therefore, His credentials and authoritative credibility for making accurate application of the Law of Moses to the issue at hand. One can trust Jesus’ exegesis and application of Sabbath law; after all, He wrote it!
Matthew 12 does not teach that Jesus broke the Sabbath or sanctions occasional violation of His laws under extenuating circumstances. His laws are never optional, relative, or situational—even though people often find God’s will inconvenient and difficult (e.g., John 6:60; Matthew 11:6; 15:12; 19:22; Mark 6:3; 1 Corinthians 1:23). The truth of the matter is that if the heart is receptive to God’s will, His will is “easy” (Matthew 11:30), “not too hard” (Deuteronomy 30:11), nor “burdensome” (1 John 5:3). If, on the other hand, the heart resists His will and does not desire to conform to it, then God’s words are “offensive” (Matthew 15:12), “hard,” (John 6:60), “narrow” (Matthew 7:14), and like a hammer that breaks in pieces and grinds the resister into powder (Jeremiah 23:29; Matthew 21:44).


The religion of Christ surpasses all human religion. It is rooted in the very essence of Deity. When Jesus took on human form on Earth, He showed Himself to be the Master logician and exegete Who always conducted Himself in a rational manner and conformed His actions to divine law. May we do likewise.
[NOTE: For more on Jesus’ handling of the Sabbath, see Miller, 2004.]


Baum, Robert (1975), Logic (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston).
Bullinger, E.W. (1898), Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1968 reprint).
Copi, Irving (1972), Introduction To Logic (New York: Macmillan).
Dungan, D.R. (1888), Hermeneutics (Delight, AR: Gospel Light).
Josephus, Flavius (1974a reprint), Antiquities of the Jews (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Josephus, Flavius (1974b reprint), Wars of the Jews (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
McGarvey, J.W. (1875), Commentary on Matthew and Mark (Delight, AR: Gospel Light).
Miller, Dave (2003), “The Spirit and Letter of the Law,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1225.
Miller, Dave (2004), “Situation Ethics—Extended Version,” Apologetics Press, https://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=7&article=645&topic=38.

Did God Approve of the Extermination of Humans? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Did God Approve of the Extermination of Humans?

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Skeptics have been especially critical of the Bible’s portrayal of God ordering the execution of entire populations—including women and children—during the Israelite conquest of Canaan. The Hebrew term herem found, for instance, in Joshua 5:7, refers to the total dedication or giving over of the enemy to God as a sacrifice, involving the extermination of the populace. It is alleged that the God of the Bible is as barbaric and cruel as any of the pagan gods. But this assessment simply is not true. Please consider the following observations.
In the first place, in the Decalogue that was given to the Israelites, the command, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13) undoubtedly referred to murder. It is so translated in most English versions (e.g., NKJV, NIV, NASB, etc.). In other words, the Old Covenant given to the Jews forbade taking the law into one’s own hands and murdering one’s fellow man. The Law of Moses certainly never intended for this commandment to be understood that the taking of human life always is wrong, regardless of the circumstance. In fact, the law itself made provision for implementing the death penalty in at least sixteen cases (see Miller, 2002). But these provisions entailed judicial execution based upon due process—not murder (even as it exists in our own society). The wording of Leviticus 24:17 (“Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death”) clarifies this point. The passage forbids taking life by individuals who are acting without legal authority—which, itself, brought the death penalty. Both murder and the death penalty are in the same verse, verifying the necessity of making a distinction between the two. God, Himself, implemented the death penalty directly on various people throughout human history (as evinced in the 1 Samuel 6:19 list), and required others to do it (as in 1 Samuel 15).
In the second place, if the critic would take the time to study the Bible and make an honest evaluation of the principles of God’s justice, wrath, and love, he or she would see the perfect and harmonious relationship between them. God’s vengeance is not like the impulsive, irrational, emotional outbursts of pagan deities or human beings. He is perfect in all His attributes. He possesses His attributes to a perfect degree, and each attribute exists in perfect balance and synchronization with every other attribute—a perfect blending. He therefore is perfect in justice, love, and anger. Just as God’s ultimate and final condemnation of sinners to eternal punishment will be just and appropriate (Matthew 13:41-42; 25:41), so this temporal judgment of wicked people in the Old Testament is ethical and fair. Human beings do not have an accurate grasp on the gravity of sin and the deplorable nature of evil and wickedness. Human sentimentality is hardly a qualified measuring stick for divine truth and spiritual reality.
Ironically, the atheist, the agnostic, the skeptic, and the liberal attempt to stand in judgment on the ethical behavior of God when, if their position is correct, there is no such thing as an absolute, objective, authoritative standard by which to pronounce anything right or wrong! As the French existentialist philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre, admitted: if there is no God, everything is permitted. The atheist and agnostic have absolutely no platform on which to stand from which to make moral or ethical distinctions—except as the result of subjective, purely personal preference. The very fact that they concede the existence of objective evil is an unwitting concession that there is a God Who has established an absolute framework of moral certainty.
The facts of the matter are that the Canaanites, whom God’s people were commanded to destroy, were destroyed for their own wickedness (Deuteronomy 9:4; 18:9-12; Leviticus 18:24-25,27-28). Canaanite culture and religion in the second millennium B.C. were polluted, corrupt, and unbelievably perverted. No doubt the people were physically diseased from their illicit behavior. There simply was no viable solution to their condition except destruction. Their moral depravity was “full” (Genesis 15:16). They had slumped to such an immoral, depraved state, with no hope of recovery, that their existence on this Earth had to be ended. A similar predicament existed in Noah’s day when God waited while Noah preached for years but was unable to divert the world’s population from its wickedness (Genesis 6:3,5-7; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:5-9). Including the children in the destruction of such populations actually spared them from a worse condition—that of being reared to be as wicked as their parents, thereby facing eternal punishment. All persons who die in childhood, according to the Bible, are ushered to Paradise and, ultimately will reside in heaven. Children with evil parents must naturally suffer innocently while on Earth (e.g., Exodus 20:5; Numbers 14:33).
Those who disagree with God’s annihilation of the wicked in the Old Testament have the same liberal attitude that has prevailed in society for the last forty years. That attitude typically has opposed capital punishment as well as the corporal punishment of children. Such a person simply cannot see the rightness of evildoers being punished by execution or physical pain. This aberrant view has resulted in the rest of society being forced to live with the outcome of such skewed thinking, i.e., undisciplined, out-of-control children who grow to adulthood and wreak havoc on society by perpetrating crime—crime that has risen to historically all-time high levels.


Miller, Dave (2002), “Capital Punishment and the Bible,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1974.

Did David Authorize Infant Baptism? by Caleb Colley, Ph.D.


Did David Authorize Infant Baptism?

by Caleb Colley, Ph.D.

Why do many parents want to have their newborn babies baptized? Different parents have different reasons, but the most prominent reason is that parents want their children to be forgiven of sin (“Early Teachings on Infant Baptism”). But infants have no sin! Jesus said: “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). This statement suggests that people are baptized and become Christians in order to be like little children. If little children are lost sinners, why would the Lord tell us all to be like children (see Matthew 19:14)?
Of course, little children (including infants) are not lost. They are not old enough to understand the difference between right and wrong, so they cannot intelligently choose to do wrong, and thus they cannot sin. Baptism saves us from sin (1 Peter 3:21), and babies cannot be saved from sin, since they have not yet sinned. Young children are not in need of being saved, but instead are in a safe condition. Kyle Butt offered an insightful example:
Does the Bible teach that babies go to hell when they die? In order to answer this question, we must find a biblical example in which an infant died, and in which his or her eternal destination is recorded. To do such is not difficult. In 2 Samuel 12, King David’s newborn son fell terminally ill. After seven days, the child died. In verses 22 and 23, the Bible records that David said: “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” It is clear that David’s dead infant son would never return to this Earth, but David also said that one day, he would go to be with his son. Through inspiration, David documented that his own eternal destination was going to be “in the house of the Lord” (Psalm 23:6; cf. Psalm 17:15; 103:1-5; Isaiah 37:35; Acts 13:34; Hebrews 11:32). Therefore, we can conclude that “the house of the Lord” would be the eternal destination of his infant son to whom David would one day go. King David was looking forward to the day when he would be able to meet his son in heaven. Absolutely nothing in this context gives any hint that the dead infant son’s soul would go to hell (2003).
Some suggest, however, that David acknowledged inheritance of original sin, because he stated: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). An example of this erroneous approach is that of Matthew Henry, who commented on what David wrote in Psalm 51:5:
He confesses his original corruption.... David elsewhere speaks of the admirable structure of his body (Psalm 139:14,15), it was curiously wrought; and yet here he says it was shapen in iniquity, sin was twisted in with it; not as it came out of God’s hands, but as it comes through our parents’ loins. He elsewhere speaks of the piety of his mother, that she was God’s handmaid, and he pleads his relation to her (86:16;116:16), and yet here he says she conceived him in sin; for though she was, by grace, a child of God, she was, by nature, a daughter of Eve, and not excepted from the common character. Note, it is to be sadly lamented by every one of us that we brought into the world with us a corrupt nature, wretchedly degenerated from its primitive purity and rectitude; we have from our birth the snares of sin in our bodies, the seed of sin in our souls, and a stain of sin upon both. This is what we call original sin, because it is ancient as our original, and because it is the original of all our actual transgressions (n.d., 3:431, emp. in orig.).
A “companion” passage to Psalm 51:5 is Psalm 58:3, where David wrote a similar statement: “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.” At first glance, it might seem that David affirmed that children are born, as it is frequently phrased, “black with sin.” Is that what David meant? If the Holy Spirit inspired David to write that infants are inherently sinful at birth, then at least some infants need the remission of sins. The truth is, there are several possible interpretations of these two verses, but none of them authorizes infant baptism.
First, notice that the context of Psalm 51:5 and Psalm 58:3 includes poetic, hyperbolic language. In verses three and four of chapter 51, David declared: “And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned...” (emp. added). One possible meaning of Psalm 51:5 and Psalm 58:3 is this: much of David’s life was characterized by sin, and, because David was so conscious of his sin, he expressed his sorrow by using hyperbolic, figurative language (see Jackson, 1998, p. 46; see also Coffman and Coffman, 1992, p. 434). This is a strong probability, because David wrote that children speak lies “as soon as they are born” (Psalm 58:3). Since infants cannot speak lies, we can assume that David did not intend to convey a literal meaning in Psalm 58:3. Plus, that verse indicates that all wicked people speak lies, which is not necessarily true. People can sin in ways other than practicing dishonesty. Job, obviously employing hyperbole, said that he had cared for orphans and widows since he was born (Job 31:18; see Jackson, 2000). Since Psalm 58:3 lends itself heavily to the hyperbolic interpretation, then interpreting Psalm 51:5, which contains seemingly hyperbolic language, as being figurative, also is reasonable. If the language of Psalm 51:5 is taken literally, and one reads into the literal language the Calvinistic doctrine of original sin, the verse contradicts other plain passages of Scripture (Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). But the Bible does not contradict itself.
Second, when some still insist that Psalm 51:5 demonstrates that David was born “black with sin,” we should remind them that David’s mother, being an adult, was a sinner. If the language of this verse is to be understood literally, then the sin of which David wrote must be the sin of his mother. However, David did not mean that he inherited the sin of his mother (see Butt, 2004). Many people suffer from the consequences of their parents’ sin, but infants are not responsible for their parents’ sin. This is because the soul does not come from human parents, but from God (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Hebrews 12:9; see Jackson, 2000). People do not become sinful until they choose to sin, and that happens sometime after birth (see Genesis 8:21; Ecclesiastes 12:1; Jeremiah 3:25).
A third plausible interpretation of Psalm 51:5 is that David simply noted that he was conceived and born in a world in which sin is prevalent. In that sense, any of us could truthfully say, “I was born in sin,” without contradicting Scripture, or even admitting personal sin, especially in view of the fact that our parents are sinners (see Jackson, 2000).
Fourth, because David wrote Psalm 51 as a prayer of repentance, some have suggested that the Psalmist was using poetic license to put words into the mouth of the child who was conceived as a result of David’s illicit affair with Bathsheba. In that context, the text could literally read: “In sin my mother conceived me.” While the possibility that this interpretation is correct cannot be ruled out, it seems on the surface to be a “stretch”—David’s meaning is not as obvious when we use this interpretation as it is when we use others.
A fifth possibility, though remote, is that David referenced the fact that he was the tenth generation in the lineage of Judah, who had an incestuous relationship with his daughter-in-law, Tamar (see Genesis 38). Since Deuteronomy 23:2 reads: “One of the illegitimate birth shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenthgeneration none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the Lord” (emp. added), it is possible that David simply made reference to the sin of Judah and Tamar, which haunted his family.
David never claimed that infants are sinful at birth. However, even if it could be scripturally proven (and it cannot) that children are born in sin, infants still would not be proper candidates for baptism, because belief and repentance are prerequisites for baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 3:19).


Butt, Kyle (2003), “Do Babies Go to Hell When They Die?,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2255.
Butt, Kyle (2004), “Do Children Inherit the Sins of Their Parents?,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2543.
Coffman, James Burton and Thelma B. Coffman (1992), Commentary on Psalms(Abilene, TX: ACU Press).
“Early Teachings on Infant Baptism” (2004), Catholic Answers, [On-line], URL: http://www.catholic.com/library/Early_Teachings_of_Infant_Baptism.asp.
Henry, Matthew (no date), Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible(McLean, VA: MacDonald).
Jackson, Wayne (1998), “ ‘Yes, We Baptize Our Babies....’—A Response,” Christian Courier, 33:45-46, April.
Jackson, Wayne (2000), “ ‘Original Sin’ and a Misapplied Passage” [On-line], URL: http://www.christiancourier.com/archives/originalSin.htm.

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 and Rape by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Deuteronomy 22:28-29 and Rape
by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

One prevalent idea in skeptical circles is that the God of the Old Testament is cruel and condones practices that are immoral. Each example that skeptics have provided to prove this thesis, however, has been shown to be false. We see time and again that the God of the Old Testament is the same God of love that we observe in the life and personality of Jesus Christ. One passage that is incorrectly used to impugn God’s character is Deuteronomy 22:28-29. Moses wrote:
If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days.
According to the skeptic, these verses teach that a man who rapes a woman gets to have her as his wife. The skeptic then demands that any God who would reward a rapist with the woman he rapes is wicked and immoral. Thus the God of the Bible cannot be the loving God Christians say He is.
The reason the skeptic at first glance seems to have something of a case is simply because most English translations of these verses do not accurately render the original intent of the Hebrew. To be fair, this issue causes even those who are not skeptically minded some difficulty. When most English speakers hear that a person has “seized” another person, we necessarily jump to the conclusion that it is a violent action against the will of the other person. This problem has been aggravated by the fact that some translations inaccurately and mistakenly translate the word as “rape.” The truth is, however, the Hebrew word in this case translated “seizes” (tapas) can mean many things. Here are some examples of the way it is translated in Deuteronomy 22:28 in several different English translations:
  • “lay hold on her” (ASV)
  • “taking her” (DRA)
  • “and takes her” (NLV/NAB)
  • “and hath caught her” (YLT).
By looking at other passages that use the word, we can see that the word tapassometimes has nothing to do with force, and therefore nothing to do with rape. As Greg Bahnsen has written:
The Hebrew word tapas (“lay hold of her,” emphasized above) simply means to take hold of something, grasp it in hand, and (by application) to capture or seize something. It is the verb used for “handling” the harp and flute (Gen. 4:21), the sword (Ezek. 21:11; 30:21), the sickle (Jer. 50:16), the shield (Jer. 46:9), the oars (Ezek. 27:29), and the bow (Amos 2:15). It is likewise used for “taking” God’s name (Prov. 30:9) or “dealing” with the law of God (Jer. 2:8). Joseph’s garment was “grasped” (Gen. 39:12; cf. 1 Kings 11:30), even as Moses “took” the two tablets of the law (Deut. 9:17)… [T]he Hebrew verb “to handle, grasp, capture” does not in itself indicate anything about the use of force (italics in orig.).
In truth, we use English words in this way on a regular basis. For instance, a brief look at the English word “take” illustrates the point. You can take someone’s cookie, or take a person’s wife, or take a bride to be your wife. The idea of force is not inherent in the word at all. If you take a person in your arms, what have you done? Or if a young man takes a young woman to be his wife, is there force involved? No. Also, think about the English word “hold.” You can take hold of something in a number of ways. We often say that a woman will hold the child in her arms, or a bridegroom takes a bride to “have and to hold.” The Hebrew word tapas is acting in exactly the same way as the English words “hold” and “take” are.
In addition, it is clearly evident from the immediate context of Deuteronomy 22 that rape is not being discussed in verses 28-29. We know that for two primary reasons. First, verses 25-27 give a clear instance in which rape is being discussed. In that case, a man raped a woman, she “cried out” (v. 27), but she was in the country and no one was there to help her. The text says that the man who committed the crime “shall die” (v. 25), but the Israelites were supposed to “do nothing to the young woman” since “there is in the young woman no sin worthy of death” (v. 26). It is of great interest that in this clear case of rape, the text uses a completely different word. The word translated “forces her” in verse 25 is the Hebrew word chazaq and yet in verse 28, the verb has been intentionally changed to tapas (see Shamoun, 2015). Second, the natural reading of verses 28-29 makes it evident that both parties are guilty of at least some of the blame. Notice that at the end of verse 28 the text says, “and they are found out.” When the passage discusses the obvious case of rape, the text specifically only mentions the man in verse 25 when it says “then only the man who lay with her,” and conspicuously leaves out any indication of “they” being involved in the sin. Dr. Bahsen compares Deuteronomy 22:28-29 to Exodus 22:16, which reads, “If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife” (1992). Notice that in this verse in Exodus, there is no force and both parties shoulder some of the guilt.
The practical value of God’s instruction in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is easy to see. A man has sexual intercourse with a young woman who is not betrothed to anyone. There is no force involved, and it is not rape. But their action has been discovered. Now, who in the land of Israel wanted to marry a young girl who has not kept herself pure? The man cannot walk away from his sin. He has put the young woman in a very difficult life situation, in which there would be few (or no) other men who would want to marry her. Since it was often the case that women had an extremely difficult time financially without the help of a husband, this would be even more devastating to the young woman. God holds both the parties accountable, instructing them to get married and stay together, both suffer the shame, and work through the difficulties that they have brought on themselves. Nothing could be more moral, loving, and wise than these instructions. Once again, the skeptical charge against God’s love is without foundation.


Bahnsen, Greg (1992), “Premarital Sexual Relations: What is the Moral Obligation When Repeated Incidents are Confessed,” Covenant Media Foundation, http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/pe152.htm.
Shamoun, Sam (2015), “The Old Testament and Rape,” http://www.answering-islam.org/Shamoun/ot_and_rape.htm.

Can We Understand the Bible? by Trevor Bowen


Can We Understand the Bible?

Why this article?

Have you ever opened your Bible, studied it, meditated upon it, and walked away more puzzled than you started? Have you ever entered a discussion with a fellow believer, at first convicted within yourself, and yet walked away after hours of joint study, wondering if the Bible can be understood by anyone, much less alike? Such experiences can be discouraging, can they not? How should we react to these trying cases that test our faith? Sadly, a sense of doubt and despair may creep into our thoughts, which manifests itself as a subtle reluctance to seriously study the Bible for ourselves. More frequently it appears as an extreme reluctance to engage anyone else with substantially differing beliefs. Even if such studies are stiffly accepted, they often begin with an unspoken, foregone conclusion that the effort will be futile. Instead of hopeful determination, impatient prejudice tragically races through such studies, longing only for the predetermined end, while fulfilling its own prophecy. Did God intend us to have this negative reluctance to engage God’s Word and study our differences? Or, did He expect us to study the Bible with the bright expectation of understanding it and even growing in unity? In this article, we will consult God’s Word to learn His expectations rather than reacting to our own experiences and trusting in our own wisdom.

“Who Has Made Man?”

Central to this discussion is a question of faith: Are we abandoned children trying to decipher a forgotten text that has long outlived its original design? Or, did God foresee our current predicament and leave us with the tools necessary to complete our task? We often do not realize all the logical consequences of our initial efforts, but in our push to regard the Bible as an unduly complicated text, possibly incapable of being understood, we are ultimately kicking at God and doubting His ability to communicate. The harder we work to shift the blame from us, the more we shift the blame onto God! Dear reader, you may not have previously considered this perspective, but please understand that we are not the first people to make this mistake. Consider the occasion when Moses sought to escape his responsibility by diminishing his ability to complete God’s work for him:
Then Moses said to the LORD, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” So the LORD said to him, “Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” (Exodus 4:10-12)
Did you notice God’s response? He took Moses’s doubt personally, as a direct reflection on His ability to equip Moses! Although Moses was reluctant because of his limitations, God saw his reservation as mistrust of God’s empowering command. Likewise, when God tells us to study, read, understand, and engage, but we reject His command with “I cannot,” do we not reflect the same disbelief in God, whether consciously or unconsciously?
“But, Moses was inspired!”, some might say. Yes, Moses was ultimately blessed with direct inspiration that God described as “being with his mouth” and “teaching him what to say”, but is that the only method of communication available to God? Is there no other way He could teach us? If he wanted to communicate with us in some other way, would He not be capable? Who made our brains? Who made our ears? Who made our hearts? Who made the Bible? The same underlying logic still stands. Dare we doubt His design?
Moreover, please notice this encouragement that the Lord offered to Joshua before the Israelite conquest of Canaan:
“No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:5-9)
This rich, encouraging passage contains a small jewel. Among the many reasons that God offered to bolster Joshua’s courage, He observed that His command is sufficient for full trust! Please stop and let that sink into our hearts. If God has commanded us, we can depend on having whatever is necessary to complete the task! If God commands us, then we can do it! Now, He may provide some or almost all of the ability, but however the contribution is divided, we can be confident that we already possess or can obtain what we need to proceed, to “be strong and of good courage”!
Like Peter who believed he could walk on water if only the Lord would command him, we can confidently trust in God’s foresight, love, and design to enable whatever He wills and commands:
And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:28-31)
How many words of encouragement would you need to trust in the Lord and fulfill His command? Peter only needed one - one word! How admirable! How exemplary! My friends, this is ultimately a question of faith, whether we realize it at first or not. Like Peter, we may begin well, stepping onto the water, walking on it by faith. And, like Peter, the “boisterous winds” of scorn, scoffing, and despair may cause us to be afraid and likewise “begin to sink”. If that occurs, then we need to awaken and recognize our inexcusably weak faith and strengthen it by focusing on Jesus, feeding on God’s Word, and trusting in His promises, because there is no sustaining reason for our doubt (“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”).
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
All people are commanded to “Come ... learn from Me”. Does that not necessarily imply that we can indeed learn about Jesus, which necessarily implies that the Bible is understandable? Since there is no other way given to “learn” of Jesus, we must conclude that the one given way is effective; otherwise, God has commanded us to do what is impossible to do. Furthermore, if we could not read and understand, if we could not come and learn, how could His “yoke be easy”or His “burden be light”?

“When You Read, You Can Understand”

If God has promised that we can understand His written Word, then to deny that possibility is to question the ability of God! This naturally raises the question, “Has God promised us that we can understand His Word?” Or, did He encode His message so dimly that we can never come to a confident understanding of it?
... how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. (Ephesians 3:3-7)
Paul flatly says that when we read what he wrote as an apostle, we can understand! Is this true? Do we believe it? Or, has doubt consumed us? Paul also stated that the gospel represents the “effective working of His power” (see also, Romans 1:16). If we cannot read and understand, then how is it effective in any meaningful way? Dear friend, when we challenge the ability to read and understand God’s Word, we necessarily challenge God’s Word and Him, because He said that we can!
For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)
Clearly, whatever God designed His Word to accomplish it not only can, but it will accomplish. Therefore, if we insist that it cannot be understood, please take warning. It may be that it already has succeeded in us but not in the way we would anticipate or overtly want (Matthew 13:9-16James 4:6-8)!

“Is Profitable”

Thus far, we have shown that God expects us to read and understand His Word, but to what extent? Yes, God revealed His will that we may thereby “read and understand”, but did He limit what was revealed? Is our understanding limited by His design? Did He omit something that we need to know? We have already seen that it is “effective ... that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ”, so we know it is sufficient unto salvation for all, but can we use it to identify His will for us beyond conversion? Can we use it to resolve spiritual questions between each other?
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (II Timothy 3:16-17)
Again, the inspired apostle directly informs us that the Scripture is sufficient for “doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness”. This means it is not only sufficient for our own understanding, growth, and salvation, but it is also effective and good for teaching others, thereby “indoctrinating” them! What if one of us is in error? Then, “all Scripture” is good for “reproof”, meaning to prove, rebuke, and convict! (This is the same intense Greek word required of elders, “be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict, Titus 1:9.) What if one of us has grown discouraged or drifted away? Then, “all Scripture” is good for “correction”, meaning to restore to a state of uprightness. And, what if one of us is failing in some other category? Then, “all Scripture” is good for “instruction in righteousness”, providing development and training of our whole character! What more could we ask of God’s Word to provide? What question, concern, or disagreement could we not settle without “doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness”? Therefore, if Scripture “is profitable” for these needs, and we have no spiritual need beyond these, then it is sufficient for every need in fully understanding God’s Word alike!
Insistent, we might doubt that it contains everything we need to know, but again the inspired apostle states that by this revelation, we may “be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. Whatever we need to grow to maturity, whatever good deed may need to be performed, God’s Word can equip us to do it! Do we believe it?
Obviously, the Bible does not contain everything that man might like to know about every topic in the world, but it does contain all we need to know:
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (II Peter 1:2-4)
Does our question, concern, or disagreement “pertain to life and godliness”? If so, then we are again assured that it has been been given to us! Even to the extent that we “may be partakers of the divine nature, it has been given to us. What more do we need? If you become “partaker of the divine nature, and if I become “partaker of the divine nature ... “through the knowledge of Him”, will we have not only understood God’s Word but also alike? If the Bible “is profitable” for this level of maturity among many brethren, then it must be understandable and by all alike.

“Hard to Understand”

Thus far, we have seen that all we need to know for salvation, godly life, correction, and even rebuke is contained in God’s revealed and inspired Word. We have also been assured that when we read, we can understand. But, how quickly may we understand? Are all passages equal in ready comprehension? No, Peter clearly tells us by inspiration that some passages are harder to understand:
... consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation — as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. (II Peter 3:15-18)
Yes, some passages are “hard to understand”. Both our own experience and Scripture tells us this! However, does this release us from striving to understanding? Does this release us from ultimately understanding? Should these “hard to understand” passages always loom before us as unconquerable conundrums? May we never accept it so! Beyond Peter’s admission, he also forewarns that some people will “twist” these “hard to understand” passages “to their owndestruction. Therefore, God does not give us a free pass on these “hard to understand” passages. He expects us to put forth the effort required to ultimately understand them, warning that failure may result in our “destruction”!
Does God demand of us what we cannot do? Does God punish where there is no ability or reasonable expectation? Only a cruel and capricious God would punish His creation for performing exactly as it was designed - for His failure! Therefore, if our eternal salvation may hang on our understanding of any passage, we can know that we can ultimately grasp it, regardless of whatever difficulty it may initially present.
Furthermore, those who so “twist to their own destruction” these passages will not rest with perverting the “hard to understand” passages. Eventually, they will wrest the “rest of the Scriptures” as their depravity spirals downward. Please be forewarned as we each look first to himself and then to his brother (Ezra 7:10)!
What is the answer? What is the solution? How are we to obtain what we so desperately need? How will we avoid “being led away with the error of the wicked”? Instead of despairing, we are to take advance notice and prepare ourselves, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. And, how do we grow in such knowledge without turning to the source of such promised knowledge, God’s Word, the Bible (II Timothy 3:16-17Ephesians 3:3-5)? The more we know about God through His Word, the more difficult it becomes to be deceived.
Beyond our separate individual interaction with God through the Bible, the joint spiritual education and instruction of the church is a central component of the church’s mission, to help each other grow to avoid such errors and their destruction:
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
One of the greatest tools that God has provided me and you beyond His inspired sufficient Word are you and me! We are all supposed to help each other grow into this marvelous picture, “ the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”! This is God’s design. This is His purpose in both His Word and His church! Do we believe it? Are we being diligent to see it fulfilled? If we are, then as move closer to that complete maturity, we move away from susceptible “children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting”. The key lessons to learn are to first recognize the real danger and to second undertake the measures required to circumvent the danger - to work together to grow in the knowledge of Jesus through His sufficient Word!

“Have You Not Read?”

As if the previous verses were not sufficient, many have openly doubted if the Bible can be used to truly prove any truth. Beyond the empty cries, “You can prove anything by Scripture!”, the cry has arisen that even after careful handling the Bible is insufficient to prove God’s will for us. The lament has been heard that there are too many competing confusing passages, which provide too much unresolvable “tension”. But, is this case? Or, can we use the Bible to determine God’s will accurately? Can we really use the Bible to persuade and convict each other of the truth? What was His expectation? Logically, it has already been shown that we can prove truth from the Scripture, simply because God insisted that we can and should. However, how did Jesus and His apostles use the Scriptures? What was their expectation? What can we learn from their examples?
The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, saying: “Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.” Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. (Matthew 22:23-33)
Notice the reaction of the listening crowd. Clearly, Jesus’ grasp of Scripture was extraordinary and astonishing, although that should be no wonder to us. In a few sentences, with one observation and one passage He definitively proved that there must be a resurrection as “spoken by God”Elsewhere we examined the precise use of logic employed by Jesus here, so please focus here on His expectation, “Have you not read?”. Although Jesus’ power of observation is demonstrated in a staggering fashion in this context, He still expected them to have noticed and concluded the same! What Jesus did that day was not removed from those Sadducees. If the hypocritical, wicked Sadducees who would ultimately participate in the crucifixion of Jesus were expected to understand God’s Word, why would we expect God’s expectation for us, who desire God’s mind, to be less?
Some may argue that this application is overblown, that there are multitude of passages that prove the resurrection, and that Jesus did not really prove His point by this one verse. What does the Scripture say?
But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ (Luke 20:37)
“But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. “You are therefore greatly mistaken.” (Mark 12:26-27)
Although there may be many passages in Old Testament Scripture, which imply a resurrection, Jesus flatly stated that the “burning bush passage ... showed the point! What greater justification can we find of rightful “proof-texting” than Jesus’ demonstration? Can “proof-texting” be abused? Yes, too frequently it is, but the abuse by some - maybe even by most - does not eliminate its need and place any more than the failing of any “Christian” discredits Christianity or Christ! This is one of the key areas where we help each other, by challenging each other’s usage of Scripture. Is it any wonder we fail to understand, when we place ourselves beyond such confrontation and openess to challenge?
Again, although stunning we must not stagger at Jesus’ feat, because this ability is also expected of us, lest we also be “therefore greatly mistaken”. God has issued us a challenge and expectation? Why do we doubt Him?
(For more demonstrations of Jesus and inspired writers wielding Scripture with remarkable precision, while leading us by example, please see: Do Silence of Scriptures Prohibit or Permit?An Introduction to Bible Silence, and The Sin and Danger of Presumption.)

“That Your Joy May Be Full”

Do you want to have fellowship with God, the Father? Do you want to have fellowship with His Son, Jesus, the source of eternal life? I sure do! Like the Ehtiopian we may ask, “What hinders me?” (Acts 8:35-36).
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life — the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us — that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. (I John 1:1-4)
Disappointingly, we do not have direct fellowship with God and His Son. That is, we cannot directly experience Jesus through our senses. We cannot see Him, gaze steadfastly upon Him, or touch Him. However, His apostles serve as witnesses for us. They experienced Jesus in a close proximity that excites the jealousy of any fervent Christian. Their writings, the Scriptures, reveal that we can still have fellowship with God and His Son through them, specifically through their writings! My dear friends, if we desire to ultimately enjoy eternal life in that heavenly abode with our perfect Father, His Son, and the Spirit, we must “fellowship” Jesus’s apostles and prophets, which we must do through their writings. If we reject the that the Scriptures are sufficient to “make our joy full”, then we leave ourselves in hopeless, hapless misery without any recourse or opportunity for fellowship with God! When we dismantle our confidence in understanding God’s Word upon any topic, we dismantle it on every topic, including those that bring confidence, joy, and comfort!
Therefore comfort one another with these words. (I Thessalonians 4:18)


In years gone by, “The Sufficiency of Scripture” was a common sermon title, but it seems less popular in our post-modern liberal age, which wants to deny any absolute truth, except that there is no absolute truth. It seems to this writer that worldly faithless thinking has continued to press upon the Lord’s people and crept into the minds, speech, teaching, and agenda of some. Maybe it is high time to dust off some of those old sermons? Please be on guard and beware those who want to throw just enough dust in the air - who want to muddy the waters just enough to eliminate any hope of confidently understanding Scripture. With whatever doubt they employ to blur the lines of fellowship to embrace a few, they will inevitably embrace all, because such is the unprincipled end of compromise. It is just a matter of time. But, God will not compromise:
If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. (II Timothy 2:12-16)
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (I Corinthians 1:10)
We have been given a charge to keep, which comes with a promise of empowerment. Do we believe it? Will we keep it? Or, will we despair? The prospects can be frightening, intimidating, and almost unbelievable. Experiences, scoffing, and sin may discourage us. But, if we keep our eye fixed on Jesus and the hope of His empowering command, “when we read, we can understand”. Are you ready to step out of the boat onto the water and go to Jesus? He commands you, “Come.”
Trevor Bowen