"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS" Our Duty To Ourselves (5:16-18) by Mark Copeland



Our Duty To Ourselves (5:16-18)


1. In 1st Thessalonians chapter five, we continue to note our various
   responsibilities as...
   a. "the children of light"
   b. "the children of day" - cf. 1Th 5:5

2. In recent studies, we have considered...
   a. "Our Duties To Those Who Serve" - 1Th 5:12-13
      1) To recognize them
      2) To esteem them highly in love
   b. "Our Duties To Those In Need" - 1Th 5:14-15
      1) To warn the unruly
      2) To comfort the fainthearted
      3) To uphold the weak
      4) To be patient with all
      5) To render to no one evil for evil
      6) To pursue what is good for us and for all

3. Our duties are not just directed toward others, we have some that
   address our own spiritual well-being...
   a. Three such duties are mentioned in our text for this lesson - 1 Th
      1) To rejoice always
      2) To pray without ceasing
      3) To give thanks in everything
   b. Note that Paul says these things are "the will of God in Christ
      Jesus for you"
      1) These three things are what God wants us to do for ourselves
      2) Therefore I have entitled this study "Our Duties To Ourselves"

[It is in the fulfillment of these three duties that we strengthen
ourselves spiritually and emotionally, enabling us to be better fit to
serve God and others.  Consider first our duty to...]


      1. In joy there is great strength - cf. Neh 8:10
      2. When we have joy in what we believe, we abound in hope - cf. Ro
      3. When we are joyful, it helps those around us to be joyful
         - e.g., 2Co 2:3
      -- To be joyful, to be merry, is crucial to remaining strong
         ourselves, and being a source of strength to others - cf. Pro
         15:13,15; 17:22

      1. It is in the Lord that we find the ability to "rejoice always"
         - cf. Php 4:4
         a. His salvation is the source of much joy - cf. Ps 21:1
         b. He grants joy to those who please Him - Ec 2:26; 5:20
         c. His mercy is a source of great joy - Ps 31:7
         d. In His presence there is fullness of joy, and He will abide
            with us if we obey His commands - Ps 16:11; cf. Jn 14:21,23
      2. To rejoice in the Lord always, follow these simple guidelines:
         a. Read and feed upon the Word of God daily - cf. Jer 15:16
         b. Meditate upon the teachings of Christ and His apostles
            1) Jesus spoke that His disciples joy might be full - Jn
            2) The apostles wrote that our joy might be full - 1Jn 1:4
         c. Spend time with brethren who make us happy
            1) As Titus' joy encouraged Paul - 2Co 7:13
            2) As Philemon's love and joy refreshed the hearts of others
               and gave Paul joy - Phm 7, 20
         d. Lead others to Christ, for they will be a great source of
            1) As the Thessalonians were to Paul - 1Th 2:19-20; 3:9
            2) As Philemon was to Paul - Phm 1:7
            3) As John's converts made him joyful - 3Jn 4
         e. Sing praises of joy to God
            1) Certainly we should sing when cheerful - Jm 5:13
            2) But we can also find joy by singing praises (cf. "Sing
               and Be Happy") - Ps 71:23; 104:33-34; 135:3

[By being "proactive" and following these guidelines, it is possible to
"rejoice always" even when external circumstances are not conducive to
creating joy (cf. Paul and Silas, singing and praying in prison, Ac
16:25).  Of course, what helps to "rejoice always" is to...]


      1. In prayer we find mercy and grace to help in time of need - He
      2. In prayer we find forgiveness of sins as we confess them - 1Jn 
      3. In prayer we find the peace of God, so helpful in anxious times
         - Php 4:6-7

      1. Having "set times" to pray can help create the habit of praying
         a. E.g., consider the example of David and Daniel
            1) David, whom God described as "a man after My own heart"
               - Ps 55:17
            2) Daniel, whom the angel described as "O man greatly
               beloved" - Dan 6:10
            -- These great men of God made it a habit to pray at set
               times throughout the day; we would do well to imitate
               their example
         b. At the very least...
            1) Find some time each day to be alone with God in prayer
               a) Early morning may be best for some
               b) Others might find it easier to be alone late at night
            2) Make it a SPECIAL TIME to be alone with your Heavenly
      2. We should not limit prayers to "set times", special needs may
         call for special praying
         a. Jesus, praying on important occasions - Lk 6:12-13
         b. Paul, praying in trying circumstances - Ac 16:25
         c. Nehemiah - praying on the spur of the moment - Neh 2:4-5

[Having "set times" helps to develop experience and persistence in
praying; praying "spontaneously" as needs arise develops the disposition
to pray in every circumstance.  Together, they fulfill the command to
"pray without ceasing".  What helps us even further is if we...]


      1. Ingratitude is very displeasing to God
         a. It is included among other sins that would be prevalent in
            "perilous times" - 2Ti 3:1-5
         b. The wrath of God will be revealed against those who are
            unthankful - Ro 1:18-21
      2. Christians should be known for their "attitude of gratitude"
         a. Thankful for what the Father has done for us - Col 1:12-14
         b. Abounding in thanksgiving - Col 2:7
         c. A part of the "garment" we are to put on - Col 3:12-15
         d. A complement to our prayers - Col 4:2; 1Ti 2:1
      3. Thankfulness added to our prayers is the key to...
         a. Overcoming anxiety - Php 4:6
         b. Obtaining the peace of God which surpasses understanding
            - Php 4:6-7

      1. Remember that all things can work for our good - Ro 8:28
         a. We can therefore glory in tribulation - Ro 5:3-5
         b. We can rejoice in persecution - Mt 5:10-12
         c. We can rejoice in trials - Jm 1:2-3
      2. Include thankfulness along with our prayer requests - Php 4:6
         a. Just as Daniel made the giving of thanks as part of his
            daily prayers - Dan 6:10
         b. As we "pray without ceasing", so we will be "thankful
            without ceasing"!


1. What is God's will for us in Christ Jesus?
   a. To be a thankful people!
   b. To be a prayerful people!
   c. To be a joyful people!

2. These three are intertwined, with one leading to another...
   a. The more thankful we are, the more prayerful we will be
   b. The more prayerful we are, the more joyful we will be
   -- Thus the key to much joy in Christ begins with the "attitude of

In our zeal to fulfill our duties to those who serve and to those in
need, do not overlook these duties we have to ourselves...they can help
us be more productive in the service we render to the Lord and to all!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Different Views of Death by Wayne Jackson, M.A.


Different Views of Death

by Wayne Jackson, M.A.

None of us enjoys contemplating the prospect of losing a loved one to death. It is a horrible experience. Yet, if the deceased is a child of God, the pain is lessened considerably. This is why the apostle Paul could say, in his letter to the saints at Thessalonica, that we “sorrow not, even as the rest [non-Christians], who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). When a dear one in Christ leaves this life, we sorrow—not for the one who has gone to be with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8), but for our own temporal loss. And it is temporal, because eventually there will be happy reunions (Genesis 25:8; Matthew 8:11).
I recently read of a case that illustrates the bleakness faced by the unbeliever when he is forced to face the prospect of death’s separations.
Marie Curie was undoubtedly the most prominent woman scientist of all time. She was twice awarded the Nobel Prize. She was married to Pierre Curie, a prominent scientist in his own right. On April 19, 1906, Pierre was run over by a galloping team of horses pulling a heavy wagon. His head was crushed by one of the wheels and he died instantly.
In a biography about her mother, Eve Curie describes how Marie was devastated by the accident. She clung to Pierre’s corpse as he was dressed for the funeral. She kissed him repeatedly. From that day, Eve says, she became “a pitiful and incurably lonely woman” (p. 247). For a long time she wrote notes to him each day in her diary. Here is one of those notations: “Your coffin was closed and I could see you no more.... We saw you go down into the deep, big hole.... They filled the grave and put sheaves of flowers on it, everything is over. Pierre is sleeping his last sleep beneath the earth; it is the end of everything, everything, everything” (p. 249).
Obviously Madame Curie had utterly no hope of ever seeing her beloved husband again. Years before, Marie had abandoned whatever faith she had. Eve writes that her mother “gave her [daughters] no sort of pious education. She felt herself incapable of teaching them dogmas in which she no longer believed: above all she feared for them the distress she had known when she lost her faith” (p. 268).
How very sad. Death is not the end of everything. Rather, it is the beginning. It is the beginning of eternity. May we so bind our families together in service to God that when our parting comes, it will be a “sweet sorrow.”


Curie, Eve (1937), Madame Curie: A Biography (Garden City, NY: Doubleday).

Different Names, Same Person by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Different Names, Same Person

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Names can be rather confusing at times. A teacher might become puzzled on the first day of school when she finds out that half of her students do not immediately respond when she calls roll. The reason: they normally are called by another name than that which appears on the school records. A coach may not immediately recognize a certain player’s identity, because his team speaks of this player (on the opposing team) only by using a nickname. After some investigation, however, the coach soon learns who the player actually is. Millions of individuals through the millennia have worn more than one name. Even at Apologetics Press, nearly half of my co-workers wear derivatives of their full, official name. Our Production Administrator's name is James Monroe, but he prefers to be called Jim. David Lee, our Executive Director, is just Dave to those who know him. Most people in the twenty-first century understand that this is simply the way it is; people often go by more than one name.
When reading the Bible, we need also to remember that people in ancient times frequently had more than one name as well. Keeping this in mind will help clarify various passages that may seem somewhat ambiguous. When studying the book of Genesis, it is helpful to bear in mind that Abram’s name was changed to Abraham (Genesis 17:5), and Jacob’s to Israel (Genesis 32:28). Later, while living in Egypt, “Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnath-Paaneah” (Genesis 41:45). Numerous other individuals mentioned in the Bible also were known by more than one name.
  • Moses’ father-in-law was known both as Reuel and Jethro (Exodus 2:18; 3:1).
  • Gideon acquired the name Jerubbaal because he destroyed the altar of Baal at Ophrah (Judges 6:32; 7:1; 8:29,35).
  • Pharaoh Necho changed the name of King Josiah’s oldest son, Eliakim, to Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:34).
  • The apostle Peter is sometimes called Peter, Simon Peter, Simon, and Cephas (Matthew 14:28; 16:16; 17:25; John 1:42; 1 Corinthians 1:12).
  • And Saul is called Paul (Acts 13:9).
Attention needs to be given to how the Bible writers frequently used different names when referring to the same person, because recognition of such name usage may help clarify certain alleged contradictions. Take, for instance, Matthew 1:9. Someone might wonder why Matthew mentioned Uzziah as being the father of Jotham, while 2 Kings 15:1-7 and 1 Chronicles 3:12 call Jotham’s father Azariah. The answer lies in the fact that that both names apply to the same person. Within the same chapter (2 Kings 15), Jotham’s father is called both Azariah (15:7) and Uzziah (15:32). The names are different, but they refer to the same person (cf. 2 Chronicles 26:1-23; Isaiah 1:1).
Countless Bible questions can be answered logically just by acknowledging that the ancients often were just as flexible in their giving of names as people are in the twenty-first century.

Differences Do Not Demand Discrepancies by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Differences Do Not Demand Discrepancies

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Sometimes statements differ because they are contradictory. The fact is, nothing can both be and not be for the same person, place, or thing, at the same time, and in the same sense (cf. Jevons, 1928, p. 117; Aristotle, 3:4). It is impossible for a single door to be completely shut and completely open at the same time. It is contradictory for a man to say, “Yesterday I never left my house to go to the store,” if indeed he did leave his house yesterday to go to the store. Differences in stories may very well be the result of lies and contradictory statements.
At the same time, differences do not necessarily mean that various accounts are discrepant. For example, a person may affirm, “I went shopping with my daughter yesterday.” That same person might also tell someone, “Yesterday, I went to several different stores with my best friend.” Both of these statements, though different, easily could be true. Perhaps the mother went shopping with her daughter and her best friend, Melissa. Or, it could be that the daughter is the mother’s best friend. Either way, it would be irresponsible and unreasonable to interpret such differences as contradictions.
People generally understand that differences can abound in various accounts without a person needing to resort to charges of discrepancy. Imagine how long an employee would keep his job if he operated under the assumption that every time one of his colleagues said something that differed from a previous comment or from what another colleague stated, “someone was lying.” Such an employee would soon find himself unemployed. Generally speaking, people who make accusations without sufficient evidence to prove their case are quickly marginalized and distrusted.
Sadly, when it comes to the Bible, many people leave behind reason and fair-mindedness. Different accounts must be “contradictory.” Different wordings by different writers must mean someone was wrong. Though unproven and unprovable assertions in nearly every other area of life are quickly exposed as baseless allegations, when it comes to the Bible, differences are often thought to equal discrepancies.
The fact is, the different but truthful wordings in Scripture are exactly what a person should expect to find in a book composed of 66 smaller books written by approximately 40 different writers, who wrote to different people, at different times, and in different places. Furthermore, the differences in Scripture are parallel to the justifiable differences we expect from each other’s accounts in modern times.
  • Why must Luke be mistaken about the temptations of Jesus because he wrote them in a different order than Matthew (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13; see Lyons, 2004)? Can a person not give an honest description of something without everything being in chronological order? If a person never said the details are in the precise order in which they occurred, would he not have the freedom to arrange his story however he chose (e.g., climactically or thematically)?
  • Was it essential for the apostle John to mention every woman who came to the tomb of Jesus on the morning of His resurrection, or was he at liberty to mention as few as he wanted (John 20:1; cf. Matthew 28:1; Luke 24:1; cf. Butt, 2004)? If Mary Magdalene was at the tomb on that Sunday morning, and John recorded that she was there, without ever denying that others also were there, could his record of the events be truthful? Of course. Differencesexist among the gospel writers’ accounts, but no one can prove that they are dischordant. Just as a person might say, “I went to the park with Bill, Bob, and Bubba,” he might also truthfully say, “I went to the park with Bill and Betty.” These statements are not contradictory. One merely supplements the other. A person may only mention Bill and Betty in one setting (e.g., at worship where the church knows the married couple), while at another setting (e.g., at the office where only the men are known) he may truthfully just mention the men.
The fact is, if the apostles and prophets wrote independently of each other, and penned their accounts at different times, in different places, to different people, and for different reasons, differences should be expected. However, the differences are not demonstrated discrepancies. They are only “contradictions” in the minds of those (1) who reject reason, and/or (2) who refuse to “retain God in their knowledge” (Romans 1:28).


Aristotle, Metaphysics, trans. W.D. Ross, http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/metaphysics.4.iv.html.
Butt, Kyle (2004), “Addition Does Not a Contradiction Make,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/AllegedDiscrepancies.aspx?article=541.
Jevons, W. Stanley (1928), Elementary Lessons in Logic (London: Macmillan).
Lyons, Eric (2004), “In What Order Did Satan Tempt Jesus?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/AllegedDiscrepancies.aspx?article=746.

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


Did Peter Authorize Infant Baptism?

by Caleb Colley, Ph.D.

While there is no documentation of infant baptism in Acts 2, some allege that Acts 2:39 proves the necessity of infant baptism (e.g., Lenski, 1961, p. 110; Barnes, 1972, p. 54). Acts 2:39 reads: “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (emp. added). This immediately follows Acts 2:38, which reads: “Then Peter said unto them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ ” The phrase “to all who are afar off ” implies that Gentiles would have the opportunity and obligation to submit to baptism for the remission of sins (see Coffman, 1977, p. 57; Lenski, 1961, p. 110). But what did Peter mean when he said “the promise is to you and to your children”? Did he command infants to be baptized?
When Peter said, “the promise is to you and to your children,” he was not speaking specifically about infants or implying that young children needed to respond to the commands of Acts 2:38. Peter’s presentation was designed for the people who shared responsibility for the crucifixion of Christ (verse 36), a group that certainly did not include children. Peter assured his listeners that the promise of salvation was not limited to them, but would be available to every future generation. Albert Barnes commented on the “promise” of Acts 2:39:
Similar promises occur in Isaiah 44:3, “I will pour my Spirit on thy seed, and my blessing on thine offspring;” and in Isaiah 59:21, “My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord from henceforth and for ever.” In these and similar places their descendants or posterity are denoted. It does not refer merely to children as children... (1972, p. 54, emp. in orig.).
Luke intended the reader to understand “children” to mean “descendants” in Acts 13:33, so it is not unreasonable to suggest that the same meaning is present in Acts 2:39. One meaning of teknois, the Greek word translated “children” in Acts 2:39, is “descendants” (Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker, 1979, p. 994). Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker suggest that teknois does denote “descendants” in Acts 2:39. This interpretation fits in the context of Peter’s discussion concerning the fulfillment of prophecy: Joel prophesied that everyone who called upon the name of the Lord would be saved (Joel 2:32), and Peter affirmed that the blessings associated with conversion would be available not only to those in his hearing, but also to the members of every subsequent generation who obeyed (see Longenecker, 1981, p. 285).
The idea that God cares for all people in every generation, and desires that all be saved, is not unique to Peter’s comments in Acts 2:39. God said to Israel, “ ‘As for Me,’ says the Lord, ‘this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,’ says the Lord, ‘from this time and forevermore’ ” (Isaiah 59:21). The message of concern for future generations is evident in the New Testament as well. The text of 2 Peter 3:9 reveals that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
If Peter’s use of the word “children” did include a reference to the children who were in his audience, Peter did not command the children to be baptized. Nor did Peter imply that Joel, Isaiah, or David prophesied concerning infant baptism (see McGarvey, 1863, p. 44). Peter simply said that the “promise” was partially for the children. Of what promise did Peter speak? In the context of Peter’s presentation on Pentecost, it appears that the promise was salvation through Christ, but nowhere did it imply the necessity of infant baptism (see Longenecker, 1981, p. 285; De Welt, 1967, p. 49; Reese, 1983, p. 79). Wayne Jackson observed:
Peter affirmed that the divine promise (of salvation with its accompanying gift of the Spirit) would be available to future generations (expressed by the phrase “your children”). Contrary to the assertions of some (cf. Lenski, 110), there is no support here for infant baptism. Prof. Howard Marshall of the University of Aberdeen (Scotland) declared that to use this passage in support of infant baptism is to “press it unduly” (81). Babies can neither believe nor repent, hence, are not valid candidates for immersion (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). Hackett renders the phrase “unto your descendants” (cf. Acts 13:3) [2000, p. 28, parenthetical comment in orig.].
Not every gift given to children is intended for children to possess and enjoy at the time the gift is given. Instead, gifts often are intended to be used by recipients after they mature. In such cases, the gifts will be ready when the children are ready for them. Peter said that the gift of salvation is available to all those who were called by God (Acts 2:39)—and God calls people by His Gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14). But people who cannot yet understand the Gospel cannot believe in Christ and obey the Gospel (Romans 10:13-16). Furthermore, infants cannot repent of wrongdoing or decide to cease sinning, because they cannot choose to do wrong. Peter commanded the members of his audience to repent, so the applicability of his message was not to infants. Only those who can believe and repent can be included in the “children” of Acts 2:39, because the “promise” was conditioned on belief and repentance (see McGarvey, n.d., p. 40).
As children grow up, they learn the difference between right and wrong, and, eventually, they reach an age when they have the ability to choose sin. All mature humans sin at some point (Romans 3:23). It is at that time that we need to have our sins washed away by Christ’s blood—we need to be baptized, but not when we are infants.


Arndt, William, F.W. Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker (1979), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press), second edition revised.
Barnes, Albert (1972 reprint), Barnes’ Notes on the Old and New Testaments: Acts(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Coffman, James Burton (1977), Commentary on Acts (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).
De Welt, Don (1967 reprint), Acts Made Actual (Joplin, MO: College Press).
Jackson, Wayne (2000), The Acts of the Apostles: From Jerusalem to Rome(Stockton, CA: Courier).
Lenski, R.C.H. (1961 reprint), The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles(Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Longenecker, Richard N. (1981), The Expositor's Bible Commentary, F.E. Gaebelein, Ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
McGarvey, J.W. (1863), Original Commentary on Acts (Bowling Green, KY: Guardian of Truth), ninth edition.
McGarvey, J.W. (no date), Commentary on Acts (Cincinnati, OH: Standard).
Reese, Gareth L. (1983 reprint), New Testament History: Acts (Joplin, MO: College Press).

"Do All Things According to the Pattern" by Trevor Bowen


"Do All Things According to the Pattern"


"As long as you're honest, that's all that counts."   "God doesn't care, just as long as everything is done for the glory of God."  Or, "Just so you believe in Jesus Christ as your personal savior, nothing else matters."  These statements represent many peoples' feeling about God's will for us.  It seems that these statements place the sole importance on a person's attitude.  Yet, the questions we need to ask are, "How does God judge us? By our hearts, or by our deeds?"  Both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible have clear statements on these questions. If one is expecting the answer to be one or the other, then the answer given by the Bible may be surprising.  More passages than usual will be studied to ensure that the basis of this conclusion is God's word, and not our opinion.

The Pattern

The title of this article refers to a quote found in three different places in the Bible.  First, when God instructed Moses how to build the tabernacle in the Old Testament, He told Moses to"make all things according to the pattern" (Exodus 25:40).  This reference is repeated in the book of Hebrews as a reminder of doing all things today "according to the pattern"(Hebrews 8:5).  A similar statement is made in Ezekiel, during the Jews captivity in Babylon.  In the middle of a 9-chapter description of the dimensions of the new holy city, God tells Ezekiel:
"And He said to me, 'Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever.  No more shall the house of Israel defile My holy name. ... Son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the pattern. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple and its arrangements, its exits and its entrances, its entire design and all its ordinances, all its forms, and all its laws.  Write it down in their sight, so that they may keep its whole design and all its ordinances, and perform them. This is the law of the temple:  The whole area surrounding the mountaintop is most holy.  Behold, this is the law of the temple.' "  Ezekiel 43:7-12
The very length of this 9-chapter discourse speaks of the emphasis that God places on observing details.  This section became ultimately fulfilled in the New Testament church, and it continues to apply to us today.  When we study the exact "dimensions and pattern" of the church, we will recognize how badly man has corrupted it and strayed from God's way.  Yet, the solution is the same today as it was then:  Study all of the details of God's pattern (the entrances, exits, etc.), and then keep the whole design and all its ordinances.  As students in search of truth, it is our goal to establish God's Will and make "all things according to the pattern."

Legalism?  Phariseeism?

These accusations are often leveled against truthseekers, who try to closely adhere to God's Word.  But, the Bible both condemns and condones these attitudes.  It depends on what is implied by the charges.  First, the Bible clearly condemns, or teaches that going through the motions is not what God desires.  Please consider the following passages from the Old Testament:
"'With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God?  Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?  Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil?  Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?' He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you, but do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:6-8
"For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, and a broken and contrite heart - These, O God, You will not despise" Psalm 51:16-17
Do these passages imply that God does not care what we do as long as our heart is right?  As we look at more scriptures, we will learn that it is not the sacrifices or rituals alone that God desired.  They were worthless if the heart is not right, but these statements do not necessitate that we conclude that God does not care about the correctness of our actions.  These passages do not teach that God does not care about actions, but it does teach that actions alone are not enough.

Is Love Enough?

Love is emphasized by everyone today. It is one of the most powerful themes of the Bible.  In the New Testament, Paul expressed the importance of love in the following passage:
"Though I speak with the tongues of mean and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing." I Corinthians 13:1-3
Sometimes the above passages are quoted in an effort to dissolve mankind of any responsibility to obey God's commands.  However, please note the fundamental error in logic.  The above passage emphasizes and mandates love as our motivation, but it neither deemphasizes, releases us from, nor negates the commandments of God.  Just because God requires love, does not imply that He does not require obedience.  It is a leap in logic, and an unfounded assumption to go from these passages to this erroneous conclusion.  But, how do we know this is so?  We can answer this question by examining God's comments on this exact problem - loving and good intentions without obedience. We can find an answer by studying examples of how God dealt with such cases.

God's Direct Statements

In giving both the old and new laws (testaments), God directed people not turn aside from the commands of the law.  In fact, he told them not to add anything, or do anything that he had not authorized.  Please examine the following passages from both the New and Old Testaments:

Old Law:

"You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you." Deuteronomy 4:2
"Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to to 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."Joshua 1:7

New Law:

"He answered and said to them, 'Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?" ... "In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men" Spoken by Jesus to the Pharisees in Matthew 15:3,9
"But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed." Galatians 1:8-9
"If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God.  If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen" I Peter 4:11
"Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ, does not have God.  He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son."  II John 9
"For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book:  If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." Revelation 22:18-19
From the above passages, we learn several things about how God expects to follow His Word:  It is sin for us to give permission for practices that were forbidden God, and it is sin to forbid the practices that were permitted by God.  People were accursed by God for doing this.  It is transgression (sin) to go outside, or beyond the limits of Christ's teaching.  Finally, we are instructed to speak, or teach, where the Bible has spoken.  This limits us to God's Word as authority.  Now, let's examine some Old Testament examples to see how God handled people who strayed from His will.

Nadab and Abihu

The following examples illustrate different facets of the above statements.  First, let's examine a case that involved priests incorporating a new addition to the Old Testament worship.  The consequence of their sin was immediate death.  What was this heinous crime?
"Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.  And Moses said to Aaron, 'This is what the Lord spoke, saying: "By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy, and before all the people I must be glorified."'  So Aaron held his peace." Leviticus 10:1-3
Earlier, God gave instructions to use a certain kind of incense (Exodus 30:934-38).  Aaron's sons offered "profane" incense by using a type which the Lord "had not commanded them".  What is the lesson for us?  Whenever God gives us specific instructions or commands, He expects us to keep it.  We see both from the direct statements above and this example, that it is sin to go "outside" the boundaries that God has authorized."

King Saul

The next two cases teaches even more directly deal with our question, "How does God deal with people who do wrong things with a good motive?"  Saul, the Old Testament king of Israel, deviated from God's will to do something that he thought would be better.  God instructed Saul to "utterly destroy" the nation of Amalek.  But, Saul saved the king of Amalek, and he saved animals for sacrifices to the Lord.  It would seem that sacrifices to God are good thing.  Please read the prophet Samuel's response to Saul from the Lord:
"So Samuel said: '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. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.  Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.'" I Samuel 15:22-23
Later we learn that Saul's motive was not actually good, but his heart was truly wicked.  However, this next example raises the standard even higher.  It is the example of Uzza.

Uzza and King David

In this example, King David is escorting the Lord's ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem.  However, he is not doing in the manner that God prescribed:
"So they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Uzza and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart." ...
"And when they came to Nachon's threshing floor, Uzza put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled.  Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzza, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God.
"And David became angry because of the Lord's outbreak against Uzza, and he called then name of the place 'Outburst Against Uzza' to this day." II Samuel 6:3-9
David was very angry because the Lord killed Uzza.  Probably like us, he could not understand why God would kill a man trying to do a good thing.  Was not Uzza trying to prevent the ark from falling and being damaged?  He did break God's command to not touch the ark (Numbers 4:5-615), but wasn't he doing a good thing?  Later, David realized why God acted as He did.
"Then David said, 'No one may carry the ark of God but the Levites, for the Lord has chosen them to carry the ark of God and to minister before Him forever." ...
"For because you did not do it the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not consult Him about the proper order." ...
"And the children of the Levites bore the ark of God on their shoulders, by its poles, as Moses had commanded according to the Word of the Lord."  I Chronicles 15:21315
From this example, we learn a great lesson.  If we fail to seek God's way first, we have sinned at the very beginning.  It is only a matter of time before we "unknowingly" break God's law.  Once we have, then we stand condemned before God.  In Uzza's case, the consequences also brought immediate physical death.  While God may not kill us immediately today, the condemnation of sin warrants a postponed, but much more significant death - spiritual.

The New Testament Teaching

Often we assume that God has changed since the Old Testament, and since the coming of Christ, God has become a god of love, rather than wrath and judgment.  But, is this really what the Bible says?  Please examine the following quote from Jesus:
"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.  Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'  And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who work iniquity.' " Matthew 7:21-23
Just because we think we do good things, or proclaim Jesus as recipient of an action's glory, does not make it right.  Moreover, Jesus says that there will be surprised people on Judgment Day that will be condemned as sinners.  What is the sobering lesson?  All things must be done according to God's will to be right.  The end never justifies the means, and neither does ignorance or purity of motive provide excuse!

An Impossible Task

These passages present what seems an impossible task.  How can we hope of getting to heaven without making some accidental mistake, even with constant study and prayer?  This troublesome question has a Bible answer, but it demands our faith.  First, we see that God is not some god of fury that enjoys destroying people, nor does He watch from heaven, waiting for people to sin, so He can kill and condemn them.  But, the Bible teaches another disposition:
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." II Peter 3:9
The apostle Paul speaks of the "riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering" and that the "goodness of God leads you to repentance" (Romans 2:4).  God does not want us to be destroyed and seeks every opportunity to be saved.  As part of this desire, He has given us the following promise upon which we can rest:
"Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal this even to you." Philippians 3:15
God has promised to reveal our sins of ignorance to us.  We must be sure that we have the proper heart - honest, loving and seeking truth - so that we will recognize the opportunities.  God has promised both longsuffering and providential care.  Our faith calls upon us to trust Him, and with this we can rest secure and confident in Him.


It is necessary to cover these scriptures, so that we may be firmly grounded in this truth.  With this conviction and motivation, we will be better prepared to deal with questions about God's plan of salvation, His organization and work that He gave the church, as well as other Bible doctrines.  If we are not convinced that God cares about how we respond to His will, then we will not be ready to seek His will.  We must first appreciate the Bible's teaching on God's expectation, His wrath, His loving care, and His faithful guidance.
Now, we will focus our search on the distinction between the New and Old Testaments.  This subject will greatly affect our understanding and interpretation of the Bible.  Failure to properly recognize this distinction may cause us to do the very thing that this study has warned against - "adding to", "taking away", straying to "the right", or to "the left".

Trevor Bowen