"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS" Our Duty To The Truth (5:19-22) by Mark Copeland


  Our Duty To The Truth (5:19-22)
INTRODUCTION 1. The last chapter of 1st Thessalonians is filled with exhortations to various duties that we have as Christians awaiting the coming of the Lord... a. Our duty to those who serve - 1Th 5:12-13 b. Our duty to those in need - 1Th 5:14-15 c. Our duty to ourselves - 1Th 5:16-18 2. Before Paul closes his epistle with a final blessing and admonition, he lists another series of exhortations... a. Do not quench the Spirit - 1Th 5:19 b. Do not despise prophecies - 1Th 5:20 c. Test all things; hold fast what is good - 1Th 5:21 d. Abstain from every form of evil - 1Th 5:22 -- Taken together, we can categorize these exhortations as "Our Duty To The Truth" [What is our obligation to the truth? What does God expect of us regarding the reception of truth, and that which proves to be error? From the exhortations in our text, we can say first...] I. DO NOT STIFLE REVELATION OF THE TRUTH A. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE TRUTH... 1. In Proverbs, we are exhorted to "buy the truth, and do not sell it..." - Pr 23:23 2. Why is truth so important? In Psalms we learn... a. God's truth preserves us - Ps 40:11 b. God's truth is a shield and buckler - Ps 91:4 c. God's truth provides atonement - Pr 16:6 3. Jesus taught regarding truth... a. It provides freedom from the bondage of sin - Jn 8:32 b. It is the means by God sanctifies Jesus' disciples - Jn 17:17 -- In view of its benefits, we should never be guilty of stifling the truth! B. THE REVELATION OF THE TRUTH... 1. God's truth was made known through His Holy Spirit - Jn 16:13 a. In Old Testament times, He did this through prophets - cf. 1Pe 1:10-11 ; 2Pe 1:20-21 b. In New Testament times, He did this through the apostles and prophets of Jesus Christ - cf. Jn 16:13; 14:26 2. These inspired apostles and prophets communicated God's truth... a. Through their spoken word - cf. 1Pe 1:12 b. Through their written word - cf. Ep 3:3-5; 1Co 14:37 3. This truth was fully and finally revealed.... a. Completed through the work of the apostles - Ac 20:32; 2 Pe 1:3 b. Revealed one time for all times - Jude 3 c. Thus we have that which can make us complete - cf. 2Ti 3: 16-17 4. Today, if we desire to receive God's truth... a. We cannot look to their spoken word, since they are no longer living b. We must look to their written Word, i.e., the Bible c. We must accept God's Word in its entirety - cf. Ps 119:160 C. THE SUPPRESSION OF THE TRUTH... 1. Mankind has a history of resisting God's truth... a. Israel suffered this affliction - cf. Hos 4:1 b. The Gentiles likewise, especially the wise - cf. Ro 1:18-23 2. In New Testament times, Christians could be guilty of resisting truth also... a. By "quenching the Spirit" - 1Th 5:19 1) Refusing to heed what the Spirit was still making known at that time 2) Cutting off the revelation of God's truth intended for them b. By "despising prophecies" - 1Th 5:20 1) Belittling the prophecies being made known through the prophets 2) Refusing to accept what the prophets of God were revealing 3. Today, we can stifle the truth of God... a. "Quenching the Spirit" through neglecting God's revealed Word b. "Despising prophecies" through rejecting the apostles' teaching [Through neglect or outright rejection of God's Word, we can be guilty of stifling the truth, and suffer the consequences of not having the benefits of truth in our lives. To avoid being misled by false prophets or false interpretations of God's word, we need to...] II. EXAMINE ALL THINGS BY THE TRUTH A. CLAIMS OF TRUTH NEED TO BE CHALLENGED... 1. As Paul wrote: "Test (prove, KJV) all things" - 1Th 5:21a a. This is not quenching the Spirit nor despising prophecies b. But a recognition that not all claims to be from God are true 2. As John wrote: "...do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits" - 1Jn 4:1 a. For many false prophets have come into the world b. It is not quenching the Spirit to test what people claim is a revelation from God B. EXAMINING CLAIMS OF TRUTH... 1. The Bereans provide a noble example - Ac 17:11 a. They received the word with all readiness (i.e., they paid careful attention to what Paul said) b. They searched the Scriptures daily (to see if what Paul taught was true) -- This is how the Bereans tested Paul's teaching, for which they were commended as being "fair-minded" 2. In examining all things by the truth today, we need to... a. Give people a fair hearing - Ac 17:11 b. Search the Scriptures daily, looking at God's word in its entirety - Ps 119:160 c. Accepting that which is in harmony with the apostles' teaching, and rejecting that which is not - cf. 1Jn 4:6; Ac 2:42 ["Our Duty To The Truth" does not end with simply believing the truth and rejecting that which is false, we must also "hold fast what is good" (1Th 5:21). I take this to mean we must...] III. APPLY THE TRUTH IN OUR LIVES A. WITH PROPER ATTITUDES... 1. A prayerful attitude, like David possessed - e.g., Ps 86:11 2. A meek spirit, allowing God's word to be implanted - Jm 1:21 B. WITH RIGHT ACTIONS... 1. In deed, not just in word; e.g., our love - 1Jn 3:18-19 2. We must be doers of the Word (truth), not hearers only - Jm 1: 22-25 3. Thereby walking in the truth, which delights those who see you - 3Jn 3-4 [Our duty is to hold fast what we find to be true, to practice what we believe to be true. At the same time, we must also...] IV. ABSTAIN FROM WHAT THE TRUTH DEFINES AS EVIL A. THE TRUTH DECLARES THAT EVIL EXISTS... 1. There is that which is false, that which is wicked - e.g., Exo 23:7 2. Those who do evil, do not want to hear that which is true - Jn 3:19-21 B. THE TRUTH DEMANDS THAT WE ABSTAIN FROM EVIL... 1. When we are not valiant for truth, we will become progressively worse - Jer 9:3 2. Therefore we must "abstain from every form of evil" - 1Th 5:22 a. KJV has "appearance" instead of "form" 1) Leading many commentators to conclude that we must always abstain from that which may "seem" to be wrong (e.g., Barnes, Clarke) 2) Yet Jesus did things that "appeared" to be wrong; e.g., eating with sinners which appeared to be toleration of their evil deeds - Mt 9:11 b. The Greek word is eidous - "As commonly explained, abstain from everything that even 'looks like' evil. But the word signifies 'form or kind.' Compare Luke 3:22; John 5:37, and see nearly the same phrase in Joseph. 'Ant. x. 3, 1.' It never has the sense of 'semblance.' Moreover, it is impossible to abstain from everything that looks like evil." (Vincent's Word Studies) c. "'Abstain from every form of evil,' i. e., every sort or kind of evil (not 'appearance,' KJV). This meaning was common in the papyri, the Greek writings of the closing centuries, B. C., and the New Testament era." (Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words) 3. This we do by taking heed to both our thoughts and our actions a. Thinking on things that are true - Php 4:8 b. Walking righteously and speaking uprightly - cf. Isa 33: 15-16 CONCLUSION 1. "Our Duty To The Truth" is made clear in our text... a. Do not stifle revelation of the truth b. Examine all things by the truth c. Apply the truth in our lives d. Abstain from what the truth defines as evil -- Because of the benefits that comes from knowing and walking in the truth, we should be careful to fulfill "Our Duty To The Truth"! 2. What about those who do not have a love for the truth? a. They will be susceptible to the lying wonders and unrighteous deception of the lawless one - cf. 2Th 2:9-10 b. Having no love for truth, God will harden their hearts even further by sending them a strong delusion - 2Th 2:11 c. Not believing the truth, but taking pleasure in unrighteousness, they will be condemned - 2Th 2:12 We must therefore have the prayer and attitude of David regarding God's truth: "Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day." - Ps 25:5 Is that your prayer? Is that your attitude? Are you walking in the truth?

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Do Natural Disasters Negate Divine Benevolence? by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


Do Natural Disasters Negate Divine Benevolence?

by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


The Earth is plagued with all kinds of natural disasters (tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, etc.). How can these tragedies be reconciled with a supposedly good, benevolent God?
September 21, 1989—Hurricane Hugo strikes the southeastern coast of the United States. Over 25 people are killed, and over $10 billion worth of damage results. One month later—October 17, 1989—an earthquake registering 7.1 on the Richter scale strikes the San Francisco Bay area in California. At least 62 people are killed, and damage estimates are placed at well over $1 billion. August 24, 1992—Hurricane Andrew hits three counties in southern Florida. More than a dozen people lose their lives, and damage estimates are set at over $20 billion. A year later, on September 11, 1992, Hurricane Iniki devastates the Hawaiian islands. At least four people die, and damage is set at over $1 billion. In June 1993, huge portions of numerous states along the Mississippi River and its tributaries experienced the worst flooding in their history. Entire cities were covered with water measured not in inches, but in feet. At least 47 people died, and more than 25,000 were evacuated from their homes.
Do these types of natural disasters represent merely isolated, infrequent events? Hardly. Throughout history, man has recorded many such tragedies. In 526, an earthquake hit the country now known as Turkey and left 250,000 dead. A similar earthquake in China in 1556 killed over 830,000 people. Another quake in India in 1737 annihilated 300,000, and quakes in Central China in 1920, 1927, and 1932 killed 200,000, 200,000, and 70,000 people respectively. In 1889, the famous “Johnstown Flood” occurred in Pennsylvania. The dam of the South Fork Reservoir, twelve miles east of the city, burst during heavy rains. Over 2,000 people were killed, and property damage was estimated to be over $10 million. In 1969, Hurricane Camille killed more than 250 people in seven states from Louisiana to Virginia, leaving behind over $1.5 billion in damage. In 1983, Hurricane Alicia struck near Galveston, killing 21 and causing over $2 billion in damage.
It is rare indeed, it seems, for a single generation in a given locale to be spared at least some kind of natural disaster. Without warning, tornadoes sweep down from the afternoon sky and destroy in a moment’s fury what took decades or centuries to build. Floods cover “old home places,” and remove forever any vestige of what were once storehouses of hallowed memories. In a matter of seconds, earthquakes irreparably alter once-familiar landscapes. Hurricanes come from the sea, demolish practically everything in their paths, and then dissipate as if they never had existed. Each time humanity suffers. And each time there are those who ask “Why?”


In the face of disasters such as those described above, there is hardly any question likely to be asked more routinely than “why?” But the question is not always asked in the same way, or with the same intent. Some stand on the charred remains of what was once their home and ask, “why me?”—and mean exactly that. Why them and why now? All they want is to understand the physical events that have changed their lives, and to learn what they can do to correct the situation and avoid a repeat of it. They are not looking to assign blame; they merely want an explanation of the prevailing circumstances.
Others view the destruction around them and ask “why?,” but their inquiry is brief and their response immediate. They correctly view the Earth as a once-perfect-but-now-flawed home for mankind. Rather than their faith in God being diminished by the ravages of ongoing natural phenomena, it is strengthened because they: (a) know that there are rational biblical and scientific explanations for such events; (b) understand that after all is said and done, “the Judge of all the Earth will do that which is right” (Genesis 18:25); and (c) put their faith into action as they work to help themselves, or those around them whose lives have been affected by a disaster.
Still others view natural disasters and ask “why?,” when what they really mean is: “If a benevolent God exists, why did He allow these things to happen?” The implication of their statement is clear. Since these things did happen, God must not exist.


It is not my purpose here to address the “why me, why now?” question that seeks a physical explanation as to what kind of swirling wind current spawns a tornado, or what kind of geological phenomena may be responsible for an earthquake. Much has been written on these topics that can provide adequate answers for those willing to research the problem. Instead, I would like to answer the more pressing philosophicalquestions of why the Earth experiences natural disasters in the first place, and why such disasters are not incompatible with a benevolent God.

Our Once-Perfect-But-Now-Flawed Planet

At the end of His six days of creation (Genesis 1:31), God surveyed all that He had made, and proclaimed it “very good”—Hebrew terminology representing that which was both complete and perfect. Rivers were running, fish were swimming, and birds were flying. Pestilence, disease, and human death were unknown. Man existed in an idyllic paradise of happiness and beauty where he shared such an intimate and blissful covenant relationship with his Maker that God came to the garden “in the cool of the day” to commune with its human inhabitants (Genesis 3:8). Additionally, Genesis 3:22 records that man had continual access to the tree of life that stood in the garden, the fruit of which would allow him to live forever.
The peacefulness and tranquillity of the first days of humanity were not to prevail, however. In Genesis 3—in fewer words than an average sportswriter would use to discuss a Friday night high school football game—Moses, through inspiration, discussed the breaking of the covenant relationship between man and God, the entrance of sin into the world, and the curse(s) that resulted therefrom. When our original parents revolted against their Creator, evil entered the world. Moses informs us that as a direct consequence of human sin, the Earth was “cursed” (Genesis 3:17). Paul, in Romans 8:19-20, declared that the entire creation was subjected to “vanity” and the “bondage of corruption” as a result of the sinful events that took place in Eden on that occasion. Things apparently deteriorated rapidly. Just three chapters later, Moses wrote:
And Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented Jehovah that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And Jehovah said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man and beast, and creeping things, and birds of the heavens (Genesis 6:5-7).
Genesis 6-8 records the global destruction resulting from the Great Flood sent by God as His instrument of judgment. The text indicates that the waters which caused the Flood derived from two sources: (a) “the fountains of the great deep”; and (b) “the windows of heaven” (Genesis 7:11). Water fell for forty days and nights (Genesis 7:12,17), and eventually covered “all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven” (Genesis 7:19). We may only surmise the changes that the Flood wrought upon the Earth. Local floods can cause tremendous damage in very brief periods. Imagine, then, the damage that water covering every mountain fifteen cubits (Genesis 7:20; approximately 22½ feet) must have caused. As one writer has suggested:
The destructive power of flood-waters is evident from what flood waters in recent years have done. They moved blocks of granite weighing 350 tons more than a hundred yards. Boulders weighing 75 to 210 tons have been moved by flood waters only 15 to 20 feet deep.... What vast devastation must have been created when all those forces of the earth worked together; rain gushing down from the canopy above the firmament, earthquakes shaking the earth, many volcanoes erupting and exploding at one time, continents shifting, mountains lifting up, tornados, hurricanes and wild windstorms raging, gigantic tidal waves with crosscurrents and whirlpools raising havoc.... Truly, the Flood was the greatest and most violent catastrophe in the history of the world, with total destruction of all forms of life and of the entire surface of the earth (Sippert, 1989, pp. 78-79).
What were conditions like on the Earth prior to the Great Flood? Numerous biblical scholars have suggested that conditions were radically different than those we see today, and that the Earth was devoid of the many natural disasters that it presently experiences (see Rehwinkel, 1951; Whitcomb and Morris, 1961; Dillow, 1981). Whitcomb and Morris have stated, for example:
This is inferred from the fact that the “breaking-up of the fountains of the great deep” (Genesis 7:11), which implies this sort of activity, was one of the immediate causes of the Deluge; therefore it must have been restrained previously.... Thus the Biblical record implies that the age between the fall of man and the resultant Deluge was one of comparative quiescence geologically. The waters both above and below the firmament were in large measure restrained, temperatures were equably warm, there were no heavy rains nor winds and probably no earthquakes nor volcanic emissions (1961, pp. 242,243).
It is not unreasonable to suggest, knowing the changes caused by local floods, that the global Flood of Genesis 6-8 not only radically altered the face of the Earth, but simultaneously produced circumstances that are responsible for many natural disasters experienced since that time. New, higher mountains and lower valleys were produced by God after the Flood (Psalm 104:6-10). Approximately 71.9% of the Earth’s surface remained covered with water. Temperature changes occurred, producing seasonal variations unlike any before. No doubt other factors were involved as well.
What causes natural disasters on the Earth today? One cause is the vastly different geological and meteorological phenomena now present. Tall mountains and deep valleys may be conducive to localized extremes in weather. The drastically changed components of the Earth’s crust (e.g., fault lines, etc.) give rise to earthquakes. Vast bodies of water, and large global climatic variations, spawn hurricanes and tropical storms.
Taken at face value, then, the wickedness of mankind in Noah’s day (which precipitated the Flood) is responsible ultimately for the changes that now produce various natural disasters. As Brad Bromling has observed:
While we may never know with precision what conditions prevailed between the Edenic period and the Flood, it seems that the weather systems with which we are familiar were largely absent at that time. The fossil record bespeaks a period when the entire Earth enjoyed a temperate climate. This storm-free era most certainly predates the Flood. Since that event, man has been imperiled by tornadoes, blizzards, monsoons, and hurricanes.... Upon whom should we heap blame for the suffering resultant from such weather? Is it fair to accuse God, when He created man’s home free from such things (Genesis 1:31)? In all honesty, the answer is no. Sin robbed us of our original garden paradise, and sin was responsible for the global deluge (Genesis 3:24; 6:7) [1992, p. 17].
One writer concluded: “[T]he cause of all that is wrong with the earth is notgodliness but rather ungodliness” (Porter, 1974, p. 467, emp. in orig.). The matter of man’s personal volition has much to do with this. The Scriptures speak to the fact that since God is love, and since love allows freedom of choice, God allows freedom of choice (cf. Joshua 24:15; John 5:39-40). God did not create mankind as robots without any free moral agency. Mankind now reaps the consequences of the misuse of freedom of choice (i.e., the sin) of previous generations. Surely one of the lessons here is that it does not pay to disobey the Creator. In his second epistle, Peter made a clear reference to “the world that then was,” and its destruction by the Flood (3:6). That world no longer exists. Today we inhabit a once-perfect-but-now-flawed Earth. Man—not God—bears the blame.

Natural Disasters and a Benevolent God

The Bible teaches that God is both all-powerful and loving; thus He is benevolent, as love demands. How, then, can He allow natural disasters to occur? Do not natural disasters negate the benevolence of God, and strike at His very existence? In addition to the reasons listed in the section above, I would like to suggest the following reasons why they do not.
First, God created a world ruled by natural laws established at the Creation. If a man steps off the roof of a five-story building, gravity will pull him to the pavement beneath. If a boy steps in front of a moving freight train, since two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, the train will strike the child and likely kill him. The same laws that govern gravity, matter in motion, or similar phenomena also govern weather patterns, water movement, and other geological/meteorological conditions. All of nature is regulated by these laws, not just the parts that we find convenient.
Second, some disasters may be the by-product of something that itself is good. In addressing this point, Norman Geisler has noted:
In a physical world where there is water for boating and swimming, some will drown. If there are mountains to climb, there must also be valleys into which one may fall. If there are cars to drive, collisions can also occur. It may be said that tornadoes, lightning, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are likewise by-products of a good physical world. For instance, the purpose of rain is not to flood or drown, but the result of rain may include these disasters. Likewise, hot and cold air are an essential and purposeful part of the physical world, but under certain conditions they may combine to form tornadoes (1978, p. 72, emp. in orig.).
The natural laws that God created allow man to produce fire. But the same laws that enable him to cook his food also allow him to destroy entire forests. Laws that make it possible to have things constructive to human life also introduce the possibility that things destructive to human life may occur. How can it be otherwise? A car is matter in motion, and takes us where we wish to go. But if someone steps in front of that car, the same natural laws that operate to our benefit will operate in a similar fashion to our detriment.
Third, natural laws are both inviolate and non-selective. Everyone must obey them or suffer the consequences. In Luke 13:2-5, Jesus told the story of eighteen men who perished when the tower of Siloam collapsed. Had these men perished because of their sin? No, they were no worse sinners than their peers. They died because a natural law was in force. Fortunately, natural laws work continually so that we can understand and benefit from them. We are not left to sort out some kind of haphazard system that works one day, but not the next.
Those who rail against God because of natural disasters often are overheard to ask, “But why can’t God ‘selectively intervene’ to prevent disasters?” Bruce Reichenbach has addressed this question:
Thus, in a world which operates according to divine miraculous intervention, there would be no necessary relation between phenomena, and in particular between cause and effect. In some instances one event would follow from a certain set of conditions, another time a different event, and so on, such that ultimately an uncountable variety of events would follow a given set of conditions. There would be no regularity of consequence, no natural production of effects.... Hence, we could not know or even suppose what course of action to take to accomplish a certain rationally conceived goal. Thus, we could neither propose action nor act ourselves (1976, p. 187).
If God suspended natural laws every time His creatures were in a dangerous situation, chaos would corrupt the cosmos, arguing more for a world of atheismthan a world of theism! Further, as Geisler has remarked:
First, evil men do not really want God to intercept every evil act or thought. No one wants to get a headache every time he thinks against God. One does not want God to fill his mouth with cotton when he speaks evil of God, nor does he really desire God to explode his pen as he writes against God or destroy his books before they come off the press. At best, people really want God to intercept some evil actions.... Second, continual interference would disrupt the regularity of natural law and make life impossible. Everyday living depends on physical laws such as inertia or gravity. Regular interruption of these would make everyday life impossible and a human being extremely edgy! Third, it is probable that chaos would result from continued miraculous intervention. Imagine children throwing knives at parents because they know they will be turned to rubber, and parents driving through stop signs, knowing God will create crash-protection air shields to avert any ensuing collisions. The necessary intervention would finally grow in proportions that would effectively remove human freedom and responsibility (1978, p. 75, emp. in orig.).
How, then, exactly, would the unbeliever suggest that an understandable, dependable world be created, and operated, other than the way ours presently is? How could natural disasters be prevented, while maintaining natural laws and human freedom?


Those who suggest that the existence of a benevolent God is impossible as a result of “natural evil” often call for a better world than this one. But they cannot describe the details necessary for its creation and maintenance. When—in an attempt to “improve” it—they begin to “tinker” with the actual world around them, they invariably find themselves worse off.
Instead of blaming God when tragedies such as natural disasters strike, we need to turn to Him for strength, and let tragedies, of whatever nature, remind us that this world was never intended to be a final home (Hebrews 11:13-16). Our time here is temporary (James 4:14), and with God’s help we are able to overcome whatever comes our way (Romans 8:35-39; Psalm 46:1-3). In the end, the most important question is not, “Why did this happen to me?,” but instead, “How can I understand what has happened, and how am I going to react to it?” With Peter, the faithful Christian can echo the sentiment that God, “ who called you unto his eternal glory in Christ, after that ye have suffered a little while, shall himself perfect, establish, strengthen you. To him be the dominion for ever and ever” (1 Peter 5:10).


Bromling, Brad T. (1992), “Who Sent the Hurricane?,” Reasoning from Revelation, 4:17, Semptember.
Dillow, Joseph C. (1982), The Waters Above (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Geisler, Norman L. (1978), The Roots of Evil (Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan).
Porter, Walter L. (1974), “Why Do the Innocent Suffer?,” Firm Foundation, 91[30]: 467,475, July 23.
Rehwinkel, A.M. (1951), The Flood (St. Louis, MO: Concordia).
Reichenbach, Bruce (1976), “Natural Evils and Natural Laws,” International Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 16.
Sippert, Albert (1989), From Eternity to Eternity (North Mankato, MN: Sippert Publishing).
Whitcomb, John C. and Henry M. Morris (1961), The Genesis Flood (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Do Christians Need “Additional Scripture”? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Do Christians Need “Additional Scripture”?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

For many people who claim to be Christians, the Bible is not enough. Supposedly, it is not sufficient revelation. It does not give us enough information. These individuals seek additional works of inspiration. Either they want direct revelation from the Holy Spirit, or they want some kind of additional inspired work from God. In a recent Bible study with two gentlemen who claimed to believe in the divine inspiration of both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, one of the men made the statement: “God wanted us to have…additional Scripture.” That is, allegedly God wanted us to have more than just the Bible. This gentleman then followed up this assertion by saying that it is “unfair to just choose one.”
Is it really “unfair” to believe only the Bible is inspired? Is it inappropriate to tell individuals who advocate additional Scripture that the Bible is the only inspired, written revelation for man? Does God really want us to have “additional Scripture”?
Almighty God has the power and authority to communicate with man in whatever way and however often He chooses. But these questions must be answered in light of what God said He did, and not what man might surmise God could do. A thorough study of the New Testament reveals that what God said He did (through His inspired writers—2 Peter 1:20-21) was give mankind (some 1,900 years ago) all the revelation he needed to live a faithful Christian life.
The Bible indicates that all truth necessary for salvation was revealed during the lifetime of the apostles. The night before Jesus’ crucifixion, He promised His apostles that after His departure from them, the Spirit would come and guide them “into all truth” (John 16:13, emp. added), teaching them “all things,” and bringing to their remembrance “all things” that Jesus taught them (John 14:26, emp. added). After His crucifixion and resurrection (but before He ascended into heaven), Jesus then commanded these same disciples to “make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20, emp. added). The fact is, “the faith…was once for all delivered to the saints” in the first century (Jude 3, emp. added), so that since that time Christians have had “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3, emp. added). Since then, “the man of God” has been “completethoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, emp. added).
Indeed, hearing God’s will in the 21st century is as easy as picking up the providentially preserved Bible and reading what Jesus’ apostles and prophets recorded for our benefit (cf. Ephesians 3:1-5). No modern-day messages, dreams, visions, or “additional Scripture” are needed. Christians should be content with the powerful “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12) and be warned to “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 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).

Do Children Inherit the Sin of Their Parents? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Do Children Inherit the Sin of Their Parents?

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Understanding the nature of God’s interaction with man is no small task. The sincere Bible student often comes across things in the biblical text that are puzzling. Others, who are perhaps somewhat less sincere, twist these initially puzzling passages “to their own destruction” (as described in 2 Peter 3:16). One such idea that has been abused is the alleged contradiction between how Jehovah dealt (and still deals) with the children of sinful people. Steve Wells, author of the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, insists that there is a discrepancy in the Bible regarding this subject. He lists Exodus 20:5, which states: “For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.” Wells then presents Ezekiel 18:20 as a contradictory verse: “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself ” (Wells, 2003).
Is there a legitimate contradiction between these verses? Or, to pose the question differently, “Is there any possible way that both these statements can be true?” The fact of the matter is that both statements can be true, without a contradiction occurring. What Mr. Wells and others who twist these verses into an alleged contradiction do not recognize is that there is a difference between bearing the guilt of a parent, and suffering negative physical and emotional consequences due to that parent’s bad decisions.
It often is the case that the children of wicked people suffer terribly. Sometimes these children suffer because the parent physically or emotionally abuses them (in direct violation of Scripture; cf. Matthew 7:12; Colossians 3:21). At other times, the child suffers as a result of the parent’s irresponsible behavior. For instance, suppose a man addicted to gambling wastes his salary on gambling, instead of using it to feed his family. As a result, his children suffer hunger, shame, and poverty.
Yet, even though the children of sinful people often suffer physical consequences, they do not inherit the sin of those parents. The book of Jeremiah provides an interesting commentary on this subject. In Jeremiah 16:1-6, God told Jeremiah that the prophet should not take a wife and/or have children in the land of Israel. God explained His reasoning to Jeremiah as follows: “For thus says the Lord concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place.... ‘They shall die gruesome deaths; they shall not be lamented, nor shall they be buried, but they shall be as refuse on the face of the earth’ ” (16:3-4). Why was this going to happen? Wells is quick to refer to this chapter, especially verses 10 and 11 where the children of Israel pose the question, “Why has the Lord pronounced all this great disaster against us” (vs. 10)? Wells then records Jeremiah’s answer: “ ‘Because your fathers have forsaken Me,’ says the Lord” (vs. 11). Wells, however, does not cite the very next verse (12), which states: “And you have done worse than your fathers....”
These Israelites were suffering due to the sins of their fathers—and due to their own sins. Their children were going to die gruesome deaths. The skeptic is quick to seize upon this fact, and demand that any time innocent children die, it is a travesty against justice that a loving God never would permit (a fallacious idea that I have refuted elsewhere; see Butt, 2004).
Do children sometimes die horrible deaths due to their parents’ wrong decisions? Absolutely. The Israelites had adopted the practice of sacrificing their own children to a false god named Baal (Jeremiah 19:5). The iniquity of the parents, then, can be visited upon the children in the form of physical suffering. But do those children bear the guilt of that sin? Absolutely not! Ezekiel wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20, emp. added).
Notice the words soul and guilt. Does the Bible ever insinuate, for example, that a child is guilty of idolatry because his parents were idolatrous? No (read Matthew 18:3-5; Luke 18:16-17). Bearing the guilt of sin is altogether different than bearing the physical consequences of the actions of others. As is often the case, the skeptic has confused the two, and has alleged a biblical contradiction where, in fact, none exists. This is yet another example in which the allegation against the Bible fails, but “the Word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Peter 1:25).


Butt, Kyle (2004), “The Skeptic’s Faulty Assumption,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2230.
Wells, Steve (2001), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible [On-line], URL: http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/1cor/index.html.

Do Animals Have Souls? by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


Do Animals Have Souls?

by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


I know the Bible teaches that every human has an immortal soul. But do animals have souls?


If you ever owned a dog, a cat, or any other kind of animal to which you grew attached, you may have wondered whether or not that animal had a soul. Men and women through the ages have pondered the same question. Animals— whose vast numbers stretch into the millions—are ubiquitous as our co-inhabitants on planet Earth. They serve as an unpaid, ever-dependable, and quite invaluable work force as they help the farmer plow a rough field or the blind person cross a busy city street. They account for a considerable portion of the total world food supply for humans. They provide joy and companionship for young and old alike. They are an undeniable boon to mental health, especially for sick children and the infirm elderly. Surely none among us would doubt the many benefits that accrue as a result of the presence of animals among us.
But do animals possess souls? And if they do, is their soul the same as a human soul? That is to say, is it immortal—will it eventually inhabit either heaven or hell?
The English word “soul” derives from a number of different words in the Old and New Testaments and is used in the Bible in a variety of ways. First, it is employed as a synonym for a living, breathing person. Moses wrote: “All the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls” (Exodus 1:5; cf. Deuteronomy 10:22). In legal matters also, the word soul was used to denote any individual. The Lord told Moses: “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, ‘If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done’ ” (Leviticus 4:2). When Jacob was speaking of himself in Genesis 49:6, he used the expression, “O my soul”—which meant simply “me.” In each of these instances, actual people—individually or collectively—were under discussion.
Second, the word soul can be used to describe the physical form of life that both men and animals possess and that ceases to exist at death. In their Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, Brown, Driver, and Briggs noted that the word “soul” (Hebrew nephesh) often is employed to mean “life principle” (1907, p. 659). In Genesis 1:20,24,30, God spoke of the nephesh hayyah—literally “soul breathers” or “life breathers” (often translated as “living creatures” or “life”—cf. Leviticus 11:10). The writer of Proverbs observed in regard to animals: “A righteous man regardeth the life (nephesh) of his beast; but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel” (12:10). Hebrew scholar Hugo McCord therefore suggested:
Then the translators realized that the first meaning of nephesh is “breath,” and so Genesis 1:20,24,30 and Genesis 2:7 all fit together in understanding Moses as saying that all animals and man too are breathers. Breathers, coupled with hayyah, “living,” the translators thought, would be well translated, in the case of animals, as “living creatures,” and in the case of man as a “living being” (1995, 23[1]:87-88).
Third, the word soul can be used to describe something that is immortal and thus never dies. In speaking of Rachel’s death at the birth of her son, Moses wrote: “And it came to pass, as her soul was departing (for she died)” (Genesis 35:18). While Elijah was at the house of a widow in the city of Zarephath, the woman’s son died. But Elijah “cried unto Jehovah, and said..., ‘O Jehovah my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul come into him again’” (1 Kings 17:21). Hezekiah celebrated the fact that the soul survives the death of the body: “But thou hast in love to my soul (nephesh) delivered it from the pit of corruption” (Isaiah 38:17).
Centuries later, the Lord Himself warned: “And be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28) When the apostle John was allowed to peer into the book “sealed with seven seals” (Revelation 5:1), he “saw underneath the altar the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God” (Revelation 6:9). Each of these passages is instructive of the fact that there exists within man a soul that survives the death of the body.
The question therefore becomes: Can the word “soul” be used correctly in referring to animals? The first definition obviously cannot apply to animals since animals are not persons. But the second definition most certainly would apply to animals. Compare the following passages. In Psalm 78:50 we find an example of the usage of “soul” as “life” when the writer said in speaking of the people of Egypt (who tried in vain to prevent the Israelites from leaving their country’s slavery) that God “spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence.” In this instance, the word “soul” (Hebrew nephesh) is used to denote the physical life of humans. But in Genesis 1:20,24, the identical Hebrew word is employed to speak of animals as “living creatures” (Hebrew nephesh hayyah). In this sense, then, yes, it is correct to say that animals have “souls”—since the word soul means only physical life. In responding to the question, “Do animals have souls?,” McCord wrote: “Yes, when the word soul, nephesh, only means ‘breath,’ as in Genesis 1:20 (ASV), ‘Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures,’ nephesh hayyah, literally, ‘living soul’” (1999).
But can the third definition be applied to animals? Do animals possess immortal souls that one day will inhabit heaven or hell? In this era of evolutionary fervor and an increasing fascination with all kinds of “rights,” we are reminded constantly that man shares a “kinship” with members of the animal kingdom that positively must not be overlooked. Michael Fox wrote:
There is indeed a kinship in the present diversity and evolutionary continuity of all life.... It is more important today than ever before for human beings to be aware of their kinship with all life. It is essential for our survival that we have a strong reverence for all forms of life as our kin... (1978, p. 121).
Those who do not believe in God or accept the Bible as His Word (and thus deny the existence of an immortal soul) generally perceive animals as man’s equal in almost every aspect. Thus, they often refer to animals as being not one whit behind humans in regard to how they should be viewed or treated. For example, in his book, The Case for Animal Rights, Tom Regan acknowledged that each human is “the experiencing subject of a life, a conscious creature having an individual welfare” (1987, p. 59). But he likewise viewed animals as “the experiencing subjects of a life, with inherent value of their own” (p. 59) and so he asked:
What could be the basis of our having more inherent value than animals? Their lack of reason, or autonomy, or intellect? Only if we are willing to make the same judgement in the case of humans who are similarly deficient. But it is not true that such humans—the retarded child, for example, or the mentally deranged—have less inherent value than you or I. Neither, then, can we rationally sustain the view that animals, like them, in being the experiencing subjects of a life have less inherent value. All who have inherent value have it equally, whether they be human animals or not. Inherent value, then, belongs equally to those who are the experiencing subjects of a life (p. 60).
This type of thinking—that men and animals both possess “inherent value equally”—has set the stage for those who profess a belief in God to set forth their claim that animals do indeed possess immortal souls. In his book, All Creatures Here Below, Frank Hoffman stated:
...if the animal sacrifice is the precursor, or type of the final sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, which is a mainstream Christian teaching, is God’s Word not also telling us that animals do have souls?... Now then, why are we reluctant to accept the fact that animals do have souls? Because we are still trying to hold on to some of our pride, and perhaps our greed. If we do not accept the fact that animals have souls, then we may have a self-acceptable excuse for the way we treat the rest of God’s creatures, which is not in accordance with God’s desire, but ours (1998, emp. added).
The position advocated by such writers is completely at odds with the teaching found in God’s Word. First, man and animals do not share kinship—all the claims of evolutionists (and those sympathetic to them) notwithstanding. The apostle Paul addressed this very point in 1 Corinthians 15 when he wrote: “All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fishes” (v. 39, emp. added). As Stuart Walker correctly commented: “Genesis 1:26-30 and 2:7,21-25 clearly states that man was a special creation with no phylogenetic relationship to any other creature. Thus, there is a phylogenetic discontinuity between man and animals—we are not physically interrelated” (1991, 5[2]:21, emp. added). As Adam previewed the animals in the Garden of Eden for a mate and went about naming them (Genesis 2:18-20), this “discontinuity” became clear. Among all the animals that God had created, there was none that corresponded to him. Not one sufficed to remove him from his personal isolation of being “alone” (Genesis 2:18). As Walker went on to note:
Thus, we share in the life principle, but it is not the life principle itself that is precious.... Ontological continuity cannot be established upon the experiences of life, the intrinsic value of life itself, or physical parallels between animals and humans; rather, we are separated from the animal world by an impassable gulf—a chasm of essential difference in who we are(1991, 5[2]:22, emp. added).
Second, man was commanded to “subdue and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28). The Hebrew word for “subdue” (kabash) is described in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance as meaning “to tread down,” “to bring under subjection,” etc. The same word is used in Numbers 32:22, 29 and Joshua 18:1 where it is used to describe the subduing and pacifying of Israel’s enemies. To kabash, therefore, is to
face that which opposes us and is inimical in its present state to our goals and well-being, and bring it into conformity with our needs—completely pacifying it.... Thus it can be inferred that when God gave Adam dominion over the creative order, He was describing a pre-emptive authority which man would wield over the creation as he interpreted the cosmos and manipulated its functions to man’s benefit... (Walker, 5[2]:25).
Man’s “pre-emptive authority” over the creation, including the animal kingdom, was demonstrated quite forcefully in a single stroke when God granted mankind permission to kill and eat animals for food (Genesis 9:3-4). Interestingly, however, within the same context God specifically forbade manslaughter “for in the image of God made he man” (Genesis 9:5-6). If man “shares kinship” with animals or if animals possess immortal souls, why would God permit him to kill his own kin—relatives whose souls are no different than his own? As Neale Pryor commented: “Animals also have a ruach [a Hebrew word for “breath” or “life”—BT/SE] (Genesis 6:17). Killing one who has a ruach or nephesh would not necessarily constitute murder; otherwise animals could not be sacrificed or slaughtered” (1974, 5[3]:34). God’s prohibition against murder carried over even into New Testament times (Matthew 19:18). At the same time, however, God broadened the list of animals that men could kill and eat (Acts 10:9-14). Why was it that men could not kill other men, but could kill animals? The answer lies, of course, in the fact that animals were not created “in the image of God.”
Third, although it is true that at times the Bible uses the same terms to refer to the life principle/force in both humans and animals (e.g. Genesis 7:22), and although it is true that those terms may be used to refer to the immortal soul of humans (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Matthew 10:28), they never are employed by Bible writers to refer to an immortal soul in animals. In their Commentary on the Old Testament, Keil and Delitzsch observed:
The beasts arose at the creative word of God, and no communication of the spirit is mentioned even in ch. ii:19; the origin of their soul was coincident with that of their corporeality, and their life was merely the individualization of the universal life, with which all matter was filled in the beginning by the Spirit of God. On the other hand, the human spirit is not a mere individualization of the divine breath which breathed upon the material of the world, or of the universal spirit of nature; nor is his body merely a production of the earth when stimulated by the creative word of God. The earth does not bring forth his body, but God Himself puts His hand to the work and forms him; nor does the life already imparted to the world by the Spirit of God individualize itself in him, but God breathes it directly into the nostrils of the one man, in the whole fulness of His personality, the breath of life, that in a manner corresponding to the personality of God he may become a living soul (1982, 1:79-80, emp. added).
Man alone was created “in the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:26-27)—something that may not be said of animals. Walker therefore asked: “If the putative parallels either do not exist or are insignificant before God, what then is the critical essence of man that distinguishes him from all of creation, and what are the ramifications of this distinction? The key is found in Genesis 1:26-28, 2:18-25, and 9:5-7; it is that only man is created in the image of God” (1991, 5[2]:22, emp. added). Gary Anderson addressed this same point when he wrote:
Man’s concepts of spiritual values, his recognition of morals and his universal acknowledgement that he is responsible for his own behavior set him far apart from the animal world. That is to say, they have no immortal soul, as the following point documents. The spirit of man returns to God who gave it when one dies (Eccl. 12:7). Such is not said of the animal! Adam is called the son of God in Luke 3:38, obviously by creation. What animal is called the son of God or offspring of God? (1989, p. 76, emp. added).
Nowhere does God’s Word indicate that animals were created in God’s image. As Philip Hughes commented:
Only of man is it said that God created him in his image. It is in this charter of his constitution that man’s uniqueness is specifically affirmed as a creature radically distinguished from all other creatures. In this respect a line is defined which links man directly and responsibly to God in a way that is unknown to any other creature. Nothing is more basic than the recognition that being constituted in the image of God is of the very essence of and absolutely central to the humanness of man. It is the key that unlocks the meaning of his authentic humanity (1989, p. 30, emp. added).
But do animals have souls? Animals may be said to have souls—if the word “soul” is used as the Bible employs it in discussing members of the animal kingdom (i.e., to describe only the physical life force found within all living creatures). But if the word “soul” is used to refer to an immortal soul that one day will inhabit heaven or hell, then no, animals may not be said to possess a soul. This is the only conclusion that can be drawn, respecting the instruction on the subject found within the Word of God.


Anderson, Gary L. (1989), “The Lord...Formeth the Spirit of Man within Him,” In Hope of Eternal Life, ed. Bobby Liddell (Pensacola, FL: Bellview Church of Christ), pp. 70-81.
Brown, Francis, S.R. Driver, and Charles Briggs (1907), A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (London: Oxford University Press).
Fox, Michael (1978), “Man and Nature: Biological Perspectives,” On the Fifth Day, ed. Richard K. Morris and Michael Fox (Washington, D.C.: Acropolis Books).
Hoffman, Frank (1998), “Of Life and Soul,” All Creatures Here Below [Online], URL: http://www.all-creatures.org/book/book-alcr3.html.
Hughes, Philip Edgecumbe (1989), The True Image (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch (1982 reprint), Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
McCord, Hugo (1995), “What is the Soul,” Vigil, 23[11]:87-88, November.
McCord, Hugo (1999), “Do Animals Have Souls?,” personal correspondence.
Pryor, Neale (1974), “Abortion: Soul and Spirit in the Hebrew Language,” Spiritual Sword, 5[3]:33-35, April.
Regan, Tom (1987), The Case for Animal Rights (Clarks Summit, PA: International Society for Animal Rights).
Walker, T. Stuart (1991), “Animal Rights and the Image of God—Part II,” Journal of Biblical Ethics in Medicine, 5[2]:21-27, Spring.