"THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS" Holding Up Under Hard Times (1:3-7) by Mark Copeland


Holding Up Under Hard Times (1:3-7)


1. As Paul began his second epistle to the Thessalonians, he expressed
   a. Thanksgiving which he felt compelled to offer - 2Th 1:3a
   b. Thanksgiving which was fitting - 2Th 1:3b

2. He was thankful regarding their faith and love...
   a. Their faith was growing exceedingly - 2Th 1:3c
   b. Their love toward each other was abounding - 2Th 1:3d

3. Indeed, he was even boastful regarding their faith and patience...
   a. Boasting of them among the churches of God - 2Th 1:4a
   b. Boasting of their faith and patience in the midst of persecution
      - 2Th 1:4b

4. The perseverance of the Thessalonians is certainly worthy of note...
   a. They were a congregation that was born in tribulation - cf. Ac 17:
   b. Persecution evidently continued, yet they endured - 2Th 1:4

[What can we learn from the Thessalonians about "Holding Up Under Hard
Times"?  First of all, they serve as a reminder that...]


      1. Contrary to the promulgators of the gospel of health and
         wealth, who would have us believe that becoming a Christian is
         the key to success in life
      2. Many suffer disappointment because of the trials they face as
         new Christians

      1. Jesus warned His apostles - Jn 15:19-20; 16:33
      2. The apostles warned the disciples - Ac 14:22; 1Th 3:4; 2 Ti 3:12

      1. We are not spared the affects of sin and evil in this world
         a. We still live in a world with sickness and death
         b. We may often suffer the consequences of choices made by
      2. We can anticipate persecution because we are Christians
         a. Our families, friends, and foes may ostracize or even
            physically persecute us
         b. We have an adversary who seeks to devour us - cf. 1Pe 5:8-9

[Be thankful if you seem to be spared trials and tribulations, but be
prepared for difficulties in life that will inevitably come.  From the
example of the Thessalonians we learn that...]


      1. Faith that is:
         a. A strong conviction in things unseen - He 11:1
         b. Created by the Word of God - Ro 10:17
         c. Constantly growing - 2Th 1:3
      2. This is the kind of faith that sustains one in persecution
         a. Remember the faith of Job! - Job 19:25-27
         b. Recall the faith of Habakkuk! - Hab 3:17-19

      1. Love that is:
         a. Taught by God Himself - cf. 1Th 4:9
            1) Through the example of the Father's love - 1Jn 4:9-11
            2) Through the example of the Son's love - 1Jn 3:16
         b. Increasing more and more - cf. 2Th 1:3; 1Th 4:10; 3:12
      2. This is the kind of love that sustains one in hard times
         a. Even as it comforted Paul in his tribulation - 1Th 3:6-7
         b. So we can endure persecution when we are surrounded by
            brotherly love!

      1. Patience that is:
         a. Based upon the hope that we have - Ro 8:25
         b. Developed by reading the Scriptures - Ro 15:4
         b. Needed if we are to receive the promise - He 10:36
         c. Strengthened the more we look unto Jesus - He 12:1-3
      2. This is the kind of patience that makes us even stronger!
         a. It makes us complete, lacking nothing - Jm 1:3-4
         b. Giving us experience, which can strengthen our hope even
            more - Ro 5:3-4

[As long as our faith is growing, our love for one another is abounding,
and our patience remains firm, we will be "Holding Up Under Hard
Times".  We can also take heart in knowing that...]


      1. For God's people who have endured tribulation with faith and
         a. Which is evidence of God's righteous judgment to come - 2 Th 1:4-5
         b. Having been made worthy of the kingdom through their
            suffering - 2Th 1:5
            1) Though we must never forget that it is God who qualifies
               us for the kingdom - cf. Col 1:12
            2) He is the one Who perfects, establishes, strengthens, and
               settles us - 1Pe 5:10
      2. For those who have caused tribulation for His people - 2Th 1:6

      1. Tribulation will come upon them, a righteous recompense - 2 Th 1:6; cf. Ro 2:4-11
      2. Paul will describe the nature of this tribulation more fully in
         2Th 1:8-9

      1. Also a righteous recompense - 2Th 1:6-7
      2. The same rest enjoyed by Paul, Silas, Timothy ("rest with us")!
         - 2Th 1:7
      3. This rest to be given when the Lord is revealed from heaven
         with His mighty angels - cf. 1Th 4:16-17


1. We will consider what more Paul has to say about that great day in
   our next study - cf. 2Th 1:7-10

2. What we have seen so far should help us to endure trials and
   a. Don't be surprise by hard times, God's Word has told us they will
   b. Look to God and His Word for the faith, love, and patience needed
      to sustain us
   c. Anticipate the coming of the Lord, who will bring us rest even as
      He brings judgment upon those who trouble us!

Is your faith growing exceedingly?  Is your love abounding?  Are you
patiently enduring what trials come upon you, looking for the rest to
come when Jesus returns?

Let the Thessalonians be an encouragement to us in "Holding Up Under
Hard Times"!
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Does Mary Intercede for Christians? by Moisés Pinedo


Does Mary Intercede for Christians?

by Moisés Pinedo

It has been argued that “Mary is the creature closest to God. Moreover, while Christ is the mediator of all grace between God and creation, Mary is the mediator of all grace between Christ and humanity. Consequently, Mary is a powerful intercessor for all who turn to her” (see Zoltan, 1994, emp. added). The Bible clearly teaches that Mary is not Deity and should not be worshipped as such (see Pinedo, 2009). If she is not Deity, is she the closest human being to Deity? Does she play an active role in heaven, interceding for individual Christians? Does she make intercession for us in prayer or have an effect on our salvation?


When referring to Deity, the Bible mentions only the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19; cf. Matthew 3:16-17; John 10:30; 17:21; Acts 5:3-4). Mary is never mentioned in that context. Further, the heaven where God and His angels reside (Deuteronomy 10:14; 26:15; 1 Kings 8:27,30) is not yet inhabited by human beings. Jesus said: “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man” (John 3:13, emp. added). These words represent the truth about all the people who have left this world (including Mary). No one is in heaven because heaven is reserved for all faithful servants of God since time began (cf. John 14:1-3). Not until after the Second Coming of Christ and the final Judgment will it become home for the faithful, both living and dead (Matthew 25:31-46;
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
The idea that Mary occupies a special place in heaven, close to the Son, is a tradition. It shows a lack of understanding concerning biblical teachings on the afterlife. In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus explained that the dead (saved and lost) go to a place called “hades” (16:23, Hebrew sheol)—a spiritual waiting place that separates the consolation of the righteous (referred to as “paradise,” cf. Luke 23:43) from the torment of the wicked. In hades, the righteous begin to taste part of the joy that awaits them in eternity, while the wicked begin to taste part of the suffering that awaits them. Hades is not the dwelling place of God; God dwells in heaven. Mary, along with Abraham and other faithful servants from the past, is waiting in hades until its dead are delivered up, when the Lord returns to judge each man and woman according to his or her works (Revelation 20:13). In this spiritual realm that precedes heaven, there is nothing that those who are there can do for those who are here (Luke 16:27-31).


Catholics have given the title of “Intercessor for the Saints” to Mary, although nowhere in the Bible is it applied to her. “Intercession” means “seeking the presence and hearing of God on behalf of others” (Vine, 1966, 2:267). There are only two areas in which Christians need intercession: salvation and prayers. If Mary is now, or ever has been, involved as “Intercessor for the Saints,” there should be ample evidence in Scripture.
Concerning salvation, the apostle Peter clearly stated that “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NASB). Of course, he was referring to Jesus Christ. Paul wrote: “[T]here is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). The Hebrews writer added: “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He [Jesus] always lives to make intercession for them” (7:25). Jesus is the one and onlyMediator (Intercessor) between God and Man, and He lives to continually intercede for those who come to God.
But what about prayer? Does Mary intercede in the prayers of Christians? No, she does not. This intercession also belongs to Jesus. When teaching His disciples to pray to the Father (Matthew 6:9), Jesus did not teach them to pray to (or through) Mary. And yet, Catholicism created a prayer—the “Hail Mary”—to include the words “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death.” In John 14:13-14, Jesus declared: “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (cf. John 16:24). Jesus is the only One Who can mediate or intercede in our prayers, since “[a]ll things that the Father has are [His]” (John 16:15). If all things that the Father has are the Son’s, then what is left for Mary?
The prerogative of intercession supposedly given to Mary also is argued from the fact that she “interceded” before Jesus on behalf of a family at a wedding in Cana because the wine was running out during the celebration (John 2:2-3). This simple, solitary, tiny thread of argumentation, lost in a loom of confusion, has been misused extensively by the supporters of Marianism. By going to Jesus with a request for help, Mary was not intervening on behalf of anyone’s spiritual needs; she only reported the situation to Jesus. Moreover, consider Jesus’ response: “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?” (John 2:4). With these words, He emphasized that Mary’s concerns did not dictate His actions. Whatever He did in Cana that day would be according to God’s will, not because of human or motherlyinfluences or desires.
If the situation recorded in John chapter two establishes Mary as the “Intercessor of the Saints,” what should we conclude from Matthew 8:5-13 and other passages that tell of similar circumstances? In Matthew chapter eight, a centurion “interceded” before Jesus for his servant who was in bed, paralyzed, and greatly tormented. Seeing the centurion’s faith, Jesus performed a miracle and cured the sick servant. Should we consider this centurion as the “Intercessor for the Paralytics, the Sick, and the Tormented”? Should any paralytic, or anyone suffering from physical or mental illness, pray to this man of great faith, asking him to intercede with God on their behalf? [The Bible further condemns the act of invoking the dead (cf. Deuteronomy 18:10-13; 1 Chronicles 10:13-14; Isaiah 8:19).] Neither this centurion, nor Abraham, nor Mary, nor anyone else—living or dead—can intercede before the throne of God in favor of the faithful Christian, except Jesus Christ Himself.


In Luke 1:47, Mary raised her voice and declared: “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (emp. added). If she had a Savior, then she needed salvation. And, if she needed salvation, then she also needed the only Intercessor of salvation—Jesus Christ (Hebrews 7:25). Therefore, Mary’s condition was no different from every human being before or after her. She sinned (Romans 3:23), and she needed the only Intercessor who could make peace between her and God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Colossians 1:20). Just as Jesus “interceded” on behalf of Mary before He died to make sure her physical needs were met (John 19:26-27), He interceded on her behalf to make sure her spiritual needs were met. Mary cannot intercede for any Christian since she, herself, needed intercession.
Finally, although Christians are commanded to pray for one another (1 Thessalonians 5:25; Hebrews 13:18; James 5:16), Jesus is our only Mediator in prayer. Through Him our prayers are answered.


Pinedo, Moisés (2009), “Is Mary the Mother of God?” [On-line], URL:http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/240077.
Vine, W.E. (1966), An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell).
Zoltan, Abraham (1994), “A Detailed Guide to Our Lady’s Rosary,” [On-line], URL:http://www.blessedtrinityorlando.org/rosary.html.

Does Hell Mean God Stops Loving? by Earl Edwards, D.Miss.


Does Hell Mean God Stops Loving?

by Earl Edwards, D.Miss.

The scholar Stephen H. Travis wrote that he considered an endless hell to be “vindictive” and “incompatible with the love of God in Christ” (1980, p. 135). Another author, John M. Wenham, has written, “I cannot see that endless punishment is either loving or just…. It is a doctrine which I do not know how to preach without negating the loveliness and glory of God” (1992, pp. 185-187). F. LaGard Smith has pressed the issue of “why” a “loving God” would “subject any of his creatures to endless torment, fully aware that we are…weak” (2003, p. 191). [Others who have taken similar positions include Edward Fudge (1982), Homer Hailey (2003; posthumously published), Jimmy Allen (2004), and John Clayton (1990), p. 20.]


It should be noted that each of these authors pits the love of God against the concept of endless punishment. Travis emphasizes in a special way that he is speaking of the “love of God in Christ” (emp. added). The others quoted would likely agree, since nearly all who study Jehovah God would concur that the fullest measure of His love was expressed in sending Christ to redeem men. In short, the objection is encapsulated in the concept that the God Who loved man enough to give Jesus to save him cannot be the same God who would consign disobedient men to eternal torment. This latter “god” must, therefore, be one that men have made up in their minds as a result of misunderstanding the passages that describe hell.


Indeed, it is true that God “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). And it was not just the Father Who loved us; the Son loved us and made His own decision to “give Himself up for us” because He walked “in love” also (Ephesians 5:2; cf. John 10:18).  And it is also true that His greatest emphasis as He preached on Earth was on God’s love: “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). However, in the same discourse two verses later, Jesus speaks plainly about judgment: “This is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds are evil” (John 3:19). The “judgment” to which He refers undoubtedly includes hell. In fact, David Pharr was very much on target when he wrote,
What will seem paradoxical to many people, however, is that this same Jesus [who was so loving] had much to say about eternal punishment. The most loving man that ever lived said more about hell than anyone else in the Bible. Indeed, the One who is himself divine love gives the most terrifying of all references as to the horrors of perdition (2005, p. 5).
Notice the dilemma of the authors quoted at the beginning of this article. They would contend God’s great love and eternal punishment cannot consistently dwell together. In fact, notice that Wenham said eternal punishment is “a doctrine which I do not know how to preach without negating the loveliness and glory of God” (p. 135). But his problem is that the same Jesus that He construes to be only about love also frequently preached on eternal punishment. Jesus knew how to “preach” “endless punishment” and that “without negating the loveliness and glory of God.” Maybe Wenham just needs to look at and listen to Jesus more carefully!
In fact, listen to some of what the loving Jesus said about hell (Gehenna):
  1. In Matthew 5:22, Jesus warns us to refrain from using abusive language against our brothers lest we “go into a fiery hell [Gehenna].”
  2. In Matthew 5:28-30, Jesus says that unless one resists the temptations of his flesh (eye, hand, etc.) his “whole body” will “go into hell [Gehenna].”
  3. In Matthew 10:28, He says rather than fearing the one who can only kill your body you should fear “Him [God] Who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna].”
  4. In Matthew 18:9, He again says one must control and resist the temptations of the flesh lest he “be cast into the fiery hell [Gehenna].”
  5. In Matthew 23:15, He warns the scribes and the Pharisees that they are making each of their converts “twice as much a son of hell [Gehenna]” as themselves.
  6. In Matthew 23:33, He asks those same scribes and Pharisees, “How shall you escape the sentence of hell [Gehenna]?”
  7. Mark 9:43 is a parallel to the Matthew 18 statement where Mark tells us Jesus said that one must resist the temptations of the flesh lest he “go into hell [Gehenna], into the unquenchable fire.”
  8. In Mark 9:45 and 47 (the parallel to Jesus’ Matthew 18:9 statement), Jesus warns that one must control his fleshly desires lest he be “cast into hell [Gehenna].”
  9. Luke 12:5 is a similar statement to the one in Matthew 10:28 in which Jesus says one should not fear the one who can kill only the body, rather the “One” who “has the authority to cast into hell [Gehenna].”
Indeed, the loving Jesus says a lot about hell (Gehenna)! In still other passages in which the word Gehenna is not used, He makes obvious reference to it. Observe how He describes it. In Matthew 8:12, He says that the “sons of the kingdom” who turn to disobedience “shall be cast out into the outer darkness [away from Christ—the Light of the world—EE]; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” In Matthew 10:15, Jesus makes it plain that “those who are cast into hell” will undergo a less “tolerable” fate than the infamous cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The lot of those in hell will be worse than being burned up! In Matthew 22:13, Jesus again says that those who are judged to be disobedient will be cast into “outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Undoubtedly, “weeping and gnashing of teeth” indicate a great degree of misery. In Matthew 25:4, Jesus describes those who are condemned because they are disobedient as going “into the eternal [Greek aiōnion) fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.” Later in that discourse (Matthew 25:46), He says the disobedient will “go away into eternal punishment (kólasin aiōnion).”


From Jesus’ descriptions of hell (Gehenna), it is clear it will not be a very desirable place.  But, those scholars quoted at the beginning of this lesson would say their objection is not to hell (Gehenna) as such, it is to hell as a place of unending, everlasting torment. That is the aspect they say absolutely cannot be reconciled with the love of God.
As noted above, Christ says the disobedient will “go away into eternal punishment (kólasin aiōnion); but the righteous into eternal life (zōēn aiōnion)” (Matthew 25:46). Respected Greek scholar A.T. Robertson notes that some scholars would try to limit the duration of the punishment described in this passage. But note his very insightful response:
The word kolasin comes from kolazō, to mutilate or prune. Hence those who cling to the larger hope use this phrase to mean age-long pruning that ultimately leads to salvation of the goats, as disciplinary rather than penal. There is such a distinction as Aristotle pointed out between mōria[vengeance] and kolasis [punishment]. But the same adjective, aiōnios[eternal], is used with kolasin [punishment] and zōēn [life]. If by etymology we limit the scope of kolasin [punishment], we may likewise have only age-long zōēn [life]. There is not the slightest indication in the words of Jesus here that the punishment is not coeval with the life (1930, 1:201-02).
The truth is, Jesus taught that punishment will be endless. [NOTE: For an extensive discussion on biblical terms related to the eternality of hell, see Lyons and Butt, 2005.]
D.A. Carson is correct when he points out that it is foolish to say that eternal punishment and the person and teaching of the loving Jesus cannot be reconciled. In fact, he asks, “Should it not be pointed out that it is the Lord Jesus, of all persons in the Bible, Who consistently and repeatedly uses the most graphic images of hell?” (1996, p. 530, emp. added). Another well-known Protestant scholar, Leon Morris, helpfully concludes, “Why does anyone believe in hell in these enlightened days? Because Jesus plainly taught its existence…. He spoke plainly about hell as well as about heaven, about damnation as well as salvation” (1991, p. 34).


But what is the real problem that causes some to reject endless punishment? It appears to be the same problem that Job had in the long ago. He mistakenly believed that all suffering was due to disobedience and he at first maintained that he had not sinned (at least not in a high-handed way). Therefore, he was tempted to conclude that the God of heaven was unjust and unkind. He, without fully realizing what he was doing, pretended to judge God’s actions. When God finally spoke with him, He asked Job a whole series of questions and Job could not answer even one of them. As Michael Brooks rightly says, though God’s answer “occupies four of our chapters, the argument is essentially finished after four verses” (1992, p. 147).  God says Job was speaking “words without knowledge” (Job 38:2) and asks him where he [Job] was when He “laid the foundation of the earth” (38:4). God asked Job many other questions for which Job had no answer. Job finally accepts that he had “declared that which he did not understand” (42:3), and then he says “I repent in dust and ashes” (42:6). He says this because he finally understood that God’s things “were too wonderful” for him to comprehend (42:3). He had been presumptuous (too proud and self-confident). How, indeed, can a finite being who can’t even see a millionth part of God’s Universe tell the great God who created it all how to define justice like Job tried to do? And, likewise, how can a miserable human who is guilty of sin—spiritual crimes—tell the God Who made him how long punishment can continue without becoming unloving? God forbid that we should be so presumptuous! Let us instead say to God with Job, “I will ask You, and You instruct me” (Job 42:4).


Indeed, as I let God “instruct me,” I will make up my mind as to His nature and His characteristics according to what He says in His revelation, not according to what I might think. I will not make up my own definition of what justice is or what loveshould do.
Now, following that path of His revelation of Himself, I learn that God is not just love, He is also a God of wrath. Indeed, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36, emp. added).  As Paul puts it, we should keep in mind “both the kindness [love–EE] and severity [wrath–EE] of God” (Romans 11:22). It is as the scholar J. Gresham Machen says,
The New Testament clearly speaks of the wrath of God and the wrath of Jesus Himself; and all the teachings of Jesus pre-suppose a divine indignation against sin. With what possible right, then, can those who reject this vital element in Jesus’ teaching and example regard themselves as true disciples of His? The truth is that the modern rejection of the doctrine of God’s wrath proceeds from a light view of sinwhich is totally at variance with the teaching of the whole New Testament and of Jesus Himself (1923, p. 12, emp. added).
God and Christ are not as uninspired men think they are. They are as they tell us they are through those inspired menwho were guided into “all truth” (John 16:13).


The truth is that the “love of God” which, according to some theologians, is inconsistent with “endless punishment,” is not the same “love of God” which is presented in Scripture.  As Carson says,
[T]his widely disseminated belief in the love of God is set with increasing frequency in some matrix other than biblical theology.... I do not think what the Bible says about the love of God can long survive at the forefront of our thinking if it is abstracted from the sovereignty of God, the wrath of God, the providence of God, or the personhood of God—to mention only a few non-negotiable elements of basic Christianity. The result, of course, is that the love of God in our culture has been purged of anything the culture finds uncomfortable. The love of God has been sanitized, democratized, and above all, sentimentalized (2000, p. 9; emp. added).
May God help us to accept our Maker as He is presented in the inspired Word, rather than making up our own version of Him. Our very soul depends on it.
*First presented and published as a part of the Freed-Hardeman University lectureship, February 2007.


Allen, Jimmy (2004), Fire in My Bones (Searcy, AR: Allen).
Brooks, Michael (1992), In Search of Perfection: Studies from Job (Searcy, AR: Resource).
Carson, D. A. (1996), The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Carson, D.A. (2000), The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway).
Clayton, John (1990), Does God Exist? September-October.
Fudge, Edward (1982), The Fire That Consumes (Houston, TX: Providential Press).
Hailey, Homer (2003), God’s Judgments and Punishments (Las Vegas: Nevada Pub).
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2005), “The Eternality of Hell—Parts 1 & 2,” Reason & Revelation, 25:1-16, January-February, http://apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=561.
Machen, J. Gresham (1923), Christianity and Liberalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).
Morris, Leon (1991), “The Dreadful Harvest,” Christianity Today, 35:34, May 27.
Pharr, David R. (2005), “The Teaching of Jesus,” The Spiritual Sword, 36:5-9, January.
Robertson, A. T. (1930), Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman).
Smith, F. LaGard (2003), After Life: A Glimpse of Eternity Beyond Death’s Door(Nashville: Cotswold).
Travis, Stephen (1980), Christian Hope and the Future (Issues in Contemporary Theology) (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity).
Wenham, John W. (1992), “The Case for Conditional Immortality,” Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell, ed. Nigel M. De S. Cameron (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Does God Hate Sinners? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Does God Hate Sinners?

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Most religious people agree that God hates sin. Over and over, the Bible stresses the fact that God despises iniquity. God told the prophet Jeremiah to speak to the Israelites about their sin, saying: “Oh, do not do this abominable thing that I hate!” (44:4). The Proverbs writer listed seven sins the Lord hates (6:16-19). The prophet Zechariah declared that God hates a false oath and evil done to one’s neighbor (8:17). Jesus Himself said that He hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:6). The Bible emphasizes that the Lord hates sin.
Some have suggested that God takes His hatred one step further. They believe that God hates the sinner as well as the sin he or she commits. It has been suggested that God loves those who obey Him, and hates all who disobey. Those who teach this idea use various Bible verses to “prove” their case. For instance, Psalm 5:5 says that God hates “all workers of iniquity.” Proverbs 6:18-19 says that God hates “a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.” Is it true that God hates sinners and their sin?
Any person who has read the Bible understands that one of its greatest themes is love. The Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8). It also explains that God showed His love to us while we were still sinners:
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).
An interesting aspect of this passage is that it stresses that lost sinners were not “righteous” or “good” when Christ demonstrated His love for them.
In the narrative of the rich young ruler, Jesus explained that the young man lacked something necessary to be pleasing to God. Yet even though the young man was lacking and lost, the Bible says that Jesus “loved him” (Mark 10:21). When Jesus mourned over lost Jerusalem, He cried:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (Matthew 23:37).
Jesus said His affection for the lost inhabitants of Jerusalem was like a mother hen’s affection for her chicks. Such a statement obviously denotes love for the sinners in Jerusalem.
In one of the most well-known “love” verses in the Bible, Jesus said: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God’s love for the lost world was shown before the lost believed in Jesus. John further explained this when he wrote: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). From these verses it is clear that God loves lost sinners, and proved that love by sending Jesus.
How, then, can one reconcile the verses that seem to suggest that God hates sinners, but loves them at the same time? One of the most plausible solutions is that the Bible writers are using a figure of speech called metonymy when they write that God hates sinners. Metonymy is defined as: “A figure by which one name or noun is used instead of another, to which it stands in a certain relation” (Bullinger, 1898, p. 538). Bullinger further explains that metonymy can be “of cause,” when the person acting can be put in place of the thing that is done (p. 539). For instance, in Luke 16:29, the text says: “They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.” In reality, they did not have “Moses” or the “prophets,” but they did have their writings. The name Moses is a metonymy that stood for his writings, since he was the cause of the writings. In modern times, that would be like saying, “I hate Shakespeare.” Would the person who said that mean that he hated Shakespeare’s personality? No. We understand he would be saying he does not like the writings of Shakespeare, with no comment on the playwright’s personality.
If we apply that same figure of speech to the passages about God “hating sinners,” we can see that the sinner is put in place of the sin. Thus, when God says He hates “a false witness who speaks lies” (Proverbs 6:19), if metonymy is being used, then God hates the lies, and the one who is doing the lying (the cause) is put in place of the lies (the effect). It is interesting to see how clear this feature can be in other contexts. For instance, Proverbs 6:17 says that God hates “a lying tongue.” Does that mean that God hates a physical tongue, made of muscle and body tissue? No. It means God hates the sin that a tongue can perform. In the same context, we learn that God hates “feet that are swift in running to evil” (6:18). Again, does that mean that God hates physical feet? No. It simply means that God hates the sin that those feet can perform. It is interesting that while few, if any, would suggest that God hates physical tongues or actual feet, they would insist that God hates actual sinners and not the sin done by them.
When studying the Bible, it is very important to keep in mind that the Bible writers often used figures of speech. When we look at the idea that God hates sin, but loves sinners, the figure of speech known as metonymy clears up the confusion. Just as God does not hate physical feet or tongues, He does not hate sinners. These nouns are put in the place of the things they cause—sin.


Bullinger, E.W. (1898), Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), 1968 reprint.

Does God "Create" Evil? by Wayne Jackson, M.A.


Does God "Create" Evil?

by Wayne Jackson, M.A.

[NOTE: During the February 12, 2009 Darwin Day debate with Kyle Butt, Dan Barker listed 14 alleged Bible discrepancies as evidence against God’s existence. He insisted (seven minutes and 25 seconds into his opening speech) that the Bible gives contradictory descriptions of God’s being good, yet creating evil. His allegation is refuted in the following article written by Wayne Jackson in 1982.]


The text of Isaiah 45:7 seems to indicate that God “creates evil.” Is this correct?
In Isaiah 45:7, the prophet wrote of God: “I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I am Jehovah, that doeth all these things.” On occasion, unbelievers appeal to this verse in an attempt to involve the Bible in a moral difficulty, since the text seems to suggest that God “created” evil. How should a Christian respond to such a charge?
First of all, the verse can have no reference to moral evil (wickedness) for such is opposed to the infinitely holy nature of God (Isaiah 6:3). Jehovah is a “God of faithfulness and without iniquity”(Deuteronomy 32:4). He is “not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness” (Psalm 5:4). Nor can it be supposed that this verse has to do with Jehovah’s original creation, for at the termination of the creation week, the Lord saw “everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).
The context of Isaiah 45:7, along with several passages of similar import, reveals the truth of the matter. Jehovah—through the prophet Isaiah—prophetically announced to King Cyrus of Persia (a century-and-a-half before the monarch’s birth!) His intention of using this pagan king as an instrument of His holy will. Within Isaiah 45:1-7 is a majestic affirmation of the universal sovereignty of the Almighty God; indeed, there is none like Him (vs. 5). He thus affirms: “I form light, and create darkness [i.e., control nature]; I make peace, and create evil [i.e., exercise control over the nations]; I am Jehovah that doeth all these things.”
Notice how the word “evil” is used in obvious contrast to “peace.” Isaiah simply was stating that Jehovah has the power to cause peaceful conditions to exist, or to bring about evil (i.e., destruction). Consider another verse. God warned the Israelites that if they made an alliance with Egypt, He would bring evil upon them [i.e., punishment (cf. Isaiah 31:1-2)]. Again, in describing the coming judgment upon ancient Babylon, the prophet declared: “Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shall not know the dawning thereof and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it away; and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou knoweth not” (Isaiah 47:11). Thus, the evil that God sent was a desolation—a desolation due on account of their wickedness!
Scholars have observed that “evil” can be used with a purely secular meaning to denote physical injury (Jeremiah 39:12), or times of distress (Amos 6:3)—which is its significance in Isaiah 45:7 (see Harris, et al., 1980, 2:855).


Harris, R.L. G.L. Archer, and B.K. Waltke, (1980), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody).

An Introduction to Bible Silence by Trevor Bowen


An Introduction to Bible Silence

Note: This article is designed to be a gentle introduction to the concept and significance of Bible silence. It is not intended to answer every question or argument on this topic. A more detailed presentation and answering of objections is available in the article, Do The Silence of Scriptures Prohibit or Permit?
Have you ever heard someone ask, “Where is your Bible authority for that?” The very word, “authority”, suggests permission or justification. Therefore, this question implies the need for permission from God before we should do anything as individuals or as the church. In general, how would you respond to this question? A reply commonly offered is, “Where is the verse that says it’s wrong?” This response indicates an opposite attitude toward the Bible and God. The first questioner is looking for explicit permission, while the second person is only avoiding whatever is explicitly prohibited. This difference in attitude is most obvious in our interpretation of the Bible’s silence.
The Bible does not refer to many things specifically, such as: church buildings, instrumental music, song books, dance teams, water fountains, gymnasiums, and many other modern church practices. On these things, we might say the Bible is “silent”. But, how does God expect us to interpret this silence? What should it mean to us? Should we assume that silence gives us permission, implying that we should only avoid those things condemned? Or, should we assume that silence does not permit, implying that we should only practice that which has been authorized? Either choice presents some challenges.

Three Answers

Frequently, the question of Bible silence is presented as a dilemma, a problem with only two solutions. However, such presentation is a false dilemma, because it overlooks a third option, a middle ground. One extreme is that silence generally - if not always permits. Others would contend that silence generally - if not always prohibits. However, there is a third option that suggests the answer is not so simple, because the true answer depends on other factors. Silence alone is not telling, because it is simply that - silence, nothing, the absence of information. Silence only becomes meaningful, when it is observed with other relevant Bible facts. The purpose of this article is two-fold: to first show the error and unscripturalness of the notion that silence generally permits, and to second show the Bible’s case for a particular form of silence that does prohibit. (The extreme position that silence always prohibits is not examined here for brevity.) The first key to a proper understanding of Scripture is to realize that all cases of silence are not the same!

Two Kinds of Silence

There are two kinds of silence found in the Bible, and it is critical to recognize the distinction. Possibly the most prevalent type of silence in Scripture is that created by categorical or generic reference. In this case, the Scriptures address a topic with broad, general language without enumerating every possible specific application. For example, in regards to work ethic Christians are generally commanded to “work in quietness and eat their own bread” (II Thessalonians 3:12). Although the Lord did not specify every type of work imaginable by which we may provide for ourselves, our families, and others (I Timothy 5:816Ephesians 4:28), He did categorically or generically authorize most types of work, assuming whatever work we find does not violate some other directive. (For example, being a robber or any other career criminal would not be acceptable, because we are to generally obey the laws of the land, and we must not steal, Romans 13:1-5Ephesians 4:28). Therefore, a person might honorably work as an engineer, machinist, accountant, pharmacist, clerk, nurse, teacher, doctor, and so on, even though the Scriptures are “silent” on these specific career options.
The second kind and most debated form of silence is that created by positive specific directives. In this case, the Scriptures specify a certain option, but they do not specifically forbid every other alternative. For example, in worship we are specifically authorized to “sing and make melody in your heart”“on the first day of the week ... lay something aside”“come together to eat ... the Lord’s Supper”“continue steadfastly ... in prayers”“teach and preach”(Ephesians 5:19I Corinthians 16:1-211:20-34Acts 2:425:42). However, we are not specifically forbidden from introducing mechanical instruments, dancing, incense, community fundraisers, fellowship meals, gymnasiums, entertainment, and many other popular modern acts of worship. Does the positive specific pattern of New Testament worship inherently exclude these competing options, or must the Lord forbid them before we will reject them? Many today proceed with these additions citing the absence of prohibition, arguing that silence permits. Is this fair, true, or Biblical? Let us consider one example from Scripture of someone, who attempted to act on God’s silence.

When Did I Ever Say?

In many ways, David was perhaps the greatest king of Israel. God declared David to be “a man after His own heart” (I Samuel 13:14). Yet, David was far from perfect (II Samuel 11:1-12:23). Although David often acted with the noblest of intentions (I Samuel 24:1-22I Chronicles 11:18-1921:22-25), he was known at least once to have behaved presumptuously, which ultimately cost the life of another man (I Chronicles 13:1-1415:1-15II Samuel 6:1-8). In the following passage, we find King David again acting somewhat hastily and being corrected by God:
Now it came to pass, when David was dwelling in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under tent curtains.” Then Nathan said to David, “Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.” But it happened that night that the word of God came to Nathan, saying, “Go and tell My servant David, Thus says the LORD: “You shall not build Me a house to dwell in. For I have not dwelt in a house since the time that I brought up Israel, even to this day, but have gone from tent to tent, and from one tabernacle to another. Wherever I have moved about with all Israel, have I ever spoken a word to any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people, saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?”’ (I Chronicles 17:1-6, see also, II Samuel 7:1-7)
In addition to forbidding David from building the temple, the Lord also rebuked David for thinking he could or should have built Him a temple. In correcting David, the Lord Himself emphasized a proper respect for His silence: “Wherever ... have I ever spoken a word to anyone ... saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?’” (II Samuel 7:7). The Lord had authorized the construction of a tent, the tabernacle (Exodus 25:9-27:21). That was the pattern that God defined and His people had observed under His supervision: “For I have not dwelt in a house since the time that I brought the children of Israel up from Egypt, even to this day, but have moved about in a tent and in a tabernacle” (II Samuel 7:6). Alternatives to this pattern were not explicitly forbidden. Where was the verse that condemned building a temple for the Lord? Where was the verse that said the Israelites should only ever use the tabernacle?Nowhere in Scripture did God prohibit people from constructing a permanent house for Him. Moreover, God did not point to a passage that in any way precluded such a building. Instead, God pointed to the absence of positive authority in conjunction with His existing, approved pattern, which was the tabernacle! In light of God’s established pattern, the absence of further positive approval was necessarily prohibitive! This is the essence of a healthy respect for God’s silence in Scripture as established and articulated by God Himself - “Wherever have I ever spoken a word to anyone?”! If silence generally permits, then why did God chastise David with it?

The Failure of Good Intentions

If ever there was a man that could claim that he sought the Lord’s glory and operated according to a good heart, it would be David, who was divinely recognized as “a man after His own heart” (I Samuel 13:14). Even in the above instance, we see David’s noble, humble, and selfless heart shining:
Now it came to pass when the king was dwelling in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies all around, that the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains.” (II Samuel 7:1-2)
Why did David want to build the Lord a permanent house, a temple? First, notice the occasion: David had been tremendously blessed with peace from war and unrest. No longer was he desperately roaming through countryside, dwelling in the rocky strongholds, while evading Saul or hiding from the Philistines (I Samuel 18-30). David was quietly resting each night in a secured house, and not just any house, but a “a house of cedar, which would suggest both wealth and strength! This would have been a time of great thanksgiving from David, “the sweet psalmist of Israel” (II Samuel 23:1).
Second, David contrasted his own dwelling with that of the Lord (“I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains”). This was an obvious disparity in honor, station, and glory. If there was ever any house that should have been exalted, it should have been the Lord’s house, because the Lord exalted King David, not David himself!
Third, the tent-like tabernacle was a suitable house of worship for a nomadic nation, who were wandering in the wilderness or conquering the land of Canaan. But, once the people settled, why would their house of worship not also settle? Their king had moved into a permanent dwelling. Why would they not honor God in a permanent dwelling? How better to extol, solidify, and promote the great and victorious God and the settlement of His people than a solid, stable, permanent dwelling?
David’s thinking was pure, humble, and sensible, but yet it was not the Lord’s wisdom or will (“You shall not build Me a house to dwell in.”)! David exhibited the sincerest of motives that were focused earnestly on the Lord’s glory, but his good intentions did not justify his plan. Well meaning intentions simply do not vindicate our actions. Our best of motives does not warrant, indicate, or guarantee God’s approval of our decisions. Only God’s Word is our standard and our judge; therefore, only it can authorize!
“He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him -- the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. (John 12:48)
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (II Timothy 2:15)
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (II Timothy 3:16-17)
Did David not have good intentions? Who can deny that David’s intentions were pure? Even the Lord acknowledged David’s noble heart in this very case:
“Now it was in the heart of my father David to build a temple for the name of the LORD God of Israel. But the LORD said to my father David, ‘sWhereas it was in your heart to build a temple for My name, you did well that it was in your heart. Nevertheless you shall not build the temple, but your son who will come from your body, he shall build the temple for My name.’” (I Kings 8:17-19)
If good intentions and pure motives make something right, then why was David forbidden from building the Lord a glorious house?

Blind Leading the Blind

Reading the above passage again, please notice that David did not act entirely on his own or without advice or counsel. David consulted Nathan, a prophet of God (II Samuel 7:2-4)! However, the prophet did not warn or correct David. Furthermore, the prophet was implicitly corrected by God in His response to David. How could a prophet of God mislead? It is not supposed to be possible (Deuteronomy 18:19-22)! Yet, prophets were men, and if they provided their own human counsel, they could fail just like uninspired men, which is what Nathan did here. Nathan personally concluded that David’s plans would please the Lord, since the Lord had previously shown approval to David in general:
Then Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you.” (II Samuel 7:3)
Therefore, we should take notice and learn: Even well-known, respected, and cherished spiritual advisors may lead us astray, if they do not speak from the Word of the Lord! If the advice from an inspired prophet of God needed to be reinforced with authority from God (“Thus says the LORD”), how much more important is it to require Bible authority from uninspired men, who would counsel us today? Just because our preacher, pastor, bishop, parent, or friend tells us what he thinks is God’s will, we should not simply assume that it is God’s will, regardless of how much love, esteem, or respect we hold for him or her. Instead, we must be like the noble-minded Bereans:
Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. (Acts 17:10-12)
Again, if the Bereans were divinely commended for double-checking the apostle Paul, how much more critical is it for us to double-check uninspired men today? Who will ever teach us with so great a reputation for integrity, sacrifice, and endurance as the apostle Paul (II Corinthians 11:16-33)? And, yet even his words were compared with established Scripture! Beware the teacher who expects you to accept him as an authority, just because he said so, especially apart from the established will of God (Galatians 1:6-8)!
Let us not forget our Lord’s somber warning:
“Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.” (Matthew 15:14)


The proper interpretation of Bible silence is hotly debated, although it need not be. The Scriptures themselves - even God Himself personally articulated His expected and correct rule for interpreting His silence. When contrasted with an established Bible pattern (for example, the tabernacle), silence or the lack of further approval necessarily prohibits (“Wherever have I ever spoken a word to anyone?”)! Contrariwise, if silence is always permissive, then why did God use it to correct and limit David? Why did He not point to the passage to be violated by David’s plan? Therefore, we conclude the absence of additional authority in conjunction with existing authority necessarily excludes us from going further and practicing what is not authorized. In such cases, Bible silence is limiting! Furthermore, we have also seen from the same passage the utter failure of good intentions to justify our presumptuous plans. And, we have also received warning not to entrust the interpretation of God’s Word to any man. We need to be like the noble-minded Bereans and study God’s Word - the Bible - for ourselves, because men, even good intentioned men, may inadvertently lead us into the ditch (Acts 17:11II Timothy 2:15). But, into the ditch we will both fall regardless of anyone’s intentions, if we are not careful to study the Bible for ourselves!
The Lord’s correction of David in I Chronicles 17:1-6 and II Samuel 7:6-7 has been recorded for all of us to learn (I Corinthians 10:11Romans 15:4). The Lord corrected David, as He still corrects and warns each of us today through this inspired account. Will we heed the correction, like David, or will we proceed with any of our potentially unauthorized plans that we may have added to the Lord’s revealed pattern? Please, let us pause, meditate, and pray as we consider this passage and reflect on our own hearts and decisions. The pure heart is ultimately exonerated in how it receives correction, as did David. Will we be presumptuous, or will we prove ourselves to be a “a man after God’s own heart”?
... If you still have questions or are not persuaded, please study the verses and thoughts found in our follow-up article, Do The Silence of Scriptures Prohibit or Permit? It demonstrates this same point from a multitude of passages, showing that a proper respect for Bible silence is upheld all throughout the Bible! And, that article also takes the time to answer common objects to each proof-text. Also, please feel free to contact us with any feedback, suggestions, comments, or questions.
Trevor Bowen