"THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS" The Falling Away Must Come (2:1-3) by Mark Copeland


The Falling Away Must Come (2:1-3)


1. Paul's epistles to the Thessalonians have much to say about the
   coming of Christ...
   a. Every chapter in 1st Thessalonians makes some reference to His
   b. We have seen Paul refer to that great day coming in 2Th 1:7-10

2. It appears that misconceptions existed in the church at
   a. At least some were being told that the day of Christ had come
   b. Paul writes to reassure them such was not the case - 2Th 1:1-2

3. Paul explains that before the Lord returns, two events must take
   a. The "falling away" will come first - 2Th 2:3
   b. The "man of sin" will be revealed - 2Th 2:3

[In this study, I would like for us to focus our attention on the
"falling away" as described in the Bible, as fulfilled in history, and
its implication for us today.  Let's start with the fact...]


      1. It would occur after Paul's departure (death?) - Ac 20:29a
      2. It would be affected by forces outside and within the church
         - Ac 20:29b-30

      1. In latter times some would depart from the faith - 1Ti 4:1-2
      2. Examples of the doctrines taught by the apostates are given
         - 1Ti 4:3

      1. There will be false teachers - 2Pe 2:1
      2. Many would follow their destructive ways - 2Pe 2:2

[The Scriptures are clear that a "falling away" or "apostasy" would
occur.  Did it happen?  Unfortunately, it did...]


      1. John described it in his epistle
         a. Telling of "antichrists" who had gone out from them - 1Jn 
         b. Warning of "false prophets" who were already in the world
            - 1Jn 4:1-3
         -- Who were teaching false doctrines about the nature of Christ
      2. Jude described it in his epistle
         a. Certain men had crept in unnoticed - Jude 4a
         b. Ungodly men who turn the grace of God into lewdness - Jude 4b
         -- Who were denying the authority of Jesus Christ

      1. One of the first changes involved local church organization
         a. From self-governing congregations with a plurality of
            bishops (elders) over each congregation - cf. Ac 14:23;
            20:17,28; Tit 1:5-9; 1Pe 5:1-2
         b. To a distinction between bishops and elders in which
            individual bishops had oversight of geographical areas and
            multiple churches (ca. 150 A.D.)
      2. Other changes were slowly introduced, as traditions of men took
         precedence over the Word of God
         a. Clergy-Laity distinction, borrowed from the OT Jewish
            priesthood concept
         b. Religious holidays, such as Easter; then later, Christmas
            (3rd, 4th century)
         c. Pouring, then sprinkling, in place of immersion for baptism
            (251 A.D.)
         d. Church councils, meetings in which doctrinal matters were
            decided (325 A.D.)
         e. Creeds, statements of beliefs developed by church councils
         f. Instrumental music (first used in the 5th century)
         -- Other doctrines developed along the way, such as original
            sin, infant baptism, penance, millenialism, veneration of

      1. Appeals to "reformation" did not work
         a. Despite efforts of Luther, Calvin, etc., to reform the Roman
            Catholic church
         b. Their followers simply created a myriad of denominations,
            keeping some of the human traditions, and adding new ones of
            their own
      2. Appeals to new "revelation" have not worked
         a. Several have appealed to "modern-day" revelation, believing
            it to be the solution to the religious confusion
         b. Such efforts have only added to the confusion, with such
            religions as Mormons, Christian Science, Seventh-Day
            Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and many Pentecostal
      3. The only solution that has a hope of working is "restoration"
         a. Like Ezra and Nehemiah did when they restored the Jewish
            worship after the Babylonian exile - cf. Neh 8:1-18
         b. Like John the Baptist did when he prepared the people for
            the coming of the Lord - cf. Lk 1:13-17
         c. I.e., restoring the hearts of the people back to the Word of
            1) Taking heed to the Word of God is the only way to prevent
               apostasy - cf. He 2:1-4; Ac 20:32
            2) Restoring ourselves back to the Word of God is the only
               way to return from apostasy!

[A survey of church history confirms that a falling away from the New
Testament pattern has occurred, exactly as foretold by the apostles.
While it is always possible to be restored back to the New Testament
church, we should never forget that...]


      1. The Scriptures are filled with warnings against falling away
         a. Not just of a general apostasy, such as in our text
         b. But of individual apostasies as well - e.g., 1Ti 1:19-20;
            He 6:4-6; 2Pe 2:19-22
      2. Therefore we need to heed the warnings!
         a. To give the more earnest heed, lest we drift - He 2:1-3
         b. To not develop a heart of unbelief - He 3:12
         c. To not becoming hardened by sin - He 3:13
         d. To hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end
            - He 3:14; 6:11

      1. With the rise of Catholicism, and the development of
      2. Previous restoration efforts have often reverted back to
         a. As with many in the Stone-Campbell movement
         b. E.g., the development of the Christian Church-Disciples of
            Christ denomination

      1. The pull of the world continues to draw many Christians away
         a. Just as it did with Demas - 2Ti 4:10
         b. So the love of money causes many to stray from the faith
            - 1Ti 6:9-10
      2. The appeal of denominationalism and sectarianism continues to
         have their affect
         a. E.g., the development of the International Church of Christ
         b. E.g., many "mainstream" churches of Christ developing the
            "Church of Christ" denomination
         c. I also see the beginning of a "Non-Institutional Church of
            Christ" denomination (as reflected in the question, "Can
            someone help me locate an NI Church?")


1. The "falling away" of which Paul wrote appears to have come...
   a. There has certainly been a general departure from the faith and
      practice of the NT
   b. This apostasy is clear to anyone familiar with the pattern of the
      NT church

2. But the danger of "falling away" is an ever present one...
   a. It has happened once and again, many times
   b. It happened to those who were once restored, it can happen to us
      just as easily

3. Apostasy rarely happens overnight...
   a. The path to departure is usually gradual, hardly noticed by those
   b. It begins with a mindset, develops through a pattern of speech
   c. It is encouraged by a desire to be like the world, rather than to
      be as God would have us

To avoid apostasy, make sure our hearts have been restored to the Word
of God, then give earnest heed to the Word lest we drift away!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Elders, Deacons, Timothy, and Wine by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Elders, Deacons, Timothy, and Wine

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Paul’s instructions pertaining to the qualifications of elders and deacons have created misunderstanding regarding the use of alcoholic beverages. Elders are not to be “given to wine” (1 Timothy 3:3), while deacons are not to be “given to much wine” (1 Timothy 3:8). Translations further obscure the matter by their variety of terminology. The ASV has “no brawler” (vs. 3) and “not given to much wine” (vs. 8). The NIV has “not given to much wine” (vs. 3) and “not indulging in much wine” (vs. 8). The NASB has “not addicted to wine” (vs. 3) and “not addicted to much wine” (vs. 8). So the question is: does 1 Timothy 3:8 sanction moderate alcohol use?
The phrase in verse three consists of two Greek words (me paroinos) and, literally translated, means “not beside, by, or at wine” (Vine, 1966, p. 146; Robertson, 1934, p. 613). The phrase is enjoining abstinence, and perhaps even the act of situating oneself in the presence of people and places where the consumption of alcoholic beverages is occurring. The ASV translated the expression “brawler” to emphasize the violent behavior that proceeds from the use of alcohol. Calling for elders to be abstinent is consistent with other terms used in the same listing: nephalion (1 Timothy 3:2)—“free from intoxicants” and “abstinent in respect to wine” (Perschbacher, 1990, p. 284), and sophrona (Titus 1:8)—“of a sound mind, temperate” (Perschbacher, p. 400), “soberminded” (Moulton and Milligan, 1930, p. 622), “self-controlled” (Arndt and Gingrich, 1957, p. 810). Elders must refrain from the use of intoxicants, and they must not associate with places and people who do use them.
In verse eight, the four words used to qualify deacons on this point (me oino pollo prosechontas) are literally translated “not wine much occupied with” (cf. Perschbacher, p. 352; Spain, 1970, p. 64). Does the use of the word “much” mean that deacons may imbibe a moderate amount of wine? At least three alternative interpretations are possible.
First, when Solomon said, “Do not be overly wicked” (Ecclesiastes 7:17—NKJV[“overwicked”—NIV; “overmuch wicked”—ASV]), did he mean to imply that a person can, with God’s approval, be moderately wicked? When Peter noted that pagans do not understand why Christians do not engage in the “same excess of riot” (1 Peter 4:4), did he mean moderate rioting was appropriate? In other words, language can forthrightly condemn an excessive indulgence or great amount of an action without implying that the action is permissible in a lesser amount or to a lesser degree. One cannot assume that what is unlawful in excess is lawful in smaller amounts. We can refer to a person’s frequent involvement in a certain activity (e.g., adultery) without intending to leave the impression that a more moderate participation in the action would be proper. Albert Barnes addressed this point succinctly:
It is not affirmed that it would be proper for the deacon, any more than the bishop, to indulge in the use of wine in small quantities, but it is affirmed that a man who is much given to the use of wine ought not, on any consideration, to be a deacon (1977, p. 148).
The word in verse eight translated “given to” (KJV, NKJV, ASV), or “indulging in” (NIV), or “addicted to” (RSV), is prosecho. It is used elsewhere in 1 Timothy (1:4) and in Titus (1:14) to refer to those who “give heed to” (KJV), or “occupy themselves with” (RSV), or “pay attention to” (NASB) Jewish myths. Who would draw the conclusion that Paul intended to encourage Christians to give some attention to Jewish myths, just not too much attention?
Consequently, Paul was spotlighting an individual who is known for drinking freely of alcoholic beverages. He was saying that no such person should be put into the eldership. A parallel would be to make an observation about a person who carouses and parties every night—“do not put such a man into the eldership!” But the speaker hardly would mean that one who parties less frequently, say on weekends only, would be acceptable. Paul no more intended to suggest that leaders in the church who use small amounts of alcohol are suited to their role than Mosaic law would have permitted priests to do so (Leviticus 10:9). Barnes commented: “The way in which the apostle mentions the subject here would lead us fairly to suppose that he did not mean to commend its use in any sense” (1977, p. 144).
A second possibility is that the terminology that Paul used was a loose form of speech (Bacchiocchi, 1989, p. 250). Both Greek and Hebrew manifest such tendencies. For example, “three days and three nights” was a loose form of speech used in antiquity to refer to two days and a portion of a third (Bullinger, 1898, pp. 845-847; Robertson, 1922, pp. 289-291). Later in the same letter, Paul instructed Timothy to “use a little wine” for his stomach and infirmities (5:23). It is not a foregone conclusion that the “wine” Paul commended to Timothy was inebriating, since evidence from antiquity exists to suggest that he was referring to the addition of grape juice to Timothy’s drinking water for medicinal purposes (see Lees, 1870, p. 374). Even if, however, Paul meant for Timothy to add fermented (i.e., intoxicating) juice to his diet, he nevertheless implied: (1) that Timothy had been abstinent up to that point; (2) that the quantity he was now to add to his diet was to be “a little”; (3) that the juice was to be diluted with water; (4) that its use was strictly medicinal in nature—not social, casual, or recreational; and (5) that it took the directive of an apostle for Timothy to introduce its use into his life and body. [Incidentally, one must not automatically assume that it was the wine that possessed medicinal properties. The wine may have simply been the antiseptic means to purify the polluted water that Timothy had been drinking by killing germs and bacterial organisms, thereby reducing their ill effect on Timothy’s fragile stomach—in which case, Paul was not commending wine; he was commending a method for cleansing contaminated water]. If Paul sanctioned the use of alcohol only on the qualifications that it was in small quantities, and that it was for medicinal purposes, why would he then turn right around and sanction deacons drinking alcohol in larger amounts—avoiding only excess?
The inconsistency of this viewpoint becomes exceedingly apparent when one compares Paul’s instructions to different Christians:
Elders (1 Timothy 3:2-3)—abstain (nephalios); don’t even be near it (me paroinon)
Deacons (1 Timothy 3:8)—drink moderately (me oino pollo)
Wives (1 Timothy 3:11)—abstain (nephalious)
Aged men (Titus 2:2)—abstain (nephalious)
Aged women (Titus 2:3)—drink moderately (me oino pollo)
In view of these inconsistencies, “much wine” must be a loose form of speech intended to express complete restraint in the use of wine.
A third possible interpretation of this verse concerns the meaning of the term “wine.” Unlike the English word (which always connotes an alcoholic beverage), the Greek word oinos is a generic term that includes all forms of the grape (cf. Lees, 1870, pp. 431ff.). The term oinos was used by the Greeks to refer to unfermentedgrape juice every bit as much as fermented juice. Consequently, the interpreter must examine the biblical context in order to determine whether fermented or unfermented liquid is intended. In light of this realization, some have suggested that Paul instructed the elders to refrain completely from alcoholic beverages, while deacons, on the other hand, were being instructed to engage in a moderate use of nonalcoholic grape juice. At least three lines of argumentation are evident for this interpretation.
First, in the Old Testament, the generic Hebrew term that is equivalent to oinos is yayin. Some passages praise the ingestion of yayin (Song of Solomon 5:1; Psalm 104:15; Ecclesiastes 9:7), while others condemn it (Proverbs 20:1; 31:4). The only plausible explanation is that the former is a reference to grape juice, while the latter is a reference to grape juice that has been transformed into an alcoholic beverage.
Second, only in Timothy and Titus is the word “much” used—as if the secret to pleasing God lies in the quantity of liquid ingested. If fermented juice were intended, the same distinction surely would have been made in the Old Testament. No such distinction is made. But if nonalcoholic grape juice is intended in Timothy and Titus, the intent of the qualification shifts from the level of intoxication to the matter of liquid gluttony. In that case, Paul intended to require moderation in the intake of nonalcoholic liquids.
Third, biblical warnings against the excessive intake of food and liquid are legion (e.g., Deuteronomy 21:20; Proverbs 23:20; 1 Corinthians 11:21-22; Titus 1:12). Solomon even applied the principle to honey (Proverbs 25:27). To understand Paul to be enjoining moderate use of a good gift from God (i.e., grape juice) is consistent with the context that is riddled with references to self-control, temperance, and moderation (e.g., 1 Timothy 3:2,11). It also fits the social conditions extant in Greco-Roman culture in which intemperance was rampant.
In addition to the above considerations, one must keep in mind that even if it could be proved that God sanctioned moderate drinking of alcoholic beverages in the Bible, it does not follow that God sanctions drinking modern “wine,” since the wine referred to in the Bible was unlike the wine of our day. Wine in antiquity was far less potent. One would have had to ingest large quantities in order to receive even minimal alcoholic content. The ancients typically had to add drugs to their drinks to increase their intoxicating potency. In light of all these considerations, the view that maintains that deacons may drink moderate amounts of alcoholic beverages is precarious, dangerous, and biblically unsubstantiated.


Arndt, William and F.W. Gingrich (1957), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
Bacchiocchi, Samuele (1989), Wine in the Bible (Berrien Springs, MI: Biblical Perspectives).
Barnes, Albert (1977 reprint), Notes on the New Testament: Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus and Philemon (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Bullinger, E.W. (1898), Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1968 reprint).
Lees, Frederic R. (1870), The Temperance Bible-Commentary (New York: Weed, Parsons, and Co.).
Moulton, James and George Milligan (1930), Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament Illustrated from the Papyri and Other Non-literary Sources (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982 reprint).
Perschbacher, Wesley J., ed. (1990), The New Analytical Greek Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Robertson, A.T. (1922), A Harmony of the Gospels (New York: Harper and Row).
Robertson, A.T. (1934), A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Nashville, TN: Broadman).
Spain, Carl (1970), The Letters of Paul to Timothy and Titus (Austin, TX: Sweet).
Vine, W.E. (1966 reprint), An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell).

Egyptian Magicians, Snakes, and Rods by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Egyptian Magicians, Snakes, and Rods

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Most everyone who has ever read the biblical account of the ten plagues in Egypt cannot help but remember the scene in which Moses and Aaron threw down their rod that became a snake, and Pharoah’s magicians imitated the feat. The biblical account states:
And Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent. But Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers; so the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments (Exodus 7:10-11).
In regard to this account, many have wondered how the magicians of Egyptian could have possessed the miraculous power to imitate the sign that God had given to Moses and Aaron. Did the magicians truly possess supernatural powers by which they could convince Pharaoh, or could there be some other explanations for the events that transpired with the rods? In regard to these questions, the biblical text does not definitively offer any conclusive answers. There are, however, other clues that seem to indicate that the Egyptian magicians used sleight-of-hand trickery devoid of supernatural ability.
Egyptians have long used the snake in their religious and ceremonial rituals. Many murals, ancient Egyptian paintings and carvings, and written texts portray this animal in connection with ancient Egyptian snake charmers, magicians, and even Pharaohs. In fact, many of the golden burial casts used to intern the ancient Egyptian kings have a sculpture of a snake coming from the forehead of the regal personality. Furthermore, the snake is commonly associated with certain gods of ancient Egypt. In regard to this affinity for the serpentine, the ancient Egyptians often used snakes in charming ceremonies and other practices. Due to this close association with the creature, they would certainly have become quite skilled at capturing, handling, and displaying snakes.
In their celebrated commentary series on the Old Testament, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown comment on the incident between Moses and Aaron and the Egyptian magicians:
The magicians of Egypt in modern times have long been celebrated adepts in charming serpents; and particularly by pressing the nape of the neck they throw them into a kind of catalepsy, which renders them stiff and immoveable, thus seeming to change them into a rod. They conceal the serpent about their person, and by acts of legerdemain produce it from their dress, stiff and straight as a rod. Just the same trick was played off by their ancient predecessors.... [A]nd so it appears they succeeded by their “enchantments” in practicing an illusion on the senses (2002, 1:295, Exodus 7:11-14).
The idea that a skilled magician could use a snake in such a way is no novel concept in the world of magic tricks. Walter Gibson, in his book Secrets of Magic, states that there is a certain type of snake that can be made motionless by applying pressure just below its head. Gibson also notes that the particular species of snake suitable for this stunt happens to be the naja haje (or haja), otherwise known as the Egyptian Cobra (as cited in “Case Studies,” n.d.). Along similar lines, Rod Robison, a comedy magician from Tucson, wrote: “Turning a rod into a snake, for instance, is easily accomplished by the same method modern day magicians turn a cane into a flower or handkerchief. I’ve seen the ‘cane to snake’ performed by magician Allan Rassco. Believe me, it’s impressive” (1999).
In truth, there is nothing inherent in the biblical text that would suggest that these magicians possessed any supernatural powers. Sleight-of-hand trickery can easily account for the “powers” possessed by the Egyptian magicians. While the magicians could at least make it look like they possessed amazing abilities, they could not withstand the power of the Almighty God. Their feeble attempts to mimic the miracle performed by Moses and Aaron was thwarted when God manifested His power by causing the rod of Moses and Aaron to consume all the other rods of the magicians (Exodus 7:12).


“Case Studies” (no date), [On-line], URL: http://www.autobahn.mb.ca/~ggilbey/para7.html.
Jamieson, Robert, A.R. Fausset, and David Brown (2002 reprint), A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Robison, Rod (1999), “But I Saw Him Levitate!”, [On-line], URL: http://www.dtl.org/article/robison/levitate.htm.

Dying Before Baptism? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Dying Before Baptism?

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

The New Testament clearly states that water baptism is necessary for salvation (see Lyons and Butt, 2004). But one of the most frequently used arguments against the necessity of baptism for salvation is the idea that “God would not do that.” The question is asked, “What if a sincere believing person is on his way to be baptized and dies right before he gets to the water? Are you telling me that God would send that person to hell just because he did not make it to the water?” At first glance, this argument may seem legitimate. Upon further investigation, however, it is easy to see that it is simply a play on emotions, and in no way disproves the necessity of baptism for salvation.
The “God-would-not-do-that” argument can be used against almost any commandment in the Bible. For instance, the Bible repeatedly says that a person must believe that Jesus is the Son of God (Romans 10:11; John 8:24; et al.). Suppose, then, that a Christian had just begun to tell the story of Jesus to an older gentleman, when suddenly that gentleman has a massive heart attack and dies without getting to hear the rest of the story, and thus did not have the opportunity to believe. Should we, therefore, do away with the biblical command to believe in Jesus Christ, simply because a theoretical scenario can be concocted in which a potential convert dies moments before his compliance? To ask is to answer. Nor, with a wave of the hand, can we do away with the biblical command to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).
Consider also the fact that the Bible plainly states that God wants all people to be saved. In 2 Peter 3:9, the inspired apostle wrote: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel was instructed by God to convey this message to the Israelites on God’s behalf: “‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live’” (Ezekiel 33:11). The apostle Paul told the young preacher Timothy that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). Therefore, if a person truly and honestly wants to become a Christian by being baptized for the forgiveness of his sins as God commanded, then God (Who wants all to be saved and is watchful of each individual human) certainly would provide an opportunity for that person to obey His commandment to be baptized. If no sparrow falls to the ground apart from God’s knowledge (Matthew 10:29), and God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), then we can be sure that His providential care will ensure that each person is given a fair opportunity to respond to His commands.


Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2004), “Taking Possession of What God Gives: A Case Study in Salvation,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2546.

Does The Word "Perfect" Really Mean "Perfect”? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Does The Word "Perfect" Really Mean "Perfect”?

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Nailing down accurate definitions to words remains one of the major problems in communicating any message to another person. It has been said that, in an argument, the person or party who defines the terms always wins. When it comes to the Bible, and claims of its alleged errancy, skeptics often employ the tactic of assigning certain meanings to the biblical language that the original words do not necessarily have. In many instances, the skeptic will take words, and impose upon them a twenty-first-century meaning that was not intended in the original text. Then they will demand an answer to this “obvious contradiction.”
To illustrate, consider Dan Barker’s book, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist. He claims that a biblical contradiction exists between Romans 3:23 and Job 1:1 (1992, p. 171). He argues that Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (NKJV). But in Job 1:1, the man from Uz named Job was described as a man who “was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and turned away from evil.” Forcing the word “perfect” in Job 1:1 to mean what most twenty-first-century Americans take it to mean, Barker insists that a person cannot be “perfect” (defining the word as sinless, morally without error) and at the same time be sinful.
Granted, if the word translated “perfect” in Job 1:1 means “absolute sinlessness,” then Barker has a solid point. But a brief study of the original word quickly shows that the Hebrew and Greek words that frequently are translated “perfect” in our English Bibles do not always mean sinlessness. In their monumental work, the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Harris, Archer, and Waltke addressed specifically the word used in Job 1:1. The Hebrew word tōm, translated in Job 1:1 as perfect, has a number of different usages. The word, or one of its derivatives, is used in Genesis 17:1 where God told Abraham to “be perfect.” And all Israel was instructed to “be perfect” in verses such as Deuteronomy 18:13, 2 Samuel 22:33, and Psalm 101:2,6. After listing these uses in their wordbook, the authors quote the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible as saying, “the words which are rendered in English by ‘perfect’ and ‘perfection’ denoted originally something other and less than ideal perfection” (1980, p. 974, emp. added). In another authoritative Hebrew word study, Gesenius observed that the word translated as “perfect” can mean “integrity of mind” or “innocence.” He further commented that the word is used of “simplicity of mind, which is opposed to mischief and ill design” (1979, p. 866). Obviously, then, the Hebrew word in Job 1:1 that is translated “perfect” did not mean “sinlessness,” but was used instead to describe a person who was attempting to follow God’s commandments to the best of his or her ability.
It is inexcusable for any person to demand that a contradiction exists between two Bible passages, when he or she will not even take a few minutes to look up the actual meanings of the words in question. Such poor “scholarship” is lazy at best, and dishonest at worst. Whenever a word in the Bible seems to contradict another thought listed therein, one of the most common ways to reconcile the two is to look up the definitions of the original word. If Dan Barker had done that, he would have known that we are not instructed to be “perfect”—in the sense of sinless in 2 Corinthians 13:11. Nor are we to “hate” our family in the twenty-first-century American sense of despising, loathing, and abhorring (see Butt, 2003).
Furthermore, the fact that language changes, and the meanings of words must be studied, can be seen by observing different translations. For instance, when Paul explained to the Thessalonians what is going to happen when Jesus returns, he stated that the Christians who “are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:15, KJV, emp. added). If we do not examine the meaning of this word, it seems to suggest that the Christians who are alive when Christ returns will not stop those that “are asleep.” That, however, is not what the Greek word phthano means. Other translations show that the this word, translated “prevent” in the King James Version, simply means, “precede” or “go before.”
Before any person presumes to point out an alleged discrepancy in the Bible, the very least that person could do is to study the meaning (in the original language) of the words in question. If such a study were carried out in an honest and forthright fashion, countless pages would be removed from the skeptics’ Web sites and books. Let us all, therefore, strive to be “perfect” in this area.


Barker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith In Faith—From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI: Freedom from Religion Foundation).
Butt, Kyle (2003), “Hate Your Parents—Or Love Them?,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/601
Gesenius, William (1847), Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), 1979 reprint.
Harris, R. Laird, Gleason Archer Jr., and Bruce Waltke, eds. (1980), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody).

General versus Specific Authority by Trevor Bowen


General versus Specific Authority


The terms general and specific authority refer to a concept that applies to all of God's instructions.  Whenever anything is authorized in the Bible, it usually contains some generalinstructions and some specific instructions.  These terms simply refer to this distinction.  Sometimes God gives very specific instructions, and sometimes He gives general instructions, leaving the details to our best judgment.
Understanding this difference is key to successfully determining authority for all things.  It is the final piece to this part of our search.  Once it is completed, we will be properly equipped for pouring over the pages of God's will and solving complex questions that would have otherwise remained unanswered.

Examples of General Authority

The best way to illustrate proper use of general authority is to consider some Bible examples.  Perhaps the easiest example to consider would be the Lord's delivery of the Great Commission to his apostles:
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.  Amen"  (Matthew 28:19-20)
Jesus' commands both to "Go" and to "Teach" illustrate this principle of general authority.  Both command to do something, but many of the details are left to us.  For example, we are to "go", but it does not say how.  Therefore, we can walk, ride a camel, fly in a plane, or sail in a boat, and all of these would be authorized.  General authority includes authority for anything that falls within the general instruction.  Of course, care would need to be taken to not violate another of God's commands.  "Teach" also instructs what to do, but there is not specific mention of how to accomplish this.  We could teach publicly in the streets, privately in the home, or in groups and classes.  All of these are still teaching and, therefore, are authorized by the general instruction to teach.  Moreover, no man has the authority bind one of these methods.  Binding where God has not bound constitutes "adding to" His Word, which is a serious transgression, condemned by the Bible.
Now let's apply this principle towards a more difficult question, church buildings.  They are nowhere mentioned in the Scripture.  How do we get authority for church buildings?  First, let's examine a scripture about the mission of the church:
"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ."  (Ephesians 4:11-12)
From this passage we learn, among other things, that the church is to "equip the saints".  This implies teaching, encouraging, and admonishing within the local church.  But, how is this accomplished?
"And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching."  (Hebrews 10:25)
So, how is this "equipping of the saints accomplished?  Through the "exhorting one another" that is derived from "assembling together".  Moreover, this is exactly what we find in the New Testament examples.  Saints gathered together to worship God and exhort one another (Acts 2:42-4720:7).
From these commands and examples, we have established God's general authority to "equip the saints" and a small part of this is "assembling together."  The instruction is general to some extent.  He does not say how, where, or the time of day.  Therefore, local churches have authority to operate within the boundaries of this general instruction.  If they choose to meet in people's houses, in a rented building, or in their own building, it makes no difference.  All of these fall within God's generic instructions to "equip" and to "assemble".  Therefore, we have general authority to build a church building and assemble within it.

Examples of Specific Authority

Actually the first example that we examined also illustrates specific authority.  When the disciples were told to "go and make disciples", the exact method of "making disciples" was not left general, but rather, it was specified.  They were to "baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit".  Also, they were not allowed to teach anything they wanted.  Jesus specified what they were to teach:  "to observe all things that I have commanded you".  So, for the same instructions, we see that while some things are left general, other things are specified.  And, when something is specified, the Bible teaches that it is a sin to deviate from the specific pattern.
Now, let's use the principle of specific authority to help answer another difficult question, instrumental music.  The first concept that must be recognized for this question is the distinction between the Old and New Testaments.  From that study we learn, that Old Testament commands and examples are not authoritative for us today, since we are under a new and separate law.  Understanding this eliminates much of the confusion, yet we must still answer if God cares about using instrumental music today.
After studying the Old and New Testaments, we can observe that God, through David, gave detailed and specific instructions about how to use instruments in Old Testament worship (ordained by King David in I Chronicles 15:16-28, see also I Chronicles 23:1-5 and II Chronicles 23:18).  Yet we find no mention whatsoever of instrumental music being used in New Testament worship.  In fact, we have only the following specific instructions:
"speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord."  Ephesians 5:19
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Colossians 3:16
Both of these passages teach that we are to make music unto the Lord, but what kind?  Does the Lord care?  Please read the passage again.  These verses specify "singing", "speaking", and "making melody in your heart."  These are the "instruments" of New Testament worship.  No where else will we find mention of any other type of music in the New Testament.  Now, if we choose to add instruments to the worship, then we become guilty of "adding to" God's Word, which sin, the Bible strongly speaks against.


Let us be careful to stay true to our course and goal, to do God's will in God's way.  This may mean tearing down the transgressing traditions of men, just as Jesus and His prophets taught.  Whatever we do let us make sure that is in "the name of the Lord" and we are neither "adding to" or "taking away" from God's Word by teaching doctrines of men.  Part of this requires understanding that God issues commands that are both specific and general in nature.  Moreover, we must recognize the general and allow for different judgments within the authorized scope, but we must also observe the specific and and be diligent to carefully adhere to God's specific pattern.  By carefully observing God's general and specific authority, we will be better equipped to properly understand and apply God's Word.

Series Conclusion

We hope that you have enjoyed examining the many scriptures that were found in each of these articles about properly interpreting the Bible.  And, we hope that they will be beneficial to you and your search for truth.  If you are not comfortable with some of the conclusions that are found here, or on any other portion of this website, please question anyone in our contact directory.  However, if you agree with most of what's found here, then we would encourage you to continue your search by using your tools of study to establish God's pattern on how we can be saved.
Often, people have many questions concerning the proper interpretation of Scriptures. We have some additional articles devoted to answering specific objections raised in opposition to a careful study of God’s Word and obedience to Him:
Otherwise, please proceed to a study of God's Plan for Salvation
Trevor Bowen

Tune Up Your Spiritual Defenses by Ben Fronczek


Tune Up Your Spiritual Defenses

Tune Up Your Spiritual Defenses  (part 4) 
Bible Reading: Ephesians 6:10-18 “ Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”
True Story:   Sunrise was dawning when Los Angeles motorcycle police officer Bob Vernon saw a red pickup truck speed through a stop sign. This guy must be late to work, he thought to himself. He turned on his emergency lights and radioed that he was in pursuit. The pickup pulled over, and the officer approached.
“Meanwhile in the truck, the driver thought, The cops already know! He was scared. He rested his hand on the same gun he had used a few moments before to rob a twenty-four-hour market. The sack of stolen money was beside him on the seat.
“The officer said, ‘Good morning, sir, may I see your…’
“He never finished the sentence. The driver shoved his gun toward the policeman’s chest and fired from just inches away. The cop was knocked flat seven feet away.
“A few seconds later, to the shock of the criminal, the officer stood up, pulled his service revolver, and fired twice. The first bullet went through the open window and smashed the windshield. The second tore through the door and ripped into the driver’s left leg.
“Don’t shoot! The thief screamed, throwing the gun and sack of money out the pickup window.
“What saved the policeman’s life was dozens of layers of Kevlar, the super strong fabric used for bulletproof vests. Only three-eighths of an inch thick, Kevlar can stop bullets cold.” (From the Encourager, by Charles Mylander )
As you know, this a dangerous world which we live in.
In 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 the apostle Paul writes, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. 14 Do everything in love.”
Do you think the Apostle Paul understood something about the problems, trials and temptations that Christians have to deal with in this world.   I believe he did.
Just like that police officer, I believe that Paul knew that we need to be prepared for those surprise attacks that could knock us down or leave us  bleeding spiritually.
In our scripture reading which was read today (Eph 6:10-18) the Apostle Paul made it clear that we not only have to be on guard and stand firm, he also makes it clear here that there is a battle taking place on a spiritual level. And he warned those early Christians to prepare themselves for potential attacks just like that police officer who was wise enough to prepare himself for a potential attack that day.
It seems like not many of the Lord’s people know that we are in a war.  I read a verse that just absolutely amazed me. Revelation 12:7 says, “There was war in heaven.” We think about Heaven as a place of forever peace, but we learn about a war that was there.
If a spiritual war can take place in the unseen realm of Heaven then doesn’t it stand to reason that on this earth Christians are going to be engaged in some kind of warfare as well?
God tells every Christian to, ‘Put on the armor.’ Why armor? Because we are in a battle. A spiritual war is going on, so Paul writes, “Put on the whole armor of God so that you can take your stand against the wiles or schemes of the devil.”
It is therefore critically important that we maintain or even tune up our spiritual defenses. And that’s what this lesson is about today.
Take note of what Paul wrote there in Ephesians 6:12: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” This is not a battle against people. This is not a battle against mere human beings. We are in a warfare against  supernatural forces of evil.
What is that battle all about? It is about who shall have the supremacy, Christ or Satan. It is a struggle for the souls of men. It is a battle to keep people out of Hell. It is a struggle to get people saved. It is a war, a conflict until the end.
And every one of us is engaged in it whether we realize it or not.
This reality ought to keep us from folding our hands and taking it easy. It ought to make us sit up and take notices. But far too many of us have let our guard down.
And while the Christian church and the people of God are taking it easy and ignoring this reality, the forces of evil are at work as never before. Radical Islamic behavior, terrorism, Atheism,  liberalism, ritualism, greed,  legalism and intellectualism are at work, while the church goes around oblivious to what’s happening.   God help us to realize we are in a war, in a battle.
But We Do Have Some Defenses and some Weapons   The Lord didn’t leave us without a way to defend our self and something to fight with. In Eph. 6 here, I read about the 5 pieces of armor for defense, and two weapons to fight with, and win with.
The weapons of our warfare are not physical but spiritual. They have spiritual powers!
It is amazing, astounding, how little the average Christian understands and takes advantage of this armor and these weapons the Lord has given us.
SO WHAT DO WE HAVE TO PROTECT US?  And what do we need to do to maintain or tune up of defenses ?                        
a.   Time and time again, the Bible instructs us to rely upon God to deliver us from our enemy.
● In (Mt. 6:13), Jesus taught His Disciples how to pray. And one part of that prayer says, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
Who can deliver us from the evil one according to this verse?
Our Father in heaven!
●In (James 4:7), the Holy Spirit inspired James to write, “Submit  yourselves, then to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.”
So, before we can resist the Devil, we must submit to and trust in God!
● And here in (Eph. 6:10-11), the Bible says, Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the Devil’s schemes.”
It is clear from these and others that if we want a good defense against Satan and his schemes, we must rely upon God. We can’t do it without Him!
Here in Ephesians 6, the Bible instructs every Christian to put on the full armor of who?     Of God!       Only God can shield us from the deadly bullets that Satan fires at us.
When you are under spiritual attack, meaning that you are being tempted to sin, or an evil thought crosses your mind tempting you to do wrong, the first thing you need to do is go to God in prayer and ask Him to help you to defeat it.
  1.  If you are angry, and are about to say something ugly, go to God in prayer and ask Him for help.
  2.  If you are about to lust over another human being, go to God in prayer.
  3.  If you are about to gossip about someone, or do anything else evil we need to…. Go to God in prayer and ask Him to give you the strength to overcome the sin. When you ask, He will help you escape that temptation.
I love what David says in Psalm 101:2-4 I believe every Christian should post it up on their refrigerator; he wrote: ”I will be careful to lead a blameless life… I will walk in my house with blameless heart. I will set before my eyes no vile thing.  The deeds of faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me.  Men of perverse heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with evil.”
I also like very much what Job said so very long ago in Job 31:1, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.”
What I hear these men saying and I believe what they did was to make a pact or a covenant with themselves that they would be fully committing to the Lord and His ways. And they made a commitment to themselves and to the Lord to live a blameless life. They purposely chose not to be in the presence of, nor put up with anything that was vile in God’s sight. Job even made a covenant with his own eyes not to look upon that which may have caused Him to lust.  (Now that’s being committed to the Lord)
Can you do that? Can you make a covenant with your eye not to look at anything that may cause you to sin? Can you make a covenant with your lips not to say anything that is foul, vile or unholy? Can you make a covenant with your ears not to listen to any one or anything that is unwholesome? Can you make a covenant with your hands not to use them in a way that is sinful? You can do all of these if you choose to.
I believe that when you truly make a commitment to God like that, it is stronger than bullet proof Kevlar.
But we are also told to outright resist Satan and his attacks:
– James 4:7 “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.”
Resisting Satan means opposing him, turning away from him, and having nothing  to do with him and the temptations that he throws at us.
A great passage of Scripture that we should use to resist the Devil is in Titus 2:12 which says, “say no to ungodliness and worldly passions.”
If we leave one small sin in our lives, or if we put up with an evil that the Lord detests, that leaves an open door for the Devil and he will return and cause us misery. We must be fully committed to the Lord and His ways and purposely resist Satan. And if we do, we are told that he will flee from us.
There are times we need to turn the tables and go after Satan. We must attack Satan when he attacks us.
There is absolutely nothing in this world like these weapons. Chapter 6 of Ephesians tells us that one of our weapons is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Can you imagine a fellow back then going off to fight and not having a sword? We are to have this sword, this weapon in our heart, in our life, and in our mind. But the average Christian does not use this weapon, the Word of God, very much, nor very effectively.
When the Devil came to tempt Jesus in the wilderness, three times from the  Old Testament, Jesus said“It is written.… It is written.…It is written.” When Jesus met the Devil, He unsheathed His sword and met the Devil with the Word of God. It is an amazing defense for every Christian.
A Christian who does not have the habit of reading the Word of God for his own benefit is not going to be very strong. It is his primary weapon to protect himself with and overcome the foe.
Listen! God has given you the weapon of His Word and we need to get our Bibles out and open them up every day, and read. If you don’t do it, you are like a soldier without a sword.  The weapons of our warfare are not physical, but are mighty through God.
How do we use the Word of God to attack Satan?
Let’s imagine that you are being tempted to say something unkind to someone.
Before you commit the sin, you can defeat Satan by meditation on a verse like (Eph. 4:29) which says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.”
When you quote a Scripture, it disarms the desire and the temptation.
We need to memorize Scripture so we can defeat Satan. The Bible says in (Ps. 119:11), that we need to hide the Word of God in our hearts, so that we will not sin against Him. Whatever sin you are tempted to commit, memorize a specific verse and use it’s power to defeat Satan.
I believer that not only are we to quote Scripture to defeat Satan, but we are to use the power of Jesus’ name. There is power in the name of Jesus.
–       Believers are baptized into His name (Acts 2:38).
–       Believers are forgiven in His name (1 John 2:12).
–       Believers pray through His name (Colossians  3:17).
–       Believers have life in His name (John 20:31).
–       Believers can defeat Satan and his troops in His name.
In (Luke 10:17), we read that Jesus sent out 72 disciples to minister to the people. And after their journey they came up to Jesus and said, “Lord even the demons  submit to us in your name.”
There is power in the name of Jesus. When you are tempted, and recognize that Satan is coming after you with his full artillery, go to the Father in prayer and ask Him to help you defeat Satan & his troops in power of Jesus Name.
Whether we believe it or not, or like it or not, we are in spiritual warfare. Our enemy is after our souls and we must be alert and ready to fight.
My challenge for you this day is to tune up your spiritual defenses.
To defeat Satan, we must do several things.
– First, we must turn to God for His power and strength.
–  Second, we must truly commit our self to God and His holy ways and consciously resist evil and the Devil’s  schemes .
– And last of all, we must go on a spiritual offensive and use the Word of God and the power of Jesus’ name in prayer.
Don’t lets Satan and his evil ways get the best of you!
Lesson material based on sermons by  Joel Curry and  James Merritt
For more lessons click on the following link: http://granvillenychurchofchrist.org/?page_id=566