"THE SECOND EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY" Soldiers Of Jesus Christ (2:3-4) by Mark Copeland


Soldiers Of Jesus Christ (2:3-4)


1. Our service to Jesus Christ is often compared to different
   a. Such as an athlete - 1Co 9:24-27; 2Ti 4:7-8
   b. Such as a laborers in the harvest - Lk 10:2

2. In our text (2Ti 2:3-4), our service is to compared to that of a
   a. In which one is to be "a good soldier"
   b. Seeking to please him who enlisted us as "soldiers"

[That we may be sure to understand the service Jesus desires of us,
let's review the characteristics of a soldier in the army of Christ...]


      1. As per the KJV ("chosen") - 2Ti 2:4
      2. The Greek is stratologeo, "to gather (or select) as a warrior,
         that is, enlist in the army; choose to be a soldier." - Strong

      1. We are "enlisted" (NKJV, NASB, ESV) - 2Ti 2:4
      2. We were chosen as we responded in faith to the call of the
         gospel - cf. 2Th 2:13-14

[The army of Christ is an "all voluntary" army.  We were not drafted
against our will, and our attitude should reflect our willingness to do
our part.  Note also...]


      1. I.e., full duty, like those in active military service - 2 Ti 2:4
      2. Therefore one is not to be entangled "in the affairs of
         everyday life" - 2Ti 2:4
      3. One must be willing to endure hardship - 2Ti 2:3
         a. This affects our relations with our physical families
            1) Christ must come first - cf. Mt 10:37
            2) Even as He put His Father in heaven first - cf. Mt 12:
         b. This affects our attitudes toward our secular jobs
            1) The true purpose of work - Ac 20:34-35; Ep 4:28
            2) For we cannot serve both God and mammon - Mt 6:24

      1. Where we serve only on limited occasions
      2. Where one might not take their responsibilities seriously

[All the soldiers in the army of Christ are on "active duty", though
some might be on the front line and other supporting them at the base.
Now consider...]


      1. Spiritual forces of wickedness - Ep 6:10-13
      2. Physical lusts which wage war against the soul - 1Pe 2:11
      3. The unrighteousness and ungodliness of men - Ro 1:18-32
         a. Of those who do not recognize God
         b. Of those who are given over to vile passions

      1. To produce the fruit of the Spirit in our own lives - Ga 5:
      2. To bring every thought into submission to Christ - cf. 2 Co 10:5
      3. To help those ensnared of the devil to escape - cf. 2Ti 2:26

[The opposition is mighty, the objective is noble.  With what weapons do
we wage such warfare...?]


      1. For our warfare is not carnal - 2Co 10:3-4; Jn 18:36
      2. Thus we do not use the sword or other such weapons to fight
         - cf. Mt 26:52
      3. Nor are we to use works of the flesh (e.g., anger, wrath)
         - 2Co 10:1-3; cf. Ga 5:19-21

      1. Attitudes consistent with the meekness and gentleness of Christ
         - cf. 2Co 10:1
         a. Such as the fruit of the Spirit - Ga 5:22-23
         b. Needed when we seek to help those overtaken in a fault - Ga 6:1
         c. Necessary to correct those who are in opposition - 2Ti 2:
      2. The armor of God, including truth, faith and hope - Ep 6:10-17
         a. The Word of God is a powerful sword of the Spirit - Ep 6:17;
            He 4:12
         b. Faith is a powerful shield against the devil - Ep 6:16
         c. Hope likewise serves as a helmet - Ep 6:17


1. In the army of Christ, we seek to save ourselves and those with whom
   we fight

2. It is a noble objective, one that requires a noble service as
   "Soldiers Of Jesus Christ"

Are you therefore willing to endure hardship, and thus please Him who
enlisted you as a soldier...?

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Myth and the Claims of the Bible Writers by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Myth and the Claims of the Bible Writers

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

In academic circles these days it is not unusual to hear a person suggest that the events recorded in the Bible are myths. The word myth is given various meanings, but one that is commonly understood in modern parlance is the idea that the person or event being discussed has “only an imaginary or unverifiable existence” (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary). Thus, the listener or reader is led to believe that the stories found in the Bible do not have a “verifiable” historic base, and are founded on little more than the imagination of the authors. This allegation describing the Bible stories as myth, however, falls woefully short of the truth on a number of grounds.
First, the Bible has been proven to be the most accurate, historically verifiable book that has ever been produced. Years of archaeological finds have unearthed enough evidence verifying the Bible’s accuracy to bury the claim of myth a thousand times over (see Butt, “Archaeology and the Old Testament,” 2004a and “Archaeology and the New Testament,” 2004b).
Second, not a single, legitimate contradiction has been found that would suggest that the biblical writers falsified information. For years, skeptics have found alleged contradictions between the biblical texts. These alleged “contradictions” have been proven to be false, and adequate answers proving the noncontradictory nature of the Bible texts have been given (see Alleged Discrepancies, n.d.).
The list of other evidences that silence the allegation of myth could get quite lengthy. Such aspects as the scientific foreknowledge of the Bible, its predictive prophecy, and its unity over hundreds of years of writing are just a few of these powerful evidences.
It is important to note that along with these various evidences, the testimony of the writers themselves must be added to the material that points overwhelmingly away from the idea that the Bible is mythical. The Bible writers insisted that their writings were not based on imaginary, nonverifiable people and events, but were instead grounded on solid historical facts. The apostle Peter, in his second epistle to the Christians in the first century, wrote: “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (1:16). In a similar statement, the apostle John insisted: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life.... [T]hat which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us” (1 John 1:1,3).
When Luke wrote his account of the gospel of Christ, he specifically and intentionally crafted his introduction to ensure that his readers understood that his account was historical and factual:
Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed (Luke 1:1-4).
In a similar line of reasoning, Luke included in his introduction to the book of Acts the idea that Jesus, “presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
In addition, when the apostle Paul was arguing the case that Jesus Christ had truly been raised from the dead, he wrote that the resurrected Jesus
was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time (1 Corinthians 15:5-8).
This handful of verses by Peter, Paul, John, and Luke, reveal that the Bible writers insisted with conviction that their writings were not mythical, but were indeed based on factual events. Furthermore, they specifically documented many of the eye-witnesses who could testify to the accuracy of their statements. The claim that the Bible is filled with myths can be made, but it cannot be reasonably maintained. The evidence is overwhelming that the Bible writers understood and insisted that their information was accurate and factual. Their claim of factual accuracy has been verified by the discipline of archaeology as well as by refutations of alleged contradictions between the various writings and history. The Bible is not a book of myth that belongs beside the likes of Mary Poppins or Peter Pan. It is a book of inspired, factual, historically accurate information that deserves its rightful place in the annals of history as the most amazing book ever written—bar none.


Alleged Discrepancies: Apologetics Press, (no date), [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/allegeddiscrepancies/.
Butt, Kyle (2004a), “Archaeology and the Old Testament,” Reason and Revelation, 24[3]:17-23, March, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2502.
Butt, Kyle (2004b), “Archaeology and the New Testament,” Reason and Revelation, 24[10]:89-95, October, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2591.
“Myth,” 2005, Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, [On-line], URL: http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=Myth.

Must the Children Suffer? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Must the Children Suffer?

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Arriving at the border of the Promised Land, the Israelites sent out 12 spies to reconnoiter the areas. When 10 of the 12 spies brought back an “evil”(Numbers 13:32) analysis of Canaan’s conditions and the people accepted their faithless assessment. God condemned the population to 40 years of desert meandering until all those 20 years and older had died (Numbers 14:29). God would only permit the next generation to enter the land (Numbers 14:30-31).
But what, in the meantime, were these children, the younger generation, to do? Must they actually suffer for their parents’ sin and wander in the desert for 40 years as well? Notice God’s answer: “And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity…” (Numbers 14:33). Other translations render the last phrase “suffer for your unfaithfulness” (NASB, NIV; cf. ESV, RSV). The children would suffer for the unfaithfulness of their parents. Many people simply do not accept this biblical principle. They cannot see how the innocent can suffer for the sins of others. This misconception easily leads to further error: seeking to offset the unavoidable consequences of man’s disobedience to God (cf. Numbers 14:40-45).
When parents forsake the assembly (Hebrews 10:25), their sin takes its toll on their children in the form of lost teaching, poor parental example, absence of Christian association, etc. The children suffer for their parents’ sin.
When parents abuse their bodies by taking drugs, drinking alcohol, smoking, contracting venereal disease, etc., their children experience physical problems at birth and later hardships in the form of inadequate nutrition, insufficient finances, neglect, etc. The children suffer for their parents’ sin.
When parents hypocritically instruct their children to conduct themselves in certain ways, but then fail to follow their own advice and excuse their behavior by telling their children to “do as I say, not as I do,” the children grow up rejecting the parents’ good instruction. The children suffer for their parents’ sin.
When parents divorce and remarry in violation of God’s law, forming an adulterous union that, in God’s sight, cannot continue, the children experience rejection, loneliness, bewilderment. If the parents obey God and terminate the unlawful marriage, the children will live in a home environment that’s not all it could have been. The children will suffer for their parents’ sin. But such is no justification for encouraging the parents to continue committing adultery in order to minimize the children’s suffering.
Must the children suffer? Sadly, tragically, yes—when parents sin. But rather than change God’s law, doubt God’s mercy, or dodge the consequences of sin, put the blame where it belongs: man’s defiance of God. Then, obey God—no matter what.

Must Christians Today “Abstain from Blood”? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Must Christians Today “Abstain from Blood”?

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

The first-century followers of Christ faced several difficult challenges. Among the most problematic were the cultural differences separating the Jewish Christians from the Gentile Christians. Due to their deep respect for the Law of Moses, many of the early Jewish Christians felt that a faithful follower of God must believe in and obey Christ, but also keep certain aspects of the Mosaic Law, like circumcision. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, adamantly opposed this idea, maintaining that the Law was nailed to the cross and was no longer in force. The other Bible writers concurred. But many Christians in the early church were confused on the issue. Due to this confusion, Paul and Barnabas, along with the elders of the Jerusalem church and the apostles, convened to discuss the issue (Acts 15). During the discussion, the apostle Peter recounted the conversion of the Gentile Cornelius (Acts 15:6-11). Paul and Barnabas then testified to the miracles that God had worked among the Gentiles through their ministry (15:12). And James, the Lord’s brother, explained that the Old Testament prophesied that the Gentiles would be allowed into the church. From reading the text, it is clear that purpose of the meeting in Jerusalem was not to vote on a policy, but to discover the Holy Spirit’s position on the issue.
The council concluded that God had opened the door of faith in Christ to the Gentiles, apart from any adherence to the Law of Moses. The council then wrote a brief letter to be circulated among the Gentile churches in which the council stated: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well” (Acts 15:29).
The inspired statement from the Jerusalem council presents an interesting text for Christians in the 21st century. Do these rules still apply today? Were they for the Gentiles then, and adjusted afterward by later revelation to the inspired Bible writers? If they still apply, how would a 21st century Christian practically obey the command to avoid “things strangled,” since the details of the slaughter and preparation of store-bought items such as chicken, beef, ham, and turkey are rarely mentioned or known by the general public? These and other questions require an intense, honest look into the inspired council’s letter and its ramifications for today.


It is generally understood among commentators and biblical historians that the Jerusalem council had pagan, idolatrous feasts in mind when issuing the statement in Acts 15. Often, pagan worship included the sacrificing and eating of animals, sometimes with the drained blood being offered as a “course” in the meal. These festivities also generally included sexual participation by the guest in any number of immoral ways. Coffman noted: “Idol feasts were shameful debaucheries, marked by the most vulgar and immoral behavior.... In fact, it is possible that all four of these restrictions relate to idol worship” (1977, p. 299). Dennis Gaertner, in his commentary on Acts, noted that the pagan worship practices were most likely in view in the prohibition against sexual immorality and food sacrificed to idols, and were possibly in view in the command to abstain from blood, since “in some pagan practices blood was drunk apart from the meat” (1993, p. 240-241). Therefore, in order to understand the context of the four prohibitions of the council, one must understand their connection to pagan idolatrous practices.
In regard to the instruction for the Gentiles to abstain from sexual immorality, the New Testament is abundantly clear in other places that such was inherently sinful (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; Hebrews 13:4; Revelation 21:8). There was never a time when sexual immorality was permitted for a faithful follower of God. Even though pagan cultures considered such immorality to be “part of life,” it was not to be permitted or tolerated in the life of a Christian, regardless of his or her cultural background.


The letter to be circulated among the Gentile converts also included the instruction for them to “abstain from things offered to idols.” This is a clear reference to the meat that pagans would sacrifice to an idol and then eat as a part of their feasts. The interesting aspect of this prohibition is that it is not the case that eating meat offered to idols was inherently sinful. In fact, the apostle Paul qualifies and elaborates on the instruction to abstain from meat offered to idols in other places. In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul explained that there is nothing inherently sinful about eating meat offered to an idol. He stated: “Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one.... But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse” (vss. 4,8). Paul then explained to the Corinthian Christians that if an unbeliever invited them to his house, they should have no problems eating the meat that the unbeliever served them, asking no questions about whether the meat was offered to an idol (1 Corinthians 10:27). Thus, it is clear that to eat meat that was offered to an idol was not inherently sinful. Paul then added, however, that if the Corinthians were informed that the meat was offered to an idol, they should avoid eating it, if doing so would “offend” those who might have a problem with it (1 Corinthians 10:28; 8:10-13; Romans 14:21). The mindset, attitude, and intent of the one eating meat offered to idols were the pertinent factors involved in the actions, not any inherently sinful qualities of meat offered to idols. From this discussion, then, we understand that the prohibition to abstain from things offered to idols was not a blanket condemnation of an inherently sinful practice, but was instead conditioned on circumstances, attitude, and intent. Taking Paul’s discussion of things offered to idols into account, one is forced to conclude that it could be permissible, under certain circumstances, for Christians today to eat meat offered to idols.


We have seen that the council’s letter to the Gentiles contained a prohibition against the inherently sinful practice of sexual immorality. We have also seen that the instruction to abstain from things offered to idols was not a condemnation of an inherently sinful practice. The question to be answered, then, is to which category do the prohibitions to abstain from things strangled and from blood belong? Is it the case that eating blood or meat from animals that were strangled is an inherently sinful practice that Christians today must avoid? Or is it the case that such was a circumstantial prohibition that was and is conditioned upon the circumstances?
First, we need to understand the connection between “things strangled” and “blood.” Lenski noted: “‘From a thing strangled and from blood’ may be considered together since both alike involve blood. An animal that was not butchered but snared and killed by strangling still had blood in it” (1961, p. 616). Coffman also combines the terms in his discussion (1977, p. 300). The Gentiles would have understood this prohibition to include drinking the blood of a slain animal or eating the meat of an animal whose blood was not drained out. [NOTE: Some have suggested that eating a steak cooked “rare” or “medium rare” without cooking it completely would be “eating blood.” This would not have been the understanding of the Gentile Christians. Nor, in a practical sense, would it be possible to avoid “blood” in any meat, since it would be impossible to remove all traces of blood. If this prohibition meant that any trace of blood must be avoided, then no meat could have been eaten by the Gentiles.]
Is the act of eating or drinking animals’ blood sinful for Christians today? Lenski argues that it is not. He suggests that the prohibition from the council was made so that the Gentiles would not offend their Jewish Christian brethren. He states that the Jewish Christians were horrified at the thought of eating or drinking blood and that the “Gentile Christians were asked to respect this feeling and thus from motives of brotherly love, and from these alone, to refrain from eating blood and meat that still had its blood” (1961, p. 616). Lenski seems to base his conclusion on the idea that the prohibition against eating blood originated with the Mosaic instructions against the practice. But such is not the case. The prohibition against eating or drinking blood predated the Law of Moses by several hundred years. Following Noah’s exit from the ark, God explained to him that he and his descendants could eat animals. God said to him: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs” (Genesis 9:3). God did, however, provide a single regulation regarding the consumption of animal flesh. God said: “But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (9:4). Thus the command to avoid the consumption of blood was given several hundred years before the Mosaic Law was instituted.
The Law of Moses instructed the Israelites to avoid eating or drinking blood. Leviticus 17:14 states: “Therefore I said to the children of Israel, ‘You shall not eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.” Also, Moses wrote that the Israelites could eat animals like deer or gazelle, but concerning their consumption, he wrote: “Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it on the earth like water” (Deuteronomy 12:16).
If the prohibition against eating blood in Acts 15 is binding, it would show that in every age—the Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian—the eating of blood has been for forbidden and is inherently sinful. Coffman maintains this view. Concerning Genesis 9:4, he stated: “This makes it clear that the denial of blood as food to man antedates the Mosaic law. Thus, they are wrong who see these restrictions as a symbolical binding of the Law on Christians. The authority they have for Christians of all ages derives neither from Moses’ law nor from the commandment of Noah, but from the authority of the Holy Spirit...” (1977, p. 300). The late Guy N. Woods noted God’s instructions concerning blood to Noah and to the Israelites under Moses, and said: “We have seen that the ‘apostles and elders’ at Jerusalem, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, extended this prohibition into the Christian age; thus, in every age God has forbidden his people to eat blood and things strangled” (1976, p. 240).
If it is the case that the eating of blood is inherently sinful, how can it be differentiated from eating meats offered to idols, which was not inherently sinful, since they appear in the same list? One response to such a question would be that we only know that eating meat offered to idols was not inherently sinful because New Testament passages such as 1 Corinthians 8, 10 and Romans 14 shed further light on the practice. If these passages were not included in the New Testament, then we would be forced to conclude that eating meat sacrificed to idols was inherently sinful and still prohibited for Christians. Since there are no passages that add information to the prohibition against eating blood or things strangled, and it is included in every age (Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian) it seems the most logical course is to conclude that the prohibition is still binding on Christians today.


Blood Transfusions?

If the prohibition against blood and things strangled is binding, what are the practical implications? First, the idea in Acts 15:29 of “abstaining” from blood implies that the eating or drinking of blood is to be avoided, but it says nothing about other types of contact with blood. God’s injunction to Noah explicitly stated that blood was not to be eaten, as did the Mosaic instructions. The immediate context of Acts 15:29 informed the Christians to “abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled.” To “abstain” from things offered to idols simply meant not to eat them. This same meaning applied to blood and meat that was strangled without being drained.
Certain religious groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, have contended that taking blood into the body in any way violates Acts 15:29. They argue that receiving a blood transfusion violates the injunction to abstain from blood. Their official Web site states: “What of transfusing blood?.... [T]hinking people in past centuries realized that the biblical law applied to taking blood into the veins just as it did to taking it into the mouth” (“Blood...,” 2006).
However, the conclusion maintained by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to extend the prohibition of Acts 15:29 to blood transfusions is simply not justified by the evidence for two primary reasons. First, the text and all related texts in the Old Testament deal specifically with consumption by mouth of large quantities of blood from an animal. The Gentile Christians in Acts 15 would have certainly understood the prohibition to be dealing with the consumption of blood by mouth. Second, the physical processes of the body in receiving human blood into the veins and consuming large quantities of animal blood that would go to the stomach are vastly different. A blood transfusion in which matched human blood is injected into the veins of another human to aid in healing is hardly comparable to drinking a pint of goat’s blood. To demand that Acts 15:29 means never taking any kind of blood into the body for any reason in any way is going far beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6).

Eating Habits

Because the prohibition against blood referred specifically to eating blood or things strangled, we must try to understand how it relates to our eating habits today. Since we know that the Israelites and Gentiles ate animal meat before and after the prohibitions of Acts 15:29, and we know that it is physically impossible to remove all traces of blood from meat, then we must conclude that the consumption of blood in small quantities (such as in a rare or medium rare steak) is not what is banned. The prohibition is against eating or drinking large quantities of animal blood. Dishes such as blood pudding or blood sausage would seem to fall into this category, as well as any dishes cooked in large quantities of blood, or containing such.
As for determining which animals have been strangled and not drained of their blood, we must understand that the focus was on the quantity of blood remaining in the meat of the animal. It was not the fact that the animal was strangled that kept it from being eaten, but the fact that it was never drained of its blood. Apparently, there was a visible, recognizable difference in the minds of the first-century Gentiles between the meat that was from an animal that was drained and the meat from an animal that was not drained. If Acts 15:29 is binding, and Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 10:25 to “[e]at whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience’ sake,” then he must not have included meat from animals that had not been drained of their blood in 1 Corinthians 10:25. We must conclude, then, that avoiding meat from things strangled means avoiding meat that has a definite, visible amount of excessive blood readily distinguishable from drained meat. [NOTE: A cursory study of standard meat processing procedures in the United States and other nations shows that the vast majority (if not all) of the animals butchered and sold in major meat markets such as grocery stores are drained of their blood (“Rosenthal...,” 2006; “Best Practices...,” n.d.).] Thus, the practical implications of Acts 15:29 indicate that consuming blood or meat from things strangled takes place when a large quantity of blood is drunk or consumed in dishes where blood is a key, recognizable ingredient.


The inspired Word of God contains everything that pertains to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). It is so comprehensive that it has the ability to completely equip humans for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Because of its import, all commandments and instructions in it need to be seriously analyzed and critically considered in light of their potential present-day application. Biblical regulations that apply today must be obeyed in order for a person to be assured of an eternal home in heaven (Matthew 7:21-23). Four prohibitions are made in Acts 15:29 that were specifically aimed at first-century Gentile converts. These prohibitions included avoiding eating blood and meat not drained of its blood. Taking both Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures into account, it seems that since the time of Noah, eating or drinking animal blood has been something God forbade. The prohibition to avoid the consumption of blood, as found in Acts 15:29, is not altered, adjusted, or explained in other books of the New Testament. Thus, it seems most reasonable to conclude that the prohibition remains binding today.


“Best Practices For Beef Slaughter” (no date), [On-line], URL:http://www.bifsco.org/uDocs/bestpracslaught12_05.pdf.
“Blood—Vital For Life” (2006), [On-line], URL: http://watchtower.org/e/hb/article_01.htm.
Coffman, James Burton (1977), Commentary on Acts (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).
Gaertner, Dennis (1993), Acts (Joplin, MO: College Press).
Lenski, R.C.H. (1961), The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
“Rosenthal HACCP Plans” (2000), [On-line], URL: http://meat.tamu.edu/HACCP/porkslaughter.pdf.
Woods, Guy N. (1976), Questions and Answers: Open Forum, Volume 1 (Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman University), Vol. 1.

Moral Relativism or Scriptural Absolutes? by AP Staff


Moral Relativism or Scriptural Absolutes?

by AP Staff

In our postmodern age, the philosophy of total indulgence in sensual pleasures has become the societal norm. Television, movies, video games, and books espouse moral relativism (which teaches that there is no absolute system of morals or ethics). Television shows such as Friends teach that lying, stealing, and sexual promiscuity are normal and ethically acceptable—as long as you get what you want. “Just do it!” is the catchphrase of a popular, and therefore fashionably desirable, shoe marketed primarily to teenagers and college students. With this kind of pressure from the entertainment and fashion industries, it is easy to see why moral relativism is such a prevalent way of thinking. The results, though, are evident in the decadence of humanity in our postmodern world. Legalized murders bear new and acceptable names such as “abortion” and “euthanasia”; sexual perversions enjoy favored status; lying, stealing, and cheating are fully acceptable under our new “enlightened” way of relativistic thinking—get whatever you can, however you can, whenever you can, because life is short and you only go around once.
However, this idea is not confined just to contemporary society. Moral and ethical relativism has spread even into the realm of Christianity, causing faithful men and women to question scriptural absolutes and abandon clear biblical teachings. The Christian exegesis has shifted from “the Bible says,” to “I just feel this in my heart and therefore know it to be true.” Elders no longer execute scripturally mandated discipline, preachers cease to teach the truth and preach only what is commonly acceptable, and those who teach moral and scriptural absolutism are branded as legalistic, judgmental, and narrow-minded.
If this is the case, then the inspired writers themselves were legalistic, judgmental, and narrow-minded, because absolutism is clearly taught throughout the Bible! Paul wrote:
[F]or when Gentiles that have not the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are the law unto themselves; in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness therewith, and their thoughts one with another accusing or else excusing them… (Romans 2:14-15, emp. added).
The Gentiles did the things required by God’s law, not because they had received any specific written code, as the Jews had, but because there exists an absolute system of morals and ethics. God established this system, which has continued from the Creation until now. God’s absolutes cannot be superceded by man’s will without drastic consequences, as the world around us bears witness. This same principle of moral absoluteness is see in scripture, because the Bible contains definite teachings that are not open to man’s personal feeling and interpretation:
And we have the word of prophecy made more sure; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19-21, emp. added).
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23).
When God speaks, it is not for man to interpret via his own feelings what God has said. There is an absolute system of teaching, just as there is an absolute set of morals—both are defined by God, and as such are not open to postmodernism’s relativistic way of thinking. Perhaps the most sobering thought in this is that by these absolutes we are judged and by these absolutes we are either confirmed or condemned. It is not by our own feelings, but by what God has established from the beginning in the form of moral and biblical absolutes.
In a time when the world around us says, “Just do it,” those of us who are Christians should not be swept away by moral or scriptural relativism. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yea and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8), and as imitators of Christ, we should continue to teach absolutes that are the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Matthew 18:15-17 and Responding to Public Sin by Trevor Bowen


Matthew 18:15-17 and Responding to Public Sin


“But, have you talked to them first? That is the process Jesus requires of us according to Matthew 18:15-17! If you have not talked to them first, then you need to keep quiet!” Have you heard someone say something like this? Or, have you argued this point yourself? There certainly is a protocol that Jesus outlines in Matthew 18:15-17 about correcting brethren in sin, but when should it be applied? Does this passage apply to how Christians and churches should handle public sins, including moral trespasses and false teaching? Since this is a commonly made point, let us look to the Scriptures to understand this frequently misused passage and its intended application.

Examining the Immediate Context

First, let us set before us the passage under question:
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17)
Please notice that the qualifying condition is, “if your brother sins against you. Immediately, this disqualifies all public trespasses and public proclamation of error from direct application of this passage. The qualifying condition simply does not match. In both forms of public trespass, the sin to be addressed is not a simple matter against an individual. Rather, it is a trespass against God and His people in a given church - or possibly even multiple churches! If we can ignore the qualifying limitations in this passage, can we not rightly ignore them in every passage? But, if we must observe them everywhere, must we not also observe them here? May we always be consistent in our interpretation of Scripture.
Now, if someone insists that public sin, whether in teaching or in morality, constitutes a sin against every individual in the public community, thereby bringing it into jurisdiction of Matthew 18:15-17, then let such a person also accept that every single individual in the community is equally obligated to appear on the sinner's doorstep, knock on his or her door, and privately offer rebuke of the public sin. From the elder to the child, each is equally injured; therefore, each is equally obligated. (However, one should recognize the elder and more spiritual are obligated first, Galatians 6:1II Corinthians 12:14b). Furthermore, if this is indeed the requirement, then how is it any different than being confronted by the whole church (the last step in Matthew 18:17), since the whole church has already confronted the sinner during the first step? Clearly, such an argument proves “too much”, while also contradicting the context.

Inadequate Resolution

Often people look to Matthew 18:15-17 and apply it in hopes that a public sin may be resolved entirely by one individual’s private confrontation of the sinning brother. But, is that possible whenever sins are publicly known or false doctrine is publicly spread? Is private resolution completely adequate for a public sin? Or, must something more be done?
Whenever one sins privately against an individual or even multiple individuals, the sinner may repent and confess his sin to those he has sinned against thereby resolving the matter:
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. (James 5:16)
However, whenever one sins publicly, there are multiple repercussions besides the injury of those directly inflicted:
You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, "Do not commit adultery," do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you," as it is written. (Romans 2:21-24)
"'For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.'" So David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die." (II Samuel 12:12-14)
They have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God; They have moved Me to anger by their foolish idols. But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation; I will move them to anger by a foolish nation. For a fire is kindled by my anger, And shall burn to the lowest hell; It shall consume the earth with her increase, And set on fire the foundations of the mountains. ... I would have said, "I will dash them in pieces, I will make the memory of them to cease from among men," Had I not feared the wrath of the enemy, Lest their adversaries should misunderstand, Lest they should say, "Our hand is high; And it is not the LORD who has done all this."' (Deuteronomy 32:21-27)
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:20-21)
The Lord has consistently shown great concern for the tarnishing of His name. Whenever Christians - disciples wearing His name - behave inconsistently, manifest hypocrisy, and divide selfishly, we also generate “great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme”. This not only dishonors our God publicly, but it also provides an excuse, a “stumbling block of offense” for people to avoid turning to the Lord, since His own self-professed people are seemingly, arguably not any better. Does anyone want to appear before the Lord with such a condemnation hung around his neck (Matthew 18:6-8)?
If public shame and reproach has been brought on the Lord, His Word, or His people, how can it be resolved in private? What else but public admission can answer the charges of inconsistency and hypocrisy?
Furthermore, in the case of public false teaching, there is another great concern: What effect will the public false teaching continue to have through its own persuasiveness or the reputation, influence, and charisma of its proclaimer?
... holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. One of them, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, (Titus 1:9-13)
But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. (II Timothy 2:16-18)
Although the measure of deceitfulness in a false teacher may govern the measure of sharpness in rebuking him, rebuke must occur none the less, because false teachers’ “mouths must be stopped”! Now, even if a false teacher could be privately persuaded of his error, when false doctrine is proclaimed publicly, it takes on a life of its own, “spreading like cancer”. (Incidentally, this is the primary distinction between private and public sins. Private sins may be known to others, but public sins have escaped one's ability to individually identify those affected.) In any instance of public sin, who can truly say how far error has spread? How will it be stopped without public correction, confession, and retraction?
Furthermore, what about the already “subverted households” and souls with “faith overthrown”? How will they be restored, if the public error is not publicly refuted or retracted? Therefore, such a matter cannot be ultimately resolved privately. Whenever false teaching has been publicly proclaimed, or whenever public sin has been allowed to “leaven the lump” (I Corinthians 5), it must also be publicly corrected; otherwise, the damaging error and influential sin is left to propagate unchecked. Public sins ultimately cannot be resolved privately. Therefore, let us not misapply Matthew 18:15-17 to delay or condemn immediate and public confrontation, which alone can hope to stem the tide.

Discretion and Expediency

Now, does this need for public response to public sin require that we immediately, publicly blast every infraction regardless of circumstances? The Scriptures indicate otherwise:
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unrulycomfort the fainthearteduphold the weak, be patient with all. (I Thessalonians 5:14)
And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. (Jude 22-23)
Clearly, we do not treat everyone the exact same way regardless of all circumstances. Some measure of judgment and discretion is required to “distinguish” if one is “unruly, fainthearted, or weak”. If a person is young in Christ, or if a relationship already exists, then private correspondence may convince a person to publicly correct or clarify his public mistake. The example of Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos exemplify this very discretion:
Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 18:24-28)
Occasionally, the argument will be offered that Aquila's and Priscilla's private enlightenment of Apollos demonstrates the application of Matthew 18:15-17 to private correction of public sin and public false teachers. The problem with this reasoning is that it ignores all other Scriptures, and it assumes that application of Matthew 18:15-17 is the only explanation of the passage. But, first, please note that Apollos’ doctrine was incomplete, not in contradiction to truth (“taught accurately the things of the Lord”). Those previously moved by Apollos' reasoning could easily be baptized again, as were the saints discovered in Acts 19:1-5, and those previously unmoved would not likely be moved to repentance by the “stumbling block” truth that the Messiah had died, resurrected, and ascended (I Corinthians 1:18-24). Moreover, public sinners who should know better simply do not match the case of Apollos. Apollos was untaught, and he immediately responded to private instruction and began to publicly teach the truth! He quickly and ultimately resolved the situation himself in a very public manner. However, if Apollos had refused instruction, or if he had taught contrary to the gospel, it would have been a very different matter. Whenever a person is publicly adamant, if private discussions stall, or if a public sin is too grievous, then public response may be required immediately! For example, please consider the following:
Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?” (Galatians 2:11-14)
If ever there was a man who deserved some respect, some extra consideration, some opportunity to cover his indiscretion, do you think it would not have been the apostle Peter? If ever there was an office, whose authority need not be tarnished, would it not be the office of apostle? If ever there was a sin of weakness committed by a man who knew better and which sin was uncharacteristic of the man, would it not be Peter's caving to peer pressure? Furthermore, Paul observed that Peter was “not straightforward about the truth”. That is not the same as lying, is it? We could say that Peter was only “unclear” about the truth. Would that not be worthy of private correction? Finally, what if Peter did not accept the rebuke? How much damage would have occurred to that first century church, split under the divided leadership of warring apostles? Despite all such mitigating circumstances and rationalizations, Paul rebuked Peter publicly, “to his face ... before them all”! Moreover, no one stood up and rebuked Paul for not following Matthew 18:15-17. Who would have known better the true meaning of Matthew 18:15-17 than the apostle Peter, the apostle Paul, Barnabas - or the Holy Spirit who inspired the account's recording? This example utterly disproves any effort to universally apply Matthew 18:15-17 to public sin; otherwise, Paul sinned in rebuking Peter, and the example is recorded for us to follow. Who can believe it?
While studying this passage, it is worthwhile to consider Peter's response. The church did not buckle under the uncertain guidance of opposing apostles. Instead the church grew mightily, as evidenced by the book of Acts. Furthermore, Peter later described Paul, “as our beloved brother”, inspired with wisdom from above, which included a message of the Lord’s longsuffering unto salvation (II Peter 3:15). Therefore, those who receive correction - even humiliating public correction as did Peter - would do well to follow Peter's example of humble acceptance. He did not cry, “Bully!”, neither did he rebuke Paul for his lack of gentleness, compassion or love! Let us graciously accept our error and shame as did Peter, no matter the forum or format in which it appears.
Why was Paul's reaction and condemnation so swift and so, well, publicly humiliating?
Please notice the response that Peter’s cowardice fostered: “And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy”. When public sin or public error goes unchecked, it weakens the resolve of even the strongest of saints, moving them to otherwise unthinkable compromise. The longer it goes free, the more havoc it wreaks! Consequently, when we sin publicly, we forfeit all right to a less humiliating, private resolution.
What did Paul and other inspired writers say elsewhere about addressing public sin?
Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (I Corinthians 5:6-8)
Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. (Ecclesiastes 8:11)
Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear. (I Timothy 5:19-20)
Clearly, while the public shame of a brother caught in public sin should never be harshly trivialized, that shame is always secondary to the well-being of the whole and the danger presented to them. Therefore, while we might exercise some discretion by initially, privately contacting a spiritual babe, eventually the uncorrected influence must be stopped; otherwise, the damage may never stop until it is too late. And, if the private rebuke is unproductive or if the transgression is too dangerous, immediate public response may be warranted. Such confrontations provoke the deepest emotions, so may all be on guard. May God’s Word be given free course, and let no bond of kinship, friendship, or selfish motive stand in its way. And, may the cowardly repent before it is everlastingly too late (Revelation 21:8)!


No one likes confrontation. Few people take pleasure in issuing rebuke or receiving correction. Consequently, we must always be on guard against latching onto seemingly Scriptural reasons to avoid necessary confrontation. Ironically, people who use Matthew 18:15-17 as a cover to avoid public action will often publicly condemn those, whom they claim are in violation, thereby revealing their own hypocrisy. Now, we should not be a people always looking for a fight (II Timothy 2:14-1624-26), but likewise, let us not use a passage, which was designed to provide a course of action, to avoid essential action. If one is mistreated and turns wrongly to the gossip circles or prematurely to the church pulpit, let us turn back to the simple procedure provided in Matthew 18:15-17. However, if a sin is common knowledge, or if false teaching is publicly aired, then let no one misuse the Lord’s commands to halt inquiry and response! When duty demands, may we have the knowledge, wisdom, and courage to be like Paul, willing to withstand even the most beloved brother “to his face ... before them all”.
 Trevor Bowen