"THE SECOND EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY" Remember The Resurrection Of Jesus (2:8) by Mark Copeland


Remember The Resurrection Of Jesus (2:8)


1. As Paul continued to encourage Timothy, he reminded him of Jesus...
   a. Who had been born of the seed of David
   b. Who was raised from the dead according to his gospel
   -- I.e., in the midst of hardship remember that Jesus Himself
      suffered much, yet overcame through His glorious resurrection from
      the dead - 2Ti 2:8; cf. He 12:2-3

2. The fact of Jesus' resurrection is very important to the Christian...
   a. Certainly as inspiration to persevere in the midst of hardship
   b. But there are other reasons why we should "remember" and never
      stop believing in it

[While we may not suffer hardship like Paul or Timothy, it is imperative
that Christians "Remember The Resurrection Of Jesus".  For reasons why,
consider first some implications...]


      1. The preaching of the apostles would have been empty,
         meaningless - 1Co 15:14
      2. There would be no purpose in preaching about a lie today

      1. Our belief in Christ would also be empty, meaningless 
          - 1Co 15:14
      2. For our faith would be in a lie

      1. An implication admitted to by Paul - 1Co 15:15
      2. For they swore that God raised Jesus from the dead - e.g.,
          Ac 2:32
      3. They claimed to spend 40 days with Him after the resurrection,
         eating and drinking with Him - cf. Ac 10:39-41
      4. There is no way they could have been deceived or mistaken;
         either they told the truth or they were deliberate liars,
         deceivers, and frauds!

      1. Our faith would be futile and we would still be sinners
           - 1Co 15:17
      2. For it would have been a liar or lunatic that died on the cross
      3. And no such person could have provided a sacrifice that was
         holy and without blemish

      1. Those who had died believing in Christ - 1Co 15:18
      2. Their faith would have been in a false Messiah
      3. They would have had no atonement for their sins
      4. Dying in their sins, there would be no hope

      1. If their hope in Christ relates only to this life 
          - cf. 1Co  15:19
      2. Because we believe in a false Messiah
      3. Because our faith in Him leads us to refrain from much worldly
      4. Because we are often ridiculed or persecuted for our faith

[Such are the implications if Jesus did not rise from the dead.  Now
let's review the implications of Jesus' resurrection which should
encourage us to always "remember" it...]


      1. Note Paul's mention of this consequence of the resurrection
         - Ro 4:24-25
      2. Jesus claimed His blood would be adequate for the remission of
         our sin - Mt 26:28
      3. By raising Jesus from the dead, God demonstrated His acceptance
         of Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins! - cf. Ro 8:33-34

      1. The greatness of which Paul wanted Christians to know 
          - cf. Ep 1:18-20
      2. Power involved in our conversion, raising us to a new life - Co
         2:11-12; 1Pe 3:21
      2. Power available to live the Christian life, for God is at work
         in us - Php 2:12-13; 4:13; Ep 3:20; 6:10

      1. His resurrection gives us a living hope! - 1Pe 1:3,21
      2. Especially concerning the resurrection of believers! 
          - cf. 1 Th 4:13-14

      1. He died and rose again that He might Lord of the dead and
         living - Ro 14:9
      2. He was raised and then exalted to become our Lord - Ac 2:32-36;
         Ep 1:20-23
      3. Thus our lives and service belong to Him - Ro 14:7-8; 2Co 5:15


1. The Christian must never lose sight of the significance of the
   resurrection of Jesus...
   a. It is the foundation upon which our faith and hope is based
   b. Deny the resurrection of Jesus, and we are no longer Christians

2. The reality of the resurrection of Jesus is very important to the
   minister of the gospel...
   a. No one can deny Jesus' resurrection and claim to be a minister of
   b. Those suffering hardship can take comfort knowing that Jesus also
      suffered and rose again

Will we be sure to "Remember The Resurrection Of Jesus", and live our
lives accordingly...?

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Only True Christianity is Defensible by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Only True Christianity is Defensible

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Recently I was involved in a very productive discussion with two atheists. They were in their early thirties, intelligent, and extremely well spoken. We arranged the meeting to discuss why they had chosen to adopt atheism, and reject God and Christianity. In the course of the two-hour discussion, it became clear that many of their complaints about “Christianity” were legitimate. In fact, I heartily agreed with a host of their lengthy refutations of, and rebuttals to, “Christianity.” Lest I mislead the reader, however, let me explain. Notice that I have put in quotation marks the “Christianity” against which they railed, because the term demands qualification. Much of the “Christianity” that so incensed these young men involved gross misrepresentations of God and heinous misinterpretations of the Bible. For instance, during the discussion, one of the men explained that if, according to John Calvin’s views, God arbitrarily chose some people to be saved and some to be lost, regardless of their choices, then God would be unjust. He explained this point in detail for several minutes. After listening attentively to his astute refutation of Calvinism, I completely agreed with him, but noted that Calvinism is not true Christianity. It seemed that since Calvinism had been so inseparably bound-up in many “brands” of “Christianity” to which this young man had been exposed, he was taken aback that any “Christian” would so readily agree with his assessment of its evident flaws.

The discussion with these men, coupled with a critical reading of the atheistic community’s primary authors, has impressed upon my mind the fact that skeptical writers have a knack for exposing pseudo-Christianity for the error that it truly is. Unfortunately, skeptics often use the pseudo-Christianity and misinterpretations of the Bible that they so adequately debunk as straw men that they insist represent true Christianity. In truth, they certainly do not. It is a useful study, however, to notice several areas of biblical misinterpretation and un-Christian beliefs that skeptics have correctly identified as flawed.


In 2006, David Mills authored a book titled Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism. Much of the material in that book is incorrect. But chapter six, titled “Can Genesis Be Reconciled with Modern Science?” has some trenchant things to say about those who claim to believe the Bible but try to bend its interpretation to jibe with modern evolutionary findings. At the beginning of the chapter, Mills stated:
According to Genesis, God made Adam and Eve on the sixth day of Creation Week. The Genesis genealogies then detail the exact ages at which Adam and his male descendants “begat” their own male offspring. The New Testament books of Matthew and Luke [NOTE: Matthew and Luke actually do not give ages—KB] then continue the genealogy from David to Jesus, again specifying the age at which each male descendent “begat” the next generation. Since we have a fixed “historical” time period for Jesus’ birth, creationists thereby calculate that the heavens and Earth were created by God in the year 4004 B.C. Earth, therefore, is only 6000 years old by biblical chronology. [NOTE: Although Mills is correct about the general age of 6,000 years, the chronology is not so precise as to nail down the exact date of 4004 B.C.—KB.] Despite widely divergent viewpoints, creationists and evolutionary biologists agree on a crucial fact: Six-thousand years is insufficient time for evolution to have produced the complex life-forms we observe on Earth today.... A 6000-year-old Earth means therefore that Genesis and the Theory of Evolution are forever irreconcilable (p. 137).
Mills further noted:
If Earth’s history began with Creation Week, and if Genesis provides an accurate historical record, then Earth had no prehistoric eras, no prehistoric peoples, and no prehistoric animals. Dinosaurs walked the Earth only a few thousand years ago, side-by-side with modern man (p. 141).
Mills went on to write: “If creationists now wish to abandon their historical position and acquiesce to an ancient Earth, then I applaud their progress. But it is a farce to maintain that Genesis never really demanded a young Earth since the genealogies were always intended as metaphors” (p. 148, emp. added).

Regarding those who attempt to compromise the literal nature of Genesis and accept both the Bible and evolution, Mills wrote: “Citing the Day-Age theory, these Great Pretenders make believe that Genesis actually describes an ancient Earth. The purpose of this pompous intellectual charade is to allow the Great Pretenders to ‘have it both ways’—imagining themselves to be both religious and scientific at the same time” (p. 151). In what sounds exactly like a young Earth apologist’s writings, Mills then commented: “In seeming anticipation and preemptive rebuttal of the Day-Age theory, however, the Book of Genesis itself provides a clear and specific definition of Creation Week...‘the evening and the morning’ were a day—a literal 24-hour day” (p. 151).

Mills is exactly right in regard to the fact that a compromise of the Genesis account of Creation is indefensible and illogical. He does an excellent job of showing that the special pleading needed to warp the text of Genesis into agreement with modern evolutionary ideas cannot stand critical scrutiny. He concludes correctly that: “A 6000-year-old Earth means therefore that Genesis and the Theory of Evolution are forever irreconcilable” (p. 137). Those who compromise the text of Genesis in an attempt to force it to agree with modern evolutionary teachings have gotten it wrong, and would do well to listen to Mills’ criticism of their inaccurate interpretation.

Unfortunately, Mills leaves his critical thinking at the doorstep of his correct assessment that the Bible and evolutionary theory are irreconcilable. He incorrectly reasons that the Bible has been wrong all along and that evolution is the true creative agent of our planet. We have shown repeatedly that such simply cannot be the case (cf. Jackson, et al., 2008), and Mills and other atheists would do well to apply the same critical thinking to the false evolutionary theory as they so aptly apply to indefensible compromises of the biblical text.


Many people who consider themselves Christians today have accepted the idea that humans are born with a sinful nature. These religious people believe that sin can be inherited from one’s ancestors, and that every human, even infants, deserve death due to their inherently sinful nature. The Bible, however, nowhere teaches such a doctrine. Thus, when atheists and skeptics seize on this false interpretation of Scripture, they correctly insist that such a teaching would manifest a contradiction in the nature of the God of the Bible.

Christopher Hitchens, in his discussion of Christ’s death on the cross, wrote:
Furthermore, I am required to believe that the agony was necessary in order to compensate for an earlier crime in which I also had not part, the sin of Adam.... Thus my own guilt in the matter is deemed “original” and inescapable. However, I am still granted free will with which to reject the offer of vicarious redemption (2007, p. 209, italics in orig.).
Hitchens correctly concluded that such an idea “negates the moral and reasonable idea that the children are innocent of their parent’s offenses” (p. 99). Richard Dawkins weighed in on the idea as well: “The sin of Adam and Eve is thought to have passed down the male line—transmitted in the semen according to Augustine. What kind of ethical philosophy is it that condemns every child, even before it is born, to inherit the sin of a remote ancestor?” (Dawkins, 2006, p. 251, emp. added).

Hitchens, Dawkins, and numerous other atheistic writers correctly conclude that a god who condemns children because they inherited their ancestors’ sins would be an unjust being unworthy of worship. The biblical portrait of God, however, is not of such a cruel, unjust being. In fact, it is the exact opposite. The Bible points out in unambiguous terms that children do not inherit the sins or guilt of their ancestors. The prophet Ezekiel wrote: “The one who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (18:20). It has been shown repeatedly and beyond doubt that the Bible never indicates that children inherit sin or guilt from their parents (Butt, 2004), nor do children ever suffer any type of spiritual punishment as a result of the sins of their parents (Butt, 2003). While it is the case that children often suffer physical consequences of their parents’ wrong choices, such as when a drunken father abuses his children, it is not the case that those children bear any of the father’s spiritual guilt or inherit any of their parents’ sin.

One can completely understand why the skeptical community would be aghast at a being who would cast innocent babies into hell as punishment for the sins of their parents. Yet, a correct interpretation of the Bible shows that such is not the case. While it is sad that many religious people have falsely taught such a view, their false teaching on the subject, and the skeptics’ acceptance of that false teaching as a correct interpretation of the Bible, cannot be used as a legitimate weapon to impugn the character of the God of the Bible.


It is unfortunate for Christianity that some who call themselves Christians completely misunderstand the basic concept of faith. For many in Christendom, faith is a warm feeling in their hearts when they have failed to find adequate evidence to justify their beliefs. Modern dictionaries have done much to engrain this false definition of faith into modern Christianity. For instance, Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary states that faith is “a firm belief in something for which there is no proof” (1988). The American Heritage Dictionary gives as a primary definition of faith: “belief that does not rest on logical or material evidence” (2000, p. 636). The idea that faith is a warm, fuzzy feeling divorced from logical thinking and separated from all “material evidence” does not coincide with what the Bible actually says about faith (cf. Sztanyo, 1996). As Sztanyo correctly noted: “There is not a single item in Christianity, upon which our souls’ salvation depends, that is only ‘probably’ true. In each case, the evidence supplied is sufficient to establish conclusive proof regarding the truth of the Christian faith” (1996, p. 7).

The false view that faith is “a leap in the dark” without adequate evidence provides the skeptical community plenty of fodder for their atheistic, anti-Bible cannons—and rightly so. If believing in God, or the divine inspiration of the Bible, or the deity of Jesus Christ is not established by rational, logical evidence, then those ideas are as unworthy of belief as the unprovable ideas of atheism and evolution. Knowing the inconsistency of such a false definition of faith, Sam Harris wrote: “In fact, every religion preaches the truth of propositions for which no evidence is even conceivable. This put the ‘leap’ in Kierkegaard’s leap of faith” (Harris, 2004, p. 23, italics in orig.). Christopher Hitchens, building on the “leap of faith” idea, opined:
Actually, the “leap of faith”—to give it the memorable name that Soren Kierkegaard bestowed on it—is an imposture. As he himself pointed out, it is not a “leap” that can be made once and for all. It is a leap that has to go on and on being performed, in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary (2007, p. 65).
In his analysis of religion, Richard Dawkins quipped: “The whole point of religious faith, its strength and chief glory, is that it does not depend on rational justification” (2006, p. 23, emp. added). Because of his belief that biblical faith is belief without rational justification, Dawkins concluded: “We believe in evolution because the evidence supports it, and we would abandon it overnight if new evidence arose to disprove it. No real fundamentalist would ever say anything like that” (p. 283). What Dawkins really means to say is that no fundamentalist who has adopted the concept that faith does not depend on rational justification would abandon his or her belief if evidence were provided to the contrary. But if his definition of faith is wrong, then he is incorrect to conclude that those who believe in God, the divine inspiration of the Bible, and the deity of Christ would not alter their views based on the evidence. In fact, according to a proper definition of biblical faith, it is only because of the rational justification and logical evidence available that true Christians hold to their beliefs.

When Dawkins states, “Christianity, just as much as Islam, teaches children that unquestioned faith is a virtue. You don’t have to make the case for what you believe” (p. 306), he manifests his lack of knowledge of what biblical faith is. Biblical faith is based completely and solely on truth and reason, as the apostle Paul succinctly stated in Acts 26:25. The prophet Isaiah underscored this fundamental truth about biblical faith when He recorded God’s invitation to the Israelites: “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord” (1:18). Luke, in his introduction to the book of Acts, pressed the point that Jesus’ resurrection was attested by “many infallible proofs” (1:3). For one to believe in the resurrection requires faith, based on infallible proofs.

Sam Harris wrote: “It is time that we admitted that faith is nothing more than the license religious people give one another to keep believing when reasons fail” (Harris, 2006, p. 67). Harris’ accusation is justified when it is applied to false religions, and to those who attempt to defend Christianity without providing a logical, rational justification for their belief. But his allegations, and similar sentiments from Dawkins, Hitchens, and other atheists, are wholly inadequate to attack true, biblical faith. Sadly, too many self-proclaimed Christians open the door for the skeptical community to bash Christian “faith,” when, in reality, the “faith” that is being destroyed was never biblical in the first place.


It is often the case that “Christianity” is abused by modern skeptics due to the tendency of many in Christendom to claim that the Holy Spirit continues to work miracles today just as He did during New Testament times. Atheist Dan Barker wrote about the time that he was thrown out of “Peter Popoff’s ‘miracle’ rally” (1992, p. 291). Barker wrote that Popoff “grabbed a woman’s head, deliberately mussed up her hair, shook her and pronounced her healed” (p. 293). During Popoff’s healing antics, Barker noted, “The audience punctuated his ‘healings’ by loudly speaking in tongues, raising their arms, shaking, crying, and hollering ‘Amen,’ ‘Thank you, Jesus!’ and ‘Hallelujah!’ It had the feel of one of those professional wrestling matches on TV” (p. 293).

Barker’s assessment of the event was, “It was comical; and it was sad. The man was practicing medicine without a license, raising false hopes and endangering lives. (Many of his believers have discarded medicine or cancelled doctor’s appointments.) I remember having participated in meetings just like this when I was a full-gospel evangelist, and I was ashamed” (p. 294). Barker’s caustic assessment of Popoff’s “faith healing scam” is accurate in many ways. As Barker admitted, he at one time in his past participated in many false-healing events, and thus he knows the inherent dishonesty involved in such deceptive shenanigans. Here again the skeptical community has logically and correctly concluded that such faith healings are not valid. As David Mills wrote: “If God has the power to miraculously cure others (though invariably in a vague and uncertain way), why doesn’t God ever help amputees?” (2006, p. 161).

Mills is right to surmise that if the miraculous power that was available during the time of the apostles is still available today, as many Christians erroneously teach and believe, then miracles that can be empirically verified like the healing of amputees should be documented. After all, even the enemies of the apostles had to admit that the miracles worked by the apostles were empirically verifiable: “For indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it” (Acts 4:16).

In truth, the skeptical community does an excellent job of showing that such “faith healing” events are emotionally charged frenzies that do not produce legitimate medical results. The problem arises, however, when the skeptical community tries to lump all Christians into this mold, or attempts to use these verifiably false miracles to discount the possibility of any type of miracle at any time in history. The fact of the matter is, the Bible predicted that the miraculous power that was available to the apostles would come to an end, and would not continue throughout the ages until modern times (Miller, 2003). Furthermore, it has been repeatedly and definitively shown that such false miracles sustain no argumentative value against the historical legitimacy of true miracles recorded in the Bible, such as the resurrection of Christ (Butt, 2002).


Mortimer J. Adler once stated, “Christianity is the only logical, consistent faith in the world” (as quoted in Sharp and Bergman, 2008, p. 288). Unfortunately, the truth of his statement is often obscured by the copious, false philosophies and inaccurate biblical interpretations that masquerade as Christianity. Calvinism, theistic evolution, inherited sin, misdefined faith, and a belief in modern-day miraculous healings are just a few of the obstacles standing in the way of a proper understanding of New Testament Christianity. To this list could be added hundreds of similar ideas fraught with error such as the unscriptural concepts of purgatory, limbo, modern-day Divine inspiration, the perseverance of the saints, and a plethora of ridiculous “predictions” supposedly rooted in the biblical text of Revelation. Those who genuinely wish to defend the validity of New Testament Christianity must be willing and able to assess the writings of modern skeptics, separating the wheat from the chaff. By acknowledging the mistakes that are inherent in false concepts of “Christianity,” the honest-hearted truth seeker can be led to see that such foibles and errors do not mar authentic, defensible Christianity.


American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.

Barker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI: Freedom From Religion).

Butt, Kyle (2002), “Jesus Christ—Dead or Alive?” Reason & Revelationhttp://apologeticspress.org/articles/121.

Butt, Kyle (2003), “Do Babies Go to Hell When They Die?” http://apologeticspress.org/articles/2255.

Butt, Kyle (2004), “Do Children Inherit the Sins of the Parents?” http://apologeticspress.org/articles/2543.

Dawkins, Richard (2006), The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin).

Harris, Sam (2004), The End of Faith (New York: W.W. Norton).

Harris, Sam (2006), Letter to a Christian Nation (New York: Alfred A. Knopf).

Hitchens, Christopher (2007), god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: The Twelve).

Jackson, Wayne, Eric Lyons and Kyle Butt (2008), Surveying the Evidence (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

Miller, Dave (2003), “Modern Day Miracles, Tongue-Speaking and Holy Spirit Baptism—A Refutation,” Reason & Revelationhttp://apologeticspress.org/articles/2569.

Mills, David (2006), Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism(Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press).

Sharp, Doug and Jerry Bergman, eds. (2008), Persuaded by the Evidence (Green Forest, AR: Master Books).

Sztanyo, Dick (1996), Faith and Reason (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (1988), (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster).

One Second After Death by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


One Second After Death

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

We human beings find it very easy to live life as if we will be here forever. We occasionally come face to face with death when a friend or loved one passes away. But the essence of daily living is such that it is easy to ignore the reality of death and the certainty of existence beyond the grave. It is essential that we go to the Bible and find out what will happen to each one of us—one second after death.
The Bible teaches that human beings are composite creatures. We possess a fleshly body that is composed of physical elements made from “the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7). This physical body is animated by a life force or life principle that we share in common with the animal kingdom (although, in the Genesis creation account, a distinction seems to be made between animals and man in the direct source of this life principle (Genesis 1:20-21,24; 2:7). In any case, the Scriptures also teach that human beings are unlike the animals in that humans also possess a spiritual dimension that transcends the body and physical life on Earth.
God places within each prenatal person at conception a spirit that makes each individual a unique personality. Zechariah 12:1 observed that God “forms the spirit of man within him.” Our spirits are what makes each one of us a distinct entity, a person that will survive physical death and live on immortally throughout eternity.
A number of Hebrew and Greek words are used in the Bible to identify various facets of our beings (e.g., nepheshruachneshamahleb, and basar in the Old Testament and psuchepneumanoussoma, and sarx in the New Testament). These words are somewhat fluid, and are used in a variety of ways—sometimes interchangeably, sometimes in contradistinction to each other. They are translated by many different English words (e.g., “soul,” “spirit,” “breath,” “wind,” “heart,” “mind,” “self,” “body,” “flesh,” et al.). It is a mistake to seize upon a passage where “soul” refers to the entirety of a person’s being and conclude that man does not possess a spirit that is distinct from his animated body. Some religious thinkers tend to limit the Hebrew word ruach (soul or spirit) to an impersonal vital power that becomes individualized only in the nephesh (whole person). Thus, it is claimed that the soul or spirit cannot exist independently of the body, so that when the “life force” exits the body, the person ceases to exist.
But, by avoiding human philosophies and focusing solely upon the Bible, we learn that each person possesses a conscious spirit that ultimately leaves the body and exists separately from it in the spirit realm. For example, Genesis 35:18 states: “[I]t came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died).” The author of the book of 1 Kings wrote that Elijah prayed, “let this child’s soul come into him again...and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived” (17:21-22). Psalm 86:13 says, “You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.”
The Bible defines “death” as “separation”—not “extinction.” Physical death occurs when the spirit exits the body. James 2:26 notes: “[F]or as the body without the spirit is dead.” In other words, the separation of one’s spirit from one’s body results in physical death. Spiritual death, on the other hand, entails separation from God due to sin. So “death” involves the idea of separation—not extinction or unconsciousness.
A clear depiction of existence beyond death is seen in Luke 16:19-31. Some argue that this section of Scripture is a parable, which is incorrect since the story does not contain the usual indicators of parabolic discourse. However, even if the passage were a parable, a parable is not a fairy tale. Bible parables parallel true-life situations to teach a basic lesson of truth. They draw from reality and that which people understand as actual earthly existence and genuine conditions in order to drive home a spiritual point. After reading Luke 16:19-31, observe the following textual details:
  1. Both men are said to have died.
  2. Wherever Lazarus went, angels were used to transport him there.
  3. The rich man was buried.
  4. The rich man was in hades.
  5. The rich man was being tormented in flames.
  6. The rich man could see and recognize Lazarus and Abraham.
  7. Abraham referred to the rich man’s former existence as “your lifetime.”
  8. Abraham made clear that their respective locations were irreversible.
  9. The rich man’s brothers were still occupying his father’s house on Earth.
  10. The Law of Moses was still in effect.
  11. The rich man’s plea to send Lazarus to his living relatives would require Lazarus to return “from the dead” (vs. 30) and to “rise from the dead” (vs. 31).
The term translated “hell” in Luke 16:23 is the Greek word hades, and is not to be confused with the word gehenna. “Gehenna” is found twelve times in the New Testament, and refers to the place of eternal, everlasting punishment—the “lake of fire” where Satan, his angels, and all wicked people will be consigned after the Second Coming of Jesus and the Judgment. So gehenna is hell. “Hades,” on the other hand, occurs ten times in the New Testament, and always refers to the unseen realm of the dead—the recepticle of disembodied spirits where all people who die await the Lord’s return. At that time, our spirits will be reunited with our resurrection bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-54).
Luke 16 shows us that hades contains two regions. One is referred to as the “bosom of Abraham” (which simply means “near” or “in the presence of ” Abraham—cf. John 1:18). The other region in hades is described as tormenting flame. Every other passage in the New Testament that refers to hades harmonizes with this description of the intermediate realm of the dead where the deceased await the resurrection and judgment.
For example, while fastened to the cross, Jesus told the thief, “Today, you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The word paradise is of Persian derivation, and means a “garden” or “park.” Where was it that Jesus and the thief went on that very day? Certainly not to extinction! Extinction would not be “paradise”! They did not go to the grave together. The thief was not placed in the tomb with Jesus, and the tomb certainly would not be a “paradise.” Nor did Jesus go to heaven, for in John 20:17 after His resurrection, Jesus reassured Mary that He had not yet ascended to the Father. So where is “paradise”? Where did Jesus and the thief go after dying on the cross? Where had Jesus been for those three days between His death and resurrection?
Peter gave the answer to that question in his sermon in Acts 2 when he quoted Psalm 16. Acts 2:27 states that God would not abandon Christ’s soul in hades nor allow Christ to undergo decay. So while Christ’s body was placed in a tomb for three days, Christ’s spirit went to hades. Peter argued that David, who penned the 16th Psalm, was not referring to himself. How do we know? David’s body was still in the tomb (Acts 2:29). David’s spirit was still in the hadean realm because Peter also said that David had not yet ascended into heaven (Acts 2:34). Acts 2, by itself, proves that a person does not go straight to heaven or hell when he dies, and that a person does not become extinct, cease to exist, or pass into a state of unconsciousness at death.
Jesus previously predicted that His death and entrance into the Hadean realm would not prevent Him from accomplishing His divine purposes. Matthew 16:18 reads: “Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it.” In other words, though He would die on the cross, though His body would be placed in the tomb, and though His spirit would descend into hades, nevertheless, the gates of hades would not prevent Him from coming back out of hades (i.e., resurrection) and then setting up the kingdom a few days later in Acts 2. At that time, Peter and the apostles employed the “keys of the kingdom” (Matthew 16:19) with the help of the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus (Acts 2:33).
It was through Jesus’ death and subsequent departure from hades that Jesus rendered powerless “him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:26,54-57). Jesus’ personal victory over death and the Hadean realm explains why He could declare in Revelation 1:18—I am He who lives; and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of hades and of death.”
While Jesus, the thief, and Lazarus went to the paradise portion of hades, the rich man went to the unpleasant area which included torment and flame. This is the same region of hades, referred to in 2 Peter 2:4, where angels who sinned were committed by God. The term that Peter used was tartarosas, or Tartarus, and is described as “pits of darkness” where they are “reserved for judgment.” The parallel in Jude 6 speaks of these angels as having abandoned their proper place and having failed to keep their own domain. They are depicted as existing in “everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” This region of the Hadean realm must also be in view in Moses’ allusion to the anger of God which kindles fire that “shall burn to the lowest part of Sheol” (Deuteronomy 32:22)—sheol being a general Hebrew equivalent of the Greek hades.
Notice what will happen to this intermediate receptacle of spirits. In Revelation 20, beginning in verse 11, we are presented with a portrait of the final judgment before the great white throne of God. Everyone who has ever lived will be there. Verse 13 says that “death and hades” will be cast into the lake of fire. That means that hades will be cast into hell. The unseen realm of the dead, where conscious spirits reside until judgment, will have served its purpose, and all people who have ever lived will then be consigned to one of two places: heaven or hell.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). “[I]t is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29). Paul referred to the occasion “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
Look carefully at the word “everlasting.” Does the human spirit exist beyond physical death and the grave in a conscious state? Or, at death, does the soul cease to exist in a state of “soul sleep”? Does a person’s consciousness become extinct? Is the soul annihilated at death? The Sadducees denied the existence of the spirit realm. According to Acts 23:8, they denied the immortality of the soul, believing in “neither angel nor spirit.” Josephus stated that the Sadducees believed that “souls die with the bodies” (18:1:4). There are religious groups today who teach the same thing.
In Luke 20, Jesus showed the fallacy of such thinking by showing that when Moses was at the burning bush in Exodus 3, God declared Himself to be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. At the time God made that statement, the bodies of those three patriarchs had been in the grave for hundreds of years. Yet Jesus concluded: “For He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (Luke 20:38). That proves that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—though separated from their physical bodies—were still in existence. They were not extinct. They would one day be reunited with their bodies in the resurrection.
Many other passages indicate the perpetuation of conscious spiritual life beyond physical death. Revelation 6:9-11 speaks of the souls of those who had been martyred for the Christian cause. They are depicted as spirits—not bodies—who are conscious, who are aware of the means by which they were killed, and who knew that their blood had not yet been avenged.
In 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, Paul described an experience that he, or someone he knew, had in the “third heaven.” The “third heaven” in scriptural thought is the spirit realm where God and other celestial beings reside (Deuteronomy 10:14; 26:15; 1 Kings 8:27,30). It often is referred to as the “heaven of heavens”—a Semitism wherein the genitive is used for the superlative degree—meaning the highest or ultimate heaven (cf. “Song of songs,” “King of kings,” “Lord of lords”). The “first heaven” is the Earth’s atmosphere—the “sky”—where the birds fly (Genesis 1:20; 8:2; Isaiah 55:10; Luke 13:19). The “second heaven” is “outer space”—where the Sun, Moon, and stars are situated (Genesis 15:5; 22:17; Deuteronomy 4:19; Nahum 3:16). Twice Paul stated that he was not certain whether the person described was “in the body, or out of the body” (vss. 2-3). That proves that Paul acknowledged the possibility of the spirit of a human being existing in a conscious state apart from the body. To say that the spirit ceases to exist at death makes Paul imply what is not true.
Both accounts, of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, and the thief on the cross in Luke 23:43, prove that conscious existence continues after the death of the body. Hebrews 12:23 speaks of “the spirits of just men made perfect”—a reference to deceased saints who remained faithful to God during their life on Earth, but who had since passed into the spirit realm. That passage makes no sense if “spirits” refers to the wind or breath of a person. These people were like Stephen in Acts 7:59 who, as life was being stoned from his body, said to the Lord whom he could see in the heavens: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” If “spirit” is simply the life force of the body that goes extinct the moment it no longer animates the body, then Stephen was speaking out of ignorance to think that he had a spirit that could be received by Jesus.
The Bible frequently speaks of the ultimate state of both the good and the wicked as being “eternal.” For example, read Hebrews 6:2 which speaks of “eternal judgment,” or 2 Thessalonians 1:9 which speaks of “eternal destruction,” or Revelation 20:10 where Satan will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, and tormented there “day and night forever and ever.” Jude 7 speaks of those who will suffer “the vengeance (punishment) of eternal fire.”
Matthew 18:8-9 identifies the fire of hell (gehenna) as “everlasting fire.” The parallel passage in Mark 9:43 states that this fire “shall never be quenched.” Mark 9:48 states that hell is a place “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” The image is taken from Isaiah 66:24, and is unquestionably intended to make the point that the fire of hell will be unquenchable—always burning, yet never consuming.
In His description of the final Judgment in Matthew 25:46, Jesus used the same word aionion (eternal) to refer to the respective conditions of both the good and evil people who inhabited the Earth. If eternal punishment is not “eternal,” then life eternal is not “eternal” either. The word “punishment” clearly implies pain that is inflicted. Listen to Peter, who said, “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:9). The same word is used to refer to the punishment that the apostles narrowly avoided in Acts 4:21.
Some say the word “destroy” (or “destruction”) means “annihilation” (or “extinction”). They go to a passage like Matthew 10:28 where Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” They insist that “destroy” in this passage means “annihilation.” But that cannot be. For if physical death inflicted by one’s fellowman brings extinction and unconsciousness of the soul, what is there to fear from God? Why would Jesus say there is no need to fear other people—who can take your physical life? For in taking your physical life, they also would cause your soul to be annihilated, in which case they have as much power as God, and the comparison that Jesus makes is no comparison at all. If the soul dies with the body, then he who kills the body kills the soul, too.
The parallel passage in Luke 12:4-5 makes this point even clearer. Luke wrote: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He hath killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” If physical death brings annihilation of the soul, then it is ridiculous to speak of casting the soul into hell after killing the body.
In addition, the Greek term that underlies our English word “destroy” does not mean “annihilation.” W.E. Vine, in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, explained: “The idea is not extinction but ruin, loss, not of being, but of well-being” (1966, p. 302). He cited Matthew 10:28 as an example, as well as John 17:12 where Judas, who had not yet hung himself, was called the “son of perdition.” Obviously, Judas was not extinct or annihilated. But he was destroyed in the sense that he lost spiritual well-being. He had perished spiritually.
Lexicographer Joseph H. Thayer agreed with this assessment when he said that “destroy” in Matthew 10:28 means “to devote or give over to eternal misery” (1901, p. 64). Albrecht Oepke commented on the meaning of destroy: “definitive destruction, not merely in the sense of extinction of physical existence, but rather of an eternal plunge into Hades” (Kittel, 1:396).
What must be concluded from these passages of Scripture? God gives people this life on Earth to prepare their spirits for their eternal abode. When a person dies, his or her body goes into the grave, while the conscious spirit enters the Hadean realm to await the final Judgment. At the Second Coming of Christ, all spirits will come forth from hades and be resurrected in immortal bodies. All will then face God in judgment, receive the pronouncement of eternal sentence, and then be consigned to heaven or hell for eternity. Listen closely to the inspired words of the apostle Peter:
Therefore, since all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? ...You therefore, beloved, since you know these things beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being lead away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:11-12,17-18).
[NOTE: For an audio sermon on this topic, click here.]


Josephus, Flavius (1974 reprint), “Antiquities of the Jews,” The Works of Flavius Josephus, transl. William Whiston (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Kittel, Gerhard (1964), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Thayer, J.H. (1901), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (1977 reprint), (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Vine, W.E. (1966 reprint), An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell).

One Question, Three Different Answers by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


One Question, Three Different Answers

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Three times in the book of Acts, Luke the physician recorded non-Christians asking what they needed to do to be saved, and three times a different answer was given. The heathen jailor from Philippi asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?,” and was told: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (16:30-31). The Jews on Pentecost asked the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?,” and were instructed to “repent and be baptized” (2:37-38). A few years later, Saul (later called Paul—Acts 13:9) asked Jesus, Who appeared to Saul on his way to Damascus, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” (9:6; 22:10). After being told to go into Damascus to find out what he “must do” to be saved, Ananias, the Lord’s servant, commanded Saul to “[a]rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (22:16). The question that many ask is: “Why are three different answers given to the same question?” Are these answers contradictory, or is there a logical explanation for their differences?
The reason that three different answers were given to the question of salvation is because on each occasion the questioners were at different “locations” on the road to salvation. The rationality of such answers can be illustrated by considering what a person is told in reference to his physical distance from a certain city. If a friend calls me to ask how far it is from his house in Jackson, Tennessee to my parents’ house in Neosho, Missouri, I would inform him that he is 475 miles from Neosho. If he calls me back the next day, notifying me that he is now in Little Rock, Arkansas, and asks about the distance to Neosho, I would give him a different answer. He now would be 260 miles from Neosho. If, later that evening, he called me one last time and asked how far Fort Smith is from Neosho, again I would give him a different answer—130 miles. No rational person would accuse me of contradicting myself, since each question was asked from a different reference point. Three different answers were given, but all three were correct. Likewise, the New Testament records three different answers given to the question, “What must I do to be saved,” because the sinners who asked these questions were at different places of understanding on the road to salvation.
The Philippian jailor was commanded to believe in Christ, because he had not yet heard and believed the saving message of Jesus (Acts 16:31-32; Romans 10:17). It would have been pointless for Paul and Silas to command the jailor to repent and/or be baptized when he had not yet even heard the Gospel. If today, a Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist, asked a Christian the same question the Philippian jailor asked Paul and Silas, the same answer would need to be given. Before ever teaching a Muslim about the essentiality of repentance and baptism, he first must express belief in Jesus as the Son of God. If this step (i.e., believing) is never taken on the road to salvation, the other steps are meaningless. [NOTE: The Bible reveals that after Paul and Silas “spoke the word of the Lord” to the jailor and his household, they believed and “immediately” were baptized (Acts 16:33). By implication, Paul and Silas must have taught the jailor and his family about the essentiality of baptism after stressing the need to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. Acts 8:35-36,38). Question: If water baptism has nothing to do with salvation, then why were the jailor and his household immersed in water not long after midnight (cf. Acts 16:25,33)?]
The Jews on Pentecost had already heard Peter’s sermon when they asked their question about salvation (Acts 2:37). Peter knew that they already believed, and that such belief came from hearing the message he preached (cf. Romans 10:17). The Jews had passed the point of belief (being “pricked in their heart”), and were told to “repent and be baptized” in order to obtain salvation (cf. Mark 16:16).
Still, someone might wonder why Ananias told Saul neither to believe nor repent when he informed him about how to have his sins washed away. The reason: Saul already was a penitent believer in Christ by the time he came in contact with Ananias. Saul did not need to be told to believe or repent, since he had already done so. He knew the Lord existed, having spoken directly with Him on the road to Damascus, and he expressed a penitent attitude by praying to God and fasting for three days (Acts 9:9,11). At this point, Saul lacked only one thing: he needed to be baptized (Acts 22:16).
The reason these sinners were told three different things regarding salvation was because they were at different starting points when given the various answers. It is as if the jailor were in Jackson, Tennessee, the Jews on Pentecost in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Saul in Fort Smith. All wanted to go to the same place, but were at different starting points when they asked the question, “What must I do to be saved?” The unbeliever was told to believe. The believers were told to repent. And the penitent believer was told to be baptized. The three statements may be different, but they are not contradictory. For a person to become a child of God, he or she must do all three (see John 8:24; Luke 13:3,5; Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16).

One of Suffering's Greatest Benefits by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


One of Suffering's Greatest Benefits

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

It is reported that Oscar Wilde, the British playwright, once said that there was enough suffering on any given street in London at any given time to prove that there is no God. For millennia, skeptics, agnostics, atheists, and infidels have pointed accusing fingers at the suffering in this world, and have demanded that such evil and pain militates against the concept of an all-powerful, all-loving God. Even Christians have been faced with faith-trying episodes of suffering in their lives. How could a loving God allow such bad things to happen to His human creations?
In this brief article, an in-depth study of that question cannot be undertaken (for an in-depth look at this topic, see Major, 1998). It is, however, the case that one small aspect of the problem can be presented: suffering in the lives of humans can lead them to establish a right relationship with their Creator. Consider Manasseh, the king of Judah, as a case in point. In 2 Kings 21, the Bible records that Manasseh “did evil in the sight of the Lord” (vs. 2). He “practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft, and consulted spiritists and mediums” (vs. 3). But his sins did not stop there; rather, he acted “more wickedly than all the Amorites who were before him” and “made Judah sin with his idols” (vs. 11). In addition, the text records that Manasseh “shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another” (vs. 16). This evil king seemed to be rotten to the core, and beyond hope of turning to God.
Due to his sin, the Lord sent the army of Assyria to raid Judah. The Assyrians captured Manasseh and led him away with hooks (probably nose hooks) and bronze fetters to the land of Babylon. In this destitute condition, when Manasseh’s suffering was at its worst, the Bible records: “Now when he was afflicted, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his king. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God” (2 Chronicles 33:12-13, emp. added). Upon regaining the throne, Manasseh removed the idols and foreign gods and re-established worship of the one true God. Only through his “affliction” did Manasseh realize that he needed God.
So it is with many today. The cares of this world have a way of keeping people from contemplating their actual relationship with God. Yet, when suffering hits their lives, the real issues of life often come into much clearer focus. C.S. Lewis once wrote that pain was God’s “megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” David, the inspired psalmist, in a prayer to his God, wrote: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word” (Psalm 119:67). It is a sad fact that some people never look up to God until they are laying flat on their backs. Do not be deceived into thinking that all suffering and pain is “useless.” On the contrary, “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2-3).


Major, Trevor J. (1998), “The Problem of Suffering,” Reason & Revelation, 18:49-55, July.

Examples and The Pattern by Trevor Bowen


Examples and The Pattern


Many questions concerning the New Testament pattern for the church and our personal lives are reduced to questions about how to interpret New Testament examples.  "Are no examples binding?"  "Or, are all examples binding?"  "How can we decide which examples God intended for us to include in the pattern?"  Our conclusions on many issues, such as church organization, are built upon the answer to these questions.  Therefore, to properly examine these issues, we must first examine the root of all such issues, "When are New Testament examples binding?"

The Heart of the Matter

This study can be divided into and based upon two fundamental points.  First and foremost, as in all of our previous studies, we must recognize the supremacy and authority of God’s pattern.  Secondly and closely related to this first point, we must determine how the Bible examples fit into this pattern.  This second point is really the heart of the matter because the Bible does not provide direct commands concerning the church's organization and many other issues.  In these cases, the only Bible commentary is the examples of New Testament Christians and churches operating under the approval of God.

Authority and the Bible Pattern

In a separate article, we considered a closely related topic, the importance of Bible authority and establishing right from wrong.  In another, we explored the Bible's teaching on the danger of deviating from God’s pattern.  But, in this article, we would like to consider if New Testament examples are part of the pattern.  If New Testament examples should be included, then the well established warnings are clear for those who do not follow the pattern.
"You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you." (Deuteronomy 4:2)
"He answered and said to them, 'Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? ... "In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men"'" Spoken by Jesus to the Pharisees in (Matthew 15:3,9)
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'   And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who work iniquity.' " (Matthew 7:21-23)
In addition to these passages, the examples of Nadab and AbihuKing Saul, and Uzzah, clearly show that God’s wrath was directed toward those who acted contrary to His will.  Moreover, the final passage promises final condemnation upon Judgment Day for those who have disobeyed God, even with good intentions.  However, the question with which we are now concerned is, "Does the pattern include examples?"
From our studies of Bible authority, we learned that Jesus Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:2022-23), and that He promised His apostles would be guided "into all truth" (John 16:7-13).  Moreover, we find that His apostles did receive "all truth" through inspiration by the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 2:10-16), and when we read their letters, we can develop the same understanding that they had (Ephesians 3:2-5).  Since we have their record in the Bible and consequently, all that we need "for life and godliness" (II Peter 1:3), we know that the Bible must contain God’s will on all matters.  Therefore, God’s will for the inherent authority in examples, church organization, and all other issues is contained in the Bible, and it alone should reign as the supreme standard in establishing the pattern for us today.
Determining this point leads us to our second question:  "Are examples part of the pattern?"  "How do we know which, if any, examples are binding upon us today?"

"Does the Pattern Include Examples?"

This is the issue that is truly at the heart of the matter - determining when, or if any, New Testament examples are binding upon us today.  Examples that are "binding" are those that have inherent authority and obligate us to obey them.  This phrase comes from Jesus’ statement in which He foretold of the authority that would be given the apostles Examples and The Patternto "bind" and "loose" (Matthew 18:18).   The question that we are now considering is the extent of "binding" authority that is inherent in their approved New Testament examples.
There are two extreme ways of approaching this question:  Either all examples, or no examples are binding upon us today.  While a few people hold to one of these views, most people realize that neither of these extremes are true.  Most people take a more balanced view that differs only in its bias:  Either all examples are binding until proven otherwise, or no examples are binding until proven otherwise.  These are the two viewpoints that we will primarily consider, while only briefly considering the two extremes.

Examples Can be Binding

Clearly, the two extreme views can be seen to be incorrect from an examination of a few Bible passages.  First, we know for certain that the Bible does use examples to teach and instruct:
"Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come."  I Corinthians 10:11
"Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.  Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern."  ... "The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you."  Phillipians 3:16-17; 4:9
"For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.  Therefore I urge you, imitate me.  For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church."  I Corinthians 4:15-17
The New Testament contains these and numerous more instances in which the apostles gave instructions for people to pattern their lives after those who were doing right (I Thessalonians 2:14I Corinthians 11:1II Timothy 3:10-14II Thessalonians 3:7-9I Peter 3:1-2).  Since examples do teach and instruct, they are by definition necessarily binding, but they cannot all be exclusively binding.  We find examples of the apostle Paul traveling by both land and sea.  Obviously, each of these examples cannot be exclusively binding, since they we would exclude each other; therefore, this extreme must also be incorrect.  The Bible does teach and bind using examples, but not every example is exclusively binding.
Based upon this foundation, we will continue our study with the following question, "Which is the default?"  "Are all examples binding or loosed until proven otherwise?"  "How should we treat examples that have no commentary?"

"When Is a New Testament Example Binding?"

The answer to this question will be governed by one's attitude toward the Bible in general.  Obviously, the Bible should direct this attitude.  So, let's review some passages to see what kind of attitude is expressed in the Scriptures?
"You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you." Deuteronomy 4:2
"If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God.  If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen" I Peter 4:11
"For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book:  If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." Revelation 22:18-19
The answer is the same for this question as it is for the question of requiring a "Thou shalt not..." to parallel each "Thou shalt...".  We do not need to a "Thou shalt not" to know that something is wrong.  The silence of the Bible is binding.  If the Bible teaches a certain thing is right, then any replacement is an addition, and it is therefore wrong.  Specific examples are just exclusive as specific commands.  We must have either general or specific authority from the Bible to justify any practice.
The same Biblical attitude applies to both - "You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it."  Therefore, until sufficient reason is provided for dismissal, all examples are binding.  This is the conclusion that we must default to prevent us being found guilty of "adding to" His Word.  However, this raises one last question, "What guidelines can we use for the dismissal of a New Testament example?"

"When Is a New Testament Example Not Binding?"

This previous conclusion profoundly shifts the burden of proof.  It should not be the responsibility of those trying to hold to the Bible pattern to find scripture condemning any and every addition.  Rather, the above scriptures teach that those desiring to defend a practice must find authority.  Similarly, it is not the responsibility of those defending the pattern to produce a specific command or corroborating scripture to back up an example.  Rather, it is the burden of those wishing to vindicate a tradition to find either an example, command, or necessary inference to justify its practice.  Therefore, it becomes not a question of "When is a New Testament example binding?" but rather, "When is a New Testament Example not binding?"  Consequently, the authority in a single example not only can exclude all others, but it is by default exclusive until shown to be otherwise.
As a side note, the importance of differentiating general and specific authority cannot be overly emphasized.  The Bible does not have to specifically authorize every action.  It often provides general authority through a general command.  Many practices fall into this classification, such as church buildings, located preachers, and song books.  Please review the article on general and specific authority for further examples and clarification.

Guidelines for Dismissal

To help us decide which examples we may dismiss, two guidelines are introduced here:  Consistency and Materiality.  These notions are not original with this author, but neither should their repeated use cause one to think they are a creed.  Rather, they should be seen as Biblically based guidelines that will help us determine if an example is exclusively binding or if it reflects one of many options that are justified by general authority.  Therefore, they should help us determine if an example provides general or specific authority.  Herein lies the real challenge for most Bible students.  Please recall that if these guidelines, or those similarly Biblically based, do not apply to a given example, then it is by default exclusive and binding.   Now let us examine these guidelines and the Scriptures upon which they may be based.

Guideline of Consistency:

Sometimes called the "Rule of Unity" or the "Law of Harmony", this concept is based upon the Bible idea that God cannot lie and the Bible, as His inspired word, must also reflect this inability to contradict or lie.  The harmony of God’s Word is taught by the following passages:
"Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us." Hebrews 6:17-18 - See also Titus 1:2
"If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'?" John 10:35-36
Therefore, every scripture on any subject must be in complete harmony with all other scriptures, even examples.  So, if a certain activity is consistently repeated with no deviation, then this corroborates the exclusiveness of the authority vested in those examples.  However, if multiple New Testament examples demonstrate varying ways to do the same thing, then any one of those ways cannot be bound exclusively, or else the examples would be in conflict, violating the above passages.  Therefore, if we see more than one way to do any activity, then we have general authority to perform the activity in a way that is consistent with the rest of the Bible.  The example then illustrates an option under general authority rather than exclusive specific authority.

Guideline of Materiality:

This guideline simply gives a name to the idea that incidental matters should never be bound upon people.  Considering whether an example is material and relevant to God’s people and His will for them is an essential part of determining the exclusiveness of an example.  The same scriptures that were used above could also be brought to application upon this point.  All passages relating to any one subject must be in complete harmony and agreement.  Therefore, we must be careful to not bind incidentals that may elsewhere be de-emphasized.
Examples of this would be dismissing the circumstantial reference to Christians meeting in an upper room in Acts 20:1-7.  This is accomplished by considering other Bible passages that teach the location of worship is immaterial. Instead, the heart of the worshipper should be emphasized (John 4:21-24Matthew 18:20).  Therefore, any example that we interpret as binding must be material and relevant; otherwise, it becomes subject to dismissal from be considered exclusively binding.

Other Guidelines of Interpretation

Other Biblical rules of interpretation should, of course, be applied as they would for all other Bible statements.  Multiple uniform examples and references solidify and emphasize the binding quality of an example, although only one is sufficient.  All passages should be brought to bear and considered in their context.  Related to this idea is the recognition that some statements were applicable only to a certain audience or time period (I Corinthians 7 - "in view of the present distress").  The context will be the key to determining if such statements have limited application under whose jurisdiction we may or may not fall.  Finally, we must recognize the exclusive nature of God’s Word.  God does not have to specifically say something is wrong for it to be wrong.  If Bible references cannot be produced which justify a practice, then it is "adding to" God’s Word, and those guilty of such should take warning of God’s promised wrath.  Whether it is a command, inference, or example, all are binding until sufficient scriptures can be introduced to sustain dismissal.  This places the burden of proof upon those who wish to introduce or defend a practice.  This is something that we should be able to do for our Christianity and our faith (I Peter 3:15II Timothy 2:15).  To shift the burden of proof onto those denying a practice's justification would be to ignore the power of the Bible's silence and the exclusive nature Scriptures.  If you are still not convinced of the danger of "adding to" God’s Word, please review the examples of Nadab and AbihuKing Saul, and Uzzah, which were "given for our admonition" (I Corinthians 10:11).


Based on the Bible attitude, "You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it", we have concluded that all New Testament examples are binding until sufficient scripture is introduced to prove otherwise.  The common-sense, basic Bible guidelines of "uniformity" and "materiality" were introduced as a basis for determining when examples are not specifically exclusive.  Examples that are either loosed by command, necessary inference, or differing examples serve as illustrations towards multiple means of accomplishing a work under general authority.  Recognizing this distinction between general and specificexamples is essential for determining the place of New Testament examples in God’s pattern for the church and our lives.

Footnote: As with all of our studies, please keep in mind that these articles are a work in progress.  We hope to continue to learn more as we study.  If you have any comments or thoughts about this article, its author would be glad to hear them.  Any improvements or corrections on this difficult subject would be much appreciated by this article's author.
 Trevor Bowen