How this book came to exist involves some interesting history, inspiring to me, and worth hearing before studying its contents.
Also included is an extensive Introduction that follows explaining how to study the Bible, and exactly what Bible study is—what one is actually doing when he opens and reads the Word of God. This special Introduction must be carefully read in its entirety, even studied, before continuing so that the reader is prepared for and can really benefit from the scriptural explanations that follow.
In late 1977, after I had been in Christ’s ministry for some years, my father asked if I would write an explanation of all the Bible’s difficult scriptures for him. Of course, this was a daunting task, and I realized that he had no idea what he was asking. Recognizing that it would take a staggering number of hours to complete the task properly, I put it off for awhile. But he persisted, and I finally decided to take on the task. The original project was completed just in time to present him as a Father’s Day gift in 1978. I did not even have enough time to proofread it once before giving it to him, so it was very raw and sometimes unclear or even technically incorrect. They were certainly incomplete. (I still have the original typed pages, containing 137 scriptural explanations.)
My father died in the faith in 1995—and I inherited his extra-wide-margin Bible. I sat down to page through it and found that he had shrunk and pasted all of my (less than complete) explanations into the margin beside the passages to which they pertained. I could only imagine the even greater number of hours that my father had spent doing this, while benefiting from what I had written. I am sure you can imagine what a treasure his Bible has become to me!
In a way, this longer book is dedicated to my father, who was an extraordinarily diligent Bible student until the day of his death. Some day, I will tell him what became of his present and thank him for requesting it because this is why you are able to read it now. May this material inspire and help you with the precious and marvelous truth of God as much as it did him.
Through the years, the first primitive version of the paper that I gave my father became a tool for elders, deacons, sermonette men and other leaders in each of my pastorates. Many found it extremely helpful in their personal Bible study and in speaking before the Church.
Another small part of the book’s history is that, in late 1999, a man “appropriated” my original work, claimed it as his own, verbatim, and put it on his website. This original version may still be “floating” somewhere on the Internet.
In May 1999, I was led to establish The Restored Church of God. I soon realized the need to create an extensive Leadership Development Program (LDP) for our ministers, elders, deacons and various others. By late 2000, I had significantly improved the original text given to my father and, by early 2001, sent it to all who were part of our LDP. It first became a booklet available to the public in the summer of 2002.
This volume now contains a comprehensive list of virtually all of the Bible’s most difficult scriptures. The correct explanation of their meaning was taught to me primarily during my years as a student at Ambassador College (from 1967-1971) in Pasadena, California, one of three colleges sponsored by the Worldwide Church of God (in which I spent 22 years in the ministry). Understanding their meaning was part of the curriculum. Students were expected to be able to explain them to any who would ask their true meaning. Some understanding of these explanations was refined later, through additional teaching of the Church as it grew in understanding and as a result of additional personal research.
In our early pre-ministerial training, we were taught that the apostle Paul instructed Titus to “ordain elders” after giving him the spiritual qualifications of those to be selected (Tit. 1:5-9). The final qualification in the list of requirements to be in the true ministry of Jesus Christ is that a man must “hold fast the faithful word as he has been taught.” And obviously, the teaching that he is to hold to must come through the faithful government of God within the true Church of God (Matt. 16:18), the only one headed by the living Christ (Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:22-23). History has shown that even many of those who were taught the correct meaning of true doctrine—God’s true ministers through the ages—including the many passages that support the Bible’s doctrines, ultimately will not hold them without compromise.
This compilation contains the correct understanding—the true meanings—of these “difficult” scriptures that were taught to me and to all of God’s ministers by Herbert W. Armstrong and the then faithful faculty that he appointed. These explanations are a part of the extraordinary doctrinal understanding that was restored to God’s Church in the twentieth century through Mr. Armstrong (Matt. 17:11; Mal. 4:5-6). I now teach them to you, hoping that they will benefit you as much as they have the many thousands who learned them before you—and as they did my father.
A word of caution: The Introduction that follows is truly vital to comprehend, and thus longer than would normally be necessary. It is actually the equivalent of a lengthy article or even a small booklet. There is a reason for this.
You simply cannot skip over it and hope to understand the explanations that follow!
Modern Christendom misunderstands, twists, perverts and ignores the many plain truths of the Bible. Over the centuries, it has counterfeited every one of its true doctrines and replaced it with a cheap substitute. This has been possible because certain less easy to understand passages of Scripture can be easily misrepresented—made to say something that they do not. It is these verses that invariably become the vehicle through which a false doctrine can be introduced—with almost no one able to recognize that it all may have begun with a single wrong scriptural premise.
Unaware of the most important rule of Bible study, most students of Scripture do not build their doctrinal understanding by beginning with the clearest verses on any subject. Rather, they enter God’s Word with preconceived ideas and go in search of passages that appear to support what they have assumed it teaches. This makes them candidates for confusion and deception.
The apostle Peter stated that the apostle “Paul [wrote]…some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction” (II Pet. 3:15-16). Understanding how most people think, and completely unaware of any of the rules of Bible study, some teachers and “scholars” can then much more easily take advantage of the way certain parts of God’s Word have been written. This applies to many other areas of Scripture beyond what Paul wrote.
The theological institutes and seminaries of this world have developed a systematic way—and this can be done consciously or unconsciously (Rom. 8:7; Jer. 17:9)—of spinning, twisting or dismissing God’s plain words and plain meaning in favor of making passages appear to say what they need them to say. These theologians and religionists portray—actually sell!—Satan’s false doctrines through use of specific verses, wrongly understood, that supposedly teach their ideas. This permits them to come from a basis—a premise—of Bible authority for their beliefs. This, in turn, helps them to much more easily snare the unwitting and unwary.
The apostle Paul warned of “dishonest” people who “handle the word of God deceitfully” (II Cor. 4:2), because they, like their students who are willing to believe them, “received not the love of the truth” (II Thes. 2:10).
God’s servants—true ministers—never, under any circumstances, follow these practices!
In most cases, if one is properly trained and sufficiently grounded in the truth of the Bible, it is quite easy to see through and expose the deceptive logic misapplied to a verse, and to correctly explain it.
During the early 90s, the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) descended into full-blown apostasy. Many thousands of brethren lost sight of an enormous amount of basic Bible understanding. Thousands of survivors fled into an array of different offshoots of the Church. In addition, in the ensuing years, much greater doctrinal confusion and error has spread throughout these many organizations, and within the individual minds of those who reside in these groups. Part of the reason people could no longer fellowship together is that they no longer understood the Bible’s difficult scriptures in the same way.
This paved the way for the fulfillment of Paul’s warning, foretold about God’s people at the end of the age—the “last days”: “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine” (II Tim. 4:3). This has become more true every day. More and more people are “turning away their ears from the truth” (vs. 4). A few verses earlier in the context, in the previous chapter, Paul had explained why: “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (3:13). The next verse (vs. 14), contains God’s instruction to all of His true servants to “continue you in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing of whom you have learned them.”
Therefore, over time, I came to realize that it would be critically important to release the correct explanations of key passages to everyone for general use. I knew that if it was properly used it would help sincere people resist the onslaught of false teaching that is swallowing and destroying so many today—and yes, as has so often been the case historically, even in the true Church of God.
This volume can either help you “continue…in the things which you have learned and been assured of” or to learn some elements of the truth for the first time and be able to hold it fast in the face of “fables” that may only later confront you. But you will have to diligently apply yourself to what you are studying, or truths will not become and neither will they remain clear in your mind!
A vitally important question must be asked at this point: How could those who once knew the truth so completely lose sight of it? The answer lies in understanding what real conversion is.
The Bible reveals that a real—a true—Christian is actually begotten at conversion with what the apostle James called the “word of truth” (1:18). When Christ was explaining to His disciples that the Comforter would come after His ascension to heaven, He twice referenced this in John’s gospel as the “Spirit of truth” (15:26; 16:13). The apostle Peter identified both of these terms as another way of referencing and describing the “Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38), given after repentance and baptism. We will see additional terms later.
The latter passage in John reveals that it is through the all-important Holy Spirit—the Spirit, or Word, of truth—that a person, as Jesus explained, is “guide[d]…into all truth.”
The meaning here is absolutely vital to grasp. To comprehend what Christ meant, we must examine a series of verses in careful sequence. This will make later study of the book more exciting, productive and rewarding!
First, in what has been called the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught that His true followers would be those who build their “houses” on His “sayings”—meaning on His words. When He instructed them to build on a “rock,” and that it would protect them from “rain,” “floods,” and “winds” (Matt. 7:24-28), this is what He intended they do. In other words, when new converts speak of building on Jesus Christ, they should actually be thinking of building on His instruction—building as one who “hears these sayings of mine, and does them” (vs. 24).
Next, in John 8, Christ was speaking to those who “believed on Him” (vs. 30). Recognizing their unseen murderous attitude, and realizing that they did not really care about His teachings, but had rather assumed that they were His followers, He explained to these “believers” that His disciples (Greek: students, learners or pupils) are only identified as true Christians “if [they] continue in My word, then are [they] My disciples indeed; and [they] shall know the truth, and the truth shall make [them] free” (vs. 31-32).
I repeat: This is vital understanding, and it relates directly to why this book should be important to you.
Let’s continue. Earlier in John, Jesus had explained to His disciples that He was “the Bread that came down from heaven that a man may eat thereof, and not die” and that that man “shall live forever” (6:50-51). In verse 63, He explained what He meant: “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”
This is an extraordinary statement, and most have absolutely no idea what Christ meant by it!
We must understand. Unlike any other book ever written, the Bible is, in a sense, alive—Paul calls it “quick” in Hebrews 4:12. In other words, the Bible is a living book. Those who study it must understand this, and that studying it is different than studying any work of men. When the Holy Spirit is at work inside a person, it is writing God’s words—His law—His truth—inside that person’s mind. This means that without this Spirit at work during Bible study, and this is even more true when studying difficult scriptures, there is no hope—none!—of achieving proper understanding.
Even those who are at the stage of just being “drawn” to Christ, not yet converted, have the Holy Spirit at work with them (not yet in them), making initial understanding possible. Take a moment to open your Bible and read John 6:44 and 65, followed by a careful reading of John 14:17. In fact, you literally cannot understand any of the points that I am explaining here if God, through His Spirit, is not either working with you—drawing you—or, if you are converted, in you (I Cor. 2:13-14).
Hebrews 4:12 also directly introduces a related point. The Bible is revealed to be a kind of “sword.” Notice: “For the word of God is quick [living], and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit…and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
What exactly is Paul speaking of? How is this sword more fully defined? The question is answered in Ephesians 6, which describes the six essential pieces of what has been called the gospel armor—“helmet of salvation,” “breastplate of righteousness,” “loins girded with truth,” etc. Notice: “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day…and take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (vs. 13, 17).
This is truly crucial understanding to every faithful Bible student. You simply must not miss this if you hope to understand God’s Word. The Bible is a living, Spirit sword, and this sword will cut every false doctrine to pieces, slicing with both sides—“two edges”—but this is only true if the one wielding it has the Holy Spirit, and in abundance!
Finally, before leaving the subject of conversion, let’s look at one more related point, connected through several additional passages.
The first epistle of John describes the conversion process—receiving God’s Holy Spirit through begettal—as an “anointing” (I John 2:27). Of course, anointings are always done with oil, and we will return to what this means momentarily. The entire epistle repeatedly establishes the importance of truth. Early in the second chapter the connection between following the truth of God’s Word as the only means of perfecting the love of God is explained.
Let’s first notice: “But whoso keeps His word [never compromises it], in him [and no one else] verily is the love of God perfected” (vs. 5).
This, in itself, though not our focus here, is incredible knowledge that virtually no one understands. Millions talk about Christians having “love,” but almost none of them tie this to having the truth of the Bible! No wonder so few know the Bible definition of the love of God (I John 5:3; Rom. 13:10)—and then no wonder so few practice it.
Next, in I John 2, with the subject of the special anointing beginning in verse 21, verse 26 explains that it is only through this anointing—receiving the Word or Spirit of truth in the mind—that one can successfully resist those who could, as John warned, “seduce you” from the truth. God’s Spirit must be guiding diligent, daily Bible study for this to be possible.
Let’s tie everything together. Matthew 25 describes the parable of the foolish and wise virgins. The foolish virgins were those among God’s people who had permitted the “oil” to run from their “lamps” in the time just prior to the Return of Christ to earth.
What does this parable mean?—What is Christ describing?
Oil is a type of God’s Spirit, and this oil lights the Bible. Psalm 119:105 declares, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” By now it should be clear that God’s Spirit word of truth works together with Scripture—the written word of truth—in the converted mind. God’s Word is such that the Holy Spirit and the study of it each reinforces the other. Lacking either one, the other becomes useless.
Millions of people study the Bible every day without being able to arrive at true understanding. Why? Because they do not have the Holy Spirit guiding their minds—they are not truly converted. At the same time, prophecy reveals that most of those today who in fact do, or did at one time, have the Holy Spirit allowed their supply of it to run low or completely out. Recognize that Jesus had also compared God’s Spirit to moving water, explaining that it flows out of one’s “belly” (John 7:37-39) actively producing “fruits” (Gal. 5:22-23).
God’s Spirit is not static—it cannot be bottled up. It must be used and replenished on a daily basis (II Cor. 4:16). When the Holy Spirit dwindles in a person, truth and the ability to resist error is lost with it! This is because the lamp of God’s Word—for those of these who may yet even be still willing to study it, and most are not—becomes utterly useless without this all-important oil that fuels and lights it in the mind of its reader.
The many thousands who lost sight of the truth they once held, allowed God’s Spirit to wane within them. Having come to lack sufficient oil, made worse by a declining interest in diligent, serious Bible study, many were fooled into accepting the wrong explanation of many passages referenced in this book. They became the foolish virgins (or worse) of Matthew 25:1-12.
Many, indeed most, have not comprehended what you have just read. The churches of the world simply do not teach, or certainly do not teach properly, what the last several pages have explained. It must be recognized that the vast majority who have thought themselves to be Christians through the ages—those who had never truly been begotten with the Holy Spirit word of truth in the first place—have understood virtually none of what is written here. The majority who will read what I have just explained are probably in this category. It is hoped that they will permanently benefit in ways that others have not. However, perhaps some who once understood these explanations will be able to recapture what they have lost.
In either case, determine now that you will keep this knowledge clear—completely straight!—in your mind! Determine that nothing will shake you from this true understanding.
Let’s momentarily return to the subject of when a person is called to conversion.
In Matthew 13, Christ taught perhaps His longest parable, that of the sower and the seed. Verses 4 through 8 describe “seed” that fell either “by the way side,” “upon stony places,” “among thorns” or “into good ground.” Jesus explains that the seed is shown in each case to be “the word” that is sown in the hearts of human beings when God begins to work with them. Sadly, in three of the four cases described, the seed never fully germinates.
Christ interprets the parable from verses 18 through 23. The seed that landed by the way side was eaten by “birds”—a type of Satan—who “catches away that which was sown in the heart” before it can take root. The seed that fell in stony places was able to put down roots, but they were shallow, and the sun—a type of severe trials (“tribulation”) or persecution—was able to quickly scorch and dry out the plant so that it died. The seed that fell among “thorns” is the person who hears but the word is choked “by the cares of the world” and “riches.” Then there is the seed that landed on good ground, the person with a fertile attitude who not only “hears the word” but also “understands” it and goes on to “bear fruit.”
Only those who are in the last category—good ground—will benefit from the truth of the teaching brought in the explanation of the passages addressed later. You are urged to bring a right attitude, asking God for guidance and strength as you study them.
This leads to another important principle. Paul taught the assembled Ephesian ministry this: “I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).
God’s Word certainly will build up those who study and employ it in their lives!
Paul wrote to the evangelist Timothy that people should “strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers,” then adding, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:14-15).
This single passage is loaded with key points, each one crucial.
First, is the instruction not to argue or debate about words. In the end, this can never accomplish anything—there is not even a chance that it will. Why? One either has God’s Spirit and will understand the overall intent of a passage or doctrine, or he does not, and nothing will improve his understanding and remove confusion (I Cor. 2:14). Next, is the basic command to study—period. This is then tied to being “approved unto God” instead of finding oneself “ashamed.” Finally, when so many twist, tangle and misrepresent the Bible, God’s workman is able to “rightly divide the word of truth.”
Carefully examine how each explanation that you will read does this. And when you wish to read or study further, see if the literature that may be referenced at the conclusion of a passage does not greatly expand your thinking.
Most people have no real idea what is the difference between the Old Covenant and New Testaments of their Bibles. Neither do their preachers. Never forget that the greatest—the ultimate!—difference between the nation of ancient Israel and New Testament Christianity is that God’s Law was then written by His finger on “tables of stone,” but is today written by His Spirit in “fleshy tables of the heart” (II Cor. 3:3)—the human mind!
I hold no illusion that some will probably probe and may even carefully comb this publication looking for “loose bricks”—and seeking reasons to attack it. If they cannot find “errors,” recognize some are willing to invent them (Rom. 1:30). This is partly because the truth threatens their cherished positions and traditions, but also because they do not have the Holy Spirit “guiding them into all truth.” This thinking is typical of Bible “critics”—those who would rather sit in judgment of scriptural understanding than be taught by the all-wise Author of Scripture Who is in fact judging them.
Of course, some true followers of Christ, members of the Church of God who possibly never grasped what the Church once officially taught regarding these passages, might innocently disagree with some explanations given here because they were never fully grounded in them. Others may devise new alternate meanings to suit personal agendas (Acts 17:21). I expect this. However, this is what the Church of God officially taught when it was still on track, prior to the apostasy.
What is recorded here is the truth!
As explained, there have been various editions of the book, with it having first begun as a booklet. (The list of copyright dates will tell the reader when it has been updated.) With the passing of time came the need to include additional, difficult-to-understand passages. In fact, circumstances will probably require that certain other less clear scriptures are included in later editions.
Some may wonder why a certain passage may not have been included, or why certain others were. Deciding which particular scriptures to include or exclude is a subjective matter, and I certainly understand this. Obviously, no two people would choose the exact same passages in every case. As with some of my other lists of false teachings, first in the WCG, and then those currently taught among its “splinters,” decisions had to be made.
Also, because every project has a reasonable and natural limit, the explanations, in some cases, are only the very briefest synopsis of what could have been written. In certain of these cases, much more could have been said by bringing in various finer points of the Greek and Hebrew.
It is not the purpose of this book to lay out entire doctrines for understanding. That is the purpose of our vast array of other books, booklets, brochures, articles, magazines and Bible lessons. If you are not familiar with the enormous amount of material that we offer, merely peruse our websites.
Conversely, some passages are explained in much greater detail than others. Sometimes this is because fuller explanations are found in other pieces of our literature, which we have periodically referenced, and brought here. But recognize that the hope is that the diligent Bible student will be inspired to pursue his own additional research.
Be aware that some passages that have been included were added because they are not immediately clear to those who read them, and are thus more difficult to understand. They were not added because they have been overtly or commonly misused to promote a false doctrine. In these cases, the passage’s meaning has simply been clarified. A very few aid technical calculations regarding matters of dating events.
While some few of the verses to be examined were too long to include in the text, in most cases I begin by quoting the passage in question. Since it is best to use this book alongside an open Bible, the longer passages can be viewed and understood just as easily by reading them directly from your Bible. Otherwise, the explanation given always follows the quoted passage.
Scriptures are listed in the order they are found in the Bible. Of course, the Table of Contents will be helpful with page numbers and in finding whether a passage has been included.
The 1611 King James Version of the Bible is used throughout. We have only altered words like thee and thou, and others with -eth endings to make verses reflect modern English.
Blank pages are provided at the end to allow for extra notes with key passages of special interest to the reader.
The Bible’s DIFFICULT SCRIPTURES Explained! is a Bible study guide. Therefore, the well-known, basic rules of Bible study apply—perhaps more than ever. This introduces the special, and crucially important, five-section Epilogue found at the back of the book. Each of these sections has been added for a reason—because it is in some way a necessary aid for the serious student of the Bible.
For the many who have never heard of them, Section I is an extensive explanation of the twelve rules of Bible study. Titled “The Twelve Rules of Effective Bible Study,” it is absolutely critical to use in conjunction with the book. You are strongly urged to study and apply these rules every time you study God’s Word.
But other sections will bring additional assistance to the reader. Next is “Bible Authority…Can It Be Proven?” Many never take the time to prove the authority of the Bible—that it is the written, inspired Word of God. If this is you, you will want to read the extensive Section II very carefully.
Next is “How We Got the Bible.” Many merely assume the Bible is the correctly assembled Word of God. Others may not realize that the “canonization” of the books of the Bible has a history to it that can be researched. Section III removes doubt about how God assembled His Word so that you can be confident in its authenticity.
Following is “Which Translations Are Best?” (Section IV). Some translations of the Bible are helpful, some are not, and some should never be used—under any circumstances—because they are not translations at all, but rather paraphrases loaded with false doctrine and wrong thinking from the so-called scholars who created them.
Finally, comes “Study to Show Yourself Approved.” The title is taken from a direct admonition in II Timothy 2:15 to all who open the Scriptures. This fifth section contains additional helpful principles for the person who grasps what is at stake for anyone claiming to be a Christian—and who really desires to understand and have the mind of God.
Each of these sections cover additional important knowledge, principles and guidelines, useful for every Bible student. Some readers will find it better to read some, or even all, of the Epilogue—particularly “The Twelve Rules” in Section I!—before starting into the difficult scriptures. This is an individual decision, with no one right way to proceed. No matter when you read these sections, you will be glad you did.
Also, we have a powerful, well-researched brochure EVOLUTION – facts, fallacies and implications, which will be most helpful. Then there is our booklet Does God Exist? for those who need to start at the very beginning of how to approach the Bible. You have never read anything like them. Together, these not only remove all doubt about the existence of a Supreme, all-powerful Creator, but they also identify Him as the Author of the Bible. This, in turn, identifies which God is the Author of all life on Earth—including you!
Properly understood, the material presented here can be a wonderful tool, one that can help you in a host of ways.
It will help you understand the purpose of human life and why you were born.
It will assist in equipping you to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Pet. 3:15).
It will help you to “rightly divide the word of truth” so that you never have to be “ashamed” before God, but will instead be “approved” by Him (II Tim. 2:15). Another way of saying this is that, with so much at stake, it will also help you to “endure sound doctrine,” and not be “turned to fables” (II Tim. 4:3-4).
Most important, however, it can also help “build you up” in the faith, “and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). In other words, properly understanding the Bible’s more difficult scriptures will help you to “endure to the end,” so that you can be “saved” (Matt. 10:22; 24:13; Mark 13:13).
Finally, and this is related to a point above, it will help any who diligently use these explanations properly to “be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers…whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.” This passage is a direct continuation of Titus 1:9, which explains why the faithful minister teaches “as he has been taught,” even when it requires “rebuking them sharply that they may be sound in the faith” (vs. 13).
Study carefully. There are no shortcuts!
Some skeptics have attempted to discredit the Bible by asserting that this passage places the original creation of earth as having occurred approximately 6,000 years ago. These critics then point to scientific evidence, which clearly indicates that the earth has existed for billions of years, as “proof” that Scripture is in error. But are verses one and two of Genesis 1 both speaking of the original creation?
The Hebrew word translated “was” in verse two is hayah. According to Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionary, this word may also be translated as “became.” This would indicate the passing of time between the event described in verse one, and the condition that later came to characterize earth as noted in verse two.
Isaiah 45:18 sheds more light on the subject: “For thus says the Lord that created the heavens; God Himself that formed the earth and made it; He has established it, He created it not in vain, He formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else.” The word translated “in vain” here, the Hebrew tohu, is the same word rendered as “without form” in Genesis 1:2. This decayed state, described in verse two, had not been the earth’s condition in the original creation (verse 1)—God did not create the earth “without form”! The Bible states that God is not the “author of confusion” (I Cor. 14:33), and that His word does not return to Him “void” (Isa. 55:11). Therefore, there must be, and is, a time “gap” of unknown length between verses one and two.
The state of chaos that came to engulf the planet at some point in this time gap was the result of Satan’s rebellion—when the archangel Lucifer became the devil—as this fallen being had previously been in a position of rulership on Earth, with authority over a third of the angels (Isaiah 14:12-15; Rev. 12:4). Also notice the reaction of the angels when God created the earth: “…the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). Would the angels (“morning stars,” “sons of God”) have shouted for joy if God had initially created the earth “without form and void”?
Genesis 1:1 clearly refers to the original creation of the earth, while verse two begins the inspired record of the re-creation of a ruined surface—a kind of “rebuild” process that made the planet habitable for mankind. This is confirmed by Psalm 104:30: “You send forth Your spirit, they are created: and You renew the face of the earth.”
Does this passage teach that every kind of plant on Earth is fit for human consumption?
The latter part of this verse, “every green herb for meat [food],” must be understood in conjunction with Genesis 2:9, because many plants are poisonous. This latter verse states that plants only qualify for food if they are: (1) “pleasant to the sight,” and (2) “good for food.” Also, Genesis 1:30 states that some green herbs are given for insects. Finally, recognize that the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:9 and 3:6) was forbidden, and it was obviously “green.”
Bible critics and scoffers commonly use this passage to try to demonstrate that there is no authority behind the Bible—because Adam and Eve ate of the tree and did not die “in that day,” the exact day in which they ate.
There are two explanations, and both are correct: (1) God meant, “You are as good as dead in the day that you eat…” because, with this decision, Adam and Eve would have sealed their fate—would have put themselves under God’s death penalty for sin (Rom. 6:23; Heb. 9:27)—and (2) Adam died at 930 years of age (Gen. 5:5). This would be less than one millennial day within God’s Plan. God declares that a day is like 1,000 years to Him and vice-versa (Psa. 90:4; II Pet. 3:8)—and His Plan entails 7,000 years, or seven millennial days.
At first examination, this verse is somewhat difficult to understand—even to determine what it is talking about. However, it is understood as the very first prophecy in the Bible about Jesus Christ. The “enmity” (hatred) between the woman (mankind or the New Testament Church) and the serpent (Satan) has always been a very real hatred. The verse addresses the serpent and has three applications of meaning:
(1) Most people—particularly women—do not like snakes.
(2) It reflects a duality of Satan vs. Christ and the children of the devil vs. the children of God within the world at large. See Romans 16:20 as a reference describing “enmity between your seed and her seed,” or the enmity in Satan’s world toward Christ’s Church.
(3) Most importantly, Satan had Christ killed—or the devil “bruised its [Christ’s] heel.” But, in doing this, Satan actually sealed his own fate, because a resurrected Jesus Christ will one day crush the devil’s government over this world. (The only way to kill a snake is to crush or cut off [“bruise”] its head.) Key: “it” refers to Christ and “you” refers to the devil.
It has long been recognized that the story of Achilles’ Heel comes from this passage. Interestingly, Semiramis, the mother of Nimrod (Gen. 10:8-10), would have known about, and been able to counterfeit, this prophesied “mother and child”—“your seed and her seed”—relationship (of Mary and Jesus), depicted by this prophecy.
Who are the two men killed by Lamech?
Records from ancient history records that Lamech did kill two men—his third-great grandfather Cain (“a man”), and Tubal-Cain (“a young man”), Lamech’s son (vs. 19, 22). The phrase “to my hurt” is best translated “who hurts me.”
Jewish tradition says that Lamech also killed the preacher of righteousness Enoch (5:24), but this is almost certainly not accurate. (See next explanation.)
No suggested reading.
Many interpret this verse as stating that God took Enoch to heaven, making this contrary to John 3:13, but that is not what the verse actually says. Where then did Enoch go?
Enoch was the seventh of eight preachers of righteousness (Gen. 5; II Pet. 2:4-5). He “walked with God”—faithfully obeyed God—for 300 years (vs. 21-24), until his death. He “was not” in the sense that he “was not found” (Heb. 11:5). Verse 5 explains that God “translated” him; here, the Greek term for “translated” means “to transfer or transport.”
God removed Enoch’s body to another location for burial (as He did with Moses, Deut. 34:6). The same Greek word for “translated” is also used in Acts 7:16 to describe Jacob’s body being transported to Sychem for burial.
If Enoch had been taken to heaven and is still living to this day, he would still be walking with God—present tense. Enoch was not taken to heaven, but is in his grave awaiting his resurrection.
Enoch was Methuselah’s father and Lamech’s grandfather (the Lamech of Gen. 5:25-31). History and tradition both reveal that these two men corrupted themselves. This caused God to raise up Noah (Enoch’s faithful great-grandson) to warn of a coming worldwide flood and to do a “work” (referenced in vs. 29) in that time. Methuselah died in the flood, and it can be determined that Lamech died five years before the flood (vs. 31). This can be proven through carefully connecting the chronology of the first few chapters of Genesis.
This verse seems to state that all living creatures are good for meat. But it also says that the standard for measuring this is “even as the green herb” (see Gen. 1:30 explanation).
Using this phrase as authority, human beings can no more eat all types of meat than they can eat all poisonous plants (again, Gen. 1:30). Recall that Noah had already by this time taken seven pairs of clean and one pair of unclean animals into the ark because: (1) he needed food, and (2) he must have known the difference between clean and unclean animals. Had Noah eaten even one of the unclean animals (pig, etc.), the pair could not have reproduced. Notice that “by sevens” (Gen. 7:2) is plural, but “by two” is singular. The two does not have an “s.” There were only two of each unclean animal taken into the ark.
Who was the one cursed here for the sodomy committed against Noah? If Canaan was cursed (Noah’s grandson), why does it appear to say that Noah’s youngest son committed the act?
Canaan was cursed, and he was the youngest son of Ham (see 10:6). Canaan would not have been cursed by God if it was Ham who had sinned. Also, Ham was the middle son of Noah (see 9:18). The word “his” (vs. 24) means Ham’s youngest son. Also notice that verse 22 makes reference to “the father of Canaan.” Canaan is the object of this entire event. Noah, upon sobering up, undoubtedly knew what his grandson Canaan had done to him.
It is interesting that the word Canaan means humiliated and the verb form of his name means to bend the knee.
No suggested reading.
Questions have arisen about the breakdown in the chronology of Genesis 11, specifically at verse 26. Compensation must be made for the wording of verse 26. We can demonstrate how the wording can lead to the wrong conclusion, and how to arrive at the correct chronology of Terah and Abram. Follow carefully.
Due to the fact that Abram became a central figure of the biblical record in Genesis, he was placed first ahead of his brothers, with the intent of honoring him as the preeminent patriarch. However, Abram was not the firstborn of Terah. The eldest son was Haran, who died before his father died. Haran was the father of Lot whom Abram had reared after his elder brother’s death.
In tracing the chronology of Genesis 11 to the birth of Abram, the wording of verse 26 can and does lead to erroneous calculations. Since Haran was the eldest son, Terah would have been 70 years of age when Haran was born. But when we trace to the date of Abram, obviously the age of Terah at Abram’s birth is not 70 years. As we will see later, Abram was born when his father was 130 years of age.
Genesis 11:31 states: “And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.” Later, Terah died as indicated in verse 32: “And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.”
Then we read of God’s call of Abram. Genesis 12:1 reveals, “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, unto a land that I will show you:” Acts 7:2-4 records more details about Abram’s departure: “And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; the God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran [Haran], and said unto him, Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and come into the land which I shall show you. Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran [Haran]: and from there, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein you now dwell.”
In Genesis 12:4 we find the age of Abram at the time he departed from Haran upon Terah’s death: “So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.” Above, we have already read that Terah was 205 years of age when he died (Gen. 11:32). To calculate the age of Terah when Abram was born we simply subtract 75 (Abram’s age) from 205 (Terah’s age at death). This gives us 130 years of age for Terah when Abram was born (205 – 75 = 130).
Therefore, in counting up the chronology of Genesis 11, and adding 130 years at the point of verse 26 (instead of 70 years as most mistakenly do), this will give a total of 427 years from the time the flood abated until the time of the call of Abram. This leads to the correct chronology of Genesis 11 and the correct basis for subsequent timing of later events.
No suggested reading.
Who was Melchizedek? Answer: He was Jesus Christ!
Hebrews 6:19-20 and Hebrews 7:1-6 can be read phrase by phrase to prove this. Notice there: Only One who was God could be fully “righteous.” Also, men do not know the way of “peace” (Isa. 59:8). Finally, having “no beginning or end” can only describe one who is eternal. This could not possibly refer to any human being. Note these passages:
(2) Psalms 110:4
(3) Acts 2:24—Jesus Christ is alive today.
This subject is addressed more fully in the Hebrews 6:20-7:17 explanation.
Many scoffers, who believe that the New Testament nullified everything in the Old Testament, cite this verse seeking to demonstrate that the Old Covenant was represented by physical circumcision, making everything else found there to be invalid. In other words, if the New Testament is the only thing for Christians today, the Law of God—the Ten Commandments, among other things—have no application.
But read verse 11 closely. It says that circumcision is a “token” of the covenant. The Hebrew word (#226 in Strong’s Concordance) can be translated “sign, signal, omen, flag, beacon, evidence.” The overall inference to be drawn is that circumcision is a sign of the covenant, not the covenant itself. The Old Covenant had both temporary, physical birthright promises to Israel’s descendants and eternal, spiritual promises to the few called by God. The spiritual promises, and part of the physical promises, are being fulfilled today, and will be fulfilled by salvation in the future.
Romans 2:28-29 shows that circumcision has been changed—not done away—and is now of “the heart”—conversion. Therefore, physical circumcision is no longer required but this practice, for a number of reasons, is still medically and hygienically prudent.
Is avoiding the eating of this portion of an animal a tradition that Christians should observe today?
This is a custom the children of Israel began to observe voluntarily out of respect for their forefather Jacob. A renowned Jewish historian (who also recorded more about the Jews than any other historian), Flavius Josephus, stated that the Jews of Christ’s time routinely observed this custom (Bk. I, Ch. XX, Sec. 2). Even today, some Orthodox Jews still follow this. However, nowhere in the Bible do we find that Jesus himself observed this custom. This is simply a tradition of men and is not binding upon Christians today. The passage merely records that it was happening—it does not say God wanted it.
While it is not wrong to observe this custom today, it is unnecessary.
No suggested reading.
What was the 430-year time period referenced here?
Many have wrongly assumed that this passage meant Israel was in Egypt for 430 years. If this was not the case, then some other major event must have occurred 430 years before the time of the exodus. In fact, this is the case.
Exodus 12:40-41 best reads, “Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was [completed] four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the [completion of] four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.”
The 430-year span measured from the time of the covenant with Abraham (Gen. 17:1-8), about the year 1873 B.C., until the exodus of 1443 B.C. This is confirmed by the following scripture:
“Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He said not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to your seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise” (Gal. 3:16-18).
The covenant and promise made to Abraham preceded the giving of the Law (Ten Commandments) at Sinai, which occurred nearly two months after the exodus during the same year. Galatians 3:17 explicitly states that the span of 430 years was from the covenant with Abraham to Sinai. All the family of Jacob (Israel) went into Egypt (Gen. 46:1-6) in the year 1682 B.C. Since the exodus occurred in 1443, Israel had been in Egypt for about 239 years. She had fallen into slavery well after the death of Joseph.
For those who enjoy such calculation, here are the mathematical facts available from scripture so that we can perform the proper computation. Extra space is taken so the reader can appreciate through an interesting illustration how accurate dating of important historic biblical events can be determined.
We can approximate the time that Joseph was alive in Egypt by the following facts:
Joseph died at the age of 110 years (Gen. 50:26).
He began to reign at about the age of 30 (Gen. 41:46).
The 7 years of “plenty” had elapsed before Israel came into Egypt, plus 2 years of the famine had elapsed as well, leaving 5 years of famine remaining (Gen 45:11).
Thus 110 - 30 = 80; then we subtract the 9 elapsed years: 80 - 9 = 71 years.
Joseph was alive for 71 years while Israel was in Egypt.
We have seen the time that Joseph was alive while Israel was in Egypt. Before we arrive to the point that “there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph” (Exodus 1:8), a few decades would have elapsed after his death—for he was highly esteemed by the generations that knew him. So we could add at least another 20 to 30 years to those 71 years, allowing for a new generation to mature, which would have placed Israel approximately 90 to 100 years in Egypt before becoming enslaved. Thus, of the 239 years in Egypt, as much as 150 years could have been spent in bitter bondage.
Apart from Galatians 3:17 showing the 430 years from the time of the covenant with Abraham until the exodus, we can calculate that span of time by what is recorded in Genesis. First, we need to find the span of time from the covenant until Israel went into Egypt. This is done by subtracting 239 years (the total time of Israel in Egypt) from the 430 years total span. Therefore, 430 - 239 = 191 years. This 191-year span can be easily verified by the following points:
• Abraham was 99 years old at the time of the covenant (Gen. 17:1).
• Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born (Gen. 21:5).
• Isaac lived 180 years (Gen 35:28).
• Isaac was 60 years old at Jacob’s birth; these men lived 120 years concurrently (Gen. 25:26).
• Jacob lived in Egypt 17 years (Gen 47:28); he came into Egypt at age 130 (Gen. 47:9).
• Jacob lived a total of 147 years; (130 + 17 = 147).
• Since 147 - 120 = 27, Jacob outlived Isaac by 27 years.
Of the 27 years Jacob outlived Isaac, 17 were in Egypt; thus 27 - 17 = 10 years.
Ten years elapsed from the death of Isaac until Israel entered Egypt.
We add the 1 year from the covenant until the birth of Isaac + Isaac’s life span of 180 years + the 10 years that elapsed from Isaac’s death until Israel entered Egypt.
Since 1 + 180 + 10=191 years, this was the time from the covenant until entering Egypt.
The total time of 191 years + the 239 years in Egypt = 430 years as we saw in Galatians 3:17.
Rather than Israel suffering 430 years in bondage, we see the duration of suffering would have been approximately 150 years in this enslaved condition to the Egyptians. Considering the severity of the bondage, any greater length of time would have virtually destroyed the nation.
To summarize, Israel was in Egypt only 239 years and in bondage for about 150 years.
No suggested reading.
Many have misunderstood this verse, believing that “he wrote” is a reference to Moses. They conclude that Moses must have written the Ten Commandments on the stone tablets. The hidden message in this point is to diminish the Ten Commandments, to make them appear to have come from Moses, not God.
Exodus 24:12 shows that this is an incorrect assumption. There, God instructed Moses, “…Come up to Me into the mount, and be there: and I will give you tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that you may teach them.” Also, Exodus 31:18 states that God “…gave unto Moses, when He had made an end of communing with him upon Mt. Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.”
Also notice: “The tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables” (Ex. 32:16). These were the stone tablets that Moses later broke (vs. 19), when finding the Israelites worshipping the golden calf. God later commanded Moses (34:1), “Hew…two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which you broke.” God (YHVH – “the Lord”) clearly stated that HE would write the Ten Commandments again.
As the Israelites’ forty years of wandering in the wilderness drew to a close, Moses recounted to them the ways that God had miraculously delivered them and provided for them. He stated this in Deuteronomy 5:22: “These words the Lord spoke unto all your assembly in the mount…with a great voice…and He wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me.” Here, Moses was referring to the first tablets of stone that God had given him, the ones which he had broken (Ex. 32:19).
In Deuteronomy 10:1-5, Moses went on to repeat to the congregation of Israel that it was God who had twice written the Ten Commandments. Clearly, God, not Moses, recorded this great Law in each case.
Do these two passages forbid either haircuts or shaving?
It was the custom of some heathen nations to cut and trim their beards and hair into particular shapes in honor of certain pagan gods. The Egyptians, for example, had their hair cut short and shaped in a way that what remained appeared in the form of a circle surrounding the head (the halo was derived from this practice). In another instance, a round spot would be shaved off. Both of these are indications of sun god worship.
Modern forms of such extremes include: extremely short or even no hair done to intimidate (e.g., Nazis, skinheads); strangely cut, colored or spiked hair to intimidate, but also to shock and attract undue attention (e.g., punk rockers, the more recent “Gothic” look, etc.); strangely cut and colored hair at sporting events (a form of idol worship); and many others.
However, shaving one’s facial hair and the regular cutting of the hair on one’s head for normal grooming is totally different and, in fact, should be common practices for Christians. Take time to read I Corinthians 11:14-15. As with most things, moderation and respect should play the higher role and, if there is any doubt, one should even “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (I Thes. 5:22).
Some have asserted that these verses support the trinity simply because “the Lord” (in italics) is recorded three times. As silly as this is, it deserves some attention because it is the kind of passage trinitarians use to support their teaching.
Besides the fact that the New Testament does not, in fact, offer anything that helps bring the trinity to light in the Old Testament, another problem is that verses like these are used to confuse the symbolism associated with the number three. Throughout Scripture, we see a pattern of three used to denote completion of time and events—never in reference to God.
Consider these. God uses three annual Holy Day seasons to depict His Plan of salvation (Deut. 16:16), punctuated by three resurrections (I Thes. 4:16; Rev. 20:5-15). Jonah was in the belly of a great fish three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17). Christ pointed to Jonah, giving as the only sign that He was the Messiah the fact that He would be three days and three nights in the grave (Matt. 12:39-40). Notice that these are all time-related events!
Merely because Numbers 6:24-26 references three things that the Lord does, trinitarian theologians and scholars actually claim this verse as one “proof” that even ancient Israel supposedly recognized a triune godhead.
Before we explain why they believe this, ask yourself if you see any part of this passage espousing a triune godhead? Of course not! And notice that it is “the Lord,” not the Father or the Holy Spirit, who is mentioned in all three places.
Then consider this: How can theologians attest that ancient Israel believed in the trinity when they later rejected Christ, accusing Him of blasphemy when He claimed to be God’s Son? And, as Acts 19:2 states of a group of Jews that had been baptized by John the Baptist, that they had not even “so much as heard whether there be any Holy Spirit.” If ancient Israel as a whole had recognized (in form or principle) the existence of the Holy Spirit as a third member of a supposed triune godhead, it makes no sense that these Jews could have no knowledge of it whatsoever?
Under thorough examination, such “proofs” disintegrate.
If belief in a trinity had been at the core of ancient Israel’s worship of God, and if Numbers 6:24-26 is a blueprint for it, why is this passage not explicit? If Numbers 6 constitutes a supposed trinitarian “deific formula,” as some assert, why would God hide its meaning in a cryptic and coded message, instead of clearly showing three members of the godhead in this passage? Further, phrased another way, in light of the all-important First Commandment—“You shall have no other gods before Me”—why would God leave such unnecessary mystery surrounding His supposed triune nature—and correct identity as the only true God—by using these kinds of obscure passages to send so-called “messages” to His followers?
He would not!
The Old Testament describes certain circumstances under which people obtained divorces. This passage sets the stage to discuss the principle of fraud, always discovered after a marriage has occurred, but which can annul the marriage. This is the first of two passages, two chapters apart, that we will examine.
Notice: “If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her [the husband, ready to consummate the marriage, finds something wrong with his new bride], and give occasions of speech against her [he is upset with her, raising some issue], and bring up an evil name upon her [slanders her reputation], and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid [virgin]: then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel’s virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate: and the damsel’s father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hates her; and, lo, he has given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not your daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city.”
Though the Bible is not clear as to how this was done, Numbers chapter 5 indicates that these tokens may have involved a kind of litmus test, or “water test,” in which a determination could be made about the woman’s virginity. It may have also been something supernatural—provided by God—used to determine if a woman was a virgin on her wedding day.
Continuing in Deuteronomy 22: “And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him [because he was wrong!]; and they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he has brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel: and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days. But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she has wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shall you put evil away from among you” (vs. 14-21).
These are the basic instructions on the major type of fraud—where one party thought he or she was marrying a virgin and found out otherwise after marriage! (If the husband made false accusation, he kept the woman and the marriage continued.) If either party had lied, the marriage was fraudulent. It was over—annulled!—and the guilty party was put away, and in the Old Testament stoned to death. God takes this matter very seriously!
Moses was plain about this. However, there is no room in this passage for someone claiming, ten, fifteen or twenty-five years later, “I got a ‘pig in a poke’, something I did not bargain for,” trying to devise a case for fraud.
Keep this in mind. The above is not technically describing a divorce, but rather an annulment. God never bound the marriage, because one partner lied from the beginning! If there is a major problem, hidden from the beginning, and the person that learns it raises the issue, the marriage would be annulled.
The Pharisees were very familiar with this passage and quoted it to Christ in Matthew 19, seeking to pin Him down with a trick question about who is, and is not, eligible for divorce and remarriage.
The beginning of the passage is a kind of “what if” situation. It neither forbids nor commands divorce, and does not really give grounds for divorce. These verses simply deal with when divorce happens.
God plainly states that He hates “putting away” (Mal. 2:16). This has always been His perspective of divorce! However, by the time Moses was teaching Israel (2,500 years after Genesis 2), men were obtaining divorces without regard to God’s will. As a result, God inspired Moses to explain, in effect, “When this happens, the man can never take his wife back.”
In a casual reading of II Samuel 24:1, it appears that the Lord was the one who moved David to number Israel. Yet, such a position would contradict God’s integrity, because David’s numbering of Israel’s army constituted sin, by his own admission as the following scripture reveals: “And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the Lord, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech you, O Lord, take away the iniquity of your servant; for I have done very foolishly” (II Sam. 24:10).
Would God actually tempt someone to sin, and then punish them in anger because they gave in to His persuasiveness? Of course not! Such a scenario has never happened. James 1:13 states that “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts He any man.”
Although God does not tempt mankind to sin, He allows all men to be tempted by circumstances in order to develop character and occasionally to test the level of that development. Also, Satan the devil, who certainly does regularly tempt all men, also directly tempted Christ in numerous ways in Matthew 4.
In light of these facts, a close examination of II Samuel 24:1 reveals a more complete picture. The term “he” is correctly translated from the Hebrew term denoting the personal pronoun in the third person masculine. Yet, in the Oxford edition of the King James Version of the Bible, a note in the margin explains that “he” is referring to Satan. Most Bible commentaries agree the “he” in verse 1 decidedly refers to the devil. Here is one example. The commentary by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown states that God “permitted Satan to tempt David. Satan was the active mover…and the great tempter prevailed against the king.”
However, the scripture that conclusively settles this issue is found in I Chronicles 21:1. It reads: “And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.” No ambiguities exist in this parallel verse, as it settles the question as to whom “he” refers in II Samuel 24:1.
No suggested reading.
Does I Kings 17:21 prove that man has an immortal soul?
The word “soul” in this verse does not refer to an immortal soul. It is translated from the Hebrew word nephesh, meaning “breath” or “anything that breathes” (Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary). This same word—nephesh—is found in Genesis 2:7. Notice: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Notice the word “became.” In other words, men do not have souls—they are souls!
In I Kings 17:21, Elijah was praying that God return the “breath of life” to the dead little boy. God answered Elijah’s prayer and the boy was miraculously revived.
The Restored Church of God has prepared many booklets and articles that address the pagan doctrine of the immortal soul. Those listed below contain the most detail. Other verses are addressed later.
The Seventh-Day Adventists cite this passage to prove that the earth will be completely desolate during the Millennium, with everyone either dead or “gone to heaven.” However, notice that the end of the verse plainly states, “and few men left.” It is obvious, then, that some people will remain alive after Armageddon and the plagues of Revelation. Prophecy demonstrates that approximately 10 percent of humanity will survive this period. By any definition, even if it would be 640 million (10 percent of 6.4 billion alive today), this is “few” survivors.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses use this passage as authority to preach door-to-door. But notice Luke 10:7, which shows that Christ directly instructed the apostles to not go from “house to house.” The Bible nowhere commands, or even suggests, Christians to actively profess Christ, but rather always to confess Him when confronted with the question of their belief (I Pet. 3:15).
The reader will need to open his Bible to examine what are whole chapters in this case. Ezekiel was given “visions” (1:1) while he was among the Jewish captives in Babylon. Many are confused as to the “strange sights” that he describes, with some believing these are Bible references to UFOs.
Ezekiel saw four creatures (vs. 5) appear out of a great whirlwind. Verses 6-10 describe these angelic creatures. They carried “upon their heads” a platform made of a crystalline material. (The material was likely gold of such quality that it appeared as “transparent glass” – Rev. 21:21).
On this platform was a throne!
In vision, Ezekiel saw God seated on this throne. Ezekiel 1:26-28 describes God’s appearance: “I saw as the color of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of His loins even upward and from the appearance of His loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about…This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” This God being was the Eternal (YHWH) (vs. 28)—the same Personage Who later became Christ. (You may wish to read Revelation 1:13-16, which further expands on this description.)
The Bible also defines the purpose of the cherubim (Ezek. 10:1) and the wheels under the platform of God’s throne. Various parts of the Bible show that God, at times, comes to Earth (Psa. 18:10; Ezek. 10:1-22). When He does, He arrives sitting upon His throne. The angels carry His throne at “lightning speed” (Ezek. 1:13) wherever God wishes to go.
The “wheel in the midst of a wheel” (Ezek. 1:16; 10:10) appear to be, in a sense, types of gyroscope assemblies—one is near the position of each of the cherubim. In Ezekiel 1:12, 17 and 10:11, the fact that “they turned not as they went” also confirms some form of spiritual gyroscopic platform. Even physical gyroscopic platforms in the guidance systems of airliners or guidance missiles always keep the same orientation—they never turn. Thus, as the platform described by Ezekiel travels across the universe, it maintains the same orientation.
No suggested reading.
When reading through these verses, the question arises: Who is God talking about? Who are the “daughters” who “prophesy” and make “pillows” and “kerchiefs” in order to “hunt souls”?
The context of this chapter is the time just prior to the Day of the Lord (vs. 5). It addresses the “Christian” leaders of the modern-day descendants of Israel—mainly America and Britain.
Verses 1-16 mention false prophets, men who deceive the people. But in this day and age, more women are also becoming actively involved in preaching and missionary work. This prophecy addresses the ever-increasing number of false “prophetesses” active today.
Verse 17 shows that these false women ministers prophesy (proper translation: “preach”) out of their own hearts. They are not sent by God, nor are they preaching His message—the gospel, or good news, of the coming kingdom of God. These false leaders are also not warning (Isa. 58:1) the modern descendants of ancient Israel of the destruction to fall upon them if they do not heed, and repent of their sins. (See Ezekiel 3:19; 4:2-3; 5:2-4, 8-10, 12-17; 6:11-14; 12:10-16.)
A host of passages make plain that all false ministers are an abomination to God. But, despite the howling protests of “modernists,” He especially forbids women to be in positions of religious leadership (I Cor. 14:33-35; I Tim. 2:11-12).
By examining what these false ministers preach, one can better understand what false prophetesses preach—because their message is the same. They do not show the people their sins. Ezekiel further states that they have “…daubed the wall with untempered mortar” (13:10-15). (Untempered mortar does not contain the correct proportions of raw materials. This faulty construction results in walls that will not stand.) They have preached “smooth things” (Isa. 30:10) that will not get them fired or disciplined by boards of deacons who do not want to be told that they must obey God instead of being told about “love.” In other words, they have told the people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear.
Also, these misguided “soothsayers” attempt to solve all of the world’s problems—literally fix the world—through various forms of “do-gooding,” which are the equivalent of taking an aspirin to try to cure cancer. Because of their neglect in pointing out to the people their sins, God’s wrath will be poured out upon them. They have spread (and are still spreading) a message of “Peace, peace, when there is no peace” (Jer. 8:11).
Believing that God is somehow in a kind of cosmic wrestling match with Satan, these false ministers are in the business of “hunting for souls” (13:18). They travel to the farthest reaches of the globe on their “soul-saving missions”—the very term they use. But they will be powerless to save the world from the punishment that God has promised in His Word (which they generally deny will really come).
The meanings of the terms “pillows” and “kerchiefs” are unclear. Some commentaries suggest that a better translation of “pillows” (Hebrew: keceth [#3704]) is “fillets” or “headbands.” They believe that “kerchiefs” (Hebrew: micpacthath [#4556]) is a reference to “long veils.” A long veil secured by a headband is an accurate description of part of the attire of members of certain female religious orders.
Other sources interpret “pillows” and “kerchiefs” to symbolize the soothing, feminine nature of the religion espoused and promoted by these false prophetesses. Many commentators believe that the use of these terms in the original Hebrew is in a merely figurative sense. The “pillows” are a reference to these women attempting to cover God’s hands, and thus conceal His power to rebuke sin. The “kerchiefs” picture the veil of spiritual blindness (II Cor. 4:4) that they cast over their devotees. The term “magic bands,” as it is translated in some English versions of the Bible, is refuted by certain Hebrew scholars.
These women actually pollute the Word of God among the people “for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread” (vs. 19). (Note: the Hebrew word kiy can be rendered as “for” or “with”). This means that they either use food to attract followers or actively request donations to support their mission. (More and more churches today are actually in fact bribing people with gifts to attend their services.)
Since these women do not teach their followers that the cause of world suffering is rooted in their disobedience to God’s laws, they will be punished (vs. 20-23).
What is the meaning of “the name of his God” and “the name of the Lord our God”?
As the context shows, this verse will be fulfilled after Christ has returned to earth and ended all wars. All nations, both large and small, will be subject to Christ’s rulership and rebuking. They will convert their instruments of war into tools for agricultural (vs. 3). War will no longer be fought anywhere on Earth. And happiness, peace and prosperity will be known throughout all nations (vs. 4).
Through Christ’s headquarters at Jerusalem, people will receive true and proper education. They will worship the true God in their own language—“the name of his God.” The Israelis will worship in their own language—“we will walk in…our God.” While they may also be able to use their native languages, all will be worshipping the same God.
Also, the phrase “walk every one in the name of his god” is almost certainly a reference to the many God Beings at that time—true Christians who have been born into the God Family at the First Resurrection upon Christ’s Return—who will then rule the earth under Him.
Also, all people and nations will be taught a new language. This pure language will allow everyone to communicate with one another (Zeph. 3:9). Their native language will possibly exist side-by-side with one universal language—as is the case with English throughout the world today.
This scripture mentions fasts that were held on the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months of the year. These fasts were proclaimed by men of Judah to commemorate four terrible events that fell upon the Jews during the days of the final defeat by the Babylonians.
The fasts depict the following events (listed chronologically):
Tenth month: Jeremiah 52:4-5 records the account of King Nebuchadnezzar setting up the final siege against Jerusalem in the tenth month during the ninth year of the reign of Zedekiah.
Fourth month: Jeremiah 52:6-7 records the Babylonians breaking into Jerusalem due to the city being so weakened by famine after sixteen months of the siege. This occurred during the fourth month of the eleventh year of the reign of Zedekiah.
Fifth month: In Jeremiah 52:12-14, Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard of King Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem with his army and carried away valuables that were in the Temple, burned the Temple and the city, and took away many captives. This event occurred in the following month of the same year that the Babylonians broke into Jerusalem as noted above.
Seventh month: This fast commemorates the tragedy of Gedaliah and those with him at Mizpah being slain by Ishmael and his band of murderers. This account is recorded in Jeremiah 41:1-3. Gedaliah had been appointed governor by the Babylonians in the wake of the captivity to oversee those left behind to manage the land.
When Israel is once again obeying God’s laws and following His way of life, God will have changed these humanly-appointed fasts. Zechariah 8:19 states that these days of sorrow “shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.” Verses 20-23 in the same context show that Judah will follow God and be blessed abundantly, thus no longer having a need to commemorate these horrific events. However, the commanded annual fast of the Day of Atonement will be kept, along with all of God’s Holy Days (Zech. 14:16-19).
This is a key verse used in the attempt to prove that the Holy Spirit is a person. The idea is presented as follows: If the Holy Spirit performed the act of begetting Christ, it must be a person, not merely the power that emanates from God. This false reasoning neglects one important point.
Christ prayed to another Being, which He called Father (Matt. 6:6-15 and many other places). This proves that the Holy Spirit is merely the agent or power of God. The only other explanation would be that Christ was terribly confused about who His Father was. This would also mean that He was confused about the entire Plan of God—because it is the Father-son relationship that all of us share with Christ to the Father that depicts how God is expanding His family.
Some have thought that the baptism of fire and water baptism are both to be sought. Typically, Pentecostals speak of receiving the baptism of fire at the point of supposedly truly receiving the fullness of God’s Holy Spirit.
Notice verse 7, and see that John is talking to the Pharisees. These accusative, hypocritical, carnal-minded men were not qualified for water baptism in order to “flee from the wrath to come.” Verses 9-10 show that John warns them that they had not qualified and is saying in verse 11, in effect, “Look out, because One is coming who not only baptizes with water but with fire also.”
The meaning is that the lake of fire is a form of liquid fire, and being cast into it (the Bible punishment described for the wicked) constitutes a “baptism” (Rev. 20:14-15). Of course, none would want this baptism!
The answer: Since Christ, the former Logos (the Spokesman or Word—John 1:1, 14) who spoke for God (Gen. 1:26), was His Son and was occupied with being a human being on Earth for 33 1/2 years, then an angel must have been “filling in” for Christ during this period.
No suggested reading.
If God’s kingdom begins at Christ’s Return and the First Resurrection, then what does “at hand” mean? (See Luke 17:21 explanation to understand further.)
Christ meant that the knowledge, certainty and understanding of the kingdom was right where He was preaching at that moment—or it was immediately “at hand.” Also, Christ, as a member of the God Family, was a direct representative of the kingdom of God. This government was literally His government.
An ambassador, whose counsel might be sought in a matter, as an official representative of the U.S. to France (for instance), would not be surprised to have a French diplomat ask him for the “knowledge, counsel, opinions, etc.” of his country. Only the ambassador—not the country of France—need be present to offer this.
Luke 17:21 is used by Catholics alongside Matthew 4:17 to demonstrate that the kingdom of God is on Earth now, “in the hearts of men.” This false conclusion naturally follows the misunderstanding of “at hand.” But John 3:3-6 explains that one must be composed of Spirit to “see” the kingdom—because flesh and blood cannot (I Cor. 15:50). This is covered in much greater detail in the booklet below, and in a variety of our other books and booklets.
This passage is found just seven verses after Christ had said, “the meek shall inherit the earth.” Did Jesus somehow forget what He had just said? Or did He teach two separate rewards—one for the meek (earth) and another (heaven) for those who are persecuted for following Him? What does this scripture mean?
Read I Peter 1:3-4:“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you.”
Notice the word reserved. It is the reward of Christians that is reserved in heaven, to be “revealed” (i.e., salvation) “in the last time” (vs. 5). Quite literally, every true Christian holds a reservation for a glorious future event. The apostle Peter says nothing about going to heaven to either obtain this reward or to stay there as the reward—only that a Christian’s reward is reserved there until the “last time”—when Christ returns. In this way, a Christian’s reward remains “incorruptible,” “undefiled” and “unable to fade.”
Some also claim that I Peter 1:4 (expanded later) is, in itself, a “heaven proof text.” Recognize two points. The verse does not say that Christians are going to heaven to receive their reward. Here is why.
Revelation 22:12 states, “And, behold, I [Christ] come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” (Also see I Cor. 15:50 and Matt. 25:34 to see when Christians inherit their reward.) Christ is coming to earth, bringing rewards with Him—not the other way around.
The analogies of “dogs” and “swine” were used by Christ to demonstrate how people whose minds have not been opened by God to understand His truth react when they encounter spiritual knowledge. Jesus taught in John 6:44, “No man can come to Me, except the Father which has sent Me draw him…”
Christ was instructing the disciples not to go about trying to convert the masses. The Father would do the calling. Unless God is opening someone’s mind to spiritual understanding, they will treat His truth in the same manner that pigs would treat pearls or as dogs would treat something holy—as dirt. A pig would neither understand nor appreciate the marvelous beauty and worth of the pearls, a type of the many wonderful truths of God. Neither would a person not being called by God understand the great value of the truths of His Word. He would, figuratively, “trample it underfoot,” and “rend” (attack) the one giving it.
One should never try to force God’s truths on others. Instead, God’s people should certainly “…be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Pet. 3:15). The Christian should always be prepared to answer questions that others may have, if they are asking sincerely—to learn—and not for the purpose of debate or argument. Often, when people honestly desire to understand what the Bible teaches, it can be an indication that God is opening that person’s mind.
In Matthew 13, Christ once again compares the truths of God to pearls. This account states, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it” (vs. 45-46). Like the merchant, who sold all that he had to purchase a pearl of great price, God expects His people to treat His truths as priceless gems.
Does the Bible’s periodic reference to the kingdom of heaven mean that Christians are going there?
The Bible teaches that Christ and the apostles taught the gospel of the kingdom of God, referenced earlier. The word gospel is found 101 times in the Bible. Sometimes it is found alone, and sometimes as “gospel of the kingdom.” Other times it appears as “gospel of the kingdom of God” or the equivalent phrase “gospel of the kingdom of heaven.”
Recognize that this version of the phrase says, “OF heaven,” not “IN heaven.” It is heaven’s kingdom. There is a big difference. Just as kingdom OF God means God’s kingdom, not the kingdom IN God, the same is true of the kingdom OF heaven, or heaven’s kingdom. The preposition “of” always connotes possession.
The phrase kingdom of God is synonymous in every case with kingdom of heaven.
What does this mean? Who are “the children of the kingdom…cast out”?
Revelation 22:15 defines the types of people who are disqualified from entering the kingdom—left “without” (outside). Matthew 8:12 refers to the Jews, who had access to the knowledge of, and entrance into, the kingdom. They were one-twelfth of the “chosen people”—one-twelfth of the twelve tribes of Israel. Christ directly warns that many of them could miss out on what they once had free access to, because they were not properly responding to the knowledge that they had been given.
No suggested reading.
This verse proves that men can kill the human body, but not the soul, which the passage reveals God can destroy. The “soul” is the life in a person, and this can only be a reference to eternal life, because any man can take the physical life of another human being. Ezekiel 18:4 and 20 plainly state that souls can die. Romans 6:23 agrees with that. However, at baptism, our “life” is hid with Christ (Col. 3:3) and belongs only to Him.
Luke 12:5 is a parallel account. There, people are told to fear the God who can bring eternal death in “gehenna fire”—not just someone who can end their physical life. This verse is another proof of the pagan doctrine of the immortal soul.
How could the kingdom of God, which is spiritual, suffer violence, presumably at the hands of physical people? The representatives of the kingdom often suffered violence from those who hated their message. John the Baptist was beheaded, and Christ would later be crucified. Most of the prophets were tortured or killed, or both. History records that virtually all the apostles, except John, died in ways that involved torture and violence.
Notice the last phrase. There are two correct meanings: (1) Christ, as a representative of the kingdom, was taken by force, and (2) those who seek to enter the kingdom must struggle—battle—to do so. (The reader should take the time to examine the following passages: Ephesians 6:12; Luke 16:16 latter; Philippians 2:12-13; 3:14; II Corinthians 10:3-5; Ecclesiastes 9:10; Matthew 24:13; James 4:7-8; I Peter 5:9; I Corinthians 9:24-27; I Timothy 6:12—among others.) Notice the powerful action verbs—wrestle, fight, war, endure, press, pull down, run, resist—found in these verses.
No suggested reading.
What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? What is the unpardonable sin? Is it merely swearing or taking God’s name in vain? Is any form of swearing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and, therefore, unforgivable? The subject of the unpardonable sin is enormous, and the booklet referenced at the end must be read in conjunction with this very brief explanation of this verse offered here.
This verse explains that “all manner of sin and blasphemy” shall be forgiven, but that “blasphemy and speaking against the Holy Spirit” are unpardonable—unforgivable. Therefore, identifying exactly what this offense is becomes supremely important. It is interesting that the Greek word for blasphemy (whether against the Holy Spirit or the Son of man) is the same. The key then must be who or what is spoken or blasphemed against, not the blasphemy itself.
Hebrews 6:4-6 explains that there are those who are unable to repent—who once had God’s Spirit, but let it completely slip away. Verse 4 says, “it is impossible” for these to repent because, in the process of falling away, a person loses all desire to repent and change.
Let’s examine Hebrews 10:26: “if we [Christians] sin willfully [this is in the present progressive tense] after that we have received the knowledge of the truth…” People can quench the Holy Spirit by overriding the way it guides them! Hebrews 3:13 reveals that the deceitfulness of sin can harden people—can get them to commit the unpardonable sin by allowing deceit to choke God’s Spirit. Eventually, this ongoing action becomes “willful” or premeditated. Verse 29 in chapter 10 explains that such people are practicing sin as a way of life and have therefore “trodden (Christ) under foot.” The key phrase describing the seriousness of this is that they “have done despite unto the Spirit of grace.”
Anyone can foolishly curse or use God’s name in vain, and sometimes be immediately sorry about it and repent. But the unpardonable sin is when a person deliberately hardens himself against God’s Spirit and the power of that Spirit. Usually, such people become deceived (Heb. 3:13) early in the process, but later (willfully) choose to continue in their actions until they destroy their conscience and thus any desire to repent.
To speak against God’s Spirit is to understand what one is doing and to knowingly attribute the power of God to the devil (possibly the case with the Pharisees). Generally, it is to knowingly squelch, quench or ignore the warning pricks coming from God’s Spirit over time within a converted mind.
This passage records the beheading of John the Baptist as the result of what he had said to King Herod. It re-introduces the subject of divorce and remarriage, again, a far bigger subject than can be addressed in this short explanation.
This said, the question has arisen: In light of the truth about divorce and remarriage, and understanding which marriages God is and is not binding in this world, how is it that, if Herod’s previous marriage was not bound, John could say to him that what he was doing was wrong? If God is not entering into the marriages of people in this world (Herod certainly was of this world)—not binding them—then how could John make this statement?
Let’s understand. Since Herod was breaking the Sabbath, John could have said to him, “You’re breaking the Sabbath.” Was he being judged for this transgression? Was sin being imputed? Did he know that it was the Sabbath? Of course not. But anytime someone breaks the Sabbath—he is breaking the Sabbath!
John could as easily have said, “Herod, you’re not tithing. You’re stealing from God.” Did Herod know he was stealing from God? No. Did he know tithing was in the Bible? No. Was he at that time being held accountable by God—for what he did not know? In other words, was he being judged? No. But, if anyone does not tithe, he is still stealing from God.
John could have told Herod, justifiably, that he should not marry someone who had been divorced. But John’s statement did not mean that Herod’s wife’s first marriage had been bound by God. The present world is cut off from God by sin (Isa. 59:1-2).
Romans 3:23 states, “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Sin is sin. But the world is not now being judged for sinning, because the world generally does not know what sin is. While sin is not being imputed, people are still committing sin. It was in this way that John the Baptist could tell Herod it was not lawful for him to have his brother’s wife.
This verse is central Catholic theology regarding the authority of popes, who are said to derive their authority from Christ’s supposed empowerment of Peter, and thus his successors. This passage is thought to designate Peter as the first pope.
Breaking down the important Greek words within this verse makes it easier to understand:
Peter comes from petros (Greek #4074 Strong’s) meaning a piece of rock, but either bigger or smaller than a stone (Greek lithos #3037 Strong’s). Rock comes from petra (Greek #4073 Strong’s) meaning a mass of rock, usually very large.
Peter was a small rock. Jesus Christ is the large rock, or foundation stone of the Church He built. Christ is distinguishing between the two. Proof that the mass of rock is Christ can be found in I Corinthians 10:4, Ephesians 2:20, Matthew 7:24 and 16:13-16.
Understand that Christ is the great Rock that the Church is built upon. This verse is absolutely not saying that Peter is a rock or that the Church is built on him. I Corinthians 3:11 shows there can be only one foundation (Christ), not two. This applies to Peter’s role. Ephesians 4:11-12 explains that apostles (Peter, Paul, John, etc.) were merely in offices that Christ established to serve His Church. Collectively, with the prophets, they form part of the Church’s foundation—with Christ (Eph. 2:20).
Think of Christ as complimenting Peter. Then there is this: If He had established him as the first (infallible) pope, how could Peter almost immediately have fallen into what Christ labeled a satanic attitude in the very next verses, 21 to 23? Would such an attitude be possible for one who was infallible? Also, there is this question: How could Peter have later denied Christ three times?
Here are ten proofs that Peter was never at Rome—and therefore could not have been the first pope:
(2) The Emperor Claudius had banished all Jews from Rome in A.D. 50 (also see #9 below).
(3) Peter went to Babylon—in Mesopotamia (I Pet. 5:13).
(4) Paul would never have written what he did in Romans 1 (the book was written in A.D. 55), verses 11 and 15—clear insults to Peter if he had been faithfully serving there for thirteen previous years (from A.D. 42), particularly if it had been as pope. Actually, a “Peter,” Simon Magus (see the account in Acts 8), was there. It was this Simon (not Simon Peter) who was the Pater (or Peter), which means “a father.” (Paternity and patriarch come from this word.) Simon Magus was already by this time the leading figure in the early apostate church at Rome.
(5) Romans 15:20—Paul declared that he would not preach (or write) upon any other man’s foundation. Yet, Paul wrote the letter to the Romans. Thus, Peter could not have laid the foundation of the Roman congregation.
(6) Romans 16 contains thirty different salutations, yet Peter, supposedly the resident “pope” there, was not greeted by Paul. Think of what a grievous slight this would have been had he been present. Paul’s epistle did not even acknowledge Peter.
(7) Galatians 1:18-19 and 2:7 demonstrate that Peter was based at Jerusalem, from where he periodically traveled to places like Bithynia, Northern Galatia and Babylon, and other places where Israelites (also see #9) had migrated, from A.D. 38 to A.D. 49—the dates of these events described in Galatians.
(8) Luke 22:24—If Peter was already designated to be the future pope, why did the disciples argue among themselves about which of them was the greatest?
(10) II Timothy 4:10-11 mentions that Paul wrote from Rome and records that “only Luke was with him.” This eliminates Peter.
Many have badly misunderstood this “transfiguration.” In this account, Peter, James and John saw Christ in glory—“transfigured”—and appearing with Moses and Elijah. Had these men gone to heaven?
For those who will simply believe the Bible, the obvious explanation lies in verse 9: “Tell the vision to no man.” This entire account is a vision! It involved what three men saw (vs. 7-8) IN VISION. The subject of the vision was not to address where these men were. Remember, Christ stated that no man has ascended to heaven (John 3:13). Certainly this would apply to Moses and Elijah.
No suggested reading.
The topic, once again, is divorce and remarriage. The explanation of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 should be reviewed with this one.
In this account, the Pharisees were trying to see whether Christ (read vs. 8-9) would “side” with either: (1) God, from the time of Adam, or (2) Moses, from the time of Moses—when the issue in the law (end of verse 3) referred to was amended—to that present time. Had Christ sided with either of these to the exclusion of the other, the Pharisees would have accused Him of blasphemy. Christ outwitted His questioners by stating that both periods were correct! The fact that God allowed no divorce was correct. The fact that Moses did permit—not command—divorce for reasons of “hardness of heart” was also correct.
Why? Let’s examine each verse:
vs. 5—Describes marriage by God.
vs. 6—The governments of men have no authority to permit divorce.
vs. 7—Moses did allow it.
vs. 8—He allowed it because people can be hardened (the Greek word means callused or hardhearted). There are those who are unable to overlook certain sins—they simply cannot forgive them! Adultery can be one of them. Interestingly, the English word translated hardness (vs. 8) comes from the Greek word sklerokardia, from which come sclerosis, arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). The word cardiac (meaning, of the heart) comes from kardia.
Remember also that, in verse 3, the Pharisees had wanted to know if “any cause” for divorce was a good enough reason.
vs. 9—The answer to their question is simply ‘no.’ Christ went on to explain that only for “fornication” (Greek porneia includes fornication, looseness and promiscuity) could divorce be lawfully pursued. Divorce because of fornication would often be done in the form of annulment.
If one commits sexual immorality after marriage, for a long enough period, the person has evidenced himself or herself to have now become an unbeliever—or to never have been one. The marriage could then end, and the believing party would be free to remarry on the basis of I Corinthians 7:12-15. Paul explained that the unbelieving party would have departed anyway, and the marriage bond would have been severed by God’s permission.
The Church of God understands, and has always taught, that the simple act of one-time adultery—however grievous the impact on the marriage—would not be enough to end the marriage bond and allow a person to divorce and be eligible to remarry, though it might cause a couple to choose separation. One act of adultery does not automatically mean a person has become an unbeliever. Many have fully repented of this sin.
This discussion is a continuation of the previous verses. The context leading to verse 12 is that of any man (end of vs. 10) who has put away his wife. Christ’s disciples suggest that it would then be “not good” to marry. Note that nothing about “forbidden” is said.
Verse 11 states that some are able to or must remain unmarried. Verse 12 describes three such types of eunuchs: (1) “Eunuchs from their mother’s womb” are unmarried men who remain single men and virgins for life, (2) “eunuchs of men” are castrated men, found in some societies, who have had this procedure forcibly done to them so that they can be trusted with wives and harem girls, and (3) “eunuchs for the kingdom” are men who have chosen to remain single to better serve God without encumbrance under difficult circumstances (such as Paul)—or this can refer to those who are bound in marriage to someone they do not or cannot live with. This would be because of circumstances described in I Corinthians 7:10-11.
No suggested reading.
Why did Christ mention only five of the Ten Commandments be kept in order to receive eternal life? Does this mean the others were done away, with the usual focus being that Christ did not restate the Sabbath command?
The answer is an emphatic “No”! King David said, “all His commandments are sure. They stand fast forever and ever…” (Psa. 111:7-8). Christ, as God of the Old Testament (I Cor. 10:4), also stated, “I am the Lord, I change not” (Mal. 3:6). Hebrews 13:8 explains that Jesus Christ is the same—“yesterday, today and forever.”
Because Christ was speaking to a Jew in the account, He had to clarify of which commandments He was speaking. By citing some of the Ten Commandments, Christ clarified that He was speaking about God’s commands, not the commands of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish “Supreme Court”) or those of any man.
To clarify this further, look at which commandments He did state: “You shall do no murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother: and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Christ wanted to reassert to the listener the importance of loving one’s neighbor (Matt. 19:22). The rich man’s refusal to use his wealth to help others proved that he needed a reminder and lesson in these points.
One should also note the commandments that Christ did not directly mention: “You shall have no other gods before Me…You shall not make unto you any graven image…You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain…Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…You shall not covet…” (Ex. 20:3-8, 17).
Because Christ did not directly refer to these commandments, is it alright to break them? For instance, is it acceptable to worship other gods?—to swear?—to covet? The answer: Of course not! Yet, this obvious point is overlooked in the rush to do away with God’s Sabbath command.
Notice James 2:10: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” Christ inspired James to write that every point of the law is crucial. Christ did not need to state all Ten Commandments, because if one breaks any of them, he is guilty of breaking them all.
• See the articles mentioned after Exodus 34:28 explanation.
Does this passage mean that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are alive, and in heaven?
This text is often twisted in an attempt to prove that these three men are not really dead, since it states that God is the God “of the living.” Careful reading refutes this argument.
Jesus is speaking “touching [concerning] the resurrection.” He is not speaking of these men living in heaven now, but rather about who must be resurrected in the future, since God is the God “of the living.” This is the subject that He is explaining—the resurrection. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are dead (Heb. 9:27). Therefore, the God of the living must resurrect them—bring them back to life—at some point in His Plan. Recognize that this was the specific point Christ was addressing. He was not attempting, in one verse, to explain all of the other understanding about the what, when, where and how of that Master Plan!
Do these verses prove that there is an ever-burning hell?
They do not! The Greek word, aionios, translated “everlasting,” means “agelasting.” The event referred to is the 1,000-year Millennium, when Satan and his demons will have been thrown into the bottomless pit and bound (Rev. 20:2-3). There are three separate phases of Satan’s “hell”:
(1) II Peter 2:4 (latter part): The 6,000 years that he has been cast down to earth, as explained by the Greek word tartaroo, which means prison, incarcerate or place of restraint. II Peter incorrectly translates tartaroo as “hell.”
(2) Revelation 20:1-3: 1,000 years in the bottomless pit.
(3) Jude 13 (latter part): Contains a reference to Satan being cast into “outer darkness” after the Millennium.
Matthew 25:46 also refers to an everlasting “punishment,” not “punishing.” Whenever death occurs, it is certainly an everlasting event—as far as the person is concerned. This helps to explain verse 41. Verses 41 and 46 must be understood together.
What specific day does this speak of? Many would conclude by reading the verse that it is talking about the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a high Holy Day. Let’s examine this idea.
The King James Version italicizes the words “day” and “feast of.” Any time you see italicized words in the KJV, this tells you that these words were not found in the original texts (in this case, the original Greek). Italicized words were added by translators either to clarify the English, or because they thought it necessary to aid the overall meaning. A better translation of this verse is “Now [at] the first of unleavened bread, the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto Him, Where will You that we prepare for You to eat the Passover?”
The Greek word translated “first” is protos. It means the “foremost in time,” “foremost in order,” “beginning” or “to go before.” This precisely describes how the Passover always precedes or goes before the Days of Unleavened Bread. Leviticus 23:5-6 makes this pattern unmistakably clear.
God considers the previous day over, and a new one beginning, at sunset (Lev. 23:32). The conversation between Christ and the disciples took place at sunset on the 13th of Nisan (Abib), the beginning of the 14th. Christ would introduce the New Testament Passover later that evening (Matt. 26:20).
Therefore, this verse is not referring to the first Holy Day, which begins the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It actually refers to the day before that, the 14th of Abib, also known as Passover day. This day is the final day in which to prepare for the upcoming Feast of Unleavened Bread, by putting all leavened bread out of the home (Ex. 12:18-19).
As a result, many in that day came to consider the Passover day to also be part of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, explains that the eight-day spring festival period was commonly referred to as “the days of Unleavened Bread.” He also confirms the understanding that Passover day was the 14th—not the 15th, which is the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, beginning at sunset (Antiquities of the Jews). Luke 22:1 also reveals that the word Passover was often interchanged with the Days of Unleavened Bread, referring to the entire eight days.
So, Matthew 26:17 refers to the beginning of the 14th of Abib—Passover—not the 15th, the feast day. Because translators did not understand what we have covered here, they mistakenly inserted “feast of.”
Does this state that people who “live by the sword will die by the sword?”
This verse is usually not read correctly by the casual reader. It actually reads, “all they that take the sword shall perish WITH the sword,” not by the sword, and there is a big difference. Here is the point: Christ is explaining that a sword cannot, of and by itself, protect anyone! One who attempts to use a sword for personal protection will ultimately die—despite the fact that there is a sword in his hand. His point is that we should not trust in swords, but rather in God. People should never trust in physical weapons for protection. This does not say that one carrying a sword, gun, knife, chain, or other weapon for protection, will die a violent death by the same kind of weapon.
Because of a similar prophecy found in the book of Zechariah (11:12-13), some believe that the word “Jeremiah” in Matthew 27:9 should have been translated “Zechariah.” However, the original Greek word is “Jeremiah.”
This verse must be read carefully to understand its meaning. As it states, the prophet Jeremiah was the speaker. However, this verse is not recorded in the book of Jeremiah, which, of course, he did write.
The Bible never contradicts itself (John 10:35). The obvious implication is that Jeremiah uttered the prophecy, but only at a later time was Zechariah inspired to record it.
No suggested reading.
Who were these “saints which slept and arose”? Does the resurrection referenced in verse 53 reflect proof that people die, are then resurrected and immediately go to heaven—as Protestants assert?
Though these are called saints in this account, Matthew wrote his gospel from a vantage point of many years later. These people probably, in most or all cases, became saints, in the fullest sense, after Pentecost in Acts 2. They likely were among the many followers of Christ who died of natural causes (like Lazarus in John 11) during His ministry without receiving an opportunity to be in the first resurrection.
Some claim that these saints were Moses, Abraham, Noah, etc. But if these people had tried to claim this at the time, no one would have believed them. So, this is merely unscriptural idle speculation. Also, whoever they were, they would have needed to be familiar with the Jerusalem area (see vs. 53).
I Timothy 6:16 shows that Jesus is the only one with immortality, and so this group must have been merely resurrected back to human physical form. Recall that they did “appear” unto many. Consider. Who would have believed strangers claiming that they were Moses or Abraham?
Notice also that verse 52 says that “the graves were opened”—the earthquake must have caused this! However, verse 53 states they came out of their graves “after His resurrection…”—which would have been three days later. Also, this timing disproves any idea that they went “straight to heaven with Christ” at His death, the assertion that many make in order to put the patriarchs of the Old Testament into the New Testament “heaven-is-the-reward-of-the-saved” false teaching.
No suggested reading.
Some feel these verses prove an “Easter Sunday” resurrection. Understand that the entire account speaks in the past tense. Verse 2 mentions that a great earthquake “had been” (the correct Greek tense). In effect, verse 6 says, “He has already gone; for He is risen [already].” This is because Christ had already been crucified on the previous Wednesday, and would have been raised on Saturday. Hence, He would have already been gone by Sunday morning!
Scholars and theologians have universally misunderstood the meaning of this instruction. We must ask: What does this scripture actually mean? Does it validate the trinity—that God is three persons in one being?
First, let’s understand some basics of this scripture. It is clear that all three have a name—but a name does not make something a person. People name all kinds of things—mountains, buildings, pets, cars, boats, planes, estates, and many more. The point is that just because there is a name for all three, this does not mean that all three are persons or personalities.
What does it mean to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? This is not difficult. The Father and Son have a name and the Holy Spirit conveys or bears that name to His children.
Let’s understand the baptism process more clearly.
The disciples were to baptize in the name of the Father, because it is the Father “of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. 3:15). In other words, the Father is the Head of the house—the family—and families traditionally carry the name of the father. Also, it is God’s (the Father’s) goodness that leads one to the recognition and repentance of his sins (Rom. 2:4).
But they were also to baptize in the name of the Holy Spirit, because the Father uses that Spirit—His Spirit—as the power through which the begettal is performed (Rom. 8:16). The Holy Spirit is the begetting agent.
This is what the passage means! God gives Christians His Holy Spirit, which is His seed. When they receive that seed, it gives them God’s name—they become heirs with Jesus Christ. From the point of conversion, Christians carry the name of God. When understood, this is why the name of the true Church has always been the “Church of God.” The word “Church” (Greek: ekklesia) literally means “the called out ones”—human beings are called out of the world, begotten as God’s children, put into His Church and given His name.
Note what John said about the “seed” within converted people: “Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for His seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (I John 3:9). It is interesting that the Greek word for “seed” is sperma, from which comes the English word “sperm.” This makes plain that the Holy Spirit is the “sperm” or “seed” of God.
Notice another scripture, adding light to what the seed of God is: “Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that you love one another with a pure heart fervently: being born again [Greek: anagennao, begotten again], not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides for ever” (I Pet. 1:22-23).
While Christians will ultimately be born again into the kingdom of God at the resurrection, they are, at conversion, begotten of God through the Holy Spirit. This is similar to the human reproductive system. As soon as the sperm of a father attaches to the egg of the mother, a child is conceived. The child is not yet born, although he is begotten of the physical seed—the father’s sperm. We, once we have received the Holy Spirit—the seed of God—are begotten in this life, but not yet born! Like any human father who would say that his wife is carrying his child, God speaks of the Church—described as the “Mother” of Christians (Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22; Rev. 12)—as carrying His children.
So then, Matthew 28:19 clearly does not establish the trinity, but rather simply reveals that when we are baptized, we are given God’s name through His Spirit.
Why did Christ refer to Peter as “Satan”?
Let’s understand. Peter was the most outspoken of the disciples. This was not a trait that always served him well. (Notice Mark 14:47 and John 13:6-9.) In the Mark 8:33 account, Satan—the “god of this world” (II Cor. 4:4), and “prince of the power of the air…[working] in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2)—had influenced Peter, causing him to “rebuke Him [Christ].”
Satan knows “…that he has but a short time” (Rev. 12:12). He does not want to give up his influence and hold on this world. Christ came to earth as a physical, flesh-and-blood human being in order to qualify to replace Satan.
Because of the closeness that Peter felt to Christ, he could not humanly accept the fact that Christ would have to die. Satan seized on Peter’s emotional tendencies and influenced him to rebuke Christ as he did. Christ recognized Satan’s influence. Another example of this is found in John 13:27.
These verses appear to support the “ever-burning hell” idea. The word translated hell here is the Greek word gehenna, which references the “Valley of Hinnom.” This was a small valley on the edge of Jerusalem where all the refuse of the city was regularly thrown and burned.
The fires in this valley were kept burning almost constantly. Even bodies of criminals were occasionally thrown there. Jesus likened it to a type of hell-fire. The term “never shall be quenched,” or a similar phrase, is found five separate times in this passage. It means these fires were never really put out, but they could periodically burn out.
Christ meant that anything thrown into this valley would completely burn up before the fire could burn itself out. This condition would best be described as unquenched or “unput” out. For additional references to this valley, see Nehemiah 11:30, II Kings 23:10, and Jeremiah 19:6.
What is the meaning of the phrase “their worms die not”? This could only be maggots that appear in rotting bodies as they naturally decompose. This process helps to fulfill the Ecclesiastes 3:20 reference to “dust to dust.” (During the Millennium, this fire will apparently burn continuously—Isa. 66:24). Some bodies did not burn in gehenna, but rather rotted there. There were often corpses, literally stuck on ledges without completely falling into the valley and, therefore, into the fire. In other words, two possible things could happen to bodies: (1) fall into the fire and burn up, or (2) get stuck on a ledge and be consumed by maggots.
What does “Let the dead bury their dead” mean?
The context is about those who want to, or temporarily go back to, the old way of life and to the world. It is customary for a parent’s funeral arrangements to be taken care of by the children, but the verse is properly explained this way: (1) Let the spiritually dead take care of the physically dead, or (2) Christ may have meant that this particular man actually wanted to take care of his father for the entire period until he died and was buried, instead of serving God. Christ said that others could perform that duty, but that this man should seek the kingdom of God wholeheartedly (vs. 62).
Therefore, this does not mean that God’s people should never bury their unconverted relatives or plan their funerals, but rather that they should not permit caring for them long term to choke their spiritual growth or cause them to compromise God’s Way.
No suggested reading.
Often called the Parable of the Unjust Steward, what is this really talking about?
Open your Bible and we will examine this parable verse by verse:
vs. 1—Type of a Christian who is wasting his talents.
vs. 2—As he is called to judgment…
vs. 3—…he realizes time is short, so he has to work double-time to qualify for salvation.
vs. 4—He determines to make some friends.
vs. 5-7—This means that we should always strive to do whatever we can without necessarily telling people why. Also, no one should ever spiritually give up without at least attempting last-minute growth.
vs. 8—No explanation needed
vs. 9—The word translated “of” means “with” or “by means of.” The word translated “mammon of unrighteousness” means “money, riches (see Matt. 6:19, 24) possessions.” The word translated “fail” means “die,”—death is certainly an “everlasting habitation.”
There are several additional keys to understanding this parable:
(1) Read James 4:4. But, Christians can make “friends” in the world (not “of the world”) by using the world’s monetary systems, to be received when necessary into people’s dwellings (houses) because there may be an emergency.
(2) God’s people should diligently tithe and give generous offerings now, so that the unconverted can one day join us in the eternal kingdom of God later.
(3) Christians may one day be received into the chosen country of the place of safety for “favors” that the Church may have done for that country. Finally, the emphasis is on the “you” of verse 9 and not “they” (the world). God merely mentions the world as a standard of comparison for our conduct.
No suggested reading.
Once again, the reader should open his Bible to this extensive passage. The parable of “Lazarus and the Rich Man” is also best examined verse-by-verse:
vs. 22-23—Many think these easy-to-misunderstand verses teach that evil people die and go straight to hell. The key point is that while Lazarus and the rich man died, it does not say when the rich man “lifted up his eyes in hell” (the Greek word Hades here means “the grave” and is not the Greek word gehenna which means “hellfire”). Nor does it say when Lazarus joined Abraham.
vs. 24—Would the rich man only ask for water to cool his tongue if he was in an everburning hell with his feet and legs roasting? Of course not. This is a picture of the third resurrection (Rev. 20:12-13). And as the wall of flames approached, out of enormous fear, the rich man’s tongue dried up. In verses 23-25, mention is made of “torment.” The Greek word translated “tormented” is odunao. It means, “to grieve, sorrow, torment, duress, distress, strain” and describes mental—not physical—anguish and torment. The rich man was literally “scared spitless” in torment (I John 4:18). The word in (vs. 24) is better rendered by means of.
vs. 25—The words “remember” and “now” indicate the passage of much time (Heb. 11:13). Recall that everything stops at death (Psa. 146:4, Ecc. 9:5). Also notice that the angels are involved (vs. 22). This must refer to the time of the First Resurrection at Christ’s Return (Matt. 25:31; I Thes. 4:16).
vs. 27-31—The rich man wanted to warn his five brothers by sending Lazarus (the “him” of vs. 27 and the “he” of vs. 28 ) to them. Verse 31 reveals that this was not necessary and would not work, anyway. This means that Lazarus remained dead in the grave after he died, and only later will join Abraham at the resurrection.
This passage is covered in much greater detail in the following booklet, with commentary on every verse.
Stated earlier, Catholics use this passage to teach that God’s kingdom is established in “men’s hearts,” and is found wherever the Catholic Church is. (It becomes the premise upon which missionaries function—to spread (their) “kingdom” around the world.) Reread the Matthew 4:17 explanation.
The phrase “within you” is more properly translated “in your midst.” (See the Revised Standard Version text and the New KJV margin.) Christ was standing “in the midst” of a number of people—and He represented the kingdom of God! It is important to recognize that He was talking to a group of Pharisees. The Pharisees hardly represented an example of “hearts” in which God was working! Recall that John 3:3-6 teaches that one must be spirit to see the kingdom of God. One cannot merely have God’s Spirit to do this.
Is Christ advocating violence—the use of a “sword” when necessary—in this passage?
It is evident that the subject is that of literal weapons. But Christ was not encouraging His disciples to defend themselves through violence, which would have contradicted His previous instruction in Matthew 5:38-39 against harming others.
In Luke 9:56, He had stated, “For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” In Matthew 5:44, He had instructed, “…Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
In Luke 22:37, Jesus revealed the meaning of His statement: “For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in Me, and He was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning Me have an end [they will be fulfilled].”
Why then did Christ instruct His disciples to get swords? The answer is to assure the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 53:12 (which He had originally inspired as the God of the Old Testament, and now was quoting). Jesus was to be considered a lawbreaker (“transgressor”). He was in no way endorsing the use of weapons for the purpose of harming human beings (whether in self-defense or otherwise). In verse 51 of Luke 22, we see that when Peter drew a sword and struck the High Priest’s servant, cutting off his ear, Christ chastised him for his actions. He then healed the man by re-attaching his ear.
No suggested reading.
Along with the popular idea of a so-called “deathbed repentance,” supposedly represented by the thief’s belief, this account is often cited as proof that “the saved go to heaven.” The passage proves neither—and there are a number of points to examine.
Consider: King David was “a man after God’s own heart” (I Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22). Abraham was God’s “friend” (II Chron. 20:7) and the “father of the faithful” (Gal. 3:7-9). Moses was the meekest man who had ever lived (Num. 12:3) and spoke with God personally (Ex. 33:11). If none of these great servants of God had ascended to heaven (John 3:13), how is it possible that a thief, although repentant at the end of his life, could have a guaranteed—and immediate—reward in heaven?
Upon death, did Christ go directly to “paradise,” which is in heaven (II Cor. 12:4)? Did He promise the thief that he would join Him there the same day? Notice the key phrase “when You come into Your kingdom.” This alone shows there is an important time element involved in Christ’s statement.
Before continuing in Luke 23, read I Peter 3:19-20: “By which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.”
This scripture is often cited to prove that Christ was preaching to demon spirits in an ever-burning hell during the period He was supposedly in heaven, while His body was in the tomb. This reasoning shows the inconsistency of those who do not carefully study the Bible. It also ignores the time element in I Peter. Careful reading reveals that Christ preached to the “spirits in prison” just before the Flood, not when He was in the tomb. The Greek word for “prison” is tartaroo, meaning prison or place of restraint—the earth!
Could Christ have (1) preached to “demons in hell” while also (2) enjoying paradise (heaven?) during the three days and three nights that He was supposed to be in the tomb? Both would be impossible, and actually neither is true. When the full biblical truth is understood, when all relevant passages about death are put together, it is clear that Christ was completely dead, without consciousness of any kind, while in the tomb.
Let’s reread Luke 23:43, but this time let’s read it with the comma after the word “today,” not before. Then realize that “shall you” is more commonly said as “you shall.” Therefore, the Greek is best understood as “Verily I say unto you today, you shall be with Me in paradise.” In verse 42, the thief said, “remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” He would not say “remember me,” unless he understood that much time would pass before Christ could fulfill this promise. Christ used the word “today” as if to say, “Right now, even while we are dying on a stake, I can tell you with certainty that you shall be with Me in paradise.”
Also notice verse 42. The emphasis is that Christ would be coming somewhere—not that the thief would be going somewhere.
Christ could not have literally meant the same day, since He would not be resurrected until three days and three nights after burial (Matt. 12:40). Obviously, at the point Christ said this, He had not yet died. The three days and three nights had not even started. Since God “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), and Christ and the Father are of the same mind (John 10:30), He was not telling the thief that he would be with Him “in heaven” that same day.
The meaning of the Luke 23 account is distorted because of a simple error in grammar. The comma, which follows Christ’s lead-in statement, “Verily, I say unto you…” was inserted and misplaced by men. It changed His entire meaning. The original Greek, the language of the New Testament, did not use certain punctuation, such as commas and quotation marks. Translators using their own discretion added them later. The correct rendering is, “Verily, I say unto you today [in other words, “I tell you right now”], shall you be with Me in Paradise.”
The Bible teaches that there are three resurrections (Rev. 20:4-15). Since the thief obviously had not been baptized and given God’s Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), he cannot be among those raised in the First Resurrection (I Thes. 4:16). Since Christ did not condemn him, we know that he will not be raised in the Third Resurrection, which is for those who would not repent. These will all be destroyed (Rev. 20:6, 14-15). The thief will receive his opportunity for salvation in the Second Resurrection, to take place after the millennium (Rev. 20:5, 11-12). At that time, the world will truly be “paradise,” since Satan will have been bound and cast away, no longer permitted to deceive mankind (Rev. 20:1-3; 12:9).
The context of chapter 24 is the Sunday morning after Christ’s Wednesday crucifixion. People try to use this scripture to prove that a Friday crucifixion/Sunday resurrection fulfills the meaning of “the third day since these things were done.”
Several keys unlock this verse: (1) The Greek term used here means “at least three days,” and (2) this would have been a logical term to use, because “these things” is plural—and any number of events in the last week could have been the starting point for measuring all that had happened before, during and after Christ’s death! See verse 18 for the key to the context. Cleopas and the group with him were saying to Christ, in effect, “Where have you been? It’s been at least three days since all of these things have occurred.” (Remember, Christ was unrecognized by them.) Verses 19-20 clarify what “things” of which Cleopas was generally speaking.
Certain denominations that do not believe consumption of alcohol in any form or amount is permissible, teach that Jesus actually turned water into grape juice. Does this miracle involve wine or grape juice?
Several points prove this miracle involved wine:
(1) Wine, not grape juice, was commonly consumed at weddings at that time. Nothing is said implying that Jesus was out of step with proper custom.
(2) The Greek word for wine is oinos. It can only mean fermented grape juice.
(3) There would be no need for a “taster” (vs. 9) if this was grape juice. Typically, the “ruler of the feast” was the wine taster.
(4) Verse 10 shows concern over drinking the best wine first to properly appreciate its good taste! Only then—later—would the lesser quality wine normally be consumed. The consumption of grape juice would not raise this issue.
How is one “born of water and the Spirit”? Some believe this is how God’s kingdom enters men’s hearts.
Without examining any other scripture, this thinking can be disproved with two points just from the context: (1) Verse 6 is speaking of someone who is Spirit. Notice the phrase, “and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit,” and (2) Verse 5 states that Christians enter God’s kingdom. It does not say that the kingdom enters into Christians or their hearts.
Now notice several other verses, which clarify John 3:5:
James 1:18: God begets His children with the word.
I Peter 1:22-23: God’s truth is obeyed through or with the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 5:26: We are all washed by the water of the word.
When taken together, these verses reveal that Christians are washed by water and the word now—in this life. Also, the word translated born can be translated begotten and, in most other contexts, this would be the correct rendering. Initially, either word would seem to be acceptable as a proper translation in verse 5. However, verse 6 demonstrates that the only correct meaning is born. The end result describes one who is composed of spirit—not just one who has it.
This woman had been married five times. Christ acknowledged it. The question arises: To which husband was she bound? This, once again, introduces the subject of divorce and remarriage.
Some have concluded that Christ was, in effect, saying to the woman at the well, “The man you are with is not your husband, because you are bound to the first of your five husbands.”
This is not what Christ is talking about, because this is not a discussion or dissertation about divorce and remarriage. Understand that He was speaking rhetorically, more correctly saying, “You’ve been with five husbands, and now you’re living with another person (cohabiting outside marriage—what was once commonly referred to as “shacking up”).”
This was Christ’s reference. When one reads the full account, it becomes clear that divorce and remarriage is not the subject under discussion, and that Christ makes no comment about which husband she was bound to—about which of her five marriages was valid.
Did Christ contradict Himself in the same verse? How could He judge people when He had just said He judged no man? The answer becomes a lesson for everyone.
The first half of verse 15 speaks of human judgment after outward appearance, and by whatever human ability to judge that any man may possess. In context, Christ is saying that He did not judge anyone “after the flesh.” He went on to explain that, if He did have to judge, He relied on the Father to guide Him (by His Spirit). I Samuel 16:7 states that God judges the heart, not outward appearances and impressions. This is the biggest proof that God’s Spirit of discernment is the key to correctly evaluating, deciding upon or making assessments of people.
This verse certainly does not endorse the condemning of people to the lake of fire. This usurps the role of the Father, and it is this kind of judging that Christ condemns in Matthew 5:22.
Recognize that it is impossible for human beings to avoid making various decisions based on the conduct of others. Employers, coaches, leaders, parents and ministers cannot avoid periodically evaluating, assessing and making decisions about people as they work with them. But Christians cannot take to themselves God’s role and condemn people as worthy of destruction in the lake of fire because of what they may or may not see them do.
No suggested reading.
Was the blind man healed by Christ predestined to be born blind?
The account explains that this man was blind from birth for a special purpose. Notice verse 3: “Jesus answered, Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest [obvious] in him.” God carefully planned this event to show the world that Jesus Christ was His Son.
It is evident from this verse that the man’s blindness was unusual, and his condition set the stage for one of the most extraordinary miracles recorded in Scripture. It also heralded a fascinating spiritual lesson inherent within the man’s blindness, symbolizing the current status of this world.
Christ had certain tasks that God wanted Him to fulfill during His time on Earth. Consider this statement: “I must work the works of Him who sent Me” (vs. 4).
Healing this man’s blindness was perhaps one of Christ’s greatest miracles—works. The blind man himself stated this in verse 32: “Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.” The next verses show that no one present disputed this. No human had ever given someone his sight back. But Jesus Christ—with the power of God—was able to do so.
No suggested reading.
What is the “night when no man can work”? Three explanations apply:
(1) When people die—the final “night” of life—they can no longer perform Christian works. Their allotted time for service, growth and opportunity to overcome has ended.
(2) It refers to the local Jerusalem congregation, which the Roman General Titus would scatter in 69 A.D.
(3) Finally, it refers to the time at the end of the age (the present time), when “daytime” runs out for the true Church of God to any longer continue the Work of preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God and warning the modern nations that have descended from ancient Israel. The Work of God is a very large subject, impossible to be covered in this brief explanation. The material below will be most helpful.
Who are the “other sheep” that Christ must bring to His fold? When understood, there are dual meanings, both of them correct:
(1) Christ sent His disciples to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” in Matthew 10:6. These were Israelite sheep that were not part of the tribe of Judah (the Jews) living in Judea, which is generally the land that comprises modern-day Israel.
(2) The Palestinian Jews did not receive Christ when He came to them (John 1:11). This requires additional explanation.
In John 7:35, the Jews referred to these Palestinian Jews as “the dispersed among the Gentiles.” It is important to realize that Gentiles were never called “sheep.” (See Ephesians 2:11-13, where they were called “Uncircumcision” and “aliens.”) The “one fold” is the coming of the New Covenant, which was prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-33 and Hebrews 8:8, and which would be consummated in the birth of the New Testament Church. Eventually, the whole world will be converted. All Gentiles in God’s true Church today are a type of this soon-coming age!
Jesus plainly declares in this scripture to those in His audience, “You are gods.” What does this statement mean, and why was it said after His statement in verse 30, “I and My Father are one”?
Jesus was accused of blasphemy, in verse 33, so He quoted Psalm 82:6. Of course, this scripture had been recorded in what the Jews called “their law” (same verse). This verse is actually a prophecy of all who would one day be born into the God Family. Romans 4:17 reveals that God often speaks of “those things which be not as though they were,” because, when He makes a promise, it is as good as done.
Those who understand the true plan of salvation recognize that eventually all true Christians literally will be “gods”! Critics try to twist the fact that Psalm 82:6 uses the Hebrew word Elohim as the word translated gods. They assert that this word can also be translated judges. This is true—Elohim can be translated either way. However, the Greeks had separate words for judge (kritikos) and god (theos). In effect, Christ interpreted Psalm 82:6 by selecting the Greek word theos, which can only mean gods. His purpose in this account was to emphasize that it was not blasphemy if He and His Father were one—both were God!—since the ultimate destiny offered to every human being is to become a member of the God Family!
These questions arise: Did Judas take the Passover and did Christ wash his feet and eat with him?
This account is important because it demonstrates the tremendous love that Christ has toward everyone, including Judas who would momentarily betray Him that very evening! Jesus was even willing to wash this man’s feet and eat with him right up to the very moment of betrayal.
However, it is very important to note that Judas did not have the proper attitude for taking the Passover symbols of the bread and wine. This point is vital to consider because of its example. God does not want “just anyone” to partake of this most holy service (Matthew 26:21 proves this), to be observed only once each year.
While John’s gospel does not record the actual taking of the bread and wine, Matthew’s does. The same conversation is shown in both gospels. At the end of the conversation in John, it states that Judas left immediately. In Matthew, however, it is evident that the point at which Judas must have left is after verse 24.
No suggested reading.
Chapters 14, 15 and 16 of John contain the numerous verses cited most often as “proof” that the Holy Spirit is a person. John 14:17 is quoted above as one example. The word “he” is used in verses 7, 8, 13, 14, 15 and others, in chapter 16. Only a relatively brief explanation can be offered here, with additional literature referenced.
The Greek word used here throughout is the exact same word found in Romans 8:16 (there translated “itself”). It is ekinos, and can be translated either “it” or “he.” The Greeks did not assign the masculine gender to ekinos.
In the Greek language (as with Romance languages like French, Italian and Spanish), nouns have gender. As a grammatical tool, they are designated as masculine, feminine or neuter. For example, el libro, in Spanish, means book and carries the masculine article el. Of course, books are neither male nor female. Therefore, where reference is made to the Holy Spirit, it is incorrectly translated “he,” instead of “it.”
In these three chapters, Christ many times referred to the Spirit as “the Comforter.” The masculine pronoun “he” is used in reference to the word “Comforter” (Greek: parakletos). This is a result of the grammatical structure of the Greek language, in which the New Testament was originally written. Gender was not assigned to the Holy Spirit, merely to the word used to describe it. This will be explained later.
Some other background explanation would also be helpful.
In the rest of the New Testament, the Greek word pneuma, meaning either “breath” or “spirit,” is translated “Spirit.” This word is the equivalent of the Old Testament Hebrew word translated “spirit”—rûah. Grammatically, the word pneuma is neuter. Therefore, it is properly represented by the English pronoun “it.”
Let’s understand further. Christ stated, “I and My Father are One” (John 10:30). What does this mean? To properly understand what Christ meant, we must turn to the Old Testament.
Amos 3:3 asks a rhetorical question: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Christ and the Father are of the same mind. They are unified in both thought and purpose. Notice that, in John 10:30, Christ did not say, “I and My Father and the Holy Spirit are One.” If God is a trinity, why would Christ have excluded the Holy Spirit in His explanation of the Godhead relationship?
This is a huge unanswered question.
In John 14:9, Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Did Christ mean that He and the Father look alike? In shape and form, yes. Identical in appearance, no. By His actions, Christ showed what the Father was like. God and Christ are of the same mind. In Luke 2, He asked, “Know you not that I must be about My Father’s business?” These scriptures show that Christ and the Father both work.
It is again important to note that Christ did not say, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father and the Holy Spirit.”
Then notice how John 1:1-3 shows the relationship that God and Christ have: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” Again, where is any mention of the Holy Spirit? Only two beings are referenced.
The Greek word Logos, translated “Word” in John 1, also means “spokesman.” Psalm 33 shows the role that Christ had in the creation of the world: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth” (vs. 6).
A related question arises, however, and it can be addressed and also be helpful in the context of what has already been explained.
In Matthew 19:17, Christ asked a young man who had questioned Him about salvation, “Why call you Me good? There is none good but One, that is, God.” If Christ knew that He was also God (Luke 2:49), what then did He mean by this?
Two things become apparent:
(1) He was giving deference to the Father (see John 14:28). Christ had completely emptied Himself of the power of the Godhead, taking on the form of physical flesh as a servant (Phil. 2:7). Christ was made of flesh, and there is nothing about flesh that is good. See Romans 7:18-24, among numerous other verses.
(2) In anticipation of the reaction in the young man—that he would reject Christ’s answer (vs. 22)—Christ was showing the paradox of the young man’s question. Consider. He called Christ, “Good Master,” and professed to want to do whatever Christ said, but his actions showed that he did not believe that he was talking to God—one who was “good.” Christ recognized that the young man had the same “worshipful” attitude held by so many who rejected Him. (See Luke 6:46; 20:17; Matt. 7:21; 21:42; 13:57; Mark 12:10; Acts 4:11.) Therefore, He was pointing the young man to what the Father requires.
Again, the following extensive book is vital for those who truly want to understand all of the many elements that comprise the false doctrine that God is three-in-one. The serious reader will want to carefully study this book.
What were the exact words that were written on the stake on which Christ was crucified? Each of the four gospels records a slightly different rendering, and this has created some confusion, and also caused some to actually doubt the validity of the Bible.
Why are the accounts different?
As in other gospel accounts, each gospel gives certain different emphasis. Read Luke 23:38, Matthew 27:37, Mark 15:26, and John 19:19. Each account represents a portion of a bigger picture. When placed together, they say, “THIS IS JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
No suggested reading.
Why does this account state that Christ died at this point, and then, in verse 34, appear to say that He was speared after He was already dead? When truly understood, this explanation represents a subtle satanic plot designed to picture Christ’s death with a very wrong emphasis. The problem springs from the presence of two key translational errors.
The first is in verse 34. This passage reflects the wrong tense. It should reflect the Greek aorist tense (past tense), which would require had pierced instead of pierced and had come (the Greek is canae). This is proven by Matthew 27:49. This scripture has an entire phrase left out that would make it properly conclude: “…and another took a spear and pierced His side and there came out water and blood.” This is why Jesus died in the next verse (vs. 50)!
What is the greater problem referenced earlier?
Many preachers and religionists teach that Jesus Christ actually died of a broken heart, and the above wrong translation appears to substantiate this idea. In fact, Christ died because He bled to death!—and He was prophesied to die in this fashion! (See Exodus 12:6-7, Hebrews 9:22, Isaiah 53:7-8 and 12, Leviticus 17:11, Deuteronomy 14:21, Genesis 9:6, Ephesians 1:7 and Colossians 1:14.) When placed together, these verses demonstrate that Christ had to shed His blood for humanity.
Hebrews 9:22 shows that blood must be shed for sins to be forgiven. Ambassador College once had a copy of an original Greek manuscript from A.D. 300, which contains this phrase. Unfortunately, the phrase had become a marginal reference by the time the King James Version was produced in A.D. 1611. The Moffatt translation still contains it, but only in parentheses.
The entire reason that Christ died was part of a Master Plan by God. His suffering—and consequent death by blood loss—did not happen by accident, but rather was entirely by design. In addition to denying the truth of Scripture and the need for blood to be shed to forgive sins, the attempt to picture Christ with a broken heart (1) weakens Christ into One who was shocked by that which He was not really prepared to witness and (2) is a classic example of how the maudlin, sentimental Protestant view of Christ often rules their teaching.
Does this passage prove that the Catholic practice of confession to a priest is necessary for sins to be forgiven or not? Since remit means to “forgive,” does this verse support this idea?
This scripture actually refers to any sin or sins that a faithful minister can recognize have not been repented of. (See the John 8:15-16 explanation.) Of course, in cases where a minister has come to such a recognition, a sin unrepented of would have been left unforgiven by God—and thus “retained” to the person. For illustration, see Romans 16:17 about the need to occasionally “mark” one who is sowing division or teaching heresy, and then ask how any minister can possibly know to do this unless that minister recognizes he is dealing with someone who either will not or has not repent(ed). Discernment is vital.
It is simply not possible, and actually ridiculous, to draw the doctrine of regular, required confession from this verse.
No suggested reading.
Pentecostals use this scripture to teach that one’s ultimate baptism is with God’s Spirit, not with water. But first notice that the passage does say, “John truly baptized with water…”
Some points to consider: (1) Acts 19:1-7 reveals that the key to John’s baptism was not just that it was by immersion, but also by whose name in which it was done, and (2) there had been no laying on of hands of those in the Acts account, so that these could receive the Holy Spirit (also see Heb. 6:2; Acts 8:14-20).
In his first sermon, on the Pentecost that began the New Testament Church in A.D. 31, Peter stated, “be baptized” (Acts 2:38). The Greek baptiso can only be translated immersed. If someone reasons that Christians are only “immersed” in spirit, then why did Peter say “be baptized [immersed]…and [then] you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”? The inference is that two separate events occur at conversion—repentance and baptism. The theology of most professing Christians plays down the spiritual burial that Christians must undergo. Realize that Satan does not want anyone’s sin buried—as Acts 2:38 shows is necessary for true forgiveness!
What do the phrases in this scripture mean, and why are they quoted from Old Testament passages with different contexts? Read Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8. They show that Judas was to be replaced, but also that his home and everything familiar to his “habitation” would never be the same—would be “desolate” of his presence.
The fact that this is an Old Testament quote, made singular here, instead of its original plural form in Psalm 69:25, demonstrates that God can use any quote or phrase to prove or illustrate whatever His point may be. This is exactly why this phrase was used, and it demonstrates that there is not always a single, closed meaning to every Bible passage! These two Old Testament scriptures were speaking of the wicked in general in both cases.
No suggested reading.
Is this biblical precedent for Pentecostal “tarry meetings.”
This passage is usually taken together with John 21:22-23, where people pray, wail, cry, shout, chant and often fall on the floor foaming at the mouth when “it comes”—supposedly the Holy Spirit?
Understand these points: (1) This is the first day of Pentecost ever kept by the New Testament Church, and (2) it was the time when God first sent His Holy Spirit to His Church. This is why those present spoke in tongues, and this is why there was the presence of mighty wind and fire! God used these powerful forces to signal a great event—the New Testament time of receiving His Holy Spirit had come (Joel 2:28-29). However, remember other verses explain that only by the laying on of hands (Acts 2:37-38; 19:1-6; Heb. 6:2) can Christians receive the Spirit of God.
Understand that the subject of “tongues” is large, and requires our full booklet to be properly addressed.
The question here is this: How could Christ have died and putrefaction (“corruption”) of His body not have begun?
First, the Greek word translated “hell” is hades, which simply means the grave. A body can go several days or longer without corruption (beginning of decomposition), if all of the blood has been removed. Certainly Christ did shed all of His blood, making this more possible. However, due to the extreme temperature in Jerusalem, God would have had to supernaturally preserve Christ’s body from this natural process.
No suggested reading.
These two verses are referenced in the explanation of Acts 5:1-11, regarding supposed communism or socialism within the early Church of God—with brethren having “all things common.” The meaning in Acts 2 is not difficult to understand if one reads Acts 5:1-11 first. That account shows the decision to do this was made by choice, and was always as “men had need.” Therefore, the purpose was guided by how to best keep the Church in a position to help people in need in a time of general difficulty. Gathering possessions into a common location for distribution to the needy was not done to practice socialism, but rather because circumstances of extreme persecution at the time made this practical.
No suggested reading.
Some use Acts 5 as another “proof” that the Holy Spirit is a person. This is because they do not carefully examine what is called “the Ananias and Sapphira account.”
In Acts 5:3-4, the apostle Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own power? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied unto men, but unto God.”
Does this passage, in fact, prove that the Holy Spirit is a person or separate being within the Godhead? In other words, how could Peter state that Ananias and Sapphira were lying to it, if the Holy Spirit is merely the inanimate power or agent of God?
This is actually not very difficult to understand. It was the Holy Spirit that gave Peter the ability to discern (Heb. 5:14) Ananias and Sapphira’s lies. Notice I Corinthians 2:11: “what man knows the things of a man, except by the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knows no man, except by the Spirit of God.” Human beings learn by what this passage calls the “spirit of man,” and this spirit is given to all people. Obviously, this does not mean that there is another person in each human person. Similarly, having the Holy Spirit in one does not mean there is another person in the person.
So, while there are things that human beings can learn and understand without having God’s Holy Spirit, certain things can only be understood with His Spirit. Discerning spiritual things comes through God’s Holy Spirit in the mind.
Christ demonstrated this ability of discernment in John 13:27: “And after the sop Satan entered into him [Judas]. Then said Jesus unto him, That you do, do quickly.” Christ was able to recognize when the devil had entered Judas. Also notice Mark 8:33: “But when He [Christ] had turned about and looked on His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, Get you behind Me, Satan: for you savor not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.” The Holy Spirit present in Christ’s mind made this discernment possible.
To understand how Peter could “see through” Ananias and Sapphira, consider the following analogy:
An attorney is discussing an extremely technical legal matter with a potential client. The implications are such that only a lawyer with the utmost legal understanding could properly handle the case. Also, only with complete and total knowledge of every aspect and detail of the situation can the lawyer hope to proceed. But the client, having dishonest ulterior motives, intentionally omits some minor details. Those details are so minute that they could potentially escape the attention of an attorney not deeply, intricately versed in the law. But the attorney sees the deception for what it is. How does he see through it? Because of the knowledge of the law that he possesses. Without that knowledge, he would not recognize the lie for what it is. His knowledge of the law leads him to understand the man’s ulterior motives.
However, if one lies to a farmer about a matter dealing with aerospace engineering, the farmer probably will not recognize the lie. Likewise, if one lies to a rocket scientist about a matter concerning agriculture, the scientist will most likely not recognize it. Why? Because neither is versed in the particular subject being addressed. The lie goes “right over his head.”
It is the same with spiritual understanding: “Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge” (I Cor. 8:7).
Realize that Romans 8:14 defines Christians: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” They must allow the “Spirit of truth” (the same as the Spirit of God) to guide them (John 16:13).
In Acts 5, Peter, guided by the Holy Spirit working in his mind, was able to discern three things about Ananias and Sapphira:
(1) They had conspired together on their way to see him.
(2) Their sin and their motive.
(3) The punishment they would receive.
After Pentecost in A.D. 31, God communicated to His servants through His Spirit (John 16:13). The above shows why Peter could say they were lying to the Holy Spirit.
Peter could say they were also lying to God because:
(1) Peter was the leading apostle in the Church of God. Christ had told him and the other disciples, “Whatsoever you shall bind on Earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on Earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 18:18).
(2) Christ had also told His disciples, “And whatsoever you shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall ask any thing in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14). Christ had given His disciples power to act on His behalf. God had to guide them in these matters, and the Holy Spirit is the way through which He does this.
(3) Conversely, He showed that anything done to or for Christians was considered to be done to or for Him. Notice: “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, you have done it unto Me” (Matt. 25:40).
Also notice the following Old Testament accounts:
(4) “And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness…And in the morning, then you shall see the glory of the Lord; for that He hears your murmurings against the Lord: and what are we, that you murmur against us?…for that the Lord hears your murmurings which you murmur against Him: and what are we? Your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord” (Ex. 16:2, 7-8).
(5) “And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto you: for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them” (I Sam. 8:7).
All these passages illustrate why Peter could say that Ananias and Sapphira were lying to both God and the Holy Spirit. It was not because the Holy Spirit is a separate person in the Godhead. They were lying to one of God’s apostles, in whom He was working—through the power of His Holy Spirit.
Also, consider Peter’s statement, “You have not lied unto men.” Advocates of the trinity teaching ignore the fact that the husband and wife had lied directly to Peter (a man). Peter was a flesh-and-blood human being. Was he somehow elevating himself to the status of either God or the Holy Spirit? (See Acts 10:25-26; also 14:7-18.)
Why do trinitarians not consider this part of Peter’s statement? Their argument has no strength, because it is inconsistent and does not examine every aspect of the account. As is always the case, religionists have taken a single scripture out of context and either ignored or twisted other scriptures, building a doctrinal “house of cards.” The wise are always able to see through it and knock it down.
What was Ananias’ and Sapphira’s sin? Did they simply wish to keep money that was already theirs? Acts 2:44 has shown that, during this period, all people in the Church had “everything in common,” meaning for common use. From Acts 5:1-11 we can conclude it meant money and possessions. This couple conspired (vs. 2) to “keep part of the price” of their land, when others gave everything they had (Acts 4:36-37), apparently by prior agreement, and this is the hidden key, not readily visible.
Their sin was lying, not stealing, as verse 4 makes clear. This couple tried to deceive Peter into believing that they were giving the entire sum they had been paid. Their sin was certainly not an unwillingness to become socialists. In fact, they obviously wanted to be thought of as more generous than they actually were. In other words, they had a problem with pride—vanity. And the matter was serious. The apostles had, no doubt, been acting on the knowledge that certain funds were coming. The impact of this deception on the Church must have been great.
Verse 4 shows they neither (1) had to sell the land at all, nor (2) had to give the entire value once they did. Lying occurred by saying that they were giving it all when they were not! That Ananias and Sapphira died is a powerful statement about how God views lying.
No suggested reading.
Does this account reveal that all animal flesh has been cleansed and may be eaten?
Here is the question: Did God command Peter to eat any kind of meat that he wished? The answer will become an obvious, No! God was merely illustrating Peter’s attitude toward people, as we shall see. On a great sheet lowered from heaven were all types of unclean and common (ceremonially defiled) meats that Peter had never eaten and knew he should not eat. Also, Peter never ate any of them in the account (even symbolically, since what occurred was a vision). Critics presume to know what the vision meant before Peter did.
In verse 17, Peter was still in doubt—and he was the only one who saw the vision! In verse 19, his mind was still open as three men came with the message about Cornelius, an Italian gentile. The biggest point that God wanted to make is explained by Peter in verse 28: “God has shown me that I should not call any MAN [not meat] common or unclean.” Verse 34-35 continues, “God is no respecter of PERSONS [not meats]: but in every nation he [a person] that fears Him, and works righteousness, is accepted with Him.”
This vision was a means of showing Peter his inconsistency—his hypocrisy—toward non-Jews, and revealing to him that God viewed everyone equally and offered His Spirit to all men.
This scripture presents another perfect example of how so many religionists ignore context, sometimes vital context, focusing on a single aspect of a passage to make it say something it clearly does not. This one is supposedly proof of the personhood of the Holy Spirit, with it having “said” something.
Notice the seven elements of this scripture:
(1) “As they ministered to the Lord”: These men were seeking God’s will in a matter—specifically, the ordination of two men. James 4:8 states, “Draw near to God [not His Holy Spirit], and He will draw near to you.”
(2) “when they had fasted”: Fasting is one of the tools of Christian growth. It helps Christians acknowledge to God that they are nothing, of and by themselves, while allowing them to draw closer to Him. Fasting also binds Satan, blocking his influence. If you are drawing near to God, then you are also resisting Satan. And, as James 4:7 states, if you “Resist the devil…he will flee from you.” By fasting, these men demonstrated to God that they wanted His complete and total involvement in what they were doing.
Also, a fast involves going without food and drink for a period of at least 24 hours. Read Jeremiah 36:6; Matthew 9:15; Mark 2:19-20; Luke 5:35. So the period of time covered between Acts 13:2 and verse 3 is at least 24 hours. (You may read our helpful article “What You Need to Know About Fasting” to learn more about how to fast.)
(3) “…the Holy Spirit said”: To properly understand this part of the scripture, review the Acts 5:3-4 explanation. If they had heard a literal voice from God, why would they have felt the need to continue in fasting and prayer? The men would have had their answer! None would suggest that God was speaking the same message to them non-stop for 24 hours. (Notice II Samuel 12:16-23; Daniel 10:3-13; Matthew 9:14-15.) They were being guided by the Holy Spirit within them, and they needed to be crystal clear about the intent of the message it was bringing. The sound of an audible voice eliminates any such need. Again, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14).
(4) “Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them”: It is God the Father who does the calling (John 6:44, 65). The Holy Spirit is the means by which He does this. It is Christ who determines who will be used in the ministry—and in what capacity (I Cor. 12:28). Also, if this were a literal audible voice from a God Being, spoken for all to hear, it would have been accompanied by obvious displays of natural forces. (Notice John 5:37 and also Acts 9:3-7.)
(5) “…and prayed”: Prayer is another tool of Christian growth, used to make our needs known to God. It is also the way we ask God to make His will known to us. (See Matthew 6:10; 26:39, 42.) Again, if they had already received an audible answer, why would they have continued in prayer?
(6) “…and laid their hands on them”: The laying on of hands is a symbolic act when God is called upon, in faith, to bless and sanctify or to impart authority and power. The power of the Holy Spirit is involved in four different and individual purposes—blessings, baptism, healing and ordination—when this ceremony occurs. We can look at some examples of each.
Genesis 48:13-20 records that Ephraim and Manasseh received a unique and very special blessing when Israel (Jacob) laid hands upon them. The blessing of little children is also performed by the laying on of hands, as instructed by Christ (Mark 10:15-16; Matt. 19:13-15; Luke 18:15-17).
In the baptism ceremony, the repentant person receives the gift of the Holy Spirit by having hands laid on him. This is first recorded in Acts 8:17-18: “Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit…through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given.” Also see Acts 19:5-6 and II Timothy 1:6.
God’s healing is also the result of an elder’s prayer with faith, accompanied by the laying on of hands on the head of the afflicted person. We find this example in Acts 9:17: “…and Ananias [not the Ananias of Acts 5]…entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus…has sent me, that you might receive your sight.”
Ordination into an office within God’s Church is also done through the laying on of hands. The first example is found in Acts 6:6-8, involving the ordination of deacons: “…and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them…And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.” God’s Church today faithfully observes this practice in all ordinations. Hebrews 6:2 specifically lists it as one of God’s doctrines.
(7) “…they sent them away”: These men were acting on God’s behalf, ordaining men into higher offices in the ministry. This part of the verse reveals two things: (a) In addition to prayer and fasting, they had also counseled together in order to reach a wise decision (notice Proverbs 11:14; 15:22); (b) the Holy Spirit did not, of itself, send these men out. Again, notice that the verse states, “…they [Niger, Lucius, Manaen] sent them away.”
Let’s summarize the points: God, through the power of His Spirit, acting in response to those who were asking for His guidance, inspired the men involved to understand that He wanted Barnabas and Saul ordained.
This passage presents a mathematical problem. First, take a moment to read I Kings 6:1. How does the 480 years referenced there square with the “about 450 years” in Acts 13:17-20? Which period only goes “until Samuel”?
The word “until” (vs. 20) should properly be translated “including.” This time marks the period to the end of Samuel’s service. Now examine the math:
480 years (I Kgs. 6:1)
440 years, which is “about…450 years” (vs. 20)
No suggested reading.
What does “from faith to faith” mean? How can one go from “having faith” to “having faith”?
Verse 16 explains that God’s overall Plan involves calling the Jew first, and then Gentiles. The Jews first demonstrated faith (end of vs. 16). Then, Acts 10:2 records the first Gentile who was converted, thus developing faith (end of Rom. 1:17).
Also, in a second application, there is another kind of human faith that all people have at certain times in their lives—but this faith must eventually be replaced by the permanent faith that only comes by the Spirit of God in converted minds (Gal. 5:21-22; 2:16).
Remember that Christ healed many people and praised their faith as He did. Consider that none of these people had the Holy Spirit. But they did have human faith! Finally, it does take human faith to even believe that we will be forgiven by Christ’s sacrifice, that God has called us, and that we will receive His Spirit, because all of this belief is expressed prior to baptism. After conversion, we live by the faith of Christ in us.
What are the “secrets of men” spoken of by Paul? Before proceeding, read verses 11 to 16 for context. Notice a parenthesis beginning at verse 13 and ending at verse 15. Now, exclude verses 13-15 and read verses 11-12 and 16, in that order, to begin to understand at least the continuation of the context. Then read verses 13-15! Let’s examine each verse:
vs. 11—God judges all people by the same standard.
vs. 12—Those who do and those who do not know the law have sinned!
vs. 16—Shows when this judgment will occur and what God will judge—the secrets in men’s minds. Secrets are obviously what no other man knows, and remain hidden until someone makes them known, and in this case God does!
vs. 13—The crux of the problem was that some thought that by merely knowing the law, they would be saved and were better than others who were ignorant of the law.
vs. 14—Some Gentiles were keeping some of the commandments better by “accident” than certain Jews who had known the law their entire lives. The conduct of some Gentiles made them a law in their own right.
vs. 15—These verses address the conscience. What Christians do with their consciences demonstrates, in a certain way, whether or not they will obey God’s law in all points. Will they do what they are taught to think is right—apart from what they may know about God’s law? In effect, their conscience either “excuses” or “accuses” them in everything that they say, do or think throughout their lives.
vs. 16—These are the “secrets,” hidden in all men’s consciences, that God will judge.
A crucial point emerges from what we have learned. No human being will ever be able to stand before God and claim that he would have obeyed Him had he been called, because God will remind such a person of his or her “secrets”—sins perhaps known only to God and the person.
No suggested reading.
Carefully read through these verses before proceeding to the explanation. This is a somewhat complicated, and sometimes rhetorical, passage:
vs. 4—This verse explains that God will never allow any man to “overcome” Him (God)—or any to feel “justified” because God is “wrong” in any matter.
vs. 5—A false teacher in Rome was spreading the idea that, the more that people sin (commit “unrighteousness”), the more God’s righteousness stands out (is “commended”). This is generally tied to the idea that God is then able to extend more mercy, and mercy glorifies Him. This illogical reasoning creates the question of “how can God punish people if their ongoing sinning glorifies His righteousness?” Paul concludes by saying rhetorically that he “speaks as a man”—not as God or any minister of God “would speak.”
vs. 6—How could God judge people as sinners if the end result of that sin was good, and glorified Him?
vs. 7—Paul had been accused of lying and of setting a sinful example. Of course, he did neither. (This verse must be read to understand the context.) In effect, Paul responded with, “If this (lying, which is a sin, but supposedly glorifies God) is the way God wants it, why would I be judged by God to have sinned?” The fruits of Paul’s work was greatly increasing and prospering. However, some were accusing him. Others had judged Paul a sinner.
vs. 8—This verse best reads: “And not say right out (as we be slanderously reported and some affirm that we say), ‘Let us do evil that good may come whose damnation is just’” (those who were accusing Paul). Paul said that he wished his accusers would stand up and just speak plainly what they were implying.
vs. 9—Here is the point: Did merely having God’s law make Jews better than the Gentiles who did not have it? Obviously, No! His Law must be KEPT, not just be known. In addition, Romans 2:11-12, 16 proves that all—Jew and Gentile—are under sin.
No suggested reading.
Is verse 20 a license to set aside and disobey the Law of God, because by obeying it one cannot be justified, and thus righteousness is imputed “without the law” (vs. 21)? What does “under the law” mean?
Verse 20 actually speaks of being under the penalty of having broken the law, not of being under the need to keep it, because verse 19 speaks of “stopping mouths,” meaning that everyone is guilty of sin because of disobedience to the law—which must be in effect for sin to be possible. Verse 23 makes this point clear because it states that “all have sinned.”
Why can no person be justified by the works (or keeping) of the law? The answer is fundamental to Christianity: because with the law only comes the knowledge of what sin is (end of verse). Keeping the law can neither forgive nor save anyone. Only Christ’s death and His blood applied to Christians by faith can forgive them—can justify and reconcile them (Rom. 5:8-9)—but it is His Resurrection to eternal life that saves them (Rom. 5:10). However, the law certainly can tell us what sin is!
Romans 3:21 explains that God’s righteousness in Christians does not come via their human efforts to keep the law (as Israel tried to do). But it should be obvious that righteousness is of (or by) faith (vs. 27). No one can boast that he kept the law on his own power, thus claiming that God owes him salvation!
Conclude your study by reading verse 28 and then verse 31. It is faith that establishes the law! This is because it requires faith from God—the faith of Christ (Rev. 14:12), not mere human faith (discussed earlier)—to be able to keep it. Then, and only then, can anyone become truly righteous (Psa. 119:172).
Does this passage state that all can be judged sinners because Adam alone sinned? Verse 12 does show that all human beings suffer death because of what this first man did. The key is the latter part of verse 12—“death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” The end of verse 16 emphasizes that death comes not because of Adam’s sin alone, but because of “many offences” committed by many people, actually every person.
The Catholic doctrine of “original sin,” centered on these verses, teaches:
(1) Adam, not us, is really responsible for our sin, referred to as “original sin”!
(2) He passed on his sin in and through our flesh, which is now inherently wicked. Further, Catholics believe, however, that deep inside, all people are good, and secretly want to obey and love God. This idea derives from the pagan teaching that human beings have a pure, pristine immortal soul locked inside an evil “prisonhouse” body, only able to “escape” at death.
Romans 3:11 and 8:7 negate any supposed secret, noble motives lying inside a person’s “mind” and that these are able to somehow control the “flesh.” Paul did speak of a very real internal spiritual warfare going on daily inside Christians. Much of Romans 7 describes the daily battle of the Christian’s human mind at war against Christ’s mind within him.
No suggested reading.
What is “imputed sin”? What was the “similitude of Adam’s sin”? Of whom was he a “figure”?
First, imputed sin is sin that people are responsible for because they knew the law when they committed the sin (Rom. 4:15). People cannot sin or thus be guilty of sin where there is no law. Yet, Adam sinned, as did all others after him, including Cain (Gen. 4:7-8).
Second, the “similitude of Adam’s sin” was that it alone cut people off from the Tree of Life (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:24). No other sin in history ever did that! This first human being’s choice, in real effect, spoke for all people who would follow. In this way, Adam was a “figure” of Christ because they both were unique forerunners.
On the one hand, Adam was the first person to make the wrong choice, thus cutting off all humans from the Tree of Life. On the other hand, Christ was the first to live a perfect life in harmony with God and the first to offer redemption to all people through the forgiveness of sins (vs. 18-19). In this way, both Adam and Christ affected the entire human race.
No suggested reading.
Does this passage state that God gave His Law so that would-be Christians better understand how to sin as much as possible? Of course not! (Also see Romans 3:4-9 explanation.)
God gave His Law so that people could see that sin was “abounding” all around (and in) them. The purpose of the Ten Commandments and the rest of God’s Law is to make it possible for people to see sin for what it is—in other words, to know what to avoid, not to know what they should do.
Some in Rome were becoming confused by false teachers and were asking, “Does God want His people, and eventually all people, to abound in sin so that He can glorify Himself by forgiving them?” Apparently, some were actually teaching this, and various brethren were wondering about it. Obviously, while some had actually found a way to be confused by this, the question should be seen as ridiculous. This said, wherever sin is widespread, more of God’s mercy is certainly required to remove its penalty.
Verse 21 explains that after mercy is extended, then righteousness reigns in sin’s stead. As explained in Romans 3:4-9, righteousness does not “reign” by virtue of humans’ effort to do all in their physical power to keep the law!
No suggested reading.
Some refer to Romans 7:1-3, attempting to demonstrate that every marriage in every culture, and no matter its circumstances, is bound until death. Of course, this is true—when God has bound a couple.
This is not a difficult verse to understand. Recognize that Paul qualifies to whom he is speaking—“brethren”—the converted Romans—stating, in effect, “What I’m about to say to you is said to people who know the Law, who understand the truth, who have God’s Spirit—who are true Christians.”
As with the woman at the well (recall this account in John 4:7-26, explained earlier), and the beheading of John the Baptist (this account in Matt. 14:1-4 was also explained earlier), people take Romans 7 out of context. Some forget the all-important qualifier, “For I speak to them that know the law.”
Let’s understand how God identifies those who are under judgment and those who are not. Notice what James wrote: “To him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin” (4:17)—and also what Paul recorded in Hebrews: “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins” (10:26). These passages, coupled with “judgment must begin at the house of God” (I Pet. 4:17), qualify Romans 7. However, Paul actually qualifies it again by using the terms “brethren” and “them that know the law.”
Therefore, this passage has no application to, nor does it reference, those who do not know either God’s truth or His laws of marriage. God is not entering into the marriages of this world.
Does this verse say that the law is dead—no longer in effect? This scripture trips up many people. It is helpful to recognize that the passage is actually an extension of the first three verses, covered in the previous explanation.
The point being made by Paul is that people become dead to the law—it is not the law that becomes dead. How does this happen? Notice Romans 6:2, 7 and 23 for illustration and comparison. These verses reveal that people, once converted, become dead to sin, and 6:7 shows that “he that is dead is freed from sin.” Verse 23 shows that this means freed from the penalty of sin—death!
Let’s now apply this to 7:4. Notice that it refers to “brethren.” Again, it must mean that the Roman brethren were dead to the penalty of the law, because brethren are converted, sanctified people! Verse 6 shows that Christians are delivered from the law—its penalty—and have been freed from death. So, verse 7 concludes that the law is not sin, rather it shows people what sin is—the law points out sin.
This becomes the answer to those who read verse 6 and say, “God has delivered us from keeping that horrible law.”
What does it mean to be “not in the flesh, but in the Spirit”? This passage represents what could be called the Christian “DNA test.” Everyone recognizes that one must have a man’s genes to be that man’s biological child. In a sense, God is the same. Without God’s Spirit, one cannot be His spiritually begotten child. But does one receive the Holy Spirit, God’s Spirit, the Spirit of the Father, or the “Spirit of Christ” at conversion?
We can understand more about the process of spiritual begettal by examining the actual process of human begettal. In reproduction, an egg must be fertilized by a sperm cell, which then “seals off” the egg. The egg can never be fertilized by another sperm.
Now consider. Romans 8:9 spoke of Christians receiving in the same begettal the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ. Are these two different Spirits—yet, Christ said, “I and My Father are One” (John 10:30)? If they were two different spirits, this still would not validate the trinity as some use this verse to suggest. It would mean there are four, not three, beings—God and His Spirit and Christ and His Spirit—in the Godhead.
Upon baptism and the laying on of hands (the point at which one receives the Holy Spirit), Christians are begotten by the Father, just as Christ was begotten in Mary’s womb by the Father. Once this has occurred, Christ lives in them (Gal. 2:20). At that point, they have the spirit of both Christ and the Father dwelling in them. These are one and the same Spirit. It is through this Spirit—the same as the Holy Spirit—that Christians take on the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5).
It is important to recognize, however, that a Christian can literally “abort” in this lifetime—if he does not continue in the right path. The begotten child of God may also not come to term—be born again.
Grasp this! It is possible to lose the Holy Spirit, and bring the new begotten life to an end. Notice: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit [the same as the mind or Spirit of Christ], and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame” (Heb. 6:4-6).
What is this passage talking about? The subject is those whom God chooses to call!
A related question arises, however. May Christians do—or not do—anything that they wish because all that ultimately matters is God’s mercy? Is the passage saying that their “will” and how they conduct their lives—how they “run”—is not important or relevant to God?
Verse 16 is actually explaining that a person cannot have access to God now, or have His grace now, simply because the person either “wills” it, or is the more logical, and more humanly-qualified choice (is one who “runs” hard). The phrase “runs” is referring to those who work and do things on their own and, therefore, who might seem or appear to be natural choices for God to call. God’s subjective mercy on some and not others is what makes the difference.
No suggested reading.
Does this passage declare that Christ brought the Law of God to an “end”?—made it no longer necessary to obey?
First, read Matthew 5:17-19. Careful reading shows that Romans 10:4 actually states that Christ is the end of the law “for righteousness” (or as far as righteousness goes). The Greek word telos, translated “end” here, means the “aim, purpose, goal, etc.” (of the law). This same word is found in I Peter 1:9 and James 5:11, and both make the meaning of “end” very clear.
Take a moment to read from Romans 9:33 to 10:4 for context. Certain Roman brethren were trying to keep the law without asking Christ to keep it perfectly through them! An interesting last point to note is that telos literally means “a point aimed at.” Telescope, telephone, telegraph, and television are all derived from telos. All of these are objects that take something that is distant and make them closer. Christ certainly did this to the law (Isa. 42:21)!
Does this passage instruct and give an obligation to the Christian to continually “witness for Jesus”—to continually “confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus”?
Note that it says to “confess” Christ, not profess Him. A confession implies standing up and being counted when faced with persecution (Matt. 10:27-32). Remember, when under pressure, Peter denied Christ three times—he was unwilling to confess that he was a follower of Christ, a Christian.
Perhaps the most important passage on this subject is I Peter 3:15, which states that Christians should “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you.” Answers are given to questions. Christians are careful not to ignore Christ’s admonition by “casting pearls before swine” (Matt. 7:6). They should answer with their beliefs when asked or challenged about them—in other words, when questioned!
Does this passage contain all there is to becoming a Christian—and to being saved? Does it mean that Christianity is merely “Just believe and you will be saved”? Understand that the idea of “just believe…” requires virtually an entire book to thoroughly explain this. The last three items below do.
First, notice Acts 4:12 to see that Romans 10:13 is instructing people to call on Jesus Christ as opposed to anyone else. At that time, the worship of every god and idol imaginable existed in Rome (I Cor. 8:5-7)! The point is that there is only one Savior, and typically the Roman citizenry believed the tradition of various other “saviors” for mankind.
Second, verse 12 shows that it does not make any difference to God who the person is that is calling out to Him. He will save Jew or Gentile! But is just calling on God enough? Read Matthew 15:8 and Mark 7:7-9. These verses reveal that one must do as Christ says—not just believe on His Name. Matthew 7:21 removes all doubt! Christians have to obey God. Matthew 25:11-12 proves that simply saying, “Lord, Lord” is far from enough! To truly believe on the Name of Christ is to accept His authority, meaning to observe all of His commands and instructions in their lives.
Who are the “olive trees” mentioned here?
Realize that Romans is written to a congregation of Gentiles. Gentiles are the “olive tree” that is “wild by nature” (vs. 24). Israel is the natural “branches…broken off” (vs. 17 and latter half of vs. 24). The context is that God can call Gentiles, even to the exclusion of Israelites who received the promises directly. But verse 20 explains that Gentiles should be humble, or they can also be broken off (vs. 21). The “mystery” here is explained in verse 25. Israel has largely been blinded in this age (God has called any number of physical Israelites), while God brings the initial number of Gentile callings to its “fullness.”
No suggested reading.
Some teach that this scripture proves that everyone, even Satan and his demons, will be saved! This idea is generally referred to as the doctrine of universal salvation.
As a basis to build understanding, reread the Romans 10:13 explanation. Certainly it is God’s will for all to be saved (II Pet. 3:9 and I Tim. 2:4). However, Revelation 22:15, 18-19 and Matthew 25:11, 30 and 34 plainly reveal that this will not happen. Context is the crucial key in Romans 11.
The Romans 11:17 explanation showed how Israel was broken off like branches from a tree. The emphasis in verse 26 is that Israel has a Deliverer (vs. 27), and that God will one day forgive them. Verses 31-32 show that God’s overall intent is to have mercy on all people and that this is why He waited—to the end that Israel might be able to see the Gentiles achieve salvation (vs. 31) and then desire it themselves.
Romans 9:1, 3-4 clarifies what Paul would have done, if he “could” have been permitted by God (vs. 3), but he understood that Israel’s—or anyone’s—salvation depends on their own, or his own, overcoming (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21). Israel’s time for salvation is largely yet to come.
Do verses 5 and 6 approve keeping any day as a day of rest? Is Sunday as good as Saturday for weekly observance? Do these verses allow individual Christians freedom of choice—so that no one can or will be offended by which day others choose? (The Restored Church of God has produced numerous books, booklets and articles, which clearly demonstrate the many proofs that exist regarding Saturday as the Sabbath. These go far beyond what is covered here.)
It is important to examine the text for precisely what it does and does not say. Verses 1 to 4 identify the overall subject in context as vegetarianism—not Sabbath-keeping or which day one selects for rest or worship. (Also see Hebrews 4:9 explanation.)
Verse 5 reveals that some were apparently choosing different days to fast or not to fast. It concludes by instructing Christians to decide for themselves, by themselves—instead of, as the RSV says, getting into “disputes over opinions” (vs. 1, latter part). God leaves some decisions in the hands of people—how long to pray, size of offerings, whether to have two, three or four children, etc.
The subject of the Sabbath is entirely different, however. God commanded the Sabbath, beginning in the book of Genesis. Ancient Israel kept it. Christ kept it. Paul kept it. The early New Testament Church kept it. And true Christians observe it today, because God never allows people to decide what to obey, only whether they will obey His commands (Deut. 30:19-20).
What does the end of verse 21 mean (in italics)?
God enjoys (is “pleased”) in showing the “wise” of the world that He chose fools (vs. 27) to preach both His gospel (it is foolish to some!) and His Plan, which “saves them that believe.”
Also, what is the meaning of “sign” and “wisdom” in verse 22? The Jews often sought miracles (signs) for evidence of where God was working (just as the Pharisees sought from Jesus), while the Greeks were more concerned with this or that interesting philosophy (wisdom) as evidence of God or His presence.
What about verse 23? Why are both parts of this verse true? Jews tend to stumble because they want(ed) a conquering Messiah, not a weak Savior. The Greeks, however, thought that Christianity was foolish, because its founder claimed to be the Light and Savior of the world, but could not even save himself! The Greeks as a people generally were interested in some kind of profound “wisdom” or impressive theory to espouse.
No suggested reading.
Is “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” the only topic that Christians should ever talk or think about?—the only thing that they should “know”? In an overall sense, yes! But this is not the whole picture.
In I Corinthians 1, Paul attacks the attitude of partisan, political spirits (vs. 10, 13), because the Corinthian congregation was shot full of this problem. I Corinthians 2:2 is a basic summary of how to deal with that attitude—point to Christ and His purpose for mankind, and His Return to earth. This overarches all other attitudes, subjects and positions. Notice Paul said that he practiced this approach when he was “among you”—among the Corinthians. Brethren today must also occasionally be brought back to the basics of Christianity! I Corinthians 1:1-10 is a block of verses that must be taken together to be understood. Notice how many times Christ’s name is mentioned. Read the whole chapter as a lead-in to this verse, focusing especially on verse 10.
No suggested reading.
Does this passage disprove any need to literally keep the Days of Unleavened Bread?
Verse 6 condemns leaven. Some believe that this only means spiritual leaven, while others believe it means physical and spiritual leaven. Which is right?
Verse 8 is very emphatic and begins, “Therefore, let us keep the feast…” This refutes false claims about this verse. However, notice the next two phrases in verse 8: “…not with old leaven [physical leaven], neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness [spiritual leaven].” They are plainly told to “purge out” old leaven, and this can only mean out of their houses. Christians are to keep the Feast (Days) of Unleavened Bread both physically and spiritually (notice the end of verse 8)!
Does this scripture teach that Christians do not have to keep any law or follow (any other) standards? Verses 9 to 11 show that Christians do have standards of conduct. Verse 9 plainly states that to be unrighteous is to break the commandments (Psa. 119:172). I Corinthians 6:12 shows, however, that Christians do have certain “liberties” as they overcome the bad character of verses 9 to 11.
The word “expedient” comes from the Greek word sumphero meaning “to bear together, advantage, be better for.” Paul is saying that “Everything within the law is proper (lawful), but some things are better off not being done, because those who do them are not better for having done so. There was no advantage in doing them.” Other translations reveal this meaning. The concern can also become using liberty in a way that offends weak brothers.
Sleep, food, and alcohol are all lawful, but there are circumstances when using them would not be the “expedient” thing to do. Paul added (the conclusion to verse 12 could be verse 13) that he would not let things like oversleeping, overeating, or overdrinking rule him.
Though eating is not wrong, verse 13 explains that God will destroy gluttons! The key to understanding this passage is found in the end of verse 13. This passage is saying that “Sex is permissible, because God made the body, but its wrong use (fornication) is a sin.” This was a big Corinthian problem Paul had to address.
Remember, the first and great rule of Bible study is to start with the most basic scriptures on a subject and build from there.
Catholics use this passage to support celibacy, particularly for priests. Is this what it is saying?
Recognize that Paul is quoting from a letter he had received. Notice that he said, “concerning the things you wrote unto me.” Paul was quoting the rumor that they had written to him. The Greek word translated “touch” means “to attach oneself in many implied relationships.” Now realize that fornication was absolutely rampant in the Gentile city of Corinth, and that this was having an effect in the Church. Seeing this, some were concluding that they should swing to the other ditch, and that no man should ever touch any woman for any reason.
Paul disagreed (vs. 2) and answered, “avoid fornication by having your own wife.” Also, “due benevolence” (vs. 3) means “sexual responsibility.” Paul was obviously not immediately contradicting himself, two verses later, by saying that all touching of women was wrong (vs. 1), but rather that men have a sexual responsibility to their wives (vs. 3).
This passage represents some of the basis for the new “divorce and remarriage” understanding that Mr. Herbert Armstrong began to teach in 1974. Some of his critics still argue with these verses.
Verses 8, 10, and 12 each address different groups or categories of people within a congregation. The question becomes who are the “rest” in the third category, referred to in verse 12, unless they are people in marriages that are failing?—and what is the “bond(age),” which can be broken (vs. 15)? Consider: human beings can be either “married” (vs. 10) or “unmarried” (vs. 12). There are no other options.
The “rest” must be a category within these two conditions. Read verse 27, noticing that the only conclusion is that a man can be “loosed” in certain circumstances, if he was bound. Think for a moment. A person can only be loosed from something that he was bound to. This means that such a person can remarry and not sin (vs. 28)—he has been loosed!
The Church of God grew out of the understanding that the “loosing” (vs. 27) meant loosed from a wife who had a previous husband to whom she was bound.
So then, cited as an example of our old understanding, a wife would have never actually been bound to her second husband. Such a couple would merely separate—leave each other, but there could have been no actual “loosing” as such, that would have been necessary. In any event, the Church grew out of this understanding, and the booklet below explains the truth of when one can and cannot divorce and remarry.
This chapter discusses the legality of Christians eating meat that was sacrificed by heathens to an idol.
Verse 7 explains that some weak Christians cannot separate the sacrilege done to such meat from the value of the meat as simple food. This could be likened to a new convert being unwilling to drive a secondhand car that a serial killer had once owned. His conscience causes him to believe the car is condemned, sinful or defiled.
Verse 8 holds two keys. First, people pull this passage from context by declaring that one can eat unclean meats or avoid them—that either position amounts to the same thing. However, the true overall intent is actually an important principle for all converted people to consider when with weak brethren. Christians should be careful not to do anything that may be a “liberty” (vs. 9)—recall the I Corinthian 6:12-13 explanation—but defiles the conscience of a weak bystander observing him practicing it. An example might be that of a newly baptized person who cannot yet drink liquor, because of prior mistaken belief that alcohol is wrong in any amount or form. Such a person may have to battle his conscience for a long time to ever be able to enjoy even one drink!
No suggested reading.
Many feel that this passage indicates God changed His laws concerning unclean meats. At first glance, it does seem to say that there are situations in which eating them is acceptable—or even advisable. So, did the apostle Paul institute a change in God’s Law? The subject is not unclean meats.
To answer this question, we must reflect on the background of the Corinthians, whom Paul is addressing in this epistle. In ancient Greece, pagan temples were the site of continual sacrifices and offerings to idols. To the Corinthians, whom Paul was used to convert from paganism, this would have been a part of everyday existence.
After making a sacrifice, the one who brought the meat would usually be the one who ate it. However, every day there was a surplus of meat, which was left to the local pagan priesthood. The priests, realizing that they could gain from this surplus, would then sell the leftover meat to local “shambles”—butcher shops. The public could then purchase the once-sacrificed meat for their personal consumption. This practice caused problems to develop.
The Corinthians had learned through Paul’s diligent teaching that they, as Christians and followers of the true God, were to abstain from pagan sacrifices and rituals (I Cor. 10:14-21). However, some wondered if eating meat purchased from the “shambles” would be a sin. They had no way of knowing if it had been sacrificed to an idol—nor could they be sure that the meat served to them by friends was not “defiled” in this way.
Notice I Corinthians 10:19. Paul is stating that the idol is just a thing made of wood and stone, and the meat is just meat. Verses 20 and 21 reveal that the sin would be involving oneself in the pagan sacrifice itself—that this ceremony was what was wrong, not the eating of such meat that went to a butcher shop.
Now let’s read verse 25: “Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake.” Paul basically told the Corinthians to stop fretting and continue to consume meat sold in the local butcher shops. As long as the meat was clean (according to God’s dietary laws), it did not matter whether it had been offered to an idol. This also applied to the meals eaten in the homes of their friends—as long as the meat was clean, it was permissible to eat it.
The use of “whatsoever” in verses 25 and 27 does not imply that God was repealing His clean and unclean meats laws. Nor was Paul trying to do away with them. The context of this chapter clearly indicates that the issue involves the meat that was sacrificed to idols.
The subject of clean versus unclean meats is not the problem—nor is it even mentioned. Both Paul and the Corinthians would have been aware of and obeyed God’s dietary laws, as recorded in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. These laws are to be followed by all Christians through all ages.
But what did Paul mean by the phrase, “Ask no question for conscience sake”? Basically, this was a warning to the Corinthians not to ask the server of the meal where the meat came from. It did not matter, as he had told them—so what was the point in worrying about it? Besides, if the meat was proclaimed “tainted,” and the Christian proceeded to consume it, it might lead the host to feel that the Christian was compromising his beliefs, or endorsing idol worship. Of course, if someone stated that the meat was sacrificed to an idol, the Christian should cease to eat it, so as not to lead others to believe that he thought idolatry was acceptable.
Again, the issue at hand was not clean and unclean meats, but the ingestion of clean meats offered or sacrificed to pagan idols.
Most Protestants believe this extensive passage means that women must cover their heads with a hat in church. This is very easily disproved, because the subject is plainly “hair” not hats (vs. 14-15). If the subject was hats, why does verse 6 mention “shorn” and “shaven” as acts of dishonor to women practicing them? The importance of long hair on women, not the wearing of hats, is the subject because hair not hats is shorn or shaven.
With the wrong explanation of this verse, a kind of duplicity becomes worse, particularly among women in the modern world. They often cut their hair extremely short, but deem it proper as long as they wear a hat in church!
No suggested reading.
Many believe “as oft as you do it” means to take the bread and wine as often as you choose. Is this the case?
The proper explanation arises from verse 24, and is easy to understand. The Passover is a memorial, “a remembrance.” Memorials are observed on an annual basis. Verse 26 refers to “the Lord’s death,” which occurred on Passover (Christ is “our Passover” – I Cor. 5:7). The Passover is always observed only once a year.
Also, verse 28 shows that the Passover ceremony is preceded by personal examination. This could not logically be done every day or even every week.
This passage represents a central teaching of the Mormon Church, which feels that the phrase “baptized for the dead” means that each convert has an ongoing obligation to be baptized for every deceased relative that he or she can identify. This leads Mormons to meticulously research and comb their genealogy, so that all their relatives can be “saved” by ‘‘substitute” baptism. While utterly ridiculous and contrary to the entire plan of salvation, incredibly, millions believe it.
This verse actually means that all Christians “are baptized for the hope that the dead are later resurrected.” Colossians 3:3 explains that a Christian’s life is “hid(den) with Christ in baptism” (also Rom. 6:3-6). Hebrews 6:17-19 shows that the resurrection is the hope that Christians have as an “anchor of the soul.” Colossians 1:18 states that Christ was the firstborn from the dead—this was His hope!
In I Corinthians 15, heresy (vs. 12) was occurring. Some were saying that there is no resurrection from the dead. Paul proves this to be wrong and this is the context of the whole passage. In other words, he asks, “What about the dead who died with hope of the resurrection, if there is no such thing?”
No suggested reading.
Does this passage teach that human beings possess immortal souls that sleep upon death—often referred to as “soul sleep”?
Ezekiel 18:4 and 20 state directly that souls can “die.” Notice that I Corinthians 15:51 does not say anything about souls. However, it is true that death is certainly like sleep, in that Christians awaken in the resurrection as though no time had passed since their last consciousness. Also notice I Thessalonians 4:15-16, which states that the dead rise first at Christ’s Return. “Sleeping” is also mentioned in this parallel chapter. Reference to sleep is an analogy, not a fact pertaining to supposed souls within people. In a host of verses, the plain Bible teaching is that the dead are dead.
No suggested reading.
This passage is the generally recognized authority for passing the “collection plate” every Sunday as the central means of funding for the “church.” Does it represent a general command to all Christians, for all time, to give freewill offerings at “Sunday services”? If not, what is the account describing?
The offering described is unique in five separate ways, and it will be clear that it has nothing to do with “passing the plate” at weekly local services:
(1) It is a specific offering (Romans 15:25-28 references the same offering).
(3) It was done at a specific time (when Paul passed through).
(4) It was given at a specific place (“let everyone of you lay by him in store”). This is because Paul would come later (vs. 3—“when I come”) to gather what the brethren had been individually saving at home (“lay by him”).
(5) This command is entirely specific to the Corinthians (vs. 1). It should be clear that it is not a command for Sunday collections, but merely instruction to local brethren to store an important offering. It was to help poor brethren in Jerusalem—and was not for the ministry, or for the administration of the church, or for “missionary work” around the world, or for any other purpose than that described!
Finally, this letter was received in Corinth during the Days of Unleavened Bread. “First day of the week” should correctly be translated “first of the weeks (plural).” The collection was almost certainly to happen immediately after the Days of Unleavened Bread, in the first week counting toward Pentecost. It was not instruction to give on Sunday, the first day in the weekly cycle, as another means of validating Sunday-keeping.
No suggested reading.
What do the phrases “death unto death” and “life unto life” mean? Verse 16 refers to verse 15. “Perish” means the process of “perishing.” Consider: Christians appear to the world (“those that are perishing”) to be worshipping a dead leader (Christ), which in their mind leads to a dead way of life. Also, those perishing are dead in sins now, which could ultimately lead to the second death later, if they do not eventually come to repentance and receive forgiveness.
On the contrary, true Christians, those who are in the process of being saved, appear to be: (1) Leading an abundant life now in route to eternal life later, and (2) serving a living Christ who has already received eternal life and resides in heaven.
To all who view them, true Christians always appear to be one or the other.
No suggested reading.
What are the “ministration of condemnation” and the “ministration of righteousness”?
Take a moment to read the entire chapter and then notice verse 11. It shows the latter (ad)ministration is more glorious than the earlier (ad)ministration (of condemnation). The ministration of condemnation is the ministration of death (vs. 7) of the Old Testament, when people either died for their sins (death is the ultimate condemnation) or paid severe penalties.
The ministration of righteousness represents the New Testament period, when people can be forgiven and cleansed by Christ’s righteousness. From this point forward, people could now be helped to live righteously because the Holy Spirit is available, making this possible. Verse 13 mentions Moses’ veil, which he wore in the presence of the Israelites. This was a symbol, which showed that the ministration of death was all that Israel could understand—because their understanding was veiled. The future terms of the New Testament were veiled (blinded) from Israel’s mind (vs. 14). This veil was a type of the wall in Israel’s collective mind to the understanding that Christ would die, for their sins and the sins of the world, at His first coming.
Be sure to read this entire passage before the explanation.
Paul is speaking of being “at home in the body” and “absent from the Lord” (vs. 6), and then “to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (vs. 8). This scripture is similar in principle to Philippians 1:23-24, explained later.
Does verse 8 prove that going to heaven is the reward Paul was looking forward to at death? Was Paul’s immortal soul waiting to be “absent from his body” in order to join Christ (“the Lord”) in heaven? It is critical to notice that Paul said nothing of when and where he would be with Christ! Nothing in the text implies that this would happen immediately. Verse 2 references how Christians “groan” to one day become spirit with God. This is what Paul sought above all things.
All of I Corinthians 15 explains that Christians have two bodies: One is physical (the first body). The other is a spirit body (at the resurrection). Paul was speaking of this spirit body, which comes later at the resurrection. This entire chapter becomes the context of II Corinthians 5:1-8.
Verse 4 is the key to the entire passage! Our physical bodies are a type of “clothing” and when Christians are dead they are, in a sense, unclothed! Paul recognized this and, because he did not merely want to die (and “be unclothed”), he put the emphasis on having “mortality [death] be swallowed up of life”—eternal life!
Verse 7 reveals that Christians walk in faith in this life looking to salvation, while Hebrews 11:13 reveals that they see salvation “afar off”—not something that occurs immediately upon death. The verses disproving the immortal soul concept (Ezek. 18:4, 20; Matt. 10:28; etc.) also apply to verse 8.
Does verse 2 state that now is the only time in which salvation is offered to mankind? It is almost universally believed and taught that “the day of salvation” mentioned here means that everyone alive today is getting his “chance” for salvation now.
The word “the” in verse 2 is actually mistranslated as the definite article, but the original Greek reads “a day of salvation,” the indefinite article.
The world is not facing a “now or never” ultimatum from God, with missionaries desperately trying to “get the masses saved.” The world is now blind—deceived (Rev. 12:9). On the other hand, though God’s Church has often been accused of teaching that people get “two chances” for salvation, it has never taught this. All people get one chance for salvation. We have always understood that learning and knowing the truth is what brings accountability (Jms. 4:17; Heb. 10:26).
Isaiah 49:1-8 mentions this same phrase and includes the indefinite article “a” when describing the prophesied salvation of Israel.
The subject in context is the New Testament ministry. The margin shows that these two words come from the same Greek word kanon, from which comes the familiar word canonize. The Greek word for “measure” (vs. 13) is metron. We get the word meter from it and it means a certain width. This becomes more interesting because kanon is also a reference to the famous Isthmian Games track meet of that time. (This was similar to our modern Olympics.)
In these races, each runner had a lane, “line” or “rule,” in which he ran a certain distance or measure. Consequently, Paul could use this term knowing that Corinth would then easily understand and conclude that he had the authority (“rule”) to correct them, so that they would not be “out of bounds” spiritually. The context (vs. 7-16) reveals this more plainly. The point is that the apostle Paul was telling the brethren in Corinth that he had the authority to make them “toe the line.”
The world’s churches have and employ little or no actual government over their members. This passage simply reveals that there is government in the true Church of God.
No suggested reading.
This account in scripture raises the question of whether Paul visited heaven during his lifetime. Is this what he is describing?
Notice some of the text with certain emphasis and clarifying words added: “It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory, I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew [know] a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows;) how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (vs. 4).
This question arises: Does verse 4 prove that Paul went to heaven, because “he was caught up into paradise,” and that heaven is also our reward? The Bible does reveal that paradise is near God’s throne in the third heaven: “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches; to him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life…in the midst of the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7).
There is no doubt that this account does refer to Paul himself and no one else. He uses the pronoun “I” fourteen times.
It is also clear that this event was a “vision”—a “revelation”—from God. Verse 1 mentions “I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.” In verse 7, Paul added, “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.”
Verse 2 shows that Paul’s experience was so real to him that he could not discern if it was a vision or something that really happened! The word “knew,” in verse 2, should be translated “know.” Again, Paul was obviously speaking of himself. This is not written in past tense, as though he was speaking of having once known someone else to whom the account pertained.
In verse 3, Paul repeats his uncertainty for emphasis. Understand! In no way does this represent Paul’s future in heaven! Remember, Paul could not have literally gone to heaven, because Christ said, “No man has ascended up to heaven, but…the Son of man which is in heaven” (John 3:13).
This unusual experience was given to Paul for an extraordinary reason—so that he would have the special strength to endure all that he would be required to suffer over the course of his ministry. In the previous chapter, 11:23-33, Paul describes the terrible and seemingly endless trials and persecution that he experienced. His ability to endure all these difficulties required special encouragement from God. This was why Paul was allowed to see his future glory in the resurrection—when he will actually receive salvation.
Verses 5-6 show that Paul described himself indirectly so that people would not think too highly of him. He realized that people could begin to view him as an exalted person, merely because of what had been the vision God had shown him. This is why he said what he said. Notice again: “Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he sees me to be, or that he hears of me.”
Paul remained humble by “glorying in his infirmities.” Yet, he received great inspiration from this extraordinary vision to press on through the rest of his difficult ministry. This account has nothing to do with Paul having been to heaven during his lifetime.
No suggested reading.
How could Paul, a Christian, use guile (craft or trickery) to gain advantage or prove a point to others?
The most likely explanations are: (1) He was possibly quoting something that the Corinthians had been saying, or (2) he was being sarcastic because he might have been previously accused of this (recall chapter 10 and notice that he defends his office in 12:11), or (3) there are times when a deeply converted person, one who knows their true motives, could employ godly psychology to “win souls” (Prov. 11:30)—or to point out the error of another person.
An example of the latter is Nathan the prophet using psychology to help David see the evil that he had done to Uriah the Hittite (II Sam. 12:1-9). Also, when it is properly understood, the entire book of Philemon is seen to be a detailed study in converted psychology used by Paul to win Philemon.
No suggested reading.
What is the “liberty…in Christ Jesus” referenced here?
Those who believe that the Law of God was done away by Christ’s sacrifice believe that the “bondage” spoken of here is the keeping of the Ten Commandments—and the “liberty” is freedom from keeping them.
First, read Matthew 5:17-19 and James 2:8-12. James states that God’s law is a royal law (vs. 8), and verse 12 calls it a “law of liberty.” Also see Romans 7:12 and 14, Micah 4:2, Deuteronomy 5:29 (which uses the words “always” and “forever”), Romans 13:8 and 10 and I John 5:3, among many others. Finally, notice Acts 15:1-2, which shows that some were teaching the need for obedience to the law of Moses, not the Ten Commandments, which is the Law of God. Note the reference to the “book of the law,” in the Galatians 3:10 explanation, regarding circumcision, washings, sacrifices, etc. Also consider rereading the I Corinthians 6:12 explanation. In addition, Hebrews 2:14-15 explains that the bondage pertaining to the law is bondage to the death penalty for all who break it and who do not repent.
No suggested reading.
Why was Peter “to be blamed” by Paul? What had he done?
It is interesting as a side note that Peter, with whatever was the wrong attitude that he demonstrated, was not a very good “Pope.” (Remember, Catholics teach that he was the first Pope—Matthew 16:18 explanation—and no one among the Catholic hierarchy would dare blame the Pope publicly for anything.)
In Galatia, certain Jews wanted to see the Mosaic “book of the law” taught in this region inhabited largely by Gentiles. The Jews thought that keeping this law made them more righteous than the Gentiles (see Gal. 2:4 explanation).
This contention polarized and split these two groups! This was so serious that some of the apostles had become polarized into one “camp” or the other—rather than combating the problem. Verses 12-13 show that Peter (a Jew) and Barnabas sided with the Jews (vs. 14), but Paul, apostle to the Gentiles, saw this and rebuked Peter openly (vs. 14-21)! Verse 12 shows that certain Jewish converts of James appeared on the scene while Peter was sitting with Gentiles. Seeing them, Peter removed himself from the Gentiles for fear of what the Jews (the “circumcision”) might think.
Verse 13 shows that Peter actually was part of causing the division to grow worse, until Paul asked (paraphrasing vs. 14), “How can you who have the liberty the Gentiles have, being a Jew yourself, turn around and tell Gentiles they should give up their liberty (from the Mosaic law) and live like the Jews (who keep it)?” This explains what was really the hypocrisy that Paul was addressing.
No suggested reading.
Does this scripture say that Christians should not attempt to keep God’s law because law—commandment—keeping cannot save anyone? This is the first of several usually-misunderstood passages in Galatians supposedly teaching that the Ten Commandments are no longer in effect.
Notice that the scripture actually says, “the works of the law cannot justify us.” Grasp this all-important point. The living Christ never condones sin. He is always willing to forgive it, but then commands, “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11). Notice that Galatians 2:17 asks, “is…Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.” Now read Romans 2:13, which states that Christians must be “doers of the law to be justified,” and Romans 3:20, which seems to contradict, “by the…law…there shall no flesh be justified.” Either Paul contradicted himself in successive chapters or both statements are true!
Galatians 2:16 states that Christians are justified “by the faith of Christ…” Since Christians must be doers of the law to be justified by Christ (Rom. 2:13), it becomes clear why James recorded that faith and works go together (2:18).
Let’s make this even more clear. If men were saved by keeping the law, then they would be able to brag to God that they had earned salvation (Eph. 2:8-10). Ephesians 2:10 states that Christians are “created…unto good works,” while verse 9 shows that these works have no power to save anyone. Christians keep the law—but that cannot pay for a single past sin (Rom. 6:17-18)! People are justified by the blood of Christ (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14) and saved by His life (recall Romans 5:10), but Christ will not justify anyone who continues to disobey Him!
No suggested reading.
As with so many other passages in Galatians that are twisted out of context, this is another much-quoted scripture attempting to disprove commandment keeping. The verses cited in the Galatians 2:16 explanation are all equally applicable in explaining how faith (vs. 11) and works (vs. 10) are inseparable! I Timothy. 1:18-19 helps explain James 2:18, because it shows that the conscience must be rid of guilt, or faith will be shipwrecked!
Christians demonstrate their faith in God by keeping His law and it requires faith in Christ’s power at work in the person for him to succeed. For example, it takes faith to give a tithe of one’s income with pressing bills on hand—it takes faith to keep the Sabbath and Holy Days when one could be ridiculed or lose employment as a result—it takes faith to resist surgery or medical treatment that may be prescribed, in certain circumstances, because one believes that God will heal!
Ultimately, it takes the greatest faith for Christians to believe that God will resurrect their bodies at Christ’s Return. Think of it this way: Since all Christians will be dead, they would never know if God broke His promise, and that they never “awoke” into His kingdom (I Thes. 4:14-15).
Realize that the book of Galatians almost invariably is referring to the “book of the law” (vs. 10, 12, 17-19)—physical sacrifices, washings, etc., that Old Testament Israel was required to keep—but that New Testament Israel (the Church – Rev. 12) is not.
Finally, the passage contains two confusing phrases that summarize the confusion of most: “Cursed is everyone who continues not in all things…in the book of the law” and, again referencing the law, “The man that does them shall live in them.” What do these mean? Simply that, if one is going to ignore the role of faith and return to the physical ceremonies as certain Jews were teaching the Galatians to do, that person had better keep “all things” in Moses’ law—in other words, he had better fully “live in them.” But this still would not save him.
No suggested reading.
Does this scripture declare that law keeping puts one under a curse? The question is best summarized as this: From what did Christ redeem us—the law itself, or the “curse of the law”?
The law’s curse is its penalty of death (Rom. 6:23). The laws in society against rape, murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, and other offences are not curses. But everyone would agree that the penalties for breaking them—from fines, to jail, to long prison terms, to execution for capital offenses—certainly are a curse!
Christ was made a “curse for us,” not because He kept the law perfectly for us, but because He suffered the death penalty for us (Heb. 2:9-10; John 3:16)! Law keeping is not a curse—but the penalty for sin certainly is.
No suggested reading.
This passage is also used to show that obedience to the commandments do not bring salvation—(eternal) “inheritance.” So some were asking, “wherefore then serve the law?”—or what is the point of keeping the Ten Commandments?
Verse 19 holds the key to understanding the text because it shows Christians how to deduce which law is being discussed. Notice that the law described is one that was “added” to something “because of transgressions.”
What is a transgression? I John 3:4 states that “sin is the transgression of the law.” Since people can only sin (transgress) when law is present (Rom. 4:15), then there must have already been a law in place to have another law added to it! Of course, the reason for this was that the ancient Israelites were sinning as do any normal human beings and, like children, needed a “schoolmaster” (Gal. 3:24), a governor or baby-sitter (Gal. 4:2) until they could conduct themselves as adults!
Verse 19 explains that the book of the law, which some were still urging the Galatians to keep, was only a law to be kept “till the seed [Christ] should come.” Finally, verse 21 states, “Is the [book of] the law then against the promises [Plan] of God?” The answer is, of course, no. But observing the book of the law cannot justify or give anyone righteousness.
No suggested reading.
Many have asserted that this passage condemns the keeping of the Holy Days and the Sabbath? Is this what it means?
Protestants teach that the Galatians were returning to these practices. This is impossible! I repeat: The Galatians were Gentiles and had never kept any of God’s Sabbaths—annual or weekly—or had even heard of the true God before their calling. Grasp this. They could not return to what they had never known!
Also, read Leviticus 19:26, Isaiah 1:13-14 and Deuteronomy 18:9-10 to see that God strongly condemned keeping various “days” and “times”! These were humanly-devised “sabbaths” and “holy days,” actually like today’s many familiar holidays—and this very word derives from “holy days.” Leviticus 23 reveals that God wants HIS Sabbaths kept! At the same time, He consistently condemned the wrong days and man-made “sabbaths” of the above-referenced verses.
Nowhere did God ever command the observance of any months. Colossians 2:8 and 20-22 explain that the “weak and beggarly elements” (referenced there) are philosophical forms of will-worship and self-denial, devised by men and commonly found in certain parts of the world. The word “rudiments” (Col. 2:8) is the same word translated “elements” in Galatians.
No suggested reading.
I have chosen to include the entire passage for aid in studying it. What do these 11 verses refer to—and mean? The context is somewhat difficult to understand, so a verse-by-verse approach is best:
vs. 21—The reference to law means the “book of law,” and “hear” means to “fully understand.”
vs. 24—The two covenants mentioned here represent the Old Covenant and the New Testament, respectively. The Old Covenant was a study in human effort alone, which always leads to a continuing in bondage to sin. The New Testament included promises that were given requiring belief through the faith of Christ found in His followers. It is this kind of belief that leads to freedom from the penalty of sin.
vs. 25—The world is in bondage to: (1) sin, (2) the frustration of doing things by human effort alone, and (3) the ways, customs, and traditions of society.
vs. 27—More people are in bondage in today’s world than are spiritually free, so Christians ought to rejoice that our mother—the Church—is not barren and does have children. The “desolate” are the world, and it has “many more children” than does the Church, the “she which has an husband [God].”
vs. 29—The world hates true Christians today, just as the Arabs (Ishmael) hate Jews (born of Sarah and Isaac).
vs. 30—Ultimately, the Church will be saved in advance of the world, which now hates and persecutes it.
vs. 31—The New Testament Church.