Monthly Archives: June 2015

Why does Romans 3:30 read “by faith” and “through faith?”

WHY DOES ROMANS 3:30 READ “BY FAITH” AND “THROUGH FAITH?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

“Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith” (Romans 3:30). Why does the King James Bible say, “circumcision by faith” and “uncircumcision through faith?” There is a difference, but why is there a difference? (This distinction is lost in modern English versions such as New Revised Standard Version [NRSV], the Living Bible, and the New Living Translation [NLT].) What is the significance? We will search the Scriptures for the answer.

The word “circumcision” here is a reference to the nation Israel, and “uncircumcision” refers to the Gentiles (nations). But, why this difference of by faith” for Israel and through faith” for Gentiles? While not original to me, I will be glad to tell you the best explanation that I have found.

“BY FAITH”

The expressionby faith” emphasizes the means or mechanism, the agency. It is this that is emphatic in Israel’s salvation. In Israel’s program, a Jew needs to positively respond to what God is saying or doing. Remember, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Unbelieving Israel did not have faith. They just had works, and works alone have never saved anyone (in our Dispensation of Grace or in Israel’s prophetic program).

Like so many religious people today, the nation Israel wrongly believed that they could work to please God. They believed their Law-keeping would make them righteous before God. Yet, they had no faith in His Word to them. They worshipped the Mosaic Law and ignored/rejected Jesus Christ whom the Law described. Note the following passages, for example:

  • Romans 9:31-33: “[31] But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. [32] Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; [33] As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”
  • Romans 10:1-3: “[1] Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. [2] For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. [3] For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”
  • Galatians 3:21-23: “[21] Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. [22] But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. [23] But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.”
  • John 5:39,46-47: “[39] Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. [46] For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. [47] But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?”

By faith” shows Israel that they cannot be saved/justified by their works. They wrongly thought they could (for instance, see the attitude of a Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14).

“THROUGH FAITH”

The expression through faith” emphasizes the system or process. We are saved by the faith of Christ (emphatic in the Gentiles’ salvation):

  • Galatians 2:16,20: “[16] Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified…. [20] I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
  • Ephesians 2:8-9: “[8] For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: [9] Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
  • Galatians 3:8,14: “[8] And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed…. [14] That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”

Through faith” is the system or process through which one participates in what God is saying or doing. Today, the system of faith is emphasized; the system of our works/Law-keeping is not the issue. Our faith in Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork (that crosswork being His faith) is the mechanism whereby God justifies us before Himself.

Also see:
» We are saved by faith, but are we blessed by works?
» What about those who have not heard?
» Can Jews who believe in God, the Father, but who reject Jesus, be saved from eternal damnation?

Is there “healing in the Atonement?”

IS THERE “HEALING IN THE ATONEMENT?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Pentecostals and other Charismatics hold to the doctrine of “healing in the Atonement.” Predicated upon Isaiah 53:5, the basic idea is that Jesus Christ purchased physical healing for us at Calvary (the word “Atonement” obviously being Christ’s sacrificial death). Is this really what the Prophet Isaiah was saying in that famous passage? We will look at God’s Word and see what it actually says.

Indeed, Isaiah 53:5 says of Messiah’s crosswork, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” But, before we just grab the part of the verse we like and make it say something we want it to say, we need to let the Bible interpret itself. We do not need a lexicon, Dr. “So-and-So’s” commentary, or some denominational handbook to explain Isaiah. The Holy Spirit Himself will teach us. Will we be willing to hear Him and conclude that just maybe He might be right?

It is supposed that, through Jesus’ shed blood, we have the authority to declare healing and recovery from every disease and illness. If we are Christians, we should not be sick or dying. According to these “healing-in-the-Atonement” adherents, Calvary’s cross is the means whereby Father God has guaranteed us Christians physical healing. We just have to claim that deliverance in “Jesus’ name.” We are told not to believe the diagnoses from medical professionals. While they see cancer in us, heart disease in us, or some other verifiable medical condition, we are told to ignore that reality and live in a delusional world. We are urged to declare, “I have Jesus not cancer! I have Jesus not a knee injury or back pain! I have Jesus, Jesus, Jesus….” Surely, dear friends, this assumption is extremely dangerous, spiritually and physically. In fact, it is not faith at all. It is unbelief!

The Apostle Peter quoted Isaiah 53:5 in 1 Peter 2:24. We will look at this verse in context: “[21] For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: [22] Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: [23] Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: [24] Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. [25] For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” Through Peter, the Holy Spirit interpreted Isaiah 53:5 for us. The healing is not physical healing. It is a spiritual healing, a healing of the soul, forgiveness of sins, the spirit given life. He “bare our sins in his own body on the tree” is indicative of spiritual healing rather than physical healing.

By the way, the verse before Isaiah 53:5, verse 4 of Isaiah chapter 53, is a reference to physical healing under special circumstances: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” The Holy Spirit interpreted this verse for us in Matthew 8:16-17: “[16] When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: [17] That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.” Isaiah 53:4 predicted Messiah’s healing ministry, the miraculous demonstrations that validated the Gospel of the Kingdom that He and His apostles preached. The sicknesses that brought Israel sorrow, Jesus came and healed them. Their infirmities that brought them grief, Jesus came and healed them. Please make special note that Jesus’ earthly ministry of healing miracles occurred before the cross, not at the cross or through the cross.

Interestingly, when James wrote about physical healing (James 5:13-15), He did not quote Isaiah 53:5, “with his stripes we are healed.” Is that not a demonstration that the “healing” of Isaiah 53:5 is a different type of healing than that of James 5:13-15? The Apostle, and the Holy Spirit guiding him, knew this to be true, and thus did not quote the verse. Another fascinating tidbit is that James 5:13-15 is a passage of Scripture commonly appealed to in order to support modern-day healing crusades. Evidently, unlike those who like to quote him, James did not believe there was physical healing in the Atonement.

Those physical healing verses referenced above were not written to or about us in this the Dispensation of the Grace of God. When advising sick Timothy, Paul never told him, “Claim your healing in the Atonement, Timothy! God has promised you deliverance from those sicknesses! You are a Christian and you are not supposed to be ill!” Yea, on the contrary, Paul instructed Timothy to use wine—medicine—for his stomach problems and his frequent sicknesses (1 Timothy 5:23). The Apostle also admitted that, in his last epistle, he had to leave a brother in Christ sick at Miletum: there was no miraculous healing for Trophimus in 2 Timothy 4:20. Moreover, there was no physical healing for Paul himself in Acts 16:22-23,33 (when he was beaten with “many stripes”); 2 Corinthians 11:22-28 (his various health risks and injuries sustained in the ministry); 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (which included his “infirmities”); and Galatians 4:13-15 (his “infirmity of the flesh,” possibly a reference to partial blindness in light of Galatians 6:11).

The danger in claiming physical healing through Calvary’s cross is that well-meaning and desperate people often overlook the spiritual healing available through Calvary. It is a focus on the temporary healing of a body that will go to the grave and rot and decay, rather than an emphasis on the salvation of the spiritual body that will last forever. One day, we who have relied exclusively on the Lord Jesus Christ, His perfect sacrifice at Calvary for our sins, will receive glorified bodies fashioned like His body (Philippians 3:20-21). The fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians goes into great detail about that resurrection of Christians at the Rapture, when Jesus Christ comes to take His Body into the heavenly places. You can read more about that in your own personal Bible study.

We read in Romans 8:18,22-24: “[18] For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us…. [22] For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. [23] And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. [24] For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?”

In the above verses, Paul talked about how we suffer under the curse of sin. Even as Christians, our bodies grow sick and eventually die. Being a child of God does not insulate us from illness and it does not guarantee us good health. As long as God continues to operate our program, Israel’s program will be postponed, and as long as Israel’s program is postponed, the curse of sin being lifted (in Israel’s kingdom) is also delayed. Anyone who says otherwise is not sound in his or her theology.

Hence, we read Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “[16] For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. [17] For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; [18] While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

While known for his “faith-healing testimonies,” his “miracle water,” and other religious trinkets, a television preacher had to admit recently that he was growing older and weaker, his head was balding, and he and his wife were getting more and more wrinkles on their skin. He read 2 Corinthians 4:16 on-air, and then commented, “Our outward bodies are perishing [decaying and dying].” Brethren, talk about religious tomfoolery, talk about dishonesty! As a dear brother in Christ always says, “All the healing claims aside, the death rate is still one-a-piece!”

Beloved, all the religious nonsense aside, and in contradistinction to the “healing-in-the-Atonement” doctrine, the Bible view is, we are subject to sickness, we can and do have sickness, and whether well or sick, we still have Jesus. It is not that we ignore our sickness and refuse medical treatment. We have sickness and we also have Jesus Christ. It is not “We have Jesus not sickness.” Whether or not we live with a sickness for the rest of our earthly lives is irrelevant. God’s grace is still sufficient in all troubles, as Paul learned about his own trials, tribulations, and illnesses (2 Corinthians 12:7-12). We can glory in our tribulations (Romans 5:1-5), find value in those trials and troubles. Whether or not that sickness is terminal (takes our life) is irrelevant. God has given us the grace to endure all of life’s troubles (Philippians 4:13). We can use the eyes of faith to see that these problems are only temporary. Thank God that they are not forever. Compared to eternity, they are a simple blink of the eye, a fraction of a second, nothing. The Lord Jesus Christ is with us, in health or in sickness!

CONCLUSION

Research into the history of the “healing-in-the-Atonement” tenant yields proof that it has left many deceived, disappointed, and dead people in its wake. Innumerable souls disregarded medical advice because they did not understand God’s Word rightly divided. Until the day that their lives were taken by the various diseases that religion said they did not suffer from, they kept quoting God’s healing verses to Israel as though those verses were given to them in the current dispensation. They found false hope and pseudo-peace in divine words given to others. Not only were they deceived by others, they deceived others with their own actions, and wrested God’s Word in the process.

There is spiritual healing available through Jesus Christ’s work at Calvary’s cross. In Christ, there is forgiveness of sins, abounding grace, unparalleled peace, everlasting love, and eternal life in heaven. All that we need is ours in Jesus Christ. We have not been promised miraculous bodily healing in this the Dispensation of Grace. God has given us medical professionals, medicine, and immune systems, and if they cannot help us, all the more reason to move on into heaven and get that new body, one that will never grow sick or old but will last forever! 🙂

Also see:
» What about “modern-day faith healing?”
» Does God chasten us when we sin?
» Did the 12 preach the Gospel of the Kingdom after Christ ascended?

Should women serve in the ministry?

SHOULD WOMEN SERVE IN THE MINISTRY? IF SO, HOW?

by Shawn Brasseaux

What role, if any, should women play in the Christian ministry? Should women be pastors, evangelists, or Bible teachers? What about the prophetesses in the Bible? Does that mean there are female prophets today in the Body of Christ? Is the Spirit of God leading women today to head churches and ministries?

While this is a very delicate and often controversial topic, we have no interest whatsoever in supporting any denominational viewpoint! If we are Bible believers, then we must be Bible students. We cannot believe something we have neither read nor studied. We need to be honest with ourselves and the Bible text. If we are merely interested in maintaining a church tradition, we are not Bible believers, but “tradition believers.” Dear friends, let us search the Scriptures to see how God used and uses Christian women to accomplish His will. Brethren, that is the sure way to be Bible believers!

ARE GOD AND THE APOSTLE PAUL MISOGYNISTIC?

Before we begin, it is important to note that the Apostle Paul has often been accused of misogyny. His epistles are commonly viewed as hateful toward women. I do not doubt that people in Paul’s day called him a “woman hater.” After all, they do it today! Let it be clearly understood here. God does not hate women, Paul did not hate women, and I do not hate women. Anyone who says God hates women has not read their Bible. Considering the treatment of women in Bible days, especially in non-Christian cultures, Christianity was influential in liberating and honoring women. Anyone who says Paul hated women obviously glossed over what the Apostle wrote in Romans 16:1-6, Ephesians 5:25-33, Colossians 3:19, and 2 Timothy 1:5. Anyone who says that I hate women is someone who really knows nothing about what I have written about them.

GOD’S DESIGN IN CREATION REGARDING ORDER

While God does not hate women, He has established an order in creation. Let it be clearly understood here that there is a divine order regarding sexes. If we rebel against the way the Creator God designed human life to function, we will doubtless have unanswerable confusion and endless trouble. Our marriages will be ruined and our family lives will be wrecked. Immediately after the Fall of man into sin, God said to Eve, “…thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Genesis 3:16). This is not—I repeat, NOT—instructing husbands to bully their wives and/or treat them as slaves. The verse is talking about a spiritual headship. God has established an order in creation. We would do well if we just followed what God decreed, rather than abusing the order (male chauvinism) or disregarding it entirely (feminism).

The Creator God has divinely appointed men to be spiritual leaders. This applies to both the home setting and the local church setting. The Bible says in Ephesians 5:22-24: “[22] Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. [23] For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. [24] Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” Again, the husband is to be his wife’s covering (protection). A husband is to guard his wife against Satan’s attacks by guiding her in sound Bible doctrine (God’s Word). Adam failed to do this, and look at what happened to the human race! Notice 1 Corinthians 14:34-35: “[34] Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law [referring to Genesis 3:16 above]. [35] And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” Again, husbands are to teach God’s Word to their wives. Women were not to exercise the gift of speaking in tongues (the context of 1 Corinthians chapter 14).

Ephesians 6:4 says that it is primarily the father’s responsibility to teach his children God’s Word: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” A bishop is one “that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)” (1 Timothy 3:4-5). Could the Bible be any clearer? This is plain, simple English my dear readers. We would do well if we just believed and obeyed the passage, rather than tossing aside these verses for sake of doing our own thing.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians chapter 11, in part: “[3] But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. [7] For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. [8] For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. [9] Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. [10] For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. [11] Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. [12] For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.” This is not just in the marriage relationship. The context of 1 Corinthians is the local assembly of Christians, the local church. Once more, God’s design in creation is that men be the spiritual leaders. Period.

The Bible could not be clearer in 1 Timothy chapter 2, when it talks about the local church operations: [11] Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. [12] But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. [13] For Adam was first formed, then Eve. [14] And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. [15] Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” This passage needs no exposition. It says exactly what it means and it means exactly what it says. Whether in church or at home, men are to be the spiritual leaders.

Make no mistake, dear readers. This does not—I repeat, NOT—mean that Christian women have no role in the Christian ministry. Paul had many female companions in the ministry. He actually took the time to commend them and name some of them. There was Phebe (Romans 16:1-2), Priscilla (and her husband Aquila; Acts 18:2,18,26; Romans 16:3-4; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19), Mary in Rome (Romans 16:6), Lydia in Philippi (Acts 16:14-15,40), Euodias and Syntyche in Philippi (Philippians 4:2), and “other women” (Philippians 4:3). These precious Christian ladies did not have leadership roles, but they still served in vital capacities in the Christian ministry. It is believed that Phebe may have personally delivered the epistle of Romans to Rome! Priscilla, working with her husband Aquila, taught God’s Word rightly divided to well-versed, but confused, Apollos. Mary in Rome was a very hard worker in the ministry, helping Paul much. Lydia housed Paul and his companions in her home—probably cooking for them, nursing their wounds, and caring for them as a mother would her children. Had Paul been a woman hater, surely he would not have commended them.

Even today, women in the local church can host ladies’ fellowships at their own homes. They can cook in, clean, and decorate the local church. They can sing in the choir or teach children’s Sunday School. They can prepare meals for the local assembly, plan and organize weddings and baby showers at the church building, and so on. The twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians talks about how all Christians have their own roles, and all of these roles enhance and build up the Body of Christ in some way.

Older women should teach younger women in the local church. Women in the local assembly chiefly have a ministry towards other, and younger, women: “[3] The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; [4] That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,…” (Titus 2:3-4). Women, because of their “maternal and nurturing” nature, can also teach pre-teen children of both sexes. By the time of 10 or 12, however, boys need to have a male Bible teacher. (By the way, for some 10 years, my mom served as a children’s Sunday School teacher and Vacation Bible School teacher. She said that she enjoyed it very much. Mom served the Lord greatly in that capacity, but she knew that her role was not to lead the local church.)

Women can also become missionaries and serve the Lord in foreign lands, if they so desire. If they are married, they can accompany their husbands in sharing the Gospel of the Grace of God with other people. This is very much like what Priscilla did with Aquila. He was the leader and she was the follower, his support. Make special note how it was a husband leading his wife, not a wife leading her husband.

WHAT ABOUT THE PROPHETESSES IN THE BIBLE?

I can just about hear this objection in reply to our previous paragraphs, so I will delay no further in answering it. In an effort to encourage and defend women preachers, some have resorted to the Bible verses that describe the ministries of prophetesses. Prophetesses were the exception—not the norm—in Scripture. Let me repeat. It was abnormal to have prophetesses in the Bible. Please let me explain how we know this.

The overwhelming testimony of Scripture is that men were spiritual leaders. Not one woman is known to have written any portion of the Bible. Moses, Isaiah, Elijah, Elisha, Jonah, Ezekiel, Micah, Hosea, Jeremiah, Daniel, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Samuel, Joshua, Ezra, Nehemiah, Job, David, Solomon, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zechariah, Haggai, Malachi, et cetera were all men. Only male relatives of Aaron were to be priests in Israel. There were no priestesses whatsoever in the Mosaic Law system. Look at the apostles. None were women. Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James, Nathanael, Simon, Judas, Paul, Barnabas, et cetera. Acts 13:1 mentions prophets and teachers at Antioch—Barnabas, Simeon/Niger, Lucius, Manaen, Saul/Paul. Again, they were all men. Think about Timothy and Titus. Men. Women were not to exercise the gift of speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:33-34). Only Christian men spoke in tongues. In the future, the 144,000 Jewish preachers during the Tribulation. The 144,000 are men, “not defiled with women” (Revelation 14:1-4)!

Notice that the bishops and deacons in this the Dispensation of the Grace of God were to be husbands of one wife.” This qualification precludes (prohibits) female bishops and deaconesses (see 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:6-9). One of the main troubles in Corinth was that boisterous women were usurping the roles of leadership in the local church. The first half of 1 Corinthians chapter 11 dealt with this issue of female submission in the local church. (For more info, see our study at the end of this article titled, “Should Christian women wear head coverings?”) When talking about spiritual gifts given to leaders in the Church the Body of Christ, Paul in Ephesians 4:11 only lists “prophets.” There is no reference whatsoever to the feminine form. There is no reference whatsoever to prophetesses in this the Dispensation of Grace. There is no reference whatsoever to prophetesses functioning in the Church the Body of Christ. Dear friends, we need not run to Israel’s program and force those “prophetess” verses into our program. There have never been legitimate prophetesses in the Body of Christ and there never will be legitimate prophetesses in the Body of Christ.

So, this leads to an important question, and I will not hesitate in mentioning and answering it. If men were to be spiritual leaders, why would there be prophetesses (female prophets) in the Bible? Why Miriam (Exodus 15:20)? Why Deborah (Judges 4:4)? Why Huldah (2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chronicles 34:22)? Why Isaiah’s unnamed “prophetess” wife (Isaiah 8:3)? Why Anna (Luke 2:36)? Why Philip’s four virgin daughters “which did prophesy” (Acts 21:9)? Why these prophetesses? Pay very close attention here. There were just nine listed in the Bible’s canon that covers roughly 6,000 years.

To repeat, prophetesses were the exception rather than the norm. Why were they needed? It is a sad fact but we must say it without hesitation. Prophetesses were needed because the men were slack in their responsibility as spiritual leaders. When no man was available, God used women to speak on His behalf. A prophetess’ ministry was God’s rebuke against men. It was His way of publicly denouncing men’s spiritual carelessness. Furthermore, when neither man nor woman was available, God used a donkey as His mouthpiece (Numbers 22:28-30; 2 Peter 2:16)! How is that for a criticism?

Even today, it is common to find a household—or even a local church—where the husband-father is not the spiritual leader. He has either abandoned his family entirely, or he is physically present but spiritually absent. In these homes, the dear mother brings the kids to church, teaches them about spiritual matters, et cetera. We recall the classic Bible account of young Timothy who grew up learning the Bible from his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 3:15). Timothy’s mother was “a Jewess, and believed” and his father, “a Greek,” was either unbelieving or deceased (Acts 16:2). Had it not been for faithful Lois and Eunice, Timothy may have never been able to serve with Paul. It is one of the saddest situations in all the world to see a father showing little to no interest in being the spiritual pillar in and guide for his own family. It is truly disastrous when there is so much deception and spiritual mischief in this world, and the individual whom God ordained in the home to be the guard is absent or “sleeping on duty.” How many numerous poor souls now in prison, could have avoided such a lifestyle and fate had they only had a stable, caring, loving and Christian father figure at home! Awful, how awful, dear friends, oh, how awful, how awful!

Remember, precious readers, Satan used Eve to attack Adam’s headship. Through Adam’s slothfulness in being the spiritual head, Satan attacked the whole human race. Through the human race, Satan attacked God’s purpose and plan for the earth. It started small and grew exponentially. Satan is a very sneaky individual. He starts off with the family lacking a strong spiritual leader (husband-father), and from the home, he targets all of society. Those who leave that disorganized home then establish their own spiritually-chaotic homes. It continues every generation until a man takes responsibility and he gets into the Bible, gets the Bible into him, and then gets the Bible into his family! If there are any Christian men reading this, take heed! Beware! Wake up! Embrace your God-given responsibility, man! Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! Brother, your wife needs you! Brother, your children need you! Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!

When I read, hear about, or see a woman giving a sermon or Bible lesson to a crowd of men and women, I am deeply disturbed to be reminded of the homes and churches without spiritual husband-fathers. This is not the arrangement the Holy Spirit approves. No woman led by the Holy Spirit will ignore 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. No man led by the Holy Spirit will ignore those passages either. I do not care how many degrees she has, how well she speaks, or how fervent her desire. According to Almighty God, she has no business teaching men in a local church or home setting. None! Period. The woman may be well meaning and the men who appointed her may also be sincere, but the Apostle Paul could not be clearer that men are to lead the church and the home. God’s design in the marriage relationship is that the husband is the head of the wife (Ephesians 5:23), not the other way around. The husband is to lovingly and gently lead his wife into spiritual truth. In the local church setting, men are to lead, just as in the home setting. Unless we have a church tradition to keep, we will understand, believe, and follow these verses.

If a woman usurps male authority in spiritual matters, she is becoming vulnerable to Satan’s deception and she is exposing the whole congregation to Satan’s policy of evil. Beloved, never forget it. It is exactly what happened to Eve when she did not consult Adam about what God’s Word actually said (see 1 Timothy 2:11-15, where Paul warned the local assembly, especially the women, not to repeat Eve’s mistake). Look at what happened when Eve left Adam’s headship. We are still suffering today because of that curse of sin! Men who sit under the Bible teaching of women are risking their own spiritual health. A man in the assembly needs to be a man and be the head of teaching there! (What if no man has enough Bible knowledge to teach? If he wants that assembly to survive the wiles of the Devil, if he wants his marriage to survive, he had better start reading the Bible, start studying the Bible, start learning it, start believing it, and start teaching it! God will hold him responsible for not acting in a spiritual leadership role.)

At this point, someone may voice another objection: “Brother Shawn, but what about those women preachers in Corinth?” Well, the Bible does indeed talk about women praying or prophesying with their heads uncovered: “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven” (1 Corinthians 11:5).

Firstly, I will openly admit this verse exists in the Bible. Yet, I will also admit that there is no other reference in Paul’s epistles to women preachers in the Body of Christ. As with the “spiritual” “gift” of speaking in gibberish, women preachers only appear in a carnal, worldly, spiritually immature local assembly at Corinth. To model our beliefs and practices after the Corinthians’ is downright silly! To appeal to Corinth as the standard for godly ministry and holy living is utterly absurd! It is spiritual madness to the utmost!

Secondly, the very last passage that you would want to use to defend women preachers would be 1 Corinthians chapter 11! As we commented earlier, it was in those same verses that Paul affirmed the headship of men in the local assembly. Notice that the verse mentioned women praying or prophesying with their heads uncovered. That is bad rather than good. Compared to the cultural standards of that time and place, those women were rebellious, domineering, and unfeminine. It was also in this very epistle that Paul told those “masculine” Christian ladies to be quiet and cease usurping male leadership in the local assembly at Corinth. We saw that earlier in 1 Corinthians 14:33-34. Again, for more information, you can see the study linked at the end of this article, which discusses the issue of women and head coverings.

CONCLUSION

Certainly, God wants all Christians to preach the Gospel to lost people, and God wants all Christians to share the Bible with lost people, but church leadership is reserved for men. The Bible could not be clearer in 1 Timothy chapter 2: “[11] Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. [12] But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. [13] For Adam was first formed, then Eve. [14] And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. [15] Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” The very reason why Eve was deceived and got into trouble was because she followed Satan’s enticement to ignore Adam’s spiritual leadership (see Genesis chapter 3). Eve should have consulted Adam rather than hearkening unto the Serpent. Both at home and in church settings, Christian women will be “saved” today from Satanic deception if they just submit and follow their godly husbands as those men follow Jesus Christ!

Bishops and deacons must be a “husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2,11,12; Titus 1:6). Unless God was advocating a homosexual lifestyle, these simple verses indicate that women cannot serve as bishops (pastors) or deacons. The Holy Spirit would not cause them to disobey these verses. The only way there would be a female pastor/bishop or female deacon (deaconess) is if she defied the Holy Spirit. Women in the local church have a ministry toward other women: “[3] The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; [4] That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,…” (Titus 2:3-4). Women can also serve as missionaries in foreign countries, perhaps laboring with their husbands (if applicable). They can teach younger children in the local assembly. They can be spiritual mothers to be people in the assembly. Women can pray for their pastor-husbands, their missionary-husbands, their teacher-husbands, et cetera. These are just some of the ways Christian women can serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you are a Christian woman, my dear sister in Christ, please know that your role in the ministry is vital. Please, never, ever let someone belittle you simply because you are not functioning in a prominent, “eye-catching” capacity. While you are not in leadership, the local church could not function without your ministry. The Holy Spirit will reward your labor even in the “smallest” role. Dear sister in Christ, you just believe and follow the verses I have presented in this brief study, and God will take care of the rest. Many women have played a critical role in this very ministry website-project and various other projects we have tackled through the years. Whether opening their house to our home Bible studies, or giving to us, or praying for us, or telling others about our ministry, or encouraging us, or whatever, they all helped in some manner. How we thank God for these Christian sisters and we thank God for your fellowship in the Gospel of Grace, brother or sister! 🙂

Also see:
» Must Christian women wear head coverings in the Bible?
» Should I raise my hands in worship?
» Are all Christians “ambassadors,” or just Paul and his ministry companions?

What is the difference between “the Kingdom of God” and “the Kingdom of Heaven?”

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“Can you please tell me to the best of your ability about the differences between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven?”

My friend, I would be delighted to help you better understand these two biblical concepts. First, we will introduce some general information, and then we will delve into the details. A survey of scores of verses is necessary, but we will try to keep it simple for sake of clarity and brevity. Since this can be an intricate topic, you may want to read the conclusion first, and then read the study to see the logic behind the conclusion. To the Scriptures we go!

GENERAL OVERVIEW

When the term “the kingdom of God” appears in the Bible, it is a general reference to God’s domain, the realm of His influence (the righteous world system, Christians, and heaven). This term can apply both to redeemed Israel and the Church the Body of Christ. The phrase “the kingdom of God” is in contradistinction to the realm in which Satan and his cohorts operate (the evil world system, lost [unregenerate] mankind, hell, the lake of fire, fallen angels, et cetera). A person enters “the kingdom of God” when God rescues/saves him or her from Satan’s realm—having sins forgiven, being declared righteous before God, fellowship with God, able to participate in His will, not going to hell anymore, and so on. You can refer to Matthew 21:31, Luke 17:21, and Colossians 1:13.

Now, the other term, “the kingdom of heaven,” goes back to a concept first introduced when Moses wrote about “the days of heaven upon the earth” (Deuteronomy 11:21). Moses referred to the day when God’s earthly kingdom would be established through Israel. Companion passages are Job 19:25-27, Isaiah chapter 11, Isaiah chapter 33, Isaiah chapter 35, Isaiah chapter 61, et cetera. There would be no sickness and the curse of sin would be lifted. It would literally be heaven on Earth! All of God’s saints would be bodily resurrected to enter that kingdom. In that day, the God of Heaven would have His kingdom present on Earth for all to see. It would be a literal, physical, visible earthly kingdom, modeled after the reigns of King David and King Solomon. The Prophet Daniel, when interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, said in Daniel 2:44: “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” This is yet future, dear friend. Jesus Christ is coming again to destroy all of this world’s evil governments and He will establish His righteous kingdom on this planet!

The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 6:33: “But seek ye the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (cf. Luke 12:31). Before Israel could receive her material blessings from God (food, drink, clothing, shelter, et cetera), she first needed to have spiritual blessings from God (her sins forgiven and a right standing before God, or justification). Israel, entangled with an apostate religious system at Christ’s time, needed to first seek salvation in and through the Lord Jesus, her citizens needed to become saints (citizens of the kingdom of God), she needed to be delivered from the power of darkness (Satan and sin), before she could enjoy material prosperity in that earthly kingdom that Jesus Christ would establish. Israel needed to be redeemed (spiritually cleansed) before going into a cleansed land, the Promised Land. Otherwise, she would pollute that purified land.

With these few introductory comments, we can get into the “meat.”

“THE KINGDOM OF GOD”

The phrase “the kingdom of God” appears 69 times in our King James Bible: Matthew 6:33, Matthew 12:28, Matthew 19:24, Matthew 21:31, Matthew 21:43, Mark 1:14, Mark 1:15, Mark 4:11, Mark 4:26, Mark 4:30, Mark 9:1, Mark 9:47, Mark 10:14, Mark 10:15, Mark 10:23, Mark 10:24, Mark 10:25, Mark 12:34, Mark 14:25, Mark 15:43, Luke 4:43, Luke 6:20, Luke 7:28, Luke 8:1, Luke 8:10, Luke 9:2, Luke 9:11, Luke 9:27, Luke 9:60, Luke 9:62, Luke 10:9, Luke 10:11, Luke 11:20, Luke 12:31, Luke 13:18, Luke 13:20, Luke 13:28, Luke 13:29, Luke 14:15, Luke 16:16, Luke 17:20, Luke 17:21, Luke 18:16, Luke 18:17, Luke 18:24, Luke 18:25, Luke 18:29, Luke 19:11, Luke 21:31, Luke 22:16, Luke 22:18, Luke 23:51, John 3:3, John 3:5, Acts 1:3, Acts 8:12, Acts 14:22, Acts 19:8, Acts 20:25, Acts 28:23, Acts 28:31, Romans 14:17, 1 Corinthians 4:20, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Corinthians 6:10, 1 Corinthians 15:50, Galatians 5:21, Colossians 4:11, and 2 Thessalonians 1:5. In your personal study, you can look at all of these references. We will look at only some of them here.

“THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN”

The term “the kingdom of heaven” appears 32 times in our King James Bible, it only appears in the book of Matthew, and it is always a reference to God’s earthly kingdom (commonly called “The Millennium” or “The 1000-Year Reign of Jesus Christ”): Matthew 3:2, Matthew 4:17, Matthew 5:3, Matthew 5:10, Matthew 5:19, Matthew 5:20, Matthew 7:1, Matthew 8:11, Matthew 10:7, Matthew 11:11, Matthew 11:12, Matthew 13:11, Matthew 13:24, Matthew 13:31, Matthew 13:33, Matthew 13:44, Matthew 13:45, Matthew 13:47, Matthew 13:52, Matthew 16:19, Matthew 18:1, Matthew 18:3, Matthew 18:4, Matthew 18:23, Matthew 19:12, Matthew 19:14, Matthew 19:23, Matthew 20:1, Matthew 22:2, Matthew 23:13, Matthew 25:1, and Matthew 25:14. Again, in your own personal study, you can look at these references. We will look at only some of them here.

“THE KINGDOM OF GOD” AND “THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN” CAN BE USED INTERCHANGEABLY IN ISRAEL’S PROGRAM

Mark 1:14-15 says that Jesus Christ went around preaching “the gospel of the kingdom of God,” saying, “The time is fulfilled, And the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” Luke 9:2, “And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick,” is similar usage of the term. Luke 9:11 says, “And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.” Luke 9:60,62 and Luke 16:16 are other examples. Again, “the kingdom of God” would here refer to both the realm of God’s influence and its visible manifestation (God’s earthly kingdom was on the verge of being established when Jesus Christ showed up). “The kingdom of God” and “the kingdom of heaven” are so closely connected that it is difficult to separate them in Israel’s program.

Matthew 19:23-24 shows how the terms “the kingdom of heaven” and “the kingdom of God” can be used interchangeably in Israel’s program (please note this substitution is only valid in Israel’s program, not in our mystery program). After all, in Israel’s program, the visible manifestation of the kingdom of God is the literal and physical earthly kingdom of Jesus Christ. “[23] Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. [24] And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Parallel Mark 10:23-25 and Luke 18:24-25.)

“The kingdom of God” and “the kingdom of Heaven” (God’s influence and God’s earthly kingdom) are interchangeable in other verses such as:

  • When Jesus said to the unbelieving Pharisees in Matthew 12:28: “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.” God’s influence, in the form of that coming earthly kingdom of Christ, was the means whereby God would cleanse Earth of Satan’s influence. The prophet Zechariah said there would be no unclean spirits on Earth and in Israel’s land when God would establish His earthly kingdom (Zechariah 13:1-2). Here, “the kingdom of God” could apply to both God’s influence and that literal, physical, visible earthly kingdom—parallel verse, Luke 11:20, says “the kingdom of God.”
  • “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matthew 13:11)—parallel verse, Luke 8:10, says “the kingdom of God,” meaning they are interchangeable here.
  • “Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field” (Matthew 13:31)—parallel verse, Luke 13:18, says “the kingdom of God,” meaning they are interchangeable here.
  • “Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened” (Matthew 13:33)—parallel verse, Luke 13:20, says “the kingdom of God,” meaning they are interchangeable here.
  • “And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:” (Mark 4:11).
  • “And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;” (Mark 4:26).
  • “And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?” (Mark 4:30).
  • “Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power” (Mark 9:1)—parallel verse, Luke 9:27, says “the kingdom of God.”—and other parallel verse, Matthew 16:28, says “the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” That would be a reference to Jesus Christ returning to establish that earthly kingdom.
  • “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God (Mark 10:14)—parallel verse, Luke 18:16.
  • “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10:15)—parallel verse, Luke 18:17.
  • “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God (Mark 12:34).
  • “I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also” (Luke 4:43).
  • “Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God (Luke 6:20)—parallel verse, Matthew 5:3, says “the kingdom of heaven,” meaning they are interchangeable here.
  • “But he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than [John the Baptist]” (Luke 7:28).
  • “And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,” (Luke 8:1).
  • “And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you” (Luke 10:9).
  • “Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you” (Luke 10:11).
  • “And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake,” (Luke 18:29).
  • “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God(John 3:5).
  • “To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:” (Acts 1:3).
  • “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12).

“THE KINGDOM OF GOD” IS SOMETIMES ONLY THE EARTHLY-KINGDOM ASPECT OF GOD’S KINGDOM

In some verses, “the kingdom of God” stresses only the earthly kingdom of God’s influence since the language of these verses is restricted to the physical realm:

  • “The kingdom of God” would refer to the earthly kingdom of Jesus Christ in Matthew 21:43—the Pharisees wanted that kingdom but they did not want the King or His righteousness, so they would not be allowed to enter that kingdom. Remember our opening comments how that Israel must be redeemed before she can enter the Promised Land.
  • Mark 9:47 (“it is better to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire”)—the establishment of the visible kingdom on earth.
  • Mark 14:25 (“I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God)—the establishment of the visible kingdom on earth—parallel Luke 22:16-18.
  • Mark 15:43 (Joseph of Arimathaea waited for “the kingdom of God)—the establishment of the visible kingdom on earth—parallel Luke 23:51.
  • “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out” (Luke 13:28).
  • “And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God (Luke 13:29).
  • “And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God (Luke 14:15).
  • “And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:” (Luke 17:20).
  • “And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear” (Luke 19:11).
  • “So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand” (Luke 21:31).
  • “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).

“THE KINGDOM OF GOD” AND PAUL’S MINISTRY

This following section documents how the Body of Christ is associated with “the kingdom of God,” the heavenly aspect, the kingdom God has for us in the heavens (Ephesians 2:6-7; 2 Corinthians 5:1; Philippians 3:21). On 13 occasions, the phrase “the kingdom of God” is connected with Paul’s ministry and epistles, and us the Church the Body of Christ:

  • “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). This would be the Body of Christ participating in “the kingdom of God,” experiencing much trouble (persecution) before going to heaven forever.
  • “And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God (Acts 19:8). Seeing as to Paul ministered to Jews here, he spoke about how Israel’s Messiah came according to the Old Testament prophets. He preached of how they rejected and crucified Him just as the Old Testament prophets had also predicted. He was now ministering through Paul’s ministry and offering salvation to them (lost Israel) through a new program (our program, the Dispensation of the Grace of God).
  • “And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more” (Acts 20:25). This was spoken to the Ephesian church leaders, members of the Body of Christ, so the Body of Christ is our role/part in “the kingdom of God,” just as “the kingdom of heaven” is Israel’s part of the “kingdom of God.”
  • “And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening” (Acts 28:23). Again, seeing as to Paul ministered to Jews here, he spoke about how Israel’s Messiah came according to the Old Testament prophets. He preached of how they rejected and crucified Him just as the Old Testament prophets had also predicted. He was now ministering through Paul’s ministry and offering salvation to them (lost Israel) through a new program (our program, the Dispensation of the Grace of God).
  • “Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him” (Acts 28:31). Once more, seeing as to Paul ministered to Jews here, he spoke about how Israel’s Messiah came according to the Old Testament prophets. He preached of how they rejected and crucified Him just as the Old Testament prophets had also predicted. He was now ministering through Paul’s ministry and offering salvation to them (lost Israel) through a new program (our program, the Dispensation of the Grace of God).
  • “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17).
  • “For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20).
  • “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,” (1 Corinthians 6:9).
  • “Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10).
  • “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Corinthians 15:50).
  • “Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:21).
  • “And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me” (Colossians 4:11).
  • “Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:” (2 Thessalonians 1:5). This would be how the Body of Christ is associated with “the kingdom of God,” suffering persecution before being caught up and glorified in heaven.

CONCLUSION

This study involved scores upon scores of verses, but we can reduce them all to the following five brief points:

  1. The term “the kingdom of God” includes all of God’s workings. It is divided into two realms: “the kingdom of heaven” (redeemed nation Israel) and the Church the Body of Christ (Christians from our Dispensation of Grace). The context of the verse determines which of the two spheres is being referenced. In “the kingdom of God,” the God of the Bible is worshipped and served as King. This would immediately rule out lost people (unbelievers) and Satan and his angels. Satan is called “a king over all the children of pride” (Job 41:34).
  2. The phrase “the kingdom of heaven” refers strictly to the literal, physical, visible, earthly kingdom of Israel’s program, when heaven is brought down to Earth. Paul never uses the term “kingdom of heaven” to apply to us, the Church the Body of Christ. We have no inheritance in Israel’s earthly kingdom. We are God’s heavenly people, with an inheritance in the heavenly places. The Church the Body of Christ has a role in the government of heaven, as Israel has a role in the government of earth.
  3. Paul applies the term “the kingdom of God” to us, the Church the Body of Christ. Remember, opposite to redeemed Israel, the Church the Body of Christ is the other half of “the kingdom of God.” As the God of the Bible is glorified in redeemed Israel (Earth), so He is glorified in the Body of Christ (Heaven). He works in and through both of them. He is King (Ruler) in respect to both.
  4. In Israel’s program only, “the kingdom of God” and “the kingdom of heaven” are sometimes used interchangeably. Remember, for Israel, “the kingdom of heaven” is the literal, physical, visible representation of “the kingdom of God.” In the form of the Messiah/Christ Jesus, Father God will be with Israel, physically, literally, and visibly.
  5. The only aspect of “the kingdom of God” operating today is the Church the Body of Christ. There is no redeemed Israel today (yet future). Israel is currently fallen, and she will be restored after our dispensation. Today, there is no “kingdom of heaven” being preached, no earthly kingdom about to established, et cetera. Hence, Paul never used “kingdom of heaven” with reference to us in his epistles.

kingdom of God - heaven

Also see:
» Is God finished with the nation Israel?
» What does “My kingdom is not of this world” mean?
» Did the 12 preach the Gospel of the Kingdom after Christ ascended?

Was Saul a pastor, a prophet, or an evangelist?

WAS SAUL A PASTOR, A PROPHET, OR AN EVANGELIST?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Saul/Paul exercised numerous spiritual gifts, not just one or a few.

  • APOSTLE. When Paul wrote his 13 epistles, Romans through Philemon, he wrote as “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” See Romans 1:1, 1 Corinthians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Galatians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, 1 Thessalonians 2:6, 1 Timothy 1:1, 2 Timothy 1:1, and Titus 1:1. The God of the Bible, Jesus Christ, directly sent Paul to us Gentiles (Acts 9:15-16; Acts 26:15-18; Romans 1:5; Romans 11:13; Romans 15:16; Romans 16:25-26; 1 Timothy 1:11-16; 1 Timothy 2:5-7; Titus 1:1-3; et al.).
  • PROPHET AND TEACHER. Acts 13:1-2 calls Paul a “prophet” and a “teacher.” He was a prophet in that he spoke on behalf of the God of the Bible. In 1 Corinthians 13:2, he claimed to have “the gift of prophecy.” Paul was one of the “prophets” and one of the “teachers” referenced in Ephesians 4:11. He was one of the “prophets” mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 2:20.
  • PREACHER, APOSTLE, AND TEACHER. In 1 Timothy 2:7, Paul calls himself, “a preacher,” “an apostle,” and “a teacher of the Gentiles.” He was a preacher in that he proclaimed the Gospel of the Grace of God to all nations. As noted earlier, he was an apostle in the sense of being directly commissioned by the ascended Lord Jesus Christ. Paul was one of the “apostles” referenced in 1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 2:20, and Ephesians 4:11. For over 30 years, Paul traveled throughout the then-known world, with signs and wonders often accompanying the Word he preached (2 Corinthians 12:12). Paul was a teacher in that he instructed Gentiles in the doctrine of this the Dispensation of the Grace of God. Paul was one of the “teachers” mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11.
  • PASTOR. Paul was one of the “pastors” referenced in Ephesians 4:11. He was a “pastor” in the sense that he would feed God’s flock. As a shepherd would guide his sheep, the Holy Spirit worked in and through Paul to guide the members of the Church the Body of Christ into the doctrines of grace.
  • EVANGELIST. Paul also was an evangelist because he shared the Gospel of the Grace of God with others. He was one of the “evangelists” referenced in Ephesians 4:11.

CONCLUSION

Paul had a number of spiritual gifts rather than one or a couple. Chiefly, he was an apostle, but he was also a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor, and a teacher. It is important to remember that Paul did not write as an evangelist or a preacher or a teacher. He wrote as an apostle, the highest authority that God gave to the Church the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:28).

It is quite a shock to most that God’s spokesman to us Gentiles in the Dispensation of Grace is not Jesus in His earthly ministry, or Peter or John or Jude. They did not have ministries in our mystery program—their ministry was to Israel first (Matthew 10:5-7; Matthew 15:24; Acts 1:8; Acts 3:24-26). The Apostle Paul had an all-men message and ministry (Romans 1:5,14; Romans 16:25-26; 1 Timothy 2:5-7). Paul was not sent to Israel first. As Israel would turn primarily to Moses, Genesis through Deuteronomy, to learn God’s Word for her, so we turn to Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, to learn God’s information for us. We do not exalt Paul, but rather we magnify the ministry that the ascended Lord Jesus Christ gave him (Romans 11:13). By honoring what Jesus Christ honors, we honor Jesus Christ.

Notice what the Lord Jesus Christ said in John 13:20: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.” Now, notice Paul’s testimony in Acts 26:15-18: “[15] And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. [16] But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; [17] Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee [Paul is the “apostle,” the sent one, of the Gentiles; Romans 11:13], [18] To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”

Finally, note what the Holy Spirit moved Paul to write in 1 Corinthians 14:37: “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” If we reject the Apostle Paul, then we reject what the Lord Jesus Christ had to say through Paul. What Paul wrote are the Lord Jesus Christ’s words to us Gentiles in the Dispensation of Grace. Dear friends, if we cannot believe these simple truths, or we cannot see these simple truths, we would do well to remove our denominational eyeglasses and toss them out!

Also see:
» Why was Saul’s name changed to Paul?
» Could you please clarify Ephesians 2:18-22?
» Who was Judas’ replacement—Matthias or Paul?

Why did God reject Cain’s offering?

WHY DID GOD REJECT CAIN’S OFFERING? WHAT LESSON CAN WE LEARN FROM THAT ACCOUNT?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Have you ever wondered why God did not accept Cain’s offering? Was it because, as some suppose, Cain had a bad attitude? If not, what was the reason for God rejecting Cain’s offering? In addition, what lesson can we learn from this Old Testament historical narrative? We will be Bereans, and search the Scriptures for answers to these fascinating questions (Acts 17:10-11).

Doubtless everyone who grew up in or around Christian churches or groups has heard of brothers Cain and Abel. While what happened between the two is common knowledge, the warfare associated with the story is largely overlooked. Sadly, the eternally significant part of the narrative is largely unknown! Dear readers, many billions of souls could have avoided a devil’s everlasting hell in which they now suffer, had they only critically considered and believed the lesson taught by the events of Genesis 4:1-8. It thus behooves us to survey and evaluate these verses.

Genesis chapter 4 opens: “[1] And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. [2] And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” This is rather simple to get. We need no theological degree or high IQ to understand that Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain the farmer and Abel the shepherd. Verses 3-5 continue: “[3] And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. [4] And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: [5] But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.”

When it came time to sacrifice to God, “Cain brought fruit of the ground,” but “Abel…brought the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering, he had not respect….” Why did God accept Abel’s offering, but reject Cain’s? Hebrews 11:4, written some 4,000 years later, testifies: By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.” How could Abel’s sacrifice be “more excellent than Cain?”

After sin entered the world by Adam (Romans 5:12), God demanded blood sacrifices for atonement (to make God and sinner “at one”). God shed innocent blood to cover Adam and Eve’s sin (Genesis 3:21). Outside of our dispensation, and before Christ came, those who wanted a right standing before God—”righteousness”—had to offer blood sacrifices by faith. “…[W]ithout the shedding of blood is no remission [forgiveness]” (Hebrews 9:22b). Cain had no faith, so he ignored God’s instructions and brought no blood. He brought the fruit (crops) of his own work, but Abel, by faith, brought blood sacrifices (obeying God). God accepted Abel’s sacrifice because Abel had faith! However, God rejected Cain’s sacrifice. Cain should not have been upset. He knew exactly what God wanted, and he knew God did not instruct him to bring an offering from the ground.

WHERE WE FIT IN

We are some 6,000 years removed from Cain and Abel, and yet that story teaches us a valuable lesson of eternal worth.

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain…” (Hebrews 11:4). The LORD gave Cain and his brother Abel clear instructions. Only Abel did what God said because only he believed what God said. Abel, a shepherd (Genesis 4:2), “brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof” (verse 4a). Cain, a farmer (verse 2), “brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD” (verse 3).

Notice what Abel brought—a sheep, a blood sacrifice, and its fat, which is what God said to do. Observe what Cain brought—something he grew. Cain had probably slaved away watering that crop, weeding that patch of ground, and so on. Cain brought the very “best” he could bring—it was the work of his own hands. He rationalized, “Surely, God will accept this fruit of the ground. He knows I put so much effort into it. How can He say no?” When Cain saw the fire of God come down from heaven and consume his brother’s sacrifice, and yet nothing happened to his sacrifice, Genesis 4:5 tells us that Cain grew very upset. “How dare You, God! It was my very best, and You do not want it!” Cain probably threw a tantrum and cursed. Eventually, filled with that religious rage, he murdered Abel (verse 8).

Cain symbolizes today’s average religious person, who refuses to do what God’s Word says: “Trust in the finished crosswork of Christ alone and I will save you.” Like Cain, they offer “their absolute best”—tithes, water baptism, acts of charity, penance, church membership, et cetera—things God never commanded them to do for salvation! Those things are “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) when compared to Jesus Christ’s perfect sacrifice of Himself. And when they die, like Cain, they will be greatly disappointed.

CONCLUSION

God instructed Cain and Abel to bring blood sacrifices. However, only Abel obeyed God because he alone had faith. Cain lacked faith, so he completely ignored God’s Word. Cain wanted to do what Cain wanted to do. This is typical human nature, and it has not changed one wit. Man is naturally sinful in that he seeks autonomy—to be his own god and to do what he wants to do. “Cain… was of that wicked one [Satan!]… his own works were evil, and his brother’s [Abel’s] righteous” (1 John 3:12). Now, Cain’s vegetation offering did not look evil—it was just “fruit of the ground” (Genesis 4:3). Yet, despite its innocent appearance, it was evil and God rejected it. How was it evil? God wanted blood sacrifices, not crops! Cain displeased God because he had no faith (Hebrews 11:6).

Now, apply that scenario to today. Billions of church members are doing everything they can to work for heaven. Like Cain, they completely ignore God’s Word when it says their “good” works are actually “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) and “dung” (Philippians 4:8). They give faithfully, pray daily, attend church weekly, help the poor, clean the church, sing in the choir, and so on. Sadly, this is vain activity, for God never commanded them to work for heaven!

In this the Dispensation of Grace, God is freely offering His grace, love, mercy, forgiveness, salvation, acceptance, fellowship, and righteousness in the Person of His Son Jesus Christ. “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him [Jesus Christ] that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness (Romans 4:5). Salvation is so simple, yet religion complicates it with our works. We sinners cannot work for salvation. The Bible says the only way to heaven, and everlasting salvation, is to trust in what Jesus Christ already did for you, not what you can do for Him.

According to God, Abel brought “of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof” whereas his brother Cain offered “fruit of the ground” (Genesis 4:3-4). Cain’s offering appeared innocent, but God considered it “evil” (1 John 3:12). Why? “Without faith, it is impossible to please him [God]” (Hebrews 11:6). Cain did not please God. He did not believe anything God said, so he ignored God’s command to bring a blood sacrifice. No blood sacrifice indicated no faith. Essentially, Cain was ignoring what that blood sacrifice represented: the blood of the coming Redeemer Jesus Christ!

Sadly, today, mankind generally shares Cain’s attitude in refusing to believe God’s Word, especially regarding salvation. God has told them they are “guilty” sinners who cannot work for salvation, but they refuse to listen. God wants them to trust in His Son alone, but they want to trust in their works and His Son. God will not have it. Jesus Christ is “well pleasing” to God the Father, we are not (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 12:18; Matthew 17:5; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).

Please be not one of the billions of precious souls attempting to appease God and merit salvation and heaven with their “good” works. Like Cain’s offering, this “innocent-looking” activity is evil! (Remember, even Jesus claimed some “good” works were “iniquity” in Matthew 7:22-23). These “good-works” people are attempting to substitute Christ’s perfect blood sacrifice on Calvary with their “dung” and “filthy rags” (their “good” works). God will not have it. God wants our faith exclusively in what His Son Jesus Christ did for us. Has Jesus Christ’s blood been imputed to your account? If it has, that blood applied to you indicates your faith! If Jesus’ blood has not been imputed to you, you need to trust exclusively in the Lord’s finished crosswork on Calvary. For salvation, God will accept nothing else but your faith resting in Christ Jesus alone.

Also see:
» We are saved by faith, but are we blessed by works?
» Why did God demand blood sacrifices? (COMING SOON!)
» How can a loving God send people to hell forever? (COMING SOON!)

Does not Acts 11:15 prove the Body of Christ began in Acts 2?

DOES NOT ACTS 11:15 PROVE THE CHURCH THE BODY OF CHRIST BEGAN IN ACTS 2?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Acts 11:15 says, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.” What was that “beginning” found in Acts chapter 2, the day of Pentecost? Is this verse saying that Acts chapter 2 was the beginning of the Church the Body of Christ? While some have used this argument to force us into Pentecost, we will see what the Bible really says. Unless we have a denominational bias to hinder our understanding, this verse is amazingly simple. There are one-dozen reasons why the Church the Body of Christ did not begin in Acts chapter 2 on the day of Pentecost. (Please see our study linked at the end of this article.) To use one verse—Acts 11:15—to argue against dozens of verses is absolutely ridiculous. In fact, for someone to use Acts 11:15 in that manner is to demonstrate a desperate attempt to hang on to Pentecost with whatever it takes. Tradition is awfully difficult to abandon!

Acts 2:41 reads: “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” If the Body of Christ really began at Pentecost, and the 12 apostles were saved before Pentecost, of what body of believers were they members? Obviously, there was “church” that existed prior to Acts chapter 2. That group was the “little flock” of Luke 12:32, the Messianic Church of Matthew 16:16-18. After Peter preached his famous sermon on Pentecost, the Bible says other disciples were “added unto them.” Again, on Pentecost, there was a preexisting group of believers. There is nothing, nothing, nothing new in Acts chapter 2, but rather it is a continuation of something already there.

Now, regarding Peter’s words in Acts 11:15, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.” This certainly refers to Acts chapter 2, when the Holy Spirit came down from heaven and filled the apostles. (In chapter 11, Peter is saying that a similar event occurred with Cornelius in chapter 10.) That “beginning” refers to the beginning of the “last days” of Israel’s program (see Joel 2:28-29 and Acts 2:17-18). Peter, led by the Holy Ghost, says that the events of Pentecost are the “last days,” not the first days of anything. They are a further development of Israel’s prophetic program. Israel has just rejected and crucified Messiah Jesus (just as the Old Testament prophets predicted), the Holy Spirit has come (as the Old Testament prophets foretold), and now the wrath of God is coming (just as the Old Testament prophets predicted). Everything the prophets spoke of in the Old Testament is being fulfilled, and Peter is warning in Acts chapter 2 that the worst is yet to come! The “beginning of the final days of Israel’s program” is the only beginning that would make sense in Acts 11:15 and Acts chapter 2, considering the Body of Christ and our Dispensation of Grace are not spoken of in the Old Testament.

Also see:
» Did the Church the Body of Christ begin in Acts 2?
» When did the Church the Body of Christ begin?
» What is the “church” spoken of in Matthew 16:18?

Where was Jesus during the three days between His death and resurrection?

WHERE WAS JESUS DURING THE THREE DAYS BETWEEN HIS DEATH AND RESURRECTION?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“Where was Jesus during the three days between His death and resurrection?”

Thank you for submitting this question. The concept is best understood by remembering that every human can be divided into an “inner/inward man” and an “outer/outward man.” This is the language of 2 Corinthians 4:16 and Ephesians 3:16. The outer man is the physical body (visible). The inner man is the spiritual body (invisible), and it can be divided into two parts—soul and spirit. (For more information, see our study, “What part of us is justified at salvation?,” linked at the end of this article.)

So, your original question can be refined so that it reads, “What happened to Jesus’ body, His soul, and His spirit, during those three days and three nights?” Each part of Jesus went to a different place.

1. WHAT HAPPENED TO JESUS’ PHYSICAL BODY?

It stayed in the tomb, lifeless and motionless, during those three days and nights. The Prophet Isaiah wrote the following Messianic prophecy some 700 years B.C.: “And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth” (Isaiah 53:9). As a carpenter, Jesus was a poor man. His family was so destitute that they could not purchase a tomb for Him! We read about a “rich man,” “Joseph of Arimathaea,” a disciple of Jesus, who begged Governor Pilate for Jesus’ corpse. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, “and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock” (Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:46).

Psalm 16:9-10 contains two more Messianic verses, written by King David over 1,000 years before Jesus Christ spoke them to the Father concerning His death: “[9] Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. [10] For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” Strangely, the Bible says there was not the slightest evidence of decomposition (“corruption”) on that body. After four days in a similar rock tomb, or cave, Lazarus’ carcass began to stink (John 11:39). Only dead for three days, Jesus’ body never emitted a foul odor. Once those three days and three nights expired (cf. Matthew 12:39,40), the Lord Jesus Christ burst forth, alive and well! God the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit raised Jesus’ physical body from the dead (Romans 8:11).

2. WHAT HAPPENED TO JESUS’ SOUL?

The soul is the “real” us. Jesus said that the repentant thief crucified on a cross next to Him, “Verily I say unto thee, To day thou shalt be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Jesus’ soul went down into the heart of the Earth: “[39] But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: [40] For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:39-40). This was called “Abraham’s bosom” in Luke chapter 16. Existing only prior to Calvary, it was a place in the center of the Earth where all souls went who died having the faith of Abraham. It was place for believers, not lost people. These were the saints of old who lived in anticipation of God’s earthly kingdom being established through Israel. Exactly what Jesus’ soul did in the spirit world for the three days and three nights, the Scriptures do not say. For more information, see our study, “Did Jesus Christ die and go to hell?,” linked at the end of this study.)

3. WHAT HAPPENED TO JESUS’ SPIRIT?

The last statement Jesus uttered from the cross of Calvary is found in Luke 23:46: “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.” Once Jesus gave up His spirit, it went back to the third heaven, to God the Father who gave it. “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” (Ecclesiastes 3:21). “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The spirit is that which gives life to the physical body, and the spirit is the part of man that communicates with Father God.

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE RESURRECTION

At the resurrection on Sunday, Jesus’ soul and spirit reentered that physical body in the tomb, and the tomb was vacated. That body lived on planet Earth for some hours before appearing to Mary Magdalene and then ascending to the Father in heaven (John 20:11-18). Jesus came back down to Earth for doubting Thomas to touch Him eight days later (John 20:24-29). About 30 days after that, Jesus ascended to the Father’s right hand to stay there permanently (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9-11)—Jesus spent 40 days total on Earth post-resurrection (Acts 1:3). The Lord Jesus Christ has physically been at His Father’s right hand in the third heaven for the last 2,000 years (Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1).

SUPPLEMENTAL: DID JESUS PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THOSE IN HELL?

Certainly not! It is a common view but it is not Scripture. It is tradition. As far as the Bible record goes, Jesus Christ did not preach to anyone in the afterlife. He did not proclaim that His blood had now been shed to pay for believers’ sins. That information would not be revealed until Paul’s ministry over a year later. Also Jesus did not give lost people in hell’s torments a second chance to go to heaven. These erroneous views are partly based on a faulty interpretation of 1 Peter 3:19-21. In that passage, Peter was not talking about Jesus Christ preaching post-death. If you read these verses closely, you will learn that he was teaching that the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, was the same Spirit who had preached through Noah during the days just before the Great Flood.

Also see:
» Did Jesus Christ really die on a Friday?
» Did Jesus go to hell? (COMING SOON!)
» What part of us is justified at salvation?

How are we “able ministers of the new testament?”

HOW ARE WE “ABLE MINISTERS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT?” DOES THAT MEAN WE ARE UNDER THE NEW COVENANT?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“What does Paul mean in 2 Corinthians 3:6 when he says we are ‘able ministers of the new testament?’ 2 Corinthians 3:6: ‘Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.’ He can’t mean Israel’s New Covenant in Jeremiah 31, or can he? Testament and covenant seem to be used interchangeably in Scripture but they are also different words. Thanks.”

Friend, this verse once puzzled me for some time. I am sure it has perplexed many others. As long as we are sure to keep definitions straight, the matter is simple. While people use “covenant” and “testament” interchangeably in normal conversation, it would be best just to leave them in their respective verses in the King James Bible. (I am well aware that modern English versions remove all references to the “new testament” and insert “New Covenant” instead. While the Greek word for “testament” is the same as the Greek word for “covenant,” as you pointed out, they are different terms in English. Our 1611 King James translators occasionally used “testament” to emphasize a special teaching; we will see that “nuance” doctrine momentarily. That is why I would not recommend using “covenant” and “testament” interchangeably when it comes to Bible study.).

COVENANT

Our English word “covenant” is a Middle English term from the Old French, present participle of covenir ‘agree,’ from Latin convenire (see convene). “Covenant” (Greek, diatheke) appears in our King James Bible some 295 times (mostly in Genesis through Malachi, but 20 times in the books of Matthew through Revelation). As you can see from its etymology, the word “covenant” is merely a “contract or agreement.” In the Bible, it is usually an agreement that God makes with people (whether Noah, Abram, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, national Israel, et cetera). “Testament,” however, is a more specific term.

TESTAMENT

Our English word “testament” is a Middle English term from the Latin testamentum ‘a will’ (from testari ‘testify’). “Testament” (Greek, diatheke) appears 14 times in our King James Bible—all in the books of Matthew through Revelation. We will take a little time to look at these occurrences:

  • Matthew 26:28: “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
  • Mark 14:24: “And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.”
  • Luke 22:20: “Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.”
  • 1 Corinthians 11:25: “After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.”
  • 2 Corinthians 3:6: “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”
  • 2 Corinthians 3:14: “But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.”
  • Hebrews 7:22: “By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.”
  • Hebrews 9:15: “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.”
  • Hebrews 9:16: “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.”
  • Hebrews 9:17: “For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.”
  • Hebrews 9:18: “Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood.”
  • Hebrews 9:20: “Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.”
  • Revelation 11:19: “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.”

If you noticed above, “testament” is generally used in conjunction with the death of someone or something (that is, the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ or the shed blood of animals). Perhaps you can reread those verses above as you keep that in mind. Now, pay close attention to Hebrews 9:16-17, about how a testament is of force after the death of the testator. Jesus Christ had to die on the cross before the New Testament could be introduced. In legal terms, we talk about someone’s “last will and testament.” This is a legally binding document that someone makes in order to manage his or her estate (possessions, et cetera) after death. Our King James Bible is using the word “testament” in that sense—it is most often used in connection with Jesus Christ’s death at Calvary.

Now we can go back to 2 Corinthians 3:1-6 to exposit the passage and answer your question about the New Covenant: “[1] Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? [2] Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: [3] Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. [4] And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: [5] Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; [6] Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”

In the New Covenant, God writes His laws in each and every believing Jew’s heart (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:8-13; Hebrews 10:15-17). But, contrary to popular opinion, we are not Israel and we are not under the New Covenant. Jeremiah 31:31 says the New Covenant will be given to “the house of Israel” and “the house of Judah.” We are neither. Never once did Paul quote Jeremiah 31:31 and apply it to us. The closest passage to Jeremiah 31:31-34 that Paul wrote is Romans 11:27, and Romans 11:27 applies to Israel (see verses 25-26). When the writer of Hebrews quoted Jeremiah 31:31-34 twice, on both occasions, it was a reference to Israel (Hebrews 8:8-13; Hebrews 10:15-17). So, what did Paul mean in the above passage?

There was a certain leading faction in Corinth that had turned these believers away from Paul’s apostleship. Throughout this second epistle to Corinth, he had to defend his apostleship (see chapters 10-13). Paul said that he did not need “epistles of commendation to [the Corinthians], or letters of commendation from [the Corinthians].” In other words, Paul did not need proof from others to show that he was a legitimate apostle of Jesus Christ. He did not need letters of approval from anyone, even from the Corinthians. Instead, he pointed to the Corinthian believers’ abandonment of idols and conversion to the living God as proof of his apostleship. Additionally, chapters 4 and 11 of 2 Corinthians document that Paul was legitimate apostle of Christ because Paul suffered greatly for the Gospel’s sake.

In this the Dispensation of Grace, we are the Church the Body of Christ. According to Romans 6:14-15, we are under grace not law. As we discussed earlier, Israel will have God’s laws written in their hearts. Paul is saying in 2 Corinthians 3:1-6 that Father God writes “Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery,” in our hearts. The Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:17) writes not on tables of stone and He does not write the “letter” (a reference to the Ten Commandments, the Law). Rather, He writes Paul’s epistles and He writes them in our hearts. We are Romans through Philemon, Paul’s epistles. Our salvation in Christ is proof of Paul’s apostleship. The grace doctrine working in us is proof of Paul’s ministry. God has written His words, the message of His grace, in us. In chapter 4, verse 7, Paul will go on to say that “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” This “treasure in earthen vessels” is the “life of Jesus made manifest in our body” (verse 10), Him living in and through our bodies as we walk by faith in those epistles of Paul!

By God’s sufficiency, through His Word to us, by power of the Holy Spirit, we are now able to minister (or proclaim) the benefits of Jesus Christ’s death (His finished crosswork). We are not under covenants of any kind in this the Dispensation of the Grace of God. We are simply recipients of God’s grace, enjoying what He wanted to give us, apart from anything He promised us. The grace that God will give national Israel one day, we are enjoying that grace today by way of the Dispensation of Grace! It is through Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection we can receive the forgiveness of sins now (Romans 5:11). National Israel has to wait for until the Second Coming to get that grace and forgiveness through the New Covenant (Zechariah 12:10; Acts 3:19-21; Romans 11:27).

According to Romans 3:19-20, the Mosaic Law (or, Old Covenant) was not made with us Gentiles, and yet it still affected us because it condemned us as sinners before God. Likewise, the New Covenant is not made with us and yet still affects us in the sense that we can use its underlying crosswork to get to heaven (Ephesians 2:13). The Law condemns us to hell as sinners and yet Christ’s finished crosswork saves us by making us saints. In the end, God levels it all out. Because of Adam we are condemned before God, but, because of Jesus Christ, we can be declared righteousness before God.

CONCLUSION

While “covenant” and “testament” are the same Greek word (diatheke), “testament” stresses a special type of agreement. A “testament” is only valid after the testator dies, whereas a “covenant” is in force while the maker is living. This is why our King James Bible uses “testament” instead of “covenant” in 2 Corinthians 3:6 (and other places). We are not under the New Covenant, but we are affected by the “new testament.” It is for the above reasons that I do not recommend using “covenant” and “testament” interchangeably when it comes to these Bible passages (especially 2 Corinthians 3:6).

Paul is saying in 2 Corinthians 3:1-6 that we can now minister to others (saved or lost) in light of Jesus Christ’s death at Calvary. Our sufficiency is of God, and so, we are “able” (equipped) to be “ministers of the new testament.” God the Father has committed unto us Christians the word of reconciliation, the message of how He reconciled the world unto Himself by Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). They can now be made right in God’s sight by simple faith in Calvary’s crosswork (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is all done by the working of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works in us to bring them the Gospel, and He works in them that they see the Gospel with clarity.

Also see:
» Are the books of Matthew through John “Old Testament” or “New Testament?”
» What does 2 Corinthians 5:19 mean?
» Are all Christians “ambassadors,” or just Paul and his ministry companions?

How do God’s foreknowledge and our free will work together?

HOW DO GODS FOREKNOWLEDGE AND OUR FREE WILL WORK TOGETHER?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“If God knew that the Amorites would not repent after 400 years [Genesis 15:16], and He knew that they would crucify Jesus Christ [Acts 2:23], and He ‘knew’ all the future misery, woes, etc., etc., why do it? If I know that something is going to end in failure, I do not continue in it… how about you? If God always ‘knew,’ then what ‘is’ free will? Why does God (the Angel of the Lord) say to Abraham on Mt. Moriah, ‘…now I KNOW that thou fearest God…?’”

Thank you for those questions. From the human perspective, these issues are difficult to fathom. We have to look at them from God’s perspective. In the end, these events really did not end in “failure” as you assert. Granted, God knew how those events would turn out, and yet, He still used those events to accomplish His will. When considered in light of the overall scheme of things, these events were not so awful, and they were not failures. Despite giving man free will, and letting man do just about anything he wanted, God still accomplished what He wanted—that is the amazing part! That is the wisdom of God outsmarting Satan’s “wisdom!” As 1 Corinthians 3:19 says, “He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.”

1. THE 400 YEARS AND THE AMORITES

Your first question is a reference to Genesis 15:13-16: “[13] And he [that is, the Lord GOD] said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; [14] And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. [15] And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. [16] But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.”

Remember, when God spoke to Abram/Abraham in the above verses, the nation Israel had not even been born yet. It was over a decade before Isaac’s birth, and many decades before the births of Jacob and his 12 sons (the fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel). God gave the nation Israel a 400-year-long opportunity to grow (multiply) down in Egypt, while He let the Amorites reach their “sin limit” up in the land of Canaan. Israel started out with Jacob and about 70 other people (by the time Israel went into Egypt; Exodus 1:5), but Israel was some two million strong when she left Egypt (400 years later).

By allowing that 400-year period: (1) God proved, to the Israelites and the Amorites, and other nations, He was justified in evicting the Amorites (400 additional years of their wickedness); and (2) He gave Israel four centuries to grow so they could be greater in number to take over the land of the Amorites. That is why God put up with the Amorites for so long. They had not reached their sin limit (“the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full;” Genesis 15:16), and Israel had not reached her population explosion yet.

2. JESUS CHRIST AND HIS FOREKNOWLEDGE OF CALVARY

The best example of God’s foreknowledge and man’s free will operating together is how Israel responded to Jesus Christ when He offered Himself as King/Messiah.

“Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:” (Acts 2:23). No question about it—God foreknew Jesus Christ’s rejection, betrayal, and crucifixion. Before creation, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit had already agreed that God the Son Jesus Christ would die for man’s sins. On the other hand, all three Persons foreknew of man’s rebellion, how Israel would conspire with Rome to kill Jesus Christ (Psalm 2:1ff.; cf. Acts 4:23-28). Note Acts 4:27-28: “[27] For a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, [28] For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” God revealed to the Old Testament prophets the information that was already determined in eternity past. “But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled” (Acts 3:18). The Old Testament prophets wrote about a suffering Messiah, centuries before Calvary (Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 are two of the clearest examples).

Luke 24:44-47 amplifies this: “[44] And he [Jesus Christ] said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. [45] Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, [46] And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: [47] And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

So, there is God’s foreknowledge and man’s free will operating together to bring about Calvary’s crosswork. Man wanted to rid himself of Jesus Christ and thus he conspired to murder Jesus Christ. But then, after Calvary, and especially through the writings of the Apostle Paul (Romans through Philemon), God revealed the benefits of Calvary (see 1 Corinthians 2:6-14), how it was the means whereby man’s sin debt could be paid. God did not force Jesus Christ on those who rejected Him (free will), and yet, He used the results of man’s free will—the rejected Messiah’s blood—to pay for our sins. That is the wisdom of God. He took all of that information into account, and actually outsmarted Satan. (Satan thought Christ’s death would hinder God’s program and plan for creation, but God had another design in mind!—see 1 Corinthians 2:6-8).

The Old Testament prophets also talked about the healing and teaching ministry of Jesus Christ (Isaiah 35:4-6; Isaiah 53:4; Isaiah 61:1-2). Jesus Christ had to come to earth to fulfill those verses by performing miracles, and teaching the doctrine that those miracles communicated. Had Jesus Christ not come, He would not have fulfilled the verses that needed to be fulfilled in order to validate God’s Word. Those hundreds of verses needed to be fulfilled, and they were fulfilled at Christ’s First Coming/Advent.

Ultimately, Jesus Christ had to die. There was no other way to pay for Israel’s sins, and there was no other way to pay for our sins. Jesus Christ had to die, and God simply used the wickedness of man to bring it to pass (see Psalm 2). This is evident in New Testament passages such as Hebrews 10:4-14 (quoting Psalm 40:6-8):

“[4] For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. [5] Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: [6] In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. [7] Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. [8] Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; [9] Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. [10] By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

The only way that man’s sin debt could be paid is if God Himself would die (only He was sinless). God’s righteousness had been offended, and only God’s righteousness could be offered to compensate (make up) for that sin debt. That is why God became a man: He needed blood to offer and make atonement for the sins of man. Man wanted to kill righteous Jesus Christ, and so God used man’s ill intentions to bring about His will after all. Now, Jesus’ shed blood is the means whereby God will one day reconcile all of heaven and earth to Himself (Colossians 1:20)–today, Satan has corrupted heaven and earth (Job 15:15; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 6:12).

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 3:23-28, how God in His foreknowledge gave up Jesus Christ to go Calvary’s cross to shed His sinless blood to pay for our sins: “[23] For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; [24] Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: [25] Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; [26] To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. [27] Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. [28] Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”

When we come by faith alone in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as sufficient payment for our sins, we can receive the righteousness of God Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21). We can be accepted of God, have a home in heaven, play a role in God’s restoration of creation to Himself, and many other benefits. God saw these, the end results of Calvary, and that is why He let it fall out like that. See, in the overall scheme of things, neither the Amorites extended stay nor Calvary’s crosswork were failures.

3. HOW THE BIBLE DEFINES “FREE WILL”

In the beginning, Adam and Eve were fully blessed of God. Sin, suffering, and death were unknown. God’s only commandment was Genesis 2:16-17: “[16] And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: [17] But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” God in His grace had given them many provisions—innumerable species of trees and plants from which to eat. They could “freely eat” of every tree, save the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This is free will. God did not force Adam and Eve to do anything. He set boundaries in Eden and let them decide what they wanted to do. They could either stay within those boundaries or cross them.

When Satan attacked mankind, he singled out the woman. After craftily asking Eve if God really said not to eat of every tree, Satan observed Eve depart even further from the truth. Genesis 3:2-5 says: “[2] And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: [3] But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. [4] And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: [5] For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

Notice above that Eve neglected the abundance God gave her and Adam. She omitted “freely” from “freely eat,” ignoring the free will God gave her. Made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-28), she was misled to believe that she could have a better position (“gods”). Once Adam ate, they lost that perfect identity, and all its provisions. They exercised their free will and chose wrong. God certainly did not cause them to do right (otherwise they would not have failed). He certainly did not cause them to do wrong (God does not cause anyone to sin!). It was their choice, and they chose to ignore God’s will. God did not force them to do anything.

Luke 7:29-30 is another good passage that describes free will: “[29] And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. [30] But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.” According to the Holy Bible, again, God’s will can be rejected and the Pharisees and lawyers did reject it (this is free will). They did not want to be water baptized, they did not want to repent, they did not want to confess their sins like Moses instructed Israel in Leviticus 26:40-41 when under God’s fifth course of chastisement, and they did not want to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:5-6), so God did not force them. If they wanted to die in their sins and go to hell, God valued freedom to the extent that He let them make their choice. They did not want to submit to God’s righteousness—they were content with their self-righteousness in religion (Romans 10:1-3).

What Jesus said to the Jews in John 5:39-40 is very enlightening: “[39] Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. [40] And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” Did God choose these people not to have eternal life? Not at all. Contrary to the Calvinists’ claim that say that God chooses some people for heaven and others for hell, these Jews did not want Jesus Christ. They did not want salvation from their sins. They refused to have Jesus Christ. We see this amplified in His words in Matthew 23:37: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!They did not want Him to gather them, so He left them alone in their spiritual ignorance and left them on their hell-bound course that they preferred!

One more clear passage about free will should suffice. We read in 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12, a description of the horrors of Daniel’s 70th week: “[10] And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. [11] And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: [12] That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

Again, the Bible says these people did not want God’s love, they did not want anything to do with Him, they wanted to stay lost and on their way to everlasting hellfire, so He gave them over to the lie of the devil (the context is the Antichrist, future events, the seven-year Tribulation). Again, the God of the Bible loves freedom, and if we do not agree with Him, we can disagree with Him (there will be eternal consequences either way).

4. WHY THE ANGEL OF THE LORD SAID HE “KNEW” ABRAHAM LOVED GOD

Regarding your question about Genesis 22:12, “…now I know that thou fearest God…,” The Oxford American Dictionary gives the following primary definition of the word “know:” “to be aware of through observation, inquiry, or information.” The word “know” in this verse is being used in the sense of understanding something through watching it. The angel of the LORD saw what Abraham did (he was about to offer Isaac), and it was through firsthand watching/observance that God was aware. God foreknew it, but it grabbed His attention when it actually came to pass, and He watched it.

Also see:
» What about those who have not heard?
» Why does God let Satan exist?
» What does “my kingdom is not of this world” mean?