Monthly Archives: July 2015

Is Acts 16:31 a sufficient Gospel message?

IS ACTS 16:31 A SUFFICIENT GOSPEL MESSAGE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Is Acts 16:31—“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”—really a complete version of the Gospel of the Grace of God? Should we use that verse alone in witnessing to others, or should we use other verses in conjunction with it? This question is a common one, so let us be Berean Bible students and search the Scriptures… that we be able to answer the matter as God Himself would! Here goes our 175th Q&A!

Granted, Acts 16:31 does not go into great detail. In fact, it is more of a summary verse (more on this later). Still, we can use Acts 16:31 when witnessing because it proves the point of salvation by faith without works. It is necessary to show people God’s current plan of salvation, especially in this time when religious works are preached ad nauseum. Contrary to popular opinion, grace is apart from works. The only thing that grace will accept is faith/belief/trust. We take a few moments to examine some key passages in this regard:

  • Romans chapter 3: “[22] Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: [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.”
  • 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.”
  • Titus 3:5: Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”
  • Romans 11:6: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”
  • Romans chapter 4: “[1] What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? [2] For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. [3] For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. [4] Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. [5] But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. [6] Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, [7] Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. [8] Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”

These are excellent verses and awesome passages. All Bible verses are inspired of God, all verses in the Bible are important, but these few passages quoted above are some of the most beloved and most memorized. They contain a lot of doctrine and a lot of words. When sharing the Gospel with a lost person, it helps to condense all of these verses to something simple. We can succinctly summarize them all with one simple phrase: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” The issue is not works but faith. The issue is not we but Jesus Christ. What better way to concisely explain the Gospel of the Grace of God than, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved?” Acts 16:31 is not a full explanation, yes, but it is the gist of the Gospel message that is applicable today.

Remember, Acts 20:24 says that the Gospel of the Grace of God was committed to the Apostle Paul’s trust: “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” Whatever Gospel message Paul preached for salvation, it was always the Gospel of Grace. To wit, Acts 16:31 should be understood as a summarization of the Gospel of Grace. When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30), they told him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thine house.” The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are implied here. How do we know? Just a short time later, Paul preached that very good news of Calvary’s finished crosswork to the Corinthians in Acts chapter 18 (the context of 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, which literally says, “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day”). In fact, Paul preached about salvation by faith in Christ without works in Acts 13:38-39, years before Acts 16:31. Again, Paul always preached the Gospel of Grace.

Whenever I use Acts 16:31, I employ it in the same manner the Apostle Paul did in the context. In this the Dispensation of the Grace of God, we are not saved by “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38) or “keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). These are the common false gospels we hear today in many so-called “Bible-believing” churches. In their contexts, those Gospel messages were valid. Friends, they are not valid Gospel messages today. They are the “other gospels” Paul warned against in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 and Galatians 1:6-9. Satan has used and continues to use these former Gospel messages to deceive many. We must be careful to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), respecting the dispensational boundaries that God has clearly set forth in His Word. We should not and do not grab Israel’s salvation verses and make them into our salvation verses. If we are going to believe verses, we must also believe the verses when they tell us to or about whom they are written. We cannot ignore the context of verses. To do so is to be a spiritual larcenist, a thief, a dishonest person. This is how denominations and cults form.

When Paul was asked, “What shall I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30), again, we note his reply in verse 31: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thine house.” Acts 16:31 shows Paul’s immediate answer to the question of soul salvation of verse 30. Similarly, Matthew 19:17 shows Jesus’ answer to inquisitive lost people in His earthly ministry (verse 16), and Acts 2:38 shows Peter’s answer to inquisitive lost people in early Acts (verse 37). By quoting Acts 16:31, we are prompting people to compare Paul’s answer to Jesus’ answer and Peter’s answer, to show their differences. Jesus, Peter, and Paul had different messages to preach at different time periods and to different people. To make all these messages one and the same is to only conceal the sharp dispensational boundaries in the Word of God.

Obviously, Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, summarized Paul’s answer in Acts 16:31. Hence, I would never go around preaching Acts 16:31 alone and I would never use Acts 16:31 alone on a Gospel tract. Other verses are needed to provide more detail, that the message be an adequate foundation on which faith can rest. Nevertheless, as we mentioned earlier, Luke captured the gist of Paul’s answer—faith without works. We are simply saved by “believing on the Lord Jesus Christ”—that is, relying on Him and His faithfulness at Calvary, not on our performance like the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of the Circumcision stated to Israel in her program. The book of Acts is not meant to be an-depth doctrinal book like Paul’s epistles, so Luke (writing Acts) will not go into great detail. Luke’s goal is to simply record the transition from Israel to the Body of Christ, from law to grace, from Peter to Paul, from prophecy to mystery, et cetera. The book of Acts is the record of how God was just (fair) in pausing Israel’s program, temporarily setting her aside, starting our mystery program, and forming the Church the Body of Christ. Luke’s task in Acts is not to meticulously delineate everything Paul taught. We must go to Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, for that information.

It should noted in fairness that 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 does not mention faith/“believe” as Acts 16:31 does. Moreover, Acts 16:31 does not explicitly state the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 does. Thus, in my own personal ministry, I always try to use these two passages together in verbally witnessing and/or written Gospel/salvation studies. Romans 1:16, Romans 3:26, and 1 Corinthians 1:21 parallel Acts 16:31. We will briefly look at them here for further enlightenment:

  • Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
  • Romans 3:26: “To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
  • 1 Corinthians 1:21: “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

Please note that these three verses above, like Acts 16:31, are summarization verses, but they also emphasize believing/faith/trust as means of salvation unto eternal life and justification. Their wording automatically invalidates religious works as means of meriting heaven. “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace (Romans 4:16a). Remember, faith and grace go together, not works and grace!

As we briefly noted earlier, Romans 4:1-5, particularly verse 5, parallels the Gospel message given in Acts 16:31: “[1] What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? [2] For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. [3] For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. [4] Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. [5] But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”

An interestingly parallel passage is 1 Timothy 1:15-16, a portion of the Apostle Paul’s own testimony: “[15] This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. [16] Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”

Paul taught that his salvation was our “pattern.” He believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and we have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the Gospel of the Grace of Grace. So, even near the end of his life, Paul (in 1 Timothy) repeated his Gospel in an abridged form. As we do with Acts 16:31, we go to the book of Romans to explain 1 Timothy 1:16. When witnessing to others, you can share the salvation verses contained in this study, but be sure to use Acts 16:31 after you have outlined the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as sufficient payment for our sins. This circumspection is the safest way to make the Gospel of Grace as complete—and yet plain—as you can for any confused lost person who may be listening.

Also see:
» We are saved by faith, but are we blessed by works?
» Did Paul ever preach the Gospel of the Kingdom?
» Is faith in Christ alone, enough to go to heaven? Do not the devils believe? (COMING SOON!)

Must you know the exact day and time of your salvation?

MUST YOU KNOW THE EXACT DAY AND TIME OF YOUR SALVATION?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Recently, I had a phone conversation with a very confused and troubled Christian. My heart went out to the poor brother. He had major and persistent problems with understanding the doctrine of eternal salvation in Jesus Christ. When asked, he provided a clear testimony of his salvation. He knew his works were not the issue. He readily admitted that Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork was the only means whereby he could be saved from his sins. The man knew it and believed it. So what was his problem? Unfortunately, for 20 years, denominational churches had produced in him a lot of garbage thinking. He could not rid himself of that nonsense. Denominationalism and legalism (Law-keeping) had greatly muddled his thinking and completely crippled his Christian life. Even some so-called “grace” (?) preachers and teachers had added to his confusion!

One of this brother’s concerns was that preachers would constantly stress the idea of knowing the exact day and time of one’s salvation. Because he could not point to a calendar and identify the precise day and time of day he trusted Christ, he wondered if he was even saved! Is it really necessary to know the exact day and time of day we trusted Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour? Or, are preachers just out to place us under false guilt trips and force us to “run” on legalistic treadmills? Perhaps, dear reader, you have been “harassed” by this type of preachers/religionists and “bugged” by this kind of thinking. “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost (Romans 15:13). We hope that this brief Bible study will provide you with joy, peace, and hope.

I reminded the dear brother that there is no Bible verse that tells us we have to know the exact day and time we were saved unto eternal life. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). If there is no verse, then there can be no faith. Whenever someone would pester him about that matter, I explained that he should just ask them point-blank, “And just where is that Bible verse about me needing to know the day and the hour of my salvation? No verse? Then it is a non-issue with me because it is a non-issue with God!

(One reason why he was confused was that he said he would never hear a clear Gospel message in those denominational “Evangelical” churches. When they would discuss “salvation,” they would tell him to “walk the aisle to the altar,” get water baptized, say “sinner’s prayers,” “call on the name of the Lord,” et cetera. Having him do all of these things repeatedly just further compounded his confusion as to exactly when he was saved anyway! After him doing all the “works” in religion for 20 years, someone finally gave him a clear Gospel, and he was saved by trusting it, but that did not make void all the misinformation he had been told.)

Furthermore, I explained to this dear brother that I am still unable to pinpoint on the calendar exactly when I came to personal faith in Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour. I trusted Jesus Christ as a small boy about 20 years ago, but no one—not even my Mom who led me to Christ—can remember precisely when it happened. Honestly, it does not matter when it happened. What matters is that it did happen and I know it happened. As long as you can remember that there was a point, any point, when you came to trust entirely in Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, as sufficient payment for your sins (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), that is enough, my friend. You do not need to know “I was saved in this month, on this day, this year, at this time of day.” In fact, you may only know your age: “I trusted Jesus Christ alone as my personal Saviour, when I was a small boy, aged 6 or 7” (that is my testimony, by the way, and I no longer bother to try and be more specific).

Some Christians can tell you exactly when they came to trust Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour—they can give you the month, the day, the year, and even the hour. They may tell you exactly where they were when they did trust Jesus Christ, and/or may remember who gave them the Gospel. Good for them! Others can only tell you their physical age (“I was 6 or 7”), a range of ages (“I was in my late teens”), or a time period (“during summertime”). Some people do not know the name of the person who led them to Jesus Christ. Concerning those Christians suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or other mind-debilitating issues, they cannot tell you anything at all about time and day they were saved! (Again, precisely dating our salvation is a non-issue. It is just a religious work.)

The good news is that when we Christians get to heaven, God will not give us a theological test to see if we can identify the exact day and time of day of our salvation unto eternal life. (If He did, a lot of Christians would be permanently kicked out of heaven!) God the Holy Spirit knows the exact moment He baptized us into the Church the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13), and that is enough, dear friends. Our salvation is not dependent upon when it happened. It is dependent upon the fact that it did happen. Our salvation is not dependent upon what we do, but upon what Jesus Christ did because we were unable to do anything to please God. We need to keep the focus off of ourselves—“tell me exactly when you trusted Christ!”—and we need to remember that the Bible speaks of that which is most important. There is no verse that tells us to know any precise day or time of our salvation from sins and hellfire, so that is not important.

As long as we can agree with Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 1:12, that is all that matters. Knowing not the time or the hour when we trusted, but knowing the Person (Jesus Christ) in whom we have trusted, is all that matters: “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”

Also see:
» Must I maintain fellowship with God?
» What does “Saved, if ye keep in memory” mean?
» Must I say the “sinner’s prayer?”

Why did Jesus say to throw the net on the “right” side?

WHY DID JESUS SAY TO THROW THE NET ON THE “RIGHT” SIDE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Have you ever questioned why the Lord Jesus commanded His disciples to throw their net on the right side of the ship? Why not the left side? Why not both sides? What doctrine was He communicating to them in catching these fish? We will search the Scriptures for the answers. Prepare for God’s Word to amaze you! (By the way, rather than share the answer with you from the start, let us take “the long way round” and first explain why the apostles are “fishing” at all. Then, you will better appreciate why they are fishing on the “right” side.)

A FEW WORDS ABOUT THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

The Bible book we call “The Gospel According to John” is the fourth and final record of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry. John’s Gospel is starkly different from the so-called “Synoptic Gospels” (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). That is, the Apostle John emphasizes aspects and events of Christ’s earthly ministry that Matthew, Mark, and Luke usually disregard entirely. The Gospel of John particularly stresses the deity of Jesus Christ.

John 1:11-13 introduces the theme of the Gospel of John: “[11] He [Jesus Christ] came unto his own, and his own received him not. [12] But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: [13] Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 20:30-31 elaborates: “[30] And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: [31] But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

When moving the Apostle John to write his Gospel record, the Holy Ghost selected specific events of Christ’s earthly ministry, eight unique miraculous demonstrations through which Jesus taught Israel various doctrines (our King James Bible calls these miracles “signs”). These signs communicated to Israel that Jesus Christ was their Messiah, the Son of God, and that He had the ability, the power, to equip them to function as “the sons of God,” men and women who could work with God and delight in accomplishing His earthly purpose and program.

The question currently under discussion involves the eighth and final sign of Jesus as recorded in John’s Gospel record. This sign, noted in John 21:1-14, is the key to understanding God’s purpose and plan in forming the nation Israel.

“CAST THE NET ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE SHIP”

“And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes” (John 21:6). This verse, which we will now expound, foretells the greatest fishing trip Israel’s apostles will ever enjoy!

To get the thought flow, let us read verses 1-3 of John chapter 21: “[1] After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself. [2] There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. [3] Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.”

Post-resurrection, seven of Israel’s 12 apostles—Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee (James and John; Matthew 4:21), and two unknown persons—are assembled in Galilee (possibly an allusion to Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 28:16). Evidently, the four remaining apostles (Judas the fifth had expired days earlier) were late, so when Peter says he wishes to go fishing, the apostles with him agree to accompany him (John 21:3, quoted above).

Israel’s apostles go fishing on “the Sea of Tiberias,” the Gentile name for “the Sea of Galilee” (see John 6:1). Jesus Christ began His ministry there some three years earlier (Matthew 4:12; Luke 4:14). Just three short years prior to John chapter 21, and at the same seaside, Christ had selected brothers Simon Peter and Andrew, fishermen, telling them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18-20; Mark 1:16-18). Christ had also selected James and John sons of Zebedee, fishing partners of Peter and Andrew, and they too forsook their fishing business and followed Him (Matthew 4:21,22; Mark 1:19,20). (Later, Luke’s account of their calling will help us better understand John 21:6.)

When Israel’s apostles returned to their fishing businesses in John chapter 21, and without Christ, that night of fishing “they caught nothing.” They returned to their old life (human wisdom and will, fleshly living), and in their own strength, they were unable to accomplish God’s will for them. John 21:3-5 continues: “[3] They [the apostles] went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. [4] But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. [5] Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.”

Israel’s apostles returned with empty nets after a night of “fishing in the flesh.” The Bible student will immediately recall a similar event that occurred three years prior… when Jesus Christ had first called these men from their fishing businesses. John chapter 21, when Jesus restores and re-commissions His apostles who had fled at His arrest (Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50), loops back to their calling (Luke’s account alone provides details).

Jesus Christ, just beginning His earthly ministry, is teaching and preaching God’s Word near the Lake of Gennesaret (another name for the Sea of Galilee). He meets fisherman Simon Peter and tells him, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught [catch of fish]” (Luke 5:4). Simon answers, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net(verse 5). Verses 6 and 7 explain: “And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.” When Jesus gave the word, the apostles caught enough fish to sink their boats!

Flash-forward three years to John chapter 21, the throwing of the net on the right side of the ship. Israel’s apostles did not recognize Christ standing on the shore (John 21:4), but when He gave the word for them to fish, and the miracle of the enormous draught occurred, they remembered what happened when He originally called them.

Remember, when Jesus Christ had first called brothers Peter and Andrew and brothers James and John, fishermen, they had just fished all night and caught nothing. Discouraged Peter confessed to Jesus, “Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net” (Luke 5:5). Verses 6 and 7 explain that once they obeyed Christ’s words, their net broke because of the many fishes! In Christ’s absence, the apostles caught nothing; when He arrived, their two boats literally began to sink with fish! Jesus told Peter, “Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men” (verse 10). Three years later, in the context of John chapter 21, the apostles have been fishing again in the same Sea of Galilee. Jesus Christ is absent, and after toiling all night, the apostles “caught nothing” (verse 4). (No surprise!)

Luke 5:8-11 reminds us of what happened three years earlier: “[8] When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. [9] For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: [10] And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. [11] And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.” Before Peter even became an apostle, he already learned from Jesus Christ that God’s Word was the key to catching multitudes of fishes. In the case of his apostleship, God’s Word, not fleshly efforts, was the key to catching multitudes of souls! He and the other apostles had forgotten that in those three years, and they learned it again in John chapter 21, casting the net on the right side.

We will now reread John 21:6-8: “[6] And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. [7] Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea. [8] And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.”

“That disciple whom Jesus loved” (John?), upon seeing the miracle, surely recalled what happened in Luke chapter 5 three years prior. At first He did not know who was standing on shore, but, after the miracle, he knew it could only be the Lord Jesus Christ!

We will continue reading in John 21:9-13: “[9] As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. [10] Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. [11] Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken. [12] Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. [13] Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.”

Earlier, Jesus Christ assured His apostles that they would be “fishers of men,” but they would not catch anyone until He gave the word (see Matthew 28:19,20; at thy word I will let down the net,” Luke 5:5; John 21:6; Acts 1:8). The power would be in His Word, not in their ability. If they relied on Him, they would catch multitudes of souls, a number they could not even begin to fathom, and they would bring those souls to Him.

As the apostles drag to shore the nets of fish that Jesus Christ told them to catch in His power, He invites them to eat with Him—He has already cooked fish and bread for them! “[12] Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. [13] Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.”

Remember, as fishers of men, Israel’s apostles still have more “catching” to do. After our dispensation, after the seven-year Tribulation, and just before Christ’s earthly kingdom is established, Israel’s apostles will be bodily resurrected (see Matthew 19:27-30 and Luke 22:28-30, for example), and they will fulfill Matthew 28:19-20. They—yea, all of believing Israel—will evangelize the nations. (This is why the Gentile name for the Sea of Galilee, “the Sea of Tiberias,” was used in John 21:1).

Now, dear friends, thank you for your patience. We come to our original question! Why did Jesus tell them to throw their net on the right side (John 21:6)? Matthew 25:31-46 says when Christ returns to earth (His Second Coming), He will set on His right hand believing Gentiles who blessed Israel during the seven-year Tribulation and He will set unbelieving Gentiles on His left hand (verses 32,33). Only believing Gentiles—those on His right hand—will be allowed to enter His earthly kingdom (verses 34,46); all of redeemed Israel will then minister to them. The unbelieving Gentiles—those on His left hand—are cast into everlasting hellfire (verses 41,46).

In accordance with John’s theme, Christ’s final miracle is Him empowering Israel’s believing remnant, particularly her apostles, to catch the souls of Gentiles. They will “bring them to shore to Him” so that they too dine with Him (see Isaiah 2:1-5; Zechariah 8:20-23; Matthew 8:11; cf. Matthew 26:29), and enjoy the salvation that He offers them through Israel! The miracle of John 21:6 symbolizes the climax of God’s prophetic program, when Israel’s believing remnant becomes fishers of men.

When Christ first commissioned His 12 apostles, Scripture says in Matthew chapter 10: “[5] These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: [6] But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.Most church members are never taught that Israel’s apostles had no ministry to Gentiles.

Jesus told these apostles post-resurrection: “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47). He repeated in Acts 1:8: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

The 12 apostles were to convert all of Israel first. Then, and only then, redeemed Israel was to evangelize all nations (Matthew 28:19,20; Mark 16:15). In the prophetic program, Gentiles would be blessed through Israel’s rise to kingdom glory: Israel had to be saved first so Gentiles could be saved next (Genesis 12:1-3; Isaiah 59:20–60:3; Isaiah 61:6; Zechariah 8:20-23; Acts 3:25-26; Romans 15:8-12; et al.). But, (unbelieving, rebellious) Israel was never fully converted. Through Paul’s ministry, we Gentiles learn that salvation is currently coming to us through Israel’s temporary fall, the mystery program (Romans 11:11-13).

When Jesus Christ returns to establish His earthly kingdom through Israel, Isaiah 2:1-3 says that all the nations shall flow unto it. When the apostles caught 153 fishes in John 21:11, this evidently symbolizes how many Gentile nations Israel will “catch” (evangelize). The net broke in Luke chapter 5 but it did not break in John chapter 21—Israel’s apostles will be prepared and equipped to catch all the fish, and none will be lost.

Rest assured, Israel’s apostles will be resurrected one day, and their greatest fishing trip will be underway! 🙂

Also see:
» What does John 3:16 really mean? (COMING SOON!)
» Should we use the book of John to evangelize? (COMING SOON!)
» How were Gentiles saved before our Dispensation of Grace?

What does Matthew 18:19-20 really mean?

WHAT DOES MATTHEW 18:19-20 REALLY MEAN?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” This verse, Matthew 18:19, is commonly used to teach that where two Christians pray in agreement, their prayer request will be answered without exception. They can pray for anything and have the assurance that God will hear them and grant their request. Is this really what this verse teaches?

Interestingly, the next verse is also used in a bizarre manner: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). How should we take this verse? Today, it is taught that where two or three Christians are gathered, God mysteriously manifests Himself. When these two or three Christians disband, God allegedly leaves too. (And just where does He go?! Is that an implication of loss of salvation?!)

Verses 15 through 20 are one unit, so the key to understanding Matthew 18:19-20 is to get the thought flow of all six verses: “[15] Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. [16] But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. [17] And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. [18] Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. [19] Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. [20] For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Firstly, we note the context—the local assembly of Jewish believers, Israel’s little flock. Please note that, contrary to popular belief, the “church” of verse 17 is not the Church the Body of Christ or a local assembly of Christians today. It refers to Israel’s believing remnant, her kingdom saints, those who have accepted Jesus as Messiah. In verse 18, the Bible talks about whatever is bound on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever is loosed on earth will be loosed in heaven. Of what phrase is this reminiscent? Jesus had uttered similar words in Matthew 16:19 when discussing the divine authority He had given to Peter and the other 11 apostles of the Jerusalem Church.

We read in Matthew 16:16-19 about the Messianic Church: “[16] And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. [17] And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. [18] And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. [19] And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

With this fresh in our minds, we return to Matthew 18:15-20 to expound. Re-scanning the text, we understand that it is how rebellious believing kingdom Jews were to be corrected from their error. In short, the passage describes authority in the Messianic Church. If a believing Jew is disorderly, he or she should be reprimanded before the leaders of the kingdom church, particularly the 12 apostles. Remember, once Jesus Christ leaves planet earth in Acts chapter 1, He leaves the 12 apostles to function in His absence. On the day of Pentecost, Acts chapter 2, He will send the Holy Spirit on them. The Spirit of God will empower them to continue preaching and doing what He had preached and done for the previous three years in Matthew through John. To take official action in Jesus Christ’s absence, two or three kingdom Jews in the leadership position had to agree. These verses have nothing to do with Gentiles in the Dispensation of Grace and members of the Church the body of Christ claiming prayer promises and spiritual breakthroughs. But, those verses did have a fascinating impact on us!

SUPPLMENTAL: THE QUORUM THAT AFFECTED US

Oddly, people who enjoy stressing Matthew 18:19-20 in the context of prayer promises, usually never bother to study and learn how that passage sheds great light on the famous Acts-15 Jerusalem Council that Paul described in Galatians chapter 2: “[6] But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: [7] But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; [8] (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) [9] And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. [10] Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.”

When James, Cephas (Peter) and John—note three individuals leading the Jerusalem Church—were deliberating how to address Paul’s ministry amongst the Gentiles, they agreed to loose themselves from their Gentile commission (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8). These three apostles turned Gentiles over to Paul and Barnabas. Jesus Christ Himself by the Holy Ghost—in the apostles/persons of James, Peter, and John—further validated Paul’s ministry as being a part of God’s plan. Thus, the expression is fulfilled, “That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Also see:
» What is “the Lord’s house?”
» Is the Church the Body of Christ the “church” spoken of in Matthew 16:18?
» Who was Judas’ replacement—Matthias or Paul?

Why could Moses not enter the Promised Land?

WHY COULD MOSES NOT ENTER THE PROMISED LAND?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Why did JEHOVAH God forbade Moses from entering the Promised Land? Why was God so strict? What did Moses do to deserve such a punishment? Before we charge Almighty God with “unfairness,” we need to search His Word and allow Him to teach us a valuable lesson. Let us reason together using the Scriptures!

“And the LORD spake unto Moses that selfsame day, saying, Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession” (Deuteronomy 32:49). Moses did see the Promised Land, but he never did enter it. Why? The LORD continues telling Moses in verses 50-52: “[50] And die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people; as Aaron thy brother died in mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people: [51] Because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the water of Meribah-Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel. [52] Yet thou shalt see the land before thee; but thou shalt not go thither unto the land which I give the children of Israel.”

Numbers 20:1-13 explains why God disallowed Moses and Aaron from entering the Promised Land: “[1] Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there. [2] And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. [3] And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! [4] And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? [5] And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink. [6] And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them. [7] And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, [8] Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. [9] And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. [10] And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? [11] And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. [12] And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. [13] This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them.”

The Prophet Moses and the Priest Aaron were to be spiritual examples to Israel, yet when Israel complained for lack of water, Moses and Aaron grew upset. When God instructed Moses to speak to the rock to provide water for Israel (verse 8), Moses in an unbelieving fit of rage struck the rock twice (verses 10-11). Verse 12 amplifies: “And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.”

By verse 28, Aaron is dead. About two years later, we find the context of Deuteronomy 32:49-52 (our introductory verses), where Moses stood on Mount Nebo to see the Promised Land from a high vantage point. God tells him that he cannot enter and will die shortly, just before Joshua leads them into that land. (Prophetically, Moses and Aaron will be resurrected and they will enter the Promised Land someday!; Revelation 20:6)

Why this “strict” punishment? Firstly, Numbers 13:12 says that Moses and Aaron did not believe the LORD. They did not believe what He said, and their actions proved that their hearts were not right before God. Secondly, and this is where it is most serious. The rock symbolized Jesus Christ. Paul the Apostle provided commentary in 1 Corinthians chapter 10: “[1] Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; [2] And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; [3] And did all eat the same spiritual meat; [4] And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” Connecting this with the narrative of Moses striking the rock, we learn that Moses disrespected Jesus Christ Himself. Moses struck Jesus Christ when God had said to speak to Him!

Prophetically, we can take this a step further. Jesus Christ was only struck once in the sense that He was only abused of man once. He was tortured before and during Calvary’s crucifixion, that eternal life flow freely to us, but never again will our precious Saviour suffer. His First Coming was incomparably awful but His Second Coming is unfathomably wonderful. There is nothing but glory left for Him to experience! He does not need to be struck twice. To enter into fellowship with God, we need to follow God’s instructions. What are His instructions? The life-giving waters are flowing freely from Jesus Christ today. Everything that is wrong with us, Jesus Christ died to pay that debt. All the sins in our lives that offended God and offend Him yet still, and will offend Him in the future, He took care of them 2,000 years ago at Christ’s cross. Jesus Christ was punished on our behalf, that we may enjoy the benefits of eternal life in Heaven! Today, why not trust alone in Jesus Christ’s death for your sins, His burial, and His resurrection as the satisfactory payment for your sins, that you may be allowed into Heaven one day?

Also see:
» Was God “unfair” in striking Uzzah dead?
» Was Judas forgiven?
» When will the Old Testament saints be resurrected?

Why did Jesus forbid others from preaching that He was Christ?

WHY DID JESUS FORBID OTHERS FROM PREACHING THAT HE WAS CHRIST?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Jesus eventually commanded His disciples not—notice NOT—to declare to others that He was Messiah/Christ/the Son of God. Why? Moreover, when Jesus cast out devils, He strictly charged those unclean spirits not—notice NOT—to say that He was Messiah/Christ either. Again, why? Did not Jesus want His identity to be known by all Jews? Why the “secrecy?” We will turn to the Holy Bible and allow the Holy Spirit to teach us through it. It is our hope and trust to shed some light on these obscure passages. Dear reader, you are sure to learn some wonderful truths!

CONCERNING THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST

At a certain time in His earthly ministry, Jesus commanded His disciples not to tell others that He was Christ/Messiah. That is strange, huh? Why did He discourage His disciples from publicly identifying Him as the Son of God? Did He not want people to know who He was? At that point, NO, He did not want them to know who He was. Let us explain by looking at verses.

The first time in the Scriptures where Jesus Christ commanded His disciples not to tell others that He was Christ, is recorded in Matthew 16:16-20, Mark 8:27-30, and Luke 9:18-21. (They are all parallel passages of the same event.) We will read them now.

Matthew 16:16-20: “[16] And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. [17] And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. [18] And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. [19] And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. [20] Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.”

Mark 8:27-30: “[27] And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am? [28] And they answered, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets. [29] And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ. [30] And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.”

Luke 9:18-21: “[18] And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am? [19] They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again. [20] He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God. [21] And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing;”

The key to understanding the above passages is to remember where they are on the Bible timeline. Matthew chapter 16, Mark chapter 8, and Luke chapter 9 are the latter half and near the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. They are discussing the last year of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus Christ had already preached and taught in Israel for over two years. For over two years, He had performed countless miracles to prove who He was. He had also preached countless sermons teaching and validating the Old Testament, and showing how the Old Testament passages authenticated Him. How did the Jews react—positively or negatively? The nation Israel overwhelmingly turned a blind eye toward Jesus’ works, a deaf ear toward His words, and an unbelieving heart toward His Messiahship. Even today, the average Jew refuses to hear and believe that Jesus is Messiah. Yea, beloved, there is nothing new under the sun!

Some weeks before Jesus discouraged any teaching or preaching about His Messiahship, Israel’s religious leadership had greatly insulted Him in Matthew 12:22-45 (cf. Mark 3:22-30). They had said that He was performing miracles by utilizing Satan’s power! Once they had disrespected Him with the charge of devil possession, Messiah Jesus’ ministry to Israel changed significantly. In the next chapter—Matthew chapter 13 (cf. Mark chapter 4 and Luke chapter 8)—Jesus Christ switched to preaching and teaching in parables. He had preached in plain language for about two years. However, when most of Israel continued to argue with Him and persistently reject Him, and when her religious leadership finally plotted to kill Him (Matthew 12:14; Mark 3:6; Luke 6:11), He changed His method of dealing with her. The parables were designed to communicate truths to believers and were intended to confuse the Christ-rejecters. Remember, if you do not want the truth, God will give you over to error (Romans 1:18-32)!

We learn in Matthew 13:10-15 about the purpose of parables: “[10] And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? [11] He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. [12] For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. [13] Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. [14] And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith [Isaiah 6:9-10], By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: [15] For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”

According to God’s timeline, Jesus Christ had a limited amount of time before He was scheduled to die. Daniel’s prophecy had to be fulfilled perfectly—Messiah would be put to death 483 years after Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem (Daniel 9:24-26). Once Jesus Christ had formed a small group of Messianic Jews, the little flock, then He gradually withdrew from ministering to all the nation of Israel. Jesus was avoiding wasted time with people who had heard already but had persisted in unbelief. At that time, He taught only His disciples. He trained them so they could continue His work whenever He would leave and go to Heaven. They were to convert all of Israel (Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:8), which they began to do in early Acts. The parables were designed to teach the believers but confuse the Christ-rejecters. Another aspect of God’s giving those lost, hell-bound Jews over to what they wanted was to now suppress the preaching of Jesus’ Messiahship, that it not be preached throughout all the streets and villages of Israel. The time of “all-of-Israel-should-hear-the-gospel-of-Messiah/ChristJesus” had come and gone! It was now time for a confined ministry to Israel’s believing remnant.

Furthermore, we can see how, during the final months and/or weeks of His life, Jesus spent His time in southern Israel (Judah and Jerusalem). His ministry started out in northern Israel (Galilee, Capernaum, Nazareth, et cetera), He spent about two years going back and forth between north and south, eventually confining His latter ministry to southern Israel (mostly Jerusalem). In southern Israel, Jerusalem, He let Himself be arrested and He gave up Himself to die on Calvary’s cruel cross. Those who had rejected Him those last three years would finally get their wish!

While somewhat of a repeat, note these related concepts. Jesus did not want His disciples to tell anyone anymore that He was the Christ. For the last two to three years, He had already demonstrated to them that He was Messiah and they refused to have Him. He would not strive as Isaiah said. He would no longer preach to the people who had rejected Him. Matthew said they would not hear His voice in the streets. Again, all that meant was He gradually limited His ministry. Originally sent to preach and teach all of Israel, with Israel largely rejecting, He confined His ministry to believers, those who had already accepted Him and wanted to hear more truth from God.

As we mentioned earlier, Matthew 12:14-21 is where Israel’s leadership began to plot to kill Jesus. This was sometime during Jesus’ final year in ministry, some two years after He had begun to preach and teach: “[14] Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. [15] But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all; [16] And charged them that they should not make him known: [17] That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying [Isaiah 42:1-4], [18] Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. [19] He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. [20] A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. [21] And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.” Verse 19 speaks of Jesus limiting His ministry within Israel at His First Coming. Verse 20 speaks of the fiery judgment to come at His Second Coming to burn up the unbelievers. Verse 21 is the earthly kingdom He will establish as Messiah-Christ-King! Verses 20 and 21 are still future.

Here is an interesting little side-note. When Jesus raised from the dead the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue, He charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat” (Mark 5:43). Again, Jesus was limiting His ministry here, was He not? He did not want more publicity. He did not want them to publish the news of the miracle. The “turning point” of parables and limiting spiritual knowledge had occurred earlier in Mark chapter 4. Similar events occurred in Matthew 8:4, Mark 7:36, Luke 5:14, and Luke 8:56. The time had come for Jesus to gradually withdraw from public ministry!

CONCERNING THE DEVILS OF SATAN

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, when He would cast out devils (evil spirits), He would always command those evil spirits not to tell any man that He was Christ. For example, we read in Mark 3:11-12: “[11] And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. [12] And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known.” And, the Bible says in Luke 4:41: “And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ.”

Why did Jesus forbid these unclean spirits from preaching His Messiahship? Again, did not Jesus want people to know that He was Christ? Yes, at that time, Jesus did encourage His disciples preaching about His Messiahship, but He did not want His ministry weakened by devils preaching it. The Jews looked for anything and everything to discredit Jesus Christ, so He knew to limit the “ammunition” they would seek to gain. Thus, no devils were allowed to bear witness to Jesus’ Messiahship. These evil spirits were not allowed to preach that Jesus was the Son of God. Note another example, Luke 4:33-35: “[33] And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice, [34] Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God. [35] And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace [Be quiet!], and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not.”

CONCLUSION

Why did Jesus discourage His disciples from preaching that He was Messiah/Christ? Once Jesus Christ had preached approximately two to three years throughout northern and southern Israel, He began to gradually confine His preaching and teaching to His disciples. Most of His audience throughout Israel’s land had refused to hear and believe anything He said. He would no longer go to any and every Jew, but He would confine His ministry to people who had already accepted and trusted Him as Messiah/Christ. Once that ministry was limited, those members of the little flock were not to go out and teach any more lost Jews about Jesus being Messiah/Christ. Jesus Christ spent His time teaching His disciples, and His disciples spent time learning from Him. Neither Jesus nor His disciples wasted time preaching to rank and file Jews at that time.

Why did Jesus prohibit devils (unclean spirits) from preaching that He was Messiah/Christ? Jesus Christ wanted the Old Testament Scriptures (JEHOVAH’S Word) to testify of Him and He wanted His disciples to preach and testify of Him. He did not want Satan’s minions preaching on His behalf, for they would only disrepute and defile His ministry and message. Unbelieving Israel would have all the more reason to deny Him—“Jesus is certainly a fraud because even the devils preach He is Christ!”

Also see:
» What did Jesus mean, “The Son of man hath not where to lay his head?”
» Have I blasphemed against the Holy Ghost?
» What does, “My kingdom is not of this world” mean?

What is the Lord’s will for my Christian life?

WHAT IS THE LORD’S WILL FOR MY CHRISTIAN LIFE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The primary question that Christian believers often ponder is, “What is the Lord’s will for my life?” Hence, we will dedicate this Bible study to addressing that very issue. Let us first understand how the Christian life began, and that will then help us comprehend how it operates. Dear readers, we will now search the Scriptures to see what things are so.

According to Colossians 2:6-7: “[6] As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: [7] Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” The Bible says that our Christian lives in this the Dispensation of Grace operate just as they began: as we were saved, so will be our daily living. In other words, both our initial sanctification (salvation in Christ, salvation from the penalty of sin in hell) and our practical sanctification (salvation in Christ, salvation from sin’s power over our lives) operate on the same principle. According to the Bible, how we are saved from hell is the answer to how we are saved from sin having dominion over us on a daily basis (practical Christian living).

Let us break down Colossians 2:6-7 into its basic components, and then we will understand how the Christian life operates.

“AS YE HAVE THEREFORE RECEIVED CHRIST JESUS THE LORD”

Think about the time when you were saved, when you first trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour. At that time, you realized that you did not and could not measure up to God’s righteous standards. Despite the “best” you could do, you were still unable to save yourself. As Romans 3:19-20 affirms: “[19] Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. [20] Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

“By the law is the knowledge of sin.” The Mosaic Law is like a mirror. It shows you who you are (a sinner), but it has no power to make you something else (a saint). When you, as a lost, hell-bound sinner, realized that you were dead in your trespasses and sins, and you could do nothing in your own strength to measure up to God’s standard of righteousness, you trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork as sufficient payment for those sins. You could not pay your own sin debt in order to get to heaven, so God the Son, Jesus Christ, came to pay it for you. His precious blood was shed on Calvary’s cross in order to atone for your sins. “Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3). “For God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). And Romans 10:10a says, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness….”

Romans 4:3-5 summarizes: “[3] For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. [4] Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. [5] But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”

Romans chapter 3 continues: “[21] But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; [22] Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: [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.”

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). When you heard the Gospel of the Grace of God—that Jesus Christ died for your sins, He was buried, and He was raised again the third day for your justification (Romans 4:24-25; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4)—you placed your faith/trust in it. In that instant, the Bible says that God the Father applied Jesus Christ’s righteousness to your account (imputation). That is, He cleared your sin debt (forgiveness) and then gave you a perfect standing in His Son (justification/righteousness)! This is positional sanctification: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Being “in Christ” is a permanent position. It can never, ever, ever be lost because you never, ever, ever did anything to get it anyway! It is yours free because of what Jesus Christ did!

We Christians are in Christ. Thus, we have a new nature in Christ. Just as the old sin nature produces fruits (sins [note the plural form]), the new nature we have in Christ produces fruits as well (good works). This is how the Christian life operates.

“SO WALK YE IN HIM”

When the Apostle Paul prayed for the Philippians, notice what he prayed in chapter 1: “[9] And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; [10] That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; [11] Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11).

Every believer is to be “filled with the fruits of righteousness” indeed, but notice, the Bible’s clarificationwhich are by Jesus Christ.” Just as our salvation from hell (eternal salvation) depends on Jesus Christ’s performance, not our efforts, so our salvation from sin’s dominion over us (in our daily living) also depends on Jesus Christ’s performance, not our efforts. Remember what we read in Colossians 2:6-7 earlier. The Christian life is not us doing good deeds in order to make God happy with us (that is religion and legalism/Law-keeping). The Christian life is really Jesus Christ doing the work in and through us, living in and through us, because God is happy with us in Christ (that is grace living)! Only Jesus Christ can live His life.

If our performance was not able to make God happy with us to keep us out of hell, will our performance be any better in trying to live the Christian life? No, because no matter how hard we try, we can never do things perfectly. We cannot even go one day without breaking at least one of the Ten Commandments—that is what sin is. Today, thankfully, God is not dealing with us on the basis of our performance. To wit, we are not under Israel’s legalistic (Law-keeping) system of “do good and I will bless you,” but rather under the system of His grace, “I have already blessed you in My Son and He will do good in and through you.” We will deal with this in more detail later.

The Bible talks about the fruit of the old sin nature, the “works of the flesh:” “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envying, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like” (Galatians 5:19-21). But God’s Word also discusses the fruit of the new nature we have in Jesus Christ (the “fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ;” Philippians 1:11): “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

How do we get “the fruit of the Spirit” in our lives? The Holy Spirit lives within each and every member of the Church the Body of Christ. Read 1 Corinthians 6:19: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” The Bible says, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?(1 Corinthians 3:16).

God the Holy Spirit works within us to produce good works, and the way He does this is by using sound Bible doctrine that we study and believe. Read 1 Thessalonians 2:13: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” The Word of God will work in us to accomplish God’s will only when we believe the Word of God rightly divided. If we do not believe God’s Word, then we will “quench the Spirit,” preventing Him from operating in our lives and keeping Him from manifesting Jesus Christ’s life in and through us (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

“Walking in Him” simply means walking in the new identity we have in Jesus Christ! We are not making ourselves holy using rites, rituals, ceremonies, et cetera, in religion. We are just behaving in accordance with our holy standing before Father God. We are simply living Bibles, for all the lost world to see and read.

“ROOTED AND BUILT UP IN HIM”

In Adam, we were dead. “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins… Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” (Ephesians 2:1,5). Now, God the Father has made us alive in Jesus Christ. But, more so, we have Jesus Christ’s resurrection life.

The key to the Christian life is to remember that it is Jesus Christ’s life, not our life! Many professing Christians fail to understand that. Religious works has so distracted them from Jesus Christ’s efforts and made them focus on their own efforts. God the Father has given us life in and through Jesus Christ, in order for that life to manifest itself in and through us. To be “rooted in [Christ]” is to understand and believe that He is the source of the Christian life, the source of the life we now have in Him. Just as a plant is rooted in the soil and receives life and nutrients via those roots so the plant can grow, we are to grow in Jesus Christ.

Notice Ephesians 4:14-16: “[14] That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; [15] But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: [16] From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”

To be “built up in [Christ]” means to allow that life of Jesus Christ to live in and through us. It is to let the Holy Spirit have greater and greater control over us, as we walk by faith in God’s Word to us, making steady progress in an understanding what God’s Word says. This is spiritual maturity. God does not want babies for children. He wants fully functioning saints, mature Christian men and women, who know what He is doing and who delight in accomplishing that work with Him!

Paul demonstrates how the Christian life operates on the basis of Christ’s death and resurrection, in Romans chapter 6: “[3] Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? [4] Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. [5] For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: [6] Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. [7] For he that is dead is freed from sin. [8] Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: [9] Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. [10] For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. [11] Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

When Jesus Christ died on Calvary’s cross, the Bible says we died with Him. He “died unto sin once,” and we Christians are now dead to sin, too. Sin does not have to dominate our lives as it did when we were lost and going to hell. When Jesus Christ was raised again, the Bible says we were also raised to “walk in newness of life.” This is the Christian life, as opposed to the old lifestyle. We are freed from sin (verse 7). We are dead to sin, but alive unto God through our Lord Jesus Christ (verse 11). This is what the Bible says, and we trust it, we count it to be right and true. By trusting that doctrine, it gives the Holy Spirit resources to work in us for Jesus Christ’s glory. He will use that doctrine to transform our mind (spirit) first, then our soul, and that will result in physical actions (good works)!

Two of the classic verses about Christian living are Romans 12:1-2: “[1] I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. [2] And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” The life of Jesus Christ Himself will then be literally manifested in and through your body! (By the way, you may want to read the first 11 chapters of Romans, which are the background for chapter 12, verses 1 and 2.) After discussing all of that doctrine, Paul then tells us to “present our bodies a living sacrifice,” our “reasonable service,” our intelligent service. It is only logical that God’s Word will transform our minds as we read it, and that transformed mind will result in transformed actions!

When talking to the Ephesian church leaders, Paul said: “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). The message of God’s grace to us in Christ—this doctrine we just briefly discussed—will build us up “in Him” (Colossians 2:7). This issue of “building up” will be further discussed in the next section.

We will now look at four simple verses. Galatians 2:20-21: “[20] I am crucified with Christ: neverthless 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. [21] I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” And Colossians 3:4: “…Christ, who is our life….” Finally, Philippians 1:21: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Again, we do not serve God under the Mosaic Law system of commandment keeping. It is Jesus Christ serving Father God in and through us! It is the life of Jesus Christ Himself!

The Christian life is really Jesus Christ living His life in and through Christians who walk by faith in His Word to them!

“STABLISHED IN THE FAITH”

The word “stablished” simply means “stabilized.” It is not the same as established,” which means “fixed on a foundation.” “Stablishment” is to ensure that you stay on that foundation, that you not wobble or sway from solid doctrinal ground. As we saw earlier very briefly, God does not want us to be “children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” (Ephesians 4:14-15). Our heavenly Father wants spiritually mature Christians who can identify and enjoy sound Bible doctrine, not naïve children who believe anything and everything they read (thereby falling prey to false teaching / Satan’s deception). Too many Christian people today are ignorant of what really matters. They are not studying their Bibles, but rather everything else. They quote denominational literature, creeds, statements of faith, et cetera, but they know little to nothing about what the Bible actually says.

Romans 16:25-26 explains “stablished in the faith:” “[25] Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, [26] But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:” According to these two verses, God will bring stability to our lives using a three-fold process:

  1. “my gospel”—Paul’s Gospel that declares that Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He was raised again for our justification (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This was how we were saved, and thus began our Christian walk.
  2. “the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery”—Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon. These 13 epistles are God’s Word written directly to us Gentiles in this the Dispensation of Grace. In Paul’s epistles alone, we find our doctrine, our duty, our walk, and our destiny as members of the Church the Body of Christ. This “secret” information that God once withheld from mankind has now been revealed through the Apostle Paul’s writings.
  3. “the scriptures of the prophets”—these are all the non-Pauline books of the Bible (Genesis-Malachi, Matthew-John, early Acts, Hebrews-Revelation), but understood in light of the doctrine revealed in Paul’s epistles. These too are God’s Word, and we study them as well, but they are not written to or about This is actually Israel’s program and doctrine, and we do not apply it to us.

Point #2 is of great importance in our study here because it provides information as to how the Christian life operates in the Dispensation of Grace. We cannot find that information outside of Paul’s epistles. Paul is “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13): he is the spokesman the Lord Jesus Christ sent to us. Paul’s epistles are “the faith”—the body of doctrine—that specifically applies to us in this the Dispensation of Grace. Rather than going back to the “weak and beggarly” (Galatians 4:9) system of Mosaic Law-keeping, we understand through Paul that we “are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14-15). As we noted earlier, God is not dealing with us on the basis of our performance. We are not under Israel’s legalistic (Law-keeping) system of “do good and I will bless you,” but rather under the system of His grace, “I have already blessed you in My Son and He will do good in and through you.” And please do not misunderstand, we are under grace not law, but God still cares how we live! Titus 2:11-13 explains: “[11] For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, [12] Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; [13] Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;”

Grace is everything that God can do for you through the finished crosswork of Jesus Christ at Calvary! As we discussed earlier, when Jesus Christ died, we died with Him, and when He was raised again, we were raised again. On that basis, God can now save us from eternal hellfire, as well as give us daily victory over sin. We read earlier that we are dead to sin and alive unto God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Sin is not who we are anymore, so it makes no sense for us to continue living in sin. This is the renewed mind, the way God thinks about us, and the way He wants us Christians to think about ourselves! “Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” We are to think soberly, we are to live righteously, and we are to have godly character.

“AS YE HAVE BEEN TAUGHT”

God’s will is to have all people saved and His will is that all saved people will come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). God wants you to learn His Word, dear friend! The Bible says that God gave “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers” to the Church the Body of Christ “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). While these spiritual gifts are no longer operating, we have the completed Word of God that takes the place of those spiritual gifts. We now have a completed revelation from God. A bishop should be “apt [able] to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2). Church leaders are ordained of God to teach His Word, the Holy Bible, pure and simple, in order for Jesus Christ’s people to be spiritually strengthened (“edified”). As a dear Christian brother once stated, “Your Christian life will not operate on the basis of ignorance!”

Yet, look around at Christendom today. Nearly 2,000 years after God’s written Word was completed, and the professing church has no more idea about what God wants it to do than it did before the Bible was written! Most “Bible-believing” churches are just not teaching the pure Holy Bible. Again, they are preaching and teaching false Bible versions and denominational systems. No wonder most professing Christians lack any spiritual understanding about the Bible. They are learning little to nothing in “church!” They lack spiritual growth, so they become more and more misled with false doctrine (Ephesians 4:14), just as a physical body suffering malnutrition is subject to weakness and sickness. The Body of Christ is afflicted with many a “doctrinal diseases” because they have not used God’s Word God’s way. They have not rightly divided the Word of Truth and caused great damage in the souls of many, lost and saved alike (2 Timothy 2:15-18). They have confused themselves with Israel and stolen her verses.

God gave us His written Word, the Holy Bible, in order to teach us about Himself and His purpose and plan for creation. Remember, Satan has his own purpose and plan for creation, so he has his false teachers and false Bible versions—beware! “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy 4:16). “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). “[Christ in you, the hope of glory] we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:” (Colossians 1:28). And Acts 20:28-30: “[28] Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. [29] For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. [30] Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”

Understanding and placing our faith in that written Word will then make us “perfect,” able to be used of God to the fullest extent possible: “[16] All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: [17] That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). This is why Bible study is so important, especially personal Bible study. Note: “Perfect” here does not mean sinless; it means “throughly furnished unto all good works” (spiritually mature, able to do anything and everything that God wants done). It is also important to remember that the Bible versions issue is significant. If we do not have the right Bible, then we have no hope of knowing God’s pure Word. We thus emphasize the use of the King James Bible, God’s preserved Word for us as English-speaking people. This cannot be stressed enough, dear friends. Modern English Bible translations are not safe!

Now consider 1 Corinthians 2:13: “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” The Holy Spirit teaches us His Holy Word as we read and consider it. We are then expected to believe what we read. Let us look at some cross-references: “Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)” (Ephesians 3:4). “Consider what I say, and the Lord give thee understanding in all things” (2 Timothy 2:7). “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:13).

“ABOUNDING THEREIN WITH THANKSGIVING”

My dear brethren, when we realize the full impact of what our Heavenly Father has done for us in and through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, we cannot help but have an attitude of gratitude toward Him. God’s Word will fill our hearts (souls) and it will just burst forth in thanksgiving and song! Imagine, such a holy, powerful God would want to have anything to do with a sinful, weakly human race! As you grow more and more in God’s Word, studying especially Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon, you will come to know the Lord Jesus Christ more and more. You will appreciate Him and what He has done for you more and more. You will enjoy Him and His will more and more. It will become such a delight! Misery in religion will just fade away!

  • Psalm 30:12: “To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.”
  • Psalm 70:30: “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.”
  • Psalm 75:1: “Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare.”
  • Psalm 106:1: “Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.”
  • Psalm 116:17: “I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.”
  • Psalm 118:29: “O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.”
  • 1 Corinthians 15:57: “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • 2 Corinthians 2:14: “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.”
  • 2 Corinthians 4:15: “For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.”
  • 2 Corinthians 9:15: Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.”
  • Ephesians 5:4b: “but rather giving of thanks
  • Philippians 4:6: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”
  • Colossians 1:12: “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:”
  • Colossians 3:16-17: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”
  • Colossians 4:2: “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
  • Hebrews 13:15: “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.”

CONCLUSION

Colossians 2:6-7: “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.”

In summary, God’s will for the Christian is for him or her to study His Word, the Holy King James Bible, on a daily basis. God the Holy Spirit will then use that doctrine that was studied and believed and work in the Christian for God’s glory. The result will be the very life of Jesus Christ manifested in and through the Christian. This is “grace living,” not law-keeping! Three great passages that deal with specifics of Christian living are Romans chapter 12, Ephesians chapter 4, and Colossians chapter 3, and you are encouraged to read those passages, too. They are very handy to re-read and memorize verses from, that deal with daily Christian living.

While by no means exhaustive, this “brief” study attempted to capture the highlights. You are strongly encouraged to read Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, to find all the details. Also, you can see the three studies linked below that provide additional insight into Christian living and Bible understanding. It is the author’s hope and prayer that you can benefit from these materials, and that you reach others with them. This information is not being taught as it should, and that is why the Body of Christ is so doctrinally weak.

Dear saint, above all, may you grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ who loved you and gave Himself for you (Galatians 2:20). May you walk by faith in an intelligent understanding of who God has made you in Him, so He can then manifest His life in and through you. That, ultimately, is God’s will for your Christian life!

Also see:
» Does “once saved, always saved” entitle us to abuse God’s grace?
» What Scriptural advice can you give me for the New Year?
» Does “walking in the Spirit” mean the same thing as “living in the Spirit?”

Were there five crosses on Calvary’s hill?

WERE THERE FIVE CROSSES ON CALVARY’S HILL?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Years ago, I was introduced to the above question by a so-called “grace Bible teacher.” For some time, I wondered about its likelihood. Having never heard it before (and never heard it since), and having recently left denominationalism, I was willing to be taught if it was what the Bible said. Were there the traditional three crosses? Or, were there really five crosses? Being very weak in the Bible at the time, I did not have a clear answer, so I just pushed it aside in my mind. All these years later, I have decided to reexamine the matter by studying my Bible. This study is the fruit of that study. As always, we search the Scriptures to see what the Bible actually says instead of carelessly believing and parroting what a Bible teacher or preacher says.

The “five-crosses-on-Calvary” idea is predicated upon the following verses and logic.

“THIEVES”

Matthew 27:38,44: “[38] Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left. [44] The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.”

Mark 15:27: “And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.”

“MALEFACTORS”

Luke 23:32-33,39: “[32] And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. [33] And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. [39] And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.”

PRETTY SIMPLE, RIGHT?

While the above verses are straightforward, leave it to denominationally-minded people to confuse what God Almighty has stated so simply. Here comes a mouthful!

FOUR INDIVIDUALS—TWO MALEFACTORS AND TWO THIEVES? OR, TWO INDIVIDUALS—TWO MALEFACTORS WHO WERE THIEVES?

As usual, when people “run to the Greek,” they run into problems. They point out that “malefactor” in the “original Greek” is kakourgos while “thief” is lestes. Then, they argue that this change in nouns must indicate two individuals who were malefactors and two other individuals who were thieves. These four people—not two—were crucified with Jesus Christ. Consequently, it is said that there were five crosses on Calvary’s mount (instead of the traditional three). Is this a sound conclusion? (No!)

MAKING SENSE OF IT ALL

While the above people may be sincere, it just shows us that “turning to the original Greek for nuggets” is not as beneficial as we have been led to believe. In fact, it can be quite detrimental! They have used the Greek language to introduce a bias, a tradition of their own! Beloved, we are dealing with an English Bible, so we just need to get an English dictionary and get some English definitions instead of relying on a preacher’s opinions concerning a Greek dictionary and Greek definitions.

The Oxford American English Dictionary says a “malefactor” is “a person who commits a crime or some other wrong” (male meaning “ill,” and facere meaning “do”). It defines a “thief” as “a person who steals another’s property, esp. by stealth and without using force or violence.” No theological degree or linguistic degree is needed to understand that “malefactor” is general and “thief” is specific. All criminals are malefactors, but not all malefactors are thieves.

Now, John settles the matter as to how many individuals were crucified with Jesus. We read in John 19:18: “Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.” They crucified Jesus and “two other with him.” The “two other” is neutral: they are not described with specificity (“malefactors” or “thieves”). This little clue, paired with a little common sense, will now work wonders! If there were two “thieves” (mentioned in Matthew and Mark only) and two “malefactors” (mentioned in Luke only), and John says two “other” were crucified with Jesus in the middle, it becomes frighteningly clear. Blending all four descriptions we conclude: “Jesus Christ was crucified between two individuals, no more and no less. These two men were ‘malefactors,’ for they were criminals. These two individuals were also thieves, for they had stolen someone else’s property.” (Could they be “thieves” only and not “malefactors?” Of course not! Theft is a crime, and a malefactor is a criminal. Being two thieves automatically qualified them to be two malefactors!) How simple!

SUPPLEMENTAL: SOME FURTHER DEBUNKING

The “four-crucified-with-Christ” belief simply does not add up when closely scrutinized. That supposition greatly damages simple passages. Permit us to demonstrate. Let us handle the “Barabbas” verses in the same manner the “four-crucified-with-Christ” adherents use the verses about “malefactors” and “thieves.” We read the following about Barabbas: a “notable prisoner” (Matthew 27:16), “made insurrection and committed murder in the insurrection,” (Mark 15:7), cast into prison for “a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder” (Luke 23:18), and a “robber” (John 18:40).

Handling these verses in the same manner the “four-crucified-with-Christ” people use the “malefactors” and “thieves” verses, we ask, were there four Barabbases instead of the traditional one? Was there one Barabbas guilty of “insurrection and murder?” Was there another Barabbas known as a “notable prisoner?” Was there yet another Barabbas in the prison, a “robber?” Was there a fourth Barabbas held prisoner, one who was a seditionist and murderer? See, it gets sillier and sillier when we carry the concept all the way throughout the Bible. Here is the simple truth. There was one Barabbas freed when Jesus was condemned. Barabbas, one man, fit all four descriptions. There were no four criminals crucified with Christ any more than there were four Barabbases who were released when Jesus was condemned. In the case of the thieves and malefactors, there were two people—two malefactors who were also thieves.

One more example of how the “four-crucified-with-Christ” mindset is dangerous. What did the sign above Jesus’ head read on the cross?

  • Was it, “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS” (Matthew 27:37)?
  • Or, was it, “THE KING OF THE JEWS” (Mark 15:26)?
  • Maybe it was, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS” (Luke 23:38)?
  • Or was it, “JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS” (John 19:19)?

Perhaps there were four signs on Jesus’ cross, one bearing each different phrase? Of course not! Again, beloved, we need not complicate Scriptures. People are confused enough about them. There was only one sign above Jesus’ head, and it read in full “THIS IS JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.” We just combine all four accounts. Each writer is viewing Jesus’ life from a different perspective, but remember it is the same life! All four Gospel records complement one another in that they read differently. Their testimony is more reliable when they do not read word-perfect. Exact phraseology throughout would likely indicate collaboration (and the critics would love that so they could discredit it!).

CONCLUSION

All religious confusion aside, the testimony of the Bible is clear. Unless we have a tradition to uphold, we will agree with the Scriptures. There were two and only two individuals crucified with the Lord Jesus Christ. Both of these criminals (“malefactors”) had been guilty of thievery (“thieves”). What they stole must have been of great worth, or had belonged to some elite citizen or leader. Maybe they committed other crimes as well to receive the death penalty with Jesus. Who knows, and frankly, who cares! It makes no eternal difference where the Bible is silent.

Perhaps in a sincere effort to smooth over diverse Bible terms that describe the same event, or to discover something new no one else has, people quickly fall into wacky ideas. To Satan’s delight, they greatly damage the Bible’s testimony and thus destroy people’s faith in it. If we stumble over something as simple as the number of crosses on Calvary’s hill, do we have any hope of understanding the deeper (and more important!) concepts of God’s Holy Word? We do not!

Also see:
» Did Mary, Jesus’ mother, have a sister also named Mary?
» Were there really three wise men?
» Why does the Bible give two accounts of Judas’s death?

How can a loving God send people to hell forever?

HOW CAN A LOVING GOD SEND PEOPLE TO HELL FOREVER?

by Shawn Brasseaux

How can a loving God send people to hell to be tormented forever and ever? There is a plain and simple answer to this question that is repeatedly asked. Usually, this question is not asked in faith. It is often asked by people who just want to ridicule and scorn, or people who want to deceive themselves into thinking they are not going to such an awful place. How would God want us to answer those who challenge the reality of hell and the lake of fire? Should we just be silent, or should we tell them something? How do we go about explaining it to them? Dear friend, all we have to do is look in the Bible to see what it says, believe what we find it says, and then tell others what it says. “For what saith the Scriptures?”

THE GOODNESS OF THE GOD OF THE BIBLE

The God of the Bible has often been portrayed as a bloodthirsty, grouchy old man sitting in a rocking chair in heaven. He is depicted as a monster that is insensitive, distant, and cruel. Religion does not help in dispelling these myths, for religion is just that—insensitive, distant, and cruel. We want to demonstrate that the God of the Bible is a wonderful Person, a God who is kind beyond our wildest dreams.

We read why the God of the Bible is delaying His wrath in 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Why has God’s wrath not yet come upon this Christ-rejecting world? Is it because that wrath was not real? Was God was just “bluffing?” Sending out a false alarm? No, not at all! He is giving people ample time to be saved from that righteous wrath! How’s that for a loving God?

Just before the Babylonians came and deported Judah into captivity, the Lord GOD asked these rhetorical questions in Ezekiel chapter 18: “[23] Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? … [30] Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. … [32] For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” The God of the Bible pled with Judah to straighten up, that His wrath not come upon them, and yet He knew they would not listen to Him. How’s that for a loving God?

Or, let us try Ezekiel 33:10-11: “[10] Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live? [11] Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?Again, JEHOVAH God the Father wanted Israel to turn around, do right, that they not die because of their sins. How’s that for a loving God?

And Lamentations 3:22-23, when the Babylonians finally came and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple: “[22] It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. [23] They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” Are you not glad that God deals with you on the basis of your faithfulness but rather on the basis of His faithfulness? If it were your faithfulness, you would have been consumed a long time ago! How’s that for a loving God?

The Apostle John wrote, “God is love” (1 John 4:8,16). Surely, the God of the Bible is not simply loving, but rather He is love. His very nature is love; to wit, He lives without any selfishness. God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Ghost all live for each other’s benefit. Actually, the very first time the word “love” appears in Scripture is in Genesis 22:2: Abraham loved his only begotten son, Isaac, which represented God the Father’s love for His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. How’s that for a loving God?

Another glimpse of the loving unity among the three Persons of the Godhead/Trinity is Jesus’ prayer to His heavenly Father: “for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). God the Father called Jesus Christ “my beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). The three Persons of Godhead do not simply love one another, but they also love undeserving mankind. Again, how’s that for a loving God?

The Apostle John wrote in 1 John 4:19, “We love him [God], because he first loved us.” The Apostle Paul confirmed, God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Paul also affirmed, “…the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Why God loves such wicked creatures as us is still difficult to grasp. How’s that for a loving God?

And we see in Micah 7:18-20: “[18] Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. [19] He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. [20] Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.” Someone who cleanses the sins of those who will never deserve that forgiveness? Someone who delights in mercy? Someone who is not angry forever? Someone who has compassion on the unloving and unlovely? How’s that for a loving God?

We read in Joel 2:12-13: “[12] Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: [13] And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.” JEHOVAH God declared that He did not want to judge wicked Israel. He wanted them to reform, that they not experience His wrath. Again, how’s that for a loving God?

And the Bible says in Jonah 4:1-2: “[1] But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. [2] And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.” Jonah said the reason why he refused to go to Nineveh and preach to them was because he knew God would be merciful if they repented. After the encounter with the whale, Jonah went to Nineveh and preached to them. When the city reformed, Jonah was greatly disappointed and very angry. He wanted God to destroy them, but God was merciful in not punishing Nineveh! How’s that for a loving God?

Psalm 145:8-9 is a wonderful set of verses: “[8] The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. [9] The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.” Again, how’s that for a loving God? The God of the Bible is very gracious, loving, and compassionate, but we should not overlook that He is also a God of justice and righteousness. Recall Exodus 34:6-7: “[6] And the LORD passed by before him [Moses], and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, [7] Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” How’s that for a loving God, that He would be forgiving and longsuffering and gracious and abundant in goodness and truth?

Again, there is no question about the fact that the God of the Bible is love: the Bible clearly teaches, “God is love” (1 John 4:8,16). However, the sinner had better not assume that the God of the Bible is nothing but love, for he or she will have quite the shock when he or she faces an angry God in judgment!

After discussing man’s specific sins in Romans 1:18-32, Paul begins Romans chapter 2: “[1] Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. [2] But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. [3] And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? [4] Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? [5] But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; [6] Who will render to every man according to his deeds: [7] To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: [8] But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, [9] Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; [10] But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: [11] For there is no respect of persons with God.”

Paul was the greatest servant the Lord Jesus Christ ever commissioned to teach and preach God’s grace and love to us in Christ. Yet, even Paul was honest about God’s wrath and justice when he preached God’s grace and love. Romans chapter 2 is one such clear instance. The Holy Spirit through Paul had religious people in mind when He wrote, “[5] God… [6] Who will render every man according to his deeds… [8] But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, [9] Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also the Gentile” (Romans 2:5-6,8-9). Man’s pathetic efforts to appease a holy God will have one result—”indignation, wrath, tribulation, and anguish,” forever, and ever, and ever, and ever. Sinners can merit nothing but God’s wrath. They cannot merit God’s grace or God’s blessings.

We can conclude this section by looking at Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:3-6: “[3] But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; [4] Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. [5] For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. [6] Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.”

GOD’S JUSTICE DEMANDS HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS BE DEFENDED

The idea of a “loving Jesus” is discussed ad nauseam among “feel-good” circles in Christendom. Many decades ago, a Bible commentator wrote about how liberalism and modernism had crept into Christianity, and how “God’s love” and “God’s Fatherhood of all” and “God’s goodness” were constantly being stressed, at the expense of God’s holiness, righteousness, and justice. The writer talked about how there was too much preaching about “God’s love” and nothing about “God’s wrath!” How much more today!

Friends, to emphasize God’s love to such an extent that His justice and utter hatred for sin are ignored, is a grave error. It actually harms people rather than helping them. It not only involves being dishonest with people, but it entails being deceitful using God’s Word. To make the Bible popular with man, the average local church is pressured (and sadly often acquiesces) into presenting Bible reading as a “get happy quick” scheme. The Scriptures are appealed to only when someone needs money, encouragement, physical healing, et cetera. There is no sincere desire to learn the timeless truths of the Bible for the sake of trying to better understand His will for us. God is not merely a God of love. He is also a God of righteousness and justice. Anytime an action does not measure up to God’s standard of rightness, His justice requires a punishment. We can look at four brief, simple examples in Scripture.

IN THE DAYS OF NOAH

Genesis chapter 6 opens up with the world totally corrupt. Man’s thoughts are nothing but evil and his actions are nothing but violent: “[5] And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. [6] And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.”

It is here in human history that God finds Noah, one man in the world who has not abandoned His Word. Of all the millions—if not billions—of people in the world at that time, God can only find one man of faith! Noah “walked with God” (Genesis 6:9) because he believed what God said to him. God instructed him to build an ark of wood to save his house, as well as save the animal species of the world. Hebrews 11:7 says that Noah “became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” For over 100 years (Genesis 6:3), Noah was “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5) as he prepared that ark of gopher wood (1 Peter 3:20).

Through Noah’s words, God warned the millions upon millions—if not billions—of people of the impending global flood. As the ark was under construction, God patiently waited for over one century for mankind to get right with Him. Alas, they refused to listen to Noah’s message, and not one showed up on the ark. It is important to note that after the ark was finished, God gave mankind another seven days before the floodwaters came from above and from beneath (Genesis 7:4,10). Still, no one came to the ark for salvation, and they all drowned. How’s that for a loving God, that He gave them a century to reform to not avail? Again, lost mankind had ignored God’s warnings of impending wrath, and mankind alone was to blame. There were eight believers in the entire world at the time of the Great Flood (2 Peter 2:5)!

IN THE DAYS OF ABRAHAM

We can see how JEHOVAH, Israel’s God, the God of the Bible, is very patient. It takes very much to anger Him and cause Him to retaliate in righteous indignation and wrath. When His patience is finally exhausted, one does not want to be in the path of what is coming! God is “slow to anger,” but He is “great in power,” and He will never let sinners off. This is the justice that we need in this world, if things are ever to be made right. Beloved, we all know how things have to be set right in the end, and God Himself will see to it. Hell and the lake of fire are part of God’s plan to make things right.

Sodom and Gomorrah were in Palestine (their ruins may be near the Dead Sea’s southern shore). These two wicked cities were engaged in homosexual activity (“going after strange flesh;” Jude 7). Abraham, Israel’s greatest patriarch, negotiated with God regarding His wrath on those two ungodly cities. In Genesis chapter 18, two angels and the LORD (in a theophany, pre-incarnate human form) visit Abraham. Abraham, knowing the wrath is soon coming upon Sodom and Gomorrah, asks the LORD in verse 23, “Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?”

Abraham reasons with the LORD: if there are 50 righteous people in the city of Sodom, will God destroy them all with the wicked? The LORD agrees not to destroy Sodom if there are 50 righteous people living in it (verse 26). Abraham decreases the number from 45 (verse 28), to 40 (verse 29), to 30 (verse 30), to 20 (verse 31), and finally, to 10 (verse 32). The LORD agrees, “I will not destroy it for ten’s sake” (verse 32). How’s that for a loving God?

Again, we see God’s great mercy. He is not a ruthless monster, but He is quite willing to spare Sodom if there are just 10 believers there. We all know what happened, however. Genesis chapter 19 continues: “[24] Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; [25] And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.” Imagine that—there were not even 10 believers in the LORD, dwelling in the city of Sodom!

IN THE DAYS OF THE PROPHET NAHUM

The Prophet Nahum wrote about the divine judgment coming upon apostate Nineveh. It was the capital city of the Assyrian Empire that the Prophet Jonah had visited and in which he preached God’s Word centuries before. Nahum predicted: “[2] God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies. [3] The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet” (Nahum 1:2-3).

In 612 B.C., God meted out His wrath on Nineveh as other Gentile armies came in and defeated it (just as Nahum predicted). The Ninevites had abandoned Israel’s God and the message that the Prophet Jonah preached to them nearly two centuries earlier, and Nineveh had reached the point that it was beyond saving. God’s love did not do away with His wrath. His justice had to be satisfied, and it was when other Gentiles punished wicked Nineveh.

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS

Dear friends, there is coming a day when this dispensation will end, and Israel’s program will resume. God’s people, the Church the Body of Christ, will be taken into heaven at the Rapture, and the unbelievers will remain behind on Earth. Once the Antichrist appears, the seven-year Tribulation will run its course.

We read from 2 Thessalonians chapter 2: “[7] For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. [8] And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: [9] Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, [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.”

We want to pay close attention to verse 10. The unbelievers “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” The lost experiencing the seven-year Tribulation period, Daniel’s 70th week, did they want God’s love in our Dispensation of Grace? Did they want a God of love, a God who died for them at Calvary? No. Did those in hell want a God of love? No. Will a God of love force Himself on those who reject Him? No! Will God force people to accept His love and force them into heaven? No! The God of the Bible values free will—He did not create us as robots. A loving God will let people go to hell because they do not want a loving God and they do not want His heaven that is filled with His love. They prefer to hate the living and loving God of the Bible. They prefer to hate Jesus Christ, who loved them so much that He died for them.

1 John 3:16: “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” How’s that for a loving God?

Romans 5:8: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” How’s that for a loving God?

1 John 4:10: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” How’s that for a loving God?

If people reject the love of God that He demonstrated to us at Calvary’s cross, the love He displayed by sending His Son Jesus Christ to die in our place, if they scoff and reject His sacrifice, then the plain and simple truth is that those people are the ones who are “unloving!”

CONCLUSION

How could a loving police officer arrest law-breakers? The police officer believes in justice, so he or she will enforce it. How can a loving parent discipline his or her unruly child? The parent believes in justice, so he or she will enforce it. How can a loving judge sentence a proven murderer to life in prison? The judge believes in justice, so he or she will enforce it. How can a loving jury find the defendant “guilty” in light of the incriminating evidence. The jury believes in justice, so they will enforce it. How can a loving teacher send a disobedient student to the principal’s office for corporal punishment, suspension, or expulsion? The teacher believes in justice, so he or she will enforce it. If we would not criticize these people, perhaps we had better use our tongues more wisely than to blame God for the eternal destiny sinners choose for themselves.

Suppose you had two grown sons, and one murdered the other in secret. “Oh, son, I love you so much I will overlook what happened. You killed your brother, but I will not turn you over to the authorities! You can hideout in my house from those unloving officers!” What about this? “Officer, why have you arrested me for driving while intoxicated? Why are you so unloving?! You need to be more lenient!” What about that? While everyone will agree I am being silly, some blame God for the poor decisions of sinners. Is that not sillier? Yea, it is insanity, pure insanity! When someone asks, “How can a loving God send people to hell?,” it is a flawed question. It is question of unbelief, for the Bible declares that He will not let sinners escape. The question should be, “How could a just God not create a place called hell?” Would He really be God if He were loving and not just/fair? Think of all the people who would then say, “Oh, how unfair God is! He always lets the evil person get away with wickedness!” Instead of nitpicking and putting God on trial, we should say: “How God is ever so loving! He sent His only begotten Son to an awful Roman cross, to shed His sinless blood for us, that we not go to the awful hellfire we merited as sinners!”

Someone once appropriately said, “God’s love will never let you go, God’s love will never let you down, and God’s love will never let you off.” Contrary to popular belief, God does not send people to hell; they choose to go there. Jesus Christ died for man’s sins, His innocent blood was shed, He was buried, and He was raised again the third day. That is the Gospel of Grace of 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. Faith in this Gospel of the Grace of God is man’s only way to escape the righteous wrath of God. God has done everything to keep man from going to hell, but if man refuses to accept God’s solution for sin by faith, God will let man reap the eternal penalty of sin. That penalty is to eternally exist in a place where God’s wrath is meted out and His justice against sin is the punishment of unredeemed sinners. His wrath is never appeased so hellfire must last forever. Remember, one must cross many barriers to wind up in eternal hellfire. One has to ignore the Gospel, ignore the Christians, ignore the Bible, ignore Jesus Christ. No one ever “accidentally” went (or goes) to hell!

If there were no place such as eternal hellfire, there would never be any true justice in creation. Sin would have no penalty, and creatures (angels and humans) could do whatever they wanted without fear of punishment. Matthew 25:41 says that “everlasting fire” was originally “prepared for the devil and his angels.” God never intended man to go to everlasting fire: that punishment was meant for Satan and his angels. Hell was God’s response to the angelic rebellion in heaven. It was to keep the rest of the angels from following that rebellion. However, when man joined that rebellion in Genesis chapter 3, he too became worthy of such a dreadful place.

Someone once asked, “Why would a loving God send you to hell because you did not believe in Him?” Simply put, God has a special place reserved for people who deliberately refuse to participate in glorifying His Son Jesus Christ. That place is called “hell,” and the ultimate destiny is “the lake of fire.” Notice what Psalm 7:11 says: “God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.” And Hebrews 12:28-29: “[28] Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: [29] For our God is a consuming fire.” Or, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8: “[7] And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, [8] In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:”

And, Jesus’ very unpopular hellfire discourse in Mark chapter 9: “[43] And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: [44] Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. [45] And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: [46] Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. [47] And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: [48] Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. [49] For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. [50] Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.” (Modern English versions and their underlying manuscripts bracket off as uninspired or completely eliminate verses 44 and 46 for obvious reasons.)

Dear reader, it is the author’s burden that you not die and go to hell forever. You may not believe in hell right now, but after you die, you will change your mind, and by then it will be too late. Do not put off salvation through Jesus Christ another second. What God the Father wants to see is your faith/trust resting solely in Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork. He died for your sins, He was buried, and He was raised again the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Please trust Him and Him alone, and you will never know about hell beyond the pages of Scripture.

Also see:
» Is hellfire really forever? (COMING SOON!)
» What about those who have not heard?
» Why did Jesus Christ stand in Acts 7:55-56?

Did God “rape” Mary?

DID GOD “RAPE” MARY?

by Shawn Brasseaux

It is quite a crude question, a despicable concept, and a very irreverent statement. Demonstrating their absolute hatred for the Bible, some have mocked that Christians worship and serve a God who “raped” Mary in order to conceive the Lord Jesus! Bible critics need to be answered on this point. This article will prove such Bible scoffers as nothing more than fools. They have not really read the Bible at all, they know nothing about the Bible at all, and they need to shut their mouths before they spew any more of their ignorance! Before we slander the God whom we will stand before in judgment one day, before He hold us accountable for that reckless insult, we had better get into His Word, see what it actually says about this most important matter, and believe it!

A CONCEPTION AND BIRTH PROPHESIED CENTURIES BEFORE

For many centuries before the New Testament times, the nation Israel was expecting the arrival of the Messiah, the “Anointed One” who would rescue them from their Gentile oppressors, bring them into their Promised Land, and reign over them as their King. During this waiting period, there were preaching prophets and writing prophets of JEHOVAH God. Their sermons and writings are found in our Old Testament Scriptures. Led by the Holy Spirit, these men preached and wrote to Israel additional and assorted truths about this coming Anointed One (see 1 Peter 1:10-11). Every Sabbath day, the Jews went to the synagogues for their worship services. Part of these religious gatherings was reading portions of Scripture from Genesis through Deuteronomy (Moses’ writings) and other prophets (Joshua through Malachi). “For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day” (Acts 15:21). And Acts 13:27: “For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.”

Some 1,500 years before Mary gave birth to Baby Jesus, the Jews had constantly read and heard of “the seed of the woman” of Genesis 3:15. A Man would be born one day to reverse the damage that Adam had done in following Satan in sin. Israel knew there was a spiritual battle, Satan fighting against God, and they knew their role in that conflict. They were to be the channel of blessing through whom God would be victorious on Earth (Genesis 12:1-3). The earthly kingdom that Adam lost would now be given to them (Israel), and Messiah would be their King in that paradise.

Nearly 600 years prior to Messiah’s birth, the Prophet Daniel provided the timeline in chapter 9 of his famous book: “[25] Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. [26] And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.” The Jews read this for six centuries.

According to Daniel, the Messiah would be “cut off,” or die, 69 weeks of years (69 x 7 = 483 years) after Nehemiah’s generation would rebuild Jerusalem’s wall. That rebuilding occurred circa 450 B.C., and 483 years forward would be A.D. 33. Knowing that Messiah would be a priest (Zechariah 6:12-13), and that a Jewish priest had to be at least 30 years old to function in the ministry (Numbers 4:3), a believing Jew understood that Messiah’s birth coincided with the time of the virgin Mary’s birth of Jesus. (Calendar differences cause some offset of the years in our Gentile reckoning of time. In the Bible’s reckoning of time, Messiah’s birth was not so much as one day early or one day late!)

In fact, the Prophet Isaiah (7:14) could not have been clearer about Messiah’s mother and the unusual child she would bear: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (This was quoted in Matthew 1:20-25, which we will see shortly.) This was another validation that Jesus was Messiah… 700 B.C.

And Micah 5:2 pinpointed His birthplace 700 years beforehand: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” (This was quoted in Matthew 2:1-6.) A third confirmation of Jesus’ Messiahship. Due to Joseph and Mary’s relocation for a census, that is exactly where Jesus was born—Bethlehem of Judaea!

The Jews knew there would be born in their midst a King of David’s lineage, One who would fulfill the above prophecies and many others. While most of Israel was in apostasy and spiritual blindness, there was a faithful remnant when we come to the “New Testament” Scriptures. Note some examples of this believing remnant in Israel: “them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38), “[those] waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25), and “[those who] waited for the kingdom of God” (Mark 15:43). These believing people had an eye to see, an ear to hear, and a heart to trust those Old Testament Messianic prophecies. They knew the time of Messiah’s arrival had finally come with Jesus!

THE FULFILLMENT OF THAT WHICH WAS PROPHESIED CENTURIES BEFORE

Joseph, after Mary’s conception of Jesus, hears the explanation from the angel of the Lord. This passage does not concern us here, so we will provide the verses but with little commentary.

We read in Matthew 1:18-25: “[18] Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. [19] Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. [20] But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. [21] And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. [22] Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet [Isaiah 7:14, quoted above], saying, [23] Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. [24] Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: [25] And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.” All we want to note here is that while Joseph knew of the Old Testament prophecies of Messiah, he needed to be informed that his wife was the woman God had chosen to bring Messiah into the world.

Months before that passage in Matthew occurred, the Angel Gabriel had approached Mary. Note Luke 1:26-38: “[26] And in the sixth month [of Elisabeth’s pregnancy, verse 24 and verse 36] the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, [27] To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. [28] And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. [29] And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. [30] And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. [31] And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. [32] He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: [33] And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. [34] Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? [35] And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. [36] And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. [37] For with God nothing shall be impossible. [38] And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.”

We want to focus especially on verse 38: “And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” The virgin Mary was very familiar with those Old Testament prophecies about Messiah, but to hear that she would play a vital role in fulfilling them was surely mind-blowing for her, to say the least! Upon learning the news that God had selected her to bear the physical body of His Son, Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory, Mary was not resistant. At first, she was puzzled because God had chosen her of all people, a humble servant. Then, when the news sank in, Mary was thrilled. She was a willing participant in the conception of Jesus Christ. Why is this important to note?

As defined by The Oxford American Dictionary, “rape” is “the crime, committed by a man, of forcing another person to have sexual intercourse with him without their consent and against their will, esp. by the threat or use of violence against them.” Was Mary “raped” by God? Of course not! You would have to willfully ignorant to reach such a dumb conclusion. God did not use Mary against her will. God never took away her free will. He did not threaten her or abuse her. Mary said, “Be it unto me according to thy word! I will gladly participate in what God is doing!” Before she even found herself pregnant, Mary was aware of what would happen. “And, behold, thou shalt [future tense!] conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS” (Luke 1:31). Mary did not just wake up one morning and discover what God the Holy Ghost had done in her body. She knew beforehand what would occur and she did not object to it. It was not rape, dear friends.

Later, when Mary visited her cousin Elisabeth, Mary burst forth into song, quoting various Old Testament verses. Had God “raped” Mary, why was she so joyful? What rape victim happily sings after the crime occurs? We continue reading in Luke chapter 1: “[46] And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, [47] And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. [48] For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. [49] For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. [50] And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. [51] He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. [52] He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. [53] He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. [54] He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; [55] As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.”

Again, Mary was excited about being the mother of Jesus Christ’s physical body. She was not used of God against her will. Mary was a woman of faith. She believed her Old Testament Scriptures and she was exuberant that they were being fulfilled. JEHOVAH God had been so faithful to Israel in keeping His Word. Mary was most delighted in doing His work with Him!

Also see:
» What is the “Immaculate Conception?”
» Was Jesus born on the 25th of December?
» What was the Star of Bethlehem?