Monthly Archives: September 2015

Should Christians support wars or should they be pacifists?

SHOULD CHRISTIANS SUPPORT WARS OR SHOULD THEY BE PACIFISTS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

What a loaded question, dear friend, but I am more than happy to answer it from the Scriptures.

Just so we all know exactly what “pacifism” is, we consult The Oxford American English Dictionary: “the belief that any violence, including war, is unjustifiable under any circumstances, and that all disputes should be settled by peaceful means.” Its sub-definition is: “the refusal to participate in war or military service because of such a belief.” With “pacifism” now defined, we can see what the Holy Scriptures say about it.

Absolutely, we should try to live peaceably with all people, especially with other Christians. The Bible says, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). Yes, we agree with the pacifists in that all disputes should be settled by peaceful means. Unfortunately, that is not always feasible. We have to live in reality and not in a fantasyland. Not everyone wants to be our friend. Some nations/leaders/people are simply not interested in getting along with anyone, anywhere, anytime. They just want to bicker with, bully, conquer, and plunder others. Pacifism is of no use when the other party is bent on harming or killing you!

James 4:1 says that, because of sin, wars are inevitable: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” Whether or not we have weapons, wars cannot be avoided! Weapons do not cause wars! Sin causes wars! Sin causes violence! Weapons do not cause violence! Sinners cause violence!

THE DIVINE ORDINANCE OF GOVERNMENT/NATIONALISM

The God of the Bible instituted government and national borders to protect life and property. Without defined borders and a strong military, any country could be invaded and robbed by another. In this sin-cursed world, God never intended pacifism. He wants distinct nations, borders that are clearly defined. Study Genesis chapter 10, when God separated Noah’s descendants to create the nations of the world. Acts 17:26 summarizes: “[God] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” God gave all nations definable boundaries. When those boundaries are crossed, that is a breach of divine institution.

When commenting on human governments, the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul talks about the “sword” in Romans 13:4. This is the military power that God gave to human governments. Governments, as God intended, are to suppress Satan’s policy of evil. Evil cannot reign in a nation unless its government allows it—that is, provided the government itself is not corrupt, ignorant of God’s Word. To ensure sound Bible doctrine is upheld, the government should defend itself against those entities that want to overthrow the reign of righteousness. That includes guarding sound Bible doctrine from those outside the nation as well as those evil individuals within the nation. There is safety in nationalism, for nationalism ensures “pockets” of righteousness will flourish. True, nations are corrupt, but there is no one chief nation controlling them all. A dictator in one country has no sway over all nations. If one nation is corrupt, one may flee to another nation.

THE MOSAIC LAW AND THE PROTECTION OF PERSONAL PROPERTY

In the Mosaic Law, JEHOVAH God went to great lengths to ensure personal property was secure. One law that applies to our current discussion is, “If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him” (Exodus 22:2). That is to say, if a thief was “breaking and entering” and the owner of the house or property caught him or her in the act, and the owner in self-defense struck/injured the thief, even to the point of the thief dying, God Almighty said the owner was justified in taking the life of the intruder. Under these circumstances, the divine commandment was that personal property could be guarded, even to the point of the criminal’s death. Sometimes, matters cannot be settled with a rational discussion. In this case of personal property being wrongfully taken, God tolerated violence and killing.

Let us extend the above principle to the national level. If a terrorist group wants to come to our nation and take over it, we are justified in forcing them to retreat. We should not “pick” at them and make them mad. There must be an utter defeat of them, that they think twice about coming back again… if coming back at all! Whatever military hardware and equipment we have, we need to use it to defend ourselves and our property. There is nothing sinful about it. What is sinful is when personal property is not respected, and then the owner is wrongly blamed when he or she defends that property.

EXAMPLES OF ISRAEL’S WARS SANCTIONED BY GOD

Throughout the Old Testament, God encouraged Israel to war with her enemies. He would actually give them the victory when they obeyed Him. Even beyond our day, the God of the Bible will fight Israel’s battles for to deliver her from the nations and the Antichrist. (More on this later.)

Perhaps the chief example of God warring on Israel’s behalf is in Exodus chapter 14, when He destroyed Pharaoh and his armies who were trying to slaughter the Jews. Moses encourages fretting Israel in verse 14, “The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” In chapter 15, Israel sings the Song of Moses, part of it being, The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name” (verse 3). What had the LORD Himself just done? Had He pled with Egypt to stop harassing His people? Had He settled the matter peacefully? Oh, not at all, friends! Earlier, Pharaoh had nearly a dozen opportunities to do right, and he failed to act right in all of them. JEHOVAH God was not going to play around with wicked Egypt anymore. He took Pharaoh’s mighty armies, skillfully drew them into the empty sea basin, and then He crushed them with mighty waves of water. As the Jews saw the dead soldiers’ bodies floating, they sang out in victory, “The LORD is a man of war!”

A few chapters later, Israel is (again) complaining for water to drink. God provides water for them by having Moses strike a rock. In that Middle Eastern desert, water is a rare commodity, so when the Amalekites see Israel enjoying it, they want to fight the Jews to get it. You can read all about in Exodus chapter 17. Suffice it to say that there is another war that God Himself supported! Moses tells Joshua to gather some Jewish warriors to fight the Amalekites, which he does. By the end of the chapter, God gives Israel victory over the Amalekites. That water was Israel’s, and Israel’s alone. God would not let some foreigners come in and take what He had provided for Israel.

Notice how God encouraged Israel’s war with the Midianites before Moses died. Numbers 31:1-4 says: “[1] And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, [2] Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people. [3] And Moses spake unto the people, saying, Arm some of yourselves unto the war, and let them go against the Midianites, and avenge the LORD of Midian. [4] Of every tribe a thousand, throughout all the tribes of Israel, shall ye send to the war.”

After Moses’ decease, Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land, fighting many battles to win it from the Gentiles. You can read about that in the book of Joshua, but suffice it to say that God gave Israel many military victories under Joshua’s command. Do you recall how once God destroyed Jericho’s walls in chapter 6, He let Israel go in and fight and take Jericho’s possessions? For another instance of divinely-sanctioned war, see Joshua 10:8: “And the LORD said unto Joshua, Fear them not: for I have delivered them into thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee.”

JEHOVAH God empowered shy Gideon to become a mighty warrior and, with an army of 300 (!), he defeated the Midianites that had oppressed Israel (Judges chapters 7 and 8). Under Samuel’s leadership, and through God’s power, Israel defeated the Philistines and they never again came to Israel’s land while Samuel was alive (1 Samuel chapter 7). We are probably all familiar with King David’s battles—God gave him those victories. For example, 2 Samuel 8:6: “…And the LORD preserved David whithersoever he went.”

We read an interesting tidbit in 2 Samuel 5:10: “And David went on, and grew great, and the LORD God of hosts was with him.” The LORD God of hosts with David in all of his battles. The qualifier “of hosts” is a military epithet of God, a title that denotes His role as leader/commander of armies (mighty angelic armies). Later on in that chapter, David could hear the LORD (and perhaps his angelic soldiers) rushing forth in the winds, enabling him to defeat the Philistines (see verses 22-25).

These are just some examples of JEHOVAH and wars in the Old Testament economy.

DOES THAT MEAN WE SHOULD BE AGGRESSIVE?

Now, please do not misunderstand. Just because we have the God-given right to defend ourselves and our property, that does not mean that we should go around picking fights with other nations or individuals. What it does mean is that if they threaten us or our property, we have the God-given means (personal weapons, government, and military/police) to protect ourselves and our property. On a day-to-day basis, we should be at peace with others, especially with government (1 Timothy 2:1-3). But, again, this is not always possible.

“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). Again, there is no question that the Holy Spirit would have us get along with others. As Christians, we should be particularly careful to try to live peaceably with others. Remember, as Paul quoted Moses, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Galatians 5:14).

When someone tries to steal our possessions or kill us, God expects us to defend ourselves. Personal property and defending to keep it is a concept that God taught Israel throughout the Mosaic Law. The whole purpose of human government is to maintain order, and the military/police should protect citizens and their property, domestic and abroad.

DID JESUS TEACH AND PRACTICE PACIFISM?

Anti-war people enjoy citing how the Lord Jesus taught and practiced pacifism in His earthly ministry. They say we should follow Jesus and be peaceful. (What about following Jesus by faith in His crosswork? Oh no, that does not fit their agenda so they do not bother with that!) Supposedly, Jesus said to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) when someone smites us. (Actually, Jesus said if someone struck us on the right cheek, turn the other to him!) “Love your enemies,” they remind of us Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:44. It seems like the pacifists only know the Bible verses that they agree with. They ignore the verses we looked at earlier, the ones that describe the LORD Himself (Jesus Christ before He became a Man) fighting for Israel and encouraging her to go to war with her pagan neighbors.

We find a most fascinating passage in John chapter 2, a passage that “Bible-quoting pacifists” obviously disregard: “[13] And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. [14] And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: [15] And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; [16] And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. [17] And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” What did “pacifistic” Jesus do? He braided a whip and literally ran the thieves out of the Temple! How is that for “peaceful means?”

Friend, do you know why Jesus was so “peaceful” in Matthew through John? Was it because war was wrong? Nay! Jesus was largely peaceful because it was not yet time for Him to pour out His wrath! He had to first submit to sinful man so He could die His death on Calvary. He would return later to judge sinful man in righteous war.

Luke chapter 9: “[51] And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, [52] And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. [53] And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. [54] And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? [55] But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. [56] For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.”

THE LORD’S FUTURE BATTLE

After our Dispensation of Grace ends, there will come a battle, the most awesome battle the world has ever known or will ever know. The God of the Bible will once again prove that there is such a thing as a justified war. The 2,000-year-long period of God’s “grace and peace” (present-day Dispensation of Grace) will terminate. God will be finished with trying to get along with sinful mankind. Now, it will be full-fledged war… and, friend, God is sure to be victorious!

Consider Joel 3:9-11, the LORD’S exhortation to the nations to prepare to meet Him in battle: “[9] Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: [10] Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. [11] Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD.”

Do you know what the Prophet Joel is talking about? When the Lord Jesus Christ literally, physically, and visibly comes to Earth to conclude the seven-year Tribulation, when He gathers and then wipes out Israel’s enemies! As the “LORD of hosts,” He calls down His angelic armies and they fight against Satan’s human and angelic troops gathered on Earth. Revelation 19:11: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.” John the Apostle finished the chapter by talking about how the scavenger birds will come and devour the flesh of all the fallen soldiers of the Antichrist.

Zechariah the Prophet described this awesome Second Coming of Christ, in chapter 14: “[1] Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. [2] For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. [3] Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. [4] And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.”

Skipping the details, suffice it to say that this battle will make way for the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ on Earth (see Revelation chapter 20).

WHEN TRUE PEACE REIGNS ON EARTH

Let us be honest. As long as sin reigns on Earth, peace will not reign on Earth. Again, we recall what James 4:1 says: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” There is coming a day, however, when the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), Jesus Christ, will return and establish His earthly kingdom, a benevolent monarchy of truth and righteousness. It is then that true peace will abound on planet Earth. On the night the Lord Jesus was born, this is why the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14). Peace will come, true peace will come. Let us be patient.

Isaiah 2:2-4 says: “[2] And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. [3] And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. [4] And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more(cf. Micah 4:1-3).

What a day that will be!

Also see:
» Should Christians support the death penalty?
» Who will accompany Jesus at His second coming?
» Why did Jesus Christ stand in Acts 7:55-56?

What advice can be given to homosexual Christians?

WHAT ADVICE CAN BE GIVEN TO HOMOSEXUAL CHRISTIANS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Not long ago, I received an email from a Christian who is struggling with homosexual thoughts and feelings. It is his hope and my hope that this Bible study will help many of the precious people who are caught between Christianity and homosexuality. Friend, there is hope, there is an answer, and here it is from God’s Word rightly divided!

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“I truly have placed my trust in ‘The Gospel’ that Paul taught. But I feel old feelings are still after me. I never married because I did not have an attraction to females and have always known how God feels—Romans. I will not act on my feelings but do give myself relief. I cannot find what God says about that. I think there are people out there that would have this question but too scared to ask. I love the Lord and pray he will take this unnatural feeling away and it makes me question my salvation. I believe in right division but too ashamed of the comments my brothers and sisters knew. In fact no one has ever known except the Lord. Looking forward to scripture that will address this. Love the site and great information. I have shared it with others.”

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Hello, —. I am glad to help you, brother. It makes it much easier that you are a Christian and not an unsaved person. You already know the doctrine, and now you need to reckon it as true in your own life. There needs to be a personal application by faith. I would be honored to instruct you in the Scriptures in this regard.

Firstly, let me begin by saying that you are not alone. All we believers struggle with certain types of sins. We all as individuals have tendencies toward particular sinful behaviors. It may be habitual lying, persistent pride, constant profanity, endless gossiping, incessant bad thoughts, et cetera. Your situation is not the actual behavior, but bad thoughts/feelings. Your thinking has to be corrected, so let us get to it.

You have to remember, friend, that our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). That is true of both the saved man’s flesh and the lost man’s flesh. They are all connected to Adam. Our emotions deceive. Our feelings can deceive. While we who have trusted Christ are redeemed, we have not left these sinful bodies of flesh. We have to have our minds renewed by God’s Word rightly divided, the only objective standard we can trust. This Bible study must be done daily. Satan is always seeking to use our flesh to hinder God’s work, and the only way we can guard ourselves against these “wiles/tricks/schemes” is to arm ourselves with God’s Word rightly divided.

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.”

You said that “old feelings” are still after you. That is exactly what they are—they are indeed “old.” They are not who you are anymore. They do not describe your life in Christ. As you said, they describe sinful behavior, the actions of the flesh, not sound doctrine (Romans 1:27; 1 Timothy 1:10). Those illicit feelings/thoughts describe your former life in Adam. You are a new creature in Christ. “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). That old identity you had in Adam is no more. You need to think according to your new identity, the one you have in Christ.

Consider 1 Corinthians chapter 6: “[9] Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, [10] Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. [11] And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”

Notice what kinds of people the Apostle Paul had preached to there in Corinth: “fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate [feminine men], abusers of themselves with mankind [homosexuals], thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers [evil speakers of others], extortioners [cheaters]… and such were some of you.” They had been those things, but once Paul had preached to them the Gospel of the Grace of God, and they had believed that message with all their heart, they positionally ceased to be those things. God did not see them as sinners anymore positionally. Yes, they still sinned in practice (1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 1 Corinthians 11:21; et cetera), but they were now saved in Christ; they were now saints, although they were saints who did not act like the people God made them in Jesus Christ. This is where you are. Positionally, you are in Christ. Practically, mentally, you are not aligning with the standing you have in Christ. Let us read the rest of the passage: “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” You need to reckon this verse as true. “I am sanctified [set apart for God’s purposes].” “I am justified [declared righteous] in the name of the Lord Jesus.” “The Holy Spirit has sanctified me and justified me.” Believe these truths in your heart, and God’s Word will effectually work in you (1 Thessalonians 2:13). That will activate God’s Word and power in your life to make the changes that need to be made.

Your flesh, my flesh, everyone’s flesh, always works in tandem with Satan. It causes you/us to think a lie is reality. You are having these feelings/thoughts because you have not let God’s Word renew your mind. Because you are in Jesus Christ, you are a Christian. You are not a homosexual. You are a saint of the Most High God, my friend!!! Whatever thoughts and actions do not align with your identity in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, throw them out. Be transformed by reading and believing Romans chapter 12, Galatians chapter 5, Ephesians chapter 4, and Colossians chapter 3. These are all excellent passages that touch on every major issue in life, and how to go about it as God Himself would.

Galatians 5:24-25 seem to be some of the best verses for your situation. You need to reckon them as true in your own life: “[24] And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. [25] If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

The fact is that you are Jesus Christ’s. You belong to Him. You are not Satan’s. You do not belong to him. All those old feelings—the affections and the lusts (not just sexual but also greed, pride, coveting, all those desires we experience)—have been crucified with the flesh. When Jesus Christ died, we died too. Romans 6:6 says our old man was crucified with Him. A dead man has no power. Do not let your old lifestyle and your sin nature control your life now. You know what God says about your particular sin. You know the Holy Spirit would not lead you to have those homosexual feelings. The Holy Spirit will guide you in these Bible truths. You are “dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:11). Sin is not to have dominion over you. The Spirit of God is to have control of your life. You are “freed from sin”—not “free”—but “freed!” We still sin but we do not have to. A lost person has no ability to stop sin, but we in Jesus Christ have the ability to stop it. When we as Christians sin, it was because we thought like lost people. We thought that that was the only action we could take. We forgot that God’s power saved us from that sinful identity and now He can save us from that sinful behavior.

As you very well know, our culture is saturated with sex. Whether it is promiscuity, or scantily-dressed men and women, or pornography, or transgender issues, or the legalization of same-sex marriages, the media (television, radio, internet, newspapers, books, et cetera) constantly bombards us with garbage thinking. These are Satan’s methods of attacking Christians. We all have sexual thoughts and they are for the purpose of reproduction, but the media is more interested in perverting something good and emphasizing illicit sexual behaviors. If you saturate yourself with the media, you are sure to lose the battle against your particular sin. I would greatly distance myself from these news items, TV shows, et cetera, if you have not already done so. Friend, you would be better off reading your Bible than filling your head with all that worthless mass media. Satan is after your mind and you have to be sure not to let him have it!!! As long as your mind is controlled by God’s Word, Satan does not have a chance.

We read in 2 Corinthians chapter 10: “[3] For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: [4] (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) [5] Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”

Here is that battle between good and evil, of which we are all part. “Imaginations” are fantasies, concepts that we invent in our minds. They are not reality. They are literally “figments of our imagination.” Whatever does not agree with “the knowledge of God” (His Word rightly divided), throw it out. This helps you concerning your “feelings”/thoughts. You are to “bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” This is not you making your thoughts obedient to Jesus Christ. Rather, it is you taking your thoughts and seeing whether or not they agree with Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork (His obedience to Father God; Romans 5:19; Philippians 2:8; Hebrews 5:8). “Do my thoughts agree with my new identity in Christ?” (Yes/No) “Does this activity belong in my life?” (Yes/No) “Is this effectively communicating to others the doctrine of Calvary that I believe?” (Yes/No) “Is this a good work that the Spirit of God produced in and through me?” (Yes/No) Whenever you answer “no,” replace that bad thought/deed with a verse and its resulting action. Try using the verses I cited earlier, especially Galatians 5:24-25. If you need more, let me know.

Brother, while I am on the subject, let me also tell you that you have no reason to ever tell anyone about these feelings, including your siblings. That is like someone going around saying, “I like to steal, lie, cheat, et cetera.” That is your business what specific sins you are struggling with, and you seem to be trying to let God deal with the matter for you. It is not like you are content where you are in the sin. You have no reason to confess your sins to anyone. God already knows your sins and He already took care of them at Calvary! Think like that. “Jesus put away my sins by the sacrifice of Himself (Hebrews 9:26) and now I put away my sins by the sacrifice of Him, too. I have been raised again to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).” All of Romans chapters 6 through 8 are great help.

No, the truth is that God will not take those unnatural feelings away, so do not set up yourself for disappointment by asking Him. We all have bad thoughts of some kind, and we will have to daily suppress them with verses until we get to heaven. But, there is good news. What God has done is provided a way for us/you to think on something else. We can think on His Word and what He has done for us on Calvary’s cross so long ago. The power of God over that sin is manifested when you overcome that sin by faith in Christ, not when that temptation is removed.

As 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” Bear the temptation, brother! The Holy Spirit has equipped you to bear it! (If it helps, try procrastinating. Try putting off the temptation long enough, and it will go away for a time.)

What did Paul finally learn about his troubles in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” God’s grace is enough to get you through all temptations. His grace is the strength you receive by way of the Holy Spirit using verses you studied, to cause you not to grow weary or fall apart when you face trying times/difficulties/troubles.

Let me tell you right now so you will not misunderstand. You will have your downfalls. Brother, it will take some time before you can wrap your mind around these Bible truths. That is what spiritual growth is all about. There are times when those immoral thoughts will come back. That is when your mind is drifting away from reality. You just bring your thoughts back in line with what you know about the doctrines of grace. “That is not who I am anymore. That is the flesh. That is not sound doctrine and that does not belong in my life. I am a new creature in Christ. I am dead to sin and alive unto God. Those affections and lusts have been crucified with Christ. He died for that sin. He put it away and now I put it away. Christ liveth in me. I live by His faith, His faithfulness.”

It is so unfortunate that you question your salvation, brother. That must be quite miserable. Remember, the Corinthians were the most carnal (fleshly/worldly) Christians in the Bible. They were drunken, they sued one another, they abused spiritual gifts, they fought and argued, one believer was sexually involved with his stepmother, they questioned Paul’s apostleship, they were dabbling in false religion—certainly not the epitome of righteousness, huh?! Never once did Paul question their salvation. In fact, he wrote to them in 1 Corinthians 1:8-9: “[8] [God] Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. [9] God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” The Corinthians were unfaithful, no question about it. They had so hindered the Holy Spirit from having any affect on them. They were such poor examples of Christian living, and yet Paul said that God would confirm them “blameless” until the day they would go to heaven! Jesus Christ had taken care of their blame at Calvary (same with you). God is “faithful.” We should be glad that our salvation unto eternal life is not dependent upon our faithfulness. We would never be saved! Father God is “faithful” and the fellowship Jesus Christ has with Father God, we have that relationship with Father God. It is all because of Jesus Christ and what He did, not because of what we do or do not do.

Paul even called these Corinthians “brethren” in 1 Corinthians 1:10. Paul never doubted their salvation. He knew the Corinthian believers were “the temple of God,” “that the Spirit of God [dwelt] in [them]” (1 Corinthians 3:16). He just asked them, “Know ye not…?” to cause them to remember something they had forgotten. Like the Corinthians, you have been distracted from your Christian identity. You are living inconsistent with who you are in Jesus Christ, and you are “beating yourself up” over it. You have a problem but Jesus Christ took care of it. Your performance never saved you and your performance will certainly never keep you saved. Let go of the burdens! Friend, enjoy God’s joy and peace in believing these simple truths (Romans 15:13)! God accepts you in the Beloved, His Son (Ephesians 1:6). You need not look for love or acceptance anywhere else.

I did not intend to go on this long, but perhaps I have given you enough to correct your situation. I will certainly keep you in prayer, and please do not hesitate if you need additional counsel. You can also see our study, “Does “once saved, always saved” entitle us to abuse God’s grace?” (This talks about how to correct “loss of salvation” feelings.)

Also see:
» Does “once saved, always saved” entitle us to abuse God’s grace?
» Must I maintain fellowship with God?
» What is the Lord’s will for my Christian life?

Should we pray for sick people?

SHOULD WE PRAY FOR SICK PEOPLE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

It is one of the first questions every grace believer asks once he or she comes to understand the dispensational changes connected with the Apostle Paul’s ministry. That was one of my first questions, actually. We will take this opportunity to study the Scriptures and let them speak to us in this regard. While our denominational biases will most definitely interfere with the clarity of the verses, we trust that the Holy Spirit will teach us and that we will listen to His words. Brethren beloved, prepare for a major revolution in your prayer life!

I can almost hear the dear brother’s perplexing statement from years ago as if he just spoke it, “But if God is not healing bodies today, then we have nothing left to pray for when it comes to sick people!” This concept has surely crossed the mind of every Bible student who understands right division. We know full well that the abounding physical healing miracles present in the Four Gospels (Jesus’ earthly ministry) and the book of Acts, gradually diminished in Paul’s ministry. As the latter half of the book of Acts records, Paul was temporarily endowed with the supernatural ability to perform miracles. He raised at least one man from the dead (Acts 20:7-12), he took healing handkerchiefs from his body and distributed them to sick people (Acts 19:11-12), he survived a deadly snakebite and healed many ill people on the island of Melita (Acts 28:1-10), he healed a lame man who could not walk (Acts 14:8-12), and so on. These are all Luke’s accounts of Paul’s ministry. When we come to Paul’s epistles, however, a very strange reality is manifested:

  • During the book of Acts, writing in Romans, Paul writes how we believers groan and travail in pain with all of creation that is subject to suffering, sickness, and death (Romans 8:18-25).
  • Also during the book of Acts, writing in 2 Corinthians, we seeing Paul explain how he glories (finds value) in his infirmities, et cetera. We will examine this passage shortly.
  • In Galatians, also written during Acts, Paul writes about some kind of physical infirmity that afflicts him, perhaps ophthalmic (eye-related) in nature (Galatians 4:13-15).
  • After the Acts period, in 1 Timothy, we see how Paul does not offer to heal sick Timothy but instead encourages medicinal use (1 Timothy 5:23).
  • After the Acts period, in 2 Timothy (his very last epistle), Paul says that he just left a Christian brother sick, unable to heal him (2 Timothy 4:20).

(So, why did Paul perform healing miracles in the first place? Why did those miracles of Paul’s ministry cease? See our study titled, “Could you please explain Paul’s ‘Acts’ ministry?”)

WHAT PRAYER IS AND WHAT PRAYER IS NOT

If you listen to the average prayer meeting or attend church services where prayer requests are made, 90 to 95 percent of them will involve sick or dying individuals. Dear friends, we most definitely should pray for sick people, for that is the caring and respectful action to take. But, here is where it is most important. We need to be sure that we pray in accordance with what God is doing today in the Dispensation of His Grace. What is God’s attitude toward sickness/difficulties/troubles? That is the view we need to adopt, and then we need to pray in light of that divine viewpoint.

Firstly, prayer is simply repeating to God the doctrine that He has taught us in His Holy Word, the Bible. Lamentations 2:19 describes prayer as “pouring out thine heart like water before the face of the LORD.” Psalm 62:8 says, “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.” No matter what the dispensation, prayer is always the believer talking to God in light of His Word to that believer. That is why dispensational Bible study is ever so important. We need to know what God told us so that we can know what to tell Him! God speaks to us through His written Word and we speak His written Word back to Him through prayer.

When the Bible says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), it is teaching us to notice and differentiate between the various distinctions in God’s Word. There are assorted instructions given through the Bible timeline. These instructions are given to different people at different times. Not everything in the Bible is to or about us. What we need to understand is that Paul is our apostle (Romans 11:13). He is God’s spokesman to us Gentiles in the Dispensation of Grace (Ephesians 3:1-4). Paul speaks on behalf of the risen, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ. What does Jesus Christ have to tell us? We find it in the Pauline epistles, the Bible books of Romans through Philemon. “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37).

We need to see how Paul’s epistles address sickness/suffering/hardship. That will enable us not only to pray for sick and suffering people, but it will also allow us to cope with our own illnesses/problems as well. It will revolutionize the way we have been taught to think about them in religious circles. Our prayer lives need to be completely revamped, that they match the doctrines of God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ. This is the key to avoiding deception concerning prayer!

As 2 Corinthians 4:16 says, “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” The Bible says that our outward man is perishing. Our physical bodies are growing older and weaker, closer to dying, actually. Nevertheless, our inward man is renewed day by day. This is our spiritual body, our soul and our spirit. God’s indwelling Holy Spirit interacts with our spirit, giving us spiritual light through the divine words that we read. We then take that doctrine and believe it in our heart (soul), allowing the Holy Spirit to take us and conform our lifestyle to match that Word of God.

It is oh so sad, oh so sad, oh so sad to say it, but most true believers have allowed superstition to deceive them, especially concerning prayer. I used to be one such believer! Let me give you some common superstitious prayers. “O Lord, guide the surgeon’s hands, that the operation be a success.” “God, let her come out of this coma. Let her make a full recovery.” “May you quickly heal this person of this disease, this illness, this infirmity, et cetera.”

I say this gently, but the above is not the right way to pray for sick people. It will only lead to disappointment. Friend, precious reader, God never promised us these things. We should not expect these things and we should not pray for these things! There is no verse in Paul’s epistles that promises us good health. There is no verse in Paul’s epistles that promises us successful surgeries and full recoveries. We should not ask God for something He never gave us. Many believers die of some type of medical problem. Some Christians spend their whole lives suffering complications from botched surgeries. There may be no cure for their condition. They may take medication for the rest of their lives. Does God not love them? Beloved, we cannot make God do something He is not doing. God is God, and rather than trying to force Him to do something, we need to recognize what He is doing and go pray for that!

By now, I have probably gotten your attention, my friend. Perhaps you have become a little angry with me, a little resistant at this point. That is okay. I still love you. Please continue reading. Precious reader, these truths will set you free from religious bondage. Please let them. We need to see how the Apostle Paul prayed. If anyone knew what God was doing today in the Dispensation of Grace, it would be the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul, would it not?

HOW TO PRAY FOR CHRISTIANS WHO ARE SICK

If the sick person has a testimony of salvation in Jesus Christ alone, soul salvation is not the issue. You need not pray for that. However God’s Spirit worked through Paul to pray for Christians, and that is what we need to pray for Christians. We do not have to make it complicated. In Romans through Philemon, we find four primary Pauline prayer models (Ephesians chapter 1, Ephesians chapter 3, Philippians chapter 1, and Colossians chapter 1). Do you want to know what to pray for concerning other Christians? Try these four passages. (Please see our study linked at the end, “What is the ‘Pauline’ way to pray?”)

As we briefly saw earlier, 2 Corinthians talks about our “inward man is renewed day by day.” What exactly does this mean? In chapter 3, Paul prayed that the believers in Ephesus would be “strengthened with all might by [God’s] Spirit in the inner man.” Paul wanted the spiritual eyes of these believers to be enlightened (1:18). He wanted him to understand exactly what the Holy Spirit was doing today. As God desired, Paul wanted these Christians to “come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). What is the Holy Spirit doing today concerning difficulties, sicknesses, et cetera?

We read in Romans 5:1-5: [1] Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: [2] By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. [3] And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; [4] And patience, experience; and experience, hope: [5] And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

It is in our troubles and trying times that we can come to better appreciate God’s love for us. Difficulties are not something to flee; grace teaches us to find value in suffering. The weaker we are, the stronger we are in Jesus Christ. This is what Paul finally learned when he prayed for deliverance from his troubles. Read 2 Corinthians chapter 12: “[7] And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. [8] For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. [9] And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. [10] Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

What we should for concerning sick Christians is that these understand these simple truths, that they rely more heavily by faith on God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ. That they have the peace of God, that no matter what happens, God’s grace is more than enough to get them through it. They have a chance to grow spiritually, as Romans chapter 5 says. In fact, no matter what happens, God guarantees them a new glorified body, a resurrected body, one that will never age or decay (Romans 8:23-25; 1 Corinthians 15:51-55; 2 Corinthians 5:1-5). This is the hope that sustains us!!! Let us be thankful no matter what we are experiencing in life. The life to come is much better, and this temporary life is nothing compared to it!

HOW TO PRAY FOR LOST PEOPLE WHO ARE SICK

The main dilemma ill lost people find themselves in is not that they are physically sick. Their primary problem is that they are spiritually sick and going to a devil’s hell forever! They need way more than a miracle healing of this temporary body. What they need is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved from their sins (Romans 4:1-5). They need to rely exclusively on His death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for their sins (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). There is something far worse than a stroke, a heart attack, pneumonia, broken limbs, brain damage—it is a place that burns with fire and brimstone forever and ever and ever, and all sinners go there forever and ever and ever! If you know a sick lost person, my dear Christian friend, you need to pray for that person’s soul salvation. In fact, if you pray fervently and long enough about it, you will find yourself by that sick person’s bedside giving him or her the Gospel of Grace! (Do not believe me? Try it and see!)

You will find that sick people are less resistant to the Gospel than they are when they are well. The longer the illness, the graver the sickness, the more desperate they become for solace, and when they realize the terror of death creeping up on them, they will grab at anything religious or spiritual. A rosary, a hymnal, a prayer book, a medallion, religious music, candles, anything. That is why you have to be there with the Gospel of Grace—you have to be there, saint, to give them something they need, something they truly, truly, truly, truly, TRULY need!!!

Also see:
» What about “hindered prayer” and “unanswered prayer?”
» What is the “Pauline” way to pray?
» What about healing miracles in the Dispensation of Grace?

Should we use the book of John in evangelism?

SHOULD WE USE THE BOOK OF JOHN IN EVANGELISM?

by Shawn Brasseaux

If you are familiar with Protestant churches, especially “Evangelical” circles, you have seen or heard them use verses from the book of John during their salvation invitations. John 3:16 is probably the most well-known Bible verse—”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” It is still being used in Gospel tracts and Gospel literature, and can be found on T-shirts, bracelets, church signs, bumper stickers, church bulletins, plaques, mugs, et cetera.

One commentator, representing the average Bible teacher or pastor, wrote the following: “The gospel of John is the one book of the Bible specifically written with the purpose of leading men to Jesus Christ and salvation.” The author went on to talk about how we needed to use John’s Gospel to be “effective witnesses for Christ.” While we agree that John’s Gospel contains many exhortations to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (John 1:12; John 2:11; John 2:23; John 3:15-18,36; et al.), what exactly were they to believe about Him? (We will answer that question in this study as well.)

The above people encourage us to use the book of John when we witness to lost people. Also, they urge new Christians to begin reading the Bible in the book of John. I heard it constantly during the years I attended denominational churches. Just the other day at a store, a lady was telling me how her church had recommended that she get a new modern-English Bible and start reading in John’s Gospel. (We had a nice discussion after she said that!)

As previously mentioned, many a tracts and books have John 3:16 in them. The famous “ye must be born again” phrase is extracted from John 3:3-7 and placed in Gospel tracts and messages. For some time, I used the Gospel of John to preach and/or teach people about their need to be saved from their sins. While the Gospel of John is most definitely the inspired Word of God, over the years, I have come to understand—like other Pauline dispensationalists—that John is a very important piece of Israel’s Scriptures. We should study the Gospel of John, and we can quote the Gospel of John during salvation messages, but we should be mindful of its original place in God’s Holy Word. (For more information about the original meaning of John 3:16, please see our study linked at the end of this article.)

In this study, we will look at three common points that very few know concerning the Gospel of John and Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry. You will surely read some shocking statements. The average denominational person does not like them, either. However, my friend, it is my hope and prayer that you will let the verses speak for themselves. Above all, by faith, take your stand on the verses!

1. JOHN’S GOSPEL IS WRITTEN TO LOST JEWS TO TELL THEM THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD, MESSIAH/CHRIST.

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

John 1:11-13 introduces the theme of the book 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 elaborate: “[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 Christ/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.

Those last few verses of John chapter 20 are not at all a salvation message for Gentiles. These verses are the heart of the Gospel of the Kingdom, a Gospel message that focuses on who Jesus is. He is the Messiah/Christ, the Son of the living God. There is no mention of His death, burial, or resurrection in the Gospel of the Kingdom. The good news of Calvary was not declared until the Lord Jesus Christ revealed it to the Apostle Paul, over a year after the events of Calvary. Notice the confessions of these Messianic Jews, believers in the Gospel of the Kingdom:

  • Andrew told his brother Simon Peter, “We have found Messias, which is, being interpreted, Christ (John 1:41).
  • Nathanael said to Jesus, “Thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel (John 1:49).
  • Peter said to Jesus, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16).
  • Martha said to Jesus, “I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world” (John 11:27).
  • The Samaritans of John 4:42 said of Jesus, “we… know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”
  • In Acts 2:36-38, Peter stressed Jesus’ Lordship and Christship and urged Israel to repent and be water baptized in Jesus Christ’s
  • Even as late as Acts 8:37, a year after Calvary, the Gospel was still “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Modern Bible versions and their underlying manuscripts omit this important verse!)

There was nothing in the above verses that made reference to Calvary. The message was simply who Jesus was/is. He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God. Notice how in John’s Gospel, as well as in other passages of Israel’s program, that the “name” of Jesus Christ is emphasized. Again, it is a reference to who He is rather than what He did:

  • John 1:12: “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:”
  • John 3:18: “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
  • Acts 3:16: “And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.”
  • Acts 8:12: “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.”
  • 1 John 3:23: “And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.”
  • 1 John 5:13: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

2. WE DO NOT KNOW JESUS CHRIST AFTER THE FLESH.

Moved by the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul made it very clear that we do not know Jesus Christ according to His fleshly ministry, and this would include the book of John: “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have know Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more” (2 Corinthians 5:16). There was a time in the Bible when people knew Jesus Christ according to His ministry to the circumcision, the nation Israel.

Read Romans 9:5: “[The Israelites] Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.” And Romans 15:8: “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:” Ephesians 2:12 says that we Gentiles were “without Christ.” During His earthly ministry, Jesus Christ dealt with people on the basis of physical circumcision (Jew) and physical uncircumcision (Gentile). He said, “Salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22). He also declared, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24).

That distinction of Jew/Gentile was done away with when our Dispensation of Grace began. Once Paul’s “all-men” ministry began, God taught mankind not to judge between “Jew and Gentile.” God considered all lost Jews and all lost Gentiles equally satanic and hell-bound. Unbelieving Israel lost her status before God—God considered all lost people “Gentiles,” consigned to hell. Furthermore, in Paul’s ministry, God was taking believing Jews and believing Gentiles and forming the Church the Body of Christ, in which there is neither Jew nor Gentile (Galatians 3:26-28; Galatians 5:6; Galatians 6:15; Colossians 3:10-11). That formation of the Body of Christ is all predicated upon the shed blood of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:13).

3. MUCH OF THE BOOK OF JOHN OCCURRED BEFORE CALVARY.

Absolutely, Jesus Christ talked about His death and His resurrection (see John 2:18-22), but the merits of that crosswork were still unknown to mankind. That was God’s secret that He kept in Himself. If we want to know an exposition of the importance of Calvary’s cross to us Gentiles (Body of Christ), we need to go to the book of Romans. (The book of Hebrews functions as such for the nation Israel.) The first five chapters of Romans discuss how Jesus’ finished work at Calvary can save sinners, chapters 6 through 8 discuss how that crosswork impacts the Christian’s life on a daily basis, and chapters 12 through 16 are a further explanation of how we are to apply those grace doctrines to life.

Now, contrariwise, over 90 percent of the book of John deals with Jesus Christ’s miracles—eight specific signs to be precise. There is no salvation for us contained in Jesus’ miracle ministry. That special ministry was to prove who He was to Israel. It was not John’s intent to evangelize Gentiles with his Gospel record. John said that he was leading people to recognize and believe on the name of Jesus as Messiah/Christ. Such a message would mean nothing to Gentiles. Jews were looking for a Messiah—Messiah was to come to Israel. Gentiles are not looking for a Messiah, friends!

CONCLUSION

Many well-meaning people have urged us to use John’s Gospel record as a salvation tool and as an introduction to the Bible. While we agree that John’s Gospel contains many exhortations to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (John 1:12; John 2:11; John 2:23; John 3:15-18,36; et al.), what exactly was the message that audience was to believe about Him? Was it “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day?” No. Most of the Gospel of the John details Jesus’ miracles and records His words to His disciples the night before He died. There is actually very little about Calvary in the Gospel of John. We see Jesus crucified in chapter 19 of John, but that is just one chapter and it is dedicated to the historical event of Calvary’s cross. John spent much of his Gospel Record focusing on who Jesus was and how He preached and performed eight miracles to validate who He was. People are taking Paul’s epistles and simply reading them back into the Gospel of John, and that is only blurring the distinction between Paul’s ministry and the other ministries in the Bible.

What John wanted his audience to believe about Jesus was that He was the Son of God, the Christ/Messiah. In John’s Gospel, it was all about who Jesus was rather than what He did at Calvary. Jesus’ identity was in fact no mystery (secret). What Jesus accomplished at Calvary was a mystery/secret (1 Corinthians 2:6-8). Before Paul came, people believed Jesus was Messiah/Christ. What God had not revealed to them was the full merits of His crosswork. (For more information, you can see our study titled, “Who were the people who followed Jesus before Paul?,” linked below.)

The primary Bible book that we should be using for Gospel messages, Gospel tracts, et cetera, for this the Dispensation of Grace, is the book of Romans. Chapters 1-5 talk about the full benefits of Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork. The very first Bible book a person should read (when new to the Bible) is the book of Romans. Chapters 6-8 and chapters 12-16 discuss how the Christian life functions on the basis of the doctrine outlined in the first five chapters. I believe it is in accordance with the Devil’s agenda that most Christians and most lost people overlook the book of Romans and start with John, or Acts, or Matthew, or Psalms, or Genesis. In doing so, they never get the clear Gospel message and clear-Christian-living message that the book of Romans gives, thus remaining lost in their sins or confused about how their Christian life should function.

Also see:
» Who were the people who followed Jesus before Paul?
» What is the real meaning of John 3:16?
» I am new to the Bible so where should I begin?

Can you explain Matthew 21:43?

CAN YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN MATTHEW 21:43?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The Lord Jesus Christ said during His final weeks of earthly ministry: “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matthew 21:43). Is He giving Israel’s covenants/kingdom over to us Gentiles, as some teach? Is He predicting the formation of the Church the Body of Christ, as some teach? If Israel is God’s chosen people in the books of Matthew through John, then why did Jesus tell Israel that He was taking God’s kingdom from them and giving it to “a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof?” We are to be Berean Bible students, comparing Scripture with Scripture, to see what things are so (Acts 17:11).

When God began to form the nation Israel with Abraham, He intended all of Abraham’s descendants to participate in His earthly plan. However, as time passed, many of Abraham’s descendants were unbelieving. In Matthew 21:43, Jesus Christ is addressing Israel’s apostate religious leaders. These unbelieving Jews will not participate by faith in God’s dealings with Israel. They are too focused on works-religion and their righteousness. So, God will not allow them to enter the Millennium (the 1,000-year reign of Christ). They will never set foot in Christ’s righteous kingdom. They refused to be born-again as John chapter 3 admonished, so God will deny them access to the kingdom intended only for born-again Jews.

Luke 12:32 is the companion passage of Matthew 21:43. We begin in verse 31 of Luke chapter 12: “[31] But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. [32] Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” The parallel passage is Matthew 6:33: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” The primary issue here is spiritual matters rather than physical (material) matters. Jesus Christ tells wayward Israel that they must seek God’s righteousness first (spiritual issue) before they can enjoy His physical blessings (material issue). They needed to have their priorities in proper order. They needed to first be saved from their sins by trusting Him!

It is important to note that the Lord Jesus did not say, “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to nations bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matthew 21:43). “Nation” is singular, not plural. “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” God did not give Israel’s kingdom over to nations (plural, as in Gentiles in the Body of Christ) but rather one nation (singular)—redeemed Israel. God took Israel’s kingdom away from apostate Israel and gave it to a nation (redeemed, born-again Israel) that was willing to submit to His righteousness, the “foolish nation” of Romans 10:19 and Deuteronomy 32:21. As John the Baptist warned, unbelieving Jews will be consumed in righteous wrath when Jesus Christ returns, and they will be cast into hellfire, never allowed into God’s earthly kingdom (Matthew 3:7-12; Matthew 13:37-42).

Also see:
» Is the Church the Body of Christ spoken of in Matthew 16:18?
» What does “My kingdom is not of this world” mean?
» Does Hebrews 10:25 really teach we must attend church?

Should Christians support the death penalty?

SHOULD CHRISTIANS SUPPORT THE DEATH PENALTY?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“What is the biblical position that a believer should take in regards to capital punishment (the death sentence)?”

Thanks for contacting me, my friend. I am sure many, many people have the same question. The death sentence is a very sensitive topic, an extremely emotionally-charged issue, concerning both those for it and those against it. Hopefully, we can ignore the emotions that cloud our judgment. Emotions are deceptive. We need an objective standard, the written Word of God, on which to rest our faith/trust. Let us look at the plain testimony of the Holy Bible. After all, the Creator has already spoken quite expressly on the subject. We just need searching eyes, listening ears, and, most importantly, believing hearts.

“THOU SHALT NOT KILL?”

When people object to the death penalty, they quote one of the few verses they know. The sixth of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17). This verse, like all others, has a context. We do not grab a verse and run with it without analyzing the context. As it has been so aptly stated, “A verse without a context makes one a conman!”

“Thou shall not kill” involves an individual taking another’s life (“thou” is first-person singular, as our “old, hard-to-read” King James so precisely uses it). Capital punishment, however, refers to a legal authority (government) taking a person’s life. If “thou shall not kill” prohibited all taking of life, then why did the LORD God Himself tell Moses and Israel to stone to death the man who collected sticks on the Sabbath day (Numbers 15:32-36)?

See, beloved, the government taking the life of a guilty person is not infringing upon the Sixth Commandment. The Sixth Commandment is broken when one person takes the life of another without a decree from the local government (apart from self-defense, of course). Many times throughout the Mosaic Law we find the death penalty attached to certain offences (striking father or mother, Exodus 21:15; kidnapping, Exodus 21:16; witchcraft, Exodus 22:18; bestiality, Exodus 22:19; et cetera). These are not instances of murder; these are God’s direct instructions to Israel for her to take the lives of individuals who broke specific divine laws. There was no room for argument.

NOAH, HUMAN GOVERNMENT, AND THE “DEATH PENALTY”

Many, many, many centuries before the Ten Commandments were given to Moses, there lived Noah. On this side of the Great Flood, having just exited the Ark, Noah and his sons are instructed of God in Genesis chapter 9:

“[1] And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. [2] And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. [3] Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. [4] But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. [5] And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. [6] Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”

God told Noah, beginning in the new world, that anyone who took the life of another person, man (acting with governmental authority) was to take that murderer’s life. Note that this was not just anyone going out and taking vengeance on whomever he wanted. It is a governmental official issuing the decree and carrying it out. Please make sure that you understand that.

Remember, Cain killed his brother Abel in Genesis chapter 4. This was most definitely murder. Cain was evil and Abel was righteous. God allowed Cain to live (Genesis 4:13-15). Centuries later, just before the Great Flood, the opening verses of Genesis chapter 6 tell us that great evil and violence had covered the earth. In order to slow down Satan’s policy of evil, after the Flood, God instituted the death penalty with Noah. That death penalty for murderers is still with us today, as the Apostle Paul commented in the book of Romans. It is a direct ordinance of God, and nothing in the Bible ever rescinded this law. Even the dispensational change does not affect the death penalty.

When describing the grace believer’s relationship to his form of government, our Apostle Paul wrote in the thirteenth chapter of Romans: “[1] Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. [2] Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. [3] For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: [4] For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. [5] Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.”

Paul is commenting on Genesis chapter 9, what we read earlier. God’s design in government is to make criminals fearful. It is to hinder Satan’s policy of evil from reaching a crescendo. Those who are operating under Satan’s control, particularly murderers (“the evil” of verse 3), should be punished. Verse 4 says, “But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”

How does the government not bear the sword in vain? It has the sword for a reason. It will not only wield the sword but also use the sword! “The higher powers… a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” This “wrath” is a reference to capital punishment (decapitation/beheading). Without capital punishment, there is no deterrent for murderers. A government that cannot enforce its laws is useless. It must have military might to keep order in society. If we do not have order, mayhem will result, and we will mimic Cain and those of Noah’s day, those who caused great violence and bloodshed.

CONCLUSION

God Himself in the Bible told Noah and Israel to put people to death for certain infractions. Once they were proven in court to be guilty of particular crimes—especially murder—their lives were to be taken by governmental orders. God was very strict about it. Someone may say that that was the “Old Testament” and that has no relevance to us. Yet, when commenting about our Dispensation of Grace, the Apostle Paul carried over that principle of capital punishment. In Romans chapter 13, Paul wrote that the government does not bear the sword in vain. No doubt the death penalty—when carried out swiftly and without decades of appeals—is a sure deterrent to prevent other murderers from acting. That fact of capital punishment makes criminals afraid. Unfortunately, here in the United States and other countries, the death penalty is pushed aside due to emotions. We do not want to hurt people’s feelings, we do not want to be “inhumane,” we want to make sure the criminals are more comfortable than the victims’ families, and so on.

Someone may say, “Oh, but I cannot support the death penalty. What if we execute an innocent man or woman?” Beloved, remember, God knew this was a possibility, and yet, He still gave the commandment. If the murderer has been convicted beyond reasonable doubt, if there is enough evidence to support his or her guilt, then the Bible is clear that that person’s life should be taken. I would rather follow the Bible and make a mistake than make the mistake of ignoring the Bible!

It is a very sad reality that that there is very little justice in this world, particularly involving a swift death sentence. There are many convicted murderers on our streets and sidewalks all around the world, and it is so unfortunate that government has failed the public in this regard. They can keep on taking innocent lives but no government is willing to take their guilty ones.

Nevertheless, dear readers, we can rest assured that the God of the Bible never sleeps. The guilty lost who escape the death penalty in this life, wake up to face “God’s eternal death penalty” in the next! Justice will be served eventually, with or without human legal intervention.

Also see:
» How can a loving God send people to hell forever?
» Should Christians support wars or should they be pacifists? (COMING SOON!)
» How did Satan hinder Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:18?

Is it “Pauline” to call ourselves “Christians?”

IS IT “PAULINE” TO CALL OURSELVES “CHRISTIANS?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

“Why do so many saints who trust in the Gospel of Christ refer to themselves as ‘Christians?’ In my research, I have never read the Apostle Paul ever refer to a member of the Body of Christ by that title. So, therefore, is it sound by Scripture for us to continue to call ourselves by this Gospel of the Kingdom term?”

Thank you, friend, for that question. I have often wondered about that matter myself, so you encouraged me to formally do a study on it. True, Paul never uses the term “Christian” in his epistles. However, on two occasions in the Bible, the title is used in connection with his ministry. The term appears three times overall in the King James Bible, so we will first briefly survey these passages. Then, we will summarize our findings and form a Scriptural conclusion.

Let us look at the first instance. We read in Acts 11:25-26: “[25] Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: [26] And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” The first time in history the disciples were ever called “Christians” was right here, in Antioch, and take note that it is in connection with the Apostle Paul’s ministry (at this time, he is still called “Saul”). The hermeneutic (interpretation) rule of “first mention” dictates that the first time any term appears in the Bible, its context carries much weight when the term appears throughout the rest of the Bible. We will comment more on that later. Just remember for now this verse is the “first-mention” verse.

Now to the second time “Christian” is used in the canon of Scripture. When Paul stood before King Agrippa in Acts chapter 26, the Apostle gave his testimony to this Gentile king. Reading in verses 27 and 28: “[27] King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. [28] Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuades me to be a Christian.” Agrippa, very convicted by the Word of God, brushed off Paul’s words with, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” In other words, “Paul, you expect me to become a Christian based on your wild, incredible stories? No way!” (You can sense the scorn, the mockery, in Agrippa’s words.) While Luke does not record everything that Paul said in the book of Acts, I wonder if Paul did not use that term Christian in his testimony previously. Two quick observations. Firstly, Agrippa was aware of the term (from where did he learn it?). Secondly, an interestingly enough, Paul did not discourage him from using it (did Paul approve of its usage among Gentiles, those apart from Israel’s Gospel of the Kingdom?, evidently so).

The last occurrence of the term “Christian” in the King James Bible is in 1 Peter 4:16: “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” As you pointed out, this would indeed be a reference to the Jerusalem/Kingdom saints of Israel, the Little Flock. A little side-note: the “suffering” here is what Israel’s Little Flock will experience during the seven-year Tribulation, when the Antichrist slaughters those who do not worship him. Those Jews who accept Jesus as Messiah will automatically risk (ultimately forfeit) their lives for refusing the false Messiah.

Returning to your question, “Is it sound by Scripture for us to continue to call ourselves by this Gospel of the Kingdom term?” Well, here is how the Bible uses the term “Christian:”

  1. The term “Christian” was originally used to refer to Paul’s Gentile converts in Antioch, Syria (Acts 11:26). King Agrippa was aware of it being used to refer to the people associated with Paul’s ministry (Acts 26:28).
  1. Sometime after it was first used in Acts 11:26, the name “Christian” was used to apply to Israel’s Little Flock as well (1 Peter 4:16). In other words, the title did not originally relate to the Gospel of the Kingdom or Israel’s believers, so it is not Scripturally-accurate to classify “Christian” as a “Gospel of the Kingdom term.” It is used in Scripture to once apply to Jewish kingdom saints, but its original usage involved Paul’s ministry, and it is used twice in connection with Paul’s ministry.

Interestingly, Paul, as you pointed out, never used the term “Christian” in his actual writings. We can search his epistles to learn that his “favorite” term to refer to believers, including those in Body of Christ, was “saints” (which term, incidentally, originally referred to Jewish believers, Old Testament believers [see the book of Psalms, for example], those who were saved before the Church the Body of Christ began). Try Romans 1:7, Romans 8:27, Romans 12:13, Romans 15:25-26 (little flock), Romans 16:2, Romans 16:15, 1 Corinthians 1:2, 1 Corinthians 6:1-2, et cetera. Paul used the term “saints” some 40 times in Romans through Philemon, mostly to describe his converts but sometimes to refer to Israel’s Little Flock.

“Christian” is a general term that simply means “Christ-like” or “follower of Christ.” First it was used as one of scorn—an insult that unbelievers hurled at people who behaved like Jesus Christ. If you think about it, that would apply to both Israel’s Little Flock and the Church the Body of Christ. Whether in Israel’s program or in our program, the Little Flock or the Church the Body of Christ, God’s purpose is to manifest His life in and through both sets of believers. Perhaps that is why the word is used in both programs: God’s Word working in both programs produces people who behave like Jesus Christ.

Based on the term “Christian” associated twice with Paul’s ministry in the Bible, I do not think it wrong to call ourselves “Christians” any more than it is wrong for us to call ourselves “Saints.” As long as we do not call ourselves something used exclusively for describing Israel (“Little Flock,” “Israel of God,” “Kingdom of Priests,” “Holy Nation,” and so on), we are safe in our theology.

Also see:
» Is the Church the Body of Christ spoken of in Matthew 16:18?
» Can you compare and contrast Peter’s ministry and Paul’s ministry?
» Did Paul quote verses out of context in 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1?

Can you explain Galatians 2:11-16?

CAN YOU EXPLAIN GALATIANS 2:11-16? WAS PAUL TELLING PETER THAT THE LITTLE FLOCK WAS UNDER GRACE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“I have a question! It is about Peter in Galatians 2:11-21. I understand that Paul reproves Peter, because he acted under the law between Body of Christ. The question is, did Paul remind Peter that the Little Flock is now also under grace? To me it looks like Paul is teaching Peter that he is justified without works of the law (Galatians 2:16-18).”

Thank you for that question, brother. It is a technical topic, but if we compare related verses, we can then arrive at a rather easy answer. We just need to be willing to let the verses say what they say. Yes, it will get lengthy, so I have tried to make it as short as I can. For simplicity’s sake, I will give a brief answer first, and then provide the details in a “longer answer.”

Let us first read the passage in question, Galatians 2:11-21:

“[11] But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. [12] For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. [13] And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. [14] But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? [15] We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, [16] Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

“[17] But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. [18] For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. [19] For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. [20] I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. [21] I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”

THE BRIEF ANSWER

My understanding of the above passage is that Paul’s quote ends at the close of verse 16. That is why I reproduced the passage above with a paragraph break between verses 16 and 17. Verses 11 through 16 involve Peter and Paul, while verse 17 through to the end of the epistle are the words of Paul to the Galatians. Acknowledging this break will help dispel much of the confusion as to what Paul actually told Peter.

I do not think Paul was telling Peter and the Little Flock they were now under grace. Peter and the Little Flock were still under the Law. Remember, James throughout his epistle instructed the Little Flock to continue Law-keeping. In Acts chapter 21—which occurred years after Galatians chapter 2 (Acts chapter 15)—the Little Flock still kept the Mosaic Law and participated in Temple worship (“thousands of Jews… which believe; and they are all zealous of the law;” Acts 21:20). So, it seems to me that Paul, in Galatians 2:16-18, was telling Peter/Little Flock that his (that is, Paul’s) converts were under grace, and Peter’s actions were confusing Paul’s converts.

Remember, Jesus (like the epistles of James and 1 John) told the Little Flock to keep the Law of Moses. The Lord Jesus said that if the members of the Messianic Church did not keep the commandments of the Mosaic Law and teach others to do the same, they would be “least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20; cf. Matthew 28:19-20). The only possible exception to this rule that I can see is if members of the Little Flock went and fellowshipped/ate with Paul’s Gentile converts (such as in Galatians chapter 2, your question). For the sake of these new converts in Paul’s ministry, Israel’s Little Flock could temporarily abandon their Law-keeping. In day-to-day living amongst themselves, apart from fellowshipping with Paul’s Gentile converts, the Little Flock was to follow Moses. That goes back to James’ epistle and John’s epistle of Law-keeping, Acts chapter 21, and Jesus’ legalistic commands to the Little Flock.

That is the simple answer, but it leaves various questions unanswered, so we proceed to “fill in the details.”

THE MORE DETAILED ANSWER

Here are some assorted notes I have collected while researching your question. They may help you with details as well as cause you to see the overall picture.

Once more, please note that Paul’s words to Peter are found in Galatians 2:14-16. Paul did not speak to Peter the words of verses 17-21. Verses 17-21 seem to be Paul’s words written to the Galatians. So, Paul’s verbal/spoken quotation closes at the end of verse 16. We can avoid much confusion by realizing this. (Paul’s discussion with Peter is what Paul uses in verses 17-21 to demonstrate to the Galatians that Law-keeping was unnecessary for the Body of Christ. Verses 1-16 are two illustrations [1-10 and 11-16] Paul used to teach the Galatians about the dispensational change from Law to Grace, Peter to Paul, prophecy to mystery, Israel to Body of Christ, et cetera. Paul’s argument in epistle to the Galatians was not that the Little Flock was under grace, but rather that the Body of Christ was under grace.)

To better understand Galatians 2:11-16, remember the previous 10 verses. Galatians 2:1-10 is the famous Jerusalem Council of Acts chapter 15 that I mentioned earlier. Galatians 2:11-16 occurred immediately after that apostolic council. Note the circumstances surrounding, and the results of, that Jerusalem Council.

Firstly, why was this Jerusalem Council of Acts chapter 15 even held? Believing Law-keeping Messianic Jews had confused Paul’s converts into embracing legalism. We will briefly read Acts 15:1-5:

“[1] And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. [2] When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. [3] And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. [4] And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. [5] But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”

Jesus Christ instructed Paul to go to Jerusalem and tell the elders and apostles of Israel about his new Gospel message and God’s change in programs. Luke recorded it in Acts and Paul wrote about it in Galatians 2:1-10. That Jerusalem Council, when you study all of Acts chapter 15, agreed that legalism was not necessary for Paul’s converts because of the dispensational change. At that apostolic council, Peter and the 10 (minus James) learned of Paul’s Gospel for the first time. They agreed that Paul’s converts did not have to observe the Mosaic Law, including the kosher food laws (see Acts 15:19-29). In fact, the Jerusalem kingdom saints even sent a letter to Paul’s converts to apologize for those legalizers who had oppressed and confused them.

Now, right after this council, Peter came to Antioch. That is the passage you have asked about. Let us read Galatians 2:11-16, once more:

“[11] But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. [12] For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. [13] And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. [14] But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? [15] We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, [16] Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

Please note again that the dialogue/conversation between Peter and Paul stopped here. In other words, Paul did not tell Peter the words of verses 17-21. A close examination of the change in language seems to indicate that verse 17 onward was Paul’s words to the Galatians.

So, how was Peter acting wrong in Antioch? He was turning away from that agreement reached in Acts chapter 15 earlier. By him fearing those Jewish visitors and then withdrawing from eating with Paul’s Gentile converts, it caused Paul’s converts to stumble. Paul then (rightly but respectfully) rebuked Peter. Paul’s words in Galatians 2:14 indicate that Peter was, by example, greatly pressuring Paul’s Gentiles to now observe kosher food laws as well. Peter was “compelling the Gentiles to live as do the Jews.” These believing Gentiles had first heard from the Jerusalem Church that it was now okay for them to eat non-kosher foods, but then Peter suddenly acted like it was not okay for them to eat non-kosher foods. Even Barnabas was negatively affected, carried away with their “dissimulation” (hypocrisy), verse 13 says. “Dissembled” means “to have acted hypocritically with.” There was no sincerity in Peter’s withdrawal. Other Jews and Barnabas were pressured to (and did) play the hypocrite with Peter. It was a huge stumbling block for the believing Gentiles (whom Satan had already attacked earlier prior to the Jerusalem Council).

That epistle from Jerusalem to Antioch condoned Gentile Christians eating non-kosher foods, but Peter’s actions caused the sincerity of the letter to be questioned. (The believing Gentiles probably asked themselves, “The Jerusalem Church approved our non-kosher foods, and Peter signed that letter too, but now that Peter is here he is pressuring us to follow him in avoiding the non-kosher foods, just to please these Jewish visitors?! Did those Jews from James not agree we could eat these non-kosher foods?! Were they lying to us?”) It was as if now Peter, the representative from Jerusalem, did not agree with the letter from Jerusalem he had endorsed earlier. It made the Gentiles in Antioch question that letter. The Jerusalem Church and its efforts to get along with Paul’s Gentiles in Antioch were greatly disrupted. Satan was working overtime here, and Paul rightly blamed Peter.

Paul said that Peter and those other Jews “walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel” (verse 14). “The truth of the gospel” is that we—the Body of Christ, Paul’s converts, not the Little Flock—are free from the Law of Moses and its kosher food laws. That was Paul’s whole argument in the entire epistle of Galatians. The “Gospel” here is the Gospel of the Grace of God, not Israel’s Kingdom Gospel. Paul made it clear to Peter and these other Jews again—just as he did in that Jerusalem Council—that legalism did not belong where the Gospel of Grace was present. If the Little Flock would come to his Gentile assemblies for visits, these kingdom Jews would have to give way to the current program of God and temporarily abandon those dietary restrictions. When these kingdom Jews returned to their own assemblies, they were to return to the Law as the Lord Jesus Christ had previously told them. God’s current Dispensation of Grace had not abolished Law-keeping in Israel’s program. It had merely prohibited Law-keeping among Paul’s Gentile converts and other Gentiles who would be saved later under Paul’s ministry.

Again, in Peter’s own program, Law-keeping was necessary. Matthew 5:17-18, which we looked at earlier, says that. However, when it came to Peter fellowshipping with Paul’s converts, the Holy Spirit through Paul approved Peter eating non-kosher foods. After all, Peter should have embraced the agreement reached in Acts chapter 15 and Galatians chapter 2. All the leaders of the Jerusalem Church and Paul and Barnabas—all filled with the Holy Spirit—made that agreement and Peter should have kept it. (Peter should have said in Galatians 2:11-16, “I am not going to act in such a way that Paul’s converts stumble. They have already been confused enough. I agreed they did not have to observe Moses and the kosher food laws. I should temporarily suspend my Law-keeping to show the Gentiles I meant what I said in the letter. I need to keep the weaker brethren in mind. We Jewish believers are more spiritually mature and have known righteous living longer than Paul’s converts, so we need to be mindful of their edification.”)

What was Paul really telling Peter in Galatians 2:15-16? Let us briefly talk a little more about that phrase, “the truth of the gospel.”

“[15] We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, [16] Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

The first and foremost issue in Israel’s program or our program is faith/belief/trust. The message that Peter and the 11 preached was a works message, but it required faith first. “But without faith it is impossible to please [God]; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). That faith then led that Jewish kingdom believer to do what the message commanded (confession of sins, repentance, water baptism, Law-keeping, et cetera). In contradistinction, our gospel message does not have those works attached to it. According to Paul, Peter in Galatians 2:11-16 did not believe our message was true for Paul’s Gentiles in Antioch. Peter in his behavior was causing Paul’s Gentiles to return to the Law of Moses, directly opposing: (1) our Gospel of Grace, and (2) the agreement reached in Acts chapter 15. In short, Peter’s hypocritical behavior reversed any friendly progress that had been made between the two groups of believers, Jerusalem and Antioch.

We will briefly look at Acts 15:1-5 once more: “[1] And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. [2] When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. [3] And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. [4] And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. [5] But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”

If you notice verses 1 and 5, in bolded type, Jewish legalists had gone to Paul’s Gentile converts and told them to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses to be saved (or “justified before God”). That great apostolic meeting here was convened to settle the matter. What Paul was telling Peter in Galatians 2:15-16 was a reminder that Paul’s converts were not justified by Law-keeping (kosher foods), but by faith in Jesus Christ’s faith (His finished crosswork as sufficient payment for their sins). Works belonged with Peter and the 11 and the Little Flock in their prophetic-kingdom program, but Peter had no right to introduce religious-works into the Body of Christ. He was just as much in error as the legalists who prompted the Jerusalem Council earlier in the chapter.

Also see:
» What about Acts 15:11?
» Did Peter and Paul preach the same Gospel?
» Could you compare and contrast Peter’s ministry and Paul’s ministry?

What about unmarried, divorced, and remarried men in the ministry?

WHAT ABOUT UNMARRIED, DIVORCED, AND REMARRIED MEN IN THE MINISTRY?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“My question refers to the qualifications of being a pastor, minister, or teacher. It is threefold. Can an unmarried man be a pastor? A minister? A teacher? How about a divorced (not remarried) man? How about a remarried divorced man?”

Friend, thank you for these questions. Let us search the Scriptures for answers!

1. CAN AN UNMARRIED MAN BE A PASTOR?

While the Bible says in 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6 that a bishop “must be the husband of one wife,” he is not required to be married. The verse simply means if he is married, he should be married to one woman (monogamy) rather than two or more women (polygamy). In the pagan world of Paul’s day, polygamy was common. It is important to note that anyone who forbids clergymen from marrying has no Biblical authority whatsoever. The Bible supports the marriage of church leaders! In Bible days, before organized religion corrupted Christianity, bishops were free to marry. It is acknowledged, “Celibacy is of later ecclesiastical institution.” Clerical celibacy was introduced circa 1,000 years after Christ! (The pastor should study these verses and decide if he should marry. He should not be forbidden either way. Marriage is a personal choice, not the choice of the denomination or local assembly.)

In 1 Corinthians chapter 7, the Apostle Paul gives advice on marriage for our dispensation, the Dispensation of Grace. He wrote in verses 32 and 33: “[32] But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: [33] But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.” An unmarried man does not have a wife to be concerned about. He can be more concerned about the Lord’s work. He can spend more time and energy seeking God’s will rather than trying to please his wife. That is the advantage.

There are however at least two disadvantages to being an unmarried pastor:

Firstly, an unmarried pastor will find himself in “questionable” or “difficult” circumstances. For example, counseling a single or married woman. (A second lady would need to be in the room as witness and chaperone, for sake of both the other lady and the pastor.) If the unmarried pastor burns with lust, he needs to find a wife, lest the Devil use his sexual desires to an evil end. “But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn” (1 Corinthians 7:9). Thus, compulsory celibacy is a sure way to cause a man to fall into gross sexual sin.

Secondly, the unmarried pastor has no first-hand experience concerning marriage and parenting. If someone were to come to him for help about either matter, it will be somewhat difficult for him to input because he is inexperienced about such things. True, he will know the appropriate verses, but he has no experience in applying these verses to life because he has never done it himself.

2. CAN AN UNMARRIED MAN BE A MINISTER?

“Minister” is a general term that simply means “servant.” Technically, all Christians are “ministers” (or servants) of God. When sharing the Gospel, you are functioning as a minister of God. When working on the job and providing for your family’s material needs, you are a minister of God. When teaching the Bible, you are a minister of God. When praying for people, you are a behaving as a minister of God. When leading the choir, you are a minister of God. This could apply to husbands and wives, students, et cetera. Paul was a “minister” (1 Corinthians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 4:1) and yet he was unmarried at the time (1 Corinthians 7:6-9). It is highly likely that Paul was married at one time, but once he trusted Christ, his wife left him because he never writes about her.

3. CAN AN UNMARRIED MAN BE A TEACHER?

Yes, an unmarried man can be a Bible teacher. I am such a man, by the way! 🙂 Without a wife, I can spend more time studying God’s Word and more time with God’s people who need help in understanding and applying His Word to their lives. Again, Paul was unmarried (probably because his unbelieving wife abandoned him). As I mentioned earlier, marriage is not a requirement for every person (1 Corinthians 7:6-9). Again, it is a matter of free will. You choose to marry or you choose not to marry. Friend, God’s grace allows you the choice, provided the spouse is a believer (1 Corinthians 7:39, only in the Lord”). In some cases, Christians can better serve the Lord single than married (see answer to question #1). Friend, I am a testament to that!

4. HOW ABOUT A DIVORCED (NOT REMARRIED) MAN?

Having grown up in legalistic churches, I remember preachers vehemently teaching that the Bible commands bishops and deacons to be “the husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2,12; Titus 1:6). They would say that if the bishop or deacon is divorced and remarried, he is married to two women and thus he cannot fulfill the respective office. This is a rather silly argument. Divorce ends a marriage. The divorced and remarried man is not married to two women—he is married to one woman and no longer married to the other. When JEHOVAH God “divorced” Israel (Isaiah 50:1), He ceased to be married to her, did He not? He could not have been married to Israel while at the same time divorced from her, could He? (Hosea chapter 2 describes God’s future remarriage to Israel.) Again, divorce ends a marriage.

Religious people are always surprised to learn that God has forgiven divorce because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of Himself. The very last thing—yea, the very last thing—that God intended is the destruction of a marriage union. He never, ever wanted to be separated from Israel, but they left Him (just as the unbelieving spouse leaves the believing spouse). The God of the Bible never, ever, ever intended a man and his wife to be separated either:

  • Genesis 2:24: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
  • Matthew 19:5-6: “[5] And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? [6] Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
  • Ephesians 5:31: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.”
  • 1 Corinthians 7:10-12: “[10] And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: [11] But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. [12] But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.”

However, the Lord Jesus told us a harsh reality. Divorce happens because of the “hardness of [people’s] hearts.” Recall Matthew 19:8: “He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.” Sin produces fighting and war, James 4:1 says. War causes division. Fighting causes divorces. “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?”

Sometimes divorce happens because the unbelieving spouse leaves the believing spouse (1 Corinthians 7:15). This is out of the believer’s control. “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.” As we hinted at earlier, this may have very well happened to Paul once he became a believer. 1 Corinthians 7:12: “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.” Note, the believing spouse should never, ever, ever initiate the divorce! Unless, of course, there is any type of abuse, then the Lord would encourage you to leave the relationship for your safety’s sake (and/or your children’s sakes)!!

5. HOW ABOUT A REMARRIED DIVORCED MAN?

See answer for question #4 above.

CONCLUSION

Whether divorced and not remarried, or divorced and remarried, the sin of divorce is still forgiven in Jesus Christ. On one hand, we certainly do not minimize sin, but on the other, we do not accentuate what Jesus Christ already took care of at Calvary’s cross. As members of the Church the Body of Christ, God is not holding our sins against us. Hence, we should not hold our sins against ourselves. Friend, if you divorced while you were a lost person, or even if you divorced while you were a Christian, that is in the past. Jesus Christ died for that sin. Now you need to move on as He has moved on from it. If you have trusted the shed blood of Jesus Christ for your forgiveness of sins, they are all forgiven—past, present, and future (Colossians 2:13). Just as someone can go to prison as a lost person, become a Christian while incarcerated, and then have a ministry, a divorced or remarried man can have a ministry for the Lord. Past lifestyles are just that—in the past! It does not matter what you did in the past. What matters is that you, by God’s grace, have made improvements in your life and you have come out of a worldly lifestyle, that you may be a model example of a Christian and thus fit for ministry.

Friend, above all, yes, learn from your mistakes, but do not let your mistakes haunt you. That is how the Devil operates. If you can work things out with your ex-wife, please try. You just may win her to Jesus Christ! 1 Corinthians 7:10-11: “[10] And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: [11] But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.” If your ex-wife has already remarried, just move on with whatever marriage relationship you are in now, if applicable. Please remember that divorce should be the very last resort. The only justifiable reason for it in this the Dispensation of Grace, apart from abuse, is if the unbelieving spouse leaves the Christian spouse.

Also see:
» Was Saul a pastor, a prophet, or an evangelist?
» Should women serve in the ministry?
» What is the difference between a minister, a pastor, and an evangelist?

Was John the Baptist really Elijah?

WAS JOHN THE BAPTIST REALLY ELIJAH?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“Was John the Baptist really Elijah? Matthew 11:14.”

Thank you for this question. We will read the verse and its context, and then provide commentary by using parallel verses.

Matthew chapter 11: “[7] And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? [8] But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. [9] But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. [10] For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. [11] Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. [12] And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. [13] For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. [14] And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. [15] He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

So, returning to your question, “Was John the Baptist really Elijah?”

Luke chapter 1 sheds light on the topic in question. The Bible says in Luke 1:16-17: “[16] And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he should go before him [the Messiah, Jesus] in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” These words were spoken by the angel to Zacharias, the father of John, just before John was born.

John the Baptist was not Elijah reincarnated or resurrected if that is what you are asking. Still, as the angel suggested, John the Baptist and Elijah had similar ministries. The Prophet Elijah lived in a time when false religion was being introduced into the northern kingdom, Israel. This was because of its sanction by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Elijah was sent to preach against such wickedness and apostasy. He was one of the few men who remained faithful to JEHOVAH God. You can read about Elijah’s ministry from 1 Kings chapter 17 through 2 Kings chapter 2. About 700 years later, John the Baptist was sent to Israel to call out a people for God’s name from among apostate Israel.

When Jesus mentioned John the Baptist in Matthew 11:10, He quoted Malachi 3:1 as a reference to John: “For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.” In the closing verses of Malachi, chapter 4, we read: “[5] Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: [6] And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” As we just saw, the angel quoted this passage to Zacharias concerning his son John the Baptist. We can see parallels between Elijah and John the Baptist within the Prophet Malachi’s short book.

The book of Malachi was written about 400 B.C., some 450 years after Elijah the Prophet conducted his ministry in Israel’s northern kingdom. So, we know Malachi is talking about some future ministry of someone named “Elijah” (Malachi 4:5-6). It appears that Malachi 4:5-6 has a dual application. Matthew and Luke say that it first refers to John the Baptist. About 400 years after Malachi wrote, John the Baptist came to introduce Jesus Christ’s First Coming.

Matthew 17:10-13 seems to help us better understand Matthew 11:14. We read in Matthew 17:10-13: “[10] And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? [11] And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. [12] But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. [13] Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.”

In this passage, we see two individuals referred to as “Elias” (the Greek form of the Hebrew, “Elijah”):

  1. ELIJAH AS ONE OF THE “TWO WITNESSES.” Jesus’ disciples asked Him why “Elias” is prophesied to “first come.” This is the Elijah of Malachi 4:5-6, the one spoken of in the prophets. Jesus replies, “Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things” (verse 11). Note the future tense. Jesus speaks of an “Elias” that will come future from His earthly ministry in the first century A.D. That is the prophet Elijah functioning as one of the two witnesses of the seven-year Tribulation (cf. Revelation 12:3-13). These two witnesses come before Jesus Christ’s Second Coming.
  2. JOHN THE BAPTIST’S MINISTRY SIMILAR TO ELIJAH’S ANCIENT MINISTRY. Then, the Lord Jesus talked about That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed” (verse 12). Notice, the past tense. This is someone who already came and left before Jesus’ words in Matthew chapter 17. That refers to someone paralleling Elijah’s ministry, not actually Elijah himself though. Jesus was talking about John the Baptist there (see verse 13). John the Baptist had been put to death, just as the Jews wanted.

CONCLUSION

Just as the Prophet Elijah will function as one of the two witnesses, leading people to Jesus Christ during the seven-year Tribulation, whose preaching keeps Israel’s believing remnant pure for Christ’s coming kingdom, John the Baptist did the same in history to form a group of believing Jews during the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry (which could have led to Israel’s kingdom had they accepted Jesus 2,000 years ago). In addition, we see that the Elijah of the Old Testament was forming a believing remnant in the midst of intense false religious reforms during the reigns of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel.

This is a unique teaching method throughout God’s Word. These are called “shadows,” or “types” and “antitypes,” or “rehearsals.” God is constantly using various parallels from history to communicate truth about future events. This is the beauty of the Holy Bible. Some end-time examples include: Nebuchadnezzar as a preview of the Antichrist, the Great Flood of Noah’s day as a picture of the wrath of God during the seven-year Tribulation, Jonah being a preview of Jesus Christ being dead three days and three nights, King Saul a preview of the Antichrist, King David a picture of Israel’s believing remnant during the seven-year Tribulation, Solomon being a picture of Jesus Christ as King, Job as a picture of Israel’s believing remnant during the seven-year Tribulation, Passover a picture of Calvary, Pentecost a preview of Acts chapter 2, Israel’s battles of old being rehearsals for the major battle that Jesus Christ will fight at His Second Coming, and so on. So, it is not difficult to see how God’s Word would connect Elijah’s ministry of old with John the Baptist’s ministry and the ministry Elijah will have yet future during the tyrannical reign of the Antichrist.

Also see:
» Does Hebrews 10:25 really teach we must attend church?
» Who is “the Bride of Christ?”
» What about blasphemy against the Holy Ghost?