Monthly Archives: August 2016

How can I have an effectual prayer life?

HOW CAN I HAVE AN EFFECTUAL PRAYER LIFE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Friend, if you are familiar with sermons on prayer, you have heard at least once a reference to Elijah’s “effectual” praying. James 5:16-18 says: “[16] Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. [17] Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. [18] And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” Why did Elijah pray like this, what was so special about his prayer that God answered it, and how can we have our prayers answered of God? We answer these questions in our special-edition Bible Q&A article #300.

A preacher recently said that his ministry has received over 93 million prayer requests through the years. He estimated that there were “several million” answers to prayer. Yet, what happened to the tens of millions of prayer requests that went “unanswered?” Did God not deem them worthy of an answer? If you were to survey Christians about their prayer lives, there would be an overwhelming response and great concern about unanswered prayer. For example, the aforementioned preacher discussed how he had even prayed over a lifeless girl’s body, and how God never did bring her back! Why is it that people often pray for one outcome and the very opposite occurs?

To further complicate the matter, Jesus said He would do whatsoever we asked in His name: “[13] And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. [14] If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it(John 14:13-14). Matthew 18:19 is often appealed to regarding prayer: “Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” And yet, when two Christians join in prayer, believing exactly what Jesus said, the verses do not work the way one would expect. Why?

Can you see why unanswered prayer is such a sensitive subject? What was to be a blessing is now a burden! What is going on? Does the Almighty throw away prayer requests? If our prayer requests go unanswered, then why bother to pray at all? Elijah in James 5:16-18 provides valuable insight into this most personal and most perplexing topic.

PRAYER: WHAT BELIEVERS DO

The Apostle James, writing to believing Israel (1:1), says in James 5:16: “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Prayer, in the Bible, is something that “righteous” people do, that believers do, not lost people. That being said, there is no so-called “sinner’s prayer” in the Bible for lost people to pray to be saved. Saved people pray in the Bible.

If you were to take a concordance and find and consider the Bible verses concerning prayer (especially the contents of believers’ actual prayers), you would see that they were always mindful of God’s Word to them. God spoke to them first and then they spoke to God: prayer according to God’s will is absolutely, unquestionably, essential.

According to James, when a saved person prays fervently (intensely, wholeheartedly), that prayer is “effectual” (it will bring about the result that God desired). It will “avail much.” There is much profit in prayer, and James says that these believing Jews are to pray for one another, that they be healed. He provides an Old Testament example, Elijah. By the way, “Elias” is “Elijah’s” Hebrew name in Greek (the language of the New Testament Scriptures)—the Greek language does not have a “j” or an “h.”

Elijah lived in a time of great spiritual wickedness in Israel (the northern kingdom, the 10 northern tribes). King Ahab and Queen Jezebel made Baal worship the official state religion of the northern kingdom. This pagan idolatry seduced the Jews, drawing them away from JEHOVAH God (in direct violation of the first and second commandments of Exodus 20:1-6). As a believer and a prophet, Elijah knew God’s Word to him before he prayed to God.

PRAYER: ELIJAH’S MINISTRY

We read in 1 Kings chapter 16: “[29] And in the thirty and eighth year of Asa king of Judah began Ahab the son of Omri to reign over Israel: and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years. [30] And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him. [31] And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. [32] And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. [33] And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.”

Yes, Ahab was a devilish king (the perfect match for devilish Queen Jezebel!!). As if his predecessor Jeroboam were not wicked enough, Ahab outdid him… and the other previous wicked kings of the northern kingdom, too! Ahab “did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him.” He married a pagan woman, someone who rejected JEHOVAH God, and then he built a house and an altar for the pagan god Baal in JEHOVAH’S land! He also made a “grove” (another place of false religious worship). “And Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.” The nation followed him in that error! This rank paganism is the context of the Prophet Elijah’s ministry. Now we begin to see why he prayed as he did in James 5:17-18.

In the closing verses of the sixteenth chapter of 1 Kings, we learn of the ascension of a new king in Israel (the northern kingdom)—Ahab. As Aquila and Priscilla made a great husband-wife ministry team for the LORD in the New Testament Scriptures, Ahab and Jezebel made a great husband-wife “ministry” team for the Devil in the Old Testament Scriptures! Ahab and Jezebel encouraged the common Jews to worship the pagan god Baal: Ahab built a house for Baal, an altar for Baal, and a grove (trees carved into poles used as a heathen shrine). Later on, Jezebel did not think twice about eliminating competition—she killed the prophets (messengers) of JEHOVAH, even attempting to slay Elijah!

Israel’s decline into paganism under Ahab and Jezebel, both in its leadership and general public, caused the Holy Spirit to move in the Prophet Elijah and confront Ahab: “And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1). Of all judgments, why did Elijah select a drought?

Elijah knew that Israel’s operating system was the Mosaic Law. Moses had said in Deuteronomy 11:16-17: “[16] Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; [17] And then the LORD’S wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.” Elijah simply studied his Bible to find out what JEHOVAH would do in response to Israel’s pagan idolatry, and Elijah prayed for that to happen.

With idolatrous Ahab and Jezebel leading Israel, Baal (devil) worship infiltrated the northern 10 Jewish tribes. The seventeenth chapter of 1 Kings states that Elijah the prophet confronted Ahab, and told him that it would not rain for some time. Over 600 years earlier, JEHOVAH had warned Israel through Moses that, if the nation embraced heathen religion (idolatry), a drought was imminent and Israel’s crops would fail (Deuteronomy 11:16-17). Elijah simply prayed in line with what God was doing with Israel concerning the Mosaic Law—if Israel failed to keep the Law, if she worshipped and served other gods, she would be cursed of the one true God.

The drought came, just as Elijah prayed and Moses predicted. It affected Elijah, but God miraculously took care of him using ravens and a poor widow woman (1 Kings 17:2-24). By the time chapter 18 opens, it is “the third year” of the drought. God instructs Elijah to go to Ahab and say on His behalf, “I will send rain upon the earth” (verse 1). There is a “sore [severe] famine” in the land, but God says that it is coming to an end. Ahab does not repent at God’s Word through Elijah (unbelieving Ahab is ignorant of Deuteronomy 11:16,17). Instead of confessing his sin of idolatry, or encouraging Israel to do likewise, Ahab searches desperately for food for the horses and mules, that all the beasts not die (verse 5). Ironically, Ahab, guilty of corrupting Israel, asked Elijah in verse 17, “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?”

While we must now break away from the story of Elijah, Ahab, and Jezebel (you can read the resolution in 1 Kings chapters 18-21), we will return to the subject of unanswered prayer, its cause and cure.

When God made the covenant of Law with Israel at Sinai, Moses made it very clear to them that they had to obey all of God’s commandments to receive His blessings (Exodus 19:3-6). If they broke that contract, He judged them, not to get even but to reform them (which reformation they usually refused). According to chapter 20, verses 1-6, the first two of the Ten Commandments forbade Israel from worshipping and serving other gods, and from making graven (carved) images. During the reign of evil Ahab, Elijah prayed for a drought because that is what God said He would do in the case of Israel’s idolatry. A drought came and lasted 3½ years (cf. James 5:16-18; Luke 4:25,26).

What if Elijah had prayed for a global flood? That would have certainly gotten Ahab’s attention! After all, did God not promise in Genesis chapter 6 that He would flood the world because of its wickedness? Certainly. Why did Elijah not behave like today’s “name-it-and-claim-it” proponents, grabbing random verses, ripping them from their contexts, attempting to make God grant his selfish desires?

Firstly, Elijah recognized the dispensational boundary between Genesis chapter 9 and his day. God was not dealing with Israel on the basis of the promises He had made to Noah and his contemporaries. Genesis chapter 6 was not God’s Word to or about Israel. However, Deuteronomy was God’s Word to and about Israel, and because Deuteronomy was in God’s will for Israel, Elijah prayed in accordance with it. Secondly, God promised never to flood the world again (Genesis 9:8-17). Had Elijah not recognized these two facts, had Elijah not recognized God’s Word to him (as a member of the nation Israel), his prayer would have gone unanswered and he would have been disappointed and confused.

This corrected view of Elijah’s prayer thus adjusts our view of prayer.

PRAYER: BELIEVING AND SPEAKING GOD’S WORD TO YOU

Elijah believed God’s Word to him. He had a dispensational view of the Scriptures: he did not “name and claim” for Israel verses that God had not spoken to or about Israel. Elijah’s prayer life was patterned after God’s Word to the nation Israel, of which he was a member. There was pagan idolatry in Israel; Deuteronomy 11:16-17 predicted that God would shut up the heaven and prevent rain from watering Israel’s crops; and Elijah’s will was to pray in perfect accordance with JEHOVAH’S will. Elijah was not disappointed because He did not try to make God do something He never said He would do. If only the average church member could take to heart and practice the integrity with which Elijah handled the Holy Bible.

Prayer meetings and prayer requests prove most people are asking God to do something He never said He would do for us. No wonder there are so many unanswered prayers! People are grabbing Israel’s verses, promises God made to Israel, and making as though those verses are to or about us. Preachers talk about literally raising the dead as Jesus did; or literally laying hands on sick people as Jesus did and having them miraculously recover without medical intervention; or God miraculously adding zeros to the end of our bank accounts as He did with Abraham, Isaac, Job, and King Solomon; or God sending angels to protect us as He did with the apostles, the kingdom of Judah, and Peter.

Dear friends, unanswered prayer is not because God is unable or uninterested. Remember, we cannot limit God but we cannot force Him, either. Still, God is God, and He can limit Himself. If He says He is not going to do something, we would be unwise to think that we were God by making Him do what we want.

Once, I spoke with a dear Christian woman who was confused about prayer. She was surprised to learn that the so-called “Lord’s Prayer” had nothing to do with us in the Dispensation of Grace. Yes, strange as it sounds, a prayer that 99.9 percent of Christendom has repeated, and still repeats, over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over as though it affects us, is actually a prayer that has nothing to do with what God is doing today! While many use that prayer as a model prayer, they have not studied their Bibles to learn there are four model prayers especially for the Body of Christ. (For more info, please see our study on “The ‘Lord’s Prayer’” linked at the end of this study.)

When a Christian comes to understand dispensational Bible study, his or her prayer life falls apart. It happened to me, and many others I know. They learn that they were either praying like Israel (the “Lord’s Prayer”) or praying like heathen (mindless, repetitious, man-made prescribed prayers). It will be a happy day in the lives of millions of Christians when they learn that God’s spokesman to them is the Apostle Paul, “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13). They will save themselves years upon years, yea decades, of confusion, heartache, and disappointment. (Still, the vast majority of professing Christians rebel at dispensational Bible study, refusing to break their erroneous prayer habits because that would contradict long-held tradition.)

Beloved, it bears repeating—prayer is designed to be a response of God’s Word to you. Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, are God’s Word to you, so if you are unfamiliar with God’s Word to you, you will be praying apart from God’s will. You will not see God work because you will not know what He is doing. Indeed, dispensational Bible study revolutionizes your Bible understanding and your prayer life.

Elijah could no more make God bring in a global flood as in the days of Noah, than we can make God fulfill Israel’s verses in our Dispensation of Grace. As Elijah recognized the dispensational boundary between his day and Noah’s day, so we acknowledge the dispensational boundary between Elijah’s day and our day. As a friend and coworker in the ministry always says, “We have never been big enough a day in our lives to make God do something He is not doing.”

“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). “Continuing instant in prayer” (Romans 12:12). “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). Certainly, prayer is a vital part of Christian living, but unfortunately, too many believers pray like Israel or like heathen. There rarely is any genuine Christian prayer, so there rarely is any answered prayer!

So, if we are not to pray like Israel, and not to pray like heathen, how then should we to pray? Just as Elijah let God’s spokesman to him, Moses, teach him how to pray, we turn to God’s spokesman to us, Paul, and let him teach us how to pray. However the Holy Spirit prayed for us through Paul, how Paul prayed in the Holy Spirit for us, is how the Holy Spirit will pray for other Christians through us, how we ought to pray in the Holy Spirit.

Friends, Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, make it so plain what God is doing today. His will has been clearly revealed, and we are to study those books and make it our will to pray that His will be accomplished. We are not making God doing anything, but rather reminding ourselves of what He already said He would do. Romans 1:8-12, 1 Corinthians 1:4-8, Ephesians 1:15-23, Ephesians 3:14-21, Philippians 1:3-11, Colossians 1:3-12, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4, 2 Thessalonians 1:3, 2 Timothy 1:3-5, and Philemon 4-6 are all instances of how the Apostle Paul prayed for other Christians. The Berean Bible student will study and consider them, and adjust his or her prayer life accordingly.

Firstly, Paul thanked God for other believers. He constantly reminded himself that he was not alone in the Christian ambassadorship. Other people were in the world also suffering for Jesus Christ’s sake, but God’s grace was working in them and so it would work in him in spite of the opposition. He was continually mindful that, as an apostle, God had commissioned him to take care of the Church the Body of Christ. The grace saints in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, Thessalonica, and in other cities and regions, they were his fruit. It was important that he thus constantly remind himself of God’s Word to him and them, that he see that God’s will for him be accomplished regarding them!

Secondly, Paul prayed that these Christians grow spiritually. He did not want them to be “babes in Christ,” but fully mature sons of God! The Apostle wanted them to “come unto the knowledge of truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). He wanted them to understand the doctrines of grace as he had come to know them from Jesus Christ Himself. He prayed that God’s grace would work mightily in them to produce the life of Jesus Christ in and through them! He wanted them to understand God’s power, that the power of God that raised Jesus Christ from the dead, would work in them when they would believe those grace doctrines.

Let us study Pauline prayer in greater detail.

PRAYER: THE SPEECH OF THE SOUL IN LIGHT OF THE RENEWED MIND

All too often today prayer is reduced to mere posture and procedure—kneel at the railing, or enter your prayer closet, cross your heart, close your eyes, bow your head, use prayer beads or prayer wheels, and recite what you have read in a prayer book. Dear friends, prayer at its fundamental level is none of those things. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Are you going to stay kneeling literally every moment? Should your eyes be closed every second? Is your head to be bowed 24 hours a day, seven days a week? If prayer is kneeling, closing eyes, and bowing heads, then yes, yes, and yes. The truth is, prayer in the Bible is not some formalistic practice, so no, no, and no!

When barren Hannah prayed to the LORD, she told the priest Eli, “I have poured out my soul before the LORD(1 Samuel 1:15). David wrote to Israel, “Ye people, pour out your heart before him (Psalm 62:8). Romans 10:10 says, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” The “heart,” our soul, our innermost being, is that which we use to believe God’s Word. Prayer is speaking to God what is in our hearts, and if we have studied and believed our Bible, then we will be speaking to God what He told us. Again, this is consistent view of prayer, regardless of dispensation.

Brethren, we are to be constantly reminding ourselves of Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. Meditate on these things” (1 Timothy 4:15). Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things” (2 Timothy 2:7). Day in and day out, we should be thinking about God’s Word to us, reminding ourselves of what He said to us. This is Pauline prayer. This is answered prayer.

PRAYER: HOW OUR APOSTLE PAUL LEARNED TO PRAY

Rabbi Shaul was one of the most educated Mosaic scholars of his day. From a very early age, he had studied the Mosaic Law. Learning those Old Testament scrolls, he came to understand that whenever his people Israel suffered any sickness/plague, war, calamity, et cetera, it was divine punishment. He noted how Israel’s conversion and prayer resulted in God removing the problem.

Once “Rabbi Shaul” became “Apostle Paul,” he was intensely persecuted. To Gentiles and Jews alike, he was a renegade Jew, a peculiar fellow. Formerly a religious leader who could not stand to even hear the name “Jesus of Nazareth,” now a “religious leader” who could not stand to be silent about the name of Jesus Christ! Now that he was not preaching Judaism, Israel was after him! Now that he was preaching an illegal religion, Rome was after him! Now that he was not preaching blasphemy, Satan was after him!

We read in 2 Corinthians chapter 12: “[6] For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. [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.” Satan afflicted Paul with something that constantly irritated him (there is Scriptural evidence that it was likely ophthalmic in nature). Three times Paul prayed to the Lord for deliverance, and Paul was shocked to learn the Lord’s answer.

The ascended, risen, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ revealed the mystery to the Apostle Paul over the course of nearly 35 years. This information was completely different from what God had revealed to the Old Testament prophets, the writings Paul had studied intensely when he was lost (see Romans 16:25,26, Ephesians 3:1-12, and Colossians 1:23-27). Now that God had ushered in a new dispensation, Paul had to think differently about God. He had to quit praying according to the old divine revelation, and pray according to the new divine revelation.

In 2 Corinthians chapter 12, after talking about the various visions and revelations of Jesus Christ he had, Paul discusses how he was humbled: “[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.”

“We know not what we should pray for as we ought” (Romans 8:26b). Since there was more revelation from God coming, Paul was, in 2 Corinthians 12:8, not praying according to the new program. He was still thinking of God’s promise to deliver Israel from problems. Verse 9, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” There, in that awful, vexing circumstance, Paul learned one thing—God had given the grace, the capacity, to endure it. Rather than deliverance, Jesus Christ promised inner strength, inner fortification, inner power, to bear the trouble. Paul had to readjust his view of problems and prayer, and we will let him tell us how we should go about doing it.

It is no secret that there is much suffering in this fallen world: where there is sin, sorrow is sure to follow. But, because of prayer, there does not have to be misery. My heart truly goes out to people who are suffering and hurting, and who are confused about unanswered prayers for deliverance. It is with the utmost care that we remind them to look at their problems the way the Apostle Paul finally learned to look at his “thorn in the flesh.”

Initially, Paul, assuming it was harmful, begged the Lord three times for deliverance. Verse 9 of 2 Corinthians chapter 12 says, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” In other words, “Paul, I have something far better in mind for you than deliverance! You are weak but I am strong! I have already given you enough grace, an inner capacity, to handle your problem!” What was Paul’s reply? “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Paul finally saw the value in times of suffering. Jesus Christ’s power would bear him up. Rather than the troubles destroying him, He would use them to Paul’s advantage.

The Berean Bible student will notice, “He said unto me…,” a direct reference to God’s spoken Word. We have to see what God says to us. We find God’s Word to us about suffering in other passages such as Romans 5:1-5, Romans 8:18-28, 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, and 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. There are so many dear precious saints praying to escape their problems, when Jesus Christ has already said He wants to live in them in the midst of those difficulties! Let us now see how we are to pray in difficult circumstances.

PRAYER: A NEW WAY TO PRAY IN DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES

Many precious Christians all around the world, suffering various difficult circumstances, are fervently praying for God to remove those tribulations (remember Paul?). Yet, the troubles remain (remember Paul?). They wonder, “Does God love me? Do I have enough faith? Is there unconfessed sin hindering my prayers? Am I even really saved?” Such disappointment, misery, and confusion!

Beloved, remember, prayer is talking to God in light of His Word to you. The most basic fallacy in modern-day prayer-practice and prayer-preaching is to grab God’s Word to Israel, and make it apply to us. Whether it is “the Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13), or “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do” (John 14:14), or “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 18:19), none of these verses apply to us. God the Holy Spirit never gave us the Church the Body of Christ any such verses in Romans through Philemon. In fact, as we already saw in Paul’s epistles (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), we find God saying “No” three times to Paul’s prayer for deliverance.

Surely, God’s dealings with Israel and God’s dealings are different. In Israel’s program, calamity was a sign of disobedience and God’s punishment of it. However, when we come to this the Dispensation of Grace, problems are not something to flee. God is not mad at us; we are forgiven and accepted in Christ. We suffer trouble in this fallen creation, but we need to always be mindful that God promises to get us through our trying times, not take us out of them. In difficult circumstances, we need to repeat to Him in prayer what He told us in Scripture.

The “dispensations,” or sets of divine revelation that mankind is to believe and obey during precise time periods, change throughout time. Prayers are spoken according to God’s instructions specific to that time, so the contents of believers’ prayers vary from Genesis through Revelation. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). There is much profit in prayer today, provided that we pray in accordance with the “Dispensation of Grace” (Ephesians 3:2—Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon). Prayer reminds us of the Scriptures applicable to the current dispensation and our life circumstances: if we pray in accordance with a former dispensation (such as God’s Word to Israel), prayer will not impact our Christian lives as God intended, thus resulting in more unbelief, disappointment, and confusion.

Two of the best prayer verses for this dispensation is what our Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6,7: “[6] Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. [7] And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” What great memory verses!

We should “pray without ceasing” and “in every thing give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:17,18). Regardless of circumstances, we pray “in every thing,” and we are thankful “in every thing.” Remembering God’s Word to us about those circumstances will give us His wisdom and peace in those circumstances. We need to constantly think about God’s Word to us, whether about marriage, employment, schooling, parenting, finances, illness, or whatever—Paul’s epistles say something about all of these life topics. Start by reading Romans chapter 12, Ephesians chapter 4, and Colossians chapter 3. Beloved, when we pray the Pauline way, we will guard ourselves from frustration and bewilderment, and our prayers will “avail much!”

Friend, have you ever wondered why, even after people pray for angelic protection (citing Psalm 91:11-12), they are injured or killed in some accident? Or, why the sick die after they are anointed with “holy oil” and prayed over for healing (quoting James 5:13-15)? Or, why people pray for God to send them “miracle checks” in the mail to pay their outrageous bills (citing Deuteronomy 8:18), and they receive no such checks? Why prayers for vehicles, spouses, houses, job promotions, et cetera, usually never come about? (Unfortunately, these precious people lack dispensational Bible study, the key to Bible understanding, and desperately seeking a resolution to the confusion, they fall prey to “ministry” shams and scams.)

Paul’s epistles never mention guardian angels. Angels have no ministry to us: they do not serve us as they did Israel. Paul and his ministry companions suffered a variety of problems. No “guardian angels” rescued Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:22-27 (a passage replete with stonings, beatings, shipwrecks, ambushes, imprisonments, hunger, thirst, weariness, painfulness, poverty, nakedness, and cold)! After experiencing this partial listing of problems, Paul’s life ended… with evil Emperor Nero beheading him!

The Apostle’s extensive abuse and excessive torture endured over his 30 years of travelling, he undoubtedly had health issues (massive scar tissue, maiming, maybe broken bones and/or lameness). Some of his “infirmities” are in 2 Corinthians 12:10 and Galatians 4:13-15. How did Paul ever survive those hardships? How did he not give up? It was God’s grace working in him. He remembered God’s grace was sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). God’s grace was sufficient for ill Timothy (1 Timothy 5:23) and sick Trophimus (2 Timothy 4:20), and for the poor Macedonian Christians (2 Corinthians 8:1,2). This grace is sufficient for us too, and we are mindful of it when praying in our circumstances, good and bad.

Some have erroneously concluded that unless we use the same words Elijah used, we will not see results from God. The greater fallacy, however, is to mix our Dispensation of Grace with Israel’s Dispensation of Law. While we can pray for God to demonstrate Himself as when He did with Israel (signs, miracles, wonders), God will not do it because He never said it to us. As we saw “long ago,” God hearkened to Elijah because he was quoting Scripture that applied to him. Elijah valued (believed) God’s Word, he wanted God’s will accomplished, and because he prayed for God to do what He had already said He would do, Elijah saw God’s response!

What is God’s will in this the Dispensation of Grace? “[God our Saviour] Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Today, God wants lost people to trust Jesus Christ (Paul’s Gospel; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4) to be saved from a devil’s hell, and He wants saved people to trust His Word to them (Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon; Romans 11:13) to be saved from a devil’s lifestyle!

Firstly, we should pray for lost people to be saved from their sins by trusting Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork as the sufficient payment for their sins. Secondly, we need to pray for fellow Christians to learn how to understand and enjoy the Bible. Thus, we will be motivated to share the Gospel of Grace with lost people, and share dispensational Bible truths with Christians. God wants law-abiding leaders and citizens, godly husbands and fathers, virtuous wives and mothers, obedient children, hardworking employees, benevolent employers, and faithful saints who maintain the local assembly. Beloved, honestly, we Christians need to quit wasting our time praying denominational prayers and we need to start praying for these things! Just imagine such transformation!

When we pray for things and do not get them, it is not because God is unconcerned or unloving. Oh, dear saint, never entertain such foolishness! Unanswered prayer results when we demand He do for us what He said He would do only for Israel. Rather than praying as denominational tradition encourages—asking God to remove or protect us from problems (“give me good health, safe trips, ‘miracle debt cancellation,’” and so on)—we remember God’s attitude concerning contentment, that Jesus Christ strengthens us to handle all circumstances, good and bad (Philippians 4:11-13).

Father God is concerned, for He gave us His power to endure our difficulties. We find value in tribulations, for these troubles work patience, which works experience, which works hope, and hope makes us not ashamed, “because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:1-5). Troubling times remind us that we are weak, insufficient in and of ourselves; however, God’s grace, love, and power will get us through them. We rely more on Him, experiencing more fully and using the provisions He gave us in His Son: His peace consoles us in our difficult circumstances (2 Corinthians 1:3-11).

Our focus should not be on what we can see (physical circumstances), but, by faith, seeing what we cannot physically see—God’s Word working in us as we endure those troubles (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18; see also verses 19-28). The indwelling Holy Spirit takes this sound doctrine that we believe and pray (Romans 8:26,27), and activates it (1 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 4:12), causing us to not only understand it but enabling us to have the life the doctrine describes.

CONCLUSION

James 5:16-18: “[16] Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. [17] Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. [18] And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”

Why did Elijah pray like this, what was so special about his prayer that God answered it, and how can we have our prayers answered of God?

Prayer, at its fundamental level, is talking to God in light of His Word to us. When saints in Israel’s program prayed, they saw visible manifestations of divine intervention. They saw angels, they saw miraculous healings and raisings of the dead, and so on, because that is what God said He would do for them (“the Jews require a sign;” 1 Corinthians 1:22). What did Jesus say to Israel? “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe!” (John 4:48). Actually, according to Jesus, anyone asking for a miracle today is really saying, “God, I need a miracle before I believe!”

Dispensational Bible study guards against such Bible mishandling. There are no such promises of signs, miracles, and wonders, given to us in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. Rather, God is working invisibly today. “We walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Today, God’s Word is working in us when we believe it, to “renew our minds” (Romans 12:2), to “renew our inner man” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Paul, our pattern, was never spared trouble. Rather, he had God’s power so that the trouble would not destroy him. This is our identity in Jesus Christ, our provisions in Jesus Christ, to handle all circumstances, good or bad (Philippians 4:13).

We should not use prayer as a “use-the-right-words-to-get-something-from-God” scheme. Prayer is simply an intelligent understanding to what God has already said in His Word, what He has already given us in Christ, and then believing and repeating it back to Him so that that Word works in us. Prayer is designed to be a blessing, not a burden as religious confusion makes it. Dispensational Bible study is thus critical to our prayer life, for without right division, we would have no prayer life at all! Let us never forget to pray the Pauline way! 🙂

Also see:
» How should I pray?
» Should I pray “The Lord’s Prayer?”
» Should I pray or speak in tongues?

NOTE: We are greatly delighted to formally announce the grand reopening of our online Bible study resource bookstore! Currently, we have 60 booklets available for purchase, encompassing over 450 studies, 20 themes, and over 3,000 pages. Catalogs and ordering info can found at https://arcgraceministries.org/in-print/booklets-bible-q-a/. We are honored to provide this service to you and these written materials for you! Your support of the ministry is greatly appreciated! Please share this with others.

How does one know if he or she is maturing in the Word of God?

HOW DOES ONE KNOW IF HE OR SHE IS MATURING IN THE WORD OF GOD?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Recently, a Christian asked me how she could discern if she was growing in the Word of God. In this Bible article, I provide you with the highlights of the information I shared with her. Remember, this concerns Christians. This is not written to non-Christians. Non-Christians reading this should stop now and trust Jesus Christ alone as their personal Saviour. Christ died for their sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). God wants to see lost people trust His Son right now, exclusively. They cannot grow in the Bible if they are not first saved in Christ Jesus! Once they trust Christ, then they can proceed to the counsel contained herein. For those of us who are Christians, we continue!

Friend, wherever you are in your Christian life right now—whether you trusted Christ a few seconds, days, or weeks ago, or you trusted Christ several decades ago—you have much more learning to do in the Bible. Furthermore, just because someone has been a Christian for 50 years does not necessarily mean they are mature in Scripture. Just because they have read the Bible for 50 years does not necessarily mean they are mature in Scripture. In fact, if much or all of that time was spent in denominationalism, it is extremely unlikely that he or she is mature in the Bible. Why? Denominations do not encourage spiritual growth in the Bible. Rather, they encourage indoctrination with the theology that the denominational hierarchy approves. This is a select group of verses combined with church tradition (regardless of denomination). Such erroneous information is useless in the purpose and program of God. It profits the Christian nothing.

Having dealt firsthand with people regarding the Scriptures for over 10 years now, I can honestly say there are so many Christians who are simply not mature in the Bible. Maybe they have grown in Scripture, but not much. Precious few are growing steadily. Some have not grown at all. How have I reached these conclusions? On what basis did I form these evaluations? I will show the standards by which you can evaluate yourself and others with whom you come in contact. It is surely to be enlightening!

Before we begin, think about a simple illustration. Consider the maturity process in the physical world. For example, very young children find noisy vehicles zooming by fascinating. So, they will innocently approach busy streets to “have fun” investigating. Of course, they are unaware of the dangers. Supervising adults must warn these children to stay away from those hectic streets. However, these children will eventually gain enough knowledge about such dangers. As they mature, they will reach a point where they no longer need to be told about unsafe roadways. A child is maturing when he or she begins to think on his or her own. They will know by themselves to stay away from them. They have learned by experience (enough warnings, and/or injuries) to avoid busy roads. Eventually, they no longer need people to tell them what else is right and what else is wrong, and what else is dangerous and what else is safe. They have matured concerning a wide range of situations. Rather than relying on others to guide them, they will become more independent. Finally, they will have children of their own, and they can teach their children all about hazards. The cycle continues with new generations. Bring this illustration into the spiritual world.

First, consider Hebrews 5:11-14: “[11] Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. [12] For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. [13] For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. [14] But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

A “babe” in Scripture is someone who cannot teach the Bible to others. Unable to function on their own spiritually, they have to first be taught Bible basics. Indeed, they cannot handle deeper Bible truths. They are “unskilful in the word of righteousness.” The contrast is a mature person, one of “full age,” an individual who has progressed from “milk” (liquid) to “strong meat” (solid food). That person is described as “by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Unlike the baby, the adult has the ability to judge what is good and what is evil. The adult has not only been instructed, but has also had firsthand experience. As the writer of Hebrews lamented, the nation Israel found themselves, not as spiritual adults, but as spiritual babies. They could not teach the Gentiles the Word of God, for they (Israel) could not even understand the simple things of God. May we learn from Israel’s mistake!

In my own Christian life and ministry, I have become increasingly aware of what is right and what is wrong. Through careful study of the Scriptures, and personal application of them in my life, I can evaluate situations and doctrines I once did not and could not understand. When I trusted Jesus Christ as my Saviour 21 years ago, I only knew the Gospel of Grace. Today, I know much more about prayer, Bible versions, heaven versus earth, salvation in Christ, the Holy Spirit, Satan’s policy evil, angels, the nation Israel, Jesus Christ, Father God, mankind, sin, the Church the Body of Christ, creation, Paul’s special ministry to us Gentiles, et cetera. There was a drastic increase in my understanding of the Scriptures nine years ago, when I was introduced to dispensational Bible study. With every passing year, I have grown more comfortable with Bible passages with which I used to struggle. I can better explain Bible topics of which I knew little to nothing years ago.

When you find yourself teaching others, and they understand, that is a sign that you have matured in the Word of God. Not only have you learned the doctrine (one major point in maturity), you can teach it to others (another major point of maturity). Once they learn the doctrine and teach others, they have matured too. Every time you read a particular verse, or research a particular Bible theme, you “connect-the-dots” just a little more in your mind. You believe them in your heart and your soul is strengthened. You notice truths in “familiar” verses you never noticed before. You begin to connect those truths with other verses you read elsewhere. The “big picture” may come together. You begin to “network” all sorts of verses. What took you five minutes to explain is now 10 minutes. You can provide additional details for people you yourself did not know before. If you take Bible study notes, you can look at them days, weeks, months, or years later and say, “Hey, I know so much more about that topic that I could write double that now!” (I find myself saying that!)

SIGNS OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH

Here are 12 indicators that you can use to evaluate your Christian life:

  1. You have a better understanding of Jesus Christ crucified than you did when you first trusted Him. Now you know that Gospel by its Scriptural titles—“Paul’s Gospel” (Romans 2:16; Romans 16:25; 2 Timothy 2:8) and “the Gospel of the Grace of God” (Acts 20:24). Not only do you know that Jesus Christ saved you from hell, but now you understand that He saved you for a purpose. You have become a member of the Church the Body of Christ, able to function in the heavenly places in the ages to come for His glory.
  2. You can explain/teach the above Gospel of Grace to others in a clear manner. You can share that Good News with lost people that they may be saved unto eternal life. You can also share that Good News with other Christians that they may understand why they were saved unto eternal life. As time passes, these experiences will cause you to better explain the Gospel every time.
  3. Mysterious or problematic Bible verses have become clearer, although not entirely clear yet. You at least begin to see how Israel’s verses and the Body of Christ’s verses are different and must remain separate. (More study is required.)
  4. You can explain/teach those mysterious or problematic Bible verses to others, although not necessarily fully. (More study is required).
  5. Mysterious or problematic Bible verses are now quite easy to understand. You no longer have any difficulty with them. You may now find them enjoyable and eventually consider them “familiar friends.” (Though more study will not hurt. More study may make those verses even easier.)
  6. You can easily explain/teach those mysterious or problematic Bible verses to others in an understandable manner. (Though more study will not hurt. More study may make those verses even easier to teach.)
  7. Your prayer-life and behavior will be drastically different. Rightly-divided Bible verses applicable to various life situations will come to you on a daily basis. The more verses that come to mind, the more mature you have become. The more verses you apply by faith, the more mature you have become!
  8. You have stopped committing certain sins (given up bad habits, for example). Please understand that you will never stop sinning in this life. Sinlessness is impossible while we live in these bodies of fallen flesh. We will be sinless in heaven! Still, God’s grace should change how we live, that we better reflect Jesus Christ!
  9. Actions you never thought of as sins will suddenly grab your attention. You have a greater awareness exactly what actions of yours are sins.
  10. Once living for “self,” you find yourself seeking the benefits of others—especially your brothers and sisters in Christ! You particularly will cease behaving in ways that make you a “stumbling-block” to other Christians. Never, EVER pursue your own selfish desires if it means destroying the edification of a fellow believer!
  11. You find yourself preaching to lost people—no longer in hate or contentiousness, but because you know they are going to hell and you love them too much not to warn them! You find yourself teaching other Christians—no longer in hate or contentiousness, but because you know they are trapped in Satan’s snare of false doctrine and you love them too much not to warn them!
  12. Finally, if the Word of God grips your heart mightily enough, and you yield to it by faith, you may go on to become a Bible teacher or a bishop or deacon (men only). Women can serve other women, of course, as well as children. NOTE: Becoming a church leader is not always a sign of maturity. I know plenty of “ministers” who are just as ignorant of Scripture and who live just as sinful as (or worse than) church members sitting in the pew. True spiritual maturity is when one becomes a church leader who is able to lead others to spiritual maturity. Immature church leaders are incapable of this; they need to be taught before they can teach others, sadly.

SOME CLOSING REMARKS

Even though we are mature in the Scriptures, that does not mean we stop maturing. No one can ever say they have “learned all there is to know in the Bible.” In the physical life, a young adult can be considered mature (adult) but yet his or her body will continually strengthen and his or her mind will continually grow. As Paul the Apostle himself confessed in Philippians 3:12-16, there is always more room for learning.

“[12] Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. [13] Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, [14] I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. [15] Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. [16] Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.”

If you want to see the drastic difference between immature Christians and mature Christians, read the two books of Corinthians and then read the two books of Thessalonians. The Corinthians were the most carnal (fleshly, worldly) Christians in all the Bible. Their lives were such a reproach to Jesus Christ! In stark contrast, the Thessalonians were the most spiritual (Holy-Spirit-led) Christians in all the Bible. They were faithful in the edification process—willingly studying Scripture and applying the grace doctrines by faith. Dear saint, where are you? A Corinthian? Or, a Thessalonian? Only you can answer that. Take time to evaluate your Christian life. Consider the 12 points presented earlier. It is your choice to let Jesus Christ have more reign in your life.

Also see:
» Once Christians fall into gross sin, will God use them again?
» What is the Lord’s will for my Christian life?
» If dispensational Bible study is true, how come so few believe it?

Are we praying to God “long-distance?”

ARE WE PRAYING TO GOD “LONG-DISTANCE?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Some people believe that God is some “far-off” Person. When they pray to Him, He is ever so far away from them and their prayers have to travel across the universe to reach Him… supposedly. One preacher, emphasizing this erroneous idea, comically referred to Jeremiah 33:3 as God’s “hotline.” God told the Prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 33:3: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” Is this how prayer operates today?

The fact of the matter is that we do not have to call out to God today for Him to answer us and give us revelation. Jeremiah lived in a day when the Bible was incomplete; God had not revealed everything yet. Today, however, we already have His written Word, preserved, and translated into English in the King James Bible. We do not have to wonder what God wants us to do. We do not have to guess His will for our lives. We do not have to beg Him to give us more spiritual wisdom, spiritual knowledge, and spiritual understanding. We have to open pages of the Holy Bible, and mine out the riches, the profit, God put in it for us!

Furthermore, when we trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, the Holy Spirit came to live within us. Ephesians 1:12-14 explains: “[12] That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. [13] In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, [14] Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”

The holy Spirit of God seals us until the day of our redemption, the Rapture, our gathering unto Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:1). Ephesians 4:30 says: “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” The Bible says that the Spirit of God lives in us the believers. For example, 1 Corinthians 6:19: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” And, 2 Timothy 1:14: “That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.”

Dear friends, when we pray, we are not praying across the heavens as Jeremiah was. We have the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit links us to Father God. Moreover, the Holy Spirit helps us when we do not know what to pray for. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us, according to Romans 8:26-27: “[26] Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. [27] And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”

The Holy Spirit will take the Bible verses we studied and believed, and cause them to become clear in our minds so that we can better apply them to the details of our lives. Whatever the prayer is about, the verses pertinent to the matter will come to mind. We can then pray with greater clarity. Prayer is not so much for God’s benefit, for He knows our hearts before we speak; prayer is for our benefit, that we reinforce our hearts and minds with His Word. Prayer is a reminder of what God is doing today in and through us, what God has told us today in the Pauline epistles of Romans through Philemon. God is not “far away.” We members of the Body of Christ have Him in our hearts in the Person of the Holy Ghost!

Also see:
» How should I pray?
» Should I recite “The Lord’s Prayer?”
» What about confession of sins in prayer?

Why does 1 Corinthians 9:6 mention Barnabas, when he did not travel to Corinth with Paul?

WHY DOES 1 CORINTHIANS 9:6 MENTION BARNABAS, WHEN HE DID NOT TRAVEL TO CORINTH WITH PAUL?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“Why did Paul refer to Barnabas and himself in 1 Corinthians 9:6, as Barnabas was not with Paul when he (Paul) established the church in Corinth? Silas and Timothy were Paul’s companions on his second journey.”

Good question! We look at 1 Corinthians 9:6: “Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?” Paul suggests that the Corinthians are familiar with Barnabas. Yet, when Paul first visited Corinth in Acts chapter 18, Barnabas was not traveling with him. As you mentioned, Barnabas separated from Paul’s company at the close of Acts chapter 15, a few years prior to Paul’s visit to Corinth in chapter 18.

We turn to Acts chapter 15 for sake of comparison: “[36] And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. [37] And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. [38] But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. [39] And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; [40] And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. [41] And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.”

Paul and Barnabas conducted their first apostolic journey throughout Acts chapters 13 and 14. By the end of chapter 15, however, a sharp disagreement forced them to part company. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them on their second apostolic journey, but Paul decided against it because Mark had abandoned them near the close of chapter 14. With Paul choosing Silas for his companion on his second apostolic journey, Barnabas decided to take John Mark on his separate journey. We never read about Barnabas again in the book of Acts. Historically, Barnabas drops off the Biblical narrative entirely.

In their second apostolic journey (15:40–18:22), Paul and Silas met young Timothy in chapter 16. They arrived in Corinth in chapter 18. But, 1 Corinthians 9:6 seems to pose a problem. How could the Corinthians know Barnabas, if Barnabas was no longer traveling with Paul and Silas? We learn the most likely answer by appealing to Acts chapter 18: “[9] Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: [10] For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city. [11] And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”

Here is the most likely scenario. True, Barnabas was not traveling with Paul anymore. Yet, the last time we read about Barnabas (Acts 15:39), he was traveling with John Mark. Evidently, Barnabas, in his own journeys, visited Corinth sometime during the 18 months Paul was living there (Acts 18:11). That is the only way the Corinthians would have been familiar with Barnabas. First Corinthians 9:6 in no way demands Barnabas be traveling with Paul. It simply means Barnabas and Paul met together in Corinth sometime during the 18 months of Acts 18:11.

You must remember the book of Acts will often supply details that Paul’s epistles do not. Also, Paul’s epistles will give information that Acts does not. Luke never mentioned Barnabas in Corinth, yet Paul affirms Barnabas was there at some point for the Corinthians to know him.

Also see:
» Should we pray for safe trips and “traveling mercies?”
» Why did Paul tell the Corinthians to be “reconciled to God?”
» How did Satan hinder Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:18?

Does God give us “points” for trying to be good?

DOES GOD GIVE US “POINTS” FOR TRYING TO BE GOOD?

by Shawn Brasseaux

A Roman Catholic friend once told me that he believed God gave us “points” when we tried to do our best. We may not be perfect, but he reasoned we can certainly “try” to be like Jesus and God will give us “points” for effort. Like in high school or college, if we answer a question wrongly, but at least attempt to answer it, the teacher or professor will give us a few points. While this idea of “partial credit” sounds reasonable to the natural man, and is quite handy in school, it is completely unbiblical to apply it to justification before God. God never gives “partial credit” to anyone. Either we have perfect righteousness or we do not, friends. We trust we will demonstrate in this study that the Holy Bible does not teach God giving us “partial credit!”

In fact, the Bible teaches the opposite of “partial credit” before God. With the God of the Bible, Law-keeping is “all-or-nothing.” You either keep all of the Law, or you break all of the Law. James 2:10-11 in the King James (Protestant) Bible says: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.” For our Roman Catholic readers, we quote the New American (Roman Catholic) Bible: “For whoever keeps the whole law, but falls short in one particular, has become guilty in respect to all of it. For he who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘You shall not kill.’ Even if you do not commit adultery but kill, you have become a transgressor of the law.’”

Both the Roman Catholic and the Protestant Bibles agree that the Law is an “all-or-nothing” system. You fall short with one commandment, and you break all of the commandments. The Roman Catholic Bible actually contradicts the Roman Catholic doctrine that we can “do the best we can” and “make up for what we have done wrong.” According to Sacred Scripture, James 2:10 in particular, we can do no right to “make up” for our wrongs! Again, if you offend the Law in one point, you are guilty of breaking all of the Law. God does not give partial credit, He does not give partial righteousness, and He does not give partial eternal life. Once more, if you offend the Law in one point, you are guilty of breaking all of the Law! Never forget that, friend.

In order to get to heaven, you have to be perfect, my friend. Romans chapter 2 tells us in the King James (Protestant) Bible: “[5] But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; “[6] Who will render to every man according to his deeds: [7] To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: [8] But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, [9] Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; [10] But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: [11] For there is no respect of persons with God.”

And, the New American (Roman Catholic) Bible: “5 By your stubbornness and impenitent heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself for the day of wrath and revelation of the just judgment of God, 6 who will repay everyone according to his works: 7 eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works, 8 but wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness. 9 Yes, affliction and distress will come upon every human being who does evil, Jew first and then Greek. 10 But there will be glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good, Jew first and then Greek. 11 There is no partiality with God.”

Notice how we read about people who are “evil” (verse 9). Who is evil? James 2:10 already told us that the “evil” people are Law-breakers. They have offended God’s Law in at least one point. When Romans 2:10 talks about “good” people, it refers to people who have never sinned at all. They have never broken even one of God’s laws! You say, “Oh, but Shawn, there is no sinless person anywhere! Every person has sinned!” I immediately reply, “Yes, yes, yes! I agree, my friend!” That is the purpose of Romans chapter 2. It is to condemn all people as sinners, unworthy of eternal life and unworthy of heaven. It declares us all to be ungodly and unrighteous. Saint Paul is outlining the sinfulness of man, that he may present the righteousness of Jesus Christ in chapter 3. God offers us His righteousness in Christ Jesus. He does not demand that we make ourselves holy and acceptable to Him because He knows we cannot do it. We cannot be “good” because our nature is evil, tainted by sin. The Law already demonstrated it. Go back to James 2:10.

Let us repeat. With God, Law-keeping is “all-or-nothing.” You either keep all of the Law, or you break all of the Law. James 2:10-11 in the King James (Protestant) Bible says: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.” For our Roman Catholic readers, we quote the New American (Roman Catholic) Bible: “For whoever keeps the whole law, but falls short in one particular, has become guilty in respect to all of it. For he who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘You shall not kill.’ Even if you do not commit adultery but kill, you have become a transgressor of the law.’”

And, no, Romans 2:6-11 is not a plan for getting into heaven. You cannot “continue” (“persevere”) in well doing. There comes a point when you fail, when you interrupt, so you cannot obtain eternal life by “continuing” or “persevering.” The moment you fail, Saint James says you have failed completely. But that is not all. Works-religion is again demonstrated to be a failure, unable to get us to heaven.

We can also see what Saint Paul says about the matter of justification before God. Galatians 3:10-11 in the King James (Protestant) Bible says: “[10] For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. [11] But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.” For our Roman Catholic readers, we quote the New American (Roman Catholic) Bible: “10 For all who depend on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not persevere in doing all the things written in the book of the law.’ 11 And that no one is justified before God by the law is clear, for “the one who is righteous by faith will live.”

The New American (Roman Catholic) Bible has the following footnote at Galatians 3:10: “Those who depend not on promise and faith but on works of the law are under a curse because they do not persevere in doing all the things written in the book of the law (⇒ Gal 3:10; ⇒ Deut 27:26) in order to gain life (⇒ Gal 3:12; ⇒ Lev 18:5; cf ⇒ Romans 10:5). But scripture teaches that no one is justified before God by the law (⇒ Gal 3:11; ⇒ Hebrews 2:4, adapted from the Greek version of Habakkuk; cf ⇒ Romans 1:17; ⇒ Hebrews 10:38). Salvation, then, depends on faith in Christ who died on the cross (⇒ Gal 3:13), taking upon himself a curse found in ⇒ Deut 21:23 (about executed criminals hanged in public view), to free us from the curse of the law (⇒ Gal 3:13). That the Gentile Galatians have received the promised Spirit (⇒ Gal 3:14) by faith and in no other way returns the argument to the experience cited in ⇒ Gal 3:1-5.” (Bold emphasis mine.)

Even the Roman Catholic scholars quoted above admit that salvation into heaven is dependent entirely on Jesus Christ. It has nothing to do with our works or our performance in religion, for we do not continue (“persevere”) in everything written in the Law. Jesus Christ died to free us from the curse of the Law. Do we believe it as true? Do we reckon it as true for ourselves? Have we placed our faith, our complete reliance, on Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for our sins? Not as a way to “help” us, but to do it all for us? That is the message Saint Paul is trying to tell us. Again, Romans 2:6-11 is condemnation—we cannot “persevere” in good works therefore we are bad and under the condemnation of the Law. We are unable to persevere to get eternal life. No one is justified by works. No one is justified by the Law! Justification (right standing before God) is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone!

Romans 3:19-20 in the King James (Protestant) Bible: “[19] Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. [20] Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:19-20 in the New American (Roman Catholic) Bible: “19 Now we know that what the law 4 says is addressed to those under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world stand accountable to God, 20 since no human being will be justified in his sight 5 by observing the law; for through the law comes consciousness of sin.”

Galatians 3:10 in the King James (Protestant) Bible: “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” Galatians 3:10 in the New American (Roman Catholic) Bible: “Cursed be everyone who does not persevere in doing all the things written in the book of the law.” If you do not do all things” that are written in the Law, you are under a “curse.” This agrees perfectly with James 2:10. What is the curse? Eternal damnation in hell! Go back to Romans 2:8-9 in the King James (Protestant) Bible: “But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, [9] Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile….” Romans 2:8-9 in the New American (Roman Catholic) Bible: “8 but wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness. 9 Yes, affliction and distress will come upon every human being who does evil, Jew first and then Greek.”

Cursed is everyone who does not do everything the Law demands. That means, even if you keep 99% of the Law, the one percent of disobedience nullifies/cancels your obedience. Again, the Law, the performance-based acceptance system, is an “all-or-nothing” system. This is the fact set forth in both the Protestant and Roman Catholic Bibles. In reality, we understand the following: Our performance will never make it before God. Every little failure will add up. No Law-keeping is enough for heaven. Even one failure cancels out everything preceding it. Our score before God is “0.” We score no points with God by our good works because our disobedience completely cancels our good works. That is why trusting in Jesus and our good works is also a failure. If Jesus Christ is enough, why do we have to work? Are we going to supplement what Jesus did at Calvary? What heresy! What blasphemy! What folly! Friend, to add to Christ’s sacrifice is to taint it with sinful human fingers! Leave Christ’s sacrifice alone and just accept it by faith!

Also see:
» Does “once saved, always saved” entitle us to abuse God’s grace?
» Should I recite “The Lord’s Prayer?”
» What was the real Immaculate Conception?

What does “Lord of Sabaoth” mean?

WHAT DOES “LORD OF SABAOTH” MEAN?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The expression “the Lord of Sabaoth” appears twice in our King James Bible—Romans 9:29 and James 5:4. What does it mean? Why do we not search God’s Word and let it tell us?

First and foremost, please be careful to note this is not to be confused with the Sabbath day! This has nothing to do with the title “the Lord of the Sabbath” as in Matthew 12:8, Mark 2:28, Luke 6:5, and Luke 13:15. We are talking here about “the Lord of Sabaoth.” As we will see, that word “Sabaoth” is a term of profound significance in the end-times.

We read in Romans 9:29: “And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.” Interestingly enough, if we search the Scriptures to find what “Esaias” (the Greek form of “Isaiah”) wrote, we will learn the meaning of “the Lord of Sabaoth.” Isaiah 1:9 says: “Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.”

The Holy Spirit through Paul took the Hebrew Old Testament book of Isaiah and translated it into Greek in the New Testament book of Romans. We find the meaning of “the Lord of sabaoth by simply reading what Isaiah wrote: “the LORD of hosts.” Actually, sabaoth is the English transliteration of the Greek word (sabaoth) that is derived from the Hebrew word tsaba, the word the Prophet Isaiah used in his book and which the King James translators rendered “hosts.”

The term Sabaoth is Hebrew for “hosts,” specifically the “host of heaven.” The title “JEHOVAH Sabaoth” or “LORD Sabaoth” occurs about 300 times in the “Old Testament” Scriptures as “the LORD of hosts.” Strong’s Greek Dictionary defines Sabaoth (transliterated from Hebrew) as: “Pronounced sab-ah-owth.’ of Hebrew origin (H6635 in feminine plural); armies; sabaoth (i.e. tsebaoth), a military epithet of God:—sabaoth.

“JEHOVAH Sabaoth” (“The LORD of hosts”) is talking about JEHOVAH God with respect to judgment. He is the leader of the angelic armies (“hosts of heaven”). The book of Hebrews (2:10) calls Jesus Christ “the captain of [Israel’s] salvation”—a military term, a commander.

Just when judgment was going to fall on unbelieving Israel in early Acts, God interrupted prophecy and started our mystery program. When God ends our mystery program, He will resume the prophetic program where it stopped when mystery started. There will be the time of Jacob’s trouble, Daniel’s 70th week, the seven-year Tribulation, concluding with Jesus Christ’s Second Coming with fiery judgment. The armies of heaven follow Him (Revelation 19:14; cf. Matthew 16:27, Matthew 25:31, Mark 8:38, Luke 9:26, and 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

Romans chapter 9 is spoken of in context of this. A remnant (“seed”) of Israel will survive that judgment of Daniel’s 70th week and the Second Coming; otherwise, Israel will be completely wiped out like Sodom and Gomorrah. There must be surviving (living) Jews who can enter God’s earthly kingdom Jesus Christ is coming to establish.

Let us read verses 25-29 of Romans chapter 9: “[25] As he saith also in Osee [Hosea], I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. [26] And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God. [27] Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: [28] For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth. [29] And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.”

James chapter 5 uses the term “the Lord of Sabaoth” to warn the wicked who are oppressing the believing (poor): “[1] Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. [2] Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. [3] Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. [4] Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. [5] Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. [6] Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you. [7] Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. [8] Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. [9] Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.”

CONCLUSION

The title “the LORD of Sabaoth” means “the LORD of hosts.” It is a title of JEHOVAH God’s military might, His strength to fight and win battles. The LORD is commander of the angelic soldiers as well as the armies of Israel (“the LORD of hosts” is defined in 1 Samuel 17:45 as “the God of the armies of Israel”). Romans 9:25-29 and James 5:1-9 anticipate the day when Jesus will return to Earth in wrath, His Second Coming, to defeat and destroy the wicked, all unbelieving Jews and Gentiles.

Also see:
» Why do the wicked prosper?
» Who will accompany Jesus at His Second Coming?
» What does 2 Peter 3:8 mean?

What about the “talking snake” in Genesis 3?

WHAT ABOUT THE “TALKING SNAKE” IN GENESIS 3?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Bible critics especially take pleasure in pointing out the so-called “talking snake” account in Genesis chapter 3. They have a good laugh at this alleged “foolishness.” (Of course, as with any prideful people looking to make fun of someone else, they are being foolish but do not have enough sense to realize it!) Friends, as Bible believers, what should we make of this account of the “talking snake?” How should we explain it to those sincere people having difficulty with it? “For what saith the Scriptures?” This will be an in-depth study, but, rest assured, it will be quite rewarding and very enlightening.

Dear friends, we begin by reminding ourselves that a little common sense when using the Bible goes a long way. Like our everyday conversation, the Bible also uses figures of speech. The context usually makes this readily apparent. Someone said, “If the Bible makes sense literally, seek no other sense.” That is wise advice. However, when literal language would be nonsense, we must conclude it is figurative. For example, think about the Lord Jesus being called “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). What was Jesus? A four-legged mammal that bleated, “Baaaaaaa?” Of course not! What nonsense. He was a flesh-and-blood Man who had the character of a gentle and meek lamb. It was not a literal title. Yet, as dumb as it sounds, “smart, non-superstitious, Bible-rejecting” people get away with such foolishness when trying to “reason through” Genesis chapter 3…. And then, in their idiocy, they mock the Bible for being silly. (How pathetic!)

We turn in our Bibles to Genesis chapter 3 and familiarize ourselves with this “snake:” “[1] Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? [2] And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: [3] But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. [4] And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: [5] For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

“SERPENT”—A LITERAL, COLD-BLOODED REPTILE?

Beloved, when you read of a “serpent” in Genesis chapter 3, do not think of a limbless, slippery, cold-blooded, scaly reptile poking out its forked tongue and conversing with Eve. I know some Bible teachers have taught it was a literal snake, I know images in “Christian” circles and books have depicted a literal snake, but they have only given ammunition to the critics. These all—Bible rejecters and Bible users—have a very poor understanding of what the Bible is actually conveying in Genesis chapter 3. They all—Bible rejecters and Bible users—need to study the Bible before commenting on something they know nothing about. If we insist that the “serpent” here is a literal, slithering reptile, we are forced to conclude some even more outlandish ideas:

  1. The “serpent,” if a literal cold-blooded reptile, not only talked with Eve but actually deceived her too. Imagine, a snake that would hiss, lie to you, and encourage you to disobey God. Ridiculous!! “And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat” (Genesis 3:13). Imagine Eve telling God that an animal had deceived her! Beloved, we need not be so small-minded that we go around saying an animal deceived Eve. No wonder the scoffers chuckle. The animal we call a “snake” never did talk, and the Bible never teaches the animal we call a “snake” actually talked. No animal talked to Eve in the garden. That is nonsense. Fantasy. Rest assured, the Bible is correct in that a “snake” most definitely spoke in Genesis chapter 3, but we need a proper definition of the term “serpent.” The literal definition is out of the question.
  1. The “serpent” was cursed of God after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Would God actually curse a reptile? Would He wrestle this animal throughout the coming years? Note again Genesis 3:14-15: “[14] And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: [15] And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” This is hardly the language of a slithering, cold-blooded snake. God has much better things to do with His time than fight a scaly reptile and its offspring! There is a spiritual battle underlying this passage, friends. There is much more than an animal being spoken of here.
  1. If the “serpent” of Genesis chapter 3 were a literal reptile, the critic further pokes fun at Scripture by reading verse 14: “And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:” And, the scoffer goes, “Ha, ha, ha! See, the Bible correlates a ‘serpent’ with ‘cattle!’ And we all know serpents are not cattle!”

(Again, these three points demonstrate a literal definition would be nonsense. We can avoid these far-fetched ideas altogether by properly defining “serpent.” And, one more thing, it was not a literal reptile that was possessed, and through it, evil was wrought in Eden. Not at all. Rest assured, friends, there is an answer that will make sense. Please wait as we further develop our discussion. Be patient—the answer will come and you will rejoice.)

A “SERPENT,” YES, BUT IN WHAT SENSE?

Beloved, the word “serpent” does not describe a physical appearance in Genesis chapter 3. Rather, it is descriptive of the character of an individual. (Remember our opening comments about “the Lamb of God?”) When the Pharisees and Sadducees—religious leaders of Israel—approached John the Baptist, he said, “O generation of vipers…” (Matthew 3:7). Now, think, my dear friends, because you are going to have to use some higher-order thinking skills! Were the Pharisees and Sadducees slithering along to the banks of the Jordan River, spitting venom, exhibiting fangs, and hissing so loudly that John noticed them and chided them for their raucous? Of course not! What foolishness indeed.

Rather, John knew that these religious leaders were slick, sly, cunning. Their nature was being scrutinized—not their physical features. They had put on such a good show. They had been such “innocent-looking people.” Israel thought they had been “men of God” (see Matthew chapter 23). John exposed them to be the satanically-inspired men they were. They were the very reason why false religion had so deceived the nation Israel. Jesus rightly called them “children of the devil” (John 8:44). This is not literal, but spiritual and invisible. Their nature was as Satan’s willful, defiant, sinful, anti-God, selfish nature.

We English-speaking people refer to a dishonest individual as a “snake in the grass.” In fact, any English dictionary will define “snake” as (figuratively) “a deceitful or treacherous person.” Why do people not laugh and make fun of the dictionary? Do these linguists and lexicographers not know humans and snakes are two different types of creatures?! See, Bible critics do not have a problem with the Bible’s terminology and accounts. They have a problem with the Bible, period. They will use any and every excuse—no matter how ridiculous—to discredit it and free themselves from its authority (to not avail, unfortunately for them). They will never castigate the dictionary (man’s words), they will never critique their common speech (man’s words), but they will pick apart the Scriptures (God’s words). This is why is it is important to think about what we say about the Bible before we talk about the Bible! We need to make sure we have a better understanding of the Bible than lost people so we can tell them.

A few side-notes, if you do not mind. Jesus Christ is called “the Lamb of God” because He is a meek and humble Person. Like a sheep that does not put up a fight, but rather submits to the will of its master, the Lord Jesus willingly obeyed Father God in accomplishing His will. Similarly, “sheep” is used in the Bible when applying to people. Bible critics, particularly lost people, use the expression “to separate the sheep from the goats” (not realizing it was taken from Matthew chapter 25). No one in a secular context is ever mocked for saying “separating sheep from goats” when actually referring to anything but literal sheep and literal goats. Even the Bible critic does not complain about Matthew 25:31-46, knowing full well (heard in everyday language) that “sheep” and “goats” are figures of speech to describe two classes of people. “To separate the sheep from the goats” means “to distinguish good or competent members of a group from the bad or incompetent.” It does not mean one is separating literal farm animals. See, like it was said earlier, a little common sense, friends—just a little!—goes a long way in the Bible!

Now, this may be extremely difficult for some to comprehend, but we are not saying that a deceitful person is a “snake” because he or she slithers on his or her belly, has scales, sticks out a forked tongue, hisses, and rattles his or her tail. Rather, “snake” is used to describe their dishonest character. Like we said, the Bible is simple to understand if we just use common sense. We are saying that that person is a “snake” in that he or she is sneaky, sly, not to be trusted, even if he or she pretends to be a friend (“blends in with the grass”). With this said, let us return to Genesis chapter 3 and look at it in this light. Friends, prepare for amazing clarity!

As noted earlier, “snake” in the English language can describe someone who is untrustworthy, someone who schemes and scams, all the while appearing innocent and friendly. Genesis chapter 3, verse 1: “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Now look at verses 3 and 4: “[4] And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: [5] For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

Do you see how that “serpent” pretended to be Eve’s friend? The serpent was “subtil,” cunning and crafty: he gently convinced Eve that he was seeking her best interest, claiming he wanted her to gain knowledge that she did not have. In actuality, the “serpent” was causing Eve to view God as “mean” or “unfair” because God had not given her some ability. Note the schemes and scams of this serpent! That sneaky being caused Eve to ignore the fact that she and Adam were “created in God’s image” (Genesis 1:26-28). The serpent conned Eve out of her God-given knowledge, offering her a position to “be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Paul commented in 2 Corinthians 11:3: “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”

That “serpent” is still trying to trick us and draw us away from our identity in Christ. That serpent is attempting to cause us to ignore Christ’s ministry to us through the Apostle Paul. That serpent is trying to make us go back into “time past” and make God do things He is not doing today. We had better be aware of this, friends, and not be swept away in spiritual error as Eve was all those years ago! Now we see why the Bible says, “the great dragon… that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). Those titles are mentioned again in chapter 20, verse 2, “the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan….” Satan is a “serpent” in character, a very deceitful creature indeed.

“CURSED ABOVE ALL CATTLE, AND ABOVE EVERY BEAST OF THE FIELD”

This description provides the identity of the “serpent” of Genesis chapter 3. Again, Genesis 3:14-15: “[14] And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: [15] And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

According to Ezekiel 1:10, Ezekiel 10:14, and Revelation 4:7, cherubim have four faces. In Ezekiel 1:10 and Revelation 4:7, we see these faces resemble that of a man’s face, a lion’s face, an ox/calf’s face, and an eagle’s face. Ezekiel 10:14 lists those faces as a man, a lion, a cherub, and an eagle. “Cherub” and “ox/calf” are used interchangeably, which means a cherub’s face is that of an ox or a calf. And, remember, Satan is called “the anointed cherub that covereth” (Ezekiel 28:14,16). According to these verses, Satan’s face resembles an ox’s face (with horns). And, what exactly is an “ox?” Is it not a “beast of the field?” Are not oxen “cattle?” Friends, see, let us say it again. A little common sense goes a long, long way in Bible study!

“UPON THY BELLY SHALT THOU GO”

And again, Genesis 3:14-15: “[14] And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:” This phrase “upon thy belly shalt thou go” is one reason why people resort to a literal reptile. Nevertheless, this would only butt heads against what we already know about the passage. Some will even go so far as to say that the reptile snake once walked upright as a man, and that God cursed the snake so that it now slithers on its belly! This is utterly silly, and another reason why people laugh at Christians and the Bible.

If we use the context, especially verse 15, we understand that to “be on one’s belly” is a defenseless position. Standing would be advantageous in a battle, but being on your stomach (face down) is not how you want your body oriented! While Satan has a very fervent spirit to fight against God, Satan really is fighting a useless battle, just as one can goes on his or her belly defenseless. What God is telling Satan is that there is no way that he can win. You can go read the Bible book of the Revelation, and see Jesus Christ completely and totally defeat Satan. Satan loses. It is already settled in God’s mind before it has even happened!

“DUST SHALT THOU EAT ALL THE DAYS OF THY LIFE”

This is another reason why people think of a literal reptile. However, in English, the phrase “eat someone’s dust” is an informal way of saying “to fall far behind someone in a competitive situation.” What God was saying to Satan was simple—“Satan, no matter how fiercely you contend with Me, you will never win. I will bruise your head. That deadly blow awaits you!” See again verse 15: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Satan would (and did) cause Jesus Christ pain and suffering at Calvary, but Jesus Christ would (and did) destroy Satan’s policy of evil at Calvary!

Also see:
» Did Adam die or did he not die in Genesis 3?
» Why did God ask Adam where he was?
» Was God “unfair” to punish us for Adam’s sin?