Monthly Archives: November 2016

Was King Nebuchadnezzar a saved man?

WAS KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR A SAVED MAN?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Yes, on the basis of Daniel 4:37, I would say that pagan Nebuchadnezzar finally “came to his senses” (literally speaking). “Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.” We will take some time to survey parts of the book of the Prophet Daniel.

Nebuchadnezzar was not speaking these words lightly. If you read the first three chapters of Daniel, you can see how Nebuchadnezzar was a very prideful idolater. As a Babylonian king, and like the Egyptian pharaohs, he thought he was a god. Nebuchadnezzar was a very strict, totalitarian ruler. If he did not get what he wanted, he put people to death! In chapter 4, however, we see his pride and idolatry reach an apex. Israel’s God struck down Nebuchadnezzar so hard that he became the humblest world leader of the day.

Daniel chapter 4 begins: “[1] Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. [2] I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. [3] How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.” Nebuchadnezzar, in hindsight, is going to explain to us the valuable lesson that Israel’s God taught him.

King Nebuchadnezzar’s pride is epitomized in verse 30: “The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” Nebuchadnezzar is saying, “Look at all what I have done! My beautiful, expansive kingdom is all for me! I have conquered so many peoples! They are all under my control!” (He, of course, is unaware that there is another king, the King of Heaven, who hears his arrogant words. Nebuchadnezzar will now be humbled beyond imagination! No human leader has ever experienced what he will soon endure!)

Daniel chapter 4 continues: “[31] While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. [32] And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times [years] shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. [33] The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws. [34] And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: [35] And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? [36] At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me. [37] Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.

Nebuchadnezzar was truly a changed man, both in heart and in body. I genuinely think we will see him in Heaven one day. The words he spoke could only come from a believer.

Also see:
» Why did God give Israel King Saul if Saul turned out to be evil?
» What about the “divine right of kings?”
» How could “wise” King Solomon let foreign women deceive him?

Enjoy our Bible Q&A studies? Please feel free to donate here: https://www.paypal.me/ShawnBrasseaux. Also be mindful of our Bible Q&A booklets for sale at https://arcgraceministries.org/in-print/booklets-bible-q-a/.

Does God “call” people to the ministry?

DOES GOD “CALL” PEOPLE TO THE MINISTRY?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Once, I watched a pastor uncharitably rebuke his congregation before an internet audience (of which I was a part). The man declared that just as God had ordained Paul, God had ordained him. Another pastor got up to the same pulpit and said, “God has called ___ into the ministry. He has not called you! If you do not agree with what is going on in this church, you can leave right now!” (Understandably, this led to a church split.) How I grieved inside to hear such uncouth language… especially from a “grace pulpit!”

Does God really “call” people to the ministry? Is He mysteriously and directly selecting people to become pastors and deacons? Or, is that denominational superstition? Let us consult the Bible for the answers!

Paul’s epistles of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon are the foundational books for local church order. However the local grace church is to function in the Dispensation of Grace, we find the structure and details in those four Bible books. First Timothy chapter 3 and Titus chapter 1 list the qualifications for church elders (bishops and deacons). Not one time in either chapter is God “calling” any man. Rather, we read, “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work” (1 Timothy 3:1). There is nothing about the Holy Spirit imparting to him some spiritual gift. There is nothing about God “calling” him to the ministry. There is nothing about God forcing him to enter the ministry. It is a choice the man makes based on the Word of God working in him. Entering the ministry is a personal decision; the truth is, God has not “called” anyone into the Christian ministry in nearly 2,000 years.

We read in Acts chapter 13:1-4: “[1] Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. [2] As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. [3] And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. [4] So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.” God certainly called Saul of Tarsus and made him Paul the apostle of the Gentiles; however, God has not directly ordained anyone as Paul’s replacement. To say otherwise is to lay the foundation for a cult, and bring the local church one step closer to becoming a dictatorship.

Regrettably, there is an abuse of power today in a lot of local assemblies. People have been (or are being) bullied into following one particular pastor or Bible teacher. These leaders are never to be questioned because they are supposedly “ordained of God.” It is touted, “The Bible says in 1 Chronicles 16:22 ‘touch not the Lord’s anointed.’ It is a sin to remove me from power!” Actually, if a church leader is doing something wrong in doctrine or action, it is not anti-God to remove him from authority in the local assembly. It is not as if God has supernaturally appointed him and to throw him out means disobeying God. Unfortunately, it must be said. Some local churches would be 1,000 times better off if they would get rid of their wayward pastor! The man has caused the assembly to err in doctrine. He does not teach the Word of God rightly divided. If he does teach the Word of God rightly divided, he does so in a very unloving, contentious manner. He forces verses to say what he wants them to say. The Bible is clear to have nothing to do with false teachers—that includes preachers!

Romans 16:17-18: “[17] Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. [18] For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” And, 1 Timothy 6:3-6: “[3] If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; [4] He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, [5] Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. [6] But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

We expect 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon to mention spiritual gifts. After all, those four epistles highlight how the local church is to function—especially who is to lead them and how they are to behave. We would expect those four epistles to emphasize men who had the gift of tongues, and/or the gift of prophecy, and/or the gift of apostleship, and/or the gift of healing, and/or the gift of wisdom or the gift of knowledge, and so on. Yet, 1 Timothy chapter 3 and Titus chapter 1 do not even briefly mention such gifts. Bishops and deacons were not required to have them. Why? Those chapters are written in light of the Acts transitional period passing away. Once the Acts period ended, there would be no more need for (temporary) spiritual gifts. What was needed was men who knew the completed Bible, who let the completed Bible work in them, who then chose to become bishops and/or deacons. That is the teaching of 1 Timothy 3:1.

The Bible talks about the spiritual gifts ceasing. Contrary to what you may have heard all your life in church, there are no spiritual gifts operating today. Spiritual gifts vanished when the Bible was completed in the first century A.D. You can learn more information by seeing our study on 1 Corinthians 13:10 (linked below). For now, we simply quote it and its context: “[8] Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. [9] For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. [10] But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. [11] When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. [12] For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. [13] And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

Also see:
» What is the “that which is perfect is come” in 1 Corinthians 13:10?
» Could you explain Paul’s “Acts” ministry?
» What is the difference between a minister, a pastor, and an evangelist?

How was Paul “rude in speech?”

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE MEAN, PAUL WAS “RUDE IN SPEECH?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

“But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge…” (2 Corinthians 11:6a). Just how was Paul “rude?”

The Greek word translated “rude” in here is idiotes (from which we get “idiot”). It would be helpful to see how our 1611 translators rendered that word elsewhere.

First, Acts 4:13: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” Then, 1 Corinthians 14:16: “Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?” The word “unlearned” appears in verses 23 and 24 as well. “Ignorant” or “unlearned” means “untaught, uneducated, in a particular subject.”

“Rude” in 2 Corinthians 11:6 did not mean that Paul spoke offensive, nasty language; it was “rude” as in rudimentary (basic, simple, plain). Paul knew proper Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic—he had been trained under the guidance of Gamaliel, the chief rabbi of that time. He was highly educated in literature, history, and religion. Jesus Christ even taught him doctrine never before revealed. In short, Paul was no idiot. But, he did not use his education to form statements that would manipulate people to make them do or believe. Unlike Apollos (Acts 18:24-26), Paul chose not to be an eloquent speaker.

“[1] And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. [4] And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: [5] That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1,4,5).

Many church leaders need to understand this simple fact. According to God the Holy Spirit, it is not about using highly technical theological terms and defending complex denominational dogmas. It is all about using plain, simple language that common people (even children) can understand and believe. Remember, the King James Bible is sixth-grade English for a reason!

Also see:
» What does, “Quit you like men,” mean?
» What does “Lord of Sabaoth” mean?
» What does “kicking against the pricks” mean?

Why are “the heavens not clean in God’s sight?”

WHY ARE “THE HEAVENS NOT CLEAN IN GOD’S SIGHT?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

The world’s oldest book, the first Bible book written, already detailed for the nation Israel the following fact: “Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight” (Job 15:15). “Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight” (Job 25:5). But, what do these statements mean? Are stars rational beings capable of sinning? (As one theologian of old claimed.) We will be Berean Bible students and compare some verses.

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). This is the Bible’s opening verse. When God created the heaven and the earth, He created ranks of government in each realm. Note Colossians 1:16-17: “[16] For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: [17] And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” By the Lord Jesus Christ, all things were created. The “things” here are offices of government—“thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers.” Furthermore, Ephesians 1:21 talks about “mights” and “every name that is named.” There are various offices of government in Heaven and in Earth. Just as we see offices of government on planet Earth, similar ranks are in Heaven—although, in Heaven, these offices and their occupants are invisible. Heaven is a real place, an organized place, with angelic beings holding jobs and performing various tasks.

God meant mankind to function in Earth’s governments for His glory. We read in Genesis chapter 1: “[26] And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. [27] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. [28] And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Of course, Adam (the first man) later sinned and lost his place as King of the Earth. But, before man sinned, there was a rebellion in the government of Heaven. We read about this in Isaiah chapter 14: “[12] How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! [13] For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: [14] I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”

Ezekiel 28:12-19 is God speaking to the King of Tyrus, but more specifically, He is talking to the evil spirit working behind the King of Tyrus. God is talking to Satan, Lucifer: “[12] Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. [13] Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. [14] Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. [15] Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. [16] By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. [17] Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. [18] Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. [19] All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.”

Ezekiel tells us in verse 16 that Lucifer enticed a number of angelic beings to rebel against Jesus Christ with him. These are what we call “fallen angels.” They fell from the third heaven (God’s throne). “And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven” (Luke 10:18). Returning to Job, we read: “Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight” (Job 15:15). And,”Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight” (Job 25:5). In the context, these verses refer to fallen angels. Remember, Satan is persecuting Job, and Job is aware of the angelic conflict, the battle between God and Satan, and the battle between good angels and bad angels.

Hence, the Apostle Paul spoke of “spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). “High places” is synonymous with “heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 2:6). Outer space is filled with Satan and his minions’ activities. Ephesians 2:2 calls Satan “the prince of the power of the air.” Thankfully, they will be kicked out of heaven one day (Revelation 12:7-11) and we will take their places (Ephesians 1:3,20-23; Ephesians 2:6-7)!

Job 15:15 and Job 25:5 are not talking about literal, physical spheres of burning gas in outer space that have sinned. Rather, it is outer space with respect to evil angelic beings functioning there. Their place will be found no more in heaven by the time we reach Revelation 12:7-11 (future from our day). That means these evil beings still have access to outer space (the second heaven) today. They will not be confined to hell until Jesus Christ returns in power and great glory at His Second Coming.

God will establish His kingdom in the heavenly places first. When we are caught up into heaven at the Rapture, He will remove the evil angelic powers from heaven, and install us the Church the Body of Christ in their places. Once Jesus Christ returns to Earth, He will remove the evil spirits from earth and cast them into hell. Thus, Ephesians 1:10 will be fulfilled: “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.”

SUPPLEMENTAL: “THY KINGDOM COME. THY WILL BE DONE IN EARTH, AS IT IS IN HEAVEN”

The so-called “Lord’s Prayer”—or “‘Our Father’ Prayer”—features the phrase, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Should we pray this as Christendom does so often today? No.

Since the heavens are not clean in God’s sight (Job 15:15; cf. Job 25:5), and since Satan will not be removed from outer space until the future (middle of the seven-year Tribulation—Revelation 12:7-12), it makes no sense for us in the Dispensation of Grace to pray that God’s will be done in Earth as it is in Heaven. God’s will is not being done in heaven today. It will be in the future. After our Dispensation of Grace, God’s will shall be accomplished in the heavenly places. Then, Israel can rightfully pray in light of that. As God used us (Body of Christ) to establish His heavenly kingdom, so Israel will pray for God to use them to establish His earthly kingdom. For more information, see our study below, “Should we pray ‘The Lord’s Prayer?’”

Also see:
» What are Satan’s operations today?
» Did God give free will to angels as He gave to mankind?
» Should we pray “The Lord’s Prayer?”

What is the Sabbath day—Saturday or Sunday?

WHAT IS THE SABBATH DAY—SATURDAY OR SUNDAY?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Within the ranks of Christendom, you find the common idea that Sunday is the “Christian Sabbath.” Who changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday? Did they have the authority to do this? We look to the Holy Word of God!

Roman Catholic priest “Father” Dale Fushek wrote: “When Did Sunday Become the Sabbath? The Book of Genesis says God created the universe in six days. Beginning on the first day of the week, Sunday, and ending on the last, the Saturday, on which he rested. ‘Sabbath’ comes for the Hebrew word for resting or ceasing. In Jesus’ time—and even today—there are serious restrictions among Jews concerning what can and cannot be done on the Sabbath. But, over time, Christians began celebrating on the first day of the week because Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday and it was on Sunday that the Holy Spirit descended on Pentecost.”

Note this priest never really answered the question he asked. He never said when Sunday actually became the Sabbath. Could it be that he knows Sunday never actually became the Sabbath at all? There is no verse in the Bible, in the Protestant Bible or in the Roman Catholic Bible, that indicates Sunday ever became the Sabbath. Can it be any clearer? Sunday never became the Sabbath! That is the figment of theologians’ imaginations!

The Bible says Jesus arose on the “first day of the week” (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). Using this standard of Sunday as the first day of the week, Saturday would be the last (or seventh) day of the week. Genesis 2:1-3 speaks of the first Sabbath, or Saturday: “[1] Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. [2] And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. [3] And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.”

Many centuries later, God commanded the nation Israel through Moses in Exodus 20:8-11: “[8] Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. [9] Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: [10] But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: [11] For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Prior to the nation Israel and Moses, no one was ever commanded to keep the Sabbath Day. Nothing in the Bible indicates that Adam, Noah, or even Abraham ever observed the Saturday Sabbath.

It is true that Jews worshipped in the synagogues on the Saturday Sabbath (Matthew 12:2,9-10; Mark 1:21; Mark 6:2; Luke 4:16; Luke 6:6; Luke 13:10; Acts 13:14-16; Acts 15:21; Acts 17:1-3). It is true that Christians usually assembled on the first day of the week, or Sunday. Acts 20:7, for example: “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.” And 1 Corinthians 16:1-2: “[1] Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. [2] Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.”

While early Christians did meet on the first day of the week, the Bible never called this the “Sabbath Day” or the “Lord’s Day.” In the Dispensation of Grace, there is no prescribed day of worship. We should worship God every day, not just on Sunday. Paul’s epistles make no reference to us keeping the Sabbath Day or that we have to go to church on Sunday. If it is convenient for us to fellowship with saints on Wednesday, or Thursday, or Tuesday, or even Monday, we can do it. The point is not to put so much emphasis on a formal schedule, but rather the doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ being clearly proclaimed.

Colossians 2:16: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:…” Galatians 4:9-11: “[9] But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? [10] Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. [11] I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.”

The Mosaic Law regulated what foods the Jews were to eat, what foods not to eat, what drinks to drink, what drinks not to drink, what days to observe, and so on. Today, however, we are under no such regulations. Actually, to teach that we must abstain from certain foods in the Dispensation of Grace, the Bible calls that a “doctrine of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1-5). We are under no kosher food laws today. We are not bound to keep the Sabbath Day. The Sabbath Day has no meaning for us as it did for the nation Israel in the Law program. Paul never instructs us to keep the Sabbath day. It may be good church tradition but it is not Bible!

Furthermore, Paul said that he was “afraid” of the Galatians because they were embracing the Mosaic Law and they were hindering God’s grace from working in their lives. They were observing days, religious holidays. Paul said in Colossians chapter 2 that Satan would use various tactics to cause us to forget our identity in Christ. We read about the traditions of man, vain deceit, philosophy, the rudiments of the world, holydays, new moons, Sabbath days, and so on (Colossians 2:8,16). None of that has any significance today. It is Scriptural to follow the Law of Moses, but it is not dispensational. We are under the Dispensation of Grace, not the Dispensation of Law (Romans 6:14-15). God’s grace never tells us to set one day aside for worshiping God. We should worship God all the time. Every day should be lived to the glory of Jesus Christ, not just one day a week.

Also see:
» Why did God give Israel the Sabbath day? (UPCOMING!)
» What is “the Lord’s day” of Revelation 1:10?
» Why did Jesus Christ heal on the Sabbath days?

Can you explain 1 Timothy 3:16?

CAN YOU EXPLAIN 1 TIMOTHY 3:16?

by Shawn Brasseaux

People have confused 1 Timothy 3:16 for many, many years—centuries, actually. Just what makes it so controversial? Read it to see why: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” What is this talking about? There has been so much discussion about it but very little light has been shed. In this Bible study, we purpose to make the truths of God’s Word as plain and simple as humanly possible concerning 1 Timothy 3:16. To the Scriptures!

I. FIRST TIMOTHY 3:16 AND TEXTUAL CRITICISM

First Timothy 3:16 is one of the major problem verses in the modern English versions and their underlying manuscripts. Our King James Bible says, “God was manifest in the flesh….” Most modern English versions, however, have a general reading of “He” or “He who” or “Who” where our KJV has “God.” (With no Greek authority, some modern versions read “Christ!”) Why do modern English versions read differently here? The answer is two-fold.

The first and foremost factor is a textual issue. It is not that the new-version translators are unskilled in translating. The problem is they are translating a depraved (corrupt) Greek text. The King James Bible’s underlying Greek text, the Textus Receptus, reads “theos” (rendered “God”). However, the modern English version manuscripts, the Alexandrian text, read “os” (“which” or “who”—which is syntactical nonsense). Modern English versions that read “Christ” are interpreting the passage without manuscript support. The scribes/copyists of the modern-version Alexandrian manuscripts altered (probably intentionally) the correct Greek word, theos, into os. Notice how this extremely subtle change involved nothing more than dropping the first three letters (“the-”). With the omission of these few Greek letters, the Bible text was greatly damaged. (And these perverted manuscripts are heralded as “better” texts!!)

Secondly, there is a copyright issue. Modern English versions must read differently from each other in order to have their unique copyrights. Verses must be reworded if the text is to be considered distinct from other modern English versions. Modern English translators are forced to change the wording of 1 Timothy 3:16 so as to keep their respective works separate. This is why some versions have “He who,” others have “He,” some have “Who,” and others have “Christ.” The New King James Version, surprisingly, actually agrees with the King James Bible by retaining “God.”

People who do not like to recognize Jesus Christ’s deity prefer the reading of 1 Timothy 3:16 in the modern English versions. Only unbelievers and heretics would be comfortable with removing “God” and replacing it with “He,” “He who,” or “Who.” Now we understand why the Jehovah’s Witness New World Translation does not use the King James Bible Greek text! The Jehovah’s Witnesses see no problem calling Christ Jesus “He” or “He who” or “Who”—they just refuse to call Him “God!” (Anyone who dismisses this textual problem as “minor” has a heart problem. They do not have the sense to understand their Bible should not have mistakes in the first place!)

II. FIRST TIMOTHY 3:16, IN CONTEXT

Like so many, I once assumed 1 Timothy 3:16 referred to Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry. Friend, this is probably how you have often heard this verse taught. If you read study Bible notes, commentaries, and listen to preachers and teachers, invariably, you will see they approach 1 Timothy 3:16 in this manner. However, if you look at the context, there is nothing about Christ’s earthly ministry. What is the context of 1 Timothy chapter 3? Or, better yet, what is the context of the whole book of 1 Timothy? The context of the epistle is the organization and administration of the local church assembly. Chapter 3 begins with the office of the bishop, then discusses the office of the deacon, and finally mentions the assembly (collectively).

Our first step in understanding 1 Timothy 3:16 is to read and believe the two previous verses: “[14] These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly. [15] But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” If you get nothing else out of this article, friend, please remember not to isolate verse 16 from verses 14 and 15!

What is “the house of God?” What is “the church of the living God?” Church tradition causes most people to say “the house of God” is a physical building. However, the Bible says God does not dwell in temples made with hands (Acts 17:24). Rather than speculating, we will let the Bible define for us this term “the house of God.”

Ephesians 2:19-22 says: “[19] Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; [20] And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; [21] In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: [22] In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

We are the temple of the Holy Ghost, as 1 Corinthians chapter 6 says: “[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? [20] For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Also, 1 Corinthians chapter 3: “[16] Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? [17] If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”

According to the Bible text, the “house of God” of 1 Timothy 3:15 is individual Christians. It is also the local assembly of these Christians gathering in fellowship. We Christian believers, we are the house of God, the temple of God. Friend, do not let religion rob you of this truth by encouraging you to refer to some manmade structure today as “the house [or temple] of God!”

When we come to verse 16, we simply carry the thought over from verse 15 (most Bible readers fail to do this and thus misinterpret the verse). Verse 16 is still talking about the local group of Christians, or you could even say all of the Church the Body of Christ. If you look closely, the order of events of verse 16 does not match the order of Christ’s earthly life and ministry. However, that order of events perfectly matches our life and earthly ministry as members of the Body of Christ. We now dissect 1 Timothy 3:16: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”

III. FIRST TIMOTHY 3:16, EXPOUNDED

A. “AND WITHOUT CONTROVERSY…”

“And.” Let me remind you again the opening “and” links verse 16 to verse 15. Verses 14 and 15 again: “[14] These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly. [15] But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. [16] And [a continuation of verse 15] without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” Verse 16 continues the thought mentioned in verse 15. The truth 1 Timothy 3:16 sets forth concerns the Church the Body of Christ of verse 15!

“Without controversy.” The Apostle Paul will reveal, profess, and proclaim, what is undoubtedly one of the most awesome teachings in the whole Bible. (Although, as we already pointed out, this verse has been highly “controversial” because people refuse to believe it as it exists in the proper Greek and English Bible texts! Regardless of their great efforts to deface the Word of God, these people cannot change what the original Bible says.)

B. “GREAT IS THE MYSTERY OF GODLINESS: GOD WAS MANIFEST IN THE FLESH…”

Any Bible student knows that Jesus Christ being God was no mystery (secret). Various “Old Testament” prophetic verses all predicted—hundreds of years in advance—that Messiah would be God in human flesh. We will briefly survey some examples.

Isaiah 9:6-7, written 700 B.C.: “[6] For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. [7] Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” (Messiah holds the titles of “The Mighty God” and “The Everlasting Father.” Could Messiah’s equality with Father God be any clearer?)

Isaiah 35:4, written 700 B.C.: “Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.” (In light of verses 5-6, this is a reference to Messiah’s earthly ministry. Messiah is called “God” here.)

Micah 5:2, written 750 B.C.: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” (This is a verse about Messiah Jesus, according to Matthew 2:4-6. Micah 5:2 is perverted in modern in English versions, with “everlasting” [a reference to Messiah’s deity] is changed to “ancient times.”)

Malachi 3:1, written 400 B.C.: “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the LORD, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.” (The “me” here is JEHOVAH, and really it is Jesus Christ whom John the Baptist preceded—see Mark 1:1-3. Mark 1:2 is perverted in modern English versions.)

The above verses indicate Messiah’s deity was not a secret. BUT, 1 Timothy 3:16 says “God manifest in human flesh” WAS a secret. “And without controversy great is the mystery [secret] of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh….” In other words, God being manifested in the flesh in this verse, the truth of 1 Timothy 3:16, was hidden from the “Old Testament” prophets. There is only one logical conclusion—1 Timothy 3:16 discusses something other than Messiah Jesus’ earthly ministry. Perhaps this startles you, but rest assured, it will become clearer as we progress. What type of fleshly manifestation of God is Paul mentioning here? (Hint: Recall the theme of the chapter, or the theme of the book!) “God manifest in human flesh” is a description of us, the Church the Body of Christ! We, corporately, are “godliness” (“God-likeness”). After all, it is God’s life in us! This is the “mystery of godliness.”

Second Corinthians chapter 4: “[7] But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. [8] We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; [9] Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; [10] Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. [11] For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” In the lives of Christians, the “life of Jesus” is manifested for all to see! By the working of the Holy Spirit who indwells us, the life of Jesus Christ (who is God manifested in human flesh) is revealed, or made known, in our lives. The Holy Spirit produces the life of Jesus Christ in the lives of the members of the Church the Body of Christ.

Galatians 2:20 tells us: “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.” And, Philippians 1:21: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Finally, Colossians 3:4: “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”

Recall that the group of believers we know of as the Church the Body of Christ was kept secret from the “Old Testament” prophets. God manifesting His life in and through a group of believing Jews and Gentiles in one Body of Christ, that was most definitely a secret (mystery) not revealed until Paul’s apostleship and ministry. Read about “the mystery of [the Body of] Christ” in Ephesians 3:1-9. We do not learn this secret until the Pauline epistles, Romans through Philemon.

We let the Holy Spirit tell us in Ephesians chapter 9: “[1] For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, [2] If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: [3] How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, [4] Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) [5] Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; [6] That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: [7] Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. [8] Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; [9] And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ….”

C. “JUSTIFIED IN THE SPIRIT…”

“Justified in the Spirit” would make no sense referring to Jesus Christ. He needed no justification because He was God. Remember, the context is the Body of Christ.

We are justified, declared righteous in God’s sight, by the shed blood of Jesus Christ on Calvary (Romans 3:25-26). The moment we trust Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, the Holy Spirit puts us into the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). We thus share Christ’s identity, His righteousness. We are surrounded by the power of the Holy Spirit because He makes Christ’s life real in our lives. Romans 8:9 says: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Rather than being “in the flesh,” we are “in the Spirit.” That means the Spirit of God lives in us—remember, we are His “temple.” That is our identity. He has applied the righteous nature of Jesus Christ to our account, in contrast to the sin nature we have in Adam. That new nature in Christ produces God’s life, enabling God’s life to be manifested in ours. Again, “God manifest in the flesh.”

Galatians 3:3: “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” And, Galatians 5:16: “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:25 also: “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” We can also look at Colossians 1:8: “Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.” Again, “in the Spirit” is our position, and when we walk in that sanctified position, God’s life is manifested (practical, daily living). God’s life is not manifested in our lives when we walk in our resources, our own strength (legalism instead of grace living). When we walk apart from our identity in Christ, sin will dominate our lives.

D. “SEEN OF ANGELS…”

While angels watched Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry, this is not a reference to His earthly ministry because, as we have said already, the context does not support it. Remember, angels watch us as well. First Corinthians 4:9: “For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.” And, 1 Corinthians 11:10: “For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.” Also, Ephesians 3:10: “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,” Finally, 1 Timothy 5:21: “I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.”

When we realize that angels are watching us in our daily activities, then that will surely change our behavior. Think of the millions of angels above observing us down here. Are they seeing the life of God in human flesh on display in our lives? Are they witnessing the grace of God transforming lives? Or, are they seeing sinful people misbehaving while also claiming to value and follow God’s Word? Something to think about, my friend, something major to think about!

E. “PREACHED UNTO THE GENTILES…”

The message of “God manifest in the flesh” (the Body of Christ) being preached to Gentiles would certainly not be true until we come to the Apostle Paul’s ministry. If you are familiar with the Bible rightly divided, then you know Paul’s ministry was to Gentiles, all the nations, not just to Israel.

Paul wrote in Romans 11:13: “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office….” Also, the ascended Jesus Christ told Paul in Acts 26:17-18: “[17] Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, [18] To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” And, Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:5-7: “[5] For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; [6] Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. [7] Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.”

We can also refer to Titus 2:11: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men….” “All men” is a reference to Paul preaching to all nations. Also, the Holy Spirit led Paul to write in Romans 15:15-16: “[15] Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God, [16] That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.” Another reference is Ephesians 3:9: “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ….” Finally, Paul penned in 2 Timothy 4:17: “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.”

In stark contrast to Paul’s ministry, Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry was not to Gentiles—it was only to Jews. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said to the 12 apostles in Matthew 10:5-7, for example: “[5] These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: [6] But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [7] And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He told a Gentile woman in Matthew 15:24: I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And, we can also look at John 4:22: “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.” Finally, Romans 15:8 affirms: “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision [Israel] for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers….”

F. “BELIEVED ON IN THE WORLD…”

Again, this would not be true of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry. “God manifest in the flesh” (the Body of Christ) was not believed on in the world until Jesus Christ was preached “in the world.” As briefly noted earlier, Paul’s ministry goal was to reach “all nations.” Romans 1:5 highlights his ministry: “By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name.” And, Romans 16:26 serves as confirmation: “But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.”

The Holy Spirit led Paul to write in Colossians, chapter 1: “[4] Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, [5] For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; [6] Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth….” Not only was Paul, through the power of the Holy Spirit, preaching the Gospel of the Grace of God to “all the world,” that Gospel message was “bring[ing] forth fruit” in all the world. That is, people believed it, trusted it, and thus gained a hope in heaven because of Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork.

G. “RECEIVED UP INTO GLORY…”

While commonly assumed to be a reference to Jesus Christ’s ascension into heaven in Acts chapter 1, this is actually in reference to the Rapture, when the Church the Body of Christ finishes its earthly tasks (previous clauses of the verse) and is taken into heaven to serve Father God there. You may read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Ephesians 2:6-7, Philippians 3:20-21, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2 Corinthians 5:1, Colossians 3:1-4, 1 Corinthians 15:51-55, et cetera). The life that God manifested in our mortal flesh here on earth will be brought to fruition in the heavenly places. His life, as lived on earth through us, will be put on display throughout the universe through us.

Unfortunately, time and space do not permit us to quote and expound Romans 8:18-25, Ephesians 1:20-23, 1 Corinthians 15:34-58, Colossians 3:1-4, and 2 Timothy 2:10-13. These are some of the main passages that highlight God using us (the Church the Body of Christ) in the ages to come to reflect His life in the heavenly places. Please read and study them on your own time. They will help you immensely in answering the question concerning what we will do in heaven for eternity.

IV. CONCLUSION

Some believe that 1 Timothy 3:16 was an “early Christian hymn.” This speculation does not concern us. What concerns us is that we properly identify the person or people in the verse. It is not the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ Himself. Rather, it applies to the earthly ministry of the Body of Christ.

Christ ascended, then He was preached unto Gentiles, and then He was believed on in the world. First Timothy 3:16 has that order reversed—preaching unto Gentiles, believing on in the world, and then ascending into heaven. Could it be clearer, dear friends? The verse is describing the life of the Body of Christ (today’s program) and not Jesus Christ in the books of Matthew through John. The context of 1 Timothy chapter 3, the theme of 1 Timothy itself, and verses 14 and 15—they all demand 1 Timothy 3:16 apply to the Church the Body of Christ. First Timothy 3:16 is a succinct summary of everything about the Body of Christ, from its earthly formation to its heavenly destiny.

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”

Also see:
» Why do some Christians persistently behave like lost people?
» Is grace a “license to sin?”
» Are all Christians “ambassadors,” or just Paul and his ministry companions?

Can you summarize the Bible in three verses?

HOW CAN WE SUMMARIZE THE BIBLE IN THREE VERSES?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Psalm 119:130). All the complicated theological systems and arguments and denominations aside, the Holy Bible can be summarized with three simple verses!

Our King James Bible contains 66 books; 1,189 chapters; 31,101 verses; and 791,328 words. God has much to say, and “every word is important (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4). However, the entire Bible can be summarized with three verses:

  1. “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him” (Ephesians 1:10). God the Father’s purpose in creation is to make everything subject unto His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The governments of heaven and earth are to glorify and bring honor to Jesus Christ’s name by valuing, believing, and carrying out His doctrine.
  2. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). There is an adversary, Satan, whose goal is to prevent #1 from being brought to fruition. Thus, the Bible contains accounts of Satan’s evil plan—man’s fall, the fall of angels, the antichrist, false teaching, et cetera—which is sinful rebellion against the Creator God.
  3. “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand” (Proverbs 19:21). Man has willingly sided with Satan’s policy of evil (#2) in hindering God’s purpose and plan for creation. Thus, Scripture is filled with innumerable accounts of murderers, liars, idolaters, blasphemers, thieves, fornicators and adulterers, conspirators, and so on. However, God’s Word is very clear—despite Satan and man’s unwavering opposition against their Creator’s will, God’s original purpose of creation will still come to pass. In eternity future, Jesus Christ will receive everlasting praise and glory in both heaven (through the Church the Body of Christ) and in the earth (through redeemed Israel).

“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).

Also see:
» What is dispensational Bible study?
» Does it matter what Bible version I use?
» What is the Dispensation of Grace?

What is “peeping” and “muttering?”

WHAT IS “PEEPING” AND “MUTTERING?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Charismatics today tell us that their “speaking in tongues” (glossolalia) is a sure sign that the God of the Bible is working in their midst. Is that so? Friends, let us look in the Bible for answers!

The Corinthians were the Charismatics of the Bible. They had their own “tongue-speaking” experiences. Like today, some were quite strange! These Christians were abusing spiritual gifts; therefore, Paul had to rebuke them, correct them. He wrote three chapters to them about spiritual gifts. Please refer to 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14. The professing church, had it remained faithful to believing and applying these passages, would have never gotten involved in the Charismatic Movement at all!

First Corinthians 12:1-2 begins: “[1] Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. [2] Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.” You can see the Corinthians’ pagan, tongue-talking background hinted at when Paul mentioned “dumb [as in mute] idols.” They believed their heathen idols could talk and teach them doctrine. You can take a concordance and find Israel’s Old Testament making constant references to idols that do not and cannot talk. Israel had to be told time and time again that those idols were unable to speak.

Psalm 115:1-8 is one instance: “[1] Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake. [2] Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God? [3] But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased. [4] Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. [5] They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: [6] They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: [7] They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. [8] They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.”

In the Old Testament economy, in heathen religion, wizards that “peeped and muttered” (chirped, incoherent speech, babbled) were seducing Israel into false religion. Isaiah 8:19-20 says: “[19] And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? [20] To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

The false religious system that had corrupted Israel centuries earlier, the false religious system that had deceived the Gentiles in the Old Testament, the Corinthians had come out of that system when Paul preached to them in Acts chapter 18. Then, after Paul had left Corinth, false teachers slipped in and the Corinthians returned to their heathen religion (including those pagan, tongue-talking experiences). You can see why they abused God’s gift of tongues in chapter 14. Paul had to write to them to warn to quit associating with vain religion. They were not to go back to what God had saved them from! In 1 Corinthians 12:2, Paul told the Corinthians that idols could not talk.

Just as Satan used counterfeit miracles and experiences and “tongues” to mislead Israel, he was misleading the Corinthians. Satan wants to mislead us today with those same activities. Paul warned the Corinthians to not engage in such behavior. Even today, various non-Christian religions have their own mysterious “ecstatic languages.” Are we going to say that God the Holy Spirit is moving them to “speak in tongues?” Then, speaking in tongues alone does not guarantee the Spirit of God is working in individuals.

Also see:
» Should I speak in tongues?
» What a modern-day “faith healing?”
» Did Paul quote verses out of context in 2 Corinthians 6:14 –7:1?

Is Revelation 22:15 referring to sinners just outside of the New Jerusalem?

IS REVELATION 22:15 REFERRING TO SINNERS JUST OUTSIDE OF THE NEW JERUSALEM?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Revelation 22:15 is quite a problem for some people because they wonder how evil people can be just outside the gates of the city of New Jerusalem. “For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” After all, 2 Peter 3:12-13 says that in the New Heaven, New Earth, there will be nothing but righteousness. And, Revelation 21:8 says all those sinners listed in Revelation 22:15 are in the lake of fire. How can they be just outside of New Jerusalem’s city gates? Simple! (They are not!)

Let us start reading in Revelation chapter 22 so we can pick up the thought-flow of verse 15: “[8] And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. [9] Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God. [10] And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. [11] He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. [12] And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. [13] I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. [14] Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. [15] For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”

Again, you can see how people would have problems with verse 15. The assumption is that the “dogs, sorcerers, whoremongers, murderers, idolaters, and whosoever loves and makes a lie” are “without” (outside) the city of verse 14. The “city” is the New Jerusalem, first mentioned in the previous chapter.

We go back to Revelation chapter 21 to read: “[1] And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. [2] And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. [3] And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. [4] And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. [5] And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. [6] And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. [7] He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. [8] But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

According to 2 Peter 3:12-13, only righteousness dwells in the New Heavens, New Earth: “[12] Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? [13] Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” Revelation 21:8 says the wicked are in the lake of fire at that time: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” The wicked are not in the New Heaven and New Earth at all, so they are certainly not just outside the gates of New Jerusalem. Then what does Revelation 21:15 refer to? They are “without” in reference to what? Not the city of New Jerusalem or the city gates!

Revelation 22:11-14 provides explanation: “[11] He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. [12] And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. [13] I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. [14] Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. [15] For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”

Verses 11-14, as well as verse 15, all discuss what is true during John’s lifetime. These sinners will one day be in the lake of fire, but they are not there yet at the time John is receiving and writing the book of the Revelation. When verse 15 says “without,” it refers to people outside of Israel’s believing remnant in John’s day. Revelation 21:15 refers to the first century A.D., not the New Jerusalem! (The same could be said of verse 11.)

Revelation 22:11 is John’s exhortation to believers and unbelievers in his own day: “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. [12] And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” This is all in context of before Christ’s coming, before the establishment of New Jerusalem. John urges the believing Israeli remnant to keep God’s commandments until Jesus Christ returns, for there are many outside of them who do not keep God’s commandments (Revelation 22:15). Revelation 22:13-15 again: “[13] I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. [14] Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. [15] For without [outside of Israel’s Little Flock, believing remnant] are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”

Also see:
» When was the Book of the Revelation written?
» What does “Lord of Sabaoth” mean?
» What about the Jews who reject Jesus Christ?

“Epistle” and “letter”—same or different?

“EPISTLE” AND “LETTER”—SAME OR DIFFERENT?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The Greek word epistolē appears 24 times in 23 verses found in the King James Bible’s “New Testament” Scriptures. On 15 occasions, it is rendered “epistle(s).” It is translated “letter(s)” the remaining nine times. While they are the same in Greek, there is a difference in English. This Bible study will highlight that distinction.

Once, while I was speaking to one church member about “Paul’s epistles,” she stopped me and asked me what an “epistle” was. I was utterly amazed that, here she was, attending a so-called “Bible-believing church,” and she had never heard this Bible term before. Evidently, her pastor and her Bible teacher had never used that term. Her modern English “bible” version did not have that word either. It used the word “letter” instead. (Modern English translations of the Scriptures have robbed readers in numerous ways. Here is but another example of them omitting more precise terms and replacing them with generalized ones.)

Make no mistake about it, dear friends. There is a difference between an epistle and a letter, so these terms cannot always be used interchangeably. A letter is a form of written communication. It can be for personal/pleasure reasons, business reasons, and so on. However, a letter does not necessarily include teaching. An epistle is a letter, yes, but a very special kind of letter. All epistles are letters, but not all letters are epistles. Consider this easy example. While all instruction manuals are books, not all books are instruction manuals. By changing the noun from “books” to the restrictive “instruction manuals,” we are eliminating novels, phone books, and all other non-educational reading materials. “Epistles” limits the letters to educational resources. An epistle is doctrinal or instructional in nature—a letter from a teacher to a student.

When people talk about the so-called “letters” of the New Testament Scriptures, what they really mean is “epistles.” Those books are not merely friendship letters, although they do contain personal greetings in their openings and closings. More than anything, however, they are doctrinal works with tremendous teaching value. They contain doctrine meant to educate their readers concerning the purpose and plan of God. Epistles contain God’s various instructions to their recipients—who they are to Him, what He has done (or will do) to and/or for them, what they should believe, how they should behave, their destiny in God’s program, and so on.

With that said, we will look at the King James Bible’s various uses of the word epistolē, and we will notice how it can function as a general or specific noun:

  • Acts 9:2: “And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.” (“Letters” here is general, as in “permission slips,” so the more specific “epistles” is unnecessary. No teaching is involved.)
  • Acts 15:30: “So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:” (This “epistle” was more than a letter; it was doctrinal, containing instructions. Leaders of the Jerusalem Church had written this to Paul’s Gentile converts, expecting them to abide by its words.)
  • Acts 22:5: “As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.” (As with Acts 9:2, “letters” here is general. They are “permission slips,” making the more specific “epistles” unnecessary. No teaching is involved here, either.)
  • Acts 23:25: “And he wrote a letter after this manner:” (“Letter” here is general, so the more specific “epistle” is unnecessary. It is interesting to note that this “letter” is later called an “epistle” [verse 33]—see next bullet point. This shows us that, on some occasions, “epistle” and “letter” are interchangeable. However, please be mindful that this is the exception rather than the rule.)
  • Acts 23:33: “Who, when they came to Caesarea, and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him.” (The more specific “epistle” is needed because the governor is being educated, brought up-to-date, concerning Paul’s predicament. He has read the letter and been informed. While not in the Greek, our 1611 KJV translators then added the words “the letter” in verse 34 to complete the thought.)
  • Romans 16:22: “I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord.” (The more precise “epistle” is necessary because Romans is a doctrinal book, not just a casual letter filled with “chit-chat.”)
  • 1 Corinthians 5:9: “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:” (Like Romans above, the more specific term “epistle” is necessary here since Paul’s letter to Corinth had doctrinal content, teaching material.)
  • 1 Corinthians 16:3: “And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.” (The general word “letters” is sufficient here because these are not teaching books, merely “permission slips” concerning who will take up a collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem.)
  • 2 Corinthians 3:1: “Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?” (The more specific “epistles” is necessary here since they, had they existed, would have been letters teaching on Paul’s apostleship. They would have been more than letters, though. They would have been what we would call “teaching letters,” or precisely, “epistles.”
  • 2 Corinthians 3:2: “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:” (The more exact “epistle” is necessary here because the Corinthians, in their behavior, were communicating doctrine to their observers.)
  • 2 Corinthians 3:3: “Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” (The more exact “epistle” is necessary here because the Corinthians, in their behavior, were communicating doctrine to those who observed them.)
  • 2 Corinthians 7:8: “For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.” (“Letter” here means it is a written statement Paul had sent to them. The more exact “epistle” is necessary in that it instructed the Corinthians to the extent it made them “sorry” of their disobedience.)
  • 2 Corinthians 10:9: “That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters.” (The general word “letters” is all that is needed. There is nothing here about instruction.)
  • 2 Corinthians 10:10: “For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” (Again, the general word “letters” is sufficient. No instruction here.)
  • 2 Corinthians 10:11: “Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present.” (Once more, the general word “letters” is enough. No instruction is here.)
  • Colossians 4:16: “And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.” (Like Romans, earlier, Colossians is a special letter, a teaching letter—an “epistle.”)
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:27: “I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.” (Like Romans and Colossians, earlier, 1 Thessalonians is a special letter, a teaching letter—an “epistle.”)
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:2: “That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.” (Once more, the general word “letter” is enough. It was a written communication to which someone had forged the Apostle Paul’s name.)
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:15: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” (Here, notice the link between being taught and an “epistle.” Paul’s “epistles” were instructional materials.)
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:14: “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.” (Like Romans, Colossians, and 1 Thessalonians, the Book of 2 Thessalonians is also a teaching letter—an “epistle.”)
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:17: “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.” (Again, Paul’s “epistles” were teaching materials.)
  • 2 Peter 3:1: “This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance:” (And, again, Peter’s “epistles” were teaching materials.)
  • 2 Peter 3:16: “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (As the Holy Spirit led Peter to affirm, Paul’s “epistles” were teaching materials.)

CONCLUSION

While “epistle” and “letter” are the same Greek word (epistolē), the English language allows us to appreciate a nuance. All epistles are letters, but not all letters are epistles. An epistle is a very special letter: it is doctrinal, didactic, or instructional in nature. Remember, an epistle is a letter from teacher to student. It would be more than a “Hi, how are you? I am doing well…” letter. An epistle would be advice on how to think about a certain topic, how to understand not just terms and definitions but the actual concepts of that topic, and how to apply that knowledge to life and/or other disciplines.

Although modern-English-version people have grown accustomed to using the word “letter,” the more precise term is “epistle.” When referring to the Bible books such as Romans, Hebrews, Philemon, or Jude, it would be beneficial to our hearers if we called them “epistles.” They are “the Epistle to the Romans” (not “the Letter to the Romans”), “the Epistle to the Hebrews” (not “the Letter to the Hebrews”), “the Epistle to Philemon” (not “the Letter to Philemon”), and “the Epistle of Jude” (not “the Letter of Jude”).

Now, we must answer this anticipated objection: “Brother Shawn, you said it yourself. Since the modern English versions are so common, almost no one knows what an ‘epistle’ is anyway. Should we not just use ‘letter?’” Friend, let me remind you that our job as Bible believers is to teach the Bible to those who find it confusing. Before we go around teaching others, we had better know the material ourselves! We simply use the term “epistle,” and then define it for our audience. (The job of the teacher is to teach!!!) We tell them, “An epistle is a letter of instruction, doctrine, or teaching.” We need not change words in the King James Bible we find difficult or obsolete. We leave them where they are in the Bible, and we define them! Let us not get angry with our Bible because it uses words we do not know. Our King James Bible will teach us much—not only about God’s thoughts, but about our own English language. I mean, come on, my friends. We are going to teach our audience a new word—“epistle”—and, by doing so, we will be an “epistle” (teaching device) ourselves!

NOTICE: The 2016 Slidell Grace Bible Conference is less than a month away! This is our 5th annual conference, just outside of New Orleans, December 2-4. Speakers are Richard Jordan, John Smith, and I (Shawn Brasseaux). Please see this flyer for more details: https://arcministries.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/2016-slidell-gbc.pdf. We would love to have you join us!

Also see:
» Does it matter which Bible version I use?
» Why do I get nothing out of the Bible when I read it?
» How does one know if he or she is maturing in the Word of God?