Monthly Archives: March 2017

Is Matthew 26:59-61 contradictory?

IS MATTHEW 26:59-61 CONTRADICTORY?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Matthew 26:59-61 is a burdensome passage if we are not careful with it: “[59] Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; [60] But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, [61] And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.” Verse 60 says opens with, “[they] found none.” The middle part of verse 60 says, “though many false witnesses came, yet found they none.” Finally, verse 60 concludes with, “At the last came two false witnesses….”

Did they find false witnesses? Verse 60 says “no,” then “yes,” then “no,” and finally “yes.” Superficially, this verse is a mess. Some conclude that Matthew had a tough time reporting exactly what happened, as he reported two affirmatives and two negatives in the same verse. Friend, whenever there are ambiguities or “difficulties” in one of the Four Gospel Records, all we have to do is look to the other three Books for insight. We should always let the Bible interpret itself. There is nothing wrong with the King James Bible here.

Mark 14:55-59, the parallel passage, is now consulted: “[55] And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none. [56] For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together. [57] And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying, [58] We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands. [59] But neither so did their witness agree together.” Notice how Mark actually furnished us with details that Matthew omitted in his account. Mark 14:56 is most helpful: “For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together.”

The chief priests, elders, and all the council members were desperate to find any unified testimony that could be used to justify the death penalty they wanted to force upon the Lord Jesus. (As per the Mosaic Law, at least two witnesses were necessary to condemn a man to death—Deuteronomy 17:6.) Many false witnesses present wanted to say something to condemn Jesus. No doubt, He had many enemies who wanted Him dead. You can imagine them speaking all at once, offering to be a “witness,” yet saying various things. These flimsy, contradictory testimonies obviously would not hold up in a courtroom. Israel’s religious leaders would need to be sneakier. They had to quickly find two testimonies that agreed as close as possible.

We must remember here that the Bible is talking about false witnesses.” As in any case of lying, various holes, conflicts/discrepancies, unintentionally arise. You can imagine one person claimed that Jesus said or did one thing, while another stated that Jesus said or did another. Matthew and Mark actually identify these two different testimonies. One false witness said, “This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days” (Matthew 26:61). Another false witness declared, “We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands” (Mark 14:58). While they appear similar, their witness agreed not together(Mark 14:56).

Using Mark to interpret Matthew, we re-read Matthew and provide commentary in brackets: “[59] Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; [60] But found none [that is, no witnesses who agreed]: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none [that is, no witnesses who agreed]. At the last came two false witnesses, [61] And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.”

Concerning these “two false witnesses,” Mark provides something that Matthew did not. Mark wrote: “[58] We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands. [59] But neither so did their witness agree together.As stated earlier, the two final witnesses did not actually agree either, but it was the best Israel’s religious leaders could do. Jesus Christ was completely innocent, so His words would have to be twisted someway or another before He could be presented in a bad light. One false witness twisted Jesus’ words one way, and the other false witness distorted Jesus’ words another way.

SUPPLEMENTAL: TWO ADDITIONAL FALSE WITNESSES

In an interesting parallel, just astwo false witnesses” were used to condemn the Lord Jesus Christ, the Living Word of God, so “two false witnesses” are used to criticize the Holy Bible, the Written Word of God. Codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are ancient Greek manuscripts used in “scholarly” circles to challenge the King James Bible Greek manuscripts (Textus Receptus, or Majority Text). As the two false witnesses against Jesus presented lies, disagreeing with each other, so the two false witnesses against the preserved Bible text disagree with each other. Vaticanus (Roman Catholic Church property) and Sinaiticus, in addition to disagreeing with the King James Greek New Testament, have been documented to disagree with each other over 3,000 times… in the Four Gospels alone! “But neither so did their witness agree together” (Mark 14:59).

Also see:
» Does it matter what Bible version I use?
» Do Matthew 17:1, Mark 9:2, and Luke 9:28 contradict?
» Do Matthew 10:10, Mark 6:8, and Luke 9:3 contradict?

Who are the people in 2 Corinthians 11:22—the 12 Apostles, or others?

WHO ARE THE PEOPLE IN 2 CORINTHIANS 11:22—THE 12 APOSTLES, OR OTHERS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Scripture says in 2 Corinthians 11:21-23: “[21] I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. [22] Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. [23] Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.” Some Bible students argue that the “they” is Peter and the 11 Apostles. They base this on the fact that the Apostle Paul is clearly talking about Jews (see verse 22). Indeed, the 12 Apostles were Jews and Paul refers to Jews here. Still, does that automatically demand that the 12 Apostles be the Jews in the verses?

When one examines the context, it is clear that the 12 Apostles are nowhere to be found. However, we do find a reference to false apostles, those working with the Devil! Look at verses 13-15: “[13] For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. [14] And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. [15] Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” Are we going to say this is talking about the 12 Apostles too? Then, my friend, I think it wise that we had better be careful before applying other verses in the context to Peter and the 11!

In relation to this topic, notice these helpful verses that Paul wrote in Galatians chapter 2: “[1] Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. [2] And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. [3] But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: [4] And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage….”

These false brethren” were legalistic (observers of the Mosaic Law). Furthermore, they were trying to force Paul’s converts saved under grace to follow the Mosaic Law. You should make special note of the adjective “false” in false brethren” (verse 4). The 12 Apostles did not commission these false teachers and the Messianic Church at Jerusalem did not send them. Reading Acts 15:24: “[James says,] Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment….” (Acts chapter 15 and Galatians chapter 2 are the same event.)

Rather than being controlled by the Holy Spirit, these false brethren were operating independently of Father God’s will for Paul’s converts. These false brethren simply wanted to promote their religion, “good works”—namely, physical circumcision (cf. Acts 15:1,5; Galatians 5:1-3,11-12; Galatians 6:12-16). Do you know anyone today who is fixated on “good works?” We do not hear about physical circumcision much today, but there is plenty of other “religiosity” repeated ad nauseum—confession of sins, water baptism, Sabbath-Day keeping, walking aisles, saying the “sinner’s prayer,” commandment keeping, joining the church, confirmation, and so on.

In Galatians chapter 2, Paul said that he took a backseat to no one—including James, Peter, and John—concerning apostolic authority: “[6] But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person: ) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:… [9] And when James, Cephas [Peter], and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” Read also 2 Corinthians 11:5: “For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.” And, chapter 12, verse 11: “I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.”

If Paul said he did not feel inferior to the 12 legitimate Apostles, how much more did he not feel inferior to false apostles? Second Corinthians 11:23 again: “Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more….” These so-called “ministers of Christ” here would be people who professed to be servants of Christ but were not! They were the “false apostles” previously mentioned in the context. We read verses 13-15 again: “[13] For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. [14] And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. [15] Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”

At the beginning of Second Corinthians chapter 11, Paul voiced his concern that the Corinthians would accept and listen to someone who preached “another Jesus,” who preached “another spirit,” and who preached “another Gospel.” Verses 1-4 say: “[1] Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. [2] For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. [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. [4] For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” These warnings are denouncing the ministries of the false apostles mentioned in verses 13-15.

We read Galatians 2:6-9 again: “[6] But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person: ) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: [7] But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; [8] (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles: ) [9] And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.”

When Paul and Barnabas met with James and Peter and John in Jerusalem, the latter three agreed to restrict their ministries to the “circumcision” (believing Israel, the Little Flock) and they endorsed Paul and Barnabas going to “heathen” (all people outside of the Little Flock). Again, the 12 Apostles—led by James, Peter, and John—agreed that they would not deal with anyone but Israel’s believing remnant. They turned everyone else—unsaved Jews and unsaved non-Jews—over to the ministry of Paul and Barnabas. This apostolic meeting at Jerusalem occurred several years before Paul visited Corinth in Acts chapter 18. Surely, it was not Peter, James, John, or any of the other 12 Apostles preaching to the Corinthians. These Apostles were led by the Holy Spirit and were men of their word. We have no reason to doubt them. They did not minister to Gentiles, especially Paul’s converts in Corinth.

Therefore, Paul is not referring to the 12 Apostles in 2 Corinthians 11:22. However, the people he is condemning are most definitely Hebrews, Israelites, of the seed of Abraham. They are “Judaizers,” Israeli religious leaders who were neither part of the Little Flock nor the Body of Christ. They were not believers in either program, but opponents of God’s purpose. These false apostles would use the Law to deliberately challenge Paul’s apostleship and ministry (just as in Galatia). They would boast of their alleged “apostleship,” when they were actually frauds; moreover, they would demean and deny the true apostle, Paul. Paul would talk about how his Gentile converts were under grace, and these false apostles would come back and say that those Gentiles were under law. (Does that not sound familiar today? Do you know of any religionists or denominationalists who demean Paul’s apostleship and epistles just so they can keep their legalistic traditions?!)

We continue reading in 2 Corinthians chapter 11: “[18] Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. [19] For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. [20] For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.” Paul actually called these false apostles “fools” because they were misleading the Corinthian saints (verse 19). The Corinthians were believing these charlatans. Surely, Paul would not call the 12 Apostles “fools.” The men dominating the Corinthians were evil—they were exploiting and abusing the Corinthians. Again, this would not be descriptive of Holy-Spirit-filled men (the 12 Apostles). It would be the “false apostles” of verses 13-15, unsaved yet religious people claiming to be sent by Jesus Christ.

Also see:
» Did Peter and Paul preach the same Gospel?
» Can you compare and contrast Peter’s ministry and Paul’s ministry?
» Was Paul a false prophet?

How long was Christ’s earthly ministry?

HOW LONG WAS CHRIST’S EARTHLY MINISTRY?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Throughout the 20 centuries of church history, multitudes of erroneous teachings have cropped up. Some of the most ridiculous religious beliefs we hear about today can often be found in a primitive form in the days of the “Church Fathers” (the theologians who lived in the decades and centuries immediately after the Apostles). One of these strange teachings is that Christ’s earthly ministry was merely one year long. Is there any merit to that claim? Does the Bible say one way or the other?

We begin by understanding that each of the Four Gospel Records—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—serves a special purpose. They are not to be combined into one continuous Book or narrative (as some “Church Fathers” did). Rather, they are to be respected as four distinct views/presentations of the same Lord Jesus Christ. These Four Gospel Accounts do not read word-for-word, and they do not always report the same statements or events. Moreover, when we compare all four accounts, John’s stands out as quite unique. Matthew, Mark, and Luke usually read very closely with each other. Thus, they are collectively known as “the Synoptic Gospels.” In stark contrast, John’s Gospel Record is largely “new” material, reporting what the Holy Spirit purposely withheld from the Synoptic Gospels.

John’s Gospel Record stands out in another particular instance. By furnishing us with the Book of John, the Holy Spirit provided us with “markers” or “milestones” on Israel’s religious calendar. We can identify times of year, and thus extrapolate approximately how much time elapsed between Christ’s water baptism and His crucifixion. Let me show you how we can use the Bible to establish a rough estimate of the duration of Christ’s earthly ministry.

THE PASSOVERS FOUND IN JOHN’S GOSPEL RECORD

Notice the religious-calendar “benchmarks” as found in John’s Gospel Record:

  • Passover 1 — John 2:13: “And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” As the opening verses of the chapter indicate, Jesus’ ministry actually began before this Passover. This was springtime.
  • Passover 2 — John 5:1: “After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” While Scripture does not explicitly identify this as “Passover,” we can infer that it is because John employs “a feast of the Jews” as indicative of Passover in John 6:4. This would have been springtime.
  • Passover 3 — John 6:4: “And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.” John 7:2 refers to “the Feast of Tabernacles” (autumn, early October). John 10:22 speaks of “the Feast of the Dedication” (today called “Hanukah”) and “winter.” In other words, John chapter 6 was in springtime, John chapter 7 was in autumn, and John chapter 10 was in wintertime.
  • Passover 4 — John 11:55: “And the Jews’ passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves.” Jesus died around this Passover, as the succeeding chapters of John bear out. This was in springtime.

At the bare minimum—even if one were to argue John 5:1 is not clearly labeled in Scripture as “Passover”—Jesus’ earthly ministry covered three “springtimes” and three Passovers. Three Passovers would mean at least two years. If it covered four Passovers, that would mean at least three years. But, the Holy Spirit did not leave us to wonder exactly what number it was. We can briefly survey the Four Gospel Records to find additional information to help us.

Luke chapter 13 is very useful in settling this matter for us: “[6] He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. [7] Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? [8] And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: [9] And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.”

Jesus Christ is talking about His Heavenly Father sending Him to the nation Israel to find faith and righteous works. How long did the “certain man” say he had come looking for fruit on the fig tree? Why, three years (verse 7)! He found no fruit, of course, for Israel was too stuck in her religious goodness to recognize her evil nature and her failure to generate works pleasing in God’s sight.

According to Luke 3:23, “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli….” The Lord, in order to serve as a priest over Israel (Hebrews 3:1; cf. Zechariah 6:13), had to be at least 30 years of age because that was the minimum age of a Levitical priest as per the Mosaic Law (Numbers 4:3). Our Lord Jesus Christ had at least three years of earthly ministry, dying (and resurrecting, of course) at age 33.

Also see:
» Should we use the Book of John to evangelize?
» Are Matthew through John “Old Testament” or “New Testament” books?
» Were there five crosses on Calvary?

Who are the prophets of Romans 16:26?

WHO ARE THE PROPHETS OF ROMANS 16:26?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Romans 16:25-26 says: “[25] Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, [26] But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith….” What are “the scriptures of the prophets” in verse 26? Are they the “Old Testament” Scriptures, the “prophetic Scriptures?” Who are these prophets? Are they “Old Testament” prophets? Let us look at God’s Holy Word for the answer!

The phrase “the scriptures of the prophets” (Romans 16:26), while commonly assumed to be the “Old Testament” prophets, actually refers to the prophets in the Church the Body of Christ. We read of them in Ephesians 4:7-12: “[7] But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. [8] Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. [9] (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? [10] He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) [11] And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; [12] For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ….”

Remember, after His ascension “far above all heavens,” Christ gave gifts to men in the Body of Christ—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (verse 11). These gifts were given during the Acts period. They would certainly not be the 12 Apostles or the Old Testament Prophets of Israel’s program, for these people received their spiritual gifts before the ascension, of course. Paul, according to Romans 11:13, would be the first apostle of Ephesians 4:7-12. There were other (secondary) apostles related to and in the Body of Christ. In addition, there were Body-of-Christ prophets, Body-of-Christ evangelists, Body-of-Christ pastors, and Body-of-Christ teachers. The prophets in the Body of Christ are also discussed in Ephesians 2:20, Ephesians 3:5, and 1 Corinthians 12:28-29.

The Body-of-Christ prophets evidently identified, assembled, and copied Scripture, as we read: “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37). In other words, these Body-of-Christ prophets were copying the whole Bible. “The scriptures of the prophets” would be all of the Bible, but more specifically, all the Bible in light of Pauline doctrine (that Pauline truth being “kept secret,” according to Romans 16:25, but now revealed through Paul’s ministry, verse 26).

God wants us to use the entire Bible, provided that we remember to use it “rightly divided” (2 Timothy 2:15)—understanding the mystery and keeping it separate from prophecy. Back to Romans 16:5-26: “[25] Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, [26] But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith….” Notice the order in these two verses. God will “stablish,” or stabilize, us in the inner man using three steps of edification: (1) “My [or, Paul’s] gospel,” (2) “The preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery;” and (3) “The Scriptures of the prophets.” This is actually how Paul’s epistles are laid out in the canon of Scripture.

Paul’s Gospel is laid out clearly in Romans, as well as in (the next three Books) 1 & 2 Corinthians and Galatians. The preaching of Jesus Christ according to the mystery would be the next three Epistles—Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. The Scriptures of the prophets would relate to Paul’s two Thessalonian epistles—since they deal with non-Pauline truths (prophecy) and how those non-Pauline truths are not to be combined with Pauline truths. The remaining four Pauline Books—1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon—are the congregational/assembly doctrine. They are thus often called the “Pastoral Epistles.”

In light of 1 Corinthians 14:37, prophets in the Body of Christ identified, collected/collated, and copied the Scriptures. (In Israel’s program, a prophet was usually one who foretold the future; however, a Body-of-Christ prophet had a different role.) The Body of Christ prophets were not copying merely Paul’s epistles though. They were copying all of Scripture, allowing us to have manuscript copies of all 66 of the Bible Books even today. When Paul referred to prophecy in the two Books of Thessalonians, he was encouraging his audience to look at the non-Pauline Bible Books for further details. The Scriptures of the prophets allow us to appreciate/grasp all of the Bible: we see how the rest of the Bible fits with Paul’s epistles and how Paul’s epistles fit with the non-Pauline Bible Books. Remember, all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and all of it is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16-17), provided we use it “rightly divided” (2 Timothy 2:15).

CONCLUSION

“The scriptures of the prophets” of Romans 16:26 refers to all of the Bible Books in light of Pauline doctrine. The Body-of-Christ prophets identified, collected/collated, and copied all Bible Books into one group so they could all be studied in light of the final divine revelation given to Paul (see Colossians 1:25-29; cf. Ephesians 1:10-11). Now we can better understand what is going on with Romans 16:25-26 as a whole. Once we get beyond the basics of Christianity (Paul’s Gospel, the Gospel of Grace), then we can mature into the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery. When we come to that point in our spiritual maturity, then we can grasp how all of that relates to the rest of the Bible.

SUPPLEMENTAL: WHEN ROMANS 16:26 IS PERVERTED

In an attempt to diminish and/or deny Paul’s special revelations from Jesus Christ, some people (either deliberately or inadvertently) drop the conjunction “and” that precedes “by the scriptures of the prophets.” Not only is this erroneous teaching found in speech; people have actually changed the Greek and English Bibles because they did not know how to handle this dispensational passage. The modern English version manuscripts omit the Greek word te—the “and” in the KJV reading and by the scriptures of the prophets.” By doing so, they make the modern English versions say that Paul’s mystery (secret) was found outside of Paul’s writings. They say the “prophetic Scriptures,” or the “Old Testament” prophets, revealed the mystery. This is a flat-out lie, contradicting other verses such as those found in Colossians chapter 1 and Ephesians chapter 3. (Since they attack dispensational precepts—the fundamentals of proper Bible study—these perverted manuscripts and modern English versions are dangerous and should be avoided! Friend, you should stick with the King James Bible!)

Notice the following English versions and how they handle Romans 16:26 in a most dishonest manner. They cause their readers to conclude that the Apostle Paul’s teachings were not at all special or formerly hid in God. These translators had no idea what they were doing, and have completely destroyed the original meaning of Romans 16:26:

  • Amplified Bible: “but now has been disclosed and through the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all the nations, according to the commandment of the eternal God, leading them to obedience to the faith,”
  • Contemporary English Version: “but now at last it has been told. The eternal God commanded his prophets to write about the good news, so that all nations would obey and have faith.”
  • Douay-Rheims American (Roman Catholic) Bible: “(Which now is made manifest by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the precept of the eternal God, for the obedience of faith,) known among all nations;”
  • English Standard Version: “but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—“
  • Holman Christian Standard Bible: “but now revealed and made known through the prophetic Scriptures, according to the command of the eternal God to advance the obedience of faith among all nations—”
  • Living Bible: “But now as the prophets foretold and as God commands, this message is being preached everywhere, so that people all around the world will have faith in Christ and obey him.
  • The Message: “as revealed in the mystery kept secret for so long but now an open book through the prophetic Scriptures. All the nations of the world can now know the truth and be brought into obedient belief,”
  • New Century Version: “It has been made clear through the writings of the prophets. And by the command of the eternal God it is made known to all nations that they might believe and obey.”
  • New International Version: “but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith—”
  • New Living Translation: “But now as the prophets foretold and as the eternal God has commanded, this message is made known to all Gentiles everywhere, so that they too might believe and obey him.”
  • New Revised Standard Version: “but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—”
  • Revised Standard Version: “but is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings is made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—”

We read Romans 16:25-26 in the King James Bible again: “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, 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….”

It is important that we note AND by the scriptures of the prophets” is the original and inspired reading. The mystery is not declared by the Old Testament prophets or by the “prophetic Scriptures.” We must understand that the mystery is revealed only by Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon (cf. Ephesians 3:1-11; Colossians 1:24-29). Romans 16:25-26 is saying that God desires to build us up with three elements: (1) Paul’s Gospel, (2) The preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery, and (3) The Scriptures of the prophets. It is important that we not misread Romans 16:25-26. Combining points 2 and 3 into one thought—namely, ignoring Paul’s special ministry—is the reason why there is confusion among Bible versions, translators, teachers, preachers, and students.

Also see:
» What is dispensational Bible study?
» Did Peter and Paul preach the same Gospel?
» Can you compare and contrast Peter’s ministry and Paul’s ministry?

What Gospel message did Lazarus believe to wind up in Abraham’s bosom?

WHAT GOSPEL MESSAGE DID LAZARUS BELIEVE TO WIND UP IN ABRAHAM’S BOSOM?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“I find it difficult to understand how Lazarus ended up in Abraham’s bosom when nothing is said about his faith in Jesus Christ. The only things we know about him is that he was poor and full of putrefying sores. Surely that’s not enough to get him to heaven?”

My friend, you are absolutely correct in recognizing that Lazarus did not go to “Abraham’s bosom” because he suffered horrendous living conditions (a common myth in religion). However, Lazarus did go to Abraham’s bosom because of something he believed. You are really asking—What exactly did Lazarus believe? We will investigate Luke chapter 16 for the answer. (Yes, I assure you, there is an answer if you look closely, do some verse comparisons, and think critically.)

Turning in our Bibles, we read from Luke chapter 16: “[19] There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: [20] And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, [21] And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. [22] And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; [23] And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” The narrative continues, but we will stop here for sake of brevity. (By the way, let me quickly point out that this Lazarus is not to be confused with the man Jesus raised from the dead in John chapter 11.)

Just as you said, my friend, we do not read about Lazarus having “faith in Jesus Christ.” Now, I am going to tell you something that will probably shock you, but it is worth your consideration. We were not necessarily looking for those precise words, or even similar words, either. Furthermore, as you pointed out, very little is actually revealed about Lazarus’ life on Earth. In fact, we read two brief verses paint a rough portrait: “[20] And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, [21] And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.”

We can extract from the Scriptures five things about Lazarus: (1) he is a beggar, (2) he lies at the gate of a rich man’s home, (3) he is riddled with sores [ulcers?], (4) he desires to eat crumbs/excess falling from the rich man’s table, and (5) the dogs come and lick his sores. How horrific and disturbing! Lazarus is in such a pitiful state; he experiences a life that no one would dare envy. In fact, verse 25 will talk about how Lazarus received in his life “evil things.” However, as you stated, we do not read of his salvation experience. Earlier, we read in the Bible about how the rich man wound up in Hell, torments (verse 23). Lazarus went to Abraham’s bosom rather than Hell (verses 22-23). What was it about Lazarus that made God accept him into Abraham’s bosom? Why did the rich man go to Hell?

The Lord Jesus’ intent in providing the Discourse of the Rich Man and Lazarus was not to outline Lazarus’ testimony or life. That is why we read so very little about Lazarus. If we look at the verses that went before in Luke chapter 16, we see that the emphasis is actually on the rich man rather than Lazarus. Verses 13-14 help us understand what is going on with this narrative: “[13] No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. [14] And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.” Notice verse 15: “And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”

As soon as Jesus employed the word “mammon” (wealth worshipped as a god/idol), the covetous Pharisees who heard Him became rattled. He was speaking directly to them… and they knew it! Christ’s words thundered in their ears, “You cannot serve God and your idol of wealth!” These Pharisees did not have faith in Father God; instead, they were materialistic, worshippers of their material riches. Convicted of Jesus’ words, they struck back by “deriding” Him (verse 14). We can see an example of them “deriding” Him on the cross in Luke 23:35: “And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.” They mocked Him, sneered at Him, just as they had earlier in Luke 16:14.

By the time of verse 19, Jesus begins the Discourse of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The Lord did this particularly because the “rich man” represents the covetous Pharisees who just scoffed at Him. He will warn them of the awful damnation that is coming upon them at physical death. It should also be pointed out that the story of the rich man and Lazarus was not “figurative” or a “parable.” We have every reason to believe that this literally happened just as the Lord said it did. There really was a rich man and really was a literal beggar named Lazarus who sat at his gate. The rich man literally woke up tormented in the flames of Hell, and Lazarus literally woke up comforted in Abraham’s bosom. (For more information, see our related study on Luke 16:19-31, whose link is found at the end of this article.)

THE BEGGAR LAZARUS HAD FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST? (NO)

When we speak of soul salvation into Heaven today, we think of “faith in Jesus Christ.” And we are correct in that belief in light of the “New Testament” Scriptures. However, and this should be carefully noted, Jesus Christ as a Person was not always known. For example, Adam and Eve knew nothing of Jesus Christ. Noah knew nothing of Christ. Abraham knew nothing of Christ Jesus. No one knew of “Jesus Christ” as being God’s Spokesman and Redeemer until He became a Man and was born of the virgin Mary.

Consider Galatians 3:8: “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” Now, would we say “In thee shall all nations be blessed” is a Gospel message today? No, but the Bible does call it “the Gospel” in that it was divine revelation that God expected Abraham to believe at that time in human history. Whatever God had shown to Abraham, God expected Abraham to believe it. Abraham had no idea of Calvary’s cross or Jesus Christ’s shed blood. God had not revealed that yet. If we want to see the information God expected Abraham to believe, we look at Genesis chapters 12-17, for example. Time and space do not permit us to discuss that in detail here. All we want to do is read in Genesis 15:6: “And he believed in the LORD, and he counted it to him for righteousness” (cf. Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6). We will talk a little more about Abraham shortly.

No matter where we are on the Bible timeline, faith is always first and foremost. Hebrews 11:6 says to this point: “But without faith it is impossible to please him [God]; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” A person having faith, trust in God’s Word to him or her, is what God is looking for in every point in human history. God reveals different things to different peoples at different periods in time. We know of these sets of information as “dispensations.” The content of the divine message varied, but God was always looking for a heart of faith, a soul that would believe His Word. God could see the blood of Christ that would be shed in the future, and He would apply those merits in advance to believing people who lived before His only begotten Son ever entered the human condition. However, they did not always know about “Jesus Christ.” The same is true of Lazarus the beggar.

With that said, we go back to Luke chapter 16. At what time in history did the rich man and Lazarus live? We find a clue in verse 29: “Abraham saith unto him [the rich man], They have Moses and the prophets; let them her them.” Remember, the rich man had begged Abraham to send Lazarus to speak to his five brethren still living on Earth, lest they come met him in that place of torment (verses 27-28). Abraham told the rich man that his brethren had Moses and the prophets to hear and believe. If they wanted to avoid Hell, they had better take heed to what the Word of God said.

By the way, “Moses and the prophets” was a common name for what we now of as “the Old Testament” Scriptures (Genesis through Malachi—see Luke 24:27,32,44; Acts 13:15; and Acts 15:21). “Moses” referred to the first five Books, Genesis through Deuteronomy, often called “the Law.” The term “the prophets” was the rest of the “Old Testament” Books. Notice how Abraham in Luke 16:29 made no reference to the rich man’s brethren needing to follow Jesus’ earthly ministry. This indicates that the written “Old Testament” was all that God had made known at that time. In other words, the rich man woke up in Hell sometime prior to Christ’s earthly ministry, but after the Book of Malachi had been written. Abraham, Lazarus, the rich man, and the rich man’s brethren existed before Matthew through John. They did not know about “Jesus Christ.” Still, God had revealed one major bit of information for mankind to believe. What was it?

The common theme of the “Old Testament” is God’s purpose and plan for the Earth—Him establishing His literal, physical, visible kingdom on Earth. We can see what the Apostle Peter preached in Acts chapter 3: “[19] Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. [20] And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: [21] Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” From the time God put Adam on the Earth—since the “world” system of government was established—up until the time Peter was preaching here in Acts chapter 3, the issue had been a literal, physical, visible earthly kingdom of God. (There was no hope of “dying and going to Heaven,” but rather a hope of “resurrecting and returning to Earth to live in that earthly kingdom of God.”) We will let the Scriptures speak for themselves once again.

Job, the Bible’s oldest Book, and possibly the world’s oldest Book, says in chapter 19: “[25] For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: [26] And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: [27] Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” Notice how Job claimed to be looking for God to come down to Earth (rather than him going up to meet God in Heaven). Job would die physically, but he knew he would be resurrected to enter that earthly kingdom of God. We now know this as “the Millennial Reign of Christ,” or “the 1000-Year Reign of Christ” (see Revelation 20:1-10).

Now, we return to Luke chapter 16, to read from it for the final time: “[22] And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; [23] And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” Please notice these two references to “Abraham’s bosom” (one in each verse). Who was Abraham? Romans 4:1-25, among other passages, shows us that Abraham was the classic and great “man of faith” in the Bible. He is called “the father of all them that believe” (Romans 4:11). “Abraham’s bosom” was the spiritual abode where the souls of believers went who died before Christ’s earthly ministry. The Bible calls it “the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40) and “paradise” (Luke 23:43). It was where Jesus’ soul went to as well when He died. It was only fitting that these departed believers’ souls temporarily live here in the center of the Earth. After all, they had died with the hope of being resurrected to enter the earthly kingdom of God.

Hebrews 11:8-10 tells us about what Abraham ultimately looked for while he traveled throughout the Middle East: “[8] By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. [9] By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: [10] For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

God’s Word says that Abraham was looking for “a city” (verse 10). He “sojourned [remained, dwelt] in the land of promise” (verse 9). As per the Palestinian Covenant, God had given Abraham and his seed the land we now known as the land of Canaan, or the Promised Land (Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 13:14-17; Genesis 15:1-21). God would set up His city in that Promised Land—that city is “New Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:2), “Holy Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:10), or “Heavenly Jerusalem” (Hebrews 12:22). That city will come down from Heaven and be founded on the Earth in Revelation chapter 21. Jesus Christ will rule and reign over creation from the New Jerusalem on Earth. Thus, we see God’s original purpose for Earth now accomplished, despite all of the Satanic and human opposition those last 6,000 years.

CONCLUSION

Lazarus the beggar died sharing the faith of Abraham. He, like all other “Old Testament” believers, therefore, went to “Abraham’s bosom” upon physical death. Lazarus went to the “heart of the earth” upon physical death because he had faith in what God had revealed to mankind at that point in history. There is nothing to indicate that Lazarus knew anything about Jesus Christ, so we should not be looking for him to have “faith in Jesus Christ” per se. (We must never fall prey to the common misconception that our Gospel—the Gospel of Christ crucified for our sins—has always been revealed and known to mankind.) The Bible seems to show us that Lazarus actually lived prior to Christ’s earthly ministry anyway.

Also see:
» Where did Jesus go upon physical death?
» Is Luke 16:19-31 a parable, or a reality?
» Did Peter and Paul preach the same Gospel?

Should we fast?

SHOULD WE FAST?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“Should we fast in this the Dispensation of Grace? Is fasting encouraged or discouraged in Paul’s epistles?”

Friend, during this the Lenten Season, we are hearing much about fasting. Your question is most definitely pertinent to this time on the religious calendar. Right now, some professing Christians are fasting. Instructed by their denominational hierarchy, they are “doing penances” (suffering for their sins to receive God’s favor). That is, they have temporarily abstained from “guilty pleasures” during Lent, showing “remorse” for overeating and misbehaving on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras). They refuse to eat meat on Fridays during Lent. In addition, they deprive themselves of other favorites such as sugary foods, beer, social media, cigarettes, carbonated beverages, profanity, and chocolate.

All the religiosity aside, is fasting necessary for us today? Does God require we Christians fast? What does the Bible say? We will look into the Scriptures for answers. By the way, if you want, friend, you may go immediately to the end of this study for the summary, and then come back to re-read from the beginning. I decided to include all 65 references to fasting in the Scriptures just so we could establish a biblical portrait of what it entails. Fasting is a personal choice, not explicitly commanded in Paul’s epistles (unless in the case of marriage, which we will see later).

The King James Bible makes at least 65 direct references to the practice of fasting (giving up food and/or drink for a time). One thing before we begin looking at all those verses. Please notice how fasting and prayer are often linked together in Scripture. Fasting was a religious duty in Israel, who you will (hopefully) recall was functioning under Old Testament Judaism. You will also see that fasting was often prevalent in times of distress (sadness, depression) and peril (danger). Now, beloved, we get to those verses so the Holy Spirit can enlighten us!

  • Judges 20:26: “Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the LORD, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.”
  • 1 Samuel 7:6: “And they gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured it out before the LORD, and fasted on that day, and said there, We have sinned against the LORD. And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh.”
  • 1 Samuel 31:13: “And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.” 1 Chronicles 10:12: “They arose, all the valiant men, and took away the body of Saul, and the bodies of his sons, and brought them to Jabesh, and buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted seven days.”
  • 2 Samuel 1:12,16: “[12] And they mourned, and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul, and for Jonathan his son, and for the people of the LORD, and for the house of Israel; because they were fallen by the sword…. [16] David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth.”
  • 2 Samuel 12:21-23: “[21] Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. [22] And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? [23] But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”
  • 1 Kings 21:9,12,27: “[9] And she wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people:… [12] They proclaimed a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people…. [27] And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly.”
  • 2 Chronicles 20:3: “And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.”
  • Ezra 8:21,23: “[21] Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance…. [23] So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us.”
  • Nehemiah 1:4: “And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,”
  • Nehemiah 9:1: “Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them.”
  • Esther 4:3,16: “[3] And in every province, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes…. [16] Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.”
  • Esther 9:31: “To confirm these days of Purim in their times appointed, according as Mordecai the Jew and Esther the queen had enjoined them, and as they had decreed for themselves and for their seed, the matters of the fastings and their cry.”
  • Psalm 35:13: “But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.”
  • Psalm 69:10: “When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach.”
  • Psalm 109:24: “My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of fatness.”
  • Isaiah 58:3-6: “[3] Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. [4] Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. [5] Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD? [6] Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?”
  • Jeremiah 14:12: “When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence.”
  • Jeremiah 36:6,9: “[6] Therefore go thou, and read in the roll, which thou hast written from my mouth, the words of the LORD in the ears of the people in the LORD’S house upon the fasting day: and also thou shalt read them in the ears of all Judah that come out of their cities…. [9] And it came to pass in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, in the ninth month, that they proclaimed a fast before the LORD to all the people in Jerusalem, and to all the people that came from the cities of Judah unto Jerusalem.”
  • Daniel 6:18: “Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of musick brought before him: and his sleep went from him.”
  • Daniel 9:3: “And I set my face unto the LORD God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:”
  • Joel 1:14: “Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry unto the LORD,”
  • Joel 2:12,15: “[12] Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:…. [15] Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly:”
  • Jonah 3:5: “So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.”
  • Zechariah 7:5: “Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?”
  • Zechariah 8:19: “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.”
  • Matthew 4:2: “And when he [Jesus] had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.”
  • Matthew 6:16-18: “[16] Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. [17] But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; [18] That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”
  • Matthew 9:14-15: “[14] Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? [15] And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.” Mark 2:18-20: “[18] And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not? [19] And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. [20] But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.” Luke 5:33-35: “[33] And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink? [34] And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? [35] But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.”
  • Matthew 15:32: “Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.” Mark 8:3: “And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far.”
  • Matthew 17:21: “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” Mark 9:29: “And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.”
  • Luke 2:37: “And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.”
  • Luke 18:12: “I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.”
  • Acts 10:30: “And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,”

FASTING IN PAUL’S MINISTRY, DISPENSATION OF GRACE, AND BODY OF CHRIST

  • Acts 13:2-3: “[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.”
  • Acts 14:23: “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”
  • Acts 27:9,33: “[9] Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them,…. [33] And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing.”
  • 1 Corinthians 7:5: “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.”
  • 2 Corinthians 6:5: “In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;”
  • 2 Corinthians 11:27: “In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”

So, a quick review of these references…. Of the 65 fasting references in the Bible, only eight are found in Paul’s ministry (five in the Book of Acts, once in 1 Corinthians, and twice in 2 Corinthians). Three of those references in Paul’s ministry apply to church leaders and/or the local church assembly (Acts 13:2; Acts 13:3; 2 Corinthians 6:5). Seven references apply specifically to Paul’s personal fastings (Acts 13:2-3; Acts 14:23; Acts 27:9,33; 2 Corinthians 6:5; 2 Corinthians 11:27). Only one reference is written particularly to individual members of the Church the Body of Christ—namely, married couples (1 Corinthians 7:5).

CONCLUSION: SHOULD WE FAST IN THE DISPENSATION OF GRACE?

As mentioned earlier, in Christendom today, we hear so much about fasting—particularly during the time of Lent (40-day period between Mardi Gras/Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday). With all of that religious talk, you would almost think that it would be a sin for a Christian not to fast. However, there is no explicit command in the Bible that all Christians “must” fast in the Dispensation of Grace. Yes, Paul and his ministry coworkers did it from time to time (Acts 13:2-3; Acts 14:23; 2 Corinthians 6:5; 2 Corinthians 11:27). That fasting, along with prayer, was involved with major ministry undertakings. It was a time of intense preparation and focus.

Most definitely, we can find the Israelites fasting in the Scriptures. Yes, even the Lord Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights before He began His earthly ministry (Matthew 4:2;cf. Luke 4:2). However, their program is not our pattern! Just because the Jews did something, we are not necessarily to do it. (Are we going to offer animal sacrifices and kill people who work on the Saturday Sabbath as the Jews did in Scripture TOO?) Saint Paul is our apostle, as he declared by the Holy Spirit: “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office” (Romans 11:13). Paul is the Lord Jesus Christ’s spokesman to us Gentiles. In that body of Pauline truth—“the Dispensation of the Grace of God” (Ephesians 3:2)—we find God’s instructions to us today. That would be the 13 Bible Books, Romans through Philemon.

The Apostle Paul never tells us that we must fast (no, that would be religion that makes such demands). Saint Paul does instruct that husbands and wives who have agreed not to be intimate for a time, are to “give [themselves] to fasting and prayer” (1 Corinthians 7:5). Why would this be necessary? Remember, the verse continues, “and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency [lack of self-control].” One of God’s designs in marriage is to fulfill the natural sexual urge (libido). If sexual intercourse is lacking in the marriage relationship, Satan can eventually use this to his advantage. Those desires, if not satisfied by the spouse, can lead to extramarital affairs. Self-control will be gone. Recall that fasting and prayer were done in Scripture during times of peril (danger) or distress (sadness, depression). A marriage without intimacy is vulnerable to Satan’s attacks, and people physically separated from their spouses are (or at least should be!) missing them. Evidently, prayer and fasting are the means whereby God strengthens (“self-controls”) Christians who cannot be (or have agreed not to be) intimate with their spouses for a specific period. The Pauline doctrine on marriage (1 Corinthians chapter 7) will equip the married saints praying that doctrine. God’s Word will effectually work in them that believe, 1 Thessalonians 2:13 says.

Except if that reference above in 1 Corinthians 7:5 describes our situation, fasting is a personal choice that God will not make for us. Again, there is no direct command in Paul’s epistles not to fast. Save in the case of marriage, there is no direct command to fast in Paul’s epistles. Again, it is a personal choice that you must decide for yourself. Is fasting appropriate for you? Should you choose to go without food for a time, while you are in prayer, in distress, or in depression? (Certainly never deprive yourself of water!) I will not tell you what to do. The Bible does not tell you what to do. If you want to fast, fine. If you do not want to fast, fine as well. BUT, please hear this word of caution.

Matthew 6:16-18, which we saw earlier: “[16] Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. [17] But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; [18] That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”

Do you see how Jesus exposed fasting as the blind ritual that Judaism had made it? Do you see how Jesus wanted His Little Flock to fast without doing it as a “show?” I am afraid that many “Christian” people today have drawn too much attention to themselves because they have “fasted.” Again, they boast about how they have “given up” “worldly pleasures” (certain foods or bad habits, for example) during Lent, the 40 days prior to Easter Sunday. They do “penance,” suffering for their sins. They want to show God “just how ‘sorry’ they are for their sins committed on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras)” and “just how ‘dedicated’ they are to living ‘strict, godly’ lives until Easter Sunday.” Of course, some never make it all the way through the 40 days without reverting to their “relinquished pleasure!”

If you noticed in verses we presented earlier, fasting in Judaism eventually became a worthless religious practice. The Lord Jesus lamented that some people no longer fasted in faith. They just did it just to feel religious, stroke their egos, to show off, and to brag to others, “Look at how faithful I am to God! I am so holy and pious because I fast often!” Notice how the Pharisee bragged, “I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:12). The fasting here was not done in faith. It was just some mindless religious ritual performed so one could then boast of his “faithfulness” and his “holiness.” We want to avoid this should we choose to fast.

Also see:
» Should Christians observe Lent?
» Should Christians celebrate Mardi Gras?
» Should Christians celebrate Easter?

Can you explain 1 Corinthians 5:7-8?

CAN YOU EXPLAIN 1 CORINTHIANS 5:7-8?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8: “[7] Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: [8] Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” What does it mean, “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us?” Does verse 8 teach that we Christians are required to keep the Passover feast? What are these two verses about anyway? “For what saith the Scriptures?”

What is going on in this context? These verses in question should be interpreted in light of verses 1-2: “[1] It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. [2] And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.” There is a Christian man in Corinth having sexual relations with his “father’s wife” (assumed to be his stepmother). The Corinthians have not addressed this issue but are rather gloating over and supporting/encouraging it. Paul mentions that they need to discipline that man—that is, put him out of the assembly until he straightens up (see verses 11 and 13).

Verse 6 continues: “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” Paul rebukes the Corinthians for allowing sin to get a foothold in their midst. By them encouraging one brother to sin so grossly in the sexual realm, they are now all vulnerable to permitting worse behavior in their group. Just as a little bit of leaven (yeast) spreads so that all the dough is leavened (and thus rises), a little bit of sinful activity left unaddressed will spread to the whole congregation. Satan will cause that one sin to entice others to commit evil, all of them assuming they will get away with their misbehavior too. The Corinthians were to, in love of course, discipline that Christian brother. He was to be removed from their fellowship until he reformed. It was either deal with him harshly, or risk losing the whole congregation to sin.

In light of that background, we re-read 1 Corinthians 5:7-8: “[7] Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: [8] Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Unlike in verse 6, we are no longer talking now about literal leaven, or a literal lump of bread dough. “Leaven” here now functions as a metaphor (symbol) for evil or sin. It does not make sense for the Corinthian (or any other Christian) assembly to condone sin, evil that could possibly contaminate the whole group. Being spiritually immature, the Corinthians were unable to identify this spiritual danger as the Apostle Paul could. Paul thus wrote 1 Corinthians chapter 5. He wrote it for our benefit even today.

Verse 7 again: “Purge out therefore the old leaven….” In other words, “Get rid of that habitual fornicator!” (Go back to verses 1-6, if necessary, to gain the thought flow.) The group must cast out the man to recover itself from defilement—“that [purpose or intent] ye [all believing Corinthians] may be a new lump.” Christ died to put away our sin by the sacrifice of Himself, Hebrews 9:26 says. Positionally, as members of the Body of Christ, we are spiritually clean before God, forgiven and redeemed by Christ’s shed blood (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14). That is where 1 Corinthians 5:7 then comes in with, “For even [further explanation] Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.”

What was the purpose of the Passover lamb? It was to save Israel from God’s wrath. Those without that lamb’s blood—namely, the Egyptians—were destroyed. Israel was spared in Egypt because of the blood applied to their doors (Exodus 11:4-8, Exodus 12:11-13). Passover is really a picture/preview of Messiah shedding His blood for Israel’s eternal salvation, sparing her from God’s future wrath at Christ’s Second Coming. At the same time of year Israel was preparing to kill the Passover lamb, they killed the Lord Jesus! But, in God’s design, that blood of Christ was necessary for Him to institute the New Covenant to save Israel one day (see Hebrews chapters 8 and 10). That blood of Christ Jesus also saves us and keeps us in the Church the Body of Christ.

“As ye are unleavened….” In keeping with our righteous spiritual position before God as members of the Church the Body of Christ, we need to put away sin from our local assemblies. To wit, we should have practical daily living that fits our spiritual identity in Christ. That means dealing with brethren who are misbehaving and making the group liable to falling into the same sin or worse. Christ died to deliver us from our sins. Sin does not belong in our lives, and so we deny it access. All of Romans chapter 6 should be read and remembered here. We walk by faith in Romans 6:10-11: “[10] For in that he [Christ] died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. [11] Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Sin does not belong in the local assembly either, especially because it will encourage others—those observing the misbehavior—to go along with it and engage in the same evil behavior!

“Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” As we hinted at earlier, the blood of Christ saves not only Israel from the penalty of sin (hellfire)—it saves us, the Church the Body of Christ, from the same eternal wrath of God against sinners. What Christ is for Israel, He is “for us” (Body of Christ). (“For us” is absent from modern English versions.) He is “our” Passover—the insulation allowing God’s wrath to pass over us (Body of Christ) and not judge us (Body of Christ). Jesus Christ is our Saviour, the God-Man who made atonement for our sin (Romans 5:11), just as He will atone/forgive Israel’s sins at His Second Coming (Acts 3:19-20). His finished crosswork is vicarious—done on our behalf and done on Israel’s behalf. If Christ Jesus saved us from our sins, and He did, then we have no reason to continue living in them! We have new life in Him, a life that Father God wants to fill with good works rather than sins (Ephesians 2:10). Of course, the Corinthians were too carnal (fleshly minded) to grasp these simple grace teachings (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). Sadly, many Christians today are just as weak in the doctrine as they were!

Now, we move on 1 Corinthians 5:8: “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” This is not, as you seem to be inclined to think, “let us observe the Passover….” Remember, verse 7 is not about literal leaven (yeast) or a lump of physical bread dough. Verse 7 again: “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us….”

Verse 8 is not talking about a literal anything either, especially a physical feast as Passover. “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Notice the “leaven” here is not actual yeast as in bread we eat, but rather is defined in the verse as “malice [evil intentions] and wickedness [evil deeds].” The literal sense does not make sense; therefore, it must a metaphorical, symbolic, or figurative usage. The “leaven” here is “malice and wickedness”—that which jeopardizes/infects the Christian group (or in the case of Corinth, the fornicating brother in Christ risking the whole group to sin).

We pause a moment to consider an interesting parallel. Immediately after Israel observed the Passover, they were to have the weeklong Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:15-17). The Jews were to get rid of all physical leaven in their houses. There was more than just literal leaven God was interested in purging Israel of, though. As we noted earlier, leaven represented sin, just as it does here in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 (as well as in Galatians 5:9—there it is a symbol of evil/false teaching). Just as Passover taught Israel how to put away sin, Christ serving as our Passover Lamb also encourages us to put away sin (whether individually or as a group). We now return to 1 Corinthians chapter 5 to begin winding down this exegesis.

Verse 8 of 1 Corinthians chapter 5 once more: “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” The “unleavened bread” here is defined not as literal bread without yeast, but bread “of sincerity and truth.” Again, this is figurative or symbolic. The “malice and wickedness” of the first part of verse 8 was to be replaced with “sincerity [honesty, well-meaning, good intentions] and truth [rather than evil].” Instead of partaking of a meal of evil and sin (figurative, of course), the Corinthians (and we) should participate in the life of the Spirit of God that we have in Christ. See Galatians 5:22-23—the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:11). If we must influence our brethren, let us stir them up to follow our good example rather than our bad example!

We close by quoting 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 in its entirety: “[1] It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. [2] And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. [3] For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, [4] In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, [5] To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

“[6] Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? [7] Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: [8] Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. [9] I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: [10] Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. [11] But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. [12] For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? [13] But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”

Also see:
» Should Christians observe Passover?
» Should we observe the Lord’s Supper?
» Can you explain 1 Corinthians chapter 8?