Monthly Archives: September 2017

Were the 11 Apostles wrong in choosing Matthias instead of Paul?

WERE THE 11 APOSTLES WRONG IN CHOOSING MATTHIAS INSTEAD OF PAUL?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Since precious, precious, precious few church members—and even preachers—understand the Apostle Paul’s special ministry, they want him to be the twelfth apostle (taking Judas’ place instead of Matthias). Even some professing dispensationalists criticize Peter and the 10 for appointing Matthias instead of waiting for Paul’s conversion. While we have looked at this issue in previous studies, it would greatly help us if we re-examined it from additional angles and greatly amplified our original comments. “For what saith the Scriptures?”

A BRIEF INTRODUCTION

While I will always be grateful to one particular brother in Christ who helped me progress in dispensational truth, the man (however highly educated) was never able to fully break away from certain denominational tenets. In one commentary, he repeatedly criticized Peter and the 10 apostles for making Matthias the successor of Judas. (I will show you his “condemnations” shortly.) Thankfully, the brother is now in Heaven, fully straightened out. However, there are left here on Earth millions of Christians still confused about the matter. Church tradition is so hard to abandon, dear friends, but we can do it if we truly desire to glorify Father God and magnify His Holy Word.

The dear brother compared and contrasted Peter’s ministry and Paul’s ministry. He showed how they preached different messages to different audiences. To quote him, “…Paul’s message was new and unique in every aspect—a different message from that delivered by the original apostles…. Paul’s message was not the apostolic message that the other apostles had been delivering. He preached a Gospel of the Grace of God, salvation provided for every creature, whereas the other apostles ministered to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The brother knew the Church the Body of Christ was separate from the nation Israel. He knew how to rightly divide Peter from Paul. We agree with him wholeheartedly… only up to that point though.

Then, his writing style changed from spiritual to carnal. He began to argue Paul was God’s choice instead of Matthias! Again, in this study, we will state and consider his conclusions (which are not unique to him—he merely repeated what others told him). More importantly, though, we will compare his claims to the Word of God. It really does not matter what I say. It really does not matter what that dear brother said. It really does not what his denomination says. What does God say?

1. DID THE 11 APOSTLES HAVE ORDERS FROM JESUS CHRIST TO HOLD THAT ACTS 1:15-26 MEETING AND ELECT MATTHIAS TO FILL JUDAS’ BISHOPRICK?

In his own words, the aforementioned brother wrote: “Please read Acts 1:15-26. Of course, when this was done, they did not have orders from Jesus Christ to hold such a meeting nor to have such an election; on the contrary, they violated the instructions Jesus had given them… ‘And, being assembled together with them, [Jesus] commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, BUT WAIT FOR THE PROMISE OF THE FATHER, WHICH, SAITH HE, YE HAVE HEARD OF ME’ (Acts 1:4).” (All caps in original.)

The dear brother continued:

“The apostles had strict instructions from Jesus to tarry, to wait for the Holy Ghost, before they moved one inch in the ministry left to them. They were commanded to do nothing until the coming of the Spirit, the Holy Ghost, who would lead them into all truth. There remained ten days from that time until Pentecost; but in spite of the command, ‘Do nothing until the Spirit comes to guide and direct you,’ the disciples did not wait for the Spirit. They immediately called a meeting, and in the energy of the flesh they elected a twelfth apostle. They were informed: ‘But ye shall receive power AFTER the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses…’ (Acts 1:8). But they went ahead with their election. Peter was the impatient one. I am sure that to him ten days seemed a long, long time to be without a twelfth apostle. He suggested that they elect someone to replace Judas. Instead of waiting as they have been instructed, they proceeded with the business of the Lord without the blessing of the Holy Ghost…. Where did Peter get his authority to hold a meeting and elect a twelfth apostle? Where did he get his authority to ordain an apostle? Face it, beloved: Peter (like many of us, even ministers) did what he did in the energy of the flesh. Peter was not willing to wait for the Spirit to lead; he went ahead of the Spirit: ‘And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias’ (Acts 1:23).” (Bold emphasis mine.)

Honestly, these are some very outrageous, inflammatory, and careless claims. In fact, they are downright foolish and baseless. The brother, however well meaning, should have studied his Bible more fully before giving scoffers additional ammunition and doubters more unbelief.

Our dear brother argued that the 11 Apostles disobeyed Acts 1:4, which says: “And, being assembled together with them, [Jesus] commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.” Friends, we see nothing about Jesus telling the Apostles, “Do not do anything until the Holy Ghost comes.” What He told them was that they were not to leave Jerusalem, for the Holy Spirit would come to Jerusalem (cf. Luke 24:49). That is what Jesus told them. There was nothing about, “You cannot pick a twelfth apostle until the Spirit of God comes.” It is nothing more than the figment of the imagination of denominational brethren.

Acts 1:1-3 should be considered at this point: “[1] The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, [2] Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: [3] To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:….”

Notice especially verse 3. For 40 days after His resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ talked to His 11 Apostles (minus Judas Iscariot) and the rest of Israel’s Little Flock about “the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” (Check Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:12-20, Luke 24:25-53, and John 20:19–21:25.) After hearing Jesus Christ talk about the kingdom of God for 40 days, the disciples rightly asked in Acts 1:6, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” They are obviously talking about the Lord Jesus reestablishing a kingdom like King David of old had (a literal, physical, visible, earthly kingdom).

We find Peter in verses 16-20 (Acts chapter 1) claiming that the Book of Psalms twice referred to Judas Iscariot’s fall: “[16] Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. [17] For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. [18] Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. [19] And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. [20] For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.

Apart from this commentary in Acts, we would have never been able to figure out Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8 were really talking about Judas Iscariot. How was Peter able to guess correctly? Well, the truth is that he did not guess anything. The Lord Jesus Christ opened the Scriptures for the disciples during that 40-day period. He told them all about Judas’ departure predicted by David 1,000 years earlier in the Book of Psalms. Peter was NOT (!) “acting in the flesh” when they held an election for Judas’ replacement. As Peter said, the Book of Psalms (109:8) declared “his bishoprick let another take.” This verse, inspired by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:16), gave Peter and the 10 the authority to appoint the twelfth apostle. They did not need the coming of the Holy Spirit to guide them concerning Judas since He had already written a verse to guide them! As we will see later on, these Apostles asked the Lord whom “He” had chosen. Who “walks in the flesh” when asking God’s will to be manifested? It makes no sense. The Apostles were seeking God’s will not their own will in Acts chapter 1.

Furthermore, returning to the issue of the kingdom of God (Acts 1:4)…. The Lord Jesus, before the cross, told the Apostles that they would sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:27-28). They needed to be exactly 12 in number—no less. Hence, the Lord Jesus, during the 40 days, gave the remaining 11 Apostles insight into Judas’ vacancy needing to be filled. So, Peter did not need the coming Holy Ghost to lead him here because the Lord Jesus Himself had already provided instruction from the Psalms. Again, we see Peter and the 10 are unfairly criticized here. Those accusing them of “acting in the flesh” are simply unqualified to speak about the matter. They need to hush and study their Bibles more prayerfully and carefully. The critics are “acting in the flesh!”

2. WERE THE 11 APOSTLES WRONG IN SETTING UP JUST TWO POSSIBILITIES—JOSEPH/BARSABAS/JUSTUS AND MATTHIAS?

Our aforementioned brother in Christ continued to write the following:

“‘And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias’ (Acts 1:23). Can you imagine the Holy Ghost setting up two men to be voted upon? If God Almighty calls a man, He appoints a man—not two men to be voted upon by other men. It is true that they prayed for the Lord to show them which one was to be chosenbut their prayer was wasted and empty, because they asked God to pick one of the candidates they had chosen. It seems they would have prayed for God to show them which one of the one hundred twenty should be appointed to fill the place left by Judas. Why did they select only two, when there were one hundred twenty of them waiting in the upper room for the coming of the Holy Spirit? They prayed, ‘Shew which of these two….’ They did not get an answer; therefore they were forced to cast lots—or to vote—for the one to fill the place left vacant by the death of Judas. ‘And they gave forth their lots; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles’ (Acts 1:26). Can you imagine these dear men voting, instead of waiting upon the Holy Spirit to appoint the apostle? The men who were there had been individually called by the Lord Jesus Christ, yet they were not willing to wait for Him to call one to take the place of Judas.” (Bold emphasis mine.)

Imagine that—the brother suggested that the Apostles’ prayer “was wasted and empty!” Outrageous! This is a Bible teacher?

To bolster his view here, the dear brother proceeds to quote Acts 13:1-4. After the prophets and teachers in Antioch fasted and prayed, the Holy Ghost had them select Barnabas and Saul (Paul) as “foreign missionaries” (of course, they were not “missionaries” as he claimed—they were “apostles” Acts 14:14 says). Our brother says, “Please notice: At the close of a period of fasting and prayer, the church was instructed BY THE HOLY GHOST to appoint Barnabas and Saul as missionaries. You must agree that this was carried out in quite a different manner than casting lots to see who would go….” Goodness! Goodness! Goodness!

We now ask in faith. Why did the Apostles pick two men? Were they “limiting God,” as the dear brother claimed? Why tell God to pick one out of two when God could have selected one out of the 120 believers assembled there (Acts 1:15)? Notice verses 21-23: “[21] Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, [22] Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. [23] And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.”

Judas Iscariot’s successor had to meet two qualifications. Firstly, the man had to have been a follower of Christ all the way back to the ministry of John the Baptist (Matthew chapter 3). Secondly, he had to be a follower of Christ up until His ascension into Heaven in Acts chapter 1. That is, the candidate had to be a follower of Christ all the way through His three years of earthly ministry. Where did the Apostles get such requirements? Did they fabricate them in the flesh? Of course not! Why, again, the Lord Himself told them!

The Lord Jesus said in Luke 22:28-30, the night of His arrest: “[28] Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. [29] And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; [30] That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Again, Israel’s 12 thrones were to be occupied by 12 men who continued with Christ in His temptations. Those 12 Apostles were to testify of what He had taught from the beginning of His ministry to the end, culminating in His resurrection and post-resurrection ministry. Judas’ replacement could not be a man saved at the middle or end of Christ’s earthly ministry. This tells us that, of 120 Messianic Jews in Jerusalem in Acts chapter 1, only two followed Christ from John’s baptism until His ascension. Those two men were Joseph/Barsabas/Justus, and Matthias. The Apostles were not limiting God by restricting the number to two candidates. God certainly did not want to pick just any person to be a witness of Christ. Any late convert did not have all the information that Jesus had taught, and certainly would not be able to teach others either. Furthermore, Paul was not converted until long after the resurrection—he could not be Judas’ replacement!

“Why did they select only two, when there were one hundred twenty of them waiting in the upper room for the coming of the Holy Spirit? They did not get an answer; therefore they were forced to cast lots—or to vote—for the one to fill the place left vacant by the death of Judas.” These are such reckless statements, friends. Having addressed the first part using the Scriptures, we now move on to the second part. The casting of lots—why did they do it?

Casting lots was perfectly acceptable in the Jewish program, as Proverbs 16:33 says: “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.” It was acceptable when dividing the Promised Land by lot in the Book of Joshua. God endorsed this usage of lots, and surely He did in Acts chapter 1. Before the completed Word of God, the written Bible we have today, divine revelation was limited. There were other ways God communicated with people (dreams, visions, miracles, angelic appearances, the stars, the Urim and the Thummim, et cetera). It is not that the 11 Apostles cast lots because they did not get an answer from God. They cast lots so they could get an answer from God.

Acts chapter 1 again: “[24] And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, [25] That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. [26] And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” The passage does not say, “They prayed, but God did not answer them, so they cast lots.” Verse 26 begins with “and,” meaning it continues the thought of verses 24-25. Again, they cast lots so they could get an answer from God.

Notice Acts 1:26 again: “And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” This verse tells us the Holy Spirit considered Matthias the twelfth apostle. Add to this the fact that, before Paul was even converted in chapter 9, we read about the twelve.” Paul himself claimed that he was not one of the 12 Apostles. The Holy Spirit said that Paul was not one of the 12 Apostles.

Read 1 Corinthians 15:3-8: “[3] For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; [4] And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [5] And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: [6] After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. [7] After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. [8] And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” We see the 12 Apostles in verse 5, and we see the Apostle Paul in verse 8. Paul is not one of the 12! Do you see that?

3. DID GOD RECOGNIZE THE CHOICE OF MATTHIAS?

Our dear brother’s final vilification is summarized now:

“It is very clear that God did not recognize the choice of Matthias, because this dear man is never mentioned again in all the rest of the Bible. God ignored man’s ordination—and after Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost had come, God chose HIS man to fill the place vacated by the betrayer, Judas Iscariot. God named Paul to be an apostle. It was not man’s choice, but it was an outright call, commission, and ordination by Christ. Paul was ordained of God for the office of apostleship.”

We stand in awe! After writing that Paul was not preaching the same message as the 11 Apostles, after arguing that Israel and the Body of Christ are separate, our dear brother (in the same book!) stuck Paul into the twelfth apostolic slot! Unbelievable! Paul was one of the 12 Apostles but he was preaching a different message than the other 11? How absurd! If Paul was preaching a different message—and he was (even as the dear brother proved!)—then he was certainly not one of the 12 Apostles!

Re-read the dear brother’s comments: “It is very clear that God did not recognize the choice of Matthias, because this dear man is never mentioned again in all the rest of the Bible.” Interestingly, Jesus selected Apostles Bartholomew and Lebbaeus Thaddaeus back in Matthew 10:3. Other than reading of them in a relisting of the 12 Apostles (Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13), we do not hear about Bartholomew and Lebbaeus Thaddaeus again in Scripture. By the dear brother’s logic, the Holy Spirit evidently did not approve of the Lord Jesus’ own apostolic selections either! No, let us not be foolish. The Holy Spirit did indeed recognize Matthias as the twelfth apostle. No church tradition or denominational whim will ever change the Bible text here or anywhere else.

Acts 1:26 again: “And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” It does not say “the eleven numbered him with themselves.” The Bible says, “he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” According to the testimony of the Scriptures, Matthias was indeed the twelfth apostle.

You should be reminded again that Paul did not consider himself the twelfth Apostle. Go back to our second point, where we quoted 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 as ample and unmistakable proof.

CONCLUSION

Did the 11 Apostles have orders from Jesus Christ to hold that Acts 1:15-26 meeting and elect Matthias to fill Judas’ bishoprick? Yes, they did. Jesus Christ educated them in the Psalms that spoke of Judas Iscariot’s departure and replacement. Acting on the Holy-Spirit-inspired Psalms, the 11 Apostles began the process of choosing Judas’ successor. In the coming kingdom, Israel’s 12 thrones over 12 tribes needed 12 princes to sit on them. Jesus Christ spoke with His disciples about the kingdom of God for the 40 days between His resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:3). He told them all about how to prepare to function in His absence. The Holy Spirit would come on the Day of Pentecost some days later (Acts chapter 2), but He (the Lord Jesus Christ) had given them enough information to function until He (the Holy Spirit) came. Matthias’ selection was approved of the Lord.

Were the 11 Apostles wrong in setting up just two possibilities—Joseph/Barsabas/Justus and Matthias? No, they were not. Jesus Christ Himself had already set restrictions on those who would occupy Israel’s 12 thrones (Luke 22:28-30). These men had to have continued with Him during His temptations. Only two out of the 120 in Acts 1:15 met that qualification—Paul did not even fit this (he was not saved until Acts chapter 9). The Holy Spirit honored Jesus Christ’s stipulations and selected one of the two. Why did God pick Matthias instead of Joseph/Barsabas/Justus? I cannot answer that, and nobody else can either. It really makes no difference anyway. We do know that God selected Matthias, and that is what ultimately matters. As for the casting of lots, this was perfectly acceptable in the Jewish program. Proverbs 16:33 endorsed the usage of lots to show the will of God. The Apostles were certainly not wrong in casting lots any more than the Jews were wrong when casting lots to divide the land of Canaan in the Book of Joshua.

Did God recognize the choice of Matthias? Yes, He did. Acts 1:26 says: “And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” It does not say, “the eleven numbered him with themselves.” The Bible says, “he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” According to the testimony of the Scriptures, Matthias was indeed the twelfth apostle. His absence from the rest of Scripture proves nothing concerning his legitimacy; otherwise, we are forced to say that Bartholomew and Lebbaeus Thaddaeus, never mentioned again in Scripture, were also illegitimate (and Christ chose them in Matthew chapter 10, without human instrumentality). The inspired Word of God spoken through the Apostle Paul indicates that Paul was not one of the 12 Apostles (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

If we study Paul’s Acts ministry (9-28), and his epistles Romans through Philemon, we see that he is certainly not a part of or an extension of Peter and the 11. He did not teach what they taught; he did not go around like they did, building on Christ’s earthly ministry. The Dispensation of Grace was committed to Paul, not the 12 Apostles (Ephesians 3:2). Even the Apostle Peter recognized the special wisdom given to Paul (2 Peter 3:15-16). Paul is never to be confused with the 12 Apostles. The first two chapters of the Book of Galatians make this quite clear.

Anyone who wants to make Paul one of the 12 Apostles is either: (1) innocently allowing denominational teaching to confuse them and they are inadvertently propagating falsehoods, or (2) they are intentionally perverting the Scriptures because they want to advance their pet theological position. No one reading and studying the Scriptures honestly will conclude anything other than Matthias being Judas’ divinely ordained successor. Any honest Bible student will see the unmistakable fact that Paul was an Apostle whose ministry and message were completely separate and distinct from Peter and the 11.

Also see:
» Can you compare and contrast Peter’s ministry and Paul’s ministry?
» Was Paul a false prophet?
» Why do people get angry when we share right division with them?

Why did Paul quote Habakkuk in Acts 13:41?

WHY DID PAUL QUOTE HABAKKUK IN ACTS 13:41?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Paul quoted the Prophet Habakkuk to conclude his first recorded sermon in the Bible. Reading from Acts chapter 13, “[40] Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; [41] Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.” Was Paul taking Habakkuk’s prophecy out of context, or was there a valid reason for him appealing to the Prophet here?

The Prophet Habakkuk had a ministry during the reign of King Josiah (640-609 B.C.). Habakkuk preached a few decades before the Babylonian armies besieged Jerusalem and burned God’s Temple. We read in chapter 1 of his little Book: “[5] Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you. [6] For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwellingplaces that are not theirs.”

JEHOVAH God gave Judah (the Southern Kingdom) ample time to repent, to change their mind and quit worshipping idols. She obstinately persisted in false religion. Now, the fifth course of judgment was impending. Using Gentiles, God would remove Israel from His Promised Land (Leviticus 26:27-39). The Jews would be “among the heathen” (Habakkuk 1:5). Note, Habakkuk spoke as though it had already happened. Israel would now be among the nations, set aside by God. Still, as Habakkuk said, they persisted in unbelief. They refused to believe God’s Word to them.

After extensively rehearsing Israel’s history from Abraham to Jesus Christ (Acts 13:14-39), Paul quoted Habakkuk. The Apostle warned unbelieving Israel in that synagogue he was visiting, that they were now among the Gentiles, set aside (paralleling Habakkuk’s message). As God’s spokesman to them, Paul told Israel that they were still in unbelief (paralleling Habakkuk’s message), and they needed to turn from such error and trust Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Unbelieving Israel harassed and contradicted Paul throughout the rest of his ministry (remainder of Acts onward), further validating Habakkuk’s prophecy in his own day. “…a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.” The Bible is an amazing Book!

Also see:
» Can you explain Paul’s “Acts” ministry?
» Did Paul quote verses out of context in 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1?
» “If God peradventure will give them repentance…?”

What is the “temptation” in 1 Corinthians 10:13?

WHAT IS THE “TEMPTATION” IN 1 CORINTHIANS 10:13? HOW DOES GOD “MAKE A WAY TO ESCAPE…?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

First Corinthians 10:13 says: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” What is the “temptation” here? Is it a trial, trouble, difficulty, hardship, sickness—what? And how does God “make a way to escape?” We turn to other verses for interpretation.

There is some confusion about “temptation” and the King James Bible. We often think of “temptation” as an enticement to sin, but that is not always the sense of the word. Our English term “tempt” is from the Latin temptare, meaning, “to test, try, handle.” Hence, temptation in Scripture means “examine to see what is really inside; try; test.” The word “temptation” in 1 Corinthians 10:13 means any situation or set of circumstances that exposes what is really inside of us. Either there will be good results (passing), or bad results (failing). Sin is not necessarily in view with temptation.

For example, look at Genesis 22:1: “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.” Now, Hebrews 11:17: “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,….” Notice how “tempt” and “tried” are interchangeable. “Trials” and “temptations” are synonyms. A temptation is a trying, a testing, an examination. And, certainly, God did not tempt Abraham to sin. He wanted to reveal what was inside of Abraham (faith, trust in God’s Word).

In the context of 1 Corinthians 10:13, Israel’s circumstances manifested her unbelief. The chapter opens: “[1] Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; [2] And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; [3] And did all eat the same spiritual meat; [4] And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 

“[5] But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. [6] Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. [7] Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. [8] Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. [9] Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. [10] Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.”

Instead of being thankful to the LORD God for all that He did for them (delivering them from Egyptian slavery, being with them personally, giving Moses to be their leader, giving them food and water miraculously, and so on), instead of being faithful to and trusting His Word; Israel doubted, complained, rebelled, and followed idols. They wanted to return to their old lifestyle in Egypt (captivity to sin, Satan, the world). Every situation listed in the above passage exposed Israel’s unbelief, doubt. Israel failed God miserably time and time again. They did not want to be His people and did not want to do His will. They were totally ignorant of His Word to them.

In verses 11-15, the Apostle Paul makes application for us: “[11] Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. [12] Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. [13] There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. [14] Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. [15] I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.”

Friends, we should be careful not to repeat Israel’s mistakes. Firstly, we should be thankful for our provisions in Christ, our identity in Christ, our blessings in Christ. Secondly, we should not get haughty and say, “We are so ‘spiritual’ that we would never do what Israel did! We ‘love’ God too much! We are so ‘much better’ than the Jews of old!” That is what verse 12 speaks against: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” Such “holier-than-thou” pride would cause—and had caused—the Corinthians (and us Christians even today) to repeat Israel’s mistakes. If you read the context (chapters 8-11 of 1 Corinthians), you see that the Corinthian saints were engaged in idolatry, false religion. Satan was using false religion to corrupt them as he used it to pollute ancient Israel. Even today, Satan’s religious system poisons many Christians (thousands of denominations and millions of wrong ideas).

So, back to your questions about 1 Corinthians 10:13: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” The “escape” is not to have the difficulty/problem/hardship removed. Rather, God leaves us in the situation to see whether we will follow/believe His Word (like Abraham) or whether we will ignore/disbelieve His Word (like Israel). God does not send those hardships upon us; do not misunderstand me. He permits them, and they are opportunities for us to see what is really inside of us—faith or doubt.

We will “bear” or carry/experience/endure the temptation, and we will “escape” it by relying on the strength the Word of God gives us. In the case of 1 Corinthians 10:13, the issue is idolatry (but again, the principles can be applied generally to any time of trial or testing to see how we react). God’s Word will give us the internal capacity to overcome/triumph, but we must have God’s Word in the first place. Israel was not walking by faith in God’s Word, so they had no ability to succeed. Unless we have the Word stored in our soul, we too will fail.

After all of that, the Holy Spirit through Paul tells us, “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry” (verse 14). See, again, we can “bear” the difficulty, hardship, time of testing, trial, et cetera. We can “flee from idolatry” because the verse says we can! Idols still remain, but we chose not to worship them! We can also flee from any type of unbelief, flesh-walking, sin, et cetera. Satan’s evil world system is still here, and we still live in this world, but we do not have to be “conformed” to it provided that we are letting God’s Word rightly divided “transform” and “renew” our minds (Romans 12:1-2)!

God’s Word furnishes us that ability, that strength, that fortitude, to make it through any and every temptation/testing/trial. Difficult circumstances do not have to defeat and destroy us. Remember, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Romans 8:18-25, and Romans 5:1-5. These are great passages to read and quote from memory in times of trouble. Our minds must be renewed to think about troubles/difficulties/trials/hardships the way God does. This is how we are to view trying times in the Dispensation of the Grace of God.

The temptation—whatever circumstance it is—will bring into spotlight what is really inside of us. People all around the word experience trials: after all, the Bible says, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man….” Trials are common to man….” And, by the way, you will remember Israel of old had them! Adam and Eve had them! Jesus Christ had them! We today have them! Yea, they are indeed “common to man.”

Let us read the whole verse now: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.Praise our Lord Jesus Christ! God is “faithful,” and He will be faithful to us. We just need to trust in His Word, and that Word of His Grace will take care of the rest. Israel failed miserably when it came to faith, but we can (and should) learn from that mistake. We are “able” to “bear” the “temptation” because “God is faithful.”

Is faith in God still in our heart, despite our troubles? Or have we concluded that our sufferings mean there is no God, that God does not love us, that God does not care for us? Are we thankful for what God has done for us in Christ and by His finished crosswork (saved us from eternal hellfire, given us eternal life, forgiveness, redemption, justification, et cetera)? Or, like Israel, do we want to return to the old life (unbelief, sin, serving self, doing what we want, worshipping idols, et cetera)? Grace gives us the freedom to choose!

A good way to understand temptation is to see the Lord Jesus Christ’s temptations in Matthew 4:1-11. Satan tried to use Jesus Christ’s circumstances to move Him away from Father God’s will for Him. (Satan used similar tactics with Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:1-6.) Adam and Eve failed thrice, remember. Christ, however, triumphed thrice. Those temptations proved that Jesus Christ would still stick by the Word of God. They exposed the faith/trust that He had in His heart with respect to Father God’s Word. Notice how Christ quoted those passages of Scripture. Satan would not divorce His mind from the Word of God. In spite of Satan’s deception, slyness, trickery, Jesus Christ stayed by the Bible. He did what Israel failed to do. He did what Adam and Eve failed to do.

Jesus Christ left us an example to follow with respect to temptations. No matter what circumstances we face, we go by God’s Word to us (Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, the principles of Grace). As long as we choose to follow them by faith, we will not repeat Adam and Eve’s mistakes, or Israel’s mistakes. We will know what God has done for us, who we are in Christ, what mindset and behavior God expects of us, and so on. While much more could be said, this is enough to get you going on the right track about it. Glad to help!

Also see:
» Is God chastening me?
» How should we pray for people enduring natural catastrophes and other tragedies?
» Should we “plead the blood of Jesus?”

Can you explain 2 Kings 2:23-25?

CAN YOU EXPLAIN 2 KINGS 2:23-25?

by Shawn Brasseaux

A very puzzling account is recorded in 2 Kings 2:23-25. It says: “[23] And he [Elisha] went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. [24] And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them. [25] And he went from thence to mount Carmel, and from thence he returned to Samaria.” What is going on here? Let us “search the Scriptures!”

Earlier in the chapter, Elijah the Prophet left the Promised Land… actually, planet Earth! After traveling eastward and crossing the Jordan River, exiting the land of Israel, he was taken into Heaven by a whirlwind (verse 11). Elisha, his successor, travels westward back across Jordan to re-enter the land of Israel. The Prophet Elisha makes a very important announcement in the passage currently under discussion. What follows is a fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

As per the Law of Moses, the Old Covenant, God would send five rounds/courses/stages of increasing and accumulative judgment/chastisement on Israel for breaking His commandments. These curses are outlined in Leviticus chapter 26 and Deuteronomy chapter 28. If Israel failed to perform, she was punished, more and more and more. These were God’s attempts to reform her, get her turned around again to Him.

Read Leviticus chapter 26: “[14] But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments; [15] And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant: [16] I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. [17] And I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you.” This is the first course of judgment. Historically, it began in the Book of Judges. Throughout Judges, idolatrous Israel suffered and died under the rule of her oppressive Gentile neighbors.

Leviticus chapter 26 continues: “[18] And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. [19] And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass: [20] And your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits.” This second round of chastisement—political weakening—followed King Solomon’s death. Israel’s kingdom was divided between King Jeroboam (Israel) and King Rehoboam (Judah)—see 1 Kings chapters 11-12. The second part of the second course of judgment—droughts and famines—began under wicked King Ahab (see 1 Kings chapter 17).

Continuing in Leviticus chapter 26: “[21] And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins. [22] I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate.” This passage sheds light on the destruction of the children who mocked the Prophet Elisha. Considering what we have just read in Scripture, we return to that enigmatic passage and expound its contents.

Second Kings 2:23-25 again: “[23] And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. [24] And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them. [25] And he went from thence to mount Carmel, and from thence he returned to Samaria.”

As Elisha is traveling to Bethel, “little children” from the city come and mock him by chanting, “Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.” It is important to note that these “little children” are not as young as we might think. They are unbelievers, people who have made a conscious decision to tease God’s spokesman. In fact, they could have been as much as 15 to 30 years old. They were young adults. Verse 24 says there were more than 42, all of whom were scoffing at Elisha!

They addressed Elisha as “bald head… bald head.” Perhaps he suffered from natural hair loss. Maybe it was a deliberate shaving of the head to identify his role as a prophet. Whatever the reason for the baldness, the key word is “mocked:” “…mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.” This was more disrespectful than factual. It was disparaging. As others have rightly pointed out, these children were repeating what their parents told them. There was much unbelief in Israel, to the point that parents have caused their children to disrespect God’s prophets. They have no shame in mistreating God’s representative!

It is also noteworthy that those young adults tell Elisha “go up… go up.” You will recall our earlier comments about the chapter’s previous verses. Elijah the Prophet has just ascended—“went up”—to Heaven. Notice verse 11: “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” By chanting “go up… go up,” these young adults mock both Elijah and Elisha (two prophets, the latter taking the place of the former). They wanted Elisha to leave them, too!

The Bible says of Elisha: “[24] And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them. [25] And he went from thence to mount Carmel, and from thence he returned to Samaria.” Elisha “cursed them in the name of the LORD.” Rather than a reference to obscene language, expletives, Elisha quoted the Law of Moses. He recited God’s Word to announce the third course of chastisement coming on Israel.

Leviticus chapter 26 again: “[21] And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins. [22] I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate. In that third course, JEHOVAH God, Ruler of all creation, would send “wild beasts” to attack and eat the children of Israel. Elisha quoted that to those satanic children. What immediately happened? Wild beasts—two female bears—immediately came out of the forest and ripped up 42 of those children insulting him!

The third course of judgment thus began!

Also see:
» Was God “unfair” in striking Uzzah dead?
» Is God chastening me?
» Must I maintain fellowship with God?

Can you explain 2 Timothy 4:13?

CAN YOU EXPLAIN 2 TIMOTHY 4:13?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The Apostle Paul wrote to young pastor Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:13: “The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.” What are these “books” and “parchments?”

Winter is approaching, as verse 21 says: “Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren.” Paul is in Rome, in prison and cold, asking Timothy to bring him a coat he left far away in Turkey. Moreover, he tells Timothy to also bring him two classes of items—“the books” and “the parchments.” Precisely what are they?

Firstly, we can think of the “books” as “scrolls, writings”—the biblia. They may have very well been previously written Holy Scripture. Paul wanted to do some studying. “Parchments” corresponds to the Greek word membranas—“membranes” (sheets of animal tissue, as in a sheepskin—their “paper,” for lack of a better word). Evidently, Paul wanted to do some writing as well.

Secondly, we can think of the “books” as non-Scriptural works. That is, they may have been secular sources. Remember, Paul demonstrated himself to be familiar with and knowledgeable even in heathen/non-Christian literature (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12). Notice how the Apostle was careful to say, especially the parchments.” There is more emphasis on these parchments than on the books. The parchments, though obscure, are special. Could they have been the Holy Scriptures, thus taking precedence over the secular works? Perhaps.

Paul had written just moments earlier in the chapter: “[6] For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. [7] I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: [8] Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”

Whatever those “last-minute” items were, dear friends, our Apostle chose them of all things to occupy his time remaining on Earth. He wanted to keep his mental and spiritual faculties active right up to the very end. Even though his earthly sojourn was rapidly drawing to a close, he desired to continue learning. How much more should we today, who expect to live for many more years or decades?

Also see:
» “Epistle” and “letter”—same or different?
» Who are the prophets of Romans 16:26?
» Has God’s Word failed?

Why does Ephesians conclude with such a “dark” passage?

WHY DOES EPHESIANS CONCLUDE WITH SUCH A “DARK” PASSAGE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Ephesians begins to close with the following verse: “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). Why does the Book conclude with this description of the war between good and evil? Let us study the context and see, “For what saith the Scriptures?”

Paul’s epistle to Ephesus is literally a very “heavenly” book. Notice the following verses and phrase unique to Ephesians. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:…” (Ephesians 1:3). “Which [mighty power] he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,…” (Ephesians 1:20). “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:…” (Ephesians 2:6). “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,…” (Ephesians 3:10).

As previously mentioned, “heavenly places” is a phrase found exclusively in the Book of Ephesians. It appears four times. The Greek word is epouranios (“above the sky”). On one occasion, it is rendered “high places” (cf. Ephesians 6:12). Ephesians lifts the minds and hearts of its readers to such lofty, dizzying heights. As the Book begins to wind down, however, something strange happens to its tone. There is a drastic shift to material that some call “dark” and “depressing.” Why would the Holy Spirit lead the Apostle Paul to end such a glorious Book about God’s workings in the “heavenly places” (previous paragraph) by referring to Satan’s wicked activities in them (Ephesians 6:12)?

From time immemorial, Bible commentators and readers have needlessly struggled with Ephesians’ so-called “out-of-place” reference to Satan’s behavior in the “heavenly places.” If they approached the Bible dispensationally, as 2 Timothy 2:15 commands us, there would be no difficulty. Like so many other Bible concepts, it would be unbelievably clear. Remember, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” In our upcoming studies, let us see how dispensational Bible study enables us to understand Ephesians’ handling of the “heavenly places.”

The Bible opens, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void…” (Genesis 1:1-2). From here onward until the Apostle Paul’s ministry in Acts chapter 9, much of Scripture focuses on God’s workings in the earthly realm.

Read some of the rare “Old Testament” glimpses of God operating in the heavenly realm. “Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of the heaven moved and shook, because he was wroth…. He bowed the heavens also, and came down; and darkness was under his feet” (2 Samuel 22:8,10; cf. Psalm 18:7,9). The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all” (Psalm 103:19). And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from a fig tree. For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment. The sword of the LORD is filled with blood…” (Isaiah 34:4-6).

Now, look at some “Old Testament” peeks of Satan working in the heavenly realm. “He [God] 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 [God’s] sight (Job 25:5). “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high [same idea as Ephesians 6:12—spiritual wickedness in “high” places], and the kings of the earth upon the earth” (Isaiah 24:21). Notice in this last verse how God and Satan are working in the heavenly realm. With the above background as a frame of reference, we return to the Epistle of Ephesians.

The first reference to the “heavenly places” affirms that God has given us, the Church the Body of Christ, resources in them: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:…” (Ephesians 1:3). The second mention is how God the Father, because of Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork, has given Christ power over all creatures and positions in creation: “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,…” (Ephesians 1:20).

The third reference talks about how Father God, through Christ’s finished crosswork, has qualified us to share Christ’s authority in the “heavenly places:” “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:…” (Ephesians 2:6). The fourth mention identifies us as the objects of attention of the fallen angels currently polluting the “heavenly places:” “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,…” (Ephesians 3:10).

The final reference, Ephesians 6:12, reminds us that our battle is not between other people here on Earth, but rather invisible evil spirits functioning in the “heavenly places:” 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).

Throughout the “Old Testament,” and for good reason, there is very little about God’s activity in the heavenly realm of creation. Those Scriptures are all about God forming the nation Israel, a group who will restore His authority in the Earth: “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine (Exodus 19:5). When we come to the Apostle Paul’s ministry, however, the Bible switches to the “heavenly places….”

Parroting the misguided claims of so-called “Bible authorities,” critics complain about the King James’ italicized words. The phrase “heavenly places” is heavily derided because the original Greek does not have “places.” Thus, people refuse to quote the Authorized Version verbatim here—they prefer “heavenlies.” “Places” is needed to construct a complete English thought; therefore, our 1611 translators rightly inserted it. Upon removing “places,” we rob ourselves of an important link.

Revelation 12:7-9: “[7] And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, [8] And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. [9] And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Friend, did you notice “place” in verse 8? It means a “room, position, dwelling.” Satan and his fallen angels functioning in heaven today (Ephesians 6:12) will be tossed out onto the Earth halfway through the future seven-year Tribulation. (Recall the “Old Testament” references about God and Satan both working in the heavenly places, with God cleansing those regions of evil. The Revelation is the capstone.)

With the heavenly places vacated of evil beings, Father God installs us the Church the Body of Christ into those positions of power (refer to the “heavenly” references in Ephesians—1:3-12, 1:20-23, 2:6-7, 3:10-11). Colossians chapter 1: “[16] For by him [Christ Jesus] 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:… [20] And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth [using Israel], or things in heaven [using us the Body of Christ].”

CONCLUSION

Why does Ephesians end with a battlefield, this description of the war between good and evil? It is not until we come to Paul’s ministry do we learn how God will cleanse the heavenly places. Ephesians highlights our eternal destiny as members of the Church the Body of Christ. Just as Father God will use Israel to accomplish His will in the Earth, so He will use us to achieve His will in the Heavens. He will exalt His Son, Jesus Christ, in both realms. Ephesians chapter 1: “[9] [Father God] Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: [10] 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: [11] In whom also we have obtained an inheritance….” 

One day, brethren, we will be displayed for all of the universe to see. All creatures will witness God’s wisdom fully manifested in outer space. We will participate in Jesus Christ’s exaltation in the heavenly places throughout eternity future. Ephesians chapter 2 declares: “[6] And [God] hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: [7] That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”

As good as this all is, however, we are not there yet. The heavenly places are still so far away! Howbeit, one day, Jesus Christ will return to Earth—at the Rapture—to take His Body (us) beyond the sky. Until we get there, though, we are vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. Knowing full well that we will replace him and his minions in the heavenly places, he fights us every chance he gets. We had better don all the armor of God, beloved, that “we stand against the wiles [schemes] of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-20)!

Also see:
» How could Satan access Heaven in Job and the Revelation?
» How does Satan operate today?
» How can I have an “effectual” prayer life?

What does “implacable” mean?

WHAT DOES “IMPLACABLE” MEAN?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The word appears once in the King James Bible—Romans 1:31 to be exact. What does it mean? And why does it occur in that part of Scripture?

Romans 1:18-32 is the historical record of how the world wound up in the mess we now find it. When the nations assembled around the Tower of Babel in pagan idol worship (Genesis chapter 11), they made a conscious decision to give up the one true God. The trait “implacable” is part of the final installment of that record, the ultimate condemnation, of those nations. However, we have gotten ahead of ourselves. We should start from the beginning.

Romans chapter 1: “[18] For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; [19] Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. [20] For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: [21] Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

“[22] Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, [23] And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. [24] Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: [25] Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.Did you notice carefully verses 21, 24, and 25? They hold the key to understanding the trait “implacable.”

Romans chapter 1 continues: “[26] For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: [27] And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.”

Now, we read “implacable” with its context: “[28] And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; [29] Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, [30] Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, [31] Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: [32] Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”

Now turning to read from 2 Timothy chapter 3, the closing days of our Dispensation of Grace: “[1] This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. [2] For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, [3] Without natural affection, trucebreakers [same Greek word as “implacable”], false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, [4] Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; [5] Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” Did you notice verses 2 and 4?

CONCLUSION

What does “implacable” mean? Why are these individuals suffering from “implacability” anyway? The world got into “this mess” because its ancient inhabitants—at the Tower of Babel (Genesis chapter 11)—willfully abandoned the one true God, the God of the Bible, to pursue their own agenda. “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful…” (Romans 1:21). They forsook the Creator God. Therefore, He “gave them up… gave them up… gave them over” (verses 24,26,28) to their preferred ideas and behaviors. Consequently, they were left with an internal void… a vacuum that only He can fill. “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen” (verse 25). Self-serving and self-reliant, they are unnatural (against God’s design in creation) and thus miserable.

Second Timothy chapter 3 mentions “lovers of their own selves,… unthankful,… trucebreakers [same as “implacable”],… lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (verses 2,3,4). The Greek word rendered “implacable” and “trucebreakers” is aspondos, “without libation.” In ancient days, such sacrifices accompanied the making of treaties or agreements. However, these individuals cannot be persuaded into a settlement. Constantly fighting and bickering, they are uninterested in peaceful resolutions. Nothing can satisfy them. Why? They did not want God, they hate Him, and what they thought would pacify them (all their anti-God thoughts and behaviors) does not. There is a frantic, manic panic to fill that God-shaped void. Doing anything and everything to entertain themselves, those sinful pleasures are only temporary (Hebrews 11:25).

Using the Scriptures (with Greek and English lexicographical expansions), we see that “implacable” means “unable to be appeased, relentless in hostility, uninterested in a truce.” They gave up God—the most valuable relationship of all—and (unless they come to Him by faith in Christ) their lusts will never be satiated!

Also see:
» Are we all God’s children?
» Why do the wicked prosper?
» Does “once saved, always saved” entitle us to abuse God’s grace?

Does John 6:29 support Calvinism?

DOES JOHN 6:29 SUPPORT CALVINISM?

by Shawn Brasseaux

God’s Holy Word says in John 6:29: “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” Calvinists take this to bolster their idea of “faith is a gift of God” (at the heart of their “total depravity” point). What is the “work of God” in John 6:29? Is it faith, belief on Christ? Or, is it something else? Are Calvinists using this verse properly? “For what saith the Scriptures?”

In the Books of Matthew through John, we read about the Lord Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry. He came to bring in Israel’s long-promised kingdom, fulfill the covenants given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, et cetera (Romans 15:8, for example). As their Redeemer-King-Messiah, He would not only save them from their sins but also from their enemies. There would be spiritual, national, and physical deliverance. An integral part of that special ministry to convert Israel was the abundance of miracles.

First Corinthians 1:22 says, “For the Jews require a sign….” Miraculous demonstrations are Israel’s national birthright. Therefore, the Psalmist calls themour [that is, Israel’s] signs” (Psalm 74:9). Even when the LORD God sent Moses to lead the nation Israel from Egyptian bondage, He sent him to Israel with the ability to perform miracles (see Exodus 4:1-9). Notice: “[30] And Aaron spake all the words which the LORD had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people. [31] And the people believed….”

Since Israel is a “sign nation,” special supernatural events indicated that Israel’s God was in her midst during Christ’s earthly ministry. Isaiah 35:3-6 predicts 700 B.C.: “[3] Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. [4] 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. [5] Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. [6] Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert” (cf. Matthew 11:2-6).

John the Baptist preached in Matthew 3:2: “And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Then, Jesus Christ entered His public ministry. Now, Matthew 4:17: “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Finally, Matthew 9:35: “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” Notice the connection of the Gospel of the Kingdom with miracles.

Luke 8:1 adds: “And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,….” The “preaching,” of course, was the words proclaimed, and the “shewing” was the visible working of miracles. Now, notice the final verses of Mark, chapter 16, especially verse 20: “[15] And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. [16] He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. [17] And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; [18] They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. [19] So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. [20] And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.”

Those signs, or special miracles, were designed to show Israel that God’s earthly kingdom was near. They validated, or proved, the Gospel of the Kingdom that they were preaching. Jesus Christ is King, and He is preaching and doing what the Old Testament said Messiah would do when He came. Israel had no excuse for ignorance. They should have known who Jesus was—He was truly Christ, and He was doing what Christ would do when He visited Israel.

John’s Gospel Record is designed to show Israel eight specific miracles from Jesus’ earthly ministry. He was no doubt Christ/Messiah who could do for her what she could not do for herself. John chapter 20 says to that point: “[30] And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: [31] But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” One of these “signs” involved John 6:29.

In the opening 14 verses of John chapter 6, Jesus Christ fed a great multitude using five barley loaves and two small fishes. The Bible says approximately 5,000 men and women were fed (verse 10). The problem, however, was that Israel would often focus more on the miracles themselves rather than the doctrine the miracles communicated. Even today, people are distracted by seeing so-called “miraculous demonstrations” when they should be listening to and believing sound Bible doctrine. According to John 6:15, Jesus’ audience wanted to make Him their king simply because He had fed them with a free lunch! There was no hunger for spiritual things, no sincere heart faith, just eyes focused on fleshly, temporary issues (just like many today).

They chased Jesus Christ down so they could make Him king and so He could keep feeding them with free meals. Verse 24 says: “When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.” Now, verses 26-27: “[26] Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. [27] Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.” They should have paid more attention to His capacity to meet their spiritual needs than their physical needs. Eternal forgiveness of and salvation from their sins, of course, was far more important than having a full stomach!

Moving on to verse 28: “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” They want to do God’s works—the classic religious response (“do, do, do”). Where is their faith, belief in God’s words? There is none! Jesus Christ rebukes them in verse 29: “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” Now we see the context of this verse.

The Lord Jesus Christ and the Jews had a very lengthy conversation during the next 35 verses (which time and space do not permit us to discuss here). Overall though, we learn that the bread represents Jesus Christ. We hit the highpoints of the passage: “[32] Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. [33] For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. [34] Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. [35] And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.… [41] The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.… [47] Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. [48] I am that bread of life.… [50] This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. [51] I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Returning to John 6:29: “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” As noted earlier, Calvinists read the verse so that the work of God is someone believing. They say that faith is a work, and since works do not save us, God must give us faith. In other words, they say that faith is God’s gift to man. What they do not understand is Romans 4:5, that faith is not a work! “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”

It is important to note that John 6:29 does not say, “It is the work of God when you believe on him whom he hath sent.” No, the work of God is not the faith/“believe” part. In the context, the work of God is the miracle of the Lord Jesus feeding the 5,000. Again, those miracles were designed to bring Israel to faith in Jesus Christ. The miracles were only effectual if coupled with faith (which Israel often lacked). God’s miraculous demonstrations were not merely meant to get the Jewish people out of difficult circumstances, but rather lead them to accept and trust His Son as their Messiah-King-Redeemer.

CONCLUSION

Contrary to Calvinists’ assertions, John 6:29 does not claim that God works in us to generate faith. It rather affirms that Father God was working through His Son—particularly, the miraculous feeding of the 5,000—to bring the Jewish people to faith in Jesus Christ. God worked that miracle, to the intent that Israel would believe on Jesus Christ whom Father God had sent to them.

We close by citing John 6:29 interpreted and amplified in light of what we have discussed: “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God [I have miraculously fed the 5,000], that [purpose or intent of the miracle] ye believe on him whom he hath sent [by faith, rely on Me, He whom Father God has sent to you].”

Also see:
» Does God give us faith?
» Does Acts 13:48 support Calvinism?
» Does Acts 2:47 support Calvinism?

Should a Christian be polygamous—having multiple spouses?

SHOULD A CHRISTIAN BE POLYGAMOUS—HAVING MULTIPLE SPOUSES?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Thank you, dear friend, for your submission. According to the Bible, Christians should be monogamous (having one spouse). Christianity and polygamy are incompatible. But, rather than take my word for it, you need to see the Scriptures for yourself.

We begin by understanding that the first marriage involved one man, Adam, and one woman, Eve (rather than one man and two women). In this day and age, it is also important to note the Bible is clear that it was a man and a woman (not two men, not two women, and not two individuals confused as to whether they were men or women!).

God’s Word records the first marriage in Genesis chapter 2: “[20] And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. [21] And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; [22] And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. [23] And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. [24] Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. [25] And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”

Verses 24-25 are quite clear that God’s plan in creation is one man married to one woman. Polygamy—multiple wives (polygyny) or multiple husbands (polyandry)—is not in God’s design for mankind. As per the LORD God’s instructions in verse 24, the man is to “cleave unto his wife” (note well that “wife” is singular). Looking back, God did not make two women for Adam. He made one woman, and that one woman was to be married to that one man. The Lord Jesus Christ repeated this in Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9. By the way, Jesus Christ Himself considered Adam and Eve to be literal, physical people who existed in history, just as real as you and I. (There are those in “Christian” circles who would have us to believe the first 11 chapters of Genesis are “figurative,” fiction [!], rather than literal history. Jesus Christ disagreed with them, and we agree with Him!)

Just for the record, we quote the Lord’s words in Matthew 19:4-6: “[4] And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, [5] And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? [6] Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Notice the “one man, one woman” concept. In Scripture, gender and monogamy are important. Never forget that, friend!

Mark 10:6-9 affirms: “[6] But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. [7] For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; [8] And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. [9] What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Again, pay attention to the “one man, one woman” concept—the stressing of gender and monogamy.

In this the Dispensation of the Grace of God, the Apostle Paul picked up on the heterosexual, monogamous marriage relationship God established in the Book of Genesis. Ephesians chapter 5 informs: “[23] For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. [24] Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing…. [28] So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. [29] For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: [30] For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. [31] For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. [32] This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. [33] Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”

Interestingly, the Holy Spirit points out how Jesus Christ joined to His Body (us, the Church the Body of Christ, Christians corporately) pictures how the husband is to be united to his wife. There are not many Bodies of Christ, but one Body of Christ. Likewise, there are not many Christs, but one Lord Jesus Christ. There is one Head (Christ Jesus) and one Body (Christians). Similarly, in the marriage relationship, there is one husband and one wife. Both cases are monogamous. (For information about the related topic of “the Bride of Christ,” please see our study linked at the end of this article. Time and space do not permit us to discuss it here.)

God’s primary passage on marriage in this the Dispensation of Grace is 1 Corinthians chapter 7, which thus begins: “[1] Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. [2] Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” These opening verses make it clear again that God wants marriage—especially concerning Christians—to be between one man and one woman. There is no hint of God endorsing polygamy in this chapter. In fact, verses 27, 33-34, and 39 also emphasize the “one man, one woman” marriage relationship. (Notice how gender is important in this passage too!)

When delineating the qualifications of bishops and deacons, the Bible mentions they need to be “the husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6). There is no room for polygamy in the Christian’s life, particularly that of church leaders. Bishops and deacons are model Christians, and such exemplary believers are monogamous rather than polygamous. Please pay attention to the gender issue again—one man (“husband”) and one woman (“wife”).

Indeed, some “Old Testament” Bible characters practiced polygamy—Lamech (Genesis 4:19,23), Abraham (Genesis 16:1-3), Esau (Genesis 26:34), King David (1 Samuel 25:42-43), King Solomon (1 Kings 11:3), et cetera. Nevertheless, these were exceptions rather than the norm. Furthermore, some of these “wives” were actually concubines, or “servant-wives,” whose primary function was to bear children for their master. Concubines held a lower status than regular wives. Some of these multiple marriages resulted (as in the case of kings) in order to ratify or strengthen treaties/agreements between nations. These relationships were also necessary to protect and financially support women (who were downtrodden at the time). However, to appeal to these passages as justification for Christian polygamy today is faulty. Paul’s epistles clearly discourage polygamy in God’s current dealings with mankind.

Polygamy is a cultural practice in various nations even today. People worldwide with such backgrounds trust Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. They face the very difficult issue of how to handle their polygamy in light of Scripture. We trust that these Bible verses will help them come to terms with what the God of the Bible, the Lord Jesus Christ, would have them do. As Bible believers, living in the Dispensation of the Grace of God, members of the Church the Body of Christ, Pauline revelation is clear that we need to follow the pattern of Adam and Eve concerning marriage. God’s design in creation is one man and one woman joined in matrimony for as long as they both shall live. This is the ideal situation, but, of course, as the Lord Himself said, sin causes divorce (Matthew 19:7-8; Mark 10:4-5).

Saints, please remember us in your monthly giving. You can donate securely here: https://www.paypal.me/ShawnBrasseaux, or email me at arcministries@gmail.com. Do not forget about Bible Q&A booklets for sale at https://arcgraceministries.org/in-print/booklets-bible-q-a/. Thanks to all who give to and pray for us! 🙂

Also see:
» Who is the “Bride of Christ?”
» What about unmarried, divorced, and remarried men in the ministry?
» What advice can be given to homosexual Christians?

How should we pray for people enduring natural catastrophes and other tragedies?

HOW SHOULD WE PRAY FOR PEOPLE ENDURING NATURAL CATASTROPHES AND OTHER TRAGEDIES?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Recently, a grace believer, a dear sister in Christ, told me that, since we understand what God is doing today, and what He is not doing today, that “we really cannot pray for anything for the people” in Texas and here in Louisiana who were recently devastated by Hurricane Harvey. As an afterthought, she added that we could at least pray for their salvation in Christ. Could we pray for them in more specific ways though? How should mature grace believers pray for people enduring hardships, especially natural disasters? “For what saith the Scriptures?”

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE CONFUSION

Dear friend, we can learn so much about a person’s theology by listening to them pray aloud. We can hear them talking directly to God, hearing what is on and in their heart. Their words show us where they are in their understanding of the Holy Scriptures. We can hear what Bible verses they are repeating back to God. Are they quoting verses written to and about the nation Israel, or verses to and about the Church the Body of Christ? That is, are they praying in light of what God did in the past, or what God is doing today? Stated another way, are they earthly minded, or heavenly minded? Are they “study[ing]… rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15)?

The realm of prayer often abounds with superstition. Thus, a wise brother once rightly stated that we should especially guard our prayer life, lest superstition creep in. If we listened to the average Christian’s prayers over the course of a day or week, we would hear very little, if any, sound Bible teaching. No doubt there would be many nice-sounding terms and flattering titles, much theological speculation, and (of course!) snippets of assorted Scripture verses.

Yet, overall, the prayer would be shallow, meaningless, and ineffectual. I say this from personal experience, having listened to denominational Christians’ prayers—including my own (!)—for many, many years. Various and sundry strange ideas lurk in the minds of so many believers because they are so grossly misinformed or severely uninformed. They grab and quote Bible teachings without discretion, apart from context. Religion has done an unparalleled job in confusing them, and prayer exposes these mix-ups!

Whenever tragedy strikes, everyone really starts praying—even the so-called “non-religious.” They may not be churchgoers and/or they may not “believe in God” at all, but something inside them, some inexplicable urge, drives them to start speaking to any “god” who may be listening. While they do not understand why they want to pray (we do understand), they do it anyway. Hurricanes, mass shootings, bombings, burning buildings, tsunamis, automobile accidents, and so on, motivate people everywhere to pray. In times of danger, people trained in so-called “Christian” religion automatically start reciting the so-called “Lord’s Prayer,” “Our Father which art in heaven….” Others do a “Hail Mary,” “Glory Be,” or direct some other prayer to some other “saint.” As stated before, prayers get more fervent and more numerous in times of trouble! Empowered by great zeal, sincere people become distracted from what sound Biblical prayer really is and what it ultimately accomplishes. This leads to worse error.

For example, we in the southeastern United States are prone to hurricanes during summer and autumn. Many times I have seen “prayers for hurricane season” flyers or articles distributed. People beg God to spare them from these natural disasters. They do not want to suffer/die, see loved ones suffer/die, or lose their property. Hence, they read that prescribed prayer over and over and over, hoping God will grant them their wish. However, despite all that praying, hurricanes still come and destroy lives and property. Bible scoffers look and say, “Ha! Those ‘Christians’ are a bunch of superstitious ignoramuses! Just as we thought, there is no ‘God!’ They prayed for ‘God’ to spare them and no one was there to hear them! ‘God’ cannot help me any more than He can help them! Me joining ‘Christianity?’ No thanks!” As for the “Christians,” they are disappointed, defeated, and perplexed. “Where is God when I need Him? Is it my unconfessed sin? My worthlessness? His unconcern? Why was I ignored?”

Friend, it is harsh, but it is truth. We need to recognize and call out nonsense for what it is, to the intent we address and correct it. Not only is the scoffer being foolish. What is also foolish is the “Christian” uttering prayers that have absolutely nothing to do with what God is doing today anyway. It is silly to point to the faulty prayers of ill-informed religious people and use them to build a case against God. God is not involved in what they are praying; consequently, their prayers are in vain, to no purpose, meaningless. Had they prayed according to God’s will, they would have seen results not to disappoint. If God does not react or behave the way we want, we have no business telling Him He is wrong, lazy, or imaginary! There is no need whatsoever to be uninformed or misinformed concerning Christian prayer during times of trouble. If there is any doubt or confusion whatsoever concerning prayer, any fault or disappointment whatsoever touching prayer, the problem lies in people rather than God and the Holy Bible!

As stated earlier, when bad news is heard, people start praying. For what do they pray? They pray for injured bodies to be healed. They ask God for the serial killer’s apprehension. They pray there is no severe property damage. They ask God for financial difficulties to disappear. They pray for floodwaters to subside. They ask God for storms to dissipate quickly and/or not come their way. They pray for no one to be hurt. They pray for God not to let anyone die. They pray for no power outages, and no food or water shortages. They pray for their dying loved ones to live. It is assumed that Almighty God will perform miracles to show His love and goodness toward them. After all, there are Bible passages that demonstrate God’s miraculous power clearly visible in the lives of people long ago.

Understandably, today, people still want to see God’s activities with their physical eyes. There is the idea that “everything in the Bible is mine.” Since signs, miracles, and wonders belong to the nation Israel, and Israel appears in approximately 80 percent of the Bible, most of the Scriptural accounts involve God doing work before physical eyes. Think of Moses parting the Red Sea, the 12 Apostles healing sick bodies, the Lord Jesus casting out devils, fire and brimstone raining down from Heaven to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, the Lord Jesus calming the storm, Israel’s many military victories, water pouring forth from a rock, manna and quail falling from Heaven, floodwaters covering the globe in the day of Noah, and numerous other examples.

People who go to church are often under the impression that God has not changed His dealings with man. Their mantra is, “What God did long ago, He can and still does today.” Obviously, though, when we think about it, what God did in time past is not what He is doing today in the but now. Do global floodwaters destroy all life forms today? (They once did, you know!) Is the Red Sea being miraculously divided now? (It once was, you recall!) Does manna rain down from Heaven today? (It once did, you know!) Yes, God did those things in the past. There is no doubt in this author’s mind that the God of the Bible can perform and did perform miracles for physical eyes to see. However, this author knows that, on the authority of the rightly divided Scriptures, God is doing something different today. (You are no doubt startled here, huh?) What if this author told you there was a better way to pray? What if this author would be delighted to share that information with you, friend?

AN ANSWER TO THE CONFUSION

How should we as grace believers pray during times of trouble? As Pauline dispensationalists, how should we pray in calamities? More specifically, how would God’s grace cause us to pray for those affected by such tragedies? Prayer is for Christian believers only. It is designed to bring the Word of God into our lives, to reinforce in our minds and hearts what God wrote to us in His Word rightly divided. Someone once aptly stated: “If we want to do God’s will, then we need to find out what God is doing today. When we do by faith what God is doing, then we are doing God’s will.” Now, dear friend, what is God’s will? How do we pray according to God’s will? Here are two very easy verses to consider.

First Timothy 2:3-4 says: “[3] For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; [4] Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” Regardless of the dispensation, God’s twofold general will remains the same. He wants each and every individual to have a personal relationship with Him through faith in His Word to them. While the divine message to mankind has changed throughout human history, Almighty God has always looked for individuals who have had belief, trust, in that divine revelation. This is the “saved” part of verse 4. Secondly, He wants each and every individual to, by faith, accomplish His work with Him. “Coming to the knowledge of the truth” (last part of verse 4) is learning more and more about what God is specifically doing at one particular time of human history (especially our modern-day).

Romans 11:13 says: “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office.” This is the Apostle Paul writing: he is God’s spokesman to us. Therefore, if we want to know what God has to tell us, we need to listen to Paul’s words. The word “apostle” means “sent one.” The Lord Jesus said in John 13:20: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.” Jesus Christ sent Paul to us. If we want to hear Jesus Christ’s words, we need to listen to Paul. Paul wrote 13 epistles, Romans through Philemon—the “Pauline Books of the Bible.” To reject Paul is to reject Jesus Christ. Let us heed the Pauline doctrine given us!

The Lord Jesus Christ revealed to the Apostle Paul some special divine truths, that Paul would then make them known to us Gentiles. Ephesians 3:1-2 says: “[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:….” This information—“the Dispensation of the Grace of God”—was previously unrevealed to mankind. It was not known in the “Old Testament,” including the Four Gospels (Christ’s earthly ministry). God deliberately kept it secret until He revealed it to Paul. If we ignore Paul, like many do, we ignore information found nowhere else in Scripture!

In the Pauline epistles, the Dispensation of the Grace of God given to us Gentiles, we do not read about problems being miraculously taken away. There is no natural disaster reversal or sickness removal. God does not intervene in the lives of people to supernaturally deposit money into their bank accounts. On the contrary, we read Christians suffering “deep poverty” (2 Corinthians 8:1-2). We read about an ill pastor, Timothy, whom God does not miraculously heal; Timothy must use medicine instead for his many ailments (1 Timothy 5:23). Paul himself suffered various bodily afflictions (2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Galatians 4:13-15). He too had financial problems, deprivations, and other difficulties (2 Corinthians 11:22-28). We read about another sick Christian, Trophimus, with an unhealed body in 2 Timothy 4:20 (Paul’s last writing before death).

Actually, friend, contrary to what you may have heard in “church,” we Christians are guaranteed to suffer simply because we live in a world dominated by Satan. Acts 14:22 says: “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” And 2 Timothy 3:12: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” It makes no sense for us Christians to pray to avoid trouble… the Bible already said we will suffer trouble!

Non-Christians and Christians alike all live in a fallen creation. Sin has corrupted God’s original universe, which is why there is suffering (bodily pains, violent weather, famine, drought, disease, death, et cetera). Romans 8:18-25 tells us: “[18] For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. [19] For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. [20] For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, [21] Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. [22] For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. [23] And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. [24] For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?”

Contrary to popular belief, Christian living is not summarized as “everything will go your way, you will have constant peace, you will have endless prosperity, and you will always enjoy good health.” No indeed! God has not promised to shield us from war, sickness, natural disaster, financial ruin, physical death, and so on. Any of these evils can strike anyone without warning. The curse is random. God does not “select” people for specific punishments. Again, that was true in the past, in other dispensations, but that is not true today (more on this later). One day, God will lift the curse of sin from creation. He will give Christians new glorified bodies, ones that can never grow old, become sick, or die. Until then, though, we are not guaranteed a problem-free existence. We already saw several Bible passages that proved this to be true beyond any shadow of a doubt. But, how can God let us go through such troubles without deliverance? Is that not cruel? Why is there no physical working of God to rescue us from our troubles?

Under the Law of Moses, the Old Covenant, God punished the nation Israel with curses when they failed to obey Him. You can look at Leviticus chapter 26 and Deuteronomy chapter 28. The unbelieving, rebellious Jews suffered sickness, crop failure (drought and famine), infertility, military defeat, political oppression, and so on. God was angry with them. He was chastising them for their disobedience, trying to get them to reform their wayward behavior. Should we conclude this today? Is God punishing us today with troubles? People who do not “rightly divide the word of truth” do not understand that we are under a different program today. We are under Grace instead of Law (Romans 6:14-15). Rather than concluding that tribulations (troubles) are God’s judgment on us, we understand that those tribulations work for our benefit. During those difficult circumstances, we can we rely more fully on the Lord Jesus Christ!

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

Earlier, we saw in Ephesians 3:2 that we are under the Dispensation of the Grace of God. God’s attitude toward the world today is “grace and peace.” Each and every one of Paul’s epistles opens with “grace and peace” (check the first chapter of every Bible Book, Romans through Philemon). This is God’s present message to the world, the nations, the Gentiles. As stated previously, we only find that worldwide “grace and peace” message in Paul’s epistles. The rest of the Bible is legalistic, Law-oriented, Israel-focused. We must be sure to keep these Pauline and non-Pauline sections of the Bible separate, or we run the risk of confusing God’s various instructions to mankind throughout history. Either we recognize Paul’s apostleship to us, or we start grabbing Bible verses not to and about us.

Second Corinthians 5:19-21 says: “[19] To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. [20] Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. [21] For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” God is not out to “get” anyone today, “zap” someone today, or “strike” someone today. He is offering all nations “grace and peace” through Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork. When we see trouble in the Dispensation of Grace, it is not God pouring out His wrath. God’s wrath will follow our dispensation, yes, but there is no divine wrath today.

Rather than concluding that disaster means God hates us, we should see those trying times as opportunities to enjoy inner peace, strength, and proper thinking. Romans 5:8 says, “For God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” If we want to look at God’s love for us, we look to Calvary rather than our circumstances. In Christ, God has given us (believers) internal provisions to strengthen us. Tragedies do not have to destroy us. God will not change our circumstances, but He will change us inside as we endure those circumstances. That is grace prayer, praying according to the Dispensation of Grace, reinforcing in our minds what the Dispensation of Grace entails.

Notice 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “[16] For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. [17] For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; [18] While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Dear friends, despite our outward circumstances—whether good or bad—the “inward man” is being “renewed day by day.” The outward body is weakening, aging, and dying, but the inward body is growing stronger. Sound Bible doctrine renews our mind on a daily basis, causing us to think about our problems the way God Himself does (go back to Romans 5:1-5, quoted earlier). You may also check Romans 12:1-2, Ephesians 4:23, and Colossians 3:10.

Ephesians 3:16 tells us how the Spirit of God works: “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;….” The Spirit of God works from the inside out. He takes sound Bible doctrine that we study and believe, and works in us. First Thessalonians 2:13: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” The internal work of God the Holy Spirit will produce outward behavior. Watch grace move from internal to external.

Ephesians 4:28 instructs: “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” Rather than God the Holy Spirit miraculously raining money down from Heaven so those less fortunate can have their necessities met, He will work in Christian people who have the resources (time, money/goods, energy) to meet those needs. Friend, let me tell you something I have learned from personal experience. When you learn of a certain person in need, and you pray about that person long enough, you will find yourself meeting that need. You pray about a poor person long enough, and you will find yourself giving to help. You pray for a sick person long enough, and you will find yourself visiting that individual. You pray for a lost person long enough, and you will find yourself sharing the Gospel with that soul. (You doubt me? Try it and see!) See, friend, prayer is designed to activate God’s Word in the believer’s soul. Once the will is moved by sound doctrine, the physical body will move accordingly!

While more could be said, we want to wind down and summarize. Concerning people enduring tragedies, there are really two classes of individuals for whom to pray. There are lost people (non-Christians) and there are saved people (Christians). What should we pray for them? Again, what is God’s will in this current dispensation? Go back to 1 Timothy 2:3-4 from earlier. Firstly, God wants all lost people to be saved by grace, trusting in His Son (Jesus Christ) and His finished crosswork as sufficient payment for their sins. This is the Gospel of the Grace of God. Secondly, God wants all Christians to know the truths of His Word today, how grace works in our lives as believers. This is the Message of the Grace of God. Both parts of God’s will involve grace—justification by grace through faith, and sanctification by grace through faith!

Lost people can replace their lost material possessions, but they cannot replace their soul after losing it in Hell (Matthew 16:26—“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”). More than anything, during or after tragedy, we need to pray that these lost people be saved from their sins now, that they believe on the Lord Jesus Christ now. We pray this, and one of two things will happen. Either we will eventually go out and personally share the Gospel with them, or God’s Word will work in other Christians and they will share the Gospel with them. (Try it and see!)

Now, let us talk about praying for Christians enduring tragedy. Satan will use their misfortunes to distract them from God’s love in Christ. In Romans chapter 8, the Holy Spirit speaks of a “who” exploiting difficult circumstances to cause us Christians to believe those problems mean God does not love us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35). The “who” is Satan using various life problems to divert our attention away from God’s Word. We need to pray for our Christian brethren enduring calamity to remember God’s love for them commended at Calvary. They do not need to be saved from their sins—they are already justified in Christ. Now, they need to be saved from erroneous thinking. The Holy Spirit needs to enlighten and strengthen them with God’s grace, mercy, peace, and joy. With those truths in mind and heart, they can get through anything! 🙂

“[7] And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. [8] For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. [9] And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. [10] Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong(2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Also see:
» How does God intervene?
» How can I have an “effectual” prayer life?
» Should we pray for sick people?