Monthly Archives: June 2018

Can you explain John 1:17?

CAN YOU EXPLAIN JOHN 1:17?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Yes, I can. In short, one is distant and the other is near!

The Jews were cruelly enslaved—in bondage to Egypt, sin, and Satan. God heard their cries for help, and He brought to mind the covenant He had made with their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. After destroying Egypt with 10 plagues, defeating Pharaoh and his idols, the God of the Hebrews brought His people across the Red Sea with a mighty hand. Those miracles should have caused Israel to see they would have to rely on God rather than their religious works. It would be His works, not theirs.

In His grace, JEHOVAH God gave Israel everything she needed. They desired deliverance from Egypt; He gave it (Exodus 14:1–15:22). They wanted potable water; He provided it (15:23-26). They wanted food; He furnished them with manna and quail (16:1-36). They desired drinkable water; He offered it to them (17:1-7). He gave them military victory over their enemies, the Amalekites (17:8-16). After seeing God’s faithfulness to them, amazingly, the Jews overlooked it and pompously declared they could now be faithful to God. After all of their complaining and doubt in the previous chapters, they claimed they would now obey God!

We read the LORD’S words to Moses in Exodus 19:4-6: “[4] Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. [5] 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: [6] And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.” After emphasizing what He did for them (verse 4), highlighting their weaknesses and deficiencies, He tested them (verses 5,6). “Do you want to be My people based on what you do?” Verse 8 says: “And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do.”

How will the LORD respond? How will this affect His relationship with Israel?

In Exodus 19:1-8, Israel accepted God’s Covenant of Law. They will be His people only if they obey His Law. How does God react? How is His relationship with Israel changed? Their wish is granted via an extremely frightening encounter with Him!

“[9] And the LORD said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the LORD. [10] And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes, [11] And be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai. [12] And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death: [13] There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.”

“[16] And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. [17] And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. [18] And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. [19] And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice.”

The dreadful Law of God will be implemented!

Hebrews chapter 12 summarizes the drastic change in how God dealt the Israelites when they rejected His grace and preferred a performance-based acceptance system: “[18] … the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, … blackness, and darkness, and tempest, [19] And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: [20] (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: [21] And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake: )….”

With the institution of the Mosaic Law (delineated in Exodus chapter 20), JEHOVAH God became distant and severe. If there was so much as an animal that touched Mount Sinai, God demanded it be killed! A man was to be put to death if he touched Sinai! Israel, up to this point, had not been fearful of God. They had seen God deal harshly with Egypt, but not with them. Now, they literally tremble as the Old Covenant is ratified!

Friend, the Law is not the sinner’s friend. No, the Law is not flawed: God’s Law is “holy, just, and good” (Romans 7:12). However, it is “weak through [our] flesh” (Romans 8:3). The Law “worketh wrath” (Romans 4:15). We cannot measure up to God’s righteous standards. Not only are our deeds evil; we, by nature, in heart, are evil (Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 7:11). The Law exposes our sinful nature and deeds: “For by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). “The strength of sin is the law” (1 Corinthians 15:56b). The Law only highlights our failures. It was intended to teach Israel they could not be God’s people based on their efforts! As long as they had a performance-based acceptance system, their religious works being the issue, God would always be distant, displeased, offended, and angry. They would need JEHOVAH God to institute a more advantageous, and personal, system.

John 1:17 highlights how the Law was dispensed from a distance. God did not speak directly to Israel on Mount Sinai when He issued and defined the Law. No, He instructed Moses to come up and meet with Him. Moses then descended and delivered the Law to the Israelites. The Jews were kept at a distance. We have neither time nor space to detail that with quotations, but you can refer to Exodus chapters 19-32.

In opening his Gospel Record of Christ’s earthly ministry, John the Apostle moved from the Law—a distant, cold, strict system—to something called “grace and truth.” Notice the contrasting conjunction “but:” “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” The Holy Spirit is actually highlighting the advantageous and new system that God will institute in Israel one day. To wit, John 1:17 is really demarcating two covenants—the “Old Covenant” (Law of Moses) and the “New Covenant” (Law of Messiah).

We remind ourselves of the Mosaic Law’s true purpose, Romans 3:19-20: “[19] Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them [Israel] who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world [Jews and Gentiles] may become guilty before God. [20] Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” The Old Covenant was never meant to be permanent: it was to serve one purpose. It was to show the whole world—every Jew, every Gentile—that they were sinners. There would be no argument or doubt, as God made it very clear. Religion and man’s efforts are not the answer! Grace and God’s efforts are the answer!

The Law was “given” by Moses, yes. But, grace and truth “came” by Jesus Christ. Unlike with the Old Covenant, God did not send something to Israel from afar. No, with the New Covenant, God came to Israel literally, physically, visibly, and personally.

Notice Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the LORD himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” When Jesus Christ came to Earth, specifically to Israel, He was their greatest sign. The JEHOVAH God who had dealt so frighteningly with Moses on Sinai when delivering the Law, had now revealed Himself by taking on a human body! Jesus, living among other Jews, was indeed “Emmanuel, God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

John 1:11 says, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” JEHOVAH God came to His own people, Israel, but they rejected Him. Moreover, they conspired with the Gentiles to kill Him (Psalm 2:1-3; Acts 4:23-28). Still, it was in God’s design to use man’s free will to accomplish His end. With man crucifying Christ, there would be shed blood, allowing the implementation of a new covenant for Israel. Please see Hebrews 8:8-13: “For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah….” “For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins(Romans 11:27—verse 26 identifies this as Christ’s Second Coming, yet future from our day).

Israel accumulated much wrath under the Old Covenant, but grace would cover it. Jeremiah 31:2 speaks of Israel’s redemption and restoration: “The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest.” Zechariah 12:10 describes this Second Coming: “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications….” As does Acts 3:19-20: “[Israel] Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. And he shall send Jesus Christ….”

With Jesus Christ coming once to Israel to shed His blood, He will return to ratify the covenant that typifies for them “grace and truth.”

While we have merely scratched the surface, we conclude this Bible study by reading the context of John 1:17: “[1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [2] The same was in the beginning with God…. [14] And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. [15] John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. [16] And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. [17] For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” Israel did not need Law—hundreds of rules and regulations she could never keep. She needed grace, “grace for grace,” abounding grace—what God would do to make her His people (see verses 12,13).

Long before Israel demanded the Mosaic Law, God had promised her father Abraham that He would make of Abraham’s seed a nation of people for His name (see Genesis 12:1-3). The New Covenant qualifies Israel to receive the blessings of that Abrahamic Covenant. Moreover, that New Covenant cancels the sin debt accumulated under the Old. In the New Covenant, God puts His Spirit in the Jews and causes them to keep His laws. I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people (Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10). “And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them (Ezekiel 36:27).

We see here a glimpse of Israel functioning as God’s “kingdom of priests” in the Millennium, Christ’s Second Coming onward. Messiah’s Law is much stricter than the Mosaic Law (see Matthew chapters 5-7). However, the New Covenant, unlike the Old, provides Israel with forgiveness for her past transgressions and the ability (indwelling Holy Spirit) to never, ever to repeat them!

Also see:
» Why did Israel have to keep so many strange laws?
» Was the Law of Moses given by the LORD, or by angels?
» “Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?”

What is “shamefacedness?”

WHAT IS “SHAMEFACEDNESS?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

First Timothy 2:9: “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;….”

If we examine the word itself, we see two main parts—“shame” and “face.” Therefore, “shamefacedness” is the ability for one’s face to show shame, someone who can be bothered by things inappropriate. Strangely, it does not trouble some individuals to be vulgar and crude. They utter obscenities with ease, behaving in the most uncouth ways—even in public. This is all they know, as they grew up with such “normal” behavior. Thus, to them, it is outlandish to act polite and modest, proper and decent.

Women are the primary audience in 1 Timothy 2:9, although men should certainly be cautious about their conduct as well. When dealing with members of the opposite sex who are not our spouses, there should be restraint and discretion, bashfulness, or regard. There should be “shamefacedness,” especially as pertaining to how we dress.

By the way, the Greek word rendered “shamefacedness” in 1 Timothy 2:9 is aidos, found one other time in the King James Bible. It is in Hebrews 12:28, so translated “reverence:” “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:….” Whereas 1 Timothy 2:9 is respect toward others, Hebrews 12:28 is respect toward God.

Also see:
» Did King David engage in vulgar dancing?
» Should a woman lead a group in prayer?
» Should a Christian be polygamous—having multiple spouses?

Does Mark 16:18 teach that chemotherapy will not harm us?

DOES MARK 16:18 TEACH THAT CHEMOTHERAPY WILL NOT HARM US?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Recently, a friend who claims to have the “spiritual gift of healing” was telling me that Christians battling cancer could withstand the effects of chemotherapy because the Bible says we can drink any deadly thing and it will not hurt us. She cited Mark 16:18: “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.” We can endure cancer treatments because no deadly thing can harm us? Is that really what the verse is teaching?

The above scenario is just another example of the deception and confusion in the Charismatic Movement. There is no logic or sound Bible thinking in this religious system. Firstly, if God were still operating the gift of healing (which He is not), then why do we have cancer threatening our lives in the first place? Before we claim the “drink any deadly thing” as referring to chemotherapy, we need to read the whole verse. “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.” If the “drinking any deadly thing” part of the verse is to be claimed, why not also follow the “lay hands on the sick and they shall recover” portion? See, we are following bits and pieces of verses, not entire verses. If God has given us the ability to heal the sick, including those stricken with cancer, why do they have to endure the poison of chemotherapy at all? Would not their cancer be healed, and be totally nondependent upon drugs anyway? It does not make any sense; it is nothing but a terrible mishandling of the Scriptures.

Secondly, the verse says that “drinking” deadly things will not harm Jesus’ audience. Chemotherapy does not necessarily involve drinking anything. The drugs can be administered on the skin, as an injection, or as an infusion. According to the United States National Cancer Institute, chemotherapy is: “Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Chemotherapy may be given by mouth, injection, or infusion, or on the skin, depending on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. It may be given alone or with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy, or biologic therapy.” In that case, if you have the gift of healing, chemotherapy is totally unnecessary! (Dear friends, you can only fake it so long before reality catches up with you.)

The Lord Jesus Christ spoke of “drinking any deadly thing” in light of a future period. Mark chapter 16 is the commission Israel’s Little Flock will carry out during the seven-year Tribulation. These various signs and wonders are not to or about us as members of the Church the Body of Christ. “The Jews require a sign,” 1 Corinthians 1:22 says. However, we are not Jews. Never once does our Apostle Paul, in the Books of Romans through Philemon, tell us that drinking a deadly thing will not hurt us. That is because Mark 16:18 is not God’s Word to or about us. Mark chapter 16 has a special place on the Bible timeline and it not our Dispensation of Grace. It is Israel’s end-time commission. Confusion and duplicity will result when we fail to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Revelation chapter 8 explains why Jesus spoke of drinking deadly things: “[8] And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; [9] And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed. [10] And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; [11] And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.”

In His righteous judgment, God will poison the waters—particularly in the Middle East, and especially the Mediterranean Sea—during the future seven-year Tribulation. As per Mark 16:18, Israel’s believing remnant will be able to survive this lack of potable water. It will be a sign that they are believers in Jesus Christ. They will be able to drink the poisoned waters and it will not hurt them, exactly as the Lord Jesus said! Friend, do you see how much more sense the Bible makes if we leave religious tradition out of it and just let the Scriptures interpret themselves? The commission in Mark chapter 16 has nothing to do with us.

Also see:
» Is a Christian a “poor testimony” for taking medication?
» What about modern-day “faith healing?”
» Should I “speak in tongues?”

Why did my Christian loved one not share the Gospel with me when I was unsaved?

WHY DID MY CHRISTIAN LOVED ONE NOT SHARE THE GOSPEL WITH ME WHEN I WAS UNSAVED?

by Shawn Brasseaux

First Corinthians 15:3-4 says: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” This is “the Gospel of the Grace of God” (Acts 20:24). As grace believers, we know it and trust it. But, why did we not hear this earlier from Christian loved ones?

We have encountered this question more than once. Perhaps, dear friend, it is true of you and it has bothered you for such a long time. Undoubtedly, it is quite a troubling matter, and you need peace about it. Assuming that you have trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour, maybe you look back in time to when you were a lost person. Perhaps you recall Christian relatives and friends who never shared the Gospel with you. If they were saved, why did they never tell you how to be saved (have your sins forgiven and a home in Heaven)? Did they not care enough about you to share the Gospel of Grace with you? Were they apathetic that you were headed to that fiery eternal destination of the Devil and his angels? How could they be so unloving?

This author cannot answer those questions, as they (and God) alone know what was in their heart. We should give them the benefit of the doubt, that there was no ill will on their part. We will assume that they loved and cared for you, and they wanted you to go to Heaven, but had great difficulties they (sadly) never overcame. Their flesh was in control, rather than the indwelling Holy Spirit. If they are gone on to Heaven, then let it go, dear Christian friend. Put it under the blood of Christ. It will never be an issue when you meet them again in the third heaven. If they are alive, still here on Earth, forgive them anyway. Put it under the blood of Christ. Leave it be. Rejoice that you are now saved, and they are saved.

Now, we will address your question. Three reasons (though there may be more) can be offered as to why Christian loved ones did not share the Gospel of Grace with you when you were a lost person. This article will delineate those explanations.

1. THEY DID NOT KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT THE BIBLE TO WITNESS TO YOU (OR ANYONE ELSE)

Unfortunately, this is where so many Christians are. They should be teachers, but have yet to grasp even the most basic ideas of Christianity. Religious tradition has so warped their minds. They are spiritually immature because they have not followed God’s design for the edification of the believer. They cannot function according to God’s grace, for they have not concentrated on the Pauline epistles, Romans through Philemon. They are too afraid to approach anyone because they have not become skilled in God’s Word.

The nation Israel was in a similar, pathetic predicament. She was utterly clueless concerning God’s Word to her, and thus was unable to share those truths with the Gentiles (nations). There are many in the Church the Body of Christ who have never learned this most tragic lesson from Israel’s ancient history.

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

The solution to being ignorant of the Gospel of Grace is to go read Romans chapters 1-5 in the Bible. This is your greatest asset in not repeating their mistakes!!

2. THEY EXPECTED YOU TO SEE CHRIST LIVING IN THEM

This can be called “pursuing the evangelistic lifestyle.” The idea here is not to be express or direct in sharing the Gospel of Grace. They refused to admonish or offend unsaved relatives participating in the sins of the flesh (worldliness) and/or the sins of the spirit (religion). They wanted “peace in the family,” even if it meant not sharing the Gospel. While there is some sincerity here, it is still no excuse for being silent about the Gospel.

We should encourage all to come to God by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, but they do oftentimes refuse. It is then that we should stop, or we run the risk of forcing it on them and denying them of free will. At this point, then we should just let them see our Christian conduct. However, the “allow-them-to-see-Christ-living-in-you” approach should be used only as the last resort. We should attempt to verbally share the Gospel with them first, and then (and only then) if they refuse to hear, at least they can see Christ living in us. But, to just approach them on the basis of “evangelistic living,” God has not called us to do that. Second Timothy 4:2 says, “Preach the word!” It is not enough just to “live” the Gospel. We must share it with words!! Preach the Gospel!!

After all, remember, the world religions have their “holy living.” Unless you speak the words of the living God, salvation verses, people will not know the name of Jesus Christ. They cannot know Him or what He did for them at Calvary unless we speak up! We can live a good life, but unless we share in words the Gospel of Grace that underlies that life, our good life may appear as nothing but self-righteousness. There must be a clear Gospel preached too! Preach the Word!!!

3. THEY BELIEVED WITNESSING WAS “THE PREACHER’S JOB” (THUS, THEY MAY HAVE BROUGHT YOU TO CHURCH WITH THEM)

Frankly, this is nothing but laziness on the Christian’s part. Christians do not want to share the Bible, especially the Gospel, because they refuse to step out of their comfort zone. It is “too much work” to lead a lost soul to Christ. They would rather let someone else do it—namely, the preacher. They take people to church buildings for people at church to share the Gospel. This is sad to say, but it is true, even of genuine Christians. They simply do not understand (but we hope they do care) the gravity of the situation: their unsaved loved ones are ever so close to instantly dying and passing off into a lost eternity! Alas, it too requires “too much effort” to spend even five minutes turning pages of the Bible to present a clear Gospel message to a soul hanging by a mere thread over the eternal flames of a holy God’s righteous judgment against sin!!!

CONCLUSION

Dear Christian friends, may we be skilled in presenting the Gospel of Grace (Romans chapters 1-5)!

May we be bold in sharing that Gospel of Grace with words… even if it means upsetting loved ones!

May we be faithful in proclaiming that Gospel of Grace ourselves, knowing that it is the most serious matter in all the universe!

There is no excuse for ignorance! There is no excuse for shyness! There is no excuse for lethargy! Learn from these mistakes! Do not repeat them!

Also see:
» How long should I keep witnessing to the same person?
» Can we witness “too much” to family members?
» Should we hate the denominational people who misled us?

What if someone asks me a Bible question I cannot answer?

WHAT IF SOMEONE ASKS ME A BIBLE QUESTION I CANNOT ANSWER?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Friend, the best answer to give when confronted with difficult Bible questions is to simply say, “I do not have an answer.” It is okay to admit you cannot answer a question; that does not mean that you are a failure of a Christian or a poor Bible student. Some matters of Bible, religion, and theology are quite difficult—even the so-called “scholars” struggle at times.

As Bible-believing Christians, believers in Jesus Christ, Bible students, we should at least be able to answer basic questions. It is an extremely sad commentary, but the average Christian cannot even present a clear Gospel message to save one poor, lost soul from sins and Hell. Such Christians need not worry about dealing with advanced questions—they have yet to learn the fundamentals of Christianity!

We can save ourselves from such ignorance by stop relying on and mindlessly quoting preachers and commentators, and actually go read the Holy Bible for ourselves. The most basic doctrine for this the Dispensation of Grace is the Book of Romans, the first Book Paul wrote as found in the Bible. In order to prepare for answering the most basic Bible questions, we should start reading and studying Romans. The first five chapters present a clear and concise Gospel of Grace. Chapters 6-8 are about the Christian life. Chapters 9-11 describe the nation Israel’s past, present, and future statuses. Chapters 12-16 outline the doctrines of grace as applied to specific, daily life situations.

When answering questions, we want to avoid the appearance of being “know-it-alls.” Too much can be said about a particular matter, so we need to be careful to use our words in moderation. Yet, we should adequately cover the topic and address the question as fully as possible. Some themes are more in-depth than others and should be answered accordingly. They require great thought, diligent study, and much prayer to answer. Hence, their answers will be lengthy.

Moreover, we should tell that inquiring individual that we will do some studying to look for an answer. Also, we should encourage him or her to study too. The Scriptures rightly divided should be consulted first, although other “holy books” will have to be accessed if the question involves the beliefs of denominations and/or world religions. This is a much better answer than, “I do not know the answer, so do not bother me with it. Ask someone else.”

We should take this opportunity to learn something new from the Bible. Hearing and considering questions from people will help us grow in our understanding. If after much research we cannot answer the question, then we can ask a trusted pastor or Bible teacher friend. If we still cannot find an answer, then we can finally reply in all honesty, “I have looked for an answer but I cannot find one. Maybe one day, I will find something. For now, I will have to keep studying.” This should suffice the inquirer. (By the way, if you are ever confronted by a difficult Bible question, we have over 500 Bible question-and-answer articles on our website: https://www.forwhatsaiththescriptures.org.)

Here is one other thing to bear in mind. While we the saints should show interest in answering questions, we need to careful to avoid questions that are obviously silly or irrelevant. There is no profit in them, and such inquiries are posed in order to generate a worthless religious argument. For example, some people can get really bogged down with questions about obscure Old Testament verses. While trying to grasp the whole Bible is a noble goal, it is impossible for us to learn Israel’s doctrine to the degree we ascertain Pauline doctrine. We will not understand everything outside of Romans through Philemon, so people who persist in “majoring on the minors” should be discouraged from such behavior. Bible Q&A sessions are not for entertainment or attention-getting!

Second Timothy chapter 2: “[23] But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. [24] And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, [25] In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; [26] And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.”

Also see:
» Should Bible questions be discouraged?
» Has God’s Word failed?
» How long should I keep witnessing to the same person?

“Made his arrows bright… consulted with images… looked in the liver?”

“MADE HIS ARROWS BRIGHT… CONSULTED WITH IMAGES… LOOKED IN THE LIVER?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

What is going on in Ezekiel 21:21? “For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination: he made his arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver.” A strange verse indeed!

This passage features three methods of Babylonian divination, or discerning divine (pagan idol) guidance and foretelling the future. They are as follows:

  1. Making arrows bright — Also known as “belomancy,” it involved shaking marked or painted arrows in a quiver. The arrows were then thrown down. Finally, their pattern was used to determine the deity’s will. It was similar to casting lots. Think of the modern-day “drawing of straws” or the game known as “pick-up sticks.” We see another type of belomancy in 2 Kings 13:15-19, although this is JEHOVAH God’s prophet and not done under pagan/heathen circumstances.
  2. Consulting the images — This was the method of asking teraphim (small, household statues or gods) for advice. According to heathen superstitions, these inanimate (dead) idols were assumed to talk and relay information to their worshippers (Psalm 115:4-8; Psalm 135:15-18; Isaiah 8:19-20; Habakkuk 2:18-19; 1 Corinthians 12:2).
  3. Looking in the liver — Also known as “hepatoscopy,” it was the examination of an animal’s liver, particularly a sheep’s liver, when the carcass was sacrificed in pagan worship services. A special priest inspected the liver’s shape and arrangement, and used a catalog to interpret a certain prediction (thus arriving at the will of the gods).

The King of Babylon (in this context, Nebuchadnezzar) used such practices as ways to know what action his gods would have him to take—mainly, which area to conquer. Regardless of what Nebuchadnezzar would do though, JEHOVAH God would still accomplish His will for the nation Israel. Wicked Jerusalem would be invaded, and the LORD God evidently influenced Nebuchadnezzar’s divination to get him to do what He wanted (attack Jerusalem).

With all that in mind, read Ezekiel 21:18-24 now: “[18] The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying, [19] Also, thou son of man, appoint thee two ways, that the sword of the king of Babylon may come: both twain shall come forth out of one land: and choose thou a place, choose it at the head of the way to the city. [20] Appoint a way, that the sword may come to Rabbath of the Ammonites, and to Judah in Jerusalem the defenced. [21] For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination: he made his arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver. [22] At his right hand was the divination for Jerusalem, to appoint captains, to open the mouth in the slaughter, to lift up the voice with shouting, to appoint battering rams against the gates, to cast a mount, and to build a fort. [23] And it shall be unto them as a false divination in their sight, to them that have sworn oaths: but he will call to remembrance the iniquity, that they may be taken. [24] Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye have made your iniquity to be remembered, in that your transgressions are discovered, so that in all your doings your sins do appear; because, I say, that ye are come to remembrance, ye shall be taken with the hand.”

Also see:
» What were “Urim” and “Thummim?”
» Were the 12 Apostles wrong in choosing Matthias?
» What is God’s will for my Christian life?

Why did the Lord Jesus tell parables?

WHY DID THE LORD JESUS TELL PARABLES?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Was it to make the truth easier to understand—as regularly assumed? Or, could it have actually been to make God’s Word more difficult to perceive? Rather than speculating, we can simply read Jesus Christ’s own words. Would not Jesus Himself know His reasons for speaking in parables? Friends, let us have hearts willing to submit to and believe His words.

Years ago, my family and I attended a local denominational assembly where the preacher read a few verses and then spent the rest of the hour telling stories and jokes to illustrate. When I asked him why he was conducting his ministry thus, he said he was following Jesus’ pattern. He told stories because Jesus did; the preacher was trying to make the Bible easier to understand. Again, this is a common idea about Christ’s parables, but is it correct?

Matthew chapter 13 tells us: “[10] And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? [11] He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. [12] For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. [13] Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. [14] And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: [15] For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”

As we saw in verse 10, “And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?” The followers of Jesus Christ noticed the drastic change in His preaching. Now, He was no longer speaking in plain language. Why? Instead of wondering, we will allow Jesus Christ to answer the question posed to Him. Would it not be safe to assume that He knew why He was preaching in parables?

The Lord Jesus replied in verse 13: “Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” The Lord said He spoke in parables in order for His audience not to understand Him. He was not trying to make the truth easier to grasp; He was making it more difficult. They could hear the sound of His voice, His words, but there was no comprehension. Why? Does not God want people to understand His Word? Why is Jesus not interested in giving His audience spiritual light? Is it not unfair that He is hiding the truth from them? Keep reading, friend.

Christ was 100 percent reasonable, totally righteous, in preaching in parables: “[14] And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: [15] For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”

Jesus here is quoting Isaiah 6:9-10. In the Prophet Isaiah’s day over 700 years prior, there was extensive unbelief in the nation Israel. They did not want to hear God’s Word. Divine judgment would fall on them so that, although they would still hear the words of the prophets, they would not be able to understand. They had rejected spiritual light to such a great extent that now God would leave them right where they wanted to be. How terrible… but that was what they preferred! Jesus told parables to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy.

There was a second reason Jesus used parables. He said in verse 15 of Matthew chapter 13, “this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed.” Their heart has grown stupefied or callous—uncaring and insensitive. They have not only rejected God’s Word up to that point, they are vehemently and violently refusing it. They do not want to see or hear the truth! Back in Matthew chapter 12, we read about the first time unbelieving Israel plots to take Christ’s life: “[14] Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. [15] But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all; [16] And charged them that they should not make him known:….” Again, they are beyond reason; God has no reason to approach them with the plain truth anymore.

Friend, we have to understand that the Lord Jesus did not begin His earthly ministry with parables. In Matthew chapter 13, we are perhaps two years into His ministry. Parables were not meant to make spiritual truths easier to understand— otherwise, Jesus would have started His ministry using parables. He waited a few years to switch to parables because Israel had reached the point of persistently refusing simple truths. His extensive teaching in plain language had been disregarded for a long period of time. Now, judgment would fall on (tenaciously) unbelieving, (willfully) unsaved Israel.

Read Matthew 13:12 again: “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.” Whatever truths they had perceived from hearing Jesus’ words over the years, that spiritual knowledge would now be taken from them. They heard and understood but refused to believe. Now, with the introduction of the parables, their spiritual understanding would be completely removed. However, those who had believed God’s revelation thus far, they would receive more enlightenment. The Lord Jesus would go on to show His disciples how to interpret His parables; national Israel would remain in the spiritual darkness they wanted.

CONCLUSION

According to Matthew 13:10-15, the Lord Jesus spoke in parables for two reasons:

  1. Jesus told parables to fulfill Isaiah 6:9-10: “And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.” The unbelief in Israel that existed in Isaiah’s time remained in Jesus’ day. With the parables now employed, the unsaved Jews would continue hearing God’s words but they would no longer have ability to comprehend.
  2. Parables were God’s judgment on unbelieving Israel. Parables were not meant to make the truth plainer, but to make it more difficult. God had given them plenty of opportunity to learn but they had openly opposed and disallowed His words. Matthew 13:11-12 says: “He answered and said unto them [His disciples], Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them [the unbelievers in Israel] it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.” Israel had overwhelmingly refused to hear God’s simple words during the first half of Christ’s earthly ministry. When they began to violently refuse to hear, but rather began to plot to take Christ’s life, God turned them over to the spiritual ignorance they desired. The parables would erase whatever spiritual insight they had (and yet had refused).

Also see:
» Why did Jesus forbid others from preaching that He was Christ?
» Has God’s Word failed?
» If dispensational Bible study is true, how come so few believe it?