What about snake-handling?


by Shawn Brasseaux

“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” (Mark 16:18).

Friend, have you ever heard of handling venomous serpents in religious services? As you read in the above verse, the Holy Bible indeed mentions such a practice. Yet, should we participate in it? “For what saith the Scriptures?”

Situated mostly in the “Appalachian” (eastern) and southeastern United States, roughly 100 snake-handling churches exist today on the North American continent. They are usually small assemblies with a Pentecostal or Charismatic background. A special room is maintained to keep the snakes until such “ceremonies.” Some practitioners say that snake-handling demonstrates one’s faith and salvation. Others believe it is necessary for salvation. Whatever the case, they all believe the “Holy Ghost” has come upon them and is now manifesting Himself. They supposedly express their faith in a literal interpretation of the Bible by picking up serpents. (Later, we will treat the Scripture verses to which they appeal.)

Obviously, such endeavors involve great risks. “Worshippers” will pet venomous vipers, hold them, let them slither across their bodies as they dance, sing, roll on the floor, jump, and perhaps “speak in tongues.” There are dozens upon dozens of documented reports of people dying from snakebites in such religious ceremonies. These injuries do not have to be fatal, as medical treatment can be sought. However, that treatment is often refused. They believe God will get them through the pain and help them survive, or He will take their life if it is their time to go. It is better to “do the will of God,” they say, than go to a hospital and receive anti-venom. One such minister, who died some years ago, was bitten nine times before a venomous snakebite killed him. He never once received any medical help and actually lost a part of a finger—then he ultimately lost his life!


Snake-handling religionists say that they “take the Bible literally.” At first glance, it seems they are correct. But, do they really follow the Bible literally? In the ensuing pages, we aim to evaluate that claim by examining the two passages they quote to defend their practice.

Their primary proof text, of course, is Mark chapter 16: “[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.”

Indeed, the Bible does say that the above miracles “shall” result. Notice the certainty—it is not “might” or “may,” as in maybe so and maybe not. These supernatural abilities “shall” (not “may” but “shall”) be given to “them that believe.” There is a 100% probability—no question!—that these events will occur. If we take the Bible literally, it does endorse casting out devils (evil spirits). If we interpret the Bible at face value, it does sanction speaking with new tongues (languages never formally learned). If we take the Bible at face value, giving it the literal meaning, it says people will take pick up snakes and not be harmed. If we take the Bible literally, people will drink “any deadly thing” (poison) and they should have no fear of dying. If we are believers in a literal Bible text, we know people will “lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (rather than die). What are we to do, then? Should we practice these things?

Friend, here is what we cannot do. We cannot deny the Word of God. The Bible speaks of exorcism in Mark chapter 16. It mentions speaking with “new tongues.” God’s Word says to “take up serpents.” It speaks of “drink any deadly thing” and “it shall not hurt them.” It supports physical healing—laying lands on the sick and them being cured. By this point, friend, you may find the Bible revolting. You might even want to throw it away completely! Would it surprise you then that some, to sidestep this most vexing passage, have actually argued (because they firmly believed) that Mark 16:9-20 does not belong in the Bible text? Indeed, such people exist… more than you and I realize!!


It is a sad commentary, but people have been trained to discard any Bible verses they do not understand. Here is an excellent case in point. Textual critics have influenced many to believe and claim that Mark 16:9-20 is not (!) inspired of God because it is “not in the two oldest and most reliable manuscripts.” Of the 600-plus surviving manuscripts that contain Mark, only two omit the passage in question—Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus. How can two manuscripts overrule the testimony of 600-plus others? “Scholars” argue that those two are “the most ancient” manuscripts, preferred because they are assumed to be closer to the original writings of the Apostles. This, of course, is a faulty assumption for two reasons.

Firstly, the notion that “minority is best” is silly. If God’s intention was to use two manuscripts to preserve His Word, then why did the saints of old bother to make all the thousands of copies we presently have? Why do textual critics scrutinize 5,500-plus New Testament manuscripts when all they “need” (claim to need) are Vaticanus and Sinaiticus? By their own admission, those two manuscripts have tainted and divergent texts—and the blemishes and discrepancies are “settled” by appealing to other manuscripts. Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are not as reliable as they declare!!

Secondly, “oldest is best” means that alterations to the Bible text occurred long after it was written rather than immediately after. Such a claim is utterly foolish. False prophets and false teachers were conducting “ministries” while Jesus’ Apostles preached in the first century! It would be downright absurd to assume no one corrupted the Bible text until centuries later… especially since we have verses to prove there were Bible corrupters during the days of the Apostles!

Second Thessalonians 2:2 says, “That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.” Here is a false letter—someone forged it and pretended like Paul wrote it! Paul himself reminded us in 2 Corinthians 2:17, “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” Finally, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15: “[13] For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. [14] And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. [15] Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”


At this point, you sense that this author is advocating the retention (rather than the deletion) of Mark 16:9-20. We should not throw it away simply because two faulty manuscripts eliminate it. The Bible shows us that God the Holy Spirit will preserve His Word through a multiplicity of manuscript copies (Deuteronomy 17:18-20; Psalm 12:6-7; Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; et cetera). We do not “re-construct” a “lost” Bible text using a few ancient manuscripts. This is where the textual critics are in their thinking, and it is nothing but human viewpoint. It is not how God views His Word, and it is not how we should understand it either.

Dear reader, maybe you think of this author as a “kook” or “nut” for claiming the bizarre passage of Mark 16:9-20 as inspired of God, genuine, and worthy of our faith as the rest of Scripture. If we keep it in the Bible, does that mean we have to practice its baptism for salvation, casting out devils, speaking with new tongues, taking up serpents, drinking any deadly thing, and laying hands on the sick for them to recover?

Let it be known that this passage is actually a “Bible buffet” like none other—a “pick-and-choose” frenzy!!! You will never find someone doing all of verses 16-18, but only snippets. Most Protestants reject the baptism for salvation, but Roman Catholics and Catholic-sympathizing Protestants enjoy verse 16. Some people like to cast out devils and speak in gibberish today in religious services (verse 17). As noted earlier, an even smaller group of church members will pick up snakes (verse 18). Who drinks the poison and survives (verse 18)? Of course, a great number will grab the end of verse 18—lay hands on the sick to heal them. Mark 16:16-20 is not this either/or situation that Christendom has made it out to be. One or two sections of the passage should not be seized; all of it goes together, and all must be taken. All of it is valid at once and it all works exactly as the verses say.

If you have been following thus far, another question has been surely prompted. “Brother Shawn, if these verses are true, then why do people die while joining in ‘faith healing,’ why do they perish from snakebites, why do they lose their lives after drinking poison? Is this not contradictory to the Bible’s declarations? Does God not care to keep His people from such evils? Did He not promise to protect believers in Jesus Christ?” Dear friend, these are wonderful questions. As Bible believers, we have no need for embarrassment or disappointment. God’s Word has the answers. If we are truly willing to look in His Book with open hearts and minds, sincere in our quest, we will be inundated with a flood of illumination. Watch and see!


Whenever the verses do not work like they say they will, religionists dismiss the activity and dispel the awkwardness by declaring, “The sick person died because of a lack of faith! If he had faith in God, the snakebite would not have been fatal! She should have drunk that poison believing the Lord would protect her! It was just that person’s ‘time to go!’” As you can imagine, friend, these comments are but little comfort to grieving loved ones. Furthermore, such excuses draw the mockery and ire of Bible-haters and Christ-rejecters everywhere. Their response runs along the lines of: “Look at those ignorant hillbillies believing in their book of fairytales! We are people of logic and not blind superstition! Organized religion is the enemy of progress in our society! I abandoned the Bible years ago because of such nonsense! No thank you, I can do without that ‘Jesus’ they praise and worship with snakes and poison!”

How can the average Christian respond? Other than silence, there is a weak answer. They adopt the aforementioned view of the textual critics: “That passage of Mark 16:9-20 is not inspired of God, so it was not backed by the power of God anyway.” This position, while often assumed to be the “safe” one, just undermines the authority of the Bible. It further confuses the minds of the lost people mocking the Book they already hate! To take a negative view of Holy Scripture is to agree with them. As they see it, if Mark 16:9-20 is not of God, why bother to believe ANY of the Bible is? We want to be careful here, friends. Be quite careful here. The Gospel of Grace is in jeopardy.

Mark 16:9-20 belongs in the Bible text, but that still leaves us with a problem. Suppose you take the verse of snake-handling as your own, and you have full confidence in God’s Word—“They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them…” (Mark 16:18). So, you take up a rattlesnake, you let it slither on your body, and then it strikes you, sinking its fangs deep into your skin. As you collapse to the floor, the venom coursing through your veins, you cry out with your last breath, “Oh, God, You said nothing would happen! I trusted Your Word and you failed me!” You die.

Any Bible skeptics observing the above situation have all the “proof” they need (they believe) to show “God” is nothing but a figment of our imagination. Snickering, they shake their heads. “Me? Believe the Bible? Never in a million years!” For the rest of their lives, they carry the memory of this appalling experience with them. They venture out on a perpetual crusade, shouting at every Bible-believer, “Go away! What foolishness your Christianity is! Let me tell you about that snake-handling episode I witnessed….” What is saddest of all is that they have been just as deceived as the snake-handlers—confusing Christianity with religion—and now they go around confusing millions of others. More and more people grow opposed to Scripture, all because of misunderstandings.


Does the existence of a passage in God’s Word automatically necessitate that we follow it as though it is applicable to us? To wit, can we be Scriptural (follow the Bible) and not do God’s will? Indeed, friend, we can. How dangerous it is to mishandle God’s Word! If we isolate Mark 16:18, we can say, “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.” Yes, that is what the Bible says, so now let us go do that! Hold on just a second. There is another verse we should look at first.

“Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch” (Genesis 6:14). Friend, God says to go and build a giant boat of gopher wood. Man did not say that—GOD said it! When are you going to follow the Bible as it reads here? If you have any common sense at all, you would say, “Brother Shawn, God did not tell me to built that boat. God told Noah to build it.” You would be right, my friend. How silly of this author to grab a verse out of context! Maybe he should have read verse 13 first? “And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” Yes, you are correct. This author was wrong. A Bible verse is not necessarily written to us to follow.

You ask any snake handler, faith healer, or poison drinker if they follow Genesis 6:14 and they will laugh at you. They would be justified in finding levity in the matter, too. However, they are manifesting inconsistency. They refuse to take Noah’s verse as their own but they will steal Israel’s verse! They laugh at one instance of folly yet claim another for themselves! Such is the madness of religion, dear friend, the subtlety of Satan’s policy of evil and the deception of human emotions. Not only must we use the Bible, we must also rightly divide the Bible. It is most hazardous to be Scriptural and not also be dispensational.

Whether you recognized it or not, friend, you just rightly divided the Word of Truth! Instead of trying to follow Genesis 6:14, you knew God was speaking to Noah. You understood God was not addressing you. The LORD God gave Noah some information to believe and act in accordance with, but that was God’s Word to Noah. This is a simple illustration of the heart of dispensational Bible study. Second Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” When we “rightly divide” the Bible, we recognize distinctions God has made in His Word. It is important to see that God says different things to different people at different times in history. The Bible is a progression revelation; more information is disclosed as time passes.

The most fundamental right division that God has made in His Word—and we would do extremely well to recognize it—is between prophecy and mystery. We need to compare two verses to begin to comprehend how God has set up the Holy Bible. We will look at Acts 3:21 and Romans 16:25.

Acts 3:19-21: “[19] Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. [20] And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: [21] Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”

This is the Apostle Peter preaching to the nation Israel. It is what the Bible calls “prophecy”—defined as that “which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” When God created man and commissioned him to function on the Earth, Adam was given revelation as pertaining to God’s earthly purpose. Notice Matthew 25:34: “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:….” Since man’s creation, God has endeavored to establish His kingdom on the Earth. When Adam sinned, sided with Satan (the Devil), mankind became God’s enemy. Once the nations rebelled against God at the Tower of Babel, He responded by forming the nation Israel (Genesis chapter 12). Israel is the means whereby God will have an earthly people, individuals who can then accomplish His will on the Earth.

Now, we will look at another passage of Scripture. Turning to Romans 16:25-26, we read: “[25] Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, [26] But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:….”

In addition to prophecy, we have something in Scripture called “the mystery.” While God was unveiling prophetic information, He was simultaneously withholding mystery information. He never told anyone that secret until a certain point in time in the Bible. In Acts chapter 9, He began to show that secret to man. This event was the salvation and commission of the Apostle Paul. Paul thus wrote Romans 16:25-26—“the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now [as in Paul’s ministry] is made manifest.”

As we already discussed, God instituted the prophetic program to concentrate on establishing His earthly kingdom. However, what about Heaven? After all, Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” There is more to creation than Earth, so what is God’s method for establishing His kingdom in the heavenly places? We know nothing about that until we come to Paul’s apostleship. In Pauline doctrine, God reveals the secret of His will—how He will gather all governmental authority in His Son Jesus Christ, not just on Earth (prophecy), but also in the Heavenly Places (mystery). Paul’s books, Romans through Philemon, speak of God’s heavenly people. This group is called the Church the Body of Christ. We would do well to read summary verses.

Ephesians 1:9-10: “[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:….”

Colossians 1:16-20: “[16] For by him [Jesus Christ] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: [17] And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. [18] And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. [19] For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; [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, or things in heaven.”

As Peter addressed the nation Israel (Acts 3:19-21), so Paul addressed the Gentiles or all nations. Romans 11:13 says, “For I [Paul] speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:….” What happened to God’s earthly program with Israel? Will He ever bring it to fulfillment? Is it abrogated forever because Israel crucified Christ? Have we replaced Israel? What is God doing today? Paul’s ministry and writings, Romans through Philemon, provide detailed answers. We have no reason to be ignorant, and yet that is exactly where most church members are today. They have not used the Bible rightly divided, and thus split off into thousands of opposing sects, denominations, factions. Immense spiritual darkness covers their hearts and minds. It is like they have no Bible, no revelation from God, at all!

Now, let us return to our previous comments about God’s earthly kingdom. The Bible says, “the Jews require a sign” (1 Corinthians 1:22). In other words, God uses miraculous demonstrations—signs and wonders—to teach Israel various and sundry lessons (doctrine). When the Lord Jesus Christ showed up in the Books of Matthew through John, His earthly ministry, He had come to convert idolatrous, deceived Israel to Father God. Jesus was Israel’s long-promised King, so the good news God had for Israel was aptly termed “the Gospel of the Kingdom.”

Matthew 3:1-2: “[1] In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, [2] And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17: “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 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.”

Matthew 10:5-8: “[5] These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: [6] But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [7] And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. [8] Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” Luke 8:1: “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 common theme in the above verses is, obviously, “the Gospel of the Kingdom,” but also miracles that confirm that message being preached. To demonstrate that God’s earthly kingdom was within Israel’s grasp, the signs of that kingdom were unmistakably evident. There would be no devil possession in the earthly kingdom of God (Zechariah 13:1-2); therefore, Jesus and His Apostles cast out evil spirits. There would be no bodily illness in the earthly kingdom of God (Isaiah 35:3-6); consequently, Jesus and His Apostles performed healing miracles. These were “the powers of the world to come,” Hebrews 6:5 remarks. Such “gifts of the Holy Ghost” signified that God’s earthly kingdom, “the world to come,” was near (Hebrews 2:3-5). Israel could have entered by faith in Jesus Christ!

All this was said—and yes, this author understands, it is a lot—simply to bring us back to Mark 16:16-20. The background has been painstakingly laid (thank you for your patience, dear reader), so now we can notice and better understand the context of the passage under consideration. Verse 15 is the context, so we need to begin there. Jumping in at verse 16, 17, or 18 is completely unwise!!

Mark 16:15-20: “[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.”

Verse 15 introduces this whole section as involving the preaching of “the gospel.” What is that Gospel message? Is it the Gospel of Grace that we preach today, as commonly assumed? No! Just days earlier, the Lord Jesus spoke of this gospel of the kingdom” in Matthew 24:14—“this” is a highly important word. The signs and wonders of Mark chapter 16 do not apply to our Gospel. It applies to “the gospel of the kingdom”—if, if, and I know that is a big if!!!—we believe the Bible instead of blindly following religious tradition. Look at the close of Mark chapter 16: “[20] And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” Does this not sound like what we were just discussing about validating the Gospel of the Kingdom? Indeed, it does! Do you see, friend, how the Bible just flows together so beautifully when we rightly divide it, comparing Scripture with Scripture, and keep religious tomfoolery and church tradition out of it?

Some argue that there is not one instance of snake-handling in Scripture (this, other than their “oldest is best” textual argument previously mentioned, is their “strongest” reason for rejecting Mark 16:18). While it is true that no Apostles ever took up venomous serpents to “worship God,” there is an interesting account in the Bible of a deadly viper attacking Paul and it not harming him. This is the second proof text of today’s snake-handling crowd, so it behooves us to examine it now.

Acts chapter 28: “[1] And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. [2] And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. [3] And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. [4] And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. [5] And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. [6] Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.”

It may help if you re-read that lengthy excerpt, dear friend. What was Paul doing? Was he handling snakes while singing hymns and dancing around that campfire? Of course not! He was gathering wood for the fire, and, without warning, a snake lashed out at him and bit him. This is certainly not like the serpent-handling of modern religion. Paul was not playing around with snakes to “praise God.” He was not seeking injury or deliberately attempting to put himself in harm’s way as fools do in religion today. Now, that may sound harsh, but it must be said. Today’s snake-handling is just plain foolishness.

There is no one operating in faith with snake-handling today. It is not the God of the Bible working. The Spirit of God will only do what the Word of God says, and the Word of God says the Holy Spirit is not doing this today. Such abilities have no relation to us the Church the Body of Christ. We are not waiting for the earthly kingdom of God. We are not looking for the signs of the coming kingdom on Earth. We are not preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. Hence, we never read in Paul’s epistles (Romans through Philemon) about laying hands on the sick, casting out devils, and picking up venomous serpents. They are signs of Israel’s kingdom program, and that program is temporarily suspended while God is dealing with us in the Dispensation of Grace. Read Romans chapters 9-11 for all the details. Also see our “Can you explain Paul’s ‘Acts’ ministry?” article linked at the end of this study.)

So, you probably want to ask another question: “Brother Shawn, what is the explanation for what snake-handlers are doing today? If it is not God the Holy Spirit, then who or what is behind such a practice?” Such people feel an adrenaline rush, an emotional high, and they misinterpret it as the Holy Spirit of God coming upon them. “His presence” is actually nothing but deceptive emotions completely out of control! We naturally fear wild and dangerous creatures, and our bodies react by producing adrenaline (which “stirs us up” to fight or take flight!). Moreover, religion can have an extremely powerful influence over our hearts and minds, just as alcoholic beverages (Revelation 17:2). Therefore, we have to constantly (daily) stay in the Bible rightly divided. It guards our minds and hearts against Satan’s policy of evil. Do not forget, you can follow God’s Word and be completely out of God’s will. Not only do we use and quote the Bible, we use and quote the Bible rightly divided!

In addition, here is something else to consider about Acts chapter 28. Notice how the Holy Spirit is careful to write in verse 6 that there was not so much as swelling on Paul’s body. Not only did he not die, there was absolutely no indication he was even bitten!! He did not cry out in pain or fall to the ground. You look at snake-handling religionists’ bodies today, friend, and you see various scars. Some have permanent bodily impairment—missing or deformed fingers, limited hand dexterity, and so on. (And, of course, you can find them in the cemetery as well!!) They speak of suffering “excruciating” pain. One such minister claimed he hoped to never die in such a horrible manner. He eventually died from… of all things… a fatal snakebite!

Okay, so we understand that Mark chapter 16 is indeed God’s Word, but it is not God’s Word to or about us. What do we do now? Is there any hope in understanding this mysterious passage as it relates to Israel’s program? Will anyone ever successfully/safely practice the snake-handling passage of the Bible? Yes! (Just not us, and just not today!)


The operating system of Israel’s program is the Mosaic Law (also called the Old Covenant). If Israel disobeyed God’s Word, she would be punished. He would use hardship to try to correct her misbehavior. Leviticus chapter 26 details those curses or chastisements. Notice: “[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. [23] And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me; [24] Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.”

Did you catch verse 22? What will the LORD God do to rebellious Israel? Will He not send wild animals to attack and kill them? Yes, He will. As an illustration, read 2 Kings chapter 2: “[23] And he [Elisha the Prophet] 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.” These young people mocked JEHOVAH God’s messenger, and so the LORD God introduced a new phase of intensified judgment (the chastisement phase described in Leviticus 26:22).

Numbers chapter 21 speaks of God judging Israel for her unbelief and wickedness: “[5] And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. [6] And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. [7] Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. [8] And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. [9] And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Paul’s commentary in 1 Corinthians 10:9 summarizes—“Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.”)

Before the Lord Jesus Christ ever spoke of those serpents in Mark chapter 16, God had already judged Israel with wild beasts—including venomous snakes. He used His creation, the animal kingdom, to punish the faithless, idolatrous Jews. Notice now Jeremiah 8:17: “For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the LORD.” Remember, God sent literal snakes to kill rebels amongst the Jews in Moses’ day, and Jeremiah says it will happen once more.

As we look beyond our Dispensation of Grace, friend, to when Israel’s program resumes, God must finish Israel’s stages of punishment. The curses of Leviticus chapter 26 and Deuteronomy chapter 28 will be brought to the full, and then God will cause all these times of suffering to disappear with the Second Coming of Christ. Israel, believing Israel, will be blessed of God as they enter His earthly kingdom. Unbelievers will be consumed in His wrath, but Israel’s believing remnant will survive!

The Apostle John provides the final piece of the “snake-handling” puzzle. We read in chapter 6 of the Book of the Revelation, yet future from us: “[7] And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. [8] And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” Notice the wild beasts are consuming humans like never before. Unbelievers will perish. However, believing Israel will physically survive because God has promised them victory over serpents (and, by extension, all harmful creatures). Mark 16:15-20 is part of the Divine commission that Israel will follow in the end-times. Friend, it has nothing to do with us! Remember, dispensational Bible study! Notice the audience of the passage before you claim the passage as your own!! This is taking the Bible literally!

By the way, before we summarize and conclude, let us listen to Exodus chapter 4: “[1] And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee. [2] And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. [3] And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. [4] And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: [5] That they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.”

Snake-handling was one of the signs the LORD God gave Moses the ability to perform to convince unbelieving Israel. If you continue reading the passage, the second was the miracle of physical healing (verses 6-7—another Israeli kingdom sign, remember!!). Snake-handling symbolizes spiritual deliverance, exorcism (casting out devils—Satan is a snake or deceitful being in character, as Genesis 3:1, 2 Corinthians 11:3, and Revelation 20:2 show). No matter what Satan would do, God would ultimately deliver Israel from Satan’s grip. This was the purpose of Moses’ snake swallowing up the snakes Egypt’s satanic magicians had “conjured” (Exodus 7:10-13). Israel will have similar victory in the end-times, freedom from Satan’s control. The snake will harm the unbelievers, but Israel’s believing remnant will survive!


Particularly in the southeastern United States, one will discover small religious groups that participate in snake-handling ceremonies. Why this extreme behavior? Is it Scriptural to handle venomous vipers with the understanding that they will not harm us? What are we to believe if deadly snakes do strike and kill Christians?

If you follow religious news, you will occasionally find an article about an individual who has died at church because of a snakebite. This person was said to be “weak in faith.” Had he or she believed God when holding the snake, the snake would not have bitten. While we should certainly take the Bible literally—as we do any book, right?—there is a second key to keep in mind when approaching the Scriptures. We have to be very careful to look at contexts. If we take the Bible literally when it endorses snake-handling, should we not also take it literally when it says such a practice is not given to or about us members of the Church the Body of Christ?! We cannot claim a passage in “faith” when faith is also believing the passage when it says we are not its audience! Mark 16:15-20 is all about the Gospel of the Kingdom; it has absolutely nothing to do with us. It has everything to do with Israel during the end-times.

First Corinthians chapter 14: “[37] If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. [38] But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” In snake-handling circles, “the Holy Ghost takes control of them.” It is all about “feelings.” Yet, if the Holy Spirit were truly leading them, they would listen to these verses that the Holy Spirit penned! Paul is our apostle (Romans 11:13), and God through him commands us no such things about handling snakes, drinking poison, healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out devils, water baptizing, and so on.

The test for spirituality today in this the Dispensation of Grace is not whether or not one handles venomous snakes, speaks in tongues, drinks poison, heals the sick, raises the dead, or even keeps the Saturday Sabbath. According to the Holy Spirit (see verses above), spirituality today is measured according to whether or not an individual pays attention to Pauline revelation. The Lord Jesus Christ committed to Paul the Dispensation of Grace (Ephesians 3:1-2), so it naturally follows that the Spirit of God would lead us to listen to the words He spoke to us in the Pauline epistles, Romans through Philemon. Again, there is nothing in Pauline revelation about taking up venomous snakes. Such instructions have a special place on the Bible timeline (future from us). When we “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), we recognize that those directions do not apply to our time. Friend, right division is literally a life-or-death situation in this case. Playing with harmful snakes may be fatal… and we will die such a painful death while quoting Scripture!!

Also see:
» Does Mark 16:18 teach that chemotherapy will not harm us?
» Should I speak in tongues?
» Can you explain Paul’s “Acts” ministry?

How did the Israeli patriarchs resist the Holy Ghost?


by Shawn Brasseaux

In Acts chapter 7, Stephen, God’s final prophet to Israel before her fall, is preaching to his nation about her 2,000-year history of unbelief. He begins to conclude his message in verse 51: “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” How exactly did the ancient forefathers of Israel “resist” the Holy Ghost? How are they resisting Him even in the lifetime of Stephen?


We should keep reading the context: “[51] Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. [52] Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: [53] Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.”

God’s Spirit spoke to Israel through the prophets, His spokesmen, about Messiah’s coming. First Peter 1:10-11 “Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” The prophets spoke about various other issues as well, but, as we will see beyond any shadow of a doubt, Israel ignored her messengers from God throughout the Old Testament economy. It was centuries upon centuries of refusing to hear God’s Word spoken by God’s Spirit through God’s prophets.

The Holy Spirit had filled these prophets with His Word. Yet, Israel refused to hear the Spirit of God. Primarily, they declined to listen to the Law of Moses, that which God the Spirit had written and delivered to Israel through Moses. Moses said to Israel in Deuteronomy 9:10: “And the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the LORD spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly.” Jesus said in Luke 11:20, “But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.” The parallel is Matthew 12:28, “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.” The Law was written by the finger of God. The “finger of God,” according to Matthew 12:28 and Luke 11:20, is the Holy Spirit. Stephen said to Israel, “ye… have not kept it [obeyed the Law].”

Second Chronicles 36:15-16: “And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.”

Second Chronicles 24:19: “Yet he sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the LORD; and they testified against them: but they would not give ear.”

Nehemiah 9:26,30: “Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations…. Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands.”

Isaiah 30:9-11: “That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.”

Psalm 106:32-35: “They angered him also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes: Because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips. They did not destroy the nations, concerning whom the LORD commanded them: But were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works.”

Ezekiel 13:3: “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!” (Rather than following God’s Spirit, these false prophets believed and preached whatever they wanted.)

Zechariah chapter 7, verse 12: “Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts.”

Isaiah 30:1: “Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin:….”

Isaiah 63:10: “But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.”

Queen Jezebel killed a good many of God’s prophets. First Kings 18:4,13: “For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.)…. Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the LORD, how I hid an hundred men of the LORD’S prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water?”

First Kings 19:10,14 is the Prophet Elijah speaking of Jezebel’s killing off the prophets of JEHOVAH God: “And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away…. And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” Romans 11:3 summarizes: “Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.” See also 2 Kings 9:7. Jeremiah 2:30: “In vain have I smitten your children; they received no correction: your own sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion.” Israel just murders God’s messengers to her, one right after the other!

Second Kings chapter 17: “[13] Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets. [15] And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them, that they should not do like them. [16] And they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal.” (You may read the rest of this chapter in your own Bible. Truly awful!!)

Jeremiah chapter 7: “[25] Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them: [26] Yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers. [27] Therefore thou shalt speak all these words unto them; but they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not answer thee. [28] But thou shalt say unto them, This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the LORD their God, nor receiveth correction: truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth.”

Jeremiah 25:4: “And the LORD hath sent unto you all his servants the prophets, rising early and sending them; but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear.”

Jeremiah 26:5,7-8,11: “[5] To hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you, both rising up early, and sending them, but ye have not hearkened;…. [7] So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD. [8] Now it came to pass, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak unto all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die…. [11] Then spake the priests and the prophets unto the princes and to all the people, saying, This man is worthy to die; for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your ears….. [16] Then said the princes and all the people unto the priests and to the prophets; This man is not worthy to die: for he hath spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God.” (They wanted to put Jeremiah to death here after saying they do not listen to God’s prophets!!!)

Jeremiah 29:19: “Because they have not hearkened to my words, saith the LORD, which I sent unto them by my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but ye would not hear, saith the LORD.”

Jeremiah chapter 35, verse 15: “I have sent also unto you all my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, Return ye now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings, and go not after other gods to serve them, and ye shall dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your fathers: but ye have not inclined your ear, nor hearkened unto me.”

Jeremiah chapter 44: “[4] Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate. [5] But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear to turn from their wickedness, to burn no incense unto other gods. [6] Wherefore my fury and mine anger was poured forth, and was kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they are wasted and desolate, as at this day.”

Daniel chapter 9, verses 6 and 10: “Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land…. Neither have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.”

Amos 2:11-12: “And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel? saith the LORD. But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not.”

Zechariah 1:4: “Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the LORD.”

Zechariah 7:7: “Should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, when men inhabited the south and the plain?” Verse 12: “Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts.”

Matthew 5:11-12: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

Matthew 23:29-31: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.”

Matthew 23:37: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Luke 13:34: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!”

Luke chapter 6: “[22] Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. [23] Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.”

Luke 11:47,49,50-51: “Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them…. Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.”

First Thessalonians 2:15: “[The Jews] Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:….”

Speaking of the future end-times events, Antichrist and Satan’s policy of evil with all its participants being judged by God, Revelation 16:6 says, “For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.” Also, Revelation 18:20: “Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.” And verse 24: “And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.” This whole religious system, from the earliest times, has murdered God’s messengers!! They have all resisted the Holy Spirit speaking in and through those prophets.


Stephen said in Acts 7:51: “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” His audience was no different from their fathers (all those previous verses we just read). They too refused to hear the Holy Ghost speaking through His prophets. The Holy Spirit came down from Heaven in Acts chapter 2, who then empowered the Little Flock (12 Apostles, and all of believing Israel, including Stephen himself) to bear witness of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Between chapters 2 and 7 of Acts (about a year of time), all Israel heard about Jesus was Messiah, and He was coming back to judge them for killing Him on Calvary. They were to get right by believing the Gospel of the Kingdom—Jesus is Messiah. See Acts 2:22-40.

Jesus Christ said in Matthew 23:34: “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:….” Watch this begin to be fulfilled as the Book of Acts opens. The Holy Spirit comes upon the Little Flock in early Acts, in order to give them the capacity to preach to wayward Israel.

John chapter 14: “[16] And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; [17] Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. [18] I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”

John chapter 15: “[26] But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: [27] And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.”

John chapter 16: “[7] Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. [8] And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: [9] Of sin, because they believe not on me; [10] Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; [11] Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. [12] I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. [13] Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. [14] He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”

Acts chapter 1: “[4] 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. [5] For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence…. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

Acts chapter 2: “[4] And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance…. [17] And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: [18] And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:….”

Acts chapter 4: “[1] And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, [2] Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide…. [17] But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. [18] And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. [19] But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. [20] For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. [21] So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.”

Acts chapter 5: “[26] Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned. [27] And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, [28] Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. [29] Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. [30] The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. [31] Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. [32] And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. [33] When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them…. [40] And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.”

Hebrews 6:4-6: “[4] For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, [5] And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, [6] If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” (This is a warning to those Jews who reject the ministry of the Holy Spirit in early Acts. In other words, this is Stephen’s audience in chapter 7.)

Hebrews 2:3-5: “[3] How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; [4] God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? [5] For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.” (This too is a warning to those Jews who reject the ministry of the Holy Spirit in early Acts. In other words, this is Stephen’s audience in chapter 7.)

First Peter 1:12: “Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.” (It is by the power of the Holy Ghost that the Little Flock is preaching in early Acts. Those who reject the Little Flock’s preaching are resisting the Holy Ghost!)

Go back one more time to Acts, and notice chapter 6: “[5] And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:…. [9] Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. [10] And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. [11] Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. [12] And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, [13] And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: [14] For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.” (Do you see how apostate Israel is plotting to put to death Stephen, the man God is using to speak to them?)

Stephen’s sermon in Acts chapter 7 is God’s final plea with unbelieving Israel. Chapter 6 and verse 5 said, “Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost.” That means that, if Israel refuses to hear Stephen, they are rejecting the Holy Spirit for the final time. If you keep reading chapter 7, you will see that Israel murdered Stephen by stoning. They had rejected the 12 Apostles’ preaching since Acts chapter 2, and now they have killed Stephen. They have “resisted” the Holy Ghost to the extent that nothing else can be done with them! God temporarily sets Israel aside in chapter 7 of Acts, and our Dispensation of Grace begins shortly thereafter. See our related studies linked below for more information.

Also see:
» Why did Jesus Christ stand in Acts 7:55-56?
» Have I blasphemed the Holy Spirit?
» Is Israel “cast away,” or not? Has Israel “fallen,” or not?

Can you explain Genesis 6:3?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Genesis 6:3 says, “And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” What are we to take from this?

Firstly, this “spirit” is none other than the Holy Spirit. Still, what does JEHOVAH God mean, “[his] spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh?”

Secondly, the words “not always” correspond to “an hundred and twenty years” at the end of the verse. God the Holy Spirit will not strive with man indefinitely—120 years is the maximum period. Once that time has elapsed, God will change His dealings with mankind.

Thirdly, when the Scripture says, “strive with man,” it speaks of a struggle or competition. The Holy Spirit and mankind are at odds, each opposed to the other. Notice, the rest of the verse explains—“for that he also is flesh.” The term “flesh” carries the idea of weakness or frailty; that is, man is naturally sinful. In the case of the antediluvian (pre-Flood) world, there was much violence (especially murder). Genesis 6:5, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” We can infer from Genesis 9:6 that this verse is God’s post-Flood rule to prevent the sinful activity (namely, murder) that had occurred before the Great Flood.

Lastly, how exactly was the Holy Spirit striving with man during the time leading up to the Great Flood? This is answered, not in Genesis, but centuries later in the Bible. It is a feature called “subsequent narrative.” God provides details about an event many decades, centuries, or millennia after the fact. Unless we study all the Bible, we will miss such interesting little tidbits and fascinating extra clues.

Turning to 1 Peter, chapter 3, we read: “[18] For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: [19] By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; [20] Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” As Noah assembled the Ark, he preached to the world of his day.

Go to 2 Peter, chapter 2, verse 5: “And [God] spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;….” For 120 years, Noah warned the world of coming judgment—a flood is coming but there is safety in the boat he is constructing. Alas, they continued in their daily activities as if nothing were wrong. His cries fell on deaf ears. They were having a good time and did not want to bother to think about the consequences of their sin. God would be completely fair in destroying them. They had had ample time to reform, but they despised His Word and His servant Noah. God the Holy Spirit would not be irritated forever, competing against these sinners on the Earth for endless ages to come.

The Lord Jesus remarked in Luke chapter 17: “[26] And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. [27] They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.” The parallel is Matthew chapter 24, “[37] But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. [38] For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, [39] And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”

Even before Noah’s 120-year ministry, Enoch had preached to the world. Genesis 5:18-24 introduces us to Enoch: “[18] And Jared lived an hundred sixty and two years, and he begat Enoch: [19] And Jared lived after he begat Enoch eight hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: [20] And all the days of Jared were nine hundred sixty and two years: and he died. [21] And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: [22] And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: [23] And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: [24] And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” (Noah was born later, in verses 28-29.)

Jude, in his little epistle, provides additional subsequent narrative, supplying information that the Holy Spirit through Moses left out in Genesis as pertaining to Enoch: “[14] And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, [15] To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” Enoch was a Bible teacher, a preacher, and he too warned of God’s coming judgment against sinners. Then, Noah was born and he began his preaching ministry, continuing what Enoch (and Methuselah) had done in decades previous.

Yea, the God of the Bible is loving and merciful. Nevertheless, His justice demands that His righteousness be enforced. Mankind had plenty of time to believe His Word to them during the centuries leading up to the Great Flood. In the case of Noah, God gave man an additional 120 years—the time it took to build the Ark. Noah surely had times of great discouragement. They made fun of him. They ignored him. After 120 years of preaching, Noah had a mere seven (!) converts—his wife, their three sons, and their three wives. First Peter 3:20: eight souls were saved by water.” Second Peter 2:5: “[God] spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness.” Just remember, God the Holy Spirit will not tolerate our world’s sin forever!

Also see:
» Can you explain Genesis 6:1-4?
» How did the Great Flood’s water save the eight souls in 1 Peter 3?
» How did the Israeli patriarchs resist the Holy Ghost?

Did Jesus ever claim to be God?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Skeptics of the true and full Deity of Jesus Christ argue that He never claimed to be God. Can we substantiate or refute their accusations? “For what saith the Scriptures?”

Concerning His temptations, we read in Matthew 4:5-7: “[5] Then the devil taketh him [Jesus Christ] up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, [6] And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. [7] Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” It is interesting that, in verse 7, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:16—with “Lord” synonymous with “LORD”/“JEHOVAH.” In other words, Jesus used the warning about tempting JEHOVAH God and told Satan he should not tempt Him. Why? He was JEHOVAH God in human flesh. The Lord Jesus took a passage about God and applied it to Himself. Jesus thought He was JEHOVAH God and He claimed He was JEHOVAH God. (See parallel, Luke 4:9-12.)

Matthew 9:2 reports: “And, behold, they brought to him [Jesus Christ] a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” “This man blasphemeth,” the audience said in verse 3. “Who can forgive sins but God only?” (Mark 2:7). Who alone can forgive sins? According to the witnesses, Jesus said He was God by forgiving the man’s sins.

Christ Jesus declared in Matthew 12:8, “For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.” (See the parallel verse, Mark 2:28.) The Sabbath Day honored JEHOVAH God (Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 20:8-11). Jesus Christ claimed that He was “Lord even of the sabbath day.” Who did Jesus believe He was? JEHOVAH God!

Turning to Matthew chapter 19: “[16] And, behold, one came and said unto him [Jesus Christ], Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? [17] And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” (See the parallel passage, Mark 10:17-19.) This man approached Jesus and addressed Him as, “Good Master.” Jesus inquired why he called Him “good,” seeing as to “there is none good but one, that is, God.” In other words, Jesus asked, “Are you calling Me ‘God?’” (This truth is obscured in modern English translations. Here is one of many reasons why we use the King James Bible!)

After Israel’s religious leaders unsuccessfully attempted thrice to trap Jesus in His words, He offered them a spiritual riddle (which they could not answer). Matthew chapter 22: “[41] While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, [42] Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The son of David. [43] He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, [44] The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? [45] If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? [46] And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.” (See parallels, Mark 12:35-37 and Luke 20:41-44.) The only way Jesus could be both “Lord” of David and “son” of David is if He were fully God (“Lord”) and fully Man (“son of David”). Of course, the unsaved religious leaders had the Old Testament Scriptures but no spiritual enlightenment because they chose to be ignorant.

Now, we get to the strongest passages on this subject. Matthew 26:63-66 is our first: “[63] But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. [64] Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. [65] Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. [66] What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.” (See parallels, Mark 14:61-64 and Luke 22:66-71.)

While various denominationalists vehemently reject the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, they still have these verses in their Bible versions (and they cannot deny it!). During Jesus’ trial, the high priest commanded Him to declare once and for all if He was “the Christ, the Son of God” (verse 63). Jesus replied, “Thou hast said” (verse 64)—paraphrased, “You have said it!” Still, Jesus added: “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (verse 64). The high priest was immediately outraged: he tore his garments and twice pronounced a charge, “Blasphemy!”

Evidently, what flustered the high priest was not so much Jesus’ reply “Thou hast said.” No, what deeply rattled him was that Jesus took it a step further: “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” The Lord did not have to say, “I am the Son of God,” to be accused of blasphemy. No, He merely had to declare, “You will see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” “Sitting on the right hand of power” was surely Messianic, as Psalm 110:1 predicted many centuries earlier that Christ would sit at the LORD’s right hand. Moreover, the “coming in the clouds of heaven” was especially inflammatory, as the high priest recalled Psalm 68:4: “Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH [JEHOVAH], and rejoice before him.”

It would be downright preposterous to say that Jesus never claimed to be God Himself. After all, Israel’s religious accused Him of blasphemy and purposed to put Him to death (see Leviticus 24:11-16)! They assumed He was making Himself to be God—otherwise they would not have bothered to execute Him!

Mark 11:17 reports: “And he [Jesus] taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.” The Jerusalem Temple, Jesus said, was my house.” In John 2:16, He said of the same Temple: “And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.” The Temple was both Jesus’ Temple and His Father’s Temple. Who was Jesus claiming to be, then? On whose behalf was He speaking?

On to John 5:17-18: “[17] But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. [18] Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.” Why do they want to take the life of Jesus? See, the unbelieving Jews are well aware of whom He declares to be. There is nothing difficult for them to understand, and if we let the verses speak (without wearing our denominational eyeglasses), we will see them for what they really say as well.

We read in John 8:58, “Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” Here is an interesting form of the verb “to be.” Jesus did not say, “Before Abraham was, I was.” No, He said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Why did He say it this specific way? Notice the cross-reference, Exodus 3:14: “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” This was JEHOVAH God speaking to Moses, and JEHOVAH said His name was, “I AM THAT I AM,” or the shortened form, “I AM.” John 8:58 is Jesus claiming to be the JEHOVAH God of Exodus 3:14! (By the way, the “Jehovah’s Witness” New World Translation says in John 8:58, “Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.” Furthermore, there is no Exodus 3:14 marginal reference—they know exactly what Jesus said, but they hide this truth from their readers and members so as to uphold their theological traditions.)

After Jesus healed the blind man, John 9:35-38 says: “[35] Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? [36] He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? [37] And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. [38] And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.” How could Jesus be a servant of the God of the Bible if He allowed someone to worship Him? Apparently, He assumed He deserved that worship. He believed He was the God of creation! (Compare Acts 10:25-26 and Revelation 19:10.) By the way, the 1901 American Standard Version has a footnote here that asserts Jesus was nothing but a mere “creature” and not at all the “Creator!” Friends, you cannot get more blasphemous than these “Bible translators!!!”

While Jesus walked in the Temple, He had an interesting conversation with unbelieving Israel in John 10:29-33: “[29] My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. [30] I and my Father are one. [31] Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. [32] Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? [33] The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.”

The cults emphasize verse 29—“Jesus said His Father is ‘greater than all,’ meaning Jesus is not God!” Yet, they deliberately skip verse 30 for obvious reasons—“I and my Father are one.” Both Jesus and Father God are one in Deity: both are fully God. How do we know this is what Jesus meant? Why, we read verses 31-33. “The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” Who did they believe Jesus claimed to be? (Years ago, I spoke with a friend brainwashed in a Deity-of-Christ-denying cult. His face turned red and he grew quite angry when his whole argument centered on verse 29 was demolished after I had him read verses 30 and 33!!! He refused to discuss the matter any further, and I politely left his presence. That was the last time we spoke in-person about Scripture.)

We read in John 19:6-7, at Jesus’ trial before Judaean Governor Pontius Pilate: “[6] When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. [7] The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.” (See Leviticus 24:11-16.) The only way they could justly put Jesus to death is if He had professed to be Deity! This is right along the lines of John 10:29-33 and John 5:17-18 (already discussed).

John 20:28 is our last Deity verse of Christ’s earthly ministry: “And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.” If Jesus were not God, then why did He allow Thomas to apply such titles to Him? Jesus should have said, “Thomas, do not called Me ‘my Lord’ and ‘my God.’ I am but a Man, and not God.” Why did Jesus not rebuke Thomas? Thomas’ words were warranted, highly appropriate; they needed no criticism! The “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” still endeavoring to maintain their church tradition, answers by arguing that Thomas uttered an expression of amazement. In other words, “O wow, O Lord, O God, Jesus, You really are alive! It actually is You!” This is a flimsy and wanting interpretation, as Thomas would have then been guilty of taking JEHOVAH’S name in vain (Exodus 20:7). Thomas would be worthy of death! There is no way Jesus would have let someone use God’s name so flippantly. It is for this reason that we reject the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” here as well.

“Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4).

Also see:
» “No man hath seen God at any time?”
» Why did Jesus say, “My God, my God?”
» Does it matter what Bible version I use?

What if I was never thanked?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Dear Christian friend, it is only natural to want to feel appreciated. If we do something kind or thoughtful for somebody, we expect a “thank you”—especially another Christian. Howbeit, that “thank you” may, unfortunately, never come. Perhaps there was ungratefulness or even envy that prevented such an expression of gratitude. Strange as it sounds, maybe the person is just not accustomed to thanking others. Regardless of the reason, how would God have us respond?

Saint, never forget, you will reap exactly what you sow—both in this life and the next. Galatians 6:7-9: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

That which is done in and through by Jesus Christ will result in something of eternal value, but that which is accomplished by anyone else is perpetually worthless. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, we will see once and for all the quality of service to Father God each of us Christians rendered as individuals. See 1 Corinthians 3:9-15, 2 Corinthians 5:9-10, and Romans 14:10-12. We do not have to worry if someone overlooks our kindheartedness. We do not have to fret because no human eyes witnessed what we did in secret. God saw, and that is that!

It is also extremely important never to boast, “Look what (how much) I did for the Lord! No one is more dedicated than I am!” Frankly, we have extremely limited understanding of exactly what occurred. Sin keeps us from properly evaluating situations. Even a Christian’s heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). Emotions can and frequently do deceive because they distort our perception of reality. Sin often fools us into thinking what we did was right when it was really wrong, and vice versa. Moreover, we do not have perfect recollection of what took place. While the outward activity appeared good, we could have had evil intentions (behaving to show off, to obtain the praise of men, to feel religious, and so on).

In light of the above, the Apostle Paul never wanted to judge even his own accomplishments as being acceptable or unacceptable. (We will read those verses shortly.) It is not so much what he did or how much he did it, but rather what was his spiritmental disposition—while doing it. What was his heart attitude when walking at any one point in his life and ministry? Was it God’s Word (sound Bible doctrine) working in him by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, or was it Paul in his own strength trying to imitate the life of Christ? This is a good question even for us, as the two can look identical (to us). Only God Almighty can fairly evaluate and determine the internal situation: He sees the difference between the genuine life of Christ and counterfeits (religious works). Sin is not in God’s mind to corrupt His thinking. Make no mistake; we can be absolutely sure in leaving those things for God to decide whether it is reward or loss of reward. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). Indeed, indeed, indeed, HE SHALL!

Second Corinthians 5:9-10 remarks, “[9] Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. [10] For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” We are not looking for man’s acceptance; we are looking for God’s acceptance. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). We are not seeking man’s approval but rather God’s approval.

Let us consider the case of the Corinthians. False teachers had entered Corinth and taught these saints how to be critical of Paul now that he was gone (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:6-21; 2 Corinthians 10:10-11, 2 Corinthians 12:15; 2 Corinthians 13:3). The Corinthians—whom Paul led out of paganism and to Jesus Christ—criticize the apostle because he was not part of the “in-crowd” of religion. Paul did not sound philosophical—using elaborate, flattering terminology to manipulate his audience (1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 11:6; Colossians 2:4,8). He did not put them under the Law like the legalists, Judaizers, denominationalists (2 Corinthians 11:13-22). By man’s standards, Paul preached a bizarre message and conducted a weird ministry!!! However, that did not matter because he was Christ’s minister. Christ Jesus his Master was the Person to whom he was ultimately responsible.

First Corinthians chapter 4: “[1] Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. [2] Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. [3] But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. [4] For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. [5] Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.”

According to verse 3, Paul considered it “no big deal” that the Corinthians were evaluating his performance. They were deceived, and yet they audaciously claimed they could rate truth and gauge proper Christian living?! Can immature believers honestly appraise the conduct of mature believers? Should children be critiquing adults’ performance?! Verses 3-4 again: “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.” What ultimately matters, dear friend, is that God knows the truth. He saw it all, and you can rest assured that your service to Him will not be overlooked. Be not concerned of man’s opinions about you!

Verse 5 once more: “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.” Why are there Christian good works in your life, dear brother or sister? Have you been striving to get the approbation of your fellow man? Well, you may just not get it! Have you been doing it all to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ? Was it sound doctrine working in you? Then, at the Judgment Seat of Christ, you will indeed have “praise of God!”

“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17).

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons” (Colossians 3:23-25).

“For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

Also see:
» Is it truly a good deed if done for selfish reasons?
» What are some verses to help me stop focusing on myself?
» What is the “fire” at the Judgment Seat of Christ?

Which hymns are appropriate for us grace believers to sing?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Which hymns are suitable for us to sing? How can we recognize high-quality Christian songs? Which melodies best communicate the doctrines of God’s Word rightly divided? Not “For what saith the hymnals?” but rather “For what saith the Scriptures?”

Hymns are a great way to express our understanding of Bible truths. Unfortunately, they can also be an excellent method whereby we advertise our Bible ignorance. People frequently spend more time in denominational teaching than sound Bible study. They rely on the minister to read and “explain” (?) the Bible to them, but they do not read by themselves. Oftentimes, the preacher was educated in religious tradition—not pure Bible—at his seminary or Bible College. Since he lacks solid theology, he transfers his erroneous views to his church members. They then write spiritual songs reflecting that denominational doctrine. Congregants everywhere sing those published hymns, thus further reinforcing and disseminating the faulty doctrine. Those songs inspire other denominational hymns. People spend more time singing and writing hymns than studying Scripture. (The cycle repeats and repeats and repeats through the decades and centuries.) Therefore, what they believe is often found in the hymnal but not in the Bible. Friends, we should exercise great caution here. Memorizing hymn verses and ignoring Scripture verses is spiritually hazardous!

We should sing only what is true. If we claim to be Christians, if we assert to have the truth, but we sing lies (false doctrine), then we discredit ourselves and become a reproach to the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Hymns should reinforce sound Bible doctrine (rightly divided Scripture); they should not teach error. This makes this whole matter of specious hymns most serious. Make no mistake: this is far from petty and pedantic!

Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:18-19 adds, “[18] And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; [19] Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;….” We should put God’s Word in our inner man first, and then that Word will express itself in songwriting and singing. Conversely, fallacious hymns are the result of a failure to study the Bible rightly divided. When the Holy Spirit is in control of our minds and hearts, then we will write and sing dispensationally-correct songs!

In this Bible study, we purpose to accomplish two goals. Firstly, we want to identify some of the more recognized hymns that are awkward. Secondly, we will offer possible enhancements to correct them. Please note that these changes are not original to this author; he is merely passing along discerning revisions that others have suggested through the years.

FACE-TO-FACE WITH CHRIST, MY SAVIOR” is a hymn that concerns meeting the Lord Jesus in the Rapture (our gathering together unto Him). It mentions in verse 2, “Only faintly now, I see Him, / With the darkling veil between, / But a blessed day is coming, / When His glory shall be seen.” Verse 3 reads, in part, “When the crooked ways are straightened, / And the dark things shall be plain.” These lyrics are then fed into 1 Corinthians 13:12. The Bible is thus said to be implying us entering Heaven when in fact the passage actually teaches the completion of the canon of Scripture. Unless we get this straight, we will force the Bible verse to say something it never said. It is better to just wholly disregard this hymn. The (God-inspired) Bible verse is more important than (man-inspired) hymn verse!!

Another religious song that is not conducive to learning and teaching sound Bible doctrine is “WE’LL UNDERSTAND IT BETTER BY AND BY.” The refrain is, “For we’ll understand it better by and by.” While it is true that we will understand all things in Heaven, it is self-defeating to sing praises to God to celebrate our current ignorance. How better it is to just discount this hymn altogether and go read the Bible to “understand better by and by!”

VICTORY IN JESUS” is a beautiful, old hymn but it promotes much worthless denominational teaching. Verse 1 says, in part: “I heard about His groaning, / Of His precious blood’s atoning, / Then I repented of my sins / And won the victory.” Instead of “Then I repented of my sins,” say, “Now I’m forgiven all my sins.” Today, there is simply too much confusion about repentance, and too little understanding of forgiveness. If we sing of forgiveness instead of repentance, we may suppress this spiritual mix-up. Its last two verses also can be modified to better reflect sound Bible doctrine. Verse 3 is greatly denominational.

Verse 2: “I heard about His healing, / Of His cleansing power revealing. / How He made the lame to walk again / And caused the blind to see; / And then I cried, ‘Dear Jesus, / Come and heal my broken spirit,’ / And somehow Jesus came and brought / To me the victory.” Verse 3: “I heard about a mansion / He has built for me in glory. / And I heard about the streets of gold / Beyond the crystal sea; / About the angels singing, / And the old redemption story, / And some sweet day I’ll sing up there / The song of victory.”

We could change verse 2 to read: “I heard about Paul’s message about the mystery, ‘Christ’s Body’ / How that Jesus Christ, the Living Head, He gave us liberty; / I heard that now His message of ‘Grace’ to all believers, it takes away the Law that was and gives the victory!” Verse 3 can altered to be: “I heard His resurrection gives hope to those who trust Him / I heard about that Blessed Hope to all who are in Him; / About our home in Heaven, and our bodies fashioned like His, / And I rejoice and shout ‘AMEN!’ We have the victory!”

THE CHURCH’S ONE FOUNDATION” is a song that claims that we the Church the Body of Christ are “his holy bride.” This is not true, and only confuses us with the nation Israel. “MARCHING TO ZION” is yet another hymn that blurs us with Israel. We need to skip this one completely as well. “THE OLD-TIME RELIGION” is quite inappropriate for us to sing, too. We do not have “religion;” yea, we do not want to go around singing a tune asking for religion. This will only confuse lost people listening to us. We want a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Christianity is not a religion; it is a relationship with Father God through Calvary’s finished crosswork!

ABIDE WITH ME” should not be sung. We have no need to ask the Lord to stay with us over and over again as this song would have us do. If we have trusted Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, believing in Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork as sufficient payment for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), God’s Holy Spirit indwells us and He will not (yea, never!) leave us. “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). Ephesians 1:13-14: “In whom [Christ] ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”

The hymn “BEULAH LAND” supposedly depicts Heaven. However, the Bible uses the term to explain the Earth, especially the Promised Land, when redeemed Israel enters her Millennial Kingdom. Isaiah 62:4: “Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.” This is land on Earth, not in Heaven! It is better to just abandon this hymn altogether. We are not looking to partake of Israel’s hope; we are looking for God’s heavenly kingdom (2 Timothy 4:18).

THE KINGDOM IS COMING” is an additional inaccurate hymn. We are not looking for God’s kingdom to come here; Israel is (Matthew 6:10). We are looking to go and be with Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17), not meet Him on the Earth (Job 19:25-27). “I’VE PITCHED MY TENT IN BEULAH” has the Christian singing as though he was once enslaved in Egypt and is now enjoying the Promised Land. This is downright preposterous because it has the Body of Christ claiming Israel’s history as its own. It is better to just disregard this hymn altogether. It is also best not to sing at all, “I AM BOUND FOR THE PROMISED LAND.” Heaven is not the Promised Land, and we do not need to steal Israel’s promises either. The song “IN THE GARDEN” has Jesus talking with the Christian on a daily basis. This can be misconstrued to mean that God speaks to us apart from His Word, the Holy Bible. It is better not to sing this hymn.

Although a good evangelistic song, “SEND THE LIGHT” says “we have heard the Macedonian call today.” In the Bible, the “Macedonian call” was the Apostle Paul’s vision in which he saw and heard a “man” inviting him to preach the Gospel in northern Greece (Acts 16:9-10). God uses no such supernatural experiences to lead us today. We have a completed Bible, so let us keep that Bible and toss out the mistaken hymns!

OLD-TIME POWER” features this chorus: “O Lord, send the power just now, / O Lord, send the power just now, / O Lord, send the power just now, / And baptize every one.” While probably sincere, the songwriter (like most) evidently believed our pattern is Acts chapter 2, the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the Jewish Messianic saints. There is nothing in Acts chapter 2 about us the Church the Body of Christ. Today’s Charismatics are wrong in that they keep trying to claim “the power of Pentecost” as their own—tongues, miracle healings, and other supernatural experiences. We do not need this so-called “baptism with the Holy Ghost.” There is a related hymn, “FALL FRESH ON ME,” containing the lyrics: “Spirit of the living God, Fall fresh on me, Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me. Break me, milk me, mold me, fill me.” It would be utterly inappropriate for us to sing this, too. Also, the hymn “BREATHE ON ME” should be fully skipped because it has us asking the Holy Spirit to breathe on us. What mystical silliness!

I KNOW WHOM I HAVE BELIEVED” is a grand ol’ song highlighting the wonderful Bible truth of security in Christ, but it has some glaring doctrinal mistakes. Verse 1 says: “I know not why God’s wondrous grace / To me He hath made known, / Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love / Redeemed me for His own.” And, verse 3: “I know not how the Spirit moves, / Convincing men of sin, / Revealing Jesus through the Word, / Creating faith in Him.” This is nothing but singing about our ignorance again. “I know not… I know not.” The Bible says we do know! Therefore, we had better change the words to “I know now!” (Otherwise, unsaved people listening to us will leave, claiming, “Ha, see they do not know spiritual truth either! I had better go elsewhere if I want to find God’s Word!”)

When “THE SOLID ROCK” says in verse 2, “When darkness veils His lovely face,” we should change that to “When darkness seems to veil His face.” Else, we start repeating Israel’s legalistic passages—God punishing her because of her failure to keep the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 31:17-18,20; Isaiah 8:17; Isaiah 59:1-2; Ezekiel 39:29; Micah 3:4).

Verse 3 now: “His oath, His covenant, His blood / Support me in the whelming flood; / When all around my soul gives way, / He then is all my hope and stay.” We are under no covenants in the Dispensation of Grace. This verse should be altered, possibly to read, “His love, His mercy, and His grace, / Support and help me run the race. / When all around my soul gives way, / He still is all my Hope and Stay.”

The original verse 4 says, “When He shall come with trumpet sound, / Oh, may I then in Him be found; / Dressed in His righteousness alone, / Faultless to stand before the throne.” It is better to say, “When He shall come with trumpet sound, / Oh yes I will in Him be found; / Dressed in His righteousness alone, / Faultless to stand before the throne.” We do not want to sing that we “may” be found in Christ. We have assurance of salvation in Christ, not wishful thinking (2 Timothy 1:12; 2 Corinthians 5:8).

BLESSED ASSURANCE” says, “angels descending, Bring from above echoes of mercy, whispers of love” in verse 2. We can get into major theological trouble here, for this is a gateway to the Charismatic Movement. Angels have no ministry to us today. We do not look for angels, and we do not listen for “echoes of mercy” and “whispers of love.” We read the Bible if we want to hear from God. It would be more proper for us to sing, “I have His Spirit living within, I am in Christ, and free from all sin.”

It is better to eliminate entirely verse 3 of “ARE YOU WASHED IN THE BLOOD?, which says: “When the Bridegroom cometh will your robes be white? / Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? / Will your soul be ready for the mansions bright, / And be washed in the blood of the Lamb?” This omission will keep us from again confusing ourselves with Israel and making her verses apply to us (Matthew 25:1-13; Matthew 9:14-17; John 14:2; et al.). Those passages are related to Christ’s Second Coming for Israel. They are not about His coming for us at the Rapture. Contrary to religious tradition, we are not the Bride of Christ and He is not our Groom. The Bible says we are the Body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23).

Verse 4 in some versions of “JESUS LOVES ME” says, “Jesus loves me! He will stay / Close by me all the way; / If I love Him when I die, / He will take me home on high.” This is highly unfortunate and actually heretical. We do not go to Heaven because we “love Jesus” when we die. This is nothing but works-religion. We go to Heaven because we have trusted in His blood sacrifice on the cross as sufficient payment for our sins (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 4:1-5; Titus 3:5)!

The two hymns “LET JESUS COME INTO YOUR HEART” and “LET HIM IN” promote a perverted interpretation of Revelation 3:20. This Bible verse is not about lost people letting Jesus into their heart so they can be saved unto eternal life. It rather discusses Jewish kingdom believers waiting in Israel’s program for Christ’s Second Coming to set up their kingdom on Earth. “REDEEMED” has a fourth verse, “I know I shall see in His beauty The King in whose law I delight….” We can sing this song, but it is better to skip this verse completely because it too applies to Christ’s Second Coming and Israel’s Millennial Kingdom (Isaiah 33:17).

BURIED WITH CHRIST” features the chorus: “Buried with Christ and dead unto sin; / Dying but living, Jesus within; / Ruling and reigning day after day, / Guiding and keeping all of the way.” This would be better worded, “Buried with Christ and dead unto sin; / Dying but living, Jesus within; / Rightly dividing God’s Word today / Jesus revealed His truth in this way.”

You may retain verse 1 of the hymn “UNSEARCHABLE RICHES,” but use verses 2 and 3 as written by Grace saints. (verse 2) “Oh, the unsearchable riches of Christ, / From other ages concealed. / Now, through the message of Grace He has given / These precious truths are revealed!” (verse 3) “His secret purpose He wants us to know, / Hidden no longer His plan. / Members of Christ, and His Body are we, / Highest of callings for man!”

SHOWERS OF BLESSING” has us the saints singing, “Showers of blessing, / Showers of blessing we need: / Mercy-drops round us are falling, / But for the showers we plead.” How totally unwarranted it is for us Christians to ask God for “showers of blessing!” Ephesians 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” God has given us everything in Christ—we are “complete [lacking nothing] in Him” (Colossians 2:10). Now, we go around begging Him to give more?! Preposterous! Additionally, “showers of blessing” is a quotation of Ezekiel 34:26, “And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing.” These are not figurative showers as the hymn implies; they are literal rain, for the context shows vegetation growing. This is Christ’s Millennial Kingdom; it is Israel’s verse, not ours. And, there are no “mercy-drops!!”

STANDING ON THE PROMISES” has the following lyrics in verse 3: “Standing on the promises I now can see / Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me; / Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free, / Standing on the promises of God.” And verse 5: “Standing on the promises I shall not fall, / Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call. / Resting in my Savior as my All in all, / Standing on the promises of God.”

We can enhance verse 3 to read: “Standing on the promises I now can see, / Romans through Philemon written just to me; / Standing fast in liberty Christ makes me free, / Standing on the promises of God.” We should not be “listening every moment to the Spirit’s call” as verse 5 implies. The Holy Spirit is not speaking to us apart from His Bible! Long ago, some Grace brethren changed verse 5 to read, “Standing on the promises, I shall not fall / Following the pattern of Apostle Paul / Resting in my Saviour who accomplished all / Standing on the promises of God.”

There is a hymn known as “THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD,” which is largely Psalm 23 paraphrased and expanded. While Psalm 23 is God’s Word, we have no need to sing it; it is literal truth to be sung in a future time, after our Dispensation of Grace.

JESUS LOVES EVEN ME” says, “If one should ask of me, how can I tell? / Glory to Jesus, I know very well! / God’s Holy Spirit with mine doth agree, / Constantly witnessing Jesus loves me.” It would be better worded as follows: “If one should ask of me, how can I tell? / Glory to Jesus, I know very well! / The Holy Bible has shown me the key, / Rightly dividing what’s written to me!”

A grace brother, Pastor Ted Fellows, added verse 5 to the hymn, “THE BIBLE STANDS.” He wrote, “The Bible stands in the King James Version, / There it’s been preserved for me; / God’s Word in English, and without error, / And my final authority!”

THERE’S A SWEET, SWEET SPIRIT IN THIS PLACE” emphasizes the Lord’s presence as some Spirit who mysteriously floats around and hovers over an assembly. This is nothing but vain superstition (also Charismatic/Pentecostal-oriented). We have no reason to sing it. The Holy Spirit lives inside us the believers in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Timothy 1:14). God, according to Scripture, does not live in manmade church buildings (Acts 17:24)!!

Finally, some of our most beloved Christmas hymns are in error. “WE THREE KINGS OF ORIENT ARE” declares there were three wise men and yet the Bible never says how many visited young Jesus. We do not know if they were kings, either. “THE FIRST NOEL” contains a similar error. Furthermore, it has the wise men visiting Jesus at the time of the shepherds, which the Bible does not support. This is all just vain religious tradition. The wise men visited Jesus in Nazareth when He was as much as two years old (Matthew 2:1-16) whereas the shepherds visited Him in Bethlehem when He was a newborn Baby (Luke 2:1-20). Martin Luther’s “AWAY IN A MANGER” song claims, “Be near me, Lord Jesus, / I ask Thee to stay / Close by me forever, / And love me, I pray.” Again, this is useless. Jesus Christ does not leave Christians.


Titus 2:1 instructs us, “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine.” It is therefore only appropriate that we speak (and, by extension, sing) that which fits, or is in accordance with, sound Bible doctrine. This Bible study was an attempt to provide insight into how we not only believe sound Bible doctrine but also how we should actually work it into hymns. Our hymnals should be an aid in teaching rather than an aid in confusing.

Of course, this list is not exhaustive. Many lesser-known hymns, songs that that this author is not familiar with, could have been added and corrected here. What of those we have not covered in this study? (Are the modern “Contemporary Christian” songs any good? Usually not, as they are doctrinally shallow. Be extremely cautious here.) Friend, you will have to take God’s Word rightly divided and decide for yourself which songs are inappropriate for you (and/or your congregation) to sing. Use your renewed mind to write your own lyrics to replace doctrinally-deficient ones. If you have any background in music, you are strongly encouraged to compose brand-new dispensational songs that will glorify our Lord Jesus Christ (and reinforce sound Bible doctrine for hearers—saved and lost alike).

Dear saints, in closing, remember that the Bible is the standard. We get hymns from the Bible; we do not get the Bible from hymns. God the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible; He did not inspire hymns, no matter how beautiful, moving, or popular they are. The “good ol’ hymns,” “great songs of the faith,” are indeed our heritage—our link to the saints of God of centuries past—but our allegiance belongs first and foremost to the Holy Scriptures. We should be more fearful of changing the Bible to fit the hymns than altering the hymns to fit the Bible. The hymns are the creations of men; the Bible is the Word of Almighty God. I would rather correct the hymns than trade God’s eternal words for men’s temporal words. What about you?

Also see:
» Should I raise my hands in worship?
» Did David dance vulgarly?
» What is wrong with “praise and worship?”

Should we call a minister “reverend?”


by Shawn Brasseaux

No! While a common religious title, it actually is quite blasphemous to call a mere man “reverend.” The word appears once in the English (King James) Bible text, but it applies solely to Godnot a mortal man! Psalm 111:9: “He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.”

The Hebrew word is rendered various ways elsewhere—“fear” (188 times), “afraid” (78 times), “terrible” (23 times), “terrible thing” (6 times), “dreadful” (5 times), “reverence” (3 times), “fearful” (2 times), “terrible acts” (1 time), and so on. Not only is JEHOVAH God’s name “holy” (set apart from all others), it is also “reverend” (instilling awe, terror, and respect). However, religion has watered down this majestic term to apply it to clergy (feeble, failing men).

In fact, observe this note found in The Oxford English Dictionary: “As a title Reverend is used for members of the clergy; the traditionally correct form of address is the Reverend James Smith or the Reverend J. Smith, rather than Reverend Smith or simply Reverend. Other words are prefixed in titles of more senior clergy: bishops are Right Reverend, archbishops are Most Reverend, and deans are Very Reverend.”

To be frank, these titles are nothing but empty obsequiousness. They are given to flattered people who belong to religious systems that exalt the creature above the Creator. It is no different than assigning the label “Holy Father” to a fallible man (Roman Catholic pope) when it too applies solely to God. The Lord Jesus Christ prayed in John 17:11: “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” In fact, even the religious title “father” is blasphemous. Jesus Christ declared in Matthew 23:9: “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” Religious tradition tosses all these verses aside.

It is most appropriate to use Bible titles for church leaders—“pastor” (Ephesians 4:11), “bishop” (1 Timothy 3:2), “deacon” (1 Timothy 3:8), “teacher” (Ephesians 4:11), “elder” (1 Timothy 5:17), or “evangelist” (Ephesians 4:11).

Also see:
» Are there modern-day apostles and prophets?
» Which is the correct title—pastor or bishop?
» But what if they read the Bible at my church…?!

Does Acts 22:16 teach that water baptism washes away sins?


by Shawn Brasseaux

“And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Ananias told Saul of Tarsus these words shortly after the latter’s conversion. Is it really true that water baptism can wash away our sins (as in Roman Catholicism)? How are we to handle this part of God’s Word?! Not “For what saith the preacher?” or “For what saith the denomination?,” but rather “For what saith the Scriptures?”

In Acts chapter 22, the Apostle Paul is in Jerusalem giving his testimony before the Jews. Historically, his conversion occurred some 25 years earlier (in chapter 9), but we must go to chapters 22 and 26 to get further details. Notice the following in chapter 22:

“[12] And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, [13] Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. [14] And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. [15] For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. [16] And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”

In order to understand verse 16, it helps to view it from the perspective of the speaker. Paul is quoting Ananias. Ananias, according to verse 12, is “a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there.” He is a believing Jew, someone who has recognized and believed on Jesus as Messiah/Christ. Ananias understands the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Read from Acts chapter 9 now: “[10] And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. [11] And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, [12] And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. [13] Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: [14] And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. [15] But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: [16] For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake. [17] And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.”

Ananias does not know Paul’s Gospel or any Pauline doctrine. He does not know about Calvary as good news—especially for Gentiles. He does not know any dispensational changes have occurred other than Saul being God’s chosen vessel to the Gentiles (verse 15). Saul was an idolater in the eyes of Ananias, and he needed to be cleansed from idolatry like Ezekiel said in Ezekiel 36:25, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.” This is God promising to cleanse Israel of her idol worship. John the Baptist conducted his ministry under such instructions. This is the Gospel of the Kingdom. All Ananias knows is the Gospel of the Kingdom. Notice Acts 2:38: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” This was based on Jesus’ words in Mark 16:15-16: “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”

As far as Ananias is concerned, Saul needs to be water baptized for the remission of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. This was all done for Ananias’ benefit rather than Paul’s. Paul was already a justified man (it happened outside of Damascus), but God had him visit Ananias (in Damascus) so as to show the Little Flock that Saul was now a follower of Jesus Christ. Such a radical transformation needed abundant proof. Paul, already a member of the Body of Christ, had the indwelling Holy Spirit and forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:13-14; Ephesians 4:30; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14). Ananias does not know this though—he knows nothing about the Body of Christ, nothing about the Dispensation of Grace, nothing about salvation and forgiveness of sins apart from Israel’s program. God will let Ananias operate with Saul in such a special way so as to not damage Ananias’ spiritual edification.

Remember, prior to Saul’s salvation, water baptism was simply something a believer in Jesus Christ did. John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter and the 11, et cetera, had all been water baptized and had ministries that endorsed water baptism. Unless Saul followed in like manner, he would be discredited (by either members of the Little Flock, believing Israel, or apostate Israel, unsaved Jews). Up to that point, water baptism had played an integral part of God’s program with Israel. To not be water baptized meant a person was expressing unbelief! (It would hinder Ananias unless he water baptized Paul, so God allowed Paul’s water baptism.)

Turn to Luke 7:29-30: “[29] And all the people that heard him [John the Baptist], and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. [30] But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.” Verse 30 was true of the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus during Christ’s earthly ministry (Matthew through John) and all the way until Acts chapter 9. Saul was an unbeliever, and all the Little Flock knew it because he refused to participate in John’s water baptism. When Saul met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts chapter 9), however, it only made sense for him to be water baptized. Acts is written for Israel’s benefit, that they see how God set them aside after they refused to believe His Son. Paul’s water baptism entered the record of Scripture in Acts so as to bear witness of his conversion.

“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). The blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins, so is it possible for water to take away sins?! Of course not!! Physical water molecules cannot remove spiritual stains!! Even in Israel’s program (like ours), the shed blood of Jesus Christ is how sins are cleansed. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1:7). “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood(Revelation 1:5). “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Water baptism for those in Israel’s prophetic program was the outward testimony of an inward trust in God. It was a symbol or sign of inward cleansing or purifying. It demonstrated to Ananias (and all other members of the Little Flock) that Saul of Tarsus was a believer in and servant of Jesus Christ, though Saul was saved apart from Israel’s program (more on this later). Again, this is highly important because Acts chapter 22 is Paul giving his testimony to the Jews in Jerusalem. When he shared that same testimony with Gentile King Agrippa in chapter 26, he made no such reference to Ananias and his water baptism. A Gentile did not need to know such information; however, a Jew did. God had Paul be water baptized so he could talk about it years later to Jews in Acts chapter 22.

John chapter 3 shows us water baptism conveyed the issue of purification: “[25] Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. [26] And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.” The meaning behind water baptism is found in 1 Peter 3:21: “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:….” Again, water baptism represents an inward issue. For those in Israel’s prophetic program, it was the outward testimony of an inward trust in God. It was an expression of their faith. If Saul were not water baptized, he would be perceived as (still being) an opponent of Jesus Christ. Go back to Luke 7:29-30 if necessary.

By the way, there is a strange idea in some theological circles that Paul was actually saved by two Gospels. It is argued, on the basis of Acts 22:16, that Paul was first saved unto eternal life following Acts 2:38 (the Gospel of the Kingdom). Paul was allegedly saved a second time, justified a second time, by believing the Gospel of the Grace of God. This is absolutely silly and completely unnecessary. If one is justified before God unto eternal life, there is no purpose in a second justification. One cannot be forgiven of all sins twice. This is impossible. Righteousness does not need to be imputed twice. That is downright foolish.

Paul was the first member of the Church the Body of Christ, and like us, he believed the Gospel of the Grace of God. Notice 1 Timothy 1:15-16: “[15] This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. [16] Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” Something new began with Paul. His salvation, justification, had absolutely nothing to do with Israel’s program. There was no New Covenant with him. There was no kingdom of priests for him. There was no earthly reign with him. There was no Law-keeping with him. Paul is our pattern; we are saved however he was saved. Have we been justified twice? Then neither was Paul justified twice! Have we believed two Gospel messages for salvation? Then neither did Paul believe two Gospels! Did water baptism wash away our sins? Then neither did it wash away Paul’s sins!

The “Jewish” events surrounding Paul’s salvation and Acts ministry were especially designed to communicate doctrine to Israel—particularly unbelieving Israel. Paul was water baptized, and he water baptized some of his converts. He spoke with tongues. He healed the sick and raised the dead. He physically circumcised Timothy. Why? God was proving to Israel that He was moving away from them and their prophetic program. Paul was God’s replacement for Peter (whose ministry had done those things). When the Acts transitional period ended, so did God’s provoking ministry to Israel. For more information, consider the studies linked below.

Also see:
» Can you explain Paul’s “Acts” ministry?
» Why does the Book of Acts end so abruptly?
» Why was water baptism necessary in Israel’s program?

Can you explain 1 Corinthians 14:36?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Why is 1 Corinthians 14:36 part of Scripture? Notice what it says: “What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?” It is best to look at this verse by pairing it with the next two: “[37] If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. [38] But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.”

Paul the Apostle—or rather the Holy Spirit through Paul—is concluding a three-chapter discussion of spiritual gifts. Chapter 12, verse 1, had already introduced it: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.”

The Corinthians have been led to believe that experiences and emotions are the validating criteria of spiritual truth. In other words, they are the Charismatics of today. They are abusing spiritual gifts, although they believe that the Holy Spirit is guiding them. Actually, their sinful flesh is operating in Corinth, not the Spirit of God. The Corinthians are immature in their thinking and behavior. “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men” (1 Corinthians 14:20). “[1] And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. [2] I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. [3] For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).

Chapters 12–14 are thus written to correct the thinking of these “ignorant brethren.” After thoroughly outlining the operation of the spiritual gifts (chapter 12), and their temporary nature (chapter 13), the Holy Spirit takes much time and space in chapter 14 to address two particular issues. The Corinthians are ignoring the gift of prophesying (preaching) and focusing almost entirely on the gift of tongues. As that final chapter of the “spiritual gifts” section winds down, we come across some summary verses.

“[36] What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? [37] If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. [38] But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.”

This passage underscores the issue of authority. Who is the authority in Corinth? Is it the Greek philosophers that have misled these saints? Or, is it the women who are trying to take control? Perhaps the tongues-speakers are the authority? Those with the supernatural experiences and wild emotions? None of them! The authority is the Word of God, the Holy Bible.

“What? came the word of God out from you?” This rhetorical question is intended to make the Corinthians think. Did they originate God’s Word? No, Paul brought God’s Word to them (Acts chapter 18). They are not the authority; therefore, they need to pay attention to God’s Word here and reform!

“Or came it unto you only?” God’s Word did not come to them only. They were not the issue. The emphasis should not be on them, and yet they have been using spiritual gifts to draw attention to themselves. God’s Word is for the benefit of everyone, not just a select few who exercise “showy” spiritual gifts. They need to stop being so selfish and fleshly.

“If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” If someone is speaking on God’s behalf (“prophet”), if someone is led by the Holy Spirit (“spiritual”), then he or she will listen to the inspired words of the Apostle Paul here. These are not Paul’s opinions; they are “the commandments of the Lord.” To refuse the advice in 1 Corinthians 12–14 is to snub God’s instructions!

Paul is God’s spokesman to us Gentiles, “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13). The Lord Jesus Christ directly selected him to be His speaker to us. Paul alone has been granted apostolic authority that we may know the things of God as pertaining to us outside of the nation Israel and her prophetic/earthly program. What is the Dispensation of the Grace of God to us? What about the mystery program and God’s purpose and plan for the heavenly places? What is God’s will for the Church the Body of Christ? We apprehend this information by listening to the Holy Spirit’s words found in the Pauline epistles, Romans through Philemon. “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward” (Ephesians 3:1-2).

“But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” Verse 38 is a stinging reproof. Although these three chapters of 1 Corinthians 12–14 were supplied to defeat spiritual ignorance, some Christians would still refuse to listen. They would choose to remain uninformed in order to continue doing what they wanted to do. To wit, they had already decided to keep their vain religion, and would not be persuaded—even by God Himself! They would keep claiming for themselves the authority that Almighty God had given to the Apostle Paul. Millions of Christians are like this even today. Once they see dispensational Bible study, they avoid it because it threatens their denominational system. So as to retain their preconceived theological traditions, they willfully ignore Paul’s apostleship. If they refuse to listen to us as we gently and lovingly guide them in the Scriptures rightly divided, the Bible says we need to leave them alone. There are plenty of other people for us to reach!

Also see:
» What is 1 Corinthians 12:3 talking about?
» Why do people get angry when we share right division?
» Must one be a “King James Bible Pauline dispensationalist” to have eternal life?

Is there a geographical error in 2 Kings 2:2?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Second Kings chapter 2 opens with: “[1] And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. [2] And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel.”

Gilgal is situated in the (low-lying) Jordan River Valley, just north of the Dead Sea. Prophets Elijah and Elisha leave Gilgal and “went down to Bethel” (verse 2). However, as any Bible atlas shows, Bethel is in mountainous terrain—some 3,000 feet higher than Gilgal! Is there is a problem with the Bible text here? No.

There is a second Gilgal, also known as Jiljilia (or modern Jiljulieh). It is roughly halfway (4 miles or 6 kilometers, either way) between Bethel and Shiloh. (It is northwest of the Gilgal located in the Jordan floodplain.) Jiljilia is likely the Gilgal of 2 Kings 2:2 and 4:38. It was at a higher elevation than Bethel, so the Scriptures are correct in saying “went down to Bethel” from Gilgal. The Gilgal of the Jordan River is something else entirely, as leaving there would have required going up to Bethel.

Friends, it is always important that we keep the following in mind when critiquing the Bible’s geographic data. Locations today cannot always be identified with absolute precision—especially ancient places and names. Physical landscapes changing because of natural forces, names being revised due to cultural influences, and so on, are factors in complicating the pinpointing of exact locations. Even in Bible days, multiple locations shared one name (as in Gilgal), and one location had several names (specific, regional, colloquial, former, latter, et cetera). If we are going to be honest with the Bible, we should give it the benefit of the doubt. Rather than immediately dismissing a verse as wrong, we should research it. Without fail, we will see we are wrong because we had limited knowledge of the situation. The problem does not lie in the Scripture; the problem lies in us!

Saints, please remember us in your monthly giving—these websites do cost money to run! 🙂 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:
» Is the King James word “borrow” a mistranslation in Exodus 3:22?
» Is Israel “cast away,” or not? Has Israel “fallen,” or not?
» Does the Bible contain a contradiction about Solomon’s molten sea?