Monthly Archives: February 2019

Must I have a degree in music to sing or play an instrument at a local church?

MUST I HAVE A DEGREE IN MUSIC TO SING OR PLAY AN INSTRUMENT AT A LOCAL CHURCH?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Sadly, some have indeed been turned away from music in a local assembly or singing in its choir because they lacked formal training (a college degree, professional tutoring). This is an example of using human viewpoint to gauge church matters. (It is no different from the self-absorbed declaration, “You cannot preach at our church unless you have graduated from our denomination’s seminary or Bible College!”)

It is quite advantageous to have some familiarity with music if you so choose to become involved with a local church’s music ministry. Someone may say, “I can play the piano, but not that well.” Another may declare, “I sing solo—‘so low’ so others cannot hear.” In fact, this author will be quite bold in writing the following. As with some people who should not be teaching and yet are, there are some people who should not be singing and yet are. (It does not matter how many advanced degrees they have!!) If there is no underlying sound Bible doctrine, they would do themselves and others much good by staying quiet until they learn the truth instead of singing erroneous material. (Please see our “appropriate hymns” study linked at the end of this article.)

Colossians 3:16: 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: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord….” As long as our heart attitude is right (faith in God’s Word rightly divided, not showing off or seeking worship ourselves), and we are singing or playing music in accordance with grace doctrine, this is really all that our Heavenly Father requires concerning a music ministry. God surely does not mind “amateurs.” As long as we are playing or singing from the heart, that is all that matters. God the Holy Spirit can sense our motives; let Him be the Judge, for He will surely do right!

The author is reminded of a time, many years ago, when one of his former pastors claimed a particular man in the assembly “was not a good singer.” However, the pastor would never insult the man to his face; rather, he would let the man sing at music time but spoke about it behind his back to other church members. The pastor prided himself as a professional, accomplished singer. Recently, this author learned that the pastor is now suffering from dementia. Failing memory caused him to retire from preaching and then from singing. He cannot remember how to sing or preach! As for the brother “who could not sing,” he is a friend of the author. The man is a Christian, and he undoubtedly loves the Lord and His Word. While not formally trained in music, he ultimately sang for the Lord’s pleasure. It made no difference if some condescending, fleshly preacher approved. Keep that in mind, friend!

As for those who seek man’s approval concerning any ministry in the church, we close with two verses. Firstly, “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God(Luke 16:15). Secondly, “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:
» What if I was never thanked?
» Which hymns are appropriate for us grace believers to sing?
» What is wrong with “praise and worship?”

Are the flames of fire in Hell literal?

ARE THE FLAMES OF FIRE IN HELL LITERAL?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Scripture describes Hell as “everlasting fire.” For instance, “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). Celebrated “Christian” preachers and teachers have wondered—and even publicly questioned—whether these are literal descriptions or merely figures of speech. They say that, contrary to popular belief, Hell may not necessarily be actual flames (as we would think of, say, a furnace or campfire). Perhaps, they suggest, the word “fire” really describes the burning remorse and searing emotional pain of being separated from God forever. Is that so? “For what saith the Scriptures?”

No doubt, the Bible does employ figures of speech. “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Surely “Lamb” is a figure of speech. Was Jesus an actual wool-bearing creature? No (obviously). “Lamb” describes His character as opposed to bodily appearance. Christ said in Luke 13:32, “Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.” King Herod was certainly not a bushy-tailed animal in outward form; he was a sly, foxlike person in personality. However, when we come to the issue of Hell and its “fire” in Scripture, a figure of speech does not appear to be the case.

Friends, we should be careful never to allegorize or spiritualize the Bible (“it says this, but it really means that”). Such examples would be, “The word ‘Israel’ is actually ‘the Body of Christ,’” “‘Jerusalem’ really means your hometown,” and so on. This is nothing but employing (limited) human reasoning to make sense of (profound) Divine thoughts. It will never work and it will never get us to Bible truth; we must let the Holy Spirit teach us, and not human philosophers (1 Corinthians 2:1-16)!

In Luke chapter 16, we read (Christ speaking): “[19] There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: [20] And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, [21] And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. [22] And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; [23] And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. [24] And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.”

The rich man’s physical body was buried in the ground on Earth’s surface (verse 22). While Lazarus (poor) was not buried, he nevertheless is physically dead as well. Yet, in spirit form, both are still very much alive and conscious of their surroundings. The rich man’s soul is thirsty, as he is “tormented in this flame” (verse 24). He desires Lazarus to dip his finger in water and give him some relief. If this thirst were a “thirst for God” (as the feel-good preachers claim), what then are we to make of Lazarus dipping his finger in “water?” That would not make sense! Lazarus was to get some of God’s presence and bring it to the rich man’s soul? How exactly was Lazarus to ease burning remorse and searing emotional pain? No, there is an actual soul involved, there is an actual flame involved, and there is actual water involved—except they are in the spirit world. There is more than searing emotional pain going on here. An external source troubles a soul in Hell.

In the material world, physical fire inflicts injury on physical skin, and physical water quenches physical fire. Likewise, in the spiritual world, there is spiritual fire that inflicts injury on man’s spiritual makeup, and spiritual water quenches that spiritual fire. We can understand that only to some degree, as we have not experienced it ourselves. Nevertheless, the Bible says it and we should believe it. The soul has fingers, and they can be dipped into spiritual water just as we can dip our physical fingers in physical water. As our physical eyes see, so our souls can see. Otherwise, “eyes” in the passage is nonsense as well. Our souls have tongues as well. They have memory. (Scary to say the least!)

“[25] But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. [26] And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. [27] Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: [28] For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. [29] Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. [30] And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. [31] And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”

People are not sorry when they die and go to Hell. They do not want anything to do with God then just as they do not want anything to do with Him now. The rich man did not ask for forgiveness, he did not confess his sins or apologize for anything he did. All he wanted was his way, even if it meant arguing with God’s man Abraham! In Hell, lost souls are completely given over to sin. There is no limit to their hatred for God; it is endless. They are not remorseful for what they have done but they are sorry for getting caught (sorry for now suffering severely and endlessly). There is unfathomable emotional trauma in Hell, no doubt, painful memories of rejecting the Gospel, but there is much more pain than that.

Let us turn to Mark chapter 9 for amplification (Christ speaking again): “[43] And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: [44] Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. [45] And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: [46] Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. [47] And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: [48] Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. [49] For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. [50] Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.”

In the spirit world, fire does not consume—it preserves (verses 49-50)! This is where it is unlike the physical world, wherein fire eradicates. Like physical salt preserves meat, spiritual fire conserves souls. Remember Exodus chapter 3? “The bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed” (verse 2). The LORD God in His wisdom has invented a fire that does not annihilate; it can burn continually and whatever it burns can thus burn forever as well. Souls are endlessly tormented in Hell. The suffering never ends, and the fire is never quenched (verses 44,46,48). Their “worm”—or weakening soul—never passes out of existence. Sin continually distorts them, disfiguring them further and further, but they are just as aware of their surroundings as ever before. Indeed, it is horrible, but sin has a penalty—and it is eternal!

Thankfully, the God of the Bible loved us, and sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins, to be our sacrifice, our fully-satisfying payment, that we not be sacrificed in Hell. We do not have to go to Hell unless we want to do so! Friend, come by faith in Christ alone to Almighty God, and be forgiven and saved for Hell today… before it is too late!

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). You may also read all of Romans chapter 3.

Also see:
» How can a loving God send people to Hell forever?
» Is Luke 16:19-31 a parable?
» Why is Hell forever if life on Earth is but decades?

Is it normal for me to be too busy for daily Bible reading?

IS IT NORMAL FOR ME TO BE TOO BUSY FOR DAILY BIBLE READING?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“I am a grace Christian. I really do want to read the Bible but I always feel like I don’t have time or I’m too busy. Is that normal? I certainly make time for other things in my life.”

Christian friend, it is “normal” in the sense of being widespread but not “normal” in the sense of being desirable. Most people are simply too busy to read the Bible every day—let alone study it. Sadly, it is true even of a majority of professing Christians. Indeed, they spare time to watch a daily news program or television show, they have time to read their favorite book or magazine, they make time for gossiping or texting on the phone, they have time to browse social media websites, but they do not seem to have even five minutes to spare for God to speak to them in His Word. Honestly, this is why their Christian lives are not functioning properly—if at all. No wonder they make innumerable poor decisions! No surprise they are weak in the faith! No wonder they are easily deceived, hopping from group to group and idea to idea!

Friends, a simple illustration will profit us much here. Imagine a soldier about to enter the battlefield. He simply does not have time to put on his armor. It is too laborious gathering and donning all that gear. In haste, he arrives on the battleground. He did not even bother to waste time taking a sword either. In fact, his only defense is bare hands and everyday clothing! This is most ludicrous, right? And yet, we thus enter the spiritual battlefield every day—and most of us scarcely have a shirt and a pair of pants! There are no helmet, no sword, no breastplate, no shield, no shoes, and no belt. We are sure to be injured spiritually, invisibly (our wounds will not be immediately evident). Satan’s evil world system will indeed taint us that day. We do not know what the God of the Bible, the Creator, said about life’s particular situations. Therefore, when we face those situations, we lean on our own understanding. There will undeniably be trouble, whether near-term or long-term, there will be misfortune!

Let us try another basic illustration. Are you too busy to eat? (It sounds silly, but just follow the logic.) Why do you take time to eat, friend? There are so many other things to do every day! Skip eating entirely. Again, what nonsense! Just as the outward part of us wastes away without physical nourishment, the inward part of us wastes without spiritual nourishment. God’s Word feeds our soul and spirit, lest they starve.

Quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, Jesus Christ rightly observed in Matthew 4:4: “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Without the inspired Word of God influencing our mind every day, the evil world system will corrupt it! Millions of Christians in history can testify to that—trapped in denominations, spiritual darkness, impotency. Billions of lost people alive right now are proof of that. Their souls are severely malnourished; their lives are either ruined or nearly so. There are misery, heartbreak, and headache. Oh, dear friend, if you could be spared this, this author would make the decision for you! Alas, you have free will, and you will have to make the choice yourself. It is your spiritual health and safety on the line—not his.

Hebrews 5:11-14 says: “[11] Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. [12] For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. [13] For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. [14] But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Israel is so pathetically ignorant of God’s truth here. She was to be God’s teacher of the nations, but she herself has never submitted to being taught herself. Her ignorance, in reality, led to her rejecting and crucifying God’s Son on Calvary’s cruel cross. She was too busy learning error, false religion, and it had devastating effects still affecting her (and the world) today. See Romans chapters 9-11.

We could take it a step further though. Read Genesis chapter 3. A failure to know and understand sound Bible doctrine led Adam and Eve to produce the deplorable world we see today. Do you see the children with horrific birth defects? The elderly stooping for age? Do you notice the carnivorous animals attacking the injured and helpless? The homeless people living on the streets? Broken homes? Divorces? Abuses? Miseries? Tragedies? That was Adam’s deliberate choice to introduce sin—and we are still suffering the effects of his lack of sound Bible doctrine. He was too busy following his wife than following the LORD God! Please, oh please, see the danger you are in by claiming you are “too busy” for daily Bible reading and study. Difficulties are sure to come, deception is sure to come, and debilitation is sure to come! Spare yourself, friend, spare yourself while you still have a chance.

Daily Bible reading and daily Bible study are essential for proper spiritual growth. Take Psalm 1, for instance: “[1] Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. [2] But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. [3] And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. [4] The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. [5] Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. [6] For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”

Notice the simile in verse 3. The idea is nourishment. As a tree requires fertilizer, water, and sunlight to develop, so the spiritual aspect of the man will flourish when he knows and understands God’s Word. There is spiritual life, not spiritual death. There is functional life, not functional death. He is the exact opposite of the dismal spiritual condition found in Hebrews 5:11-14. Not weak, he is strong. He is bearing fruit—good works. Dozens of pages could be written here, but these will suffice.

CONCLUSION

It is the challenge we all face at one point—to have some time for daily Bible reading and study. Yes, it is a problem now more than ever because of all the new technology, activities to distract us, and so on. Life is about choices, and what is most important is we make right choices now—because good and bad alike, they will affect us in the short-term and long-term. Whatever we believe underlies our choices. That goes for everyone. However, if we know not the truth, we cannot believe it, so that means we are making decisions based on erroneous information. Let us give special attention to Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. Be quite familiar with Romans overall.

Remember, friend, daily Bible reading and study do not involve three or four hours every day. That is preference and accommodation to one’s unique schedule (and it varies from person to person). We have jobs, families, and so on that are important. These priorities should not be neglected. However, we must make time—10, 20, or 30 minutes, for instance—for the Bible every day if we are to survive and overcome Satan’s evil world system. The pastor and Bible teacher should absolutely be making more time for God’s Word than others, for he is to be leading. He cannot lead anyone in the Bible if he himself is not first following the Bible!

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

Also see:
» Is it not enough that I “believe in God?”
» “O ye of little faith?”
» “But what if they read the Bible at my church?!”

“Become as little children… to enter the kingdom of heaven?”

“BECOME AS LITTLE CHILDREN… TO ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

In Matthew 18:3, we read: “And [Jesus Christ] said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

“Childlike faith” is ecclesiastical parlance for, “We may not understand what God says in His Word, but we believe it. Children do not understand everything. We are called to be like children.” Certainly not! God does not want spiritually-immature Christians, people clueless to His doctrine. Ephesians 4:14 reminds us: “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;….” While this sad state describes the average professing Christian, it is not related to Matthew 18:3.

The context of Matthew 18:3 sets the tenor: “[1] At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? [2] And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, [3] And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. [4] Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Verse 1 is crucial. The disciples are being selfish, as they desire to know who will be the prominent person in God’s earthly kingdom. In other words, it is not about Jesus Christ, the King, but about them. Who of them will be so honored with the exalted position? There is the attitude of competition, a desire to glorify self. Just by reading Christ’s scolding, we can sense that pride is their motivation. For that reason, the Lord beckoned a little boy and put him in the middle of the crowd. That child was a teaching aid: he was the personification of humility rather than ignorance. Draw your attention to verse 4: “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Children know their weaknesses and inadequacies, but adults have had so much influence from their own evil hearts and the evil world system that they have adopted an attitude of self-sufficiency. A child, still a sinner by birth, is nevertheless more compliant than an adult. Adults will argue because they have had more time to become self-centered and deceive themselves into autonomy (operating apart from the Creator God). Pride has set in. They have already gone through this educational system and are nearly impossible to reform. Habits, especially bad ones, are difficult to break. As we will see shortly, such arrogant independence is completely foreign to God’s Word. It does not belong in His kingdom.

Let us turn over to chapter 20 of Matthew to see a similar issue: “[20] Then came to him [the Lord Jesus] the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. [21] And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. [22] But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. [23] And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.”

Zebedee’s dear wife, mother of Apostles James and John (Matthew 4:21), meant well by seeking for her sons the two highest positions in Christ’s kingdom. However, all that did was upset the other 10 Apostles, pitting them against the two men. Such fleshliness and rivalry were Satan’s access to them all!

“[24] And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. [25] But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. [26] But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; [27] And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: [28] Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Christ corrected their thinking. He, Almighty God, should be served, and yet He was willing to serve. He had not come to glorify Himself, He had come to serve, and yet they were glorifying themselves instead of serving?! Again, their selfish attitude did not belong in God’s family. “But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;….” God honors the lowly servant, not the self-appointed ruler. As someone once rightly observed, “The way up in God’s kingdom is down!” The Gentiles—under Satan’s control—were the bullies and dictators, seeking to boss others. “Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them….” However, no person led by God’s Spirit will take control of another. Our sinful flesh will engage in such behavior, but never Almighty God!

The Apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter chapter 5: “[1] The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: [2] Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; [3] Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” Paul the Apostle said it this way in 2 Corinthians 1:24, Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.” “Lording” over believers, having “dominion” over Christians, bullying them, is nothing but sinful flesh operating under the guise of “Bible.” (Go back to Matthew 20:25 and the idea of “exercising dominion.”)

Whether in Israel’s program, or our program, pride (especially religious pride) will send millions upon millions to an eternal Hell. They do not want God telling them what to do; rather they want to tell others what to do. They refuse to submit to His righteousness found in Christ’s finished crosswork. Instead, they go about attempting to establish their own “goodness,” their own righteousness (Romans 10:1-3). It is all about them. They want to be praised, worshipped, remembered, and obeyed. They desire the prominent positions in the assembly. As Philippians 2:3-11 says, selfishness and pride have no place in the life of the Christian any more than it had a place in the life of Jesus Christ Himself while He was on Earth.

Also see:
» What is the difference between “the kingdom of God” and “the kingdom of heaven?”
» What if I was never thanked?
» How do we not “live after the flesh” if we live in bodies of flesh?

Why do Daniel 1:1 and Jeremiah 25:1 conflict?

WHY DO DANIEL 1:1 AND JEREMIAH 25:1 CONFLICT?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Why do these verses disagree?

  • Jeremiah 25:1: “The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that was the first year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon;….”
  • Daniel 1:1: “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.”

Jeremiah claims the “fourth year” whereas Daniel speaks of the “third year.” Is this a mistake? We can account for this discrepancy as follows: Daniel speaks of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar leaving Babylon to attack Jerusalem while Jeremiah marks the time Nebuchadnezzar actually invaded Jerusalem. That is, Nebuchadnezzar departed Babylon in Jehoiakim’s third year (Daniel’s perspective), and he fought against Jehoiakim in Jerusalem in Jehoiakim’s fourth year (Jeremiah perspective). What had Nebuchadnezzar been doing in the interim?

We turn to Jeremiah chapter 46 for the explanation: “[1] The word of the LORD which came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Gentiles; [2] Against Egypt, against the army of Pharaohnecho king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates in Carchemish, which Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon smote in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah.” Nebuchadnezzar (same as Nebuchadrezzar) attacked and defeated Pharaohnecho King of Egypt before moving on to conquer Jerusalem and vanquish Jehoiakim King of Judah.

The narrative now put forth in one succinct sentence: Nebuchadnezzar left Babylon in Jehoiakim’s third year, Nebuchadnezzar battled Pharaohnecho/Egypt at the beginning of Jehoiakim’s fourth year, and, later that year, Nebuchadnezzar fought with Jehoiakim. There is no contradiction or difficulty unless we are looking for mistakes.

By the way, it is highly significant that (Gentile) Nebuchadnezzar came against Jerusalem because of JEHOVAH God’s guidance and empowerment. Jerusalem had been an idolatrous city for centuries. Most of her kings had been wicked, and Jehoiakim was no exception. (Please see 2 Chronicles 36:1-21 and Jeremiah 25:1-7.) God Himself therefore brought Nebuchadnezzar into Jerusalem to punish and deport evil Jerusalem and Judah, carrying them off to Babylonian exile (exactly as Moses warned in Leviticus 26:27-39 several hundred years earlier).

Daniel chapter 1 bears this out: “[1] In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. [2] And the LORD gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his [that is, Nebuchadnezzar’s] hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.”

Also, the LORD said in Jeremiah 22:25 years later: “And I will give thee [King Coniah/Jehoiachin the son of Jehoiakim] into the hand of them that seek thy life, and into the hand of them whose face thou fearest, even into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans.”

Jeremiah 25:9 (the LORD speaking again): “Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the LORD, and Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations.” (Your attention is drawn to see that Nebuchadnezzar is called God’s “servant.” He is exacting God’s will in punishing heathen Judah.)

Now, Jeremiah chapter 27: “[1] In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word unto Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, [2] Thus saith the LORD to me; Make thee bonds and yokes, and put them upon thy neck, [3] And send them to the king of Edom, and to the king of Moab, and to the king of the Ammonites, and to the king of Tyrus, and to the king of Zidon, by the hand of the messengers which come to Jerusalem unto Zedekiah king of Judah; [4] And command them to say unto their masters, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Thus shall ye say unto your masters; [5] I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me. [6] And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him.” (Nebuchadnezzar is again called God’s “servant.”)

Lastly, Jeremiah 32:28: “Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will give this city [Jerusalem] into the hand of the Chaldeans, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and he shall take it:….”

Also see:
» Why does “overturn” appear thrice in Ezekiel 21:27?
» Was King Nebuchadnezzar a saved man?
» Is “divine right of kings” a Scriptural concept?

Why does the King James Bible say “nephews” instead of “grandchildren” in 1 Timothy 5:4?

WHY DOES THE KING JAMES BIBLE SAY “NEPHEWS” INSTEAD OF “GRANDCHILDREN” IN 1 TIMOTHY 5:4?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Does the Authorized Version contain an error in 1 Timothy 5:4? “But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.” All modern English versions—including the New King James Version—unite in replacing “nephews” with “grandchildren.” Why should we leave the Authorized Version as it stands?

It is the strangest phenomenon, dear friends. You would think preachers and commentators would respect the 400-year-old Authorized Version. Alas, they have been trained to pick it apart—deliberately or inadvertently holding virulent Roman Catholic sentiment toward the Protestant Bible! Such wicked thoughts produce all sorts of vilifying remarks, including, “Our clumsy 1611 translators totally missed the original language here! How unfortunate they did not have the manuscript evidence and expertise we have! This word should be this, or that, or whatever you like. Well, we may disagree on which is the correct word, we all agree that Authorized Version is wrong!” This absurd position—believe it or not—dominates “Christian” thinking in pulpit and pew alike. No wonder few believe the Holy Bible!

Deuteronomy chapter 25 is a valuable passage to settle the abstruseness in 1 Timothy 5:4. We turn to it now: “[5] If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her. [6] And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel. [7] And if the man like not to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband’s brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother. [8] Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her; [9] Then shall his brother’s wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother’s house. [10] And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.”

This “levirate marriage” is prominently illustrated in the Book of Ruth. If a Jewish man died childless, his brother (next of kin) was to marry his bereaved wife and have children with her. Those children were to be raised in the name and land of that deceased brother. Why? It was a way of redeeming the dead man’s estate as well preserving his tribe’s bloodline. The male children born to the bereaved woman would be her former (now deceased) husband’s nephews. After all, her husband’s brother had fathered her children. That brother, and the resulting children or “nephews,” were to bear the financial burdens she or their family had—remember what Boaz did to Ruth. Such nephews (King James Bible) would be closer kin to her than her grandchildren (modern versions).

The Christian widows, Gentiles, of 1 Timothy chapter 5 are experiencing economic difficulties. Similar to (though not exactly synonymous with) the principle the LORD God laid out for Israel in Deuteronomy, the widow’s financial support was to come from her children (“children”) or the sons of her husband’s siblings (“nephews”). The children were first in line of kinship, followed by the nephews. In the absence of her children, these nephews could redeem their “brother’s” (loose term) estate from financial ruin. It is reminiscent of how Boaz fulfilled his duty in the Book of Ruth, although there are differences because no Gentile women (1 Timothy chapter 5) were following Israel’s levirate instructions of having children with their in-laws.

If the Christian widow lacked children and nephews, the local church was to then step in and help alleviate her monetary struggles. Remember, there was no governmental welfare system as we in the United States have today. Therefore, the local assembly of Christians was to meet the needs of the truly destitute believing widows who had no surviving family members to come to their aid. See 1 Timothy 5:3-16 for all the details.

Unfortunately for the King James Bible critics, “nephews” is not an error in 1 Timothy 5:4. If the text is altered to read “grandchildren” (as in modern versions), then we lose the connection to Deuteronomy. The passage thus becomes obscure because there is no self-interpretation anymore. Nephews, not grandchildren, are the widow’s next-of-kin after her children. Grandchildren are not in view in 1 Timothy 5:4!

Also see:
» Which belongs in Romans 8:16 and Romans 8:26 in the King James Bible—“the Spirit itself” or “the Spirit Himself?”
» What does “under colour” mean in Acts 27:30?
» Is the King James word “borrow” a “mistranslation” in Exodus 3:22?

“Remission” and “forgiveness”—same or different?

“REMISSION” AND “FORGIVENESS”—SAME OR DIFFERENT?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Is there any difference between the Bible terms “remission” and “forgiveness?”

“REMISSION” (ENGLISH)

The word “remission” appears 10 times in the King James Bible, found only in the New Testament Scriptures:

  • Matthew 26:28: “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
  • Mark 1:4: “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”
  • Luke 1:77: “To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,….”
  • Luke 3:3: “And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;….”
  • Luke 24:47: “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
  • 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.”
  • Acts 10:43: “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”
  • Romans 3:25: “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;….”
  • Hebrews 9:22: “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.”
  • Hebrews 10:18: “Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.”

According to The Oxford English Dictionary, “remission” means “the cancellation of a debt, charge, or penalty.” A sub-definition is “{formal} forgiveness of sins.”

The word “remission,” in common parlance, is “a temporary diminution of the severity of disease or pain.” For example, cancer “in remission” means it has momentarily subsided, and may return at some later time. People will then use this definition to define the Bible term as pertaining to sin. It is thus assumed that remission of sins is “temporary forgiveness,” sins that God does not hold against the sinner now but may do so later. This is not how the Bible uses the term “remission.” It is highly significant to point out here that we should be careful not to insert non-biblical meanings to biblical words. We will use the Bible to give us the sense of its vocabulary.

“FORGIVENESS” (ENGLISH)

The word “forgiveness” (including its related form, the plural “forgivenesses”) appears 8 times in the King James Bible, with two references in the Old Testament Scriptures:

  • Psalm 130:4: “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.”
  • Daniel 9:9: “To the LORD our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him;….”
  • Mark 3:29: “But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.”
  • Acts 5:31: “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.”
  • Acts 13:38: “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:….”
  • Acts 26:18: “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”
  • Ephesians 1:7: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;….”
  • Colossians 1:14: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:….”

According to The Oxford English Dictionary, “forgive” means “stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) for an offence, flaw, or mistake.” A sub-definition is “no longer feel angry about or wish to punish (an offence, flaw, or mistake).” A second sub-definition is “cancel (a debt).”

“REMISSION” AND “FORGIVENESS” (GREEK)

We can turn to the Greek language for further insight. The word “aphesis” (Strong’s #G859) is what translates to “forgiveness” on six of the above occasions (Mark 3:29; Acts 5:31; Acts 13:38; Acts 26:18; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14). (The Old Testament, written in Hebrew, uses “celiychah” [Strong’s #H5547] for Psalm 130:4 and Daniel 9:9.)

Concerning the word “remission,” it is nine times rendered from the Greek “aphesis”—which you will immediately recognize as the same term for “forgiveness!” See our “remission” verses quoted at the beginning of this study. The Greek word used regarding “remission” in Romans 3:25 is different, the term “paresis” (Strong’s #G3929). Here in that context, it carries the special meaning “God passing over the sins Israel committed under the Old Covenant” (cf. Hebrews 9:15).

Of the 17 times “aphesis” appears in the Greek Textus Receptus of the King James Bible, we have covered 15. In addition to carrying the meaning of “remission” (9 times) and “forgiveness” (6 times), it has two special definitions which we find in Luke 4:18: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance [aphesis] to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty [aphesis] them that are bruised,….” This verse allows us to see “liberty” and “deliverance” are synonyms, parallel thoughts, both equal to “remission” and “forgiveness.”

For further illumination, “aphesis” demands extra comment. It is derived from “aphiemi” (Strong’s #G863), which appears over 150 times in our New Testament with applications: Simon and Andrew forsaking their fishing nets (Mark 1:18), a husband divorcing his wife (1 Corinthians 7:11-13), Satan leaving Jesus (Matthew 4:11), and Christ sending away the multitudes (Matthew 13:36), among other varieties. The last instance—sending away—is a beautiful illustration of what God forgiving sin is all about. To where would God send our sins, though? Does He pretend like they are not there? How can He just forgive sins? What does He do with them? Why, you already read about it earlier and yet you probably never realized it. The forgiveness is through Calvary’s cross!!

Ephesians 1:7: “In whom [Jesus Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;….” Colossians 1:14: “In whom [Jesus Christ] we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:….” Romans 3:23-25 adds, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;….” Father God took care of our sin problem at the cross of Christ. Christ died for them. That is where we, by faith, send all the wrongs committed against us. This is how we forgive others: God gave us the pattern and we follow Him. Christ died to pay for those sins others committed against us, just as He died to pay for sins we committed against Almighty God.

CONCLUSION

All these verses indicate “remission” and “forgiveness” are nearly synonymous, with two exceptions. They are the same Greek word, and both in general involve canceling the sin debt (being liberated or delivered from the debt incurred). If one insists on being technical, then “remission” is the more formal term. “Forgiveness” can, depending on the context, take on the meaning, “end of the resentment or anger the sin causes.” Other than those nuances, the idea is essentially the same.

Also see:
» What is true forgiveness?
» What are the “sins that are past” in Romans 3:25?
» Was God “unfair” to punish us for Adam’s sin?

Should Christians celebrate Valentine’s Day?

SHOULD CHRISTIANS CELEBRATE VALENTINE’S DAY?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Valentine’s Day, every February 14th, involves hugs and kisses, the sending of millions of romantic greeting cards, the giving of roses and other flowers, and the mass consumption of chocolates and additional candies. What is the history of this holiday? Should Christians get involved with it?

ORIGIN OF VALENTINE’S DAY

Who exactly was “Saint Valentine” anyway? Honestly, we really have no idea. Historians disagree as to who he was—if he existed at all. Moreover, the Roman Catholic Church honors not one but three martyrs named “Valentine” (or “Valentinus” in Latin). Since that name was highly popular millennia ago, it is difficult to pinpoint who this holiday was named after (assuming he was one of those three, ignoring the innumerable others sharing that name).

One “Valentine” was a priest who allegedly performed illegal marriages in the Roman Empire a few centuries after Christ. Another story involves an imprisoned “Valentine” (same or different?) writing to a woman who had gained his affection. He supposedly signed his letter, “From your Valentine.” Whoever he was, Valentine may have died in mid-February, leading to the familiar celebration of love. The holiday became especially romanticized during the Renaissance several centuries ago. Considering the diverging accounts, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. It could have been a combination of stories of numerous other men thus named.

Due to the mysterious and ancient history involved, it is challenging to establish exactly how the name and time of Valentine’s Day originated. Suffice it to say that it is most definitely attached to heathen Roman religion. For example, Cupid—a baby or young boy holding a bow and shooting heart-shaped arrows—is the prominent icon of Valentine’s Day. This “adorable” little figure is actually the ancient Roman god of desire, affection, and erotic love. There is certainly nothing “Christian” about him!

Interestingly, another pagan deity is also connected to Valentine’s Day. Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, was honored on the fertility festival of Lupercalia—February 15th. Here, we can see a clear link to love and couples, and how the date was probably fixed.

According to History.com,

“To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.”

“Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity… but was outlawed—as it was deemed “un-Christian”—at the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.”

This brief background gives us some idea—albeit murky—as to how February 14th became associated with celebrating love and affection. There is certainly nothing Christian about the holiday as far as the record of Scripture is concerned. Moreover, there is also pervasive superstition to be avoided (a “healing” miracle Valentine allegedly performed, people making modern-day pilgrimages to view his supposed remains as “relics,” and so on). It is a most precarious issue.

WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN TO DO?

Our purpose here has been to enlighten you about Valentine’s Day so that you can make an informed decision. It is certainly not our goal to “have dominion over your faith;” our desire is to be “helpers of your joy” (2 Corinthians 1:24). We will not dictate to you what you can and cannot do regarding February 14th, but we do offer this study for your consideration. Our goal is to have your faith rest in an intelligent understanding of God’s Word, so that you may have joy and peace in believing God’s Word (Romans 15:13).

The Bible says, without doubt, that husbands are to love their wives. Wives should reverence or respect their husbands. This should be true year-round, not just once a year. Ephesians chapter 5: “[21] Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. [22] Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. [23] For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. [24] Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. [25] Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; [26] That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, [27] That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. [28] So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. [29] For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: [30] For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

“[31] For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. [32] This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. [33] Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”

If you and your romantic interest (boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, fiancé/fiancée) want to spend February 14th exchanging flowers or sweets, or enjoying a nice dinner at a restaurant, that is your business. This author will certainly not legislate your life for you. He is more than eager to use the Scriptures (and outside sources, if necessary) to point you in the right direction, but it is ultimately your decision.

In addition, he would like to take this opportunity to strictly caution you to guard against the commercialization of Valentine’s Day. People spend their money carelessly at this time of year. They believe they must purchase expensive, flattering gifts to please others or express “true” love. The greeting-card industry is out to make a profit—just like every other business (florists, candy makers, jewelers, and so on). The attitudes underlying the actions, not the amount or value of material gifts, are what matter the most. If it is Christ in you loving your significant other, then that carries far more weight than all the world’s silver, gold, precious jewels, flowers, and candy!

A WORD OF EXHORTATION TO THE LONELY, FORGOTTEN, AND BEREAVED

Valentine’s Day can be quite lonely for single people. Those who have just experienced, or are experiencing, divorce find this time of year quite painful. The same could be said of widows, those betrayed by unfaithful partners, those unable to find lasting romance, and so on. It is also true of those who cannot afford or do not receive a dozen of roses, a box of chocolates, a fine meal at a restaurant, costly jewelry, and so on. Some women are married to men who have never given them, and will never give them, any gifts. Similarly, some husbands never receive special treatment from their wives. This is all quite unfortunate—and undoubtedly all results of sin.

The word “love” is used so flippantly today in this shallow-minded world. Love and sex are often confused. There is no selflessness, or self-sacrificial love. Fuzzy warm feelings and uncontrollable emotions are surely present, but is there true love, the mental attitude of seeking someone else’s highest good (charity, love in action)? Unfortunately, the answer is often “no.” People just want to get any pleasure or gratification from others, even to the detriment of those others. Luxurious gifts and over-complimenting can be used to manipulate to achieve one’s desires. Marriages often end in divorce. Romantic relationships wane and dissolve. There is no guarantee people who have such relationships are even happy. It is easier to be single and desire marriage, than be married and desire singleness! Friend, you would do well to think on that long and hard.

Above all, the Bible says that Almighty God loves us—even if no one else does. We must never confuse His infinite love for us with our weak, fickle love for Him. Human love, no matter how deep or long-lasting, will never, ever replace God’s love! His love is unconditional, not tied to our circumstances. We look to Calvary’s cross, Christ’s finished crosswork, to see God’s love on clear display. His only begotten Son offering His life at Calvary so He could then offer us eternal life, that is the greatest gift. It is worth far more than flowers, rings, kisses, and candy. His inspired Word written to us and preserved in English in the King James Bible is worth far more than any greeting card or manmade note of affection. It will outlast all other documents!

Romans chapter 5: “[6] For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. [7] For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. [8] But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. First Corinthians 15:3-4: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:….”

Also see:
» What is meant by, “Love thy neighbour as thyself?”
» Should a Christian be polygamous—having multiple spouses?
» Was Priscilla lead teacher in her family?

Is it not enough that “I believe in God?”

IS IT NOT ENOUGH THAT “I BELIEVE IN GOD?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Friend, you state it as though it is meritorious. “I believe in God” is quite general and thus can be understood in more ways than one. What do you mean you “believe in God?” The standard way to take that is that you believe God exists. Such a claim is all well and good, and while you are close to the truth, it is too basic and not an adequate basis for faith. Your position is deceptive, as it provides a false sense of security. After all, there are myriads of gods in the world. Firstly, which “god” do you believe in, friend? The living and true God, or some idol (counterfeit)? Secondly, exactly what do you believe about that “god?” Thirdly, just how do you have—or can you even have—a personal relationship with that “god?” See, there is widespread ambiguity here. As we will see shortly, there is something better, more precise, more reliable, than the simple message of “believing in God.”

Consider what the Holy Bible declares in James 2:19: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” Satan and his evil angelic associates also “believe in God.” Does that suggest they have a right standing before Him? Is He pleased with them? But, they do believe, correct? See, “believing” in and of itself is not meritorious! Furthermore, you can believe information in the head and not believe in the heart. That mental assent or intellectual agreement, while better than unbelief, is nevertheless still not a substitute for heart faith.

Read Acts chapter 8: “[13] Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. [14] Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: [15] Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: [16] (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) [17] Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

“[18] And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, [19] Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. [20] But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. [21] Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. [22] Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. [23] For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. [24] Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.”

Simon believed with his head (verse 13) and yet his heart was not right before God (verses 21-22). He had a mental agreement but he did not have imputed righteousness (a right standing before God). This made him opposed to the God of the Bible. Many who profess faith in God today are doing nothing but agreeing in the mind; they have not made personal application, exercising faith in the heart. Oh yes, they are just as Hell-bound as those who do not believe at all! Notice what Romans 10:10 says: “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness….” The heart is the major issue before God, not the head! Friend, be sure you believe in the heart and not merely the head. Millions upon millions will miss Heaven because of this very error. Imputed righteousness comes by faith in the heart.

Moreover, Scripture speaks of more than “believing in God.” For example, the title “God” is generic and not unique to Christianity (see 1 Corinthians 8:5-6). The Bible states, “believeth in Jesus (more exclusive—and, of course, less popular). Far more people believe in “God” than believe in “Jesus.” You can find religions where the name “God” appears but never the name “Jesus.” It is not enough to “believe in God”—even if in the heart. We must believe in Jesus with respect to the heart. What exactly does this involve? Are we to just believe that He existed as an historical character? Are we to believe that He was merely “a good teacher,” or “just another one of God’s prophets,” or “just one of many martyrs who died for the truth?” Again, we must be more definite in our understanding if there is to be an adequate basis for faith! Without our heart faith firmly resting in a clear and secure Gospel message, our souls are damned forever!!

The Bible’s overwhelming testimony is not “believe in God,” but “believe on Him” and “believe on His Son.” Notice:

  • John 3:15-16,18,36: “[15] That whosoever believeth in him [God’s Son, Jesus Christ] should not perish, but have eternal life. [16] For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him [God’s Son, Jesus Christ] should not perish, but have everlasting life…. [18] He that believeth on him [God’s Son, Jesus Christ] is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God…. [36] He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
  • John 5:24: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me [Father God sent His Son, Jesus Christ], hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
  • John 6:35: “[35] And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me [God’s Son, Jesus Christ] shall never thirst…. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him [God’s Son, Jesus Christ], may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day….. [47] Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me [God’s Son, Jesus Christ] hath everlasting life.”
  • John 7:38: “He that believeth on me [God’s Son, Jesus Christ], as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”
  • John 11:25: “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me [God’s Son, Jesus Christ], though he were dead, yet shall he live:….”
  • John 12:44,46: “[44] Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me [God’s Son, Jesus Christ], believeth not on me, but on him that sent me [Father God sent His Son, Jesus Christ]…. [46] I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me [God’s Son, Jesus Christ] should not abide in darkness.”
  • John 14:12: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me [God’s Son, Jesus Christ], the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”
  • Acts 10:43: “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him [God’s Son, Jesus Christ] shall receive remission of sins.”
  • Romans 3:26: “To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
  • Romans 4:5: “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him [Father God] that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
  • 1 Peter 2:6: “Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him [God’s Son, Jesus Christ] shall not be confounded.”
  • 1 John 5:1,5,10: “[1] Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him….. [5] Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?….. [10] He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.”

Believing “on” Almighty God and “on” His Son the Lord Jesus Christ are important prepositional phrases. They denote reliance or dependence upon—not “in” but “ON” (note that well, friend, note that well!!). You must depend on Almighty God to be merciful and gracious as opposed to relying on your religious goodness to merit His mercy and grace. Jesus Christ must be relied upon to support you where you have come short of God’s glory because of sin. It will be because of His work and not yours that you can be declared righteous before the God of the Bible!

Let us read Romans chapter 3: “[22] Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: [23] For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; [24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: [25] Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; [26] To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. [27] Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. [28] Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”

Father God put the Lord Jesus Christ on display as a “propitiation through faith in his blood.” This underscores His shed blood, a sacrifice, or fully-satisfying payment for our sins. It was no ordinary death: it was the death of the God-Man, who went to die in our place, to experience God’s wrath against our sin. Sin is a barrier between you and God, and believing in God does nothing to remove that barrier. However, friend, the God of the Bible put His Son on Calvary’s cross to pay for your sins, to put away your sins, and to be resurrected for your justification (to give you a right standing before God). What you need to do is rely exclusively on His finished crosswork as the total payment for your sins. It is not important that you work; it is more important that you believe. It is not important that you believe; it is more important what you believe. “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Also see:
» Is faith in Christ alone enough to go to heaven? Do not the devils believe?
» Is Acts 16:31 a sufficient Gospel message?
» Can Jews who believe in God, the Father, but who reject Jesus, be saved from eternal damnation?

“Speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt?”

“SPEECH BE ALWAY WITH GRACE, SEASONED WITH SALT?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Colossians 4:6: “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” Can you shed some light here?

Indeed! Friend, this is an example of where we use the Bible with common sense. Surely, sodium chloride (NaCl)—table salt (what we flavor physical food with)—is not under discussion here. It is a spiritual issue and thus must be interpreted with spiritual eyes.

Read the context: “[2] Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; [3] Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: [4] That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. [5] Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” The Apostle Paul has been preaching God’s Word rightly divided for some 30 to 35 years at this point. He is now in a Roman prison (or technically house arrest), as per Acts 28:30-31, and asks the saints at Philippi to pray that he not be intimidated to silence. Lost people are all around him, and they need to hear the Gospel so they can believe it and be saved unto eternal life. They may be religious, but they are still Hell-bound. They are most likely pagan idolaters, worshipping the gods and goddesses of Greek and Roman cultures; therefore, he needs to make wise use of his time and speak up!

Verses 2-5 set the tenor and govern how we should understand verse 6: “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” Firstly, in the context, the “speech” of verse 6 is not everyday conversation or light chitchat. Rather, it is speaking God’s Word (first and foremost is the Gospel, but secondary Bible information is in view too). The word “alway” also demands a word of explanation. It is not “always” but “alway” (a common confusion and unnecessary correction). “Always” is “at every time, on every occasion;” “alway” (as here) is “all the way, all the time, forever.” Our speech should all the time, throughout, be grace-oriented. It should effectually communicate the truths of God’s grace without fail. God’s grace is God’s Word as in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon.

The issue of “seasoned with salt” will be considered now. We season bland food by adding condiments, spices, herbs, and so on. Similarly, we can heighten or improve the “flavor” of our preaching. Such polishing will make it stand out, or give it a distinctive character. To “season with salt” refers to preserving something, a message that prevents decay, decomposition, or corruption. (Think of the process of curing or preserving meat with salt before refrigeration was invented in the mid-20th century.) Sin degenerates the soul and weakens society around us; God’s Word rightly divided, in stark contrast, nourishes and strengthens. It gives light, life, and health to its hearers and readers.

Whether in the physical world or the spiritual world, the challenge of seasoning is to strike a balance. Seasoning can potentially enhance—but it can also be overdone and become ruinous. We should give people enough information to make it appealing but not overwhelm them and make it appear burdensome. We should not seem overbearing or dictatorial. We do not “lord” over them or bully them (1 Peter 5:3). We do not have dominion over their faith but we are rather helpers of their joy (2 Corinthians 1:24).

To give our speech the unique appeal of grace, of course, requires spiritual maturity, grounding in God’s Word rightly divided. We can destroy others with our words or we can edify them. There is destructive criticism and there is constructive criticism. It is better to have the latter—for that is the purpose of the Bible. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof” (Proverbs 18:21). “For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed” (2 Corinthians 10:8). Does what we preach and teach conform to Pauline doctrine? Is it grace teaching or legalism? Must people perform before we accept them? That is not grace but law. It harms not helps. Do they have to do or give us something before we will do something for or give to them? That is law not grace. It injures not benefits. Do we love them after they love us? That is law not grace. It wounds not enhances.

Having the exceptional characteristic of preservation and wholesomeness (health), our speech perpetually with grace is designed to give us the ability to address whatever somebody would require or demand of us. If they ask a Bible question, we should be able to answer it according to the rightly divided Word. If they need guidance concerning a particular aspect of life (sickness, financial difficulty, family troubles, death of loved ones, and so on), then that is our opportunity to share God’s Word with them. Our goal is not to impair them with religious silliness but aid them with the eternal words of the eternal God!!! We do not aim to confuse and corrupt them with worldly wisdom but educate and edify them with Divine wisdom!!!

If they are lost, without the righteousness of God, then we preach the Gospel of Grace to them: “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4—also see Romans chapters 1-5). If they are saved, Christians, members of the Church the Body of Christ, then we direct them to Pauline passages that apply to their situation. Again, this requires grounding in grace doctrine, and, sadly, very precious few believers are able to do it because they are so weak in grace doctrine themselves. Three important chapters are Romans chapter 12, Ephesians chapter 4, and Colossians chapter 3. Every preacher and teacher should be familiar with them in preparation for counseling!

Colossians and Ephesians are sister epistles; therefore, they expand on each other. In closing, the best way to interpret Colossians 4:6 is to consider it in light of Ephesians chapter 4: “[25] Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. [26] Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: [27] Neither give place to the devil. [28] Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. [29] Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. [30] And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. [31] Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: [32] And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

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! By the way, ministry emails have really been backed up this year. I am handling them as much as humanly possible. Thanks for your patience. 🙂

Also see:
» Should we Bible-believers investigate and promulgate conspiracy theories?
» Which hymns are appropriate for us grace believers to sing?
» Have I blasphemed against the Holy Ghost?